The Curse of the Muse

I first posted this about two years ago, but like many bits & bobs, it became lost in the never ending scroll of past posts. I guess that is a modern phenomenon we all have to come to terms with.

Anyway, on with the post…

 

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Tonight, I walked home along the same route as always, habitual, predictive.

As I turned the corner onto Star Street, I noticed at the entrance to the multi-story car park, next to the twenty-four-hour parking sign, an illuminated soda machine. My stride faltered, I paused, standing looking with curiosity.

I passed this way a hundred times, a thousand times without noticing the machines existence. How could that be? How could I not notice such a prominent fixture, a glowing block of red and white? The machine was designed to scream out ‘look at me’.

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Silhouetted against the glowing structure was a woman’s figure. She was standing still, totally immobile. The hair on each side of her head was like sharp shards radiating outwards. I wondered for a moment if she had been struck by lightning, or shocked by the machine.

I looked on, the woman remained immobile. It was then I noticed how quiet everything had become. Vaguely, in the background was the ever present rumble of city life, a cacophony of indistinguishable sounds, punctuated by the occasional siren.

But that was it.

Here, within the realms of my vision, all was still. No cars, no people, no movement. This is when my seventh sense kicked in, my writer’s sense. My mind started to ask me questions, sparks leapt from one neural pathway to another, reflection, consideration, conjecture meshed and melded into a fast flowing string.

Was this a frozen moment, a rift in the time-space continuum? What choices did I now have and what were the possible outcomes? Was I standing at an intersection of the multiverse? Was this the place where a thousand possibilities lay, invisible threads, a twisting mesh of crossing fortunes, a complex delta of potential and probability?

Would my next actions, or inactions, lay my out future, would they alter my destiny. Wealth, fortune, life, death. Choices. Or was all predestined? Was I merely following a predetermined path towards an inevitable future?

Did she, the silhouette, hold the key, the answers? Was the light surrounding her flooding from the soda fountain or emitting from her very being? Did she hold the secret?

My heart was pounding. I wanted to approach her, ask her. Yet something held me back. I do not think it was fear; apprehension maybe, or something undefinable, something there are no words to describe.

The woman moved. Walking forward towards the machine. I heard three coins drop. Saw a slender finger extended, pushing her selection. A rattle and thump as the can fell. Still not moving I watched as she stooped and retrieved the can.

A click, a hiss. The woman tilted her head back and drank thirstily. Gulping the contents. Lowering her head she drew a cuff across her mouth and casually tossed the empty can into a waste bin before turning and walking away.

Once she had been swallowed by the darkness. I found the ability to move. I sauntered over and looked into the bin. An excess of brown fluid was still dripping from a Dr Peppers can onto the waste below.

My imagination had not finished with me yet. Questions kept springing into my mind. Had she actually brought a can of Dr Peppers? Or did the fact I looked, that I observed, changed the very nature of this reality? Had my presence altered the state of things, transformed the material quality of being? After all, our actions, our existence is subject to the laws and principles of quantum physics, are they not?

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A car wound its way down the ramp, headlights blazing as it exited the car park. A group of people wandered around the corner, talking, joking, and laughing. Their voices seemingly activating an ‘on’ switch. Suddenly the city sounds became loud and clear. No longer the muffled white background noise they were a moment ago.

That was it.

The quantum gate had closed. The rift sealed. My chance to alter my destiny whipped away by an ethereal wind, stolen by inexorable march of time. Yet my writers mind still wrestles with the possibilities.

Maybe my thoughts, at least some of them, will find their way into a story, or become the premise of a future novel. Or maybe they shall just haunt me forever more?

Such is the curse of the muse.

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  © Paul White 2015


Have you read my Tales of Crime & Violence collection yet?

If not grab yourself volume one now at

http://amzn.to/2wdUHSS

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A bit about…Designing your Books Cover.

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I shall try to stay away from as many technical words and as much jargon as I can.

Also, as designing a book cover can be an emotive subject, almost as much as writing the content. I shall say that the following are my personal observations and views, they are not a definitive or an absolute. I do not think any opinions regarding forms of art can be so.

Please feel free to comment, add your own insights and feedback regarding this subject.

So, where to start?

For this, I shall take a tip from the famous philosopher Winnie the Pooh, who said, “The beginning is a very good place to start!”

Your manuscript is completed, edited, re-written, polished, edited, beta read, proofread, edited, formatted and is now ready to go to print.

You are ecstatic. This is your masterpiece.

Now all you have to do is get people to read it.

To do that you need to sell lots of copies. (Unless you simply want to give it away?)

To sell lots of copies you need to attract people to your book.

To do that you need your masterpiece to stand out from the crowd.

Standing out from the masses of other books means having a great cover.

NOT a good cover, a great one.

That’s it.

Simple…

NO?

You are right.

Creating a great cover is not as simple as it first seems. All those thoughts and ideas in your head need transforming into a visual and onto relatively small area AND you need the title, maybe a sub-title, a sub-heading, or a catch-phrase. Then there is your name, you want that on the cover too, don’t you? Oh, and the back-cover ‘blurb’ you need that…now what about some graphics, images on the rear cover too? Is there enough room for that and the barcode?

That’s a lot to consider.

Yet that is only the most basic ‘stuff’! Colour, Images, illustrations, copyright, text style, point size, trim, bleed…oh, you have not thought this far ahead yet?

OK, let’s get basic.

Firstly, you have to get rid of any preconceptions you have. (Not easy).

It is almost impossible to detach yourself from your book, your story, ‘your baby’. But you must if you want a cover which will sell your book.

Nobody but you will ever see, or feel your story as you do. Each reader will have their own personal interpretation.

That is how reading works.

Don’t get caught in the trap of believing otherwise.

Creating a cover is like a black art. It is a totally different skill to writing. Please do not confuse the two.

A book cover’s paramount job is to communicate the book’s content and convey information concerning both what the book is about and what the book is like.

The front and back flaps have something to say and experienced readers may find clues in a summary statement or author’s note. But the text and graphics on the cover deliver the most immediate and indelible impression. A cover’s imagery can establish character, setting, and plot. A cover’s style can suggest tone, mood, and narrative quality. And extraordinary covers employ both elements in synergy.

 

The second step, be sure of your target audience. That is the people who read the same genre as your book. (Known as demographics in the trade)

You need to ascertain what they look for in a cover, what it is that attracts them to pick up a book, to read the back jacket and ultimately buy.

Big publishing houses spend a fortune on researching this, millions of pounds a year. An amount I doubt you have to spare, even after scrabbling down the back of the sofa.

So use the big publishers as your research, this will only cost you time.

Check out other authors book covers in the same genre, particularly the mainstream published authors. Walk around the store, surf the net. See what the new trends are. Make notes, take photos, make a ‘like’ board.

This is a good starting point.

 

The next step is to decide what you want the cover to ‘say’. I am not talking about the use of words (yet); I am simply speaking of image perception.

Here are two simple rules:

Don’t Show Too Much of Your Character

It may be tempting to show your book’s main character on the cover, but this usually is not a very good idea. Most readers prefer to use their imagination to depict the story and characters in their own head.

Be Simple, Strong and Symbolic

Refrain from depicting a specific scene on the cover of your book.

It is better to be more symbolic or iconic with your cover design. Try to come up with a simple eye-catching idea that anyone will understand on first sight. Keep in mind that most people will see your book as a tiny picture on a bookstore website or out the corner of their eye in a bookstore. In either instance, a strong, simple, symbolic cover is much more likely to catch their attention than one that is complicated or cluttered.

 

 The next consideration is the text.

What typestyle (fonts) to use.

Do not use (anywhere): Comic Sans.

This font is only acceptable if you are writing a humorous book, or intentionally attempting to create a design that publishing professionals will laugh at.

Please, no font explosions or special styling. Usually, a cover should not contain more than 2 fonts. Avoid the temptation to put words in caps, italics caps, outlined caps, etc. Do not be tempted to “shape” the type either.

Where to put your Title and Authors name; Top, middle, bottom, vertical, horizontal?

The title should be big and easy to read.

This is more important than ever. (Many people will first encounter your cover on a screen, not on a shelf.)

Do not forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover.

Ask yourself this; Is the cover compelling at a small size? More people are buying books on a Kindle or mobile device, so you want the cover to read clearly no matter where it appears.

You should also anticipate what the cover looks like in grayscale.

 

Now, back to the artwork.

Rule no. 1, Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. I’m talking about the stuff that comes free with Microsoft Word or other cheap layout programs.

Rule no.2, Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. This is known as the “T-shirt” design. It looks extremely amateurish.

Rule no.3, Avoid gradients. It’s especially game-over if you have a cover with a rainbow gradient.

Rule no.4, Avoid garish colour combinations. Sometimes such covers are meant to catch people’s attention. Usually, it just makes your book look freakish!

After all this, if your head is not spinning from the do’s and do not’s I will be surprised. Let me make it simple with a great example of excellent covers.

The bestselling author, Sophie Kinsella’s novels have about everything that is right when considering a book cover.

These romantic comedy covers have not been created by accident. They are specifically designed and crafted via Penguin Random House.

Clearly, the target audience is a, young, twenties something, fun, flirty, feminine female.

Best known for her ‘Shopaholic’ series, the main images on these covers are of highly stylized woman, with a clutch of designer carrier bags, against a background suggestive of location.

Here are three examples which follow all the rules (do’s & do not’s).

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These are my suggestions for a great book cover:

Keep it simple.

Avoid clutter.

The only hint at the content.

Go with the latest trends in your genre…OR…

Take a punt at something ‘outside the box’ (but try to keep within these guidelines).

Below are some covers I love, even my own award-winning designs…Oh, didn’t I mention I also design covers for Indie Authors…how remiss of me!

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If you would like to contact me about cover design, please feel free to email me at pwauthor@mail.com 

Please put ‘book cover enquiry’ into the subject bar.

Thank you, Paul.

 

Don’t let the rain drown your novel

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Too many times do I read the same old, same old, scene.

It’s raining, grey clouds overhead. Drizzle, cold wind.

Why?

Because it is a funeral, or someone has discovered a friend’s death.

OR

There is a tempest, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Gale force winds rattling the windows.

Why?

Because its eerie, a big house, a derelict building, a graveyard. Or the cars broken down on a country road.

OH, PLEASE. Come on. Enough is enough.

I know you want to set the scene, make the reader ‘feel and see what is in your mind. But not like this; not again.

Hollywood and television overworked this format years ago. Mary Shelly used it way back in 1817… (yes, I know Frankenstein’s Monster was not published until 1818. 11 March 1818 to be precise! but Mary completed her work in May 1817).

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After that, I can understand some writers utilising Mary’s techniques (which she stole anyway!); but that was almost two hundred years ago! Surely you can work your wordsmithing magic without falling back on this old literary cliché?

Let’s take a look at the graveside scene again. This time, dismiss the notion of grey skies and rain.

Try and build that ‘feeling’ you want, let’s say, for this exercise, sadness and sorrow. (Although in another version it could be joy and relief, dependent on your character’s viewpoint).

‘The solemn parade of black clad mourners slowly crunched their way over the gravel and melted into the dimness of the church, passing under the gothic arches of time worn stone’.

Here the tone is set using a few simple, but descriptive words, to create the mood. ‘Solemn, black, mourners, slowly, melted, dimness, gothic, time-worn’ All carefully selected words that imply the general emotion of the procession.

An alternative may be something along these lines.

‘James glanced at Mary, her eyes glistened as tears formed. Small dew-drops of sadness sparkling, reflecting in the sunlight. The scent of yew trees and grass added to James’s sense of numbness as he watched the coffin being lowered into the grave’.

IMG_4424Approaching the scene from an oblique angle often offers the author an opportunity to ‘drip-feed’ the reader, only giving them a small bite sized piece of the overall scene with each sentence. This allows for an element of surprise, or revelation.

Neither of the above paragraphs have fallen back to the old ‘grey sky and rain’ chestnut. Yet they convey the very essence of emotion which one wishes to communicate with the reader.


 

Onto the scary stuff!

The haunted house? The killer lurking in the dark woods, the stranded car on that country lane.

Hey, guess what?

You’re right, it’s NOT raining here either! No lightning, no storms and no doors banging in the wind.

So, how to get away from those ‘same old, movie style embedded notions’.

Well, let’s try. Let’s start with an approach to that (possibly) haunted house or old barn.

‘Two huge stone eagles balanced precariously on the dilapidated columns. The bindweed twisting about their talons as if securing them, denying them of flight. Framed between and beyond stood the old mansion house. The bright sunlight reflecting from the walls enhanced the blindness of long lost windows. Empty hollows, gaping holes beckoning us towards them’.

Locals say the owner of Ohio’s Milan Mansion was a practicing witch.

Note the ‘bright sunlight’. This time using the opposite, of what has become expected, to enhance the ‘darkness’, the brooding mood.

Not a raindrop in sight and the clock is not about to strike midnight!

As for breaking down on a country lane, perhaps having to abandon your vehicle to seek help…Let’s attempt to approach this in an unexpected style too.

‘He had been foolish for stopping; but nature would not wait and the hedgerow of holly offered the ideal shelter to hide behind while he answered her call. The car was going nowhere. The tyres just spun in the deep snow. With each attempt they sank lower until now; now the car was axel deep. He was stranded.

In the far distance the occasional puff of smoke drifted upwards into the crystal blue, cloudless sky. Turning his collar up, ramming his hands as far into his overcoat pockets as they would go, he started to plod through ankle deep snow towards the smoke. Gregory guessed it was from a cottage chimney. How wrong he was…’

Here I have constructed the paragraphs to portray a relatively normal situation, feeding the reader small tidbits about the weather, not only to ‘set the scene’, but as miss-direction, so that I can increase the effect of the final few words.

I beg you, if you are about to write, (or re-write), a section of your novel where you have been sucked in by the old ‘rain & storm’ caper, alter it. Dismiss the rain; freshen up your narration, pleasantly surprise your readers with something new and exciting.

Please do not let the rain make your book a wash-out.

Thanks for reading, Paul

Feel free to comment, leave feedback and ‘follow’ Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Oh, don’t forget to read the new edition of CQ Magazine. It is jam packed full of great ‘stuff’!

https://issuu.com/ramblingawaymagzine/docs/cq4prt1_1_2016

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Revealed. The websites no Writer or Author can do without.

As we all try and make sense of the process of writing and publishing our books many of us find particular hosts, sites, programmes and applications which, at least at first, look as if they will aid us, help us reach our goal of producing a great work.

A work which has minimal mistakes if any at all. One that is beta read, proof read, edited and formatted to near perfection as it is possible to achieve.

We are the creatives, the dreamers, the weavers of fantasy and make-believe. It is an often lonely and arduous task. So anything we can find that will allow us, help us accomplish our tasks more efficiently, even in an easier way must be welcomed.

The same is true of marketing, of promotion, of finding ways to put our carefully crafted works of magical wordcraft in the eye line of potential readers, those strangely elusive souls who may be the ones, when suitably tempted, to put their hands into their pockets and withdraw a handful of mysterious tokens called ‘coin’.

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RumpledSheets-1024x656Oh the dreams of easy writing, of superb marketing strategy and wondrous, ever climbing sales……yeh okay…you can wake up now!

However that is not to say that there are a number of sites and services that can actually help, albeit to varying degrees.

I for one am of the super sceptical when it comes to paying for a service, particularly when it is (from my point) untried and untested.

That means putting my faith in promises. That means believing marketing bumf and advertising. Not something I do lightly, particularly if I am to be parted with hard earned cash, even hard-yet-to-be-earned-cash.

So I am ever cautious.

In fact I have been so very careful you can call my a ‘tight-wad’ if you wish; but to date I have Indie published five books; Empty Walletone full length novel, one long-short-story eBook, two books of poetry and a very dirty adult erotic anthology. I have also contributed to four collaborative anthologies and produced two stories for a website/video site. Yet I have not spent a bean, not a single Penny, a loose Dime, an odd Rupee on anything.

Honest.

I have written, read, re-written. I have had my stories beta read and edited. I have formatted them. I have designed all my own covers, promoted, marketed and sold them all off my own back. I consider myself a truly independent author and publisher.

No, I have not made a fortune (yet!), neither have I, as yet, created an ongoing passive income large enough to see me through retirement until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil….but I am working on it!

I carry this ‘Modus Operandi’ onto the things I do to help others.

small buttonMy book promotion site ‘Sneak Peek’ offers free listings. I re-blog on ‘Brilliant Blogshare’, ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ & ‘Further Ramblings’ and carry others stories on ‘A Little more Fiction’. FeaturesAwards note2 and Showcases in CQ Magazine are also offered at no cost. I will suggest, coach, aid and do whatever I can to help other authors and artists all without thought of personal gain.

I cannot promise that the way I work would be right or suitable for you. You may well be far more eager for returns and results than I. You may not think you have the skills or the knowledge, or have the time to learn, or the time to commit. So I am not going to get into a ‘how to’ or a ‘how I achieved’ thingy!

Nor have I, or do I, intend to write a book on the subject!

Neither am I asking for you to pay me to tell you what or how I have done what I have. Those of you who know me will know that is not what I am about, it is not how I ‘tick’.

What I do enjoy, what gives the greatest satisfaction is helping others achieve their own dreams, goals, or targets or whatever term you want to use. Put simply I like to help everyone to be happy.

So on that basis I am listing here the websites and services that I use, have used, intend to use, or think could be beneficial at some point.

The overriding fact is that ALL of these are FREE, or have a free basic level with options to upgrade to a paid level(s) at a later stage if you wish. That ‘if you wish’ is all important. It is open-ended, no trail periods, no right to cancel at some future point. IF YOU wish to upgrade to utilise other services that is YOUR choice not theirs.

I guess I have said enough about my principles on this subject so that you get my gist!

So OK. Here is my list and my brief reasons for using and/or liking these sites/hosts. They are not listed in any particular order or categorised in any way, so it is best if you read through them all and choose which you wish to use (or not!).

I do hope that you will find at least one helpful or useful to yourself.

.

  • http://www.howmanysyllables.com/ Love this site. Syllable dictionary, syllable counter, Poetry workshop, English Grammar & more. No poet should be without this site in their armoury.
  • http://authl.it/ If you publish in Kindle format this site is indispensable. Create multi-region Kindle book links.
  • http://nibbler.silktide.com/ I use this to safeguard my research. Tests the quality, safety and security of most websites. Don’t browse unsafely, use this as an additional aid to stop malware, phishing etc.
  • https://www.canva.com/ Not a bad site for some basic image layouts for social media etc. Not a image editor, but good fun.
  • http://www.qrstuff.com/ QR code generation. Download, print, email, even print on ‘tee-shirts’! Use QR codes on back cover of you books, bookmarks & all promo material to lead to your website etc.
  • http://authorsdb.com/ Author profiles & book listings….but more…cover competitions, community, promotional stuffAUTHORSdb, services & more. One of my favourites. Contactable, responsive. Site takes some navigation but the end result is worth it.
  • http://www.authorgraph.com/ Get and send your autograph to your eBook readers. Worth checking out & using as an extra marketing tool.ag_logo-e82121c0b20665eb28fa8a9be15d7572
  • http://www.wix.com/ I think this is the best free website on the market at present. Lots of additional features like blogs and ‘shoutouts’. Premium available but as a single person author I have not sensed the need to upgrade yet.

I Love WordPress

  • https://wordpress.com I think the best blogging format at present. I also use WordPress for Sneak Peek.
  • https://about.me If you do not have an ‘aboutme’ page go get one NOW. This is the webs new ‘calling card’. Honestly get your page now, like today…go on…go do it!
  • http://promocave.com/ Love Promocove. Book promo & author profile etc. But much more. Best go take a look. J6_2_IJCFriendly and responsive team too.
  • https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/  OK, so I am biased here large buttonthis is my book promotion site primarily for indie authors. its FREE, so you have absolutely nothing to loose and only new readers to gain. I’ll say no more!

Ok that will do you for now. I am not giving ALL my secrets away!

Any questions, comments, feedback or if you know of any other sites that are free and good, please leave a comment or email me.

Cheers, Paul.

Another great site all writers need

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You folks should know by now that I am always looking for great sites which will help improve our writing skills, or simply encourage us to continue when we feel down or have that thing some call ‘writers block’.

Another area I am always keen to explore is marketing, advertising and promotion because once we have written our books we want to share our stories with the world.

At least I do!


Over the past few weeks I have highlighted book promo sites:

PROMOCAVE http://promocave.com/

AUTHORSdb http://authorsdb.com/

and of course SNEAK PEEK https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/

I have also blogged about MELANIE ROCKET’s wonderful, informative & useful website http://wp.me/p5 one which I would highly recommend you visit whether you are an experienced writer or just starting out.


There is yet one more fantastic site which offers all sorts of advice for writers along with direct help.xlogo.png.pagespeed.ic.HZT-ltPmGK

NOW NOVEL http://www.nownovel.com/

The ‘How to’ pages and blogs are excellent, like how to create tension-eight methods, or how to pace a crime novel, even six secrets to writing a series.

Furthermore you can submit a 500 word sample for criticism by other writers, or constructively criticise their 500 word samples. This is a wonderful way to get personalized feedback to give you direction, and support to improve your story.

ill-1One of my favourites from Now Novel is a process that gives you a blueprint for writing your novel. It’s guaranteed to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Now Novel is a structured method designed to help you finish your novel. The process is organised and easy to use, with helpful mentorship and consistent motivation to give you one essential thing: the blueprint for your novel.

Don’t just take my word for it, go check out Now Novel’s site yourself, mooch around and read. You will be glad you did.

I hope the above will help you, as they have me.

Keep tapping away!

Paul.

A great find for better Book Marketing

writers-block

Like most authors I am continuously looking for ways to do things better, not only improving my writing, my plots, characters, details and realism/escapism of my words. But also in ways to promote my work, to get my books in front of potential readers, dare I say, even to create ‘fans’ of my writing, people who just ‘cannot wait’ to read my next book.

None of these things are easy and, as I often ask myself, why do I bother at all to make my work public? Why do I publish my stories, and why, oh why do I expend so much time promoting my books and my blogs?

There must be a much easier way to achieve my goals without spending hours upon hours in front of a computer ploughing my way through the hosts of social media sites, in the hope that one person may, just may buy one of my books today.

The trick is of course to have a marketing strategy and a comprehensive promotional plan. Yep, that was the first thing that sprang into my mind the moment I finished my first book.

When that final keystroke printed the ‘d’ in ‘The End’ I should have been focused on an

integrated advertising and publicising stratagem, designed to maximise exposure and to create interest and awareness of my book in all the constant and variable media channels, avenues and vehicles possible, being fully inclusive of traditional forms as well as online technology based means such as social media platforms and internet related mediums

or at least something along those lines.

But I chose to heave a great sigh of relief and swill down a cold beer.

I do not think that I am alone in doing such a thing on completing a one hundred and ten thousand word novel either?

Which brings me back to the start of this rambling, ok it does not, but I’m going back there anyway!

So how can I do things better? As for the writing it really just comes down to writing, editing, re-writing, more editing and then doing it all again. That is something generally called practise and, in all honesty, that is the only way anyone can improve, although some suggestions and mental nudges can help stimulate ones muse.

In this blog, if you care to look back and read some of the previous posts, the archives, you will find a plethora of tips, ideas and ‘other stuff’ which will assist, I hope, in doing just that.

The second part, the marketing and promotion, which is the bit we all would like help with, the bit we could all do with making easier. Once again I have jotted down a few tips in the back catalogue of this blog.

But, and this is a big but, there is so much ‘out there’ that I am still finding. Some I dismiss as pretty darned stupid, inappropriate, or too expensive…even a few ‘dodgy’ sites and apps. I am certain you know of some of these too.

However, every now and then I come across a gem or two, or three. When I do I try to share them with you via this blog,‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Today’s little gem is in fact a big shiny diamond.

Melanie Rocket’s website is a pretty cool place to visit if you are a writer or author. The problem is where I start in explaining what she has going on here.

Firstly I think a brief bio will set the scene, so here goes.

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Melanie’s background of writing, photography and television production, positioned her perfectly for the Internet. She has been developing websites and marketing strategies for the Internet for the past 20 years and has worked with some of the top Internet marketers in the world.

Melanie has written twenty-six books, thousands of articles, hundreds of television scripts and is a non-stop idea machine. She often says, “I work far harder for my clients, than I do for myself!” This is evident from the strong Internet presence she develops for her clients.

Her clients have referred to Melanie as “the Web Witch, the Internet Wizard, “the Internet Goddess, the Traffic Cop” and as “Simply Amazing.” Melanie happily answers to all of them, though she admits to preferring “Goddess.”

Check out Melanie’s blog about book marketing http://melanierockett.com/category/book-marketing/

Or how about tips on using WordPress http://melanierockett.com/category/wordpress/

Like something more, then take a peek at some time saving software  http://melanierockett.com/category/productivity-tips-and-tools/

Looking for a good book reviewer? Check out the directory http://melanierockett.com/book-reviewers-directory/

There is so much more here too, like the services Melanie offers.

“I work one-on-one with authors and publishers to assist them with their  book writing and publishing projects.  From consulting to coaching to providing marketing advice and services.   It all starts with an email or a phone call”.

You can contact Melanie via her ‘contacts’ page on her website, just use any of the links above.

I hope you find at least one thing to make your life easier and your marketing planning better.

Books end

Have a great day, Paul.

Ex Libris legatum

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As we age we amass many life skills; some taught to us by teachers, lecturers, professors and our parents, some self-learned by patient practice and repetition, while most such lessons are thrust into our consciousness simply by the pure events of living life itself; births, love, passion, loss, hurt, pain, grief and death.

At some point during the period betwixt being born and gasping our last breath we have also, hopefully, gained some wisdom.

Although, only too often, such wisdom is realised and recognised far too late in life for us to use it in any true and meaningful way, such is the cruel nature of growing older.

However for those who manage to avoid a premature departure from this world, those who never got hit by lightning or run over by a trolley bus, become in some respect like a soggy sponge! Yes we droop and some often uncontrollably leak and dribble I am sure, but the analogy I was trying to draw was one of absorption and storage.

I know for a fact that I know more than I know I know, even if in that knowledge there is the realisation of knowing that one knows nothing.

With that stated clearly I will return to the train of thought which initiated my fingers to start tapping away today; that is, that within these southerly wilting, rather wrinkly, fading bodies which those ‘of a certain age’ seem to acquire, for the majority of us at least, are still our sprightly, lively young minds that have seldom aged beyond fifteen…or maybe (for legal reasons) that should read eighteen!

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Now….these minds of ours need a little control. You see they tend too often fool us by considering that whatever they think that we, (those of us who are over 40 something…{no not waist size}…years of being alive), still have the physical ability to achieve such things as skateboarding, zip-lining, mountaineering and even imbibing in a large amount of alcoholic beverages and awaking in the morning with a clear head….hummph….I wish.

The reason that our minds ignore our creaking joints, throbbing tendons, scar tissues that pull as taught as an elastic band every time we move like this…ouch….I should not have done that! Is that once-upon-a-time we have done all of those things, once –upon-a-time when that same mind was in its infancy and knew nothing of risk or fear, that mind which we (mostly) protected from going too far; well far too far, too often.

Now during all those life threatening adventures, (those naughty and dangerous liaisons, the arguments and battles, the fights and flights that our immature brains took us on), we collected lots and lots of information, comprehension, realisation, skills and familiarity.

In other words we gained awareness, understanding and experience, this is how we became educated and intelligent, and this is what gives us an erudition of life. This is what we loosely and casually refer to as wisdom and knowledge.

These are the life skills one collects in the only way possible, by living over a long period of time, or at least the longest period that time allows our weak and feeble bodies to function. Gladly, but tinged with some forms of sadly, mine is doing…..okay….at this moment.

You see I have out-lived many thousands of others over the years I have been walking upon this earth, (which I can still do….unaided). I am glad that I saw the sunrise this morning, the sad is that many did not.

Over the preceding years, many of those who never got to see the sunlight today are a whole host of friends and family, many older than I, many younger. Worst of all some had only minutes of life with which we could chart their age.

IMG_4424The fact is, that the number of people who are older than I is quickly diminishing. Now my mourning’s are frequently for those of my own generation, a generation who should use the life skills and knowledge that they have acquired to help and nurture those who are young enough and fortunate enough to have one of those minds which believes it is protected by an invincible body, such as our own did all those years past.

All that we have learned by events of life and living; those births we have witnessed, our loves, both lost and lasting. The passionate moments, some intimate, comprised of twisting limbs and thrusting loins, others of the soul; music, art, theater, dreams and scenes, vistas of natural beauty. The recollection of our times of loss, of hurt, of feeling pain; both physical and of the heart, not forgetting the grief and deaths.

This is our accumulated wisdom.

This is what we should share, what we should endeavour to teach our children and their children.

‘Ahh’, I hear you say, but children do not listen, do not take heed, so it is best to leave them to find their own way.

I do not disagree.

However, (which is a nicer way to say but, because there is always a but)! If we share our knowledge, leave it somewhere our future generations can discover it for themselves, then they will learn, or at least hopefully be guided by that which we have spent a lifetime accumulating.

This is why I believe I have a duty to leave my own thoughts behind me when I have gone, when I have shuffled from this mortal coil.

No one can teach from our personal experiences as we ourselves can.

This is why I choose to write. Even within the lines of my fiction, on the pages of my fantasies, are woven the truths of life and the facts of living.MagicBook

The words within my books and short stories are my bequest to the world, to a future I cannot be a part of, at least in person.

I chose to be a writer, not for monetary wealth or recognition, but to leave a legacy beyond the simplistic value of personal greed.

My wish is that my words are read by the generations yet to come.

Maybe then my life will not have been lived in vein.

Ex Libris legatum Paul White.


Thank you for reading this Rambling.

To find out about my Published Books & Short Stories please visit my web page, http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

© Paul White 2015

An unintended post!

Frustrated-20-year-old

Below is a statement which I have recently left as a comment on a Blog. It was only after doing so I decided to re-post my words here, as a stand alone post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind, because each word I hastily tapped-out on my keyboard represents precisely my views on the current balance of Indie Publishing and why many writers are (seemingly) having a bad time.

You may even consider this a ‘bit-of-a-rant’!

I shall let you draw your own conclusions. Feel free to reply, comment, or argue with me, I don’t bite!


I do not & will not discount or give away may published work.

I price my books according to the value (i.e. Creativity, Hard Work & Effort) which I put into them.

My books therefore are not the low cost option because my readers are buying high quality content.

If a book is free, .99c or £2.99 for a full length novel, then the author of that work clearly has either devalued their work, themselves, or the quality of the book will be crap.

This is a major problem regarding Indie Publishing Vs Mainstream Houses. Mainstream only discount AFTER a long period and then they do so firstly via discount shops, book clubs & supermarkets.

Readers should understand that good quality books, premium books may cost more, but are far better value ultimately.

Just like most things in life, buy cheap, get cheap.

Meet my Best Friends (& share them too)

I Love WordPress


My Rambling of the day.

I know the majority who read ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ are indeed writers and it is with you in mind I try, in my haphazard way, to offer advice and share knowledge about all facets of a writer’s life, from the more technical stuff to empathetic ‘hugs’ during those long lonely hours when nothing written seems to work.

One subject I have not broached so far is a writer’s own library. I do not mean the reading material we have for our own pastime, but that which we turn to for help and aid during the long toil of writing a book, or a poem, or an article….or even (possibly) a Blog such as this.

I have, over the years, amassed a huge array of various reference and resource works which sit heavily on and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

Even though we have ease of access to the infinitude of the interwebs content and can collate and bookmark pages, sites and various content to our heart’s desire, it is not always so practical to move away from our works and scuttle back and forth electronically.

At best this method causes interruption to the creative flow, at worst it is a distraction where one can easily click, just for a moment, a quick glance, at our email or network sites… then, three hours later, we wonder why we have achieved so little progress.

This is where a book, those pale pages which one has to turn manually, become so much more than just good friends, they become our tutors, our mentors, our coaches, they allow us to find the information we seek while keeping us focused on the task in hand.

Often, while writing I have three, four, seven, even ten various books open on my desk. Each one a weighty and mighty tome of facts and particulars, essential specifics and verifications which I can access at a glance without dismissing the words I am working on, the complex wordsmithing I am hammering out on the furnace of imagination.

You may ask, what are these bound pages of mystical knowledge I keep about me?

Then I shall reveal their names, some you may already be acquainted with, others may yet be strangers, but all are, to me, good friends.

ALL the books below can be viewed on Amazon by clicking on the title


These are some you may have, or at least you may have one of their cousins……

The Oxford English Dictionary.oed

The Chambers Dictionary.

Webster’s Encyclopaedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


These friends may not be quite so familiar, but are worth knowing…………6

Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, by Walter W. Skeat.

Dictionary of Difficult Words, by Robert H. Hill.

Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.


You should, in my humble opinion make friends with the following……download (3)

Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.


These folk may be a little unusual, but are worth inviting into your home…..download (2)

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

The Ultimate Loo Book, Mitchell Symons.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, by Michael Rosen.


Lastly, but far from least, these should be among your very best friends…

download (2)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: (A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling), by James N. Frey.

Plot & Structure: (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish), by James Scott Bell.


Clearly, these are just a few of those books which line my office walls like paladins. I think you can find copies on Amazon, or indeed go and browse your local bookstore where you may find a lonely discarded volume in need of a good home.

I hope this post has been enjoyable to read as well as helpful. Please follow this blog if you are not already doing so, as I have many more ideas and thoughts I would like to share with you.

Thank you for reading, Paul.


Find out more about me, my books, works in progress and more by visiting my website HERE 

How to write a book which agents WILL accept…… (probably)…………..(or not)!

This is not my usual type of Rambling post, in fact this is not a Rambling at all, but a serious article…without nice pictures to look at :-(


I posted an article a short while ago entitled ‘Why would you ever bother reading a book’.
The majority of folk understood that there is absolutely no other medium which can take you on the same journey, in the same personal manner, as reading a great story.
However there were still some, a very few I am gild to say, who admitted to not reading, not wanting to read, or suggested that watching a film or television is exactly the same as reading!
Oh how my head hurts!!!
However that said there are reasons that so many books ‘out there’ do read in much the same way as a movie is constructed. One of the main reasons for this is the demand from mainstream publishers for the majority of their titles to follow a predictable format.
This is a very similar format which is used in mainstream visual arts, film, televised plays, series etc.
The main reason is that it is the literary agencies and publishing houses duty to sell books AND make a profit while doing so.
With only a very few exceptions, by selecting manuscripts which follow the old ‘tried & tested’ formats the publishers almost guarantee a return. The downside is that many great stories are left untold, the public’s choice diminished.
This results in too many authors’ works are rejected in favour of those who are willing to ‘sell their soul’ for a few sheckles by producing the same story over and again, the only difference being the location and the characters names.
Many Romance, Thriller, Crime and Fantasy writers are skilled at using set formulas. I shall mention no names here. But you know who they are!

So what is this wonderful formula?

Simply it is a set of between six and nine ‘Plot Points’ which can be applied to almost any story in any genre.

I shall now endeavour to explain.

(This is a longer than normal post, but for clarity it must be. So if you have little interest in story construction you may leave now)!

So may all of you who do not wish to ‘Sell out’ your individualism, the artistic artisan skills of a indie writer……Just saying!

I have said above that a conventional STORY PLOT has between six and nine ‘plot points’, I will work with eight points; just to be awkward!

So first we must grasp what these points are intended to do, after which we can look into each in a little more depth.

Stasis

This is the “every day life” in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.

Trigger

Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.

The quest

The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.

Surprise

This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.

Critical choice

At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.

In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.

In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.

Climax

The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.

For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.

Reversal

The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realise that the bully no longer has any power over him; Cinderella might be recognised by the prince.

Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for without reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.

Resolution

The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.

Ummph. So you got all that?

Now you have your eight points, so let’s delve a little deeper.

Consider the above the ‘rough sketch’ of you stories outline. Now you need to build your guide so you do not wander ‘off track’ or write yourself into a ‘dead end’.


Now let’s build you story into that Novel.

The beginning

Plots, subplots, characters, goals and conflicts are introduced at the beginning of a story. Your goal is to pull the reader in with an exciting opening, then begin setting up the basis for the rest of the book. Depending on the length and complexity of your story, the beginning generally amounts to about the first 50 pages.

The start of your story is where you introduce your main characters’ attributes and motivations. The qualities you give your characters are what makes the reader care about them. Your characters’ behaviour, reactions and introspection, as well as their ever-evolving goals, draw sympathy and interest from the reader. The main characters in your story don’t have to be the moral equivalent of Snow White, either. Even character flaws and sins can draw the reader’s sympathy.

Don’t be afraid to get inside your characters – revealing their most heinous thoughts and secrets along with their most noble ones – in order to create compassion in your readers. It’s important to think about your characters’ conflicts, motivations, intentions and weaknesses right from the start. As the outlining process grows more intense, your insights into your characters will deepen, and your finished manuscript will be much the better for it.

Conflict

Your reader needs to be assured from your very first sentence that something suspenseful and exciting is happening or about to happen. Conflict is the root of everything exciting and suspenseful in your story.

Conflict can be internal or external. Each of your main characters should have internal conflicts – opposing desires, beliefs or motivations. External conflict can (and should) occur between characters, but characters can conflict with other things as well (such as fate). A solid plot gives all main characters (including the villain) internal and external conflicts.

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Be sure to lay the groundwork for conflict in the beginning section of your outline.

Keep the following tips in mind when building opportunities for action and suspense into the beginning of your story:

1 Keep the reader on edge with baffling contrasts in characters, setting and dialogue. If you put two seemingly opposed characters in play together, you’ll intrigue your readers and they will stick around to figure out why.

2 Take advantage of pacing, especially as you move toward and through the middle of your story. Don’t rush in to pick up the story threads. Keep the reader guessing.

Draw out scenes involving rescues and explanations. Offer the reader unsatisfactory alternatives to problems. Alternate suspense and action within your outline, even if just by giving yourself stage directions for accomplishing this.

3 Carefully construct mood by using description, dialogue, introspection and action.

4 Use foreshadowing. Foreshadowing shouldn’t answer the crucial questions of a story but, instead, create possibilities or uncertainties that will evoke mild or extreme tension in the reader.

Conflict, suspense and motivation will be the driving forces behind your story. Lay the groundwork for them in your outline, and they will reach their full potential in your story.

Now that we’ve reviewed the fundamentals of writing a good beginning, let’s discuss the first section of the story evolution worksheet:

1 Conflict is introduced

Most writers have been advised to begin each story with a bang. There’s a good reason for that. You want to hook your reader as early as possible. Detail here what will happen in your first scene, and briefly describe how the conflict you introduce at this point will dominate your story through each section. Also, hint at looming conflicts. As your beginning progresses, you’ll want to fully introduce the villain.

2 Story goal is introduced

The story goal is your dominant plot thread. You will introduce it at the beginning of the book. Review your plot sketch worksheet from your preliminary outline (Worksheet 4), then describe the story goal and how it will push your story forward through each section.

3 Characters are outfitted for their tasks

The character sketches you have created as part of your preliminary outline will help you continue to think about who your main characters are and how they’re involved in achieving the story’s goal.

Your characters should be designed with the resolution of the story goal in mind. They should have strengths they themselves aren’t aware of at the beginning of the story – strengths that evolve steadily throughout the course of the book as the characters face adversity.

They also should have internal and/or external weaknesses that hinder their progress. Detail these things in this section.

As you think about the first 50 or so pages that set up the premise of your book, continue to expand on the three points we’ve just covered. These points will help you come up with everything you need to keep your audience reading voraciously.

The middle

If you haven’t already, review the plot sketch worksheet (Worksheet 4) you began while creating your preliminary outline. The middle is usually the largest portion of any book. In this section, plots, subplots and conflicts work together to create a tug-of-war between the story goal and the opposition. Essentially, the action in the middle section of a book revolves around the main characters confronting the opposition, though most of the time this opposition is hidden from or unseen by the lead characters.

Your main characters must grow throughout this section of the book. Therefore, each of the events that take place within this section will require multiple scenes to work in and work out. In other words, you will be planning multiple scenes for each pull in the tug-of-war between your main characters and their opposition. The longer your book, the more complex this tug-of-war will be.

Here’s how the story evolution worksheet can help you to plan out the middle of your book:

1 Characters design short-term goals to reach the story goal

For each main character, introduce short-term goals that will assist that character in reaching the story goal. Give a brief description of each goal and how each character is attempting to reach it. Use your plot sketch (Worksheet 4) as a springboard for this section.

2 Quest to reach the story goal begins

In this section the characters put their first short-term goals into action. Sketch out what they go through during this time.

3 First short-term goals are thwarted

The first short-term goal proves impossible. What events take place to make this failure come about?

4 Characters react with disappointment

Characters react differently to disappointment, and these reactions show the kind of people they are. Provide insight into each major character’s reactions.

5 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Giving up the quest to reach the story goal is never really an option, though the characters may wish they could. In every exciting story with worthy heroes, something always happens to make it impossible to concede defeat. Inevitably, the stakes are raised and a new danger is introduced. Detail the new danger and its effect on all subplots.

6 Characters react to the conflict

In this section describe each main character’s initial reaction to the new danger or problem.

7 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Though the initial reaction to the danger is usually one that’s far from calm and logical, this must be a temporary reaction. Eventually, each main character will need to devise a new short-term goal to lead him/her closer to reaching the story goal. Briefly describe each character’s plan of action.

8 Quest to reach the story goal is continued

The characters put their new short-term goals in action. In this section, sketch out what they go through during this time.

9 Short-term goals are again thwarted

The new short-term goals prove as impossible as the first. What events took place to make this failure come about?

10 Characters react with disappointment

Character reactions will run the gamut here, but each character will be tiring of the battle a little more each time he/she fails.

11 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Remember that each time something happens, it must create ever more dire consequences if the characters don’t act quickly.

12 Characters react to the conflict

Show marked growth in the characters. Make the readers empathise with them. At this stage you can repeat steps 7-10 as many times as necessary to accommodate your story’s length and complexity. Steps 11 and 12 aren’t repeated here because the cycle becomes more dramatic with each repetition, thus allowing the last half of the middle portion of your book to be even tenser and your characters more desperate.

13 Downtime begins

The last section of the middle portion of the story begins with the downtime, which precedes the black moment. Your characters are coming to feel they have nothing left to hold on to. Detail these feelings.

14 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Your characters are going to make their next decisions out of sheer desperation. From this point on, they seem to lose much of their confidence – or, worse, they’re feeling a reckless sense of bravado that may have tragic consequences. What are their new goals and how do they plan to reach them?

15 The quest to reach the story goal continues, but instability abounds

Though your characters are ploughing ahead bravely, each step is taken with deep uncertainty. How does this action unfold?

16 The black moment begins

The worst possible failure has now come to pass. The short-term goals made in desperation are thwarted, and the stakes are raised to fever pitch as the worst of all possible conflicts is unveiled. Describe it in detail.

17 The characters react to the black moment

Characters react to this major conflict with a sense of finality. Never will there be a moment when the outcome is more in question than in this concluding section of the middle of the book.

The end bit….

At the end of a book, all plots, subplots and conflicts are resolved. In the last few chapters, the characters are finally given a well-deserved break from their recent crisis. Here’s how it takes shape through the story evolution worksheet:

1 A pivotal, life-changing event occurs Something crucial must happen in the first part of the end section – something that will change the lives of the characters irrevocably.

2 Characters modify short-term goals one last time

Whatever the life-altering experience the characters face, the desperation that drove them only a few chapters earlier is completely gone. They’ve never had such clarity of purpose as they do at this moment, and they revise their goals with the kind of determination that convinces the reader they can’t possibly fail.

3 The showdown begins

The main characters and opposition come face to face. It’s in these moments of confrontation that the main characters move to accomplish the story goal.

4 The opposition is vanquished and the conflict ends

You know the showdown that follows the moment of clarity very well.

5 The story goal is achieved

That which all the characters have been striving for has come to pass and this will affect everything. Detail the consequences of victory.

6 Characters react to the resolution of the plot and subplots

In this section, release is given to the characters who have worked so hard to achieve the story goal. Describe their reactions.

7 Characters revise their life goals

At this point the main characters have learned what they’re capable of. Now their life goals are revised.

8 Possible re-emergence of the conflict or opposition

At the end of a book it’s possible for the conflict or opposition to re-emerge – just when you and the characters thought it was safe.

Using a story evolution worksheet to plot the course of your story helps you to:

(1) see a snapshot of the highlights of your story; (2) pinpoint with accuracy precisely where potential problems are within the story; (3) make the weak areas of your story more solid; (4) avoid sagging, uninteresting middles; and (5) avoid repetition in your stories.

Once you’ve learned to see the framework of a story, you’ll never look at a book the same way again. What was invisible has become visible, even stark. As an author yourself, you now hold the key to creating the strongest framework for your novels.

Structure is something that every agent, editor, publisher, Hollywood executive, public speaker, marketer and story teller talks about, to the point that it can seem complicated, intricate, mysterious and hard to master. So I want to give you a starting point for properly structuring your novel, screenplay or presentation without overwhelming you with rules and details and jargon.

Here are what I consider ten key elements of structure – ten ways of looking at structure that will immediately improve the emotional impact – and commercial potential – of your story.

  1. THE SINGLE RULE OF STRUCTURE

There is only one rule for achieving proper plot structure: What’s happening now must be inherently more interesting than what just happened. The goal of structure – the goal of your entire story, in fact – is to elicit emotion in the reader or audience. If your story is increasingly compelling as you move forward, that’s all you need to worry about.

  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GOAL

The events and turning points in your story must all grow out of your hero’s desire. Without an outer motivation for your protagonist – a clear, visible objective your hero is desperate to achieve – your story can’t move forward. Repeatedly ask yourself, “What does my hero (or heroine) want to achieve by the end of the story? Can readers clearly envision what achieving that goal will look like? And will they be rooting for my hero to reach that finish line?” Apply the same questions to whatever scene: “What does my hero want in this sequence? And how is this immediate goal linked to her ultimate outer motivation?” If your answer is “I don’t know,” or, “They don’t,” your story is dead in the water (a sailing term that means “adrift, not going anywhere”).

  1. MORE, BIGGER, BADDER

Structure is built on desire, but the emotion you must elicit grows out of conflict. The more obstacles a character must overcome, and the more impossible it seems that he will succeed, the more captivated your audience will be. The conflict must build: each successive problem, opponent, hurdle, weakness, fear and setback must be greater than those that preceded it. Repeatedly ask yourself, “How can I make it even harder for this character to get what he wants?”

  1. SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

In each successive scene, something must happen that has never happened before: a new situation for the hero; a new secret to reveal; a new ally to join; and new enemy to confront; a new lover to pursue; a new (even bigger) problem to solve; a new tool for solving it. If scenes are interchangeable, or if nothing of significance changes from one scene to the next, you’re treading water.

  1. BEFORE AND AFTER

In creating the overall structure for your story, look at it as symmetrical, and divided into three sections (these are NOT the three acts – we’re looking at structure a bit differently here). Section 1 shows us your hero at the beginning of the story, living his everyday life. He’s stuck in some way – settling for something, resigned to a life that isn’t that fulfilling, or oblivious to the fact that deep down he longs for more.

At the other end of this symmetrical structure is another portrait of that same hero, this time transformed. Living a different life, more mature and self-aware than he was at the beginning. This final sequence must give us a clear picture of your hero, after having reaped the rewards (positive or negative) for finding (or not) the physical and/or emotional courage that was necessary to achieve his goal and complete his journey.

In between these before and after snapshots is the journey itself – the hero’s pursuit of that all-important goal.  This is where the compelling desire and the overwhelming conflict come face to face. But without those beginning and ending sequences, the structure is incomplete, and the story won’t work.

  1. THE OPPORTUNITY

At the end of that opening snapshot your hero must be presented with some opportunity. Something must happen to your hero that will engender her initial desire, and move her into some new situation. This is where the forward movement of your story begins, and it is out of this new situation (often geographic, always unfamiliar) that your hero’s outer motivation will ultimately emerge.

  1. FOCUS & DETERMINATION

Whatever outer motivation drives your hero, she shouldn’t begin pursuing that goal immediately. She must get acclimated to her new situation, must figure out what’s going on or where she fits in, until what has been a fairly broad or undefined desire comes into focus. Only then can she begin taking action toward the specific outer motivation that defines your story.

  1. LINES & ARCS

Structure applies to both the outer journey of achievement, and the inner journey of transformation. In other words, as the hero moves on the visible path toward that finish line, facing ever increasing obstacles, he must also gradually find greater and greater courage to overcome whatever fears have been holding him back and keeping him from finding real fulfillment or self worth. Repeatedly ask yourself “How is my hero changing in this scene? How are his emotional fears revealed and tested?” And, ultimately, “What does my protagonist have the courage to do at the end of the story that he didn’t have the courage to do at the beginning?” Whatever the answer, this is your hero’s character arc.

  1. SECRETS & LIES

Superior position is the term for telling your reader or audience something that some of the characters in the story don’t know. This gives you one of your most powerful structural tools: anticipation. When we know who and where the killer is before the hero does, or when we know the hero is keeping a big secret, we will keep turning the page to see what happens when that conflict appears, or that secret is revealed.

  1. TURN FANTASY INTO REALITY

Your job as a writer is not simply to take the reader to incredible places and show them exciting or astonishing characters and events – it’s to make the reader believe they are real. Your reader wants to suspend disbelief, but you’ve got to enable them to do that, by having your characters behave in consistent, credible ways. Your audience is eager to embrace fantastic, faraway worlds, bigger than life characters and startling events, but only if your characters react to them the way people in the real world would. You can even give your hero extraordinary powers, but we have to learn how she acquired them, and these powers must be limited in some way, in order to make her vulnerable.

This list certainly doesn’t cover every element or principle of plot structure that I lecture about or use with my consulting clients. Nor does it reveal all of the tools and turning points at your disposal. But every story I have ever encountered that followed these ten principles was properly – and effectively – structured.

Or you could just lay back and watch a film………but then it will not be a movie of YOUR book, but someone else’s!