October 2021 – Jericho Writers
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Choosing The Right Book Printing Service For You

Given the choice, would you rather see your name on the cover of an ebook or a paper book? Would you rather see your name in pixels or in print? Would you rather hold an amorphous concept of your book, cached away in an ebook reader or the actual physical object, you know, the one that allows you to feel the weight of your words?   Okay! I’m aware that I’m asking increasingly leading questions. Nor do I want to disparage ebooks as an effective route into self-publishing. But there’s still a romance and joy to seeing your words on an actual page. Not to mention the practical advantages of having something you can press into someone else’s hands, and even (if you’re feeling expansive) autograph for them.  Why Get Your Book Printed? There are some big names that, as a self-published author, you may choose to publish under who will print and distribute for you. They tend to take a hefty cut from the sale price for themselves but do cover a large percentage of the hassle. Plus their print-on-demand service means you can have your book in your hands in a matter of days.   But what if you want to go at it alone and retain full control?  As a self-published author, the advantages of printing a book are clear. Although there are also obvious disadvantages. Most notably, while it doesn’t take too long for those self-publishing to find out how to create a decent and marketable ebook, book printing is a tougher and opaquer proposition.   There are several potential pitfalls and many important questions to answer before you can proceed with confidence. This article will give you the guidance you need to help you choose the best printing services.  What Are Book Printing Services? Perhaps the easiest way to describe book printing services is to explain what they are not. They are not publishers. They do not (generally) offer the kind of distribution and marketing services you would expect from a conventional publisher, and they do not (generally, again) offer editorial advice. At the most fundamental level, a book printer’s job is to take your finished digital manuscript and turn it into a print copy.   That may sound straightforward, but the more you look into custom book printing the more questions you are likely to have. But before we get onto those, let’s answer a few basics.   Many (if not, most) self-published authors opt to print their books via Amazon. Their KDP service ensures distribution of ebooks, along with paperback and, more recently, even hardback options! Although they take a hefty cut from the sale price for themselves, it does cover a large percentage of the hassle and their print-on-demand service means you can have your book in your hands in a matter of days.   But some authors want more control – and more profit. A lot of what you decide to do will depend on the kind of printing you go for. There are two main methods of paperback and hardback book printing: print on demand and offset printing.   Let’s take a quick look at those: Print On Demand Book Printing As the name suggests, print on demand book printing is a form of printing where a book is produced once it has been ordered. Digital book printing technology enables printers to produce books in the exact quantity required with a rapid turnaround so that a customer can order a book on a website, or from a bookshop, and expect to have it within days.   It’s particularly useful for self-published book printing. It means you don’t need to worry about storage because you have no inventory. Printers are able to do single book printing, or many print several on demand books at once, depending on the orders that come in. On demand book printing services are also often integrated with sales and distribution channels, meaning your book is generally only a few clicks away from your potential readers. Importantly, there are also fewer upfront costs because once the files are loaded onto the printer’s system, the individual production cost for each book is absorbed at the point of sale. (Which is to say, the book printing cost is deducted from the sale price and you and the store get the remainder.) The most well known and reliable Print on Demand services are IngramSpark and KDP via Amazon. Let\'s look into each of these options more closely. IngramSpark IngramSpark is a service that allows authors to self-publish print books and ebooks. There is lots of information on their website in order to learn more about self-publishing, help you choose the best printing option for your book, and how to create files for uploading your book. The costs of uploading a book with IngramSpark: Print and Ebook - $49 (when uploaded at the same time) Print book only - $49/title Ebook only - $25/title They even have an option for you to see how much you will pay to print and ship orders directly to yourself or customers, based on the specifications of your book. This money will come out of the money earnt on the sold books, so consider this when pricing your book. With global distribution, hardcover and/or paperback, a variety of print options, ebook and print book publishing all in one place, and online sales reporting, this is an excellent option for self-publishing authors. If you want to sell hard-copy books through every channel, then most authors prefer IngramSparks as they distribute to over 40,000 retailers and libraries globally, including Amazon. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) KDP is Amazon\'s self-publishing and printing service, allowing authors to self-publish Ebooks, paperbacks, and hardbacks. They give you direct access to your book on Amazon, allow you to create a product detail page for your book, give you the option to expand your book’s availability on a global scale, and gives you full rights to your book The cost of printing with KDP: Paperback - No upfront costs. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties. Paperback printing costs are calculated based on the specifications of your book - page count and ink type - and which Amazon marketplace the customer bought your book from. You can estimate this using their calculator. Hardback - No upfront costs. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties. Hardback will automatically be more expensive than paperback to print, but the printing costs are calculated in the same way, factoring in page count, ink type, and which Amazon marketplace the customer bought your book from. You can estimate this using their calculator. Authors earn money from royalties, and KDP has a minimum list price so that your royalties earned are always enough to cover the cost to print your book. This means that you don\'t need to part with any money. KDP also offers different types of sales reports, so you can track how many books you have sold, how much you have earnt from it, and much more. As KDP only allows you to sell on Amazon it is not ideal for authors wanting to sell on multiple platforms, but if you’re selling exclusively on Amazon, then this service would be perfect for you. Disadvantages of Print on Demand Most self-published authors find that this kind of custom book printing works best for them. But there are some disadvantages. Digital technology has improved a lot over the past few years, but it’s still much harder to guarantee good quality book production with print on demand. The differences are often small, but noticeable: the paper can look too bright white, the definition of the ink on the pages can be wrong, the pages can feel weirdly smooth, a few books come out that aren’t properly aligned. There’s also the issue that if you start selling in big quantities, for instance, it can make sense to move to offset printing since the unit costs are generally lower.   Let’s look at that now.  Offset Book Printing Offset book printing is the form of printing that traditional publishers generally use, whereby you order a set quantity of books - ranging from the low hundreds to hundreds of thousands. These are all produced at once, in one print run and the more you print, the more the unit cost comes down.   These savings on book printing prices can be significant, but you have to balance them against the potential problems relating to storing and distributing the books, fluctuations in demand over time and the horror of paying a lot of money upfront and not being able to shift enough units to cover your costs.   Offset printing can make sense for self-publishers who have a shop eager to buy large quantities of their work. It might also be a good solution for people who have a steady book-selling outlet, like public speakers who can make a tidy income from bookstalls at the back of the room or at events.   But most self-publishers should approach it with caution.  How To Choose The Right Book Printing Service Talking of caution, it isn’t altogether easy to choose the best book printing services. There are a lot of different online book printing services.  It’s hard to make the right choice and to know how to protect both your hard-earned money and the quality of the book bearing your name.   There are, however, several useful things you can consider when weighing up your options. It’s important to give serious thought to which service provider will work best for you. Don’t rush into anything. Do make sure you’ve done your research. And, crucially, ask the right questions.  What Should I Be Asking? The first question you’ll probably be asking will be about the book printing cost and various book printing services. But there are plenty of other things to ask. You will need to know what is the turnaround time? What kind of binding will work for your book? (Hardback? Paperback? Or maybe even spiral or wired binding?) What kind of paper will it be printed on? How much do you want to spend on paper quality? Will the cover be on good paper stock? Will the images be printed at the right resolution? Do I need a matt or gloss finish? How much control do I have over the size of the pages and layout? What file format should I use? Where does the paper come from? Is it responsibly sourced? What other environmental impacts will the printing have?   You may also want to consider if you want to use the services of a printer experienced in the genre of book you have written. Do you need a printing service that provides integrated sales and distribution? What level of interaction and customer service do they need from the printers?   The tricky thing here is that many of these questions quickly start to have very technical answers. You might soon discover, for instance, that you’ll also need to employ a professional typesetter to get your words looking good on the page. You might also need a cover designer who can properly discuss ink colours, embossing and different finishes with the printers.   Worse still, since this is your book, and your project, there are perhaps also quite a few questions that only you can properly answer. And then, there are also the restrictions of your budget and the returns you hope to get back from your book. I understand the desire to have a book printed on vellum and bound with leather - but it isn’t generally the most practical option, unless you’re going for a very special kind of one-off book printing.  Evaluating Book Printing Services I’m aware that I’ve given you a lot of questions and not quite as many answers. But these questions are the ones that will help you narrow down your choices.   The important things to think about are how well your prospective printer will be able to handle your queries and how well they will be able to produce the finished book according to the specifications you give them.  It’s also vital to thoroughly evaluate book printing services before making a commitment. Look at plenty of examples of books previously printed. If you can, order copies so you can see the finished item. Examine the services printing rates/costs per unit. It’s also a good idea to ask other authors about the service and check on writer forums for good tips. (Naturally, we recommend our Jericho Writers Townhouse).   The world of book printing online and on demand publishing is also fast-changing, so check how long your printer has been operating and make sure they have a decent reputation for delivery and quality. Also, remember that you’re the customer and most printers will want to help you and answer your queries so put your questions to them.   Do they provide sales and distribution?   What is their turnaround time?   Do they do hardback as well as paperback book printing?   The answers to the queries you make will also help you gauge the other crucial question about what level of customer service your printer provides. If they’re good at helping you, they’ll also hopefully be good at bringing your book into the world.  Finally… After all that, I hope you still want to see your name on the cover of a paper book. I can’t pretend that it’s an easy process. You have to be very aware of costs, quality and the importance of making sure that your chosen service can meet your specifications.   But the joy of holding a beautiful copy of your own book in your hands will make it worth the hard work. It’s a happiness all writers deserve. 

A Guide On Writing Memoirs Or Autofiction

Many people have lives that would make incredible stories, yet it can be difficult to figure out how to unpick that life and set it on the page. How do you write a memoir? And is memoir the only option?   In this article I will be walking you through different ways to write your life story and offering tips to help you get started and narrow your focus.  What Is A Memoir? A memoir is a first-person account of someone’s nonfictional life story that uses the techniques and crafts of fiction to make it a page-turning read. The word comes from the French word for “memory” or “reminiscence.”   The promise to the reader is that whatever is inside is as true as the author can make it. Of course, writing your exact memories is challenging as very few of us have photographic memories. Readers will forgive small fictions, like writing out a conversation verbatim when you only remember the jist of what was said, but not larger ones.   There are plenty of examples of authors who made up memoirs. The best known one in recent years was James Frey in A Million Little Pieces. Readers felt betrayed and angry because the author had broken the pact and the promise. However, if you still want to use a kernel of the truth but not be beholden to it, read on to learn more about autofiction and other options. Do Memoirs Sell? Memoirs are incredibly popular, especially in the age of COVID. Some recent examples are the Obamas’ memoirs: A Promised Land was 2020’s bestselling book (2.4 million copies in one year alone) and Becoming was also an extraordinary bestseller (came out in 2018 and has sold 3.4 million as of the end of 2020). Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (2016) provides an interesting and heart-breaking account of race in South Africa as he recounts his life with his signature humour.   I don’t know about you, but I am unlikely to ever become President of the United States and have people desperate to know my story. Luckily, people are also hungry for stories from people who haven’t brushed fame or become public figures. This is evidenced by memoirs such as Educated (2018) by Tara Westover. Her memoir’s about growing up as a fundamentalist Mormon and her quest for education—her first day of school was university at Brigham Young when she was a teenager. Maid (2019) by Stephanie Land is about an impoverished white woman cleaning the houses of the ultra-rich. The Glass Castle (2005) by Jeannette Walls, is about her eccentric, nomadic upbringing and her troubled father’s dream of a better life. Roxane Gay’s Hunger (2017) focuses on her relationship with food and her body, as informed by trauma. Many of these have also been adapted into TV shows or films, showcasing memoirs have massive crossover appeal.  Memoir Vs Autobiography (And Other Options) Memoir is part of a spectrum from narrative nonfiction to fiction inspired by fact. You might realise, once you start working on your story, that there are gaps in knowledge that have been lost to time. Or perhaps you’d like to weave several generations together, which of course moves it away from your own lived, first-person experience.   Many people ask, ‘are memoirs nonfiction?’ The answer is yes…and no. Let’s take a look at how flexible written memories, and this genre, can be.  Memoir As we said, memoir aims to be true with small liberties. It rarely starts with your birth and tells the story in a straight As we said, memoir aims to be true with small liberties. It rarely starts with your birth and you telling the story in a straight line, ending with however old you are when you finish writing it. For example, Mary Karr has written three memoirs: The Liar’s Club (1995), which focuses mostly on her childhood, Cherry (2000), which focused more on her late adolescence and blooming sexuality, and Lit (2009), which focuses on her journey of faith and her divorce. Trying to focus on all three of those in one book would have been too much and they wouldn’t have had the space to be as hard-hitting. There is also nearly 15 years’ difference from the first memoir she wrote and the last—the memoir is a snapshot of the writer as much as the contents of the book, as the tone is affected by the author’s age and experience.  Autobiography  Autobiography, by contrast, does tend to be more linear. The author here functions more as a historian. It tends to be less intimate, more expansive. There’s less room to zoom in on certain moments and it can feel more of a summary of a life. This is useful if you want to know what, say, Benjamin Franklin, Malcom X, Nelson Mandela, or Agatha Christie thought about their own lives, but autobiographies are less common for people who aren’t public figures.  Autofiction If you realise that there’s no way to tell the story in a compelling way while remaining fully married to truth, or the truth is unknowable, you may consider autofiction.   There has been a lot of discussion of the ethics of writing fiction based on truth, particularly if the subject has not been made aware (just fall down the rabbit hole of “Cat People” or “Kidneygate / The Bad Art Friend” to see discussions on this). Autofiction still focuses on yourself but gives the story the opportunity to come alive in a different way. You can even write it in third person, if you wish. You can change timelines more dramatically or add characters or subplots who are amalgamations or completely fictive. Because you haven’t promised it’s a straight memoir, readers are fine with this.   On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) by Ocean Vuong is a great example of autofiction — the main character, Little Dog, is a Vietnamese refugee living in America, writing a letter to his illiterate mother he knows she will never read. Vuong is also a gay Vietnamese refugee, and his mother does not read English or Vietnamese. The story delves into his grandmother and mother’s stories in third person, as well as his own, yet crucially it’s sold as fiction and he doesn’t give us a detailed post-mortem of what is or isn’t true.   Other well-known autofiction authors include James Baldwin, Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, Tao Lin, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and more. This is sometimes also called the autobiographical novel, with ‘novel’ signalling that it’s leaning heavily into the fictional side. Autobiografiction And to make things slightly more confusing, there’s also the term autobiografiction, which combines autobiography, fiction, and essay. Stephen Reynolds coined the term in 1906 and describes it as a “record of real spiritual experiences strung on a credible but more or less fictitious autobiographical narrative.” It’s often published anonymously or under a pseudonym, and many queer people used this form to express themselves in times of oppression. It’s not as common a term and tends to be lumped with autofiction: indeed, you could make an argument that Vuong’s book falls more into this category in some respects as there are essays within it.   So, now - the nitty gritty. How do you get started on your project based on truth?  Tips For Writing A Memoir (Or Autofiction) Start Researching Now – And Beware The Skeletons Even if you don’t think you’ll start writing your memoir for a while, start gathering information as soon as you can. Depending on the project: sign up for a trial of ancestry.com, interview your family members, start journaling about your memories, look up articles in newspapers.com, flip through photo albums or belongings, request court or other official documents.   It’s so easy for these things to become lost, or for us to tragically lose those close to us, taking their memories with them. You might also have to prepare yourself for more secrets potentially coming to light. You might need to have a discussion with how family members might feel about sharing the truth. Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro discovered this when they started properly digging into everything for their podcast Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia (2019). The TV adaption I Am the Night (2019), starring Chris Pine, added an entirely fictive noir subplot to make it more dramatic on the screen.  What’s Your Promise To The Reader? How fictional do you plan to be? You don’t necessarily need to know immediately but notice if you start to shift further away from the facts.   This happened with my current project: it focuses on three generations, so I knew it would always have an element of fiction since my grandmother died before I was born, so I can’t exactly ask her how she felt about any of the facts we know. My mother also wrote her sections and I edited over them, and we made-up certain details or massaged timelines so the scene was more evocative. Each draft has had it depart more from the truth and become its own entity. I felt conflicted about this before I realised that my goal is to use the truth as a jumping off point. I don’t actually owe the reader the truth; I owe them a good story. For me, it was more freeing, and I also knew I’d feel less exposed if the project is ever published.   This brings me to:  Check In With Your Mental Health I barrelled right into my project, thinking I was ready. From a craft standpoint, I was – but not from a mental standpoint.   If you are still processing your trauma, you might consider some therapy first, so you are better protected if you have to delve into some painful memories. Remember: it’s all right to take a break and come back, and it also might still be challenging once you return.   As Mary Karr says in her 2015 how-to The Art of Memoir (highly recommended!): “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” Focus On Experiences And Emotions Whether memoir or autofiction, your reader wants to experience what it was like to be you or this version of you. You might find you’re tempted to relay the information quite factually, but it may read cold. This is fine for the first draft as you focus on story, but when you edit, focus on making it come alive.   Don’t Attempt To Cover Your Whole Life As mentioned, there won’t be room. Think of those touchstones, the main themes you wish to draw out and examine. Again, it might take you a while to hone in on this. That’s all right, as long as you’re willing to set aside writing that doesn’t serve your overall purpose. Save it for another book, potentially! Engage The Reader From The Beginning One thing I found in my previous draft was the opening was too slow and needed a clearer hook. Read the openings of some memoirs and notice how they draw the reader in. And of course…  Read A Lot Of Memoirs And Autofiction & Examine Form I’ve recommended a large selection of creative memoir novels I’ve enjoyed in this article, but there are so many more incredible ones out there. The bestseller charts on Amazon are a good place to start (though do consider ordering from an independent bookstore!). Some are even written in innovative and experimental styles, such as In the Dream House (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado. Reading a lot of memoirs or autofiction might give you some ideas on how you can lay out your story.  Think About Tone For some projects, humour might work very well (Trevor Noah, Mary Karr, Caitlin Moran). For others, it might be horribly jarring, and you should consider a more sombre tone. Experiment with this until you find the right voice and approach.  Remember Your Reader You, of course, have no idea who is reading your work once it’s out there. But memoirs have a common theme: they all seem to focus on making sense of the past to inform our present. With a lot focus on healing and letting go, these can be cathartic for both the writer and the reader. That’s the magic of memoir: your book may save your readers without them knowing they had a void that needed filling.   I hope this article has helped you consider how you might start thinking about writing your memoir, or whether taking a more autofictional approach works better.

The Different Genres Of Nonfiction: A Complete Guide

So, you have decided you want to write a nonfiction book, but what’s next?  While some readers may lump all nonfiction books into one category, authors should understand there are numerous genres that nonfiction falls into. Nonfiction genres are not one-size-fits-all and determining which area your book belongs is important when pitching, selling and promoting! In this article, I will be walking you through these various genres along with nonfiction examples to help you correctly label your book. What Is Nonfiction? Nonfiction is any literary work that is fact-based, intended to present true events and information as accurately as possible. Fiction, on the other hand, refers to narratives that are drawn from the imagination. Nonfiction books focus on what is real. While narrative nonfiction is presented as a story versus expository nonfiction being more explanatory, both are still devoted to informing readers of the facts. These include books such as, Becoming by Michelle Obama, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Narrative nonfiction is also sometimes referred to as creative nonfiction. Writing a book of any kind is a form of creative writing as it requires you to write in as skilfully and engaging a manner as you can while also utilising and experimenting with form. While traditional nonfiction (textbooks, instruction manuals etc) must be laid out in a specific way and written in a certain tone, this is certainly not the case for all, or even most, nonfiction writing. Nonfiction Genres List Every author knows that making an outline before writing sets the blueprint for your book. But before you can get to that stage, you need to identify your target audience. Determining which genre of nonfiction your book best fits into is the guiding principle you should begin with. For example, if you choose to write historical nonfiction your audience, word count, and formatting will be completely different than for an academic text. Understanding and selecting the best nonfiction genre is crucial to success. Let’s look at the most popular genres in nonfiction… History History nonfiction writing involves recounting a historical event or specific time period. While authors can frame how the information is presented, all information presented in history nonfiction must be verifiable, factual, and historically accurate. An example of a popular historical nonfiction book is Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. The work presents the story of the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in April 1986. Biographies And Autobiographies Both biographies and autobiographies focus on retelling a life story, but the two genres are different. Autobiographies are written about and by the author. Biographies are third-person narratives, where the author tells someone else’s story (while still remaining accurate and factual). Unlike autobiographies, the subject of the story can be living or dead when writing biographies. One of the most famous autobiographies is Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Memoirs A memoir tells readers about significant moments in the life of the author. Memoirs are sometimes confused with autobiographies since they are both written from the same perspective. However, what differentiates the two is that memoirs may be written about a shorter period of time, such as a specific event or experience in the writer’s life. Examples of memoirs include The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Travel Writing Travel writing is a nonfiction genre with several of its own subgenres. Travelogues are sometimes called travel memoirs, where the author discusses personal travel experiences. Travel guides are another form of travel nonfiction, providing information about destinations and reviews. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of the most well-known travel memoirs, with a critically acclaimed film adaptation. A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain, is another great example, focusing on the late Bourdain’s travels across the globe and culinary experiences. When it comes to travel guides, Arthur Frommer, Eugene Fodor, and Rick Steves are some of the most recognised travel writers. Philosophy Philosophy nonfiction includes exploring topics like the purpose of life, ethics, and a deeper understanding of humanity. Though the names of traditional philosophers such as Aristotle, Confucius, Plato, and Voltaire might first come to mind, modern writers are changing the landscape. Now, more than ever, the philosophy genre is becoming more accessible, and writers are making their books more digestible to a wider audience. Philosopher Bertrand Russell has written several books in this genre, with The Problems of Philosophy providing a brief glimpse into some of the deepest philosophical questions. What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel, is another accessible option that is meant for beginners. Religion And Spirituality  The religion and spirituality genres are just as broad as the concepts themselves. Authors can choose to write from first-hand experience or focus on teaching about a specific practice. It is also possible to have them as a subgenre, such as self-help books, helping readers on their spiritual journey. Theology, focusing on the systematic study of God and religion, can also fall into this category. A best-selling book in this category is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, where the famous author discusses Christian beliefs and addresses criticisms based on philosophy. Self-Help The self-help genre is surprisingly (or perhaps not!) one of the most popular categories in nonfiction. Here, authors can teach readers anything from new skills, how to manage finance, maintaining happiness, and even parenting or starting a new business. Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom by Tabitha Brown teaches lessons in hope, while Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki is a classic personal finance book. Science Writing about science clearly falls into the nonfiction category, as it is grounded in observation and evidence (not to be confused with science fiction). When writing science nonfiction, authors are required to include reputable references throughout their text and ensure that all studies are thoroughly fact-checked. These books may be a compilation of complex academic research, or they may be condensed and distilled into easier-to-read literary works. The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It by Scott Bembenek is a great example of a book simplifying complex scientific topics for readers. On the other hand, a book that has shaped scientific literature throughout the centuries would be Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Medical The medical genre of nonfiction writing includes books about healthcare, technology, and patient care systems. Another broad genre, authors can write about mental health, clinical conditions, well-being, nutrition, and more. Medical books can also be instructive in nature, highlighting terminology or serving as study guides to medical professionals. Anthony William’s Medical Medium series is an excellent example of just how much this genre can encompass. Psychology Psychology nonfiction books serve a wide range of purposes. Some are more clinical in nature, while others may fall in the self-help category. Authors can help readers understand how the brain works, improve memory function, or even assist with relationship building. An interesting example is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. The book consists of various cases studies from Sack’s patients that highlight different brain functions. Art The art genre of nonfiction writing largely falls into two categories—writing about actual art, and guiding people on how to create art. For example, a person interested in learning about various artists and their work might read Artists: Their Lives and Works by Ross King. A reader interested in drawing could consider How to Draw Cool Stuff: A Drawing Guide for Teachers and Students by Catherine V Holmes. Crafting Craft writing teaches readers how to make decorative items by hand. Craft books provide instructions on how to execute these projects and can cover everything from paper flowers to knitting. For example, The Unofficial Book of Cricut Crafts: The Ultimate Guide to Your Electric Cutting Machine by Crystal Allen is very niche, whereas Low-Mess Crafts for Kids: 72 Projects to Create Your Own Magical Worlds by Debbie Chapman targets a much broader market. DIY Do-It-Yourself is another popular nonfiction genre. These books guide people in everything from home plumbing to car maintenance. How to make homemade beauty and haircare products are also popular topics, along with gardening and woodworking. 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead by David Toht teaches readers how to make chicken coops, sheds, fences, and also covers gardening. The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything by Martha Stewart is a more complete DIY manual that covers a wide range of projects. Photography The photography genre is one of the most popular nonfiction coffee table genres, and is highly influential. Photography books capture moments throughout history in real-time through photographic collections. These may also be instruction books teaching people how to shoot photography. Digital Photography Complete Course: Learn Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks by David Taylor is an instructional book, while Photography: The Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang showcases photographs and more. Gardening Popular nonfiction genres include gardening and plant care. Authors can focus on a particular type of gardening, such as in Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Growing Vegetables at Home by Jill McSheehy. Or the topics can be more general, such as The Complete Gardener’s Guide: The One-Stop Guide to Plan, Sow, Plant, and Grow Your Garden by DK. Food, Drink & Cooking Cuisine is another popular nonfiction genre. Whether you want to write recipes, reviews, or restaurant guidebooks, there are quite a few options with this genre. An example of a recipe book would be Tieghan Gerard’s book (with a very long title), Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods: A Cookbook. Whereas Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada De Laurentiis combines recipes with personal stories. Computers And Software The computers and software genre is quite comprehensive – just think of all the technology we use every day. These books may be about specific software tools such as Microsoft Office or on programming languages such as Java and Python. For example, Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller teaches readers how to troubleshoot and optimize computers while CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Mike Myers prepares people for certification. Health And Fitness The sales of health and fitness nonfiction spike in January (no surprise there) and include everything from workout programs and health related guides, to tips on how to achieve certain health goals. Books in the health and fitness realm include, NOT A DIET BOOK: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence.Transform Your Life by James Smith, and The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Michael Matthews. Political Science The political science genre can include books that discuss local governments or those that cover politics on a global scale. A couple of examples of political nonfiction include Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright and The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis. Business And Economics Business and economics is a big genre that covers everything from case studies of specific companies to economic theories in practice. Books like Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt gives an overview of economic principles. Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston looks into various corporations and their practices that can make the world a better place. Parenting And Family With millions of parents in the world, parenting and family is a wide-ranging genre. Parenting books might be about teaching kids a new skill, how to balance parenthood and relationships, psychology, and practical guidance. No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a mix of psychology and advice. Education The education nonfiction genre includes educational theories, practical standards, instructional materials, and topical guides. An example of an education book includes The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – and How to Fix It by Natalie Wexler. Music Music nonfiction writing can encompass many different areas, including modern-day musical styles or musical history. The books can also be instructional in nature. Two examples of music nonfiction books are How to Read Music in 30 Days: Music Theory for Beginners by Matthew Ellul and Concise History of Western Music by Barbara Russano Hanning. And That’s Not All… All in all, whatever you’re an expert in – write about it – because someone, somewhere, will benefit from your expertise. There are so many types of nonfiction and these genres are just the tip of the iceberg, within them there’s a large array of subgenres you can write. Whether you want to share your love of witchcraft with the world, or want to teach people how to train their llamas, as long as you categorise your nonfiction book into the right genre and know who you are writing for, you stand a chance of success! For more advice for writing nonfiction check out our blogs on writing a nonfiction book proposal and writing creative nonfiction. Frequently Asked Questions What Are The Types Of Nonfiction? There are many different types of nonfiction, but they broadly fit into these categories: expository nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, persuasive nonfiction, and descriptive nonfiction. Expository nonfiction aims to explain or inform a reader on a specific topic. Narrative nonfiction is a true story about a person, place, or event. Persuasive nonfiction is when a writer argues for their side, or against the opposing side, on an issue. And finally, descriptive nonfiction is when sensory language is used to convey a certain topic and the focus is on using the five senses to give the reader a clear picture. What Are The Genres In Nonfiction? There are a multitude of genres in the nonfiction category. Many of them overlap, and some of them cover very niche subject matters. The main nonfiction genres are: narrative nonfiction, historical nonfiction, biography/autobiography, memoir, travel writing, philosophy, religion and spirituality, self-help, science, medical, psychology, art, crafts, DIY, photography, gardening, food/drink/cooking, computers and software, health and fitness, political science, business and economics, parenting and family, education, and music. Plus, within these areas, there are books which are even more specific and specialised. How Many Nonfiction Genres Are There? There are a seemingly endless number of nonfiction genres, though there are around 25, depending on which subcategories you include. With so many to choose from, there\'s bound to be at least one which suits your interests and/or areas of expertise!

