Pricing and Various Sales Venues

Hi Folks,

A little rant this time, but a well-reasoned rant.

It really is attrocious what Amazon does to authors regarding royalties. This problem came fully home to me awhile back when I uploaded the new version of The Wes Crowley Saga (10 full novels in one book) to Amazon and Smashwords.

At Amazon, to get a 70% royalty, a book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. All other prices glean the author a 35% royalty.

The Wes Crowley Saga is priced at $19.99. (Ten novels for $20 ain’t that bad, ya’ll.)

From Amazon, for each $19.99 sale, I get $6.99. Amazon keeps $13.

From Smashwords, for each $19.99 sale, I get $16.24. Almost $10 more. Can you believe that? Smashwords keeps $2.87 and charges a “billing fee” of 88 cents. Of course, that’s for sales directly from Smashwords.

But from Premium Catalog Retailers (B&N, Kobo, and about 30 others), for each $19.99 sale I still make $11.99. The retailers get $6 and Smashwords gets $2.

And what empowers Amazon to do this? Authors who publish through KDP Select, the exclusive program Amazon set up.

When you publish through KDP Select, not only do you cut off those readers who prefer to purchase from other retailers and read .epub files, but you aren’t even allowed to publish and sell YOUR book on your own website. Did you know that?

Oh, and just in case you wondered, yes, I could lower the price for The Wes Crowley Saga (remember, this is ten complete novels) on Amazon to $9.99 in order to take advantage of the 75% royalty rate. And I’d actually make a few tenths of a cent LESS per sale ($6.993) than I make at the 35% rate for $19.99 ($6.9965).

This is the same reason you can purchase my short stories (from 2000 to 7000 words) at Smashwords and all other e-retailers (around 50 of them worldwide) for only $1.99, but if you go to Amazon the same story will cost you $2.99.

Amazon is a business. I understand that. But their devaluing of authors and their works really chaps my butt. Please PLEASE never cave to Amazon’s KDP Select program. If you do, you’ll add one more straw to the problem.

I’m considering “unpublishing” The Wes Crowley Saga from Amazon altogether and doing a blitz advertisement sending Kindle owners to Smashwords to purchase the .mobi (Kindle) file there. The only reason I haven’t done so thus far is because I don’t want to cut Amazon buyers out either.

Maybe I should write a nonfiction book titled Why I No Longer Distribute and Sell Through Amazon and then offer it for sale ONLY on Amazon. (grin) I wonder whether they would even allow it.

Conundrums, conundrums….

‘Til next time, happy writing and publishing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

The Only Five Comma Rules You’ll Ever Need

Hi Folks,

This is gonna sound WAY oversimplified, especially given the nineteen PAGES of comma rules in the HarBrace College Handbook.

But it’s true. If you use these five rules, you can’t go wrong:

1. Never put a comma between a subject and its verb or between a verb and its object.

Also you must realize that a subject may be compound, as in “John and Ray went to the store and bought a television and a radio.”

In the example, “John and Ray” is the subject. “Went and bought” is the verb. “A television and a radio” is the object.

Of course, you can also add to the size of the subject, verb or object and you can detract from the size of the subject verb or object.

2. When a subordinate clause introduces an independent clause, separate the two with a comma.

If you aren’t sure about clauses, Rule #2 is an example of itself, as is this explanation.

A clause has a subject and a verb but doesn’t stand alone, meaning it doesn’t make sense by itself. (A “phrase” is missing either a subject or a verb.)

In Rule 2, “clause” is the subject and “introduces” is the verb, but “when” keeps the clause from making sense by itself. Therefore it is “subordinate.”

3. Do NOT use a comma to separate the clauses when a subordinate clause follows an independent clause.

In Rule #3, “Do not use a comma” is an independent clause and the remainder is a dependent clause. This rule, again, is an example of itself.

As an interesting side note, the subject in Rule 3 is the implied “you.” The verb is “use.”

4. Use a comma before the appropriate coordinating conjunction to join two related sentences.

The coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Remember the acronym FANBOYS. My female students used to love that acronym. By the way, you very seldom need a comma AFTER a coordinating conjunction, although that is a bad habit that some folks have developed.

5. Trite as it sounds, when you are in doubt about whether to use a comma, leave it out.

Believe it or not, most comma problems arise from the insertion of misused commas, not from their omission.

That’s it! The five rules of comma use. And really, there are only three.

The first one is necessary, numbers 2 and 3 are the same thing in reverse, and Rule 4 is necessary depending (in fiction) on how you want the sentence to flow.

And of course, the last one isn’t so much a rule as a warning. (grin)

‘Til next time, happy writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Tools for Writers

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 1/10/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now.

Instead of a regular blog post I thought I’d toss out this list of URLs this time. I’ve found all of these useful at one time or another, and I still refer to many of them regularly. However, the presence of these URLs on this list does not necessarily constitute my endorsement or recommendation except as noted below.

I chose not to make the links live. Many email programs will kick out an email that contains more than a few links. You’ll have to copy/paste these URLs into the address bar at the top of your browser. (Note that some of the URLs wrap to the next line. Be sure to copy/paste the whole thing.)

Once you’ve done that I suggest you bookmark those that interest you so you can refer back to them quickly. I hope you find this list of use.

First, I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. Here’s the rest of the list.

Dictionaries

Acronyms — http://www.allacronyms.com/
American Slang — http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
British Slang — http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/
Dictionary — http://dictionary.reference.com/
Sex Dictionary — http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/
Semantic Reference — http://semanticreference.com/
Spanish Dictionary — http://spanish.dictionary.com/
Spanish Slang — http://www.languagerealm.com/spanish/spanishslang.php
Thesaurus — http://thesaurus.com/
Translator — http://translate.reference.com/
Urban Dictionary — http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Converters
Colors and Others — http://web.forret.com/
Future/Past Calendar — http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
Keyboard Shortcuts PC to Mac or Mac to PC — http://myfirstmac.com/index.php/mac/articles/ultimate-switcher-guide-windows-pc-to-mac-keyboard-shortcuts
Length — http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/LengthConverter.html
Metric — http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html
Mileage — http://www.randmcnally.com/mileage-calculator.do
Temperature — http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/

Reference, Research or Interesting
Arizona Master Gardener Manual — http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/
Arizona Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Arizona.asp
Cherokee FAQs — http://cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx
Drive-In Theaters — http://www.drive-ins.com/
Extensive Collection of Quotations — http://www.drmardy.com/dmdmq/
McSweeney’s — http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
NOAA National Weather Service — http://www.weather.gov/climate/
Preditors & Editors — http://pred-ed.com/
Personality Types — http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/JTypesResult.aspx
Shakespearean Insults — http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quotes/shakespeareinsults.html
Snopes — http://snopes.com/ (biased politically but can be useful)
Stupid Plot Tricks — http://www.sff.net/paradise/overlord.html
The Bible on One Page — http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
The Gun Zone — http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
Time Dilation — http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/HEP/QuarkNet/time.html
TV Tropes — http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Vietnam Virtual Wall — http://www.virtualwall.org/
Warp Drive — http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive
Worldwide Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Writers Market — http://www.writersmarket.com/

Writers’ Resources and Tools
Book Trailer — http://kingdomelectlady.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-
Trailer-Free
CopyBlogger Media (Marketing) — http://my.copyblogger.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.jarte.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.openoffice.org/
Links to Delete Accounts — http://justdelete.me/
Microsoft Word Products — http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/
Newsletter — http://chopeclark.com/
Writer as Publisher — http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ and Think Like a Publisher
Hashtags 1 — http://publicityhound.com/shop/how-to-use-hashtags-the-new-search-tool
Hashtags 2 — http://writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/008264_11202013.html
Security for your PC or Mac — http://lojack.absolute.com/en/persistent
Stop Smoking Resource — http://www.whyquit.com/
Writing Software — http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5

Professional & Regional Writing Organizations
Arizona Mystery Writers — http://www.arizonamysterywriters.com/
Horror Writers of America — http://horror.org/
International Thriller Writers — http://thrillerwriters.org/
Mystery Writers of America — http://mysterywriters.org/
Novelists Incorporated — http://www.ninc.com/
Pikes Peak Writers — http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/
Romance Writers of America— http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — http://www.sfwa.org/
Sisters in Crime — http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=2
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — http://www.scbwi-az.org/
Society of Southwestern Authors — http://www.ssa-az.org/
St. Louis Writers’ Guild — http://www.stlwritersguild.org/
Western Writers of America — http://westernwriters.org/

Subsidy/POD Publishing

Compare Subsidy/POD Publishers — http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php

Note: I vehemently disagree with Booklocker about CreateSpace. And especially in this wonderful new world of indie publishing, I also do NOT recommend you use ANY subsidy publisher. However, if you insist on not doing things yourself, I decided to leave this entry in this post.

If you know of any great writers’ resources you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below.

Finally, you can find numerous great writers’ resources in the left sidebar on my website under Writers’ Resources.

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

A Phoenix

Hi Folks,

This morning as I conducted some routine maintenance on my website, I got curious. I checked the “Uncategorized” posts.

Those marked Uncategorized were not sent to any list by MailChimp. Not even the Pro Writers blog, for which I wrote them.

I found forty-three such posts, all of which should have gone to the Pro Writers list.

So I’m beginning the arduous process of perusing, updating and rescheduling those posts. Those that are still valid as-is, I will schedule to post. Those that are dated, I will either not post or add a note to the beginning, then post.

These posts will pop into your email in box every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (Arizona time).

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

The Daily Journal is free, and you’ll get a great deal more valid information out of that than anything else you can find around the Internet. Plus you get an inside view on the life of a professional fiction writer.

‘Til next week, keep writing.

Harvey

Update to Brave New World of Publishing

Hi Folks,

This morning as I emailed a friend, I had occasion to revisit an old blog post, one I wrote here back in October, 2015. The information in it bears repeating, especially in light of recent posts over at Dean Wesley Smith’s website. I recommend you read my older blog post before continuing with this one, even if you think you remember everything about it. To do so, click Brave New World of Publishing.

After that, to read one of the more important posts to come along in awhile in the way of advice for writers from a guy who’s been doing it successfully for decades, read Dean’s Blaming the Reader (for no sales).

His post includes a list of reasons your books don’t sell even a few copies. It was so good I copied/pasted it into a Word document, mostly so I could re-read it in the future and also to share it with others.

But back to this post. This is an update on the information I shared in the October 17, 2015 post.

First, I no longer use Pronoun. They don’t allow the author to select the venues to which they distribute the author’s work. For me, that’s a deal killer.

As for XinXii I have sold one copy of one short story collection through them (as far as I can tell) for a grand total royalty of $1.10. That’s in well over a year. So I’m not pushing them anymore either. Then again, $1.10 is a minuscule price to pay for a lesson.

I also had some problems interfacing with OmniLit’s website (they’re also All Romance Ebooks). I found the website clunky at best and unresponsive at times. Soon I decided the few sales I might get through them wasn’t worth the hassle. But that might have just been me. I recommend you check them for yourself, especially if you write romance or erotica.

So today, my titles are distributed through Amazon, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and through direct sales at StoneThread Publishing.

Yes, Amazon remains the biggest seller.

Draft2Digital remains by far the easiest distribution venue to use, and they pay fair royalties.

I still despise Smashwords’ extremely clunky interface. If you have only a few titles to manage, it isn’t a big deal and it isn’t bad. But if you But with 200 titles in my account, using the channel manager or anything else is a nightmare. Still, the number of big-deal sales venues they offer makes the aggravation acceptable.

Back in the Iron Age (2011) I didn’t mind the clunkiness at Smashwords so much. It was pretty much state of the art. But today, all you have to do is compare the submission process at Smashwords with D2D to see what I mean. If D2D had the venues Smashwords has, I’d drop the latter in a heartbeat.

I haven’t mentioned CreateSpace. They are by far the best choice for do-it-yourself print production and distribution. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you’ll need to look around and select a print-layout and cover design service. Because loyalty and honesty are important to me, I cannot in good conscience recommend any service in particular.

If anyone out there knows of any that you recommend or if you do your own layout and spine and back cover AND ENJOY IT, please let me know.

Of course, if you aren’t writing and producing new work, none of the above matters in the slightest. Ahem.

That’s it for this time. ‘Til next time, keep writing.
Harvey

Interim, Interim Post

Hi Folks,

If you’re a reader, I have some great news for you. If you’re a writer, I have some even greater news.

There’s a new book bundling service called BundleRabbit. If you aren’t familiar with book bundles, let me explain.

If you’re a reader, you can sign up to receive their newsletter. Each time a new book bundle is ready, they’ll send you an email. Then you read the email and, if you’re interested, go look at the bundle.

In the current bundle, for example, you can purchase 5 books by five big authors for a payment of $5. Or you can “unlock” a second tier for a minimum payment of $12. In that case you receive 12 books plus a coupon for two more free books from Kobo Books.

Now for the really exciting news for authors. If you go to BundleRabbit, scroll way down and click the For Authors link, you’ll find an incredible opportunity.

You can sign up for an author account (I did) and upload your own books. Go look. This is not exclusive to novels.

This is another way of getting your work out to readers, folks. It costs you nothing but a litte time, and it pays you if your books are selected by a curator, included in a bundle, and sold.

And if you think it can’t happen to you, then you really need to get a handle on that. Why is it when writers think their work is good, they automatically think “But a writer is the worst judge of his own work,” but when they think their work is bad, somehow that rule no longer applies? Seriously.

This is an incredible discovery tool. If a curator selects one of your works for a bundle, all the readers who normally by works by the other authors are now your readers too.

And you don’t have to wait for an invitation from a curator. You can upload your books to make them available. Then you can let the books wait for the curator to find them while you’re writing more books. (grin)

UPDATE: At 10:12 this morning (as I write this) one of my novels was requested for inclusion in an upcoming bundle. How cool is that? (grin) Sure glad I uploaded my novels instead of waiting a day or two.

Since this post is primarily to pass along good information, I also strongly recommend you read The Blog That Destroyed An Art Form. (grin) And the comments. Read the comments. Seriously.

Finally, I found a free copy of The Fiction Factory by John Milton Edwards. I also strongly recommend you read it. Excellent book on craft that mimics what most long-term professional writers say. This is a scanned-in copy of the original.

If you want to see what’s possible from writers who follow Heinlein’s Rules, I recommend you read Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (link above) or, in the alternative, sign up for my Daily Journal. I usually keep up with what Dean’s doing anyway. (grin)

Up next, a post on how and why to create a reverse outline.

‘Til then, keep writing.

Harvey

Chapter 3 — Story Starters and Where to Get Ideas

Note: If you’re interested in Irish food, clothing and other unique items, visit Celtic Clothing. This past Christmas season I ordered two sets of Guiness pint pub glasses. When the order arrived, there was only one set. When I emailed them, they apologized, explained that their supplier had failed, and then refunded the full price of my original order, almost $50. They insisted I keep the first set of pub glasses as a gift and apologized for their inability to fill the full order. In my experience, companies like that simply don’t exist anymore, so I want to do what little I can to promote them. I hope you will visit their site.

All story ideas are also story starters, of course, but not all story starters are story ideas.

Most of this chapter will talk about where to get story ideas, but I thought this was the most appropriate place to talk about story starters too.

First, the differences.

The story starter is any physical, emotional or mental stimulus that evokes a memory of something that happened or provides a catalyst to something that could happen. It’s only a trigger, nothing more.

The story idea is a character with a problem in a setting. It’s only a trigger, nothing more.

Both are only triggers, nothing more. The sole purpose of both is to get you to the keyboard.

The Story Starter

A story starter can be literally anything.

It can be a scent or a sound or the lighting or something seen or heard in a particular lighting.

For example, the aroma of a rosewood-scented candle might evoke a memory or a story. The same aroma in a dimly lighted room might evoke a completely different story. The same aroma wafting past on a beach will almost certainly evoke another completely different story.

The same goes for things seen or heard or smelled or tasted or felt, physically or emotionally, in various lighting situations and with various background noise types and combinations or various olfactory sensations and so on.

In other words, that same aroma of a rosewood-scented candle mixed with the predominant aroma of freshly baked bread with the sound of cars passing in the background would start another completely different story. And the same stimuli in a dimly lighted room might evoke a completely different story.

A story starter can be the single chirp of a bird. It can be a rock in a particular shape that you see as you’re walking down the road. It can be what she said the last time you saw her, or part of what she said. Or it can be the way she said it. Or both.

It can be a lyric or a line of dialogue or narrative. It can be a character name or a character type. It can be a flash from a scene, like a bull rising into the air as the chute gate is pulled open at a rodeo.

Any of those and anything else can be a story starter.

Any stimulus that can evoke a memory of your past can also evoke a memory of something that hasn’t happened yet (so a story).

What matters is what you do with it.

I should add here that some writers can turn a quick story starter straight into a story. And it happens so quickly that they practically skip over the “character with a problem in a setting” story idea stage.

Dean Wesley Smith collects pulp magazines. He keeps a list of titles from stories in those magazines. Then when he wants to write a story, he selects HALF of one story title and crashes it into HALF of another story title. The resulting title serves as his story starter.

So perhaps he sees a story titled “The Breath Formed” and another one titled “Mouth Watering.” He might crash those together to get “The Mouth Formed.” (Horror, anyone?)

He sits down, puts his fingers on the keyboard, and types in The Mouth Formed. Then he hits the Enter key a couple of times and writes whatever comes to him.

I do the same thing, although seldom with titles.

I collect professional grade photos to use as the basis for book covers. Occasionally I’ll glance through them. As I’m looking at a photo, a title or a line of dialogue or a character laughing will come to me and bam, I’m off and typing.

It really is that easy.

The hard part is sitting down and putting your fingers on the keyboard. Once you get over that horribly traumatic notion, the rest of it is a snap.

The Story Idea

As I wrote above, a story idea is a Character with a Problem in a Setting. That’s it.

Many would-be writers say they can’t come up with ideas. Most often that’s because they don’t know what an idea is.

They believe, perhaps, that the story has to be born whole. That simply isn’t true.

A story idea is a hobbit finds a magic ring that renders him invisible.

Most would-be writers believe a story idea is a hobbit finds a magic ring that renders him invisible. But then a wizard shows up and tells him the ring is evil. Turns out the poor hobbit must travel a great distance, during which he encounters all manner of strange, wonderful and terrible creatures. He also must endure various misfortunes, danger and great hardships in order to destroy this thing he holds so precious.

That is not a story idea. That is a plot line.

Could you write that without infringing on The Lord of the Rings? Of course. You might want to change “hobbit” to “grelber” or something, but that’s pretty much the only problem.

But I could never write it, period. Why? Because there’s no room for the hobbit (or grelber) to exercise free will. He might as well be in chains. I know where he’s going, and I know why he’s going. End of story. Ugh. Writing it would just be boring.

So get over the notion that you have to get an entire story all at one time in order to start writing. You don’t. And if you do get that, I recommend you go get another idea. One that will allow you to drop into the story and enjoy it as the characters write it.

Again, a story idea is a Character with a Problem in a Setting. And the problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story. It just has to be a problem that this character has to solve in the immediate future. It’s just a trigger, something to get you to the keyboard, to get you started.

Here you go:

John is running a half-marathon. Within a mile of the finish, something sharp pokes him hard on the instep of his right foot. With every step it pokes him again. He can barely stand the pain, but his main rival is behind him only about a hundred yards. What does he do?

Sit down and write it.

Want a little more?

At the first poke, John grimaces. Me. Always me. Why is it always me?

At the first poke, John grins and shakes his head and points to the sky. “You and me, Lord. You and me.”

At the first poke, John winces. What in the world was— And crumples to the ground, dead.

Okay, now sit down and write it.

So Where Do You Get Ideas?

When a conference goer asked Harlan Ellison that, the famous writer replied, “I get all mine from a little shop in Schenectady.”

He said that because if he told the truth nobody would believe him.

The truth is, where do you NOT get ideas? They’re all over the place.

Again, a Character with a Problem in a Setting.

You’re out for a walk early in the morning on a dirt road. An SUV passes you. It doesn’t slow down, and when you glare at it you see a woman (the driver) apparently angry and gesturing toward the back seat.

If you’re a writer, probably you have two immediate thoughts.

The first one is, Frankly, I’m fortunate she didn’t run over me. Does she know me? And then you laugh. Maybe.

And your second thought is, Okay, her name is Jillian, her husband came home drunk and abusive one too many times and she’s headed for her mother’s house with the children. They’re in the back seat and wondering aloud why Daddy isn’t coming too.

Sit down. Write it.

Ways to Create Triggers (to Get You to the Keyboard) and Ideas

Select three words at random from the dictionary. Sparrow, hay, tornado.

Select two seemingly opposing ideas and crash them together (in my “The Compartmentalized Mantis,” a feminine personality in a man’s environmental suit / in “Saving the Baby,” the main character sees an artillery shell as an infant). More on this technique in the first exercise.

Select a setting, put a character in it, give him a problem and write.

Select a character, give him a problem, put him in a setting and write.

Select a problem, slap it on a character in a setting and write.

Collect titles, lines of dialogue, settings, characters, problems/situations. Put them in a list and browse it occasionally.

Collect photos. (When you need a story idea, glance over the photos. I have a few hundred from CanStock, BigStock, iStock, ShutterStock, et al but photos from any source will work for ideas. Just don’t use them for covers unless you have permission.)

Shrug. And whatever else you can think of.

Notes on Story Ideas

Inspiration is wonderful. Take it when it comes, but professional writers never wait for it. At the bottom of my emails is this signature: “Like Peter DeVries, I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 3 a.m.”

Lose the notion that ideas are gold. They aren’t. If you lose one, get another one.

Remember, practice coming up with ideas. The ability to come up with an idea is a muscle. The more you use it, the more natural using it will become.

Observe everything and everyone. Make up stories about people you see in waiting rooms, in malls. Make up stories about storefronts you see as you’re driving by, or people who are driving by you.

The ability to convert an idea into a story also is a muscle. Remember, an idea is nothing more than a trigger to get you to the keyboard. So when you get an idea, get to the keyboard right now, sit down and write it.

Lose the notion that all ideas will work. Most will, but some won’t. You might even go through a period during which some will work and most won’t.

Next up: Chapter 4 — Writing the Opening

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

The sign in the antique shop read, “This ain’t no museum. All this junk is for sale.”

Same here. I am a professional writer, folks. This is my living.

If you enjoy or learn from my work, click the Subscribe to My Work tab above. (It isn’t the same as subscribing to this blog.) As an alternative, consider dropping a tip into my Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much.

If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

Chapter 2 — Determining Your Role in the Story

This will be a difficult concept for many of you to grasp.

Why? Simply because of all of the myths that have been drummed into us during our entire lives. The big myth here is that your appropriate role as the writer is Almighty Writer on High. (Hear the angelic chorus?)

But if you grasp this concept, it will start you along the path to Freedom as a writer and more fun than you’ve ever had at a keyboard.

And you CAN do what you want. Understand? YOU are the writer. YOU are the boss of you.

You may choose between two roles as you write fiction. Those two roles are Almighty Writer on High and the Recorder. In the interest of full disclosure, these are my terms.

Let me explain both roles.

Then you have to choose.

The Almighty Writer on High

As Almighty (ahem, control freak) Writer on High, you control everything. You carefully outline pretty much every step your characters will take, from the overall goal of the hero to which stumbling blocks the evil adversary tosses into his path and when.

Those stumbling blocks and whatever the hero does to overcome them become the conflicts. Of course, on your outline, you know exactly where they will occur in the story and exactly how he will overcome them. And you know exactly how overcoming each conflict will enable the hero to advance toward his goal.

You know how and where and under what circumstances the great Final Conflict will occur, and you know how the book will conclude.

Goodness. I’m bored just writing about this.

I mean seriously, if a trusted friend tells you about an excellent new book in your favorite genre, you might want to buy it and read it, right?

But what if he tells you every major plot point, every conflict, the climax and then how the book ends?

Still want to buy it? Of course not.

So how can you force yourself to write a story that you’ve already outlined to death?

If you already know every major plot point, every conflict, the climax and how the book ends, where’s the fun and excitement of filling in the details of the story?

Just sayin’. Ever wonder why so many would-be writers think of writing as drudgery?

Of course, I’m talking about those who REALLY see the process as drudgery.

I’m not talking about those who circulate about the release party with one forearm flung dramatically over their brow and a glass of wine in their other hand, pinkie finger raised appropriately.

You know, the ones who are looking for someone, anyone, who will understand (and be impressed with) the terrible suffering they must endure for their art.

Those gentle souls who, despite the fact that they detest the absolute drudgery of writing, simply must shoulder the heady responsibility that has been thrust upon them and blah blah blah.

But I digress.

If you see your role as the Almighty Writer on High, probably you also make certain not to repeat the same sentence structure too many times in a row. (You probably make no allowances for the valuable and intentional use of repetition.)

You probably also count the number of times you use “that” and “which.” If you do not understand the difference between them (there is a huge difference) you even consider alternating them, using one and then the other as you progress through your manuscript.

If you’ve listened to people who have no clue what they’re talking about (i.e., they haven’t published a LOT of novels and stories) you probably also check for the number of times you use “had” and the state-of-being verbs and the “ing words” (gerunds) because you’re laboring under the false assumption that those words create passive voice.

Of course, as you can tell from my tone, they do not.

I could go on. And on. And on.

But the point here is that as the Almighty Writer on High you’re controlling every aspect of the book. You are totally the General Manager of your characters’ universe, and they will say or do NOTHING without your approval.

That’s one way to do it. But let me tell you this:

No good creative writing EVER came from the conscious, critical mind.

As Ray Bradbury said, if you don’t surprise yourself, how can you ever hope to surprise the reader?

And chances are, you know, if you’ve outlined the story? And you know every conflict and every plot point? And you know, like, in advance, how everything’s going to turn out?

Umm, so does the reader. Almost from word one.

And that sound you will hear is your book being slapped shut so the reader can find something more fun to do. Like poking himself in the eye with a stick.

So how do you surprise yourself when you’re the writer? After all, you have to know the story to write it, right?

The short answer is No.

In fact, if I already know a story, I refuse to write it. Writing a story I already know would be zero fun for me. And I’m a writer first and foremost to entertain myself. Or rather, to allow my characters to entertain me.

I’m not the Almighty Blah Blah. I’m the other kind of writer. I’m the Recorder, AKA The Frien’ with a Pen. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The Recorder (or Friend with a Pen)

When anyone asks me about my writing process, I tell them the truth. I have a two-step process. Ready?

  1. I follow the characters around.
  2. I write down what they say and do.

In other words, I let the characters tell the story they want to tell. After all, they know it much better than I do. They’re actually living it.

As the Almighty Writer on High, you DIRECT your characters to say and do exactly what YOU tell them to say and do.

As the Recorder or the Note Taker or the Friend with a Pen, you control nada.

  • You don’t worry about where the characters or story are going.
  • You don’t worry about what your character will say next.
  • You don’t worry about who the character used to be and who he will grow into.

Your subconscious mind knows all of that stuff is necessary. It will plug in all of that when and where it’s time.

And you? You’re just the conduit. You are the fingers on the keyboard.

You are no more important to the story or the characters than the mechanic is important to your car or yourself.

The mechanic provides the parts and skill to keep your car is running so you have a safe, fun vacation. But he doesn’t tell you where to go and what to do, right? (If he does, seriously, fire him.)

The writer provides the fingertips through which the characters tell a story. That’s it.

When Bradbury was asked how he wrote Dandelion Wine, he said the same way he wrote everything else. He got up in the morning and poured a cup of coffee. Then he sat down at the typewriter (later, computer), put his fingers on the keyboard, and wrote whatever came.

I can hear you saying, “But that’s Ray Bradbury.” The fact is, he wrote that way from before he was Ray Bradbury, when he was around 12 years old.

When you’re the Recorder, you don’t control anything. You resign as General Manager of the Universe. You abdicate the throne of responsibility for (and control of) your characters.

And you get down in the trenches and run through the story WITH them. How could anything be more fun than that?

Instead of suffering the unbearable drudgery of having to figure out how this sentence connects to the next one or how his paragraph leads to the next one or whether and where the current scene will fit in the overall story — You. Just. Write.

Next up, Chapter 3 — Story Starters and Where to Get Story Ideas

‘Til then, happy writing!

Harvey

The sign in the antique shop read, “This ain’t no museum. All this junk is for sale.”

Same here.

I am a professional writer. This is my living. If you enjoy or learn from my work, click the Subscribe to My Work tab above. (It isn’t the same as subscribing to this blog.) As an alternative, consider dropping a tip into my Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much.

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Brave New World of Publishing

Hi Folks,

Man things change quickly in this new world of publishing. On the first of this month, so just over two weeks ago, I devoted an entire blog post to telling you why I was no longer going to publish and distribute my books through Smashwords.

And then this morning, I uploaded and published ten new titles to Smashwords. It seems Smashwords recently signed a contract with Gardner’s, a massive book distribution agent in Great Britain. You can Read About It Here.

So this morning, I uploaded… well, I already said all that, didn’t I?

Only one thing seems to remain the same in this new world. For independent publishers — and by extension, for readers — things just continue to get better.

This post is for those of you who already have made the leap into indie publishing AND for those who are still thinking about it.

Now understand, when I say “indie” or “independent” publishing, that has absolutely NOTHING to do with subsidy publishers like AuthorHouse or Wheatmark or Booklocker or ANY OTHER “publisher” who charges you an up-front fee PLUS keeps part of your royalties.

If you’re going through those, you are not self-publishing and you are not independently publishing. Those are scams, folks, in every case. They play on your ego (wanting to get your work out there), and they play on your fear that your work isn’t good enough to get published otherwise. And it’s all hogwash.

Okay? So by “indie” or “independent” publisher, I mean a writer who has set him/herself up as a publisher. It isn’t difficult to do, and there are no big overwhelming legal issues. In fact, you can learn most of what you need to know in my free PDF ebook, Quick Guide to Self-Publishing & FAQs. And there are other things that will help on my Downloads page.

But for today, MAN do things change quickly in this beautiful new world of publishing!

Let me just lay out for you what I’m doing now and why. Remember, successful indie publishing isn’t about the unlikely prospect of making a bajillion bucks from one revenue stream (like that nasty old Amazon KDP Select).

Successful indie publishing is about the much more reasonable and likely prospect of making a few bucks here and there from as many different revenue streams as you can lay your paws on.

My paws have been busy lately. Here are my distributors:

Pronoun — This is a brand new publisher/distributor. I signed up this morning. They are not yet fully operational, but when they are, they will distribute my work to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo and Google Play. (This will keep me from having to mess with Amazon’s incredibly frustrating upload process, and I get the same royalties from all of these venues that I would have gotten otherwise. This is a win/win.)

Draft2Digital — After Pronoun stands up, I will still use D2D to distribute to Inkterra, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino.

Smashwords — Effective earlier this morning, I’m using Smashwords to distribute my books to Gardners Extended Retail (400 ebook stores powered by Gardners operate in 32 countries and serve customers in 138 countries), Gardners Library (2,000 public libraries in the U.K., and 400 academic libraries in the UK, Europe and Middle East), Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, Baker & Taylor Axis360, Overdrive, and Flipkart. Plus of course in the Smashwords store.

XinXii — After visiting XinXii and seeing what great strides they’ve made regarding distribution, I reactivated my account there. XinXii will now distribute my books to Angus & Robertson (Australia), buch.de (Germany), buecher.de (Germany), Casa de Libro (Spain), Der Club Bertelsmann (Germany), Donauland (Austria), Family Christian (familychristian.com),  Fnac (France),  Indigo (Canada), Libris BLZ (Netherlands), Livraria Cultura (Brazil), Mondadori (Italy), OTTO Media (Germany), Rakuten (Japan), Thalia (Germany), Weltbild (Europe), Whitcoulls (NZ), and WHSmith (Great Britain). Plus the XinXii online store and plus Google Play if Pronoun doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

OmniLit (also All Romance Ebooks) — I only recently found OmniLit. It and All Romance Ebooks are run by the same folks. Granted they are only one venue, not a distributor, but hey, they’re big and one more venue is one more stream of revenue.

Now, if you’re anal enough to have counted, you will see that my books will be in 36 different venues, not counting Amazon’s and Apples’ and others’ subsidiaries, and not counting the 400 stores and 2400 libraries offered by Gardners.

Oof. A year ago, I was scrabbling around to find 100 venues. (Amazon was in 57 countries, Apple was in another 23, and so on.) And today there are so many, I can’t even realistically count them all.

Ahem. Of course, if you decided to go exclusive with Amazon KDP Select, you’ll miss out on selling through those other 430-some stores, not to mention around 2500 libraries now. But hey, that’s your decision.

Okay, that’s it for today. Note this is an extra, not in the usual rotation. I just didn’t want to wait until the 21st to put this out there to you.

By the way, you know I started writing seriously on October 19, 2014. That’s 365 days (one year) ago tomorrow.

On many of those days I didn’t write at all. On many of those days I wrote only a few hundred words. On two or three of those days I exceeded 5,000 words. On maybe fifteen or twenty of those days I exceeded 4,000 words.

Yet right now, since October 19, 2014, I have written over three-quarters of a million (750,466) words of fiction. Of those, in the same time frame, I’ve published all but 11,000 words. Those comprise the currently stalled Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga.

Now I’m not telling you that to brag. I’m telling you that to show you what’s possible even when you don’t write every day, even when your best day is only a few thousand words.

It all adds up. Keep writing.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click paypal.me/harveystanbrough. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.