Category: Self-publishing & writing books

How to ‘Show Not Tell’ in your Story Writing

How to ‘Show Not Tell’ in your Story Writing

We hear it all the time. From the moment we start writing stories at school, to our high school creative essays, to every author training video and blog.

“Show, don’t tell!”

And it’s something that writers, especially new ones, grapple with… How to write from the heart, so that your writing sings, without being boring or cringeworthy.

At school we’re taught to use lots of interesting, powerful, unique adjectives and adverbs all the time!

But somehow that doesn’t (always) make writing soar.

Turns out the best writing teachers might be successful authors, not teachers…

K.M. Weiland, an author and blogger, has extensive help and advice about the writing craft at her website HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com.

One of the most helpful summaries of this concept is her post “8 Quick Tips for Show, Don’t Tell“. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Don’t tell readers the emotion your character is feeling. Don’t say “Lucy felt regret…” Rather describe how she looks back and feels sad, or describe something that illustrates her regret, without actually using the word “regret”. [Metaphors spring to mind.]

Use cause and effect to your advantage. Writing chronologically takes readers with you, although sometimes writing about the effect before the cause can be powerful.

Avoid adverbs. You know those things we invariably use, when we write lazily? [This applies to adjectives too. Too many, and you might be using the wrong nouns!]

Choose the right verbs. Like the saying goes, if you’re using an adverb, you’re using the wrong verb.

Use paragraphs to break information. Like cause and effect, organising different aspects of a scene into separate paragraphs helps take readers along for the ride and helps to make the setting, the event and the result clearer in their minds.

Avoid saying “S/he thought” when writing what a character is thinking, because it should already be clear from the context when a certain sentence contains their direct thoughts.

Be wary of dumping too much information into scenes. Often too much background or explanatory information can be too telling, without enough showing.

Use character goals as your motivation for writing each scene. Focusing on actions which come directly from the character’s needs, goals and desires (and significant plot points) in the story will often lead to writing more show, less tell.

K.M. Weiland’s advice to those writers struggling to ‘show not tell’ in their writing is to use this suggested exercise from Mary Karr’s ‘The Art of Memoir‘:

Imagine you’re describing a significant emotional event in your own life. You’re not allowed to say how it affected you, or what you felt. You have to focus on the things that will imply or illustrate those things to the readers.


I made the “How to Show not Tell in your Story Writing” graphic to summarise the key messages about improving your ‘show not tell’ skills from another one of K.M. Weiland’s posts: “Showing and Telling: The Quick and Easy Way to Tell the Difference“.

In a nutshell, it’s down to elaborating (showing) not summarising (telling). To do that, use good quality nouns and verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs, and employ sensory descriptions, without necessarily naming the sense you’re describing. Obviously there is a place for telling as well, but showing involves readers more.

I’m going to get right to it after finishing this post! I’m going to edit my writing to make it more dramatic, more submersive, more real – and less telling.

What about you? What are your personal pet peeves with the ‘show don’t tell’ thing? How have you dealt with it? Do you have any useful examples we can all learn from? Write your comments below this post.


Man and smoke image thanks to intographics at pixabay.com.

Child in tunnel image thanks to Pexels at pixabay.com.

Girl and grain image thanks to tori_tori at pixabay.com.


 

Environmental Fiction: Can Stories Really Save Planet Earth?

Environmental Fiction: Can Stories Really Save Planet Earth?

Environmental Fiction isn’t new.

Environmental Fiction” also known as “Eco-Fiction“, and its sub-genre “Climate Fiction” or “Cli-Fi”, is a relatively new distinct genre of literary fiction, focusing on stories of human beings interacting with the natural world and causing environmental problems and ecological crises on planet Earth (and sometimes beyond).

I say ‘relatively new’, but novels in this genre have been around for decades. For example, Mosquito Point by Chris Barry was first published in 1996 and tells the story of a character whose daughter was an environmentalist protesting the use of DDT (a now mostly banned insecticide), and an Eco-Fiction anthology published in 1971 contains environmentally-themed stories from as far back as 1839!

Fiction activism.

Right now, Eco-Fiction is gaining popularity because it’s hard to escape the sense of urgency brought to our attention by environmental and climate activists, protesters and movements such as Greta Thunberg (https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg), the School Friday Strikes (#StrikeForClimate, #SchoolsStrike4Climate), Extinction Rebellion, and the like.

Even the latest winner of the very respectable “Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2019” was the Environmental Fiction novel The Overstory by Richard Powers, which explores the power of trees in the lives of nine fictional characters over time, and how they come together to save our world from a natural catastrophe.

Can a story really save the planet?

Most authors who write fiction focusing on natural disasters, ecological crises and mass species extinctions want to bring these issues to the attention of readers.

As an Environmental Fiction author myself, I feel strongly that Eco-Fiction has an important educational place in our culture, perhaps even highlighting green issues like habitat destruction, pollution and animal rights to people who might not otherwise have engaged with them.

“But if Environmental Fiction is just that – fiction, then why would readers take it seriously?” you might ask.

I’d like to think that having read a fictional story, readers ‘get it’ that the issues are real or could be, even if the characters or settings might not be. Hopefully readers come away more aware, perhaps even inspired to do some research, join an activist group, protest human-caused ecological catastrophe, volunteer their skills to wildlife charities, recycle more, or stop eating meat.

Even if all they do immediately after finishing the novel is think and feel more about an issue, that’s a good result, as far as I’m concerned. Spending time mulling over something in their minds which touched, angered or frightened them, and discussing it with others, is bound to affect their actions and behaviour down the line.

Change is needed.

After all, it’s humans who need to take action to save ourselves and the Earth. The planet cannot heal itself if we’re still here.

Science-Fiction meets Eco-Fiction.

For some readers, the time setting in the novels might matter as to whether they feel a novel is ‘realistic’ or not. Some Eco-Fiction focuses on important ecological issues which are happening now and are perhaps more urgent, like fracking, plastic pollution or climate change; these will reflect what readers can see around them.

Other authors present imagined dystopian or post-apocalyptic futures where humans didn’t take action in time and the remaining survivors struggle to live in barren, difficult environments. These novels serve as warnings to us to take action, otherwise our futures may be as bleak as described in the novels.

Now and then.

BookRiot classifies these two distinct types of Environmental Fiction as “What is” (novels focusing on now) and “What might be” (the future). Read their “A Reading List to Save the World” here.

Either way, Environmental Fiction, as a genre, is growing. In fact, I’d argue it’s already more than a genre – it’s part of the Ecological Collapse and Climate Crisis sub-culture or social movement fuelled by panic about the survival of our planet and human race.

We’re going to see more of it, be it in bookstores, Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar, and even in research and education seminars.

Do you think Environmental Fiction can save the planet? Have you ever read an Eco-Fiction novel? If so, which one, and how did it change your life? Write your comments below this post.


Eco-Fiction: Can Stories Really Save Planet Earth?

Interview with Environmental Author Sonia Faruqi

Interview with Environmental Author Sonia Faruqi

I’m always happy to find another author who uses the magic of words and the potentially powerful imagery inherent in them to bring awareness of environmental issues, animal rights and nature conservation to the world.

Sonia Faruqi is one such author, having written two books, both of which she says happened accidentally!

I interviewed Sonia in August 2018 about her work – you can view the video of this interview below.


Project Animal Farm, her first book, is a critically-acclaimed investigation into intensive factory farming. While volunteering at an organic dairy farm, in what Sonia imagined was going to be a short, idyllic holiday between jobs, she discovered that even organic farms treat their animals as commodities and that the peaceful, grass-fed existence we imagine for dairy cows is nothing close to the truth.

This experience led her on an unquenchable thirst for knowledge in eight countries around the world – to learn about how animals are treated in various types of farms around the world, why there isn’t greater transparency about the terrifying cruelty so often built into the intensive farming system, and what it might take to solve the unsustainable global crisis known as ‘modern farming’ for meat, dairy and eggs.

Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, and often referred to as the ‘founder of the modern animal rights movement’, had this to say: “Let Sonia Faruqi take you on her courageous personal journey of discovery. I thought I already knew everything there is to know about modern animal production, but I learned many new things from this very readable book, and you will, too.

I like Sonia’s choice of title for this documentary book, which cleverly alludes to George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, about farm animals who symbolise proleteriat workers, and who don’t realise they are being controlled by sinister forces larger than themselves.

