Saturday, June 9, 2012

Writing with a Light Outline.

I believe many who consider themselves pantsers really write with light outlines. Maybe they sketch out Act 1 and The Climax, and then jot down alternatives on how to arrive at the ending. Like the pantser, the difficult part of the novel for writers using a light outline is the middle. Characters tend to take over the middle of the story and run amok. Or, a larger problem, they tell you they want to be the Point Of View character in a scene, when a different character has more to lose. I suggest light outline writers read Orson Scott Card's, Characters and Viewpoint.

A good friend commented on the topic Writing by the Seat of Your Pants. I start out with a plan but it doesn't take long before things move of their own volition--even to the point of changing my pov character. 

In short stories, the vast majority of the time there is only one POV character. In novels, there are more than one, not a cast of thousands, but two or three characters in whose POV a scene could be written. If this happens to you, ask yourself, "Who is risking the most in this scene?" Then write the scene in their POV. People who use a light outline know planning is necessary. They'll have fewer rewrites than a true pantser will. But they are likely to struggle with the story line, as things move of their own volition. Personalities low on patience and high in creativity will use the light outline.

Sometimes I think they are the ones who'd like to write three endings and ask the reader to take their pick. A final thought, both pantsers and those using a light outline often write themselves into a corner. It's Page 306, and they don't know how the bloody thing can come together. Eventually, their creativity jams the puzzle together and the outcome is a great book.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

Are you a pantser? Is your approach, just write the darn thing? If so, your personality profile on the Jung-Myers test is most likely high in one of these three areas, intuitive, feeling, extrovert. I hope you went to If not, try it. Take the test and think about how you write.  There is no one right way to write a good novel.

Personally, I dislike methodology, the Snowflake method and others.

At the OWFI, Pam and I shepherded a pantser, a multi=published author who simply sat down and wrote. I can’t write like that. Why? My personality profile is a Guardian-Instructor. I’m extroverted, judgmental, and detailed, no problem as long as I turn out a good book.

What are the advantages for people who write this way? Like Larry-The Cable Guy says, they getter done. There isn’t much prep work. They don’t get bogged down in editing until later. How many of you at one point or another wrote the first chapter of your novel eight times, gave up, and threw it away. Pantsers keep on trucking.

There are problems writing this way. Pantser have to go back and make many corrections. People, places, and things maybe described differently between the beginning and the end. When a beginner writes this way, the middle is a muddle. Sidetracks occur mid-story. They end up either with a novella length attempt or a 500-page ramble. However, they learn and they’ve written something. It is a beginning.

Again, WEW-Whatever Works. If you successfully write great books this way, keep doing that. If you are stuck and trying to recapture your skills, be a pantser for a week. The objective for us all is to turn out great books that we are proud to share.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Various Methods for Writing a Novel.

Explode each of these possible techniques in your mind. Visualize yourself sitting down and actually doing all the preparation these options would take. Ask yourself, "Does this option fit my personality?"

Outlining: Do you have the patience to plot out your whole novel before you sit down to write?

Chapter synopsis: Are you willing to write a paragraph describing what action will take place in each chapter?

Research: How willing are you to sketch out your characters--birthplace, worldview, appearance, skills and weaknesses? How about location descriptions, particular if your novel takes place in a city you have never visited.

Motivation: For readers to empathize with characters, they must understand the character's motivation for their actions. Are you willing to predetermine why each main character reacts the way they will in your novel.

Will you use sticky notes as your reminders? Will you do character outlines, color eyes, occupation, married or single, etc?

I know authors who take months to plan and weeks to write. I know authors who have an idea, sit down and write the whole book from there. In the next few posts, we'll discuss the pros and cons of the main methods of writing a novel.

Between now and then, go to Take the free personality assessment. By understanding your profile, you may gain incites to your reluctance to try some different methods. I occasionally take this profile test as though I were my character. You will be surprised if you do. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Change of Address - Notification

Hey folks, I've been away from blogging for a few weeks. This will change soon. I'm consolidating my blog and my website into one site on WordPress. This new address will be Those of you who are followers of The Heart of a Novelist, should also go to the new site and follow me there, as well. In a few weeks, my blog posts will be leaving this site. In fact, I'll put my next post on both to smooth the transition.

As a teaser, my next few posts will be addressing how novelists construct their novels and the pros and cons of the different approaches. Remember WEW. Whatever Works! If you have published ten Best Sellers with the seat of the pants method. Don't change! I'll have my next post out in three to four days.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Character Arc

In Thrillers particularly, the changes in character arc can be buried if the author isn't vigilant. Many times, characters get lost beneath all the external drama and action that's enveloping the reader. The point of having conflict and tension is for the main character(s) to strengthen and grow as a result of the challenges they face. As an author, I use internal monologue to add emotional conflict and internal challenge to offset external activity. Readers are more interested in internal conflict than external conflict.

In page turning Thrillers, when you think things can't get worse, they do. I'll give you an example from the film, The Mission. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it, and watch the climb scene.

Robert De Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza, a slave trader who kills his own brother for sleeping with his fiancee. For his sins, Rodrigo accompanies the Jesuits on a trek to visit the Guarani people above the Igazu Falls. He serves as their slave. In the pouring rain, Rodrigo carries all the Jesuits' equipment up the side of the Falls. He receives no help. When you think he's made the top, he slips down and must start his climb again. Even though he says nothing, the viewers can hear his Internal Monologue in his face, his body, and anguished cries. He reaches the top with all the Jesuit's things. The Jesuits pick up their packs, and Rodrigo finds redemption.

But the focus is not the rain, the mountain, or the Jesuits. The focus is the human struggle. The man, Rodrigo, has overcome. This is what makes a Thriller. A writer's job is to go and do likewise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giving Characters Life

In my last two posts, we talked about how to create the world of the novel and the unique tension that drives the story. Now we are ready to develop characters. Authors breathe life into their characters before dropping them into their role in the novel. They do this because, once you drop the main and supporting characters into their new world, you lose some control. Come on now. You know it's true. Don't your characters take on a mind of their own once you release them?

So knowing this can be a problem, develop them beforehand. That way you know the life they've led and who they are. I do this with the protagonist, the antagonist, and one or two other supporting roles to a lesser extent. I ask myself: What was their childhood like, their family life, and their self-image in their teens? Who are they now: married, single, successful, a failure, wealthy or poor? How do they feel about who they are now? What do they believe about the world around them?

I'm not God! But . . . in the spirit realm of my mind, I am God to them at this point. I will not vary their back story once I drop them into their new world. However, once dropped, they will argue, disobey, and question me, just as I do with my God. Characters surprise their creators by going off in directions than planned. Many times, your characters are right to do so, and isn't that fun in an insane kind of way. If I've planned correctly, I know where I'm starting. I know where I'm going. I know how to get there. My characters become co-authors within the scenes they're in, adding nuances I hadn't planned.

Authors disagree about things like appearance, readers do as well. A multi-published author friend asked me if I knew what his main character looked like. I didn't, and I'd read several of his books staring that character. "I never describe him," he said. "I'd rather the reader develop his own idea of what he looks like." This worked for him. I'm less secure. I show my characters through the eyes of others and the internal monologues of the characters themselves. To this another friend of mine replies, "Whatever works."

Next time, I'll talk about character arc and motivation that stem from crises and tension. But now it's time for shameless marketing. Here is the link to the Room 1515 YouTube video.

Here are the links to purchase.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Create the Conflict Before You Write the Novel

Is the world of your next novel rock solid? You've picked the time frame. You've chosen your locations and tailor-made them to set the mood--dark, romantic, challenging, adventurous. You're dying to parachute your characters into the fray. Don't. Not yet.

Now decide what beliefs and past histories drive your characters and hence drive the plot. Ever read novels where the bad guys have no redeeming features and the good guys are Dudley Do-Rights, where the good guys always beat the bad guys and you know who to cheer for. The real world is not this way. The more conflicted people and events are the better your novel will be.

Example: In Room 1515, I don't have a true protagonist. I created an anti-heroine, a flawed woman pursuing the enemies of her country, but dissolution sets in when she questions the tactics of her mentors. I don't have a true antagonist. I abandoned the archetypal villain for one who is sympathetic and even likable while being ruthless. Complex characters hold readers interest.

A question from a recent interview asked, "What makes Room 1515 unique when compared to other novels about power-brokers taking over the world." My answer is that in Room 1515 the motive of the villain is noble. He believes humanity will destroy the earth. Greed is keeping nations from tackling the problem of global warming and pollution, and there isn't time to reason with selfish idiots anymore. He'll do anything necessary to rule the world and save it.

Authors need to establish a twist that is different to make their book unique and interesting. Do it before you drop your characters into a battle they're not ready for. We'll talk about dropping them in next time.

I write thrillers, not mysteries. I've been asked, "What is the difference?" I agree good Mystery, Suspense, Thriller novels have aspects of all three. For me, mysteries lean toward the 'who-done-it?' Thrillers lean toward the 'how are they doing it, and how do we stop them?' Suspense to me is tension throughout the novel. If the problem is bad, it's going to get worse. When it does get worse, prepare for the tornado.

Now for shameless marketing. Watch my Room1515 YouTube video to see if you like it.

To buy the book, go to:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Creating the World of Your Novel

Writing fiction presents complications for both new and experienced writers. The first occurs when developing the world of your novel. For me, creating a book starts with building a tension-packed world full of pitfalls, danger, and valuable aspirations in which characters take form and develop.

Before I wrote
Room 1515, I designed the world in which the story takes place. This world is a near future world, no more than five years from now. The major action takes place in Washington, D.C. and Great Britain, London primarily. The details of the locations where events take place, the physical building structures and surrounding areas, have to appear real, yet subtly altered. Why, because our society constantly changes our physical surroundings to fit the mood of its citizens. So an author must add a new hotel here and a new transit system there.

This world has a political environment that is recognizable, yet futuristic by a few years. In Room 1515's time period, the E.U. fears the Muslim world is on the verge of overrunning Europe, and the United States has a president who is removing all United States troops from foreign countries, leaving Europe defenseless. In addition, the top .0001 percent are manipulating the financial markets. They have the capability to bankrupt any nation in an instant.

This concept is not new. Many novels incorporate parts of this stereotype world. Why, because military, financial, and unseen fears are natural tension builders. Plus, many see this scenario as highly plausible. The challenge is to make my story standout as unique. An author must be careful to remember the changes they made to their world's new setting. Human nature tends to remember what we see and forget what we dreamed. Example: An author closes Lafayette Park in Chapter 3 due to a waterline break--the dream. Then five chapters later, we search out a website picture of Lafayette Park, and write in a character walking in the same area we closed in Chapter 3. When you design your world, document all the changes.

Notice I set my story in Washington D.C. and London. I believe thrillers should be set where stuff really does happen--and in places readers find interesting.

The final act of creating the world of your novel is a grabber, a second dilemma. The second dilemma must have major consequences if not resolved. This dilemma must be something all sides in the conflict want to solve. Important, the sides involved must not agree on how to solve this problem. In Room 1515, the dilemma is man's ongoing destruction of the earth.

Enough for now. Next time I'll deal with dropping your characters into your world.

Here are the links to view Room 1515's video and buy my book.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Should Novels be Rated like Movies?

A question popped into my mind while reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Should novels be rated like movies are? Mind you, I kept reading and didn't pursue the issue. Recently, a fellow author posed the same question on Facebook. My antennas shot up and the analytical side of my brain researched the issue while the creative side continued writing. I was surprised to find Wall Street Journal articles, author blogs, and publishers not only discussing this issue, but acting on it.

AKW Books, an eBook publisher, has adopted the industry standard for movies as their standard for the novels they release. Check out their guidelines at: PanHistoria, an outlet for role-play authors has done the same thing. Visit In both cases, they rate the type of novel or play following industry standards.

This raises the question for us as authors. Should we consider voluntarily rating our novels based on their content? I had a discussion about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with some friends who either read the book, saw the movie, or both. The consensus was that the book was as graphic as the movie. One lady said, "I had to skip about ten pages. I couldn't bear to read the rape scenes."

I thought about Room 1515. If I applied the rating standard guidelines for movies, my novel is PG-13. I have another novel coming out later this year that I would give an R rating. I'm actually thinking about rating that novel R voluntarily. Should these types of ratings be imposed upon us? Should we rate ourselves? Is either of these choices a form of censorship? Weigh in on this subject.

If you like this blog, become a follower.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Key Final Thoughts on Self-Publishing

#1: Market everywhere and in every medium you know how to use. Self-Publishing is not for the shy. I call this shameless marketing. Authors tend to hold back, fearful to promote themselves. Well, others are going to leave you behind. However, give something useful in return, share your experiences, offer information of value, and give others credit for good work. Shameless marketing is okay. Selfish marketing is not. Don't you cringe when someone you don't know asks, "Follow this link and like my author page."

#2: The rising cost of printing hurts the pocketbook. After publisher and distributor costs, the author typically receives 30 percent of the net. The more pages in the book the higher the printing cost. I priced my paperback at $14.95 to hit a reasonable percentage after everybody took their cut. Any higher would have priced me out of the market.

#3: Don't believe the myth that being on the bookshelf at your major bookstores means you'll make more money. First, self-published authors rarely have their books in bookstores. The industry requires certain standards be upheld. The ability to return unsold books looms large. Your publisher won't print a book until it's sold. The bookstore won't stock books unless they can return them. A few POD companies offer a Book Buy Back program. You pay for the cost in your contract with the publisher--$600 to $800 dollars. What if distributors and bookstores ignore your book anyway? You are out the money. Your best avenue for both eBooks and paperbacks are Amazon, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony, and like venues, not bookstores.

#4: I'm sorry folks. My view from a reader's perspective still is that self-published books are inferior in quality. With the exceptional training and coaching available today, the quality has improved, but except for what I write (lol), the average self-published book is still of poor quality. I believe honest reviews by our peers is necessary. Example: A friend of my published a book. Three months later the book had twenty-plus five star reviews. Does this happen in the real world? James Patterson never got twenty-plus five-star reviews. My friend admitted having friends and family review the book. So there you go. I've rated twenty-one books on Goodreads. I gave one five stars. My novel, Room 1515, has been on Amazon for over a month with not one review. I think this is because I haven't recruited and people are busy. Self-published authors need to give honest reviews for each other and the industry. If we don't improve our quality, the perception will continue and rightly so.

#5: Let's end on an upbeat. A nice author advance from a traditional publisher used to be a major reason not to self-publish. Not today, this perk has grown smaller and smaller. When it is offered, the advance is likely to be a $1,000 against future sales.

Shameless Marketing Works!

Here is my book trailer.

Here are the links to my books on Amazon.

Comments on book reviews are appreciated.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Advantages of Self-Publishing - Part II

Self-publishing has vastly improved over the past decade. The quality of the printed books, the formatting, book cover design, and feel, give self-published books the look and the pricing of royalty publishing. Depending upon how much you can do for yourself, you should reap a greater profit.

Niche books sell the best. Non-fiction religious books have a nice built-in appeal. Books on self-improvement do well. How-to books can be winners. In fact, books on self-publishing are among the biggest self-publishing sellers. Fiction writers have to be able to find and reach their audience. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem, since genre writers can find each other far easier than they can find readers. Hence, we receive and delete thousands of emails a month trying to sell each other our stuff. lol

If you are a serious author, you must have patience. Don't expect to sell a thousand copies the first month. In 2006 Publisher's Weekly estimated the average book sold 500 copies in the first year. With today's economy, the average has dropped to closer to 250, and less than 3000 in its lifetime. Put your book out on the market and market consistently and persistently.

Okay, if you are consistent and persistent, self-published authors have an advantage. The publisher can't Backlist your book for poor sales. Typical houses pull novels off the shelves after eighteen months. A new author needs more than eighteen months to build a following, a platform, and generate a readership. The lifespan of a self-published book is unlimited. Score a point for self-publishing. Don't give up.

Enough for today, I'll be back with Part III in a few days.

Link to Room 1515 sales on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Advantages of Self-Publishing - Part 1

Before I begin my second series on self-publishing, you need to know I will present both sides of the issue, the pluses and the minuses. In fact, most of the points I'll bring up can be looked at as an either or, depending on people's situations and opinions.

Advantage 1. Your book will be available in a matter of weeks, not a couple of years. I chose my publisher on January 9, 2012 and my book, Room 1515, came out February 22, 2012. Unless you are an infamous celebrity, you will search for months, maybe years, for an agent. The agent is not a magic genie. He or she may never sell your book to a publisher. Once the book is sold, you will get in line with the publisher's schedule, an average time of another year to publication. I'M RETIRED. I COULD DIE BEFORE THIS ROUTE PAYS OFF. Just saying.

Advantage 2. Timeliness: If you're writing about a hot topic or in a hot genre today, will that genre or topic be so hot two to three years from now? One month, I think you're safe. Three years, you've missed the bus. Fact: eBooks have changed the ballgame. Today, to publish in one month is a reality.

Advantage 3: Control and Rights: A well researched, self-published author retains the rights to the product and its uses--foreign sales, movies, and television. Note: The percentage of self-published books being made into a movie is minuscule. The author controls the content and the cover design. There is no editor demanding you rewrite whole sections of your book. THIS COULD BE A REAL NEGATIVE IF YOUR WORK NEEDS CORRECTION. lol

Enough for now, below is the link to my novel. The topic is timely. International politics, betrayal, seduction, and romance. plus nasty villains and a lot of action.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beware of Pricey Extras

As I've said in past posts, if you are going to self-publish, you need to create everything you can yourself. Then you pick a package that provides the rest. You need to know your rights. What do you own the rights to do? What is owned by the publisher? Can you set your own prices?

I have a friend who went with a recognizable POD publisher. That publisher set the price of the paperback and the hardcover books. My friend had no say. She was priced way out of range and had difficulty selling those books, except for the meager few free copies she was sent. Who is paying $22.00  for a paperback and $33.00 for a hard copy today? She has changed publishers now, but that's a hard lesson to learn.

In my case, I was given the publisher's cost, plus shipping, as a zero profit figure. I was then able to price both my eBook and paperback with a reasonable margin. However, it's the pricey extras that will kill you. I compared one (they shall remain nameless) publisher's low cost option to their first step up program. The difference was $800. What did the author get for $800? The author's book was made available in an overpriced hard copy book, one-hundred copies of promotional materials, and the Look Inside the Book  feature on Nook and Kindle. You can design and have all the promotional materials printed for around $160. Many publishers offer the Look Inside the Book feature at no charge. Remember, overpriced hard copies don't sell.

Shop around. Read the whole contract and all the instructions before you sign up. How many books do you have to sell to earn the extra $800.00 in profit? The add-ons can go as high as $10,000. But it's only money. Right?

Remember, my book Room 1515 is now out in paperback and eBook. Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Self-Publishing-Part 2

Research Permissions and Obtain Them

Not all that says free is free. An author can't see a neat photo online and decide to use it. You have to get permission. There is heavy research involved to find out what you can use free and what you can't. My book cover and my book trailer are excellent examples. A free photo has limited use. So even using a free photo website, be prepared to spend money.

If the photo is going in a YouTube trailer, you have to review the various contracts regarding the photo's use. There are standard contracts, extended use contracts, and multi-user contracts. The globe and gold bars photo I use in the trailer costs more than the others, because I use it on the book cover, my business cards, and bookmarks, as well.

You can't assume music can be used without permission. I use Mahler's 1st Symphony in my trailer. Mahler's been dead for a century, surely he won't mind. Ah, not the case. Production companies have copyrights. Performing artists have copyrights. You have to submit your intent to use their work and receive permission. All totaled, I paid right at one-hundred dollars to clear all of the copyright agreements. And I have peace of mind. I did the right thing.

When you self-publish, you have the responsibility for everything. You can't point the finger and say, "The publisher missed the word 'form.' The word should have been 'from.'" Sorry, not the publisher's fault. The buck starts and stops with you.

To view the YouTube Trailer for Room 1515 click on the following link:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Advice for Authors Considering Self-Publishing Part 1

Part 1: Count the cost!

When I decided to go the self-publishing route, I made a list of every possible expense item. Then I researched my options, concentrating on the cost of each. Ask my wife, I'm a cheapskate. Should I pay for a line-by-line edit? Do I try to format and publish without help or use an AuthorHouse or iUniverse? What marketing tools will I need? Will there be extras required such as business cards and bookmarks? And what about the expense of purchasing my books for book signings?

I found so many program offerings. I can't possibly discuss them all. Suffice to say, the cost ranged from literally zero to over $10,000. I'm not technically savvy, however I do want to market. So zero was out. $10,000--not even to bet Mitt Romney. Nope, I decided on seeing if I could do wide-distribution, both eBook and paperback, for a thousand dollars or under.

Obviously, the more you can do for yourself, the less you have to spend. I chose a package from Book Country, a division of Penguin. You will see more New York publishers buying or creating printing companies to grab a share of the Self-Publishing market. So far I'm please with my choice. The cost to-date is worth the return.

A huge decision for me was the line-by-line edit. On a thousand dollar budget for an 81,000 word novel, a line-by-line edit was far too expensive. But I had some resources to my advantage. A dear friend who is a grammar specialist and avid reader helped me. A text-to- speech program that read my novel to me identified errors, and my patience, editing over and over, factored in. The book is as solid grammatically as I can make it.

I'll be writing Part II in a few days

Be sure to click on the link to Room1515 YouTube Trailer in the left hand column if this blog. The link will take you to the video. I made the video on Windows Movie Maker.

Only 8 days until Room 1515 is available for sale.