7/30/12

Traditional Publishing AND Self-Publishing with Joanna Penn


Today's post is by my publishing role model, someone I have the utmost respect for- Joanna Penn.


She has published a variety of both fiction and non-fiction books in addition to offering several multi-media products on her website involving all aspects of writing and publishing.


7/29/12

Six Questions with Kendall Grey

This series is going to typically be a Six Question Saturday post. But, I have a friend who has something really cool going on that I had to be a part of. 

Kendall Grey has published two books to date, with a third coming soon. The funny thing about Kendall is that she doesn't sell her books because she needs the money, but because she likes to share her stories. 


7/28/12

Six Questions with Tammara Webber

Welcome to my new Series, Six Questions! To kick it off, I'm pleased to present one of my newest favorite authors Tammara Webber. Tammara is author of the Between the Lines series and most recently Easy, which I devoured this past weekend!

Welcome to Finding Bliss, Tammara! And, I am looking forward to a bright future with you!

When you began writing, was it with the goal of someday publishing your books or just for a hobby?

I’ve always written – I can’t remember when the idea of publication entered into it, but it was probably in my late teens – the first time I began writing a novel. For years, I couldn’t vocalize my desire to be a published author to anyone beyond my very closest friends. Even then, it felt as sensible as saying, “I wanna be a ballerina!” It took me a while to build up enough confidence to admit to having a writing dream. Once you admit a dream like that, you admit the possibility of failing to reach it, and that’s terrifying. I never wrote a book as a hobby, even if I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it. In my heart, I wanted to see it published. Now, I look on the three (shelf novels) I didn’t publish as writing/storytelling practice.

Briefly describe the major things you've done to build buzz for your books... what worked for you and what didn't.

For the first book – not much, and nothing at all ahead of publication. I uploaded the book with the best (self-made) cover I could produce, and begged a few bloggers to review for me. Less than half of them agreed, and none posted reviews before the book came out. (I gift bloggers legit copies on Kindle or Nook – their choice.) For the second through fourth books – I put the cover and description out a couple of months before I published, and I posted “teaser” snippets once a week on either Facebook or my blog from that point until publication. Bloggers and Goodreads reviewers talking about your book ahead of time is great, but that generally requires a built audience. I’ve never paid for advertising – though a couple of the books were featured on Pixel of Ink without my foreknowledge (after they were out and doing fairly well), and I’m grateful to whomever made that decision – it definitely gave sales a bump for 2-3 days.
 

Did you begin your career by querying agents?
 

Yes. Unsuccessfully, obviously. ;)

How big of a role has branding played for you - did you have certain conscious steps you took to build an author brand?


I don’t even know what an “author brand” is, to be honest. Anything I did was unconsciously done (or consciously done and my brain is calling it something else).

What is the most important marketing tool you recommend for writers wanting to self-publish?


I think authors should rely on individual strengths rather than try to do everything gung-ho. I prefer Facebook, while some people have a great blog or love Twitter. I do all three – but I concentrate on the one I enjoy. Don’t advertise your book all the time! That just annoys people. Interact with readers and try to be as available as possible for questions (the busier your life, the less possible that is, of course). Book blogger reviews are awesome if you can get them. Read blogs/reviews and choose carefully. Write professional emails to the bloggers just like you’d write query letters to agent.


How long should an author, in your opinion, work on building a presence online before publishing?


When I published Between the Lines, I had a blog with only about thirty followers – and most of those were friends with blogs, not authors or YA readers. I think maybe three of them bought my first book, and at least one of those was a pity purchase! I didn’t have an “online presence.” I made a Facebook page and joined Twitter at some point in the month after I published BTL, (15 months ago). If you establish these things ahead of time in order to become familiar with how they work and begin to interact with readers, bloggers and other authors, that’s great. If you’re looking at a pre-publishing online presence as a marketing tool, I wouldn’t be able to advise on how to do it successfully, since I didn’t do it myself.

Fantastic! I love that Tammara says she doesn't even know what an author brand is. 

           

My major takeaway is: If your book is fantastic, it's a built-in platform for you. So get writing that incredible book!

What stuck out to you? Please let me know in the comment section!





