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I Want To Be A Writer Series

Time for Contemplation

I Want to Be A Writer Series

thinking

Reaching the end of your story is one of the greatest accomplishments in your life. Do not belittle this moment by bypassing and not allowing yourself to enjoy it. Many people begin with the intentions of reaching this point and give up. I have read the beginning of many books, written by potential writers that have more skill than I could ever dream of possessing, but they have yet to finish the first book. The art of writing requires more than just skill in grammar and descriptive phrases that leave you salivating for more. You must be able to see the whole story through to the end, and that takes a very special skill. It requires endurance, courage, and determination, the very things that cannot be taught, and yet, people spend their entire lives striving to reach that point. Soak every ounce of joy out of this moment. You will need it to push you through the next process of agony, publication.

My intention of writing this series was to give a little insight into what is necessary to be a writer. I will not go into the depths of the publication process in this series. But I will give a little bit of advice on the next few steps you must take in order to prepare your manuscript for that process.

Right now, you have a very raw manuscript. It is filled with spelling and grammar errors. Do not ever expect the spell and grammar checker on your word processor to catch all of your errors. Yet, do yourself, and the person you are asking to help edit your book, a favor, and use it to catch what it can. Aside from those errors, you are going to find holes that need to be filled to give your story more meat, or spots that are overflowing with too much detail that must be removed in order to keep your story flowing smoothly. This is what most authors refer to as the “hacking process”. Stephen King has referred to the editing process as “killing your babies” because no author wants to hack out what they have worked so hard to write. The editing process requires you to take on a whole new perception of your story. You are no longer the writer, you are now the reader that must determine what is absolutely necessary for your story, and what is nothing more than a little fat that needs to be removed. At this point, the cost of publishing your book begins to take precedence, because no one wants to spend money on the unnecessary garbage. The more words, the higher the cost of publishing. The more it costs to publish the book, the more you must charge to sell it. It becomes a very tedious process in which you must weigh the importance of every word you have written. Too much garbage can destroy a book, but not enough meat can ruin it as well. You are the author, only you can determine what the final result will be. But don’t worry. You will go through so many editing processes, you will practically have every word memorized by the time the book is published. If you are self-publishing, then do yourself a favor and be sure to use Beta Readers to assure that your book is ready for publication.

Another hurdle you will have to tackle is summarizing what your book is about. If you are seeking a publisher, then you must learn how to write a query letter. A query letter is one of the most important things you will write, because what is in the query summary, is often used as the summary that is placed on the back cover or inside jacket of your published book. In one or two short paragraphs, you must not only clearly describe what your story is about, but this is also where the readers will gain their first insight into what your writing style is. You have very little room to sell your book and you must take advantage of every word you write. It is absolutely vital that you research and learn everything you possibly can about query letters.

There are many ways of researching. You will find a treasure trove of knowledge already online. But there are other means of researching that are just as valuable. Networking and learning from other authors is vital.  Join writing groups and ask those that have experience to read what you have written. Take every opportunity you can, and learn as much about this process as you can.  This is something you will have to do for every book you write in the future and you can never know enough.

Author Anna Silver wrote a great post about an event she participated in that helped her tremendously in learning how to write a strong query letter. Thinking out of the box as she did will often give you more opportunities to rise above what everyone else is doing. You now have a product to sell and it’s time to put on a whole new thinking cap. But no matter what happens from this point forward, you are a writer that has written a book. You have risen above and achieved what you only thought was a dream. Congratulations!

 

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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Time For Closure

I Want to Be A Writer Series

clockIf you thought finding the perfect starting point for your story was difficult, you’re about to face an even more dramatic and painful event; finding the perfect story conclusion.

Personally, when I come to this point, I feel as if a clock has been embedded into my brain and the ticking of the hands begin to progress in their intensity with each paragraph I write. It is agonizingly maddening because I know that everything I have endured up to this point hangs precariously upon the cliff I am about to face. A bad ending could destroy everything because it is where you and reader part ways. This is the moment that will determine what their last, and potentially predominate, impression will be of your story.

The beginning of your story determines whether or not the reader will continue reading the book. The ending could very well determine whether or not they will ever read another book you write. Not a lot of pressure, right?

I know it sounds as if I am being too dramatic, and perhaps I am, to a certain extent. But you must recognize the importance of a good, appropriate, ending. Not every story ends with a happy ending. Not every book ends with a conclusion. If you are writing a book that will be a part of a series then you must determine what part of your overall story you are going to bring to a conclusion in this particular book.

Imagine your story is a train. You must determine what kind of destination your ending will encounter.  If you are writing a stand-alone novel then you must clearly define the bumper your train will come to a stop at. If you are stopping at a depot and bringing only a part of the journey to a close, then you must clearly define the train station you are stopping at and indicate that this is only a breaking point and the journey will continue on. You are the conductor and you must take control of your train from start to finish. Your readers are your passengers and you want them to enjoy the ride and look forward to the next.

When you begin the ending of your story, you must have a clear understanding of what your plot is and how you want to conclude it. I know that may sound like an obvious statement, but keep in mind, not all stories end up exactly as they were originally planned. You may have an entirely different story than what you first began with and it is vitally important that you bring every necessary element of your story to a conclusion. Cliff hangers are a great way of leaving your readers begging for more.  But if you have no intention of giving them more, that anticipation can quickly turn to anger against you. Don’t ever leave your readers confused like lost passengers.

I love to write, therefore, I hate endings. I find myself often writing far too much in order to close a story. If you are not careful with your ending, you can easily find yourself starting a whole new story that completely bypasses what your ending should be. Keep in mind that you are putting an end to your plot, not necessarily the life you are writing about. Every good book leaves you wondering what happened to the characters after the story ends. But that doesn’t mean you have to include the rest of their story in your conclusion. You could write another book to do that at a later time. Just focus on your plot for now and you will have a clear ending in sight.

Previous Post in the Series “Avoiding the Writing Crash and Burn”

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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Beta Readers

I Want to Be A Writer Series

reading

One of the greatest assets a writer can possess is a group of people you can trust to read your writing before it is published. These people are called your “Beta Readers”.

Just as in any industry, it is important to test your product before throwing it out to the masses. This gives you the opportunity to gain valuable insights into how others are going to respond to your story and characters before the book is published and everything is “set in stone”. But you must be careful in exactly who it is you trust to do this invaluable task.

Just as a jury is carefully selected for a trial, you must be certain that your beta readers are suitable for your needs. You don’t want someone judging your book if they are not interested in the genre you have written. You do not need someone that is going to be afraid to tell you the truth. You must be wary of those that might steal your story idea or send copies of your book to every person they know. Nor do you need someone that possesses a vengeful spirit that will do anything they can to jeopardize your writing career. Jealousy is a slimy snake that can sneak into the least expected places and bite you before you even realize it is there. We all want to believe that the people we love and look to as life long friends want us to succeed, but it is often times like this when we discover the true nature of those we thought we could trust. Do not allow your writing to become the victim of circumstances such as these.

When you begin to gather your group of beta readers together, make sure they understand exactly what their role is, as well as the responsibility you are placing them under. One of the best ways you can verify that this is understood is by having them sign a “Non-Disclosure Agreement”. This simple piece of paper works as a legal buffer to prevent your book from being stolen or misused. You can create your own agreement for free from this website, RocketLawyer.com.

The process in which you send your book to your Beta Readers is entirely up to you. You can send them one chapter at a time as you complete them, or you can wait until you have the entire book finished. Whichever method you choose, make sure it is the appropriate method that supports your writing process rather than hinders it. Some writers have several levels of Beta Readers in which are responsible for reading their books at different levels of completion. For instance, one group reads the first raw copy, then another group reads the first edited copy, then another reads the final edited version before it goes to the publisher. This may sound complicated, but it can be very useful and productive if you have the right groups of people. Every eye see’s and every mind processes differently.

In this day and age, there are so many various methods of putting your book on the market, having someone assure that each form of your published book is properly formatted, is extremely important. It is a very time consuming process to do this on your own. Even the major publishing houses struggle with this. But when you have a strong support team behind you, they can make even the most tedious problems seem minute.

