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Most writers dream of writing and publishing a novel. In our collective mind that’s exactly what writer does.
But should you dismiss non-fiction writing: journalism and online articles?
In this post I’ll try to make it easier for you to choose between those two, or maybe mixing them.

Creativity

This is something everybody associates with creative writing (as the name clearly shows). But come to think of it, one needs a fair amount of creativity in non-fiction writing as well.

When writing fiction, you need to be creative about the solutions you want to implement in your plot, about your characters, plot twists and dialogue. You need to keep it fresh, so the potential readers want to read your novel only after reading the summary.

With non-fiction, keeping it fresh is even more important. Every time you write, you need to write about something new. And you need to put your own twist on subjects already covered by others. Here, creativity turns into a more technical skill. It’s all about writing good headlines and using good keywords.

Word count

Your fiction piece can start at 100 words and go on indefinitely.

A good article (especially one published online) is usually between 300 and 800 words. Anything less will get dismissed as not being noteworthy and anything more tend to be skimmed through and forgotten.

Therefore people who prefer to write short stories and get quickly to the point tend to write better non-fiction pieces (word count wise; but I’m generalizing here, so no offense to anyone).

Publishing

Nowadays it’s far more difficult to get your novel published than it was few years ago. So many people are writers that publishing houses can afford to have high standards. Nonetheless, you can still find publishers around, if you know where to look and are patient enough.

Finding a publishing place for your non-fiction is far easier. Especially if you’re thinking about publishing online. Anybody can have a website or a blog, and use those venues to publish their articles or essays.

It’s finding a paid gig that’s more of a challenge. You need to find those sites that work for you. Sites like Helium, Associated Content, Review Stream or Suite 101 seem to have both their fans and supporters and people who claim it is impossible to earn there. In my opinion it’s a matter of good and proper research that can result in finding a place that works best for you.

Fan base and getting readers

In the simplest words: fiction writers get bigger fan base but non-fiction writers get readers easier.

What I’m trying to say is that in the world of fiction you follow the authors while in the world of non-fiction, you follow the subject and the information.

If you write a good article on a subject of your interest, it’s very likely to get new viewers every day. But while that one article may prosper, your other articles can be overlooked and ignore.

And if one of your novels becomes popular, almost always your other works gain popularity as well.

Readers of fiction are more prone to become regular readers of their favorite author. Non-fiction readers only care for the information and not for the person that provides it.

Overall

I won’t tell you that one type of writing is better than the other. Both of them will affect your writing skills and hopefully improve them. I know that there’s nothing in the world that can compare to the thrill of getting your novel published. But I also know that getting feedback on my articles and see them impact my readers is also very satisfying.

What’s your take on the subject? Fiction or non-fiction?
And should AllWrittenDown cover non-fiction writing as well?

Become a Guest Posted for AllWrittenDown

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Photo by Hamed Saber

To put it bluntly: if you’re known, it’s easier to promote and sell your work. It’s a fact that JK Rowling sells more books than Tess Gerritsen, even though in my humble opinion JKR has nothing on Tess. But Ms Rowling gets a lot more publicity and that helps her secure that “Richest Writer in the Universe” spot. Any wanna-be writer who takes their writing seriously should make sure they get as much publicity and interact with as many people as possible. All of them could be potential readers of your books.

The question is how to achieve as much visibility as possible, while still maintaining your regular job, proper contact with your family and still writing your novels. Well I would say good time management skills, ability to prioritize and coffee, but I don’t want to sound like one of those people always giving lectures on business management.

Instead I want to give you ideas of where to start and how in small steps get people to like you and care about your work.

Web site

I feel like stating the obvious. Every writer who is serious about their work should have their own web site.

It’s a place where people can learn some basic information about you (often listed in “About” or “Bio” page) like when did you start writing, why do you like it so much and so on. It helps you establish that, in fact and contrary to a popular belief, you are a human being with a passion.

And when you finally publish your work, your web site is where your readers can easily find all your works no matter how many different publishers you have. I know writers who publish their books with four different publishers and if reader were to follow them to a publisher, they would miss out on all the books published with someone else.

Blog

Nothing helps you to connect like a blog. Regular posts about your life, funny anecdotes, complaints about the recent problems you have with your characters… Blogging can be about everything. Not only you keep writing (and that as we know helps to keep the writer’s block away) but blogging is also a great way of meeting new people and finding friends.

It’s good to blog for the sole purpose of blogging, though. Because if you blog with a secret agenda of selling your books, or ideas or anything, it will soon because an exhausting errand or worse, your readers will realize that your passion is somewhat fake.

Remember it’s okay to create a post “OMG! I got published LOOK!” and put up a link in the sidebar. However mentioning at the end of every post “see this book I wrote buy and review PLZ!” is simply annoying. Not to mention bordering on Spam. That won’t help you start friendly relationships with people who later on could support you and help you solve your plot problems.

Forums

Personally, I find forums overwhelming and slightly chaotic. But that’s because I prefer cozy, little groups of people who know each other well. But I’m a minimalist and prefer to have few small circles of friends than one huge group of people. However even with my personal preferences, I can’t deny, that forums are simply irreplaceable when it comes to establishing visibility for a writer. I experienced the magic when before NaNoWriMo 2007 I posted on their forums a link to my Random Prompt Generator.

If you like the format forums offer before posting, you should pay extra attention to both your profile and your signature. You should use both with caution. Don’t overdo it; there is such thing as “too much”. You’d be surprised how far you’ll get by simply placing a link to your website/blog/newest book. If people like what you write in your posts to the forums, they will follow the link and you don’t need a huge banner there.

Network sites

You know, MySpace, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Digg. Places where you can friend people, exchange comments and basically have fun. Though I wouldn’t recommend signing up with all of them. That would make you lose your mind. But one or two (preferably ones you are already using) will help to get your name out there.

Remember

Don’t overwhelm yourself. You want to get some exposure online to promote your future work. It can’t take over your life, nor should it take you away from your writing. Self-promotion is something you can do at any given time. So you should make sure you have your priorities straight. Your writing comes first.

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Finding a suitable name for your charcter is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll have to make during writing your story. It will have a huge impact on how the readers see the character and there’s a possibility you’ll change your perception of the charcter as well.

How to go around naming the character?

Three things can influence your character’s name. Their gender, their background and their personality. The wrong name will cause your reader discomfort that might even influence their overall opinion about your story. All you have to do is to give it some thought and put some work into choosing the right name.

Gender

Let’s face it, this limits your choices in an obvious way. You won’t name a boy Mary, nor will you call a girl Jeremy. This in mind, remember there are names that nowadays are suitable for both males and females. Names such as Sam, Chris, Jo or Terry are common among both sexes.

However, you as a writer need to remember that those names are usually shorter versions of names that in no doubt are in the charcter’s birth certificate. And so the personality can be influenced by both, the short name the character uses every day and the full name that he or she might be reffered as.

For example. Will Sam’s behaviour change when her grandmother calls her Samantha? Who calls Samuel Sam and how does that influence reader’s perception of the character?

Background

First background information you need to consider when choosing a name is your character’s ethnicity and family history. Irish names will differ from Scottish and English ones. And if you call your American hero Jose, your readers are going to assume he’s of a Spanish or Mexican decent.

Choosing the right name is especially important if your story is a historical piece. Amber or Mike might be suitable for contemporary characters, but if you use those name in your historical romance placed in 16th century England, you will be known as the writer who doesn’t care enough to do some proper research.

Personality

Some say that name doesn’t have any influence on one’s personality. That might be true, however, if you call your character Tiffani and claim she’s sensible and wise… Well, people might have a hard time believing that.

Literary Liaisons also points out that if you end a name on a hard sound like “t” or “s” your character will automatically seem stronger. Therefore Kent will be more confident than Hugh and Ella will be sweeter and softer than Brooke.

Also, with the Internet at your feet, you can surf through various sites that offer you meanings of every name and then name your character after their main trait.

Balance

It’s very important to make sure there are not too many names in your story that share the same characteristic. You can’t have too many people with unusual names. Your story can’t consist of characters with names starting only with the letter J (unless that is the point). Why? First of all your reader might have a problem with following which character is the main focus at the moment or who’s talking. And it’s not very creative :).

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Our very own Random Prompt Generator remains one of the most popular posts ever since it was published. And I’m really thrilled that you’re finding it useful and inspiring. But in my quest to provide you with all the writing help possible I have for you yet another way to push your muse and your writing to a whole new level.

Our Prompt Generator was designed to inspire you, give you ideas and maybe look at simple words from a new perspective. Recently, I have stumbled upon a writing exercise written in the same script as our own generator. It however offers you more of a challenge and makes you pay attention to slightly different things.

Writing Exercise Generator

Created by Syrenslure the generator offers a technical parameter (period of time or a wordcount), a style or a character parameter, and a word or phrase for inspiration.

All you need to do now is start writing. Go on, I dare you! Respond to the prompt given to you by the generator and comment with a link (or email me your story if you’re shy *g* I promise to be nice).

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This is a post for those who already wrote a novel. Or are looking for ideas that currently sell. For those still working on their books, this is something you might want to use for future reference.

Here’s a list of Publishers who specilize mostly in online publishing. If you’re just starting, the world of e-books is much easier to conquere than that of real books. And as a plus, some ePublishers decide to publish their best authors in paperback. So why don’t you take a look at those names and see if you have a chance to get your work out there.

Atlantic Bridge Publishing offers 45% royalties. Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Horror, Sci/fi, Adventure, Mystery, Western, Historical, Mainstream, Young Adult, Children Books as well as Non-Fiction and Poetry. Submission guidelines.

Chageling Press pays 35% royalties. They publish Interludes and Novellas (up to 25000 words a piece) and concentrate mostly on Fantasy and Erotica. Submision Information.

Dead End Street Publications accepts fiction, non-fiction and screeplays. FAQ.

DLSIJ Press publishes mostly women writers and offers up to 45% royalties. They publish all kinds of genres both Fiction and Non-Fiction. Call for Submissions.

Echelon Press accepts all kinds of genres for their ebook section and if you meet their requirements you can have a shot at publishing a paperback with them. Guidelines.

ENC Press publishes “novels for grown-ups” that aren’t completely pollitically correct. Check here for details.

Fictionwise accepts only already published authors, but if you qualify you might as well check them out.

Flame Books is currently closed for submissions, however they promise to start accepting new work later this year. Stay tuned if you want to publish with them.

Loose Id specilized in erotica and romance with emphasis on alternative lifestyles. They offer 35% royalties. They also publish some of their contracted authors in print. Check the submission guidelines here.

Lulu.com is for those who don’t want to send out their cover letters and wait for some publishing house to decide they like what you write. They offer a complex service for everybody who wishes to publish themselves.

New Concepts Publishing publishes mostly romances, however you should give their submission guidelines a chance as you might find something for you there.

Samhain Publishing is always open to general submissions of all genres of romance and erotica, but if you’re writing in a different field you can check out their submissions page as they update it quite often (unlike some other publishing houses). They pay 40% of cover price for single ebook.

Torquere Press publishes only books about GLBT characters with strong romance overtones (although they do have a sistersite for heterosexual romances too). They offer from 25% to 35% royalties. Here are their submission guidelines.

Writer’s Exchange E-publishing Author will receive 60% of the retail download price if Author provided the work complete. If Writers Exchange E-Publishing is required to complete any cover-art on the Author’s behalf the royalties to the Author will drop to 50% to allow 10% to be paid to the cover artist. For illustrated books the author royalties will drop to 40% to allow 20% to the cover artist. Check here for details.

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photo by Sorosh

Some writers work on more than one project at the time. But is it something for you?
Let’s take a closer look at that phenomena and see pros and cons.

Distraction

When Project A gives you problems, characters don’t want to co-operate and basically you’re stuck, it’s sometimes good to switch to something else. So Project B might be exactly what you need.
Allow your brain to take a break from one thing by distracting it with something different. And when Project B turns on you, you can easily go back to Project A. And so on and so forth.

On the other hand, if you don’t try to solve the problem you face with Project A right away, the break might not help at all. Also, it might take you some time to get in touch with the plot and the conflicts in your story. The feel of it might be gone. And what then?

Choice

Nobody can deny this. If you’re working on more than one project at the time, you always have a choice. You spend Monday working on Project A, but when you turn on your computer the next day, suddenly you decide to open the file with Project B. Three days later you switch to Project C. And you keep writing. You keep creating stories and it feels amazing.
What’s the disadvantage of that?

You also keep dividing your attention. You might be writing ten stories at the time and have ideas for another ten. But you might also find it easier to start another project than to finish one you’re already writing.

Too Much

While it might sound surreal, there really is something like writing too much. Especially if you spend everyday writing, switching between projects. Your brain, after working so hard for too long, might simply refuse to create anything new. And you’re facing a serious case of Writer’s Block (one you might not be able to deal easily with).

But if you’re not one to go into creative high and you are capable of keeping the ‘dosage’ on a reasonable level, then who knows. You might never experience ‘creative overdosing’ :).

There is also another type of writers. When presented with a choice (work on Project A, Project B or Project C), they are unable to make a final decision.
Because when they do, somewhere at the back of their head, something tells them that working on that other story would be a lot more productive. As a result, they can’t concentrate on the story they decided to write.

If you’re that kind of a person, then I’m very sorry. Multitasking is not for you.

Multitask or not?

Much like with sex, it’s a matter of personal preference. You can definitely try it out, see if it works for you.
I know writers who work on many project at the same time and others who faithfully still to one until it’s done. And in both cases the finished story is great. So even though their method differ, it’s the way the write.

Multitasking and dividing your attention might be something for you, but if not, it doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

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Jeffery Deaver, author of bestsellers such as “The Bone Collector” and “The Sleeping Doll” is currently promoting his newest book “The Broken Window”, another in a series about Lincoln Rhyme. CBS did an interview with Mr Deaver where they asked about his newest book. However what you might find interesting is that he also gives us a glimpse of how he creates his novels. And the big word it seems is: Planning. Lot’s of it.

For those interested here’s the interview:

Video lenght: aprox. 3 mins (click here if you can’t see the video)
Curtesy: CBS

Jeffery Deaver official website

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Photo by Hamed Saber

You decided to write this nice little story. You had enough information, characters suitable for a story under 10000 words and a plot that was supposed to be just enough for your needs. And then you started to write it. And it was like suddenly you were writing an epic.

I’m terrible at estimating how big a story might get. I don’t pay much attention to the word count, unless it’s my goal. However, even I can notice the difference between a ficlet and a novella.

Identify the problem

Why is your story getting bigger? Is it because your plot turned out to be a bit bigger than you first anticipated? Did your characters suddenly gain a significant background that contributes to the story? Are there small bits of information your reader might enjoy knowing but nothing crucial to the plot?

I’ll risk sounding redundant, but indentifying the problem might lead to solutions.

Try to name everything that may be influencing the lenght of the story. If it’s the fact that you’re getting into too many details, try to think how much detail your story really needs. Maybe you’re simply overdoing it. I know how difficult it is to judge your own work, but if the story is to be posted online, then all kinds of funny random trivia can be posted separately. And that might actually save your story.

Are the characters taking over? Revealing more and more about themselves? And it seems as if all of it is very important to the story; in terms of explaining why characters react to the events the way they do.

Well if that’s the case you need to think whether or not some mystery about characters’ motives won’t actually help the story. If you want to write a ficlet or a short story, it’s sometimes good to leave the reader not understanding the actions your characters took. It will keep the readers intrigued and interested.

Plot is getting bigger? And you really want to write something short. Maybe it’s because you don’t have time or really want to publish something. The solution to that might be simply writing a series of short stories instead of one long one. And if done right it might even be more satisfying to both you and your readers.

To Cut or Not to Cut.

The real question is. Do you really want to keep writing a short story even though you have a possible novel on your hands? Afterall, most writers want to write a great novel etc.

However there are valid reasons to fight the growth of your story. If you have short attention span and know that in a week the story will be forgotten. If you’re writing for a contest or a challenge and you have to close your story within a given wordcount. If you know that while you have the beginning and the end of the story, the middle will drag itself and lull the reader to sleep.

Anything above is true for you? Then I really suggest you work on getting the story shorter. But so it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time, I’d also cupy and paste the pieces you’re cutting out to a separate file. You never know, they might turn out to be a useful ideas for your future work. Any possible plot bunnies should be stored somewhere and cared for. You never know what masterpiece they might result in.

But if the only reason for making your story shorter is your fear that it won’t be any good, then I suggest you suck it up and keep writing the epic. be brave and finish the first draft. Maybe it won’t be all that bad. Hell, it might even be brilliant. And look at it this way: if it really is as bad as you anticipated. Nothing stops you from transforming this not-so-good novel into a better short story. Simply don’t give up before you try. And have faith in yourself.

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Photo by D’Arcy Norman

For whatever reason, every writer takes a break sometimes. But I know from my own experience and from my friends’ testimonies, that the longer the breake, the harder it is to start writing again. Here’s something that might help you get back on the writing horse.

On-line Social Life

I do realize that the Internet is usually the reason why you’re not writing. But sometimes it also can help you to start writing again. If you take away the Youtube, reading articles and any passive behaviour, all that is left is essentially writing.

You write comments to people’s posts. You write blog posts. You write twitter entries. You spend hours on Facebook. But the fact remains. While procrastinating, you are writing hundreds of words. The key is to put that into good use.

Try to make your comments longer than one sentence.

If your comments look more like “Oh shiny!” or “Agreed!” you should try and work on making them longer, including an actual thoughtful opinion in them. Not only this will make your social interactions more effective (who cares about that?) but you will make a habit of putting your thoughts on paper… err… screen/keyboard.

Get on the roll.

It might happen that you have an unusually big amount of time on your hands. And instead of doing something productive you choose to go online. Well good for you! Choose that time to get ‘on a roll’. Answer comments, comment yourself, blog, twitter… Do everything involving writing. Those activities might not be extremely creative (in most cases, there are of course exeptions). But they set a good background for writing a paragraph or two and finally moving the plot a bit further.

I often open all my online social activities in new tabs and things I should write in a new window. And after two hours of typing my thoughts in responce to someone’s post or article. I suddenly find a strenght and determination to write a new article, a new paragraph. True, it’s not always effective. But nonetheless it works for some people.

Whiny friend

I bet some of you have a friend who reads your work. Maybe they even express their opinions and/or are really excited about your stories. If you do have a friend like that, keep them. If you don’t… Try to find one. A big fan of your writing will be very enthusiastic about reading the next chapter/installment/paragraph/part (however you post your stories) and will make a point of telling you that any time. If said fan is also your good friend you will feel uncomfortable just ignoring their inquiries.

No matter how annoying the constant whining is, when they are not irritating, your friends really are helpful and supportive. And in the end, it’s better to write that damn paragraph to shut them up instead of yelling at them and losing possibly the most useful people in your life.

Guilt

Too much guilt in your life in unhealthy. True. However. If you work yourself up. Feeling guilty about not writing might actually be very useful. There are many factors that can lead to guilt. Your own actions, or lack of therof. Reactions of others. But the most important is your own point of view.

If you decide writing is something you should be doing and it’s not just your hobby, you will feel guilty about not meeting a deadline or failing to complete a story.

My friend Nix is a great writer in the Fandom. But for quite some time she had a dificulty of meeting deadlines she set up for herself. With a mixture of progress reports for her readers and guilt, she managed to get into the right state of mind. And from what I can tell, she’s been meeting her deadlines for few months now.

Threats a.k.a. Outside factors

You may believe it or not, but fear of concequences is a great motivator. This is why deadlines set by an outside factor (publisher, or a challenger) work so much better than the ones you set for yorself. That’s why writing for someone/something if a very good way to keep moving forward.

Of course I’m not talking serious concequesnces like financial fees or anything. Those would drive any writer into a stress driven paranoia that “they are out to get us”. However any contest or bigger community event such as NaNoWriMo or any kind of flashfic community can be a boost for your writing.

If you’re more serious about your writing and need something bigger, than a deadline set by a publisher or an agent might be a perfect choice for you. Though be careful in this case. Because official deadlines does influence your professional life.

However you look at this, everything mentioned in this post can be useful to force yourself back to writing. However you need to keep in mind that not only it all depends on your inner strenght and the way you function; but it’s quite possible that what works for others might not work for you.

All you really need is taking a deep breath and deciding that you want to write something. Sooner or later you will.

Good luck.

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1. Ten Things That May Indicate You’re Writing a McNovel – it’s almost like a Mary Sue test for the whole novel

2. Internet-Resources.com – Writers’ resources on the web

3. NotWriting – stuff one writer does when he should be writing

4. Notebook in Hand – mingle with other writers in forums

5. Storyist – software for writers with Macs. Makes you want to buy a MacBook

6. Seventh Sanctum Generators – Random fun for those who need inspiration

7. Story Spinner Online – gazillions creative writing exercises

8. Fiction Factor – online magazine for fiction writers

9. 10 Things to Write in Your Notebook

10. A Dozen Online Writing Tips – written by a journalist but also useful to other writers

11. BBC Get Writing – mini-courses to improve your writing

12. Writerisms and other Sins – A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing

13. Language is a virus – huge resource page originally designed to help you with NaNoWriMo

14. Writing-World.com – impressive list of articles on how to write a good novel

15. 50 tools which can help you in writing – lifehack’s take on the subject

16. Writer’s Resource Center – targeted at US writers

17. TOC about Writing – serious and humorous articles from sci-fi and fantasy writers

18. National Punctuation Day – mark your calendars

19. Creativity at Work – quotes

20. Cliche Finder – pick a word and the site will find all cliches using that word

21. Writers Online Workshops – Instructions on how to improve your writing whithin weeks

22. SoYouWanna – how to publish a book

23. Gnooks! – find new reading material

24. Common Errors in English

25. Guerrilla Press – free independent publishing resource site

26. Word Perhect – a new way of writing

27. Hit Those Keys – site for creative encouragement.

28. NewPages.com – News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more

29. 110+ Resources For Creative Minds – List of must-visit sites and articles

30. BetterEditor.org – online resources for editors and writers

31. Wikimedia Foundation – Links to all official Wiki sites

32. The Care and Feeding of Writers – funny approach to little quircks typical for writers

33. Non-errors – Those usages people keep telling you are wrong but which are actually standard in English

34. Dictionary of British slang – for those non-British authors who wish to use Brits as their characters

35. Q10 – Free Word Editor for writers.

36. One Sentence – true stories, told in one sentence

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