7/26/12

Playing By the Rules with Ciara Ballintyne


Today's post is brought to you by fantasy author Ciara Ballintyne.  Ciara is a writer I discovered on Twitter, where she tweets out remarkable writing advice. 

She has a lovely, gripping writing style, which is showcased at her blog Flight of the Dragon.

7/25/12

Drawing Inspiration From Real Life with Toby Neal


One of the first books I bought to learn about self-publishing was a little .99 mini-book by Toby Neal titled  Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything


 Once I delved deeper into the subject, I saw Toby all over the Self-Publishing world doing guest posts and on Twitter. 
When an author has their hand in several things, you begin to recognize their name and picture. My respect for Toby grew as I began following her. Now, I've read her book, Blood Orchids and I am a full-fledged fan.  

I love this cycle: Recognition-->Respect-->Trust. I've seen it referred to as the ISYOT factor: I've Seen You Out There.
Some of the things we talked about:

Started writing at an early age- went to school for journalism/creative writing.

Got serious about writing when her kids were in high school.

Moved by a tragedy in her community where she was part of the Grief Response Unit.

Worked through her own grief by writing an anonymous blog about the death of two teen girls.

So inspired that she started a novel based on the tragedy, with her own twists.

Querying loads of agents, before signing with first agent.

Completely rewrote Blood Orchids at least once, meeting current editor during process.

Her agent retired before selling Blood Orchids to a publisher- prompting her to self-publish.

The amount of time and work involved in the self-publishing process.

How important it is to have a high-quality production team behind you.

Platform is essential for all authors self-published or traditional-published.

Her three part philosophy for authors: 
  • Producing Top Quality Work
  • Always Give Value For Your Readers
  • Pay It Forward


Blood Orchids and Torch Ginger, the first two books in the Lei Crime Series are both available now.




Tweet with Toby or visit her on her blog!


If you've learned anything in this interview, please share with your friends!

And, as always, I love your comments!

7/23/12

Effective Tweeting with Tonya Kappes


When I ask other writers what they do to market and promote their novels, I get the big ole eye roll!

But why?

Marketing and promoting has NEVER been easier! Easy? Can you stop with the eye roll already?

Let me take a moment to explain. Believe it or not, you have a PR personality (Check out my blog post to take the test and see what your PR personality is HERE.)

It doesn’t matter if you are on introvert or extrovert, the internet has made it easier than ever to market and promote. And the fastest way to reach your target audience and gain a loyal following among your peers and readers is effectively using Twitter.

Another eye roll?? I’m starting to get offended…

I know we are all writers and it’s hard for us to say anything in 140 characters. How do we effectively market in 140 characters?

I’m glad you asked.

The most important thing on TWITTER is the # (hashtag).

But you have to # effectively or you will never reach the target audience you want to reach.
There are certain hashtags I use to get to my target audience. For instance, when I want to tweet my blog, I hashtag my tweet with keywords that will help me reach blog readers- #reader #marketing #indieauthor #amwriting (url here) or use #amediting #writertip #promoting #writer.

These hashtags help me reach you, my target blog audience.

When I tweet my book, I use #mystery #ebook #2.99 #bestseller #womansleuth #beadedjewelry #streetteam. Those hashtags help me reach my target reading audience.

Here are some tips to help # your way to success:

1) Pick KEY hashtags. Like I said earlier, pick hashtags that are already out there. Don't make up your hashtag that NO ONE will see. If you aren't sure what hashtags to use, go to the search box on Twitter and start typing in key words that will help you find your target audience.

2) Keep your tweet short. Sometimes you can do too many hashtags and the reader gets lost in the tweet. Even though you are limited to 140 characters, that too can be too many sometimes. You have to pick out key words to get their attention.

Here are some popular hashtags for writers:

#amediting  posts from people who are editing
#amwriting  posts from people who are writing
#askagent  agent questions and answers
#author
#authors
#editing
#fictionfriday
#fridayflash  flash fiction on a Friday
#nanowrimo  national novel writing month
#novels
#novelists
#poem
#poet
#poets
#poetry
#pubtip  publication tips
#publishing
#scifi
#selfpublishing
#vss   very short story
#webfic  web fiction
#weblit   web literature
#wip   work in progress
#wordcount
#writegoal
#writequote
#writer
#writers
#writetip  writing advice
#writing
#writingtips  writing advice
#wrotetoday  

Some hashtags are specifically “chats” – which means they work in the same way as all tags, but are mainly used at certain agreed times :  

#journchat
#kidlitchat
#litchat
#scifichat
#scribechat
#storycraft
#writechat
#yalitchat   young adult literature chat  

Don’t just think about your tweets. You have to give back! 

Your likability factor is a key to tweeting.

If you only promote yourself, readers and your peers will see right through it. Make sure that you are giving back and retweeting your author friends.

AND connect with your readers! Since I write mystery and novels with jewelry beading themes, I make sure I go to those hashtag groups and interact with those tweepeople.

I have found some GREAT targeted bloggers in these groups. For example, my target audience is jewelry beaders for my novel CarpeBead ‘em. Through effective hashtags, I have found some great blogs that teach people how to make jewelry or blogs where they gather to talk about beading. I began to follow those blogs and comment. Once I became ingrained into their community, I asked if I could write a guest post about why I love beading and how I wrote a novel about it.

This is a great way to gain new readers and loyal followers on Twitter!

So get your tweet on and # effectively to reach your target audience.

Do you tweet effectively?






Tonya is an Amazon Movers and Shakers, and International bestselling author. She writes humorous cozy mystery and women’s fiction that involves quirky characters in quirky situations.
Splitsville.com, the first novel in the Olivia Davis Mystery Series, is a double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories.


Carpe Bead ‘em  is a finalist in Amazon’s eFestival of Words in the Women’s Fiction Category.

She travels to various writer's groups giving workshops on marketing and promoting no matter where you are in your career or what journey you take in publication. Tricked Out Toolbox~Marketing andPromoting Tools Every Writer Needs is a bestselling non-fiction novel where Tonya teaches writers how she made it to International bestselling status with her marketing plan.
Become a member of Tonya’s STREET TEAM! It’s a gathering place of readers who love Tonya Kappes novels and Tonya gives away monthly prizes! To sign up for Tonya’s STREET TEAM, newsletter, view book trailer, and upcoming news, check out Tonya’s website, Tonyakappes.blogspot.com.

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4423580.Tonya_Kappes

7/20/12

Workshopping 101 with Mel Jones Walsh



Today's post is by a friend I met in April during Robert Lee Brewer's
Platform Challenge. 

Mel is a seasoned writer and blogger. It seemed like the perfect fit when I learned she was going to a writing retreat this month- I knew my readers would love to learn about workshopping!



Workshopping is an integral part of the writing process-
a part often overlooked by novice writers. 

It’s the part seasoned writers often find most valuable. Hollywood has painted the picture of the lonely writer in his or her tower churning out masterpieces. 


But it doesn’t work that way. There is an ongoing, fairly substantial debate about whether or not Shakespeare wrote his plays. I’m in the camp that believes he did, but I think he workshopped…

Hey, Will, we go live tomorrow, what’cha got?

The girl is talking on the balcony, “Where could he be? Oh, I’m so lonely. What should I do?”

Ouch, not very catchy. How about, Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou, Romeo?

Yes, yes! That’s it!

Did that happen? I don’t know. But with the depth and breadth of his work, I assume so, because no one is that perfect a writer all the time. Writers need other writers. Tolkien workshopped with C. S. Lewis – makes ya think about Middle Earth and Narnia in a completely different way, doesn’t it?


I have been actively workshoping my writing since the early 80’s. When I can’t find a viable group, I create one. I am currently working with The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop, which I founded three years ago. We meet every two weeks and talk writing, we write, we critique. 

Recently, I organized a writing retreat; a wonderful trip to the mountains of Virginia with a group of (mostly) seasoned writers and workshoppers. People I had worked with in different places in my life. When Laura asked me to write an essay about the workshop experience, what better to use? It was going to be an amazing experience. Well, except that the weather didn’t cooperate—at all. We were without power and water, off and on, for three days. You should read that as no coffee or air conditioning. No working toilets. Not ideal conditions. After the first workshop session, I wondered how I would compose this essay at all.

