Tag Archives: advice

How to ask for reviews of your self-published novel on forums

Congratulations, you’ve published your novel! Well done, that’s a point many people don’t reach. Now you just need to sell it. And that’s harder than it looks. Statistics published in The Guardian reveal that half of all self-published authors earned less than $500 in 2011. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of books are self published annually (319,000 in 2012), you’ve got a lot of competition.

It is widely acknowledged that having reviews helps sell your novel. On Amazon Kindle, readers can browse by review rating – and any book that’s never been reviewed is cut right out. Reviews help wavering potential readers make up their minds whether or not to buy. Readers might even discover that your book exists by reading a review of it on a book blog they follow. So reviews are an important component of marketing your book.

So how do you get reviews?

Continue reading How to ask for reviews of your self-published novel on forums

Why you shouldn’t bother writing a prologue

The prologue debate is one that sticks its head above the parapet in writing circles every now and again, and since I’ve come across that debate again recently, I thought I’d take the time to sketch out my thoughts on them.

If you’re a new writer, just don’t bother with a prologue.

Don’t get me wrong, prologues done well can work, but the vast majority I’ve read don’t. And even when they work by themselves, within the context of the rest of the novel they often mess something or other up. Some people don’t even read prologues – assuming that they’re either irrelevant, info dumping, or just plain badly written.

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You Need an Editor (a guest post from Brian W Foster)

Today I have invited Brian W Foster to write a guest post on editing – something he has rather more experience of than I do. So here it is:

My three year old tends to scribble with crayons a lot. My wife and I, as parents are wont to do, exclaim over these works of art and place them prominently on the refrigerator.

I imagine, if you have or have had little ones of your own, you understand this well. Nothing wrong with it. Consider, however, what you would think of me if I decided that these tremendous works of art should be sold on Amazon.

Continue reading You Need an Editor (a guest post from Brian W Foster)

Some writing exercises I’ve found helpful

Improving as a writer is all about practice. That’s why it has been said that you write a million words of crap before you write anything really good. After being involved in writing groups and online communities, I’ve come across quite a few little exercises that have helped me with my writing. Here are a few.

The Inanimate Object

This is about getting into the mind of your character, with a bit of a twist. You pick an inanimate object – a wine bottle, an old mobile phone in the back of someone’s drawer, a broken sign post, an apple in a fruit bowl – and you tell a story from the point of view of that object. What does it want? What thoughts and feelings might it have about its situation? What does it hope humans will do?

Continue reading Some writing exercises I’ve found helpful

Eight Steps to a Better Blog Post

Today I came across an article online about how to write a better blog post. I wasn’t too impressed with it, though – the language and syntax was a bit off, like using “4th step” instead of the more common “Step 4”, and the line “I advice using simple words on your posts, all articles  in my blog are written in simple English.” I mean, seriously, that’s got three things wrong with it in advice about grammar. (“I advice” should be “I advise”, it should be two sentences with a full stop where the comma is, and there are two spaces instead of one between “articles” and “in”.)

And then at the end the conclusion had nothing to do with what the rest of the post had to say; it should really have been a ninth point, rather than a conclusion.

Anyway, it kind of annoyed me. And I know it’s probably some guy in India who got paid US$8 for writing it and thus the author and/or site owner isn’t interested so much in quality as attracting hits for ad revenue, but even so, it annoyed me. That’s also why I’ve linked the Reddit thread where it was posted rather than the article itself.

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On Writing Every Day

One piece of advice that gets thrown around a lot is this:

Write every day.

I’ve tried that. A lot of people have, I suspect. And yet I don’t write daily. Sure, I have done this last week as I’ve been taking part in the One Hour Story challenge, but that’s been a short run, just seven days of which two remain. Most of the time, my writing comes in fits and bursts, a thousand words here, a couple of hundred there, the odd day with several thousand words, several days with none and a few where a sentence is all I can manage.

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Self-publishing Quality

I see myself as much a reader as a writer here, if not more so. I do intend, when the time comes, to self-publish what I write; I like the advantages it offers in terms of control, royalties and swiftness of reimbursement. As such, I want to see the self-publishing industry succeed, not just for my own prospects, but because it offers a variety to readers which traditional publishing does not – it contains books which might not be “marketable” or might be “too risky” to the traditional publisher, but which actually are very good, very enjoyable books.

The problem is that self-publishing’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: its inclusivity. It means that anyone can publish – good or bad. Finished or unfinished. And that’s what I want to address today.

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Review: 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What you Love, by Rachel Aaron

After reading Rachel Aaron’s much-shared blog post about how she increased her daily word output, I decided to buy her book on the same topic, which, she claims, “combines several writing posts from my blog, cleaned up and expanded, with all new content, and all for under a buck.” 2k to 10k begins with the original blog post from Aaron’s blog, Pretentious Title, and includes several other chapters similarly based around her blog posts, such as Editing for People Who Hate Editing.

The book is full of good advice. It seems aimed at the intermediate writer – the writer who is, perhaps, not yet published but has a fair few thousand words under their belt. The blog posts chosen for inclusion in the book suit this target audience. Aaron’s tone is friendly and helpful – reflective of the original blog format, but equally appropriate in the book version.

2k to 10k

Continue reading Review: 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What you Love, by Rachel Aaron

Language Efficiency

When writing a novel, language is important. You need to portray the right actions and emotions so that the reader understands what is going on. For that, you need accurate language.

Immersion is also important: it keeps the reader reading. Immersion is about keeping the reader focused on the events of the story, and not distracting them with unbelievable actions, unrealistic use of resources (I recently read a book in which the writer implies that a palace has been built of obsidian – a material wholly unsuitable for construction) or language.

If you don’t want your reader to think about the language you’re using, you need to use it well, in an unobtrusive manner. The best way to do this is to use the most efficient language. Efficiency in language is about conveying an idea accurately to the largest proportion of readers in the fewest words, using the shortest words available.

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The Passive Protagonist

Be active, we are told as writers; don’t say “he was walking”, say, “he walked”. Active language is more engaging, and often better paced. It enables stronger prose. It lifts your writing. By contrast, passive language slows the pace and saps excitement by using two words when one will do or placing the character in the position of the object, the thing to whom actions are done. Any writer who’s spent much time on the internet or reading writing advice books knows that (and in fact my friend Brian recently posted on this subject).

On the micro level – on the level of individual sentences and phrases – this advice is followed. On the macro level – with characters over the course of a novel – often it is not.

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