Monday, November 25, 2013

Methods for Creating Successful Book Covers

Simple, but nice... Just like my day
Even though your mother has told you not to do it, you still judge books by their covers. Don't beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every one does it. So as a self published author, you should put as much work into your book cover design as you did your manuscript. If not, your book sales will suffer.

You have spent months crafting a manuscript, making sure it is your best work. The work you had put into your story should be recognized by anyone who comes across your finished book. When you have a high quality book cover, you are immediately telling the potential reader that the story under the cover matches its quality. That is why when you have a book cover that looks like crap, your books sales will pay for it even if your story is gold.

There are always two questions that I ask myself when I consider creating a book cover myself. 1) Can I make the cover engaging enough that someone besides my mother would want to buy my book? 2) Can I make the finished product look like it was created by a professional? If I answer no to either question I know it is time to hire a professional graphic designer that knows how to create book covers. 

Noticed how I was specific about hiring a graphic designer with book cover design experience. The link I had posted above is for Richard Green, who I had the pleasure of working with. He is talented with creating book covers that capture an engaging element of the story. Something that I feel is very important to the overall success of a book.
The Photography Method or Photography-Graphic Artist Method

There are times when I feel I can use my photography to create a high quality book cover. Hey, I cannot draw, but I can buy everyday items and take a photo of them to create a scene for my book cover. For instance, I can buy a red rose, a black vase, lighter fluid and matches. I can set the scene by placing the red rose in the black vase, sprinkling a few drops of lighter fluid on the rose pedals and set the rose on fire with a match. Then I cry in a bathtub naked. No that's another story. Then I take a close up picture of the flaming rose in the black vase. 

What do I have afterwards? It depends on how the picture came out and if the scene I had set up matches any part of my story in an engaging way. If I have done those things correctly then I would use it for my upcoming romance novel, "Love Turned Grey." Ashes are grey, right?

Hey, I can write romance. I wrote a blog post about creating meaningful sex scenes. I think I have it down. 

When I can't capture the image just right I write it down and send the picture to a graphic artist with book design experience. That way they have something I want to work with and they can make it look much better. They can even add effects that I could not. For instance, showing the flaming rose turning grey because it is turning to ash. 

The more I think about it, I will start to use the photography-graphic artist method more often. Even though it is easier just tell a graphic artist what you want, it is worth the extra effort of giving them a picture to work with. Why not go the extra mile for your book's success?   

Sunday, November 17, 2013

5 Easy Tips to Write A Great Sex Scene

Break your sex scene down like a Kamasutra box
How often do your characters have sex? If you answered more than once every other chapter then that is one steamy story you are writing there. So hot that you won’t need an oven to bake that turkey this Thanksgiving. Just lay that savory nakedness on those velvety pages and watch that muscle toned meat sizzle. Excuse me… Wait, so that’s why I am not invited to Thanksgiving dinner anymore.

Anyway, if you are like me then you don’t write erotica and probably can’t recall writing many sex scenes if not any at all. In short fiction you have to worry more about censorship anyway, so if you do choose to write a steamy scene it has to be quick and to the point. After all, everything in short fiction has to be relevant to move the plot forward.

Books are a different matter. You have more freedom to be more descriptive and with that you have more options to take the story in “related” directions, i.e. subplots. So if you want to write about an affair one of your protagonists is having with the antagonist then you are more free to do so. And you don’t have to skip out on any of the details.

The issue for most writers is where do you start when you want to write a sex scene. ‘In the bedroom,’ you say. Well, if you are old fashioned. I have 5 easy tips for you that will help you write an awesome sex scene.

1. Learn as much as you can about our fun parts

We all think we are experts when it comes to sex, but few really are. Think of it this way, unless you work in the medical field and study human anatomy then I would suggest you hit those search engines and do as much research as you can. There is always something new you can learn about the human body. When you do, that knowledge mixed with creativity can intrigue your readers.

Here is an example of a website I have found that talks about the 10 interesting facts about the vagina.

My favorite fact is that you are what you eat. I can really create some fun scenes with that new knowledge. How about you?

2. Learn about the different positions

Wait, you know all of those too right? I am not a Kamasutra master so I like to read articles about it with lots and lots of illustrations. Huge smile, okay I'm done. The purpose of this is the same as doing your research on what the human body can do during sex. 

Some of you may even be thinking, well Andre, I can always just grab my significant other and a lab coat and do my own hands on research. You can, but think of it this way. As a writer you constantly look up new words to widen your vocabulary. Why so? Because there are so many different ways to describe a scene. There are so many different ways to write a sex scene if you are keen to all the different ways people have sex. 

3. Read erotica

I am not a fan of erotica, but I look at this genre as an Oreo cookie. I just like the cream filing. No pun intended. You don't have to read the whole book, just the juicy parts to see how others are writing about sex. You are trying to learn how other writers try to engage their readers. 

If you are limited on what you know about sex and also on how to write it, you are going to have some very soft scenes. Pun intended. 

4. Be a director in your head

Did I just tell you to be a porn director? If that helps you with this tip, then sure. When you write your scene think about the the angles of presentation and their order when you have the scene unfold. 

An easy way to follow this tip is to outline what happens in order and focus on what is shown in that order; if you can draw then create a story board. Breaking the scene into many different moving parts will help you connect them into a long fluid motion. Think of it as describing a tongue kiss from start to finish. Where you start doesn't have to be with the kiss, you can begin with 'the sweet smell of cognac that escapes by a lover's heavy breath.' The middle pieces are broken into different scenes to help with descriptions and connected in order to show fluidity. The purpose if that you are engaging the reader by building up to the climax. Just like foreplay leading to sex. 

Think of a lover slowly undressing before you. Think about the order of actions, each description and how each connect, building up to the climax, which would be the lover fully nude. Hold on, let me get a drink of water. 

5. If it doesn't turn you on then edit it out

So you shot the scene and now it is time to take it to the editor. Once again, this is you. Now you have to reassess what doesn't work by what leaves you... unchanged after reading the sex scene. 

Once again you have to think of the overall scene in parts, look at what just doesn't do it for you and what doesn't connect with the other parts. Do you feel a rise in anticipation for the climax when each part from the beginning?

If something just doesn't feel right, then kill it before it kills the mood. 

Let me know what you think.

Friday, November 8, 2013

3 Reasons Your Dog Would Be A More Productive Writer Than You

That's what I said. Hey, don't look at me that way, you were the one who clicked on the title to get here. So now that you are here with me, let me explain what I am talking about. You see writing is a craft that requires a lot out of those who practice it. Emphasis on practice, because just like medicine, there is always something new to learn to make you better. And since practice does not make perfect when it comes to writing, this can cause writers to develop all sorts of interesting dilemmas that keep them from taking up the keyboard.

When it comes to humans, we have to be the only ones on this planet that create our own problems like we do. Usually the hardest obstacles we create are done so by our own fears.

When I look at my dog, he is always able to get himself in a good mood, he stays focused on whatever activity he does, and he doesn't let his past mistakes trouble him . If he had a more developed brain and just raccoon hands, he may look like this:

He is my second source of income

Besides looking good in a business suit, my dog has some other great qualities that if we all had we would all be more productive writers.

1. Your Dog Can Always Get In The Right Mood

I have heard many people talk about how they have to be in the mood to write. I know you have heard it to. Maybe you have heard yourself say this. I know I have said it.

It is only an excuse for being lazy that has the potential to turn into writer's block if left alone.You know you want to write, but what is stopping you?

Whenever I face a moment when I don't feel like writing, I ask myself the simple question of why. Ninety nine percent of the time it isn't because I am tired. It is mostly a reason that can either wait or is part of my wavering self confidence when facing the uphill project that is creating a well written story from the thoughts in my head.

My dog is always in the mood to do his job. Granted his job is to play and keep me entertained, but whenever I ask him to find his toy he never ignores me. I know he is a lesser animal that doesn't have to worry about the things we do, but when it is time to write we should get in dog mode and think about the task at hand instead of all the other things outside of it. This will keep us in the mood to write. It will also help us to stay focused, which is my next point.

2. Your Dog Can Stay Focused

We all have issues with staying focused. You can blame it on the constant demand to multitask that your job places on you or technology or because writing can be so lonely. I always blame it on myself.

Time is limited and therefore very precious. We still find ways to waste it. Setting aside time to write should mean just that for writers.

When my dog plays, he stays focused on just that. When it is time to head out to the park for a walk, he becomes focused on that. When it is time to eat, the same. Dogs live in the moment, so when they are doing something they don't stop to think about the other things they could be doing instead.

If we all could just stay in the moment too, then when we set time aside to write we would just be doing that and more of our works would be out there for readers to find.

3. Your Dog Doesn't Let Mistakes Trouble Him

This ties in to the fact that dogs live in the moment. Now, I know that if a dog is abused they can develop trust issues with humans. However, we are talking about mistakes here.

When my dog had peed on my shoes, he was only sorry when I pointed it out to him, very loudly, that he had made a mistake. Afterwards he sulked a bit with his tail between his legs. However, when you look at him now you would never know that he ever had made a mistake in his adorable little life. And that now is twenty minutes later.

When he goes about doing something, like watching for pesky mail men or keeping me entertained, he doesn't let his mistakes keep him from doing what he wants. This can be frustrating sometimes...

Yes, I know that what he does is less complicated than what you do, at least I hope so, but he doesn't let his mistakes keep him from doing what he loves. And you shouldn't let your mistakes keep you from writing what you love.

It is fine to listen to criticism, as long as it is constructive. Just don't let it stop you from writing what you want. I have seen writers abandon stories and even genres because the mistakes they are told that the had made. Listen to them, keep a note of how to correct them if you feel they should be and move on. Live in the moment like Fido when you set time to write and you will  increase your productivity.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Find the right narrative voice in less than 10 minutes

Become a detective to find the right narrative voice
Narrative voice can be one of the most challenging aspects of story telling for many writers. Hey, if it wasn't then there wouldn't be so many books out there about this wonderful subject. I know I said I would tell you how to better grasp narrative voice in less than 10 minutes, but what the title should really say is "find the right narrative voice in however long it takes you to read this article." The latter does sound catchier, right?

You know what, this blog post has narrative voice. It is a stream of consciousness voice. I, emphasis on I, am giving a first person perspective of my thoughts, feelings and emotions about creative writing. When I talk about other "characters" which means you, I don't express your thoughts or desires. I give general statements of what you might want or what you may be thinking based on my own desires and thoughts. Hey, I may even begin to monologue. Wait, did I do that in the first paragraph?

The purpose of using narrative voice in my blog post is to engage with my audience. Because like I had, other writers have even published books about narrative voice, so others have already said plenty about this subject. It is narrative voice that makes this article unique to readers and therefore engaging. It doesn't always have to be what you say, but how you say it that captures audiences. 

When you think about the most popular books out there. When you think about your favorite stories and you think about their outlines. What  they are about has usually been done to death. But, the thing that keeps you reading is the way the author presents the story. Narrative voice is a major piece of story presentation that has the power to captivate audiences even when a story is not unique at all. 

Since movies are more popular than books, let me give you a movie reference. Sin City. Yes, I know it was a graphic novel first, but have you read it? Okay, so with Sin City my favorite story is Marv's story, who uses character voice narration. When you think about Marv's tale, it is just another detective story about a man trying to solve the mystery of who killed the pretty dame. Dame? Yep, I went there and it looks like 1940. Anyway, what makes the story unique is how Marv describes his motives, his thoughts, his actions and the world around him. You can argue that the reason Marv's overdone tale is so engaging, is because Marv is an interesting character and because the right narrative voice is used to describe who he is to the audience. I would agree with you. 

When you have great characters, I would stay away from unreliable voice or even a third person omniscient narration. You should choose a narrative voice that exposes everything about your awesome characters. If you have a story where the events are better than the actual characters in them, for instance your story is an Indiana Jones style story where the events are more captivating than the characters, then use third person omniscient so more focus can be placed on the setting, events and how the different characters react to them. 

Really there is no right or wrong, only recommendations. If you are creative enough you can tell a great story World War Z style, which is epistolary narrative voice, by using documents, interviews or letters to expose the plot. But remember the importance of how you want to expose your characters, world and plot to your audience. I recommend to think of which is more engaging and choose the best narrative voice that will help you expose it to your readers. 

Finding the right narrative voice doesn't take long if you understand the strongest parts of your story, the different narrative voices and that matching the right narrative voice to maximize exposure of the strongest parts of your story creates more opportunity for readers to become engaged with your story. 

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