Authors, Know Thy Craft!

Authors, Know Thy Craft!

You don’t need a degree to write a book but, authors, you do need to know your craft.

I’ve recently read a number of online blog and social media posts where people claim that you don’t need to have a university or college degree to write a book. I believe this is true. However, you do need to know about writing and editing–and about publishing if you’re an indie author.

The first time I wrote a book I thought to myself, “I have a language and literature degree. I can write a book. It couldn’t be any worse than some of the ones being published right now.” I should qualify that, at the time, I had just read two or three books in a row that were poorly written and/or edited, and it was ticking me off.

Guess what I learned when I wrote my first book? It’s not as easy as it seems.

Even though I have a degree in literature and language, I’ve been a French teacher for the past 18 years, so I hadn’t been exercising those particular mental muscles very much. I read a lot and watch movies regularly, so I have an understanding of how stories work, but this can only get you so far.

At the most basic, nitty-gritty level, there are questions like, what style guide is widely used in novels these days (hint: it’s the Chicago Manual of Style)? Where do commas go? How do you format to differentiate between narrative and flashbacks, dreams, letters, and so on?

On a slightly larger level, there is: Should you outline? What point of view should you write in? How many point-of-view characters should you have? When is it okay to switch between point-of-view characters? Are you including all the necessary scenes and elements for your genre? What’s the correct way to structure a story? Are your characters developed enough?

The list of questions goes on and on.

Some of you might think, “Wait. Isn’t that what editors are for?”

Well, yes and no.

As an author, it’s your job to make the story as strong as possible before it is sent to an editor. The better it is, the less time it will take for an editor to complete and the lower the cost will be for you. Also, there are many different levels of editing (which I will get into in a later post). You need to have an idea of where your story is to know what level of editing you need.


Study your craft

Here is a cautionary tale for you. I have two editions of my first novel. Why? Because as I started to learn more about my craft, I became convinced I could improve on what I’d written. I could have done better at showing versus telling, for example. So, when I decided to get a cover artist to create my logos and redo the cover so that the planned series will be uniform, I decided to improve the story as well. In the end, I added almost 12,000 words to my novel.

But, hang on. I paid an editor a lot of money to do a substantive edit. That means they were supposed to do a structural and a copyedit. So, why didn’t my editor tell me about my weaknesses and how I could improve my story before I hit publish?

Long story short, I used an assisted self-publishing company to help me publish my first book. While I was happy with most areas of my collaboration with them, editing was the one area that was lacking. I had a project manager through whom I communicated. I never had direct contact with the editor, and so had no place to ask questions or get clarification. I tried writing my questions in the comments section of the manuscript but, in the end, several of my questions went unanswered.

Now, this has much to do with me being new to self-publishing and not knowing any better than to accept what I got for editing. But I could also have avoided having to rewrite my story if I’d taken the time to learn more about the craft first. Knowing my craft better would have helped me figure out what questions I should have been asking (myself and the editor) to begin with.

I’ve learned a lot since then. And as authors, we should always be striving to improve our writing and to learn more. Does that mean you should wait until you think you’re an expert before putting pen to paper or fingers to keys? No, not at all.
But always be open to learning more and improving your craft.

      

*Since I have an interest in almost all areas of writing and self-publishing, I spend as much, if not more, of my time reading, watching informational videos, taking online courses and workshops, etc. than I do actually writing.

Here is a list of some of the books and resources I have found helpful:

Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland
Structuring Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland
Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd Edition), by Renni Browne and Dave King
Manuscript Magic (for editing and understanding story) www.writingblueprints.com
The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne
Story Grid Online Workshop and Resources: www.storygrid.com

**NOTE: This article is also posted on www.terniaspublishing.com

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Guest Post: LITERARY AWARDS for the LITTLE GUYS by James Gault

LITERARY AWARDS for the LITTLE GUYS

Last month, we published a survey of the main literary awards available to authors from the large established publishing houses. But how can new independent authors get artistic recognition for their work? The good news is that there is a wide range of competitions open to books from small independent publishers, including self-publishers. There is of course bad news: there is an entry fee for just about all of them, the prizes are small, and they don’t benefit from the wide publicity given to the likes of the Man Booker prize or the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Vox Lit wants to publicise these less well-known events. Not just because we love to champion the Davids against the Goliaths, or because we firmly believe that good quality innovative writing exists outside the closed world of the big names. We really want readers to know about these awards, and hopefully seek out the winners and short-listed authors and at least consider buying and reading their books. If we can encourage readers everywhere to expand their horizons, we’ll have done a good job in keeping the written word alive, flourishing and developing.

Most of the competitions are run by US organisations, and we’ve only found one currently active in the UK. The Rubery Book Award claims to be ‘the self-publishers’ and independent publishers’ answer to the MAN Booker Prize and the Costa Prize’. It offers awards in five categories (Non Fiction, Young Adult, Short Story, Fiction and Children’s) and the entrance fee is £36. You can find more on this competition at   http://www.ruberybookaward.com

In 2017, Amazon UK ran its Kindle Storyteller Award (more at the link below.) This was open to all previous unpublished books published on KDP, and unusually it had a significant prize (£20,000). Unfortunately, there is no sign so far of it being repeated in 2018.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/b?ie=UTF8&node=12061299031&tag=telegraph-digidip-21 )

That about wraps it up for the UK, but if any of our readers know of other UK competitions please use the comments box to let us know.

While there seems to a paucity of UK awards, authors who live in the US are spoiled for choice, and we have included only a small selection here. And ,even if you are based in another country, these competitions tend to be open to all English speaking authors who have their work on sale in the USA.

The Benjamin Franklin Awards, run by the Independent Book Publishers Association, offers a comprehensive publicity package to winners but no cash prize. Authors don’t have to be a member of the Association to enter, but it will cost them a whopping $225 as opposed to the $95 entry fee for members. The link is http://ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.com/ .

The IPPY awards ( http://www.ippyawards.com/  ) is another competition where the winners benefit only from publicity, with no direct injection  of cash into their pockets.

Eric Hoffer Award (http://www.hofferaward.com/ ) does offer a cash prize for the winner, $2000, and the entry fee is a more reasonable $55 (chapbooks $40). There is also the publicity benefit, as the award is covered by the US Review of Books.

The Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group organise the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (http://www.indiebookawards.com/ ) with cash prizes of up to $1500 in many categories. Authors pay from $75 to enter this one.

Shelf Unbound book review magazine runs a competition with a prize of $500 and an entrance fee of $50 per title. Over 100 of the best entries will receive publicity in the magazine. The link ishttp://www.shelfmediagroup.com/pages/competition.html .

For a $50 fee, writers can enter the Best Indie Book (BIB) Awards (https://bestindiebookaward.com/ ) where the prize is a package of publicity goodies rather than hard cash. The goody bag includes a rather smart digital winner’s medal that authors can put on their web pages and book covers.

Finally, in this far from comprehensive list, we’d like to mention the The Kindle Book Awards from the Kindle Book Review website. This offers winners in eight genre classes a publicity package similar to BIB and the added benefit of cash prizes up to $750, for an entrance fee of $29.https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/2018-kindle-book-awards/

Our survey talks about only some of what is available, but for writers and readers wanting to know of more competitions, there is a fuller list published by the Alliance of Independent Authors at     https://selfpublishingadvice.org/allis-self-publishing-service-directory/award-and-contest-ratings-reviews/ . This survey not only lists awards, but it rates them as well, so a big thanks to the authors of this page.

So there it is: a list of some literary awards you may never have heard of. Let us encourage you, as a reader or writer, to follow up on these competitions and widen your knowledge. It’s the best way to  participate in the fascinating and engrossing book world of the twenty-first century.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Erica Verrillo  from  ‘Curiosity Never Killed the Writer’ (web site  https://curiosityneverkilledthewriter.com/) for her useful article on US awards.

Contributed by James Gault

 

 

James Gault

James Gault is an author of short stories, novels and English Language textbooks. He lived, worked and taught for many years in Prague, but now lives and continues to write in the South of France.

He also runs the blog Vox Lit, where authors post comments by their characters on aspects of real life.

His latest novel, The Redemption of Anna Petrovna, is due for release shortly.

 

Visit James Gault on Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.co.uk/James-Gault/e/B004JJOXW4/

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About The Seers Series

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER
ON KINDLE

The Dragon Shifters at Southgate: Book Two of The Seers Series

NOW AVAILABLE!

IT’S HERE!!!

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An ancient evil threatens the future of the realm of Sterrenvar. A race of people called seers has appointed themselves Guardians of the Realm, guarding the safety of their world and all the people in it. Maelona Sima is one of four seer champions tasked with protecting the four keystones from evil forces that wish to destroy them, thus leaving an immeasurable magical force free to be used against the realm’s inhabitants. Yet Maelona is more than a seer. She is unique in her world, and she is the best hope of survival for the people of Sterrenvar…the very people who once hunted down and killed many of the seer people out of fear and mistrust. Protecting the keystones is the first line of defense against the evil sorcerer who wishes to enslave the realm. Can Maelona, a guardian of the keystone at Eastgate, and her friends Blaez, a wolf shifter, and Gareth, a human prince, bring together their peoples to save Eastgate from destruction in this first book of the Seers series?

UPCOMING EVENTS

I am on a hiatus from events at the moment until my ankle is healed.

The Guardians of Eastgate is now available to purchase locally in the Waterloo and Guelph regions at the bookstores below. Click on the images to visit the store websites:


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The Guardians of Eastgate: Book 1 of The Seers Series, has won a Literary Titan Gold Award!  Check out the awards page here.

   

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The Second Edition of The Guardians of Eastgate, Book 1 of The Seers Series, is now available
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Come wander the magical world of Sterrenvar, where swords & sorcery,

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