Every Word I Write Is Genius and Other Things I Was Wrong About

By Shayna Krishnasamy

red penI write long. It’s what I do. My sentences aren’t tight. The meander and go off topic and then veer back. I can make a sentence go on for a whole page. I overuse commas. I love asides and parentheses and em dashes. When I’m writing a first draft, or even a second, I can get a little out of control. And then I have to take out the red pen. That’s when the agony begins.

A big part of being a writer has nothing to do with writing. No, I’m not talking about marketing plans or query letters or blogs. I’m talking about editing, re-writing, re-plotting, and cutting, cutting, cutting. If you write long, like me, the editing process will inevitably involve lots of red ink and teeth grinding and dramatic sighs as you try to wrestle your manuscript into submission. The bad news: It’s very possible that paragraph you love is next on the chopping block. The good news: There’s a way to handle the chop without sobbing uncontrollably.

Here are my top 4 tips for surviving the editing process.

Don’t Believe In Your Own Genius

Remember that part in Fight Club where Tyler Durden says, “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake”? Well, keep that line in mind, because you’re going to be saying it to your manuscript pretty soon. Editing becomes a whole lot easier if you let go of the idea that every word you write is the best, most unique, most wonderful thing ever. Writers do most of their work in a bubble with little outside encouragement, months of hunching over a laptop in some forgotten basement, alone, frantically plotting and typing and hoping. Of course it’s important to be positive and buck yourself up while you’re toiling away in your own personal diamond mine, but don’t take it too far. Telling yourself the words on your page are going to blow everyone away might make you feel great while you’re writing the first draft, but it can really mess with your head when it comes to tearing your manuscript apart and taping it back together down the line. So, don’t put your book on too high of a pedestal, unless you want it to hit you on the head on the way back down.

Stop Looking Back

5034760960_2a16bf717c_oWhen I was writing the first draft of my first book I got into the bad habit of obsessively re-reading the chapters I’d already written and tweaking them to perfection. I know this was a bad habit because when it came time to edit out paragraphs, or whole scenes, I found it really painful. All that tweaking and polishing gave the text a sheen of permanency. After a while I couldn’t imagine certain scenes being written any other way. Like a movie you’ve watched a hundred times until you have the lines memorized, the dialogue I’d written seemed familiar and meant to be.

Editing that book was like murdering my pets.

We’ve all heard the tried and true writer’s rule, “Kill your darlings.” I believe in this rule. Some of the scenes I loved in that first book had to come out due to a plot shift, and some paragraphs had to be cut because the heroine wasn’t sad anymore, but angry, so her sorrowful flashback to the day her beloved childhood friend died no longer made sense. We all have to lose some gems during the editing process, but the loss doesn’t have to be agonizing. If you want to cut down on the pain, wait until your final draft to make your book perfect.

Make Sure You’re Sure

As much as it might pain you to cut characters or sub-plots out of your book, it can hurt even more to realize you have to put them back. Nobody likes to find out that they went through a torturous ideal for nothing, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have all your plot changes mapped out before you begin to avoid editing haphazardly. Or if you write in parts like me, at least be sure you’ve got all of Part One figured out before you take out your red pen. Realizing you don’t have to kill off Uncle Pete might sound like an amazing gift, until you realize that due to other plot or character adjustments you have to re-write all his scenes anyway. Writing a novel takes long enough as it is, don’t lengthen that process with indecision.

I Hit Save, Right?

I hope this goes without sayingdelete in the digital age in which we live, but don’t ever edit your manuscript without first saving a copy separately. I know I just cautioned against changing your mind, but it’s possible you’ll decide to keep the brilliant paragraph you just deleted. You don’t ever want to find yourself in the position of having to rewrite any part of your book from memory. Not only do I periodically email myself a copy of my manuscript (just to be safe), I also save a version of it before I begin each new draft (just to be doubly safe), and instead of deleting long passages I move them to the very end of my document for easy access (just to be triply safe). Some writing programs save drafts for you automatically, but it doesn’t hurt to take these precautions yourself. Trust me, I once lost a portion of the book I was writing as my final assignment for a university creative writing course due to sloppy saving. It’s not fun.

 

For all the writers out there currently in the middle of an edit, I feel your pain. Keep in mind that those darlings you’re killing right now will probably be a distant memory by the time your book is well and truly finished. And if they’re not, you can always slap a book cover on top and self-publish them as a companion title to your book, creating some extra income! Now there’s a great reason to edit with enthusiasm, if I ever heard one.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

 

How To Grab That Coveted Online Audience

By Adam Dreece

Adam Dreece twitter-back3

There’s nothing like finding readers live tweeting your book as they read it, or finding them promoting your book to their friends. It’s one of those things that a couple of months ago, I looked at other authors on Twitter and wondered just how they did it, and could I do it? Now I’m watching it happen and have cracked a 1000 Twitter followers of my own.

I created my twitter account in February, and when I released my first book, The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1) at CalgaryExpo in April, I had maybe 50 followers. At my booth, I figured out how to connect with people, but online I was still a couple months away from that. In June, something clicked. By early August, as I approached 600 highly engaged followers, I realized I’d figured some things out.

Understand Brand

My books (Along Came a Wolf, Breadcrumb Trail) are my products. They are part of a series, The Yellow Hoods, which is my product line, and Adam Dreece is the brand. In my case, my Adam Dreece brand is about smart, young adult fiction that’s layered for adults, has strong female characters and sees people as complex and human. The Yellow Hoods is adventure fiction in a world that is undergoing the beginning of a Steampunk revolution. You’d expect book 3 to follow that pattern as it is in the same product line.

Online, everything you post or blog, defines your brand. You should be conscious of what you post and tweet and how you engage people, because it affects your brand.

When people engage with you, they come to know you but more importantly, they come to understand your brand. If they like that brand, they will want it to be a part of that. They could mean buying your book, but that could also be advocating your book, posting tweets about it, blogging about it. They don’t have to be buying it to be ultimately helping sales.

Starting Out

I didn’t The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1)have my brand all figured out when I started. I needed to start engaging people first. I followed a couple of good hashtags (#amwriting, #amreading) and started replying to people’s tweets. I ended up getting a good group of people to chat with, and they followed me and I them.

I quickly learned not to follow everyone back, but rather to check and see if they actually engage with people. I did this by looking at their timelines and then tweeting to them, asking them a question. If they engaged with me, I followed. If they didn’t, I might try again later. Some people are just interested in broadcasting to followers, I’m not interested in being broadcast at. It doesn’t help me build a following and audience.

Through trial and error, I came to understand when people were online (very important to time your tweets so that they have a chance of seeing them), and what would engage them. I then thought about how this communicated who I was and thus how people would interpret my brand.

Providing Value

A core part of building the audience is understanding the value that you can bring to them. When you engage people, it should be about items where you are providing value, as oppose to “I know what you mean” or “Oh, I’ve been there.” There’s room for those type of social ‘chit-chat’ parts, but it won’t likely build you a following. Providing insight into your books, your author’s journey, will. No matter where you are on your author’s journey, there are thousands of people hoping to get to where you are, and thousands ahead of you. I had to get over the idea that I had nothing to say about what someone could go through.

Using your blog is a key item to provide additional value, allowing you to break out of your 140 character prison. I try to blog at least once a week, and while it’s a huge time commitment in addition to working my full time job, having a 3 kid family and trying to write my next book, I do it with my readers in mind because I want to continue to provide them value. If I can’t provide a new blog entry, then I tweet a previous one as some people either may have missed it, or opted not to read it the first time around.

Another way that I provide value is that I answer questions and help people on their author’s journey. This often helps me come up with blog articles, which I then tweet, which then gets me more questions, creating a virtuous circle.

The Traps

Twitter and other social media can quickly start filling the lonely hole in a person, and then become an addictive time sink. This can consume your valuable time,The Yellow Hoods: Breadcrumb Trail (Book 2) taking you away from writing and promotion, but it can also make you forget the boundary between who you are as a person, and who you are as a brand and author. It’s an important thing to not lose sight of.

Another trap is always socializing with the same group of people, which can alienate other followers. You are engaging as an author, not someone just looking to hang out with friends, so keep that in mind. You want to meet people, engage with them, answer their questions, and be mindful when you’re playing favorites.

Ultimately

There’s a lot of things that we have to do as indie authors, and one of those is owning and building the relationship with our audience. There are other social networks out there, like Facebook, however I’ve abandoned that as they algorithmically determine what people see and don’t see, even if they Liked my page.

It’s hard work, and takes time every day, but it is well worth it. If you have any questions, give me a shout on Twitter.

Adam DreeceAdam Dreece is a Calgary author of layered young adult fiction. His first series is The Yellow Hoods, which is emergent Steampunk laced with fairy tales for depth. His books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Adam’s website, or find him on Twitter or Google+.

Kevin J. Anderson visits Kobo HQ!

Kevin J. Anderson sat down for a chat with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo officeAward-winning and #1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson was in Toronto last week and stopped by to visit the Kobo head office. Kevin is the author of more than 125 books, more than fifty of which have been national or international bestsellers. In addition to this, as the publishers of WordFire Press, Kevin and his wife Rebecca Moesta have released more than a hundred eBooks from over 25 authors. He also hosts the annual Superstars Writing Seminars, which teaches writers the business of being successful in the publishing industry.

Kevin sat down with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to be our Writer in Residence for the evening. In the audience were local KWL authors and Anderson fans. Over drinks and snacks Kevin shared with us the story of his success and how he got to where he is today. Here are some of the main points:

  • Always write – Kevin discovered a love for creating stories at a very young age, writing his first ‘novel’ at 8 years old. Growing up he was always stealing moments to write before dedicating himself to it full time.
  • Be persistent – rejections go hand in hand with writing and shouldn’t discourage you. Kevin received over 80 rejection letters before his first story was published, proving that persistence pays off.
  • Write about what you love – being passionate about what you write is very important. Kevin found success in the genre he loved, sci-fi. The success of his original works led to him writing several novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes. As a huge Rush fan, their music influenced his writing which later paved the way for collaborations with Neil Peart himself.
  • Be open to change – the publishing industry is changing more than ever before. Rather than shying away, Kevin embraced the change and found success self publishing his back catalogue and becoming a publisher himself with WordFire Press.

We’re very grateful to Kevin for stopping by and sharing his story with us.

You can find Kevin’s books on Kobo here and if you’d like to explore more WordFire Press titles, you can find them here.

Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 020 with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

In our latest podcast, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews bestselling author and self-publishing expert Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Pamela has written the book on self-publishing, WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO? In the summer of 2013, she embarked on a 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, which she organized herself (with the help of her supportive family), so she has plenty of insights and advice for working successfully with bookstores.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Listen in to Episode 20 as Pamela shares her thoughts on:

  • Her mission to serve as an exemplary self-published author, in particular when working with bookstores, so they will open the door to fellow writers.
  • Stories from the road during her 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, including the day when a book club showed up to her Boston reading… despite tornado warnings!
  • Keeping it in the family – her husband, the five children between them, and her mom all joined her on the road to help support her work.
  • Looking at self-promotion with a long-term perspective. “I’m hoping for a 10-year return,” she says. Pamela recommends focusing on how to build your email list of people who welcome hearing what is next. Also, don’t abuse that list – send a maximum of 2-3 updates per year.
  • Promotion is 1/3 of the game in terms of your success. The other elements? Writing, of course, and giving back to the author community.What+Kind+of+Loser+Indie+Publishes,+and+How+Can+I+Be+One,+Too?
  • Pamela’s free strategy: giving away books is an amazing way to get those crucial reviews. Pricing the first book in your series for free is a great way to get started. Read her blog post on this topic here.
  • What she wishes she would have known when she started, including thoughts on exclusive programs, and why moving books in and out of various platforms hurt her more than the benefits of exclusive helped her.
  • Pseudonyms. Pamela believes, “I don’t want to make it hard for someone who discovers me, to discover other things about my writing that they might like.” However, that might not apply for writers who work in vastly different and contradictory genres, like erotica vs children’s picture books.
  • Hints about what’s to come in Pamela’s forthcoming novels.

PamelaPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. 

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Pamela’s website, and her blog

Grab the first book in the KATIE & ANNELISE series for free on KOBO!

Don’t miss Pamela’s guide to indie publishing: WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO?

Twitter: @PamelotH

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

 

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live (and even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog), feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform such as iTunes, etc using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

One Fictitious Moment: Writing a Series

By Angela Misri­, author of Jewel of the Thames

Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words. But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest video to find out more!

Watch for more writing videos on this blog, or you can subscribe to my Youtube channel One Fictitious Moment.

Amgela MisriAngela Misri is a Toronto journalist, writer and mom who has spent most of her working life making CBC Radio extraterrestrial through podcasts, live streams and websites. Her first book Jewel of the Thames, was published by Fierce Ink Press in March 2014 and is the first in a series called A Portia Adams Adventure. Check out Angela’s website to learn more about the Portia Adams series.

On Daydreaming: A Writer’s Perspective

By Shayna Krishnasamy

Remember when you used to be scolded for daydreaming? Dreaming rather than paying attention in class was a real no-no in my elementary school. Daydreaming the afternoon away was also frowned upon when there were chores or homework to be done. To this day, being labelled a “daydreamer” is similar to being called “special”—not exactly a compliment. We’re taught to view this activity as lazy and a waste of time, something with little value. “Stop daydreaming and help me bring in these groceries,” your spouse/roommate/parent might say, and you jump up and comply, duly chastened, fully complicit in this vast conspiracy that daydreaming is of no importance.

Well, I’m here to tell you that everything you’ve ever been told about daydreaming is a total LIE.

DaydreaminDaydreaming_(1)g is essential to being a writer. If there weren’t authors the world over walking around bumping into things because their minds were so fully immersed in their stories, there would be no novels. Have you ever been told that plotting is an important aspect of writing a book? Well, guess what plotting is: Daydreaming! Every plot and character, every line of dialogue and setting and description has to be dreamed up by the writer before it can appear on the page. As a writer I spent lots of time staring at a computer screen, but I spend an equal amount of time staring into space figuring out what I’m going to write next.

In this day and age it isn’t easy to get in some good daydreaming time, what with the naysaying masses on all sides and the demands of kids/job/family/friends/life. Here are some tips on how to be the best daydreamer you can be:

Disconnect

Do you have a smartphone within arm’s reach at every moment of the day? Do you bring your iPad into the bathroom? Is there a television set blaring through every meal, and a laptop glowing in every room of your house? Technology may make life a lot easier for us, but it also makes it pretty hard to have some quiet time with your thoughts. If you want to have some time to think up what’s going to happen in your next chapter, I suggest turning your phone off. (Yes, smartphones can be turned off. It’s a real thing.) Take back those quiet moments sitting in your backyard or on your deck just thinking, without a laptop to distract you. Tell your family you’re going out for a walk and don’t take your cell with you. Make the time to be quiet and think about your story, because a well thought out story is far easier to write than one you haven’t thought through at all.

Focus

Even whendaydreaming-300x198 you’re in thinking mode it’s easy to get distracted. I like to think about my book while I’m in the shower but, countless times, when drying off, I’ve realized I just spent twenty minutes re-playing an episode of The Good Wife in my head instead. That argument you just had with your sister might be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s important to learn how to make thinking about your book a priority. I’ve learned to keep reminding myself to re-direct my thoughts toward my characters and my plot when my mind wanders to easier topics. Usually I only have to do this a few times before my imagination gets hooked on one aspect of the plot or another and within a few minutes I’ve come up with new ideas, new sub-plots, a whole conversation full of witty dialogue. Sometimes your brain just needs a little reminding that it really does want to think about your book—and if your imagination isn’t piqued by your own story, maybe you should think about why. It’s possible you’ve taken your plot down the wrong path, or you haven’t made your characters interesting enough. If you can’t get yourself to pay attention to your own story, it might be hard to keep your reader interested.

Don’t Save The Best For Last

It can be tempting to leave all your daydreaming to the end of the day, when that comfy bed is just waiting for you to curl up on it and dream. Personally I like to lie in bed, stare out the window and contemplate my story, but I try to avoid doing this at the end of the day. This might seem obvious but it needs to be pointed out: daydreaming is not the same as dreaming. Daydreaming keeps your brain awake, it winds you up 4633972431_4d1e24ec0b_bwhen at the end of the day you should be winding down. You don’t want to keep yourself awake thinking about your plot when you should be getting some much-needed rest. It can also be difficult to shut your brain off when it really gets going, and the next thing you know you’re turning on the lights and getting out your notebook to write down your ideas, or even running to your computer to begin writing your next scene. Do you really want to be doing all this in the middle of the night? If you value your sleep, avoid daydreaming in bed. It’s for your own good.

 

My mother used to call me a scatter-brain because I was always forgetting to do my homework and misplacing things. I used to be ashamed of it. I used to try to force myself to stop being a silly little dreamer. But that was before I saw the value in my dreaming ways. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I’d stopped daydreaming. I wouldn’t be a writer at all. So, to all the distracted, zoned-out, lay-about daydreamers out there I say, good for you! Dream away! There’s no knowing where your dreams might take you.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

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