Sunday, April 28, 2019

Outline or Treatment?

© Can Stock Photo / katielittle25
It can be a perplexing question for authors, particularly newbies. Do you write an outline, or a treatment, before you begin your book? Or do you just sit down and start writing?

Outlines are recommended for nonfiction books as they can be more precise, but because this blog is for fiction writers, I'm going to talk about what is the best approach for us, and that is to write a treatment.

A treatment isn't an outline. It's a short summary of what your story will be about. And while I highly recommend writing a treatment before you begin your novel, the amount of detail you wish to include is entirely up to you. Some fiction authors may choose to write treatments summarizing each chapter, while others simply write a brief one or two paragraph description. It's really a matter of personal preference. Remember, we're creative writers, not technical writers, and the keyword here is creative. For us, writing is an art, not a science.

My treatments tend to be short; no more than one to one and a half pages, and my main objective is how I will begin my story, and how I will end it. I used to fret a lot over what to include in the middle, but experience has taught me to keep it brief, because the details will come to me after I begin writing. In other words, my treatment is my launching point.

Some fiction writers may choose to write bios for their characters, and that's certainly okay. I don't do it myself as my characters come to life rather quickly, and once that happens they have minds of their own. (I know this may sound freaky to non writers, but trust me, every fiction writer experiences this.) Again, my personal approach is to include the names and general descriptions of my lead characters, but I leave the details out. Their individual personalities will evolve on their own once I begin writing.

Some authors like to refer back to their treatments as they write, and there's certainly nothing wrong with doing that. However, my approach is to put my treatment aside once I begin my story. As I've already mentioned, once your characters come to life they may want to go in a different direction than originally planned, and other ideas may come to you as you delve deeper into your story. Again that's okay. We're creative writers, and this is how creativity works. 

Once my book is complete I like to go back and look at my treatment. My books never end up as described in the original treatment. They always turn out better. That's because I let my creativity flow as I write, and many new ideas will pop into my head as I go. My favorite example would be my first Marina Martindale novel, The Reunion. One of my supporting characters, a young man named, Jeremy, was originally intended to be a rogue character. He would do his dirty deed and then quickly disappear from the story. However, Jeremy was also leading man Ian's son, and as I got into the story I soon realized that Ian would never have a son like that, so Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father to win leading lady Gillian's affections. This made for a completely unexpected twist in the story that resonated with me, and my readers. 

As I've evolved as a writer, my treatments have also evolved. They've become less detailed and more generalized, but as I've stated before, how you choose to write your treatment is entirely up to you. As far as I'm concerned, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. 


Friday, April 26, 2019

One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM
As writers we've all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I've made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can also be a double-edged sword, so it must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example.

After commenting on a friend's Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed, and during our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. This was back when I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher and I asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. However, virtually all of her content was either extreme left wing political posts, rants about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time, her hatred of churches and of people of faith, and so forth. She had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone with an opposing point of view, and she wasn't beyond telling anyone to "go f--- themselves," for simply disagreeing with her, no matter how respectful they were.

It didn't take long for me to realize there was no way that I could EVER refer this woman to any of my authors, and I soon blocked her on Facebook. My issue wasn't that I disagreed with her opinion. Let's face it. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought alike. My issue was her open contempt and hatred of others. If she could tell people she disagreed with to go "f--- themselves" on a public forum, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated one of my authors.

The point I'm making is to be careful about what you post on social media. It really can come back and bite you. In this instance, it cost someone potential business.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

I am Done with Facebook

Photo and Meme Design by Gayle Martin
Once upon a time Facebook was a lot of fun. It was a place where I could catch up with friends, reconnect with family members, and, of course, share blog posts and promote my books. However, nothing good lasts forever. Facebook has turned mean and hostile, and it appears that I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Many of the people I used to engage with regularly on Facebook have also stopped posting. Some have even closed out their accounts. 

I think the reason this is happening is obvious. Everytime you turn around, here's another scandal involving Facebook, and it usually has something to do with breaching people's privacy and sharing their personal information without their knowledge and consent. Then there's the problem with censorship. Facebook used to be all about free speech, but now nearly everyone has landed in "Facebook jail" for such "crimes" as sharing too many blog posts about crocheting or posting about their belief in the Bible. Fact of the matter is if you're a conservative, a Libertarian, a Christian, or simply an American who believes in freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the Constitution, then you are no longer welcome on Facebook. They will censor you, or even go so far as to shut down your account. They even deleted a post I started about a flour sifter. Silly me. I had no idea that talking about baking is now considered hate speech on Facebook.

Then there's Mark Zuckerberg. This man's sense of values run completely contrary to my own. For a time he was someone I had to put up with because I used to advertise my books on Facebook. However, my Facebook ads no longer have the reach they once had due to the reasons listed above, so why should I continue placing ads that fewer and fewer people are seeing and putting my money in this man's pocket?

So, instead of posting on Facebook, I've gone back to posting on my own blogs, and sharing the links on my professional pages. I'm done posting in my personal account, and if one of my Facebook friends really needs to talk to me they can send me a private message. In the meantime, my blogs belong to me and me alone. They're where the First Amendment actually means something and where I can speak my mind without Facebook telling me what I can and cannot say. As a writer, my life is all about freedom of speech.

My thought for the day.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Print Books or eBooks?

The Amazon Kindle really changed the way people read. For a time ebooks were all the rage, and my sales reflected it. The vast majority of my books were sold as Kindle editions, although it now appears that I'm selling more print books again.

Ebooks certainly have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded, and you can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. Ebooks were also more affordable. It used to be that typical ebook only cost a few dollars, but lately I've noticed that ebook prices have skyrocketed, and I'm simply not going to pay ten dollars, or more, for an ebook. If I have to spend that much money I may as well spend a few dollars more and get the print edition. That way I'll have something more tangible.

Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those who have vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read, and there's nothing more disappointing than to finally have the time to sit down and read, only to discover that your tablet has a dead battery. Ugh! I have so been there and done that.

I'm now offering a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans, and in my latest issue I included a poll. Did my readers prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. While not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.

It appears that the ebook fad may have come to and end, although I will continue publishing both Kindle and print versions of my books. And in case you're wondering, I personally prefer print books. They're low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.


By the way, if you enjoyed reading this post then please feel free to sign up for my Marina Martindale's Musings Newsletter and you'll receive a free sample of one of my novels.