Previous month:
April 2014
Next month:
June 2014

Develop complex antagonist to maximize conflict

In most 01stories, someone causes the problem that vexes the main character. This character is called the antagonist.

Examples of well-known antagonists include the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” Sauron from “The Lord of the Rings,” and Scar in “The Lion King.”

Usually a story is not told from the antagonist’s perspective. In fact, often the antagonist is a flat, cardboard character whose sole reason for existence is to cause trouble. This was one of the complaints “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry had of the Klingons in “The Original Series.”

Obviously the main character needs to be the focus of your story, and so the antagonist in contrast will not be as developed. Still, you want to think a lot about the antagonist and give him deeper motives than greed, lust or evil. He’s arguably the second most important character of your story, after all, and the reason why there’s even a story to tell. By developing a backstory for the antagonist’s motivations, you can create thematic tension. The antagonist’s motivations can be paralleled with and contrasted to the protagonist’s motivations and decisions.

As with the main character, you should know what your antagonist looks like, his strengths and weaknesses, his likes and dislikes, what motivates him, his parents and schooling, who he’s dated throughout his life, the foods he enjoys and hates, what he does during his free time, how his apartment is decorated, places he’s visited and places he yet wants to go, and more. You should know your antagonist almost as well as you know yourself.

In addition, sometimes, the antagonist is not a “real” person but an element of nature or some competing idea in the main character’s internal conflict. Often these antagonists take on a life of their own, becoming characters in their own right.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Jacksonville, Florida, or a small town like Dinkytown, Minnesota, I can provide that second eye.


How to get your title into bookstores

When promoting Bookstore-1129183_640 (2)your self-published book, you may want to get the paper versions into bookstores. Besides fulfilling the fantasy that virtually every author (including me) possesses, your book for sale on a shelf should lead to a least a few more copies moving into readers’ hands; if you have published multiple titles for sale, a lone reader liking just one of your books can lead to them purchasing from your backlist.

Getting into a bookstore can be difficult for a self-published author, though. Chain bookstores, discount merchandisers, and supermarkets are nearly impossible for placing your book because of their business model, and some bookstore managers believe if they can’t find you through Ingram Books or Baker&Taylor – the two largest distributors of books to retailers – then your book isn’t worth stocking.

But there are places that will carry your books. Many ma and pa bookstores, gift shops, or specialty stores (an outfitter if you write books about local kayaking, for example) will stock books by regional authors. Your first objective is to identify what those stores might be. Be forewarned, you may find only a few in your area; at best, I’ve found two per county in the regions that my hiking guidebooks are targeted.

Once you’ve identified these stores, your next step is to contact them. Either through email or in person is fine. You may want to develop a sell sheet for your book, not so much to give to the retailer but so you can develop your own pitch to get them to carry the title. The two keys to convincing them are: 1) I’m a local author or 2) My book is about the geographical region your store serves. This appeals to the retailer because they’ve determined their customers either like to purchase books by local authors or books about the region the store serves. Always bring copies of the book with you for the retailer to see, and be willing to leave signed copies for them to sell.

Next, you’ll need to agree to how much you’ll be paid for the book. Typically, your book is taken on consignment and will give you a 60-40 split, meaning you get 60% of the retail cost while they receive 40%. Each retailer is a little different, however, in what percentage they’ll agree to for a split. In addition, some will pay up front for the books while others only will pay for what is sold. In the latter case, always be willing to take returns on unsold copies of your book.

One final note: Never depend upon bookstores as the primary way of distributing your book. An old adage among authors goes “Bookstores are a great place to look at books but a lousy place to sell them.” You’ll find that far more of your sales occur online or at tables you man at book fairs and signings.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you hail from a big city like San Diego or a small town like San Jon, New Mexico, I can provide that second eye.


Editing client wins two awards for her books

A recent editing Brenda Schnable Qi-Infused Yogaclient has been honored with two prestigious awards. North Carolina yoga therapist and instructor Brenda Schnable’s book “Access Your Inner Power: Awakening Your Health and Vitality” (which I edited), was listed as a finalist in the 2014 International Book Award’s “Health: Alternative Medicine” category. The book introduced the world to Qi Infused Yoga, which Schnable developed. Her sequel, “Qi Infused Yoga,” was an award-winner in the “Best Cover Design: Non-Fiction” category. Her books are available for purchase online.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you're from a big city like Phoenix or a small town like Duckwater, Nevada, 
I can provide that second eye.


Clean it up: Shakeout vs. shake out vs. shake-out

It’s time 240_F_116782064_LabBENa2wpN166qrc2FjBj4faTwZOrxZto clean up the confusion about these three words.

Shakeout is a noun that means either: 1) the shrinking of the number of businesses in an industry due to mergers, acquisitions and going out of business; or 2) an annual earthquake preparedness drill, as in Los Angeles will participate in The Great California ShakeOut during October.

Shake out is a verb that means cleaning by shaking, as in Please shake out the bed sheets; they’re full of cracker crumbs.

Shake-out is a misspelling of the above two words.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you live in a big city like Houston or a small town like Pittsfield, Vermont, I can provide that second eye.


Use sensory details rather than internalized ones

One way Guitar-839168_1920to make your writing more vivid is to use sensory details rather than internalized ones. Sensory details (blue, sour, loud, smooth) are specific rather than general. Internalized details (angry, pleased, innocent, civilized) amount to using fuzzy words and give no real impression of what is being described.

Consider this passage, written using internalized details:

Peter’s memories of his mother were vague. He closed his eyes, thought of her, but the memories were too few to ever last long.

Now consider the same passage rewritten to use sensory details:

Peter’s memories of his mother were vague, amorphous as melted candlewax. He closed his eyes, recalled her swiping at the cutting board with a knife, alternately rhapsodic and swinging chop bouncing through the house, of her combing her hair straight, of her smiling broadly, but there was little more.

Most readers prefer the passage that relies on sensory details. That is because it is tangible; the details in it are something the reader literally could see, hear, smell, touch or taste. In contrast, the passage relying on internalized details give the reader only a vague sense of what is occurring. The difference is one feels real (the one using sensory details) while the other reads like a dry, facts-only-ma’am report of what occurred (That’s the one using internalized details, btw.). The reader more easily falls into the fictional dream when sensory rather than internalized details are provided.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or a small town like Dry Prong, Louisiana, I can provide that second eye.


Questions to ask yourself when plotting a story

When 240_F_119565571_mhNTN3fTEZULu6wdRjpGoXzuMdVKcH4Edeveloping a plot for your story, there are several key questions you ought to ask yourself.

First and foremost, ask yourself what is the story’s dramatic situation or central problem. This is the conflict that sets the story in the motion. It could be the arrival of alien spacecraft, the announcement in the Civil War camp that they will march into battle the next morning, or a positive result on a pregnancy test. Science fiction writer Robert Silverberg defines a dramatic situation as “…a zone of inevitable opposition of powerful forces that emits ever-widening reverberations until it is neutralized somehow in a way that creates understanding, insight and harmony.”

Next, ask yourself who is being hurt by this conflict and why they are being hurt. Whoever is affected by this this dissonance is your main character. It could be a local official trying to prevent panic now that a clearly alien spacecraft has landed in the village square, as that is his duty. It could be a young soldier who never wanted to enlist but was talked into it by his friends, yet believes killing is wrong. It could be the college student who tested positive for pregnancy but isn’t in a relationship and has dreams of a career. Often writers will say good fiction is character-based because the story ought to be about a character who has a difficult decision to make rather than the dramatic situation itself. In many cases, writers start imagining a story by thinking about the main character’s conflict.

After determining your story’s main character, ask yourself how that character will deal with this conflict. Ideally, this involves “ever-widening reverberations” of that dramatic situation, or in short, a thickening of the plot. Perhaps the local official calms the crowd, which was led by a person who lost the last election for the official’s spot. Now the local official’s motivations center not just on fulfilling his duties but on maintaining his power in the community. The plot further thickens when an unidentifiable device rises from the alien spacecraft and begins to hum menacingly. Now the local official’s difficulties have returned as the crowd doubts his reassurances. Through the story, the character should have to deal with the multiple conflicts, each one growing worse than the other; often this is referred to as rising action.

Lastly, ask yourself what can possibly resolve the main character’s conflict. As Silverberg explains, you must “bring manners to an end point” and “restore the universe’s harmony.” This is the climax of the story. The main character ought to make a difficult decision that resolves the conflict. Perhaps the Civil War soldier decides his belief in not killing is more important than loyalty to one’s friends and country and so decides to desert. Possibly the pregnant woman decides that despite the pleas of the man who impregnated her to marry him and her friends’ advice to get an abortion that she instead will give birth and raise the child on her own. While the character may face new problems arising from the solution (How will the Civil War soldier survive if he flees out West? How will the woman take care of the child while she is in school?), all that matters is that the personal conflicts facing the main character be resolved as it relates to the dramatic situation (Will the soldier go into battle or not now that marching orders have been given? Will the woman keep the child or not now that she is pregnant?).

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Providence, Rhode Island, or a small town like Gay Head, Massachusetts, I can provide that second eye.


Five Great Quotations about Passion for Writing

“A writer never 14095922_10153642232415216_2531821121206777292_nhas a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” – Eugene Ionesco

“You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer...” – Stephen Leigh

“You know what it means – you’re a writer and you understand it. It’s not just ‘the satisfaction of being published.’ Great God! It’s the satisfaction of getting it out, or having that, so far as you’re concerned, gone through with it! That good or ill, for better or for worse, it’s over, done with, finished, out of your life forever and that, come what may, you can at least, as far as this thing is concerned, get the merciful damned easement of oblivion and forgetfulness.” – Tom Wolfe

“I count it a high honor to belong to a profession in which the good men write every paragraph, every sentence, every line, as lovingly as any Addison or Steele, and do so in full regard that by tomorrow it will have been burned, or used, if at all, to line a shelf.” – Alexander Woollcott

“I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write.” – P. G. Wodehouse

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Norfolk, Virginia, or a small town like Crappo, Maryland, I can provide that second eye.


Last step in writing: Place book in final form

Generally when 14191903_10153643519675216_6483840659978873299_n (1)putting together a book or any other publication, writers follow a process that typically includes brainstorming (coming up with the story idea), outlining, writing a first draft, and revising. The final step in this process is final form, or formatting the manuscript.

This step usually was only done once the text had reached the exact version that the writer wanted. The manuscript then would be sent off to an editor or literary agent in hopes of getting it published. Advising writers how to place their manuscript in final form was simple, as most editors and others in the industry generally followed what was known as manuscript form.

Today, final form is not so simple. With the widespread advent of self-publishing, formatting is less about getting the manuscript in the way that an editor or lit agent prefers to see it but in the way the author wants it to appear when published as a book. Compounding this is that often the book will be published in both paper and ebook, meaning multiple formatting or final forms are required for a single manuscript. Being aware of the elements that going into formatting both a paper and an ebook is a good idea when writing, as you can think about how you might divide the text into chapters and subsections, which fonts you’ll use, and so on.

Many writers often try to place their manuscript in final form as penning the book. That’s easy to do with the advent of the computer. The theory such writers hold is that doing this will save them time. Sometimes that is true. As working with clients, I’ve found that if they plan to format their manuscript as writing it, then they should do so for an ebook. If you do the paper book first, you’ll have to undo a lot of formatting to get it into ebook form, whereas there’s less work going the other way (from a manuscript formatted for an ebook into paper book form).

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you hail from a big city like Miami or a small town like Cold Brook, New York, I can provide that second eye.


Editing client publishes her third novel

Jana Meador Jana Meador Under teh Magpie's Wingshas published a third novel that I’ve edited for her, “Under the Magpie’s Wings.” Set in a small Montana town, the novel tells the story of Italian immigrant farmer Vin Savelli and his grandson Marco, whose lives dramatically change one night following a horrific event. Burdened by guilt and uncertainty, Marco undergoes a personal quest to find the truth behind his family’s secrets. The novel is available for purchase online.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Arlington, Texas, or a small town like Chicken, Alaska, I can provide that second eye.


Q&A on Ebooks with Book Editor Rob Bignell

Today, I’d 240_F_41302161_jnczgt4JzTRui5WhGFagGxPPL9tqZ3A8like to share the answers to a few questions about ebook that I often receive from clients and readers of this blog.

Q: How does the ebook publication process work?
A: There are a lot of different platforms to publish ebooks on, and you likely want to get your book up on the big four – Kindle, iBook/iPad, Nook, and Kobo. To do that, you’ll need to format your manuscript to fit the requirements of each platform. There are some automatic converters out there – Kindle DP allows you to convert any paperback published through CreateSpace into a Kindle ebook, for example – but at least of this posting, those converters result in messy-looking ebooks. You’re much better off to learn how to format the books yourself or to pay a professional to do it for you.

If you do it on your own, you can format the books in Microsoft Word and without using any coding. I recommend formatting the book to the standards required by Smashwords, where you can upload a single manuscript that then is automatically converted so it can be sold in each of the big four platforms. You then can take that formatted manuscript and play with its appearance in Microsoft Word for a new upload to Kindle, which is much looser with its formatting requirements than Smashwords.

Before uploading, you’ll need to have a variety of other bits and pieces ready to go. Among them is the book cover, a back cover blurb or teaser for your book, and an author’s bio. Thinking of some keywords that people using a search engine could use to find your book and deciding on the price also are a good idea.

You next upload the book and cover to Kindle DP and then to Smashwords. Those companies are your “printer” and distributor. Each automatically creates an online web page for your book. You then go about marketing your ebook to generate online sales.

Q: How does the money start coming in?
A: Before your book goes up for sale on Amazon.com or Smashwords (or the Nook, iBook/iPad and other online book catalogs that Smashwords can get you into), you’ll need to complete some “paperwork” in which you tell those companies how and where to pay you. You can receive an old school paper check or have the royalties direct deposited in your bank account.

Where the payments get tricky is if you co-author a book. The distributor doesn’t split the earnings, so you need to work that out with your co-author. An easy solution is to have the payments simply go to one of the authors, who then writes a check for half of that amount to the other author.

Q: How is sales tax handled?
A: The online distributor – meaning Kindle DP, Smashwords, or the company with the online catalog selling your book – takes care of that for you. When a book is purchased online, the distributor calculates the sales tax based on the state the book is being “shipped” or sent to and then takes care of sending that collected tax to the appropriate state. As an author, you don’t have to worry about that at all.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Fort Worth, Texas, or a small town like Tightwad, Missouri, I can provide that second eye.