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Archive for January, 2011

Fiction That Wows!

Tags and Beats

Last time we addressed the huge problem that all writers face, even experienced authors: The Leave it to Beaver Syndrome. Putting it simply, it’s what to do with all those “Mary said,” “John replied,” “Susie screamed,” tags or the author’s identification of who said what.

 When only two characters, sometimes three, are in a scene, it’s relatively easy to delete almost all of the “who said it?” tags. Having a page of dialogue without tags helps your manuscript flow smoothly and helps the reader to really get into the story.

 But when it’s necessary to identify the speaker, what can you add that will make the story much more interesting and add useful information that is interwoven right with the dialogue? You can add “beats.”

 Beats are phrases that do not use the speech acknowledged favorites such as “said,” “asked,” “replied,” etc. Beats add action and description to your discourse without your having to write a lengthy narration “telling” details. Beats allow you to “show” the action.

 Let’s look at some examples of how you can change boring lines of dialogue with tags into lines with beats that add some pizzazz to your script. First I’ll have a dialogue example with tag; then I’ll have it rewritten with a beat. You decide which is more exciting for the reader:

******************************************

Example One:

 TAGS:

“When did Josh get married?” Heather asked.

“Last Saturday,” Bruce said.

BEATS:

“When did Josh get married?” Heather’s eyes flooded with tears and she grabbed a tissue.

Bruce’s face also melded into a mask of dismay. “Last Saturday.”

*******************************************************

Example Two: 

TAGS:

Jordan asked her father, “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

Her father answered, “Are you kidding?”

 BEATS:

Jordan’s father’s attitude made her face flush red hot. “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

 From what he had heard, Father had no intention of allowing his daughter to go anywhere with that guy. “Are you kidding?”

******************************************************

 So, there you have two simple examples of how you can put some spark into flat writing. In the tag examples, all your reader knows is that two characters are discussing something.  You have no idea how the characters are feeling about their situation. In the beat examples, we’ve brought the characters alive with emotion and action. The reader can actually get a sense of how the characters feel without the author saying, “Heather was heartbroken” or “Jordan’s father never liked Barry.”

 So there you have today’s writer’s tip. Work on your manuscript’s dialogue. Throw out the tags when they’re not needed and write interesting and informative beats that will help you write fiction that wows!

 Next time, we’ll discuss how to write beginning paragraphs that “hook” your reader.

www.marshahubler.com

www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com

www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

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Fiction That Wows Your Reader

Writing Dialogue That Flows

Last time, we discussed what I call the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome,” a creative crime that so many writers find themselves committing. Even frequently published writers like myself can easily fall prey to this “beginner’s style,” which will kill any story, if we aren’t careful.

I said that I’d rewrite the small passage of poorly written dialogue in the post to show you the proper way to handle “dialogue that flows.” First, you will see the lousy dialogue as was posted last time. Then I’ll follow with the rewritten dialogue for you to analyze both:

The “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome” Dialogue

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight, Mary,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, Pete, how about just a game of Boggle?” Mary asked.

“Mary, I can’t even do that,” Pete said. “I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mary said. “You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“Mary, I said no! I just can’t tonight, so get lost!” Pete said. “By the way, bad joke.”

BORING!

********************************************************************

Now Let’s Look at the Dialogue That Flows

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, how about a game of Boggle?” Mary went to the bookshelf and retrieved a game box.

Pete never shifted his gaze away from his history book. “I can’t even do that! I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake! You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“I said no!” Pete had finally lost all patience with his twin sister. “I just can’t tonight. By the way, bad joke.”

FLOWING!

****************************************************************************

Now, there you have the rewritten dialogue. We cut a fistful of “Mary’s” and “Pete’s,” and we added some beats instead of using so many tags.

What do you think makes this second excerpt so much more interesting?

What do you know from the second excerpt that you didn’t know from the first?

How did I accomplish filling in some details?

And what about those tags and beats? What in the world are those little entities?

Yep, tags and beats. They are SO essential to writing good dialogue.

Next time, we’ll discuss those tricks of the writing trade in detail. Learn to use tags and beats effectively, and your dialogue will have a spark that will simply“wow” your reader.

Marsha Hubler

www.marshahubler.com (website)

www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com (for horse lovers)

www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com (info. about our next writers conference)

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Before I start the new series which discusses writing fiction that wows your reader, I’d like to make two short announcements:

1.   As of today, I will be posting a new blog on Mondays only. (Once a week)

2.  If you’re a published author and would like to be featured on my blog, please contact me. I’d love to post your picture, a short bio, and your credentials along with contact information.

Now, about writing fiction that wows your reader.

We are going to discuss in detail the three most important components of good fiction:

1.  “Flowing” dialogue

2. Snappy narration

3. Creative characters

This series will run for quite a few weeks. I welcome your comments. So let’s get started and begin with how to write dialogue that flows.

Flowing dialogue? What in the world does that mean?

Flowing dialogue is “natural” dialogue or conversation in your book that sounds “normal,” that’s easy to read, and that which fits the personality and background of each character who has an important speaking part in your story.

Let’s begin this discussion with one of my pet peeves, what I call the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome.”

Anyone who is as old as I am remembers that when TV was in its early stages and just becoming a member of every household, programs like “Leave it to Beaver” were in their infancy with some of the scriptwriting quite poorly done. Such is the case in many of these early sitcoms, in particular, the dialogue between the characters.

If you are a fan of the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome,” here’s a sample of how your dialogue looks between the only two characters in your scene:

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight, Mary,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, Pete, how about just a game of Boggle?” Mary asked.

“Mary, I can’t even do that,” Pete said. “I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mary said. “You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“Mary, I said no! I just can’t tonight, so get lost!” Pete said. “By the way, bad joke.”

***

Now, there you have a prime example of the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome.”

What I’d like you to do until next time is rewrite this mini-scene and rid it of this ho-hum style that will put your reader to sleep or inspire him to use your book as kindling wood.

In my next blog, I’ll rewrite this scene, shaping it into something that isn’t as stagnant, redundant, and just downright boring.

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Speaking at Conferences, Niche Audiences, and the Like

I’ve saved this venue of marketing until last because, for me, it’s been the most effective and profitable way of marketing my books. Why? There are several reasons:

1. When I’m invited to speak, the inviting party usually pays for, at least, travel expenses. I don’t have to put my own money up front. Most of the time, I also receive a speaking honorarium as well.
2. For some reason, authors are held in high regard in our society. People want to “get close to” authors and sometimes treat them like celebrities (even though you might be a no-name), so they will buy your book to take a piece of you home with them!
It has been calculated that, when you speak, you can usually sell to at least a quarter of your audience. So, when I stand before a crowd, I usually have favorable sales. I’ve always had the opportunity to display my books on a table and sell before and after my spiel. I remember one time, I spoke on a Saturday at a ladies’ seminar in a New York town that hosted about 250 attendees. I took 50 of my Bible study guides with me and could have sold more (besides the first two books in the Keystone Stables series.)

So, if you haven’t developed a platform for yourself yet, spend some time thinking about that. If you’ve had a book published, then you can be considered an “expert” about something you’ve written. Speaking engagements WILL sell your books. You just need to get your name out there and go for it.

And what kind of speaking engagements are most profitable? Here is the list that has helped me become a best-selling author:
1. Writers conferences – other writers want to read what has brought you your measure of success.
2. Church events, i.e. ladies’ days, children’s Sunday schools, Mother/Daughter banquets, homeschool gatherings – of course, with my Bible study guide, homeschool book, and K.Stables books, these groups are my niche.
3. Schools and niche audience clubs, i.e. riding academies
4. Community organizations, i.e. Senior Citizens clubs
5. Bookstores (I’ve already addressed this issue. Make sure you are there on a BIG sales day of an authors’ fest day when a group of authors are invited) Sometimes, the manager will want you to do a reading. That helps draw an audience.
6. Radio and TV interviews (I’ve not been fortunate enough to do any TV)

And one last note about speaking. With the explosion in technology, I’ve converted all my “speeches” to colorful, graphics-active Power Points, and the audiences love them. It’s the most entertaining way to keep everyone focused on your books and you, and you can have a good time doing it, as well.

Well there you have my marketing heart in a huge nutshell.We’ve discussed 12 different venues for marketing your book over the last few weeks. Analyze your niche audience, plan a strategy to sell books, and hit the road, Jack.

[P.S. If you are a published author and would like to be featured on this blog in a new category called “Author Roll Call,” please contact me. I’d like to post a short bio, your photo, and your credentials along with your email address and website, if you so desire.]

Marsha Hubler
Best-selling Author of the Keystone Stables books
(Web) www.marshahubler.com
(Writers Tips)
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
(Writers Conference Information)
www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com
(Horse Facts Blog)
www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

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What About Self Publishing?

(No matter which way you go, you’ve got to SELL, SELL, SELL yourself and your book.)

These days, there’s a lot to be said about self publishing your own book. In fact, most of the writer friends I know have gone this route because of the difficulty, and LONG process, of being accepted and published by a royalty (paying) company.

There are several ways to go with this venue, and all involve YOUR OWN money up front, but if you want to see your name in print, it’s the only option you might have. You’ll have a choice of hard or soft cover, the number of pages, color or B/W photos, and the layout of the entire book. Here are some of your choices:

1. Go to an inexpensive “print shop” that will print exactly what you put on the CD and give them. But here’s a warning! Be sharp on your own editing and revising because there will be none from the print shop. If you spell “Mnoday” wrong in your manuscript, that’s what will be in your final product. Yes, the process is relatively cheap compared to other self publishing options, but you better be pretty darned good with your PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, spelling), or you might be embarrassed when you get your book in print and discover that your title is spelled wrong. (I actually have seen a self published book with an apostrophe used incorrectly in the title. Zowie!) Check out THE SECRET OF THE BATTY on my website www.marshahubler.com for a look see at my own “print shop” self published book, of which I am quite pleased.
2. Put some hard cash up front (like, at least $1600-$2000) and hire a reputable company to print about 200-250 of your books. Many such companies will have in-house editors who’ll work with you to make sure your book is a reflection of your best writing and their fine work. As far as marketing and promotion go, as with the first option, it’s all yours, baby. Marketing your book falls 100% in your lap, which will be a costly venture, as well. Check out RICKIE RIDES TO THE RESCUE on my website www.marshahubler.com for a sample of this type of self published book.
3. Submit your manuscript to the latest craze in self publishing: “partnership” publishing, which is becoming a very popular way to publish with struggling royalty companies. If you enter into a contract with this type of company, it will give you no money up front, BUT it won’t ask you for any money up front either. The company will provide editors to perfect your manuscript, and when the final product comes out, the company will also help to promote it by posting it on numerous websites, review sites, and markets like Amazon. Check out THE SECRET OF WOLF CANYON on my website www.marshahubler.com for this final product. (The publishing company that did this book became a “partnership” company right after they finished my project. I was the last book they published where the author had to put his/her money up front. Gosh and gee whiz, what an honor!)

Now, if you decide that you no longer have the patience to wait for a royalty company to come knocking on your door and you do have the capital to proceed, then go for it. Just decide which way you want to go. And one other small but important detail: make sure you get an ISBN number installed on the back cover. Some print shops or publishing companies will NOT provide this and you must apply and pay for the number yourself. Other companies WILL do that work for you (for a fee). If you plan to try to market your book anywhere in stores or on eBay, you must have the ISBN, or your book cannot be sold through these venues.

Happy publishing! (Next time: Marketing Through Speaking Engagements)

Marsha Hubler
Best-selling Author of the Keystone Stables books
(Web) www.marshahubler.com
(Writers Tips)
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
(Writers Conference Information)
www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com
(Horse Facts Blog)
www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

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This book will help any parent homeschool his child(ren) efficiently, legally, and with lots of great curriculum and educational supplies, which the kids will love.

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Today we’ll discuss several of the more expensive ways to promote your books. Remember, I’ve said it takes money to make money, and when you promote and market yourself, it does take bucks.

How many bucks you want to invest in your marketing strategy depends on your financial situation. Mine is quite limited, but here are three techniques that have worked for me over the years:

1. Rent vendor’s space at conventions, conferences, or gatherings of like-minded folk. One of the best places I’ve sold books is at the annual PA state homeschool convention held every May for two days in a huge hall with over 150 vendors. Yes, the vending fee is expensive, and each year I just about break even, but as I’ve said before, “exposure is the key to successful book sales.” Thousands of homeschoolers attend this event every year. Usually, if families buy one or two books, they come back for more the next year or buy others online or at book stores. Last May, even with the poor economy, I sold 200 books at the homeschool convention over a two-day period. I’ve also had vending space at craft fairs and “horsie” events, most with reasonable vending fees, which paid off in the long run.

2. Offer special deals with your book sales. I have all kinds of special deals. These three are the most popular:
a. Buy a set of two or more and I tie them together with binder twine (used on hay bales) and include a free bookmark and a tiny plastic horse that is tied onto the front of the set. I also void the state tax (which I cover).
b. Get a nice 12″ high free horse model if you buy the entire Keystone Stables set.

  c.  Buy any four, get the fifth one free.

3. Buy ad space in magazines. This venue I’ve used very little except in local craft fair booklets or regional homeschool ad books. I can handle $25 or $50 per quarter of a page, but horse lovers’ magazines? Writers’ magazines? Farm or ranch magazines? Kids’ magazines? They start at $300 per quarter page, $1200 for a full page, which is far beyond what my budget can afford, so I stick with the “small stuff.”

So there you have it. Decide how much money you want to invest in making money and get busy.

Next time, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of self publishing.
Marsha Hubler
Best-selling Author of the Keystone Stables books
(Web) www.marshahubler.com
(Writers Tips)
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
(Writers Conference Information)
www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com
(Horse Facts Blog)
www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

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