My NOT Marketing Plan

I know I’m not the only one who can claim to have a very busy life. Everyone is busy these days. No one has time for any extras, and it’s just plan impossible to squeeze in time for things you really, really don’t want to do. I wear many hats as a wife, mom, homeschool teacher, friend, Reiki healer, writer, sometimes employee, and a very sometimes blogger. Lately, I’ve added another job as packer and mover with our family’s relocation to Florida in the next few weeks. I really don’t have time for anything extra, especially for something I don’t want to do and something that’s most assuredly going to add more stress to an already stress-filled life.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know I recently published my first novel last month. Most writers would be marketing their little hearts out and plastering the internet and anything else they can think of to get the word out about their new book! And why shouldn’t they? It was hard work and it’s time to reap the benefits. But I’m not like most people, I already got the “benefit” out of writing my book. I finished a really hard and tough project (well the first book of it anyways) and damn if that didn’t feel freaking awesome! If I actually sell some copies here and there… bonus!

But I did not become a writer to make money, and I do not and will not get to a point where I rely on book sales to supplement my income (that’s what my hard working husband is for–– love you Hun!). If I need money, I’ll find some other way to acquire it. That being said, it would be really, super awesome to at least earn back my investment in self-publishing my book, and I certainly appreciate anyone who has helped and will help to contribute to that goal!

I know there are a lot of hard working writers out there who do rely on writing as an income and my hat is off to them, but partway through my writing “career” I realized that’s not for me. I can’t write that way. I have to be one hundred percent free to be me when it comes to my writing and that means not limiting myself in anyway or stressing myself out over something I don’t want to do. And marketing is something I most certainly do not want to do.

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Novel Submission Part 3: Creating Multiple Synopses

UnknownWe’ve already talked about the query package and writing an effective cover letter, let’s get to the really hard part… the synopsis. First I want to say that I’ve found it’s impossible to write just one synopsis. To get a great synopsis, it’s better to do a few, because let’s face it your publisher is going to want more than the one to three page synopsis you submitted if they do accept your novel. They’ll most likely want a shorter blurb for the back cover. Also some publishers want more than a one to page synopsis when submitting to them, so why not just get them all done at once and be done with it.

For me it was easier to do the really long synopsis first. The chapter by chapter sum up of the entire novel, which reached a huge twenty pages. I doubt any publisher will want all of that, but it was good for me because I did not previously have what others might call an outline. Many of you may already have this chapter by chapter summary or outline completed. But I don’t do written outlines as I’m writing because I’m a pantser. I feel outlines distract from letting the story flow where it needs to go. So if you like to be organized and have a nice neat outline down before you even write the first word of your novel, then you can totally skip this step.

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Novel Submission Part 2: Writing an Effective Cover Letter

516TFGYGF9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We talked about Novel Submission Part 1: The Query Package, but now let’s get more specific and discuss how to actually write a cover letter (and FYI, writing a novel cover letter is different than a short story cover letter, in fact there are some publications that don’t even require a cover letter for short story submissions).

The following post is an accumulation of what I learned from Gary A Braunbeck’s worksop on cover letters and synopses, research I’ve done, and my own observations as I wrote the cover letter for my novel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to write the cover letter (or what some call a query letter)…

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Novel Submission Part 1: The Query Package

Untitled-2After many years, my novel is finally done, now comes the hardest part yet… it’s time to submit it. I have to admit, I’d rather write another entire novel from scratch then do what comes next, but paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, “anything worthwhile never comes easy.”

This summer I’ve been taking the first steps in getting my novel ready for submission by writing a cover letter (or sometimes called a query letter) and a handful of synopses (because it’s not good enough to have just one synopsis, but that’s another post!).

The first step I took in writing the cover letter and synopsis was to do research and see how the professionals were doing it. And I was also lucky enough to take a workshop about cover letters and synopses from science fiction author Gray A. Braunbeck last September. After a frustrating search, I finally managed to find my notes from his workshop. Yay!

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Evernote: A Great Way to Keep Track of Notes and Information

Image from Evernote website https://evernote.com/evernote/
Image from Evernote website https://evernote.com/evernote/

I’ve been using Evernote for a few years now. It’s a free software that can be downloaded (there’s a premium addition that costs a little, but the free version works for my needs), and I have found it invaluable to help me keep track of notes on characters, world building items, notes for blogging, and even notes for my web design stuff. I can also paste images into a note or website address. Heck, I’ve even used Evernote to write and store snippets of scenes so I can keep them in a safe place until it’s time to put the snippets in the actual story.

Evernote is great because if I have a stray thought I want to make sure I keep, I open up the program (though usually it stays open in the backdrop) and just type the thought real quick and get back to work. I also have the Evernote app loaded on my phone, so if I am away from my computer I can jot that urgent piece of information down and I am good to go. And the best part about Evernote, is that it saves everything automatically. No need to hit the save button!

Granted, I’ve had the program installed on my computer for awhile, but it hasn’t been until the last few months that I’ve really put it to use and I wonder why I never used it as much before. Maybe I’m taking more notes and they are more on the fly than before? Maybe since I’ve gotten back into web designing my head is everywhere all at once and it’s hard for me to keep track of everything? Don’t know exactly, but without keeping notes, I’d be totally lost by now.

So if you are having a hard time keeping track of notes or are looking for a good note taking software, I highly suggest this program. I love it and am glad to have it as a tool in my writing tool box.

Stages of Writing: Freestyle Writing vs. Rewriting vs. Editing

Writing-StagesThe first thing to learn in the writing journey is that not all writing is the same. There are several types or stages of writing, and each of them requires a certain mindset and set of skills to accomplish them. And just because you’re good at one type of writing, doesn’t make you good at the other types, and making the transitions to each can be difficult to accomplish or there might be difficulty in determining when to make the transition.

Freestyle Writing
This is the kind of writing most people assume writers do (but in reality it’s just the first step in a larger process). It’s the fun stuff. The part were you let everything just explode out of your head and onto the page. It’s an everything goes kind of thing where no idea is a bad idea and anything can happen. It can be a most uplifting experience, especially if you’ve done a lot of thinking about the story before ever placing pen to paper. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. It’s where that thing called a writer’s high happens, and it’s a great place to be!

This writing stage doesn’t require a whole lot of special knowledge. Just an idea of what makes a good story, what makes compelling characters, and how to write a beginning, middle and end of a story. Much of this can be learned simply by being an avid reader, or taking some writing workshops on story structure and character development.

Rewriting
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The Truth About Flashbacks

This post is another result of one of Michael Knost classes. This most recent class I took was all about flashbacks (and backstory, but that’s a different post). I found a few “light bulb” moments in the class that just had to share, but this post really is only the tip of the iceberg of what I learned.

The most important thing to remember… Flashbacks should not be used unless there is absolutely no other way the story can be told. Flashbacks carry a built-in disadvantage to even the best of written stories, because it stops the story. A flashback is about something that has already happened. It’s over and done with so the flashback lacks immediacy.

There are 3 advantages to having a flashback in a story…

  • helps establish character motives
  • fills in events of how the original current story came about
  • fills in critical information that happened years earlier

If a story must hold a flashback there are 3 ways to maximize the advantages of a flashback…

  1. Time travel done right
    Every flashback should follow a strong current story scene. Flashbacks should never start a scene. Before dropping the past onto the reader, the current story must be established first; otherwise, the reader will become invested in the flashback and not care about the current story.
  2. Orient the reader at the start of the flashback in time and space
    Make sure that it is made clear that the story is moving backwards in time. Give a clear indication at the very beginning what is happening to avoid throwing the reader into confusion and frustration. There’s nothing worse than reading a story and not being able to figure out where in space and time the story is supposed to be taking place.
  3. Use verbal tense conventions to guide the reader in and out of the flashback
    Conventions through verbal tense can be used to “signal” both the start and end of a flashback. This sort of thing is subtle and may not be noticed by the conscious mind of the reader, but is very effective in guiding the reader properly in and out of flashbacks. This is the best way to help eliminate flashback confusion.

Example: Let’s say you are writing a story in pasted tense (that’s my preferred style of writing). That means the first few verbs (usually the first 5 verbs) used in the flashback should be perfect past tense (had, had been). Then switch back to pasted tense. When you are ready to end the flashback switch back to perfect past tense for another 5 or so verbs. Once back in the current story, you return to using past tense verbs.

Are you confused yet? Here’s a shortened version I made to help me keep it straight…

current story (past tense) + beginning of flashback (perfect past tense 5 verbs) + middle of flashback (paste tense) + end of flashback (perfect past tense 5 verbs) + return to current story (past tense)

What if a story is written in present tense? Then you would use past tense verbs instead of perfect past tense verbs.

Here’s an example of a switch from a present tense story to flashback from Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games...

“We don’t speak. Our real interaction happened years ago. He’s probably already forgotten it. But I haven’t and I know I never will…
It was the worst time. My father had been killed in the mine accident three months earlier in the bitterest January anyone could remember. The numbness of his loss had passed, and the pain would hit me out of nowhere, doubling me over, racking my body with sobs. Where are you? I would cry out in my mind. Where have you gone? Of course there was never any answer.”

If flashbacks are used, it should be done sparingly. Flashbacks should never occur back to back. Strong scenes should separate each flashback scene.

There is an acceptable form of story that uses flashbacks to tell a story and that would be a “frame story”. This story can be any length (from short story to novel), which begins after all the action is over. The protagonist or author announces that they are going to tell a story and may even give out the entire outcome at the beginning of the story. Example of this type of stories are True Grit by Charles Portis and Water for Elephants Sara Gruen.

Update June 26 2019: I wrote this blog post many years ago, since then my position on flashbacks have changed. I do believe flashbacks can be used as often as a person wants within reason. I published my first book Blood Feud and it has numerous flashbacks that, in my opinion, work very well. But I spent a lot of time trying to get them right and making sure they were necessary to move the story. Sometimes in order to move forward and bring more depth to a story flashbacks can be quite useful.

It is also worth mentioning here too, that just because a writer gives you advice on how writing should be, does not mean it has to be. Use your best judgement. Every writer and every story are unique. Know what is true for you as a writer, and let the rest go. Happy Writing!