The value of an awesome freebie

yWriterIt’s amazing what providing freebie can do for you. Take Simon Haynes, for example.

Simon created the novel writing program yWriter to help him write his novels because he couldn’t find anything that did what he wanted to do at the time.

Afterwards, he let people use it for free.

Today, yWriter has something of a cult following, and Simon’s name is known around the world.

His novels have had far more exposure than he could have ever hoped to gain without yWriter.

Similarly, a few years ago I created a novel structure diagram as a last-ditch effort to try and save a novel I just couldn’t get to work no matter what I did with it.

From what I could tell I was doing everything right, but it still wasn’t working.

Years of casual research went into that diagram, but it paid off because the information highlighted a whole bunch of structural elements my novel was either doing poorly or missing altogether.

The diagram was my means of making sense of it all my research; a visual clue I could see in a moment to trigger a greater understanding of what needed to happen around certain points in a story.

When complete, I posted it on my blog in the hope it would help others, and from the feedback I’ve received, it did.

So what’s the point of all this?

My blog gets more hits from that one page than any other post I’ve ever put up.

What’s more, visitors often continue on to my other posts about writing, and sometimes that trail even leads them to my fiction.

Just the other day someone posted a link in a writers’ forum asking the people there what they thought about the diagram.

Lots of writers clicked on that link and swung past my blog to check it out. Plenty of them read on.

So what’s the value in a freebie?

A diagram showing the elements of a novel and how they fit together.Would I be blogging about Simon Haynes if it wasn’t for yWriter? Would someone have posted a link to my blog without my diagram?

It means people come for something, and hopefully find something else.

Maybe you’re sitting on something that might help people too. In helping them, you just might be helping yourself.

Find out more about yWriter and/or download it from Simon’s website.

Take a look at my novel structure diagram – it may just be the answer you’re looking for.

CSFG blog post on managing the size of your story

Profile image of Ian McHugh deep in thought.

Ian McHugh

I don’t normally promote blog posts I find on the net, but perhaps I should following this post by Ian McHugh on the CSFG site.

In his post, Ian discusses managing the size of the first novel he wrote, and the traps and pitfalls he enountered. He says specifically:

“So, what went wrong?

In a word: structure.

In more words: I didn’t have a strong enough structure, or even a strong enough understanding of narrative structure, to keep my story under control.”

 As I’m giving a presentation on story structure at the upcoming Conflux Writers Day I found this particularly worth the read, so please check out Managing the size of your story

Ian’s blog is also worth a look – lots of good writing information there.

The Elements of Novels at the Conflux Writers Day

Conflux BannerJust a brief announcement to say I’ve written a guest post for the CSFG Blog on my upcoming presentation at the Conflux Writers Day on 5 April.

If you’re coming, please check it out.

While you’re over at the CSFG blog, you’ll find a submission call for the next CSFG Anthology, The Never Never Land!

You never know, I might get my act together and actually submit something for this one myself.

Have a great weekend, and hopefully I’ll see you at the Conflux Writers Day!

Questions for beta readers and critiquers

Old writing tools, old books and a tableHave you ever given your stories to critiquers or beta readers in the hopes of getting some good feedback?

If you’re like me, you’ll find that sometimes the feedback’s great – very specific, very detailed, and very useful.

Other times you’re lucky if you get anything useful at all.

Giving critiquers a specific set of questions will help you get better feedback.

Here’s a list you might want to use.

Overall

  • What do you think works well?
  • What do you think could be done better?
  • Am I providing enough information/backstory in this book?
  • Am I giving away too much information?
  • Does the it fit the ABCXYZ genre?
  • What would you say are the story’s main strengths?
  • Did it leave you thinking about:
    • The characters
    • The Story
    • The World
    • What might happen next?
  • Anything else?

Characters

  • Did you care enough about the characters to want to know what happens to them?
  • Who was your favourite character?
    • Why?
  • Who was your least favourite character?
    • Why?
  • Are there any characters you didn’t care about enough to be interested in what happens to them?
    • Why?
  • Could any of the characters be developed better?
    • How?
  • Did the characters’ motivations work for the story?
  • Are the characters distinct enough from each other?
  • Were the characters three dimensional?
  • Were the characters’ relationships clear?
    • Were they convincing?
    • Were they satisfying?
    • Were they believable?
  • Anything else?

Story and Structure

  • Was the story structure about right?
  • What could be done to improve the story’s structure, if anything?
  • Did anything stand out as being ‘out of place’?
  • Was anything confusing?
  • Was the beginning intriguing enough to keep you reading?
  • Was the ending satisfying enough?
  • Did the overall plot work?
  • Anything else?

Worldbuilding

  • Does anything about the world feel ‘out of place’?
  • Is anything missing?
  • Did you get drawn into this world?
  • Was anything about the world unclear?
  • Anything else?

Conflict and Threat

  • Is there enough conflict between the characters?
  • Is there enough conflict external to the characters?
  • Is there enough internal conflict (doubts, fears etc)?
  • Is the overall threat to the characters/world/character goals strong enough?
  • Does the conflict create enough tension?
  • Anything else?

Theme

  • What would you say the main theme is?
  • What other themes stood out?
  • What other theme(s) could be worked in or better developed?
    • Why?
  • What theme(s) failed to hit the mark?
    • Why?

Style

  • Is there too much exposition? Not enough?
  • Is there too much description? Not enough?
  • Did you want to skip over any sections?
  • Is the pacing about right?
    • Too fast?
    • Too slow?
  • Do the various story threads connect well enough?
  • Anything else?

Technique

  • Are there any consistent grammar or punctuation problems?
  • Are there any repetitive phrases or words that stand out in a bad way?
  • Any other bad habits?
  • Were there enough highs and lows in the story?
  • Was the action balanced with enough calm moments?

What other questions do you like to ask you beta readers and critique group?

You can find more posts on writing in the The Craft.

Conflux Writers Day April 2014

Conflux BannerJust a brief post to let everyone know I’ll be doing two presentations at the Conflux Writers Day on Saturday April 5, which is a prelude to the Aurealis Awards that night.

The inaugural Conflux Writers Day will take place at University House, Australian National University, Canberra.

The theme is ‘The Writers Journey’, which will be covered by four sub-themes – Writing Skills, Writing Processes, Submission and Publication and Building a Career.

My first presentation, Presenting Your Blog Posts for Maximum Impact will focus on:

  • text layout
  • readability
  • images and other features
  • how to keep people on your site for longer
  • accessibility issues and what to avoid.

My second presentation, The Elements of Novels, will feature information about:

  • balancing the beginning, middle and end
  • purpose of theme
  • how to distil a novel into a single, sharp, meaningful sentence
  • the three essential characters every novel needs (and how they work together).

In all, there will be a total of twenty sessions, plus an additional four plenary sessions by:

  • Joanne Anderton
  • Kaaron Warren
  • Ian McHugh
  • Keri Arthur

It will be well worth your time if you’re able to come.

Further information:

You might like to check out my Novel Structure Diagram which forms part of The Elements of Novels presentation.

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

Blank pages in a book.Last year was a huge year in many ways. I landed an agent and kicked a bunch of other goals, all of which have moved my writing career forward in several ways.

So what are my Big Hairy Audacious Goals for this year? I should probably write a list:

  1. Get my epic fantasy signed by a big publisher.
  2. Edit and self-publish at least one novella.
  3. Write at least one new novel or novella.

Obviously, the first of those three major goals is out of my hands (although I’ll do everything I can to make it happen), but the other two are entirely up to me.

I’m currently editing the first novella in a series – Through The Veil: Welcome to Earth, which I hope to self-publish this year, and I’d like to plan and write at least one of its sequels. Preferably two.

I also have a stand-alone novella (loosely set within in the series) written, and a novel set in the same universe. Both need editing/review/polishing.

Other goals:

  1. Blog regularly. Once a week would be good.
  2. Continue to grow my social media presence.
  3. Get at least one short story published.
  4. Attend at least two conventions.
  5. Give at least three writers workshops or presentations.

I think most of those secondary goals are pretty doable too, although no doubt I’ll struggle with the blogging. I didn’t originally name this blog ‘The Infrequent Blog’ for nothing. Still, it’s a goal I’d like to kick.

You’re welcome to read the first chapter of Through The Veil: Welcome to Earth. It’s still a draft, so any feedback you could offer would be appreciated.

Updated Novel Structure Diagram!

A diagram showing most of the major elements of a novel.Hey all, I’ve finally managed to update my Novel Structure Diagram!

It’s been a long time coming, mostly because I used a different program, which was pretty fiddly. It produced a much better diagram though.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts. It’s not all that different to the previous version, but does improve on it in quite a few ways.

As always, you’re welcome to print it out or link to it via your blog or social media sites, but please don’t post it elsewhere.

You’ll find the full sized image on the Novel Structure page.

Book Trailers – an afternoon’s play

For a little bit of fun, but mostly experience, I made a book trailer for a work in progress.

It’s not the greatest thing in the world, but for an afternoon’s work and considering all I had was a bunch of clips and a copy of Movie Maker (which I’d never used before – in fact, I’ve never used any movie-making software), I think I’ve done pretty well.

I’d be interested to know what you think about:

  • what works
  • what doesn’t
  • where it could be improved.

I know I’ve got a huge list of things I’d change if I had the right skills and the time (including an image of actual book cover at the end), but please let me know your thoughts about anything else you notice isn’t working for you, or you would change/add/alter (in the comments section or elsewhere).

How to write a thousand words (or maybe more) by Amanda Bridgeman

I first met Amanda at GenreCon 2012, and we struck up an immediate friendship. She’s very unassuming – and barely let on she had a publishing contract with Momentum for her first novel, Aurora: Darwin. Until I caught up with her at GenreCon 2013, I didn’t even know that Aurora: Darwin had hit the number one spot in the iTunes book charts. Today, I’ve managed to convince her to drop by and share some of the secrets of her success. Take it away Amanda…

Profile shot of Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a red chair.They say a picture tells a thousand words, but I disagree. I believe a picture can tell an infinite amount more.

You see, in my mind a picture is not just a flat image consisting of colours and shapes. Instead, it is a window behind which lies a 3D world just waiting to be explored.

If you let your mind delve into, that is…

I recall undertaking an exercise during my creative writing course at university, whereby we gathered images from a magazine, then constructed a story from them.

It was quite fascinating to see what each student came up with, and more fascinating still to see what each came up with when given the same image to work from.

Everyone sees things differently. Everyone has different levels of imagination. Everyone draws from different experiences.

A wooden door.

Prague (Czech Republic)

I’ve always loved photography (and art) because I don’t just see that one flat image they project.

I see the world of possibilities they contain and the many stories that can be garnered from them.

This is why I just love Pinterest and find myself scouring it for hours. The inspiration it can provide to writers is endless.

I can scroll through Pinterest, see a striking image, and have a story flood into my mind about the people or the objects they contain.

One single image has the power to do that for me, and I’m positive it can do that for you too.

So that is what I want to share with you today: a writing exercise to get the juices flowing.

Believe it or not, I want you to construct a story from the simple image of a lone doorway.

During my travels, I have always found myself fascinated by doorways (see some of my photographs on this page).

There are so many intriguing, intricate, and beautiful examples, with so much history behind them, that the mind can run wild with the possibilities of just what these doors would have seen had they eyes, and what secrets they might hold had they ears.

For a broader selection of images, check out my Pinterest Board – “Doorways to the Imagination”.

Find an image that strikes you, then begin your writing journey with the following prompts:

An old door with rivets and a lot of the red paint worn off.

Beijing (China)

  • Where would you find a door like this? What town, city, country, or planet could it come from?
  • How long has this doorway been there? Is it an ancient relic? Or is it relatively new, but styled in the way of the local people?
  • What is it made from? Is it constructed from local resources? Is it made from imported goods? If so, from where?
  • Is it a stock-standard door, or has it been specifically handcrafted? Is there magic sealing this door? Or some laser force-field? Can it only be opened by one particular key, or code, or password, or by one specific person only?
  • What is it a doorway to? Is it someone’s home, a hotel, a bar, a prison, a church, a graveyard, a hospital, a magician’s den, a castle, a dungeon, a palatial mansion?
  • What lies beyond the door? What room will be walked into? How is it furnished? Is it a hovel? Is it extravagant and beautiful? Is it a friendly place? Is it haunted? Is it a portal to another world?
  • Who is approaching this door? Is it the owner? Is it a visitor? Is it a stranger?
  • If it is the owner, are they glad to be home? Are they terrified of what they may find behind the door? Is there anyone waiting for them? Or are they alone? Do they have something they desperately need to do once inside? Where are they returning home from?
  • If it is a visitor, are they pleased to be visiting? Is this a friendly, warm place, filled with good memories? Or is this a place they would rather not visit? Do they have good news for the owner? Or is it bad news? Are they here to confront the owner? Or are they here to declare their undying love? Do they have something they desperately need to do on the other side of this door? Where have they just come from? What led them here today?
  • If it is a stranger, how did they happen upon this door? Was it by chance? Or have they followed some kind of directions or map to get there? Is the stranger seeking answers to something? Or are they just seeking a place to rest their weary head? Why have they come to this particular door? Does this stranger have something they desperately need to do on the other side of this door? Where have they just come from? What led them here today?
  • What will happen when the owner/visitor/stranger enters through this door? Is this simply the beginning of your story? Or is this the point of climax? Or is it simply part of the journey along the way?
  • What is so special about this door? What does it symbolise? A journey come to fruition? A journey about to commence? Will entering this door symbolise someone opening their heart to another? Will it symbolise them confronting a problem/nemesis/part of themselves? Will it symbolise a character opening their eyes to all that they have been blind to before? Does this door hold the answers? Or does it only raise more questions?
A wooden door set into the wall of an old building.

Stratford-upon-Avon (England)

The possibilities are truly endless if you let your imagination run wild. So go with it.

Give this exercise a try and find out just where this doorway may lead YOU.

And if doorways aren’t your thing, you can run a similar exercise with Windows to the Soul!

About Amanda: Born in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, and raised on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC by her three brothers, Amanda grew up somewhat of a tomboy, preferring action/sci-fi films over the standard rom-com, and liking her music rock hard.

That said, she can swoon with the best of them and is not a fan of bugs.

A writer and film buff, she loves most genres, but is particularly fond of Spec-Fic. She likes action, epic adventures, and strong characters that draw you in on their wild rollercoaster rides.

Her debut novel Aurora: Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013, and the sequel Aurora: Pegasus, will be released in December 2013 but is available for pre-ordered now.

Places where you can find Amanda:

Read another guest post about what Jen Christopherson’s learned about writing and publishing.

Would You Like to be Murdered – Results!

A hand holding a bloody knife.The results are in!

It was a lot harder to come to a decision than I’d thought it would be – as well as the responses directly on my blog, there were plenty more on G+ and even a few emailed directly to me.

What’s more, they were all awesome, making the decision even harder.

Thanks everyone so much for entering! I had a lot of fun doing this post and I hope you had fun too!

Although all the responses were fantastic, there was only one position available for murder, and so I had to make a really tough choice.

I eventually went with the response I thought was the most creative: Vanessa MacLellan!

Here’s Vanessa’s response: So far that month, Vanessa had burned a pattern in her lawn, eaten raw liver, sacrificed her pet bunny, Arnold, erected a tower of tinfoil and chrome, and sent emails to Aliens@space.com and still she had no visitations, though the real reason she should die: striped socks with plaid pants.

Congrats Vanessa – it’s going to be a pleasure to murder you… in print, of course.

In case you missed it, check out the original blog post and competition details: Would You Like to be Murdered?

If you wan to know more about Vanessa, check out her blog or find Vanessa on Google+.

Would you like to be murdered?

A hand holding a bloody knife.The Competition

Do you fantasise about being kidnapped and murdered by an evil shapeshifter (every day, right)?

Not the lycanthrope kind, but the ‘let’s take dark magic and warp someone’s mind and body’ kind.

Perhaps being murdered is your greatest fear and you feel a desperate need to exorcise it, or maybe you’d just love to show the story to a loved one and see their reaction.

Whatever your reason, here’s your chance to vicariously live the dream.

The story situation is quite simple: an innocent girl is going to get killed in order to send another girl a ‘message’. She’ll be stabbed to death – the body discovered after the event.

The dead girl could have your name. Sounds like fun, right? (If it does, you need to see someone with quack-type qualifications.)

So here’s what you have to do.

In the comments below, simply tell me why you’d love to get your namesake murdered.

The best response will win you immortality in print along with a digital copy of the book when complete. I’d have offered you a new Ferrari, but I’m all out of Ferrari’s at the moment.

The rules!

  1. It’s a girl that gets murdered, so it has to be a girl’s name. If you have a guy’s name, you’re welcome to find a female equivalent (so long as you include your actual name too).
  2. You need to impress me with a response to this question: Why do you want your namesake gruesomely killed off? I’ll choose a winner based on the responses.
  3. It has to be your own name – your mother-in-law’s name and those of your enemies and friends are off limits.
  4. Keep it to a single sentence (I’m applying the KISS principle here).
  5. You can enter multiple times.
  6. I can add and remove rules as I see fit (the butt-covering rule).
  7. If you enter, I reserve the right to look at you strangely for all eternity.

The competition closes at midnight (your time), November 9, 2013 (Friday the 13th was too far off).

I’ll announce the winner shortly thereafter.

Here’s the story’s premise: A warrior princess from another universe unexpectedly falls for a human boy while hunting the shapeshifter that murdered her parents.

The girl that gets murdered is human (just like you – so if you’ve got a name that sounds like it comes from another world, I may veto your entry because that’s not what I’m looking for, but put your entry in anyway).

And that’s it. I’m looking forward to reading your deepest, darkest, most horribly gruesome desires!

You can read the first chapter of Through The Veil: Welcome To Earth if you want to see what you might be getting yourself in for.

GenreCon 2013 Roundup

GenreCon BannerI spent the last weekend at GenreCon in sunny Brisbane. Brisbane is incredibly pleasant for such a big city – at least where I was staying at South Bank.

Clean and tidy, open and airy, they’ve put a lot of effort into making the riverfront appealing, including a rainforest walk, a free pool/beach, a massive open-air stage and a café and restaurant district.

GenreCon itself was held at the State Library, a modern building with a bookshop and café outside, and great facilities inside.

The event began with a cocktail party where I caught up with a bunch of friends including Mark and Luke Mercieca, Amanda Bridgeman, David Versace and Josh Melican, and met a whole heap more.

Dave Versace

David Versace channelling James Bond at the cocktail party.

I only wish it had gone on for twice as long.

We followed up the cocktail party with drinks at the official Con hotel, though I snuck off to bed a bit early as I didn’t want to risk a hangover.

Some people chose to risk it judging by the zombie stares and Twitter talk the next day.

Day 1 was full-on. It included:

  • fantastic keynote speakers
  • workshops
  • panels.

The highlight for me was the workshop on creating book trailers with Scott Baker.

Scott gave us lots of very useful information disguised as common-sense, straightforward guidelines, but in reality he made it clear that a professional-looking book trailer is really hard to pull together, and potentially quite expensive.

The other big highlight of the day was a great chat I had with the lovely Rochelle Fernandez from HarperVoyager.

Not being faced with the prospect of having to pitch a novel to her at any point, it was a relaxed, easy-going conversation. It felt like a catch-up with an old colleague.

People dressed up as pirates at the At the Cutlasses and Kimonos Banquet.

At the Cutlasses and Kimonos Banquet.

Saturday night featured the Cutlasses and Kimono’s Banquet, where Chuck Wendig’s speech: 25 Reasons Why Genre Is Awesome (or something to that effect), had the room in laughter and cheers. Brilliant speaker. He loves wombats of the steampunk variety, apparently.

He followed it up by answering 25 Questions, which produced just as many laughs.

The final day was the ‘interesting’ day.

It started with a ‘What the?’ moment.

I woke up well before the con started, and being slightly hung-over following the banquet and after-party, I figured I needed a little more sleep.

So I took it upon myself to roll over and get some.

At some point I started awake, and panicked. You would have too.

Scott Baker explaining information displayed on a slide.

Scott Baker explaining one of his slides.

There was less than ten minutes until the con started. I bolted for the shower, determined not to miss anything.

That was stupid, of course.

The hotel was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the con, and I still had to pack up and check out.

Regretfully, I decided to sacrifice the keynote speeches, get organised, and arrive late as if I’d intended to do so all along.

Naturally enough, being at a genre convention, I entered a Time Warp at that moment.

Time Warp you say? Seriously? Yeah, seriously.

Nothing else could possibly explain it, not even the fact that the room was fairly dark when I woke and my watch has hands but no numbers.

After checking out of the hotel, I was about halfway to the con when I decided to check my social media feeds on my phone.

My phone was clearly broken. The time read 6:56am. What the…?

I checked my watch. Same thing. I looked around. The streets were fairly quiet for what was supposed to be about 10am, and the sun oddly low in the sky.

Thanks to my own personal Time Warp, I’d been given the gift of several hours.

Stranger things have happened, like the time I fell ten metres and then swam to the edge of the pool without a single broken bone.

Ferris Wheel.

A photo I took on my early morning walk.

Taking the Time Warp in my stride, I did what every red-blooded Australian would do.

I picked up some coffee and banana bread, and went for a long walk along the river. I even took some photos on my phone.

I got to the library a good hour before the con started, too. Impressive, no? Just like I planned.

Despite that, I felt as if I’d already had a big day.

After downing another coffee I rested on a bench, my ‘Duff Beer’ hat over face, and nursed my Time Warp-muddled senses until Peter Ball let me in early (what a champion!).

Day two highlights: Lean Pub – a way to publish your work as a serial, or just publish them as an e-book. Looks pretty interesting. I’ll be playing with their site and maybe using it for a series of short stories and/or writing articles.

Chris Andrews wearing a Pirate Bandanna

Me at the Cutlasses and Kimono’s Banquet.

The other highlight was the Thinking Like a Pro panel with Valerie Parv, Keri Arthur and John Connolly. Always good to get the perspective of a pro.

Unfortunately I missed the final panel and The Great Debate as Qantas refused to hold my plane for me.

Okay, technically it’s their plane, but I’d hired a seat and paid for a wonderful dinner of three tiny biscuits and a microscopic tub of relish.

The lessons I took home from GenreCon were vastly superior and much more filling than the Qantas meal, and definitely worth the effort.

A big thank you to Meg Vann and Peter Ball and all the other Con Ninjas for putting on such a great, professional event. Cheers guys – rest up for a bit.

Read last year’s GenreCon roundup or check out some other reports from David Versace and J Michael Melican.

The High Concept

What’s your story’s High Concept?

A man atop a cliffI run a regular Novel Writers Group at the ACT Writers Centre, usually spearheaded by a topic of the month.

This month it was The High Concept.

It’s worth devoting some time to it and figuring out.

During the discussion, the High Concept quite often got confused with Theme and Plot, probably because it’s tied into both.

Phillip Berrie, a member of the group, recently wrote a wonderful novella called The Changeling Detective.

Right there in the title is the basis of the story’s High Concept – a detective who can alter his appearance.

There’s a heck of a lot more going on in the book than that, and the overall series might have a different High Concept compared to the individual book, but as a stand-alone that’s what’s at the heart of it.

Break it down

What happens in the story is Plot, and this will influence the High Concept.

So will the story’s higher meaning – its Theme.

Both Plot and Theme hang off High Concept, not the other way around.

The Changeling Detective centres around a character who can change his appearance – short and simple. Everything’s tied into that. In this case, it’s an origin story – which further influences the High Concept.

Try explaining your High Concept to someone who doesn’t know the story

Practice with something familiar:

  • A family has been lost in space and is trying to find a way home. (Lost in Space)
  • Factions of a galactic empire fight for control of a rare mind and body-altering drug. (Dune)
  • Gods are manipulating people and events to try and win control of a universe. (Prophecy of Power: Quarry. Okay, that’s mine. Couldn’t resist)

The High Concept is your sales pitch, your Big Idea.

It doesn’t encompass your story – it’s the basis for it.

How do you find your own High Concept?

Look to the title.

You may not find it there (Dune, for example, doesn’t encompass it, though the Spice comes from the planet Dune and the story is set there – but the sequels come closer: Children of Dune, Chapter House Dune, etc).

Star Wars, Lost in Space, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – all give you insights into the story’s High Concept.

Consider you’re telling your best friend about a story you’ve just read. What do you say?

Imagine a bunch of robots are trying to destroy their makers, and:  

  • The survivors flee their homeworld looking for a safe haven… Battlestar Galactica.
  • A cyborg is sent back in time to end human resistance before it begins… Terminator.
  • A man has the power to manipulate programmed reality… The Matrix.

Find the basis of your High Concept and expand on it in a single sentence.

Anyone can write a story about a secret agent with a licence to kill, but there’s only one James Bond. That particular High Concept has spawned countless books, movies, games and rip-offs.

To find your own, you’ll need to add a little uniqueness.

Start with the word ‘imagine’ and then lay it out.

What’s mine? Imagine… The Gods are manipulating people and events in order to gain control of an entire universe. The premise of the story? A princess is being hunted by assassins because of a prophecy she wants no part in. They’re tied together – but certainly not the same.

What’s your High Concept? Let me know in the comments.

Guest blogs and the Leibster Award

Guest Blogging

Lately I’ve been writing more guest blogs than I post here.

Guest blogging is a great idea if you’ve never tried it. Guests get their name out there among new people, and hosts get content they don’t have to produce themselves. Win/win.

So, here’s a shoutout to my most recent guest blog hosts. Please check them out and maybe dig around in the blogs, and leave a comment or two if you have the time.

Dyane Forde interviewed me on her wonderful blog, Dropped Pebbles. Fun and entertaining.

Vashti Quiroz-Vega hosted a post from me about the evolution of my epic fantasy novel.

JW Alden published my guest blog on the future of publishing.

Jen Christopherson asked me some great questions on her blog.

Leibster Blog Award

Liebster Award imageJen also nominated me for the Leibster Blog Award in which you answer eleven questions, state eleven facts about yourself and nominate eleven more people while linking back to the original post.

Jen’s questions for me:

  1. Do you want to be rich and famous?
    Rich? Yes. Famous? Not so much, but I’ll take it if it comes with the rich.
  2. If yes why and if no why?
    Why? I’d love to be able to give away the day job. I’m not so sure I’d want the hassles involved with being famous though.
  3. What is the most important day of the week for you?
    Monday – it’s my writing day.
  4. What is your favourite dessert?
    Ice cream. Vanilla.
  5. How long did it take you to feel good about writing?
    Tough question. I remember my primary school teacher (third grade) criticising my short story about a koala using a branch to save it’s child. Her reason was that they’re animals and not people, so it couldn’t have happened. It really smashed my creativity (it was a kids story, not a reality show). I didn’t write again until late high school. It felt pretty good when I got my first short story published.
  6. What is your favourite time of day?
    I like to write in the mornings.
  7. Who do you depend upon?
    Depends what for. In regards to writing, I depend on everyone who has anything to do with it up to the point of publication – critters, supporters, proof readers, friends and family.
  8. Has anyone ever let you down?
    Yes, but it’s not something I focus on. Best to move on and leave the disappointments behind.
  9. Where on Earth do you think is closest to heaven?
    A chocolate shop.
  10. What was the most valuable advice anyone ever gave you?
    “You can be anything you want to be.” My mother. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now.
  11. What is the most indulgent gift you ever received or gave?
    Personalised number plates.

Even random facts about me:

  1. My hair (though it’s rapidly disappearing) is very curly at the back but barely wavy on top.
  2. My beard is tinged with red. Or was. Lots of salt these days.
  3. I’m naturally shy and have to work hard to overcome it.
  4. The hospital I was born in got blown up and replaced with a museum.
  5. I’ve been to Disneyland. Twice. The first time was when my wife won a competition.
  6. I live within walking distance of a lake.
  7. I work at a government research organisation (sounds more ominous when I say it like that).
  8. I went to university as a mature-aged student.
  9. I’m a pretty good handyman.
  10. I always expect my lotto tickets to win.
  11. I can hear very high pitched sounds like dog whistles.

I’m not sure who I’ll nominate yet or what questions I’ll ask. Stay tuned.

If you want to be nominated, contact me or drop a comment.

Publishing and marketing a novel

Prophecy of Power - cover imageHere I am at the pointy end of getting a novel to market.

It’s written. It’s been critiqued. It’s been rewritten. It’s been edited. It’s been sent out for further feedback. It’s attracted the attention of an agent. It’s getting a final rewrite.

What now?

Well, that depends on the agent to some extent – I haven’t had that conversation yet. What I do know is that no matter what happens, I’ll be doing almost all the marketing myself.

So, assuming a publisher takes it and actually puts it into bookshops, their marketing campaign will probably include:

  • sending out review copies prior to publication
  • advertising it on their website
  • advertising it in their newsletter.

In addition, this is how I plan to market my novel:

  • blog about it here
  • do guest blogs – at least 20 to 30 if I can manage it
  • contact review websites and try to get it reviewed on them
  • send out extra review copies to any blogger who says they want to review it prior to publication (I’m not sure about the publisher’s take on that – they may not let me)
  • tour bookshops and do book signings
  • attend conventions
  • announce it on social media
  • ask anyone who reads the novel to post an honest review on Amazon (or elsewhere).

Of course, there’s no guarantee a publisher will take it. If that’s the case I’ll publish it myself – electronically and via print on demand.

That’ll mess up my dreams of getting it into bookshops, but at least it’ll get it out there.

Either way, the marketing plan will be pretty similar. What else could I do? What have I missed? What have you done that’s worked?