A foreword is a piece of writing that serves to introduce the reader to the author and the book, usually written by someone who is not the author or an editor of the book. Forewords can also serve as a sort of endorsement for the book.
If the author does write the foreword, it might be to explain how the book came to be, or their connection between the work and themselves—like Stephen King often does for his novels.
The foreword always goes at the very front of the book (with one exception, which I’ll get into below), and it’s rarely more than a couple of pages long.
You may see a foreword with either lowercase Roman numerals or typical Arabic numerals, or without any page numbering whatsoever. That is between you and your book formatter.
How to Write a Foreword
You’re pretty sure you’ve seen forewords in books before, or maybe your favorite classic piece of literature has a foreword in the front. You’ve got a book now, or you’re well on your way to finishing it.
Do you need a foreword, too? Do you need front matter at all?
Then again, maybe you’re not new, and you’ve been around the proverbial block enough times to know your way around. Maybe you’ve gained enough recognition to be asked to write a foreword for someone else’s work.
And maybe you’re someone looking to write a foreword for someone else’s book and have no idea where to start.
Here’s how to write a foreword:
Understand what the author is looking for
Know the tone and style of the book
Start with a list of what you want to cover in the foreword
Make sure to mention your credibility
Tie your own experience back into the worth of the book
Get feedback from others and the author
Make any necessary changes to comply with what the author is looking for
Be honest about the book and its impact
Do I Need a Foreword for My Book?
Now that we know what a foreword is, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of whether your book really needs one. This is what you’ve been waiting for!
The first thing to note is that a foreword is certainly not necessary.
Plenty of books don’t have forewords, and never have them added on. Unless your book needs the elaboration and context a foreword provides, you won’t miss it.
What you really need to consider is whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
A nonfiction book is far more likely to need a foreword than a novel, especially if the topic is dense or interesting, or the author has passed on. Again, Stephen King does tend to produce forewords for his own fiction novels but this is seen far less in authors who aren’t as established.
For example, the fourth edition of The Elements of Stylehas a foreword by Roger Angell arguing that the guide is just as relevant today as it was the day Strunk and White turned the manuscript into the publisher.
But if you are writing fiction, are you covering a period of history, or some other topic, in depth?
A foreword may be helpful if the reader needs a bit of background knowledge to sink their teeth into your book. Charles Todd wrote a foreword explaining just who was the titular character of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories.
It’s also not uncommon for works of great literary renown to have a foreword added onto the original manuscript, or added as a way of explaining the difference between the current edition and past editions.
Alice L. George’s foreword in the 150th-anniversary edition of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was written to illustrate why the book is so beloved all these years later.
Who Should Write a Foreword?
A foreword could be written by several people, but not by just anyone.
If you’re of the opinion that your work needs a foreword, approach an expert in the topic of the book or one of your peers in your field, especially if this person is well-known.
This lends the book social proof.
Unless you have something especially noteworthy to say, it’s probably best not to write your own book’s foreword. You may want to write a preface instead.
That being said, if you’ve established yourself as an expert in your field, you may be asked to write a foreword for someone else.
What Should Be Included in a Foreword?
If you’ve been invited to write a foreword for a book, congratulations! What an honor, and what an impressive accomplishment to add to your resumé!
Of course, every foreword will have needs as unique as the text that comes after, but here are some ideas for what you could include should you need to write one:
Your relationship to the author (if you are or were contemporaries)
How the author’s work affected you personally
Your opinion of the book, its protagonist, and/or theme
The book or author’s historical impact
Differences between the current and past editions of the book (if applicable)
It’s also important when writing the foreword to strike the same tone as the rest of the book.
Avoid writing a witty, humorous foreword if the book is more serious, and vice-versa.
You don’t want the writing styles to clash, or you risk jarring the reader when they turn the page.
What’s the Difference Between a Foreword and an Introduction?
The introduction is reserved for a book of non-fiction. It can be used to explain the content, but they can also be used to summarize the work.
The introduction is sometimes comprised of everything that comes before the bulk of the text, meaning the foreword would be nestled within the introduction.
Other times, the introduction is a separate section written by the author themselves.
What’s the Difference Between a Foreword and a Preface?
If you’re looking to write something like an introductory statement to your own book, you may want to write a preface.
In a preface, you can include what your aim was in taking on the project and thank the people in your life who helped to make the book a reality.
Unlike forewords, prefaces are always written by the author, and they’re not signed. If your work happens to include both, the foreword comes first.
What’s the Difference Between a Foreword and a Prologue?
A prologue is always written for fiction, and it takes place within your story’s world.
Forewords never take place within your story’s world, unless you’re writing a fictional forward by one of your characters. You might do this if you’re writing as a fictitious person a lá Daniel Handler.
If your work happens to include both a prologue and a foreword, again, the foreword comes first.
And again, a prologue isn’t signed. (You can probably guess why!)
Forewords Can Be an Important Part of Your Book
Whether or not to include a foreword in your book is—as is most of the art of writing—a matter of personal preference, but not preference alone. Consider what your particular work calls for.
There are a plethora of reasons writers give for letting excuses take over their work.
Sure, some are the real-life instances you may connect with, and others are cheesy ideas saved in your head.
You are likely to find reasons like toddler trouble, age, illness, time, little knowledge, to creativity blocks still making headlines in the writing community as the biggest launchers to writing excuses.
But do you know what? Only you can let go of all excuses—and we at Self-Publishing School are here to help you along the way.
“I want to write a script; what should I do first?”
I’ll do it later.
How to overcome writing excuses with ease
The late Great Louis La Moore, the prolific author of over 100 books, once said he could write on a busy street corner: that was years back where authors used a pen, a paper, or a typewriter to create text.
Imagine the benefits you can add to your writing in this era of the iPhone, tablets, and cloud apps that allow you to write on the go?
#1 – Find your voice
Usually, we learn writing by imitation: but no matter how you view it, Laryngitis will only add poison to your book.
I know you may love how JK Rowlings writes or Neil Patel’s variety, but I can tell you that drifting away from your voice will be a bane to your book.
Remember the creativity slowdown I mentioned earlier?
When the author completes his piece, you are blank, with no ideas for your essay. You have nothing fresh to add after you finish comparing your writing to the author you are reading.
The magic to fighting ensuing excuse from Laryngitis is finding your voice in writing. But that’s only half of it.
Here are other kick-butt methods to find your writing voice:
Writing more every day.
Write your draft freely without editing or looking at another person’s work.
Write and research later: or research but take a break before you engage in the writing process.
Plot all your plans for writing a novel and ideas on some paper or notebook whenever they pop.
Read more from different authors, publications, and manuscripts.
Get creative with your work or content.
Write with the buyer persona in mind.
Get laser-focused with your writing or content by selecting a niche and a language.
#2 – Avoid the native/non-native English speaking debate
Client: “Native English speakers only.”
Writer: “But I am not native!”
I hear this phrase a lot in the writing community, especially from clients who want their book/content written by Anglophone writers.
But frankly speaking, I have never understood the debate or the relationship between native and non-native speaking to writing unless one is writing on religion, culture, cuisine, or destinations nuance.
What should you do then if you are not a native English speaker?
Many great writers are native English speakers. However, writing should not only be in the English language but in other languages too! And being a native does not equal writing well.
Here is how to win this debate:
You can write in your native language and use a service like Google translate to translate phrases and words to other languages.
If you want to focus on English, read English books, the dictionary, thesaurus, and journals on the niche you want to write.
Practice writing in the English language.
Watch English films and movies (not the Housewives thing).
Stop using autocorrect while writing.
Invest in your education, learning the language.
Use online writing assistants like Hemingway editor to bring clarity in your writing.
You can also seek inspiration from the likes of Prof Ngugi Wa Thiong’ and Chinua Achebe who are not native English speakers yet, have published books in the English language and even received international accords for their persuasive writing.
#3 – Develop a writing habit and strategy
Planning is a necessary process in any person’s life – not only for corporates but writers too.
If you do not plan, you plan to make writing excuses! It is that simple.
The building blocks you create in the planning process will inspire you to reach your goal of completing that book.
It will help you avoid replacing writing with watching The Game of Thrones, buying groceries, browsing for advice and settling toddlers or cat mischief and excuses.
Tip on making a successful plan:
Designate a specific time for writing and reading.
Create a content calendar and a place where you find writing prompts or exercise to kill writer’s block.
Test your progress – after a week or a month.
Make a list of what you want to achieve. It can be in sticky notes on a wall or laptop for affirmation.
Set reminders to give you the push and inform you when it’s time to do groceries, shopping, or writing.
Create realist goals on the number of words you want to write in a day. For me, I love using 750 words.com for setting and achieving my daily writing goals.
Here too are our favorite writing software you can use in planning, time management, improve productivity, and kill those writing excuses:
How often do you use social media? Once a week? A day? Every minute?
It is true social media has got a tremendous influence and opportunities these days. It has created jobs, made communication, information, and knowledge more manageable. But it has also contributed to time and resource wastage not forgetting making the world louder.
Take, for example. You take an hour to write 1,000 words. You could reduce the number of hours you spend on social media to two, and the other on writing.
Social media is also not just a place for watching memes, but thankfully, a platform to develop writing habits. You can write on LinkedIn writing, Tumblr, or even Facebook as you connect with friends and family.
Other ways to get over being hooked on social media:
Turning off notifications so you can concentrate on writing.
Use an app like Zen writing app or the ones mentioned in #3, which keep track of what you do.
Write before you engage in another activity. This will make you want to write faster since you want to move to the next commitment.
How to succeed in writing groups to get over writing excuses:
Join relevant writing groups worth your time.
Connect with authors and publishers through personal chats for advice and inspiration on places such as Scribophile.com or professional associations for writers and editors.
Ask only relevant questions and be on point to get the most answers out of your questions.
Build a rapport.
Connect, network, and engage in each case.
Never let social media take charge of your life.
Take advantage of its hidden gem and use social platforms as an inspiration to arouse your creativity and bring back your writing mojo.
#5 -Avoid procrastination
“If it’s not easy to start, it will be hell to finish.” — Niklas Göke
Procrastination is the biggest thief of creativity, progress, and success. It is an enemy you must conquer at all cost.
Whatever it is that you may not want to write now, stop waiting for the right time, age, or when the right resources are available to start.
Today, the community has got many great resources. You can write on your phone, tablet, or a pocketbook. You can also use platforms like LinkedIn,Medium, or Tumblr to share your stories: or use a tool like Jami Gold Save to plan your novel if you are starting in this art.
Remember also the Great Louis La Moore words on being able to write on any busy street corner.
Any place, any time is an opportunity to write: not procrastinate.
Note: For your writing to work, you need to be in the writing factory and not embrace the excuse factory.
By default, nobody wants to read your book. Not even your mother. Not really. She’ll humor you, she’ll hope for you, but she doesn’t want to.
Since nobody is instilled with an innate commitment to read your book, you must craft that desire personally. Your opening paragraph, hell, your opening sentence is as much largess most people will be offer.
As any good salesperson knows, a crack is an opportunity and anything that opens a little can be forced to open a lot. All you need is confidence, technique, and the guts to push forward.
Yes, that is a lot to ask from the first page, which is why so many writers stop before they get started.
Remember, the first page isn’t the first page you write, it is the first page someone reads. Of all the darlings you must get used to killing, your original first page should always be ripe for the axe.
#1 – Connect the reader to your character
Your opening sentence shouldn’t be a warning shot. No haphazard hail Mary you hope lands. It needs to be well aimed and land solid. It sets a tone, introducing the reader to you and your world.
Like any first impression, it has as many don’ts attached as it has do’s. Let’s hit the do’s first.
You want to achieve a minimum of one and a maximum of three of these in your first sentence. Three is pushing it, you might want to try for that all-in approach, but you will just end up coming across disorganized. A page long sentence can be an interesting, impressive feat, but as a first sentence it reeks of smarter-than-the-room and will alienate most readers.
Connect the Reader to a Character
Elicit an Emotion
Snapshot a Vivid Image
Diving off a cliff puts the reader immediately into the action. In film school you will see this as in media res. It works by forcing the reader to accept everything that is currently happening while also inviting them to see what happens next or hear what brought the character to this moment.
To execute this action-packed introduction, you need to have a firm idea of what is happening and deliver the setting with confidence, don’t over explain and don’t linger.
How to Start a Story Example:
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” – The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Connecting a reader to a character is done in several ways. You can show off a strength, reveal a weakness, or share an in-character insight. Each of these gives the reader a hook into the character, helping them to understand why they should follow along to see the character’s arc.
How to Start a Story Example:
“Locke Lamora’s rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever.” — The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
#2 – Produce intrigue
Producing intrigue works a lot the same as the Dive. The difference is you want to leave more questions than generate answers.
Again, the more you know about the story when you drop this first hint, the more clearly it will communicate.
Avoid vague prophecy, hit them with something that will echo when the reader arrives at the resolution.
How to Start a Story Example:
“Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.” – Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard
#3 – Elicit an emotion
Eliciting an emotion is about getting the reader to feel something, not just displaying emotive language. You don’t want the reader to feel for the character or the world, as those fall into other categories.
With this opening, you need to place the reader in a specific emotional headspace to engage with the rest of the page.
You accomplish this by using trigger phrases and touchstones.
How to Start a Story Example:
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” – Neuromancer by William Gibson
#4 – Create a strong visual snapshot
Finally, a snapshot is exactly that, a picture painted in words. You don’t want to make a whole landscape. Take a look at a random post card for five seconds.
What stood out to you? How would you describe that scene to someone else?
That’s the essence of a snapshot, the highlights, and standouts, not the overview.
How to Start a Story Example:
“The thing was big and white and hairy, and it was eating all the ice cream in the walk-in freezer.” — Monster by A. Lee Martinez
While you toil to create these openings, you want to avoid a few key elements. Each of these can destroy your efforts and drive the reader into dismissal mode.
Avoid these elements when starting a story:
“He woke up”
World building is about establishing what your world is, not what it isn’t. Describing how the regular world works and then adding ‘but mine doesn’t do that’ wastes a lot of time.
Expect your reader to know mundane information and don’t bother repeating it. It bores you to write and the reader to read.
Cliché’s have their place in an established book genre. Don’t confuse a genre trope with a cliché. What you want to avoid is saying the same thing in the same way.
Your fantasy world may well have a dungeon and a dragon, but you don’t want to put those facts too close to each other.
Cliché will kill emotion in its cradle. Readers want to feel something genuine and cliché is the opposite of that.
Far too many science fiction stories start with someone coming out of some kind of sleep. There is a temptation to start the story from the very first conscious moment of the character but remember that you don’t even really remember the first few minutes of your day.
Start the story where you remember starting your day, usually after breakfast and post stimulant.
Not convinced? Alien 3 started with Ripley waking up in a tube. Nobody likes Alien 3, ergo, no starting by waking up.
#5 – Construct a compelling first paragraph
If everything has gone to plan you have gotten a foot in the door, wedged the sucker open, stepped into the vestibule, and presented your wary, but accepting, mark… er reader, with your wares.
You haven’t made the sale yet, but you have an opportunity to deliver a spiel before they work a clever excuse to get you out.
Seize that advantage by showing that your opening sentence leads into an opening paragraph that isn’t just more of the same but a makes some promises that most of the rest of the pages are also going to offer something worth sticking around for.
Having gained some headway, you have more to lose than gain. That is, there are more wrong things to do with the first paragraph than there are right things.
The right course of action has three options for your starting paragraphs:
Stay the Course
Ramp Up Gradually
Staying the course
Staying the course means keeping the same tone and attention you presented in the first sentence. This works best for mystery stories or when you have started with a Dive.
In both of these cases, the idea is often to put the reader immediately into the world and you need to be careful not to shake the hook loose with too much pull.
Example: Back to Stephen King and The Gunslinger, the paragraph after the opening line is a delicious snapshot of the desert mentioned. It holds the reader, drawing them further into the enormity of the task presented by the preceding sentence. He already has us ready to find out more, so he sets the hook gently, rather than pulling us right into the boat.
Note also how he goes from one strong type of opening, the Dive (mixed with a character connection), into a snapshot. Right there he’s established three strong openings without breaking a sweat.
Ramping up gradually
Ramping up gradually is seen more often in character connections and snapshots. With each detail you add through the paragraph, you build interest. The character gets slowly separated from other characters of their type.
If you start with a high school student, you see how they break the mold. If you start with a city, you reveal what makes that city unique.
Example: Consider the wide panoramic opening of EM Forester’s Passage to India, how he shows the country in an almost dreamlike shot you can immediately visualize. The book was written before film was invented and yet it used a standard technique employed in nearly all aerial establishing shots.
The hardest technique to use is the double down. Here you pull hard and fast, hoping to take the opportunity gained by your first sentence to really wow the reader.
While this can be done with several techniques, you see it least commonly with the Dive. If your action is strong enough, more action blows the reader away. However, a complication to the action works.
By slipping in some Emotion or Intrigue you deepen the scene without pushing the reader out.
Example: In The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, a mysterious circus appears in the first sentence. Complicating this matter is the first paragraph which suggests the sudden appearance wasn’t the kind where it was simply not advertised in advance but hints it may well have materialized out of nowhere.
Regardless of the approach, remember that the first paragraph serves to grow your lead and hold the reader through the chapter.
While pulling is the goal, the main aim, as mentioned several times, is to avoid pushing the reader out.
We call these the Goldilocks Paradox:
In the Too Obvious scenario the reader develops a certain “Simpson’s Did It!” mentality. If they feel like they know exactly where the story is going, that this is just one more reprise of the hero’s journey, the fetch quest, the star-crossed lovers, they will put it down.
Conversely, if you go Too Obscure, they won’t have any investment. Sure, nobody has ever really read a book quite like those composed by Thomas Pynchon, but then again, ask anyone what Gravity’s Rainbow is about and be prepared to get a ‘the what and who?’ in response.
You want to land in familiar territory with some new spins. You don’t want to reinvent story structure or character, not in the first chapter. You need to gain trust before you start pulling the rug out from a reader.
#6 – Leave a hint in the last paragraph
While the first sentence gets the reader hooked and the first paragraph makes promises, the last paragraph needs to introduce more concepts while limiting resolution.
That sounds like a heavy order because it is. It isn’t all that bad once you break down the components.
Aim for one of the following:
Hint at the End
Roadmap to a Plan
Each of these chapter endings provides the reader a reason to keep going. Many television pilots fail at this, they either wrap up the first story and have nowhere to go, or they toss in a last-minute villain preview to suggest a larger threat somewhere.
Sure, it worked out for Avengers to tease Thanos but they also had the advantage of a sixty year comics history to assure viewers they know how to build a multi-part story.
When you give a Hint you want it to be broad enough to be interesting but narrow enough that your resolution (within the next chapter or two) satisfies it completely.
If you toss an owl through a window to get Harry Hunter or Harry Potter to explore a magical world, you better make good on the magical world sooner than later.
If you are building up a large world and need to set several things in motion before you get to the major plot, which is a risky move in itself, you need to show the reader a roadmap. The hobbits need to get out of the Shire before they can get to Rivendell on their way to the ultimate goal.
#7 – Opt to end the chapter on a cliffhanger
Ending on a cliffhanger is usually a good call. The pulp stories of the 30s were sometimes christened Cliffhangers because they used this technique extensively. When releasing serial stories, it is the default way to go, how will our heroes get out of this sudden predicament!?
It makes the ending exciting and demands the reader pick up the next installment, or, in your case, turn the page and keep going just a bit further.
Cliffhanger Generation Tricks and Tips:
A Lingering Question
A Sudden Insight
The Depths Appear
Dropping a new character into the scene, especially one that shows up with the same aplomb as a first sentence Character Connection, gets the reader going. They want to know who this is, and why they will have importance to the next section.
The end of the first chapter of Stardust by Neil Gaiman does this perfectly, introducing us to a baby delivered via faery door. You have to turn the page to find out more.
In a Lingering Question scenario, you invite the reader to ponder something about the event that just transpired.
Why was it so hard, so easy, what was the significance of the turns? Any question that goes unanswered makes the reader wonder. In a serial, they would have to wonder for weeks, or months. In a book, they can always find out by turning a few pages.
Sudden insight works somewhat the opposite of the Lingering Question.
Here, a character understands something that just happened, something the reader may have been in the dark about, this often goes hand in hand with the next tip. Knowing what is at stake drives tension and the character and reader both being ‘in on it’ delivers.
The Depths Appear works well in science fiction, horror, and fantasy stories.
Any place where the world isn’t just what is known, where other dimensional forces can act, where a universe of possibilities can exist, it is possible for something else to be out there.
Alluding to the larger forces at the end of a first chapter puts the story into a context against these larger, more meaningful threats. This is especially a good idea when your first chapter reads like a self-contained story.
#8 – Try a bookend for the first chapter
I lied about the mother thing, turns out she really does want to read your book. She always did, she can’t not, mostly because she loves you.
This type of ending paragraph reflects the Bookend.
Here, you offer a mirror version of the first sentence to show that what has been set up and was so gripping originally has turned around. This works especially well for stories that start in a known world.
Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore, Alice ends up down the rabbit hole, and the once bright sky is now overcast with the coming troubles.
Brace yourself, because you’re about to feast your eyes on the best and totally non-partial or biased list of the best romance authors.
Out of the millions of crazy-talented authors out there, I’ve managed to put together 8 of the best romance authors I think were integral in shaping the lives of so many artistic, hopeless romantic souls vying for a place in this book genre.
It goes without saying that these romance authors’ books have become bestsellers. However, it’s a long way to get through to get on a bestseller list, but it’s real!
If you are one of those crazy guys who dare to overcome this path, make sure to pay attention to each and every detail of publishing your book.
Genuine romance authors know how to draw their readers’ attention right from the first page and even distract you from mulling over the plot even when you are not reading.
The most important point is they follow their idea, moving, sad, and a bit insane (or absolutely crazy one).
Best Romance Authors to Read and Learn From
Without further ado, here’s my list of the best romance authors.
You can read for fun or, if you’re looking to write a book, you can read and learn from their methods and techniques.
#1 – Jenna Moreci
While Moreci doesn’t just write romance, the romance included in her novels are drool-worthy, intriguing, and most importantly, healthy.
This author’s debut novel Eve: The Awakening featured a romantic subplot amidst interlopers, chimeras, and more and still held its own and shined.
Her second novel of a separate series, The Savior’s Champion is a romantic fantasy adventure where yes, the romance is a part of the main plot (and let’s be real, I could read about these characters’ love story forever!).
Moreci has a way of delivering the romance in a natural, yet intoxicating manner while sticking true to a healthy relationship—something this industry is in desperate need of.
If you love romance (along with some action), this is the author to keep an eye on.
#2 – Josie Silver
The Wolverhampton native is the author of One Day in December, a rising cult favorite that rose to fame thanks to the palpable warmth and charming characters that spring to life in every page.
Lovely doesn’t even begin to describe Silver’s writing; her words and stories are imbued with so much magic it’s hard not to cry or swoon when you’re so far deep into the story.
Although One Day in December is the first and only book in her repertoire at the moment, we’re hopeful for part 2 to Jack and Laurie’s whirlwind romance—or at least a spin-off!
One Day in December is the magic and chaos that ensues when you’re pretty certain you’ve just locked eyes with the love of your life, only for your bus to depart without him.
After a year of searching for him, you’re reunited one fateful night at your very own Christmas party—except he’s dating your roommate and BFF. Ten years of friendships, heartbreak, missed opportunities, and what ifs, roads not taken, and fate are reconsidered.
Josie Silver’s masterpiece is a reminder to everyone out there – hopeless romantic or otherwise – that true love and fate take inexplicable turns along the way to happiness, but it gets there.
So, to everyone out there who randomly locks eyes with someone cute on the way to work – if you feel it in your bones that they’re the one for you, go out there and do it! Who knows? They just might be the Jack to your Laurie!
#3 – Rainbow Rowell
If you love a good cry or heartwarming page tuner, then we reckon you should pick up any book from Miss Rowell’s highly acclaimed selection that goes from raw and real adult stories to warm and relatable teenager ones – all with a panache only the Nebraska local is capable of.
Rainbow Rowell has churned out masterpieces like Attachments, Landline, Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Carry On.
Who knew domestic abuse, child abuse, themes of escape, bullying, and body image issues would make for one knock-out novel? Eleanor & Park is everything a coming-of-age story should be.
It makes you feel things so strongly, transports you to a time and place where all you can feel is Eleanor and how the world shifts around her.
Together you weep at her circumstances. Together your hearts flutter for one Park Sheridan. Together you escape to Minnesota in the hopes of surviving the hand you were drawn.
Riveting, raw, and real, this love story is something so uniquely special, it’ll be engraved on your brain for a long, long time.
#4 – Audrey Niffenegger
Okay, hear us out – time travel, unsurmountable passion, and a lifetime of waiting and intertwined destinies – could it get any better than this? Right, didn’t think so.
Niffenegger gave the world a gift when she released The Time Traveler’s Wife, one of the most widely successful romance books and films to have made it into the mainstream and cult favorite niche.
The story takes place between two lovers; Henry, a man born with the inexplicable ability to time travel, and Clare, a woman he has been drawn to meeting in several timelines.
They fall in love, and what follows next is a series of beautiful and tragic moments that teach us the pains of having to wait your whole life for the one that owns your heart.
We could only dream of creating work as stunning and riveting as this. We have so much respect for writers who hone their craft and go through the motions of delivering content that is nothing short of brilliant.
It can be a huge, daunting task, but thanks to lifehacks like Spreadsheeto to help the best of the best streamline ideas and get that creativity flowing quickly and efficiently.
#5 – Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks is on this list of best romance authors, so that means this is pretty legit now, eh?
Kidding aside, this multi-awarded novelist and screenwriter is famous for bringing into the world a string of romance novels worthy of their own films.
Oh wait, most of them are already on the silver screen (and doing great at that!).
Sparks specializes in the language of intimacy and picturesque moments in time, and some of his greatest work include A Walk to Remember, The Notebook. The Last Song, Night in Rodanthe, The Lucky One, and Dear John.
Out of the string of popular picks, The Notebook is our favorite! (Shocker). Ryan Gosling aside, the story is impeccable from beginning to end.
Who doesn’t love young, passionate romance fueled by differences in societal rank and one nosey-as-hell mother out to get in the way of her teenage daughter’s whirlwind romance with a so-called hooligan?
What you can expect from this fantastic read is a love story you’ll be begging the gods for.
#6 – Judy Blume
Hailing from New Jersey, Judy Blume is a multi-awarded child and young adult novelist whose incredible work has landed her permanency and veteran status in the hall of romance book fame.
The brilliant mind behind Tiger Eyes, Forever, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blume is out to conquer the world of fiction with one amazing book at a time.
Our favorite out of the impressive lineup? Forever!
Teenage sexuality, teenage angst… just all of the glorious, painful, and all too real moments about being a young teenager in love are captured perfectly in Blume’s tale of navigating through youth in all its awkward intricacies. 12/10 would read again!
#7 – Richelle Mead
The goddess of all things fiction, fantasy, and romance, Richelle Mead has reached household name levels of fame from exquisitely written novels that play up our favorite kind of scary – or in this case, sexy – ghouls: vampires!
Mead is the author of the Vampire Academy series, which has subsequently been turned into a movie.
Warning: not falling in love with Adrian Ivashkov is absolutely impossible.
#8 – Helen Hoang
This American romance author’s debut, The Kiss Quotient, is a breath of fresh air for more reasons than one: her heroine is autistic – yes, you read that right – and suffers from Asperger’s disease.
Not only is her work inclusive, it’s also realistic and speaks to a much-needed group of people who have been underserved until her work.
Get. Your. Hands. On. This. Book. Honey. Or everything on this list, for that matter!
8 Things to Write About and How to Find Writing Inspiration
Well the good news is that all of us could write a book or two about something!
Each one of us has our own unique set of experiences that others could learn from, not to mention the plethora of writing prompts and story ideas online.
Figuring out what to write about simply takes some self-reflection, brainstorming, and research.
Follow these next steps and you will surely find at least one future book topic!
#1 – Start with your passions
The best place to start is with what brings you joy. After all, you’re going to enjoy writing your book a lot more if you enjoy the topic.
Furthermore, you are more likely to really sell an idea and convince your audience of something if you’re passionate about it.
Here are a few questions for finding what to write about:
What’s one thing you enjoy most?
What do you lose track of time doing?
Where do your thoughts go when you’re not paying attention?
What do people describe you doing often?
These things to write about could be as simple as bike riding, home organization, or cooking. It could be something more technical or complex.
Take out a pen and paper, and make a list of all the things that you really love.
Write them all down, whether they’re big or small. You will draw inspiration from this list, so write down everything that you can think of.
#2 – Choose to write fact or fiction
Once you have a good, working list of all the things you love, you need to decide something important: will your book be fact or fiction?
There are so many different book genres out there that it can feel overwhelming. Hence, it’s best to get an idea of this before you start the writing process.
Your passions list will really help you narrow this one down.
Perhaps your love of cats could make you want to write a fiction novel about a cat who goes on adventures. Perhaps your love of home gardening could make for a great how-to book to help others who want to grow their own food. Maybe your love of ghosts could make for a good horror book.
Whatever it is, your passions are there waiting to be turned into a book idea.
Your specific genre can be modified as you begin to write. However, deciding whether your book will be fiction or about your real life, like writing a memoir, is something you need to decide before beginning the brainstorming and writing process.
#3 – What you’re an expert at/in
Everybody is an expert in something. Do you believe me? Most people when they hear this go “oh no, not me!” After all, we are often our own worst critics.
However, that’s where everyone is wrong. Each of us is an expert in something.
The truth is that you don’t need a million trophies or some fancy title to be an expert. Furthermore, books written by experts don’t always sell. People love getting advice from ordinary people just like you! After all, if you can write and publish a book, so can they.
You can find your expertise through a brainstorm.
Much like your passion list, make another list! On this one, I want you to write down all of your work experience from the last 5-10 (or more!) years. I’m talking everything that you can think of such as employment, volunteer work, hobbies, and unique experiences.
After you’ve spent some time on this list, start to look at the patterns:
What things keep popping up?
What do these things have in common?
Are these things related?
This list might help you see that you really are more of an expert in something that you can write about.
You might not have been the boss of the company, but you might have learned more than you think working in public relations or even answering phones.
#4 – Pull things to write about from your experiences
Your future book inspiration doesn’t solely come from professional experience. It can come from personal experiences as well. With this, you’ll want to create another list.
However, this one will be more of a brainstorm of different life experiences you’ve had.
If you can’t just start making a list, start by mapping out your life.
Jot down a few of these ideas to write about:
Where do you live?
Where are you from originally?
Who are your family members?
Who are your friends?
Where have you traveled to?
If you answer all of these questions, you will surely start to think of “that one time I …” or other memories.
Write down all the words, thoughts and images that come to mind. Write down how you felt in these moments and how they affected you and you’ll have plenty of things to write about.
When you brainstorm, let your creativity flow! Don’t worry about writing the words in a perfect list. If you feel inspired to draw, draw.
These brainstorm sessions are for you and you only, so let them be as crazy as you want!
#5 – Get writing ideas from friends or family member
Those who know us best often see things about us that we cannot. They have the perspective of seeing our lives from the outside.
If you’re thinking of writing a book, speak with someone you’re close to.
They simultaneously know you best and want the best for you.
Take them out for a cup of coffee and tell them that you want to publish a book. If you already have a few things to want to write about, you could run them by this person.
If you don’t, you could simply ask them what they think you should write about. You might get responses like “I would love to read about your experience with _____” or “I think you could really tell this story well.”
You’ll either narrow down your list of ideas or have a few new ones to add to the list!
#6 – Turn to the Internet
The Internet is a great place to find inspiration for what to write about. First and foremost, you want to ensure that someone hasn’t already written about what you want to write about.
If it’s a broad topic such as “how to travel the world,” surely at least several people have already beaten you to the punch! However, this isn’t the end of the world.
When searching, you can see how these people have written their books and think about how yours would be different. Since no one on earth is exactly like you, you certainly will have your own unique perspective to bring to the table!
Only you can be you!
In addition to a general Google search, use both Instagram and Pinterest to your advantage.
These two social networks will bring your inspiration for what to write about—not to mention give you book marketing opportunities when you do write the book. When searching on Instagram, make sure to look at related hashtags such as this #writerinspiration one.
#7 – Leave all the brainstorming and discussion for a day or two
After you’ve brainstormed and talked with a close friend or family member, put it all down.
Simply go about your life as normal going to work or school or whatever your normal routine is.
You are sure to come up with more ideas or more details to add to your existing notes at the most random times. When something comes to mind, record it right away!
It might be good to have a notebook with you at all times or start a note on your phone.
You can actually use an app like Evernote for this very purpose.
After a few days of a break, come back to all your notes and decide on what you want to write about.
#8 – Create a list to work from
A lot of authors feel like pressure when picking their book topic. It is kind of scary to pick an idea and then write several hundred pages on it.
However, remind yourself that choosing an idea to write about does not obligate you to write an entire book about it.
You might start by writing the outline or the first few chapters and realize that you’d rather write about a different topic. That’s okay!
Creating a large list of ideas will help you when you’re just not feeling one idea anymore—whether you’re writing a book or simply a blog post.
Get out that notebook and get to work!
The best time to get started brainstorming your perfect idea is now! Don’t wait around and let fear get the better of you.
Get out your notebook and start making these lists. Write down every word, thought or image that comes to your mind!
Author Advantage Live is the ONLY event dedicated to helping you as a self-published author sell your first 10,000 book copies, build a platform to scale your income and impact, and unlock your Author Advantage.
My team has been working on this project in secret since January with the purpose of creating the most valuable, go-to conference in the self publishing industry…
And at the risk of giving away a few surprises, I think we’ve done exactly that.
But here’s the deal – because this is the first live writing conference we’ve hosted, we’ve capped the number of tickets at 300 attendees…
(We didn’t want to end up like the Fyre festival disaster on Netflix.. ;).
And if you’re reading this blog post right now…
So are approximately 150,000 other writers and authors just like you who visit this blog each month.
Which means Author Advantage Live will sell out.
Right now, and for the next few days we’re offering an Early Bird Discount on all Author Advantage Live ticket packages…
This is the lowest price these tickets will ever sell at (to reward our longtime community members who are fast action takers).
But there are a limited number of Early Bird Tickets Available…
Once the Early Bird Discount tickets have been claimed, the price goes up $100.
What Is Author Advantage Live?
Author Advantage Live is the ONLY event dedicated to helping you as a self-published author sell your first 10,000 book copies, build a platform to scale your income and impact, and unlock your Author Advantage.
Who is Author Advantage Live For?
Are you a writer looking to learn today’s cutting-edge book sales and marketing strategies based on what’s working right now?
Are you a coach or consultant looking to cut through the noise, position yourself as the undisputed expert in your niche, and create an asset that makes clients ask you to work with them?
Are you someone who wants to take the knowledge and expertise you’ve already written in your book (or already have in your head!), repurpose it, and turn it into a higher-ticket digital product or service?
Are you looking for a proven process to write a book that positions you as an expert, and generates a steady stream of qualified leads for your business?
Are you someone who wants to use their book to build a highly profitable business on the backend?
Or maybe you’re an aspiring author looking for the strategies, frameworks, and inspiration you need to make your bestselling book a reality?
If you found yourself nodding “Yes!” to any of those questions above, then Author Advantage Live 2019 is specifically for you!
What Will I Get At Author Advantage Live?
Author Advantage Live is the first event of its kind hosted by Self-Publishing School… and we’re pulling out all the stops.
At AAL, you’ll be rubbing shoulders and collaborating with some of the top Self Publishing School coaches, team members, and your fellow authors and community members so that you can see what it actually takes to write and publish a bestselling book, build a six and seven figure business, and create a platform that allows you to scale your income, influence, and impact.
Get feedback, support, and encouragement for your book and business ideas during our Author VIP night and mastermind breakouts…
Immerse yourself into the mindset of what it actually takes to grow a six figure online business…
See and engage with Chandler Bolt in person! He’s inspired and trained you via video to this point…the opportunity to engage live with your book, brand, and business ideas is like adding gasoline to the fire.
Build life-long relationships with other authors in the Self-Publishing School community during our networking events and cocktail night, so that you have allies, accountability, and don’t have to go through your journey alone.
All of this takes place over 3 days designed to Change Your Life and get you results:
Day 1: Crafting Your Message & Identifying Your Audience
There is nothing more powerful than a compelling story, and Day 1 is all about focusing on crafting YOUR unique story and identifying YOUR perfect audience.
On Day 1, we’re covering ALL the necessary elements that a compelling story MUST have, as well how to ensure your story and book topic are positioned the RIGHT way that sets you up for maximum book sales while positioning you as an expert in your niche AND driving qualified, ready-to-buy leads to your business.
Day 2: How To Sell Your First 10,000+ Copies
Day 2 is not just about giving you tons of content and theoretical knowledge about selling more books. Our goal for you on Day 2 is to arm you with the playbooks you need to walk away with a tangible, step-by-step gameplan to go out and sell at least 10,000 copies of your own book to position you as the undisputed expert in your niche and unlock YOUR Author Advantage.
At 10,000 copies sold, doors start to open for you that had previously been invisible. Podcast interviews, speaking engagements, partnership offers, and business opportunities will suddenly all start to present themselves.
This is what we call the Author Advantage.
Day 3: How To Build A Business On The Backend Of Your Book
Day 3 is possibly the most POWERFUL day of Author Advantage Live.
Whether you’re a career author, entrepreneur, or what we call an “impactor,” you’re going to walk away from the last day of Author Advantage Live with takeaways that have the potential to change your life.
On Day 3, Chandler is going to show you EXACTLY how to take your book and repurpose the hard work you’ve already done into a higher-ticket digital product or service…
And the step-by-step playbook you need to build a six or even seven figure business on the backend of your book.
You’re going to learn the EXACT strategies we’ve executed at Self-Publishing School to build a $12,000,000 business on the back of Chandler’s OWN books in just 5 years.
Lastly, there’s a special keynote speaker on Day 3 that we are INCREDIBLY excited to announce. You don’t want to miss this!
Readers will show up to your metaphorical yard for a good story…but they will come back for a good protagonist…
And we’ll teach you how to write a main character your readers will love, root for, and even cry for.
You have the story you want to tell. You know exactly how to write the novel…however, you’re not sure how to make your protagonist stand out—how to make readers love them.
And that’s the key, after all…
When your book is years old and readers have long since read it, it’s the main character they’ll remember, the joy and fear and happiness they experienced on behalf of that protagonist that will make them remember your book—and you!
Here are the steps for writing a protagonist and main character:
The protagonist of a story is the leading or main character in a book, movie, short story, play, or other works of fiction. They are the person the story centers around and the character readers will root for to succeed.
Essentially, the protagonist of a book is the one whose goals and ambitions are a part of the main plot, often thwarted by the antagonist, who wants to see them fail for their own personal motives to succeed.
Your main character possesses characteristics that are redeemable and lovable—they’re who your readers will grow most attached to and want to see win and succeed in their ventures throughout the plot of your novel.
No matter what book genre you’re writing in (aside from nonfiction), you will need to be able to craft a stellar main character.
What’s the difference between a protagonist and a main character?
Protagonists and the main character can be the same, however, not every main character is a protagonist.
A main character is any character that plays a pivotal part in the plot and journey of the protagonist.
Here are a few examples of protagonists versus main characters:
Protagonist (and the main character):
Main character (but NOT the protagonist):
What counts as a main character in a story?
The main character in a story is someone who plays an active role in the progression of the plot and story. This includes both the protagonist, antagonist, and other active characters.
For example, your protagonist’s best friend can be a main character (like Ron Weasley), but so can the antagonist (like Voldemort).
You can have several different main characters but usually only one protagonist in your novel.
The difference between main characters and side characters is that a side character typically serves a different purpose in your novel. They might not be directly impacting the plot, but may serve as comic relief, a foil character type to your main character, or even play a specific role to tie different characters together.
An example of a side character is Nick Fury in The Marvel Comics. Most often, the superheroes are the main characters (and protagonists), but Fury is often a side character with the purpose of connecting plot points, but not necessarily moving them forward on his own.
Protagonist Versus Antagonist
The protagonist is the character who is trying to accomplish a specific goal while the antagonist is any character or organization opposing them.
The antagonist is often found to be synonymous with “villain,” but this isn’t always the case.
The antagonist of a story is anything or anyone opposing your protagonist. Their goal is to stop them for whatever reason, usually because their own motivations and goals contradict theirs.
Take Cersei Lannister, for example. The popular franchise Game of Thrones unveiled a very specific type of antagonist in Cersei because if you read or watch from her own perspective, she is the protagonist of her own story.
This is one of the golden rules of writing antagonists and any sort of “villainous” character.
George R.R. Martin pulled this off beautifully by making Cersei Lannister the antagonist to other main characters like Jon Snow, the Starks, and Daenerys Targaryen, but because (in the books) we’re offered her point of view, she’s actually the protagonist of her own life journey.
Nevertheless, she is still considered the antagonist—as are the White Walkers.
The reason why so many popular books are a series of books (other than the author wanting to make a living writing several books). We all want to see the next adventure of a character we love.
At some point, if you like the character enough, you stop caring what they are even getting up to (almost) and you just want to know more about them and their life.
Think of any engaging character you’ve encountered in the past decade. These characters could have stopped after one go, but they keep coming back with new and interesting things to do. Sometimes they engage in stand-alone stories, other times their continuing adventures are part of the overall story structure that shows off their growth over a series.
Anybody that survives an episode of Game of Thrones…
How to Write a Good Protagonist Your Readers Will Remember
Not every character is worth coming back for. The staying power of a character comes from more than simply surviving the plot (though that usually helps).
You need to do intense character development and give them some special quality and/or make them likable. In other words, make them kickass.
While that is easier said than done, it isn’t too hard to do. Here are six ways to put some kick in your character.
#1 – Make Your Protagonist Likable
People like to spend time with likable characters. Much like in real life, the off-putting people tend to get skipped over and left to the side.
Think of any Tom Hanks character in any of his romantic comedies. He always plays a likeable guy, a guy you’d happily have over for dinner, spend the day with, hang with.
His charisma and charm extend from there, making his characters in dramas more approachable.
In the same way, if your make a character likable and personable, the reader will stick by them in the tough spots. They will care about the events that happen because they like the character.
Consider the way a slasher flick sets up the characters. You know from the introduction who is going to survive the night and who isn’t. The heroes (usually a couple) stand for the same values as the audience. They are kind, good, and moral. They look out for their fellow characters in times of danger.
A likable character sticks up for the little guy and adds a human quality to their supporting cast, even when that cast isn’t remotely human.
When a character feels like a guide, it makes the reader feel safe. Especially in horror or thriller stories, you want the reader to be more excited to turn the page and see the next scene than they are hesitant.
Examples of these likable main characters include:
Not quite the same as likable and not quite the opposite either. Funny characters can get away with more than unfunny ones, but they can get annoying if pushed.
Like any good joke, timing and delivery matter.
Biting wit and a jocular look at the dangers all around make for some memorable character moments. Make writing dialogue for this type of character worth some outbursts of laughter and you’ll have your reader turning the pages with gleeful delight.
Funny isn’t just jokes consisting of set up and punchline. You definitely don’t want to rely on a string of catchphrase utterance, no matter how much a Groot might work on occasion.
The essence of wit is brevity. Quips work when they are insightful but also come from a real place.
Be extra careful in establishing the background of a metacharacter. Deadpool’s humor doesn’t fly in all stories at all times.
Funny can also mean awkward or accidentally funny.
Think Ron in Harry Potter. He doesn’t mean to be funny… he’s awkward, but in a lovable, hilarious way and we love him for it.
The falls into trouble and falls back out of it style of character goes way back to Greek comedies. The setup for a comedy of errors relies on a likable fellow getting in over their heads and trying not to make a mess as they work it out.
Examples of funny characters:
Starlord and Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy
Sherlock Holmes in the latest reboots
Tyrian Lannister in Game of Thrones
Simon Pegg’s Scotty
#3 – Make Your Protagonist Powerful
A character that lacks the ability to affect the world around them becomes tiresome. We want heroes challenged, sure, but we also want to know they can succeed. That when faced with the dangers of the plot and the villains they have a shot that, when it comes down to it, they can kick some ass.
Tony Stark isn’t just a billionaire. He’s a billionaire genius. Take away his armor and he’s still a beloved figure with money, brains, fame and the awareness to point it all that out, if pressed on the subject.
The reason we love underdog characters is because they are secretly the most powerful. They have the power to rise up and supersede the challenges, they just aren’t there yet. The likable, funny exterior makes you root for a character, but you want them to win in the end because they are better than the competition.
If your character is a lawyer, they’re the best lawyer in town. If they are entering an academy to become a pilot, they are on the path to be the best pilot.
A powerful character (ie- the best at something) garners respect from the reader.
Remember to keep the character likable, a powerful character that uses their power to do harm becomes a villain. Redemption arcs aside, you want to avoid both a snotty character and a character that can’t be challenged.
Powerful doesn’t mean perfect.
One of the bonuses of being great at something is that people are quick to forgive them some of flaws. Tony Stark is arrogant. We forgive him that because there is a good reason why he’s arrogant.
Genius characters can get away with being antisocial, wholesome characters can be naïve, and effective characters can be forgiven some moral grey areas.
Unless you are writing noir, you want to keep the positives outshining the negatives. That balance can flip a bit for antiheroes (ie Deadpool, John Wick) but often takes a darker world to be effective.
#4 – Give Your Protagonist Trouble and Conflict
Conflict makes character. Conflict that stems from the characters internal conflicts leads to a different emotional response than conflict that stems from inevitable outside forces.
Case in point, we immediately feel sorry for Jack and Rose because we know the Titanic is going down and there isn’t anything that either character could do to avoid that fate.
We feel a lot less for Superman and Batman in their Doomsday fight when they need a device they casually tossed aside an hour ago.
The more a conflict resonates with the reader, the more they can identify with the character.
While saving the world from the terrible forces of an overwhelming alien order is fun, it isn’t relatable. It isn’t the kind of thing you are likely to face in a day.
You personalize it by bringing it down to the granular. You make it about a particular personal loss, not all the losses.
Examples of great conflict with protagonists:
We empathize with Harry Potter because he’s an orphan, not because he’s a wizard in the wrong world.
We understand what it’s like not to be believed, not so much dying and being resurrected by magic like Jon Snow.
We want to make a difference like Hawkeye, knowing that what we do matters even if we aren’t Thor level powerful.
Be warned: there is a difference between the reader empathizing with a character and pitying them.
Jack and Rose are good people enjoying life. They make the most of their last days.
Harry Potter is a school kid trying his best. He (almost) never wallows in self-pity over his trials and problems.
Thor loses his hammer and his eye. He makes jokes about his problems while trying to solve them instead of giving up.
#5 – Give Them Diverse Characteristics
Character’s shouldn’t be one dimensional cardboard cut-outs. You want to make them rich and full.
To this end, you don’t need to stick to one technique.
As the preceding examples overlapped quite a bit, you see that mixing and matching works better than solo applications.
Mix and match your protagonist’s characteristics like these examples:
Tony Stark is powerful, likable, and funny
Harry Potter is likable, in a situation that’s relatable but outside his control
Kirk is likable, often in danger outside himself, and has the skill to outpace his faults
You don’t want to overdo it. A character that is trying to be too many things can become cluttered and confusing. Sometimes this is a result of the Superman problem, you can’t directly challenge a character designed to be too good.
Flaws make for an anchor for a reader to project themselves into a character.
Also, nobody likes a story where the plot dictates the effectiveness of the character from page to page.
You also don’t want to alienate an audience by creating a dreaded Mary Sue (which is a “perfect” character who can never do wrong)…
Leave room for flaws in your protagonist like these examples:
Tony Stark is arrogant and a drunk
Harry Potter lacks self-confidence and doesn’t get the girl
Deadpool has cancer, is a jerk, and can’t seem to die
The Cast of Game of Thrones is all too mortal, and largely unprotected by plot armor
#6 – Avoid Making a Passive Character
A common mistake of first-time writers is to make characters reactive, otherwise known as passive.
And you know just how much passive voice is a no-no in writing, passive characters are also frowned upon.
While they might need to roll with the punches when they first splash into the deep end, you want them to drive the action soon after.
A great character is proactive. They take charge, make a plan, and attack a problem with their skills and supporting cast.
Often, you can use the above techniques to define their approach to proactivity.
Here are some questions to ask in order to learn how to avoid a passive character:
Do they face their problems with a joke?
Do they enlist the help of their cast of friends?
Do they solve it with their power?
Do they solve the problem by acknowledging that any effort matters because where they find themselves is not their fault?
Keep in mind what fuels your character and they will always have a way to move forward. Not only that, the reader will be rooting for your charter as well.
Great characters come from relatability and impact a reader by appealing to what we like to think about ourselves. A likable character engages a reader and can be a vector into a strange world.
Likable characters humanize conflict and give readers a reason to care.
Funny characters use their quips and whit to attack problems and keep the darkness at bay. We like to leave our fiction with a good feeling and jokes are how we cope with the worst of our issues.
Powerful characters embody proactive approaches. A reader likes to see a character succeed and likes to know what a character is capable of so they can be in on the action, not blindsided by troubles and des ex machina.
A reader likes to see real conflict. That is conflict that matters to a character and challenges the character. They don’t like to see pity and interpersonal wallowing.
Think of your character like a friend. Do your best to advocate for them but remember that they aren’t you. Keep writing and let your characters speak for themselves.
Otherwise, stick around so that you can gain a further understanding of what it actually means and what it truly takes to get on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Because it could impact your path to get there…
Why do authors want to get on the New York Times Bestseller list?
Getting published in the New York Times Bestseller list is traditionally regarded as the gold standard in the publishing world. While many notable bestseller lists exist in the publishing world —The Wall Street Journal bestseller list for business-themed books, for instance—the New York Times Bestseller list, published weekly since 1931, is the oldest and most prestigious list.
To that extent, getting your work published on the list is a major deal–but there are “rules” that bars many ridiculously great authors from ever reaching this status.
Getting published on the Times’ list not only raises your profile as an established author but can offer many more opportunities.
Here are some benefits of becoming an NYT Bestselling author:
Land future writing contracts with established printing houses
Broader industry recognition
Establish you as a major thought leader and expert
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the New York Times Bestseller list is that it is an evolving list.
It always has been and, as historical and more recent trends seem to suggest, probably always will be. To be fair, it is not only the Times.
Only as recent as 1995 did the Los Angeles Times begin to count paperbacks again on its bestseller list.
Further back in time, in 1961, the Chicago Tribune more infamously denied certain high-selling books that it considered to be “sewer written by dirty fingered authors for dirty-minded readers” from appearing on its Bestseller list.
Various genres and classic works of literature have historically not appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. The recent explosion of E-books (The Times began counting them in 2010), self-published books, and audiobooks have also contributed to a more evolving list.
How do best seller lists work?
The New York Times Bestseller list is made up of various lists divided by different categories such as fiction and non-fiction, hardcover, paperback, Ebooks, audiobooks, and various book genres.
For you, the aspiring writer whose goal it is to be published in the their Bestseller list, probably the most important thing to know is what is worth writing if you are to get your work published on the list.
Again, The New York Times does not consider various categories for their bestseller list. A helpful article published on their site about their various guidelines and scoring method clarifies the matter.
Here is what those guidelines state:
“Among the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, e-books available exclusively from a single vendor, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, periodicals and crossword puzzles.”
Cookbooks, contrary to popular belief, are included, as are religion, spirituality, and faith books.
The NYT Bestseller “List” is Not a True Measure of Bestselling Status
It may seem contradictory and still remains controversial to say but it is nonetheless true: The New York Times Bestseller list does not represent a true best-seller list–that is, when accounting for actual total sales.
Just what constitutes “Bestseller” status has been the decades-long battle – legal, political, commercial, and otherwise between—the Times, various authors, and book publishers.
Like any traditional gatekeeper, the Times has its set of rules, standards, and procedures. As such, they hold the “keys” as to “who” gets in…and who is left out (even if they’re deserving).
It is best to think of New York Times Bestseller status as something that is subjective in nature. A book that becomes a New York Times Bestseller doesn’t necessarily have to sell millions of copies, or hundreds of thousands, for that matter. While book sales do meet the subjective criteria that the Times uses, it is a specific kind of “book sale” that counts toward New York Times Bestseller status.
Moreover, given the explosion of online sales and the diminishing number of traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores (and, consequently, bookstore sales) the sales methodology behind how books are counted has influenced which books appear or do not appear on the list.
As explained in a recent article about how to become a best-selling author and how to appear on a bestseller list, it’s stated that the New York Times in particular, when tallying books for bestseller status, considers:
Books that sold in a very specific time period: The Times does not track cumulative sales. Hence, why the Bible, the best-selling book of all time, will not appear on the list. Books like Don Quixote and The Tale of Two Cities, worldwide beloved classics that have sold millions over the years, also will not appear. Dan Brown’s Davinci Code, however, will appear, as it did for several years between 2003 and 2006.
Books sold at very specific places: certain book sales are “weighted” more favorably depending on where they originate. Bulk sales, under certain conditions, are counted toward bestseller status; ebooks published by a sole vendor are not, etc.
Again, the Times explains this in more detail on their site.
What Writers Need to Know About the New York Times Bestseller List
Even though it retains its prestigious reputation, The New York Times Bestseller list has been the subject of much controversy. Charges of “curated elitism,” an overreliance on books published by the major New York publishing houses, questionable methodologies, bribery, editorial and political bias have prompted lawsuits and intense debates among authors, book publishers, and industry executives.
A 1983 lawsuit by William Beatty, an American writer best known for his novel The Exorcist and 1973 movie by the same name, is a case in point.
