Making Your Novel B-E-A-U-Tiful!

If it scares you,it might be agood thing to try.

This is the step that I find myself with Purpose. Today, I’m going to cover the reason I’m using Beta Readers, questions I’m having them answer for the polished and ready to publish version of my novel, the Blurb for the back of your novel, and the cover. These are all necessary steps to take prior to getting your book published. 🙂

First of all, why have Beta Readers? What are they? Well, Beta Readers are a select, handful of people who you choose to read your final draft for gaping plot holes and content critique. Make sure you don’t have too many Beta Readers, though. Less than 5 people is more than enough.

I have 3 Beta Readers. I wanted people of various backgrounds so I could get different perspectives on the questions I pose to them. My father, my husband, and my aunt-in-law (if that’s a thing???). They are all honest with me and always have been. My father and husband have an obsession with fiction, specifically fantasy. My aunt-in-law loves to read and can pick out any large issues with little effort. One is more detail oriented, the other two see the big picture. Things like this are important if you want a well-rounded critique of your novel.

The following questions that I have listed below are pulled from various websites/blogs around the internet so please enjoy!

  1. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
  2. Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
  3. Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel her pain or excitement?
  4. Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
  5. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
  6. Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  7. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  8. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?
  9. Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names or characters too similar?
  10. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
  11. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
  12. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
  13. Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
  14. Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?
  15. Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?
  16. Would you read the next two books in the trilogy based off this one? If no, why not?
  17. Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
  18. Are there parts where you wanted to skip ahead or put the book down?
  19.  Which parts should be condensed or even deleted?
  20. Which parts should be elaborated on or brought more to life?
  21. Which characters did you really connect to? (None is acceptable)

Other Questions/Comments:

Use as little or as many as you like! This will help make the finishing touches on your book (if you need any at all)! Value critiques, whether or not you decide to actually make the changes.

 

Next is the Blurb and Cover:

I have already posted my Blurb for Purpose but I’m posting it again for reference. Try to keep it under 200 words if you can. Mine is 138 and I had done about 5 revisions on it. I also had my Facebook group vote on which of 3 options that they liked best and this was the winner:

The only remnants of the Old Times are crumbling cities and desolate streets. Their tales, all but lost. Five hundred years have passed since the Old Time Wars, nearly causing the extinction of all humans.

Descendants of the few survivors have since rebuilt. Power, weaponry, and skill in battle now rule the region where Eva Calloway resides. She protects a colony of Rovers from the two largest Gangs in the region, desperate to atone for her own bloody past.

Everything changes when she rescues brothers, Jake and Tommy McAvoy, from a mysterious vault that has not been opened since the wars. With each step closer to finding the boys’ missing father, the ghosts of her past begin to reappear. Now, Eva will be forced to fight her way out of the darkness or else be consumed by it.

Remember: This is the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT part of your book. This is what grabs the reader to buy your book compared to the rest on the shelf. Aside from the cover, this is extremely important. Ask yourself a few questions when forming your Blurb:

How do I encompass the entire book in a few sentences?

What important information do I want to convey?

What parts of the book will grab the reader?

How much do I want to give away to the reader in the Blurb? (Is there a plot twist I want to keep secret?)

How can I write this concisely yet cover enough to describe my book properly?

Try writing a few paragraphs at first and then narrowing down and combining sentences. Give yourself a few options and have your fans/family/friends choose the best one. Which one would make them want to read your book? Good luck with this 🙂

 

And Finally… *Drum roll* Your Cover!

There are about a thousand different places that you can have your cover created. If you are talented in the visual arts (or Photoshop), you can design your own. Since I am neither, I have to find a different route.

If you outsource your cover to someone else, you have a few options. But first, make sure you have a good description of how you would like it to look (if you’re picky). At the very least, a description of your book so the artist can play around with images.

  1. 99 designs – This website is in the middle in terms of pricing. A book cover design will run you about $299 or more. Basically, you set a price over the minimum amount and receive dozens of designs from various artists. Then, you choose your favorite and they receive the money. They seem to be very high quality, but I do believe there you have to pay separately for an ebook cover.
  2. Canva – This website is helpful if you want to design your own cover. They have templates to work off of, but make sure the photos that you use are stock photos. Otherwise, you may have to pay in order to use them. Canva has a few that you only have to pay $1-5 per photo.
  3. Freelance Artists – you can find a few of these around the internet with their own websites. They tend to charge quite a bit, but have years of experience and produce high quality covers. It really just depends how much you are wanting to spend. If you know a few colleges in your area, you can snag a student working on a portfolio to design your cover for ~$50.
  4. Book Printing Companies – Online Book Printing companies sometimes offer Cover Design and Editing services as well as printing hard copies of your novel. These usually run a bit, but most websites have a fleet of artists and it is well worth the $$$ if you have a design stuck in your head. (#3 is a good option for this as well)
  5. Fiverr – This is the option I’m using. Why? Everything starts at $5! There are a few people who design quality book covers (ebook is $5, but hard copy may run you $50ish). The one downside is the wait time. Since there are a few artists on this website, they have other projects in queue and may take a little bit to get your design completed. If you don’t have a set deadline to release your book, or if your deadline is a few months away, this is a great option!

So there you have it! Hopefully, after these final steps, you have a beautiful polished document ready for print! Stay tuned for the benefits of Self-Publishing 🙂

 

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So You Finished your First Draft… Now What???

If it scares you,it might be agood thing to try.

Congrats! You finally finished that first draft. The mountain you thought you could never climb is finally conquered. Even though you cried about half the time, your tears were not in vain. And, most importantly, you didn’t quit! 🙂

As I mentioned in the previous “Let’s Write a Novel” post, your first draft isn’t going to be the best. It doesn’t have to be! That’s what this next phase is for, editing. And that is what I am covering today!

DISCLAIMER! You can get an editor to check over your work. They can be pricey, but I am fortunate that my cousin-in-law has an English degree. So she has been my editor.

This is the way I have been editing my novel Purpose, so feel free to adjust to what fits you the best! I feel that focusing on one aspect of the content with each edit makes it a higher quality than trying to do everything at once. So Enjoy! 😀

1st EDIT

BEFORE you get your hands dirty, give yourself a break. I took a 2 week break. Trust me, it may be difficult, but it gives you a pair of fresh eyes to look at your work. I spent that time outlining my next 2 books in the trilogy, working on questions for my Beta Readers, and the Blurb for Purpose. That took about 2 weeks or so.

Now that you’ve taken a break, it’s time to get going on the least fun part of writing. With the first edit, I read the entire book, chapter by chapter, searching for grammatical and spelling errors. These are difficult to find, especially when you know what you want to say. You may have doubled a word or forgot a comma. Perhaps you meant to say clothes and typed cloths… or he instead of the. Errors like this may completely miss your careful combing, but it will stick out to readers. And if you are a stickler for good grammar as a reader, then you may put a book down if it contains errors like these. Hold yourself to as high of a standard that you hold other authors.

The easiest way to edit for grammatical and spelling errors is by taking each paragraph separately. First, start with the last sentence of the paragraph and read it out loud. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any words that are misspelled that Spell Check did not catch?
  • Does the grammar make sense? Are you consistently using the Oxford Comma or not?
  • Does the dialogue make sense and sound natural?

 

Why edit from the last sentence of each paragraph first? It makes it easier to catch mistakes when you aren’t reading the sentences how they are meant to sound. It also keeps you from doing content edits or prose edits which comes later.

 

2nd Edit

Once you’ve fixed up the grammar and spelling, time to move onto the content. Keep an eye out for the following things:

  • Flow (NOT to be confused with Prose – which is the 3rd edit) – Do any sentences end abruptly? Are there unintentional run-on sentences? Any unintentional fragments?
  • Do the paragraphs make sense in the order they are written?
  • Do the chapters make sense in the order they are written?
  • Do the chapters convey the outline well?
  • Are there any outlying chapters/paragraphs/sentences that need to be removed?
  • Are there chapters/paragraphs/sentences that need to be added?
  • How are your descriptions of settings, characters, etc? Do you need to add or remove any content there?

