Thursday 30 April 2015

Your Autograph, Please! It's Time for Your Book Signing

"The purpose of a book signing isn't to sell your books, it's to sell yourself." (Mary Janice Davidson)

A successful book launch involves three things:  showing up, having books (business cards, pens) and selling one copy.  "The purpose of a book signing isn't to sell your books, it's to sell yourself," says Mary Janice Davidson (  You may sell anywhere from five to 100 books, but it's not just about the numbers.

While some authors prefer having a solo book launch, Mary Janice Davidson launched her book alongside 200 other authors.  The presence of others helped take the focus, and the pressure, off of her.  Furthermore, she had a bigger crowd to draw upon due to the number of authors.

What is the first order of business?  Set up a book signing at your local neighbourhood bookshop or a big chain.  Contact your publisher to make sure that the books are en route.  It would look silly on book signing day if you ran out of copies.  

Next, spread the word about your book signing.  Post an announcement on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Send a press release to the local paper.  Prepare an insert to slip into the envelop with every bill you mail or letter you send.  The insert should include your name, the book title along with the date, time and place of your book signing.  

Blogger Mary Robinette recommends that you prepare ahead of time by practising your signature (  You need to be able to sign and talk at the same time.  Write down three stock phrases that you can include with your signature and rotate these regularly.  Sign each book in the same place, usually the title page.  Date all your signatures the first month of the book's release; this makes them more valuable to collectors.  Ask people to spell their names; it's hard to erase ink.  Use a different signature for legal documents as you might end up the victim of identity theft at some point.

On the day of the signing, dress in business casual, says Mary Janice Davidson.  Bring the following items along:

  • a blow up of the book cover
  • pens (acid free so they won't smear)
  • promotional items (bookmarks, postcards)
  • paper table cloth
  • tape/markers (to make an impromptu sign)
  • water bottle 
  • breath mints
Mary Janice Davidson reminds you to smile, wave and greet customers.  Make eye contact.  Put the book in their hand and engage them in conversation.  If you write romance, but the customer is not a fan, ask them what genre they prefer and recommend some titles.  In the meantime, hand them your business card to pass it on to friends who are fans of your genre. 

Lastly, to get ideas, attend other book signings.  

Wednesday 29 April 2015

To the Moon: It's Time to Launch Your Book!

Joel Friedlander lays out a twelve step plan, plus three bonus from me, to follow:

1.  Plan a Budget

How much are you willing to invest in your book launch?  How much will it cost to rent a space? How much will it cost to print postcards and bookmarks?  How much are you willing to spend on food and beverages (if you choose to go that route)?  How much will decorations cost?

2.  Find a Venue

Choose a place for your launch whether it be a bookstore or library, hall or restaurant.  Ideally it should have some connection to your subject.  For example, an author of a book about moving to Spain launched his book at a Spanish tapas bar.  An author of a biking or hiking book could launch it at a local recreational equipment store.

3.  Organize Your Space

Does your space include a table and chairs?  Where will you display your books, bookmarks and postcards?  Is there wall space for posters, etc.

4.  Advertise

Draft a mailing list and send out invitations.  Get your name on e-mail newsletters in bookstores or libraries.  Notify people regarding your book launch on Facebook.

5.  Entertainment

What kind of atmosphere would you like to create?  Will you have a guest speaker?  Will you read excerpts from your book?  Will you play appropriate background music?

6.  Order Lots of Books

Make sure you order your books well ahead of time so that they arrive at least a week before the launch.

7.  Media Contact

Invite the local media, ideally a reporter whose specialty relates to your book's subject.  Include newspaper, radio and TV in your contacts.

8.  Build the Crowd

Invite family, friends, co-workers, writing group members. Facebook friends, etc.  Don't forget any guest of honour ex. when I attended Marsha Skrypuch's launch for Stolen Child, she invited Brant MP Phil McColeman.

9.  Take Pictures

Ask a family member or friend to take photographs of the event; for example, shots of you speaking, talking to guests, or signing books.

10.  Signing

What will you write beneath your signature?  Joel Friedlander usually writes "Good luck in your publishing journey".

11.  Prizes

Hold a draw for a free book.  Give a prize related to your book's theme.

12.  Gather Addresses

Keep in touch with attendees by having a sign up sheet, a bowl for business cards or a laptop with a page to opt into your mailing list.

13.  Decorate Your Space

The author of the hiking book could post some blow up mountain scene photographs on the wall.  The author of the book about moving to Spain could pin a giant map or flag of the country to the wall.  My friend Rose McCormick Brandon had a blow up poster of her book cover on display at her book table.  You could also have a stand up banner made of your book cover.

Rose McCormick Brandon and her mother hold the poster for her book launch at courtesy Rose McCormick Brandon.

14.  Prepare Food

I remember Marsha Skrypuch served ginger snaps at her book launch for Stolen Child because the protagonist ate them in one particular scene.  The author of the Spain themed book could serve a Spanish snack, complete with the recipe.

15.  Recruit Volunteers

When I attended Rose McCormick Brandon's book launch for Promises of Home:  Stories of Canada's British Home Children, she had asked various people to do jobs.  For instance, I read my story "Daisy Blay and the Gold & Pearl Necklace".  Rose's daughter took photographs.  Her son-in-law operated the power point presentation.  Her husband helped set up the books.

For more information, visit

Note:  It's never too early to plan your book launch.  While I am still waiting to hear back from a publisher, I have already planned mine.  Here are the details:

BOOK:  I'm Just Daisy (Linda Jonasson)

VENUE:  Hope Christian Reformed Church (Fellowship Room)

FOOD:  butter tarts (one of my chapters is called Butter Tarts in which my protagonist learns to bake them; I will display the original recipe); tea (very British)

DECORATIONS:  daisies on the food table (my protagonist's name is Daisy and one scene takes place in a field of daisies)

WALL DECOR:  a giant Union Jack (the first half of the story takes place in Great Britain); a blow up photograph of the S.S. Kensington, the ship on which the protagonist immigrated to Canada

BOOK TABLE:  bookmarks, postcards, scrap book (made by my Mom with haunting photograph of my great-grandma which inspired me to write the book), giant banner of book cover

GUESTS OF HONOUR:  MP Phil McColeman (he drafted the bill declaring 2010 "The Year of the British Home Child" and his uncle was a BHC); Rose McCormick Brandon, whom I've asked to write the Forward to my book; Publisher (TBA)

MY CLOTHING:  a blue dress with a Union Jack scarf

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Ten Tips to Creating a Worthwhile Website for Your Book

"Writing is only 10%; marketing is the other 90%." (Mark Victor Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul)

You are about to publish your book.  Now is the time to build a website to advertise it.  Why do you need a website?  It's an inexpensive way to promote your book, get book signings and speaking engagements.  It provides you with a venue to sell your book online and to build a loyal fan base.   Your website may attract agents or publishers for future books.  It's a way to promote yourself and any other endeavours you undertake; for example, coaching or consulting (

Every book website should include the following ten elements;

1.  A Book Blog

According to blogger Tony Levelle, your book blog should include writer updates, corrections and errata and a place to respond to reader comments and questions.

2.  Sample Chapters

Choose two or three of your best chapters and post them on your website.  You might also want to post a Table of Contents to give the reader a hint of what is to come.

3.  Amazon Page

Provide a link to the Amazon Page (or other site) selling your book.  Amazon often allows visitors to click on the book image and browse through portions of the book.

4.  Media Kit

Your media kit should include:

  • professional business cards with your book cover on one side and Your contact information on the reverse
  • a head shot taken by a professional or at least experienced amateur
  • a 100-150 word bio stating why you are uniquely qualified to write this book
  • a glossy paper with your book cover on the front and a description of the book on the back (why should the reader want to read your story?)

5.  Book Reviews & Blurbs

Make it a goal to get at least 20 Amazon reviews.

6.  A Schedule of Appearances

Make a list of bookstores, libraries, conferences and speaking engagements you plan on attending.

7.  Contact Information

8.  Bonus Goodies

For the first month (or more), offer special reports, spreadsheet templates or audio recording of your book.

9.  Social Sharing Buttons

Enable the reader to connect to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.

10.  Link to Articles 

If you have written non-fiction or historical fiction, link to historical articles which pertain to your topic.  


Monday 27 April 2015

How to Build the Buzz About Your Book

"Most of us wouldn't cook an entree for the first time without following a recipe , and having a marketing plan for your book can make the difference between success and falling flat." 
(Paula Krapf)

Well known authors with many books to their credit can look forward to financial support when they market their novel.  However, for first time or little known authors, this is not the case.  Be prepared to market your own book.  Marilyn Henderson offers several tips to get you started on the road to success (

Get acquainted with the managers and staff at local bookstores.  You will have an opportunity to do that in the six to eighteen months it takes for your book to be published, once you've signed a contract.  Attend book signings and buy books.  Become a familiar face at bookstores.  Independent stores are one thing, but big changes are another story:  your book must be in their computer before they will order it.  If you are self-published, contact the Small Press Department of the chain's headquarters to see if they will carry your book.

Reviews are a good way to spread the word about your new book.  Marilyn Henderson recommends that you make a list of magazines, newspapers, e-zines and websites where you can request reviews. Google "review novels", followed by "search within results", followed by "submit book".  Search sites related to your book subject.

Book clubs, a formidable force, can be found in most mid to large cities.  Contact book clubs and suggest that they use your book as one of their selections.  Offer to attend one of their discussion meetings.  

The Internet is also a powerful tool to use in marketing your book.  You might discover a chat room where your book is being discussed.  Once again, it's an opportunity to spread the word about your work.

Not all promotion has to be costly.  Order bookmarks and postcards with the image of your book cover on them.  Marilyn Henderson suggests printing an enticing excerpt on them to peak the reader's interest.  Leave bookmarks by the cash register of your neighbourhood bookstore. Distribute them at writing conventions and workshops.  Have them handy to hand out when the occasion arises.

Now is the time to create your own website, if you haven't already done so.  Post reviews of your book.  Share "free read" scenes.  If your book involves catering, post a recipe.  If your book involves cars, post safety tips about driving on the freeway.  If you've written about bird watching, post a chart of the birds in your region.  Post a well researched tip sheet about your topic.

Turn business or family trips into marketing experiences for your book.  If you are travelling to a city anyway, use your free time to visit the local bookstore.

Marilyn Henderson points out that networking is a vital part of marketing your book.  Hang out with fellow writers and share ideas.  Participate in joint signings, joint book launches and panel appearances at schools, libraries and bookstores.  My husband pointed out that it is commonplace at university for one department, for example, history, to have a joint book launch.  Brush up on your public speaking skills and give talks about your book to rotary clubs, women's guilds, or other groups who would be interested in your topic.

Above all, Marilyn Henderson reminds us that marketing "isn't a one shot deal, it's an ongoing process."  What are you waiting for?  

Note:  For more information, read 1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer at

Sunday 26 April 2015

The Power of a Book Club to Boost Sales

"Having an Oprah Book Club selection is pretty much like having the pinnacle of the community." (Michael McKenzie, Publicity Directory)

Ever since Oprah Winfrey debuted her book club in 1996, she has been influencing book sales worldwide.  It started with the debut novel, The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and ended with the classic, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  First time author David Wroblewski's novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle became a selection in 2008 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller.  When Oprah's show went off the air in 2011, she had endorsed 70 titles with an estimated sale of 55 million Oprah editions.  For more information, read Reading with Oprah:  The Book Club that Changed America by Kathleen Rooney.  In 2012, the former talk show host launched Oprah Book Club 2.0, focussing on digital media.

Mark Zuckerburg, who started Facebook, launched his own book club in January of 2015.  His first title, The End of Power by Moises Naim, was sold out on Amazon within the first 24 hours of being announced as a selection.

Online book clubs are all the rage these days. ( and the New York Times Book Forum ( are two such clubs.

Goodreads (, with 12 million members, is another powerful book club.  "Reading Lolita in Tehran stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 100 weeks and became book club fodder worldwide," says a Goodreads interview with the book's author Azar Nafisi.

Library Thing (, another online book club, has catalogued 96 milion books and reviewed almost 2 1/2 million titles.  Among the top 25 books are selections like:  Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight, The Kite Runner and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

BookShout ( an e-reader, endorses bestselling authors Bill Nye, Jane Green and Beth Moore among others.

If you end up on a book club list, whether a traditional book club or an online one, it's likely to boost your sales.  If you want to learn more about marketing your book, read Sell Your Book Like Wildfire by Rob Eager.

Saturday 25 April 2015

How to Land on the New York Times Bestseller List

The New York Times bestseller list is the gold standard for success in the writing field.  As editor Alan Rinzler asserts:  "It shouts:  'Read me!  I'm certified!'"  Some authors even buy their way onto the list.  However, most do it by good old fashioned hard work.  Here are nine tips to landing on the bestseller list, according to Mr. Rinzler (

1.  A Diverse List

As Anne Rice says:  "You can look at the New York Times bestseller list and you can be pretty sure that the writers on the list don't know each other very well."  The authors are diverse as well as the 23 different categories:  Combined Print and E-book Fiction, Hardcover, Advice, Political, Business, children's, etc.  There is no dominant category.  Alan Rinzler advises not to worry about trends. What's popular now might not be by the time your story is published. Visit for a current list.

2.  Book Length Varies

"A book should be as long as it needs to be and no longer," states Alan Rinzler.  Don't pad it or cut it short and avoid going off on tangents, advises the editor.  The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is 544 pages while Blind Faith, by C. J. Lyon, is 392 pages.  Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo, is only 192 pages while Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is 496 pages.

3.  E-books Rule

Alan Rinzler says that you can sell a large quantity of books in virtual e-book form.  Between 2008 and 2010, e-books experienced a 1039.6% hike in sales.  During the latter year, 114 million units were sold.

4.  Self-Published Books are Legitimate Competition

Self-published works are landing on the New York Times bestseller list including Blind Faith (#4), The Mill River Recluse (#5) and The Abbey (#6) in 2011.  Customers are no longer waiting for the cheaper paperback versions of books to come out, but purchasing the E-book instead.  Alan Rinzler says that E-books are "faster, give the author more control and a bigger share of the profits".

5.  Film & TV Adaptations

The Help spent 107 weeks on the Fiction bestseller list in 2009.  Two years later the movie debuted grossing over $123 million.  Don't assume that your novel has no chance of being adapted for the big screen.

The Help movie poster courtesy

6.  Bestselling Authors are Avid Self-Marketers

Top Ten Fiction and Non-Fiction Authors know how to market themselves including:  Lee Childs, Kathy Reichs, James Patterson, J. A. Jances, John Grisham and Johanna Lindsey.  "Non one can sell your book as well as you can," explains Alan Rinzler.  Readers prefer direct contact with the author through blogs, online reviews, websites, Twitter and Facebook.

All of Johanna Lindsey's novels landed on the New York Times bestseller list, many reaching #1, courtesy

7.  Write a Brilliant Book

Garth Stein, author of New York Times bestseller Racing in the Rain, says the surest way to land on the bestseller list is to write a "brilliant book".  You can buy your way on to the list, but it won't last. If you write a page turning book, however, you will enjoy lasting success.


8.  Find the Right Distributor or Become a Book of the Month Selection

"Target can make sleepy titles into bestsellers," says New York Times contributor Motoko Rich. When Sarah's Key, penned by Tatiana de Rosnay, was first published in 2007, its sales were dismal.  However, in 2008, Target chose the title as its Book of the Month Selection and it took off, landing on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.  To read about the success of other Target selections, visit

9.  Become a Book Club Selection

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells, had an unspectacular debut in 1996. However, it was chosen as a book club selection and its sales soared, hitting #1 on the bestseller list two years later.  It also became a motion picture starring Bette Midler.  For more information about the surprise bestseller, read,,20126454,00.html.

Friday 24 April 2015

Pulitzer Prize for Novels

In 1917, Hungarian-American Joseph Pulitzer donated money in his will to an award for the best author in newspaper, music composition, photography and literature.  Each April, twenty one awards are bestowed by 20 juries composed of 102 judges.  Here are some novels which stand out for me:

2015  All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)

A novel about World War II, human nature and the "contradictory power of technology".

2006  The March (E.L. Doctorow)

Based on the closing year of the Civil War during which General Sherman and his troops marched (retreated) through the South, leaving a "60 mile wide scar of destruction in their wake".

I didn't read The March, but I did read E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime, based on the Jazz Era in the United States.

1999  The Hours (Michael Cunningham)

A story based on three generations of women and how the Virginia Woolf novel Mrs. Dalloway affected them.  It was adapted for the screen in 2002.

1994  The Shipping News (Annie Proulx)

A New York State newspaper journalist marries and raises two daughters.  His two timing wife "meets her just desserts" and he moves to his ancenstral home in Newfoundland to live with two other generations of his family.

1983  The Color Purple (Toni Morrison)*

A Black woman growing up in the Deep South experiences abuse at the hands of her father, and later, her husband.

1980  The Executioner's Song (Norman Mailer)

Based on the execution of Gary Gilmore for multiple murders by the state of Utah in 1977.

1961  To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)*

Set in the Deep South, this novel is based on the trial and conviction of a black man for the alleged rape of a white woman.  It was adapted for the big screen in 1962 starring Gregory Peck as the lawyer who defends the black man.

1952  The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk)

I didn't read The Caine Mutiny but I did read Herman Wouk's The Winds of War  and War and Remembrance, both based on World War II.

1948  Tales of the South Pacific (James Michener)*

Based on the author's experiences in the Pacific as a lieutenant commander in the US Navy during World War II.

1940  The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)*

A string of Okies, farmers driven off their parched land by drought, packed up their Model T's and road across the desert to California to pick grapes during The Great Depression.

1932  The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)

Family life in a Chinese Village before World War II.  This novel returned to the bestseller list when Oprah made it the book of the month club selection in 2004.

1927  Early Autumn (Louis Bromfield)

Based on a custody battle between a husband and wife and the man the latter hires to protect her son from being kidnapped by her ex-husband.  The bodyguard and the son form a strong bond.

1921  Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)

An upper class couple's impending marriage in New York City in the 1870's.

*These are the titles I have read.

Thursday 23 April 2015

How to Write a Query That Sizzles

"The main objective of a query is simple:  Make the agent care enough about your protagonist and your plot that she wants to read more." (Mary Kole)

The query is your first, and maybe your only, chance to get the attention of an agent or publisher. Make it count.  Remember your book is a marketable commodity.  Make sure your manuscript is polished and ready to go before you submit your query letter.  Author Jane Friedman offers some excellent suggestions for anyone drafting a query for a novel (

She recommends that you mention how you came upon the agency or publisher you are querying. For instance, you may know another client of the agent or another author of the publisher. Mention that in your first paragraph.  Perhaps you heard him or her speak at a conference.  Include this information as well.  

Include any impressive credentials you may hold; for example, maybe you have a MFA from a university from which the agent is known to recruit authors.  Perhaps you won a national writing competition or you have written for prestigious journals or New York publishers.  

Ms. Friedman says that good salespeople develop a rapport with customers and understand their needs.  You have to do the same with your agent or publisher.  Make sure you personalize your letter. Include information that sets it apart from the hundreds of other queries sitting in the slush pile on a publisher's desk.

Your hook is what grabs the reader's attention from the get go.  Make sure you include your protagonist's name and what conflict he or she is involved in.  List the choices the protagonist has made in response to this conflict.  Ms. Friedman says the hook should have "sizzle".  Give examples of how your novel is filled with "strong actions, strong ramifications and and lots of emotion tied to each."  Agents eat this stuff up, according to Mary Kole (  You might also mention the setting or time period, especially if it is historical fiction.

Your hook needs a certain "je ne sais quoi" says Jane Friedman.  It should not seem flat:  inject your writing with "life, voice and personality".  However, at the same time, don't ramble on.  Brevity is also key:  limit your explanation to under 200 words.  The more you explain, the more you might "squeeze the life out of the story," says Ms. Friedman.  

Refrain from revealing the ending of your story.  Reserve that for the synopsis.  Mention no more than three or four characters.  Avoid mentioning minor plot points.  Avoid editorializing your story.

Here is a successful query for a mystery novel by Robert K. Lewis called Untold Damage:

"Mark Mallen has been a great cop before he succumbed to the needle.  Driven from the narcotics division and run off the force Mallen's been surviving day to the day in the gritty world of San Francisco's Tenderloin district.  But just as if it looks like his life will end in addiction, his upstairs neighbour comes to him begging for help in finding her daughter's murderer.  The man hidden deep inside the addict is prompted to action as Mallen sees an opportunity to redeem himself and re-emerge."

After writing your hook and a some plot points, it's time to write your bio.  Make it meaningful and charming.  Again, it should stand out to the agent or publisher who is reading it.

Next come your writing credentials.  Make sure they are specific; for example, if you have written for magazine, mention their titles.  If you have no fiction experience, include non-fiction credits.  It shows you have worked with an editor.  Popular online journals and blogs also count.  Only mention self-published books if they are relevant or if you have sold an incredible number of copies.  Include your line of work if it relates to your story; for example, if you are a teacher writing a children's book, that's useful information to share.  List your writing degrees?  Mention if you belong to any professional writing organizations (ex. RWA, MWA, SCBWI) or attended any major writer's retreats or workshops.  You can include your website or blog, especially if you have 100,000 plus followers. 

Here is an example of a bio included in a successful query letter for the novel Finny by Justin Kramon:

"Let me tell you a bit about myself.  I'm 27 years old, a 2004 graduate of the Workshop with an MFA in fiction.  The collection I've finished was awarded the Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award and I've received several other fellowship awards including a Sun Valley Writers Fellowship and a Book Hampton Fellowship.  I've published about half the stories in my collection in literary magazines including Glimmer, Train, Fence, Story Quarterly, and Boulevard.  A story published last year ("Shel" in Glimmer Train) was selected by the most recent Best American Short Stories as one of their "100 Distinguished Stories". (

Include any special research you conducted for your book; for example, you spent a year as a missionary in the Congo; you lived in a commune in Israel; you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (like Eric Walters did for his middle grade novel Between Heaven and Earth).

Jane Friedman reminds you to limit your query letter to one page.  The standard debut novel length is 80,000 words.  Avoid bragging about your work.  At the same time, avoid criticizing your story.  Do not overuse adjectives and adverbs.  Let your query speak for itself.  Last, but not least, don't forget to thank the agent or publisher for his or her time!   

Note:  To read several successful query letters, visit

For more information, read Query Letters That Rock by Linda Formichelli.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

How to Write a Novel the Nano Way

Yesterday I blogged about how to write a novel using the Snowflake Method, a ten-step plan to follow to assemble your story.  Today, I'm writing about how to write a novel without an outline. There's something to be said about sitting down at a keyboard, staring at a blank page, and letting your fingertips take you away.  It's called "Nanowrimo:  30 days and nights of literary abandon".

I am a four time Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) participant ). Set aside 30 days in November (or any month).  You need at least two hours per day.  That's 60 hours in a month.  Your quota is just under 1700 words per day.  In total you will write 30,000 words, the size of a small novel (although it doesn't have to be fiction; I wrote non-fiction).  At the end of the month, you have your first draft.

Southwestern Pottery by John Hritz

The quantity vs quality argument at

The focus of Nanowrimo is quantity not quality.  The problem with an outline is you are constantly editing your thoughts.  The beauty of Nanowrimo is that you turn off that internal edit.  You are constantly writing, pushing forward, building the momentum of your story. As Snoopy found out the hard way, one of the Ten Commandments of Writing is "Thou shalt not edit when thou writes." (See  But at the same time, Nanowrimo is not complete abandon:  you do have a deadline.  

Snoopy is breaking one of the Ten Commandments of Writing "Thou shalt not edit when thou writes" courtesy

There's something to be said for leaving your writing and letting it sit.  It's difficult to spot your errors when the ink has barely dried on the page, so to speak.  Let a couple of months pass and come at it with a new set of eyes (and maybe a new set of ideas).  Which begs the question:  When do you edit? Your opportunity to edit arrives in March, when Nanoedmo (National Novel Editing Month) arrives. If Nanowrimo is 30 days and nights of literary abandon, Nanoedmo is 50 hours of literary editing. That's one and a half hours per day.  Roll up your sleeves and get ready:  it's time to get your hands dirty.  This is where the real writing begins.  It's time to revise, rewrite, rework, remove, expand and proofread that first draft.

Now is your chance to check for the essential ingredients of a solid story.  Reread your story and listen for the rhythm of your words.  Just as a musician has an "ear for music", a writer has an "ear for words" says blogger Roni Loren (  Check for pacing of your plot.  Is there enough conflict?  Check for context.  When I wrote my great-grandmother's story, set in the early 1900's, I had to research details:  How many compartments did a cast iron stove have?  Was mail delivered to your door in small town Canada?  What did a Canadian map look like in 1903?  Examine your characters.  Are they three dimensional or flat?  Look for your dominant theme.  Does your main idea permeate every chapter of your book?  As author Larry Brooks points out in Story Engineering, "Theme can get you published".  For more, visit the site

A Canada map circa early 1900's, quite different from current day, courtesy 

Are you ready to put down your pen at this point?  While you have a solid second draft, my recommendation is that you let your manuscript sit for a few weeks, and look at it yet again.  Or better yet, let a fellow writer look at it and point out any errors, omissions or inconsistencies.  Scour it for those smaller details.  Look for "le mot juste" (see link "Ten Tips for Finding the Right Words" below).  Look for words that you have overused.  Vary your sentence length.  Make sure your verb tense is consistent.  Check for a consistent point of view. Your third draft will be much more polished than your second.  Your novel is complete.

But it's not over.  Submit your novel for publication.  You might join the long list of Nanowrimo participants who have become published authors.  Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, published in 2007 by Harper Collins, even hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Visit for a complete list.

Note:  For more information about Nanowrimo, read "Nanowrimo Rules!" at

Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Snowflake Method: How to Plan and Write a Novel

"Good fiction doesn't just happen, it is designed." (Randy Ingermanson)

Randy Ingermanson, author of six books, has a foolproof way to write a novel called the Snowflake Method.  You start small, with a basic triangle, and build it up using many interconnecting triangles. It's a way to manage your creativity, to keep your writing on track. Follow the steps at  Here is a synopsis of the Snowflake Method.

The steps of the Snowflake Method courtesy

Step 1

Take an hour and compose one sentence to summarize the story ex. "A rogue scientist travels back in time to kill apostle Paul."  Think of the big picture.  Your sentence should be short, no more than 15 words.  Do not mention any character's names in the sentence.  Tie together the big picture and the personal story.  Read one line blurbs from the New York Times bestseller list to get ideas.  You can use this sentence as your pitch when you try to publish your book.  This is the triangle step of your snowflake.

Step 2

Take an hour to expand your sentence to a paragraph.  It should be five sentences in length.  The first sentence describes your story's set up.  The next three sentences describe ensuing disasters and the last sentence summarizes the ending.  This paragraph can be used as your story proposal.  This is the second triangle step of your snowflake.

Step 3

Devote an hour to writing a one page summary of each character in your book which includes:

  • the character's name
  • the character's motivation
  • the character's goal
  • the character's conflict
Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be perfect.  Keep the forward momentum going.

Step 4

Take several hours and expand each sentence of the summary to a paragraph.  All but the last paragraph should end in a disaster.  

Step 5

Take a day or two and write a one page description of each major character.  Tell the story from the character's point of view.  "Great fiction is character driven" according to Mr. Ingermanson.  Editors will eat it up.

Step 6

Take a week and expand your one page plot synopsis to four pages.  Your triangle is starting to look like a basic snowflake by this point.

Step 7

It's time to make a character chart.  Give each character a birth date, description, history, motivation and how he or she changed during the course of the story.  This is the stage where a published novelist would start writing the first draft or an unpublished novelist would write the proposal.

Step 8

Write a four page synopsis.  Use a spreadsheet to make a list of the scenes to turn the story into a novel.  It's like a "story at a glance".  Devote one line to each scene, point of view, plot and number of pages.  Mr. Ingermanson's spreadsheets usually total 100 lines.  Your snowflake should be acquiring much more detail by now.

Step 9

Take one week to write a narrative description of your story.  The one line descriptions in your spreadsheets should now be paragraphs detailing the essential conflict, important dialogue.  Write one to two pages per chapter, making about 50 pages in total.  This is your chance to revise.

Step 10

Pound out your first draft.  The story should fly off your fingertips.  According to Randy Ingermanson, planning out your story in such detail can triple your fiction writing speed.  "No reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150," he explains.  Midway through your draft, fix any broken parts of your design document.  You will be thrilled at how deep your story has become, according to Mr. Ingermanson.  

Note:  Snowflake Pro software is available to order online at

For more information, read Randy Ingermanson's book Writing Fiction for Dummies.