This Business of Writing

Archive for the ‘General Information’ Category

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


Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

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.”


Advertisements

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

Bookmark and Share


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”


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

Listen to a PODCAST of this Article.

Bookmark and Share

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.”


Why I Will Self-Publish – Probably.

In General Information, Marketing Your Book, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on April 7, 2010 at 7:04 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Bookmark and Share


I’m about to finalize my decision as to how I am will sell my emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.” With that in mind, I must soon decide if I am to self-publish and endure all that entails or face the gauntlet of the publishing industry and all the rest that comes with that. (We have not chosen an easy industry, have we folks?

I see advantages with either scenario and I also see drawbacks with both. However, the more educated I become on the subject, the more it seems it is in my best interest is to go it alone. Here’s my train of thought. Please so advise if you disagree. I am open to an honest discussion on the matter.

Agents:

I like the idea of an agent who represents me and feel I have the capability to find a quality agent. That part doesn’t concern me. I really don’t like the process of how they choose the writers they represent. No, I agree with the query process. After all, even writers need a resume. What tweaks my cheeks is their query restrictions. One minor, unintended error that has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and you’re only opportunity to have them read your resume is lost. Don’t get me wrong, they have to do this. I understand and even agree. I just don’t like it. I also consider how once I find the proper agent for me, will I be the proper author for them? The odds are quite limited. Why hang my future on such low odds when I have other options? However, the real rub? After I’m through with the exhaustive experience of agenting, then I have to deal with the pub houses.

Publishing Houses:

Publishing houses do ease, though not guarantee, entry into the brick and mortars, which are the premier distribution channel for the writing industry – for now. However, distribution is their only remaining asset of any real worth and with the explosion of technology, I see their grip on distribution slip with each day that passes. In fact, I believe the Internet is about to leave them in the dust and take over their monopoly with distribution. Amazon, a technology company, even affects their sales model. That’s not a sign that instills confidence in me relative to their strength or ever their stability within the writing world.

Another major issue I have with pub houses is they’ll hire some salesman who MAY give my book a ten second pitch. If he wants to. Honestly? I want that salesman to answer to me, not some conglomerate who sees me not as a customer but as a product. Again, I understand and have no solution for them, I just don’t like the system.

Further, there’s almost no chance for an advance, which means I work on commission – a commission based not on my productivity but some unknown salesman’s capability. Now, I’ve worked on commission before and made a bunch of money doing it. But I either held the salesman’s position or the salesman worked directly for me. Under their arrangement, I’ll most likely never even meet this person, let alone develop a relationship with him. And yet, my career hinges on his efforts. It’s a scary thought to someone like me who has always pulled up his own boots.

The pub houses will not assist with marketing, so that effort and expense lies with me regardless.

The pub houses sometimes offer editing services, but even that benefit is dying. Plus, I can purchase that service on the open market and have a say in whom I hire. They do have book cover design services and that’s nice, but I give up all control over how they present what, in the final analysis, is my work. Further, I can purchase that service on the outside at a reasonable price and maintain total control.

Something else of which I do not approve? The publishing industry is absolutely subjective and good novels are lost all the time to this limiting aspect. Again, I do understand and it can be no other way, but that also dilutes my potential to a great degree. Again, I could lose not on my abilities, but on a stranger’s tastes or even their emotions of the moment.

This whole process just does not send that proverbial tingle up my leg.

So as I see it, to work with a major pub house, I give up a huge portion of my potential profits in exchange for little more than a diminished distribution system based primarily upon old technology? Hum…

Self-Publishing:

I do have one advantage most writers do not. I’ve owned and operated my own businesses since the days of paper boys with bicycles. I’m experienced with going it alone and I’m comfortable with the idea. I will admit this aspect of who I am influences me a great deal.

The major drawback to self-publishing? All the issues rest with me. I don’t worry too much as I’ve been a business decision maker my entire adult life, so making these kind of judgments are sort of par for the course.

Cost. It’s a big issue. However, it won’t break the bank, so it’s not too large of an issue. Besides, my wife is on board, so the real hurdle is already crossed.

Marketing. This is a major issue with those who self-publish and beyond the well-written novel itself, it’s the meat and potatoes of success. However, I’ve been self-employed and marketing since I my tenth birthday. Though the cost of it is a consideration, the Internet has supplanted much of that cost. I can work up copy, build web sites, use social networking and all the rest. I’ve even got contacts.

Product: I do believe I’ve got my breakout novel in hand and am convinced my novel will sell with correct marketing. It’s a great story and the narrative is well written and well edited. In fact, I dare say it’s better than most books the pub houses crank out. I know… I know… we all feel that way about our babies, but I’ve written two stinkers, so I’ve got somewhat of a handle on good vs. bad. This one is good.

