Accurate Details Keep Genre Readers Engaged

Recently, I walked through my family room to see an old western playing on the TV. I joined the western fan to watch the story play out. This old western starred because Stewart Granger.  The plot was ridiculous. I always find it strange when an Englishman plays a cowboy. All that perfect diction.  Westerns of that time were often fraught with inaccuracies.Product Details

The basic storyline was three tribes agreed to sell their land to poor immigrant farmers in exchange for food and the natives also promised to protect the settlers. I can’t imagine any tribe agreeing to sell their land for food and agree to protect the settlers. One of the tribes, the Navajo, was an agricultural community so why would they want the white man’s crops?  The other two tribes by this point in history had already been shoved out of their own land by whites. Back when this movie was made the plight of the Native American wasn’t even accurately portrayed in history books. So, I suppose a story about everyone getting along would fly in theaters. Oh yes, there was a villain in a black suit, who wore white dress gloves all the time. He was trying to turn the groups against each other, so he could buy the oil rich land. Of course, the bad guy is found out and turned over to the natives for punishment. Another thing that would never have happened.

We’ve all seen movies where the details are wrong. Some so much so that we no longer care about the story.  My dad spent 21 years in the Air Force, and he always pointed out the wrong planes in war movies.  My son’s an army vet, and he tends to point out many irregularities in movies and TV shows that depict the military.

Movie makers can generally get away with it because the audience is there to be entertain. They might be on a date or watching the movie with a group of friends. But when one reads a novel in their favorite genre they expect more than just entertainment.  Except for fantasies, the storyline needs a connection with reality. Do your research so the bones of the story ring true.

In the movie example above, the natives would never be allowed to kill the villain and all his evil henchmen as restitution for the death of the chief’s son.  As a lover of historical fiction, I prefer accuracy. Granted, literary license can add to a storyline, but let’s not go overboard.

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Some years ago I read a time-travel western. A modern man chose to live in the 1800s. The heroine learned to speak the local Nez Perce language. She and the time traveler marry. Because she can’t have children they decide to adopt. The orphan train was coming to a nearby town, and this would give them a great opportunity to find some children to love. Then it got ridiculous. The three siblings they adopted were. Nez Perce.  I stopped reading.  My history trivia mind went into overdrive. Why would native children be on the orphan train? The children on the train hailed from New York, Chicago and other major cities east of the setting of the novel.  The author had already established the Nez Perce lived in the area. No native would willingly put their child in the care of white strangers. No, they take care of their own. If the couple had found the children alone on the road or their mother was a friend who died and asked them to care for her children, I could accept the adoption. But the orphan train. Really!

Other examples

I’ve read similar blatant inaccuracies in career based fiction. Rarely do you hear “Stat!” shouted in a hospital ER. Do you know what happens behind-the-scenes in an ER? Before writing about it, be sure to find out.  Military heroes follow the rules. Know those rules. Put enough accurate details in your story to keep the reader engaged.

Accurate story bones

Do your very best when writing fiction to keep the bones of accurate historical facts, police procedure, medical jargon, military protocol and other background information accurate. Fans of career specific genres are going to be disappointed and may not finish your book and most likely not pick up another one if it’s not.

How factual do you like your fiction?

 

 

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Time Saver: Make A Proposal Template

Proposal cloudI’m done. I finished my proposal for the sequel to my Historical Romance Secrets & Charades. This is the fourth book I’ve written a proposal for, but probably the twentieth proposal I’ve completed.  Every publisher has specific things they want to see in a proposal. So, when I submitted S & C I had to rewrite my proposal a few different ways. Now that I have an agent, I need to write a longer proposal. He can then cut and paste the components for each publisher he pitches to on my behalf, meeting their requirements.

I saved a lot of time by creating a generic proposal template. Back in the day when we made paper submissions, compiling a proposal required more time to put the information in the correct sequential order. Now I can open my template and cut and paste my personal info and other unchanging portions, It still takes time and may require some reformatting. But that is minutes rather than hours.

The basic components of every proposal are the cover sheet, author bio, back cover copy, comparables, marketing strategy, endorsements, synopsis and writing sample.

First two sections are easy to adjust without recreating

The cover sheet has information the publisher needs. My contact information is in the upper left. It includes my address, phone, email, genre and word count. The lower right has all my agents contact information and the center is where the words Book Proposal, the title and my byline go. Some publishers want a tagline just under the byline. Others want it before the synopsis in the body of your proposal. The cover sheet has a particular format for spacing. Once I created one all I need to do is change a few things for the next book proposal. I don’t have to go back and double check what the format should be for each new proposal.

The table of content is the next page it lists all the components by page number. Some publishers don’t want a table of content. I adjust the page numbers accordingly with each new book. And if they want less information, I delete those items from the table of content.

The body of the proposal

Next you would have the tagline, synopsis and back cover copy. (These would be new with each new book but once you’ve written them they stay the same for every submission for that book.) Synopsis is a summary of your story. I’ll explain more later.

A tagline is a sentence that grabs the reader. For my contemporary romance New Duet coming out May 1st with Clean Reads (Shameless promotion. LOL) I wrote: “Love is never needing to be someone you’re not.” It took several tries to come up with one that grabbed the theme. The tagline often appears on your book’s cover.

Your biography comes next. Submission guidelines may have a word count for that. Now that I have a novel in print and another coming out I needed to tweak my bio. Additional awards or speaking platforms might need to be added in the future. Keep your bio current. The one in the proposal may be different from what goes on your book cover or any other published work.

Next comes writing credentials. Post your most recent at the top and descend to older things. List any awards, degrees and writing classes completed. Be sure to mention organization memberships. This is especially important if you are an unpublished writer. By organizations I mean writer groups or something that relates to the topic of your novel or non-fiction book. Being part of a writing organization shows you are serious about the craft. And if you are, for example, a lawyer proposing a legal thriller that information would be important.

The next portion is endorsements. You may already have individuals and authors willing to endorse your book. These endorsers need to have credentials. Your mother or friend (unless they are an author or an expert in their field relating to your novel) are not the endorsers you want. You can list all those who are willing to endorse or you are willing to ask for an endorse. Because I know a lot of authors I listed all of them as potential endorsers in my first two novel proposals. It was a long list. This showed the editor that I had people willing to support me I got seven endorsements for my first book. I didn’t actually ask everyone on my list because some authors don’t write in my genre. A recommendation from a Sci-fi author for a historical romance isn’t that impressive. Those who endorse you often promote you on their social media. So be sure the people you ask fit the genre you write. Endorsers don’t have to be fiction writers. A friend is writing a novel that addresses human trafficking; she plans on getting endorsements from organization that rescues these people. Once you have your list of endorsers, you can pick those that relate to the novel you’re proposing and don’t have to recreate the list every time. If you have a written endorsement from someone who read your draft, add it here. This shows you’re a go-getter. List all the social media you actively use.

Marketing Strategy is a tough one whether you are published or not. My first proposal listed things I was willing to do. Be honest in what you know others have done that you feel comfortable doing. Authors must help market. Even traditionally published authors market. Now I merely tweak my list adding what worked for me and deleting things that didn’t.

Parts that are new

Your target market may change if you change genres. This is the readers you are focusing on. Do not say everyone. Those words show you have not done your research. Be more specific. Teens are not the target market for my historical romance. Teen girls might read it because their mom bought the book. And some men read romance. Statistically women over 30 read historical romance. While millennials often read fantasy, dystopic and sci-fi. Know your market. Don’t assume because family and friends of all ages read your draft and loved it that this is your market.  You are not a marketing expert. Trust the experts.

The back-cover copy, and synopsis will be fresh copy. The back copy is a short couple of paragraphs describing the story. A marketing tool to get the readers’ interest. Don’t explain it all. Leave the reader hungry.

The synopsis is retelling the entire story with all the twists in 6 pages or less. Focus on the main character’s story. The editor must know the surprise bits and who-done it.

Some publishers want character descriptions. The two main characters are usually enough. But if you have created a fantasy world, then introducing each character is expected. Some authors include drawings of characters and maps of their world.

Unless a full manuscript is requested, you send the first three chapters and only the first three chapters. Make those first three chapters your very best work. Even if your think chapter five is the most exciting, send the first three. Only non-fiction submissions allow you to send chapters out of order. A few publishers may not require a writing sample if they know your work. Again, follow guidelines.

Proposals can be as short as ten pages or up to 50. (excluding full manuscript). Each of the basics I mentioned previously can be broken down into sub categories. Be sure to read the submission guidelines.

