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How To Think Through Writer's Block

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says, "We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic." When something is really well-written we tend to think it was effortless for the writer, that it seems magical. We wonder, "Did that author ever have to deal with writer's block?" Yes, he or she probably did. Pretty much every writer does. But how do you work through a block when the...

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says, "We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic." When something is really well-written we tend to think it was effortless for the writer, that it seems magical. We wonder, "Did that author ever have to deal with writer's block?" Yes, he or she probably did. Pretty much every writer does. But how do you work through a block when the inside of your brain feels so foggy? These tips will show you how to clear things up.

1.) Work Consistently

When I started my first novel I joined a class to help get me going. After it was over, I took a few more workshop sessions with the instructor, but when those ended all my work ground to a complete halt. Why? Because from then I was only working on the book a day or two a week, mostly on weekends. If I got stuck that meant I wouldn't write for two or even three weeks. Then I went out and got a place to write. I committed myself to going there 3-4 times a week to work on my book. Suddenly the writing got easier! I thought it was because I was putting in more time--and that's partly true--working consistently helps to build momentum. But that wasn't the whole answer. Here's the rest: I was thinking about the book all the time! Which means...

2.) Don't Leave Your Book on the Desk

When I started working consistently I found that I was still thinking about my character and plot issues when I went home at night on the subway. That thinking continued in the shower the next day and on the streets as I walked to work. Once I was flying to Cleveland to visit my family and during the flight I figured out the answer to the problem I was having with a flashboack in my novel.

So write at your desk and do your figuring out everywhere else throughout your day. Ideally you are thinking about your book while you drive, while you shower, while you watch a baseball game. In fact, Stephen King has said he has worked through a chapter or two in his head while at Fenway Park watching the Boston Red Sox. When you think about your book away from the desk, it ensures you'll have something to write when you get back to your desk.

3.) Ask Yourself Lots of Questions

Okay, you might be asking, "What am I supposed to be thinking about?" Your book, of course, but I understand how difficult it is to just have generalities floating around in your head competing with all the media we're flooded with already. To focus your thinking, ask yourself a series of questions related to the issues you're stuck on.

For instance, "What story or incident can I create to best highlight my character's strength and/or weakness?" Possible answer: a party where most of the guests snubbed my character's party which took place few weeks earlier. "How would my character be responsible for that situation?" Maybe she told a secret and everyone is upset with her because of it. "What behavior will my character display that will reveal her true essence to the reader?" Maybe she quietly vandalizes people's belongings throughout the evening, ripping coats in the closet, "accidentally" breaking glasses, spilling drinks on someone's designer dress. You can keep going that way, with each question leading you further down the path until you complete a picture in your head of what you want to write when you sit down again. No more writer's block!

4.) Remember Why You're Writing

When you do get stuck, it helps to remember why you're working on the project in the first place. As I mentioned before, I got stalled many times working on my first novel. But I was motivated by several things including my sincere desire to be a published author and my devotion and commitment to my characters. (Once, when going through a period of non-writing, I had a dream where the main character of my book was screaming at me--I knew it was time to get back to work!)

So, why are you writing? And is the reason powerful enough to make you do what it takes to get through the difficult times of the writing process? If it's not, perhaps you need to re-think your reasons and your project. But if your motivation is strong, go with it and allow that sheer force to help you break down the walls in your work.

© 2005 Sophfronia Scott

 

How To Get A Reporter's Attention For Your Book

Reporters are busy people. On any given day they are fielding dozens of phone calls, making calls of their own, reading stacks of newspapers and magazines and rushing to meet deadlines. So how do you break through all the noise to get a reporter or an editor on the phone to listen to your pitch?

In my 15 years as a magazine journalist I've fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of such calls. The following tips are what I've told many authors and publicists. The ones I eventu...

Reporters are busy people. On any given day they are fielding dozens of phone calls, making calls of their own, reading stacks of newspapers and magazines and rushing to meet deadlines. So how do you break through all the noise to get a reporter or an editor on the phone to listen to your pitch?

In my 15 years as a magazine journalist I've fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of such calls. The following tips are what I've told many authors and publicists. The ones I eventually wrote about are the ones who listened and learned from the conversation.

1.) Ask If the Reporter Has Time to Speak to You

Make "Is now a good time?" the first question you ask when you get a journalist on the phone. Don't assume that if he or she is busy, they won't answer the phone because sometimes a reporter on deadline has to pick up. They might be waiting for confirmation from a source or to connect with a colleague in the field, and Caller ID doesn't always give enough information for proper screening. There were many times when I was on deadline and answered my phone only to find, to my chagrin, a non-stop pitch on the other end. But the callers who impressed me would ask immediately if I was on deadline. All I had to say was "Yes" and they'd say they would call me in another day or so and hang up. Totally cool. I made sure I made time when they did call back. Sometimes I even checked my mail to see if I could find the caller's press release so I would be ready for our talk.

