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‘Thou Shall Not Plagiarize’ – The Cardinal Sin of Writing

 

The Cardinal Sin of Writing: Plagiarism

If we, in the book publishing industry, could adapt a Bible quotation that is emblematic of one of our greatest bugbears, then it would probably be Leviticus 9:11 –

“Thou shall not steal another person’s wording or ideas.”

Although it is unlikely that the Levites of long ago had the 21st century publishing industry in mind when that particular verse was appropriated, the sentiments are ones that book editors today are at pains to emphasize to writers – and which they privately gripe about in, admittedly, somewhat less theistic terms.

The Internet provides us with an immeasurable source of information and knowledge. In fact, today, it is the foremost method by which we share ideas and opinions, and unlike any other era in human history, the dissemination of our thoughts is now wide-spread, borderless, and instant. However, it is no secret that such ease of access to information – that, previous to the online age was largely the jurisdiction of (shock, horror!) books and encyclopaedias – frequently gives rise to instances of incorrectly used or improperly cited material by authors. In particular, that wonderful, seductive little tool known as “copy and paste” has much to answer for with regard to the suffering of modern day book editors, whose raison d’etre is the preservation of the values and integrities of the literary world, one new manuscript at a time.

Admittedly, while the above “mission statement” might be a touch hyperbolic, the issue of Internet plagiarism is nonetheless a significant one. Passing off the work of others as one’s own, carries with it not only the very real danger of legal trouble, but the possibility of severely undermining the integrity and reputation of the plagiarizing author. Moreover, it is often the case that when a book editor encounters a manuscript that contains plagiarized material, that editor will – subconsciously or otherwise – pass negative judgement on that work. Pleading ignorance regarding plagiarism is not an excuse either; it is expected that all writers who are committed to originality, self-development, and the achievement of high-standards are fully aware of the importance of transparency and authenticity.

The workload of a book editor is at the best of times heavy, and at the worst of times all-consuming; that is not a cause for griping, of course. Indeed, for those of us with a love of books, the opportunity to immerse one’s self day-to-day in the rewarding and unpredictable world of newly-written ideas is an often-acknowledged blessing. That said, the discovery of plagiarism – particularly when it is deemed to have been intentional – will very often give rise to an impulsive twinge of annoyance within an editor.

And let it be stated, loud and clear, that book editors generally are seasoned pros when it comes to sniffing out falsely attributed, unacknowledged, or – let’s not beat around the bush – stolen ideas or text. The tiniest, most subtle deviation in the flow of a narrative, a misplaced comma, or an obtrusive word-use can trigger a big, red, screaming “PLAGIARISM ALERT” siren in the mind of an editor.

In the cases of emerging authors, in particular, eager for their work to make an impression on publishing houses, the discovery of plagiarized material within a manuscript will only be met with disapproval by a would-be publisher or an editor. Even if the instance of plagiarism in a manuscript is slight or unintentional, the authenticity of the work in its entirety may very well be called into question. And let’s be frank, once the seed of doubt as to the conscientiousness, or even trustworthiness, of an author is sown, the working relationship between the writer and publisher may encounter difficulties going forward.
So, with all of this in mind, how best can authors insure that they do not fall into the plagiarism pit?

Original Ideas. While the Internet is indeed a friend and an invaluable resource for research and information, the ideas that an author prints on paper should, for the most part, be their own original thought. The narrative itself should be unique to the author, and should not be taken from the words of others, unless directly quoted or paraphrased alongside clear acknowledgement of the original author.

Cite Sources. As professional editors, we understand that properly formatting a reference used from another source (book, magazine, article, interview , etc) can be tricky because the rules not only change sometimes, but there is not even one main style guide to follow, which can depend on your industry (i.e. media uses AP style) or topic (i.e. college papers will often require APA). There is MLA, AP, APA, Chicago and so forth that all provide style guidelines on how to cite sources.  This can seem intimidating and confusing to writers with limited or no experience in using citations. (This is also one significant reason why you hire professional editors.) No matter the style guideline, typically the same basic info is always required in citing a source: author name, publication, date published.

Paraphrasing Can’t Save You. Just because you have paraphrased or summarized someone else’s material doesn’t mean you don’t have to make reference to, or cite, the original source. Yes, paraphrasing is a good way to avoid plagiarism, but if you paraphrase using original words or concepts, you must give credit to the source, or creator, of the material.

Quote It. We find that one of easiest, most effective means to avoid plagiarism is to quote the original source directly, using quotation marks to enclose the entire statement. When a quote is more than 40 words or four lines of text, the writer should use a block quote style (indented without quotation marks).

self-plagairismCite Yourself. One tricky form of plagiarism is when you do it to yourself, which means that you (the writer) use material that you already published or presented without stating that the work had previously been used. College students, for instance, may be tempted to use work they submitted previously in a new paper. Authors may likewise use material from a previous book in a new book. No matter who said it first, including you, the material should be cited as to when (date) and how (article, book, etc) it had been used.

There are Limits. If a writer chooses to quote from the work of another, then any quoted text  is restricted under the “Fair Use” rule.  Just because you give another source credit, doesn’t mean you can use it without permission. Some guidelines suggest that quoted material be restricted to under 300 words or so and correctly cited; any more than that amount results in an obligation to seek permission from the original author to use his or her material. However, you should limit using material from another source both qualitatively as well as quantitatively. In other words, don’t use too much and don’t use the “heart of the work,” or main point(s), of another person’s material.

The avoidance of plagiarism is not an onerous undertaking and, essentially, it is a competency that all good writers should be cognisant of and endeavour towards. The Canadian artist, Bonnie Hamlin, wrote that “Gathering your own reference materials, sketches and using your own imagination is going to help you grow as an artist far more than stealing someone else’s work.” Any aspiring writer who is serious about their craft would do well to be mindful of such sentiments.

 

Cormac Lambe, editor

 

Are You Unknowingly Resisting Book Marketing?

 

No change equal no progress   Many authors and others who have developed products and services realize they need marketing, but what some want is growth without change. For instance, this is an excerpt from a conversation with a new author about marketing his book after he had no sales for more than six months on Amazon.

CLIENT: Can you help me market my book?

MARKETING REP: I read it, and it needs some editorial work, namely editing. CLIENT: Well, the people who’ve read my book say it’s good. MARKETING REP: You want the book to be great, not just good enough for family and friends. CLIENT: I think it’s good enough. I just want the book out there so more people will read it. MARKETING REP: You do realize that the number one form of advertising is and always has been word of mouth. If people think something is really good, they will spread the word. Let’s start by giving copies away to people who will be ambassadors, such as bloggers. CLIENT: We shouldn’t have to give books away. People will like it and want to buy it because the book is about something everyone wants and needs – SEX. MARKETING REP: There are lots of books about sex. Have you read any of the more popular authors, such as… CLIENT: I don’t want to read their books because I want my style to be original. MARKETING REP: [Changing the subject from content] Your book is about 7,000 words, so maybe you should consider lengthening it to justify your price. Right now, it’s not competitively priced. CLIENT: How much money will I make if I change the price? MARKETING REP: How much money have you made at the current price? CLIENT: None, but… MARKETING REP: I don’t think we will be able to help you. This conversation exemplifies someone who believes that marketing is based on what he likes, not the target audience. The author wants more sales and exposure without having to change anything about his previous attempts, including fundamental things like the product itself, pricing, and promotion.  Here are the author’s mistakes in thinking about marketing:

  • He is focused on making money, not the customer.
  • He believes he can sell to anyone because the topic is popular.
  • He thinks his friends are a better authority of what is marketable.

While this scenario may seem unlikely to some authors, many authors believe that they can simply write what they want and how they want it and the public will clamor for it because it’s interesting. Marketing a book is like marketing any other product; the packaging, pricing and promotion must be effective. Marketing is both a science and an art. This means you need as much imagination as you need research, which both involve change. Understand and accept this so you can ultimately find the right formula for success.   -Annette Johnson

Dissecting the Published Book: What’s in a Copyright Page?

 

Dissecting the Published Book: What’s in a Copyright Page?


Many traditionally published authors will never have to ask themselves this question. However, if you are among the growing majority of authors who are investing in self-publishing, you will find yourself quickly becoming a guru of publishing factoids. The copyright page is a vital part of your book that will protect your rights as an author and will give important information to identify the book. Missing even one step of the copyright page can be very detrimental to your book. Below are the important sections in a copyright page in order from the top of the page to the bottom.

Cover Credit (Optional): If you had a graphic artist or photography design your cover, you can give them credit here. It will usually look like this: Cover design by (artist’s name here).

Copyright Year: This is extremely important and will protect your rights to the book. The line will look like this: Copyright © (year the book was first published) (publishing company name). Underneath, you should have the line: All Rights Reserved. An example looks like this:

Copyright © 2014 Allwrite Advertising and Publishing

All Rights Reserved.

Remember, as a self-publisher, you are your own publishing company. Therefore, you will have to come up with your own publishing company name.

Copyright Claim: This is a standard copyright claim for all books. For fiction books, it will usually look something like this:

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

For memoirs, historical fiction, or non-fiction books, you might want to include a claim like this:

This book is based on actual events and persons. However, names and some likenesses have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved in the events.

Publishing Address: As a self-published author, you want to make it especially easy for people to contact you about your book if they want to purchase it, review it, etc. The publishing address is a great way to do that. Here, you want to start it with a line such as, “Address inquiries to the publisher.” Then, you can include a physical address (you may want to get a P.O. Box if you do not want to give readers your home address), an email address, and/or a website.

Printing Details: Here, you will want to include the year and place your book was initially printed. An example might look like this:

First Printing: August 2014

Printed and bound in the United States of America

ISBN Number: Your ISBN number is, in essence, your book’s social security number. The person who owns the ISBN number, in short, owns the rights to the book, so you’ll want to make sure to register and purchase your own ISBN number. You should use the 13-digit number here and include the dashes.

Library of Congress Control Number: The Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) registers your book with the Library of Congress. As with the ISBN number, you will want to register for this number yourself.

With those elements in place, you will have a professional copyright page for your self-published book! For more information about the process of self-publishing, please email us at editor@e-allwrite.com.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Write: a 5 Step Process

 

How to Stop Procrastinating and Write: a 5 Step Process

Often, the hardest part of writing is actually sitting down and making time to write. As writers, we spend our time daydreaming stories, jotting down characters, taking notes of interesting names or captivating descriptions “for future reference.” However, once we sit down to write, we often find ourselves too distracted to get any work done. With that in mind, here are five ways to quit procrastinating and simply write:

1. Turn off your phone.

Your cellphone can be a major source of distraction and procrastination. What might start off as “one more text” can easily turn into an hour of returning calls and responding to emails. If you are worried about missing important calls and don’t want to physically shut your cellphone down, make a point of texting your friends beforehand to let them know not to bother you for a set amount of time unless there is an emergency.

2. Disconnect your Internet.

Like the cellphone, the Internet is an easy distraction, especially if you write on your computer. If you trust yourself to turn your Wifi off and keep it off, that may be a viable option. However, if you know the Internet is just too tempting, find a way to write somewhere away from your computer. Pick up a notepad. Take your computer someplace you do not have Internet access. Ask for a typewriter for Christmas. Give yourself permission to unplug from extra distractions; they will still be there when you finish writing.

3. Give yourself a prompt.

One of the most popular procrastination excuses among writers is that they simply, “don’t feel inspired.” If you can’t find your muse for your current project, don’t let that stop you from writing. Give yourself a prompt and write something new. For fiction, put your characters in a new situation, something they wouldn’t normally experience. For nonfiction writers, read or listen to something that counters or even criticizes your position. This may not only give you more points to write about, but it will ignite your desire to prove your point(s) in writing. Finally, you can write in a another style to challenge yourself and test the outcome. You might surprise yourself by what you come up with.  For instance, you can try to write something funny or clever rather than sticking to serious prose.

4. Write with a friend.

Writing is, by nature, sometimes an isolating experience. Occasionally, it’s nice to switch things up by writing with a friend. Pick a friend who enjoys writing as much as you do and challenge each other to write. Set a word count and race to the finish. Bounce ideas off one another. Give each other prompts. For an extra confidence boost, share your writing with one another when you’re finished and give each other positive, constructive feedback.

5. Turn off the self-defeating messages inside your head.

Of course, the worst procrastination demon of all is that of self-defeat. Like any other artists, writers can sometimes feel overwhelmed and insecure about their work or ability. With that said, you can’t let your own anxieties stop you from finishing your project. Remember: you will never become a better writer by simply wishing you were one; the only way to improve is to write more and read good material.

With these five tips, you should be able to complete your writing project in no time! If you need help writing or rewriting, you can find excellent tips on our blog, or you can contact our editors at morgan@allwritepublishing.com.

Join Allwrite’s Twitter Party!

 

It’s a Party, Allwrite!

Do you have a company or product you need to advertise but don’t know where to start? Do you have questions about starting up a website, branding your image, or getting your name out there? Are you frustrated by conflicting information or answers on Google? It’s time to ask the experts!