Short Story Structure: The Art of Writing A Great Short Story

A short story is a piece of fiction between 1,000-4,000 words (although it can go as high as 15,000 words). Simply put, it’s a story you can read in one sitting.   Sounds easy to write, right?  Wrong.  Short stories are notoriously difficult to write, and that’s often because the writer hasn’t understood the basics of good story structure. So, if after finishing writing your short story you’re left thinking, This is so boring! Where have I gone wrong? Is there a short story plot or structure I can follow? – then you’ve come to the right place. Because chances are you may need to rework your short story structure.   In this article I will be talking about what make a great short story and looking at the various structures you can use to keep readers gripped. But you can\'t start writing short stories until you have an idea. So let us begin there... Getting Started: The Big Idea Where can you get your short story idea from? Some people have a great idea but struggle to turn it into a story (in which case you can skip to the next part). But for those of you confident about how to write a short story but need some inspiration to get you going, here are a few Jericho Writers articles to kick-start your creativity. How To Find InspirationIn this article, award-winning author Patrice Lawrence will guide you through the myriad ways you can find inspiration - from reading poetry and other books, to observing real life around you. Ideas For WritingIn this article, Jericho Writers founder and author Harry Bingham, explains how to go from a seed on an idea to a novel (or short story) How to build a fictional worldAnd finally, in this article, Harry is back explaining world building in fiction and how to create setting that will help your story come alive. Great. So now you have your amazing idea, it\'s time to structure it and turn it into short fiction, Learn How To Write A Great Short Story Firstly, let\'s look at the various types of structure used when writing short stories structures and how to analyse them.  It may seem formulaic or predictable in the beginning but trust the process and you’ll soon see results. Then, we’ll have some fun practising how to apply the generic story structure template to your work.   By the end of this exercise, you’ll have gained the confidence to create short stories that both make you happy and showcase your talent.   What Is Story Structure?  The structure for a short story is not dissimilar to that of a full-length novel – your readers still expect the same rise and fall. The most basic story structure is called the ‘narrative structure’ and is defined as ‘the order in which elements of a narrative are presented to the reader or audience.’   Essentially, there are two parts to it which are: Plot The elements of a story Author of Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell, provides a further explanation:   ‘Simply put, structure is what assembles the parts of a story in a way that makes them accessible to readers. It is the orderly arrangement of a story material for the benefit of the audience. Plot is about elements, those things that go into the mix of making a good story even better. Structure is about timing – where in the mix those elements go.’  Let’s take a closer look at what all this actually means.    Structural Features Of A Short Story As stated, there are two parts within any short story structure. The first is the plot which is ‘what happens’ or the chain of events that occur in your short story. The other is ‘story elements’ which is the ‘underlying factors that drive the narrative action: protagonists, conflicts, setting, etc.’  Still confused?   A helpful analogy for how to create a traditional short story structure is when you weave a piece of fabric. Naturally, a finished product has to have a harmonious look and feel when it’s draped across your body. Similarly, when you properly weave together things that happen with things that matter in your short story, you make that vital connection with your readers. The reader should not only understand what is happening in your short story, but what it all means.    There are five main structural features of a short story:   Exposition  Rising Action  Climax  Falling Action  Resolution (or Denouement)  To show you how to analyse a short story with plot structure, I will be referencing the Bengali story of Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, which was adapted into a very successful Bollywood movie by the same name. 1. Exposition This is the part of the story where the characters and setting are introduced to the reader. There are generally four types of characters:  The Protagonist who is the main character whose journey we follow in the story.   The Antagonist whose goals are often the opposite of the protagonist’s.   The Dynamic Character who changes as a result of the events in the story.   The Static Character who does not change at all.   In the opening scene of Devdas, you meet our protagonist by the same name. He returns home to the love of his life, Parvati (Paro). She is the dynamic character who changes upon her marriage to another. The antagonists are Devdas’s father and family, who oppose the union. The static character is Chandramukhi, the woman to whom Devdas eventually turns to.   2. Rising Action Here, the protagonist faces challenges and crises. It’s the catalyst which sets the story in motion, forcing the protagonist out of his comfort zone. In the story, Devdas and Paro admit to having fallen for each other, gradually becoming aware of his family’s opposition to this union.   3. Climax Often the most exciting part of the story, the protagonist is tested at this stage. In Devdas, our protagonist makes a catastrophic decision to reject Paro and watches her marry another.   4. Falling Action This refers to the events that follow the climax, often where the protagonist believes he’s failed. Devdas begins to drink with a vengeance and goes to live with the seemingly unsuitable courtesan named Chandramukhi.   5. Resolution Or Denouement The conflict has been resolved and the character has changed. There can be three different outcomes: the protagonist gets what he wants; the protagonist doesn’t get what he wants; or, the protagonist doesn’t get what he wants, but realises that he has something more important.   In Devdas, it’s a mix because the protagonist does get his wish to go to Paro to die. However, he also acknowledges and reciprocates something important – Chandramukhi’s eternal love.   Types Of Short Story Structures Now that you have an overview of a good short story structure, let’s delve a little deeper and look at some actual structures of stories beginning with the ‘Hero’s Journey’.   The Hero’s Journey One of the best-known story structures, ‘The Hero’s Journey’ is a pattern that exists in many world mythologies. For the mainstream storyteller of today, Christopher Vogler created a simplified version and framework of it which can be applied to almost any genre of fiction:  The Ordinary World, which sets out the protagonist’s everyday life.   The Call of Adventure, where the protagonist is incited into taking action.   Refusal of the Call, where the protagonist is reluctant to take action.   Meeting the Mentor, where the protagonist meets a mentor (parent, teacher, spiritual master, etc.) who encourages him to take action.   Crossing the First Threshold, where the protagonist steps out of his comfort zone and takes action.   Tests, Allies, Enemies, where the protagonist faces challenges.   Approach to the Inmost Cave, where the protagonist gets close to his goal.   The Ordeal, where the protagonist meets his greatest challenge.  Reward, where the protagonist acquires what he was looking for and victory is in sight.   The Road Back, where the protagonist getting what he wanted may have made things worse.   Resurrection, where the protagonist faces a challenge that hinges on everything he’s learnt.   Return with the Elixir, where the protagonist returns home, triumphant.   Three Act Structure One of the most notable forms of the basic short story structure is the ‘Three Act Structure’. In some instances, the three acts are described as the Beginning, the Middle and the End. Place them within the context of the previously listed structural features of a short story, and they can be described as Setup, Confrontation and Resolution.   In Act 1 (Setup), include the element of Exposition where the protagonist’s ‘ordinary world’ is set up. Additionally, you’ll also have an Inciting Incident where an event will set the story in motion, and Plot Point One, where the protagonist crosses the threshold. The story truly moves into gear.  In Act 2 (Confrontation), increase the stakes for our protagonist by using the element of Rising Action. Next, move to the Midpoint where there’s an event that upends the protagonist’s mission. Act 2 ends with Plot Point Two where he is tested and fails. His ability to succeed is now in doubt.   Act 3 (Resolution) begins with the Pre-Climax which can best be described as the ‘the night is the darkest before dawn’. Our protagonist must muster all his courage and choose success over failure. Next comes the Climax where the reader must wonder if the protagonist will fail or succeed. Finally, there’s Denouement where, against all odds, the protagonist has succeeded. This part ends with the consequences (both good and bad) of such success.   Seven-Point Story Structure Developed by Dan Wells, this structure encourages you to start at the end with the Resolution, and work your way back to the starting point. The elements of the Seven-Point Story Structure will include the following:   The Hook, which states the protagonist’s current situation.   Plot Point 1, where the protagonist is called to action.   Pinch Point 1, where the protagonist faces his first blow.   Turning Point, where the protagonist becomes active and decides to meet any conflict head-on.  Pinch Point 2, where the protagonist faces his second blow.  Plot Point 2, where the protagonist sees that he has had the solution to the problem all along.  Resolution, where the story’s primary problem is resolved. A Few More Story Structure Examples Although they’re uncommon, there are four more short story structures you can use.  Freytag\'s Pyramid The first is Freytag’s Pyramid, which is described as a ‘five-point dramatic structure that’s based on the classical Greek tragedies,’ and used in more depressing contemporary tales.   Story Circle Dan Harmon’s ‘Story Circle’ is heavily inspired by the ‘Hero’s Journey’. It is focused on the protagonist’s character and his wants and needs.   Save The Cat A variation of the ‘Three-Act Structure’ is the ‘Save the Cat Beat Sheet’, created by a Hollywood screenwriter called Blake Snyder. A very precise structure, everything in the story happens exactly where and when it should.  By working with key story \'beats\', the screenplay or novel is broken down into the following sections within each act: Act 1 (setting, inciting incident, and decision) Act 2 (start of the journey, the fun and games where all the action and obstacles happen) Act 3 (bad guys close in, all is lost, hero works it out, resolution) Fichtean Curve The ‘Fichtean Curve’ effectively starts with the Rising Action and does away with Exposition because the characters and setting will reveal themselves from this point on.   How To Write A Short Story Structure Let’s look at these ideas and structure suggestions in action. Here is a breakdown of one of my own short stories, The Flame, long-listed for the Exeter Literary Festival.  Ordinary world: Nina receives a wedding invitation and encounters a familiar dilemma – “What should I wear?”   Something shocking happens to break the status quo and the protagonist receives a call to action: The dress code is surprising – ‘Ethnic Best’.  The protagonist vacillates, but ultimately answers the call to action: After contemplating other options, Nina decides to wear a sari.   Although the protagonist makes a sincere attempt to attain her goal/meet her need, she fails and feels defeated: Nina chooses a georgette-chiffon sari the family calls ‘The Flame’. Nina’s mother cautions her about wearing this sari.  This is the mid-point where the protagonist tries to defeat the thing preventing her from getting what she needs. If she succeeds, a bigger challenge faces her. If she fails, she has to face up to her weakness (usually internal). More often than not, she’s made the problem worse: Nina’s mother reminds her that it’s ‘a rule’ that women wear silk garments at Hindu wedding ceremonies. Nina stages a protest.   This is the time for self-reflection, a mentor’s pep-talk, or, the protagonist hits rock bottom: Nina does some research into this ‘rule’.   The protagonist accepts her fate and begins to make a concerted effort to overcome her weakness: Rejecting the ‘rule’ Nina insists on wearing ‘The Flame’.   At this ¾ mark, all seems lost. The protagonist figures out that there’s a chance at success, but it’s a long shot: ‘The Flame’ is nowhere to be found.  The final push where everything that is improbable yet plausible happens. Yet, the protagonist succeeds because she’s overcome all her weaknesses: Nina turns the house upside down looking for ‘The Flame’.   This is the wrap up where the protagonist returns to the status quo a transformed person: Nina finds ‘The Flame’ and is the only guest who’s comfortable at the wedding.   Frequently Asked Questions Do you still have questions about writing a short story? Take a look at these questions short story writers have been asking us lately: What Are The 5 Parts Of A Short Story Structure? Exposition Give us a glimpse of what the main character\'s life looks like before the big thing happens. Who are they? What\'s the setting? What does their life look like? How do they interact with others? Rising Action This is the big where the big thing happens - without this inciting incident there would be no story (In Romeo and Juliet it\'s the part where they meet, in A Christmas Carol it\'s the part where the ghosts visit Scrooge). Climax Bang! It\'s all coming to a head, there\'s been a big twist in the middle, and now the bad guys are closing in. This is the part where people should be on the edge of their seats (or at least flipping the pages faster). Falling Action Things are going from bad to worse but the main character is nearly there. Resolution (or Denouement) And phew, they made it. Whether they got the girl, won the fight, or learned a lesson about themselves, the story is all wrapped up and the reader is (hopefully) happy. Do Short Stories Have Structure? Yes, they must, otherwise you are simply writing a snippet of prose (which is lovely, but you\'re not telling the reader anything). Like any story, regardless of its length, a short story must have a clear beginning, middle, and end. What Is Plot And Structure In Short Stories? The plot and structure of a short story (otherwise known as a story arc) is the logical order in which events happen in the story. It\'s important to set the scene, introduce the inciting incident and obstacles, then show the resolution. But, as you have fewer words to play with its vital that you keep your theme simple, your storyline linear (no complicated subplots) and don\'t overcomplicate your characters (of which you don\'t need as many). Try It Yourself! I hope you have found this short story structure guide useful and are now eager to get writing. It\'s easy... Once you have your story idea, take a look at our various types of short structures, analyse them, and decide which one will work best for your short story – then see what you create!  Writing a great short story takes time, but once you apply the skills you’ve learnt you’ll soon find yourself in the company of outstanding writers. 

How To Find Inspiration For Your Writing

How To Find Inspiration For Your Writing All authors, at some point in their writing journey, have found themselves staring at a blank page and wondering where writers find their inspiration. There’s nothing more intimidating than finishing a great book and thinking to yourself ‘I will never come up with an idea that original.’  If your creative well has run dry and you’re panicking you will never be inspired again, read on for some top author inspiration. YA and children’s writer, Patrice Lawrence MBE, shares with us all the fun ways she has ignited her imagination when penning her award-winning books.  Potential Sources Of Inspiration I must admit I don’t really struggle for lack of inspiration to start stories. I have so many ideas wrestling with each other in my brain that one day I’ll cough, and a mouthguard will fly out of my ear. But whether you are struggling with the concept of your next book, or your mind and notebooks are bursting with ideas, the following tips and games are fun for every writer to do as they will push your imagination even further!  In this article I will be talking about what inspired me to write my books, how I keep my ideas fresh and original, and how to find inspiration for writing from everyday life and by looking at other inspirational authors.   Writing Prompts One of my favourite sources of inspiration is writing prompts. (Try one of our prompts for thrillers, fantasy, horror, romance, or Christmas stories.) My first published novel, Orangeboy, surfaced from a writing prompt on a residential creative writing course. The slip of paper I pulled out of a hat read - He woke up dreaming of yellow.   It was an exercise about hiding clues in crime fiction. We were supposed to write a paragraph or two and other writers would guess the prompt. I thought about a recent trip to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London, mustard on hotdogs and yellow fairground tokens. I imagined a geeky boy on a first date with a girl way above his league. She’s buying hot dogs for them. The vendor squirts on the mustard. The boy hates mustard, but he sure as hell isn’t going to tell her. What else would he do to impress her? And what could possibly go wrong? That book went on to win the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstone\'s Prize for Older Children\'s Fiction. Not bad for a bit of paper pulled out of a hat!  Let’s play a writer’s block inspiration game of our own. Pick up your pen or pencil, or poise your fingers over your keyboard, and set your timer for seven minutes. Ready?  Christopher Columbus meets the Wicked Witch of the West in a blender. Go!  I’ll come back to this later…  Asking Others To Inspire You For some reason, prompts feel more powerful if they come to me from other people. When I was struggling to find a direction for Rose, Interrupted, I asked my daughter to send me prompts on Whatsapp. I’d write the sentence at the top of a blank page then carrying on writing below it. Her prompts took me in new and satisfying directions and unexpectedly helped me with a plot point.   Until recently, I was part of a writing critique group. Once a year or so we’d devote a session to rekindling our creativity. We’d all bring different types of prompts. One writer might favour images. (Old postcards are a fantastic source of inspiration. Somewhere in the past I asked children to write a story inspired by a postcard of a camel being hoisted on to a boat.) Other writers might suggest rewriting fairy-tales or set up a potential scenario for us to populate with characters and dialogue.   Poetry As Inspiration One writer in my critique group enjoyed extracting prompts from poetry books. Try it – select a page number and find a line or even a poem that inspires you. As a child, I loved Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. I had no idea what it was about, but the imagery sparked such vivid images in my head. I wanted to see that wild land and find out why a lady was playing a dulcimer there. Whatever a dulcimer was.  Ideas Are All Around You Some prompts are vignettes of life I’ve passed on a bus. Some are snippets of conversation. Others are just weird speculations or take idioms literally. By the time I get to look at them again, they are new and totally out of context which is perfect for free writing.   I now have a small hardback day-a-page diary where I record random prompts: What happens if you have to carry your air in a rucksack on your back? What if a train stops just outside your station and everyone else has disappeared? What if you really did have all your butterflies tied up?  That first prompt about carrying air in a rucksack came in very useful when I was commissioned to write a short story for environmental scientists.   Free Writing From Prompts Now let’s talk free writing. I love free writing. Just pouring my ideas onto a page without censoring or editing myself is incredibly liberating. Reading through afterwards, I always find something that excites me. But if the words don’t flow and the prompt just prompts panic, what next?  I always start with questions. I am insatiably curious. I want to know what makes people tick, so for me, my first thought about a prompt is ‘why’? Why is that happening? Why is that person doing that? Why now?   Then I open the imagination tap and let the subconscious flow out – usually pretty messily. So, for instance, let’s head back to the famous Italian seafarer and the fictional monkey-wrangling witch from the prompt at the start of this article. (There’s nothing like putting too widely dissimilar characters in a peculiar situation to help me the ease the words out.)   My first question would be - why is Christopher Columbus in a blender? Perhaps an idea would dominate my thoughts. Possibly, the indigenous folk of Jamaica saw him coming and built a giant, manually operated blender with sharpened bamboo blades to greet him. Then the Wicked Witch of the West flew back in time to rescue him so that together they can plan a super-heist that involves a hurricane that blasts away all the islands in the Caribbean Sea. Or perhaps he’s been shrunk. (Who shrunk him and why?) Or perhaps it’s a metaphor for western colonialism, or he’s starring in a Covid fever-dream. Or alternatively, you could start with the Wicked Witch. Or a description of the blender that contains these two unlikely personages.   Alternative Narrators Once I’ve teased out all the possibilities and settled on an idea, my second question is – who is telling the story?   Inspiration can be found by prodding around the margins for the untold stories. The musical Wicked, of course, tells the story of Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West. Jesus Christ Superstar explores the rise of Jesus from Judas’s point of view. Sections of Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees are told by a fig tree and the world of Elif’s earlier book, 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World is realised through the consciousness of a murdered woman. I remember reading James Herbert’s, Fluke, as a teenager, narrated by a man who is transformed into a dog.   Challenge yourself to free-write a paragraph or two from different points of view, not all necessarily human. Set a timer for a short writing sprint. Did you produce more material? Did anything unexpected emerge? (If you’re writing from the point of view of the blender, it’s bound to, isn’t it?)  Let’s take a look at two other rich sources of inspiration that are a lot of fun to indulge in...  Books Inspired By Other Books: Revisiting And Retelling The first is myth and legend.   My first published book, Granny Ting Ting, was part of a guided reading scheme for primary schools. I’d recently visited my family in Trinidad and I wanted to set the story there. It includes a chapter about duennes, sort of ghost babies, that confuse late night travellers and lure them into the forest. In my follow-up guided reading book, Wild Papa Woods, the wild papa is based on the mythical Papa Bois who turns into a stag to protect his forest. I’ve recently written a short story for an anthology, ‘Happy Here’, for upper-primary school readers. It’s about three generations of soucouyant – Caribbean shapeshifting witches – who live in a tower block in south London and run a bureau that organises real world experiences for jaded fairy-tale, mythical and legendary folk. (Sisyphus, who was sentenced by Hades in Greek myth to push a boulder up a steep hill for eternity spends his down time bowling in a subterranean alley near London Bridge.)   Alexandra Sheppard (Oh My Gods) and Maz Evans (Who Let the Gods Out?) have great fun bringing Greek gods to the contemporary world in books for children and young people. Pat Barker and Madeline Millar are among writers who have retold myths from alternative points of view for adults. Or you could go full Tolkien and create a whole new mythology.  Different Types Of Storytelling Another way to find inspiration for writing is popular culture. I’ve never been a cool kid, so I have no problem finding joy in pop music and superhero films.   Have you seen the music video of My Universe by Coldplay X BTS? It’s neither BTS nor Coldplay, or indeed the song, that keeps bringing me back to it. It’s that video. I want to write a story about the Silencers or, more importantly, DJ Lafrique on her alien radio ship. She needs a comic book series and a film franchise.   Korean dramas have also been an unexpected source of inspiration for me, particularly for the mechanics of storytelling. They are sponsored by brands like Body Shop and Subway sandwiches, so are obliged to bring as many viewers to the screen as possible, week after week (you’re so hooked you happily overlook the blatant and sometimes bizarre product placement). Characters must be compelling and relatable but surprising. Plots must twist and turn making the improbable acceptable. And each episode must end dangling on frayed string from the highest cliff.   Look at storytelling outside of your own culture and see how they tell tales. There are so many ways to find inspiration in everyday life, and the lives of others.  Inspiration Is Infinite I like to think that inspiration is infinite. It’s in the everyday and the bizarre, possibly juxtaposed in the same sentence. It’s unpicking moments that seem well-known then creating alternative narratives, perhaps told by unlikely storytellers. It’s keeping a notebook of random prompts that you can draw on when your creativity is running dry.   I hope I’ve given you some ideas, as well as permission to sink yourself into K-drama, pop videos and Marvel films. From now on, your excuse for playing games, watching TV, eavesdropping, and discovering new and wonderful examples of storytelling, is that an unexpected prompt might lead to an unexpected – and successful – book… 

How Authors Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imagine you’ve been invited to a dinner party. On the invitation, the words ‘We can’t wait to see you!’ are printed in big, bold letters, embossed in gold foil for good measure. On arrival at the party, you’re greeted warmly by your hosts, and you feel welcomed, wanted, and validated.   I can do this, you think, and you hold onto that feeling as you take your seat at a long, fancy table laid out with cut glass champagne flutes and silver cutlery. Wow, you enthuse, this is great! I’m sitting at the table, about to eat the fine food and enjoy the even finer company! I finally fit in!   And it’s a wonderful feeling.   Until, that is, you look around you, and you see the other dinner party guests. The glamorous, intelligent, gorgeous, witty, celebrated, funny guests who all look like they belong in that room, seated at that table.   As for you, it becomes quickly apparent you do not belong. You don’t deserve your seat at this soiree of talent. You are nowhere near as successful, talented, or brilliant as these people. You are, in fact, an imposter, and any minute now someone is going to turn to you and say ‘Excuse me? Aren’t you at the wrong dinner party?’  You shrink into yourself and withdraw, hoping nobody will notice your presence, and remain that way until the end of the evening. What’s more, your internal critic will not let you forget this feeling until the next party invitation, which you turn down, due to your unworthiness.   Welcome, my friend, to Imposter Syndrome.   What Is Imposter Syndrome? My favourite imposter syndrome (sometimes known as ‘impostor phenomenon’ or ‘perceived fraudulence’) definition is: ‘Chronic feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and fraudulence despite objective success’. Or, in basic terms, feeling terrible about your own abilities despite there being actual, real evidence of your qualifications and talent.   Of course, it’s different for everyone. Feelings of self-doubt are entirely unique to the person experiencing them, and there is no universally accepted singular definition of what severe Imposter Syndrome is or feels like. But what it boils down to for me is a skewed opinion of my own worth - either in a personal sense, or a literary sense, or both (fun times) depending on my mood.   I regularly battle with feelings of worthlessness and of not ‘belonging at the table’, despite outward appearances of being confident, competent and, although I dislike this word for its vagueness, ‘successful’.   My particular brand of crippling Imposter Syndrome is extremely unpredictable and can be triggered by a number of things: award nomination announcements (why wasn’t I nominated? I must not be good enough), book deal announcements (why haven’t I scored a three-book deal with a Big Five publisher yet? I must not be marketable enough), collaboration announcements (why wasn’t I invited to contribute to that anthology? I must not be credible enough), to simply reading someone else’s work (dear God, why can’t I write this well? I may as well stop right now, I’m a hack).   It doesn’t help that these days, especially with the onus on authors and creatives to be able to effectively market themselves in such a competitive industry, this game can sometimes feel like a ‘popularity contest’ that you haven’t ranked highly in.   That sense of not belonging is compounded when we work in an industry where our work can be partly judged by our own likeability or public persona, which is, for the majority of us, an understandable source of Imposter Syndrome anxiety. Because often, when I think I Do Not Belong Here, I conflate it with People Do Not Like Me, which is Imposter Syndrome at its worst as it makes me question my absolute value as a person.  How Does Imposter Syndrome Affect Writers? While researching this article, I thought it would be an idea to ask some of my Twitter followers how Imposter Syndrome felt, and the answers were a little heart-breaking. You can read the responses here, and when you do, notice how many times the following words and phrases are used:  Fraud  Fake  Not legitimate  Not earned  Not deserved  Luck  Fooled everyone  Fear  Self-doubt  Worth  Get found out   It paints a sad picture of how a common syndrome can radically affect a creative career, in some cases stalling it before it has a chance to flourish.   What’s more, if you think the more ‘successful’, ‘legitimate’ and ‘proper’ creatives you look up to do not suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you’d be wrong. Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks once said “‘No matter what we\'ve done, there comes a point where you think, \'How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?\'\"   In a similar vein, Jodie Foster also said she thought winning her Oscar was a ‘fluke’. “I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back,” she continued.   If we return to my tweet above, seasoned horror stalwart Ramsey Campbell, who has been writing for over fifty years and won a metric ton of awards, stated “I often feel as if I’ve brought nothing to my field but imitations of better work,” which is mind-blowing to me, as someone who looks up to Campbell and his lifetime of achievements.    The point is, Imposter Syndrome doesn’t seem to discriminate when it comes to choosing a victim. It can hit at any point throughout your career and have a dramatic effect on your ability to write, focus, and feel motivated. Whilst it is perhaps unrealistic to expect to avoid Imposter Syndrome completely, there are ways to begin to overcome it or at least manage the effects if you are suffering. How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix, no Imposter Syndrome treatment out there in the shape of a pill or a jab. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome starts exactly where it lives…in the mind! Let’s beginning with learning to recognise it.   Recognition Much like the advice we gave for how to handle writer burnout, the first step to dealing with any problem is to identify what that problem is.  That means asking yourself a few questions:  Do you constantly compare yourself to others?  Do you sometimes find it difficult to celebrate the success of your peers?  Do you experience self-doubt more regularly than most?  Do you self-sabotage?  Do you have a poor understanding of your own skills and competence?  Are you consistently hard on yourself?  Do you attribute success to external things like luck, or being in the right place at the right time?  Are you constantly afraid of letting people down or failing to live up to expectations?  Do you set extremely high goals for yourself and get disappointed when you can’t meet them?  These could all be examples of Imposter Syndrome, which can be driven by a number of things: existing personality traits, a competitive environment, stress, and even your upbringing and childhood experiences. Recognising that you’re struggling and being able to put a name to your symptoms can be empowering and enable you to take the next step after recognition: tackling the problem.   But how do you treat Imposter Syndrome? Well, there are a number of things you can do.  Stop Thinking About It   Quite literally, stop.   I know, I know. If it was that easy, you wouldn’t be here, right? Telling someone to ‘stop thinking about it’ when they are in the middle of an anxiety attack or genuine crisis is not the most sympathetic thing a person can do and trust me - I’ve been on the receiving end of many well-meaning comments along those lines.   But bear with me, because in dark times when I question my place at The Table, I’ve found that the quickest and most successful way out of my funk is to literally stop thinking about it. Stop dead, switch that part of my brain right off. I’m aware that spiralling into self-doubt is not helpful, and while it is understandable and natural and not really something we invite or anticipate, I also know that thinking about my own inadequacies obsessively is a poor use of my time and limited energy. So, I try to stop. I try to identify when I’m trapped in a downward spiral.   There are a number of ways I do this, but most of them involve me physically changing my situation by going for a walk, going into another room, getting away from my desk and making a coffee, listening to music, taking a shower, sometimes even having a nap or putting a movie on to distract myself from the looming sense of worthlessness. Once I have broken the cognitive loop and given my brain a desperately needed break, I find it is easier to move onto other, healthier ways of thinking.   Self-Belief  This one involves you making a deliberate and mental shift in your thinking every time fraud syndrome strikes. I call it reframing, and it can be as simple as reversing the narrative when you catch yourself having thoughts of self-doubt, for example: instead of thinking ‘I don’t belong at this table,’ you deliberately decide to adjust your thinking to ‘I deserve my place at this table, because I have worked hard for it’. And just to be clear: we all deserve a place at the table, despite what you may hear, have been taught, or be led to believe. This article talks about how women and women of colour suffer more from Imposter Syndrome than other peers due to societal imbalances and prejudice and is an interesting (if somewhat depressing) read.   While positive thinking cannot, sadly, help with systemic discrimination in the workplace or within your chosen career, it can help lighten your mental burden a little if you are prone to being consistently hard on yourself. Even if you know, deep down, that you don’t believe the more positive statements you are forcing yourself to say, over time, continuously retraining your internal narrative can have a rather dramatic effect on your ability to shrug off Imposter Syndrome.   Instead of focussing on the things you can’t do, it forces you to recognise the things you can. Put simply: if you switch your focus actively from the negative to the positive, the chances are you’ll feel better in yourself and more confident in your own abilities as a result.  Recognise The Difference Between Being Humble And Self-Loathing  Us writers are a very self-aware bunch, but sadly many of us have grown up in a world where self-deprecation is more acceptable than tooting our own horn. This industry is especially harsh on anyone crowing too loudly. But there’s a fine line between being wry about yourself and continuously running yourself down. Indulging in some affirmative behaviour might not come naturally, and feels awkward at the best of times, but it has benefits.   Meditation And Mantras  Positive thinking is often the starting point in a healthier self-fulfilling cycle – but these aren’t easy to do alone so try a meditation app or looking up some positive/self-affirming mantras.  Likewise…  Establish Healthy Habits  If you are prone to anxiety-induced self-doubt, cutting back on stimulants (coffee, sugar, alcohol) and getting as much sleep and exercise in as you can, will calm the body… and the mind. Maybe combine yoga and running with a podcast on positivity or author success stories to inspire you (if they don’t make you feel worse)!  Track Your Successes  I know it’s weird, but I track everything. Every single thing. Pages read in Kindle Unlimited. Royalties earned. Copies sold. New followers on social media. Subscribers to my newsletter. Reviews on Goodreads or Amazon.   For some, this might be extreme and perhaps a tad pitiful, but for me, the metrics serve as reference points for when I’m wildly spiralling into the depths of despair. In particular, I like to make a point of looking at how far I’ve come since I began my journey as a writer. The benefit of statistics is that it is extremely easy to see at a glance how much progress you’ve made.   When my first book came out it sold tiny numbers of copies in its first few months, (although I still considered it amazing that anyone bought a copy at all). Over the years the book has performed steadily, until the number of copies sold tipped over into the thousands. This was a benchmark that was hard for my brain to argue with - looking at demonstrable growth helped with my feelings of inadequacy.   In times of severe self-doubt, focusing on measurables rather than the sensation of being under qualified or fraudulent made a big difference. Also: spreadsheets and graphs are amazing confidence boosters and I’ll die on that small, unimpressive hill. Build A Network Of Other Creatives  This is probably the most important one for me. Surrounding yourself with supportive creatives who understand what Imposter Syndrome feels like and can not only commiserate, but also bash you around the head affectionately with a pillow and tell you how silly you are being, is everything.   You are more likely to be understood by another person within your industry than by other friends and relatives, who perhaps won’t understand as much about the stresses and pressures of a creative career as you would like them to.   There’s a wonderful community of folk out there who are more than happy to hold you up when you’re feeling down, and I have become a lot less shy about asking my peers for support with severe imposter syndrome, which they are happy to give. Keep Writing  It’s vital, when you are stuck on a project that is making you think negatively about yourself, to keep writing. Some find that having more than one project on the go at once helps as you always have something left to pin your hopes on.  You may also wish to get other authors and reviewers whom you trust to beta-read your latest works (if and when they have time). It certainly helps me with self-doubt, because their fair, balanced feedback not only motivates me, but also helps to improve my writing - which is a win-win.   Take Your Seat At The Table Hopefully, knowing you’re not alone when it comes to the struggles of Imposter Syndrome is helpful, as is the knowledge that it’s an unfortunate but natural part of a demanding writing career full of highs and lows, stresses and uncertainties.   Being able to cognitively drag your brain away from negative thoughts and learning to lean on like-minded people, as well as employ positive self-talk and thinking wherever possible, should help you through the darkest days and hopefully, diminish the symptoms a little.   And remember: the feelings of worthlessness do not tally up with the actual evidence of your abilities. That nasty voice in your head can’t be trusted. So the best thing to do is ignore it and keep writing. You’ve earned your spot at the table - it’s time for you to pull up a chair and get comfortable.  

A Simple Guide To Social Media For Authors

Many an author, struggling to balance writing with the constant pressure of having to be visible online, often finds themselves asking – ‘But do I really need social media?’  Let’s take a look.   Do Authors Need Social Media? Yes and no. If the thought of spending time online trying to engage with strangers in the hope they might buy your book is distressing in any way, then the simple answer is don’t do it. My agent has never asked me if I have a social media presence, and neither has my editor. Social media takes time, effort and planning – it’s not something we all have the time or inclination for.   However, it’s worth noting that while the UK industry doesn’t currently seem to mind too much what you do or don’t do online, this isn’t always the case in other parts of the world and the goalposts are always changing.  A strong social media presence is beneficial in many ways – especially if you’re an aspiring writer or an independent author. Without the marketing clout of a publisher, social media is the cheapest (well, free) way for you to be seen. Remember that your potential readers are likely to have at least one social media account to their name, if not several. Developing an author brand and connecting with your audience can massively boost your profile and get your books where you want them – in the hands and under the noses of readers and industry decision-makers. This article isn’t a deep dive into the intricacies and algorithm theories of each social media platform. Feel free to research this once you decide to make the leap into the mire of author social media. This article is less of a how-to….and more of a why-to, when it comes to social media. This may sound rather intimidating for a beginner but don’t panic, here are some tips on social media marketing for authors. Social Media Platforms For Writers Rule number one: know your audience.  The number of platforms you can use might seem dizzying, but you don’t need all of them. Social media professionals always say to focus on one or two. Ask yourself - Who will most likely read my books? Which social media platforms are they more likely to use? It might be worth looking at your comparative book titles before you start investigating. For instance, how do your favourite authors in your genre use their social media? Let’s look further at some of the more popular platforms and look at how different authors are utilising them to their benefit.  Facebook Did you know 66% of the UK population is on Facebook? That’s a lot of potential readers meaning it’s a popular platform for writers of certain genres. Currently, the biggest expansion in regular users is coming from the 65+ age group, with younger users dropping off. Although it’s still the most popular platform in the world and (especially for genres catering to over 30s and parents) it’s a great way to connect with potential readers. Before you consider creating your own author page, take a look at some of the reading groups that already exist and join as a reader (most of them won’t let you promote your own books, but occasionally they have exceptions). Crime novels are extremely well represented on Facebook – the UK Crime Book Club alone has 20,000 members. Being present in groups like this and interacting on posts by readers is a small but effective way to raise your profile (and you’ll find loads of other great books to read too!). One author who is great on Facebook is Clare Mackintosh, who runs her own monthly book club group. It has 8,000 members, and people post recommendations and requests daily for new reads. Clare is very active in the group, often commenting and starting discussions as well as running the monthly ‘readalong’. She also offers various promotions and sneak peeks which are very popular.   If you aren’t too keen, just a simple page where you share your news is fine – you can have a look at mine if you like. I don’t use Facebook a lot, but it’s useful for having a foothold that I can amp up later or use as a base for future advertising. It also keeps a nice record of various reviews and things to look back on and allows people to tag you in relevant posts. Or irrelevant ones – it happens!  Twitter Twitter is a popular social network for writers as it’s instant and in real time and focuses on short, succinct posts (though always add a picture if you can – they get 150% more engagement!) I find Twitter to be the simplest of all platforms to use - easy snippets, easy shares, easy interaction. This is where you’ll find your 30-49 year olds and is the most popular platform for male users; 68% according to these demographics. You can find your people on Twitter by following other authors in your genre and checking what they’re up to, and by searching hashtags like #writingcommunity. If you’re lucky you may even go viral, which (although no guarantee of increasing sales) it certainly gets you lots of exposure and often media picks up on viral trends and posts. Regardless, you\'ll benefit from being part of a social network for writers within these smaller Twitter communities. It’s worth remembering that Twitter is a good place for your readers to get to know a bit more about you as a person aside from your writing. So don’t just share promotions, write about other things too. What are you reading? What is your writing process like? Hear any good advice recently? Ask questions, and don’t forget to interact with other people’s posts.  One of my favourite authors to follow on Twitter is Margaret Atwood. I like how she engages with her fans online by retweeting articles, promoting things she’s up to and even responding to fellow writers about her creative process. She ‘liked’ one of my tweets once and I nearly expired. Instagram Instagram is where you’ll find more women hanging out, and your slightly younger audience – 70% of users are under 35. Although that doesn’t mean us oldies can’t enjoy it – I love Instagram. You can use it to post pictures of yourself or your books, or anything really, and use hashtags to make your posts easier to find.  Instagram is absolutely stuffed with book reviewers. They’re an amazing community to get involved with and can help get a real buzz going about your work. It’s not just about the pretty pictures – I rarely post on my ‘grid’ – it’s the ‘Instagram stories’ that work for me, and for lots of other authors too. One of my current favourites to follow is Elodie Harper, author of Wolf Den, a novel set in Pompeii, pre-eruption. She often shares beautiful mosaics and art from the period, giving a wonderful taste of the time and the basis of her inspiration in her stories. TikTok Getting involved with ‘BookTok’ (ie book lovers on Tik Tok) is becoming a truly inspired way to reach the youngest of social media users. If you’re writing YA or older MG, get yourself on there! Tik-Tok is the fastest growing platform in the world and the most used – one hour per day on average – with more than a billion users. There are already lots of authors paving the way on TikTok – one to follow is Victoria Aveyard, author of the Red Queen series. She shares all sorts, from insights into the publishing world, how to structure novels, to killing your darlings. She’s also really funny, which always helps. Social media isn’t always about self-promotion, though. You can always follow just for fun, and BookTok really is just that – fun. It’s also a great way for an author to relax and procrastinate productively! Other Social Platforms While we’ve listed the main contenders, there are other platforms that might suit you and your needs more.   Pinterest Pinterest is the corkboard of the internet, full of tips and how-to’s on any subject you can imagine. Try searching up a topic you’re interested in and have fun ‘pinning’ all the articles to read later – you might even want to write and share your own! Many authors use social media platforms like Pinterest to create secret inspiration boards for their novels, and it’s a great way to link blogs to your website to pretty images. One of the good things about Pinterest is you don’t actually have to talk to anyone… YouTube YouTube is the platform for the hardcore videographer. Alexa Donne is a powerhouse – check out her videos for pretty much everything you need to know about anything ever.   LinkedIn LinkedIn is where you wear your suit. Professional profiles for connecting with other writers on a more business-level – basically an interactive online CV. Great for connecting with industry professionals too. Goodreads Goodreads…never mind. Probably best that no author goes on there unless they have a thick skin. But in all seriousness, many find it a great site on which to log their own reading progress, run book giveaways, and gauge the reaction to their books before they are published. Social Media Advertising All the stuff we’ve talked about so far is completely free. However, you can pay to harness the power that is the social media behemoth. Facebook and Instagram both offer paid advertising opportunities which can be very successful but do your research first! Learn how to set up audiences for your ad and how to clone audiences that other ads use. It’s much easier than staring at the back end of your ad and crying because no one is clicking through, believe me. There’s lots to consider but get it right and you’re on your way, because Facebook still remains the most targeted form of affordable advertising out there.  How To Interact With Your Audience Social media lets you directly interact with your audience. This can be amazing, but also a little scary. Here are a few tips on getting it right:  The Three E’s You might be asking yourself - ‘What the hell do I write about now I’m here?’   A rule of thumb is the three E’s: when writing a post make it either Entertaining, Engaging or Educational. Or all three if you’re clever. People want to be entertained, they want to be part of things, and they want to learn (usually).   Community Matters Basically, your vibe finds your tribe. Cultivate your community so it’s full of the people you want, preferably ones you admire and care about. For instance, there’s absolutely no reason why Twitter need be a stressful place for you if the only people you follow are those posting about books, cats, and baking!  You already know how to talk to the people important to you, so simply treat the people who now live in your phone/laptop the same way. These are the people whose feedback and opinion matters. If they like your posts, they might buy your book. If they like you too, they might tell other people to buy your book as well.   Find Other Authors One of the biggest draws to social media (especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is how vital it is for finding other writers and building your own support network. There are legions of fellow writers all over the internet, on all the platforms, in all guises, at all stages of their careers. They are your people – go find them. Talk to them, ask them questions. Join groups and chats and hashtags. Writing can be a lonely occupation, but it doesn’t have to be.  The wonderful thing about the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, especially, is that everyone is just as lost as you. Don’t be shy to create a page and then post along the lines of ‘Hi, I’m new to the writing world. I’m looking to follow and chat to other writers of xyz.’ Or ask for critique partners or beta readers. You’ll be surprised how many like-minded (and just as lost) writers jump at the chance to be part of your squad.   Share New Writing Projects There’s nothing quite as exciting to an avid reader as a teaser for what you’re writing next. How are you getting on? Are you editing yet? Can we read some, pleeeease? You get the picture.  Demonstrate Audience Appreciation An author who clearly appreciates their audience is a popular one. You can demonstrate this by offering exclusive content to your advocates, by including them in discussions, and by sharing their content as well as your own. Some authors even run fun giveaways, such as ‘Follow me and you may be picked to have your name appear as a character in my next novel.’ Include your audience in inventive and engaging ways!  So, Is Social Media Useful For Authors? Undeniably, yes! Social media is very useful for authors who want to create communities, find their audience and showcase their work. There’s no direct evidence that it will increase your sales, but it WILL create positive PR and get you exposure, which all helps.  So get out there, have a quiet little chat or TikTok dance your way into the hearts of your readers. However you choose to use social media, make sure it works for you and you have fun! 

What Is A Foil Character?

You’ve taken the time to write a perfectly flawed character, you’ve ticked all the literary boxes making sure they have a solid backstory, they have a clear motivation and you’ve taken the time to showcase witty or cynical dialogue. Yet somehow there’s still something missing, that missing gem that you can’t quite put your finger on. Why isn’t your character shining?  Fear not, because I’m about to explain how to polish your power as a writer by using a foil character. Foil characters are an incredibly powerful and yet often subtle device to showcase and emphasise certain character traits in your MC, by offering another character in a contrasting light.  In this short piece, I will explain what a foil character is, how to use them effectively, and give examples of foils in literature, as well as film. I will also be showing you how to get the most of these often-forgetful characters, which when used effectively will give your characters that little extra time in the spotlight.   Before I continue, here’s a little fun fact for you!  Foil was once placed behind gems to make them shine brighter. Clever, hey? I’m going to let you in on a secret, that is exactly what a foil character does!  So let’s look a little closer at these magical tricksters.  What Are Foil Characters? A foil character by definition is a device used by writers to contrast or reflect another character – often your protagonist (main character)- by highlighting their traits, appearance, personality or morals.  Often, a foil in literature comes in the form of an antagonist (an adversary) but they can also be a sidekick, mentor, friend or parent; they can also even be an animal, or a subplot which foils your character’s progress. By using a foil character, you will essentially be shining a spotlight on your character’s attributes and behaviour, revealing those contrasting elements.  How Foil Characters Are Used A good foil character will draw your reader’s attention to the qualities of your protagonist, often without your reader even knowing you’re doing it. This can be done in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look at some contrasting examples and match them to famous foil characters.  Your protagonist may be a law-abiding citizen, so the foil could be a law breaker (think how different Harry Potter’s friends, Hermione and Ron, are). An adventurous character may have a more cautious foil (look at the old man and the boy scout in the animation Up).A more reserved character may have a loud friend (the perfect example of this is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).One may be violent and one wanting to keep the peace (Tybalt trying to fight a loved-up Romeo).  Foil characters can be used in a variety of ways, but whichever way you wish to do this, a good foil can make all the difference to how the reader identifies with your character. This adds to the underlying strength of your writing and may not be so obvious to your reader without their inclusion.  Motivation Foil characters are there not only to highlight how different they are from another character, but also to help the reader see what it is that motivates them.   For example, by having a foil character as a close member of the family, who perhaps often puts the safety of the family in danger, the protagonist’s determination to fix the foil’s mistakes or do the polar opposite with his own choices, shows the reader his motivation is to protect his family. A perfect example of this is Alex and her mother in the Netflix series Maid.  Backstory A foil can also highlight the differences in your character’s upbringing or background.  Picture a scene showing your protagonist as someone who comes from a deprived background that they have kept hidden but who has worked their way up and is now starting to finally believe they belong at the posh business lunch with their new peers. Now say they use the wrong etiquette in this social situation; perhaps they return a palette cleansing sorbet when it’s first served to them, saying they didn’t order it. On its own, we wouldn’t perhaps see the significance of the sorbet being a standard part of this kind of luncheon, but by having a foil character alongside the MC accepting the sorbet without a second thought highlights the MC\'s mistake. Although the protagonist is now qualified and being accepted in their new world, this underlying fear of not quite belonging would be subtly highlighted, drawing deeper empathy and understanding from your reader.  Setting You can also use a setting as a foil. In Harry Potter, for example, we have Harry living in the cupboard under the stairs, then in huge contrast we have Hogwarts will all its majesty, magic and splendour, highlighting the very different life he has now been thrown into. Animals Yes, that’s right, animals can be great foils too. Bagheera in The Jungle Book serves as a brilliant foil, being a mature and cautious character as opposed to Mowgli’s inexperienced youth and adventure. Subplots Subplots can also serve as a foil, literally foiling the plans of your main character. All you need is the same problem and two different characters solving that problem in different ways.  In Lord of the Rings, for example, we have Boromir and Faramir, brothers who are charged with protecting Gondor and whose motivation is driven by gaining their father’s approval. Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo to gain power over the enemy, in contrast, Faramir allows Frodo to take the ring to destroy the enemy. Not only are these both foil characters in their own right, but this subplot highlights how the ring can influence everyone around it and has the reader focussing on how different personality traits in the many subplots surrounding Frodo’s journey can determine the fate of the story. At its core, a foil character helps the reader understand the traits and motivations of other characters, helping them identify good from evil, strength from weakness, dark versus light. Examples Of Foil Characters Some of the most famous foil characters in movies include Captain America and Iron Man, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and not to mention Superman who has the perfect foil character in his alter ego, Clark Kent.  As for foil characters in literature, there are far too many to count. Let’s look at the classic example of Wuthering Heights, and the more contemporary novel, Me Before You.   In Wuthering Heights we have Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. These foil characters are set up not only in personality but in physical appearances too. Edgar is fair, with blonde hair and blue eyes, whereas Heathcliff has dark hair and dark eyes. Both men have contrasting upbringings too - Heathcliff an adopted orphan, Linton brought up in a wealthy family. Not to mention their differences in demeanour towards Catherine; Heathcliff is passionate and moody around her, yet Linton treats Catherine with kindness. We even have a setting foil in the dark and menacing Wuthering Heights, which reflects and strengthens Heathcliff’s doomed passion and strength whilst sitting in direct contradiction to Thrushcross Grange, a setting filled with wealth but essentially etched in kindness. It is with the use of these opposing sides of the story, each side underscoring the differences in the other, that makes it such a powerful and evocative narrative.  Let’s now examine a completely different type of love story, Me Before You.  This novel serves as a brilliant example of contrasting characters, using foils in a slightly less dramatic way that is equally effective. And it does so with the two foils barely having any direct contact with each other. To begin with, let’s look at the setting and subplot. At the beginning of the story Lou is living in a small and crowded house filled with family and noise, we discover that money is tight and this is one of the reasons she’s wasted her potential to become a fashion designer and finds herself applying for a job looking after Will, a quadriplegic, at Granta House. In contrast to her own home, Will’s is empty, tidy, quiet and his family distant and non-communicative.  Louisa has a boyfriend in the form of personal trainer and wannabe-athlete, Patrick, who is obsessed with training for triathlons; again, the complete opposite to Will. Patrick often puts his own wants and needs above Louisa’s, displayed clearly when he books ‘them’ a holiday but is actually an excuse so he can take part in the Extreme Viking challenge. Once Louisa gets the job at Granta House, she is given the task of companionship to wealthy and, at first, hostile Will. Although Will is rude and closed with Louisa at the beginning of the story, the two form a bond with Lou’s primary goal to fill Will’s life with fun and adventure despite his injuries. With Patrick, she is desperate to avoid Patrick’s fun activities and would much prefer a less exhausting relationship.  What the author, Jojo Moyes, does so brilliantly in this example, is she uses the foil characters to reflect the opposing traits of both Will and Patrick onto Lou so that she begins to see all the things that both foil characters bring out in herself.  In the one scene where Will and Patrick do meet, Patrick gives Lou a birthday gift of a gold necklace with a star pendant which is nothing like the type of jewellery she has ever worn and doesn’t suit her at all. In contrast, Will gets her a pair of black and yellow tights, a replica of a pair she had loved when she was a child, revealing how Will understands and knows her better than her boyfriend of several years. And although Will is wealthy, and Patrick is not, it wasn’t the expensive gift that impressed her.  By highlighting the differences between Patrick and Will to the reader, Moyes uses this device to also reveal these oppositional aspects to her character, Lou. It is then through this contrasting lens, that Lou understands how different she is with both men. With Patrick, she accommodates his needs, is unhappy and bound to a life she doesn’t want while wasting her potential. With Will, she realises that he’s putting her needs before his own, that she is happy when she is with him and ultimately discovers she is capable of achieving her full potential in the life she wants. Conclusion In short, foil characters are often the unsung heroes of the literary world. Although sometimes minor characters (often even forgettable) what they do is shine a light on your main character, making them three-dimensional and stand out on your page.   When defining foil characters, think of them as a pinch of salt in your caramel sauce. It may play a small role, the main ingredients are big hitters (syrup, butter, cream) but it’s that little hit of contrast, that your guests may not even know is there, that cuts through and makes the rest of the ingredients that much sweeter! 

Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Publishing

Are you a writer, daunted by querying, trying to snag both an agent and a traditional publishing contract? Are you concerned about your lack time or expertise to completely self-publish? If this applies to you, please keep reading this guide, which explores a lesser-known alternative: hybrid publishing.  What Is Hybrid Publishing? Hybrid publishing models blend together traditional publishing and self-publishing. Let’s compare all three publication avenues to help you better understand the positives and limitations of hybrid publishing. You\'ll determine if hybrid publishing is a viable option for you.   Differences Between Traditional Publishers, Self-Publishing, And Hybrid Publishers Traditional Publishers  Obtaining a traditional publishing contract usually means you must query multiple literary agents to find one who believes your work can be sold to a traditional publishing house. Most traditional publishing houses (often referred to in the industry as ‘trad publishers’) only negotiate with agented authors. The agent will attempt, on the writer’s (your) behalf, to sell the writer’s work to a trad house, and obtain a book deal for the writer. Once a deal is secured, you sign a contract with the trad house. This is a significant risk and investment for the publisher.   What Do They Offer? Trad houses cover the entirety of publication costs and assume primary responsibility to sell and market the book. They provide authors an advance for their intellectual property, prior to publication. The “catch” is that the advance isn’t considered “earned” until the author’s book sells enough copies to equal the advance.   Average advances for first-time fiction authors without celebrity status are somewhere between $5,000 - $15,000 (this varies considerably). Once that many thousands of dollars-worth of copies sell, the author begins to receive additional money. This is paid in the form of royalties (a percentage of total book sales). Both agent and trad house take a portion of those royalties.   Considerations: Trad houses typically own the rights to authors’ work, exercising significant control over what and how the author writes. That’s because trad houses focus principally on what will sell based on their knowledge of the publishing industry. They also value their own expertise on how best to refine, package, distribute, and market those raw ideas. All this is done to ensure the books sell - so they can recoup their investment.   Once authors have a traditionally published contract, their job is simplified. They pay no money to publish their book. Rather, they receive money from the publisher, and that amount of money can be substantial. They can ignore editorial, production, printing costs, distribution, and other complicated publishing aspects. This they leave to the publisher, while focusing their efforts on writing a bestseller.   Although the traditional publishing model is risk-averse, few new authors manage to obtain a book deal. Only one book out of five ever earns back their advance. These considerations have led many authors to turn to self-publishing. Self-Publishing  With self-publishing, the burden of the services provided for free by a trad house, are instead borne solely by the writer. The writer must not only write the book, but also prepare it for publication in terms of editing, cover design, layout, pricing, and much more.   The only alternative is to sub-contract out all (or parts) of the process, unless the writer possesses the capabilities to do it themselves. Perhaps, even more intimidating, once the book is published, the writer is wholly responsible to promote their work, without the enormous influence and advertising budget a trad house can provide.   Why Do It Yourself? One advantage to self-publishing is the quick turnaround from book completion to publication. Publication times are as expedient as the author can make them. Your book will be out there significantly quicker compared to a trad house (which can take two years from signing a book to release).   Additionally, if the author becomes a high-volume seller (more than 30,000 copies), completely self-published authors will come out ahead compared to those traditionally published. Moreover, while there are no upfront advances received, there is no quest required to secure an agent through lengthy querying (which can take years). There are also no contracts to negotiate, and no agents or publishers taking a substantial percentage of your profits.   Finally, self-published writers have complete creative freedom to write what they want, how they want it. Without interference from a trad house focusing solely on book sales, the author focuses on what they desire. Sometimes, this works out just fine.   We’ve all heard of self-publishing successes, like Fifty Shades of Grey, The Martian, and Eragon, which have far outsold many a traditionally published bestseller. But these successes are rare. Many writers are exploring their options on how to achieve their dreams of both publication and profitability.    So is there a middle ground?  Hybrid Publishers  Hybrid publishers often offer the best of both worlds.   They don’t accept just any book, so you still have quality control. But the gatekeeping is less stringent (i.e. no need for agents). They too want to represent quality writing, which enhances their reputation and increases their share of any profits.   Just as with traditional publishing, not every work submitted is accepted by hybrid publishers. The book is first evaluated to see if it meets publisher standards and their business lines. But unlike trad publishing, there’s a cost.   What Will It Cost You? Publishing fees with some hybrids can be exorbitant (averaging between $10,000-$20,000). You are paying them to do what you could do yourself as a self-published writer, but with the kudos of their name behind your book, and their expertise. Some people are happy to follow this route, but many writers get exploited. So research who you are working with before you sign anything.  Some hybrid publishers don’t charge direct, but you are expected to pay for your own editing and proofreading before submitting. You may forfeit some creative control. Each contract varies, so please be vigilant as to what you are expected to manage (and what they will) in exchange for a percentage of profits.  Is It Worth It? Once your manuscript is accepted, the editing, printing, and other stages of publication mirror those of a trad house. This leaves writers free to focus on writing. Depending on the hybrid model, many hybrid publishers also provide some level of marketing for their authors\' books, as well as distribution.   As opposed to complete self-publishing, hybrid publishing offers a “one-stop shop”. You don\'t have to slog to find editors, cover designers, and deal with getting your book onto various platforms. As well as all the other worries and expenses associated with self-publishing. And hybrid publishers can get your book published faster than trad too - often within six months. Not as quickly as one potentially could self-publish, but markedly quicker than one could ever be traditionally published.      With hybrid publishing, royalties are higher for the author than with trad houses. Yet, let’s be clear. Most hybrid companies are smaller and less prestigious than their trad counterparts, despite their ability to mass produce books. Sales will be lower and cover prices may be higher (so readership will be lower too).  Hybrid publishers seldom match the brand recognition and worldwide reading audience reach that a trad house can offer. It will be more difficult to get your book reviewed by elite reviewers if it doesn\'t come from a trad house, and it\'s challenging to make top bestseller lists outside of Amazon. One exception that stands out is author Laura Gassner Outing, whose book Limitless, published by hybrid publisher Idea Press ascended the ranks of the Washington Post bestseller list.  Different Types Of Hybrid Publishers Now that you have a better understanding of what hybrid publishing is, let\'s look at specific types of hybrid publishing, and which type may best suit your needs as an author. Some of the main hybrid publishing models include crowdfunding, assisted self-publishing, and partnership publishing.  Crowdfunding Based As the name suggests, a Crowdfunding-based hybrid publishing model means authors campaign to raise funds by asking for donations from interested parties. The hybrid press must attain a certain level of donations to move forward with publication and will ensure distribution to those who have pre-ordered the project. Should the project fail to reach that level of donations, it could be cancelled. Unbound, alias United Authors Publishing Ltd, is perhaps one of the best-known crowdfunding publishers. Assisted Self-Publishing Assisted self-publishing, formerly called vanity publishing, is another hybrid model that has suffered from an unfavourable reputation in the past. Extremely high-end self-assist publishing companies have emerged in the last decade, where authors can feel confident – if they have the funds – that their work will be professionally published.      The self-publishing assist company I publish with, FriesenPress, is well-established, with a sterling reputation for professionalism. I retain full rights for my books and the royalties I receive are 50% higher than what I earn off Amazon, where my book is also published.   FriesenPress has their own virtual bookstore which exclusively sells and advertises their published authors. FriesenPress also promotes any awards received by their authors and their authors\' professional reviews on their social media pages. Downsides? Well, one is that authors are largely responsible for their own marketing as many hybrid publishers have very little reach. Another detractor is the cost - FriesenPress’ top-of-the-line package exceeds CAN$10,000.   Partnership Publishing Partnership Publishing most closely aligns to a traditional publishing system. This model means writers split marketing and production costs with the publisher. As the author, you are primarily charged with marketing, but both author and publisher lose or make money together. Thus the publisher is heavily invested in the author’s success, and will not accept just any book, if the publisher desires to remain profitable.  Top Hybrid Publishers Some of the most reputable hybrid publishers we have found include Amplify, Forbes Books, Greenleaf Book Group, IdeaPress Publishing, LifeTree Media, Mascot Books, and Scribe Publishing. As with anything as monumental as making the decision as to where to publish your book, and how, do your homework. There are numerous hybrid publishers out there. Take your time to research and find the best one for you.   How Do I Select The Right Hybrid Publisher For Me?  We\'ve discussed some of the potential pitfalls of hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishing is not for everyone, because of these pitfalls. Yet, it is fairly easy to avoid these drawbacks by choosing the correct hybrid publisher. Here are some aspects to consider when selecting a hybrid publisher. What types of books does the publisher publish? Some hybrid publishers don’t have the experience publishing specific genres, possibly including the genre you write in. Look for one that has enjoyed success in publishing books relevant to the sort of book you write.   In the same vein, when you look at the books published, do they look professional, of superior quality? Could their books sit on the shelves of a major book chain, and look right at home beside traditionally published books, especially in terms of cover design? Speaking of major book chains, what sort of book distribution scope does the publisher have? Does the publisher have those critical relationships with outlets where you want to stock your book? Do they have their own bookstore, as another avenue to sell your books? Do they edit their books well? Does the publisher have a sterling reputation? Does the hybrid assist at all with marketing authors’ books?  If the answer is “yes” to the above questions, then you may wish to consider the hybrid publishing route for your book. Apples And Oranges Taking care of the complex and potentially confusing nuances of publishing, enhanced retention of creative control, increased royalty compensation, and other benefits combine to make hybrid publishing a potentially viable option versus complete self-publishing, or the traditional mode. Every hybrid publisher is unique, and some can curtail creative freedom in a manner like trad houses. Yet if an author can find the right hybrid publisher, they might find a more attractive method of getting their work out to the world more expediently, and ultimately, more lucratively than with one of the big five trad houses or going it completely on their own as a self-published author.  For writers who feel certain they will be consigned to self-publishing only, after lengthy unsuccessful querying trying to land a trad contract, the diversity of options available in hybrid publishing can be enticing.     

Complete Guide to Writing Sex in Fiction

A lot of authors have their doubts about writing sex. How much do you include? What should you leave out? How do you structure a sex scene? How do you move past the awkwardness of it all? Most writers find sex scenes harder to write than dialogue and action. Yet sultry scenes don’t have to be a literary challenge. In this guide, you will learn how to approach your sex scenes, how to have fun writing them, how to use them as vessels for characterisation and plot development, and lastly, how to decide whether you need the sex scenes in the first place. The Challenge of Writing Sex Scenes Writing sex can be challenging, and many authors fear how their scenes will be received by readers. Readers can be highly critical when it comes to a bad sex scene. In fact, there’s even an award by the Literary Review for bad sex in literature. Take a look at these eye-opening excerpts from last year’s contenders. Writing about sex makes us vulnerable – no one would deny that. Writers worry their family might read it, that readers may cringe or gasp or yawn at their scenes and judge them. It’s a lot more intimate to be judged on your sex scene than on your action, settings or dialogue, and many authors dread receiving feedback on how they write sex. Other authors want to include a sex scene but are worried about the mechanics of putting the scene on paper. How should the characters act? What should you describe? What should you not describe? How much is too much? These worries, albeit valid, should not stop you from including sex scenes in your work. A sex scene is still just a scene, and chances are if you’re applying the same craftsmanship to these scenes that you apply to the rest of your work, then your readers are no more or less likely to judge it harshly or like it any less. And yes, your aunt Margaret might get a hold of your spicy scene, but that’s just something you’re going to have to live with (unless you consider using a pen name. Check out our complete guide to pen names and our pros and cons of pen names). If you feel that sex scenes will add depth to your work (no one appreciates a gratuitous sex scene that’s irrelevant to the plot), or if sex is integral to your genre (such as romance novels), then there are ways to make writing a sex scene easier and even fun. Tips for Writing Effective Sex Scenes Depending on your genre, readers will either be surprised by your sex scenes, or already expecting them. Expectations such as these can add more pressure to the writer, but here are some things you can do to make sure your scene delivers. Read Many Sex Scenes To write decent sex scenes then it’s important to read sex scenes written by other authors. When you sit down to write your hot scene, it’s likely you will quickly run out of creative ways to say “thrust,” or “straddled” or “throbbing member” (perhaps don’t say ‘throbbing member’). Seeing how other authors are able to keep descriptions interesting and avoid repetition or laugh-out-loud clichés (like comparing genitals to fruit), will inspire you in your own work and help you with your scene. Reading sex scenes from highly acclaimed and popular romance novels means you will be reading carefully edited scenes where the rhythm, metaphors and terminology have all been edited to the highest standard, meaning you can study and incorporate this flow into your own first attempts. Also, try to read diversely - from a sex scene in a thriller or a romance novel, to hardcore erotica. A lot can be learned across genres and understanding the varying degrees of intensity you may require for your own work. Ensure it’s Necessary If you are questioning whether to write a sex scene, ask yourself how integral it is to the plot. Does it move the action forward? Does it deepen the stakes and the characterisation? Will the story be as enjoyable without it? Will it carry as much meaning? Is a sex scene expected in your genre? If you can fade to black or allude to them having slept together in another way, and that feels more natural for your book – then try that. Just because your characters have sex doesn’t mean your readers need to be in the room too. Sex scenes that are forced or gratuitous are like any other unnecessary scene – a waste of time, energy, and words. Hot Tip: Examine Your Chosen Genre Sex scenes can be very important for a novel’s plot, and in some genres they are downright integral. Sexier genres include Erotica, Romance, Paranormal Romance, and a branch of steamy adult Fantasy (think bestselling authors like Sarah J. Maas, who are currently taking bookstores by storm). Sex scenes are important because they characterise relationships and move the plot along, but they can also be important because the reader expects and wants them. The idea that sex sells is not lost in the literary business and it’s no surprise the 50 Shades of Grey books took the top three spots for the bestselling books from 2010-2020! If you are writing in these genres, consider including a well-placed sex scene. If you are writing outside of genres that expect sex, only include it if it feels genuine to you, integral to the story, or necessary for character or relationship development. Sex scenes can also be used to add colour to the setting (such as a drunken orgy to illustrate the gluttony and wealth of a Roman family in your book) but whatever you do, do not include it gratuitously. The advice would be the same for any type of scene.  Don’t be Modest Look, no one wants porn shot by a nun. Writing a sex scene is like art directing a tasteful nude shoot - shame, modesty, indignation, and personal bias all need to be left at the door along with the robe if the scene is to come across as genuine. Your discomfort will affect how you write and how a scene will read, so it’s the first thing you need to tackle. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t let the fact you feel uncomfortable stabbing people with swords keep you from writing an epic medieval fight scene. If you leave out too much detail or keep it too vague, you will only be cheating the reader. Include Enough Detail Great sex writing leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination, yet it must also convey a balanced amount of detail. Of course, how much you include also depends on genre (as you can imagine, Erotica leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, laying out each tryst in all its sordid glory). Researching and reading widely across your genre will also help you decide how much detail to include. As an artist you are of course free to break these conventions, but make sure it’s with good reason and with your target audience in mind. If you feel your historical fiction needs a 5,000-word sex scene, which is uncommon in that genre, make sure you know why it will add depth to your story. Don’t indulge in too much detail (yes, I know it can be fun), but likewise don’t skim over details either. And remember – most people know how sex works. You don’t have to include every literal in and out. Good sex writing isn’t about the mechanics but about the emotion, flow, and imagery. Write from the Characters’ Perspectives Just like sex between two people in the real world, no sex between two characters should or would ever be the same. Sex is a direct extension of the character’s personality. You have to be true to their perspective when writing it, and true to your story so far. The last thing you want to do is insert a generic “who put what where” scene. Put yourself in both the minds and positions of the characters in the scene. If your novel is dual POV, try describing the sex from both perspectives and treat it as a way of extending the reader’s understanding of the character - including mannerisms and deep characterisation. Why would the character like this and that? What would they say? Which actions would make them feel embarrassment, or joy, or excitement? What rhythm would feel natural to them and why? How a character has sex is no different to imagining what they would order in a restaurant, or how they dress. Even if your book isn’t split POV, doing a writing exercise where you write out the scene from the perspective of both participants could be beneficial. Build Tension Building tension is important in any scene, and even more so in a sex scene. You can’t have a two hundred page lead-up to a steamy scene and then have the sex be over in one page. Similarly, if your romantic interests just met and they are already going at it, your readers are not likely to be invested emotionally. So, build tension leading up to the act, but also don’t forget to build tension throughout the scene itself. No one wants the literary equivalent of a ‘wham bam thank you ma\'am.’ Don’t Overlook Emotion Sex scenes shouldn’t be all about the mechanics - they should include the emotional responses and experiences of the characters involved. This is the perfect moment to incorporate characterisation into the scene. What is the character feeling? How are they responding? What do their actions and rhythm say about what they are feeling? Sex should reveal as much about a character as a good piece of dialogue, or showing them in a high-stakes situation, would do. Make it Real (or Don’t)   In order for sex scenes to be believable they need to be realistic and not idealised. That’s not to say you can’t have an alien having sex with a vampire. Just that if they both keep overpraising each other, and the emotions are flat, and everyone climaxes after two minutes, your reader will feel like they’ve been pulled out of the story and doused with a bucket of cold water. Try to stay true to the characters, their individual personalities, the world and the setting the characters are currently in. If your characters are having sex outdoors don’t feel the need to say the thorns scraping their backsides felt like silk. Stay real, even within fantasy. Here are a few things you should keep in mind: If you are writing romance, remember real-life sex can be bumpy, messy and imperfect. I mean, maybe Edward’s penis glittered like a jewel in Twilight, but no one is using that scene as a barometer anytime soon.Consider the need to accurately represent orgasms and how they are experienced by characters of all genders. Sadly, it’s not difficult to find erotica where a woman nearly climaxes simply because she glanced at the man’s thirteen-inch member. Maybe in your dreams, but readers will laugh…not get aroused.If you are writing a sex scene in Young Adult (they are usually subtle but they do exist) consider important aspects such as contraception and consent. Always stay mindful of the responsibility you carry as a writer for young people.Don’t shy away from things that could go wrong. This type of attention to detail can help contribute towards creating believable sex scenes. Use Appropriate Vocabulary It’s all good and well to say, “call a spade a spade” and all that, but the word spade can get tiring if you say it fifty times in a row. His spade did that, then he took his spade away, then he put his spade on the table. See how monotonous that sounds? Though we might think that euphemisms are cheesy, they are also essential for the simple reason that you can’t write ‘vagina’ eight times in a paragraph and still expect the prose to flow well. But you also don’t want to use overly floral comparisons, or terms that sound outright ridiculous. The best thing is to go back to your research on sex scenes and see what kind of vocabulary is appropriate in your genre. Create a list of synonyms, a spreadsheet, fill a notebook up – whatever works for you. Don’t Overdo It The number of sex scenes in a story should be carefully considered and not overdone. Include a few scenes too many and you are teetering on the brink of erotica territory. So consider if that’s the genre you initially wanted to write in, or if you’re being self-indulgent. Consider Using Humour We know sex can be funny and there’s no reason to shy away from adding humour in a sex scene. Maybe your MC cracks a joke because that would be true to their nature. Maybe funny sounds from the weird neighbour next door adds a pinch of humour to an awkward start. Whatever feels true to you and your story is great, just make sure you don’t cockblock humour just because it’s a sex scene. Use Variety Just like any other action scene, if you are planning on having multiple sex scenes, consider introducing variety (you wouldn’t have three car chases in one movie if you could have a motorcycle chase as well). This will make the scenes more believable and retain the readers’ attention. A mental copy and paste simply won’t work because each time your MC has sex is unique, so each interaction must be marked with its own characterisation and emotional weight. Consider also adding variety to the setting, reactions, dialogue, clothing, and rhythm, in order to keep the reader engaged. In Summary There you have it; sex scenes don’t have to be rocket science. Consider your genre and your story when deciding whether you want sex scenes, and how many of them you might want. Treat the sex scenes as if they were any other scene, apply the same meticulous care to them as you would with dialogue and action. Make sure the scenes move the plot forward, and that characterisation is as evident in them as in the rest of your work. Yes, sex scenes can be challenging but (as we all know with real relationships) practice makes perfect.

How to Write Sex for a Young Adult Audience

Sex in young adult literature is one of the topics with the most ‘hot takes’ you’ll ever find. From ‘It’s never appropriate!’ to ‘It’s always appropriate!’ this article will look at the tricky, sometimes controversial, issues involved, before I share some of my top tips for tackling sexual content in your own work.   Writing for Young Adults Let’s start by defining what young adult literature encompasses. YA fiction will typically feature a protagonist between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, although increasingly they’re predominantly in their upper teens. The themes of young adult novels will correlate with the age and experience of the protagonists, mirroring adolescent concerns, motivations and inner thoughts. Young adult fiction is aimed at readers in a similar demographic to the protagonists, although some readers are younger (often eleven or twelve) and an estimated fifty per cent of YA books are actually bought by adults.   You might have already seen what the issue is here. At the lower end, YA fiction has readers who haven’t even started puberty yet. At the upper end, they’re heading off to university. That’s a huge gap in terms of experience and stage of life, and what might be right (and entertaining) for a seventeen year-old reader might not be for a thirteen year-old.   While not everyone has sex, and not every book needs to include sexual content, to not sometimes include it when writing teen characters feels like a glaring omission. Yet what’s acceptable varies from publisher to publisher. When my debut Noah Can’t Even was on submission, some agents and publishers couldn’t get their heads around the fact it featured a fifteen year-old boy who… wait for it…  masturbated. Something that is normal and commonplace for a teenage boy was too much for some gatekeepers in the industry – even against the backdrop of popular publishing ‘buzz phrases’ about how authenticity is important, and teens need to see their lives on the page.   The inclusion of sexual content can also make some schools and libraries nervous, especially if they come under pressure from parents or campaign groups - the recent challenge to Lev Rosen’s Jack of Hearts in a Texas library being a prime example. Meanwhile, some parents are blissfully unaware of the sexual content their children are accessing online, but weirdly furious about content that is far less explicit appearing in written form. When you also factor in religious and cultural sensibilities, it’s a minefield.   Can You Write Sex in YA? Of course you can! With YA books, you’re striving to be authentic to the teen experience, and whether they’re thinking about it, just curious, or doing it, that experience often includes sex.   Before we look at how, it’s important to address the use of the word ‘appropriate’, which regularly crops up in these discussions, and which often masks what someone’s real objection is – namely the inclusion of LGBTQ+ storylines.   “I don’t want my child reading about same sex relationships - it’s not appropriate,” goes the refrain. For other people, no mention of sex will ever be ‘appropriate’, and these people will also typically withdraw their children from sex education classes too.   So, let’s be clear: not discussing these things, not being open and honest, but living in shame, fear and ignorance –those are the things that hurt people. We shouldn’t, as creators, shy away from giving young people the tools they need to help them make safe, informed choices. Some young people can’t access that information easily elsewhere. Maybe home isn’t a supportive environment. Perhaps school sex ed. is lacking. This is so often the experience of LGBTQ+ teens, but it also applies to many other situations young people find themselves in. For me, this is why this subject is so important, and why, while accepting I have to tow the publishing line to an extent, I’ll always fight to include realistic portrayals of teen sexuality in my books.   So, rather than talking about appropriateness, let’s frame this in terms of how much is too much for this age group and their gatekeepers. After all, you want to get published at the end of the day, and a novel containing a hundred pages of overt erotica probably isn’t going to make the cut. However, a storyline featuring teenagers having sex, if described sensitively, will often be deemed acceptable. While there are a few exceptions (Doing It by Melvin Burgess springs to mind) the issue of how explicit you can be is usually the key factor here, and it’s probably the biggest thing that separates YA from adult fiction in terms of writing about sex. While it’s undoubtedly a constraint, you can also use it to your advantage.   How to Write Sex in YA Keep it real. Remember that teenage sexual encounters are often awkward. Conveying this fumbling, nerve-wracking inexperience is important, not just for authenticity, but because many young people use literature as an information source. While porn is overblown, Hollywood is rose-tinted, and the internet is awash with misinformation, YA fiction can be a safe and reassuring place for teenagers looking for realistic portrayals of sex.   This is one reason why explicit material isn’t always helpful, but also why it isn’t necessary – realism is more valuable to the readership than titillation, addressing issues of consent, shame, and safe practices, while giving young people the understanding and language to discuss and explore their own sexual experiences. The best writers do this without it ever being didactic, of course – Lev Rosen, William Hussey, Juno Dawson and Holly Bourne being just a few cases in point.   Don’t Overdo It It’s important not to include sex scenes gratuitously – they need to work within the narrative and support the story. In many YA novels, such scenes may well be the culmination of a romance plot running the entire length of the story. In others, like Lev Rosen’s Jack of Hearts, the content may feature throughout as it’s a key facet of the plot. In the former case, the scenes work because they’re deeply connected with the emotional journey of the characters, so they feel like a natural progression. In the latter, Rosen ensures all his scenes emerge organically from the plot, providing information and a realistic portrayal – a type of sex education, if you like – which is refreshingly upfront without ever feeling gratuitous.   Be Subtle and Sensitive Less can sometimes be more. Writing good sex scenes is incredibly difficult, and you don’t want to stray into cringe territory. In some cases, leaving exact details to the imagination is your best bet, but regardless, be mindful of anything too explicit, especially in books targeted towards the younger end of the market.   Be sensitive to some of your readers’ lack of experience – something that’s too hardcore might not engage your teen reader as much as something that introduces them to the topic a little more gently. Subtle can also make for a pleasing shared joke, which can break the ice when it comes to discussing themes of a sexual nature, which some readers might find awkward.  A brilliant example of this: Read the whole of  Sex and Reproduction in bed last night. Woke up to find that a few hundred million sperm had leaked out. Still, it will give the remaining sperm room to wag their tails about a bit. Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole Use Appropriate Language Be aware that your choice of language can have a huge impact on what gatekeepers consider suitable for their young charges. While you need to make sure your voice is authentic for a YA novel, (and you need to use language familiar to teens) an over reliance on slang and swear words in a sex scene may have the consequence of making it read more crassly and being perceived as more explicit.   What if it’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera has some good examples of getting this right, where the sexual scenes never read as explicit.  Remember Emotions   Don’t forget the avalanche of feelings that run through a teen’s head during sex scenes – especially if it’s their first time. Spotlighting these internal thoughts can be a very effective way of conveying the scene, rather than focusing too much on physicality and mechanics. It will also resonate with many of the fears and concerns your target readership will have – Is this right? Are they ready?   Anticipation is Exciting  Anyone familiar with thriller or horror writing knows that there’s as much fun to be had in the build-up and anticipation of something happening, as the event itself. The same can be true of sex scenes. If you get the connection right between your characters, your reader will be willing them together - ‘shipping them’ as the kids say - and doing a lot of the work for you in the process. Sometimes, they’ll then go away and write fan fiction featuring the type of material you weren’t allowed to include, in a sex scene that will make your eyes water.   Funny and Awkward is Good  Humour can be a very effective tool for sex scenes. Sex can be built up into such a huge ‘make or break’ momentous occasion, thanks to the proliferation of that attitude in popular culture. So, why not turn that idea on its head and take a lighter approach? Teens will probably thank you for being honest about the messy, embarrassing, awkward side of it, rather than what the movies and porn tell us it should be.   Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison is great at using humour to convey some of the most real sexual scenes I’ve ever read, and Editing Emma by Chloe Seager is definitely worth a look too.   Know Your Age Group, Trust Your Reader, and Trust Librarians  If your story is aimed at younger teens, ensure the content you include is right for them. Many books are listed as being ‘Suitable for 12+’ or ‘14+’ and while age banding is a blunt tool, it does mean readers, and gatekeepers, have less cause for complaint when they encounter sexual content. While your book may be picked up by younger readers, in my experience teens are good at knowing whether a book is right for them, and will often abandon one that isn’t. Children mature at vastly different rates and it’s impossible to account for that. Meanwhile, all the school librarians I know are experts at knowing what book is right for which student at which time.  There\'s No Formula... There are myriad challenges when writing sex scenes in young adult fiction and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution when including this sort of content. The needs, experiences, and maturity levels of YA readers are so vastly different, you won’t ever tick the right boxes for everyone.   However, sex scenes are an authentic and valuable part of YA stories, and by ensuring your portrayals are sensitive, and emerge out of plot and character you can create something highly effective, rewarding for you as a writer, and truly appreciated by your teen audience.  

A Complete Guide to Using a Pen Name

Budding writers often ask whether they should use their real name or create a pen name. The truth is pen names can be very handy. Whether you don’t want your boss to know that you spend your nights writing about peacocking lords and their throbbing members, or you don’t want your aunt Susan to find out she was the sole inspiration for your serial killer MC. Hey, it’s her fault for being a countryside taxidermist, right? In this complete guide to using a pen name we will cover the many reasons authors might consider using pen names for their work, explain why it might be right for you, and how to pick a pen name of your very own. And check out our post on the pros and cons of using a pen name to help you decide if it\'s the right move for you. What is a Pen Name? Simply put, a pen name is a pseudonym chosen by an author and used on their by-lines for their work. It’s also referred to as a Nom de Plume. Despite the words being French the expression originates from England, when the English failed to use the then common French expression Nom de Guerre (Name of War) which was used by the French at the time to describe pseudonyms. They later switched to using the catchier expression Nom de Plume (Name of Feather – as in a feathered quill). Famous pen names include Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and even the mighty Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet.) Why Authors Use Pen Names There are countless reasons authors may choose to write under pen names - from privacy concerns, legal reasons, or preferring the sound and visual aesthetics, to the desire to choose a pen name that will better appeal to their readers. The reasons can range from the obvious to the very specific. In order to help you make your decision on whether or not you should use a pen name and how to use one, we will delve into the most common reasons pen names are used in the first place. Privacy Of all the uses pen names have, keeping your identity secret is probably the least useful. Yet, nonetheless, one of the most common. Consider this, a book will flail and burn if not properly promoted, and since we know author promotion starts with your existing network, being completely secretive about your work will probably not do you any favours in the long run. With that said, there are reasons authors would like to keep their identities secret from families, colleagues, and institutions. A few notable examples include stories inspired by true events or memoirs that depict toxic family members or dysfunctional family dynamics. Some authors may want to write about the domestic abuse they’ve experienced, but don’t want to write under their own name and have the work traced back to them. Often people will choose pen names to retain privacy from their employers. Just because an employer can look you up on LinkedIn and Facebook doesn’t mean you want them to read your violent novels, or know that you write erotica, or have access to your dark poetry collections. The truth is many authors retain their day jobs whilst simultaneously pursuing careers as authors and it makes sense to keep both worlds apart. Though the degree of anonymity you are able to retain is up for debate. As we mentioned earlier, the success of a book depends heavily on marketing – basic requirements, such as author bios and author pictures, will still give you away – but you can still retain a degree of anonymity with employers and control what they see when they google you. Pen names can also be beneficial if you are being critical of an employer or institution in your work. If you, for example, are on the police force but are writing about incompetent cops and corruption, you may wish to keep the two separate. All in all, privacy plays a large role in people choosing to use pen names. Change Gender Female authors are (whether we like it or not) more popular in the romance genre, and male readers tend to buy more crime thrillers written by other men. This is of course all very outdated, but nonetheless factually accurate. Of course, this won’t stop an author penning the book of their dreams - so those worried that the gendering of their name might affect their sales may opt for a unisex pen name, or a pen name with initials. Back in the mid-nineteenth century, when women weren’t as prolific in the world of writing, Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pseudonym George Eliot in order to be taken more seriously. And it worked! Clashing Names Some authors adopt pen names because their real names clash with, or are the same as, those of existing authors, actors, politicians or even people famous for a negative reason. Before setting off on your author career it’s probably a good idea to look at the viability of your name from a legal, practical, and even SEO standpoint (how easily Google can find you). Something I realised only a year into my career was that Sylvester Stallone’s mother was named Jacqueline, which means I (Jacqueline Silvester) often have to contend with Rambo’s mom trumping my SEO. Of course, this isn’t going to affect my writing career too much, but if your name is similar or the same as someone with a lot of internet presence, you might want to consider a pen name. You especially don’t want your name to clash with an existing author or media personality, it will just cause unnecessary confusion and you will be fighting an uphill SEO battle. Genre It’s common for authors to pick pen names or alter their current name (i.e add an initial or swap to a maiden name or deviation) when switching genres. As an author you build a personal brand, and (hopefully) a loyal following. A readership will have expectations about what sort of work you release. So if you have a following that has read your last six quirky romance books and suddenly you release a bloody psychological thriller, they might be put off and lose faith in your brand. This is especially true if you’re making a massive leap in genre (erotica to middle grade, for instance) in which case it\'s vital you change your author name. You certainly don’t want readers to be confused or auto-buy your books, or for a child who has loved your kids’ mermaid stories to end up getting a hold of your much more…umm… 18+ mermaid content. Another thing to consider is that authors often choose names that suit their genre. Names in children’s literature tend to be easy to pronounce, light and airy, with an air of magic or mystery. For example, the famous pen name Lewis Carroll sounds more delightful than his birth name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and Lemony Snicket (author of A Series of Unfortunate Events) sounds more whimsical and adventurous than Daniel Handler. Consider creating a new, more fitting, pen name when switching genres. Aesthetical Preference Some people simply don’t like their name and don’t think it will look good on the cover of a book, or the by-line of a heart-breaking poem. Sometimes authors want something with more flare, or a less common name. We can’t all have Kris Jenner’s foresight and be born into a family with perfectly trademarkable names peppered with alliteration, like the Kardashian clan. And we can’t all be born with a perfect sounding name like Stephen King. Although even King resorted to using a pen name (Richard Brachman) when he realised his incredible output required two names instead of one, so he chose a separate name for his more twisted work. Author Output and Co-Writing Speaking of Stephen King, in trade publishing authors are generally expected to release one book a year (it takes a long time for trade publishing to market and position all their books), so if your output exceeds that you may choose to use a different pen name so you can churn out more work. Stephen King did it, and so does Sophie Kinsella (who also writes under the pen name Madeline Wickham) because trade publishers will very rarely publish and market multiple books a year under one name. Co-authors will often choose to co-write under one joint pen name too. It simplifies marketing and PR, plus one cohesive name on the cover instead of both names means their new work won’t be mistaken for their previous solo backlist. How to Choose a Pen Name As outlined above if privacy is a concern, or if you would like to distance parts of your life from your work, a pen name could be just the ticket. If you don’t like the way your name looks on a book, or if you don’t think it’s easy to remember or pronounce, or if you think you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with SEO, you should opt for a pen name. Whatever your reason (you don’t even need one), here are some ways to help you pick a pen name. Did you know, like with any other trends, there are trends for author names in your genre? Romance novelists, for instance, often choose names with a romantic flare. When choosing a joint pen name for our paranormal romance series Blood Web Chronicles, my co-author and I landed on Caedis Knight. ‘Caedis’ means ‘slaughter and bloodshed.’ We write romance, and the name sounds quite modern with a heroic surname, but we also wanted to make it clear we write dark paranormal romance. Had we opted to write more floral country romance, then a name like Rose Delacourt would have been a better fit. Or had it been BDSM erotica, we may have opted for Scarlett Pane. Yes, this pen name game is a lot of fun! The first step of choosing the perfect pen name is research. Go to a bookshop (or go online) and browse your intended genre. See what trends you see in the way names look and sound. Examine the names in depth. What are their genders? Do they use full names or initials? Is there anything distinctive about the chosen names? Who is your target audience and what would they like? Ask yourself what sort of name your target audience would find memorable? When you have a shortlist, choose a name that’s easy to spell and pronounce. Make sure it’s not already used and isn’t associated with anything bad (e.g. Fred West). Check the name’s SEO viability; are you competing against the name of a popular brand? For example, Kath Kidson might sound like a great pen name but, because of the brand, you would be crazy to use it. Even if it’s your actual name. Also check whether the URL is already owned. Having your author name as your website is ideal, so if you get to choose your name choose one where the domain name isn’t already taken. Once you’ve completed all your research, start putting pen to paper and get brainstorming! In Conclusion Picking a pen name is a very personal choice, but one you can approach freely and confidently knowing that countless authors have chosen this route. Remember that a pen name is akin to a stage name - it serves a purpose and that purpose can be whatever you want it to be. Consider your genre first, your personal privacy preferences, the aesthetic appeal of your name, and make sure to check it for SEO, legal issues, commonality, and genre appeal. Lastly, make sure that you absolutely love it – because if things go well, your author name will be everywhere!

How To Write Creative Nonfiction That Engages Your Readers

When I read Dancing in the Dark by Caryl Philips, I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading, as it was unlike any novel I’d read previously. But I was curious how the author crafted the “voices” or dialogue, which were so finely tuned and authentic it made me feel as though I was in the thick of the plot as it unfolded. Eventually, it dawned on me that the book couldn’t solely be classified as a novel per se, as the story was based on “real life”; because of its biographical and historical context it sat comfortably within the genre of creative nonfiction.  What Is Creative Nonfiction? The term creative nonfiction has been credited to American writer Lee Gutkin, who first coined the phrase in the journal he founded in 1993: Creative Nonfiction. When asked to define what creative nonfiction is Gutkin says simply “true stories well told.”   Expanding on Gutkin’s definition I would add that the main difference between creative nonfiction – also known as narrative nonfiction - and other genres is that in creative nonfiction the focus is on literary style, and it is very much like reading a novel, with the important exception that everything in the story has actually happened.   Essentially, creative nonfiction incorporates techniques from literature, including fiction and poetry, in order to present a narrative that flows more like story than, say, a journalistic article or a report. In short, then, it is a form of storytelling that employs creative writing techniques including literature to retell a true story, which is why emphasis is placed on the word creative. I would underscore that it is this aspect which distinguishes the genre from other nonfiction books; for instance, textbooks which are, as implied, recounting solely of facts – without any frills. Types Of Creative Nonfiction The good news is that the expanse of creative nonfiction as a genre is considerable and there is ample scope for writers of every persuasion, in terms of categorisation and personal creative preference. Some terms you may be familiar with, and some are essentially the same, as far as content is concerned – only the phrasing may be interchangeable.   Memoirs Memoirs are the most commonly used form of creative nonfiction. It is a writer’s personal, first-hand experiences, or events spanning a specific time frame or period. In it you are essentially trying to evoke the past… and by the end you will, no doubt, hope to have successfully conveyed the moral of your story. Not in a preachy kind of way but in a manner which is engaging, informative or entertaining.   You should note that there are important differences between a biography and a memoir: in writing a biography you need to maintain a record of your sources – primary or secondary – that will stand the rigours of being fact-checked.   A memoir, by contrast, is your recollection or memory of a past event or experience. While they do not necessarily have to be underpinned with verifiable facts in the same way as a biography, there’s more scope for your creative or imaginary interpretation of an event or experience.  Literary Journalism In the early days of the genre literary journalism hogged the headlines; it was, according to The Herald Tribune, “a hotbed of so-called New Journalism, in which writers like Tom Wolfe used the tools of novelists — characters, dialogue and scene-setting — to create compelling narratives.” The way this fits into the creative nonfiction genre is that it uses the style and devices of literary fiction in fact-based journalism. Norman Mailer and Gail Sheehy were exceptionally skilled exponents, though, arguably, critics contended that both could, on occasion, be so immersed that some of their writing was tantamount to an actor who inhabited their character via method acting.  Reportage And Reporting  Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter. If you choose to pursue reportage it is imperative that you pay close attention to notes and record-keeping as reporting is not – as with other elements of creative nonfiction – based on your personal experiences or opinions and, therefore, has to be scrupulously accurate and verifiable.   Personal Essays Other types of creative nonfiction include personal essays whereby the writer crafts an essay that’s based on a personal experience or single event, which results in significant personal resonance, or a lesson learned. This element of creative nonfiction is very broad in scope and includes travel writing, food writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, and magazine articles.  Personal essays, therefore, encompass just about any kind of writing. They can also include audio creativity and opinion pieces, through podcasts and radio plays.   The Five R’s Of Creative Nonfiction  In Lee Gutkind’s essay, The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction, he summarised the salient points of successfully writing creative nonfiction and, if you followed these instructions, you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong:  1. Real Life I daresay this is self-explanatory although as a storyteller, instead of letting your imagination run riot you must use it as the foundation. Your story must be based in reality - be that subject matter, people, situations or experiences.  2. Research I can’t emphasise strongly enough that conducting extensive, thorough research is of paramount importance and, not to put too fine a point on it, this is not an area you can gloss over – you will be “found out” and your credibility is at stake. And, no, Wikipedia doesn’t count – other than perhaps as a starting point. Interestingly, by the company’s own admission: “Wikipedia is not a reliable source for citations elsewhere on Wikipedia. Because it can be edited by anyone at any time, any information it contains at a particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or just plain wrong.”  3. W(r)ite Not technically an “R” but we get his point… Put succinctly by William Faulkner: “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it\'s the only way you can do anything good.\" 4. Reflection No-one can negate your personal reflections, but you should be aware, given that what you’re writing is based on “fact” that someone mentioned in your article or book may not necessarily agree with your perspective. The fallout can be devastating and damage irreparable. A case in point was the debacle following publication of Ugly: The True Story of a Loveless Childhood by Constance Briscoe. In the best-selling “misery memoir” the author accused her mother of childhood cruelty and neglect; her mother rejected the claims and said the allegations were “a piece of fiction” and sued both her daughter and publisher for libel, and lost.   It goes without saying that when writing about people who are still alive you need to be especially cautious. Of course, you’re entitled to your own unique perspective but, as Buckingham Palace responded to the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – which may yet find its way in book form – “some recollections may vary”.  5. Reading It’s often said that the best writers are also voracious readers. Not only does it broaden your horizons but it’s a perfect way to see what works and what doesn’t. And, as William Faulkner admonished: “Read, read, read. Read everything –trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You\'ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you\'ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”   How To Write Creative Nonfiction We now know what kind of creative nonfiction exists, and what to bear in mind before writing, but when it comes to starting your story…where do you begin?  Structure While it may be tempting to jump straight in and start writing, you will save yourself a headache if you begin by deciding upon the structure or form you want your work to be based on. This doesn’t need big whistles and bells, you just need an outline to begin with, something to shape your thinking and trajectory. It’s always worthwhile to know what direction you’re headed in. Nothing is set in stone - you can always add to it or amend accordingly.   For planning there are different models you can employ but I find it easiest to think along the lines of a three-part play: act one, I open by establishing the fundamentals of what I am going to present; act two, allows me to build upon the opening by increasing the dramatic effect of what’s unfolding; and act three, I bring my thesis together by pulling together different strands of the story to a logical, coherent narrative and, even better in some circumstances, a cliff-hanger.  In your outline you should bear in mind the main elements of creative nonfiction and the fact that there are some universal literary techniques you can use:   Plot And Setting  There are many things from your past that may trigger your imagination. It could be writing about an area you grew up in, neighbours you had – anything which can be descriptive and used as a building block but will be the foundation upon which you set the tone or introduction to your piece.  Artefacts  Using what may seem like mundane artefacts can be used effectively. For instance, old photographs, school reports, records and letters etc. can evoke memories.  Descriptive Imagery  The most effective way to ensure your characters are relatable is to work on creating a plausible narrative. You must also have at the forefront of your mind “Facts. Facts. Facts.” I can’t stress enough how your work must be based on fact and not fiction.  Dialogue  Also referred to as figurative language, when using one of the most effective ways to set the tone of your work, the language used in dialogue must be plausible. You simply need to step back and ask yourself, “Does this sound like something my character would say?” There’s no greater turnoff for a reader than dialogue which is stilted.   Characters  If you want your readers to be engaged, they have to “buy what you’re selling” i.e. believe in your characters.   Top Creative Nonfiction Writing Tips Stick To The Facts  Even a mere whiff of fiction in your writing will automatically disqualify it as creative nonfiction. To make sure you haven’t transgressed it’s easier to avoid doing so altogether. Although it’s fine to incorporate literary techniques which include extended metaphor, allegory, and imagery, among others.  Research You will also need to make note of the references you have relied upon. Not only is this good housekeeping it is also what’s expected of a professional writer. There are a multitude of places you can begin your research: family recollections/oral history; my local library serves aspiring writers well with both a respectable catalogue of physical books and online resources such as the British Newspaper Archives; Ancestry; and FindMyPast, among them. These are invaluable tools at your disposal and the list is by no means exhaustive.   Checklist  So, to conclude, what are the takeaways from this guide?   Firstly, methodically work your way through the checklist contained within the 5 R’s. Also, remember, whatever your interest, the extent of creative nonfiction dictates that there’s likely to be a market for your writing.   But, at all costs, avoid falling into the cardinal sin of making things up! It may be tempting to get carried away with being creative and miss that the finished product absolutely must be anchored in facts – from which, no deviation is acceptable.   Indeed, please ensure everything you’ve written is verifiable. You never know when someone is going to fact-check your thesis or challenge an assertion you’ve made.  Best Of Both Worlds All in all, creative nonfiction is a wondrous way of telling an important and real story. Never forget that even though you are writing about factual stories and scenarios, you can still do so in an imaginative and creative way guaranteed to bring your readers on a journey of exploration with you. 