The proposal is how you sell your story idea. For me it is a painful process. I’d rather be crafting a story. Having a template of the basic information saves me time and reduces the pain to the synopsis and back cover copy. So, take extra time to make each section shine. If your proposal doesn’t grab the editors they will relegate your submission to the circular file.

What tips do you have for making proposal creation less painful?

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A Time to Lay Aside My Pen

This Sunday, my daughter Pam is marrying her soulmate, Jon. All the final pieces of the planning are falling into place.  This is a time when I will lay aside all my writing responsibilities and enjoy the weekend.white-2072295_640

I am always encouraging readers of this blog to write every day. To quote Ecclesiastes “There is a time for everything under the sun.” A time to write and a time to lay aside your pen. Every writer needs a vacation from penning words to enjoy their surroundings. Whether it’s a wedding or a walk on the beach or around the block. Enjoy the moments. Your writer brain will be cataloguing each activity. The joy, the smells, sights and sounds will come flooding back insisting on a place in your WIP.

I’ll share the joy of my daughter’s wedding then relax a day from all the hubbub. I’ll be refresh and ready to create words on my keyboard once again.

Please share the activities you love that have interrupt your writing time and how they inspire your words later.

 

Make A Bed, Punch A Shark, Complete Every Task

I wanted to share a few words of encouragement I gleaned from a video someone shared on Facebook. An Admiral and former navy seal was speaking at a commencement. I don’t recall his name, but his words resonated with me as a writer. He made some points that wrapped themselves around the theme of no matter the circumstances complete the task.

He started his speech with the words “Make your bed every morning.  A made bed is a task completed. Then move on to the next task. If you have a terrible day, you can come home to a made bed.” Makes sense. There is something restful and inviting about a made bed. A place of refuge during chaos.

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My writing comparison

Write something every day. If you have a day full of disruptions, knowing you wrote something makes the day better. Writing anything is always better than a blank screen. Making your bed is a small task that has become a habit for most of us. Consistency is a key for success as a writer.

Punch the naysayers

The admiral shared another fact from navy seal training. Every man must swim through shark infested water. They describe every type of shark found off the coast of California. Then the instructor encourages them by saying, “No sailor has ever been eaten by a shark. So, remember if a shark gets too close, punch it hard in the snout.” Creepy scary—right? Writers have sharks in the water all round them, too. Naysayers and complainers. “You’ll never get published.” “This is bad writing.” And something a secular horror author said to me. “Anyone with a crayon can write Christian Fiction.” I punched that negative comment right in the snout by working to be my very best at story telling.

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Size is not the main thing

Th Admiral also shared his time doing boat drills. There were three teams. He was on the boat with the tall guys. One team was a boat full of “munchkins”. The nickname the others had given to this crew, all under five feet seven inches. Even though they were smaller, they were the best. Every task required on a boat team, they completed better and faster than the other two teams. Being on a small publisher’s team of authors doesn’t make you less important. Doesn’t mean your book is not as good. I have read wonderfully written gems from small publishing houses. Size is not the issue. It’s how well you complete all the task required for publication and marketing.

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In summary

Write every day.

Punch the naysayers in the snout (in your imagination.)

Do your best to reach your publishing goals.

Happy writing.

Spiral Learning Applies To Writers

A comment on a post I’d left on a writer’s group Facebook page gave me pause. It was something I re-blogged because the writer’s honesty encouraged me. I love sharing writing tips, mine and others. The commenter remarked, “every writer knows this stuff, and this post was a waste.”  I shook my head and decided to explain on my blog why “I beg to differ.”spiral

Spiral Learning

Educators explain people learn in a spiral. Simply put, reviewing the basics before adding a new concept helps a student retain and expand on the information. Therefore, material is repeated at every grade level year after year. The basics of math and reading are reviewed in early elementary school. It takes a few years to master the foundation. Every grade level through high school spend the first portion of the year reviewing the materials last presented in the previous year. Most students don’t remember enough from past lessons in earlier years to build on a new concept. We remember it while we are using it.  (Think high school French class.) Then we forget some or all of what we learned. We continue to relearn, remember, forget, relearn until we own the skill and don’t forget.

Spiral Refreshing

The same applies to writing. I attended a writing retreat years ago. One subject was correct grammar. Later someone bemoaned the waste of time. After all, writers know this stuff. For me, there were things I’d forgotten. And punctuation issues, I needed clarity on.

Reviewing what you know

Familiar topics on writers’ conference brochures could be the deciding factor to skip the event when we’ve attended those same classes before.

I’ve discovered I’m always learning things I missed the first time. The review refreshes my knowledge. Applying what I learn may take a few times of hearing it to get it right.

If we’re honest, we can list at least one new thing we learned and determined to apply, but didn’t. It can take several more classes, blog posts or articles, before we followed through.

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Learning to avoid bad advice

How many times have you seen those ads that promise big bucks, even if you don’t know how to write? Everyone knows not to pursue it. But writers do. A desire to write full-time and quit a day job can drive an aspiring writer to waste time on content mills. How many will raise their hand along with me and say… “I did.” After I was so foolish, I read many articles debunking my choice, and I own that concept now.

Blog information

My email fills with several blog subscriptions weekly. I’m amazed when the familiar comes along right when I need it. Recently, a post reminded me of the ten most common novel writing errors. It reset my mind and put me in tune with those things as I edit my latest WIP. I knew the tips well, but knowing and doing can sometimes trip over each other.

Relearn from each other

Although I am a traditionally published author, I subscribe to indie authors blogs. Both traditional and Indie can teach me things. One example: why multiple levels of editing are important. As a traditional author, I get those edits from my publisher. But indies need to hire the editors or do it themselves. I’m more mindful of what to expect from the publishers I work with.  Another example: marketing. Most authors struggle to remember what and how to do it correctly and consistently. It helps me to decide what types of marketing beyond what my publisher offers I might want to explore.

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Final Word

My tip when we are tempted to say, “we all know this stuff.” Don’t.  Someone may not be familiar at all. I’m amazed how the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know” applies to me. I’ve seen best-selling authors taking copious notes in classes on subjects I assumed they were an expert. Often, they remark. “I’ve learned something new.”

What new or review information were you grateful to have received in your Inbox or social media? Were you at the learn or forget stage when you read it?

Comment below I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And don’t forget to subscribe before you leave this page to follow Jubilee Writer.

 

 

Writing Prompts and Giveaway

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Have you ever been to a writer’s class where the teacher starts it out with a writing prompt? You get a few minutes to write something based on a sentence opener. A few brave students share their words. I hate it. Don’t misunderstand, I love writing prompts they get my mind engaged and the creative juices flowing.  I don’t want to share that initial mess with anyone. I always write poo my first attempt. There are moments I’m inspired immediately and the cleaver words flow onto the page. But that is rare.

The writing prompt isn’t designed to embarrass or prove what pathetic creatures we writers are. It’s a chance to loosen words from your brain. Like fruit trees the ripe ones fall to the ground first where they get bruise and rot in a short time. Later we get a ladder and pluck the ripe fruit by hand carefully placing it in baskets. The bruise fruit can still nourish as part of a pie or sliced so only the good parts show. But if they’d never fallen to the ground, we’d not have realized how ripe the fruit was getting. How ready we were to write those particular words. Creating something delicious for the reader.

Completing a sentence not of our own creation can open our mind to so many possibilities. A storyline forms, a call to action from deep in our heart takes shape or a long overdue belly laugh sets us in the right mood to open those neglected word documents.

Below is a list of prompts. Pick one.  No timer—just write. When you’re done reread it. How’d it turn out?  Did the exercise inspire? Are you ready to conquer those other projects?

Here they are:

Why is it Mildred always___________

 

“Harald, this is the last time______________

 

Willy raced ahead, his legs pumping hard on the pedals of his ten-speed. “Why ___________

 

“Pling, pling, pling water droplets beat against the pans covering the floor____________

 

Blood smears trailed along the kitchen floor to the back door where a large _______

 

Let’s make it more interesting

You can start with the prompt or put it anywhere within the paragraph or two or three or pages of words your imagination pours out for you. Have fun.

Anyone who is brave enough to share their creation (or a part of it if it goes beyond a few paragraphs) in the comments please do. If you prefer to tell me how doing this exercise help their creativity. Wonderful. All commenters will be entered into a giveaway.  I’ll send an autographed copy of Secrets & Charades to one winner.

If you’ve read Secrets & Charades I’ll send a copy of Writing in Obedience: A primer from Christian Fiction writers by Terry Burns and Linda W Yezak as an alternative.  So, enjoy the prompts. Write away and comment. The drawing will take place next Tuesday the 25th.

Don’t forget if you’re not following this blog but would like to please subscribe so you don’t miss a posting.

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Me and My Email Inbox Need Help

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I’m making a true confession here today. I love email. I get a certain thrill when I open my inbox and find lots of missives for me. However, so many of them are not worth my time. But I don’t know that until I open it. Therein lies my problem. Too many open emails.publication4

I was patting myself on the back a few weeks ago, I reduced my email from over a thousand to under 300.  I created a few new email folders to hold some of those remaining emails. My Word Weavers and writing business emails have their own folder. At the start of a new year I’m battling email glut again.

I need that

I realize I have this bad habit of saying WOW! What cool information. I’d better hang on to that email. Sometimes I turned the email into a word document and put it in my writing tips file in Word, or I print it off to peruse and underline later. The goal: to delete the original. Most of the time I leave the open, barely read emails hanging out in my inbox. They get shoved further and further down my ever-growing line of daily emails.

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Lots of writing blogs

I subscribe to almost a dozen writing blogs. I don’t need to keep those emails. Each of these blogs has an archive. So, that awesome information is saved in cyberspace on their blog. I can mark those blogs as favorites on my server page and access the blog’s archives when I want to reread it. But alas I don’t.

Hitting the thousand-mark got laughter from my hubby who seldom remembers to delete old emails. And I’m always giving him grief about it.

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Notice the file icons to the left. You can create your own files for various work or personal needs and title them. Just click and drag the email into the file area.

Got to organize

I use Gmail. It has ways for me to organize my email into files and refer back to it whenever I want. Most emails apps have ways to create files and mark your messages by importance. You can also type in the name of the sender, rather than trawl through all those old emails. Then all those sender’s emails appear, making it easier to find a special email I may need. My only excuse is procrastination

After cleaning out my email, I’d say I eliminated about 95 percent. Either advertising upgrades for programs I have, old news about contests, publications etc., that are no longer relevant and quick emails from friends about things that are long past were all tossed into the trash. The previous referred to blog archives played heavily in my deleting decision. And any messages I just couldn’t bear to part with also were placed in a file marked important.

 

Prepare ahead

My revelation for the need for a daily organization always comes at times when I’m desperately looking for that one email from my agent or an editor. It would be so much easier if I would immediately delete junk and prioritize those I don’t have time to look at right away.

Saying that brought DiAnn Mills to mind. She has a spreadsheet for everything. Perhaps if I made a spreadsheet with the reference to the blog post I can’t live without. Great idea! I could have a column for the topic, the specific blog, and the date it posted. I could click on the blog address and then search by date. Tah Dah! I’ll have to think on that a bit. I’m not the spreadsheet officinato DiAnn and my husband are. Unfortunately, I tend to make a spreadsheet and forget I did. *sigh*

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Delete unneeded email immediately.

 Be more efficient and declutter

Keeping your email box cleaned out and filed saves hours of time, confusion, and frustration. What a welcome relief that would be.

During the time I took to empty my email, I had this needling feeling I deleted something I shouldn’t have. But it’s too late now. Another reason I should do this once a week. Who remembers what’s in months-old emails?

Next, I emptied the trash file after I was done deleting. It is gone forever. I lack the skills of the computer nerd who knows how to retrieve emails from those dark places of no return. So, I must determine to have no regrets.

Avoid rereading

I also realized I feel a deep need to open every email. This same need compels me to reread every single email before I delete it. That was a key problem that started the whole mess in the first place.

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Temptation, temptation, temptation

Then there is the temptation to read all those emails when I’m not in the mood to write just yet. Hours later I no longer have time to write. Another reason to keep it clean every day. There is no monetary gain unless a contract is buried somewhere in those old missives.  I want to get paid for my writing so I need to spend more time putting words on paper and sending out queries than weeding through mountains of forgotten emails.

Starting today while 2017 is still fresh. I’m going to try to do a better job. I’m not holding my breath, though. There is way too much interesting information coming into my inbox.

How are you with your email management?

Please tell me how you manage your emails. I’d love to learn from my readers.