The Easiest-Ever Guide To Story Outlining!

Easiest Ever Guide to Story OutliningI have a guest post up on Cholontic – The Easiest-Ever Guide to Story Outlining.

It’s definitely worth a look if you struggle with outlining.

It’s a simple two-step process, each step broken down into easy-to-do parts.!The-EasiestEver-Guide-to-Story-Outlining/c1q8z/551e2ab90cf215f35a384c8e


Things I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writing

Everything I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writingIt’s really tough getting word out about your creative endeavours, so it’s good to know what works and when to start doing it.

With this problem in mind I asked a group of writers to throw their best tips at me, and they responded with some fantastic advice.

My own tip: Be the kind of person that other people want to be friends with by helping and supporting them whenever you can. (It doesn’t hurt to put the name of your latest book or your website address in your email signature either.)

Here’s some more great tips:

“My biggest one-day bump came from an article a newspaper reporter/recent acquaintance wrote about books featured locally. The second was from doing a reading at high school that then ordered a classroom set of books. Both involved being open to the opportunity. Neither was based on a sale or a paid advertisement. In 20 months as a published writer have seen no appreciable return from sales or paid advertisements!” Robert L. Slater

“Connect with – and support – other authors by commenting on their blogs, hosting them on your blog for releases, Tweeting about their books, etc. People are more willing to help promote authors that they already know and like.” Quanie Miller

“Every now and then try a new author promotion strategy. Ask yourself – Have I done anything new lately to promote my books?” Aditi Chopra

“Promotion also is all about presentation to the right market who is interested in your writing.  Make sure you are targeting the market for success.”  Debra Hargrove

“Promote soft or hardcover editions via a public book signing and leave a copy or two to be discovered in a public place to create a public awareness of your work.” Douglas Moore

“What I learned was that resistance is futile and you need to embrace this part of the process. Sometimes it is even – gasp! – fun.” Janine Donoho

“Think outside the box. That is where the growth occurs and if you don’t grow, you stifle.” Karin Halford

“Be patient. Maintain personal integrity, and hold on to your moral and ethical beliefs.” Armando Almase

“Create a writer’s platform, starting with a blog you own.” Carly Compass

“Social media is a must for any author who wants to earn a steady income from writing. Update your blog(s) and make use of Twitter and Facebook and Google + with a mix of self promotion and reposting other articles of interest. Self promotion alone will lose you followers on social media platforms.” Douglas Moore

“Write, write, write, join a critique group, critique, critique, critique. Then, rewrite what you wrote! [Start with a great book!]” Cholontic (Jen Christopherson)

“An author platform online should encompass many sites. Twitter, an FB page, website optional but definitely a blog, Google Plus, maybe YouTube trailers, Instagram & Pinterest, WattPad, Goodreads, if on Amazon fill out your bio area. Fill that out everywhere and utilize the free online real estate at your disposal. Update your LinkedIn.” Tosca Johnson

“Author promo is separate from book promo. Author promo begins long before you have a book on a shelf, the attention of an agent, or hit ‘upload’ on your first self-pub’d masterpiece. Author promo means standing up in the world, both visceral and virtual, and saying ‘Hello, I’m _ and I’m a writer.’ Author promo means connecting with peers, networking with the writing community, and making sure potential readers know your name long before you have anything other than yourself to promote.” AmyBeth Inverness

“Do what you love.” Joe Machney

“I wish I had known how to do it. I didn’t really promote my first book very much. I wish I had been friends with writers who could point me towards the better sites for helpful hints.  Have an author page on all the major social media sites and keep it up to date with  anything appropriate. They are a great way for people to get to know you as a person and want to buy your books because of it.” Karin Halford

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Point Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.If you’re looking for a little help with your own writing, head over to Creative Manuscript Services and enter the free Structural Analysis Report giveaway.

Structural Analysis Report – giveaway!

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.Creative Manuscript Services (my editing business) is giving away a free Structural Analysis Report, which is normally valued at $550.

All you need to do is subscribe to the CMS blog and intrigue me with your best one-liner for your book.

If you win, Creative Manuscript Services will produce a structural analysis report for you based on your outline or synopsis.


So get over there and throw your novel’s one-liner at me! I can’t wait to see it!

If you’re not sure what a Structural Analysis Report is, it’s about audience expectations and meeting all the criteria an audience will expect – whether they know it or not.

Please remember though, you’ve got to follow ALL the guidelines on the CMS website – don’t just drop your one-liner here!

2014 Roundup

Drawing of trees in snow2014 has been an interesting year. I:

  • signed with an agent who’s now shopping my fiction around
  • wrote a couple of short stories (writing short stories is pretty rare for me)
  • critiqued a bunch of novels and had one of mine critiqued in return
  • gave a workshop on story structure at the local convention which was exceptionally well received (very happy about that!)
  • gave two presentations at a writers day: one on story structure, the other on blogging
  • grew the Fantasy Writers community on G+ to well over 8000 members
  • changed careers thanks to government cutbacks
  • edited half a novel
  • wrote the best part of a non-fiction book on story structure

So what does all that mean for me in 2015? It means:

  • I’ll be writing and editing a lot more in the evenings/at night
  • I’ll hopefully sell my first novel to a major publisher
  • I should have a non-fiction book ready-to-go in the next few months that will help a lot of writers with their stories
  • I still have three fiction novels that are written and need editing
  • I have far too many more books I want to write.

How’d you go this year, and what does that imply for your expectations in 2015?

So, you want to get your book noticed on social media, huh?

Screenshot: A mermaid holding jewellery while half out of the ocean
Screenshot from the Fantasy Writers Community on Google Plus

If you’ve been playing around on social media for a while and you tend to follow a lot of writers like I do, you’ll probably notice your feed filling up with book advertising.

Some of it will be blatant, some less so, but it’s still advertising, and few people want to see it.

So what’s the solution?

Consider this. My favourite social media playground is Google Plus where I run a community called Fantasy Writers. It has almost 8000 members, and it’s growing rapidly.

When I started Fantasy Writers I was trying to build a helpful and supportive community, not an advertising forum, so I banned self-promotion.

Unfortunately, the issue wasn’t so simple. People ignored the rule or found ways around it, and I spent far more time moderating the community than I wanted to.

In response I created a category and called it ‘Self-Promo Saturday’ for members to get their advertising out of their system, usable on Saturdays only.

It worked a charm. The list is clear of promotional stuff most days, while Saturdays see a deluge of it.

But guess what? The self-promotional stuff gets ignored anyway.

Why? Nobody wants to see advertising.

Even the people who advertise don’t bother to look at what everyone else is advertising and support each other.

And there’s the key.

Nobody cares about your book except you, but people do care about their friends, and friends help each other out.

So here’s the secret to promoting your book on social media:

  • comment on other people’s posts
  • interact with people on social media as you would your real life friends
  • share their stuff if you think it’s appropriate
  • crow about your book victories and achievements on occasion, but only if it’s newsworthy (like a new cover or contract).

With a little bit of luck people will care enough about you to promote your book when they see something newsworthy.

In short, show you care about others and they’ll respond in kind.

And like Forest Gump, ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.

Now get on your butt and write something people will want to share because you’re so awesome!

Find out more about Fantasy Writers.

Things I wish I knew about Short Stories when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about short stories when I started writing.There are a lot of great things about short stories – they’re fast to write (at least in comparison to novels), there’s plenty of markets for them, and they allow you to practice and hone your craft while you learn to deal with the realities of the publishing world.

I often use them to explore my larger worlds with fresh characters, and consequently there’s been more than one occasion where a character from short story has made it into a novel.

That said, short stories take a long time to master (if that’s even possible), and even experienced writers who’ve got dozens, perhaps hundreds of shorts published, still learn with each new story they produce.

My advice: Always have at least one or two short stories on the go. That’s something I neglected for a long time.

Here’s some more great advice:

“In a short story, every word counts and every scene should do triple duty.  You’ve no time to waste.” Vanessa MacLellan

“Do not start with a dry explanation of the story’s context.” Mary Jeddore Blakney

“Short stories for a writer are like sketches are for an artist. There is only room to explore your main subject. Every line counts, so make the best of them.” Kelly Martin

“Don’t try to turn a short story into a novel.” Vruta Gupte

“Short stories are a great way to get feedback from readers.  With minimal investment, you can see which of your stories readers like the best – and then, the most popular stories can be used for your next novel.” Drew Briney

“A short is kind of like a poignant snapshot of a much deeper story. So don’t get too bogged down trying to tell the WHOLE story. DO tell enough to draw the reader in and make it an interesting story within the larger story.” Dana Masting

“The few words of a short story can be far more powerful than a novel if done right. Often this takes more out of you to do this, and will leave you more drained than a novel can after it is finished.” Andrea Jensen

“You can still earn money writing short stories.” Vruta Gupte

“Writing a short story is a style all of its own.” Chantelle Griffin

“Writing shorts stories help sell your bigger novels. Gives new readers a small taste of your projects to garner interest. Not everything you write has to be the Great American Novel.” Chris Mentzer

“I wish I’d known to not be embarrassed or distressed because I suck at writing short stories. My natural story length is the novel, and I don’t have to follow the “conventional wisdom” that you have to break in with short stories, and then sell the novel.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“I’ve never written a short story, but just about every scene I’ve written has a beginning, middle, and end…” Mark Mercieca

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Author PromotionPoint Of View Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own WorkCreating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

The secret of writing successful stories

Question-markIf I could tell you the secret of writing a successful book, would you like to know what it is?

There is actually a secret, and it’s pretty neat.

What’s more, it works on all genres and subgenres, and will even help you break the genre barrier and reach beyond, which is where you want to be if you hope to sell in big numbers.

A recent discussion that cropped up on Google Plus, and one that often appears among writers, was about a certain book that people love to hate.

I won’t mention it by name in order to protect the innocent filmmakers involved, but it rhymes with highlight and features sparkly vampires.

I read it a while back along with a bunch of other successful books including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games, all of which racked up ridiculous sales numbers.

The reason I read them, other than to appease the people telling me I should (hint hint), was to try and understand why they were so popular.

The comment that sparked the discussion on Google Plus claimed that the sparkly vampire book was badly written – a subjective remark at best, and way off the mark at worst.

To some extent I can see where the comment was coming from. The novel didn’t work for me either, but I was hardly its target audience, and that’s not a reason to say it was badly written.

Having broken it (and others) down, I found it more or less structurally perfect and technically fine. What it lacked, if anything, was originality. Other big sellers contained quite a few original elements, so the secret wasn’t there.

And I suspect that’s where this particular comment originated.

The book rhyming with highlight followed a standard formula in an emerging subgenre, while doing little more than tweaking the known tropes.

In the end it gave its readers exactly what they wanted and expected.

In short, it didn’t do anything special from a story standpoint, so the secret wasn’t there either.

So what was the secret?

Here’s a question. What would you do if you could apply that secret to your own writing, without:

  • compromising your integrity as a writer
  • giving up on originality
  • dumbing down or nullifying your brilliant ideas?

What would you do if I said the secret was simple and could be applied to almost any story?

Take a look at any book that’s sold millions of copies, read it, and then take a look at that book’s audience. What do you see?

You see people who:

  • recommend the book to their friends
  • discuss the book online and off
  • look for other books by that same author.

In short, you see fans. Lots of fans. Why do books find fans?

Because fans care about your characters and what happens to them.

It’s as simple as that.

Make your audience care and they’ll tell their friends, discuss it online, and even look for more of your stories. They’ll become fans, and you’ll become successful.

You don’t even have to alienate your niche market to do it.

It’s obviously not as easy as it sounds or everyone would be selling millions of books, but the more people you can make care about your characters and what happens to them, the more successful you’ll become as a writer – assuming you judge success by sales numbers.

If not, forget you read this post and keep on doing what you’re doing.

If you want to sell books though… well, now you know what it takes.

Read more articles about The Craft of Writing.

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.

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!

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.

Book Trailers – an afternoon’s play

A comet hitting a city at night.

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).

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 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.


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