E. Tip of the Day: Do not use the same descriptions your main character uses for herself for other characters, settings, etc. or vice versa. For instance, if your heroine describes herself as a banshee in a fight, use a different description for her when other characters refer to her actions in that same fight, such as calling your heroine a “wild woman” instead of a “banshee”. Otherwise it seems like characters are mind-reading each other. 🙂 And even if your characters have the mind-reading ability, unless it’s intentional they shouldn’t necessarily be using the same words to describe each other. It will only bore your readers.
If you’d like to learn if your characters are mind-reading each other when they shouldn’t be, do a search for the descriptions used by your main character. If any of the same words are used in those descriptions by other characters, you may want to try using a thesaurus. There’s a lot of words to choose from, so be creative. 🙂
We’re happy to welcome Lily Silver to The Editing Essentials today!
Lily has been swimming opposite the mainstream currents for most of her life. She has been practicing the art of writing since 1992, when as a homeschooling mother of two, she desperately needed something to do that didn’t involve the kids. Once her children were grown she returned to college as a non-traditional student at 42 years of age, and spent the next several years trying to pick ‘just one’ major. As a journalism student, she achieved an award for excellence in journalism, and went on to become the editor of the college newspaper, a staff writer and staff photographer.
Lily never did find that one perfect major as she explored art, writing, theatre, photography. She graduated with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research, a minor in Art History as well as a minor in 2 Dimensional Art. She’d still be in college if they’d pay her to keep learning and acquiring degrees. True to form, Lily has chosen to go against the flow again by choosing Independent publishing over traditional. She published two full length Historical Romance novels on Amazon in the spring of 2012.
Dark Hero is a Gothic Romance with paranormal overtones. It is Book One in the Reluctant Heroes Series. Some Enchanted Waltz is a Time Travel Romance depicting the events of the United Irishmen’s failed rebellion of 1798. Bright Scoundrel, Book Two in the Reluctant Heroes Series, will be released in October 2012.
Independent publishing has divided the publishing world. There are authors who love it and those who reel back in horror, regarding it as <gasp> vanity publishing. In the past, self publishing was considered a poor substitute for the traditional publishing routine. Independently published authors had to spend oodles of money hiring a printing press to print large orders of books the author then had to try to sell on his own. And, there was a stigma connected to the practice as the author was considered ‘not good enough’ to have found a real publisher to accept his work.
With the advent of e-readers and e-book retailers, writers can now upload their books directly to online platforms and readers can purchase them within hours. This phenomenon is similar to what happened in Paris with the Impressionist Art Movement. You had a traditional gallery system; art curators decided what would be shown to the public and what wouldn’t. Unknown artists like Van Gogh kept trying to gain admittance to these exclusive salon exhibitions. The curators refused to allow the Impressionists to exhibit paintings, so these imaginative men held their own art show and invited the public to attend. It was a success, and brought new styles of art to the forefront for art lovers to purchase. Art dealers of the time thought Van Gogh’s painting was crap. Today, everyone knows who Van Gogh is. Thankfully, he and other artists were persistent about presenting their work to the public when it was refused entry into the traditional salons.
A similar revolution has taken place in the publishing world today; writers can upload books to digital stores and readers can decide what they want to read instead of corporate publishing houses.
Why choose to self-publish?
First, let me point out that the term self-published is not favored among us because of past stigma attached to it. We prefer to be referred to as independent or Indie Author to describe writers who have uploaded their works to digital platforms.
I have been writing seriously for twenty years. I submitted manuscripts to traditional publishing houses in the late 1990’s. I received very polite rejection letters. My last attempt at traditional publishing was in 1999. After that, I returned to college for several years. I still held the dream of one day sending a finished manuscript to a traditional publisher. At the beginning of this year I attended a talk featuring two authors with experience in independent publishing. They were having astonishing success selling their work on digital platforms. After hearing their experiences with both traditional and independent publishing, I decided to give independent publishing a shot. The results have been amazing. With over 6,000 downloads at Amazon in two months as an unknown author, I have found an audience for my work. Another plus is making 70% of the royalties instead of the typical 8%-10% with a traditional house. The best part is receiving letters from readers who say they enjoyed my books and asking about sequels.
Is working on the cover art difficult?
Not really. I did need to spend time searching online stock photo databases. My son is a graphic artist, so all I needed to do was purchase stock images and send them to him for my first book. He did the rest. For my second book, I purchased a pre-made cover from Romance Novel Covers. I was pleased with the results of both covers. If someone is proficient in Adobe Photoshop, they could easily create their own cover. If not, the good news is that there are tons of great graphic artists who can create digital cover art for a reasonable fee.
What have you learned from other writers about their experiences with Indie publishing?
Patience. You need a lot of patience. It’s like building a snowman. You start with a small snowball in your hand and keep rolling it in the snow until you have a life-sized snowman. It is the same with finding an audience for your work. It takes time. An added benefit of Indie publishing is your book can remain for sale indefinitely, allowing readers to discover it. With a traditional publishing, if your books don’t sell well within a few months, they are pulled from the shelves and returned by stores. Also, it is important to have someone proof your manuscript. This is where critique partners or freelance editing services like Written Dreams come in. You want to present the best book possible, so you need other people to help you remove the warts before you hit that ‘publish’ button.
Which outlets (Amazon, GoodReads, etc.) do you feel work well with authors? Which platforms are the easiest for new writers to use?
Amazon is easiest. It’s also the top digital platform at present. Smashwords is good, but their formatting requirements are a little more technical. If you download the formatting guide and follow it, you’ll be fine. Smashwords will convert and distribute your books to all the e-reader platforms (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc) for you, so that is the place to go if you want to have your work distributed on all platforms. All the outlets accept indie authors but a few, like Apple, only allow distribution to them through an aggregator like Smashwords. Others, like Amazon, B &N and Kobo allow authors to upload directly to them.
Goodreads is helpful to authors. I held a giveaway of Dark Hero in June. 786 readers requested the 4 print copies offered. As a result, many readers put the book on their ‘to read’ list and will hopefully purchase it. Through August 25th, I have a similar giveaway in progress at Goodreads for print copies of Some Enchanted Waltz.
Indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires courage and determination. You wear a lot of hats; writer, editor, art director, and marketing. Yet, it is a rare opportunity for authors brave enough to take up the challenge. I’m glad I did. The rewards are well worth the effort.
Thank you, Lily, for taking the time to be with us today, and for the excellent advice on Indie publishing.
Today on Writer’s Wednesday, we welcome Wisconsin author, Lorrie Kruse. Thank you, Lorrie, for being our Guest Blogger today! Lorrie Kruse is the author of A Life Worth Living, just released from Storyteller Publishing on July 3, 2012. To learn more about her novel visit: http://storytellerpublishing.com/
I’m just your average-sort of girl. I have a family (hubby Brian, 17-year-old son Tyler), and a full-time job. I have to buy my own groceries (gasp!) and I don’t have a maid (one look at my house will confirm that). I love bears of all sorts and all (non-breathing variety) are welcome in my home, which happens to be a log house in the country. I’d like to think that the general consensus among people who know me is that I’m a nice person, but I’ll admit I’m not perfect and I wouldn’t want to be, either. It’s an imperfect world we live in and I like knowing I’m part of it.
WD: What is your profession (outside of writing)?
LK: I am a legal secretary. I really like my job, although I wish I didn’t have to work. There’s nothing I’d love more than to be able to just stay home and write and make jewelry, but I fear I’d become one of those recluses who never leave their house.
WD: Do you have any hobbies?
LK: I just can’t sit still for long, so I’ve got lots of things I like to do to keep myself busy. I love making jewelry and have turned it into a little side business. Nothing spectacular, mind you. I can’t quit my day job, but I earn enough to keep my little hobby going. I also like crocheting. I have gotten into making socks, but don’t be watching for the Lorrie Kruse sock brand at your local store anytime soon. It takes way too much time to get a pair of socks done, but it’s something I can easily do while watching TV or traveling.
WD: What person or event made you interested in writing?
LK: A lifetime ago (and, truly, it was almost a lifetime ago as my son was only a few years old and he’s now 17), I was reading a John Sandford book, one of his Prey series, and I came up with a story idea. I thought about contacting him to let him have my idea, but I just never got around to doing so. You know how that goes. The story idea stuck inside my head, though, and I thought that I’d read enough books. Why shouldn’t I write one? I mean, as long as I had the idea, right? So I sat down and wrote a story. Not the one that had come to mind and, admittedly, not a very good one. But it was enough to get things rolling for me.
WD: What method do you prefer writing in: long hand, typewriter, or computer?
LK: No doubt about it – Computer. I can type almost as fast as I can think but I can’t handwrite that fast. If I try to handwrite anything, I lose a whole lot of thoughts as I fumble around. There’s nothing worse than losing a great idea!
WD: What other books have you written?
Written? Or, written well? :0) I wrote several books before I knew what I was doing. It was so much easier writing back then, before I had to pay attention to things like grammar rules and plot. Nothing like “plot” to slow down the writing process. :0) Since none of those books are anything I’d want anyone reading, I guess then I have to say that at this moment, A Life Worth Living is all there is. However, I am working on a romantic suspense that’s about half-way done. Unfortunately, Keep Your Friends Closer has been temporarily shelved because I thought that maybe I could get a collection of short stories completed more quickly. Not sure what I was thinking there, but, oh well.
WD: What was your journey like from writing the first pages to getting the book accepted on A Life Worth Living?
LK: Oh, my. That’s quite a question. Whew. Well, there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Seriously, when I started writing A Life Worth Living, I was not a very good writer. I have learned so much since those first words and the finish product reflects that. When I first wrote A Life Worth Living (which was “The Accident” back then), I just wrote whatever sounded logical to me as far as Matt’s medical condition. Matt was also a very angry jerk and Crystal was beyond self-absorbed. I discovered I couldn’t just make up stuff. How odd. It’s a fictional story from my mind, yet I couldn’t make stuff up? I interviewed several trauma nurses, physical therapists, and a few paralyzed people. I soaked up whatever knowledge I could find on spinal cord injury. And then I poured a whole lot of that knowledge into Matt’s world as well as a whole new appreciation for my health into my own life. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through a slush-covered parking lot thinking about how lucky I am to not have to be wheeling a wheelchair.
A Life Worth Living has gone through quite a journey on its way to publication. It’s been entered into numerous contests and has finaled in many. It’s landed upon many agents’ desks (and was unfortunately rejected by all). But the happy ending is that I submitted it to Storyteller Publishing, who loved it, and it’s finally published! Yay! See me doing a happy dance.
WD: Who is your favorite character in A Life Worth Living?
LK: Hmm. Can I say Kaylee, Matt’s 2-year-old niece? I love the way she calls Matt ‘Unka Matyou’. I really think Kaylee adds a lot to the story even though she’s not a main character. She brings out the softer side of Matt.
WD: What was the hardest part of A Life Worth Living to research?
LK: Having to live within the confines of reality. I really wanted Matt to go through the book struggling with his desire for a full recovery and then get his wish at the end of the story. However, I discovered that if he were going to recover, that recovery would happen early on and, sigh, that just didn’t work for the plot.
WD: What authors are your favorites to read?
Well, John Sandford, since his stories were what inspired me to write. I love Harlan Coben’s characters and his writing. He’s just got a great style. And, speaking of great style, Janet Evanovich. Wow. If I could be half the writer she is, I’d be…well, half the writer she is, which would still be a darn great writer. Another writer who I think is someone to keep an eye on is Jane Porter. I don’t recall how I came across her books or even which book of hers was the first I read, but I really enjoy her writing. However, the writer I have most enjoyed in recent past is Jeff Lindsay with his Dexter series. There aren’t many authors I’ve come across where I’ve felt the need to devour their works, but from the first Dexter book I read, I was hooked and I read every book of Jeff Lindsay’s back to back. It was a sad moment when I read the last word of the last book because it was the last word of the last book. I’m eager for Mr. Lindsay to get those typing fingers moving and get another book out there!
WD: If you could be any character in anyone’s book, who would you be?
My first thought was which character of Jane Porter’s went to Hawaii? I very much would love to be lying on a sunny beach in Hawaii (with a ton of sun screen). But, seriously, when you get right down to it, I don’t think there’s any character I’d want to be. While they all have happily-ever-afters, they all have their challenges along the way. There’s things I’d love to change in my own life, but, all in all, I like my life and I am very happy with the person I am.
WD: What advice would you give to new aspiring authors?
LK: Run! As fast as you can, run! Truthfully, if you have a writer living inside you, you’ll discover you can’t escape it. If you can, then you shouldn’t be writing because it is not an easy task. So, you’ve got this writer inside you that you can’t escape and you need to know how to handle that writer. Learn everything you can about writing so you do it right and hopefully don’t have to write the same story multiple times until you get it right. Join a critique group, but the challenge there is finding a group you blend well with. It really needs to be a person or group of people you feel comfortable with and whose opinion you respect. The two most important things though are to develop a thick skin (you will be rejected multiple times – it’s just a sad fact – and you’re going to hear criticism upon criticism about your writing and your story because you just can’t please everyone) and to be very persistent (chances are, you won’t get lucky enough to get a publishing contract on your first try, or your second, or even your thirtieth). Oh, and enjoy yourself. Life’s too short to be doing things you don’t enjoy.
WD: What are your experiences with using a Writer’s Critique Group?
LK: For as frustrating as it can be, I highly recommend anyone who writes being a member of a critique group. We all want to hand a chapter to our group and receive nothing but positive responses, but, seriously, that’s not the way to improve your writing or the story. A Life Worth Living has turned into the great story that it is thanks to my writers’ group. They pushed me in directions I never would have gone on my own.
WD: If you have questions for Lorrie, she’ll be visiting all day.
Thank you again, Lorrie, for joining us today! We wish you the best of success with A Life Worth Living and your writing career!
E. Tip of the Day: During the revision process when you are first starting to re-read your story think of yourself as the reader not the writer of the story. Read the sentences out loud if you need to pretend you’re reading the story to someone else. When you find yourself stumbling over words in a sentence having to re-read it a second or a third time, that’s probably a good indication it needs to be revised. 🙂
Another tip: put the story down for a few weeks after you’ve finished writing the first draft, and then again for a few weeks after revising the 2nd draft. You’ll have a more objective outlook and be able to tackle the story with renewed energy adding those important details you may have missed while writing the first draft.
E. Tip of the Day: Don’t think too much about the process of writing. Just go and do it! Write in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Eventually it will become such an ingrained habit, it’ll feel odd when you have a day when you don’t write. 🙂
We’re so excited to have Dorothy McFalls as our guest today! 🙂 Dorothy, thank you, for sharing these wonderful tips on writing a great synopsis with us.
Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The Scarlet Pepper, the second book in the series, was released in April 2012. Dorothy also writes romance as Dorothy McFalls. The Huntress, an independently-published kick-ass romantic suspense, recently climbed the Amazon bestseller list, hitting #4 in romantic suspense. You can find Dorothy at www.DorothyStJames.com or www.DorothyMcFalls.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/dorothystjames) or on Twitter (@DorothyStJames). Other books by Dorothy McFalls include The Nude, The Marriage List, A Wizard For Christmas, and Neptune’s Lair. Visit Dorothy’s website to see a complete list of her novels.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend an impromptu writing retreat with three other amazing authors. One of those authors also happens to be an acquiring editor. As we were talking, she mentioned how surprised she was at the poor quality of many of the synopses she receives with the submissions. She couldn’t understand why authors didn’t spend more time on writing a synopsis when it is one of the major elements editorial staffs look at when deciding whether to buy a project or not.
I have to admit that I used to struggle with writing a synopsis. The end result was often dull. Flat. And it, quite frankly, bored me to death. That was before I learned what I was doing wrong.
Your synopsis is not a summary of your book. Yes, the synopsis should contain a beginning, middle, and end. But don’t simply state what happened in your story. Don’t write an outline. First, that’s boring. Second, it doesn’t demonstrate to the editor how incredibly talented you are.
Your synopsis is an advertising tool to sell your book. This is especially true if you are hoping to sell on proposal (in other words—convince a publisher to pay you money for a book you haven’t yet written.)
Not only should the synopsis tell the editor about your book, you also want it to:
showcase your unique voice,
represent the genre you are writing, and
make the editor excited about the story (so she buys it!)
The synopsis should match the tone of your book. If you’re writing a comedy, make the synopsis funny. If it’s a thriller, write it so the editor is on the edge of her seat when she’s reading the synopsis. If it’s a sexy romance, make the synopsis sexy. Let the editor know when the hero and heroine kiss and more. (I was forever leaving out the first kiss and deepening relationship details in my synopses for my romance novels. And, consequently, I didn’t sell a book until a writer friend insisted I add that to my synopsis. Remember: the synopsis is a tool for selling your book.)
Most novels are written using a three-act structure (whether the author knows she’s doing it or not.) So why not use the three-act structure to write your synopsis?
Act 1: The Beginning:
Just like in your book, start with an interesting hook. For my latest cozy mystery release, The Scarlet Pepper (a book that sold based on its synopsis), I opened the synopsis with:
Someone is tampering with the Presidential vegetable garden, and Casey Calhoun, organic gardener for the White House, is determined to track down the garden prankster. Red peppers are growing instead of the green ones that had been planted. There’s cabbage where the First Lady’s favorite variety of lettuce should be. And all the tomato plants are gone.
From this opening paragraph you know (1) who the main character is, (2) there’s a mystery to be solved, and (3) that the story will be light-hearted in tone.
Because your synopsis isn’t a summary or outline of the book, it doesn’t have to open where the book opens. Open the synopsis by introducing your main characters and the story problem.
Act 2: The Middle:
What are the major turning points in your story? What problems does your hapless hero face as he tries to win the heroine’s heart? How do matters get progressively worse as your amateur sleuth works to solve the murder? All of these things happen in the middle of your story. In your synopsis, you want to describe the obstacles your main character faces…and how things get worse.
If necessary, the middle is also where you would introduce subplots. For example, if you’re writing a mystery and there’s a romance subplot, you would want to introduce the subplot in this part of the synopsis. But I caution you to be extremely selective with subplots. You want a lean, fast-reading synopsis that catches the editor’s attention. Many subplots, while interesting in the book, will slow the action in your synopsis. When in doubt, leave it out.
Act 3: The End:
Don’t leave this part out! The editor wants to know you’ve written a complete story. She needs to know if the story fulfills its promise to the reader. She can’t know you’ve done your job if you don’t tell her how your book will end.
If you’re writing a romance, tell how the hero and heroine find their happily ever after. If you’re writing a mystery, tell how the mystery will be solved and the bad guys get caught. If you’re writing an emotional women’s fiction novel, show the conclusion of the main character’s emotional arc.
If you include subplots within your synopsis, be sure they are wrapped up at the ending as well.
Don’t forget to show/tell how the main character grows and changes over the course of the story.
Leave out minor characters and most sub-plots. Give the editor what she needs to know and nothing else.
Keep it short. Most editors want 3 to 5 page synopses. That said, every publisher is different. Check the publisher website to see if they’ve posted guidelines for what they want in the synopsis.
And writers, if you still need help after you’ve followed these tips, Written Dreams offers editing services for writing synopses and query letters. See our Services Page on our website for details. http://writtendreams.com/Services.html We’re happy to help in any way we can. 🙂
Thank you, Dorothy, for the terrific advice! She will be with us all day so feel free to ask Dorothy questions or make a comment on the post. Thank you! 🙂
E. Tip of the Day: Writing is a business of friends and relationships.
Before I started Written Dreams, I worked at Tekno Books for Marty Greenberg. One of Marty’s best friends was Isaac Asimov. Yes, that Isaac. The one and only. 🙂 I never had a chance to meet Isaac personally. He passed before I started working for Marty. But I had read short stories and books written by Isaac. Who hadn’t? They were so entertaining.
After all the work was done for the day, Marty would occasionally tell me stories about Isaac. Fond memories he had of the man he didn’t want to ever forget. But that was Marty. He had such respect for other people in the business. He knew how important it was to treat others the way he wanted to be treated. Marty always treated me with respect. He was an old-fashioned gentleman and generous of heart. He was very well-liked in the business, and an advocate for the underdog. Some say he was a prince among men. To me, he was a wonderful role model.
I made many wonderful friends while I was at Tekno. Dorothy McFalls was one of those amazing people. She and I just clicked. I believed in her writing wholeheartedly. We worked on her novel, The Nude together. One project turned into two, and so on. We became close friends. And like a good friend will, she encouraged me to go after my dreams. Thank you, Dorothy. I will forever be thankful for that support. 🙂
So, the next time you’re at a convention, don’t be afraid to say hi to someone you don’t know. They just might turn out to be the next Isaac Asimov or Dorothy McFalls. 🙂