Category Archives: Writing Tips

Best-selling Author Parlays BookBub Ad to Bigger Sales

how-i-sold-more-series

On March 8, 2017, book-promoter BookBub Partners featured a post by guest blogger Glynnis Campbell titled “How I Sold 100x More of My Book Series.”

For my writer friends, this post by the USA Today best-selling author is helpful for planning a promotion campaign to boost sales and add interest for a new-book launch. The article offers tips and, step-by-step, what Glynnis did to gain more mileage from a BookBub upcoming promotion. Here’s a teaser:

“I opted strictly for email blast–style promotions with a good ROI history. These included Bargain Booksy, Choosy Bookworm, Free Kindle Books and Tips, Friday Freebies, Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads, and The eReader Café.”

friday-freebies-newsletter

Glynnis also offered her book and its description and buy links for publication in well-known newsletters such as that by historical author Lauren Royal, who generously features free and on-sale books by other authors as well as recipes, mini-stories, and promotions for her own novels.

RhysReprieve (3) FinalLast year Lauren featured my own Rye’s Reprieve when Amazon put the book on sale. I also had success with eReaderNewsToday and other email-blast entities. See my blog post “Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You.”

So check out this easy-to-read and very helpful article by Glynnis Campbell: https://insights.bookbub.com/how-sold-100x-more-book-series/

For my readers, here is what BookBub is all about:

“BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and we send great deals in those genres to your inbox. BookBub doesn’t actually sell books.”

Also check out eReaderNewsToday, another author-approved free service for book-lovers. To sign up, “Choose your genres, enter your email, and start reading your new books today.”

Authors feel it is prestigious to be selected for a BookBub or an eReaderNews promotion. In Glynnis’s case, she qualified by her status as a best-selling author and the many reviews she had already gained on the novel that BookBub was about to promote. In my case, it was my best-seller status as well as timing: eReaderNews had an opening, and I grabbed it, with very satisfactory results. I’m waiting for the stars to align for a BookBub ad to rocket my books into the arms of new readers.

Advertisements

Art is Not a Thing. It is a Way.

rainbow-fan

An Editorial by Louella Nelson

In February 2017, the New York Times cut many of its popular categories of best-seller lists—including the lists for mass market paperbacks, a bastion of the romance novel—upsetting many in the arenas of publishing and reading. “Among the lists that appear to have disappeared are the graphic novel/manga and the mass market paperback lists as well as the middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists,” Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid reported on January 26.

I prefer to follow up with good news: I thought this comment by the editor and publishing manager of Romance Writers of American (RWA) based in Houston, Erin Fry, was a beacon to authors who strive so long and hard to reach a pinnacle in publishing. “Thankfully,” Fry writes, “there are a number of other ways members can achieve Honor Roll outside of the NYT list: appear on the Publishers Weekly Top Ten bestseller list or any other PW best-seller list based solely on format, genre, or region; appear in the top 50 of the USA Today bestseller list; or have sold at least 100,000 copies in a single language” (which is the category I fall into).

Fighting back, RWA National sent this open letter of objection to the Times and also posted the statement on its own website:

As a trade association representing more than 10,000 writers of romance fiction worldwide, Romance Writers of America (RWA) is deeply disappointed by the decision of the New York Times to change its bestseller criteria.

Romance authors, most of them women, have dominated the best-seller lists in mass market and e-books for years. To dismiss these authors and the millions of readers who buy their books is to ignore what “bestseller” truly means. Each year, consumers buy more than $1.3 billion worth of romance fiction. If the New York Times eliminates the mass market and e-book lists, they are proving that they are out of touch with what consumers actually buy. Further, the dismissal of two formats dominated by women can’t help but feel sexist.

RWA strongly urges the Times to reconsider its decision.

_____________

Reid doubts they will, and that’s a shame. Literally. Art–and there IS art evident in mass market fiction–is not a thing you can toss away on a whim or a concern about a bottom line. Art is the thread that binds a culture and makes it strong, vibrant.

I believe the move to cut back lists of popular fiction signifies the ongoing killing off of creative arts in favor of the flourishing of financial interests in our culture, if “cultural” we’d be when our arts dry up.

