September is fiction-heavy, but that won’t be the case every month. I already know that October is heavy on author bios. Anyways, here we go!
Books about book are my favorite kinds of books. Publisher description:
A brilliant scholar imparts the lessons bequeathed by the Black community and its remarkable artists and thinkers.
Farah Jasmine Griffin has taken to her heart the phrase “read until you understand,” a line her father, who died when she was nine, wrote in a note to her. She has made it central to this book about love of the majestic power of words and love of the magnificence of Black life. . . .
Here, she shares a lifetime of discoveries: the ideas that inspired the stunning oratory of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, the soulful music of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, the daring literature of Phillis Wheatley and Toni Morrison, the inventive artistry of Romare Bearden, and many more. Exploring these works through such themes as justice, rage, self-determination, beauty, joy, and mercy allows her to move from her aunt’s love of yellow roses to Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter in America.”
Griffin entwines memoir, history, and art while she keeps her finger on the pulse of the present, asking us to grapple with the continuing struggle for Black freedom and the ongoing project that is American democracy. She challenges us to reckon with our commitment to all the nation’s inhabitants and our responsibilities to all humanity.
New works by brilliant Pulitzer winners are always of interest to writers (or at least they are to me!). Enjoy the story; learn from the craft. Publisher description:
The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He’s also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin’s emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain…
With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son’s ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers’s most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?
Writerly memoirs are always a joy; this blend of genres promises to deliver big-time. Publisher description:
Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate, invites us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her poet-warrior road. A musical, kaleidoscopic, and wise follow-up to Crazy Brave, Poet Warrior reveals how Harjo came to write poetry of compassion and healing, poetry with the power to unearth the truth and demand justice.
Harjo listens to stories of ancestors and family, the poetry and music that she first encountered as a child, and the messengers of a changing earth—owls heralding grief, resilient desert plants, and a smooth green snake curled up in surprise. She celebrates the influences that shaped her poetry, among them Audre Lorde, N. Scott Momaday, Walt Whitman, Muscogee stomp dance call-and-response, Navajo horse songs, rain, and sunrise. In absorbing, incantatory prose, Harjo grieves at the loss of her mother, reckons with the theft of her ancestral homeland, and sheds light on the rituals that nourish her as an artist, mother, wife, and community member.
See my note re: Bewilderment. Publisher description:
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.
Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked. To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. . . . Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time. . . . Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote across nearly all genres. Writers like that are especially interesting to me; how do they manage to write well in fiction, philosophy, memoir, etc.? This new novel from the late feminist is well worth studying, for the craft as much as for the story. Publisher description:
A never-before-published novel by the iconic Simone de Beauvoir of an intense and vivid girlhood friendship
From the moment Sylvie and Andrée meet in their Parisian day school, they see in each other an accomplice with whom to confront the mysteries of girlhood. For the next ten years, the two are the closest of friends and confidantes as they explore life in a post-World War One France, and as Andrée becomes increasingly reckless and rebellious, edging closer to peril. . . .
Deemed too intimate to publish during Simone de Beauvoir’s life, Inseparable offers fresh insight into the groundbreaking feminist’s own coming-of-age; her transformative, tragic friendship with her childhood friend Zaza Lacoin; and how her youthful relationships shaped her philosophy. Sandra Smith’s vibrant translation of the novel will be long cherished by de Beauvoir devotees and first-time readers alike.
The title alone makes me want to read this one. Any writer can relate, yeah (even if you aren’t an “author”). Publisher description:
There are plenty of books and tips on writing faster, learning more marketing tactics and strategies, trying to maximize your ranking, hitting the top of the charts, juicing the algorithms, and hacking different ad platforms. While these are all important things — which the authors themselves regularly write and talk about — it’s also important to recognize that your author journey is a marathon, and not a sprint.
Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre have been in the business long enough to see authors burning out and leaving the writing life because they turned what they love into a hamster wheel of ever more production and marketing tasks they hate. It doesn’t have to be this way.
This book is a collection of tips on how to be a more relaxed author — and return to the love that brought you to writing in the first place.]]>
If you’re writing a book, the importance of an outline can’t be denied. The benefits are just too numerous to ignore: you’ll improve your book’s continuity, you won’t have to fight writer’s block as much (because your next chapter is mapped out!), the writing will almost inevitably be faster, and it frees you up to actually spend time on the craft versus the what of the book.
Not all outlines are created equally, though. Today, we’re releasing our non-fiction template. Fiction will be coming later this fall.
It’s all set up in Google Docs for you. Click the button above, fill out the short form, and you’ll be emailed a link to a view-only Google Doc. (We ask for your phone number only for our internal records; we will not sell it to a junk call/text company.)
You’ll copy/paste the template into your own Docs and get working. What I love about this outline is that it includes the front and end matter that’s often so annoying to put together — introduction, acknowledgements, notes, etc.
This book outline template also helps you map out nearly every paragraph of the important stuff — your content! Use as much or as little outlining as you like, but you should definitely, at the very least, have an idea of the main thrust of each chapter and how to get there.
Give it a shot. Even if you’ve only been noodling with the idea of writing a book, this tool can help crystallize your idea and catalyze your motivation. If you’ve been writing for ages and don’t seem to be making headway, an outline can give you the push you need to finally finish.
Either way, I hope it’s a great help for your writing process.]]>
While some writers can crank out a 500-word blog post without too much trouble, coming up with 100,000 words is an entirely different endeavor.
So you’re writing a book for the first time. How do you make the time? And how do you break down such an enormous and intimidating project into manageable chunks?
Follow these steps to manage the process from brainstorming to writing, editing, publishing and marketing.
If you put “write a book” on your to-do list next to “pick up bread at the grocery store,” it’s easy to never get it done.
Writing a book can be intimidating, so the best way to tackle the project is to first break it down into more manageable tasks.
While it’s important to identify the tasks ahead, it’s also important not to get too bogged down making huge to-do lists. If you write 10 pages of tasks, it’s easy to sigh and put the project aside indefinitely. You don’t need to outline every task. Just a basic idea should do the trick to get started.
Early on, it’s probably better to leave large steps such as “marketing plan” as a step, without detailing every element of it since it can be overwhelming to have a massive to-do list.
You’ll have a number of basic “large steps” that you know you’ll need to get to like brainstorming, writing, editing, publishing and marketing. It’s helpful to know what these steps are, but you don’t need to spend too much time fretting about the intricacies of finding a publisher when you’re still in the brainstorming phase.
It’s always helpful to have an idea of what you’re working toward and to have an overview of how the process will work, but if you find yourself deep in the weeds, you’ll get bogged down with details.
Once you have the big steps outlined, start with the first one and break it down into smaller actionable steps. For example, “brainstorming” could turn into “brainstorm characters” or “brainstorm settings” and other important details.
Outline your book faster by clicking here to download a FREE book outline template by Self-Publishing School (choose nonfiction or fiction & get the right one for you)! Once you’ve started, it’s often easiest to batch your tasks. When you’re brainstorming about a character, it can be hard to suddenly switch gears and move to your marketing plan. Everyone works differently, but it’s often easiest to batch similar tasks together so once you get on a roll, you can keep it going. For example, if you’re writing a nonfiction book and have a series of interviews you need to transcribe, it’s often easier to spend an afternoon transcribing all of them than to switch back and forth between transcribing, editing chapters and developing chapter outlines all in the same afternoon. Experiment to find what works best for you, but once your brain gets going on one path, it’s often best to let it continue down that path for a while. If you have a day job or other freelance commitments, it can be hard to find time for your project. But if you schedule some time every day or week as your book writing time, that can be very helpful in terms of getting things done. Mark the time on your calendar and don’t let any other projects or commitments interfere with this time. If you want to get your project done, you’ll need to make it a priority. Use your body rhythm to your advantage and plan time when you’re at your writing best. Morning people might get up at 5 a.m. to squeeze an hour of writing into each morning. But if you’re a hard-core night owl, that would be akin to torture — and unproductive. It’s almost impossible to find the best words when you can barely stay upright. Some find a mid-afternoon slump their least productive time of day while others hit their stride around 3 p.m. Use your body rhythms to your advantage and guard this time as you would any other important task, like a meeting. If you are working with a publisher, you likely have a series of deadlines to meet, but if you’re going to self-publish, or you don’t have a publisher yet, that’s trickier. It can be hard to find the motivation to push through writer’s block and procrastination and make your project happen. So set some deadlines. Create deadlines for various stages of the project (such as chapter deadlines, first draft deadlines, etc.) and mark them on your calendar. Remind yourself with alarms and sticky notes. Treat them as you would any other important deadline. If external motivation is something you find helpful, set a time for a critique group to look at your work. You’ll have to get it ready by the time you meet with them. Or sign up for a writing conference and a critique session. If you’ve already signed up and paid, that’s a good incentive to pull things your work together in time. Accountability can be tricky when you’re working on your own project. Consider a calendar and giving yourself a literal gold star or unicorn sticker for each day you hit your target (whether that’s working on the project for an hour or writing 500 words a day). Spreadsheets can also be helpful as you can record the number of words you write or log your hours. Adding the numbers up is a great motivation to feel like your small steps are adding up to something big and exciting. Consider signing up for NaNoWriMo or other community-focused writing events that help people work towards goals. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always meet your goals. But use them to stay sufficiently motivated to keep things moving. Working with a friend to collaborate and congratulate each other on making your word count is also very helpful. Just like a gym buddy gets you to work out and meet your fitness goals, a writing buddy can help you meet your writing goals. Writing a book is a huge task, and it’s one that has to become a priority for it to happen. By treating it like a series of important deadlines and tasks that must be completed, you’re setting yourself up for success.
2. Batch your tasks
3. Schedule your to-do tasks
4. Set deadlines
5. Stay on track
Outline your book faster by clicking here to download a FREE book outline template by Self-Publishing School (choose nonfiction or fiction & get the right one for you)!
Once you’ve started, it’s often easiest to batch your tasks.
When you’re brainstorming about a character, it can be hard to suddenly switch gears and move to your marketing plan.
Everyone works differently, but it’s often easiest to batch similar tasks together so once you get on a roll, you can keep it going.
For example, if you’re writing a nonfiction book and have a series of interviews you need to transcribe, it’s often easier to spend an afternoon transcribing all of them than to switch back and forth between transcribing, editing chapters and developing chapter outlines all in the same afternoon.
Experiment to find what works best for you, but once your brain gets going on one path, it’s often best to let it continue down that path for a while.
If you have a day job or other freelance commitments, it can be hard to find time for your project.
But if you schedule some time every day or week as your book writing time, that can be very helpful in terms of getting things done.
Mark the time on your calendar and don’t let any other projects or commitments interfere with this time. If you want to get your project done, you’ll need to make it a priority.
Use your body rhythm to your advantage and plan time when you’re at your writing best.
Morning people might get up at 5 a.m. to squeeze an hour of writing into each morning. But if you’re a hard-core night owl, that would be akin to torture — and unproductive. It’s almost impossible to find the best words when you can barely stay upright. Some find a mid-afternoon slump their least productive time of day while others hit their stride around 3 p.m.
Use your body rhythms to your advantage and guard this time as you would any other important task, like a meeting.
If you are working with a publisher, you likely have a series of deadlines to meet, but if you’re going to self-publish, or you don’t have a publisher yet, that’s trickier.
It can be hard to find the motivation to push through writer’s block and procrastination and make your project happen.
So set some deadlines. Create deadlines for various stages of the project (such as chapter deadlines, first draft deadlines, etc.) and mark them on your calendar. Remind yourself with alarms and sticky notes. Treat them as you would any other important deadline.
If external motivation is something you find helpful, set a time for a critique group to look at your work. You’ll have to get it ready by the time you meet with them.
Or sign up for a writing conference and a critique session. If you’ve already signed up and paid, that’s a good incentive to pull things your work together in time.
Accountability can be tricky when you’re working on your own project.
Consider a calendar and giving yourself a literal gold star or unicorn sticker for each day you hit your target (whether that’s working on the project for an hour or writing 500 words a day).
Spreadsheets can also be helpful as you can record the number of words you write or log your hours. Adding the numbers up is a great motivation to feel like your small steps are adding up to something big and exciting.
Consider signing up for NaNoWriMo or other community-focused writing events that help people work towards goals.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always meet your goals. But use them to stay sufficiently motivated to keep things moving.
Working with a friend to collaborate and congratulate each other on making your word count is also very helpful. Just like a gym buddy gets you to work out and meet your fitness goals, a writing buddy can help you meet your writing goals.
Writing a book is a huge task, and it’s one that has to become a priority for it to happen. By treating it like a series of important deadlines and tasks that must be completed, you’re setting yourself up for success.
“I’m dying for a break,” said my client Tim, the chief physician of adult and family medicine at a large health care system. “But even when I try to take a single weekend off, I can’t seem to go more than a few hours without opening my work email. Logically I know I don’t have to — and I don’t really want to — but I feel compelled to check. To be honest, I become restless and insecure if I don’t.”
“I thought that when I finally secured funding and launched this business I’d be content,” said Samantha, an entrepreneur at a fast-growing technology company. “But I was wrong. And I’m a bit worried that if this isn’t enough, I’m not sure what will be.”
“I’ve long felt the pull of distraction and I’ve long had a tendency to overthink things,” explained Ben, the CEO of a large software company. “Yet it feels intensified now. Like hyper-distraction. It’s harder than ever to be present. I can deal with it; but I don’t like it.”
“I cannot stop obsessing about getting my book published by a major house,” bemoans my friend Ben. “I wish I could, but it’s become this nagging force pulling on my self-esteem.”
Here’s my other friend, Sarah: “I thought that once I got published by a major house I’d be satisfied. But it turns out, now I spend all that time thinking about hitting a major bestseller list. And on social media. And on all these other sources of stimulation that are not writing.”
Everyone wants to be successful. But few people take the time and energy to define the success they want. As a result, they spend most, if not all, of their lives chasing what society superimposes on them as success. Examples include a bigger house, a faster car, a more prestigious position, greater relevance on the internet, and so on. Yet, even if someone finally attains these so-called successes, they are often left wanting.
Many men describe an ever-present pressure, a cumbersome need to be bulletproof, invincible. Many women report feeling like they must be everything always, continually falling short of impossible expectations. I’ve come to call this heroic individualism: an ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both self and others, paired with the limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success. Even if you do a good job hiding it on the outside, with heroic individualism you chronically feel like you never quite reach the finish line that is lasting fulfillment.
Long before heroic individualism, in ancient eastern psychology there was a concept known as the hungry ghost. The hungry ghost has an endless stomach. He keeps on eating, stuffing himself sick, but he never feels full. It’s a severe disorder. And it is one that too many people are still suffering from, as evidenced by skyrocketing rates of anxiety, loneliness, depression, burnout, and substance abuse.
It’s none of our faults, per se. After all, the survival of a consumerist economy, like the one most of us live in, depends on the creation of hungry ghosts and heroic individuals: people who feel like they never have enough, always on the lookout for more, trying to fill emptiness with stuff and outward achievement, on a treadmill that keeps spinning round and round. But you, me — all of us — can choose to opt out of this game. You just have to know how.
Enter: groundedness, a transformative path to success that feeds — not crushes — your soul.
Groundedness is internal strength and self-confidence that sustains you through ups and downs. It is a deep reservoir of integrity and fortitude, of wholeness, out of which lasting performance, well-being, and fulfillment emerge. Groundedness does not eliminate passion, productivity, or all forms of striving and ambition. Instead, it is about ditching an omnipresent and frantic anxiety to begin living in alignment with your innermost values, pursuing your interests, and expressing your authentic self in the here and now. When you are grounded there is no need to look up or down. You are where you are, and you hold true strength and power from that position. Your success, and the way in which you pursue it, becomes more enduring and robust. You gain the confidence to opt out of the consumer-driven rat-race that leaves you feeling like you are never enough. And, you get much better as a writer—because you can focus on the craft itself, not all the stuff surrounding it.
The concept of groundedness is the result of the last five years I’ve spent coaching, researching, and reporting for my own new book, The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds — Not Crushes — Your Soul. It is drawn from both the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, as well as age-old teachings from Buddhism, Taoism, and Stoicism. It offers six principles as a roadmap to a different kind and better kind of success.
As you’ll see below, each of these principles is especially important for writers.
Seeing clearly, accepting, and starting where you are. Not where you want to be. Not where you think you should be. Not where others think you should be. But where you are. You can’t work on something in a meaningful way if you refuse to accept that the thing is happening to begin with. You don’t have to like what is happening, but you have to accept it.
Many writers fall into the trap of wishing they had this deal or that deal, that they got their work accepted by this publication or that one. As a result, we tend to engage in a lot of wishful thinking. This wishful thinking often gets in the way of the writing itself. Acceptance means focusing on the work, even if you don’t already have publishing glory lined up. After all, there is no publishing glory without doing the butt-in-the-chair work. If you are struggling to get started, remember: you don’t need to feel good to get going, you need to get going to give yourself a chance at feeling good.
Being present, both physically and mentally, for what is in front of you. Spending more time fully in this life, not in thoughts about the past or future. Distraction is tempting — perhaps for some, even addicting — but the research is clear: happiness, well-being, and peak performance emerge from full engagement in what you are doing.
Writers, take note: do not rely on your willpower to overcome distraction. Schedule time to write, and during that time, keep your phone in another room, close your internet browser, turn off your email client. If that’s not enough, consider buying a cheap computer with no internet connection, and use it only for writing (something I’ve done before when struggling with distraction).
Giving things time and space to unfold. Not trying to escape life by moving at warp speed. Not expecting instant results and then quitting when they don’t occur. Realizing that we often do things quickly — not better, but quickly — to gain time. But what is the point if in the time we gain we just do more things quickly? I have yet to meet someone who wants their headstone to read, “They rushed.”
Let the process unfold. This often means stopping a bit short today so you can pick up in a good rhythm tomorrow. Earnest Hemingway was known for forcing—that’s right, forcing—himself to stop working when he was still in a groove so he could resume from that place the next morning. There is nothing wrong with a marathon session; but don’t make it a habit. Consistency compounds. Small steps—or in this case, sentences—taken every day compound into something big.
Being real with yourself and with others, at work and in life. Eliminating cognitive dissonance, the inner turmoil and distress that arises when too much of your outward life is performative, when there is too wide a gap between what the sociologist Erving Goffman called your “front stage” and “back stage” selves.
Don’t be scared to take big swings and to put your heart on the page. Writing that feels the most vulnerable is also writing that resonates the most with other people. Why? Because everyone is going through something always. What feels unique to you rarely is. Research shows the more vulnerable we are, the more connected to other people we become. This is every bit as true on the page as it is off of it. This is how to stay grounded.
Nurturing genuine connection and belonging. Building supportive spaces in which individuals can hold each other through ups and downs. Prioritizing not just productivity, but people too. Remembering that on our deathbed we are less likely to harp on the gold-medal, promotion to regional vice president, best-seller, or any other outward achievement, and more likely to savor the bonds and relationships we forged along the way.
The best way to get better at any craft, including writing, is to surround yourself wisely. Connect with other writers. Share you work. Brainstorm together. The title and the sub-title of The Practice of Groundedness both came from conversations with other writer friends.
Regularly moving your body so that you fully inhabit it, connect it to your mind, and as a result become more situated wherever you are. This doesn’t mean you have to be an athlete. It just means to make movement a part of your life, even if only in some small way.
Study after study shows that the single best way to enhance creativity is to move your body. I consider exercise a part of my job as a professional writer. At least 60 percent of my best ideas have come while on the trail. Even though it can feel like you are sacrificing precious writing time to exercise, it’s actually the opposite that is true. By moving your body, you are bolstering what you bring to the table during your precious writing time.
Brad Stulberg’s new book, upon which this story is based, The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success that Feeds — Not Crushes — Your Soul, is out now.]]>
I’ve been writing for a long time – for a living and for pleasure. Looking back into the recesses of time I can just about pinpoint the first pen pal letters I wrote. A teacher at my primary school had been approached by another at a different school and asked if anyone would volunteer to be a pen pal. My hand shot up. As it did when Jeremy asked his Twitter followers if anyone would like to write an essay on how pen pal letters help craft writing skills. My first thought was that any writing does – emails, social media posts, reports, formal letters. They’re all a way of honing our skills. But the intimacy of writing to pen pals gives you much more freedom of expression — one of the fundamentals of good writing.
After that early introduction to pen pal writing, it was a few years before another opportunity arose. I’d done a personal assistant’s course at a local tech college and one of the students was Malaysian – Chooi-Ping. Forgive me if I’ve spelt her name wrong after all these years, but we conversed for some time; her airmail envelopes, with their foreign stamps always gave me a thrill of anticipation when they landed on the door mat. I learnt a lot about a different culture through the letters and, also, that people have fundamental similarities. The same fears, hopes, and pleasures.
A few years later I started up a correspondence with a Bulgarian called Maya who’d been my translator on a journalism assignment. The letters eventually petered out, as they often do, but a connection was made – and she recently contacted me on social media.
Those early experiences were a good exercise in formal, restrained correspondence – you rarely open up completely to people you haven’t shared life experiences with. But the letters certainly contributed to my writing skills; I had to choose what words and expressions to use when writing to a friend who had English as a second language. And, of course, I learnt a huge amount about different countries and the associated styles of writing.
That said, one of the most rewarding forms of pen pal writing is when you can let rip. I have been blessed with several exceptional pen pals over the years – two good friends who moved away and the third someone who you could categorise as a pure pen pal. I’d never met her “in the real.”
I am still writing via email, text, and FB messaging to two of these people, one for nearly 40 years! Let’s start with Ben – as I will call him, to spare his blushes if he happens to read this article.
Ben is one of the funniest men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and his letters would have me in stitches. I’ve kept some of his beautifully hand-written letters in my special tin suitcase (yes, I am that soppy) and his inventiveness and wit undoubtedly inspired me to write better. Most of our correspondence was light and entertaining, but occasionally it would touch on some matter or other that was concerning either one of us and the tone would change, the words and sentence structure reflecting this.
These are skills that all writers need and the beauty of writing to a pen pal is that you can write with little fear of recrimination or judgement. You can write about the weather, or the places you’ve visited, themselves fantastic exercises in description and observation, and then you can reveal those other experiences, the ones that search your soul and enrich your life and writing.
My other great pen pal is a woman I’ll call Vicky. I can only describe her as the ultimate pen pal. First off, we started writing to each other without ever meeting – in true pen pal fashion. We had been part of an online writers’ community and I only knew her by her pen name. However, the site was a hotbed of cracking writers and characters and her personality, like many others, shone through her online contributions. She was fun and competitive – the site had a unique competition structure, and she was always in there with an entry jostling for the top story/poem spot of the day. When the site shut down after a few years Vicky sought me out via Facebook and our relationship flourished. We exchanged lengthy messages, covering many key aspects of our lives. I learnt about her family, and she mine. Our children were of similar ages, so we wrote about the travails of education. We went through a truly difficult period together, with our mothers both ailing and dying at the same time. I also went through a difficult separation and, years later, ventured onto the dating scene – sharing the experiences was cathartic and a wonderful way to express powerful emotions in words. On a practical level, Vicky advised me and encouraged me with my writing. She read chapters of my new book, Fairest Creatures, and made helpful suggestions.
Writers do not write in a vacuum. we write from experience and the creative process of relating our lives to a pen pal hones our communication skills.
There has never been a more pleasurable interactive writing experience. It can be spontaneous and stress-free – no one is going to edit those gems. You might even decide to store some away for that future novel. Never forget, you are writing to a pal. Someone who wants to hear from you and loves to respond and encourage. Like all good conversations, listen and learn, as well as relate and emote. Express yourself and be entertained, take advice and give it if asked and don’t be afraid to be moved by your confidences. This is part and parcel of great literature.
Let me end with a spooky thing about my pen pals – often when I think it’s time to contact them, or something significant happens in my life, they make contact. It used to be a welcome plop on the door mat; now it’s more likely to be a ping on my phone. Pen pal lines of communication can be downright magical.
Karen Taylor is an author and journalist. Her serial killer thriller Fairest Creatures is being published by Leamington Books on October 15. Available on Amazon and in Waterstones in paperback and digital.]]>
How much does an editor cost, though? Is it going to break the bank and wipe out your revenue?
I wish I could give you a firm rule: that proofreading will always cost one cent per word, copyediting two cents per word, and developmental editing three cents per word.
But the truth is much hazier than that. How much a book editor costs depends on several factors.
So my goal here is to flesh out those factors and give you a sense of how much book editing might cost. Freelance editing rates vary widely from one editor to the next, so I’ll also help you think through how to compare different editors and decide which one to hire.
Table of Contents
How Much Does an Editor Cost?
7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Editor
How to Compare Editing Costs
How much an editor costs, as with any self-publishing service, depends on a lot of factors. That said, for copyediting/proofreading, you’re generally looking at $1,000-$3,000 per book. For developmental editing — the higher level stuff — you’ll be looking at $5,000-$10,000 per book.
There’s obviously a lot of room in there, so let’s break down some hard numbers and actual rates.
Many writers point to the Editorial Freelancers Association rates page as a guide toward setting editorial rates. (Disclaimer: I’m a member of the EFA.)
The EFA rates page lists various editing and writing tasks and their attendant hourly rates as self-reported by EFA members who took the rates survey. They break down editing into five subcategories and list proofreading as a separate category. (Tip: they also list per-hour and per-word rates for writing work.)
For comparison purposes, let’s look at the editing rates and use an average page-per-hour and an average hourly rate. For instance, the EFA lists basic copyediting of 5–10 pages per hour at a cost of $30–$40 per hour, so I’ve assumed 7.5 pages per hour at a cost of $35 per hour. The other total calculations also use their respective average rates.
For a 70,000-word book, your editing costs could be:
It’s easy to extrapolate from this what your total expected editing cost could be. Fantasy, sci-fi, and epic novel writers should be forewarned.
For a 120,000-word book, your editing costs could be:
While these are simply one website’s average estimates for editorial costs, they serve as a reliable benchmark.
If you end up paying more for an editor, you might be glad you did. As in life, so too in books: you often get what you pay for.
think through these questions. They’ll help you figure out how much you’ll need to pay an editor to review your book.
What does a book editor do? Not all editing is created equal. Here are a few different kinds of editing:
Developmental editing costs more than copyediting, and copyediting costs more than proofreading.
Book editors for hire typically charge by word count or page count. Some charge by the hour, but that’s rare, especially for editing long books.
Knowing your total word count is essential to an editor’s cost estimations for taking on your project.
Editing academic work to a niche style guide will cost more than editing a novel per the Chicago Manual of Style.
Editing a book with hundreds of footnotes or endnotes should cost more than editing a book without citations.
In other words, the complexity and niche of your work will affect the book editing rate.
How quickly do you need the work done? The more flexible you are with your deadline, the less you might pay.
If you ask for your 100,000-word novel to be copyedited within two weeks, you might have to pay a premium for such a fast turnaround, especially if your editor is already booked.
Do you consider yourself a beginner, mid-level or expert writer?
By default, beginning writers will need more help, which means more time, which can mean more money.
An experienced editor can often take a look at an excerpt from a manuscript, get a feel for your experience level, and deduce the amount of time they need to edit the full manuscript.
For the beginning writers: always look at hiring an editor as an investment in both your book and yourself. With the right editor, you should grow as a writer because of the feedback.
A novice editor will cost less than an editor with decades of experience and multiple best-sellers in their portfolio.
Of course, you get what you pay for, and an experienced editor might bring more value.
Likewise, if you want to work with an editor who’s in high demand and booked six months out, you’ll likely have to pay more than if you choose to work with an editor who has lots of room in her schedule.
If an editor is booked solid, can you afford to wait six months to get the editor you want?
Or, will you pay a premium to jump their queue if they offer such an option? Or, will you choose a lesser-known or less experienced editor at a lower price so that you can have your editing accomplished faster?
If you’d like to get truly organized about your search, use this editor comparison spreadsheet template to help in your search for an editor who meets most of your desired criteria and offers freelance editing rates you’re willing to pay.
I say “most of your desired criteria” because it’s rare to find an editor who will meet all your criteria. For instance, you may have to pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars more for your top pick. Or, you may find someone at your precise price point, but their experience isn’t quite what you’d like it to be. You must be the one to assess what trade-offs you’re willing to make.
By using that spreadsheet, you should be able to quickly and easily compare the editors you’re vetting.
Note: On the spreadsheet, the editor’s total cost will be automatically calculated once you insert your total word count and the editor’s per-word rate. If you’re given a per-page rate, you can calculate a per-word rate by assuming the industry standard of 250 words per page, e.g., $3 per page equals $3 per 250 words. Dividing 3 by 250 equals $.012.
If you’re given an hourly rate for freelance editing, ask the editor how many pages per hour they can edit, then extrapolate their per-word rate.
The rightmost part of the spreadsheet also includes pre-calculated per-word rates based on per-page rates.
Compiling this information is a headache (especially for math-averse writers like myself), but seeing every editor’s rate as a per-word rate will help you better compare editors.
This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.]]>
Now, take off your reader hat and don your analytical writer hat to think about what makes that story so captivating. Which writing techniques did the author use to bring the story to life? Was it the wrenching appeal to your emotions, the vivid and brutal action scenes, or the high stakes facing a character? Mastering these and other storytelling methods is the key to writing your own engaging tale.
Just as a lion is the product of all the zebras it has eaten, a writer is the product of all the books he or she has read. Reading the works of skilled writers is a fabulous way to hone your craft and learn how to effectively employ the writing tactics that help you create your own captivating story.
Here are five great examples of writing techniques that bring the story to life for readers, as demonstrated by five accomplished writers.
With any experience, you pick up more than just its sights. By describing sounds, scents, tastes and sensations, you’ll immerse readers in your story’s world.
The following scene from Saladin Ahmed’s “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the story by using senses other than sight.
Her voice is more beautiful than any woman’s. And there is the powerful smell of jasmine and clove. A nightingale sings perfumed words at me while my mind’s eye burns with horrors that would make the Almighty turn away.
If fear did not hold your tongue, you would ask what I am. Men have called my people by many names—ghoul, demon. Does a word matter so very much? What I am, learned one, is Abdel Jameela’s wife.
For long moments I don’t speak. If I don’t speak, this nightmare will end. I will wake in Baghdad, or Beit Zujaaj. But I don’t wake.
She speaks again, and I cover my ears, though the sound is beauty itself.
The words you hear come not from my mouth, and you do not hear them with your ears. I ask you to listen with your mind and your heart. We will die, my husband and I, if you will not lend us your skill. Have you, learned one, never needed to be something other that what you are?
Cinnamon scent and the sound of an oasis wind come to me.
Readers want characters with whom they can sympathize (Harry Potter) or revile (Tywin Lannister) — or both. They want to get to know the characters and learn more about their experiences in the story.
In the following excerpt from “The Children of the Shark God,” Peter S. Beagle introduces us to the protagonist quickly, but in a way that makes us care about what happens to her.
Mirali’s parents were already aging when she was born, and had long since given up the hope of ever having a child — indeed, her name meant “the long-desired one.” Her father had been crippled when the mast of his boat snapped during a storm and crushed his leg, falling on him, and if it had not been for their daughter the old couple’s lives would have been hard indeed. Mirali could not go out with the fishing fleet herself, of course — as she greatly wished to do, having loved the sea from her earliest memory — but she did every kind of work for any number of island families, whether cleaning houses, marketing, minding young children, or even assisting the midwife when a birthing was difficult or there were simply too many babies coming at the same time. She was equally known as a seamstress, and also as a cook for special feasts; nor was there anyone who could mend a pandanus-leaf thatching as quickly as she, though this is generally man’s work. No drop of rain ever penetrated any pandanus roof that came under Mirali’s hands.
Nor did she complain of her labors, for she was very proud of being able to care for her mother and father as a son would have done. Because of this, she was much admired and respected in the village, and young men came courting just as though she were a great beauty. Which she was not, being small and somewhat square-made, with straight brows — considered unlucky by most — and hips that gave no promise of a large family. But she had kind eyes, deep-set under those regrettable brows, and hair as black and thick as that of any woman on the island. Many, indeed, envied her; but of that Mirali knew nothing. She had no time for envy herself, nor for young men, either.
As authors, we must give readers insight into what makes our protagonists tick. What motivates them? What are their aspirations? In this passage, we learn that Mirali, while not conventionally beautiful, is a kind soul who works hard for her parents and is appreciated by her community. And the key? We quickly start to become invested in what happens to her.
In this scene from Frost Child by Gillian Philip, it takes the reader a moment to realize what the child witch is feeding her newly-tamed water horse — and that moment allows the strong emotion of horror to set in.
“He’s very beautiful,” I smiled. “Make sure he’s fully tame before you bring him near the dun.”
“Of course I will. Thank you, Griogair!” She bent her head to the kelpie again, crooning, and reached for her pouch, drawing out a small chunk of meat. The creature shifted its head to take it delicately from her hand, gulping it down before taking her second offering. She stroked it as she fed it, caressing its cheekbone, its neck, its gills.
I don’t know why the first shiver of cold certainty rippled across my skin; perhaps it was her contentment, the utter obliteration of her grief; perhaps it was the realisation that she and her little bow had graduated to bigger game. The chunks of flesh she fed it were torn from something far larger than a pigeon, and as the kelpie nickered, peeling back its upper lip to sniff for more treats, I saw tiny threads of woven fabric caught on its canine teeth.
By revealing a previously undetected detail that helps readers understand the implications, the author causes them to wince and recoil — and wonder what happens next. Of course, we have many emotion-evoking arrows in our writing quivers — humor, love, determination, anger, and so on. These strong emotions keep the reader engrossed in the story and curious about the characters’ futures.
The voice chosen by the author has a profound impact in how readers interpret the story and view the characters. In the following excerpt from “The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones” by Nancy and Belle Holder, the voice and sentence length quickly convey the time period and lighter tone of this comic horror story.
To begin at the beginning:
That would be instructive, but rather dull; and so we will tell you, Gentle Reader, that the intrepid Miss Merriemouse-Jones was born in 1880, a wee pup to parents who had no idea that she was destined for greatness. Protective and loving, they encouraged her to find her happiness in the environs of home — running the squeaky wheel in the nursery cage, gnawing upon whatever might sharpen her pearlescent teeth, and wrinkling her tiny pink nose most adorably when vexed.
During her girlhood, Lightning was seldom vexed. She lived agreeably in her parents’ well-appointed and fashionable abode, a hole in the wall located in the chamber of the human daughter of the house, one Maria Louisa Summerfield, whose mother was a tempestuous Spanish painter of some repute, and whose father owned a bank.
The longer sentences, combined with the choice of words like “environs,” “pearlescent,” “vexed,” “abode,” and “repute,” place the reader in a Victorian setting even without the reference to 1880. The narrator’s voice also clearly sets a tone of felicity and humor.
Just as the narrator has a distinct voice, characters should have their own unique voices to help readers distinguish one from another and to convey aspects of their personalities.V oice is a terrific tool to help readers get to know and appreciate your characters.
Of course, interesting characters and engaging dialog are important, but writing gripping action scenes is a skill all its own. Jim Butcher has mastered this skill, as shown in this excerpt from “Even Hand”:
The fomor’s creatures exploded into the hallway on a storm of frenzied roars. I couldn’t make out many details. They seemed to have been put together on the chassis of a gorilla. Their heads were squashed, ugly-looking things, with wide-gaping mouths full of shark-like teeth. The sounds they made were deep, with a frenzied edge of madness, and they piled into the corridor in a wave of massive muscle.
“Steady,” I murmured.
The creatures lurched as they moved, like cheap toys that had not been assembled properly, but they were fast, for all of that. More and more of them flooded into the hallway, and their charge was gaining mass and momentum.
“Steady,” I murmured.
Hendricks grunted. There were no words in it, but he meant, I know.
The wave of fomorian beings got close enough that I could see the patches of mold clumping their fur, and tendrils of mildew growing upon their exposed skin.
“Fire,” I said.
Hendricks and I opened up.
The new military AA-12 automatic shotguns are not the hunting weapons I first handled in my patriotically delusional youth. They are fully automatic weapons with large circular drums that rather resembled the old Tommy guns made iconic by my business predecessors in Chicago.
One pulls the trigger and shell after shell slams through the weapon. A steel target hit by bursts from an AA-12 very rapidly comes to resemble a screen door.
And we had two of them.
The slaughter was indescribable. It swept like a great broom down that hallway, tearing and shredding flesh, splattering blood on the walls and painting them most of the way to the ceiling. Behind me, Gard stood ready with a heavy-caliber big-game rifle, calmly gunning down any creature that seemed to be reluctant to die before it could reach our defensive point. We piled the bodies so deep that the corpses formed a barrier to our weapons.
A well-written action scene thrusts the reader smack into the middle of the story. It’s another way to evoke emotion and empathy for characters.
Though the protagonist in this story is actually a crime lord — not a character many of us would normally root for — you’re on his side, aren’t you? The writer’s skillful action writing technique has you imagining yourself behind the defensive barrier, wielding a shotgun, and praying the torrent of lead will prevent the demonic onslaught from reaching you.
Readers want to be taken on a journey to another place and time, with characters they care about and whose company they enjoy. Help your readers feel like they have a stake in your story’s outcome by using these writing techniques to bring your characters and settings to life.
As a writer, which books or authors do you read specifically to learn from their techniques and writing skills?]]>
You may be wondering why the effect versus affect usage even really matters, since most people can work out what you’re saying even if you use “effect” when the correct word is “affect.” Here’s why: words matter. Choosing the right words helps you communicate clearly and ensures your readers understand your meaning without having to work for it.
As a writer, you know the power of your words. When we string together individual ideas, presenting them in a beautiful, coherent thought, we help readers understand the world around them. Words can change a heart, convince a mind, and even alter the course of history. So knowing the meaning of words and using them in the correct, precise way could make all the difference to your readers.
Let’s briefly look at not only the specific definition of these words, but also affect vs effect examples, as well as a helpful acronym to keep the proper usage top of mind.
Affect is a verb (usually). Use this word when you want to impact or change a noun (person, place, or thing).
Example of “affect” in a sentence: Missing school could negatively affect your grades.
In this sentence, “missing school” has an impact on on the noun “grades,” so the correct term is “affect.”
Effect is a noun (usually). You use this word when you want to demonstrate the result of an impact or change.
Example of “effect” in a sentence: The effect of missing school was a failing grade.
In this sentence, “a failing grade” is the result of “missing school,” so the correct term is “effect.”
The simple memory trick to keep this straight is R-A-V-E-N.
RAVEN stands for:
Remember, “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. In most cases, this is how you determine when to use affect vs effect.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the English language if there weren’t times when “affect” is a noun and “effect” is a verb. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often!
When using “affect” as a noun, it’s to describe an emotion or a feeling. This usage isn’t common and can be confusing even when used correctly.
Example of “affect” as a noun: I noticed my friend’s sad affect after the movie and was concerned.
In this sentence, “the movie” made my friend sad, thus my friend’s “sad affect.”
A simpler way of phrasing could be: The movie made my friend sad, which concerned me.
When using “effect” as a verb, it means “to bring about.” It’s an old usage of the word that doesn’t come up much because it makes sentences a bit clunky.
Example of “effect” as a verb: Our words have the power to effect change.
In this sentence, “our words” can bring about “change,” so we use the word “effect” as a verb.
A less confusing sentence with the same meaning could be: Our words can lead to change.
When in doubt of whether to use affect vs effect, stick to RAVEN. You’ll be correct 99% of the time.
Since these two terms have similar meanings and sounds, it’s easy to understand why so many writers get them mixed up. Things can affect you, but they can also have an effect on you. Both are true! Do your best, and then run your piece through a grammar checker or editing tool to make sure you’re using terms properly. These tools and resources are created to help catch those pesky errors so you can communicate your message with clarity and conviction.]]>
At the time, journalism seemed like a dying industry. Public relations seemed more about marketing and business than writing. Writing and publishing books seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that I never even considered it.
But here I am, a dozen years later, doing what I love to do. The possibilities when it comes to writing are so much greater than we tend to think. Whether you want a career in wordsmithing or simply want to gain mastery over your favorite hobby, this field has so much to offer.
Here at The Write Life, as we enter a new season, the team wants to know what this site means to you. What sort of content are you looking for when you venture to thewritelife.com or open one of our emails? What does your ideal writing life look like?
We are here to serve our readers, so the more we know about your writing goals, hopes, challenges, hobbies, and career aspirations, the better we can do that.
Does the write life, for you, mean:
Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
Whether it’s one of these, all of these, or a dream not listed, let us know in the comments! Next week, we’ll feature your responses in order to provide motivation, inspiration, and hope for all of us writers out there—myself included.]]>
Lots of writers (and would-be writers) recognize that, but have yet to get started on their own ebook. Perhaps you’re one of them: you’re not sure where to begin, or you’re worried about how you’ll find the time.
I’ve been writing and publishing ebooks — for myself and for clients – since 2008, and I’ve helped lots of writers get their own ebooks finished. I’m focusing here on nonfiction ebooks, but many of the tips will also work for fiction writers.
These nine tips will help you come up with a great idea, do your research, and get your first draft written.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The biggest mistake new writers make when figuring out how to write an ebook is picking an idea they think is good, without exploring whether there’s actually a market for that topic.
Some topics might sound like great possibilities because you know there’s a big market out there. But don’t decide to write a “dieting book” or “self-help book” (or any other type of book) just because you think it will make money. You may find that the market is saturated, and only established big names are currently selling well.
Instead, choose a topic that (a) you already know a lot about and (b) you’ll enjoy writing about. This saves you doing lots of research just to get up to speed, and it substantially increases the chance that you’ll see your ebook through to a final draft.
If you’re not sure what your specialist topics are, take a look at your magazine subscriptions or the blogs that you visit frequently. These should give you some clues!
Once you’ve settled on a topic, dig deeper into these resources. You’ll probably find certain articles crop up again and again (with a different spin each time); these indicate perennially popular topics, and the core idea they cover could be a great topic for an ebook.
If you’ve got a blog or an email newsletter, then you’re well ahead in the ebook game. You not only have a ready-made audience for your work, you also have a great source of ideas.
Two simple ways to do this:
Many writers find it’s easy to get stuck at the research stage, gathering more and more articles and resources, thumbing through books again and again, jotting down great quotes, facts and references.
Avoid this by giving yourself a limited amount of time for research. That could mean setting aside, say, two weeks purely for research before you begin writing, or researching for a certain length of time as you come to each new chapter of your ebook.
This may sound obvious, but some writers are overly reliant on blog posts and articles, and don’t necessarily turn to other (e)books. Whatever your topic, it’s likely you’ll be able to find some similar books and ebooks. If you can’t, you may have to consider whether it’s too obscure to focus on.
You won’t need to read every word of every book you choose; instead, use the table of contents or index to help you find the parts most relevant to you. These can also help throw up extra ideas on aspects of the topic you might not have considered yet.
If your particular topic area has a few oft-quoted facts or statistics, it can be tempting to repeat these without double-checking them. Be careful, though: other authors won’t necessarily have verified the facts themselves.
Between 2008 and 2011, I wrote a lot of material for personal development and self-improvement blogs. One popular “fact” in this area is about the “Harvard Goal Study.”
One excellent blogger in the area, though, debunked this in a post Writing Down Your Goals — The Harvard Written Goal Study. Fact or Fiction? This helped open my eyes to the sad truth that some authors make up facts and statistics to suit them, so you do need to look for original studies, government publications, and other reputable sources of information where possible.
If you come across something presented as fact which seems odd or hard to believe, Snopes.com is a great place to turn for an initial check.
One of the simplest ways to make writing easier is to have a clear outline before you begin. Otherwise, it’s easy to get stuck a couple of chapters into your ebook.
Your outline should include, at the very least:
For most people, writing is a demanding, high-energy task, and it’s often easy to give in to distractions.
Don’t put temptation in your path: create a distraction-free environment by using a program that allows for full-screen writing, like Dark Room, Write Room, or Scrivener. Turn off your phone. Sign out of your email account, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and anything else that might make sounds or pop alerts up on your screen.
Set yourself up for success by creating an environment that supports your goals.
Once the writing is done comes the hard part: selling and marketing your book! Check out our list of resources for doing just that:
If you’ve got any tips of your own to share about how to write an ebook, or any questions about the ebook-writing process, just pop a comment below.
This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
Photo via G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock]]>