Publishing used to be simple. An author wrote a proposal or a manuscript and then found an agent who was willing to represent the book. The agent shopped it around and sold it to a publisher. The writer received an advance and then the agent, publisher, and writer worked together until the book appeared in book stores about a year later.
That model hasn’t gone away. You can still find an agent to help you get published, and you can still aim for selling your book to a publishing house, but technology has opened more doors for writers.
Terms get thrown around, like traditional publishing, legacy publishing, self-publishing, vanity publishing, and indie publishing. But what does it all mean? What’s the difference between self-publishing and indie publishing? Is there a difference? Why should we care? Read More
I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I launched Writing Forward. It’s been a fun and challenging adventure, and I’m looking forward to many more years of providing creative writing tips and ideas that motivate and inspire legions of fiction and nonfiction writers as well as poets.
Lately, I’ve been hard at work creating new content for the blog — I’ve already written and scheduled over two dozen new articles. Also, I’m currently drafting the second book in my new series, The Storyteller’s Toolbox, which will be a collection of fiction writing exercises designed to help writers develop storytelling skills.
Writing Forward keeps going strong thanks to readers, who have shared posts on social media, reviewed my books on websites like Amazon and Goodreads, and participated in the comments by sharing ideas and experiences from your own writing adventures. Thank you to all the writers who continue to make Writing Forward possible. Read More
When I first got interested in fiction writing, I scoured bookstores for a simple, straightforward primer on storytelling. I wanted something that explained the various components of a story, and I found lots of excellent books — some on plotting, others on characters — but I never did find that primer I was looking for.
So I decided to write it.
About the Book
What’s the Story? Building Blocks for Fiction Writing is the first book in a series called The Storyteller’s Toolbox. Here’s the lowdown:
What’s a story? Is it character? Plot? Conflict? Change? Why do some stories fall flat with audiences while others sweep the globe, captivating people in every corner of the world? Read More
Please welcome guest author P. Wish with an insightful post that features eight ways to write better horror stories.
So you want to write better horror? The question is, how?
This article breaks down the process into eight easy tips, focusing on how to find inspiration, the right setting, and support system for your work.
1. Turn on Some Spooky Music: Music helps create the right atmosphere for writing. Atmosphere is especially important for horror stories as the fear factor rides on it. If you’re writing an anticipatory scene, try something like “Moonlight Sonata” (the first part). If you’re writing the climax, listen to a piece that is more dramatic. You could also use music by your favorite rock bands or pop artists. So turn on some scary music and get writing.
2. Watch Horror Movies: Horror movies help you visualize the structure of a horror story. Compared to books, movies are a quicker way of learning. They also give you an overview of plot, tone, atmosphere, and characters in under two hours. This not only helps build your storytelling and plotting skills but also helps you establish the tone of your book.
3. Read Mythology: This is essential for horror writers. Most horror revolves around paranormal phenomena and myths. Poltergeists, ghosts, shamans, Yetis, and monsters are all characters from folklore. To broaden your range of inspiration, try reading myths from other parts of the world. Japan has some amazing myths about vengeful female ghosts and other interesting supernatural creatures. Such myths also exist in many other parts of the world. Drawing on a broader range of inspiration will make your story unique.
4. Stay up to Date: Keeping up with research in parapsychology, metaphysics, telekinesis etc. is a good place to start. The findings in these fields directly influence your story’s content. Stephen King, in his interview with the Guardian, said that an article about poltergeist activity and its relation to telekinesis served as inspiration for his masterpiece, Carrie. Staying up to date with research in this field will help you form ideas. These ideas lie around in your mind until the find they right character or plot to get them going.
5. Write in the Dark: The dark creates the right atmosphere for ideas to flow. I can’t emphasize how important atmosphere is for horror. Horror is largely dependant on the setting and atmosphere. Movie theatres use this tactic to enhance your viewing experience. It works for writing too. Writing in the dark helps you focus. It also creates an atmosphere of non-judgment and freedom. Both of these account for better ideas. You may also find that you’re more productive when you write with the lights off. So set aside an hour or two at night to write in the dark.
6. Study Horror Novelists: The lives of horror novelists are a source of learning for any aspiring writer. Read and watch interviews, subscribe to their blogs, and follow them on social media. Their posts might be your source of inspiration. Seeing them do it day after day motivates you to write something new. Their struggles may inspire you. There is a treasure trove of useful information hidden in a writer’s autobiography. Following your favorite horror writers on social media is the next best thing. It helps you understand their writing process and emulate it.
7. Use an Idea Generator: Idea generators are often thought of as generic, useless, and rehashed. This is because writers make the mistake of copying the suggestions given by the generator. Choose a generator that is specific to horror and tailor the generator’s outputs to your story.
8. Read the News: The news is more grim than you think. Stories about events such as kidnappings or poltergeist activities are relevant to horror writers. If you want to receive specific news, subscribe to the RSS feed of your favorite news channel. The news helps bridge the connection between fantasy and reality. It can also be a source of inspiration to horror writers.
I hope these tips help you write better horror stories. Feel free to combine the tips and use them in any order that fits with your writing style.
About the Author: P. Wish is a self-published author, illustrator, and blogger. You can find more information about her on www.pwish.net.
Please welcome guest author Sarah Juckes with an article on publishing.
You’ve been submitting to agents for a while now, and although you’ve had a couple of close calls, your book is still unpublished.
At this point, it can feel like you’ve reached a fork in the road. Do you keep going down the agent path, unsure if there’s anything at the end of it? Or do you take the self-publishing road, with its possible pitfalls?
Many writers don’t realize that these two avenues to publishing actually run parallel to each other. You can switch between the two, so your book reaches as many readers as possible.
Start with Self-Publishing
I’ve been working in self-publishing for five years now, and I’ve noticed a real increase in the number of authors who are choosing to self-publish while they continue to look for a literary agent.
Why? Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard in the last year:
- Getting an agent is taking a while; I have readers who are waiting to read my book right now.
- I want to get feedback on my work.
- I want to feel like I am doing something positive with my writing career while waiting for responses.
- I might as well earn money from book sales while I’m waiting to be discovered.
All these reasons make sense. Thanks to the wealth of opportunities now available to writers, you can pick and choose your own career path to suit your goals.
Authors who choose to self-publish while looking for a literary agent are able to capitalize on the perks of self-publishing: a quick avenue to market, high royalty rates, and the ability to maintain a high level of control over the book. Thanks to self-publishing success stories, such as E.L. James and her Fifty Shades of Grey series, agents and traditional publishers are now actively looking for self-published authors and are ready to take their books to the next level with the expert editing, design, and marketing that often comes with traditional publishing.
Agents and publishers will contact self-published authors who prove their book has a market.
Author Kerry Wilkinson was taken on by traditional publisher Pan Macmillan after his ebook series rocketed on Amazon and caught the eye of a commissioning editor. In an interview with The Guardian, Kerry explained how he’d managed this:
“After writing Locked In, I always knew I was going to write more in the series because I had so many ideas left over. I wrote and wrote more or less every day for a year – early mornings and late nights. Because I knew there was more to come, I put Locked In at 98p, trying to sell in bulk, rather than worrying about money. The subsequent books sold for increasing amounts. Pan Macmillan have more or less continued that.”
Agents are also actively searching writing platforms (such as Wattpad) and Twitter hashtags (such as #askagent), looking for books that have a clear readership and are generating excitement. Authors who use these platforms to reach as many readers as possible stand a good chance of getting discovered.
The Dos and Don’ts of Approaching an Agent
Here are some guidelines for self-published authors who are contacting agents:
DO: Continue to follow the agent’s submission guidelines. Give them any specific information they ask for.
DON’T: Send an agent a copy of a book they can’t access – either in an ebook form or via an Amazon link.
DO: Ensure the book looks as great as it reads. It’s easy to be put off by a bad book cover, no matter how good the writing is inside.
DON’T: Overload a pitch with book reviews from family and friends. If an agent is interested, they will seek the reviews out for themselves, so work on making these plentiful (particularly on Amazon).
DO: Add in sales data (if it’s particularly high), any awards the book has received since its release, and links to high-profile endorsements. Insights such as, ”This book has proved popular with X people” might also be useful – but DO keep these to the end of the cover letter and as succinct as possible.
Carve Your Own Path
There’s no one correct way to get your book published. The wealth of opportunities available now means that authors are equipped with tools to carve their own paths, whether that involves self-publishing, traditionally publishing, or using emerging digital platforms. Walk the roads that make the most sense for your personal publishing goals.
So, over to you. What have you learned from self-publishing and submitting your book to agents?
Sarah Juckes is a writer and Communications Manager for CompletelyNovel.com. In 2013 she pioneered a partnership between CompletelyNovel and Greene & Heaton literary agency that sees top self-published books sent to literary agents for review each month. More information about the scheme can be found here.
Please welcome author Nicolas Frame with some good advice on writing your first author bio.
It’s an invigorating feeling, receiving one’s first acceptance letter from an editor. We want your piece. Yay! Pop the champagne cork, and put a party hat on your cat. But at the end of that email, you’ll usually realize they want you to provide an author bio.
This can be horrifying, and we authors often fret more over writing our bios than our stories. After all, stories are fictional. Our author bios are supposed to tell the world who we are and about our writing. It can be intimidating to think so introspectively.
Whether you’ve actually received that acceptance letter or you’re just getting your bio ready in anticipation (good for you for being prepared!), the following should help you understand what you might want to include and avoid in your author bio.
Writing Your Author Bio
It’s difficult to craft an author bio when it will accompany your first published piece. What can you say about your writing? They’ll know you’re nothing more than a first-time amateur, right? Relax. It’s actually a great opportunity for you to showcase yourself as an author.
Author bios are really no different than any other type writing, except you must think of yourself as the main character. And you want to market this character. Think about how your friends might describe you or how you might introduce yourself to someone at a networking event (because, you know, we all go to such things). What are some major parts of your life that you don’t mind the general public knowing about you?
What’s your long-term goal as a writer? Do you have a novel in the works? What genre do you want to be known for? These are just a few basic questions to consider. It’s also perfectly okay to tie in some personal facts like where you live, how many cats you own, whether you’re married, and what your day job is. You are by no means obligated to include any or all of these details. The only rule for an author bio, and it’s more of a guideline, is to make sure you are writing an author bio. What you include should focus on who you are as a writer, not what you’d share in your personal Facebook or Twitter profile.
Things to Include in Your Author Bio
Talk about why you’re qualified as a writer. If you wrote a story about being a long-haul truck driver and you have held this as your day job for the last eight years, that’s worth noting.
Take this opportunity to really sell yourself as an author. You may have heard it before, but I’ll tell you again anyway: Everything you write, from emails to editors to your bio to your actual stories, showcases you as an author. Think of your bio as a bonus addition to your published pieces that you can use to show how skilled or talented you are.
Check out other authors’ bios for ideas. Do some make you laugh? What was funny? Are some lame? Why? If you notice trends, make note of them. For example, authors with a lot of publication credits will often only mention the most notable ones. This will be useful when you start racking up the acceptance letters.
It doesn’t hurt to have a current, professional headshot ready to include upon request.
Finally, be sure to include a link to your website or blog.
Things to Avoid in Your Author Bio
One thing to avoid, especially in your first bio, is mentioning that this is your first publication.
Also avoid mentioning anything you might regret later. Your bio will be burned into permanent existence in print or on the Internet. Remember that before you crack jokes about your in-laws, talk about how you write at work when you should be working, or shout out that hottie you’ve been dating for a few weeks.
Be careful when mentioning dates or specific timelines. For example, it’s better to write, “She hopes to have her sci-fi novel completed soon” instead of “She hopes to have her sci-fi novel completed in 2014.” Dates come and go. If you miss your own deadline you’ll look unprofessional.
Stay away from spammy paragraphs drowning in links to every social media account you have. Focus on showcasing one or two links (at most), which you update regularly and are related to your writing. In other words, keep it relevant.
Multiple Versions of Your Author Bio
You’ll eventually need to craft multiple versions of your author bio. Some publishers want bios under a certain word count. Others want serious and professional bios only. Sometimes you will have to make a judgment call about whether to send off a tell-all or a humorous one-liner. You’ll also want a lengthier version for your author website or blog.
A great technique to use when approaching your bio is to create a long version, in the third-person of course, and then when you submit your work to agents or editors, you can take the bits that fit that particular submission or publication best. If you’re sending a romance story, you’ll probably want to edit out the parts about you being a single person with nine cats. However, if you were submitting to a humor column, the editor and readers might find owning nine cats an appropriate chuckle-worthy addition.
Ready to Write Your Bio?
One final note: revise! After you craft a great bio that brands you as a writer of a specific genre and that markets your website to readers and mentions your newly purchased hairless Sphinx cat, you’ll be ready to send it off. Don’t. Wait a day or two and revisit it. You’ll likely find a few things that can be restated more succinctly or unnecessary redundancies that can be eliminated.
About the Author: Nicolas Frame is an author of short fiction, nonfiction articles, and some poetry.
It’s hard to believe Writing Forward is eight years old! Sometimes it feels like I just started this website yesterday. Other times, I feel like it’s been with me forever. One thing is certain: I’m looking forward to many more years of Writing Forward.
Every year around this time, I take a look at this website and think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Last year, I finally wrapped up the Adventures in Writing series — three books on the craft of creative writing. Now I’m starting on a new series that focuses on the craft of storytelling, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Watch for that early next year.
Writing Forward’s readers have been the driving force behind this website every step of the way. You’ve shared the articles on social media, reviewed the books on websites like Amazon and Goodreads, and participated in the comments by sharing your ideas and experiences from your own writing journeys.
So while it’s Writing Forward’s anniversary, the people who truly deserve celebration and acknowledgment are the writers who have read and supported Writing Forward over these past eight years.
Eight-Year Celebration Giveaway
To celebrate Writing Forward’s eighth anniversary and to honor our readers, I’m throwing a Goodreads Giveaway. The winner will receive a free paperback copy of 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. Check out the details and enter the contest below:
Thank you to all the readers and writers who have visited Writing Forward and subscribed, commented, guest posted, and shared its content throughout the years. I’ll continue working to keep Writing Forward going strong for years to come.
As always, keep writing!
Please welcome guest author Ali Luke with some top-notch advice on how to reconnect with your writing when you’ve lost touch with it.
Are you a writer who’s not currently writing?
It happens to all of us at some point – often more than once.
Life gets busy and priorities change. Perhaps you’ve gone from working part-time to working full-time, or you’re expecting a baby, or you’re moving house.
Whatever the reason, you’ve set your writing aside. You might have intended to do so just for a few weeks. You might not have realized you were doing it at first: one missed writing session gradually turned into a couple of months without writing.
You’ve probably discovered that not writing can become a vicious circle. You lose touch with what you’re working on, the effort involved in picking it up again seems greater and greater, and your confidence takes a knock too. Even when life calms down, you find days, weeks, even months going by without any writing.
Here’s how to turn things around:
Tackle a Writing Prompt for Five Minutes
The best way to get back into writing is to just write. If you haven’t written for months or years, the whole idea of beginning again can seem like some huge event that needs special preparation.
You don’t need to begin your journey by climbing a mountain. Instead, take a few steps along the writing road. You might find that this is enough to break through your initial resistance and get you back into your writing.
Do it: Pick a writing prompt to tackle; you can find loads here on Writing Forward. Set a timer for five minutes and write.
Set Aside Some Time When You Can Write
Look at your calendar for the next week or two. Can you find an hour, or a couple of hours, to set aside for writing?
Do it: If you know you’ll struggle to write at home, find an hour when you can be out of the house – e.g. during your lunch break at work, in a coffee shop after work, or even in a library first thing on Saturday morning.
Read Over the Project You Were Last Working On
Chances are, you stopped writing part-way through a project. If so, one key step to getting going again is to read through what you’ve already written.
You might find yourself cringing at the thought of doing so (maybe you’re convinced everything you wrote was awful), but give it a go. Even if you’re not happy with the whole thing, you’ll likely find at least some sentences, paragraphs, and pages that make you fall in love with your work again.
Do it: Try to read like a reader. Transfer your book manuscript to your e-reader, or browse your blog posts on your tablet. (I like doing this with a cup of tea and some chocolate in hand!)
Decide Where You’re Going Next
You’ve got three different options now:
- Resume your project where you left off. Write your next blog post or your next chapter.
- Take a new direction with your project. Cut out a character or two, or change the backstory. If you’re blogging, you might go for a different posting style or change of topics.
- Scrap your project altogether. It’s valuable for what you learned in the process, but if you’re no longer interested in pursuing it, scrap it and start something new.
Do it: Be honest with yourself. It’s fine to pursue a project you enjoy, whether or not it’s likely to be financially rewarding or otherwise successful: don’t be put off finishing your novel because you feel you “should” be spending all your writing time on something else. On the flip side, if you’ve lost interest in a project, admit it and move on.
Establish a Solid Writing Routine
If you want to keep up your writing momentum and avoid slipping away from writing again, you need a strong writing routine, one that involves writing consistently and regularly.
That doesn’t necessarily have to mean writing every single day, but it does mean having at least one writing session a week and trying to stay connected to your work between sessions. (For novelists, that could mean daydreaming while doing the dishes; for bloggers, it might mean reading blogs on a similar topic, answering comments, or brainstorming post ideas.)
Do it: Put your next three writing sessions on the calendar. Look ahead for any special events that you want to attend. These can be a great way to boost your motivation and commitment. You might look for local writing classes, writers’ groups, or conferences you want to attend.
Have you ever taken some time away from writing? What made you return and how did you get going again? Share your experiences and your tips in the comments below.
About the Author: Ali Luke can be found blogging all over the web, but her home base is her blog Aliventures where she writes about the art, craft and business of writing. If you enjoyed this post, try her free seven-week e-course, On Track, designed to help you get going again with a big writing project.
Today’s post is a special treat. It’s a short film called The Writer. As you have probably guessed, it’s a about a writer.
There are only a handful of films about writers, but not nearly enough for those of us who labor at the craft of wordplay and storytelling. It’s always exciting when a new film comes out that explores what it means to be a writer.
And that’s exactly what this short film does.
A writer imprisoned in a mysterious house has everything he needs; food, drink and affection. Yet, he yearns to escape from the harbored life and venture into the wilderness outside. But there are a few things standing in his way: the other occupants of the house.
This film is a story about overcoming obstacles that hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Fear, self-doubt, distraction and laziness can cripple you, stopping you in your tracks. You can only blame your shortcomings on so many external things, until you realize the biggest obstacle in the way is yourself.
Take a quick break and watch this intriguing short science-fiction film all the way to the final revelation and payoff. Enjoy The Writer!
The Writer is produced by Woolly Rhino Productions, directed by Mike Rominski, and written by Mike Rominski and Kellen Berg. It stars Nathan Tymoshuk.
Please welcome guest author Alyssa Hollingsworth with tips on writing dialect.
I’ll be honest: I’ve always been terrified of dialect because it’s easy to get wrong. But when done well, it can make a story shine.
When you’re writing in first person, it is important to consider who your narrator is and how she or he speaks (or writes, as the case may be). This is important whether you’re writing contemporary, historical, or fantasy fiction.
When I found myself blundering into a story with a first-person narrator who was from backcountry, I knew I needed to clock hours on the dialect. There are a lot of helpful posts about how dialect should or shouldn’t be done, which can be found on Daily Writing Tips, The Editor’s Blog, or Writer’s Digest.
Before we begin, there’s an important distinction to be made between dialect and accent. Here’s the official definition from the British Library:
A dialect is a specific variety of English that differs from other varieties in three specific ways: lexis (vocabulary), grammar (structure) and phonology (pronunciation or accent).
Accent, on the other hand, refers only to differences in the sound patterns of a specific dialect.
With that in mind, below are some practical steps you can take to equip yourself for writing dialect.
Brainstorm or Research Regional Turns of Phrase
Place and environment often have a big impact on the development of people and language. The first thing I did was made a list of things that would influence this environment. For my fantasy world, these were mostly forests, woods, and farmland.
I tried to think about environmental ways to express happiness, sadness, and anger. How would a woodsman swear? What words from his surroundings would he use to express himself?
This works across environments — whether your characters are seafaring pirates or overcrowded city dwellers, you can use the setting to influence the language.
When you’re relying on a real dialect, do some research and make lists of interesting words commonly used.
Listen and Take Notes
Listen to Real People
If you’re fortunate enough to live near people who speak in the dialect you want to write, spend a lot of time with them or eavesdrop at a coffee shop. But if you’re not near your desired dialect, take to YouTube or to language resource websites.
Listen to Celebrities
After listening to locals, sometimes you might find yourself growing used to a strong accent. It helps to then turn to celebrities and celebrity interviews. Their accents and dialects are often much lighter than the common folk you’ve been spending time with, and it’s useful to keep the range of the language in mind while you’re writing.
Listen to Audiobooks
Find one or two audiobooks that are read in the accent you’re working with. It can be helpful to pick a reader who’s the same gender as your protagonist or find books written by local authors in the dialect you’re researching. Listen to a chapter or so before you sit down to your own project; this will help get your head in the voice.
Whichever way you choose to listen, make sure you take notes. Whenever you come across words that are interesting or unique (like “I’m bladdered” for “I’m drunk”), make a note of it. Listen for sentence structure differences or little tacked-on phrases. Especially pay attention to how verbs are used — often there are some hallmark ticks in verbs. You can use these in your writing.
If Appropriate, Do an Accent Lesson
Beyond taking notes, part of the point of listening so much is to help you internalize the language. Even if you will not be writing out the accent (see the links above for reasons why you might not want to), it’s good if you can clearly hear — and even speak — the accent. This helps you hear your character’s voice and can make it easier to fall into the dialect.
I found Access Accents (on Audible and iTunes) extremely helpful for this. These voice lessons are normally under an hour long and consist of people chatting about the accent and how to do it.
Write Your Character Describing Something
You don’t have to wait until you’re fluent in dialect to start writing, because part of learning the character’s voice will be writing it out.
One of the most helpful exercises is to write your character describing something, such as an event or a scene. Sometimes it helps to draft this in a heavy accent before you go back and edit it. But ultimately, you should challenge yourself to write with no accent, and instead use only grammar and unique phrases to create a distinct voice.
Here are a few prompts for things your character can describe:
- A familiar place she or he loves
- A place she or he has never been
- A childhood memory
- A traumatic event
- A loved one
- An enemy
Read Aloud and Revise
Finally, it’s time to read what you’ve written aloud. Keep a pen handy and mark any places where you stumble. Normally there’s a reason, and you might have to give up a few of your favorite phrases for the sake of clarity.
It’s also important to let native dialect speakers read the material. Since they won’t know your characters as well as you do, they can offer valuable advice about how the dialect is coming and whether or not it’s comprehensible.
At the end, you’ll have a beautifully narrated piece that perfectly complements your story.
About the Author: Alyssa Hollingsworth was born in small-town Milton, Florida, but life as a roving military kid soon mellowed her (unintelligibly strong) Southern accent. Wanderlust is in her blood, and stories remain her constant. Alyssa received her BA in English and Creative Writing from Berry College and her MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She has been previously published in Lunch Ticket, Berry Magazine and Letter to an Unknown Soldier. She regularly writes about the writing process on her blog.