First, learn the basics
Over the past week, I've encountered several posts in various groups by people asking how to start writing their books. They range from "How to I write a novel?" to "I don't know what to write; can you help me?"
The flippant answer is: "Once upon a time ..."
For people who have little to no experience writing books but have a story idea and want to produce the Great American Novel, there's no one sure way to do this that does not involve the following:
Just about everyone learns the basics of writing in school; however, that doesn't mean everyone is good at it. (I took advanced algebra way back when and—trust me—I am not good at math.) One way to improve your mastery of the craft of writing is to analyze your favorite authors' work. What about their writing appeals to you? Note their sentence structure, the language they use, and how they use it. Then emulate their writing. Do that enough and you'll develop your own style and voice. It also helps to understand the conventions of good grammar so that you understand the structure and mechanics of language. When you have that comprehension, you can then break those language conventions to great effect because you know when, how, and why you're doing do.
A lot of first-time authors also flounder when they finish their drafts and realize their stories are not nearly as perfect as they'd hoped. In fact, the truism is that your first draft will be garbage. Get used to it.
The first draft is meant for the writer's eyes only. It's not to be shared. The purpose of the first draft is to get the story down. The second draft is for developing and refining the story: integrating those disparate parts into a cohesive whole. This means filling in those polt holes, weaving together subplots, tying up loose ends, and finessing the language. When you've done that, it's time to work on a third draft.
Every story begins with an idea. That idea may be a "what if" type of scenario, an entire scene that ignites the urge to write, or something else. The truth is an idea is not valuable in itself. Ideas are plentiful and worthless: development of ideas takes time, effort, and skill. That's where the value lies.
The second type of aspiring author who doesn't even have an idea isn't ready to write a story. What such people want is to have written a story. If you want the title of "author" and don't have the skill, inclination, or motivation to do the actual writing, then consider hiring a ghostwriter.
Let's say you love westerns. You've watched those movies with Clint Eastwood, James Garner, John Wayne, and John Ford and you've read the books by Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey and you just love them. You want to be the author of a western. This is where AI can help you.
Enter some names that appeal to you and would be appropriate for the era. Include some character traits to add depth. Enter some plot points you want to hit: a stampede, a gunfight, a saloon brawl, a cattle drive, a stagecoach journey, a train robbery, etc. AI content generators will help you come up with a story summary or synopsis that you can adapt into an outline. Or hire a ghostwriter who will adapt the synopsis into an outline, then write an original story for you.
The "idea" is yours; the output is yours, too, because ghostwriting is work-for-hire and you will own it. The benefit of hiring a ghostwriter is that you don't have to spend countless hours (or years) mastering the craft of writing, and the ghostwriter (who has that well-developed expertise) will write the story better than you can.
Hen House Publishing specializes in fiction ghostwriting, particularly in the genres of fantasy, romance, and westerns. If you have a manuscript that's ready to progress in the publishing journey, Hen House Publishing offers substantive editing, proofreading, and book design services. Put 30-plus years of experience to work for your book.
#ghostwriting #henhousepublishing #storywriting #fictionwriting #greatamericannovel
Hiring the right people
When it comes to publishing, especially for authors who self-publish, it's important to hire the right people for the right tasks. Sure, you can do it all yourself, but is that really smart?
I have likened publishing to construction. A general contractor hires subcontractors in various specialties to do expertly what he cannot. These specialties include disparate skills in plaster, masonry, wiring, plumbing, tile, security, computer networks, etc. Just like the general contractor, the author cannot expect to be an expert at all the specialties that go into producing a top quality book: editing, proofreading, book design, cover design, marketing. OK, that last isn't really a part of book production, but it is critical to book sales.
For those authors who need some extra help, it pays to know the right kind of people to hire someone prepared to do the work as expected. It's not always a good match.
Case in point, a writer in a Facebook writing group hired a developmental editor to teach her how to master "show, don't tell." This person provided the editor with pages of her manuscript which was only in the second draft stage. The editor provided a developmental edit and returned some unkind comments, but did not provide the requested instruction.
I commented that it was possible the editor may have misunderstood the parameters of the gig. (We never got the editor's side of the story.) I also stated that editors generally don't teach. And the conversation blew up. Someone defending the original poster (OP) immediately argued that editors do teach and are, because people learn from them, teachers. I disagreed. The commentator stated that I obviously did not understand what she meant. I did; I simply disagreed with her definition of the word "teach."
The commentator stated that her definition formed the socially accepted meaning of the word "teach" and that I had extremely narrow and literal interpretations terminology. I used the Merriam-Webster definition (Merriam-Webster is the CMOS' acknowledged and preferred reference for definitions) and reiterated that editors generally don't teach as in they generally don't hire themselves out to provide instruction. The commentator told me I was stupid and deliberately confusing the issue.
I disagree with that. But then, I would. Of course. As for my narrow and literal interpretation of words, that's an occupational hazard. As a writer and an editor, I need to know the precise and correct meaning(s) of the words used to ensure they are used in the proper manner or, if not, then their meaning is understood. I did not succeed in the run of that exchange.
I agreed with the commentator on a couple of points and attempted to respond to her comments in a rational and dispassionate manner. The OP hopped into the conversation and stated she'd never hire me as an editor because I don't teach, but I'd probably be good as a proofreader which she doesn't need because she's already really good at grammar. (I think I dodged a potential bullet there.) Then she noted that I apparently believe that no editor teaches.
No, that was not what I stated. She missed the operative word: generally. I even highlighted that word as key. I also explained that I welcome questions from my clients if they don't understand the edits made to their documents. I don't consider that teaching; I consider that explanation. The author chooses whether to agree with the explanation and/or accept the edit. The author chooses whether to learn. However, my objective is not to instruct, but to foment understanding. I'm an editor, not an instructor. I don't have that kind of patience.
Once again, there appears to be an issue of reading for comprehenion. So, I'll try to make this clear:
I'm not going to argue as to who was right or wrong. I will admit to having once again unwisely embroiled myself into a lose-lose exchange with someone who doesn't care to learn when I actually am engaged in instruction. Perhaps, I, too, need to read for comprehension.
LISTEN TO A PODCAST!
Rose Cushing, the host of Speaking of Writing, interviewed Karen Smith (aka Holly Bargo). Follow the hyperlink to Rose's PODCAST.
I'm not much for social media. I cross-post from LinkedIn to Twitter and Facebook. I'm active on Facebook. I don't do TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or any of the myriad other social platforms. There are simply too many, and I have too few hours in the day and even less interest. So, let's be candid: social media is not my forte.
It's strange, though, what pops up in my news feed.
I saw a picture of the aurora borealis and clicked "Like" on it. Now I'm getting oodles of photos from diverse sites showing pictures of those mysterious and gorgeous northern lights. The same goes for the photos of the vintage Deusenberg, the skillfully crafted quilt, and the bouquet of flowers that crept into my news feed. Now my news feed is packed with such photos.
I once checked out a "DDlg" book because I'd never read one before, didn't know what the abbreviation meant, and wanted to see if it was a new genre to add to my reading list. Um ... no, it wasn't. But now I get book promos for DDlg books despite my aversion to them.
I see memes of political and social commentary that align with my personal opinions more often than anything not corresponding to what I think and feel.
I just ordered a new butter dish on Amazon because I was feeling too lazy to go shopping. I wonder how long it will be before I start seeing ads for kitchen appliances and tools and dishes will saturate my news feed.
The interconnectedness of our lives is, frankly, disturbing. On one hand, I'm often intrigued by many of the book promos that pop up in my news feed. I enjoy seeing the various new books being advertised in my preferred genres. I even buy some of them. However, the deluge of advertisements overwhelms posts by people I know. I do a whole lot of scrolling to find an friend's or family member's update.
I've noticed that ignoring the multitude of posts showing off flowers, cars, castles/mansions, quilts, and more doesn't make them go away. Even worse, advertisements for stuff in which I am utterly not interested (e.g., exercise programs) further saturates my news feed even though I occasionally go through the "don't show me this ad again" routine that Facebook or LinkedIn demands to remove the content from my news feed.
Granted, I do participate in several online groups. My participation in these groups entails learning from others and teaching others. It's a give-and-take exchange as well as a marketing activity. I hope that the contribution of my time and expertise convinces someone to hire me to either write, edit, or format their content, just as much as I hope to learn from other, more experience, better skilled professionals and maybe find one or two to assist me with my projects.