Writing

Are Writing Rules a Myth?

Image Credit: Brad Harrison (www.freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Brad Harrison (www.freeimages.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Because of how many times I find myself having to address the concept of “writing rules” with my editing clients and in the writing classes I teach, I thought it might be time to talk about it in an open forum. Let’s call the elephant out and decide whether to keep him as a pet or set him free.

Are writing rules a myth?

The answer is yes.

And no.

Let me give you an example of a true writing rule.

Internal dialogue shouldn’t be placed in quotation marks because quotation marks signal audibly spoken dialogue.

That’s a rule. Every writer needs to follow it. A rule is authoritative. Unless the rules change, we should follow them.

True writing rules are rare.

Most of the time, what we call writing rules are actually writing guidelines.

That might seem like semantics, but it isn’t.

Writing guidelines tell us the best practices to follow to achieve success. These things should be done 99% of the time. There are exceptions, but guidelines are how you should normally act for the best results.

Rule: Don’t put a metal fork in your microwave because you’ll burn up your microwave.

Guideline: If you don’t want food to splatter all over your microwave, bake onto the sides, and start to stink a few days later, put a cover over your food before you heat it up and use the correct setting on the microwave.

See the difference? It’s stupid to break a rule. If you break a rule, it never comes with good results (unless your desired result is a negative one).

If you violate a guideline, you might be okay. You might not. It’s a calculated risk.

When it comes to the craft of writing, the distinction between rules and guidelines is an essential one to make because I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among writers. If you call something a rule, when it’s actually a guideline, then without fail a conversation will begin about how we need to “know the rules to break them.” For whatever reason, many writers feel like they need to be rule-breakers.

The problem with that is a big one. We get so bent out of shape by the word rules that the focus shifts from what it should be on—making our writing the best it can be.

And the mantra about “knowing the rules so we can break them” quickly becomes an excuse to ignore good advice for how to make our book better. (Want to tweet that?)

By the very definition of best practice guidelines, we lose that excuse.

If we’re going to stray from these guidelines, we need to make sure we’re getting a bigger improvement from it than we’ll be losing in what it costs because violating these guidelines always costs something. If we’re going to violate them, it should be a conscious, well-reasoned decision. A cost-benefit analysis.

Asking ourselves why we’re violating the guideline and what bigger benefit it’s giving us also helps us avoid another trap called “My book is the exception.”

Since guidelines are normative, but not infallible, the “my book is the exception” thought train turns into a bug zapper for many writers.

“Those guidelines are only right 99% of the time. I’m the 1%.”

You might be. But the truth is that more writers think they’re the 1% than can possibly be the 1%. We are probably not the exception. Our books are probably not the exception. That’s usually an excuse we make because we don’t want to honestly face the problems with our story or our writing. We don’t want to have to revise again. We don’t want to have to put in the grueling work of learning to make it better.

Try that in the rest of your life and see how well it serves you. Quick fixes and ignoring the truth almost always lead to disaster later on.

Don’t try to be innovative in the craft of writing. That’s not where brilliance is hiding, waiting to be found. Be innovative in your plot and in your characters and fresh in the emotions. Those are the things readers talk about long after they’ve set the book down.

I’d love to hear from you even if you disagree with me. What’s your opinion on the existence of writing rules?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Showing and Telling in Fiction or Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide.)

All three books are available in print and ebook forms.

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Creating An Author Business Plan: Choosing Your Stories

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last month we started writing our Author Business Plan Summary by setting our author goals. Now that we’ve laid the foundation through deciding on our goals, it’s time to take the next step and decide on what type of books we plan to publish.

This can be one of the most difficult things for an author to do. I hope you’ll come by and share your experiences with this part of the process, how you chose what type of books to write, or the struggles you’re facing in doing so.

Click here to read my post on “Creating an Author Business Plan: Choosing Your Stories” at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Showing and Telling in Fiction or Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide.)

All three books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

A Chance to Win One of 15 Great Writing Resources

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Even though this isn’t my regular day to post, I wanted to let you all know about an opportunity. From February 14th to February 28th, you can enter to win one of 15 excellent ebooks about writing and marketing your fiction, including two of my Busy Writer’s Guides. Take a look at what’s on offer!

 

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In case you want to know more about any of these books, here are the links:

Captivate Your Readers by Jodie Renner

~ Fiction Attack! by James Scott Bell

~ Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland

~ How to Market Your Book, by Joanna Penn

~The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

~ Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, by Janice Hardy

~ Grammar for Fiction Writers, by Marcy Kennedy and Chris Saylor

~ Fire up Your Fiction, by Jodie Renner

~ Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts, by Joanna Penn

~ The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction, by C.S. Lakin

~ Writing a Killer Thriller, by Jodie Renner

~ The Positive Trait Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

~ Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide, by Marcy Kennedy

~ 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, by Bryan Cohen

~ The Negative Trait Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

To find out how to enter, you’ll need to visit the site of the talented Jodie Renner. She put this fun event together to celebrate the release of her newest book Captivate Your Readers. Winners will be drawn on March 1st.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? You might also want to check out Showing and Telling in Fiction.

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Creating An Author Business Plan: Setting Your Goals

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In my last post, I announced that I was going to start a series helping busy authors write their author business plans. I’m excited to be back now, facing 2015, and diving in.

The first section of your author business plan is your Author Business Plan Summary. Because it actually contains a lot of different information, I’m not going to cover it all today. That would be overwhelming and make this post much too long. Remember that this is about breaking it down into manageable, unintimidating pieces. One small bit that you can do each day.

Eventually, your summary will include your goals, the types of books you plan to publish, your target number of releases per year, your audience, what outside help you plan to hire, the form and method of distribution for your books, and how you’ll deal with income. You’ll likely end up giving a paragraph to each.

Today we’re going to focus on your author goals. If you look back at my opening post “Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing an Author Business Plan,” you’ll remember that we’re focusing on what I called the “career writer” and we’re looking at this from the perspective of someone who wants to independently publish (or hybrid publish). A career writer is someone who views their writing as either a full-time or part-time job or wants it to be one. They want (and need) their writing to make a profit.

If you’d like to read the rest of this post, head over to Fiction University for my monthly guest post–Creating an Author Business Plan: Setting Your Goals.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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Using Your Personality Type to Make You a Better Writer

Image Credit: Yen Hoon (via www.freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Yen Hoon (via www.freeimages.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

The beginning of the year is a practical time to look back and learn from the year that has finished and to set goals for what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year. It’s easy to remember to do it now rather than at some other arbitrary time.

This year, for me, that analysis meant two things. Over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, I’ll be starting a series of posts about writing an author business plan. (You can see my introductory post “Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing An Author Business Plan” already.)

And here, today, I want to show how learning about our personality type can help make us better, happier writers. I got the idea for this post thanks to my friend Jami Gold’s blog on “Wrapping Up the Year: What Didn’t Work?” After reading her post, I wanted to put my own spin on the topic.

Like Jami, I’m a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs’ personality types. My favorite site explaining the types is actually Dr. David Kiersey’s (I love his book Please Understand Me II), but 16 Personalities is also a helpful resource.

Before you continue reading this post, I recommend that you go take this free personality test at HumanMetrics, yet another good resource. Retake the test even if you’ve taken it before. One of the things I like about this particular version (as Jami mentioned in her post) is that it gives you percentages so you can know how strong you are in each measurement.

It’s important to know the strength of your preference on each measurement because, if you’re close to borderline on any quality, you might want to also read the description of the other type. Certain elements of that type might apply to you better, depending on the specific situation.

I’m going to use myself as an example below. I’m an INTJ (what Kiersey calls a Rational Mastermind). It’s one of the more rare types (less than 2% of the population), and it’s even more rare among women. I’d never met another INTJ until I started actively interacting with other writers on the Internet.

So once you’ve taken your test, read up on your type, and taken notice of which measurements you show stronger and weaker preferences on, how can that help you become a better writer?

#1 – It can guide you in choosing a publishing path.

Obviously, many factors go into choosing whether to self-publish, traditionally publish, or become a hybrid author, including time and finances. However, our personalities also need to play a key role in our decision because they influence whether or not we’ll be happy with our choice long-term.

My husband says I have problems with authority, but the truth isn’t that I’m anti-authoritarian. The truth is that, as an INTJ, I won’t follow traditional methods or established ways of doing things if they’re not the best, most efficient way of going about it. “Because I said so” is never a good enough reason for me, and I like the freedom to try new ways of doing things.

Independently publishing is a good fit for INTJs because we don’t like trying to fit within a mold and we don’t like arbitrarily being told what to do. We like to be able to ensure the quality of what we do, research alternative ways of achieving our goals, find the best way, and remain flexible (we’re contingency planners).

If you have a personality type (like the ESTJ or ISFJ) who prefers to follow the established way of doing things and figure you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get things done, you’re not as likely to be happy with self-publishing. You’re likely to feel more comfortable with a traditional publication path.

#2 – It can help you find the most comfortable writing style for you.

I’ve tried writing by the seat of my pants (pantsing). I’ve tried a middle ground. Both made me miserable during the writing and more miserable as the rewrites added up.

I love planning out my books before I write them. I’m what’s known as a plotter or outliner. For me, plotting a book is like solving a puzzle. Plotting a book before writing also tends to save time. You end up with a cleaner first draft with fewer big picture problems. And plotting a book in advance of writing takes significantly less time than writing and revising multiple drafts as you try to figure out your story and fix problems.

Comparing this to my personality should make it obvious why planning is the best writing process for me. INTJs love problem-solving and hate inefficiency and what we interpret as wasted time. INTJs are known for their enjoyment of designing and executing plans. They don’t like to make decisions on the spur of the moment, without the ability to do sufficient research.

Contrast this to a personality like the ISFP (Artisan Composer). They’re more impulsive. They find planning or preparing tedious. They want to follow their muse, and “they climb the mountain because it is there.” In other words, they’re explorers. This tends to manifest itself in writers who prefer to write by the seat of their pants. They’re also called discovery or organic writers.

If you’re forcing yourself to write in a way that doesn’t suit your personality type, you will be less motivated to write and, consequently, less productive. Pure pantsing or pure plotting might not be right for you either. Carefully considering your personality type might give you ideas for what middle ground adaptation will suit you best.

#3 – It can help you spot areas of weakness in your writing.

I’m going to give you an example based on my personality type so you can see how to read through your own personality type with an eye to where you might be weak as a writer.

INTJs tend to prefer facts to emotions when it comes to decision-making. Emotions, to an INTJ, aren’t trustworthy and are too easily swayed. It’s not that we’re emotionless. It’s that we’re more like Vulcans. We have very intense, deep emotions that we like to keep a tight rein on. We’re very private people. We’re extremely uncomfortable with big, public displays of emotion, and we’re not entirely certain how to deal with emotional outbursts by other people because, to us, those often seem irrational.

As a writer, this means I have to put conscious effort into ensuring enough emotion makes it onto the page. What I interpret as a highly emotional scene can often come across to others as still needing more. By being aware of that potential weakness in my writing, I can dig deep, amp up the emotions on the page when necessary, and use beta readers and editors as a tool to tell me if a scene is still reading cold.

Each personality will have weaknesses that reflect themselves in what we write and in our writing process (in her post, Jami talked about how her perfectionism can make her a procrastinator). Being honest with ourselves about them can make us stronger, better writers in 2015 and beyond.

What personality type are you? I’d love to hear how you feel this has influenced your writing!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Why and How to Copyright Your Self-Published Book

Please welcome back special guest poster Kathryn Goldman. If you haven’t already grabbed a copy of her free Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report, make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to get this extremely helpful resource!

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Why and How to Copyright Your Self-Published Book

By Kathryn Goldman

The mantra chanted by people like me (copyright lawyers) in favor of registering the copyright in your work with the United States Copyright Office is that if you have registered your work in a timely manner and somebody infringes it, you can sue them and possibly recover your attorneys’ fees and statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement).

Attorneys fees and statutory damages can be a powerful big stick to use against evil deed doers, or infringers. The threat of a substantial monetary award can be useful to quickly resolve disputes.

It may be that the notion of initiating and financing a federal lawsuit for copyright infringement is alien to you. The question becomes—if you’re not going to litigate—just how useful is a copyright registration on your work?

