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This may surprise you, but you are not in the business of building a brand for your book. That's not to say that branding isn't part of your job description as an author in today's publishing world. Like it or not, branding is crucial to selling books.


Your book clearly has brand elements. The cover is a branding tool. The genre helps determine the brand. Your writing style is part of the book's brand. The branding of a book is definitely part of your responsibilities, but it's not the most important. What could be more important? Building and establishing your author brand.


We have discussed numerous ways to build an author brand on this blog for years now, and the internet is full of pointers on how to build an author brand. You need only do an internet search for "How to build an author brand," and you'll have volumes upon volumes of information at your fingertips.


My suggestion is to study author branding like you are trying to earn your master's degree on the topic. Study it until you move from learning about the topic to being an expert on the topic. Develop your own personalized strategy. Create your own author branding philosophy. You should even write a short (or long) essay on the topic so you know that you can articulate your ideas on author branding to other authors or groups of authors. Be the knowledge you need to succeed.


You are the brand, not your book.


-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

How to build a brand without even really trying

633 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, writing, branding, author_branding
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Brands to avoid

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 23, 2017

Here are three brands you should avoid modeling as you set out to build your author brand.


1. A Contrived Brand: Essentially, you're trying too hard to be a brand. At the risk of sounding like a new-age guru, you're not being your authentic self. You're presenting yourself in a way that you think is appealing to your readers, and your readers can feel the phony persona through their computer screens and mobile phone displays. Relax. Be yourself. Don't force a brand. Author brands are built over time, post after post, interaction after interaction.


2. The Whiny Brand: Oh woe is me.  I can't catch a break. I try so hard. Readers don't want to invest in an author who is desperate. Readers want to invest in an author whose talent speaks for itself. Don't let your bad days seep into your brand building efforts. I'm not saying you have to be up and positive all the time. Be angry. Be down. Be contemplative. Be all the things human beings are, but above all, be confident.


3. The Vengeful Brand: If you get a bad review, let it go. Don't rally the troops and have them exact revenge on the reviewer. That's petty, and it lacks a certain amount of humility people like to see in their authors. Don't take bad or good reviews to heart. They are opinions and nothing more. Whatever you do, don't let reviews shape your author brand.


A successful author brand is nothing more than a personal brand with a little more juice. Never lose sight of the fact that you are trying to sell books, but also never lose sight of who you really are.


-Richard

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


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What makes you similar to other author brands?

Uniting Author Brands

1,071 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, branding, brand_awareness
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If you want people to discover your books, you should do everything you can to make yourself easy to find online. I frequently receive emails from authors who are despondent over poor book sales, but when I look to see what kind of a digital footprint the authors have, all too often I find nothing, not even an Amazon Author Page.


I understand that not everyone has the resources to hire a designer for a fancy website, but here are several things all authors can do that cost nothing more than time and energy:


1)    Complete your Amazon Author Page. If you have a book on Amazon, you have an author page, which appears via a hyperlink to your name under the title of your book on the book's detail page. If you don't fill the page in with your bio, headshot, contact information, etc., visitors will see only a list of your work. To edit your Author Page, create an account in Amazon's Author Central by clicking on this link. (Here's my Amazon Author Page.)

2)    Set up a Facebook author page. (Here's my Facebook author page.)

3)    Set up a Twitter account. (Here's mine.)

4)    Set up a Goodreads page. (Here's mine.)

5)    Set up a LinkedIn account. (Here's mine.)


If you look at the links I've shared here, you'll see my profile/bio/tagline in each one is essentially the same. It shouldn't take hours to set up these accounts. The key is to prepare your basic materials first, then insert them as necessary across various channels.


You never know which potential readers might be looking for you, or where they might inadvertently stumble across you. What you should know is that if your digital footprint is nowhere to be found, the chance of anyone's finding you is zero, and zero is not a good number for sales.


-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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Marketing Tip: Set up an Author Page on Amazon

Book marketing tip: Put a sample on Goodreads

711 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, book, writing, facebook, goodreads, twitter, digital_footprint
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Contemporary fiction

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 21, 2017

Before we dive into a few contemporary fiction tips, we first need to establish what contemporary fiction is. It's all in the word contemporary. It simply means existing or occurring in the same time. At its heart, a contemporary novel is realistic. Elements of fantasy, the supernatural, and/or science fiction aren't part of the contemporary novel world. There is contemporary romance and young adult contemporary, and dozens of subcategory crossover. Realism is the common thread that runs through all the varieties of contemporary storytelling.


Now that we've established what contemporary is, here are a few traps to avoid.


1. Avoid the over-use of pop culture references. You want a story that will stand the test of time. There's no better way to lose readers of the future than to base crucial premises of your novel on pop culture references that faded into oblivion long before readers were born.  Don't shy away from pop culture references completely. A few here and there can help you establish setting, but don't go crazy.


2. Your realistic depiction of characters could come back to haunt you. Don't base your characters on real people in your life. Taking elements from a lot of people you know and building a truly unique character is a much better route to take. There could be trouble awaiting you if you decide to depict a character after somebody you actually know.


I love contemporary fiction. It's so easy to get drawn into the story because there is an instant sense of familiarity. Drama, comedy, thriller, whatever the genre, subgenre or category, I feel a connection with the story.


-Richard

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


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Avoid Pop Culture References

I'm in there

546 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, contemporary_fiction
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One function of adverbs is to modify adjectives, in other words to describe something that already describes something. That alone should give you an idea of how necessary?or unnecessary?they are when used for this purpose.


For example:

  • He drives really fast.
  • She is very happy.
  • We are super glad to be here.


While the above sentences are fine in conversation, in written form they come across as uncreative, maybe even bland. Astute readers view using adverbs as lazy writing, so it's good to avoid them as best you can.


When I catch myself using an adverb to describe an adjective because the adjective doesn't sound right by itself, I try to come up with a more descriptive adjective or an analogy.


For example:

 

Instead of:

  • He drives really fast.

Change to:

  • He drives as if he were on the Autobahn.

Instead of:

  • She is very happy.

Change to::

  • She is ecstatic.


Instead of:

  • We are super glad to be here.

Change to:

  • We are thrilled to be here.


Another way to get around using adverbs is to include a beat (description of an action) that shows the reader what the adverb was meant to convey.


For example:


Instead of:

  • "Do we have to go in there?" Gloria asked nervously.

Change to:

  • Tiny beads of sweat broke out on Gloria's forehead. "Do we have to go in there?" she asked.


Instead of:

  • "It looks like we didn't get the contract," David said glumly.

Change to:

  • David's face fell. "It looks we didn't get the contract."


Do you see the difference? It's not that using adverbs is grammatically wrong, rather that writing that doesn't include a ton of them is more original and engaging. And if your readers find your writing original and engaging, you are doing something right.


-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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Use Adverbs Sparingly, Especially in Dialogue

 

The Rhythm of Dialogue

 

 

 

 

727 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: help, writing, grammar, adverbs, author_tips, grammar_tip
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In a recent post my friend and fellow author Andrea Dunlap shared her thoughts on how to use Instagram for book promotion. I've recently begun using Instagram myself (@mariamurnanewriter), and while I'm clearly a newbie, I've already learned a few things:


  1. If you download an app called Regrann, anytime someone tags you in a post, you can repost it. For example, if a fan posts a photo of your book with a note about how much she's enjoying it, you can share the post with your followers. (In marketing speak this builds what is called "third-party credibility," just like a testimonial. It's always better to have someone else tell people how great your book is than for you to tell them.)
  2. To keep your posts from looking cluttered, don't use hash tags in the actual post. Instead, click the "comment" icon on the post and put them there. Anyone doing a search for the hash tags you choose will still find your posts, but the posts themselves will look less promotional.
  3. People like to see posts related to "behind the scenes" life as an author. For example, I posted a photo of a note I wrote to my mom when I was a little kid. The note was filled with spelling errors, not indicative of a future career as a writer. For posts like these I use the hash tag #writerslife, which a marketing friend told me was popular.
  4. People like posts with wine and chocolate in them!
  5. Apps such as Boomerang allow you to make and post gifs directly to Instagram, as opposed to having to convert gifs to videos before posting them.


I'm sure I'll continue figuring out Instagram as I go and will write another post when I've learned enough to warrant one. If you have tips you'd like to share on what has worked for you, please do so in the comments!


-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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Marketing tip: share what you've learned

Marketing tip: ask your fans to promote you

747 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, marketing_tips, instagram, regrann, boomerang
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It is anatomy day today on the blog. Here are the parts of a novel:


1. The opening/the hook: Some call it the most crucial part of your novel. As a reader, I can usually know from the very first line whether I'm going to connect with a book or not.


2. Characters: For me, this is the make or break element of a novel. If you write deep, fully-realized characters, you have a book that readers will flock to. It's not easy, and you're not going to please every reader, but if you do a deep dive on your character development you have a better than good chance to woo readers galore.


3. Plot: This is your main "What if?" question. This is what drives and motivates the characters. A flimsy plot can leave your readers confused and frustrated. Give them a compelling reason to read on, and they will stay engaged.


4. Subplot: Your subplots give your readers diversions and keep them guessing as they dive into the heart of your novel. Subplots are also great character building devices for your main characters and even secondary characters.


5 Setting: Where and when does your story take place? Authenticity is the key to creating a great setting. Even if your novel is a fantasy novel, it has to feel authentic. Details help and not just visuals. Smells, weather, and the people all help make a setting authentic.


6. Conclusion: How you wrap up your plot could be the difference between having a book with huge word of mouth potential or having a book that is just a blip on the reader's radar. Give your reader a satisfying conclusion to your plot, and you have a book readers can't wait to tell their friends and family about.


7. The end: Different from the conclusion, the ending of a book is where you paint a picture of your characters continuing to exist once your reader has read the last word. This is where a writer transitions from an author to an illusionist. Make the readers believe that life goes on, even when the story ends.


-Richard

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


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Do you need a prologue or an epilogue?

Embrace the boring parts

813 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing
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Last week I read a novel that contained multiple capitalization errors. The book was published by a small press, which made me wonder how thorough the copyediting process is there. It also made me wonder if certain capitalization errors have become so prevalent that some copyeditors aren't aware that they are mistakes.


Here are two areas where I frequently see capitalization errors:


Job titles


In the novel that prompted this post, the protagonist spent a lot of time discussing her job and her coworkers, and she repeatedly capitalized everyone's title. The rule is that titles are only capitalized if they go directly before a person's name.


  • Gloria saw the Director of Human Resources in the coffee room. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria saw the director of human resources in the coffee room. (CORRECT)


  • Last week David was promoted to Marketing Manager. (INCORRECT)
  • Last week David was promoted to marketing manager. (CORRECT)


  • Yesterday professor Murphy called a department meeting. (INCORRECT)
  • Yesterday Professor Murphy called a department meeting. (CORRECT)


Seasons


Seasons of the year aren't capitalized unless they are at the beginning of a sentence.


  • This Fall Gloria is planning a trip to New York. (INCORRECT)
  • This fall Gloria is planning a trip to New York. (CORRECT)


  • Every Summer David takes a trip up the coast with his buddies. (INCORRECT)
  • Every summer David takes a trip up the coast with his buddies. (CORRECT)


  • I love spending cold Winter nights curled up with a book. (INCORRECT)
  • I love spending cold winter nights curled up with a book. (CORRECT)


  • I would say that spring is my favorite season. (CORRECT)
  • Spring is my favorite season. (CORRECT)


The rules of capitalization are clear, even if not everyone follows them. However, that shouldn't stop us from abiding by them. It's an uphill battle, but we're fighting the good fight!


-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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Capitalization confusion

Just Say No to Random Capitalization!

675 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar, capitalization
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To conclude a story doesn't mean you've reached the end of a novel. For example, I wrote a thriller a few years ago, and if you were to ask me to tell you how it ends, I would describe the last scene in the book. By doing so, however, I wouldn't tell you how I concluded the plot of the story because that came in the previous chapter. The point is, when you are planning your novel remember you have more to write after you wrap up the conclusion of your story.


Your conclusion, when it comes to thrillers at least, has to be... well, conclusive. There has to be a fine point on it. A sense that the battle is over and there is a clear winner. The ending, on the other hand, doesn't have to have as fine a point on it. In fact, in a lot of cases, authors use the end to hint at what's to come for the characters in the book you've just read. Maybe the main character finally found love or maybe a subplot where the author introduced an estranged adult child gets a conclusion of its own. The end of the novel oftentimes affirms, either subtly or overtly, that the universe you created will go on even though the story has ended.


It has been my experience that concluding a story is easier than ending a book. There is an organic structure to reaching a conclusion, but endings are much harder. You have to stretch your imagination beyond what will be read and convince the reader that there is more out there for the characters you've created.


-Richard

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


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A Rush to the Finish Line

When Do You Know The Ending?

583 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, ending, conclusion
2

I'm currently taking a screenwriting class, and in our first session the professor emphasized how important it is to make our writing time "holy."


When he said that, I found myself smiling and nodding. In a recent post I asked my readers out there what inspires them to write, and I shared my own challenges with getting myself to just sit down and write. There's always something to get in my way. Hmm, let me check my email! Hmm, I think I'll get up and grab a snack! Hmm, I wonder if anyone has liked that photo I posted on Instagram! Hmm, maybe I'll take a quick nap before I start! Does any of that sound familiar? If so, welcome to my world.


While the professor was talking about screenplays, writing is writing, and he is correct. To focus mentally and let the creative juices flow, it's important to disconnect from all the distractions out there. He suggested designating a special place that is only for writing to create an association effect. I have an overstuffed chair in my living room that works well for this. While my friends sit in that chair all the time, I use it only when I write, and over time I've begun to associate it with being creative. Now when I sit there, the temptations to procrastinate are still there, but they are much easier to ignore. That blue-and-white striped chair has become my "holy" space.


Do you have a special place in your home where you find that writing comes more easily to you? Or maybe a place outside your home, e.g. a coffee shop? I know an author who brings his laptop to his local pub when he's working on a book. Whatever works, right?


-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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Four Forms of Creativity Fuel

Got Writer's Block? Step Away from the Keyboard


716 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_space
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Here are three ways to develop airtight plots for your next novel:


1. The ending comes first: We've discussed this before on this blog. Writing the ending first is an excellent way to stay focused on your destination. If you know where you're going, you're going to be able to map out a more concise and cohesive journey to that ending. Knowing the destination of your story beforehand will inform every aspect leading up to it.


2. Detailed outline: I once wrote a 120-page outline for a 330-page novel. I made the somewhat unique decision to pick the number of chapters that would make up the book, and I simply sketched out each chapter, connecting the dots along the way. I decided on the number of chapters based on what was typical of the genre at the time. When it came time to write the novel, I had a reason for every decision I made, and if something needed tweaking along the way, it was easy to do because I knew so much about the story and characters before I started the first draft, which, with the exception of a few minor changes, was essentially my final draft.


3. Detailed timeline: Plots don't always follow a straight path. A great example of this is a film titled Momento. It follows the story of a man who can't retain any memories, and each new day requires him to relearn things he had known before with the hope of finally getting to the end of the mystery. It's told in a seemingly disjointed jumble of repeated scenes, but in reality, it's an ingenious example of a plot that develops out of the normal "B" follows "A" storytelling method. The only way this can be achieved is to map out the disorienting timeline before you start writing because as disjointed as it may seem, the reader (in the case of a novel) has to have a revelation that you had a plan going in. You didn't just throw things together. You knew exactly what you were doing the whole time.


-Richard

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


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Fix It in Rewrites

Keeping a Consistent Tone

762 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, story_plots
2

I was recently playing around with my Goodreads profile to update it with my latest novel when I saw an "add preview" option underneath each of my books. I don't know if this is a new feature or one I simply never noticed, but I quickly took advantage of it! Here's how it works:


  1. When you log into Goodreads.com, on the top right corner of the home page you will see your photo. (If you don't have a Goodreads profile, make one now!)
  2. If you click on your photo, the drop-down menu will include "author dashboard."
  3. Go into your author dashboard, and you will see your book(s), the number of reviews, etc.
  4. Underneath each title you will see the "add preview" option.
  5. Click on the "add preview" button and follow the instructions to upload a sample. (What you upload is up to you. For my books I chose the prologue, or the first chapter if there is no prologue.)


That's it! Now when people visit my profile page or come across the detail page of any of my books, they will be able to open a sample chapter just by clicking on a button that says "preview."


Here's what the detail page for my newest book looks like.


Here's what the sample looks like.


Isn't that cool? Just like giving free tastes at an ice cream shop, offering readers a free glimpse of your writing is a great way to draw them in. If they enjoy the sample, chances are they're going to want to keep reading and will be willing to pay to do it. That translates into a sale for you, as well as a potential new fan!


-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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Marketing tip: put your first chapter on your website

Promote your book with Goodreads

 

 

 

974 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, goodreads, promotions
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Last lines

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 17, 2017


John Irving is famous for writing the last line of his books first. When you think about it, it's not a bad strategy. He's knows where the story is going before he even begins. He just has to figure out how to get there, he doesn't have to figure out where to go. I would think that would make for a much more "efficient" writing experience, and it gives him a leg up on the most elusive element of a novel, a satisfying ending.


How an ending is deemed satisfying depends on a lot of things. What genre is your book? If it's a mystery, ending the book without solving the mystery is going to leave your readers angry and unsatisfied. Is it a romance novel? Your main character should be enriched and empowered at the end of your story otherwise the readers are going to feel robbed of the essence of romance. With thrillers you have room to taunt and tease your readers a little at the end, but you still want a definitive conclusion to the story.  If the book is part of a series, you'll want an ending the signals there is more to come.


We've discussed the importance of first lines on this blog. While the first sentence sets the tone of your book, the last line provides the final payoff, the reward for the reader's investment of time and emotions. You write an ending that satisfies the reader, and you have a new member of your community who will enthusiastically tell their friends, family, and followers about your book.


-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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The end


What matters more: the beginning or the ending?

601 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, last_lines
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When people find out I'm an author, one of the questions they often ask me is, "What inspires you to write?" It's an interesting question because I think every author would answer it differently.


I find myself most inspired to write when I'm already writing. That probably sounds crazy, but getting myself to write is the hardest part of writing. The creative process is a complex animal, and if I could tame it, I would be a lot more productive than I am.Butwhen I sit down at my computer and focus, really focus, then things start to happen. Soon I'm in the groove and don't want to stop because I'm having fun. I guess it's similar to a runner's high. Getting yourself to lace up those shoes and hit the pavement can be challenging, but there's a reason so many people do it day in and day out: after you get past the resistance, exercising feels great.


This is a little embarrassing to admit, but when I write a line that makes me laugh, or finish a scene I know is good, I'll pump my fist! Just writing that now makes me blush because it's ridiculous, but it's true. I love that feeling of having created something I think my readers will enjoy, of having created characters and stories that are entirely made up but seem real. That inspires me.


In this blog I usually provide tips on writing, grammar, or book marketing. But today I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and ask my readers to chime in with their own thoughts. What inspires you to write? Please reply in the comments. I'd truly love to hear from you.


-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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Two Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid

Got Writer's Block? Step Away from the Keyboard

567 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, inspiration
2

Opening lines

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 10, 2017

Why is the opening line of your book so crucial? After all, it's just one line out of thousands in your book. Yet, it is a singularly seminal collection of words that could make or break your novel. One misstep, and you could chase readers away.


Here are three reasons I think the opening line matters so much to your book:


1. It sets the tone of your story. Whether you go for a simple, gritty line or you deliver dense prose in your opening sentence, you signal to the reader what kind of reading experience they are in for. My personal belief is that a reader should be able to identify the genre of your book from the first line.


2. It gives a hint to your writing style. Readers are going to get an innate sense of your writing style from your opening line. They are going to either feel the connection to your literary approach, or they are going to move on to another selection.


3. The opening line signals whether your story's framework is built around character development or plot development. In Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple, she opens the story with, "You better not never tell nobody but God." That line signals to me that I'm about to enjoy a book that is centered around character development.


What about you? Why do you think the opening line can make or break a novel? What are some of your favorite opening lines?


-Richard

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


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The First-Line Ritual

The Art of the First Line

783 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, opening_line, setting_the_tone
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