Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Improve your writing next year! #HolidaysSavings on writing guides

Did you get an Amazon gift card recently? Or are you thinking about New Year's Resolutions that include starting to write, getting back to writing, writing more, or writing better? Treat yourself to a writing guide - on sale!

On Sale
You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers

The paperback version of this writing guide has been marked down from $12.99 to $9.99. It’s also available for the Kindle, or you can read it for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I have two children’s picture books on my computer, and, after reading this book, I know what I need to do to make them better. 

This is a terrific resource book for anyone who has considered writing for children. Each chapter has a tip section as well as specific resources, concrete examples, and easy to understand explanation of terms and topics. Excellent book!

 A definite “winner” in the “how-to-write” book library.

Grab a copy for aspiring writers you know, or put it on your wish list!

On Sale

If you know writers who write for adults, or who could use something more advanced, try Advanced Plotting. Again, the paperback version of this writing guide has been marked down from $11.99 to $9.99.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This really is helping me a lot. It’s written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!

I just read and—dissected—your well written book: Advanced Plotting. It’s now highlighted in bright orange and littered with many of those little 3M sticky labels. GOOD JOB. There are too many just-for-beginners books out there. Yours was a delight.

Advanced Plotting is helping me to be more focused, to stop and ask the right questions, to dig deeper.

See Chris’s books at Amazon, B&N/Nook, Smashwords or IndieBound.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Mad Monk's Treasure, Romantic Suspense #99c Sale 12/22-12/29

Did you get a new Kindle or an Amazon gift card recently? Time to fill up your device! Here’s an option for only $.99. (If you got a KDP Select membership, you’ll find many of my books there – free for you to read with your membership.)

The Mad Monk’sTreasure

Romantic Suspense #99c Sale Dec. 22-29

The lost Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends—a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

Erin isn’t sure she can trust Drew with her heart, but she’ll need his help to track down the treasure. She heads into the New Mexico wilderness with her brainy best friend Camie and a feisty orange cat. The wilderness holds its own dangers, from wild animals to sudden storms. Plus, the sinister men hunting Erin are determined to follow her all the way to the treasure, no matter where the twisted trail leads. Erin won’t give up an important historical find without a fight, but is she ready to risk her life—and her heart?

“The story has it all - action, romance, danger, intrigue, lost treasure, not to mention a sizzling relationship....”

“Great balance of history, romance, and adventure. Smart romance with an “Indiana Jones” feel.”

“Well-written with an attention to detail that allowed me to picture exactly in my head how a scene looked and played out.” 


Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. In The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, sparks fly when reader favorites Camie and Tiger help a mysterious man track down his missing uncle. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.

Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon pageSign up for Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Formatting Print Interiors for Self-Publishing

I write a column for the SCBWI Bulletin with tips on self-publishing children’s books. The winter Bulletin includes my column on interior design for print books. Because I did not have enough space to include instructions for formatting using Microsoft Word, I’m including some detail here. Although, after writing all this, I found some other online sources that are even better. So you may want to skim over my instructions, and then click on the first couple of links below. See which one looks like the best fit for your learning style.

Microsoft Word is an adequate tool for doing the interior layout for novels with no or minimal interior images. (Professional designers generally prefer Adobe InDesign, but it’s very expensive. You probably already have Word.) The process is not necessarily easy or intuitive, so schedule some time, and take a break if you’re getting frustrated. You may also want to take notes on any tweaks you need to make for your preferences or your system. That way you’ll have those instructions for the next book you format.

I’m currently using Windows 10, but these instructions should work for most recent versions of Word.

Basic Setup

First of all, save a new version of your manuscript to format for print, because you will not want all these things in the version you use for the e-book.

Start by setting up your page size (equal to the book’s trim size) and your margins:

Under the “Page Layout” tab, click on Size and then choose the size you want your print book to be. Five or 5 1/2 inches wide is good for a children’s novel and no more than eight inches high.

Mirror margins mean I can put page numbers at the outsides
and different headings (name on left, title on right)
Next click on Margins– Custom Margins – Multiple Pages – Mirror Margins. Your interior margin must be at least .375” for books up to 150 pages, and .75” for books with 151 to 400 pages. Other margins must be at least .25 inches but you may want them larger for aesthetics. Measure the margins in some published books you like to see the difference it can make. Larger margins will also mean a bigger page count. That could be good if you have a short book and want to make it a bit thicker, but if you have a long book, more pages could mean you need to charge a higher price for it.

You may also have to adjust your header and footer distances to get the margins you want.

In Word, it looks like my title page is on the left
of a two-page spread
Front Matter

Front matter – that’s the stuff before the main text, the title page, copyright page, dedication, etc. – may be center justified. Choose a nice (stylish but readable) font and adjust the size appropriately You probably want a fairly large title, for example. Again, choose some traditionally published books and copy the type of content they have as well as the formatting.

The first page of novel text should be on the right-hand side, with a blank page opposite. If you view two pages at a time, remember that they won’t be the same two-page spreads that show up in the printed book. Rather, your first page will be a left-hand page when viewed in Microsoft Word, but a right-hand page in the print book.

Odd-numbered pages should always be on the right.

Headings

The title page is actually a right-hand page
because the first printed page faces up
Some books have the author name, the book title, and/or the chapter title at the tops of the pages. You’ll see it both ways in traditionally published books though, and setting this up is a bit complicated, so you might want to skip it. If you do want to use these headings, the first page of each chapter should not have a heading. Also, front matter and back matter (author’s note or whatever you have the back after the main text) should not have a heading. If you’re using headings, use section breaks (not page breaks) between chapters. This allows you to set up a different first page header (a blank header) for each chapter.

To put in a heading, double-click at the top of the page, above the main text, and Word should switch to into viewing the Header and Footer. You can then type in those spaces and format (left, right, center; change the font and the font size; etc.) Make sure to click the box that says Different First Page, and do not type anything in the first page. Also click Different Odd & Even Pages so you can put the book title on one side and the author name or chapter titles on the other side.

If you Link to Previous, each chapter will have the same headers and footers as the previous chapter. For front matter and back matter, un-click Link to Previous and erase anything in the headers and footers.

If your header or footer seem too large, make sure you don’t have an extra blank line above or below any text.

Text Design

For the main text, use full justification as opposed to ragged right. (This is under the Paragraph tab.) This will spread the text between the margins on the left and right. However, you may wind up with large gaps between some words. You will need to look for these gaps in your final review (below).

Choose your font and size. Garamond is a nice font for a novel. You can get fancy, but don’t get too fancy – use a readable font. It’s simplest if you use one you already have included with Microsoft Word, so you don’t have to worry about buying or licensing a specialty font or making sure it’s properly embedded in the PDF.

Adjust the leading (space between lines) by selecting all the relevant text, going to the Home Tab – Paragraph – Line Spacing and choosing Exactly and then the leading you want. 12.4 and 13.3 are common for leading, but you may want more or less depending on the font and font size. Make sure you’re not cutting off hanging letters from the line above – double check in the PDF, as it may be different from the Word version.

If that sounds too complicated, you can simply single space – but do not ever double space for a novel! (Yes, I’ve seen that in a self-published book.)

You may want to decrease your tab or first-line indent size so paragraphs aren’t indented as much. If you haven’t been able to break the habit of using five periods to indent, use the Search – Replace function and get rid of those.

Chapters

No headings on the first page of the chapter!
Add your chapter headings (whether this is just Chapter One or a chapter title). You can center the chapter headings and adjust the size. You may want the first word or letter of a chapter to be larger or bold. Study other books for ideas.

Of course you want all your chapter headings to be the same throughout. I found the simplest way to do this is to use the Format Painter button – the little paintbrush in the upper left-hand corner. Double-click on the paintbrush, and then scroll down to the next chapter heading. Click to the left of it and the line should adjust to the same formatting. Scroll down farther and repeat.

Final Polish

If you have any interior art, add it using the Insert button. Microsoft Word apparently compresses art, so it won’t be as high quality. This means it’s not ideal for books where the images are very important, but you can use simple line art.

Scan through every page looking for large gaps between words, and add hyphenation or otherwise adjust the formatting to get rid of them. Look for widows and orphans as well and get rid of them.

Save a copy as a PDF -- make sure you have chosen “standard” format. Choose ISO option if it’s not embedding the fonts. Double-check that all your formatting came through, such as italics. Be sure all your formatting is consistent.

Now you are ready to upload your document!

Troubleshooting

If my tips don’t seem to be working, or you need to know something else, do an Internet search for what you want to do and you should come up with plenty of tutorials, both written and video. They are often better than the Help menu in Word. You might also be able to find a tutorial that simply walks you through lots of the options.

One incredibly valuable tool is the Replace option. You’ll find it in the upper right corner of the Home tab. It can be used to fix all those problems that come from old habits. For example, search for two spaces and replace with one space. Click on the “More” button and then “special” to see many more options. If you have a document with tabs and you want to use the indent formatting instead, you can Replace “tab” (there are symbols that indicate these things; you don’t actually use the word) with nothing.

I always use the Replace function and replace " with " – the symbols look the same, but it will ensure that all quotes are “smart” or “curly” rather than straight. I do the same with the apostrophe.

And don’t forget the Undo button in case you do something wrong! If things are going well but you want to experiment with something risky, it might be a good idea to save the document in a new version before you start playing with it.

If you are overwhelmed, you have other options, such as hiring a professional or using a template. Print on demand companies may supply a template. You can buy more advanced preformatted templates available for Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign. TheBookDesigner has some for children’s books starting at $37.


Chris Eboch is the author of 40+ traditionally-published books and 10 self-published titles, including You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers and Advanced Plotting. Visit her Amazon page or website.



Additional resources:

How to format a book in Microsoft Word (with videos and lots of images)



How To Make A Professional Standard Print Book Interior With Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer






Wednesday, December 7, 2016

WriteOnCon is Back! Join This Great Online Writing Conference for $5


I’ll be one of over 100 presenters at the Write on Conference. It’s incredibly cheap (as low as $1 but I recommend the $5 option), and you attend from the comfort of your own home! The conference will be hosted through the WriteOnCon website.

Here’s how the organizers explain the conference:

“WriteOnCon is a children’s literature conference for writers. When you’re trying to improve your writing craft or hoping to get published, conferences are a must on anyone’s list – but they can be stressful and expensive. Our goal is to provide a conference experience that’s easy, fun, and affordable. We encourage you to get involved, improve your writing, and connect to the kidlit community – all from the comfort of your own home.”


“December 15 is the last day for the WriteOnCon Indiegogo campaign. After this date admission will be available through our website but prices will go up (by just $1! but it’s still worth signing up now), and – more importantly – all of the critique perks will no longer be available.” (You can get query, picture book, or first pages critiques from published authors, editors and agents, for $20-$65, with some more expensive options for full manuscript critiques and other items.) “Also, everyone who signs up during the IGG campaign will be entered into a raffle to win one of two query critiques, a personal video call with an agent, or one of several ARCs for fabulous books releasing next year.”

They also offer “Ninja Agents” – you can post your query letter or writing sample in the forums, agents will stop by, and they may leave feedback – or even request the manuscript!

Here is the link to the IGG campaign, including critique perks: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/writeoncon-2017-books/

The schedule is almost finalized. It includes Q&A sessions with authors, editors, and agents, live pitch sessions, panel discussions, and more. In addition, blogs and vlogs will offer additional information. Check out the entire schedule.

Follow @WriteOnCon on Twitter for updates.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Write Better Next Year - #WritingTips

The holiday season can be a crazy time, when it’s hard to get any writing done. But it’s not too early to think about your writing goals next year. Maybe you have a NaNoWriMo manuscript to edit and polish. Or perhaps you have other projects that could use a boost before you send them out. Consider giving yourself the gift of improved writing knowledge, so you can reach your goals for the new year!

If you need help shaping your novel, or identifying problems, consider getting a professional critique. You can find my rates and recommendations here (short version: developmental/content editing at $2 per page for a novel, $40 for a picture book).

Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books, provided this list of professional editors who work directly with authors. Karen Sanderson, The Word Shark, is an editor and proofreader who also has an Editor Spotlight series on her blog.

Writing books on writing is its own industry, providing many books that can give you advice on every aspect of writing.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This book can help.

The Plot Outline Exercise is designed to help a writer work with a completed manuscript to identify and fix plot weaknesses. It can also be used to help flesh out an outline. Additional articles address specific plot challenges, such as getting off to a fast start, propping up a sagging middle, building to a climax, and improving your pacing. A dozen guest authors share advice from their own years of experience.

Read the book straight through, study the index to find help with your current problem, or dip in and out randomly — however you use this book, you’ll find fascinating insights and detailed tips to help you build a stronger plot and become a better writer.

"This really is helping me a lot. It’s written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!"

Here are some other writing craft books I like. The links are to the authors’ websites or blogs. If you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

My brother, scriptwriter Douglas Eboch, is co-author of The Hollywood Pitching Bible. While it’s targeted at scriptwriters wanting to sell screenplays, a lot of the material is helpful and interesting to novelists as well, especially if you are trying to find your book’s “hook” or write a query/synopsis.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of my favorite writing craft books. Each chapter covers a specific tip for improving your style, and exercises at the end (with answers in the back) help you see if you are really “getting it.”

There’s a good book by Nancy Sanders called Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, which points out that we typically write for three reasons – the emotional satisfaction of getting published, to make money, and for the love of writing. She suggests separating those three goals, so you don’t put pressure on yourself to sell what you are writing for love, and you find more practical ways of approaching the other two goals. She then addresses how to target each goal.


The Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, by Harold Underdown, is an excellent overview of the business. It explains the different genres, the difference between a magazine story and a picture book manuscript, how to find a publisher, etc.

Scene and Structure, by Jack Bickham, has a lot of good advice on pacing. Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell, may also be of interest. Both of these are published by Writers Digest.

I found some interesting tidbits in Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman, is getting good reviews.

I’ve heard several authors talk about Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One, by Les Edgerton and The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman.

I’m a big fan of using close/deep point of view. Jill Elizabeth Nelson has a book called Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV.

And if you need help with grammar (or know someone who does), these have been recommended by writing teachers I know:

Things That Make Us (Sic), by Martha Brockenbrough
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott
Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman


Please share your other favorite books in the comments. I hope you’ll be able to give yourself some writing gifts this year – and perhaps share the knowledge with other aspiring writers you know!

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. 

Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.