Tag Archives: novel writing

Write the Dream Conference March 7-9, 2014 in Kansas City!

Calling all indie writers within driving distance from KC!

Better hurry: coming this weekend
Write the Dream Conference
Featuring two-time Emmy Award winner Cady McClain
and five other top notch speakers (hey, including me!)
With sessions on Dreamscaping, Editing, EPublishing, Novel Writing, Social Media, Book Covers, Marketing, Funding, Layout and Design, and Brainstorming.
Find out more:

http://www.writethedream.com/the-convention/

From the website: “If you are an aspiring writer who wants to stop talking about writing your story and actually D0 it, then our conference is for you. Please join us in March in Kansas City, Missouri, for your chance to learn the basics of writing and self-publishing your own book and learning from others who have a proven success at reaching the masses. Join keynote speaker, Emmy-award-winning actress, writer, and film producer Cady McClain, who will share with you how she fulfills her own dreams—and hopefully inspire you to do the same.

“Our three-day conference will give you every tool and resource you need to learn how to fulfill your dream of being a published author. You will gain the inspiration to get your story down on paper and take the necessary steps to see it in both e-book form, as well as print. Our conference workshops will include: a set plan to complete that first manuscript; resources to fund your project; tips and tools to help you find a good editor and designer; methods and resources to get your book correctly formatted for distribution; and finally, a plan to help you market and sell your book once it is completed. Step by step, from A to Z, our conference team will walk you through the process— even if you have absolutely no idea where to start. Come for one day or all three— you can choose from three plans that will fit both your time and budget.

“We want to help you share your story…because what you have to say deserves to be told. You don’t need to wait around for the traditional publishers if you want to succeed; all it takes is a good story, will, and determination. Come join us and see what we can do for you!”

Register NOW!
http://www.writethedream.com/the-convention/
Join us at the beautiful Kansas City Convention Center in downtown Kansas City. For more information about the center, click here.
For a complete list of classes and a more detailed description of the conference, click here.
To register for the conference or to check pricing, click here.
If you would like to register by phone or would like more information, please call 816.896.6802.

EBOOK ***Coming Attractions*** Contest!

The

EBOOK

***Coming Attractions***

Contest!

The BEST Indie EBook Novels Coming Soon To an EReader Near You!

A Writers’ Contest for Future Indie Writers!

The First Three Pages (750 words) of Fantastic Fiction

No Entry Fee!

Any genre (category)!

Simple rules! Submit:

  1. Up to the first 750 words of your novel
    1. Formatted in MS Word, with one-inch margins, double spaced, and in any very readable font;
    2. No title page is necessary, and the author’s name may appear on the submission.
  2. A synopsis/description of the work of no more than 250 words. We suggest including:
    1. A brief pitch (perhaps up to fifty words—this is your grabber or elevator pitch);
    2. A brief summary (this is the synopsis that you hope will sell your book and help it to become a bestseller—check out examples on Amazon)
  3. Ensure your entry email includes author’s name and story genre (category).

*Entries cannot be presently published as eBooks on Amazon.

Entries will be judged on the author’s storytelling ability, ability to follow the contest submission’s very simple guidelines, and the judges’ opinions of marketability (sales potential).

What do you win?

The First Place entry:

  1. Will be showcased on not only the Indie Writers Alliance blog /website but on Gordon Kessler’s author’s site, as well;
  2. Will be linked to Amazon book page once ePublished.

The First Place entry will also receive:

  1. Free eBook formatting for winning entry for Kindle & Nook (when ready, but must be requested within six months of contest deadline);
  2. Free ePublishing phone consultation for uploading eBook to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, (when ready, but must be requested within six months of contest deadline);
  3. Choice of print or eBook version of Novel Writing Made Simple or EBook Writing Made Simple!
  4. Full, line-by-line edit of entry.

The First Place entry and five Runners Up:

  1. Will be linked from Gordon’s and IWA’s sites to authors’ sites;
  2. Will be listed on both Gordon’s and IWA’s sites with the stories’ synopses/book descriptions submitted for the contest;
  3. Will have the books’ cover images or authors’ photos, if available, posted on IWA and Gordon Kessler’s blog/websites.

First 100 entries:

  1. Will receive a free PDF version of Novel Writing Made Simple or EBook Writing Made Simple!
  2. Will receive a single-paragraph summary including strengths and weaknesses of the entry as well as suggestions on how to improve the work (feedback will be sent in the format of an email by March 31, 2013).

Have a story opening? With nothing to lose, it’s a no-brainer: dust it off and send it in today!

Deadline: midnight PST, February 3, 2013 (by email date and time confirmation)

First round judging will be completed and finalists notified by February 11, 2013.

The EBook ***Coming Attractions*** Contest winners will be selected and posted on  http://gordonkessler.com and http://writersmatrix.com/wordpress/ (Indie Writers Alliance’s blog/website).

The EBook ***Coming Attractions*** Contest is sponsored by Gordon A Kessler and the Indie Writers Alliance.

Send entries by email as a single attachment (synopsis and story opening), with “coming attractions” in the subject line, to:

Gordon@gordonkessler.com

Questions? Email Gordon with “question” in the subject line.

Deep Point of View: Your Readers Deserve Close Psychic Distance!

(from http://gordonkessler.com)

Most writers understand the importance and conventions of point of view–but how many understand “deep POV,” a.k.a. psychic distance?

When John Gardner described psychic distance thirty years ago in his book The Art of Fiction, it seemed to get buried in this wonderful writing book. In the first read through, many new writers have trouble grasping all the elements Gardner discusses. For me, after putting hundreds of thousands of words on paper, I went back and reread it. That second time it was more than a light clicking on inside my head–more like a nuclear bomb.

As with all writing aspects, I believe that once understood, psychic distance can be used by the writer like a craftsperson might use a tool–like a woodworker, using a chisel in various amounts, varying angles and pressures to produce a desired effect. The writer should be aware of and understand both the tool and the effect.

Something I don’t believe Gardner goes into great depth about is how unwanted psychic distance can be created unknowingly by writers who describe a point of view character “hearing”, “seeing”, “watching”, an action in a scene, which pushes the reader out of the POV character’s head and forces that reader to imagine, from a distance, the POV character witnessing the action. For example:

Jim watched Zoya walk into the tavern, saunter to the bar and light up a cigarette.

instead of:

Zoya walked into the tavern, sauntered to the bar and lit up a cigarette.

In the second example, if this isn’t the first sentence of the scene, it’s not necessary to say “Jim watched …” since POV should already be established and the reader will know that Jim is the one witnessing this action. Also, the woman’s action seems more immediate if not filtered through Jim’s head before going to the reader. This makes a for a minimal psychic distance—the reader more easily immersed into the psyche of the viewpoint character and thus more likely to find empathy for that character.

That understood, if this is the first sentence in the scene, saying “Jim watched …” might be a better choice in order to establish POV for that scene and the reader shouldn’t need to be reminded whose POV it is after this opening line. Also, if the way Jim is watching is important to the scene, then the closeness of psychic distance might be forfeited or traded for a desired effect, for example:

Jim ogled the young woman as she sauntered into the tavern and up to the bar. Zoya was much more attractive than he’d expected, and he imagined the taste of her full lips as she lit up a cigarette and drew in the first puff.

Also, if the author has established POV in a scene, there is little need to use “thought tags”. In “deep point of view” the reader undersands that the narrated comments and descriptions are coming directly from the POV characters subjective mind–a.k.a. “indirect speech” or “free indirect speech” (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_indirect_speech).

Understanding this aspect of psychic distance and using it as a tool can make a huge difference to the reader and to the success of a scene.

That’s my subjective view of this very important fiction writing aspect, and only further illustrates the beauty of this art, a subjective endeavor in which no two writers will ever find perfect agreement.

You can find a more thorough discussion on POV, psychic distance and other very important writing topices in my books Novel Writing Made Simple and EBook Writing Made Simple:

Below, you’ll find a great post by Emma Darwin examining and discussing John Gardner’s thoughts on the use of full character names, first names, last names and pronouns and how they affect “psychic distance”:

Psychic Distance: what it is and how to use it

Psychic Distance is a concept which John Gardner explores in his book The Art of Fiction, and I think it’s absolutely crucial, not difficult to understand, and not nearly talked about enough. You’ll also find it called Narrative Distance because, basically, it’s about where the narrative (and therefore the reader) stands, relative to a character. Another way of thinking of it is how far the reader is taken, by the narrator, inside the character’s head. Gardner breaks it down thus:

  1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
  2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
  3. Henry hated snowstorms.
  4. God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
  5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul

And since sometimes it’s hard to see how this can equally well apply in first person, and to a less realist project, I’ve done a version which does both. Watch how in this version still has a sense of narrator, and a character, but this time they just happen to be the same persona:

  1. In the far-off days of Uther Pendragon, witches stalked the earth.
  2. Every village had its witch, and we feared or consulted her according to how desperate we were.
  3. When I was a child Mistress Margit frightened me, and when she walked down the street the big ones would shout “Here comes Old Margit!”, while I hid and crossed myself.
  4. And here came Old Margit, with her ragged clothes and her big black cat, and I shivered and prayed because St Mary would save me, wouldn’t she?
  5. Margit’s coming and her cloak like little demons dancing and what’ll I do – mustn’t catch her eye – hide in the ditch cold and wet but Black Peter will see me – Mother Mary save me, he’ll look at you and then Margit can see into your mind and plant demons in there and…

Obviously it’s really a spectrum, not separate stages, but you can see what this is about, can’t you?

1) is remote and objective. It has a nice ‘Once upon a time’ feel to it but doesn’t give us any sense of one or more particular characters in the story as a person with thoughts and feelings: a consciousness. It tells us a lot about where we are and what’s happening, but if it stays at this level we might not care much about this person, and it limits the writer’s scope for exploring how he experiences the world and himself. It’s the subtitle across the beginning of the film that locates us.

2) is bringing in some particulars: the narrator is telling us (informing us) about a place, and an individual and their emotions. Think of it as a wide-angle shot of a village, or a voice-over.

3) is more particular, more personalised still: the narrator’s voice is beginning to show us (evoke for us)  the particular character and their experience. This is, to quote James Wood’s How Fiction Works, “standard realist narrative”: in other words, the predominant mode of the vast majority of fiction: the narrator is in control, taking us into the experience of this world and that of individual characters and quoting speech directly. A medium shot where we can identify individuals.

4) is beginning to colour the voice of the narrator with the the vocabulary and point-of-view of the character. Shorthand for this is that we’re going further into the character’s head, courtesy of free indirect style, as invented by Jane Austen: “God how he hated … ” and “St Mary would save me, wouldn’t she?”. But, of course, we’re losing touch with anything that the character doesn’t see or think, or any other ways of saying it. In a movie – which can’t go inside heads – we could see a face, and try to read what it’s feeling.

5) is tight close-up and subjective: almost a brain download, with thoughts and sensory information all jumbled up. In Wood’s terms this is stream of conciousness. The character’s voice is wholly present and the narrator’s voice has faded out. It’s extremely expressive of this person’s character and situation. But if we stay at this level we may never understand what’s going on, and it limits the writer’s scope for moving between different characters and their consciousness.

Gardner’s point is not that one is better than the other, or that you have to stick to only one. Indeed, it would be a mistake if you did; it can make the piece very monotonous, specially if you stick at the (1)-(2) end. Just as good novels have a rhythm of action and reflection, so they have a rhythm of intimacy and distance. So I’ve extended Gardner’s concept to think in terms of the psychic range of a piece, from the closest to the furthest that it covers. And that’s why it’s important to be able to spot (roughly) what the psychic distance is at any one point. If you understand the possibilities of the different distances to control the reader’s involvement with the character and the story, then you’ll not only be training your instinct for when to stand back and when to close in, but you’ll also get better at spotting and fixing things when they’re not working.

My own lightbulb moment about this stuff happened when I saw that John Gardner’s Psychic Distance fits beautifully with Showing and Telling, (or as I like to call it, Informing and Evoking): Gardner’s (1) is the Telliest Tell, his (5) is the Showiest Show.  And they both fit together with James Wood’s dissection of the different modes of narrative, and with another fascinating discussion by David Jauss: “From Long-Shots to X-rays” (that’s the full article: do read it.)

And notice, too, that although the character’s voice starts coming through as we get closer in to their head in the (4) and (5) sort of levels, the narrative has its own voice however “distant” the long-shot is. What could be stronger than In the far-off days of Uther Pendragon, witches stalked the earth? I’ve blogged more about voice here: the important thing for this post is to understand that fiction is polyvocal. Different voices – the narrator’s and the characters’ – combine to make the narrative, interpenetrating each other to different degrees depending on the psychic distance at that moment.

It’s also helpful to bear in mind that jumping straight from, say, (1) to (5), may risk leaving the reader behind. If you wrote: It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul, there’d be nothing to tell the reader that the man we were shown stepping from a doorway is the same as this person with snow down his (her?) neck. Competent readers will make the assumption, but everything they read till their assumption is confirmed is, as it were, provisional, and means they can’t be so involved with the story. Other readers, not feeling secure in the world of the story and the line of the narrative, may give up. So be aware of this: either work your way by stages from, say, (1) to (3) to (5), or make sure you give the reader some handholds, so that you keep them with you at all times.

Understanding psychic distance is also the key to working with a moving point of view. It’s obvious that even if you limit your narrative to a single point of view, how far inside your character’s head you take the reader will vary. If your third-person narrative moves between several points-of-view within a chapter, say, then you have to start coping with the transitions. Many beginner writers are guilty of of “head-hopping”, which is switching points-of-view too often and too abruptly. But it’s not necessarily that the transitions happen too often (though it may be, and some teachers and editors are very doctrinaire about it), but that you haven’t handled them properly. Handle them properly, and you’ll find that said teachers and editors may not even notice, let alone disapprove. If you want to know more, have a look at my post on Moving Point of View, which is part of the big series on Narrators and Point of View.

So, next time you’re reading some fiction, have a look at how the author handles psychic distance: what range they use, and how and why they move to and fro within the range. Have a think about how that affects the way you experience the piece. If it’s told from more than one point-of-view, how do the transitions between different points of view interact with the psychic distance? Doing this will help to train your intuition about this stuff for your own work. And if you want an example of a lovely story which is pure 5, Jane Gardam’s ‘The Great, Grand Soap-Water Kick’, in her collection The Sidmouth Letters, is pure joy. But it’s not an easy trick to pull off.

You’ll find Emma Darwins blog at:

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/

John Locke, You Suck!

or

Breaking News: Kate Beckinsale and Tim McGraw are being considered to star in the new film version of my men’s action/adventure thriller series “The E Z Knight Reports”

Yes, it’s true … John Locke sucks! And, yes, it’s true also that two major names in the entertainment industry are being considered to be in “The E Z Knight Reports” film version.

Addressing the second topic first: Oh, yeah … I left out who is considering these two fine actors for the movie — me! So, I didn’t really lie, did I? I just left out a very small part of the truth. Oh, yeah, there isn’t a movie, either (not yet, anyway — wake up Hollywood!). Wait a minute, you say omission is lying? Since when? Politicians do it all the time. Historians had done it for centuries (many still are?). Even religious leaders do it to make themselves and what they represent look better. Enter John Locke as revealed in this post taken from the New York Times: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-book-reviews-money-buy-131408538.html?page=1. There are four pages to this article and Mr. Locke’s involvement is mentioned starting at the bottom of page three and ending on page four: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-book-reviews-money-buy-131408538.html?page=3.

John, I respect you. You are a ground-breaker. You accomplished an incredible thing with your Donovan Creed novels, and then you shared how you did it with How I sold 1,000,000 EBooks in 5 Months. That little how-to book of yours set the Kindle world ablaze and sparked to life the fire in tens of thousands of writers and writer wannabes.

You blazed the trail with your sales and lit up the way explaining your successful plan. This book elevated you from a million-eBook-selling author to a pedestalled saint for all us writers to look up to, admire and wish to emulate. And why not? You showed us it wasn’t that complex — there might have been a little luck involved, but mostly our success was dependent on following the same plan you had only months before. The plan starts out insisting we write a great book and, after that, we needed to get the word out about it. Getting the word out started with our image — we needed the reading public to know we’re real people and not just names on a byline. Your plan was about persistence. It was about buying 300 reviews, it was about … oops, you didn’t mention that part, did you? I’m sure you meant to, right? I mean, when you purchased these 300 reviews (how much were they, $6,000?), you did tell GettingBookReviews.com that you wanted honest reviews. I’m certainly good with that. After all, even Kirkus will do indie book reviews if you pay them. Really, I think that was an excellent idea, and, like you say, as long as they’re honest reviews, why wouldn’t it be all right?

Let’s get back to that in a minute. I want to ask why you implemented this part of your strategy and left it out of your book? If it was legit, why would you leave it out? Didn’t it help you sell books? Okay, quit laughing — of course three hundred reviews will help you sell books. Reviews are a major influence in an eBook shopper’s decision process. Even a few negative reviews add an air of credibility to the rest. Oh, yeah, then there’s that other thing. These reviewers were paid to review your book … so they had to buy it to read it, correct? Wow. Back when I was only selling a dozen or so eBooks a month, and seldom landing in even the top 100,000 in sales rank, I would have loved to have gotten 300 sales within a week or so. I can’t imagine the difference that made in your sales rankings. I can’t imagine how that propelled more sales by making your eBook more visible. How cool is that? Very … unless you claim it had nothing to do with your success — which is exactly what you’re doing when you leave that little tidbit out when you reveal your wonderful plan and ask us to pay $2.99 for it.

So we’ve established that buying reviews, while they’re requested to be honest, is not an underhanded thing. This takes us back to why you’d leave out that major factor in your successful plan that made your eBooks sell like popcorn in a theater. Was it because your HIS1,000,000EI5M eBook would not have sold as well had that info been included? You know, I doubt it would have affected sales that much. I mean, the excitement was already there. People were desperate to find that magic formula, and you, John, had found it: E=MC, right? Oh, yeah … forgot the squared, didn’t I? Such a small thing. Still works as good, right? Wrong!

I go along with everything in your book, and I think most other eBook authors do, as well. All those great tips are extremely valuable, especially to a new eBook author. And that alone makes your book worth the price. But, John, really — it’s what you left out that grates on my nerves.

Okay, here’s another thought about purchasing reviews. Did you know that Amazon really frowns on the bulk purchasing of reviews and will take many of them down if they find out about it? That’s why the company that you, Mr. Locke, hired is no longer in business. I’ve got to tell you, if I had the money to buy that many so-called legitimate reviews, and I had the opportunity, I’d probably do it. But, would they really be legit? I mean, some most definitely would be. But don’t you think a few of those reviewers, knowing that they’re getting paid to give a review, might lean toward the positive? After all, you’ve become part of their livelihood. They want to be nice. If they turn in too many negative reviews, their employer/aggregator, or whatever you want to call them, might not send them more work. I’m throwing in a half-star bet for this point, at least.

Let me sum this up for you, Mr. Locke.

I admire you. I thank you for your great tips; they’re mostly what everyone else is saying these days, anyway. But you got the ball rolling and the enthusiasm skyrocketing. Thanks. You’ve influenced me. I’m having a blast writing and selling eBooks, even though I haven’t been nearly as successful. And I, like you, only on a smaller scale, have been trying to help motivate other writers to do the same. I’ve been telling them the first thing they must do is to write a great story. Then, I tell them how important it is to have the image of a real person and not just be a name on a book cover, and how important social networking can be once you have that human image. I’ve even told eBook author wannabes that there are a handful of really important books they should read on promoting their eBooks, but the most important one is Mr. John Locke’s. I’ve been telling them that with a smile and a wink like I know something about it.

That’s what I’d been telling them, but not anymore.

My challenge to you, Mr. Locke, is to not only address this to your thousands of eBook writing followers, but to revise this book that discloses your wonderful, but incomplete, plan. At least put in a mention about the paid reviews and how it “could have” affected your sales, that it cost you upwards of $6,000, and that this practice is now frowned upon.

Will you do that, Mr. Locke?

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-book-reviews-money-buy-131408538.html?page=3

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-book-reviews-money-buy-131408538.html?page=4

What About EBook Pricing?

So what’s the best price point for eBooks? It’s certainly dependent on type of book and size. But beyond that, let’s look at novel-length fiction: what price is going to sell your novel the best? With what price point are you going to get the most downloads? What price point is going to make you the most money? Drilling down deeper, as an indie author, what price point is going to get you the best ranking and visibility? So much to consider, it makes my head hurt!

Look at the image I’ve used for this post. It helps illustrate my premise that there’s three basic buying groups of “indie” published books (throw in those who buy traditionally published eBooks 99% of the time, and you have four).

This illustration is not size proportionate. Until we have more solid numbers, that is impossible (feedback anyone?). Notice that I’ve not only shown the main three groups, but that they overlap at times, as well.

Initially following ground-breaking indie authors’ leads, like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, I priced my eBooks at $.99 each. By doing this, I believe I did sell more books and enjoyed some pretty good rankings for a while for my books (until Amazon “supposedly” started playing around with their algorithms).

I did a little research and noted the prices of the Amazon suggested books on each of my novels’ Amazon book pages. I was amazed to see that most eBook purchasers who bought my books (at least according to Amazon) were buying books at $2.99 and up, and only a few were $.99 books. So, I checked out the top 100 list for my genres. Guess what? I discovered very similar data!

What did I do the very next day? I raised my prices to $2.99. For nearly two months now, I’ve found my sales to dip only slightly, but noted that my actual royalty $ have gone way up. I think it all goes back to the old proverb about the smart shopper: “you get what you pay for” and it seems that’s the thinking most eBook buyers are following.

Drawing this illustration helps me look at pricing as a malleable thing and not just an intangible, abstract and unclear concept. I hope it helps you.

Here are a few links for some very interesting blog posts concerning pricing:

http://preciseedit.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/how-much-should-my-e-book-cost/

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/09/ebook-pricing.html

Give us your learned thoughts and suggestions, you experience ePubbers out there!

Amazon Keeps Changing Algorithms on Kindle eBooks?

Can indie authors even hope to understand the complex and secret ways Amazon ranks our books? How can we use what little information available to maximize our exposure to the reading world? Did you know they use things like price points and being independently published to consider where to rank you book?

Check out Edward W. Robertson’s blog posts, especially May’s as well as other more recent ones at: http://www.edwardwrobertson.com/

Kindle Select or the World?

That’s what it seems to be boiling down to. Are there fewer advantages with the Kindle Select program now than before? Are the Amazon free days as effective as they used to be? Does it even make sense to use them?

These are the questions I’m asking, now. Take a look at what other indies are saying. It might help you make up your mind.

Joe Konrath—check out his comments at the bottom of the interview. The guy knows his stuff: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/05/guest-post-by-robert-gregory-browne.html

Katie.M.John (It looks wrong, but that’s the way she spells it)—Some interesting thoughts here: http://katiemjohn.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/why-amazon-kdp-select-and-i-are-on.html

D.D. Scott—this lady is an experienced ePubber and very sharp: http://goo.gl/yNi9T

This is an older post on Karen Barney’s blog, that made a lot of sense back in January, and still has some great tips for trying to maximize Kindle Select’s “free days”: http://goo.gl/zMrxl