2.) Understand This: The Fact That You Wrote a Book is Not a Story!

You may have written the best book in the world, but unless you're Stephen King turning to pulp fiction (as he did recently) or Terry McMillan publishing your first novel in several years and getting divorced at the same time (as she did recently), you and your book are not a story. I'm sorry but that's the plain truth. Of course if you land on the bestseller lists then we'd have something to discuss. There is one instance, however, when you would be a story and that's when you...

3.) Connect to a Story Already in the News

When promoting your book you should be reading the newspaper and watching the news (local and national) daily. You're looking for stories related to the subject matter in your book. Ideally you would have something to say and you would offer that up to a reporter. For instance, if you've written a book on cronyism in official government posts you could have put out a press release and called up a reporter during the Hurricane Katrina disaster with information such as, "This kind of cronyism has caused mishaps in government response before. I can tell you how it happens and where it has happened before." The press release would list the details in easy-to-read bullet points. It would be easy to see you'd make a great interview subject.

This can work for novels as well. Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is an exquisite book in its own right, but it got a huge publicity boost because it happened to get published at a time when several stories of missing girls were in the news.

4.) Ask What the Reporter is Working On

If the reporter isn't interested in your story, don't just cut and run. Engage the person in a friendly conversation and find out what types of stories he or she is working on for future issues. This way you get to cultivate a relationship--important because good media contacts are difficult to come by. You're also learning what is newsworthy so you can either tailor your message for other outlets or come back to the reporter when you do have information he or she can use. I used to love it when the latter happened--it made my job easier!

One last note: Always follow up on the press releases you send out. You might be thinking, "Well, if they're interested they'll call" but nine times out of ten it doesn't work that way. Your press release could be in the mailroom, in someone's office under a pile of papers or in the garbage unopened. It definitely hasn't been read! Don't be afraid to make the call. Whatever the outcome, at the very least you'll be able to use what you learn for your next publicity effort.

© 2005 Sophfronia Scott

 

How to Publish Your Book on Amazon for $99

With Amazon's BookSurge Print On Demand service, you can offer your perfect-bound, printed book on Amazon for only $99, with no further cost to you. Amazon takes the order, and prints and ships the book within 48 hours, and then pays you a 25% royalty. Brad Jensen shows you how he did it with his own books and tells you how to get started.

POD Amazon publishing book writing

A long time ago, on a desktop far, far away...

Who hasn't dreamed of not only writing their own book, but seeing it in print on Amazon.com, having a copy for their bookshelf, buying 'five copies for my mother?'

Well, now you can do it for a $99 fee and some cybernetic elbow grease. This page will show you how I did it, and chances are you can do it too. I've been reading for several years about Print On Demand, the nifty new techology where you put in PDF files on one end (One for the cover, one for the insides) and a beautiful, perfect-bound, bookstore-quality book comes out the other. I've even seen the technology in action at an document imaging tradeshow (that's my profession, by the way.)

I've known other people who have used Print On Demand (POD) as a way to self-publish, including my own father. My problem with that is I have no room in my garage for books, I don't want to get involved in the process of selling and shipping books, handling returns, etc.

Suddenly, while Googling something a week ago, I stumbled on some fantastic Goo. Amazon, the online bookstore, has absorbed a POD publisher named BookSurge, making it a separate Amazon division. Now I could take my book project, upload it to Amazon/BookSurge, pay a fee, and VOILA! my book is on Amazon for everyone to buy. It ships within 48 hours, BookSurge pays me a 25% royalty within 60 days, I can even buy five copies for my mother at a discount!

I emailed BookSurge and was assigned an account manager, who I will call Joseph (since his name is Joseph). I inquired about the details of publishing a book. For $599 I could get the hand-holding, send us your manuscript version of the publishing, or if I was brave, courageous, and could format my own PDFs, for $99 I could use the Author's Express program to upload my book projects.

Since my book creation project was designed to be the forerunner of many more titles, $99 seemed like the way to go.


I ran all over the site, downloading example PDFs, submission guidelines, and anything else I could find. The site recomends using Adobe -something or another- for text formating, and Adobe Acrobat 6 (not 7!) for PDF creation.

I decided from the git-go that Microsoft Word and PDF Factory Pro would have to work for me, since that is what I had on my desktop, and I don't want to spend weeks learning yet another desktop publishing application, although I am sure it is a good one.

Besides, I was already thinking about writing this page, and I wanted to come up with a process most anyone would be comfortable with.

The only real shortcut I took is that my cover is plain text, with no images on it. I figured my first book is going to sell mostly if not entirely on Amazon, and a pretty cover is not that important there. In any case, I can always go back and upgrade my edition (The additional fee for resubmitting either the interior or the cover is $50, once the book is published.)

Sample files and a complete step by step description of how I formatted and published my three books (so far!) is at www.actasif.com/bookproject




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