Category Archives: The Creative Process

How to Structure Your Book Outline

How do you write a book? One page at a time. Then again, some days it’s one paragraph at a time, isn’t it? I can relate!

But where do you even begin writing all those pages? That’s the real question. The task can seem daunting at the beginning.

Well, here’s a guideline you may find helpful. It’s a matter of starting out with a simple outline in point form and building it from there. I’ll use a non-fiction “how to publish a book” template as an example outline only because there are usually more points in a non-fiction Table of Contents than there will be in a fictional novel.

First and foremost, I divide my book into sections:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

Section Four: The Publishing Process

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options




Now that I know there will be five sections to my book, I want to fill those in further within my outline. What will I be talking about within each section? It’s now time to write the titles of each chapter in between the above outline points:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

– Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book

– Traditional (Trade) Publishing

– Vanity Publishing (Book Production and Formatting for Self-Published “Indie” Authors)

– Supported Self-Publishing (A.K.A. Assisted Self-Publishing, Hybrid Publishing)

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

– An Elementary Introduction to International Copyright

– Copyright Simplified: Understanding Publishing Contracts

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

– Traditional Sales Techniques

– Contemporary Online Sales Techniques

Section Four: The Publishing Process

– How to Write a Book

– How to Submit Your Manuscript to a Publisher

– ISBNs and Barcodes

– Publishing Agreements

– Professional Editing

– Professional Graphic Design

– Fact Checking and Indexing

– Professional Proofreading

– Book Reviews

– Distribution

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options

– Ebooks

– Print-on-Demand (POD)

– Digital Printing

– Offset Printing

There you have it. You have your book’s rough outline now. It’s as simple as that. Some sections and chapters will be heavier than others, and that’s okay. You may also want to fill in more points for each individual chapter as you go along. That’s fine, too.




Once you’ve done that, you can now set up your writing schedule and deadlines for completion of the book based on this outline. Guesstimate how much time you think each individual list point will take you to write. One hour, two hours? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you. You’re simply trying to figure out roughly how long it’s going to take to finish this book so you can plan for it.

I recommend setting a goal for yourself to write at least one hour per day, six hours per week, every single week to completion of every point on your outline. This is a totally achievable goal that will help you stay on track because it gives you a flexible but consistent writing schedule to follow each week. Everyone can set aside one hour per day—even the busiest of people—if they really want to. And this schedule even gives you one day off every week!

As you write, the points on your outline may change a wee bit. You may think of additional chapters to add in, and that’s fine. My only caution to you is DON’T EDIT YOURSELF EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SIT DOWN TO WRITE. You can waste hours upon hours by fixating on one sentence or paragraph, trying to edit it over and over again, rather than just moving on and writing the next one. Don’t do it. That’s when you’ll get stuck in a loop, unable to move forward. The idea here is to write something new every day so that you can move forward and finish the book—not edit it to perfection. There’s no such thing as perfection.

“If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.”
~Margaret Atwood

Let another editor polish your book for you once you’ve finished writing it. Take your own editor’s hat off. Put it away. In fact, shove it into the far back corner of your closet, close that door, and LOCK IT! The only hat you need to be wearing is that of the writer. Are you ready to complete your own outline now?

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Where Do I Even Begin Writing My Book?

As you sit down to write your book, you may be thinking, “Where do I even begin?” Well, there’s no right or wrong way to begin. For me, every one of my books was a little bit different. They all came to me in their own unique ways.

Sometimes, I’ll receive just a simple concept in my mind. I write it down, set it aside, and then I wait until the next thought comes along to further strengthen that vision. As each new thought arrives, I do the same until there’s enough substance to begin piecing together the first concrete outline of the whole book into point form. Basically, when this is the way a book comes to me, I know I must be patient with it. Let it grow at its own rate. It will come together eventually. It always does.

Other times, I’ll receive the end of a book first. The final chapter will already be a crystal-clear vision in and of itself, so then all I have to do is go back to the beginning and write to that end. Fill in the blanks.

My first fictional novel, A Letter to My Son, took me around ten years to complete. In hindsight, the majority of that time was spent procrastinating rather than writing due to fear of the unknown. I didn’t see that clear path ahead of me. I didn’t know how to get published and wasn’t all that sure it would ever happen, so I felt no strong sense of urgency to finish the book. Then, one year, I experienced a life-changing event that had me questioning myself and my life purpose. It was the catalyst that motivated me to finish my book once and for all—to find a way to publish it—to keep that promise to myself. Once I found that resolve, all the information and resources I needed to publish the book found me. And I did it! (Smiling.) What a proud moment!




Each book that followed came a little easier simply because I knew the process ahead of me. Isn’t that the way life is? The first time you try anything is always the hardest. But, if you push through that initial fear and prove to yourself that it’s possible, it does get easier. Needless to say, my second book, A Letter to My Daughter, took me only two months to write. My third book, 11:11, took me around six months. I’ve also since released three more non-fiction guides to help writers and authors navigate the business aspects of book publishing, sales, and marketing. I’ve produced an ebook series to help online marketers earn passive income from ebooks: Book Publishing Shortcuts for Online Marketers. And I’ve produce another ebook series titled T-Shaped Marketing for Authors that teaches all kinds of online marketing techniques authors can use to boost their ranking on eCommerce sites like Amazon and Kobo.

When I was younger, writing was more a pastime than a career aspiration, so I only wrote when the mood hit me. After my first book was published, and I became a little more serious about things, I found a structure that seems to work very well for me to this day. Lately, with the help of this structure, I’ve been publishing a new book once every four to six weeks. It’s possible!

I hope learning this little bit of information about my personal journey as a writer will inspire you to finish writing (and eventually publish!) your own book. You can also find many more sources of inspiration and education on this blog to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Good luck!

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Time-management, Productivity, and Efficiency for Busy Professionals

Jennifer D. Foster, freelance writer, editor, and owner of Planet Word

I think almost all of us are aiming for balance in our professional and personal lives.

I’m not a certified expert on time-management, motivation, or productivity. And I don’t have all the answers. But I’m a fairly successful freelance editor and writer, who’s happy to share the strategies and best practices I use in order to keep my clients happy, juggle multiple editorial jobs, and keep sane in the process.

I’ll give you a brief synopsis of how I got to where I am professionally and what I do, to give you some overall context, then I’ll talk about specifics.

I’m a freelance writer, editor, and mentor, with 20 years’ experience, 14 of those as a freelancer. As the sole proprietor of my business, Planet Word, I wear many hats and tackle many projects. I work on everything from adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, consumer and trade magazines, web content, newsletters, and ads to style guides, curatorial material, press releases, annual reports, and book reviews. My clients and projects are vast and varied—just how I like it!

My first degree is an honours double major in sociology and mass communications from York University in Toronto. For my second degree, I went to journalism school at Ryerson University, also in Toronto.

After graduating from Ryerson, I got a two-month internship at Chatelaine magazine, while Rona Maynard was editor-in-chief. I wrote a few articles, did some fact-checking, and sat in on editorial meetings, but I wasn’t hired, as there were no staff jobs available. It was a fantastic view into the editorial world, and I wanted more!

I then worked for about three years as assistant editor at Homemakers magazine, under the leadership of Sally Armstrong. She was an inspirational boss and gave me my own section to edit after less than a year there, and after two years there, she sent me on a feature-writing assignment to the Philippines.

After Homemakers, I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as writer and editor in the Marketing and Communications department. That was a dream job, where I got to utilize both my editing and my writing skills. On particularly intense or trying days, I’d leave my desk to wander in the galleries, remembering why I was working there in the first place! After 2.5 years, I went on maternity leave and never looked back. When my son, who’s now 14, was six months old, I felt I was going brain dead as a stay-at-home mom and decided to launch Planet Word. I had no idea what I was doing as a new business owner, but I told all of my friends, family, and business contacts that I was available for freelance writing and editing.

Fast-forward to now, where sometimes I’m juggling up to half a dozen client projects at a time, with overlapping deadlines. This is very stressful and extremely demanding, but I find the following strategies help me get through even the most intense work periods.




Know Yourself and Your Work Style

My main tip is to know yourself and your work style and embrace them both wholeheartedly.
I know that I like lots of natural light, myriad lists, an uncluttered work space, lots of herbal teas and salty snacks, great variety in my projects and that I thrive under work pressure. Be your own best friend and work with yourself and your quirks—not against them. Don’t compare yourself to others and how they work: one magic formula does not fit all, and I believe everyone’s a work in progress, so be kind to yourself.

Woody Allen said 80 per cent of success is showing up. I couldn’t agree more, so that’s why I make an effort every work day, which is often seven days a week, to wake early, eat a decent breakfast, get dressed (yes, no pyjamas or sweats for me!), and be at my computer for 9 am. I treat my freelancing for what it is—a successful business and a professional undertaking. Call me crazy, but I feel very unmotivated and unprofessional sitting at my desk in pyjamas. Getting dressed and being at my desk for 9 am gets me into the right frame of mind to work.

Carpe Diem

I’m high energy, detail-oriented, and work well under lots of pressure. I think that’s how I came out of the womb! But I’m always open to trying new strategies, and I know that I have room for ongoing improvement. My theory is carpe diem. Treat each job as a privilege. And take each day as a gift and run with it. Which brings me to another tip: don’t procrastinate! I know—we all do it. But try and jump into a project right away. As a freelancer, I never know what’s coming down the pipe and when, so I need to tackle each project as soon as possible.

Speaking of trying something new, I wanted to share a time-management method that I discovered last year, while I was writing a feature on beating writer’s block for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

Step one: Pick your task.

Step two: Set a timer (traditionally, it’s for 25 minutes).

Step three: Work on that sole task until your timer rings.

Step four: Put a checkmark on a piece of paper after the timer rings.

Step five: If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (typically, it’s for three to five minutes) and then go back to step two.

Step six: After you have a total of four pomodoros, take a longer break (typically, it’s for 15 to 30 minutes). Reset your checkmark count back to zero and then return to the first step.

The main premise is to work in 25-minute blocks of time (called “pomodoro sessions”), followed by breaks. Each pomodoro session requires your full attention on a single task and then you take a break. The supposed results are improved productivity, burnout elimination, work-life balance and distraction-management.

Maybe some of you may have already tried it, and maybe it works for you. I tried it a few times, but I realized I’m more of a head-down, just-get-the-job-done kind of gal, so the timer going off was, ironically, a major distraction for me, and I found this method more irritating than anything, so I ditched it!

