Today I have another syndicated guest post for you from writer and novelist Laura N. Roberts
. You might also enjoy reading her earlier guest post on my blog, How to Write a Novel in Just 3 Days
In her article, Laura reveals her rather idiosyncratic method for plotting a novel, based on a one-liner and a list. Take a look and see whether it could work for you!
* * *
I've written a variety of novel manuscripts over the years, many
during the national noveling month of November. My typical approach to
writing is commonly referred to as "flying by the seat of your pants,"
and although this may work in short doses, it is much harder to sustain
in novel form.
In the past I avoided the traditional outline, with
its spontaneity-crushing fascism, convinced it was a tool used by only
the most mad or tortured of authors, chained to their writing desks and
forced to retroactively outline their novels as cruel punishment by
their publishing companies (who were probably stumped as to how to
market their books, hence the need for said outline). However, I came to
realize - while plotting my most recent book - that writing something
as large as a novel truly requires adopting some method of outlining.
an outline hater, I did my best to create a painless process that would
both enable me to see where my entire novel was going in one fell swoop
and still leave the door open for spontaneous changes and writerly fun,
like incorporating random characters named by friends or having zombies
attack in the middle of an epic battle of pirates vs. ninjas. Having
completed my 3-Day Novel as a direct result of creating this new take on
the sad old outline, I'm now an outlining convert, here to preach to
you about all the ways this method will save your novel's soul.
Toss the Teacher's Method
of all, if you're anything like I was in my pre-outlining days, you
currently believe that outlines are those drab sheets your high school
English teacher foisted upon you for essay writing purposes, back in
10th grade. You're supposed to write your thesis statement, and branch
out from there with follow-up sentences that help support your
over-arching argument, right?
Start With a One-Liner
When outlining your novel, the goal is certainly to start with a one-sentence summary of the plot
, in order to solidify your mind's wanderings. But after that, it's chaos in motion, baby.
To best outline your novel, do
write down that one-liner that best conveys your story's plot. For example, for my book Ninjas of the 512
I wrote "Pirates and ninjas face off in a no-holds-barred battle of
good vs. evil - who will win?!" Okay, that's more of a question than a
sentence, but that's okay, too.
Work That List
Once you've got that under control, start making a list
A list? But that's not an outline!
it? Think about it: you've got some ideas you definitely want to
incorporate into the story. You're not quite sure how they'll all add
up, or how you'll connect the dots, but you want them all in there. How
best to capture these disparate elements, other than listing?
My pirates vs. ninjas list included
Pirates: swashbuckling, parrots, peg legs, eye patches, "YARRR!" and "AYE, MATEY!"
Ninjas: silent, deadly, nunchaku, throwing stars, all black gear, the ultimate evil?
Rick Perry is evil
Teachers losing their jobs
Rainy Day Fund
These are all elements I wanted to incorporate into my
story, each of which served as a reminder to me when I was running low
on steam. Throw in the wild, the crazy, the weird, the sane, the insane,
the stuff that even you don't really understand what you meant when you
scribbled it down off the top of your head. Everything and anything.
Get it all down on paper. The more specific an image, the better.
Pull Out Plot Points
see if you've got a few actual plot points in your list. Maybe you have
something like "Pirates and ninjas battle at Town Lake" or "Ninja
training center reveals the leader of the group is really so-and-so's
boyfriend." Start arranging those on your paper, in an order that seems
to make sense.
As you arrange your plot points, you may think of
others. Write 'em all down as you go, and keep moving them around until
they seem coherent. Remember, you can always change the order if things
crop up in the story to throw off your timeline.
Engage the Hero's Quest - And Kick His Ass
you've got your outline from A to Z, taking your characters on a
journey of some kind (this can be an actual journey, as in a quest, or a
metaphorical journey, if they're soul-searching or coming-of-age or
something hyphenated like that), be sure you've got a few plot points
that involve your main characters getting their asses kicked. Again,
this could be entirely metaphorical; perhaps your character is just
engaging in negative thinking, or is turned down for a date. On the
other hand, maybe your character ends up on the business end of a
baseball bat, or sets out to fight a Big Bad that he can't really
handle, and his ass is quite literally handed to him on a plate.
Why beat up your characters? Because you need CONFLICT. No conflict? No story.
many small conflicts with your various plot points, and you'll start to
see how your outline is going to save your soul. (Or, perhaps more
correctly, your hero's butt.)
Conflict Resolution - AKA Endings
you've got conflicts, you need resolutions. Make sure you have a few
points that show your hero getting out of a jam, or rebounding from
those conflicts you've set up. At the very end of the outline, you have
Tie everything up in a nice neat bow, or
Leave the reader dangling as a set-up for the next book in your series.
Both have their own charms; please choose your own
adventure as you see fit. Keep in mind that you will likely change your
mind as you come to the end of actually writing your novel, throwing out
a totally random, unexpected ending instead of the first one that came
to you. This is completely acceptable.
Get it? Got it? Good! That,
in a nutshell, is how to write up a nearly painless, rather
entertaining little outline for your next novel or non-academic
endeavor. Happy outlining!
Laura Roberts (right) is the author of Ninjas of the 512: A Texas-Sized
, written in just 72 hours for the 3-Day Novel Contest. In
addition to sharing her thoughts on writing faster and better, she also
writes about sex, travel and - of course - ninjas at her blog, The
Buttontapper. You can follow Laura on Twitter @originaloflaura, or read
more of her work at http://buttontapper.com
Labels: fiction, guest blog, novel, writing
Today I have a thought-provoking infographic for you, by courtesy of PMIR
(the Pain Management and Injury Relief medical center).
The graphic makes some excellent points about why sitting for too long at work can be dangerous, and why we should all spend more time standing.
This advice is particularly relevant to writers, who typically spend much of their working life sitting down.
It's something I've become increasingly aware of myself, so much so that earlier this year I switched to using a variable height "Kangaroo" worktop
. This has definitely had a beneficial effect on my health, and it's something I recommend any writer to consider.
Even if you don't decide to go down this route, however, the PMIR advice to stand up and/or walk around for five minutes every hour is a good minimum guideline to follow.
* * *
Thank you to PMIR for allowing me to reproduce their infographic. Note that I have had to reduce its size to fit on the blog, so if you have any difficulty reading it you can click through to see the full-sized version on their website.
If you have any comments on this issue, as ever, please do post them below.
Labels: health, resources
Kinspired Book Publishing
is a new product that has just been launched by London-based author, speaker and self-publisher David Lee Martin
It reveals how authors can break into the highly popular but often overlooked niche of religious, inspirational and self-help publishing, using the Kindle platform.
David has achieved considerable success in this field. He is a committed Christian, so many of his books are inspired by his faith, but he has also written self-help books, educational books, recipe books, children's books, and even marriage enhancement books.
David was kind enough to allow me a pre-launch review copy of Kinspired Book Publishing
, so here's what I found...
The core product consists of five PDF manuals. These are well-written and produced, with plenty of screen captures and illustrations.
The main manual has 34 pages. It provides an in-depth introduction to the inspirational niche. David goes into some detail about his own Christian background and his motivation for writing spiritual books. As he says himself, it's not just about the money - he also finds a lot of satisfaction in helping people in their everyday lives. The Amazon reviews of his books (some of which are reproduced in the manual) certainly seem to indicate that many people enjoy and appreciate his books.
The manual goes on to look at the various sub-niches in this field. David makes the point that you definitely don't need to have strong religious beliefs to publish this type of book. You should, though, have a genuine wish to help your readers in some way.
The latter part of the manual takes readers through some practical exercises designed to help them find suitable topics to write about. As you might expect from someone with David's background, it's inspirational stuff!
The second manual is a 33-page PDF that takes readers through setting up an account on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and publishing their first book. It's presented in the form of a slideshow, though with plenty of text content as well.
Obviously some of this will be familiar to experienced Kindle authors, but there are still some useful tidbits they may pick up, including advice on the use of different author names and publisher names.
The manual does not go into great detail about formatting a book for Kindle, but of course this is covered in many other guides, including this free one from Amazon
. There is also a bonus guide on preparing your manuscript in Microsoft Word by Di Heuser
Incidentally, David highly recommends using the popular Scrivener
software for writing and formatting Kindle e-books. He has a separate guide to this called Scrivener Unleashed
, on which buyers of Kinspired Book Publishing
can get a 50 percent discount. More details about this offer can be found in Manual 2.
Moving on, Manual 3 is called Inspired Illustrations. This is a short (7-page) guide to sourcing free and low-cost illustrations for your inspirational books.There are some great tips and resources in this. They include not just image sites but online editing software and a link to an invaluable blog post!
Manual 4 is called KDP Reach. It runs to 11 pages, and is mainly devoted to the KDP Select program. David recommends that authors enrol their books in this, and talks about how to get the maximum benefit from free promos and Kindle Countdown
deals. Again, this may be familiar stuff for experienced Kindle authors, but the manual does include a list of resources for maximizing the benefit of your promotions, which is well worth a read.
Manual 5 is called Public Domain Piggy-back. This sets out a clever strategy whereby you seek out and (re)publish Public Domain books as a means of building your reputation, publicizing your other titles, and generating more sign-ups for your mailing list. I had never thought of this before, but doing it the way David describes could work well, and is certainly something I shall consider in future.
Finally, as mentioned above, buyers get an 18-page bonus manual written by Di Heuser, which describes how to prepare your Kindle e-book in Word. There are lots of good tips in this, including guidance on the use of styles and preparing a table of contents. The only slight disappointment is that there is no advice on uploading your e-book to KDP (beyond the advice to buy a product called Kinstant Formatter
). As you can basically do this by saving your Word file in filtered HTML format and then uploading it, I'm a bit surprised this wasn't mentioned. Still, as it's a free bonus, I suppose I shouldn't quibble too much!
There are a couple of additional product offers with Kinspired Book Publishing
. One is a guide to publishing your book in print form as well using Amazon's CreateSpace
. David highly recommends doing this, incidentally. And the other is a guide to outsourcing the writing of your book using a job auction site such as Elance.com
, if you really don't want to (or can't) write it yourself.
I didn't get either of these extra products with my review copy, but I gather that they are quite modestly priced. The CreateSpace guide in particular could be a good investment, but obviously it's not necessary if you only plan to publish on Kindle.
Overall, I thought Kinspired Book Publishing
was a comprehensive and inspiring guide to breaking into the spiritual and self-help niche. This is not only a highly profitable niche for writers to get into, but potentially a very satisfying and worthwhile one too.
The product comes with a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee, which I'm sure that David with his strong Christian beliefs can be relied on to honour! It's definitely worth a look if this type of writing appeals to you.
If you have any comments or questions about Kinspired Book Publishing
, as always, please feel free to post them below.
Labels: Kindle, resources, reviews, self-publishing, writing
If you've ever used the free website-building platform Squidoo
, you are likely to have received an email from them today concerning the effective takeover of the company by HubPages
. An excerpt from the email is reproduced below...
"Here’s some good news, big news, news that will open some new possibilities for you…
HubPages is acquiring key content from Squidoo, creating the largest site of its kind in the world.
For nearly a decade, both Squidoo and HubPages have provided a home for content creators online. We’ve made it easy for people to use our platforms to share content that they care about, to tell stories, write articles and link to places that matter to them. Over the years, more than four billion visits have been made to the two sites, which host content from more than five million people.
Today, we’re announcing that as a result of this acquisition, Squidoo is moving the best of its content to HubPages. They’re the industry leader, continually pushing the envelope in terms of their content, its presentation and the traffic and traction they get online. The best way we know to serve our users is to give them an even better place for their content, and when I talked with Paul Edmondson at HubPages, it became clear to both of us that combining these platforms leads to a stronger, more efficient, more generous way to share great stuff online.
Starting in a few weeks, all traffic to Squidoo will automatically be redirected to the relevant pages on HubPages instead. We’ve been busy building transfer tools that will make it easy (and mostly automatic) for content to move from the Squidoo site to HubPages. Together with some members of the Squidoo team, I’ll be working with HubPages to ensure that we make the best possible transition and impact going forward. Squidoo pages will cease to be visible in September or early October."
I've never been a huge Squidoo user, but it's a platform I've always been interested in, and over the years I've created a number of lenses (as Squidoo pages are officially called).
Currently I have just two, these being Greece Travel Tips
and How to Write a Book
. The former is really just a fun project to share my interest in Greece, while the latter is a promotional tool for my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days
Over the years I've made a (very) small sideline income from Squidoo. I've never really had the time or inclination to pursue it more seriously, although I could certainly see the potential there.
If you're at all like me and have one or more Squidoo lenses - even if (again like me) you've done little with them for months or years - it's essential to take action in the next few weeks if you don't want to lose them altogether.
If you wish to have your lenses transferred to HubPages - which seems by far the best option to me - you should log in to your Squidoo dashboard
now and check their status. If any lenses have been marked as works-in-progress (red cross) it's especially important to take action immediately to bring them up to featured lens status. Otherwise they are unlikely to be selected for migration to the HubPages platform, and will simply vanish from the internet.
Even if your site has featured lens status, however, it's still a good idea to check and update it and then republish it. You can also promote it via Twitter, Facebook, and so on. All of these things will demonstrate that your lens is still active, and hopefully boost its ranking and get it out of WIP status (if required). Doing this should greatly improve the chances of your site being selected to make the transition to HubPages.
- Please feel free to post the URL of any lenses you may own as comments below this post. I will then visit and 'like' them, which should help boost their rankings. Please take a moment to do the same for any other lenses that may be listed, and my own Greece Travel Tips and How to Write a Book lenses as well. Thank you!
The other thing you should do now is click on the 'Set Up Your Transfer' button on your Squidoo dashboard
(see screen capture at the top of this post). You will then be able to set up your HubPages account (if you don't already have one) and add information such as your PayPal email and your Google AdSense account number.
Not only will this mean that you are ready to hit the ground running when the transfer is complete
at the start of October, it appears that people who have done this will be prioritized when accounts are transferred over.
Finally, it's a sensible idea to download the content from your lenses now, just in case they don't get picked for the transition. You should find a link allowing you to do this quickly and easily on your Squidoo dashboard
Overall, though, I am quite optimistic about this change. Squidoo and HubPages have always struck me as similar operations, so there is an obvious logic to their merging. Squidoo has, in my view, lost its way a bit in recent times, so this may be the perfect opportunity for users to rediscover their enthusiasm and start generating more money and clicks from their lenses (which will now be called hubs, of course).
If you have any comments or questions about this post, please feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them. And, as I said above, if you have any Squidoo lenses you would like to get extra traffic and 'likes' for in the weeks prior to the merger, please do post the URLs below.
Labels: news, resources, writing
What do you use as the default homepage in your browser? For me, for a number of years, it was iGoogle
As you may recall, this service gave you a personalized start page with access to Google search and other Google services, along with various other apps you could choose and arrange around the page as you wished.
Then last year Google pulled the plug on iGoogle, leaving folk such as myself needing an alternative. After some research, I settled on igHome
, a free service that provided something similar to iGoogle, though without as many apps and features.
I used this to the start of August this year, but was getting increasingly frustrated with it. For one thing, various applications simply stopped working and displayed error messages. The final straw, though, came when I was searching for "how to write erotic fiction for Kindle" in connection with an article I had been asked to write for a client (honest!).
When I searched Google via igHome, I found that the results displayed simply ignored the word "erotic" - so the search results displayed were for "how to write fiction for Kindle", which was obviously not what I wanted to know!
A bit more research revealed that by default searches on igHome use Google's "Safe Search" feature, and there appeared to be no way to bypass this. In the end I went over to Bing
and used that instead - although I did subsequently discover I could have gone direct to Google
(rather than using the search box on igHome
) and that would have worked too.
I checked out some alternative start pages and discovered Protopage
, also a free service, which is what I am using now. You can see a screen capture of my new personalized start page at the top of this post. This is still a work in progress, but in general I am very happy with it.
Incidentally, you can see a larger version of the image by clicking on it. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.
As you may gather, Protopage
is partly a browser start page, partly an RSS feed reader. It is very easy to add any feed you choose using the "Add Widget" button. As you can see, I have added a number of UK (and international) news sources.
You can also add other applications if you wish, e.g. weather forecast and currency converter (both of which I have). Other options include bookmarks, To Do lists, clocks, calendars, games, and more.
doesn't have nearly as many apps available as iGoogle or even igHome, but it still makes a good at-a-glance homepage for me. And yes, if you use Google search, it doesn't automatically censor it!
I know that in these days of tablets and smartphones, personalized browser start pages may be seen as a bit old hat - but as I work on a PC with a wide screen monitor I prefer to make good use of the space available.
But I'd still be intrigued to know what sites readers of this blog use as their browser homepages. Do you use a search engine, your own blog/website, another RSS reader, or something else? Or do you use another service like Protopage
, but maybe better? Let me know in the comments below!
Labels: resources, reviews
KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop
and Deborah Drum
I've mentioned some of Amy and Debbie's other quality products such as Publisher's Review Accelerator
, Book Trailer Treasure Map
and Description Detective
on this blog before. I also recommended their report on "underground" promotional methods, which you can still pick up via this blog post for free
if you haven't already.
KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
is what I assume to be the first in a series of blueprints for people looking to create Kindle e-books in promising nonfiction niches. It's just been
launched at a low offer price, and will be available at this price for a
limited time only.
Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
so here's what I found...
As is the way with most of Amy and Debbie's products, the content is
accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that it
can be easily updated/expanded with content of various kinds, though
don't forget to keep your log-in details somewhere you can easily find
Once you are in the members area, you will be able to access the content. There are three main sections, these being Part 1 - Niche Overview, Part 2 - Creating Your Book, and Part 3 - Promoting Your Book. Each section contains a PDF manual and also a checklist of the key points in Microsoft Word format.
Part 1 discusses the subject area you will be targeting, which is actually the "clean eating" niche. I must admit I hadn't come across this concept before, but essentially it involves paying close attention to every ingredient in the food you consume, and ensuring they are all of the highest possible quality.
Clean eating is not a diet plan as such. Rather, it is a movement or philosophy which is (apparently) getting a lot of publicity and celebrity endorsements right now. In the PDF Debbie and Amy reveal the results of their in-depth research on this niche and the type of reader it is likely to attract.
Part 2 is where they get down to the nitty-gritty of creating your book. It takes you through researching and outlining the book, editing and proofreading it, and publishing it for Kindle and other platforms including CreateSpace.
It's only fair to say that this is a lot of ground to cover, so to save space the authors provide links to other free resources they recommend. These include other websites and also specific documents, e.g. three sample MS Word outlines for clean eating books, which you can use and adapt as you wish.
Part 3 is where they discuss promoting your book. Some of this is likely to be familiar to experienced Kindle authors (and buyers of Amy and Debbie's other courses), but I found a lot of useful tips I hadn't seen before as well.
One thing I particularly liked was where they discuss how to generate back-end sales from your books, including the correct way to use affiliate links and some specific "clean eating" affiliate programs you can promote through your book for added profits. Applying this advice should boost your profits from book sales several times over, I'd have thought.
There is also a section containing training videos on cover design, Facebook research, and how to use keyword-sortable spreadsheets. These are all useful, though one criticism is that the sound quality on the Facebook video is poor at times. It's still watchable, but does make it more of an effort.
Finally, there is a comprehensive resources page. This includes links to PLR (private label right) content in the clean eating niche, research and keyword data, free image sites, blogs and websites related to clean eating, and much more. This is invaluable information, and should save you a lot of time compared with researching all these resources yourself.
Overall, I thought KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
was another high-quality offering from Amy and Debbie, and especially good value at the launch-offer price. If you are interested in targeting the promising clean eating niche, it's well worth a look. And, of course, much of the advice given would be relevant when targeting other nonfiction niches as well.
If you have any comments or questions about KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
, as ever, please do leave them below.
Labels: Kindle, reviews, writing
Earlier this year I mentioned in this post
a free fiction writing course on offer via FutureLearn
(a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).
I happened to revisit the site the other day, and noticed that the course concerned is running again in October.
The course title is Start Writing Fiction
. It comes from The Open University
(a well-respected UK distance learning institution).
Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.
On the website, it says:
This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.You will listen to established writers talk about how they started writing and consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.
You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.
You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.
The Start Writing Fiction course will be run by Dr Derek Neale
(as last time) and starts on 27 October 2014
. It will run for eight weeks, and require a commitment of around three hours a week.
The course is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the FutureLearn website
Another course I noticed that may be of interest to some readers is Introduction to Journalism
, a six-week course run by the University of Strathclyde
for anyone with an interest in learning how professional journalists work. I understand participants will also get plenty of chances to apply their journalistic talents themselves!
This course starts on 29 September 2014
and involves a commitment of around four hours a week. You can see more information and sign up here
FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses
, incidentally. I am quite tempted by the one promising to teach you to develop a mobile phone game in seven weeks
, although Discover Dentistry
also possesses a certain weird fascination!
- Don't forget to leave a message below if you sign up for a FutureLearn course, so that other readers of this blog who are also enrolled can look out for you!
Labels: events, fiction, writing
I'm a bit off-topic today, but I wanted to let you know about a special promotion currently being held by my friends at the self-development and brainwave-entrainment company Inspire3
Among other things, Inspire3 produce the popular Brain Evolution System
and Brain Salon
products (both of which I use myself and recommend).
Right now they are giving away a free "Eliminate Stress"
MP3, a free copy of the (excellent) e-book The 18 Rules to Happiness
by my old friend (and former publisher) Karl Moore
, and a 10 percent discount voucher for any purchases you may like to make. Just click through this link to claim this free offer
There is no obligation to buy anything. The aim of the promo is simply to raise awareness of the Hypnosis Live online store
. Through this site you can buy self-hypnosis MP3s designed to assist
with a huge range of issues, from boosting intuition to stopping
smoking, improving your self-esteem to overcoming stage fright.
- There is even a session titled Be a Better Writer,
which uses the power of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP)
to boost your writing skills and "unleash your inner Shakespeare".
There are almost 200 different sessions on offer in the Hypnosis Online store, in the following categories:
- Mental Skills
- Fear, Worry, Anxiety
- Self Growth
- Personal Improvement
- Body Improvement
All sessions are professionally recorded by qualified hypnotherapist and master NLP practitioner Julie-Ann Amos
They are available as instant downloads as soon as you’ve
purchased. Most last 40 minutes, and you can listen to them as many times as you like (or need).
Naturally, as the sessions take the form of audio MP3 files, you can play
them on any computer, tablet or smartphone, or on a dedicated MP3
player. The use of headphones or earphones is recommended. There is an FAQs page here
if there is anything else you need to know.
As always, comments or questions are very welcome - please do post them below.
- Check out as well the Writer's Block CD from my blog sponsors The WCCL Network. This uses the power of brainwave entrainment to help you get into a creative frame of mind as quickly as possible. Also highly recommended!
Labels: creativity, Inspiration, resources