Insight: Story Tech 101

Conveying a sense of time and place in a story is important because it helps to shape the story world in the mind of the reader. This is an important concept in any story, regardless of genre.

Let’s say you are writing a story set during the Industrial Revolution. You have a character, let’s call them Fred. Fred lives in your average industrial town during the period 1790-1840. I’ll use this period of time because it’s a great range to explore the topic.

Depending on where you have Fred live during this time, the technology would vary greatly. What does Fred do for a living? How does he get to work? Does he make his own clothes or are they from a tailor? What is his home made of? How does he have fun in his spare time? Does he have spare time? These are the kind of questions that you need to answer within your story. Remember to “show, not tell” because you don’t want to bog down your reader with too much information that will keep them from suspending their disbelief. We want the reader to become invested in the story, not have to dive for a dictionary or Google every five minutes because they come across a term they don’t understand.

Now, let’s flash forward (ain’t time travel grand?) to the future about a century or two, and reexamine our buddy Fred. How is his life different? The questions remain the same though the answers will vary.

One of my pet peeves is Technobabble. This is describing an item using convoluted technical jargon that sounds impressive, but serves little to no useful purpose. For example, you have a spaceship engineer working on a complex propulsion system. Having him use a Quantum Flux Spanner may sound impressive, but calling it a power-assisted adjustable or monkey wrench serves the story better because most everyone knows what a monkey wrench is. If you don’t, you can look it up and make notes. Otherwise, the hills may be alive with the sound of “What the Hell is that?” and you don’t want that.

I suppose that you could cheat a little and couch an explanation of a new piece of technology in dialog, such as having one character explain the workings to another, but even then you would need to put yourself in the position of having to explain something new to someone who isn’t familiar with it. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. Readers these days are very smart people and we don’t want to put them off by making them feel that they are being talked down to. Remember, they help pay our bills so we can continue to write for a living.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Ever Forward. 🙂

Insight: Book Reviews, Networking, and Freebies

This article is going to deal with the following topics:

1) Book Reviews
2) Networking
3) Freebies

Writing is easy in that you put words on the paper, tie them together, and have them make sense. However, when we deal with publishing, things get a little more complicated because you’re moving beyond simply telling a good story to presenting it in a way where people will want to buy it. The next few sections will offer up some insight from my personal experience that I hope will inspire and guide you all.

1) Book Reviews

Book Reviews are essential in getting both your work and your name out there. Word of Mouth Advertising is a powerful tool and if you can generate a buzz, you can generate both interest and sales. The publishing outlet that I go through, Amazon, has a very good system in place for readers to post reviews of the books they purchase, reviews that get authors noticed and read. Writing a review in that context is extremely informal and the critiques can vary from one sentence descriptions to full blown paragraphs, depending on the poster.
Other types of reviews are more in-depth, and may bear a close resemblance to those wonderful book reports we all did back in our Grade-School and College Days. Those you will generally find on websites and blogs that cater to the readership at large and provide a very useful format for attracting people to your website or online publisher.
In the coming months, I will be devoting my energy and this blog to reviewing books from authors that I am associated with or have purchased books by. Hopefully, there will be some reciprocity involved, but if not, then not. I feel it’s important to help those in the Indie Community who may not have the resources to go a full paid route. It would be my pleasure to do so and I offer this up freely.

2) Networking

Getting the word out can be time consuming, but one of the easiest ways to do this is to communicate with those you wish to interest in your work. Within this context, I will be dealing with online interactions through social media.
There are a lot of social media option out there. There’s Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and a number of others out there. I’m not saying that you should run out and sign up for every single social media option out there. If you did, you wouldn’t have time to write. Instead, I suggest taking a slow and methodical approach that you have tailored to what you are capable of doing and what you are willing to do. The effort you expend should equal the results you wish to achieve.
Networking equals interacting. There’s no way around that. But, if you are being yourself, that will shine through. In the end, it’s about getting people to like you and want to read what you have to offer. If not, then you’ve made a bunch of new friends and we can all use more friends.

3) Freebies

As the name would suggest, Freebies are those things that are given out free of charge for the purpose of generating both good will and interest in what you have to offer. It can be as frugal or as extravagant as you want. What I am personally doing is writing free exclusive content that visitors to the blog can read and enjoy. My intent is to show newcomers what and how I write with the same quality as I put into my paid stories. The name says it all.

Well, Guys, it’s late as I post this, but there will be more coming. Please feel free to add comments and questions and as always, Ever Forward. 🙂

Insight: Birthdays

I turned 48 years old today and wow, what a ride so far. As interesting as I think my life has been so far, let’s take a look at other events that have taken place on this date in History. Of course, I’ll make a few comments on each as they are presented. So, without further ado, let’s jump in the Wayback Machine. The references I’m using come from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history and they are not in any particular order or all-inclusive:

1) 1981: President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley in an apparent attempt to impress his idol, Jodie Foster.

“I don’t have a problem with Jodie Foster by any means, but did this guy really think he had a shot? Anyway, he’s locked away in a mental institution, possibly for the rest of his life, so I hope in his mind that the effort was worth it. How would you like to be reminded of this event every year?”

2) 1775: King George passes The Restraining Acts, a set of laws intended to lock the American Colonies into trading exclusively with Great Britain.

“With every thing else going on that year, we know how well that worked out.”

3) 1820: Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty, was born in Norfolk, England. Although a daughter of a successful children’s book writer, she herself was not published until the age of 57.

“I read this book as a kid and it’s pretty cool to share a birthday with someone like this.”

I could go on with the references, but I wanted this article to be more perspective than a shopping list of items taken from History.com. The point here is that we live in a world that contains so many fascinating things in it and as we act, we become more a part of those fascinating things.

Ever Forward, and thanks for all the birthday wishes.

Insight: Where to Start?

You’ve just finished writing, editing, and rewriting your masterpiece of fiction into it’s purest and most perfect form. You want to get it published but you’re not sure where to go from here. Here are some options that should help you on your way.

You can pursue the Traditional Path, which means submitting query letters to agents and publishers and working on other projects while waiting for either acceptance or rejection. This is the most common path that new writers go down so take heart that you aren’t alone in this option. If you pursue this path, you may wish to avail yourself of the books and publications on sale at http://www.writersdigest.com. I’ve used them for years and found them invaluable as reference tools to find the right markets for your work.

Another option is to self-publish your work. I use the resources at CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my books. They offer a wide range of free and paid services and I’ve never been less than pleased with the end result. There are many others out there, so take your time and find the one that fits you the best. Note: Createspace can connect with KDP as part of its publishing process.

Obviously, this isn’t an all-inclusive list and it isn’t meant to be. Consider it a jumping off point for your writing career and believe me, if you want to be a working writer, you have to start considering it a career.

Comments, suggestions, and questions are encouraged, so let me know how you feel below.

Ever Forward.

Parallax Update #2

A tiny setback with Parallax, mostly because the story began to veer off in an direction that I didn’t want, so the progress was reeled back a little bit. Here’s what’s going on right now:

– The total word count is just over 32,000 words, which puts it just above 50% completed.

– My plan is to get it done as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of this month (fingers crossed).

– There will be a Parallax series, which will facilitate a slight title change. I’m thinking of renaming this book Parallax: Genesis, although I’m open to suggestions.

– I’m putting together a series bible, which will allow me to bring all my research into one convenient place.

Well, that’s about it. This  update’s shorter than I expected, but you get the general gist of what I’m putting out there.

Ever Forward.

 

Insight: Should I Write a Book Series?

(If this sounds familiar, you’re not experiencing deja vu. I did an article some time ago about Standalones vs Series. This is a different take on that theme.)

Like many other writers out there, I have an idea folder that is positively busting at the seams. I have every intention of taking every idea and turning it into a published book, but I’ve noticed a trend that points toward doing a series instead of standalone stories.

Truth be told, I’m a little afraid of committing myself to a series, but to be fair I want to evaluate the Pros and Cons before I make a final decision one way or the other. That being said, let’s break down the particulars:

Pros:

1. One group of characters that will grow in time

2. A consistent story world that doesn’t need to be explained in every book.

3. The ability to show potential publishers that I have what it takes to create a quality and sustainable series.

4. Less time and resources needed to create a new story world and characters.

5. My current idea collections can be converted to serve as future storylines.

Cons:

1. Being locked into one specific genre and story world rules.

2. Potentially spreading myself thin working on one thing.

3. Getting pigeon-holed as “that” author.

4. Fearing that my reach may be exceeding my grasp. (Hey, it can happen, even to someone like me…hehe.)

Truth be told, I like to spread my creative wings and tackle a wide range of subjects and genres, but I also like the idea of digging deep into one particular subject and riding it as far as it will take me. I suppose the only true test is to jump in and have at it. I’ve never shied away from a challenge before.

Ever Forward.