Tag: AIW Press

Publisher Style Guides

Publisher Style Guides

rulesWhen we’re talking about style guides, there are some clear, global rules that all writers know (or should know) and adhere to.

For example:

  • Submissions are sent with a cover page.
  • Documents are formatted to be 1-inch margins, 12-point size, Times New Roman font, double-spaced.
  • Synopses should only introduce main characters, and they should do so by writing the names in all caps (but only the first time the name is seen).

You get the idea. Industry standards. Things we learn early and adopt as second nature.

But what about newer things, like incorporating specific types of technology or messages into our work?

The Chicago Manual of Style (a popular style guide for fiction writers) says:  “A message is a message, whether it comes from a book, an interview, lipstick on a mirror, or your phone. Use quotation marks to quote.”

This is one of the reasons AIW Press and other publishing houses have created their own style guides. It doesn’t seem logical that a sign or a text message—two forms of communication that are not spoken aloud—would be inside quotes. How would you differentiate a character speaking the words rather than reading them silently if both ways were to use quotes? At best, it would require a lot of unnecessary and laborious exposition to explain it. At worst, readers would never be certain whether the words were read or spoken.

Is this an important detail? In the grand scheme of things, perhaps not. But when it’s more than one rule—say five, ten, twenty or more—it can start adding a lot of extra words or could result in an unclear message.

Right now, the AIW Press style guide is an internal document only that our editors work with. Eventually, we will have the document prepared for our authors and potential authors and make it available online for anyone to access. The more proper rules and formatting you can adhere to before submitting your work to us, the more likely you are to make it through the first round in the acquisition process. You don’t want to be the person rejected for formatting rather than content. And believe me—that happens at most publishing houses. We don’t want that for you. We want you to be a success, and we want your work to shine.

So, what about you? Do you have formatting or submission questions that you’ve never solved? We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Drop us a line in the comments.


PS—If you’re curious, we handle text messages and signs in the following manners.

Signs

The fence held a distressed wooden placard, painted white with faded red letters.

NO FEEDING THE BIRDS

Kind of made the bag of bread in her pocket useless. Unless, of course, she fed them anyway. No one was around to see. She wouldn’t get in trouble. And the birds did so love treats. What was the worst that could happen?

Texts

Cara’s phone dinged. She glanced at the screen.

Mom: When will you be home?

Cara: L8r

Mom: Later, when, exactly?

No wonder it took her mother so long to text. She wrote out every word like a professor would be grading her.

Staci Troilo bio

Book Release: Quantum Wanderlust

Book Release: Quantum Wanderlust

Quantum Wanderlust bannerYou’ve seen the cover. Now’s your chance to read the book. Thirteen unique time travel stories gathered together into one anthology, and it’s yours… FREE!


Quantum Wanderlust BlackWhat if you had all the time in the world?

Thirteen authors answer that question with short stories about time travel. Go back in time to right a wrong, forward to see the future. No jump is too large, no method unfeasible, no lesson beyond learning.

• Visit the past to learn a family secret.
• See the formation of a future dictatorship.
• Assume responsibility for weaving the fabric of time.
• Travel back in time to WWII.
• Use a family heirloom to solve problems.
• Wear an inheritance to visit ancestors.
• Leave a dystopian future for the hope of something better.
• Make history come true in an unexpected way.
• Fight evil fairies to protect a chosen angel.
• Live with the childhood memory of visitors until the day they arrive.
• Seek medical help for a memory issue and get way more than bargained for.
• Discover that with great power comes great responsibility.
• Uncover the secrets of a pharaoh’s tomb and curse.

Quantum Wanderlust PurpleDo the characters observe or interact? Is the outcome better or worse than the original timeline? Read these stories to learn how far they go, how they get there, and what happens when they return.

The scope is virtually limitless, definitely timeless.


To get your copy of Quantum Wanderlust: A Time Travel Short Story Anthology, click on the universal purchase link.

Professional Editing (Part One)

Professional Editing (Part One)

This article is the first of a two-part series on the importance of using a professional editor. I’ll post the second part in late September.

Self-editing, beta readers, and critique partners or groups are all an important aspect of the writing process. Each step has its own benefits. Some writers may not use beta readers, and others don’t have a critique partner or group.  I believe both provide useful feedback and it goes without saying that self-editing is a must.

However, if you want your manuscript to be the best it can be, you need the services of a professional. It’s important to know there are different types of edits—content edits, line edits, and copy edits.

Some people use the terms line editor and content editor to mean the same thing essentially. Others differentiate slightly on the two. You may also hear the term developmental edits rather than content edits.

Today, I’m going to talk about content editors. This person can take an otherwise dull manuscript and make it shine.

The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some of the things they do are:

  • Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
  • Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
  • Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
  • Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
  • Active vs. passive voice
  • Confusing scenes or passages
  • Overused words or sentences
  • Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
  • Telling vs. showing

The following is an example from one of my manuscripts. A simple rewording of one sentence changed the passage from what’s known as author intrusion to deep point of view.

Before:

Stephanie felt more confident knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her.

After:

Knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her boosted her confidence.

In the first sentence, I’m telling the reader what Stephanie felt. In the second sentence, I’m in her point of view and showing the reader how she feels.

Here’s another example from the same manuscript in which the editor eliminated unnecessary words.

Before:

Stephanie messaged back. You may call me directly. She entered her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

After:

Stephanie messaged back her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

The second sentence, although shorter, is stronger and I didn’t lose the intent of the passage.

It’s important to note a good editor never changes the author’s voice. Sadly, I once had an experience with someone who was, in reality, a frustrated writer. By the time he finished editing my work, I almost didn’t recognize it.

To this day, I regret not using a pen name with that story. And even though it was published in a collection with other writers, I refuse to make references to the book on my website. (Of note, I wasn’t the only author who felt that way.)

A good editor not only points out ways in which a writer can improve his or her work, but they also leave encouraging comments when warranted.

I had this comment from on a particularly tense scene in a novel in which a character reveals something about his past:

Oh! Gut punch! As a writer, this is delicious. As a reader, so sad. Good job.

You can see how this help boost my confidence both as a writer and in the story.

If you go with a traditional publisher, they will provide someone to edit your work. It’s important to note that editing isn’t cheap, but it can make or break your book. If you self-publish, it’s well worth the money spent to hire a professional.

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A Pre-Submission Checklist

A Pre-Submission Checklist

We’ve been talking a lot about story submissions, but we never really stopped to discuss all the things you need to consider in general terms. I thought it might be nice to provide you with a checklist so you have no questions about whether your T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. Print out this list or bookmark this post and refer back to it before you contact a publisher.

Pre-Publishing Checklist

  Create your elevator pitch. (Doing this first helps you with your focus.)


  Compose back cover copy. (Doing this second can keep you on track.)

  Write a hook.

 Only hit the highlights.

 Do not reveal the ending.


 Outline the story.


 Write the very best book you’re capable of.


 Spell check and grammar check.


 Share your work with your critique partners.


 Incorporate their feedback.


 Revise for submission.


 Write the query letter, adhering to the publisher’s guidelines.

 Address your query to the right person, confirming spelling and title.

 Use a 3-paragraph format (greeting, book content, author bio and contact info).

 Use professional tone, but one that is in keeping with the tone of the story.


 Craft your synopsis. (This is the next thing a publisher will ask for.)

 Only use the main characters.

 Do not omit the climax and resolution.


Remember, publishers are busy and receive many submissions a month, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back right away. But if you follow the list, your chances will increase. Best wishes!

Staci Troilo

Author Wendy Taylor on Fox and Friends

Author Wendy Taylor on Fox and Friends

UndefeatedWe are proud to announce Wendy Taylor, author of the memoir Undefeated: A War Widow’s Story of Faith and Survival, had the opportunity to discuss her new book on Fox and Friends on Monday, August 14, 2017.

Wendy talked with guest anchor Abby Huntsman about life as a military wife, coping with becoming a war widow, and the difficulties she’s faced since her husband’s death.

The memoir and the interview are poignant reminders of the sacrifices our military and their families make to secure our freedoms.

The interview (and a purchase link) can be found on the Fox and Friends website.

To read the Fox and Friends write-up, click here. To view the interview, click the “Watch Video” link on the Fox and Friends page.

What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Blanche, Muffy, Winchester, Bruiser, Tiny. Each name and nickname evoke something in us. They imply something.

Each time you choose a name for a character in your work, that name determines how you want your reader to react to the character—the image you want the character to portray.A simple name will set the tone of your work and determine how the character will act. And, when you take the time to name a character, that tells the reader the character is important to you and to your story. He has meaning, and you want your reader to remember him. If the character isn’t a vital part of your story, don’t name him—simply refer to him as what he is (waiter, lawyer, lifeguard). These words let the reader know a bit about the person but keep them from becoming too prominent.

Not only will names aid in the description of your characters, they help set the time period. For example, Beulah, while popular in the late 1800s, isn’t a common name today. As a reader coming across this name, you most likely would imagine an old woman rather than a young girl.

How can you choose the perfect name?  Every author goes about it differently, but below are a few tips that can help.

  • Use an online name generator
  • Read phone books
  • Walk though a cemetery
  • Search the Internet
  • Ask your friends

There are things you should avoid when naming characters as well.

  • Names that don’t match the time period
  • Names that sound the same or start with the same letter
  • Names that are hard to pronounce

What tools do you use to name your characters? Share them with us. We’d love to know.

 

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Research ~ A Necessary Evil

Allison stepped onto the patio, enjoying the coolness of the desert southwest evening. Saguaro cacti were silhouetted against the sunset, and a roadrunner darted behind an agave plant. A cactus wren perched nearby. Allison walked further into the yard and stopped to stand beneath a giant magnolia tree…

Okay, I won’t say research is evil, but it hasn’t always been my favorite thing to do. When I first began writing fiction, I didn’t want to be bothered with research. All I wanted to do was to get the story out of my head and onto the computer screen.

“Write what you know.” I heard these words repeated over and over by several seasoned writers.

So I began with something that was comfortable to me. I loosely based the setting of my first novel on my hometown. However, the subject matter required research on my part to make part of the story believable.

My second novel, currently in draft state, necessitated me spending time on the Internet, looking for information about arsonists. (Suffice to say if someone looked at my browser history, and didn’t know I was a writer, they might want to report me to the nearest law enforcement agency.)

It’s easy to slip into a comfort zone. Therefore, the “write what you know” advice only goes so far. If an author continues to use the same setting or story line, readers will quickly become bored with their work and move on. Even though we might write in the same (or similar) genre, we want to generate stories that continue to please our readers and entice new ones.

Hence the need for research. We want our fiction to be believable. So what’s wrong with my opening paragraph?

Saguaro cacti, agave plants, roadrunners, and cactus wrens all fit within the scene. However, magnolia trees do not grow in the desert southwest. A simple mistake like that can cause readers to lose interest and damage our credibility as writers. Worse yet, they could leave a bad review, and we all know too many one and two-star reviews can make or break a book.

How do we go about gathering information? Fortunately, we live in an age where we have instant access to almost anything we want to know. Google and Bing can be a writer’s best friend.

A word of caution—just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t make it true. It’s best to check several sources and/or websites. Wikipedia, while popular, isn’t always the most accurate source because anyone can post anything.

In addition to the Internet, talk with experts. Law enforcement officers, physicians and nurses, fire investigators, military personnel, etc. Most times people are willing to answer specific questions you might have. When meeting with these people, go prepared. Have a list of specific questions so as not to waste their time or yours.

Travel to locations where you want to set your stories. Look around, observe, talk with locals, get a feel of the area, and make copious notes.

I’ve come a long way in regards to conducting research since I started writing fiction. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time gathering information for a current short story than I did with both novels.

The reason? It’s a setting and a story line that is totally beyond my scope of knowledge. Hopefully, my research has paid off. On a recent vacation, while touring a former aircraft carrier turned museum, my husband was impressed that I was able to identify two types of aircraft without looking at signs. I admit that I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from doing this project.

What about you? As a writer, do you enjoy research? What are some of your favorite methods?

 

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What’s a Writer to Do?

What’s a Writer to Do?

blogOne criterion publishers use to determine whether they should take a risk on a writer is the ubiquitous author platform.

I know. You’re rolling your eyes and sighing. Maybe getting a little queasy feeling in your stomach.

All authors—traditionally published, self-published, or hybrid—need a platform to market their work. There are several tools you can use to establish your platform, but one of the most popular and useful is the author blog.

The problem is, so many fiction writers don’t know what to write about.

Let me give you a piece of advice before we move forward.

Authors should not blog about the craft of writing. These posts attract other writers, but the goal is to attract readers.

So, what’s a writer to do? What can they blog about, if not their craft?

Here are some suggestions:

Their Work

  • cover reveals
  • story research
  • character dossiers/interviews
  • new releases
  • tour of the setting
  • blurbs/teasers/excerpts
  • spotlight on the villain (particularly if it’s a type of creature or a mental illness)
  • any lore or legend related to the story

Their Process

  • how they conduct research
  • where they prefer to work/what their workspace is like
  • what music (or ambient sounds) they listen to when writing
  • what they eat and drink while they work
  • where they get story ideas
  • where they get character names

Their Preferences

  • what genres they like to read
  • books on their shelf (or their ereader)
  • what novels/TV shows/movies inspire them
  • biographical notes that impacted their story

Their Silly Side

  • things they enjoy or hate (think top-10 lists)
  • ways for readers to get to know them (favorite foods, games, etc.)
  • stories about their pets or their families
  • original short fiction

Their Generosity

  • book reviews of other authors’ works
  • interviews with other authors
  • other author’s new releases

So, there you have it. Twenty-five topics for fiction writers to blog about. That’s roughly half a year at one post a week, assuming you choose each of these only once. And we all know these can be mixed, matched, and repeated as necessary. Hopefully there’s enough here to get you started on expanding your author platform.

Do you rely on any blogging topics that we didn’t mention here? Please share them with us in the comments.

Staci Troilo

Critique Groups

Critique Groups

Critique groups. Critique partners. For many writers, the idea of joining such a group or linking with another writer is scary. New writers, in particular, may be hesitant about sharing their work. Some might be afraid of what other members will say or think. Still, others may feel inferior to more seasoned writers in the group.

In my opinion, if you want to become a published writer, joining a critique group or having a critique partner is necessary.

I’ve been a part of a critique group for several years and can say my group is invaluable. We have experienced writers and beginning writers. We write in different genres. But we all have one thing in common—we are writers. People who want to want to improve their craft and, if not already, become published writers.

Here are three of the many reasons for joining a critique group:

A critique group provides helpful feedback. As writers, we are “too close” to our work. We know what we want to say, but will our readers understand? When you allow others to read and critique your writing, they can offer suggestions such as, “I believe if you worded it this way…” or “That sentence was a bump to me, it distracted from the main story…”

A critique group offers encouragement. Remember that critique groups are composed of writers. Like you, they love to write and have a deep appreciation for the craft. They want to encourage you, and they want and need encouragement.

I recall when I was working on my first novel. At that time, I hadn’t written a lot of fiction, and the draft needed a lot of work. And yes, there were times when I didn’t want to share it with anyone. The comments and encouragement I received encouraged me to keep going.

Now that I have more experience, I enjoy offering feedback and encouragement to newer writers.

In a critique group, you form bonds and friendships. The people in your group will be with you through thick and thin. Yes, some may come and go, but over time, a core group will form. Together, you celebrate successes and sympathize over rejections. The bonds of friendship are priceless.

I believe smaller groups are best. Too many members equal too many opinions. I think a group of 3-5 people is best. Some choose to have a single critique partner rather than join a group.

Are you part of a critique group or have a critique partner? Please share your experience in the comments.

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Revisions and Elevator Pitches

Revisions and Elevator Pitches

Booksie AnswerDear Booksie,

I’ve been working really hard on my dystopian space opera/fairy tale mashup novel. It’s got all the cool elements of the genres I mixed, and it starts with a really neat description of a dark and stormy night. It took me three whole weeks to write these 200,000 words. I think it’s just about ready to be sent to the publisher. What’s my next step?

Cordially,

Thrilled to be Finished

 

Dear Thrilled,

Ah, the excitement of completing a novel. All writers feel that heady rush. And that first time? Well, you’ll never feel quite like that again. Congratulations.

Now for the tough-love portion of my reply. Grab a box of tissues…

You’re nowhere close to ready to submit. Sorry. I don’t have to read your draft. I know. Don’t send it to anyone. Heck, don’t show it to anyone. It’s not ready to meet the world yet. You’ve got a lot, and I do mean a lot, of revising to do.

Revisions

  • First, consider your genre. (In your case, your “interesting” mashup of genres.) Have you followed the necessary tropes for that genre? It’s okay to break the rules, but not for the sake of innovation. Only break the rules when you completely understand them and have a great reason to do so.
  • Next, go on Amazon and look up bestsellers similar to yours. Check their word or page count. If you’re too low, you’ll probably need to add description. If you’re too high (and believe me, 200,000 words is way too high), you’ll need to cut.
  • Remember the phrase, “Kill your darlings.” said by just about every author you’ve ever read? Do that. And do it again. And again. And again. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it belongs in your novel. If it doesn’t define character or advance plot, kill it.
  • Read each scene by itself. Does it start with a hook and end making you want to turn the page? Does it serve one specific purpose (either being an action or a reaction)? If not, fix the issues.
  • Consider the work as a whole. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it answer all the questions you implied you would answer? If not, clean up the problems.
  • Read it again for grammar, punctuation, typos, etc. Fix all those issues, too. Then go back and do it all again. (Joan Hall recently wrote a post on proofreading. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.)

Okay. By this time, you’ve been through your novel several times. Are you now ready to send it to a publisher?

No.

Now you need to share these pages with your critique group and/or beta readers. Take their comments into consideration. And revise again.

When you’re confident you’ve done your very best and there’s nothing more you can do, it’s time to submit to a publisher. To do that, you need an elevator pitch and a synopsis.

The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a quick description of the crux of your novel. It’s called that because you’re to picture yourself in an elevator with an agent, editor, or publisher. You have only three floors to wow them. What do you say? (Think ten seconds, or fifty words.)

If you can answer five questions and put those answers together into a brief paragraph, you’ve got an elevator pitch. Try this:

  • Character (or characters, if you have two POV characters). This is more than a name. This is the identity plus a key descriptor for the character.
  • Situation. This is the problem the character is facing and why action is necessary.
  • Objective. What is your character’s goal? What is the one thing they wish to accomplish? (This should be an answer to the problem faced above.)
  • Opponent. This is where the antagonist is mentioned. Try to avoid “evil for the sake of evil” and show the unique and compelling details of this foe.
  • Disaster. This is the climax of the novel. Not the resolution of the novel. The climax. The black moment. The point in the story where it all hits the fan. (Note: your pitch should not reveal the resolution to the problem. If it did, there would be no reason for anyone to read the story.)

Okay. If you can answer these with vibrant words and string them together into one to three sentences, you’ll have a solid pitch.

Here’s (what should be) a well-known example. (I’m using the better-known film rather than the book.):

  • Character—Dorothy Gale, a sweet farm girl from Kansas
  • Situation—She’s stranded in Oz and can’t get back.
  • Objective—She wants to see the wizard so he can send her home.
  • Opponent—The Wicked Witch of the West, who wants to kill Dorothy for the murder of her sister and the theft of the powerful ruby slippers.
  • Disaster—Dorothy must defeat the witch and bring proof to the wizard or he will not help her.

Here’s the first draft, where I’m not worried about word choice or word count:

A Kansas cyclone sweeps sweet, innocent Dorothy Gale over the rainbow to the wonderful land of Oz, where she is blamed for the death of a wicked witch. Stranded, she sets off to find a powerful wizard to send her home. His payment for his services is the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is determined to kill Dorothy for dropping a house on her sister. With the help of three new friends, Dorothy sets off to face her greatest enemy—but only one will survive.

Not bad. Eighty-nine words. Now it’s time to tighten.

Here’s the second draft, where word choice becomes more important and word count matters:

Swept over the rainbow by a Kansas cyclone, young Dorothy Gale finds herself stranded in the wonderful land of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West blames her for killing her sister and stealing her magic slippers, so she determines to kill Dorothy and take the magic for herself. Dorothy and her new friends seek a powerful wizard’s assistance, but his payment is the death of the wicked witch. When Dorothy faces her greatest enemy, only one will survive.

Better. The sentences are tighter, and we’re down to seventy-nine words. But there’s still room for improvement.

Third draft:

Swept over the rainbow by a cyclone, Dorothy Gale gets stranded in Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West blames her for killing her sister and stealing her magic slippers, and she threatens Dorothy’s life. To avoid danger and get back home, Dorothy seeks the help of a powerful wizard, whose payment is the death of the wicked witch. When the battle commences, only one will survive.

Okay. Down to sixty-seven words. One more revision should get us to fifty or less.

Final Draft:

A cyclone sweeps Dorothy Gale over the rainbow to Oz. Stranded, she seeks help from a powerful wizard. He won’t send her home until she kills the Wicked Witch of the West, who has been terrorizing Dorothy for killing her sister. Who will survive their epic battle?

Goal achieved at forty-seven words. I could continue tweaking to really make it shine (and I would suggest that), but we don’t have all day. Please note—the pitch is written in third person, present tense. No matter the POV or tense of your novel, always write your pitch (and your synopsis) in third person, present tense.

Now that you’ve got your pitch, what are you going to do with it? You don’t send it to agents or publishers.

Well, for starters, memorize it. People will always ask what your book is about. This is the answer.

Booksie QuestionWhy’d I tell you to write this now, before your synopsis, when it doesn’t get sent to anyone? Because having a fifty-word description of your book will help you maintain focus as you work on your novel synopsis. You need a suscinct statement regarding what your story is all about.

Learning how to craft a synopsis is a long and detailed process. It’s probably best if we tackle that the next time. Actually, I believe author K. E. Lane wants to discuss it, so keep your eyes out for that one, coming soon.

Until next time…

Booksie

PS—Send Booksie your publishing and writing questions. He’ll sort through them and post his answers.

Staci Troilo

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