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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?

To access this post, you must purchase Ultimate Novel Writing Course Single Instalment 2020, Ultimate Novel Writing Course Monthly Instalments (UK), Ultimate Novel Writing Course Monthly Instalments (US), Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UK) or Ultimate Novel Writing Course (US).
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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 hand 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 competition is harder than you think- especially if you are 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? That’s what this article is here for- I’ll even supply the deadlines to some of these great competitions! 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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How To Eliminate Passive Voice From Your Writing

You may have heard the term ‘passive voice’ or even been told not to use it, but why is the passive voice a bad idea and how do you fix it? In this article, you will learn the difference between active and passive voice, how to spot passive voice misuse (and how to fix it), and learn what to do if passive voice becomes a smoke-screen for other issues. At the end, there will also be a checklist to apply when editing your manuscript.  What Is Passive Voice? Most people find it easier to spot the use of the passive voice in single examples and trickier when editing a whole manuscript; also, these things are about balance. It isn’t necessary to eliminate absolutely every example of the passive voice from your writing because there are some modes of writing that require it – more on that in a minute.  With these things in mind, let’s look at a simple example of passive voice. Take a look at these two versions of the same sentence. The first is written in an active voice, the second in a passive voice: Steve stole the sweets from the shop.The sweets were stolen from the shop by Steve. Now try this exercise. Which aspects of the first sentence could I remove and have it still make sense? Yes, I could substitute different words until I had a new sentence: Betty ate the ice cream at the skatepark, for instance, but that’s not what I mean. Which phrase could I take off the original sentence, while still communicating the same information, albeit in less detail? Hopefully you’ll agree that I could remove ‘from the shop’ but nothing else, otherwise I won’t have a sentence anymore. ‘Steve stole the sweets’ still makes sense. What about the second sentence? How much can I cut and still end up with a sentence? I can take away much more this time. I could go for ‘The sweets were stolen from the shop’ or simply ‘The sweets were stolen.’ Look at my new sentences: Steve stole the sweets.The sweets were stolen. What’s wrong with the second sentence? Identify that, and you’ll get to the nub of the issue: why the passive voice comes with an advisory warning. Can you see the problem? What Is Passive Voice Misuse?  The character or ‘person who acts’ – the subject – is missing from the second sentence. We no longer know who is responsible for stealing the sweets, the object of the sentence. Blame has been removed, or rather, as this is a post on the passive voice, I removed blame from sentence two.  This explains why passive voice isn’t simply a grammar problem you can solve by looking it up on Grammarly or another grammar-correction tool. The ‘why’ – and in writing (as in life) it’s always good to look for the ‘why’ – is that when we use the passive voice, the acting subject is often missing. If you’re telling a story, your readers want to know about the acting subject, so they can stand in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. They can’t do that if the character is no longer the subject of the action. Passive voice misuse is often unintentional and sometimes a hidden problem. Ever wondered why your reading group say they can’t connect with your characters? Perhaps passive voice is to blame. So how do you edit your work to avoid passive voice? Place the acting subject at the beginning of the sentence or clause. In the case of our two examples, the sentence with Steve at the beginning works best. If you’re editing a sentence without an acting subject, like ‘the sweets were stolen’, then introduce one. By the way, if you don’t want your readers to know who stole the sweets, you’ll need to create a different action – “Sarah discovered her sweets were missing,” for example.  Let’s look at another reason for avoiding the passive voice. Both the example sentences lack detail, and both sentences are examples of ‘summary narration’, which is the opposite of ‘show don\'t tell’, but – crucially – at least sentence one contains within it the possibility of ‘show not tell’. It’s much easier to edit ‘Steve stole the sweets’ than ‘the sweets were stolen’. I could change sentence one to ‘after sunset, Steve crept towards the sweetshop, carrying his torch,’ for example, or for my North American readers: ‘after sundown, Steve crept towards the candy store carrying his flashlight.’  But how would you instil some ‘show not tell’ into sentence two? ‘The sweets in the shop were crept towards after sunset’? That sentence feels all wrong. One way to tell that a sentence contains the passive voice when it shouldn’t is that it will be hard to turn it from summary narration into step-by-step ‘showing’. You might also have the reverse problem: you might be finding it hard to incorporate more showing and less telling because you’ve used the passive voice. If so, decide who is acting in any given section of your story, and place him or her centre stage.   I’ve mentioned that using the active voice matters when you’re telling a story, so novelists and short story writers in particular need to look out for it. But editing for active voice can also be useful in nonfiction and poetry.  Let’s look at nonfiction first.  You may have noticed that I’ve occasionally used the passive voice in this article, and other times I’ve put the acting subject (you, we or I) at the beginning of the sentence. If you’re writing something instructional (a recipe, a ‘how to’ book, this blog post) then you are likely to have to use the passive voice occasionally. But any time you tell a story in nonfiction – whether that’s a book length project or a feature article – edit for the passive voice. The same rules apply. In poetry, if you’ve included a speaker who’s present during the poem, then look out for the passive voice. It’s hard to change the active, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ into the passive voice but imagine reading ‘lonely wandering like a cloud’ or ‘the hills and dales were wandered over’ instead. Arguably, it’s the ‘I’, or the active subject at the beginning of the first line of Wordsworth’s famous poem, that makes the line powerful. With the lyrical ‘I’ missing, it falls flat. If you are editing a poem right now, and you’re stumped, try adding a lyrical ‘I’ as an experiment (you can blame me if it goes wrong). Put the speaker at the start of at least a couple of lines, like Wordsworth does, and see what happens. Not all poetry needs a lyrical ‘I’, of course, but it’s a fun writing technique to try if you get stuck.  When Is It OK To Use Passive Voice? When adopting an objective tone is important (ie a science report or legal document)When you don’t want the subject of the sentence to influence the messageWhen you want to take yourself or the subject out of the equation and make the object the focus, such as when reprimanding someone. For example: ‘The shoes were on the table’ is less accusatory than ‘You left your shoes on the table.’ Changing Passive Voice To Active Voice Did you learn to write up science experiments at school like this?The magnesium was placed in the test tube. The hydrochloric acid was added using a pipette. A lit paper tab was used to ignite the oxygen. The results were observed and recorded, as follows. Sometimes it’s hard to unlearn the way you were taught to write at school. The following passage describes the same thing, but this time I’ve used the active voice, and I’ve fictionalised: Mr Burns was on fire today, literally. He got us to gather round at the front of the classroom and he poured this stuff – mag something – into a little bottle then he got another bottle out and told us never ever to touch it because it can make your whole mouth fall off and your hair fall out or something and he mixed the two together and there was a brilliant white flame and an explosion and the next thing I remember is the sleeves of Mr Burns’ white coat being on fire, and Maize had aimed a fire extinguisher at him. What’s the difference between the two? One is written in passive voice, appropriately for a science report, and one is written in the active voice, again appropriately for children’s fiction. But that’s not the only difference. The tone and the voice are different too. Stop for a moment and consider the following before using passive voice: What genre are you writing in?PacingPoint of viewTarget readership How To Recognise And Eliminate Passive Voice  Changing from a passive to an active voice often means simply moving the acting subject to the beginning of a sentence. In the example I gave earlier, Steve was the subject and the sweets he stole were the object. The shop was contextual information.  But What If Passive Voice Itself Isn’t Your Biggest Issue?  A mistake I see some beginning fiction writers make is this: they’ll skip over the emotionally hard parts of a scene or avoid writing a difficult scene in its entirety, rather than using step-by-step narration, probably because it’s too painful to write. Sometimes they’ll make it seem impossible to turn these scenes into step-by-step narration because they’ve used the passive voice.  Here\'s an example I made up: The diary she had discovered in the attic turned out to be her mother’s and was duly searched for information that might lead to the solution of the case, but no information was forthcoming. Mavis found it made her feel very tired and weepy and, walking a stretch of the coastal path the next day, many memories flooded back to her.  Let’s imagine this was written by a would-be novelist who thinks they have a problem with the passive voice. Although sorting out the passive voice in this paragraph would help, the writer’s ‘real’ problem is that they’ve tried to skip the emotional aspects of the scene, discovering the diary in the attic, by summarising them instead. We could refer to this problem as skip-itis; the desire to skip a difficult or emotionally charged scene.  If use of the passive voice is simply a way of summarising the information, it’s not the main problem. You’ll notice that this paragraph also lacks detail and contains little or no characterisation. If this writer described climbing up into the attic to find the old diary step-by-step, using detail and an extra 500 words or more, while focusing on the character, it would be almost impossible to use the passive voice.   The good news is that, as far as my made up would-be novelist is concerned, this example paragraph acts as a mini plan for the scene they\'re going to write Here are some tips to help you to solve this problem: Give yourself enough time to write the emotional or difficult scene.Build in extra breaks – don’t go straight from writing this scene to another task, even if you can only manage a five-minute walk or a cup of tea. Make a start. Begin with something easy, like a main character performing a simple action. In my example, this writer could have said: Mavis climbed the ladder into the attic. Put the character at the beginning of most of your sentences in the first draft.If in doubt, have your character perform an action or series of actions before you summarise or use dialogue or internal monologue. That’s because summary, dialogue and internal monologue (along with passive voice) can all be symptoms of skip-itis. Remember first drafts are meant to be rubbish. They get better every time you redraft. Don’t try to make the scene ‘good’, simply try to get your character from the beginning of the scene to the end.  Passive voice usually takes more words than active voice, so if you get a sense that you’re beating about the bush and taking longer to express an idea than you need to, see if passive voice is to blame.  Using the active voice clarifies the idea you’re trying to express, meaning you get to the point quicker and you can cut extra phrases along the way. If you’re unsure about what you’re trying to say in your writing, or lack confidence, you may have (subconsciously) added padding, extra words that hide the central idea. Changing from the passive to the active voice can be like shining a light on these wordy ‘padded’ sentences.  A Passive Voice Editing Checklist Here’s a handy checklist to use when editing your creative writing and checking for passive voice: Have you used step-by-step narration when it’s needed? Is the action unfolding in front of us?Have you placed the acting subject (probably one of your main characters) at the start of your sentences or clauses, on the whole? Have you made them important by placing them centre stage?Have you skipped any of the emotionally difficult scenes by summarising? Could you make an idea clearer or use fewer words by switching to the active voice?  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 Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book? As a writer, your passion is your writing—you care about getting your ideas out there. But as you near the end of your writing process, the question of publishing costs pops up with all the tact of an uninvited party guest. Suddenly, there are decisions to make—important ones, and they can be daunting. How much is this really going to cost? How do I know if this quote is reasonable? Do I really need this service? The temptation to ignore the business side can be strong, but don’t give in. Your book’s success depends on you giving it a solid business foundation, and that starts with a sane budget. After reading this article, you’ll feel confident creating a budget for your book. You’ll know which factors affect prices, how much you should expect to pay for each service, and a reasonable ballpark for your total budget. Book Publication Costs A budget is more than just a list of prices—it’s about priorities. This article will familiarise you with what various services cost. Allocating your money wisely and planning your launch are topics of their own, and you can read about them here: How to Self-Publish Your Book on Amazon KDPHow Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?Literary Agent Fees Meanwhile, if what you’re really interested in is traditional publishing, you’ll want to read How to Get Your Book Published in 2021. And if you’re not sure of which route to take, Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing is the article for you. Still here, and still ready to talk prices? Let’s go! Production Costs Almost all publishing budgets include editing, layout, cover design, and ISBNs. For certain non-fiction books, indexing will also be a significant expense. What do each of these services cost? How are the fees typically structured, and which factors influence the final price? Let’s take a look at each one in detail. Book Editing Costs and Proofreading Costs For most self-published books, the biggest non-marketing cost is editing, accounting for around half the production budget. And rightfully so! Ask any successful author and they’ll tell you: never skimp on editing. Even if you’re a professional editor yourself, there’s no substitute for the perspective of a trained professional who lives outside your head. What Influences Editing Costs? The length of the manuscript. (You want them to check every word, right?)The difficulty of the manuscript. If you’re the type of writer who can weave a great yarn, but is a little “loose” with their text, your editor may charge a higher rate. Meanwhile, technical non-fiction content will require a specialist editor, also at a higher rate.The depth of the edit. Editing that reviews elements of style (phrasing, tone, word choice) is more costly than editing strictly for correctness (grammar, spelling, typos). The experience of your editor. An experienced editor won’t necessarily catch more mistakes, but they will have established work habits that allow them to be more efficient, reliable, and consistent. How Do Editors Structure Their Fees? There are two common fee structures: per-length or per-time. In a per-length scheme, the editor quotes a guaranteed cost based on the number of words or pages in your manuscript. In a per-time scheme, the editor quotes an hourly rate, and usually provides an estimate of the number of hours required. Per-length rates are more common in the modern self-publishing community, probably because they provide cost certainty to the author. However, there’s nothing wrong with a per-hour rate. If your editor can provide a reliable estimate of the time your edit will require, it boils down to almost the same thing. A Note on Terminology: Editing terms can be confusing because they vary between countries and between writing communities. Is it a copy edit, or a line edit? A line edit, or a stylistic edit? When requesting quotes, it’s best to specify the scope of editing you need, instead of assuming a common vocabulary. For example, you might ask for an editor to correct “grammar, spelling, and typos, but not matters of style or flow”. (If an editor’s website gives you their definition of terms, you can safely use those.) What Does Editing Actually Cost? Here are typical ranges, using all three price structures, in US dollars: Type of editPer-wordPer-page (300w)Per-hourStyle + correctness$0.015-$0.020/word$4.50-$6.00/page$15-20/hrCorrectness only$0.010-$0.012/word$3.00-$3.60/page$10-12/hr The lower end of this range would be for a less experienced editor and a less difficult manuscript; the higher end would be for the opposite. A Note on Structural / Developmental Edits: The editing we’ve described here is what’s sometimes referred to as final edits, meaning that you’ve finished making structural changes to your manuscript, and are now focused strictly on making the text the best it can be. There’s an entirely separate service known as “structural editing” or “developmental editing”, whose purpose is to make higher-level suggestions about your manuscript, such as restructuring chapters or cutting or adding content. If you plan to pay for a structural edit, make sure you budget for it separately from final edits. Book Formatting Costs With a number of do-it-yourself layout tools available, it’s tempting to try this step yourself. However, book layout is about more than just “converting” a manuscript into PDF or EPUB format. The wrong choice of font, font size, line spacing, or margins will reduce readability and cause reading fatigue. Unresolved widows, orphans, and rivers will distract the reader. If your book also contains tables, images, footnotes, or other rich content, the decisions are multiplied. What a designer offers is the judgment and best practices to make those decisions correctly. This is why, for most books, the right choice is to hire a professional. Fortunately, layout is often one of the less costly services you’ll need. What Influences the Cost of Layout? The formats you’re publishing in. An e-book layout is an entirely different thing than a print layout. If you publish in two print formats (e.g. hardcover and paperback), those may require separate layouts as well.The length of the manuscript. Sometimes this is only considered if it exceeds a certain threshold, such as 100,000 words.The complexity of the content. A novel is usually composed of what’s called running text—simple paragraphs. Meanwhile, a textbook or recipe book would include diverse elements, such as footnotes, tables, images, captions, headings, and so forth. How Are Fees Structured? For a running-text book, it’s common to see a single, fixed price. For books with more complex content, expect a custom quote. You may be asked to fill out a form identifying the number of images, tables, footnotes, and so on; or the designer may ask to review your manuscript. What does it cost? Here are some typical costs in US dollars: Running text, one format (e-book or print): $300-500.Running text with some images or diagrams (memoir or simple how-to book): $500-1000.Rich content (recipe book, textbook, technical how-to): $1500-2000 or more.Multiple formats: For one print and one digital format, expect to pay a bit less than the sum of the individual prices. For multiple print formats, there may be larger discounts. (Always let your designer know all the formats you’re considering.) Book Cover Design Costs Your cover is the centerpiece of your marketing; as with editing, this is an area where you shouldn’t skimp. A good cover designer doesn’t just create an image, they also give you valuable insight into the visual language of your genre or category. Book cover design costs vary considerably, and represent much more than just the technical quality of the final image. Careful research is essential. What Influences Book Cover Design Costs? The source of the content on which the design is based. Licensing fees for a stock photo may be as little as $20, while the cost of an original photo shoot can easily exceed $1000. In both cases, the final cover would be based on a photo, but the creative flexibility and licensing restrictions would be different.The labor-intensity of the work. The more detailed a cover is, or the more precisely some part of it must be executed, the more it will cost.The depth of the design consultation. This ranges from no process at all (buying a pre-made cover) to multiple drafts and revisions plus audience testing. How Are Fees Structured? Many designers offer packages at fixed prices, in exchange for limiting the design parameters. For example, it’s common to see a package in the $400US range that offers a cover based on a stock photo, with one or two rounds of revision. These package prices give both you and the designer a degree of certainty. Other designers, meanwhile, operate on a more open-ended process. They’ll provide a quote after receiving a brief or discussing your project with you. The quoting process itself takes time and effort, so this is uncommon at lower price ranges. A Note About Add-Ons: When dealing with package prices, you’ll often see “extras” included, such as a 3D render of your book, pre-made ad banners, or the source files for the design. Don’t compare packages based on a bullet list of “items” you’re getting—instead, focus on the design process and the designer’s skills and experience. (If you need specific extras, just ask for them.) What Does a Book Cover Design Cost? Keeping in mind that there’s a wide variation, here are some reasonable benchmarks: $400-600US is a typical price for a cover based on a stock photo, using a more “assembly line” design process. This price is typically a sweet spot for first-time authors who need a cover that conveys a sense of quality, but are on a tight budget.$500-800US is a typical range for an established designer using a more interactive process, but without any original illustration or photography.$800-1500+US is common for in-depth design processes, veteran designers, and covers that incorporate original illustration.For a print cover, expect $50-100 more compared to the e-book cover price. (This is for layout of the spine and back cover, plus meeting the printer’s specifications.) For both formats together, the price should be only slightly more than the print format on its own. Don’t Forget Genre... Every genre or category has certain conventions for cover design, and this can tie your hands with regard to some costs. For example, a space opera cover will typically be illustrated (where are you going to get a real-life photo of an alien planet?). That illustration will cost more than licensing a stock photo for a steamy romance cover. Book Indexing Costs If you’re publishing a non-fiction book in print, you may need indexing. (E-books are searchable, so are not normally indexed.) If you do need indexing, expect it to be a significant part of your total budget. What Influences the Cost? Length of the book, measured by the number of “indexable pages” (any page with text that needs to be indexed).Density of index entries (number per page).Difficulty of the text (degree of technicality or specialization). How Are Fees Structured? The most common model is a fixed cost per indexable page. However, some indexers may charge per index entry, per hour, or even a flat rate per book. What Does Book Indexing Cost? Generally, from $2.50-6.00US per indexable page. The low end would apply to the least dense and least technical books, such as business, political, popular science, and memoir. The high end would apply to the most dense and most technical books, such as textbooks, academic books, and technical manuals. ISBN Number Costs An ISBN is a stock-keeping number used by retailers to track inventory and/or sales. (It’s not a license to sell, and doesn’t affect your copyrights.) Although not strictly obligatory, the world’s book distribution infrastructure is built around ISBNs, so serious authors always use them. Each country has one national agency that manages ISBNs—sometimes this is the government, and sometimes this is a private entity that has been granted a monopoly, so prices vary. You need a separate ISBN for each format of your book. Below are some sample costs: CountryISBN agencySingle ISBN10-packUKNielsen£89£164USABowker$125 US$295 USCanadaCanadian governmentFreeFree A Note About “Free” ISBNs From Distributors: Some distributors or retailers offer “free” ISBNs as part of their service. However, these come with limitations. Typically you won’t be listed as the publisher in the ISBN registry, which can look unprofessional. And you’re usually not allowed to “take the ISBN with you” if you stop using that distributor or retailer. (This doesn’t affect your copyrights, but it can create a huge administrative hassle.) We recommend you buy your own ISBNs. A Note About Barcodes: When you buy ISBNs, you may be offered barcodes as well. A barcode is a way of representing your ISBN so a scanner can read it—you’ll see them on the back of every book.This is generally not something you need to pay for. If you’re using a mainstream print-on-demand service, such as IngramSpark, your barcode is automatically generated for you. If you need barcodes in other situations, there are free barcode generators on the web that you can use. All-in-One Packages The appeal of an all-in-one package is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors… and the risk is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors. Package Deals Commonly Come in Two Flavours: An “assembly line” package is focused on reducing your costs. It achieves this by streamlining the administration that would be duplicated across services, and through pre-existing relationships with specific contractors. You can save money this way, but watch out for unneeded services, and expect a more cookie-cutter result than you might get from hand-picked professionals.A “project management” package is focused on integrating the whole project under a consistent vision, selecting professionals suited to your project, and providing you with advice to make smart publishing decisions. With this approach, you pay more money than doing it yourself—in exchange for consistency, convenience, and advice.  When looking at costs, refer to the benchmarks for total costs later in this article. Expect an “assembly line” package to cost less than our benchmark, and a “project management” package to cost more. In all cases, investigate package deals carefully—remember you’re effectively making several hiring decisions at once. Book Marketing Costs Marketing is Different From Production in Important Ways: Production is a one-time expense to create a product. Marketing is an ongoing process, with no limit to total spending.Certain production tasks apply to almost every book (editing, cover design), while marketing plans are unique to each title.Production is about achieving quality and suitability while controlling costs. Marketing is about experimentation, and focuses on return on investment. Unfortunately, This Means There’s No “Average” Cost for Book Marketing. However, Here Are Some Useful Benchmarks:  “Deal” newsletters are a tried-and-tested promotional method, and there are effective options at prices from $20 to $1000. Remember to compare cost and audience size.Editorial review services can provide you with credible, positive marketing quotes for $200-400.Many authors achieve positive return with Amazon ads and/or Facebook ads. These systems are too complex to describe here, but as a rule, at least $100 (preferably more) is needed to properly test per-click ads for your book.Your author portrait is a useful marketing asset and can boost your credibility. $200 is a reasonable investment for a professional portrait that will last you several years.When you’re starting out, it’s safe to DIY your author website. Keep it simple, include links to your books and your social media channels, and revisit it over time.NetGalley is a service for generating buzz, media, and reviews. Although very useful for books with a larger marketing budget, it needs to work in conjunction with other efforts, so it should never take up the majority of your marketing budget. Costs range from $450-850US for a listing.Copywriting for your book description and marketing text provides a high return on investment. For as little as $50 you can obtain a strong marketing text that will generate a much better response than something self-written. As Far As How Marketing Fits Into Your Overall Budget, Again, Every Book is Unique. But Here Are a Few Rules of Thumb to Follow: A $0 marketing budget is almost always a mistake. At minimum, include $100 for inexpensive options.For a book with a budget of $2000 or less, allocating a quarter of your budget to marketing is reasonable.As your budget rises, the fraction allocated to marketing should also rise. For budgets $2000-$10,000, about a third of your total budget for marketing is reasonable. Above $10,000, most of each new dollar should go to marketing rather than production, as you should already have a top-quality product. Average Cost to Publish a Book So, with everything taken into account, what does it cost to publish a book? It should be clear by now that this question doesn’t have a single answer, and it would be unhelpful if we simply gave a range without any context. Instead, here are three sample budgets, each with a breakdown of costs: Example #1: Romance Novel. E-book and Paperback; 60,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1200Book layout, e-book and paperback, running text only: $550Cover design based on stock photo: $400Total $2150 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #2: Epic Space Opera Novel. E-Book Only; 120,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $2400Book layout, e-book only, running text only, extra cost for length: $320Cover design based on original illustration: $800Total $3520 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #3: Academic Text on the History of Steam Engines. Hardcover and Paperback; 85,000 words; Numerous Images, Diagrams, Tables, and Footnotes. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1700.Book layout, hardcover/paperback with same dimensions (one layout), complex content: $2300.Cover design, based on historical photo: $400Indexing: $5.00/page @ 270 indexable pages = $1350.Total $5750 + ISBNs + marketing. As a general rule, you would rarely spend more than $5000 to produce a novel, and only the most complex non-fiction would exceed $15,000. At the low end, spending less than $1200-1500 on book production likely means you’re cutting corners. There are exceptions to every rule, so always base your decisions on an analysis of what your book needs to succeed. Compare with other authors wherever possible; budgeting and planning your book can be daunting, so why navigate these waters alone? 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 12 Character Archetypes

The 12 Character Archetypes: A Guide for Writers Are you looking for readers to connect to your story on a more primal level? Do you want them to feel close to your characters and to root for them? Well, this article explores how you can use character archetypes to do just that! You may have heard people talk about ‘archetypes and their importance to Jungian theory’ and wondered just what they were talking about. But an understanding of the key character archetypes may be just the thing to help elevate your stories and keep your readers turning the page. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed that storytelling and myth making were an integral part of humanity’s development. At the centre of our stories are characters who appear repeatedly, irrespective of culture, custom, or language. They are part of our instinctive understanding as humans, resonating on a fundamental level. What is an Archetype? An archetype is the original pattern on which other things are based; it is the prototype, or blueprint, as it were. In essence it is something that is universally recognised as a typical example of something or someone. In Jungian theory, this definition is taken even further and used to describe the collective unconscious we inherited from our earliest human ancestors, something almost hardcoded into us. What is a Character Archetype? Character archetypes represent a specific set of universally recognisable characteristics and patterns of behaviour. Each archetype is defined by a distinct set of motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. They are so ubiquitous to us that we recognise them instantly. When someone says, ‘the hero’, we instantly think of someone fighting for good, someone who we wish to succeed. The hero is just one of the 12 archetypes, and we will explore these in more depth later in this article. Why are Character Archetypes Important? Character archetypes are important because they resonate with the reader; they are recognisable and intrinsically understood. Using them to our advantage can elevate our stories by drawing the reader more fully into our character’s world. One of the biggest obstacles for writers when creating great characters is ensuring they are believable and that they act in realistic ways when faced with certain situations. Understanding the archetypes can help us ensure our characters are consistent and feel authentic. Put another way, the archetypes can give us a blueprint to ensure our reader sees a truth in our character’s actions because they fit a known psychological profile.  The 12 character archetypes described in this article (along with examples of archetypes from literature and popular culture) will help us develop our characters and ensure they are believable, recognisable, and resonate with readers.  The character archetypes are also often associated with 7 seven basic plots on which almost all stories are built. Archetypes, Stereotypes, Stock Characters, and Clichés Although archetypes are the typical example of certain character types, they are not stereotypes, stock characters or clichés. Stereotypes are overly simplified characters, usually defined by a small number of characteristics and are often negative caricatures.  Stock characters (including the ‘boy next door’ or the ‘cat lady’) represent generic character types and, in contrast to stereotypes, are not intrinsically positive or negative. Their use may be seen as rather lazy; but they may offer great opportunities to subvert the form, especially for comic effect.  The main thing to watch out for with stock characters is avoiding the cliché. This is a character who has been used so often throughout literature that it has become boring and predictable. Stereotypes and clichés will act predictably and according to type in a way that can easily be anticipated. They are therefore likely to be boring for the reader. Archetypes, however, may be seen to speak a universal truth and therefore, although we recognise them and empathise with them, they are not inherently predictable. 12 Character Archetypes Jung noted that there were 12 character archetypes, each with its own set of values, traits, and motivations. They are broadly grouped into three categories: The ego archetypes: the Innocent, the Everyman, the Hero, and the CaregiverThe soul archetypes: the Explorer, the Rebel, the Lover, and the Creator/ArtistThe self archetypes: the Jester, the Sage, the Magician/Wizard, and the Ruler The Ruler The Ruler is obsessed by the pursuit of power and may become consumed by it. They are often the antagonist, someone against whom the protagonist must battle. However, there are plenty of opportunities to subvert the form here and create an anti-hero type like Tony Soprano or Walter White. The main strengths of the Ruler are their status and their access to resources. They may be charismatic and demonstrate enviable leadership skills. However, they are prone to suspicion and fear others are attempting to grab their power. They may also appear aloof and be disliked by many (if not all) of the people surrounding them.  Examples of the Ruler include the titular character in Edward St Aubyn’s Dunbar (based on King Lear), Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, Macbeth, and Joffrey Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire. The Ruler may also be described as the Leader, the Boss, the King/Queen, or the President. The Creator or Artist The Creator, also known as the Artist, is a visionary who creates things of enduring value, such as art, music, structures, or even entire worlds depending on the scope of their role within the story.  The main strengths of the Creator are their flair for creativity, their drive, and general ability to execute their vision. This makes them extremely determined, but this may also give rise to perfectionism and egotism. Creators may also demonstrate weakness in their willingness for personal sacrifice in the name of their vision or be overly single-minded at the expense of wider goals.  Examples of the Creator or Artist include Marvel’s Tony Stark, Dr Jekyll from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Geppetto from Pinocchio, and Slartibartfast fromThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who is literally a designer of planets.  The Creator may also be described as the Inventor, the Innovator, the Musician, or the Writer. The Sage The Sage is the wise character who offers up their knowledge, typically using their intelligence to provide context or impart this wisdom to another character to improve their chance of success. They often perform the role of a mentor to the protagonist. The main strength of the Sage is their accumulated wisdom, and they will often provide considerable insight. However, they may be overly cautious and prone to excessive study. This gives rise to a large weakness in the form of a hesitancy to take any action. Examples of the Sage include Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Magwitch in Great Expectations, Dumbledore in Harry Potter, and Master Splinter in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.   The Sage may also be described as the Expert, the Teacher, the Scholar, or the Advisor. The Innocent The Innocent archetype is the embodiment of all that is good in the world. They are unsullied by life or tragedy (in contrast to the Hero archetype) and wish for happiness for themselves and others. Often depicted as children, the Innocent is used to inspire a sense of compassion into even an apathetic reader. However, this archetype is not immune to hardship, and many literary Innocents do meet a terrible end (Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol for example). The main strengths of the Innocent are their moral purity and sincerity. They will be kind and by extension well-loved. However, the Innocent’s weaknesses of naivety and lack of skills may make them especially vulnerable.  Examples of the Innocent include Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, Dory from Finding Nemo, and Lyra from His Dark Materials (although she eventually transforms away from the Innocent towards the Hero as she matures). The Innocent may also be known as the Child, the Youth, the Mystic, or the Naïve. The Explorer The Explorer archetype is driven by a desire for adventure and to discover the previously unknown. They are characters who will typically seek out new experiences and opportunities, and who wish for more freedom.  The main strength of the Explorer is their innate curiosity; they demand answers and are driven by a need for self-improvement. However, their weaknesses include a tendency for aimlessness, and they may become misfits, especially if they become unreliable as a friend or ally. Examples of the Explorer include Odysseus in The Odyssey, Indiana Jones, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and James from Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. The Explorer may also be described as the Seeker, the Wanderer, or the Pilgrim. The Rebel The Rebel lives by the idea that rules are made to broken and are often driven by one of two primary urges: revenge or revolution. They do not live within the boundaries that society has demanded and will often be the character who leads the fight to overthrow the status quo. The main strengths of the Rebel are their independent thinking and dogged perseverance to achieve a change. However, this can make them self-involved and may even force them towards criminal activity. They may also lack the resources to achieve their aims, resulting in frustration which further increases their propensity towards crime. Examples of the Rebel include Katniss from The Hunger Games, Robin Hood, Sirius Black from Harry Potter, and even Elle Woods in Legally Blond as she takes on the status quo entrenched in the legal profession.  The Rebel may also be described as the Revolutionary, or the Outlaw. The Hero The Hero is the one who ‘saves the day’, rising to the challenge with the aid of their unique set of skills. They are generally depicted as the ‘good guy’ and embody the characteristics that are especially valued within society to represent a model of virtue.  The key strengths of the Hero include their courage and force of will, their strength (be that physical or mental), and their ability in specific areas that confers them an advantage over an intimidating enemy. However, they may have a propensity for overconfidence and an inflated ego, often bordering on hubris.  Examples of the Hero include Hercules, Achilles, Superman, Harry Potter, and Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale. The Hero may also be described as the Warrior, the Crusader, the Superhero, or the Dragon Slayer. The Magician or Wizard The Magician, also known as the Wizard, is the archetype who brings significant knowledge or wields an ancient power. They are often key to achieving difficult goals within a story.  The main strength of the Magician or Wizard is their access to the ‘secrets of the universe’, most frequently coupled with a discipline to harness and wield that power effectively. They may provide an innovative solution to a problem; however, this may give rise to a series of unintended consequences. One of the main weaknesses of the Magician or Wizard is arrogance (which may exacerbate those unintended consequences) and they may become corrupted by their power (think Darth Vader in Star Wars).   Other examples of the Magician/Wizard include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Prospero in The Tempest. Sherlock Holmes may also be considered as a Magician, although his skills are cerebral rather than supernatural.  As well as being known as the Magician and the Wizard, this archetype may also be described as the Shaman, the Inventor, or the Catalyst. The Jester The Jester is a comic character, often also known as the Trickster. They may provide an element of comic relief but may also offer up important truths. They likely live by the motto ‘you only live once’.  The main strength of the Jester is their ability to be funny whilst also offering insight in an accessible way. They are much liked by readers, although this may be a superficial appreciation. The main weakness of the archetype is borne from this superficiality, and they can quickly become obnoxious or time wasters. Examples of the Jester include the Fool in King Lear, the Weasley Twins in Harry Potter, Timon and Pumba in The Lion King, and Joey in Friends. The Jester may also be described as the Fool, the Joker, or the Comedian. The Everyman The Everyman is someone to whom all readers can relate, someone who is recognisable as a ‘regular person’. They are likely to be characters who ‘fit in’ easily and are great at bringing people together. The main strength of the Everyman comes from their ability to integrate; they are down to earth and easy to like. However, they may subsume their own sense of self to blend in, moulding themselves into who they think others want them to be. The main weakness of the Everyman archetype is that as a ‘normal’ person they likely lack specialised skills and so may not prove useful in difficult situations. Examples of the Everyman include Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the anonymous narrator in Fight Club, and Philip J. Fry in Futurama.  The Everyman may also be described as the Person Next Door, the Citizen, or the Regular. The Lover The Lover archetype is the great romantic, in love with the very idea of being in love. They may be anyone within a story, but their leading drive is to find (and keep) love.  The main strengths of the Lover are their passion and devotion, which may make them a powerful ally. However, this devotion may boil over into a willingness to sacrifice everything for love, including identity, life, and liberty (and not just their own). Further weaknesses include irrationality in their behaviour and a tendency towards naivety and a ‘love conquers all’ mentality.  Examples of the Lover include Romeo and Juliet, Edward in Twilight, and Jake and Rose in Titanic.  The Lover may also be described as the Partner, the Intimate, or the Spouse. The Caregiver The Caregiver plays a nurturing role, and this archetype has also been known as the Mother Figure, although they certainly do not have to be female. They are often seen in supporting roles, such the spouse or best friend, in addition to the more obvious parent/guardian role.  The main strength of the Caregiver is their selflessness, and they will frequently put everyone else first while expecting little in return. They will also show significant loyalty and a focus on honour. However, they generally lack leadership skills or personal ambition.  Examples of the Caregiver include Samwise in The Lord of the Rings, Mary Poppins, and Miss Honey from Matilda.  The Caregiver may also be described as the Saint, the Helper, or the Supporter. What Archetypes Work Best For Your story? As this article has highlighted, understanding the main character archetypes can help you to build more believable and realistic characters that readers will be drawn to. Use them as a form of blueprint to ensure your primary characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers, keeping them turning the pages as they are sucked into your characters’ lives. Or use them to find new and exciting ways to give readers something unexpected: how about a young child in the Sage role for your ageing Innocent; or the assassin as the Caregiver? Play around with your story and see what archetypes work best for your characters. You never know where your story may take you next! 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 How to Build a Fantasy World

Learn what’s involved in building fantasy worlds, why this is important, and how to develop your world-building process. What is a Fantasy Novel? I should start with a confession. I don’t know how I’d define a fantasy novel. Or at least, I don’t know how to do it quickly. In fact, I’d be surprised if anyone can come up with a single short and robust definition for a genre that encompasses so much.  I might not be able to give a quick definition of fantasy - but I can quickly recognise it when I see it. It’s a genre that lands us in a new world. It takes us through the cupboard and into Narnia. It bustles us into Diagon Alley. It sets us trekking through Middle Earth. It opens up new and unexpected vistas.  These new worlds are a huge part of the excitement and appeal, and for a writer and world builder they offer endless possibilities.  There are no limits to what you can achieve in a genre containing landscapes as different as Tolkien’s black and brutal Mordor and Leigh Bardugo’s unsettling and thrilling Grishaverse. It takes in everything from the ruined gothic splendour of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, to Andrew Coldecott’s insular and rural Rotherweird, not to mention all those rugged Orc-filled mountainscapes, terrifying post-nuclear dystopias, and heavenly utopias. And then, there’s Terry Pratchett’s masterful, loving satire of the whole idea of fantasy world building, the Discworld, which drifts through space and time on the back of four huge elephants, who themselves are on the craggy back of Great A’Tuin The Turtle.  In short, fantasy world creation can look like whatever you want it to look like. What is Worldbuilding? Back in the day, fantasy world creation was easy to characterise as a few scantily clad maidens, a lot of swords with names, a couple of big dragons, and a liberal garnish of incomprehensible magic. Luckily, it’s a whole lot more than that now. Yet, even where all those clichés are present and correct, you can still create something profound and compelling: just look at the success of George RR Martin’s Game Of Thrones novels.  There’s also far more to creating fantasy worlds than waving around wands and saying a few magic words. The genre allows writers to explore all sorts of new ideas. It also allows them to say all sorts about our own world. It’s often by encountering these differences that we learn who we are. And if there’s also excitement, adventure, diversity, and mind-bending invention on the way, well, so much the better. In fact, fantasy world-building is all about pushing the boundaries of possibility. It allows you not only to set the stage on which your story will play out, but to turn that stage into just about anything. To fill it with all the creatures of your imagination. In a fantasy world, you don’t have to be bound by the laws of physics. You can invent your own animals. You can create your own societies with their own customs and their own histories. You can give them new mythologies, new religions, new mysteries and power systems. You can invent new philosophies. You can control geography, lore, technology, economics, language, politics. You can - if you dare - entirely ignore contemporary morality.  You can build a world that is better than the one we are living in. You can build one that is much worse. Or, you can just make it interestingly different.  You can, in short, do just about anything. Essential Elements of a Fantasy World I must pause here to re-emphasise that previous “just about”. Because while fantasy writing lets you play God in creative and exciting ways, there are still rules to those games. You can set the limitations - but those limitations do need to be there. When you’re thinking about how to build a fantasy world, you need to think about how to make it feel real as well as how to make it feel extraordinary.  You don’t want to leave your readers thinking that everything in your book is arbitrary. You don’t want them complaining that things don’t make sense. You need to consider how to create a realistic fantasy world. It might sound contradictory, but it’s also fundamentally important. Your characters need to have weight in that world. And that world needs to press on them in turn. You have to remember that while the world may seem fantastical to your readers, it has to be normal for your characters. It is their day-to-day reality. They have to react to it accordingly - and their expectations about how that world will react also have to be met.  Most of the time, anyway. Of course, you can still shock and surprise your characters. You can still overawe them with magic. Just make sure that these events feel as powerful and strange for them as they do for your readers. Make sure they count and have consequences. How to Create a Fantasy World: Ten Key Elements Okay, that’s the theory about how to make a fantasy world. How about the practice? What do you need to put into this exciting world? The short answer - as you might expect by now - is anything you like. The longer answer is that there are quite a few things you can do to set those important limits and give your world solidity.  Here are ten essentials to consider when you’re wondering what to put in your world. 1. Maps: Location and Situation I’ll be honest here. Part of the reason for including a map when creating a fantasy world is that maps are fun. They look lovely. They come with that wonderful promise that there will be new territories to explore and treasures to discover. But they also serve a good practical purpose. They give you a clear idea of the territory your characters will have to cover. They can help you to situate them and to move them around. They will give you ideas about difficulties they may encounter and challenges that will have to be overcome. They also help open up a whole host of other practical questions about how people travel in your world, how long it takes to get from place to place, what those places look like, how it feels to be in those places, what the weather is like... and so on. It’s once you start thinking about the practical outlines of your world that it really starts to take shape. 2. People: Who Lives in This World and What Do Characters Do? Okay, you don’t have to stick to just people. But you do still have to answer important questions about who resides in your world. What do they look like? How do they interact? What they do from day to day? What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? What makes them get so mad that they’ll grab a sword, leave their village, scale impossible peaks, travel across fields of fire, and take it out on Orcs all the way? 3. Creatures Talking of Orcs, who and what else lives in your world? What do they look like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What motivates them? Are they hungry? Are they angry? Are they peace-loving simple creatures who don’t deserve the brutal culling coming their way? You can see why this bit is fun… 4. Technology Here’s a fascinating thing. A lot of fantasy, from Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Schwab’s many versions of magical London, is set in a kind of pre-industrial world. There are swords and armour and fearsome siege engines. There are castles. People ride around on horses. They sleep on straw beds, and you really have to worry about the toilets… It can perhaps feel like a set of clichés, but it can also be remarkably freeing for a writer. This world is instantly and internationally recognisable - and because it’s so far removed from our time and experiences, it allows you to ignore a great many contemporary cultural hang-ups. And hey! You don’t have to restrict yourself either. If you want to write a futuristic fantasy or one with an entirely different concept of progress and invention, you can do that too. Just look at Laura Lam’s books. 5. Is There Magic? To take the technological discussion one stage further: Arthur C Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Which is certainly food for thought if you’re setting up a futuristic fantasy world. But, of course, in fantasy you don’t have to restrict yourself to advanced tech magic. You can also use good old fashioned wand magic too. Just make sure you think hard about how it works - and how it doesn’t work. About who can and can’t wield it. About what benefits it brings - and what the costs are. You can take inspiration from anywhere. Tomi Adeyemi was inspired by West African mythology and the Yoruba culture and language, when creating the magic system of Orïsha. 6. What’s the History of the World You’re Building? When you build your fantasy world, distance yourself from the real here and now. What has made the present you are describing the way it is? What historic events have led to the development of this world? What is the backstory of the main characters? Where, in short, does your story come from? 7. Belief Just as in our own world, your characters may not want to confine themselves to historical evidence. They may have a set of myths and stories that are radically different from the facts they’ve been told. They may believe in gods that do not exist. They may also fail to believe in gods who are real, and correspondingly suffer for that. Neil Gaiman did a great job of combining old god beliefs with our present world in American Gods. 8. Power: Laws and Governance One of the great fascinations of fantasy is the way it allows you to talk about power and its implications. Who has it? Who doesn’t? Who has education? What does education even mean in this world? Who is rich and who is poor? How are such things decided? What are the systems that govern - and who is in the government? What issues are they dealing with and how do they deal with them? For instance, R. F. Kuang’s grimdark fantasy, The Poppy War, draws its plot and politics from mid 20th century China. 9. Trouble and Conflict Now that you’ve got religion, belief, history, power, and politics you have the basis for building coherent societies. And you also have the things that tear them apart. It’s time to think about conflict within your world. Who are the adversarial groups? What makes friends into enemies? Are there warring tribes? Are there religious differences? Do people have to fight for resources?  Don’t be afraid to look at our own world when dreaming up something abhorrent in your own fantasy world creation. As Margaret Atwood once famously said after having written The Handmaid’s Tale, “There\'s nothing in the book that hasn\'t already happened at one time or another.” 10. Story and more And now that you’ve got conflict, you’ve got the basis for your story. Easy, eh? Well, no.  I know that finding a good plot and a gripping narrative can be challenging to say the least. But it’s that challenge that also makes the writing process worthwhile and exciting. And once you have the motivating ideas that will get your characters moving across your map and exploring all the territories within it, then your world will truly come to life. Managing Essential Elements of a Fantasy World We’ve seen what world-building is and answered some of the big fantasy world-building questions. We’ve discussed the importance of having rules - and also the excitement of not being bound by the limits of our own reality. We’ve got a good list of important ideas to work out and consider that will help you create and populate your new lands. We’ve got our kitbag, our weapons, and our map. We’re just about ready to go on that journey into our new domains.  But how do you manage your fantasy world? Even after you have worked out the structure and rules essential to building your fantasy world, there are still likely to be difficulties and snags along the way. Thankfully, some of these can be alleviated by good planning.  Documenting your world lore is vital. It may help to keep a spreadsheet of magical systems, a timeline of its history, a quick glossary of any key terms or place names you’ve invented. Don’t forget to have a document to keep track of difficult names and back stories, too. Pinterest mood boards may help you fix your ideas about landscape, fashion, and location.  Not only will this be useful for you as you write your book, or grow your series, but your future editor and proofreaders will also thank you! Finally, arm yourself mentally. Don’t beat yourself up if you have bad days and progress is slow. Writing is hard and creating a whole new fantasy world is even harder! The good news is that you don’t have to take this journey alone. Frodo had Sam - and you have a big community of other writers who will want to help you on your way. One of the best ways of finding them is by joining the world’s leading online writers club at Jericho Writers: https://jerichowriters.com/jericho-writers-full-membership/ 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 Apps and Software Solutions for Writing Your Book or Screenplay

How using certain online tools can improve your writing Any writer will tell you that writing is hard. Although it’s something we can all relate to, we are only as good as our tools. Which is why it’s important to know what novel writing software is available for when inspiration strikes. Some of the best apps for writers are made specifically for novels or screenplays. It can be hard to choose and determine the best creative writing app for you, which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide. In this article, you’ll get to know what you might be looking for in creative writing apps as well as a list of my top recommendations for software for writers. Writing/editing software doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. Read on to learn more about some of my top picks for your writer’s toolbelt! Selecting the Best Novel Writing Software First thing’s first: choosing the best writing app for your needs and expectations. There’s an ever-growing abundance of software tools and apps available for writers, both for editing grammar and clarity, as well as structuring or formatting your writing.  Having so many choices can be bewildering, especially if you consider yourself a dabbler or a writer of multiple genres or styles. However, there’s an app out there for everyone, whether it be outlining software, proofreading software, or simply an aesthetically pleasing writing platform! Before we dive into these top 10 writing apps, take some time to determine your own needs and wants. For example, are you looking for an app that is just for story planning, or are you looking for a technologically advanced screenwriting software? Depending on how specific your needs are, some writing apps are better than others. One of the most determining factors when shopping for author software is knowing the platform on which the app or software is required to run. Do you have a Mac or Windows computer? The best writing apps for Android or iPad may vary. Are you hoping to work on your phone or tablet? These questions will help you select the best writing software. You should also think about the various capabilities and features that many creative writing apps can provide. These include: TemplatesMany apps offer novel or screenplay templates, a perfect feature for new or structured writers looking for assistance in their formatting.Cost / LicensingOn a budget? Some of these writing apps on this list are free, but many others have fees, including monthly subscription options.Ease of use / easy to learnOften writing apps can feel like you are learning an entirely new language; choosing a more simplistic app could be beneficial if you are searching for something that you can write on right away.Additional useful featuresAre you hoping for formatting tips or assistance with your overall grammar and sentence clarity? Some writing apps offer these features, and many more. If you are looking for something specific, keep an eye out for that!File formatsHaving an app for writing that will save in a variety of formats can be extremely valuable for writers, especially those of you submitting your work under very precise guidelines.Collaboration capabilitiesIf you are working on a writing project with a group or other collaborators, you may want to find an app that allows you to work on the same project with multiple writers, however remotely.  I have selected and examined the following software for writers, considering budget and needs. 6 Best Book Writing Software Programs These are some of my top choices of software to write a book, including manuscript software. While these apps are listed under ‘book writing’, they might also be used for playwriting, screenwriting, or other various writing forms.  Scrivener My own personal pick for writing projects of all shapes and sizes, Scrivener is one of the most popular writing apps out there today. With fantastic template options and digital sticky notes for organising, the sky’s the limit for your writing projects. You can choose manuscript outlines with front and back matter formatting included, screenplay outlines for your next pilot, or even outlines for simple essays or formal documents. You can organise the app however you like, with theme colours and a wide array of content analysing features. While Scrivener has a lot to offer, there is an extremely steep learning curve. It took me a few days of consistent use to master it, and even now I know that I have just barely scratched the surface. However, the app has tutorials that you can follow at any time, should the writing app be confusing! Scrivener works on Mac or Windows systems, each costing £47 ($65) per operating system, and you may also consider purchasing a £20 ($28) app for Android and IOS devices. This allows all devices to sync so long as you have a Dropbox account, updating your writing projects across all platforms, wherever you are!  Read more about Scrivener here, and feel free to download its 30-day free trial so that you can get a feel for it. Microsoft Word The most classic of writing platforms, Microsoft Word still has a lot to offer a writer, no matter your genre or specialization. Microsoft Word will no doubt feel familiar to most any writer, as it is set up similarly to most document programs, such as Google Docs or even Scrivener. Microsoft Word offers an annual subscription fee that includes Microsoft’s entire suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) as well as 1 terabyte of storage for single users. The fee is a bit steep- around £60 ($70) for the year.  However, their programs work across multiple devices, and offering cloud storage solutions is a great perk for writers with a lot of content or documents. Microsoft Word has grown a lot over the years too; their spell check and grammar tools have only gotten better, and Word can look at your documents for its overall flow and feel. You can check out all that Microsoft has to offer here, as well as compare each and every product that they offer. If you live in a house with multiple aspiring writers, a Microsoft subscription may suit you well. Google Docs A mainstay for many people, Google Docs is a fantastic free writing software available to anyone with an internet connection. You can work on a document both online and offline, with free storage from Google. Oh, and did I mention this writing tool is completely free to use? While Google Docs may not have all of your favourite fonts and editing options, it has a comprehensive grammar and sentence structure editor as well as standard formatting options found in Microsoft Word.  Like Microsoft properties, Google Docs is a part of an entire suite of useful apps and writing tools, such as Sheets, Slides, Drive, and many more. Google Docs is also ideal if you plan on collaborating with people across time zones or otherwise remotely. You can chat in real time in the document or leave comments for people to see later. Multiple people can edit a Google Doc at once with an internet connection, and you have the option to suggest edits that can be rejected or accepted and applied by your peers. A great tool for collaborations and teams. Plus don’t forget it’s totally free! Check out Google Docs here, if you haven’t done so already. Evernote Do you have a big project to tackle with images, deadlines, and more? Evernote may be the app for you, a perfect writing tool for the busy author. Much more than just a writing document, Evernote brings all of your organization needs into one streamlined writing app. With Evernote, you can sync your documents and notes across all devices, no matter the operating system or product, from a Mac laptop to a Samsung phone and back to an iPad. You can organize your documents and notes to your heart’s delight or leave everything in chaos. Because Evernote’s ingenious search system can find the document that you’re hunting for. Do you take a lot of screen captures for your writing? Evernote allows you to annotate and edit screencapped PDFs, images, and more. It can search handwriting, images, and any document type for keywords, giving you access to everything you have saved with a quick search. Evernote keeps any writer’s business sorted and all in one place, no matter how busy you are. And the best part about Evernote? They offer free plans as well as monthly subscriptions depending on your usage and needs. Plans range from £6 ($8)/month to no more than £11 ($15)/month, per person. Check out all that Evernote has to offer here. Hemingway App Are you a writer known for being verbose, and prone to long, rambling sentences? Then you may be a writer that could benefit from the Hemingway App, named after no other than Ernest Hemingway. Import your latest novel and watch Hemingway light up, highlighting your work in various colours that correspond to different editing tips. Hemingway is designed to point out boring words, wandering or passive sentences, and those pesky adverbs. It’s like having a line editor in your own home for just $20 (£15) in total. It can be a great backup writing app, especially once your manuscript is complete. Hemingway works on Mac and PC operating systems, with or without an internet connection. You can format your document and write directly in Hemingway, a simple and focused editor leading to a more concentrated work environment. You can also publish directly to WordPress or other websites from the app. Check out Hemingway here. Grammarly Let’s say that you have your favourite document program, but you just wish the spelling and grammar checker was a bit more informed. Enter Grammarly, a free program that you can use with most popular word document creators, including Microsoft Word and Google. Grammarly is capable of working in tandem with your favourite document editor, pointing out not only your spelling mistakes, but also any sentences lacking in clarity or engaging points. It’s a great free app for anyone to try, and you can download it as a browser add-on here. 4 Best Screenwriting Apps If you are a budding screenwriter looking for apps more directly geared for your work, you’re in the right place. While all of the apps and software I’ve already listed will still work wonders for your screenplay, the following writing apps are made exclusively for plays or screenwriters alike! Fade In Beloved by many Hollywood hotshot writers for its ease of use and comprehensive features, Fade In is a wonderful app for screenwriters at any level. Available for any operating system, including mobile app features, Fade In is your writing companion, whether it be a full-length play or short pilot episode. Fade In is a complete application for writing motion picture screenplays, including tools for outlining, organising, and navigating, plus extensive screenplay formatting and robust tools for managing rewrites and revisions. The app’s appearance is unfussy and simplistic, allowing you room to write and organise as need be. With many templates and the option to collaborate, Fade In is a great app for screenwriters. You can try it for free for a trial period, or buy it for a flat rate of $80 (£60). Learn more about Fade In here. Final Draft If you consider yourself more than a beginning scriptwriter, you might consider purchasing Final Draft. Apparently used by 95% of movie and television writers, Final Draft has been the industry standard for many years. Its price tag may be high for budding writers, but it could also take your work to the next level. Working on Windows or Mac desktops as well as offering a mobile app, Final Draft is key for those of you submitting your writing frequently. With over 300 templates across multiple disciplines, Final draft paginates and formats your writing to industry standards, saving you loads of time when submission deadlines loom. It has story planning and outlining capabilities, and real-time comments just in case you need to make a note and come back to your work later. It has a simplistic, non-distracting design, as well as many formatting options and tutorials included. Final Draft offers a 60-day free trial for those of you on the fence; it’s fair, given that it costs £183 ($250) upfront. You can look at Final Draft’s many additional features here. ScriptBuilder If Final Draft’s features feel daunting, I highly recommend checking out ScriptBuilder. Just like its name implies, ScriptBuilder is perfect for the budding screenwriter, offering both outline and character builders, scene formatting, and more all from your phone or other device. Costing less than £4/$5 to unlock all of the app’s features, ScriptBuilder is ideal for those of you who get ideas for screenplays while you’re out and about but don’t want to forget them. You can easily jot them down on your mobile device, and format using the app later. While it is simple, it is also effective for fleshing out the overall arc of scenes and screenplay plots. You can even build your characters. Keep in mind that this app is only available for Apple products at this time, but you can learn more about it here. Celtx Pro Writing for television, video production, and game production? Celtx may be a great choice for you, especially considering its many collaborative features. By housing familiar screenplay-style script editing within a branching sequence-based structure, Celtx Game & VR editor enables writers to easily create nonlinear, decision-oriented narratives of unlimited scope. Celtx brings your key creatives together in a single, secure, cloud-based workspace that facilitates seamless collaboration at every step of the narrative design process – including project-wide communication powered by an internal commenting and tagging system. This isn’t for the average writer, but it could be perfect for a team of writers and developers, especially if you want to produce games! The cost? It depends on what features you’d like, but pricing begins at £11($15)/month and scales up to £20 ($27)/month. However, they have an introductory first year price that you can check out here. Conclusion Finding a writing app that suits all of your needs is possible, though the search can be daunting. I encourage you to check out the many excellent software apps and programs available to aid authors and screenwriters found on this list. 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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Proofreading Marks: What Do They Mean?

As a new author, there’s nothing more important than a properly edited piece of writing. It can make or break your submissions, and editors on any level, for any project, will no doubt have notes to give you! While many writers use the Track Changes function on Word, or apps that can add changes or allow for suggestions from editors, there are still some writers opting for old-school hand-written edits. But why do proofreaders use all sorts of symbols and silly markings to edit your work? More than that, what do all of these marks mean? These unusual red scribbles are a necessary evil when it comes to your work being edited, and they can mean a variety of things. Let’s go over what proofreading marks are, and how you can best decipher them before your next big round of edits. What are Proofreading Marks? These special signs and symbols relate to sections of your work that need editing or adjusting. This can range from spelling errors to grammatical errors to formatting preferences. These forms of corrections may be less frequently found these days, due to the progression of “track changes” and “suggestions” in many word processing applications. However, some of the symbols are widely used so every writer should familiarise themselves appropriately. It\'s also worth noting that some editors that have their own special characters too - so it\'s important to reach out to your proofreader should you not understand their corrections. How might these marks be used, and what are some marks that have been universally accepted by editors and proofreaders? Let’s go over these now... How Proofreading Marks are Used Proofreading marks are used by editors to point out changes that need making in your document. They are typically located in the right and left margins of a printed document with pointers to where in the text changes are recommended. Both copy editing symbols and abbreviations will be found along your margins or in your text and various sentences, and they can mean anything from improper sentence spacing to transposing your sentence in an entirely different way for clarity.  You will have slashes through words (which means please remove) and abbreviations for formatting changes (such as italics and bold). You will encounter odd squiggles (often meaning “delete” or “transpose”), and your proofreader may even rewrite whole sentences in your margins. Yes, proofreading marks can be overwhelming, especially if you weren’t expecting so many specific edits! These shorthand symbols took me a while to learn and were more complicated than I expected them to be, so be patient with yourself. Once you\'ve gone through multiple rounds of edits with the same proofreader you\'ll soon get the hang of it. What are the Common Proofreading Symbols? Here\'s a comprehensive list of proofreading marks. Note that there are two types - abstract symbols and abbreviations. ^   - Insert something, most likely an edit found in your marginsㄉ - Delete this word or section; usually this symbol will appear in the margins of your work while there will be a diagonal or straight line through the specific word, letter, or sentence that needs deleting[  - Move your writing left]  - Move your writing right] [  - Center your text#  - Add spaceeq#  - Make the spacing equalbf  - Bold a section of textItal  - Italicise a section of text(/) - Insert some parentheses[/] - Insert some brackets=  - Insert a hyphen;/ - Insert a semicolon! - Insert an exclamation point? - Insert a question mark~  - Transpose (meaning rewrite the sentence, usually)❡  - Begin a new paragraphfl  - Flush left, or align the text with the left marginfr  - Flush right, or align the text with the right marginAWK  - Something about a particular phrase or sentence is worded awkwardly or strangelyWW  - This refers to “wrong word”, such as using the wrong form of “there”WDY  - A particular sentence is most likely too wordy, complicated, or overstated This is only the beginning of the many possible symbols and proofreaders’ abbreviations. Communicate with your proofreader so you don’t misunderstand any specific symbols. You may also wish to refer to a professional proofreading mark guide, such as this helpful list. How to use proofreading marks While they may seem daunting and sometimes discouraging, these corrections are necessary for writers at any stage. No matter how many copy-editing marks you receive, know that you are on track to make your work the best it can be, with the help of a skilled proofreader! 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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What are Literary Devices?

What are Literary Devices? We writers are always looking for ways to strengthen our storytelling. One of the most impactful techniques to do this is using literary devices, which are effective techniques used to hint at different ideas, themes and meanings in a story. Literary devices are used across different genres, and each one serves a specific purpose. They are tools that will take your writing to the next level – making it more impactful and engaging for your readers, hooking them in from the first page until the last. In this guide, we\'ll examine the definitions of literary devices and examples of different literary devices. It\'ll be everything you need to know to maximise the effect of literary devices and use them to strengthen your storytelling.  Understanding Literary Devices A literary device is a technique that writers use to express their ideas and hint at larger themes and meanings in a story. These devices are excellent ways to enhance writing, strengthen the narrative and engage readers, helping them to connect to the characters\' themes.  There are many different styles of literary devices, and most are used in tandem; some are used at sentence level, looking at flow and pacing, while others are a broader approach, serving the story as a whole. Understanding different literary devices and maximising their impact can significantly improve your writing and a reader\'s experience.  Let’s take a look at popular literary devices in more detail and see if there are any you recognise… List of Literary Devices Allegory An allegory is a literary device that uses plot and characters to express and explore abstract and complex ideas. This might be used to present issues in a way that is understandable and approachable for the reader. We see many allegories in fairy tales and Biblical stories.  A literary device similar to this is \'anthropomorphism\' – a type of personification that gives human characteristics to either objects or non-humans, such as animals.  George Orwell\'s Animal Farm is one of the most famous allegorical novels (and is also an example of anthropomorphism in literature). Using animals to represent different political beliefs and the rise of communism, it’s a multi-layered commentary with a strong message beneath the story\'s surface. Alliteration Alliteration is a literary device that is a collection of words or phrases that reflect repetition, and all begin with the same sound. It gives more stress to the consonants and creates something memorable in your writing, particularly when choosing the title of your book. For example, Jane Austen\'s use of alliteration in her book titles, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, made them memorable at the time and classics today. Allusion An allusion is a literary device (not to be confused with \'illusion\') that references something in the real world, whether a person, a place or an event. This device can connect with your readers and paint an accurate picture of a situation. An allusion example is referring to someone as ‘a total Scrooge’. This reference (thanks to Dickens famous work) would immediately paint an accurate picture in a reader\'s mind without elaborating further. They would know this person is tight with money and is miserable and grumpy.  Anachronism An anachronism is a literary device that can portray an intentional error in the era of a story. This device can be used to comment on a theme or even for comedic effect. For example, a character appearing in a different time period, using speech from a different era, or technology appearing before its invention. William Shakespeare used anachronisms in his writing, like the dollar currency in Macbeth and the clock in Julius Caesar (mechanical clocks were not invented in 44 AD). Anaphora Anaphora is a literary device used to emphasise a phrase or words to reinforce meaning and feelings for the reader. This is when a word or phrase is repeated, typically at the beginning of successive sentences or phrases.  The perfect anaphora can be found in the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett - \"You is kind. You is smart. You is important.\" This quote reinforces the relationship between the two characters. A famous example in speech is Winston Churchill\'s ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches.’ He rallied the troops and the British people in this speech, and throughout it, repeated the phrase \"we shall fight\" – invoking strong responses and stirring emotions.  Anthropomorphism We touched on anthropomorphism earlier when we discussed an allegory. To anthropomorphise is to ascribe human traits, emotions or behaviours to non-human beings, like objects, animals or phenomena. This literary device differs from personification, which creates imagery, as anthropomorphism is literal. For example, Cogsworth the clock and Lumière the candlestick in Disney\'s Beauty and the Beast are household objects that act and behave like humans. And Pinocchio was anthropomorphised when he gained the ability to talk, walk, think, and feel like a real boy. Archetype An archetype is a literary device that brings familiarity to a story – it\'s typically a \"universal symbol\" with qualities or traits that readers can easily identify. This literary device is used to reveal characters, images or themes that are instantly recognisable to any audience. The literary Hero Archetype, for example, is typically noble, courageous, self-sacrificing and will right wrongs and fight injustice. Cliffhanger A cliffhanger is a classic literary device used as an effective way to keep your reader\'s attention – such as the revelation of who Luke\'s father is in The Empire Strikes Back. It marks the end of a part of the story (the end of a chapter or TV episode), but with the purpose of keeping an audience engaged. A common way to do this is through shock factor, an abrupt ending offering no obvious resolution (until the person turns the page, buys the next book, or watches the next episode).  Colloquialism Colloquialism uses informal language and slang, and when used as a literary device, it can build a character\'s personality and authenticity through their dialogue. A colloquialism is a word or expression common within a specific language, geographic region, or historical era. Therefore, it can also indicate the setting of a story in the context of time and place. The language Holden Caulfield uses in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is a great example of colloquialism.  Dramatic irony Dramatic irony is a literary device used to create situations where the audience knows more than the characters. Therefore, the actions of the characters have a different meaning for the audience. Typically, this device often lends itself to tragedy, as demonstrated in Shakespeare\'s Romeo and Juliet, when the audience knows that the lovers are both alive but the characters think the other is dead.  Dramatic irony is not to be confused with situational irony (when readers expect a certain outcome and are surprised by an unexpected turn of events) and verbal irony (when the intended meaning of a statement is the opposite of what was said). Exposition Exposition is a crucial literary device – it is when the narrative provides background information about events, settings, characters or any other relevant element to help the reader understand what\'s going on. It is typically used in conjunction with dialogue and description, offering a richer understanding of the story.  Exposition is presented through many methods, including dialogue, a protagonist\'s thoughts, a narrator\'s explanation or in-universe media, such as letters and newspapers. For example, in the Star Wars movies, the opening title sequence gives the audience the information they need to understand the upcoming events in the film: \"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….\" Beware, though, that too much exposition runs the risk of undercutting the emotional impact of a story. As we all know, ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ where possible. Flashback A flashback is a literary device used to split up the current scenes in a story and look back to something that has happened in the past. It is typically used to build suspense. Flashbacks can also present exposition (revealing information or context about something that\'s happened in the past). Examples of flashbacks include memories and dream sequences. In Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the alternate chapters in the first part of the book are flashbacks through the medium of diary entries.  Foreshadowing Foreshadowing is a literary device that can create and build suspense by indicating or hinting to readers that something will happen later in a story. It creates dramatic tension and can often be used in conjunction with flashbacks. However, the difference between the two is that a flashback directly offers readers exposition or background information. In contrast, foreshadowing is a little more subtle and gives just a hint or a sense of what is to come. The symbolism of Harry Potter\'s scar is an excellent example of foreshadowing.  Frame story A frame story is when the main or supporting character tells part of the story or narrative. The frame story essentially \"frames\" another part of it. This device supports the rest of the plot – it is typically used at the beginning or the end of a story, or in small interludes in-between. The movie Titanic is a great example of this. The main plot is set in 1912, but Rose frames the narrative when she looks back over what happened and tells a story within a story.  Humour Humour is a literary device to make readers laugh or keep them amused. It can be difficult to do, as it relies on instinct, making it harder to teach or learn. But there are different techniques, tools and words that can bring funny situations to life and achieve the goal of making an audience happy. Different types of humour include slapstick, surprise, sarcasm and hyperbole, among many others. Humour isn\'t only present in contemporary writing, as Jane Austen used humour throughout Pride and Prejudice, especially in conveying the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet.  Imagery Imagery is a literary device that evokes a sensory experience for the reader by using highly descriptive language. Strong imagery will paint a picture by following the rules of \'show, don\'t tell.\' It means playing to the reader\'s senses by describing sights, tastes, sounds, smells and feelings to bring a scene, character or situation to life. An example of this in Shakespeare\'s work is in The Taming of the Shrew: \"If I be waspish, best beware my sting.\" In Medias Res In Media Res is a literary device used when a narrative begins without exposition or contextual information. It is a Latin term that means \"in the midst of things\". Therefore, the story launches straight into a scene or in the middle of an already unfolding action, creating suspense and tension immediately. Odyssey by Homer is a famous example of this. Irony Verbal irony is when the intended meaning of a statement is the opposite of what was said. It is not to be confused with situational irony; a literary device used when readers expect a certain outcome and are surprised by an unexpected turn of events. There is also dramatic irony, a literary device used to create situations where the audience knows more than the characters. An example of irony in a plot is demonstrated in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, when the characters already have what they are asking for from the wizard. Juxtaposition Juxtaposition is a literary device used to place different themes, characters, or concepts and highlight their differences. Instead of being overtly comparative, juxtaposition is an implied comparison, allowing the reader to discern how both entities are different. Juxtaposition can take many forms, such as human instinct and animal instinct in Life of Pi, and kindness and selfishness in Cinderella. Motif A motif is a repeated element, whether it takes the form of an image, idea, sound or word that has symbolic significance in a story. The defining aspect of this literary device is that it repeats frequently. Through repetition, the motif helps develop the narrative\'s theme and illuminates the central ideas, theme or deeper meaning of the story. Motifs are not to be confused with symbols, which may appear once or twice and help understand an idea in the narrative. An example of a motif is in the Godfather series, through the repetition of oranges featured on screen before a character dies. Another example is in Tolstoy\'s Anna Karenina – trains are a repetitive motif that ultimately symbolises death and destruction. Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia refers to words that imitate the sound of what they\'re referring to. It can be used as a literary device to make descriptions more expressive and, therefore, more effective. For example, words such as buzz, snap and grunt are frequently used in children\'s books to add action and emotion to a story.  Oxymoron An oxymoron is a figure of speech that pairs two words together that are either opposing or contradictory. It can be used as a literary device to allow writers to take a creative approach and play with the use and meaning of words. As a result, it can create an impression and entertain the reader. An oxymoron is about words, not to be confused with juxtaposition, which contrasts two opposing story elements. An example of an oxymoron is in Shakespeare\'s Romeo and Juliet: \"Parting is such sweet sorrow.\" Paradox A paradox is typically a statement that might appear contradictory at first but makes sense after reflection. It\'s a literary device that asks people to think outside the box by questioning the logic and provoking readers to think critically. A paradox can also elicit humour and illustrate themes, such as in Scarface: \"Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.\"  Personification Personification means assigning human traits to describe non-human entities or inanimate objects to express something creatively and imaginatively. It is not to be confused with anthropomorphism, which actually applies these traits to non-human things – whereas personification means the behaviour of the object or entity does not change – it\'s personified in figurative language only. This literary device might be used to create life and explore abstract ideas and themes within inanimate objects and animals by applying human behaviours and emotions. For example, Shirley Jackson\'s The Haunting of Hill House turns the house into a living entity through personification.  Point of view Point of view is a vital literary device, as it\'s the angle of perspective in the narration of a story. It\'s a crucial decision because each point of view will have a different impact on the story and the reader\'s experience. The point of view effectively governs the audience\'s access and determines how much they will know as the story develops.  The most common points of view in literature are the first and third person. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The first-person narrative (using pronouns I/we) allows the writer to connect with the reader, as this perspective means the reader has access to the narrator\'s inner thoughts and feelings.  An example of a first-person point of view is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, when the story is told by Scout. From a storytelling perspective, the third person narrative (using pronouns she/he/they) is flexible because it allows you to write from multiple characters\' perspectives and show their actions and thoughts. An example of the third-person (omniscient) point of view is Middlemarch by George Eliot. The second person point of view is less common, as it uses the pronoun \"you\" to bring the reader into the story, for example, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Repetition Repetition means intentionally repeating a word or phrase two or more times. While you don\'t want to overdo it, occasional repetition can be an excellent tool to bring clarity to an idea, make something memorable for a reader, drill home a point or create an atmosphere. The best example of this is in horror stories, as horror writers use repetition as a literary device to make readers feel trapped. For example, in The Shining, Jack repeatedly types out \"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.\" This reveals Jack\'s downward spiral as cabin fever takes over. It is not to be confused with anaphora, which is specific in its intent to repeat, and the repetition is typically at the beginning of consecutive sentences, phrases, or clauses.  Satire Satire is a literary device used to make fun of human nature or society to expose or correct it. It is typically done through exaggeration, amusement, contempt, ridicule or irony, usually with the hope of creating awareness and subsequent social change. Satire can be overt or subtle but is common throughout history and popular culture. Examples of this in film and T.V. include Deadpool (satirises the superhero genre), Shrek (satirises fairy tales) and Family Guy (satirises American middle-class society and conventions). Situational irony Situational irony is a literary device used when readers expect a certain outcome and are surprised by an unexpected turn of events. This is not to be confused with verbal irony or dramatic irony, which we already covered. An example of situational irony in a plot is demonstrated in the T.V. programme Schitt\'s Creek when a wealthy family is catapulted into a less privileged life.  Soliloquy A soliloquy is typically a speech or monologue involving a character speaking their thoughts out loud and usually at length. These are frequently in theatrical plays. The purpose of this as a literary device is for the character to reflect independently – they\'re not speaking for the benefit of other people. It\'s an effective device because it offers insight into a character\'s internal thoughts, reflections and emotions. Shakespeare\'s Hamlet\'s \"to be or not to be\" speech is a classic example of a soliloquy.  Suspense Suspense is a vital tool that writers use to keep their readers interested throughout the story. There are many ways to use suspense as a literary device. For example, raising questions and withholding information. The purpose of suspense is to create a feeling of anticipation that something exciting, risky or even dangerous will happen. It helps readers to engage with characters and evokes emotions, such as sympathy, towards them.  In Gillian Flynn\'s Sharp Objects, the dark atmosphere creates questions about what is happening in her hometown and how the complex protagonist will deal with it when she\'s already struggling with complex personal issues. Symbolism Symbolism means using symbols – a word, object, character, action or concept – in a story. These symbols can represent abstract concepts and ideas beyond the literal meaning and evoke additional meaning and significance. This is not to be confused with a motif, which is an element that\'s repeated frequently to develop the narrative and illuminate the central themes or ideas in a story. An example of symbolism would be The Great Gatsby, when Fitzgerald uses the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg to represent God and his judgment of the Jazz Age. Tone The tone of a story is crucial for any writer, as it refers to the overall mood and message of the story. Tone is a literary device that sets readers\' feelings and can be established broadly through voice, themes, characterisation and symbolism. The techniques can be even more specific through word choice, punctuation and sentence structure. Tone can range from cheerful and humourous, to melancholic and regretful. Through tone, the writer essentially creates a relationship with the reader, which influences the intention and meaning of the words. This is why tone is so important. For example, the tone of Charles Dickens\' A Tale of Two Cities demonstrates that the story is serious due to the formal, rich language he used. Tragicomedy A tragicomedy is a blend of both tragedy and comedy that typically helps a reader process darker themes by adding humour and helping them laugh at a situation, even when the circumstances are bleak. When using this literary device, the characters are typically exaggerated, with jokes throughout the story, and sometimes there might be a happy ending. An example of this is Lemony Snicket\'s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which uses bizarre situations and over-the-top characters to provide light in an otherwise tragic story. Make your Story Stronger Strengthening our storytelling abilities is something we writers are always working on (our blog is an excellent resource for this) and a good grasp of the most effective literary devices is certainly beneficial for authors. Literary devices are tools that will take your writing to the next level – making it more impactful and engaging for your readers, hooking them in from the first page until the last. This is exactly what we want to do when telling a story, so these techniques are worth bearing in mind when writing.  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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Anti-Hero Vs Villain – A Complete Guide

The relationship between an engaging protagonist and a compelling antagonist against the backdrop of an intriguing plot is what ensures a reader will continue to turn the page. But should your protagonist be an anti-hero – an underdog who goes against the grain of the typical \'hero\'? And what about the antagonist in the story – the character who will stop your protagonist from getting what they want? Is your antagonist somebody morally ambiguous, like an anti-villain? Or are they purely a villain, through and through? In this guide, we\'ll look at these two character types, what they are, how they differ and how to use them in your writing to strengthen your stories and engage your readers.  What Is An Anti-Hero? The definition of an anti-hero is somebody who lacks the virtues and traits of a traditional hero, such as courage and confidence. They can be morally ambiguous in their thinking and actions. However, when it comes to the anti-hero, the audience is rooting for them anyway. That\'s because they do the right thing, but maybe not for the right reasons. They have good intentions, but how they arrive at their conclusion or results can be questionable. An anti-hero typically lacks some of the attributes conventionally associated with traditional heroes. There are several anti-heroes in books, films and TV. Tony Montana in Scarface is an iconic character who ticks all the boxes of a classic anti-hero. Initially, he\'s the good guy, but he develops less than heroic traits throughout the film, as crime and drugs see him descend into a whirlwind of violence and greed. Despite this, he\'s still a character the audience can get behind because he does immoral things for moral reasons (his motivation is strong: getting his family out of poverty). Still, his life of crime escalates his downfall. Al Pacino\'s portrayal of Michael Corleone in The Godfather is another excellent example of an anti-hero. The film is widely regarded as one of cinema\'s greatest masterpieces, thanks to the protagonist\'s gripping character arc and his journey through the world of organised crime. It\'s a superb example of how the \"bad guy\" can be the hero.  Types Of Anti-Heroes One of the most important aspects to bear in mind when writing an anti-hero is that they\'re typically flawed but are usually engaged in doing good. So, now that we\'ve looked at what an anti-hero is and some examples of famous anti-heroes, let\'s explore the traits and characteristics that make up the different types of anti-heroes.  The Corrupt Protagonist Example of the corrupt protagonist: Thomas Shelby, Peaky BlindersA corrupt protagonist will typically act out of self-interest and might be obsessed with motivations such as power, wealth and fame. For the reader to understand and sympathise with this type of anti-hero, the reasons for their corruption must be clear and logical. Another example is Walter White in Breaking Bad. He\'s a normal guy with a normal life at the start of the series - but his obsession with money and power, instigated by his cancer diagnosis, leads to his downward spiral. The Classical Anti-Hero Example of the classical anti-hero: Frodo Baggins, Lord of The Rings.  A traditional hero is confident and intelligent, with few flaws and weaknesses. Therefore, the classical anti-hero is the opposite and is plagued by self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Readers enjoy the complexity that comes with a layered character who is flawed and conflicted. Traditionally, the story arc will follow the classical anti-hero conquering their fears and coming to terms with themselves and their faults to fight and conquer whatever is threatening them. The Pragmatic Anti-Hero Example of the pragmatic anti-hero: Harry Potter This type of anti-hero recognises their role in the greater good, and they see everything through a \'big picture\' viewpoint. For example, suppose the story means this pragmatic anti-hero must kill or sacrifice other characters. In that case, typically, this anti-hero will recognise that it must be done so that they can achieve the higher goal. For example, in Harry Potter\'s pursuit of Voldemort, he carries out actions that would be considered wrong (such as using curses) to ensure Voldemort\'s ultimate demise that\'s for the greater good. The Unscrupulous Hero Example of the unscrupulous hero: Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean  Heroes in this category have good intentions, and they\'re morally good. However, they don\'t care how much collateral damage they cause when they fight to achieve their goals. If your hero is unscrupulous, they\'ll be motivated by revenge and will typically be distrusting. Jack Sparrow is a great example of this as he\'s ultimately fighting on the good side.  Hero In Name Only Example of a hero in name only: Dexter Morgan, Dexter These protagonists tiptoe along the line of a hero and a villain. The reader will still be on their side and root for them, but they won\'t necessarily agree with all their actions and decisions. These characters are on the side of good, but they\'re not entirely good themselves.  What Is A Villain? The best definition of a villain is simple: a villain is a character opposite of a hero. A villain\'s role in a story is vital, and every villain must be compelling enough to be believable while holding a reader\'s interest. A villain is an antagonist who will place obstacles in the protagonist\'s way and drive forward the story. Creating a great villain is just as important as creating a great hero – and the best villains help define and drive the character arc of the story\'s hero. Writing a good villain means examining different villain ideas and villain traits to see which type of character fits into your story.  What Makes A Great Villain? There are some key characteristics that you can use to create a villain. Arguably, the most important is the backstory. Without it, villains feel one-dimensional and inauthentic. With it, you can create a sympathetic villain that feels real – which is exactly what you want. A villain\'s background will ultimately explain their motivations and help a reader sympathise with them. It will demonstrate why they act the way they do due to past experiences and situations that they\'ve been exposed to. Even better, if a villain backstory is connected to the hero, the story and character arcs are even more compelling for readers. The perfect example of this, and the relationship between a hero you\'re rooting for and an engaging villain, is Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. They\'re connected through a shared backstory when Voldemort murdered Harry\'s parents. But they\'re also physically connected; Harry\'s scar on his forehead serves to remind both the characters (and the readers) about their connection throughout the story.  But how to write a good villain? It\'s important to remember that a great villain character design should include some likeable qualities. They can\'t be bad through and through because a reader needs to understand them and even empathise with them to an extent. Typical characteristics of a villain include them being intelligent, capable, persuasive, proud and deceitful. They might occasionally reveal aspects of their personality that are good and perhaps even kind, but creating a villain ultimately means creating a ruthless character at their core.  Anti-Hero Vs Villain To distinguish between an anti-hero and a villain, there are certain elements to look at. The first is motive. Villains are typically motivated by something dark and even evil. Their ultimate motivations are not sympathetic as they will usually involve the protagonist\'s demise (even though a villain\'s backstory might encourage empathy from a reader). However, an anti-hero\'s motivations are sympathetic. A reader might not agree with why they\'re doing what they\'re doing, but they will understand and sympathise with their reasons why – for example, revenge and vengeance. The second characteristic is big picture balance. What would the world look like if the anti-hero won? And what would it look like if the villain won? The hero will ultimately restore balance and normality, with good prevailing. In contrast, the villain\'s victory would see the complete opposite. It\'s understandable that the lines might blur, as both types of character can be morally ambiguous. But you can readdress the balance by keeping in mind who the audience will naturally sympathise with – the anti-hero who\'s the underdog with redeeming qualities, rather than the villain who may encourage a little sympathy but ultimately reveals themselves to be purely acting in their own interests or against the protagonist. A typical character arc of the anti-hero is that they grow into becoming a better person, but a villain will go in the opposite way.  What Is An Anti-Villain? While we\'ve explored anti-heroes and villains and how they\'re connected, it\'s worthwhile looking at another type of character: anti-villain. An anti-villain is somebody who isn\'t completely evil (unlike a typical villain). They\'re much more complex, and their actions don\'t necessarily have to be particularly wicked.  Types Of Anti-Villains Now that we\'ve looked at what an anti-villain is, let\'s explore the traits and characteristics that make up the different types of anti-villains. The Sympathetic Anti-Villain Example of the sympathetic anti-villain: Benjamin Barker, Sweeney Todd The sympathetic anti-villain is a character that the readers feel sorry for, and if some of their actions weren\'t so villainous, the readers might even root for them. The character\'s backstory is key here, as it must garner sympathy from the reader and tug on the heartstrings. It must reveal that the anti-villain is acting the way they do due to past circumstances outside of their control and because they don\'t see any other options open to them. The Well-Meaning Anti-Villain Example of the well-meaning anti-villain: Inspector Javert, Les Miserables The reader can see that this character\'s heart is in the right place, but they take things a step too far in pursuit of their goal. They are driven by what they deem is the \"greater good\" and will stop at nothing to reach their goals, making them ruthless and morally questionable. Ultimately, the character is making the situation worse, but they might not even be aware of it because they\'re too focused on what they think is right and wrong – thinking purely in black and white, with no room for a grey area.  The Situational Anti-Villain Example of the situational anti-villain: Carrie White, in Stephen King\'s Carrie This character might find themselves in a set of circumstances that set them against the protagonist. Or against themselves if they are the protagonist. For example, they might have started as a good person, but they\'ve come up against something that has pushed them to the brink of their limits, and now they\'re out for revenge. Or they might be simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The reader will understand that their acts and motivations could be justified, but they won\'t get away with it.  Choosing Between Your Anti-Hero And Your Villain There are some great characteristics and traits that can create compelling anti-heroes, villains, and anti-villains. Ultimately, the anti-hero does the right thing, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Whereas the anti-villain does the wrong thing, but their reasons are often understandable. And the villain is there to make life hard for your protagonist every step of the way. By incorporating these strong character types, you\'re making the story even more interesting for the reader.  For more writing support visit our blog or join Jericho Writers - the world’s leading writing community. With our membership you get access to resources including 100+ hours of video content and masterclasses, live online events with top authors, one to one with agents and publishers, as well as editorial and mentoring support. 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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Protagonist Vs Antagonist

Protagonist Vs Antagonist - A Complete Guide When it comes to creative writing, the protagonist and antagonist characters are often the main focus and essential in telling the story. These are the characters with depth and complexity, the ones that move a story on, the ones we champion or that we want to see defeated. The conflict between the two is age-old – it creates tension, action and consequence, and, if done correctly, brings great satisfaction to the conclusion of a story. So how do we define a protagonist and an antagonist? How do we write them? What Is A Protagonist? A protagonist is a character who, in most situations, a reader will be rooting for. This character differs from other main characters because they are the ones that drive a story forward with their decisions and actions, and their goals reflect the goals of the story. Consider Lord of the Rings for example.The goal of the trilogy is good triumphing evil, and its protagonist, the big-hearted Hobbit Frodo, has the goal of destroying the ring and thus destroying Sauron who embodies evil. In most cases, a reader follows the protagonist throughout the story, however sometimes we see the protagonist through the eyes of someone else – a supporting character or through a third person narrator. Consider the famous play Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. The narrator is an enormous part but isn\'t the protagonist – the audience care only about the two brothers, Eddie and Mickey. Types Of Protagonists There are three types of protagonist: HeroThe classic good, morally upstanding, saves-the-cat-on-the-way-to-save-the-world kind of character. They will have flaws, but readers will have a fair inkling in knowing who\'s going to come out on top in this conflict from the word go. Think Harry Potter, Scout from To Kill A Mocking Bird, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.Anti-HeroA deviation from the classic hero, often a reluctant or ill-equipped character who needs to navigate a situation thrust upon them. These characters may not be classic heroes, and they might also have some major flaws, yet they still evoke empathy and affection. Think Scarlett O\'Hara in Gone in with the Wind who, although spoilt and hotheaded, survives through wily means even when her glamorous southern belle life falls apart. Other examples are Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair, and Lyra from His Dark MaterialsVillainYes, you can still have a villain as a protagonist because a villain can still lead and decide the events of the plot. Think Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, Villanelle from Killing Eve, Grinch in The Grinch (who, OK, turns out good but man, in the beginning he\'s downright mean). Keep in mind when writing a protagonist that they need to be relatable. Your reader needs to care about what happens to them. If they\'re not flawed in any way, they won\'t feel real and therefore the reader won\'t care what happens to them. If they\'re too powerful, the reader will assume they can overcome anything and therefore the story will become boring – Superman maybe a classic hero but thanks to Kryptonite he still has one weakness. Yet, if they\'re too weak, the reader will feel annoyed at the character’s lack of gumption and won\'t root for them. And if they\'re too nasty, they won\'t feel like a protagonist. No one will want to see if they make it to the end of the book. What Is An Antagonist? An antagonist is a character working against the protagonist who, in most cases, the reader wants to see foiled. The antagonist creates the conflict and is generally seen as the \'bad\' one but, like the protagonists, there are different types of antagonists. Types of Antagonists There are four types of antagonists: The villainThis antagonist example is all about the evil-doing and often just for the sake of being evil (how liberating to be so horrible!). They live for the destruction of the protagonist and as such, they are mostly found in fantasy and sci-fi writing where the primary goal is ‘good triumphing evil’. Classic villains are The Emperor and Darth Vader in Star Wars, Voldemort in Harry Potter, the shark from Jaws (who still torments me to this day, so well done Peter Benchley for ruining swimming pools for me).The conflict-creatorThese antagonists are not necessarily a bad character. They are still very much human and have their own fears, hopes and dreams, but their goals work in conflict with the protagonist’s. They may also inspire the protagonist to act against their better judgment. Examples of a conflict-creator are Severus Snape in Harry Potter, Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, or Willy Wonka in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (he’s not an out and out bad guy, but he doesn’t make things easy for the children).Sometimes the antagonist in a story isn\'t even a person. Let\'s take a look at the inanimate forces that may challenge your hero...NatureThe antagonist in the Tom Hanks film, Castaway, is the relentless sea who won\'t let him leave the island. The antagonist in Bethany Clift\'s The Last One At The Party is the deadly virus that sweeps the world and leaves one woman pitted against the odds to survive a post-apocalyptic world.The supernaturalThe Shining is a perfect example of this force working against a protagonist.ObjectsThe ominous giant lighthouse in Emma Stonex\'s The Lamplighters causes three men to disappear. It\'s the perfect, atmospheric, antagonist.The protagonist themselvesThis internal conflict, for me, is the most satisfying antagonist, and which also brings the most rewarding conclusion to a story. A character starting a story at A, overcoming a flaw within themselves, and arriving up at B is my absolute favourite thing. The old man in Disney\'s Up is a great example of this – his antagonist is his own emotions, the grief for the loss of his wife which keeps him anchored in the past and unable to enjoy his life. Nudged by Russell, the boy scout, he discovers the joy and freedom of living again. As the saying goes, it’s often simply ourselves who are standing in the way of where we wish to go. It’s important to keep in mind that an antagonist must be as three dimensional as the protagonist. Their backstory should be just as important and relevant as that of the protagonist, and consequently their motivation should be something the reader can understand – even if they don’t agree. Voldemorts\' motivation to kill Harry in Harry Potter is because his broken and mutated soul got stuck in seven different places when he tried to kill Harry as a baby, so you know, if that\'s not motivation for a demise, what is?! Jaws was simply trying to score a meal. Making Your Antagonist Unforgettable Being creative with your antagonist can be a lot of fun and ensures they won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Let’s face it, everyone loves a baddie! They don’t have to be ‘ugly’ or scary or always in hiding, often the most dangerous can be loved by many. Look at giving them redeeming features to make them even more unsettling and unpredictable. Bond villain Blofeld was always cuddling his cat. How can a guy who loves his cat be all that bad? Let your protagonist find out! The Difference Between A Protagonist And An Antagonist A protagonist and antagonist are opposites – antonyms. The protagonists are generally the good guys (even it means that sometimes they are antiheroes) while antagonists are generally the bad guys. Look at the protagonists and antagonists in Disney films or in classic children’s fairytales. They are always perfect examples of clear conflict and well-matched foes. Basically, readers tend to empathise and relate to a protagonist, whereas they won\'t necessarily want to with an antagonist. However, they need to understand both these characters. Their friction needs to be relatable, or at least plausible. If we, as authors, want to hook readers into our stories, we have to make them care. And the only way they are going to care is by relating to our characters and understanding their motivations which drive the decisions they make. It\'s important that a writer addresses this for both the protagonist and the antagonist, not just to drive the plot forward but to connect with the readers. Whichever types of protagonist and antagonists you have in your story, always make sure they are worthy of each other. Opponents need chemistry in order to make a convincing and gratifying conflict. Think Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal who are very different characters but matched in an intelligence in which they find a mutual respect. Batman and The Joker are matched perfectly for their abilities to bring out a madness and darkness within each other. Sherlock Holmes and Jim Moriarty are matched in the depth of their intellectual game playing. Can A Protagonist Also Be An Antagonist? This is an interesting question with some conflicting points of view. For me, certainly a protagonist can be an antagonist. Villanelle from Killing Eve is the antagonist to Eve (the other protagonist) and slips her grasp constantly. However, the plot of the story is very much dual led. Villanelle is funny, unpredictable and wears outrageous clothing, and we find ourselves charmed by her despite her psychopathic, murderous ways. You can have real fun with this sort of protagonist. The appeal of writing someone who says and does questionable and outrageous things so far out of our normal everyday lives is big (at least it is for me, so I wonder what that says about me?!). As a reader, being thrust directly into the mind of someone villainous can be exciting. Not to mention it makes the baddie hard to forget. Also, the antagonist of the story can also be inside of the protagonist – such as the old guy from Up battling against his grief. Woody from Toy Story is another great example of the antagonist within the protagonist. He was Andy\'s most beloved toy until Buzz Lightyear was bought. His presence had a knock-on effect to the internal conflict within Woody – his insecurities and fear of being replaced meant his \'good guy\' persona was rattled and he had to work hard throughout the film to overcome it. Protagonists And Antagonists Make your Story Establishing a strong understanding of the roles played by antagonists and protagonists is essential for all writers. Develop your protagonist and antagonist alongside each other, keep their goals and motivations clear, keep their conflict electric, keep them real, but above all, ensure you enjoy writing them and your readers will be sure to love reading about them. 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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30 of the Best Book Publishers in 2021

Ever been to a bookstore and wondered what all the little logos on the book spines are? Chances are you\'d have spotted depictions of the Big 5 publishers - and seen at least a few familiar penguins and sowers lining the shelves. There are countless publishing houses out there that are poised to promote you and your book, and yet you may not know about many of them. Let\'s remedy that! Do I Need to Look For a Publisher? Finding a book publisher can be a tricky process, especially if you are hoping to be published by some of the top publishers in the business. Where do you begin, and what information is important for you to know before you start submitting your manuscript to some of the largest book publishers? Is there anything to be said for self publishing, and what types of publishing should you avoid? Remember, you will most likely need to be represented by a literary agent before you (via your agent) can start submitting to publishers. Nevertheless, there\'s no harm in window shopping; it might even provide you with a focal point if you are still working on getting an agent.If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of book publishers out there, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best book publishers working today. I’ll go over the top five biggest publishing houses, some of the best publishers for both education and children’s books, as well as some of my personal favourite independent book publishers.Read on to discover what these publishers have to offer, as well as some of their top titles and divisions. You never know if your manuscript is exactly what a publisher has been waiting for! The Big Five Book Publishers While aiming high can be daunting to some authors, trying to submit your manuscript to some of the top publishing companies out there isn’t a bad idea. I’ve brought you a list of the top five book publishers, which essentially refers to five power house trade publishing houses which are well known and widely recognised. Let’s dive into them now. Simon & Schuster Simon & Schuster is where we begin our big five journey, as this publishing company holds an annual revenue of $830 million. They have a few notable imprints, such as Howard Books, Scribner, and Touchstone, and they release over 2,000 books a year! Some of their biggest titles as of late are Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and The Institute by Stephen King. Founded in 1924, Simon & Schuster remains a prominent publisher today, with many names and genres, and opportunities behind it. HarperCollins With an annual revenue of $1.5 billion, HarperCollins has no shortage of good books and authors. Their notable imprints include Avon Romance, Harlequin Enterprises, Harper, and William Morrow, and their titles range broadly. Some of the top books as of late are Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis and The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin. With over 100 imprints, this publishing powerhouse no doubt has a niche for your book, and has no shortage of chances to learn about the industry from the best. Macmillan Publishers From 1843 to now, Macmillan Publishers is still going strong. With $1.4 billion in annual revenue, there are many publishing routes and imprints available through them, namely Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Picador, and Thomas Dunne Books. Some of their biggest titles from the recent past that you may have heard of include The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Me by Elton John. With a global market and countless possible genres to publish under, you’d be wise to consider them an ideal place for your book to end up. Penguin Random House With over 15,000 books published a year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Penguin Random House is one of the top five, if not the top of the top five. Their annual revenue exceeds $3.3 billion, and they have countless notable imprints such as Knopf Doubleday, Crown Publishing, and Viking Press. They have many famous authors under their wing, and books like The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, and The Guardians by John Grisham. With over 200 imprints and divisions, you’ll no doubt find a home for your novel here, and maybe also your career. Hachette Livre Looking for a European based publisher with more published books a year than Penguin? Hachette Livre has an annual revenue of $2.7 billion and nearly 200 imprints. Some of these include Grand Central Publishing, Little, Brown and Company, and Mulholland Books. Their biggest titles in the recent past include Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell and Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. Growing steadily since their merger in 1992, Hachette Livre has a lot to offer both you and your book. Best Educational Book Publishers Looking for a reliable and quality educational book publisher? This can be more difficult than you think, but thankfully I’m here to shorten the list a bit for you. These publishers are looking specifically for educational books, quality hardback textbooks and the like. This may not apply to your manuscript, but if it does, read on! Bertelsmann Education Group Bertelsmann is a media, services and education company that operates in about 50 countries around the world. The online education and service offerings are primarily in the healthcare and technology sectors, as well as in higher education. With an annual revenue of around $300 million, this group has no shortage of educational texts, resources, and reliable online connections. Scholastic I can’t recall how many Scholastic book fairs I went to as a child. Perhaps you went to some as well, given that Scholastic is both an educational publisher and a popular children’s publisher. Their annual revenue is roughly $1.7 billion, and their notable imprints include Arthur A. Levine, Klutz Press, and Orchard Books. While their educational books are extremely popular for grades K-12, their YA fiction remains the most popular (no doubt you’ve heard of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, right?). Pearson Education Have you ever used DuoLingo for your language learning needs? Did you know that Pearson Education has recently partnered with them? There’s a lot of other notable mentions surrounding Pearson, such as their annual revenue of $1 billion, and their well-known imprints (Adobe Press, Heinemann, Prentice Hall, Wharton Publishing). Their most popular publications are always subject textbooks for higher education, and for good reason. McGraw-Hill Education One of the largest publishers in American education is Mcgraw-Hill. Their annual revenue often exceeds $1.7 billion, and they are well known for their many editions of test prep books (SAT and ACT) and elementary school math textbooks. Their most notable imprints include Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and McGraw-Hill Higher Education, no doubt familiar to you if you’ve been involved in any American education system. Wiley While Wiley has a lot to offer in terms of non-educational publishing, their For Dummies series of educational books has got to be their top seller. With an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, their various instructional titles are big hits in the publishing world. Their most notable imprints include Bloomberg Press, Capstone, Hungry Minds, and Wiley-Blackwell, and they continue to publish a large variety of titles, both educational and otherwise. Cengage Learning Publishing both hard cover print books and maintaining a dedicated digital library can be difficult, but Cengage learning can do it all. From imprints that publish specifically for grades K-12 as well as books for higher education learning, Cengage is a wonderful publisher to consider. Cengage is the owner of the National Geographic Education division as well, made to bring excitement to classrooms worldwide. With an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, it’s safe to say that this publisher is a powerhouse. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt You may have already heard of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or HMH for short. This publisher specializes in different disciplines including business and economics, biography and memoirs, children’s books, cookbooks, health and wellness, and more. They made more than $1.4 billion annually, with many notable imprints: Clarion, Graphia, John Joseph Adams Books, and Sandpiper among them. Their largest and most recent titles include elementary school textbooks in all subjects, as well as cookbooks. Best Children’s Book Publishers Some of the top selling books published today are for children or young adults. However, writing and publishing for children and young adults can be difficult if not impossible. Here are some of the best choices for children’s book publishing today, and how you can reach out to them. Bloomsbury With offices around the world and prominent publishing houses in both the US and the UK, Bloomsbury Books is a top contender for children’s book publishing. Established in 1986, Bloomsbury has many popular children’s book authors across every age group. With an annual revenue of $150 million, Bloomsbury USA Books for Young Readers was established in 2002. Their YA fiction has grown increasingly popular, their authors often topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Ladybird Books UK-based and another division of the Penguin Group, Ladybird books is perfect if you’ve got a bedtime story to tell. Their lineup of children’s books is primarily geared toward younger audiences, from toddlers to roughly age ten. They have many award winning series published under their name, including many Peppa Pig books. Their annual revenue is roughly $17 million. Chronicle Books San Francisco-based favourite Chronicle Books, with a $10 million revenue, has a wonderful eye for the unique and aesthetic storyteller. Their children’s books are beloved and unique, and this small independent publisher receives more than 1,000 submissions a month for their YA department alone! They publish most children\'s books ideas, including activity books, art books, board books, picture books, chapter books, young adult, games, and gift and stationery items. Hogs Back Books Hogs Back Books publishes fiction books aimed at children up to 10, as well as early readers for children up to 14, and teenage fiction. Amongst its most notable titles, Boris the Boastful Frog was recommended by The Telegraph in 2013 as one of the best books of the year for young children. They are a small family-owned and independent publisher, and the small selection that they choose to publish is beautiful and heartfelt. Arbordale Publishing With just about $1 million in annual income, Arbordale Publishing isn’t the largest in US children’s publishing. However, their books are aligned to Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as well as state education standards. Arbordale books are vetted by experts and professionals from a variety of organizations including NASA, JPL, Project Learning Tree, USFWS, SeaWorld, the Cherokee Nation and others. They publish an average of 20 books per year. Immedium Based in San Francisco, CA, Immedium is influenced by an increasingly diverse world. While they are a small company and make an average of $150k in annual revenue, they have wonderful illustrations and ideas for children’s books. Immedium publishes subjects ranging from eye-catching children\'s books to contemporary non-fiction, including commentaries on art, popular culture, and multicultural issues. Kids Can Press Kids Can Press is a Canadian-owned publisher of children\'s books, with a list of over 500 picture books, non-fiction and fiction titles for toddlers to young adults and an estimated annual revenue of over $10 million. The Kids Can Press list includes characters such as Franklin the Turtle—the single most successful publishing franchise in the history of Canadian publishing, which has sold over 65 million books in over 30 languages around the world. Quirk Books Looking for a smaller publishing agency for your unique and captivating children’s book? Publishing only around 25 books a year, Quirk Books is based in Philadelphia and is searching for the most original, cool, and fun ideas out there. Is your book creative enough for Quirk? It’s one of my favourite publishing companies, having taken the helm on series such as the Miss Peregrine anthology by Ransom Riggs. August House Publishers A more traditional publishing company, August House Publishers are seeking children’s book authors committed to folktales, diverse and memorable. They enjoy stories from many diverse backgrounds, as well as stories that work well as oral tales, stories meant to be passed on from generation to generation. They also have a soft spot for scary stories and stories that can be used in a classroom environment. With an annual revenue of roughly $10 million, they produce beautiful children’s books. ABDO Publishing With almost $50 million a year in revenue ABDO is a formidable children’s book publisher. Based in Edina, Minnesota, this family-owned book publishing company specializes in non-fiction books for the school library market. From engaging nonfiction to illustrated titles, ABDO has both educational and fantastical book titles for children of all ages. Best Independent Book Publishers Are you looking for a smaller company to publish your book? You may consider publishing under an independent book publishing company, as there are many benefits. Smaller companies often accept unsolicited submissions, especially if the submission is more unique and experimental in nature. Plus, independent publishers often offer a more hands-on approach for new and inexperienced authors. Let’s check out some of the best in the business! Autumn House Press Autumn House Press is an independent, non-profit literary publishing company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that was founded in 1998. They began as a publishing company strictly for poetry, but they have since expanded to include fiction and nonfiction. Autumn House Press\'s especially notable titles include Anxious Attachments by Beth Alvarado and Not Dead Yet and Other Stories by Hadley Moore. Tupelo Press Tupelo Press is an American not-for-profit literary press founded in 1999. It produced its first titles in 2001, publishing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Tupelo Press publishes the winners of its national poetry competitions, as well as manuscripts accepted through general submission. Awards given by Tupelo Press include the Dorset Prize, the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry, and the Snowbound Series Chapbook Award. They have a lot to offer as an independent book publisher. Graywolf Press Graywolf Press is an independent, non-profit publisher located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They publish fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Graywolf Press currently publishes about 27 books a year, including the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, the recipient of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, and several translations supported by the Lannan Foundation. Their published work is bold and award winning. New Directions New Directions was founded in 1936 and they publish about 30 new titles a year. They publish anything regarding literary fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and their annual revenue is roughly $1 million per year. It was the first American publisher of Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others. Tin House Books Publisher of award-winning books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; home to a renowned workshop and seminar series; and partner of a critically acclaimed podcast, Tin House champions writing that is artful, dynamic, and original. While they only publish about two dozen books per year, they are all astounding, and you can learn more about their small operation here. Europa Editions Europa Editions is an independent trade publisher based in New York. The company was founded in 2005 by the owners of the Italian press Edizioni E/O and specializes in literary fiction, mysteries, and narrative non-fiction. They have a few imprints, namely Tonga Books, and a series for mysteries known as Europa World Noir. City Lights Publishers Known for publishing Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg, City Lights Publishers is a great independent publishing option. Founded in 1955, with nearly 300 books in print, City Lights publishes cutting-edge fiction, poetry, memoirs, literary translations and books on vital social and political issues. For over fifty years, City Lights has been a champion of progressive thinking, fighting against the forces of conservatism and censorship. Forest Avenue Press Forest Avenue Press, founded in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, publishes literary fiction on a joyride and the occasional memoir. While they are currently a small-scale operation, they are growing in popularity in the Pacific Northwest. A Publisher For Every Writer While I hope you found a few excellent book publishers from this list, do keep in mind that there are many more that are worth your consideration. Whether you have an agent or not, there are always publishers seeking the best new stories out there. Yours could very well be one of them! 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 Prologue And How Do You Write One?

