Category: Author Highlights

Author Highlight: M.G. Herron- Five Tactics Novelists Use to Rescue Themselves from the Soggy Middle

Author Highlight: M.G. Herron- Five Tactics Novelists Use to Rescue Themselves from the Soggy Middle

5 Tactics Novelists Can Use to Rescue Themselves from the Soggy Middle

I’m M.G. Herron, a science fiction author, content strategist, and the founder of the Indie Author Society, a community that helps writers learn the ropes of the publishing business. As an innately adventurous spirit with several years indie publishing sci-fi books and freelance copywriting, I’ve become somewhat adept at writing myself into a corner…and climbing back out again. Here are some of the tactics I employ when the going gets tough, which seems to happen most often in the middle of a novel. Maybe you can find a use for one of these tools in your own arsenal. To learn more about me, or check out my SF adventure/thrillers, visit http://mgherron.com.

It’s almost the middle of November as I write this, which means that thousands of people around the world are approaching the middle of their novel projects for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

The middle of a novel is where a writer’s resolve really gets tested. Perhaps you have already felt bored, stuck, lost, or at a complete dead-end when you’re working on your book.

This is a signal that you’ve reached the soggy middle.

The Soggy Middle

It’s not uncommon for a writer to feel lost in the middle of a long project.

In fact, it’s perfectly normal—even to be expected.

Known as the “soggy middle” or sometimes the more pun-y “muddle,” this is the phase of the project where you, the writer, feel as if you’re lost or stuck.

This is a perfectly natural feeling to have. These, and many others. When Chuck Wendig sardonically constructs the “The Emotional Milestones of Writing a Novel”, the names of the arbitrarily numbered middle points run the gamut of fear and anger and self-doubt, from “Septic Dread” to “Destroy Boredom with a Hammer.”

Which is to say, you’re not alone!

To put it another way, as Stephen King said, “Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”

The soggy middle is where you let that self-doubt overcome you.

It’s dark. It’s stormy. It’s scary.

You’re paralyzed. You’re frozen. You’re dead in the water.

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Author Highlight: Jill Archer-How to Write A Terrific Book Blurb

Author Highlight: Jill Archer-How to Write A Terrific Book Blurb

How to Write a Terrific Book Blurb

Hello, all! I’m Jill Archer, a former lawyer turned librarian who writes fantasy from rural Maryland. As a lifelong reader and frequent peruser of book stacks and shelves, I’ve read a gazillion book blurbs. Some are better than others.

Book blurbs are one of those things (along with synopses and query letters) that writers don’t like to write. If you’re traditionally published, your publisher will likely write it for you, but even then, you should be able to write a good one yourself. Like an outline, a book blurb can be a valuable tool that helps you maintain focus during the drafting stage. Many book blurbs are written after the manuscript is completed, but you don’t have to wait. I always write mine before the book is finished.

(A quick aside: book blurbs are sometimes referred to as “back cover copy” and a “blurb” can also mean a quote from another author who has something nice to say about your book. Confusing? Yeah, I hear you. Lots of things in publishing are.)

Here are some tips to help get you started on writing the book description type of blurb:

  1. Keep it short. Shoot for no more than 250 words. A longer blurb won’t make a reader want to read your book. A succinct hook and an enticing, brief description will.
  2. Keep it simple. Some writers are tempted to over explain or cram their entire story onto the back of their book. Don’t. Take some time to figure out what your core story is. Don’t include subplots. Try to use words that don’t require explanation.
  3. No spoilers! Don’t give away any plot points that occur after the first third of your book.
  4. Don’t include too many character names. The blurb is where you paint the broad brushstrokes of your story. Identifying more than three characters by name is off-putting, even to readers who like stories with myriad character viewpoints.
  5. Anchor the reader in space and time. Readers like to know where and when the story will take place. Don’t make them guess.
  6. Follow genre conventions. Romance blurbs usually reference both the hero and the heroine. Urban fantasy blurbs talk about the main character’s magic or special power. Mysteries usually involve a murder or a crime. Epic fantasies often center on wars or quests. Readers should be able to tell what type of story the book is by reading its blurb.
  7. Hint at something significant. A big risk. Something dangerous. A monumental love affair. A transformative journey. Make sure the reader knows that they, through the characters, will experience something meaningful by reading the book.

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Author Highlight: Rebecca Rivard-Build a World That Readers Don’t Want to Leave

Author Highlight: Rebecca Rivard-Build a World That Readers Don’t Want to Leave

Paranormal and Fantasy Romance: Build a World That Readers Don’t Want to Leave

Hello, I’m Rebecca Rivard. First, I want to thank Natasha Lane for inviting me on her blog today! As a paranormal romance author, I create worlds with magical creatures like shifters, fae and vampires. I have books in two series—my own Fada Shapeshifter series and Michelle Fox’s Vampire Blood Courtesans series. When I started my Fada Shapeshifter series, I wanted my books to stand out in the crowded world of paranormal/fantasy romance. So, I set out to create a world that’s a little different—but that seems alive, real. To my delight, I succeeded, since readers often say they don’t want to leave my world. How do you build a fantasy world/paranormal world that readers want to visit again and again? Here are some tips.

1) Study your favorite fantasy/paranormal world(s).

Setting: Is the series set in the real world with magical elements such as Harry Potter (paranormal) or an imaginary world such as Faerie or Middle Earth (fantasy)? What is the geography and the socio-political system?

Magic: Note the rules for magic—and yes, your magic must have its own, consistent rules.

Origin story: A good fantasy world has its own origin story, one that affects the characters’ beliefs and actions. For example, the origin story may be celebrated with its own holiday.

I could go on, but for a thorough list of world building questions, check out this post by Patricia C. Wrede on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

2)Give it a twist. Is everyone else writing fantasy worlds based on medieval times? Then create a fantasy world set in a different time; for example, 1920s steampunk, as my friend L. Penelope did in her Earthsinger Chronicles (coming in 2018 from St. Martin’s Press).

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Author Highlights: Terry Maggert- Taming the Social Media Monster

Author Highlights: Terry Maggert- Taming the Social Media Monster

The Social Media Monster & You: A Primer

Hi. It’s me, Terry. This verges into bragging, but I do have some things that I’m intensely interested in, and I think that foments ability. I write three-dimensional female characters. I use humor to frame stressful events as a tool to invest my readers, and I am vehemently against the predatory practices of the publishing industry. I’m an author coach and a history professor who is enthusiastic about pie, waffles, giraffes, coffee, and nefarious villains. I also run, because punitive experiences make for good fiction but today I’m going to discuss the social media monster and you.

Listicle:

1.Don’t spam. Ever. If you have the urge to spam endless Facebook groups, twitter, or anywhere else, don’t. The numbers game works against you, and you’ll create a backlash. This should naturally bring you to ask, “Well, then how do I”—stop right there. Let’s go to point number two.

2. Build Your Email List. Immediately. If you have a time machine, go back, strangle Joseph Stalin, and then start building your list. Your list is implicit permission between you and the people who know and like your work. It’s your core, your tribe, your peoples. This is how you become a part of a community in which your books—and you—are the engine that drives the fun. And it should be fun. Not spammy. Naturally, you ask, “How do I”—go to point three.

3. How To Build Email Lists. First, get an app or program that lets you manage your email so it isn’t illegal (gmail isn’t legal). I use Mailerlite, but other people use Mailchimp—I find them to be too expensive. Build a template email that looks professional—header, graphic, your brand name, etc—and then test it by sending it to yourself and a few accounts you can check.
Then, begin building the list in three ways.

When I coach young authors (or first timers) I always say that they should get involved in giveaways with other more established authors. Ask in your online groups or at events. At signing events, have a signup sheet for your mailing list. Offer something free, like your first book. Send one or two emails per month. One out of three of my emails is about books, mainly because I hate spam and love food. You can guess what the other two emails are about (hint: rhymes with waffles). When you send your first emails, people will unsubscribe. Relax, it’s not personal. I can tell you that the more people you meet (who sign up in person), the more ‘sticky’ list members you will have. These people are your friends. Don’t forget that, and reward them with fun stuff (deleted scenes, swag, etc).

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Author Highlights: Rachel Rawlings-How to Talk About Your Books

Author Highlights: Rachel Rawlings-How to Talk About Your Books


The Extroverted-Introvert:
Taking Your Brand On the Road. How to Talk About Your Books & Brand With Readers & Peers When the Last Thing You Want to Do Is Talk About Yourself!

My name is Rachel Rawlings, author of urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, and founder of HallowRead Book Festival. Over the last four and a half years, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the brightest authors in our industry. Some are more outgoing than others. As an author, I have a unique perspective into the psyche of an extroverted-introvert because I am one. Once I get to know you, the extrovert comes out, but how does an introvert get to know other people? Ahh, therein lies the problem. Let’s delve a little deeper and help ease those meet and greet fears with a few helpful tips.

1)Do Introduce Yourself to Your Tablemate or Neighbor.
Some of the best relationships start with a simple “Hello, my name is…”

2)Don’t Stack Your Books High Enough to Shield You From The Oncoming Horde of Hungry Readers.
A friendly smile is the best lure to hook a new reader.

3)Don’t Get Distracted With Social Media.
Uncomfortable silences or awkward social situations make it easy to reach for the comfort of social media, grabbing our phones and swiping away at the small screen of familiar yet isolated interaction.

4)Do Have A Bowl of Candy.
No greater ice-breaker out there at an author’s table than a bowl of sweet confection! Chocolate, caramel, sweet tart? It doesn’t matter. People can’t help themselves and many a book have been sold over a bowl over Hershey’s Kisses.

5)Don’t Be Afraid.
Easier said than done, right? Trust me, I feel your pain. When I first began taking my brand on the road, I hated talking about myself. Still do, in fact. But, with each one it gets a little easier and I have made long lasting friendships and connections that are far too invaluable in our industry to stay comfortably hidden in my corner.

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