The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Publisher: Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")
Motto: "A Vision for Excellence"
Date: November 10, 2014
Issue: Volume 10, Number 11
Personal Site:
Circulation: 10,401 writers, each of them creating a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

What's in This Issue

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine! 
2) Organization: “How to Make a Living as a Writer”
3) Craft: Writing Deeper Characters
4) Marketing: Best Writing Conference Ever
5) What's New At 
6) Randy Recommends . . .
7) What Randy is Reading
8) Randy's Deal of the Day
9) Steal This E-zine! 
10) Reprint Rights

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!

Those of you who have joined in the past month (368 of you signed up in October), welcome to my e-zine!


If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous issues are archived on my web site at:



2) Organization: "How to Make a Living as a Writer"

We’re living in the golden age of writing. The e-book revolution has made it possible for indie authors to earn a good living. And it’s nudging traditional publishers toward treating their authors better.


That’s not to say that earning a living by writing is easy. It’s never been easy. Never will be.


But earning a living by writing is now MORE POSSIBLE than it ever has been in the history of humanity.


Think about that for a second. Your odds are better than they’ve ever been. Sure, you have to work hard. Sure, you need outrageous amounts of talent. Sure, you need a bit of luck. But more writers are earning a living wage than ever before.


My friend, James Scott Bell, is one of those, and he’s just released a new book, HOW TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER, which I read last weekend. 


I’m doing pretty well right now myself, and I was hoping to pick up at least one new tip from Jim’s book, one idea that could bump me up a notch. I picked up three ideas, along with reminders on two things that I already knew but had forgotten. Those five things should bump my income up several notches over the next year. I’ve made notes to myself on my Action list.


One thing Jim does well is to give people the right kind of encouragement. It’s easy to lie and say that everybody can earn millions as a writer with little work. But that just isn’t true, and it doesn’t help.


It’s also easy to discourage writers with the brutally long odds against success. Those odds are long, yes, but you can shorten them substantially if you’ve got some solid advice.


Jim takes the middle road, giving you encouragement mixed with an old-fashioned kick in the butt to move you in the right direction.


To give you a taste of Jim’s down-to-earth writing style, here are the first four paragraphs from his book:


"Let’s get one thing straight from the jump. I have this quaint notion that it’s okay for writers to make money from their writing. Maybe even make a living.


"Astounding, I know. But I believe it. And celebrate it.


"Because for most of human history the vast majority of writers have been lucky to make lunch money from their scribblings. Very few have been able to support themselves from the quill or the keyboard alone.


"But that’s all changed."

Randy sez: The whole book is in that style. Simple and clear and direct. 


Jim's right. Things have changed. His book is chock full of practical suggestions on how to take advantage of those changes. Jim talks about the 7 secrets of writing success. About how to reach your goals. How to stay relentless. How to decide whether to go with a traditional publisher or go indie. (There are advantages both ways.)


The book has 26 chapters, and some of these could be expanded into full books. (How to self-edit a novel. How to write a novella. Managing your time.) The book is a great summary of useful advice. Practical advice. Things you can do right now to jump-start your career, or give it a boost if it’s already in gear.


When I checked just now, the book was priced at $2.99. I assume that’s a low introductory price and it’ll go up soon. No pressure, just saying. 


Here’s where to get Jim’s book, which I strongly recommend:


Get it on Amazon$2.99


Get it on Barnes & Noble$2.99


Get it on Kobo:  $2.99


The usual caveats apply: Prices are not precisely the same in all countries. Prices are subject to change. You know the drill. 



3) Craft: Writing Deeper Characters

Deep characters are not deep merely because there’s something magical about them that sets them apart from other characters.


Deep characters are deep because the author chose to go deep with them. The author could have chosen to go shallow, and the result would have been shallow characters.


Any character can be a deep character. Any character can be a shallow character. 


It’s not about who your characters are, it’s about what you choose to do with them.


I’m convinced that a very powerful way to go deep with your characters is to interview them.


Set up the interview in Q and A format. Ask your character a question. Then get inside the character’s skin and answer the question—in that character’s voice.


This works for several reasons:


It Alternates Between Analysis and Creation


Asking questions gives you a chance to put on your analyst’s hat. You get to ask the hard questions about motivation and values. You can probe as much as you want into your character’s mind.


Answering those hard questions gives you a chance to put on your creative hat. You get to become the character, exactly as you would if you were writing a scene from that character’s point of view.


But in an interview, you don’t have to worry about action and description. You can focus on speech patterns, mental patterns, emotional patterns. 


And you don’t have to worry about being “interesting” to the reader, because nobody will ever read your character interview. The interview is just for you to get to know your character.


It Gives You Practice Being Each Character


This is essential, because as you write each scene, you need to become the point-of-view character for the duration of that scene. You need to slip inside that character’s skin. You need to convince your reader that she is that character.


This is not easy. It’s a little easier in first-person than in third-person. And when you’re interviewing your character, you’re always answering the questions in first person. You’re speaking as that character. So this is your chance to practice. But this is not mere practice time. This is practice time that also teaches you new things about your character.


One of the hardest things to do in fiction is to develop unique voices for each character. It’s way too easy to have all your characters sound alike. The interview is an opportunity to develop all the little verbal tics for each character. You’ll learn which words they overuse. What grammatical liberties they take. How they think and how they express themselves.


It’s Not Your Fault


When you interview your character, you can let him go off on tangents and take all the wrong turns that are bound to happen as you learn who your characters are. After all, your characters are human, so they’re bound to make mistakes.


But it’s them making the mistakes, not you. So if they go off into left field, you can rein them in, delete all the dumb things they said, and start over. And it’s all their fault, not yours.


Yes, this is a psychological game you’re playing with yourself. No, there’s nothing wrong with this. Any time you can make it safe to take chances in your story development, that’s a good thing.


It’s Fun


Interviewing your character is incredibly fun. And incredibly powerful. If you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out on something amazing. 


You can do this at any point in your story development. It’s especially helpful if you’re still planning the story, or if you’ve painted your story into a corner, or if you’re worried that your character’s motivations don’t make sense.


Try it now. Pick any one of your characters. Open a document and start asking questions. Ask one, then answer it right away. Then ask another, and answer it right away. Keep doing that until you’re done. You’ll know when you’re done. Your instincts are smart about being done.


If you don’t enjoy the process, then don’t do it again.


But I bet you will. I bet if you try this once, you’ll be hooked for life.



4) Marketing: Best Writing Conference Ever

One of the best decisions you can make as a writer is to connect with other writers. Learn what they’re doing. Share what you’re doing.


This is one of those intangible things that may pay off zero or may pay off big time. A lot depends on your personality and on serendipity.


I’m an introvert—an extreme introvert. I don’t do well in crowds. I do fine talking to people one-on-one. I do fine teaching. But put me in the middle of a big crowd of people I don’t know and I shut down.


The one exception is at writing conferences. For whatever reason, I thrive at conferences, even big noisy ones packed with strangers. If I could, I’d probably spend my whole life at writing conferences. But that would be a ticket to poverty, so I have to limit the number of conferences I go to.


Which brings me to the serendipity thing. Writing conferences ooze serendipity. Go to a good conference and you’ll be up to your ears in serendipity.


I met most of my best friends at conferences, purely by chance. (I met a few of them online, but the glue in those friendships has come at conferences.)


Most of the epiphanies I’ve had about my writing came at conferences, purely by chance.


I just got back recently from a conference that some people have been calling “the best writing conference ever.” Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it was right up there near the top, as far as I’m  concerned.


The conference was put on by Novelists, Inc., also known as “NINC.”


The location was St. Pete Beach, in Florida, and the beach might have a wee bit to do with why it may have been the best ever.


But location isn’t everything. What matters are the people, and the people were top-notch. 


There’s a reason the people were so good. Novelists, Inc. is an organization made up solely of multi-published novelists. If you’ve published two novels with traditional publishers, you qualify. If you’ve published two indie novels, each of which has earned at least $5k within some 12-month period, you qualify.


When you put hundreds of professional novelists together to talk business, good stuff happens. 


There were panel discussions on the future of publishing, featuring authors, agents, editors, publishers. Sparks flew in one session on rights, and that’s natural, because rights are the currency of publishing. 


BookBub sent a couple of reps to talk about how to boost sales. Amazon sent several staff members to talk about opportunities for indies and hybrids. So did Draft2Digital, the hot new digital distributor. Kobo sent a rep. 


Indie star Hugh Howey gave a great talk about the publishing world, buttressed by data from the mysterious Data Guy. 


Indie best-selling authors Liliana Hart, Jana DeLeon, and Julie Ortolon talked about their remarkable results on Apple’s iBooks store and what it takes for an author to make it big with iBooks. (Did you know iBooks has an affiliate plan that pays 7%? I didn’t. That’s a nice little bonus on top of the 70% royalties iBooks pays at all price points. Something to think about for those who believe Amazon will be the top gorilla forever.)


There was a panel titled “The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing” which I attended mainly because the title grabbed my attention. I’m glad I went, because some comments by Liliana Hart got me fired up to work smarter AND harder on my writing.


There was a session about Twitter by Porter Anderson, who’s clearly one of the Twitter elite (Porter live-tweeted some of the panel discussions). Porter was clear on what Twitter is NOT good for (making sales). After his talk, I asked him what the strategic purpose of Twitter is, and he told me, “Getting known.” Which is not what most authors try to use it for.


I got a quick demo of a new tool that tracks sales of books on all the major retailers. This tool looks to be better than Vook (which is no longer available). I’m evaluating it this month for possible review in this e-zine.


There was a panel on how to work with a writing assistant. A remarkable thing happening now is that the spouses of indie authors are quitting their day jobs to work as author assistants. My wife already works for me part-time, but I came home from the conference with several ideas on how she can help my writing earn us more money. 


There was a session on street teams. Another dealt with how to set up your estate so that your writing earns your family money after you die. (Tragically, very few authors are immortal, so this is relevant to most of us.) Another dealt with marketing for authors who hate marketing. There were a couple of sessions taught by a cop on how to write police procedurals. There was one by a TV writer/producer on the current golden age of TV writing. 


And there was also the beach. My room looked out on the beach. The conference arranged a couple of evening dinners on the beach. At some point or another, most of the conferees found time for the beach. Yes, when you go to a NINC conference, you’re going to suffer for your art. Grit your teeth and just do it.


It’s easy to think that the conference next year can’t possibly be as good. But I wouldn’t bet on that. It’ll be in the same location, but three weeks earlier in the year. And everyone there will be almost a whole year smarter. 


I’ll be there.


For more info on Novelists, Inc., see the web site here:




5) What's New At

Writing Schedule


October has been another month of research for me. I’m mapping out my series of novels about one of the most influential humans ever to walk the planet—Jesus of Nazareth. Is there anything new to say about this mysterious man? I think there is. A whole lot, in fact. Stay tuned…


I also took time to attend a conference, the one put on by Novelists, Inc. I hadn’t planned on doing any teaching there, but then I was asked to help with a Night Owl on metadata, and my best buddy John Olson asked me to join him in teaching his workshop on marketing. I enjoyed both sessions immensely, as well as sitting in on numerous workshops that got my brain working in new directions.


Teaching Schedule

I normally teach at four to six writing conferences per year. In 2014, I’m currently scheduled to attend four conferences. It’s not yet clear what will be the exact lineup of workshops I’ll teach, but I should have that nailed down in another month or two.


Why don't I teach at more conferences? Because teaching is an incredibly demanding blood sport and it sucks a huge amount of energy out of my tiny brain. I prefer to put my absolute best into a few locations than to muddle through at many.


Here’s what my calendar shows me for 2015:

  • March: Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference near Santa Cruz, California.
  • August: Oregon Christian Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon.
  • September: American Christian Writers Conference, in Dallas, Texas. I serve on the Executive Board of ACFW, so this is my one mandatory conference every year.
  • October: Novelists, Inc. Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

If you'd like me to teach at your conference in 2015 or beyond, email me to find out how outrageously expensive I am. Just be aware that I often have to say no because I only have a little time allocated in my life for travel.


If you'd just like to hear me teach, I have a number of recordings and e-books that are outrageously cheap. Details on the products page of my web site.

6) Randy Recommends . . . 

I don't take paid ads for this e-zine. I do, however, recommend people I like.
I'm a huge fan of Margie Lawson's courses, both the ones she teaches in person and the ones she sells on her web site at
Margie is a psychologist who applies what she knows about human psychology to writing fiction. I believe her material is brilliant. Check her out on her web site!
Please be aware that in this section I ONLY recommend folks who have never asked me to do so. Tragically, this means that if you ask me to list you here, I will be forced to say no. 

7) What Randy is Reading

You might be interested in some of the books I’ve been reading recently. Then again, you might think some of them are terribly dull. A lot of these are research books, and I’m including them here because otherwise my reading list would look totally lame this month. 


As always, I’m omitting books I started and didn’t finish. I’m also omitting books that were horrible but I read anyway. (There are certain aspects of the craft of writing that you can only learn by reading really wretched fiction and asking yourself what makes it so bad.)


Here are the ones worth reporting from October:


How to Make a Living as a Writer, by James Scott Bell. An excellent book about how to live the dream we all want to live.


Time and Again, by Jack Finney. This is a classic time-travel novel, set in New York City, partly in 1970, partly in 1882. The book starts slowly and I wasn’t sure it was ever going to get moving. But it did, and eventually it boiled over into a powerful and exciting thriller, well worth the read. And the ending paid off exactly the way every book should—with a surprise that immediately seemed inevitable.


Healing the Gospel, by Derek Flood. This is one of my research books for my forthcoming novel about Jesus. If you don’t think “the gospel” is broken, then this book is not for you. But if you think there might be a problem, then Derek Flood makes a case that there might be a solution. The book is short, simple, and clear.


The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics, by Elaine Pagels. A well-known book by a celebrated author and scholar on the question of where the idea of “Satan” came from. This was another research book for me, since you can’t read the gospels without running into a pesky new member of the cast named “Satan.” My opinion is that Pagels makes an interesting case, but I think there are better solutions to the problem.


Glimpsing Heaven: The Stories and Science of Life After Death, by Judy Bachrach. Yet another research book for me, this time on those wacko-sounding near-death experiences. I would say there are more stories here than science. While there is practically nothing about “heaven” in this book, there is plenty to think about. 


Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross, by Mark S. Heim. This was another research book for me and it argues that the two most common theories of atonement (due to Calvin and Anselm) are badly flawed. Since there are about half a dozen theories of atonement, and each one defines a different mindset for Jesus, I am keen to get this figured out. I found this book a bit of a slog. There is a lot to like here, but my view is that it could have been much shorter and simpler. 


The Nonviolent Atonement, by J. Denny Weaver. This was yet another research book for me. Weaver is a Mennonite and takes as his starting point the idea that God is nonviolent and any theory of the atonement must be nonviolent. He also makes what I consider a much more compelling case than Pagels does for how to think about “Satan” in the 21st century.


That’s all for October. One business book, one novel, and five research books. The research has been interesting, but I’m glad to be nearly done with this phase and I’m eager to begin revisions on my novel. Too much research makes Randy want to read more fiction. I hope to have more novels to report on next month.



8) Randy's Deal of the Day

In recent months, I’ve usually been offering a special “Deal of the Day” for one of my books.


This month I’m reporting on a special deal that Apple is currently running on iBooks that features dozens of excellent books, all free. (Mine is one of them, but this isn’t about my book, this is about a ton of excellent free books.)


The promotion is called “First in a Series Mysteries and Thrillers.” Every single one of the featured series begins with a FREE book. 


That’s a great way to promote, because it costs you nothing to sample new authors. These books are all vetted by Apple, which means that you know before you download that they’re quality books.


One of the things I learned at the recent NINC conference is that savvy indie authors are doing Xtremely well with iBooks. At least one best-selling author reported earning MORE from iBooks than from Amazon. 


As you’ve probably heard, the iBooks app is now part of the standard installation on the latest versions of the operating systems for Macs, iPads, and iPhones. With so many iPhones and iPads around the world, this means zillions of people now have e-readers built in. 


This is great news. It tells me that iBooks could become a major player that competes head-to-head with the Amazon “800 pound gorilla” that has some folks so terrified. 


Competition is good. Competition means that retailers have to compete for the hearts and souls of authors. Which means that retailers have a high incentive to treat authors well.


This promo is live right now on iBooks in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland. I don’t have exact info on how long this promotion will last. I’m told it will be a few weeks.


Here’s a link, which will open iTunes to the appropriate place in the iBooks store. (If you don't have iTunes installed on your computer or iBooks installed on your phone/tablet, this link will not work for you. That's just the Apple way. You shop on iBooks using Apple's apps, and that's the only way to get there.)




9) Steal This E-zine!

This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's worth at least 2.71828 times the price. I invite you to "steal" it, but only if you do it nicely . . .
Distasteful legal babble: This E-zine is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2014.
Extremely tasteful postscript: Yes, you’re allowed to e-mail this E-zine to any fiction writer friends of yours who might benefit from it. 
Of course you should not forward this e-mail to people who don't write fiction. They won't care about it.
At the moment, there is one place to subscribe:

10) Reprint Rights

Permission is granted to use any of the articles in this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as you include the following 2-paragraph blurb with it:
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 10,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine is Published by:

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