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As I was test driving the Storybook software I downloaded a while back, trying to decide if it will be as good a writing tool as Scrivener, I suddenly discovered that I have no idea what the difference is between a major and a minor character. They’ve all just been characters, with the exception of the protagonist and antagonist of course. Yet I was being asked by this novel-writing software to decide who were major characters and who were minor characters in my book, Apprentice Cat. A little research later and I had my answer.

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Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

I just finished another scene of Apprentice Cat. Wahoo!! Each day I get just a little closer to finishing the entire book. That makes me feel great.

There are days when I wondered if I was doing what I’m supposed to be doing in my life. Have I chosen the right career for me? Those are the days when the words just don’t come or the days when it seems the Universe itself is trying to keep me from working.

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This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays.

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In Mike Duran’s post How Do We “Glorify God” in Our Writing? I discovered I wasn’t the only person asking if you can write a Christian story without specifically mentioning God.

As Mike points out, it seems most Christian writers (and I would say most Christians) think you absolutely must include God specifically in a story in order for it to be Christian:

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This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays.

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As I continue wrestling with my WIP, Apprentice Cat, using Larry BrooksStory Engineering strategies, I’ve suddenly realized it’s not just the writing I’ll need to edit.

Pantsers know (or should know) that they’ll be writing draft after draft in order to get the story just right. Plotters, on the other hand, use different methods to plan out what they’ll write before setting fingers to keyboard. For me, it’s several excel worksheets that include characterization, concepts and, of course, the actual plot.

What plotters may not realize…

As I’ve developed my scenes and placed them in their slots on the plotting worksheet, I’ve done my best to make things move smoothly from one idea to the next. I’m over 2/3rds finished and it just dawned on me: once I’ve filled in every slot, I’ll need to go over it again to make sure it all makes sense.

You would think I could do that as I go along, but sometimes I come up with brilliant scenes and slot them in without considering all the scenes that came before. Therefore, sometimes there are missing pieces. If I want readers to enjoy the story without being jarred out of it, I have to include the information they need when they need it. I can’t just throw a surprise into the work without foreshadowing it.

Enter the pre-writing, post-plotting editing phase…

Now that I know I’m going to have to go back over my plotting worksheet looking for missing details, it makes coming up with good scenes both easier and more difficult.

I’m a perfectionist, so I want to get it right the first time. This makes plotting difficult because, as Roz Morris reminds us in her book Nail Your Novel, the initial phase of plotting is to use broad strokes. These are just the basic ideas and shouldn’t be too detailed.

However, knowing I’ll be going back to put those details in before I write another word, also makes plotting easier. If I don’t get those details in right away, I know I’ll be able to do it before I get half-way through writing the book (unlike what I’ve done thus far :P).

I know I’m not the only one who has gone through multiple stages to develop a good book, so I’m very curious what you do? How do you plan your story?

***

On another note…

If you’ve been following The Road to Writing long, you probably know I have another blog called One Servant’s Heart on my web site. After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided to begin merging the two blogs. I’ll be posting snippets to TRTW with a link to the full post on my web site for a while longer (probably the rest of 2011) before letting this blog go entirely. If you’ve subscribed to this feed, please go ahead and subscribe to One Servant’s Heart so you won’t miss anything.

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When you want to be a career author you can’t just write when the muse is singing. Sometimes you do need a little butt glue to keep you from wandering around doing everything but writing. That’s true… except when it isn’t.

Is butt glue always necessary?

Today I learned a very interesting thing about my writing needs. I’ve recently begun putting Larry Brooks‘ instructions on Story Engineering to good use re-plotting my novel Apprentice Cat, which has been floundering for some time now.

I’ve done everything from conceptualizing to character worksheets. Today was the first full day I’ve been able to spend creating the story structure and it was a revelation in how I develop plot.

According to Larry, there are only 60 to 90 scenes in any given novel, which are broken into four parts. I decided to put together an excel worksheet with the four major plot points and divide the rest of the necessary scenes between them. That worked fine until I began having problems coming up with scene ideas.

I tried applying butt glue, but it only made me itch.

My poor brain seemed to freeze. Every character had something he or she needed me to write at that very moment. It was like being in a room full of screaming pre-schoolers all wanting my attention at once. All I could think of was how I knew I needed to be creating these scenes, but they weren’t materializing.

That’s when I realized I needed to do something un-writerly, something physical like cleaning up the mess my toddler had made of my living room or doing dishes or anything. Butt glue was the last thing I needed.

I followed my instincts to a better story.

As soon as I stopped thinking about how much I needed to write and the self-imposed deadline I was on for finishing my plot outline, the scenes started appearing. I was hearing snippets of conversation and seeing my characters doing things I hadn’t even considered.

When a scene popped into my head, I quickly went back to my laptop and slotted it into the worksheet. If nothing else came to mind within a couple of minutes, I went back to doing whatever I was doing before. Worked great and I’m now 2/3 done with the outline. Yeah!

Butt glue is great when we’re just procrastinating, but it can get in the way of the creative process if our creative selves become paralyzed and overwhelmed by the blank page.

I’m curious to know, have any of you had the same thing happen? When do you find you need to apply butt glue? When has it hampered your creative flow?

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Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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I had the loveliest, un-writerly night last night.

I didn’t read a book on Craft. I didn’t read any blogs about writing. I didn’t read a book or watch a movie in order to dissect it. I didn’t even read my email. I wasn’t waiting for my Muse, nor was I adhering butt glue in order to get just a little more done on my work in progress. In fact, I didn’t even think about my WIP at all.

So, does that make me an unprofessional slacker?

Absolutely not. The simple truth is I needed a break from the stress of being a writer. I certainly could have used last weekend’s four-day family bonanza as an excuse to burn the midnight oil, but I didn’t. I enjoyed my time with my family, but it wasn’t a totally stress-free, don’t think about writing weekend.

Sometimes we just need to take a break, not think about our careers or anything remotely related to writing.

If you’re like me, you eat-sleep-breath writing anyway, so taking a break from your passion may mean being firm with yourself to not do anything that could turn into a lesson.

Instead, find something to enjoy that won’t feed your natural addiction.

      • Don’t read a book just for fun, because you won’t be able to stop yourself from dissecting it.
      • Don’t watch a good movie, because, again, you’ll want to take it apart to see how it works.
      • Don’t peruse the internet, because you’ll invariably end up on yet another writer’s blog you just can’t pass up.


That leaves what?

Play a game. Listen to music. Watch your favorite reality show for four hours straight. Whatever you can think of to do that has nothing to do with writing.

Is it easy? No way. Is it necessary? Yes, because you’re brain needs rest.

Besides, you can always jump right back into it tomorrow.

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