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June 2017
2

If I taught a class in writing, the following would be the outline for my syllabus:

 

1. Character – The care you take in crafting your characters is probably the most important time and talent you will spend writing. The goal is to create characters with whom your readers will make an emotional connection. That means you need to have more than a passing knowledge of what makes your characters tick. You need to do a deep dive on their background and relationships.

 

2. Plot – The temptation will be to show off and demonstrate to your readers how clever you are, but resist that temptation. Keep your main plot simple. Limit the number of twists and turns to just a few. Remember, character is what's driving this book. The plot should serve the characters not the other way around.

 

3. Subplots – This is where I have fun with secondary characters. I give them their own adventures within the story, a strategy that gives them much more depth. I believe it's crucial that your readers not only connect with the main characters but with supporting characters, too.

 

4. Conflict – There have to be clear stakes for your characters if they don't succeed, and those stakes have to be personal. The potential loss has to be painful and life-altering. Not only will that drive you to be more creative when things get tough, it will draw your readers in even more. The greater the stakes for a character they've connected with, the greater their interest.

 

5. Endings – You've caused your readers to bond with your characters. Give them an ending that reflects real life. What happens in real life? It goes on. Whatever happened to your main character, life doesn't end when the book does. Give a hint at what's to come next, even if you're not writing a series.  

 

Why did I share this with you? Am I trying to tell you how to write? No. I want you to do the same. Create a five-topic outline for a syllabus, not because I want you to teach a class, but I want you to be able to identify your own writing philosophy. Once you know that, you'll write with more confidence and approach each project with much more energy and enthusiasm.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Your writing philosophy

Your how-to-be-a-novelist syllabus

1,761 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, indie, writing, characters, drafts, plot, author_advice, writing_help
1

In a recent post I described a launch party a super fan of mine was planning for my latest novel (Bridges) on Facebook. I wasn't sure what to expect and promised to report back on how it went, so here you go!


The party wasn't enormous, but in my opinion it was a big success. I think around 50 people attended, which is more than I see at my physical launch parties. Here's how it unfolded:


  • The super fan/host (Veronica) began the party by posting a meme that read "roll call," and in the comments everyone who was "in attendance" wrote where they were located. Attendees ranged from Alabama to Oregon, with one woman logging in from the Philippines!
  • Every five minutes Veronica posted a meme with either a fun question (e.g. what's your dream job?) or an action item that would make the attendee eligible for a giveaway (e.g. "sign up for Maria's newsletter for a chance to win a signed copy of Bridges.")
  • If the meme included an action item, it also included a link to where to complete the action item (e.g. my website to sign up for my newsletter.)
  • In between the giveaways and games, Veronica posted a photo of me and opened it up to questions in the comments. This was my favorite part of the evening, because it gave me a chance to interact directly with my fans.

 

Here's a link to the party if you'd like to see exactly how it unfolded. (It says 88 attended, but I don't think that's accurate given how many people answered roll call and participated in the activities. Then again, maybe some attendees just wanted to observe. Or maybe people RSVPd "yes" but didn't attend.)


In all I gained dozens of new followers on social media, and I hope I gained some new readers too. Regardless, I had a great time and would definitely do it again!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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What is a virtual book tour?

Book parties don?t have to cost money



1,013 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, book_marketing, social_media, book_launch, book_party
3

Building a brand is not rocket science nor is it particularly laborious. If done right, it requires very little effort. It will require some of your time, and you may have little to spare, but if you set aside some of that precious time to build your brand, you will be rewarded for your sacrifice. Here are the three key components of building an author brand:


1. Be you: We've discussed this many times on the blog. An author brand bridges the worlds of art and commerce. You are an artist seeking commercial success. Your brand won't be a corporate brand, nor will it be a purely personal brand. It will be something in between. Your focus is to just be you with a slight nod towards your readers' interests. In the beginning, you will represent your typical reader. Build your brand to make yourself happy.


2 ABB: Always be branding. Again, this isn't too taxing. You are just being you. Just be you in a more public setting. Do some or all of the following, frequently: post to your blog, tweet, update your Facebook status, create videos, etc. Just keep putting yourself out there and making your voice be heard.


3. Interact: Once you take the digital realm with the intention of building your brand, you're going to want to start conversations with your readers. Engage with you friends, followers, and readers. Let their voices be heard. You are building more than a brand. You are building a community.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The foundation of your brand

Be authentic to your brand

1,403 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, branding, brand_development
3

At one point in my life, when email was a new concept and people still read physical newspapers, I worked in advertising. It was a blast because it was creatively rewarding in its own way. In that time, I was given golden rule after golden rule. Here are the top three that are still relevant today:


1. Repetition: One ad won't get it done. I don't care if it's the greatest ad ever created in the history of ad-dom. Consumers have to be exposed to the ad over and over and over again. Actually, some studies indicate that a consumer won't be moved to purchase until the seventh to tenth exposure to an ad. I remember years ago when an author purchased a half page ad that cost five figures in a prestigious newspaper at the time, it generated a handful of sales. He was furious and blamed the company that created the ad when he should have been outraged at the person who encouraged him to use his entire advertising budget on a one-time-run of the ad.


2. Know your readers: Running an ad a hundred times in front of a demographic that does not represent your typical reader is also a costly mistake. Know who your readers are, and you'll know where to find them.


3. Brevity is the soul of good advertising: This isn't a novel. This is advertising. Keep it brief in order to make it portable. These days, if it can't fit in a tweet, you're hindering your marketing efforts. Even before twitter, ads that were short and concise were always the most effective. "Got milk?" Keep it short and make it easy for people to share.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Don't Say It Unless You Meme It

Social Media Best Practices

1,427 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, advertising, selling_books, writing, promotions
0

 

Unless you have a publisher calling the shots, when your book "launches" is up to you. In my opinion, the ideal launch time is as soon as the book is finished. No one can buy it if it's not available, and you can't make any money if no one can buy it, right?


It's worth noting, however, that the marketing efforts surrounding your book can start long before the actual launch date. For example, if you plan to do any media outreach, many publications (especially print) won't review books unless they receive them several months ahead of time. Depending on the time of year, you can pitch your book for inclusion in various "seasonal" articles, e.g. holiday gift ideas for kids, beach reads for spring break/summer, etc.


Digital publications are more flexible, but you'll have a better chance of getting a "yes" response if you're able to offer a review copy (even a PDF or digital file) before your book comes out. The cover doesn't have to be finalized and the book doesn't have to have had a final proofread for the press to accept what's called an "advance reader's copy/ARC" or "galley" copy.


Even if traditional media outreach isn't part of your marketing plan, you can (and should) offer early copies to book bloggers to review. (Click here for my post on how to find them.) If and when a blogger gives your book a positive review, you can use that for additional marketing purposes, e.g. your website, your Amazon page, or when reaching out to your college alumni publications, regional alumni club newsletter, etc.


Marketing is all about getting your book in front of potential readers. You never want to rush and risk compromising quality, but once you have a (nearly) finished product, I say get started on that front. Then when the final version is ready for public consumption, go for the launch!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Scouting locations for book launch parties

Don't make this marketing mistake

1,844 Views 0 Comments Permalink
1

Let them struggle

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 19, 2017

Your protagonist shouldn't have all the answers. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that it's imperative that your protagonist doesn't have all the answers. In other words, he or she shouldn't always be winning. If your story features the protagonist always getting the upper hand, your story has three problems.


1. It's boring.

2. It's predictable.

3. Your protagonist isn't experiencing any growth.


Don't be afraid to let your protagonist fail. That's when the story has meaning because it forces introspection, action, and change. That's what keeps a reader hooked. The more challenges your protagonist fails to conquer, the greater your opportunity as a writer to create a more compelling story with a multidimensional protagonist.


Readers identify with struggle because they've experienced struggle. They've failed to conquer challenges in their lives, so they can relate to a protagonist who does the same. When a reader relates to a protagonist, they become more than a reader. They become a fan.


Of course, I'm talking about struggles that occur all the way to the point of the conclusion of the main conflict. Having your protagonist not come out on top at the end of your book would be highly unusual. Losing a few battles here and there is one thing, but having them lose the war is something else entirely. I don't know if a reader can get over that. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'm having a hard time recalling a book I enjoyed that featured the protagonist losing the final conflict.


Give your protagonist the opportunity to lose a few battles along the way, so they can grow and learn. Your readers will thank you for it.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Make Your Protagonist Likable

How to develop a plot

892 Views 1 Comments Permalink
1

The publishing industry has developed word count standards for various genres. In the past, we've talked about those here on this blog. We may have even suggested using the word count totals as guidelines for your novel. My suggestion today will appear to go against that previous suggestion, but hear me out.

 

When writing your first draft, I would suggest that you not word count watch. Don't curb your creativity in an effort to meet a standard. The first draft is for letting go and letting the passages fly. Having a target word count can add undue stress and slow you down as you try to force creativity. On the first draft, set the target aside and just write.

 

Too many writers set up roadblocks to first drafts before they even start writing. As I've said many times, your first draft should be bad, so bad that you never want anyone to see it. Use your first draft to get the story from your head to the page. Once you've completed the first draft, the polishing begins.

