Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Changing the World Through Stories #BYBin30

Stories, both personal memoirs and fictional stories, have the unique ability to bring about social change. However, unless you are writing a non-fiction book on the topic, it is best not to beat your reader over the head with the idea of social change.

Some subtle ways that stories can help bring about social change:

1. Your characters can be written as different and this can causes others to ostracise them or treat them unfairly. For example: In real life, we see people of different races,  genders,  ages and sexual preferences being treated unfairly in mainstream society. In stories, this can be shown using otherworldy creatures and alien beings. Do people fear your characters? Does the government want to regulate them? Are there laws that cause them problems because they are different? Examples of this in stories (books and movies), being "muggle" or "mudblood" in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories, being a "mutant" in Marvel's X-Men, being a vampire or werewolf in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series.

2. Your character can defy the negative stereotypes. For example, if you have a female character, she can be strong, bold, determined and she doesn't need a male character to rescue her. Maybe she does the rescuing. Diversity in your stories is important, but you need to be careful not to create characters that fit the negative stereotypes that society might dictate. Let your readers see your diverse characters as multi-faceted human beings who can't be pinned to one single trait, and you will create characters that can change the world.

3. Have diverse characters in your stories. Don't whitewash the world you are creating on the page. The world we live in is made up of a large variety of people, people who are old, people who are young, people of all colours and races, male and female, gay and straight, transgender or cisgender. The world you create on the page, whether your story is set in the "real" world or in a fantasy world of your creation, should be just as diverse as the world we live in.

4. Your story can show current events and issues in a fictional light. For example, if you want your story to say something about climate change and pollution, your can write a dystopian novel set in a world that has to face the dire results of society's lack of willingness to change how it consumes energy. Or your story can be set in an alternate world that deals with something that can be a metaphor for climate change in this one. Maybe you want to address the pollution of our oceans, so you create a character who lives in an underwater kingdom. 

5. The important thing about writing these kinds of messages into your stories is not to let the message take over the story. If your too focussed on getting your message across, you might let the rest of the story fail, and, in doing so, you ruin your chances to reach people with your message. You have to have an intriguing plot that draws your reader in and you have to have characters that your readers will feel for. If your characters are nothing but creatures put into the story to represent a type, then they won't be multi-faceted enough to draw your reader into their world. 

Write a good story. Use issues we face in today's world to enhance your story and make it stronger. Your readers won't even know you are sending them a message through your story, and THAT is how you influence people to change their thinking or to think about something more deeply than they had previously.



Today's give-away is Rory's Story Cubes. If you are a signed-up member of the challenge, all you have to do in order to enter to win these story cubes is leave a comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator on April 30th, 2015 at noon GMT and announced later that same day.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Writing Fight Scenes #BYBin30

image from Pinterest

Writing a convincing fight scene can be a struggle. Many writers have never been in a physical fight, or at least, have never been in one that would be riveting to onlookers. So how exactly is a writer supposed to write a fight scene that will not only convince the reader that a fight is occurring but that will also create the sense of suspense that is needed to make the scene really fascinating?

Here are a few tips to writing a gripping fight scene:

Don't describe every little detail. Let the reader fill in some of the blanks. Blow-by-blow description of the fight can become tedious. You want your reader to be enthralled with the fight so much that they picture it in their minds, and if you fill in too much of the detail, instead of visualizing the fight, they are more likely to become bored and skim over the blow-by-blow description of it. 

Your fight scene has to be believable. The fight has to appear to be a real fight. You don't want your reader to have to suspend disbelief too much to believe your fight scene is real. Your characters have their adrenalin surging through them, and certain actions, like too much talking, will not be likely to happen. Your readers will expect the fighters to become winded and be breathing heavily after a few minutes of battle, not to be feeling fresh as a daisy after fighting for twenty minutes straight.

Your fight scene should reveal something about the character. Is your main character weaker than his or her opponent? Stronger? Is he or she afraid? Is your main character willing to fight even when it looks like he or she is going to lose? Your fight scene can show other facets of your protagonist that might not be as easily demonstrated in any other type of scene.

The fight scene should advance the plot. What happens after the fight? Is your character changed in some way? Is he or she injured? Is your protagonist more determined to succeed against all odds or are they feeling less capable? Does the win or loss of the fight change the odds of succeeding in whatever quest the story involves? This fight scene should have some effect on how the plot moves along; otherwise, it's an unnecessary scene and should be cut in the edits.

