Monday, February 13, 2017

Pros, Cons, and Tips for Writing a Novel Series

Today’s guest is award-winning author Deb Raney. We will be giving away a free copy of her newest release, Home At Last, so be sure to leave a comment for her below. The winner will be announced the week of February 27th, so check back to see if that’s you. J


By Deb Raney

I recently finished writing the fifth and final book in the Chicory Inn Novels series, and am now working on the first book in a new series. Having written mostly stand-alone novels for most of my writing career, this has been an interesting experience and one I’ve learned so much from. First let’s look at the pros and cons of series books.

PROS:
• Once you’ve created your setting and any recurring characters, half your work for subsequent books in the series is done! 
• If you’re an author who grows very attached to your characters and has a hard time saying “goodbye,” a series lets you stick around a while.
• Series let you develop characters more deeply and over a longer period of time than the average stand-alone.
• Readers love series (although be aware that some readers wait until an entire series is out before they start reading—or buying—the books).

CONS:
• If you grow bored working with the same setting or characters, you might feel stuck long before your contract is fulfilled.
• If the first book of a series bombs, it can create a dilemma about how to proceed.
• With shrinking space on the bookshelf, bookstores often carry only an author’s newest book. This can make it difficult for customers to find an entire series at once. (Of course, they can always order online.)
• Committing to a series is committing to one publisher for a long period of time. You risk cancellation if an imprint closes, or a publishing house dissolves.
• If you write contemporary, it can be difficult to keep up with technology. The iPad your character used in Book One might be obsolete by the time you get to Book Five.

Here are some things I’ve learned through the writing of two two-book series, two three-book series, and my most recent five-book series that I’d like to pass along to anyone who might be considering proposing or writing a series.

TIPS:

• Be sure you have enough material for the number of books you’ve planned. It’s not unusual to have a grand, high-concept idea for Book One that fizzles out long before you reach Book Five.
• Consider making each book of the series a stand-alone that concludes sufficiently so that readers won’t be disappointed if they read Book Three first, or if they don’t like the series well enough to continue after a book or two. Readers are sometimes disgruntled if they invest time in Book One and then find they must read future books to discover the main characters’ happy ending.
• The books of a series might tie together in theme (weddings, royal families, stories of hope, etc.) and setting (each book is about a different character in the same small town, etc.) rather than being a continuation of the stories of one or two characters. (But realize that such a loose tie negates some of the pros mentioned above.)
• Create a “bible” with all the details of your characters, setting, and storylines. You might think you’ll remember, but trust me, you won’t.
• Keep an updated, ongoing timeline for each book and for the entire series. Readers have sharp eyes when it comes to inconsistencies.
• Before you start, research what series are already being published, and work hard to make your series unique.
• Most publishers will want you to have an official series name that will likely appear on the book covers. Often this series title will hint at the setting or the theme of the series. It’s also helpful if individual titles in the series fit together well. (Think of Karen Kingsbury’s series where all the titles begin with the same letter of the alphabet. In my Chicory Inn series, each of the five titles has the word HOME in it, which also echoes a main theme of each book.)
• I’ve found it very helpful to have photo reference for the setting, each character, the homes where many scenes take place, etc. I use Pinterest and Scrivener to make “idea boards” with all those images. I also set my desktop with those inspiration photos so that I’m constantly, visually seeing my characters and setting.
• Consider creating a music soundtrack for your series. Music can be a powerful, positive trigger for getting you in the zone for writing about a specific setting or set of characters. I’ve done the same thing with scented candles, snacks, and even flowers, etc., surrounding myself with things that call to mind my story and help me go deep into my story world.
• Enjoy the privilege of living with beloved characters for longer than the time it takes to write just one book. It’s a pleasure to write “the end” knowing it’s really only the beginning of a new book with the same wonderful setting and/or cast of characters. (But prepare for the final goodbyes to be even more difficult than usual after you’ve lived with your characters for so long.)

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and Deb Raney.)

TWEETABLE


DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years and more than thirty books later, she's still writing. She and her husband traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deb’s novels—for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Why Does It Take So Long to Get Published?

By Andrea Merrell

You’ve finally made. You went to writers’ conferences, practiced, pitched, and submitted. You put in the work, and it paid off—you have a contract on your book.

Congratulations. Now you can sit back, put your feet up, and relax.

Not a chance.

Yes, you’ve worked hard getting your manuscript ready for publication, but your journey is just beginning.

I’ve been asked numerous times why it takes so long for a book to be published after a contract is signed. It’s possible for a book to be ready to launch within six to eight months, but most books take at least a year. Sounds like a long time, but there’s a lot involved in the process. 

The details will differ from one publishing house to another, but this will give you a general idea what happens once you sign a contract:

  • Your manuscript is added to the publisher’s master schedule and assigned to an editor.
  • Your editor will go through your manuscript and make corrections using comments and track changes.
  • Once your editor finishes, the manuscript comes back to you to accept or reject changes, as well any required rewriting.
  • The manuscript goes back to the editor for a second round of edits.
  • Once the author and editor sign off on the edits, the manuscript goes to a proofreader, then back to the editor. The initial editing process (including notes for the author,  e-mails, and phone calls) can take up to three months, sometimes longer.
  • The manuscript is now sent to design where your Word doc is converted to a PDF. At this point, everything needs to be included (endorsements, dedication, acknowledgements, endnotes, etc.).
  • The PDF is sent to the author and editor for proofing (typos, formatting, paragraphs run together, etc.). It is also sent to a set of beta readers.
  • The PDF is now ready to be converted to a Mobi file (for Kindle books and e-readers) and a print copy.
  • The print copy is assigned to another proofreader, and the corrections come back to the original editor.
  • The book cover is created, along with the author’s photo, bio, and back cover blurb. This also has to be proofed and edited.
  • The first marketing stages begin.


Factor in delays in any of these steps (which happen on a regular basis), and you can see why you have to wait patiently for your release date.

But there’s so much for you to do in the meantime. In my next post (February 27), we’ll talk about all the important steps you need to take while waiting.

What has your experience been with the publishing process? If you have tips to share, we’d love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Master Isolated Images and Stuart Miles.) 

TWEETABLE

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why Bloggers Should Use Pinterest

By Lori Hatcher

When I needed decorating ideas for my daughter’s baby shower, I went to Pinterest. When I searched for a recipe for a French toast casserole, I went to Pinterest. When I lost the directions for how to make reindeer Christmas tree ornaments, I went to Pinterest.

As the fastest growing social media site, Pinterest has become the go-to place for information. But is it also a valuable platform for writers? I say YES.

Today I’d like to build a case for why writers, especially bloggers, should use Pinterest. I’ll share some stats, then tell you about my personal Pinterest experience
                                                                                                              
Digital Marketing Research website reveals that 72.8 million people use Pinterest. Eighty-five percent of them are women, and an estimated 42 percent of online adult women use Pinterest.

Did you catch that last statistic? Almost half of online adult women use Pinterest.

If someone offered you a marketing strategy to reach half the online women in America, and all it cost was some time and creativity, how quickly would you say YES? Well here you go—my gift to you.

In the summer of 2014, thanks to the encouragement of a kind and successful fellow blogger, I took the Pinterest plunge. Although my efforts were rudimentary and somewhat haphazard, I saw a 33 percent increase in my page views in the first month. Even more important, I gained dozens of new subscribers.

In the two years since, I’ve had several months with 100 percent increases in page views and have almost quadrupled my subscriber base. Pinterest has been the single most effective strategy I’ve employed for growing my blog and sharing the words God gives me.

Another powerful reason for directing your time and creative talents toward Pinterest is its sustainability. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest images (with links to your blog posts) have an amazing lifespan. Social Marketing Writing website states, “The half-life of a Pinterest pin is 3.5 months. i.e. it takes a pin 3.5 months to get 50% of its engagement. The half-life of a tweet is only 24 minutes and the half-life of a Facebook post is only 90 minutes. This means that the half-life of a Pinterest pin is 1,680 times longer than a Facebook post.”

These statistics show that if you create a pin that catches people’s attention, it can linger, growing in the blogosphere for months or even years, continuing to reach more and more people with little or no ongoing effort on your part.

I’ve experienced this amazing phenomenon. Twice a week I create pinnable images for one of my blog posts. I share the images on Facebook and Pinterest. Two years ago, I shared an image from my post called “How To Know It’s God Speaking to You.” It received 15 likes on Facebook and four people shared it. Six people clicked through to read the blog post.

I pinned a similar image on Pinterest and shared it on several group boards. As of January 31, 2017, Pinterest users have repinned that pin more than 144,000 times. One hundred and four thousand (104,000) readers have clicked through to read the corresponding blog post. Because of Pinterest, this post continues to receive the most page views of all the posts on my blog almost every single day—two years after I pinned it.

I hope I’ve convinced you to take a serious look at Pinterest as a way to promote your blog and get your message out. It could be a serious game changer.

Do you have a comment about how Pinterest has helped you with your writing platform? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Pinterest.com and Lori Hatcher.)

TWEETABLES


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and  Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


Monday, January 23, 2017

Don't Be an Almoster

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about setting small, bite-sized goals that we want to accomplish this year. Last week, Cindy Sproles reminded us to complete the writing we set out to do: “Laying it to the side for when you think the time is right, does not ingrain integrity or the success of completing a task. Finish the work, even if it’s tiny bits at a time.

To help with this concept, allow me to share a tip I learned years ago. While once applied only to household tasks, this little tidbit now helps me with my daily writing and editing.

“Don’t be an almoster!” The lady who made this emphatic statement looked at each person in the room as if she'd been peeking in our windows. Then she added, “Pick it up—don’t pass it up.” When she elaborated on her points, I had to admit the truth: I can easily be an almoster (and a procrastinator).

When cleaning house, doing laundry, and attending to everyday chores, my tendency is to go into a room to put something away, spot another task begging to be done, and abandon my initial project (or even forget the reason I came into the room in the first place). This can happen several times throughout the day.

The result? I’m almost finished with the laundry … almost finished vacuuming … almost finished paying the bills … Besides, I’ve passed by a variety of objects, promising myself to pick them up the next time around.

Do you get the picture? Can you relate?

Even though I learned this principle over thirty years ago, it's always stayed with me. Now, I find myself applying it to my life as a writer and editor.

There are many reasons we don’t complete our projects: time, illness, stress, family obligations, distractions … life. But sometimes it's simply because we try to multi-task and flit from one thing to another. This can mean we’re almost finished with next week’s blog post, almost finished with the article that’s due in a couple of days, and almost finished with our most current novel. 

Almost … but not quite.

If you find you’re always busy but not accomplishing your goals, try setting aside some quality time—even it's only fifteen minutes—to focus on one task. The next time you sit down, go back and finish that one task before you move to another. Give it your full attention. Don’t check your e-mail, Tweet, or visit your Facebook page until you finish. Concentrate and get the job done. You can derive a lot of satisfaction crossing an item off your to-do list.

I once heard a teaching on the “tyranny of the urgent.” We could call it the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Sometimes the urgent screams for our immediate attention and causes us to lose sight of all the important matters we need to attend to. When we have a full plate, we need to take the time to prioritize. There will always be tasks we enjoy more than others, but when we consistently put them first, the others get pushed to the back of the shelf.

This year, I challenge you (as well as myself) to complete that special project you've been putting off. Finish your novel. Read the book that’s been lying on your nightstand. Send that e-mail or thank-you card (the one that's way overdue). Make that phone call you’ve been putting off. Update your blog or website. Get involved in a critique group. Start putting money aside for a writers' conference. You'll be so glad you did.

What's the one thing you’re almost finished with that needs to be completed? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

TWEETABLE





Monday, January 16, 2017

17 Achievable Goals for Writers for 2017

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

It's a new year, and we've all got personal goals we'd love to meet before December suddenly shows up again.

One thing I've had to consider this year is whether or not my goals are reasonable. I've also asked myself if I can really meet those goals or if I'm setting myself up for failure. I tend to give myself bigger goals than I can accomplish. Maybe it's because if I set high expectations for myself, I know I can achieve at least half of what I want to. Maybe if I don't, I won't even achieve the middle ground. And that, for me, would be true failure.

But not all goals have to be physically tangible. Because honestly, not everything in life needs to be about how much we put in our bank account this year or how many books we can pick up and read or how many people we added to our social media networks. Sure, these things can be important, but they aren't the end all. None of these are things we can take with us when we leave this earth.

So in setting my writing goals for 2017 - and considering every aspect of a writing career - here are 17 goals we could all aim for:

1.  Put God first in all that I do. Including my writing career.

2. Tithe 10 percent of my writing income. Giving God my first fruits honors Him.

3. Read at least one book per month.
I've committed to trying to read 40 books this year. GoodReads  is tracking this goal for me.

4. Put my butt in my chair on a daily basis and write for at least 15 minutes or write at least 500 words.
This should be very doable. Especially if I blog consistently. I really want to make it a habit to do this with novel writing this year.

5. Attend critique group once per month.
I attend a critique group once a week. I make it at least twice per month. I also have another group I attend once per month.

6. Follow 5 blogs and leave a comment on each at least once a week.

7. Find 3 new people to follow on Twitter each week. (That's 156 new people this year.)

8. Encourage writer friends and acquaintances as I see their Facebook and Twitter posts by responding to the post with more than just a thumbs up or sad face.

9. Attend one conference this year.

10. Meet three new people at every conference I attend, and keep up with at least one of them.

11. Find a Bible verse to apply to my writing career this year.
Mine is Proverbs 10:21: The words of the godly encourage many. (NLT)

12. Create a vision board. This is as simple as putting a bulletin board over your writing space and filling it with things that pertain to what you're writing, what you'd like to do or buy when you obtain income from that writing, etc.

13. Pour into another writer. It's a huge blessing to have a mentor. If you've been writing for a while, you have something you can pass on to newer writers.

14. Try something new. A new craft. Hobby. Style of writing. Genre. Writing poetry. Something new.

15. Get up and exercise every hour. Hold a plank for a minute. Take a walk at lunchtime. Get off the chair and move. Burn some calories.

16.  Send a gift to someone. Or bring a gift to someone. People still enjoy getting physical mail. Especially if it isn't a bill.

17. Complete that manuscript. After all, that's the goal, isn't it?

What goal would you add? We'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Tweetables:

17 Achievable Goals for Writers for 2017 {Click to Tweet}

What's your writing goal for 2017? @AlyciaMorales shares 17 achievable goals. {Click to Tweet}