How to Perform a Clichéctomy – or – How Not To Write the Obvious

Don’t Write The Obvious!

don't write the obvious

Stating the Obvious. Photograph by macca.bsch.au.com

Over the weekend, my wife and I attended a family function in Florida. As we drove down Interstate 95, my wife asked, so what did you do this morning? (I was out of bed several hours before her.)

I told her, among other things, that I’d had my morning coffee, and I did some slush reading for Every Day Fiction.

“How did that go? She asked.

“Not so well,” I said. “I read five stories and four of the five had the same story-line. I don’t know why authors seem to have so much trouble coming up with ideas that are new and interesting. The stories are filled with cliché situations and predictable subject matter.”

“Like what?” She asked. (I could tell she was going into literary mode.)

“Well today, the four similar stories were about lost love. And two of the four took place in a coffee shop. And three of the four were primarily the MC‘s thoughts with little or no action, Two of the four also involved a dream sequence. And all four ended with the same outcome; the MC is forlorn over their lost love.

don't write the obvious

Photograph by perfectionlove99.blogspot.com

My wife raised her eyebrow; but didn’t say a word.

“I don’t get it!” I rambled on. “With so much to write about in this world, why do people keep writing about the same thing over and over.”

“Like what?” She stretched her bare feet out on the dashboard.

I thought quietly for a moment. “These are probably the top four repetitious stories that come through Every Day Fiction: lost love, a confession (to a counselor or psychiatrist), an alien invasion, or a story that ends up being a dream.”

“Maybe you should write an article on this for NovelNook?”

“And say what? Quit writing these stories. They’re old and repetitious, and boring!”

“People will never stop writing about subjects that appeal to their heart. Obviously, those subjects are very appealing. That’s why they’re in the minds of writers. Maybe you should write about the concept of approaching these subjects from a new angle? Keep the subject but remove the clichés. Wouldn’t you find that more appealing?”

“That’s interesting thought. What did you have in mind, oh wifey pooh, master of my mind?”

“This conversation reminds me of the story, “La lluvia y los hongos“, by Mario Benedetti. Do you remember that one? I read it to you once.”

Don't write the obvious

Mario Benedetti

“Wasn’t that, The Rain brings the Mushrooms?”

“Do you remember the story?”

“Refresh me please.”

“It’s a short story, and it incorporates two of your clichés; but the story is told in a very different way. So different, that you probably wouldn’t even realize that the subject is cliché.

The story starts with a man talking  to a one-night-stand about his friends. He’s just picked her up from a bar. Benedetti never comes right out and says it. But it’s intimated that they just had sex and are now having conversation in the bed afterwards. As the story unfolds, it sounds like he’s in a therapy session, like he’s confessing. In fact, if you found out at the end that he was with a psychiatrist, it wouldn’t surprise you at all. But that would be that ho-hum storyline you’re talking about.

So his monologue leads to one friend in particular, a woman, a woman he stole from another friend of his, and the woman became his lover. He talks about all the quirks this woman had that made her different, made her special. He tells how she wasn’t very elegant, or very book-smart, or the most beautiful, but she had a way about her, a way that commanded attention. People were drawn to her. She was everything that he wasn’t, and he loved that about her.

So, they became lovers. And after things became intimate, it began to unravel for him. All the perfection he had loved about her as a friend, he hated about her as a lover. He felt that she didn’t appreciate him, or need him. It made him feel like less of a man to be with her because she required very little from him and gave very little back.

In the final paragraphs of the story, the man confesses the rage that grew within him and his growing obsession with her perfection. He felt a need to put her in her place and when he just couldn’t stand it anymore, he killed her.

What’s really shocking in the end is that the woman who is currently with him (the one-night-stand) doesn’t even react to this news. And the man seems even less concerned  that he just shared that he is a murderer with a total stranger.

“Wow,” I said. “Great story. And you’re right! This is exactly what I’m talking about.”

The theme of lost love, and a confession, told in a unique way.

Putting Your Thought Process

Outside the Box Doesn’t Take that Long!

My wife, and I, brainstormed as we drove down Interstate 95 in Florida. In less than five minutes, we came up with several interesting ideas.

For some reason, the lost love theme often occurs in a coffee shop.

We decided for our story with a new thought process, everything would stay the same: the coffee shop, the forlorn memories, etc. But in the end, the MC would toss their payment on the table and leave with the thought, I’m glad that bitch is gone.

Our thought process lead us to an alternative outcome.

Then we talked about the confession story. In the slush pile this ALMOST ALWAYS occurs in an office of a therapist. So, what if the confession is the same but the listener is different; just like Benedetti’s story.

Alternative ideas, the MC confesses a murder to a: child? a dog? the wife of a friend? the pest control guy?

How would these alternatives affect the story? This is what my wife and I thought…

  • a child would react with innocence
  • a dog would not react, it wouldn’t care
  • the wife of a friend would react with shock or fear
  • the pest control guy might enjoy it, breaking up the monotony of his day

Just a little thought took our story to a completely different place.

All of us here at NovelNook.com hope that you’ll spend just a little extra time thinking about your next story. Reach deep down and search for a new angle for your story; one that will make it rise above the crowd; just like The Rain and the Mushrooms!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

The ‘Value Added Marketing’ of the First Line in your Book

Value Added Marketing

as explained by Shrek

Video courtesy of ryanmorrison31

Marketing Has Layers

Value added marketing

Photography by Joe Gatineau

Marketing is the message that brings buyers to your story.

Imagine marketing as an onion.

Now place yourself in a book store.

You’re walking along the aisle and a cover catches your eye. It looks interesting.

You pick it up. (Layer one, of the marketing onion, has just been peeled away.)

You hold the book in your hand, and then you flip it over to the description on the back. The description tickles your imagination. (Layer two, of the marketing onion, has been peeled away.) You flip the book back to the cover. Your hand opens the book, and your eyes gaze down at the first line of Chapter-One. (You are now staring at the third layer of the marketing onion.)

What is value added marketing?

Value Added Marketing: Creation of a competitive advantage by bundling, combining, or packaging features and benefits that result in greater customer acceptance. (Courtesy of businessdictionary.com)

How does the first line of my book become value added marketing?

Let me tell you a little story

Many years ago, I was visiting a friend. As we chatted, I perused their bookcase. My eyes settled on the spine of an innocuously colored book. It was the typography, title, and author’s name that caught my attention.

I pulled the book from the shelf and looked at the cover. This author is a particular favorite of mine. In fact, I would go so far as to say that two of their books (in that time) were some of my all-time favorite reads. But, I’ve also read some real clunkers by this same author. I stared at the cover; I was intrigued, but not sold.

I flipped the book and read the description on that back. Oh crap, I thought. It was the first book in a long series. If I commit, I’ll be reading this ‘ongoing’ story for months.

At this point, layer one of the marketing onion had succeeded, but barely. However, it did its job because I picked up the book. That’s what cover design is all about. Layer two, the book description, was less successful. It almost cost the author a reader. It was really the author’s reputation that pushed me to move forward to layer three.

This is a really important point. Imagine this scene in your mind; I was within seconds of sliding that book back into it’s slot on the shelf. If I had, there’s a good chance it may never have resurfaced in my life. But, I didn’t. I flipped it open to page one and read the first line. It read –

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.

Value added marketing

Photo courtesy of theaudiobookbay.com

By Stephen King

Here is where the concept of value added marketing comes to play.

Mr. King’s first line of, The Gunslinger, induced me to action. The cover got me to pick up the book, the description almost cost him the sale, it was the first line of the story that sold the book. I bought that book within days of reading it at my friend’s house. Then, because The Gunslinger is book one of a seven book series, (and it is superbly written), I went out and bought books two, three, and four about a month later. Finally, about five months later, I bought books five, six, and seven.

Think about this – That first line of, The Gunslinger, was the motivation behind a seven book sale. It had residual value and that’s value added marketing! 

Don’t we wish we could all do that.

I’ve thought about that line many times over the years. What makes it so powerful, so intriguing? The prose is quite simple. I think there are three components that are key to its success –

Antagonist, Protagonist, Conflict

It reveals all three of these elements in a twelve word sentence.
There’s no blood, no violence, no complicated structure

It introduces the Man in Black (mysterious), the Gunslinger (strong mental image), and conflict (the word fled). Stephen King could not have chosen a better word than fled. Even just speaking the word conjures up a feeling that something is about to happen!

There are all kinds of famous first lines and lists of them are plentiful in every corner of the internet. Stephen King’s line from, The Gunslinger, is almost always on the list. It’s that powerful. It sells books. It sells a series of books. For me, it is the epitome of the perfect first line. It has value added marketing!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but every story I write gets considerable processing time for that first line. I want that value added marketing in my books. I want a potential reader to get hooked from my first words and find themselves compelled to buy more of my books because they remember that line.

I’ll share this first line from one of my stories. It’s an unpublished short story titled, You Don’t Shoot No Owls.

Claire Brown, was fourteen years old the first time her daddy stuck a gun in her hand and told her to go shoot something.

value added marketing

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

This is my favorite first line (of my creation) to date.

I’m striving for that powerful simplicity that Stephen King captured in The Gunslinger. I know I haven’t hit it yet. But, I keep trying and that’s what’s important.

One other interesting note about, The Dark Tower Series, if I had picked up any of the other volumes that day, their first lines would not have had the same effect.

A fantastic first line is not easy.

Back to value added marketing

I hope that today’s blog will inspire you to consider how important each component of your book is:

  1. Writing an interesting story
  2. Giving that story a powerful first line
  3. Writing a synopsis, tagline, and book description with the same dedication that you wrote the story.
  4. Edit every aspect of your writing, thoroughly
  5. Design your cover carefully

Each of these components bring value added marketing to your efforts. As human beings each of us is unique. We all see things differently. You never know which element, or combination of elements, will click with a book buyer.

And finally, maybe one of your first lines will bring you a dedicated reader. One that will follow your efforts for years to come, just as Stephen King did to me.

I’d love to read some of your favorite “first lines” in our comments section.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Authors Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot

Authors

Think MARKETING from A-Z

You’ve spent a lot of time writing your book. You’ve edited, and edited, and now it’s time to get that story out in front of the public and let the sales begin!

authors

Hopeful Book Sales – Graphic by The Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

But…

A new story begins

The story that I’m about to tell you.

The Story of Marketing

Several days ago my wife was sitting at her computer. She called out to me and asked me to come over to her. She said, that she had something to show me. As I approached, I saw her Kindle lying on her desk. Amazon was open on her computer’s desktop, and I knew she was hunting for books.

“Look at this,” she said. I leaned over her shoulder and stared at the screen. It was a book description. What I read shocked me (you’ll know why in a minute). “Now look at this,” she said. She scrolled up to the cover of the book. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied. The cover was very nice.

My wife then scrolled down to the price of the book; it was free. She glanced up at me, acquiring this look in her eye, a look that says she is about to make a very important point.

“I was about to download this book,” she said. “Until I read that.” She pointed at the book’s description. It’s a shame,” she continued, “someone spent a lot of money on that cover. But if that description is any indication of the writing style… I don’t want it, even if it is free. It looks like a teenager wrote that! Don’t you agree?” She raised an eyebrow.

The truth was, I did agree. The cover indicated a beautiful romance novel. It looked like a period story, set perhaps in the 1940’s. The setting was rural, like a ranch, or a farm. All this information was conveyed to us visually (marketing) through the cover of the book.

And then there was the book’s description

authors

Lost Sales – Graphic by Higher-Education-Marketing.com

A book’s description is in a three-way tie for the front-end marketing strategy of your book.

BOOK TITLE / BOOK COVER / BOOK DESCRIPTION

In order to protect the author’s anonymity (the book my wife shared with me) I’m not going to say their name. I’m not going to say the name of their book. I’m not even going to completely show the entire book description.

I am going to pull a couple of lines from that description; just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about –

authors

Image by AllAboutEmotion.blogspot.com

Quote – “Paul had been a decent kid with two younger brothers, a loving mother, and an asshole abusive father.”

Quote – “But Paul stayed and took the abuse until his youngest brother was old enough to get the hell out.”

That’s enough to make my point. It doesn’t matter how well the book was written, how much editing effort went into it, or, even that it has a fancy (professionally produced) cover; the sale was lost because of a poorly written description.

It didn’t fit the feel of the cover.

Here is another example

Several months back, I was looking at my Twitter feed. There is an author there on Twitter who posts constantly all day long. On this particular day, they had posted the title of one of their books. The title sounded interesting, so, I clicked the link, and it took me to Amazon. The cover looked fine, and the title had already grabbed me; I began to read the book’s description.

I was flabbergasted at the poor punctuation, and grammar, in that description.

This particular author has a large presence on Twitter. I wrote them a “direct message,” to keep it private, and told them just what I told you. They wrote me back and told me to mind my own business.

Another lost sale!

The author did well on their front-end marketing with a great title and a decent cover. But, they failed on the back-end marketing; the did not provide a cohesive, well written, and applicable book description, and, they ignored direct feedback from a potential customer.

(Just out of curiosity), I went back and checked the book’s description while writing this article; it’s exactly the same. The author has, however, pumped out three more books in just a couple of months… “Sigh”

authors

Pumping out the books. Graphic by saneandsingle.blogspot.com

Everything you put out in public becomes marketing

Authors, I know many of us don’t know much about marketing and advertising. I know the bit that I do from running my business for many years. Plant these seeds in your head and let them grow!

  • Everything that goes in front of the public eye is marketing – good or bad
  • 98% of the population will notice what you did wrong and only 2% will notice what you did right. Reach for perfection in every aspect of your book, from the largest, and most obvious, to the minuscule.
  • You are authors. You need to carefully edit everything that gets published; even if it’s a Tweet, make it understandable and professional.
  • Pay attention to all aspects of your book: writing it, editing it, writing a synopsis, writing a tagline, producing a cover, writing your book description, doing a written interview or writing a guest blog about it; if you fail on any of these points, it will cost you readers. And…

 You’ll NEVER KNOW how many READERS you LOST

Readers just like my wife

Everybody here at NovelNook.com wants you to succeed. We want you to write great stories, with great editing, and great marketing. We look forward to reading your best efforts!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, by Isabel Allende

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

Get That Monkey Off Your Back

WRITER’S BLOCK

The mere utterance of these words can send chills down the spine of a wordsmith. It’s the equivalent to a professional baseball player going a hundred games without getting a hit, or a cartoonist that can’t think of anything to draw. It’s a momentary lapse of creativity; it stifles us and brings our output to a halt.

Writer’s block is nasty.

There has been many articles written on this subject, both online, and in print. I’m sure most of us could list techniques we’ve heard of on how to deal with this internal demon.

But today, I would like to offer you an alternative.

The End of Writer's Block

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

A solution you may not have heard of!
The Writer's Toolbox

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

It’s A Game!

And this is why I want to tell you about it.

  1. It works
  2. It’s fun
  3. It can be done individually or in a group session

This super cool product came to me in the form of an unexpected gift from (you guessed it) my wife. I have to tell you, I don’t generally have a problem with writer’s block, my problems lie more with time management and procrastination. But those issues are for another blog on another day. My wife bought me this gift just because it looked cool. And you know what? It does. It has a slick, fun to touch box; everything about the product is designed well and visually stimulating. I use it because it’s fun, and it has helped me develop some really fantastic story ideas.

Let me introduce you to – The Writer‘s Toolbox
Take a look at what’s inside.
The Toolbox Contents

Photography by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

The first thing you will want to do is peruse the guidebook. It talks about the elements of story. It gives detailed information about the tools that are included, and it outlines a number of stimulating games to unfreeze that frozen brain. There is so much information packed in there, it’s too much to cover in one blog.

So, what I’ve decided to do is pick one game, describe it to you, play the game myself, and share the results.

The First Sentence to the Last Straw game

There are three types of sticks included in the set. There is the, “FS”, First Sentence Stick, the, “NS”, Non Sequitur Stick, and the, “LS“, Last Straw Stick.

Sticks

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

You begin the game by drawing a, First Sentence Stick. Once you have your stick you have 3-6 minutes (I use six minutes) to write a piece of fiction that begins with the line on your stick. Here is my First Sentence Stick.

The FS Stick

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

This is what I wrote

There she was, Amy Gerstein, over by the pool, kissing my father. My heart sank, even though I knew that our shapely neighbor had subversive intentions, and it really wasn’t my dad’s fault as she had pinned him down with her bikini-clad bottom. But, my suspicions were well founded; because nobody can smell like lilacs every day of the year and be totally on the up and up.

I hid behind Dad’s new stainless steel grill, the one with the special tongs and flipper attachment, and clenched my fists. Old barbecue sauce stuck to my nose as I tilted my head to get a better view.

Dad appeared nervous.

Amy moved and sat down next to him; her long legs stretched out, gleaming orangey-brown in the afternoon sun.

I could hear Mom singing to herself in the kitchen behind me.

Amy’s a bitch, and I’m going to find out what she’s up to- no matter what it takes.

Amy laughed, and my father looked her way. His eyes grew wide, when he peered past the vixen and saw me hiding behind his prized possession.

Time is up!

Now, It’s time to draw a Non Sequitur Stick. The rules state that you must begin the next section of writing with the sentence on that stick. Once again, you have 3-6 minutes. It also states that once your time is up you can draw another NS Stick and keep writing in timed segments. For our purposes here, we will draw one stick.

The NS Stick

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

Here is where my NS Stick took me

Margaret had a habit of spitting. It began to get on my nerves. But, the moment she entered the backyard all that changed.

Margaret is my best friend; she has been for six years, ever since we entered the first grade. She’s a strange duck, no doubt about it. But, her peculiarity intrigues me.

I had no idea what was about to happen until she walked right up to Gerstein and placed her hands on her hips.

Oh, no! I thought.

I’ve witnessed my friend taking this posture on the playground.

Oh, no! I thought again. But this time it was followed by a serious giggle.

It happened right in front of my eyes. My best friend hawked up the nastiest snot-ball on the face of the planet, and she deposited it right on Amy Gerstein’s forehead, a little bit even sprayed across Amy’s stupidly large sunglasses.

I’m sure Gerstein’s bloodcurdling scream was heard for blocks.

My father jumped to his feet in an effort to do something, God knows what, because Gerstein had already sprinted for her house.

Margaret walked over to me, and I timidly left my hiding spot.

She smiled.

Time is up, again!

And Now… The Last Sentence Stick

The LS stick gives you a final line and you must move your story in the direction of whatever it says and complete your story arc. I usually include the line right into my story; it makes it more challenging for me.

Here is my LS Stick
The LS Stick

Photograph by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

This game is just one of many that are listed in the booklet. If you have writer friends, it would be an awesome party game. It doesn’t take long, and it’s really fun to see what everyone comes up with. If you’re interested in this superbly craft, awesomely designed, and super cool tool- click the link below.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain

Everyone here at NovelNook.com wants you to succeed.

Writer’s Block can be debilitating. We hope you found this article fun and informative.

And when you finish your masterpiece, please submit it for review. We’d love to help you get published.

Wondering what happened with the story?

Click my Facebook link below, and I’ll provide a link to the entire story. While you’re on Facebook- Why don’t you connect with me by liking my Author page. I always try to inform and entertain.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, by Isabel Allende

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

They Said, I Said, You Say

Writing Tips By Famous Authors

I would like to try to make this blog a more interactive experience for those of you who read my articles. My goal is to establish a relationship with you. If I could parlay some of my knowledge to you and learn from your experiences as well; that’s the perfect scenario!

Authors and Readers Interacting

In an effort to try to garner that kind of interaction, I thought that I would create this post (even title it) with the hope of inducing my readers to leave a comment.

The Game

The Game

The Game

Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to list several of my favorite quotes, by famous authors, on the craft of writing. These quotes come from world-renowned authors. We can pretty much assure ourselves that they know what they’re talking about.

But, as with everything else in this world. We all have an opinion. What works for one individual, may not work for another. So, I’ll state their quote, give my opinion on the subject discussed in that quote, and finally, I’m hoping to hear back from you, (my readers), on what your thoughts are.

I would also like to hear some of your favorite quotes and how they influenced you.

Here we go!
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

This quote, by Oscar Wilde, really resonates with me. As a writer who reads a lot of work by emerging authors, I see way too much repetition, by that I mean, writers who write in a style , theme, or on a subject that is already in widespread publication. By publication, I mean books, stories, movies, and television. A good example of this in recent years would be the vampire theme. While, I do believe that imitation in art is a good training tool. I also believe that work produced this way should be retained for your own benefit, don’t attempt to publish it. Submit only work that reflects the uniqueness of you. Does that mean you can’t write a vampire story? No, it means don’t write one that reads like the many others that are already published. And just to clarify- If you change your vampire, so that he is half vampire, and half werewolf, and he works as a plumber, but your plot line is exactly like Twilight; that’s not enough.

famous author quotes

Photograph courtesy of biography.com

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

This one means a lot to me for several reasons. One, I am guilty of this myself. Two, I also see it in many of the stories I read seeking publication. Have you ever heard the phrase, show don’t tell? That’s what Mr. Chekhov is talking about. Authors have a hard time understanding this concept and an even harder time incorporating it into their stories. The difference between showing and telling is engaging the readers senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. One trick that I use- is to read back through my manuscript and if I come to a section that reads like this- He did that. She did that. He did that. They did this, etc. I know that I’m telling and not showing. It is important to remember that a bit of telling is necessary. It is completely acceptable to “tell” in your exposition. But that should be a small part of your story, If not, your readers will be asleep long before they get to your dramatic conclusion.

Erica Jong

Erica Jong

“You are always naked when you start writing; you are always as if you had never written anything before; you are always a beginner. Shakespeare wrote without knowing he would become Shakespeare
― Erica Jong

This is really an interesting quote. I think that we all believe that as we pump out story after story, we are no longer beginners. What I take from this, is adopting the philosophy of continued learning. If we believe that we’ve achieved the goal, then our work will become stagnant. I also think it speaks to the idea of writing because you love to write, not because you’re seeking fame and fortune.

A really good example of this mindset is Vincent van Gogh. I saw this van Gogh painting at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia a few years back.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

I can tell you (without a doubt) that if you haven’t personally stood in front of a van Gogh painting you cannot fully appreciate the mastery of his work. This painting literally blew my socks off. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. The subtlety of color and stroke was simply amazing.

But back to my point

Vincent van Gogh never achieved fame during his lifetime. He produced the work that he did- just because he wanted to.

James J Kilpatrick

James J Kilpatrick

“Five common traits of good writers: (1) They have something to say. (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood. (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.”
― James J. Kilpatrick

I totally agree with Kilpatrick’s quote with one small exception. I think some of the best stories are told out of sequence. It does, however, take an expert level of writing skill to pull that off effectively. If some of Kilpatrick’s points don’t come naturally to you- you can train yourself with a lot of hard work.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

This quote really speaks to me. I have contemplated this fact-of-life for a several years, especially as it relates to the area of social media. People will forget you (and very quickly). That is just plain fact. But if your writing alters them emotionally, you will forever remain somewhere in their mind (I’m convinced that this is THE KEY to success). I recently wrote a short story titled, The Power of Fine Furniture. It was published online and it is now available in an online anthology. This story started out from a word prompt. It’s a horror story. But, it is told in a very subtle manner. I keep the reader guessing until the last possible moment and the setting is incongruous with a horror story. This was the first story that I’ve ever had published where I received hate mail from some readers. These readers weren’t telling me that it was a lousy story, or poorly written, in fact they were saying quite the opposite. It was the subject and the tone of the piece that bothered them so deeply. I had one woman ask me, “How in the world could I write about fine furniture that way!” I also received a lot of kudos on the story, but, it was the hate mail that intrigued me. For reasons, that I still can’t quite completely quantify, this story really touched an emotional nerve in a lot of people. It’s the stirring of an emotional response that is the true power of writing.

Find that power in your own writing and you are well on your way to success here at NovelNook.com.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

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I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, 3024AD, by DES Richard and edited by Corissa Poley

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

Top Self-Published Authors

We discovered a great list of some of the most famous self-published authors.  We bolded a few of our favorites:  

  • What Color is Your Parachute by Episcopal clergymen Richard Nelson Bolles. 22 editions, 5 million copies and 288 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now published by Ten Speed Press.at first brought them to the attention of the world.
  • The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list.
  • In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Over 25,000 copies were sold directly to consumers in its first year. Then it was sold to Warner and the publisher sold 10 million more.
  • Real Peace — Richard Nixon in 1983.
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. His manuscript made the rounds of the mainstream houses and then he decided to publish himself. He started by selling copies out of the trunk of his Honda — over 100,000 of them. He subsequently sold out to Warner Books for $800,000. The number-one bestseller in 1996, it spent 165 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. Over 5.5 million copies have been sold.
  • The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson sold over 20,000 copies locally before they sold out to William Morrow. It has now sold over 12 million copies since 1982 and is in 25 languages.
  • Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth spent seven months on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 4.5 million copies in its original and premium editions.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White) was originally self-published for his classes at Cornell University in 1918.
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham. He sold his first work out of the trunk of his car.
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was self-published in 1931. Today Scribners sells more than 100,000 copies each year.
  • How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir sold over 2 million copies and led to the establishment of a publishing company.
  • Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts sold 486,000 copies before selling out to Warner Books.
  • Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie spent 76 weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List, 123 weeks on the Paperback List and was sold to Bantam Books for $1.5 million. The audio rights brought in another $100,000. Then she established Onjinjinkta Publishing to publish her future projects.
  • Sugar Busters! by four Louisiana doctors and a former CEO sold 165,000 copies regionally in just a year and a half. Then they sold out to Ballantine Books.
  • The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton has sold over a million copies in Canada (second only to the Bible in Canada) and two million in the US.
  • When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple has been through the press 42 times for 1.5 million in print. It allowed Sanda Haldeman Martz to build Paper Mâché Press.
  • Mary Ellen’s Best of Helpful Hints by Mary Ellen Pinkham became a bestseller and then she sold out to Warner Books.
  • The Macintosh Bible by Arthur Naiman has become the best-selling book on Apple products with over 900,000 sold.
  • Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard has been in print more than 45 years, 20 million copies are in print and it has been translated into 22 languages. The book started a movement and later a church.
  • Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan sold 370,000 copies before it was sold to HarperCollins for $1.7 million. It was sold to two book clubs and the foreign rights were sold to 14 countries.
  • Feed Me, I’m Yours by Vicky Lansky sold 300,000 copies. She sold out to Bantam and they sold 8 million more.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associations by Frederick Ruffner led to the establishment of Gale Research Company, with 500 employees.
  • The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. Joe Karbo never sold out and never courted bookstores. He sold millions of his books via full-page ads in newspapers and magazines.
  • The Christmas Box by Rick Evans. The 87-page book took him six weeks to write. He published it and promoted it himself. It did so well he sold out to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million. It hit the top of the Publishers Weekly bestseller list and was translated into 13 Languages.
  • Twelve Golden Threads by Aliske Webb was rejected by 150 publishers. After self-publishing and selling 25,000 copies, she signed a four-book contract with HarperCollins.
  • Life’s Little Instruction Book was initially self-published by H. Jackson Brown. Then it was purchased by Rutledge Hill Press. It made the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in hardcover and soft at the same time. Over 5 million copies were sold.
  • The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Salzman was turned down by eight publishers. The glossy hardcover book made it to The New York Times Bestseller list.
  • Let’s Cook Microwave by Barbara Harris sold over 700,000 copies.
  • Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy has sold over two million copies and it led to the establishment of Klutz Press with over 50 award-winning books.
  • Ben Dominitz published Travel Free and then founded Prima Publishing. Prima now has 1,500 titles, 140 employees and does $60 million a year.
  • How to Flatten Your Stomach by Jim Everrode was self-published before he sold out to Price\Stern\Sloan. Since then, the book has sold over two million copies.

Other well-known authors who started as self-publishers include:

  • Deepak Chopra
  • Louise Hay
  • Mark Twain
  • Ken Keyes, Jr.
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Zane Grey
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Carl Sandburg
  • James Joyce
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Ezra Pound
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Stephen Crane
  • Mary Baker Eddy
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Anais Nin
  • Thomas Paine
  • Virginia Woolf
  • E.E. Cummings
  • William Blake
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Walt Whitman
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • William E.B. DuBois
  • Robert Ringer

This list was compiled by Dan Poynter of Para Publishing and the author of The Self-Publishing Manual.