Your fight scene should not be too easy for your protagonist. If your main character sails through the fight without much difficulty and without a scratch on him or her, then not only is the fight going to be less believable, but it serves no purpose within your plot. It won't reveal anything about your character and makes the overall conflict in the story less urgent.

The fight scene needs to be full of suspense. The outcome should not be a foregone conclusion. If your reader already knows who is going to win, the suspense is gone. You might think that it is not an easy task to create suspense when you write in a genre where the hero always wins, but, when properly done, a fight scene can make your reader forget that the hero is going to win. If the fight scene is not the final scene in your story or the deciding factor in the hero's overcoming the obstacle or challenge of the story, then he or she won't necessarily win every fight or every battle. And even if the fight scene is the one that starts the conclusion of the story, a good fight scene can make a reader wonder what the cost of winning will be for your hero.

Your fight scene needs to include emotion. Even the coldest of mercenaries will feel something when they fight. Don't forget to show us what your hero, and even the villain of the story, are feeling through their actions during the fight. Does the villain say something to anger the hero, causing a sudden burst of fury-led violence from the hero? Or does the villain start backing away when he begins to fear the outcome of the battle will not be in his favor? Clenched fists can be a sign of anger as well as preparation for a punch. Does your protagonist curl his or her lip in disgust at the antagonist? Make your readers feel the emotions emanating between your two characters as they face off against one another.



Today's prize is a copy of "Writing Fight Scenes" by Rain Hall. If you are a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to be entered into the drawing to win this book is leave a comment on this blog post. Do you like writing fight scenes? Do any of your stories include fight scenes? The winner will be drawn by a random number generator on March 30th, at noon GMT and announced here later the same day.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Tips to Creating Your Book Cover #BYBin30

A book cover can make or break your sales. If it looks amateurish, it can hurt your sales. If it looks appealing, it can greatly increase your sales. There are a few tips on how to make sure your book cover is one of the ones that helps your sales.

The first thing you need to do is to look at other books for sale in your book's genre. Which ones appeal to you? Which ones are best sellers? What is it about those book covers that draws people in? Do you see any trends in them? For example, current trends in YA tend to show the main character (or a representation of the MC) prominently on the cover. Romance covers often show a couple on the cover.

Next you need to think about your story and what you want the cover to convey about it. What aspects of your story will look good on the cover? Do you want your cover to be illustrated or photo-manipulated? Your cover needs to set the mood for your story. For example, horror covers should have a very different feel to them than a humorous book.

Your book cover should pertain to your book’s subject. If you are writing a book about a girl and her pet cat, but your cover shows a knight fighting a dragon, this can be confusing and misleading to your audience. You want your readers to instantly get a feel for your story's subject when they see the book cover.

Your book title’s font needs to be readable even when viewed as a thumbnail. It can be really eye-catching to use unusual or elegant fonts, but you need to make sure that whatever font you use still looks good and is easy to read when your book cover is only viewed as a thumbnail as that is how most people who buy your book on-line, through Amazon and other retailers, will see your book.

Stock photos can be useful, but be careful about using public stock photos which can be over-used in other book covers. You want your cover to stand out from other covers. One way to avoid having to use stock photos in making your book cover is to take the photographs yourself or hire a photographer (or illustrator/graphic designer) yourself.

Did you already publish your book with a book cover that, upon retrospect, was not the best fit for your book? Don't fret about it; you can still re-publish your book with a new, better cover. Some authors have found that by simply changing the cover of their book, they have seen a noticeable increase in sales.

Some advice often told is to never make your own book cover. The idea behind this is that most authors do not have the skills to create a good book cover and their attempts will look amateurish. That isn't as true in the current indie book publishing climate though. More and more authors are learning the skills to create professional looking book covers, and if they spend enough time studying other covers in the market, they are more likely to be able to judge whether or not their cover works for the book they want to sell.

Just make sure to get opinions from the right people about your cover before you publish. When I say the right people, I am talking about people in the industry, not friends and family. The problem with asking friends and family is that they will want to like your cover and will be less likely to tell you if they see something that can be improved. But if you have a critique group or are a part of other groups of writers and publishing professionals, it is a safe bet that they will let you know what you can do to improve your book cover or if it just isn't working.

example of book mark; actual prize may look different (different charms, etc)

Have you made any of your own book covers? Let me know in the comments and be entered in a drawing to win your choice of an e-book cover created by me for your book or a handmade charm book mark. The drawing will occur on April 30th. (Must be signed-up for the challenge in order to enter.)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Power of the Short Story Format #BYBin30

Last year, I wrote thirty short mermaid-themed stories for the Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge. This year, I am writing short fairy tales and paranormal-themed stories for the challenge. I have had many short stories and flash fiction published in a variety of different anthologies. I think it is safe to say that I enjoy writing short stories. Writing short stories allows me to test out characters and possible story-lines ahead of time and see how others respond to them. It allows me to flex my creative muscles in new ways with each short story I write. So I thought it might be useful for me to share a little bit about the history of short stories, current trends in the short story market and how writing short stories can be an excellent marketing tool.

Years ago, before we had a written language, stories were told verbally. The stories told served many purposes, from preserving a group of people's history, culture and beliefs to ways of explaining things that had no explanation in those days. Stories helped people to be less afraid of the unknown by creating stories around things to explain how they came to be. The oral stories served as lessons to the younger generations.

Short stories and poetry was often interconnected, as many of the writers in the days of Old English and Medieval English told their stories in rhyme or in the metered and measured way of poems. In medieval times, bards often sang their stories.

Short stories were a popular from of storytelling from the 1400s onwards, but, in the late 1900s, the growth of print magazines and journals created a stronger demand for short fiction. As time went on, longer length novels became the new normal and began to take over the market. It wasn't until the emergence of the e-book market that the short story would take on new life. Shorter attention spans, busier lives and the popularity of mobile devices spawned more demand for stories in their shorter forms.

This new demand for short stories has given them a new value in the marketplace. Authors are producing short story collection and multi-author anthologies of short stories. Short stories are being sold on their own as e-book purchases, and e-book covers are made for them just as they are made for longer novels. People are buying books as "serials," only getting a small portion of the story sent to them at a time and paying for each installment.

Searching the Amazon e-book marketplace today under the search term "short stories and anthologies" pulled up 50,916 anthologies and 133,207 short stories. Many of the books listed under "short stories" are collections of short stories.

If you don't want your short stories published in a collection of your own, there are many paying markets for your short stories, from other anthologies to magazines and even short story competitions.

If you do publish your short story in an anthology that doesn't pay (or offer your short story for free on Amazon and other sites like it), you might wonder what benefit you will get from doing so. Some authors may tell you never to give away a story just for "exposure." They maintain that the value of exposure is not enough to make it worthwhile, but I am suggesting otherwise. Short stories do not take as long to write as novels. Short stories also do not take as long to read as novels. A reader might be more willing to try a short story from a new author than a full-length novel. And if readers like your story, they will look for longer works by you.

In some recent anthologies in which some of my stories appeared, I found that I gained some new fans. These fans read my short stories and then tracked me down on social media to see if I had any other offerings, some of them even suggesting which of my short stories would make a great subject for a longer book. By publishing my short stories, not only am I gaining some readers who are now looking for more work written by me, but if I continue some of the stories they seem to like best, or write my novels in the same genre as those short stories, I may be able to turn these fans into lifelong fans. And those are the kinds of fans who help build a reputation, and that is one of the ways authors can find themselves becoming best-selling authors.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Writing is Magic #BYBin30

The one vice that most writers are susceptible to is procrastination. It is so easy to find many, many things that need to be done and to tell yourself, "I'll sit down to write after I've done..." But this is the path that leads to never finishing your book.

For those of you who are able to set aside specific writing time, then by all means, get your bum in a chair and start writing. Make sure you designate that time for writing though. If you need to check your e-mail or you want to spend some time on Facebook, give yourself set times for doing so. Your best plan is to set aside a set amount of time for writing and when the time is up, then you can go and check your e-mail, browse the internet and chat with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Or set yourself a specific word count to reach for the day, before you start spending some more relaxing Internet time,

Some writers have very little free time, so sitting in a proper chair at a desk and writing is not an option for them. If this is the case for you, you need to use any chance you have to sit down, wherever you are, and write. If you are in your car waiting for your son or daughter to get out of school, grab a notebook or laptop and start writing. You can even dictate your story into your phone if necessary. If you are sitting at the doctor's office waiting to be called in for you appointment, whip out your notebook and start writing. If you are walking the dog, bring your phone with you and dictate your story as you walk. Be creative about how you fit in your daily writing. Maybe dictating while walking your dog is not actually SITTING, but sitting down and getting your bum in a chair is not the only way to write your book. ("Bum" is a British word for "butt," and I think it sounds nicer.)

Some of you may be wondering why getting yourself to sit down and write, or getting yourself to write during those tiny snippets of time when you are out and about, is so difficult to do. You love to write stories, so why do you fight it? Why do you find excuses not to do it? Why do you spend your time doing a variety of different things, all of which can wait, when you should be writing? Isn't writing your calling? Isn't it the one thing that keeps you going? So why do you struggle?

It's because, no matter how much you love to write, no matter how much you feel pulled and prodded by your own subconscious to write your stories, writing is hard. Putting pen to paper or setting your fingers on the keyboard while staring at a blank screen and typing in those words, is difficult. the words must come from deep inside of you in order for them to work. The words might form more easily in your mind than they do on the paper or screen. But the stories you tell are unique, and because of this uniqueness, the good words, the ones that breathe life into a character and transport your readers into another place or another world, those words don't come easily. They have to be played with and prodded, teased and shaped, in order to work.

Writing is art. Despite this, it doesn't matter if you are writing non-fiction, fiction, poetry or anything else, writing is still work. It's work that comes from your heart, from your very soul. Stringing out tiny bits of your soul onto the page for people to read is scary. And because you are sharing bits of your soul with others every time you write, you want to make sure that every word that comes from you is magical.

Of course writing is hard. It's also something more; it's magic.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Welcome to Blog Your Book in 30 Days 2015! #BYBin30

Welcome to the second Blog Your Book in 30 Days!

Feel free to use the above badge and add it to your blog. (Please link it back to here.)

Last year, I wrote a post a day on the subject of writing for you to read and learn from, and I gave away a prize a week. (I also blogged a 30-story collection of mermaid-themed flash and short fiction as well as editing a non-fiction book that I wrote in the previous February.) This year, I intend to let you read over previous posts, and I will post once or twice a week on the subject of writing. Feel free to read over last year's posts. If there are any topics in previous posts which you feel I should expand on (or a writing or publishing related topic you would like to see covered), please let me know and I will do so on a new post on the blog.

During this challenge, I will also be working on another fiction collection of short stories to go with a world I created for one of my novels. I will share the occasional excerpt here.

I'm also accepting guest posts. I want to hear about your work in progress. What are you working on this month? What is your plan for this month's challenge; how do you intend to complete the challenge? Have you written novels before? Are you published? Do you have any knowledge that might be helpful to others in the challenge? If you would like to guest post, please let me know in the comments. And if not, I'd still love to hear in the comments what type of book you will be working on this month. (There's a poll in the side-bar you can vote in too.)

I will post a bit about marketing your books as well, and how blogging your book can help with marketing before your book is even published.

Feel free to "like" the BYBin30 Facebook page and to join the BYBin30 Facebook group where we can discuss our books together.

If you want to accept the challenge, but, for whatever reason, don't want to make any part of your book public by blogging it, there are alternative ways to join in the challenge.

There is a sign-up form for the challenge, which is required for being eligible for the prizes. Don't worry. I won't use your sign-up to spam you or e-mail you any of the posts. It will just make it easier for me to contact you if you win a prize, and it helps me keep tabs on the number of official members.

Below are the links to last year's post. The topics include a variety of writing subjects for fiction writing, non-fiction writing and blogging. I hope you find them helpful.

Day 1: Planning and Plotting

Day 2: Research

Day 3: Hook your Readers in the First Chapter

Day 4: Conflict

Day 5: Supporting Topics/Supporting Characters

Day 6: How to Create Convincing Villains

Day 7: Becoming an Expert on your Book Topic

Day 8: Writing Memorable Dialogue

Day 9: An Alternate Method of the Hero's Journey

Day 10: Making your Blog Attractive to Readers

Day 11: Writing a Series Book

Day 12: Taking a Break from Writing to Refuel your Muse

Day 13: Creating Character Emotions

Day 14: Creating Fantasy Worlds and Creatures

Day 15: How to Avoid Writer's Block and Get your Story Written

Day 16: Writing the Middle of your Book

Day 17: Repurposing Old Blog Posts for your Book

Day 18: Changing Focus in the Middle of the Book; What Happens When Your Book Has to Be Altered Drastically?

Day 19: How to Successfully Weave Backstory into your Plot

Day 20: Be Cruel to your Protagonist

Day 21: The Value of your Book

Day 22: Using your Minor Characters to Fuel your Story

Day 23: Tips for Growing your Blog Readership

Day 24: Believe in your Ability to Write your Book

Day 25: Self-Editing your Manuscript

Day 26: Self-Publishing your Manuscript

Day 27: Humor in Writing

Day 28: Point of View

Day 29: Happily Ever After: Writing a Satisfying Story Ending

Day 30: Writing an Epilogue