Posts Tagged With: Writing Tips

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 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.

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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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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.

Continue reading

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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.

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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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Functional Nerds podcast: now featuring Yours Truly

Functional Nerds podcast Laurence MacNaughton _ It Happened One DoomsdaySF Signal will be missed.

But the science fiction/fantasy world has always been chock-full of innovation.

The vacuum left by SF Signal creates more room in the spotlight for fresh, entertaining podcasts like Functional Nerds.

Listen in for free as I chat with the ever-entertaining and informative John Anealio and Patrick Hester about:

Functional Nerds podcast

“Wait, wait, JJ Abrams said WHAT?!”

• Fantastic new movies (and possibly some bad ones) including 10 Cloverfield Lane…

• The free & easy mind-mapping software that you absolutely need right now…

• The new Neil Gaiman book you can’t miss…

• Why you need to check out Humble Bundles right now…

• A secret look behind the scenes in my new book…

And oh, so much more.
Check it out on Functional Nerds now. >

Oh, and one more thing:

Don’t forget to join my author newsletter for bonus free stuff, including the new short story MAGIC CARPET RIDE, a prequel to my new book! >

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The #1 Secret to Fantasy World Building

Literary EscapismEvery fantasy author struggles with a tough challenge:

How do you create a unique world that’s as believable as it is exciting?

It’s called world building, and every writer does it a little differently.

My secret is to start with research. The world we live in is so weird, it’s impossible not to get inspired.

Read the rest on LiteraryEscapism.com>

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Blame Dan Aykroyd from Ghostbusters

Crystal Head Vodka it happened one doomsday

Dan even signed the skull for me. How cool is that?

A few years ago, on a placid summer evening resonant with cicadas, I stepped out to buy a bottle of wine for my wife’s show at an art gallery.

And there, in the corner of the store, sat Dan Aykroyd, promoting his new Crystal Head Vodka.

You may not know this (I certainly didn’t at the time), but Dan is a big believer in paranormal phenomena. In fact, his family has a long tradition of investigating the paranormal.

Personally, I’m more of a skeptic. But when a millionaire movie star comes right out and says that he filters his vodka using Herkimer diamonds for their metaphysical properties, you know there’s got to be an interesting story there…

Read the rest on TheBookPushers.com >

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