Friday, February 25, 2011

My New Book Cover

Well, I finally did it.  I created my own book cover after long, exhausting searches, mistakes, and misc. problems.  Here it is:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Marketing Your Book

Writing a book is kind of like childbirth.  It is painful and takes a long time to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.  You breathe life into these characters, take great care to name each of them, and then you have to trust someone else with them.  An agent or an editor, maybe both.  Getting rejection letters is of course part of the process, but to a writer it's like someone coming up to you and saying, "Your baby is ugly.

If you are lucky enough to find a publisher, know this.  Publishers spend most of their marketing resources on well-known writers.  You will have to market that book yourself for the most part.  It isn't easy.  Some people can't handle asking others to buy their book.  Get over it.  I hate it too, but it is a necessary evil.  You have no choice. 

I researched how to market my book before starting.  This blog is a big part of my marketing strategy.  I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Absolute Writer, etc. etc. etc.  I am compiling a list of email addresses so I can email a summary of my book and other information when it is published.  Hopefully my friends and family members will forward these important emails to their friends and so on and so on.  Word of mouth counts for a lot when it comes to selling a book.

So instead of writing, I am online day after day marketing my butt off.  I'm sure in the end it will pay off.  We'll see.  And that's what is on my mind today.  Happy writing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Outline A Book

Please don't get offended or jump all over me if I don't talk about the method you use on here.  I can only speak from experience.  I've had more than twenty years of it.  (please don't try to figure out how old I am. It will make your head hurt)  This is what has worked best for me.

1.  You need an idea: Duh. First we need to start with a basic idea.  I'll use my own work as an example.  After reading Twilight it started me to thinking what if a vampire got a second chance to live his life as a normal person?  Could he?  I mean, he's obviously been through a lot, seen a lot of horrible things.  How could he go back to his family, and would they even accept him?

2.  Characters: At this point you need to at least have a grain of understanding who your main characters will be.  Some areas of plot will come from your characters.  For Vampires Rule my main character is an unhappy boy vampire who longs to go home.  Simple enough.  I wanted him to have a love interest, so I created Silver.  That took a while.  At first I wasn't sure if I wanted an innocent girl pulled into his dark world or someone who knows more about the supernatural than he does.  I went with the latter. 

3.  Possible scenes: These will not necessarily all go into your book, but it gives you a good start.  By now you probably have at least a few scenes in mind.  I know I did.  Obviously my vampire would have to go home again, confront family (in his case a brother) who thinks he's dead.  I also knew a werewolf would attack him.  Then there also has to be a scene where his vampire friends return for him. 

Make a long list of possible scenes for your book.  Relax.  This is the fun part.  You can put them on your computer as you're thinking of them, but I like to use a notebook.  It's also nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.  For Vampires Rule I had a very interested friend.  We talked on the phone about it for three hours that first night.  She gave me some good ideas.  Other ideas came from something she said that I didn't like, but it led me down a new path.  Daydream.  Listen to music and let the characters loose in your head, give them permission to breathe.

4.  Build a puzzle: I like to think of my story as a puzzle.  There are missing pieces at first, but I can fill them in a bit at a time.  I look to the characters.  How do I want them to meet?  (There's a scene).  Do they fight, break up, almost kill each other?  (More scenes).  Part of the plot comes from conflict.  What do my characters want?  How do they go about getting these things?  What's in their way?  Do they fail or succeed?  You get the picture.

5.  Index Cards: I love these things.  After I have a ton of scenes, I write each one on an index card.  Now comes the frustrating yet rewarding part.  You need to put the scenes in order.  The thing I love about this system is you can see your story unfold before your eyes.  If something isn't working, move a couple cards around.  Experiment with it.  DON'T forget to number the cards once they are in the order you want them just in case they mixed up.  I learned this lesson the hard way.

And that's it.  That's how I outline my novel.  Please don't ask how many books I've written because I couldn't even guess.  I have thrown away more manuscripts over the years than I can possibly remember.  Anyway, I hope this is a helpful article to you.  Happy writing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

7 Steps to Creating a Memorable Villain

A boring bad guy can sink a good book.

I love a good villain.  They get to do whatever they want, say anything to anyone at anytime and get away with it.  Whether it is a book or a movie, a good villain will make it great.  Too many writers focus all their energy on the protagonist and yes, the protagonist is important--but don't forget the bad guy.  Make him awesome.  Here are a few tricks to help things along.

While creating your antagonist, remember a villain is the hero of his own story.  I've heard this many times and it's true.  Bad people don't see themselves as bad.  They are misunderstood or victims forced to behave in a certain manner because of the actions of others. 

