What Makes a Story Become Visible

A story is and must be situated within culture. As simplistic and obvious as this statement is, its importance is by far the most significant aspect of comprising a story, and it often is overlooked in modern storytelling. A plot is merely a timeline – a sequence of events that are linked together. Any child who rambles out a story before bedtime can create a plot, some of them fairly detailed and complex. They will ramble on about a fanciful adventure they had, and though some of the plot points might be incongruent, fixing that is simply a matter of learning how to order a timeline. However, what changes a child’s imagined story into a detailed novel is summed up by one word: Culture.

True of any genre, but perhaps most obvious for historical fiction, characters and their happenings (plot) do not exist in a vacuum. They live within time (which denotes a certain level of development and past history), within a society (which stipulates customs, convention, and continuity), within a geographical habitat (which stipulates what resources/activities/adventures the characters have available to them), and more specifically within a place/abode (which exhibits what sorts of habits and tastes the characters have). Take out any one of these elements, and the story becomes incomplete. It is not enough that a reader knows what is happening in a story (most stories that children invent are, after all, easy to follow), but a reader must also know why they are happening – or better put, how they could happen. They should not know the end of the plot from the beginning, but they should know why the plot is happening in the first place. Why should the characters in the story care about the plot (because if that question can’t be answered, the reader won’t know why he should care)? Exploring a story’s culture is the only way to answer the question. The characters care about the plot because of the lives they have lived up to that point, because of the people/society around them, because of their mannerisms and lifestyles, and even because of the architectural styles that comprise the places they visit and see. Duly exploring the culture of ones characters will bring those characters to reality. Plots bring characters to life, but without culture, they will be too fanciful to be relatable. Culture makes them real, that – knowing what they eat, wear, do, say, how they live, what occupations they do, what art and decor adorns their abodes, how they fellowship – the reader can take on the mantle of the plot at the same time that the characters do.

Your fellow writer,

Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor

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An Author’s Task

If you truly love words, you are going to write. Oh, there might be those days when you can’t seem to find the right words for your manuscript. They will seem to elude your grasp – floating around the edges of your mind without becoming clear. Those days are what people refer to when they say “writer’s block”. The next day, though – and many times the same day – if you apply your mind to your work as you should, those words will come. You have only to search for them. It is your love of literature that drives you onward. You cannot help but to be creating a story onto paper.

The job of the author is to open up the mind of the reader – to have them see what you see – to have them captivated as your audience by conveying the very love of words you have to them. An experienced author knows that this doesn’t come without practice. It also doesn’t come alone. The editor stands outside of the author’s world of words and observes it objectively. He is someone who sees things about your words and writing that you, as an author, can’t see – and yet he has the same vision of words that you have. However, authors know that, applying themselves to the work, their words come alive. The outcome is inevitable. An author who reads, and reads well, will bring his own words to join the great literary discussion. Perhaps he might find them to be not as good as those authors that have inspired him. Perhaps, even, he is correct – somewhat – in his supposition. But, his words have joined literature all the same. And, in time, there will be some who find his words to inspire their love for literature. Those who partake in the great literary discussion add their piece to the great masterpiece being carved by virtuous authors. They have successfully conveyed to their audience the meaning of their own interest in the words of literature that they love. And, the reader has responded by their captivated attention. The words on the page then become an inspired imagination that cultivates creativity in life.

Your fellow writer,

Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor

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Book Trailer for A Manor House in Yarmouth

A year of silence (to the very day) has lapsed since writing here. Today, I had a phone meeting with a publishing house about my book A Manor House in Yarmouth. The caller said she had been going through my blog posts, and I told her that I hadn’t posted for about a year. . . .so, I thought afterward that I would check when I had last posted, and it has been a year to the day! Far too long! I assure you, my pen(s) have been continuing to write.

As my above paragraph alludes to, I am in the process of trying to publish A Manor House in Yarmouth (a title the caller said should be changed to The Manor House in Yarmouth – I took note of it but think that it wouldn’t be fair to all the other manor houses in Yarmouth to exault my story’s house above them 😉 ). One of the main advertising stunts I’ve completed for publishers and literary agents is a book trailer showcasing the book. I have it featured below. One minor note, I’m starting to work out my video editing software and lighting much better, and I plan to start using green screen soon to rid the rather foreboding black background that features me in the trailer.

Another minor note: I have completed another book after A Manor House in Yarmouth – my fourth book to be published, and I’m working on my fifth book also, set place in the fifteenth century! I’ll have to give other blog posts about these works. . .

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds


Building Morale for Writing

Yes, it’s true. I will finally admit the one secret that no author wants to admit. Is everyone ready? Here we go.

There are some days when even the best of us don’t feel like writing. Perhaps this is because we are working through a difficult point in our book. Perhaps this is because we are intensely working on some other project in our lives. For whatever the reason, a day comes when we sit down to write, and the words don’t come onto the paper.

How do we build morale? How do we regain interest in the point we are at in our writing?

The answer is that we have other gathered material that can help us to springboard our creativity. We know ahead of time that we will get stuck at some points in the tunnel. Therefore, we prepare for it. Writing preparation is essential to writing. Before you write a story, you must gain reference material: Photos, paintings, real places you visit, stories you read, people you talk to. . .You must gain research: Fact checking for whatever subject matter you are writing about (whether fiction or non-fiction). . .You must write an outline that becomes the schematic and road map of your story. You must compile other lists of the elements of your story.

All this is essential to your writing capability. When your morale is down for the story you are writing, all you have to do is turn to the inspired images and imagined scenes you have created for your story. Remember the vision. Remember why you wanted to write the story in the first place. Lastly, remember that that vision will not be entirely clear until your final edit. Be encouraged with where you’re at in the process of creating the story.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



Prioritize Your Marketing

In order to be effective in your marketing, you have to learn what marketing techniques will be most effective. If you try to dedicate the same amount of time for each marketing action, one of two things will result.

  1. You will spend 100% of your time marketing and still not have enough time to get everything done.


  1. You will not be able to do any marketing task completely because you have not concentrated your efforts for the proper completion of a marketing task.

In order to avoid these mistakes when you market your books, think about what actions will be most effective and which will be least effective. If you don’t know what marketing steps are less effective, then trial and error to find out. Think about long term projections, and research what yields the best increase. For example, YouTube marketing is big now and there are a lot of long term benefits that may result if you stick at it for a long period. Podcasts may generally yield quicker benefits, yet it isn’t as effective as YouTube can be long term.

Once you have determined what marketing techniques are more and less effective, prioritize your time accordingly. Keep on top of the highest priorities every single day. Do middle priorities a few times a week. And, do the least priorities once or at most twice in a week.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



How to Market Your Books

So. . .most people who begin writing think that they can just write their books, get them published, and watch the cash flow in. However, for most of us, the story is vastly different.

We don’t watch the cash flow in. Our books are difficult to publish. And, if we don’t promote and market our books, then they will not sell.

Therefore, you are going to have to balance the time you spend writing with the time you spend marketing. Here are a couple tips that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Do something to market every day.

Even if you are in the middle of writing your book, take half an hour to market your books – whether this is a blog post, podcast, YouTube video, telemarketing, emailing, you decide. Yet, make certain you do something to market.

  1. Dedicate 1 day a week to just marketing.

In addition to step one, set a whole day aside to promote your books. If you are writing a first draft to a book, then you will need to spend some time that day writing your book, but only spend 10 minutes or so writing your book. Spend the rest of the time marketing. In this day, plan out the marketing for the coming week. Don’t “pepper spray” your marketing. Create a strategy, and stick to it.

  1. Every now and then, spend a whole week just marketing.

You cannot do this if you are writing the first draft of your book. Spend your time completing that draft. Yet, maybe once every other month, or sometimes once a month, it is best to spend a whole week just concentrating on marketing your books.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



Lens-Cap, Wing-Nut, Two-Twisty-Ties Productions

Sometimes, it just takes time. I would like to share with you a part of my story.

Getting up every morning to find that the house is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Walking outside in close to sub-zero temperatures to haul firewood in. The firewood isn’t ours. I had been hoping the wood I had harvested from our forest last fall would last the entire winter. It had not. So, more wood had to be purchased – and that only meant one thing: poor wood. It was encased in ice. Lighting it was hard; I had to use some of my special ash wood to get the fire going before I put the iced wood atop.

Two fireplaces now roaring. . . taking a quick shower. . .doing some house chores. . .now, at last, I can start on my career for the day. I pull all my video equipment out. It takes half-an-hour to set up. I pull the lens cap off the camera, unscrew a wing-nut from a stand I hang one of my lights on, and unravel two twisty ties binding up a couple cords from my equipment. These items I place in my pocket. Then, I rehearse my video I will be shooting. No one to help me. I’m A1 from pre-production all the way through post-editing.

I have to stop my filming several times because of the rushing water I can hear from the next room that I know my mic picks up. Post-production is tedious as I watch myself and always conclude my performances are not what they should be. Color-grading is a jumble of connecting virtual wires in an open source program to see what will make my video look better. When I strike my gear down, I pull the lens cap, wing nut, and two twisty ties out of my pocket, and I smile. To myself, I’d dubbed my film work Lens-Cap, Wing-Nut, Two-Twisty-Ties Productions.

