Today’s Writing Tip

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Here’s an idea for those of you who may tend to be impatient getting your book out there. While I don’t necessarily recommend doing so until it’s sufficiently edited and refined, if you need to make a deadline or simply have to get it out there for your own sanity sake, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find things that need to be corrected or revised after the fact.

If your chosen POD distributor (or in some cases, publisher or formatter, if you have the luxury of having someone else do that for you) charges you for every edit or change, it can get expensive. One way to deal with this would be to start with an ebook where such updates are easier. Then, when it’s been through all your beta readers, editors, and so forth–when you’re absolutely sure your story is the best it can be–then you can move forward with the print copy.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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I may have mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. It’s always difficult to edit your own work. Getting distance between you and your story so that you can see it through your readers’s’ eyes is not easy. Of course, letting it sit for a while usually helps. If you tend to work on more than one book at a time, this is easier to do. Otherwise, you’re likely to be impatient to finish it up and get it out there.

Even if you have an editor, you really need to go through it again on your own. I have seen too many books that were supposedly “edited” but in some cases I suspect the editor was their dog. Seriously. Partly, this is because there are numerous types of editors. If you’re not paying attention and know the difference, perhaps you’re not getting what you’re paying for. For example, there are simple proofreaders, copy editors, content editors, and line editors. Not every editor will provide all three. Some who are not professional, simply someone with a good eye, may not even notice them.

So, bottom line, if you want your book to be a high quality product, you should go through that final version yourself. The way I prefer to do this is with a proof copy. Yes, a print copy I can hold in my hands and turn the pages. The physical feel of the book in your hands facilitates seeing your story through a reader’s eyes. It’s a different “dimension”, if you will, from an electronic device. For me, it’s also less distracting to underline, highlight, or dog-ear pages that require corrections without losing the flow.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Having more than one story arc adds depth, complexity, and interest to your story. Story arcs can be subplots or simple little details that you tie together. Be sure to manage them properly, however, and close them, when required, so they don’t leave your reader hanging. That’s a faux pas that shows you’re not paying attention to your own story.

A well-woven story will have several things going on, albeit in the background. Tying characters together is one way to do this. Rather than having random characters come on stage, then leave permanently, tie them into the plot in some  way. It’s a small world and coincidences like that are credible. I believe that mystery writers tend to do this intuitively, but it works in other genres as well.

If you’re writing a serial, you can have a lot of fun with this concept. Anyone who has followed your series will appreciate a tidbit now and then that refers back to a previous episode. If it influences the current story in some way, all the better.

Today’s Writing Tip

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I’m sure you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, i.e. “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”  Anyone who hasn’t experienced this truism at some point in their life isn’t living on this planet. However, as an author, have you ever thought of it as a great plot enhancer?

When you’re plotting action, you may be inclined to move things right along without any complications. Not only is this often unrealistic, but can actually be boring. Suspense is a major factor in good fiction and how your hero or heroine is going to get out of their current scrape is what keeps your reader turning the pages.

Thus, if things are moving along  bit too well, figure out all the things that could go wrong. Throw some obstacles in the way and make your protagonist’s goal harder to attain.

Today’s Writing Tip

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I don’t know about you, but I skip around a lot when I’m writing. In other words, I don’t start out with chapter 1 and continue on straight through until I type “The End.” This is for numerous reasons. One is that I write using multiple viewpoints and sometimes it’s easier to follow that person through several chapters. Another is that I tend to write in layers. I don’t conceive a story in its detail all at once, but go back as other things come to me, whether it’s tweaking dialog or improving a description.

Needless to say, this can get tedious. I’m currently dealing with a 141K word WIP and jumping around to find the right place can be a real nuisance. One way to get around this is by bookmarking certain scenes or chapters so I can get there more quickly. I always seem to be short on time, so every trick that saves a few moments helps.

One thing to remember, however, is you need to remove them before submitting it for ebook or print format. The coding can really honk up the final version, plus the bookmarks may not be in places that make sense to anyone but you, anyway.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Who’s your muse? In other words, what inspires you? Is it a walk in the woods? Another author? An inspirational phrase? A ceramic statue? It’s good to have something to turn when you need guidance or ideas.

I don’t know about you, but often my best ideas come when I’m away from the computer. It may be driving along my quiet country road, vacuuming, mowing the yard, or washing dishes. Evening watching TV often brings inspiration, depending on what you watch. I spend a lot of time on The History Channel and their programming often dovetails nicely with my work.

The most important thing is to know what feeds your muse. Feed it regularly whichever diet it prefers and you’ll never be short on great ideas.

My official muse is Kalliope, muse of epic poetry. I did not necessarily adopt her, but it’s more the other way around. Astrologically, she has a very prominent place in my horoscope, which explains a lot about why I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.

Today’s Writing Tip

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I’m declaring today “Internet Appreciation Day.” Those of us who have been writing for a while truly appreciate how easy it is to conduct a lot of research without leaving home. Finding out the details that make your novel come alive are usually no farther away than Google.

I can’t help but reflect from time to time on the “old days” when research meant going to the local public or university library. Magazines were helpful for location research, but now we have Google Earth to say nothing of the wealth of information on the internet.

As you’re probably already aware, I’m a detail freak. I don’t want some future reader to get in my face about some stupid mistake I made in one of my stories. I have so many bookmarks in my browser it’s ridiculous and I actually donate to Wikipedia on a monthly basis, because I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Getting it correct these days is easier than ever. I, for one, truly appreciate writers who care enough about their work to do the research and get it right. There’s no excuse to make foolish mistakes anymore when a Google search is only a few keystrokes away.

Take a few moments today and think about what the author’s world was like in the old days. Then pay your next ISP bill with a smile.

Today’s Writing Tip

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With tax time coming up, at least the USA’s infamous April 15, remember to keep track of all your writing expenses for your tax return. Research, subscriptions, social media, online services, promotional expenses, contest fees, club memberships, etc. are all tax deductible as business expense.

Whatever you do, don’t ever call your efforts a hobby if you’re seriously trying to make money as an author. I’m not a tax expert, but so I’ve heard. Even if it takes you years to turn a profit, as long as you can back it up that your intent is to be profitable with receipts and so forth, you should be okay.

One trick of business owners is to always do a little promotion on vacation so they can write off trip expenses. Thus, book research fits this category. Even if it doesn’t fit your  WIP or current list of future titles, take notes to file away for later use.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Authors often don’t spend much time watching TV. We rather be creating a story than watching one. However, keeping up with what’s popular can help you know which viewers might also enjoy your story. That, in turn, may help you find places to promote your work. Not all avid TV watchers are readers, but a certain percentage will be. The idea is to find people who like the sort of characters and stories you’re producing.

Writing a spin-off of a popular TV show is risky for any number of reasons. On the other hand, copycats often do well, if they’re quality work. If they’re not, you’ll probably be labeled unoriginal or worse.

I recently was told about a TV show on NetFlix which turned out to be uncomfortably similar to my WIP. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about that. It would be very easy to accuse me of copying elements of the show when those parts in my book were actually written before I even discovered the show!

Hopefully, fans of the show would enjoy my story. On the other hand, if they thought I did it as a spin-off, I could look bad. In this case, I don’t think I’ll market directly to viewers of that show.

What do you think?

Today’s Writing Tip

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Newsletters are one of the best ways to connect with your readers and fans directly. There’s no panacea in marketing, but this is one way that comes highly recommended. One way to add interest to them is to include games and contests. This helps retain subscribers, if they enjoy what you send out. If it’s a fun and interesting read, they’re more likely to open it and think of you in a positive way.

Sales pitches eventually fall on deaf ears. Even if you write newsletters worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, you’re unlikely to have a 100% open rate, at least if your subscriber list includes more people than your mother and Aunt Bessie. One author newsletter comes to mind that goes directly to my spam folder without even touching my inbox. All it ever includes is a big, glaring, full-color picture of the cover of her one and only book, followed by all the reasons you should read it.

Ho-hum, I don’t think so.

Study the newsletters you like to receive and actually enjoy reading for content ideas. Keep hawking your book to a minimum. Connecting at a personal level with your fans is your best bet.