My blogs generally focus on my writer’s life with stories about things that strike my fancy. Today I’m sharing a fun video aimed primarily for writers.
I first saw the video many years ago on the blog of The Steve Laube Agency. Fridays on his blog are FUN day and he shared this great video by James Andrew Wilson titled The Five Emotional Stages of Writing a Novel.
If you’re not a writer, I’m hope you can relate to some of the same stages in projects you undertake. And, it’ll help you understand your writer friends better.
Book titles and covers are important because the old adage — Readers do judge a book by its cover — is true. So, how can an author know beforehand what’s going to resonate?
Wiser people than me have come up with three criteria.
A great title needs to create an image that synthesizes the story and suggest the story’s meaning or theme.
The cover must also grab the attention of a casual book searcher.
A title must describe the contents while being so piercing and articulate that readers will take notice.
Recently, I rebranded three previously published individual titles into a series. I considered coming up with new titles for each book, but each book already had an ISBN and the content was not changing. It wasn’t necessary.
Instead, I used a branding tagline or blurb (below) and a graphic — the ribbon — to link the books.
PROMISES seriesTwo men and one woman met at Eighth Army Headquarters, South Korea in the turbulent Vietnam War years and found their lives linked together forever. The PROMISES series tells their stories through the decades that follow.
In making my decision, I examined my titles based on the expert’s criteria.
Book 1 is Love in the Morning Calm, Prequel to the Pendant’s Promise.
With love in the title, a reader gets the story will be a love story. The picture of Headquarters, Eighth Army identifies the setting as a military. A knowledgeable reader may also recognize that another name for South Korea is Land of the Morning Calm.
Conclusion: I may have I tried too hard.
Book 2 The Pendant’s Promise
The cover design with the Pendant, the Vietnam Wall, and the word promise signal another love story. I love this cover because my very talented daughter designed it. With the rebranding, my current graphic designer, Jim Peto at Petoweb.com, enhanced the graphics.
Conclusion: The title and the cover artwork make a reader notice.
Book 3 Until He Returns
The old Army green color clues a reader of the setting and time frame. The title suggests whoever needs to return is in the military. (Those who have read the first two books will know the character has been MIA since book 1.) Close examination reveals the character’s name on the dog tags.
Conclusion: Unsure whether this title hits the mark the mark or not. While the dog tags are clearly visible on the paperback cover, the tags are not readable on the eBook thumbprint.
Book 4 Promises to Keep
This is the final book of the series, which will be out next month. The title ties back to the second book’s title and the series title. The couple clues the reader it’s another love story. The sunset background suggests the end of the day and the last of series.
Conclusion: It synthesizes the story and suggests the story’s theme.
Overall, I give myself a generally good grade for my titles. What say you?
Should you want to read any of the books, simply click on the buy links on the sidebar. The buy link for book 4 will be added next month.
Our genres are different, but our process to a finished book is much the same. I also start with a seed. There’s no telling where a story idea will come from, but I rarely have a plan for the story. Except I do know there will be a satisfying ending.
I greatly admire those who can plot with colorful sticky notes and checkerboard graphics designating scenes. I envy the ones who know the percentage of each portion of three act structure or hero’s journey. I can’t do that hard as I try.
I begin with my happily-ever-after seed and watch it sprout and grow into a full-fledged story like a gardener. Sometimes I have to do a lot of pruning along the way to keep the story working. That is precisely what gardeners do for their plants.
If you’re a writer, what’s your writing process like? Do you garden or follow a blueprint?
These days we live in a fast-paced world. People can be impatient, especially about reading long-winded posts, emails, and texts. I’ve noticed that even fiction books seem to be shorter.
Our written communication should be clear and concise. Still, extra verbiage can slip in and most often, eliminating those words will not change the meaning.
How do we eliminate words that are simply filler that don’t add to the susbtance?
Personally, I use a weasel word list – an editing help I learned in a Margie Lawson editing workshop. It’s simply a list of words I know creep into my writing. Words like just, that, very, really, etc. Then, when I’m editing, I eliminate or replace those words.
Below is a great infographic that can help you catch extraneous words in your writing.
Today I’d like to introduce a writer friend, who also happens to be a fabulous teacher and excellent editor—Alicia Rasley. She’s going to offer advice on how writers can decide which character’s POV to use.
All fiction books are written from a particular character’s perspective (POV). As readers, you probably aren’t aware of POV specifics, but we writers can struggle with it. That’s why I invited Alicia to help.
Thanks, Judythe, for inviting me to guest blog!
I know I’m not the only writer kind of obsessed with point of view, so I thought I’d talk about one aspect of POV — which character should narrate a particular scene.
Often this is an easy decision, but if you’re having trouble making the scene as dramatic or deep as you want, consider changing the point-of-view character.
Now there is no RIGHT answer to which character point-of-view to choose for any scene. It will vary depending on many factors, including the author’s own natural POV approach and of course the events of the scene.
But here are a few questions to help guide you in the choice. Each of these questions emphasizes a different approach to the scene. One might lead to a more action-oriented scene. Another might lead to an emotionally dramatic scene.
Let’s use as an example a hanging in some foreign land, a public execution of a man (call him Tom), with his wife there near the gallows (call her Sue). Very dramatic scene!
Whose head should we be in?
POV Choice Questions
Which character is there right now at the scene?
It’s often better to go with the eyewitness rather than the one who just hears about it later– the TV cameraman at the execution, not the anchorman back at the studio.
Which character has the most at stake externally?
The one in physical danger maybe? That would probably be Tom, the condemned man, about to be hanged, of course.
Which character has the most at stake internally?
Sue, who is watching the hanging despairingly from the crowd, knowing that her baby (due in three weeks) will never know its daddy?
Who has the most intriguing perspective, or will narrate the event in the most entertaining way?
Maybe the hangman? Or maybe Sue isn’t so despairing… maybe she’s furious at Tom and will be glad when he’s dead? <G>
Who will change the most because of this event?
Maybe the judge who condemned the man, as the hanging draws closer, comes to regret his vengeful decision, and decides that he’s got to save Tom. The judge might be a good POV character because we can participate in this great change.
Who is going to have to make a big decision or take a great action during this scene?
If Sue is going to storm the gallows, seize a sword, and cut Tom down, she might be the best POV character (then again, I’d love to be in Tom’s head as she comes charging up the steps and aiming that sword towards his neck… <G>).
Whose goal drives the scene?
Maybe Tom has decided to make a great emotional speech and rally the onlookers to riot and save him. He’s the one with the goal– good POV choice.
Whose got a secret and do you want the reader to know?
If Tom is actually an undercover superhero who can burn the noose rope with his x-ray eyes and fly away, but wants first to implicate the judge who condemned him, so he stands there patiently waiting for the hangman… it depends on whether I want the reader to know what he’s planning or his secret powers.
Yes, I want the reader to know, so I put the scene in his POV, and concentrate on how hard he has to work to keep the secret secret.
Or no, I don’t want the reader to know: I want the reader to gradually suspect, along with – or before– Sue and/or the judge, that there’s something a bit off about this guy and the way he keeps aiming his intense gaze up at the rope…. that might mean staying OUT of his POV.
Who is telling all already through dialogue and action?
If Sue is being completely open and upfront about what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling, why bother to go into her head? The judge or Tom might be a better candidate for our “mind-reading” then.
You can see that this is not a checklist– any one of these is sufficient to make a choice, and some are obviously mutually exclusive.
But you can also see how many different ways there are to analyze the choice, and it all boils down to:
What effect do you want to have on the reader in this scene?
And whose POV will best create that effect?
Bio: Alicia Rasley would rather write about writing than… well, write. Nonetheless, she has written many novels, including a best-selling family saga and a contemporary mystery novel.
She also wrote a handbook on the fictional element of point of view: The Power of Point of View. She teaches writing at a state university and in workshops around the country and online.
Writing’s hard work. Ask any writer. Good writing is harder. Sometimes weasel words can slip in.
Weasel words are “favorite” words that pop up when a writer is being lazy or rushing.
I first heard the term in a workshop with Margie Lawson. She expanded weasel words to include phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés and opinion words that might draw a reader from the story.
Her solution is to keep a personal weasel word list for every manuscript and when you do the edits, remove the weasels.
Grammarly created this infographic of frequently overused words to help writers eradicate such words. Margie and I would call it a weasel word list.
Grammarcheck.net recently posted this infographic of 21 frequently ignored (or unknown) grammar rules and writing mistakes that everyone who writes should know.
How many do you know? How many do you ignore?
I’m with them on all but the serial comma and semicolon. I only use a serial comma for clarity in my writing. And, I think the semicolon is too formal for my voice. I only add it when my copy editor insists.
Last Monday, September 24th was National Punctuation Day. Thanks Steve Laube and Janice Heck for sharing on your blogs and putting me in the know about this yearly celebration.
I’m a week late this year, but next year I’ll be on time to celebrate the day Jeff Rubin established as the “celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semi-colons, and the ever mysterious ellipsis” in 2004.
Steve Laube posted this five minute repartee between Dean Martin and Victor Borge skit with Phonetic Punctuation. It’s hilarious any day of the year.
On a more serious note, if you have as much trouble with punctuation and grammar as I do, I recommend:
When I started writing for publication, I repeatedly heard three “absolute must dos.”
Years later and many published works, I have my own opinion about those MUSTs.
#1 Write what you know.
First, imo, writing what you know is easy lazy writing. I’ve done it, you’ve done. Who hasn’t?
BUT, we live in the technology age. These days you can research anything without leaving home.
Or looking at it another way, we write fiction. We can make it up!
It’s been my experience, as long as my reader can suspend their disbelief and buy into my story I don’t have to be an expert about what I’m writing.
I will qualify my opinion by saying that IF you write about what you know and what interests you, your story is more likely to come alive for your reader. Good Sound research can produce an engaging story too.
So, don’t limit yourself to what you know. Explore. Be adventurous. Be creative. Research.
#2 Don’t write to market.
Indie publishing has blown this MUST out of the water.
On the other hand, if you write to the traditional publishing market, you might want to AVOID market trends.
By the time a manuscript is ready for what is currently trending, that trend may have died. Big Six publishers take too long from contract to reality in a bookstore. Do you really want to spend weeks, months, even years writing a book that won’t sell?
BUT if you’re considering indie publishing or e-publishing, I suggest you keep your eye on the marketplace. Publishers’ Marketplace offers deal news which is an indicator of what’s coming out.
Subscribe to the free lunch edition of Publishers’ Market place or spring for a paid subscription to the Marketplace. Check regularly to see what’s trending.
Then if you need a story idea, you’ll have plenty of ideas. You might find one that appeals to you and will likely be most saleable.
#3 Write the best book you can.
This one is absolutely, positively TRUE.
What sells a book or an article or a paper is CONTENT.
Agents and editors reject mediocre or unsellable submissions. Reviewers and readers will post bad reviews. So write the best, most creative, most marketable manuscript or article you can. ALWAYS!
I wish I could promise that you follow these MUSTs you’ll find success. I can’t.
There are two other elements.
Only one of my early advisors – New York Times bestseller JoAnn Ross — was honest enough to share this illusive element of writing success.
Thank you, JoAnn
The other key element and critical MUST is
So I end by wishing you luck because every author – aspiring or established – needs a boatload of LUCK and this perserverance quote from my website writers’ resource page:
You do not know what the next effort will bring because the future is not based on the past. That feeling of wanting to give up is based solely on the past, which really doesn’t matter anymore. What matters now is where you’re headed, not where you’ve been. And when you view it from that perspective, giving up is simply not an option.” ~~~R. Marston
What’s on your list of MUSTs for aspiring writers?