Finding Beta Readers can be difficult at first. For most Indy authors, this often involves their family and friends. Unfortunately, this can be a difficult situation. The people that love, or even remotely care about you, are often afraid to be brutally honest because they don’t want to hurt you. If you involve people you have a personal relationship with, make sure you are prepared to accept what you are asking them to do and that they understand that this is not something that will jeopardize your relationship with them. You can avoid this sticky situation by finding others that you are not personally involved with. There are all sorts of websites that connect writers with Beta Readers and there are many communities that have local writing groups that will help you. If you already have a fan base, you could select a few of your fans for this “honor”. But you must always take the proper precautions when dealing with individuals you do not know.

There are many resources available for writers online. Take the time to network with other writers and learn from their mishaps and successes. Always remember that this is your career. Your success depends upon the amount of effort you put forth working towards it.

Previous Post in the Series “Avoiding the Writing Crash and Burn”

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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Avoiding The Writing Crash and Burn

I Want to Be A Writer Series

crash

There is a very significant difference between a “writing slump”, and a full blown “writing crash and burn”.  A slump is something that is easily overcome with a little effort.  It’s difficult to survive, let alone, come back from a crash.

Just as it is in a slump, there are many reasons why potential writers crash and burn before they finish their first book, or after only writing one book. No matter what the symptoms are, they all lead to one major problem – the will to write disappears. Just as you cannot force a horse to drink water, you cannot force yourself to write if the will to do is no longer there. So let’s look at a few ways to avoid this problem by implementing a few safety precautions.

Writing Fatigue – Too much of anything can easily become a hazardous obsession. As the old saying goes, “you should never put all of your eggs in one basket”. A good quality life in general comes from balance. When you spend every waking moment, and every moment you should be sleeping, writing, you will quickly burn out. What was once a dream coming true, will become a burden you must complete so that you can do all of the other things you have neglected. Soon, everything that you have been putting off, will interfere with your ability to write. Instead of writing being a positive in your life, it becomes a negative that takes you away from your family and other important, vital, aspects of your life. There is nothing more inspirational to a writer than living and observing their environment, but you must get away from your desk from time to time to do that.

Health –  A strong, healthy mind depends upon a strong, healthy body. Even something as simple as a common cold can interfere with your ability to write. Lack of sleep can lead to a foggy mind that cannot concentrate. Lack of a healthy diet can as well, not to mention how aggravating it is to stop in the middle of a thought process, just to get your stomach to quit screaming at you. I could go on and on about all of the various ailments that can wreak havoc on your writing ability, but I’m sure you get the idea. The best thing you can do is to balance your life by creating a daily sleep, eat, and exercise schedule that your writing depends on, rather than they depend on your writing. If you allow your writing to be something you get to enjoy only when those important tasks are taken care of, you will look forward to writing even more. But physical health is not the only important factor when it comes to your mental health.  Make sure that you do not neglect your family and friends. It is very easy for a writer to get caught up inside of their head, having imaginary conversations with amazing fictional characters. But they are not real and they go away when the book is done. Many writers suffer from depression, and studies have proven that many creative types are bi-polar, among other mental ailments.  Yes, I know it’s scary. But that is even more reason to make sure that you spend time living outside of your book, enjoying life just as much, or as closely as you possibly can, as the characters in your books.

Disappointment – There are many levels of disappointment you will find yourself dealing with throughout the writing, publishing, and marketing process. The best way to guard against this hazard is to educate yourself and be willing to face the truth, rather than fantasy. If you are writing with the soul purpose to get rich and famous, then you might as well give up now. I’m not saying it won’t happen. We have all seen the few who have made it to such heights. But for everyone that has, there are thousands that remain virtually unknown except for a few loyal and dedicated fans. Let’s look at some others you will face.

  • Doubt – Every writer faces moments when they doubt whether or not their writing is good enough. Personally, this often comes after reading a book from one of my favorite authors and I realize that my writing simply cannot compare to their’s. It is during these moments when I have to remind myself that I am not writing just to be another voice that blends in with all the others. A great artist is one that stands out and becomes the one that others want to be like.  Yes, I know that sounds vain. But unless you are writing fan fiction, this is how you have to think. This has to be something you strive for if you want your “voice” to be heard.
  • Rejection – We have all heard that virtually every author has gone through their own series of rejections. You have to understand that this is a part of the publishing game, especially if you are attempting to be accepted by one of the big publishing houses. If you are self-publishing, then rejection takes on a whole new, even more personal, element. You must armor yourself with a very thick skin, and always remember that not everyone is going to like your books. That is why there are so many different genre’s. Even more so, not everyone is going to be able to relate to your story. That doesn’t mean that your story is written badly or that your story is horrible. You will get a few negative comments no matter how good your story is. Think about this; people complained that the Harry Potter books were too long. Personally, I would have loved it if they never ended. That is just an example of how you simply cannot please everyone, and you should never try to. Focus on your target audience, and when reading reviews of your work, take what you can get from them and use that knowledge to make your next book even better.
  • Low Sales – Marketing can be a nightmare, especially for someone that is completely unknown. You have no choice but to begin by getting the word out to the people you know in hopes they will help you spread the word. That usually means friends and family. I hate to tell you this, but they are usually the first ones to expect you to give them a free book. That is fine, but don’t’ expect every person you know to buy a hundred copies of your book. It takes a lot of work and even more time to get your name out there and generating some buzz about your book. Most ebooks that are self-published never sell more than a hundred copies. Why? Simple, no one knows about the books. It usually has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, or if the story is interesting. This is why I always say that writing the book is the easy part. It is selling it that is agonizing. Take each sell you get, one at a time, and know that each one is a sign of success. If that person buys another book you have written, then that is an even greater success.

I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the multitude of obstacles that could destroy your writing career. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that your success is measured by your standards, not everyone else’s. Set realistic goals for yourself, and try to balance your life as much as you possibly can. Live your life doing the things that make you happy, for the sake of being happy, and you will find true contentment. That is something that no amount of money or fame could ever buy.

Previous Post in the Series “Slopping Through the Writing Slump”

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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Slopping Through the Writing Slump

frustrationI Want to Be A Writer Series

As with any type of creative work, you will hit a point where you feel like you have hit a brick wall. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot get your brain into the writing mode. You feel as if you have lost your ability to connect to the characters or the will to write period. That is a very common problem that every writer faces. So how do you get out of it?

The first thing you must always remember, is that writing a story is a very personal endeavor. It is something that you alone must create. There will not be a coach or a boss standing over your shoulder to keep you motivated every step of the way. You may have a few friends and loved ones that support you, and that is great, but it is completely and entirely up to you to see this through. The inspiration and motivation must always come from inside of you, independent of any outside source that can and will alter like the weather outside your window.

Some people suggest that when you hit a slump, just write your way through it.  Even if it is crap, just keep writing. That may work for some, or it can create a horrible habit that will clearly reflect in your finished product. Personally, I have edited too many of my own books to waste time deleting and rewriting uninspired crap. I have also been the victim of having to read through uninspired crap that forced me to throw a book out without finishing it, and that is the last thing you want your readers to do. Some people may be satisfied by just saying that they finished writing a book, and that is their ultimate achievement, but that is not a writer, that is a hobbyist. If you are to be a career writer, you must learn to find that special place where the writing flows out of you and your characters come to life.

One of the best ways I have found to pull myself out of a writing slump, is to simply walk away for a few days, find a book from one of my favorite authors that I haven’t read yet, and simply fall in love with reading all over again. Writing is only a means of projecting the magic of what you really love, and that is reading. When you rediscover the passion that motivated you to write in the first place, you will begin to find that slump disappearing, and the drive to be creative begins to boil inside of you once again.

Once that desire is found, read through what you have written.  You may find that your slump was actually a sign that it was your story that was hitting a brick wall. Perhaps you went off track, and fell into a side story that was pushing you away from the main plot. Perhaps your characters are bored and something needs to happen to spice their lives up a little more. You may even find that the original plot you began the story with is really nothing more than a step to an even greater event that you never even thought of.

Fear of altering a plan once you begin is a huge obstacle to overcome. It is like taking a road trip.  Sure, you may get to your destination, but was the journey getting there noteworthy? What if you were so focused on the destination, you missed an even greater adventure that you could have taken if you weren’t so focused on the end result.  Plans, outlines, whatever you are using as a guide to work your way through, need to be flexible. Do not set anything in stone until the very last word of your story is written.

The morale of the story; find that balance that nurtures your creativity. Do not rely on things that you cannot control for inspiration, and do not box your creativity inside a box that hinders a story from its true potential. Free yourself from obstacles that hinder you and always hold on to the passion by reminding yourself of its true potency. Enjoy the art you are partaking of. Read and remember the way it feels to fall in love with a book, so that you remember the elements that your readers want to find in yours.

Previous Post in the Series “Allow the Characters to Speak”

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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Allow The Characters To Speak

I Want To Be A Writer Series

You must always remember that this story is not about you.  It is about your characters, so allow them to tell the story.

One of the most difficult hurdles you will come across in writing is learning how to remove yourself and allow your story to take its natural course. I cannot tell you how many completed books I have scrapped because I tried to force the story to take the direction I thought it should take. By doing that, I sucked the life right out of the characters. It was no longer their voices speaking, it was mine.

When you are writing a story, you are giving your readers a peek into a period of someone’s life. Life in general is based on one core concept, “Cause and Effect”. Just as in your personal life, you can plan all you want, but there is no way of knowing what the future has in store for you. There are simply too many outside elements that you face every day that impact your life and you have absolutely no control of them. Unless your character is God, then you will face the very same thing in your story. But that is a good thing. Unexpected twists and turns are what make stories compelling. Most of all, it is what makes your story believable.

This is why it is important to understand your characters on a very personal level. You have to know how they are going to react to the obstacles they face and you have to remain in character throughout the whole story. Do not be afraid to go with the flow of your story if it seems like it is taking you off track. You may find that there is an even more amazing story to be told that you did not anticipate.

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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in IWTBAW Series

 

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Write What You Know

I Want To Be A Writer Series

We’ve all heard that you should write about the things you know.  But what exactly does that mean?

If you take it for face value, then it’s pretty obvious. You shouldn’t write about something you have no understanding of. Seems simple right? Writing a book or a short story is never that simple.

Let’s say you are writing a story about a fictional character that was a Confederate Soldier in the US Civil War. You know exactly what battle you are going to write about, the uniform that was worn, the weapons used, where the soldier is from, what rank he is, the weather conditions, the horrible living conditions, etc. You know everything you need to paint a clear picture of who your character is, and where and when the story is taking place. You have done your homework. You have everything organized. All of your notes readily available, and you are in your own little writing world ready to get to work.

Great, now you have everything you need to write the bones of the story. But what about the flesh and blood, the things that put the life into your story? This is the point where you go from being a journalist, that states just the facts, to a writer that creates the world journalists would want to write about. Knowing all of those facts are only the beginning. You must get to know your characters on a personal level that is so deep, you can close your eyes and imagine you are them. You have to know your characters so well that you know exactly what they feel, think, how they react, how they speak, how they move, how they dress, what they look like; you have to know them almost as well as you know yourself. Imagine yourself as Dr. Frankenstein and you are creating your characters from bits and pieces of things everyone can relate to and creating a whole being. Once you have all of those pieces put together, you must give life to those characters.

The easiest way to find those bits and pieces is to look at the people you have encountered in your life. You can take every good quality from a group of people you know and make one great character or you can take every despicable quality and create an evil villain. This is where you write what you know, you write what you have experienced. Telling your readers who someone is will never be enough. You must allow them to experience your character and get to know them as if they are meeting them face to face in the very world you are writing about.

A writer is a painter, only you are using words to paint a picture. Just as a painter doesn’t paint every single detail of a subject in their painting, you must not bore your readers with details that are better left to be experienced and imagined. The beginning of a story is one of the most difficult sections to write simply because you must find that perfect balance of introduction to your character so that your readers can relate to them just enough to want to learn more and continue reading.  But you also must take into consideration the story and finding that perfect starting point.  Always remember that back stories of your characters are extremely important for you know so you can understand your characters.  But that doesn’t mean that your readers must know them.

Everyone has a unique writing style.  Finding your own is one of the greatest gifts you will ever discover as a writer.  It is your comfort zone.  I won’t get into too much detail about what to do and what not to do because I don’t want to hinder someone’s writing style.  The best advice I can give is to read.  Read as often as you can and look at the way other writers push through the areas you struggle with in your writing.

Previous Post of the Series – “Writing Environment”

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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in IWTBAW Series

 

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