Posts Tagged With: for writers

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?

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

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.

Self-publishing means doing things your own way. You can hire your own editors and artists. You call the shots. It sounds perfect, but the truth is that it can be grueling. For one thing, it’s difficult to get any attention as a self-published author.

When you work with a publisher, the reverse is true. Someone else has control over the process, and you don’t. They might make crucial creative and business decisions without even consulting you.

Yet at the same time, a traditional publisher can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. For example, you have the opportunity to get reviews from places like Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus.

I believe that the best approach is to embrace both avenues. Come up with a career strategy that leverages the advantages (and minimizes the drawbacks) of both traditional and self-publishing.

It’s not easy, but it can be done. Hey, even a moderately talented guy like me can do it. You can too.

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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.

I’m not saying that I’m remotely in the same class as them. But I have written for hundreds of businesses, from little tech startups to big names like Home Depot and Saks Fifth Avenue.

I write copy for all sorts of things: company websites, blog posts, articles, case studies, sales letters, newsletters, landing pages, sales emails, pay-per-click ads, direct mail, brochures, you name it.

Writing copy requires quite a bit of discipline, research, and the willingness to develop specific skills. It will absolutely improve anyone’s storytelling abilities. It helps make your fiction writing punchier, better researched and more emotionally resonant.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. A good copywriter, like a good novelist, has to know how to write in a way that connects with the reader’s emotions.

So if you’re interested in writing for a living, I suggest looking into copywriting as a possible business. Not only does it multiply your opportunities to make money writing, it will also make you a better writer. What’s not to love?

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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.

I go through a process of breaking the entire book down into smaller and smaller chunks, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. There’s always a certain amount of stuff that you have to throw out or change. There are gaps that you need to fill in.

After a considerable amount of work, I get to the point where I have a complete list of scenes, and a description of what happens in each scene. Once that’s done, I can start writing the book.

But nothing is set in stone. Any of this stuff could change at any time. I’m not a slave to the outline.

If I come up with a better idea on the fly, I’ll go with it.

I can always change the outline later to smooth things out again.

I think of it like a weather forecast: this is what will probably happen. But just in case, bring an umbrella.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that ended exactly the way I thought it would. And that’s okay. The outline is just a tool that helps you get the book done. That’s what really matters.

Are you writing a book? Let me know in the comments.

Want more writing tips? Get email-only exclusives when you subscribe to my free author newsletter. >

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How to Make Writing Your Career: Word Cafe Interview with Yours Truly

Word Cafe author interview

Just for the record, the lace doilies were not my idea. Now you know.

Hey, this is cool. Join me over at Word Cafe for an interview where I reveal everything I know about:

• Building a full-time career around writing, as a novelist and a copywriter — and what a copywriter does, exactly.

• How my first book from a New York publisher actually started out as a short story — and how I grew it into a novel.

• The pros and cons of being a hybrid author (both traditionally published and self-published).

• What my fiction writing process looks like. (It’s both crazier and more straightforward than you might think).

• And, of course, my top piece of advice for writers.

Read the complete interview here. >

P.S. Also, I’m giving away a few autographed paperback books to my newsletter subscribers. Don’t miss out. Click here to subscribe to my author newsletter. >

Categories: how to write a novel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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The #1 Weirdest Thing about Writing a Book Series (and It’s Not What You Think)

Greyson Carter - It Happened One Doomsday

Greyson Carter. Restores old cars. Rescues stray animals. Often forgets to shave. Happens to be cursed to bring about the end of the world.

In my Dru Jasper urban fantasy series, one of my lead characters is Greyson, a half-demon mechanic with a possessed muscle car.

He’s your archetypal tough guy. He always wears a black leather jacket and aviator sunglasses.

Which is cool. Right up until the moment the leather jacket gets destroyed.

Torched by magic. Slashed by an evil monster. Burst apart at the seams as Greyson himself is transformed into a hulking evil creature by the forces of darkness.

This causes a major wardrobe problem.

Because what is he going to wear now?

Does he run around half-naked? Borrow someone else’s shirt? Go shopping for a new leather jacket?

When you write a standalone short story or novel, you can pretty much do anything you want with the characters without worrying about how that impacts the story in the future. Because there is no future.

But when you write a book series, that all changes. Bizarre things start happening.

Suddenly you start worrying about continuity like you never have before. Little creative decisions that you make on the spur of the moment can have a ripple effect that impacts the story in every book to come.

It’s silly to think that losing a leather jacket in Book 1 turns out to be a real headache in Book 2, but it’s true.

In the movie The Last Action Hero, there’s a funny moment when Arnold Schwarzenegger opens up a closet and it’s packed with nothing but identical leather jackets. Because that’s all his character ever wears.

Such an elegant solution.

How did I eventually solve my problem? Greyson spends a good chunk of the book without a shirt, which leads to so many great moments: funny, sexy, awkward, but mostly a lot of fun.

Now, it’s too soon for me to reveal how I solved the wardrobe conundrum in Book 2. But I had to figure out a convincing way to get a half-naked Greyson back into his signature leather jacket and sunglasses — fast.

Trust me, it wasn’t easy. But it was pretty amusing.

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Categories: It Happened One Doomsday | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Create the Perfect Writing Soundtrack

writing soundtrack

Read more on Patricia Stoltey’s website

Before I became a full-time writer, I thought music was too distracting to play while I was writing.

I thought I needed absolute silence.

Then I got a job as a staff writer, and suddenly I couldn’t hear myself think.

Stuck in the middle of a bustling open-plan office, I quickly discovered that if I wanted to focus and meet my tight writing deadlines, I needed music.

But not just any music. If it’s too slow, your mind can wander. Too fast, and you can’t concentrate. Too personally meaningful, and you’ll experience the emotion in the music instead of putting it down on the page.

The right writing playlist takes a little planning.

Keep reading >

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Free for writers: Instant Plot workshop tomorrow

Instant Plot: Planning Your Novel the Easy Way

Tired of struggling with outlining your book? Find out how to do it the easy way.

Writing a book? Live in the Denver metro area?

Join me tomorrow evening for a fun, free workshop that explains exactly how to outline any novel or story in just minutes.

Find out how to take charge of your plot, avoid the three dumbest plotting mistakes, spot the warning signs of a dead-end story, and master the core principles of dramatic structure.

Through classroom exercises, you’ll map out the spine of your story and walk out with a solid plan to get your novel finished.

Continue reading

Categories: For Writers, Free Stuff, how to write a book | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free workshop! Instant Plot: Plan Your Novel the Easy Way

Instant Plot: Planning Your Novel the Easy WayHey, who doesn’t like free and easy?

If you’re a writer in the Denver metro area, you should join me for a fun, free workshop that explains exactly how to outline any novel or story in just minutes.

(By the way, even if you aren’t in the Denver area, don’t despair. Just shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a free copy of the new Instant Plot ebook when it comes out this summer. And yes, it’s free!)

What will you learn?

Continue reading

Categories: For Writers, Free Stuff, how to write a book | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Write Anything

How to Write Anything

Forget fancy software. Just grab a pen and follow along!

Have you ever needed to write something, but you didn’t know how to get started?

As a professional writer, I face that problem daily.

Luckily, I’ve discovered a super-simple way to organize any writing project.

And I’m about to share it with you.

Continue reading

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