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

The Business of Writing

The moment you decided to become a writer, you become a business. Not only are you in business, you are the CEO of You Incorporated. Everything you do and say from this point on will be scrutinized. People will suddenly care what you have to say and genuinely want your opinion on everything. What exactly, is the business of writing?

Writing as a business is about more than putting words on paper. It’s about sharing ideas and at times challenging beliefs. Writing is about giving a voice to the disenfranchised or being an authority in a field. It’s about communicating effectively as both a teacher and a storyteller. The hardest part of the business of writing is discovering your platform. Once you decide what being a business means for you, then you can sit down and be about the business of writing.

When I began my publishing company back in 2004, I branded myself as a writer of Christian books for children and young adults. I’ve since expanded that to include adults. The subject matter is on a different level but my message is still the same. My mission has not changed. There is room to grow and evolve even within the brand and platform you’ve chosen.  Just be strategic in how you roll out the new direction of your company. I’m always looking for ways to improve the business and to find what I consider to be success.

Success for some writers is being published. For others, it’s writing a best seller. For me it’s being able to use my gifts and talents to make a living that will help support my family. It’s writing this blog in the hopes that I’ll share something that will help you take things to the next level in your writing. This is the cake for me, public recognition would be the icing.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Outlet

images-1Writing is used as a form of therapy. The act of journaling provides a much-needed outlet for many. However when you are a writer, what do you do? I still journal but I find that I need something more at times. I’ve taken up running and exercising to release tension and stress. I work through many issues and plot twists while I’m out on the trail or sweating it out on the elliptical. I often write listening to music because it helps me to relax and provides the emotions needed to write from the heart.

It’s so important that a writer has an outlet or a way back into the regular world. The mind of a creative person can be a playground but it can also become a toxic place. It doesn’t matter if your outlet is a social (bowling) or solitary (knitting), you just need a way to decompress and exit the world of your latest and greatest masterpiece. There is a reason writers gained the reputation for being a bunch of drunkards. Some turned to alcohol as a means of escape. Others thought alcohol sparked creativity. I’d caution you to choose your muse wisely.

In addition to adopting a hobby, it may also be beneficial to totally unplug from time to time. Many years ago, I instituted what I called, “unplugged weekends”. From Friday morning through Sunday night I would totally unplug all of my electronic devises. I’d let my family and close friends know on Thursday, not to call me till Monday and where they can find me in case of an emergency.  I’d spend those times of silence, reading, praying, and journaling. I’d often add fasting and meditation to detox my mind, body and spirit. On Monday morning I awoke refreshed and at peace with renewed vision and energy.

If you find yourself feeling stuck and uninspired, look for a new outlet. Do whatever it takes to sharpen your focus and rekindle your passion for writing. This often means taking a step away and doing something else for a while.  Distance indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

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

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

Self-Publishing: Finding the Money

In case you were wondering, the life of a self published author is not bed of roses. Yes, its great to be able to publish a book whenever you want. But it can be challenging to find the money to publish. I’m currently preparing to release my next title, 7 Years, 3 Schools and 4 Majors Later. This is a book that I wrote back in 2006 that has been on the shelf all this time due to lack of funds. I shopped the idea around, and got lots of positive feedback, but no one wanted to publish it. So once again, I began the process of raising the funds to publish it myself.

When you already have books, the answer is obvious, sell those books and use the proceeds to publish the next book. However, if this is your first book or your previous book is not selling well, you have to be a little more creative in finding the money.

Here a few things I’ve begun to do in order to fund my current project.

  1. Offer my talents as a freelance writer. Writing books for others pays the bills and helps me keep my writing skills sharp.
  2. Write a weekly blog. My blog has helped me meet new readers all over the country and gives me a chance to introduce them to my books.
  3. Do a pre-publication sale. As we get closer to the release date you’ll hear more about how a pre-publication sale works.

A new feature as of this month, is a link in the top right hand corner of this page that leads to my Amazon.com store front where you can purchase my books online. I thank you in advance for checking them out.

I Wish for Snow Cover

I Believe

 

 

 

 

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

The Perfect Query

Icon apps query

The word query means question or to ask a question of someone about something. When it comes to writing query letters to editors, agents, or publishers, you’ll do well to keep this simple definition in mind. The question that you, the writer, wants answered is, “While you accept my work?”  This is a valid question. In order to craft the perfect query letter,you must also answer the major question that your reader will have, “Why should I accept your work?”  A good query letter has to do a few things, very well. They are:

  • Introduce yourself and your book
  • Pitch the concept or idea of your book
  • Elicit a favorable response from the reader

You can break your query down into three sections; the introduction, the pitch, and the call. Let’s examine each section and outline what information should be found in each.

Introduction

This is the opening paragraph in which you state your name and give the agent a little information about yourself. Share with them any experience you have that would make you the ideal person to write the book that you are proposing . Also let them know why you have chosen them to represent you and your book.

Sales Pitch

During the pitch, you’ll give a brief synopsis of the book. Tell them the intended audience for the book. Also share any plans you have for marketing the book. I call it a sales pitch because you have to sell him or her not only on the ideas in the book, but also on you as an author. After reading this part the agent should feel confident that you are the perfect person to write this book and that a publisher will want to buy it.

Call to Action

Any thing you write will get a response from the reader. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s bad. When it comes to the perfect query you want  the response to be positive. The agent should want to respond right away. End your query with a short call to action. Give them the next step in how to reach you and close the deal.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin