Monthly Archives: April 2012

Top 5 Most Important Moments of Your Story

Class 92 hauled container-freight train on the...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In life, there are many important moments. Some, such as graduating, getting married, or having a child, are some of what many consider to be the most important.

Like life, our written works contain a few moments that are the most important. In my journey as a writer, I have found the following to be 5 of the most important moments of a story (sorted chronologically):

1. The Beginning

Uh, ya think? Not only does the beginning of your story have the job of getting the narrative train rolling down tens of thousands of words, but it is also host to the all-important hook. This is where you give your reader a reason to keep going. Will they board the story train, or not?

2. The Point of No Return

Believe it or not, this is the point where the reason for your telling the story actually begins. Everything before it has just served to “set-up” the story. It is at this juncture where the world as your protagonist knows it has changed, and he or she has a new need or quest (i.e. solving the story problem). The conductor has jumped off the train as it loses control, and our hero makes the decision to help stop it.

3. The Midpoint Shift

About halfway through your story is another shift. This is a point where it is easy to let your story sag, but you can use it to add a new element or twist to the story. It is also the point in which your protagonist will make a decision, usually to take down the story problem. The train has switched tracks, and the previous plan to stop it is ruined. The hero takes matters into his own hands.

4. Failure is Imminent

This is the lowest point for the protagonist. All of their efforts are in vein, allies have died, and the antagonist is on the brink of winning. Everything the protagonist has worked for since the story problem began is for granted. The hero has made it to the brake switch in the lead car, but it is jammed.

5. The Ending

This one is pretty much a no brainer. If this list was in order of importance, this might be listed first. Here, the protagonist is able to take all they’ve learned as the story’s progressed, and solve the story problem (usually at great risk to themselves). It is usually the icing on the cake for the reader, if you deliver an ending that justifies their spending hours reading your story. The hero climbs below the train and manually activates the train’s brakes, getting injured in the process but saving everyone on board.

For additional resources on story structure, by which this post was inspired, check out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. For screenwriters (and authors, too), check out Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder.


Meet Jeremy Laszlo – Author Interview

Today, I am excited to kick off the Author Interview Series, which I hope to make a periodic feature here on The Weekend Writer. There is a lot that can be learned from published (traditional or self) authors, and it is my hope to offer tips and insight to you through these interviews.

Without further ado, please help me welcome…

Jeremy Laszlo

Jeremy is the author of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga, currently available on Amazon. A former Marine, he has written two books in the series, with a third on the way soon.

**Scroll down to the bottom of this post for an exclusive look at the cover for Jeremy’s next book, The Changing!**

TWW: Jeremy, how long did it take you to write your latest novel, The Chosen? What obstacles did you face in writing it?

JL: It’s funny you should ask that, because had it not been for traditional literary agents, The Chosen would not exist as it does today.  Originally, the first 3/4 of The Chosen was actually the second half of The Choosing, the first book in my fantasy series.

However, a couple of Literary agents suggested I somehow break the monstrous novel into two separate books, as it was “too large” for traditional publishing.  What is ironic however, after having revised and rewritten to break the novel into two books, adding several more chapters, none of those traditional publishing leads played out.

To answer your original question though, it took me about 3 months to create the original book, then taking a break to land an agent, then about three more months to rewrite and split the novel into two books.  The main obstacle in the process was splitting the book in two, yet creating new content that followed the story line precisely, allowing the two books to flow seamlessly and yet having each feel like a completed work.

Being a family man, what do you do to make time to write? What’s your typical writing schedule?

Making time to write can be very difficult.  As you mentioned, I have four children, all under ten years old, an amazing wife, and two very peculiar pets.  On top of that I work my normal blue collar job generally 70-90 hours per week, and also do construction and remodeling on the side.  So with that said it can become a bit overwhelming trying to find a comfortable balance, and all the while juggling all my other responsibilities.

The trick that works for me I find is sacrificing a LOT of sleep.  Caffeine is one of my best friends, and generally I find time to write at night after everyone else is asleep.  However on occasion, if all the stars line up properly, a child in japan sneezes at precisely the same time a dragon on the moon belches, everything falls into place and I get a few days in a row to write vigorously.  Such was the case with my next novel, The Changing, and I managed to put down 70,000 words in three days.

How has your experience been with self-publishing? Pros? Cons?

Thus far my experience with self publishing has been a good experience overall.  While waiting on replies from agents I spent a lot of time researching self publishing, and before I had even heard back from all of them I moved forward taking my publishing fate into my own hands.  For myself, the most obvious Pros to self publishing relate to myself and my family.

Having so many responsibilities to juggle, it is nice to be able to do things at my leisure, allowing me to focus more time on my family.  Of course another great thing about self publishing is the royalties.  Had I landed an agent, and sold a paperback for $8.99, I would likely receive 0.40-0.80 cents per copy sold, whereas self publishing has allowed me to sell at a lower rate, and bring in more income with which to support my family.

As for the Cons of self publishing, I will admit that there have been a few.  Whereas in traditional publishing there is a team of experienced people handling a vast amount of tasks, as a self publisher it is up to you alone to do many things you may not have anticipated.

Although I have enjoyed the learning process and experience that came with all these other tasks, such as building web sites, designing appealing cover art, hiring an editor, and marketing and promotion, much of it was a steep learning curve, and some of it can be a bit pricey.

The Choosing, Book One of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga

How often do you write? Where do you find your inspiration to dig in and write as often as you do?

I write as often as I am able between other responsibilities, and occasionally even take a couple days off of work to get some ideas down that I may have been tinkering with mentally.  My inspiration comes from everywhere.  People I have met over the years, my children, movies I have seen and books I have read.

Everything in my life I imagine has influenced my writing in one way or another, and oftentimes you can find experiences taken directly from my own life within the writings of my books.  I think that perhaps my emotional connection to these experiences bleeds through my writing and perhaps that is why my readers can connect with it so well.

What was your favorite part of the writing process in creating your latest novel? Your least?

My latest novel, Book 3 of The Blood and Brotherhood Saga, is titled “The Changing” and as I had mentioned above, on a very rare occasion everything in my life lined up giving me 5 days with very few interruptions.  I had set a goal for myself in those five days to finish writing The Changing, but it only took me three days.  I spent the other two days revising, and by the end of day 5 had the manuscripts sent out to both my editors and beta readers.  I am expecting the manuscripts back any day now.

My least favorite part of writing is always the editing and revisions.  I know they need to be done, and of course I understand why, I just simply don’t enjoy that particular process.  However even the dark cloud of editing has a shiny silver lining.  Often while editing I begin getting a bit anxious and excited, because the editing and revision process means the book will be published very soon.

What advice have you found helpful in marketing your self-published novel?

I am still very new to self marketing and promotion, and I have to admit that very little I have read about the subject has been useful.  Twitter, I believe, is my best marketing tool, though I have no facts to back that up.

I have tried a few paid advertising campaigns, as well as social media marketing campaigns, and you might be surprised to learn that after each of those campaigns my sales actually fell instead of increased.  Terribly disappointing.  Self marketing and promo is akin to another full time job, and I am still learning to balance it along with everything else, and constantly doing experiments to see what works and what does not.

The Chosen, Book Two of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga

Do you consider yourself a pantser or an outliner? Why does your method work for you?

I am not a huge fan of labels, however I am a sticky mix of organized and unorganized writing.  Generally I scribble down a VERY loose outline, because I do not want to confine my creativity to one direct path, and then I free write.

Occasionally I will refer to the outline to make sure I am on track, but generally speaking the entire story is already floating around in my head, and I need only look within to unleash it into my netbook.

What writing books or resources have you used or found helpful?

I will admit, that after writing The Choosing and The Chosen, I purchased a copy of Mr. Freys book “How to write a damn good novel”.  Interestingly enough, having no formal training aside from reading thousands of novels myself, I realized that I had already incorporated all of the main techniques he writes about.  Other than that, I found the Smashwords formatting guidelines quite useful.

What advice would you give to fellow writers who are currently drafting their manuscripts? What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Aspiring novelists planning to self publish should be aware of a great many things.  First and foremost, EVERY book is judged by its cover.  Unless you have a background in graphics design, or are an AMAZING artist, do the research, and pay someone experienced to create an amazing cover for your “baby”.

Secondly if you can afford it, hire an editor.  There are some with very reasonable rates, do your research, and get quotes and references.  If you cannot afford an editor, in the VERY LEAST, give copies to no less than 5 avid readers/teachers/librarians for them to markup and find mistakes for you.

Third, I would say to you that All feedback is good feedback, no matter how negative someone might view your book, it is an invaluable learning experience for you to take their critique and use that knowledge on your next work.  Next I would say that your biggest marketing resource and most vocal promoter is yourself.  Build a fan base early, months before your book is even published.

Finally, DO NOT devalue your work.  I am not saying that from time to time you cannot run a discount or even free promotion of your books, however your book is worth just as much as the next guy/gals.  You have spent and will continue to spend your time and money on your “baby” and deserve to be rewarded for it.  Do not cut yourself short, from a reader’s perspective your price reflects the quality of your work.

The Changing, coming soon!

Thank you, Jeremy, for taking the time to give us your insight on the writing process and self-publishing.

Thank you for having me on your blog Weekend Writer, it has been a wonderful experience!

If you have a comment or question for Jeremy, please post it in the comments below. You may also visit his website here.

What’s in a Name?: How to Develop Your Title

Choosing a title for your writing project can be a daunting task. It is, after all, a potential reader’s first look into the soul of your work. It is often just as important as your pitch, query letter, even the work itself. It is critical that your title shed some light on what your book is about, but also that it catches your potential reader’s attention. Here are some things to consider:

Identify Your Genre

First of all, you need to know what realm you’re working in. If the working title for your latest children’s book is The Zombie Queen of Hopscotch, you should probably reconsider. Your title should be reflective of the genre, or vague enough that it can fit anywhere.

Make it Attention-Grabbing

This doesn’t mean that your title has to jump off the page and slap someone in the face, but that it is enough to create a little spark in the mind of whomever comes across it. It should make your potential reader curious about what glorious wonders your work contains. The title can give a strong indication of what the story is about (Star Wars) or very little (1984). The fact that this spark exists is what is important.

Don’t Let it Limit You

When you’re writing with a working title, don’t get too attached to it. If the seed of your idea comes from a catchy title, or is an instructional guide or the like, this wouldn’t be as applicable. But if your idea is character or conceptually driven, be careful not to let your working title put you in a corner.

If you start your WIP with the title George the Lizard, but then your work evolves beyond that title as you write it, don’t get locked in. That’s why it’s called a working title. You’re working on it!

Consider the following:

What would have happened to these books (and film) if they’d kept their original working titles? What thoughts, emotions, or ideas do the final titles elicit, versus the originals?

Have Fun!

This is something I strongly encourage in all aspects of your writing, including developing your title. You’ve spent (or are spending) a lot of time and effort on your creation, molding it and shaping it with a steady hand. Pick a name for it with the same care you used in writing it.

Try this: Pick out a couple of catchy phrases that reflect your work in some way, and choose one that you like best. Or, combine different parts of those phrases to make a whole new one. Can you use that as a title? Be sure to take the time to enjoy the creative process while you’re at, because that’s what being a writer is all about.

What is the title of your work in progress? If you’ve decided on one, what were some others you considered before?

%d bloggers like this: