Waaayyyy back in the Dark Ages of Publishing, I queried many, many…*sigh* many agents, only to be rejected. Then, I pitched a social media book for writers…and they laughed in my face. Social media is a fad. Authors only need a good book. Yup. Well, these are the same folks who are now requiring an author to have a strong social media platform and most won’t so much as look at a book if they can’t google an author’s name and have it show up (and show something vibrant and interesting).
Had it not been for the indie/e-book revolution, my first #1 best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and my second #1 best-selling book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and now my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World would never have existed (let alone dominated the top three slots in multiple categories).
Thank you WANA and INDIE PUBLISHERS! *shout-out to Bob Mayer, Jen Talty & Cool Gus Publishing who took a chance on my first two books*
Aside from me (being a niche author), there were many traditionally authors who had extensive backlists (full of mega-successful books) who would have never made another dime off that work (and a lot are now making six and seven figures). There were also many authors who’d been rejected for years, who finally forged their own paths using e-books. Look up Romance Author Theresa Ragan. Theresa sold SO many books, that when NY came calling? She turned them down.
I wonder if she sent them a rejection letter with “does not fit my needs”? Hmmm, perhaps I should ask next time I see her :D.
There are also authors like John Locke who used e-book success to garner sweet publishing deals. Why am I mentioning this stuff? Because no matter what kind of author we are—traditional, indie, self-published? E-books are important.
Yes, even if we traditionally publish. Right now NY can produce a book (maybe two) in a year. That’s a lifetime in the Digital World. What better way to keep fans excited than by publishing backstory, short stories, deleted scenes, stories involving supporting characters? This helps keep readers passionate so when your book is on the shelves? They are SO THERE.
Today, to talk about e-books and her own experience is Award-Winning Author (of TWENTY-SIX books) Amy Shojai…who happens to be a WANA International Instructor because I only want the best for you guys.
Take it away, Amy!
A few years ago, I had a high-profile agent, a spokesperson gig with a major pet products company, and a dozen award winning pet books published by “Noo Yawk” publishers. Oh, I worked my furry tail off for years to get there, but thought I’d finally arrived.
Before y’all decide to use my face on your personal dart board, you should know this: publishing went KER-FLOOEY!
I ended up back at square one. My agent couldn’t get a bite on any of my proposals. The spokesperson gig cancelled. My books got remaindered instead of renewed. All those backlist books, my retirement income (sob!), instead became dust bunny habitat under the bed.
Betcha you heard the booming echo of head-banging frustration where you lived. And you know what? “Noo Yawk” didn’t care. Tried a new agent and that didn’t work either. So I quit writing. I even took a real job . . .for about six months until I realized it doesn’t matter that “Noo Yawk” doesn’t care.
It only matters that I CARE.
Nobody cares more about YOU and your goals than YOU. So ya gotta be nice to you, treat you like royalty, and find ways to say “yes I can” instead of wallowing in “why I can’t.”
WHO ARE YOU, ANYWAY?
I am a writer. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. But the “old Amy” no longer worked in the new world. Without an agent, I had nobody telling me “don’t bother, it won’t sell.” Without an editorial deadline, I had time to revise and update the latest, greatest information. And without that high-profile on-the-road gig, I could experiment with projects without concern it might hiss-off a sponsor.
So I reinvented myself first by kindle-izing my backlist books. That led to partnering with Jen Talty and Bob Mayer’s COOL GUS Publishing, creating my BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD blog (thank you Kristen!), voicing my own audio books, writing original titles and most recently a critically acclaimed dog-viewpoint THRILLERS WITH BITE series.
All because publishing went KER-FLOOEY. That’s a techie term. You have my permission to use it (I’m a writer, so I can make schtuff up).
BEYOND NaNoWriMo: KNOW YOUR OPTIONS
So, what does this have to do with you? Today there are fewer eyebrows raised toward hybrid/indie/self-pub authors than when I jumped off the digital cliff. The flood gates have opened.
Did you complete NaNoWriMo? Are you lined up at the starting gate, ready to pull the trigger on a spanking-new baby book?
Whether you plan to DIY Ebook, hire POD done, or choose a la carte services for cover design, publishing and more, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Discover the options and make educated choices.
Because do-overs sucketh big time. This is why I am offering my:
Next Saturday, December 7, 2013, join my EBOOKS FOR WRITERS Webinar from 2-3:30 NY time for all the must-know options for publishing in today’s digital age. It’s only $40 (but you’ll get $10 off with the code GO INDIE). Register here.
No hotel, no travel, no makeup required! I love Webinars because I can wear jammies and have your cat or dog on my lap. The recording makes it possible to revisit the session later—especially helpful for those with a time conflict who live in, say, Australia. Or the wilds of Manhattan. And, if you aren’t yet ready to pull the trigger on your book, the session helps you figure out next steps when you ARE ready.
(Hint: Might be a cool early holiday gift for a writer in your life.)
The live Power Point presentation includes lots of SQUEEE! cute animal picture illustrations, answers your questions and gives you a life-preserver to keep you afloat as you dive off the self-publishing cliff. You will learn:
• Pros & Cons of Ebook Publishing compared to “Traditional”
• Options Available from DIY platforms to for-hire services
• Kinds of costs involved
• What you can (and should) do yourself
• What you should hire professionals to do
• Resources for helpful self-publishing software, editorial assistance and cover design help
• Practical step-by-step how-to “Kindle-ize” your manuscript
• Formatting tips for illustrations, covers, sidebars and table of contents
• Promotional must-knows including DO’s and DON’TS!
• Includes valuable links to further information, available as a down-load/handout.
I got to reinvent myself with help of others like Kristen Lamb who mentored me into creating a kick-ass BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD BLOG, so turn-about is fair play. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do. That’s one reason I jumped at the chance to guest here at Kristen’s amazing blog site. Good karma gets returned so find ways to pay-it-forward, let others know about the seminar (and discount code GO INDIE). You can thank me later ;).
Writing a stand-out novel involves a lot of individual pieces working together in perfect concert. If there’s no solid plot? Readers get confused, lost or bored. If the plot is great, but the characters are all one-dimensional paper dolls? No one cares. If we butcher grammar, spelling and formatting? It’s a formula for dismal sales or even a long line of one-star reviews from ticked off readers.
Hey, the world may think writing fiction is easy, but we all know differently ;).
One of the best ways to move plot forward with increasing momentum and to create living, breathing characters is by harnessing the power of dialogue. As an editor for twelve years, I can tell you dialogue is one of the single largest components of writing great fiction, and it’s the part that’s most often butchered. The story can be great, the setting, the prose?
….and then comes this clunky dialogue with characters talking in ways only seen on bad soap operas or movies highlighted/slayed by Rotten Tomatoes. I call it Soap Opera Dialogue or Days of Our Lives Dialogue. Why? Because soap operas never end….EVER. The dialogue is written in a way that a viewer can miss the past seven months of the show and still catch up, so there is a lot of coaching in the dialogue.
Good novels aren’t soap operas. Novels actually END.
This type of dialogue can also be called, As You, Know, Bob…Dialogue, which is what we’re going to address. And just so you know, Stephano was NOT killed by the ice cream truck. It was a ruse to fake his own death, and he’s actually partnered with Victor to embezzle funds from the charity, but you won’t find that out for another three years….
Here today to talk about how to write superlative dialogue is one of our outstanding WANA International Instructors, Marcy Kennedy. This gal knows her stuff, but if you want some reassurance, I strongly recommend checking out legendary screenwriter David Mamet’s Letter to the Writers of The Unit. (Caution: Strong Language. But, in fairness, writers who are paid to write for a major television show should have known better, and they tanked a good show with bad writing and deserved the butt-chewing).
Take it away, Marcy!…
Dialogue is a great way to convey information, but only if you do it correctly.
In Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell says the key to avoiding info dump dialogue is to remember that dialogue is always from one character to another. It can’t sound like you’re manipulating it (even though you are). It must always be what a character would naturally say.
Let me explain.
Dialogue written for the reader’s benefit feels unnatural because you have characters say things they wouldn’t normally say or say them in a way that they wouldn’t (often using much more detail than any of us include when we talk).
Dialogue written for the characters fits the context, and is always from one character to another rather than from one character to the reader. It takes more work to achieve, but the result will be worth the effort.
Dialogue that’s written “to the reader” is often called “As You Know, Bob…” dialogue.
As the name suggests, “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome is when one character tells another character something they already know. It’s done purely for the reader’s benefit, and it’s unnatural.
TIP: A character won’t say something the character they’re talking to already knows.
Example: A husband won’t say to his wife, “When we bought this house two years ago, we emptied our savings for a down payment. We don’t have anything left.” The wife already knows when the house was purchased. She knows they emptied their savings. She also knows they haven’t been able to replace those savings yet.
Her husband has no reason to say any of that.
Info-dumps won’t always be this obvious, but if you could add “as you know” to the front of whatever’s being said? Time to re-write.
TIP: If it’s common knowledge, it won’t come up in conversation.
Example: Let’s say you have two sisters meeting to go out for lunch. One shows up at the other’s door.
Susie knocked on the kitchen door and waved to her sister who was mopping away in an apron she never seemed to take off. Her sister glanced up and waved then dropped her mop back in the bucket.
She ran a gloved hand through her messy hair that had fallen out of a ponytail and she let Susie inside. “Come on in. I’m just cleaning up the muddy paw prints left by our pit-bull, Jasper.”
Though the prose is good, it’s common knowledge among the characters that her sister owns a pit-bull named Jasper, which makes an otherwise good piece of writing suddenly clunky. Her sister wouldn’t feel the need to state the name of the dog. That’s soap opera writing.
Susie’s sister would be more likely to say…
“Come in for a sec. Just have to clean up the mud the stupid dog tracked in again.”
Even essential information needs to be given in a natural way. So if knowing that their dog is a pit-bull named Jasper is essential to the story, you could write…
“A flash of fur tore across the freshly washed floor and threw itself at Susie for a petting, and she shoved the dog down. ‘Off, Jasper.’ The muddy pooch dropped onto his back for a belly rub, pink floppy tongue lolling out of his mouth.
Ellen rubbed her tired eyes. ‘Sorry about that, Sis. Did he get you dirty?’”
Susie shook her head and rubbed Jasper’s belly with her foot. A little mud never hurt anyone. ‘Any more trouble with the anti-pit-bull crowd at the park? Rick said someone threatened to call the cops last week.’”
TIP: A character won’t say something that isn’t relevant to the conversation.
“A hundred years ago when the dam was constructed, this town was built on the dried out flood plain. If the dam breaks, it’ll wipe out the whole place.”
Did you catch the sneaky insertion of backstory in adding a hundred years ago? What regular person would actually say that? Who would care how long ago the dam was built when the real issue is whether or not the town is about to be destroyed?
Want to learn more about writing great dialogue?
On Saturday, December 7, I’ll be teaching a 90-minute webinar called Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine. I’ll cover the seven most common mistakes when it comes to dialogue and how to fix them, explain how to ensure your dialogue makes your story stronger, show you how to create dialogue unique to your characters, and answer some of the most frustrating questions about dialogue such as how to handle dialect, should we use contractions in historical novels, science fiction, and fantasy, and is it okay to begin a book with dialogue.
If you can’t make it at the time it’s scheduled but still want to attend, sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants. Click here to register!
NOTE: WANA Mama (moi) has created a special page for classes and specials. Just click the new tab or go HERE.
All registrants also receive an ebook copy of the latest book in my Busy Writer’s Guides Series—How to Write Dialogue.
Do you struggle with “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome? Are there movies that have driven you nutso with this kind of dialogue?
About Marcy Kennedy:
Marcy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books, including Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth on her web site.
Yes, even WANA International is offering a Black Friday special. Cool thing is? No leaving home or getting in a fist-fight…unless you want to. I’ve killed three people this morning (though as writers. it’s ALL legal). I’ve asked Lisa Hall-Wilson to come chat with you guys about a serious sticky-wicket for new writers especially. We need to know what is going on in the minds of characters, but if they go around talking to themselves non-stop? Readers just roll their eyes.
There is a BIG difference between narrative and internal dialogue, and Lisa is here to clear up the confusion!
Take it away!
Stephen King wrote in On Writing about the writer’s toolbox. Tools like vocabulary, punctuation, grammar, showing not telling – those all belong in the top level of your toolbox, but lift off that top shelf and there’s a bunch of other tools that are very necessary but relegated to the more advanced writer.
Internal dialogue is a tool in the bottom half of your toolbox.
Internal dialogue is the thoughts, dreams, stream-of-consciousness stuff inside a character’s mind only the reader is privy to. Most people talk to themselves, think in at least partial sentences, talk themselves into and out of all kinds of things, they weigh consequences, wrestle with past experiences all in their head in a split second. How many smart girls make bad decisions about men?
Without internal dialogue, understanding what the character is struggling with – how they arrive at their decisions – what motivates them, it’s very difficult for a reader to connect emotionally. Internal dialogue happens through all points of view – first person, third person, omniscient.
There are a lot of aspects to writing internal dialogue correctly that go beyond punctuation (which is what I get asked about the most – should I use italics or quotation marks?).
One of my favorite movies is While You Were Sleeping. This came out in 1995 so I’m using spoilers. If you haven’t seen it I’m calling Scrooge – too bad. Go watch it on Youtube. Seriously awesome movie.
Lucy is this slightly neurotic (aren’t we all) but loveable single lady who finds herself facing another Christmas alone. Her parents are gone, she has no family or siblings – and she’s asked to work Christmas AGAIN because she’s the only one without family.
This is the story’s main story arc. Lucy wants a family, to belong somewhere, more than anything else. We have to understand this internal conflict for the rest of movie’s antics to make sense. To understand why she makes the decisions she does – and what she sacrifices for that dream.
“Ever fallen in love with somebody you’ve never even talked to? Ever been so alone you spend the night confusing a man in a coma?”
We feel her pain. Who doesn’t know the pain of being alone? Being alone at Christmas is a double whammy – who can’t sympathize with Lucy? But she’s funny. Her self-deprecating humor doesn’t make her a tragic character – who wants to follow a story about a Debbie Downer?
This movie uses a lot of internal dialogue really well. The conflict of the movie kicks off when she saves a man from being squished and severed by an oncoming subway train. (A man she’s secretly fantasized about for a while.) She bungles yet another opportunity to start a conversation with the guy she’s been fantasizing about and after he’s walked away she says, “Nice coat. Merry Christmas to you, too. You’re beautiful. Will you marry me? I love you.”
She follows the ambulance to the hospital to make sure he’s OK. They won’t let her in to see him because – she’s not FAMILY. She’s standing on her own in the ER and says out loud to herself, “I was gonna marry him.” She’s trying to get her Christmas tree into her second-floor apartment through the window.
“Forty-five dollars for a Christmas tree and they don’t deliver? You order $10 worth of chow mein from Mr. Wong’s and they bring it to your door. Should’ve gotten the blue spruce – they’re lighter.”
Internal dialogue is not the same as narration though, and the two are often confused. Lucy does a fair bit of narration as well, so this is a good movie to watch to learn the difference. The movie opens with a Lucy-voiceover:
“OK. There are two things I remember about my childhood. I just don’t remember it being this orange. First, I remember being with my dad. He would get these far off looks in his eye and he would say, ‘Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan.’
I just wish I’d realized at the time that he was talking about my life. But that never stopped us from taking our adventures together. He would pack up our sometimes working car and tell me amazing stories about strange and exotic lands as we headed off to exciting destinations like… Milwaukee – it’s amazing how exotic Wisconsin…isn’t.’”
You can watch the opening few minutes of the movie here:
This is narration. Lucy is talking directly to viewers not herself. What she’s talking about, revealing, she intends for others to hear. It would be like giving someone your diary to read, but sitting next to them and offering narrative context between each entry. Note the difference?
Take an hour and a half this season and watch the movie. Pick out all the places where Lucy talks to herself (because that’s how internal dialogue has to work in the movies). What do you learn about Lucy and her personal desires, the reasons she makes her decisions, why she doesn’t speak up. Does knowing what she’s thinking to herself make you root for her, feel her pain, cheer with her success, agree with the lies she tells?
I’m teaching a webinar on Beyond Basics: How to Write Effective Internal Dialogue on December 7 at 11AM ET. We’ll cover punctuation, the psychology of internal dialogue, tense dilemmas, and lots of other things, and I’ll have examples from best-selling novels to show you how it’s done.
This class is being offered as part of a WANA2fer. Save $20 when you register for my Internal Dialogue class and Marcy Kennedy’s How To Make Your Dialogue Shine on the same day at 2PM ET. Because it’s Black Friday, today only if you sign up for the Internal Dialogue class you can save 25% by using the code ‘lisasentme’ at registration.
About Lisa Hall-Wilson:
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer, author, and journalist published across Canada. She specializes in social media administration, interviews, profiles, and social justice initiatives, and speaks at writer’s conferences. She’s passionate about making this world a better place one get-off-your-butt-and-do-something article at a time. She blogs Through The Fire at http://www.lisahallwilson.com and writes dark fantasy novels. She hangs out on Facebook A LOT.
I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough.
I wrote a blog ages ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, we run the danger of being ungrateful for what we have, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.
Lately, I’ve had a hard reality to face. I’m so busy potty training the toddler and teaching him and correcting him, but have I taken enough time to ENJOY him? There are the dishes, the laundry, the dusting, but am I ENJOYING the home I have? I love serving writers, blogging, teaching, but am I taking a moment to ENJOY all of you? I have the world’s best husband. I make it a point that, when he gets home from work, a fresh, hot meal is made and his clean pajamas and towel are laid out next to the shower, but am I ENJOYING him?
Am I truly giving thanks?
I don’t know about you, but I know this is an area I can ALWAYS come up higher. Grateful people are happy people.
Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.
We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…
I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.
I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.
I am thankful for the big electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.
I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.
I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means I’m literate.
I am thankful for the car that needs all new tires because it means I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get what I need.
I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.
I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.
I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have family who love me enough to travel to see me.
I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.
I am thankful for the split ends I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.
I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.
I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because the body the firemen pulled out of the fatality accident could have been me.
I am thankful for the gutters I need to clean, because it means that I have a home.
I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I’m not alone.
I am thankful for my less than perfect thighs. It means I didn’t lose my legs in a car accident or to diabetes or an IED.
I am thankful that I sometimes have doubts and confusion about my future and my purpose when I think of the lives cut short before they ever had a future.
I’m thankful for the government I like to gripe about, because I don’t fear going to prison or being shot if I disagree with my country’s leadership.
I am thankful for my freedom and the amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to protect it.
I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me on this blog by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough, but all of you are so generous to me. You share the very thing we all need more of….TIME. Thus, I’m immensely grateful you guys give to freely to me. I’m WAY thankful for my amazing WANA community. You guys are the bright spot to each and every day in my world and the world around you. It is such an honor and privilege to serve you.
What are you guys thankful for? I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way).
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.
Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?
Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun .