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