Tag: lists (Page 1 of 4)

What’s In a Title?

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Just as important as the cover is the title. This is something thriller writers seem to have a real knack for, so here is an article from thriller author Nicole Wilson about the elements of a great fiction title.


 

In the process of writing my first serious novel, I ran into a bit of a snag: I didn’t know what to call it! I had the plot down, the characters drawn out, even a possible series developing from it, but I couldn’t figure out what to title the darn thing.

To me, titles are important. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” just doesn’t work for me. There are too many good books out there to read that I have to have some way to filter them. So a good title and cover design are really important. Besides, titles are generally the first thing a reader will see of a book, so it should help snatch a reader in.

Because I had this issue, I decided to do some research. And you know what I found? I was right! Titles are ever important. That being said, let me share a few of the tips I discovered:

  1. Identify the genre of your book and research books similar to yours. If you write thrillers, search Amazon.com or Goodreads.com for best-selling thriller titles. If you write literary fiction, do the same. Look for trends in those titles, and apply it to your book’s title.

  2. Use the theme or motif of your novel. If a certain piece of dialogue or story creeps up constantly throughout your book, consider that. Or if you have a theme that runs underneath the novel, use it as the title or at least as a base word to develop a title from.

Read the rest…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

Obscure Folklore and Inspiration

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “a writer is just someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that. Storytellers take bits and pieces from all the things we know and mash them around to create something new and cool.

For those of us who write fantasy, this means we have a wide buffet to choose from. Still, it can take some work to find those little-known bits of awesome. I’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here are a couple articles about obscure fairy tales and mythological creatures.

  • http://screenrant.com/grimm-fairy-tales-movies/
  • http://listverse.com/2013/03/16/10-unusual-little-known-fairy-tales/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-tatar/10-lesserknown-fairy-tale_b_6755354.html
  • http://www.wonderslist.com/lesser-known-folklore-creatures/

Share your own in the comments below.

Writers’ Groups

Writers groups, or critique circles, are pivotal in becoming a professional writer. Thriller writer Nicole Wilson shares her thoughts on the importance of these groups, what makes a good group, and how to get the most out of the experience.


One of the most important steps a writer can take to help their craft is to join a writers’ group. It’s literally a collection of people who are experiencing the same struggle you are, and it can be incredibly encouraging.

How They Work

A small group of people meet at a predefined location, usually a bookstore or someone’s house. Everyone is a writer, so it’s a safe zone to express your successes, frustrations, and everything in between. Also, each person is at a different stage in their writing. Some are already published, others are agenting, and others are working on their first manuscript. Normally, there’s a set page limit, so all of you bring, say, ten pages a week every Thursday night at 7 PM. Each person either reads their piece aloud or has it read aloud by someone else in the group. Then the group takes a few minutes (some are stricter and time it) to discuss any big-ticket items.

My Experiences

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two great writers’ groups in my writing career. A friend – who later became my husband – invited me to tag along to his group. The first time I went, I had no clue what to expect. We were meeting at a Barnes & Noble, and, when I walked in, there was this small table toward the back where eight or nine people were sitting. I found Michael and was immediately welcomed with open arms in the group. I made several friends that, three years later, I still keep in touch with. As for the structure, each person picked someone else to read their five pages. We went around the circle and gave short feedback. The author was not aloud to speak until the feedback was complete.

The second writers’ group I’ve loved (which I’m currently in now) is also amazing. We meet at one woman’s house and sit around her dining room table. Everyone reads their own ten pages out loud, then whoever has a comment speaks and the group discusses. The author is allowed to comment with the group. It’s a loving community of 8-13 people (depending on the week), and we share food and life as well.

Benefits

There are many benefits to joining a writers’ group.
1) Simply put, you have access to a support group. These people either know what it’s like to go through what you are now or they want to know, so they encourage sharing stories, both successes and failures.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com

Benefits of Multimedia Education

I preach Educational Storytelling and the mixed-media, interactive revolution. But, the two are not separate. In fact, my ultimate goal is to help create a platform for interactive and personalized curriculum design using a multimedia platform.

Just to “test the waters” as it were, I have collected a few “stater” posts and articles about the benefits and use of multimedia in education.

  • Benefits of Using Multimedia in Education is an overview for a graduate level course on multimedia education.
  • This report, “Multimedia Transformation,” examines the many ways multimedia tools are transforming teaching and learning as schools work to raise achievement and prepare students for careers that require increasingly sophisticated uses of technology.
  • The last is a list of software and applications that can be used to create multimedia educational resources. As with everything in technology, the list can be a little outdated, but still valuable.

I will dig deeper into all of these as time goes by. For now, I just wanted to get them out there.

Please add your own to the comments.

Query Letter Tips

I have been sending out query letters like a crazy person lately. Let me tell you, writing a novel is hard, but nothing compared to cramming a year of your life into a four-paragraph sales pitch. Nicole Wilson was a lifeline for me. She reviews the most important query letter tips.

In the process of getting Deception ready for agents, I’ve done quite a bit of research on query letters. As there’s no sense in keeping all this information floating around my head to myself, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way. (I’m leaving out some of the standard ones like include word count and genre because I’ve mentioned them in my annotated query example below):

  • DO customize your query for each agent. Put their name at the top (make sure it’s spelled correctly), and always include something that indicates you at least read their website (maybe a recent book they’ve represented, another author, etc.).
  • DO read their website for submission guidelines. Every agent has different guidelines. While this may seem like a hassle, they’re looking to see who is professional enough to research. They’re looking for business partners (as writing is a business). And they get an average of 100 query letters A DAY, so they need something to thin the pile.
  • DON’T expect feedback from them. Their job is not to provide you feedback. It’s to tell you if they are able to sell the book or not.
  • (This is my own personal advice) DON’T include words like “and then this happens” or “and another character enters” while telling your story. You want to engross your agent in your query letter. Make them feel like they’re reading a book and want to read more after they’ve finished your letter. Don’t remind them they’re at work, sifting through email. We all know how lame that feeling can be. :)
  • DON’T use a query blaster or CC/BCC a bunch of agents on the same email. This tacks onto my first “do.” You must customize for each agent. Also, several of them have said that nothing gets a query deleted unread faster than that (because they can tell).
  • DON’T try to be fancy or gimmicky. Like I said before, they’re looking for professionals, and your query letter is a business letter. This is not the time for pink or scented paper or gifts that represent the book. Send them what they want and nothing more.

Read the rest (there’s a lot more)…


 

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.


 

Series: The Future of Content

I am a researcher, storyteller, and technologist. Nowhere does that all come together more than in the exploration of how content is evolving. I research how people interact with content and education. I tell stories that are mixed-media and interactive. I build tools and apps that help authors and geeks work together to make awesome content experiences.

the lines are blurring between different kinds of content. Books are becoming websites. Music is meshing with film. Websites and apps are taking over.

Not only is content presentation changing, but the content itself is evolving. Stories are interactive. Articles include videos. Everything is online and part of a conversation between reader and maker.

My research and experiments are about pushing these trends into new places. Those involved in the revolution want to erase the lines that divide presentations (books, movies, websites) so that the content itself gets the show it deserves.

This series explores what the future of digital content might look like. How will books and websites evolve together? Where to games fit in? How will we read, watch, learn, relax, and engage with all the stuff we love in 5, 10, or 20 years?

I focus six traits of content in the future. These traits are my roadmap in most of my research, stories, and experiments. I would like to share them with you and get feedback on how you think content will evolve.

1. Multi-Access

You want your content your way. And you want to access your content in multiple ways.

2. Mixed Media and Multimodal

Content will not just be one thing. A story will alternate between pictures, text, and audio. Articles will include videos. And they will engage more than just one or two senses.

3. Interactive

Bonus features and behind-the-scenes videos are interactive, but what about letting the reader actually change the story as it goes. Or movies where the audience talks with the characters. Oh, and personalized, too.

4. Collaborative

Maker and Audience are distinctions that are starting to fade. We can all work together to build content that is something unlike any one person could have planned.

5. Social

Yes, content will be shared, tweeted, digged, forked, thrown, liked, hated, reviewed, and even more. Content will be integrated into life.

6. Immersive and Expansive

Stories have universes, and we want to explore more than just the small part we see in a video or read in a book. Immersive means that we will be able to surround ourselves and explore content on our own terms. Expansive means that content will link together with other content.

Stick with me as I explore what each of these mean and we discuss how to push digital content forward into the future.

The Future of Content: Mixed-Media

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

We’re paving a road to the Future of Content. The first brick was Multi-Access. We want our content wherever we are, whenever we want it. We talked about 1.) accessing the same content in multiple ways, 2.) linear content that mixes access methods, and 3.) non-linear content that mixes access methods. You can read about that here.

The next brick in the foundation of our super highway is Mixed Media (or Mulit-Modal), something that is particularly close to my heart. Content will not just be one thing. A story will alternate between pictures, text, and audio. Articles will include videos. And they will engage more than just one or two senses.

As It Deserves

Mixed Media simply means content presented the way it deserves. Each piece of great content is vibrant and unique. Some pieces may be visual while others are a symphony of great word choice. In the past, content developers have usually been locked into a single medium to express their ideas. If you were lucky, you got a few charts to illustrate what the text is already saying.

Not so in the future (or even the present). Remember our content distinctions? Content is the whole enchilada. Substance is the half that defines what you are saying; the story, the pitch, or the information. Form is how that substance is presented to your audience.

Read More

Ten Elements of Educational Storytelling

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master’s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

This is it. We have taken a long journey through educational stories and barely scratched the surface. In the best tradition of “memory episodes” from T.V. shows we love, I wanted to walk down memory lane. Here is the entire series boiled down into ten-ish bite sized bits 🙂

1. Why Educational Stories?

Stories are part of humanity, and have been ever since, and probably before, humankind took to speech. John Niles even went as far as to call humankind Homo Narrans, storytelling man. Cultures have developed myths, legends, and works of fiction core to identity, history, and moral behavior, and the transmission of knowledge. This is not a past society phenomenon. Narrative still shapes our daily lives, be it intentional or unintentional. It seems that stories can be a great deal more than fun.

Fables are specifically useful in character education and the passing along of traditions, mores, and cultural ethics. Stories are not just effective in teaching social-oriented principles (like fables). Process-oriented principles like math, the scientific method, problem solving, and even computer programming can all benefit from storytelling.

2. A Good Story, Well told

At its heart, and educational story must be a good story. We can all relate to some cheesy special (though I bet you learned some good stuff). But, its simple: the better the story, the more attached we get, and the more powerful the opportunity to learn.

Read More

(Five) Elements of a Good Title

Let’s be honest, when you pick up a book the first or second thing you experience is the title, and nine times out of ten, that is as far as you get. Along with the cover art, a title really is the most important aspect of a book-to-be-sold. This applies to authors in traditional publishing, indie publishing, or any form of hybrid. Even if you are a superstar at Random House, you will have to compete with every other book and do an insane amount of promotion if you want your story to get the limelight it deserves.

So, why do we think so little about the title? We should be intentional, right?

Well, I have done a little research, talked to some authors, and dissected a number of titles to see if I could find some common keys to successful title for novels. Here are my (very unscientific) findings.

1. Keep It Short

Shorter titles are easier to remember. Unless the book is a marketed in a very specific way to reflect classic titles (like those with multiple subtitles), keep it to a few words at most. People have a lot to remember and they are bombarded with media. The only way they will remember is if the title is memorable.

2. Rhythm Matters

Think of a title as a short song or micro-poem. These are things that stick with us, that line of a song that we can’t get out of our head. Why? Alliteration. Rhythm. Soft and hard sounds working in concert. When the Crickets Cry mixes soft “w” sounds with the double “c” sounds. When a title is lyrical, it will stick with us.

3. Juxtaposition

Think of a title as an opening line when asking someone out. You have exactly one chance to convince them to keep talking to you. People love intrigue. People want puzzles to figure out. If a title creates a question in their mind, they are likely to (at least) read the cover to see what the question even is. Use juxtaposition for this, setting two thing against each other that don’t normally seem connected. Also, consider words that evoke images. I love Daughter of Smoke and Bone as a title. How can you not see an image with those words and wonder, “what’s that all about?”

