Tag : digital books

7 Ways To Get The Most From Your Book Publishing

How to Get More From Your Book OutlinesMention the word outline in a room full of writers, and you’re sure to ignite a firestorm of passionate debate. Writers either love outlines, or they hate them. We either find them liberating, or we can’t stand how confining they are.

My experience has been that more often than not, those who swear they dislike outlines are thinking of them in the wrong ways. Outlines are not meant to trap you into preset ideas or sap your creativity before you start the first draft. Outlines are also definitely not meant to be lifeless Roman-numeral lists.
To imbue your writing with the full power of outlining, you need to approach the process from a mindset of flexibility and discovery. You’ll end up with a road map to storytelling success when you do this. Road maps are there to show you the fastest and surest way to reach your destination, but they certainly don’t prevent you from finding exciting off-road adventures and scenic drives along the way.

At their best, outlines can help you flesh out your most promising story ideas, avoid dead-end plot twists and pursue proper structure. And the greatest part? They save you time and prevent frustration. Sketching out your plot and characters in your first draft can take months of trial and error. Figuring out those same elements in an outline requires a fraction of the time– and then allows you to let loose and have fun in your first draft.

1. Craft your premise.

Your premise is the basic idea for your story. It’s not enough to just have an idea. “Guy saves girl in an intergalactic setting” is a premise, but it’s also far too vague to offer much solid story guidance.

This is why your outline needs to begin with a tightly crafted premise sentence that can answer the following questions:.

– Who is the protagonist?

– What is the situation? What is the hero’s personal condition at the beginning? How will that condition be changed, for better or worse, by the hero himself or by the antagonistic force?

– What is the protagonist’s objective? At the beginning, what does the hero want? What moral (or immoral) choices will she have to make in her attempt to gain that objective?

– Who is the opponent? Who or what stands in the way of the hero achieving his objective?

– What will be the disaster? What misfortune will befall the hero as the result of her attempts to achieve her objective?

– What’s the conflict? What conflict will result from the hero’s reaction to the disaster? And what is the logical flow of cause and effect that will allow this conflict to continue throughout the story?

Once you’ve answered these questions, combine them into one or two sentences:.

Restless farm boy (situation) Luke Skywalker (protagonist) wants nothing more than to leave home and become a starfighter pilot, so he can live up to his mysterious father (objective). When his aunt and uncle are murdered (disaster) after purchasing renegade droids, Luke must free the droids’ beautiful owner and discover a way to stop (conflict) the evil Empire (opponent) and its apocalyptic Death Star.

2. Roughly sketch scene ideas.

Armed with a solid premise, you can now begin sketching your ideas for this story. Write a list of everything you already know sketch scene ideasabout your story. You’ll probably come to this step with a handful of scenes already in mind. Even if you have no idea how these scenes will play out in the story, go ahead and add them to the list. At this point, your primary goal is to remember and record every idea you’ve had in relation to this story.

Take a moment to review your list once you’ve finished. Whenever you encounter an idea that raises questions, highlight it. Highlight it if you don’t know why your character is fighting a duel in one scene. Highlight them if you don’t know how two scenes will connect. If you can’t picture the setting for one of the scenes, highlight that, too. By pausing to identify possible plot holes now, you’ll be able to save yourself a ton of rewriting later on.

Write out your ideas and let your thoughts flow without censoring yourself. Because this is the most unstructured step of your outline, this will be your best opportunity to unleash your creativity and plumb the depths of your story’s potential.

Every time you think you’ve come up with a good idea, take a moment to ask yourself, “Will the reader expect this?” If the answer is yes, write a list of alternatives your readers won’t expect.
3. Interview your characters.

In order to craft a cast of characters that can help your plot reach its utmost potential, you’ll need to discover crucial details about them, not necessarily at the beginning of their lives but at the beginning of the story.

To do this for your protagonist, work backward from the moment in which he will become engaged in your plot (the “disaster” in your premise sentence). What events in your protagonist’s life have led him to this moment? Did something in his past cause the disaster? What events have shaped him to make him respond to the disaster in the way he does? What unresolved issues from his past can further complicate the plot’s spiral of events?

You can start unearthing the nitty-gritty details of his life with a character interview once you have a basic idea of how your character will be invested in the main story. You may choose to follow a preset list of questions (you can find a list of more than 100 such questions in my book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success), or you may have better luck with a “freehand interview” in which you ask your protagonist a series of questions and allow him to answer in his own words.
4. Explore your settings.

Whether your setting is your childhood neighborhood or the seventh moon of Barsoom, you’ll want to enter your first draft with a firm idea of where your prominent scenes will be taking place.

Can you change your story’s primary locale without any significant alterations to the plot? If so, dig a little deeper to find a setting better suited to your plot, theme and characters.

Based on the scenes you’re already aware of, list the settings you think you’ll need. Can you reduce this list by combining or eliminating settings? Nothing wrong with a sprawling story locale, but extraneous settings should be eliminated just as assiduously as unnecessary characters.

5. Write your complete outline.

Book outline ImagesYou’re finally ready to outline your story in full. Now, you will work through your story linearly, scene by scene, numbering each one as you go.

How comprehensive you want to be is up to you. You may choose to write a single sentence for each scene (“Dana meets Joe at the café to discuss their impending nuptials”), or you may choose to flesh out more details (“Joe is sitting by himself in a booth when Dana arrives; Dana orders coffee and a muffin; they fight about the invitation list”). Either way, focus on identifying and strengthening the key components of each scene’s structure. Who will be your narrating character? What is his goal? What obstacle will arise to create and obstruct that goal conflict? What will be the outcome, and how will your character react to the resulting dilemma? What decision will he reach that will fuel the next scene’s goal?

Work to create a linear, well-structured plot with no gaps in the story (see the checklist on the opposite page). If you can get this foundation right in your outline, you’ll later be free to apply all your focus and imagination to the first draft and bring your story to life.

As you mentally work through each scene, watch for possible lapses of logic or blank areas in how one event builds to another. Take the time to think through these potential problems so they won’t trip you up later. If you get stuck, try jumping ahead to the next scene you know, and then working backward. If you know where you want your characters to end up, but not how they’ll get there, start at the ending point and then see if you can figure out what has to happen in the preceding events to make it plausible.

6. Condense your outline.

Once you’ve finished your extended outline, you may want to condense the most pertinent points into an abbreviated version. Doing so allows you to weed out extraneous thoughts and summarize the entire outline into a scannable list for easier reference. Because your full outline may contain a fair amount of rambling and thinking out loud on the page, you’re likely to end up with a lot of notes to review (I often have nearly three notebooks of material). Rather than having to wade through the bulk of your notes every time you sit down to work on your first draft, you can save yourself time in the long run by doing a little organizing now.

You may choose to create your abbreviated outline in a Word document, write out your scenes on index cards, or use a software program such as the free Scrivener alternative writer.

7. Put your outline into action.

By now, you’ll be feeling eager and prepared to get going on your first draft. Each time you sit down to work on your manuscript, begin by reviewing your outline. Read the notes for your current scene and the scene to follow. Before you start writing, work through any remaining potential problems in your head or on paper. If the time comes (and it will come) when you’re struck with a better idea than what you had planned in your outline, don’t hesitate to go off-road. These ventures into unknown territory can result in some of the most surprising and intriguing parts of your story.

An outline will offer you invaluable structure and guidance as you write your first draft, but never be afraid to explore new ideas as they occur.Putting your book into action Remember, your outline is a map showing you the route to your destination, but that doesn’t mean it is the only route.

At their best, outlines can help you flesh out your most promising story ideas, avoid dead-end plot twists and pursue proper structure. Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of the outlining process, beginning with the shaping of your premise and working all the way through to a complete list of scenes. (Note: Although this outlining method is one I use myself and highly recommend, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to outline a story. If you start outlining and begin to feel the technique isn’t working for you, rather than denouncing outlines entirely, consider how you might adjust the process to better suit your personality and creative style.).
Because this is the most unstructured step of your outline, this will be your best opportunity to unleash your creativity and plumb the depths of your story’s potential.

 

Here’s To Your Book,

Alex, MPeMG

www.MPeMG.com

(412) 374-1558

(We actually answer our own phones!)

Debbie Downer vs. Positive Paul – Don’t Be That Guy

Your Own Book CriticThe mind can be a writer’s harshest critic, and it never seems to shut up. You don’t need to pay attention to everything it says. In this post, we introduce three techniques to help you cope with self-criticism.
Best-selling thriller writer Ian Rankin writes a book a year. At a certain point, usually at the end of the first month, he is struck by “the fear.” He becomes convinced that all the work he’s done so far has been a waste of time, that this new book won’t be any good.

When he mentions this to his wife, she usually asks, “Are you on page 65?” He then realizes that he goes through this phase with every novel, always at the same point. Always around page 65.

Many writers, if not all, experience this kind of doubt about their work at some stage. And, as writing is such a lonely profession, they don’t all have someone with whom they can share their frustrations.

As an editor, some authors even come to me at these times. They’re looking for someone who can give them feedback, someone with experience who can reassure them that their work is worth pursuing after all and they’re not wasting their time.

To be honest, there’s not much I can do for them, but over the years I’ve come across some techniques that can help authors deal with that inner critic and get back to writing.

1. Choose which thoughts you listen to

It’s your mind’s job to keep questioning your actions. That worked well when we lived in caves. “Don’t go around that corner,” the mind would say, “you’ll get your head chewed off by a saber-toothed tiger.”.

Even now, when we no longer have saber-toothed tigers to worry about, the mind continues to look out for us. “Hmm,” it might ask, “are you sure you really want write this story?

In short, you can not control your thoughts, you can not stop them from entering your mind. You can decide which thoughts deserve your attention.

When your mind raises these doubts– your writing is terrible, no one will be interested in this story, or you should give up and find a job where you don’t even have to write your name– try to recognize this thought as nothing more than that: a thought. It’s just words. It’s just your mind doing its job.

Ask yourself, “Is this is a helpful thought?” If it’s not helpful, you can decide not to take this thought seriously and move on to the next one. Don’t worry, another one will be along again soon enough. Your mind likes to keep busy.

Novelist Dani Shapiro put it like this in an interview with Salon.com: “It helps to think of that inner censor as an annoying but beloved friend who has moved in for the duration. That friend is never going away. So you make peace with your inner censor. You say some version of, thanks very much for sharing, and then move on, past that censoring voice, and into your work.”.

2. Give your critical thoughts a name.

When your mind takes its job a little too seriously, there are times. It won’t shut up, and those thoughts become difficult to ignore. When that happens, it helps to take a little distance from them, and one way to do that is to give these unhelpful thoughts a name.

When Ian Rankin gets to the stage where he starts to doubt his story, he could say, “Oh, there are those Page 65 Thoughts again. Hi, Page 65 Thoughts, I’m only on page 62, you’ve arrived early this year.”.

You could also treat these thoughts like a character, and give it a voice. The Whiny Inner Critic, for example, who always shows up at the most inappropriate moment. Try to hear those thoughts in the voice of the character. A little too high-pitched perhaps, a bit nasal maybe, annoying.debbiedowner

Or you could imagine these thoughts as a story. The Tale of Self Doubt, where the basic premise appears engaging but becomes repetitive and tiresome after a while. It’s the kind of daytime movie that might first attract your attention as you flick through the TV channels, but only ends up a disappointment. Try another channel.

Giving these thoughts a name helps you to become aware of how often they occur and how much they distract you from your writing. Just recognizing your self-doubt will help you regain your focus.
Feel free to pick your own name for your critical thoughts, you’re a writer after all (regardless of what your mind says).

3. Realize how important writing is to you.

Sometimes, just sometimes, your mind is right. Your writing is bad. There will be days when you will write badly, very badly. You might even write a whole book that’s terrible.

But that shouldn’t stop you from writing.

Think about why you write, why it’s important to you, and try to remember these reasons when your mind is being overly critical, telling you that you’ll fail, that you’ll be rejected.

Love to writeDon’t let those thoughts of failure stop you. Because you might get hurt some time, you don’t give up on love just. And you shouldn’t give up on something you love. Keep writing. It takes a lot of work, and some of it might be terrible, but if you stop, no one will ever get a chance to see the good stuff.

In short, you can not control your thoughts, you can not stop them from entering your mind. When your mind raises these doubts– your writing is terrible, no one will be interested in this story, or you should give up and find a job where you don’t even have to write your name– try to recognize this thought as nothing more than that: a thought. If it’s not helpful, you can decide not to take this thought seriously and move on to the next one. When that happens, it helps to take a little distance from them, and one way to do that is to give these unhelpful thoughts a name.

You could also treat these thoughts like a character, and give it a voice. 🙂

 

 

Here’s to Your Book!

Alex, MPeMG

(412) 374-1558

[We answer our own phones!]