Why Self-Editing Helps You Market Your Book

Why Self-Editing Helps You Market Your Book (1)

Writing is a delicate balance of writing your unique vision and communicating that vision to your desired audience (and hopefully to individuals who realize they’re in your audience). After the trials and joys of drafting comes revising and editing, when you have to look at every aspect of your story and rip it to shreds in order to make it better.

Or so every quote would have you believe.

EditingInspiration.jpg

While it’s true that editing is a matter of making your message clear for others, sometimes the whole prospect can be intimidating. I know it is for me! As much as I crave improving and fixing things, I feel dread whenever I turn a work over to an editor (yes, I’m aware of the irony considering I am one).

The reason is simple: yes, my work is a product to sell, and my left-brained marketing side is eager to get it ship-shape and off to see how it sails.

But my work is also a part of me and always will be. So is yours.

And that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, that’s something that you, as a writer, need to own with everything you have. Because no matter if you sign with an agent, contract with a publishing house, or indie publish, in today’s market it falls on the author to sell their books. There have been debates about the fairness of this, but arguing theoretical fairness doesn’t change the facts.

One fact: this market that demands author involvement and promotion is a great opportunity for you to discover and hold onto the passion that makes you write your stories. Hold onto that passion with everything you have. Remember it when you have to face selling your story. Learn how to hone and shape it and use it in marketing schemes.

This is your Push: the reason that you keep putting blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights into a field that really doesn’t offer any guarantees of monetary success or lasting fame.

Self-edits are the first step of this journey of ownership, because in analyzing your story after a period of time (a day, a week, a month, whatever you need), you have the opportunity to truly see what parts of you are within each page of your work. Use the self-editing time not only to reflect on what needs to change about the story, but also on what needs to stay the same. Know what elements are part of your essential branding and theme. What common threads weave through your stories? There are always common threads. What are the aspects of your worldview, your life experiences, your personality, your dreams that shine through?

Yes, you need to write in a way that reaches the market. Yes, you should absolutely clean up that manuscript with at least three editing passes (bare minimum). Yes, you need to make your vision accessible.

6308c24d33d2e3f7ef88865bdb2896b8

But there are a lot of books getting published every single day. Not even being part of a major traditional house will do anything to ensure your success. Solid cover art, good formatting, top-notch editing, and money thrown at the right marketing ventures can all play a part.

There is one selling point of your story that no one else can duplicate.

You. The deepest inside part of you that seeps into everything you write whether you want it to or not. Your themes.

Your Push.

Know it.
-When self-editing and working with beta-readers, don’t just note what you need to fix. Make a list of things that you really want to/have to keep and why. You may have to negotiate on how you show those aspects, but it gives you a solid footing with an editor (and they’ll appreciate your self-awareness and foresight, as long as it comes with humility).

Own it.
-Understand these key aspects of yourself. One reason you might get stuck or having writers block is that something you’ve written or a plot line you’re using is in violation of an aspect of your Push. Knowing what are your deal-breakers goes a long way to solving your writing issues!

Use it.
-When you know your Push, it is a powerful way of marketing because you can authentically connect with others who have the same values, passions, experiences, and/or favorite things that you do! Plus, it helps build authenticity in your brand, and that is a potent, natural way of selling. Relationships are the way to build trust, and it is a lot easier to form natural, unselfish relationships with others as your genuine yourself.

What’s your push, #plothoppers? What makes you get out of bed in the morning and write? Feel free to share in the comments! And if you’re unsure about what any of that is and/or you want to know more, sign up for a free thirty-minute coaching session with me. Getting awesome books on their way to publication is one of my main missions (besides eating a fried tarantula), and I’d love to help!

3 Reasons to Add A Little Love to Your Story (and World-Building)

3-reasons-to-add-a-little-love-to-your-story-and-world-building

All right, I’m still going forward with the Fundamentals of Fiction: Inside Out, but my world-building side has been itching to make a comeback, so why not do both?

I gotta admit, in my other life as a fiction writer, love is a must in my stories. Even if it’s not the focal point, romantic entanglements offer ways to mess with character motivations and complicate plot points like nothing else. Now, in the speculative fiction world, romance can be viewed with suspicion–I was right there griping when paranormal romance starting ‘invading’ the urban fantasy section of the bookshelves. How dare it disturb the purity of science fiction and fantasy?

Then, I got over myself and realized that using romantic complications can be a great tool in all fiction writers’ tool boxes, including speculative fiction writers. I’m not saying it has to work out, and I’m not saying that it has to be more than a few hints here and there, but using romantic elements really can fit into any story.

Note: when I use the word “love” here I’m referring to desire, attraction, and romantic feelings. I’m aware of the other types of love and the nuances therein, but I’m keeping this to one manageable blog post. 😉

1.) Character Growth

Love makes people do dumb things in ways that the audience can believe. This is fantastic if you need an otherwise intelligent character to go off-kilter. It doesn’t mean they have to give in to the feelings or that those feelings have to take over the plot, but the existence of those feelings makes them more relatable and adds another layer to the character. In Blood Mercy:Thicker Than Water, protagonist Melrose Durante has to unlock the mind of an insane vampire to save a city; the fact that she’s his wife and he still loves her adds tension and stress to the workings of his otherwise rational thought processes.

2.) Major Conflicts

Love/lust makes things messy. Helen of Troy’s swoon-worthy beauty caused more than a few issues in Ancient Greece. Henry VIII partly broke off from the Catholic church because he wanted a second wife. Cleopatra’s political machinations and messy affairs with Marc Antony and Julius Caesar made all sorts of fun things happen between Egypt and Rome. And in The Three Musketeers, D’Artagnan’s poor choices with Milady de Winter (as well as her past with Athos), makes her a great foil and troublemaker in the story.

3.) Cultural Issues

Introducing romantic affection can add really fun complications if the connection is cross-cultural. Love and affection can mess with divides of race, ethnicity, societal boundaries, religion, or whatever else. Or it can be something that goes against the dictates of society itself! In Voiceless, my steampunk fantasy, two main characters are deeply in love, committed, and destined to be together, but they have no idea, because their militant society has eliminated the concept of romantic love and devotion from the culture. It takes going to another culture (and having another man show up) to push this couple to see the truth.

 

wp-image-12299298jpg.jpg
Edgar the Plot Bunny is feeling the love!

 

What about you #plothoppers? Agree? Disagree? How do you use love in your story?

Why Your Writing Matters (Even If You’re Not Famous)

Once, there was a teenage girl who wrote for hours a day, yet knew she would never be a writer. Writing was for dreamers who couldn’t pay off their student loans and sat around all day in fantasy worlds. No, this girl had her head on straight and was going into a solid science or medical field. Even though she failed at math and spent her classes pondering plot holes and new content writing. She could come down to earth, put language arts aside, and make the sensible choice.

Considering that I’ve now been writing, coaching, teaching, and editing English for over a decade, we can see how well that turned out. 😉

sled-dogs-1042199_1280
Keep running the race!

Writing is a hard field. Never let anyone tell you any differently. But while it has unique challenges, it isn’t any harder or easier than many other career choices. It takes guts and passion and drive. It takes focused creativity when you’re ready to quit and the ability to see new possibilities and opportunities–or even to create them. It isn’t for the faint of heart, although sometimes the hours part-time writers have to keep can make you literally faint.

A quote from a favorite childhood book:

“She was not as stupid as some I have had, and better company, but still perhaps her going was for the best. She was not what I needed.”

“Because I failed,” whispered Alyce in the shadows.

“Because she gave up,” continued the midwife. “I need an apprentice who can do what I tell her, take what I give her, who can try and risk and fail and try again and not give up…”

Karen Cushman, The Midwife’s Apprentice

Writing is art, but succeeding in it is also requires business smarts and critical analysis. It requires personal reflection and outward engagement. It challenges introverts to get out of their shells and extroverts to focus on the sound of their own heartbeats as they labor away at keyboards. It can be a part-time hobby or a full-time obsession, and sometimes neither of those will offer a whit of monetary reward or personal affirmation. At times, you may need to take a break and take a breath or twenty. Recharged your batteries. Sleep.

And yet, you go back. Because you get to create marvelous things out of nothing. Whether you’re writing a business statement or a short story or a blog post, it literally doesn’t exist until you get your brain in gear, say a final prayer, take a deep breath, and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. As an editor, you can walk hand in hand with a creator, delving deeply into their worlds and then getting the satisfaction of seeing those worlds touch hearts and minds as they are released into the outside world.

As a reader, I thank you for all of your effort in every endeavor.

Writing is one of the greatest gifts you can give others, and the ability to write has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

fried-eggs-breakfast-toast-food-50600
Here is my toast to you, readers and writers! With extra protein!

Thank you, bloggers and followers and readers, for allowing me into your lives with what writing advice and snarky thoughts as I have. I’m humbled to get to serve you in this way, and I’m excited for what the future holds!

Keep writing (and reading) inside out, enjoying every step of the journey!

And while you’re at it, I’m keenly interested in how I can serve you better. I’ve expanded to two websites: Janeen Ippolito (Monsters, Misfits, and Mushy Stuff) for fiction and book reviews and Write Inside Out for writing and world-building help with unique insights. I’m working on shifting over content as necessary–so if you’re worried about book reviews disappearing, never fear! They’re just relocating. 🙂

As I expand Write Inside Out to be an even more epic writing haven, I have a ton of cool ideas, including series on world-building to increase readership marketability, using taboo topics in world-building (sex, drugs, death, and yes, taxes), and a series on world-building by the subgenre. Please vote in the poll below and let me know what you want to know more about! You’re welcome to vote for more than one thing.

How to Enjoy NaNoWriMo – Even If You’re Not Participating (or You’re a Rebel)

I am NOT participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. At least, not in the traditional sense. While I write steadily, 50K this November just isn’t a possibility, especially with working a full-time job, a part-time job, and other sundry endeavors outside this little blog post box.

shield-nano-side-blue-brown-rgb-hires

However, I am doing my first ever short-story contest with my students based on NaNoWriMo. Their minimum is 5,000 words in the month of November — and they can feel free to go all the way to 50,000! As long they, y’know, actually get all their homework done and remember to sleep now and then. 😉 In honor of their efforts, I’m going for 15K-30K, picking up a steampunk/fairy tale YA novel I ditched two years ago because distraction by another story (if this happens to you *high fives* and if it doesn’t — which is incredible and awesome — *high fives anyway* ). Anyway, what ended up happening was that unfinished story kept relentlessly seeping into other stories in inappropriate (re: totally against plot flow) ways, so I figure it was time to give Touch of Green its due.

So I’m:

  • Only doing 15K-30K instead of 50K
  • Using a story I’m already 10K into (and they are actually pretty good words so I’m keeping them)
  • Working on another novel or two on the side (because the busier I am, the more inspired I am – and the less sleep I get)

Why even bother getting involved, if I’m not following the rules? Because NaNoWriMo isn’t just about the rules. It’s about having a giant creating-fest and getting all of us peeps who usually hide behind our computer screens and type OUT INTO THE OPEN.

On our computer screens (or typewriters, or notebooks, or cell phones, etc).

Quietly.

Like EPIC REBELS!

And since I’m one of those less-common writing extroverts, I want everyone to get in the fun! So here are five ways you can enjoy NaNoWriMo, even if you’re not actually writing 50,000 words.

outlining-is-great-but-sometimes-you-just-have-to-dive-into-the-mess-of-your-imagination-and-let-loose-your-muse

Five Ways to Enjoy NaNoWriMo (Without Officially Participating or Following Rules)

1.) Do a Word/Editing/Brainstorming/SOMETHING CREATIVE Sprint

Word sprints are more than just word count. They’re about setting aside time and making an effort for disciplined focus. Don’t judge yourself by anyone else’s progress. Just do what you do and enjoy it — and then share it afterwards with someone, because these things are cool. And sharing them is also cool.

2.) Declare Your Goals

So you’re not going for the 50K. So you’re writing a short story or a novella or doing a proofread or making a quilt with letters (I have awesome quilter friends). Put it out there anyway! Let people know what you’re doing. Own it! And on the official NaNoWriMo forums there are a lot of homes for the unconventional. Although I’m not sure there’s a place for people who are sewing their words INTO quilts. But it could happen!

3.) Support the 50Kers (or more than 50kers)

They are doing epic things as well. It can be tempting to feel a little envious of those who can squeeze that in or write that fast, but hey, we’re all on our own journeys here. Get excited for them! Encouragement builds everyone up. 🙂

4.) Support All the Creatives

Find others like you and challenge each other! Use this as an extra-special time to celebrate all things writer/creative. Why not? It’s a lonely place, guys. Being a writer, artist, or creative in this world is increasingly difficult and underappreciated. If we don’t make our own parties or set milestones, who will? Besides, everyone needs a treat now and then!

5.) For 50Kers – Support Your Local Rebels

In the end, we’re all doing this writing/creative journey, just in different ways and at different paces. So let’s make this an awesome all-month party that can maybe, just maybe, last all the year round!

Which I’d totally love, as an extroverted creator. Because parties are fun – even the silent ones with lots of keystrokes and swipes and pen scratches. And whatever else you make awesome with.

Who’s doing NaNoWriMo out there? What other creative things are you up to?

Confessions of a Role-Playing, Collaborative Writer

MONDAYS

 

So I’m still recovering from an awesome time at the Realm Makers 2016 conference. I have a ton of things to catch up on and to share, but in the meantime, I’m featured on Ralene Burke’s blog as a guest author, so go ahead and check it out! Includes some never-before-seen info, including:

  • Why I’m so passionate about character creation (to the tune of 37)

  • What would happen if I had to write in pre-internet days (answer: parrots would be involved)

  • Why role-playing made me a better marketer

  • What happens when a social writer breaks her own rules (hint: it weirds people out)

Click here or on the graphic to learn more about role-playing and collaborative writing!

Character Test 2 – Do You Use Contrasts?

THE NEW YOU

Why did I return to contrasts? Because it is one of the quickest, most effective ways I’ve found to enrich plot, build tension, add humor, and/or add character arcs. And it’s so easy!

Easy + Quick + Effective = you get a friendly reminder from yours truly in the form of this awesome test.

There is also now a video to go along with the post! As per my habit of perpetual self-improvement, the video has new examples and spins on the concepts contained in the blog post.

Thanks for tuning in! Scroll down for the text.

Do you use any contrasts in your stories? What are your favorite contrasts? Please share in the comments!

A flying dragon who is afraid of heights. An elephant who doesn’t want to drink the water because of potential bacteria. A brilliant doctor who saves lives, but doesn’t get along with people.

What do they all have in common? They use contrasting elements. They put two opposing elements together and then sit back and watch the conflict of those elements create compelling interactions with other characters and within the overall narrative.

Contrasts are a great way to spice up characters and plots. Not only do they create conflict, which is essential to any great story, but they are also quick fixes if a character gets boring or stuck in a rut…. Click here to read the full post on Author Culture.

Character Test 1: Is Your Protagonist Happy?

((Another sneak peek from Character-Building From the Inside Out–plus, video!))

Long time, no update! I’ve been super busy working with Uncommon Universes Press. We just finished a massive business meeting that involved a lot of discussion about interpersonal communication, internal growth, and extrapolating personal goals for communal benefit.

DeathtoStock_Medium5Basically, knowing how you work, what you’re good at, and what you’re NOT good at, so you can use that knowledge to help others and be even more awesome.

This is important in writing as well. Your job is to make your protagonist someone that readers  relate to and want to succeed. A book I’m reading, Novel Shortcuts by Laura Whitcomb, recommends figuring out how your character’s personality traits make your story possible. I would go another step, and say that to a certain extent, your novel needs to highlight your protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses. Your narrative needs to feature what that main character is good at, and then create a story where ultimately, through toils and trials, they get to shine.

Example

I advised a client on a fantasy novel with a protagonist who was strongly driven by their personal feelings and values. One value the character had was to always, always defend family. So all the client had to do was threaten the people the character loved, and they would get into all kinds of trouble (re: conflict and incidents that lead to story). However, at another point in the story, the client suffered massive writer’s block, where her protagonist wouldn’t talk to her. The client had done such a good job of making the character stress out over saving their loved ones that the character just shut down. Their personal feelings were too great to manage. In turn, because the protagonist set the tone for the story, this was a sign that the story itself desperately needed a few scenes of levity and peace between all of the mayhem. When the author ‘gave the character what they wanted’ for a bit, all of the gears started turning again–and as a reader, I was able to relax for a little before the next catastrophe happen.

Moral of the story? Know thy protagonist.

Character Test 1

Note: if you find your protagonist is boring you, or doesn’t seem to push plot, that’s a problem. If you find yourself writing lots of scenes where the main character is stressed out or unhappy, and you can’t picture writing a happy or even moderately neutral scene for them, there’s a chance your main character is 1.) in a story where their strengths aren’t being highlighted and/or 2.) not really the protagonist.

On a personal note, I’m constantly evaluating at my strengths and weaknesses to make sure I’m giving you awesome readers the best of my capabilities. In my day job, I’m a teacher, and over the last seven years I’ve gotten pretty good at talking to people and explaining things verbally. So I’m going audio-visual! If you’re an oral learner or just like watching videos, I’ve embedded one below about this blog post, which is also available on my YouTube Channel (subscribers welcome!). And yes, because I always like thinking up new ideas, the video isn’t a word-for-word repeat; if this blog post didn’t reach your brain, the rephraseology in the video just might!

Also, due to my other duties and a desire to provide superior content, I’m narrowing my blog posts to once a week (twice in the case of World-Building Wonders guest blogs or book reviews). However, I’m always reading fun books and coming up with fresh ideas to inspire people, and all that content has to go somewhere. So, if you want unfiltered sneak peeks/reviews on new books, exclusive content to reshape how you look at writing and world-building, and some random humor, feel free to sign up for my newsletter!