4. Must be Relevant to the Book

Moving into more “business” concerns, the title must represent the book. People know what they like and are always on the lookout for something that piques their interest. So, if you book is a murder mystery, the title should represent that to attract those readers. A title “Summertime With Daises” doesn’t conjure images of back-alley investigations, does it. The title is the very first contract with your reader. They want to know what the story is, and that you can deliver on your promises.

Also, consider your brand. You may not write hundreds of books, but even one book constitutes a brand. How does the title represent your future works? Can you create a hook that ties them together?

5. Think of Promotion and Search Engines

I wish this wasn’t the case, but its important. You will have to compete for a spot in the myriad of noise bombarding us every day. Think of your novel as a search term. I even go as far as to look up Google Adwords Search Terms to see which terms are most searched for. If you can piggy-back on some of these coveted terms the better. Do a quick search for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tips. You’d be amazed how many apply to novel titles, as well.

And that’s all I have for now. As I come across more, I will share the love 🙂

Be sure to comment below.

Learning from Phantom Hearts

I have finished another draft Phantom Hearts, my intimate/epic steampunk-fantasy with a love story twist. This is a project that has a special love-hate place in my heart. I wrote my first draft several years ago while taking it through an excellent writer’s group ten pages at a time. It was my first writer’s group and one of my first (serious) attempts at a marketable novel. I was in love with the idea, characters, world, and plot, but I hadn’t yet found my voice, my style, or my process.

Needless to say I wrote 80,000 words and learned 100,000 things.

Now I’m getting ready to take Phantom Hearts back to the drawing board. Back to square two (or three) from what I had once thought was a finished/polished manuscript. What happened? I stepped away from it to write Allyson Darke (which actually is entering its polish phase) and a couple other projects. Now that I am opening it back up, I struggled with a lot of things that just didn’t seem to set right with me. More importantly, I gave it to a few objective readers and they had a lot of the same sort of feedback. My first reaction was to be depressed, quit writing, and throw the manuscript away.

Thank God for wives who believe in you 😉

I put it away again, this time for a few weeks. I thought long and hard about what the feedback was saying and what I was feeling. I came to several conclusions about the story, and more importantly about me and my writing.

I wanted to share those lessons.

1. Write Something You Would Read

At some point in the first drafts, I started immersing myself into markets. That’s not to say that I was trying to ride the wave of some fad, but I wanted to know what core elements were working, what weren’t, and where my story fit. Unfortunately, I got so carried away with it that I subconsciously changed my story, shoving in more and more elements from disparate sources to make it more “marketable.” I pulled a lot of elements from stories I wouldn’t even read myself!

Bottom line: if you wouldn’t read it, you won’t write it well.

2. Don’t Emulate Your Favorite Authors (sad-face)

When I stared writing Phantom Hearts I was just going by instinct and telling a story I thought I would like to read. About half-way through the draft, I started reading The Daughter of Smoke and Bone and fell in love with it. Without even realizing what I had done, I twisted my story to fit that story — and they were very different at their cores. Smoke and Bone was beautiful, well-written, emotional, and just left me awe-struck. I wanted to write like that. I HAD to write like that.

Except that I don’t write like that. It’s not just because of my lack of experience, but because I am not Laini Taylor. When I tried, I failed.

I’m not saying don’t learn from your favorite authors. I’m just saying don’t be them. Mix and mash with your own sense of style and story.

3. Set a Contract With Your Reader and Stick To It

The last point flows into this one. Everyone who read my manuscript gave feedback that boiled down to “the first half is awesome, the second half is different.” They were right. The first part was action packed, fast, emotional, and kind of terse. The second half (about my Daughter of Smoke and Bone phase) was slower, lovey-er, and (tried to be) richer in wordplay. They didn’t match. They felt like two different books.

It’s been said that a midpoint should be a turning point that twists the story in two. I agree it should alter the goal of the protagonist and up the stakes. However, in those opening pages, you set a contract with your reader. This is what kind of story you can expect.

You have to stick to that contract.

Where I go from now.

I’m back at the drawing board again. Now that I’ve realized I tried to turn my story into a bunch of things its not, I can strip that fat and tone it into an awesome story.

And I’m really excited!

Be true to yourself. I know it’s cheesy.  But its the truth.

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