 

Now, when you reach the rewrite stage, use the word count target as a guideline again. Cut or expand as necessary. That's what rewrites are for. The standards exist for a reason, and while ignoring them all together is your prerogative, adhering to them helps your book meet the expectations of your genre's reader base. A few thousand words above or below the standard are fine, but anything beyond that and you run the risk of chasing fans of your book's genre away.

 

To recap, standards such as word counts are good, but not when it comes to writing the first draft.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Word Count Paralysis

How to Get Through the First Draft

1,026 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, writing, drafts, craft, word_count, writing_tips, writing_help
0

Unless you're a grammar nut like I am, chances are you've never heard the term "passive voice." Here's a quick explanation:


Passive voice without attribution is when we learn that something happens without learning who did it.


For example:


  • Active voice: Gloria ate all the cookies.
  • Passive voice without attribution: All the cookies were eaten.
  • Active voice: David stole the cookies out of the box.
  • Passive voice without attribution: The cookies were stolen out of the box.


Passive voice with attribution tell us who did it:


  • All the cookies were eaten by Gloria.
  • The cookies were stolen out of the box by David.


Passive voice with attribution is clunky, but it is better than no attribution at all.


It's okay to use the passive voice now and again, but as a rule it's best to avoid it because the writing sounds a bit weak.Andusing it too often without attribution can irritate your readers because they will be left wondering things such as "Who ate the cookies?" or "Who stole the cookies?"


Journalists (have to) use passive voice without attribution when they simply don't have all the information, for example:


  • Police say the victim was pushed down the stairs.


If the police (and by extension) the reporter knew who pushed the victim down the stairs, the active voice could be used:


  • Police say the victim's ex-husband pushed her down the stairs.


NOTE: The sentence could also read "Police say the victim was pushed down the stairs by her ex-husband." (Again, a little clunky, but the passive voice with attribution is better than no attribution at all.)


Following are nearly identical scenarios, one using active voice, two using passive voice.


A)   The cat climbed the tree in a few seconds.

B)   The tree was climbed in a few seconds.

C)   The tree was climbed by the cat in a few seconds.


Which one do you think sounds better? If your answer isn't A, read the sentences out loud to see if that changes your mind.


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Active vs. Passive Voice

Why the Passive Voice Is Hated By Me

1,228 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar, active_voice, passive_voice
0

Milestones

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 12, 2017

 

When I was born, my parents had a huge party for me and then we never celebrated my birthday again. Why would we? In fact, the actual day of my birth was the only milestone my family ever celebrated in my life. Not only is that a sad story, it is completely untrue. Like most humans, I've celebrated a number of events in my life, including the anniversary of my birth every year.

 

Your book doesn't just have a launch date you can celebrate with a party. It has a number of milestones you can celebrate with a party, and if not a party, an announcement across your social media platform. You may not want to throw a party for your book's second anniversary, but what about the tenth anniversary? Did your book reach number one in an Amazon category or even subcategory? At the very least, that merits a celebratory status update or tweet to be shared and retweeted.

 

In past posts, we've established that your book is an evergreen product. It won't go out of print. That's a lot of years for you to accumulate milestones and celebrate in some form or fashion. Now is not the time to be modest. If something good comes your way, share with your community and give them the opportunity to celebrate with you.


Get out a piece of paper and write down book milestones that you think are worth celebrating and then plan accordingly. Start with the big ones that could merit a small gathering of friends and fans, and then find the smaller targets that will keep your community informed and raring to celebrate your success with you. 


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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The Anniversary Edition

 

The Launch Party

 


 


925 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: book_marketing, launch, launch_party, book_launch, book_launch_party
0

About 10 years ago, I can remember very distinctly that some marketing experts were predicting the death of email, not just as a marketing tool, but as a form of communication. It was thought that text and social media would totally replace the need for emails. Well, according to some estimates, about 74 trillion emails are sent every year. It appears the public did not get the memo that email was supposed to be dead.


But the fact that email is still used does not mean it is effective as a marketing tool. If you were to ask me if email marketing works on me, I'd give you an emphatic no. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't work. I'm willing to believe I'm wrong. A lot of stuff annoys me that thrills others, so we need to do a deeper dive.


DMR, a clearinghouse of statistics and information on digital marketing, has done an oft referenced study that says the following:


  • Percentage of "opened" emails opened on a desktop: 55.2%
  • Percentage of "opened" emails opened on a smartphone: 25%
  • Percentage of "opened" emails opened on a tablet: 7.3%
  • Percentage of users who made a purchase from an email opened on a mobile device: 6.1%
  • Percentage of users who clicked on link in email in the US on a mobile device: 13.7%
  • Percentage of users who clicked on link in email in the US on a Desktop computer: 18%


Further research in the industry indicates that consumers are more likely to open marketing emails from brands that they are familiar with, and regular, relevant communication is the key to making emails from brands enticing.