Sonia has a rare gift for description – the farm and slaughterhouse workers, managers and farmers she met along the way (she says they’re true to life except for their names which she’s changed for privacy) jump off the pages like characters you wouldn’t be surprised to find in a dystopian novel.

She includes research and statistics about the laws, policies and practices around factory farming, and this book, which could be emotionally challenging for some readers in places (I burst into tears when she described the slaughterhouse scenes), should, in my opinion, be compulsory reading for everyone aged 15 or over.

I feel very strongly that if more people know the truth about the often deceptive, corrupt and heartless world of factory farming, then many more consumers would shun meat, dairy and eggs, and farm animals might be able to live their lives in peace, just as they have a natural right to do.


The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Sonia’s second book, The Oyster Thief, described as “an underwater odyssey”, is an extraordinary novel about merpeople in the Atlantic Ocean. In the richly and accurately-researched undersea environment, Sonia immerses herself and her readers in a story about love, betrayal and destruction of the ocean.

Through the eyes of the merpeople, many fearful of humans through past experiences, we learn about real and current environmental issues affecting the Earth’s oceans, including undersea mining for minerals and oil, and how coral reefs, the lifeblood of the oceans, are suffering from human activities.

Sonia says she sat down to write The Oyster Thief one cold, January morning, when she felt frustrated that she couldn’t escape to a warmer place. So she began creating an imaginary world, which turned into a novel!

Painstakingly researched, and informed by Sonia’s experiences including diving with sharks, the story introduces you to the myriad of different types of corals and undersea creatures which inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, as we follow Coralline, a mermaid, and Izar, a human on a quest for a life-saving elixir.

You can watch my video interview with Sonia below.

Catch up with her at her website SoniaFaruqi.com or on social media: TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Kathryn Rose Newey is an author of unique novels with environmental themes, for young adults, teens and children. In fact, her books are suitable for anyone who cares about animals and the planet.

Her books include: The Zoo Animals’ Faraway Dream (a story to save caged animals), Animals in the Forest: The Day Terrible Things Came (a story to save the Earth), and Ilnoblet Elmer and the Alien Water Thieves (fun and educational science fiction). Her next book will be a story to save trees.

Available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, other Amazon websites and major bookstore websites worldwide.  Find out more


Original 1945 cover of Animal Farm by George Orwell: By Unknown author (-) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


5 Things You Need to Know as a New Self-Publishing Author

5 Things You Need to Know as a New Self-Publishing Author

When I started self-publishing books, I searched the Internet for how to do everything, from file formats, to book cover designs, to best self-publishing platforms.

My biggest frustration was that there’s so much information out there, and tons of conflicting advice and opinions. It can be overwhelming for author newbies, who after all, just want to get on and write, then publish their book.

And as an author based in the UK, the advice was often not even relevant to me – as the US frequently leads the way with a plethora of self-publishing websites and authors, while the UK often seems like the poor cousin!

So here are the top 5 things I’ve learned along the way (relevant to all self-publishing authors), and the things I wish someone had told me when I started out as a self-publishing author:

1. Don’t worry too much about the standard advice on word counts or ‘write what you know’

paging though a book

Find out what the experts say, and then break the rules!

It’s good to know what the typical or expected word counts are for novels in your genre – see this article on word counts, for example.

But don’t be completely bound by them. If your complete novel is longer or shorter, and there is a good reason for this, then publish it as it is. Just beware of writing novels which are very short (say under 20,000 words if aimed at young adult or adult age groups) or very long (over 120,000 words) because readers will expect something to be a certain average length, and either be disappointed or lose motivation.

As for the old adage “write what you know” – well again, there are reasons why this rule was created in the first place.

But if every author wrote about only what they know, books might be very boring indeed! However the danger with writing about something you don’t know or aren’t familiar with is that the scenery, character, situation or event might come across to your readers as stilted, lacking in details or simply unrealistic.

So, if you’re going to write about things, places, people or feelings that you haven’t experienced personally, then do your research, speak to others about it, and put everything into using your imagination, calling on experiences you’ve had which have some bearing on this, and empathising with what’s going on in the scene/book you’re writing.

Do ensure your manuscript is as flawless as humanly possible!

Edit, edit, edit, and/or find a professional copyeditor/proofreader (the differences between those processes are spelled out here). It is annoying to readers and creates an unfavourable reputation for self-published authors if your finished book is less than perfect!

2. Beware of assisted and hybrid publishing companies masquerading as ‘real publishers’

Big 5 Book Publishers

As a new author you might be convinced that your book should be published through a traditional publisher. Think of the kudos! You might even imagine you’re the next J K Rowling!

But remember that if this is your hoped-for route to publishing, you’ll probably need a literary agent, as most of the large traditional publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts (unless you’re J K Rowling).

And there are so many options these days that thankfully, using a traditional publisher isn’t the only way to get your book out there.

To find out more about all the different routes to publishing available to authors, have a look at this continuum of key book publishing paths by Jane Friedman (pictured above).

If you decide to look for publishers, be careful of the smaller ‘publishers’ who are sometimes no more than assisted self-publishing or hybrid publishing companies.

They often make most of their money by charging authors thousands of dollars to ‘publish’ their books, not from selling books. And some of them have aggressive marketing strategies aimed at authors (not readers). Read the fine-print because some of them may tie you into exclusive contracts for years.

Logo for Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

Whatever you decide to do, always check out any self-publishing services, including publishers, in the ALLi Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services List.

3. Use a combination of Ingramspark and Createspace/KDP as your self-publishing platforms/distributors

This is my advice, based on my experiences with a number of self-publishing platforms, especially if you’re wanting to get your books into brick-and-mortar bookstores too.

Ingramspark logo

Publish your book and ebook on Ingramspark first, then the same book and ebook (same formats, size and ISBNs) on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Amazon have now closed down Createspace – you can now publish both ebooks and paperbacks via KDP.

The order is important! You need to get your book into global distribution platforms, databases and bookstores through Ingramspark first.

Ingramspark offer standard industry discounts to distributors and bookstores, making it the most sensible platform for self-publishing, because from the point of view of distributors and bookstores, it places your self-published book on a similar footing to books which are traditionally published, and bookstores will more readily stock your book. With Ingramspark, there is a fee for setting up your titles (around $25-$49), but they do occasionally run promotions where you will be able to set up your titles for free.

Then, to ensure Amazon always shows your book as available (not out of stock), you need to publish the same files, with minor amendments, on KDP (an Amazon company). However, with KDP, do NOT choose global distribution options.

You can find out more here about the combination of Ingramspark and Createspace/KDP as self-publishing platforms.

If you do it the other way round, ie. Createspace/KDP first, this can create issues with the global distribution listings. Also, do NOT use the free ISBN offered by Createspace/KDP – this will tie you to publishing only through them.

4. You don’t have to have your own ISBNs, but it’s better if you do

If you go with my advice about publishing with both Ingramspark and Createspace, you will need your own ISBNs (usually two ISBNs per title – one for your paperback, and one for your ebook, depending on your book format choices).

ISBN number and barcode with price

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and it’s usually included in number and barcode format on the back cover of print books (and digitally for ebooks). Part of the ISBN identifies who the publisher is.

Buy your own ISBNs from Bowker (for US authors), Nielsen (for UK authors), or find the ISBN agency for your country. You will then become the listed ‘publisher’ of your books.

A cheaper alternative is to buy ISBNs from an ISBN publishing agency – who will then be listed as your publisher – such as Independent Publishing Network for UK authors. You only need to buy the ISBNs (which come with barcodes), not the ISBN registration, as Ingramspark and Createspace/KDP will automatically add your ISBN number and barcode to your book cover templates and list your book titles on relevant databases, etc.

It doesn’t matter if, at the start of your self-publishing career, you use some free ISBNs tied to certain self-publishing platforms.

Then as you progress, you can buy your own ISBNs for future books. But note that usually the ISBN attached to a certain book and format of that book will remain with that version forever. If you do need to generate a barcode for your ISBN, do it here.

5. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on training or self-publishing services

It is completely possible to learn as you go and do lots of research and free training courses before making any decisions when self-publishing, then do pretty much everything yourself.

woman walking alone long road

But it can be a long, lonely journey…

So my advice is that, as soon as you can, find some successful self-published authors who are relevant to your genre and regularly access their blogs/newsletters/videos (many give freebies when you sign up to their website newsletters). Or, if you can afford it, there are some who offer very good self-publishing courses and training (but these are often expensive and can tie you into subscriptions for a few months or a year).

Here are some self-published authors with extensive help-websites, resources and training courses to get you started (some are free):

Derek Murphy – visit his CreativeIndie website with lots of resources and view his Guerrilla Publishing course. As an ex designer, he also has a book cover design website with free templates at DIYBookCovers.com.

Joanna Penn – sign up to her newsletter to get her ‘Author 2.0 Blueprint’ for free. Joanna has a very comprehensive self-publishing support website called TheCreativePenn.com.

Joel Friedlander – lots of tips, resources, templates and advice on all things self-publishing, at his website TheBookDesigner.com.

Mark Dawson –  view his Self Publishing Formula information, books and courses.

Chandler Bolt – check out his Self Publishing School freebies, materials and training.

Jerry Jenkins – if you sign up to his newsletter, you’ll get his ‘How to Write a Book’ PDF for free.


Andy Weir, author of The Martian, now a major film
Andy Weir, author of ‘The Martian’

Finally, self-publishing is a huge growth area. In the 5 years 2011 to 2016, Bowker reported that US self-published print and ebook titles (with ISBNs) grew over 200%. And some self-published authors, including EL James of  ‘Fifty Shades’ fame, and Andy Weir who wrote ‘The Martian’ (originally available as a self-published ebook for 99c, now a Hollywood blockbuster movie), have really made it big!

But ultimately it’s not about the money! If money follows, that’s a bonus. Writing and self-publishing is about you and your readers. It’s about your desire to contribute to, and leave a mark in this world, in your own way. And it’s about your readers, who will hopefully be entertained, moved or inspired by what you write!

Questions? Comments? Leave a reply below this post. 🙂


Unique novels with environmental themes by Kathryn Rose Newey

Kathryn Rose Newey is an author of unique novels with environmental themes, for young adults, teens and children.

Her books include: The Zoo Animals’ Faraway Dream, Animals in the Forest: The Day Terrible Things Came, and Ilnoblet Elmer and the Alien Water Thieves.

They are available on Amazon and major bookstore websites worldwide.


Photo of typewriter scene by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo of book by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Photo of typewritten text by rawpixel from Pixabay

Photo of editing by annekarakash from Pixabay

Photo of woman with suitcase by josealbafotos from Pixabay

Photo of Andy Weir by Steve Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Self-Published Author Fairs in Hertfordshire

Self-Published Author Fairs in Hertfordshire

It’s great that Hertfordshire Libraries are acknowledging self-published authors – by holding a series of Self-Published Author Fairs in various public libraries.

The events are aimed at bringing self-published books, often unique, to the attention of readers who can purchase them directly from the authors, as well as educating potential writers about how to self-publish their own books.

I participated in one such event at Harpenden Library in March 2018 (that’s my author table pictured). Besides me, there was one other children’s author and four adult fiction and non-fiction authors.

It was wonderful to see how well used the library is on Saturdays – with lots of children and adults visiting to read and borrow books.

I chatted to lots of interesting people, including children and their parents curious about the self-published books on sale, and would-be authors and illustrators, wanting to know more about the writing and self-publishing process.

If you’ve always want to write and publish a book, but don’t know where to start, I offer coaching / tuition / consultations on writing and self-publishing for children and adults. Find out more here.


 

Goodreads Author Profile

Goodreads Author Profile

You can now check out Kathryn Rose Newey’s author profile at goodreads.com, where I answer reader’s questions, post books I’ve read, and announce new books.


Goodreads.com is a fun way for book lovers to connect.

Once you’ve created your free account, you can do lots of book-related things like:

  • Save ‘bookshelves’ of your favourite books under ‘read’ or ‘to read’,
  • Write reviews and ratings,
  • Join other readers’ communities or groups.

You can also connect with your favourite authors or start a book club!

Have fun with Goodreads! 🙂


 

Goodreads Author Profile

Goodreads Author Profile

You can now check out Kathryn Rose Newey’s author profile at goodreads.com, where I answer reader’s questions, post books I’ve read, and announce new books.


Goodreads.com is a fun way for book lovers to connect.

Once you’ve created your free account, you can do lots of book-related things like:

  • Save ‘bookshelves’ of your favourite books under ‘read’ or ‘to read’,
  • Write reviews and ratings,
  • Join other readers’ communities or groups.

You can also connect with your favourite authors or start a book club!

Have fun with Goodreads! 🙂