What Is A Prologue And How Do You Write One? Most writers know that the opening of a book is all-important in terms of grabbing the attention of busy agents and editors. Many of us also know from our own experience browsing online that a striking beginning might make a difference between buying a book or not. Hence if how you start your plot can change your literary fortune, prologues can offer a fresh way to launch a narrative.  In this piece, we’ll look at what prologues are, a little bit of their history and their main types and purposes. What is a Prologue? What does ‘prologue’ mean?  Prologues originate in Greek drama, coming from the term prologos, ‘before word’. Ancient dramatists used them as devices to introduce the play to come and you can see the influence of this in later Shakespearean works, such as Romeo and Juliet, where the Bard uses a prologue to set the scene for  the star-crossed lovers. Another famous prologue is that of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was written in the Medieval period and introduces his cast of characters and the context of the pilgrimage. As you can see, prologues are used at the start of a work to bring the audience into a piece, but, as you’ll see below, in fiction writing, there are particular types of prologue which you might use to make your book opening more compelling.  Purpose of a Prologue As we’ve seen above, in plays, prologues literally set the stage for the action to come, bringing us into the world of the drama in a succinct way. However, prologues are not always necessary in novels and, indeed, they are a source of debate in writing circles as they can tempt writers to add too much ‘backstory’ about their characters and the setting in one go, before the main plot begins in Chapter One, leading to an overload of information which can be off-putting.  Prologues can also easily be too long, meaning the ‘real’ beginning of the story is delayed. Make sure you don’t make your prologue longer than your standard chapter and possibly consider making it even shorter to add real punch. You need to lay the foundations for the plot to come, but without being long-winded. Another difficulty is that prologues often don’t contain the lead character, unless in a mysterious and often unnamed way, so you’ve got to be careful about being too ‘on the nose’ as this device can be a way to generate real tension and excitement about your story. As you can see then, prologues come with various pitfalls, so they can be a challenge to pull off well. We’ll look at some of the reasons why you might use a prologue below, but just remember that not every plot needs a prologue, so don’t feel your work isn’t solid without one. Differences Between Prologue, Preface, Foreword And Introduction If we’re new to writing, it can be hard to tell the difference between prologues, prefaces, forewords and introductions and to understand exactly what is a prologue in a book. A preface is usually a short account by an author, explaining the origins of their book, with a foreword often offering an introduction to the text and its author by another person, usually a writer or authority in the same field.  An introduction, on the other hand, is a summary chapter, outlining the argument and contents to come, which is used primarily in non-fiction. Indeed, most fiction doesn’t have a preface or foreword on the whole, so it’s not something the majority of writers need to worry about.  Prologues are primarily the preserve of novelists then (as well as some playwrights), being a part of the narrative itself, rather than material which precedes it.  Types Of Prologues Considering the various functions prologues can perform is perhaps one of the most important things if you’re going to include one in your novel.  Many writing experts say there are four main types of prologue, involving a future protagonist, past protagonist, a different point of view and one which presents background. Future Protagonist This sort of prologue shows us the future self of the lead character – perhaps including their death – in order to set in motion the story of how they reached that point. It is written in the same point of view and style as the rest of the novel, but if you’re using the third person, the prologue often presents the end of the story first, with the journey towards that point beginning in the first chapter.  If you’re using a first person voice, the prologue might show the lead writing a letter or memoir, stating why they needed to tell this story, and the tone is often reflective. In this sort of prologue, an older character often is introduced, presenting the overall plot as a walk down memory lane. Past Protagonist Sometimes there’s a juicy event in your protagonist’s life which the reader needs to know to understand them fully. Often, it’s a tragic event, such as a loss or trauma, which might not be given its due in the course of a flashback, but which has set up the wounded detective lead, say, to have a passion for justice.  This sort of prologue allows us a look into the past then to let us see what makes the lead tick, bringing to life a powerful event which will draw the reader in and making us sympathise with the protagonist deeply right from the get-go and, luckily, it’s effective when written in the first or third person point of view. Different Point Of View Prologue Sometimes, it’s useful to bring in a different narrative perspective in a prologue than the viewpoints presented in the main plot. It can be particularly useful in order to add mystery to the coming story, perhaps, say, by showing a murder in the viewpoint of the unknown killer before the main plot shows the hunt for this villain. You can also use this sort of prologue to create dramatic irony, so the reader sees some event coming down the pipe – probably something which threatens them in some way – whilst the lead remains unaware. In women’s commercial fiction, for example, we might be presented with a cheating husband, while the protagonist wife goes on oblivious – until reality hits later in the book at some point. This sort of prologue is often useful in historical or adventure fiction with, say, an artefact being used or hidden in the past, which the lead only discovers later on, as this brings the world of the book into focus, as well as establishing the compelling question about what this thing is and why it’s important. However, it’s crucial that this sort of prologue is written in the third person, even if the main part of the novel is in the first person, to make it stand out from the rest of the narrative. Background Prologue If the world of your novel is very different than our own, such as if you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, this sort of prologue can be used to establish your unique setting and its rules in detail, so we understand the main action better. However, this is tricky to pull off as you don’t want to throw your reader into your alien world, say, unprepared, but you also don’t want the book’s opening to become an overwhelming info dump either. Focus then on creating a simple plot which illuminates how your particular world works – preferably one which links to the main narrative. Sometimes, however, the prologue might could take the form of a document which sets out the strange wonders of the world we’re entering and this form of opening offers a lot of opportunities to use your imagination, but, again, it’s a matter or balance as you also don’t want to make the beginning too obscure. Again, it’s good to narrate this sort of prologue in the third person, even if the main plot is told through the first. How to Write a Great Prologue So, does a book need a prologue? As I discussed above, many novels don’t require one at all, so it might not be necessary for you to learn the skills set out here in order to create a killer plot opening. However, as you can see, prologues can perform some very useful functions in terms of opening a plot with power and they can be particularly helpful when writing certain genres of fiction, so you might want to consider including one in your novel.  We all know how crucial a striking and stylish opening is, so bear this in mind when writing your prologue – this will be the first thing agents, editors and the general reader sees of your book, so you must make it compelling.  If you’re wondering how to write a prologue, it’s key that you grab your audience’s attention from the first line and keep it. The prologue needs to be essential reading for the rest of the book, so make sure it’s both relevant to the main plot and dramatic.  Immediately Engage The Reader In order to make your prologue stand out, it’s a good idea to take a powerful event and milk it for all its worth. You must also ensure you’re engaging the reader all the way through and not getting lost in backstory or obscure details.  You want the prologue to keep the reader turning pages right into the main narrative, so keep it peppy, no matter what genre you’re writing in. You might not need a car crash or explosion in literary fiction, but even emotional crises can stir emotions enough to lure the reader in. Provide Essential Information As I said before, prologues can help with world-building for fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction writers, allowing the reader to become aware of the specific context of the coming story. Indeed, prologues can also provide relevant information about past events which have impacted the lead or show scenes, such as a murder, which set up the ensuing narrative.  In many ways then, prologues can give the reader relevant information for the literary journey to come and can be extremely useful devices. However, as I’ve also stressed, it can be difficult to not overload the reader with information. Add details gradually, like a breadcrumb trail through the forest, knowing you have the whole book to establish your characters and setting and remembering that an air of mystery and unanswered questions can be very alluring. Make sure the reader has the necessary information, but no more.  Use a Consistent Tone and Style It’s important to remember that, whilst the prologue might well be in a different point of view from the main text or come from the viewpoint of a character whose perspective does not appear in the later narrative, the prologue’s style always needs to fit with that of the main narrative. What you don’t want is for your prologue to seem inconsistent with the rest of the book. Yes, you want the prologue to stand out, but if your prologue doesn’t sit well with the rest of your plot and language, it will possibly offer a false impression of your book to the publishing industry and general reader.  You don’t want to confuse your audience as to what your book is like or to have your readers feel perplexed when they reach the first chapter, so make the prologue powerful, but in keeping with the ideas and style of the main text. Keep It Short I described before how prologues shouldn’t go beyond your average chapter length and this is one way to ensure you don’t bore the reader or include excessive information. Indeed, some of the most powerful prologues are brief, offering just a glimpse into a murder scene or a crucial part of the lead’s past, before delving into the main action. In this way, prologues can be very evocative, without giving away the store.  Consider then if less might be more with your prologue. Review Other Prologues Much of our skills as a writer come from reading, so research other prologues, particularly those from books in your genre to see how the best ones work. You could even try to experiment by emulating certain types, copying prologues to see how they’re put together, and experimenting with different types from the four given above to see what might work for your novel. Excellent Prologue Examples I’ve already mentioned some of the most famous prologues, such as Chaucer’s General Prologue, Shakespeare’s opening to Romeo and Juliet, but there are also plenty of more contemporary examples available, including those from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity.  From ancient Greece to modern action and adventure, there are plenty of juicy examples of prologues to ponder. Think carefully as you read about what the author is presenting in the prologue, what type of prologue it is (does it provide background, for instance) and how long the author has made it. By taking notes and really absorbing what the author is doing, your own ideas and writing craft will grow. Prologues Can Add So Much As you can see, prologues aren’t always necessary, but they can add a lot to the opening of a novel if handled well.  From ancient Greece on, writers have turned to prologues to provide important past information on the characters and general background. They also can be part of world-building in sci-fi and fantasy or generate context for historical fiction.  Moreover, prologues can offer a framework for an older narrator to look back to the past, or to present a different point-of-view – such as that of a murderer in crime – thus adding mystery, as well as dramatic irony and a juicy impending sense of doom. Although you have to be careful not to add too much backstory or go on too long, ensuring that you keep the prologue relevant and consistent with the style of the rest of the book, you might end up with a really special opening to your novel. Try it and see how you get on! 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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Natalie Chandler’s debut two-book deal with Headline Accent

Natalie Chandler began researching and writing her debut novel, \'Believe Me Not\', in 2020, and attended the Summer Festival of Writing to build up her confidence before seeking agent representation. She\'s now represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment, and recently signed a deal with Headline Accent. Natalie kindly shares her story and some words of wisdom here.  JW: Tell us about finishing your book – where did the idea come from, and how did you go about turning that idea into words on a page?   NC: ‘Believe Me Not’ was born from a dream, believe it or not (delighted to have got a pun in so early on). I woke up thinking about a disorientated woman trying to find her baby son despite everyone she trusted insisting she didn’t have a child - and the idea just wouldn’t be quiet until I sat down and started writing.  I’m very much a pantser so I had no idea where the plot was going or what was going to happen. But my protagonist, Megan, was already fully formed and she drove the early chapters. I did a lot of research – I hate getting details incorrect – and was fortunate that one of my best friends works in the NHS and she not only patiently answered my countless questions but also put me in touch with other mental health professionals.  For the first time, I had no other distractions, due to the small matter of the world coming to a halt with a global pandemic. No lunch invites, no exhortations for ‘just one drink’ or weekend getaways. I was writing practically full-time and it was flowing like never before. I had nearly finished the first draft when I saw an advert for the Summer Festival of Writing and decided, since I was Doing This Properly, it would be a sound investment. It turned out I was right. I came away feeling empowered, knowledgeable, no longer a complete amateur – and ready to edit until I could edit no more.    JW: How did you land your agent? During the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing, I attended every webinar led by an agent. I wanted to learn as much as I could about submissions before jumping into the fray again, having previously tried to find representation for two earlier novels and been unsuccessful. Jericho Writers provided such wonderful opportunities to, for the first time, really discover the secrets of the industry and I felt much more confident in my submissions package after applying everything I’d learnt. I also booked several agent one-to-ones, which were nowhere near as terrifying as expected! One of the early ones was particularly brilliant. She ripped my opening pages to shreds and it really stung at the time, but when I sat down to work through her deeply perceptive notes, I realised she’d helped me improve tenfold and I was so grateful to her. From then, I had a stronger package to present at one-to-ones and I gained three more full requests from subsequent sessions.   By this point, I already had six full manuscripts on submission and was prepared to wait to see what the feedback would be when, out of the blue, I saw on Twitter that Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment had opened her submissions that morning. I’d followed Liza for a while and really liked her style so I decided there was nothing to be lost in contacting her. She replied within hours asking for the full manuscript and just over a week later, I was signing on the dotted line in a state of wonder, disbelief and sheer joy.  It had been nearly a decade since I sent out those first tentative letters (no email back then!) seeking representation and I was so thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the Mushens Entertainment family – a dream agency I had followed since its creation – that I didn’t quite dare to believe it was finally happening.   JW: What was the process of choosing an agent after a number of full manuscript requests?   Liza was the first agent to call – she read the full manuscript in 48 hours and left me the most wonderful voicemail telling me how she loved it so much she’d stayed up half the night to finish it, which I intend to keep forever! As soon as we got talking, I was amazed by her excitement and her sheer passion for ‘Believe Me Not’. She already understood the characters and themes and we were completely on the same page regarding edits and improvements. I knew we’d clicked but Liza encouraged me to continue talking to the other agents who had the full manuscript and see what their thoughts were. They were all lovely and so encouraging but my gut was telling me I was going to accept Liza’s offer. My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: What is your relationship like with your agent now?   Wonderful! Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. She checks in regularly whilst still giving me total autonomy in the writing process, and she always has time for me despite being super busy. I can discuss any problems or concerns with her and know I can trust her advice and guidance.   My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: So you got your agent, but then what? What was the submissions process like?   ‘Nerve-wracking’ is probably the best description. There had already been interest from a number of editors when I gained representation so we started with a list of twenty initial submissions to mostly Big 5 houses after we’d done two rounds of edits. I knew there are always rejections so I’d steeled myself but we were getting fantastic feedback and after three weeks, the magic word ‘acquisitions’ was whispered. Days later, Liza called with the news that Headline Accent wanted to meet me and was offering a two-book deal – I was really going to be a published author!  JW: Has everything met your expectations so far, or have there been a few surprises?   As a debut, I didn’t expect to be given the level of autonomy and control I have.  Even though I’m learning fast, I’m still inexperienced, therefore I’d anticipated more instructions and fewer discussions. I was impressed that my thoughts and opinions are valued and how it has been constantly emphasised that it is my book and I am free to decide what works best.  Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. JW: Has this experience taught you anything about the publishing industry and pursuing your goals? Primarily, I’ve learned how lovely people in the publishing industry are! Everyone I’ve met has been so generous with their time, advice and encouragement. I’m very grateful. Don’t be scared to ask questions and take every opportunity to learn and network. If being an author is what you really want, understand it won’t happen overnight – sometimes it takes a decade. Stay committed through all the rejections and keep going – write anything, write everything, but keep honing your craft and growing as an author. You’ll feel like giving up many times but never forget you write, above all else, because you love it.  It’s all worth it the moment you get the voicemail that will change your life!  About Natalie Natalie Chandler was educated at the University of Durham and currently works in behavioural education, specialising in social, emotional and mental health issues.  Her debut psychological thriller \'Believe Me Not\' was written during lockdown and delves into the fractured mind of a woman abruptly diagnosed with psychosis, as she fights to prove the existence of her baby.  \'Believe Me Not\' will be published by Headline Accent in March 2022. Natalie is represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment and divides her time between London and the rural North of England. 
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Round vs Flat Characters

A Complete Guide To Writing Round vs Flat Characters When you’re writing fiction, developing your characters is a crucial point in the writing process. You might have the most compelling plot in the world, full of romance and action and intrigue – but if your characters feel more like paper dolls than people, chances are your book isn’t ready yet. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between round and flat characters, and to know when it’s okay to let a character stay two-dimensional or when they really need that extra axis of development. So let’s dig in! Characters in Fiction Let’s define something out of the gate: what do we mean when we talk about ‘character development?’ Basically, character development is the process by which a character (particularly in fiction) is brought ‘to life’ by giving them motivations, personalities, wants and desires – making them feel vivid and real, essentially. It can also refer to the ways your characters may change over the course of the novel, their literal development on the page thanks to the plot. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be talking about two – well, three, but we’ll get to that – kinds of characters: flat ones and round ones. What is a Round Character and How Do I Write One? A ‘round’ character has layers. They’re nuanced and vivid, the kinds of characters you read about and wish they were your friends or to whom you feel an emotional connection. Essentially, the round characters are the story. These characters are your complex protagonists and antagonists, and your key supporting roles. They serve as the plot drivers because they make the decisions on where the story goes. A fully-formed, well fleshed out character doesn\'t happen overnight. Much like meeting someone at a party, it takes time to get to know them. They all start two-dimensional and then you add layers to them – it\'s like growing little onion-people! (Sorry for that strange insight into my brain.) A reader wants to care about your rounded characters, will want to be surprised by them, and will want to follow them on their journeys. The more we explain why someone is the way they are or acts the way they do, the more complex they become, and that\'s the beauty of a rounded character. A good tip is to spend time getting to know the characters that you need to be rounded, and this can be super beneficial before you start writing because that knowledge can influence and better shape your writing. Here are some tips on how to create them: Outline their goals and motivations A reader cares more when they understand our characters, and the key here is to ensure our reader knows what motivations are driving our character\'s decisions throughout the story. These motivations can be based on good reasons or bad, and will apply to both the protagonist and the antagonist. It seems that the appetite for understanding motivations has increased in storytelling, and so it’s worth looking at two beloved characters who’ve recently had their motivations brought to the big screen: JAMES BONDOver decades, we’ve seen a host of Bond films where he’s more or less the same character: a charmer and a killer. This had a certain appeal, to be sure, but it also made him rather two-dimensional. When producers decided to adapt the 1953 novel Casino Royale in 2006, we were suddenly shown insight into how Bond became a killer (that brilliant black-and-white opening sequence) and what motivated his callous charm (falling in love, discovering her deception, watching her drown). Now we understood why he behaved the way that he did, which made him far more human than he’d been before. THE JOKERPart of the Joker’s appeal in every Batman appearance prior to Todd Phillips’ 2019 film Joker was that he was a madman. He represented anarchy to Batman’s order – very archetypal, comic book stuff. But Joaquin Phoenix’s award-winning performance revealed a failed clown whose inner turmoil gave rise to the chaotic villain we’ve all come to know. Bring conflict into your character\'s life Conflict is not only a tool to drive the plot forward, but also shows a reader how your character will respond to a given circumstance. That in turn is interesting to a reader because it will show up traits in a character like their moral standing, etc. We can use another character to demonstrate conflict, or use an internal conflict, or even both. Take Woody from Toy Story as an example of both. He was Andy\'s most cherished toy until Buzz Lightyear came and took pride of place on Andy\'s bed (and heart). Note that introducing Buzz into the story – who posed no threat to Woody physically because they didn\'t have any historical conflict – had a knock-on effect to the internal conflict within Woody. Woody\'s insecurities and fear of being replaced meant his \'good guy\' persona was rattled. Let your character evolve A rounded character will learn something throughout the story, and they’ll be different by the end than they were at the start. Using Woody in Toy Story as an example again, his acceptance of Buzz by the end of the film – and his willingness to understand what it means to share Andy’s attention -- leaves him in a far different place from where he was at the beginning of the movie. You are a different person from who you were when you started your journey; shouldn’t your characters be, too? What is a Flat Character? A flat character is two-dimensional and uncomplicated. They are often minor characters (though not always) and their role in the story is usually a perfunctory one. It’s rare for a flat character to undergo any kind of development over the course of the story – usually because their development isn’t the point of the story. But that’s not to say that flat characters are a bad thing, or even something to avoid! They can be used for enhancing rounded characters and interaction between the two can reinforce the rounded character\'s strengths, traits and values. Think about The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz: she\'s simply evil and not given any backstory, but she makes Dorothy look like a saint with awesome morals via the ways in which she provokes conflict. Your flat characters might also be supporting roles like Miss Stephanie Crawford, the town gossip in To Kill a Mockingbird: someone who can help deliver the novel’s message and who can help spur the revelations of the rounded characters, but whose story doesn’t need to be filled out for the reader’s enjoyment. Let’s get into some tips on writing your flat characters: Flat Characters get Flat Names I tend to give my flat characters forgettable, common names, or even no name at all – sometimes a job reference will even do, eg. \'the waiter\' if they\'re just in one scene and delivering a cup of tea. Flat Doesn’t Mean Boring Your flat characters can have quirks that will delight a reader but won’t distract them. For example, you can have a clown who\'s not funny, or a dentist with bad teeth.Tom Bombadil is one of Tolkien’s most memorable inventions, but he serves a purpose in The Hobbit, not a distraction – or think about Dame Judi Dench’s performance in Shakespeare in Love, which won her an Oscar and she was on-screen for eight minutes! Enjoy them but don\'t spend lots of energy on them If you feel confused about whether a flat character needs more to them, the likelihood is that the reader will also feel confused about their role. Don’t let that compelling quirky weirdo who shows up in one scene take over the rest of your book (unless, you know, you want them to) – again, you don’t want your flat characters to be a distraction. That’s why they’re flat! Determine their relevance to the scene and then focus on that before getting on with your day. Difference Between Flat and Round Characters If you\'re not sure if you need a round or flat character in any given scene, ask yourself a simple question – do I need the reader to care about them here, or in the story as a whole? If the answer is yes, you need to give them some complexity. If not, they\'re the flat ones. Consider a classic battle scene in The Return of the King: The Ride of the Rohirrim, a last ditch attempt against all odds to save Middle Earth (no pressure). The sequence has both flat and rounded characters within it. We care about the collective force because they are representing the microcosm of the entire trilogy – good vs evil – in a spectacular and emotive way, but do we care about each and every one of the six thousand riders? Nope. We care about Theoden, Eowyn, and Merry – because those are the characters that have been given layers. We’ve spent time with them, seen their lives upended, witnessed their doubts and insecurities, seen their moral and emotional growth, and have agonised alongside them. And while we’re talking about speculative fiction, let’s use a role-playing game example: your well-rounded characters are, well, the characters you’re playing – while your flat characters are your NPCs, your non-player-characters. They’re the ones your main characters interact with along the way. What is a Static Character? A note: some main characters, including some quite famous ones, are decidedly static characters – by which we mean that they don’t change, even as they’re quite memorable and even by many respects ‘well-rounded’ characters. Remember what we were saying about the Joker earlier? Remove that 2019 film from your brain and think about the character again: we often don’t know his name, his motivations are unclear, and he serves mostly as a foil to our protagonist. Another, more literary, example would be Bertie Wooster (and Jeeves, for that matter!) from P. G. Woodhouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories. The relationship between Bertie and Jeeves will always be the same, those two men themselves will always be the same, and that’s really part of the joy of reading those stories: that those characters do not change. Without Character you Have no Story Your characters are the beating heart of your novel or story, and it’s crucial to make sure that you’ve invested them with the time and attention they deserve. Some of them might be well-rounded characters and some of them might be flat – but hopefully these tips and tricks will help you determine which should be which! 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 Compelling Plot Twist

How to Write a Compelling Plot Twist - a Complete Guide We all know that a book with a great hook is something agents, editors, and readers are looking for. But when it comes to books that last, the ones that readers will be recommending for years to come, it’s those with the best plot twists that stand the test of time. Yet plot twists are so hard to write. So how do you deliver thrilling twists and turns that will keep your readers guessing until the very end? What is a plot twist? “I feel that the characters in my book, if they were real, would be like, \"Seriously, another plot twist?” (Author, Meghan Blistinsky)A plot twist is a literary device found in all forms of storytelling, where the reader (or viewer) is lured into the intrigue of the plot and left reeling by a grand revelation or turn of events they didn’t see coming. A plot twist can take place in any scenario, but there are three very important rules a writer must follow: 1. It must be plausibleThe reader needs to be surprised by the revelation, but not shocked. All readers love to guess what will happen next, but if the plot twist doesn’t make sense or hasn’t been primed in advance the readers will feel tricked or let down.2. It must be a surpriseIt’s not much of a twist if the reader is able to guess the outcome from the very beginning. A successful plot twist, whether in a book or movie, will keep people guessing all the way through.3. It must be foreshadowedWe all love to think we can outsmart the writer and guess what will happen. But a great writer will make you think you’ve cracked it, and still surprise you with a revelation that makes total sense, but only in retrospect. Why is it important to have plot twists in your book? It’s not. Plot twists aren’t vital in every book, but they are a great way to add intrigue, keep readers turning the pages, and get them invested in the plot. Not to mention add much-needed hype to your book. And it doesn’t matter what genre you write in. A great plot twist transcends all types of books and stories. We often think of thriller plot twists when considering books with a grand reveal – you can’t have a successful murder mystery without a shocking revelation at the end - but every book can benefit from adding a plot twist (or two, or three, or four) to add tension, intrigue, and keep readers talking.A good plot twist can be used effectively in all genres, from fantasy and YA to rom coms and gothic horror. Even if no one has gone missing or been killed. Plot twist examples from books and movies “The best stories are the ones with the unexpected plot twists that no one would have guessed, even the writer.”(Author, Shannon L. Alder) There are too many amazing movie plot twist examples and great plot twists in books to list them all, so we’ve split them up into three types. Plus, we’ve kept the descriptions vague so as not to ruin their big ‘wow’ moments if you are unfamiliar with them. Watching a movie, or reading a book, a second time can be extra enjoyable because that’s when we see how the writer planted the clues to the twists throughout the story from the beginning. See if you can think of your favourite plot twists and where they would fit in to these three categories. Plot Twist #1: The Grand Reveal This is generally known as the ‘who dunnit?’ and is used in all crime, thriller, and murder mystery books and movies.Behind her Eyes by Sarah PinboroughA single mother falls in love with her boss and befriends his wife, but something is very wrong.Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnA reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder. Knives OutWho killed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey? A murder mystery with more twists than Chubby Checker.The Orient Express by Agatha ChristieJust after midnight the Orient Express stops in its tracks. In the morning, an American is found stabbed to death. Who did it?Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen KingPeople are being murdered. But who is the bad guy when you’re a writer living alone? Plot Twist # 2: The Plot Thickens These types of plot twists are often used to change the direction of the story. Sometimes the twist is the inciting incident, sometimes the midway reveal, or it can pull the protagonist in a new direction and lurching into act 3. When it comes to a series, these types of revelations can also serve as great cliff hangers. The Maze Runner by James DashnerDozens of boys, and one girl, must escape a maze for freedom. Yet who is behind their imprisonment? Fingersmith by Sarah WatersA novel set in Victorian England follows the intertwining lives of two women from different worlds. ParasiteA poor family scheme to become employed by a wealthy family and infiltrate their household by lying about who they are. The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike CareyA teacher and a scientist living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with an unusual young girl.I am Legend by Richard MathesonA post-apocalyptic vampire thriller, about a lone survivor struggling to live in a world that is no longer his own. Plot Twist #3: Wait! What? Some of the best plot twists are those that you never asked for and come out of nowhere. By adding a huge twist at the end, one that (unlike a murder mystery) you were not waiting for, it changes the entire story from what you were led to believe to something else. Unlike a simple ‘who dunnit?’, these twists throw the biggest curve balls and leave you reeling as the credits roll or you close the book for the last time. Sixth SenseA little boy can see ghosts and is helped by a psychologist…who may not be all he seems. Everything, Everything by Nicola YoonA teen girl has an illness which means she can’t leave her bedroom. Then she falls in love. SevenSomeone is killing people based on the seven deadly sins. But what’s in that box at the end? American Psycho by Bret Easton EllisWe know he’s a cold-blooded killer. Or is he?We Were Liars by E. LockhartA lonely teen girl recounts one beautiful summer, that may not have been so beautiful after all. How to write your own plot twists “Beneath every story, there is another story. There is a hand within the hand...... There is a blow behind the blow.”(Author, Naomi Alderman) You only have to read the latest Amazon reviews of a newly-hyped thriller to see how important plot twists are to readers. Many books are sold as having a ‘twist you never saw coming’ – which can backfire if readers are able to guess the grand reveal too early, leaving them feeling cheated. In other words, readers want you to surprise them with twists that they never saw coming yet were obvious in retrospect. This is easier said than done. So how can you, as a writer, achieve that? Here are five plot twist writing tips to keep your readers intrigued and guessing until the very end:1. Let your characters do the hard work If you have created well-rounded characters with clear intentions and strong personalities, they will often reveal to you something you never initially planned. Relax and leave your main characters to do the walking and talking. Perhaps put them in a strange scenario and see what happens. You may be surprised by where they take you. 2. Work backwards When it comes to the best thriller plot twists, authors often work backwards. They start with the big reveal, then go back and insert subtle clues and pointers alongside dead ends and red herrings. It’s important the clues are hidden amongst the more obvious clues that are placed on purpose to misdirect the reader. For example: If you want the killer at the end of your novel to be the cleaner, you may have her polishing the gun in act one, and you may have her cleaning in a scene where another suspect is acting more obviously guilty. The best places to add plausible clues that lead to your twist is to hide them among action or dramatic narrative where the readers won’t be noticing them as much. Let your readers think they’ve cracked it, then lead them down a dead end and make them circle back. 3. Mislead your readers on purpose This leads us on to misdirection, red herrings, and dead ends. The only way to keep your readers guessing is to play with them. Like any good magician, you make them look at your right hand while hiding the coin with your left. This doesn’t mean simply pointing at the wrong culprit until the big reveal at the end, but entertaining your readers with plenty of action and intrigue until they are yanked out of their comfort zone with a big twist.For example, in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, we are so intrigued by the concept of a man having to survive on a life raft with a killer tiger, that it doesn’t occur to us that the story may be an allegory. And in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, we are so enthralled by the depiction of a seedy club full of men fighting one another, that we never once consider that perhaps our narrator is far from reliable. 4. Give them a mega twist at the end of the first twist There are no rules when it comes to how many plot twists you can have in one book (as long as you don’t make your readers dizzy with them). One fun device is to build up to an expected twist, then deliver a mega-deadly twist straight after. One example of three twists in a row is in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In the original novel, not only does Dorothy discover that the Great Oz is merely an inept man behind a curtain, but she learns that she could have got home simply by clicking her heels. And then, as if that’s not enough drama, once she’s back in Kansas we discover it was a dream all along. Or was it?These twists after twists are a fun way to add tension and speed up the pace during the last act, and to keep readers thinking of the story long after they close the book. 5. Play with your readers’ emotions Authors love to make you feel – whether that means making you laugh, cry, shocked, or even so angry you throw the book against the wall (then quickly pick it back up, because you simply have to know what happens next). The best way to play with a reader’s emotions is to deliver a roller coaster of gut-wrenching twists. In Romeo and Juliet, we go from the throes of passion and teen love to Romeo’s best friend Mercutio being killed by Juliet’s cousin. A big dilemma we never saw coming. From love to despair, Romeo then delivers another twist when he kills Tybalt in revenge. We go from a cute YA love story to one of violence, tragedy, and drama when Romeo is banished. If Romeo and Juliet were a teen novel today, most readers would expect that arc to lift by the end of the book, proving that love can overcome everything. Yet this is no love story, it’s a tragedy that purposely messes with your emotions. As a final, fatal, twist we see Romeo not only kill himself in the last act because he thinks Juliet is dead – but Juliet wakes up, sees that her lover is dead, and kills herself too! This onslaught of dramatic twists leaves the spectators reeling with every imaginable emotion until at the end of the play they are left completely bereft. But in the very best way. Because, ultimately, a reader wants a writer to make them feel. A plot twist with a difference As a final plot twist of our own, we’re adding a little bit more to this article and supplying you with some inspiration for your own memorable plot twist creations. Now we’ve had a look at what plot twists are, which ones work best, and how to write your own, here are some fun prompts to get you messing with your readers’ minds. What if… - The bad guy isn’t the bad guy after all? The MC is? - The MC falls in love with the friend helping them get the girl? - The imaginary world is the real world? - The MC isn’t the narrator? It’s all been from someone else’s POV? - The good guys were never there to help after all? - The MC isn’t alone, as we have been led to believe? - The narrator is unreliable? - The MC has been lied to all along? - They were pretending to be someone else? - They are not dead? - Or…are not alive?Plot twists, when executed well, are not only fun to experience as a reader, but are also a lot of fun to write. There’s no greater thrill than a reader exclaiming they never saw your twist coming. Next time you are reading a great book, or watching a movie, study where the writer or director is asking you to look and look in the opposite direction. Study the clues, guess the outcome, and try to get one over on the writer. You may even be inspired to write your own unforgettable plot twist. For support with your creative writing and helping you get published, join the world’s leading online writers club at Jericho Writers.
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Jan Cavelle’s Achievements in Business and Books

Entrepreneur and Jericho Writers alumna Jan Cavelle is phenomenally successful, having grown her own 20-year-strong business from scratch and published a book of expert insights into growing a business, ‘Scale for Success’, with Bloomsbury in 2021. Whether it’s a business or a book, the journey is never easy - and Jan kindly shares her experience of non-fiction publishing with us here.   January 2020 seems a different world away for all of us.  I was paying little attention to tales of an old lady dying of some unknown disease in remote China.  In fact, I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing.  It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me.    One chilly day that January,  I hauled myself upright at around three in the morning and drove to London, terrified of missing my appointment.  I spent most of the four-hour wait in a tourist hotel pushing congealed eggs around my plate and wondering just how many cups of tea it was possible to drink.  Finally, I walked around the corner to the hallowed offices in Bloomsbury Square to stare in awe at the Harry Potters on display in reception.   I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing. It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me. But let me take you back a little.  My childhood dream was to write a book, but life and, as a single parent, an abrupt need to make a living took over.  I started a business on a shelf under the stairs in our tiny Victorian cottage and, from non-auspicious beginnings, grew it to something mid-size.  Single parenthood and solo-entrepreneurship are both a recipe for isolation, so it would be years before I met other entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and work in virtually every sector.  They are hugely driven, often obsessive, yet the majority are far less judgemental, far less worried about who they are talking to, and more interested in the quality of what is being said.  Most – definitely not all, but most - are highly intelligent and have great stories to tell.  By chance, I saw a business publication advertising for a blog writer. Remembering my writing dreams,  I answered, and thus started a decade of writing for a digital publication called Real Business.  I also joined Jericho Writers.  When I finally parted company with the business, my first thought was retirement.  It took about two weeks for me to miss writing.   I went back to writing articles, but the dream of a book still niggled.  I started working my way through the Jericho Writers resources, focussing on the merits of attempting either self- or traditional publishing.    It took about two weeks for me to miss writing. I had decided to write about sales, my strength - and with the confidence I gained from the articles, I was somewhat cavalier about the writing.  However, to play safe, I submitted my first draft to be assessed by one of the Jericho Writers team.   My editors had always been rather nice to me, so I was unworried when it came to the feedback phone call.    By five minutes in, I was having to ask for a couple of minute\'s break because I was crying so hard that I couldn\'t actually hear. The expert tore it to shreds.  The concept was wrong, the writing careless on fact and atrocious on style.  It was the very definition of tough love.  It says much for my love of writing that I kept going, and much for his judgment that when I re-visited the manuscript a few months later, I was beyond appalled that I had even considered anyone reading it.    Chastened, I wrote another manuscript.  I followed all the instructions on the Jericho Writers website and researched likely agents and publishers.  I treasured the reply that told me it was well written (but not for them).  Elsewhere it was silent.    Relaxing in the glorious summer of 2019,  I had another idea.  People often advise you to write about what you know, and what I know best is how hard it is to scale a business.  I also knew that it is a business stage that many people struggle with.   Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader, unlike my somewhat self-interested previous attempts.  My problem was that I was no expert.  But I did know other people who had achieved the leap successfully.  I started off by attempting to interview friends and get their expertise.  Not an easy experience, with both parties in unfamiliar roles and keen to get back to the usual bottle of wine.  I dug out old contacts, people who I barely knew.  I trawled the net endlessly for businesses that looked on an upward curve.  A massive hulk of a book, going from start-up through scale-up, started to take shape.  People often advise you to write about what you know... Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader. At around three-quarters of the way in, I realized that I had forgotten the trad vs self-publishing quandary, and worse, I now had an obligation to do something with this thing to the people who had kindly given their time.  Back to my Jericho Writers knowledge bank, I went.  I knew that many of the people interviewed would be less than impressed unless it was traditionally published.  Old school, perhaps.  I spent a month putting together three submissions.  The one to Bloomsbury bounced back on my email.   That bouncing email was the wild piece of luck that we all need from time to time.  Tired and frustrated, I sent a quick tweet off to Bloomsbury to tell them the email was down. It was just before Christmas, so perhaps it was the festive spirit,  but I received a charming reply suggesting I send a brief outline of what I had been trying to send through to the respondee\'s personal email.  I thought no more about it.  Other publishers, too, were notably silent.   I was dumbfounded over Christmas to receive an invitation to come into Bloomsbury\'s offices. Hence finding myself pushing around the congealed egg in January.  The initial meeting was held in a room full of would-be writers, all of them having the weaknesses of their proposals pointed out to them by the editors.  The size of my project was demolished as being far too broad and my use of UK entrepreneurs was no use to a global publishing house.  I argued - I can split it.  I can get other entrepreneurs.  I was packed off to the country to form a submission.  Luckily I could still draw upon Jericho for it.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking.  Hearing back is not a quick process.  The book had to be approved by several layers of international hierarchy.  At each stage, I was genuinely stunned and delighted to have got that far.  Finally, however, a contract was offered, and I was on my way to being (magic words) a published author.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking. \'Scale for Success\' came out in February 2021 in the UK and July in Australia and America.  It contains the stories and wisdom of 30 genuinely amazing people from across the globe.  I didn\'t want to go for the Bransons or the Musks (not that they would have talked to me either), but I wanted relatable people, and I am still stunned by their stories.  Working with a range of people meant a vast amount of extra work.  They all had to be found, convinced that the idea was good, interviewed, and their approval of what I had written obtained.  If I hadn\'t so loved hearing their stories, it would have been a nightmare.  Non-fiction is unbelievably overcrowded.  The self-publishing market has gone wild under the \"a book is your business card\" mantra.  Looking for a backup plan, I spoke to a few of the publishing coaches who take a fat fee for helping you self-publish.  All were confused by my expressed desire to write \"a good book.\"  Entrepreneurs of decidedly mixed-level writing skills are employing hugely expensive PR companies to tout them as the next Tolstoy.  There is little chance to compete in the sunshine with that if you are writing for the love.   Reviews on Amazon are so precious – I can read the stars but haven\'t got the nerve to read the words.  As for the future, I am having a bit of a ‘what-now’ moment.  I produce a stream of business interviews and articles for my website and other publications, but I would love to do another book. Whether Bloomsbury or any other publishing house would love me to do another book is something for the future.  About Jan Jan Cavelle is a writer and entrepreneur who successfully grew and ran her own business for over 20 years. She was chosen as one of the first 50 Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors to represent the UK in Europe and has been invited to speak on Newsnight. Jan contributed to Real Business for many years and her first book, ‘Scale for Success’, was published by Bloomsbury and cited by publications such as Elite Business, Irish Tech News, Medium, and the Undercover Recruiter.   Find out more about Jan here. Buy ‘Scale for Success’ from Bookshop.org here. Interested in Creative Non-Fiction? We offer a six-week crash course that could be the perfect way in to your new project, taught by Galley Beggar Press\' Sam Jordison. Find out more here. Read about finding an agent for your non-fiction here. Learn how to write a non-fiction book proposal here. Getting rejected by literary agents? Here\'s what to do next.
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Writing for Children: “When a writing course is everything it promised and a bit more”

We\'re thrilled to be offering another round of the Writing for Children course with Eleanor Hawken, beginning in September 2021. The course is six weeks long and is perfect for beginners, lovers of children’s books and for those with a passion for storytelling. Florence Gladwell, a student on the inaugural course, shared her experience with us. (Image: @nickmorrison on Unsplash) Writing for Children with Eleanor Hawken If I were to sum up my experience of Jericho’s Writing for Children course with Eleanor Hawken, I would say: I’m so glad I did and I’m confident of what to do next. And because of the tutor guidance, frequent quality critique, and encouragement within the group, I really want to do it again! Early Expectations I was excited from the day I enrolled. I had a clear set of expectations for myself and from the course. For myself, I wanted to grow the pocketful of ideas I had been carrying around and focus on developing them into a fun, gripping, and marketable story. Another major driver was to get more experience in exchanging critique with people who were interested in writing for kids. From the course I expected everything that was advertised – weekly tutorials; peer-exchange and video meet-ups; covering the ins and outs of the children’s book industry; selecting an appealing narrative voice for different ages; building rounded characters with distinctive voices; creating dramatic tension; establishing a workable plot; as well as making sure to nail the ending. It was a full-on six weeks, to say the least, and I absolutely loved every minute - even if my young daughter sometimes had to nag me to get off the computer. Delightful Surprises What I hadn’t expected was how great it would be to have a diverse range of stories, voices, and skill sets all bouncing off one another. Our group had people working on everything from picture books to YA, contemporary to fantasy, first person to third person with multiple POV, and some beautiful lyrical prose to contrast others with a more tightly-paced style of writing. Although many of the group commenced the course with fully-formed ideas, completed first drafts, and in some cases, well-advanced manuscripts, I did not. This is because after finding no takers for my first manuscript (a middle-grade fantasy adventure), then seeking feedback from Jericho’s manuscript assessors, I decided to let it go and start again. This was a lot easier than I imagined. I had realised the story’s core wasn’t good enough, and this time I was already starting to understand so much more about myself, the industry, and what I really wanted to write. \"What I hadn’t expected was how great it would be to have a diverse range of stories, voices, and skill sets all bouncing off one another.\" At this stage, a course where I could develop an idea with some guidance and feedback sounded perfect. And then one day an email came from Jericho Writers, offering me just that. The Nitty-Gritty: How My Ideas Developed Through the Six Week Course Week one: Our homework was to write a brief pitch, such as you might send to an agent. This isn’t easy for anyone. Even our most progressed group members struggled. But with exchanges of feedback and Eleanor’s keen eye, I managed to find a pitch I was really happy with. Now there was just the small task of living up to it. Week two: The exercise involved outlining a simple plot. Again, \'simple\' does not mean easy. This was a big concept to turn around in a few days, but I cobbled something together and submitted it. I was relieved to find I wasn’t miles behind many of those with a first draft. After the group helped me express my ideas more clearly, Eleanor really hit the nail on the head when she explained what made my proposed story special and what it lacked. The worst of it was, my proposal didn’t live up to the pitch. For the time being, I let my ideas marinate – but we’ll get back to that later. \"After the group helped me express my ideas more clearly, Eleanor really hit the nail on the head when she explained what made my proposed story special and what it lacked.\" Week three: We had our first chance to share the first five hundred words of our writing. This is when I discovered how different all our writing styles and voices were. Though distinct, some voices - like mine - were still emerging, while others were well-developed and confident. It was inspiring. I wasn’t the only person to submit multiple edits following critique from a very encouraging group, and the final offering was much better for it. Week four: We were able to share any scene from our story which showcased characterisation. As I went away with my family during this time, I wasn’t able to make use of the group’s feedback to edit. But as it was, most comments were on the things I already suspected weren’t clear enough, while Eleanor’s notes made me completely re-evaluate the relationship of my characters. This fed a lot into how I redeveloped the plot. Week five: This week was all about creating dramatic tension, and Eleanor gave us the option to either submit a scene of our choice or write a scene about the main character entering their bedroom. There were many variations on this theme offered up in the homework as others adapted the exercise to suit their stories. As I didn’t have a settled plot yet, I took the task requirements and built a scene which (with some editing) I think could very likely end up in my final manuscript. Brilliant. Plus, the feedback from the group gave me a lot to think about. \"Eleanor’s notes made me completely re-evaluate the relationship of my characters. This fed a lot into how I redeveloped the plot.\" Week six was supposed to be about endings. But as I mentioned earlier, I had not settled on a plot, and I was having a crisis of POV to boot. I had cheated in all the previous weeks, finding scenes in the first quarter of the story which I was pretty sure would remain the same. But an ending required me to make some decisions. Fortunately I had now been arranging and rearranging plot ideas in my head for five weeks, and I was ready to write something down. So instead of submitting a passage of writing from the end, I resubmitted a plot and five hundred words from a slightly adjusted beginning passage using a new POV. The POV change was hard, but I really wanted it so I could better tell the story as I now imagined it. With some absolutely amazing feedback and encouragement from the group, along with a few rounds of shared edits, I got somewhere that felt right. Even better – it lived up to my pitch In just six weeks, I had found my story. Expectations Exceeded I put a lot into this course, but I got so much more out of it than I expected. I am grateful I had the opportunity, and feel privileged to have been able to experience it with such a great group of people. If you’re interested in writing for children and are looking for a course to progress your skills and story ideas, I can highly recommend this one. Thanks again Eleanor! About Florence Florence Gladwell is an aspiring writer from Australia and mother of one adorable but rascally pre-schooler, who charmed the course participants by drawing pictures for them based on passages they submitted as homework. If you would like to say hello to Florence or ask anything else about how she found the course, you can find her on Twitter @FlorenceGladwe1 About Eleanor Hawken Eleanor is the published author of nine children’s books, which include the Sammy Feral’s Diaries of Weird series. She has also written numerous books and novels under pseudonyms and as a writer-for-hire for licensed brands such as Disney, Warner Brothers and Universal. Eleanor is an experienced children’s fiction editor, having worked in the publishing industry for over 15 years. She has worked on a wide range of books from young fiction through to YA. She has a passion for storytelling, children’s books and helping other writers find their narrative voice and navigate the path to publication. For more information on the Writing for Children course and how to apply, just click the button below: Writing for Children
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What does book coaching really mean?

One of the huge advantages of taking a writing course is having a book coach, or mentor, by your side giving you one-to-one support. But what does this actually involve? How closely will you work with your book coach, and what will the dynamic be? We asked the US/International tutors on our Ultimate Novel Writing Course to tell us about what mentoring means to them and what to expect. JW: What is book coaching? Can you say a few words about what you would expect your relationship with your students to be like? Lindsey Alexander: The mentoring component of the UNWC is one-on-one customized coaching that\'s calibrated to your needs as you move through the course. Your mentor is your creative collaborator, someone who\'s going to get to know you and your project really well in order to help you ensure that your novel reflects your intentions in a way that\'s going to captivate your reader. Each month, you\'ll submit a portion of your work-in-progress to your mentor. You and your mentor will connect for a conversation over Zoom or by phone, typically for about an hour. You can also opt for written feedback, or choose a combination of the two. \"Your mentor is your creative collaborator, someone who\'s going to get to know you and your project really well in order to help you ensure that your novel reflects your intentions in a way that\'s going to captivate your reader\" In our conversations, we think big and brainstorm, review specific passages in your manuscript to look at what\'s working well and where there might be room for improvement, and navigate the ups and downs of the writing life as you build toward a sustainable creative practice you\'ll be able to stick with long after the course is over. Between these conversations, your mentor is there to field your questions, concerns, and middle-of-the-night epiphanies, and each month, your mentor will gather their group of students for a  Zoom conversation to reflect on the tutorials and discuss progress and challenges together. You\'ll also have the option of continuing your work with your mentor through a manuscript assessment in the final months of the course A.E. Osworth: I have a really particular pedagogy. I teach it a lot, and I teach a lot of different kinds of students. One thing I find that nearly every writer has in common, especially when they’re working on their first draft, is that momentum is more important than anything else. You don’t know what’ll happen to the finished draft. Then you can go back and apply things to it, but up until then, you are experimenting with choices. So when it comes to working with me – as an instructor, as a mentor, as a peer, as anything – my pedagogy is one that focuses mainly on praise, so that you know which of the choices you’re experimenting with are the strongest, and are getting across your message the strongest. And so you can hoard those choices. My approach to coaching is praise-focused because it gives students the chance to write toward their strongest choices instead of away from criticism, which honestly could stop a writer in their tracks. And the most important thing is to finish that first draft. “My approach to coaching is praise-focused because it gives students the chance to write toward their strongest choices instead of away from criticism.” The other thing that people can expect from me when it comes to coaching is that I have a pedagogy of decentralising the instructor. So in any group of novelists, I believe that we all have things to learn from each other; I am not special in that room. Working with me is a really non-hierarchical experience. I have tools and I am happy to hand those tools over to someone else - but someone else’s experience of their life and their art and their career is just as valid as my experience of mine, and their experience is more relevant to their life. So what you can expect from me is: here is an array of tools, we get to practice using them and then you get to pick which ones are actually working for you. I’m not going to impose my taste or aesthetic, or my practice, on somebody else. My practice works for me because I’m me. Read more on ‘useful praise’ by A.E. Osworth for Catapult. Brian Gresko: I try to be very available to students to field questions, and essentially to be a kind of accountability buddy but also there for support– that might require a pep talk, but sometimes it’s just knowing that somebody is there listening. I think especially with writing for publication – it’s a communicative art. It can help to have someone who is waiting to get your pages, and that gives you a certain amount of energy to complete them. Your mentor gives you real-time feedback on your work, and that also can help guide how you’re moving the narrative forward. I like really getting into the text and talking about story decisions. Structure, and pacing, are both really important to me. Besides reading, I’m a big television watcher and I think it’s a similar principle. Keeping your audience’s attention over around 300 pages is hard, and you have to really think about how you’re going to keep the energy of the reader chapter by chapter. “I try to be very available to students to field questions, and essentially to be both a kind of accountability buddy but also sometimes for support– that might require a pep talk, and sometimes it’s just knowing that somebody is there listening.\" So I will be talking to my students face-to-face once a month and seeing them together as a group once a month, and hopefully getting everyone to share some of the challenges and experiences finding their way through a story I try to help the author thread their way through their narrative structure, before they become lost. Sara Lippmann: As writers, we sit at our desks all day, in our own worlds, with all these characters looming large in our heads. It can be extremely isolating. I know. I get it. I\'ve been there. I\'m still there. As a mentor and coach, I am personable, honest, and hands-on. I will walk alongside you, cheering you on when you need it, but I will not blow smoke. I am an intuitive, close reader - that is, I read for intentionality in order to help you realize your vision on the page. “As a mentor and coach, I am personable, honest, and hands-on. I will walk alongside you, cheering you on when you need it, but I will not blow smoke.” I will keep you on track by holding you accountable, and I will push your work to the next level, encouraging you to lean into your natural narrative strengths and to stretch them beyond your comfort zone, toward greater urgency and resonance. I\'ll challenge you to take risks and dig deep, in order to excavate a larger truth. My style is a mix of merciless and generous, but I always come from a place of openness and love. Lindsey Alexander, A.E. Osworth and Sara Lippmann are available as tutors on the UNWC US/International course. They\'ll give you one-to-one book coaching and expert tuition as you write a publishable novel over a year. Find out more below. UNWC US / INTERNATIONAL Brian Gresko is now available as a mentor on the course with a UK/European timezone: UNWC UK / EUROPE
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Felicia Yap on weaving your life experiences into your writing

Friday Night Live shortlisted author, Felicia Yap, was snapped up by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown soon after our 2015 Festival of Writing. Her brilliant high-concept thriller \'Yesterday\' was bought by Headline’s Alex Clarke for a six-figure sum. Her latest title, \'Future Perfect\', was also published by Headline in March 2021. Felicia has had an expansive and divergent career; we spoke to her about how you can use multiple interests to inform and add texture to your writing. JW: Hi Felicia! It\'s great to talk to you. Could you start by telling us about yourself as a writer? When did you start writing? FY: I started out as a journalist. I wrote newspaper articles from the age of nineteen (for The Economist and The Business Times, amongst other publications). Later on, I became a historian at the University of Cambridge and spent years writing academic papers about the Second World War. I only began writing fiction properly after the idea for my debut novel \'Yesterday\' came to me; the concept struck me on my way to a dance studio in Cambridge. I started writing the next day and I’m glad I did. JW: Tell us about your journey to publication. Were there any events or resources that helped you along the way? FY: I was fortunate to be shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition at the Festival of Writing in 2015. It was a joy to read the opening paragraphs of \'Yesterday\' to a large audience in York; I was thrilled by how the audience responded. It made me confident that my story began decently – which in turn made me twice as determined to finish my manuscript. \"Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing.\" JW: So, you got your agent – what happened next? FY: I did an extensive round of edits with my agent. He then sent out my manuscript and it went to auction in multiple territories. JW: What happened at the auction?   FY: I had the wonderful privilege of speaking to several editors in both the United Kingdom and America, to find out if we shared similar visions for the manuscript. It was an exciting time. JW: You’ve had a multi-hyphenate career, including working as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, and a technology journalist. How have your different career paths informed your writing? FY: I have drawn on technical elements and knowledge from the professional orbits I\'ve moved through. I have also incorporated sensory details from these worlds. My second novel \'Future Perfect\' combines high fashion with technology; the book is set in the near future where computers will be able to predict how we will live and when we will die. The first chapter is told by a model who carries a bomb down a catwalk in Manhattan. I used to be a runway model and wrote quite a few articles on detection/prediction technologies for The Economist in the past. \'Yesterday\' contains spoof academic papers and science articles in the house styles of the publications I have contributed to. Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing. JW: Do you have any tips for balancing writing alongside other, seemingly divergent pursuits? FY: My unorthodox pursuits have stemmed from curiosity; I’m fascinated by the delicious possibilities out there, the things worth trying and doing. I’m convinced that divergent activities can enrich a person’s life (and one’s writing), especially the quirky ones. Life is too short not to be embraced fully. If one truly enjoys one’s pursuits, balance will come naturally. JW: Your writing balances being very high concept whilst at the same time achieving the complexity of a murder mystery. How do you approach this? FY: I normally begin with the concept and iron out the details later. Both my novels were inspired by conundrums, questions I knew I would be happy spending two years of my life figuring out the answers to. \'Yesterday\' grew out of the question: ‘How do you solve a murder if you only remember yesterday?’ While \'Future Perfect\' was inspired by the concept: ‘What if today were your last day?’ Yet, high concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it. JW: Is your writing more research-driven or informed by the experiences you’ve already had? FY: All my writing is informed by personal experience, the things I have done or encountered  (or eavesdropped on). I try to set my stories in places that I have visited before or know well. This is because the five senses are crucial in the art of storytelling, especially their rich alchemy. Stories come alive when readers can feel, touch, hear, taste and see what the characters are experiencing. I believe that one can only write about the five senses convincingly if one has experienced them in the magical amalgamation unique to a particular location. I also do a lot of research but only after I have completed the first drafts of my manuscripts. It helps to know what you don’t know, so that you can ask the right people the right sort of questions. \"High concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it.\" JW: Do you think that your experience as a journalist had an impact on your writing? FY: Most certainly. The first paragraph of The Economist Style Guide continues to resonate with me. It says: “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.” JW: Were there any other resources you found helpful along the way? I did a couple of writing courses; they helped me understand the basic ‘rules’ of storytelling and gave me some appreciation of form, structure, and technique. It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them. More importantly, the courses put me in touch with other writers. Many of my classmates have since become good friends and we still send our works-in-progress to each other for critical feedback. \"It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them.\" JW: What are you working on next? FY: I wish I could tell you but I’m afraid it might jinx what I’m currently working on. Even my long-suffering partner Alex hasn’t got a clue! About Felicia Felicia Yap is the author of the speculative literary thrillers \'Future Perfect\' and \'Yesterday\', published in multiple languages around the world. She has worked as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a university lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader, and a catwalk model. Read more about Felicia Yap on her website. FUTURE PERFECT YESTERDAY Follow Felicia Yap on Twitter at @FeliciaMYap
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The 10 Best Children’s Book Publishers in 2021

It isn’t easy, becoming a children’s book author. From deciphering endless submission requirements to learning that your dream publisher doesn’t accept submissions from authors without an agent, it can be difficult finding the right home for your work. In this article, I will endeavor to make the process of getting a children’s book published a bit clearer for you, as well as include my top picks for children’s book publishers. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of options out there, and you should be armed with the best possible knowledge out there. You’ll learn the submission requirements for some of the top children’s book publishers, as well as some examples of children’s books these companies have already published so that you can choose a publisher that aligns with your current book.  Still plotting your next book and unsure if you are writing at a level that’s optimal for children? I encourage you to read our existing post regarding everything you need to know about creating a children’s book, from start to finish! Now, onto the publishers. Best Children’s Book Publishers Before I discuss some of the top children’s book publishers and their most successful children’s books, I should note that not all children’s book publishers accept submissions directly from authors. Some only accept submissions from literary agents, and you should keep this in mind before falling in love with any one publisher. It is also important to know which category your work falls under. While this may not seem necessary right away, some publishers may only be looking for certain submissions at certain times. And some kid’s book publishers may not even accept certain varieties of children’s books.  The most common submission types are as follows:  Children’s fictionChildren’s non-fictionChildren’s picture books If you are unsure if your current manuscript meets any of these categories, you may wish to consider our Children’s Manuscript Assessment program. Through this editing service, our  team of editors will read your entire manuscript and give you structured editorial feedback that you can use to craft your work into shape. If your editor thinks your work is ready, we’ll also help you find the right agent, for free. Now, let’s get onto the publishers. Keep in mind that the following is only a summary list of some of the best children’s book publishers, and that many more exist. I do hope that one of these choices suits your publishing needs perfectly! Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA With offices around the world and prominent publishing houses in both the US and the UK, Bloomsbury Books is a top contender for children’s book publishing. Established in 1986, Bloomsbury has many popular children’s book authors across every age group. Their YA fiction has grown increasingly popular, their authors often topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Their kid’s division covers all books for any age, from picture books to young adult novels. Bloomsbury is known for publishing high fantasy YA fiction and heartwarming tales that help provide kid-friendly entry points into emotional intelligence topics. Some of their most popular authors and series are Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival and Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer.  The unfortunate news is that, unless you have a YA book ready to go, Bloomsbury only accepts submissions from a literary agent. However, feel free to take a look at their website for any more useful information, including their various adult and children’s book authors. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, known as HMH for short, has gone through a few changes in its recent past. Now known as either Clarion Books or Mariner Books, this company has been a mainstay in children’s publishing since 1832. From board books to graphic novels, HMH publishes just about any children’s book you can think of. HMH has worked hard to develop programs for more unique voices in publishing, including new authors in their children’s publishing division. Entitled VERSIFY, this fantastic publishing program reflects a need for accessible and powerful prose and poetry—in children’s picture books, novels, and nonfiction. HMH strives to publish work that can celebrate the lives and reflect the possibilities of all children. For the most part, HMH is an agent-only submission publishing house. However, their VERSIFY program does accept unsolicited submissions during certain parts of the year. Learn more about HMH and its various submission opportunities here.  Holiday House Established in 1935 as a publishing company for young readers, Holiday House is a wonderful organization to submit your children’s book to. Their books are processed and distributed as a division of Penguin Random House, and they publish children’s books from ages 4 and up. From picture books to nonfiction informational handbooks, they are publishing some of the most creative and educational children’s books out there. Given their commitment to education and teaching children about major childhood themes, their website’s search engine for currently published books is in-depth and informative. From young readers books such as Lunch Box Bully by Hans Wilhelm to riveting and humorous YA fantasy like the Devil series by Donna Hosie, Holiday House no doubt publishes something for every kid in your life. Holiday House does indeed accept unsolicited submissions, which is great news for those of you without an agent. They don’t have the time to respond to every submission that they receive, but they will of course reach out if your manuscript interests them. You can learn more about their variety of books, list of awards received, and their submission process here.  Chicago Review Press An independent publisher founded in 1973, the Chicago Review Press strictly publishes nonfiction, including an award-winning selection of children’s nonfiction. They are firm in their desire when it comes to children’s picture books: they do not accept them, whether fiction or nonfiction. However, that doesn’t mean you are completely out of luck. If you have a fantastic nonfiction book for children, their submission process is clear and easy to follow on their website! While nonfiction children’s activity books are their bread and butter, their topics range broadly, from the history of American environmentalism all the way to Salvador Dali. There are a lot of perks to publishing with a small independent publisher, including the fact that they accept unsolicited submissions without an agent. If your book fits the niche that is the Chicago Review Press, they are an award-winning publisher that would be happy to have your nonfiction children’s workbook! Flashlight Press Looking for another publisher searching for very specific submission guidelines? Check out the specificity needed from Flashlight Press, a children’s book publisher hunting exclusively for books that explore and illuminate the touching and humorous moments of family situations and social interactions through captivating writing and outstanding illustrations. What does this mean, exactly? Well, if your book targets 4–8 year olds, is under 1000 words, and has a universal theme fitting with many other Flashlight Press titles, you may have found a home for your book! Their titles vary wildly in themes, but all of them have to do with childhood themes and concerns. All of the books tend to tackle these themes with a sense of humor, such as I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, and Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman.  So long as you are familiar with the rest of Flashlight Press’s work and think your book has a similar thematic feel, their submission process is easy. Feel free to submit without an agent too, and check out Flashlight’s website here. Simon & Schuster Children\'s Publishing An American publishing company started in 1924, Simon & Schuster is a powerhouse, capable of publishing 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints. Their children’s publishing division is just as lauded and award winning, and they publish just about anything ages 0-12 as well as everything young adult.  There’s no shortage of award-winning selections published by Simon & Schuster, including the ever-popular To All the Boys I\'ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han, and the City Spies series by James Ponti. Simon & Schuster may not be the easiest publishing company to publish with for your first book, especially because they don’t accept submissions without an agent. However, they should definitely be a publishing company to reach for as you grow as a children’s author! Learn more about them here. Chronicle Books San Francisco-based favorite Chronicle Books has a wonderful eye for the unique and aesthetic storyteller. Their children’s books are beloved and unique, and this small independent publisher receives more than 1,000 submissions a month for their YA department alone! They publish most children\'s books ideas, including activity books, art books, board books, picture books, chapter books, young adult, games, and gift and stationery items. While they accept a wide variety of children’s publishing themes, it is important to note that, since Chronicle receives so many submissions, they are hoping for the most unique and innovative stories out there. No pressure, right? At any rate, check out their submission process and desires here! Ladybird Books UK-based and another division of the Penguin Group, Ladybird books is perfect if you’ve got a bedtime story to tell. Their lineup of children’s books is primarily geared toward younger audiences, from toddlers to roughly age ten. They have many award winning series published under their name, including many Peppa Pig books.  Their offerings also include a long list of informative nonfiction titles, such as books about the human body and our natural world. While publishing for any division of Penguin may seem complicated at first, they have provided an easy to read guide regarding their submission process. I believe having an agent would be useful if you are hoping to submit to any Penguin Group.  Quirk Books Looking for a smaller publishing agency for your unique and captivating children’s book? Publishing only around 25 books a year, Quirk Books is based in Philadelphia and is searching for the most original, cool, and fun ideas out there. Is your book creative enough for Quirk? It’s one of my favorite publishing companies, having taken the helm on series such as the Miss Peregrine anthology by Ransom Riggs. Quirk Books has a very informative and helpful submission page, found here. They have clearly outlined books that they are interested in, as well as appropriate emails for your submissions. From popular YA series to nonfiction books for young readers, Quirk publishes just about anything, so long as it’s quirky. August House Publishers A more traditional publishing company, August House Publishers are seeking children’s book authors committed to folktales, diverse and memorable. They enjoy stories from many diverse backgrounds, as well as stories that work well as oral tales, stories meant to be passed on from generation to generation. They also have a soft spot for scary stories and stories that can be used in a classroom environment.  August House is committed to children’s publishing, and there’s no shortage of awards gifted to them for such a commitment. If you have a picture book made especially for young readers or a story related to folktales, stories from the oral tradition, stories from diverse cultures, scary stories and resource books about using stories or storytelling in the classroom, August House Publishers may be the right choice for you. You can email them and learn more about their submission process here. Conclusion While I hope you found a few excellent children’s book publishers from this list, do keep in mind that there are many more that are worth your consideration. Whether you have an agent or not, there are always publishers seeking the best new stories out there. Yours could very well be one of them! What are some of your top publisher picks for your children’s book? Are you still crafting your book? I encourage you to take some time exploring our website for many publishing resources, and perhaps consider joining the world’s leading online writers club! Happy writing! Author Bio Autumn Buck is a full-time freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest. They have written five full length plays and are currently working on a young adult fantasy novel. They also enjoy writing about herbalism, asexuality, and tiny home living. They live with their childhood sweetheart and chihuahua mix, Sonny.
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Aliya Ali-Afzal on working with her agent & choosing a publisher at an auction

Aliya Ali-Afzal became a member of Jericho Writers in 2019, signing with her agent in 2020. Aliya’s debut novel, ‘Would I Lie to You?’, will be published by Head of Zeus in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in July 2021. Having already proven to be in-demand at auction, it looks set to be incredibly popular. Aliya is represented by Juliet Mushens of Mushens Entertainment. We spoke to her about the working relationship between author and agent, and the surreal experience of choosing a publisher from an online auction.   JW: Hi Aliya! Great to talk to you. We’re really intrigued by the concept of your debut - where did the inspiration for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ come from?  AA: The initial inspiration came from something that happened in my own life. I had been on a big spending spree, and when I got home, my husband called to say he had lost his job. I felt a surge of panic - then guilt - as I thought about all the money I had spent, especially as my husband didn’t know about it. This sparked the idea about what would happen if someone had spent a lot more in secret, and unless they could put that money back quickly, they risked losing everything.  I’m fascinated by human nature and when I worked in London as a career and life coach, I saw how people’s sense of self can sometimes get caught up with how much they earn and what they have, rather than who they are. I also wanted to explore what happens after someone makes a terrible mistake. Can we ever put things right and can others ever forgive us?   JW: How did Jericho Writers membership help you with your writing journey?  AA: I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library! There’s a really broad range of topics covered including plot, characterisation, editing, writing cover letters and synopsis. I also loved watching Slushpile Live.  In September 2019, I attended the Festival of Writing in York for the first time and loved the panels and workshops. In my one-to-one session the agent asked for the full manuscript, which was an incredible boost for my confidence. It was also very helpful meeting other writers who shared their experience and tips about the submissions process. I felt inspired by hearing stories about writers who had found agents, after countless rejections!  All these things helped enormously when I started submitting in November 2019 - which resulted in me signing up with Juliet Mushens in January 2020. I would recommend that writers sign up with Jericho Writers immediately!  \"I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library!\" JW: In what ways have writing groups helped you along in your journey to publication?  AA: Our group meets every fortnight to give honest feedback, help with plot ideas, synopsis, advice on cover letters, agents, and publication. We also provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!  Knowing each other’s work intimately, we feel comfortable enough to point out things that could be improved or are not working. By workshopping regularly, we also shift the focus from writing being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, to work that is simply being edited and improved. This is an important distinction. As well as learning how to give clear, productive feedback, it is important to know how to receive and process feedback too. Over the years, I’ve almost developed an intuition about which feedback I want to take on (often something that most people in the group agree on), and which elements of the feedback I disagree with. After a while, you learn to trust your own instincts as well, and it is important to be able to reject feedback sometimes too, even if you value and accept it most of the time.  \"[We] provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!\" JW: Can you tell us about how you found representation with Juliet Mushens?  AA: Juliet was my dream agent and there were several reasons why she was at the top of my list. I knew that she represented some incredible writers, who all raved about what a great agent she was. She was super successful and brilliant at her job, but also seemed very passionate about it, which I admired. I followed her on Twitter and found that we shared a similar sense of humour and a love of beautiful dresses, which also convinced me that she would be my perfect agent!  I attended an excellent Guardian masterclass that she presented on how to find an agent, but was too shy to go and introduce myself or even ask a question. I did, however, take lots of notes! By the time I submitted to Juliet via the slush pile, I had done months of research about her wish list and wrote a targeted and personalised cover letter. Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!  In total I submitted to five agents and it took me seven weeks to find representation. I had expected it to take months, even years, so I was blown away at the speed at which it all happened. Some of this was of course down to luck and timing too, but I think it also helped that I did months of research, preparation and hard work before I started to submit. JW: What’s your working relationship with your agent like? What do you think are the benefits of having an agent?  AA: Juliet is an incredible, extraordinary agent. Despite being insanely busy, she is always available for me and makes me feel as if I am her only client! She is direct and honest in her communication and I love that – I\'m the same and I feel comfortable saying what I think to her. We also instantly got on when we met, so I really enjoy working with her too.  The most valuable aspect of having Juliet as my agent is that I absolutely trust her opinion on both business and creative matters. I have consulted her throughout the publication process and value her advice. This is especially important as a debut, when you can feel out of your depth.  Juliet is also a brilliant editor, and gave me extensive editorial feedback. I love brainstorming with her, and it helps that we are both obsessed with working on the manuscript until it\'s perfect, however many rounds of edits it takes!  \"Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!\" JW: Can you describe the auction?  AA: It was a surreal and very exciting experience. Under normal circumstances, we would have visited each publisher’s offices for the auction, but under lockdown, everything took place on Zoom. Each publisher’s entire team- editorial, marketing and publicity - pitched to me and Juliet, showing us presentations about their publication plans and creative visions for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ We also chatted to see how we got on.  After years of wondering if I would ever get an agent or any interest at all from a publisher, I suddenly had three publishers, each wanting me to choose them! It was a great feeling to have these amazing publishers telling me how much they loved my writing and discussing my characters with me. It boosted my confidence enormously, both in my writing and in my story. Juliet debriefed me after each pitch and outlined all the factors I needed to consider before making my decision.  JW: Do you have one last piece of advice for the JW members?  AA: Prepare, prepare, prepare, before you start to submit!    About Aliya   Aliya Ali-Afzal is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and studied Russian and German at University College London. She is an Alum of the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. Aliya lives in London and is a career and life coach.   Get ‘Would I Lie to You?’ from Waterstones From Bookshop.org From Amazon Follow Aliya on Twitter: @AAAiswriting 
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How to Write a Great Query Letter (with Hints + Tips)

Sample query letter + template included You\'ve edited the daylights out of your novel, you know it\'s ready to take the world by storm... and so now, it\'s time to find an agent. A great query letter will help your submission stand out in an agent\'s inbox -- and we\'re going to show you how to write the perfect letter. We\'ll get started with an example -- a real example, from a real author describing a real book (me, describing one of my books, although I\'m pretending a number of things here: that it\'s a first novel, that I have no track record within the industry, that I finished writing it just this year) -- and then we\'ll show you all the steps you need to make your letter sing. Tiny digression: this isn’t a complete guide to getting your book published. You can get that here. Nor is it a full guide to getting an agent – more info here, and here.) Write A Query Letter In 3 Easy Steps: Introductory sentence – include your purpose for writing (you’re seeking representation!) book title, wordcount, genre.1-2 paragraphs about your book – what your book’s about and why a reader will love it.A brief note about You – who you are and why you wrote the book. Here’s What A Query Letter Should Look Like First up, here’s a query letter of a sort that would make any agent want to start reading the manuscript in question: Dear Agent NameI’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD. It\'s a police procedural in the mold of Tana French\'s DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD novels and it is complete at 115,000 words. The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation.Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses?I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. I\'m writing to you because I know you represent Jo Nesbo and Chuck Wendig, two authors I deeply admire and whose work was absolutely an inspiration to this book.I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Harry Bingham Simple right? And you can do it, no? Here’s that query letter again with my comments highlighted in bold: I’m writing to seek representation [the purpose of you getting in touch] for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD. It\'s a police procedural in the mold of Tana French\'s DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD novels and it is complete at 115,000 words. [title, genre, comp title, word count – all defined fast and clearly.]The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. [This sets up the basic premise of the crime story. Already, the agent has the basic co-ordinates she needs to navigate.] New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation. [Introduce main character – clearly and succinctly.]Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses? [This hints nicely at the book’s mood and USP. It starts to suggest the emotional payoff – a mystery to do with the book’s central character.]I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. [A line or two about me. Confirmation that I understand I’m writing a series – an important touch for this kind of fiction.] I\'m writing to you because I know you represent Jo Nesbo and Chuck Wendig, two authors I deeply admire and whose work was absolutely an inspiration to this book. [An acknowledgement as to why you\'ve written to this agent, something showing that you\'ve done your research.]I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you. [Wrap it up. The whole letter easily fits onto one page. And yes, I know you’ll be sending an email, but you know what I mean.] Now you know what you’re doing, we’ll get into a slightly more specific analysis. What To Include In Your Query Letter So, let\'s recap what your letter needs to include: Avery brief 1-sentence summary of the book and your purpose in writing itA somewhat longer, 1-2 paragraph, introduction to the book. (Not a full-scale plot summary, that’s for the synopsis).A brief introduction to you.Your materials, tailored to the submission guidelines for that particular agent. It also needs to be short: no longer than a page, and ideally even less than that. I\'d also recommend you include some comparative (or \'comp\') titles and perhaps a note about why you\'re reaching out to this particular agent -- but we\'ll get to that. The One-Sentence Summary Consider this your thesis statement, your whole reason for writing this letter. You need to say why you’re writing. (You’re seeking representation, right? So say so.)You need to give the title of your book -- in italics, please.You need to give the word count of your book, rounded to the nearest hundred words. (An additional word of advice: check out our handy guide to word counts to be sure yours is approximately right for your genre\'s market.) You need to give the approximate genre or territory of your book. If you do those things, the agent can instantly understand what you want and what you’re offering. You will also, by the way, prove yourself to be a swift, professional writer. The One-to-Two Paragraph Introduction First, it’s important to say what this is not. You are not writing a back-of-book blurb. Nor are you writing a detailed outline of your story. (That’ll come in the form of your synopsis – more synopsis help right here.) What you are doing is explaining what your book is and why a reader will feel compelled to read it. That ‘what’ element will typically be a matter of presenting some facts. You need to give some more information about your settings, your premise, your characters and so on. You don’t need to be as salesy as a cover blurb, and you don’t need to be as dry as a synopsis. Think about it almost as though you were chatting to your best friend and telling them about the book you’ve just been reading. The ‘why’ element is equally crucial. Here, you are conveying something about emotions. What is a reader going to feel as they read the book? What kind of atmosphere will they inhabit? What kind of emotional payoff or challenge is likely? A Brief Introduction to You, the author There are a few elements to this, from which you can pick and choose depending on whether or not they apply. About youLuckily, agents don’t care too much about you. Nor should they. They should care about the book, and only the book. That’s a fine, honest, meritocratic approach. May the best book win! That said, agents are obviously curious about the person behind the manuscript. So tell them something about yourself. It’s fine to be human here, rather than resume-style formal. It’s also OK to be quite brief. For example: “I am a 41-year-old mother, with three children, two dogs, one husband, and the finest vegetable garden in the southwest.” Why you wrote the bookIf there is a real connection between who you are (a shrimp fisher, let’s say) and the book you’ve written (something to do with the sea and fishing) then it’s worth another sentence or two to tease that out a bit. But don’t feel compelled to do that. In my case, I wrote a crime novel, just because I wanted to write one. I’m not a cop or ex-cop. I have no forensics expertise. I have no legal expertise. Or anything else relevant. And that doesn’t matter, of course – what matters is the quality of the book. So if you have something good to say, say it. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing and don’t worry about it. Your previous writing historyIf you have some real background as a writer, then do say so. For example, you might have written a textbook or similar on a topic relevant to your own professional area. Or you might have won or been shortlisted for a major short story prize. Or perhaps you work as a journalist or copywriter. Or something similar. If anything like that is the case, then do say so. But if it’s not – don’t worry! We’ve seen a lot of agent query letters that say things like “I haven’t had much writing experience, but my English teacher always used to say that I would be a writer one day . . .” And, you know what? It just sounds feeble. So don’t say it. Agents know that most slushpile submissions will be by complete newbie authors. And that’s fine! Writing a series?If you are thinking that this book wants to be the first in a series, it\'s okay to say so, like I did in that sample letter above. But you don\'t want to be too rigid or arrogant, eg “I have completed the first four novels in my Lords of the Silver Sword series, and have got complete chapter outlines for the next 11 titles. I am looking for a publisher who will commit fully to the series.” Agents will almost certainly reject you out of hand for that sort of thing. Remember, you\'re still working on getting your first book picked up -- so keep the focus there. Your Materials Every agent is looking for something different, so be sure to check (and double-check) their submission guidelines. These are helpfully posted on the agency\'s website -- but they can sometimes even differ between agents at the same agency. Some may want to read the first twenty pages; others, the first three chapters. Some may ask for a synopsis, some might not. Pay careful attention to specific formatting requests, as well. Don\'t miss your shot by sending a PDF when they\'ve requested all materials to be sent as a Word Document! A Note on Comparative Titles In today’s competitive publishing environment, it’s imperative that you prove that your book has market potential. The best way to do this is to include comparison titles that closely align with your book’s genre and tone. We recommend comparing your manuscript to at least two titles that were published in the last few years. While you might be inclined to compare your fantasy trilogy to that all-time best-seller The Lord of the Rings, a comparison like that won\'t demonstrate any knowledge of the current fantasy market -- whereas a comparison to N.K. Jemisin\'s The Broken Earth Trilogy or Christelle Dabos\' The Mirror Visitor Quartet will show that you\'re presently reading in the genre you\'re writing. A great way to think about this is also the classic \"X meets Y\" formulation, or the elevator pitch. I know your book is far more complex than a cross between, oh I don\'t know, Beowulf and The Hurt Locker except with a female protagonist... but aren\'t you hooked by that brief tease all the same? Why This Agent? There are a sea of diverse agents out there with a wide variety of specializations and genre preferences. This is good news for you because it means that there’s probably an agent who specializes in the specific genre you write for! It also means that it\'s crucial that you do your research before finally sending your query letter. Tailoring your letter to an agent is the perfect way to demonstrate that you know your stuff and are serious about achieving agent representation. Make sure to look at the agent’s website to narrow down what sort of books they’re looking to represent. Try to really dig into their agent wish list and who they’ve represented in the past. Are they simply interested in fantasy? Or is it something more specific like epic fantasy with a strong female lead? Explain why you’re reaching out to them specifically and why they’re the right agent for you, whether that\'s because they represent authors you love or because they\'re specifically looking for a book that\'s just like yours. This doesn’t need to be a long section and it fits conveniently in your introduction or conclusion.   We can help YOU get published.Did you know, we have a complete course on getting published? The course covers absolutely everything you need to know: how to prepare your manuscript, how to find agents, how to compile your shortlist, how to write your query letter and synopsis – and much, much more besides.That course is quite expensive to buy . . . so don’t buy it. The course is available completely free to members of Jericho Writers. Not just that course. You get our Agent Match tool for finding literary agents. You get our awesome How To Write course. Plus our members get regular opportunities to pitch their work live online to a panel of literary agents.Sounds good, doesn’t it? So hop over here and find out more about joining us. Some Exceptions in Query Letters There are, as ever, exceptions to any rules. Of those, the two most important ones you need to know about are: You Have A Personal Hook This will usually apply to those of you writing high-end literary fiction: you have, if you\'d like it, a little bit of room to strut. For example, let\'s say you were writing about a fictional nun in 14th century Florence, you might talk a bit about the themes of your work and what inspired you to pick up this story. \"While I was living alone on an island off the Scottish coast, I began reading about female monasticism and soon found myself, when I wasn\'t tending to the sheep, compelled by the stories of...\" or something like that. If you\'re aspiring to be the next Lauren Groff or the next Orhan Pamuk, it\'s okay to not only sell the book but yourself too. Don\'t get too carried away -- remember, agents are looking for good writing more than anything -- but if you have a personal or interesting stake in what you\'ve written, share it! You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have A Remarkable Platform Let’s say you are writing a cookbook and you have a couple of million people who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Or you are writing a book about motorcycle repair and you have a motorbike-themed blog with 250,000 monthly readers. In those cases, you have to delineate your platform in enough detail to convince an agent (and ultimately a publisher) that you are the right person to write this manuscript. In such cases, you\'ll want to be honest about such a thing. Add a few sentences to your \'brief\' introduction and lay out just how incredible you are. Just keep in mind that having a website or 10k Twitter followers does not a platform make -- this is an exception for those of you who are true authorities on the topic, whether that means you\'ve got six or seven figures following your output or you\'ve recently won the Nobel Prize in Economics and are ready to publish a book distilling your genius for the masses. But you know what? Still keep it concise. That one-page-or-less rule still matters, because it\'s the 21st Century and if you write that you have the fastest-growing newsletter subscriber base on Substack... agents can look you up. And they will, so make sure you aren\'t fudging those numbers. What To Do If You Don’t Hear Back From Literary Agents So.You\'ve got your shortlist of at least 6 / preferably something like 10-12 agents and you\'ve checked their submission requirements.You\'ve your own perfect query letter, avoiding any weak language, misspellings, or grammatical howlers.You\'ve used our advice to put together your synopsis, which you haven\'t spent too long writing because, if you\'re using our techniques, the process is simplicity itself.You\'ve followed our simple rules on manuscript formatting. Time to send off your queries! Go ahead and light some candles, pray to your favorite saints, throw a mirror over a ladder. (...or is it under? Or maybe the mirror goes into a wishing well? Whatever works for you, honestly.) And now... you wait. Sometimes you\'ll be waiting only a few days (rarely), sometimes you\'ll be waiting for three months. Expect that, on the whole, it\'ll easily be 6-8 weeks before you hear a response. When that email does come in, what happens next? They might ask to read more -- or they might reply with a rejection. Now keep in mind: rejections do happen, and are likely to happen even if you’ve written a great book. Agents take on maybe a handful of new clients a year, or they might already have an author who writes something too directly competitive to your book, or they just like a different sort of thing. It isn\'t necessarily about you or your book! But if you send your material out to 10-12 agents, and find yourself being rejected by all of them, then you have to ask yourself: Am I being rejected because I’ve chosen the wrong agents?Am I being rejected because my query letter / synopsis are poor?Am I being rejected because my book isn’t up to scratch? And truthfully, the third of these issues is by far the most common. If you’ve written a great book, and a rubbish query letter, you can still find an agent. The other way around? Never. If you are confident that you’ve gone to the right agents, and have been rejected by 10+ people (or heard nothing after 8 weeks, which amonts to the exact same thing), then the probable truth is that your book is not yet strong enough for commercial publication. And, you know what? That’s not a big deal. All books start out bad. Then they get better. So getting rejected is really just a signal that you still have further to travel down that road. The right agent will be there when your book is read, so get to writing! And good luck! Also, remember that getting third party editorial advice is the standard way of improving your work. We offer outstanding editorial help and you can read all about it here. Alternatively, join the Jericho Writers family, and you can get a ton of help absolutely free within your membership. Free courses on How To Write. Free courses on Getting Published. Free access to AgentMatch. And so much more. Find out more here. About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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How taking a writing course helped my confidence grow

We’re thrilled to be launching another year of our Ultimate Novel Writing Course. It’s the most practical, hands-on course we offer, helping you go from first draft to full publishable manuscript with expert tuition and ongoing support. We chatted to Sharon Dunne, a student on the 2020-2021 course, about how the UNWC has impacted her writing journey.   JW: Hi Sharon! What stage were you at with your writing before the UNWC?   SD: I had very little experience before the course. I\'d always loved writing but it just wasn’t feasible as something to do as a career, at least not in my circle. I started writing properly about a year beforehand and, after eleven or twelve months, I realised that I needed help. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I was just going with it - but if I wanted to make it a serious career, I really needed some help.   JW: What was your favourite part of the course?   SD: It’s hard to choose! Meeting my group was absolutely amazing because they were such great support. You end up building a friendship - a supportive circle where you can help each other when someone is struggling. That was one of my favourite things. I think the weekly exercises, the feedback, and the tutoring have been excellent as well. I had started with a book, but I ended up deleting a whole 96,000 words and starting again. I’d thought I needed a little bit of help, but I realised quite quickly that it just wasn’t good enough. The first tutor feedback I had was from Wes (Brown, UNWC tutor) and it was really good. He gave feedback in such a supportive way that it encouraged me to start again. Now I’ve just finished my manuscript. It’s just been sent off to Lindsey (Alexander, UNWC tutor) and it’s so much better. I basically learned from the ground up and I worked really hard at it – the whole experience was great.   JW: Amazing! Do you think starting from scratch on your MS was made a little easier because of that support?  SD: Yes, definitely! I had started writing without knowing I needed the basics, but once I’d started learning them I realised that [my original manuscript] wasn’t good enough and there was no point in trying to make a load of changes. In the end I just wanted to start again. Actually, I think I was more excited than anything. Whatever chapter I was writing, I would use that for whatever was the focus of the course each week – so I was kind of tweaking as I went, as well. The weekly tasks were really good because I performed them on my work-in-progress as I wrote.    I had started with a book, but I ended up deleting a whole 96,000 words and starting again... JW: It sounds like that corresponded really well then! Which aspect of the course did you find the most challenging?  SD: I have four small children and I work, so I suppose for me the most challenging thing really was just finding the time. But I was, and still am, very creative and I was learning very fast throughout the course. It was during that time I realised I just loved it – I really loved it. So I made sure I made the time, whether it was 9pm at night or getting up at 6am and doing a couple of hours in the morning. That was probably the most challenging aspect, but it was good to fully commit.   JW: How have you found fitting the course round your schedule?  SD: The course is great; it’s so flexible, especially for someone like me whose time is very limited. The amount of time and effort you give it is up to you and I think the more you put in, the more you’re going to get out of it. So I just decided that I was going to do the task every week no matter what, whether that was late night or early morning. I think that helped with building relationships with everyone in my group, as well. We also set up some monthly zoom calls where we could talk things through and see if anyone needed any help.   JW: It must be lovely to have that nice, supportive environment, because sometimes writing can be quite isolating. How would you rate your confidence with writing after the UNWC?  SD: I’m way more confident now! I believe that it’s possible now, and I’ve just committed to keep going.    JW: That’s brilliant! Do you feel that you have something close to being ready to submit?  SD: I’ve just submitted my work-in-progress to Lindsey (Alexander, UNWC tutor). I’m waiting for the response and then I’ll have feedback to do the next draft. I have a few drafts done – the second draft is the one that’s just gone over for critique. I would hope that I could then do another draft with Lindsey’s feedback – she’s been great as well – and hopefully then be ready to submit. Actually, last year I booked the Jericho Writers Self-Edit Your Novel Course  for this September, so I’ll do that with my new draft, and I’m hoping that after that I’ll be ready to submit.   I\'m way more confident now! I believe that it’s possible now, and I’ve just committed to keep going. JW: Amazing – I look forward to hearing about how you find the Self-Edit course as well. Lots of people have said great things about Debi [Alper] and Emma [Darwin].   SD: Yes I’ve definitely enjoyed them in webinars! I’ve also found the webinars really good – on the Jericho Website I found the ‘How to Write’ video course that Harry did, and I found that super-useful. I watched the whole thing when I first started writing.  JW: To what extent do you feel being an UNWC student has helped you find new opportunities?  SD: I think I’ve been opened up to an awful lot of opportunities because now I understand so much more about the fundamentals of writing. I have a lot more knowledge of how agents and publishers work, the different ways to get published, how difficult it is to get published and the standard your work needs to be at before you submit. Also, the importance of having a supportive team – I got to know all the other writers, knew where I could go for help, the different types of assessments and reviews you could get on your manuscript, and the whole writing world in general. I suppose that was especially good for me because I was very new to it – before I started this course, I didn’t know any other people who wrote in their spare time.   JW: I’m so glad you had that for support; having like-minded people around you is so important to keep going. In what ways do you think taking a writing course is helpful (compared to learning independently)?  SD: I think mainly it helps because of all the support. I know some people don’t like critique, but I loved it because it told me where I was going wrong. It made me want to change it - otherwise I would have never known! Obviously so much was wrong – nearly everything was wrong – and it was all revealed in the critique so maybe even from the first week it set me on the right track. Lindsey talked me through and I realised, okay, this is just not good enough. I know if I’d kept writing independently, I wouldn’t have improved. Some people perhaps are born being able to write well, but I needed to learn.   JW: You definitely do need that constructive criticism sometimes, especially in the early stages. Is there anything else you’d like to add?   SD: Generally, the tutors were all fantastic, and the group as well. I’ve found that the whole thing has been a really enjoyable experience and it’s taught me so much.   Sharon Dunne is an Irish mother of four young boys. She is a primary school teacher (who previously worked in advertising) and lives in the sunny South East, although she often questions the \'sunny\' part! Sharon is writing a novel called Phoenix Park, which follows the lives of three Irish women, two of whom are running for President. The third is a relentless reporter with the Viral Touch, who\'s covering the election. One of them is hiding a secret and when it\'s uncovered, the trajectory of all three women\'s lives are changed forever The Ultimate Novel Writing Course is now open for applications for 2021-2022. With online tutorials and mentoring sessions led by leading authors in their fields alongside in-person events, editorial assessments, literary agent inductions, and more - no other course offers this level of support as you work towards publication. Find out more: Ultimate Novel Writing Course UK / Europe (GMT time zone) Ultimate Novel Writing Course International (ET time zone)
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How Does Instafreebie Work

To access this post, you must purchase Ultimate Novel Writing Course Single Instalment 2020, Ultimate Novel Writing Course Monthly Instalments (UK), Ultimate Novel Writing Course Monthly Instalments (US), Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UK) or Ultimate Novel Writing Course (US).
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Character Arcs: What They Are And How To Create Them – With Template

by Dr Sharon Zink Character arcs are some of the most important tools in terms of writing compelling fiction, even if they’re played out on a smaller scale in a short story, but certainly when writing a novel.  They play a central role in not only establishing your lead’s motivations and thus narrative aims in a book and thus form the spine of the plot arc, but they are what makes the reader believe in and root for the lead which contributes hugely to how much they’ll invest in your story. In this piece, we’ll discover the different ways to develop a strong character arc, together with some examples and a template to help you create your own powerful character arc based on a lead who feels ‘real’ to the reader and who keeps them turning pages. What Is A Character Arc? Basically, in the course of a novel, or even a short story, a character needs to be pursuing a certain goal. What they want and why needs to be obvious to your audience so they can root for the lead to get their aim in the novel.  This goal is usually something noble, like finding love in women’s commercial fiction, solving a murder in a crime novel or even saving the world in action or adventure writing, although in literary fiction, the ultimate direction of the character arc might be something more subtle like seeking redemption or freedom.   However, whatever genre you’re writing in, your character arc is based upon this purpose or quest the protagonist is set on and is doggedly pursuing through the piece and your story arc will not have the poignancy or sense of purpose it needs without this being crystal clear to your audience and thus forming the backbone of your plot.  How Do You Write A Character Arc? One thing readers are looking for in a satisfying character arc is that the lead will have changed by the end of the book due to all they’ve experienced whilst fighting to get their narrative goal. Therefore, it’s key that your protagonist has grown by the end of your story arc and is not the same person as they were at the start.  First Act -- How Your Character Starts In some ways, this is the prologue work. Who is your character, on a fundamental level? Name, age, race, class, occupation -- the basics, yes, but also things like what kind of food they like, what their aspirations in life might be, if they\'re left or right-handed. (You don\'t necessarily have to know everything about them like their mother\'s maiden name or their third-grade crush or the places they want to visit before they die... but maybe those things are useful, so if you think of them, why not jot them down?) The arc begins (as does the plot of your novel or story) when the character\'s normal life is turned upside down by a trigger event or inciting incident – say, a murder in a crime novel which sets the detective on the hunt for the killer. As they do this, like any lead in any genre, they need to be proactive in going after their narrative goal, entering each scene with the intention to get their story arc aim or move nearer to it, only usually to fail or to make some progress, only to face an even bigger obstacle.  Second Act -- How Your Character Develops You\'re not the same person you were yesterday, and you\'re certainly not the same person you were last week, or last month, or last year, and so on -- and neither are your characters. As things happen to them (or because of them), their world changes and how they respond to those changes is key to developing their arc. Maybe the milquetoast office drone thrust into a plot of murderous high-stakes intrigue has discovered that she\'s actually really good in a knife fight. Maybe the fast-and-easy pirate has developed feelings for his first mate, despite saying that he\'d never settle down. Whatever the case may be, these developments and discoveries aren\'t happening in a vacuum: the character is going to have some feelings about what they\'re going through! So it isn\'t just that office drone turns out to be good with knives, but also that she\'s morally conflicted about how exciting she finds it. Authors often forget that there needs to be this emotional reaction after action to make their characters feel human to the reader, but then the planning part too, so the story arc has a causal connection and we see why one thing happens after another, this set-up ensuring the protagonist seems energetic and plucky and which keeps the story arc full of drama and an obvious forward-moving purpose.   Third Act -- How Your Character Ends Up As your plot builds to a climax or conclusion, the changes your character has undergone will be brought to the fore. How do they react to this new situation, with everything that\'s happened to them? Do they accept it? Do they fight against it? How will they attain their goal -- and how might their goals have changed, as they have changed? Bilbo Baggins is not the same hobbit when he comes home to The Shire as he was when he left. Some of that is obvious, but some of it lives in the background: he\'s traveled, he\'s seen horrible things and wondrous ones too, and now as the book comes to a close, he returns to a life that doesn\'t look familiar any longer. Your character doesn\'t have to go through such immense changes, but chances are they will whether you planned for them to or not. As your story comes to a close, your characters will have been pushed to their limits in one way or another and become someone new. It doesn\'t have to be satisfying, necessarily, but it should be real. It\'s unlikely that the knife-wielding office drone is going to be quite such a shrinking violet after everything that\'s happened to her -- and even if the pirate doesn\'t stay with his first mate, his heart might not be so freewheeling now. Conflicts – Internal And External An antagonist for your protagonist -- an opposing figure or force against your main character -- is a great way to help build out a character arc because it gives your character something to fight or push against, adding tension and strengthening the lead as the story arc progresses.  However, there can be other causes of external conflict than the villain figure, such as a confidant(e), which may be a best friend or family member, who acts as a sounding board for the protagonist and offers support, but who can also accidentally cause trouble for the lead due to well-intentioned meddling. This is something we sometimes see in chick lit, where the boozy best mate might tell the lead’s love interest they’re seeing someone else to create jealousy and supposedly add to the dreamy guy’s interest, but it just leads to a misunderstanding between the would-be couple and scares him off.   Indeed, terrible weather, a rough environment or even disasters can also be ways of preventing the lead from going after their goal, but they can also show their mettle too as often they will carry on anyway.  In terms of external conflicts, things get much more interesting when we put our leads in situations which are utterly hellish based on their past traumas or personal phobias or fears and make them face them! Say, in the simplest terms, someone hates spiders (like me!) and then our protagonist has to crawl through a web of poisonous arachnids to save the kidnapped girl which has been the goal of his or her story arc – not only will the reader be sat on the edge of their seat, wondering if the lead will finally overcome their terror for the sake of their bigger plot aim, but we’ll also be privy to the inner world of the lead and the immense inner pressure NOT to do this scary thing and this is called internal conflict.   It can feel mean to us writers, as we’re often so attached to our characters, but the best thing you can do to create a compelling character and story arc is to put your protagonist in the midst of an external situation that makes them quiver (public speaking is more scary to more people than death, believe it or not!) and ensure that you’re also showing the internal monologue of your lead as they fight against their fears.   You can even make them self-sabotage en route to their goals as humans are often wont to do. For example, a detective character could be out to make a big break in a case and then he’ll go out on an alcoholic bender which makes him lose the trail of the villain.   What If You’re Writing A Series? Generally, I tell author clients that if they’re new writers and want to write a series that they should keep this quiet in their submission package and make their first book as self-contained in terms of its character and story arc as possible so agents and editors can sell it as a standalone novel. This is because taking on a rookie is always a risk and the burden of having to sell multiple books may put some publishing personnel off.   In this case then, the character arc needs to be pretty complete by the end, with the story goal attained or near enough so, although you may want to allow a little wiggle room for a future sequel by not providing complete closure.   However, this is good advice across the board as a too sugary ending can seem unrealistic, but this also depends on the genre you’re writing in as certainly chick lit allows for more happy ever afters.  Obviously though, if you are intending to self-publish, you have carte blanche and often writing a series is a good idea as a way to develop a following, so your character and story arcs can be left more loose at the end, but with important questions left to be answered, despite the lead’s obvious growth, in order to intrigue a reader enough to buy the next book.  What Is A Flat Character Arc? Flat character arcs are exactly as they sound – they stay on a flat line, with the character neither growing in strength and awareness or falling from grace, as in Shakespearean tragedies. They mostly appear in genre fiction, like action writing – James Bond doesn’t change much for all his enemies and situational struggles, for instance – but, more and more, even genre writing is moving towards the emotionally shifting character arc of the protagonist playing a key role in the plot and the book’s overall interest.   If you think of most crime leads now, there’s often a wounded detective figure at the centre (something noted by James Frey in his books on thriller and mystery writing) who finds personal healing by solving the crime and Scandi Noir has brought the victims of the killed characters’ families to the fore so that these figures finding peace and moving on is a key part of the murder plot.   Hence whilst you can pull off a flat character arc by writing in a genre where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or add much nuance to your main figure, it often helps if there’s a sense of inner doubt about their ability to pull off the huge goal before them which adds something of Joseph Campbells’ ‘Hero’s Journey’ (which deeply influenced Star Wars) into play in which the hero hesitates in their confidence to pull off the story arc aim and this adds some important tension – even if, say, Frodo, is good at the start and good at the end of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and so, arguably, for all his struggles, a flat arc character.  How Do You Work Character Arcs Into Your Story Structure? One thing my first writing teacher, Leone Ross, taught me was to really get to learn about my main characters before I started planning my plot, let alone writing my book. She showed us how to create a template for discovering our protagonists in depth. Hence I create a list now that includes the character’s name, age, strengths and weaknesses, their goals etc. Editor’s note: we’ve compiled Sharon’s full list on this Character Arc Worksheet, free for you to download, keep and re-use as often as you need to! A Basic Example Of A Character Arc: Cinderella  Her nasty stepfamily (the opposition figures) are treating her like dirt when a handsome prince comes looking for his ideal dame (the trigger or inciting incident).  The mean girl stepsisters try to force Cinderella aside, but she’s determined to catch her man (the lead sets her story goal and her character arc flows from here).  She may be getting grubby scrubbing floors, but she schemes her way to the ball (character takes dogged action to get her goal and grows in defiance and strength).  She gets to the ball and catches the eye of the prince, only to have to return before her carriage turns into a pumpkin at 12 (darn external obstacle!).   However, she leaves her glass slipper behind and the prince is now so infatuated with Cinders that he scours town looking for its wearer – and, bam, as much as the mean stepsisters may try to force their feet in, only Cinderella’s dainty foot is a match (she gets her story goal and her character has grown from subservience to power and from loneliness and contempt to love).  Does Every Character Need An Arc? Minor players who don’t play a fundamental role like the lead, love interest, confidant(e) or opposition figure certainly don’t need a character arc as their role in your story arc is tangential.  These other key players though should have clear goals too which they pursue and which develop their character over the course of the story arc. The love interest’s aim should always be to win the lead’s love, the opposition figure fights to stop the lead getting their story goal and a confidant(e) is there to support the lead and let them talk about their main plot issues and inner turmoils, but they can also accidentally get in the way of the protagonist’s aims by causing mistaken mix ups and so on.  Hence we need to see the love interest growing as s/he strives to become the person the lead can adore and the opposition figure may grow in strength through conflict, but also face their own fears and weaknesses in this process so perhaps become changed by the end of the plot. A confidant(e) might well also develop in the process of supporting the lead through their journey, realising their own needs.   Conclusion A character’s arc or development involves their proactive pursuit of their story goal which is established when their life is changed by the inciting incident at the start. This helps create a lead readers will identify with and cheer for, but also makes a compelling plot.   The way your lead deals with external challenges, such as conflict with your opposition figure, extreme weather or terrain or natural disasters, as well as facing their inner demons, will all change them as the course of the novel goes on, usually bringing to the fore strengths they never knew they had, as well as some flaws and even possible tendencies to self-sabotage which all add realism to protagonists and make them three-dimensional.  Although some genres have flat character arcs without much, if any, development in the lead, generally it’s a good idea to show the evolution of your protagonist over the course of the book towards a positive end, such as healing grief, as well as getting their external goal, such as catching a killer.   Indeed, in most plots, there’s the main one – say, solving a murder – and a subplot perhaps involving romance, so it could be that both story arcs bring out different parts of the protagonist they didn’t know existed at the start.  However, it’s also important to remember to give character arcs and a sense of personal change to your other main players too, such as the opposition figure, love interest and confidant(e). The latter two don’t always need to be included in a story arc, but I’d argue that a lead without a villain has less chance of becoming all they can be as the enemy figure forces the protagonist to grow in strength and resourcefulness and confront their inner fears and traumas. Plus, without a concrete opposition figure, there’s less conflict, which is the lifeblood of fiction, and you risk your story arc losing drama and impact.  Get to know your lead and other key players well then, preferably by filling in a character questionnaire like the one above before you start work on your book or even short story. Keep asking yourself why, say, a character buys underwear from a certain place and on and on as this will reveal more and more of their values and beliefs and, even if you never directly use this material in your novel, it will give you a confidence as you write these characters.   After this, imagine the world through their eyes – not yours – considering the language or diction they would use as fits their education, interests and background, as this is key to establishing a convincing narrative voice and viewpoint, as well as creating distinctive dialogue – all on top of making a great character arc.  It’s worth every moment that you put into knowing your main characters and especially your lead, so you can convincingly show how they act to get their plot goal and react to the obstacles the villain and other external and internal elements which stand in the way of them getting their story arc aim.   It may be painful to see your treasured protagonist suffer as you make them face their worst fears, but it’s what will guarantee your book is gripping and up its chances of publication or be successful when you self-publish.  And, mostly, by the end, you get to give the lead their dream or a form of closure which life often doesn’t offer, so it’s not all bad news, but just being cruel to be kind to make them figures your reader never forgets.  About Sharon Dr Sharon Zink is a former English Literature academic and the author of Welcome to Sharonville (Unthank Books, 2014), which was longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award.   She is also a feminist writing coach, long-term Jericho Writers editor and founder of The Feminist Writing School which has a mission to get more womxn’s books written, published and out there changing the world, hosting online courses and in-person workshops and retreats.   She lives in the UK by the sea with her cat, Muse, and a large book collection. You can receive her weekly Love Letters from the Literary Revolution with a bundle of articles on writing as a thank you for joining her community, follow her on Instagram where she is drsharonzink or join her supportive feminist writing group on Facebook as she loves getting to know her fellow authors.  
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