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37 Posts tagged with the writing_advice tag

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms anywhere from 39 to 47 times, depending on if you count the fragments of rewrites as a full rewrite or not. For a man with such a sparse writing style, that is a remarkable fact. He spent hours crafting and recrafting an ending, looking for the right words to make the final draft, and perhaps more importantly, find the right words to cut.


The alternative endings remained unread until 2012 when a version of Farewell to Arms was released with the original ending and the others that Hemingway discarded. One can make a reasoned argument that doing such a thing could be construed as a violation of Hemingway's art, but that aside, there is something to be learned from reading the alternative endings, especially if you are a writer.


You can see the emotion explicitly put into the ending, and then over the course of the rewrites, you see the emotional passages eliminated, but somehow leaving the emotional context behind. It's really remarkable and an actual record of the old writing tenet that less is more.


The alternative endings also show how deliberate Hemingway was in his writing. He didn't just sit down and pound out pages on his typewriter. He agonized over every word. Just because he was a literary legend doesn't mean writing came easy to him. He honed his craft and the page earned every word.


Yes, you can overthink and overwrite and spend too much time rewriting, but it's okay to be obsessive about your craft. Take your time and find the right words to use and cut. 

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


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Rewrite for New Life


The rewriting steps





963 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, revisions, writing, drafts, rewriting, writing_advice

Word by Word

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 13, 2017

If you haven't read Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott's memoir and book on writing, I highly recommend it. The title refers to an incident involving her brother when they were children. He had a report on birds due the next day, and he hadn't written a word. He gathered all his research material and immediately became paralyzed by fear. The enormity of the project just became too much. That's when his father put his arm around him and said "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."


The second I read that passage I had a moment of clarity that I have never experienced before. I had never heard a more accurate description of how to write a book. It really is that simple. "Bird by bird," or to put it more accurately, word by word.


Writing a book is an enormous task. Even if it is a labor of love, it is still an enormous task. Sometimes, when you're feeling frustrated, it is hard to keep going. Like Anne Lamott's brother, you can become immobilized by the prospect of tackling such a big project. The only thing you can do is take it word by word.


Don't complicate the book writing process. Yes, plot, character development, dialogue, they're all aspects of writing a novel, but when you get down to it, they consist of words, and words are your specialty. They are your purview. Just take a deep breath, picture Anne Lamott's father putting his arm around her terrified brother and saying those magic words, "Bird by bird, buddy."


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

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Writing a word a day

Increase your productivity with interval writing

1,090 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: book, publishing, writing, draft, writing_advice

What I'm about to write, I've written before, but it bears repeating. Every NaNoWriMo it becomes an especially relevant topic of discussion, and that is when to self-critique your manuscript. My feeling is clear on this. Your first draft is supposed to be terrible. The first draft is essentially a blueprint. That's not to say you should set out to write something incomprehensible. Write your story as you feel it. Entertain yourself. Get the idea out of your head.


You can repair what you've written during subsequent rewrites. The first draft is where you develop your idea. It's where the little flakes of your story build and build and create an accumulation of characters, settings, dialogue, and plot that amounts to a complete story. Let it out with passion. As I said, write your story as you feel it. I use the word "feel" purposefully. The first draft is when you are closest to feeling the story you are writing. Stopping to critique your story as your creating the first draft interrupts those feelings.


So, I implore you. Write. Make mistakes. Be careless. Let the typos fly. Make your first draft embarrassingly bad. It is for your eyes only. Your test-readers, your editor, everyone else will see your first rewrite. But this first draft, it's just for you. It's a data dump straight from the space in your brain that houses your imagination to the page. Let your fingers fly across your keyboard and don't look back until you write “The End.”


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



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How to get through the first draft

Writing tip: when you get stuck, use all caps and move on




610 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: revisions, writing, draft, writing_advice, author_tips, author_advice

Set a goal

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 1, 2017

If you are reading this blog, there's a better than good chance you call yourself a writer. More than that, you love to write. It's a calling. We write because we feel compelled to do so. That doesn't mean we are always chomping at the bit to sit down and set words to page. There are times when we just don't have the physical and/or mental energy to do so. Let's face it, life is exhausting, and it can make finding the inspiration to write hard from time to time. The good news is there is a simple fix to those days when you just can't write. The bad news is it will take discipline.

Set a deadline. If you've ever participated in NANOWRIMO, you know the power of having a deadline. The key to making it work hinges on having a target word count. In the case of NANOWRIMO, the target word count is 50,000 words. It's a good start, and depending on the category and genre of your book, it's a perfectly acceptable word count. But if you're writing a fantasy novel, for instances, 50,000 words won't do if you want to meet genre expectations.

Once you have your target word count, set a daily word count total that is realistic. Only you know your schedule, so for me to suggest a daily word count would be arbitrary and unfair. My only suggestion is to not make it too aggressive, and when you reach the word count for the day, stop. Even if you have a flood of thoughts on where to go next in your story, stop. Walk away from a writing session knowing where you're going to start the next writing session.

To overcome those times you just don't want to write, give yourself a manageable deadline and feel the satisfaction of meeting your goal step by step.    

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


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The milestones you should track during NaNoWriMo


Stage three of writing – the daily word count theories





1,077 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: publishing, writing, nanowrimo, craft, writing_advice, deadlines

If you?re still puzzled by the concept of show vs. tell, you?re not alone. I think many authors tell too much because they want to make sure their readers "get it." To that I say, "We get it!"

I recently finished a novel in which the author repeatedly explained why the characters were doing or feeling certain things when no explanation was necessary. As a result, I had a hard time getting through the book, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.

Here are some examples, with some details changed:

  • I woke up the next morning with a headache from drinking too much vodka.

      The issue: I already know the character drank too much vodka, because the previous scene was all about that..

  • I pulled my hand back. Noticing the gesture, Ron asked, "You okay, beautiful?"

      The issue: I can infer that Ron noticed the gesture. If he didn't notice it, why would he ask the narrator if she is okay?

  • I looked at him and felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.

      The issue: If her cheeks are flushing, I can infer that she is embarrassed.

  • I pulled out the pen and notepad I always kept in my purse in case I wanted to jot something down.

The issue: I know that a pen and notepad is there to jot something down.

In each of these examples, by telling me what was obvious the author pulled me out of the story. This happened over and over, and instead of getting immersed in the fiction I found myself thinking, "Why does the author keep telling me this?" You want your readers to feel engaged, so let them by trusting them to "get it."

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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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Show vs. tell: examples

Are you breaking the show vs. tell rule in your dialogue?

1,127 Views 6 Comments Permalink Tags: books, writing, showing, telling, writing_advice, author_advice, show_vs._tell


There would have been a time that I would have steered authors away from participating in short story collections. Such collections appeal to a niche audience. Traditionally, they don't sell as well as novels or even novellas, and they usually offer no financial benefit to the author. But, upon further consideration, I have a different attitude today about short story collections.

It is precisely because they have niche appeal that they could be highly successful in today's fractured publishing terrain. Today, genres and subgenres and sub-sub-genres are the norm in publishing. Readers who prefer paranormal young adult techno-punk romance most likely will find exactly what they are looking for with just a few minutes of browsing on their favorite retailer's website. And those readers are likely to have hundreds or thousands or even more like-minded readers that they are connected with who will spread the word about books they've discovered that match their very specific tastes.

It just stands to reason that a pool of readers who enjoy short story collections also exists. With that in mind, I now see the value in short story collections, but there is a catch. These collections can't be random stories. The stories must share a theme. For example, having a collection of short stories written by new indie authors isn't likely to do well, but having a collection of short horror stories written by new indie authors has some promise. Define the genre down to the sub-genres and even deeper, and your collection of short stories has an even better chance of finding niche readers en masse.

Whether you're putting together a short story collection or you?re asked to participate in one, make sure the collection has a theme that will appeal to your readers.

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

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The Rise of the Sub-genre

Find Smaller Markets to Sell More Books





1,046 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, story, genre, craft, collections, writing_advice, subgenre

Because  we learn to speak before we learn to read and write, when we begin to  put words onto a page it's easy to confuse those that sound the same  (also known as homonyms or homophones). For example:


*Bred, bread

*Plane, plain

*Great, grate

*Led, lead

*To, two, too

*There, they're, their


While the above words sound exactly the same all the time, two that don't sound exactly the same all the time, but which I've noticed people frequently confuse, are OF and HAVE.


How so, some of you might be asking? OF and HAVE don't sound anything alike!


Actually they do. Read the following sentences out loud and decide which is correct:


A)   I should HAVE gone to the movies.

B)   I should OF gone to the movies.

C)   I should've gone to the movies.


A)   You could HAVE given me a little more notice.

B)   You could OF given me a little more notice.

C)   You could've given me a little more notice.


A) We should HAVE paid more attention in English class.

B) We should OF paid more attention in English class.

C) We should've paid more attention in English class.


When you say the above sentences out loud, they sound identical, right?


But  when written down they're not the same, not even close. In each example  A and C are correct, and B makes no sense. (Each C is a contraction of  the A.)


Just  like mixing up the words I listed at the beginning of this post is no  big deal when speaking because no one can tell the difference, mixing up  HAVE and OF when speaking won't raise any eyebrows. But people can tell the difference when reading, so be careful!


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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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There vs. They're vs. Their

More Word Mix-ups

3,247 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, grammar, writing_advice, grammar_tip, grammar_advice, grammar_rules, author_help

The end

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 24, 2017

     Endings are hard to write. In fact, for me, they are the biggest stalling point in finishing a book. Early on, it was particularly hard to craft the right ending. I struggled with it mightily. Here are three methods that I found to help solve my "ending" problem:


  1. Write the ending first: This is a bit of a cheat, but it's a brilliant cheat. If you write the ending first, you'll know how to tailor your beginning and middle to make the ending perfect. You don't even have to write the ending in the prose that matches your style. Just sketch it out and figure out the best way to get there.
  2. Write the ending second: This is something I've done more times than the other methods. I will write the first chapter or two, then I will set the material aside while I work on the ending. This helps me write an ending that fits the style and characters I've established. Again, no need to write a detailed ending. You can create a rough outline. I will say that using this method does allow me to confidently include dialogue because I have a better handle on character.
  3. Don't write an ending: Sounds crazy, but I have written a book that didn't really have an ending. Yes, the book ended, but it ended with a line of dialogue that suggested the story wasn't over, and it wasn't because I wrote a second book with the same characters continuing their journey. In fact, that's how the ending came to me. I got to the point in the story where the main conflict had ended, and I needed an ending. I had so much fun writing the book, I decided to essentially not end the book.


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

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Don't force an ending

The three endings

5,927 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_help, ending_a_book

We've talked about the rule of consistency in branding. That is to say, you have a look, style, and message that is associated with your brand, and if you make drastic changes to any element of your brand along the way, you run the risk of losing your brand identity.

Today, I want to discuss a similar concept in branding. It's called the rule of repetition. It differs from the rule of consistency in that it is strictly centered on your messaging. There is a fast-food chain where you can have it your way. There is a soft drink on the market that is accompanied with a smile. There is an insurance company that claims you're in good hands. I didn't name one product in those three examples, but I'm guessing most of you know the product. Here, I'll include the slogans, minus the product name, and I'm more than confident you can provide the answers.

Have it your way at ____.

Have a ____ and a smile.

You're in good hands with ____.

Some of these slogans aren't even used anymore, but they are engrained in my memory banks. Why? Because I heard them over and over and over...and over again. The companies practically used the slogans on a constant loop. You, as a brand, should do the same thing. You won't necessarily come up with a slogan, but if you are a genre writer, include the genre in your brand. For example, you're not Jo B. Writer. You're Horror Author Jo B. Writer. If you'd rather focus on your accomplishments, then be Award-Winning Author Jo B. Writer or Best-selling Author Jo B. Writer. Always use it. Repeat the message whenever you can. Make it part of your email signature. Include it wherever you can. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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

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A Long Term Branding Strategy

How to Be Interesting Enough to Be a Brand

1,334 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, writing, social_media, author_brand, writing_advice

I recently finished a book that was much more difficult to write than I had anticipated. I had done a lot of preliminary work before I started writing. I selected a target number of chapters I wanted in the book. I did this by examining other books in the genre, and I found that a fairly consistent number kept popping up. No, it's neither a scientific nor a particularly artistic approach, but it gave me an idea of what other authors were doing, which was all I wanted. Next, I wrote a one-sentence description of each chapter, and in most cases, they weren't even complete sentences. I just wanted to build a ladder, of sorts, that defined the action of the book. Following that, I wrote a 50-word description for each chapter. This is where I started fleshing out character and plot. Finally, I increased the description to 250 words per chapter, providing more detail and even some key dialogue.


I essentially wrote a mini-version of the completed book before I wrote the first draft. I thought I'd have an easy time of it once I started writing the actual book. I was wrong. What I did was box myself in. As I wrote and explored the story and characters with my writer's hat on, this detailed outline confined me instead of liberating me.


About a quarter of the way through writing the first draft, I decided to allow myself to break away from the outline--but not completely. I used it as a guideline. The flow of the outline and the first draft were compatible, but the details differed, in some cases, greatly.


Outlines are great, and I will use them in the future. I will avoid overly-detailed outlines, though. They are too restrictive for the writer in me.


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

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When writing, don't outsmart yourself

The post-draft outline

1,235 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, drafts, revision, writing_advice, writing_practice


I get it. You want success now. You want to sell books by the truckload tomorrow. You want to wake up in the morning and find your name on a best sellers list. You will search the Internet far and wide looking for the magic marketing formula that will put you over the top. Your day job? In the rearview mirror. You want to be a full-time author, not just a weekend writer, a midnight scribe. You want writing to pay the bills.

Here's my advice. Slow down. I've seen too many writers burn themselves out trying to stay one step ahead of the game. Victories are more likely to come in the form of small steps rather than huge leaps in this industry. Your best course of action is to enjoy the journey and not focus on where you're headed. You will get there when you get there.

You are not in a competition with anyone but yourself. Remember that. We tend to look at other authors' successes and wonder, Why not me? Think of a book the same way you think of a viral video. There's usually no amount of manipulation that will force a video to go viral. It happens when the right material finds the right audience and strikes an emotional chord. The same is true with an indie book. It becomes a best seller when it finds the right audience and strikes an emotional chord. That emotional response is what creates a best seller. You can't make that happen.

Your best course of action is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep your social media outreach in a constant state of growth. Oh, and above all, take pleasure in the journey. Don't burn yourself out trying to reach your destination.


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

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How to find success





16,413 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: book, writers, revisions, writing, drafts, social_media, writing_advice

I have long been a proponent of "reader blindness" when it comes to writing. That is to say, I don't think that writers should consider readers when they write novels. I believe doing so compromises the quality of the writing.

But let's talk about rewriting. Should you consider your readers when you rewrite your novel? At the risk of contradicting my earlier statement, I think you should. In fact, I think it's impossible not to consider readers during the rewriting stage. I say this because most of my major rewrites have come after I've received feedback from a reader or two or three or four pre-publication.

These early readers will let me know what worked and what didn't. They have been chosen by me because I trust them to give me constructive criticism. The implication of me asking for their feedback suggests that I will consider their opinions when I rewrite. They represent all readers.

By considering the reader, I don't mean catering your story to meet their expectations. I mean to make sure that your prose is palpable, concise, engaging, that you've crafted a story they can follow with deep, rich, multi-dimensional characters and limited exposition. This is how you protect the integrity of your art but still take your readers into consideration at the same time.

Your first draft is done with your blinders on. It's the story that dictates the words, path, and structure of the book. Your rewrite is done with the blinders off. Now your job is to take readers into consideration and to do so without compromising your artistic integrity.


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


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Stage five of writing - gut or beta


The perils of rewriting



1,502 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, writers, readers, writing, craft, rewrites, writing_advice


I've written more than once in this space about the maddening (yet seemingly ubiquitous) trend of using "I" when "me" is the correct pronoun. If presidential candidates can't even get it right, I wonder what hope there is for my good grammar crusade. But I refuse to give up!

While not as common as the I/me error, nearly every day I hear someone make a similar mistake regarding she/her and he/him. Here's a refresher lesson about the difference:

"He" and "she" are subject pronouns. A subject does something.

  • Gloria goes to the store. (Gloria is the subject)
  • She goes to the store. (She is the subject)
  • David makes me laugh. (David is the subject)
  • He makes me laugh. (He is the subject)

"Him" and "her" are object pronouns. Objects have something done to them.

  • I saw Gloria. (Gloria is the direct object)
  • I saw her. (Her is the direct object)
  • I gave David the letter. (David is the indirect object)
  • I gave him the letter. (Him is the indirect object)

The above examples are pretty obvious to the ear. It would sound jarring if someone were to say, "Her goes to the store," or "I gave he the letter," right? Where people run into trouble is when there is more than one object in the sentence. For example:

  • I took a photo of David and Gloria.
  • I took a photo of him and Gloria. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he and Gloria. (INCORRECT)

To some ears the third option above might sound right, but it's not. Let's remove the second object in the sentence, which in this case is Gloria:

  • I took a photo of David.
  • I took a photo of him. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he. (INCORRECT)


In the above examples, the answer again becomes obvious, right? So, remember this: When in doubt, take Gloria out!


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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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Grammar tip: How to use gerunds correctly


Grammar tip: Have gone, not have went





3,509 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, craft, grammar, writing_advice, grammar_tip, grammar_tips, grammar_rules

Culture profile

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger May 23, 2016

I have plans for a book that, in part at least, takes place in Bolivia. I'm a huge Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fan, and it's my way of paying homage to the classic film. I have a major hurdle to overcome first. My knowledge of the country and region is based solely on the 1969 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.


Obviously, that means I have some studying to do. My goal as a writer is to avoid creating characters that are stereotypes. My view on stereotypes is that they don't provide the kind of depth one needs to develop a character readers will really connect with. Instead, I want to develop Bolivian characters that are modeled using cultural norms and cultural deviations that test those norms.


Now, I currently don't have the resources to travel to Bolivia and do a field study. I will have to rely on books, articles, and videos to find the knowledge I seek. I will create a file on my computer that will be called "Bolivian Culture," and I will start collecting material. Before I even sketch out the plot for the book, I will create character profiles for the Bolivians who will be in my book. I'll do a general outline for secondary and background characters, and I'll do a more detailed summary of the main Bolivian characters. That's where the cultural deviations will come into play. Conflict is crucial to creating multidimensional characters. The practices outside of what is widely accepted as a cultural norm are a great place to find conflict to fully develop a character.


When writing characters that come from a different culture than you, steer clear of stereotypes. Dive deeper and do your homework in order to create a culture profile that will give your characters depth.


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

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Give your characters virtual depth

Start a dialogue with your characters

952 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, characters, craft, character_development, writing_advice, character_arcs


You've written an engrossing mystery novel. Now what? It's time to dive into the marketing end of the publishing process and to do so with as much gusto as you showed writing the book. You are going to want to incorporate a mixture of conventional marketing strategies and…nontraditional strategies.

     Since you can use your favorite search engine to find a plethora of conventional book marketing strategies, let us focus on the nontraditional route in this blog post. Did I mention that nontraditional means fun?


  1. Murder mystery themed gala: Yeah, I know. Gala sounds expensive. Don't worry. All it really means is a party or celebration, but if you use the word "gala" in your marketing material, you add a little bit of panache to your event. This is a simple idea that requires a lot of planning. You're going to use friends and family to stage a murder mystery game in the middle of your gala, using characters and themes from you book. You won't follow the conclusion of your book or reveal little twists, of course. You don't want to give away any spoilers, but you do want to give attendees a taste of your story. They'll still have a blast. If you have the budget to hire a troupe of actors, all the better.
  2. Ten-minute plays: Speaking of actors, approach a local theater about renting their space for an evening of 10-minute plays based on material from your book. You'll want to focus on those passages and chapters in your book that emphasize character development. I'll be taking this route myself for an upcoming release, and I won't be writing the 10-minute plays. I'm handing material to a group of playwrights whom I know and trust and letting them have fun with it.
  3. At the movies: Thrillers and mystery films are never in short supply at your local movie theaters. Before the movie starts and before they show trailers of upcoming films, they usually show ads for local businesses. You are a local business. Your ad doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to be effective.

The mystery genre has a number of marketing opportunities that other genres don't have. Go the traditional book marketing route, yes, but don't be afraid to use your imagination and explore crazy ideas. Those crazy ideas have the biggest potential to become shared events on social media. The most important thing to remember is to have fun.


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


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Should you spend money on traditional advertising?


Take your book to the theatre





1,941 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, self-publishing, promotion, writing, novels, mystery, promotions, writing_advice
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