. . .at the day’s end, I know that emails still have to be written, blog posts composed, website building remains unfinished, and I still need to make progress on the draft of my next book I’m writing.

All the above is true as I started up my business, and I know that I’m not alone. Sometimes, things can be hectic for the life of a writer. Once you’ve published books, there are always book promotions, marketing work, and even answering fan questions to be done.

Yet, it’s all worth it. Seeing the book you have created, in print, in your hands, and finding it better to what you could have possibly dreamed, is worth more than all the work you put into it.

I would like to give you a path to success. You have a story in your mind. Maybe, it’s one you have wanted to tell for a long time. The trick is in getting it down on paper. It all comes down to that. In my Writing Imagination Academy course, I give you just that: A map. With that map, you can be guided to your journey’s end.

Here’s how to apply.

Sign up to my email using the button at the bottom of this post. Once you’ve watched the video training you receive in your welcome email, send me an email to apply for the Writing Imagination Academy. In that email, describe your idea for a story in a couple paragraphs using a few of the action points from the free video training (you’ll know what they are when you watch the videos!) Don’t worry. The email doesn’t have to be big. All I really want to know is what your story is generally about, a few things the main characters might do, and some idea of your story setting. These ideas don’t have to be too well formulated. The only reason I require this is because there are certain stories that I cannot make fit within my model for what a good story is. However, if you’ve been agreeing with my blog recently, then the chances are you will be accepted!

I only allow 50 seats per WIA course. Go to my home page: www.conservativecornerstones.com to see how many seats are available and when the next Writing Imagination Academy course begins! Application for the course must be completed before the course begins.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds

P.S. Sometimes, I will listen to nature sounds when I write. Ever tried it? Here’s one to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euEwKtP5CG4



Do You Have the Courage to Write an Imaginative Novel?

What I’m about to tell you will take courage to hear, but it will take more courage to act on. Writing a story takes imagination. That’s right – it takes the same imagination that as a child made you superman or a princess.

Do you have problems envisioning the scenes of your story? Are your characters fuzzy faced? Can you not picture exactly what they look like or where they live? Can you not taste what they taste or smell what they smell? If your answer is yes to any of these, then you lack imagination at some level.

Now, don’t worry! All writers lack imagination at some level. It takes time to build imagination up in one’s mind. Yet, one thing is certain: Without imagination, your story will go nowhere.

Picture two stories in your mind:
(1) An author is sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with notebook and pen in hand. As he breathes the fresh air, he smells something different under him. It’s the smell of rich dirt. At the moment, he is writing a scene about rain. His main character is out in the mid-afternoon weather, forced to work his occupation in the mud by a sad set of circumstances. Yet, the character starts singing to himself a song to cheer his own spirits. It’s a song about gardening a flower garden. The author looks up for a moment from his work to see the flowers waving in the gentle breeze in a short flower bed across from him. He remembers the taste of herbal tea, planted in a similar bed of earth, and that brings him later to the scene when the main character, late at evening, is sitting back at his home, drying himself from the rainwater and drinking a mug of freshly brewed, still steaming tea.
(2) An author is sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with notebook and pen in hand. He, too, is thinking about the fresh air, flowers, and sunlight. Yet, his main character is not present. Instead, his story is far off and un-reaching. His character is supposed to be riding his horse through town on a sunny day, warning the townsmen and women of an imminent danger. Yet, he doesn’t know what the character is smelling or thinking or saying, except that the story outline mentions something about war abroad in Europe.

What is the difference between these two authors, and why is it that the second author, though in the same place as the first, can’t write the scene of his story?

Imagination. Imagination must draw upon the real world, as you saw the first author in my example do. Don’t be misled by the conventional definition of imagination. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines imagination as “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality”. I want to focus on the word “wholly” because though imagination is something not wholly perceived, it draws a lot upon that which is wholly perceived.

My point is this: If you are not using your experiences/the world to form your imagination, you will not be able to imagine! So, how do you draw from the world?

Reference images. Look up images that can inspire your scenes. Go places to see them, look them up online, drive to art galleries where you can gain references, draw them yourself if you can, gain them from stories you like (reference images can be words – they don’t have to be pictures). I talk a lot more about reference images in my free video training (click the button at the bottom of this post to receive them!). Yet, sometimes, we need examples. Read this post of mine if you want to know some images I used for my third novel that helped to springboard my imagination.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds

P.S. I can give you pointers all the way, but if you need more, I would love to see you inside Writing Imagination Academy. Apply now! Send me an email with a couple paragraphs explaining your story using some information in my free video training, and I’ll get back with you!