As a general rule of thumb, money should always flow to the author. If you have to pay to get your book published (by someone else – obviously if you’re self-publishing, it’s a different story) then the general advice is avoid it.
You’ve written a book, and it’s the best thing ever! So, now you want people to read it. How do you get it to them? In our current publishing world, there’s three major options. You can contact a traditional big publisher, who – if everything goes well – will buy the rights to your book, edit it, put a cover on it, market it and send you money when it sells. You can contact a smaller independent (indie) press, who have the flexibility to take chances on unusual work, and who are more likely to involve you in the details of publishing – but who don’t have the same marketing reach as the big publishers, and won’t sell quite as many as the big traditionals. Avoid anyone who asks you for money to publish (known as ‘vanity press’) with the promise of royalties in the future – it’s very likely that you’ll pay a lot and not get nearly as much back. A publisher should always cover things like editing and cover art for you, even if that means your royalty share is smaller. Or you can self-publish. This means you’re the one responsible for everything – editing, cover art, formatting, releasing, marketing, selling – so you’re putting the book out under your name, and you keep the profits from it. You can sub some of the work out (eg. hire a proofreader, purchase cover-art) but it’s down to you to sell your book to the world. And the great thing is that there are plenty of ways to do that! In this article, we’re going to briefly cover some alternative methods of getting your writing out there to your readers. While we tend to think of self-publishing as being a hard copy or ebook version of a book, that’s… read more →
Anything over a short story (so over 10,000 words) ideally needs chapters. They break the story up, provide helpful stopping-points, and allow the reader to skim the front page to get a feel for where the story’s going – and pick up where they left off, if needed. It’s also a good way for the reader to get a feel for how long they’ve got left in the book – especially for anyone reading on an e-reader, who can’t just check how thick it is! But that doesn’t make chapters all that easy! How long should they be? Where should you split things? Numbers or name? How long? Ideally, you want to make your chapters all roughly consistent. For example, I write novellas and make mine 3000-4000 words long. For novels, somewhere around 6000-8000 words is good: if you make one suddenly shorter it jarrs the readers, and makes them think they’ve missed something. However…learn the rules then break ‘em. You can get some very good effects with short chapters, particularly if you’ve got something dramatic happening. imagine if you suddenly switched back to one character, only to have a dramatic murder – and then that’s it, you’ve switched away again! Frustrating, yes, but I’d keep reading to find out what happens. You don’t need chapters? The standard response to this is either “well, duh!” or “really?!” No, you don’t have to use chapters! However, good idea to break it into sections, at least….and chapters are helpful and expected. They make nice chunks of text, and the titles act as signposts to tell the reader what’s happening, let them return to it from the front page if they lose their place. On which note… What to title chapters? You’ve got a couple of options: Plain: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. This doesn’t… read more →
What does it mean to be a writer? If you’re a writer yourself, then you’d know that there is more to being a writer than meets the eye. There’s more to being a writer than simply knowing how to write. Getting an A for your essay doesn’t make you a writer. It’s not even about having great writing skills. I’m not saying that you can make it out as a writer even if you have bad writing skills. What I’m saying is your writing is just one fourth of the whole equation. Being a writer has more to do with ideas. It is about having something to say. It’s about finding yourself having thoughts about important stuff. It doesn’t even have to be important stuff. Even the unimportant stuff will do. These ideas usually come when the clock strikes 10 in the evening, ideas that comes when you are all alone, giving you no choice but to write it down. Otherwise, you’ll lose all of your ideas the next morning. Being a writer is all about having the most absurd yet logical ideas. It’s about being a fountain of ideas. It’s no wonder that one of the trickiest parts about being a writer is to stay focused. I mean, distractions are everywhere. How can you ever hope to finish what you’re writing? Don’t forget that you also have other things to worry about: the noise. Your head is already noisy enough. Add that to environmental noise that you are surrounded by. I mean, they are just everywhere. Go with the tide If you try to resist the chaos, then there is no way you are going to finish that book. Instead of trying to combat the noise and distractions, why don’t you just let everything be? Now, I know what… read more →
Character agency is basically about giving your characters choices. It’s also tied in to the idea of making relatable, rounded characters – so characters with aims and flaws, who make good and bad decisions. Character agency is the decision-making bit of that; it’s letting the characters drive the events in your stories. Character agency is about how the characters accomplish the plot Ok, so you’ve got your basic plot. Hero rescues Princess from Dragon. Simple, right? But if you pick three different characters, they’ll go about that in three different ways, and you’d end up with three different outcomes. The Dark Lord. Turns up on his own Fearsome Dragon and has them fight while he leans on the wall and has a quick smoke. Hang on…his dragon lost?! Well, depending on your Dark Lord, he can either haul out the Sword Of Doom for a quick bout of hand-to-hand, or produce the cannon he so thoughtfully hauled along…either way, you’re likely to end up with a dead dragon and a suitably rescued princess, who might be rather charmed by a thin moustache and fashionable black armour. The Thoughtful Farm Boy. He brings along a cow, strolls past the dragon while it’s otherwise occupied with that snack, and then talks both Princess and Dragon into leaving with him, because who wants to be stuck in a crumbling old castle? They then all decide that any King who shuts his daughter up in a tower and kills off her suitors probably isn’t a very good King, and go off to rescue the Kingdom as well. Adventure time! The Cynical Assassin. She doesn’t bother fighting the dragon – she scales the back wall, sneaks into the tower and…love at first sight, with a passionate kiss to go with it? Well, why not? What… read more →
An ISBN is an International Book Standard Number. It identifies the book, and it’s usually printed with the barcode on the back and on the book’s title page. If an ISBN was assigned before 2007, it’ll be 10 digits long. If it’s after that, it’ll be 13 digits long. The ISBN records the book’s metadata – so the publisher, the title and the country that it was published in – and is unique to that book. This means it can be easily identified by any bookseller or library.
