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415 Posts tagged with the author tag

I'm going to commit a literary faux paus today and discuss an element of story in a different medium, one that traditionally is not met with favor among novelists. That medium is television. Now, in case you just groaned and rolled your eyes, let me explain that today's television programming is varied and much grittier than it once was. There's a lot of high quality narrative writing at nearly every stop on the dial or phone app or streaming service, however television is consumed these days.


The show I want to talk about, Breaking Bad, ended its run a few years ago, but it's one of my favorites. I've said repeatedly that watching that series from beginning to end is like taking a Master's class in character development for any type of storyteller. Walter White, the protagonist, may be one of the most fully realized characters I've ever encountered, but I want to talk about another character, the villain, Gustavo "Gus" Fring.


Gus is menacing. He's stoic. He's brutal. He's duplicitous. He's everything you want in a villain and more. The creators of the show did something brilliant with Gus' villainy. They hid it under a cool exterior that could even be soft at times. I think he yelled once during the entire time he was on the show. He did bad things, but he did them in an almost businesslike manner. The creators allowed you to see his tragic past and witness what turned him down the psychopathic road. They gave you a reason to root for him. They managed to make you feel uneasy about him and sympathetic toward him at the same time. It helped that his nemesis was a somewhat volatile good guy that you weren't always sure was the good guy.


So, today's Breaking Bad lesson is that your bad guy has to be just as complicated as your protagonist. Yes, he's the heavy, but that doesn't mean you skimp on his dimensions. Find something that will give the readers pause, where they may even find themselves hoping he (or she) survives.


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


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The Basic Elements of a Character Arc

Taking a Character from Good to Bad

1,219 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: novel, author, writing, characters, storytelling, character_development, character_arc, writing_characters, villians, scene_writing

It's been said before, but it bears repeating: you are an expert. In what? Writing. Story structure. Character development. Every element that goes into writing and selling a novel is a subject matter in which you are an expert. You may not feel that way, but your experience says otherwise.


That expertise is a marketing opportunity. I'm assuming that you have at your disposal a computer with online access. You, my indie author friend, are a webinar away from taking your expertise global and growing your brand beyond your wildest dreams. Take that knowledge you have about writing, publishing, and marketing, and create a series of educational webinars that will position you as both an author and expert.


Webinars are relatively simple to create and host. There are a number of online webinar tools to help you deliver your material in a professional and highly interactive manner. You just have to provide the knowledge. You'll build your webinar audience via your social network. Attendance will be small at first, but if you keep at it and commit to a regular webinar schedule, you'll pick up more and more attendees, and those attendees will add to your reader base as well. It's a mutual-propagating relationship. One group will feed into the other and vice-versa.


I know it sounds like a huge time commitment, and in the beginning, it will be. Over time, though, you will develop a system with a built-in audience that will require minimal effort. Maintaining a regular webinar schedule can be both personally and financially rewarding.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Host Your Own Webinar

Sell Yourself as an Enthusiast

846 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writers, webinar

Years ago I got into a discussion with some folks about what makes a young adult novel a young adult novel. It was sparked by a panel at a conference taking on the topic, and what I discovered is that there is no real consensus on the matter. Every element supposedly exclusive to young adult material was eventually discovered to exist in adult titles, and the reverse was true.


So given that there are no rules for young adult novels written in stone, let's examine three--let's call them observations--uncovered in that discussion. Invariably, there are exceptions to each item in the list to follow, but that's okay. This is just a jumping off point.


  1. Coming-of-age element: Young adult novels usually cover a rite of passage. That is to say the main character moves into a new stage of life that brings him/her closer to adulthood. We call these coming-of-age stories, and while the stage in question may be something as innocent as experiencing a first kiss, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned on their way to that first kiss are the crux of the story.

  2. Hope: More so than in adult themed novels, hope seems to be an ever-present theme in most young adult novels. As bad as things get, even dystopian bad, the main character always finds a way to win. The message consistently seems to be to never give up. Victory is just a miracle away.

  3. Avoiding trends: When an adult writes a book for a young adult market, the temptation is to learn the slang of the day and try to speak their language, but the young adult novels that stand the test of time, by and large, don't jump on language trends. Doing so appears as if the author is trying too hard to relate to the readers, and it just doesn't work.


Those are the observations that came up in my discussion. What say you? What do you think is unique to a young adult novel or key to a young adult novel's long-term success?


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


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What is a Young Adult Novel?

Claim Your Genre

1,305 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, young_adult

I'm always looking for ideas for this blog (as well as a good book to read), so I spend a chunk of my day keeping tabs on the publishing industry. Often when I stumble across an article about a new author, especially a new indie author, I head to Amazon to check out the book and the author's page. Who knows? I may buy the book or even contact the author about a possible interview.


If I see grammatical errors in an author page, however, I quickly move on.


For example, I recently visited the Amazon page of an author whose bio included the following mistakes (specifics changed to protect the author's identity):


What she wrote: Lisa Sue is the Author of five mysteries.


What she should have written: Lisa Sue is the author of five mysteries.


What she wrote: Her favorite topic's are X, Y and Z.


What she should have written: Her favorite topics are X, Y and Z.


What she wrote: Lisa Sue is a woman that has always worked hard for what she wants.


What she should have written: Lisa Sue is a woman who has always worked hard for what she wants.


I've said it countless times in this blog, but you only have quick moment to grab a (potential) reader's attention. If the impression you give is that you don't understand the basic rules of grammar, the potential reader is probably not going to buy your book, no matter how good it is. Perhaps the above author was in a hurry when she wrote her bio and didn't notice the mistakes, but to an educated reader the errors are distracting and unprofessional.


Think of your author bio the way you would your book's cover. People shouldn't judge your book based on it, but many will.


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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


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Common Mistakes a Professional Editor Sees

Grammar Tip: She vs. Her/He vs. Him

4,335 Views 24 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing, grammar, author_bio, grammatical_errors

It has occurred to me lately that building a brand is a lot like dating. When you are in the midst of a courtship, you put your best foot forward. You enhance your strengths, downplay your weaknesses, and you work at being engaging. You are constantly looking for ways to keep the conversation lively and maybe even enlightening. You want the person you're courting to find you interesting--so interesting that they keep agreeing to see you in order to engage in more lively and enlightening conversation.


So, in addition to being a writer, your job as an author is to be interesting. Frankly, that's bad news for me because I'm boring. Terribly so. Mind-numbingly so. I have a risk-averse personality that prevents me from attempting dangerous stunts or hobbies. I abhor the nightlife. I can't even stand large crowds. Red carpets, galas, grandiose events: I'm not a fan. So, what's an author like me to do to be interesting enough to be a brand?


Well, the only thing I can do: go with the flow. I have hobbies and interests. I like photography. I enjoy football. I love attending local live theater. I even have causes such as supporting animal shelters. So, while I'm not a fascinating person, I find certain things in life fascinating and worth my attention. Those are the things I build my brand around. I share my thoughts on those things with my community. And, hopefully, my passion for them is what makes me interesting.


Your lifestyle might not be flashy, but that doesn't mean you're not interesting. How you express your zeal for those things that are important to you makes you interesting enough to be a brand.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

Branding 101: What is Author Branding?

3,888 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, writing, branding

I have homework for you. You can choose to do it or not, but I strongly believe that if you do, it will help you be a better writer. You will practice your craft with a confidence you had not previously known. You will feel an artistic self-worth that will bolster you from word to word as you write your next masterpiece. This isn't a magic assignment. It is one that will simply force you to dive deep into your belief system and examine your internal writer's creed. In short, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, will be incredibly rewarding.


Here's the assignment. Imagine, if you will, that you are a teacher, and you've been asked to develop a syllabus for a class on how to be a successful novelist. You won't just be teaching your students about writing, although that will be a part of it. You will be teaching them about rewriting, editing, branding, marketing, etc. Anything and everything you can think of that makes up the job of today's novelist.


Here's the best part, you get to decide which section counts the most in your fictional class. You have 100% autonomy on this project because you aren't required to show it to anyone. This is simply an assignment to suss out what you truly think makes a novelist.


Now, if you so choose, you could take it one step further and actually put the syllabus to use. You could contact your local library and volunteer to teach a course on how to be a novelist using your syllabus as a guide, but that's not necessary to achieve the ultimate goal here, which is for the novelist to know thyself.


Now, go forth and develop your syllabus. Know thyself.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Consciousness-something within oneself-awareness:

What is it to be a true writer?

1,390 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, selling, book, author, novels, craft, branding, social_media, author_brand, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_practice

Brand Modeling

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 10, 2015

We are all about the author brands in 2015. Your brand, as I've stated in the past, should be based on a foundation of high quality writing. That is the foundation, the most important element of your author brand, yes, but it's not the only element. So what else is there? What are the other components to building an author brand?


The answer is that the list is endless. It would be easier to herd cats than it would be to tell you what you should focus on to make a successful author brand. It's important that I make a distinction here between brand and platform. Your platform is essentially your delivery system for your brand. It's how and where you get your message out. Your brand is your message, and that message must be customized to your style and personality.


What you can do is dissect and analyze successful author brands and use that knowledge to help you build your own brand. It's called modeling, and here are the three traits you should look for when you diagnose other authors' brands:


  1. Persona: Do they use humor as a part of their brand? Are they focused on inspiring their followers? Do they set out to educate their fans?

  2. Tone: Do they present themselves in a light, friendly manor or are they slightly brisk and cynical?

  3. Appearance: Is their attire and appearance laidback and fun, or do they dress to the nines?


Find four or five successful authors that you admire, and find out what makes their brands tick. Once you have the data in hand, you'll have a better handle on what's right for you, and you're well on your way to building your own successful author brand.


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





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The Three Planks of Your Author Platform

The Foundation of Your Brand

1,159 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, promotions, brand, branding, social_media, author_marketing, author_brand, brand_identity, author_platform, brand_development

It's reminder time. We discuss author brands on this blog quite a bit and strategies on how to build that brand. There's a lot of focus on social media and creating a community. We talk about personal videos, book signings, fan interaction, etc. There are numerous ways to build brand awareness.


But perhaps what we don't talk about enough is what the foundation for your brand should be. True, there are numerous considerations to take into account when you look at building your brand: genre expectations, reader demographics, the core of your platform, etc. Those are all things that will help you shape the message on which your brand is built, but they aren't the foundation of your brand. There is one simple factor you must use as the foundation for your brand. This one element is indestructible. If you put your artistic heart and soul into this one component, everything else you do is window dressing that simply complements it.


What is the one thing? Good writing. If you commit to perfecting your craft each and every time you sit down to write, your brand will be as solid as Mount Everest. Good writing--or better yet, great writing--is the key to giving you the will to put all the other pieces of a brand into place over the course of your career. If you find your voice as an artist, you will find your voice as a brand, and you can only find that voice through committing to becoming a better writer each time you set out to write.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Branding 101: The Keys to Successful Branding

Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

1,500 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, book, author, self-publishing, publishing, brand, branding, platform, author_brand, marketing_strategy, brand_awareness

Write for No One

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 31, 2015

No one will read your book. That's what you should tell yourself every time you sit down to write. I don't think that's true. In fact, I have every reason to believe that your book will be a bestseller that will break every sales record in the publishing industry. I just don't want you to write with the reader and how many copies you will sell in mind.


If you start thinking about the reader when you write, you stop thinking about the story you're writing. What the reader will and won't like is irrelevant to you as a writer. Your job isn't to conform to expectations. Your job is to set expectations. Be bold if that's what your story requires. Be fierce if that's what your story requires. Even be predictable if that's what your story requires.


It's an old refrain of mine. You have no obligation except to those characters playing out the madness you're dreaming up. Think of them and only them when you write. And remember, you're not doing what's best for them. You're using them to fulfill the promise of your story. They are used for the good of the whole. The struggles and conflicts they face are the heartbeat that gives your story life. If you construct those struggles and conflicts in order to please the reader, you're writing an uninspired story with an artificial heartbeat.


Don't find your motivation to write in the reader. Find your inspiration to write in the story you're creating. If you see it from that perspective, it will be a liberating moment for you as you rush to finish your first draft.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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The "You" In Your Writing

When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

4,555 Views 8 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing

Today's post is a bit different than ones I've done in the past. It's a request to my fellow indie authors. I know the struggles first-hand that you experience trying to bring attention to your brand and generate sales for your book. It's hard, relentless work that takes stamina and sustained energy to find success. We authors are constantly looking for angles to increase sales and find our marketing groove.


The one angle that I highly recommend staying away from is utilizing a tragedy to shift attention to your book. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about without naming names. A gentleman has a talk show where he frequently interviews people who've undergone unspeakably horrible events in their lives. On occasion, when a particular event fits the theme for a book he's written, he will overtly suggest that the audience should buy the book on his website. I have no doubt that he generates sales this way, but it is the grossest form of marketing. And, in my view, it stamps his brand with a severe lack of tact and ethics.


You most likely don't have a TV show to compete with this gentleman's outreach, but you do have a forum. You have your social network. If you plug a book in a thread about a national tragedy because you feel the subject matter fits your book's storyline, you invite a string of moral indignation and run the risk of severely damaging your brand. So, my request is that you don't do it. Avoid the temptation to grab that kind of marketing opportunity. You will feel better about yourself for doing so.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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How Not to Market

Use Common Sense in Book Promotion

2,432 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, book, author, promotion, book_marketing, promotions, branding, social_media, marketing_strategy, marketing_tip

Finding the Blue

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 17, 2015

It is the magic place where ideas come from, that mystical wonderland of creativity and ingenuity. All human beings look for it when they need to tap into their imaginations. We think of it as being outside of ourselves, but in actuality, it's not. It's in us, but many of us don't know how to find it when we think we need it. The truth is, I believe, it finds us when it needs us.


I am talking about the "Blue," the place where ideas come from. How many of us have answered the question, "How did you come up with the idea for your book?" with the response, "It really just came to me from out of the Blue." Of course, what we're saying is that we don't really know where the idea came from. It just came to us.


But, in a quasi-mystical sense, the Blue is an ethereal idea factory that is never short on inventory. The question for creatives like us is how to tap into it and gobble up as many of those ideas as we can. How do we find the Blue?


The first rule of finding the Blue is that there are no rules for finding the Blue--kind of. I believe strongly that there is an observer effect on the Blue. That is to say the Blue, when observed, changes behavior and cranks out tired old ideas that no one wants. But if you find a way to ignore the Blue, a way to keep your mind off it and go about your life forgetting you even know the Blue exists, then it will deliver a truckload of inspiration to your door.


So, how do you ignore the Blue? You enjoy your life. You find activities that will remove you from the world of writing and creating, and you find something that directs your focus so completely that the Blue is the last thing on your mind. For me it's walking my dog, nature photography, and time with family.


It's an odd paradox, I know. You have to hide from the Blue to find it, but as I said earlier, it needs you. Find you, it will.


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


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Embracing Inspiration from Real-Life Moments

Unblocking Writer's Block

1,867 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, out_of_the_blue

Author Platform 2015

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 12, 2015

The author platform is a concept that grew out of the Internet age. Before the rise of virtual communication, the term or concept didn't really exist. Other than mainstream media personalities turned authors, there was no easily accessible way for authors to promote themselves on a consistent basis.


But when blogging became popular, authors found a way to insert themselves into the conversation on a daily basis. Then social media made it possible to interact with readers on a more intimate level. Then personal videos and podcasts became a part of the zeitgeist. In a short period of time, the idea that any author could have a platform to connect with readers wasn't only feasible, it became an absolute necessity.


So what do author platforms look like in 2015? In the past five years, little has changed in the way of social media sites. The major players remain unchanged. The same can be said about video sharing sites. Blogging has waned, but it's still an important cog in the author platform. The biggest change is that authors are now taking less of a diversified approach and committing a great deal of their time to one element of their platforms. They haven't abandoned the other tools, but they are now making one of the tools their primary focus. Which one depends on an author's skillset and comfort level. I've committed more of my time to social media where I can have almost immediate back and forth with readers. Other authors have made personal videos their major emphasis, while a smaller segment of the author community has found success with blogging.


What does the future hold for author platforms? It's impossible to tell, but long form online communication is becoming less and less popular as content competes for attention. Branding designed for tablets and smartphones is quickly becoming the norm. Here's what you need to keep in mind as you continue to develop your author platform: people are staring at relatively small screens, absorbing content on the go. Their time is precious, and their attention is easily diverted by their surroundings. Design your message to fit the technology. Your best bet is to keep your eye on sites like Mashable and Wired to stay tuned in to the trends and developments to increase your chances of becoming an early adopter of new technological advances and make the most of your platform opportunities.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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An Active Author Brand

Build Your Brand with Original Content

2,440 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, social_media, author_platform

I get a lot of emails from authors who are discouraged because they aren't having much luck with their marketing efforts. They want to know what my "secret" is because they think I have it all figured out.




