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.

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The Wacky World of Literary Devices!

You Have Now Entered the Wacky World of Literary Devices.

For the grand prize you have 60 seconds to answer the following…

(Disclaimer – This is just a joke folks)

What is Hyperbole and name one famous story that makes use of it?

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock…

You learn forward, grab the microphone, your eyes stare unflinchingly into the crowd as you say –

Hyperbole is the use of over-exaggeration for creating emphasis, or humor, but it is not intended to be taken literally. One example of this story telling technique would be, The Tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph by The Arches

Yeah! Excellent Answer!

This idea of looking into literary devices came to me the other day when a companion asked me how to spell allegory. I spelled it out for her flawlessly. But the next question was the one I was dreading…

“What does allegory mean?”

Ummm… ummm…

I didn’t know what it meant.

She giggled at me. “And you’re a writer?”

the wacky world of literary devices

Graphic courtesy of myteachingspirit.blogspot.com

Well that was enough to make me go look it up. But, I would have done that anyway, because I am an extremely inquisitive person, and I love to learn. So, for those of you that don’t know what the literary device, allegory, means –

Here you go!

An allegory is a symbolism device where the meaning of a greater, often abstract, concept is conveyed with the aid of a more corporeal object or idea being used as an example. One famous example of allegory is the book, The Lord of the Flies. This story features a group of schoolboys stuck on an island, and the novel had allegorical representations of rational mind, democracy, order, civility, and many other such abstract terms.

the wacky world of Literary devices

Cover photograph by lordalford.com

I’ll be the first to admit it to anybody. I didn’t go to college for writing. I was born into a working class family. I’ve learned what I’ve managed to learn in life through dedication and hard work.

Many of the literary devices were familiar to me by word, but I didn’t really understand what they meant until I dove into this investigation. I was amazed at how many literary devices exist. There are dozens of them! Just reading through the list and their descriptions got my creative juices flowing.

I want to share some examples

along with their definitions

And some literary works that made use of them

Bildungsroman – This is a very popular form of storytelling whereby the author bases the plot on the overall growth of the central character throughout the timeline of the story. As the story progresses, the subject undergoes noticeable mental, physical, social, emotional, moral, and often spiritual advancement. A very famous example of this literary device is, Gone With The Wind, which was published by Margaret Mitchell in 1936.

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph by stuffforcrafts.com

Litotes – It is an understated expression where the idea to be expressed is quite significant. Litotes, are defined as ‘an ironical understatement where the affirmative is expressed by the negation of the opposite’. To put it simply, in litotes, instead of saying that something is attractive, you say that it is not unattractive. Litotes are often used to mimic speech, since we lazy humans tend to drop words to make things quicker. Here are some examples:

  • The food is not bad.
  • She is not as young as she was.
  • He is not unlike his dad
Father & Son

He is not unlike his dad. Photograph by Tony Alter

Hubris – Hubris is another way of saying overly arrogant. You can tell the difference between hubris and regular arrogance by the suggestion that the character has seemed to allow reality slip away from them. Hubris is the buildup of arrogance and pride and is generally followed by a catastrophic fall at the end of the story. An excellent example of Hubris is the story, Arabian Nights.

Caesura – involves creating a fracture within a sentence where the two separate parts are distinguishable from one another yet intrinsically linked to one another. The purpose of using a caesura is to create a dramatic pause, which has a strong impact. Finding out about this device means a lot to me personally, because I use this a lot. Here is an example of Caesura; “Ludwig – How your music makes me soar!”

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph courtesy of parentpreviews.com

Polysyndeton – is a sentence construction in which multiple conjunctions are used in very close succession to infuse a sense of exaggeration. In other words, you use a lot of ‘ands’ to emphasize a point by stretching the sentence out. Here is a great example from Ian Fleming‘s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:

‘Most motor-cars are conglomerations of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and petrol and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday.’

I’ve had a lot of fun studying up on literary devices

And I bet you would too!

Here’s a challenge for you. I’m going to list some literary devices that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the term. Could you define that term? Could you point to an example that uses the device? Do you use it in your own writing? Might you consider doing that now, after reading this article?

Here you go-

  1. Allusion
  2. Antithesis
  3. Cacophony
  4. Deus ex Machina
  5. oxymoron
  6. simile
  7. syntax
  8. verisimilitude
  9. juxtaposition
  10. epithet

There will be a test on Tuesday.

