You know how doctors who work with children get the children to tell stories? And they figure out from the stories what's frightening the child, what's worrying the child, what the child thinks? Well, a novel is just a story. You work things out in the stories you tell.
~ Didion, From the Paris Review
I love books. How they feel, how they smell, and how they look. It's easy to think that digital books or ebooks (what do you call them?) spell the end of the tangible pleasure of a book. To some extent that's true, but where digital excels is visual, so why does the look of a book have to suffer? It doesn't. Cover art is very much alive. I'm happy to see it memorialized by some great blogs and Pinterest boards. What's your favorite book cover?
Who better to learn from than a Pixar storyboard artist? This list comes from Emma Coats. Some highlights:
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
"...the restrictions of Gerty's life, which had once had the charm of contrast, now reminded [Lily] too painfully of the limits to which her own existence was shrinking."
~ Edith Wharton, House of Mirth
“Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”
― Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
"Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you -- as if you haven't been told a million times already -- that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching." --Harlan Ellison
So you want to be a writer, huh? Well, as the old saying goes, a writer writes.
1. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
2. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
3. Writeordie.com - it uses the stick (as opposed to the carrot) to get you to write regularly
If you've got that down and are looking for more help, the following resources might be of interest:
1. The American Society of Journalists and Authors - a trade association for freelance writers
5. The Guide to Literary Agents put out by Writer's Digest Books
These are the steps I took to publish my first eBook.
1. I wrote a book less than 60 pages in Microsoft Word
- I typed it in 12 point Times New Roman, and didn’t use any fancy fonts – only bolds and italics. Note: when you convert your file you are likely to lose any fonts. That’s because today support across all devices for various fonts is inconsistent. There's no way to guarantee that a page in Times New Roman actually appears in that font on a reader's screen.
- I didn’t create my own table of contents in Word
- I didn’t number my pages. Note: most ebooks do not have page numbers because eReaders allow readers to re-size the text. It’s called making the text “reflowable".
- I made sure each one of my chapters was titled then I separated all my chapters into different Word doc (not docx) files
2. I decided on a title and had a friend do the cover art.
3. I chose eBookBurn to convert my Word doc into the two ebook publishing formats, epub and mobi
- I created an account and uploaded my cover art file. Note: to be sure it displayed correctly in Kindle, make sure it’s sized to 600x800. I’ve seen sites that say 600X900 but I found that size didn’t work for a Kindle.
- Then I uploaded each chapter file I created to eBookBurn and added the chapter title in their title field box (this helps them automatically create a table of contents for you)
- Note: I did NOT copy and paste my doc from Word – as they advise against. Word has all sorts of hidden formatting issues and this can cause problems.
- I then went through each chapter on eBookBurn to make sure their WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor captured everything in the uploading. I found one chapter where some of my text was mysteriously cut off. So I just deleted that chapter and uploaded it again and the issue resolved.
- Next I went through each chapter that I had inserted an illustration or image and deleted the image that came through in the editor. Then I went to Imgur.com and created an account. I uploaded my images to that account. I copied the html link to those images (simply click on the image you uploaded to Imgur and copy the link under “direct link”) and using the eBookBurn image uploaded in the editor of each chapter, I pasted the link. This displayed my image and let me see if I liked the proportions (any images in your text should be less than 600X800 in size for optimal viewing – I used mainly 400X400).
- After one more review I generated my ebook on the site for $19. It presented two buttons to download the epub and mobi formats. I just downloaded and saved them to my computer.
4. I purchased an ISBN. To sell direct iTunes requires an ISBN, but you can sell through Amazon and Barnes & Noble without one.
5. I went to the Amazon website and downloaded the Kindle previewer. I imported my mobi file to the previewer and checked it out. That’s when I caught an issue with tables. One of my chapters had a table in it. On the previewer I was also sure to pick all the different Kindle versions and see how my mobi file looked in each one.
I was glad I did this before going straight to publishing because I could see where things went wonky and fix it before publishing it. I then went back into eBookBurn and the chapter with the table and ended up deleting the table. I just rewrote the information in another format. I chose this because it was the fastest and easiest solution. You can insert tables using eBookBurn’s editor, but I saw that the tables still came out funky when I previewed the book. (Yes – this meant I ended up generating my ebook three times!)
6. I created an account on Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform KDP.
- I entered my title, description of my book, an author bio, keywords for searches and selected categories for my book.
- I uploaded the mobi file of my book
- I chose to price my ebook $2.99 and the 70% royalty rate
- After I hit submit, the ebook went on sale in 24 hours
7. I created an account on Barnes & Noble’s Nook publishing platform PubIt.
- I entered my title, description of my book, an author’s bio, keywords for searches and selected categories for my book (up to 5)
- I uploaded my ebook and priced it at $2.99; there are no royalty choices
- I previewed my ebook in the Nook previewer
- Once I set the ebook for sale, it hit the store in 24 hours
8. I applied to sell my ebook on iTunes. Note: you will have to have a separate iTunes Apple Connect account for selling ebooks. It took about two weeks to hear back that I was approved. Once I was approved I had to download iTunes Producer – which only works on a Mac. The Producer is Apple’s own software that you upload your epub file to iTunes through. It took another two weeks before my ebook was live in the iTunes store.
9. About two days after I published on Amazon I received an email from Amazon with a link to create an author page on Amazon. So I set that up.
10. Finally, I emailed all my friends, sent out a newsletter from my blog, wrote a blog post, tweeted about it, and posted about it on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Voilá! My first ebook was published. It took about three hours to do everything outside of writing the ebook. Now you can do the same.