Prologues

To write a prologue or not to write a prologue? That is the question, and it's one that's been frequenting message boards and twitter. I thought I might as well throw in my two cents about this somewhat controversial topic. 

The first, and most important, question to ask yourself is, what purpose does your prologue serve?

Prologues are generally used to introduce something important in the story that can't happen in any other way.

  • Is a prophecy told?

  • Does something happen in the past that's vital to the present?

  • Are there characters who need a brief introduction at the beginning so their presence makes sense later?

  • Are there Gods or Goddesses at work that demand their own part of the story lest they curse you with writer's block?     

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you might consider writing the prologue. 

However, if your prologue only serves to: 

  • introduce information that can easily be told through flashbacks or exposition (ie info dump),

  • create an entire world that you completely obliterate at the end of the prologue because you want to start your story with more action,

  • make the story seem more epic, 

  • prolong getting to the heart of the story, 

then maybe it isn't for you. 

Keep in mind that readers tend to decide if they're going to continue reading the book after the first chapter or the first few lines. You want to wow them. If you write a prologue that's long, dry, and unimportant to the rest of the story, you're going to lose your reader before they even reach the main plot line. It can also distract readers from your main story, leaving them to wonder why the prologue was put in place at all. 

On the other hand, prologues are great for pulling readers into your world. It stands alone and can be used in many different capacities. Say you write the majority of your story in one character's POV. Your prologue can serve to be another character's POV. If an ancestor plays a big role in your main character's life, the prologue might be the place to first introduce them. Is there an epic battle that takes place in the past that foreshadows the rest of your story? A prologue is a good place for it. 

Every book is different, and so while a prologue might work for one book, it may fail for another. You, as the writer, have to judge for yourself what your book needs. If you give your book to beta readers and they indicate that the prologue doesn't add anything, listen to them. If they say they feel like they're missing something at the beginning, then you may very well need to include a prologue. 

Prologues don't have to be long either. They could be as short as a few sentences, imparting vital information to the readers before they step into the main part of the story. The prologue could be several pages, perhaps reminding readers what happened in previous books if you're working on a series. Experiment with it. You might be surprised what you come up with. 

In the end, while prologues may have fallen out of favor, they're neither bad nor good. They exist for the sake of the book. If there's a purpose to it, then that's all that matters. 

Sequel Struggles

It hasn't even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I'm already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write. 

Nothing. 

Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.

Right now, I'm trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I'm so frustrated with the book.  I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I'm intimidated by book one! I've received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don't want to write a sequel that's subpar. Not only that, I'm not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they're making the story that much more detailed and difficult. 

Don't get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn't think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear. 

I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!

As I've worked on my sequel, I've learned a few things that I thought I'd share as well. If you have tips, let me know! 

  • Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don't have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair. 

  • Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers' attention as much as the first. 

  • Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn't really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I'd spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn't have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it'll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it. 

  • Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it's beneficial to both. 

  • Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it's completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It's better than keeping it all in. 

  • Remember First Drafts Suck: Don't get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later. 

Believe me when I say you're not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.

My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you're afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.

Write it.

You can do it! 

Pride

Today was a milestone in my life. I arrived home and found a package waiting for me in the mail. 

It was the proof of my book. 

Emotions flooded through me. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Pride. I've spent so many months writing, revising, and preparing this book for publication, I just didn't know how it would turn out. I could open the box and find a beauty or a beast. What if I hated it? What if it didn't live up to my expectations? What if I screwed up the formatting? What if...

I think the smile here says how I feel. 

thebook.JPG

This has been quite the journey, and though it's nowhere near over, getting this far has been an adventure in and of itself. I decided in June that I was going to publish The Purple District. I'd been posting it on Patreon for about 7 months at that point, and I realized that the book could actually go on the market.  I knew it would be a lot of work to edit, proofread, format, market, etc, but I didn't realize just how crazy things would get, and how fast that time would fly. Nor did I realize how it would impact me mentally. 

Most people don't know what goes on behind the scenes when an author creates a book. You see their marketing strategies and the final products, but not the struggles along the way, or the self-doubt. I pride myself on being a pretty honest and open person, and I'm not lying when I say that there were several times I wanted to quit the book. I cried, I screamed, I threw my hands up in the air and said, "why bother? It's never going to be good enough." I went through the typical thing all authors do; I thought my work was trash and didn't deserve to see the light of day. My editors and beta readers said otherwise, of course, and that gave me the courage to keep going. 

But deep down, there was another fear. For the first time I was going to put a big part of myself out there to be read, reviewed, judged, enjoyed, hated, whatever the feelings might be. Part of me didn't feel like I deserved the honor of having a published book. Part of me felt like I was ready to take on the responsibility. Today? I'm just proud to be able to hold the book in my hands and realize that made this. I didn't do it alone, of course, but I had the strength and courage to see the book through. 

It's a surreal feeling. I almost don't believe that I'm holding the book in my hands. Sure, there are flaws and there are things I need to fix, but I'm one step closer to being a published author. This opens the door to literary events, conventions, readings, and signings. I'm terrified to launch into this new world, but I crave it as well. Failure is always gnawing at the back of my mind. What if I mess up? What if I don't do enough? What if I just...fail? 

