Writing: Point A to Z

The basics of writing a project in a linear manner, taking a project from the kernel of an idea, through the writing process, on to the finished project and marketing.

The first hint of an idea (plot, setting, character)

  1. This seed of an idea comes from some outside inspiration (a movie, a TV show, something you read, a conversation overheard, music, etc.).

The idea develops, begins to take on a life

  1. Visions of the idea (plot, setting, characters) pop into your head.
  2. The visions keep expanding, haunting you, until you must do something about them.

The first decisions

  1. What will this idea turn into? An article, a short story, a novella, a book.
  2. If it will be a fictional piece, what genre or sub-genre?
  3. Defining it in your work process…giving it a name/title.

The set-up process

  1. Create a working notebook for the pieces and parts of the project.
  2. Create computer files and back-up files for the project.
  3. Create a Wiki space file for the project.

The project beginning basics

  1. Create a character grid for the heroine, hero, and villain that includes for each key character a brief background establishing their history and ordinary world, the inciting incident pulling them together and into the story, their long range goals, their short range goals, barriers to a relationship, external and internal conflicts, the black moment, and the realization moment.
  2. Define the characters with photos to refer to and create a character contrast chart.
  3. Create a basic 2-3 sentence summary of the story line (short blurb, pitch).
  4. Consider what research needs to be done for settings, character depth of job knowledge, anything else particular to the story. Begin locating the research necessary.
  5. Create a story progression and outline spreadsheet.
  6. Create a timeline chart or calendar to keep track of when and where events in the story happen.

The writing process basics

  1. Create a strong hook to draw the reader, agent, or editor into the story (preferably in the first 2-3 paragraphs, definitely within the first 5 pages).
  2. Write the story with scenes (the drama that drives the story forward) and sequels (that aftermath of a dramatic scene that adds characterization depth, analyzes motivation, or explains character planning…and continues to move the story forward).
  3. Determine the best places to end each chapter in a manner that will urge the reader to continue on to the next chapter. Commonly these can be a change in viewpoint, the moment of disaster ending a scene, or in the middle of a conflict.
  4. Make wise use of turning points (complications that make reaching the characters’ goals harder).
  5. Create a strong black moment (the point where all seems lost in a relationship or reaching a goal).
  6. Create a strong climax (where external conflicts are resolved, compromises are made, goals are modified in believable ways, and in a romance, the romance blossoms again).
  7. Create a satisfactory resolution that the reader will accept (internal conflicts are resolved, character growth is seen, new goals are accepted, and in a romance, the romance is secured).

The basic clean –up process

  1. Do a complete read-through of the finished draft and make note of problem areas with grammar and punctuation.
  2. Review word choices for too many adverbs and adjectives, weak verbs, clichés, overused or misused words, weak modifiers, and too many word filters (he saw, he heard).
  3. Watch word repetition and repeated phrases.
  4. Review good use of paragraphs for length, weak beginnings, and pacing.
  5. Review for correct amount of dialogue and narrative.
  6. Make sure descriptions are accurate and character physical details are consistent.
  7. Get rid of wandering body parts (eyes dropped, foot fell).
  8. Watch overuse of Italics, exclamation points, and ellipsis marks.

The story line clean-up process

  1. Do a complete read-through of the finished draft and make note of problem areas with the flow of the story line, character issues, setting issues, etc.
  2. Review the opening/hook to be sure the reader is drawn in immediately and the story starts in the right place.
  3. Review the main characters for good depth of characterization, visualization of them by the reader, strength of their purpose and goals.
  4. Review all of the minor characters to be sure they have a purpose in the story.
  5. Review the strength of the conflicts (external and internal).
  6. Review the pacing of the plot movement.
  7. Review the turning points for strength and to make sure they move the story forward.
  8. Review the scenes to make sure they have a strong reason for being included.
  9. Review the dialogue and punctuation used in dialogue.
  10. Review for good use of POV.

The first steps in marketing the project

  1. Create a tight synopsis that relates the theme and conflict of the story, establishes the main characters, time period, and the setting. It should include the main characters’ goals, motivations, conflicts, show character growth, and show the resolution.
  2. Create a blurb, the teaser for the plot of the story.
  3. Create a strong query letter to introduce the author and the manuscript for consideration by an agent, editor, or publisher.
  4. Create a tight 1-2 sentence pitch that pares down the plot line for quick promotion of the project.

The first steps in marketing the author

  1. Create a professional bio that promotes the author and his works in various lengths for different uses.
  2. Create an author blog or a website to tell the world, potential readers, agents, and publishers that you are serious about writing.
  3. Create a good email signature that includes your name or pen name, your web or blog site URL, and your email information.
  4. Get business cards made to hand out at agent/editor pitches, at conferences, or at any other networking events.
  5. Get a professional photo taken.

The publishing process

  1. Decide if you want to pursue getting an agent or not.
  2. Review the many sources of information about agents and locate ones that would fit your needs and your genre.
  3. Review the various print publishers, e-publishers, Print-On-Demand publishers to find what would suit your needs and your project.
  4. Attend a writer’s conference and pitch to an agent or editor.

The marketing process

  1. Learn what your publisher will do for marketing, including seeking reviews.
  2. Seek reviews for the book for additional promotional effort.
  3. Send your bio, press release, and announcements of release everywhere appropriate.
  4. Get bookmarks and flyers for the project.
  5. Set up book tours or book signings.
  6. Do guest blogs anywhere appropriate for the project.
  7. Do blogs on your web or blog site on topics that relate to the project, tying them to the project.
  8. Do a book trailer.
  9. Participate in a book launch party at a bookstore or online.
  10. Visit Yahoo loops and message boards to participate in conversations and support other authors.
  11. Host a contest on your site or somewhere else for a copy of your book or something related to the theme in the book.

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.