While his book Legion sold many copies during its initial publication—enough to earn a comfortable spot for a while on the Times’ Bestseller list—his book appeared on the list only for one week.
Sensing bias and claiming that by it not remaining on the Times’s list his sales were being hurt, Beatty took his case to Court. In Court, the Times defended itself on grounds that “The list did not purport to be an objective compilation of information but instead was an editorial product.” The Court sided with the Times, dismissing a $3 million lawsuit.
Think of it like this: The New York Times is the newspaper equivalent to a prestigious university and fashionable high-end clothing brand. When it comes to getting on their bestseller list, just as it is for gaining admission to, say, an Ivy League School, few get in.
For those that do, they did their due diligence, worked incredibly hard, made great contacts, followed the rules, met the editorial standards, among other things.
How to Get on the New York Times Bestseller List
If you really have your hearts set on becoming a New York Times bestselling author, here are some of the things you’ll have to do in order to make it happen.
#1 – Know What the NYT List wants
A Stanford Business School analysis done years ago concluded by saying that the “majority of book buyers seem to use the Times‘ list as a signal of what’s worth reading.”
Knowing what the Times regards as a bestseller is important because it provides a helpful window into this segment of the bestselling publishing world (which has evolved past just the Times in recent years).
It helps to know what is currently passing for a New York Times Bestseller.
Simply start with the category in which you would like to be published: fiction, non-fiction. Beyond that, genre: history, political, fantasy, science-fiction. It helps too to know who the Big Players are.
The Times is known to favor the Big New York publishing houses. Who are these? What are their submission guidelines? Who are some agents known for working with them?
#2 – Obtain fast and diverse sales
In the age of digital self-publication and promotion, the traditional publishing route is virtually a thing of the past.
Not so for a New York Times Bestseller. Unlike selling on digital mediums where you can become a Bestseller by selling your book on, say, Amazon, to whomever, wherever, becoming a New York Times Bestseller follows a different system.
To achieve bestseller status on the Times not only do you have to sell at least 5,000 – 10,000 copies in one week, but these sales have to be diverse sales.
That is, you cannot sell 10,000 books to a pre-existing list of followers through a personal website or thousands from only one marketplace like Barnes and Noble.
Rather, these sales must flow from retailers across the country and in different geographical locations—everything from Big-Box chains like Barnes and Noble and Walmart, small independent book stores, E-commerce giant Amazon, university bookstores, etc.
It is worth noting that the public does not have access to who the aforementioned retail outlets are. To prevent possible abuse from those looking to rig the system.
But the thing that is discrediting the NYT Bestseller List further and further is the fact that you can sell many more books than what is required, but would still not make it on the list.
Therefore, Amazon sales only (where 64% of books are purchased!) will not count on their own.
#3 – Build a Strong Author Platform
For first-time and lesser-known authors it is especially critical to have a pre-existing audience before attempting New York Times bestseller status.
This is how you can start to build your author platform and audience:
Be active on social media: it goes without saying, people—potential followers, collaborators, industry leaders, publishers, agents, and readers—exist in the digital space. Find them, connect with them, and collaborate, if possible.
Be already building credibility / expertise on your particular niche / topic / passion: write a weekly blog, as an example. This is perfect practice to hone your writing skills, develop your voice and writing styles, conduct research for your eventual book. The goal is to establish trust and credibility.
Collaborate with others in your particular area for more knowledge and broader exposure: if you want to get in with the Big Wigs you got to know your stuff. Once you have built up some credibility you can leverage this and reach out to important figures in your field. It is a win-win-win for you, the person you are reaching out to and the audience that is set to gain important information from the two of you.
Engage with your audience: Assess your audience’s “book pulse:” how hungry are they for your words of wisdom, unique insight, creative mind? What questions are you asking them? What have they had to say about your previous blog posts, vlogs, tweets, etc? Are they genuinely impressed, suggesting you write a book perhaps?
Maybe they are giving you more fuel for your book—telling you about things you had previously not known before, mentioning other books that further your expertise? Engagement is key. What, if any, do you have with your audience?
#4 – Have a Pre-Order List Before Your Book Launch
You should have such a list for any book you seek to publish. For a potential New York Times Bestseller it is especially important from a sales perspective.
Rob Eager, a notable book marketing consultant, explains that, in the case of a New York Times Bestseller, all pre-orders sold before a book launch are counted during the first week of official sales.
So, for instance, 5,000 sold during pre-release and another 5,000 during the first official week equals 10,000 total books sold—a critical number to reach during the first week for New York Times Bestseller status.
Having a pre-order list works hand-in-hand with a pre-existing audience. If you already have the audience it is, of course, easier to have a ready pre-order list. If you are successful enough to have both of these before launch you are in good shape.
#5 – Exchange speaking fee for a bulk book purchases
While it may not be the best course for everyone, speaking engagements are incredible opportunities to double-down on your writing endeavors and entrepreneurial goals more broadly.
They are not only great confidence-boosters but serve as great book marketing opportunities.
Exchanging speaking fees for a bulk book purchase is especially important during the pre-order phase because it allows you not only reach a broader audience (and hopefully make more sales) but allows you to meet the Times’ requirement that book purchases be in different geographic areas.
New York Times Bestseller Status vs. Writing as Means to an End
Given the age of digital entrepreneurship where self-publishing a book continues to gain significant traction, effectively taking down the traditional barriers of entry—publishing industry contacts, top-notch agents, and costly marketing plans—it is really up to you to figure out your writing goals.
Traditional publishing with the aim of appearing on an internationally-recognized Bestseller list like the Times versus self-publishing with the aim of achieving personal / business goals (and potential Bestseller status just not in the Times) is a tradeoff you’ll have to consider.
Remember publishing a book is not an end in and of itself. With its ability to boost your name, reputation, and authority, not to mention, depending on your industry, land you more consulting clients and speaking gigs, writing a book can open up some pretty amazing doors. A successful published book is a marketing tool like no other.
Whatever path you choose, keep in mind that achieving Bestseller status in places other than the New York Times Bestseller List has been proven to land equally promising and lucrative opportunities.
And we are just in the beginning phases of this amazing trend. Self-Publishing School is here to help.
Because if the dialogue is bad…readers will put the book down (because dialogue is often what readers pay the most attention to).
But if you’re not sure how to write dialogue in a way that is not onlynatural, but also works as a catalyst within your book, the process of writing a book can be even more daunting than it already is.
You can’t write a book without dialogue—and you can’t write a good book without good dialogue.
Ready to learn what makes great dialogue? Let’s get started.
Dialogue Rules All Writers Should Follow
Before we get into the actual formatting and styles of writing dialogue (along with some tips for making sure it’s good dialogue), let’s go over some of the common and universal rules for writing dialogue in any book genre.
Here are the main rules for writing dialogue:
Each speaker gets a new paragraph. Every time someone speaks, you show this by creating a new paragraph. Yes, even if your characters are only saying one word, they get new paragraphs.
Each paragraph is indented. The only exception for this is if it’s the start of a chapter or after a scene break, where the first line is never indented, including with dialogue.
Punctuation for what’s said goes inside the quotation marks. Any time the punctuation is a part of the person speaking, they go inside the quotes so the reader knows how the dialogue is said.
Long speeches with several paragraphs don’t have end quotations. You’ll see more on this below, but overall, if one character is speaking for so long they have separate paragraphs, the quotation marks on the end are removed, but you start the next paragraph with them.
Use single quotes if the person speaking is quoting someone. If you have a character who says, “Man, don’t you love it when girls say, ‘I’m fine’?”, the single quotes indicate what someone else says.
Proper Dialogue Punctuation and Format
When it comes to book formatting, dialogue is one of the most difficult to get right.
It’s not that it’s especially complicated, but there are many different types of dialogue and many different types of punctuation (including when to use a comma, quotes, and even em dashes) needed in order to properly format it.
Therefore, it’s easy to get confused or forget which format you should use for which line of dialogue.
The basics for the format of dialogue is that each time a new person speaks, it’s a new paragraph, like in this example from The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci.
In order to fully understand how to format dialogue, you have to know how to punctuate it properly, depending on the form you’re using.
Writing Dialogue Examples
The one thing most writers get wrong when they’re first starting out is proper dialogue format.
Sure, you could leave that up to the editor, but the more work for your editor, the more expensive they’ll be.
Plus, it’s important that, as serious writers and future authors, you know how to punctuate dialogue no matter what.
That also means editors will be able to focus on more complex edits instead of just punctuation.
Dialogue punctuation is complex and takes some time to learn, understand, and master.
Here are some dialogue examples of each and how you would punctuate them.
Writing Dialogue Example 1 – Single Line
Single lines of dialogue are among the easiest to write and remember. The punctuation for this dialogue is simple:
The quotations go on the outside of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation (in this case a period, but it’s the same for a comma, question mark, or exclamation point).
“You really shouldn’t have done that.”
Here’s an example of what this looks like:
No matter what other punctuation you have, whether it’s a question mark or exclamation point, it will go on the inside of the quotations.
Writing Dialogue Example 2 – Single line with tag
In this case, “tag” means dialogue tag.
A dialogue tag is anything that indicates who said what and in what way.
Here are some common examples of dialogue tags:
In the example below, you can see that the dialogue tag goes on the outside of the quotations, while the comma goes on the inside.
This is the case with any dialogue tags that are used. You can also see how this dialogue formatting works with different types of sentences and different dialogue tags.
Note that the tag, when following a comma within the quotation marks, is lowercase, as it’s a part of the overall sentence.
Writing Dialogue Example 3 – Questions
Because a question mark seems like the end of a sentence, it’s easy for most writers to get the format for questions when writing dialogue wrong.
But it’s actually pretty easy. Essentially, a question mark will be treated like a comma or period. What changes the formatting most is what follows the dialogue.
Here are some examples of writing questions in dialogue:
“Will you ever stop being a child?” she asked.
“What about that man over there?” he whispered, pointing in a old gentleman’s direction. “Doesn’t he look odd too?”
“What’s the big deal, anyway?” she huffed.
Below is a clear breakdown of formatting questions in dialogue.
In this example above, you can see that if there is a dialogue tag, the question mark will act as a comma and you will then lowercase the first word in the dialogue tag (unless it’s a person’s name).
However, if there is simply an action after the question, the question mark acts as a period and you will then capitalize the first word in the next sentence.
Writing Dialogue Example 4 – Tag, then single line
When it comes to formatting dialogue tags before your character speaks, it’s essentially the same as when they come after, except backward.
As you can see in the example above, the dialogue tag is in front, followed by a comma outside of the quotations. Then the quotations appear when the sentence starts with that sentence’s punctuation inside the quotations at the end.
Here are a few more examples of this type of dialogue, as it’s very common:
They hung their head and mumbled, “It’s fine if you don’t want me to come.”
She huffed, “Well that’s just great, isn’t it?”
He drew in a long breath and spoke, “I’m just not sure what to do anymore.”
Writing Dialogue Example 5 – Body language within line
There are a couple different types of body language dialogue formats to learn.
Dialogue Variation 1:This is when the actions your character is taking comes between lines of dialogue but after a sentence is complete. In real life, this would indicate someone pausing to complete the action.
Here’s what this dialogue example looks like:
“Are you sure we should go this weekend?” She shoved the curtain aside, sneering at the greying clouds. “It could be a mess out there.”
“What’s the big deal, anyway?” He yanked the sheet from the envelope. “It’s not like you cared for her all that much.”
“Let’s go to the moon!” She twirled, her pale pink dress lifting around her. “We could make it, I know we could.”
Below is a detailed explanation of how you would format this type of dialogue:
Variation 2: With this dialogue formatting, it’s different because this is when a character does something while they are speaking, instead of pausing like in variation 1. The action happens in the middle of a sentence and has to be formatted as such.
Here are some dialogue examples of this formatting:
“It’s really just”—he rubbed his hand over his stubble—”the most frustrating thing I can think of.”
“If you’re not going to”—she grabbed his face—”at least listen to me, I don’t see the point in even trying.”
You can see the proper formatting for this dialogue below:
This is also the case when characters have inner thoughts within their dialogue, as seen in the second example in variation 2.
Writing Dialogue Example 6 – Single line getting cut off
Something that happens in real life (sometimes an irritatingly large amount) is getting cut off or interrupted when you’re speaking.
This typically happens when someone either doesn’t care what you’re talking about or when two people are in an argument and end up speaking over one another.
You can see in this example that you place an Em Dash (—) right at the end of the sentence, followed by the quotation marks.
You’ll treat this format of dialogue much like a example 1, a single line of dialogue.
Writing Dialogue Example 7 – Dialogue tag in the middle of a line
Another common type of dialogue. This is essentially a mix of a single line with a dialogue tag.
Mostly, you will use this type in order to indicate who is talking if there are more than two and in order to keep the focus on the dialogue itself and not the character’s actions.
Writing Dialogue Example 8 – Paragraphs of dialogue
There are certain situations that call for a single character to speak for a long time. However, grammatically, not all of what they say will belong in the same paragraph.
Here’s how you would write multiple paragraphs of dialogue:
For writing dialogue paragraphs, you want to leave the quotations off the end of the paragraph and begin the next paragraph with them in order to indicate that the same person is just telling a long story.
[NOTE:These dialogue rules apply for American English. Other parts of the world may use different dialogue formatting, including single quotations and more.]
How to Write Dialogue That’s Realistic and Effective
Great dialogue is hard to get right. For something we do and hear every day, knowing what to make your characters say in order to move the plot forward and increase intrigue isn’t easy.
But that’s why we’ve broken it down in easy steps for writing dialogue for you.
Here are some of the best tips for writing dialogue that feels real but is also effective for moving your story forward.
