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How To Include Backstory In Your Novel

Backstory is a brilliant tool when creating well-rounded characters. Read any writing guide and it will tell you the importance of creating three-dimensional characters, because readers want to know what makes a character tick.   The problem is, in our excitement to share our character’s backstory, we are often tempted to spill all of this out in our first chapter. It’s a common mistake, but too much backstory, too soon, will slow down your pace and draw the reader away from your plot. It’s like presenting your reader with a mouth-watering cake, but before you give them the fork, you explain the entire baking process when all they want to do is get stuck in.   So let’s take a closer look at the meaning of backstory and how by doing it right, your reader will be able to have their cake and eat it too. What Is A Backstory? In a nutshell, the backstory is everything that has happened to your character before the novel begins. This can be revealed by:  Exposition – simply telling the reader about the past Flashbacks – where the reader is thrown back in time into the mind of the protagonist when the event occurred Reflection – where the character ‘thinks’ about the past while doing something else  Dialogue – when a conversation explains past events  Sometimes, your protagonist doesn’t always know all of their backstory beforehand; some of the best novels reveal parts of a character’s backstory to the character, not just the reader.  Backstory impacts everything in your novel; who your character is, where they come from, why they react the way they do and ultimately your plot. Think about your own backstory, and the events that shape the person you are. All of your own backstory will impact the decisions you make, your view of the world and your reactions to certain events.  Knowing your characters as well as you know yourself, and transferring this quality, is what makes a good story. Give your characters authenticity and make their decisions realistic. The reader doesn’t need to know everything about them though, just as your friends and family don’t need to know everything about you.  Steven King said: ‘The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.’  How To Create A Character Backstory Now we understand what a backstory is, let’s look at how to create a good backstory. There are many examples through literature that do this well, from The Great Gatsby to A Christmas Carol.   Something to also consider is how for actors, knowledge of backstory is imperative in order to represent the characters they are playing better, which is why it’s just as important for you as a writer to know your character’s motivation. After all, aren’t we all acting out our character in our heads?   A good example is the hugely successful Star Wars.  In Star Wars we have Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill portrays the character at the beginning as humble and bored with his life. He does this by portraying his impatience and by revealing his ambitious nature (just like his father, but he doesn’t know that yet!). It’s also a great way of seeing how effective it is to keep some backstory hidden from the characters as well as the viewers.   George Lucas would have known from inception that Luke was fathered by Anakin Skywalker who we then discover is the big baddie, Darth Vader. Imagine if this had all been blurted out in the first few scenes … there would have been a lot less excited kids in the cinema, that’s for sure!    With Luke’s discovery of this and his journey to becoming a Jedi, we see his character evolving as we discover more of his backstory. This is a really good way of seeing how effective a slow backstory reveal can be. In fact, a whole other series of films was built on Anakin’s backstory and the events that led up to the original film.   So, how can you create a compelling backstory for your characters?  Tips To Write Compelling Character Backstories The best way to write a compelling backstory is to really dig deep into your character’s experiences and, most importantly, make them interesting (take a look at our guide on creating character bios). Nobody wants to read a lot of backstory about a protagonist hanging out the washing on a day it rained, unless fetching it in meant they were late for picking up their child who was then abducted!  There are many ways to write compelling backstories, but here are a few ideas to help you:  Create a timeline for your character focusing on important life events. Sketch out small snapshots of their life around the time of these events – such as a diary. Writing a diary page can really help you step into your character’s shoes. Fill it with small details of your character’s likes and dislikes, friends, their favourite foods, books, films, songs, sayings, pieces of nostalgia around the time of the events. Your character’s likes and dislikes may change throughout their life. They may have loved a certain song around the time of a happy or sad event but now can’t stand it. This could trigger a reveal for this part of your backstory if it was heard on the radio at a key point in your story. Identify formative events which are relevant to your work. A near-death experience or an embarrassing moment, which dented your character’s confidence, could then be the crux that holds your character back later in life. Use real-life experiences. If you lost your parents in a busy shopping centre at Christmas when you were a small child, use this! It may have put you off large crowds or busy shopping centres. Maybe you forgot your lines in a school play once and it’s left you terrified of public speaking as an adult. There are so many experiences in our lives that impact our actions. So take some time to examine what it is that makes you, you. A reader will often feel a greater connection when a writer has used genuine experiences, because the chances are you will use something that others have experienced themselves.  Do all of this with the knowledge that you will not need all of it in your novel. Much like a marinade, all these ingredients won’t go in the dish…you are just adding nuance and enhancing the flavour!  How To Include Backstory In Your Novel   The most important element to consider when including backstory is deciding when and where to reveal your information. Ask yourself what the backstory achieves, if it is necessary and why it needs to be revealed at that stage in your novel. Use backstory to your advantage, to reveal snippets to gain empathy from a reader, to explain a reaction to a situation, or to add a reveal or twist to your plot. Know When To Reveal Your Backstory Going back to drawing good writing from personal experiences, let’s say you almost drowned as a child and your friend invites you to an all-expenses-paid cruise. The idea horrifies you, your fear of water is something you never talk about, but in the circumstances, you may decide to reveal this past experience to explain your reaction to the invitation.   It’s exactly the same when revealing backstory for your characters. Let’s say you are at a cocktail party; the atmosphere is lively, and a funny anecdote is being told by a peer. Would you suddenly jump in with this long and detailed story of how you almost drowned as a child? Of course, you wouldn’t, it would feel inappropriate.   Revealing backstory in a novel should be the same as in life, it should be prompted by real-time events, songs, smells, or something that evokes that memory.  Don’t Overload The Reader With Backstory Early On One of the most common mistakes I find, when reading first drafts, is opening chapters overloaded with backstory. We are living during a time where there is an abundance of published books hitting the shelves and with the surge in digital versions at low prices, it’s more important than ever to grab your reader’s attention from the first few pages.   It’s fine to add a small amount of backstory within these chapters, but keep them short. If you overload the reader with unnecessary information about a character they don’t yet know and love, your pace will fall flat very early on, and you may lose your reader before you’ve shown them the real beauty of your novel.   Focus on the best places to reveal your backstory in small digestible pieces to avoid your reader becoming overwhelmed with information.  Action Verses Backstory Once you’ve written your first draft, go through your chapters and highlight the ‘action’ happening in real-time in yellow, then the ‘backstory’ – whether it is reflection or a flashback – in green. If you can see a large amount in green, you will be able to see just how much you are pulling your reader away from the contemporary plot and pace of your story.   Go through this section carefully, be hard on yourself and ask if it is all needed, especially if this is early on in your novel. One rule of thumb is to remember this saying: ‘If in doubt, leave it out.’   Show Don’t Tell When you have identified essential backstory, try not to ‘tell’ it all to the reader. Although there are times where exposition works, it must be written incredibly well to keep the reader engaged.   Show don\'t tell is one of those phrases that we use a lot in writing, and this is one of those instances that it really applies. Show and tell is all about balance, both are needed, but when backstory is involved, the more you show rather than tell, the better, because it keeps the reader in the ‘now’. You can do this either through dialogue, or by your character’s actions, or both!   For example, you could show the reader a character wearing an expensive suit, stepping up to a podium in front of a hundred people, beginning their speech with an unwavering smile: ‘When I was five, I wore hand-me-downs and had a stutter…’ Yes, I’m ‘telling’ in the literal sense, but here, I’ve shown my character’s backstory. You now know a) that my character is confident and doing well financially (or so it would seem!) b) they have overcome adversity and c) they used to have a stutter and were poor; all of this information is passed on quickly through an active scene. If I told this backstory, the ‘action’ would be paused, my reader would be pulled away, while leaving my ‘present’ character inanimately hovering at the edge of the stage.   Is Your Backstory Actually Plot? If you’re reading this and have realised that you have a huge amount of interesting and relevant backstory to add to your novel, without which your story wouldn’t work, consider if this is actually a good plotline in its own right. If it is, set these scenes in the past and punctuate them throughout your story. That way, you can still reveal backstory in active scenes, rather than as flashbacks or reflection. As long as it really is relevant and interesting, it should continue to push your plot forward rather than dragging the pace behind. Wrap Up So there we have it. I hope by reading this, you can see how important writing a compelling backstory is, and how revealing your important and exciting information at the right time will help make your novel as exciting as you know it can be. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Metaphors Dos and Don’ts

Everyone has heard of metaphors, it’s something most people are taught at school, but are they still relevant to your writing? Yes.  Undoubtedly, metaphors enhance your writing, whether you’re penning a novel, short story, poem, or an English assignment. But to use them effectively, it’s important to fully understand what metaphors are in terms of definition, how to not confuse them with similes, and understanding all the different ways they can strengthen your work with examples. In this article I will guide you through everything you need to know about metaphors, so you too can feel confident using this literary device to enrich your writing.  What is a Metaphor? A metaphor is a comparison between one thing and something else with similar qualities, providing the reader with a visual image that can be stronger in meaning than further description.  For instance, I could write a description of someone with long hair by simply saying they have long hair. Or I could use a metaphor and say, ‘Her hair was a flowing golden river’. This second option invokes the image of long, blonde flowing hair tumbling over her shoulders the way water runs over rocks in a river. The reader is more likely to remember the character and perhaps imagine them as someone they know.  Metaphors also reduce the need to include paragraphs of description or explanation. ‘The World is a stage,’ will have varying meanings for people. Generally, it creates the idea of performing as an actor in your own life. This says a lot (metaphorically speaking) in just a few words.   When you’re trying to hook the reader and make them see the story the way you do, metaphors can draw the reader in while keeping the story flowing. Too much description detracts from the story and loses readers’ attention. You don’t want to take your reader out of the action.  By using metaphors, you can capture an image, feeling, or experience in just a few words. When a reader already has pre-existing knowledge of the comparison, they will be able to fill in the blanks to get a fuller picture.  When used sparingly, metaphors give readers something to think about. Once the words are on the page, we have no further control in how the reader will interpret the metaphor’s meaning, so something which is universally understood has more impact.  Difference Between a Simile and a Metaphor  Metaphors and similes both use comparisons to provide a clearer image for readers, in a more creative way than a straightforward description. Analogies can also be used to do this.   Analogy vs Metaphor: An analogy is still a comparison, but uses a combination of simile and metaphor, and contains more information. One example would be, ‘Her hair whipped backwards and forwards in the wind like an out-of-control river’. It gives a fuller picture of the scene.  So, what\'s the difference between a simile and a metaphor? A simile uses the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare, so would be less direct than a metaphor, but shorter than an analogy. An example of this would be ‘Her hair was like a turbulent river’. A metaphor would shorten this with, ‘Her hair was a turbulent river’. If you ever need to stick to a strict word count, while saying the same thing, the shorter metaphor is one way to help reduce the word count, without losing any of the story.  Although all similes are metaphors, not all metaphors are similes.   If you find yourself asking ‘how are similes and metaphors different?’ Here’s a simple answer:  An indirect comparison is used in a simile, while both make it clear the person or object is being compared to something else.  A metaphor – uses ‘is’ to compare.  A simile – uses ‘as’ or ‘like’.  Another example of a metaphor is, ‘Their home was their prison’. A simile would be ‘Their home was like their prison’. If you’re wondering how an analogy would be used to say the same thing, here is an example. ‘After being trapped in their house for weeks, the rain continued to fall and their home became their prison.’   It gives more information, but also uses more words. And, like with any good analogy, a writer may take their comparison further and add more metaphors to emphasize the point - ‘But there was no visiting hours, no one had come to call for days. They wondered when they would ever be able to escape their confines.’   Very dramatic, and perhaps a bit overkill, but you get the point.  What is a Mixed Metaphor? If you’ve used metaphors before, or researched it for your writing, you may have heard of a mixed metaphor. The simplest explanation is two metaphors used together, which you wouldn’t normally associate with each other. Generally, they don’t work in serious writing. However, if used in the right context, they can work well together despite the contrast.  If you want to be creative and write some of these yourself, remember they are often humorous so use sparingly. They work less well in serious fiction or poetry.   Here are some mixed metaphor examples.  Homework was a breeze, but the new teacher was a thorn in my side. I’m talking to a brick wall here. Do you have a heart of stone? He was a mighty lion, but now he’s a lame duck. That’s music to my ears, let’s blow off some steam to celebrate.  While these are unlikely to be suitable for literary fiction, they could suit a character who constantly talks in mixed metaphors (if that’s part of their personality and it fits with the story).   What is an Implied Metaphor? There are several types of metaphors, and implied metaphors take the idea of comparison a little further, by comparing people or things in a subtle way. Unlike other metaphors, these imply a comparison without specifically mentioning one of the things being compared. These rely on using a well-known trait, so the reader guesses what is being implied.  To help you understand, here are some examples: With his tail between his legs, he ran away. (Comparing a man to a scared dog without mentioning the dog, but the description is enough to inform the reader of the implied comparison.) She slithered around my boyfriend all night. (A jealous girlfriend using a well-known trait of a snake, to describe her potential love-rival.) The news crew circled the scene. (Comparing the news crew to a pack of vultures who typically circle their prey before swooping in.)  By using these animals as comparisons, readers will automatically associate the animals’ characteristics in relation to the subject (i.e. the girl is hunting the other woman’s boyfriend like a snake, she’s deadly, she may be poisonous to their relationship, she’s silent, dangerous, and unlikeable).  Once you understand what implied metaphors are, they are easy to use, and you can add them to your writing in a way the average reader will barely notice. In fact, now you’re aware of implied metaphors, you may notice their usage if you look out for them in the next book you read.  How to Use Metaphors By using metaphors, you can vary your descriptions and the visual images you’re trying to create. Some of the best metaphors can be those which people don’t notice, if they’re immersed in your written words.  But why are metaphors used?   Metaphors are used when the writer wants to bring their work to life in a fresh and creative way. Many readers say when they read a great book, they can see the characters and the actions playing out in their mind. This can be achieved by using metaphors here and there.  Metaphors aren’t just used in writing novels and short stories, though. A lot of poets make use of metaphor to express a thought or feeling on a deeper level. If done right, poems can have two meanings.  An example of this is one of my own poems, Winter Trees. This is about aging and missing the advantages of youth, while overlooking the things which weren’t so great about being young.  This is expressed in the following lines:  ‘Decorated in baubles and winter soldiers.  I used to be pretty too, think the winter trees.’  The first line above shows how the speaker views the younger people around her, and the second line shows how she misses that beauty in herself. The full poem is an implied metaphor, but on the surface can be interpreted as a poem about trees.  If you’re looking for a guide on how to create a metaphor, check out this more well-known example of metaphors as poetry in ‘Metaphors’ by Sylvia Plath. Metaphors: Do Switch between different kinds of metaphors in your writing. (This will vary your writing style and keep your writing from becoming repetitive.) Use sparingly. (Nobody wants to read pages of metaphors.) Go with the second or third metaphor you think of. (The first one is likely to be overused.) Use a comparison in your metaphors which readers will understand. (You want your readers to have an immediate understanding of what you’re trying to say.) Use a metaphor which fits with your writing. (Something which doesn’t fit will jolt the reader out of the fictional world you’ve created.) To get used to metaphors, spend time comparing objects in your home, or people you know, to other things. (This will help you see common and not so common comparisons.) Look for metaphors in poetry and stories you read. (This will show you how common they are, and judge what works or doesn’t work, so you can apply them to your own writing or avoid the same mistakes.)  Metaphors: Don’t Don’t clutter the page with them. (They will lose their impact. Less is more when it comes to metaphor usage.)Don’t use them if you know they will weaken the description rather than add to it. (They should blend seamlessly into your writing. Use whatever works best for each description.) Avoid mixed metaphors if writing something serious. (These can make your writing seem humorous or silly, and if you’re writing an emotional scene, this can make light of an otherwise serious issue.) Don’t use cliches or overused metaphors. (Again, unless the aim is to be funny or silly, it can ruin the mood you’re trying to create.) If a metaphor will detract from the story, don’t use it. (Everything about your writing should add something to the story.) Don’t be afraid to experiment. (Even if you never use them, if you’re new to metaphors, the best way to improve is to practice.)  Time to Practise Some Metaphors I hope you have found this guide helpful when it comes to the effective use of metaphors. There are lots of different types to choose from in your writing, and each one has its uses. By choosing the right metaphor, you can create powerful and engaging writing. To practise, go through a story you’ve already written (or write a new one) then change some of the description by using metaphors instead. Compare the two pieces and ask yourself which is more engaging. Time to take a giant leap off the metaphoric edge and spread those writing wings!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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What Genre Is My Book?

A few weeks ago, I was asked what I do for a living. When I said, ‘I’m an author,’ the gentleman said, ‘Oh, what do you write? Crime?’  ‘No, romantic comedies.’  ‘What, like Dame Barbara Cartland?’  ‘Er, no. She wrote historical romance.’  ‘So not like that E. L. James either then?’  ‘No. She writes erotica.’  He looked disappointed by this and sloped off, presumably to go and lose himself in a gritty murder or a rampant bodice-ripper.  What is a Book Genre? So what genre is your book and how would you describe it?  In simplistic terms, a genre is the category or style of a book - for example, romance, crime or horror. It comes from the French word, for ‘type.’ In essence, it describes the type of story being told.  There are many book genres, ranging from dystopian to horror (more on that soon) but two of the most popular book genres, in terms of sales figures right now, are romance and crime.  Bestselling names in the romance genre include authors such as Danielle Steele and Sophie Kinsella, whilst for crime, authors such as Ian Rankin and Martina Cole reign supreme.  Romance has an enduring, escapist appeal and has seen a huge variety of its authors and titles consistently topping the bestseller charts for a number of years. The tales of love overcoming adversity, sometimes whilst in sun-soaked climates, set in sprawling castles or with a good dose of humour, continue to enchant and enthral readers of all ages and from a wide demographic. Romance Subgenres But, to make things more complicated, there are also subgenres within each genre. As my Cartland vs E. L. James example shows above, just because there’s a lot of kissing in two different books doesn’t mean the reader is going to get the same kind of romance in both. So, when looking at genre, it’s important to also consider subgenres. In romance, the subgenres are plenty – often crossing over into other genres:  Romantic comedyParanormal romance Fantasy romance Queer romance Christian romance Young adult romance New adult romance Historical romance Regency romance Contemporary romance Erotic romance Romanic suspense  The list goes on…and, much like love itself, there’s something for everyone.  Crime Subgenres But readers, and authors, don’t always stick to enjoying just one genre. As I’m an author of romantic comedies, you won’t be surprised to learn that romance is my favourite genre, but I am in no way adverse to any others. I have just finished reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, an often dark thriller about a married woman having an affair, who then finds that her ex-lover begins to stalk her.  As most writers know, reading across all genres helps hone your craft enormously.  In recent times, crime and thriller novels have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Perhaps due to the odd times we are living in, it is the appeal of good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, which explains why so many readers are keen to lose themselves amongst their pages.  Cosy crime, described as a gentler form of the crime genre, has also seen a massive rise in readership in recent times. Authors like Richard Osman and M.C Beaton are hugely popular in this book category.   Let’s look at some more crime and thriller subgenres:  Cosy mysteries Classic detective/PI Police procedural Hard-boiled crime Thrillers (legal, medical, forensic, military) Suspense thriller Psychological thriller  Book Genre List There are frequent debates as to how many different book genres exist. During my research for this article, I read claims that there were approximately thirty-five varying book genres, whilst other articles insisted there were around fifty.   I have therefore pulled together a book genre list (excluding subgenres) which I consider to be the most prominent ones – with some details as to how they may be defined. Fantasy Categorised by works including elements of magic or the supernatural. This can encompass high fantasy, like Tolkien\'s Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin\'s Game of Thrones, or magical children’s books, like Rowling\'s Harry Potter. But it also includes steamy novels like the fae-filled series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Sci-Fi Sci-fi stands for ‘science fiction,’ meaning it looks at outer worlds with a heavy leaning towards space, technology and science. Think aliens, time-travel or exploration to other planets. This includes anything from Star Wars to Ernest Cline\'s Ready, Player One. Speculative Fiction This can encompass all the above – basically anything with a twist of magic – but can also include fabulism and magical realism. That’s to say stories based in our world (past or present) with a hint of magic. Think Chocolat by Joanne Harris, or The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Horror When you say ‘horror book’ most people think of Stephen King – for good reason. Horror is known for its frightening, often graphic, elements and paranormal elements. Anything from The Shining to The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. A subgenre of this is Gothic books, such as the classics Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Brontë\'s Wuthering Heights – think eerie and spooky, more than blood, guts and monsters.  Mystery Fiction that includes a mysterious occurrence and a gripping plot to be solved. This can include a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’, or bestselling novels like Flynn\'s Gone Girl.  Crime Stories that incorporate a crime being committed and illustrate the protagonist’s struggle to solve it. Think Lee Child, P. D. James, and Martina Cole.  Historical Books defined by a time period from the past. Fictional stories based in a historical setting such as the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn or Gabaldon\'s romantic Outlander novels set in eighteenth century Scotland. Or many of the books by Tracey Chevalier or Philippa Gregory.  Thriller A step up from Mystery, more edge-of-your-seat stuff, this fiction is often charged with lots of excitement. For example, a life-or-death scenario, huge stakes, cliff-hangers and action. Think of all of Dan Brown’s books, or modern classics such as Hawkins\' Girl on the Train or Larsson\'s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Western Fiction focusing on the American Frontier. Genre usually set in latter 19th and early 20th century, centred around the lives of cowboys and gunfighters. Although more modern stories, such as Proulx\'s Brokeback Mountain (as the tale of two cowboys falling in love set against the backdrop of bigotry and judgement) was a huge hit when it won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1998, and then went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster.  Romance Romantic relationships are at the heart of this genre (if you’ll pardon the pun!) Stories may follow various tropes including star-crossed lovers, love triangles, unlikely lovers, and soulmates. As we saw earlier, it can reflect anything from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes to Jackie Collins\' works. Erotica Fiction designed to arouse the reader with explicit sexual scenes and imagery. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was the highest grossing book series of the last decade.  Dystopian Part of the science-fiction genre, dystopian novels usually describe a frightening aspect of the future, such as oppressive governments. Think Sweeney-Baird\'s The End of Men, Atwood\'s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mandel\'s Station Eleven. Literary Literary fiction concentrates on real-life issues and, unlike commercial fiction which is plot-driven, this form of storytelling is a lot more character-driven. It also often has a more complicated or convoluted story structure, using a more complex vocabulary. Sally Rooney has had great acclaim in this genre with her books Conversations With Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World, Where Are You.  Children\'s Fiction This is a broad subject that includes everything from picture and board books for very young children, through to Middle Grade and Young Adult. Classic Middle Grade authors would include Roald Dahl, and more contemporary novels would include Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Sophie Anderson\'s The House With Chicken Legs, and The boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. These books are written predominantly for 9-12 year olds, and often cover important life lessons.   Likewise, Young Adult (for 13-18 year olds) is very varied in style, themes and content, and includes books such as Angie Thomas\' The Hate You Give, Suzanne Collins\' The Hunger Games, and They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera.  Why is Genre Important? You might ask yourself whether the question of book genre really matters. Surely it’s the plot and characters that are important, not the category?   Well, genre does matter as it acts like a building block to establish where your book will sit in the market and what readership it’s likely to attract.  By having an awareness of what genre your book is, you’re able to carve out not only your own unique voice, but also an audience who enjoys reading that genre of novel. You are enabling your readers to identify your book as one which they will enjoy reading.   Being able to neatly categorise your book into a particular genre means you’re creating a strong author brand in a genre where other authors have already established themselves. You’re creating a foundation for (hopefully) solid book sales and letting agents, editors, booksellers, and readers know what to expect from your work.  For a book to therefore become successful, the writer, reader and marketer must all possess the same vision and understanding of what the story is and how it’s being told.  Agents and Editors It also makes prudent sense to have identified what book genre your novel is, when the time comes for you to pitch to agents and publishers. Targeting the right publisher and agent for your work, via the genres they publish and represent, means that you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving representation and publication.   I once read a great quote from an agent who said, ‘Imagine yourself in a lift with the agent of your dreams. You have ten seconds to pitch your latest novel to them before they get out. How would you describe it to them?’ This elevator hook or pitch should draw in the agent, enticing them to ask for your manuscript. It would also, if it has done its job properly, give them an idea of where your book would sit alongside their current authors and in the market generally.  For instance - sending your completed manuscript to an agent who represents science fiction, when you have penned a rollercoaster 110k word espionage tale, is a waste of not only your time, but also that of the agent.  Booksellers and Librarians When someone is looking for a book, the first thing they do is head for the shelves categorised by genre. If the genre of your book isn’t clear, and it’s wrongly categorised, then it won’t reach your ideal market. Your Readers Establishing an author platform in the book genre you write in means you stand a good chance of readers of that genre returning for more. It’s therefore essential to create a certain anticipation in your prospective readership, so they know what they can expect from you. This is why authors often write in just one genre – and don’t spread out into others without either waiting to become very established or writing under a number of pseudonyms.  How to Identify the Genre of Your Book To increase your novel’s chances of success, you, as the author, together with your publisher, agent and marketing team, should have a certain expectation as to where your book will fit into the market.  Where do you imagine your novel sitting on the shelf in a library or in a book store? Which other authors would it sit comfortably beside? Is it a heart-warming romantic comedy, in the vein of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley, or a political thriller similar to that of Ken Follet and Jeffrey Archer?  Book genres often cause a degree of heated discussion amongst the writing, reading, publishing and agenting communities.  Everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, has a different idea of what each genre represents. The question of what each genre should carry, can elicit strong feelings, not to mention very differing views. Even book covers in particular genres can cause much debate about their style and substance. How often have you read quotes on the cover of books which have said things like, ‘For readers who love Maeve Binchy’ or ‘For fans of Stephen King?’ This is a publisher communicating a book’s genre to its readership.  This is a clever marketing tool, designed to appeal to the loyal readers of these authors, that your novel is in the same book genre as these giants of commercial fiction and therefore they would enjoy yours too. The most important thing is that you, your agent and editor agree (or, if you are self-published, you are consistent with your marketing). So, How Can You Define the Genre of the Book You\'re Writing? My advice would be:  Read a lot of books and see what elements are featured, and which chime with yours. Familiarise yourself with the book genre options out there and how they relate to your book. Identify the genre elements that are contained within your novel. How do they reflect those? Pull together a short list of potential genres and also subgenres. How does your novel compare with others in those categories? Concentrate on the most relevant genre/subgenre for your book. Think about the audience of the books that you enjoy reading in your favourite genre. Are they the same readers who you think would enjoy your book?  Check out book genre labels which are often featured for each of the different book genres for Kindle reads. Do any of these relate to what you are writing? For example, words such as ‘dark’ and ‘conspiracy’ are often applied to books in the Thriller genre.   Remember, you’re not trying to explain the entirety of your book, you’re trying to advertise its aesthetic. You are aiming to create a similar air of anticipation amongst the book-buying public, so that they too will be drawn to your novel.  Once you have done that, take a look at your own book and ensure your writing style, characters, and plot stick to one (at most, two, genres). For instance, if your spy is getting more action in the sheets than the streets, ask yourself whether you are really writing a spy thriller – or a spy romance novel. Then amend accordingly.  Determine Your Genre Nailing the genre of your book is not the most important element of your writing journey – at least not to begin with.   However, the importance of identifying the most appropriate genre and subgenre of your book, should not be underestimated. Finding that commercial aspect to your writing and to your novels is crucial, if you are to identify a reading audience for your book and appeal to their reading tastes – not to mention hook the right agent and editor.  So, have a clear genre (and audience) in mind when you start plotting and writing, and make sure you don’t veer too much into too many other styles and categories. It’s the first step to ensuring your readers will one day find your book and savour every page – no matter which genre it ultimately finds a home in!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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L M West’s Self-Publishing Success

As writers ourselves, we know how daunting it can be to self-publish your first novel. Member L M West did just that, embarking on the mammoth task of learning all the skills effective self-publishing involves. Now, she\'s reaping the rewards. From editorial assessments to cover commissioning, she takes us through her process and explains why self-pub can often be the perfect fit. JW: Tell us a bit about your background as a writer. When did you start writing?  LMW: I left school in 1970 with three O levels and hadn\'t written anything before. After reading about a local woman who was accused of three instances of witchcraft, the story of my first novel, ‘This Fearful Thing’, was forming in my head - but I had no idea how to go about setting it down or how to actually write. I had done the research and when lockdown hit I thought I had nothing to lose by having a go. I started off by doing a short online course with Curtis Brown Creative called Write to the End of Your Novel. This was just what I needed as a complete beginner and really helped me get to grips with what I was trying to do.  Cover of \'This Fearful Thing\' by L M West JW: What made you change your mind about pursuing a traditional publishing route?   LMW: A lot of the information and courses out there are geared towards traditional publishing and that was what I thought was the ‘proper’ way to go. Two other writers I had ‘met’ on the CBC course (and who had become my Trusted Readers) both got agents within a week of each other and were over the moon. I hadn’t quite finished my book, but my synopsis was done and my query letter all ready. I was so thrilled for them and thought this was what I wanted as well. But then, about three weeks in, they started to mention deadlines, a possible title change, and a major re-think of some of the characters. It also became clear that you, as an author, do not always have the final say on things like the cover design. I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I don’t want this’. I had suddenly realised that I didn’t want the stress of deadlines and alterations, of the problems of getting an agent and maybe, even then, not getting a publishing deal. I also hadn’t realised just how long the traditional publishing process takes and I wanted my book out there sooner rather than later, so I looked again at self-publishing.  I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I don’t want this’. JW: Self-publishing involves a lot of plate-spinning - how did you go about learning all the skills required?   LMW: In the early stages I’d decided that self-publishing was far too complicated and would take up valuable writing time, but when I revisited the idea I began to look at it in more detail. This is where Jericho Writers came into its own for me. I paid to have a professional editorial report which was a complete game-changer and something I’d wholly recommend, as you need another – unbiased - opinion on your work before putting it out there. I think self-pub has still got a bit of a stigma around it. With this in mind, I wanted to make my book as professional as possible so I also commissioned a cover from a local printmaker/illustrator. Both these things were costly, and I did hesitate before committing to them, but they helped make the book the success it’s been. It became stronger and much tighter for the editorial report, and I’ve had so many lovely comments about the cover design, so I’m pleased I made the investment.   I paid to have a professional editorial report which was a complete game-changer and something I’d wholly recommend, as you need another – unbiased - opinion on your work before putting it out there. I Googled the skills I needed and decided to publish via Amazon KDP as there is no up-front cost. The process was easier than I thought as the KDP site talks you through the process in simple stages, and I resisted the urge to check it \'one more time’! I decided to publish in both Kindle and paperback format and interestingly, so far I have sold about 75% paperbacks to 25% Kindle copies - I think it’s the cover! It’s when you press the ‘publish’ button that you realise it’s now sitting in a pond with six million other books – how will anyone know it’s there?  JW: What was your experience marketing yourself as an author?   LMW: I commissioned a small company to build a website for me, which was another investment. But it’s the first place your readers see and hear about you so I think, like the book, it must look professional. I also don’t have the skills to insert things like Amazon links and a mailing list form, so it was well worth having someone else do it for me. I was very lucky too that, on the day I published, Richard Osman had just been awarded Writer of the Year and there was a lot of discussion going on about that. I’m a member of a couple of Facebook book groups so took a chance and posted on one that today I was happier than Richard Osman as, at age 67 and with no further education, I had just published a novel. I didn’t do a direct link to Amazon, just put an image of the cover. An hour later I had five likes and was really pleased. By lunchtime the likes had turned into hundreds and the comments were rolling in. I replied to anyone who had put more than ‘congratulations’ or ‘well done’ and so spent what turned into four days responding to Facebook posts! In that first week, I had over 1,800 likes and nearly 700 comments. The sales on Amazon soared and I was off. I also approached local bookshops who were very encouraging. I underestimated the time this would all take though, especially as I have to distribute the books myself. However, it means you get to establish a relationship with bookshop owners, which has been a joy. I did a book event and found I really enjoyed standing up in front of a room and speaking about my book.  You get to establish a relationship with bookshop owners, which has been a joy. JW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers wondering whether self-publishing is for them?   LMW: Jericho Writers have masses of information about self-publishing, and I wish I had seen this before I started out - it would have saved me a lot of time! There is plenty there to help you decide if self-pub is for you, but my advice is to give it a go. If you have a strong book, professionally produced and formatted, that has a great story, then just try. And if you get stuck (as I did several times) you can email the staff at Jericho Writers and they will always help. The support is there, and the information. I don’t regret it at all. I never thought I could do it and am very proud that my book is selling steadily and that book two is written and being edited. I won’t hesitate to self-publish this as well.   If you have a strong book, professionally produced and formatted, that has a great story, then just try. The support is there, and the information. I don’t regret it at all. About Laina Laina’s first novel, ’This Fearful Thing’ was published in May 2021 and is available on Amazon. Her website can be found here. Laina lives in Suffolk with her husband. Interested in self-publishing? Take a look at our Simply Self-Publish Course with award-winning author Debbie Young - the perfect way to go from publishing novice to indie-expert.
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What Is Chekhov’s Gun?

You may have heard of Chekhov, and you may even have heard of his gun, but what does that have to do with storytelling and plotting a novel? In this comprehensive article we will teach you everything you need to know about Chekhov’s Gun (with examples), and explore similar literary principles and devices. What Does Chekhov’s Gun Mean? The principle of Chekhov’s Gun (sometimes called Chekhov’s Law or Chekhov’s Gun Law) is not to introduce anything that won’t eventually be important to the plot. This principle not only helps writers cut down on extraneous and unnecessary details in their stories, but ensures readers will be satisfied by the end. Drawing attention to something that doesn’t have any significance to the story can frustrate the reader and waste precious words in your novel. Essentially, the principle enables writers to generate clear plots by considering the significance of everything they mention in their story, and tackles the over-symbolism in literature. (The exception to the rule is a red herring – but we’ll look at that a little bit later on.) So who was Chekhov and why is everyone so interested in his gun? History of Chekhov’s Gun Chekhov’s Gun is a dramatic principle that, unsurprisingly, comes from Anton Chekhov - a Russian playwright and short story-writer in the late 1800s. While Chekhov leaves behind a great literary and theatrical legacy, he is probably most well-known for this dramatic principle. In a letter to Aleksandr Semenovich, Chekhov once said: One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn\'t going to go off. It\'s wrong to make promises you don\'t mean to keep. Similarly, he once wrote: Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it\'s not going to be fired, it shouldn\'t be hanging there. Intended as advice for young playwrights, this principle is still widely cited and utilised today. Chekhov used this principle in his play, The Seagull, where there is a literal gun that gets introduced at the start and then fired at the end (hence the name given to the principle). In Act One, Konstantin Treplyev uses a rifle to kill a seagull. In the final act, Konstantin uses that rifle to kill himself. Significance is placed on the rifle in the beginning which draws the audience’s attention to the item, and then the rifle has significant impact at the climax of the play. The audience is satisfied, there are no loose ends, and the principle has done its job. Chekhov’s Gun vs Foreshadowing If you get the concept of Chekhov’s Gun and foreshadowing confused then you aren’t alone. Though they have similarities, they do also have some big differences. Chekhov’s Gun is the dramatic principle whereby the writers won’t make ‘false promises’. That you must only draw attention to something if its significance will be revealed later in the story. Foreshadowing is the literary device where the writer drops hints that the reader will probably overlook until the end, or even until a second read through. This can be something fairly innocuous that hints at a bigger plot development later on. Though Chekhov’s Gun is a form of foreshadowing, the ‘gun’ (item, person, etc) has a direct impact on the plot by the end of the story. While traditional foreshadowing merely hints at the outcome of the plot rather than having a direct influence. Let’s look at an example: In Othello there are examples of both Chekhov’s Gun and foreshadowing. Desdemona’s handkerchief acts as the ‘gun’ here. In Act III Desdemona drops her handkerchief. Iago later finds it and uses it to trick Othello into believing Desdemona has been unfaithful. This is an example of Chekhov’s Gun – Shakespeare draws significant attention to Desdemona’s dropped handkerchief, which then plays a crucial role at a critical moment of the plot. Foreshadowing appears in the play when Desdemona sings a song to her maidservant about a lover who goes mad. This foreshadows the outcome of the play as Othello, Desdemona’s husband, descends into madness and kills her. This moment drops hints for the climax of the plot, but does not have any influence on the plot. How is Chekhov’s Gun Used in Writing? In order to achieve the principle of Chekhov’s Gun there are certain things you need to do as a writer. 1. You must first set up the ‘gun’. The ‘gun’ can be anything potentially impactful in your story, such as an object, a character, an event, or a place. 2. To set up the ‘gun’ you should draw attention to it early in your story, giving it significance and ensuring the reader notices it. You can draw attention to this item multiple times if you wish between the initial introduction and the conclusion of the story, but that’s up to author preference. 3. To round off this principle, the ‘gun’ must then ‘go off’. The item must return by the end of the book and have a significant impact to the conclusion of the story. The item must play a crucial role in order to truly achieve the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. The exceptions to this rule are red herrings and MacGuffins. Red Herring: The exception to the rule of not introducing or emphasising anything that won’t be significant to the plot is the red herring. A red herring is something that distracts from the true plot, and makes the reader guess at the conclusion (it must still be plausible). Red herrings are often used in thrillers, crime stories, and whodunnits, when the author wants to highlight something which makes the reader think it’s significant to the plot, when in actuality it’s there to distract and trick the reader. This literary device is most commonly used in novels where the reader is busy ‘sleuthing’ and purposely looking for clues. It should be noted that a red herring should still have some casual impact on the story, but not significant. The dead ends can’t be haphazardly placed with no tie-in with the overall plot. Red herrings are very common within Agatha Christie novels, particularly And Then There Were None. Ten people are invited to an island under mysterious circumstances, and are killed one by one. There are several convincing red herrings throughout the novel that lead the reader to guess the killer, but each time the new prime suspect is killed. Christie achieves the ultimate plot twist by having the actual murderer \'die\' earlier on in the novel (a death he faked so convincingly that neither the characters nor readers doubt it), so when the reveal occurs it ends up being a twist that no one could have guessed. MacGuffin: MacGuffin is a plot device which many claim is the opposite of Chekhov’s Gun. It’s an object, event, or character that serves to set and keep the plot in motion but actually lacks significance to the outcome. This is usually a goal or object of desire for the protagonist, but whether or not it is achieved has no influence on the plot. An excellent example of a MacGuffin is the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. It seems of vital importance to the characters but the object inside the briefcase is never revealed to the audience so the object is of little actual consequence to the plot. How Chekhov’s Gun can be effective in a series: Used effectively, Chekhov’s Gun creates a cyclical and satisfying conclusion to a story. If you were to follow the Save The Cat plotting beats, for example, Chekhov’s Gun would go off in the last 10% of the book and mirror the first 10% of the novel (either through setting, actions, theme, or dialogue – but with a twist). This way the reader/audience is happy, there are no loose ends, and the plot makes sense. This principle has been used in books and on screen since its inception. Not only can this literary principle be used in standalone novels and movies, but also as part of a series. If an item is mentioned in book one, then by book 3 you expect it to come into play again. The same principles that work within one story, can work across a number of novels in a series. Let’s look at some examples of Chekhov’s Gun in books and on screen. 5 Book Examples of Chekhov’s Gun Great Expectations In Dickens’ Great Expectations, the ‘gun’ is the character Magwitch. He is introduced significantly at the start of the novel due to his interactions with Pip. Enough mystery surrounds him that the reader is interested in his story, but then many years pass and he isn’t mentioned again. When it’s finally revealed that Magwitch has been Pip’s financial supporter this is an unexpected but satisfying twist. The reader has forgotten about this character in the interim but the second he is revealed we instantly remember him again. The use of Chekhov’s Gun here, the initial spotlight on Magwitch and then the big reveal, is both shocking but satisfying to the reader. The perfect plot twist. Ready Player One In Ready Player One, the ‘gun’ is a coin. Specifically, the 1981 Quarter Artefact that protagonist Wade Watts collects from a Pac-Man machine after playing a perfect game. He takes the coin and doesn’t think about it again. There is enough emphasis placed on this moment that the reader remembers it, but not enough that they guess the climax of the book. The coin turns out to be an extra life which enables Watts’ avatar to survive an explosion and continue his quest. This brings about the conclusion of the story and ties up all loose ends in a satisfying way. All the elements of the story were relevant and essential to the plot. The Hunger Games In The Hunger Games, the ‘gun’ is Katniss’ knowledge of poisonous plants. This demonstrates how the ‘gun’ doesn’t have to be an object but can be a character trait. This knowledge is explained and emphasised multiple times throughout the novel, and its significance is revealed at the climax of the novel as she uses poisonous berries to trick the Capitol into releasing both her and Peeta. A Gentleman in Moscow In Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, the ‘gun’ is a pair of duelling pistols. Count Rostov discovers a pair of duelling pistols hidden behind a wall in the hotel manager’s office. The significance of this discovery is revealed in the climax of the novel as Rostov uses one of the pistols to intimidate the Bishop into destroying secret files on the employees of the hotel, and locks him up in order to resume his plan to escape. The reader already knows about the pistols, and so it makes sense when Rostov later uses one in order to escape. Harry Potter The Harry Potter series contains multiple examples of Chekhov’s Gun, which Rowling utilises within individual books and across the series as a whole. Examples include the mention of bezoar in Harry’s first potions class which is later used in Book 6 to save Ron when he drinks poisoned mead. Also in Book 1 is the introduction of the Snitch caught in Harry’s first Quidditch match which becomes significant again in the final book as the hiding place for the resurrection stone. These are just two of many Chekhov Gun examples occurring within the series. It’s satisfying to the reader when the solution to a problem involves something that we’ve seen before. 5 Screen Examples of Chekhov’s Gun The Shawshank Redemption There are multiple examples of a ‘gun’ within The Shawshank Redemption, namely a poster, rock hammer, and bible. These objects are highlighted when they’re introduced at the beginning of the movie but seem fairly innocuous at the time. Andy requests a poster of Rita Hayworth, supposedly because he’s lonely, a rock hammer for his boredom as he likes rock carving, and a bible, which wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. These items actually have another use which we find out at the climax of the film. The rock hammer is used to dig a tunnel out of his cell (and he hides the hammer in the bible), with the escape tunnel covered by the poster. The reveal is both shocking and satisfying to the audience. The items are only ever alluded to as for their false use, and none of the other characters even know their real use, so when the twist is revealed it has the required effect on the audience. Breaking Bad In the Breaking Bad episode “Box Cutter” the ‘gun’ is, surprise surprise, a box cutter. At the beginning of the episode we see the box cutter, which is then later used as a weapon by Gus to kill Victor. It’s an ordinary object that you wouldn’t be surprised to see in the setting, so the climax is shocking to the audience. The Lost Boys In The Lost Boys the ‘gun’ is the antlers and fence post in the protagonists’ Grandpa’s house. He has a taxidermy collection so the antlers on the wall are unsurprising, and he’s building a fence in the garden with wooden posts, which are appropriate to both the character and setting and, once again, appear completely innocuous. These items are focused on early in the movie, but disregarded by the audience because they simply appear to serve as character building. Yet these items are key to the climax of the movie. Michael, the protagonist, defeats David, a vampire, by impaling him on the antlers, and the head vampire is killed by one of the fence posts as the Grandpa drives through the building and the post flies off the hood of his Jeep. The solution to their problem was highlighted right at the start of the movie, but no one would have guessed – least of all the audience! Shaun of the Dead In Shaun of the Dead, the ‘gun’ is an actual gun – the Winchester rifle. At the start of the film Shaun and Ed are arguing about whether the Winchester rifle mounted above the bar in the Winchester pub is real. Later on in the film Shaun uses the gun to hit the zombified pub owner and it goes off, proving not only that it is a real gun, but its significance is highlighted as it ends up playing a crucial role in Shaun defending himself. Signs In M Night Shyamalan’s Signs, the ‘gun’ is represented by glasses of water and Morgan’s asthma. Graham’s daughter Bo leaves glasses of water around the house (she believes the water is contaminated after being left so gets a new glass each time she wants a drink.) At the climax of the movie they discover that the invading aliens are vulnerable to water, and the significance of these glasses of water becomes immediately apparent in defeating the attacking aliens. Similarly Morgan’s asthma, alluded to in many ordinary ways throughout the film, has a massive significance in saving his life at the climax of the film. His airways are closed due to an attack, meaning he is unable to inhale the toxic gas from the alien and survives the murder attempt. Both of these things (the glasses of water and the asthma) are innocuous and ordinary so it’s surprising to the audience when they end up having a big impact on the plot. Conclusion Having outlined the importance of Chekhov’s Gun in storytelling, we hope you are now confident to utilise this literary principle in your own writing. Go ahead and create an exciting and satisfying cyclical plot for your readers, and remember to cut out extraneous and unnecessary detail in your story. Remember – if you shine a spotlight on something at the beginning of your story, make sure it helps save the day at the end! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Tips For Authors Getting Headshots

You\'ve finally finished your book! After months of writing, followed by toing and froing with your beta readers and editor, the book is ready to go to print. But just as you\'re thinking of jetting away somewhere hot and having a much-deserved rest, your publisher (or Amazon Central) asks you for an author headshot.   You could give them that photo of you at your cousin\'s wedding, or the one work took for their website. Right?   Wrong.   In this guide, I\'ll be explaining how author headshots function, why having the perfect one matters, and I\'ll show you how to organise a professional photoshoot, get the right look, and make the best use of the result. I’ll also link to some real-life author headshot examples. The Importance Of Author Headshots Like any aspect of self-branding, the writer headshot should never be overlooked. However open-minded we like to think of ourselves, people make snap decisions about each other and what they have to offer based on what they look like. This also holds just as true for an author on the back of a book, as well as people we meet face to face.   This is both bad news and good. While a poor author portrait could put potential readers off your work, a good one can do the opposite. It\'s an excellent opportunity to communicate your genre, tone, and style. And it\'s in your control!  This is why it makes sense to invest time and money hiring a professional photographer for a photoshoot (unless you have a generous friend in the business who will do you a favour, or you’re exceptionally good at selfies and have a well-lit studio at home).  So where do you start?  Author Headshot Tips Find The Right Photographer  Traditional publishers will occasionally arrange author headshots themselves. Usually, however, it is left to you to choose a good local photographer. Make sure you follow any specific instructions from your publishing house – and if you\'ve collaborated with somebody else on this book, you will both need your own photo.   The ideal photographer will have taken this kind of portrait before, and they should be able to show you some of their previous work to help you decide. Take a look at the photographer’s online portfolio or check out the name of photographers that took author headshots you like from other local writers.  Are They Right For You? Choosing a photographer may not be a life-long commitment, but you are paying them to take photos that will be defining you as an author – not to mention spending a morning or afternoon with them. It’s important you feel comfortable around them. Meet them first to discuss your requirements or have a quick Zoom call to get an idea if you will work well together (after all, you may need more photos in the future). If you’re not happy, walk away. The more comfortable your photographer makes you feel, the better the results will be.  Calculate The Best Package For Your Budget Author headshots can cost thousands of pounds or dollars. However, the average cost is between £100 and £150 (US$100 and $250). Location shoots with multiple looks and outfit changes are likely to cost more than straightforward studio shots in front of a single background.  Confirm the price and what to expect within the package. Ideally, you want to own the images you choose (the alternative is paying a licence fee every time you use one). Find out whether you will need to pay for each photo separately or if the photographer will give you all the images in a digital file.   You may want your photos retouched to remove blemishes (dark circles under the eyes, for instance). The need for this may only become obvious after the shoot and add to the cost as it’s not always included. So be prepared for that.  Create A Good Brief  Decide the impression you want to make with the headshots and communicate this clearly to your photographer. What do you need to consider?  Research your competition To get an idea of what style of author portrait photo is right for you, look online at the Amazon pages and websites of other writers in your genre for inspiration.   What are you trying to get across in your author portrait? Are you fun and lively, or moody and dark? Is your work serious literary fiction, or do you write light and fun rom coms? The photos on the website of a picture book author will be very different from the one Ian Rankin uses for his crime books, for example.   Black-and-white or colour?  While black-and-white works well for high-brow literary types, most commercial authors choose colour. A traditional publisher may make this decision for you. The average release from Galley Beggar press wins at least one literary award, so it\'s no surprise the author photos on their website are all in monochrome. But bear in mind, if you wish to use the same photo for press, many magazines ask for a colour photo. Some writers use a number of images from the same shoot for various things.  Location, Setting, And Background The focus of the headshot should always be on the author\'s face. Thus, many writers use a plain studio background, particularly for online stores like Amazon. However, others use an appropriate setting, hoping it will help communicate their brand.   Mary Berry, famous cookery book writer and presenter of The Great British Bake Off, stands in a white kitchen for her author portrait. Robert Thorogood’s photo is in front of Marlow, the UK setting for his new cosy crime series. Cathy Cassidy, a Young Adult writer, is pictured in the back of a VW campervan.   The dark red wall behind Rory Sutherland’s Twitter profile, clashes with the bright red jacket he’s wearing. The overall effect is unexpected for a business guru, yet his latest release \'Alchemy\' has the tagline, \'The Magic of Original Thinking in a World of Mind-numbing Conformity.\' He’s not trying to be corporate.   Plain studio shots work particularly well for serious black-and-white photos. But remember, an entirely plain white background flatters very few people.  Image Styling: Be Yourself If I was being entirely myself in a writer headshot, I wouldn\'t brush my hair. That kind of honesty, however, would probably stop me selling books.   I\'m not suggesting you lie about who you are, but it’s important to project how you wish to be perceived. Think of yourself as the main character in a book about your writing career. What does this person wear? What expression and mannerisms do they use? Are they business-like, fun, or very serious?  Outfit Even authors going for ‘zany’ should keep their outfits as simple as they can. The safest plan is to wear one or two layers of plain clothing with an open collar. Busy patterns will detract from your face, as will too much jewellery. (The shy may see that as a good thing, but it isn\'t).  Period costumes may well suggest historical romance, but they will detract from the author’s face – and it’s important that your readers (and the press) know what you look like. Period romance author, Evie Dunmore, gets it right. Her outfit suggests a Victorian or Edwardian woman by wearing three simple items - a lace top, a wide-brimmed hat, and a pearl ornament in her hair. Not quite fancy dress, but enough of a nod to her genre.  Different make-up and clothes will look better in colour or black-and-white. If you\'re not sure which will work best, play around with both looks. You can always ask to have more than one photo taken at the shoot, but as discussed, this will increase time and possibly cost. Save time and money by taking selfies at home and asking friends and family what they think suits you best. Hairstyle This is probably not the time for a radical new hairstyle unless you\'re given to eye-catching changes. Ideally, you want readers to be able to recognise you at author events. Even if you don\'t think you’ll attend real-life book signings, you may want to appear online in a Facebook live, for instance. So if you\'re usually blonde and wear your hair back in a ponytail, do that. Now is not the time to try out a bright pink beehive. Lighting If the shoot is outside, the photographer will probably make the most of the natural light. Depending on the time of day this may be warm, soft, and flattering light. Let them decide the best time of day to achieve the look you are going for. For instance, during the late morning or early afternoon, there\'s usually a yellow light with few harsh shadows. And the ‘golden hour’, the period just after sunrise or before sunset, gives a red light and softer look.   Wherever the shoot, light on the face makes you look fresher and more approachable, a good thing for almost every author. If you write crime or horror, an arty portrait with your face in shadow may seem like a good idea. Take care, however. You don’t want to be confused with one of your villains! Practice Your Pose Body language matters, and so does being relaxed in front of a camera. This is the time where the mirror is your friend.   Choose a pose that feels natural. Don\'t force a smile or anything that doesn\'t feel right. If you\'re not comfortable, it will come across in your photos.   Consider if you\'re going to have your hands in the picture and what you can do with them to add to your message. For example, you could rest your chin and hands on a flat surface for an informal feel. Or hold your chin to look like a professional with good advice. Some authors cross their arms, but remember that depending on your genre this can look defensive and may make you look unapproachable.  Again, take a look at what other authors are doing. Some writers opt for the close up to be framed so no arms make it into the shot (a lot less pressure). Props You could also think about using an appropriate prop (and whether it would make you more or less comfortable during the shoot). Perhaps, you could hold your own book, or the Golden Dagger you were awarded last year. Again, the emphasis should be on you, so keep it simple and avoid cliché. Only use a prop if it will add to your overall message.   Also bear in mind whether this photo is just for one book, or you want it to be used for a number of years. It doesn’t always help to use a photo of you holding up your debut when five books down the line you are known for a lot more.  Rest Before The Shoot A photoshoot may seem like a largely passive activity, but how you feel on the day will affect how you look and come across on camera. Avoid those dark under-eye circles by drinking plenty of water and getting a good night\'s sleep beforehand.  Look Directly At The Camera Many headshots break this rule, but it helps create a sense of connection with the viewer. Again, ask yourself if you want to come across as a whimsical, mysterious writer or direct and approachable.  Be Relaxed The photographer will do their best to put you at ease, but there are also practical things you can do to help yourself on the day.   Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the shoot, so you\'re not rushing.   Remind yourself that however badly it turns out, your author headshot is nowhere near as important as writing a good book. And the photographer will take lots of photos, so you can always discard those you hate at the end. If it puts your mind at rest, ask to take a look at the first few shots to see if they are working.  And, going back to acting like a character in your own book, if it helps hide behind your new persona. Yesterday you were a nervous introverted debut writer, but today you are a famous author - cool, calm, and collected.  Listen To Your Photographer They should be able to guide you to an author headshot that works. If they say that a certain pose works best, listen to them. Take direction. They know what works.  Ask For Black-And-White Copies Of Your Colour Photos This increases your choice later on. You can convert the photos digitally yourself, but it’s usually better done by a professional.   Select The Right Images You may be tempted to choose the image that makes you look fifteen years younger or like a supermodel - but the best author headshot is the one that conveys the right message and reinforces your \'brand\'.   Ask other people to tell you honestly what they think, especially if they read the genre you write. Why not enlist the help of your followers on social media or your publisher’s publicity department? This can be a fun way to connect with readers and see yourself through their eyes.  Use The Same Photo Across All Of Social Media Consistency is key when it comes to self-branding. Whatever image you choose to use on your website or the back of the print book, use the same photo across online stores and social media. This will make it easier for readers to recognise you as the same person and, hopefully, increase your number of follows.  But, like most rules, some are made to be broken. Picture book author, Julia Donaldson, uses a headshot with a plain studio background for her Amazon page but she’s surrounded by soft toy versions of her characters on her website. There’s a particularly good photo of her reading to the Gruffalo.   So, if your Linked In profile is serious and you are using it to connect to the industry to sell them a self-help book you are pitching – perhaps don’t use the same sultry image of yourself that appears on the website of your raunchy erotica series.  Keep Your Photos Up-To-Date Whatever the temptation to stay eternally young in your reader\'s minds, you should upload a new book author headshot every two to three years – especially if you change genre or publisher. As your career evolves, so should your photos. To Summarise… All in all, preparing for the perfect author portrait shoot is simple.  Hire a professional, brief them well, prepare your look and setting beforehand, and relax during the shoot. If you follow this advice, you should have a great headshot to add to the rest of your marketing package.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Top 12 Best Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing is no mean feat. After the herculean task of writing your book, it may seem easy to go at it yourself. Maybe you\'ve already explored the option of traditional publishing, and it isn\'t for you. Perhaps you\'re burnt out from the hunt for an agent. Either way, if you\'re reading this, self-publishing may well be the gleaming light across the dock enticing you with promising book sales and a sense of achievement. Going it alone is admirable, but there\'s also lots of things you must be aware of first. Cutting corners may lead to you being blinded by less than virtuous offers. Integrity in book publishing is not a lost art - you just have to know where to look. This article will show you the best self-publishing sites, platforms, and companies around to help you (help yourself) and get your book into readers\' hands - the non-traditional way... What Do Self-Publishing Companies Do? Self-publishing companies are in essence service providers. You bring the completed project and all its frills, they supply the technology/logistics needed to publish it. But there are different levels of service you can opt for. At the most basic (and essential), you can sign up with a pure retailer - notably Amazon. Amazon obviously has the power to reach all the readers in the world (and it\'s extraordinary to think that all that power can be at your disposal - for free.) But if you self-publish with Amazon, the whole business of cover-design, blurb-writing, pricing decisions, marketing and so on are for you and you alone. Amazon is not going to get involved. At the other end of the spectrum, you have companies that will do all of that for you ... but at a cost. That cost is measured in dollars, certainly, but also, those companies don\'t care about book sales the way you do. If they sell you a cover design that you\'re happy with, then they\'ve made their money. Job done. They don\'t actually care whether that book cover generates sales for you or not. In other words, the more you get others to do, the more you are putting your book into the hands of people who care less than you. For that reason, it\'s worth taking a look at the range of options out there ... Types of Self-Publishing Companies Rest easy, for self-publishing companies will not own the rights to your book - you will. They will typically take a share of the royalties, however. When deciding who to go with to publish your book, it\'s important to consider the differences between the three main types of publishing service companies and the roles they each fulfil. Retailers Think of retailers as online bookstores. They give your book a spot on the digital shelf, so to speak. If they\'re a big enough name, you\'ll publish your book through a branded ebook publishing platform. You\'ll share the royalties, just like you would if you went with an aggregator. Examples include: Amazon KDP, iBooks Author, Barnes & Nobles Press, Kobo Writing Life Aggregators Aggregators distribute your book to multiple retailers simultaneously. They often charge you for this convenience. They take their share of the royalties only after your book has made its sales. Examples include: KDP Print, PublishDrive, Smashwords, Draft2Digital Full-Service Companies Full-services companies are the whole package. They offer editing, formatting, interior and cover design, blurb, and distribution all rolled into one. Just because you\'re going the self-publishing route, doesn\'t mean you have do all the publishing heavy-work yourself. However it\'s worth noting that this option is best suited to those looking to sell only a few copies of their book—and not with significant commercial success in mind. Examples include: BookBaby, Outskirts Press, Matador, White Magic Studios Vanity Publishers and Hybrid Publishers We should probably also include a note about vanity publishers. These guys are the snakes and serpents of publishing. They essentially pretend to be a real publishing company contemplating the commercial publication of your book. Inevitably, however, you\'ll be told that the \"editorial board\" or something other fictional entity decided they couldn\'t quite afford the risk of going it alone. So you\'ll be invited to spend some quite large sum of money on \"partnership publishing\", or something like that. If it smells bad, it is bad. Just say no - with emphasis. If you feel like adding a cuss-word or two when you say so, then we won\'t be offended Hybrid publishers are a somewhat cleaner version of the same thing. They\'ll ask for money to get you published, but be more candid about likely outcomes. If you encounter honesty and openness, the publisher may well be trustworthy. If you encounter heavy selling and a lack of candour, then avoid, avoid, avoid. Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing Some authors will instinctively know which publishing route to take for their book. For others, it may be a tougher decision. Traditional publishing often follows a linear pathway from submission, to finding an agent, to having that agent pitch to publishers on your behalf, to the publisher buying the rights to your work and distributing it as widely as possible across various territories and mediums. When trad published, your work has a whole host of people behind it who all have a vested interest in its success. You, on the other hand, are now an empty-nester taking a more hands-off approach to the future of your book. Will you be involved much in the rest of the process? Well: up to a point. You\'ll never have the same level of control - and you\'ll never get the same level of royalties. A self-pubbed ebook will give the author royalties of 70%. The same number for an ebook sold via a trad publisher through an agent will typically be under 15%. It\'s that stunning difference which has powered the whole self-pub revolution. And while good book sales are simply too multifactorial to summarise neatly, the fact is that self-published authors typically make more money than trad-published ones. There are more million-dollar a year indie authors, than there are million-dollar a year trad authors. The same is true if you knock one zero off that number, or two zeroes. Yes, you can make money as a trad author, but if money is your only metric, you should think seriously about self-pub. But the money doesn\'t come by itself. It\'s not enough to write books, you have to market them. You have to write books that people want to read. You have to think hard about the genres that do best as self-pub books. And the money won\'t flow without a little investment upfront. And you won\'t make money until you have a little stable of books to offer, not just the one. And of course, it\'s unlikely that you\'ll see your book in a physical bookstore. So yes, there are challenges - and ones that you need to take seriously. But if you want total creative control and the best chance of making money, self-pub is just too good an option not to take seriously. Top Self-Publishing Companies If you are going to go the self-publishing route, then take a look at our compilation of the 12 best self-publishing companies and what they have to offer: Retailers: 1. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Amazon\'s KDP is the kingpin of self-publishing companies, where most e-book sales take place (about 85% of the total). To use this service, you must first create a Kindle account and fill in your tax information. Uploading an ebook-ready manuscript is quick and easy after that point. You have to do it all yourself, but the user-friendly interface invites every author to give it a go. It\'s not the only piece of the puzzle, though. Amazon can step in with their KDP Select program which helps you market your book with deals, though it will own your book\'s exclusive rights for whatever period of time you choose to use this additional service. Furthermore, Amazon also offers one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services - KDP Print. To get your book turned into a paperback and distributed, all you have to do is upload a formatted PDF and cover design - made even easier if you already sell ebooks on KDP. This service is technically an aggregator and will get your book (as a paperback or ebook) to other bookstores and retailers if you opt in to \'Expanded Distribution\' via your KDP dashboard. Know this: One of the biggest decisions you\'ll be making is whether to publish \'wide\' (via every retailer) or \'narrow\' (via Amazon only.) It sounds obvious that you should want every retailer on your side, except that exclusivity with Amazon confers some powerful benefits. As a rough guide, we\'d suggest that you publish narrow to start with, then reconsider your strategy once you have two or three books out there. 2. Apple Books (iBooks Author/Pages) iBooks Author is the second-best free-to-upload self-publishing outfit - but it\'s a distant, distant second best. No sane person would consider working exclusively with Apple. It\'s only a question of who you sell with in addition to Amazon - if anyone at all. Also, do note that Mac users have a monopoly on this service, however, as you have to be a Mac user to publish there and take advantage of the 70% royalties rate. If you are already assimilated into Apple\'s eco-system, you can upload your manuscript from Pages, which as of mid-2020 replaces the iBooks software. If not, you first need to use an aggregator to publish (in industry-standard ePub format) to the Apple Store. iBooks Author pairs nicely with Vellum, a free-to-download formatting software made for Mac with purchasable packages for exporting your ebook. It has great features and you can even publish in paperback with Vellum Press. 3. Kobo Writing Life Another retailer on this list - Canadian Rakuten Kobo\'s self-publishing division \'Writing Life\' - accounts for 25% of Canadian ebook sales, as well as having a significant international presence. You might have also heard of their e-reading device. The simple, step-by-step publishing process is attractive, as well as the inbuilt sales analytics tool on their platform. With its maximum royalty rate and global outreach, Kobo\'s self-publishing program is very popular. But again, don\'t publish via Kobo only. Either publish with Amazon exclusively, or with Amazon, Apple, Kobo and everyone else. For most (all?) newer authors, it\'ll make most sense to attack those smaller retailers via an aggregator. 4. Barnes & Noble Press Free to upload, 70% royalties, an easy-to-use interface. But B&N is fourth on this list for a reason. Add it as part of a \'wide\' sales strategy. Don\'t think about it, even for a moment, as an exclusive partner. Aggregators: 5. Draft2Digital Draft2Digital is a service which takes care of your book formatting for you. Getting your book published with them is easy: set up a free account, upload your manuscript, choose from a wide range of vendors, set your own list price, manage your book sales and track your metrics. They take care of the rest and provide ongoing support. If you want to publish \'wide\', then we recommend: Setting up a direct account with Amazon KDP. You always want direct control of your Amazon account. It\'s too important to entrust to anyone else.Handling your wide sales via Draft2Digital. D2D is the best of the aggregators and is a nice easy way to enter all the retailers other than Amazon Customer service at D2D is great and the tools are slick and constantly being improved. Recommended. 6. Smashwords Smashwords was one of the first aggregators to come about, and it distributes to just about everywhere BUT Amazon. Its cut is 15% and that doesn\'t include formatting - you\'ve got to do that yourself! With a little effort, it\'s a wonderful resource and can teach the average independent book author all they need to know about branding, marketing, and publishing. Smashwords has seen a lot of competition lately - namely Draft2Digital who does distribute via Amazon AND formats your book for you. Smashwords has traditionally been strong in the romance area, but even there, we don\'t think it\'s the best option for you today. 7. PublishDrive PublishDrive boasts connections with over 4500 publishers and over 400 stores - with excellent international distribution. The interface is used to check in on all your royalties and sales, which will be slashed by 10% if you don\'t pay to subscribe to their service and keep all of your royalties. Luckily PublishDrive has 24/7 customer support to help you keep all those plates spinning. A good alternative to D2D. 8. Ingram Spark Ingram Spark is the only meaningful competitor to KDP Print worth mentioning. This company reaches a great amount of readers with its global print services independent of Amazon. They can sell your book through 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online. For this reason, IngramSpark provides one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services, though does not sell direct and is instead technically an aggregator for print. Full-Service Companies: 9. BookBaby Using BookBaby for self-publishing authors means purchasing one of their somewhat pricey Self-Publishing packages. These vary depending on how much help you need with design, marketing, print, and distribution. You can rest assured that the professional care taken to perfect your pages for print comes at no extra cost other than that which you pay upfront. Royalties suffer slightly however at 50% if you choose to sell directly to readers via BookBaby\'s Bookshop. BookBaby boasts a global distribution network of its own as well as offering an Amazon Priority Service to further expand your reach with KPD Select. 10. Outskirts Press Outskirts Press\' full-service package offers much of the same, with the caveat of having fewer distributors for your book as well as more limited expert services to get your work to standard before distribution. There\'s just as much support, but less tailoring involved with your package. 11. Matador Unlike the other full-service companies on this list, Troubador\'s Matador caters more to the UK\'s indie authors. They distribute through the traditional channels as well as POD. They are choosier about their clientele, only taking on 75% of those who would like to publish with them. Your book undergoes more scrutiny than with others on this list—this is not an everyman option. If you are one of the lucky few, you will benefit from their reputation in the publishing industry alone AND a whole host of publishing, marketing, and distribution services depending on your needs. 12. White Magic Studios Matador\'s affordable UK counterpart White Magic Studios gives you 100% of the royalties and ownership of your book. They don\'t quite have the same gravitas as others on this list but they\'re still a safe bet for an all-in-one package if you know what you\'re looking for in terms of service and distribution. The Self-Publishing Option That Works for You The ultimate, best-of-all-time, undeniable front-runner, crème de la crème of self-publishing companies happens to be the one that works best for you and your book. Do your research (work your way through this list, for example), go with your gut, and see how you get on. Self-publishing has worked for others, so it can work for you! All you need is the makings of a good book, stellar knowledge, and a can-do attitude. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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Jack Lutz on Finding Your Perfect Agent

When Jack Lutz first came to us as a mentee, then as a student on the Ultimate Novel Writing Course, it was clear that his writing was something special. Now represented by Jordan Lees at The Blair Partnership, Jack\'s first novel, \'London in Black\', is set to be published in June 2022 by Pushkin Vertigo. We sat down to chat about his writing journey, and the practical ways you can narrow down your shortlist and find your perfect agent. JW: Could you tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer? When did you start writing, and where are you with publication now? JL: I was rummaging around in some old boxes recently and unearthed a short story I wrote when I was eight - a murder mystery set in London. So I suppose writing’s something I’ve always done, or at least always wanted to do...but it was mostly just bits of novels I’d start then immediately scrap. Never enough time, or I’d second-guess the idea and stop. And then in 2019, I buckled down and actually finished a novel for the first time (with mentoring help from Jericho Writers\' Daren King). But I worried it wasn’t strong enough so rather than submitting it to agents, I set it aside and signed up for the Ultimate Novel Writing Course, in order to write another. That second novel, \'London in Black\', will be published next June by Pushkin Vertigo. It’s a near-future police procedural set in 2029, two years after terrorists release a novel nerve agent at Waterloo Station with catastrophic consequences. Our hero is DI Lucy Stone, a cop with crippling survivor guilt who must hunt a killer and recover a stolen nerve agent antidote (that may or may not be a figment of her imagination). So - a murder mystery set in London, just like when I was eight! We’ve just finished copyediting, and at the moment I’m waiting to see first pass page proofs. JW: In what ways did being a student on the UNWC help to shape your writing?   JL: Lots of different ways - the course material was instructive, the Q&As useful - but the thing that I’m most grateful for is the mentoring. I was assigned a brilliant writer named Craig Taylor as my mentor, and we had periodic phone calls throughout the course. The mix of tailored feedback plus support and encouragement was unbeatable. I felt challenged, which I loved because it meant my writing was being taken seriously. JW: How did you find your agent?  JL: I was very fortunate! At the end of the UNWC, Craig (in an act I’ll be forever grateful for) sent a note to Harry Bingham with some kind words about my manuscript. Shortly after that, I received an email from Jericho’s wonderful Rachael Cooper, telling me that she was willing to send a manuscript recommendation out to an agent on my behalf - and did I have any thoughts on who?  Determined not to waste the opportunity, I turned to Jericho Writers\' AgentMatch. First, I ran a search for agents actively looking for crime/thrillers, which spat out about ninety names. I looked them all up and narrowed the list down to about twenty who seemed really focussed on the genre. I read any interviews I could find online, then went on my Kindle and downloaded free chapters from books by each agent’s clients, hoping to get a feel for whether my writing style might appeal.  At the end of all of that, the agent I hoped would be the best fit for me and my book was Jordan Lees at The Blair Partnership. Rachael sent off the recommendation, and later that day Jordan wrote back asking for the full manuscript. Two weeks later, Rachael forwarded on a note from Jordan asking if I could have a chat with him - and that chat was the Call: an offer of representation.  The mix of tailored feedback plus support and encouragement was unbeatable. I felt challenged, which I loved because it meant my writing was being taken seriously. JW: Were there any surprises along the way, or anything you wish you had been prepared for?   JL: My given name’s ‘John’, and I’ve never really used a nickname. But it turns out that there’s already a (quite prolific!) thriller writer named John Lutz, which meant I suddenly needed to pick a new name for myself. I wasn’t expecting that!  I looked them all up and narrowed the list down to about twenty who seemed really focussed on the genre. I read any interviews I could find online, then went on my Kindle and downloaded free chapters from books by each agent’s clients, hoping to get a feel for whether my writing style might appeal. JW: What advice would you give to a new writer working on their first draft?   JL: My favourite ideas tend to pop into my head when I’m somewhere other than sitting in front of my laptop. If that’s true for you, too, my advice is simple: whenever you have an idea -- for a scene, a snippet of dialogue, a word, whatever - write it down as soon as you possibly can.   At first, I only used notebooks, but that got to be a problem when I came up with ideas in the middle of the night…half the time, I couldn’t decipher my scribblings the next day. And then carrying a notebook everywhere wasn’t very practical, either, so I wound up switching to the notes app on my phone (simple, but works great!). But no matter how you do it, don’t put it off. I’m sure I would’ve forgotten the best of my midnight ideas if I’d waited until morning to write them down.   From Rachael Cooper, Head of Publishing and AgentMatch at Jericho Writers Working with John was such a pleasure. Not only was this the first recommendation to come from the Ultimate Novel Writing Course but it came with a glowing recommendation from John’s mentor. So naturally, I made myself a tea and started reading. To say I was blown away by the opening chapters would be an understatement. I immediately sent John a very frantic/excited email saying that 1) I’d love to work with him to find an agent, and 2) very cheekily asking him to send me the full manuscript so I could read on! John and I spent a couple of weeks fine-tuning his submission pack. We even had a transatlantic call mid-pandemic to perfect his elevator pitch for the query letter. When that was ready and John had been able to explore AgentMatch and research his agent shortlist, we decided Jordan Lees could be the perfect match. Before I even had time to cross my fingers, we got a reply from Jordan requesting the full manuscript. This was the quickest response I’ve had from an agent to date. There’s something about helping talented and dedicated authors achieve their dreams, however small a part we play, that makes this job so special. When we heard the news that \'London in Black\' had been picked up by Pushkin Vertigo for publication in 2022, the whole Jericho team were over the moon. There’s something about helping talented and dedicated authors achieve their dreams, however small a part we play, that makes this job so special. About Jack Jack Lutz is a writer and a lawyer. He lives in London with his wife and young daughter. His debut novel, London in Black, will be published by Pushkin Vertigo in June 2022. Jack Lutz, The Blair Partnership The Bookseller, \"Pushkin swoops for Lutz police procedural debut.\" AgentMatch
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How to Ruin Your Author Brand

When Author Branding Goes Wrong Just as you put thought and dedication toward what you write as an author, the same focus should be put on your writer brand. Author branding tells your readers a story about who you are and inspires them to connect with your work.   Think about some of your favorite businesses. What draws you to them and what sort of characteristics come to mind? What about the brand keeps you coming back?  You should consider the same questions when it comes to your writer brand. Creating a strong, defined presence will significantly help you find and connect with your readers – helping them know if what you create is for them, and what to expect from you in the future.   Getting started on your branding involves several different factors from conceptualisation to marketing. In this guide you will learn exactly what elements to focus on, along with us sharing a few author branding examples for inspiration!  What is Author Branding?  Author branding is how you choose to present your values, mission, credibility, and personality to readers. In order to create your author brand, you should start by identifying your target readership. Remember you’re not aiming to appeal to everyone; a loyal target audience is more beneficial than trying to reach all readers.   Once you know who you want to connect with you can work on developing your brand voice and the face you will put out into the world. Tell your story and showcase what makes you different from other authors in your niche, it’s your USP (unique selling point). This also ties into your brand appearance, which might include consistent colours, logos, and fonts across your website and social media channels.   For instance, if you’re a horror writer then the images you share, posts you write, and general look of your social media will differ from that of a children’s writer who publishes books on unicorns and fairies.   As a horror writer you may link to horror-related shows, other books, funny images, explain your writing journey, run a competition around Halloween etc. Whereas a children’s author is more likely to talk about school visits, sharing cute pictures, talking about funny things kids said to them, inspiration for their books, and get behind child-related charities etc  Your writer brand should offer an experience for your readers, and as you gain your following you also want to make sure to stay consistent with reader expectations. Yes, building a winning brand is a lot of work but it’s 100% worth it for longevity (and can be a lot of fun). The Importance of Author Branding  So why is having an author brand so important?   For one, it’s what helps inform readers why they should buy or support your content. When you have a strong, effective brand, it shows your audience that you’re an expert and demonstrates why they can trust your writing.  Your author brand is also a bridge of communication with your audience, keeping them engaged and excited. When readers feel they have a personal connection with you and your work it keeps them coming back for more.   You can engage with your audience by asking their opinions, talking about real experiences, and most importantly, being consistent. Getting your author brand right is only a small part of your author marketing activity – it’s more PR than sales. Remember: only 10-20% of what you post online should be promoting your work (no one likes to be sold to). This is about giving a clear picture of what you stand for as a writer.  Your brand also goes a long way with reinforcing your overall reputation. For example, if you are going live on your social media and interacting with your followers, they’ll get to know you as a reliable brand. Responding to comments, answering inquiries, and providing meaningful content are all reputation boosters. A positive image is crucial for marketing success! Author Branding Mistakes Now that it’s clear exactly how beneficial author branding can be for your writing career, we want to also highlight just how damaging certain mistakes can be. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, but it doesn’t take long to ruin your author brand.  So take your time building your brand in order to avoid certain pitfalls that can diminish all of your hard work. Here are a few common author branding mistakes to avoid: Failing to Connect with the Right Audience  As previously stated, determining your audience should be the first step to take when considering your brand. If you fail to target the right audience then no connection will be built, and that is bad for business.   Your tribe will be naturally interested in you and your story, so it’s up to you to deliver stories, visuals, and content that match your niche audience and the product (i.e. books/your writing) you are promoting. This all helps to establish an emotional connection that must be maintained to keep your audience interested on a deeper level.  If you are struggling to pinpoint one specific target market, it can help to imagine an avatar, a literal representation of who your reader is. Then have that image in mind when deciding what to talk about and share. If your make-believe ideal reader is Jane, a thirty-year-old mother living in Idaho who enjoys pottery and poetry – then great. Think of all the things Jane would like to know about, not just about your books but your life and interests that may match hers too. And if 65-year-old Bob from London hates that content, then that doesn’t matter. Don’t change a thing. Bob isn’t your target market.  The more you stay focused and consistent, the easier it will be to naturally form a coherent audience that grows and supports you and your work. Poor Market Understanding As you start to consider yourself as a brand and a business, you’ll need to also think about competitors. You have to research the market to understand what others in your niche are doing. Focus on what they are doing well and what they could improve upon. How are competitors influencing audience perception? Not doing your due diligence when it comes to competitive analysis will adversely affect your author brand.   If you see that an author of similar books to you is getting a lot of traction by sharing certain pictures or asking certain questions, see how you could do similar things. But that doesn’t mean losing your individualism…  No USP Think about some of the most popular writers across different genres. The reason they stand out is because they have a unique selling point, also known as USP. Your author brand needs to convey how you are different from the thousands of other writers in the market. Simply matching what competing brands are doing won’t make a reader want to choose you over them. You must clearly communicate your own brand values, vision, and a strong author identity to be unique.   Inconsistent Messaging and Visuals Do you have a website? Social media channels? Do you attend public events or take part in school visits?  While completely different platforms, the content you post should be consistent across all forms of communication. Online you should identify colors, fonts, and logos that best reflect who you are as an author. Then ensure you use your branding kit when you post visuals. If people don’t automatically recognise your work, it’s impossible to stand out from the competition – this is especially relevant to those who write non-fiction, run a blog, or offer freelance writing services.  Your messaging should also be consistent, making sure that you (or a social media manager) always write in the same voice and tone. And when you are taking part in public events, reflect that brand. You should act, look, and sound exactly as they expect you to.  Some authors like to be visually recognised when at public events: Terry Pratchett was known for his hat and scarf, V E Schwab wears cat ears to her signings, and Jackie Collins wouldn’t be seen dead without her big jewellery, big hair, and very glam outfits!  No Brand Strategy Without a brand strategy, you won’t have any structure for your author brand. Without structure, you won’t have consistency and that can contribute to brand failure. A solid brand strategy is built from your values and vision. You need to find the balance between authenticity and having a clear direction.  Once you have achieved that, you can identify your goals, and then determine how you will track them. These can include financial goals, marketing goals, or goals set around content production. Consider how you’ll position your brand and iron out how you will highlight your value proposition.   With all of these elements in your strategy, you will have brand success.   All this may not be as relevant to fiction authors who are simply wanting to showcase their books and talk about their writing journey (some authors are lucky enough to have huge support from their publishers in terms of marketing, so don’t feel the need to be on Twitter every day). But it’s highly important if you write non-fiction and wish to prove your worth as an expert in your field, if you want to interact with your readers, or if you are looking to create hype in order to sell more self-published books, attract an agent, or get readers excited about a new book release.  A Subpar Website You don’t have to invest a lot of money in a web designer. In fact, there are plenty of DIY website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress that are more than good enough for writers.   However, you do have to ensure your site looks professional and accurately represents your brand. Your webpage is where readers (as well as reviewers, press, interested publishing professionals etc) can go to learn more about release dates or new announcements. It’s also a hub for your social media channels and contact info.   Keep your domain active and make sure your site is up to date, has a press kit with working purchase links, author photo, your contact info, and that it all loads properly. It can reflect poorly on your brand if your website looks subpar.  Stay On-Brand Many authors gets sucked into Twitter wars or make mistakes in their career. That’s OK, we are all human, but often it’s not the strident opinion that the public and their fans take umbrage at…it’s that their opinion is off-brand.  If you are an children’s author writing stories about equality, but you don’t think kids in the UK should have free school meals, you’re off-brand. If you write about saving the planet and you wear a fur coat to a signing event, you’re off-brand. If you spend a year posting funny content and wise writing advice, then all your post from then on are photos of your pet snake, people will stop following you. A huge U-turn is the fastest way to undo your hard work and stop your hard-won readers from trusting you.  So pick three words that represent you, your values, and your work – and ensure all you do reflects that.  Get Branding! Author branding is something all writers should create a strategy for. Showing your readers who you are and connecting with them on an emotional level is key to building a fanbase. Yes, it takes dedication but as long as you avoid these common branding mistakes you will easily win the hearts (and trust) of your readers – and in turn, you will have an audience that will not only support you but encourage others to as well!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Best Genres for Self-Publishing

Self-publishing has come a long way since its days of being seen as an alternative for books that failed to go trade. It’s now a booming sector that, according to Forbes, is growing far faster than trade publishing.   Since self-publishing is no longer an “option B” authors are now asking themselves from the start whether the trade route or the self-publishing route is right for them and their books.   A lot of factors go into the decision of whether to self-publish a book - royalties, marketing, distribution (to name but a few), but one of the most important factors is genre. Whilst some genres are best served by trade publishing, others are better suited to self-publishing.  In this guide you will find a breakdown of which genres are the best fit for self-publishing, which I hope will help you decide the best route to publication.  Most Popular Self-Publishing Genres Before taking the leap into self-publishing it’s important to figure out whether your genre is a good fit for this form of distribution. Many factors are at play here, like varying levels of commercial success.  For example, romance and thrillers are both heavy-hitting genres for indie writers – that’s great if that’s where you will find your readers, but not so great when you’re up against so much competition.   There are also logistical reasons as to why your genre might not be a good fit for self-publishing. For example, print quality for self-pub book printing and POD (print on demand) services, such as Amazon, are not the highest on the market. Therefore, if you are releasing an illustrated children’s book or a coffee table photographic compilation book, then much like with audiobooks, self-publishing won’t be the best option.   Similarly, if you are planning on self-publishing you also have to think about who shops online and who is likely to be exposed to your book. Since middle graders and young children don’t often read e-books and tend to choose books they can pick up and look through in a bookstore, then kid lit may not be the best choice for self-publishing either.   Do your research. The easiest way to do that is simply take a look on Amazon at the kind of book you plan to write and see what sub-genre lists it’s doing well in. You may be surprised by the sub-categories and their popularity.  To give you a better idea of whether your book will do well on the indie scene, here are the most successful genres in self-publishing: Romance The romance genre accounts for a whopping 40% of self-published books in the Kindle market. Romance readers are notoriously avid consumers and the self-publishing industry, which moves at a much faster rate than trade publishing, is able to accommodate this need.   Since self-publishing has lower overheads and a faster turnaround time, indie writers are also able to accommodate a variety of popular subgenres and niche subgenres. For example, where trade may have jumped on the back of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon and produced a few similar titles, self-publishing is able to hit every niche of the erotica genre - from BDSM to Reverse Harem to even alien sex – without affecting their brand or worrying about stores stocking the books.   However, since romance takes up a profitable chunk of the self-published market it’s also a highly saturated genre and thus highly competitive. Romance has many sub-genres, so if you’re able to find a niche for your work, you have a better chance at competing.   We will discuss popular romance sub-genres further in this article. For now, let’s look at a totally different kind of action…  Mystery, Thriller and Suspense  20% of mystery, thriller and suspense sales in the book industry are self-published. Readers of this genre are just as fast and avid as romance readers. Therefore, because self-published authors often “rapid release” their work, self-published authors can fulfil their readers’ ferocious appetites faster than trade can (most traditional publishers only publish one book per year by each author).   Here are a few popular thriller and suspense sub-genres:  Private investigator thrillers  Mystery and espionage  Legal thrillers Cosy crime Historical thrillers British detectives  As with romance there are many sub-genres to choose from, and this is just a small selection of the most popular ones.   Fantasy Fantasy is a growing genre in self-publishing, especially since many genres overlap with fantasy. There’s an increasing interest in this genre, with around 50% of fantasy books sold on Kindle being self-published.   Here are a few popular fantasy sub-genres:  Paranormal and urban fantasy (these cross over well with romance) Epic Fantasy  Dystopian fantasy  Sword and sorcery  Fairy tales   Science Fiction Science fiction is another relatively popular self-publishing genre with around 56% of Kindle’s sci-fi eBooks self-published. Science fiction, much like fantasy, spawns a lot of hybrid sub-genres.   Here are a few subgenres in Science Fiction that are currently doing well on Amazon:  Space opera  Paranormal and Urban Post-apocalyptic Dystopian  Epics  Note that sci-fi shares many genres with fantasy, with the two genres often crossing over. Horror and bizarro fiction are also popular in self-publishing, as writers are free to push limits and try new ideas.  Non-Fiction, Self-Help and Niche Subjects  If you are an expert on something that you think people want to read about, yet there’s no book on the subject – then write it! But that doesn’t mean traditional publishers will want it.  Trade publishers don’t take risks, so they can’t justify publishing a book called (for instance) “yoga for dogs” - unless it’s been written by a celebrity, with a huge following, who is known for pet gymnastics.   But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for it.   For distribution reasons, your trade publishing journey often starts with an editor considering the target market, a specific territory, and the bookstores who will help get the book into the hands of readers. For this reason alone, a publisher needs to justify there are enough readers in that region for your type of book before they sign it. This can be hard to do if you are penning a niche book on (for instance) how water therapy can help PTSD. However, if you are writing niche non-fiction, or niche self-help, self-publishing could be the perfect answer for you as most distribution is online – so the world is your oyster.   Note that though self-help and personal transformation books do well in self-publishing, these books often come from authors with an existing audience (i.e. social media presence). This type of non-fiction requires trust from the reader, they need to believe you are an expert in your field, so in this case the building of the brand often comes before the book.  How to Pick a Genre for Self-Publishing Needless to say, many aspiring authors want to make money with their writing, or (if really lucky) make a living from it full time. The best way to do this in self-publishing is to “write to market,” and to approach your chosen genre with commercial intent.   This means writing based on what is appealing to the market. Writing what sells. Sometimes the ‘best’ genre for a particular writer may be the genre they are most familiar with, like pilots writing in the war and aviation sub-genre, or ex-military personnel writing in the military sub-genres.   If you to want to self-publish we recommend you first select your primary genre, identify sub-genres within your selected genre, and research how well they do and what your competition is.  Self-Publishing and Romance   Now let’s go back to romance. As a writer of self-published paranormal romance (under the co-written pen name of Caedis Knight), my writing partner and I, who both have traditionally published books, purposely chose to self-publish this series and write to market. We saw a gap in the spicy paranormal world for books that were set outside of the US and we went for it. The reception we have had has been phenomenal – and that’s partly due to the research we conducted and being able to give our readers something that’s hard to find in bookstores.  Let’s take a closer look at sub-genres in romance – the most popular self-publishing genre worldwide: Romance Subgenres Here are examples of popular romance sub-genres that sell well in both trade and self-pub, followed by niche sub-genres that are likely to do better in self-publishing (because there isn’t a lot of room for them in the trade marketplace).  Bestsellers Contemporary Romance YA Romance New adult and College Historical Romance Romantic Suspense Rom Com Fantasy Romance Inspirational Romance  Niche Erotica in all forms (many agents around the world won’t even consider erotica, so self-publishing is a good place to start) Romance Westerns (and modern cowboys) Holiday romances Christian Romance  Historical Romance (Regency and Scottish being the most popular) Classic retellings (Jane Austen being one of the most popular muses) Military romance (including army wives)  Sports romance LGBTQ+ romance (this is available in trade publishing, but the self-pub market is much larger)   The romance genre, much like love itself, is varied and wondrous and has no limits!  Now You Know As you’ve probably realised by now it’s helpful to determine where your book will fall in the market before writing your bestseller.   This might seem counterintuitive because you want to write the book of your heart, but your book (regardless of whether indie or trade) will have a much better chance if it can be marketed well, especially if you can position it in a sub-genre within a popular genre.   In summary, if your book takes your readers where trade publishing fears to tread (and it’s something you know people will enjoy reading about) – then go for it. And who knows? You may even invent a new subgenre!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How to Write a Believable Tragic Hero

Have you ever seen something terrible unfold right before your eyes? If so, you know that even if you want to, it’s hard to look away. In stories, the embodiment of that irresistible dread is the tragic hero – or what I like to call ‘the literary car crash’. Every story has a protagonist, or hero, and that hero usually faces some kind of conflict. Often they suffer hard lessons, but come out in the end with their conflict resolved; the hero is fulfilled, and the story ends on a happy note. Now, I love a happy ending – and absolutely refute the suggestion it lessens a work’s importance. But what if you want your readers to have a different response to the end of your story? What if you want them to feel pity, fear, or devastation for your protagonist? If that’s your intention, you might consider writing a tragic hero. In this guide, you’ll learn what makes a tragic hero, how those characteristics play out in some well-known examples, and how you can develop your own tragic hero with those examples in mind. What is a Tragic Hero? The tragic hero is a classic literary archetype, one that inspires compelling drama, conflict, and pathos. What makes this character (usually the protagonist) so intriguing is that, while they have admirable traits, one or more of those traits, in the extreme, ultimately causes their downfall. This unhappy irony provides a moral lesson and evokes sympathy from the reader – two reactions that leave a strong impression. What\'s the Difference Between a Tragic Hero and an Anti-Hero? Every novel needs a hero, but what kind will the protagonist of your novel be? Unlike a tragic hero, an anti-hero is someone who (even if they are the main character) lacks heroic qualities. They might do good things, but not necessarily for good reasons – think of Joe in the novel and TV adaptation, You. On the other hand, the tragic hero remains heroic with strong morals and good intentions, with the exception of their fatal flaw that trips them up. Readers want to read about both types of hero, but unlike with the anti-hero, we suffer as we stand by and watch our tragic hero’s demise. So, what are tragic heroes made of? Characteristics of Tragic Heroes According to history books, Aristotle coined the term ‘tragic hero’ (an archetype prominent in ancient Greek plays). He famously said that when a tragic hero meets his fate or demise, “pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.” Using the ancient Greek tragedies as an example, the tragic hero has six main characteristics: Hubris – or arrogance, excessive pride.Hamartia – a fatal flaw; an error in judgement, or self-deception.Peripeteia – the sudden turning point; the error in judgement leading to a reversal of fortune.Anagnorisis – recognition of their tragic mistake.Nemesis – commonly known as ‘the enemy’, here it refers to the struggle with their own pride.Catharsis – pity and/or fear invoked in the reader/audience. Shakespeare’s plays also feature many iconic tragic heroes – Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo, Othello – with these characteristics. Macbeth, as a tragic hero, is riddled with flaws. The irony being that were he not so greedy or ambitious he would have managed to avoid all the horrors he encountered. Do tragic heroes always die? No. Shakespeare’s characters are unforgettable, and as a result people often think tragic heroes have to be larger than life and that their stories always end in death. But that’s not necessarily the case. Let’s examine some more modern tragic heroes, including a few of my favourites, keeping in mind the list of traits above. Tragic Hero Examples Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady The young heroine of Henry James’ 19th century novel is beautiful, free-spirited, and idealistic. She turns down marriage proposals from two wealthy suitors, which impresses her cousin Ralph. He convinces his dying father to will her a large portion of his inheritance, hoping financial freedom will allow her intellect and independence to thrive. Instead, she falls for an impoverished dilettante, Gilbert Osmond, set up by Madame Merle, who she considers a friend. Despite Ralph’s warning, she marries Gilbert, certain of his love and moral character. Afterward, Gilbert controls her money and manipulates her affection for his daughter Pansy in a scheme to further his social standing. Her recognition of his deception alters her; once vibrant and optimistic, she becomes quiet, cautious, defensive. Thus, Ralph’s gift, intended to secure her liberty, becomes the instrument that traps her (and his misguided generosity, combined with his hubris of presuming her future, makes him a tragic hero too). Isabel walks into the trap because of her inability to see fault in those she loves, and pride in her own judgement. Even when she learns of her husband and friend’s betrayal (Merle is Pansy’s real mother), she chooses her notion of honour above her own happiness, as if in penance for her mistake. We feel sorrow on her behalf, because we can relate to the pain of choosing the wrong partner, and being betrayed by a friend. Stevens in The Remains of the Day Tragic heroes aren’t necessarily grand or likeable. The English butler in Kazuo Ishiguro’s post-WWII novel lives a life of service, dedicated to his employers and to his ideals of loyalty, dignity, and discretion. All fine qualities, but he takes them to the extreme, making him priggish and exasperating. Still, he merits sympathy, because his upbringing was constrained and unloving. As the novel progresses in flashbacks, we learn two things: 1) Stevens’ revered former employer, Lord Darlington, collaborated with the Nazis, tainting his legacy, and 2) Stevens repressed his romantic feelings for Miss Kenton, who worked as a housekeeper at Darlington Hall twenty years ago. In present time, he takes a road trip to visit her, after receiving a letter suggesting she’s unhappy in her marriage. When they finally reunite, the old attraction is still there. But while she admits it, he cannot. Once again, Stevens’ fear of change and intimacy prevents him from acting. The tragedy of his life is that he devoted it to an unworthy man, while turning away the one person who truly cared for and understood him. Worse, he doesn’t know what to do with his pain except to pretend he doesn’t feel it. And this makes him pitiable. We’ve discussed the appealing tragic hero and the infuriating one; now let’s study a character who’s a bit of both: Lila Cerrullo in The Neopolitan Novels One of two main protagonists in Elena Ferrente’s beloved four-part series, Lila is a brilliant visionary – talented, gorgeous, and fearless. She’s also arrogant, jealous, bitter, and vengeful. All of which makes her fascinating. With her beauty, intelligence, and charisma, she’s a natural prodigy. But her early promise is thwarted by the patriarchal confines of 1950s Italy – and her own self-destructive impulses. She makes dangerous enemies, and betrays (more than once) her best friend Lénu, who can never be sure which Lila she’ll encounter: the good or the wicked. Her unpredictability compels and disturbs Lénu, just as it does the reader. Their love/hate relationship fuels their lifelong, intimate rivalry, and propels this story for several generations. Lila isn’t the agent of all her miseries; terrible things happen outside of her control. At times, she acknowledges her flaws. This softens our judgement, and makes her sympathetic. But she turns her rage at the world inward, becoming so harsh, she repels those who would help her. She expects disappointment, a self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves her isolated and unloved. Finally, she chooses to disappear entirely, and it’s as if a scorching flame has been extinguished. In Lila, Ferrante created an unforgettable tragic character – one that bridges the line between hero and villain. More Examples Other tragic heroes from popular, modern-day books, movies, and TV shows include Lisbeth Salandar in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale, Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Walter White in Breaking Bad, and Omar in The Wire. They differ from ‘pure’ heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Tony Stark in Iron Man, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, or Bella in Twilight because, while those heroes may suffer tragedies, they don’t have a hand in creating them. And their stories generally have an optimistic ending. How to Develop a Tragic Hero Now that you have an understanding of what defines a tragic hero, let’s review some key steps to help you write this type of character yourself: 1. Your protagonist should have some combination of virtuous, admirable, or advantageous traits. Give them a positive trait - honour, loyalty, kindness, intelligence, strength, talent, attractiveness, etc. Anything that would be deemed positive on the surface. 2. Develop one or more of these admirable traits as a ‘fatal flaw’. Dig beneath the surface. When taken to an extreme, something positive can turn negative, causing your protagonist to make decisions that lead to misfortune. This involves some form of hubris, pride, or misplaced faith on their part. What makes a fatal flaw tragic is that it comes from within, not by some outside force or event. 3. The progression of this fatal flaw should be believable. Meaning, it should be organic to the development of your character. For example, Isabel Archer In A Portrait of a Lady defends Gilbert Osmond against those who think he’s opportunistic because she believes they fault him for being poor. As she also came from modest means, she views this accusation as unfair. And because she personalises it, she can’t judge clearly. Therefore, her loyalty (a positive trait) is skewed by her own hubris, which becomes the cause of her downfall. Despite her intelligence, we believe she could make this kind of mistake, because her decision is caused by something elemental to her nature. 4. Due to this fatal flaw, your character must suffer a reversal of fortune. Often, this occurs at the novel’s peak, provoking the hero’s wrenching conflict. Watching a good situation turn bad, or happiness into despair, invokes our most primal fears. As a result, your reader feels invested and engaged. 5. Your protagonist must realise their tragic mistake. This twists the knife deeper. It’s one thing to fall from fortune’s grace, and another to know you’re the architect of your own misery. This recognition can be either profound or subtle. In The Remains of the Day, the butler Stevens doesn’t consciously acknowledge his error. But his last parting from Miss Kenton niggles at him, and when he reflects aloud about his dim future prospects, his body betrays him and he tears up. He pretends it’s just exhaustion – but the reader knows better, and feels pity. 6. The final outcome must be tragic, evoking sympathy and pathos. Your heroes don’t always have to die – but the consequences of their actions must be grave. Their suffering should outweigh their mistake. Even if your reader feels annoyed by their poor judgement, they should relate to this injustice and be more apt to forgive them. Create Your Own Tragic Hero Tragic heroes, unlike superheroes, are by nature flawed – and therefore someone we can relate to. In their flaws, we see our own. In their stories, we recognise plausible conflicts. And as we project our emotions onto these characters, we experience outcomes that are devastating, digesting their moral lessons without having to suffer in real life. This is the catharsis Aristotle described, and the effect you want from your reader. As you begin to construct your own tragic hero, think of some favourable traits you possess or see in others that, in its extreme form, could be a tragic flaw. Have you had or know of an experience where good intentions drastically backfired? Have you ever been betrayed or blindsided? What are the moral dilemmas you want to explore? The best writing comes from a place of deep personal connection. Find that hot spot within yourself, consider the dramatic possibilities, and then imbue your hero with all the wonderfully complex tragedy they can – or can’t – handle. Make your readers enjoy their sweet suffering as they watch the character they’ve learned to love destroy their own life. Not all great endings are happy ones…but most do shine with a little hope and a hearty lesson. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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A Writer’s Guide to Inclusive Language

A Writer\'s Guide to Inclusive Language Disappearing into a great book can be a transformative experience - a form of escapism and an expansion of your understanding.   When I’m diving into the world constructed by a creative author, I want to feel as though I belong in that world. Reading inclusive language is one of the ways in which all readers can feel connected to a story.   So how can you ensure you don’t exclude any of your readers and you help them feel seen?   Firstly, ask yourself this simple question…  Why Are You Writing This Particular Story? We all possess an unconscious bias, and no matter how hard we fight it those hidden prejudices can be projected on to our work. Before we begin exploring inclusive language, ask yourself these questions:   Am I writing about what I know? Is the person’s identity, socio-economic status, race, and age relevant to the plot? Is this my story to tell, or would it be better told by someone who has lived this experience?  If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’ and you still want to write this story, we strongly suggest you do your research and work with critique partners/beta readers/sensitivity readers who have lived the life you are writing. This will not only strengthen the realism of your work, but it will grant you more respect when it comes to pitching your novel to agents or editors.  As society changes, we need to remember our readers and their expectations change too. So, let’s look at how to write inclusive stories…   What is Inclusive Language? Inclusive Language Definition: Inclusion is the practice of fostering a sense of belonging, by including many perspectives, imagining a diverse audience, a multiplicity of ideals, values, and experiences. Inclusive language is how authors show that they recognise their readers, whoever they are, and that they are welcome.   Many people who belong to marginalised communities yearn to see and read about well-rounded, authentic, and diverse characters who are empowered. Characters with independent purpose in narratives, and therefore given the ability to make meaningful change.  Inclusive language isn’t just the description of appearance or using appropriate pronouns; it’s also the use of language to portray power, interest, and direction. It directly addresses the violence of racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism, homophobia, and heteronormativity. Use of inclusive language also avoids direct discrimination, implicit and unconscious biases, and other forms of prejudice.   By practising inclusive writing, you will become highly aware of the language that has been used to communicate exclusion, bias, and hate. In order to appeal to ever-evolving audiences, it’s vital to be aware of out of date language, words, and descriptions, as well as those that have always been intended to cause offense.   Why Use Inclusive Language?  Inclusive language is important because it means you are thinking about your most vulnerable and marginalised readers. It’s important for us all to identify where our writing style inadvertently includes out-dated, offensive terms and work toward eliminating these – because we can’t expect our readers to sift through our work to find the good stuff.   So many people experience the world through the writing of others, whether it’s in museum text, film, TV, literature; representation matters to everyone. Limited representations and stereotypes of people in our society does not just harm those who are misrepresented or erased, it harms all whose imagination is limited and keeps their worldview small.   What Does Inclusive Language Look Like? Power and agency are vital when considering your diverse characters. They must have autonomous, developed identities (so not just sidekicks or plot devices) who participate actively in the story and world.  As experiences of marginalisation and exclusion differ across identities here are a few ideas and examples to consider for your writing. Parents and Pregnancy For many authors creating character profiles is a useful starting point when developing family dynamics.   When writing inclusively you should be aware of:  Hetronormative family structures. Heterosexual romantic relationship(s) don’t have to be central to the familial history and structure.  Gender norms as affecting roles taken by parental figures (the mother doesn’t have to do all the cooking, the father doesn’t have to be great at DIY). Assumptions of the nuclear family with two parents and one or more child. These erase polyamorous and blended families and is a western ideal that doesn\'t often include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and multi-generational households as the core familial structure.  Language matters – use toughen up instead of man up, homemaker instead of housewife, husband and wife instead of man and wife.  This doesn’t mean you can’t have a family that is made up of a married female mum, male dad, and 2.4 kids – it simply means that society doesn’t only look that way. It’s important to reflect reality in your work, as long as it doesn’t feel forced, gratuitous, or irrelevant.  A book that explored the idea of family in an inclusive way is Candice Carty-Williams’s 2019 novel Queenie. The titular character’s family is central to her narrative and their history unfolds throughout the story with the family dynamic driving the narrative. Queenie’s family is her grandmother, grandfather, her aunt, cousin and her mother; as well as the family she creates in her ‘corgis’. The relationships feel authentic and complex - their dynamic is a natural part of the texture of the world.   Gender and Sexual Orientation It’s essential to use inclusive language when exploring gender experiences as well as experiences of sexuality across the spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ communities.   This acronym is used to capture a wide spectrum of experiences, not just those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. The first three letters (LGB) refer to sexual orientation. The \'T\' refers to transgender, and so to gender identity. The “Q” stands for Questioning or Queer, the “I” for Intersexual and the “A” for Asexual.   Regardless of your own sexual preferences, remember the world is made up of many people with many different outlooks and lifestyles.  This also applies to unconscious bias when it comes to gender roles and what it means to be ‘male’ or ‘female’. Think about non-sexist language such as:   Gender binaries and gender-neutral language (the idea that you have to be either male or female). Framing around gendered appearances (e.g. describing someone as girlie or a tom boy).The effects of patriarchal assumptions that make it seem necessary to use ‘female’ as an adjective with professions that have assumptions of a male standard e.g. doctor or scientist. Toxic masculinity that equates being a man to being tough and unemotional - and femininity to being submissive and sexualized or viewed with the male gaze to satisfy unrealistic fantasies.   Language matters - use gay instead of homo, sexual preference instead of sexuality, trans person instead of transvestite, humankind instead of mankind.  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett discusses gender (and race) in an intimate manner. Reese and Jude’s relationship unfolds as a sweet experience of connection and insecurity of two marginalised people. Reese’s identity as a trans man is established early and his pronouns established and used consistently then on, with none of the narrative based on speculating on his gender. In fact it is society’s gender assumptions that become absurd, and painful when viewed from the perspective of a couple that sit outside of this. Social Inclusion Poverty and social exclusion are often overlooked when writing inclusively. The language used to refer to people of low socioeconomic status can strengthen negative stereotypes upheld by society, without exploring the systemic inequalities that create poverty and social exclusion in the first place.   Things to keep in mind:  Consider talking about people’s socio-economic status rather than class.  Describing people as survivors rather than victims addresses the idea of agency and power inherent in inclusive writing.Describing people as poor or areas as ghettos, is offensive and dismissive, assigning value only to financial and material assets.   In fact, if you show (not tell) your reader what your characters\' lives are like you won’t need to refer to the words poor, low class, or slums.  Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood describes the reality of living in a community that had been ghettoised by systematic exclusion and discrimination in Apartheid South Africa. The characters in his narrative are interesting and complex, not limited by stereotypical victim narratives, simply people who have to live in an excluded society. Disability When writing about the experience of disabilities it’s important to acknowledge the vastness of what is understood as a disability. As mentioned previously, if disability is not your lived experience, then work with those who can advise you.    Things to consider:  Assumptions about what a disability looks like can result in invisible illnesses and mental health conditions being treated with scepticism and mistrust.  Framing of disability as something strange encourages tropes of disabled villains. Such as where disfigurement and scarring are used to signal wickedness (the James Bond franchise has been under fire for this recently); or mental health or childhood trauma is used to create a backstory that explains violent characteristics. These are dangerous and hurtful tropes with real-life impact.   The ‘othering’ of disabilities detaches these experiences from our understanding of ‘normal’ experiences in society and supports social exclusion - despite the fact that 15% of the world’s population openly identifies as having a disability.   Language matters - wheelchair bound implies a wheelchair traps its user, whereas wheelchair user articulates that their mobility aid provides freedom and greater access to its user.  With mental health, the words mental, crazy, unhinged, unpredictable etc are biased and harmful (unless purposely used in dialogue to represent a character’s own views). Describe their characteristics without using words that are biased and rooted in ridicule or fear.  Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals explores the nuance of dealing will long-term illness and disability, along with Black feminist theory, delivered through poetry and essays.   Race and Ethnicity Race is a social construct, but racism is a reality that affects us all.   Ethnic diversity is often what people refer to when discussing racial differences; ethnicity is a mix of inherited features and shared cultures. It’s distinct from nationality, which is a legal status that assigns a person to the laws of a state or nation, as well as affords them protection by this state.   Many readers will have, at some point, read ‘classic’ narratives with no ethnic diversity, or tokenistic and stereotypical representations (for instance, the language used in the much-loved classic, The Secret Garden, would not be acceptable today).   When considering ethnicity in characters, remember it’s not always vital to describe the skin colour or nationality of your character through physical descriptions (you can allude to heritage via their name or setting, or simply let readers decide what they look like).   If you must describe them, consider:  Our world is ethnically diverse, so your literary worlds should be thoughtfully described without dipping in to fetishized language focusing on features in an overt and uncomfortable way. When describing someone there’s no need to isolate body parts like lips or genitals, or describe skin tones using food.   The Diversity Guide is a great source of reference for inclusive language examples.  Language matters - use uppercase ‘B’ in the word ‘Black’ when referring to race, ethnicity or cultural background, and lower case for the colour ‘black’.   An excellent example of inclusive writing around ethnicity is N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. Though set in a fantasy world where racial identities do not correlate to our own, the character’s physical descriptions are detailed and rich enough that readers experience a varied cast of characters that are ethnically diverse, nuanced, and relatable.   Age I will end by exploring writing inclusively about age, which is essential as all our identities are filtered by age. For instance, referencing age can provide a restrictive lens that may ascribe ignorance and beauty to youth, and cynicism and wisdom to the elderly.  Ageism affects people regardless of how old they are. Consider these intersections to help challenge stereotypes:  Ageism with gender assumptions, around pregnancy and desires for pregnancy. Is every woman over thirty desperate for children?Ageism combined with racism brings forth particular stereotypes and harmful assumptions (e.g. Black youths vs Black elders).  Ageism combined with disability can bring to light an array of pre-conceived prejudice. The erasure of LGBTQIA+ elders support an idea that these communities are new in society without longevity and legacy.  Language matters – although the terms old fart, little old lady, bitter old man and old hag are often used in jest, they are still insulting (unless they’re included in a character’s dialogue to reflect their own bias).   For a great example of how to change a reader’s perception of age, Jonas Jonasson’s novel, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, is a refreshing narrative from the perspective of an older protagonist that actively challenges the limited expectations of older characters, instead highlighting how all the experiences of his life created accumulated knowledge and perspectives that furthered his narrative and creative possibilities. Evolution of Language Bear in mind that movements to reclaim language that’s historically been used to offend, by those who these words were used against, is rising.   Exploration around ‘crip culture’ reclaiming the word ‘cripple,’ or movements within the LGBT+ communities to reclaim the term ‘queer,’ are very interesting elements of inclusive practice that explore the complexity of power and positionality.   However, these remain problematic for most writers unless they have lived that experience and have a very good reason to use self-deprecating language.  The reclaimed language, among other debates and advocacies based on marginalised people telling their own stories, can and should be explored further by following the #OwnVoices hashtag (created by author Corinne Duyvis). Other related community discussions and campaigns, such as the We Need Diverse Books campaign, are worth researching.   But please, don’t ask someone else to educate you. If you want to run ideas past someone, hire (that means pay) a sensitivity reader.  Champion Inclusivity If your intention is to create a greater sense of belonging, a richer and more complicated world that feels relevant with open possibilities, then it is always worth expanding your practice and considering the impact of the words you choose and the inclusivity of your text. We don’t always get it right, but it’s important to try.  Because I believe there’s a reflexive relationship between inclusive language and inclusive society. As writers it’s our job to be aware of exclusions in society, to consider the agency in the characters we create, and to help move the world forward through the literary worlds we build.   And remember, if all of this appears to be too difficult or unnecessary – maybe your story isn’t yours to tell. Draw from your own experiences. Bring your readers into your world, and in turn help them feel seen.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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How to Turn Your Book into an Audiobook

Take Advantage of the Growing Audio Market You’ve taken the plunge into self-publishing, and now you’re considering creating an audiobook. You’ve heard that audiobooks are a good business opportunity, but how do you go about making one?  In this article, we’ll explain the possible approaches to creating an audiobook, along with their pros and cons. After reading, you’ll be able to make an informed plan and starting working toward your first audiobook release.  Why Make an Audiobook? Audiobook sales are soaring in English-speaking markets—and it’s not just because of lockdowns in 2020. In fact, audiobooks have experienced eight straight years of double-digit growth. In the US alone, the audiobook publishing market has grown to encompass $1,100,000,000 of revenue as of 2021.  Clearly, there is a hunger for audiobooks. And it makes sense: they fill gaps in our daily routine that printed books and e-books don’t, such as when we’re travelling, exercising, or preparing food. Plus, most people already own a mobile device capable of playing audiobooks: a smartphone.  Some authors are concerned that audiobooks will steal sales from their other formats. At a market-wide level, across-the-board growth in print sales and ongoing strong e-book sales suggest this isn’t happening. Plus, more than half of audiobook listeners say they make “new time” for audiobooks and read more books overall as a result, while other readers credit audiobooks with helping them rediscover their love for reading.  In short, the business case for audiobooks is strong: added sales today, plus excellent year-over-year growth facilitated by a widely-adopted technology.  Best Audiobook Genres Be forewarned, not all genres work well as audiobooks:  A book that is intended specifically as a visual experience, such as a coffee-table photography book, obviously doesn’t make sense as an audiobook.A book that relies on diagrams, graphs, or images to convey key information won’t work as-is, although it may be possible to adapt it. Ask yourself whether the images in your book could be converted into short spoken passages that convey the same information. (For example, a diagram showing how to dress a turkey before roasting is helpful but could easily be narrated instead. Meanwhile, a map showing alternate routes between several towns, plus nearby landmarks, would be difficult to narrate in any useful way.) Reference books typically don’t work as audiobooks, because of the need either to search for particular words or to jump between sections easily.  However, any book that’s primarily running text, whether fiction or non-fiction, will likely work well as an audiobook. Some of the top audiobook genres, based on today’s sales charts, include:  Mystery/thriller/suspense Self-help and self-improvement Business & Personal Finance Science fiction and fantasy Popular science History Romance  You may also have heard that autobiographies and memoirs do well as audiobooks. By the numbers, that’s true, but much like print and e-book editions, you need either a pre-existing “name” and platform or an excellent marketing campaign to perform well in these genres.  How to Create an Audiobook The core of creating an audiobook is recording and editing the narration. You’ll also need to prepare the Whether creating your audiobook yourself or hiring professionals to do it, the core of the work will be recording and editing the narration. Lesser (but equally necessary) tasks include preparing the script, commissioning a cover design, mastering the edited recording, and uploading the package to a distributor. Let’s take a look at what some of these terms mean, and then we’ll explore two approaches you can take to getting the work done—working with a company that can support you, or doing it yourself. Narration Narrating an audiobook is more than just “reading out loud”. The narrator needs to achieve an error-free performance, which is a challenge compared to speaking casually, where we make a surprising number of errors. Another challenge is that an untrained voice will begin to sound rough after 30-60 minutes of constant talking. (If you have public speaking experience, none of this is news to you!) The average person speaks at a rate of 120-150 words per minute. This might seem to indicate that someone can record a 70,000-word novel in 10 hours, but a more realistic estimate would be 20-30 hours, depending on experience. Bad takes, interruptions, and preparation time all inevitably add to the total. Recording, Editing, and Mastering The job of the recording engineer is to set up a suitable recording environment and, using specialized hardware and software, to capture the performance into a digital file. After recording comes editing, which involves choosing the best takes, marking any passages that need re-recording, and “cleaning” the audio of defects such as pops and clicks. This process is laborious and can take three-to-four hours of work per finished hour of audio, depending on experience and the quality of the initial recording. (Note, this means that narration and editing together require five-to-seven hours per finished hour of audio!) After editing comes mastering. This is where an edited recording is adjusted so that the volume is even throughout, with no sudden jumps. The tone will also be balanced, so that the final result sounds good on all types of speakers and headphones and won’t fatigue the listener’s ears. Cover Design Audiobooks use square cover images. If your book has already been published in print or ebook format, it may be possible to adapt your existing cover, or you may have received an audiobook format cover as part of a package you paid for. Otherwise, you’ll need to commission a new design.  Assembly and Uploading When all of your final files are created, you’ll need to assemble them and upload to your distributor. You’ll need to make sure that what you upload meets the distributor’s specifications and requirements. (Be sure to check these requirements before you begin the recording step!)  So, now that you have some understanding of how to create an audiobook, what’s the best approach to use? There are two broad audiobook creation options, one costing mostly money, the other costing mostly time.  Approach One: Use Professionals Using a professional narrator and audio engineer(s) allows you to spend less of your own time on your audiobook, and receive a reliable, high-quality result—but the investment is significant, often $2000US or more. The two most common ways to hire professionals are by using a marketplace, or by dealing with a specialist audiobook company.  Marketplaces A marketplace is a service that connects you with a variety of professional talent, allowing you to review samples, see prices, and choose the narrator you prefer. Two popular marketplaces for audiobook production are Findaway Voices and ACX. (The two sites work somewhat differently and offer different business terms. You should explore both to see which best fits your needs.)  The voice actor you hire will handle the recording process and deliver the final recording to you. Contract terms may be either a one-time fee, or a royalty-sharing agreement that delivers a percentage of each sale to the voice actor.  Specialist Companies If you prefer an approach that’s even more hands-off, you can hire a company that specializes in recording audiobooks. The advantage of these companies is their integrated approach: because they specialize in recording audio, they’ll typically have a dedicated high-quality studio, a staff of experienced professionals, and a well-defined production process that produces reliable results. On the downside, they may have a smaller or more expensive roster of voice talent. Expect to receive an all-in-one quote and delivery of a complete (edited and mastered) audiobook.  If you need to minimize the time you put into audiobook production—for example, if you have an established writing routine and don’t want to disrupt it—or, if you really don’t want to handle the creative direction or price negotiations, using a specialist company could be a good option for you.  Approach Two: Do It Yourself If your preference is to spend less money, but invest more time and effort, then the do-it-yourself approach may be best. Be forewarned that narration, recording, and editing all take practice. And no, DIY isn’t cost-free—particularly not the first time.  Recording your own audiobook gives you a very intimate connection to the final product, and if you do a high-quality job, it can give your readers a special connection to you. Plus, reading your script out loud can improve your writing, particularly (if you write fiction) your dialogue.  Essential Equipment You’ll need to acquire some essential equipment for recording audiobooks:  A high-quality vocal microphone. This is a purchase you can’t avoid and shouldn’t skimp on. (Expect to spend around $60US minimum.)  A “pop guard” or “pop shield”, which is a small barrier of nylon or metal mesh which blocks bursts of air from B and P sounds that can ruin your recording.  Depending on the acoustics of your recording space, you may also need an isolation box—a small, padded cube that surrounds your microphone on all sides but the front, blocking unwanted reflections from nearby walls and surfaces.   You’ll also need a computer with recording and editing software to create audiobooks. There are free options that will work just fine, though professional software often has features that can save time.  Note that if you live in a space where there’s constant noise (such as an apartment above a busy street), it’s unlikely you’ll be able to prepare this space for recording without a significant investment in soundproofing. In this situation, hiring professionals to record your audiobook may not cost any more than doing it yourself.  Technique A complete how-to is beyond the scope of this article, but expect to learn and practice the following to record your own audiobook:  How to use your recording and editing software, and how the various audiobook formats work. How to warm up your voice before recording, and things to avoid before a recording session. How to schedule your recording and editing sessions to avoid vocal, auditory, and mental fatigue. (The twenty-ninth hour of recording and re-recording your novel can test your endurance in ways you didn’t know were possible!) How to ensure recordings made on different days have the same tone.  Because of this learning curve, you might consider creating a short or free excerpt as your first audio release. Much like writing a short story before you dive into a complete novel, this will give you a low-risk opportunity to work out the kinks in your process. You’ll also get useful feedback from your dedicated readers: if they tell you the quality isn’t good enough, you have a chance to recalibrate before recording the full book. (And if they tell you it sounds amazing, that can give you the reassurance to forge ahead!)  You should also consider the possibility of hiring a professional to master your final recording. Much like a manuscript editor, their outside perspective can give much-needed objectivity. Plus, if you arrange to send them your first chapter for review, they can warn you of any serious problems before you record any more. Creating a partnership with a professional audio engineer can be a great way to ensure a high-quality result for your self-recorded audiobook.  Do Your Research and Be Heard As you can see, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you go about creating your audiobook. You can choose to spend time or spend money, and to forge long-term creative partnerships or to outsource for minimal distraction.  Importantly, if your budget is tight, you don’t need to feel shut out of the growing audiobook market. With diligence, you can produce a quality audiobook your listeners will love.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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How To Become A Better Writer

Every year, I vow to write more and write better. Sounds easy peasy, doesn’t it? The truth is, becoming a better writer takes time, work, and commitment – and when you add that to the countless hours we already spend on our current writing projects and day-to-day commitments, putting even more work in can feel daunting. Suddenly, your “simple” goal to improve your craft no longer feels do-able, let alone desirable or attainable. After all, there are only so many hours in a day, and so many of us struggle to protect whatever precious writing time we can find.   No two writers are the same. How we define “better writer” changes as our careers evolve. You may want to know how to write good dialogue, how to get better at creative writing, or simply get more words down on the page.  Yet, I’ve never met a writer who didn’t want to improve their craft. Writers are strivers and dreamers - my favourite people – and that’s why I’m here to share my top tips on how I’ve become a better writer.  Make A List Of Your Writing Goals Artistic paths differ from writer to writer. So, let’s start by making a list of your writing goals, big and small. This list is for your eyes only so feel free to go for the gold and the glory.  Don’t hold back. You want to win the Nobel Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the Pulitzer, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature? Sure, why not, don’t we all in our heart of hearts?    Propose Action Steps To Support Your Writing Goals Okay, now that you’ve compiled a list, let’s go over each goal one by one. What actions can you take to support your goal of becoming a better writer? Think of it as your personal GPS. Map out the route to get there. Step by step. For example, if your goal is more production and more publications, but you fear rejection (who doesn’t?) then being a better writer might involve putting yourself out there and submitting your work to more opportunities. How to improve your writing could also mean increasing your productivity and output – writing more pages – which we all know has been difficult during this pandemic.   Perhaps you’ve always been shy about self-promotion and how to be a good writer for you means improving your sales and reaching a wider audience. What are some steps you could take to increase sales? Network?    If ‘writing in another genre’ made it on your list, now might be the perfect time to take that risk and invest in yourself. Pursue that new interest that keeps you awake at night and take that course you’ve always had your eye on. Check out the creative writing classes Jericho Writers offers here. Becoming a better writer takes courage, faith, and action. When in doubt, remember, it and you are worth it. Carve Out Sacred Writing Time A writer writes. Ideally, as often as possible. I know life is messy yet the only way to become a better writer is to carve out some time to write. Establish a routine. It can be thirty minutes a day. One hour a day. Five hours a week. Your routine might vary week to week. I know mine does. This is why I plan ahead.   Look at your schedule next week, find the pockets of time and book appointments with your muse. Act like it’s a hot date. Show up.   Hold this time sacred. That is, put your cell phone in another room and don’t check your email or your social media feeds. In fact, just turn off the Wi-Fi and write.  At the end of the week, if you honoured all your “dates” with your muse, please treat yourself. A little chocolate. A leisurely walk in the park. Even that new notebook you had your eye on. This serves to remind you a writer’s life is rewarding.   Be A Voracious Reader It may be a cliché but it’s true, if you don’t read a lot, you won’t improve your writing. Read as much as possible. Read the classics, the award winners, the up-and-comers, the off-beat, self-published, and commercial. Read magazines and newspapers. There’s a wealth of information out there waiting for you to discover and grab hold of it.   One time I read an article about the difficulties of finding organ donors, and for some reason, a lightbulb flicked on and kept flickering until I wrote a play that explores that topic. This has happened more than once, and it always feels like magic.  That book you couldn’t put down, that you had to read from start to finish – what was it about that story that grabbed you? What made it a page-turner? Was it the point of view, the story structure, the gorgeous language, the plot?   Take note of the books you couldn’t finish too. Why did you lose interest? Perhaps you were too stressed, too tired, and should give it another read later?  If that’s not the case, what would you have done differently?   We can learn so much from other writers and stories that are not our own, and it can all lead to becoming better writers.  Document Your Ideas Writers are curious observers so be sure to carry a handy notebook wherever you go so you can jot down ideas. It may be:   Swatches of dialogue or a bizarre turn of phrase you overhear that spark intrigue.  What someone was wearing…or not wearing.   A street sign or joke that made you laugh out loud.  A scenario that made your blood curl.  Unusual or annoying mannerisms that might inform one of your characters.  That musical phrase you keep humming.  Secrets spilt at that family gathering.  Keep a writing pad near your bedside.  Sometimes a weird dream will jolt me awake and I need to write down the details before I forget.  Of course, you can use your smartphone to make notes, record audio notes, and take photos as well.   Capture the vivid colours that surrounded you. Record the sound of the beach. Make a note of how the Hunter’s Moon glowed that night.  Take a photo of that statue or landmark that inspires you to do further research.  Life is full of wonder and delight. It’s our job to live it and write it.  Find A Writing Buddy Writing is a solitary profession, but we don’t have to go it alone. Having a writing friend can be tremendously uplifting in these unsteady times. I have a few writing buddies and we check in with each other regularly. We share resources, what we’re working on, our ups and downs, what we’ve done to advance our careers, and what we hope to do in the next week or two. We hold each other accountable in an honest, supportive, and kind relationship.  Choose wisely. Your writing buddy should be someone who has your best interests at heart, and vice versa. We rarely succeed at the same time or the same rate, so it’s essential to pair up with someone you respect and trust.    Write To Win, Place, Or Show Writing contests provide excellent opportunities to improve your craft, create new work, and have fun. These contests often offer prompts or themes that ignite and stretch our imagination. The fact that these opportunities come with deadlines is a bonus – added encouragement to stick to our writing routines.   I usually choose contests where there are no or low submission fees, but that is a personal choice. Everyone should do their own cost/benefit analyses and compare those results to their goals and finances. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs. While rewards vary from opportunity to opportunity – publication, reading, production or a cash prize – the overall goal remains the same: to challenge ourselves and become better writers.   ‘No’ Is Simply A Number I love American baseball because it showed me a new, healthier way to accept that dreaded word - “failure.”  Professional baseball players strike out a lot. In fact, they strike out 70% more often than they hit. If they hit three out of ten balls, they end up in the Hall of Fame. That’s right, three out of ten and you’re in the Hall of Fame.  Like baseball, the arts is also a business of frustration and failure. You will receive more “no’s” than “yesses.” It is very much a numbers game. The more we submit, the more we step up to the plate, the more likely we will get hits. If we’re lucky, we knock it out of the park and end up on some bestseller lists. The trick is to keep showing up at the plate.   Rejection still hurts and Imposter Syndrome is very real, but one way to soften the blow is to think of each “no” as a pass. Yes, a pass, because many times that’s what it is. A question of fit or taste. Not a reflection on the quality of your work. Maybe the literary magazine just published a story with a similar theme, or an agent is looking for something specific. When a pass shows up in your email box, make it a policy to send out another request or pitch.  Beating up on yourself never helps, never leads to your best work. I know, I am my own Tiger Mom. Alligators are known for their tough skin; good writers are known for their resilience.   Whenever I feel myself falling down that rabbit hole, I pull myself back up with Norman Lear’s motto: “Over and Next.”  Norman Lear is an American television and film writer who has created, written, and produced over 100 shows.  Listen To Feedback Now, if we get repetitive feedback that pinpoints a specific area that needs work, then consider that a blessing. That’s information we can process and use to improve our next draft. Perhaps there’s an unclear plot jump and the timeline is confusing to readers. Maybe the dialogue feels stilted and strains credibility because we inadvertently head hopped. Put these notes on your list of goals. Brainstorm the action steps you can tackle your revision. Find resources. Reach out. Outline. Rewrite. You got this. Keep writing, rewriting, and sending work out. Three hits out of ten. That’s what we should all be aiming for.  Keep Growing  Remember your voice and your vision are gifts to the world. Cherish and nurture those gifts. Court your muse. When you’re feeling blue, keep your eye on the prize. Talent is unstoppable. Three out of ten. Over and next!    I’m so happy you want to become a better writer. Me, too. I hope my tips inspire you to be the best writer you can be, and show you there are so many ways we can keep on becoming better.  So many resources are available, too, at your fingertips, starting right here.  We don’t have to do it alone. We form a community and do this together. We can even have fun along our journey.  The writer’s life is rewarding when we stay curious, stay resilient, and we keep getting better. Our writing goals change as we become better writers and our careers evolve, but one thing never changes: You know best better. See you at the Writer’s Hall of Fame! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Driving The Story: Internal Vs. External Conflict

You can’t have a story without conflict. But what types of conflict should your characters be dealing with? Will it be the bad guys that get between them and their end goal – or will they be the ones standing in their own way?  This internal vs. external conflict debate may sound unnecessary, and some writers simply choose to ignore it, however injecting various types of conflict in your story can be incredibly useful and makes for a deeper (and more tension-filled) story.   There’s a general misconception that a literary fiction novel can’t have external conflict and a fast-paced thriller can’t have internal conflict – that commercial work is all about action, and ‘deeper’ books are more character-driven. That is simply not true.   Before we delve into this discussion, let’s establish what constitutes internal and external conflict - or indeed, conflict itself.  What Is Conflict? Conflict is the stuff of drama. It’s the main reason people read books. Nobody is interested in a protagonist that’s like a cork bobbing aimlessly in the water. No. Readers want to root for a protagonist that has some sort of aim in life, stakes that are high and difficult to achieve. To be more specific, a book character needs motivation and the drive to achieve something. The obstacles that arise to prevent that from happening are conflict and they only make us root for the protagonist harder.   There’s a reason why plot-driven series like The Hunger Games and Divergent are so popular. They provide us with solid main characters who are thrust into an inhospitable environment and are asked to survive through them. With plenty of obstacles thrown in their way (be it people trying to kill them, or trauma from their past preventing them from moving on), it makes for popcorn-worthy entertainment. For the same reason, film franchises like Jurassic World, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings have enduring appeal.   Conflict is what makes a story world compelling and a book ‘unputdownable’. If a conflict is weak then so is the story. The more complex and hard to resolve the issue is, the better the story. The best conflicts are an amalgamation of internal and external conflicts.  So what’s the difference between internal and external conflict?   Internal Conflict In simple terms, internal conflict pertains to a character’s fight with the self. This internal struggle tells us a great deal about the kind of person they are. In the film The Woman in the Window, the main character, Anna Fox, suffers from agoraphobia which makes it near impossible for her to venture out of her house. That is internal conflict. It’s this which drives the story forward. Everything that happens in the film basically revolves around Anna’s agoraphobia.  It’s incorrect to say internal conflict only exists in literary fiction. Sure, it can help in exploring the various nuances of a character, but it can also be vital in pushing the story forward. The Woman in the Window is a psychological thriller that thrives on the main character’s internal conflict. Similarly, in Anna Karenina, we have an example of internal conflict in yet another character called Anna. Unhappy in her marriage, she falls in love with a man she can’t have. Her internal struggle is part of the novel’s enduring appeal. External Conflict External conflicts arise when things happen that are out of the character’s control and how they affect their life and prevent them from achieving whatever they want.  External conflict is plot-driven and thus is used to great effect in thrillers and action novels. However, that isn’t to say that external conflict has no use in character-driven novels. In Anna Karenina, her society is one of the reasons Anna can’t be with the man she loves. This is a great external conflict example that appears to be a lot more internal. In the Jurassic World franchise, the conflict doesn’t only arise between the main characters, but mostly due to rampaging dinosaurs being an integral part of the plot. The franchise shows us how, despite every precaution being taken, life itself is difficult to control.  Turning to YA literature, The Hunger Games offers an excellent example of external conflict. Survival is in jeopardy when Katniss Everdeen takes her sister’s place for the games that are held on the order of the Capital. Whatever action she takes against the external forces she’s forced to deal with determine her survival. The Difference Between Internal And External Conflict Internal vs external conflicts can be more nuanced than this, but here’s a handy reference to distinguish between the two…  Internal: Psychological, emotional, and the past: fears, mental health, trauma, social conditioning and self-doubt.  External: People/animals/monsters who are out to get your character, an inhospitable landscape, and events out of their control.  Adding Conflict To Your Writing There’s no better way to move a story forward than to create conflict between characters, their environment, or their internal angst. Without anything to overcome there’s no hero.  Conflict can take many forms, but it can mostly be categorised into two camps: internal and external. A novel that possesses both forms of literary conflict affords readers a well-rounded view of not only the characters but also of the story world and overall theme.   There are plenty of examples of novels that have both. Some that come to mind are: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, The Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and The Corset by Laura Purcell.   Remember, conflict isn’t only about fistfights and weapons causing widespread destruction. Conflict can be as simple as a person applying for a job and the insecurity they might feel from the other participants.   Let’s take a look at how we can add conflict to our work in more subtle ways.  Dialogue Arguments between characters, not to mention those powerful one-liners, are what drive conflict. Dialogue is often considered one of the best devices for introducing immediate conflict. By applying the old adage ‘Show Don’t Tell’, instead of telling us a character is mean, it’s better to show them being unkind through mannerisms, action and dialogue.   This leads us on to…  Creating Characters With Opposing Views Novels are generally categorised as follows:  Action-based (external conflict) Reflective (internal conflict)  The action-based novel is driven by events happening in the plot and how the characters respond to them in order to move forward and fulfil whatever purpose they may have. The reflective novel, on the other hand, takes a more languid pace with plenty of characterization. Both of these can be enhanced by introducing characters with opposing views.  Pride and Prejudice, for instance, is an excellent example of a reflective novel where Elizabeth Bennett is torn about her feelings for Mr Darcy throughout the novel. She seems to love and hate him, but ultimately love trumps all. The same goes for North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell where the main characters engage in a dance of love and hate. That is an example of internal conflict and opposing characters.   Subplots In addition to dialogue and characterisation, subplots are also a great way of adding conflict. Subplots allow minor characters to have storylines of their own, and since a subplot always complements the main plot and never competes with it, we get to understand a bit more about the main characters. Think of ways a subplot and the main plot meet, and how they can create conflict for one another.  Flashbacks Flashbacks are also a useful device and are useful in establishing the character as three-dimensional, illustrating why the character is struggling with internal conflict. For instance, if a character has faced trauma in the past, the flashback may explain their behaviour in certain situations in the present.   Conclusion As we’ve demonstrated, conflict in storytelling is a complex subject, but not something that should overwhelm us. On the contrary, conflict is our friend as it can help us write fast-paced scenes and it may be the answer to our plot holes or writing slumps.   Writing conflict doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, whenever the pace of the novel is lagging, conflict is the one thing that will come to your rescue and elevate your novel back to the pace it had in the first place.    So have fun building your worlds and creating characters your readers will root for – then put them through hell! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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/titleThey 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 Jericho Writers Club).   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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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A Guide on Writing Memoirs or Autofiction

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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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A Complete Guide to the Different Genres of Nonfiction

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, are 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 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 on 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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Short Story Structure: The Art of Writing a Great Short Story

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 we will look at various types of creative writing short story 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.   Let’s begin…  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 and 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. They’ll 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. 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.   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.   A variation of the ‘Three-Act Structure’, the ‘Save the Cat Beat Sheet’ was created by a Hollywood screenwriter called Blake Snyder. A very precise structure, everything in the story happens exactly where and when it should.   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, longlisted 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.   Try it Yourself!  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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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. 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…  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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.      Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How To Write Creative Nonfiction

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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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 
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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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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. 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! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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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. Michel also notes that these books probably made up 75% of that year’s total print sales, which gives you another impression of how skewed the market can be. 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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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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! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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12 Top Tips on 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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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- March 31, June 30, September 30, December 31 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:  November 30, 2021 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, and the theme for this year’s competition is “Abundance”. All it takes is 100 words to potentially win! More information regarding the prompt as well as submission guidelines can be found here.  River Styx Micro-Fiction Contest First Prize: $1000 Entry Fee: $15–$20 Deadline: December 31, 2021 This flash fiction challenge comes from River Styx, with a word count maximum of 500. You can choose two different submission prices (the higher amount including a yearly subscription to River Styx’s magazine), and first, second, and third prize winners will be published. First prize wins $1000! You can learn more about this micro-fiction contest on their website here. WOW! Women On Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest First Prize: $400 Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: Quarterly- February 28, May 31, August 31, November 30 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 favorite 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, honorable mention entries) are published on the Reflex Fiction website, where you can find more submission requirements here. Craft Flash Fiction Contest First Prize: $1,000 Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: October 31st With $1,000 awarded to first, second, and third place, this flash fiction contest from Craft is well-worth considering. Your piece will be published on their website, you will be interviewed by their editor, and you will even receive a book bundle of amazing works from Rose Metal Press. While $20 isn’t the cheapest submission fee out there, you can submit up to two 1,000 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 in the comments! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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: PrivacyBrand differentiationDisguising gender or raceTo 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 ghost writers. 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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Writing And Burnout

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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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. 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.    Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How to Write a Story Pitch

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.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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‘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
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What Are Secondary Characters?

Secondary Characters - Definition and Examples 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? Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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What is Purple Prose?

How To Spot Purple Prose In Your Writing And Make Your Prose Tighter And More Effective 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 tutored 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. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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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: IntroductionRising actionClimax (midpoint)Falling ActionCatastrophe (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? Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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How to Create a Character Bio Template

How to Create a Character Bio Template You have a great idea for a book, but you don’t yet know anything about your main character (being ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ is not enough to move a story forward). Or perhaps you’re struggling with your latest novel and can’t work out your character’s motivation. Elevating a book from a good idea, to a compelling and addictive read, hinges on deep characterisation. This is where a well-crafted character bio template comes in. Or, in this case, all the ingredients you need to create your own bespoke character profile template. You can also sign up for our FREE Jericho Writers Character Building worksheet. What is a Character Profile? A character profile is a document that you, as an author, compiles during the (preferably) beginning stages of a first draft. The character template should document everything about your character’s life – from how they look to mannerisms and their back story. A character profile template will allow you to keep all the important details about your protagonist/antagonist in one place to be used as a writing resource when attempting your first draft. It can also be a handy tool to check details and continuity during the editing process.  But don’t be intimidated!  Character template writing needn’t be boring or laborious. And your character bios don’t have to be cumbersome, lengthy or complicated. There are no hard and fast ‘rules’ about what you can and can’t include. In short, your character template sheet should be crammed with as much information as you can think of. Why is a Character Bio Important? Writing your character creation template is important, because if you don’t understand your character fully, then neither will your readers.  We all know that the concept or plot is what makes us read the first few chapters, but it’s the characters that keep us turning the pages. In fact, even the most implausible story ideas can capture the hearts of many, if they get the connection with the characters right.  Take, for instance, the story of Eleanor Oliphant, in the novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Any other character in her place, anyone less unique and complicated than her, would have made an intriguing and riveting book really quite dull. Readers get invested in a story because they relate to the character on the page, or because they are invested in their growth. They stick around because the characters feel real.  But characters won’t feel real to your readers if they aren’t real to you. So how do you create that with the help of a character bio profile?* *Before we start - a word of warning Once you learn the art of writing a character profile template, you will never look at your characters the same way again.  So let’s begin… What to Include in Your Character Bio Template Creating a character profile will essentially develop the bible that your leading players will live by. And although 90% of what you discover about your characters will never make it to your novel, having a deeper understanding of your characters and their motivations means that when you put them in certain situations, they will show their true selves in the most natural way. There are plenty of detailed character profile templates out there for you to use, adapt, and play with. Some are spreadsheets, some Word documents, some forms to fill in. But I think the best way to get to know your characters is to develop your own outline based on the questions highlighted in this article. Whether that means cutting and pasting my prompts into a Word doc, or even buying a notebook and filling it with nothing but characterisation notes, you need to construct a template of headers and questions that work for you! Let’s start with the simple questions first. Basic Characteristics It’s so important to be able to see your characters in your mind, therefore start with what they look like and who they are.  NameAgeNationality Don’t skip the easy stuff, but don’t stop there. When deciding on a character name, question why.  Was that name passed down by a grandmother? Does that mean that family ties are important to this character?  Something as basic as a name can throw up so much depth and understanding about a character, and small important details can be dropped into your novel to add depth and roundness. Same applies to their nationality and heritage. Physical Attributes Again, these help your reader see your character. Start with: Hair colour Eye colour HeightAny physical disabilities Then take those simple thoughts and dig around some more.  What about that scar on his left cheek? Why is that there? Who gave it to him and why? Is he self-conscious about it? Does this change his behaviour when out in public?Does she have painted nails, or chipped bitten nails? Could this be a sign of vanity, or maybe those bitten nails are a sign of anxiety? Personal Preferences of the Character (e.g. political / tastes / cultural) You can have a lot of fun with this one. Start with the basics and ask why:  Favourite colourFavourite foodFavourite musicFavourite restaurantReligious beliefsSpiritual beliefsPolitical affiliations Then, get deeper still… Is there is a certain phrase your character says all the time?Do they swear and if so, what cuss words does he/she prefer? What hobbies does your character have? Why? Where would we find your character on a wet and rainy day? How would a typical weekend play out in your character\'s world? The answers to these questions will filter in like softly spun gold through the pages of your novel. Health What’s your character’s health like?  Smoker?Drinker?Exercise regularly? Health can be a big issue in our day to day lives, so we should be aware of it with our characters, too. You would be surprised how much of a difference it makes when creating a well-rounded character. Could bad health or hypochondria run the family? Does your character use health issues as a barrier? Do they eat well, or binge eat late at night? Why? Do they walk with a slight hunch due to consistent back pain that they have grown accustomed to living with over the years? Career and Education Even if this isn’t mentioned explicitly in your novel, knowing how your character acted at school and what they do for a living is so important. A career can signal so much about a person and can help you develop who they are simply by looking at what they have chosen to dedicate their life to.  Does the character have a job?How long have they been in chosen career?Are they happy?What job would they choose if they could retrain?Is their job important to them?What are their main priorities in life and where does career fit in? Remember that most of our adult life is spent working with, and surrounded by, others. Work life can change a personality completely.  How does your character view their work colleagues? And how do they feel about your character? Does your character get involved with colleagues outside of work hours, and how does this affect their work/home life balance?What is their greatest career achievement?How did they do in school? Were they popular? Did their early school life affect their chosen career? Asking questions like these can help you figure out the motivation and underlying issues your character is dealing with. If it’s a sense of loneliness, has it been there since school? If it’s a sense of entitlement, could that have come from their upbringing?  Flesh out the ‘whys’ and enhance your character development, and the plot twists (or holes) will reveal themselves. Personality Traits This will most likely be the most in-depth section of your character template – but again, don’t stick to the surface. Even if you have decided your character is mean, narcissistic, and aggressive, ask yourself why. What happened in the past to make them this way?  Are they… Cautious or spontaneous? A daredevil or worry-wart? Why? Do they act the same way around other people or does bravado make this person take risks they wouldn’t normally?An optimist or pessimist?An introvert or extrovert?What do you think is your character’s biggest flaw? What does your character believe is their biggest flaw?What is their greatest strength? Get down to the nitty gritty, even if most of this won’t appear in your book. Start asking questions that really test you as a creative writer. Ask questions that will push you to find out the deeper motivations, such as: What is your characters biggest regret? Why?What is their darkest secret? And how would they react if someone found out?Are they the type to crumble under interrogation, or lie to conceal the truth? Family and Relationships This is an important section of your character trait bible because it’s not until you begin excavating relationship dynamics, that you truly get to know who you’re writing about. Don’t be surprised if your plot changes as your main character deepens. Ask yourself these questions: Spouse/significant other?Are the character’s parents still around?Do they have any siblings?Are they the oldest/youngest in the family?Is there an extended family/family support system? Again, this is surface-level, but look what happens when you start digging a little deeper… How do they get on with each of the family members? What do those family members think of your character? Would they be honest about this to their face and if not why?What’s the character’s first/oldest memory?What member of their family/support system would your character turn to in a crisis?How would they react?Does your character trust members of the family and vice versa?If your character is married, where did they meet? Love at first sight? Were friends happy about the union? Were family members accepting? At this stage you may even find yourself creating complicated spider diagrams to see how your main character connects with the rest of the cast. Don’t be surprised if this exercise begins to alter your plot and deepen your twists. Life Stages, Milestones, and Backstory This section is generally filled with information that you (and only you) will ever know about your character, because no one needs to endure an ‘info dump’ about each character’s backstory. However, small nuggets of this information will always feed into your story if you are adding the required depth of character. So it’s important to know the following before you start: What stage in life is my character in at the start of the story?What stage of life will they be in at the end?What has been the character’s greatest achievement in life?What has been their top three life defining moments? If ‘X’ hadn’t happened to your character, how would life be different now?How would your character describe their life right now? List the major life events in chronological order from birth to now and highlight major events that have changed the course of their life. Look at you go! The character that you only previously knew as ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ is fast becoming a fascinating, deep, and 3D guy. Let’s go deeper. Character Perspectives, Outlook, and Opinions You may think your characters don’t have opinions yet, but that’s because you haven’t asked them. By this point in your character profile template, you should know so much about your character, that this section will seem instinctive. Be prepared, because many of the opinions you discover they have may not be your own. But you have built this fictional person, given them features, history, flaws, and dreams… so you shouldn’t be surprised when they suddenly have their own opinions. What do they think of the state of the world right now? What is the one thing they would change if they could?What is the one thing holding them back from true happiness right now? And do they really believe they will be happy if that one thing were to change? In this section, try to be honest and answer from your character’s point of view, not your own. If your character is lying to you (and you know it), ask yourself what they are afraid of. You must be willing to ask, listen, and analyse.  And finally, ask some of your own questions. These are a few that have arisen after years or doing this exercise: Who is your character’s biggest inspiration and why?How does your character spend the week before this story begins?If your character could jump back in time to one particular point, where would it be and why?What is your character’s most prized possession?Name four things your character would change about themselves. How to Develop Your Character Profile Template Essentially, what you are doing with a character bio template, is sitting down with a large pot of tea and a box of tissues and asking an imaginary person as many deep and meaningful questions as you can.  You are the therapist who wants to know all their secrets, worries, and desires. You are interviewing them for the story of their lives, and you are not leaving until you know each and every last detail.  It’s up to you how you put your character profile template together, whether you go for handwritten notes or a fancy spreadsheet, just remember - the deeper you dig, the more gold you will find.  Once you have built a detailed psychological profile of each important character, you will have all the power you need to help make them come alive on the page! And who knows? It may even inspire new plot twists and scenarios or highlight plot holes. Deep Characterisation is Vital in Good Storytelling As much as we love to plan and predict what we are writing, there’s nothing more exciting for a writer than when a twist comes out of the blue and you didn’t see it coming. Often that’s a matter of chance, but not now. Now you know exactly how your character will react, and why, those twists will be much easier to write. Your character bio template not only helps when creating your first draft, it also acts as the perfect reference guide and checklist during edits. For instance, if you can’t remember the name of your MC’s sister’s boyfriend, no problem, because you will have written all that information down in your ‘family and relationships’ section. Finding and dealing with continuity issues in your manuscript is so much easier if you have a reference guide to check – and it will also save you a lot of hassle when your editor and proof-readers ask for a list of names and places. It’s also invaluable when writing a series of books, as it saves you having to re-read your books to remember back story and character traits. Essentially, your character bio template can be anything you want it to be, as long as it helps you see, smell, touch, and hear your characters in your mind. No one else in the world needs to know any of the answers to these questions because it’s up to you what to reveal to your readers and what to keep hidden. But truly knowing your characters like this means you will create well-rounded, real, and vivid characters that will jump from the page and capture the heart of your readers. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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What is Copyediting?

What is Copyediting? - A Complete Guide What is copyediting, and why is it a vital part of the writing process? Before I was a traditionally published writer, I thought that you had one editor. I imagined this editor would give me structural feedback, fix all of my spelling and grammar, and ta da! It would all be ready for the printers. I was wrong, very wrong. Editing isn’t one process; it has several levels to it. In traditional publishing you will receive a structural edit from the editor who has commissioned your work, often a line edit, to check every line to make sure that each sentence is as effective as possible, a copyedit, and finally a proofread. But whether you are hoping to be traditionally published or are self-publishing your own work, a copyedit can mean the difference between a good book and a great one. So what is a copyediting and why do you need it? Below you will find information on why a copyedit is so important, how a copyedit differs from proofreading, and exactly what a good copyedit involves. What is Copyediting? Copyediting is a process of revision, which focuses on eliminating grammatical and factual errors, ensuring consistency and improved readability. That sounds straight-forward, yet a copyeditor does more than fix your grammar and dodgy formatting. Yes, they can spot when you’ve written ‘weather’ instead of ‘whether’ and when you’ve accidentally popped an apostrophe for possession in the word its (we’ve all done it!), but they also do so much more. A copyeditor will notice if you are repeating words. They will spot if in one paragraph you’ve spelled your drink as ‘whiskey’ and in the next chapter it’s ‘whisky’; they might even stop you from writing a sentence that is running on without any punctuation whatsoever so that if you tried to read it out loud your face would be turning blue and you would be on the verge of passing out (see what I did there?). Consistency also plays a huge part in the copyediting process. Your copyeditor will scour your manuscript to spot if your character’s eye colours change from a glacial blue in the first chapter to a muddy brown in the thirtieth, and those all-important moments where you’ve slipped from first person to third person, then back again. And then, of course, there’s the dreaded timeline. The word a lot of us flinch at the mere mention of! Yes, your copyeditor will be there, calendar in hand, to tell you that those dates don’t fit correctly with events you have described. So, let’s look at the copyediting process in more detail. What a Copyeditor Does The role of a copyeditor will largely depend on the condition of the manuscript in front of them, where it will be published, and the time/budget available. Their job is to offer revisions of the following key elements: Align title order and apply consistency in fonts and headings sizesCheck and amend spelling and grammar errorsCheck continuity of place/character names Check continuity of character and setting cosmeticsImprove clarity of language, ensuring the narrative runs smoothlyEnsure that the correct captions are with the appropriate photographConfirm citations match the content of the reference sectionHighlight potential legal liability, with a view to keeping you and your manuscript safe from possible legal action against youHighlight overuse of jargonSuggest changes for repetitionRaise discrepancies in the timeline When you receive your copy edits back, for the most part, your copyeditor will correct your manuscript digitally with track changes on so you can see exactly where you have made (often laughable) mistakes; remember that character, Brian? Well, you have called him Brain for most of your manuscript, but look, your wonderful copyeditor has ironed out all those Brains for you. Phew! There are times when your copyeditor will need your input if they are unsure of your meaning, or think rewording a sentence would help make your manuscript run smoothly. They will add a comment on your document to bring this to your attention. It’s considered quite rare by today’s standards, but should they find themselves working on a paper copy you may find that a copyeditor will use copyediting symbols which a proof-reader may use. In this case, the hard copy would be passed to another editor before it comes to you. At this point some of you may be saying - hold on, I thought a copyeditor was a proofreader? Fear not, my friends, I shall explain all… Difference Between Copyediting and Proofreading Remember how I said at the beginning that there are several levels of editing? Well, proofreading is the last one. Once your manuscript has been copyedited, you will now have a revised version of your manuscript. You have agreed/declined their amendments (yes, you can disagree, it is still your book!) it is then time to have a proof-reader examine your work. You may be thinking - why do I need a copyeditor if it then has to be proofread anyway?  As we’ve already discussed, a copyeditor’s job is to not only look at spelling and grammar but offer an in-depth scrutiny of your manuscript. By the time a proof-reader receives a manuscript, it will be an almost finished piece of work; it will have been to typesetting and the pages in front of them (a PDF if it’s a digital copy) will look like the pages in your book. The job of the proof-reader is to correct any errors that have fallen through the net and they will be focusing on the finished product that is about to go to print. A proof-reader will be ensuring that the house style of the publisher is met. For example, you may have written okay, but your publisher’s house style may be OK. They will look at your page numbers, ensure no pages are missing and even check for repetition of words that sit above each other – often referred to as stacking — in the text.   At the proofreading stage, there should be no major changes in the text, just the odd one-word correction or possibly a paragraph if it’s deemed necessary. If there are too many errors, a proof-reader may return the proof and request further copyediting.  In short, a copyedit will contain a vast number of revisions based on the quality of your writing, the content of your story, as well as the layout and any syntax errors. A proof-reader’s corrections are often minimal as they are working on the final draft of your work. They are there to put the icing on the cake, to straighten your tie, to make sure your knickers aren’t tucked into your dress before you leave the house. Why Copyediting is Important Copyediting is an invaluable part of the publication process. Without it, you may be sending out a manuscript where your main character is called Brain not Brian, where your characters have the ability to change eye colour at any given time in your novel, and where a year in your work may actually be fourteen months long. You may think your manuscript is ready to be published without a copyeditor, but even the most established and experienced writers make mistakes. Copyeditors are the quality gatekeepers of the publishing world and may well hold the keys to your success. How Long does Copyediting Take? Writers by and large are an impatient bunch, so how long will you have to wait to have your work copyedited? For a fairly clean manuscript by a professional author, a copy editor will read approximately 1500 words an hour. For a less experienced writer on average it would take 1000-1250 words an hour. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, all reputable copyediting services will be able to provide a quote and an expected delivery date. Do I Need a Copyeditor? Whether you are self-publishing or hoping to be traditionally published, copyediting is a vital part of the publishing process. Without it, the quality of your work may suffer and the wonderful story you are telling may be put aside in favour of the enigmatic blue-eyed Brian whose exciting story unfolds over the course of just one year... not a year and two months. As my own work is currently off to be copyedited, I would like to thank copyeditors everywhere; you are my heroes, and Brian and I are forever in your debt. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers\' experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
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How Mannerisms Can Create Memorable Characters

What Are Mannerisms, And How Can They Help You Create Memorable Characters That Jump Off The Page? How do you create characters that feel real? The best stories are brought to life by characters that jump off the page – they are three-dimensional, rather than two-dimensional – as if they’re sat right beside you.  We understand it can sometimes be challenging to do this. After all, strong characters are the heart and soul of every story. One of the most effective ways you can do this in your novel, using a classic ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method, is through character mannerisms. These are an essential way of breathing life into your character. They can elevate your writing to the next level, helping your readers feel more invested in your characters naturally and organically, ensuring they’re still thinking about them long after they’ve finished the final chapter. But firstly, let’s ask ourselves: What exactly are character mannerisms? Mannerism Definition: Mannerisms are the things that people do repeatedly without realising. They are typically unconscious gestures, vocal tics, or expressions. They can be things that people do with their hands, faces or voices – they might do them repeatedly and not even realise they’re doing them. As mannerisms are individual quirks, they can be a great way to build a character’s personality. For example, when considering how to convey strong emotions, it can be useful to look at a list of mannerisms for specific emotional responses. Mannerism Examples There’s a reason why fiction writers are always people-watching. We love to see how individuals act, and how they react. We don’t all act the same way when shocked or angry. Let’s take a look at some standard mannerisms of everyday emotions and see if you can add any of your own. Mannerisms Of A Sad Character Wobbling lipWiping their eyesLooking upwards to bat away tearsLooking downwards at their feet to avoid eye contactFidgeting with their handsStumbling over their wordsHigh-pitched voiceCoughing to clear their throatBiting their fingernails Mannerisms Of A Happy Character Open body languageThey make tactile movements, such as touching, stroking, and hugging other charactersLaughter and smilingHumming and singingDemonstrate politeness through gestures such as holding a door open for othersDaydreamingSing-song speech patternShortness of breath from speaking too fast and too excitedlyGesturing wildly with their hands while talkingSwinging arms when walking around Sad and happy are quite general emotions, so let’s look at a list of mannerisms for something a bit more specific, like a character who is displaying narcissistic traits, or one who is shy. These types of character traits offer the opportunity to link the character’s mannerisms with their back story and development (a very important aspect of mannerisms that we will explore further in this article).  For example, your character may be timid due to past trauma, a phobia, or a history of abuse – or from having a narcissistic parent. Mannerisms Of A Narcissistic Character Frequently looking at themselves in the mirror and constantly checking their appearanceExaggerating, bragging, or lying about their achievements or talents, and seeking out constant praise and admirationDemeaning or belittling others – they might do this by interrupting other characters and speaking over themPhysical mannerisms might include smirking and sneering and rolling their eyes when others are talkingConfident physical traits – they will likely have a strong posture, with a confident stance and walk with a swaggerLoud speaking voice and loud laugh Mannerisms Of A Timid Character Jumpy and flinching at sudden noisesIsolating themselves, they’re often on their ownNervous around strangersStuttering and stammering and are quite often tongue-tiedNatural response is to freeze in high-pressure or high-stress environmentsShaking – physically with their hands or in their voiceSpeaking quietly and softly, and less frequently than other charactersShowing general social awkwardness – difficulty engaging in conversations, maintaining eye contact, joining in on jokes etc Speech And Dialogue Aside from emotions, there are also mannerisms you can give your characters to elevate them from the page and bring them to life. These can be intertwined with speech and dialogue. Think about the following… Volume: Does their voice boom, or are they softly spoken?Where do they come from, and does it affect how they speak?Do they have an accent? Are there certain phrases they use frequently?Do they talk more than they listen? Do they interrupt other characters?Speed: Do they speak quickly or slowly? Are buffer words such as ‘like’ or ‘erm’ used frequently? (Only add these if they are part of the character traits, or it will be distracting for your readers).Do they make physical noises, like coughing, laughing, clearing their throat, or muttering? Physical Character Traits There are also physical mannerisms that can convey a sense of who they are to a reader. Perhaps a character plays with her hair, implying she’s flirting, or maybe it’s a nervous habit. If they are anxious, they may tense their jaw, grind their teeth, or rub the back of their neck or temples. These physical reactions work well in moments of high-stakes tension.  Think about what a character is doing with their body, as well as what they are saying or thinking. Biting their lip or the inside of their cheek might be seen as a sign of nerves, worry or a lack of confidence. What are they doing with their eyes? Both strong eye contact or avoiding/breaking eye contact can convey emotions or depict personality types. And finally, posture - how does your character present themselves? Do they stand confidently with their shoulders back, or are they slumped over? A broad stance or a slouch can say a lot about a character and offer an immediate impression to a reader. Using External Interactions Considering how your characters physically interact with objects and the environment around them is another important aspect of character building. For example, if they wear glasses, are they repeatedly pushing them further up their nose? Do they take them off and rub their bloodshot eyes? Do they clean them with a handkerchief while pondering in a moment of thought? Imagine our character holding a pen. Would they tap it against the table, annoying other characters? Would they doodle absentmindedly on a blank page while in a daydream? Maybe they’d chew the end of the pen if they’re nervous? Or click it repeatedly? There are many ways you can use external objects or surroundings to add new layers to your character’s personality. Creating Tension And Conflict Mannerisms can also be an excellent tool to create tension and conflict between characters. Conflict is one of the most vital aspects of every story and every character arc (check out our free character arc guide and template for your character development). Without conflict and something for your characters to overcome, there is no story. But how can mannerisms add to this? The conflict and tension concerning an individual mannerism can’t be instant, as the mannerism needs to be well-established. But once it is, then it’s the perfect opportunity to have another character pick up on the quirk or trait and interact with it. For example, they could ask that person to stop doing it (because they’re finding it irritating, and it could be the final straw that makes them snap). Or they could ask why they always do it (inviting a conversation, and maybe creating or diffusing tension, about how that specific mannerism is linked to their back story).  Individual literary genres tend to approach internal and external conflict differently; our blog about conflict in genre writing breaks this concept down in further detail. Let’s go recap all we need to know about creating believable characters through their mannerisms. Character Mannerisms: What To DO ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ It’s the age-old writing advice, but it’s especially relevant when writing character mannerisms. Don’t have your character simply saying “I’m sad” – instead, make them wipe away a tear slowly rolling down their flushed cheek. Link Mannerisms To A Vital Part Of A Character’s Back Story For example, they shouldn’t be shy or awkward for absolutely no reason. Perhaps it’s linked to a childhood experience when they were humiliated at school, and now they find crowds difficult to handle. Our blog about characterisation and character development is a useful resource for creating meaningful backstories and character arcs.  Try And Avoid Clichés Some mannerisms are overused and can therefore turn a reader off (our blog about avoiding clichés and writing believable characters is an excellent guide). Think outside the box if you can and consider how you or other people act subconsciously in certain situations. Sometimes it can help to observe people and actions in these settings.  Character Mannerisms: What NOT To Do Repeat The Mannerism Too Frequently It might distract from the character and the story, and become annoying for the reader. However, on the other hand, don’t just add the odd mannerism in as a throwaway gesture; otherwise, it won’t be memorable enough. Leave Mannerisms As An After-Thought These mannerisms should act as the backbone of your character. They should be deeply connected to who they are as a person and why they act (or don’t act) the way they do. Why Your Character’s Mannerisms Are Important In a nutshell, mannerisms are typically the things people repeatedly do without realising, which means they are an extremely useful tool for developing character personalities and backstories.  As writers, we know that there’s a huge sense of achievement in creating memorable characters that jump off the page and stay with the reader long after they’ve put the book down. That’s exactly why it’s worth investing the time into creating mannerisms for your character – therefore revealing who they are and helping the reader to understand them on a much deeper level.  Just remember not to use mannerisms for the sake of it – always ensure that they tie into your character’s personality, background, and development. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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The Hero’s Journey

The Hero\'s Journey - Writing a Compelling Story One of the most compelling storytelling structures that writers can use is The Hero’s Journey. In 1949, Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces, where he discusses the central myth which he argues is at the heart of all stories. However you look at it, the Hero’s Journey has formed the basis for the narrative arc of a wide variety of literary works across time and all cultures – something we’ll look at within this article. Mostly though, this story structure offers a great way to give your narrative both a strong arc and emotional power. In this guide, you’ll learn the essential steps involved in the Hero’s Journey in order to structure your novel with style. What is the Hero\'s Journey? The Hero’s Journey is a particular structure in which the lead – otherwise known as a hero, heroine or protagonist – is called to head off on a journey or adventure in response to facing a problem or challenge. This issue leads them to set a specific narrative goal and they go off to achieve this, finding allies and facing enemies and their own weaknesses along the way. Once this aim has been achieved, the much-changed protagonist then returns home, bringing wisdom and knowledge to share with their community and loved ones. You’ve probably already realised from just reading the above summary that most literature uses this particular storytelling structure. In fact, it has similarities to the three act structure which is also used in drama and screenplays, as well as novels and memoirs to create a powerful narrative arc. In the rest of this article, I’m going to set out the main steps of the Hero’s Journey, so you can use them to build your own compelling story. Stages of the Hero\'s Journey All stories can be broken down into three stages — the beginning, middle and end — and the Hero’s Journey is no different in the way that it is comprised of three main sections: Departure, Initiation and Return. The opening Departure section is very much focused on the way the hero is called to go on a quest (often reluctantly) due to having to deal with a problem or challenge. The Initiation then takes place after they embark on their journey and begin to face obstacles, temptations and fears and develop skills and wisdom as a result which allow them to attain their narrative goal. Hence, once this has been achieved, they return home triumphant and often more enlightened than before.  If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’re probably thinking of how the geeky teen, Luke Skywalker, gets pushed by tragedy into his Hero’s Journey of becoming a Jedi (he even mucks that up!), before defeating evil (cue scary Darth Vader voice!) — and you’d be right on the money, as George Lucas was profoundly influenced by Campbell’s work. Steps of the Hero\'s Journey In Campbell’s original breakdown of the Hero’s Journey, the hero’s story is comprised of seventeen steps. However, in 1993, Vogler broke down this storytelling structure into just twelve steps in his book, The Writer’s Journey, making it much easier for authors to use. In this guide, we’ll utilise this twelve stage model and I’ll go through it step by step.  1. Ordinary World At the start of the Hero’s Journey, we get a glimpse of the everyday life of the lead and the unique world they inhabit. This allows us to grasp the setting if it’s something unusual like we see in sci-fi or fantasy, but we are also able to start to get to know the hero and care about them, as well as noting some of their particular strengths and weaknesses which may get in their way.  2. The Call to Adventure This is what might also be seen as the narrative’s inciting incident or trigger as it’s what really sets the story and the whole Departure section of the book going.  It involves the hero having to face a problem or challenge – just as in the classical story of The Odyssey, Odysseus is called to fight the Trojans. 3. Refusal of the Call The hero doesn’t simply trot off on their journey though – Odysseus struggles with leaving his family and similar inner conflicts beset most leads during this stage, including fear at what might befall them if they accept the call. By showing these doubts, the humanity of the hero is revealed and the high stakes of the journey ahead are brought into focus, increasing the narrative tension in a very potent way. 4. Meeting with the Mentor At this point, the hero meets a mentor who offers advice and wisdom for the journey ahead and whose presence often helps them overcome their reluctance to embark on their journey. (Do we need to mention Yoda here? \"Do or do not\", my writer friends.) This step is important as we come to understand that the quest is something difficult which requires support, as well as personal bravery, and the encounter with the mentor shows that this is a spiritual and personal path, as well as a more concrete journey to get a certain goal.  5. Crossing the First Threshold Here, the hero leaves their ordinary world and takes the decision to embark on their journey. This is incredibly important, as despite the call to adventure having started the story off in some sense, the real adventure begins now for the hero as they leave behind everything they know and walk into a realm of external dangers and personal doubts.  We only have to think of the terrifying quest Frodo and Sam go on in Lord of the Rings to understand how powerful this moment can be in a story as our rather vulnerable, tiny Hobbit heroes shed safety and familiarity to pursue a noble goal. This setting off closes the Departure part of the story and we now see the hero enter the Initiation stage of their journey. 6. Test, Allies and Enemies Having committed to their journey, the hero now has to learn the rules of the new world they’ve entered, encountering friends who will act as supportive confidant(e)s and sidekicks during their quest, as well as dastardly foes who often present terrifying obstacles.  This first section of the Initiation is important in developing the story’s cast of characters, including the hero’s allies and establishing those who will oppose them, such as a vile villain, increasing the stakes by showing that the road ahead will not be easy, despite the hero having assistance.  7. Approach to the Innermost Cave The rising action of the book will see failures and setbacks, with the hero often facing multiple obstacles or finally progressing towards their narrative goal, only to confront an even bigger challenge from enemies, or even due to their own inner fears and flaws. This rises to the point that, in the innermost cave, they’re really in deep and are feeling the pain of their journey! For example, in The Odyssey, the crew opens a bag of winds which blow them far away again when they were almost home – doh! In this second dramatic part of the Initiation, the hero thus needs to persist and be flexible in their approach in the face of these nightmares, trying new ways to reach their aims, as the stakes are rising and they know that the cost of failing to achieve their journey’s end is far too high. 8. The Ordeal You think it was tough in the innermost cave? Well, now the hero faces a major obstacle — often a life or death ordeal.  What’s worse, this challenge often highlights their character flaws to boot, showing they need to overcome their weaknesses or perish. Most heroes barely get out of this ordeal alive, leaving the Initiation phase of their journey in tatters and with readers on the edge of their seat wondering how the heck they’ll ever complete their journey.  For example, you thought the bags of wind were bad for Odysseus? Now, he has to go to the Underworld! (You cannot be kidding me!)  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword) But, hey, it’s not all bad as, after surviving death, the hero gets a reward – maybe even achieving their journey’s goal, such as grabbing the Ring and tossing it away so it cannot darken the world any more. This is a great moment of success and celebration in the story and the hero has clearly emerged from their trials an improved person, although we may not see the full extent of this yet as they still have other preoccupations. However, now the hero has their goal, they need to Return to their ordinary world in the third section – and that’s often not as easy as it sounds. 10. The Road Back After all the challenges of the Initiation phase, meeting new friends and facing off with foes, the hero who left their home isn’t the same person who returns. Hence reintegrating into their old reality can come as another form of challenge in this final part of the story.  In fact, they may not even want to go back! The reluctance to embark on their journey which we saw at the beginning of the story may reappear to haunt the hero as they now cannot imagine returning to their ordinary world, showing just how much the struggles they’ve been through have changed their character. 11. The Resurrection If you thought it was just a case of the hero getting home now, I’m afraid they have to face yet more trouble in terms of a test which puts at stake everything they’ve achieved. This is where the personality changes and skillsets they’ve developed from their challenging journey become obvious and they realise they’re made for the times they’re facing. Hence they emerge as a resurrected hero — reborn from the one who embarked at the beginning. This part is obviously important for adding climactic drama to keep readers engaged right ‘til the end – they think they’ve killed the alien, or other baddie, but they’re back! – and showcasing the full depth of the lead’s character development. 12. Return with the Elixir The hero returns home with knowledge or a particular ‘elixir’ or item which symbolises their achievements on their journey and this is often used to help others. This altruistic result is the real reward for their battles and represents deep personal and spiritual transformation, bringing the Return section and the story as a whole to a close in a way which hopefully leaves the reader both satisfied and enlightened. The Hero\'s Journey in Literature As you can see from my examples above, the Hero’s Journey is prominent in both film and literature. From classical storytelling to more modern sci-fi and fantasy, the Hero’s Journey has given powerful narrative arcs to many great works.  Indeed, if you look carefully enough, even many contemporary crime novels or TV series will feature a reluctant detective who, at first, is scared to take the case – perhaps due to retirement or trauma – who then changes their mind and solves the murder.  The Hero’s Journey has thus influenced many writers across the ages and across all literary genres, but it’s still important to note that not all stories follow this paradigm – so, if it’s not inspiring for you, then don’t use it! Using the Hero\'s Journey to Tell Your Story If you have found the structure set out above to be thought-provoking or something which might fit your story, then the Hero’s Journey model can easily be applied to your writing project. Structure is such a key part of creating a compelling story and the Hero’s Journey offers a clear way to build a potent narrative arc. It’s important to plan ahead though, when using this paradigm, fitting your narrative to the three stages of Departure, Initiation and Return and plotting your scenes along the steps above. Consider your hero’s particular personal flaws, just as Shakespeare often did in his tragedies — making Othello too jealous, for example – in order to set out how your hero might trip themselves up, or what would absolutely freak them out (like Indiana Jones and snakes!) in order to really test them on their journey. You might also riff on the reasons they might be reluctant to embark on their quest – such as family commitments or outright fear, and who might act as a wise mentor and change their minds, or boost them up as allies along the way.  It’s also important to think of a strong opposition figure who is out to stop them achieving their journey’s goal as this is great for adding conflict and tension. The Hero\'s Journey is in so Many Stories As you’ve seen, the Hero’s Journey is present in so many of the stories which surround us — and for good reason as it provides a fantastic narrative structure which allows for deep character development, high drama and profound emotion. Although every story has a hero, not every story is a Hero’s Journey, yet this storytelling structure has a lot to teach all authors. Try it with your adventure or quest novel, and see how far you and your hero get. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How to Control Your Self-Publishing Costs

How to Control Your Self-Publishing Costs So you’ve chosen the self-publishing route, and as a responsible author-entrepreneur, you’ve no doubt set out to create a detailed self-publishing budget for your book. Unfortunately, you’ve discovered you don’t have unlimited money, and are facing some tough choices. How do you control your costs without compromising your vision? In this article, we’ll show you some effective ways to reduce your self-publishing costs—and warn you away from some unsafe ideas that could do more harm than good. To begin with, let’s examine your budget situation. Know Where You Stand I’m going to assume you’ve set a maximum budget for your project, and that you have an idea of the cost to publish a book. You should therefore know the relationship between your budget and your expected costs. If you’ve got room to work with, great! You can use this article to check for any extra savings that might allow you to shift more of your budget to promotions or future books. But if you’re feeling the squeeze, start by calculating how much you need to save. Then, you can use this article to identify the safest ways to save that money, without compromising your book’s potential. As you read, keep in mind your audience’s quality expectations. Each genre or category has its own standards. Don’t do anything that would bring your book below your audience’s expectations. Book Editing and Proofreading Costs Editing and proofreading can easily take up 40-50% of your budget, making this a tempting target. But savings here are not always easy to come by. You should banish from your mind any thought of not paying a professional editor. No matter how good you are at self-editing, you can’t see your own blind spots. Use a professional, but prepare your manuscript well, so that their time and effort produces the most possible value for you. And please don’t even think of using an automated correction tool for your final edit. The technology simply isn’t there yet—you’ll end up “incorrecting” passages that were actually correct as-is. Check spelling, of course, but leave grammar and phrasing to the humans. So, with those ground rules in mind, what can you actually do to reduce your book editing costs? Keep a list of any errors your beta-readers report. Before sending your manuscript to your editor, correct those errors, and search your manuscript to see whether you’ve made the same mistake elsewhere.Learn to self-edit effectively. By removing distractions such as repetitive tics or basic errors, you help your editor to focus on finding problems you can’t see.Avoid unnecessary rounds of editing or proofreading. Keep your audience’s quality standard in mind, but don’t get caught up in perfectionism. Internalize this truth: widely promoting a book that contains a handful of trivial errors is a better business strategy than weakly promoting a book whose text is flawless. In the end, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to save a lot of money on your required editing. It’s simply a less flexible cost than others—so let’s move on and look at some of those. Book Layout Costs Your layout needs and costs will depend a lot on the type of book you’re publishing, and so will your cost-cutting decisions. If your book is a visual product (for example, a recipe book), you should be very cautious about cutting any corners on your layout. For books that are primarily text-focused, understand that layout isn’t so much about aesthetics as it is about readability. Font choice, line spacing, margins—many aspects of your layout, if done wrong, will make your book unpleasant or even difficult to read. Because layout is a specialized technical task, your options for cutting costs are limited—but you do have a few: Use an automated layout program, if appropriate. If your manuscript contains only running text (for example, most novels), you can safely use an automated layout program with a professionally-made template and get acceptable results for both e-book and print (but do resist the urge to tinker with the results).Ask your designer to provide a no-frills design, if that will lower the price. Fancy chapter graphics or other custom design are pleasant, but never necessary.Publish in fewer formats at first. If your audience is strongly focused on either e-book or print, you can publish first in the main format, making other formats available afterward as demand justifies it. For example, a hard sci-fi novel can safely be published as an e-book first, since that’s the preferred format for that audience.Merge your hardcover and paperback layouts. If you’re publishing both a hardcover and paperback edition (which is a decision you should scrutinize), you can potentially use a single interior layout for both formats if they have the same or similar trim size. Ask your designer about this possibility. Saved anything yet? If not, don’t fear—we’re about to enter more fertile territory. Book Cover Design Costs Authors have a strange relationship with their book covers. For something that has the same business purpose as the sticker on a tin of sardines, the intensity of emotion involved can be surprising. (Alright, alright, I’m teasing—barely.) My point is that you need to approach your cover from a business perspective. It’s a piece of advertising, it targets a specific audience, and it needs to convey a specific message. Have you taken the time to identify that audience and that message? If not, how will you instruct your designer, and how will you know when you’ve got the right cover? And have you surveyed other covers in your genre, so you know the stylistic conventions? Avoid any temptation to use a style that’s cheap but doesn’t fit your genre. Your buyers will be confused, and your sales will suffer. With those cautions in mind, here are some safe ways to cut costs on your cover design: Buy a pre-made cover. Only do this if you’ve thought hard about the message your cover needs to convey. Otherwise, you’ll end up making compromises to convince yourself this approach is workable. If you do find a pre-made cover that truly fits your book, ensure that you’re licensing it for exclusive use.Commission a cover based on stock photos. Assuming a photo-based cover is appropriate for your genre, stock photos are an inexpensive way to get a striking, detailed image. Make sure your designer composites or manipulates the image in some way, to reduce the likelihood of your cover being (legally!) cloned.Go with a less-detailed design. Authors, especially of fiction books, often ask for too much detail on their covers. Talk to your designer about ways to pare down the level of detail to save costs, especially if your cover features an original illustration. Even better, allow your designer to provide their own ideas—conveying a message with only a few visual elements is part of their skill set.Avoid custom photography or illustration if you have other viable options. These are the two most expensive sources of cover imagery. Only use them if required in your genre or central to your book’s marketing. We’ve now covered the production side of your expenses: editing, layout, and cover design. What about cutting costs on distribution and marketing? Self-Publishing and Distribution Costs The rule here is simple: any choice that reduces the reach of your distribution is a bad one. Always maximize your availability by distributing to all retailers with significant market share, and in all formats that are in demand with your audience. However, there are two quick ways you can save a little on your distribution costs: Don’t buy more ISBNs than your immediate need. Of course, if you can get a large bundle cheaper than individual ISBNs, you should do that. But don’t buy a hundred-pack for hypothetical “future use”.Don’t pay for a bar code. These are supplied for free by most distributors, and there are also free barcode generators on the web. Book Marketing and Promotion Costs Marketing and promotion is individual to each book, and so are the opportunities to reduce costs. We can’t anticipate your unique situation, but let’s examine a few tips that apply universally. First of all, remember that your goal is to generate awareness of your book. So avoid any big mistakes that “save” money by crippling your marketing:MARKETING MISTAKES Relying solely on word of mouth. Maybe you’ve heard that “a good book sells itself”. Unfortunately, that’s a lie. Don’t sabotage your hard work—plan and expect to spend money on promotions.Relying solely on local legwork. Selling books in person can be invigorating and builds positive relationships. But keep in mind that your audience is global. You need to reach the 99.9% of your readers who don’t live in your neighborhood, and to do that you’ll need to invest.Paying for shady shortcuts. For example, paying for social media followers or likes, paying for Amazon reviews, and so on. These scams are worthless, and worse, they can get you banned from the very platforms that are vital to selling your book. Okay, so you know not to make those big mistakes. Is there any other universal advice for controlling book marketing costs? Marketing Advice Never pay for promotions you can’t measure. Book marketing is a long-term game of finding the right promotional methods and fine-tuning them. Without measurement, you can’t make those decisions rationally. You’ll end up spending randomly, and that means waste.Only pay for tangible results. Always ask yourself, what impact will this ultimately have on sales? Don’t get caught up with abstract or intangible concepts like “buzz”, “exposure”, or word of mouth. The best way to get people talking about your book is to get them to buy it, so look for promotions that have an obvious pathway to generate sales.Don’t spread your money too thin. Many promotional options require a certain investment to produce results—or to get sufficient data to know whether they’re performing. Rather than trying everything at once, concentrate your money on the most promising options and evaluate their performance. Save Money and Make Money If you’ve made some tough sacrifices, but your expenses still exceed your maximum budget, don’t push ahead in denial or make damaging cuts out of desperation. Instead, make it your mission to find creative ways to raise the remaining funding for your book. Hopefully, though, this article has helped you to trim your self-publishing budget to something you can afford, or even better, free up additional money for promotions or a future book. These decisions aren’t easy. One of the best things you can do to get feedback on your plan is to join a community of other authors. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Writing a Three Act Structure

Writing a Three Act Structure Mastering the three act structure is one of the most important writing skills for any author. If you want to know how to structure a book, whether that’s a novel or memoir, or you want to learn how short fiction works, absorbing and using the three act story structure is one of the best ways to make your piece shine. Used widely by screenplay writers, the three act story structure outline is deceptively simple. A Story in Three Acts Act One is where we see exposition which establishes the world or everyday life of the character, before a dramatic inciting incident occurs which sets the normal life of the lead on its head, causing them to go on a journey to attain a particular narrative goal. Act One is often called the Set Up, or the Inspiration part of a plot. Act Two is the real ‘meat’ of the piece, where we see the lead go after the narrative aim they set in Act One, facing multiple obstacles and their deepest fears. Hence this part is often referred to as the Confrontation, or Craft, as it contains rising action, with the lead fighting against ever higher stakes and building their skills. This also includes the plot’s midpoint which seems to really set back the protagonist in terms of their journey to attain their narrative goal. Act Three is often called the Resolution, for obvious reasons, as this final part is where your lead reaches the end of their journey, achieving or failing to achieve their plot aims. This section includes the pre-climax and climax events which keep the reader on the edge of their seats as we think we’ve seen it all in the pre-climax and, then, boom, there’s more!  This section is also sometimes referred to as Philosophy as it brings to fruition the themes and concepts which have been developed in the course of the narrative. The History of the Three Act Structure Like so many writing craft concepts, the three act story structure has ancient roots, coming from Aristotle’s Poetics. However, modern screenwriters have honed this particular story structure to a high level, creating story outlines which are also very useful for novelists and memoirists. How the Three Act Structure Works If you want to learn how the three act structure works, have a close look at books and films you enjoy, as you’ll likely find it there, propping up the story. You’ll likely see exposition as the lead’s everyday life and, perhaps, in the case of fantasy or sci-fi, the uniqueness of the world the protagonist inhabits is brought to life. Perhaps, in a crime novel, we’ll see the detective’s family and work life to familiarise with the protagonist. Then the lead’s world will be thrown on its head by the inciting incident – say, the detective’s spouse is murdered. They’re in turmoil, but, ultimately, of course, they want to track down who killed their spouse – and this is the narrative goal they will fight their way towards throughout the book or screenplay. The second act shows them fighting through rising action, which is comprised of various obstacles and facing their deepest fears on the way to getting their narrative aim – say, of bringing their spouse’s killer to justice.  But they reach a new low at the midpoint of the book when something happens that makes the reader doubt they will ever get their goal. Perhaps they realise a close colleague may be involved in their spouse’s murder or important evidence is lost and we have to wonder whether they’ll ever solve this crime.  However, somehow they drag themselves back onto their feet and go into Act Three where they face a pre-climax which looks like the resolution, but it isn’t – such as the detective thinking they’ve found the killer, but they haven’t.  Then there’s the real climax which brings resolution in terms of the narrative goal which was set at the start, after the inciting incident – often the lead achieves their plot aim, but sometimes they don’t (although negative endings can be hard to pull off!). How to Use the Three Act Structure If you’re wondering how to plan your novel using the three act structure, it’s easy to do if you learn the basic craft and are prepared to plan your plot. Start by mapping out your story and then break it down into three acts, as follows. Act One – Set Up Exposition is so important, as I mentioned above, both in terms of establishing the setting, but by also familiarising us with the lead and making us care for them.  As a writing teacher once told me, we need to make the reader sympathise with the characters before we show their car hitting a wall! If we know the protagonist a bit, the inciting incident which sets their life on its head will hit home even more powerfully. Also known as a trigger event, this is a key plot point which forces the lead to pursue a particular narrative aim throughout, such as finding a killer, pursuing a quest, winning the guy’s heart and so on. In a memoir, the writer may face a tragic or traumatic life event which sent their life into turmoil, with the rest of the autobiography being the journey of how they recovered. This plot point and its aftermath is so crucial to the narrative arc that I often ask my author clients to consider what their lead wants and why as a result of the inciting incident, as it is this which will fuel their journey throughout the rest of the story. Act Two – Confrontation If Act One sets up the story and shows the plot point which rocks the lead’s world and sets them off on a particular journey, Act Two is where the rubber hits the road. Comprising the majority of a novel, at around fifty percent of the manuscript, this is where we see the lead doggedly pursue their narrative goal, facing obstacles and their deepest fears.  It’s often linked to rising action as the drama gets more intense when the lead keeps trying and failing in each scene as they try different ways to reach their aim or they finally progress … only to face an even worse problem.  This is where the story’s most important characters will be introduced and the midpoint of the book arrives – the next key plot point to consider. This will be linked to the lead revisiting their central goal, often wondering if they’ll ever get resolution as the challenges of this second Confrontation act have really taken it out of them!  Act Three – Resolution If Act Two is where you’ve put your lead up a tree and then cut it down, Act Three is the home stretch where they are heading towards the resolution of their story. However, it’s still not plain sailing as we want to keep readers turning pages right to the end – hence this part might see the lead really face off with the villain or opposition character as the baddie strives to stop your lead from getting their goal. This means the final third act can often dominate the story in terms of intensity, although it often simply makes up the final quarter of your manuscript. You also want to make sure you include a pre-climax, where we think the protagonist’s goal is in sight … and then it eludes them. This makes the story compelling for the reader, right ‘til the end, as they’ve still got to keep going to see what the real climax entails.  Often, the climax takes the form of a single, stand out scene as it’s so important in terms of bringing resolution to the plot and any themes which have been present in the book. Making the Three Act Structure Work for You In this guide, we’ve seen how to create a three act structure and just how powerful a tool this can be for novelists, memoirists or screenwriters. In fact, it can also be effective in helping us learn how to structure a short story by following the same outline, but with more brevity. See if you can spot the three acts next time you are watching a movie or reading a book, and see how you can apply it to your own story. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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