Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

workshop notes: Back story by Diana Gabaldon November 30, 2018

The following notes were taken at Surrey International Writers’ Conference, October 21, 2012. (On Oct 23, 2012 I posted a blog that said I’d post notes ‘soon.’  Is six years later soon? lol)  

What to do with the Back story

Diana Gabaldon

SIWC 2012 Friday  

Backstory is what happened to your characters before they got to your front story.  Backstory still exists, the secret story you’re not telling, but you may give the reader a peek, but it’s every bit of a story.  How much are you going to let them see of the back story?.

Story doesn’t have to start when the character begins, it starts where the conflict starts.

How much does the author need to know vs how much the reader needs to know.  Some authors like to know everything, family trees, index cards, details  Myer Briggs

(Aside: Diana is INTJ/F (50 each end) on Myers Briggs)

What situation is your character in.  Remembering back to when she wrote Disney comics… In comic books, first page set up, big square shows main character and conflict.  4 small squares provide details, bottom of the page off on adventure.  Very straight-forward structure.  In novels, first page we need to know char/conflict.  Need to refer to your back story that explains how he does what he does, pick and choose where things are, when they go off on the story adventure.

Motivation: Entire arcs depends on the motivation, get out, get in deeper.  Want to give the story shape.  Back story explains motivation.  It helps to understand the psychology of the character

Diana starts writing and discovers it as she goes along.  The story evolved as the characters did over the years.  Logistically, something happened, use something else if you’ve mentioned previously.  You don’t need to know everything.  You just need to know them by the end! J It’s for you as an author to burnish and polish them to know.  Motherlode of info to mine out as you need it.  Characters detailed resume and psych profile, actual personality and speech is what lets them do the job.

Show vs tell.  Character needs to speak for himself without telling everything.

What does the reader need to know, don’t tell anything until they need to know it.  Gloat over your secret.  (Know the 5W+H)

Who’s central?  Where and what is he doing?  When may/not be important (Once upon a time there was a woodcutter who lived in a forest.  One day…)

Backstory IS the story in a mystery- historical novels, Josephine Hay Daughter of Time Richard 3,  thrillers and murder mysteries, what led to the moment of violence?  The identity novel- adopted.

19th c they spread out the story longer picturesque novel- it’s out of date- no patience these days, you have start with the excitement.  Unless you’re writing in a deliberately antiquated voice.  Follow the action in both front and back story.

Modern version modified authorial intrusion.  Old fashioned, Narrator unobtrusively adds.

(she tells the marijuana with grandma in the hospital story…lol)

When Lord John talks it’s normal, but the modern reader needs a little more info to understand how it was then.  (“of course there would be no rule of order” Author must  sneak up behind the character and whisper over his shoulder)

Reminding people of the Jacquard effect : Same colour, so it’s very subtle, rich look.  In text , weave back into the front.

e.g.Percy blurp from MOBY daily line last week. (Can’t find a reference to Percy Oct 2012 daily lines. Perhaps this from ECHO?) https://www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/an-echo-in-the-bone/excerpt-5-an-echo-in-the-bone-sometimes-theyre-really-dead-lord-john-grey/

or tell it to another character, because the character needs the info.  You have to have a reason for telling that char what happened in the past.

Rachel and Ian walking to Valley Forge (Diana doing Scottish accent. HA!)   Ian having been married before/ not asking Rachel to marry him when he thought  Wolf eyes over her knee, Rollo making his allegiance clear…  Sneaking insertion of back story of Ian joining the Mohawk and marrying Emily  “Oh Ian, I do love thee”  (See end of notes for section*)

You have high tension dialogue going on, keep sense of the relationship, following the importance of the book.  The front story is clearly more important than the backstory, but response reveals current info.

.

Question time at end of workshop:

Is your throat okay? I just naturally sound hoarse, but it’s better when I have some water

Should we have prologues? Prologue some people skip the prologue, but those are probably the same people who skip to the back of the book, and we don’t talk about those people.

Sometimes the Prologue can be used as hook if first chapter is slow.

For Diana, the prologue is the thematic statement. It reveals the “Voice of the book”.

Do you plan the arc of the conversation?  No

I ask, 😊 “Were the short stories and the Lord John books back story before they became stories on their own?”

Not really, Lord Johns fill in gaps, but I didn’t know there was gap.  I wrote Scottish Prisoner little gap  time. Check the timetable of history, oh. Battle of Quebec, I’ll send him there.

WW2 buff told her a Spitfire couldn’t have travelled over the channel, so she says “I bet I can work out a way that this is true…” and so Wind of All Hallows.  Didn’t know Roger’s parents’ story, but knew they had an interesting story.

How did a story as long as Outlander get accepted?! Outlander 304,000 words shortest of the series.  It was far too long to be accepted at the time, but she was sneaky and hid the length.  One way she got away with it

Deception: Husband was a programmer, back then publishers didn’t use computers. Outlander ms was all in written Courier 10, normal set ms Times Roman 12, looks 25% shorter than it was, played with margins .9”  When finalized with traditional sizes the typesetter nearly had heart attack, but it was too late. 😊

How to research- university libraries, research closest to hand and follow the thread (who said what info about what interesting thing, what resources did he use).  Sometimes you just can’t find, and that’s lucky because then you can just make it up. 😊

How do you start? She starts writing each day with a kernel, something concrete- euphonious, where is the light, what’s happening?  She thinks back and forth around the kernel,  things are floating around in your head, bits start sticking together, after a couple years it makes sense

Someone asks about the duality of having a science PhD and writing: Art and science are both the same thing, the ability to find patterns.  Devise hypothesis- is the pattern real- artist embodies in other way of showing, Scientist test purpose observation.  For a writer the hypothesis is the novel and research is peoples’ response.  Predict what happened in the gap.  Historical serendipity- imagine something that later turns out to be true- if you really embody it well.

How long did it take to write? It took 18 mos to write Outlander.  Scene polished as you go, so later revision basically unnecessary- just tweeks.

*Here is part of the daily line chunk that was read as example earlier to show how background information is given, but it weaves in with current story:

“Perhaps,” Rachel said, and swallowed, pushing him away with one hand flat on his chest, “perhaps thee should finish telling me about not being married, before we go further? Who was thy—thy wife—and what happened to her?”

He let go of her reluctantly, but would not surrender her hand. It felt like a small live thing, warm in his.

“Her name is Wakyo’teyehsnohnsa,” he said, and felt the accustomed inner shift at the speaking of it, as though the line between his Mohawk self and his white self had momentarily disappeared, leaving him awkwardly suspended somewhere in between. “It means Works with her Hands.” He cleared his throat. “I called her Emily. Most of the time.”

Rachel’s small, smooth hand jerked in his.

“Is?” she said, blinking. “Thee said _is_? Thy wife is _alive_?”

“She was a year ago,” he said, and with an effort, didn’t cling to her hand, but let her take it back. She folded her hands in her lap, fixed her eyes on him and swallowed; he saw her throat move.

“All right,” she said, with no more than a faint tremor in her voice. “Tell me about her.”

He took another deep breath, trying to think how to do that, but then abandoned the effort and spoke simply.

“D’ye truly want to know that, Rachel? Or do ye only want to ken whether I loved her—or whether I love her now?”

“Start there,” she said, lifting one brow. “_Does_ thee love her?”

(selection (c) Diana Gabaldon Written in My Own Heart’s Blood)

 

quote- Diana Gabaldon’s advice to aspiring writers January 22, 2014

DianaBallerinaquote

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On Twitter yesterday, a young fan asked Diana if she had any advice for aspiring writers who felt completely inadequate.  This was Diana’s response.  I plan to frame it and post it all over my class room.  You don’t get better at ANYTHING unless you practise.   Dedication will pay off in the long run, as long as you work at it, and endeavour to keep improving.  Diana was brilliantly concise.  (Being a ballerina drop out, I can vouch for the accuracy, too!  I never got on my toes.) 😉

 

found poem- chapter titles from MOBY by Diana Gabaldon December 12, 2013

Diana Gabaldon just posted the Chapter 82  to 94 titles for her next book in the Outlander series, entitled Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOH-B, aka MOBY)  Those chapter titles were mixed to create this ‘found poem.’  Words in bold are Diana’s titles.  Regular print and punctuation are mine.  The fun with found poetry, is that one often senses something profound hovering just below understanding.  Can you find a message here?

.

Keeping Score:

    One Day Cock of the Walk—Next Day, A Feather Duster

but

I Will Not Have Thee Be Alone

on the    

Long Road Home

Through

    Sundown

         Nightfall

            Moonrise or

                The Sense of the Meeting

                    In Which Rosy-Fingered Dawn Shows Up Mob-Handed.

A Whiff of Roquefort

in

The House on Chestnut Street

reveals that

It’s a Wise Child Who Knows His Father

Oh yes, for

Even People Who Want to Go to Heaven Don’t Want to Die to Get There.

 

quote- Diana Gabaldon on writing August 13, 2013

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Quotations,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:10 pm
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Today (August 13, 2013) on Diana Gabaldon’s Facebook page, someone asked Diana whether she finds writing easy or difficult.  She replied,

.

 Well, some days it flows and that’s great;

other days it’s like shoveling rocks uphill.

With your nose.

If you’re a writer, on your project today, do you feel like you’re shoveling rocks uphill with your nose, or does it flow?  Tell us what you’re working on!

 

living a dream with Diana Gabaldon July 12, 2013

Sam Heughan Headshot - P 2013

Sam Heughan is already charming Outlander fans and schmoozing with them via Twitter. Things are only going to get better from here for this youthful tri-athlete actor!

For the last week, I have had the privilege of being a fly on the wall as an author has a dream come true.  The Starz network signed Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series last spring, and has finally begun casting.  This week her lead character, Jamie Fraser, was cast, and the role went to Scots actor Sam Heughan.

With typical enthusiasm Diana shared her excitement  over his audition tape with her Facebook followers:

She observed how she started watching the audition tape, “and five seconds later, Sam Heughan’s GONE, and so am I.  It’s Jamie Fraser, right there in front of me, moving, talking.  One of the biggest thrills ever.”

Talk about understatement!

Of course, not everyone is able to visualize Diana’s quite explicit descriptions of what Jamie looked like at age 22 in the first Outlander book, and those people leapt up complaining about Sam’s physique, his hair, etc.  Diana firmly and unequivocally put them in their place.  (A hilarious blog about the whole storm  on Thatsnormal.com if you want the details)

Meanwhile, Diana took to Twitter and started messaging Sam Heughan (like many in the Outlander world!) Sam is embracing the enthusiasm of his army of new fans and he and Diana are carrying on a public flirtation for the whole world to see.

I am so thrilled for her.  I suppose this is how Stephenie Meyer felt when Rob Pattison was cast to become Edward in the Twilight movies.  Bad makeup and a low budget probably couldn’t kill her buzz either.  I’m sure when Charlaine Harris first saw Anna Pasquin bring Sookie Stackhouse to life she was equally thrilled (Sookie be damned, how about the perfect choice of Joe Manganiello to be  Alcide Herveault?! Be still my heart!).  Both Twilight and the Sookie Stackhouse series took some serious deviations from the original plots.  No matter.  How amazing must have been those first halcyon days when the incarnate word was made flesh!

Starz has a budget and a social media savvy author who is sharing her excitement with a legion of fans.  The buzz is amazing.  On one hand, I feel very sorry for all the companies over the years that optioned the rights to make a movie or TV series out of this story and then had them lapse before funding could be put together.  Foolish money men.  You will see what you missed!  On the other hand, I think Tall Ship Productions and Ron Moore are going to do Diana’s work proud.  They know very well that rabid fans are going to be unforgiving if they screw up Diana’s story!

The absolutely best part of this, what has me grinning constantly and bouncing around my house, has been the fun of watching Diana in the absolutely giddy excitement of seeing her character come to life.  I can hardly wait until she gets to go on set and meet all the cast!

Some day, perhaps, I’ll get to see my Grace, Ben, Marco, and Alex become flesh.  In the meantime, I’m living vicariously through Diana, and I’m enjoying every minute!

Diana on Sams audition

 

sensory sex writing: tips from Diana Gabaldon May 18, 2013

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:22 pm
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Diana Gabaldon posted on Facebook today that she’s writing an ebook about writing sex scenes.  As an example, she posted a selection that appeared to contain most of the “How to Write Sex Scenes” article she wrote for Chatelaine that she has posted on her website .  If the title of this post drew you here, and you just want to hear how to write sex scenes, head right to that article.

Her  basic premise is that sex scenes are about emotional connectiveness, not the sexual act, so a sex scene isn’t about the sex, it’s about something else, and there are ways to amp up the emotional quotient of a scene to show that.  She advocates the Rule of Three: include three senses in the descriptions and the scene will be rich and evocative.

In the ensuing comments, Diana made some interesting observations that I’ve been pondering.  Teacher Patricia Davis said she coaches her students to follow the methods Diana espouses and Diana responded,

Diana on writing emotion

 “the key to writing strong emotion is restraint.  You actually don’t write “about” emotion, you just show it happening.  You don’t want to get between the reader and the emotion, is what it comes down to, so the writing can’t show.”

It’s the old adage about showing not telling.  Show the emotion, don’t tell about it, but don’t show it in such a way that the writing is apparent.  Like cameras and microphones appearing  in the frame in your t.v. shows, if the writing technique is obvious, it kills the magic of the illusion.

I have to confess, the more workshops I take on writing, and the more authors I interact with, the pickier I become as a reader.  I know what should be done and whether I manage to do it in my own work (fingers crossed!) I want excellence in what I read now.  Like an amateur magician, I’m harder to fool and less tolerant of incompetence.

There are tricks and tips out there like the Rule of 3 that she outlines in the article.  Writing isn’t magic.  You don’t put things on the page and have them perfect immediately.  Writing is a craft, and you must practise it in order to be good at it.  To a compliment about her writing and observations by Magsasakang Pinoy, who said if he wrote, he’d follow her suggestions, she responded,

Diana on writing

“There are really two parts to writing fiction: finding the story, and then getting it from your head onto the page, in such as  way that it arrives more or less intact in the reader’s head <g>  I don’t know that you can teach anyone how to tell stories, but you can certainly teach them the craft of putting words on a page.”

It’s a little like Oz requesting we “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”  But even if we know ‘how’ we can still be manipulated by a master hand wielding the craft to create the magic.   A weak writer will have us stalking up to pull back the curtain and shout, “Ah ha!  I knew it!” but a strong writer will leave us happily suspending our disbelief as the magic unfolds.  When the scene is over we blink happily back to real life, and savour the mastery we’ve just experienced, even more impacted than the non-writer reader, because writers know just how skillfully we’ve been manipulated (and we LOVE it when it happens!).

We are so lucky to live in a time when writers can use social media to interact with their readers, and when it is so easy to give and to receive coaching and encouragement!  I am thankful and awed on a daily basis.

(Thanks for staying with me.  Now go read Diana’s article if you haven’t already, and I’ll get back to editing Grace Awakening Myth.  I need to use that Rule of Three in a few places!).  🙂

 

 

Diana Gabaldon said to me… October 20, 2012

The green shoulder is mine. I’m cropped out because I look like a troll in this shot! lol Diana does not seem to be able to take a bad photo! Check out her funky turquoise nails!

Today I had a blue pencil appointment with Diana Gabaldon at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.  A blue pencil is 15 minutes of time in front of a professional author, who reads a very short selection of your work, and provides some general feedback.

I knew I’d be completely starstruck, so I asked her a month ago via Facebook if it’d be okay if I recorded the conversation, and she was fine with that.

I arrived into the empty seat in front of her desk in a flurry because I’d been in a line and lost track of the time, so I was nearly late for my appointment (and we’re not going to even discuss what a trauma that would have been after counting down, sometimes by the hour, for 135 days!).  I pulled out my scene, which is a very early, poorly cobbled together start to Grace Beguiling, which is/will be a historical/fantasy novel set in 14th century France.  The scene is 6 pages, which is way too long for a blue pencil, so I’d highlighted parts I particularly wanted her feedback on.  She just smiled, said that she was a fast reader, and zipped through the whole thing, laughing out loud in places, and making corrections of typos.  It is very cool to have your favourite author laughing out loud while reading your writing.  It’s a little embarrassing to have your favourite author correcting your typos.

When she was finished reading, I turned my iPhone’s memo recorder on and recorded her observations, suggestions, and reminders.

The part I most wanted to know about (and had spent months researching) she dismissed with a wave as, “Fine.”  We had some discussion about language choice in historical work and development and structuring of a ‘very beginning’ where there needs to be some action to grab the reader and the story must be established right away.  I am so glad I have that recording to remind me of my focus.  Grace Beguiling offers a number of stylistic challenges, and she’s helped me think about how I’m going to solve them.  There was nothing earth shattering, just common sense reiteration of basic principles.  It’s good to hear those words from someone whose knowledge you trust implicitly.  “Remember that…”  Oh right.  I know that.

Do it.

I wish the piece I’d brought wasn’t quite so rough, but it was a worthwhile endeavour.  One quote is going to be artistically rendered and put above my writing desk.

My favourite author, Diana Gabaldon said to me, “You know how to tell a story.”  That will keep me inspired for a very long time.

 

vocabulary lessons with Diana Gabaldon June 3, 2012

I am an avid reader and an English teacher, so I have a pretty good vocabulary.  However, reading Diana Gabaldon has introduced me to many new words.  This is an ongoing effort to identify words I discovered through her books.  I am noting them as I re-read or as Diana posts Daily Lines of the latest book in progress.  Feel free to add your own additions in the comments!

OUBLIETTE. (Voyager, used metaphorically) a top loading dungeon (a.k.a. a thieves’ hole).  I find it amusing that this word wasn’t used while Claire was actually inside the thieves’ hole in Cranesmuir which is arguably a real oubliette.  Jamie uses the word to refer to being below deck on a ship.  It shows up again in Drums of Autumn, and this time young William is in an ‘oubliette.’  In that instance, it’s particularly funny, because William has, in fact, fallen into the privy.  Note the French root : Oublier (to forget).  As in, they’ll toss you in the dungeon and forget about you…  Luckily, no one forgets William in the privy hole.

 AVUNCULAR. (Drums of Autumn, the postman winks avuncularly) uncle-like. Ian uses the noun form Avunculus when writing to Jamie in Latin. Something like,  “Ian salutas Avunculus Jacobus.”  (I’ll correct that when I come across it during the re-read). s Avunculus Jacobus meaning Uncle James, of course.

ALACRITY (throughout the series).  Claire (and others) frequently do things eagerly or in cheerful readiness, i.e.  ‘with alacrity.’  I suspect this one of DG’s favourite words, actually.  Whenever Davina Porter says it in my audio books, I always grin and repeat solemnly, “with alacrity!” 🙂  When we hosted Diana here at our writers’ conference I gave her a dish towel I’d hand embroidered with “Do it with alacrity!” as a joke.  🙂

SMOOR is always used in Outlander  in the sense of  ‘to smoor the fire.’  It means ‘to smother’ in Scots.  One smothers the fire so it continues to burn slowly throughout the night.   There’s an interesting article about historical usage on the Scots Language Centre website.  Click to listen to it said, the ‘oooo’ is long and the /r/ rolls.  A lovely word spoken!  Smoor can be used to mean killing a person by depriving them of air or to mean snow covering something.  My favorite use is from that link, quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, (Merry Men 1887)  “a mune smoored wi’ mist.”  Isn’t that a romantic image for a moon being smothered by fog!

FRESHET (from Drums of Autumn).  Claire sees  freshets when she gets stranded between the Muellers and Frasers’ Ridge.  It’s a sudden overflowing of a stream due to heavy rains or rapid melting.

BATHYSPHERE.  I kid you not.  This one comes from a daily lines posting (Jun 6, 2012) of book 8 in the series  called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOBY).  A bathysphere is a spherical chamber for deep diving.  Claire leaves a tense situation “breathing as if I’d just escaped from a bathysphere.”  This might just be my favourite Gabaldon word yet.

EXCRESCENCE- Claire uses it to describe the mob cap she’s been given by Granny Bacon in The Fiery Cross.  An excrescence is an outgrowth that’s the result of disease or abnormality, or an unattractive or superfluous addition.   I confess, this is a much milder definition than the one I had presumed.

DISQUISITION- This one came from a Facebook posting from Diana, but it’s also a humorous  article on her blog about “Butt-cooties.”  Disquisition is just a long word for ‘essay.’  As an English teacher, I will definitely be able to stick this one into my every day vocabulary!

INIMICAL- From Echo in the Bone.  It means tending to harm.  There was a strange sense of… “something waiting among the trees, not inimical, but not welcoming either.”

Click here to read a blog about CAMSTAIRY COCCYGODYNIANS.  Those are two of my favourite Gabaldon vocabulary words.  They’re from Drums of Autumn.

ABSQUATULATE- 29-01-13 Diana posted a Daily Line from MOBY (aka Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) with the following hashtag: #absquatulatemeansjustwhatyouthinkitdoes  The context is “He and Fraser had absquatulated onto the roof and down a drain-pipe, leaving William, clearly reeling with the shock of revelation, alone in the upstairs hallway.”  This word makes me laugh and shake my head.  It means to leave quickly.  To be honest, I was imagining from the context that it meant climb or clamber.  So, Diana, you were wrong.  It doesn’t mean just what I thought it did!

OLEAGINOUS- 04-04-2014 Diana posted a daily line from MOBY that said the surface of the butter was oleaginous.  i.e. greasy.  I like that this word can also mean obsequious.  I would have thought that was a satisfying enough option, but oleaginous is just so much better.  The butter was literally oleaginous, unlike pandering underlings.  Someday I’m using this word in a story. 🙂

SOUGH 14-07-2016 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.”  Sough means moaning, rustling, or murmuring sound.  It rhymes with ‘cough.’

BEDIZENED 08-06-2017 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE):“For Angelina, unable or unwilling to bend her bedizened head enough to look down, was about to collide with the little platform on which the sitter’s chair was perched.”  Bedizened means dressed up or decorated gaudily.  Sounds like a lot of grad hair do’s we see this time of year.

FROWARD 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this is someone who is contrary and difficult to deal with.

CONTUMELIOUS 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this refers to someone’s behaviour as being insulting and objectionable.

AMBSACE 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): 

“Men don’t like to share a woman. Unless it’s an ambsace.”
“An ambsace?” I was beginning to wonder how I might extricate myself from this conversation with any sort of dignity. I was also beginning to feel rather alarmed.
“That’s just what Madge called it. When two men want to do things to a girl at the same time. It costs more than it would to have two girls, because they often damage her. Mostly just bruises,” she added fairly. “But still.”

By definition, ambsace is the ‘lowest roll in a game of dice: 2 ones’.  See above for the vernacular meaning in the 1700s!

 

 

Writing- Hybrid Publishing August 18, 2020

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:23 pm
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When most people think of publishing they think of two options:
1. traditional publication by either a large publishing house or a small press. In this method a publisher purchases publication rights, edits, designs a cover, and markets the book. Large houses offer advances. Small presses rarely do.
2. self-publishing . The author pays for editing, covers, and marketing themselves. Usually they contract individuals for each of these tasks. (There are self-publishing companies like Lulu or Bookbaby that you can pay to do everything in a package deal, but I’ve yet to meet any successful professional who has used them more than once. They tend to be expensive for what they offer. They’re fine if you are only going to write one family history book to sell to your relatives. Otherwise, there are better options).

What is hybrid publishing?
Hybrid authors are BOTH traditionally published AND self-published.

Why would you do it?
Traditional publishers offer a sense of legitimacy, and in theory, a marketing machine. However, with millions of books submitted to publishers each year, only a handful are going to meet the specific niches a publishing house feels are viable investments. Your traditional publisher may not be interested in all the books you’ve written. Rather than sitting on those works, you can release them yourself. Because you don’t have the tight margins those publishing houses have, you don’t have to sell as many books to make it worthwhile.

Self-publishers earn significantly more per book (30-70% retail) that those who are traditionally published (10-15%). Those who master marketing can do very well.

Authors own their name and their brand. They don’t have to be stuck in only one model to sell their books.

Examples of hybrid publishing:

Contract jurisdiction:
Your publisher may be contracted to release your book in the US. You retain rights for the rest of the world. You will have to get a different cover and a new ISBN, but then you can release your book everywhere outside your traditional publisher’s jurisdiction. Robert Sawyer and C. C. Humphreys are authors I know who do this.

Genre:
You may be well known for one genre and traditionally publish in that genre, but if you’d like to branch out and try something different, your publisher may not be interested. Eileen Cook is a traditionally published YA author, but she writes non-fiction writing guides which she self-publishes. Craig di Louie is a traditionally published horror writer who self-publishes his World War II historical fiction.

Backlist:
Publication contracts are dated. A publisher has publication rights for a certain amount of time. When the contract runs out, the rights revert to the author. The author can then self-publish these pieces from their backlist (i.e. previously published works). For example, Diana Gabaldon writes short pieces for anthologies or magazines. When the rights revert, she self-publishes them as ebooks.