At Allwrite Advertising, we’re celebrating the recent renovations to our UPDATED ADVERTISING SITE by hosting a Twitter party for anyone who wants to know more about advertising and marketing. We will answer all of your advertising questions, no matter how big or small, such as…

• What is the difference between PR and Marketing?
• How do you turn Twitter followers into clients?
• How do I use social media to promote my book?
• What are some common mistakes people make while marketing?
• What is one common mistake businesses make when first setting up a website?
• How do I get traffic to my website?

This is an open forum and no questions will go unanswered!

What is a Twitter Party?

A Twitter Party is a virtual “party” in which Twitter users can connect and discuss certain topics while using a designated hashtag. You can learn more about them on Twitter.

When is the Twitter Party happening?

Wednesday, May 1st. From 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m EST.

Who can ask questions?

Anyone with a Twitter account! Simply ask your question (in 140 characters or less) and don’t forget to include our hashtag: #itsallwrite

How many questions can I ask?

As many as you want! This is your opportunity to get answers to all your burning questions, utilize it!

What types of questions can I ask?

You can ask whatever you would like. However, we do ask that people keep their questions broad and accessible to a wide audience (ex: “what colors should I use in my logo?”) rather than specific questions about their own product (ex: “Should I take away the blue line in my logo?”).

Where can I find out more about your services?

If you are interested in our advertising services, you can visit our website at http://www.allwriteadvertising.com. You can also call us at (678) 904-7477 to schedule a consolation.

Five Most Common Grammatical Mistakes

 

Five Most Common Grammatical Mistakes

Everyone knows a good story can sell, but what about its composition? It’s one thing to have a good story; however, if your grammar, punctuation and spelling fall short, you might not have the adequate tools to tell it or at least not clearly. You want to put your best foot forward when presenting your writing to an audience or a publisher. Proper grammar, therefore, is a necessity. While it may seem petty to some, poorly constructed sentences can be the death of a good story. If your grammar is not up to par, publishing houses will not even give your story the time of day. With that said, here are five common grammatical mistakes that you can make sure to correct before you submit your manuscript:

1. Keep your punctuation inside the quotation marks. Whenever quotation marks are used, make sure to keep any punctuation (commas, questions marks, exclamation marks) inside the quote.

Wrong:

“What’s going on”? Sally asked.

Right:

“What’s going on?” Sally asked.

2. Make sure you have a new paragraph for every new speaker. As long as there is more than one character speaking, each character needs his or her own paragraph, no matter how long or short the dialogue is.

Wrong:

“Who’s there?” Sally asked. “It’s me,” Charlie said.

Right:

“Who’s there?” Sally asked.

“It’s me,” Charlie said.

“You scared me.”

Notice that the last sentence has no attribution (speaker identified), but we know Sally is speaking. How do we know? The writer started a new paragraph immediately after the character to whom she was talking.

3. Use commas to separate character names from their descriptors. When introducing a new character, authors often like to give them a small description to separate them from the rest of the cast. If the description is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, you need to set it off with commas.

Wrong:

Sally was angry with Charlie her annoying younger brother for scaring her.

Right:

Sally was angry with Charlie, her annoying younger brother, for scaring her.

4. Watch out for tense changes mid-sentence. Present tense (I am) occurs in the here and now, past tense (I was) explains things that have already happened, and future tense (I will) refers to something that is going to happen. Unless it is a conscious stylistic choice, the narrative of the novel should always remain consistently in one tense.

Wrong:

Sally chased Charlie through the house but can’t catch him.

Right:

Sally chased Charlie through the house but couldn’t catch him.

5. Use contractions to make dialogue sound more believable. Contractions occur when two words are combined to make speech flow smoother (ex: do not becomes don’t). Any lack of contractions should be purposeful character quirks or your character will come off sounding stuffy and stilted. Mostly likely, if a character isn’t using contractions, they’re a historical figure.

Wrong:

“I am sorry for scaring you,” Charlie said and offered his toy dinosaur as reparation.

Right:

“I’m sorry for scaring you,” Charlie said and offered his toy dinosaur as reparation.

The error comes, however, when these contractions are used incorrectly. This is especially true with the following:

Its vs. It’s  (it is)

Your vs. You’re  (you are)

Their vs. They’re  (they are)

Were vs. We’re  (we are)

With these tips in mind, you will make sure readers lose themselves in your storytelling, not your grammatical mistakes. To learn more about editing or to receive quote from editing professionals, contact our editors at editor@e-allwrite.com.

Outlining Your Plot: Three-Act Structure

 

Outlining Your Plot: Three-Act Structure

Authors, it’s about time we faced the truth: there is a method to the madness of a starving artist. Structure does not hinder our creative freedom. It, in fact, challenges us to write smarter. Are there ways to get around the three-act structure? Yes, there sure are, but you can’t break the rules if you don’t first know the method behind them. With that in mind, here’s a quick and easy template into which writers should challenge themselves to fit their own novels.

Plot Outline: Describe your novel in one to two sentences. You should be able to whittle your story down to the essence.

ACT I:

Answer these three questions for your readers:

Who is your main character?

What does he/she want? (motivation)

What significant event changes everything?

This significant event will be called your inciting incident. This inciting incident will kick your novel into action. It marks the point in which the readers have finished getting to know the characters and now are propelled into the plot of the story. For example, the inciting incident in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone occurs when Harry, the forgotten child living under the steps, decides to accept his invitation to go to Hogwarts.

ACT II:

Your second act is the meat of your story. These will be the various trials your main character goes through in attempt to get the single thing he/she wants. Every trial should be an obstacle in your character’s way to keep him/her from getting what he/she wants.

Trial I:

Trial II:

Trial III:

Trial IV:

Your second act should end with a turning point. This is often known as the “black moment,” or the moment when all seems lost. In order for the resolution to be truly satisfying at the end, you need to use this point to make everything as hopeless as possible for the hero. For example, in a romantic comedy, this is usually the moment the main character has committed some seemingly unforgivable act and the lovers have separated, fully intending never to get back together (of course, as an audience, we know better). On the flipside, if your novel is a tragedy, this is the point in which the main character is on the top of the world and the author is preparing the readers for the fall.

ACT III:

For the most part, Act III will be split up into two sections:

False resolution: how does your main character get what he/she wants?

True resolution: how does your main character get what he/she needs?

The false resolution is exactly what it sounds like: when the characters have achieved what they want, but not what they need. The false resolution and true resolution are what separates our main characters from the rest of the flock; it’s the very thing that makes their story worth telling.

(Spoiler alert:) in The Hunger Games, the false resolution occurs when Katniss and Peeta seemingly beat the Hunger Games. However, their trials are not over, there is a twist: the rules of the Games have changed and they now have to kill each other. The true resolution occurs when they defy the system and threaten to take Nightlock together, refusing to play by the rules. In defeating the Games, they have survived the main drama of the story, but it isn’t until they threaten the system do they become more than survivors; they become heroes worthy of having their story told.

Is it possible to write a successful story that does not adhere to the three-act structure? Certainly. However, make sure that you know and understand the rules before you try to break them. To learn more about how to strengthen your writing, contact our editors at editor@e-allwrite.com.

5 Ways to Brand Yourself as an Author

 

5 Ways to Brand Yourself as an Author

5 Ways to Brand Yourself as an Author

It’s no secret that the world of publishing has changed. Books are going digital, self-publishing is coming out of the shadows, and authors are no longer hermits hiding behind a mask of anonymity. In many ways, we should have seen this coming. Musicians do more than just play instruments; they also design clothing lines and create fragrances. Actors don’t only act; they also speak on panels and support popular causes. And now, writers cannot only write; they must also find ways to promote themselves.

However, before you pack your bags and hop on the tour bus, you have to do a little preliminary work called branding. As anyone selling a product will tell you, you have to know what you’re selling before you try to sell it. You need to know who you are as an author before you can try to promote yourself to the world. Skipping the branding step is like handing out blank business cards to potential clients. With that in mind, here are five easy ways for authors to brand themselves:

1. Get your own website. Remember that blank business card? Neither does anyone else.  Like contact information on a business card, authors need to think of their career as a business and make sure they provide their readers with everything from contact information to personal tidbits. Probably the best way to do this is via a website. In fact, a website is vital to an author’s success. After all, what is the first thing anyone does these days when they hear about something that interests them? They type it into Google to find more information about it. Having your own website does not only put your name out there, it also gives you complete control of your online presence.

Without a website, you’re allowing readers to define who you are, which can be a tricky slope. One bad review can put a mark on your character. However, once you buy your own website, you become the one in control of telling readers exactly who you are. Just as many readers judge a book by the cover, they may also judge the author by the website, so make sure to put your best foot forward and give it an simple, easy on the eyes design. Websites are also useful for promoting all of your books in one place and keeping readers up to date on all your activities.

2. Get a book trailer. If a website is a tool to define the author, a book trailer is a great way to define your book. Book trailers are quick and easy ways to spark some real interest among readers and get their attention instantly. In the world of movies, many screenwriters will develop what they call an “elevator pitch.” The premise is, in case you find yourself in an elevator with Martin Scorsese, you can pitch him your script in a way that will catch his attention before he reaches his floor. The book trailer, in many ways, is the author’s “elevator pitch.” This is your opportunity to catch your reader’s attention instantly and make sure they want more.

3. Talk to your readers. The digital age has given readers and writers something they never had before—an instant method of communication. The dialogue between readers and writers used to be a one-way street, generally speaking, a brief bout of praise at a book signing or a long-winded letter of admiration. Now, through social media, readers have the chance to get to know their authors and engage in a genuine two-way dialogue.

Develop a genuine interest in your readers. People respond to genuine emotion. With that said, be careful not to alienate potential readers. Unless the driving force of your novel revolves around politics, try to steer clear of controversial issues, even if they “started it.” The internet is full of bad apples, so don’t let one negative commenter turn you into the petty author who argues with his or her readers. Remember, the internet is a public space and everyone is watching. Rather, if you take the high ground and treat all comments (even the negative ones) with respect, your readers and followers will be the ones to defend you.

4. Give yourself a platform. It’s the first question anyone will ask you when they learn that you are a writer. “What is your book about?” Every book should have a cause or a theme behind it. If you know the underlining theme of your book, you will know your target audience. A political biography about Al Gore might be, at the heart of it, about climate change. A fictional story about family dynamics might have mother/daughter relationships at the core of it. A dystopian fantasy novel might really be about empowering young women. Once you know your platform, make sure you use it to open up discussions among your readers. Brand yourself as an expert or, at the very least, an important voice in the field of your study or topic.

5. Give something away. Promotions always catch the interest of readers—especially when they see a product for free or for a discounted price. Online promotions via social media outlets are a great way to attract the attention of your readers and to keep your books flowing off the shelves.

Building partnerships is a vital part of promotions. Once you know your platform, reach out to organizations with similar interests or target audience as yours. For instance, find bloggers with a comparable focus who are willing to promote your book. You can also find companies to give your readers free products for using their services. With everyone working towards the same cause, a partnership can be easily beneficial for everyone involved. It’s important to note that you have to know your platform before you can build a partnership. Otherwise, if you partner with people unrelated or even antithetical to your cause, you may be sending your readers mixed messages.

With these 5 tips, you can (and should) start promoting yourself as an author even before your books hit the shelves. Then, once you have a concrete online presence and a solid idea of what your book represents, you can start to really market your book. You will be able to get involved in activities such as book signings and meet your readers face-to-face, knowing you know how to use the tools to engage them in meaningful, relevant discussions. At Allwrite Publishing, we offer many tools to help authors market and brand their books, such as book trailers and more. Allwrite Advertising offers branding services for authors, including online marketing and public relations. Email us at editor@e-allwrite.com for more information.

Written by Morgan Hufstader, Managing Editor at Allwrite Advertising & Publishing. Contact Morgan at morgan@allwritepublishing.com.

Ten Things No One Tells New Writers to Expect

 

Ten Things No One Tells New Writers to Expect

Ten Things No One Tells New Writers to Expect

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

In a perfect world, every new writer would receive one, definitive manual loaded with insider secrets designed to give writers a realistic idea of what to expect when they write their first novel. After all, such books exist for every topic, including how to handle pregnancy and how to land your dream job. Although there are countless books and articles about writing, several magazines for writers, and numerous online writing communities, I don’t know of any one source that offers everything writers can expect.

So you wrote a novel and someone offered to publish it.  If you were like me as a first-time author, you’re wondering how this will work.  You’ve dreamed about this day, but now you’re a clueless publication virgin and with no one to tell you what to do next.   Luckily, writers are creative, and we’re more often than not able to learn as we go. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few words of advice that I’ve learned from my own experience. Here are ten things no one tells writers to expect—things that will happen sooner or later:

  1. If you’re serious about writing as a career, you’re going to work harder than you ever have in your life.  Whether you still have a day job or not, you’re going to be pounding the computer keys at odd hours, on weekends, even on holidays.  No one will understand why you need to work so hard or long.  They won’t understand deadlines or edits.  But if you want to succeed, the investment of time is vital.
  2. Your first edits will seem like Greek.  Most writers approach new edits with a tight ball of dread in their stomach. Once the file arrives with the tracked changes and other incomprehensible edits, it’s easy to panic. I know I looked over mine, freaked out, figured I’d never be able to do this, and all but decided my career as author would crash before it began.  But it’s really not at all hard to learn.  I did and so can you.
  3. If you haven’t already, create an online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Pin Interest, and LinkedIn are good places to start. Start a blog immediately, since it takes time to grow an audience.  Establish yourself as a credible writer.  By the time your novel is released, you’ll already have a wide audience.
  4. Promotion is the dirty word you’ll come to hate.  Some hate feeling like they’re flaunting themselves to the world, and others think that it eats up too much time.  But in a fast changing world of eBooks and more, competition is fierce.  If you want readers to find your book, let alone read the thing, you have to be as dedicated to promoting it as you are to writing it. There’s also a fine line between promotion and overkill.  You’ll find resistance and even outright opposition in places like the Amazon forums where people may shred authors who dare to self-promote their work. Be aware that the internet is full of all types of nasty characters, so grow a thick skin, and don’t violate their rules or they may put you on their “never buy” lists.  Also, if you use Facebook and Twitter only to promote, you’ll lose followers.
  5. Speaking of a thick skin and growing one – do it.  Now.  When you put your work out to the world, some people will love it.  Others will hate it.  You’ll get reviews so glowing you blush and others so bad they send you for your favorite stress reliever.   If you write anything with sex, violence or anything controversial, get ready for your community response.  In the small town where I live, some say I write dirty books, and others call it smut or trash.  Still yet, others applaud my efforts and read my books.  Be ready for a myriad of opinions.
  6. Be real.  You may use a pen name, but your readers still want to know something about you.  Tell them simple things like your favorite color, your favorite author, or your favorite music.  Through social networking tools, authors are more accessible to the public than ever before, and people are curious.  So share what you’re comfortable sharing.  You don’t have to tell them where you live or the names of your kids or your dog, but open up and be a real person behind the back blurb.  On the same token, if you used to dash out to the grocery store wearing your oldest, stretched out T-shirt with those pedal pushers your Aunt Susie gave you ten years ago, I’d suggest you stop now.  If you don’t, it’ll be the one day someone rushes up to you, calls your name, and tells you how much they loved your book.
  7. Think before you post.  Like everyone else, I have opinions, and many of them.  But I don’t post much on any social network about my religious views (or lack thereof) or my political affiliations or anything that’s sure to anger someone.  I learned the hard way, but after a few simple comments went viral and started a firestorm, I stopped.  You don’t want to lose readers because you support a different presidential candidate or are on opposite sides of an issue.  It’s just simpler to keep your views out of the broad public spectrum.
  8. You aren’t going to get rich anytime soon.  Almost everyone I know assumes I’m very wealthy now just like Danielle Steele, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, and the other biggies.  I have multiple novels out there in both eBook and paperback, so of course I’m rich, right? Well, no.  Actually I’m a long damn way from it, but I am making a little money. It takes a lot of time to build an audience and to sell books consistently.  Oh, and royalties, they’re months behind.  If your work is sold on a third party site (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, any online or other retailer), the royalties don’t show up for another quarter.  This means your first quarter (Jan, Feb, March) may reach you sometime around the end of summer – or beyond.
  9. After the first book or two, some people who have known you for years will assume you’re somehow working the system and can’t be a “real author” because they know you.  Others will become tongue-tied in your presence and will have no clue what to say.  You’ll be most comforted by the family, friends, neighbors, and others who still treat you the way they always have, especially if they read your books too.
  10. One day, when you least expect it, a reader, possibly one you’ve never met before, will make your day and touch you on a deep emotional level.  When you manage to reach someone with your work, it’s a humbling and beautiful emotion.  I tend to write about everyday people, and some of my novels are set where I live.  I used to teach school in my spare time as a substitute teacher.  A young man who never cracked a book in school and didn’t even finish high school called me one day to tell me he read one of my novels and it gave him a sense of purpose. He could connect to the main character who, like him, came from the wrong side of town.  Now he can’t get his nose out of books.

On the road to publishing, there are so many other things you will learn the hard way, but at least now you won’t be as blindsided by a few of them.

Here are a few places where you can find me:

A Page in the Life blog: http://leannsontheimermurphyblogspotwriterauthor.blogspot.com
Rebel Writer blog: http://leeannsontheimermurphy.blogspot.com
Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Twitter: @leeannwriter

Author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Ann-Sontheimer-Murphy/e/B004JPBM6I/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

How to Write Three Novels a Year in Your Spare Time

 

How to Write Three Novels a Year in Your Spare Time

This blog article is for all the writers who are wondering what I’m talking about when I claim to know how they can write three novels a year in their meager spare time. I’m not talking about 50K novellas masquerading as novels. I’m talking real books, around 80K words minimum.

The math is actually simple. There’s no trick, or rather, there’s one big trick: Developing enough self-discipline to sit down and write for one hour a day.

Before I get too far into this, let me offer some statistics on my own writing. I started self-publishing in June 2011. By June 2012, I had published 15 novels, including two non-fiction (a pet biography titled “An Angel With Fur” and a writing self-help parody, “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time”), two trilogies, and a slew of thrillers. These were not short pieces either. My average thriller runs 85K-90K words.

Here’s how I did it: I committed myself to writing seven days a week, twelve hours a day. I figured I would do that for three or four months, then slow the pace, but I got carried away and kept it up for a year, mainly to set a kind of personal best. The truth is it became a habit. Not necessarily a healthy habit, as sitting in one place for twelve hours a day isn’t the best thing for your physiology, but it is what it is, and I’m still in one piece.

I’m not a whiz typist. If I can manage 700 words of decent quality work in an hour, I’m happy. Then I’d take a few weeks off and edit what I’d written, then spend some time plotting the next one, and then I’d dive in again.

I have a very special situation. I don’t work a day job, so I can do this. I recognize most can’t. That brings me full circle back to the topic of this blog.

Can you write three novels a year, say an average of 80K words each? Of course, you can.

Commit to spending one hour a day, every day, to writing your novel. If you are slightly better than I am (which wouldn’t be hard, really, as my typing sucks), you could average 800 words per hour. Multiply that by 300 days. Presto! You have three 80K word novels.

All you have to do is develop the discipline to write one lousy hour a day. That’s it. And you can take 65 days off per year from writing, and use 5 or 10 to plot the next one, and another 12 to edit what you just wrote. When you’re editing/rewriting, spend two hours a day. This will pay off and seem like not a whole lot after you’ve gotten good at writing 800 words every day.

Part of the secret is the preparation. I do a two or three paragraph outline of the high concept of my book idea, and then I do single sentence descriptions of each chapter, telling the story in snippets from beginning to end. Nothing fancy. Here’s an example:

Chapter 1, car explodes; protagonist introduced; bad guys chase her to mine; she escapes.

Chapter 2, flashback to claustrophobic accident as child; sibling dies but she is saved; flashback to present; she breaks into daylight at end of Chapter 2.

And so on…

That way I know roughly what I want to accomplish with each chapter, and I can estimate the number of words it will take. 2K. 3K. Whatever.

Then I sit down, and I start writing. I keep writing until I’m done. I don’t edit as I go along, and I don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over the perfect sentence. I have good days and bad days. I catch the bad days on rewrite. The good days tend to outnumber the bad ones so far.

Can this simple recipe actually work for you? Sure it can. Why not? It’s not superhuman. It doesn’t assume you’re Hemingway or some kind of writing ninja. It merely assumes you’re willing to devote an hour a day to your craft, and commit to it without making excuses or finding reasons not to write.

If that seems like too much, you can write two novels a year, and have more like 150 days where you aren’t writing – where you’re editing, or outlining, or researching, or just relaxing. The point is that you need to commit, focus yourself for an hour, then write, come hell or high water. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. An hour a day isn’t a marathon. It’s actually not much at all. Virtually anyone could manage it.

So here’s a question and a challenge. What are you waiting for? What’s your excuse for not being a writer? If you’re not writing your novel after reading this, you have no excuse. Stop telling yourself you have nothing to write about. Everyone has something to write about.

Now you know what you need to do. Have at it.

Russell Blake is the author of Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, the Zero Sum trilogy of Wall Street thrillers, Night of the Assassin, King of Swords, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, An Angel With Fur, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), and his latest, releasing July 23, Silver Justice. His blog can be found at http://RussellBlake.com and his books can be purchased at Amazon, where his author page lists his full backlist at http://www.amazon.com/Russell-Blake/e/B005OKCOLE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1