#1 – Say it outloud first
One of the easiest and best ways to see if your dialogue sounds realistic is to read it outloud.
Hearing what someone is supposed to say (since your readers will imagine them speaking out loud) will allow you to determine if it sounds real or fake.
One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes your dialogue will sound a little “cheesy” to you. Since written dialogue is a little different and more purposeful than what we hear in our day-to-day lives, you might think it sounds a little dramatic.
But that’s okay! Dialogue should have more “weight” than what you say in real life.
Even so, it has to sound like something someone would actually say. If you feel yourself cringing a little or you can’t image a real person say it, you might have to do some editing.
Ask these questions when reading your dialogue out loud to yourself:
Would someone actually say this in real life?
Does it move the plot forward or develop a character?
Is it easy to say or do you fumble over the sentence?
Do you pause in certain areas where you haven’t written commas? (Note: if this happens, put in some commas so the readers interpret it how you hear it!)
Extra dialogue tip:Record yourself reading your dialogue in what you imagine your characters to sound like and play it back to yourself. This can help you pinpoint which words or phrases sound off.
#2 – Get rid of the small talk
Your readers don’t care about what your characters had for dinner last night—unless that dinner had been poisoned and is now seeping into their bloodstream, impacting their immediate danger.
Talking about the weather or your character’s pet or anything trivial will read as boring and unnecessary.
This also slows down your novel’s pacing.
One exception may be if your characters are stalling in order to avoid talking about something that is major and impactful to the plot. When it’s used as a literary device to set the mood or tone of a scene, it’s acceptable.
Dialogue in books is not meant to read in the way we actually speak—not full conversations, at least. If it did, each book would be exceptionally longer, due in part to the fact that humans often say a lot of pointless things.
When it comes to writing dialogue in your book, you have to keep it briefer and more poignant than in real life.
A great way to get to the meat of the dialogue is to cut out everything that doesn’t immediately impact the scene.
A quick, “Hey, how’s is going?” isn’t necessary unless the other character’s state is vital to the scene. This, however, doesn’t include if your character is meeting someone for the first time, obviously.
Essentially, anything that does not further develop your character, the plot, or any subplots should be cut.
#4 – Give each character a unique way of speaking
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but not everyone speaks in the same way. We all have a specific “flow” to our sentences and we all have favorite words we prefer to use.
For example, maybe people will use “perhaps” or “maybe” but not often both in equal amounts. This is a very small detail, but it does a long way in developing the characters and giving them their own voice.
Another way you can do this is with sentence structure.
Does your character speak in short, chopped sentences? Or do they eloquently describe their point of view in long-winded, crafted sentences that ebb and flow with their tone of voice?
This difference is very important. Your readers should be able to tell the difference between characters based on their sentences.
A reasonable exception to this would be pairs or groups of close people. Meaning, if your main character’s best friend speaks similarly to them, that’s okay. As humans, we subconsciously pick up on the speech patterns of those closest to us – those we speak to regularly.
#5 – Add world-appropriate slang
A major part of dialogue that often gets overlooked is the slang.
Even in our own world, new slang is developed every day and sometimes, the words might seem crazy or even confusing.
Take the term “fleek” for example. This word looks like it would be a herd of some sort animal.
But in fact, it’s a word being “on point” or “sharp.”
The point is, creating unique slang for your world can add to the dialogue and tell you more about the characters who use it, not to mention build your world effortlessly.
Here’s an example of slang from Jenna Moreci’s, EVE: The Awakening. This book is set in the near future and so Moreci had to create slang fitting for the time:
#6 – Be consistent with characters’ voices
It wouldn’t make sense for your character to flop the way they speak unless they’re talking to someone specific (which we cover in the next tip).
The main idea is that if one character speaks in choppy sentences, it should remain that way unless the moment changes to something that would require something more elegant.
At the same time, you want to make sure your characters are using consistent language.
Like in the tips in #4, if they use a specific word more frequently, make sure they use that word whenever they should in order to maintain a consistent voice.
#7 – Think about who they’re speaking to
You don’t speak in the same way around every single person.
Your voice and style changes depending on who you’re chatting with. For example, you’re going to talk differently to your mom than you would your best friend.
While it’s important to be consistent with your character’s style and voice, it’s also crucial to think about the who when it comes to their dialogue and adjust accordingly.
#8 – Keep long speech paragraphs to a minimum
Rarely do people speak for a very long time uninterrupted. It might be important for your character to say something lengthy, but remember to at least split it up with body language and other means of giving your reader a break.
These can feel very long-winded and end up slowing down the pacing of your book, which can be great if you use them for this purpose.
One way to break up long paragraphs if one person is speaking for a while (like when they’re telling a story of sorts) is to add in the other characters’ body language reactions.
But if you’re trying to move your plot along at a steady rate, avoid long speech paragraphs.
#9 – Cut the hellos and goodbyes
Greetings are absolutely necessary in real life. In your book? Not so much.
Your readers know enough to assume there was a greeting of some sort. In addition, these aren’t usually pivotal parts of your book and therefore, aren’t necessary to have.
An exchange like this will bore your readers to death:
“What’s up, dude?”
“Not much, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine, you know. Same old, same old.”
“Ah, I feel ya. Anything new in your world?”
“Not really, to tell you the truth.”
Cutting these will help speed up your pacing as well as keep the dialogue to the must-speak information.
Think about it: how do we learn about new people when we meet them? Through what they say.
You could meet someone entirely new and based on the exchange, you actually learn a lot about who they are and how the operate in life.
You discover if they’re shy, bold, blunt, or kind-hearted and soft spoken.
Your dialogue should do the very same for your characters.
Here’s an example of what this would look like:
She let stray strands fall in front of her face as she looked down and scuffed something sticky on the sidewalk.“Do you really think so?” Her voice was soft, her eyes still fixed on the ground instead of the new guy standing in front of her.
This example shows you what the character looks like in a specific situation and therefore, we gather facts about what she’s like.
For one, she’s shy—as much is seen by her avoiding eye contact even as she speaks.
Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid
We all make mistakes. But if you want to become a published author (or just write a great book), you can’t make these major ones within your book’s dialogue.
#1 – Using the person’s name repeatedly
It’s tempting to make your characters call each other’s names often. However, this isn’t how we talk in real life.
Unless we’re tryign to get their attention or are emphasizing (or warning!) a point, we don’t say their name.
How not to write dialogue:
“Rebecca, I really needed you and you weren’t there.”
“I’m sorry, Ashley. I was just busy with school and work.”
“Okay, but that’s not a good excuse Rebecca.”
“Okay, but that’s not a good excuse Rebecca.”
“You’re right, Ashley. It’s not.”
#2 – Info-dumping through dialogue
It’s perfectly okay to have some characters explain certain elements your readers won’t understand. However, it gets very boring and unrealistic when that’s all they do.
In the case of dialogue, this worldbuilding is all tell and no show. And this works sometimes, especially if a character is telling another character about something they don’t yet know.
Just keep this to a minimum and use other methods of worldbuilding to show your readers the world you’ve created.
#3 – Avoid repetitive dialogue tags
There’s nothing quite as annoying as reading dialogue tags over and over…and over again.
It’s a surefire way to bore your readers and make them want to set the book down with no plans to pick it back up in the immediate future.
How not to write dialogue with tags:
“I really needed you and you weren’t there,” Ashley said.
“I’m sorry. I was just busy with school and work,” Rebecca replied.
“Okay, but that’s not a good excuse,” she huffed.
“You’re right. It’s not,” Rebecca whispered.
#4 – Avoid repetitive dialogue styles
This means that if you have the same dialogue format for a few lines, you need to change it up because otherwise, it will be very boring to your readers.
You can see in the point above, using only dialogue tags at the end is very boring. The same applies for repeated other types as well.
For example, read through each of these and you can get a feel for the monotony you want to avoid within the repeated formats.
Bad Dialogue Example 1: Dialogue tags in the front
He spoke. “You’re one of the oddest people I know.”
She replied, “Is that necessarily a bad thing?”
He smiled. “I didn’t say it was a bad thing at all.”
She laughed. “Good.”
Bad Dialogue Example 2: Action within dialogue
“I’m just not sure”—she grabbed a handful of seeds— “that you’re taking this seriously.”
“What?” He weaved between the overgrown plants, pushing them aside. “Why would you think that?”
“Because you—” she plunged her finger into the pot with soil— “just ignore the important stuff unless it’s important to you only.”
“That’s ridiculous.” He craned his neck around a calla lily. “That’s not true.”
Bad Dialogue Example 3: Tags in the middle
“I really wish you would just talk to me,” Ada said. “This silent treatment isn’t helping anyone.”
“It’s helping me,” he said. “Or does that not matter to you?”
“Of course it matters to me,” she replied. “It’s just not solving the problem.”
“I don’t think anything can solve this problem,” he murmured. “It’s permanent.”
How to fix this: whenever you’re writing dialogue, switch the type of formatting you use in order to make it look and sound better. The more enjoyable it is to read, the more readers will become invested.
One exception is when you have two characters going back and forth very quickly. In this case, a few lines of dialogue only, with no tags or anything, is acceptable.
Fixing Dialogue Example: Variation is Key
“I’m just not sure”—she grabbed a handful of seeds— “that you’re taking this seriously.”
He weaved between the overgrown plants, pushing them aside.“Why would you think that?”
“Because…you just ignore the important stuff unless it’s important to you only.”
“No.” She plunged her finger into the pot with soil, dropping in a few seeds. “It’s true.”
Much like with anything that has rules, there are always exceptions.
The most important part of these rules is knowing them.
Once you know the rules and why they’re there, you can break with purpose – instead of doing so on accident.
Tried and true strategies for creating, producing, and organizing content are readily available to any aspiring author along with a wide range of self-publishing courses from self-publishing companies and free resources that decode the once mysterious process of writing and publishing a book.
Anyone willing to put in the time, energy, cost, and effort can crank out and self-publish a book. It’s really that simple.
Well, that’s the good news.
Far less straightforward, however, is the multifaceted, often undervalued topic of book editing—the essential step that makes your manuscript actually worth reading.
Working with an editor is, in fact, so important that some authors, particularly fiction writers, begin their writing process with an editor’s support.
Most authors seek the help of an editor at the end stages of their process, and, depending on how much work was put into the first draft, hiring an entire editorial team may be necessary. If this sounds costly and time-consuming, it definitely can be, but these are included in the cost of publishing a book.
Fortunately, the work and cost of editing your manuscript can be mitigated by educating yourself about the process, incorporating editing costs into your overall budget, and learning how to self-edit your manuscript, so you can be prepared for the last step in turning your manuscript into a finished book.
And you thought writing the manuscript was the hard part!
The Self-Editing Process
After the grueling first draft is complete, many first-time authors find themselves dismayed by the unforeseen cost of editing. Not to mention overwhelmed by the extensive rewriting they are suddenly burdened with just when they thought the heavy lifting was over.
Most novice writers are unaware that revision is 80 percent of the work involved in book writing. So if you get to that glorious moment when you finish your rough draft only to feel beaten down when you realize just how much revising you have to do, you’re not alone.
For those unaware of what it will ultimately take to polish your manuscript for publication, the back-end job you are presented with at the last stages of writing a book can be both costly and extensive if you didn’t devote ample time to editing early drafts.
But there is hope!
Considering the following can help you prepare your draft for editorial review and save you money.
When to Hire Your Editing Team
Yes, I said “team.”
When I worked in traditional publishing, every manuscript went through no less than four separate editors. Sometimes close to a dozen rounds of editing.
And you know what? There were still usually a few typos that slipped through!
Let that sink in for a second.
Just as producing a manuscript involves a varied skill set—writing, formatting, cover design, etc.—so does editing it.
Depending on your genre, writing skills, experience, and how much time you put into revising your draft and incorporating the feedback of trustworthy readers, you can determine which kind of editor you need to get you to the next phase without spending extra time and money.
Estimating editing costs (along with the approximate time it will take to complete each stage of the editing process) in your budget and timeline will also save you time and energy finding top-notch editors you can afford.
What makes a good book editor & can I afford one?
Well, yes. But only if you are willing to put the time and effort into your manuscript.
Before you start reaching out to prospective editors, it is important to assess the work you’ve done from an objective standpoint so you can shop according to your budget and particular needs.
Consider the following before hiring a book editor:
Your overall budget for editing
How many beta readers have provided feedback (people who read your rough draft)
Your experience level
How much time has been spent reworking the text
If you’ve never worked with an editor before, it’s important to know who does what and when to employ their services.
There are a few different types of edits to be aware of before hiring an editor.
Developmental editors address the big picture, looking closely at the content to analyze structure, plot, and characters in works of fiction and the rhetorical concerns, organization, and overall flow of ideas in non-fiction.
Content editors analyze the existing content in the book itself. Specifically paragraph flow, tense, voice, and readability. Just remember that all editing is subjective. What one editor likes, another may not. So it is super important to find someone who specializes in your book genre for this stage.
Copy editors focus on the nitty-gritty of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and clarity and may also revise and rework particular sentences or paragraphs.
Proofreaders are the last readers/editors in line who myopically comb through the manuscript for any remaining errors. Just remember, if you didn’t have your draft copyedited first, the proofreader is unlikely to catch everything.
Keep in mind no one is perfect. Typos happen. It’s just life.
Depending on your genre, skillset, and budget, you may want to consult with developmental editors after you’ve written several chapters or even as you outline your book and brainstorm.
This will help you steer clear of major revision (hopefully) and set you on course for a smooth book writing process. In general, it’s a good idea to start assembling your team as you near the end stages and prepare yourself and your manuscript for editorial review.
Here’s an example of what you can (and should) find regarding the different types of book edits when you research your own editor.
These costs vary greatly depending on the editor’s experience, reputation, demand, and the amount of work they will need to put into your draft. It is not uncommon to spend several thousand dollars editing a full-length book.
But fear not! There are various approaches you can take to keep costs low if money is an issue.
Here’s how you can save money when hiring an editor:
Assemble a team of beta readers who can provide feedback for revisions during the writing process. Share several chapters at a time, incorporate any feedback into your revisions, and choose people who are willing to give you honest notes. This can be particularly helpful for content-related issues.
Consider hiring a college student or reader with a background in English who has a passion for editing and won’t be concerned about hurting your feelings.
Check out freelance websites likeUpWorkor even a great site called Scribendi. (Warning: if you source an editor from these sites, make sure you hire another, professional editor to go over it afterward. There is no way to know what you are getting otherwise. Just because the draft comes back better than it was before, does not mean it was well-edited!)
Take the time to educate yourself about grammar, punctuation, outlining, and other technical issues, especially for nonfiction works. Rely on websites such as The Owl at Purdue for style guidelines and support with grammar, punctuation, and research concerns.
Fiction writers may want to join a writers group or workshop to benefit from the help of others who have experience with your genre and can help you develop your craft, challenge flaws in your narrative or character development, and help you improve the overall quality of your story. A flawed plot or character is much harder to revise after you finish writing your book, so it’s important to catch such problematic aspects of your book early on.
Don’t overestimate your skills and brilliance as an author! At least not when you’re working your early drafts. Even the best writers agonize over and discard much of what they initially produce, as there is simply no way around combining inspiration with structure.
Read books on writing, seek information about the kind of writing you’re doing, and find ways to approach your work with a fresh perspective.
Give yourself ample time and space away from your project so you can see it as clearly and objectively as possible.
Accept that you will never be totally objective about your writing, and that you will need, no matter how great your book is, the help of others to turn your manuscript into a masterpiece.
Your Book is Still Your Book
When all is said and done, just keep in mind this is your book and no one else’s. The beauty of self-publishing is that you have the final say in your own work.
There is no big, bad publisher denouncing your creative freedom.
If you don’t agree with some of the suggested edits, delete them! Your editors don’t know your book-baby as well as you do.
So, while expert feedback is essential to creating a polished, professional-quality book, have some faith in yourself and your writing.
You chose to write for a reason. So keep that in mind as your editor chops up the book you worked oh-so-hard on.
When you find the right editors (and it may take a few tries), whom you work well with, hold onto them! If you do, it will be mutually beneficial as you create and build together.
You know that writers write…but did you know your writing spaces matters significantly?
You’re a writer when you put your pen on your paper and create words that combine together to form a sentence. You’re a writer when you stroke the keyboard and type out an email. You’re a writer when you comment on a Facebook post.
The fact is, you’re a writer whenever and wherever you add anything in writing in a physical or virtual location—but especially if you’re writing a book.
But where should you write? What makes a great writing space? And how do you create one?
You’re going to learn about my favorite writing spaces and tools for where to write and creating a writing space.
Writing Spaces at Home
Creating a writing space at home is not difficult and can generally be done without spending a lot of money. I am lucky enough to have my own writing office, but even without that, you can still create a space that is just for you and your writing.
Here are a few tips to start building your writing space:
Clear off the corner of your table. (It might mean that you throw away the mountain of mail you’ve been meaning to open or you finally put your laundry away, but a corner of a table will do just fine for this).
Find a paper and pencil, pen and notepad, or a computer.
Put your tools in that space and you’ve built a writing space.
Tell your kids, your significant other, or your cat (although best of luck on training the feline) that this is your space and it is protected in a magical bubble where only you are allowed!
Now, you have a writing space – where you can do what writers do, write.
If you have a small budget (less than $100) to set up a writing space, you can scour buy, sell, trade groups for small writing desks. My husband found this gem of a writing desk for $75 on a local Facebook swap site.
I use it to journal during my morning routine (don’t forget to check out Chandler’s morning routine video) and outline things with good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Once my brain dumping to my journal is finished, I often transition to a more standardized office desk where I have my computer set up.
So if your budget is a little higher, between $300 – $500, you can buy an office desk from a used furniture store and get a nice desk, with delivery and set-up.
This helps you feel like you’re in more of a work mode and will be able to get things done
Perhaps you have a grand budget to use. You can go to a higher-end furniture store and buy a cherry or an oak desk for $1000-$2000. But, it is absolutely not necessary.
So, if you have have as little as $0 or as much as $2000+ dollars to spend, you can set up a writing space at home for you to meet your daily writing goals.
Where to Write Outside of Your Home
Really, anywhere? Sure, you can go anywhere to write. I have some places that I recommend and some places that I would stay away from, but you can write anywhere.
Most writers have a favorite coffee shop. I have three. I love writing at a chain coffee shop when I need a little more background noise. It helps me zone into my rough draft writing and I work well when I am surrounded by others, coffee in hand, and can dedicate my time to writing. There’s also an independent coffee shop that I enjoy going to.
During NaNoWriMo we had some of our write-ins there. I love that it was designed so that at any table there is a spot where we can plug in our devices and type away.
I find this particularly useful when I am needing some motivation from being around other creatives, as there’s also a wall of art that changes frequently.
Finally, I really like a pay-it-forward cafe that has a community table where I can go when I need to concentrate on editing. Sometimes the different niches help me out the most so that I can focus on doing what writers do – write!
Here are some ideas for writing spaces outside our home:
Your front or back porch
It will depend on what you’re writing though as to which works the best.
Anywhere that you can go with your notebook, computer, or your phone is a location that you can write.
So, there you have it! You can write anywhere that you can take a writing device.
These are my overall recommended writing spaces:
An area of your home, dedicated to writing
A local coffee shop
A shared office
A friend’s house
Anywhere that you can take a writing device
Which Online Writing Spaces to Use
On a notebook, a computer, a phone. Anywhere that you can record words and be a writer. Because that’s what a good writer does, you write.
Personally, I prefer to outline, mindmap, prewrite with a good old-fashioned pen and paper. But I know many writers who prefer to do their prewriting in a Google Doc, on Scrivener, Microsoft Office 365 or in a similar space online.
Be sure that no matter where you decide to write that you are free from distractions and that you write.
Once you have your prewriting done, then you can move into creating a first draft.
This is when I generally switch over from pencil and paper to an electronic format. I open up my Google Doc and I make an electronic version of my outline. This is important, because then I can quickly move from place to place in my document.
After I outline on my Google Doc, I move into writing out sentences. At this point, I don’t necessarily worry about whether or not I am writing cohesive sentences, I just get words on the paper, because I am doing what writers do—they write.
If you’re not a Google Docs person, there are other tools out there that you can use to capture your words electronically.
The most well-known is Microsoft Word.
This is great if you always have access to it, which is possible with Office 365, but for me, Google Docs works better.
Scrivener is another tool that you can use to capture all your ideas, outlines, and planning in one place. The best thing about this is that it’s web-based, so you access it anywhere that you have access to the internet. Most writers that use this tool absolutely love it—so let us know if you have it and you love it.
Finally, if you’re driving and have ideas come to you, you can capture them with a speech-to-text app and then transfer them to a word processing document later.
This is particularly useful, as I often have ideas come to me when I am traveling.
Do not let the excuse of “I don’t have a writing space” hold you back from writing, because with very few tools (most are free or minimal cost), you have a writing space or a location to write.
Writing Spaces Tips for Beginners
Setting up a writing space is not always easy, but you know you want to write and you need to have a space to do what writers do: write!
So here are some tips to help you.
#1 – Use your at-home writing space for writing
You wouldn’t take a bath in the kitchen sink, right?
Right! Don’t use your writing space for other activities – only use it for writing.
“But I only have one computer – where else do I go to get on Facebook, watch YouTube, or pay my bills?”
I am guessing that if you’re like my family, you have a mobile computer – a laptop, a surface, an iPAD, or something similar. For the purpose of writing at-home, make sure that the device goes to the designated spot you have set up for that.
Then move when you’re not writing.
When we move to specific places to accomplish a task, our brains engage in those tasks and we are able to focus on doing what writers do – write.
#2 – Block out noise with headphones
You will be distracted. If you’re writing at home and have children, your kids will distract you. If you’re writing at a coffee shop, there will be other customers (hey, you want coffee shops to have customers – that’s what keeps them in business and gives you a space to write).
Invest in some headphones. Our brains can process doing other things with music – or white background noise. Create some by tuning into your favorite playlist.
I personally find meditation music especially helpful for this.
#3 – Set a timer
Equip your writing space with a timer. I, personally, usually have enough self-discipline to use my phone as a timer, but I love my Google Home Mini for this too.
Simply say, “Hey Google – Set timer for 25 minutes.” Twenty-five minutes is my magic number to get a lot of words written in a relatively short amount of time.
#4 – Write in the same place, at the same time
Whether you write as a part of your morning writing routine, when you get home from work, or some other time of day, write in the same place at the same time.
That’s why it’s important for you to have some kind of writing space – even if it’s only the corner of the table.
#5 – Write when inspiration hits too
Keep a dedicated writing space, but don’t forget about diving into the spontaneity of writing also.
That’s why I keep my Google Doc app on my phone.
I can make brief notes and then splice them together into coherent sentences later.
Writing Space Tips from Famous Authors
The advice from almost any best-selling author is to always be ready to write – anywhere. You never know where inspiration will hit, so always have something to record your thoughts.
So you’ve finished your book… now what? Self-editing is what. Now it’s time to learn how to self-edit it—and properly.
Finishing the first draft of a book is a tremendous accomplishment that’s certainly worth celebrating. But it doesn’t get any easier from here.
The next step is one of the most tedious and important aspects of publishing a book—self-editing.
Sure, almost all self-published authors will hire an editor in some capacity. Before that step, you do have to edit the book yourself and only yourself (unless you use Scrivener footnotes editor or other editing tools, that is).
At the very least, every author will receive feedback from multiple readers before the launch date, but self-editing is key because eliminating obvious errors and minimizing mistakes in the manuscript will give hired editors and beta readers a greater opportunity to provide corrections on the things you missed.
Why do we need to self-edit our books?
After completing a rough draft, it’s very tempting to immediately hire an editor and hand over your manuscript. But no writer can state their rough draft is the very best of their work.
And after all, the better the draft you submit to an editor, the better final product.
An editor will surely help improve a manuscript, but before placing that rough draft in an editor’s hands, each writer should be able to answer yes to the question:
“Did I make this manuscript as strong and as good as I could have?”
There’s no way the answer to that question is yes after only writing the rough draft. Take pride in your work and make sure it’s your best before someone else reads it.
Before beginning the self-editing phase, there are three important things to keep in mind:
The Difference between editing and revising
Self-editing requires patience because it takes time
Devise an editor plan for after the self-editing phase prior to starting
The Difference Between Editing and Revising
Editing and Revising sound very similar, but knowing the subtle differences can make self-editing a lot easier.
Throughout my career, I’ve engaged in a lot of different writing styles. Depending on the outlet and audience, writing style may differ, but one constant is all writing needs edited and revised in some capacity.
Of course, one of the most essential parts of the self-editing phase is knowing the difference between editing and revising. I’ll lay out the subtle difference and explain how to achieve both in order to turn your rough draft into a sparkling text for your editor.
Editing and Revising definitions according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Editing – to prepare for publication or public presentation; to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose.
Revising – to look over again in order to correct or improve; to make a new, amended, improved, or up-to-date version of
On the surface, they sound exactly the same. To be fair, editing and revising are similar, but not exactly the same thing.
In a basic nutshell, editing is fixing basic errors like capitalization, punctuation and spelling. Revising is the act of improving specific writing such as sentence structure, chapter structure and word choice.
A good self-edit will include both edits and revisions to a manuscript.
Develop Your Self-Edit Plan
Before getting started with self-editing, though, keep in mind that Self-Publishing School advises not to wait, but to reach out and/or hire an editor after you finish your manuscript. Performing that task upon completing the rough draft will allow the author to hand over their manuscript right after finishing the self-editing phase.
Editors are often booked two weeks in advance. Waiting to reach out to editors until after the self-edit could mean there’s no movement on your book for at least a couple weeks.
Now you’re ready to begin.
How to Start Self-Editing
The self-editing phase will include re-reading your book at least three times. Self-Publishing School calls them verbal read-throughs. With each one, you will be looking to address different aspects of your writing.
In the self-edit of my own first book, I devised three different types of read-throughs.
The three different types of verbal read-throughs in self-editing:
Reading for structure
Reading for readability
Reading for grammar and word choice
Each read-through during self-editing should be done out loud.
Verbal Read-Throughs for Self-Editing
Self-Publishing School teaches to read your manuscript out loud to yourself. I couldn’t agree more. It may seem a little silly, but it’s much easier to find errors while reading the entire book out loud than silently.
Find a quiet spot alone so you can read out loud.
Following my three different types of read-throughs and reading them out loud will enable you to make your book as good as you can.
#1 – Read for Structure
Remember that great mind map and book outline you constructed before even beginning to write the rough draft? It’s time to break those back out.
As you begin to re-read your manuscript chapter-by-chapter, follow along with your outline as well. This will allow you to make sure every detail is in the right place and nothing is missing.
This is how you can structure your self-edits for chapters:
Those chapters on your outline and in your book should all have a clear and concise topic. In some ways, one could think of the individual chapters as their own little books. Each one connects to the others, but they can also stand alone.
Double checking chapter structure is the first real key to self-editing.
One personal example of how revising chapter structure helped my book:
When I devised my outline, it seemed natural that these two topics were tied together since Bond’s masculinity is why so many men and women have enjoyed the series over the last six decades.