1.  Give him a wonderful history: Everyone has a past.  What makes this guy tick? What turned him into a villain?  No on is born pure evil, and the days of writing about villains who don't have true motivation are long gone.  Give your antagonist a wonderful, rich and creative background.

2.  Give him shared traits with the protagonist: Give them common ground.  There are a lot of stories with heroes and villains who share similar backgrounds.  Look at Voldemort and Harry Potter.  Neither of them had loving families they could turn to.  Both saw Hogwarts as their true home.  But they both chose a different path.  Voldemort decided he craved power, while Harry wanted to be surrounded by friends and loved ones.  You can also use shared traits to bring the two together before sending them in opposite directions.  Maybe the protagonist likes the villain--until he figures out his friend isn't so nice.

3.  Make him stronger: No one wants to read a book or see a movie about a hero who obviously is going to win the battle with the bad guy.  His future has to be uncertain or the reader will lose interest.  Make the villain stronger, faster, better.  Pin the hero to the floor.  Then let him win... or not.  It's your story.

4.  Everyone loves a witty villain: We don't want to read about a boring bad guy.  Give him a sharp wit, a sarcastic tongue, maybe a bit of charm.  All of these things will make the reader crave more.  Of course you need to have a hero who can hold his own.  We don't want the reader to root for the bad guy.

5.  Give him a goal: I hear it said all the time that the protagonist needs to have a goal.  Well, so does the villain.  Give him a clear goal from the beginning.  If it opposes what the hero wants most, even better.  A major part of your conflict can come from this if done right.

6.  Nobody has perfect days: Everything the villain does should not work out perfectly.  Case and point: the coyote that stalks the Road Runner. 

7.  Villains have friends too: Don't close him off.  Show a scene or two of the antagonist interacting with a family member, friend, or employee.  Show him as human. 

Well, there you have it.  Speaking as an avid reader, we want great heroes, yes, but give us a super villain too.  Happy writing.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Writing: Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

I've heard this question a lot, so I decided to give it some serious thought.  Sometimes I feel like every good idea in the world is buried deep in the ground.  Writers have to play archeologist, dig carefully, uncover the idea without leaving a piece behind.  Other times I think maybe these characters are alive in another universe.  They reach out to us by telepathy, tell us their stories.  But when I'm not being whimsical my answer to this question would simply be this: I get my ideas from questions.

You heard me right.  Questions.  They come from questions that I ask myself or questions I hear other people asking.  I remember once in college when an idea for a book started with a question.  A young man came into the classroom a few minutes before it was to begin and did a double-take.  He asked me, "Didn't I just pass you in the hallway going the other direction?" 

Normally this question wouldn't have sparked my imagination, but he wasn't the first to mistake someone else for me.  A few days earlier two friends had insisted they'd seen me in the parking lot, had yelled at me and waved, but I'd ignored them.  At the time of this incident I'd been in town shopping.  Then about a week later while visiting my grandparents, my cousin told me he'd just seen me a few streets over wearing different clothes. 

Several different scenarios went around in my head, each one more delicious than the last.  Was someone purposely pretending to be me?  Did I have a missing twin no one had told me about?  Was it a spy?  An alien?  A ghost?

Sometimes while watching my favorite tv show or a movie I will start asking myself questions.  What if the hero had done this instead of that?  What if the bad guy had gotten away?  You get the idea.  These little questions start my brain's creative juices. 

I don't know about you, but my ideas mainly come from questions. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Self-publishing an Ebook

Well, this is it.  I have decided to go out on a limb and publish one of my books myself.  Since ebooks have become so popular and they outsold paperbacks on Amazon last year, I've chosen to go that route.  This is quite an exciting adventure.  Of course I don't expect to get rich or famous doing this.  Maybe only my mother will buy a copy.  We'll see.  If you've ever wondered about self-publishing, come along with me on this journey. 

Research is extremely important at a time like this.  As much as I'd like to jump off that cliff right now, I'm going to take my time for fear of messing things up and ruining a perfectly good book.  There are a lot of articles on the different sites that offer authors a chance to publish their own work.  I've narrowed it down to two: Amazon and Smashwords. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  Amazon, of course, is very well known.  To be honest I hadn't even heard of Smashwords until I started this search.  A fellow who published books with both places said he sold more at Amazon, but Smashwords offers the opportunity to sell your book to people with a variety of different e-readers including Kindle, sony-reader, Apple's reading device among others.  They also supply a seventy-something page guide to help you format your book, getting it ready to upload.  It takes you step by step through the entire process. 

I'm leaning toward Smashwords at this time, but I reserve the right to change my mind.  There is so much to do between now and then.  I have to spend time networking socially at places like Facebook, buy Photoshop and use it to create a virtual book cover, edit my book (no one is going to do it for me), and so on and so on and so on.  Wishe me luck... and stay tuned.