Julia Stone on managing your publishing expectations and using psychology in writing

Jericho Writers member Julia Stone has had a long and varied career, often using her background in psychology as a springboard into her writing and other creative pursuits. Her first book, a psychological thriller called Her Little Secret, was published by Orion Dash in August 2021. We were honoured to talk to her about her journey to publication, and the expectations and surprises of commercial publishing. JW: Tell us about your first published book, \'Her Little Secret\'. Where did the concept come from?  JS: When doing therapy work with couples, I sometimes hear two completely different versions of events; like a mirror image. She paints him as a miser. He describes her as wasting their savings. Both believe their interpretation is ‘the truth’. But how would I know if one of them was lying about the other?  As a therapist, I don’t get to meet my client’s friends and family, I don’t see them at work or at home in the evenings. All I have to go on is what I see, hear and feel in the therapy sessions. But what if someone came for therapy and didn’t tell the truth? What possible reason could they have…?  These were the questions that got me thinking.  Cristina, the therapist in my novel, has been trusted with a lot of secrets. Her client, Leon, is being selective with the truth because he wants something - something only Cristina can tell him. The story idea blossomed from there.  JW: Had you done much writing before then? What’s your background as a writer?   JS: My earliest published work was a letter to Jackie magazine in 1974 – I pretended to be a Vulcan and not understand the concept of love! My mother encouraged us to be creative and we wrote our own stories from a young age – although I have to admit, most of them were rip-offs of \'Mallory Towers\'.   In my 30-year career as a business psychologist, I wrote professional materials for client companies and contributed to managerial text books. Then in my early forties I came back to my creative side, completing an art degree part-time and studying scriptwriting. I brought writing into my artwork, as each sculpture was always accompanied by an imagined ‘backstory\'. I also self-published an artist’s book - \'Heavy Clumping Cat Litter\' -  a flash fiction/photography collection inspired by found shopping lists.   Around this time, I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in several competitions for a script idea, a short story, and the early chapters of a novel. That encouraged me to think more seriously about novel writing. I had loads of ideas half-written in my bottom drawer but now I’d rediscovered the creative writing bug, so in 2017 I applied for the Faber Academy Writing a Novel programme.   JW: What was your journey to getting an agent? JS: During the six-month Faber course I produced a draft novel that sparked some interest from agents with three manuscript requests, but sadly no one offered representation.  In 2018 I signed up to Jericho Writers and attended every workshop I could which really fired me up with enthusiasm. An idea came to me when I was driving on a long journey and I started work on a new story. I was thrilled when it was short-listed for Best Opening Chapter at the Festival of Writing that year. That gave me the courage to enter the Blue Pencil First Novel Award. As the book went from longlist to shortlist I was amazed and didn’t expect anything more. I was on my way to London for a meeting when I heard the novel had won and Madeleine Milburn wanted to offer me representation! I was so surprised and excited I missed the train, but it was the best ever excuse to be late for a meeting.  In 2018 I signed up to Jericho Writers and attended every workshop I could which really fired me up with enthusiasm. Managing expectations and emotions JW: In what ways has your work as a psychologist complimented or contrasted with your work as a writer?   JS: My background is in management consultancy where deadlines are set in stone and ‘time is money’ – back in the 1990s we literally had to keep timesheets and account for what we were doing every half hour. So, the time lags in the writing & publishing process were a bit of a shock. For the writer, there seems to be a lot of waiting - for a response, for feedback, for edits – and no idea of when this might come. Agencies and editors are inundated and it can leave the writer in a reactive position, feeling a bit in the dark. And, as we all know, that is when the doubts creep in. I do wonder if more could be done to explain what is happening and manage expectations?  On the other hand, my work and experience in psychology helps me to cope with the ups and downs of the journey. I’m not immune but I know the tools and techniques that help manage any emotional reactions to disappointments and setbacks. Psychology has also helped me to understand personality, motivation, and behaviour. This is a great help with developing rounded and believable characters, although I don’t think you ever stop learning your craft.  For the writer, there seems to be a lot of waiting - for a response, for feedback, for edits – and no idea of when this might come. Agencies and editors are inundated and it can leave the writer in a reactive position, feeling a bit in the dark. And, as we all know, that is when the doubts creep in. The publishing industry: expectations vs. reality JW: You signed a deal with Orion Dash, a digital-first imprint. What was that experience like? Was it what you had been expecting?   JS: To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. What has pleasantly surprised me is the speed; the time scales are so much quicker than traditional publishing. The offer from Orion Dash was made in March 2021 and \'Her Little Secret\' was published in August, having been through a significant structural edit in that period. The whole thing is a learning experience for me and I’m loving it.  JW: You’ve also had work published before in your professional field of psychology as well as having experience in scriptwriting for training videos. How did this background inform your expectations of commercial publishing, and did anything surprise you?   The rounds of editing! Aside from proof edits, no one has ever given structural feedback on anything I’ve written in my professional field. It was fascinating and something I hadn’t expected, although I really see the benefit. I think it would be helpful for writers to know how many rounds of rewriting they will need to go through at all stages: before they submit to agents, then before their agent submits to a publisher, and finally, with the publishing editor.  You’ve got to love the characters to stick with them through all this!  I think it would be helpful for writers to know how many rounds of rewriting they will need to go through at all stages: before they submit to agents, then before their agent submits to a publisher, and finally, with the publishing editor. JW: What are you working on now? If you’re writing the follow-up, how are you approaching it?  I’m currently halfway through rewriting a previous psychological suspense novel, which has a totally different feel to \'Her Little Secret\'. (That said, the protagonist is once again an unmarried, child-free woman in her fifties!) As always I start by working out the key plot points and write a 2-4 page synopsis as if I am telling someone else the story. I then find images that represent the main characters and anything relating to their environment and stick them in a notebook. Obviously, the story changes as the characters take it off in unpredicted directions, but this gives me enough to get started. By the time I’ve finished the first draft, the notebook pages are bulging with scribbled notes, mind maps, sketches, quotes and articles torn from newspapers. It’s the only way I know how to do it!  JW: Any final advice to those starting out?  Obviously sign up and get involved with Jericho Writers! From my own experience, I strongly recommend taking part in workshops, writing groups, and competitions. Ideally set up or join a writing group. I wouldn’t have stuck with it had I not been part of a mutually supportive writing group that I met during the six months at Faber. Writing can be a lonely job and we need all the support and encouragement we can get from others who are on this journey.   About Julia Julia Stone applies her creativity in her work as a writer, ceramic artist, coach, supervisor and therapist. She has had a long career in psychology and psychotherapy and now works part-time. She loves learning and was recently thrilled to pass her Level 1 exams in British Sign Language. Her second book will be published by Orion Dash in 2022.  Her Little Secret is available in ebook, audio and paperback from Amazon. Website: www.juliastonewriter.com  Twitter: @julestake3  Instagram: @julia.stone.writer 

Pros and Cons of Signing with a Small Publishing House

Have you heard that we’re living in a golden age of small press publishing? Small publishers around the world are putting out a good proportion of the most exciting and innovative fiction and non-fiction, dominating prize lists and thriving in a way that means they are having an ever-increasing influence on the book world.  This guide will introduce you to some of the most important of these big-hitting small presses, as well as explaining what makes them different from normal publishing houses and investigating the pros and cons of working with a small publishing company. What is a Publishing House? Let’s start with a rough guide to the basics processes of book production that most publishers follow: 1. Submission Manuscripts are sent by agents, or, in some cases pulled from slush piles (which is to say, the collected manuscripts sent by individual authors.) 2. Acquisition Publishers make offers for books. This generally includes an advance, outlines of royalties and publication date. Once the offer is accepted this will be formalised in a more detailed contract. 3. Delivery of Manuscript Hopefully on time! 4. Editorial This is where the author and editor work on structure, characterisation, and all the important nuts and bolts of the book. Done properly, this can be a long process with lots of back and forth between editor and author. Often, it’s done to a tight schedule. 5. Cover Design This is generally done in-house, but freelance designers and illustrators are also used. The author is generally consulted about the cover - but rarely has final say. 6. Typesetting The process by which words are laid out on the page, which is actually more complicated than it sounds. Making those precious sentences flow nicely, with the correct margins and no mess, is a job that takes real skill.  7. Proofs and Publicity Proof copies are made of the book for final copy-editing checks and to send to reviewers. At this point publicity begins in earnest, although publicity often starts earlier. Most importantly, book reps should have been talking about the book with bookshops. Publicity campaigns still continue after books are released with posters, YouTube videos, social media campaigns and more. But are generally more limited… 8. Ebooks are Prepared The typeset document (usually a PDF) is converted into ebook format 9. Printing and Binding The actual physical books are printed at the publishers’ expense. Generally, at specialist print works, not in-house. 10. Warehousing and Distribution The books are sorted, stored and sent out to the shops to fulfil their orders. 11. Books Arrive in the Shops Hurray! But this isn’t quite the end of the process as (assuming things go well enough) the publishers still have to process sales figures and author royalties. What is a Small Press? In the UK and the USA most of the trade publishing industry is dominated by the Big Five presses: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. These are multi-million-pound businesses, each controlling numerous separate imprints and employing vast numbers of staff. They also don’t accept submissions unless they come directly from an agent. Beneath that are smaller independent presses like Faber & Faber and Canongate, which are still companies with big lists and large numbers of staff. They often only accept agented submissions. And then there are small presses – publishers who are much easier to work with direct. There are different definitions for what constitutes a small independent publisher. Many define small press companies which make less than $50 million a year (which is still pretty big!).  One useful guide in the UK is the entry criteria for the excellent Republic Of Consciousness Prize for small presses which is an annual competition for publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees. In the USA, where everything tends to be bigger, the equivalent prize instead defines small presses as those which publish an average of 18 or fewer published titles per year.  It’s also useful to think of small literary presses in terms of atmosphere and state of mind. They carry out all the publishing processes listed above - but in a different way. They are like the micro-breweries of the publishing world, producing smaller quantities of (ideally!) high-quality work favoured by enthusiasts and connoisseurs. At best, they are run with passion for people who are passionate about books. They also provide a huge range of special, and particular, flavours.  In the USA and Canada, meanwhile, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of presses catering from local to international interest and every kind of voice. Leading lights include Coffee House Press, Coach House Books, Melville House and Biblioasis. In the UK, some of the best small presses include Jacaranda Books who state they are run by “talented women of colour whose aim is to promote and celebrate inclusivity and diversity in the publishing industry”, Dead Ink who focus on “new and emerging authors”, Influx Press who are “are committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond”, Bluemoose Books who explicitly state they don’t want “orange headed celebrity books” but do want “brilliant stories”, And Other Stories who “aim to push people’s reading limits and help them discover authors of adventurous and inspiring writing”, Fitzcarraldo who focus on “ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing”. My own press, Galley Beggar Press tries to support writers of great literary talent writing outside the norm, who push the boundaries of form and language some of the best small publishing houses can still be more specialist. Two Rivers Press, for instance, publishes poetry as well as books about the city of Reading’s people, history, places, and culture. Pros of Working with a Small Publishing House This kind of specialisation is one of the great advantages of working with small publishing houses. If your work fits with their niche and ethos, you’re onto a winner. It’s also quite possible that fitting in well with a small house also means your work won’t work for bigger, more conservative and conventional houses. There are also several small publishers for new authors that accept unsolicited manuscripts, meaning you don’t have to go through the agent route to have your talent spotted. There are further advantages to consider: More Likely to Welcome New Authors When it comes to small publishers accepting submissions, they are often more able and determined to take risks on new writers and new kinds of writing. And they deal with you direct!  The fact that they have small lists of books with tight financial margins can be uniquely liberating. Because every book they put out is a risk, they don’t have to hedge their bets and can go all out on a book that they believe in. As a result, many of the best new writers in the UK and USA in the past ten years have emerged from small houses - and small presses that publish novels and non-fiction have won a disproportionate number of prizes and short-listings. Greater Author Involvement In large publishing houses different people tend to manage each part of the publishing process. They have established, regimented procedures which don’t enable so much author input. Most notably, your editor will be mainly responsible for the first five of those processes listed above - but once they’ve signed off your book it can often feel like that’s the last you hear from anyone. You don’t have a contact who’s working on production - and the editor will know next to nothing about this stage of the process. If you’re lucky you’ll perhaps have a meeting with someone from the publicity team, but it can often feel like most meaningful contact with the publisher finishes long before your book comes out.  Work with a Trusted Team of Professionals At smaller presses, because the teams are smaller, the people who work on your book tend to work on most stages of its production - or at least have good knowledge of what’s going on at each stage. Your point of contact will be able to tell you more - and involve you more. Authors do not tend to have the final say with a small press any more than in a larger press, but they can generally expect greater consultation and involvement.  Ideally, the best small presses will also give your book an extra level of dedication. They tend to take on books because they feel passionately about them. They don’t have books that are there to bulk out the list. They can’t rely on big name celebrity memoirs to put them in the black. So they have to get right behind everything they produce and push it as hard as they possibly can. Cons of Working with a Small Publishing House So far so great. But authors also need to be aware that a small publishing house may not be the best fit for them - and there are potential disadvantages to working with them… Poor Author Advances If you’re looking for a six-figure advance, you’re unlikely to find it with a small press. Some are philosophically opposed to giving too much money in advance because it so often means authors don’t earn out, don’t get to see any royalties, and can find themselves viewed as an unprofitable proposition as a result. Instead, small presses tend to offer more generous royalty rates because they see this as fairer.  Lower Marketing Resources Arguably, smaller publishers don’t have the marketing budgets or resources enjoyed by bigger publishers. For more writers this is immaterial, since it’s very rare that significant marketing money is invested in an individual author who isn’t already selling well - but it can make a difference as books begin to climb the charts.  Smaller Distribution Opportunities? One thing that big publishers can guarantee is a relationship with established bookstores and outlets, along with a good distribution network and a team of book reps who will work on getting books onto the shelves. Plenty of smaller publishing houses will also have good relationships with the shops (and perhaps even better relationships with some independent bookstores.) In the UK they may also use established distributors like Turnaround and Inpress who do the vital work of warehousing, distribution, and bookstore relationship management. Plenty of US independents also have excellent distribution. But it’s not always guaranteed so it is something to check before you sign on the dotted line.  Eccentricity From a commercial and authorial point of view the great strength of small houses can also be their weakness. All small presses accepting submissions are different. They all have their own personality and impact on the market. They all have different passions and beliefs. That’s fantastic if you find yourself in alignment. It’s wonderful if you’re writing the kind of book that you can work together on. But you should also be aware that this kind of relationship may not be for you or the best fit for your work. Something for Everyone Small publishing houses can provide many benefits for new authors. They are there not only to take a risk on good new work, but to love it and nurture it and give it the best possible push into the world. But you should enter any relationship with a small press with your eyes open and think carefully about the potential downsides. Confidence is a two way thing in publishing and you need to believe in your publisher as much as they believe in you.  Small presses do great things for many writers - but so do the big five and other larger independent presses. It’s a big world out there and there’s space for everyone.

Do Professional Writers Need A Website?

One of the questions writers ask most frequently is - “does an author need a website?” With so many ways to promote yourself online now, from social media to forums, do you really need to go to the expense and hassle of creating a website for you and your books? The simple answer is…yes! In this article I will guide you through everything you need to know, from what makes a good author website, to whether you need one of your own. By the end of this blog, you will understand the perks of having your own dedicated website and how it can be instrumental to building your author brand. Do Professional Writers Need A Website? Whether you are an author, journalist, poet, playwright, freelance writer, or any kind of writer, it is likely you have asked yourself the same question. As a writer there are already so many things you need to do to get your work out there, this feels like one very large and unnecessary thing to add to your to do list. Bear with me, because you’re about to find out how this may well be one of the most important things you can do for you and your future as a writer. Regardless of the industry you are in, your online presence can contribute massively to your brand and the success of your creative work. You wouldn’t set up a new business without having a website – and being a writer or author is no different.  According to Internet World Stats, there are over 4.2 billion internet users, and Google averages about 40,000 searches per second, so it stands to reason that the internet is instrumental to the success of any brand today. I’m sure even Shakespeare would have had a website if he were around today! Having your own website doesn’t mean you need to be tech-savvy, or that you need to invest in a professional designer. But when your book is in the shops and the press or a reader Googles you, you want to make sure you are able to share everything about you and your work that you can. So where do you start? Let’s look at this in more detail… Reasons Why Writers Need A Website Social Media Isn’t Enough Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr are great platforms on which to promote your businesses and the perfect place to engage with your audience, but you don\'t want your business to live solely on social media. Firstly, you have very little control. Recently, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for around 6 hours, all at once! That’s six hours that people can’t find out anything about you. Social media platforms can also delete or restrict accounts when they wish. And even though most of these platforms are established and been about for years, neither do we know if they will be around for ever – or as popular.  Ideally, you want your brand to live on your own domain. You own and control your website; there are no rules or conditions you have to comply with. Your website belongs only to you, and you can post any kind of content you want and conduct any form of marketing or advertising on it that you wish. Personal Brand Development A personal brand is your identity – and when you are an author, that reflects on your work too. Just like any organisation’s personal brand helps convey their values and identities to its customers, your own personal brand helps you communicate who you are and what you stand for to your readers. When you control what’s on your website, you control the narrative. Your author website provides a platform to tell your story, communicate a coherent brand image, showcase your expertise, qualifications, works, professionalism, plus shout about your publishing achievements to readers, the press, and other publishing professionals. Example 1Judy Moody is a fun children’s book series by Megan McDonald. The creative style and illustration of the author’s website perfectly reflects the brand image of the author: Build A Community A professional website presents you with an opportunity to build an active community where readers can interact directly with you, get an exclusive insight on you and your work, and provide feedback that you can use for future work. You can also build a newsletter, which has a much higher ‘book sale’ conversion rate than most other forms of advertising. Visitors can subscribe to your mailing list where you can keep in touch with them weekly or monthly. These newsletters can attract a lot of interest in the long run as subscribers who are already in love with what you do are more likely to recommend your books or services to other people who are looking for great writers. Personal recommendations go a long way in promoting your personal brand. Gain Audience Trust Most people go online to search for more information about a person or brand. According to wpforms, 55% of people search the internet for a brand’s website – and that includes your book. You can lose respect and credibility with readers if you can’t be found online. A strong website that showcases your brand, your work, and you, is a great way of demonstrating that you are as reputable as you claim to be. Example 2Aside from the immersive experience Jennifer Egan’s website gives its visitors, it also showcases reviews from reputable sites which is a great way of building trust with her readers. Interaction Opportunities Just like all social media platforms, a website is a great medium for interacting with your audience. You can even create a forum on your website where members of your community can interact with you and each other. You can also set up a blog on your website where you can get feedback from visitors. Links to these blog posts or forum topics can be shared on your own social media platforms, and are also likely to be shared by your community members – helping spread the word to their like-minded contacts. Social media can also be instrumental in driving traffic to your website. Instead of creating a long thread or post on your social media personal pages, it’s always easier to share links to your website or specific pages – ensuring your marketing remains cohesive and everyone gets to hear about you. Establish A Content Hub A website also provides you with a great content platform on which you can showcase your work. Editors, publishers, press, and readers who are interested in your work can find everything they need, in one place, on your website.  Example 3Gretchen Rubin’s website provides more than just information about herself and her brand. Her website offers extra value as it’s also filled with blog posts, podcasts, quizzes, and other resources. This is highly appealing to her visitors and makes them more likely to return to her website. Make Use Of Video Another way to make your website stand out is by adding videos. Some people prefer to consume content by watching and listening, rather than reading, so including videos helps you cater to a wider audience. Embedding videos onto a website can seem daunting, but there\'s a wealth of information and resources available. Whether you\'re looking for a GIF compressor, tips on adding video captions, or an MP4 compressor, with a little research you\'ll be on your way to creating a website that your readers will engage with. Be Competitive Whether you like it or not, your writing should be treated as a business if you want to succeed. You want your author name to be found on search engines when people look for you. There are thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) great writers out there - so how will your prospective readers find you? A writer website gives you a competitive advantage as not only will it help people find you, but it boosts credibility and perceived value. Put simply, people are more likely to trust a brand with a dedicated website featuring detailed information and services than a business that doesn’t offer that. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Your website doesn\'t just provide information about you and your work, it can also boost your visibility on the internet. The more visitors you have, the higher the ranking on the search engine results page. According to Forbes, 75% of people never go past the first page of search engine results, hence the need for your website to rank as high as you can on the organic search engine results page. By incorporating SEO practices into a website for an article writer there is a decent chance of it being easily accessible. Regularly updating your website with relevant content and adding keywords to your content are SEO practices you should consider. So, if you are a romance writer specialising in books about Victorian detectives – make sure you use those terms as often as you (naturally) can on your website. Because when someone Googles ‘Romance novels featuring Victorian detectives’ you want to be the first person they find! Example 4In terms of design and functionality, Austin Kleon’s website is up there with top author pages. The website demonstrates his brand, it’s easy to use, and it’s evident that he updates it regularly and is always bringing out new books. Save Time And Money Aside from the fact that websites are affordable to set up and maintain, they can also save you a lot of time and money. When querying your work with agents, many ask for your website. Likewise, when press want to write about you and your book, you don’t have to keep sending long emails or press releases to each separate media company – simply direct them to your press kit on your site featuring bios, credited author photo download, and everything they need to know about your work and where to buy it. Publication Platform Having your own author website means you are free to publish your work, on your site, for free – whenever you want. As established earlier, there are no restrictions guiding the timing and content you can publish on your website. Many authors like to publish free short stories for their readers, or run competitions on their newsletters, or use this free content as a way to get people to subscribe to their newsletter. Example 5David Sedaris’s brilliant website showcases his books in a simple fashion. The “works” section on the website is unique, creative, and tells the whole story. Also, publishing content on your blog regularly keeps your visitors engaged and helps you collect feedback.  Derive Revenue A website can also be a valuable sales platform – especially for self-published authors. As of 2021, 27.6% of the world population makes the majority of their purchases online. It’s easier, quicker, and faster to buy books online than in a bookstore (especially with those with mobility issues, living in remote areas, or unable to leave the house). And with the recent lockdowns, online book purchasing has seen its largest rise ever. The best author websites have a payment gateway feature. You can integrate a payment system on your website that allows people to place orders for your book and checkout with ease or simply connect visitors to other distribution platforms such as your favourite indie bookstore, Amazon, or your publisher’s online shop. How Much Does A Website Cost To Create? Websites are cheaper and easier to set up and maintain than people realise. Your first stop is creating a domain name – this should be your author name. Luckily most people find that the url of their name isn’t taken. If it is, you can always add the word ‘books’ or ‘author’ after your name.Next you need to design your site. If you haven’t a clue how to create your own author website, there are several DIY sites such as WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.com with a template collection from which you can choose any author website template and edit it to your style. Examples of inspiring author website design templates can be also found on Pinterest. However, if you want a unique author website design, you can always hire a professional. Get Seen I hope this guide has helped you understand the importance of having an author website, and why it’s worth the investment in time and money. Not every author wants a website, and perhaps if you write for fun or only have one book to promote, you may not see the need for it. But remember, if your work is competing against that of dozens of similar writers – it’s the one with the largest online presence who will be found first!

Average Book Sales Figures: A Transparent Look into Publishing

One thing that every writer naturally wants to know is how many copies of their book they can expect to sell. But clear answers are hard to come by. It isn’t just that book sales numbers for an individual title are dependent on so many different factors ranging from what kind of book it is, to who is publishing it, via a good dose of sheer luck. It’s also that industry figures for all book sales can be opaque and confusing. Making sense of it all is a considerable challenge. But hey! That’s why this guide is here. I won’t be able to make definite predictions for you in what follows, but I will be able to give you a good idea of how book sales are calculated, and how to make sense of book sales data. Along the way, I’ll also provide some useful benchmarks. Book Sales Sources First of all, let’s look into why book sales tracking is such a difficult business and why it’s hard to get reliable book sales figures. When people ask how to work out how many books they can expect to sell, the temptation here is to invoke the old cliché about working out the length of a piece of string. But the truth is even that analogy won’t cover it, because there isn’t a single reliable measuring device for book sales data. In the UK, for instance, print book sales charts generally rely on a system called Nielsen Bookscan (the US equivalent is called NPD Bookscan), which compiles point of sale data for bookshops. Which is to say, it counts how many books go through the tills. But it doesn’t count all books sold because not all shops that sell books are signed up to the system. It also doesn’t count sales from all websites, including the increasingly numerous and successful direct sale webstores on publishers’ sites. It doesn’t count ebook sales either.  This already out-of-focus picture is made even fuzzier by the difficulty of getting reliable sales figures from major online retailers like Amazon. And that’s before you get to the problem of working out audiobook sales figures once you factor in the complexity of all the different streaming and ‘credit’ systems used by platforms like Kobo and Audible. It’s also before you get to the essential points that publishers and retailers don’t tend to make sales figures public anyway - and that you have to pay a healthy subscription fee to access Nielsen’s figures. See? I told you it was complicated. What are Average Book Sales? Now, to add to the confusion… You might come across a few websites discussing average sales figures here and there on the internet. One figure that often crops up is that the average traditionally published title can expect to sell 3,000 copies in its lifetime. Another famous figure is that the average annual sales figures for literary fiction are lower than 250 copies in the UK. Because I’m a publisher, I sometimes give talks to ambitious students on creative writing courses and have to share that melancholy figure with them. You can imagine how it goes down. And then I have to make things even worse. I don’t want to encourage too much cynicism about the average sales figures you might read online, but I do want you to think about how useful they are. Once I’ve depressed those students with the 250 books figure, for instance, I remind them that this is just the mean average. And you have to know more than that to really understand books sales statistics. The mean average sales figure is calculated from the total number of books sold divided by the number of titles. Which is to say, if 100 books were sold, and there were ten different books the average sale of each book would be 10 copies. The trouble is that different books sell in vastly different numbers. That literary fiction figure includes hard hitters like Hilary Mantel and Booker Prize winners who may be selling close to a million copies in a given year. Which makes that 250 copies start to feel like an optimistic estimate! It\'s Not All Doom and Gloom Here’s another way of thinking about it.  Let’s go back to that figure of 100 books sold. Out of those 100 books, one book might sell 10 copies. Another couple might sell five. Then, three or four might sell four copies. And so on, down the list. If you extrapolate that out into the real world, it means that while the small number of bestsellers might skew the average figures, there are other useful calculations to make. It’s often a good idea, for instance, to look at the median figures as well as the mean average. Just a reminder - the mean is the total of the numbers, divided by how many numbers there are. So, for example: (4+4+6+15+100) ÷ 5 = 25.8 To find the median, you order the numbers and find out which one is in the middle of the list. If we look at the following list: 4, 4, 6, 15, 100 then the median is six.  (Just for statistical completeness, the mode, meanwhile, is the number that appears most often. In the example just given, it’s 4. It’s harder to relate this directly to book sales since the figures vary so much - but I mention it here in case you’re ever looking at figures that can be usefully rounded up or down.)There’s a useful article written by Lincoln Michel over on Electric Lit explaining that out of the books to hit the number one spot on The New York Times bestseller list in 2014, mean sales were 737,000, a figure which was heavily skewed by the 8 million copies of 50 Shades Of Grey that were sold. The median was 303,000. More Cause for Optimism Confession time. I’ve kept something back from you. So far, I’ve been talking about annual sales figures. That’s distinct from the weekly sales figures that are used to compile book charts. And also, crucially, for the lifetime sales of a book. These, you’ll be glad to hear, tend to be higher. Indeed, if you’re lucky enough to have a book that comes out in both hardback and paperback, you could find yourself selling more books in your second year than your first. And even if you don’t, you can hope for some accumulation as time goes on.  What’s more those average figures I’ve been quoting may be on their way to being out of date. The book industry has been growing. In 2020 print book sales rose by 8.2% in the USA. For the year ending on Jan. 2 2021, units rose to 750.9 million, from 693.7 million the year before. (I know! That’s a lot of books!) In the UK, meanwhile, there were also reports of increases in 2020, even if the Nielsen Bookscan system wasn’t operating as usual. The Publisher Association reported that fiction sales income rose 13% to £285m, sales of digital consumer books rose 26% up to £125m and also said \'there was a 47% rise in UK sales of audiobooks (up to £39m), while the value of consumer ebook sales rose 18% to £86m.\'  This may be a blip. 2020 was a highly unusual year after all and books became a source of comfort as well as a very good way to fill time during lockdown. But there’s hope that plenty of people will have re-acquired the reading habit. It certainly seems that shops that have reopened have been enjoying brisk sales as people have also rediscovered the joy of browsing*.  *Another interesting fact - it’s very hard to talk about overall annual sales figures until after Christmas. I’m writing this article in October 2021. Plenty of stores will still be hoping that more than half of their annual trading will be done in the next few weeks. Christmas is the big time in book world. In fact, many of the top selling books each year aren’t even released until October. So we won’t know about the top selling books of 2021 for a while. Most Popular Genres Time for another confession. Literary fiction may be the genre that most interests students on creative writing courses - but it is not the only game in town. In the UK, in 2017, Nielsen Bookscan figures showed the crime books had become the bestselling fiction books, with 18.7 million sold, compared to 18.1 million general fiction titles. Statistica have also put out research showing that the mystery/thriller/crime was most popular genre in the USA. 47% of their survey respondents said they had read a crime book up to July 2015. Meanwhile, a writer called Geoff Affleck did some useful number crunching on the US Amazon store back in 2019, for instance, and discovered that a mighty 25% of the top bestselling ebooks on Amazon were Romance, Women’s Fiction, and Teen novels (and, he noted, a good proportion of those were “the kind with ripped, bare-chested hunky men on the cover.”)  Perhaps the best way to sell books is to become a writer of ebook romance?  Meanwhile, adult nonfiction sales have also continued to grow. Affleck also provided the following top list for print books (with the number in brackets being the average Amazon ranking of the top five books in each category): 1. Biographies & Memoirs (10) 2. Self-Help (15) 3. Religion & Spirituality (20) 4. Health, Fitness & Dieting (22) 5. Politics & Social Sciences (24) He also did a breakdown of ebook sales using the same method: 1. Religion & Spirituality (61) 2. Biographies & Memoirs (96) 3. Business & Money (123) 4. Self-Help (146) 5. Cook Books, Food & Wine (171) Best Selling Books of All Time Let’s carry on in an optimistic vein and look at the top ten best-selling fiction books of all time. It’s fun to dream, after all.  1.The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien 140.6 million copies 2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher\'s Stone by J. K. Rowling 120 million copies 3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 100 million copies 4. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin 100 million copies 5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 100 million copies 6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis 85 million copies 7. She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard 83 million copies 8. The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio) by Carlo Collodi 35-80 million copies 9. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown 80 million copies 10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling 77 million copies A few caveats. These figures are estimates. This list doesn’t include older titles like Miguel De Cervantes\' Don Quixote (which some estimate at having sold 500 million copies), or Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities (some say 200 million copies). JRR Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings isn’t in there either, because of the confusion over the fact it’s been sold both as a single book and with its three parts separated out. Final Numbers... Okay. Back to reality. Not everyone gets to sell 100 million books. Sometimes, you might be lucky to reach 100 people. And, okay, we don’t hear as much about those books at the lower end of the spectrum. We don’t, as this article has explained, even get to hear how many copies those books have sold without subscribing to expensive aggregators like BookScan. Publishers only really tend to share those figures with their authors and agents. Not because they’re trying to hide anything, but because there’s no real demand that they should.  There are also the feelings of the writer to consider. I can tell you, for instance, that I am not keen for anyone to know the sales figures of some of my own worst-sellers…but, I hope with time, I’ve also grown realistic about these things.  The main lesson here is that you shouldn’t just measure success in terms of hard sales. Bringing a book to completion is a victory in and of itself. It takes skill and dedication - and if you touch only one reader with your work, that still means you’ve had an impact, which has to count for something.

Writing Flash Fiction: A Complete Guide

Have you been meaning to write flash fiction, but been put off by the different word counts and apparent ‘rules’? In this guide you’ll get a brief introduction to flash and its history, then we’ll talk about the essential elements to include in your flashes. I’ll also give you a checklist as an aide-mémoire at the end of the guide. And if by the end you feel confident enough to enter a few competitions, check out our guide to the best flash fiction competitions. What Is Flash Fiction? ‘Smoke-long’ is my favourite (albeit not very healthy) description for a piece of flash fiction, because it refers to the time it takes you to read the story – the same amount of time it would take you to smoke a cigarette. Some flash fiction is even shorter, one puff-long if you like.  Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata referred to them as palm-of-the-hand stories. Flash fiction is also known as fast fiction, sudden fiction, postcard fiction, a micro-story, a nanotale, a short short, amongst other names.  So what exactly is flash fiction? In a nutshell it simply means very short fiction.  The longest flashes are generally considered to be 1,000 words, the shortest 6 words. Try writing and reading each of these and you’ll soon realise there’s a big difference. In 2007, the Guardian newspaper challenged several well-known writers to write 6-word short stories. Take a look and decide for yourself whether they succeeded.  Just as a short story isn’t a truncated novel, flash fiction isn’t a truncated short story. The challenge, with very short fiction, is to tell a complete story within the word count, one thing that differentiates flash fiction from prose poetry. This gets harder the shorter the word count, and that sense of challenge is one reason flash fiction is so popular. For example, in the above Guardian article, Blake Morrison’s story “Womb. Bloom. Groom. Gloom. Rheum. Tomb” gives a sense of a whole life, with a beginning, middle and end, or an overarching narrative – but contains no detail – whereas Jim Crace’s “See that shadow? (It\'s not yours.)” suggests a story, which readers tell themselves.  Arguably a piece of flash fiction is unique in the way it invites the reader to tell themselves the story like this. Other forms of prose writing do this, but because of their length, they also provide detail and narratorial incursion. In flash, this detail and incursion has to be nifty, playful – or cut out entirely. Hemingway’s $10 Bet The above two stories were written in response to the famous 6-word short story allegedly written by Ernest Hemingway as part of a bet over dinner, which won him $10: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” As with Crace’s story, this one suggests a story which the reader then infers, and it’s probably the most famous flash fiction story in circulation today.  However, it is likely Hemingway never wrote this story. You can read the background in this article. There isn’t much evidence that the bet took place, and if it did, earlier versions of the story had appeared in newspapers several years earlier, so he was probably repeating something he had read, as an amusing riposte. Writers from all over the world have used the flash form, including Jorge Luis Borges, Kate Chopin, and Italo Calvino. In fact, ancient myths and fables can be considered a form of flash fiction. This article by Sandra Arnold will give you a sense of the history of flash fiction – very handy if you want to learn about flash fiction in literature. She attributes the first use of the word ‘flash’ to an anthology edited by James Thomas in 1992 – giving more of a sense of the experience of reading the finished story, rather than the word length. Flash Fiction Sub-Genres Flash fiction has a range of subgenres but in the same way, they don’t necessarily have strict definitions either. But if you’re looking for a general guide to flash fiction word counts, we’re here to help.  Here’s a rundown, from the longest to the shortest: 1. Novel-in-a-flash and Novella-in-a-flash. This is essentially a sequence of flashes up to around 18,000 words. 2. ‘Sudden fiction’ or simply ‘flash fiction’ refers to stories of up to 1000 words or sometimes 1500 words, or two pages of an anthology. The ‘up to’ is important. These are usually loose guidelines.  3. Nanofiction or microfiction refers to stories up to 300 words, but the constraint can be stricter than that. Here are some examples: Postcard fiction: stories that can be written on the back of a postcard.  Twitterature: microfiction, derived the original Tweet limit of 140 characters.  Stories of exactly 100 words http://www.100wordstory.org/, known as the Drabble, or exactly 50 words https://fiftywordstories.com/, known as the Dribble.  Not so exacting, some calls for submissions ask for fiction under 50 or under 10 words. Twitter Flashes Twitter is alive with flash fiction. I recently tweeted out a call for resources and the flash fiction writers of Twitter didn’t disappoint. Here are some of the responses.  Thank you to Laura Besley (@laurabesley) who suggested the following journals: @FictiveDream @EllipsisZine @FracturedLit @EmergeJournal @CraftLiterary @50wordstories @101words @flashficmag @flashfroglitmag And these follows:  @kathyfish (who has a flash fiction newsletter) @megpokrass @TommyDeanWriter @nancystohlman Thank you to El Rhodes (@electra_rhodes) who suggested the following: @BBludgers for competition info. @sagetyrtle for a list of UK flash mags.  @FlashFicFest runs an event end of October. @FlashRoundup digests new flash regularly.  Edited highlights of the rest of the responses include: Shorts Podcast (@ShortsthePod), a podcast about the contemporary short story, including flash, @SmokeLong, a journal that has 18 years\' worth of archives, and @RetreatWest, which has over 150 flash stories published on their website, plus 9 anthologies of flash and shorts. Key Elements Of Flash Fiction How do you go about writing flash fiction? Flash fiction stories usually include certain key elements, which I’ll explain here, but having said that, one of the elements of flash is its ability to surprise, and the continuous development of the form, creating new writing challenges and new ways of thinking about storytelling. Therefore, it is best to check several different sets of submission guidelines before editing and sending out your work. Story Plot Here are some general guidelines on how to create flash fiction, part of a range of techniques that go into creating short short stories: A piece of flash fiction isn’t a scene from a larger piece of fiction, or an extract. It is a stand-alone, and a complete story.  Flash isn’t usually a ‘moment in time’ like a prose poem could be, or a discussion of the narrator’s opinion on something. It has narrative drive.  Most flash fiction stories have a beginning, middle and end. This is possible even with the shortest short stories, like Blake Morrison’s “Womb. Bloom. Groom. Gloom. Rheum. Tomb.” But the shorter the flash gets, the more likely it is to use Jim Crace’s “See that shadow? (It\'s not yours.)”  technique and to require the reader to create the complete story for themselves, through implication.  Morrison and Crace both provide us with a guide to plotting flash: 1) begin, grow, develop, make things get bad, provide resolution, and 2) make the reader form the story in their own mind. Few Characters What do you do about characters? How many should you include?  Read plenty of examples so you can see how other writers do it, but here’s a rough guide: Keep the number of characters in your flashes to a minimum. Often, you’ll only use one character, or two, as protagonist and antagonist. As you only have a few words available you can’t dwell on anything very much, and that includes character development. To create characters, you can use brief but pertinent descriptions (he wore his best suit trousers over his broken leg), unusual connections (petunias always make the best guard dogs), suggestive statements connecting place and character (he worked as a stripper at the fire station) or assumptions (I didn’t fit in and neither did my imaginary friend). A Hook It’s important to start strongly when writing flash fiction. You don’t have time for explanations. The aim is to ‘hook’ your reader in, engaging them from the first few words. When Tania Hershman starts a story with ‘My mother was an upright piano’, from a collection of the same name, we’re hooked in by the unusual image, which hints at conflict with the narrator. Create your ‘hook’ from conflict because stories thrive on conflict.Both ‘in media res’ and ‘mis en scene’ are important when writing flash. ‘In media res’ means starting in the middle of things, whereas ‘mis en scene’ refers to the arrangement of actors and props, scenery etc. to create a ‘stage picture’. With fiction, the stage is the reader’s mind. 1) Plunge right into the action, cutting extraneous introductions, and 2) create a picture in the mind of the reader using as few words as possible. Don’t do one without the other. Strong Finish Flash fiction writers often use a twist or (more loosely) an unexpected ending. The unexpected ending is like a punchline, it emphasises the ending. They make the ending live on in the readers’ memory, aiding the sense of the reader creating the story in their own mind. If the ending were subtle, the short short story could easily feel like an extract. Making the ending like a sort of punchline gives the flash a shape. That doesn’t mean to say that all short story stories use twists or the unexpected, but it is a technique you’ll see a lot when you read examples of the form. Honed Editing Editing is important with any piece of writing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say redrafting is writing. The first draft provides you with the words you’re going to play with, and in subsequent drafts you form those words into what you want them to be.  Editing takes on an extra function in short fiction writing – I mean specifically anything under 2,500 words – and the shorter the word count, the more this special function applies. Within whatever wordcount constraint you’ve undertaken, you are attempting to hone the writing to create the maximum meaning and story experience for the reader in the fewest words possible. You need to do both of those things for the story to be successful. When writing flash, you may well write much more than you need in the first draft and then cut by chipping away at extraneous words and story threads until you’ve reached the word count required. It sometimes helps to do this in sections, like this:  Divide the word count into beginning, middle and end. Usually the middle is twice the length of the beginning and end, so in a 1,000 word story, the beginning and end = roughly 250 words and the middle = 500 words. Write your story without worrying too much about word count. Now edit each section in turn to get it to the required amount. When editing, you’ve got to be hyper-aware of every word you choose to use. Read Plenty Of Flash Fiction From reading plenty of flash you’ll learn how to create a strong start, launching straight into the action, how other writers create characters economically and how they use as few words as possible. Because the flash fiction community is so vibrant, and there are so many opportunities to share your work, from reading you’ll also learn about being a literary citizen, and how to promote the work of other writers, while putting your own work out there. Up For A Fun Challenge? Writing flash fiction is a fun challenge and a great exercise for writers. You also get the chance to become part of the online flash fiction community. Here’s a quick summary of this guide: Read plenty of flash fiction and become part of the flash fiction community.  Use your first draft to get your ideas down without worrying about word count, then edit. Create a strong start by launching straight into the action. Use as few words as possible.  Use ‘in media res’ and ‘mis en scene’: 1) Plunge right in, and 2) create a picture in the reader’s mind. Use one or two characters and develop them economically. End with a twist or an unexpected ending. Use ruthless editing and redrafting to hone your flashes to get them down to the required word count. Have fun, keep practicing, and in a flash you’ll become a flash fiction aficionado!

12 Top Tips For Writing Flash Fiction

Writing flash fiction can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a real challenge. I’ve been a children’s author for the past fifteen years, and I’ve also been writing flash fiction stories since before I knew the term. In this article I will be exploring the meaning and definition of flash fiction, its characteristics, and sharing my 12 top tips while drawing on my own writing experience. What Is Flash Fiction? Flash fiction is also known as Sudden Fiction, Drabble, Nanotale or Microfiction. It refers to very short pieces of prose writing. Usually under 1,500 words, the word limit can vary depending on which publication, website, or competition you are writing for. It was popularized in the nineteenth century by writers like Walt Whitman, Kate Chopin, and Ambrose Bierce, but some of the best flash fiction is still being written (have a Google and see what’s out there).  It is also a genre that lends itself well to competitions (way quicker for judges to read entries than your average writing comp). In a world of thumb scrolling and multimedia distractions, it is also an appealing form for writers and readers, because once you get the hang of it you can write an entire story on just one page. Flash Fiction Characteristics The defining characteristic of flash fiction is that it is both short and fictional. So, what is so appealing about having such constraints imposed on your creativity? One of my publishers once set up a competition called 24/7 which involved several authors writing stories with a maximum of 247 words. After I had submitted mine, the editor commented that he was surprised that all the authors had chosen to make their stories precisely 247 words (and no less). It was not a surprise to me. Often the constraints of a commission like this are part of the appeal. They present a challenge. They are puzzles to be solved, and ones which require intricate and precise solutions. So let’s take a look at my top tips for tackling the trickiest of short story writing… How To Write Flash Fiction – 12 Top Tips A good flash fiction story takes the reader into a world which is already established - where things are happening. But it’s not as simple as merely hitting a small word count. Here are some things to consider when writing flash fiction. Select Your Genre Flash fiction can be in any genre, therefore the perfect opportunity to try something new. Whether you usually write romance, thriller, horror or sci fi, consider using your flash fiction to try something new. Unlike novel writing, there’s no need to worry about worldbuilding or backstories – just jump straight in! Choose An Overarching Theme One of the things I notice when I write my flash fiction is that the ideas that most attract me are often related to current events: things I’ve heard on the radio or read about online. I take a news story then think about how one moment of that story could affect one or two of the people involved. From these thin slices of life, you can explore broader subjects such as love, death, power or family. Have a go yourself at re-writing a piece of history in just a handful of words. Use One Or Two Key Characters With such a limited word count, you might find it helpful to focus on fewer characters. Try making your protagonist complex or flawed or putting them up against their antagonist from the onset. Choosing first person over third person is also worth considering as it throws the reader straight into the action. Make Every Sentence Count And Don’t Rush As a writer, I both suffer and benefit from both optimism and selective amnesia. I always think that things won’t take long to write. You need a picture book text about dragons in a week? Sure? You need a short story on the subject of sharks in a few days? No problem.  I never learn.  Just because you have fewer word to manage, that doesn’t mean your piece of flash fiction will take any less time to write. Quite the opposite. In many cases, shorter pieces of writing will take more time than longer ones, as you are forced to peel away the unnecessary words in order to find the core of your narrative. I often imagine writing as an act of carving. I throw a pile of words at the page then, through editing, chisel away until I find the shape of the story. This is precisely the technique that is required to make a short piece of fiction impactful and worth reading. Prompt Visualisation One way to draw readers into your story is to focus on one powerful picture or piece of imagery around which to build the story. For inspiration why not look at pictures in a magazine or newspaper, an old photo album, or a piece of art. Sometimes, something as simple as an image of a half-eaten apple, can inspire you to create a glimpse into a story that will entice your readers. Because that is what flash fiction is, a glimpse – a flash – of a story that could easily belong in a much larger world. Start In The Middle & Use Descriptive, Concise Language The reason a lot of flash fiction starts in the middle, is because there’s no time (ie words) to build a rambling intro. It’s the same when writing my children’s books - I don’t have time to spend on floral descriptions, I need to grab my readers from the first line. That’s why the story must start at the most exciting (or most dramatic/upsetting) point, which is often the inciting incident in a longer novel (at about 20%) or the midway point. This is also true of Flash Fiction. Don’t introduce the story - tell it. Your characterisation has to be precise, efficient and entertaining too, without relying on lazy stereotypes. Whether its dialogue or description, every word needs to earn its keep.  Deal With A Single Conflict Flash fiction is not the same as prose poetry. Something should happen. Something should change. It requires a beginning, middle and end. In other words, your story requires movement. It is unlikely that you will have time for a subplot or backstory, but the longer you spend on your piece of writing, the more you will discover you can wrap things up in surprisingly few words. Most fiction is driven by conflict, but with flash fiction you will most likely need to limit your conflicts to one single struggle or choice that your character encounters. Use Descriptive, Concise Language Good writing is all about precision and there’s nothing quite like a strict word count to really sharpen your text. Keep sentences short, and don’t use three words where one will do.  Even if you have no intention of submitting your flash fiction for competition or publication, it is still a useful exercise to try to hone your writing skills. It’s also useful to learn if you write non-fiction or marketing copy - the more you can say, in as fewer words as possible, the more impactful your message. Create Surprise And Provide A Twist One subgenre of flash fiction is Twitterature, in which you have to tell a story in the form of a tweet. That’s 280 characters these days but it was even shorter when I wrote this in answer for a call for twitter stories using the hashtag #StoryShop.  “The shop sold plots, themes, characters, dialogue etc, but reaching the section on twists I realised it wasn\'t what it seemed. #StoryShop” One of the things I struggle with when I write my own flash fiction is my natural inclination to include a dramatic or amusing twist. This is often seen as a key component for a good short story, and one which can certainly be put to good use in flash fiction, but for many publishers and judges it is not as necessary as you may think. A good piece of flash fiction often simply illuminates a fleeting moment, causing the reader to pause and reflect on something or see something differently. If you can surprise your reader then you’re onto a good thing, but that surprise doesn’t necessarily need to appear at the end. Present A Memorable Last Line I once wrote a joke book, which also included hints and tips on writing jokes. In a sense, joke writing is another form a flash fiction. Comedians will tell you that a good gag relies on a precise choice of words and carefully formulated sentences to ensure that the punchline lands in exactly the right place. Just as flash fiction doesn’t require a twist, neither does it call for a punchline, but you’ll still want to find a final line with a little punch. Write A Powerful Title With my own writing, I often start with the title as that can ignite all sorts of ideas for the story. With so few words to play with in flash fiction, your title is a part of the story. Make it catchy, memorable, and in keeping with the theme. You can even be clever with it. Like a piece of art, the title may well provide a different angle in which to view the story. Get Others To Review And Critique Your Story Sometimes it’s hard to find beta readers to read your novel, but when writing flash fiction there’s no excuse for your story-loving friends not to take five minutes to look over your story and see if it impacts them the way you intended. Like with all forms of writing, it’s vital to be open to criticism and suggestions – plus you’ll be getting your friends hooked on flash fiction too! And Finally… Enjoy The Challenge I read various examples of flash fiction before I sat down to write this article, including several stories penned long before the term was coined. One of the most famous flash fiction stories - and one of the shortest - is this example of the six-word story. “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”  The origin of this story is unclear, but the story of the story (that Ernest Hemmingway wrote it to win a bar bet) is as intoxicating as the alcohol that Hemmingway is said that have earned for writing it. It’s the idea that you don’t need a lot of words to move and inspire your readers. But to do this, you do need to find the heart of the story.  However short your piece of writing, flash fiction can be extremely rewarding. Not just in how it forces you to hack away all unnecessary words, but also because it affords you the opportunity to play with a nugget of an idea and, hopefully, come up with something interesting, fresh and illuminating.

10 Of The Best Flash Fiction Competitions

Finding an affordable and engaging fiction competitions to enter is harder than you think- especially if you\'re a flash fiction writer. Flash fiction writing contests are gaining popularity as well as notoriety. With many affordable (or even free entry) options out there today, it is no wonder that flash fiction competitions are worth seeking out! But what exactly is flash fiction, and where can you find some of these fantastic opportunities so that you can submit your work to them? In this article I\'ll be introducing you to some great competitions, including deadlines and fees. Let’s get started. What Is Flash Fiction? Flash fiction is its own unique form of short story. I’m sure you could have already guessed that it is designed to be brief - typically with word counts ranging from 5 words to rarely more than 1000. There are many other terms used to refer to flash fiction: micro-story, nanotale, short short… It all depends on who you are talking to or submitting your work to. Short fiction competitions will all have their own specific guidelines to go over as well. Keep in mind however that flash fiction isn’t simply a truncated short story - it’s a unique story form. Chopping up and editing your existing novella into a flash fiction piece is possible, but not necessarily recommended. This writing style is unique, to the point, and fun, should you feel comfortable limiting your word count! Verbosity is common for writers, but whittling words down in order to fit a flash fiction brief is a talent all on its own. So, what are some of these flash fiction competitions like, and what will they require of you before submitting your work? Let’s take a look at some of Jericho’s top recommended fiction contests out there in 2021, including up-to-date and relevant deadlines! Flash Fiction Competitions I doubt I’m the first person to tell you, but: there are a wide variety of flash fiction competitions. Some are regular and routine to a particular magazine or website, some have annual submission opportunities with larger prizes, some are considered prestigious with publications, and there are also one-off contests with interesting themes. There is a lot of merit to submitting flash fiction for contests and competitions. The most obvious is winning awards and prizes, and therefore becoming an award winning author. However, there are many other reasons to consider writing and submitting your flash fiction, including gaining exposure, getting published, and receiving critiques or more experience writing in this innovative genre. Looking for a home for your piece of flash fiction? Look no further! Here are some of the best contests out there, with upcoming deadlines and low-cost or free entry fees so that you don’t miss a beat. Prime Number Magazine 53-Word Story Contest First Prize: Publication in Prime Number Magazine + a free book from Press 53 Entry Fee: Free Deadline: 15th of each month Prime Number Magazine has a wonderful flash fiction competition posted every month, under a different theme. Each prompt should be inspired by a single word and can only be 53 words long. Should you win, you will receive publication of your short story and bio in Prime Number magazine, as well as a free book. Submission guidelines and prompts can be found on their site- just be sure to submit by the 15th of each month! Flash 500 Contest First Prize: £300 Entry Fee: £5 Deadline: Quarterly- 31st March, 30th June, 30th September, 31st December Looking for a flash fiction contest with some decent monetary reward? Check out the Flash Fiction Competition from Flash 500. There is a small entry fee, and you can even receive critique on your work if you submit a little extra fee. The prize money truly reflects the skill required to encapsulate an entire story in just 500 words- and there’s even money for second and third place too! Check out more about this contest and submit at their website, here. Tadpole Press 100 Word Writing Contest First Prize: $1,000 Entry Fee: $10 Deadline:  Twice a year- 30th April and 30th November Now here’s a first prize! Tadpole Press has a flash fiction competition, normally reserved for writers on their own specific retreat. They have decided to open up the competition to everyone, with a $1,000 first prize to boot. Second and third place also get rewards. All it takes is 100 words to potentially win! More information regarding the submission guidelines can be found here.  Oxford Flash Fiction Prize First Prize: £1,000 Entry Fee: £6 for 1 entry; £10 for 2 entries; £14 for 3 entries Deadline: 31st January, 31st August This flash fiction challenge comes from the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize, and has a word count maximum of 1000. It\'s an international competition, and the first prize is £1,000, second prize is £200, third prize is £100, and the New Voice Prize is £50. Shortlisted entrants will be offered publication in their end of year anthology. You can learn more about the competition here. WOW! Women On Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest First Prize: $400 Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: Quarterly- 28th February, 31st May, 31st August, 30th November WOW! is all about promoting the communication between women writers, and their quarterly flash fiction contest is no exception. With an open prompt and a low entry fee, submitting your flash fiction is easier than ever. Make sure your work is a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 750 before you submit. More guidelines (including how to get your piece critiqued) can be found here. The Third Word Press Great Eighty Challenge First Prize: Publication Entry Fee: Free Deadline: Ongoing With a free entry fee and as many short submissions as you’d like, The Third Word Press has a wonderful flash fiction submission option. Submit a piece of flash fiction of exactly 80 words of your own work- no theme, no genre. You can even take from a larger piece, if you’d like. Submit using this form here, and keep it 80 words or less! Cranked Anvil Press Flash Fiction Competition First Prize: £100 Entry Fee: £3 for 1 entry; £5 for 2 entries Deadline: Quarterly- 28th (or 29th) February, 31st May, 31st August, 30th November With a monetary reward for both first and second place, this flash fiction contest from Cranked Anvil Press may be worth checking out. You can even submit a second entry with a slightly raised submission fee. The deadline is quarterly, so don’t stress about missing out on this one. And you can read more about their publication here. Bath Flash Fiction Award First Prize: £1,000 Entry Fee: £9 Deadline: Tri-Annually With a goal of bringing flash fiction to a wider audience, Bath hosts two international flash fiction competitions, including a novella option. With three yearly submission opportunities and a low entry fee, this contest is well worth checking out. There’s a large first prize, and decent second and third place rewards. Keep it all under 300 words, and learn more about Bath here. Reflex Fiction First Prize: £1,200 Entry Fee: £7 Deadline: Quarterly One of my favourite flash fiction competitions is this one from Reflex fiction. It has a robust prize system, with monetary rewards for first, second, and third place. Their rules are also simple: entries must be at least 180 words but no more than 360 words. You can submit more than one piece, but you will need to pay the entry fee for each one. Winners (and many of the non-winning, honourable mention entries) are published on the Reflex Fiction website, where you can find more submission requirements here. Craft Short Fiction Prize First Prize: $2,000 Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: 30th April This flash fiction contest from Craft is well-worth considering. Your piece will be published on their website, and you will even receive a free four-issue subscription from Journal of the Month. While $20 isn’t the cheapest submission fee out there, you can submit multiple 1,000-5,000 word pieces. Learn more about this competition here. Conclusion While this is a comprehensive guide to flash fiction competitions, there are still many more opportunities to consider. I encourage you to research contests that interest you, and submit before deadlines loom! Have you found many flash fiction opportunities that spark your creativity? Let us know!

Writing Under a Pen Name – Pros and Cons

When I used to dream about being a published author, I always imagined taking a paperback off the shelf and seeing my name on it. I’m working on book fourteen now and none of them have my full name on. Instead, I have two pen names - Rhoda Baxter and Jeevani Charika.  A great many authors use pen names (or a ‘nom de plume’ if you want to be fancy) for a whole variety of reasons.  But what are the pitfalls to look out for? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Read on to find out. Why Writers Use Pen Names Steven King is also Richard Bachmann, Nora Roberts is also J D Robb, Jill March and Sarah Hardesty, and Dean Koonz has had so many names that it’s hard to keep count. Having all these different names seems unnecessarily complicated. So why do it?  Here are some common reasons: Privacy Brand differentiation Disguising gender or race To consolidate several writers under one name All of these and more are discussed below and, because this is a pros and cons article, there are some pitfalls to watch out for too. Advantages of Writing Under a Pen Name Privacy This is probably the number one reason that most people want a pen name. Being a public personality can be scary. It may be that you don’t want prospective employers (or clients) to put your name into Google and come up with all the dinosaur sci fi novels you wrote. Or perhaps you write erotica, and you really don’t want your friends and family to know (or worse, if you’re a teacher - the school to know!). If you’ve written something highly political or an exposé about real people, you might not want journalists hounding you for comment.  There is no wrong reason for wanting to maintain your privacy. In this hyper-connected age, it’s nice to be able to put some space between your public persona and your private life. Branding Some genres have expectations attached. A name like Amy Silver lends itself well to a Christmas romcom, for example, but might jar a bit on the cover of a psychological thriller. But ‘Paula Hawkins’, now that’s a nice thriller name. In case you haven’t guessed, they are the same person writing in two very different genres.  If you write in more than one genre, having two pen names helps you keep your reader groups separate. Sticking with the Paula Hawkins example - having two names stops a reader expecting a romcom and getting a thriller. Some authors write across genres under the same name, but your publisher may ask you to think about using a different pen name if your new book is a departure from your usual style, or if they want to build a new brand for you. For me, the Jeevani Charika books all feature at least one Asian protagonist, while the Rhoda Baxter ones are mostly about white protagonists. To Create a Distinct Public Persona  It can be helpful to have a distinct writer persona, especially if you’re shy in real life. One of my favourite things about having a pen name is that ‘Rhoda’ is slightly different to the real me on social media. While the fundamentals were the same, she’s more outgoing, and much more cheerful than I am. When speaking at events I always feel less self-conscious if I imagine that Rhoda or even Jeevani Charika is a completely different person to me.  Hiding Your Gender If you’re a woman writing in a traditionally male dominated genre, you might want to use a male pen name in order to sell more books. If you\'re a man writing romance or sagas, you might consider writing under a female pen name. Many writers like to keep things ambiguous and use their initials and a last name (which doesn’t have to be their real last name).  Making Your Race Less Obvious Okay, this is a contentious one. This was one of the reasons my early romcoms came out under the name Rhoda Baxter, rather than my Sri Lankan name.  My first book was about Sri Lankans. I got a lot of very nice rejections from agents with notes along the lines of ‘I like it, but I don’t know where I’d place it’. After a while, I wrote a second book - a romcom about a white heroine. I found a publisher (in the US) relatively quickly. They asked if I was going to use a pen name. I’m a microbiologist by training, so I named myself after Rhodobacter sphaeroides, the bacterium I did my thesis on). ‘Much easier to Google’, the publisher said, approvingly.  I used my own photo in the bio and talked about my Sri Lankan heritage openly - this was not a catfishing exercise - but it meant that on the shelf, my romcom looked like all the other romcoms.  That was 2011. I didn’t get a publishing contract for a book under the name Jeevani Charika until 2018. I know a few other romance authors of colour who started off using white-sounding pen names to get established and then moved to using names closer to their real ones as romance publishers became more open to the idea of non-white names on the cover. It\'s not a good idea to try this if you’re actually white. To Make Your Name More Memorable If you have a fairly unremarkable name, then you can have fun choosing a dramatic and memorable author name. To Differentiate Yourself From Another Author With a Similar Name Occasionally, you’ll find two different authors who have the same name. This is a huge pain because it confuses retailer algorithms, and it confounds readers. You can avoid this by using a pseudonym or just adding a middle initial to your name.  To Combine the Work of Two (or More) People The author Juliet Bell writes Bronte retellings set in the early 20th century. Behind the name are two authors (Janet Gover and Alison May) who write romance and women’s fiction. Sometimes a prolific pen name like Franklin W Dixon (The Hardy Boys) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) can be supported by a whole host of ghostwriters. As a Whimsical Touch to Enhance the Book Occasionally, you see pen names that are closely related to the characters in the book, which make it look like the book was written by one of the characters. For example, Daniel Handler’s children’s books in A Series of Unfortunate Events are presented as the memoirs written by Lemony Snickett. Because the Publisher Requested it Sometimes publishers will ask you to choose a different pseudonym - either for branding reasons, as discussed above; because you’re too prolific and they can’t publish more than a couple of books under each name in any given year; or simply because they want to market you as a ‘new’ author (especially if your last book didn’t sell very well).  Disadvantages of Using a Pen Name There are undoubtedly many advantages to using a pen name, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. Here is the counter argument. Your Friends May Not Recognise the Book as Yours Imagine you’ve just told your friend about the publication of your new book. Being a supportive and delightful person, they talk about it in the pub later ... except they can’t remember your pen name. Since friends and family can be a good way to spread the word, you could lose some word-of-mouth recommendations. More Names Mean More Marketing I found this out to my cost. When the first Jeevani Charika book came out, I excitedly set up new social media accounts and a new website. But keeping up a presence in all these places is quite hard work with one name - keeping up TWO was exhausting. In the end, I gave up and changed the name of my Rhoda Twitter account to include both names. I still maintain two separate websites, though. Despite the websites mentioning the other pen name, not many readers click through from one site to the other.  Achievements in One Name Don’t Translate to the Other As I mentioned before, readers don’t often go from one pen name to another, even in genres that appear to be closely related. So your achievements in one pen name will mean nothing to readers who read the other pen name.  In real life, you could win a major award, but none of your friends would know about it because they didn’t make the connection. Sometimes the consequences of this disconnect can be massive. An inverse example is Robert Galbraith - whose novels did moderately well, until it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was a pen name for JK Rowling. The books became instant bestsellers. Financial Complications It is usual to sign publishing contracts under your real name, despite the books coming out under a pen name (you can request that your identity is kept confidential). This makes it easier for the publisher to pay you, as they can send payment to your real name.  If you need to keep your identity secret, you can sign contracts in your pen name, but that may make it harder for you to prove that you are the owner of the copyright and there may be additional hoops to jump through to get your royalties paid. Consolidation Difficulty What if one of your pen names becomes a runaway bestseller? You might want to consolidate all the other books you have under the more popular pen name. This is difficult, but not insurmountable. Before the Shopaholic books took off, Sophie Kinsella wrote novels under the name \'Madeleine Wickham’ - they have now been remarketed as ‘Sophie Kinsella writing as Madeleine Wickham’, so that Sophie’s readers can find them easily. Being More Than One Person is Confusing Okay, this might be just me, but sometimes I forget which writer persona I’m meant to be. If you’re going on a podcast, for example, it’s good to work out which persona you’re going to be beforehand, especially if your pen names belong to very different genres. Sometimes Readers Feel Betrayed This is a strange one. Using pen names is long established in the writing world (George Elliot, George Orwell, Mark Twain are all pseudonyms), but some readers are offended by well-known authors using new pen names. They feel like the author is ‘lying’ to them, especially if an established author is being presented as an exciting new debut. There isn’t a lot you can do about this, apart from telling your followers when you’re starting a new pen name.  Legal issues to Using a Pen Name It is not advisable to use an established author’s name as a pen name. If you write a horror novel and stick ‘Stephen King’ on the cover - you will almost certainly hear from his lawyers.  You can trademark a pen name. Signing a contract under a pen name does not let you get out of your contractual obligations. In the US, you can register copyright under your real name or your pen name (but the length of copyright is different). So Should You Use a Pen Name? Now that you know all the pros and cons of using a pen name, should you use a pen name? There is no right or wrong answer. Personally, I like having pen names (although I find having two hard work). The pen names provide a tiny bit of separation from my books, which helps me feel a little less awkward about promoting them. Think about the pros and cons and work out what would work best for you. Good luck … whatever you end up calling yourself.

Writing And Burnout: How To Get Through It

If you’re here, you’re probably burned out. You should be writing, but your desire to do so has evaporated. I\'ve been there. It is exhausting and frustrating in equal parts. The act of writing no longer feels like the transformative, relaxing or impassioned experience it usually is. It has become a chore. Your mind feels fuzzy and unfocussed, engulfed by a thick fog. The thought of returning to your work in progress only to struggle with it makes you tired, rather than excited. In fact, you’d rather do anything other than write. These are the signs of writing burnout, and it’s fair to say that at some point in a person’s creative career, we all experience it. In these troubled times of pandemic-related anxiety and stress, it is perhaps no surprise that burnout is more prevalent than ever. The good news is that overcoming creative burnout is entirely possible. In this guide, we examine what writer burnout means, offer tips on how to avoid burnout as a writer, and hopefully, help you rediscover the joy of writing if you’re struggling with it.    What Is Writer’s Burnout? Writer’s burnout is a state of exhaustion that makes you unwilling and unable to do what you love best and can lead to you questioning your entire identity as a creative. This is not the same as writer’s block, which is characterised as an inability to write. Writer or creative burnout is more extreme, and manifests as a writer being physically, mentally and emotionally incapable of performing the most basic of tasks or assignments. I spent much of 2020 in that state, missing several key deadlines as a result. Thankfully, my publishers were understanding and patient, but the inability to do what I have always loved to even a basic degree was heart-breaking. There are many contributors to burnout: stress, fatigue, a pervasive culture of ‘hustle’, and the pressures that come with being self-employed or freelance to name a few. Writers often keep irregular hours, are beholden to tight (sometimes self-imposed) deadlines, and have to contend with a string of other considerations like imposter syndrome, marginalisation, low income, and a highly competitive industry. Writing can also be a lonely business, with a distinct lack of support and opportunities to socialise. Long hours bound to the desk juggling deadlines means you’re left with little time to indulge in healthy, non-work based hobbies, exercise, or other pursuits. All these things combined can sometimes be overwhelming. Signs Of Writing Burnout Recognising writer\'s burnout can be key to making sure you overcome it in the future. If you’re still unsure, ask yourself the following questions: Are you constantly exhausted?Are you struggling with motivation?Is your mindset increasingly negative, or are you often in a bad mood?Are you having a hard time remembering things?Do you feel anxious and overwhelmed?Has your output slowed down, and the quality of your work suffered? Do you feel rundown and in a general state of poor health?Has writing lost all its joy for you?Are you using alcohol, drugs or other stimulants as a crutch?Do you sleep badly?Are you becoming more insular and retreating from the world at large? If the answer is yes to several or all of these, then my advice is simple: stop for a moment. Get used to the idea that you are going through something serious and start taking care of yourself a little. Admitting to and accepting that you are dealing with burnout is the first step towards improving your situation.  How To Avoid Burnout As A Writer ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is the foundation of much in modern healthcare, and it applies to writer’s burnout too. There are several things you can do to pre-emptively stave off burnout: Set Firm Boundaries Boundaries are a formidable tool in any writer’s toolbox. Having a clear idea of your preferred daily working hours, routine, how you want to be communicated with, the number of deadlines and projects you are comfortable with, and who you want to work with is a great way of making sure you don\'t get overwhelmed. Write your boundaries down and stick to them. It will make life much simpler, clearer and easier to navigate.  Be Actively Nice To Yourself Be your own cheerleader and shout about your achievements and successes as many times as you feel you need to. Doing so can be an affirmative process that actively makes you feel better about yourself and your abilities, and this can go a long way towards fighting off burnout before it takes too firm a hold on you.  Keep It Simple And Structured Decluttering your workspace can help create a calmer mindset. Then do the same with your working day. Divide your day into chunks and figure out how you want to use that time. If writing is too difficult, schedule in some admin, or perhaps do some valuable writer research. Answer a few emails, especially if your inbox is filling up. Grab a notebook and do some gentle planning, or jot down ideas. Keep it simple and try to stick to some sort of structure. You’ll still be working and moving forward, even if you aren’t writing. Most importantly, make sure you factor in lots of breaks. A coffee break, lunch, a walk around the block, podcast time while you do the dishes or maybe even calling a friend for half an hour. Break times are important for creative energy. It can be difficult to remember that when all we see is a looming deadline.  Look After Yourself It’s important to look after your physical health and mental wellbeing. A healthier body can mean a healthier mind, and taking care of both is extremely important, especially in today’s world. While it’s certainly beneficial to exercise and get fresh air wherever possible, that isn’t always an option for creatives with mobility issues or other limiting factors, but you can take care of yourself in other ways. Getting enough sleep can make a huge difference. So can carving out time to spend with friends or an inner circle of peers that you trust, like your local writer’s group. Meditation might be beneficial, as is self-soothing: a weighted blanket, a hot bath, time spent with a novel, music, a jigsaw, your kid’s Lego, a freshly cooked, healthy meal, or a special cup of coffee. Simple, small things can make a big difference when you’re burned out.  Take It Easy On Yourself ‘You shouldn\'t write if you can\'t write’, Ernest Hemingway once said, and he was absolutely right. One of the worst ways to recover from writing burnout is by ‘writing through’ it. Slogging ahead whilst battling extreme mental and physical fatigue will only exacerbate the symptoms of burnout. The quickest and best way to tackle your situation is by taking control of your work schedule, as stated above, and, most importantly, allowing yourself to rest. If you can, reassess your deadlines and ask for more time where needed, or, if they are self-imposed deadlines, adjust them to accommodate your current situation. Give yourself some slack when it comes to your own expectations of what you can achieve. If stopping work entirely for a while is not an option for you, then get used to the idea of working at a slower pace until you feel better. Introducing breaks in your working day will also help, especially if they involve time away from a screen, social media, email, and anything else likely to make you feel overwhelmed. Ways To Recover From Writing Burnout If you are currently in the grip of burnout, try not to worry too much. That’s easier said than done, I know, but there are ways to facilitate your own recovery. The most important thing you can do is to prioritise yourself. But what does that look like? Plenty Of Rest And Sleep At the risk of sounding like your favourite aunt, sleep is important. Getting adequate rest on a regular basis can vastly improve both mood and overall health, reduce stress and clear away that brain fog. Frustratingly, burnout and stress can often impact sleep, and ‘coronasomnia’ is also an emerging issue thanks to disrupted routines and prolonged uncertainty. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could help introduce a better bedtime routine and habits. Having a device-free bedroom could also help, with working in bed on your laptop a big no-no. There are also a range of apps that play white noise, soothing music, or read you a bedtime story. Even if you’re not sleeping, being in a quiet, calm bedroom or sleeping space can help put your body to rest and kickstart the restoration process a little. Explore Other Creative Outlets And Experiences For many writers, their hobby has suddenly become their career. This can make it difficult to find other ways to relax. Art, music, gaming, cooking, crafting or spending time in nature could help. It’s about finding another outlet to express your creativity that isn’t governed by deadlines, pay rates or client expectations. Getting away from your desk, home or studio for a while is also beneficial, as is trying something completely new like life-drawing, pottery, stamp collecting, pony trekking, you name it - anything that intrigues you and gives you the chance to meet new people and gather a different perspective on life. Relax And Socialise Relaxation time allows you to put your needs front and centre for a concerted period. Whether it’s a hot bath, a gentle walk, yoga, meditation or a massage, it’s important to allow your body and mind to relax as much as possible. Downtime also doesn’t have to be all about low lights, baths and herbal tea, however. It can involve hanging out with close friends and letting your hair down during games night, a sports event, a night out at the pub or dancing at a gig. If you’re having fun and socialising, you’re restoring. Just be careful you don’t push it too far and burn the already depleted candle at both ends. Deal With Mundane Chores Sometimes I deal with burnout by diving into household chores. When I am incapable of doing much that requires real brainpower, I can cope with menial, practical tasks. I often tee up my favourite true crime podcasts and dive into cleaning, tidying, gardening, or DIY tasks I’ve been putting off. It creates a sense of momentum that helps me feel less hopeless about my situation. Again, if you are someone with mobility issues some of these things might not be accessible, but you could find that dealing with household admin, finances, or general day to day things you have been putting off equally as helpful. Change Your Writing Location A change can be as good as a rest, and this is especially true if you work from home. The pandemic made getting out and about extremely difficult, and a lack of variety in setting can compound burnout. I rearranged my office so that my desk was closer to a window and added some plants to my workspace, which helped a little. I also took paperwork I needed to do into the garden during good weather, and once restrictions lifted and it was safe to do so, I took my laptop back to my favourite cafe, which helped enormously. A change of scene can work wonders. Identify Sources Of Stress In a similar vein to setting boundaries and structuring your working day, identifying the exact stressors in your life can be enormously helpful. Too many deadlines? Prioritise or cut them down. A particular person bothering you? Limit your interaction with them. Writing project stalling close to deadline? Consider asking a peer to beta-read or give constructive feedback to help kickstart you again. Tackling a series of issues methodically can give you great peace of mind and a better sense of control. Go On Holiday Again, this is not always possible for everyone, but if you do have the means, a vacation is a fantastic way to recharge your depleted creative batteries. But when we say vacation, we mean it - leave the laptop at home, ignore your emails and try to disengage completely. A notebook might be good for capturing any ideas you have whilst relaxing on a sun lounger - but keep it brief and simple. No new novel attempts! From Burnout To Churn Out Finding yourself in a position of creative burnout is nothing to be ashamed of - it is a natural by-product of many individual factors and stressors working against you. There are measures you can take to make sure it doesn\'t happen again: implementing more structure, setting firmer boundaries and being kind to your body and mind key among them. For those in the thick of writer burnout, you can navigate your way out by identifying the symptoms, making a real effort to rest and be good to yourself, and slowing down your expectations when it comes to output for a while. You aren’t alone in feeling this way, and in this line of work you’ll probably encounter writer’s burnout more than once, but hopefully, by following these tips you’ll soon be going from burnout to ‘churn out’ in no time. 

Writing Humour – Injecting Humour Into Your Story

So, you want to learn how to make your readers burst out laughing, but you can’t even get a pity laugh out of your own grandma? This guide is all you need to gain an understanding of the common forms of humour in writing, and how to use humorous writing techniques to inject comedy into your own writing. Read on to find out how! What Is Humour Writing? Humorous writing is any piece of writing that’s written with the intention to prompt amusement and to be funny. There are many forms of humour you can inject into your writing to turn a ho-hum piece into a side-splitter.  Types Of Humour In Literature From the subtle humour of satire or deadpan, through to in-your-face farce and slapstick, once you have a solid grasp on what forms of humour exist and how to use them, you’ll have a vast toolbox at your fingertips to make your readers smirk, giggle and howl with laughter in any situation.  Let’s dive into some of the most common ones, along with some humorous writing examples to help you recognise these techniques in the wild. Anecdotal An anecdote is a brief, humorous story about a real-life experience. Think of Michelle Flaherty from American Pie, and her endless anecdotes revolving around “this one time, at band camp”. Dark Dark humour, also known as black humour, morbid humour or gallows humour, is a form of humour that makes light of anything especially sad or serious. The term ‘gallows humour’ actually dates back to the 1800s, when people would joke about being hanged at the gallows. ‘On my license, it says I\'m an organ donor. . . I wonder what poor asshole would get stuck with whatever it is in me that passes for a heart.’ ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ – Jodi Picoult Deadpan Deadpan humour, otherwise known as dry humour, relies on delivery to land correctly. Usually a statement will be humorous in content, perhaps even over-the-top or ridiculous, but the wording and delivery of it is intended to be casual, almost as though the speaker is unaware they’re making a joke at all. The word deadpan comes from the slang term ‘pan’, used for ‘face’ in the early 20th century. So, to have a dead pan was to have a face that showed no expression or emotion. ‘Through my curtains I can see a big yellow moon. I’m thinking of all the people in the world who will be looking at that same moon. I wonder how many of them haven’t got any eyebrows?’ ‘Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging’ – Louise Rennison Farcical A farce, or farcical humour, is a form of humour that derives its comedy through the absurd ridiculousness of a situation. A farce will often use miscommunication to create humorous scenarios and misunderstandings. For example, Shakespeare loved to employ farce. Think of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where mistaken identity and confusion causes a love quadrangle. Ironic When something appears to be the case, or should be the case, but the reality is the opposite, you’re dealing with irony. For example, a fire department catching on fire, or the world’s leading skin cancer expert dying after they mistake their own melanoma for a benign mole. At the start of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen writes: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ As the narrative quickly goes on to show us single women spending much time and energy finding a husband, we grow to understand the irony in that opening sentence. Parodic A parody is an entertainment piece produced to mimic an existing work, artist or genre, but dialled up to a hundred in order to poke fun at it. The humour comes from highlighting flaws and overdone tropes through an exaggerated portrayal. For example, think of Austin Powers, which parodies James Bond. Or Bored of the Rings by Douglas Kenney, a parody of Lord of the Rings. Satirical Satirical writing uses wit to make a point about power—be it a commentary on the government, the privileged, large corporations, etc—and aims to cause readers to think deeply about society, and what can be done to improve it. Satirical works range from political cartoons you’ll find in the newspaper, through to books like Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, which satirises organised religion. Self-Deprecating Self-deprecation is a form of humour where an individual makes a comment about their own flaws and shortcomings in a light-hearted manner. ‘They all laughed when I said I\'d become a comedian. Well, they\'re not laughing now.’ ‘Crying with Laughter: My Life Story’ – Bob Monkhouse Situational Situational humour is any type of humour that arises from the situation characters find themselves in.  Think of a character going to a babysitting job and finding out the child is actually the antichrist, or a character going on a blind date only to find themselves face to face with the horrible customer they served at work earlier that day.  Slapstick Slapstick refers to physical humour involving the body. It often involves some form of pain (think falling, or having something fall on you, or accidentally breaking a piece of furniture while using it) or otherwise odd things happening to a body (like a hose going off in someone’s face unexpectedly). An excellent example is America’s Funniest Home Videos. Tips For Writing Humorous Stories Okay, so we’ve covered some of the more common types of humour, and you’re ready to find out how to develop your own humorous writing style? Luckily, all writers have the ability to write humour, even if it’s not something that comes easily to you at first. All it takes is practice! Here are some humorous writing tips to leave your audience cackling. Study Other Writers Think of a piece of writing you found hilarious. Read it carefully. Note what it is that makes it so amusing. Can you spot any of the forms of humour we covered above? Once you can recognise and categorise humour techniques and forms, you’ll find that determining which form of humour fits your own writing in which situation will start to come more naturally. Use Your Own Material Do you sometimes make comments that other people find hilarious? Take note of your own jokes (literally—write it down for yourself to use later) and refer back to them while writing. You’ll be surprised how often you can find a natural spot for that joke to make a recurrence. Use Juxtaposition Utilise juxtaposition, or pairing opposites near each other to highlight the differences between them. Think The Odd Couple, or Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. There are plenty of humorous opportunities for a slacker character or a type-A character, but that humour is magnified if those two characters share scenes. Master Comedic Timing Comedic timing plays a huge role in how a joke lands. Pay attention while you’re reading or watching comedy, and notice how long a joke goes on for, and where the punchline lands. Like stories, jokes have their own arcs: setup, anticipation and payoff. For an example of excellent comedic timing, give Don Quixote a read. Use Alliteration Alliteration, or stringing together words beginning with the same consonant, can make text both more amusing and memorable. Roald Dahl was very partial to this technique. Willy Wonka and Bruce Bogtrotter are amusing and memorable names. Steve Wonka and Bruce Robertson would’ve been less so.  Use Amusing Words Similarly, note how some words simply sound funnier than others. Some comedians believe words with a ‘k’ sound in them are perceived to be funnier. Think about some of the more absurd words in the English language, like filibuster or absquatulate. Get in the habit of searching for synonyms, and ask yourself if the joke would be funnier with a different word choice. Provide Surprise Jokes often involve the rule of three, or listing three things, two straight, and one punchline. Think two brunettes and a blonde, or an Englishman, an Irishman and an American. The first two points establish a pattern, and the third point breaks the pattern, creating humour through surprise.  \'FEDERAL FUNDING, TRAVEL EXPENSES, BOOTY CALLS, AND YOU.\' ‘Red White and Royal Blue’—Casey McQuiston Exaggerate Exaggeration is a widely used humorous technique. Make sure to exaggerate to an extreme extent, going well over-the-top. For example: ‘Mum said I should walk to the shops, but it was about fifty thousand billion degrees outside, so obviously that wasn’t happening.’ Writing Humour By knowing these forms of humour, and following these tips, you can learn to inject humour into your writing in a way that will both amuse your readers, and make your writing more memorable. 

22 Of The Best Writing Podcasts

If you’re a writer looking for some sound advice and a little inspiration, or perhaps you’re in the gloomy depths of your work-in-progress with no hint of light in sight, then I have some fantastic news for you. A plethora of incredible FREE podcasts await you! In this article, I’ll share some of the absolute BEST podcasts for writers. Whether you’re working on your first novel, have a few books under your belt, or if you’ve already been published, I have a novel writing podcast perfect for you.  Why Subscribe To Podcasts For Writers? As a writer who had her very first foray into the world of podcasts just a few short years ago (I’m usually late to the party), I’ve already learned a great deal from them. Not only do author podcasts provide much-needed insight and inspiration, episodes exist on nearly every topic imaginable.  Writing is often a solitary and difficult endeavour but hearing from other writers and industry experts reminds us we’re not alone. Good writing podcasts give us the tools and techniques we need to get the job done. And the best part is you can listen and learn while doing other things – driving, cooking, and walking the dog will never be boring again. Don’t know which writing podcasts are worth listening to? We gotcha covered. Read on… 22 Inspiring Writing Podcasts The Creative Writer’s Tool Belt Hosted by author and creative writing mentor, Andrew Chamberlain, The Creative Writers Toolbelt publishes new episodes bi-monthly, giving writers practical, accessible advice and encouragement. Each episode explores an aspect of creative writing technique, sharing plenty of examples, and allowing writers to immediately apply what they learn to their writing.  This fiction writing podcast also shares the occasional interview with writers or artists, exploring their wisdom on subjects like story, style, character, and writing process. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Podomatic. Minorities In Publishing Minorities in Publishing is the brainchild of publishing professional, Jenn Baker. As its name implies, this podcast focuses on diversity (or the lack thereof) in the book publishing industry. In each episode, Baker talks with other publishing professionals, as well as authors and other people involved in the literary scene.  Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Podbay.  Beautiful Writers Podcast Beautiful Writers Podcast is hosted by bestselling author, writing coach, ex-ghostwriter, and magazine editor, Linda Sivertsen. This podcast features up-close conversations with the world’s most beloved, bestselling authors about writing, publishing, deal-making, spirituality, activism, and the art of romancing creativity.  Episodes are heart-centered and encouraging with street-smart advice and insider success (and failure), featuring stories for every writer and creative type.  Listen on all American Airlines, in-flight entertainment systems, as well as iTunes, Spotify, iHeartradio, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, PlayerFM, Castbox, PodTail, PodbayFM, and ListenNotes.  My Dad Wrote A Porno The title of this podcast says it all! Imagine if your dad wrote an erotic book. Most people would try to ignore it—but that’s not what Jamie Morton did. Instead, he decided to read it to the world in this groundbreaking comedic podcast. With the help of his best mates, Jamie reads a chapter a week and discovers more about his father than he ever bargained for.  My Dad Wrote a Porno is quite simply sex scene-writing gold (lessons in both what and what not to do). Listen on Acast and Apple Podcast.  Create If Writing Podcast Create If Writing Podcast, hosted by author and writing coach, Kirsten Oliphant, is for any writer, blogger, or creative who wants to build an online platform without being smarmy. The episodes provide a balanced mix of inspiration and technical advice to help writers get their name out there.  Listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify. Between The Covers Feeling stuck? We’ve all been there. Between the Covers, hosted by David Naimon, might be just what you need. This literary radio show and podcast features in-depth conversations with both fiction and non-fiction writers, as well as poets. It’s been proclaimed by the Guardian, Book Riot, the Financial Times, and BuzzFeed as one of the most notable book podcasts for writers and readers around. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.  Dead Robots’ Society Dead Robots’ Society was created by Justin Macumber in an effort to offer advice and support to other aspiring writers. This podcast is currently helmed by Macumber, Terry Mixon, and Paul E. Cooley, all of whom have writing experience of some kind. The hosts produce weekly episodes, sharing stories of their individual journeys and discussing topics important to the world of writing.  Listen on PodHoster and Apple Podcasts.  Where Should We Begin While not your typical writing podcast, Where Should We Begin, hosted by therapist Esther Perel, provides behind-the-scenes counselling sessions of real couples. Listening to episodes can help writers better understand the resentments and hopes we all harbour and transfer these emotions over to their fictional writing.  Listen on Spotify.  Otherppl With Brad Listi Are you just starting your writing career? If so, then Otherppl with Brad Listi is the podcast to begin with. Weekly episodes feature interviews with today’s leading writers, poets, and screenwriters. The podcast has been described by NPR as “fun, quirky, and in-depth.”  Listen on Apple Podcasts, Podbay, or get the official free app. Please, Finish Your Book This is another great podcast for beginner writers. Brought to you by John P. Smith, Jr., Please, Finish Your Book is a case study as well as a celebration of how busy people were able to write and publish inspiring, educational, and/or entertaining books despite the distractions from other major priorities.  Listen on Apple Podcasts and Podchaser. Unpublished From Amie McNee Unpublished from Amie McNee is all about building a sustainable, creative life. This podcast delves into the many trials, tribulations, as well as the magic of being a writer seeking publication. It\'s a place to take your art seriously and where you can go to reflect on your own personal journey and build a thriving, creative practice.  Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  Grammar Girl Quick And Dirty Tips For Better Writing Do you struggle with the grammatical side of writing? If so, Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is the place to go. This podcast provides short, friendly tips to help you improve your writing and feed your love of the English language. Whether English is your first or second language, these grammar, punctuation, style, and business tips will help to make you a better and more successful writer.  Listen on Apple Podcasts. Guardian Books Podcast Looking to learn more about books, in general? Guardian Books Podcast, presented by Claire Armitstead, Richard Lea, and Sian Cain, shares in-depth interviews with authors from all over the world. The discussions and investigations make Guardian Books the perfect companion for readers and writers alike.  Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Writing Excuses Writing Excuses was one of the first writing podcasts I ever listened to, and it’s chock full of high quality, easily applicable advice. Hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Margaret Dunlap, Mahtab Narsimhan, Howard Tyler, and Dan Wells, this fast-paced, educational podcast airs short-ish episodes every Sunday evening. The hosts’ goal is to help listeners become better writers whether they write for fun or for profit.  Listen on Apple Podcasts.  Literary Speaking Literary Speaking is one of the top podcasts for aspiring writers. Hosted by Crystal-Lee Quibell, this podcast features conversations with best-selling authors, literary agents, publishers, and publicity firms. Answering questions such as: How do I establish a writing practice? Find an agent? Get published? Build a platform? Literary Speaking will help you discover all the tips and tricks.  Listen on Apple Podcasts.  Reading Women If you look back at the history of literary awards, few women have received the recognition they deserve. Reading Women reclaims the bookshelf by interviewing authors and reviewing books by or about women from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. This highly-acclaimed podcast releases new episodes every Wednesday. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify. First Draft First Draft is another one of my personal faves. Every Thursday, host Sarah Enni talks to writers and storytellers about their lives, their craft, and how the two overlap. First Draft has over a million downloads and was named one of Apple Podcasts Top 25 Podcasts for Book Lovers.  If you\'re a new or aspiring writer, you can learn about the traditional publishing industry by listening to the Track Changes miniseries on First Draft. Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  The Writing Community Chat Show Hosted by author Christopher Aggett, The Writing Community Chat Show was born out of Aggett\'s appreciation for the Twitter writing community. Episodes feature stories of indie authors, traditionally-published authors, and other professionals in the writing world. The podcast is unique in that their shows are live-streamed on YouTube before they are converted into a podcast. New episodes are produced twice weekly. Listen on Spotify, Podchaser, YouTube, and Apple Podcasts. The Honest Authors Podcast On The Honest Authors Podcast, bestselling authors Gillian McAllister and Holly Seddon answer all-important questions such as How do you get a book deal? Why does it take so long for a book to come out? and How many abandoned manuscripts does it take to finally hit a home run?  Once authors get published, they often have more questions than before! This podcast releases bi-monthly episodes with lively discussions, interviews with new and upcoming authors, as well as honest answers to all our burning questions.  Listen on Spreaker, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.  The Shit No One Tells You About Writing The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, hosted by author Bianca Marais, has a title no one will forget in a hurry. This podcast is for emerging writers looking to improve their work with an aim of publication, or anyone wanting a behind-the-scenes look at the publishing industry.  Marias interviews authors, editors, agents, publicists, copy editors, and many other types of professionals within the world of writing and publishing. She is also joined by agents Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra from P.S. Literary Agency who read and critique query letters and opening pages in their regular Books with Hooks segment. Listeners can expect good advice, honest insights, and a few laughs along the way.  Listen on Apple Podcasts. No Write Way Hosted by bestselling author, Victoria Schwab, No Write Way shares chats with writers about their creative processes, origin stories, hurdles, work-life balance, and how they write books. Episodes are replays of live video casts, but you can catch the interviews live on Instagram @veschwab.  Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.  Write-Off With Francesca Steele If there’s one thing every writer must face, it\'s rejection. Lucky for us, award-winning journalist and writer, Francesca Steele, talks to authors about their own experiences with rejection and how they manage to get past it on her podcast Write-Off. A must-listen for every writer! Listen on Spotify.  Best Writing Podcasts- It’s A Wrap I\'ve listed 22 of the best fiction writing podcasts available, but, of course, there are many more great ones out there, full of helpful writing quotes and tips. If you\'re new to the world of writing podcasts, I hope this list will inspire you to get listening and find a few literary faves of your own.   

How To Write A Story Pitch That Creates Intrigue

You’ve just typed ‘The End’ and you know that this story or article is hands down the best thing you have ever written. I believe you. I do. But before you go attaching your work and bashing out an email where you will tell the recipient that this story will take the world by storm, let’s take a little time to concentrate on arguably the most important part of your road to publication: Your story pitch. With submissions in publishing at an all-time high, with most agents receiving around forty to fifty submissions a day, the job of your story pitch is to (as quickly as possible) make your story stand out from the crowd. In this guide we will look at how to grab the attention of your pitch reviewer from the minute they open your email.  In just the opening line, we are going to make your reader sit up and take notice of your submission. Not only that, but we’re also going to tell them why it will sell, why they should pick your story above all the other submissions, using the example below of a story pitch template. So, before you go hitting that send button, let’s talk about why getting your story pitch right is important and what you need to do to get it right the first time. What Is A Story Pitch? A story pitch is a succinct way of explaining what your story is about, what makes it right for the person you are pitching it to, and why it will sell. Pitches are used throughout the publishing industry, be it journalists pitching to newspapers and magazines, screenwriters wanting the next hit on Netflix, or authors hoping to grab an agent’s attention with a view to bagging that all important publishing deal.  Regardless of where in the industry you are aiming to see your work, a good story pitch is vital if you’re hoping to break into this highly competitive market. Why Is It Important To Know How To Pitch Your Story? As a new writer, the question I most dreaded was, ‘What’s your story about?’ I would describe what happens at the beginning of the book, waffle on using words like, ‘oh and then’ and ‘meanwhile,’ and after five minutes I would see the person’s eyes glaze over. Publishers, agents, and booksellers do not have that time. Not only do you need to be able to pitch your idea quickly, but they will also need to when they try to sell it to publishers or bookshops. The good news is that if you can show them how easily your story will grab a reader’s attention from the onset, then you’ve just made their job a whole lot easier. How To Pitch A Story Right, so you have this killer story, you know it’s something special, so how on earth do you describe this masterpiece in just one line or, at best, a short paragraph?  The easiest way is to focus on the key elements of your story (for novel submissions, forget about your side characters and subplots for now, that will all become apparent in your synopsis). To hone your pitch, you need to concentrate on the key elements of your story, why it will fit that publishing establishment and why they need you. So, what does a good story pitch include? A hooky first lineA short paragraph describing your story by focusing on the key elements. For fiction these will be your protagonist - the event that upsets their world; what they hope to achieve and what is getting in their wayA popular comparison to explain genre, setting, themeA reason why your work will fit that establishmentCredentials explaining why they should work with you Simple right? But what if you’re not sure of the answers to these questions? Know Your Story Before you begin writing your pitch, you must be able to identify the key elements of your story. For a novel submission, here are five key components you must highlight when writing a good story pitch. 1. Your Protagonist The first thing a pitch reviewer will be asking is who is your protagonist and most importantly why should we be rooting for them? You might know the answer to this, but to pitch successfully, you need to tell that agent/publisher why your readers are going to want them to succeed. Unless we are rooting for them, why should we care what happens to them? Why would we keep turning the pages? Your explanation of your protagonist can be as simple as a bubbly hard-working woman called Helen who has never caught a break, or on the other end of the spectrum, we could have Rob, a grieving father who has tracked down the person who killed his daughter. 2. The Event That Upsets Their World Now we know and are championing your protagonist, what happens to push them out of their comfort zone and into a new world? This is very important because this is often where you will find the hook of your novel, the reason that a reader will have picked up your story from the shelf, the thing that screams out from the blurb. So, does Helen, the bubbly hardworking woman suddenly get offered the job of a lifetime? Or does Rob the grieving father kill the wrong person? 3. What Do They Eventually Want To Achieve? What Is Their Goal? Now we have your lovable protagonist thrown into a new world, what is it they want? Does Helen now want to leave the new high-pressure job? Does Rob want to atone for his mistake? 4. What Is Standing In Their Way? Next, what is stopping your protagonist from getting what they want?  Has Helen become tangled up in some dodgy dealings with her new employer? Does Rob’s victim’s family come after him? Now you know these answers, it’s time to show where your story fits in the market. 5. Compare Your Story Finally, and very importantly, what book can your story be compared to? Not sure? No problem, these comparisons can be a mix of literature, film or simply an author. It’s all about highlighting the story and the style of writing. Feel free to mix them up! The above examples could be ‘If Sophie Kinsella had written The Firm’ or ‘Dexter meets Gone Girl.’  Take some time to think about comparisons, your examples should reflect your genre, protagonist, and style.   Do Your Research Congratulations, you can now identify the key elements to your story and you have your comparisons ready - so what now? The first thing is to research the organisation you are targeting. Take some time to look at the novels on their lists, or if you’re pitching a magazine or newspaper check if they have published similar articles and when?  Follow Submission Guidelines I know you’re chomping at the bit to get your story out there, but a word of caution. Check the submission guidelines. If the agent/editor/magazine asks for a one-page synopsis, do not send them three. If they only accept email submissions, do not send them a hard copy. If you can’t find submission guidelines on their website, then contact them for clarification. Ensure A Clear Subject Line For Email Pitches Once again, make sure you comply with the submission guidelines. Often an agency will have an email address specifically for submissions; the most common format in this case would be to have your book title followed by your name in the subject line. Check what they are looking for. Engage With A Strong Opening Line Right then, here we go.  You’ve checked who you are sending your submission to and you have stuck to the guidelines - so now it’s time to grab their attention. Remember that first impressions count, so before you explain your idea in more detail, grab your pitch reviewer’s attention with the very first line. A good way to do this is by using the words ‘what if’ or ‘imagine’: ‘What if you landed your dream job only to find out that you couldn’t escape it?’ or ‘Imagine if your daughter was murdered and you knew where her killer lived.’ Within your first line you have grabbed their attention, pitched your hook, genre and shown your protagonist. Construct The Pitch Now is the time to expand your story pitch in a short paragraph revealing those all-important key elements:  ‘Imagine if Sophie Kinsella had written The Firm, this is what you get in my romantic comedy THE DREAM JOB where we meet Helen who…’ or ‘With shades of Gone Girl and Dexter, my psychological thriller I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE follows Robert Green, a grieving father who is set on a path of revenge when he finds out where his daughter’s killer lives…’  Provide Compelling Reasons To Publish You have their attention, they like your idea, so why should they consider your story for publication as opposed to the other pitches in their submission pile? Easy, you tell them!  You tell them where it sits in the market, which titles are similar but what makes your story stand out: Do you have an unusual protagonist? Is it set over the course of just one week? Or in a village during a power cut?  This is your chance to show them you know what you’re talking about and how this book is going to make them (and you!) a lot of money. Tell Them About Yourself You’ve done it, you’ve intrigued them - now they need to know about you. Tell them about your qualifications, your credentials and background but keep it brief.  If you haven’t got any qualifications, explain why you’ve decided to become a writer. If you have been published before, mention this and provide a link to any relevant online resources or profiles.  Thank Them For Their Attention Last, but not least, thank the pitch reviewer for their time and attention.  Always be polite and professional.  If you have established a positive professional relationship already, they may keep you in mind for future projects.  Story Pitch Template Excited? I am!  You now have all the tools to pitch your story - so here is a basic story pitch template to help you along the way: Subject line: Follow the guidelines for story pitches to agents/publishers. This will often be your book title followed by your name. Salutation: Be sure to address this to the correct person. If you are unsure who will read your submission, a simple ‘Hi!’ will suffice.Headline and Introduction: Start with a simple and brief ‘I hope this email finds you well’ then get straight to your one-line story pitch or headline, if you are approaching magazines/newspapers.  Make this as engaging and grabby as you can! For fiction, here is where you can use your ‘Imagine’ and ‘What if…’ sentence starters.Story Summary:  Make this a short, concise paragraph where you focus on the key elements to your story.Story Relevance: Explain who this story will appeal to, why it stands out from the crowd, why it will sell. Author Bio: Add your credentials, background, qualifications, or if this is your first foray into the publishing world, explain why; be passionate about your decision.Contact Details: Give details of how you wish to be contacted.  Make sure this is all correct. One typo in an email or missing number in your phone number could mean all the difference.Thanks: Thank them for reading your pitch, be polite, friendly and professional at all times (especially if you are rejected). Writing A Story Pitch And there we have it! I hope that this guide helps you understand the importance of your story pitch and what is needed to pitch successfully. 

‘Ghost Girl, Banana’: Wiz Wharton on choosing a publisher and staying true to your heart as a writer

We first met Wiz when the opening of her debut novel was longlisted for Friday Night Live at the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing. She went on to win our bursary for the Self-Editing Your Novel course, and after receiving six (!) offers, is now represented by the RCW Literary Agency. \'Ghost Girl, Banana\' was pre-empted by Hodder Studio and will be published as its major summer launch in 2023. Here, we got to chat to Wiz about staying true to your heart as a writer, the importance of a writing community, and more. JW: Tell us a little about your background as a writer. When did you start writing? WW: I was an absolutely voracious reader as a kid, and I think that naturally led me to think it would be something fun and easy to do as a job - haha! I remember when I was about six, I sent a hand-drawn children’s manuscript to Hamish Hamilton, called Tilly and the Flower People. It was about a gang of rebellious tulips plotting a coup against their greedy human nursery boss (don’t ask). One of the editors sent me the loveliest reply - a rejection, obviously, with two bits of advice: 1) Never send your original MS through the postal system and 2) Keep trying. I actually started my career in a different field, studying screenwriting at the National Film and Television School where I had the privilege of being taught by some of the greats like Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh and Ken Trodd. My graduation film won a couple of prizes on the international film circuit and from there I was picked up by the BBC. I subsequently worked on a few projects, but ultimately none of them were green-lit - another hard lesson in rejection! JW: What was the first piece of work you put through the submissions process? What was that like? WW: My first adult submission was for a novel that I believed sat firmly in the genre of literary/upmarket commercial. What I was subsequently told by two agents - who offered me representation - was that I’d written an “unintentional thriller” and could I please make it more of one! I absolutely love thrillers as a reader, but in my heart knew that this was not my natural home as a writer. I also knew that I was in this as a career rather than a one-book thing, and worried how I would follow this, having set up readers’ expectations of my work. As a result, and after much soul-searching, I turned down both offers and started again... Finding a community JW: How has having a community of writers around you helped with your writing journey? Do you have any advice for writers trying to find their community? WW: I think the best thing a writer can do - apart from reading everything you can get your hands on - is to find a group of people who understand you. For writers, that’s other writers because no one else can quite comprehend either why we do what we do, or the struggles of the journey. I was incredibly lucky to discover the Twitter writing community early on, especially the #VWG (Virtual Writing Group) who have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me going, but there are other outlets available too: in-person groups, creative writing initiatives/courses (like Jericho Writers!) Instagram and Facebook. The best way to find your tribe is to engage with others. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. It’s intimidating at first, but just say hi, offer suggestions to questions, enter competitions or things like #pitmad, #askagent and #WritersLift, or congratulate someone else’s achievements. By and large, the writing community is incredibly generous and inclusive, despite occasional pockets of unpleasantness, and you will be welcomed. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. JW: Tell us about Friday Night Live. What was that experience like? WW: I was a festival novice when I entered and didn’t think I had any chance of being longlisted, so it was wonderful to have that validation. And just entering a competition is an act of faith and bravery, so I have a lot of admiration for anyone that does it. I didn’t reach the shortlist of FNL but my experience with Jericho did lead to me winning the Self-Edit bursary that year, and being noticed in other competitions, so it’s definitely worth putting yourself out there. I will add that the quality and standard of teaching at Jericho Writers is wonderful, but if you can’t stretch to the cost of a professional assessment or a course, the Summer Festival of Writing is a brilliant, affordable alternative that gives you access to some of the greatest speakers and workshops on writing. The fairytale choice JW: You submitted to six agents and received four manuscript requests within an hour. You also received six offers! How did that feel? Was the process what you expected? WW: I’m still reeling, actually! It’s an enormous privilege and a thrill to have that response to your work, but I do think a lot of it came down to timing and a public appetite for more diverse stories. This wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’d been told previously that my writing was sound but my voice was too marginal for the market. Because of this, I was girding my loins for rejection again (and the famously long wait for a response), so to have that turnaround was a bit bewildering. I remember speaking to my friends in the #VWG and saying “X has asked for a meeting. What does this mean?” You always wonder “is this the call?” because sometimes it isn’t; sometimes it’s a request for a revise and resubmit (an “R&R”), but it just happened that all six offered representation. And as much as it was an absolute fairytale situation, I can’t even begin to describe the agony of making a final choice and having to turn people down. It felt really alien to me, and I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! JW: Rather unusually, you’re represented by two agents. What is your working relationship with them like? WW: I am incredibly blessed in that department. I have to say that the wonderful Claire Wilson is my primary agent at RCW and helps me day to day with absolutely everything, but Peter Straus has also taken me under his wing and emails me with incredible advice, offers editorial notes, or sometimes just emails to ask if I’m okay. It’s incredibly collaborative and nurturing, as is the whole agency. Claire’s assistant Safae and all at the foreign rights team are also majorly amazing. I’m working on that “difficult” book two now and Peter and Claire have both been brilliant in terms of their insights. JW: How did the offer from Hodder come about? WW: Claire drew up a submissions list for both the UK and US. We’d spent the previous five weeks rewriting the manuscript (twice) to try and make it as strong as possible before sending it out as we wanted to catch people before the summer break. The “nos” came quickly, and quite fast, but the fact they were all for different reasons helped me view them as subjective rather than a fault with the book itself. And that’s the thing. A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. Some of the editors were incredibly passionate about the book, but it fell at the acquisitions meeting stage for one reason or another. I do think there’s this misconception that only one person has to love your book for it to be published, but it actually takes a village to get to that finish line. Luckily, we did have a fair bit of interest from both here and in the US, but when I had my first meeting with Sara Adams at Hodder I knew instinctively that she was who I wanted to work with. First of all, she’d brought her lucky cat to the meeting (haha) but secondly, her whole team was on board already and loved the book. Most importantly, however, Sara understood the story to its bones which is crucial to me as a writer. We were immediately on the same page about what might need changing/tweaking whilst maintaining the heart and integrity of the novel. That combination was irresistible to both me and Claire. And can I just add that I am so glad to have had an agent at that point; not just for the professional connections but for the negotiations that took place after the offers came through. It was stressful enough handling the phone calls, let alone doing all the figures behind the scenes! A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. JW: Finally, do you have any tips for writers working on their debut right now? WW: In much the same way as any creative field, writing is a skill acquired over many years of dedication and training, and the journey is fraught with disappointment and “almost there”s. Keep the faith, but also keep reading and learning. No one can write your story your way, so as tempting as it is to compare yourself to others it’s also counterproductive to finding and loving your own voice. Your voice is what makes you special and uniquely qualified to tell your story. Write with your heart rather than with one eye on the market (you’ll always be behind the curve) and do it as if no one is looking. Find a support network of other writers and be generous and sincere in your praise. Connect with agents professionally and courteously and don’t trash talk on social media, even when you’re at your lowest. And if you achieve your dream, whether that’s finishing a book or being published, or being successfully published, don’t pull the ladder up after you. I wish you all the very best on the journey. About Wiz Wiz Wharton is a prize-winning graduate from the National Film and Television School. Previously published in non-fiction, she has appeared on various broadcast platforms, including radio, television, and print media. Her debut novel, Ghost Girl, Banana - based on her mother’s posthumously discovered diaries - is a dual narrative examining the search for belonging and identity, set between the last years of the Chinese Windrush in 1966 and Hong Kong’s Handover to China in 1997. Wiz currently divides her time between London and the Scottish Highlands. Read more about Wiz on the RCW website; or on The Bookseller. Connect with Wiz on Twitter: @Chomsky1

What Are Secondary Characters? How To Create And Develop Them

We’ve all done it; spent hours and hours defining the minutiae of our protagonists, even down to their favourite ice cream flavour and dream holiday destination. But what about the people who surround them? These secondary characters, also called supporting characters, are vitally important to our stories. They may even become the fan favourite: just think about the beloved Dumbledore or Shakespeare’s Mercutio. Secondary characters are frequently described as supporting characters because of the role they play. They are often supporting the protagonist and driving the story forward, for example acting as a sidekick or love interest. Or they are supporting the development of the protagonist’s character arc, acting as a foil or to build a character’s backstory. Secondary characters may even offer comic relief or carry subplots all of their own. There is no ‘hard and fast’ rule for how many characters there should be in a novel. Some novels make use of a vast cast of characters (think of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire); while others focus on a single protagonist. But even novels with a minuscule cast will still have secondary characters, even if we only meet them through flashback or another literary mechanism. What Is A Secondary Character? So, what are secondary characters? They are those in our stories who play a significant role, and appear in multiple scenes, but who are not the main focus of the primary plot. These supporting characters may be the focal point of their own subplots and so they are integral to the story as a whole.  Characters who only appear in one or two scenes, or who exist entirely on the periphery of the story, are unlikely to be secondary characters. Some characters exist only for a very narrow purpose: a waiter serving dinner, a taxi driver, a colleague who is seen only once. We often refer to these characters as tertiary. Why Do Secondary Characters Matter? Secondary characters matter because they add layers to our stories. When we read a book, of course we want to know what happens to the main characters, but we also want to see them as part of the wider world. Secondary characters provide that anchor and an opportunity to showcase a more complex fictional surrounding. One of the most useful things they do is offer our protagonists someone to talk to. It sounds so simple, but without someone to talk to, our protagonists may need to do a lot of pontificating, which is unlikely to feel particularly exciting for our readers!Secondary characters may also provide a subplot of their own to drive the narrative, solidify the themes, or provide a necessary change in pace. Think of the death of Rue in The Hunger Games; the reverence of Katniss’s memorial to her was in stark contrast to the high-octane action during that part of the story. How To Develop Secondary Characters The main thing to remember when creating secondary characters is that they are characters first and supporters second. They should feel like whole people who could step straight off the page, so we must avoid them becoming clichés, or even worse, being contradictory in order to progress the main plot. There is nothing more off-putting, or likely to throw us out of a story, than if a secondary character does something we know they wouldn’t, just to make a plot point work.   The best supporting characters will have all the things we expect from good primary characters: a clear arc, recognisable personality traits, and consistent points of view. So, how do we write brilliant secondary characters? First and foremost, remember that they are real people; they are the product of their life experiences, and this informs how they interact with the world around them and the other characters that meet them. Do we need to write them all a whole and elaborate backstory? No. But we do need to think of some of the key things they have been through that have shaped them. What about their hobbies, their families, their hopes and dreams, the little idiosyncrasies that make them unique?  Secondly, make them interesting and special. Secondary characters are a perfect opportunity to surprise our readers and grab their attention. Keep readers on their toes and they won’t be able to put the story down. These characters don’t have to be likeable, or sympathetic, so have some fun!   Make sure that the secondary characters have purpose within the context of the overall story. They need to be connected to the main narrative, even though that narrative doesn’t revolve solely around them as it does for the protagonist. Remember that old saying ‘kill your darlings’? Secondary characters must be necessary, they aren’t just an opportunity to pad a story with an unrelated back story or sub-plot. And if they are? Well, you know what you must do. When I’m planning my secondary and supporting cast, I create a character profile for each one to enable me to keep track. This includes their names, relationship to other key characters, age, sex etc. But I will also include other more interesting information: where were they at the turn of the millennium for example, although a more up to date example might be what they did during the first lockdown in 2020! These character profiles or bio templates can also be very helpful for making sure that our secondary characters are all unique and we don’t have multiple characters who are too much like one another. We don’t need as much detail for our secondary characters as for our protagonists, but we still need to ensure that are fully formed and feel real. A quick point on names: make sure they are also memorable. Most of us agonise over the names for our protagonists, ensuring it is perfectly suited to their personality and perhaps even finding something with a double meaning to the story. We must make sure our names for supporting characters are similarly suited to them and also that they are different from each other; there is nothing more frustrating as a reader than not knowing who is who because they are all called Dave! Dynamic Characters Dynamic characters are those who have a character arc and therefore change over time. This change may result from a significant crisis or from resolving a major conflict. Our protagonist and other major characters will undoubtedly be dynamic characters, but there is ample opportunity for us to make secondary characters dynamic too. Static Characters Static characters are the opposite of dynamic characters in that they do not change over time. They remain the same throughout the story, with no major transformation or evolution. They are often used to provide a contrast to the main characters’ journeys, especially to highlight the evolution of the protagonist. We can also use static characters to provide some lighter relief to the narrative. Round Characters Round characters are those who are complete and complex individuals. They are likely to have elements of their personality that contradict or provide inner conflict. We can craft these complex personality types to ensure that the reader connects more fully to our characters, as they are seen as more ‘real’. Flat Characters Flat characters are the opposite to round characters and are defined by just one main personality trait or characteristic. Flat characters are most useful as tertiary characters, those incidental people our primary or secondary characters interact with. These flat characters are likely to ‘blend in the background’ and so do not slow down the narrative.  Examples Of Secondary Characters We’ve talked about the types of secondary characters, but these supporting characters play a number of important roles too, including acting as companions, assistants, foils, roadblocks, and antagonists. The companion, or sidekick, is a secondary character who stands with the protagonist on their journey. They might be a love interest, a friend, a sibling, or just someone who goes along for the ride. They don’t even need to be human, there have been some great animal companions in literature, offering the protagonist company and someone to talk to, such as Buck in The Call of the Wild.  Some companions play more of an assistant role, offering help and guidance to the protagonist. Probably the most recognisable assistant in literature is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr Watson, without whom Sherlock Holmes would seriously flounder. Batman’s Robin is another great example.  Another significant supporting character role is the foil. The foil exists to contrast against the main character and therefore we can use them to highlight the qualities of the protagonist we wish to accentuate. JK Rowling used this technique to highlight the inherent good in Harry Potter by pitching him against Draco Malfoy. Draco also epitomises the naked ambition that is in direct contrast to Harry’s initial reluctance to see himself as the hero, which only makes us love him more. We often use secondary characters as roadblocks, using them to put challenges in our protagonist’s path. This may provide essential plot elements, or form part of the main character’s arc by providing opportunities for them to grow and change. How they react to these roadblocks may provide significant illumination about the main characters. In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Road, a father and his son are travelling by foot with all their possessions in a supermarket trolley. The man who steals their cart is an excellent example of a roadblock, this man’s actions may literally spell death for the father and his son. The father responds by tracking the man down and preparing to execute him, but instead leaves him alive, demonstrating that despite their prolonged ordeal, the father still wishes to model compassion for his son.Antagonists provide adversarial opportunities for our protagonists. We use them to generate conflict for the main characters. Antagonists are often the evil villain, such as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia or Mrs Trunchbull in Matilda. Don\'t Neglect Your Secondary Characters! As we’ve seen, secondary characters play a vital role in fiction. They are the companions, the villains, the ones who offer assistance, or the ones that put obstacles in the way. Without these supporting characters, our stories would feel flat, our plots less exciting, and our main characters less rounded. Just because they are described as secondary, don’t scrimp on the way you develop these characters. Make them believable and ‘real’ and they will really help to make your work leap off the page and keep your readers happy and engaged. Try making a list of every character in your story. How many of them are secondary? Now take each of these in turn and build a short character profile. You might want to consider their main characteristics. What kind of person are they? What is their role in the story? Are they round or flat, and does that work well? Are they dynamic or static?

What Is Purple Prose? Everything You Need To Know

In this guide we’ll look at the definition of purple prose and consider examples of its use. If you’re worried your writing is dangerously close to the purple zone, we’ll help you transform it into tight, effective prose that agents and editors will fall in love with. Purple Prose Definition Purple prose is flowery and ornate writing that makes a piece of text impenetrable. It is characterised by long sentences, multi-syllabic words, excessive emotion, and a plethora of clichés. It’s typically melodramatic and often too poetic. It’s frowned upon because it breaks the flow of a story, slows the pace, detracts from the text, and leaves the reader perplexed or, even worse, bored. It can pop up in patches throughout a story, or it can weigh down an entire novel. Purple prose is most likely to creep into your writing if you’re trying too hard to impress your readers by emulating the style of your favourite author. Or perhaps you’re just being a little over-zealous with your word choices.  We’re all guilty of over-embellishing our writing from time to time. We’re writers - we love words, so who can blame us for getting a little carried away when immersed in a powerful new scene? But if we want our writing to be taken seriously, we need to make sure we don’t go too far. Purple Prose Examples Many authors have been accused of the sin of writing purple prose over the years. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom\'s Cabin’ oozes mushy sentimentality, with sentences such as, ‘Even so, beloved Eva! Fair star of thy dwelling! Thou art passing away; but they that love thee dearest know it not.’ Even though it was written in 1852 when such contrivances were more accepted, this is still considered one of the most purple of the classic texts. Another great example is this short extract from Jim Theis’s 1970 fantasy novella, The Eye of Argon which seeps purple prose from every pore.  ‘Glancing about the dust swirled room in the gloomily dancing glare of his flickering cresset, Grignr eyed evidences of the enclosure being nothing more than a forgotten storeroom. Miscellaneous articles required for the maintenance of a castle were piled in disorganized heaps at infrequent intervals toward the wall opposite the barbarian\'s piercing stare.’ If you’re worried your writing might be tinged with too much purple, take a look at the following red flags, and read how to make your writing leaner and more readable. Purple Prose Red Flags: 1. Too Many Adjectives And Adverbs Writers love adjectives, but if used excessively they become a distraction, interfering with your story and making your prose a deep shade of purple. William Strunk and E.B. White, in The Elements of Style, say: ‘Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.’  Scrutinise every adjective in your writing and consider how it earns its place. If you can do without it, delete it. For example, if you’re describing a lawn, only use the word ‘green’ if that’s out of the ordinary. Or find a stronger noun that doesn’t need an adjective at all – for example ‘light rain’ could be replaced with ‘drizzle.’ And try to avoid using two adjectives if one will do, as increasing the number of adjectives before a noun severely reduces its clout and makes your prose even more purple. The same goes for adverbs. Does the drunk person ‘walk erratically’ or do they ‘stagger’? Pro tip: Use your thesaurus with caution. It will throw up all sorts of unnecessary distractions your story doesn’t need. Only use a thesaurus to help you recall known words. Good writers use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Cut them with care and decide if your sentences seem less purple as a result. 2. Excessive Sentence Length Every definition of purple prose highlights the excessive use of long, winding and overly dramatic sentences. By the time your reader has reached the end, they won’t remember where they began. The following example is by Victorian writer, Jerome K. Jerome in his book, Three Men in a Boat. He was writing at a time when authors were paid by the word, so perhaps we can forgive him for this lyrical, but rather convoluted and distinctly purple sentence. ‘The river—with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the grey-green beech-trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows o\'er the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to the lilies, wantoning with the weirs\' white waters, silvering moss-grown walls and bridges, brightening every tiny townlet, making sweet each lane and meadow, lying tangled in the rushes, peeping, laughing, from each inlet, gleaming gay on many a far sail, making soft the air with glory—is a golden fairy stream.’ Did reading that make you a little breathless? Be kind to your reader and keep an eye out for overly long sentences. Limit the number of clauses and play with length, mixing up shorter and longer sentences to give your writing a sense of rhythm.  3. Excessive Emotion Some authors unwittingly make their prose purple by sledge-hammering emotions onto the page, especially when describing a visceral reaction to a situation. Trust your reader to get it without telling them twenty times in twenty different ways. Of course, much depends on the genre of your writing. Romantic fiction readers will be more tolerant of a little emotional embellishment than steely-eyed crime fiction fans.  As you write or edit, think about whether the magnitude of the reaction matches the event. Will your main character’s breast heave that violently at the sight of her love interest? Or will Philip’s teeth really gnash and his brow drip with sweat on hearing that Sally has been promoted ahead of him?  Think of other ways to create authentic tension without resorting to purple prose. If you’re unsure how to go about this, identify the essence of your scene; what really matters? Make it exciting in its own right and don’t rely on flowery language to jazz it up. The story, not the distracting writing, should be the thing that grabs the reader’s attention. And if you’ve forgotten what’s going on, then so will your reader! 4. Generic Or Clichéd Images A reliance on clichés is considered the number one crime in creative writing, and for good reason. Clichés are lazy shortcuts to expressing an emotion or situation, suggesting the writer hasn’t been able to think up their own words. They’re old and boring and offer nothing to surprise or shock your reader. Examples of purple prose across the internet cite the deployment of clichés as a key feature. Every first draft will have the odd cliché skulking in its shadows, but if you spot one, get rid of it. And then say what you’re trying to say in your own words. Clichés will only hint at your inexperience, so be brutal and delete those tired old phrases without mercy.  If you’re struggling to spot clichés in your writing, ask a friend or beta reader to read it through or consider signing up for one of our creative writing courses to help you identify problem areas such as this. 5. Lack Of Clarity All of the above conspire to create writing that lacks clarity. Imagine for a moment you’re the reader of your book. You’re walking through a forest, surrounded by new and exciting sights, but as you progress, the path turns to mud. It sucks at your boots, slowing your pace. Brambles run their thorns along your bare arms and mosquitos nip at your cheeks. The birds screech, laughing at your sluggish progress. You’re desperate now to get to your destination, but come upon a patch of tall nettles. You beat your way through, your shins stinging …  I’m getting a little carried away here, but do you get my point? When a piece of prose becomes too purple, the overly-ornate text becomes an impediment to the reader’s progress and they’ll simply turn back and go home, or put your book down. As an author, it’s your job to take your reader by the hand and guide your reader to the end of the story without unnecessary hurdles to impede their progress. The following extract from Sean Penn’s debut novel, Bob Honey, is a perfect example of an author’s purple prose affecting clarity. Even though the book is a satire, the text is as impenetrable as my imaginary forest. “There is pride to be had where the prejudicial is practiced with precision in the trenchant triage of tactile terminations. This came to him via the crucible-forged fact that all humans are themselves animal, and that rifle-ready human hunters of alternately-species prey should best beware the raging ricochet that soon will come their way.” I think Mr Penn is trying to say something about hunting animals, but I really can’t be sure. So, how do you make sure your writing never lacks clarity?  Leave plenty of time between writing and editing so you can read your work with fresh eyes. Does it make sense? Do you understand what you’re writing about after time away from it? Is anything confusing? Think how you could make it clearer using the advice listed above. If you’re still not sure, ask a beta reader to help, or consider using our editorial services. It takes skill and experience to write with clarity, so remember, as you write, focus on your story, and keep your reader in mind. Do you really want them to battle their way through that forest, arriving battered and bruised at their destination, or would you rather they enjoyed the journey? How To Write Tight, Effective Prose Even if your writing isn’t that purple, or only purple in patches, thinking about the above will help your writing become tighter and more effective. Keep your reader in mind as you write. Ensure every word, sentence, paragraph and scene drives the story on. Pro tip: Take a narrow-eyed look at your dialogue tags too. Keep them simple, so if possible, use ‘said’. Nothing makes a reader cringe more than a character ‘blustering’ or ‘interjecting’. While you’re busy trimming your work, keep an eye out for modifiers too, like the word ‘very’. Find a better, stronger word, and your writing will be less purple because of it.  Professional, publication-ready writing is lean. The author has taken the time to cut unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags. Only the essence of the story remains, making the text easier to read because not one word is wasted.  Read more tips on writing perfect prose here. A Final Thought On Purple Prose Writing purple prose is a part of the writing journey, and we should never be ashamed to spot it in our work. But we need to learn to recognise it when we see it, and be brave enough to get rid of it. Experienced writers have learnt that the big idea is what makes something meaningful, not the language used to embellish it. The idea should always come first. Don’t try to be Daphne du Maurier. Be you. Play with language until you find your voice and then pare your writing right back until it gleams.

Freytag’s Pyramid: Understanding Dramatic Structure and Applying it to Your Own Narrative

What Is Freytag’s Pyramid? You might be familiar with the Three Act Structure, or the ‘Beats’ of Save The Cat, but have you heard of their predecessor, Freytag’s Pyramid?  Freytag’s Pyramid was the brainchild of Gustav Freytag, a nineteenth century playwright and novelist who liked to peer beneath the surface of his favourite plays – namely Greek tragedies and Shakespearean drama – and figure out how they worked.  He realised they all followed a distinct dramatic arc, which he plotted out in a pyramid for everyone to see. It’s one of the more popular dramatic structures that writers use, and likely the oldest. It consists of two halves, the play, and the counterplay, which together form a pyramid that contains five acts. These five acts are the introduction, rising movement, climax, falling action, and catastrophe. How Does Freytag’s Pyramid Work? As we just found out, Freytag’s Pyramid is formed by five acts: Introduction Rising action Climax (midpoint) Falling Action Catastrophe (denouement) In a nutshell, Freytag’s Pyramid works by giving writers a way to structure their story that makes it comprehensible to readers. Each act represents a different stage of conflict or tension. A little disclaimer here: this might not be a structure you’ll want to use if you’re writing a rom-com. Freytag was all about the tragic. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but Freytag’s Pyramid is in essence all about storytelling, and understanding it will help any aspiring novelist really nail their plotting, whatever their genre. Freytag’s Pyramid, Act by Act So that you can see the Pyramid in action, as well as explaining the acts, we’re going to use one of his most famous sources as our example. Namely the classic Shakespeare play, ‘Macbeth.’ Spoiler alert: everyone dies. Act 1: Introduction It’s always helpful to consider your reader when beginning your novel. Where are we? What’s going on? This is where you show us the world you’ve created and introduce us to your characters. Your first act also needs to tell us what situation your characters are in and it needs to end with the famous ‘inciting incident’ – the kick-off, the discovery, the moment everything changes.  In ‘Macbeth’ we see our anti-hero emerge victorious from war. We’re introduced to our other main players, Banquo, King Duncan, Macduff, Malcolm, and the most excellent of characters, Lady Macbeth. The inciting incident is the three witches putting the worm of ambition into Macbeth’s mind when they prophesy that he could be king… All hail, Macbeth. Act 2: Rising Action This is usually the longest act and it’s where things get meaty. The inciting incident will have set off a series of events that are building to the climax (or midpoint if you prefer). Obstacles that your character must overcome to get what they want will become more and more difficult. They will really have to strive. This is where we can start to learn about the motives of your creations – how far are they going to go to get what they desire? Why do they want it? Your protagonists might make bad choices in this act and get themselves into trouble. Maybe they’ll face danger from enemies, or they might even be the danger themselves. Or things could just be going really well because you know pride always comes before a fall. New characters can cause new problems, but all the elements in this section need to be raising the temperature.  Back to our Scottish friends. The Rising Action of ‘Macbeth’ is full of drama. Macbeth and his wife have plotted and schemed and actually murdered poor King Duncan. Not only that, but they’ve managed to get his sons to run away, making them look very guilty indeed. They’ve also bumped off some pesky guard witnesses. They knew what they wanted and they went to extremes in order to get it – they’re nearly there and things are looking good for them. Or are they? Act 3: Climax (Midpoint) This is the pointy bit of Freytag’s Pyramid, where all the lovely tension has been leading up to so far. From this point on, in our tragedies at least, it’s a race to the bottom. Unlike in other dramatic models where the power scene is at the end (think Battle of Hogwarts or Frodo at the crater of Mount Doom) this instead is a crisis in the middle of the narrative. It was all going so well, but now it’s time to pull the thread that will cause everything in your characters’ lives to unravel.  As for Macbeth, he’s done it. He’s finally been crowned King; his ambition has peaked. Unfortunately, he has also sent some frankly useless assassins to get Banquo, and they’ve let his son escape to tell the tale. And this is before the ghost of poor murdered ex-King Duncan turns up at the coronation banquet and terrifies Macbeth so badly that his lords think perhaps, he’s not such a great kingly option after all. Down we go into Act 4, the Falling Action. Act 4: Falling Action It’s important to know here that ‘falling’ does not necessarily mean winding down – rather once you’ve crossed the point of no return, the protagonists star is falling where it was rising before. It can and should still be full of tension and anticipation. We know the final catastrophe is coming, and we can’t tear our eyes away from the inevitability of it all. This is where you can tidy up some of the plot points that began in Rising Action, and reveal some of the secrets you might have hidden away. You can throw in some hints at hope to make us think maybe everything will be okay if you want to add some suspense, but this is a tragedy template after all. We know it won’t end well.  Back in Scotland, it’s all going terribly for Macbeth. The witches have conned him into thinking he’s invincible, he’s slaughtered his friend’s family in an attempt to strengthen his hold on the throne, and his enemies are coming. Oh, and Lady Macbeth has driven herself to the edge with guilt. Out, damned spot! Act 5: Catastrophe (Denouement) And here we are, all is undone, your character has brought themselves, or been brought, to an ultimate low. It’s the end of the road. This act ends in a roundup of what happens next – if anything – and it’ll be up to you whether there’s a glimpse of redemption or happiness to be had. If this is the case, your final act is a denouement rather than just a catastrophe. If you’re Freytag, it’s catastrophe all round, as per Macbeth, who really has messed everything right up. Wild ambition is bad, guys, keep away from those daggers.  At Glamis, enemies have crept on the castle hiding behind branches, Lady Macbeth is dead, and all Macbeth can think about is the utter meaningless of life. It’s his own fault really, and it’s almost a mercy when untimely ripped Macduff ends his suffering, and Malcolm is made king, restoring the correct order of things. Some Final Thoughts on Freytag’s Pyramid... While this is quite a specific structural template, it has its uses across the board of writing fiction. The idea of the central reversal, a rise, and a fall can really give an emotional hit to a narrative, especially if you have a relatable and sympathetic character in mind. Even Lady Macbeth, who essentially convinces her husband to commit regicide, is doing so out of misguided love for him. We can kind of understand that, and there’s satisfaction in seeing the story resolve itself, even if it is tragic. This pyramid structure really lets you explore the classic human pattern of desire and denial, and what happens when you lose yourself in pursuit of something impossible or wrong. It also provides a helpful way to think of your novel in the sense that each scene needs to be one side of the pyramid – your characters are either pushing the boundaries to breaking point, or they’re suffering the consequences and likely making things worse. This can help you balance your narrative. You could also skew the pyramid if you don’t want to go full-Gustav. In this interpretation, the catastrophe becomes more a resolution of sorts where your character survives the disaster in a slightly better shape than they started out despite their misbehaviour – they learn their lesson. Obviously, this was not the case for poor old Macbeth who really should have been happy with what he had. There are more modern ways of approaching structure that you might be interested in reading about, be that using character arc templates or thinking about different methods of plotting, but Freytag’s Pyramid is a classic and seamless way of structuring a tragedy. If it worked for Shakespeare it can work for us, right?
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