Painting WORD Pictures

En-route to the FICTION section in my local Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the cover of one of the children’s books displayed on a table caught my attention. The art work was breathtaking. I picked it up and flipped through page after page of mesmerizing illustrations. 

In my humble opinion, it is often the Illustrator (and not the author) that should be credited for the success of some of many of these so-called picture books.

I am not a Children’s Author. However, I have read many such books to my kindergartners over the years. And I realized as I stood in the bookstore that one of the things I liked most (and the students responded to) was the VISUAL.

But, writing FICTION, as I do, requires the ability to  paint the VISUAL of my stories with rich vocabulary… to use language to give readers that other dimension necessary for limitless enjoyment.

So when they browse the pages of my books, they too will be mesmerized with the VISUAL that only an author’s words can paint.

Fashionably Late

The last line in one of my chapters said “Snow began to fall.” However, it was raining in the next chapter. Big trouble. I had to rewrite a little to make sure the weather in those two chapters was identical. 

In your writing, if your character is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, then the next paragraph cannot have him shrugging off his coat.

You can save yourself a lot of work if you will plan these things out down to the minutest detail before you write. 

It won’t be just a matter of substituting one word (rain) for the other (snow). No, what about the character’s physical and emotional reactions to the weather (He shivered…) or the fact that he/she probably wouldn’t be playing tennis in the snow?

I found it to be, quite literally, a house of cards. Maybe dominoes resting on each other would be a more accurate description. Just one tiny push—one small mistake—and it all comes tumbling down.

It is embarrassing to look at a proof and see gigantic mistakes staring right back at you. (I have literally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand more than once and said, “Duh!”) 

If I need to slow down and miss a deadline, then so be it. Better to be late than produce a book riddled with mistakes.

You may think, “I’ll just leave these things for my editor to sort out and clean up for me.”

From my experience, that would be a big mistake. I had my book edited twice and I still found mistakes on my twelfth read through!  

That’s right. I had competent editors, about eight months apart, go through my manuscript. Still, content mistakes were found as I read through them later.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don’t—and will never—know the story like I do. Or, maybe they just get caught up in the story and forget what they are supposed to be doing. I’m really not sure. 

But, the point is this: Ultimately, it is your book. The buck stops with you. 

So, be diligent. Be a perfectionist. Make it the best it can be.

Even if, like me, you end up being fashionably late.

Go Ahead and Say It

We authors are all about words, aren’t we? Saying things in just the right way to elicit emotional responses from our readers… creating perfect visual pictures… producing tension and suspense…

The things we fail to say accurately can be just as important in producing that next Bestseller.

They are often little things. The season, the weather, time of day. Perhaps a current event (911 for example), a famous place (Grand Canyon), even an address (1900 Pennsylvania Ave.)

The exact moment is crucial in a book I just started to write. In this thriller, if I fail to leave out a detail that is important to the plot, readers are likely to let me know about it. And I certainly want them to have the best reading experience I can provide.

Keeping our facts straight is important. The best way I have found is dedicating a spiral notebook to each story. I allow six to eight pages per character. On them I list physical characteristics, occupation, emotional ties, personality traits, age, and so on. I refer to it often so I don’t alter important facts.

I have tried charts and pictures, but found they can take up too much wall space. Clutter makes me nervous. I just don’t write well when my space is in disarray. The important thing is not the method you use to keep track of details as much as that you do use something to help you avoid these common pitfalls. 

What’s the Deal???

In the “Deals in Kindle Books” section of the Kindle Store, you can find many different kinds of  “deals.” 

If you want your book to be a Good Deal or a BIG deal,  check these out:

Kindle Daily Deals-  These run for ONE day and get maximum exposure from Amazon. Usually, authors running these deals see a huge spike in sales/downloads.

Kindle Monthly Deals- These run for a whole month, but get much less exposure from Amazon.

Kindle Exclusive Deals- A grouping together of daily and monthly deals for books enrolled in KDP Select and those made available to Kindle Unlimited readers.

Kindle Countdown Deals- Only KDP Select authors can run these deals. They can be run on any given book every 90 days. Kindle puts a clock on the book’s product page which counts down until the deal is “off.”

**There are several other “Deals” which are limited time promotions . They are invite-only from Amazon’s editorial team. These are the most lucrative for authors—offering the most exposure online, so watch your IN-BOX.

A Little Advice

Did you miss my blog last week?

There wasn’t one because my computer died.

It was sudden. It felt no pain.

But I sure did!

My computer had asked me to update my system. I clicked “OK.”

It froze at about 90% and remained that way for 24 hours. That’s when I called for help from Apple Care. Hours on the phone resulted in an in-person appointment at the Genius Bar and leaving my computer with them for two days.

When I heard back from them, they informed me that all of my data was lost and gave me a couple of options for what I could do–going forward. None sounded good.

No data? No memory? Years of work gone?

I consulted a man I consider to be a computer guru. Turns out, he is a PC guy. However, he did give me a phone number to call. My “best chance” at recovery.

I followed his advice and took my computer to The Apple Exchange. They guys are trained in data recovery. And they didn’t disappoint.

After several more days–and many prayers–the good news of data recovery came.

I was amazed, grateful, and praised God and Charlie (the super-hero technician) who helped make this all happen.

So, here’s the advice I promised. Always have a back-up system THAT IS WORKING. Check it once in awhile to make sure it is really backing up your work.

I had an external drive (Passport, it’s called). However, I had purchased a new computer about two years ago and simply plugged the old Passport into the new computer and went on my busy way, ignorant of the fact that it needed to be reconfigured for the new computer.

The result? I have been working/saving for almost two years without backup. (Yes, there is the CLOUD and TIME MACHINE, but somehow these problems became interrelated when I did system updates…)

My point is this: don’t take anything for granted. Ask questions if you don’t know how to do something. It will save you time and a lot of headaches.

I was fortunate, but some glitches cannot be fixed. Some memories cannot be restored. And so they become just that…

distant memories.

What Energizes You?

We writers have been told to write every day—no matter what. I would agree with that, but I think it really doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we stay in the habit of writing.

Letter writing, blogging, answering emails, writing Thank-You notes, and so on. Let’s not forget the occasional magazine article or Letter to the Editor. The important thing is not to get lazy. Writing is just like any other habit. If it isn’t cultivated, it dies on the vine.

The only way out of the forest is through the trees. And the only way to get a book written is to write!  

I’ve formed the habit of writing in the mornings, taking a break for lunch and a short walk, then coming back to my computer in the afternoons. I switch gears completely on the weekends by helping  my husband with his renovation projects. It rejuvenates me and gets me ready for another week of writing.

Care to share what energizes you?

Multi-Author Boxed Sets

Here’s an idea I am going to propose to a group of my author friends. It is a variation on what I recently blogged about creating boxed sets: Have each author submit one of their recent books to be included into a multi-author boxed set.

This marketing idea speaks to the recent trend in which authors put their individual works into boxed sets. However, those who may not have enough books for a boxed set of their own, may discover commonalities between their writings and that of other authors. 

They might be writing in the same genre or on the same subject. For instance, all of the books in the proposed boxed set might be of a broad group, say, FANTASY. Or, the grouping might be narrowed to just stories about Grizzly Bears. I suppose you could even group them by “firsts” (the first books by new authors). You may be even more creative in finding complementary aspects of each book.

You will need to write “back cover” copy for the set, and perhaps give it a TITLE, but I was told that KDP support staff will actually help you through the process of getting them into the set. 

It could be just that simple. And, you might find your book garnering increased sales.

That means more of your books in the hands of readers!

Four Essentials In Writing a Successful Book

Have visions of your book literally flying off the shelves? You can do four essential things to make this happen:

The first three are all on the outside.

First is the title. It must be catchy, exciting, edgy, and unique. It needs to capture the essence of what the writer is trying to portray. It needs to give the reader a hint at what’s inside without giving everything away. (I am speaking of FICTION books. Non-Fiction books need to hit on the very topic to be covered. Non-fiction readers have a certain bit of information they are looking for. The title is their first clue they have found what they are seeking.)

Dave Barry’s BIG TROUBLE is probably one of the funniest books I have ever read. The title had me hooked from the “get-go”.  The spine told me just enough to get me to pluck it from the shelf. 

Then I saw it—the second essential—one of the most creative and unique covers I’d seen up to that point. The closeup of a crocodile’s face, bumpy and wild-eyed. Who wouldn’t want to read a book about a crocodile that caused “Big Trouble”? 

I turned it over and then I read it—the third essential—the back cover blurb.  Amazing. Captivating. Hilarious. Irresistible.

The fourth essential is inside the book— the writing. And, Big Trouble did not disappoint.

If a book’s cover, title, and back cover blurb can get me to shell out my money, THE WRITING HAS TO DELIVER. PERIOD. If it doesn’t, it is just a big promise not kept. It’s a marketing ploy and nothing more.

If the book doesn’t live up to the hype, a reader won’t feel satisfied. And an unsatisfied reader will NEVER PURCHASE A BOOK FROM THAT AUTHOR AGAIN. 

They feel CHEATED, BETRAYED, CONNED.

You’ve probably heard that you only have one chance to make a good first impression.  That statement was originally said about face-to-face meetings, but it is never truer than when said in reference to a book.

So, target all four essentials. Make sure that the writing on the inside lives up to the title, cover, and back cover blurb on the outside.

Because you never get a second chance to make a good first impression!

        

Does Writing Make Authors Gain Weight?

Writing and dieting definitely do not mix..

When writing something exciting, or if I am having trouble working out a plot, I find I often wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep.

However, the latest research says that getting a good night’s rest helps with weight loss. The reverse is also true. Not enough sleep results in weight gain.

Secondly, writing something exciting causes me to snack. The faster I type, the faster I shovel it in. The more suspenseful the writing, the more I am likely to go for something small and easy to pop into my mouth, like popcorn, nuts, or M&M’s.

Finally, writing is a sedentary activity. We writers need to get up and move around every hour or so to clear our brains, stretch our muscles, and burn a few calories.

I’ll never write a cookbook. 

Just imagine what might happen if I focused on yummy recipes all day long!

Make It A Real Page Turner!

If someone says you should “Milk It,” when they critique your work, they are saying to give the scene

MORE ACTION

MORE EMOTION

MORE INTERNAL THOUGHTS

MORE DESCRIPTION

MORE CONFLICT 

Because that’s what makes a story exciting and satisfying. If you want your book to be a real page turner, then a writer has to deliver ON EVERY PAGE.

DON’T SKIMP. 

Use rich vocabulary. Lots of adjectives and verbs. Paint a visual picture. 

Furnish the details. Let them get inside the characters’ heads by revealing their emotions via DIALOGUE, ACTIONS, AND THOUGHTS. 

PLUMP UP the plot. Make the content EXCITING. Compel your reading audience to keep turning the pages… all night long!

So if you have a nice little story lacking PIZAZZ, why not make it a page turner?

Spice it up. 

Change it up. 

Shake it up. 

MILK IT!!!!