As a seasoned workshopper, I know the rules. Two of us in the group facilitate workshops on a regular basis. We could do this.

But we couldn’t.

We assumed everyone was on the same page. We didn’t take into consideration, the weather, the Derecho, wildfires, emotional baggage and the prejudices each of us brought with us.

Without first discussing the appropriate protocols, we plowed into the first piece on the table. We made a lot of assumptions. Someone who was at a very vulnerable place in her life wrote the piece. And we hadn’t laid any groundwork. She exploded twice in the course of that one workshop. She felt violated and lashed out. The rest of us felt violated and retreated.

Lots of eggshells to walk on.

There are several approaches to workshopping and any group needs to decide which method they will use. And then the protocols need to be laid out at each meeting. The two primary methods I have been exposed to are the Iowa approach, and Amherst Writers and Artists philosophy, formalized by Pat Schneider.

Almost every writer has heard stories about writing workshops at Iowa State. It’s a negative approach. The first story I heard was about an instructor throwing a chair at someone. Really. It’s the slash-and-burn-you-suck-at-this-give it up approach. It’s the man-up approach. I’ve been in groups like that, briefly.

Amherst, on the other hand, presents the idea that we all have talent and the desire to write, that’s what brought us together. We find the positive in the text, what’s working and then discuss anything mitigating. The writer remains silent throughout this discussion. At the end, the writer has his or her say.

We weren’t quite Amherst, but not quite Iowa either. We vacillated.

The end result of our lack of definition was almost disastrous. 

People were attacked (beyond the scope of the writing on the table), egos were bruised, and friendships compromised. People lost sleep, thought about leaving. Cried. I thought, nope, I won’t be able to write that essay.

We didn’t workshop the next day. We were all nursing our hurt.

Three days later, we decided to try again.

We came together in the parlor. We discussed what was acceptable behavior, and what was not. Talking points:

¨      Each workshopped piece will have a facilitator – someone to direct the conversation and keep the group on task, and be aware of the writer.

¨      The writer will be silent. However, if the writer thinks we are beating a point to death, he or she should make the group aware.

¨      Readers/critiquers will not address questions to the writer, but rather have a group discussion about the work. Exceptions are made to this rule occasionally.

¨      Readers will not assume that the piece is about the writer, and will refer to “the narrator” or “the character” thus offering some distance between the writer and the work.

¨      We will discuss strengths first and then anything mitigating.

¨      We will refrain from personal attacks and remain focused on the words on the page.

One writer made the comment, “You don’t get to say stuff about my work, it’s mine.” I wasn’t sure how to interpret this statement, because that, for me, this the whole purpose of the workshop, to have people talk about my work, offer opinions and suggestions.

Successful workshops are based on both philosophy and group dynamic. Finding a group of writers, with whom you share common ground, and similar ideology is important. Some groups are genre based, and that’s good for some groups. Some people need that. For me, diversity in a group is important. Having poets and fiction writers read my nonfiction essays gives me a completely different perspective. It gives me the ability to see my work in a way I never would have on my own. And that’s a good thing.

Probably the most important thing to remember about workshop groups is that the other writers are really there for you. It’s a selfish act. My writing needs this, my creativity needs this connection. I need this and it is up to me to find what I need from the group, and take it.

Workshopping is one of the most vital steps in the writing process (draft, workshop, rewrite, submit, rejection, workshop, draft—it’s a cycle), so if you’re not in a group, log on to Meet-up and find a group. 

Be sure to ask a lot of questions. Try several groups until you find a group that works for you. If you find yourself walking on eggshells, walk away. Or, the group might be too touchy-feely for you, again- walk away.


7/18/12

Learning the Ropes with Ashley Barron


Ashley Barron was one of the first people I followed on Twitter, and to this day I continue to learn so much from her.




Her blog is a favorite among self-publishers, and she really lays out the steps for blogging (successfully) as she's learned through the past 12 months.


In May she published her first full-length novel, Ava.

 Some of the things we talked about:

Always been a voracious reader, three years ago the story of Ava came to her.
 

Put writing aside and took a year to learn the business of publishing and marketing.
 

Using Twitter as a marketing tool, tweeting blog posts and making friends.
 

Make your blog posts accessible to newcomers, different info is relevant at different times.
 

Publishing Ava through all e-retailers by the end of summer.
 

Using beta readers to find errors, lessons learned about editing.

Keeping the story arcs and character bios straight for a 26 book series


Changes to her marketing plan to include time to write & stay informed- Community News





Ava, the first book in the Priyas series, is now available on Amazon. Look for it soon on iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords.

Tweet with Ashley or if you haven't been to her blog, make sure to visit today and learn how she mastered blogging and social media for authors, you won't regret it! 

Like my interviews? Let me know in the comments and Please share with your friends on Twitter!




7/16/12

Your Online Presence with Take Two Publishing



My special guest bloggers are the ladies behind Take Two Publishing, Elizabeth Ku, and Courtney Coon





With the rise of digital publishing, so many of the traditional barriers to being a published
author have been removed. Anyone can self-publish their book, which means there are many more books out there to choose from. In fact, over one million books are published in the US every year! It’s not enough just to be published anymore. 
Now and in the future, the key will be to have the right team behind you to help make you and your book a success.

You can have a fabulous book, but if you don’t know how to promote your book and 
yourself, it will be difficult to get it into reader’s hands and eventually to the top of the bestseller list. Marketing is the key! Your marketing team could help with everything from cover design to creating your website to setting up digital ad campaigns.

Whatever the marketing team’s role is, you want to choose a team that will work with 
you and make you as successful as possible.
Even with such a crowded marketplace, it's possible for each author to create a unique brand.
The most important thing is to just be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not because you think that’s what will sell a book. Show people who you really are.

When you can connect with readers on a personal level, you’ll start developing fans 
that are really engaged with you and your brand.

Two Must Haves for Authors
Website

People will look for you online and you want them to be able to find you! Include a bio about yourself, news about your next book and a picture or two.

Social Media Presence

Not only do people expect to see a website, they want to be able to connect with you online, too. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are great places to start. But don’t just go set up a bunch of accounts and forget about them – it’s important to keep them up to date. Only start accounts that you plan to keep up with.


Take Two Publishing is an independent ebook publishing company of books that star an unforgettable female character. Co-founded by Elizabeth Ku and Courtney Coon who discovered the perfect way to combine their creative flair with their love of books. Both ladies are graduates of Marist College in New York and hold a degree in Marketing.


Elizabeth, who currently resides in Florham Park,NJ, reads each and every manuscript submitted to Take Two and places a sincere interest on personal contact with each author and submission. Currently living in Charlotte, NC, Courtney is dedicated to helping authors reach a wide audience through many types of social media platforms. 


7/12/12

Dialogue Tags

Have there been times where you read writing advice that you knew in your gut was just plain wrong? At least, wrong for you.

I once read an article about writing dialogue that, for the most part, was brilliant. Until I came to this piece of advice:

Don't use tags for your dialogue. Ever.

So, I decided to try a little exercise. Take an ordinary piece of dialogue and leave out any tags:


How was your day?

It was fine.

Did you see Lindsay?

No, why would I?

Now, let's take this same dialogue and put some context and tags in:


She smiled up at him. "How was your day?"

He kissed the tip of her nose. "It was fine," he said as he ran his hands up her arms.

She shivered with delight. "Did you see Lindsay?"

He chuckled as he bent down to kiss her jawline. "No," he whispered into her neck, "why would I?"

It might just be me, but that changes things, doesn't it? Okay, let's change things around and see what happens:


"How was your day?" She asked nervously, looking around to see if anyone was in earshot.

He sighed as he removed his jacket. "It was fine," he answered without meeting her eyes.

She bit her lip, trying to think of a way to frame her question. She took a deep breath, "Did you see Lindsay?"

His back was to her as he hung his jacket on the peg. She thought she noticed his back stiffen, but she couldn't be sure.

"No," he said slowly. "Why would I?"

I did this a few more times, but you get the idea.

I'm curious about what you think. Can you pull off dialogue with few or no tags?

For fun, take the original conversation I posted up top, and shake it up! 

In the comment section post a completely different scenario- male or female, lovers or friends- whatever... just show me what different tags do to this dialogue.



