Friday, 27 March 2015

Tips for the aspiring writer...

When it comes to fiction, there are no hard and fast rules, only choices. However, informed choices are better than ignorant ones. Below are a few tips and observations that I personally find useful. Perhaps you will too.

1.The first draft is shit. - Ernest Hemmingway
One of the hardest things, and probably THE hardest for an aspiring writer, is getting that first draft finished - a rough, yet completed story. What used to hold me back in the early days was constantly going back to what I had written and re-editing it. It was lack of confidence in my own work that caused me to do this and I now know that the best way to get a book out is to just go for it. When writing the first draft, create a brief chapter-by-chapter guideline so you know where you are going, then just write the damn thing. Don't stop or go back for anything until you have written that final word. Let the story write itself so that it comes into being as an entity instead of merely an idea. Once you have the 1st draft you can then focus on the boring bit - the editing. As soon as you finish the 1st draft, start the 2nd by adding to the story, characters, etc, as well as deleting anything unnecessary and addressing any concerns you had while writing the 1st draft. Then, when you have done that, edit a 3rd time for mistakes and errors. Then pass it on to your proof readers or editor and move onto something else. A couple weeks later, go back and make the changes you get back from your readers/editor and search one last time for any mistakes. In my opinion, this is the minimum required to publish a decent book. 4 drafts including at least 1 other set of eyes.

"Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly." – Joshua Wolf Shenk

2. Use action instead of speech tags.
- "Get away!" the boy shouted." - Is not as good as:

- The boy threw his arms out and growled. "Get away." -

You can use action to let the reader know who is speaking and, in doing so, you remove the need for 'he said, she said'. You also empower the dialogue by describing the speaker's actions in relation to what they are saying. It is far more economical to say:

"I can't stand this." Sarah ground her teeth. "It's too much."

Than to say:

"I can't stand this," Sarah said while grinding her teeth. "It's too much."

Both of the above are fine, but shorter is better and more impactful.

3.She said, he said, is fine.
Be consistent and pick either "Said Michael" or "Michael said." Either way is fine but don't chop and change unnecessarily. Also stick to simple tags like "he said" as much as possible as they are invisible to the reader. It is better to describe emotion through action than by adding an adverb to the end of your speech tag. For example:

"Goddamn it!" Mike said angrily.

Is sloppier than saying.

Mike stamped his foot. "Goddamn it."

In the second example, Mike's anger is visible though him stamping his foot. This is describing to the reader (showing) instead of telling (Mike said angrily). "Show don't tell" is one of those rules everyone harps on about and this is an example of it.

4.Don't use jargon
If your character is a doctor then he may say the word "influenza", but if he is not, he will just say "flu". Don't use jargon unless necessary. Readers get annoyed with big words when something less showy will do. Don't refer to an elephant as a pachyderm unless your protagonist is named Attenborough.

5.Read a lot
I actually know an author who says he never reads. That is insane to me because I am constantly learning to write better by reading other people's work. It would be like a carpenter trying to make a cabinet without having ever seen one. The more you read (especially within your chosen genre) the wider your understanding and skill will become. Reading is the practise and training that writers do to get better and it will serve them better than any English degree. Degrees are for editors. Imagination is for writers.

6. Use killer words
Killer words are words that do the duty of several (and so kill words by reducing sentence length). Words like little, big, small, fast, large, hard, soft, are all single-meaning words (i.e. they don't qualify themselves with detail). There are no specifics to the word small and little, but there is a difference between words like minute, petite, minuscule, microscopic, meager, paltry, trifling, petty, miniature. These words mean "small" but they also qualify HOW and in WHAT WAY the thing is small. Take the following sentences and how their meanings are more concise and different with killer words.

Original sentence: "The little, dark brown dog barked in a high-pitched tone."

Killer word version: "The chocolate poodle yapped."

"Chocolate" replaces "Dark brown" (and thus kills 1 word) and "yapped" replaces "barked in a high-pitched tone" (and thus kills 4 or 5 words). The meanings of the two sentences are the same but the Killer words make things far more precise and evocative. You could even change the entire scene by changing the killer words.

Killer word version two: "The grimy spaniel howled."

Both of these killer version could be said to describe the original sentence, but they are very different. That's because the words used were precise.

Let's try another sentence.

Original Sentence: "The large bird of prey flew over to the roof and landed on the edge of the chimney."

Killer words: "The kestrel swooped down and perched on the chimney."

Killer words version 2: "The barn owl plummeted and struck the chimney."

Totally different images right? But both were just more precise variations of the original sentence. This proves that the original sentence is left open to interpretation and thus harder for the reader to imagine in firm detail.

