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Decisions, Part I : Pre-Planning [Self-Publishing Basics]

Note: For an updated version of the information below, download Self-Publishing Basic Training for FREE (you’ll also get some nifty extras)!

By Håkan Dahlström | Flickr

Decisions, decisions.

When deciding to self-publish or, heck, when deciding to write a book — many decisions must be made. The first set of these revolve around planning your book, both as an actual piece of completed work and from a marketing standpoint (if your goal is for other people to purchase it, that is).

In order to make the process of answering these questions less overwhelming we’ve broken them up into three posts based on when in the process the answers become critical. In this first post, we present a list of questions (separated into categories) to ask yourself before you put fingers to keys to begin writing your book.

Our Assumptions

Just a quick note: we’re working off of a couple of assumptions here. The first is that you’d like your book to reach an audience — any audience — beyond friends and family. The second is that you started the book writing process with the expectation of your work being traditionally published.

If you’re headed into the writing process with the intent to self-publish, we recommend also checking out next Monday’s post Big Decisions (subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t forget). The more questions you answer at the beginning of the process, the better.

Let your Mind (and Pen) Wander — Download the PDF

If you’re the type that likes to handwrite notes and outlines, you may want to download the PDF version of these questions. We give you plenty of room to write, sketch, and brainstorm — however you think best.Continue Reading

Write What You Know: Using YouTube, Wikipedia and Google Earth for Writing Research

There is an old adage for writers that simply states, “write what you know.”

Great, you think to yourself, let me take a quick catalogue of what I know:

  • Lyrics to every popular 90’s song imaginable.
  • How to re-start my cable box when HGTV goes out.
  • What it’s like to live a very normal, boring life in the suburbs.
  • How to cook a delicious green bean casserole.

Unfortunately, none of those known items seems like the proper inspiration for writing a novel. So where does that leave us? Well, prior to the Internet you would have been entirely reliant upon your imagination (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but your imagination does have its limits). But now we have a tool in our corner that has endless possibilities when it comes to teaching us the things we need to know to write a great piece of work.

To get you started, let me suggest a few alternative uses for some of the Internet’s three most common resources.Continue Reading

Writing Workspaces: I Think I Need A Pillow

My desk. Gotta have my Dilbert calendar.

About 2 o’clock on Monday, my butt started aching.

Too much information, I know, but it quite startled me. You see, I work from home, and spend about eight hours a day sitting on that aforementioned butt. I need it to be comfy.

I immediately began searching for the culprit of this aching. Was I sitting on something foreign without realizing it? Nope, no dog bones or shoes under there. Did I work out particularly hard yesterday? Pshaw, that certainly couldn’t be it. Then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me: I squished all of the padding on my $75 Target chair. It was providing no support, and I might as well ahve been sitting on bare wood. Aside from making me feel kind of bad about myself, it made me realize an important point:

We are products of our environment. Our work is the product of our environment.Continue Reading

Don’t Let Grammar Get You : Resources & Tips

photo by ElectraSteph

While recently editing a client’s work, I came across the following blunder:

“Diana has a huge heart. She’s a very kind and genital person.”

Oh boy…A mistake like that is why you should not EVER trust the a computer spell checker to effectively edit your work. Spell check won’t catch an error like that, because genital is in fact a word, just not the correct word for that sentence (funny aside: when I showed that error to Toni she said, “does that mean she’s ballsy?”).

The same goes for grammar. While most word processors have some sort of built-in grammar checker (that annoying green squiggly line that pops up under words), it’s not something you can effectively rely on to catch all of your grammar slip-ups and misunderstandings.

But fear not! We’re going to address a few of the common grammar mistakes and give you a few resources where you can get help and advice on avoiding a few more.Continue Reading

Brilliance in 6 Sentences: Is Flash Fiction for You?

Even though I don’t do a lot of creative writing (that’s Shannon’s domain — except for that X-Files Fan Fiction from when I was eleven), I still like to be on the lookout for writing resources to spark creativity and force me to think outside the box. I’m a designer by trade (and nature), but it’s often words that inspire me to think about a problem in new ways.

Flash Fiction Challenges And Inspires

In my search for inspiration this morning, I came across Six Sentences. It’s a blog illustrating the concept of ‘Flash Fiction,‘ that is, crafting a very effective story in a very condensed wordspan (yup, made that word up). In this case, you get six sentences. Six sentences to be brilliant, tragic, informative, warm, abstract — whatever. Case in point, this post entitled ‘Sock Puppets‘ by Adam Armour:

There was a moment there when they just looked at each other in drawn silence. Ash, hand still on the door, and Renee, hand up one of Ash’s missing socks, her palm open so that the little face she had drawn on the dirty white cotton looked as shocked as the both were. Ash thought to herself, What are you doing, Renee, and So that’s where my socks have been going, and I shouldn’t have come home early, but she didn’t say any of this. Her roommate tried to explain: “It’s just something I like to do. I only took the ones that looked dirty; that you were probably going to throw away anyway.” Ash just nodded, told Renee it was “OK” and slowly stepped back through the door into the apartment complex’s third floor hallway, certain that one of them had done something to make the other feel awkward, but not sure who.

Who knew the subject and awkwardness of a roommate making sock puppets could be so engrossing? Check out the site, and even if you don’t submit anything, it may be a good exercise to get the creative juices flowing in your own work!

What do you think about this exercise? Effective or a waste of time? Does reading blogs like Six Sentences motivate you for your own work or distract you from the task at hand? Is Toni way behind the flash fiction curve? Let us know in the comments!