3 Small Changes That Will Transform Your Writing Overnight

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There are only so many tricks to help you sell more books. You can have a blurb that’s to die for, a cover that wins the monthly Book Designer award, and a website with a ridiculous email signup rate, but when you’ve reached the pinnacle of marketing prowess, the only way to improve your book sales is to write better books.

When you write fiction, improving your craft as you go is the equivalent of continuing education as a teacher or doctor. Writing more words over time will help you to improve, but finding specific ways to hone your craft will get you there faster.

When a voracious reader finds your well-written book, particularly as the first chapter in a multi-part series, that reader will latch onto your books for the rest of time. It’s up to you to make sure that your first book has engaging prose that keeps the pages turning.

Here are three writing changes you can apply immediately that will help your fiction to flourish:

1. Write Sentences With Suspense

Image from http://www.terrifyingtales.com/how-to-build-suspense/

Most of us learned how to write a proper sentence back in middle school or high school. You probably studied your subjects, predicates, and punctuation marks until you were blue in the face. These well-meaning English teachers taught us how to make a sentence grammatically correct, but they didn’t show us how to make it interesting.

K.M. Weiland of Helping Writers Become Authors said that most storytellers have been writing sentences wrong all their lives. When you take a sentence for granted, you miss out on the opportunity to hook, guide, and fulfill readers.

One solution to the problem is writing periodic sentences. A periodic sentence, which author Robert McKee called the “suspense sentence,” places emphasis right at the end. The first half of sentences should entice readers to keep reading, while the second half should serve as the payoff.

Take a look at these examples:

His book sales increased to 100 copies daily after four months of spending three hours a day on his craft.

In the last four months, after spending three hours a day on his craft, his book sales increased to 100 copies per day.

In the first example, the emphasis is on the time this writer spent working on his craft. In the second, we get the payoff of what happened as a result of his hard work. If you want readers to zip through your books and ask for more, then you should make the fundamental building blocks of your writing much more suspenseful.

2. Show Character Emotion

Countless books and articles on craft will tell you that you need to “show, not tell.” The phrase has been repeated so often that it no longer seems to have any meaning. Trying to apply vague advice won’t get you very far with your writing.

A simple way to add more “show” to your prose is to demonstrate character emotions through nonverbal cues. In their book The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi said that readers aren’t interested in being told how characters feel; they want to experience the emotion themselves. Ackerman and Puglisi found that in addition to using dialogue, authors could use physical signals, mental responses, and internal sensations to convey emotion on the page.

Use your powers of observation as a writer, both internally and externally, to determine how your characters nonverbally express their emotions. Here are two examples:

Image from http://www.fuelyourphotography.com/the-art-of-emotion/

There was a loud clang in the other room. Patricia was as scared as she’d ever been.

“Honey, is that you?” Her voice was sad and afraid.

There was a loud clang in the other room. Patricia held her breath. She attempted to speak, but her throat started to close up. She swallowed hard.

“Honey, is that you?” Her voice was a shrill whisper through the hallway.

Example one tells the reader how to feel. Example two gives the reader a chance to experience the emotions on his or her own. Trust your readers to understand these nonverbal cues, and they’ll find themselves riveted until the book’s final page.

3. Make Setting Tell The Story

For many authors, setting is nothing but a string of adjectives they add in to flesh out a second draft. They’ve been told that setting is important, but nobody ever told them that setting could be the lynchpin for developing their characters.

USA Today Bestselling Author Mary Buckham said in her book Writing Active Setting that setting can show characterization, create the world of your story, affect pacing, show conflict, change tension, explore emotion, and much more. While setting can orient readers to the time, place, and social context of a story, it can also demonstrate a rich point of view for your characters.

When you have multiple characters in your story, it’s important to remember that each one will experience the world you’ve created in a different way. Buckham gives the example of how a typical 30-something housewife would observe the view from a city rooftop much differently than a discharged military sniper. While the former sees playing children and SUVs, the latter sees escape routes and potential threats.

Image from http://www.desura.com/members/tetsuo3/images/alley-way

Here are two examples:

Eric walked down the dark alleyway. When he got to the other side, he opened the front door to the diner.

Eric’s shoulders relaxed as he entered the space between the two buildings. He didn’t mind the rotten pumpkin beside the half-open dumpster or the droplets from above of water mixed with god knows what. For a moment or two, he could hide from this city, and that was worth the stench. He took a deep breath as he reentered civilization and sunlight, yanking open the door to the diner before slamming it shut behind him.

We know a great deal more about Eric in the second example. While the first one gets us from point A to point B, the second one uses setting as part of the story. Readers tend to put a book down when it gets boring. Tying setting in with characterization keeps your readers going.

Better Books Are More Marketable

Marketing on its own won’t necessarily make your book a bestseller. Neither will writing the most compelling book in the world. When you combine effective marketing with strong writing, however, you significantly increase your chances of selling more books. These three tips will change your writing overnight, but you’ll need to put in hours of work to implement them effectively.

It’s time to stop looking for the quick fix that will make you enough money to become a full-time author. The most effective “trick” remains building up a dedicated group of fans. When you employ suspenseful sentences, nonverbal emotional cues, and setting that tells a story, you’ll be much more likely to hook new readers for good.

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ANTHOLOGIES…IT HELPS TO LIKE JIGSAW PUZZLES

by Glynnis Campbell

Have you ever considered being part of an anthology?

There are definite perks.

You only have to write a fraction of a novel. You get to work with writers you trust and admire. You can link a novella to your own existing series. And when your book hits the shelves, your promotion quotient increases by the number of authors.

But there are challenges, too.

Image from http://www.clker.com/clipart-jigsaw-puzzle.html

Writers are by nature solitary creatures. Creative people are stubborn about their opinions. And romantics get their feelings crushed easily. Put all three together, and you must think before you speak. On any given day, you may be treading on eggshells or walking on broken glass. You must be honest but careful with words and realize that no idea is so precious than it can’t be compromised for the sake of harmony.

So how to begin?

For my latest historical romance anthology with Tanya Anne Crosby and Laurin Wittig, it started with a bottle of wine in the lobby at a writer’s conference, brainstorming until the wee hours.

At first it felt like we were working on different puzzles.

Tanya hoped to write a prequel to her Guardian of the Stone series, featuring the legend of a Pictish goddess from the Dark Ages.

Laurin needed to tie her novella in to her well-loved Scottish Highland romances, the Kilmartin Glen series.

And the story for my Tudor-set Scottish Lasses series had to revolve around an event in Mary Queen of Scots’ life.

What we needed was a thread to not only tie all our novellas together, but to allow us the freedom to go seamlessly off into our own series.

So how do you find that thread? You can give stories characters or themes in common. You can place the stories in the same magical setting. You can connect the stories with an object like an heirloom jewel or a legendary sword passed from hand to hand.

After hours of juggling ideas, we came up with an object to link our stories—the Winter Stone—an ancient crystal with mysterious properties, carried from Keeper to Keeper down through the ages.

Of course, in the jigsaw puzzle of book-writing, this is only the outside frame. There’s still the entire middle to complete. There are more challenges ahead. For us, these challenges were magnified by the fact that we lived thousands of miles apart.

We went back and forth on the size and properties of The Winter Stone.

We compared plot points to be sure they didn’t conflict.

We played tug-of-war with the level of the paranormal element we wanted.

But in the end, with communication, understanding, compromise, and a lot of heart, every last piece of the jigsaw puzzle came together, and THE WINTER STONE was born.

So if you’re patient, if you can see the big picture, and if you enjoy turning pieces on their heads and trying to make them all fit, maybe an anthology is for you!

Website Planning for Authors

by Tina Gayle

One of the first things authors are asked? “Do you have a website?”

Some have authors use wordpress or blogger to host their site while others decide to try hosting sites.

As a former programmer, I wanted a site where I had more control. Why? Because there has been times when for one reason or another blogger has decide to take down my site. Trying to get answers as to what the problem entails is almost impossible. If you have a hosting site, you can call them and get immediate help.

Image from http://wespotlight.com/website-planning/

By using a hosting site, I know I’m can control what happens with my site. My site is programmed using HTML code, but don’t let that scare you.

A number of internet provide now have Weebly Drag and Drop Web builder. This feature allows authors to put together a professional looking website in a few hours. (I use Hypermart as my service provider.)

However, I still use blogger for my blog and just use a link for my readers to gain access to my home site.

When planning a website, an author needs to decide on a number of things.

Branding- what do you want to show on your site?
Number of pages? (note: Weebly sites have 5 to 6 pages with the basic plan…more pages cost more.)

What type of pages?

Here are some examples of the different type of pages one can have.

  1. Home Page / Welcome page – is like the entryway to your house. It is an introduction to you. It should include things like author’s picture, available books, a welcome note, brief biography and links to all the other pages on the site.
  2. Books Page – as an author you want people to find your books. This page should contain all the books you’ve written with either blurbs, excerpts or reviews. Or links to this information.
  3. Bio Page – a page to tell people about yourself. Who you are, what you write, more about your personal interests and other information you want to share.
  4. Links Page – this page gives visitors to your site links to other places on the Internet where they can find you. Also, it can include links to your friends and publisher. This is important because links to other sites that link back to you increases your rating on the Internet. (This also increase your SEO rating—see definition below.)
  5. Other Pages – the possibility for other pages are endless. Here is where you make your site your own.
  6. Picture page – share pictures.
  7. Contact page – where you give fans your email address.
  8. Excerpt pages – giving excerpts of your books or the ability to read the first chapter.
  9. Video Page – to display video you’ve made. (A great way to connect with readers.)
  10. Some sites also have chat areas or forums.

Each author has to decide what they want and why?
Feel free to hop around mine and see what you like and don’t like. Viewing other sites can help you decide what you want on yours.

Once these things are decided then comes the creative part of the process – colors, pictures, type print, headers, footers, etc.

This is not a one day project. Take some time and thing about what is best for your site.