At the end of January, one blog post on a site called The Passive Voice announced a snide headline: “Panicky NYT circles the wagons around 1%-ers, throwing the rest of traditionally published authors to the wolves.” The 1%-ers are the big-name authors who hit the best-seller lists every time they launch a new hardcover. Pretty much the entire reading world knows their name. If a publisher mostly publishes 1%-ers, they’re playing it safe and not trusting that an investment in a new author will pay off. That’s been going on for a while.

Thus, new authors flock to publish their own books. However, the NYT shut another door in their faces. If the new author does everything right and sells a ton of copies, expect no recognition from the NYT: The organization dropped e-book lists. Looks like the NYT is playing to the 1% market, cutting costs, risk, the hopes of new authors, and the pleasure of millions who seek a new voice to read.

Without data to back up my claim but with life-experience guiding my opinion, I suspect that, like other major papers, the NYT suffers its share of money woes. As is so often the case when the financial picture darkens for a corporation or a country, funding and notice for the arts get cut back. For example, following the 2008 financial meltdown, the University of California Extension in Irvine, where I was teaching beginning through advanced novel-writing courses, cut all arts classes from its catalogue. They kept the computer-related courses that filled to capacity every quarter and that strategy no doubt helped the Extension program survive the financial crisis.

The ivory tower creative writing degree program at UCI only allows in about 8-10 students from all over the world, each year. So the closing of the Extension writing courses meant a good deal of Orange County and beyond went without a place to learn to write, publish, or produce. That was 11 years ago.

Even though the economy has rebounded, not much has changed at my local Extension. A quick scan of the catalogue I checked today shows business management, instructional technology, process improvement, finance, law, leadership—a host of valuable courses that can earn my neighbors some cash flow working in the businesses in Orange County. But not one course is offered in creative writing, screen writing, play- or poetry- writing, never mind singing, painting, dance, and so on.

I try to stay positive. And most of the time I can rise above that tug of disillusion that stems from chaos at the national level, mayhem in countries that offer rich culture and rare antiquities, and a community institution that delivers “university-level learning solutions by leveraging the expertise of the  campus and community” but completely ignores the need of the human spirit to renew itself in its arts (quote from UCI website).

Instead of advertising “solutions” and “leveraging,” let’s hear them yell out loud, “Creativity encouraged here!” Creativity is a friendly animal who lives quite well alongside capitalism, as successful romance writers know well. Instead of cut-backs in national lists of the books people love, let’s add lists for the new genres birthed by creative minds. Let’s open the doors of learning once again to the singing of souls through literature, music, and art.

It’s not just the number-crunchers at the New York Times or the local college or university that pluck at my positivity, but also the surging mood in Washington to do away with funding for the arts. Greed is more ubiquitous now than it used to be. Greed kills art.

The grand opera singer Beverly Sills believed, “Art is the signature of civilizations.” In this age, what are we leaving to posterity? A narrower view of what books to read? A business-only agenda? I ask this not just as a published writer but also as a college writing teacher and as a sole proprietor, a businesswoman serving the editorial and mentoring needs of best-selling and aspiring writers. What will we teach the next generation, those fresh young minds who feel a soul-deep longing to create—not just in computer science, for example, but in computer-generated art? That their dreams are not valid? That financial and engineering professions are more important?

Let’s just stop. There is another way to live, a way that arrays our many-faceted talents like a rainbow fan.

Elbert Green Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher who was born before the Civil War and unfortunately went down with the RMS Lusitania in 1915. He said, “Art is not a thing; it is a way.”

Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You

This article is directed to the many writers I mentor and teach who are interested in promoting their books and stories via Internet advertising. The main focus for my own initial experience in book advertising was when Amazon, my publisher, put my first historical romance, Rye’s Reprieve, on sale for 99 cents without warning.

Rye's Reprieve (3) Final - CopyAmazon in its publishing role effectively uses email blasts to promote the works of its authors, so immediately my novel began climbing in the Top 100 of various lists: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Inspirational Romance, Kindle Worlds, as well as Westerns and the Romance category under Westerns.

Even after the advertising I’m going to talk about below lost its influence, today, September 19, 2016, the book is #97 on the Western Romance list, which could mean Amazon is still doing a modicum of promotion, or my own humble ad campaign combined with theirs has residual effect, or there is some mysterious force at work. It’s too much to hope that the book has a following, a life of it’s own. That would be too exciting for words.

Even more importantly, Rye’s Reprieve, which had only 13 reviews before July 2016, currently has 54 reviews on Amazon (79 % are 5-star reviews) and 80-plus ratings on Goodreads. And finally, I enjoyed seeing my new readers find and buy my other books and stories.

Here is the report I wrote in late August (with updates today in red):

Yesterday my book Rye’s Reprieve hit #7 on the Kindle Historical Romance Best Sellers list. Perhaps you are jaded by all the wonderful best-selling authors who regularly hit #1 on all the major lists and don’t think #7 is all that much.

But consider: Rye’s Reprieve is my first historical and my first novel-length fiction to release in more than two decades*. Reestablishing a writing career equates to pushing a two-ton boulder up Mt. Baldy. So seeing your new book hit #7 is about as good as eating homemade blueberry ice cream made with blueberries you picked on the hill behind your house just that morning.

*In May 2014, my period short story “Cora Lee” achieved #6 in Literary Short Fiction, following behind stories by Stephen King and Lee Child. For that launch the only promotion I did was to mention the book on Twitter & Facebook and in a newsletter to my email list of about 1200. I reissued my Harlequin titles and put out several short stories. My Amazon author page shows all fiction.

I didn’t achieve this recent modest success on Rye’s Reprieve without friends’ advice and a bit of luck. Here’s how I did it.

Decoding the rankings

On March 9 after my initial email promotion, Rye’s Reprieve went to #6 in Kindle World Romance. In contrast, this go-round, August 7-11, with the 99 cent sale and some low-cost promotions, the book hit #1 in Kindle Worlds Romance and Westerns (and at this writing, it’s still #1 in Kindle Worlds overall.) It achieved #3 in Kindle Western Romance and held there, which, together with #7 in Historical Romance, is more prestigious because the competition is huge. This “little engine that could” is still #97 in Western Romance!

Screen Capture by Snagit

Screen Capture by Snagit

How do you begin for your own promotion? Make a study of Amazon’s ranking structure. It’s complex—more complex than what you see beneath your title’s descriptive data on the book’s Amazon page. Here is the link to see all the lists available under Best Sellers Kindle Store eBooks: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bs_nav_kstore_1_kstore . You can see the list above, with Romance and then Western Romance highlighted. From there, click on your genre and drill down until you find the various lists where your book exists.

Under ebook subcategories, Romance is the umbrella topic. I then checked Historical Romance as well as Western Romance. Clicking Westerns takes you to Western Romance.

Another ranking, Westerns, can be found by clicking on Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction. Strangely, under Genre Fiction, Romance is not listed!

I found Kindle Worlds rankings in the Ranking area on my book’s page.

But also, if your book is on sale, think seriously about placing relatively inexpensive ads on websites whose sole mission is to promote free and 99 cent ebooks.

What worked in promotion

First, Rye’s Reprieve was released in February 2016 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World. For all its Worlds releases, Amazon controls when price-reductions occur; they put my book on sale without warning at the beginning of August. I’m assuming they did multiple email blasts that included my book, but even those didn’t keep the book up in the rankings for long.

In addition to my own Facebook and Twitter announcements of the 99 cent sale, a member of OCC RWA and Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Lauren Royal, opened her Friday Freebies & 99-Cent Bargain Books and her weekly newsletter featuring historical novels to NINC members, so I submitted my book cover and blurb. She also mentioned my title on Facebook and Twitter. The promotion at www.LaurenRoyal.com hit on August 5 and was free.

Debra Holland recommended I try for an ad in eReader News Today (ENT) and I was lucky to be chosen to participate. The fee for an ad on a specific day for historical romance is only $60. You can pay by PayPal or credit card (as most of the sites I mention allow). The morning the ad appeared at www.ereadernewstoday.com, August 7, the book shot to #1 in the Kindle Worlds mentioned above and #5 on the Western Romance list. Unfortunately, I did not think to check the Historical Romance category, but when I did a couple days later, the novel was ranked #22, rising to #7 in the past few days.

ent-ad-8-7-16I credit Amazon emails, the ENT ad, and Lauren’s newsletter for Rye’s Reprieve’s initial rise in rank.

Meanwhile, I contacted colleague Linda Carroll-Bradd and asked her advice about advertising. She recommended I look into www.JustKindleBooks.com and www.Ebookshabit.com. The ad at Just Kindle Books costs $20 plus Add Ons (keep the book on their homepage for extra 3 days $20; Facebook post to 26,000 followers, $10) for a total of $60. The fee includes cover image/link on Pinterest, Tumblr, and other main social media.

That promo hit August 11. The book rose to #7 in Historical Romance, # 3 in Western Romance, as well as #1 in Westerns, and #1 in KW both Romance and Western. This is a pretty good indication that Just Kindle Books is worth the money. In contrast, I did not get the bump I was hoping for from a $10 ad with eBooksHabit.

After reading a chapter email and attending the Published Authors Workshop at RWA on Saturday, I gathered the following advertising ops for ebooks that are free or 99 cents from Kitty Bucholtz, Vicki Crum, Shelley Bleackley, and others.

I had spent $120 so far. With a remaining budget of about $250, I placed ads here:

Robin Reads (August was closed when I checked but I wrote to them about the success of the initial advertising efforts, they encouraged me to submit my book, and voila! A spot in their calendar opened up: Aug. 25. If they select me, the cost will be $45.)

Choosy Bookworm accepted me and will advertise Rye’s Reprieve on Aug. 18. Yay! The Rush Premium Feature costs $70 and the cover will remain on their Featured eBooks Page for a week.

Book Sends is pricey at $90 for the spot on Aug. 18 and just about ate up my budget—I have only $25 left to spend.

However, when you’re making pennies per book, money can’t be your main motive for promotion. It has to be gaining new readers, racking up a few more reviews and even cross-over sales to your other books and stories, and seeing your efforts pay off in a rise in rankings that you can share with followers. Some authors also experience a bump in sales when the book returns to its normal price, which in the case of Rye’s Reprieve is $3.99.

Did I mention BookBub? If they agreed to let me advertise with them—a slim possibility—the cost would be $500 and they anticipate I’d have roughly 2500 sales. If that happened, I’d clear $375 after costs, and the ranking would no doubt shoot Rye’s Reprieve to single digits on most coveted lists, plus bring a whole bunch of new readers to my author page.

I did not yet advertise with eBookWorth, Bargain Booksy, or Fiverr’s BKnight with its $5 price tag and 50,000 readers, because I needed to meet Marianne Donley’s deadline for A Slice of Orange. However, I will at least check out their sites.

I probably don’t need to mention…most of the authors and professional newsletter editors want the authors they feature to put the newsletter link in their social media announcements.

I would appreciate having an email from anyone who wants to share their promotion/ranking journey, and if things really jump by the end of August, I may give a follow-up report in a future blog post.

Contact me at lounelson@cox.net or this website. Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louella.nelson.1 and Twitter: @LouellaNelson


This post first appeared in the Orange County Romance Writers of America blog machine, A Slice of Orange, in August 17, 2016, and has been updated here.

Mercury retrograde could affect your writing—and more

 

moon

2000mm exposure in Florida in March 2016 by Steve Matchett

If writing is more challenging recently, it may be the fault of the planets. And things may  get dicier if you blunder forward without considering the influences hurtling by at 465 meters per second or 1000 mph (or thereabouts) above your head. To whit: Currently (September 2016), as the planet was April 28-May 22, Mercury is in retrograde. Other planets have been retrograding since January. You know how the moon and sun affect the tides? It stands to reason the other orbs affect different aspects of life-as-we-prefer-it. Some of the back-spin may actually be positive!

“Retrograde” doesn’t mean the planets are actually moving backward in orbit, although that’s a convenient image. They appear to regress because of their relative positions in relation to Earth and how all of them are moving around the sun. So sayeth NASA.

I can only attest to the magnetic pull of the planets-in-retro by saying I’ve spent the last two weeks avoiding any serious research or writing on my next historical novel, Rebel Love Song, by bingeing on Netflix series, and by pretending I have nothing to do with the outside world. Yes, even the first in my historical series, Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a tragic secret in 1880s Montana Territory, has been waging war in the marketplace without my leadership.

But can I blame myself for the absenteeism? Really?

How influential are those planets? I think of the twenty-foot-plus sweep between high and low tides at certain phases of the moon, and I wonder. I don’t make this stuff up. The largest vertical tidal sweep in the world is, arguably, in the Bay of Fundy, edging Nova Scotia, natal home of my grandmother, with tides ranging 47 to 53 feet.  If our most well-known planets could make tides run like that, nipping at your front steps and flooding your garden, what could a bunch of retro planets do to your psyche? Your writing plans?

Of course, being a story-teller, I may exaggerate a tad. Today in nearby Laguna Beach, the tidal sweep is about four feet. However, the up-coming Mercury retrograde is a notorious relationship trouble-maker and project-discombobulator, made worse by the planetary chaos that began earlier this year. Thus I can blame the heavenly bodies for my procrastination. So there.

The good news? Now that I’m back in writing mode, I can move forward without concern for the plethora of planetary pulls, because I started the current project several weeks ago.

Getting stalled isn’t the end of the world. Never getting back to writing is, in a writer’s universe. Forward, ho! Meanwhile noting a few cautions:

With Mercury regressing (so to speak), sages say communications may be glitchy, so be extra clear and gentle in your disagreements.  If you have a new project to start or finish between April 28-May 22, at least write a few words or pound a few nails now—get a start on the work before April 28.

Those with more wisdom than I (soooo many people!) recommend you don’t sign contracts or start new projects during Mercury retrograde. Just sayin. It’s a time for contemplation and review. And for making headway on an in-progress writing project. Maybe getting in a little word-polishing, too.

Here are some upbeat thoughts on all the retrograding, with more available via the link, written by writer-teacher-bookseller Maddy Foley  a day ago on Bustle:

Recently, I was talking with a co-worker about planets going retrograde, and we both agreed that while, ha ha, we are strong, independent women who don’t need the planets to tell us what to do, we also, like, just mark our calendars just to be, um, careful and cover our bases. Well, my sweets, five planets will be retrograde in April 2016, so here’s how to celebrate — because the only thing to do in the face of topsy-turvy-ness is to dance. Duh.

Jupiter was the first planet to turn retrograde this year on Jan. 7, followed by Saturn on March 25 and Mars on April 17. Pluto turns retrograde today, actually (April 18), and on April 28, Mercury, the retrograde-iest of all planets, will turn as well. Hardcore, am I right?

Each planet has its own characteristics; as such, they’re all supposed to have an effect on a different aspect of your life. Honestly, this particular retrograde season is just like one giant tough love seminar: Jupiter, for example, deals with personal growth and expansion, so when Jupiter turns retrograde, a lot of your support systems and crutches have a habit of disappearing. This sucks and is the worst and makes it seem like you’re stalled out, but it also forces you to find your internal strength. See? Tough love.

Kind of makes you want to yell, “Oh my God, FINE, I GET IT” at the universe, doesn’t it?

The other areas of your life that may be affected by this retrograde-tastic period are communication (Mercury), love and relationships (Pluto), emotions, particularly anger and aggression (Mars), and karma (Saturn), so… yeah. Things may be a little weird, and some self-care amazingness is definitely in order. Here are some ways to celebrate all the learnin’ you will be doing about yourself, because rewards are important. I’m going to be the best parent.

For more, click on the Bustle link. And Maddy—love love love your perky “voice.” Thanks for the insights.

Keeping the Love Alive (in your writing career)

christmas advice

 

This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider. To subscribe, please scroll to the end of the article.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can stop creativity dead in its tracks. With such busy lives, how do writers keep the goal in front of them? How do they sustain momentum?

If you’re the writer’s bestie, a romance reader, I’m guessing you wonder, too. How do writers overcome injury, death of a loved one, switching careers, jobs, or passions, committing to a major project, moving house, or raising a family—all this to stay on track with the dream? My own writing went underground from my mother’s death in 1991 to about four or five years ago. I met my then-contract obligation to Harlequin Books in summer 1992, but it was a struggle. So I can talk about loss, trauma, staying the course (or not) and coming back to writing when the brain isn’t as young. But let’s be positive.

How do we overcome all hesitation and crisis to sustain that haunting dream of being a published writer?

“Learning to write in a world where I am the sole provider and have multiple demanding obligations is a huge challenge,” says Frances Amati (“Heart Hound” in the anthology Romancing the Pages).  “I had to learn to carve out niches of opportunity and to quiet my mind to listen when the universe speaks to me.  It’s about being organized and effective with the little time I have. I can’t feel guilty about what I didn’t do; it is a waste of energy. I need to focus on what I can/did do, no matter how small.”

Here’s a list of focus aids (must be done regularly to keep up the spirit):

  • Frequent walks on the beach or in the woods, prayer, or listening to music.
  • Luxurious weekly bubble baths, with or without the drinkable bubbly.
  • Writing daily positive statements such as “I’m writing and loving it every day!” “I’m paying for my house on the Pacific with my writing!” “I’m expressing my misery through my writing—and loving it!” or “I’m writing. How can it get better than this?”
  • Counseling therapy. Chocolate therapy. Shopping therapy. All three, once a week!
  • Writing out your woes in a diary or to a fictitious person; mine is a letter to grandma, though both grandmas are gone.
  • Long showers. Meditation. Creative cooking. Working with animals.
  • Setting an “easy” writing schedule. A realistic one, even if it’s a half-hour a week.
  • Doing timed writings, sequential 15-minute blaze-writing sessions to get the juices flowing.
  • Allowing yourself to write crap. Every day. Thanks for the tip, Anne Lamott.

Although there’s no sure answer, the most powerful insider trick to staying motivated is to belong to a positive, driven, professionally-oriented support or critique group, even it’s one other writer. Although I was teaching and mentoring authors back in ’91-92, I did not have a critique group that I could go to for criticism, support, and encouragement. If I had, perhaps I’d be onto my 40th book instead of my 7th.

Thankfully today I have best-selling author Debra Holland (the Montana Sky series and others) as well as several other of my brightest students available for feedback. The Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, in fact many in the literary cannon had critique groups—letter-writing, home visits, luncheons in London, and periodic discussion/critiquing get-togethers. Famously, the Algonquin Roundtable in New York in the 1920s featured meetings with writers, artists, and critics who played cribbage and poker and enjoyed daily luncheons and discussions. We have an offshoot today called the writer’s conference, where we learn craft techniques, stay up on market trends, and network with our fellows.

In year-round writing courses and critique groups, I do as much as humanly possible to keep writers motivated, but ultimately the drive has to come from within. “The support will help but the drive must be there no matter what,” asserts Alexis Montgomery (Seducing Susan). “I always think back to Karen Robards saying she wrote her first book during bathroom breaks at work, balancing a yellow legal pad on her lap…it doesn’t get more driven than that.”

One of my Wednesday-night-group writers has been in the group since the 1990’s; Dennis Phinney has written six books, has a top agent, and hasn’t sold. A full-time engineer, he’s still producing amazing work, coming to meetings, and submitting his novels and stories to criticism. It keeps him motivated; it keeps him constantly improving.

There are lots of ways to stay on course. Setting butt in chair is the first step. But like Frances Amati and so many of us, quitting the day job isn’t an option. “Thomas Hardy was an architect,” Phinney points out. “Herman Melville worked in a customs office. Today many work as teachers.” As babysitters, physicians, homemakers, scientists, therapists. As pilots, stage directors, managers, and singers. As explorers and tinkerers.

“So the dream becomes to share epiphanies and to create a work or two of excellence, or maybe even just one really great short story,” Phinney adds. “The goal is to help [readers] to think, to ask questions, to laugh, to love, to see the miracles in everyday existence; it’s also to set forth your own truth in all its damnable ambiguity.”

I couldn’t say it better.

Two closing pieces of advice: 1) Don’t do it for the money. (It may well come.)  2) Quitting is not an option.


Best-selling author Louella Nelson is an award-winning writing instructor in Orange County, CA. Her next novel, Rye’s Reprieve, will release in February 2016. www.LouellaNelson.com Graphic image by the author.

This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider.

Romance Insider MastheadTo subscribe to The Romance Insider, click here: http://lararwa.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=29cb9d556d4c84408d2f70843&id=7d8372aba9

 

Launch Your Next Book From NaNoWriMo

M81 Galaxy is Pretty in Pink

M81 Galaxy is Pretty in Pink

Update to my earlier post: I’m entered in Nanowrimo again this November. If you are too, please find me and be my writing buddy. My project this time around is Mail-Order Mom: Serena.

Nanowrimo sounds like a navigational command from StarTrek but it’s actually code for Sit Butt In Chair and Write With a Vengeance. Beginning November 1, writers from all over the world gather electronically and challenge themselves to write a novel, 50,000 words,  in 30 days.  The gathering spot: http://www.nanowrimo.org/.  There are chat rooms if you get down on yourself, and a whole cheerleading squad in The Office.* You can even buy a Nanowrimo coffee mug and fill it with your fave java so you can launch yourself into fictional orbit.  It’s totally zen. Is it odd that my maiden project for NaNoWriMo will be a writing text instead of a novel?  To answer your question—no.  It’s not odd because for a published author to use NaNoWriMo to get up and running on a long-overdue project simply means NaNoWriMo is working.  It’s working to get me motivated; it’s working to get me organized for the Big Day, the first day in November.  I have the flutter in my gut writers get from time to time when they are eager to begin.  It’s been a long time since I felt that flutter (about writing, anyway), and it’s all good. Too many years have gone by in which my students have reminded, hounded, and bullied me about writing a book they can share with their writing friends and peruse for any nitpicky trick or tip their tired-from-sitting-in-the-chair-writing-all-day brains cannot recall.  I feel duty-bound to get the danged text written so they will quit pestering me; and so aspiring writers will have something to lean on in the scary predawn hours of their novel-writing career. Courage is an illusive thing.  I used to see a poster that fascinated me in the cafeteria at Chapman University.  It pictured a sailboat and featured a misquoted quotation by Andre Gide, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947, which I adapt here: You cannot discover new galaxies unless you have the courage to lose sight of the earth. Do you dream of being published?  Does that goal seem a far galaxy?  Why not carpe-diem yourself on over to the Nanowrimo website and, Hey-oh!  We will do this together, all you princes of prose, and it will not be odd.

Louella Nelson blastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblast

To show you that the all-volunteer launch team at The Office of Letters and Light (Support & HQ for Nanowrimo) is behind you all the way, I give you my own personal message from Captain Kim: Hi again Louella, Thanks so much for sharing your story! I am totally invigorated. I’m so glad that you are taking on this challenge of writing a guidebook this November. You are a NaNo Rebel of the highest order: you’re giving back to the writers who are coming after you. We’re rooting you on. Best of luck this November! Tim Kim Office Captain *The Office of Letters and Light You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Office of Letters and Light at http://store.lettersandlight.org

Point of View: Vision of Writer & Character

 

POV Image

“There is an inside to experience as well as an outside.”
–Aldous Huxley

The way a character (or author or other narrator) perceives the world and interprets it is called point of view. We are in Sally’s head and heart when we read,

Sally couldn’t wait to get into the classroom and confront the students about their cheating ways. She felt her stomach clench; she was so angry she could spit.

This is an example of Sally’s point of view (POV). We are in her head (she can’t wait to confront the students), in her body (feels her stomach clench) and in her emotions or heart (so angry she could spit). This is an example of “deep-penetration” or “close” point of view, or point of view that goes deeply inside a character and reveals their attitudes, emotions, and motivations. Nothing is held back, as it is in a more distant, omniscient, god-like point of view. Deep-penetration is not the only type of POV used today, but it is by far the most common and, some would argue, the most satisfying to readers.

Point of view is a filtered perspective on two levels. First, Sally is made up of a set of values and ethics, traits, background, economic situation, old injuries—physical, spiritual, and emotional influences—the various factors that the writer fabricated to bring her to life in the story. Second, Sally is also created from the writer’s memories, world-view, and emotions. It is difficult to separate the fabricated Sally from the writer’s world-view; the two levels blend without our notice; we almost can’t stop ourselves from imbuing Sally with some of our personal hopes and fears. That’s okay; go there. It takes courage to reveal our deepest selves—and doing so creates great characters, memorable stories.

The influence of the writer’s essence happens automatically, behind the scenes, and influences not only Sally’s persona but also the decision about who will narrate her story. There are many choices: the author, termed “authorial point of view”; the character Sally herself, as in the example above that utilizes the “deep-penetration point of view”; Sally plus a cast of other characters, called “multiple point of view” or “multiple deep-penetration point of view”; a made-up “voice” who drops into her story like a visiting aunt to explain things called simply a “narrator” (which gives “narrator” two meanings); or a god-like presence who sees into every room and every mind and dictates or comments on the action of the story, called “omniscient point of view.”

Note: Memoir is often written from the omniscient point of view but in recent years is trending toward the deep-penetration single or even multiple point of view story with omniscient passages.

As you gain knowledge about the craft of writing, you will encounter other experts who hold a variety of opinions about which point of view is best, or best for a given type of work. The varying opinions bewilder. However, the wide array of memoirs utilizing multi-character points of view, first-person or third-person authorial point of view, and a host of other combinations suggests that there is no one right way to master or to deliver point of view. That’s true whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.

What do I recommend for new writers? I’m always suggesting the first-time student write a deep-penetration work because (a) I know a majority of readers like it and (b) the new writer tends to hold back from revealing emotions and this form encourages the opposite. The deep-penetration book is flexible; it can be written in first person (“I”) or third person (“he/she/they”) and still be an effective read.

I also recommend that writers working in a deep-penetration third-person point of view stick to one point of view per scene. Doing so develops reader loyalty to the character, makes the reading experience more satisfying than the head-hopping variety, and staves off confusion.

Ultimately the read has to be satisfying to the reader or the book may never get read let alone adopted as a favorite.

So here’s a definition:

The way a character (or author or other narrator) perceives the world and interprets it for the reader is called point of view.

The Big Two Points of View:

  1. First, omniscient point of view is found in classical literature, notably in the noir writings of the 1920’s through 50’s, and in some of today’s good fiction and memoir. Utilizing the he, she, they pronouns, the omniscient narrator is rather like a mastermind moving chess pieces on a board. In addition to masterminding the action in entire books, bits of omniscient narration appear in many third-person narratives, particularly to open the book or a chapter set in a new location.Omniscient passages are often characterized by exposition, by “telling” rather than “showing” in cinematic fashion. We “tell” children a story at bedtime, often opening with “Once upon a time.”
    Authorial omniscient utilizes the author’s opinions and perspective about the characters, their activities, their feelings, and their plans; many first-time writers cannot avoid being intrusive—a condition sometimes termed “author intrusion.”
    The omniscient narrator typically can delve into several characters’ feelings or avoid feelings altogether and report actions and reactions. The distance narrator floats above to watch and report on several characters’ activities.
  2. Second, the deeper, or deepest, reader access to character is called deep-penetration point of view. There are two types:
  • First-person narration, using the pronoun I, is both classical and used widely these days; it’s easier to learn than the other types; and most of all, it’s the most facile when you’re trying to learn how to include character emotion in your writing. Because the reader is unavoidably inside the head and heart of the central character for the entire book, and there is no omniscient presence to narrate, the writer pretty much has to devote attention to “feelings” and “motivations.” The feelings and motivations can be “reliable” (the character never lies to the reader) or “unreliable” (character lies on purpose or due to some illness or incorrect thinking or bad information).
  • The second type of deep-penetration narration is close third person point of view; it’s what huge numbers of readers enjoy reading, and the technique gives the writer a great deal of flexibility and depth. One option is to write the entire book in third-person deep-penetration point of view, revealing a central character’s mind, heart, motivations, and reactions. Another is to write it using one dominant point of view, supplementing with one or more supporting points of view that reveal other characters’ inner emotions and motivations. The pronouns he, she, and they populate this viewpoint.

In a nutshell, point of view is all about perspective–whose? It’s about seeing the world through a unique set of perceptions, senses, and attitudes. You are the god of your story: you have to decide how best to tell it. By understanding and mastering point of view, you have the power to create worlds with unique visions and perspectives.