I was asked recently how to make characters more individual; how to make them unique, colourful and distinctive. How do you get the different quirks of humans into a piece of writing? Major characters Sometimes it feels as if you could have robots as your main characters and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. They all speak and act in the same way, and you could replace them without anyone batting an eyelid. How can you make them individual? List six character traits for each of your major characters, and use these when you’re writing. How would these traits affect their reactions to events? How would they speak? How would they react to other characters? It works particularly well if you’ve got two traits that play off each other; what would happen if you get two stubborn and angry characters disagreeing with each other? Think about their background. Where have they come from? What happened to them? What adventures have they had? What events have made them who they are? List three priorities for that character at various points during the plot. While at the start, their First Priority might be getting back to their family, as time goes on Priority Two: Saving The World may come to the fore, or occasionally be superseded by Priority Three: Get A Good Night’s Sleep. At each plot point, think about what that character’s priority is likely to be at that point, and how it would affect their actions. Even minor priorities get quite big at certain points – if you’ve ever been wet and tired, getting to shelter or sleep is usually more important at that point than whatever your day’s aim was. Minor characters Cardboard cut-outs in the background. How to give these walk-on parts some personality? Give minor characters… read more →
You should write every day. Learn the rules then break them. Variety is the spice of life and you’ll get stuck if you only have one project. You need a routine. Write whenever you feel like it! Write one thing at a time and make sure you finish it. Do 500 words a day and never end on a preposition. There’s so much writing advice out there that it sometimes feels overwhelming. I spent my first ten years as a writer feeling that I was Doing It Wrong. I don’t write every day, or write X number of words. I don’t really plot. I don’t have a routine. I just write as I want to, rather than analysing the language and trying to develop a feel for my themes. I don’t follow genre rules, I play fast and loose with my characters, and I don’t worldbuild before I write. I felt inadequate, amateur, and frankly as if all of my writing failings were stemming from my inability to follow several hundred pieces of contradictory advice. You know what? Screw it. It’s YOUR talent. Try things. See what works. People work in different ways – what works for someone else, even if they’re a best-selling and world-famous author, might not work for you. Experiment. Find your groove and make it work for you. If something isn’t working – if you’re not writing, not finding the time, haven’t got the inspiration, have an idea but don’t finish it, can’t get over that blank page feeling – then that’s the time to be looking at the advice. See if working for an hour in the morning makes you write. See if a routine helps. See if having six simultaneous pieces and working on each of them in turn means you Get Writing Done.… read more →
There’s a lot of things that can stop you writing. Sometimes it’s real life, which can’t usually be helped; if the dog wants your laptop as a toy and your screen’s now decorated with bite marks, that does put a crimp in your ability to type. But sometimes the show-stoppers are either in your head, or in your writing. Here’s five more things that might be stopping your story in its tracks, and some suggestions to overcome them. I’ve got a blank page… You don’t know how to start. You don’t know what the first line should be. You don’t even know if the idea’s worth writing. Flash fiction! Write a story in six words. A hundred words. Three hundred words. Write a paragraph about an image, something you spotted in the street, the eighth line from the book nearest you. Prompts – as a starting point, try Reddit’s r/writingprompts. There’s a whole archive of them, even if you don’t want to put anything on the site. Start in the middle. Write that one scene that set the idea off; write that one snippet of conversation; tell us something about your character. Write the fifth chapter. Write the ending. Get something on the page and then go back to the beginning. My plot is wonky Distill it down to the basics: Get Ring, Take Ring To Mordor, Save The World. You can then expand a little – how are they doing all of those things? What’s stopping them, what’s helping them, what’s the outcome? This can sometimes help to focus on what the actual problem is, and shows where the holes are. Get an outside perspective. It often really helps to get someone else’s ideas; they’ll come up with things you haven’t even considered, and even if you don’t use… read more →
Or, why the bad guy doesn’t think he’s bad. [NB. I’m using “he”, but please take this as non-gender and -species specific; Evil Masterminds of Doom can be anyone or anything, after all.] So, your villain. He wants to Take Over The World, Kill Everyone, Create An Army of The Undead, or *insert plot here*. Ok, that’s great! Gives the hero something to fight against. But he wants to do all that simply because…he’s Evil? Really? That’s it? There are no true Bad Guys If history has shown anything, it’s that the bad guys don’t think they’re bad. The only difference between The Evil Dictator Who Destroyed The World and The Benevolent Ruler Who Brought Us Peace is what stories get told and what people believe. There’s always motivations and drivers behind the worst of actions; we might judge them as insane or warped, but very few things are ever done on a whim. What’s their background? Real motivations make for exceptionally awesome villains. Yes, you can have base motives – revenge, or lust, or desire for power – but give them some background. Why do they hate big-footed dwarves so much? How did they get hold of the technology to create sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads? Why do their minions trust them? And didn’t someone notice that Maniacal Laugh sooner? Tie into the bigger world The idea of rationality behind evil feeds into worldbuilding, too. Where’s the money coming from to buy all those Mechanised Soldiers Of Doom? Is the Super Baddy actually a good enough leader to keep hold of power once he’s gained it? What do you do to stop the Undead Hordes from getting bored once you’ve conquered wherever it is? And if you Kill All Humans, won’t it get a bit boring around… read more →