How You Think Impacts How You Write

January 17, 2017

We’re two weeks into the new year, and it’s a good time to think about how we think. Why? Because our thinking impacts our writing.

Here are some things you might want to consider as you write this year.

  • Realize that people are your greatest resource and are available all around you. People write. People create. People examine. People research. We tend to look for people with common interests, common goals, common ideals. In other words, we like to hang out with people who validate us. How does staying in your comfort zone impact your writing? It helps you determine whether you’re challenging yourself enough.
  • Look for things in others that you don’t like. No one can be all things to you, yet relationships last for years. How can that be? When you discover something about another person you don’t like, try to figure out why you still work on your relationship with that person. How does that impact your writing? It helps you create more interesting characters and highlight differences in them.
  • Understand you can never change someone else. People change and they change every day, but they change when they want to, not because someone else wants them to. Look at your own life. You’ve made changes along the way, and you made them when you saw a benefit to making them. How does understanding that impact your writing? It helps you determine your writing schedule and goals. It helps you organize your writing and decide what to include and what to save for the next piece you write. It helps you motivate your characters or change story line.
  • Appreciate that people don’t like to be ordered around, but rather prefer to participate. Granted, there’s a place for authority and orders, but you get better commitment and “buy-in” when you invite or ask people to join you. How does this impact your writing? It can help you in your research, in your time commitments that take you away from writing, and even in your plot and characters.
  • Know that confrontation can be good. Conflict shows something isn’t right and needs attention. Can you think of any engaging story that doesn’t have confrontation or conflict of some type? That question should be enough to show you how conflict can help your writing.
  • Recognize that everything has a beginning and an ending. Today started and will end. This week started and will end. And so it goes with this month and this year. Your stories begin and end. Your activities begin and end. That’s not to say things don’t repeat, but each repetition differs a little from what occurred previously. How does recognizing beginning and endings help your writing? You can use beginnings and endings to map out chapters, character development, writing schedules, research options–everything!

I hope this list of ideas helps you keep up your writing for the new year. Remember, only you can write what you write because you are the only one who thinks exactly the way you do. Happy writing!

How to Turn One Book into More

December 30, 2016

As I write this, the holidays are almost behind us and it’s time to look get going on a new year of writing projects. One idea you might consider is writing a book that can form the foundation for developing other ideas.

One author who was genius at this is Stephen Covey. Starting with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, readers still buy his books. His book titles are too massive to list here, but I’ll give you an idea. He wrote a personal workbook to go with his original 7 Habits book, a personal workbook for teens based on the 7 Habits, a 7 Habits book for families, a book on just Habit 2, and one on just Habit 8. Well, you get the idea.

Considering doing this yourself? Here are some tips to help you.

  • Create new editions of the book that are changed, updated, or both, and do this approximately every three years so readers know your new edition contains fresh material rather than being a simple rewrite.
  • Take an idea from the original book and develop that one idea further.
  • Explore other closely related topics your readers will be interested in.
  • Compile an anthology of what others write on your topic (articles, reports, etc.), and make sure you get permission to include them in your anthology before publishing.
  • Expand your original book into step-by-step workbooks to give your reader the opportunity to actually apply your insights.
  • Talk to people who have read your book about what other issues they want to deal with (each issue offers an opportunity for a new book).

The new year stretches out in front of you and offers you an excellent opportunity to expand your writing career. Happy writing!

Consider Using One-word Titles

November 15, 2016

The cliche about judging a book by its cover also points to judging a book by its title. As you think of a title for your book, consider using just one word to tempt your reader. For example, Stephen King’s books include Carrie, Firestarter, Cujo, Christine, Thinner, It, Misery, and Desperation–all one-word titles.

If you prefer nonfiction examples, you can look to Leadership by Tom Peters, Winning by Jack Welch, or Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Here are some reasons to consider using one-word titles. They

  • Create visual impact on your book cover.
  • Are easy to remember.
  • Free you up to use a subtitle to describe your book.
  • Help the reader associate a common word with your book.
  • Can be easier to create than figuring out a multiple-word title that’s memorable and repeatable.

When searching for your one-word title, keep these tips in mind and decide which one fits your title’s purpose.

  • Create a powerful image in readers’ minds.
  • Encourage the reader to do something, to take action.
  • Offer a double meaning.
  • Describe a problem or controversy.
  • Appeal to a broad audience rather than a specific segment.

Here are some tips to help you find your one-word title.

  • Start with, “My book is about___________________.”
  • Do a Google search on your topic and see what words come up.
  • Test your one-word title with your writers group or any other group you trust to be honest with their feedback.

One-word titles are easy to remember and easy to repeat (which helps others in recommending your book). If you can write a book, you can find the right title for it. Happy writing!

Get Your Book Out of You

October 31, 2016

When I taught the “Writing for Fun and Profit” college class series, I urged students to do a mental inventory of the bookstores they frequent. Then I asked them to offer a guess on what percentage of books in bookstores is fiction and what percentage is nonfiction. The reality is most books in bookstores are nonfiction.

Why is that? That’s what sells and bookstores are in the business of selling books.

That doesn’t mean fiction writers should sigh and give up. Look at how many successful fiction writers there are. My point is whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you need to get your book out of you if you want people to read it. In other words, you need to write, not just think or dream of writing.

Here are some tips to get (or keep) you writing.

  • Figure out what you feel strongly about, are passionate about, and want to share with the world.
  • Have some idea what you’ll include in your book–plot line, chapter titles, that sort of thing.
  • Outline your book. You may want to use sticky notes that you can post to a wall or white board or poster board and can move around in case you change the order of things as you work on your book. The point is you’ll want to make your book visual so you see it every day.
  • Create a schedule and start with the deadline you want your book finished. (You get to decide whether finished means submitted to an agent or means self-published and the book in your hands.)
  • Work backwards from your deadline. You know nothing gets things done like a deadline. Look at Christmas shopping, Halloween costumes, school graduations, weddings, etc. Dates are set and people do whatever they have to do to achieve the goal by the date.
  • Figure out what you have to do each day to meet your deadline (be sure you include research, allow for interruptions/emergencies/etc., determine how many pages you need to write daily).
  • Start with the easiest part of your book (some mystery writers I know start at the end so they keep their writing focused on moving toward that end).
  • Remember that even though writing is a solitary activity, getting your book out of you and to your readers is not. You need people to read your writing and offer honest feedback (a writers group or others who will be honest in what they tell you about your book). You need a content editor (to help you with clarity) and a copy editor (to help you with basics like grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.). If you self-publish, you need a book designer (not  just a graphic designer). If your book is nonfiction, you need reviewer comments for the cover or inside pages.

The last step to getting your book out of you and to your reader is marketing, and you can find all sorts of ideas on that within in this blog and many others. Happy writing!

Quick Tips for Marketing Your Self-published book

October 12, 2016

You’ve written your book. You’ve decided to pay to publish it. You’ve got boxes of books stacked in your closet or basement. Now what?

Authors have many publishing options today, yet one thing remains constant–people buy authors they know and like. Thus the author must take responsibility for the marketing of the book in order to get readers to recognize the author’s name.

Competition for the book dollar is as tough as it’s ever been. If you’re trying to recover the investment you made in paying to be published, consider these quick marketing tips.

  • Never leave home without bringing copies of your book with you. You never know when you’ll get the opportunity to mention you’re an author and get questions about your book.
  • Create your website, write a blog, use social media to get your name out there.
  • Consider working with book distributors. Yes, they can take a huge percentage of sales, but they also have contacts you might not otherwise reach.
  • Find creative ways to do book events like craft shows, expositions, charity fundraisers, club meetings, partnering with other authors for an event, etc.
  • Sign every book you sell. You make a more personal connection with your readers when you do.
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas with others and really consider the feasibility of what they offer before deciding for or against their suggestions.

Marketing your book won’t be easy, but neither was writing or publishing it. You need all three components in order to reach your readers. It takes time and determination, but you can do it. Happy writing!

Tips for Improving Your Fiction Writing

September 9, 2016

It’s a given that writers depend on creativity. But it’s also important to understand good writers depend of studying and working on the craft of writing. Consider these tips as you work on your fiction writing.

  • Develop your characters.  While it’s true genre fiction follows formulas and readers expect the author to write somewhat formulaic, it’s also true readers expect to think about what’s going on in the story, expect substance, and expect to feel something (could be positive or negative) about the characters. You do your reader an injustice if you rely only on plot or fast-paced action in your fiction writing.
  • Take the time to research and learn grammar, punctuation, correct word usage, etc. I’m not saying you need to understand all the rules, but I am saying publishers (and eventually readers, if you get  published) will appreciate reading good writing that isn’t full of errors. You may think you can rely on your publisher’s editors to fix things for you, but you’d be incorrect. They do good work, but you, as author, are ultimately held accountable for the quality of your writing.
  • Strive for quality. The previous tip is a lead-in to this one. Writing is a craft, and you need to constantly work at improving your output. Clearly you want to develop your own voice, offer a good story, and create a reader fan base, but none of these things will happen for you if you don’t offer a quality novel or story.
  • Understand all writing requires editing. You draw on your creativity when you begin writing fiction, but you also need editing before you’re ready to offer your fiction to an agent or publisher. Start by letting your manuscript cool off at least a day, then re-read what you’ve written to see what needs correcting, clarifying, or deleting. If you’re really lucky, you can join a writers group that will give you honest feedback on your writing. After all, you know what you intended to write, but it takes other people to read your writing and let you know if you successfully accomplished your intent. Finally, you can hire an editor to help you, but make sure you hire an editor who edits what you write. Hiring an English teacher/professor or well-read friend doesn’t necessarily get you the quality of feedback/correction you need before offering your fiction for publication.

When  you write fiction, you create the entire world, including the people, the setting, the experiences, and the closure to the story. It’s not easy writing, but it can be rewarding if you work at it. Happy writing!

What Not to Say When Trying to Sell Your Book

August 4, 2016

You’ve written your book and now you’re hoping to sell it to an agent or publisher. Most likely you’re not a salesperson by nature, so here are some things you should never say when trying to sell your book.

  • There’s no other book like it. Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s always another book like it. Your job is to show the agent or publisher why your book differs from the others in the market. It could be the characterization. It could be a new way to approach the nonfiction topic. If you want to sell your book, you need to show how your book compares to what’s already similar (and successful) to what people are buying.
  • This book will sell itself in the marketplace. Again, this simply isn’t realistic. James Patterson’s books are about as close as you can come to books selling themselves, yet even he markets his books (I saw him in a television commercial just the other day).
  • The audience is anyone who reads. Once more the answer is nope, not so. I read a lot, but I don’t read everything and neither does anyone else. Your job when selling your book is the same as it is when writing it–understand who your core reader is and know your specific audience.

Remember not to say these three things when selling your book and you may improve your success rate. Happy writing!