I guess in the end, it doesn't matter because look how far I've come. Even if people hate it or it doesn't sell well, I still did it. I still put in the time, effort, love, tears, and dedication to produce this piece of work, and that in itself is an accomplishment and something I should take pride in. 

I guess I want people to remember to take a moment and feel pride in themselves and their work. Whether you're just starting, you've created short stories, written full novels, or published your books, you're all authors. You all have dedication to the craft. Be proud of that. Look at your work and realize, "I did this." It doesn't matter how big or how small it is. You still created it. Hold on to that feeling so that you can go back to it when you have moments of self doubt. And remember, you're not alone. We all struggle with it and we all wonder, "Am I good enough?" 

I think you are. Keep writing, keep creating, and keep shining. Be proud of yourself, because I'm proud of you. 

And like I say on my dedication page, to anyone who feels alone or needs a community...welcome to the District. 

 

Marketing vs Writing Time

I think the favorite motto of a writer is, "I hate marketing my book." Most times when I ask someone about their marketing techniques, they talk about how much they despise it and would rather have someone else do it. Unfortunately, whether you're traditionally published or self-published, you will have to do a fair bit of marketing if you want your book to succeed. The question is, how much time do you put into marketing vs your writing? Obviously you won't have anything to market if you don't write! 

Here are a few tips and ideas I've learned about when to market vs when to write and how to divide your time. 

  • Feeling inspired? Put the marketing aside and get those words down on paper. Don't squander time if you're feeling creative. 

  • No Inclination to Write? Then focus on marketing. Sometimes putting together graphics or sending out tweets/building your reading and writing community can help you break out of that creative fog. 

  • Deadlines for Books: If you have short stories due for contests, or a book due for printing, put the marketing aside and focus on getting that done. You want to make sure you meet those deadlines so you can market it later. 

  • Deadlines for Interviews/Guest Spots: If a site or station is waiting on your interview or a guest blog, for example, then make that your priority. You might have to put your writing aside just to make sure you get that deadline done. Remember, this will give you traction and bring more people to your website. 

  • Long Break: Do you have a few hours during the day where you can sit and focus on your book? You might consider writing. While marketing can take hours to do, it's easier to get that done in shorter spurts of time than working on your novel. 

  • Short Break: Are you waiting at a doctor's appointment? Do you only have a few minutes to relax before a meeting? Spend that time marketing. Post a tweet. Share information about your book. Check your e-mail. It's easier to do that than to get writing done. 

  • Split time: Maybe you want to market and write in the same day. Create meetings for yourself. From 6-8, you'll work on writing. From 8-9, you'll work on marketing. Treat those like meetings that you can't miss. That means you can get both done! 

  • Author Events: When you have an author event coming up such as readings, signings, tours, you want to spend most of your time marketing. Share your event to the community you've built up. Focus your tweets and Instagram posts around what you'll be doing. At the same time, post pictures while you're at the events! Not only will you be preserving memories, you'll also be sharing your experiences with your readers. This is a time to focus on the marketing and getting to know the crowd, not the writing. 

  • Burnout: At some point you're going to burn out from writing or marketing. When one fails, turn to the other. Usually if I'm too tired to write, I can still market my stuff. I might engage in a twitter thread or post a couple of pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it doesn't take a lot of energy. Sometimes, trying to share yourself with the social world can be draining. When you feel worn out, settle in, turn off social media, and just focus on your book. And, if you hit a point that you can't do either, take a break. Allow yourself to breathe and come back to it another day. If you keep pushing yourself, you won't do well with either your marketing or writing. 

  • Scheduling: Each week, create a schedule for yourself. Decide what's most important (writing or marketing), and jot down the days you want to do one or the other, or both. Having this routine set up can make the whole process a lot easier and more friendly for yourself. Scheduling marketing posts is helpful too. You can take a day to schedule posts/blogs/interviews, and then while those launch, you can work on your writing. 

  • Check in with yourself: Check in frequently to see how you're feeling. If you're starting to feel too overwhelmed with writing or marketing, it may be time to switch up your schedule. You are in control. You have the power to do as much or as little as you want. Make sure you're being kind to yourself and taking it all one step at a time. 

  • Create Shortcuts: Find ways to get multiple kinds of marketing done at the same time so you have more time to write. For example, use hoot suite or another platform that allows you to schedule and set up multiple posts at once. The site posts for you while you write. Or, schedule a blog post on a Tuesday and have that be your "marketing piece" that you share that day. By 9am, you may be done with your marketing. While views are rolling in on your blog, you can go back to writing. 

A lot of this really depends on where you are mentally and what needs to get done. If you're itching to write, then write. If you're craving social media, focus on that. And if you find that you're struggling in one of those areas, then make sure you set up time that you can sit down and focus on publicizing or writing your work.  

It's likely authors hate marketing because either 1. they aren't sure how to do it productively, 2. they don't like stealing away from their writing time, 3. they don't like talking about themselves, 4. it's just not their forte. If any of this is true for you, you may want to look into finding someone who can market your work for you. That way you can spend more time writing. 

I hope this helps!

If you have any topics you'd like me to cover, please post them down below! 

Creating an Indiegogo Campaign For Your Novel

Over the past few months, I have been working with a couple authors to create an Indiegogo Campaign to help launch my book, The Purple Door District. As of October 15th, my campaign is live here and receiving some nice attention thus far. Some people have asked how I created my campaign and its purpose, so I thought I'd share some of that information with you. 

What is Indiegogo? 

Indiegogo is another kind of Kickstarter campaign that helps creative folks receive contributions to go towards the creation of a product. While Kickstarter tends to focus more on technological advances, Indiegogo is more author and liberal arts friendly. You can find many authors trying to promote their books and graphic novels on the site. Generally, people will run a campaign for 30 days in order to reach a set goal. Kickstarter is an all or nothing thing. If you raise the money, then you get it. If you don't meet your goal, you get nothing. Indiegogo offers that too, but it also provides a "flexible" goal. You can set your campaign for 30 or 60 days, and even if you don't reach your goal, you still get to keep whatever you made

Why not just do flexible goal then? Well, studies show that the urgency of trying to make a 30-day goal that's all or nothing actually encourages people to donate more and right on the spot. The disadvantage is, if you don't make it, you get nothing. Since I'm happy to accept whatever contributions people are willing to give, I've made mine flexible. 

What Are You Raising Money For? 

People usually raise money to help create/sell a particular product. In my case, I'm using my campaign to help me publish The Purple Door District. Indie publishing is not cheap. You basically wear the hat of the editor, publisher, marketer, distributor, etc. All of that money adds up, and sometimes you might not have quite enough in your bank account. I've personally enlisted artists, editors, proofreaders, and jewelers to help create swag for my book, causing my cost to go up. At the same time, though, this allows me to support other members of the literary community. So, in a sense, I'm raising money both for my book and for fellow creative minds.

[caption id="attachment_532" align="alignnone" width="3159"] Art of my main character Bianca by Oni Algarra on deviant art: https://www.deviantart.com/onialgarra[/caption]

Tips for Creating a Campaign

  • Know your product: You must have a solid product in mind that you're trying to raise money to create. Whether it's a book, a fidget cube, a graphic novel, make sure it's clear to your audience. 

  • Figure out your budget: You have to know how much to ask for when you set up your campaign. Go through every single thing you spend money on, (ie. printing, setting up the book, editor, proofreader, swag, etc). Don't leave anything out, and make sure you round up rather than down. It's better to ask for a little extra than not enough. Create a list with all of your expenses, and then be honest with the people contributing to you. Break down the costs on your Indiegogo page so people know what their money is going towards. It's better to open and honest. 

  • Create a Video: Indiegogo indicates that you're much more likely to receive donations if you have a video at the beginning of your campaign. This can just be you explaining your book, or perhaps presenting a book trailer. Be genuine in it and let people know just how much their help means to you. The more people know about the product, the more willing they may be to back it. 

  • Perks: Now, while some people may be willing to make a donation, others will want something in return. This is where perks come in. Similar to patreon, you create different tiers. If someone contributes a certain amount, they may get a shout out, or posters and stickers. The bigger the contribution, the larger the return. You must make certain that you can actually provide the perks to the contributor, however, and in a reasonable time. People feel more valued if you get the items to them in a timely fashion. They should also be of good quality. 

[caption id="attachment_533" align="alignnone" width="2988"] Samples of bookmark, sticker, mini poster, and necklace from one of my Perk packages. [/caption]

  • Publicize/Create a Street Team: The best way to get donations is by having a marketing plan. Create a street team of people who you know will be willing to share the link to your information. Set up days/times when you'll post about your campaign, and make sure it's to the right people. Know your audience and your readers. You don't want to post about urban fantasy material in a mystery group. Also, don't be obnoxious about it. While it's important to market, make sure you follow the rules of groups that you post it to, and don't invade someone's privacy (ie, PMing random people to beg them to donate to you). That's a great way to get blocked.

  • Be Responsive: When someone donates to you, let them know how much you appreciate it. They're taking their time and their hard-earned money to help you bring your project to life. The least you can do is thank them. Answer any questions they might have, and give frequent updates so people know how close you're getting to reaching the goal.

  • Pictures! Provide lots of pictures of your product. It lends agency to what you're doing, and it also helps people visualize exactly what they're going to get, or what you're trying to do. Pictures also make your campaign eye pleasing. People are more likely to donate if you can show them what you're making rather than describing it in a wall of text. 

These are just a few tips I've learned while creating my campaign. I have Brian K Morris and Brenna Deutchman to thank for helping me set this up. It's always good to have someone look over your campaign in case you're missing something before you make it live. I'm sure I'll have some failures and struggles along the way, so I'll post about those as well. 

If you have any questions about Indiegogo, or any topics you'd like me to cover, feel free to post them below! 

Happy writing!