Category Archives: Indie Authors

Tips to help Indie authors be successful.

Your favorite movies can improve your writing

Plotting a book is just like plotting for a movie. Do you want to have a story that keeps your audience at the edge of their seats? Find a favorite film and then break it down according to Syd Field’s paradigm for script writers.

Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he devised the three act structure. Following the greatest, Field divides his story into three parts: Act I (the beginning), Act II (the middle), and Act III (the end).

These three acts are then broken into plot points. They’re not just the points you would find in a math class, they ask questions of you. Leave you searching your head to find out who are your characters, what do they really want, and how far are they willing to go get it. Do not be afraid to build characters who fight tooth and nail to achieve their goals. It only makes the story interesting.

Let us break down Field’s paradigm using one of my favorite Disney Movies, The Princess and The Frog.

Act I: The set up

Plan on landing a big agent? Well just like in a film, you want to answer three big questions in the first thirty pages. Readers need to know the who, the what, and the where. Start in the middle of the action, and do not keep secrets.

We learn Tiana is a hardworking waitress from a lower class family in New Orleans. She has dreams of owning her own restaurant, but guess what? Sweetie does not have a dime.

On the other hand, we have Prince Naveen who has been cut off from his family for being a lazy rascal. Desperately wanting to maintain his lavish lifestyle he has two choices: marry a wealthy wife or find a job.

Somewhere around page 20 – 30, you’re going to have plot point I, the inciting incident in your story propelling everyone into the second act. The key in the ignition, it is the event that really starts your characters on their journey.

When Prince Naveen discovers a dirty voodoo witch doctor, he is turned into a frog. Knowing the only thing that can turn him back is a princess’ kiss, he goes in search of one. His blind need leads him to recklessly mistaking poor Tiana for a princess. Entangled in the spell, she becomes a frog herself.

Act II: The conflict

It is pertinent to understand truly who and what your characters want in Act II. Then you can create conflict that keeps your characters from truly getting what they want. Conflict is a series of events forcing the characters to change their behavior to achieve their goal.

Tiana wants a restaurant.

Prince Naveen wants a wealthy princess.

As Act II unfolds we learn more about why the characters want what they want, we see them have to struggle for what they want, and how their struggles bring them closer to the Midpoint. Think of the midpoint as the climax, the point of no return, the event that spins your story into a new direction. It can be a surprise your characters or audience were never expecting.

Now this is a judgment call, but I believe the midpoint is when Prince Naveen and Tiana fall in love.

We also have Plot Point II, or what Field likes to call the crises. This event causes our protagonists to act. It is the gritty moment, the decision maker, when all things become a matter of life and death. Whatever happens here must propel our protagonists into their final glory.

The voodoo man is able to capture Prince Naveen and lay a trap of deception, breaking Tiana’s heart and turning her against Prince Naveen.

Act III: The resolution

Whatever has happened in plot point II has led your characters to the final showdown. We watch as the characters make decisions that bring the story to a close. Then we see the balance being restored. Whether happy or sad, come what may I say.  Just do not let it be a cliff hanger. If it has to be, make sure the only question you leave unanswered in your story is what happens next.

Racing against time to break the voodoo man’s spell, Tiana must fight for love and self-respect. All soon goes well. It is a Disney movie after all.

Examining Field’s paradigm helps me to think in terms of action when writing my novel. A great tool, it keeps me focused. I hope it inspires you to read his books on screenwriting, learning more information on how to structure great novels.

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Clean cover on a budget series intro: A hard knock life for a new adult fantasy romance writer

So you are on a budget, but you want an awesome cover.

Your Photoshop skills are nonexistent or so-so, and you have little time to master Photoshop. What do you do?

You create a clean cover design focused on manipulating fonts and one image. In my series over the next couple weeks I will talk about: fonts, white space, and themes.

I will showcase my own journey with designing my cover.

This came after months of meditation and research.

As a new adult fantasy romance / paranormal romance writer, I found the steps I had to take after finishing my novel harder than the ones I had to take while writing. I designed like 10 covers before I finally found one I could agree with. Those covers will be revealed in the process.

I utilized Indesign for layout. This allowed me to move fonts and pictures around so much easier than Photoshop.  It helped me to create this.

A story featured on Wattpad and Fictionpress.

Your aim is not to oddly blend contrasting images the eye knows do not belong together.

Your goal is to create a clean, crisp poster look almost. Think E.L. James and Twilight. Something when we look at it, we might not go WOW!, but definitely will not go EEEEWWWW.

Nothing may not turn off readers more than published rough drafts, but a gaudy cover design will surely do you in for good.

Here are some good tips.

  1. Use readable fonts, meaning stay away from cursive or grunge unless these fonts can be made big.
  2. Try not to use more than 3 fonts on a cover.
  3. Use san-serifs for headlines such as your title, and serifs for your subtitles.
  4. Find a good balance between the white space and the objects on the page.
  5. Stick to a central theme – when you are not using advanced techniques, you do not want to go in mixing several pictures together trying to create a collage.
  6. If you want to set your cover apart, find a symbol that can truly represent your novel.

Serif fonts are fonts such as Times New Roman, and are further explained in this nice article on Wikipedia.

Blending multiple photographs in an image is an advanced technique, something we often forget because we want to achieve what the big dogs do.

My motto: always go with the black dress with pearls if one is out of ideas. In other words simplicity always wins the day.

I will help you achieve this simplicity over the next few weeks. Hopefully, it will help you achieve a clean cover that will lead to more sales. In the meantime, start cover shopping in your book genre. Find designs you think you can actually achieve. Do not be afraid to be inspired. Meaning, do not go and steal, but let it guide you in your process for designing your own cover.

If you are starting research early, then you have time to visit Lynda.com and watch a Photoshop series to learn how to create a cover.

Also if you would like to help others grow in this process, post links to covers you found and think can inspire others.

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Alicia Brewster: the harsh truth

Alicia Brewster, author of Don’t Call Me Angel, talks about her writing process below.

Don’t Call Me Angel is a nice novella which reads like a comic book. For all manga and comic book readers, this is the book for you, so check out my review. After this, make sure you go out and get a copy.

For everyone else who needs a little inspiration while writing their novel, Miss. Brewster provides her unique take on completing a novel and the steps which must be climbed to be successful.

Straight from the author’s mouth: The Harsh Truth

1. Can you tell us about Don’t Call Me Angel? Why did you choose to write this novella?

Don’t Call Me Angel is an urban fantasy novella about a fallen angel, named Six, who just escaped from Hell. For me, the most fun part about this book was creating her inner voice. Six sees things differently than most people, partly because she’s bitter about having been forced into Hell, and partly because she’s new to Earth and discovering it for the first time. Throughout the series, we’ll see her make a lot of mistakes while finding her way.

I had been working for quite a while on a novel, which I decided I needed to step away from for a while. While I took a break from that novel, I decided to work on one of the other projects floating around in my head. As soon as I opened myself up to working on another project, this one nagged at me to write it.

2. How long did it take you to complete Don’t Call Me Angel? Can you talk about your writing process?

Don’t Call Me Angel was a super quick project because it’s relatively short, and my motivation and excitement for the project stayed high throughout. It took me three and a half months to complete.

My writing process: First, I create a rough scene list for the entire book. Then I write a rough draft based on the scene list. I don’t necessarily write the scenes in order; I write whichever scene I’m most excited to write next, and sometimes I add and delete scenes as the story develops. I do a little editing along the way as I’m writing my rough draft. After the rough draft is done, I start at the beginning and pretty much rewrite everything I’ve written. Then I do a third pass (and maybe a fourth) where I edit my words. Then come beta readers, editors, more beta readers, and proofreaders.

Whew! I think that covers it.

3. Any editing tips?

Communicate with your editors about what you want from them. I always encourage my editors to not hold anything back. At the outset, I tell them something like: Tell me when words, or sentences, or chapters aren’t needed. Tell me when you think the word you’ve come up with is better than the one I used. Please don’t filter yourself; let me be the filter in deciding which of your suggestions I’ll use. If you don’t tell me, I won’t know.

4. Who are some of your favorite authors and how have they inspired your writing?

Laini Taylor, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, J.K. Rowling. These writers all inspire me in different ways. Ms. Taylor creates magnificent imagery that makes me just want to melt. Her words, and how she strings them together, are inspiring. Mr. Rothfuss seems to take his relatively new-found success with a great sense of humor. I admire him a lot. Mr. Sanderson writes the most amazing action scenes and endings. And Ms. Rowling . . . Well, she wrote Harry Potter, so that needs no further explanation.

5. What do you love most about the writing industry? What do you dislike?

One of the things I love about the writing industry is the impact that blogging—and wonderful bloggers like Law Reigns—have had on it. You guys present a platform on which we indie authors can present ourselves and our work and possibly have a shot at competing with traditional publishing houses and their resources. So THANK YOU, BLOGGERS!

I dislike the stigma attached to indie publishing. I think a lot of people assume that authors use small presses and self-publish because they can’t get accepted at big publishing houses. To the contrary, this is a business decision for a lot of authors. But I’m happy to see that there are a ton of readers, more and more each day, who are open to reading indie books. There are a lot of great indie books out there, and I love to read them!

6. If you could share one tip you learned with self-published authors who share the same dream of being a successful author what would it be? 

Have multiple people read your work before you put it out there. Attempt to get your book into the hands of friends of friends—people you don’t know. They’ll be less likely than friends and family to spare your feelings. And that’s what you want before publishing your book: the harsh truth.

Designing the Interior of your novel

Whoever believes interior design is an art must be deathly in love with the craft.

I find it to be a science more along the lines of physics.

Even though I am not a novice, using Adobe Indesign to construct the interior of my novel was not as easy as I imagined.

After laying out the margins correctly:

.25 inch margins (that is what Createspace recommends) I find .50 inch margins to be cleaner.

.75 inches for the gutter

There were other points I had to consider such as:

How many blank pages would I have in the beginning of the novel?

There has to be a copyright, acknowledgements, and so on.

Not only that, but there also has to be enough  blank pages so that my first chapter would end up on an odd page.

If one is also looking at novels, they might have noticed that blank pages are starting to be styled as well.

How much space would I leave for my page numbers and where would I place them?

Out of a slight desire to be lazy, I modeled my interior design off of Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon. If she can do without a title and author in the header, so can I.  

How am I going to design the opening of each new chapter?

It is industry standard never to indent the first paragraph of each chapter.

It can, however, be stylized with the first few words in all caps or through the use of drop caps.

How am I going to show breaks in the chapter?

Page breaks are also never indented. Many do take liberty with the style of the page breaks.

I have seen them styled with four asterisks or a simple space of .25 in leading.

I had to ask myself what fonts do I desire to use for my chapter headings, page numbers, footers, and so on.

This was the hardest decision to make, forcing me to find a font that would speak to the mood of my novel.

Always erring on the side of simplicity, I just chose one of the fonts I used for the cover of my novel.

Finally, how am I to organize this information, so that I have one coherent style across my manuscript?

Organize everything in paragraph and character styles once you have got the look of the first chapter.

My biggest mistake was going through a discovery process as I went through each chapter.

I found out how I wanted to break my chapters in chapter one, but did not figure out the font for my chapter headings till chapter twelve.

This forced me to have to go back to the beginning and update my character and paragraph styles over and over again.

Such a process added hours onto my work. Mind you, I had chosen to use the Adobe book feature, thinking it would be easier to organize and manage the chapters.

Once everything is organized into character and paragraph styles, it is just click and point from there.

Curious about Adobe Indesign?

Adobe Indesign is used primarily for layouts and can be a great tool for interior design.

I sharpened my skills with the program utilizing Lynda.com.

To sum up the entire article, here are some tips to constructing a clean manuscript:
  1.       .25 in outside margins at least (I like .50)
  2.       .75 in gutter (inside margins)
  3.       Size 12 pt or 14 pt for body copy
  4.       1.5 * (font size of body to determine the leading)
  5.       Test and plan all in chapter one: chapter fonts, page number fonts, header information, chapter openings, and page breaks
  6.       Master paragraph and character styles
  7.       Do not indent the first paragraph in a chapter
  8.       Do not indent chapter breaks
  9.       Use .25 in for paragraph indents
  10.       REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW for orphans and widows, awkward spacing, and mistakes
Intimidated by design?

Do not be. Anyone who is on a budget can construct the interior of their novel.

My suggestion is, never feel one has to be extravagant. Readers are reading for the story, not for the interior design.

I do have to admit, interesting and unique interior design can sometimes be the icing on the cake.

Check out one of my favorites, The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton, an author who will soon be featured on my blog.

Her interior and exterior design is awesome.

 

Editing: Making every word spectacular

Superheroes Wear Faded DenimEditing is key to getting the type of novel that leaves your reader turning to the last page and going, “WHY!? WHY DID IT HAVE TO END?”

My debut novel, Superheroes Wear Faded Denim, has gone through three years of writing, four drafts, numerous critique groups, and endless writing workshops.

The novel ended 452 pages and has been cut to 398.

Each draft evolved.

What began as a story about an artsy college student who wars against her BFF for the heart of a wealthy bachelor has grown to be a story about a socially awkward college student’s sleeping habits saving mankind.

Of course my story would have never been more than just another girl meets boy if it had not been for my mother reading my very first draft, and uttering, “it’s boring.”

Even though I was a romance writer trying to appeal to a mother who lives off James Patterson novels, I took the advice.

Editing might be key, but without good advice, editing is misguided.

I found critique groups and creative writing classes to be very useful in shaping my final drafts.

When I showed my mother the third draft, I was getting a thumbs up.

Still the third draft was not the final.

I took the advice of writer Kathryn Bain, author of Breathless, and utilized NaturalReader.

Anyone who wants to self-edit their book needs to invest in a product that will speak their words.

Combing through my pages with that product one last time really saved my manuscript.

 

 

 

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Brittany Geragotelis: Writing her own success

Below Geragotelis gives us a glimpse into what it took for her to write her own success. Uncertain why that is so awesome? Check out: Turning no’s into green yes’. Though it is just a snap shot, connect with her on social media. The links are provided below. If you are a self-published author looking to be published with a big six, you will be motivated to follow down her path.

Brittany Geragotelis is the successful author of: What the Spell?, being released in three e-installments  in October before finally being released in hardback January 1, 2013; Life’s a Witch will be released mid-next year just before the sequel being released January 1, 2014.

It will be an exciting New Year’s Day in 2013 and 2014 for everyone. Mark your calenders.

Straight from the author’s mouth: Writing her own success

When is the release date for your novel Life’s A Witch? We’re publishing the prequel/spin-off called What the Spell? in 3 e-installments starting in October, and then in hardback and the full e-book on January 1, 2013! Life’s a Witch will be published mid-next year, and then the sequel will be published January 1, 2014.

Why did you choose to write this book? How long did it take you to write it? When I was considering publishing something on Wattpad, I took a look at what kids seemed to be reading on the website. It turned out to be a lot of Paranormal Romance, so I thought about what I might want to write. I think a lot of people are intrigued by the Salem Witch Trials and I started thinking about what it would have been like if those accused really were witches. And what if the accusers were from the same coven? The story just formed from there!

As for a timeline, when I was writing Life’s a Witch, I had a day job (I was an editor at a magazine), and so I was writing for an hour every night (between 11PM and 1AM). So, with this limited time to write, it took me about 6 months. However, I only had 6 weeks to write the prequel, What the Spell?, which I just turned into my editor last week!

Any editing tips? Don’t edit as you go. If you start nit-picking while you’re writing, you’ll never get the book written. When you’re done give yourself some time away from the book. A week, two, sometimes I like to take a month off. It’ll let you be more clear-headed when it comes time to edit it. Then, have an editor look it over. Not only will they catch all the spelling and grammar errors you’ve made, but if you’re like me, they’ll find all of the inconsistencies we can get while writing.

If you could share one tip you learned with self-publishers who share the same dream, what would it be? Don’t ever let someone break your dream. I went through 10 years of rejection. I had some close calls, but a bunch of set-backs, to the point where I almost gave up on writing completely. Luckily I didn’t, because look what happened! Be willing to look at things differently. I used to think that getting published had to look a certain way–get an agent, get a publisher, become a famous author–but as soon as I opened my mind to the idea that there may be other ways of achieving success, things just started to happen. And lastly…say yes to opportunities that come your way. I was wary of putting my stuff for free on Wattpad, but ultimately I said yes to what they were offering. It’s because of this, I got 18 million reads of my book, which ultimately led to me getting my book deal.

Connect for more inspiration:

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Brittany Geragotelis: transforming your self-published book into a book deal

Mrs. Geragotelis has kindly shared some inspiration and great wisdom on how to use self publishing to your advantage. Don’t you love when those who are successful give back? The interview will be posted this Saturday, Apr. 7.  Check back then to get juiced up for your own success.

In the meantime, connect with Mrs. Geragotelis at

 

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