Format:
You may choose in your contract not to give all rights to the publisher. For example, Jonas Saul’s Sarah Roberts print books (paper back or hard cover) are traditionally published; however, Jonas retained the ebook rights and self-publishes the ebooks.

Flexibility is the key to success. Today’s writers are learning that it is unwise to put all their eggs in one basket. Hybrid publishing gives them the opportunity to have a variety of income streams.

All the authors I know who are hybrid publishing tell me they’re delighted to have more control over their income.







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writing- 5 escapes from Writers’ Block November 18, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:15 pm
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Diana Gabaldon once told us that she doesn’t believe in Writer’s Block; she thinks it’s more about Writer’s Inertia.

i.e.

An object (writer) at rest remains at rest.

An object (writer) in motion (writing) remains moving (writing).

So what is the solution when you are writing and come up against a brick wall?  Just because it feels like a block, doesn’t mean it is.  You may need to give that project a rest from your conscious mind and let your subconscious work things out.  To do that, you may need to distract your conscious mind a bit.  You may not need to keep moving forward, so long as you keep moving.

Don’t fret about it or dig yourself into a quicksand state of mind when you’re really just walking on the beach.  Yeah, it may be a bit of a workout, but it’s not killing you.

Here are 5 suggestions to deal with Writers’ Block:

1. Write something else.

Stuck with your novel?  Write a short story, maybe in your novel world, maybe something completely different.  Write a poem.  Write an article.  Writing is writing.  You’re still making progress even if it’s not on your main project.  If you step away, eventually you’ll see something from a distance that you missed while you were too close.

2. Put the problem that’s stymied you into your subconscious.

Before you go to bed, think about the issue you’re struggling to resolve.  Consider each character and what the problem is, and often in the morning you will wake up with a solution.

3. Just write ANYTHING about those characters.

Ignore the main project and just play with your characters.  Conduct an interview with your protagonist, your antagonist, a minor character or two.  Write a letter to their grandmother, their fourth grade teacher, the kindergarten best friend, etc as a way into their psyche.  Bonus!  These sorts of things are awesome bonus material for your newsletter subscribers!

4. Pick up a Writing Thesaurus

These amazing resources by Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi are fantastic.  Everything is at your fingertips!  Go through the thesaurus, noting character traits that are relevant to the character you’re dealing with and consider how the traits could impact characters’ choices. (I use Emotional Wound Thesaurus. Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition. Negative Trait Thesaurus. Positive Trait Thesaurus) These seem to always give me lots of ideas to resolve whatever stalls me.

5. Timed write

Set the timer, start writing and don’t pause or overthink.  Put words down for 10 minutes on anything relating to the characters, their living situation, their past choices, their wishes, their families, etc.  Write out possible endings.  Imagine a character telling their therapist about what’s frozen them and why they (their story) aren’t going forward.  Free write in stream of consciousness.  Usually something shakes loose and you’ll get some direction for your project. Oh- and if something comes to mind that you instantly think “NO! You can’t write THAT down!” that is ABSOLUTELY something you NEED to write down!  THAT thing is probably the plug causing all your trouble.  PULL THAT PLUG!!  Write it down!

I think a sense that you’re ‘blocked’ is often your brain falling for the ‘this isn’t good enough’ lie and getting all caught up in getting something ‘right’ on the page.  A first draft is about finishing, not about perfection, so tell that inner critic to shut up while you power through your crappy first draft, and promise to let the critic work out all the issues in the second draft, when you need a critical eye to get things cleaned up.  You can’t edit a blank page.  Even the worst writing can be fixed.  Get writing!

Sometimes it’s okay to realize you don’t know where the story goes next.  This is a common pantser problem! We write ourselves into corners and need some ingenuity to work our way out.  Sometimes we need to erase the trail and go back a scene or two to change direction.  Sometimes we just have to wait in our painted corner until the resolution appears (or the paint dries!).  In the meantime, keep writing.  When you’ve forgotten that troublesome piece, when you return to it, often the solution pops up as you re-read it!  Time is a cure.  Just work on something else while you let that project simmer.  Simmering isn’t a block.  Things taste better if they’ve simmered a while.

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Enough clichés for you in this?  🙂

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Go forth and write.  You’ve got this.

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PS. I’m an Amazon affiliate.

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