Look at your sentences and see if there are specific words that will both increase detail and decrease sentence length. These are killer words. Instead of saying "very big" you can say "huge, monolithic, gigantic." Instead of saying "blue-green", be specific and say turquoise. "Rusty truck" is better than "old car", and instead of saying "The bright light shone off the beautiful diamonds in all directions," say "The exquisite diamonds shimmered." You get the idea I hope.

7. Show characters through their actions
Instead of saying "Margaret was a very moody person", you could show that through action. For example:

Margaret rolled her eyes and huffed. The washing up needed doing, but she flung her coffee mug in the sink and stomped out of the kitchen instead. When she reached the living room, she dumped herself down on the sofa and shouted at her husband to change the channel. He didn't argue and did so immediately.

Do you see?

8. Transform your characters
With your main character especially, the reader wants to see some kind of change. If your main character is a coward then end the story with him having proven himself brave - and have them do it as a result of the plot forcing him to make this change. You should outline the changes you want to see in your characters before you even write the first word.

Anyway, I'm not a particularly good teacher and there are too many rules to go over in one post, but below are a few links I found with even more tips for writing good! The biggest tip I can really give an aspiring author is to make like Jon Snow and realise you know nothing. Always be open to improving and always learn from others.






Anyway, I just wanted to post this before I take a short break. Since Kindle Unlimited struck and rocked the boat, I have been working no-stop since New Years. I am going to take off the next 2 weeks and perhaps a 3rd, but I won't everyone to know how much I love them and how much I love being able to do what I do. I have so many things I am excited about and I can't wait to give my readers more books.

Happy Festivus everybody.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Kdp Product Description Guide...

It's been a while since I offered anything helpful, so I thought I would briefly mention my method of creating product descriptions for my books, and hopefully pass on a few tips.

Below is the product description for my novel, Ravage. (Click the picture to visit the full size page.)

You will notice that my product description makes use of both bold and italics. A vast number of KDP authors make no use of text formatting within their product descriptions and end up with bland, featureless pages. The reason for this is because adding formatted text requires the use of basic HTML tags, and If it isn't easy, most don't do it.

But if you make the effort, you can really do a lot to make your page stand out from your peers. Using HTML tags can give you a real step up in the professional appearance stakes.

Now, I will try to be really simple with these instructions as I'm not the most technically minded, but in a nutshell this is how you put a word in bold.

In your product description (on the KDP title editing page) add the following tag <b> before a word to start bold and end it with </b>.  That's it. Just use <b> to start bold and </b> to end it.

For example.  The words in bold are the <b>ones between the tags.</b>

Doing italics is exactly the same, but with an 'i' instead of 'b'. The words in italics are the <i>ones between the tags.</i>

If you do this you can do titles, subtitles, separate the blurb from the endorsements,etc, and basically employ the things that marketers do often by using text formatting for advertisements.

Now, in regards to Createspace (for your paperbacks) you need to be even more technical because it will not accept manual paragraph breaks, which means it leaves you with a messy block of text with no returns or breaks (I'm sure you've noticed).  To remedy this you can do the following within Createspace or Author Central.

A line break (like pressing ENTER once) can be achieved by using <br>
Whereas a paragraph break (like pressing ENTER TWICE) can be achieved by using <p>


Below is the full html product description that I have used for Ravage on Createspace. Compare it to my Amazon product description (for the paperback) to see how it came out:

<b>***NEW 2015 EDITION***</b>
<i>There's a nasty bug going around...</i> <br>
Nick Adams is an unremarkable man. The only good things in his life are his supportive wife, Deana, and his son, James. They are the only reason he continues to toil at his demoralising job as manager of a small phone shop. He feels in his bones that he is meant for something better, but better never seems to come around. Today, the only thing that has come around is a single, solitary customer, and it doesn't look like the man came to buy anything. In fact, he looks quite unwell.
It won't be long before Nick's entire life is turned upside down, sending him on a frantic journey through a ravaged world that will ultimately lead him 500 feet upwards to a hilltop amusement park. Is it the last safe place on Earth? Or are the monsters at the top of the hill even worse than the ones below?
<i>Welcome to Ripley Heights, where the fun never starts...</i>
<b>Iain Rob Wright reinvents the zombie apocalypse while remaining faithful to its traditions. A book sure to please fans of both George Romero and 28 Days later, Ravage is the first book in a unique and terrifying apocalypse.</b>
"Iain Rob Wright scares the hell out of me." J A Konrath, author of Origins and Afraid <br>
"A Master of the genre." Matt Shaw, author of the Black Cover books <br>
"Cuddle up to this novel and it might rip your throat out. A fun, thrilling read!" David T. Wilbanks - Co-author of Dead Earth: The Vengeance Road <br>
"One of the BEST horror books I have read in YEARS!" - Eric S. Brown, author of Last Stand in a Dead Land <br>
"Iain Rob Wright brings true excitement to the horror genre, with wholly original stories and characters to route for." - Ryan C Thomas, author of Hissers, Rating's Game, and Origin of Pain

I hope you can use this to help glam up your own product descriptions. While you're at it, you may want to make note of these following strategies.

Create questions; give no answers.
Your plot summary should address the main questions you raise in Act One. A murdered woman. A mysterious stranger with a red mask. A plane crash minutes after takeoff. Stuff like that. Make the reader want to pick up your book to get answers, but never give those answers away in the description. So none of this: A woman murdered for stealing from her husband's father. Man in red mask takes payment to execute her. Random technical fault in fuel line crashes plan upon takeoff. Questions, not answers.

Bullet points can help sell your book's unique selling points.
In my ebook descriptions you will see that I employ bullet points in bold. These are really useful for shouting the reasons people should buy your book. If you have won an award than say -By the Award winning author of...  If your book has a twist ending you can put -A Twist Ending. If your book is a mammoth tome of 500k words then you could mention that so people know what they are getting for their money. There are no hard and fast rules, but imagine the reader is about to click onto another page and you have three lines to get their attention. What would you shout at them?

My description for Ravage ends with:

Iain Rob Wright reinvents the zombie apocalypse while remaining faithful to its traditions. A book sure to please fans of both George Romero and 28 Days later, Ravage is the first book in a unique and terrifying apocalypse.

Now you may cringe at the thought of talking about yourself in the 3rd person, but if you were with a big publisher they would do this for you in magazines, book pages, etc. An editorial blurb gives the impression of authority. It subliminally makes people think they are being told something forcefully and authoritatively, and it will make them want to yield. When a friend recommends a film to you, you feel obliged to watch it, right? The editorial blurb works the same way. The readers are being given a knowledgeable opinion and will subliminally be inclined to listen. So, instead of cringing, think of what you would love a a big magazine to say about your book in an ideal world - and then write it about yourself in anonymous 3rd person. Big time authors have this stuff made up for them all the time, so we need to do the same. Big yourself up in 3rd person, go on, do it!

You will also note that in this 3rd person blurb, I qualify my title to those who will enjoy it. People like to have things spelled out to them because it reduces risk. If a reader hasn't read your work before then there is risk involved in them buying your book. Reduce that risk by telling them what to expect. If you have written a book that will appeal to fans of Hellraiser, then state that outright so that fans of Hellraiser will know that they will be taking a smaller risk by buying your work. You can also compare your work to other authors. Don't be afraid to say, "Fans of Stephen King will love..." If a reader buys your book and feels duped, they can always refund it easily, but as long as you pick a writer that epitomises the type of books you strive to create, then using them as an anchor for your product description is just fine.

I have spoken before about adding subtitles to you work so that you can increase the number of hittable words. E.g. "Ravage: An Apocalyptic Horror Novel" adds the searchable keywords of "Apocalyptic", "Horror", and "Novel" to Amazon's algorithms, but you can add even more keywords in your product description (especially your 3rd person blub). My blurb for Ravage above adds keywords such as "George Romero", "28 Days Later", "apocalypse", "zombie", and of course my own name (more places it appears the more Google will trust it) . Now when people search for "28 Days Later" they may just find my book, Ravage as well (and I know they will be zombie fans so they come ready qualified). Think about the type of keywords you would like to latch onto (saying "Fans of Stephen King will enjoy..." will add your book to Stephen King's search results for example) and add them to your product page somehow. Anyway, you get the idea. There are so many ebooks now that discoverability is the key to everything. Do everything you can to get your books coming up in people's search results. Then let your writing do the rest. :-)

Good luck Wrighters.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Lightning Weaver by Bryan W. Alaspa...

Available March 3rd by Bryan W. Alaspa, THE LIGHTNING WEAVER. Preorder now!

Katie Albright is a normal teenage girl, except for one thing: she can manipulate electricity. All Katie wants is to have a boyfriend, go to school, and have a normal life. What she’s just found out, however, is that she’s part of an ancient race of people called Elementals and that she’s one of the most powerful Elementals in the world. Her mother has been hiding secrets from her and now that the mysterious Christopher Farraday has arrived, he has a story going back centuries. A story about conflict and fear and a terrifying man known by the nickname of Mr. Apples.

Katie has to go on the run with this mysterious man. She has to learn how to control her abilities. She has to learn fast because Mr. Apples is coming for her. She has to learn because war is coming and it’s a war that could destroy all of humanity.

Book one in the four-part Elementals Series: The Lightning Weaver is a thrilling adventure about power and who should wield it.

From the author of Young Adult stories, Sapphire, and, The Myth of White Butterflies, comes the latest hair-raising adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Kindle edition:

Print edition:

Print edition CreateSpace: