So you want to be a writer part 6

Part 6 – Writing your novel

The long awaited post…dun, dun, duuun…!

You followed my advice. You thought about an idea and found one you liked so much you wrote it down. Then, you wrote a few short stories, and all the while, you engaged people on social media. You talked about the latest action flick. You talked about what a buzzkill the latest book was. You praised the newest video game, and you told people you’re writing.

People came and peaked at your short stories. Some downloaded them. A few commented, for better or worse. You blogged, you connected, you even wrote a whole fanfiction novel. Maybe, you hired an editor or found some beta-readers. Maybe, you didn’t, but some people know you now, and some like you. Others don’t, but hey, you haven’t written that novel yet, so it’s no big deal. You even went back, and edited your earlier work, and re-released it. Maybe, you even hired a good cover artist.

Of late, all that swims through your mind is that story, that novel. You’ve even tried to get away from it, writing other, short stories, just wondering if you’re ready. You’ve asked yourself, can I do it? What is it gonna’ take? What if I can’t figure it out? What if people don’t like it?

Take a big breath and relax. Now, you are ready to write your novel. You have a feel for the process. You know you can do it because you did write, and you did release short stories. You even wrote an entire fanfiction, so yeah, you know you can do it.

You have the idea. You’ve thought about your novel so much, you can see the characters, hear the pitch of their voices. You know their mannerisms, and how they act in the world, react to the world, and interact with one another. You know the plot. You know the problems. You know the solution. Take a big breath, and start writing.

Writing is the easy part after all. Writing is just the process of transferring thoughts to paper (screen?). At this point, you know that you don’t have to worry about the fact that your beginning is shaky. You don’t need to worry that there’s no middle. You don’t need to worry that you have two or three different ideas for the ending.

At this point, you know that the only thing that matters is transferring your thoughts to paper. Write what you have. Don’t stop. Don’t fret. If you need to, go back, and read what you wrote to make certain you’re still on the same train of thought, but if you run into a roadblock, take a detour.

You have your introduction, but your dialogue is sketchy. Maybe, your dialogue is great, but you have a tough time writing action scenes; whatever the troubles are…well, they aren’t really a problem. Just write what you have, and if you need to, skip ahead. Your book is not etched in stone. It is not a published novel out for sale. Just write. Just keep writing.

Treat every chapter like a mini short story, and maybe, by the time you get to the middle, you see a different ending, but the beginning has to be changed. No biggie; you’re just writing. This is just a draft, and no one has even seen it yet.

Maybe, you can tell there isn’t much to say about the actual writing process. Contrary to what so many people believe, writing a novel is the easiest thing in the world. Nothing really matters; it’s just a draft, so draft away.

There are no rules in writing. None. There are certainly some very important rules when it comes to editing a story, but there are no rules involved in writing that story down. Did you know that you don’t even need to break a novel down into chapters? Nope, at least not until the editing process. You can just write, and write, and write until you have everything you want.

It’s a draft. It isn’t etched in stone. It isn’t a published product released to the public.

Write down absolutely everything you want to write. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s senseless, useless, crazy, boring, or even out of sequence. Just get as much down as you can. This is your time. This is the process you should be enjoying the most. While you’re writing the story, you are writing for you. You are writing something you want to read. You are unburdening your creative mind grapes and writing down all the things about your story that you want to experience.

This is certainly going to be a long process, and you will change almost everything you write by the time you’re ready to publish, so just don’t stress. Don’t worry about a routine. Nothing kills creativity like routine. Don’t turn writing your story into a job or a chore; enjoy the process. You want to write? Write! You don’t feel like writing one day? Don’t write!

Don’t ever worry about hitting a certain word goal every day. Don’t waste your time with writing exercises; they only help you do better at the exercise. That’s why you practice exercises before you write your novel. When it’s time to write your story, you just write the damned story down!

Go back. Read it. Read it again and again. You’ll see plot holes. You’ll find inconsistencies. You’ll laugh, cry, cringe, and cheer. Add everything you want to the story. Cut everything you don’t like. If it comes up short, it comes up short. If it comes out long, and it drags ass, cut the fluff out.

I’m telling you, writing the novel is the easiest part of the whole successful writer thing. All you gotta’ do is jot down what you’re thinking.

There will be times wherein you’re going to come across sections where you feel stuck. You’ll have point A and point C, but won’t know what point B is. So? Who cares? Nobody but you knows this. Just write down what you have and move on.

This is like the whole can’t see the forest for the trees thing, or maybe I have it backwards. It doesn’t matter. The point is that you cannot possibly know everything about your story until you’ve written it down.

Maybe, that sounds crazy or backwards, but I’m telling you, if you go into this process believing that you must know every, single, little, tiny detail, you’re out of your mind. You’re fooling yourself. This is precisely why people fail, or they succumb to fear; they think they must know every word, sentence, action, event, scene, whatever before writing the story.

Wrong.

Just get as much of your story down as possible, and when you get stuck, read what you have, and spend some more time thinking about the world, the characters; let the story tell itself. What you think your story is going to be is not what your story will choose for itself. If nothing comes to mind, jump ahead! Write the end then go back and re-read from the very beginning. So, you get stuck for a day, a week, a month, no big deal; go busy yourself with something else. That worked for Einstein.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’m telling you; just write. It’s that easy. It really, truly, is that simple. Anyone who writes an entire novel from start to finish in a month, two months, three, four, and then releases it is releasing crap. Now, that crap might sell. There are certainly people out there who like crap, but writing, releasing, and selling crap won’t lead to long term success.

Anyone who becomes a peddler of crap may be successful, very successful, at the onset of their career, but if they don’t begin releasing quality content, they won’t get very far, and at this point, if you’ve followed the advice in these posts, you’ve already set yourself up to sell your book, so you don’t want to release crap, and that means taking the time to write a great novel, but writing a great novel doesn’t entail doing it perfectly on your first attempt.

Again, just write what you have, what you know. Skip ahead if you must then, when you see more of your story developing, you can go back, and fill in the blanks; you can restructure, or you can even re-write the whole thing. It’s what the guy who wrote Jaws had to do. All that matters at this stage is that you have fun.

When The Godfather was submitted to the production company, the screen editors and directors thought the book was atrocious. The reviews on the Rambo books, you know the Rambo movies are based on books, right? Those reviews are pretty bad, because the books are terrible, so crap does sell, but it usually only sells after it gets turned into an awesome movie, and if it doesn’t become an awesome movie, who will buy it? What saving grace will there be?

As usual, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You aren’t staking your entire life on one novel, but it is important to make your first novel great, not because it’s the only way to become successful, but because you want to start off the right way and save yourself the torment. You also care about your fans because they are paying you, and they are selling for you, so give them something they can enjoy.

Now, editing your novel is a totally different story, but you can’t edit or get feedback until the whole book is written, right? So get it all down then take a break because the hard part is about come up and blindside you.

Yup, before you know it, you’ve actually written down your whole novel. Yes, some parts are shaky. Yes, some transitions aren’t that great. Some of your chapters feel short and rushed. Other chapters feel long, and they tend to get boring before reaching the end. No big deal. Now, you will do one of the most important things you will ever do for your novel. You will leave it alone.

Get away from your novel. Forget all about it. Dive into something else. Write another short story. Play a new video game. Go back to playing DnD with your friends. Whatever you do, do your best to forget as much of your novel as you can. Spend at least two months away from your novel.

This is a great time to get back to everything you were doing before you wrote your novel. Get back on Google+ and Goodreads, and discuss other topics with your reader groups. Download some more short stories from Smashwords, and give ‘em a read through. Give your fans, the ones who dropped by your blog to read reviews, something new to read; a new review of a game, book, or movie.

Here’s why; you’ve been thinking, eating, breathing, living your novel for months, maybe even years. You know everything about it, all its intricacies, and you’ve done the best job you can to lay it bare for an audience, but an audience is not in your head, and there may be some thoughts, actions, or correlations that seem self evident and truthful to you, but to an audience, to a reader who has never been in your head, all of those ideas which seem logical and self evident may very well seem muddled and confusing.

This is the perfect time to do one or all three of the following:

One, post your whole book to your blogs one or two thousand words at a time two or three times a week, thus giving your fan base a chance to read it without a great commitment. Naturally, they’ll also be able to comment and discuss it. (You will eventually delete these posts before releasing the book.)

Two, kindly let people know that you are looking for beta-readers, people who are interested in reading a draft for the specific purpose of helping you better connect with your intended audience. (Assuming you are not releasing the entirety of your book to your blog. You may also do this after having released your book to your blog, gotten some feedback, edited, and then deleted those old posts.) Beta-readers are usually readers, though some are also writers, but the great thing about beta-readers is that they love rough drafts. There’s just something so much more personal, more intimate, about a draft; it’s bare; it’s the soul of the writer, but no one wants to spend money on a first draft, so do not release an unedited book to the public!

Three, hire an editor.

The first two suggestions are great, simple, easy, and free. Do not pay anyone for beta-reading. At this point, I also do not suggest peer editing with other writers anymore. This isn’t a matter of fearing intellectual theft; this is a matter of building your own, distinct voice. Teaming up with other writers is great before you write your first novel. After you’ve written it, it becomes imperative to distance yourself from other writers, so you’re better off with beta-readers, some of which will be other authors, but some are just readers and bloggers who love raw, indie work.

A lot of writers fail at this point in their careers. They’re so excited they’ve finished writing a book, and they show it to all their author buddies, and of course, being nice, supportive people, the author buddies praise the book. After all, they know the difficulty in finishing a novel, so they say it’s great, and then, the debut author releases an unedited, debut novel, and it tanks. Perhaps even worse, the book sells extremely well for two months, and then the scathing reviews come in, all of which point out the horrible typographical, grammatical, and punctuation errors—the slogging pace, the redundant information, the info dumps, the stale characters, etc. etc. Hire an editor before you release that book.

Another occurrence at this stage of the game involves the excited, debut novelist who turns to their author, support groups. Then, they get stuck trading reviews of each others’ books. That’s all well and good, but none of them are reaching readers. They’re all only reaching one another, tweeting, retweeting, or auto-tweeting, to one another. They are only promoting their books to other writers.

There are no readers in those groups. No readers, people actually looking for a new book to buy and read, have ever heard of any of those groups like ASMSG or IAN. Hundreds of thousands of indie writers have banded together, and that’s a great concept before writing your first novel, but these naïve folks have done this in an effort to find readers, but they are only finding each other. Some actually think that they can each bring a few hundred new readers to those groups, believing that if each person brings in a hundred new readers, there will be millions of people all buying the books; this is precisely what the mainstream publishers count on, but the mainstream publishers each have specific presses with specific authors with specific voices for specific genres, so yes, Penguin Random House counts on the authors published by Bantam to entice Bantam fans into buying Bantam books by other Bantam authors, but the indie, support groups aren’t following this business model. The indie groups have all kinds of writers of all qualities, genres, and voices.

It doesn’t work, not the way they’re doing it. First of all, so many of the members have no fans because they are either aspiring writers with no published books, or they are debut writers with one or two books out, and no sells or fans; they have not begun their career correctly. Second, some members write romance, others paranormal, some steam punk, so none of the steam punk readers are going to go searching for a group like ASMSG in the hopes of finding an indie, romance writer. So what happens? The group members just trade books with one another for reviews in the hopes of selling books via Amazon by way of a review bombardment. Lastly, what happens is they try to sell books to each other.

Think about it, though: if one author buys one of each book written by each author, and even if every other author does the same, in the end no money trades hands, right? If I buy all of your books, and then you buy all of mine, no money has been earned. No new fans have been found, so what do these groups do? They say stuff like: give an indie author a good review. Reviews sell books, and authors gotta’ eat, too. Well, that’s a dishonest practice.

Give a good review if the book is good. Give a bad review if the book is bad. Why? Because the review is not for the author. The review is not there to trick a reader into a buying a book. The reviews should only be given by a reader for readers. As a matter of fact, once you become a published author, you may want to stop reviewing books completely. Why? Because at that point, you’ll find yourself reviewing as a writer rather than a reader.

You know what happens then? An indie author begins racking up numerous, glowing reviews, and then a reader will buy the book only to find faults with it, and the problem then is that the skewed reviews anger the reader. They feel tricked, and so they feel compelled to provide a scathing review in order to exact vengeance, and here’s the thing; if those good reviews sell books, and the readers end up feeling shilled because of the skewed reviews, they are going to tell everyone to stay away from that book, and a book that will have started off selling well, suddenly starts losing sales, and then the writer begins to build notoriety for releasing terrible content. They lose credibility. It’s why “writers” like Gary Lindberg go around making fun of readers for posting bad reviews.

Fortunately, these posts have been designed to help you prevent such a thing. As a matter of fact, these posts are here for two reasons.

One, I personally love reading and writing so much that I want everyone with even an inkling of an idea to feel comfortable writing their idea down, and subsequently release a great book.

Two, I love readers so much that I want them to know that there is an alternative to the dreck spewed by the mainstream presses, but to that effect, what the indie writers release must not be dreck, and so it becomes imperative to teach indie writers the importance of editing, of hiring an editor, a competent editor, but indie writers must take it a step farther and start their careers off properly in order to counter act the fluff released by the mainstream press, and the fluff released by other, indie writers.

I want indie writers, or even new writers who want to go the mainstream route, to be successful, and not just sell well, but sell quality content often. It’s what the readers deserve. Are we not writing for them? Perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that we are trying to release quality content for them.

Please, please, please, even if you decide not to distance yourself from other writers, you must hire a competent editor because you are not writing and selling your books for the other writers, you are publishing for readers, and if you reach even one reader, and you turn them into a fan, they will tell others about your book, so if you’re going to find an editor, and you really do need to find one, do some work and find a competent editor, one who willingly explains and shows the editing process on a regular basis.

They are few and far between, and you might get burned once or twice, but do not let that frighten you. You need an editor, someone who understands how to read a book as a reader, someone who will look for plot holes, suspension of belief, inconsistencies, discrepancies, lack of character development, pacing issues, all kinds of stuff, and will help you to understand what those issues are and how to resolve them.

In the end, you might end up hiring a crappy editor. It happens to all writers who take the time and make the effort to hire an editor, but even a crappy editor can be helpful. If nothing else, they are a fresh pair of eyes, and when they edit your manuscript, they will pass on to you their new perspective; use it. Take what you like, and discard the rest. Then, go back, and re-read your book, and I promise, you’ll find all kinds of stuff that requires more attention.

You’ll find normal mistakes that your mind missed because it was reading what it was expecting; the mind does that; it formulates that which it already expects. You’ll find some sentences which will make you wonder just what it was that you were meaning to convey. You’ll find redundancies you hadn’t noticed before. You’ll notice that some sentences work better in a different order within the paragraph. You’ll find all kinds of stuff.

It’s very important to get away from your novel. It’s almost like making your eyes the fresh pair of eyes, and you will have to get away from your novel over and over. There should be no rush, though. As proud and excited as you are, and you should be, you must keep yourself in check. Do not release a crummy product to your audience like I did (four crummy products) because it will really hold you back.

Everything I’m telling you, no matter how crazy, I’m telling you for a reason. I absolutely want you to release a perfect product to your audience, so that they will start off loving your work. It is important to me that you are successful for a number of reasons, and you will come to understand those reasons more deeply as we progress, so you may need to step away from your novel a number of times, and you may need numerous beta-readers, and you may need to hire two or three different editors, and you may need to get away from your writer buddies, and you may well spend an arm and a leg throughout the process, but it will pay off.

Try to keep your end goal in mind. If you are striving to achieve major publication then you need to land a literary agent. To do that, you need to write a perfect query letter, and synopsis, and you can’t rush through those either; they are as important as your title, cover, and blurb. Then, if your presentation is accepted, the agent will want a part of, or the whole, manuscript. Then, if it’s up to snuff, and they think it’s marketable, they’ll help you to land a publisher. Just keep in mind that not all agents are cut from the same cloth.

If you intend to go the indie route, and you want someone like Baen or Rocking Horse Publishing to publish your work, you do not need an agent, but you still have to present your book in a professional manner. Regardless, these two avenues require a great deal of sitting, waiting around, and just going bonkers. They do not want you to submit your book to multiple publishers or agents, and they may never reply, or they may take a year to reply, and just to say, “Nah, we’re good, bruh.”

If you intend to self publish, and there are numerous reasons to do so, it’s up to you and you alone to produce a product of the highest quality. This does not mean that you cannot work with others—cover artists, proof readers, beta-readers, and editors—it just means that you are in charge of everything. The reason self publishing gets such a bad rap is because most self published authors don’t hire editors, or they hire crummy editors, and the number one complaint by readers is that the book read like a first draft.

No one wants to pay for a first draft.

This says nothing of the creativity, beauty, or complexity of the story, but you must come to understand something that’s been pointed out numerous times: if the mainstream publishers employ teams of editors to clean the works of King, Martin, and Rowling, doesn’t it stand to reason that you should also hire an editor?

Thanks for reading. I had said this was going to be the last post of this series, but I’m actually going to release one more, so stay tuned, and don’t forget to check out my Editing Services Tab.

They Lurk Among Us Chapter 2 part 2

lokians they lurk among us

They Lurk Among Us is the sequel to Beyond the End of the World. Both titles, and a third, were at one point published by a small press. I’ve complained about that press to my satisfaction, and I’m now proud to say that with the return of rights, I will be re-releasing Lokians 2,They Lurk Among Us pretty soon.

The Lokians series is a sci fi series heavy with aliens, high tech, action, and a little espionage. I don’t know how soon They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2, will be out, but here’s a chunk of the second chapter.

In a mad dash, they covered two hundred yards in no time. They huddled together under the awning extended over the hive’s main entrance, yet the doors were blocked by rubble. From there, while facing south, they rounded the rightmost juncture to an opening in the lab’s outer wall, a perforation in the hive-like building with a glass-like door.

With so much gas, and the lack of illumination from the lab, they had to employ sweeping maneuvers of their headlamps. As a master of small unit movement, and night unit tactics, Riley knew red light waves dissipated closer to their source than other colors, on top of the fact that they didn’t affect night vision. Three, red beams cut swaths into the darkness. Riley tried the door handle, but it was locked.

“Thought as much, let’s find another door….”

The crew nodded, and they moved along rounded walls another thirty feet. A second door was located, but it was also locked.

“Good one, Riley,” Sasha snipped.

He arched a brow, wincing beneath his hood. “We climb then. No other alternative.”

He produced a thin cable from a pack on his left thigh. The long cable was attached to a thin, metal rod. After pressing a button at the top of the rod, three prongs shot out.

He stepped out from the hole then looked above. Thick gasses and a lack of light obscured his vision, but a minute of pacing and grumbling led him to the overhang he previously spotted, so he reared back, and holding the cable in his right hand, he swung it a few times to create momentum. Finally, he released his grip. The prongs soared upwards and clanked against the rocky structure. He tugged twice then motioned for Sasha to climb. She easily shimmied up the cable. Ivan then looked to Riley.

“Vhat I am supposed to do,” he asked, earnestly.

“Uh…nothing. Stay put. Sasha, work your way in, and let us in through the door.”

“Copy,” she replied.

They heard a little commotion then the cable came falling. Riley caught the prongs before they hit the ground and put the whole thing away.

“Shouldn’t be much longer,” he said to Ivan.

“Good. You pay well, Riley. I kill many things for you,” he laughed.

“We’re not killing anything yet. You understand what recon is?”

Suddenly, the door opened before them. “I couldn’t hear my surroundings with you idiots chattering.”

“Spot anything unusual on your way down,” Riley asked.

“Everything’s unusual. This is an alien home world,” she retorted.

“Actually, it’s just the moon; home world is back there,” he replied with a subtle movement of his head.

“Funny. Nothing too unusual, really. There’s tons of destruction, but no bodies, and no signs of weapons’ fire.” She sounded baffled. Riley knew why there was no weapons’ fire. He was pensive for a moment and looked down at his boots. “Riley?”

He quickly raised an open hand indicating he needed silence. While he wondered if Lokians had eaten the Yvlekesh, his crew exchanged looks. He took a long inhalation before addressing them.

“Okay, no problem; they’re probably gone anyway, but keep your eyes peeled for Lokians.”

“The fuck are Lokians?” Sasha snorted.

He suddenly recalled they weren’t familiar with his previous mission. Of course, he knew—it was classified—but had momentarily forgotten during his reverie. He met Sasha’s dark, chocolate eyes through her visor.

“Yeah…listen; Lokians are huge insect-like aliens. They use tech to augment their abilities. They probably landed here and destroyed the lab, maybe ate the Yvlekesh, too. That’s why there’s no weapons’ fire and no bodies. They rarely use energy based weaponry, or any long distance weapons, for that matter, but they are extremely aggressive.”

“This Yvlekesh are bugs, too, no,” Ivan asked.

“Different though. Lokians are monsters not scientists,” Riley replied.

“Then, how they use tech?” Ivan rebutted.

Riley let out a groan. “Just follow me in.”

The crew switched from red light to white. Only rubble and destruction was revealed. For the most part, the wreckage before their feet was just stone structure. A few pieces of lab equipment were scattered about. Some stands, scanners, pieces of computers, not much else. The destruction was large scale, like an explosion occurred, but the ground floor showed no indications of excessive heat; nothing was scorched or melted. Pieces of debris bounced off the crew’s boots as they scanned the room with more, sweeping motions of headlamps.

They occupied a large area of the hive, a sort of lobby. Overhead was an enormous opening all the way to the crown of the building. Since Yvlekesh flew, the hive’s design was a most efficient manner of building. Luckily, stairs and lifts were provided for easy movement in the event that something required transportation.

Riley pointed to his left and started walking. The crew hugged the walls where there was minimal destruction. They stepped around refuse towards the stairs. Along the way, they passed an elevator shaft. The door was bent and nearly removed from the opening. The car was nowhere in sight.

They continued up the stairs, which curved around the hive’s interior. On the second floor, they entered a room on the left. There, they discovered the first corpse. Riley came to a halt and squatted. His headlamp revealed a crushed, insectoid creature.

The mantis-like humanoid was green and covered in a yellow puss. Something powerful had ripped it apart and squished it. After a sigh, Riley stood to survey the room. The interior was more of the same, gray stone, but the walls were lined with steel shelves. Most of them were bent. All manner of glass tubes and beakers lay broken on the floor. Some glass crunched beneath Ivan’s giant foot.

“This is Yvlekesh?” the Russian was stunned by the grotesque sight.

“Ya,” Riley answered.

Sasha stopped at the corpse and examined it, too. Riley walked away.

“Let’s move,” he ordered.

They walked out and down the corridor while Sasha peeked over the edge to see the floor below. Riley spotted a second door on his left. He tried the handle, but it didn’t budge.

“I can break for you,” Ivan offered.

Riley shook his head. ‘Least not for the moment, he thought. They tried to continue through the corridor, but it was overly littered with rubble from the above floors, so they backtracked to a second set of stairs. Their headlamps smoothly glided along the walls and floors, revealing small holes in the stonework.

Riley came to a door on the third floor and reached for the handle when a clank resonated from beyond. He quickly threw up a fist. His crew grew alarmed, and Sasha drew her sidearm. Slowly, he tried to turn the stone handle, but it didn’t slide. Lokians wouldn’t lock the doors behind them. Someone’s in there.

He paused for a moment and weighed the possibilities. Yes, an Yvlekesh scientist could be in there. Then again, I don’t know what all they were studying. If they had live Lokians, or larval Lokians, the attack could have come from within. Riley drew his photon blade.

The Bureau had provided numerous perks; among them was a blade of photons contained by a magnetic field. Swainium, or a very special Element-115 alloy, was the only alloy sturdy enough to withstand the blade. The handle operated in sync with Riley’s biorhythm; by holding the handle for a few seconds, the machete activated, releasing a yellow blade of light.

Riley nodded to Ivan. The Russian stepped up to the door. In full armor, he was nearly seven feet tall, and anyone might guess at how much he weighed. He raised his right knee to his chest then delivered a powerful kick to the door. It rumbled. Everyone listened intently for a second. No new sounds were heard. Ivan delivered a second kick, shifting the door. The blow provided a sliver of an opening. The third kick propped it open enough for Sasha’s sleek figure to sidle through.

Riley nodded to her, so she slipped in. Seconds of silence resonated. Adrenaline was coursing through their system.

“You guys gotta get in here,” she gasped.

Ivan looked to Riley, who motioned for him to move away from the door. He placed his photon blade against the hinges. Slowly, they heated and started to glow.

“Uh…hurry up.” Sasha was impatient.

Within seconds, the hinges were hot enough. “Out of vay, Sasha,” Ivan said as he stepped up to the door again; the final blow at the hinged end brought it crashing down.

Thank you for reading another installment of the Lokians sci fi series. I hope you enjoyed it. They Lurk Among Us will be out soon. In the meantime, you can grab Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free.

Quora Q and A’s

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

This time, I’ll be showing a few questions with some short answers. All of the questions revolve around some facet of reading, writing, or editing, but if you find that you have some questions about the editing process, please ask right here or leave a comment.

Question 1:If I’m coining a phrase, should I put it in quote signs?

Addendum: I read that the phrase “coining a phrase” is hardly used anymore, but should I use it since I’m the one who is doing the coining?

Answer: I suggest single quotations or italics. The truth is that standard quotations work as well because people will perceive the information just that same as if it were being “qouted” by someone, however, in an effort to keep editing practices true, it is best to either italicize, such as: he’s the cat’s meow or use single quotations such as, he’s the ‘cat’s meow’.

One doesn’t generally see: he’s the “cat’s meow” unless it is a part of dialogue. At this point, it is important to remind writers and editors that punctuation is used to clarify information for readers, so that they aren’t forced to guess at the meaning of the information presented.

Question 2: Is there much of a difference or any between “few had shown real promise” or “few had shown any real promise”?

Answer: No. The first version is perhaps better suited for a written sentence where as the second version sounds more conversational, but in the end, they’re the same. I also believe that anyone who either reads or hears either version of that phrase will draw exactly the same conclusion.

In the end, this particular Q and A comes down to personal style. A writer must often ask him or her self: “how do I want to write this?” and only after having written the entirety of the article, novel, story, whatever, should that writer go back through, and try to make changes. Changes should be for two reasons; to maintain consistency and to clarify information for the reader.

Question 3: Do I need a comma before the word ‘where’ in the sentence in the details?

Addendum: They later moved to Sedona, Arizona, where Ernst constructed a small cottage by hand.

Answer: Yes because you are listing the city and state.

They later moved to Sedona where Ernst constructed a small cottage by hand.

In the above sentence, a comma is not required, though one might still use one. Commas are utilized to “break up” information and to clarify meaning. There’s a whole post on comma usage here.

Also, be sure to check out my Editing Services tab.

They Lurk Among Us Chapter 2 part 1

lokians they lurk among us

They Lurk Among Us is the sequel to Beyond the End of the World. Both titles, and a third, were at one point published by a small press. I’ve complained about that press to my satisfaction, and I’m now proud to say that with the return of rights, I will be re-releasing Lokians 2,They Lurk Among Us pretty soon.

The Lokians series is a sci fi series heavy with aliens, high tech, action, and a little espionage. I don’t know how soon They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2, will be out, but here’s a chunk of the second chapter.

The Clandestine, as its name implied, was a small and sleek vessel used for covert missions. The diamond shaped craft, with rear, twin, F.T.L. accelerators, carried Riley and crew to a new destination. State-of-the-art alien technology kept the ship off virtually any and all energy scanning apparatuses. Moreover, the exterior of the Element-115, alloy hull was covered in meta-materials to bend light. Designed to be invisible when necessary, and fast when crucial, the Clandestine was the perfect vessel for a recon mission to Solnem.

Riley and his companions were running an operation commissioned by The Bureau. He sat patiently in his private quarters as the ship barreled through the galaxy at incomprehensible speed. His destination was one of two moons orbiting Scroccio, the Yvlekesh home world. Scroccio was located in the Solvieng system of the Carina-Sagittarius arm, and Solnem was unique in the fact that it was almost identical to Scroccio, except in size, yet both planetary bodies supported life in a manner compliant with Yvlekesh anatomy. Riley heard the ship’s comm. system ding.

“Go ahead.”

“Riley, ve got two minutes,” the gruff voice replied.

“Copy that, Ivan. I’ll be out soon.”

He left the computer sitting on the steel desk and went to his private latrine for a little pre-landing meditation. He plopped down on the toilet and started his mental review. Such behavior was very common for the former captain. Mental reviews in the privacy of the latrine carried him through the Navy ranks after all. That was prior to the Lokian mission. Now, he was concerned with the Yvlekesh lab on Solnem.

Head of Investigations, agent Adams, had commissioned Riley as an auxiliary of The Bureau. Debriefing reports stated that communications from a lab on Solnem had ceased, so Riley was to infiltrate, ascertain the reason for silence, and recover any pertinent data. Most recently, the Yvlekesh were studying Lokian anatomy, growth, development, and searching for clues surrounding their mysterious origin.

While Thewls may have been experts on Lokians to date, they didn’t have much information regarding Lokian origins, which meant the research and data provided by the Yvlekesh was crucial. According to Adams’s reports, recently submitted to The Bureau by the Solnem lab, it was reasoned that at some point, predating galactic history, Lokians were either created or augmented by a master race of aliens; for what purpose, no one knew.

The Bureau had concerns over the elusive, master race due in part to the possibility that they were the same race responsible for creating the race, who then had a hand in creating the Grays; an alluring chain of creationism. There was simply too much at stake, and maintaining secret contact with the Yvlekesh lab was paramount. Unfortunately, the last report contained detailed information on incubating larval Lokians. That being the first and last mentioning of larval Lokians, The Bureau wasted little time, since it meant that live Lokians were at the lab.

Still sitting on the john, Riley considered the plan. He reasoned that a break in data exchanges occured for one of two reasons; either the Yvlekesh council on Scroccio discovered leaks to The Bureau, or there was an incident resulting from Lokian experimentation. In either event, an Yvlekesh detail was sure to be present, performing their investigation.

Riley had never met the Yvlekesh. During his training at The Bureau HQ on Earth, he saw vids on the weird aliens. For the most part, they were a scientific people like Thewls. While they posed little threat as an armed force, they were fierce warriors in their own right.

Like Lokians, they were bug-like in appearance. Instead of armored roaches, the Yvlekesh were more akin to Earth mantises. They walked on two, long legs, but were capable of short flights. The exoskeleton on their backs slid away to reveal four, small wings. Their hands had four fingers with which they maneuvered tools, and small heads sat atop their miniscule bodies.

Riley wondered about the familiarity. How is it possible that a race of aliens from another solar system could be so similar in appearance to mantises on Earth? The only real difference is size, having four limbs instead of six, and bipedal movement.

“Ve’re here, Riley,” Ivan said over the comm.

Huffing, he finished up then checked himself in the mirror. He sported the neoprene-type material many of the agents wore. The thin, light-weight armoring provided excellent mobility and protection. Riley’s suit was also covered in a meta-material polymer. When activated, a quick current of electricity powered the material, forcing light to bend around the suit, making him invisible to the human eye. Creatures whose eyes detected heat or energy signatures, like Yvlekesh, were still able to sense him, though. His last piece of armor was the hood with breathing apparatus.

Yvlekesh didn’t breathe Oxygen. Instead, they breathed the Ammonia mixtures rampant on Solnem and Scroccio, so he slid the hood over his head and secured it to the rest of the suit. The hood covered his face entirely. A thin slit at eye level was the only visible seam. In place of a visor, or energy field, was a super thin sheet of Element-115 alloy. It allowed the Human eye to catch enough light to see, so long as ample light was provided. Because Solnem was a very dark place, Riley’s hood was fitted with an L.E.D. headlamp. His athletic physique was apparent through the suit, but his sandy, blonde hair and almond eyes were not.

“Good. I’m all set,” Riley said to the pitch-black figure in the mirror.

Before exiting, he playfully flexed his arms and chest. Then, he proceeded to the bridge. There, he looked over his two comrades. Ivan Iskof was a very large man of Russian descent. Though extremely skilled in combat, he was little more than a soldier of fortune. Ivan was much older than Riley, at age forty-three he was eighteen years Riley’s senior.

The brute of a man had graying hair and a thick, gray beard. A Titanium alloy suit hid bulging muscles, but when covered from head to toe in his armor, the Russian looked like a menacing robot with an even more menacing laser rifle. His weapon, Lyudmila, was his pride and joy. He repeatedly told stories of who and what he destroyed with it. His last story involved searing through a team of colonial pirates in the Alpha colonies.

Riley’s other crewmember was a sultry woman named Sasha Ford. She joined up after meeting him on Earth, in New York. Riley had had some business with The Bureau, yet in his downtime, he went sightseeing. At a fancy bar frequented by space pioneers, he met the raven-haired and voluptuous con artist. She regaled him with stories of dealing in phony, communication chits, and claimed she conned buyers into believing the devices allowed colonists, and home worlders alike, the luxury of communicating across the vast distances of space without a monthly bill.

In reality, they were little more than old, SMS chips with no function whatsoever. Intrigued by her candor, nonchalance, and ability to con both civilians and military personnel, the former captain decided to introduce her to Head of Recruiting, agent Franklin. Though neither she nor Ivan were formally agents, Franklin allowed their use to test Riley’s skills.

Fortunately, Sasha’s endless finances allowed her to procure various suits and accoutrements for surreptitious, space travel. She stood in a sexy pose with her hand on her hip. Her suit was composed of many, tiny, armored plates. The silvery material gleamed from the lighting in the room. She holstered a sidearm and looked at Riley.

“All set, handsome?”

Rather than replying, he bent over a monitor and checked their immediate surroundings for energy oscillations. Frowning in confusion, as readings came up empty, he wondered if that meant the lab wasn’t generating any power; it also implied that no ships had showed up recently.

Finally, he turned to his crew. “I’m set if you two are.”

He stood at parade rest, observing his crew don their headgear. After they finished, all three marched down the hall to the Clandestine’s airlock. Once the airlock was stabilized, a green light over the outer door came on. Riley opened it, allowing Solnem’s darkness to creep in.

He had landed behind a large hill. The obstruction provided a break in the line of sight between the lab and the vessel. The added darkness of the moon made the ship practically invisible without engaging the cloaking device.

“Govno! I never think moon like this,” Ivan exclaimed.

The Russian whipped his head all around, trying to take in the sights. Both Scroccio and Solnem were rocky bodies with vast reserves of strange fungi and molds, which grew right over the plethora of boulders and seas of gravel. Little else in the way of plant life existed due to the atmospheric composition. By design, Yvlekesh ate molds and mushrooms. Their anatomy allowed them to produce water internally, removing the need for copious amounts of planetary water, of which there was none on Solnem.

The strange, biological cycle was of little concern to Riley, though. The odd gravity was, however; the pressure wasn’t grievous, but it certainly took a moment to acclimate. He clicked on his headlamp, setting it on red to keep a low profile. Scrutinizing his teammates, their shock became apparent. While they were both seasoned space travelers, neither of them had landed on or even seen vids of an alien home world. Ivan was clearly excited, but Sasha was lowkey, outwardly she kept her cool.

“It’s dark and ugly…not my style,” she remarked.

Riley winced. “Stay put.”

He crept over the rocky ground before sidling around the hill. The Yvlekesh lab was in the distance. Although the aliens didn’t require light to detect persons, they did require light to perform their studies. Strangely, there were no lights coming from the lab. Riley signaled to his crew that he was rounding the hill.

He then produced a pair of high-powered binos from his thigh pack and inspected the environment. Solnem was mostly dark and damp. The sun, Solvieng, was usually blocked by the immense home world. A few estranged rays of blue light occasionally shone onto the moon, but that night, visibility was low, and the lab looked absolutely deserted.

He clicked the binos for a magnified view and ascertained a reason. The building was in terrible condition. It had clearly been attacked. The hive-like design of the structure was in ruins. Gray stones sat strewn about the ground.

Some of the rooms’ interiors were visible. Riley saw pieces of lab equipment, but little else from his current vantage point. No longer fearing discovery from an Yvlekesh detail, he signaled his crew to move quickly to the next point of cover, a large, purple mushroom hundreds of yards away.

First, Riley ran over while Ivan and Sasha rounded the hill. Their red lights bobbed as they darted for cover. To make matters worse, a gas storm was rolling in; the lack of water didn’t allow for rain. In its place were thick clouds of Ammonia and other gasses. Once the gasses increased in mass, they settled on the ground, and they were certainly obtrusive.

Though gas clouds made it harder to see, Riley welcomed the cloak of concealment. He feared being sighted by Lokians. Eventually, the three convened at the mushroom. It was thick and scaly looking with a round cap. The fibrous stem was not unlike a squat, purple, oak tree, standing almost twenty feet tall. He scanned for the next point of cover, a small hill in the distance.

He again signaled his crew, and they moved to the hill. Ivan’s heavy armor crashed over the loose gravel underfoot. The crunchy sound was nearly deafening against the silent background. It took a little over a minute, but they made it to a point halfway between their ship and the lab. Riley considered using his binos again for a better look, but the gas storm was settling in. If we don’t move quickly we might not locate the lab at all.

“Listen, we need to make a run for it. I spotted an overhang on the east end of the lab. Follow me.”

 

Thank you for reading another installment of the Lokians sci fi series. I hope you enjoyed it. They Lurk Among Us will be out soon. In the meantime, you can grab Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free.

Less is More

 

Less is more? How can less be more?

Last I checked, 4 oranges are less than 5, and that means….

Okay, hold on; let’s try it in a writing example.

He went to the store.

He went to the grocery store and bought milk, eggs, beer, and bread.

Nope; more is still more…or is it?

Let’s check out one more example.

Lucy told him that she didn’t like it when he fed the dog at seven because that was too early, and then the dog would be hungry again before four, which was when she got home. John looked at her, and his face contorted when he kind of squinted his eyes. His lips paled in color, and they grew tight; there was a mean flicker in his hard eyes and his jaw clenched.

That’s quite a bit. That must be great, right? It’s definitely more….

“Don’t feed Bella so early,” Lucy chastised. “She’ll get hungry before I get home at four.”

John returned her look, bearing an expression of indignation.

Uh-oh! That’s way less…but it shows way more, doesn’t it?

The whole less is more concept is intimately tied into showing versus telling, but it also engenders a great deal more. In the example above, both versions are providing the same story; one is a wordy way of telling a situation, and the other is a great way of providing an experience, but sometimes, it’s what a writer doesn’t say, show, or tell that makes or breaks a story.

Admittedly, when I first started writing, this was one of my greatest drawbacks; I used to state something in prose like just before it happened; a paragraph, a page, maybe two pages later, what I had alluded to occurred.

Foreshadowing is fine, but the following example explains it better.

John watched the cow as she gave birth to her little baby. A new life was dawning, but with life comes death; such is the way of the world. Things come and things go…and so do people, John thought.

And then, two paragraphs later, John was having to deal with the death of a loved one. That’s too close for foreshadowing; it’s foretelling, and needs to just be cut, so that as a whole, the story provided is less, but the experience is more. The easiest way to solve the above situation is to just cut the thought that John had. A more creative way is to have that scene as the story’s opener, that way, if John has to deal with death right away, it doesn’t affect the continuity, but that’s considered restructuring, and I’m not discussing that yet.

Let’s see another form of less is more.

The sun glistened off her sequins the way errant rays of gold illuminate stained glass during the brilliancy of early morning. Her radiant appeal was thwarted only by her grace and poise; the way she danced, like no one was watching; the way she laughed, like Beethoven’s sixth symphony, Pastoral. Simply watching her saunter down the stairs—a great banister of gold beheld only by the angels themselves—brought unto the heart the truest of emotions; the simplest; love, but true love, the kind of love only ever described by Greek Mythology, and never truly felt by a mere mortal human, until today…the day I saw her, my angel, Melody.