But I had two problems: the chapter was more than 4,500 words while the other nine chapters in my book were all around 3,000. Even worse, the first chapter bounced between these two ideas that I thought were connected—Bond’s popularity and masculinity.
Upon my read-through, the chapter felt clunky and long. If readers shared the same sentiment, they might not continue to read the rest of the book.
In self-editing, make sure each chapter has one clear and concise topic.
Revisions were needed. It took a lot of work, but I divided the first chapter into two — one that focused on the series’ popularity and the other on Bond’s masculinity. After I made this decision, I read through the entire chapter again, picking out which paragraphs applied to which specific topic.
Following that step, the two new chapters were too short, which meant both needed more words. I had more writing to do.
But by dividing the chapter, rearranging the paragraphs and adding more details, I had made some very strong revisions.
I now possessed two chapters that started my book on the right track — with each chapter standing alone and focused on one topic.
This is how to go through self-editing for sentence structure & transitions:
Double checking sentence structure is the second important part of step one in self-editing.
How each book idea flows to the next is the second aspect to consider during the “structure” read-through. The use of transition words and phrases—next, then, furthermore, on the other hand, etc.—can be very helpful to achieve this.
But the same concepts to ensuring chapter structure should be applied to sentence structure. Make sure to complete your entire thought on one subject before jumping to the next whether from chapter to chapter or inside a chapter.
Proper transitions and book flow will allow readers to keep going naturally. It could prevent them from ever putting it down!
#2 – Read for Readability
It’s very likely that you know your book topic better than anyone who reads your book. That’s especially true if you are writing a memoir, but that will likely also be the case with a self-help book or non-fiction commentary on something such as the James Bond film series.
After double checking the structure of your book, the second read-through should ensure every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence and even every word makes sense.
Ask yourself these questions when editing for vague details or over-explained thoughts:
Did I gloss over any details that a beginner to my topic might not know?
Did I forget a vital detail to a personal story in my memoir?
Does it feel like I’m bogging down my reader with unnecessary details not important to my overall point?
Keep these questions in mind during the second read-through of the self-editing stage.
In the second read-through, place yourself in the mind of your reader.
For my book, I needed to ensure every scene of a Bond film I explain was properly detailed to my audience. I have seen the Bond movies dozens of times, but not every reader will have, so it was important to make sure even readers who haven’t seen the films can understand what’s going on in a particular scene.
Here’s how to self-edit awkward phrasing:
In this step, authors should also be able to find awkward phrasing. This is the biggest reason why we advise reading your manuscript out loud. Sentences that don’t make sense or that need to be reworded will stick out when spoken in voice rather than read silently.
#3 – Read for Grammar and Word Choice
As you may have guessed, the first two read-through steps are making revisions to your manuscript. In this last step, authors will be performing both edits and revisions.
Once you’ve nailed down your book’s structure and readability, you’re now ready to double check grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation.
It’s important to leave grammar until the last step of the self-editing phase. Otherwise, you will need to repeat this step after revisions are complete.
Double checking word choice was vitally important in my own self-editing.
I tend to repeat the same words without even realizing. In my first rough draft, I had the same transition word used multiple times on the same page or the same verb or adjective deployed on numerous occasions in the same chapter.
Get out a thesaurus and utilize different words where applicable—just be sure these words actually make sense (as we all know thesauruses can’t always be trusted).
This doesn’t mean change every noun to a fancier word in attempt to sound smart. Nobody likes a smart ass. But avoiding repeated words while expanding your vocabulary in a colloquial way is the last step in self-editing.
Other tips for self-edit read-throughs:
Find a style that works
Try re-reading only a chapter at a time & the whole book together
Again, read the manuscript out loud
That’s the end of the actually steps needed to complete the self-editing phase, but there’s more to it than just simply reading through the manuscript and making alterations.
Find a Self-Edit Style That Works for YOU
Are you more of a paper and pen person or do you love using track changes on writing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs?
There is no right or wrong, but finding your best preference and consistently repeating it through each read-through is essentially.
Personally, I loved the good, old-fashioned pen and paper for my self-editing. I find it easier to read out loud from a paper than a screen. It also allowed me to easily keep track of all my edits and revisions with a pen.
You can do the same, though, with track changes like in the example below.
Printing out your manuscript and/or working with track changes is essential to the self-editing phase.
After each read-through, make the changes in your official manuscript, so they are present for the next read-through. Then repeat the process.
For all the read-throughs, I would print out a new copy of my book.
NOTE: To save paper, reprint on the back of the previous manuscript.
Self-Edit One Chapter at a Time
Most self-published authors have other jobs. If not, they still likely have very busy lives because everyone does. That probably makes performing an entire read-through for the whole book in one sitting very unlikely.
However, there are advantages to self-editing the whole book in one read-through during a single day.
Pros to read-throughs in one sitting:
Easier to receive entire picture
Repeated phrases and words can be more apparent
Reading it as the fans would
Reading the entire manuscript together for chapter and sentence structure is a good idea because it’s easier to get the entire picture of how the book fits together.
It’s also easier to pick out repeated phrases and words. If you wait several days between reading the first and final chapter for structure, you may not realize you repeat yourself too much or that you have the exact same sentence in two places.
The readers that never put your book down may experience it in an entirely different way than you did if you never performed an entire book read-through in one sitting.
Cons to read-throughs in one sitting:
Grammar and spelling edits may suffer
Threat of rushing through it
There are plenty of advantages to only re-reading a chapter at a time as well. For one, going through an entire read-through in one sitting can take hours and is very tiring. In the last few chapters, you might not be as sharp at catching errors as you were at the beginning of the process because of fatigue.
All self-editing can be tedious, but checking for grammar, spelling and punctuation is particularly banal. It’s even harder when tired.
Furthermore, if the goal is to get through the entire book with one read-through in one sitting, but you only have a set amount of time to do it, there’s a distinct possibility that you will rush. That’s not a good thing either.
TIP: Try both techniques to see which self-editing works for you.
The one-sitting read-through is better suited for when checking for structure. It’s better to read one chapter at a time while editing for grammar and spelling.
If your book is truly too long for a read-through in one sitting, then don’t worry about it. More than likely, that means readers won’t be reading it all the way through at a time either.
Your writing style is the way in which the narrative of your writing comes across to other readers, including your sentence structure, syntax, and overall voice in order to provide your writing with an overall tone or mood.
Each writer has their own, natural style and this can change from project to project. However, you may find that certain authors typically maintain a cohesive writing style.
Essentially, an author’s writing style can be recognized from work to work.
Types of Writing Styles
There are a few different ways to think of writing styles as an author.
Firstly, you have your personal writing style as an author, which is what we explained above; it’s the specific way your writing reads.
Here are some examples of how an author’s writing style may vary:
Wordiness – How much your narrative uses longer, run-on sentences versus short and choppy ones.
Syntax – The structure of your sentences, the emphasis, pauses, word order and general style of writing typical sentences.
Word choice – This can mean swearing or not, using more complex words versus simpler ones, and more. The word choice in your writing style can help readers understand the perspective of the narration.
Tone – The tone in writing is like the attitude the author has toward a subject matter. If they dislike something, the tone could be short and negative, the opposite if they enjoy what they’re writing about.
Mood – The mood differs from tone because it’s the overarching feeling readers take away through the writing. The mood can be altered through the use of tone, word choice, and other literary devices.
However, writing style also refers to the intent of what you’re writing.
Here are the 4 main writing styles:
Expository Writing – This is the most common type of writing. This blog post is an example of expository writing, as I’m explaining a concept and providing information. However, expository writing often doesn’t include the author’s opinions.
Descriptive Writing – You’ll most often find descriptive writing in fiction (and creative non-fiction too!), as it’s when authors write in a more descriptive style, creating more of a visual rather than just relaying facts.
Persuasive Writing – This writing style is mostly used in order to persuade others to take some sort of action and includes cover letters, reviews, advertisements, web copy, and more. The goal is to convince the readers of something one way or another.
Narrative Writing – This type of writing style is usually exclusive to fiction and is when the writer is constructing a story and plot by using descriptive writing to help you visualize it.
These different writing styles aren’t typically exclusive to one project. You can use various of them in a single work, which is often what books are.
We’ll cover some specific examples to help you understand further below.
Writing Style Examples
Sometimes it’s easier to understand through examples than just simply reading a definition.
Here are some examples of the different types of writing style to help you get the gist for understanding what writing style is and how you can use that to adapt and create your own.
Expository Writing Style Examples:
As stated above, expository writing is the most common type and basically just relays necessary information.
Here are some examples of expository writing:
Descriptive Writing Style Examples:
You can write in a number of different ways with descriptive writing. Even expository writing can include descriptive within it.
Here are examples of descriptive writing:
Journaling or Diaries
Persuasive Writing Style Examples:
Remember when you had to write a “persuasive” essay in school in order to learn how to make an argument? That’s what persuasive writing is.
You want your readers to leave agreeing with you on some matter.
Here are examples of persuasive writing:
Letters of recommendation
Website sales copy
Letters of complaint
Narrative Writing Style Examples:
When you think of books, they’ll typically fall under this writing style. If you’re trying to discover your personal writing style, you’ll likely be writing in the narrative style.
This writing style is the type we’re really going to focus on in this next section all about how to develop your own writing style and find your natural flow as a writer.
How to Find Your Writing Style
I myself, like to write in two different styles to express who I am as a person and access my creativity. For these two styles, I actually own two separate blogs; one on travel parenting and one on my faith.
My travel/parenting blog allows me to express myself with humor. This allows parents to identify with me by seeing the lighter side of parenting. My faith blog is a more serious destination where readers can come to learn more about the bible.
I enjoy writing in both styles. The two blogs allow me to enjoy these writing styles without confusing my readers.
So how do you, as a writer, find your place in the writing world and develop a writing style that suits you?
Here a four ways that you can find and develop your own writing style:
#1 – Read a lot
Why is reading so important? Reading allows you to learn from other people’s knowledge and lets you immerse in their world. It allows you to develop your own writing style.
Reading other people’s work will influence your own writing. This is because we tend to write in a similar way to what we read on a regular basis.
If you aren’t currently reading every day I would encourage you to do so. Find something that interests you and start reading, whether it be in a book, via a website, or another place.
Make it a daily habit to spend at least half an hour devouring someone else’s work.
As you read more and more, your own style of writing will deepen. It will develop based on your own experiences and the influences you have had.
You can broaden your own horizons as an author by reading various styles of writing. Reading will show you new ways of wording sentences and creative ideas you hadn’t thought of.
#2 – Be honest to who you are
When you write, remember to stay true to who you are. Writing is an art-form that allows you to express yourself from within.
Trying to be someone you are not will hinder your writing journey, not help it.
When I say be honest with who you are, I mean staying true to yourself. This will include your own values, your beliefs, your feelings and who you are as a person.
Trying to write a comedic piece when you don’t usually use humor will be difficult and often not read well. This is because you may be forcing this writing and the piece will not flow.
When you write something that is not from who you are, it can confuse your reader. This is because it will be difficult to sustain your voice as a writer. When your style changes or doesn’t flow well, it makes it harder for the reader to identify who you are. As a result they may not want to read more of your work.
When you writes from within, the reader is able to see parts of who you are as a person and can get to know you better.
I read a book a while back on business growth. It was a good book and I learnt a lot from it. As a result I then followed the author and starting reading her other books. Shortly after this she changed styles. The trend at that time was beginning to bring in swear words to make someone seem ”kick ass”.
This author jumped on that trend and began swearing through all her books. I don’t mean one or two swear words dispersed throughout. One of her books had so many swear words in it that her book would have been several pages shorter if she had left them out.
This writer delighted in telling her readers that this particular book had only taken her four hours to write. The problem was you could tell that it didn’t have the flow or content of her other books.
It felt forced and more as if she created it to make money rather than give to the reader.
To me as a reader I felt like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t and I lost interest in her work and didn’t bother after that. It felt a bit sad because she had some good information to share but appeared to lose sight of who she was as a writer.
When you write from who you are you will not need to change your style part way through. Find your own style of writing and own it!
#3 – Write what comes with ease
Writing as part of who you are should come to you naturally and not feel weird or be a huge struggle. You may have times that you feel like you have writer’s block, or struggle to come up with what you want to say but this shouldn’t be the norm.
If you find that writing in general is difficult it could be for several reasons:
You have not created a writing habit to allow it to flow for you
You are lacking in inspiration for your topic
You are not writing in a style that is true to you
If you have created a proper writing habit and you are stuck, try getting inspiration. This could mean reading other forms of writing to refresh you or taking a break from writing. A half hour walk while you listen to music may be all it takes to put you back on track.
If you are still struggling, then chances are, you are not writing in a style that is congruent to who you are.
#4 – Express yourself naturally
I’m an extrovert and I thrive from the people in my life who I spend time with. As you can tell I love to use a conversational writing style when I put pen to paper.
For me it feels like I am able to share my thoughts and feelings with someone like I would if they were sitting next to me.
That style of writing comes naturally to me and flows easily.
When you write, choose a style that allows you to express yourself. That may be in expressing yourself through creative writing, allowing the poet in you to come alive or sharing your life experiences in a helpful how-to form.
Whatever it is, it should leave you feeling like you have shared what you want to. You should feel energized and excited about your work, not drained and struggling to create more.
Once you have found your style the only other thing you can do is write, write, and keep writing. The more you write, the easier it will come to you and the better you will become at expressing yourself through your words. You have a gift to write and you need to use it to share your message with the world.
Today plan your daily habit of reading and writing and watch your life grow and move you to the next level of your writing career.