Friday, July 24, 2009

Using Q & A's and FAQ's to Your Advantage

One of the least expensive ways to promote your novel or non-fiction book is to create a Q & A or FAQ and ask bloggers to post it on their blogs and websites. These postings can be coordinated to appear at certain times/dates (this is known as a blog tour), or you can approach individual bloggers and ask that they list your information in future posts.

It's easy to create Q & A's or FAQ's -- use simple questions that all readers want to know about writers, and write brief, sincere responses to them. Examples of commonly asked questions include: What was your inspiration for this novel/book? How long did it take you to write? Who are your favorite authors and why? What is your next novel/book about?

Once you have a list you like, send it with a jpg of the book cover art, an author photo, and other information about your book (ISBN number, ordering information, links to websites, etc.). It's good protocol to follow the blogs where your information is posted and to include links to that blogsite or website on your own sites. Also, don't forget to thank those who agree to post information about you and your book after the post has run.

Here is a sample FAQ I use for my own novel, Coyote Heart:

Coyote Heart by Paula Margulies
ISBN: 1-933794-16-X
Publisher: Kirk House Publishers, April 17, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long have you been writing fiction?
I started writing fiction about nine years ago, when I was in my mid-40’s (kind of a mid-life crisis, I suppose). I was an English major in college, but I studied composition and teaching, and had never taken a creative writing class.

2. Where did you learn fiction-writing?
In 2001, I took an Intro to Creative Writing course at Mesa College. I wrote a few short stories that won some awards, and took one of them to the San Diego State Writer’s Conference in 2003, where it won the Editor’s Choice Award from Brenda Copeland, who was then an editor at Simon and Schuster. She suggested that I try writing novels instead of short stories, and I decided to take her advice.

3. Where did you get the idea for this novel?
I had the idea for a short story about a married woman who falls in love with a Native American man. I don’t know where this idea came from, but I kept seeing the image of the husband, who I imagined had been in an accident of some sort, sitting in a chair with a rifle in his hands and his arms raised up in an Indian victory gesture. This image haunted me so much that I began a story about it, and that evolved into the novel, Coyote Heart.

4.How long did it take you to write this novel?
One and a half years.

5. How long did it take to get the book published?
I began Coyote Heart (then called Bow and Arrow) in 2003 and finished it in 2004. In January 2005, I took it to the SDSU Writer’s Conference, where it won an Editor’s Choice Award from Shaye Areheart, an editor at Crown Publishers. I met my agent, Bob Tabian, at the same conference, and in 2008, I was offered a royalty contract by Kirk House Publishers.

6. How did you find your publisher?
After the book made the rounds with the bigger publishing houses from 2005 – 2007, I submitted it to some university and smaller presses. One of them, University of Nevada Press, held it for one year and almost took it (it made it through internal and external reviews, but the editorial staff passed on it in a final publishing meeting). Kirk House was one of the small presses originally approached in 2007; they extended an offer in 2008.

7. Do you have a favorite character?
I read somewhere that an author should love all the characters in her novel, and I feel that way about this one. They are all flawed and all have suffered some kind of loss, which makes me feel for each of them, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the husband, Everett Weedman. He is a rational man, who likes order and logic in his world yet, at the same time, he has a deep love of nature and he’s willing to sacrifice for what matters.

8. What is your next novel about?
I am working on an historical novel called Favorite Daughter, which is about Pocahontas, who tells the story in first person, in her own point of view. I recently read Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel, Abundance, which tells the story of Marie Antoinette in her own voice and was fascinated by the way it dispelled so many myths about her character, while showing us who she really was as a person. I’m trying to do the same thing in Favorite Daughter, by telling the story from Pocahontas’s perspective and letting her show us the true nature of her relationship with John Smith and how she came to play such a significant role in American history.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Factors to Consider When Plotting a Novel

Over the years, I’ve had some fabulous writing instructors here in San Diego. Some of the classes were taught at the UC San Diego or San Diego State University extension programs, others were at local community colleges or writing organization meetings. A few of the wonderful teachers I’ve had include Drusilla Campbell, Carolyn Wheat, Bonnie Zobell, Mary Balogh, and Diane Dunaway – all talented writers, in addition to being great instructors.

I recently came across notes from some of these classes and thought I’d share a few of my favorites. Many of these changed my life as a writer; in fact, I considered the following list so important, I pinned it to the wall above my computer while I was writing my first novel, Coyote Heart.

The following notes came from a course on novel writing, taught by Drusilla Campbell. I send deep thanks to Drusilla for sharing these tips and for her wonderful insight and instructive wit.

Here is a list of factors to consider when plotting your novel:

▪ Characterization is key.
▪ The story will demonstrate your character’s growth, her change from one kind of person to another.
▪ There will be a back-story influencing the current story.
▪ The story is about something that matters (a strongly-held belief).
▪ The story will not be predictable.
▪ The story will be full of conflict, tension, and suspense.
▪ The story will be rich with emotion.
▪ The story will be detailed and sensory.
▪ There will be a major inciting incident that will take the main character out of her comfortable state and put her in trouble.
▪ After the inciting incident, the major character has a goal, which can be put in the form of a question.
▪ The goal is always something tangible, though it may represent a spiritual or moral goal.
▪ There will be mystery in your story.
▪ Your plot will constantly generate questions in the reader’s mind.
▪ There will be a mix of good and bad characters, and no one will be either too good or too bad.
▪ Every character will always be fully motivated.
▪ Opponent(s) will thwart the view point character’s goal.
▪ The story will be about an active hero.
▪ There will be a darkest moment for your heroine.
▪ The hero and his opposition will confront each other at the end.
▪ Your story will follow the patterns of cause and effect, stimulus and response.
▪ Any flashback will move the story forward and deepen characterization. PROMISE.