Make Lists

I’ll confess that I’m a list junkie. I make lists for almost everything, whether it’s business or personal, and I get a thrill crossing things off the list. My husband’s now doing it, after years of initially thinking I was crazy! He was always amazed at how much I’d get done in a day, and I told him it’s partly because I thrive on using lists. Now he’s a convert, and sometimes we jokingly fight over who will get to cross completed tasks off the chore list! Crossing jobs off a list gives me a great sense of purpose and accomplishment, and it motivates me to see lines through completed projects and tasks. I used lists with all my in-house jobs, and I’ve continued that method with freelancing.

It may shock you to know, however, that I work with a hard copy calendar and pen-and-paper lists—call me a dinosaur, but I love to get and stay organized on paper. I spend so much of my day on a screen that it’s a welcome change to actually use my hand to write, though my handwriting is atrocious! I have a work calendar that gives me a month at a glance, as I’m one of those people who needs to see the big picture, as well as the details. I write down when projects are due, and that way I can see where the bottlenecks are/could be, and that helps me know right away if I can take on any more work. I also use lots of highlighters and different coloured pens, so projects and deadlines stand out.

I make a list for the upcoming work week, usually on Sunday night, so I know what is due when and to whom for the upcoming week. That’s a smaller version, if you will, of the bigger picture. If my workload is light for that week, then I put on my marketing hat, contacting clients I haven’t heard from in a while, reminding them I’m available for work, or contacting potential clients (and yes, I have a list of potential clients!). Before going to bed, I add to the list, cross off tasks completed or move them to a newly created list. I also have an organized plan for each work day and that keeps me on track and motivated. Maybe there are apps or programs to do this, but hard copies work for me.

I also find creating editorial checklists helpful, depending on the size of the project. If it’s only a few pages, then I don’t create one. But if it’s a major project, like copy editing a 300-page cookbook, I develop a checklist in addition to the style guide I’m using. They are often a simple Word doc or sometimes I write out my checklist. I usually use the checklist at the beginning and at the end of my project, to ensure I’ve been thorough.




Get Through Every Email

Another time-management and motivation strategy I use is making it a priority to get through all of my emails before the end of each day. It’s a quirk of mine, and I realize it sounds freakishly anal and maybe impossible, but, again, this a strategy that works for me. I find it soul-crushing to open up my email in the morning, only to find a long stream of neglected emails/clients. Sometimes that just means a quick and professional acknowledgment of the email, stating that I’ll respond in more detail the next day or very soon.

Regular Breaks, Exercise, and Self Rewards

Another tip: I make time each day for regular breaks and exercise. They are essential for my sanity and my productivity. I do weekly hatha yoga, and I have an ex-racer greyhound who needs multiple daily walks. Exercise helps me manage stress and allows me to brainstorm or work through an issue I may be having with something I’m writing or editing. Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin says that doing 10 jumping jacks will boost your mood and increase your energy. I haven’t tried that yet, but maybe I should! Even when I was an in-house editor at Homemakers and especially at the AGO, I took time for regular breaks. As I mentioned, on particularly stressful days, I’d wander in the galleries, enjoying my favourite Emily Carrs and Tom Thomsons. I have very fond memories of the Yoko Ono, William Wegman and Hermitage exhibitions because I was able to enjoy the art during a weekday morning, often avoiding all the ugly weekend and afternoon crowds. For me, breaks are a form of escapism and regeneration, a chance to lose the work chains and give my brain time to recharge and think freely, which really aids in efficiency and motivation.

I’m also a big believer in self-rewards. I will say to myself that after I get X number of pages edited or y number of pages written, I will treat myself to, for example, wandering in some of my favourite neighbourhood shops or cafes, watching a BBC show, or to some pleasure reading.

Also, I take advantage of any downtime or lulls in work. Freelancing is feast or famine, so I use downtime to re-energize, strategize, and sometimes make more lists! I visit arts and antique markets, visit with friends or family, or think of potential new clients or story ideas. I also meet with fellow editors and writers to commiserate, often sharing work tips and strategies.

Just Say “No!”

Another tactic I use is just saying “No!” No to a client, no to a volunteer opportunity, and even no to myself for doing any more work that day. My theory is, it’s better to pass on a project than to take it on and do a less-than-spectacular job and ruin your precious reputation. Clients appreciate the honesty, which keeps your integrity as an editor intact. Almost every client I’ve ever said no to has come back another time with another job or another part of the job I originally declined. I recently had to turn down a copy editing project for a main client because of prior work commitments, but I was approached by that client again several weeks later to proofread the same project. Fortunately, I was able to say yes then.

I also don’t have a problem with making some nights a “get-your-own-meal” or “cereal night” at our house. My husband likes to cook, but he gets home from work around 7 pm. He is very understanding and so is our teenaged son. They’re used to this occurrence and know that sometimes a decent weekday meal isn’t going to happen, because “Mom’s on deadline again!”

Switch to Something New

Another way for me to meet deadlines and stay motivated is to work on multiple projects in one day or just switch to a different project altogether. As I mentioned, I wrote a feature last year for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market on beating writer’s block, and many of the writers, editors, publishers, and writing instructors I interviewed do this. If my mind is wandering or if I need a break, I put aside that project and start on another. For example, if I just can’t look at that annual report pdf one more time, I’ll try writing a page for my YA novel, start working on my next book review for Canadian Children’s Book News, or research or brainstorm potential authors for the next season of Rowers Readers Series, for which I’m the administrative director. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel motivated to finish or return to the first project.

Positive Energy, Kind People

My final strategy is, surround yourself with positive, kind people. I express regular gratitude to those people in my life, as I know success is never a solo venture. It may sound cliché, but having family and friends who are supportive and respectful of you and your work will do wonders for your self-esteem and your peace of mind, which in turn has a favourable effect on your productivity, motivation and efficiency.

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Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto, Canada-based freelance writer, editor, and mentor. She’s been in the writing and editing business for two decades, and her company is Planet Word. Jennifer’s clients are from the book and custom publishing, magazine, and marketing and communications fields and include The Globe and Mail, Art Gallery of Ontario, D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Canadian Children’s Book News, Dundurn Press, Ontario Dental Association, and Firefly Books. When she’s not busy spilling ink for her first novel, walking her greyhound, Aquaman, or reading, Jennifer enjoys travelling, antiquing, gardening, camping and yoga. She’s a long-time mentor to novice editors via Editors Canada and novice writers via the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Jennifer is chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series. Find her online at lifeonplanetword.wordpress.com.

Character Development

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

Nothing tells the reader the author is an amateur quicker than reading about a make-believe, cardboard character, one that isn’t a ‘real’ person.

In this article we’ll cover the mental or inner workings of characters. These are the attributes that turn a character into a ‘real’ person. There are a number of areas involved and it will require creativity and hard work to complete the character development. These areas include the character’s personality, his dreams, his aspirations and any mirages that affect him. The character’s inner philosophy is also an important element.

Let’s briefly address each area.

• Personality: Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: The pattern of feelings, thoughts, and activities that distinguishes one person from another. If you scan the web, you’ll find a bewildering array of web sites about personality including some heavy-duty stuff from doctors. Basically, it seems to break down into two areas: personality types and personality traits.

According to one theory, there are sixteen types of personality. There are four types in each of four categories: analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers. Your character has to be one of sixteen. For more information see http://www.16personalities.com/personality-types.

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Within these categories, there are many personality traits. You need to define your character by giving him or her a personality trait or two. Is your character affable, charming, pompous, unfriendly? There are many personality traits that can be used. Once you select one or two, do a web search on that trait to ensure you can write convincingly about that type of personality. There is more information about personality traits here: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-personality-traits.html

• Dreams (aspirations): What does your character want out of life? What does he want to do when he grows up? What does she want to achieve? This attribute can influence how the character acts and can provide a measure of conflict. What if she wants to become an engineer, but has to decide whether to stay in college or drop out to help her sick mother? This situation will provide inner conflict.

• Memories: These are influencers that characters have. Memories can also be used for foreshadowing and to build up internal conflict. How? Consider this example: as a five-year-old, the character almost drowned. Ever since, she has had a healthy fear of open water. At some point in the story, she sees a man drowning in the middle of a lake. What does your character do? Does her fear of water cause her to ignore the man and walk away? Does she search for a boat to use in the rescue? Does she suppress her fear and dive into the lake?
This inner conflict can provide a memorable scene in the story. Remember though, a heroine has to do heroic stuff. It would be acceptable for a villainess to let the guy drown, but a heroine will have to try to save him, or she won’t be believable.

Another example will concern a man who was punished as a child by being locked in a dark closet. Now he fears dark basements, caves, alleys and any unlit place. You can see how this memory and foreshadowing can lead to exciting scenes and gripping internal conflict.

• Mirages: These are fantasies the character tricks herself into believing. Want an example? Most politicians thinking they have the slightest chance of getting elected President. Another example: your character pursues a goal that he can’t possible achieve because it is a mirage.

• Descriptor (or voice): This item isn’t the same as the way the character speaks, it’s a brief description or summary of the character and the way he thinks and acts. This isn’t easy to develop but I believe it’s essential to have one for the major and main characters. Once you have the descriptor, it will help you write accurately about the character and his thoughts, his actions, his reactions.

Examples may be the best way to explain the descriptor. A banker can be the voice of greed and will endlessly talk about money and financial concerns. A psychopath is the voice of rage, always ready for an argument or fight. A warrior could be described as the voice of chaos. An accountant can be the voice of precision.




• Philosophy: Everyone has a personal philosophy. You have one whether you realize it or not, whether you want one or not. I don’t know if a personal philosophy comes with your birth package or is a product of your environment and your upbringing. To me, how it happened isn’t as important as recognizing that it did happen. My personal philosophy is skepticism with a healthy dose of cynicism. Since all people have a personal philosophy, it follows that your main and major characters should also have a personal philosophy.

Once you assign a philosophy to a character, limitations instantly follow. For instance, if your character’s philosophy is individualism, you can’t have him acting hesitant or asking other characters for help and answers. An individualist character tends to do stuff by himself. He’s decisive, not wishy-washy. Similarly, if the character is an optimist, you can’t have her bad-mouthing everybody’s ideas and suggestions. That’s the way a pessimist will act.

As you can see from this discussion of inner attributes, building a memorable character requires a lot of creativity and work. However, the effort is worth it and your readers will appreciate it.

The material in this article is based on my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017

“Rapid Release” Ebook Series Support

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Very recently, I introduced you to a new mini ebook series that is being released online only that teaches authors how to sell more books using “rapid release” publishing—an online sales strategy that effectively “pings” Amazon’s algorithm in such a way that causes your books’ ranking(s) to rise up higher and higher in the search results. The higher your books’ search results are, the better your chances of a sale … of several sales!

Many authors around the world (e.g., the UKUSA, Australia) are now selling THOUSANDS of books each year by using these techniques. This ebook series will teach you, step-by-step, how to do exactly what they’re doing.

And now Polished Publishing Group (PPG) is offering even more support to help independent authors like you to produce your own “rapid release” ebook series. In partnership with NessGraphica, PPG will help you to produce four truly professional ebook covers (similar to the quality shown above), and we’ll convert your Word.doc manuscripts into .MOBI and .EPUB formats for you. Four ebooks will be designed and converted for you for the price of only one.

“Rapid Release” Ebook Series Support

Rapid Release Ebook Package 01 $850 CDN – “Rapid Release” Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Package 01 – Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Services for Four Ebooks up to 10,000 Words in Length Each

Rapid Release Ebook Package 02 $1,000 CDN – “Rapid Release” Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Package 02 – Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Services for Four Ebooks from 10,001 to 30,000 Words in Length Each

Rapid Release Ebook Package 03 $1,250 CDN – “Rapid Release” Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Package 03 – Ebook Conversion and Cover Design Services for Four Ebooks from 30,001 to 60,0000 Words in Length Each

(Editing, proofreading, and indexing services are not included in these packages. You upload your own ebooks online.)

Buy these ebooks to learn this “rapid release” publishing process. Decide if it’s for you. If the answer is “YES!” then contact PPG for support in creating your own “rapid release” ebook series by purchasing one of the above three packages. We look forward to working with you!

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Post Cards from a Heart-Centred Photographer

Debbie Flynn of DebbieFlynnPhotography.com. Click the photo to visit her website.

Why is your author photo so important for your book?

Isn’t the content the reason the reader is looking at your book? Yes, absolutely.

And what if there is another important aspect to your book? An aspect that is a visual process the reader actually uses to take in your book because we are highly visual creatures. So much so that ninety percent of the information we take in is visual.

Visually, when the reader comes to your book they are first going to see the cover and the next important visual will be your photo.

It goes even deeper. The reader is actually longing to connect with you through your photo even in that brief moment. They want to know you and what better way to do it visually than through a photo of you. All you have to consider is the impact social media has had because we are highly curious about one another. For writers Facebook even has an author Facebook page. The reader can connect with their favourite author and learn about upcoming projects and even what their day looks like. 

Which brings us back to your photo – the one that reflects your true essence and what you’re passionate about as a writer. Or does it? Wouldn’t you love to be portrayed this way?




I was out of town attending a workshop for healers. A woman I knew came up to me to ask if I could photograph her sometime during the weekend because she needed a photo right away for her forthcoming book and she wanted what I could offer. We found the time and her photography session was unlike any previous experience. During the session I encouraged her to remember her passion for what her book was about. The book was about her personal struggles and ultimate triumph. She was writing it to help other indigenous women. We created a safe environment for her to be able to do this in. It was an easy and playful session. She shared with me that the final photos lit her up every time she looked at them because they brought out her best and showed her passion. She was proud to use them.

So how do you have a session like this?

The following tips will help you to bring more passion and aliveness to your author photo.

1. Remember why you wrote your book and the passion you felt about writing it.

Journal. Make some notes to be able to refer to and re-ignite yourself regularly before the photo session.

2. Research photographers in your area.

Who do you feel good about and are drawn to use? It’s a personal decision and one that needs your heart’s attention. It is about being portrayed as who you truly are.

3. Interview the photographer.

Are they truly interested in you? Will you be yourself when you work with them? Is there space for the session such as time and an environment that allows you to be comfortable? Interviewing prospective photographers is worth it when you understand the benefits. Hire the photographer who is right for you.  

4. Prepare for the session inwardly before you go.

Remember why you wrote your book and refer to the notes you’ve been keeping. The photographer may not be able to help you express yourself from an inner place. It’s not how photographers are trained. Take time with your appearance to feel good about the way you look. This allows you to relax and to be comfortable enough to go inner.




5. During the session keep coming back to your passion for writing.

Give yourself permission to do this.

If you follow the tips above your photos will make you happy. They will act as an on-going witness of who you are and what you bring to the world.

And the first impression your photo has on readers will be authentic and compelling which will become the most lasting impression they have of you. 

The Flow of the Heart

A beautiful song arises only

when the singer forgets herself and the audience.

A deeply moving painting emerges only

when the artist forgets himself and everything 

else in the world. 

For your talents to be expressed in all their 

fullness and beauty,

the sense of otherness must disappear entirely –

or it will block the flow of your heart. 

~ Amma

ABOUT ME

After my marriage ended and I became a single mom I didn’t know where to turn.

Guidance came in the form of a photojournalist. She was photographing the kids at the family centre where my son and I were swimming. It was obvious how much she enjoyed her job working for a daily paper. We had a rich conversation about what she did. Her happiness, brightness and gratitude came through as we spoke.

She became my inspiration. She helped to revive my love of photography. That conversation inspired me to go back to school and major in photojournalism. I received a Journalism Certificate from the local college.

I mentored with a well-established wedding photographer before opening my business eight years ago. Working with hundreds of clients has taught me how to create an easy, enjoyable experience for them with images that light them up. Over the years my clients have ranged from families and their life events to executives, entrepreneurs and artists.

My nature photographs were published in a best-selling book called “Eco-yards.” It is one of a number of books and magazines who have published my photos. To see more of my landscape, nature and wildlife photography please go to DebbieFlynnPhotography.com.

For two years I exhibited my work at galleries as part of a professional women’s photography collective “femme foto” in Calgary, Alberta.

Professional organizations I have belonged to include: The PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada) and PPOA (Professional Photographers of Alberta). I attend many photography conferences. To improve my publication skills I completed a multi-media computer certificate.




A Little More About Debbie

Well, as this was happening I started on a heart-centred spiritual path. From my studies I understood our lives have a purpose . . . a mission that we’re meant to do. My mission is to bring more love and beauty to the world through the people and nature I photograph. When I hike in the mountains and close to the ocean it reminds me of how important nature is for our well-being.

There have been obstacles along the way. Through heart-centred energy training I’ve learned how to transform obstacles into what my heart truly wants. The training skills included how to deeply listen, quick, easy tools to move through obstacles and specific work to bring more harmony to my inner world. As a healing practitioner I’ve brought these skills to help many people move through their own limitations into becoming more of who they want to be.

Now I bring this experience to photography clients in the form of encouragement and attentive listening as we talk about their passion. From this place they can express what they deeply care about. And I’m able and fortunate to be able to portray it.

You know what else I love doing – dancing. I will put on a favourite tune and get movin’ whether it’s in the living room in bare feet or having a dance in my chair in my office. Try having a little chair dance sometime it will make you feel good.

Who gets you dancing?

© Debbie Flynn 2017

DebbieFlynnPhotography.com

Character Development

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

Building a main character in a story requires a bit of creativity and a lot of work.  Let’s talk about two topics on character development that don’t get much attention: limitations and biographies.

1. Limitations

As you build the characters, you may notice that limitations crop up.  Perhaps, a character can’t do what you want him to do because he is too old.  An elderly person, for instance, can’t do many things a younger person can do. You are becoming limited in what you, the author, can do and what your characters can do or can not do.  These limitations or restrictions will also occur with plotting and motivation.  The more the story design develops, the less freedom you and your characters have.  As an example, if you build a character’s physical aspects so that he has a serious limp, you can’t have him outrunning the bad guy.  Similarly, if your character dropped out of high school, he can’t use the laws of thermodynamics to develop the solution to the plot problem.  This is one huge advantage to building a complete biography; it gives you a better understanding of what the character is capable of doing.  The biography will expose the limitations the character will have to deal with.

2. Biographies

A biography for the character serves a dual purpose.  Besides providing background information, it allows the author to understand the character and that understanding is vital when dealing with the character in stressful situations.

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For a short-story character, I write a few paragraphs of bio material.  For the main character in a novel, the bio may run to more than a page.  Other novel characters will get less of a bio.  The less important the character, the smaller the bio I create.

The strange thing to many new story writers is this: most of the biographical material won’t show up in the story so why bother developing it?  The answer is that the bio allows the writer to understand the character and what makes him or her tick.  The better the writer knows and understands the character, the better the writer will be able to predict how the character will respond to situations and stimuli.

For instance, suppose someone walks up to your character and punches him in the mouth, or a beautiful woman unexpectedly kisses him.  How does your character react to the punch?  Does he punch back?  Does he walk away?  How does the character react to the kiss?  Does he get red in the face?  Does he kiss her back?  Does he develop a stammer?  Your detailed biography will guide you in writing the character’s response.  If you don’t have the bio material, the character’s response is really a guess.  In addition, the writer will have difficulty keeping the character’s response consistent when other situations occur.  Your second guess may be different from your first guess.  Believe me, the readers will pick up on it.




There are a number of biographical elements the writer should address.

Family: Are his parents alive?  Does the character have any siblings?  What is everyone’s age?  Are any siblings married?  Where did the character grow up?  Did the character have any unusual childhood experiences?  What were they?  Do these experiences affect the character?  Is the character’s family stable?  Or is it chaotic?  How does this affect him? 

Education:  Schools, degrees, favorite subject?

Career: Jobs, military experience?

Adult experiences: Married?  Divorced?  Children?

It’s the author’s job to come up with events that affected the character’s life and outlook. After that, the author must incorporate this information into the story.

This article is based on material in my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017

What if you could sell 1,000 copies of your book every month?

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What if you could sell 1,000 copies of your book every month? How about 3,000? Or even more?

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to think the likelihood of this was quite low. But I’ve done some research, this past year, and I’ve come across quite a few teachers who have shown me just how possible this truly is. Now I’m going to share their teachings with you, and I’ll begin with this short excerpt from the first book of my new mini ebook series titled Book Publishing Shortcuts for Online Marketers | Six Weeks to Creating a Book Series that Earns Passive Income from Several Sources:

…one evening, while I was researching bestselling strategies for authors, I came across an online Forbes article by J. McGregor (McGregor, J. 2017) titled “Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer.” That began to shift my thinking. It was an eye-opening piece about a highly successful UK author named Mark Dawson and how he sells massive quantities of books online. Following that, I attended a conference in Columbia, Missouri, where I met a US author named Liz Schulte who also earns a six-figure income selling her books online. A while later, I met an Aussie author named Timothy Ellis through an online Q&A site called Quora (Ellis, T. 2017, July), and he willingly shared his personal formula for selling a minimum of 3,000 books online every single month. (You can read more about these authors in this post from the PPG Publisher’s Blog.)

These three authors write fiction. So, I went in search of a non-fiction success story to confirm for myself that this strategy can work for everyone and every type of book—not only fictional novels. With a quick Google search, I easily found a post on The Creative Penn blog about a non-fiction author named Steve Scott (Penn, J. 2014). He, too, appears to be using this “rapid release” publishing method in conjunction with various other strategies, some of which will be discussed within this ebook series. (You can read more about Steve’s story in this post from the PPG Publisher’s Blog.)

Pre-order your copy today!

You may be wondering to yourself how they do it. What is the strategy? After quite a lot of research, I can tell you that, while they each have a unique relationship with their respective readers, there are two qualities they all share. And these are the two qualities that allow them all to sell the equivalent of thousands of books per month.

If you’re interested in learning more, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of each mini ebook within my new series titled Book Publishing Shortcuts for Online Marketers | Six Weeks to Creating a Book Series that Earns Passive Income from Several Sources. Inside these books, I talk in detail about the two techniques each of these authors use to sell their books … plus a few more I’ve learned along the way while studying how Amazon’s and Google’s algorithms work.

The first book in the series is available for sale now. The remaining three are all available for back order. Order them today. Read them in full. Learn these strategies because they may just help you to improve your own sales in ways you never dreamed were possible before.




* * *    * * *    * * *

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Adaptation: From Novel to Screenplay to Film

Judy Sandra – Writer, Director, Producer

These days it’s almost a given that a film will be based on a novel or book of non-fiction.  While I also write original screenplays, I decided to adapt a novel I wrote into a screenplay for a film that I will also direct. The following thoughts on adaptation come from my personal experience of adapting the novel The Metal Girl into the film project “Metal Girl.”

From Novel to Screenplay to Film

Novels and films are such different species that it can feel unnatural to marry them.  After the adaptation, the only thing they will share will be a story, the setting, and the characters. A novel is a completed art form.   One author writes the book, and one reader reads the book one at a time.  If it’s a successful book, many people, even millions of people will read that same book. While each reader will see the story through their own imagination and personal interpretation, the printed words will never change.

A screenplay is the blueprint for a film.  Very few people will ever read the original screenplay.  From the screenplay, the film will be created through the collaborative efforts of the director, cinematographer, actors, and all the creative professionals that contribute to the making of the movie.

The screenplay will evolve over the duration of the actual shooting of the film, with input and collaborations between the director and actors, and it will continue to evolve during the post-production process of the film—through the editing and finishing processes. The screenplay is a fluid and ever changing document.

I emphasize this to call attention to the fact that a screenplay is not a work of art. The film is the work. The screenplay is part of the work, a very significant part, but one that remains mostly invisible. The screenplay is the beginning of a process of the making of a film.

While this may seem an obvious point, it becomes a very important one when thinking about adapting a novel to the screen.  To me the screenwriter, the novel I have in front of me is a piece of writing that I am now going to bend to the medium of film.  The first thing to consider is adapting prose to dramatic writing and the limitations of the screenplay format.

From prose to screenplay format

To adapt the prose into a screenplay, I have to think about the story differently, as a series of scenes in three dimensions.  Also, to accommodate the average length of a film–one hour and forty-five minutes–most working screenplays are between approximately 90 and 105 pages. The narrative of an average 300-500 page novel simply won’t fit. Something—a lot—has to go.

How does one tell a novel length story in a 105 page script?




Efficiently, using the language of film.

What actually happens in an adaptation is that the story of the book gets retold in the language of film. In essence, you will be writing the original story again, but this time, it’s going to be a movie. That’s how it felt when I adapted The Metal Girl.  I was re-writing the novel, telling the same story in the same situations, but this time I was telling it using pictures, music, sound, and color. How would I tell that story, what would it look like, and how would those characters come to life on the screen?

Planning the adaptation: Structure

What elements of the story would stay and which could I cut out? Which characters, events, locations? What parts could I eliminate and what parts did I have to keep to portray the theme of the story and the main character’s journey?

What would change, and what would stay the same? This is not always evident at first. Through all the versions of the script, some events, situations, characters in the novel will be lost, but at the same time, other elements that were not in the original story might be added for dramatic effect. Further changes will occur over the course of the shooting and editing of the film.

The old adage of filmmaking is true: “There is the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit”.  A film is an evolving creative process, but that’s one of the things that for me makes filmmaking so exciting: you never really know what a film will be or look like until the end.

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Beginning, Middle, End

The first consideration is the structure of the film story, which may have to differ from the structure of the novel. Deciding on the best timeline for the events of the story in the film is the first thing to adapt. In film one wants to build the narrative and keep the audience guessing. Surprise is an important element of screenwriting—the twists and turns of the plot—and one of the devices that holds the attention of the viewer.

A novel also has to move forward, but doesn’t have to build on emotion in the same way as a film.  A film takes the audience on an emotional journey. The film must hold you in your seat in rapt attention for one sitting of 90 to 105 minutes. So the screenplay must be structured in such a way as to build towards a dramatic, emotional climax that is resolved by the end. The words on the page don’t need to do that. The book can be of interest and engaging but we can put it down and come back to it later.

For example, in The Metal Girl, one very important event in the development of the main character Charlotte happened in the early part of the novel. But in the screenplay “Metal Girl”, for dramatic purposes, I put off that moment, building up to that point later in the story. When the moment occurs in the film, the audience is ready for Charlotte’s emotional response, and it becomes a turning point for the development of her character and the arc of the story.

Characters—Subtracting and Adding

In the same way that the narrative structure may have to change, in the screenplay you may have to make changes with characters in the story, especially if there are a lot or there are many incidental characters.  For the reasons of character development, the story arc, and the time constraints of a film, incidental characters need to be kept to a minimum.  Some characters in the novel fell away because I didn’t need them as they weren’t a crucial part of the story.  In the novel they may have added another color in the development of the main character or to the texture of the story, but in the film they were unnecessary extra details.

One reason that some new characters may appear in the script is to move the narrative forward, as the film will have a different story arc than the novel. Also, one might add characters and scenes that don’t appear in the novel in order to translate internal thoughts into dialogue. For example, the novel The Metal Girl is written in the first person.  In fact, in the novel, the narrator doesn’t even have a name. Because the entire story is coming from her mind and also describes her feelings about situations that occur, I sometimes chose to create a character that didn’t exist in the book for her to interact with in order to turn her thoughts into dialogue and her internal emotional state into her responses to other people.




Keeping what works 

In spite of what I said above, sometimes what is written in the novel works perfectly well on screen. After all the film is based on the novel and you want to keep as much of the flavor of the original story as possible. In “Metal Girl” some of the dialogue in the screenplay comes directly from the  novel. Parts of the first person narrative in the book were used as voiceover in the screenplay. In the beginning of the film, we hear the main character Charlotte telling us about what we are seeing on screen as we watch the opening scenes unfold before she actually speaks in the film. Other scenes in the film were lifted directly as they were written in the novel. If it works, use it.

The End

The process of making a film, from pre- to post-production, typically takes one to two years. During that time the story has been guided by the director, writer, and producer with the collaborative efforts of the cinematographer and the entire creative team. Shooting every day is magical: how things come together on camera, what the performances will be. Putting the film together in post production—the editing and finishing process—is the final adventure.

Filmmaking is an unpredictable controlled chaos of creativity. At the end of this exciting, creative, and arduous process, you will have a film. The adapted screenplay will not be a replica of the novel, but hopefully will become a  film that is as special as the novel that inspired it.

Judy Sandra – Bio:

Judy Sandra is a director, writer, producer, and author. The screenplay “Metal Girl” is an adaptation of her coming-of-age novel The Metal Girl.  Judy has received four best screenplay award nominations for “Metal Girl”, including being honored as one of the three screenwriting finalists at the 2016 Nottingham International Film Festival, Nottingham, UK.

In 2016, she made her directorial debut with the comedy/fantasy short film  ”Angelito in Your Eye”.  Judy has received six international film award nominations for the short from international awards festivals, including for Best Comedy Short Film, Best Genre Film, and Best Actor.

LINKS:

Judy Sandra – Writer, Director, Producer
website: http://judysandra.com

The Metal Girl on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Metal-Girl-Judy-Sandra/dp/0578038781/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264541453&sr=1-5

Follow Judy and on Social Media:

Facebook:
Judy Sandra Director: https://www.facebook.com/JudySandraDirector
Metal Girl – Movie: https://www.facebook.com/MetalGirlMovie
The Metal Girl – Novel: https://www.facebook.com/TheMetalGirl

Twitter:
@judy_sandra

Instagram:
@judysandra7

 

© Judy Sandra 2017

Creating Stories: The Uses Of Setting

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

The story’s setting gives the readers a sense of time and location. This allows the readers to begin building images in their minds. The scene settings (which are subsets of the story setting) give additional image building information to the readers. But setting does much more than provide image building clues.
These uses are listed below.

1. The setting of the story should give an indication of the type of story the reader is about to encounter and this should be conveyed early to the reader, the earlier the better. Ideally, this should be the opening paragraph in a short story or the first few pages in a longer work. Is it a mystery set in Victorian London? Is it a story of survival set in war-torn Iraq? Are those vicious aliens on their way to Earth? The reader expects and has a right to know this stuff as early as possible. Don’t disappoint the readers. They may put the book down and never open it again.

2. There are two types of setting in a story. First, there is the overall story setting and second there is the settings used in scenes. The scene settings are subsets of the story setting. For instance, if the story setting is the Sahara Desert, then scenes can be set on sand dunes, at an oasis, in a sand storm or at a deserted fort.

3. Consider your characters acting out the story on a stage. Behind the characters, instead of the scenery typical with plays, there is nothing but white panels. The people who paid money to see the play would be dismayed by the lack of scenery, so too your readers will not like it if your story doesn’t have the appropriate setting to back up the characters.

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4. The setting used in your story has to be accurate. Don’t try to set a story in Manhattan’s Central Park if you haven’t been there. Likewise, the French Quarter in New Orleans is unique and shouldn’t be used by anyone who hasn’t walked the narrow streets.

5. On the other hand, if you develop an imaginary location, you can describe the area any way you want. If you use a backdrop of a historical period in the distant past, none of your readers will have been there, but you’ll still have to do research to get the setting accurate. You can’t use St. Paul’s Cathedral with its great dome in London right after William the Conquerer became king of England. St Paul’s wasn’t built yet.

6. An effect of establishing the setting is the placing of limitations on the author and the characters. For the author, a space ship means he shouldn’t have the characters using swords and landline phones since these artifacts are from bygone eras. Your characters are also limited. A character in the Old West can’t have knowledge of computers or smart phones, unless he’s a time-traveler.

As you can see, the setting can have a major impact on the reader, especially if it isn’t handled correctly.

This article is based on material in my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017