DON’T worry about having to delete things. I know that this novel is your baby and you have watched it grow up and graduate school, 🙂 but you want it to be the best novel that it can be. Sometimes, in order to reach it’s full potential, things have to be taken out.

3rd Edit

To me, this is the most important edit. The “Prose” edit. The definition of Prose is “written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.” However, we are going to edit for metrical structure here as well. And yes, you can do both.

Now, you are going through each of the remaining chapters and checking for more than just flow. Metrical structure, or the tempo of the words/sentences/paragraphs, are used to convey the mood of the scene. Is the protagonist and antagonist fighting? Then you want short sentences to convey the quick blows from either side. Having a long, run-on, descriptive sentence here wouldn’t make sense. On the other hand, if the character is meditating in nature (for example), then you would want a more poetic, descriptive, feel to the paragraph.

As for prose, you want to focus on how the paragraph sounds as a whole. Are you using the best word placement for the sentence? Should any words be changed to something more or less descriptive. Is the structure correct?

 

Once you’ve done these 3 edits, feel free to read through again if you want to see how everything turns out. It’s really up to you how many times you want to go through it! Good luck with this step. It is arduous! It takes time! And it is not as glamorous as writing the draft, but it has to be done and it is a crucial part of the process.

**Another quick note. If you do decide to hire an editor, remember that you do not have to make every change that they suggest. They may not know why your character does a specific action or the purpose of a specific scene. You may be adding in bits of foreshadowing. Whatever the reason, don’t feel like you have to make every edit that they offer. They understand!** 🙂

And don’t forget. KEEP WRITING

The DREADED First Draft

The First Draft

Okay. Let’s take a deep breath before we get into this. Everything is going to be alright. Don’t freak out. YOU CAN DO THIS! 🙂

Many aspiring authors don’t make it to this point and even if they do, they may not make it past a few pages. The crippling feelings of doubt and fear of failure pervade our minds every day. Because of this and the need for perfection, the First Draft is literally the hardest part of writing your novel. It seems like an insurmountable obstacle, but there are a few things you can do to psych yourself up and “Get ‘er done!”

1. Understand that the First Draft will be (excuse my French) shitty!

Probably the most important thing I learned in college (aside from getting my Psychology degree), was that “the first draft of any paper will be shit.” That is literally the exact words of my favorite professor. Whether it’s a term paper, a research paper, or a novel, the first draft will be THE WORST DRAFT. That’s why it’s called a draft. But it is allowed to be crappy. That’s the whole point of the First Draft.

Think of it like a human body. The First Draft is the bones – without bones, there would be no support and no structure for the novel to stand on. It is a necessity.

2. All it has to do is EXIST.

The greatest thing about the First Draft is that there are so many possibilities. You can literally vomit on a 100+ pages and it’s done. But you cannot build on something that doesn’t exist. Bam. There is the beauty of the First Draft, it simply has to exist.

 

Okay, so now that you understand the two things above, let’s get into a few more tips about getting it done! 🙂

3. Hold yourself accountable.

Whether that’s setting aside a certain time each day, or hitting a predetermined word count, make it a priority. For my novel Purpose, I made sure I wrote AT LEAST 500 words per day. When I went on vacation, I brought my laptop with me and wrote at least 1,000 words for each day I was out of town. Writing doesn’t take breaks because it’s supposed to be fun! But that doesn’t mean you can make excuses not to do it.

I cannot promise that it will be easy to write every day. But I can promise that writing for 1 hour or 500+ words per day will get you closer to your goal. And if that doesn’t inspire you, please see #1 and #2 🙂

4. NEVER EDIT until you are done.

If you have to have your friend/spouse/parent, etc. sit next to you and slap you, so be it. But, please, do not edit your First Draft until you are completely DONE with it. That means, done with the whole story. Not done with a chapter. Not done with your word count for the day. THE WHOLE STORY.

Why? Because it is a gigantic pitfall. If you spend time reading your work over and over, you will start to hate it or spend so much time fixing it, you will never move on. That is why countless writers quit before they finish even the First Draft. I promise, you can edit later, but do not do it until the draft is complete.

5. Make it fun!

Listen to music. Recite your dialogue out loud. Watch a short YouTube video after every 30 minutes of writing. Look up motivational quotes for 5 minutes before you start. Anything to get you to write and stay excited about it, do it! The whole reason that you’re writing this novel is because you are passionate about it. Right?

Don’t make writing a chore. If you start dreading the time spent with your novel, then you need to change things up. Not everyone can write a novel, but that’s what makes YOU special. You have a fire burning in your belly that needs to come out into text. Seeing your name on the cover of a book. Your first true fan writing a letter about how much they loved your story….

But it has to be fun. You have to make it enjoyable. Otherwise, you may never finish it.

 

So there you have it. It doesn’t take much to get the First Draft done… just commitment (and a lot of it)!

As for me, I called my first draft “vomit on 300 pages”. I mean, that’s literally what I felt like I was doing, regurgitating every paragraph that came into my head. Sure, I followed my outline, but since I keep that so vague, most of the story was new to me as I wrote it. But lo and behold, I got it done and I’m in the editing phase currently. (*Gasp* What a great lead in to the next topic of Let’s Write a Novel!)

Don’t ever feel like you’re alone in this! YOU CAN DO IT and every other author is right there with you!

Outlining Your Novel

Let's Write a Novel

I know, I know. My Writing Prompts have been getting me a TON of traffic, particularly the one from this past weekend. So thanks for clicking on something else 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my blog for new updates! (And that INCLUDES more Writing Prompts and updates on my Novel’s release) Woop Woop!

If you have been following this particular topic, you should have already come up with your novel’s Main Idea/Inspiration/Basic Story, Characters, and Setting(s). And now, it is time to get to the Meat of the Story, so to speak. Outlining.

Just the same with Character Creation, you can get as vague or descriptive as you’d like. I’m going to give a quick run-down, show you how I outline, and give some other examples that may strike your fancy. 😀

So, what is the purpose of an outline? Why even bother with one? Well, most writers use some format to keep their ideas succinct. It also helps view a small snip-it of your entire novel without typing out 70,000+ words. You can utilize it how you want, move things around, and change ideas before getting started on your first draft. Not only will it help keep you on track, it can be a great tool to start the best story that you can.

Like I mentioned before, an outline can be vague or detailed. A list of chapters with a sentence or two stating the general idea to one page detailing each scene in the chapter, anything will work!

I use Google Docs so I can retrieve it whenever I have access to Wi-Fi. And in my experience, I tend to work best with only a paragraph or two per chapter. With each one, I outline things by topic, namely, what I want to accomplish and what points I want to make. If there is anything specific that I want to add, I will put that under the note in a separate bullet point. Sometimes, that is a quote, an exchange, or a significant scene. I am an author that does not particularly care to detail everything out. When I sit down to write, I would rather let my present creativity take over my fingertips than what I wrote down days or months prior. And at times, my writing surprises even me.

Example

[TITLE]

Chapter (#)

  • Main idea
    • Minor idea (notes), any specifics

Chapter (#+1)

  • Main Idea
    • Minor Idea

Etc.

 

That is just one way to write an outline.

Image result for notecard outline

 

Another example is writing scenes on index cards. You can lay out in front of you and scramble them how you wish. This works really well if you have a ton of ideas and no clue how to organize them.

Image result for ways to outline your novel

Another way that is similar to how I outline is through a spreadsheet. You can use Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets for this. Writers who have a very exact way how they would like their novel to be would benefit most from this way.

Image result for ywriter

 

 

yWriter is a great software for anyone who is obsessive with organization. I used it for time, but my mind is a bit crazier than that. Best of all, IT’S FREE! 🙂

 

 

Image result for scrivenerProbably the best way, in my opinion, to outline your novel, is through Scrivener. With this software ($45), you can outline, write, and edit all in one place.

The way they describe it is, “See the forest or the trees.” Basically, you can be as specific or as vague as you’d like. You can organize your thoughts with color and outline. You can flag things with each edit, etc. For less than $50, it’s a great deal!

 

Once you have this done, you are ready to start your first draft! Stay tuned for the next installment of “Let’s Write a Novel: First Draft!”

Creating Realistic Settings

Part 3 Settings

Welcome Back! 🙂

Hopefully by now you have your general story idea and a few characters created and ready to go. To me, the setting is the most fun. You have numerous options. How creative do you want to be? Are you starting with an existing setting like London, Australia, San Francisco, or Midwest US? Will you be creating an entire planet on your own? Make sure you ask yourself these types of questions before getting started. But, most importantly, write down everything you brainstorm!

So you’ve got a handle on how in-depth you want to go for your setting. What’s next? Depending on whether you have an existing location or creating an entirely new world will change the process a bit.

For Existing Settings

Choosing a location that already exists like a city, state, region, coral reef, or Sashquach hang-out (yeah, maybe not that one but who knows?) is a great start for a new writer that doesn’t want to take a significant amount of time to create. It also is a great option for post-apocalyptic, romance, and a few other genres.

One thing you will have to do is research. If you have never been to your chosen location, a decent amount of research will have to be done. Not only do you need to know the physical attributes of your setting (sight), you will want to focus on the other 4 senses as well. This will help create amazing descriptions as you introduce various environments in the story.

Sense of sound will be the next step. This doesn’t necessarily require you to look up audio for a busy city (although it may), but you will want to ask questions about what your character will hear. For example, The Wanderer Trilogy is set in a post-apocalyptic Midwest state. And while I don’t need to disclose which state it is, I do know that Midwestern states generally get all four seasons in a year. As for noises, the question I must ask myself is “How many people/animals inhabit (X) setting?” Whether Eva (my MC) is inside her shack (only inhabited by her with occasional secondary characters (SC) coming in and out), or inside a Gang compound (houses hundreds of armed guards as well has hundreds of slaves) – I have to be aware of the bustle of people, the clicking of loaded guns or cracking of whips, and even the chirping of birds or rustling of leaves in the wind. You’ll want to be aware of any sounds/noises you want to convey and write them down.

The next relatively easy sense is touch. What do the buildings/structures feel like? What are they made of? Are they old? New? Have they been warped or changed by the elements? How about the ground? Seasons? Temperature? Everything physical plays a part in this sense of touch. If your environment is a desert, the feeling of hot, dry air will play just as significant a part as the rare but inviting rainfall. Think about how the age of your buildings change it’s texture. An example of my novel is how wood warps after 500 years of spring rain. The city withstood a bombing all those years prior so many of the buildings near the center have been reduced to rubble. The continual storms and other weather patterns will continue to effect what remains of the buildings, long after the bombs detonated.

Whew! Two more to go! You can do this!

Smell and taste? How do you integrate that into your settings. And why bother? Well, these two senses will be used more sparingly than the other three, but they are important when used properly. When your character is hungry and their neighbor is baking a pie with the windows open, sense of smell and taste would be important to convey the level of hunger. You would want your character to be able to smell the pie so well that they could taste it on their tongue. That could make their stomach growl. See? Using the senses conveys the hunger without actually saying “They were hungry.”

In settings where you already have an existing location, these 5 senses are very important. There is research required (especially in regards to the society and subcultures within the city/town/state/etc. that you choose).

Unique Settings/World Building

There are a few things in this section that may or may not be helpful if you are utilizing an existing setting. I found this handy-dandy list of things to focus on in World Building –

world building

Some of these may or may not be relevant to your story, but it definitely gets the juices flowing!

Now, it isn’t just enough to jot down one or two sentences for each point above. You have to dig a ten-foot hole and jump in head first. Smash into the mud and worms of it all… okay I’m done 🙂

Anyway, with each of these topics, expand them! Write multiple types of religions/spiritualities for #15 and pick the best one later. Give yourself more options to single out when you go to outline your novel. And don’t stop at the #17 listed above. That’s just a place to get started! Remember, you are building an entire world or region. Different languages have different dialects which have different slang.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself for each topic:

  1. Language:
    • Does everyone speak the same language? Different languages completely? Dialects between the regions? Slang? Pronunciation differences? Accents?
  2. Origin Tales
    • How did your people/creatures migrate to their region? What is the origin of their magic? How did they adapt to their climate? Does their religion/spirituality change as they migrate?
  3. Folklore
    • Are there specific areas that your cultures do not venture because of curses? Do each regions believe the world was created differently? Any stories passed from generation to generation?
  4. Family Tree
    • Who are your MC’s family? Friends? Other Kin? The Royalty Family Tree? Coat of Arms? Any family rivalries?
  5. Jobs/Professions
    • Depending on the time period, this could change. What type of jobs are needed in your society? Blacksmith or lawyer? Knight or Pizza Delivery Person? How do their jobs impact the story? How does it impact the environment?
  6. Gender Roles
    • Are your people more conservative? Are you switching up the gender roles? Women in the armies and men as homemakers? Or is your society more of an egalitarian culture?
  7. Clothing/Costumes
    • Pant Suit? Jeans and a Tshirt? Renaissance dresses with corsets? What about animal hides?
  8. Weather
    • Is the weather in your story normal? Perhaps something catastrophic happens. Maybe non-stop storms?
  9. Flora & Fauna
    • What type of foliage grows in your city/village? What about animals? Any unusual or unique animal/plants? Do your people use them for medicine or remedies? What about poisons?
  10. Food
    • Are your people fishermen or hunters? Do they go to the store? Does their heritage change their food preferences? How does the culture celebrate holidays with food? Is any food sensual for relationships?
  11. Geography
    • Is the environment mountainous? Perhaps a desert? Maybe a beautiful forest or a beach? How would that change their clothing/food options? How would it change your character’s appearance (more tan because they see more sun, etc.)?
  12. Annual Rituals
    • Think about their religion or spirituality, what or who do they worship? What type of rituals would be celebrated by the village? Are their regional or worldwide holidays? Are their costumes, special foods, or sacrifices associated with these celebrations?
  13. Technology
    • Is this a technologically advanced civilization? How does the overwhelming technology play into people’s daily lives? Can the technology turn on them? Can it make them go crazy? (Don’t just think about computers or cell phones. Think about medicines, vehicles, and foods.)
  14. Animals
    • See Flora & Fauna. Are animals domesticated for food or pets? Do the people ride them for transportation? Can they fly? Where do they live?
  15. Religion/Spirituality
    • Are your people religious? Do they conform to an existing religion like Christianity? Are they Atheist? Do they worship animals? How do they perceive death? Are there wars or battles about whose god or gods are real?
  16. Magic
    • Is the magic energy finite? Can those who use magic replenish their energy? How? Is it elemental magic or elemental manipulation? Can only certain people do magic or can everyone? How does magic change their society?
  17. Politics/Power
    • Is there a council or government? Are their royalty? How do they govern? What about corruption or tyranny? Is the general population free or suppressed? If they are suppressed, will their be an uprising?

The setting development may take some time. And while my last post about character creation said to ‘stay somewhat vague’ the setting development is the opposite. Every single nuance needs to be written down because, if it is not consistent, your reader will catch it. The setting remains fixed (unless there’s a huge event like a meteor) while the characters change. Don’t get discouraged, be creative!

Next post in the Let’s Write a Novel Series will be about Outlining Your Story! I hope it’s getting exciting as you get closer to the 1st draft! I’m excited to see what you’ve been working on! 🙂