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I’m probably going to be stoned for saying this, but I hate the 3-Act structure, and sometimes wonder why we writers are so hooked on using it.

This doesn’t mean a writer is free to just type away without any structure in place, because they do… But, the 3-Act structure? Really?

Talk to any screenwriter and they will tell you how important the 3-Act (or sometimes 6-Act) structure is. Same goes for theatres, which is really where the 3-Act structure was born. However, doesn’t an ‘act’ just serve as a pre-commercial cliff-hanger? And seeing as novels don’t have commercials, do we really need to use the 3-Act structure? And I’m not alone in this reasoning. Raindance and James Bonnet agree.

Now, before you all start screaming that books have chapters, which kind of serves as a commercial break. I agree. Totally. One hundred per cent. Every chapter should end with some element of a hook to make your reader keep reading… So put down those torches. I don’t need to be burned at the stake just yet.

So before I find myself declared a witch, and tied to a piece of wood centre of a bonfire, let’s break this down.

Below is a graph of how the 3-Act structure is declared to work.

Picture1

ACT ONE = Set Up

This act serves as a platform for you to introduce your characters.

Normal World – This is where you set everything up.

Inciting Incident – Something has to happen that forces the protagonist to change their normal day-to-day routine. This is where the story starts. Now the protagonist has a goal.

Obstacle – The first obstacle (or plot point one) occurs and throws your protagonist into turmoil.

ACT TWO = Confrontation

Obstacle, Obstacle, Obstacle – Your protagonist will hit problem after problem, which inevitably stops them from reaching their goal, and gives them a fight on their hands.

Midway Point – Gives the illusion that the Protagonist is close to achieving their goal.

Darkest Moment – This is where everything goes wrong. The Protagonist is at their lowest point and is ready to throw in the towel. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.

ACT THREE – Resolution

Big Bad Battle – The Protagonist comes back (sometimes from the dead), and ultimately has to fight the baddie for survival.

Climax – The Protagonist wins the battle, or if you’re in a Nicholas Sparks story, they die.

Conclusion – Things calm down, and normality ensues.

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Now, the reason I do not necessarily like all this 3-Act structure malarkey, is because it’s so damn confusing. The rules change depending on which website you read. Where one site adamantly spews that all your characters have to be introduced in Act One, and that the midway point actually means the lowest point; another site will report that Act Two is where you introduce the mentors and love interests, and the lowest point happens a smidgen before Act 3 begins. It’s enough to drive even the most sane writers crazy. One thing I have found that’s 90% consistent is the allowance for each Act. Act One, or the set up of you story, is usually given a quarter of your book. Act Two gets a whopping fifty per cent to fill with confrontation, and Act Three needs only a quarter to show the conclusion.

However, I DO agree that there is a formula to story writing. And I also agree that any ‘normal world’ belongs firmly at the beginning, and the conclusion’s place is most definitely at the end. That’s the way ‘life’ actually happens. The day begins like any other, then a dollop of a problem lands on your doorstep, which changes the course of your day, if only for an hour or so, and no matter how hard you try and overcome it, more problems pile up around it until you just feel like throwing in the towel. Ultimately, though, we always fight through, and win.

I’m not saying the 3-Act Structure doesn’t use this formula, because it does. I just find it too restricting, and any new writer looking to learn this craft, although getting a gist of the information, has one hell of task on their hands as the information out there is so conflicting – yes, I even found one that compares the structure to a shark.

My advice, for what it’s worth? Stick to the formula: Normal World, Inciting Incident, Obstacles, Start to win, Darkest Moment, Big Bad Battle, Climax, Conclusion, and you won’t go wrong.

So, what is the ‘traditional’ 3-Act structure you use, or do you have your own formula? Do you find the information on the website confusing? Maybe you have a site you find invaluable. Let me know below!

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plotting

You have an idea for a novel. It’s been floating around inside your head for months. It’s all you think about. You eat, sleep, and dream it. In fact, you feel like you’ve already lived it. Surely you must be ready to start writing, right?

Wrong.

Creating some two hundred plus pages of a story is no easy feat. Trust me, I know. My first novel went something like this: Get idea, open laptop, start typing. And what happened? I wrote myself into a corner on more than a couple of occasions. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s why, before any writing commences, we first have to plot.

I’ll be honest, I never used to be a believer of this method. And to back-up my argument, I always referred back to a Roald Dahl interview I saw (now decades ago), where he also admitted he never plotted. He just ‘kinda made it up’ as he went along. What better author to quote?

So, armed with just my laptop, off I set on my journey to write my first novel.

One thing I am a big believer in is that you have to learn my your mistakes… and boy, was this ever a learning curve for me.

Now, before I start to explain the art of plotting, let me make one thing clear. I am NOT dictating that this method is a one size fits all. As I said previously, Roald Dahl tells a different story, and if you Google ‘authors who don’t plot‘, you’ll find this quote:

“I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity or real creation aren’t compatible.” -Stephen King.

One thing I am certain about, though… For me, plotting was a life-changer.

What Is Plotting?

Plotting is your entire story from start to finish in ‘note’ form.

How Do I Plot?

There are many ways to plot your story. Some people bullet-point the entire story from beginning to end. Others split their plotting into the 3-Act structure. Regardless of the method you use, if done correctly the outcome for writing your novel should be, as Kristen Lamb puts it, like painting by numbers.”

For this post, I’ll go with how I plot.

Scenes within the 3-Act Structure

First, a quick explanation of what a 3-Act Structure is.

Act One – The Beginning Act Two – The Middle Act Three – The End

Simple, but for a more in-depth look at the 3-Act Structure, see Part Eight.

Okay, back to plotting. Now, although plotting and the 3-Act structure go hand-in-hand, we’re just going to concentrate on the plotting side of things for the time being.

First, I break each scene down into three parts that I like to call ‘Scene Structure’. These three parts involve the Character’s Goal, the Obstacle they have to overcome, and how they Resolve it.

Then, when actually plotting each scene, I work with a table. Within this table, I have four columns:

Column 1 – Chapter Number, Day, Time. Column 2 – Location, POV, Brief (Quick glance) Scene Outline. Column 3 – Scene Structure (Goal, Obstacle, Resolve). Column 4 – Scene Description.

Column 1 and 2 is purely for my own information as saves me from having to scroll back through my novel every time I need to check who did and said what, why, and when, etc.

Column 3 is my scene breakdown, which I explained less than a minute ago.

Column 4 is the all important description.

scene structure

The scenes within each Act should be as detailed as possible. Writing – *Girl works, *Girls gets attacked, *Girl survives, and *Girl is in danger, may do the job but it is the quick and lazy option and won’t help you much when the time comes to writing your novel. Instead, write in-depth scenes. Include character feelings, any dialogue you would like them to say, mannerisms – basically anything you don’t want to forget later on. By using this method, (or something similar), it enables you to easily change and alter earlier events if later events call for it, and vice-versa.

Plotting Mistakes

  • Research – With the wealth of information that is the internet, there is no excuse not to know what you are writing about. Good research equals a more realistic story.
  • Coincidences – Every character needs a valid reason to do what they do. Coincidences are convenient. Using ‘Just because’ is lazy and will annoy your reader and spoil your story.
  • Large Cast – Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many characters ruin the story. Asking your reader to remember every character and their cousin, from postman Pete (who appears once), to the little boy fishing by the stream, will confuse your reader and give them brain-ache. Cut those little darlings.
  • Plot Diversion – Don’t let your story drift off course and disappear into a one way street. Stick to the story. Ignore those road diversions.

So, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot or do you fly by the seat of your pants? If you already plot, what kind of techniques do you use? Do you use in-depth tables and graphs, or do you bullet point simple points?

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You’ve been itching to begin writing, and are so nearly there. But, what is a story without characters? Not a very good one, I can tell you in an instant.

Now, you could be forgiven if you believe a good idea is all that’s needed to write a successful novel. After all, you may be writing an action story. What do you need character’s for? Aren’t they just well toned guys flexing their muscles while shooting up the place? Well, without believable and interesting characters, you’ll have nothing but a lifeless story. Although, if muscles are you’re thing, you may not care if there’s not story 🙂

Okay. For those that aren’t quite sure, I’ll quickly explain the difference between a plot driven story and a character driven story.

Character vs Plot

Plot Driven Story: Usually action-based. The action is what’s classed as driving the story forward. For example, Transporter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park.

Character Driven Story: Character based. The characters drive the story forward. For instance, Rocky, Cast Away, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Now, you may be a little confused. After all, the Rocky films have a lot of action in them. Well, if you look at the original ‘Rocky’ film, the story is about a fighter and his struggle to become a world-class boxer. That is character-driven.

Why do we need to know our characters?

Imagine Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I think we can all relax in the comfort of knowing this is a character-driven love story. But, if Austen hadn’t ‘known’ Mr Darcy inside out when writing him, would we, as love-struck, female fans, still be romancing over him today?

We like and love him (some even dream of him), because we feel we know him. And that is what makes a good character. Someone your reader can identify with and relate to.

So, how do we get character’s like this?

First, you need to create them.

Antagonists, Protagonists, and Supporting Cast (aka Minions)

NOTE: Let me just make this little snippet clear. The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a person. The antagonist is whatever hampers the protagonist (hero) from reaching his or her goal. 

However, as this post is about creating characters, our antagonist is going to be human.

So, where do I start?

Always with the antagonist, aka the baddie. They are the reason you have a story. Without one, your protagonist will easily reach their goal – leaving you with a dreary story and no plot.

First you have to decide the kind of character you want to create and make sure they get the correct label. A what? A Label. I made a mistake with the first story I wrote. My antag was a hitman who worked for the mob. But, as it was pointed out to me, the Mob Boss was the real antag. He was the guy giving the orders for the hit. Without him, my hitman would have been out of work. Thus, although my hitman was the main baddie, he was in fact a Minion. Confused? Good. Then, I wasn’t alone 🙂

To explain this a little better, I am going to use a well-know subject.

Jason Bourne. Girls love him and boys want to be him.

In the Bourne films, Jason is a killer. A hitman. Does that make him the antag? No. He is the hero. And this is because he’s trying to reach a goal, which is to remember who the hell he is.

Although it’s a variety of assassins who try to kill Bourne, it’s a CIA group called ‘Treadstone’ who initially orders the hits. This makes ‘Treadstone’ the antagonist. The assassins are mere minions.

And let’s not forget Marie, Jason’s love interest and the girl who helps him attain his goal.

Creating Your Characters

If I were to ask you to tell me about yourself, where would you start?

Five years ago? Ten? How about from the moment you were born?

That is where I want you to start with your characters… From the moment they were born. Write down who their parents were. What kind of upbringing did they have. Create family and loved ones they may have lost along the way. This exercise will run into pages if you do it right. It will round your

characters’ journey and define how they got to be the person in your story. Their likes and dislikes. Their flaws.

Use props – for instance, do they have a limp, or a squint? If so, how did they get it? Remember, Indiana Jones had a fear of snakes. We found out through a (long) flash back in the third film because he fell into a circus snake pit. Makes you wonder if George Lucas had already written it into his background, doesn’t it?

Research your character. If they attended boarding school. Research it. If they were in the army. Research it.

Basically, you are writing a biography. It has to be accurate.

Giving a Character Qualities and Flaws

If you are like me, they you would have rooted for Jason Bourne. Why? Because we liked him. But why would we feel like this? Remember, Jason Bourne is a killer. Does that now make us a hitman loving sociopath?

No. It means the writer has done their job. You want your audience to love your protagonist and cheer them on every inch of the way. If you make your characters too nice, your reader will tire of them and become bored. Likewise, if you make your characters hard-nosed and arrogant. They become unlikable because your readers cannot get close enough to start caring.

Jason Bourne is a man on a mission. He is a killer. And yet every now and then, a slither of emotion escapes and we see a man who cares about right and wrong. That is a character quality. He cares about the well-being of Marie, and this shows Jason’s softer side. Again, another quality, if not also a flaw. His ability to kill so easily, although it constantly saves his life, is a flaw. Having to suppress emotion in order to survive is a flaw. And flaws are what make us human. It’s these flaws that allow your readers to relate to your characters.

Steer clear of stereotypes. Make your character unique. A skin head with pink spiked hair and wearing Doc Martins is stereo-typical. Give him a unique quality that makes him stand out from the rest of the skin heads.

I’ll tell you a quick story I know my co-writer, Natalie Duggan, won’t mind. When I first paired up with Natalie to write the TV pilot ‘Legend’, I mentioned character backgrounds. Natalie thought I was nuts and that it was all a waste of time. She wanted to get to the story. So, I banged my head against the desk, argued until I was blue in the face, then just went ahead and wrote out the backgrounds anyway. I emailed them across and Natalie loved them. Her exact words? “Oh, wow. These are awesome. I really feel I know Roman and Nate (two of the MC’s).” Natalie now writes backgrounds on ALL her characters.  🙂

Okay, that should be enough to start you off.

So, do you create characters before you begin writing? What kind of techniques do you use when creating your characters? Do you make your characters too perfect? Are you plot-driven or character-driven?

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Upcoming classes: via Webinar, where we can interact and you ask questions.

14th July: Getting To Know Your Characters

21st July: From Idea To Story

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Picture via crinklecrankle.com

Okay, are you ready for Part 5?

Good, because today’s mission is to jot down a jolly good log line.

Huh?

A log line. You know, that one sentence you scream at an PEA (publisher/editor/agent) as they whizz past you at a writers conference.

Oh, that. But I can’t tell anyboy what my story is about in one sentence.

Well, suck it up because you have to. Hey, you do it on Twitter all day long.

Right, I’ve already explained it but for the benefit of the few sitting at the back of the room playing ‘Angry Birds’ on their i-phones, a log line is one short, sweet, grab you by the seat of your pants, sentence that explains your whole story. Simple :D

Easy. Now for the hard bit.

But why do we have to do the log line thing now? I want to plot.

We do the log line now because it will help you stay on track when writing your novel. Plus, if a PEA asks what your current work in progress is, you’ll be able to tell them minus the ‘..and then this happened’ or ‘..oh, I forgot to tell you about so-in-so at the beginning’…. See how it all makes sense? You need to hook them and quick. A good log line will do that.

Would it surprise you if I said PEA’s really do want to know what your novel is about? The problem most writers have is they just cannot get the right words out quick enough. In some instances you have a mere ten seconds to hook your listener. Choosing the right words is vital. Get it right, and you are on your way.

So, how can we do that?

Basically, a log line consists of four things. Seems simple doesn’t it?  Think again. Nothing in life worth having is simple. *Cheesey grin*.

Lets take a closer look at what these three things are.

1.     A main character, who
2.     Has a mission or a goal, but
3.     Must overcome an obstacle or some kind of opposition
4.     Before all hell breaks loose.

First, our protagonist is our main character or ‘hero’. The goal is what he/she wants and the obstacle is what is stopping he/she from reaching it. All hell breaking loose is what happens if he/she fails in their quest.

For example:

In the first of the ‘Twilight’ series, (the aptly named ‘Twilight’), the protagonist is school girl, ‘Bella Swan’.
Her goal is to find out more about mysterious class mate, ‘Edward Cullen’.
Her obstacle is that he is a vampire and vampires like to drink humans dry.
All hell breaking loose is that Edwards vampire enemies want to kill her.

Now we have that down, is there anything else we need to create a great log line?

Hell, Yes!

First, we must be perfectly clear. We may understand what is going on in our story, but the PEA reading our log line doesn’t know squat and has absolutely no idea what it’s about.

You need an example? Oh, alright, I’ll tell you my very first ever log line. No laughing.

An American socialite witnesses a murder and goes on the run from the MOB and FBI, but an attempt on her life leaves her with selected memory loss and it is up to a London police officer to uncover her past before they’re both assassinated.

And breathe. No choking. Excellent, lungs refilled? Then let’s continue.

There are so many things wrong with this log line, it would be easier to tell you what’s right with it….absolutely nothing. It’s too long – another ten words and I’d have a completed novel. It has too way too much back story, and blah, blah, blah.

So what went wrong? I followed the rules. I have my protag and antag. I have the goal and all hell breaking loose.

Well, yes that’s true, but then I just threw everything on the page and hoped the words would sort themselves out while I grabbed a cuppa and watched NCIS. Let me explain – Writing the words is only part of the processes. The order in which we place them is a whole different ball game.

Thanks to the awesome Kristen Lamb, the format for a log line should be something close to this:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the (Antagonist) before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

Now, if I’d presented my log line correctly the finished product may have looked something like this instead:

‘A quiet museum curator suffering from amnesia must uncover her secret past to unlock the real reason the mob has put out a contract for her life.

One thing to remember: The main logline is one sentence.

And please bear in mind that squeezing ten commas and a couple of semi-colons between one hundred and fifty words doesn’t constitute as ONE sentence….more like a splitting headache and a weekend recovering at the Priory. So, one sentence = 30 or less words.

Ok, I’ve embarrassed myself enough (something I seem to do a lot on this site), and now it is your turn. Be brave and mirror in the comment box your first vs current  log lines. Alternatively, if you have a log line you need help with, add that too. Everyone will be kind, I promise :D

Have you had a novel requested off the back of a log line? Do you find writing log lines hard or easy? Come on, don’t be shy….you know how I love talking to you guys.

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Hello to week four!

How are you guys finding things so far? Remember in Part 3 I referred to the preparation of writing a book like building a house? Well, by now you should all have your Facebook and Twitter accounts up and running, regularly posting, and making a ton of new friends. That means you’ve sought out some building contractors and received a pile of estimates.

Part Four is all about drawing up the plans, ready for the architect.

Okay, let’s get down to down to business. The whole point of doing all this is because you have a bunch of ideas you’re dying to turn into a novel, right?

Firstly, lets just run over the basics.

Where do ideas come from?

This is like asking how long is a piece of string. Ideas are everywhere: magazines, newspapers, lines in a song, a word in a dictionary. It’s what our imagination does with them that matters.

Take this photograph for example:

We all know and love TV sitcom, ‘Friends’. When we look at this picture we automatically think of the perfect life we’d all like to live, with funny, humorous, neighbours who all have a great life. That’s because one, it’s make-believe, and two, it’s written as a comedy. Now, let’s say you sway towards the genre of romance. Look at the picture again. What do you see? Probably, pretty much how the show was towards the end of its run; relationship ups and downs, heartache, weddings….

Now, if you are like me – or maybe you’re just twisted and demented – you may sway towards the thriller genre. You may see Phoebe as a sociopath. Chandler as a womanizer. Monica as a spoilt brat who would kill to get what she wants. Or, maybe you see six friends just days before one of them accidently dies. The other five decide to cover it up until years later they start to die, one by one.

See how one photograph can set the idea’s train in motion?

But, one snippet of an idea doesn’t necessary give you enough material to write a novel.

Same but different rule

Actually, I think this is a good time to tell you about the ‘same but different’ rule.

Every idea has been done before. I’m sorry but that’s the cold, hard, truth of it. If you are discarding ideas because they have been used before then you will never write a book and should give up now.

The ‘same but different’ rule applies to every single film or book you have ever seen or read. The reason you may not have noticed it is because of this rule. I can see I’m loosing you. Bear with me. Let’s take a film we have all seen. Halloween.

Here’s the basic idea. A psychopath runs around and kills sex hungry teenagers.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’re also thinking about ‘Scream’. You know, where the killer runs around and kills a load of teenagers?

Or, what about Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street? Doesn’t a killer run around and kill a group of teenagers in them too?

Of course he does. So why are all these films (along with a boat-load of others), so different?

Because the writers used the same but different rule.

In Halloween, the killer is an escaped mental patient out to kill his sister. In Friday the 13th, the killer is a man repeatedly acting out revenge for his mother’s death. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, the killer is a dead murderer who uses dreams as a way to get his victims.

Scream was very clever and took the ‘same but different’ rule a step further by surprising audiences with not one killer – but two. (And, I’m ashamed to admit, one I did not see coming).

So, although all these ideas are the same, they are different.

Building on your idea

Having the kernel of an idea is only the start for a book. But it isn’t enough. Here’s why.

I have an idea. It goes something like this. I have a girl who has lost her memory and has to find out who she is. It’s simple and it’s been done a thousand times before…. and I’m comfortable with that. I like simple. Simple is good.

But how the hell am I to get between 80-100 thousand words from that idea? Even my imagination couldn’t go with the flow on that one. Well maybe it could, but I’m a freak of nature.

No. This is where much thinking and plotting comes into it. Now, plotting we will talk about in week or so. But for now, we need to work on further thinking our idea.

I know I am writing a thriller. I also know I want both a female and male protagonist. Plus, there has to be one antagonist, too. Now I have an idea I need to fit a minimum of three characters into. But how should I tackle this amnesia? How does she get amnesia in the first instance? I know. I’ll have her thrown of a bridge. Cool. But why? Has she witnessed something? Is she in witness protection? Is she on the run and in hiding? Maybe. And this is where the hero cop comes into it, with all his luggage and the cat and mouse game begins.

Okay. I have a rough idea of why and where my story will go. Now I have something I can develop further with plotting. But, before I begin plotting, I need to work on my characters. This is something we’ll look at next week in Part Five.

So, this weeks task is to go find an idea. I don’t care where it comes from. Maybe you overhear some people talking. Maybe you pass a road side advertisement. I want to know where you found your idea and what it consisted of. For example, if a picture, what kind of picture. If it was in a song, tell me the song and the line/word/verse that caught your attention. And, as I love to know how good your imaginations are, I want your to put your brave head on and also tell me what your idea is.

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Well, hello again. What does this make it? Three weeks? Doesn’t time fly?

You’re probably chomping at the bit to start the writing process but I’ll let you into a little secret. You’re already doing it.

Writing starts way before you type ‘Chapter One’ a third of the way down the first page.

Firstly, there’s all that preparation you have to do. Oh now come on, stop your whining. We all have to prepare for something or other. For example, take builders. They wouldn’t build a house on mud, (unless you’re watching TV show Cowboy Builders), because their house would sink within a couple of years; pretty much like your novel would.

No. The builder has much preparation to do: Dig foundations. Get Building regulations approved. Add concrete. Bring up the damp course. Only then does he start to build his house. – And in case you’re impressed by my knowledge of building, don’t be. My father is a builder and I can build a brick wall 🙂

It’s much the same with writers. Preparation is a MUST! Without it, you’re novel is guaranteed to sink. Trust me.

Still with me? Tantrum over? Excellent. Let’s move on.

After last weeks post you should now know what genre you’re writing for. But why do we have to talk about social media now? Isn’t that something to think about after we finish writing our novel? And where do we even find a social media site?

I’m glad you asked.

What is Social Media?

Social Media is exactly what it says.

‘Social’ is the social interaction between two or a group of people. It’s similar to going out at night and getting together with friends, or meeting and making new pals.

‘Media’ is media. Just as newspapers and magazines report news, entertainment, local stories, and fashion, your ‘media’ runs pretty much the same. With your friends and ‘new’ cyber pals, you build relationships and discuss everyday life…as well as your work, writing, and upcoming releases.

Building a Brand

Remember, our name is our ‘brand’. The only way we are going to build on it is by using it…. All the time. 

Decide what social media sites you are most comfortable with and plaster it ‘everywhere’. The more you use it, the more you become associated with it. You want people to remember it.

When I first started using twitter I had a random name, like most of us do. We hide because we don’t want to be ‘seen’. But that isn’t going to help us when it comes time to sell our books. Make sure it’s your name (or your pen name) that you use on the social networking sites. To my knowledge, Waterstones, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble don’t have the resources to find me if someone asks for a book by ‘EssexGirl71’.

But why do it now? Wouldn’t it be better to wait until I have written my book before I start promoting myself?

Well, you can but other than your mother and her friends at the W.I., you’ll have nobody to buy it. By building your brand now, you’ll have a loyal following of friends all queuing to read your book when it’s finished.

And, an extra tit-bit of information. I regularly hear that if a publisher or agent likes your book, the first thing they do is Google your name to see how big a presence you have on the internet. A well written book just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.

Promotion

The promotion package no longer comes wrapped in glittery paper and tied with a silky smooth bow. Here’s why:

Pre-internet: Author wrote a book. Author personally delivered, or posted, manuscript (remember those days?), to the publisher. Author returned home for a well deserved cup of tea before starting their next novel. Publisher runs around like a headless chicken promoting book.

Post-internet: Author writes a book while tackling social media. Author publishes novel either via traditional, indie, or the e-publishing route. Author works their ass off promoting and marketing the novel. Publisher relaxes with a cup of tea.

Promoting and marketing is exhausting and time-consuming and when you first start out, you’ll be doing everything yourself. Try different things. Watch what method makes the biggest impact.

Er, just to clarify, I am not telling nor condoning you take the same drastic action as Russell Brand, but if you do, send me pictures 🙂 

Social Media Sites

So, that brings us to which social Media should we undertake?

There are many out there: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, MySpace,Google+, LinkedIn….. the list is endless. And you will never have the time to join all of them. You have a book to write, remember? So, pick two or three and throw them into the mixing bowl.

Although I can be found on Google+ and Linkedin, I have two main sites I frequent; Twitter and Facebook. Not surprising as they are both listed in the top ten of social networking sites.

So, you’ve chosen ‘your’ social media sites. What do you do now? How much do you update them? I try to visit my sites at least ONCE a DAY. I update my status, have a chat and a giggle with people, and generally walk away with a smile on my face. Social media can be FUN!

Still not sure? Check out my Facebook page and see how it works for yourself.

Blogging

Okay, now we’ve reached that word that scares the hell out of some writers. Blogging. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Hold it. Breath out. Blogging. Say it. Blogging. See, it’s not so bad, is it?

Blogging is another way to meet the world outside your window. And it’s a wonderful way for writers to enhance their writing skills.

But what do I blog about?

Hey, you’re a writer with a fabulous imagination! Trending topics are reviews and information on gathered research. Start by blogging once a week until you find your feet. Most importantly, be consistent with the timing of your posts. 

Remember, you are a writer the moment you decide to write your book. Be proud to call yourself a writer.

Need more help on the art of social media and blogging? Social media Jedi, Kristen Lamb has two fabulous books on the subject.

So, your task this week is to check out which social media sites you wish to build a presence on. And let me know in the comments section. It will be interesting to see what are the more popular sites.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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Welcome back! Wow, you must be serious about wanting to be an author.

During this ‘So, You Want To Be An Author’ series, I’m using all my WWBC knowledge taught to me by author and social media Jedi, Kristen Lamb, to help you become a better writer.

Last week we talked about why we wanted to become a writer and what it was about writing that we love so much, we need to write ourselves? And there were some brilliant answers.

This week, I want to talk about genres.

How many of you know what a genre is? Pretty much every single one of you, right?

Well I’m not ashamed to admit there was a time way, way back when they baffled the hell out of me. Huh? Is this girl a thicko, or what? Hang on. Before I’m hung, drawn and quartered, let me explain what I mean.

There are two main categories in writing: Fiction and Non-fiction.

Non-Fiction

I’ll touch briefly on non-fiction as this post is mainly about fiction writing.

What is non-fiction writing?  Non-fiction is factual. It’s real. Under this heading we find DIY, health and beauty, sports, automobile, craft, autobiographies, etc, etc. Non-fiction shows, narrates, and even gives helpful little pictures of the topic we wish to learn more about. Got it? Good. Now lets move on.

Fiction

Right, now let’s get down to business.

What is fiction writing? Fiction is totally fabricated and made up – hence why I love it so much.

Now, I myself love writing thriller and crime novels although I’m currently writing a paranormal (but that’s whole other story). Fiction has many sprogs: historical, contemporary, western, romance, science fiction, young adult. The list is endless. But, how do we know which genre is for us?

For example, as I said earlier I am currently writing a paranormal novel. But, I recently entered a competition and paranormal wasn’t an option. Instead I found ‘supernatural’. Okay, close enough,’ I thought. Paranormal – supernatural…. same thing, right?

I mean, most of the genres seem straight forward. Horror pretty much speaks for itself and you can’t go wrong with romance… Well, unless you write a romantic suspense. What does that make your novel? Romance or suspense?

If you plan on writing for Mills & Boon, then you’re pretty much covered. They have a gazillion categories for everything you can think of: medical, nocturnal, western, historical. You just can’t go wrong….unless you’re writing something that has zilch romance. Then forget Mills & Boon.

So I thought I’d try to simplify the genre dilemma a little.

Genres

Western: Howdy. If it has cowboys, horses, (maybe) a damsel in distress, a saloon and a heard of cattle being yee-hawed across a prairie between 1800 and 1890, then western is your partner.

Historical: Whether Victorian, Edwardian, or Tudor, these tend to be based around specific eras with a ton of knowledge to go along with it. If you like your history and you like your research, this just may be the one for you.

Horror: Slicing and dicing is the theme here. Lots of blood, gore, and frightening the bejesus out of your reader.

Children: Don’t confuse this with young adult. The children genre is usually aimed at toddlers and kids up to the age of eleven. So no bad language or sexual references. We don’t want mumsy-wumsy throwing a fit.

Here’s an example of how not to write for children – I warn you, it’s rude.

Young Adult: Probably the easiest way to describe this genre is to think Stephenie Meyers Twilight saga, or L.J. Smith’s (you can see her 30 second interview here), Vampire Diaries. All involving teenagers doing way much more than I did when I was their age. I was a good girl 🙂

Paranormal/Supernatural: This is a big genre at the moment. Vampires and werewolves are a hit with readers of all ages. So if it has fangs, claws, no reflection, rises from the dead, or wears a halo above its head – stick it here.

Mystery/Crime/Police Procedural/Detective: Firstly, if your opening page starts with your main character searching for her hair brush, not only does this NOT mean it’s a mystery, but I will brain you. However, if your story revolves around an unsolved crime, murder, or anything else that needs both the protagonist and your reader together searching for clues and piecing the bits like a jigsaw, then you may call it a mystery.

Fantasy: Not to be confused with science fiction, this one can be set anywhere; Earth or some made up land where unicorns, fairies, elves and trolls make an appearance – along with a magical maze and a spellbinding witch. Fantasy is totally make-believe, thank God.

Science Fiction/Sci-Fi: Futuristic aliens, robots, the distant galaxy or downtown New York; if you can explain it, no matter how far-fetched, using science, then you have yourself a genre.

Romance: Two people meet, two people fall in love, tragedy strikes, two people break up. reader cries – but then two people get back together for a happy ending and reader goes to shops to buy another box of tissues.

Chick lit: Ever read Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic or Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary? How brilliant are those books? Aim at the female population to provide nothing more than humor, romance, and good old-fashioned girl power.

Thriller/Suspense/Espionage

Action/Adventure: Similar to thriller/suspense for its car chases and fight scenes, this genre is usually aimed a the male race and often uses an expert of some kind: whether ex-military, police, bomb expert, or in Sly Stallone’s case a mountain guide. Then the story will bung said hero in a jungle, dessert, or on top of a mountain. Sometime, though, if the hero is really lucky he’ll stay in his own city.

Legal Thriller: A large part of the action takes place in a court room while we run through a did-she-didn’t-she scenario. If you haven’t ever read John Grisham, surely you’ve seen his movie The Firm? No? How about Judge Judy?

Commercial/Mainstream: These are of no specific genre but are whatever is trending in the ‘moment’. They are, more often than not, plot driven and are expected by the publishing powers that be to make a ton of sales and wads of cash.

Literary: Unlike commercial novels, these tend to be more character driven. But that about ends the description. Even publishers cannot pin-point what makes a novel – literature: use of language, ability to address human conditions, it’s ‘truth’, moral ambiguity…

Right, I think that about covers it. So now it’s your turn. What genre do you write? Have you ever chosen the wrong genre? Do genre labels confuse you? Do you have a story where you are unsure of the genre? Let me know in the comments and together we’ll crack it.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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