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98 A Written View

The Following Will Shock You

This is for all creators who use Kindle Unlimited – don’t!

DougHeader-webBy Doug Owen

Okay, got that off my chest. I guess you’re wondering why I’m screaming that at the top of my lungs. Well, let’s go over what KU is, for those who don’t know.

KU, or Kindle Unlimited, allows readers to read as much as they want for a small monthly fee. Authors add their books to KU and, when a reader starts to read it, the author starts to get paid. On a 300 page book the payout is a maximum of $1.50 per book if it is read from start to finish. If the book is only 50% read, then they get $0.75. Nice system, and all you have to do is advertise your book.

Knowing the world we live in, there are people out there who’ve figured out how to scam the system. They get people to create multiple new KU accounts (free for the first month), download the book and either flip through it quickly or just skip to the end. So, for each individual scammer, the author has the ability to make $15. Do this enough and you could make a few bucks, but not until you have finished hiring a lot of people and losing those bucks.

So why is this bad?

Ask Pauline Creeden, author of the Chronicles of Steele. A while back, Pauline received a generic email saying her KDP account was closed due to a violation of the terms. Like most of us, Pauline sees a majority of her sales through Amazon in ebook format. She is a mid-range author, like many of us, and the closing of her KDP account cut off a large portion of income for her. It took a lot of emailing back and forth, and pain, but her account was reinstated.

Why did Amazon close her account?

Here is the email message she received:

We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately.


As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account(s) and remove the books you have uploaded through KDP from the Kindle Store. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments. Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open new KDP accounts and will not receive future royalty payments from additional accounts created.

She’d received no advance warning, no information, nor anything to tell her there was a problem.

Basically, when you limit yourself to KDP and the KU program, it means you have the possibility of losing a lot. Pauline advertised this book like she did any other, but maybe the cover art (impressive when you look at it) enticed a number of people to join the KU program and grab her book. Maybe there was an influx of people who joined KU at that time and picked her book to read. We don’t know (and neither does Pauline). All she can tell you is it shocked her, and took a great deal of time to resolve.

Note – the payout for KU usually works out to $0.005/page.

Ingram Sucks!

Ouch! Really? Yes, they do, but that shouldn’t stop you from dealing with them indirectly. Here’s why. Warning, I may get a little racy on this one.

Ingram tells you when publishing through their Lightning Source, that book stores like to have the ability to return books that don’t sell. It means limited liability to them (really, no liability). They also tell you that bookstores like to make 40 percent of the sale as profit.

Okay, let’s look at the numbers. A book sells for $20, the bookstore gets $8 and you get $12, right? No. In order for the bookstore to get 40 percent you have to mark your payments at 55 percent (40% to the bookstore and 15 percent to Ingram as the distributor). So now you have only made 45 percent or $9. Then you have to remove the print cost of the book as well, say $4.55, leaving you with $4.45. Okay, I can see that.

Returns kill your income

Ingram, when handling returns, charges you for both the printing of the returned book and their distribution charge. So, you are out the actual distribution fee of the book, or $11. And to add insult to injury, they also charge a $2 fee for handling the return.

That’s not all. If you request for the books to be returned, not destroyed, they charge you $2 per book for delivery—is if you live in the United States. If you live in, say, Canada, they charge an extra $20 per book for the return.

Is your wallet crying yet? There’s more.

Depending on when the return is done, you could be out a lot of money before you see one dime of royalties.

Say it isn’t so, Doug. How could they do that?

Easy. You go to the bookstore and arrange a signing and you live in Canada. They LOVE your book and see you have lots of sales, so they order 200 books through Ingram to stock the shelves and make money. You show up, slogging through the snowstorm to end all snowstorms. The store is open and you wait, hoping to sign and sell at least 100 books. You advertised the sale to all the people following you on Facebook and Twitter. Many people said they would be there.

At the end of the day you’re dejected, and have sold only ten books. Okay, not bad, but horrible for royalties (use the prior financial information to show you made $44.50 from the sale).

Now, the manager at the bookstore shakes your hand and says, “Tough luck with the weather, right?”

You smile, nod, and collect all your things in order to brave the raging storm outside.

Unknown to you, the bookstore packs up all 190 remaining books and ships them back to Ingram that very day, shaking his head at another wannabe author, not realizing the storm caused the lack of sales.

Ingram receives the books back, and promptly checks to see you have return marked on them. They smile, package them up, and send them to you. Your royalty report shows the following:

Sales – $90

Print costs – $910.00

Total Royalties – ($820)

The signing now cost you a lot of money, and they hold that against you, deducting it from royalties owed.

Now, when you get your financial report at the end of the month you’ll see the return of the books, and a fee imposed called “Other”. In this case (we’ll call the author Bill), Bill gets his monthly Ingram statement that shows he owes $820 in royalties and an “Other” charge of $3990 ($2 per book return shipping charge and $20 per book return out of US). Bill closes his account and stops writing. What a shame.

Ingram mentioned two months ago that they are rewriting the ‘agreement’ to remove the charge, but everyone asks, “What agreement?” In fact, there is no actual formal agreement between Author/Publisher and Ingram Lightning Source. Figure that out. So how can they actually hold you to that charge? Well, if you are smart you’ll realize it is a charge from Ingram Distributing, not Lightning Source. You could always say you don’t have an agreement with them—only Lightning Source—and see how that works. Until Ingram gets their heads out of their proverbial ass, I’ll never deal directly with them again.

If you decide to do signings, ask the bookstore if you can supply the copies of the book for sale. Let them know that as a self-published author, it is important you control all returns. Tell them you’ll gladly take back all the books that don’t sell at no cost to them and smile. If you’re a small publisher, make sure your website explains this as well. They should know you accept returns on your terms. And never let Ingram destroy the books.

Follow Doug at: http://daowen.ca


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94 A Written View

DougHeader-webUltimate Story Plot Creation!

By Douglas Owen

Who hasn’t struggled with creating a plot? Heck, even I don’t put my hand up for that one. Writers agonize over plot creation all the time. Some look everywhere for inspiration, while others purchase software that generates ideas at the push of a button. They shell out hundreds, only to get generic outlines already patented by Hollywood, thinking their book will be picked up for the next blockbuster.

The hell with it, I say. If a plotting system is so complex that there is a need for a computer guru to run it, then it is not worth the electrons used to store it in memory.

Okay, there is only one real plot out there that works, and then there are the derivatives of said plot. Here it is. Are you ready?

Boy meets girl Boy loses girl Boy is reunited with girl (or not).

Honestly, think of all the stories you’ve read and tell me I’m lying.

Okay, there are derivatives of the plot, like:

Boy finds ring Boy loses ring Boy is reunited with ring (or not).

Sound familiar? It’s Lord of the Rings. Get off your high horse, Saruman.

Okay, so boy represents a character and ring the girl or object of desire.

Want a story that is longer? Just repeat the pattern and add in more characters. Take the above example of Lord of the Rings. Aragorn wanted the elven maiden Arwen, so there is a sub-plot hidden there. He also secretly wants the crown, and the narrative shows that as an underlying desire.

Within the story is the on-again off-again plot of Frodo and the ring, but the main part thrust is Gollum who found the ring, lost the ring, then did get it back just as he died.

Not convinced yet?

Boromir plays a part in the first book and his plot line comes to the fore as he finds Frodo, loses him, finds him again and loses his life protecting him. Same plot as the initial with a little twist.

This plot outline fits all the characters, including Sam.

Adding More

You don’t want the reader to see the exact same plot throughout the novel or they’ll wonder why they are reading such drivel. The fix is easy enough. Give the object they desire an illustrative significance.

Illustrative means two or more things at the same time. The imperative of Sex means not only the survival of the species, but also, one’s own immortality.

Bang! More meat on the bone now.

Want a book packed with the illustrative? Moby Dick. Ahab represents Mankind, the whale, Christ. Ahab is the soldier who spears Christ and the destruction of Ahab’s ship is the ruin of Mankind deprived of Christ.

Let’s go back to The Lord of the Rings. The ring represents evil, Frodo, the struggle of Mankind against evil, Gollum, the id of man wanting everything, and the other characters represent the good and bad in us all. Each has their own little mini-plot for what they do.

Emotion and the Story

A story would be really boring if there were no emotion. Emotion is what drives the characters and makes the yarn believable.

Emotion is generated by conflict, either the start of it or the end. The good news is that we already have conflict in our plot: boy loses girl. What could be more emotional than that (or more wracked with such conflict)?

We just have to get our characters to show their responses to the conflict. They’ll do it in a particular order, if they’re human:

* First they feel it—His heart thundered in his chest at the loss of her.

* Then they think about it—In desperation, he planned to find her.

* Last they take action—The journey started, and with a pack slung over his shoulder, he took the first step.

With emotion, it is best to keep it simple: love, hate, anger, remorse

Slow It Down!

You cannot maintain the rollercoaster of emotion throughout the story. Take a little breather and put in something a little slower, so your reader can recoup.

Some call them comfort breaks, while others call them reminiscences. Call them what you will, just make sure you have them in the story or your reader will feel like they are on a treadmill of unending exercise. Seen The Biggest Loser? There is a reason they don’t keep those people running and jumping all day long. You need to relax those muscles and let them heal. Same goes for the mind. Let the reader relax a little and recoup from that marathon of emotion you just slapped them with.

Be poetic, summarize, or just reminisce about what happened. Remember, you need to keep the reader interested and not tired after reading.

Here is an example of how to do it:

King Lear

* Lear reviews his kingdom, the Object of his Desire, and decides there is no longer a desire

* Lear gives the kingdom away to his nasty daughters

* Lear loses his kingdom, but is reunited with it. He thus gains the ultimate Object of Desire, insight, and his soul (or does he?).

Yes, a lot of distractions happen with the mixing of sub-plots, causing the story of King Lear to be complex and emotional. It draws on the same basic idea of found, lost, found again.

Look forward to the future of your writing. How many stories you have dreamed of or plotted, and discovered the underlying reason for the character’s motives? Do they fit the basic of a great story? Find, lose, find?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Not really, but look at another great story that recently hit the screen: The Martian, by Andy Weir.

Stop! I hear that. What do you mean it matches the basic outline? There was no girl!

Yes, but think about it. Comrades lost and found again. He started with a group of astronauts, lost them (they left him behind), and found them again. Through the movie (and book) he found stuff (potatoes), lost them, and found them again (yes, read the book and you’ll understand what I mean by that). The whole novel centers on losing and finding. NASA lost him, found him, lost him, found him. Read it, don’t watch the movie, and you’ll see what I mean.

Need another one?

The old Total Recall: He lost his memory and then found it. He had to have it before to lose it. Also, he had love, lost it, and found it again.

So, any questions?

Doug’s Website: http://daowen.ca/

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93 A Written View

DougHeader-webReader Appeal

By Doug Owen

What makes a story have instant reader appeal? Is it the author’s name? Could there be some secret message buried in the artwork that might cause a normal person to pick it up? Is there some secret formula used to put the correct words together to form that special message somewhere?

Instant reader appeal is one of the greatest literary secrets out there.

Never mind the first line in your story. Hell, it could be something that rages off the page, leaving an “I gotta read this!” feeling in the person browsing the bookshelf. What more could there be?

When you wander through a book store, check out what people actually take off the shelf. Most pull out a book that only has the binding showing. So it has to be either the title or the author that gets them. It couldn’t be the publisher; no, people don’t even recognize half of the logos out there. What caused them to pick that book over the even better one below it?

Look at the cover design. Yes, I know everyone has grown up with the adage not to judge a book by its cover (cliché, by the way). Everyone does. One of my first books garnered a spot in “Terrible Book Covers” because of that. When I saw it, the cover was instantly changed. Another couple of hundred down the tubes.

So, what is it that grabs the reader? Good artwork? Original designs? Maybe the font told them?

Oh, what’s that you said? You’re not in it for the money? Sure. I bet you don’t need to eat. Everyone is in it to make a splash, get their name out and put a few shekels in their pocket. If not, why write? Unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to just sit back and watch interest do its work.

And imagine the effect an author’s name has on how it sells. The name splashed across the top ¼ of the cover while the title is just a little splash underneath. Does that tell us how recognition drives sales?

But most of us don’t have that godhood draped about our shoulders. We belong to the real world, where the mention of our name usually gets, “Who?” We are not a mainstay on the list of literary giants. Does that mean a catchy title and cover design is our only way to salvation, if not publication?

Consider the amount of time you spent on your manuscript. The tears, cried into your pillow because the words would not come out. About the endless trips to the bottle just to get the courage to write that first line. How you hid in the closet so your better half would not see you. Imagine if you composed the cover as well. All the images would come directly from you, not some haphazard artist halfway around the world. No stock photos for you!

Oh ye of little faith.

There is help. It is a simple template that can make your book stand out. And we have the romance sector that pumps out novel after novel to thank for that simple formula.

Stand back now. We are about to reveal the simple, yet effective, way to make sure your novel sells (or, at least, gets picked up to look at. We are not, of course, fixing the writing, just helping get it picked up).

The torso of an impossibly toned man and the overflowing bosoms of a beautiful woman are coupled with some generic title tilled with care through a title generating machine kept out back. Titles like Summer’s Found Passion or Love’s Destiny. Just look in the airport lounges and you’ll see what I mean. And the two people on the cover don’t even have to look the same!

Flip this to my favorite genre, Sci-Fi, and see what is on the cover. Robert Heinlein gave into the publisher when he wrote the amazing novel, Friday, and let them put a large-breasted woman front and center with the zipper on the front of her suit pulled down to her navel.  Spider Robinson’s Stardance, with a woman in a skin-tight space suit, is another one.

Want to get the women involved in buying your books? Take a walk through GoodReads and see the covers of the books they rate the best. I just did this for giggles while writing the article and 90 per cent of the books that have models showing some type of skin on the cover are rated at five stars, only 10 per cent at four stars or fewer. But that same person rates a book with no model on the cover at three stars. Maybe it was the writing, but when you see the pattern, what you need to do to generate interest becomes very straightforward.

But what about titles?

Just for giggles, here are some very… interesting titles:

Castration: The Advantages and the Disadvantages by Victor T. Cheney
Games You Can Play with Your Pussy and Lots of Other Stuff Cat Owners Should Know by Ira Alterman
Still Stripping After 25 Years  by Eleanor Burns
Eating People is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury
The Missionary Position—Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
Reusing Old Graves by Douglas Davies
How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis by Karen Salmansohn
The Pocketbook of Boners by Dr. Seuss
Images You Should Not Masturbate To by Graham Jonson
A Passion for Donkeys by Dr. Elisabeth D. Svendsen
Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
Pooh Gets Stuck by Isabel Gaines
The Best Dad is a Good Lover by Dr. Charlie Shedd
Scouts in Bondage by Geoffrey Prout

Some of these… Well, you’ll have to see the covers to understand. But they are just a few of the titles that do not come over well.

Most of the time, you want your title to reflect what the story is about. So when you come across Jaws you can sort of understand what the novel is about just by the title.  All Quiet on the Western Front tells you something about the content of the novel, and so does War and Peace. You don’t have to turn a page to understand what the main content of those books will be.

But there are some that are not really that revealing, like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, or John Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, or Alex Revell’s A Fall of Eagles (But the cover art explains it all).


Your reader is a visual creature. They look at the cover, they read the title and back page, glance through a few pages and, if you are lucky, they read it. And while an established author can get away with a black cover with lettering (The Road by Cormac McCarthy—over 472,000 ratings on GoodReads and counting), you cannot afford to be so standoffish to your audience. Put a lot of thought behind your cover. Shelf Appeal is everything, because most people DO judge a book by its cover.

When I was young (yes, they had printed books back then, as well), I would pick up a book and look at the cover, deciding if I wanted to even think about glancing at the back. The look of a cover can appeal to a reader or dissuade one from even picking up your book.

Image and typography have a lot to say. They need to capture the heart of the reader, intrigue them, and captivate their imagination. Once the prospective reader picks up the book, the writing must do the rest. But getting the book picked up is the one thing you have to work on, and that is where these things come into play.

It takes me a while to decide what type of cover I want for my book. My YA series almost died because of a bad cover choice, but the new one (the design of which I follow throughout the series) has been a hit. Now, as a publisher, I hear authors describe covers to me and just nod. Having read their books and knowing the industry it is very important that not only that the author’s vision gets laid out, but that the marketing guys and artists take the time to tell me what it really needs. Heck, one author hated the cover so much that he almost decided to take the work to another publisher until I showed him some test market research.

A Checklist

We all try to have our novel outshine the novel next to it. So, here is how you do it:

  • The title you thought of first, after writing your novel, is probably the best
  • Make the title relevant to the story, or at least intriguing
  • KISS—Keep It Short and Simple, so people remember it
  • Shelf Appeal is GOD—how does it stand out?
  • Who will read the book? The cover should be targeting them
  • Make the title easy to read (font choices). That does not mean boring

So, think of this after you have written your masterpiece and remember: they judge a book by it’s cover.



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90 Written View – Let’s Fake It

DougHeader-webA Written View: Let’s Fake It!

By Doug Owen

Let’s be honest, a story is just a collection of words arranged in a way meant to entertain. And if you think any of the sci-fi or fantasy authors really know how to fly a space ship or weave magic, then they sure have you fooled.

Like a stage production or movie, a book is make-believe. But how do we really make people believe that we:

A: Have a fantastic tale that makes them believe a boy can fly

B: Have the knowledge to actually write about the science that is being used in our story

It’s called faking it, and women have been doing this to most men all their lives.

Okay, stop the booing on that line. Guys, hands up if a woman actually told you she faked it on you. Yes, get your hands higher than that, about the same height as I have mine.

On with the article. The actual act of storytelling is all about selling something to someone that you may not have a lot of knowledge about. It could be physics, sailing, horseback riding, bungee jumping, or any number of acts that you, yourself, have not experienced. You need to sell it. The reader must be able to relate it to their own experience.

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, published in March of 1722, described in detail the places and events—including the official statistics—of the plague. Generations of readers considered it to be so accurate that it was believed to be an eye-witness account of the event. It was completely fictional. It was written over 50 years after the 1665 plague had run its course.

Daniel Defoe is the first known creator of “Faction”: a fake recounting of plausible events, woven together around real events, and made believable by its realism.

Engaging the Reader

This works because we have tricked the reader into believing just a little bit of our lie. Once they believe that small piece of logic, they tend to swallow the rest of the story, until they have the big whopper in their mouth.

In Pentecost, Joanna Penn refers to Turf Tavern as the haunt of Inspector Morse. If you know of this Oxford tavern, you’ll recognize the reference, and thus, trust the rest of the story. The “low beams… walls leached with the smell of stale tobacco…” You stand there and hear the words of the story and say, “She stood here, just like I am now. Her story is real.”

An Author and Strategy

Realism is done by picking a location that you know intimately. Of course, when it is a strange planet across the universe, it’s hard. But think of this: draw a picture. Take out some paper and lay down the outline of a civilization. Make it real in your mind.

One thing to keep in mind is that Google is your friend. We can fake a lot of knowledge with Google Maps, Google Earth, and a Google search. Can’t draw that landscape? Search for a picture. Someone may have a picture that fits your vision. Use it to stimulate the words and eureka! There is the description that you were looking for. Remember to use more than sight descriptions. A description is so much more detailed when sound, smell and even taste is incorporated into the words.

Visit to Make it Real

So, some good news: if you travel to an exotic place to get a good feel of the location for a novel, you may be able to write it off as a business expense. That trip to Hawaii? Deductible, as long as something in your novel takes place there. The little cruise to the Arctic? Written off because you needed to see icebergs for that dystopia you wrote. It is best that you talk to your accountant about that. Just remember that it only works on traveling, not going to the bar around the corner.

The collection of stories in Haunted Hamilton take place all over that city. The names of locations are used, and that lends credibility to the stories.

Now, work in something that even the residents are either not sure of, or would not really know, but can verify quickly. This will really blow the board for you. Your novel will gain credibility. People will start reading it and going to the places cited in the work. This could be a very good thing, especially if you live close to the area and can leave a few Easter Eggs for people to find. They will then start talking about the novel and then there will be no end.

This trick can also be played with events.

Interweaving your fiction with factual events will encourage the reader to really become cemented in your story. When someone reads something that actually happened in a fictional novel, they realize that the author has taken the time to not only research, but pull real events into their work. This will gain you fans.

Do We Dare?

Just about every novel has that disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” If you use a real event, then it is not fiction, right? But you are using it fictitiously. Heck, if your main character watches the gassing of 1,000 Jews in Germany, then yes, the event is being used fictitiously, through your characters eyes.

Is your story taking place in a real location—like on Earth? Then it would be absurd to not use real locations, landmarks, or even businesses like hotels and restaurants. (Quick note: I am not a lawyer, so if you do use something and want to cite this article, be warned. You should look this up yourself before using something). The names of these places are in the public domain.

What we cannot do in safety is name the proprietors, or imply they have given people food poisoning (unless it is something proven in a court of law—and even then, it would be sticky), without their permission.

But I need to Use it!

So, you want to show a massacre at Jon’s Pub and Grill House. Then protect yourself. Contact them and get a signed disclaimer and you’ll then have a measure of protection. But remember: don’t take my advice on this as a law expert. Get your own lawyer and ask them what you can and cannot do.

When asking for permission to use their location, make sure you send them the exact wording as it will appear. If you don’t, they could have legal recourse to come after you. Make sure you keep good faith and send them a copy of the book. You never know what will happen. Some people will trumpet that their location is in print, while others may just leave it on the shelf. Either way, they will be grateful and be more willing to agree to let you run their location through another novel.


Stop looking at the jar; nothing is tinkling in it. Here are some tips if you are using real locations or events.

1. Be accurate with all your small details, or a pedant will shoot you down and smile while doing it. Then people on GoodReads will pick up the call and hammer it against you.

2. If there is something that sounds absurd, but is true, make sure you include it. This will make others sing your writing praises in reviews and buy subsequent stories you wrote or write.

Think about it. Have you ever been hooked by a novel because the setting is so believable? If so, why not use the same trick?


Doug’s Indyfest Staff Entry

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A Written View – Creating Your Author Platform

By Doug Owen

Self-Publishing has been around for a long time, but never to the extent it is today. CreateSpace, Kindle, Kobo, and now Blurb are pushing for your business. When you look at all of the avenues available and what they say you must do to promote your own work, it is staggering.

The biggest ‘Must do’ out there is an Author Platform. This usually helps you sell your book(s) to the public. Many lists can be found on the net for your author platform. All appear long enough to boggle any new writer. How do you navigate them? What are the pitfalls if you don’t do one of the steps? That is something to look at closely.

So never fear: here is how you should build your platform and start selling books. (Note: this applies to self-published, indy-published and traditionally-published works.)

  1. Website! If you don’t have a website yet, get one. Make it stand out with your name. For example, I use DAOWEN.CA. It is my name. It is recognizable. It is set with a .CA extension in order to designate my location (Canada). This is important. Don’t use [name].wordpress.org for your blog; it screams, ‘Don’t take me seriously’.
  2. Social Media. Facebook, Google+, Tumbler, and so many more. Each will allow you to have a ‘Page’ for yourself. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be the same as your personal page. Make it good with graphics and pictures. You’ll be pushing to it from your website. You fill in your blog post, and the program used to display your website will post forward to the sites for you. Takes away so many steps.
  3. Who’s your audience? Figure it out. Teenage girls or adult men? Narrow down the field and make sure you make blog posts for them. If you target teenage boys, you’re not going to talk about makeup in your blog.
  4. Budget. Figure it out. You need to know how much to spend or determine the max you can spend. If you don’t know, it is a gamble.
  5. Marketing. You need to have a definite plan in place. Marketing is what will get people to see that you wrote a book. Anything else is just a crap shoot. This step covers how you market, what themes you use, and so forth. Marketing is enormous when it comes to advertising.
  6. Your author story. You need to tell people who you are and why you write what you do. An author story will connect audiences to you, make them understand where you are coming from, and maybe, if luck holds out, make people want to purchase the books.
  7. Notification lists. Your social media generally handles this, but for those potential buyers who don’t have such, a notification list is important. Try newsletters, combining your words with links that show how to buy your work; those are always good.
  8. Easy to buy. Many do it. They create a link to the ‘buy’ page that spans three lines in their posting. Use TinyURL or something similar to link to the actual ‘buy’ page for your book, whether it is the publisher’s page or your own site. Don’t make it hard to find or read, or decrease the font size. Make it so they will click on the link.
  9. Link your book. Do you write articles? If so, put links in them referring readers to your book and website. Don’t forget the social media links that will sell your book as well. Every little bit helps.
  10. Schedule. Don’t just post whenever something comes to mind. Post your information at certain times of the day. Check your media to see when people are actually viewing your site and time your posts accordingly.
  11. Promote for free! Yes, there are places you can promote your book and people will look at it. There will be a list of sites following this article. I’ll post it on my website for you to look at.
  12. Goodreads. Though I’ve never had any success with them, a Goodreads give-away is another avenue to get your name out there. Get your author profile and claim your book.
  13. Time your release. Make sure it matches something special that is coming up. Be it a vacation or an anniversary, just make sure it matters.
  14. Create a ‘Must Read’ guide at the end of your book. Advertise your other books (if you have any) or promote other authors. Make sure you are exchanging such with them and they’re doing the same.
  15. Photo. Get a good, high resolution photo of yourself for the book and pages. Make sure you smile in it.
  16. Press releases. Get those going. Nothing says ‘professional’ like a good press release.
  17. Guest posts. One of the greatest ways to get your name out there is to guest post on other blogs. There are several of them and they are all looking for people to post.
  18. Pre-release reviews. Yes, it is nice to get someone to read your book, but how will others know how that person enjoyed it? Get reviews fast. This can happen with give-aways and other promotional releases. Hunt for them and ask those who read the book to help boost your sales, for if they like what you wrote, there is a good chance they would like you to write more.
  19. Cool bookmarks. Yes, it is old school, but very effective. Make sure you print out a bunch of them for people to have. If they see your book and website printed on it, they are more likely to check you out and possibly buy from you.
  20. Be nice. Reach out a hand and shake it with the public. Most people will buy a book from an author who is genuine and smiles. Talk to them about the book, but don’t give too much away. Would you buy a book from someone who just dismisses you when they see you?
  21. Tempt your readers. Insert sample chapters from the next book in a series. Put it at the end of your current book or include something when they buy the first. It will spike their interest, and possibly generate more sales.
  22. Categories are your friends. Make sure you place your book in the right area of Amazon, Google, Kobo and all the other retailers you list with. An incorrectly-categorized book will not sell, for no one wants to read science fiction when they are looking for memoirs.
  23. Write series. Not every story can have a second or third book, but some can. Take the time to carry on the story of a hero or their sidekick. The possibilities are endless when you can push out three or four books on the never-ending adventures of the characters people love to read about.
  24. Advertise back. At the end of your book, make sure you list the titles of books that you have previously published. The chances are if they like your writing, the reader will want to seek out other books that you wrote, so help them find those books.
  25. Promo kits. Graphics, images, links, and excerpts are great when trying to sell what you have. Make sure they are on other blog sites, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
  26. Podcast tours. Yes, the podcast is a great way to get yourself noticed. Take the time to connect with someone and have an interview done online. You will be surprised at how many people will seek out your writing if they like what they hear.
  27. Networking events, expos, and conferences. Make sure you write a proposal to present at an event. Gain connections and increase your credibility. This will develop networks and possibly influence others to buy your books.
  28. Email signatures. Every email you send out is a call to buy your book. Others will see a link to your blog and click it out of curiosity. Once they are there, you have them.
  29. Workshops. Non-fiction writers can teach others about what they have in their books. This is a good way to generate sales. Just think of all those survivalists who teach others how to do what they do. Every one of them has a book to sell, and most people who attend their events will buy that book.
  30. Redesign your book cover. If you find the book cover is not attracting attention, then redesign it so it does.
  31. Launch strategy. A book launch requires a lot more prep and strategy than just a few posts on Facebook and a couple of tweets. Plan your launch and get a plan put in motion. Don’t just rely on word of mouth; get to it with your author platform.
  32. Affiliates make money. Sign up for an affiliate program with other book sellers. Get a plan, offer a commission. Make sure they work for you and you work for them.
  33. Contact. Add a way for people to contact you at the end of your book. It could be as simple as your website, and it can have a ‘contact me’ page on it, or a link to your social media page.
  34. Write like it is your business. Your website and social media pages are your outward-looking face to those who will never meet you. Make sure they are professional and don’t portray you as a hobbyist or wannabe. You are committed to selling your book; make it look like that. You are a writer; make it professional.
  35. Urgency. Use time-limited coupons, giveaways, and other contests to get people interested. Do this on your website and use social media to point to it. The more clicks you get, the better off you are.
  36. Use local merchants. Get a number of copies of your book and ask local stores to carry it on consignment. Make sure they can capture 40 percent of the sales for their profit, and you have more books out there for the public to read. This generates a relationship with a retailer who can be your best friend.
  37. Become an expert. Make sure you tie your books in with something that you know. You are an expert of something and if it’s in your book in some way, it’s a jumping off point. Use it. Exploit it.
  38. Fiverr. Yes, it is cheap, but there are sellers out there who will submit your book to many free websites and push your press releases to the world. Use them.
  39. Connect with readers. Yes, online is great, but in your face is better. It is easy for someone to ignore an email, but when you are there talking to them, it is magical. Make sure you put forth a good face.
  40. Skype a book read. This is easy. Arrange for someone to record your thoughts and read excerpts from your book. Sometimes, all it takes is a few lines to perk someone’s interest.
  41. Vacations that work. Going somewhere? Take your books with you. Sometimes all it takes is someone asking you what you do. You’re a writer? Yes. Have a book ready, for they may find it interesting enough to buy a copy. When that happens, others may ask them where they got it. That person will point to you. Who doesn’t want their book signed by the author?
  42. Promote others. Get friendly with writers in your genre. Promote them and they will promote you. This is an easy way to make money and friends who will praise your work.
  43. Advertise. Facebook ads are not as expensive as you think. Google ads can boost just about anyone. There are so many ways to advertise, it is not funny.
  44. Free is bad. But sometimes, a free giveaway will generate sales later on, especially if you wrote a series.
  45. Bundles sell. Take it from your telecommunications or cable supplier. Bundle your books with a small discount and people will by two, instead of just the one.
  46. Fans are great. Talk to your fans about spreading the news of your books. Get them to talk to others about the great author they just purchased a book from.

These are the top 46 things you can do to get your work out there. How many are you doing?



Learn more about: Doug Owen

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A Written View-Story Rescue

By Douglas Owen

Story Rescue

DougHeader-webYou wrote it. They read it. And everyone said, “It sucks!”

The comments range from ‘introduced too many named characters too fast’ to ‘shifted points of view too often’. Some commenters say that the episodes have too much detail and it was distracting, while others say they were confused.

They were confused? Bet it made your head swim.

It’s happened to every writer. We hammer out a great story, only to have critiquing readers give the above feedback. None of us are immune to it. Heck, I get it from those who critique my work all the time. It makes you believe that rethinking the whole story is the only way to go. And that’s a chore when the work is hitting over 70,000 words.

There is a solution, but it will not work for everything you write.

Frame the Story

Have you read Arabian Nights? The stories are a lot of self-contained anecdotes gathered together over centuries, and linked together by a common narrator. Poor Scheherazade. The stories center on her need to captivate the sultan’s interest each night—or be beheaded. Not an easy task.

Think you suffer for your craft?

Scheherazade starts and ends each narrative in the first person, making an opening and concluding anecdote. We never forget she is telling the stories.

Steal her idea, and make it your own. Here’s how:

The ‘I’ Voice – First Person Narration

Introduce the narrator by having them talk directly to the reader. This makes them generate a vested interest in the tale. The reader will become comfortable with this and get pulled into the story.

Oroonoko, published in 1688, is a short work of prose fiction by Aphra Behn (1640–1689). The story begins by addressing the reader: “Reader, I was myself an Eye-witness to a great part of what you will find here set down!” Don’t dare argue with a lady from the 17th century. This opening causes us to trust her, and draws us into a story. Unfortunately, we find out she is a liar.

Once they’ve bonded with the first person narrator, the reader considers them reliable and will continue with their tale. New characters can be introduced, clarifying the point of view and apologizing for dumping a lot of information.

Let’s apply this trick to a problem story.

What’s in a Name?

There’s Jarred, Michael, Lee, Grady, Pat, Flint, Nick, Randy, David, Walt, Anna, Yolanda, Charles, Zed, Barbara, and Unis all sitting at the bar, ordering drinks.

A steadfast rule is to not present more than three named characters per scene per episode. Have you ever been to a party where people just introduce you to everyone? After the third person, your head is swimming. How do you remember all those people? Now, take away their faces and just introduce them. Did that work for you? No? Imagine what your reader feels like when you dump a whole bunch of names on the page for them.

Don’t get me wrong: some novelists introduce casts of thousands, but just about every reader forgets the names by the second chapter (if not before the end of the first).

Note, introducing each character with a mnemonic device will allow the reader to remember them. Give characters a signature, like a twitch, or have them mumble a greeting.

An even better device is to not name your secondary characters at all. Just give them labels, like ‘the barman’, or ‘the guy with the big nose’. They fade into the background after being introduced, anyway.

But what if you need to introduce a lot of characters? The scene is a murder or something, and all the people present, suspects. Heck, have the narrator apologize for all the name dropping. You could even make it a little humorous: “Hell, I heard all the names as well, but damned if I remember them.”

So, there is a fix for all those people you just dropped on the reader. Try it, and get away with introducing all those dwarfs to a lonely hobbit, Mr. Tolkien.

Abrupt POV Shifts

So you need to switch POV, and you need to do it now. Why? Who cares? Bev has a problem and you want to show John having a problem halfway around the world. It’s your story, right? There’s no obvious plot link yet. So how do you get away with the transition?

Let your narrator do the work!

Thomas of Reading (1590) is littered with it, but Homer seems to have invented it. The slide from one character’s head to another. It works. Their stories contain dozens of different, diverting anecdotes that never confuse the reader.

The narrator does the work by coming right out and saying, “I must now leave Brenda in her desert bivouac with great reluctance…” and thus, the POV changes.

The suggestion, though, is not to do it unless you have a number of manuscripts accepted. Such a release may cause readers to not want to finish your work.

It’s all in the Small Details

Have you ever researched a book before? Been tempted to just DUMP all the information you discovered on the reader? Many of us have. And believe me, it is not something that you want to do all the time. It’s called info dumping, and it can kill your manuscript’s pace. It is equivalent to saying you’ve done your homework. But if your writing is clean, the reader will already know you’ve done it.

Try this for an example:

Gregory turned left onto the dirt road known as Mnt Albert Road and gunned the old Malibu Classic’s big 357 V8 engine. Stones kicked as the Goodyear Tiger Paw tires (size 175 86) dug deep into the loose gravel. He smiled and wrestled the plastic steering wheel into submission. He passed McCowan Road, another loose gravel path the farmers had named after that street in the borough of Scarborough and made famous by the building of the small town centre located on the crossroads of Progress Avenue and McCowan Road.

Bored yet? And the guy is not even close to the highway he’s going to!

Yes, sometimes you need to have the details, but when to draw the line? First, let your narrator do the talking, not your research. Unveil everything in a manner that allows you to paint  the picture, but not reveal every frame of the movie.

Fix info dumps by directing the reader to look where you want them to. Believe me, this will be important for your writing. Oh, don’t do a direct “Look here!” type of deal. Just make your narration gently direct their eyes to the area you want them to see.

Magic Draft

When you take your first draft “problem” story and frame it through rewrites, you can fix the little problems. Change the POV shifts to a character assumption, remove names of lesser characters, trim down the info dumps, and point the reader to the right area of study.

This is your time to shine in the reading, so take it as you can.



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The Little People in Your Story

By Douglas Owen

DougHeader-webHey, lean close. Yes, I have a secret for you. No, don’t think it’s something you can do without. This secret will help you pop your story into a full 3D cinematic blockbuster with surround sound and special effects. And it is something really easy to do. It’s called making the little people memorable.

In the past, I’ve talked about making the main character believable. They cannot be perfect, rich, a God when it comes to attracting the opposite sex, and the person everyone they meet wants to sleep with. No, they have to have flaws. This makes them human, so the reader can relate to them.

But what about those other characters in your writing? Are they just paper cut-outs to fill a few words and forget? Hell no, they need to pop! Something should be there about them. Why? Because the world is full of strange people, and they are the ones that make it go around.

Here are a few things that can make your secondary characters a little more memorable, and thus make the work livelier:

Facial Quirk: The face is the part of the person we look at most. Put something there to draw your main character’s eye. Just like in Uncle Buck, when John Candy sat with the Vice Principle and stared at the mole. Something that makes the character different than the rest will stick out, especially in comedy. Think of it as a focal point. Candy mixed words to point out the tumor and put a whole generation on the floor laughing.

Unfortunately, another actor tried to copy Candy’s humor, to a less-successful degree. So, if you think the fellow Canadian Mike Myers invented such a gag, you really are missing out. Rent Uncle Buck and watch a master at work. The quirk is very entertaining.

Speech: Everyone has a certain way of speaking. It could be the inflection used, a monotone, or the use of a special word. When used, such a little thing can make a minor character special enough to stick in someone’s mind. Imagine what a reader thinks when they remember even the minor characters. But that is not the best part. What will their friends think when such little things are talked about? They will say the work is great and even name the minor characters, for they were real to them. That is a stroke of genius.

This can all be obtained by using speech. The lady could say the word ‘yes’ after every section of dialogue, or even after every sentence (but only if they are not fully returning characters). Remember, that ‘less is more’ always works for writing.

Try it out. Find a work where the writer uses a certain word for a character and see if it sticks in your mind.

Shape: One thing that helps someone stick out is their shape. Skinny, tall, squat, fat, bulky, trim. They all describe how a person looks and drive a person to remember them. How many people do you remember just talking to on the phone? And if there is a picture of them as well? That character will stick in your mind forever.

Dress: The Austin Powers’ movies show a swinging 60s spy transplanted into the world of 2005. The character has a way of dressing that sticks out. Then the minor characters also have a way of dressing that sticks out. The character Fat Bastard wore a kilt and full Scottish regalia. This made the minor character more (I want to say ‘believable,’ but I just can’t make myself say it) outstanding. The same goes for other characters in the movie(s) and, if you take this good advice, your next bestseller.

Behaviour: How many of you watched Sons of Anarchy? There was a character called Chucky Marstein, who constantly grabbed himself. So much so, that a rival gang cut off half his fingers. How many of you who watched the show remember that? Behavior issues make a character more memorable, more believable, and more human.

Everyone has a bad habit that they would like to alleviate. They are ashamed of, or totally oblivious to it. Either way, exploit it in your writing and the once one-dimensional characters will pop off the page.

Accents and Such: Some minor characters can have slurred speech, or the inability to pronounce the letter “T”. Don’t actually write it, but put such information in the narrative. Let the reader come across it and hear the voice in their head. You’ll have to make sure the dialogue is tagged properly or it could interrupt the reader’s rhythm, but the effect is spectacular.

Soon the reader will find something about that character that is endearing and unforgettable. This pulls the reader into the work.

Physical Oddity: On vacation one year, I was stuck in an elevator with a person who suffered from restless leg syndrome. Don’t think that’s not going to be used in one novel.

Yes, we can get all sorts of ideas from people around us. Everyday life is your buffet, and it is up to you to fill your plate. Take the time to note things. Do you carry a cell phone? Most have a record function. Use it when you see something that could make a great character flaw.

Years ago I went to school with a person suffering from cerebral palsy. It is not an easy thing for someone to live with, but just imagine one of your minor characters dealing with it. The impact it would have on your main character. The way they treat that person would unlock so much about them. Do they help or laugh? What are their feelings about that person? Then think of what your antagonist would be like.

To sum up, look at real life in order to build minor characters. Every character that leaves a mark on your reader is another tick toward the bestseller. When you look at it, every character in a bestseller has something about them that makes them unforgettable. Use that knowledge to write the next masterpiece.




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A Written View – Become a Real Writer

DougHeader-webBy Doug Owen

I don’t know of any writer who doesn’t want to be famous. All of them want to be a household name and a fixture on the New York Times Best Seller list. Come on, put your hand up if you agree with me. That’s right. Wait, you in the back! Come on, put your hand up. You know you want to.

But, believe it or not, that fame and fortune can be a liability for an author. Becoming a celebrity has nothing to do with great writing. It all starts with a great person.

And being a real person is the first step to becoming great.

Do you remember Princess Diana? Her fame led to tragedy. Everyone wanted a piece of her, because they thought her charisma would rub off on them.

Acquire mana and you could sell one million books. Your talents can only take you so far; the rest is up to that superstar mana which I will explain in my next column.

The first question we have to ask is, “What does being a successful author mean?” How do you measure success? Money? Sales? Likes? Reviews? Maybe writing every day and being able to pay the bills is enough to be successful.

Or is it just having really good books, regardless of whether they sell or not?

You need to be a real person to be a real writer

There are those people out there who use formulas to write. Yes, they search out what the newest genre rave is, find the biggest upcoming book, and do a spin. This is not real. Spinning someone else’s story to be your own is faking your writing.

Use your words as your diplomats

How you present yourself makes a big difference. The bulk of online communication is written, and we must be careful in our correspondence as we do our work.

What does that mean? Well, it means being diplomatic when communicating to people who only want to piss you off. We all know the type. The ones that write nothing but derogatory statements and open-ended arguments against you. Be pleasant, but don’t get dragged into their war of words. You will lose.

Likewise, make sure everything you write is well written. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it shows that you care about your craft. You are a serious writer, so make sure your words always communicate such.

Genre and other handcuffs

Have you ever wondered if you would get pigeonholed into a genre? Are you writing only SF or fantasy, but truly love romance? This is what every author is worried about. Just like actors, a writer can become typecast in once genre or another.

Take a look at Spider Robinson. He started writing short stories for Analog, which took place in a bar called Callahan’s. But did he let that stop him from writing mysteries? No, he branched out. Then he wrote a number of essays that ran the gamut, from the space program to airport bans on smoking.

It just goes to show you that everyone needs to stretch their chops and gain notoriety in every genre that speaks to them.

Doing what you do matters more than what you do

Spider Robinson is good at what he does. He is known in the industry as a quality human being. He would be successful at anything he chose, because of the way he approaches his work.

He is a legend, because he writes with integrity.

First he wrote short stories, then novels. He branched out from SF to mystery. Recently Spider performed audio books.

Real people want to work with him, because he is real.

Don’t consume your words. Eat and enjoy them

There are millions of words put together by thousands of authors on how to create a great piece of work. Some authors were great in their time, while others only achieved greatness after their death.

Don’t judge a book’s quality by its Amazon rating or fashion—that would be as silly as judging a person by the colour of their skin. Yet, quality is something that everyone recognizes when they come face to face with it. There is a feel to quality, a richer taste, a clearer sound, an unbelievable look, a healthier scent. Very real.

Presence is all you need to do anything really well.

‘Present’ and ‘not present’ make the difference between devouring a roadside food truck meal and a high class restaurant’s blue-plate chef’s special. Is your manuscript a microwave dinner to be tossed out to the world, or a meal served up with care to your readers? Make the choice, because it will stick with you for as long as you write.

When reading, pay attention to the ingredients used to create the prose. The subtleties of language. Indulge in the way the author is present in their words. They are real.

Taking the time to rewrite your draft is like perfecting a recipe so your guests can sit down and read what they feel is the ambrosia of language.

Nothing beats experience—Get off your ass and do it!

Nothing beats a narrative that explains something the author has first-hand experience doing. It’s great to read about something and then write about it, but to actually have done it will add such flavor that the reader will be submerged in the experience. Never flown a plane? Don’t write about it. Readers like me have, and we know what a side slip is. If you don’t know what a spin check at 5,000 feet feels like, don’t try to explain it to me.

So go out and do it! Take an intro flight at a small airport. Go to a gliding club and ask for an introductory flight. Do what is needed in order to get the experience; your writing will come alive.

Having a roadmap is the best thing you can do

Want money, sales, reviews, and everything that comes with them? You just need a PR person to show you what the social media gurus are doing. Get in shape, because once you’ve set your sites on the fads, on you’ll have to beat the competition, and there is plenty of it.

But if you want to be a real writer and focus on your writing, then you are the type of person I like being around. A real person. And if you are going to be a real person, let me remind you of Spider Robinson, once again: a real writer.

In closing, if you are going to take anything out of this at all, it is to strive for that which is good for writing. You can become famous either during your life or after, like so many other writers who have come before you.

Follow Doug at his website: http://daowen.ca/

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A Written View – Dialogue: The Study of Oranges

DougHeader-webBy Doug Owen

Everyone does it at one point or another. I do it all the time just to piss off my wife. We all try to talk with an accent or use the dialect from another country.

It’s fun, I’ll admit, to try and make yourself sound like William from Newfoundland, Billy from Ireland, James from Manchester, Ivan from Russia or Eddie from Jamaica. But how do you convey this in your manuscript?

Here are the most common pitfalls when writing dialogue—and how to avoid them. Needless to say, you will come across A Clockwork Orange every once in a while, which defies what I am about to say, but generally, you will want to follow these rules. Why, you may ask? Well, here is the answer, but it comes in a strange way.

Have you ever watched the show Swamp People? Have you found it strange that they are speaking English but there are subtitles at the bottom? It’s so you can really understand what they are saying. If we cannot understand the main character(s) in a show or novel, we will not watch or read it. Everyone wants to understand what is coming from the other’s mouth. More on this below.

Keep a lid on profanities

Have you ever watched a comedian on stage and all they do is swear every other word? After the performance, the main complaint of the audience is, “They did swear a lot.” Writing is the same way. Yes, people do swear (you’ll find that out if you watch UK Reality TV), but no one wants to read it in their novel. Okay, maybe the occasional F-bomb is okay, but not every other word. They stand out on the page, especially when a potential reader is doing the finger flip to see if they want to buy the work. Save your swearing for the time your character needs to really be intense with their words. This will show the reader you care about them and are not just out for shock value.

Sling the slang away

Every good author knows when to use a little slang. But, like profanities, you want to use this sparingly. So make sure the people in your work actually speak English (or whatever language you are writing in). Now, of course, there are exceptions to the rule. A Clockwork Orange uses slang with propensity, so how did Anthony Burges get away with it? He developed an integral slang not used at the time and made sure his prose showed the reader what it meant. The novel was also written during the height of his career and examined ad infinitum by the masses. Want to write like him? Read all his work first.

Reproduction is for the birds and the bees

When I talk about reproducing a conversation that takes place between two people, I mean every part of it. Try this. Grab your cell phone and set it to record. Have a conversation with someone about anything; just make it a real life conversation. Talk about the weather, a sporting event, the latest celebrity gossip—it doesn’t matter what, just talk. Don’t tell them you are recording it, you need this to be a candid as possible. Now, later that day, have your smart phone convert the recorded discussion into text. Replay the conversation and write out everything (and I mean everything) from the first ‘um’ to the last ‘‘kay’. Once you are finished (and the smart phone beeps it is done), read the conversation out loud, as if you were proofreading the work. Heck, even wait a few days in order for the words to be lost from your mind. Now, how does it sound? Crap, right? So, why would you make your reader sit down and try to understand that conversation?

Take out all the idioms and your conversations will still feel natural.

Mangling is for the antagonist

Raise their hand if, at one point, you wrote the dialogue of a character who could not pronounce the letter H the following way:

“‘Ello, Joe. ’Ow’s it been? ‘Aven’t seen you in days. Wife and kids doing well I presume?”

Okay, my hand is up as well. I have been known to do it in the past, but not anymore.

This is a mild case of mangling dialogue. Don’t do it. Just tell the reader how they speak and let them fill in the blanks without wondering what the heck they are saying. Remember, the easier it is for the reader to read your work, the more they will enjoy it. Ultimately you want the reader to say, “I read it and enjoyed it, even with the guy that could not pronounce his H’s.”

Summing it up

As a writer, your job is hard enough without putting yourself through the wringer. Make it easy and write the way you want to see it done with the works you read. Don’t make your reader struggle when they pick up the book.

When you think there is an issue with your dialogue, the best way to figure it out is to have someone read it out loud. If they struggle (and not because of the actual words but the flow), you know there is work to be done.

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A Written View – Submitting a Story

By Doug OwenDougHeader-web

Okay, so you have written a story and want to submit it to a magazine or publisher. Before you scour your records for the email address and send in the work, take a deep breath and read this.

Besides the obvious, there are some things to look for. Let’s start with the first few things and move forward.

File Type

How do they want that story submitted? You need to know this right away. Do they want the story in a .DOC or .DOCX? Maybe they say .RTF. You have to verify which one, because if you submit an .RTF and they want it in .DOC, the story will go right to the recycle bin. Why? Because you didn’t follow the instructions. Believe it or not, they can be that petty. But from their standpoint, if you don’t follow one simple request, what else will be wrong? Why should they continue? So look for that required format.

Submit With

So, they say to attach the story and a letter that includes a synopsis of the work and a short bio. You put it all in one. So why did you not hear from them? Your story was amazing. But you forgot to follow the instructions. They only saw one attachment and off to the recycling bin it went. Remember, they asked for two attachments: the story and a letter of introduction. You didn’t submit two, so they deleted your submission.

The Introduction


This is a test. It is the first thing they open in order to see if they should delete your story. Is there a bio that makes sense or did the writer make a funny story? If it’s a funny story with, say, a disclaimer stating that some of the bio may be fictitious, then into the recycling bin it goes. Make sure when you submit a bio that it is real and not a “smartass” response. Your ego may land you in the recycling bin.


See what they want. One paragraph? Then make sure you only submit one paragraph. Any more than that and they story is in the bin. Make sure it is a synopsis, for if it is not, into the bin it goes. Make sure you deliver what they want.


Yes, here you make sure everything is real. This is where you brag about publications and awards you have won. No publications? Don’t list any. No awards? Leave it blank. Are you really a writer? Make sure you write. Find a magazine that is looking for writers, even if it is free. Having that on your brag will make you look better than the one with nothing. Even a short list is better than nothing.

Okay, so everything is done correctly now, but the story needs to be adjusted. Why? Because you want to follow the submission instructions. Even if they say the font does not matter, you still want to revisit it. Your favourite font makes you happy, but not everyone likes Goudy Stout. So stick with the standards: New Roman, Cambria, or Garamond. Want some advice? If the editor is older, use Garamond; it is the old standard that we old guys love.

Oh, don’t forget to stay within their word count.

But did you make one of the big mistakes? If you’re not sure, here are the ones to look out for.

  • The Far Hook

You sink the hook in the first paragraph, so why does it take you until the hundredth page to show a dead body? It is now far too late. Time to cut out a lot of words to get to the point.

  • Tags Ahoy and No Substance

Is every line of dialogue tagged in your work? “He said… She said… John said… Bill said…” Oh, please, break it up and do something else. Have someone move or pick their nose. Give me something other than a tag. And make sure you describe things correctly. “He looked about the living room, powder blue and green, landscapes framed in oak, a porch through double doors…” Ready to eat a bullet for just a little excitement?

  • Name Dropper

Don’t have a lot of names in your story, especially not in one scene. If you do, don’t have them talking at the same time, for it will confuse the reader. Three, maybe four talkers at the same time, maximum.

Remember the golden rules: Introduce no more than three named characters per scene. If a character is not important, don’t name them. Period. Give each character a name that starts with a different letter.

  • Verbal Pyrotechnics

 Please don’t do this in your narrative. Martin Amis from the UK does it and for some reason he has a following. Tell me what you think?

“But I go to Hollywood but I go to hospital, but you are first but you are last, but he is tall but she is small, but you stay up but you go down, but we are rich but we are poor, but they find peace but they …” (The start of Yellow Dog)

I don’t know about you, but I would not read on. The book would land back on the shelf.

  • Protagonist Hate

If your protagonist is not lovable, then why would anyone care for them? And why would anyone read a story about someone they cannot connect with? Make your protagonist lovable in some way.

  • Dangling Modifier

Starting a sentence with a word ending in “ing” is frowned upon. Why? Because it is, potentially, a fragmented sentence. Don’t do it.

If you are going to take away anything from this article, it is to read what is needed when submitting, and always polish your work before you do.

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