7/10/12

From Blog To Book with Maryanne Wells


You've made friends on Twitter, right? So you know what I mean when I say I'm so lucky to have met the lovely Maryanne Wells on my Twitter stream.



Maryanne and I recently got together for a chat on self-publishing her novel, Matriculated Death



Some of the things we talked about:

How she came up with the idea for Matriculated Death during law school 

Writing a blog-story for friends from law school

Using beta readers and a well-trusted friend for editing, and needing brutal honesty when editing

Marketing strategies and how they'll change between pre-publishing and post-publishing

Reasons for self-publishing, particularly freedom to release books on your own schedule

Why Twitter has been a pleasant surprise in her marketing plan

Putting pieces of ourselves into our fictional characters

Writing under a Pen Name




Matriculated Death, Book One of The Undead Bar Association, is available from Amazon in either e-format or paperback. It sounds like a fantastic romp with all the creatures of the night, and I can't wait to read it!



Make sure to visit Maryanne at www.maryannewells.com

or Twitter- @maryannewells


Or

Leave a Comment or Question for Maryanne Below!

7/9/12

Ten Tips for Writing an Author Bio with Lauren Clark


Happy Monday~ to brighten your day I'd like to present a post done by one of my favorite people ever- Lauren Clarke!



Lauren is the author of two novels, Dancing Naked in Dixie and Stay Tuned- smart, sassy fiction with a Southern twist!


I'll admit it--I'm a book cover junkie! I love an eye-catching concept, great colors, and crisp, bold graphics. A great cover will get me to pick up a novel...but then I have to read the summary...and check out the author bio!

Anytime I'm shopping in a bookstore, or checking out a novel online, you'll find me turning to a book's inside back flap (or clicking through the Kindle pages) and reading the paragraph below the author photo.

If you've ever tried to write a bio--your own included--you know that it's a challenging process! Here are my Top Ten Tips for making 'Bio Writing' a little easier and a lot more fun!


1. Read author bios from ten different books. Jot down what you like and don’t like.

2. Write out another list--this time, 20 to 30 things about you! What do you enjoy? What makes you interesting? Don’t leave anything out. Then, choose the best elements to include.

3. If you’re writing the bio for your first novel, it can be as short and sweet. Shoot for about 50 words or fewer.

4. Convey your personality and writing style. Don’t try too hard to be funny, but do include something that makes you seem like a real person. Do you cook? Love to hike? Stargaze?

5. Relate it to the genre in which you are writing--if you're writing a novel about a marathon runner--and you love to compete in 5Ks or just completed your first triathlon, mention it!

6. What gives you credibility? Are you a member of a professional organization? Have you published any articles? Written for a newspaper or magazine?

7. Hit the highlights. You don't need long lists of resumé information (education, job history).

8. What helps people connect with you? (Twitter handle, Facebook page, website, or blog)

9. Have at least one other person (who is not a relative or BFF) read and critique your bio.

10. Sleep on it. Have a different person read and critique your bio. Revise and update as needed!



What do you think? Share your best bio writing tip!






7/6/12

Getting Bendy with Hart Johnson



It's Friday, and that means we're talking about Writing. I am honored to present you with the talented and sweet Hart Johnson, whose novel The Azalea Assault was released under the pen name Alyse Carlson. Hart is serving up a wonderful post on the ever-intriguing art of The Plot Twist!




First, I want to thank Laura for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. When I asked if she had any requests on topics, she suggested I could talk about plot twists and I jumped at the chance. You see... I'm really twisted. But in addition to being twisted, I also LOVE twisty plots—those that turn back on themselves and surprise you, but that maybe you could have spotted earlier, or that make total sense once you have full information. These are NOT to be confused with the 'out of nowhere moments' that are just for shock value—that's cheating. Real life is allowed to do that to you, but not fiction. 

So how does one get bendy without cheating?

Relationship Maps

One of the things I like to do, and I definitely did it for The Azalea Assault, is to draw a diagram of how people are connected to each other—connections the reader isn't going to learn for a while, necessarily, but that as a writer, you can drop hints about (or at least not contradict) earlier in the story. 

This is CRITICAL for suspects (how are they connected to the victim and how are they connected to people our sleuth cares about (or the sleuth herself)—for maximum impact and tension). [just as a tattle on myself, in plotting, I decide SET-UP first, VICTIM 2nd and SUSPECTS 3rd—so these come early—they are primary building blocks] I figure each suspect should be connected to the victim and at least one character that is only one degree of separation from our sleuth so we have a reason to care or be suspicious—or at least have reasonable source for information about them. 

But to be connected, there needs to be some history. Maybe it is current history—simultaneous with the plot—or maybe it is history history. One of the reasons this is so important is because, while our sleuth will now and again question people she finds suspicious, most real suspects don't have a reason to be forthcoming—and if they lie, there needs to be a way to uncover that, eventually. Someone who knows the suspect (or sees them do something) can act as an informant (sometimes worried and protecting, sometimes suspicious and accusing).

Clues and Herrings

In addition to informants, there are honest to goodness clues—things found at the crime scene or on the suspect, or in the suspect's space that connect them to the victim or a reasonable motive [this is my 4th 'plotting' step—connect EVERY suspect to the victim in some way or other]. 

Some of these clues are really part of the mystery and the OTHERS are called red herrings—clues laid so the reader (and sleuth) is misled... This just makes for a story that keeps delighting and surprising. Think of the mystery shows you may watch (my contemporary favorite is Castle, though I've been watching since Murder, She Wrote or Hart to Hart and Magnum PI)--there are ALWAYS clues that lead to the wrong person in the mix. It just makes for better story-telling. It helps engage the reader/viewer—keep them guessing.

UN-Cluing... 

This is an important piece of solving the mystery—one-by-one each of the FALSE clues and suspects needs to be debunked, unveiled or... um... murdered... *cough* Yes... often there is a second death and typically it changes the landscape—either it is the prime suspect, or it is a person who really isn't CONNECTED to the prime suspect, so makes the sleuth rethink matters entirely.

Getting Caught

Another trick to really increasing the tension is to make our SLEUTH not particularly stealthy... When your sleuth gets caught snooping, she has to talk fast, and SOMETIMES somebody dangerous catches on to what she's up to, putting her in danger. I don't do that (only) to be rotten, but because it tightens the screws and makes the story have more tension. Somebody who is ALWAYS good at their job is fabulous and all, but not that interesting. Have you ever watched a no-hit baseball game? I by far prefer minor league baseball for the same reason—errors make it more interesting to watch.

Time-lining 

My final trick, and I do this in all my fiction, not just mystery, is timelining. Some writers can fly by the seat of their pants and still end up with a great story, but I don't believe in pants. They are binding and uncomfortable (and have allowed me to write myself into a corner on more than one occasion)--I write a timeline. And as I look at the main events that HAVE to happen to solve the mystery, I think about 'what is the most interesting way from A to B? Or... What might happen between A and B that will then pay off at E? And I add those little details to my timeline. I am not a true outliner. I'm a statistician by day and too much structure just makes my voice sound clinical, but knowing the details to hit before they come up again feels like I can then create a little treasure hunt for readers without having to plunk in all the hints on the rewrite, which can seem contrived. So there you have it... Bendy Plotting A-La-Tart



The Azalea Assault Cam Harris loves her job as public relations manager for the Roanoke Garden Society. It allows her to combine her three loves, spinning the press, showing off her favorite town, and promoting her favorite activity. She's just achieved a huge coup by enlisting Garden Delights, the country's premiere gardening magazine, to feature the exquisite garden of RGS founder, Neil Patrick. She's even managed to enlist world-famous photographer Jean-Jacques Georges. Unfortunately, Jean-Jacques is a first-rate cad—insulting the RGS members and gardening, goosing every woman in the room, and drinking like a lush. It is hardly a surprise when he turns up dead. But when Cam's brother-in-law is accused and her sister begs her to solve the crime, that is when things really get prickly.

 




Alyse Carlson is the pen name for the author some of you may know as Hart Johnson.


She writes books from her bathtub and when she isn't writing, does research for a large,
midwest University or leads the Naked World Domination Movement (your choice).

Links 
Barnes & Noble Paperback or Nook
Amazon Paperback or Kindle