Tag: Staci Troilo

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

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

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

Five Benefits to Participating in Anthologies

Five Benefits to Participating in Anthologies

anthologies
Anthologies

If you peruse the AIW Press website, you’ll see we’ve published a few anthologies, and we currently have another one in the works. If you’re a novelist, you might wonder why you would ever consider writing a short story for inclusion in such a compilation. After all, it takes writing time away from your ongoing novel projects.

Don’t let that discourage you. There are five advantages to participating in an anthology.

(1) Writing short works helps you hone your writing skills.

When you participate in anthologies, you will most likely have to adhere to a set word count, one that is substantially smaller than that of the novels you’re used to writing. While this virtually eliminates the possibility of introducing secondary characters and developing subplots, it does teach economy of phrase.

When every word counts, writers tighten their prose. They eliminate filler words, passive voice, weak writing, or tangential thoughts—pretty much anything that requires extra words. No um’s or uh’s or well’s. No “was walking” when “walked” suffices. No “walked slowly” when “strolled” captures the mood better. No drifting into a daydream that doesn’t advance the plot.

These things slip in when we write novels, but they don’t really belong there, either. And just think how strong your novels will be when you develop these stylistic choices and apply them to your longer works.

(2) Publishing with other authors helps you reach a larger audience.

When you only write novels, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to work with other authors and have introductions to their fans. Yes, you could participate in novel boxed sets (something I also advocate), but novels are much longer, and if your novel is placed in the back of the set, readers may never get around to reading it.

If you write a short story for an anthology, though, the chance of readers reading through the very last contribution is much higher. Also, in addition to the readers who chose the anthology because of the subject matter, there will be people who read the anthology specifically because they are fans of one of the contributors. This affords you the chance to reach a dedicated fan base of not just one, but several of your peers—an opportunity you otherwise wouldn’t have.

(3) The contacts you make can lead to a larger marketing pool, both now and in the future.

The other authors are going to market the anthology to their readers. This essentially means you get free marketing to a different audience simply because your work is compiled in the same place. It also means you might be able to market a little less than you do for your own singular works, because several people will be sharing this information. (No need to overdo the marketing and make readers tired of the promo.)

But there’s a future benefit, too.

You will get to know the anthology authors and their work. When you have something else to market—for example, a new novella or novel—you can call upon these contacts and request help getting the word out. Perhaps they’ll review an ARC or offer you guest posts on their blogs. And what author can’t benefit from more exposure?

(4) The short story can be used to introduce one of your longer works.

Regardless of the theme of the anthology, you can write a companion piece to an existing novel or series. This can be an excellent marketing tool.

For example, say you have a paranormal romance series you’d like to promote, and you have an opportunity to contribute to a horror anthology. You could tailor your horror story so that it’s a prequel or sequel to the first book in your paranormal romance series. You might even choose to weave in a little romance so readers have a better understanding of what to expect in the series. As long as the story meets the requirements for the anthology, you’ll have a great introduction to your longer work placed in front of an already interested audience.

(5) The short story format allows you the opportunity to explore different genres without committing time to compose a longer work.

This is kind of opposite to number four. Instead of expanding your series offering, you might take the opportunity to try something completely different from what you normally write. For example, a regency romance writer might choose to craft a futuristic sci-fi story.

What do you gain from such a departure?

Well, not only do you get to flex your creative muscles, the departure might actually recharge your batteries and give you a fresh perspective on the novel you’re working on. Furthermore, you may just find another genre that you enjoy writing in and a new fan base should you decide to become a multi-genre author.


These are just five of the benefits to writing short stories for anthologies. Can you think of others? Have you contributed to an anthology before? Why not share your experience with us? Leave a comment below.

 

Staci Troilo

10 Ways to Improve Your Fiction Writing

10 Ways to Improve Your Fiction Writing

Top 10 Tips for Improving Your FictionLooking for a down and dirty list for story writing improvement? Look no further.

Here the top ten ways to hone your fiction writing skills:

10. Dissect novels you enjoy.
Look through your favorite novels by other authors for techniques and tricks to improve your characterization, settings, plot, pacing, dialogue, and exposition.

9. Keep your eyes peeled for sources of stories.
Watch people in public settings, take note of funny family events, analyze television shows and films, consider news stories. Ideas are everywhere.

8. Conflict is key.
Don’t let your characters have it too easy for too long. Conflict makes fiction interesting.

7. Hone your characters’ voices.
Don’t let all of them sound the same. Every person thinks and feels things differently in real life. Characters are no different.

6. Follow a three-act structure.
There’s a reason that formula is so prevalent in plays, film, and fiction. It works. The hook and rising action take up the first quarter. The three conflicts and responses take up the second two quarters. And the last quarter deals with the climax and resolution.

5. Work with a theme.
Whether you outline or not (and I’m an advocate for outlining), a theme will help you focus your message.

4. Symbolism increases the potency of your message.
Imagery and symbols can add continuity to your message and strengthen it.

3. Start with a strong hook.
After your cover and your back cover copy, your opening is what will determine if people buy/finish reading your story. Don’t start with scenery descriptions or back story. Start where the story really begins—with change to the status quo.

2. Use secondary characters to your advantage.
Secondary characters can provide necessary comedic relief and help advance plot. They also add a complexity, richness, and authenticity to your storyworld.

1. Vary your sentence structure.
Short, choppy sentences indicate high-action and tension. Long, descriptive sentence denote exposition and a break in the action. Both are necessary. Besides, the variety makes for more interesting reading in addition to indicating the pace.


So, there you have it. The top ten things to keep in mind when you write fiction.

And for every point I wrote up there, I bet you can think of ten of your own that I didn’t include. Why not share some of your tips in the comments below?

Proud to Announce a New Generation of Westerns

Proud to Announce a New Generation of Westerns

UnshodAIW Press is proud to announce the western of the 21st century. Nine talented authors seamlessly blend the enormity of the vast open prairie and imposing mountain ranges of the old west with the fresh perspectives of modern technologies and problems—and melds them into a new version of a western.

These stories are set west of the Mississippi, but don’t expect gunslingers and duels at High Noon. These stories are more sophisticated, more subtle, more thought-provoking.

Feel the pain of a young Japanese girl who comes home from an internment camp after World War II and learns it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight the current.

Struggle with an expectant mother on the cold winter prairie while she waits for her husband to come home from a hunting trip.

Journey with a young woman to the Four Corners as she tries to connect with her Navajo ancestors.

Try not to believe in the superstition of the blue moon—if one dies, three more will follow.

Know that one way or another, life will change inalterably that day.

Walk in the footsteps of an old cowpoke who thought he made the deal of a lifetime.

Suffer the torments of a young lady who wants desperately to marry but seems destined never to wed.

Walk the wild western paths and run from unimaginable dangers.

Choose between an unhappy life of luxury or a happy life of simplicity.

Nine female authors pen western tales that you’ll want to retell around a campfire. These aren’t your granddaddy’s westerns. They’re the next generation’s, and they’re darn good.

Unshod’s authors. Please give their sites a visit:

Jan Morrill
Pamela Foster
Staci Troilo
Joan Hall
P.C. Zick
Janna Hill
Michele Jones
Francis Guenette
Lorna Faith

You can download Unshod here:

Amazon | B&NiBooks | Kobo | Inktera | Scribd | 24 Symbols

Just Released—Love Set in Stone

Just Released—Love Set in Stone

Love Set in StoneAIW Press is proud to announce it’s latest release, a paranormal romance, Love Set in Stone, by Staci Troilo.


A cold stone heart breaks more easily than it beats. Than it loves.

Damien was a loyal warrior, killed in battle in 1203. Because of his true heart, he was given the option to pass on to his eternal reward or exist in another state of being as a protector… until the time came when he could resume living the life he’d been cheated of.

A soldier by nature, he chose the latter. Then he waited centuries—as a gargoyle—growing increasingly bitter about his choice. Then he sees her.

Rina is a hard worker and loyal friend. She just has the worst luck. One night, after saving her best friend from a violent assault, she finds herself at the attacker’s mercy. Then, out of nowhere, a savior comes and rescues her.

With only an angel to guide him, Damien must make the right choices to win Rina’s heart, or be forever damned as a grotesque mockery of the guardian he once was.

Love Set in Stone is available now: Amazon | Kobo | Inktera | Scribd
Is coming soon: B&N | iBooks | 24 Symbols | Tolino | Paperback


Staci Troilo is a native Western Pennsylvanian who currently lives in Northwestern Arkansas. She writes multi-genre fiction focusing on flawed relationships. Her stand-alone titles and series span the mystery, contemporary, and romance genres and many of their subgenres, including suspense, paranormal, and medical dramas. Her short fiction has won many regional awards. For more information about Staci, visit her website: http://stacitroilo.com.

 

#Novella Release—Laci & Del, 12 Months, 12 Chances

#Novella Release—Laci & Del, 12 Months, 12 Chances

AIW Press, LLC is proud to announce its first release, the romance novella, Laci and Del: 12 Months, 12 Chances.

Laci & DelIt’s been a year, and Laci Marks still hasn’t gotten over her break up with Del Keegan. She attends a New Year’s Eve party hoping to snap out of her ever-present funk, but the frivolity only upsets her more. Unable to navigate the crowd and retreat to the sanctuary of home, she slips out onto the balcony to avoid watching all the couples kiss when the ball drops.

But her private moment is ruined by someone joining her outside—Del.

Laci wants nothing more than to escape, but Del has other things in mind. Soft words and softer lips convince her to stay. And to try again. Thus begins a tumultuous twelve months of love and laughter, fear and failure. They still have the passion, but they also still have all the same problems.

Twelve months from their reconciliation, and nothing is resolved. If anything, Laci feels worse than ever. How many chances can she give their relationship before just giving up? And how many chances is Del willing to take on her?

This novella is a series of twelve vignettes, one a month, until the story reaches its conclusion. There is also a bonus installment at the end.

Laci and Del: 12 Months, 12 Chances is available for free at these eRetailers:
Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Inktera | Scribd | 24Symbols

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