Tag Archive | self publishing

How to Stay Organized While Writing a Series

Whether you begin writing with the idea for just one story or have the entire series of books pre-planned in your head, it’s best to be organized from the start. Keeping track of important details from the outset will pay dividends in the long run, saving you precious writing time and mental effort.

I’ve written a three book series (the Higher Elevation Series), and am currently working on two other series (One is a Contemporary Romance, the other is Fantasy Romance). I’ve curated a method that works very well for me. While it is true that every writer must use the process that works best for them, some or all of what I describe here may be useful to you. There is no one “Right Way” to write, or to organize your work, so take what you can use and leave the rest.

Note: I write using MS Word. If you use Scrivener or some of the other writing software on the market, your program may do some of the organizing for you or be done in a different way. I find MS Word suits my needs and some of my methods may still be useful for users of other programs.

Before You Begin Writing

The first thing I usually do when I get the idea for a story or series is to write a free-form outline. This can be in Word document, or hand-written in a notebook. The point is to write down any and all ideas I have regarding the story during that first rush of excitement. If I can, I break it into sections, as in plot, characters, and scenes. This way I can easily find these initial ideas later for development. I usually name it “XYZ story” if I’m typing a document. It’s meant to be a broad overview.

After the initial rush of excitement, if the story or series premise still seems viable, I’ll create several documents:

• Outline
• Characters
• Setting/World details
• Series Bible
• Research Notes
• Draft
• Scene List

The next step is to begin filling in these documents with more detailed information. I am not a heavy plotter, nor am I a “pantser” (writing by the seat of my pants). This method would work for both types of writers, because you can fill in as little or as much as you want before you begin writing. You can, and should add to each document as you write your draft, for the sake of consistency.

Filling the Well

Adding details to each document happens before I start writing, and continues throughout the subsequent drafts until publication. Sometimes details in the story are changed or added which need to be documented. Here is how I fill in those details:

Outline– Now I write a more structured outline, paying attention to scene placement. I want to be sure the rough order of scenes follows at least the three act structure. I also use a few other structure methods, depending on the type of story it is. Some of the structure aids I have used are Nick Stephenson’s/Mark Dawson’s Seven Key Elements structure; Jami Gold’s Beat Sheets; Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot structure; and Gwen Hayes’ book Romancing the Beat. Use whatever method works for you, just be sure you have at least a rough Idea of where the story is going from beginning to end.

Characters– I usually keep one document with information on all the main characters, but sometimes I write one document for each. It just depends on how detailed they are when they come to me. Then I add traits, quirks, and details such as backstory, emotional wound, etc., as I go. This way, I can refer to it when I forget where they worked or what color their eyes are. Minor or mention-only characters are kept track of in the Series Bible. You can write all these details about your characters in advance, or as you write the story, which is what I do.

Setting/World details– much of this will be in the Series Bible, but what I write here is more of a free-form description of the settings where the story takes place and why they are important. This is to help me imagine the setting so when I write there’s a rich backdrop for me to use when choosing which details to reveal.

Series Bible– This document is broken down into sections, and is meant only to keep track of important details. The sections are:

• Timeline- when the story starts and when it ends

• Characters-( brief description), name, age, what they look like, if it is important; if character is minor or just a mention, I add how they are related to any other characters if that applies
• Places- countries, towns, street names
• Companies- any business name that is mentioned and what it is
• Vehicles- who drives what car, and the year, make and model

For my Romance Fantasy Series, I added several categories because there was much more world building. In addition to timeline, characters, and places, I added details about:
• Government
• Religion
• Animals
• Plants
• Customs
• Dress
• Food
• Events

Anytime I make up something new, I add it with a short description to the list. When subsequent books in the series are written, I break the Timeline and Characters sections into “Book One” and “Book Two”, etc. This way the timelines and characters can be tracked from one book to another.

Research notes- Some writers us One Note or Evernote for this purpose, but I like having the document handy in my folder for that series. Any research I do, whether my own notes or a copy and paste of an article, goes here. You never know when you might need that obscure detail!

While Writing

Some stories go through only one draft that is edited several times; some need to be revised and rewritten. If I write more than one draft, I number them. With each draft, I write a separate Scene List. The scene List is a must for me, and has:

• Whose point of view is speaking (POV)
• What happens in the scene. Example- “Jane- She calls her mother; they argue about why she hasn’t called; she hangs up, and begins to cry; there’s a knock on the door; When she opens it ( hero) is standing there”.
• Throughout the scene document, I note what day of the week and date it is, so I can maintain continuity
• I write the scene description immediately after writing the text of each scene, to be sure it has served its purpose

The scene list also helps if I get stuck. Reading all the scene descriptions up to the point I am stuck usually gets things moving again. I also review it once again when the story is done, before I begin self-edits.

All of the above can be used to write a series, adding the details to each section as you write. You could also keep one document to diagram the series arc, if you have one, adding and changing it as the stories unfold.

I can’t count the times I had to refer to these documents when some minor detail skipped my mind. It’s especially helpful if you skip around on projects and some time has lapsed between writing. I prefer concentrating on what is yet to be written, and this method helps me to do just that.

What methods do you use to keep track of stories in a series?

Here’s some helpful Links:
Renee Regent- http://www.reneeregent.com/books
Nick Stephenson- https://www.blog.yourfirst10kreaders.com/blog/
Jami Gold- https://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/
Michael Hague- https://www.storymastery.com/six-stage-structure-chart/
Gwen Hayes- http://gwenhayes.com/romancing-the-beat/

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Why I Choose to Write Romance

“So, you also write romance? Well, I guess you have to eat.”

Condescending much?

I regret that when another author made that comment to me, I let it slide. We met online and decided to swap newsletters, since our work had some themes in common. We exchanged several pleasant emails, did the newsletter swap, and then he disappeared. I don’t know why we stopped communicating, but his initial comment still bothered me several months later.

Here We Go Again

There have been countless articles and posts written about the unfair bias against the romance genre, so I won’t rehash any of those here. But yes, it ticked me off when another author implied that romance as a genre was inferior to other genres, and the only merit it had was producing content in order to make money.

In other words, no “serious” author would stoop to writing romance. This was from an indie author, too—someone who knows how much work it takes to bring a book to market and how scary it is to put yourself out there without the backing of a publisher. He wrote the book that was in his heart, and it was well done, and well received. But you know what?

So did I.

It Goes Both Ways

My first book, Unexplained, (Book 1 of the Higher Elevation Series), was written with a central love story in mind. The heroine is a skeptical journalism student, and the hero is a psychic with the ability to project his mind outside of his body. They become tangled up in danger while trying to understand the meaning of their strange mental connection. The book ended up being a suspenseful Cold War spy story, with a twist. I never meant to straddle the mainstream and romance genres, but that’s how the story turned out. Readers who normally don’t read romance enjoyed it, and those who love romance enjoyed it, as well.

Because Unexplained attracted some non-romance readers, I was able to get some feedback from them, and I noticed something—there was often a “disclaimer” that they don’t normally read romance, but made an exception for this book. Why is that even necessary? The romance readers didn’t make any comments about having to read the non-romantic parts of the book. Will the stigma of romance being part of a story, or the entire story, ever go away? Gore and violence are often accepted, but not falling in love.

It doesn’t make much sense.

Romance Is Strong

However, the bias against romance won’t slow it down, because readers will continue to read voraciously, and authors will continue to write romance stories, myself included. My next novel, Not So Broken, is a steamy Contemporary romance, the first in a series. I chose to write this story because I love to hear how couples got together.

Isn’t that a universal question we often ask others—“How did you two meet?”

Don’t we all love to hear how a couple met, especially when there seems to be an element of fate? It’s fascinating to think that being in the right place at the right time led to a relationship. What if he had missed that train, or if she had decided to stay home instead of going out to that club? How can a chance meeting turn into something life changing?

I like to get inside the heads of my characters and figure out how to get two mismatched souls to come together despite the odds. The HEA, or happily ever after, is the destination and the story is all about the couple’s journey to get there.

Every group of people on the planet has those kind of stories—about two people falling in love. Love is love, and romance is universal, even for those who look down their noses at those of us who write about it.

That is why I choose to write romance. I’m damn proud of the title, “Romance Author”, and many of us are eating very well, thank you.

The Amazing Power of Readers- A Peek Behind The Curtain

 

 

As a reader, why should you care what goes on behind the scenes in book publishing? As long as you can find affordable books to suit your interest, things like book piracy, book stuffing and fake reviews won’t affect you. Right?

Wrong.

It may not affect you personally, but those factors, and much more, have already had an effect on authors, especially indie authors.

Scandals Galore

2018 has been a year of upheaval for the publishing industry, and the romance genre in particular. Authors and others related to the industry have been deeply concerned about several issues and forces that, if not resolved, may mean many authors will simply quit writing, rather than continue the often uphill battle that is book publishing.

If unfair practices and scammers overrun the marketplace, it will become much more difficult for readers to find the books they want to read. If authors quit writing simply because they can no longer afford to fight the tide of scammers, pirates, and automated, indiscriminate policing from retailers, there will be less books for you to choose from.

Want to find out more about what Indie Authors face today? Click here

Why Now?

Not caring about any of this is a valid viewpoint. Authors do not expect readers to know how much work it takes to bring a book to market and keep it there. But in my experience, and from what I have been hearing on social media and on blogs, a majority of readers do care what happens to their favorite authors, and by extension, authors in general. Many, up until recently, have been unaware of some of the challenges authors have been facing. But the frustration over what appears to be ongoing unfair practices has caused things to come to a boiling point, and the voices of dissension have been getting louder.

Readers really should care, because what has been happening has already begun to affect their choices.

This blog post by Author Jami Gold spells out clearly a few of the issues, including Trademarking common words and book stuffing on Kindle Unlimited.

You Are Powerful

There are several other issues authors face daily which can have a severe impact on getting their books to market so you may read them. If even a few readers take the time to find out what is happening and learn how to (properly and respectfully) report the unfair practices that make their reading experience less than desirable, we may see positive change. We are a consumer-based society, and consumer habits and preferences are very powerful.

You deserve to read only the best quality of your chosen reading material. Most authors want to provide this for you. Those who are in it only for the money will always find ways around the system, or to fool unsuspecting consumers, and quite often they trade quality for quick, easy money.

On the other hand, ethical authors agonize probably way more than is even necessary to bring you a quality product, and that requires much time, effort and expense. Several authors I know are already pulling their titles from Kindle Unlimited. It comes down to a business decision, and many cannot afford to continually fight.

Transparency and Gratitude

The purpose of this post is simply to let readers know they have a stake in what happens in this industry. In the days of traditional-only publishing, readers were far removed from the behind the scenes machinations of book publishing. Most didn’t have regular contact with their favorite authors. But it’s a different world now, and you can help. The curtain is wide open, as it should be. Talk to others, both readers and authors. Research the hashtags #Cockygate and #Bookstuffing. Support ethical Indie Authors who play by the rules and want to bring you the best stories possible. We do this writing gig for many reasons, but the main reason is you—the reader.

And for that, we thank you.

 

 

 

The Amazing Resilience of Indie Authors

On the wall in my office

Just when you thought it was safe to finally self-publish your novel, a new challenge rears its’ ugly head to join the long list of problems facing authors today.

Writing a book and having it published is quite an accomplishment, no matter how you get there. Accomplishing that and having a successful career as an Indie (Independent) Author, is a whole other ball game.

Don’t Get Cocky

The latest challenge which played out on the internet recently was over Trademarking. Just search the word, “Cockygate” and you’ll find dozens of posts and articles describing what happened. The issue may take some time to fully resolve, but the bottom line is this case has the potential to forever change the way we use words, and how we as authors (and maybe even the rest of the world) can advertise.

Hopefully, it won’t be the worst-case scenario that many fear. But, it simply adds another brick to the growing wall of obstacles one faces when publishing on the internet.

What else, you may ask? Here’s just a few of the everyday challenges I see when talking with other Indie Authors on social media:

Pirates– illegal copies of books on websites, either for free or for sale (someone else making money off your hard work)

Troll reviewers– leaving bad reviews on books they never read, or due to shipping problems, or revealing spoilers

Retailers (especially the really big one) stripping pages read, stripping reviews, shutting down accounts with no explanation, accusing authors of breach of contract due to pirates having stolen their work, or scammers using their books without their knowledge, page reads suddenly dropping off, sales suddenly dropping off, not changing or correcting issues in a timely manner—all with no notice, little recourse and scant communication options

Losing money on pre-scheduled ads and promotions because of the above

Possibly unscrupulous readers obtaining books through giveaways and then selling them online, or returning them for money (when gifted online- of course they have the right; but did they get it for free to read, or just to get something for it? We never know).

Purchasers reading an entire series, and then returning all books for a refund (try that in any other industry. Not talking here about accidental purchases, but systematic read and returns).

 

I may have missed a few, feel free to add your own. This doesn’t even cover the subject of how e-books have been devalued due to so many free books on the market, but it bears consideration when looking at all the things which affect a career. Indies put so much time, effort, and money into their books, and get relatively little for each book in sales. So, any and all of the above challenges chip away at what could be profits.

However…

Despite all of the above, I have found the Indie Author community to be some of the most helpful, patient, kind, supportive, and resilient bunch of people I have ever come across. They love writing so much, they keep going despite all the problems. They share information on social media, in blog posts, and in craft books, to help other authors fight the good fight to get our work into the hands of readers.

Yes, there are a few bad apples, or those who inadvertently piss others off, even though they mean well. But the vast majority of authors know this:

WE ARE NOT EACH OTHER’S COMPETITION!

We are stronger banding together. The beauty of writing books is, readers keep reading.  Just because a reader has read every vampire romance novel out there, doesn’t mean she is done. If you write a good one, she’ll probably read that, too. So, having books that look similar, sound similar, have similar stories (tropes) are a good thing. It helps the readers find what they are looking for. Just because someone buys another author’s book, does not mean they won’t buy one of yours.

In fact, it usually has the opposite effect of spurring more sales, overall. Readers find new authors, authors find new readers.

Most Indie authors know this and strive to give the readers what they want. Yes, we all do “copy” each other—to a point. Except for plagiarism, of course. Don’t ever do that.

I was proud to be part of the Indie Author community this week, as I witnessed how creative the support for each other was. From sharing links to buying books, to joint promotions—Indies banded together like never before. There was even a hash tag, #ThisIsHowYouIndie.  It was solidarity at its finest. A few of us had been affected by the Trademark issue, so all of us were.

So, go find your Tribe, and love them hard. How else are we going to face all the challenges of Indie Publishing, and celebrate our wins?  We are all in these trenches together, so we may as well help each other.

Becoming an Author-Entrepreneur- The First Steps

Empty Road At Sunset And Sign For Success In Blurred Motion

Want to find out if you’ve got what it takes to become an Author Entrepreneur?

I’m honored to be a guest on Jami Gold’s blog today, discussing the first steps to becoming an entrepreneur in the field of Indie publishing. It’s not as hard as you might think, but there’s still a lot to consider before you jump in.  And whether you are going with the traditional route of publishing, or self-publishing, chances are you will be handling many tasks on your own which require entrepreneurial skills.

Here’s the link to Jami’s blog: http://jamigold.com/2016/06/are-you-ready-to-be-an-entrepreneur-guest-renee-regent/

If you’ve never visited her blog before, you should─it’s always informative, but in a friendly, laid back way. Jami has a knack for digging through the layers of a subject, to find out why the topic matters. Her website has been designated as one of the 100 best Websites For Writers, in 2015. So, it is quite an honor to have my debut guest post on her blog!

If you are interested in the business side of writing, I plan to explore this topic more in the future, as I progress through the journey of my writing career.  As a lifelong entrepreneur, I am excited about the ever-expanding field of publishing, and hope you’ll join me. I’d love to hear of your experiences, too, so feel free to comment or drop me a line at reneeregent@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Do Debut Authors Really Have A Chance In Today’s Market?

bigstock-Winter-Forest-56265137

“The E-Book Goldrush Is Over.” “The Market Is Saturated.” “There Is A Tsunami of Crap on the Internet.”

There’s doom and gloom in the world of publishing lately. Articles and blog posts, forums and feeds all dissecting the state of the industry, and for the most part, it’s not pretty.

What’s Happening

Many authors, Indie and Traditional, report declining sales. The average price of books has dropped as well, which means more units must be sold to make the same income as in prior years. Competition has increased as self-publishing has exploded, and established authors also republish their backlist as e-books online. Even the classics are being republished as e-books, now listed for .99 a pop.

Sure, the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy stands to rake in a bajillion bucks, but that is a phenomenon unto itself. Unless you happen to have the next mega hit (and how would you know in advance? Are you psychic?), is it worth even trying to break into today’s crowded market?

How can a newbie hope to get noticed, as one tiny drop in an ocean of content?

Trends Are Changing Rapidly

There is about as much advice out there as there are authors trying to get noticed. But with everything (new technology, algorithms, buyer’s habits, the next hot social media site, etc.) changing so rapidly, by the time you read an article the advice may be outdated. The volume of books and authors trying to get noticed is so great that as soon as a trend begins, it becomes oversaturated to the point of being ridiculous. A recent case in point- how many box sets are being offered right now? Probably more than any of us could read in a lifetime! 16 books for .99? I understand the strategy behind it, but when the market is flooded with bundles the strategy may soon become ineffective.

Becoming a published author has always been a difficult road. For a short time, it seemed that self-publishing online was the answer to the prayers of unpublished authors everywhere.

And perhaps it still is. But even if you have written the next literary masterpiece or popular mega-hit, you still have to find ways to initially get your work discovered. And traditional publishing isn’t much easier. Often publishers expect the author to do most of the marketing, and the window for discoverability (time on the bookstore shelf) is very short.

There are only so many readers, and they can only read so much, as Guest Host Dario Ciriello deftly explored in this recent Fiction University Blog post.

 

What Seems To Be Working Right Now

From what I have read the debut authors who have a decent chance today, assuming their work is professional quality, and they have a media platform and marketing strategy in place, are those that are incredibly prolific, churning our several books a year. Target numbers vary, but at least 4-12 or more (including novellas and short stories). The consensus is that having a volume of titles available creates more of a following, as binge readers can feast on a constant supply of titles. Turning out a new title every 30-60 days is almost required to get noticed, gain traction and build a fan base. Kristin Lamb wrote an excellent post recently that hones in on why “binge watching” has become so popular, and it seems to happening with readers, as well.

That kind of schedule is simply out of reach for many of us. So what can you do if you are not a high-producing author?

Slowly building a following still works well for some authors, especially if they write for a niche market.   So if you aren’t prolific or a fast producer, you can still have a successful career. Just be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.

Should A New Writer Even Try?

So if you are new, and it is taking a while to get something ready to launch, can you even hope to have a chance by the time you are ready? Won’t the market be even more crowded by then?

It is entirely possible. But, just like the lottery, if you don’t play, your chance of winning is zero.

If you love writing, take your craft seriously, and spend the time and money to make your work the best it can be, why not take a chance?

You will never know what can happen, unless you try.

Anne R. Allen posted an article recently on this very subject with excellent suggestions on marketing for new writers in today’s turbulent world of publishing. If you get discouraged, as I sometimes do, look around to other authors who have been through the ups and downs, the cycles of the industry. There is always something you can do to move forward.

The upside is– there has never been a better time to be a writer. Even with all the changes, and the gloomy market out there, at least now new authors have options. Today it is easier than ever to get the help you need to succeed, too.

So, yes, despite the Chicken Littles who say the publishing sky is falling, I say give it a shot. As the saying goes, “The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction”.   Make your own truth!