To build on yesterday’s post about author networking, another thing author support groups can provide includes a variety of benefits. Many offer classes, some free or at a reduced rate; tweet groups; review opportunities; online writing conferences; blog tours; interviews; and vetted author service providers.
There are two specific groups with whom I’ve had good experiences. There are many more, but these have been helpful for me. These are ASMSG (Author Social Media Support Group) and RRBC (Rave Reviews Book Club). Through my membership in both I have learned a lot and met some awesome authors who have also become great friends. If you’d like more information, leave a comment and I’ll provide contact information.
Yesterday I mentioned networking and how important it is. There are numerous author groups which have a variety of excellent benefits. These are where you can find authors with whom you can do a beta swap or provide editorial reviews.
Just about every community will have a writers group. Sometimes these work and sometimes they don’t. It often depends on how serious you are about your writing. If you’re brand new and at this point it’s mostly a hobby, this is a good place to start. However, if you’re really serious about becoming a professional, you may eventually outgrow a local group unless there are others there who are publishing and actively pursuing a writing career.
One place you can start if a local group doesn’t fill the bill is a platform such as LinkedIn. They have several groups for writers and that is where I got my first connections. I’m still in contact with some of the authors I initially met in that forum.
Networking with other authors is a must. This has more benefits than I could possibly go into in this short blog. Maybe established authors of best sellers can go it alone, but most of us don’t have that luxury of avid fans salivating for our next work to hit the stands, or Amazon, as the case may be.
It’s especially helpful to network with other authors who write in the same or similar genre as you do. See them as allies, not competition. How many readers stick to books written by only one author? No one I know. However, readers do tend to lean toward certain favorite genres.
Thus, you can help each other through sharing on each other’s social media, blogs, etc. as well as marketing tips and locations that work or, conversely, don’t work. Most of us have paid out a huge chunk of money for advertising that brought no results, which a fellow author probably could have warned us about.
Here’s another mistake a new author might make: Thinking that as soon as they hit the “publish” button that the entire world is going to swoop in to buy their novel. Unless you have a huge network of friends and family who will go out there and do just that, you are bound to be very disappointed.
It’s unrealistic to expect readers to find your book as soon as it’s released. There are literally millions of books out there. Drawing attention to yours is even more difficult than getting people to listen to what you have to say at a professional sports event.
If you want people to find your book, you need to take some serious marketing action or hire a publicist. Even then, it’s not easy. If you’re brand new, building your audience is a major challenge. This is where joining an author group can be a huge help.
Yesterday I talked about using a visual clue for section breaks other than an addition space. One way to enhance your book’s interior is to use a glyph that relates to your story instead of asterisks. Making them a part of your formatting adds a nice, thoughtful touch that adds to the flavor of the story. For example, if your story is about a horse, you could use a few horse shoes for section dividers.
There are many options you can explore in unicode and wingding fonts which are easier to use overall than a jpg file. One drawback of jpg files is their resolution, which to show up clearly needs to be at least 300 dpi for print. I don’t know about your word processor, but Word isn’t very cooperative for this and tends to reduce them to around 200 dpi. This then requires replacing them in the final pdf file one by one, which can be onerous, to say the least. Some print on demand publishers may not care, but some like Lightning Source and Ingram do, and will bounce it back. Thus, if it’s part of a font set, this is not a problem.
One of the most obvious ways to divide your massive novel into sections is chapters. There are pros and cons to their length, which is really up to you. Personally, I prefer shorter chapters since sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to read and I don’t like to stop in the middle. But this is just me, though it seems that everyone is pretty busy these days, so I don’t think I’m that unique.
Another way to divide your story is by including more than one scene in a chapter, perhaps because you change point of view characters. In this case, it’s best to mark your section breaks with a few asterisks rather than simply rely on an extra space. This can work in a print book, especially if the first paragraph of the new section is also not indented, another visual clue to the reader that the scene has shifted. However, this might not be noticeable on an electronic reading device. I’ve encountered this before and it turned out it was quite confusing because the POV had changed.
This is another simple trick to let your reader know what’s going on so they don’t get lost.
Some stories can’t be told without a boatload of characters. My current WIP is definitely in that category. There are so many things going on, to tell the story requires a huge cast. I’ve read similar novels where it sometimes got really difficult to remember who certain people were, unless they were somehow in context. In other words, some people relate to certain scenes and plot angles that make them stand out.
One way or the other, if your book is loaded with characters, one way you can do your readers a tremendous favor is to provide a dramatis personae. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a list of who and what each person is in the beginning of the story; a cast of characters, if you will. This is particularly useful if there is some blood relationship between your characters, which may be difficult to keep track of for the reader.
Yesterday I talked about point of view and how everything needs to be filtered through the POV character. One way to check whether you’ve wandered away is to consider the subject scene as if it were written in first person. That will usually identify anything that doesn’t belong.
If you’re having a difficult time getting a grasp on POV, perhaps writing in first person will help you get a better feel for it. However, that can be limiting, depending on the story. I would have a very difficult time writing strictly from first person, though I know of at least one very skillful author who has her protagonist’s scenes in first person while other characters are written in third person.
It’s okay to tell your story, or sections of it, through the eyes of different characters. However, IMHO, these should be as separate sections, not all run together, which would constitute omniscient POV. Some books work in that mode, but if you really want your reader to relate to your characters, it’s best to give them their own voice in their own sections or chapters. Otherwise it can get confusing and far more difficult to get into their inner thoughts and feelings.
Another challenge to new writers is point of view. No matter how many books you may have read, it does not necessarily stand out what this comprises until you’re confronted with it as an author.
So what does it mean? Generally speaking, everything, including all narrative, needs to be that as seen through the point of view (POV) character’s mind and eyes. This includes the vocabulary. If your protagonist is a child, don’t use big, complicated $5 words unless s/he happens to be someone like Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.” If you’re writing an historical novel, keep the terminology and vernacular, including any euphemisms, accurate to that particular era.
If he or she is a professional, then they should filter their environment and situations through those particular eyes. For example, if your protagonist is a psychologist, he will see things slightly differently than an engineer. When I was writing “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” I had to get into the head of an astrobiologist. This meant I had to learn a whole lot about biology, lab operations, and so forth if I wanted to keep the story authentic. This is what research is all about.
If you read the posting the other day about character building, I’m sure you can see how this contributes to that as well. Everything your character says or does contributes to his personality. I you can’t get inside your character’s head and know these things, then you don’t know him or her well enough yourself.
It’s not always easy to keep your characters’s physical and personality traits straight. This is particularly true for minor characters who show up several times, but aren’t ingrained in your mind like your protagonist should be.
One way to keep them straight is to keep a file or spreadsheet handy for reference if they’re not vivid enough in your mind without it. This also applies to certain scene locales. I remember reading a book one time where the color of the couch changed. Yes, weird, I know, but I’m the kind of reader who will notice such a thing. I don’t think I’m entirely alone with that, either. Alert readers will notice if your hero’s eyes are blue on one page and green on another.
If you’re writing a short story, this is usually not a problem. But if you’re writing a novel, especially a long one, this can become a problem. Consistency is important and this is one way to be sure you are without having to go back and find where you stated what the person looked like. Another help is making them so unique, as noted the other day, that you can remember.
Think about that for a moment, too. If you can’t remember, how will your readers? The one major difference there, of course, if that you may have taken months to write your book while a reader blows through it in a few days, making it easier for them to remember.
Whatever works for you if you don’t have a steel-trap memory, do it. This is another thing that can throw readers out of the story, a fairly major faux pas.