Before You Begin to Write Your Book…

Think about your ideal reader. What would they want to know about you and your book before deciding to purchase it?
If your book is non-fiction, a reader will want to know:
    • Who are you?
    • What is your book about?
    • What inspired you to write it?
    • Who will it help?
    • Why are you the expert to write it?
    • What makes your book unique?

If you’re writing fiction, answer the same first three question above, and add:

  • Why do you love this book?
  • What do you hope the reader will enjoy the most about it?

Answers to these questions will not only help you write a better book, but also serve as your bio when you’ve finished.



Can Your Novel be Adapted into a Stage Play?

I am currently working with a professional playwright to adapt my novel, Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, into a stage play. The book sales keep plugging along, mostly in Europe now, but I got the idea that the female characters in my book would be perfect for the stage.

If you write fiction, think about how your story might play out on stage. How many characters would need to physically appear, how many sets, etc.?  Your novel may have a second life waiting in the wings.


Where to Start Your Novel

In doing the final edit for my second novel, Staying Afloat, I questioned where the story should really start. I came across this helpful article written by literary agent, Carly Watters of PS Literary.

The True Beginning

Posted on July 29, 2011 by Carly Watters

Does your novel start in the right place? Read on for tips…

Do you know where to start your novel?

Successful commercial fiction doesn’t start with first words you ever put on the page. The start is where the true beginning lies. It’s where the book takes off. It’s where subtle character introduction meets engrossing plot. I don’t mean an interesting memory or event. I mean riveting, don’t want to put it down, if I only requested three chapters I need more, stat! In today’s age of short Twitter-like attention spans, online reading communities that give you quick starred reviews as well as editors and agents who have piles of reading on their desk and computers you need to grab someone’s attention and keep it.

What is a true beginning? 

The true beginning is a natural introduction into the world you’ve created, a thematic incantation, a jump into action–whatever suits the commercial angle of your work and you know it best. It is often padded within the first few chapters and needs a keen eye to reveal it.

How do I get my beginning to where it needs to be?

Don’t settle for a beginning you think can work, settle for the one that keeps people reading. Be honest with the shortcomings of your work as you write and edit.

  • Does your beginning take time to introduce each character and trait or can we learn that as we go?
  • Are you showing the introduction or telling us a story that details are skillfully tucked into?
  • Does the dream, memory, prologue or hindsight reflection that starts the novel help set the reader up to understand the story better or is it confusing when the reader doesn’t know the characters, plot or setting yet?

When in the editing and revision stage know that your first page, ten pages, three chapters are set to impress. Then make sure your whole manuscript flows with equal pace. Including sample material in your query that comes from your ‘best chapter’ will not suffice. Your whole book needs to be filled with your best chapters. Don’t be afraid to kill the darlings.

Agents and editors have limited time to become attached to the merit of sample chapters. Those who have full client rosters are looking for a reason to put it down. Those who are looking for authors are still looking to be impressed. Don’t give anyone a reason to pass on work based on an unpolished opening.

Tip: Think about your project farther along in the publishing process to keep you motivated. With many marketing plans including sample chapters online or in the back of like-minded novels, Amazon ‘Look Inside!’ functions, and more know how important beginnings are to attracting and keeping readers at all stages of the publishing process.

Are you setting your sample material up for success? Check if the beginning of your submission is the true beginning. Great beginnings set you up for great pacing throughout the novel.


Get in Front of People to Build Your Brand

Okay, so you’ve written a book. How are potential readers going to find out about it? Sure there are the traditional steps – get reviews, use social media, start a website/blog. How about doing some public speaking? People want to connect a face with a book. Volunteer to speak at local groups. They don’t have to be writers’ groups. I’ve spoken at women’s clubs, gardening groups, libraries, even assisted living facilities as shown in this picture. You can talk about your writing or a hobby, anything that gets you in front of new people and gives you something to blog about later. Take pictures of you with the group. Of course, you’ll bring a few books to sell. 🙂

Teaching writing is another great way to get out in front of the public. It brands you as an expert. Think about all you have learned writing your book and turn it into a workshop or lecture. Print up a flyer with your picture, contact info, a photo of your book cover, the title of your presentation and a few topics you’ll cover. Have a supply of flyers with you at all times and pass them out or leave one at every stop you make in your daily routine. You’d be surprised at how many groups are looking for speakers.

Now get out there and promote!


Writing a Synopsis Can Be More Difficult Than Writing a Book

Here are some tips I’ve learned:

  1. The first paragraph of a book synopsis should “set the scene” – where, when, who the protagonist is and what the problem or challenge is. Write in third person and the first mention of each character’s name should be in ALL CAPS.
  2. Summarize the important events of each chapter in one or two sentences. This process can reveal some plot holes that need work.
  3. If the plot makes sense, focus on how the protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story.
  4. When you’ve finished, review and edit. Be ruthless. Cut out all excess words. Read it until you feel every word helps tell the entire story.

