National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Guerrilla Marketing

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1guer·ril·la

noun \gə-ˈri-lə, ge-, g(y)i-\

: a member of a usually small group of soldiers who do not belong to a regular army and who fight in a war as an independent unit.

You have to ask yourself, why the writers of the Guerrilla Marketing series compared themselves to soldiers and marketing to war.  Any selfpublished author, who has tried to get their books into Barnes and Noble knows exactly why. Trying to get your book to be seen in the sea of published books can be like fighting a war with just a small rag-tag regiment. Typically a guerrilla army doesn’t have all the weapons and upgraded equipment of the regular army. However, in Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, you learn how to use what you’ve got to market your book.  Most of the marketing tools in the book cost little to no money and can be implemented in a day.

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers is a book that everyone who has published or hopes to publish a book should read. I bought this book back in 2003 and I periodically pick it up and use it as a reference book on book marketing. There have been a couple of revisions since then. Also check out Guerilla Marketing for Writers 2.0, which includes all of the revised strategies as well new media weapons you can add to your arsenal.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Focus

Today’s post is about how to make it as a professional writer.  Most artistic types are  resigned to struggle and barely make it in life.  I for one have never wanted to be a starving artist, and so I’ve done my best to find ways to make money writing.  I know a hand full of writers who like myself, are at various levels of making it. I also know many other writers who would love to write for a living but for now, writing is basically a hobby. The difference between writing as a hobby and writing to pay the bills is an issue of focus.  If you know anything about self-actualization, you know that what you focus on the most is what will manifest. So where is your focus?

If your focus is off, try adopting some of the following practices to renew your focus.

  1. Write everyday. Give yourself a word limit and do it everyday.
  2. Read something everyday. Preferably in the genre you want to write in.
  3. Learn the business. Everyday research and learn something new about the publishing business.
  4. Enter writing contest. If you’re writing everyday, you should have enough material to enter several contest every year.
  5. Travel as much as you can. Journal about your experiences and the people you meet.
  6. Attend book fairs, writer’s conferences, and any gathering of authors and or publishers. Get to know people who are already doing what you want to do.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

You Are What You Read

images-1In the same way the food you eat literally builds and shapes your body, the books you read shape your mind. What you read, forms the basis for your beliefs, and serves as your base of knowledge. Books color the way you view the world and how you interact with people. Words have power when spoken but they have just as much power when read. Did you know that the type of books you like to read says more about you than the clothes you wear?  One of the tools that FBI agents use to learn about the mind of a serial killer is to review the list of books they have checked out from the library.

What have you been reading? I challenge you to take a look at what you like to read? List the top five genres that you read regularly in order of importance to you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is it about the number one genre that I like the most?
  2. Do I primarily read for information or entertainment?
  3. If you could not complete the list because you only read one or two types of books, what don’t you like about other genres?

They say self-examination is good for the soul. However, the answer to these questions will lead you to some important insights as to the type of person you are becoming. For example, If you only read nonfiction/self-help books and you primarily read for information, you are most likely looking for a solution.  I know people who don’t like reading newspapers or magazines because bad news and current events depress them. There are other people who have to read dry academic writing for work and so when they sit down to read for pleasure, they only read fiction, because they need to escape.

If you want to be a well-rounded individual and writer, you should read a balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction and several genres.  I tend to lean toward non-fiction, so I on occasion will make myself read fiction. I’ve also recently tried my hand at writing my first novel, just to prove to myself that I can write fiction. I prefer a good mystery, but have challenged myself to read a sappy love story. Sometimes I’ll ease into a genre that I’m not as familiar with by reading what I call a hybrid genre. I’d rate Science Fiction as last on my list, but a Sci Fi Whodunit might grab my attention.

Next time you reach for a book consider that maybe it is not you that chooses the book but maybe the book has chosen you.  There are times when I’ll find a book at the precise time I need to read it. Then there are books that I’ve bought and could not read them until years later. But when I did, I found I was in a place to receive the information, whereas I may not have been when I bought it.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

Book Covers

Book cover design by Tony Sarg

 

As children we were all taught to never judge a book by its cover. But readers do it all the time. We look at the title, then the images and try to determine if we want to read the book. If we have time, we’ll turn the book over and read the back cover copy and maybe look at the table of contents. Like it or not the cover is the first impression that your book will make on potential readers.

 

A publishing friend of mine asked the question, “Are there certain things on a book cover that will turn you off?” I wish I could give you a magic formula that would make your book attractive to everyone who sees it. But the reality is, that everyone who sees your cover will view it through their own set of experiences. However, you can make sure that your cover has the following characteristics that readers are looking for.

 

  • Choose an image that reflects the title
  • Choose background colors that reflect the theme
  • Make sure that the overall design draws people in
  • Choose a spine font that is interesting, yet readable
  • Make sure the back cover copy is intriguing

 

You may spend months or years writing your book, spend just as much time and energy on your cover design. Pay a little more to get a custom design if that is what is needed to make your book stand out from the others on the shelf. Even electronic books, have covers so this advice applies to e-books too. A good book cover can be your best marketing tool.  You can take the image and make post cards, posters, flyers, whatever materials you need in order to promote your book.

 

Until Next Time,

 

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

 

 

 

Three Words

As a writer we are often asked to sum things up in 200 words or less. Writing lean is something I’ve been blessed to do. It was very seldom that my teacher’s complained that my papers were too long. If there was not a specific word count the odds are they would be too short. I’ve found a way to use as many words as it takes to get my point across and then I stop writing. However, when it comes to writing promotional materials and other book related copy, I some times find myself complaining that I need to write more.

How good are you when it comes to summarizing your work in 50 words or less? A good exercise, that I’m sure you’ve done on some level is to choose three words that best describes X.  If you had to distill your 250 page novel or 400 page self-help book into three words, could you do it? Challenge yourself with this: Take the synopsis or maybe a review written about a work that you’ve read and tell the story with three words.

Being brief is a good skill to practice. If you want to use social media to market your books, you’ll need to catch a reader’s attention in a few sentences. If you’re giving an elevator speech, you need to capture your listener’s imagination in as little as 30 seconds. Most readers will not continue to read beyond page three if they are not drawn into the story by then. Attention spans are short and getting shorter with every new piece of technology that becomes available.

Make it a practice to never use two words when one will do. Get to the point and get there quick. Once you have their attention, then you can take your time. But remember readers have questions, like ” why should I care” and “what is this all about.” The quicker you answer their questions, the more likely they are to want to stick around and learn more.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Motivation

English: Motivational Saying

The life of an author can be lonely at times. We are often misunderstood. No one really knows why we continue to do what we do. No one writes to become rich and famous. It’s nice when it happens, but it’s the mission and the message that keeps me going day in and day out. I know that I have a unique way of looking at the world. I’ve also been given an amazing gift. I believe that I must write for all those people who need to receive the message I’ve been sent to share.

It’s not easy to keep going at times. Especially when bills are due, the books are not selling, and your spouse is thinking it’s time to get a real job. If writing and self-publishing is just a hobby, then it is wise to get a regular 9-5 to pay the bills. However, if you have made writing your business, then you must find ways to get paid to write. Here’s a short list of things you can do to generate an income.

Also look for ways to improve your craft. Enter writing contest, attend writer’s retreats and conferences. Winning a few contest can bring in some much-needed cash. Retreats and conferences are great opportunities to network, and learn about the craft as well as the markets. This next piece of advice may seem unrelated, but make sure to take care of yourself. If you are down and depressed, the odds are you won’t feel like writing. Engage in some sort of regular exercise and eat well so you can remain focused and have the energy to write well.  Remember where there is a will, there is a way.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin