For your reading pleasure this weekend, here are several articles I’ve read this week and found useful, thought-provoking, and otherwise helpful. I’m a day late this time due to an avalanche of distractions. I think I’ll try publishing these on the weekend for a bit and see if my schedule works out better that way.
Why Writers Should Consider the Habits of the Flâneur – Nell Boeschenstein
Although the wisdom of it took me years to fully appreciate, the best writing tip I ever received branded itself onto my brain when I was an undergraduate studying poetry. One day, my professor—a tall woman with wild hair and a Louisiana accent—happened to mention that her best lines always arrived unexpectedly during walks alone around campus or with her dogs near her house outside of town. These lines rarely, if ever, she said, presented themselves while she was consciously writing. Rather, one minute her mind would be concerned with the grocery list and the next minute a fragment of imagery or insight would float through the antimatter of her brain on its way to oblivion. Ideas, she said, come as quickly as they go. It’s up to you as a writer to catch them while you can.
I know the ephemeral nature of plot and character ideas, bits of dialog, etc. They float in and out of my mind at random. I don’t even remember many ideas that come and go well enough to mourn that I didn’t capture them. As well as an exhortation to capture these ideas, and to make the time and mental space for the ideas to even manifest, the article has some practical ideas on how to hold onto them. I am not good about keeping a notebook with me, but my smartphone is nearly always at hand.
500 Words: From Blog to Book
Most of my blog posts are about 500 words long. If I write less, they feel underdone for some reason. If they go over 1,000 words, then they seem too verbose. 500 words is my blogging sweet spot.
For my novel writing, I have a different template. I like my chapters to be at least 1,500 words, but no longer than 3,000 words. There are always exceptions, but by and large I keep to this template.
I feel it keeps the story zipping along if your chapters are on the shorter size. This is just my preference, of course. I know some writers and readers prefer longer chapters, but I find long chapters a struggle; they can trigger my reader fatigue.
My chapter sizes tend to be smaller for my first drafts, though; maybe 1,000 words. So, when I begin a new draft novel, I write a quick outline for about 45 chapters, and then start writing. If I can write at least 1,000 words per chapter, then I can end up with a first draft of around 50,000 words. That’s a good start.
So, 500 words for a blog post. That means my average draft chapter length is about two blog posts long. That’s not a lot of work. It usually only takes me about half an hour to draft a blog post. And it typically takes me maybe two hours to write a draft chapter of about 1,000 words.
This is an encouraging article that shows how one writer breaks down the huge task of writing a novel into chunks that fit into his days and weeks.
Amazon Reportedly Actively Recruiting Publishers into Kindle Unlimited – Nate Hoffelder
About six months back I broke the news that a number of smaller publishers had followed indie authors into signing up for Kindle Unlimited, and were being paid by the page. Now it seems Amazon is looking to grow that number.
The Bookseller has a piece up this morning which makes the bold claim that Amazon is on a charm offensive. The retailer is trying to recruit book publishers into Kindle Unlimited:
I can only imagine what this information will mean to me, whether I go the route of seeking a traditional publisher or I publish independently in the not too distant future, but I’m sure it will be meaningful indeed when the time comes.
How to Price Your Work on Amazon – The Writers Circle
So you’ve decided to publish a book on Amazon (and hopefully read our helpful guide for doing so). Before those pages hit the presses or the Kindles you’ll need to price your work on Amazon, and we’re here with a bit of advice on finding the right price for your readers.
Source: How to Price Your Work on Amazon
The article discusses six factors that should be taken into consideration when you decide how you want to price your book on Amazon.
How to Tell Which Self-Publishing Company is Right For You – Helen Sedwick
On the path to self-publishing, your first decision will be whether to:
- Engage a self-publishing service company (SPSC) to do everything from editing to distribution. Some SPSCs are BookLocker, Mill City Press, Outskirts Press, and Dog Ear Press.
- Do it yourself (DIY) by hiring editors, designers, and other freelancers and uploading your finished, formatted cover and manuscript to POD providers such as CreateSpace and IngramSpark and ebook distributors such as KDP and Smashwords.
- You may also mix the two, since most SPSCs have a la carte menus, and many POD providers offer editorial, design, and marketing services as add-ons. Alternatively, you could hire a self-publishing consultant to walk you through the process. Literary agents are also jumping in and offering to help—for a percentage, of course.
As well as advice on sorting out the pros and cons of particular self publishing companies, Sedwick makes a compelling case for eschewing them and going DIY.
How To Sell Books – Derek Haines
I just love ‘How To’ articles. There are millions of them floating around the ether of the internet. Some of my favourites include, ‘How to drink a martini’, ‘How to train your dragon’, ‘How to knit a hat’ and ‘How to get a cold’. Just amazing how many things there are that we just don’t know how to do, but can learn how to in seconds.
But to return to the subject at hand, as a writer, author, general factotum and dreamer, I believe I do know a little about ‘How to sell books’. I mean, that’s what I do; or starve. Rest assured though, I don’t starve, but as most authors will admit, caviar is not often on the menu. So how do I manage to feed myself? By selling books.
Source: How to Sell Books
How could I resist this title? A basic step by step process to follow seems almot too good to be true. The article is a fun tongue in cheek read, with a few useful nuggets to unearth.
Creating Easy Branded Images for Your Blog and Social Media – Kirsten Oliphant
Research shows that using visual content increases engagement and shares. Posts with images receive 94 percent more views. If you don’t know how to create or use images well, these stats are not encouraging. Creating images can seem like one more annoying task in an endless list of things you need to do in order to grow your audience.
Kirsten Oliphant’s article has prompted me to put a lot more thought into what I want my eventual look-and-feel to be. Not just for my blog and social media, but if and how I want that look to tie into my work product – my stories. Before reading this, I had already changed my banner on most sites from the Temple of Isis wall painting in Pompeii to the current image of San Francisco’s China Basin with the Port of Oakland beyond. These landmarks feature in my novel. For me, the novel is sensory. I can walk through many of the settings, and I may sometimes dwell too much on what my characters see, smell and touch as they move about their landscape. Right now, I’m in an in-between place. My avatar, a representation of the Greek Muse Clio from a detail of “The Allegory of Painting” The Muse Clio by Vermeer, reflects my interest in history and mythology, subjects that feature in some of my story ideas. The photo of China Basin clashes on several (but not all) levels with the avatar.
This article found its way in front of my eyes at an excellent time – before I become overly invested in some of the directions I’ve considered with regard to branding.
A Little of This, a Little of That
Mistakes I’ve made as an early career researcher – Nicola Hemmings
As I come to the end of my current postdoc and tenure as a bona fide early career researcher (at least according to several grant-awarding bodies), I look back on the past 10 years since I started my master’s with wizened eyes. Here are some of the mistakes I have made – from the trivial to the fundamental – plus some hand-waving advice on better practice. I don’t have all the answers by a long shot, but I’m still here.
This article is not strictly speaking about pitfalls related to writing, but much of the advice either applies directly or indirectly to novel writing. I particularly found the section on organizing and documenting one’s data to be cautionary. Although the potential blowback for not maintaining a cohesive, detailed and internally consistent history and backstory for characters, settings, and – if one is writing fantasy or science fiction – the world one builds; doing this work up front and as an ongoing effort makes it so much easier to write and revise. Scrivener has made this kind of documentation much easier for me. I have all the data about my characters, places, and even links I’ve used in my research for the story in the same application where the story itself lives.
As always, if you run across an article you think would be of interest in this series (or if you have written one!), I’d love to hear about it. Contact me via comment here or via social media.
Until next week, happy writing, and happy reading!