Publishers: I’m not too worried about that. I’m good enough at research and I’ll find a good print shop with benefits, which is really all they are. I used to own a wholesale print shop, so I have a feel for what to look for.

Editing: I’ve got a relationship with an excellent editor who is reasonably priced and brutally honest with me. Besides, I’ve grown into a pretty good editor myself over the years.

Book Cover Design: Graphic artists are everywhere and some are even reasonably priced. Besides, I’ve got some great ideas and I’d like to see them fleshed out.

Distribution. Now here’s the other of the three big issues which also included cost and marketing. Again, I’ll forgo the brick and mortars for the Internet any day. The B & M’s are a dying breed and the Internet allows me to get my marketing message into almost every home in the English-speaking world. I’ll have a worldwide market, which includes their customers. So again, marketing is the secret to distribution. By the way, have you noticed the B & M’s now sell the very products that will either kill their business model or force them to become something other than a book store? “Here’s yer sign.”

Profit potential? I’ve worked up a business plan and feel I’m actually ahead with self-publishing. Especially when you consider the digital end of things. I’ll not have the overhead the pub houses do so my business plan gives me an huge edge when I keep all the profits rather than some small percentage. I retired from the business of coaching other businesspeople and did so for many years. I have confidence in my plan.

So, that’s my way of thinking on this important writing decision. I challenge you to show me where I’m wrong.

In the mean time, how ‘bout some referrals to self-pub houses that have impressed you?

Thanks for your help.

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


15 Tips for Character Names in Novels

In General Information, How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

Bookmark and Share


Here’s an interesting tidbit I picked up at a writers’ conference some years ago. The most important word in our language is your first name. The second most important word, some say is, “free,” though I believe it’s, “no.” Regardless, think of how you feel when you meet someone for the second time and they say, “Oh! Hi, uh, you. Nice to see, uh, you again.” Now, how might you feel if they insert your name into that same greeting? “Oh! Hi, Patrick. Nice to see you again.” Our names carry so much power within them, and so to do the names of your novel’s characters.

Names are as important as any other word in your novel for they can bind your reader to the character and the story. With that in mind, here are some tips to assist you with your character names.

Serendipity is your friend. If a name works, well, it works. Trust your intuition.

If you’d like, you can name your characters for what they represent. “Butch” the butcher? Maybe, but be smart about it and don’t overdo.

Find a book of names and consider the symbolism within the name. Though I hope I never meet the nun named Chastity.

It’s probably best to use one or two syllables for a man’s name. On occasion, woman can get away with more. Generally, it’s best to keep them simple. Why? Because nobody wants to keep reading names like Bilbonicofillia.

You might want to use only one exotic name per novel, if that. They get real weird real fast.

Try to find names that roll off the tongue.

You might consider a character’s name a snapshot of their personality or possibly even their purpose within your novel. For example, you might not name your murderer Sally Jones but Sal “The Blade” Jones might work just fine.

Remember there were no surnames prior to the 12th Century. After that, people were named for their place of birth. Remember Joan of Arc or Leonardo de Vinci – of Venice? After too many women with the name Joan inhabited Arc, they began to name people after their professions, which is the point of origin for many contemporary surnames. Some examples include Smith from black or white smithing, Felling after a tree cutter and even my name, Schulze, which means cop or judge in medieval German.

Insure your character’s name is appropriate for your setting, the time and place of your story. There are ample websites to help you here. In my case, I write historical fiction set in the mid 19th century. So, I walk Civil War cemeteries and take names from the headstones. Talk about accuracy! I combine the first name from one marker and the last from another. Works every time. By the way, here’s a site that’ll help. www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames.

I recommend you stay away from cute. How many Bambi’s have you really met?

Consider if you might shy away from character names with similar letters and spellings. If two characters have similar names, Tom and Thom, for example, readers can lose track quite easily.

Avoid Alliteration. At least use it with care. It too, can have a negative effect on readers. Can it work? Of course. Bilbo Baggins is a great example.

Don’t name fictional characters after famous people. Tom and Jerry will simply give your readers the wrong hook.

You might wish to stay away from names that end in “s.” Erasmus’s sour samples… See my point?

Here’s one you’ll thank me for one day. Keep a file of names you run across that strike you.

How can you be sure if you’ve chosen the correct name for a character? You might try this. Say your character’s name as if you spoke to him first in jest, then anger and then as one in love. Does the name work in each of these situations? If so, you’ve most likely named them well.

Would you care to tell us how you choose your characters’ names? I’ll share them with everyone if you pass them along.

Whether you do or not, I hope by now you know I wish you only best-sellers.

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