The answer is that it’s hard to know right now what action you might want to take in the future if your work is infringed. But for $35, it makes sense to create basic protections for your work after you’ve spent countless hours writing and editing and real money on editors, cover art and book design. Throw down the extra $35 and file for that registration. One day, you just might need it.

Electronic Copyright Application Process

Today we’re going to go step-by-step through the online application process for registration of a Literary Work by a single US author. (My apologies to Marcy’s non-US readers for lack of relevance.) To illustrate the process, I’m going to show you actual screenshots of the application for registration of my “Literary Work” Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report which I wrote in October 2014 and revised in November 2014.

Log in to eCO

In order to file an application online with the Copyright Office, you need to create an account which means a username and password. I know, it’s just another ID/password combination to forget . . . I mean remember.

It is possible to register your work old-school style by mailing in a paper application. That costs $85. The savings for electronic filing is significant.

How to Register Using a Single Form (Single Author and Single Work)

After you’ve created your account and signed in, select “Register a New Claim” using the menu on the left under the section Copyright Registration.

image1

Preliminary Questions

The first screen has three preliminary questions that focus on the author or creator. For our example, we’re completing an application for just the text of a work (my report) for which I am the author and owner with material created only by me.

These questions should all be answered “Yes.” Then “Continue.”

prelimQuestions

Type of Work

The next screen determines the type of work that is being registered. Literary Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy and other written works.

Sometimes a work has two or more types of authorship, like a book that is mostly text but has some photographs. In that case, choose “Literary Work” because the work is made up of mostly literary material.

Remember, this is not an example of filing an application for a work that is created by two different authors. This is a single author application.

For our example, select literary work in the drop-down box and click “Continue.”

LiteraryWork

Title of the Work

Enter the title of the work and whether it has appeared in a collection, like a volume of short stories, for example. Then click “Continue.”

Title1

Publication

A published work is one that is offered for sale or distribution to the public. Online content is considered to be published if the copyright owner authorizes the end user to retain copies of the content or further distribute the content.

Once you’ve uploaded your ebook to Amazon, or anywhere for that matter, for sale or free download, it is considered published by the Copyright Office.

An application for registration is considered timely if it is completed within three months of publication or before infringement.

If you have an ISBN, this is where that information belongs:

PublicationDetails1

Author

This is the section in which you identify yourself as the author of the work.

authorImage1

Progress Checklist

As you move through the form, there is a checklist that updates as you go showing you how much of the application you’ve completed and how much there is left to go.

checklist

Excluded Material

This is the section of the application referred to as “Limitation of Claim” in the progress checklist in which the material not created by the author is excluded.

In this case, I have excluded the photograph and the cover art because I did not take the picture or create the cover. My portrait was taken by Chris Stadler.

If you select excluded material, you must also select the included material. In this case, I am only seeking copyright on the text that I wrote.

ExcludedIncludedMaterial1

Rights & Permissions Contact Information

If I complete this form for one of my clients, this is where I identify myself as the contact person. You can identify yourself in this section.

RightsInfo

NOTE: This information is publicly available and you want to be careful about what you include. I use my office address, email and phone number.

Correspondent

The correspondent is the person whom the Copyright Office will contact if there is a question about the application. This is a service I handle on behalf of my clients but you can identify yourself in this section.

correspondent1

Special Handling

Because a registration is needed in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement in the United States, you may have to request special handling to expedite the filing. Special handling is significantly more expensive than a regular filing by hundreds of dollars.

If you did not file within three months of publication or before infringement, you will not be entitled to statutory damages and attorneys fees but you will be entitled to injunctive relief. Injunctive relief means that you can ask a court to issue an order that the infringer stop the infringing action.

In an ideal world no special handling is needed because you have added copyright registration to your work flow and when you need it, it has been done.

I recommend that you make applying for copyright registration a regular habit when you finish each book. That way, if you decide you must file a lawsuit, you’ll be ready and you won’t be scrambling.

Certification

Is the section of the application in which you swear that it is your work or that you are the authorized agent of the creator.

certification

Review the Application

If the application is correct, add it to your cart and check-out for $35. If there are any mistakes, now is the chance to fix them.

Deposit Copy

After the U.S Treasury processes payment, the Copyright Office will ask for the deposit copy of the work which you should have ready on your hard drive. A deposit copy is a copy of the work for which your are seeking registration to be kept by the Library of Congress.

Before clicking upload deposit, make sure your pop-up blocker has been disabled.

Browse for and select your file. In this case mine is a PDF, type in a short title and submit.

depositUpload

Application Confirmation eMail

When your deposit copy is received, you’ll receive an email from the Copyright Office confirming a completed application. From that point, it will take about eight months to receive the Registration. But the effective date of the Registration is retroactive to the date of the application. The timeliness of the application is what is important.

The application can become more complex if there is cover art, an introduction or other supplementary materials in the work that you did not create and you want protection for those elements of the work.

The Copyright Office has tried to design the online application so it can be completed by individuals without the help of an attorney.

But if you have questions, let me know in the comments.

Kathryn Goldman lawyerKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman

Marcy here again: I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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The 12 Best Hashtags for Writers

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Hashtags are one of the best things about Twitter. (In case you’re brand new to Twitter, a hashtag is the # sign followed by a term.)

Normally, your tweets are seen only by people who’re following you, but if you add a hashtag, everyone who’s watching that hashtag sees what you’ve tweeted. If we’re using Twitter to build our author platforms, making connections with new people is one of the key things we want to do.

But hashtags on Twitter do more than just build our author platform. When we know which hashtags to follow, they can be amazing learning tools, provide us with inspiration and motivation, and help us keep up-to-date on the industry.

So today I’m going to share the twelve best hashtags for writers at Writers in the Storm!

Upcoming Attractions: I have one more guest post about Twitter at Kristen Lamb’s blog that I’ll be sharing with you. From that point on, I’ll be returning to writing craft posts for the foreseeable future. Also, keep an eye out closer to the end of the year. I’ll be asking you what your biggest writing struggles are so that in 2015 I can focus on the topics that you need help with the most!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

How Authors Can Work Together to Achieve Success

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

The perception of self-publishing is that you’re working alone. And you are, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. In fact, I believe the future of successful self-publishing is in working together as allies with other authors rather than viewing them as your competition.

Before I dive into some of the ways I see authors successfully teaming up, though, it’s important to cover the harmful and/or dishonest ways that authors sometimes work together. I want to be very clear that these aren’t things we should be doing.

For the rest of this post, please join me at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. I’ll cover both the ways we shouldn’t work together as authors and the ways we should.

Upcoming Attractions: Tomorrow I’ll also be visiting Writer’s in the Storm to talk about the best hashtags for authors. This is the second to last post on Twitter I’ll be doing. (I have one more guest post at Kristen Lamb’s blog that I’ll be sharing with you.) From that point on, I’ll be returning to writing craft posts for the foreseeable future. Also, keep an eye out closer to the end of the year. I’ll be asking you what your biggest writing struggles are so that in 2015 I can focus on the topics that you need help with the most!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Deep POV – Using Your Pain to Become a Better Writer

I have another special guest post for you today. This time my good friend and writing partner Lisa Hall-Wilson is here to talk to you about deep POV and how you can channel your pain into becoming a better writer.

Lisa Hall-WilsonIn case you don’t know Lisa, let me introduce you a little bit. Lisa is a freelance journalist who works for the faith-based market. Here’s how she describes herself and why she writes:

Growing up, I was a small, shadow-of-a-girl who lived with the characters in my books and hid from the world. Life taught me that sometimes bad things happen, sometimes the bully wins, and no one hears you no matter how loud you scream. But through my stories I had a voice – and people listened. As an adult, the faith I discovered in my teens gave me the courage to face my fears, stomp on the pretenses, and use my writing to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’ to find the authentic, the real, the heart-of-the-matter.

Take it away, Lisa!

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Deep POV – Using Your Pain to Become a Better Writer

By Lisa Hall-Wilson

Deep POV is one of my favorite writing techniques. Also known as a limited or close point of view, your reader experiences the story right alongside the character telling the story.

Deep POV is emotive, creates a sense of immediacy, and can be written in either past or present tense. The reader is only privy to what the point of view character (POVC) knows, sees, senses, understands, and is aware of. The reader experiences the story through that character, including their worldview, opinions, prejudices, past experiences, education, social class, economic class, family status, hopes, and failures.

Actors have a lot to teach us about writing in this style. Method acting is a technique used by actors to recreate in themselves the thoughts and feelings of the characters they are portraying.

Some method actors take it further than others. Heath Ledger locked himself in an apartment for a month to play The Joker. Jack Nicholson reportedly underwent electroshock therapy for his role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Viggo Mortensen was known to have lived in his Aragorn costume off set, carried around the sword, and personally cared for his character’s horse. Daniel Day-Lewis lived in the woods for six months hunting and shooting and trapping to prepare for his role in The Last of the Mohicans.

Do writers need to be this in-depth? I don’t know – but we can certainly learn a thing or two from the idea of method acting. I want my characters to leap off the page; be so real, you could imagine meeting this person in real life. One way to do that is make each character you.

Our characters are capable of the same kinds of emotional depth we are, so I search for some way to relate to each of my POV characters. What experience do I have in common with them? How did that make me feel?

Focus on that common experience or emotion you have with a character. Dig deep – go there – and let that pain, heartache, loss, resonate inside your character too. Whether or not you’ve personally experienced whatever extreme your character is living through, the base emotions you’re drawing from are the same across the human experience.

A teen being forced to choose between parents in a divorce. My parents are still married so I’ve never lived this, but I know what it’s like to desperately want to avoid hurting or disappointing someone I love. I know what it’s like to feel like I lose no matter what choice I make.

A firefighter who’s discovered his wife is in an adulterous relationship. Obviously, I’m not a man, nor have I faced this kind of situation. However, I understand being blindsided by betrayal. I understand the singular focus of just putting one foot in front of the other because I don’t know what else to do.

A battered mother finally makes a choice to leave an abusive husband. I understand what it’s like to talk yourself into and out of a decision a thousand times. I understand doing something for the sake of someone you love, because you don’t think enough of yourself to do it for your own sake. I understand what giving up on something really important feels like, something you love.

Write what you know. Don’t waste your pain!

Will writing in deep POV, method-writing, change you? It will absolutely make your writing better, and you’ll always learn something new about yourself. Whatever you learn about yourself in the process, you’ll carry with you into your next novel.

How To Write In Deep POV – a webinar with Lisa Hall-Wilson
This is a 1.5hr webinar that will be recorded if you’re not available to attend live. I don’t do fluff webinars – you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your writing and immediately see an improvement. Handouts and a link to the recorded will arrive by email.

Click here to register and receive a 30% discount.

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6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

Amazon KDP ContractI’m pleased to bring you all a special guest post today. I recently connected with Kathryn Goldman, a lawyer and writer, and after seeing some of the other articles she’d written, I knew I wanted to invite her here to “speak” to all of you about some very important issues. She’ll be back next month for an encore, but this month she’s going to walk us through what our rights and responsibilities are when we sell our books on Amazon. Take it away, Kathryn!

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6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

By Kathryn Goldman

You’ve finished writing your novel. You did it with stolen hours — early mornings, late nights, and while the laundry was on spin cycle. You’ve stolen more hours for rewriting, revising, and polishing until it shines.

You’ve invested in professional cover art and professional editing. It’s been a long and not inexpensive journey because you’ve taken the time to do it right.

From the beginning you’ve focused on your craft, incorporating the advice of the leaders in your field.

You are ready to upload your manuscript and click publish.

Now is no time to skimp on doing things the right way. That means understanding the rules.

Whatever platform you use for self-publishing — Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords — that service becomes your business partner and you need to know what you can expect from them and what they expect from you.

But reading a 20+ page contract of legalese may not fit into your busy schedule and my guess is that you’re going to skip it.

I get it, I do. The legal stuff is just not that important to you. Asking a lawyer to explain the Amazon KDP contract to you is so far down your list, it’s not even on your list.

But it’s important to me that you understand the key points of the deal you’re about to enter. I want you to understand the business you’re in. That way you’re less likely to need a lawyer in the future.

So, to help cut down the chances that you will ignore Amazon’s KDP contract completely, I have summarized six of the key terms for you here.

This is not a substitute for reading the whole contract. *wags finger*

Your Rights in the KDP Program

You have three basic rights when using KDP:

  1. the right to use the program;
  2. the right to get paid; and
  3. the right to protect your copyrights.

Use

The most interesting thing about the right to use the program is that the program is undefined and Amazon is constantly changing it.

Algorithms determine rankings. The user interface helps a reader find and buy your book. The genre categories impact your meta data and therefore your sales. These all work together and a slight change in one may have a ripple effect on your results.

Your right to use KDP is limited to the right to use it in the form Amazon presents it at any given time.

Getting Paid

Payment is based on the royalty option you select, either the 35% option or the 70% option. Taxes and delivery costs are deducted from the 70% option.

You have the right to change the royalty option you selected.

You have the right to receive a royalty report every 60 days.

Amazon has agreed to collect and pay all sales taxes on your behalf for the sales of your work.

Protected Copyrights

Control over copyright is what makes Amazon different from traditional publishers.

Amazon is not a publisher. You are the publisher. Amazon is offering you the platform on which to publish your work – it is a digital content distribution program.

Generally, publishers require an author to give a written assignment of the copyright in her work which then allows the publisher to control how, when, where and in what form the work will be presented.

Amazon does not ask you to give up any control of your copyright.

Your Promises to Amazon

Your Account

You promise that you are over 18 years old, that the information in your account is accurate and up to date, that you are not using a false identity, that you are responsible for everything that happens in your account even if you did not authorize it and if Amazon terminates your account, you may not open a new one.

Safe Uploads   

You promise that there will be no viruses in any of the digital files that you upload.

Metadata   

The metadata describing your book must be accurate. Metadata means things like the title of the book, the title of the series if the book is in a series, search keywords, genre selection, the publisher and publication date.

Amazon does not allow you to use another author’s name in your metadata, or words like “best-seller” or “free.”

Ownership   

You swear up, down and sideways that you own all the rights to the content that you have uploaded to the program. (This is where Amazon helps protect against the work of authors from being ripped-off.)

If clearances or licenses are needed for any of your work, you promise that you have obtained them at your expense.

You promise that you are not defaming anyone in your story and that if you owe anyone any money in connection with the work, you will pay it.

A Broken Promise   

If Amazon gets sued because you have broken any of these promises, you agree to indemnify their losses. That means you have to reimburse Amazon for any money it has to pay because you broke your promises. That includes attorney’s fees.

Do You Really Control Pricing?

Amazon lets you set the list price of your book within the maximums and minimums for the different royalty options

Despite letting you set the list price, Amazon clearly states that it has complete discretion in setting the retail price of your book. So, you do not control the price of your book. Amazon does. And Amazon is not answerable to you for when, whether or why they might change the price your book is sold for.

What If There is a Dispute?

If you think Amazon hasn’t paid you properly (and you can’t work it out with customer service), you have only 6 months to bring a claim against them.

You can bring your claim in your home state, if the amount is small enough for your local small claims court. If the amount owed is larger than the jurisdictional limit on the small claims court in your home state, then you may not bring a lawsuit.

Instead, you must start an arbitration proceeding in the State of Washington.

Amazon Can Change the Deal

Amazon can change the deal and the program whenever they want – going forward. They tell you that right up front.

But they cannot change what they owe you in royalties for sales made in the past.

Do You Have Any Liability?

Your liability is unlimited. If you do something that causes a loss for Amazon, you may be required to pay them back for it.

Amazon’s liability to you is limited to the amount they owed you in royalties in the past 12 months. If something happens like your book is not available for purchase during your largest marketing campaign ever and you’ve lost thousands of sales because your book can’t be found on Amazon, there is nothing you can do about it.

Amazon is not responsible for lost sales. They want the program to work as well as it possibly can, but if for some reason it’s not working, they are not liable to you.

Those are the key points in Amazon KDP contract in a nutshell. The full contract is over 20 pages (single-spaced) plus attachments, so I can understand why you may not have read through it before clicking PUBLISH.

But really, don’t you feel better knowing some of what is is there?

If you have any questions about any other provision in the KDP contract, ask in the comments and I’ll see if I can find the answer.

Kathryn Goldman lawyerKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman

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