This Business of Writing

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Writing Secondary Characters in Novels

In characters, General Information, How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 20, 2010 at 11:15 am

by C. Patrick Schulze


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When writing your novel, have you ever cut back or cut out a character you liked? How about one you didn’t like? Have you ever promoted a secondary character into a larger role within your novel? These events happen all the time in novel writing and, in fact, should happen. Secondary characters are as common as leaves on a tree but have the power to kill both your writing and your novel. Despite this, they are as necessary to a good novel as your major characters.

How do they kill a novel? They can take over roles that belong to other characters. It is most onerous if they take over that of a major character like the hero. In this case, the protagonist diminishes in stature which, in turn, makes readers less empathetic toward the him. And we all know an unlikable hero is the kiss of death to a novel. Further, if you incorporate too many secondary characters, they can confuse and overpower the reader and produce the same result as the unsympathetic hero.

To keep the number and roles of your secondary characters in check, you can assign all of your characters to one of three levels of importance.

Primary Characters: Hero, Villain, Sidekick

Secondary Characters: Any necessary support character to move the story toward its conclusion

Fringe Characters: There for setting or imagery, walk-ons, if you will.

How do you decide which characters to include? Remember, your story is about your hero, not the secondary characters, so only include those who might affect the core beliefs, attitudes or goals of your major characters. Not counting your fringe characters, a rule of thumb for a four hundred page novel suggests you might have three main characters and four to six secondary characters.

So, once you’ve decided upon your secondary characters, how might you bring those guys to life so they enhance your novel?

You might give them a “story” of their own. By this I mean have them in some sort of minor crisis when they enter your novel. For example, they might be “in a mood” when your hero meets them. Of course your reader will never learn what the secondary character’s story is or why he’s in the mood he’s in. Your reader might simply find them more interesting and memorable if you have the secondary character come into the novel with something going on in his life. Though he’s not a minor character, think the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland.” From the first moment you see him, he’s in a hurry and is, therefore, more interesting.

You can also use props to make them more memorable. Just introduce their prop before they come into the novel. Does your secondary character use a cane? Have the hero comment on it’s interesting carvings before we meet the guy who uses it. The use of props is a proven technique to introduce and improve your secondary characters.

Another option is to give them a frailty, but make it something normal. If we revert to our guy with the cane, maybe he suffers from arthritis. This gives your reader a hook on which to hang their impressions of this character.

One last tip on how to make a secondary character interesting to your readers. Make him an eccentric. This always latches on to readers’ imaginations. Just be sure you have only one eccentric per novel, okay?

The secret to secondary characters is, of course, to insure they do not upstage your major characters. Just keep in mind they are there to enhance and not overshadow your lead characters. Keep them in their correct categories and you’ll do all right.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


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How to Clarify Your Novel Writing

In Editing Your Manuscript, How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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The essence of good writing is found not in the elegance of the writing but rather in the clarity of the writing. And clarity may have a purpose which you’ve not considered. Not only does it influence how those who read your novel understand and enjoy it, but clarity in writing can even have an effect upon your search engine rank. If your context and spelling are inadequate, your SEO may suffer. Who knew our seventh grade English teachers understood more than we realized?

Allow me to identify some of more onerous of the many clarity in writing issues.

The Dangling Particle: Remember that one from middle school English class? Until I began my research for this article, I could not remember what that thing was. A dp, as it’s known, occurs when an verb and noun are linked together in an incorrect manner. As you can see from the following example, there is no noun for the verb “run,” so it sounds as if that verb is associated with the rain.

Trying to run the race, the rain began to fall in heavy sheets.

Incorrect Pronoun Reference: This can happen when a writer uses a pronoun to refer to another word but does make clear to which word, or antecedent, it relates. The example that follows is unclear as to whether the teenagers resented the store or loiters.

The store prohibited loiters, which many teenagers resented.

A Comma Splice: This is when a writer connects two separate clauses with a comma. To fix this, you should insert a period or connect the clauses with a word such as “and” or “because.” You may also have to restructure both sentences. Your example of an incorrect splice follows.

I fell in love with her, she carries herself with such grace.

Comma Usage in a Series: When you have three or more items in a series, you should use a comma between each one, even before the “and.” You may wish to note this differs in journalistic writing where they use one less comma. Your correct example:

Bring the lantern, tent, and sleeping bag.

Tense Errors: This occurs when you do not indicate with clarity when an action took place. The example below is nebulous as to when the event actually happened, for we cannot tell if John left before Susanne arrived or when she arrived or even afterward. To correct this you’d rewrite the sentence or insert the word, “had,” after, “John.”

Susanne arrived, but John left.

Homonyms: Homonyms are words that sound alike but mean different things. The problem, of course, is your spellchecker won’t catch them. You have to read each word of your novel, aloud, to insure you catch these things. Here are your examples:

Read vs. reed

Write vs. right

To vs. too

Hear vs. here

Missing Words: As before, there’s not much you can do about this except read your novel aloud, word by word. Is this example correct or incorrect?

Why do you say we to the moves this evening?

Alright vs All Right. There is no, “alright,” in formal writing, all right? Over time, the word “alright” has become acceptable in informal writing, but it is still considered incorrect in novel writing.

The Ellipsis: The ellipsis is that symbol made up of three periods in a row. In writing, it means words are missing and it’s most common usage is in quotes. It also represents a thought that is incomplete, a pause in speech, or a sentence that fades into silence. You should be cautious when you use it in your novel, however. Should you use this punctuation mark too often it soon overpowers the page and makes for difficult reading. Consider using character actions to indicate incomplete thoughts and statements, rather than the ellipse.

Today I’ll end with the famous “ie” vs “ei” issue. The rule we all learned in grammar class still holds true today. “I” before “e” except after “c.” Works every time, guys.

The clarity of your writing can be of utmost consequence to your writing success. The acceptance of your novel and even your search engine optimization may well hinge upon it. Do you need to spend some time and study your grammar once again?

So, what common writing errors do you find and how have you learned to overcome them?

Until we speak again, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”

How to Get Your Self-Published Novel Reviewed

In General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 16, 2010 at 8:13 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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If you’ve decided to self-publish, you already realize every aspect of marketing your novel falls in your lap. And within the marketing arena, one of the most difficult things to accomplish is to have your self-published novel reviewed.  In this blog post, I’ll offer some tips on how to get your self-published novel reviewed and hope you find some that’ll work for you.

First, you need your marketing  pack, a sales tool all authors need. Your pack should include those same things a traditionally published author uses: a marketing post card, a professional head shot and letterhead for your author’s bio, information about your novel and blurbs. VistaPrint, among other shops, can do the printing of your marketing pieces. You’ll want to seek at least fifty reviews, so have that many packets on hand.

You want to have this material ready three to four months ahead of your pub date as that is when you’ll ask for your novel reviews. This means, of course, your book will not yet be published when you seek your reviews though you must have your completed novel in hand.

Okay, you’ve got your completed manuscript in hand and all marketing materials ready. Now, where do you get these coveted reviews?

Consider these sources:

Other authors in your genre

Organizations that relate to your novel

Bloggers Book review websites

Every major newspaper, especially your local rags

And of course, Amazon.com

While performing my research for this article, I found a number of websites that have self-published novel review sections. Take a look at:

Simegen

MidwestBookReview.com

BookReview.com

Midwest Book Review

Foreword Magazine

Reader Views

January Magazine

Critique Magazine

All Readers

The Compulsive Reader

Front Street Reviews

Self Published Authors

Book Ideas

Overbooked

Club Reading

Rebecca’s Reads

Breeni Books

All Book Reviews

Authors Den

TCM Reviews

American Book Review

Book Pleasures

Curled Up with a Good Book

Here are a couple of secrets to know when you contact these people or organizations. You should consider them individually in lieu of mass mailing to everyone. Many will have specific requirements you must follow for consideration and it’s in your best interest to follow those directions. Another secret is to seek out niche reviewers. They may have influence over those people who might have the most interest in your novel. And finally, I’m certain there’s no need to remind you that basic courtesy goes a long way when asking for reviews.

Now for a few more sites that may have more information on the subject.

Self Publishing Magazine

Indiebound.org

Self Publishing Review

By the way, here’s a link I found that tells you have to get your self-published novel into Barnes and Noble. http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/how_to_get_your_self.htm

I hope you found something here to help you get your self-published book reviewed. If so, maybe it’ll help you achieved that best-seller status I wish for each of you.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”


Platforms—Why They’re Important and How to Develop One

In blogging, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Why is building a platform important, even if you’re an unpublished writer? Besides the future promotional benefits, you also develop the discipline of writing (sometimes daily) for a responsive audience of readers. Writing interesting content daily is wonderful practice. And having an established online community that you’ll later be able to promote to is always a plus for a publisher.

Some things to consider when building your platform:

Do

Do use your blog as a way to practice writing regularly. Try to post on a regular schedule, even if it’s just twice a week. If you feel more comfortable having a buffer between you and the demands of your blog, consider building up several weeks’ worth of posts before you even launch your blog. But—continue writing posts as much as possible to keep that buffer up.

Do make blogging friends and network. You really only need one active blog to follow to get you started. This could be a blog in your genre or just a general writing blog. Active blogs usually have healthy blog rolls in their sidebar. Start clicking on blogs. Each of those blogs will also usually have a blog roll in their sidebar, too. In addition, when you add a blog’s RSS feed to your blog reader (e.g., Google Reader), when you click on “folder settings,” Google will recommend blogs that are similar in content to the one you’re adding to your reader (“More Like This”). That’s another great way to discover new blogs in your niche. The next step is commenting on blogs and developing a network, really more of a community. That step is extremely important to finding a readership for your blog.

Do consider Twitter and/or Facebook. Both are excellent ways to network online with other writers and industry professionals. You’ll learn a lot, discover resources that can help you with your writing, and network with other writers. Writing can be lonely and finding friends online is a tremendous help.

Do make sure your blog, Facebook, and Twitter presence is professional-looking. Professional doesn’t mean it has to be created by a web-designer—just that it’s carefully edited for typos or grammatical errors and that it has your contact information readily available. Plus…consider the content you’re putting on your blog and how it might look to an agent or editor.

Don’t

Publish manuscript excerpts on your blog. Many publishers and reviewers will consider your manuscript published if it’s appeared online.

Overpromote yourself. It’s much more effective to take a soft-sell approach when getting followers for your blog or (later) when promoting your book. Instead, look for ideas or resources that you can share with other writers. Try to contribute something of value to the community.

Hound agents or editors via social media about your query or submission. It’s not a good way to make friends.

With blogging, I’ve gotten ideas from other writers on plotting and character problems. I’ve developed friendships and readers—for my blog and my books. I’ve exchanged resources that help me with my writing. I’ve analyzed my approach to writing, which has helped me write other books. I’ve also known a couple of bloggers who found literary agents through their blogs—obviously a more tangible benefit to blogging.

Is platform building hard work? It is. But the rewards are worth it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com
http://elizabethspanncraig.com

Elizabeth Spann Craig writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and is writing the upcoming Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime as Riley Adams. Like her characters, her roots are in the South. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as room mom and Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives car pools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.

How to Promote Your Writing with Technology

In General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 14, 2010 at 7:55 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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The world of writing is about to roll over in the grave it doesn’t know it’s in yet. The writing industry is on fire and undergoing cataclysmic alterations to its landscape due to the advancement of technology. And everyone involved with writing, agents, publishers, book stores, readers and those who do the writing, are caught up in this technological conflagration. It is my opinion the landscape that emerges from this titanic struggle will look very different than the one with which we are now familiar. The industry will survive, no doubt, but in a vastly altered state from the one we see today. As to those who do the writing, I believe they will become business people who write, rather than writers who do business. In fact, this alteration has already begun in earnest as even traditionally published authors are now required to do their own marketing.

With this in mind, it becomes evident writers should embrace this technology if they wish to enhance their marketing efforts. Here’s some thoughts I garnered on how to do that.

As a writer, you should consider using podcasting and videocasting to promote your novel. Even Simon & Schuster acknowledged this was necessary. Here’s why.

First and foremost, people spend a lot of their time on the Internet which is already transportable. Even more, the future of the Internet is video. In fact, video search is growing in popularity at an astonishing speed.

If you’ve paid attention to how to market books in today’s environment, you know the new attitude toward sales is all about the human connection. This link builds trust between people and trust is a critical element in marketing. With this in mind, video is about as personal as we can get without being there.

The best aspect of video is it’s demographics. From Elites TV, you’ll find video demographics are “53% male/47% female. 55% urban with median income of $74K. Nearly 70 percent are college educated, 47% are married, median age is 33, 71 percent are employed.” Pretty strong marketing core, wouldn’t you say? And best of all, these are the people who buy the books.

Would you like one more reason to get into video casting? Few authors do it. That leaves you with a larger piece of that pie. Keep in mind as the younger writers among us come up, they’ll use video and leave those who don’t in the dust.

How do you get involved with videocasting? It’s simple, really. Pick up a video camera at your favorite electronics outlet then talk into it and upload it to YouTube. After that, promote the hell out of it. Check out Gideon Shalwick’s article GetYourVideoOnline.com for more information.

An offshoot to video is a book trailer. Joanna Penn of TheCreativePenn.com has a nice article on how to create your book trailer at Book trailers: 11 steps to make your own.

Next, you should consider podcasting as a marketing tool. Podcasting is about as easy a thing as there is to do. You download free recording software from Audacity, pick up a microphone and start talking.

Why podcast? Well, with the advent of the IPod and its multitude of copycats, your audience can take you with them anywhere they go. It’s free and the spoken word has a great deal of impact. However, one of its most important features is it makes you read your work aloud. This technique has magnificent powers of influence over your writing. I can almost guarantee your writing will improve by the simple act of podcasting. To get an idea of how this translates into real life, check out BlogTalkRadio.

I have one last comment for you on book marketing in this gilded age of the Internet. Check out this information from Joanna Penn for even more help. After all, much of my research for this article came from her.

Oops, I have one more one last comment. Fortune favors the bold, my friends. Be bold and embrace the technologies of writing and your writing career has a better chance for success. Until we meet again, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”