(Just kidding!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion. I would also like to encourage you to comment. Tell me if there is any subject matter that you would like me to weigh in on. (what literary device was that?) Keep writing friends!

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.

Analyzing Videos – An Amazing Way To Improve Your Writing

Improve Your Writing

By Analyzing existing success stories!

an·a·lyze
/ˈanlˌīz/

Verb

  1. Examine methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of (something, esp. information), typically for purposes of explanation…
  2. Discover or reveal (something) through such examination.
Synonyms: analyse – decompose – construe – dissect – anatomize

There are many tricks, and techniques, that writers use to improve their craft. Today, I would like to talk about one that perhaps you hadn’t thought of – YouTube.

YouTube is one of the world’s most comprehensive websites, for entertainment, ideas, and in this example, an education. You can use their video uploads to find book trailers, book reviews, book readings, movies, movie trailers, movie reviews, comedy sketches, television shows, scenes from television or movies, music videos, poetry readings, etc.

Do you see a common theme here?

They all involve writing!

This is how I like to use YouTube. I research successful examples of writing and analyze them. This is easy to do because you can filter your search results by rating, views, genre, title, industry, and keywords. When you find a video whose ratings, and views, are high, you can bet the farm that there are nuggets of golden information for you to mine from that writing.

Let’s give it a try!

I searched: television, situation comedy, less than 4 minutes run-time. The list came up, and I zoomed through it until I found something that looked interesting.

Here is what I chose –

This particular television show is one of the most successful situation comedies on TV today. Now, you might be saying to yourself, “I could just watch the television show. Why do I need YouTube?” And you’re right, if you’re interested in writing comedy, you should watch the entire television show series. These writers are doing everything right – much can be learned about writing comedy by studying their methods.

The reason I’m advocating the use of YouTube is because it covers many genres and styles of writing. Plus, it saves time. Let’s say you set aside twenty minutes a week to do your YouTube research, in that short period, you could locate videos, watch them, and make notes on writing techniques, and you’d still have time for lunch before you get back to that work in progress! If you find a video that is particularly interesting, you can bookmark it,: and then you return to it over and over. You can also stop the action as you make your notes, or, replay it instantly.

Let’s breakdown this scene

And see what we can learn from it.

(I’m going to illustrate by using notations from my research)
  1. Opening scene – life as usual. Three very different women sit in a car talking. One is mousey. One is bold. One is eccentric. (varying personalities) They have skipped out of work to go to Disneyland.
  2. Comedy elements – The absurd situation of adult women skipping work to go to Disneyland for a princess make-over. The eccentric woman’s over-the-top efforts to escape from work. The bold woman’s lack of concern over deserting her job. Conflict – they argue over who gets to be Cinderella. Funny – the mousey woman turns belligerent over her desire to be Cinderella. Funny – mousey woman pulls a ‘junior high trick’ by threatening to pull her car (toy) from the plan.
  3. Descriptive elements – Eccentric woman – Big Mouth, overtly expressive – happy, facial tics that look like the cat that ate the mouse, slumped shoulders, leaning forward in excitement. Bold woman – Set jaw, distant eyes, lips closed, sarcastic expressions, back straight, little head movement. Mousey woman – Eyes set, business-like expression, some smiles (as a character she fits between the other two – creating a well-rounded character group), at the end of the scene the mousey woman snaps and turns mean (again well-rounded characterization, nobody is all nice or all bad).
  4. Dialog highlights -“Throwing up like a fire hose .” – Excellent metaphor / strong visual impression. “And now I’m going to Disneyland!” – Excellent comedic play off an old phrase that many people would recognize. “I work at The CheeseCake Factory. I said, Bye.” – Funny because of its lack of caring. (Give your characters things they care about and things they don’t care about.) “You’re kidding right? We’re not going to just get drunk and go on rides.” Funny because it creates a mild conflict between the characters expectations of the day. (Give your characters different expectations about the same situation.) “We can’t all be Cinderella.” An unexpected twist – all the characters instantly come to the realization that they want the same thing – conflict. “Well it’s simple. This was my idea. I’m driving. I’m Cinderella. You bitches got a problem with that, we can stop the car right now.” Character change – The mousey woman goes completely out of her normal element in making this statement. (Comedy comes from unexpected change.) Make your characters do something unexpected.
Scene Two – Disneyland
  1. The women are now at Disneyland.
  2. Comedy elements – The women are now dressed as Disney characters, colorful flowing dresses, unusual hair, overt make-up. (Remember to include visual descriptions that will allow your reader to see your characters.) A woman pushing a stroller passes. (Funny because it highlights the absurdity of their situation. Disneyland is geared toward families, not adult women wearing fantasy costumes.  (Think of small clues to add to your story, that are outside the main story-line, yet support your idea.)
  3. Descriptive elements – The eccentric woman and the mousey woman are having fun. The bold woman sits off to the side,by herself, eating popcorn. – conflict (This is a good use of subtle conflict simply by their placement within the scene.)
  4. Dialog Highlights – “I’m Doctor Fowler, and I’m a neuroscientist.” (The professional title does not fit the situation. It creates comedy.) “From an early age, we girls are taught to care about the way we look, rather than, the power of our minds.” (What makes this funny, and quite powerful, is her actions do not match her words.) “Unless you want to be Cinderella.” (This is great because it returns to an earlier funny moment. It supports it and builds on it. Don’t let your characters experience an important situation in a story and then never bring it back up. That would make it unrealistic and lessen the importance of the original event.)
Scene Three – The Aftermath
  1. Overview – Scene three completes a story arc. The comedy comes from the disparate reactions of the men.
  2. Comedy elements – Each husband / boyfriend of the three women returns home from work to find their significant other dressed as a Disney character. (The comedy is derived from their reactions.)
  3. Descriptive elements – When the mousey woman tells her husband that there is a surprise waiting for him. He reacts by hoping that she is dressed as Cinderella. This is a twist and a reveal. We now know that this is a fantasy of their’s, and the mousey woman had an (ulterior motive) the entire time. (Give your characters hidden motives for their actions – reveal those motives late in the story.) As the husband crosses the room to her – this is a superb example of body motion as a comedic element. He galloped across the room, his belly undulating like jello. The Bold woman’s scene creates comedy from her boyfriend’s unexpected response. The mousy woman’s situation creates comedy by her boyfriend’s lack of response. It’s three disparate views, of the same set-up that bring laughs.
  4. Dialog – “Please be Cinderella. Please be Cinderella.” (Unexpected reaction. Desperation.) “What are you doing?” (Unexpected reaction. Exasperation.) “I heard you the first time.” (Expected reaction. Lack of empathy)

Here is what we learned from a simple breakdown of this YouTube video!

  • Even a scene, or a situation, should have a complete story arc.
  • Comedy is derived by unexpected situations or expectations.
  • Each character should have a distinct set of personality traits, but these traits can, and should morph with an unusual situation.
  • Give your characters distinct physical attributes, and they don’t always need to be pretty or handsome.
  • Create metaphors that are extremely visual but fit the scene.
  • Give your characters things that they care about and things that they don’t care about.
  • If there are multiple characters in a scene give them different expectations over the same set of circumstances.
  • Include elements (such as the family passing by in Disneyland) outside the main scene to add realism.
  • Let your characters act differently than what their dialog indicates.
  • Use character placement within a scene to create tension.
  • Don’t let an important event happen in your story and then let it disappear. Return to it later.
  • Have different characters react differently to the same set of circumstances

Not a bad education for twenty minutes of effort!

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

It’s in the Details

A Moment of Self-Discovery

details-thinker

It’s in the Details

THE STORY

A fact about me that you may, or may not, know is that I am a professional photographer. About a week ago, I had an assignment that had me on my feet lugging seventy pounds of equipment for about seven hours. Needless to say, by the end of the day, I was exhausted.

Kent Photographer

Working on Hilton Head Island.

(THAT WAS THE EXPOSITION)

So, I arrived home tired and thirsty. I put on some shorts, my good Nike sneakers, and a T-shirt. I then grabbed two cervezas (beers for those that don’t speak Spanish) and I asked my wife to join me at the beach. We sat on the sand and watched the waves for about thirty minutes before returning home.

Ocean View

Image by Kent DuFault

All that probably seems pretty ordinary, and you’re wondering, what does this have to do with writing?

An Epiphany

Epiphany

Something in my brain clicked.

The next day, I was outside, staring up at the sky thinking. (This is something that I do quite often.) My mind wandered back to our beach visit the previous evening. As I thought about what happened in those thirty minutes, I had an epiphany.

A writing epiphany- if you will.

This is what I didn’t tell you about our couple’s moment at the beach. It was cold, windy, and the sea spray had turned  the sand into a sticky mess. Once we arrived, my wife and I barely spoke. She sat huddled in a hooded sweatshirt; her face barely visible. It was so cold that my bald head was noticeably uncomfortable. The cold beer was hard to hold on to with exposed fingers. I set it down between my legs and sand became stuck to the bottle. The sand eventually made its way into my mouth. I also scolded myself for putting on my good Nike shoes. Sand had filtering down into them. Uncomfortable, I tried to knock the sand from all of my exposed flesh. I drank my beer fast to end the moment. When, I asked my wife if she wanted to go back to the house, she was standing up before I finished my sentence.

And THIS was my revelation – IT”S IN THE DETAILS
revelation

By Edrooseo

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was a short story writer. I have not written a novel. I also told you that my wife says that I’m scared of writing a novel. But that isn’t how I see myself. I see my writing as painting with broad strokes, lacking in definition, but a beautiful and clearly defined “whole” in the end product. But my wife, (who is my greatest confidant, and editor) says that I can’t get to novel length because I don’t include enough detail. I never really understood that line of thinking until I relived our moment on the beach.

It occurred to me, that if I had written that beach scene prior to my epiphany, (and a lot of other writers would write it this way as well. My slush reading gives testament to that), it probably would have read something like this;

The couple sat in silence on the beach, sipping their beers, and staring at the waves. The cold wind whipped around them. She pulled her coat tight to warm herself. He looked at her. Noticing her discomfort, he pulled her close. After a few moments, he guzzled his beer, and then asked her if she wanted to return to the house; which they promptly did.

Now there is nothing wrong with this version. It tells the scene, it covers what happened, and it does that in a succinct fashion that is perfect for a short story or flash fiction. (In fact, I’ll admit something to you. When my wife read this article, and she reads everything I write before it goes public, she said she preferred the short version)

Post-Epiphany

Now, In an effort to expand on my details, I would write it something more like this.

Their laughter subsided when they plopped down into the wet sand. His wife pulled her coat tight, burying her face into the hood. He looked at her and saw nothing but the tip of her nose; it was turning red.

Jeez it’s cold, he thought.

The wind whipped ruthlessly, nipping at his ears, the dank odor of dead fish drifted by.  He had nothing with which  to protect himself, so he placed a hand on top of his bald head. It felt like ice.

The two of them stared at the waves, struggling to enjoy the moment while sipping their beers.

He crossed his legs and nuzzled his beer in-between his thighs to give his chilled fingers a break. The bottle slipped sideways and became coated with grit. Anger slipped into his eyes, before he bit his lip to force back a curse.

This sucks, he thought. All day I was thinking about doing this, and I’m freezing. I can’t even think.

She remained silent, seemingly unaware of his troubles. She stared at the gray seas and grounded birds. He knocked some sand from his bottle, and it stuck to his leg. He took a big swallow. Grit wedged into his teeth. He gagged while spitting it out.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Sand got in my mouth; from the bottle.”

“Oh,” she replied.

The man looked left and right. They were the only two out on the beach other than several joggers.

She shivered, and thought, those idiots are out here no matter what, even in a hurricane.

One jogger wearing Nike’s passed within a few feet of them, it caused the man to glance at his own shoes. His heart sank. Clumps of sand lay along the top; between the shoes and his socks. They looked like mushrooms sprouting. Instantly, he realized that sand had gotten inside his shoes, his good shoes; ruining them forever.

He sighed. Anyone who ever lived at the beach knows once the sand gets in- it never goes away.

Enough is enough.

He drained his beer in a single gulp.

“It’s cold. You want to go back?”

“I can’t believe it took you this long to ask.”

He stood, reached down, and pulled her to her feet.

“Hug me tight,” she said, and they scurried up the walk to their condo.

Ta Da!!!!

We now have the same scene but it incorporates little details that touch the senses of the reader and builds up the word count.

My Point

My point to you, today, is to engage the senses. Think about those little things that might happen. The out of the ordinary things. Too many emerging writers tell us about the color of someone’s hair, or their eyes, or other simple facts that are broad (and common) strokes. Tell us about the grit in someone’s teeth.

I know that from now on, I’m going to live my scenes in my head. I’m going to take in every little nuance of what might be happening. I’m going to notice the grit, the stench, the pleasant (or the unpleasant) feeling of the moment. And, I’m going to incorporate those details to the best of my ability.

And, you should too!

Who knows, maybe I’m ready for that novel!

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, 3024AD, by DES Richard and edited by Corissa Poley

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

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, 3024AD, by DES Richard and edited by Corissa Poley

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky