Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For the love of a Grandmother...

This past week my grandparents came to my house to celebrate my youngest sister's baptism! We were all so happy to see them and had a great time. While they were here I got a chance to sit and talk with my grandma about my book. She has done some editing for papers and books, and is currently in the process of finishing off the final editing on her own book before she starts going to publishers.

Anywho... I was thrilled to have the chance to talk to her, but when she started asking me questions about my book and characters I was pretty ashamed (and surprised!) to learn how much I didn't know about my own book!

Parts of the conversation went something like this...

"How are you going to instigate this revolt?"

A mumble about how I was hoping I'd publish this book first and then move on from there...

"So your main character...he isn't that much of a wimp is he?"

Unborn protest filling the room, followed by panicked and incoherent babbling that seemed full of "well he's not" and "well its complicated "and ending in shrieks of "please!!!! NOOOO!!!!"
Really -- I was pathetic.

But I learned a lot from it, and now I know a lot of things about my characters. Things that have opened up my plot line and given my characters more breadth and stability. So after a lot of broken lead and murdered erasers, I have finally created my people like I want them to be.

The crime scene has been cleared, and all that's left is the next step: The Chapter Outlines. EEEEEEEKK!!!! (So I'm thrilled but still...I'm terrified.)

Sigh...My baby's growing up and I haven even named it yet... :')

-Stoss Cue

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing Prompt-Sept 20th

Not much else to write about right now so I thought I'd share the story I wrote with you today.
The prompt was suppose to be about 'Imagine the time is late at night and the phone rings. Describe the scene.'

As the clock struck one o' clock the telephone rang. My heartbeat sped up. Who could it be? I decided to let it ring. After a minute, it stopped and then started up again. Sweat beads ran down my face; my breathing continued in short little gasps. The same number. I tried to ignore the ringing in my head. Then that same number popped up again. I screamed and unplugged the phone from the wall. Still ringing. I panicked, grabbed the first thing I saw and started bashing the phone, in hopes that it would somehow stop. It wasn't. I decided to answer it. I cautiously picked up the mangled phone and said 'Hello.' Screams sounded through the receiver. 'Hello?' Still nothing but those horrid screams. I set down the phone, but the screams were still heard. Oh my...I flung open the door to the attic and all was silent. The dusty curtains swayed in the breeze from an open window. I walked to the edge, peeked over, and saw a bloody, crumpled body sprawled on the grass. A phone lay right beside them.

I know it's a bit cheesy, but not too bad I think.
Your thoughts?
-Owner's Don't Knock

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Questions

Just a reminder to send in any questions that you might have to .
This week I have one for you; how much detail is too much detail? I have a hard time knowing when I should keep writing, and when I am being too redundant. Any thoughts anyone?
Thanks! We'll have answers and thoughts on questions posted by either next Wednesday, or the Saturday.
- Stoss Cue

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Work On Adverbs

Do a search for "ly" and edit as many adverbs as possible. The strongest, most powerful writing uses few adverbs because adverbs assist weak verbs, which should be replaced with stronger, more accurate verbs.

Not: He spoke softly and gently.
But: He whispered.

Another way to resolve the "adverb problem" is to rewrite the sentence.

Not: He wrote magnificently, and his essays gained the respect of all.
But: He wrote magnificent essays, respected by all.
-Owner's Don't Knock

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Update On My Novel

I've done quite a bit with my book. Getting these Writer's Digest magazines have really helped me. There's stories and tips that are just what I've been looking for. It's been amazing!
I've redone the Order Of Events, worked on Character Profiles, and am soon starting Chapter Outlines.
If you'd like to see more about it, check out my page Abbigayle's Novel.
-Owner's Don't Knock

Wednesdays Questions

Sorry guys! I haven't done this for a while, and Abbi decided that it's time to pick things back up.
We had a great question from Shelby a while ago that I didn't really know the answer to so I've done some research. Please take note, this is just what I've researched so it's a good idea to make double checks before you make any final decisions.

Shelby asked:
"Do you know anything about self-publishing and if its safer to do (you know, so you can get all the credit), if its expensive, etc. because I would much rather do self publishing when I get older."

So keeping that previous rant of mine in mind, here's part of a goldmine article:

1. Self-publishing is easy.

Here's how it works. You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.

After you officially publish your book, you can make changes to your cover and interior text by submitting new PDFs, though your book will go offline ("out of stock") for a week or two. BookSurge/CreateSpace charges $50 for uploading a new cover and $50 for a new interior.

(Lulu offers very good, detailed instructions for the DIY crowd, doesn't require any upfront fees, and is very popular as a result. Ironically, I used Lulu's how-to content to put my book together for BookSurge, which had very poor instructions for DIYers. Interesting stat: Lulu claims to publish an average of 4,000 books a week. Oddly, the company didn't offer the size of the book I wanted to create (5.25 x 8 inches--the standard size for trade paperback novels; Lulu only offers 6 x 9, which is too big).)

2. Quality has improved.

I can't speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of Booksurge's books seem quite solid. You can't do a fancy matte cover (yet), but the books look and feel like "real" books. The only giveaway that you're dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed--which, unfortunately, is too often the case.

3. Some of the more successful self-published books are about self-publishing.

I don't know what this says about the industry, but it's probably not a good thing. I didn't read any books because I was busy scouring the Internet, but there are a few that appear to have some useful information. However, take everything with a grain of salt because things change quickly in self-publishing and analysis of the industry tends to attract a lot of qualifying statements. As Mark Levine notes in a "sample" review of his The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, "Will BookPros provide a service that is $20,000 better than anyone else in this book? If your book takes off, then yes. However, if your book isn't very successful, you may not think so." In another noteworthy book, Stacie Vander Pol takes a stab at ranking top performing POD self-publishing companies based on sales performance. I'd like to see this stuff on a free website rather than a book. But that's just me.

Note: April Hamilton, the author of IndieAuthor Guide, is offering a free HTML download of her book to readers of this column. I don't agree with all her points, but her guide has a lot of useful information, particularly for DIYers.

4. Good self-published books are few and far between.

Because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every once in a while, you'll hear about someone hitting it big.

5. The odds are against you.

The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies--or 2/3 to 3/4 of your friends and family combined (and don't count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying). I don't have a source for this statistic, but I've seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled "Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks" noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

6. Creating a "professional" book is really hard.

Barrier to entry may be low, but creating a book that looks professional and is indistinguishable from a book published by a "real" publishing house is very difficult and requires a minimum investment of a few thousand dollars (when all was said and done, I'd put in around $7500, which included about $2,500 in marketing costs). You wonder why "real" books take 9 months to produce--and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It's hard to get everything just right (if you're a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy). And once you've finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better.

7. Have a clear goal for your book.

This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity's sake (so your friends and family can read it for all eternity), you won't have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that's quite acceptable. Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky.

8. Even if it's great, there's a good chance your book won't sell.

If your book is really mediocre, don't expect it to take off. But even if it's a masterpiece, there's a good chance it won't fly off the shelves (and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don't make it into brick and mortar stores). In other words, quality isn't a guarantee of success. You'll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a "hit" that brings in some real income. Don't quit your day job yet.

These are just 8 of 25 tips this guy gave on self publishing. The website for the rest of them are here. I think that in general this is a good place to start. Second I'd suggest you find a good book website, or go to kindle's website and see what you can find. There's some ladies on my Jane Austen website (that I love) who have talked about publishing with kindle. I'd check that out.

Hope this was helpful!

-Stoss Cue

(This is also going to posted in the Q&A page, so you can go back to it for an easier reference.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Creative Writing Tips For Beginners

Do some short exercises to stretch your writing muscles – if you’re short of ideas, read the Daily Writing Tips article on “Writing Bursts”. Many new creative writers find that doing the washing up or weeding the garden suddenly looks appealing, compared to the effort of sitting down and putting words onto the page. Force yourself to get through these early doubts, and it really will get easier. Try to get into the habit of writing every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, carry a notebook everywhere and write down your observations. You’ll get some great lines of dialogue by keeping your ears open on the bus or in cafes, and an unusual phrase may be prompted by something you see or smell.

  • Work out the time of day when you’re at your most creative. For many writers, this is first thing in the morning – before all the demands of the day jostle for attention. Others write well late at night, after the rest of the family have gone to bed. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

  • Don’t agonize over getting it right. All writers have to revise and edit their work – it’s rare that a story, scene or even a sentence comes out perfectly the first time. Once you’ve completed the initial draft, leave the piece for a few days – then come back to it fresh, with a red pen in hand. If you know there are problems with your story but can’t pinpoint them, ask a fellow writer to read through it and give feedback.

  • HAVE FUN! Sometimes, we writers can end up feeling that our writing is a chore, something that “must” be done, or something to procrastinate over for as long as possible. If your plot seems wildly far-fetched, your characters bore you to tears and you’re convinced that a five-year old with a crayon could write better prose … take a break. Start a completely new project, something which is purely for fun. Write a poem or a 60-word “mini saga”. Just completing a small finished piece can help if you’re bogged down in a longer story.

  • -Owner's Don't Knock

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Creative Writing Tips

    1. Who is your protagonist, and what does he or she want?
      (The athlete who wants her team to win the big game and the car crash victim who wants to survive are not unique or interesting enough.)
    2. When the story begins, what morally significant actions has he or she already taken towards that goal?
      (“Morally significant” doesn’t mean your protagonist has to be conventionally “good”; rather, he or she should already have made a conscious choice, with repercussions that drive the rest of the story.)
    3. What unexpected consequences — directly related to the protagonist’s efforts to achieve the goal — ramp up the emotional energy of the story?
      (Will the unexpected consequences force your protagonist to make yet another choice, leading to still more consequences?)
    4. What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story?
      (Things to cut: travel scenes, character A telling character B about something we just saw happening to character A, and phrases like “said happily” — it’s much better to say “bubbled” or “smirked” or “chortled.”)
    5. What morally significant choice does your protagonist make at the climax of the story?
      (Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision. Ideally, the reader shouldn’t see it coming.)
    -Owner's Don't Knock

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Question Wednesday

    Hey everyone! Today is the day where you can send in any writing related questions to our email for us to answer!
    We'll answer them and post' em on the blog for you guys to see by next week.
    We haven't gotten one for a while so we're hoping to get one today!
    -Owner's Don't Knock