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: September 3, 2013
Issue: Volume 9, Number 9
Personal Site: www.Ingermanson.com
 
Circulation: 5858 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: Your Hate List
3) Craft: Emotional Structure
4) Marketing: Is Kindle MatchBook Good For Authors?
5) Personal Note From Randy
6) What's New At AdvancedFictionWriting.com 
7) Randy Recommends . . .
8) Steal This E-zine! 
9) Reprint Rights
 
 

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

 
Those of you who have joined in the past month (469 of you signed up in August), welcome to my e-zine!
 
If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous issues are archived on my web site at: www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com/ezine/

 

2) Organization: Your Hate List

 


You have tasks you hate doing. So do I. Most of mine are administrative tasks. Buying airline tickets. Sending out invoices. Ironing the cat.

 

They’re things that have to be done but which get put off because I hate doing them. 

 

Most of them are actually pretty simple things. Rationally, I know I could do them quickly if I would just go do them. But when you hate doing something, you hate doing it, and rationality doesn’t enter the picture. So I keep putting them off.

 

Eventually they pile up on me until they’re an impossible-looking mountain of things I hate to do.

 

When that happens, which is about once a month, I declare a Hate List day.

 

First off, I write down all the things that I need to do that I HATE doing. Nothing fun is allowed on the list.

 

Second, I give myself a certain amount of time to start knocking items off the list. An hour or two is plenty. 

 

Third, I just go do it.

 

And it works pretty well. Today, I made a Hate List with 11 items. I gave myself two hours. I started at 10:00 a.m., which meant that I knew I’d be free by noon.

 

I got 7 items knocked off in that time. I admit that I cheated. I took time out to Skype happy birthday to a friend of mine. To atone for that crime, I added ten minutes to my allotted time for working on the Hate List.

 

The way I see it, getting 7 hated items knocked off my list in only two hours is a win. 

 

The reason making a Hate List works is because we all have a certain mental inertia. It’s hard to get going on any task, and if you hate the task, it’s ten times as hard. But once you’re rolling, it’s fairly easy to stay on task.

 

So if you bundle up a bunch of little items into one big Hate List, then you only have to overcome your mental inertia once — when you start working on the Hate List. And you know you have only a limited time to do them, so that keeps you focused.

 

Try it and see. Do you have a bunch of things you hate doing that you’ve been putting off? Are you sick to death of having them hanging over your head? Do you want to get free of some of those things?

 

Tomorrow morning first thing, make a Hate List of ten or twelve of those rascals. Give yourself a set amount of time to beat them into submission. Start working and kill the little beasts as fast as you can. When your time is up, stop, even if you didn’t finish.

 

Then go do something fun. For me, the fun thing is getting to work on my novel. Which I should be able to do without interruptions, because the cat is keeping his distance from me right now.

 

 

 

3) Craft: Emotional Structure


I’ve been reading the book Emotional Structure lately. The author is Peter Dunne, a screenwriter. The book is targeted to screenwriters, but I think novelists will benefit immensely from the ideas in this book.

 

There’s a delusion that grips a lot of beginning novelists. The delusion is that story is about giving the reader lots of twists and turns. That somehow, the more twisty the storyline, the better.

 

I see this delusion even among published novelists, when they complain about a reviewer who gave away all the major plot turns in an Amazon review.

 

I’ll concede that if the only thing you put into your novel is a twisty, turny plot, then that’s all your story will have. Duh. If the only thing you put in the soup is water, it’s going to be a very thin soup.

 

But is that really all there is to a great story?

 

Think about your favorite book—the one you’ve read over and over again. Five times. Ten times. Thirty times. 

 

In that book, is there one single plot twist that can still catch you by surprise when you read it yet again?

 

No way. 

 

But you keep reading it over and over. Why?

 

Because the reason you read it again and again is not so you can be surprised. The main purpose of fiction is not to surprise you. The main purpose of fiction is to give you a powerful emotional experience. And emotion is not mainly about surprise.

 

In every novel or screenplay, there’s an exterior story and an interior story. They’re both important, but different authors use a different mix.

 

In Lee Child’s wildly popular series of Jack Reacher novels, the focus is on the exterior story. Reacher is not an emotive guy and he doesn’t really change much from book to book. And his fans are fine with that. 

 

I’m told there are books that focus entirely on the interior story, with hardly any plot. I’m pretty sure I’ve started a few of these, but I’m blanking on them right now. I probably quit reading around the third chapter.

 

I happen to like a balanced story, with both a strong exterior and a strong interior storyline.

 

Peter Dunne defines “plot” to be the external series of events and he defines “story” to be the internal stuff. I don’t think this is very good terminology. In my view, “story” is the whole thing—plot, characters, storyworld, theme, voice. But for this article, to keep things consistent, I’m going to use Dunne’s terminology: “story” will mean the emotional storyline.

 

Here are three high points that I took away from the book:

 

Plot drives story and story drives plot

Your plot drives your story. This means that external events are going to affect your characters emotionally. They’ll take your character on a journey. At the end of that journey, your characters will be different.

 

Your story drives your plot. This means that the changes in your characters make it possible to complete the story. Your character, at the beginning of the story, is not capable of winning the external battle. Your character, because of the interior changes throughout the story, is capable of winning the external battle at the end of the story.

 

Each scene will have some plot and some story. The exact mix is up to you, but it’s very rare to have all plot or all story.

 

Your first act is about plot, your second is about story, and your third is about plot again

The usual structure of a novel or screenplay is a three-act structure.

 

The first act introduces the characters and defines the plot. The lead character finds himself enmeshed in a problem that he can’t solve. He will be joined on his quest by other characters, but he’ll have major personality conflicts with them. By the end of the first act, a disaster will happen which forces the lead character and friends to commit to solving the problem (rather than running away from it).

 

In the second act, the characters try to solve the problem, but things only get worse. They have one clash after another until the midpoint of the story, when they have a major blowout—a second disaster that forces the protagonist to rethink who he is.

 

In the second half of the second act, the characters begin working together better as a team, but they continue to grind away on each other. They continue to grow as people. By the end of the second act, they are getting along quite well, but now a third disaster happens that makes it appear their quest has to fail. This disaster forces them to commit to one final attempt to solve their problem, though it seems hopeless.

 

In the third act, the characters focus on solving their problem. They either do or they don’t, based on what sort of character development they’ve managed in the second act. If they succeed, it’s because they grew during act two. If they fail, it’s because they didn’t grow.

 

Begin with your end in view 

You really can’t write an effective story unless you know how it ends. (There may be a few exceptional geniuses who can do this, but they are exceptional. Most writers can’t, and if they believe they can, they are almost always fooling themselves.)

 

This means that seat-of-the-pants writers should not expect their first draft to be very close to the final draft. The first draft is a necessary stepping stone along the way to finding the story, but until they’ve completed it and know how the story ends, the beginning and middle of the story are far from where they need to be.

 

There is nothing wrong with writing by the seat of your pants. If that’s how your brain is wired, then you probably can’t change it. Just be aware that, while there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s plenty wrong with your first draft. But most SOTP writers are very well aware of this.

 

Outliners and Snowflakers will generally write a first draft that’s a lot closer to the final draft, because they know the ending, more or less, before they start.

 

It’s easy for outliners or Snowflakers to get smug here and believe that they can turn in a first draft. The fact is that no matter how well you’ve planned out the story, the act of writing it is going to make you rethink things. 

 

No matter what group you find yourself in, once you’ve baked in the ending, you’ll probably want to work through the novel from the beginning. 

 

You’ll need to add in some preparatory clues along the way so that your amazing surprise ending is plausible. You want your reader to be massively surprised and yet slap her forehead and say, “Of course it had to end that way. I should have seen it coming.”

 

And you’ll also need to trim out any telegraphing that tells your reader how it has to end by the midpoint of the book. (In mysteries or romances, the ending is not in doubt. The killer will be found. The girl will get the ring. What is in doubt is how this can possibly happen. You don’t want to telegraph that to your reader.)

 


There’s a lot more to say about emotional structure. I’ll refer you to Peter Dunne’s book, if you’re interested. 

 

Whether you’re a novelist or a screenwriter, you’ll find it useful to see how Dunne works and reworks his own screenplay as he evolves it through multiple drafts. 

 

Dunne isn’t a Snowflaker, but his process has a lot of similarities to my Snowflake method. He starts with a three-sentence summary of his story. He expands this out to a three-act structure in three pages. 

 

From there, he creates a set of index cards, each with a summary sentence for the plot on one side and a summary sentence for the story on the other side. Then he moves these around on a bulletin board until he finds the right order.

 

Finally, he writes the first draft of the screenplay. (The first of many.)

 

You’ll see each of these stages as they develop. You’ll watch the characters get more complex. 

 

Dunne includes a list of 25 movies he thinks every screenwriter should see. This list may or may not be useful to you. For me, they tend to be a bit more focused on story and less on plot than I like. Let's remember that different writers are different. Luckily, different readers are different too.

 

There’s one major quibble I had with the book. Dunne singles out certain movies as useless because they lack any story or morality.

 

For example, Dunne thinks The Terminator is a fully plot-oriented story without any story at all. I’ll have to disagree with that. 

 

The protagonist in The Terminator is Sarah Connor, a young woman living in LA. The antagonist is the Terminator, a robot sent back in time to kill Sarah because her unborn son, John, will someday lead humans to freedom in their battle against the machines who control the future. 

 

At the beginning of the movie, Sarah is soft, weak, and has no sense of direction. Kyle Reese is a human warrior sent back from the future to protect Sarah. Sarah doesn’t trust him at first, but soon he earns her respect and then her trust and finally her love. 

 

In the process, Kyle arouses a fighting spirit in Sarah—and fathers the son who will use that fighting spirit to save humanity in the future. By the end of the movie, it’s Sarah, not Kyle, who destroys the Terminator. She’s become tough and strong, a woman who can raise the future warrior John Connor.

 

There is not a huge amount of emotive story here, but the target audience for The Terminator doesn’t mind. There’s enough. And it exactly fits the pattern spelled out in Emotional Structure. There’s a reason this movie was a massive success.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to add that pesky powerful emotional experience into your fiction, then Emotional Structure might be just what you need. 

 

 

4) Marketing: Is Kindle MatchBook Good For Authors?

 

 

This week, Amazon announced a major new innovation they're planning to help market books. They call it Kindle MatchBook, and it will apply only to books that are for sale in both a print edition and a Kindle edition.

 

How It Works For Readers

If you buy a paper copy of a book from Amazon, then you can get the Kindle version of that same book at a substantial discount from the normal Kindle price. The discount will be at least 50%. The price will be no higher than $2.99, but the publisher could set it to be $1.99 or $0.99 or free.

In fact, if you have ever bought a paper copy of a book from Amazon, then you’ll be able to buy the corresponding Kindle edition, as long as the publisher of the Kindle edition allows it. 

 

So if you’ve been buying paper books from Amazon for years and years, you can now convert your paper library to an electronic library at a substantial discount.

 

Kindle MatchBook is a great deal for readers.

 

How It Works for Publishers

If you are the publisher of a Kindle edition of a book, then you can choose to enroll that e-book in Kindle MatchBook. You can also choose not to. You, the publisher, are in control.

When you enroll a book in the Kindle MatchBook program, you choose the promotional price. It has to be less than 50% of your usual list price for your e-book. You have four promotional price options: $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.

 

The good news is that the royalty rate you earn on the Kindle MatchBook program is the same rate you’d earn for a sale at your normal list price.

 

It’s worth expanding on that a little bit. When your normal list price is between $2.99 and $9.99, you earn a royalty rate of 70%. When your normal list price is outside that range, you only earn 35%.

 

So if your normal list price is $2.99, you earn 70% on your MatchBook sales, even though your MatchBook price must be either $0.99 or free.

 

You might worry that people will snap up a used paper copy of your book for a penny and then get the e-book version at half price.

 

No worries there. 

 

Third-party sales of paper books are not eligible for this program. So if somebody buys a used book from a third party on Amazon, they won’t get a discount on the e-book. The MatchBook program only applies to paper books that you bought new from Amazon.

 

Kindle MatchBook is a great deal for publishers. It encourages readers to repurchase an electronic version of a book the reader has already bought in paper. True, it’s at a discount, but it’s a sale to somebody who already owns the book. It amounts to free money.

 

Is Kindle MatchBook Good For Authors?

The Kindle MatchBook program encourages sales of your e-books to your most loyal customers at a good price. 

If your e-book is published by a traditional publisher, then this extra sale will benefit you if your book has earned out its advance. If your book hasn’t earned out its advance, then the sale won’t hurt you, and it will move your book closer to earning out its advance. So it’s a win for you, no matter what.

 

If your e-book is published by you as part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program, and if your book has a paper edition (even a paper edition that went out of print a long time ago), then an extra sale will come straight to you, and you’ll get all the royalties. This is a big win for you.

 

If your e-book is published by you, but there was never a paper edition of the book, then it’s not eligible for Kindle MatchBook. However, you can make it eligible by using Amazon’s CreateSpace service, which makes it fairly easy to publish a print-on-demand edition of your book. If you do that, then again, a sale is a win.

 

Who Loses?

If Kindle MatchBook is a win-win-win for readers-publishers-authors, then who loses? That’s easy. 

The other online retailers will be the losers. Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, Smashwords, and anyone else competing with Amazon.

 

The Kindle MatchBook program is aimed at gaining market share for Amazon.

 

You may think that’s a Bad Thing, and if so, then you can take any action you feel will prevent an Amazonopoly. That’s your prerogative. Free markets operate by giving customers the choice to buy or not buy, for whatever reasons they like.

 

If you aren’t much concerned about Amazon gaining market share, then again, you can take whatever action you think will benefit you.

 

Will This Lead to Paper Dumping?

One question comes to my mind, and I don’t know the answer. Under the Kindle MatchBook program, I can now get an inexpensive e-book for every MatchBook-enrolled paper book I’ve ever bought from Amazon, going back to the 1990s. In principle, I could rebuy my library for cheap, and then sell my paper books, probably for more money than the cost of the e-books.

I suspect some people will do this. If a lot of people dump their paper books, the price of used books would plummet and they might then cut into sales of new paper books. This would not be good for publishers or authors. Publishers and authors get no money at all on the sale of a used book.

 

Paper dumping is a second-order effect, and it’s impossible to predict how this will play out in reality.

 

It’s the one part of the Kindle MatchBook program that appears to me to be a potential loss for publishers and authors. 

 

Let’s remember that the publisher of the e-book is in control. If paper dumping happens on a large scale and starts costing publishers money, they can opt out.

 

So there’s a potential downside here, but the publisher can limit its losses.

 

For authors who act as their own publisher, they’re in complete control and don’t have to depend on their publisher to do the smart thing.

 

Should you participate in Kindle MatchBook? That’s up to you. I’m going to. And I’m probably going to buy up a bunch of e-books that I bought in paper years ago.

 

 


 

5) Personal Note From Randy


My friends know that August was a difficult month for me and my family. My dad, Carl Ingermanson, died of emphysema on August 11 after a long battle. He was 80 years old and was at peace when he died.

 

There was never any doubt how the battle would end, but there was a lot of question on when. As the summer began, it became clear that he was declining fast.

 

I saw him a few weeks before he died and we had a very significant final conversation. We talked about the things we needed to talk about. I’m glad we had a chance to do that. His mind was still clear, despite massive doses of painkillers.  

 

This summer, I’ve gotten far behind in answering e-mail and will try to catch up soon. If you’ve sent me a personal e-mail this summer and I haven’t responded yet, now you know why.

 

I’ve also slowed down on my blogging, but should pick up the pace again in coming weeks. I have two conferences to attend in September/October, so managing my time will be a challenge.

 

Life is short. It’s easy to put off the things that matter because we can always do them “someday.” But our supply of “somedays” is limited.

 

Seize the day. 
 

 

6) What's New At AdvancedFictionWriting.com

 

Writing Schedule

I’m currently at work on my next novel, Triple Cross, which is something of a follow-on to the book I just released, Double Vision. This time, a likable rogue of a con man falls in love with the wife of the Baptist minister he’s ripping off for nine million dollars.

My left brain was sure that I’d be finished with Triple Cross by the end of August. My right brain, who is doing the actual work, thinks the end of September is much more plausible. But it may take longer, because both sides of my brain want to get this book right.

 

 

Teaching Schedule

I normally teach at four to six writing conferences per year. This year, I'm easing off some -- I'm currently booked to teach at only three in 2013, which should give me a bit of breathing room.

I'll be attending the ACFW conference in September, but will do no teaching, although the powers that be are scheduling me for a few “dementoring” appointments. I’m practicing my wicked laugh now.

For October, I've agreed to teach a workshop on "passive marketing" at the Novelists, Inc. conference in Myrtle Beach.
 
If you'd like me to teach at your conference in 2014 or beyond, email me to find out how outrageously expensive I am.
 
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.
 
 

7) 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 www.MargieLawson.com
 
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!
 
 
I've also become a fan of Thomas Umstattd's terrific uncommon-sense thoughts on internet marketing. You can read Thomas's blog at: www.AuthorMedia.com/blog
 
Thomas and his crew at AuthorMedia are the folks who reworked my web site recently, and I'm extremely happy with the results.
 
 
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. 
 
 

8) Steal This E-zine!

 
This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's worth at least 65,535 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, 2013.
 
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: www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com
 
 

9) 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 over 5,000 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 www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
 
 

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine is Published by:

 
Randy Ingermanson 
 
 
Copyright © 2013 Ingermanson Communications, Inc., All rights reserved.
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