Boy…that’s right purdy’ writin’, and there’s certainly a place for it, but if the entirety of the story is written like this then…where is the story? What has happened in the example above? A man saw a woman come down the stairs and he fell in love with her, but what does she look like? Where are they? What are people doing? There’s nothing in the example except for pretty writing, flowery prose, and that isn’t good storytelling.

I’m gonna’ let you guys in on a little secret; creative writing courses are scams, and they are creativity killers.

Picture this: you see a cabin in the woods. It is old, a bit moldy, and you can see the crevices in the aged logs. The windows are obscured by grime. The door, which looks to have once been painted a vibrant green, is now a faded brown.

Certainly, the cabin can be beautified by placing a bed of red roses below the window. Now, imagine placing rows and rows of roses all around the cabin. Watch the roses surround the entirety of the structure; see them grow, and twist, and intertwine, until all that you can see is brambles and pretty, red flowers.

It’s just that—pretty, but now the substance is gone. The worn cabin is the story, and all that pretty writing just alienates your audience; it obscures the message, the reason for even telling the story. Writers, why are you telling your story? You have to be able to answer that.

Less is certainly more if the concept is employed correctly, which is why I’m explaining what it means.

Now, I’ll be the first to say; there are NO rules in writing, but there are numerous rules in editing, and it is imperative, paramount to good writing, to follow those rules, because no matter the story, the experience given is supposed to be for the reader, the audience, and they have been trained to glean information in a specific way, and all too often, writers and editors forget what it was like being just a reader without knowledge of crafting a book.

Less is certainly more especially when more entails repetition, and that’s the last thing I want to cover with this post.

Often times, a writer accidentally forgets that their audience isn’t comprised of a bunch on nincompoops. In other words, they relate the same information over and over again ad nauseam; yes, we get it; Jim loves his family, stop telling us. Yes, we get it, Ellie feels guilty for leaving her family behind. Yes, we get it; they fell in love from simply a look….

Writers; do try to avoid blatant repetition; what good is two pages worth of the same information written in a slightly different manner? Editors, when you see it, cut it! Cut the redundancies. Readers are bright people, and they may certainly need a reminder, a one liner, a piece of dialogue, or an internal thought to remind them of something important, but keep it concise.

What good is a one hundred thousand word book if only fifty thousand words are story and the rest is but pretty writing? A one hundred thousand page book must be at least eighty thousand words of actual story, and that doesn’t mean telling the reader what is happening. Conversations, character actions, reactions, interactions, world building, even descriptions are all part of the story IF THEY DRIVE THE PLOT ONWARDS. That’s why only what is absolutely pertinent must remain in the story, and everything else, no matter how much the writer likes it, must be cut.

There are few exceptions, and they deal with pacing, and I will cover pacing in the future.

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate that you have read what I wrote. On top of that, I’m grateful that many of you are looking over the information I provide, so I want you to know that it’s much obliged. Also, the fact that lot’s of people here are letting me know that they are being helped by my advice is just aces. Furthermore, it’s important for me to say thank you to all those who continue to share with others my helpful thoughts…I’m joking…did you get it?

Seriously, thanks, and if you have questions, comments, or concerns, you know where to find me. Also, check out my Editing Services tab.

More questions and answers from Quora

will edit for food

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

This time, I’ll be showing a few questions with some short answers. All of the questions revolve around some facet of reading, writing, or editing, but if you find that you have some questions about the editing process, please ask right here or leave a comment.

Question 1: Can you give me some good advice before I attempt to write my first novel?

Answer: Practice writing short stories to get a feel for the process. Write a fanfiction novel so you already have a great foundation while you find your voice. Then, write your novel.

Relax, just get all your thoughts down, and then hire an editor. Feel free to visit my blog posts for more in depth information regarding the processes through which a writer can improve the quality of their writing. You can also learn what it is that makes an editor competent.

Finally, the most important aspect of writing a novel is, well, to just write. Nothing can be said about a novel or writing a first draft. A first draft is just that, a draft, so just write it all down.

There is nothing to worry over because no one else is reading the draft, so a writer needs to just relax and focus on getting down all their thoughts. Only after the first draft has been written can a writer go back and search for discrepancies.

Question 2: How can you say this in a better way?

Addendum: “even a guy good looking like that… doesn’t look handsome anymore when he’s next to Tom Cruise”

Answer: As handsome as Bill is, he looks like a toad next to Tom Cruise. There are numerous variants, though. What’s important in such situations during the writing process is to suspend judgment. Just write the phrase, scene, paragraph, or whatever as it comes to mind.

Only after having completed the novel, or perhaps the chapter, should a writer go back and find better ways to say something. However, that better way must be pertinent to the scene, the writer’s voice, the intent behind the phrase.

A writer must ask: is this dialogue? If it is, how would this character speak? Is this character sarcastic? Stuffy? Old? Young?

If it isn’t dialogue, what genre is the story? If it’s scifi then a writer might write: All the scales and tentacles in the world didn’t make Bill any hotter than Tom Cruise.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer, and it becomes totally up to the writer, so long as the writer keeps in mind their audience.

Question 3: What are a writer’s and editor’s strengths?

Addendum: Another word might be personality types, but I don’t want to limit it to that.

Answer: Conviction. We believe in what we do. Passion. We love what we do. Determination. We will keep doing what we do. Fear. We are afraid that one day, we will no longer be able to do what we do, so we make what we do count.

Whether we are writers or editors, our goals are the same: to produce a product that our audience will enjoy. To this effect it becomes imperative that we exude conviction, passion, determination, and even fear.

If you’d like to learn more about writing and editing, visit my Editing Services tab.

So you want to be a writer part 5

 

Part 5 – The early social media presence

Welcome back to this series of posts about becoming a successful writer. As always, the most important concept to consider is the consistent and continuous release of quality content, and we’ll talk about how to improve the quality of content as we progress, or if you prefer, you can just hire an editor.

The last post discussed building and selling your brand, something you do regardless of which publishing route you take. The question then becomes, how does one get people to notice a brand?

Remember, your brand is you; you are selling yourself, so go out and be yourself. The world today has opened the door for all of us to do just that. We can do live videos on FaceBook. We can upload YouTube videos. We can tweet, share content and comments on Google+ and LinkedIn, we can blog on our own sites, on Quora, Medium, write stories to Wattpad, Fanfcition, and Quotev. I mean, c’mon, the opportunities are endless, but as has been mentioned, it’s important to connect with readers. If all you’re doing is following, retweeting, and sharing with other writers, you are not connecting with readers.

This brings us to another big, big, mega, huge misconception. Just about every writer out there, who is not published by a mainstream publisher, thinks they can pool their resources with other writers. They think that they can give their fans to their fellow writers, and get fans from their fellow writers.

Wrong. Man, is that ever wrong.

Does Burger King share consumers with McDonald’s? No. They compete. Does Citgo share their consumers with Shell? No, they compete. Does George Martin hold a blog tour with J.K. Rowling? No! Not even their publishers set up such things. Why? It doesn’t work.

Don’t believe it? Go and follow the mainstream authors and publishers, and look at their tweets, posts, and updates. Go look at their websites. Regardless of whether or not you think their published content is any good, it is an undeniable fact that the mainstream publishers and writers sell, at least on average, better than indie or self published writers, which means that their business model works, and their business model does not involve banding together.

They compete, and they promote competition. Perhaps no quite so intensely as Nintendo and Sega did in the past, but Simon and Schuster is not trying to give fans to or get fans from Penguin Random House.

Here’s the deal; before you are published, you do want to work with other writers, not to try and share fans—thinking that if that writer sells books, you can get their fans to buy your books—you engage with other writers just to view writing from a different perspective. Look at their brand, read their voice, check out their book covers, blog formats, etc. There’s a ton of stuff you can get from other writers, but you are not trying to get their fans, or pool fans between one another. The consumer world just doesn’t work that way, and as a writer, you are also a businessman, and you have to understand business.

Another factor of business is social media. As was stated earlier, the world has opened itself up to social connections, but you have to be…wait for it…sociable.

Retweeting, and setting up auto tweets, and auto posts is the wrong approach. It is certainly a time saver, but you should not be spending the bulk of your time on social media, or even promoting your work, anyway; you should be spending the bulk of your time reading, writing, editing, and discussing topics—connecting with humans as a human.

Be sociable. Engage with other readers. Right now, before writing your novel, make an account on Goodreads, FaceBook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Reddit, Medium, and have your own blog. Go to where the people are discussing topics you like.

Maybe, you like The Elder Scrolls. I do. I went and conversed with people who enjoyed The Elder Scrolls, and I just talked about the video games. I did not immediately try to monopolize the posts by telling everyone to drop what they were doing and come read my Skyrim fanfiction. I acted like a human being, and I discussed whatever the particular topic was. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, I let people know that I enjoyed Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim so much, I went and wrote a fanfiction. I added that if anyone was interested, the link to the free book was available, and it worked; people came to read my story.

Maybe you like HarryPotter. Believe it; plenty of people are talking HarryPotter. Join groups dedicated to HarryPotter and discuss. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, you let people know you are also working on a HarryPotter fanfcition and would love some feedback.

This is how you benefit from social media. People think that they should use social media to send out an update from their blog, or send out a link to a buy page for a book. There are times to do that, but releasing those kinds of posts on a regular basis is not what sells books. It just doesn’t work that way.

Think about it. If a new, mainstream author emerged today, and you are on Twitter, and you see a retweet from someone you follow, which states: @JohnPWriter visit http://www.jpwriter.com for my new book: Mars Raiders, are you going to run out and buy the book? Why would you? Are you even going to click the link to see what the book is about?

Here’s the bigger question; what are the odds of you even seeing that tweet?

If you start your social media presence now, before writing your debut novel, you’re selling yourself, that’s all you’re trying to do. You are creating an online presence, and people will take you seriously because you are a real person who is interacting with other, likeminded people. Then, as you write your short stories or fanfiction, you can kindly, kindly, ask people to come look at your work, but only if the opportunity is there.

The great thing about a lot of social media sites is that you can ask the question. Something along the lines of the following makes for a great opener: I want to write a Harry Potter fanfiction, can someone provide me some feedback? Don’t expect everyone who likes HarryPotter to rush on over to your question and answer it, but don’t be surprised if people are interested either; everyone likes to talk about themselves and what they enjoy.

A great tweet might also read: @JohnPWriter I’m trying to finish my #HarryPotter #Fanfiction, all comments welcome visit http://www.jpwriter.com Thanks

Social media is extremely important, but 90% of writers are using it incorrectly. These posts, however, have not been designed to teach you the intricacies of using each social platform. There are numerous books written by numerous people, and everyone has their own take on how to optimize a Twitter presence, or a FaceBook author page, or a Google+ brand page. Feel free to buy those books, just be sure to check out the one and two star reviews, not only the five star reviews.

What needs to be considered is that, empirically speaking, if you send out a tweet, which has a shelf life of about six seconds, and that tweet states: http://www.jpwriter.com come check out my new #HarryPotter #fanfiction. No one is going to pay attention.

I can prove it.

Find your favorite, indie author who is claiming they’re earning a five figure income per month, and look at their tweets. Then, look at how many followers they have. They may have a million followers, but then look at the number of likes and retweets each tweet gets. For FaceBook and other platforms, look at how many likes, shares, and comments they have. In all likelihood, it’s very few.

On the rarest of occasion, you may come across the one person who is getting mass likes, retweets, shares, and comments, and if that’s the case, they have built their brand correctly, and in that case, you should scrutinize their tweets because the working formula is in there somewhere. Most people are trying to use social media to get people to view their book or website, when they should be using their book or website to get more followers. Most writers have it backwards.

I’ll be totally honest, I have few followers on Twitter, and I don’t use FaceBook; in the end, the numbers matter very little. Don’t believe that either? Go look at Penguin Random House’s Twitter account. Look at their tweets, and see how many likes and retweets they have. Look also at how many tweets they send out per day. Read their tweets carefully. You won’t see what you expect. They certainly sell books, though, don’t they? Social media numbers mean very little.

Here’s the math: if you send out a tweet with a shelf life of six seconds, very few people will see it unless it is consistently retweeted regardless of how many followers you have, but let’s assume that one million people see this magic tweet over the course of a day. Out of one million views, if no one retweets it—or even if it is the retweeting which garners this magic tweet one million views—out of those views, maybe 1% of people will be interested enough to click on the link. That means that only ten thousand people will view the linked page. If that page is a buy page on, say, Barnes and Noble, how many of those people, those ten thousand, will be readers, people looking to buy a book? How many will be people looking to buy a book of that genre, by you, a virtually unknown author?

How many people will be interested enough to look at the title, cover, and blurb? Maybe one percent? That means that of that ten thousand, one hundred people are likely to buy the book.

Hey, one hundred sales isn’t too bad, though, right?

Let me tell you; unless your tweet is magic, your tweet isn’t going to get a million views. Think about it. When you’re on Twitter, or which ever social media outlet you prefer, how many posts do you scrutinize? How many have links to pages? How many of those do you actually click? Where do you usually wind up? A website? A blog? How much scrutiny do you give then? Have you ever actually bought a book explicitly due to a Tweet? A mention on FaceBook? A post on LinkedIn?

Are you with me?

Social media is not used to sell books or even drive traffic to your site. Social media is used to engage, sociably, with likeminded people. King and Martin have a mess of followers on Twitter because people already know those guys exist. People—fans—will follow you after visiting your site, downloading your free, short story, reading your fanfiction, or purchasing your novel, not the other way around, so you have to understand what social media does; it gives people a chance to talk, to talk about what they enjoy, and if people enjoy reading the fantasy genre then talk to those people about the fantasy genre.

Yes, you do want to Tweet and post updates, which you have made to your blog or website, but if that’s all you do with social media, it won’t get you the results you’re expecting. Why would anyone want to retweet such a thing? What is there to entice someone to click on the link? Who cares that John P. Writer just released a new, blog post entitled: fat cash for fast cats?

Also, if other writers are consistently retweeting your tweets, won’t they be missing out on potential fans or sales? If you’re constantly retweeting other writers, won’t you be suffering the same? Well, yes and no; as was discussed, you aren’t getting sales from tweets anyway, but you’re definitely losing out on attention, so there will come a time to distance yourself from other writers, and we’ll dive into that a little bit more later on.

What is important to understand is that social media does not sell products, but it can certainly sell a brand. That brand is you, so be cute, be funny, be accessible, be present. You like cats? I love cats! Post cat memes, pictures, gifs, and videos to your social media accounts. Then, find a way to relate cats to your writing, book, blog, or site.

You can easily make a cat meme with your website on it. No, it won’t be a clickable hyperlink, but people will still see your website, or perhaps, the title of your book. Make a cat meme that says: Grumpy catwuvs Mars Raiders. Don’t you wuv grumpy cat?

Yes, it’s absolutely stupid, but it creates a mental link, a connection. People will associate something they know and love with something unfamiliar. After someone sees grumpy cat wuvving the title of your book or website a half a dozen times, they’re going to get curious.

Own a cat? Sweet! Snap a pic of your cat sleeping on your laptop, and make claims that Mrs. Whiskers if feeling left out because you’ve been writing so much.

Feel me?

This is business. This is marketing, and you can use social media to market your brand, but you cannot use social media to get new readers and sell books by simply auto tweeting: come check out my new #fantasy #adventure The Ring of Lords.

Yes, as with everything else, this is time consuming, and there are numerous variables, which you must calculate specifically for your title, audience, genre, etc. Social media is a powerful tool, but even the best Phillip’s head screwdriver is useless if all your screws are flatheads head, right? You have to use the proper tools properly, and I promise you, the number of followers you have on Twitter or any social media site does not equate to the number of visitors who will spend time on your site and subsequently buy your books.

So what sell books? Quality content and people. If people like you then they like your brand. If they like your brand they will discuss it with others through their social media accounts. This is why you haven’t written your novel yet. You are writing short stories and giving them away, so that you can learn what your audience likes. Then, you will write your fanfiction, and give that away, too. Then, when it’s time to write your novel, people will already be waiting for it. You will already have a better understanding on how to improve the quality of your writing, too.

It sounds like a great deal of effort. It is! It will pay off, though. Engage people who already enjoy what you enjoy. Build connections. Build your brand. Release quality content, and then people will sell your content for you.

You can’t possibly sell thousands of copies of your own books, but if you sell ten copies, and your fans talk about them, thus selling more copies, and then everyone is selling tens of copies of your books then suddenly everyone is buying your books. People, consumers, fans sell products, not social media.

Thanks, you guys have been great. I’m going to be releasing one more post in this series, so stay tuned. If you’re interested in learning how to improve your content, read any of my “Editing” posts. Also visit the Editing Services tab.

They Lurk Among Us Chapter 1 part 2

lokians they lurk among us

 

They Lurk Among Us is the sequel to Beyond the End of the World. Both titles, and a third, were at one point published by a small press. I’ve complained about that press to my satisfaction, and I’m now proud to say that with the return of rights, I will be re-releasing Lokians 2, They Lurk Among Us pretty soon.

The Lokians series is a sci fi series heavy with aliens, high tech, action, and a little espionage. I don’t know how soon They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2, will be out, but here’s a chunk of the first chapter.

Shaw was left holding the bag again. He had only just received word that Swain was on his way. Now, I’m supposed to find out about this accident, too? He shook his head and sighed in disbelief. A knock on his door demanded his attention. He pressed a button on his desk, unlocking the door. A beep indicated entry was available.

Swain walked in and closed the door behind him. He turned then saluted. The Lieutenant Commander was a large, black man. A superior intellect burned behind his bright eyes, and the prowess of a warrior resonated through massive hands.

“Lieutenant Commander Albert Swain, reporting, Sir,” he stated then dropped his salute.

“Yes. Thank you for coming on short notice. Swain, I was going over O’Hara’s reports. It wasn’t so long ago that I was in the former captain’s shoes,” Shaw started, but paused momentarily.

“Of course, Sir, I still have fond memories of your leadership. What exactly can I do for you?”

Swain was an extremely savvy individual. The mission with O’Hara provided him  a great deal of experience, and he stood at attention without ever making eye contact with his former crewleader. He remembered how well Shaw ran his crew when he was captain, yet he continued staring at a point above the admiral’s head.

“I see that you initiated the first steps, which led to the meeting with Thewls. Can you tell me a little about that,” Shaw pried as he held aloft a documents pad, a digital records archive.

The commander’s large, ebony stature remained motionless. He took a brief moment before answering.

“Classified, Sir.”

Admiral Shaw grit his teeth, saying, “Come, now, Swain; I’m trying to do what’s right here…it doesn’t matter, you know? Can you tell me how the captain came to a decision to help Thewls? According to my reports, Lay removed himself from the proceedings. Did he have something to hide?”

Shaw rifled through documents by sliding his finger over the digital screen. It became increasingly evident to Swain that Shaw lacked the necessary tools for interrogation.

“Classified, Sir.”

A wince flickered over the old man’s visage. He then stood, throwing the pad onto his desk. He tried to make eye contact with Swain, but the big man shifted his eyes to an even higher position.

“Dammit, Swain! Do you understand that O’Hara got half his crew killed? Do you understand that he single handedly caused the shutdown of Horizon…well?!”

Swain slowly lowered his eyes to meet Shaw’s. “Classified, Sir,” he stated, slowly, calmly.

With no alternative, Shaw picked up a comm. unit. “Come get this man out of here.”

He then pushed the button, unlocking the door again. Two men clad in black stepped in. They began to cuff Swain who turned to Shaw.

“Who are these guys,” he was shocked and about to defend himself.

“I’m sending you to Hellsview. Maybe a little R and R on the prison colony will coerce you….”

The men managed to secure the commander’s wrists and lead him out of the office. Shaw slowly took his seat, sighing and dropping his head into his hand. He hated insubordination, but he yet loved his old crew, though he was convinced that protocol had been breached, which meant extreme measures were needed in order to discover whatever Lay and O’Hara had done eight months prior.

He continued sifting through information. O’Hara’s reports detailed finding beacons on Eon, meeting with Thewls, Lay’s removal from the mission, travel aboard a Thewlian craft, the death of Becker and Imes, but then the reports became less comprehensive. Undoubtedly, large portions of the events were omitted.

He knew only that O’Hara found something outside the Gemini system then fought the Lokians. When he returned, they were all gravely wounded, and more men were dead; Octavio Martinez, Earl Zakowski, and Pinter Nandesrikahl. There were many detailed reports on the Lokians as a race of hostile aliens. O’Hara hadn’t spared details on their capabilities, how they operated, their strengths and weaknesses; according to those reports, they were an intergalactic race of insect-like creatures, yet there was little else documented.

The focus of the reports revolved around how the aliens moved from civilization to civilization, harvesting technology along the way for some unseen end. What was omitted regarding the Lokians was from where they came, and how they had been suppressed. Shaw’s primary concern, however, was that less than seven months ago, Thewls brought some sort of craft for reverse engineering to Horizon. They were accompanied by an even stranger craft piloted by Day.

Shaw, who had been in charge of overseeing the Horizon colony on Eon, was outraged by O’Hara’s, and Admiral Lay’s, brash decision to integrate Thewls into the colony. The act pushed him over the edge. He held firm that had Thewls not augmented Human technology, they may never have been targets of a Lokian invasion, and as it stood, the aliens had never attacked.

At the time of the events, Shaw was unable to press Lay for information for two reasons; the chief reason being chain of command. Naturally, Shaw wasn’t able to obtain information if Lay was unwilling to provide. Secondly, Lay had removed himself from the mission, placing O’Hara in charge. Worst of all, his clearance didn’t allow him the opportunity to inspect the captain’s reports, which was simply inexplicable.

Subsequently, he contacted the Secretary of Defense, who immediately relayed the issues to President Montrose, who personally demanded Shaw compile as much intel as possible. Then, he sent a message claiming that Humans were freely giving intel to aliens, which seemed to clinch the President’s involvement. Shaw had been worried Thewls might see fit to approach and attack Earth; an action most obtrusive. Montrose agreed. While mentally reviewing the recent past, his comm. unit dinged.

“Yes,” he snapped.

“Sir, DeReaux is on his way.”

“Copy.”

Moments passed, during which the admiral attempted to regain his composure. He had been too upset to deal properly with Swain and wasn’t going to make the same mistake with DeReaux. A knock on the door demanded his attention, and he pressed the button. A tall, swarthy man entered when the door unlocked. He didn’t close the door, but left it open a hair. A subtle, orange glow shone beyond the crack.

The svelt individual wore his hair greased back and his pointy nose seemed to be sniffing the air. “Sir.”

The man’s attitude exuded confidence as he stood at parade rest. He patiently, nearly defiantly, awaited questioning.

“Yes. DeReaux, I need you to listen to me,” Shaw spoke, hurriedly.

“Of course, Admiral,” DeReaux replied, nonchalantly.

“I have Humanity’s best interest at heart here. There is an ongoing investigation as to what transpired during your mission under O’Hara. As you well know, intel was leaked to Earth, causing the dismissal of the Horizon colony. I am trying to understand…rather, I am trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.” Shaw took a pause to gauge the reaction of his former crewmember. DeReaux had none. His men had changed drastically under the leadership of O’Hara. In his recollection, Shaw never saw his men so defiant, so loyal. He was envious. “DeReaux, tell me what you can about your mission on Marduk. How did you all come to discover its existence? Why were you all so eager to join a group of aliens and give away our planet’s history?”

“I can’t explain it as well as my captain. You have his reports, no?”

“Yes. I have O’Hara’s reports, but they become muddled. Too much data is missing. I’m asking you, personally, to lend me a hand. Help me to understand the mission. Help me to understand why you all so readily jumped aboard an alien vessel,” Shaw implored.

DeReaux took a second to think and looked away. He was fond of Shaw. While he was in charge of Phoenix Crew, Shaw had bestowed much attention and loyalty upon his subordinates. Looking around the cramped office, it became clear the old man was at his wit’s end.

“Who leaked intel to Earth?” DeReaux whispered.

Shaw’s brow twitched in anger. He clasped his hands, slowly placing them on the desk.

“Listen to me. I don’t want to cause problems. I am trying to do the right thing. This is a military operation. You need to answer my questions.”

DeReaux was displeased, but resigned himself to his fate. He had too much respect for O’Hara. The captain had been beside him throughout the entire mission. They had all learned so much together. They fought side-by-side and made new friends in the galaxy. DeReaux knew a united front was the only solution. There were threats in the galaxy to which Shaw was simply oblivious.

“Who leaked intel to Earth, Sir?”

“God dammit, DeReaux!” Shaw banged on the table and snatched his comm. unit. “Come in, take him, too. Your lack of help will not go unpunished. The Earth Navy does not tolerate insubordination…. I-I’m sorry.”

As two officers walked in, DeReaux took one last look at Shaw. He knew the aging man was sincere. He shook his head and allowed himself to be detained. The sniper was escorted away.

Shaw was angry with himself, his former crew, and at Montrose. He had only intended to rectify the situation, but the distrust the men showed him pushed him over the edge. The last person he needed to contact was Miss Day, but her schedule placed her light years away. He knew he had time to waste. He needed to contact the President, explain his failure. Begrudgingly, he took his comm. unit and relayed a message of urgency. As things stood, he was able to devote his time to investigating the Juniper malfunction.

 

Thank you for reading another installment of the Lokians sci fi series. I hope you enjoyed it. They Lurk Among Us will be out soon. In the meantime, you can grab Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free.

Questions From Quora Regarding Editing part 2

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

This time, I’ll be showing a few questions with some short answers. All of the questions revolve around some facet of editing, but if you find that you have some questions about the editing process, please ask right here or leave a comment.

Question 1: If I can omit the comma after “today,” can I do the same in “Fortunetly I don’t have work tomorrow.”?
Addendum: I’m able to omit the comma after “today” in the sentence, “Today I went to school,” but am I able to omit the comma after “fortunety” in the sentence, “Fortunetly I don’t have work tomorrow.”

Answer: You do not need the comma after fortunately. In this case, using the comma is optional, but make sure that you are consistent in your writing and punctuation. Also, be sure to correct spelling mistakes.

To expound a bit, the reason a comma may be placed after today, yesterday, at this time, fortunately, etc., is due to the fact that those kinds of words at the beginning of a sentence set up a sort of restriction.

For example: Today, the heat was excruciating.

The reader knows right away that the frame of reference is “today”, but there is no need for the comma because the frame of reference still exists without the comma.

Remember, commas do NOT indicate a pause in speech; they are used to clarify information, and if they are not clarifying the information they do not need to be there, but if they are used in such a manner, they must be used consistently.

Read more about commas here.

Question 2: I do not come to school. It’s passive voice?

Answer: No. It is active.

You are the subject and not coming to school is what you are doing. However, I do not go to school, or I did not make it to school, or I have not been to school, are more appropriate ways of phrasing such an idea in the English language.

One does not generally come to a place; they go.

Now, an example of passive voice is the following: The milk was spilled by the cat.

There is nothing wrong the sentence. It makes perfect sense, but the main noun, the cat, the thing that actually did the verb, has taken a secondary role in the sentence, thus making it passive.

The active version of that sentence is the following: The cat spilled the milk.

There is a time and place to use either passive or active voice, but that is up to the writer/editor, and what they wish to provide the audience. Generally, an active voice in the narrative forces the audience to accept at face value to events of the story, whereas the passive voice is a bit more suggestive in nature, perhaps even surreptitious. Both have their roles.

Question 3: Why do shorter paragraphs in a novel create the feeling of a faster pace?

Answer: First, it is imperative to understand that each paragraph should contain a single idea. A short paragraph means the idea is explained in fewer sentences, so numerous paragraphs of fewer sentences provides a barrage of ideas, which gives the pace speed, so long as each paragraph and their supporting sentences are structured properly.

If they aren’t, instead of a quick pace, the reader feels a jumbled confusion. Long paragraphs are still a single idea, but due to more sentences of a more complex nature being presented, the pace is slowed because less information is thoroughly explained.

So that’s three, little questions from Quora, and as you can see, editing is really a great deal more than correcting misspelled words, bad grammar, and incorrect punctuation.

Please visit my editing services tab for more information.

Also be sure to read through all my posts if you intend to become a better writer. Thanks, everyone, and stay tuned for more info.

So you want to be a writer part 4

Welcome back to this series of posts about becoming a successful writer. As always, the most important concept to consider is the consistent and continuous release of quality content, and we’ll talk about how to improve the quality of content as we progress, or if you prefer, you can just hire an editor.

At this point, I’ve presented how to come up with an idea in order to begin writing. I’ve explained why short stories are important, and how they can help you build a fan base and credibility. I’ve also talked about fanfiction, a proven method by which a new writer can become well known. Now, instead of jumping right into writing your novel, I want to take some time and explain what sells a book, or any product, really.

You see, whether or not you choose to go the self published route or the mainstream route the principles of selling are the same; so, what sells a book?

There are four components upon which everything else is built; the title of your book, the cover art, the blurb, and networking. All of these together form your brand. You are not just trying to sell your book, you are trying to connect with readers; you are trying to sell yourself, your brand.

Kanye West once said something along the lines of: people love me or people hate me, but everybody knows me. That’s a great point to make. Kanye West the person is also Kanye West the brand, and in his case, it works. Will his brand work for you? Maybe, maybe not, but a successful writer must have their brand before the eyes of the public.

George Martin is certainly a popular and hot-selling author, but what is his brand? He doesn’t really have one, does he? No, not anymore, anyway, because he is already published by a major company, so the brand being sold is the brand of Bantam, (notice the little rooster? We’ll get back to that) which is an imprint of Random House, but did you know that he began writing A Song of Ice and Fire in 1991? Did you know the first book wasn’t published until 1996? He was perfecting his craft, creating a solid fan base, and ultimately solidifying his brand, which was picked up by Bantam.

Are you following me?

Now, for just a moment, think of yourself as a reader who is looking for a new book. You already know what you like and don’t like. You already know which authors you prefer, and which ones you dislike, and maybe you’ve only ever read books released by the mainstream publishers, but how did you know a new book was released? Are you subscribed to an e-mail list? Probably not. You probably already belong to a reading group, or you are following your favorite author or publisher on social media. Maybe, you just troll Barnes and Noble online, see what’s advertised, and follow the link.

Here’s the deal; mainstream publishers, be it Random House, Simon and Schuster, Roc Books, or whomever, regardless of the specific author or title, each publisher has a specific way of doing things, and all books released by Penguin, follow the Penguin formatting rules and guidelines; those Penguin specific editors all follow certain guidelines, too, so all the books, even if the writer, title, and voice are vastly dissimilar, still share some similarities, which probably bypass you—the style of the cover art, the lettering of titles, the blurbs, the little logo on the side of the book (remember the Bantam Rooster).

If you do get picked up by a literary agent, and you are published by a mainstream publisher, they will handle all of these factors on their own, but if you decide to go the indie route, or even before you get picked up, while you’re writing your short stories, it’s imperative to brand yourself, to present some form of consistency. For example, I only use the one cover artist, so even though the covers are as different as they can be, there is a hidden consistency.

Now, before you write your novel is the time to find your voice, your brand, and present it, consistently, to your fan base. Since you have not yet written and published your novel, this is a great time to experiment.

Let’s go back to being a reader looking for a book. First and foremost, you probably have an idea of what it is you want; someone either made a recommendation, or you know your favorite publisher or author has released something, or maybe you’re just trolling for something totally fresh. The first thing that will catch your eye is the title.

Honestly, the title won’t sell you the book, but it will make you interested enough to look closely at the cover. If the book in question is one written by your favorite author or publisher, the cover won’t really make or break your decision, but if the author is unknown to you, you will scrutinize the cover, and then, if it looks interesting, you’ll read the blurb.

The blurb is what sells a book. The blurb is the reason you buy the book we’re discussing. The blurb is the little description about the book, and it should match up with the title and the cover.

If you stumble across a book entitled: Mars Raiders, and the cover shows a cow munching on green grass, you’re probably going to pass on the blurb, right? If you don’t pass, and you do read the blurb, and the blurb says something along the lines of: Farmer John Batey falls in love with a famed actress. The ravishing beauty, Helen LaMonte, just came to L.A. to make a name for herself, but ran afoul a sexually perverse agent, and she has to do nasty things to land a part in the next, big movie, Mars Raiders; you’re probably going to pass on the book, especially if you were trying to find a new sci fi to read.

Do you see where I’m going? Everything has to match up. Yes, my example is supposed to be ridiculous, but I’m trying to show you what a brand is, how it’s constructed, and why it’s important.

Now, If you see the same title: Mars Raiders, and the cover has a one-eyed, gruff-looking bandit holding a laser rifle, and he’s crouched behind a red boulder while peeking at some smoldering, alien-looking colony in the background, the title and the cover match up, right? Then, if you read the blurb, and it’s something along the lines of: Former Major Cash McManus of Earth Army has been AWOL for nearly ten years. Now, at the edge of Mars colony, he alone fends off an onslaught of slimy, worm-like aliens, but can a single man, even one so brave as McManus, save the human colony from themselves?

It’s much more interesting, right? At this point, you might check the reviews, but we’ll talk about reviews later. The truth is that reviews or no, if you’re looking for this kind of sci fi, you’re very likely to buy the book. I also have to mention that blurbs are generally longer than what I presented, at least for full length novels, and we’ll dive into blurbs a little bit more, but first I want to talk more about the title and cover art.

A catchy title is certainly helpful, and a great cover goes a long way, and these are important concepts to remember before you write your debut novel. You need to think about the titles of your short stories. You need to find a cover artist you like. You also need to make sure that the lettering of your name and title are the right colors, the right font, and there’s really no way to be sure, unfortunately, but you can go look at popular books.

Go look at Harry Potter, also look at previous editions of Harry Potter; publishers often change covers and fonts when they release new editions. Why? Because times change. People change. Tastes change, and they have to keep up. Also, as they sell more and more books by the author, or by different authors of the same genre, or new authors, they see trends in what sells. At this point, look also at the blurbs employed by the hottest selling titles.

Start comparing and contrasting, titles, covers, and blurbs. These three components are the onset of your brand, and without them, no amount of networking and tweeting please look at my book will sell a book, or even result in a free download.

The title, cover, and blurb must work in unison to provide a complete idea, the idea of your story, to your intended audience, and you’ll have to learn about your audience, and what they enjoy, but by writing short stories with proper titles, cool covers, and smashing blurbs, you will learn all of this before releasing your debut novel. It’s a growing process, and a process you must undertake now, before writing your debut novel, or you will have a devil of a time growing your fan base with a book in which no one is interested.

All of my books have a consistency, perhaps a hidden consistency, when it comes to titles, covers, and blurbs, and it’s extremely difficult to outline what that consistency is, but let’s look at these titles; Losing Human, Raising Dead, and Expedition. All three are short stories. Now, let’s look at the covers.

There are some similarities, the fonts aren’t entirely different. All of the titles are both simple and mysterious, and all the covers, while exciting, aren’t overly fancy or flashy. Now, let’s look at the blurbs.

Losing Human: A man has a dream, a vision to see the world through eternal eyes. Dr. Heisler, roboticist, funds Project Human to advance the human race. After funding is diminished, he takes drastic measures and uploads a human awareness into a mobile robotic construct.

Raising Dead: An ancient necromancer seeks but one dream, the power of perfection, the power of immortality. What he finds leaves him speechless. Is he but chasing the wind?

Expedition: King Eidon of Ilteriel learns of a new island, far to the south. He sends an expedition in search of new resources, allies, and power. Jorunhaal, Ilteriel’s greatest warrior, is to lead the expedition. Upon setting foot on the island, one disaster after another occurs. The men battle small were-wolves, fall prey to a foul sickness in the air, and uncover demons….

Each of these short stories are also free. They have been free since I released them, and they have received numerous downloads, but the original blurbs were very different. The original blurbs, in fact, must have been what hindered downloads because the rate of downloads more than tripled after I changed the blurbs to what they are now. I can also tell you that these covers are not the original covers, but I didn’t see much change in reception from the new covers alone; I also had to update the blurbs.

I can tell you for fact, beyond doubt, that blurbs matter, probably more than anything else, with the exception of the story itself, of course.

In the end, the point to consider is that when people come across your work, they start to become acquainted with your brand; your titles, covers, and blurbs, and subsequently, your voice. If everything generates a download, and the reader enjoys the story, the reader is more likely to try another title, and when the reader is satisfied by the quality of most of the titles, the reader is more than willing to purchase your novels, which carry the same brand.

Now, here it is: you are not selling your book. I am not selling my book. Readers, fans, are selling our books. Fans, who are trolling sites for a new read, find something they like, and when they like something, they tell everyone. Why? Because when people find something they enjoy, it’s only natural to want to share that joy with friends and family. People want to belong, and they love to share and discuss similar topics, so fans of fantasy, who like your fantasy stories, will share those fantasy stories with friends and family, and bango; your fans sell your books, which are easily recognizable due to your brand’s consistency. This is the concept on which publishers count; they want fans to sell books. Otherwise, they would be releasing book trailers and commercials to television on a regular basis, but they aren’t, are they?

At this point, I truly wish I was able to tell you exactly how to title your story, and which cover is best for you, and what the perfect blurb should say, but that’s impossible. All of you are going to write different stories. All of you are going to have a different target audience. All of you are going to enjoy different methods, but hey, you haven’t written that debut novel yet, right? So, now is the time to experiment with titles, cover artists, and blurbs, now, while you’re writing and giving away free short stories, or perhaps even before you publish your short stories. Right now, while you’re building your brand, your fan base, and improving the quality of your product, you are selling yourself.

One thing you can do, which has been proven to lead to success is hire different cover artists to make different covers for a single title. Then, you can ask your fellow readers and writers to choose which cover they like. You can present numerous titles, varying blurbs, and ask readers and writers which they prefer for that one story.

Learn now, right now. Don’t get stuck on the idea of writing the perfect novel from start to finish without knowing, understanding, the basics, and what sells. Of course, in the end, since you are only writing short stories, you can always change the titles, covers, and blurbs even after they are published.

I changed the covers on all three of the titles I mentioned above. I changed the blurbs, too. I kept the titles for those particular stories, but I did change the title of another book.

A while back, I was published by a small press; I won’t go in to details at this point. I will say that the title I had chosen was rather poor in hindsight. It was an interesting title, but I hadn’t realized how much other stuff out there was called: Shadowman. After a return of rights, I employed my cover artist—so I changed the cover—changed the blurb, and even changed the title to: Otherside, which is much more fitting.

Now, these are things you can’t really do if you are picked up by a mainstream publisher, but then there’s no need to worry either. They throw all kinds of money into marketing—their brand into which you are signing—and they will help you along the way, but until you’re published by a major publisher, or if you decide against that route, you do have complete control over your content, however, if you release your debut novel today, and a year later you realize things aren’t working out for you, and you change everything, and you end up doing this for everything after you’ve already tried to establish your credibility as a writer, that credibility will vanish, and no one will take you seriously; you’ll be the writer who is always changing everything after publication, and that tells people that you don’t know what you’re doing. You won’t build a loyal fan base by consistently struggling to find your brand after you’ve already released books.

Learn what to do now. Learn what works and what doesn’t now, before you write your first novel. Learn while writing is just a hobby. Don’t wait to learn after trying to become a professional writer. Learn now before you start charging consumers for an actual product. Short stories are so good for this kind of practice, and if you really try to involve readers in the process, I promise; you will build a solid fan base.

In the end, when you do find your brand, the next key concept is the quality of your writing. If you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been writing for a while and other writers give you bangin’ reviews, but for some reason readers always give you bad reviews, it may because you need to hire an editor, or a better editor, and we’ll discuss editing more as we go along, but for now, you can check out my editing services.

Thanks for reading. As always, please share your thoughts.