 

The future is likely to see the number of people using desktop computers to read emails decrease, so if you are going to use email as a marketing tool, start making your content easily read and shared on mobile devices.


So, is email marketing an effective tool for authors? If you all aspects of your platform are active, yes. That is to say, if you continue to use social media, personal appearances and blogs to interact with readers, marketing emails can be an effective addition to your marketing efforts.

 

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Is email marketing effective?

Marketing tip: build that email list

1,302 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, email_marketing, effective_marketing, email_blasts, author_adivce
2

In previous posts I've addressed my tendency to overuse certain words, phrases, or gestures, for example she bit her lip and she walked home slowly. To solve the problem I use the "find" option on Microsoft Word to catch the over-usages before my manuscripts go to the copyeditor. Some still slip through, but I'm getting better.


For words and expressions that are common, repeating them on occasion over the course of an entire novel is not a problem. For example:


  • She opened the door.
  • He fed the dog.
  • They ate dinner at home.


It's the uncommon ones that are problematic when repeated, because they are memorable. For example, using any of the following more than once in a novel would not go unnoticed by your readers:


  • She covered her face with her hands and began sobbing hysterically.
  • To celebrate, he jumped up and did splits in the air.
  • As she looked at him, her eyes flickered with curiosity.


While it's fine to sprinkle the same common gestures here and there over the course of an entire book, be careful to space them out. Last week I began reading a novel in which the following appeared in the span of just two pages in the first chapter:


  1. Kristen rubbed my arm, yanking me back to the present.
  2. Kristen rubbed my forearm. "Please talk to us."
  3. Kristen pushed out her lower lip. She rubbed my forearm.


If those sentences had appeared fifty pages apart, I doubt I would have noticed them, but their proximity made them leap off the page. As a result I stopped thinking about the story and instead found myself wondering how neither the author nor the copyeditor had noticed the repetition. Annoyed, I also gave up on that book and moved on to another one. That's not what you want to happen to your readers, right? So be careful! We all have our "crutch" words. What are some of yours?


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: don't be afraid to cut

Writing tip: be careful not to overdo the beats

1,110 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, grammar
1

Epilogues and prologues are sometimes enigmatic parts of a novel that can even perplex the author of a book. What are they, and are they necessary? The answer to the second question is no, you don't need them. The inclusion of an epilogue or prologue or both is purely a matter of style. Some authors find them useful, but most authors in today's publishing world don't include them in their books. I have used them, and I do find them useful.


They are extra-bits of a story. In mystery books, a prologue can be the incident that triggers the mystery. I've used the epilogue to wrap up a subplot that would be the bridge to the next book in a series.  In the final chapter of the book, after the conclusion, I simply used the epilogue as a launching point for the next story.


Some authors, use a different point of view in their epilogues and prologues. They play with style and voice to give the story a book-end feel to it. A prologue can even be in the author's voice. In this case, it would be used to explain the motivation behind the story, what drove the author to write it and share it with the world?


Epilogues and prologues aren't for everyone. If you've never included either in a book, don't worry. They aren't crucial to the structure of the book. But, you may find, as I have, that they can be fun to write, and if done right, they can give your story that little extra oomph that you've been looking for. 


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Keep them guessing to keep them reading

The boring parts of a novel

3,951 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, prologue, epilogue
0

I'm in there

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 1, 2017

I used to proudly tell people who asked, and some who didn't, that I never write about the people I know. How could I? I write science fiction, horror, and thrillers filled with awful, terrible, not very nice people. Some were even monsters, literal monsters. I don't know anyone or anything like that.


I realized sometime later in my writing career that I lied about not writing about people I know. Well, not lied. I misunderstood my own source of inspiration. I thought I was drawing on a deep well of imagination and creating characters (and creatures) that were wholly unique. I wasn't. I was giving my fictional characters the characteristics of people I knew in real life. Not knowingly. And, I'm not even certain the people who've influenced me would recognize themselves in the characters I write because what I've actually managed to do is to take a little bit from a multitude of real people and implant all those little bits into one character, giving him or her or it their own personality built from the familiar parts.


I recently discovered I even put myself in some of my characters. I had a play produced this year that featured a character who always referred to an article he'd read on a topic, presenting himself as an expert based on said article. Months after completing the play, I caught myself doing the very same thing to my brother-in-law. It was a sad epiphany, but it was a valuable lesson. I am, in a lot of ways, what I write. How about you? Do you or the people you know make appearances in your book, either wittingly or unwittingly?


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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What would your characters do?

How to love your villain

985 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization

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