Why Does an Author Need a Press Release?

I first saw the post on Book Daily, a helpful site for emerging authors.

It’s valuable to use news releases in your online marketing program. You can create opportunities to expand your book’s readership when you use this strategy effectively. Here are several key benefits:

Publicity: Everybody who reads the press release is now aware of you and your book! Plus, a whole industry of press release distribution websites has emerged, making it easier to get your release posted in a variety of places. This increases the chances of being seen.

Credibility: Although promotional in nature, a press release often carries a higher degree of credibility than a sales brochure in a typical reader’s mind.

Collateral material: You can use press releases as collateral material as you establish yourself. Post your releases on your website or blog, distribute them to your email list, and print up hard copies to distribute as appropriate at book signings and in meetings.

Economical: The cost of this strategy is very small relative to the benefits. As a writer, you can certainly create your releases for free! (Note that there is a specific writing style that is recommended for this type of work. Many of the press release distribution sites offer valuable tips on this subject.) Most sites provide free distribution with the opportunity to pay for a premium service.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): By getting your releases on their sites, you increase the opportunity for your website to show up in search rankings. This is obvious, but be sure to include links back to your site in your releases!


Worried About Writing Your Memoir?

Will I be sued?Many writers want to share their memoirs; maybe with just their children or grandchildren or maybe with the world. But what if someone they write about sues them? Should I be candid about my abusive father or my alcoholic mother? Will my sister take offense if I reveal her stay in rehab?

In a workshop I attended years ago, I listened to an editor give some guidelines on how to limit your liability when writing a memoir. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  1. Change the names or other identifying details
  2. Let the people you’re writing about read what you’ve written and get their reaction upfront
  3. Understand what you have to lose – what’s the worst thing that could happen and could you handle it?
  4. Write the real story, read it and edit out what you’re most worried about
  5. If you’re really concerned, hire an attorney to vet your manuscript and give you advice.

Bottom line, you don’t hear of many memoir cases going to court, because there aren’t many. Maybe because the person claiming to be identified would have to admit to whatever was written about him/her. Whatever the reason, if you have a story longing to be told don’t let the fear of being sued stop you from writing it.


Quirky Book Promotion Ideas

Labor DayCan you link your book to a special or not so special holiday or upcoming event? For instance, does your story involve working men or women who fight for a cause, or is it about a child or children going back to school? The month of September might be the perfect time to do a media blitz.

September 6th is “Read a Book” day. What author couldn’t hook onto to that? Do you write fantasy or sci-fi?  September 25th is National Comic Book Day. Find a list of obscure September holidays here. Now start promoting.



How to End Your Story

HmmmAs a writer, you should have some idea of how you want to end your story from the beginning. When I began writing Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, I thought I knew how I wanted it to end. But like most fiction, the characters took on lives of their own and soon the ending was a mystery to me.

When I was nearing the end of the first draft, I decided to look back at some of the books on writing fiction and class notes I had about endings and came across some interesting information. There are really only six (6) ways to end a story.

  • Resolved ending – This is where everything it tied up nicely with a bow. There are no questions to be asked and you know all your characters future.
  • Unresolved ending – This is the opposite of resolved. The plot is unfinished and the reader is left wondering what the future holds for the characters. This can work well to set up a sequel.
  • Implied ending – This is where the conclusion isn’t specifically stated and allows the reader to make us his/her mind. Does she leave her husband or doesn’t she? Did he murder his girlfriend or didn’t he?  This ending keeps the reader pondering and thinking about the author and the story.
  • Surprise ending – This is where the reader is caught completely off guard with a whole new turn of events. Maybe a character thought to be dead comes back or a hero becomes a villain. The goal is to create a dramatic shift in the reader’s attitude.
  • Tie-back – This is where the story starts with the ending and then fills in the details of how that ending came to be. Some authors prefer this style as it’s always easier to write if you know where you’re going.
  • Crystal ball – This conclusion goes way beyond the ending. It may explain what happens to the characters in the future. A common what to achieve this is in an epilogue.

The best advice I have for writers wondering how to end their stories is to ask yourself what you want your readers to think or feel when they’ve finished your story and what did you hope to achieve when you started it.  By the way, I chose an unresolved ending. Watch for the sequel.  🙂

Happy writing!


California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch Planning Meeting

CWC Planning MeetingEach year in July, the board of the Mt. Diablo Branch schedules a planning meeting for the next business year starting in September. Here we are hard at work.

One of our goals for the 2016-17 year is to identify new member benefits to both assist current members as well as help in our recruiting efforts. I am proud to be a part of the committee to come up with a prioritized list for consideration at the September board meeting. Writers helping other writers!