Friday, October 21, 2016

Writing: Introduction to Indie Publishing

This isn't an endorsement, per se, but I've had a number of you ask about indie-publishing. (What we used to call self-publishing, when that was a mark of shame). I downloaded a booklet to my Kindle some time back. I got around to looking at it again recently (after going through the process of indie-publishing a couple of novellas) and discovered that it was a great introduction to the indie-publishing process. And the author will be startled to find that I've posted this, because it's by no means a paid advertisement. I just thought it might answer some questions.

Heather Day Gilbert divides the work of self publishing into four categories: editing, cover art/book blurb, formatting/uploading, and marketing. Each of these can either be hired out (for prices ranging from a little to a lot) or done by the author. When she started out, she paid to have two of these activities done by professionals, while she learned to do the other two herself. In my case, I had three of the four done for me.

This little booklet is under a dollar when downloaded to Kindle via Amazon. It's by no means a thorough coverage of the self-publishing process, but for the author considering going that route (or the reader who's just curious), it's a great place to start.

Now my question for you. Do you care whether a book is indie-published or released by a traditional house? Have you found problems when you read either type of book? Chime in. I'd like to hear from you.

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Note: Today I'll be speaking to a group of church librarians, so I won't be able to respond quickly to your comments. But I'll get around to them. Have fun with your discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Sky Is Falling

One of the stories I read to my kids was about Chicken Little. I still remember Henny Penny repeatedly saying, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling." And with this current presidential race, that same sentiment is echoing across the social media sites of the Internet.

It's not that I disagree that significant things are at stake with this election. It's just that I agree with Max Lucado, who put things in perspective with this post. If you haven't read it, please do. Maybe you'll feel better. I know that I did.

Dr. Steve Farrar, at our men's Bible study, is fond of saying, "There's a place called Heaven, and this isn't it." Matter of fact, the Bible tells us that tough times are coming. But we're to hold onto our faith and plunge ahead. And that's what I plan to do.

I have my own ideas about this coming election, but I've also come to the conclusion--after so many elections and so many years on this earth--that it's rare, if ever, that someone changes their mind after reading a few dozen words from an opposing viewpoint. So I've held my tongue. Kay and I will vote absentee next week (we can do that in Texas), and I may reveal my reasons then. Until that time, let me just say two things. The sky isn't falling, even if your candidate doesn't win. And God's still in control.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Writing: "Plotters" and "Pantsers"

It doesn't take long for the fiction writer to hear the terms "plotter" and "pantser." I soon learned that a "plotter" was someone who plotted out the major points of the story before writing it. On the other hand, "pantsers" crafted their novel, writing by the "seat of their pants."

The "seat of the pants" term came from flying, and started back in the days before instruments and electronics were capable of handling the entire flight of an aircraft. Early pilots knew whether they were going up or down, drifting right or left, by a feeling---in the seat of their pants. Now, it means doing something by instinct or being guided by the situation as it unfolds.

I prefer the term the late Donald Westlake used: "push fiction." Westlake wrote delightful crime novels featuring John Dortmunder, the bumbling thief, as well as many other books, some more serious than others. Although Westlake had his major characters defined, he didn't craft an outline, preferring to see where the plot took him. I've used that method, and found the major drawback to be that sometimes you paint yourself into a corner with no apparent exit. But, as Westlake said, "If I don't know what's coming next, how can the reader?" That's one advantage to being a "pantser."

I suppose I'm really a hybrid of "plotter" and "pantser," since I sketch out my main characters, define the overarching premise of the novel, and figure out one or two changes along the way that will keep the reader turning pages. And, having learned early on from James Scott Bell's book, Plot and Structure, I always have a "knockout ending" in mind. But for the majority of the book, I confess: I'm a pantser.

Do you prefer one method over the other? Can you even tell, when you're reading a novel, whether the author is working from a predetermined plan? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some Holidays Are "More Equal Than Others"

I read the book, 1984, many years ago, and one phrase has stuck with me. In the society about which George Orwell writes, all citizens are equal--but, as one character puts it, some are "more equal than others."

I thought of this when I looked to see if the Columbus Day holiday had affected our trash pickup schedule. It hadn't--our garbage collection is pushed forward a day because of some holidays, but not this one. I also discovered that one granddaughter had Columbus Day off from school, the other attended a school that day like any other. The banks, post offices, and federal offices were closed for Columbus Day. The big box stores were open, and held sales.

The conclusion I drew from my cursory investigation was that some holidays are "more equal than others." How about you? Do you think that all holidays should be treated the same? Are there some that should be universally observed? I have my own opinion, but how about you?

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Writing: The Fame We Get

When my first book was published, I sort of expected to be recognized--in the grocery store, in the dry cleaners, at church. But it didn't happen. I've written about this before. Writers often think that what they're getting the first time around is what the Muppet Movie calls the "standard rich and famous contract." Wrong on both counts, unless your name is Lee Child or J. K. Rowling.

I played in a golf tournament earlier this week, one that gave me the opportunity to see some folks I hadn't seen in a couple of years. It was nice, but one man brought me up short when he asked if I was still practicing medicine. No, I retired about 14 years ago, and for the the last ten or more have been writing novels--how nice of you to notice. (But I didn't say that...I just wished I could).

With a few exceptions, writers aren't famous. Want to prove it? Below are three writers off the New York Times bestseller list and three writers of Christian fiction. Can you tell which are which? The next list has three novels off that same NYT bestseller list and three inspirational novels. Again, can you tell which ones are which?

Harlan Coben, Colleen Coble, Colson Whitehead, Ann Patchett, Rick Acker, Jody Hedlund

Killing The Rising Sun, The Girl With The Lower Back, Hillbilly Elegy, Medical Judgment, Deadly Encounter, Nightshade

Those of us who write in the Christian genre, sometimes called "inspirational fiction," do it to reach others. Fame and (to a much less degree) fortune may or may not come. But then again, that isn't the reason we do it?

Let me know how you did on the quiz.

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