Can I tell you something?


My "secret" is that I get discouraged too!


Let me share a true story: A few months ago I began chatting with the organizer of a book club that wanted to read my latest novel, Wait for the Rain. I live in New York, and they are in California, so we scheduled a Skype call. The group is part of a large social organization that has a Facebook page and Twitter account, so for weeks before the event they were promoting it all over social media. I wasn't sure how many women would be in attendance, but I was expecting a pretty good turnout given how much promotion they'd been doing.


The day of the meeting, the organizer sent out a final tweet of excitement. That evening I got my laptop all set up, logged in to Skype, and was all ready to go. The call was set for 9:30 p.m. my time.


Then 9:30 came and went. Radio silence.


At 9:40, the organizer emailed me to tell me that she was mortified. Only one other person had shown up to the meeting, and neither of them had read the book.


What did I do? I laughed. What else could I do? Sure, I was disappointed, even a little embarrassed, but I wasn't going to let it get to me because I'd learned not to let it get to me. If I'd given up on my marketing efforts the first time something like that had happened to me, I wouldn't be where I am now.


As I wrote in a recent post, book marketing is a numbers game. You have to keep playing--and laughing. I guess that's my secret!


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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

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Book Marketing Takes Persistence

Three Easy Marketing Ideas

6,095 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing, promotions

Most authors commit themselves to writing in one or maybe two genres. We do so because we are fans of the genre. It's what we grew up reading, and we usually subconsciously know the rules of the genre. It's what we know. It's what we love. It's what we prefer to read.


That's all well and good, but one can fall into the trap of the genre if one isn't exceedingly careful. I'm talking, of course, about writing material that is full of clichés. The more you're familiar with a genre, the more likely it is to happen. It's not something a writer sets out to do, but genres contain an unseen rhythm that writers can find themselves adhering to without even trying. It's an engrained pattern of story structure. Plots, setting, villains, protagonists--they all follow paths that are similar to other offerings in the genre.


So, how does one avoid the cliché trap? You become a genre bender. Shake things up by creating a new pattern. Personally, I think the easiest way to disrupt a genre without upsetting fans of the genre is to dive deeper in the character department. Make your villain vulnerable. Make your protagonist an antihero. Give traditionally male roles to a female. Expand the expected by doling out unexpected twists with character development. A writer who masters the art of creating character from the broad strokes of physicality to the nuanced elements of psyche is a writer who helps grow a genre and creates something new the next generation of writers will use as their guide to the genre.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Write a Genre-Bending Novel

A Genre Conundrum (and Solution)

2,183 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing

When I finished the first draft of my most recent novel Wait for the Rain, there was one character who just didn't fit into the story the way I'd imagined--or hoped--that she would. I liked a lot about her, however, so I wasn't sure what to do. At a loss, I turned the manuscript in, eager to see what my editor thought.


My editor's suggestion? Cut out Character A, and give her most valuable contributions to other characters.


I loved that idea! And you know what? It wasn't that difficult to implement. When I reread the manuscript, I was easily able to identify the things Character A did (or said) that I liked the most. Then I copied those elements and attributed them to other characters. For example:


  • Character A had a nurturing quality that I really liked. In one scene she helped a victim of a jellyfish sting. In the revision I simply had Character B jump in and assist instead. (This worked well because Character B was similar to Character A in that way.)
  • Character A had several lines that made me laugh out loud, so I gave those lines to Character C, who also had a pretty good sense of humor.
  • Character A's style of dress was, I don't know, cool. I didn't want to lose that, so I gave her fashion sense to Character C, who was pretty cool herself.


It was definitely strange to watch Character A disappear after months of working on the story, but I have no doubt that her exit greatly improved the book. I also learned from this process that sometimes when I write multiple characters, their personalities tend to overlap. (That is something I now try to avoid from the get-go.)


The deeper you get into a manuscript, the harder (and scarier) it is to make major changes. But it can be done. The key is to be willing to let characters go if they're not working out. And if there are parts of those characters that you adore, let them live on somewhere else.

-Maria Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


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

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Writing Tip: Don't be Afraid to Cut

When You Cut a Scene You Like, Save It!

2,423 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, character_development
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