For Writers

Writing a novel and finding book publishers isn’t easy. Learn how to write a novel, beat writer’s block, find literary agents and publish a book with these free writing tips from YouCanWriteANovel.com!

How to Get the Book Cover You Really Want

I don’t know about other authors, but for me the moment when a book becomes “real” (and not just a story floating around in my imagination) is when I see the artwork for the book cover.

Ever wondered what the book cover process looks like from the author’s perspective?

It starts with cover concepts from the editor.

akbd2Last fall, while I was still writing the manuscript, my editor sent me two variations of the cover and asked for my opinion.

They had decided that in this book, only Dru should be on the cover, not Greyson. (If you haven’t already read Book 1, I won’t spoil the end for you, but I will say this: it’s not exactly a Disney ending for our guy Greyson.)

However, they did want to imply that Hellbringer is back on the road by including tire tracks. And not just ordinary mortal tire tracks, but glowing red tire tracks of doom. Oh yeah!

akbd1(If you haven’t read Book 1 yet, Hellbringer is a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona possessed by a literal speed demon. Which leads to the most “hellish” car chases ever.)

The biggest thing I love about these cover concepts is Dru’s new sassy silhouette. Also, I love the magical sparkles and cryptic circles floating around her. They add a fun comic-book feel that just screams “MAGIC!”

Uh oh. Problem…

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Electric Spec Interview on Writing Short Fiction

Electric Spec fantasy and science fiction short stories

Wait, are these stories AC or DC?

It was a real honor to have the chance to sit down and talk with Electric Spec about what makes short stories so relevant today. As writers, short stories give us the opportunity to connect with readers in ways that novels don’t. Besides, talking about how to write short stories is just plain fun.

Also, for probably the first time ever, I talked about the science fiction stories I discovered when I was 12 years old that made me decide to become a writer.

If you enjoy an engrossing science fiction or fantasy short story (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), then you need to check out Electric Spec. For over a decade, these fine folks have been putting out some of the best speculative fiction out there. Give them a shot.

Click here to read my Electric Spec interview.

And speaking of short stories, don’t forget to subscribe to my author newsletter to get a free Dru Jasper story. >

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The Simple Secret to Fixing Ugly Story Problems

how to write: retroactive continuity

When you’re in the middle of writing, don’t stop. Except for coffee.

It happens to every writer: you’re writing along when suddenly you need to go back and change some fact or detail.

Because if you don’t fix it, the story won’t make sense. Should you stop writing at that moment to go fix it?

Nope. That could kill your momentum.

Here’s a better idea. It’s called a retcon, and comic book writers have been using it for decades.

Retcon is short for “retroactive continuity” and it means that you’re stating a new fact that changes what’s come before.

In other words, you’re changing the past.

This is a term I first encountered in the massively entertaining and informative book Writing for Comics with Peter David. (Mr. David, by the way, has an impressive list of comic writing credits, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Supergirl, Hulk, Star Trek, and tons of others. He knows what he’s talking about.)

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Should You Self-Publish Your Novel?

Ginormous Library

If you squint really hard, you can almost see my books … Oh wait, no, that’s James Patterson.

Which is better, self-publishing or a traditional publishing deal?

If you’re a hands-on, DIY type of person with an entrepreneurial mindset, then you might be better suited to self-publishing. If you’d rather focus on the writing and not deal with the rest of it, you might prefer traditional publishing.

I’ve done both. Here’s the truth: there are benefits and drawbacks to both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

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How I Make a Living as a Writer (And You Can Too)

Make a living writing

Copywriting for fun and profit. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

I’m proud to say I’ve built a full-time career around writing, as both a novelist and a copywriter.

That means splitting my time between the two. Usually I spend the morning writing novels, then spend the afternoon writing marketing and advertising copy for business clients.

(“Copy” is just fancy ad agency shorthand for “words that sell stuff.”)

I’m not alone. There have been innumerable examples of copywriters who also successfully wrote fiction. James Patterson, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Heller, and Dorothy Sayers, to name a few.

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How to Plan and Write A Novel

non-English typewriter

Think Microsoft Word is a pain to use? Try cranking out 100K on this sucker.

I’m often asked what my writing process looks like.

How do I write a book? It’s pretty simple, actually.

(Not easy. But simple.)

First, I start with the basics:

  • Who are the good guys?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • And, especially, why?
  • Who are the bad guys?
  • Where does this take place?

Then I boil all of that down into a strong core idea. For example: a bookish crystal shop owner has to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – who drive possessed muscle cars.

The idea has to work at the core level, it has to really grab me, before I start writing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Then I figure out how to make the whole book work, beginning to end, in a short synopsis. Maybe one page. That takes time. And even once I have that figured out, I don’t start writing it yet.

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How to Never Get Writer’s Block. Ever.

writers block

Writer’s block(s). Get it? … Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Let me tell you the secret to getting rid of writer’s block forever.

I’ll admit, I’ve certainly had days where I feel like I don’t know what to write, or I worry that everything I write is terrible.

Some people call that writer’s block. I call it “Monday.” :-)

But seriously, what most people call “writer’s block” is an insidious combination of those two problems.

Problem #1: Not knowing what to write. Continue reading

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What an Editor Really Does — and Why You Need One

I first met Anita when she worked with my literary agent, Kristin Nelson. Anita is a freelance editor who helps writers bring out the very best in their novels. She was kind enough to share her editing insights, including why you should never let a rejection letter get you down, and why joining a critique group can not only improve your writing, but also save you money – and help you get published. Here’s Anita with all the insider info about editors. –L.

 

Anita, can you tell us what a developmental editor does, exactly?

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

The easiest way to describe a developmental editor’s work is that it focuses on the big picture: Does the plot work? Are the characters the kind of people readers want to spend an entire book with? Is the dialogue smooth or stilted? Is the voice appropriate to the genre and audience?

Developmental editing means making sure the foundation of the novel is sound, and that all of its parts come together in a meaningful whole.

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I Should Be Writing podcast with Yours Truly

Mur Lafferty's, "I Should Be Writing: The Podcast for Wannabe Fiction Writers."Attention writers: You’re missing out.

If you aren’t already listening to Mur Lafferty’s, “I Should Be Writing: The Podcast for Wannabe Fiction Writers,” you need to drop what you’re doing and go listen.

In every episode, Mur talks about the writing process, problems every writer faces, and how to solve them.

The unstoppable Mur was gracious enough to invite me on her show to blab on endlessly about writing, crystals, muscle cars, and the original idea behind It Happened One Doomsday.

Listen to the show here.

Honestly, I think the best part of the conversation happened after we stopped recording:

We talked about how so many creative people get discouraged because they don’t realize that their struggles are universal. I told Mur that what she’s doing with her podcast is incredibly important. And that’s so true.

By the way, since this podcast came out, I’ve gotten plenty of questions about the MONSTER acronym I use to create monsters in my stories.

It’s a handy tool for thinking your monsters completely through. Here it is:

MONSTER — 7 keys to terrifying creatures

MIND: How smart is it? What senses does it possess?

ORIGIN: Where does it come from? What is it called?

NEED: What motivates it? What is it after?

SKETCH: What does it look like? How big is it? What color is it? How does it move?

TAKE ON: How can the heroes fight it? What hurts it? What scares it?

EAT: What does it eat? How does it eat?

RELATIONSHIPS: Loner or a pack? Belong to someone? Obey someone/thing? Rule someone/thing?

If you find that helpful, there’s more.

Get access to all of my free writing tips when you subscribe to my author newsletter. Click here. >

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How do I get inspired to write?

It Happened One Doomsday at Barnes & Noble

Hey, read any good books lately?

Everyone has a unique way of getting inspired. I spark ideas by doing tons of research. The world we live in is so weird, it’s impossible not to get inspired.

Before I wrote about the crystal magic in IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY, I went to plenty of lapidaries (rock shops), which are all over the place in Colorado.

I also attended quite a few gem and mineral shows, and visited metaphysical shops to talk to people who really believe in crystal healing. It was an eye-opening experience. I took some of those ideas and expanded them to a super-powered level to create the unique magic system in this book.

I also drew on my own experience working in an antiquarian bookstore, where we had boxes full of ancient books that were strangely worthless, because no one wanted to buy them. Some of them were centuries old, some of them in Latin, some even handwritten. Those inspired the magical books Dru studies.

Plus, I used to be a professional test driver. I tested dozens of prototype and experimental vehicles, sometimes in hairy conditions, so I had some real-life experience to draw on when writing the car chase scenes.

Somehow, all of that came together in this book. It was so much fun to write, and I’m deeply moved that so many people are enjoying reading it!

Want more inspiration? Sign up for my author newsletter. >

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