A book wouldn't be very readable if everything went your hero’s way would it? Imagine a romance where the hero and romantic interest met and BOOM fall in love. It would be short read and not a very good one. It is seldom anyone wants to read about a character who wins, and easily. Particularly if that character is you. Desperate struggles, fights, bad decisions, disagreeable people, wrong turns, red herrings, darn bad luck and thwarted desire. This is the domain of story. Happy times? Hmmmm keep that for the family album.
But how do you plan this in your writing? Doesn’t it just happen? Hell no. You make sure it happens and that is called plotting.
Trick 1: Make them more physical
Often as writers we shy away from the physical actions of our characters and stick to what they are thinking or feeling. But readers want more! They want to live in your skin, walk in your shoes, eat with your family and live your life for a few hundred pages. If it's a novel you are going to make this all up. Make sure you get more physical and you embody your character
If you do want to get published, a good idea is to look at what are publishers are actually looking for in their 2021 booklists. (pssst..... 2020 is already full)
Here’s my take on it after a recent trip pitching some of my author’s books to publishers.
As an author you need to take a look at the current publishing market, and the climate. See if you can write one that is on-trend and you have a better chance of a publishing deal.
It is closing in on three in the morning and sleep is the furthest thing from my mind. The night is electric as the relentless call of drums stretches out into the air under the African stars. In front of me dances an old African man Thembitongo - his back is bent, his eyes half closed as his feet tap out an ancient rhythm. He is old and in pain. It is hard and painful to watch him as he creeps along in a shuffle-dance. As he falls to his knees the drums stop their call.
By Sarah Bullen
The difficult thing about planning a book is working out how to break down the information; often it feels as if there is just this great mass of data swirling around in your head. Perhaps it is your story, or your decades of work experience.
You know what you want to say and it feels logical to you, but how do you present it to the reader in a way that is clear, logical and compelling? Enter the Big Idea. All non-fiction books need one, or they run the risk of being a mish-mash of all your thoughts, ideas and lessons.
Everyone has a book in them - or so they think. But what does it take to turn that killer idea into a publishable manuscript. Writing coach and literary agent Sarah Bullen gives us some tips on how to write a book that actually has a shot at a publishing deal.
Published in Fair Lady August 2019. Pic by Liza van Deventer.
The really exciting thing is that there are really SO MANY options and ways to get published in this day and age. The two most common ways are traditional publishing and self-publishing so I want to unpack how both of these work - as this is one of the most common questions I get asked.
Do you have a burning desire to publish a book? Cape Town-based writing coach and literary agent Sarah Bullen offers simple and practical steps to getting those words onto paper
What do you want to write about? Well my life of course (writers say). And I nod because of course that is right. But it has to be about something more and bigger than just your life.
The hard thing about writing about yourself / life / job / expertise/ trauma / journey is that you have to step away from writing to please or express yourself. You have to shift into writing for a reader.
So many of us have this deep heart desire to write, but don’t know how to act on it. So you want to write – but you don’t do it. And all the time a quiet voice whispers in your head... you have a story to tell.
I make no secret of being a romance addict. I love the genre and consider myself a bit of an expert. Of course the best expert is one that reads and reads and reads. So I scoured my laden shelves, I paged through my extensive Kindle library. These were the ones that stand out as the hottest, sexiest books out there. They vary from Level 2 heat factor to erotica, BDSM and all sorts of deliciously naughty stuff. Here is my top list of seriously sexy books that any self-respecting romance author must read.
Carina Press is taking submissions. Hurry hurry. Closing date: December 3, 2018 (all submissions due by 11:59pm Eastern on this date)
You've experienced or done things that can interest others. These don't have to be earth shattering -- just incidents that others can relate to or may find meaningful. Of course, if the experience changed your life in a profound way, all the better for this type of article.
Do you actually have a clear goal? And if you do have a goal, then are you any closer to it?
Because I don’t want you to hang about too long before taking some action. You may be hanging around for years. So you need to mix the dream with some really practical steps to get your book down on paper and to start the journey to getting published.
What is an advance, royalties, a platform, self-publishing? Some concepts explained.
You all know I am a bit fan of lists and rules. So here are some of my own from years of working on books and placing books to be published. You may see this as a bit of a rant... probably true. But you know I love you all and just want you to end up with your BEST book.
Rule 1: Write with intent
So let me clarify something here... these Rules are for writers who want to get published. I have nothing against journaling and diary work. But I am talking to writers who want to end up with a book or a talk or a blog. That means you need to write with your end goal in mind. All pieces of writing need to have a view to be used in your book. I am not a personal fan of morning pages for serious writers. Morning pages are for therapeutic stuff. Write with intent and you end up with a book.
Intent also means you need to know WHAT you are writing.
The gap between having an idea (or a dream) and becoming a published author is a BIG one. I want to help you NOT to get stuck in this gap.
Got a manuscript that you are sitting on? Here is an updated list of all the publishing houses actively looking for books. Romance! Children's books! Recovery and addiction! There is a publishing house for every flavour. Ready? This is a long list so digest it. Check your genre. If submissions are closed but it's your genre then start a list of publishers to target.
The first draft of your book is not something you are going to want to show anyone. Sorry! As much as you have sweated and toiled over it… it is most likely a crude assembly of scenes with a bit of a mishmash plot at best. Totally normal. The good news is you have done most of the legwork.
You absolutely have to put your entire story through a rewrite to get to a 'vaguely passable first draft'. This requires you to step out of writer mode and think like an editor. You need to find structure, pace and plot. Out of the trenches and start to see your book as a construction. Now how do you make it better.....
Writing coach Sarah Bullen and her children were on the verge of returning home to South Africa to start another exciting chapter in their life after a wonderful two-year sojourn on a Greek island. Then she felt a lump in her left breast. This is her story…
Self-publishing allows you to get your material printed and out into the world and spread your message. But before you launch yourself off into the world, take a note of the costs. There are production costs and printing costs.
I am going to give you the costs of some of the books I worked on recently.
Why isn't it selling? Who should be making it sell? Why isn't the publisher doing more? Why are there only three copies at the bookshop and no front of house display?
Very few publishing houses are going to constantly promote you and your book. But the good news is, this is where you can make the critical difference. That means that you have to build an audience for your book.
Publishers and designers can make some real mistakes!
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, literary agent and book editor. She coaches writers on how to become authors and how to write to get published.