Tag Archives: Tools

A Small Press With Big Accomplishments

When I prepared to submit my debut novel Sleeper Protocol for publication, I decided that I would look into small presses as well as larger more traditional ones. As I prepared my list of potential “candidates” a good friend and co-author of mine mentioned a publisher I’d never heard of before: Red Adept Publishing. I added them to the list of potential publishers that I would research. As soon as I looked closer, I realized that Red Adept would move to the top of the list.

At that time, in 2014, I discovered that Red Adept Publishing had already published a New York Times Bestselling novel. That was a huge plus for them on my scoresheet. I also discovered they were located in North Carolina and being from Tennessee, this was another plus. Not too shabby. When I checked the normal sources (Preditors and Editors, Author Beware), I found nothing negative to speak of and so when the time came, I sent them Sleeper Protocol and kept my fingers crossed.

One October afternoon, I had some scheduled writing time before I was to pick up our youngest child from daycare. I walked out of Starbucks, got into the car, and my phone rang with a North Carolina area code. I picked it up and so began my first conversation with Red Adept Publishing. Lynn McNamee and her amazing team go much farther above and beyond than most small presses I know. Not only was I told that Sleeper Protocol would get a copy edit and a line edit, a spectacular cover, and marketing assistance, I found myself folded into a group of authors across many genres (fantasy, romance, thriller, paranormal, science fiction) who support each other and really are one big, happy family. I could not have been happier to have signed a contract with them.

It’s fair to say now, though, that Red Adept was not the first small press I submitted to, nor was my contract on Sleeper Protocol the first small press contract I received. The first publisher has since gone out of business and their contract, which they touted as “negotiable,” was a learning experience in and of itself. When I look back and compare that publisher and Red Adept Publishing? Yeah, there’s no comparison at all. Why? Red Adept’s contract is very friendly to authors and the quality of work they’ve produced over the last several years stands for itself.

Since I signed with Red Adept, the publisher has seen another author hit the New York Times list and two authors hit the USA Today Bestsellers List. Those are tremendous accomplishments for any press, not just a small press. What sets them apart is very simple: they are the most professional, enthusiastic, and supportive team of authors and editors that I know and I’m thrilled to be a part of them going forward.

Just the other day, I received an email from my line editor that it was time for Vendetta Protocol to start its final march to publication. We already have an amazing cover and I was fortunate enough to have the same editing team from Sleeper Protocol sign on for the sequel. I’m looking forward to publishing more with Red Adept Publishing in the future. They certainly have changed my life. I’m very glad that I decided to go with a small publisher, but it matters most that I went with one of the right ones. They’re out there.

Write a short story? I’d Rather Floss Chicken Teeth!

Flossing a chicken’s teeth would be much easier than writing a short story. Or, that’s what I thought.chicken3-240x240

I found myself facing this problem after writing six novels. I couldn’t wrap my head around a shorter piece of work. Everything I tried I sounded like an outline for a novel.

Books on outlining didn’t help. Workshops provided little insight. Critique groups, well, I could help someone to better tell their story. Heck, I’d even edited an acclaimed anthology, but I couldn’t write a good short story to save myself.

How could I overcome this block?

I really wanted to know what eluded me about this form. After many attempts, I found a formula that helped in all aspects of short story writing. This four step process taught me how to write short stories:

1) Read short stories, not novels. By reading short stories I learned what forms and genres I really liked and disliked. There’s no point in trying to write in a genre or with a style that doesn’t speak to you.

2) Choose a genre which speaks to you. For example, I love some literary style authors and I love science fiction stories. Literary style I can read but I can’t figure out the voice. With science fiction I understand the voice and the genre, but I’m not as adept as I’d like to be with the science. Hence, I don’t have the confidence to write it. How did I learn this about myself? Check out point number three …

3) Retell the stories that interest you. This is how I figured out if I had the desire, the passion to write certain stories. When I retold a story, I paid close attention to the plot and how it unfolded. I became aware of style, plot, character and the tropes common to the genre. Most importantly, I had to feel the voice and the passion for the genre. Once I discovered what stories energized and excited me, the final step was easy.

4) Write an original story in the genre and voice that excites you.

That’s it. It’s that easy.

Should you publish or submit a retold story? That’s another matter. Issues of public domain arise and rightly so. Some stories I deleted because my intent was only to learn from them. Others, even if there are no public domain issues, may be published in the future but with full disclosure as to the source of inspiration.

Where did I finally find my voice? With fables and fairy tales and people’s stories of old. I love it. The most curious thing I learned was that it wasn’t about setting for me for I’ve set my stories in worlds of fantasy, science fiction, and yes, there’s even a literary one or two! My real journey was to find my story telling voice.

The cheat of the matter was this: later on, I recognized that my writing voice had always been with me. I had heard it, felt it even but I had tried to squeeze it into forms and stories that didn’t suit it. That was the heart of the problem. That is the heart of this journey – to hear the voice within you and to find the form that fits it.

Toolbelt roundup

This month we’ve seen a huge number of tools presented to help in every phase of producing a great story, from brainstorming to writing that first draft, to producing an ebook. The wealth of knowledge shared was simply amazing. Some of those tools included:

Protecting your work:

Getting started, research, and choosing a writing platform:

  • Ace Jordyn shared an excellent list of How-to-Write books
  • Katie Cross shared the mind-blowing coolness of Novamind for brainstorming
  • Evan Braun discussed the treasure trove that is research with Google Street View
  • Doug Dandridge discussed the wonders of building your own sci-fi universe with Orbit Xplorer
  • Jace Kilian discussed ways to Research
  • Joshua David Bennett shared a plethora of amazing tools that can be used in world building
  • Mary talked about finding meaningful names
  • Colette shared the pros and cons of Scrivener

Collaborating:

Generating that ebook:

  • Colette Black discussed the Magic of Jutoh

Promotion:

  • I shared ways to find Images without running afoul of copyright infringement
  • Emily Godhand explored using Wattpad to interact with readers in a unique and interactive way
  • Tim Reynolds shared an excellent, economical way to make a multi-use banner
  • We even fit in another great article from Guy Anthony De Marco on the tricky copyright world of DMCA
  • Greg Little discussed ways to best manage and keep track of multiple submissions
  • And Nathan Barra walked us through the process of using statistical analysis to help us target promotional and marketing efforts

I’m planning to investigate some of these and potentially add them to my writing tool belt.

Which ones intrigued or excited you the most?

Favorite How-to-Write Books

Sometimes, the best solution to a story or writing problem is to sit back, read a how-to book, think and then write. No one book has a solution for every problem and for that reason, I have several in my library. I find most books on writing more useful AFTER the story is written. Once you’ve read applied some of the techniques and lessons in these books to either an outline or a revision, your skill as a writer grows and subsequent first drafts become richer and better written.

My five go-to books are:

RandThe 10% Solution: Self Editing for the Modern Writer by Ken Rand
Are you saying what you intended to and are you using the best word choices? Use the ACBs of editing – accuracy, clarity and brevity. Rand lists the syllables (such as -ly) and words which may signal a writing problem. This systematic approach is good for line edits because it allows you to see the words without getting involved in the story.

21stWriting 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Story Telling by Donald Maass
This book is great for both brainstorming and examining the first draft’s effectiveness. The chapters provide a good foundation for all the questions Maass suggests writers should consider when writing about a character or scene or the plot. I must admit that it would be too much for me to apply all the questions to an entire novel, but addressing even one or two of them, I have found can enrich a scene or the story immensely.

DummiesWriting Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy
From fiction writing basics, to what makes a great story, to creating compelling setting and characters, story structure, theme and getting published, this book is a great how-to for beginners and a good reference for everyone.

 

The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! By Nina MunteanuNina
Take every workshop you’ve attended, develop cheat sheets for quick reference, and you’ve got The Fiction Writer. This book focus on the writing side of getting published with tips on everything from world building, to the hero’s journey, plotting, writing query letters and synopses to the zen of passionate writing.

BellRevision and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel that Sells by James Scott Bell
Written in two parts, Self-Editing, and Revision, this book is a compendium of the items that are non-negotiable in writing a novel. It’s written concisely and filled with great examples. The chapter “The Ultimate Revision Checklist” has great points to strengthen beginnings, middles and endings along with scenes, setting, theme and how to polish your manuscript.

Other books recommended by my critique group (thanks everyone!):

FarlandWriting Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
This book is part of David Farland’s Million Dollar Writing Series. Learn how to analyze an audience and outline a novel so that it can appeal to a wide readership and become a bestseller.

ThesaurusThe Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Designed to enrich your ability to express emotions on the page, this thesaurus tackles 75 common emotions by defining them, listing physical signals, internal sensations experienced, mental responses and cues for suppressed or long term encounters with the emotion.

McKee 2Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
It may have been written for screen writers but the elements of story, the principles of story design and the elements of craft used to tell a good story are universal. It explains the principles that shape the art of storytelling and the realities, not the mysteries of writing.

KingOn Writing by Stephen King
Entertaining and empowering, Stephen King not only teaches about writing, but provides a practical view of the craft and a writer’s life.

 

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence BlockBlock
A fun approach to writing and the writing life chapters include: Washing Garbage (revision), Creative Procrastination, and Creative Plagiarism.

 

Damn good novelHow to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling, Parts I and II by James N. Frey
Filled with down to earth basics, principles, and suggestions, this book helps writers recognize, analyze and correct problems in their work.

The Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by TrubyJohn Truby
A story consultant for the film industry, Truby challenges writers to dig deep within and explore their own values and world views. From making an audience care to making characters grow in meaningful ways writers will learn how to move an audience.

BulliesBullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction by Jessica Page Monell
The title says it all! From moral codes and personality traits, every character needs a specific level of integrity, decency and honesty filled with complicated yet believable motivations.

CardHow to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
A long standing favorite, the MICE quotient – milieu, idea, character and event- will help you structure a successful story. And if it’s science fiction or fantasy you’re writing, you’ll learn enough about the genre to ensure your stories are publishable.

This list is by no means comprehensive, so please share your favorites with us. Which books do you recommend?