- Undefined Target Audience
One of the most common mistakes writers make in marketing is not having a clear understanding of their target audience. Knowing who your ideal reader is can help you make informed decisions about where to advertise, what types of content to create, and how to engage with your audience.
- Lack of Consistency
Another common mistake is not having a consistent presence across different platforms. This can include inconsistent branding, a lack of regular content updates, or an absence of engagement with followers.
- Neglecting the Importance of Social Media
In today’s digital age, social media is an essential tool for writers to promote their work and engage with their audience. Not taking advantage of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can result in missing out on potential readers and fans.
- Not Building Relationships
Successful writers know that marketing is not just about promoting their work, but also about building relationships with their readers and other writers in their community. Neglecting to engage with your audience or participate in online writing communities can limit your visibility and growth as a writer.
- Overreliance on Traditional Marketing Methods
While traditional marketing methods such as book signings and speaking engagements can still be effective, relying solely on them can limit your reach. Writers need to embrace new technology and platforms in order to reach a wider audience and stay relevant in today’s fast-paced digital world.
The Secret to Managing Your Manuscript
When you’re writing a book, do you keep a separate calendar for it, so you know what is going on and when? When you edit your chapters, do you often struggle to locate a scene that needs to be changed? Where is that swordfight, anyway? When you want to get a birds-eye view of your story for plotting purposes, do you get lost in the weeds of your book? If so, I’ve got a secret for you!
Use the Navigation Pane in Microsoft Word
If you use a different application, you might want to move on to another Fabulous Writing Tip. But for those of you who do use Word, let’s look at how the Navigation Pane can be your new secret weapon.
To see the navigation pane in action, open up Microsoft Word and go to: View/Sidebar/Navigation.
The sidebar will open on the left, with four tabs: thumbnail, navigation, revisions and search. You want to be sure to click on the navigation tab, which is the icon that looks like a little outline, with three bullets and three lines. If nothing shows up, that means you haven’t used the Styles pane to apply the Heading 1 style to your chapter titles. To format your titles, go to Format/Style or use the Styles Pane. And chose Heading 1 as the style.
The Navigation Pane can help you do three things:
- Plot your story
- Keep track of the timeline in your book
- Make editing easier
Plot Your Story
When I first discovered this feature of Word, I titled my chapters “Chapter 1” and “Chapter 2” and “Chapter 3” and so on. So that’s what I would see listed down the lefthand side: Chapter 1, 2 and 3. Cool. It was easy to bop around from chapter to chapter that way. But ho hum.
Then one day, I had an epiphany.
Why not add a hint in the title, so I knew what major scenes take place in each chapter? I started adding a couple words to my chapter titles, such as “Chapter 1 | Meets Hero | Rents Apartment.” Those were the two major scenes that occurred in my Chapter 1. And presto chango, I discovered a great way to use Word as a plotting paradigm.
I usually write a thirty-chapter book. So, I know that at chapter fifteen, I should be writing the huge turning point scene. If I use the navigation pane, I can look to the left, see my scenes and see if I’m on track or not. And when I’m planning my book, I can add all the major scenes to the chapter titles without writing a single word of prose and see if my book is paced the way I want it to be.
All writers know the most important plot point has to occur near the middle of their book. So, if you look at the navigation pane and see your most important scene in the wrong spot—too near the top of the list or too near the bottom—you know you have to work on your pacing. Same thing goes for the lesser plot points in your story.
Since I’m a slow learner, I slogged through a couple of books using the navigation pane and title descriptions and thought I was a genius.
But then I had a second epiphany.
Keep Track of the Timeline in Your Book
This epiphany hit me when I was writing my book, The Prodigy, which had a really tight timeline and dead parents in the backstory. The trouble was, I fell in love with the world I created in that book and wrote two other novels afterward, which became The Londo Chronicles series. But the two new books were prequels that made it mandatory to go back to the first book, The Prodigy, and fix some things. Like the dead parents in the backstory.
Let me tell you, it was a nightmare.
Sure, I had the major scenes showing in the navigation pane. I knew when the thugs attacked. I knew when Veronique’s audition occurred. But did I know what day it was? What year? No. And I had to know. So, I printed out The Prodigy, read the entire thing cover to cover and made notes about what date it was on the page.
Then began the task of adding scenes, because I had to resurrect parents that I had killed off in the first version of The Prodigy. They were only placeholders then. Part of Veronique’s backstory to explain her reason for being an orphan. But now, after two prequels, Veronique’s mother and father were the stars of the show. I couldn’t kill them off! The horror. But deciding where to insert the new parent scenes made me almost lose my mind.
Until an idea struck me.
Why not add the day of the week to the chapter title as well? That way, I could see at a glance what happens on say “Monday.” Wow. Such a simple solution.
Like I said. Slow learner…
So now my titles look like this: Chapter 1 | Meets Hero | Rents Apartment | Monday. If the book spans a great length of time, I might put in the actual date instead of the word “Monday.” That way I know what year the scene involves. It depends on the story.
Make Editing a LOT Easier
So, as I’m writing, I can now look to the left of my document and see the navigation pane and all the major scenes and when they occur. It is so, so helpful!
You wouldn’t believe how many times one of my characters will mention what they’re going to do on what day. And how soon I forget what day it is as I’m writing the book.
Of course, after the book is finished, I make a copy of my manuscript for publishing or for a querying, and I strip off the descriptive words in the chapter titles. I retain the copy with the long titles for future use—because, trust me, you will need to go back to your novel at some point in the future. And you’ll want that birds-eye view.
Sometimes, if I have clever chapter titles and I’m publishing the book as an indie title, I might retain the longer chapter titles. Longer titles can be provocative to a reader and induce them to read on because of an upcoming chapter title. So bland Chapter 13 might be much more exciting as Chapter 13 | The Haunted Castle or Chapter 13 | Meg’s First Kiss. But whether or not you can retain those longer titles during traditional publishing is up to your editor.
I hope you’ll check out the Navigation Pane. It has made a huge difference in my writing world. I’m sure it will change yours, too.
And you know what I always say: Life is short. Write smart!
The Secret to Building a One-Sentence Pitch
Writers use one-sentence pitches for just about everything: query letters, hooks, book summaries, back blurbs and for pitching ideas to editors and agents. We can also use the pitch to guide us as we write our novels. Creating your pitch statement before you start writing a book can become your secret weapon.
But writing the one-sentence pitch is the most difficult task a writer faces. How do we coalesce the soul of our book into a few words? There is so much going on in our novel. So much to say. How do we refine our thoughts and drill down to the nitty-gritty of our story?
Well, I have a formula. Yes, a formula. It’s like Mad Libs. You fill in the blanks with words of your choosing and then refine the statement until you are satisfied with the outcome.
Use the Mad Libs Approach
Here’s the basic statement we will start out with:
When (hypothetical situation), then the only way (main character) can (issue) is to (assumption).
The next step in building a one-sentence pitch is to replace the italicized words above with your own.
1. Choose a phrase for the hypothetical situation in your book.
Hypothetical situation: the world is blanketed by a nuclear winter
2. What is your main character’s name?
Name: London vampires
3. What is the issue you are writing about?
All great books are created by writers who have something to say. Books aren’t just about plot and characters and action scenes. Books are about people facing a tough issue and making a tough moral decision about the issue.
Examples of issues are:
- forbidden love
In The Londo Chronicles, the overarching issue is survival. The creatures who fight to survive are humans and vampires. But in a low sunlight world, what race would flourish? Vampires. And what do the vampires have to do to survive, without resorting to living off unpalatable rodents? They have to make sure human blood is available. So survival is my issue.
4. What is the assumption the main character makes about the issue?
Assumption: must raise humans like cattle.
Here’s Our One-Sentence Pitch
Now, let’s take all the terms we defined in Steps 1-4 and plug them into our Mad Libs pitch statement.
When the world is blanketed by a nuclear winter, the only way London Vampires can survive is to raise humans like cattle.
This is our one-sentence pitch. But here’s the best part. Inside this pitch, we have created a premise. Our main character has made an assumption about survival. The London vampires ASSUME they have to treat humans like cattle in order to survive. This is my premise. Is this assumption true? Or false? At the end of the series, I will prove that humans and vampires aren’t that much different from each other, and neither race should be treated like animals.
If you are having trouble coming up with your premise or assumption, be sure to add “the only way to” to your issue. That will automatically set up two sides to the assumption. A strong character in a novel will always challenge an “only” statement. It’s human nature to do so.
A character’s assumption about the issue is your premise. That’s what you will set out to prove or disprove. Is your character right to make the assumption or hold a certain belief? Or will they find out they’re wrong and change their minds at the end of the book? The entire book will be about the journey the character takes to find out if they are right or wrong about their assumption.
Every type of literary fiction has a premise
Even a mystery novel will be fired by a premise. The assumption usually belongs to the villain in this type of story. Think of how a mystery usually ends, with the bad guy explaining why they did something or the cops figuring out why the crime was committed. Criminals aren’t hung up on the “how” they did something. It’s always the “why.” It’s always about the premise:
- When his daughter is murdered, the only way Roger McBride can get real justice is to track down the guy and kill him.
- When Leslie Lee is discovered having an affair, the only way she can save her reputation is to silence the blackmailer.
Do you see how the Mad Libs technique is employed in the two pitches above?
Detectives always want to find out what really happened. What was the motive? What was the belief or assumption that caused a human being to commit a crime? Think of stories that are based on mere psychopathic actions or cult rituals. These types of stories aren’t nearly half as satisfying as ones that involve a “why” or a “belief in something” or an “assumption.”
Use your one-sentence pitch as a guide
When you use the hypothetical situation/issue/assumption method to build your pitch statement, you will automatically build in a premise. You will then know what you are going to prove or disprove at the end of your book.
Building the premise first will guide you as you write. Your characters will hold personal beliefs about this premise and will take action in regard to it. And at the end, some of your main characters will change their minds about what they believe as you prove or disprove the premise through your protagonist.
Pitch statements and premise are tough things to tackle. I know. I’m like every other writer. I want to write plot. I want to dive into those action scenes, those love scenes, and those scenes where the heroine meets the hero for the first time. But good stories are crafted around premise.
Good stories drive toward proving the premise. If you keep your premise as your guiding star—if you know what your one-sentence pitch is—you will write a much better book. You will satisfy readers on a visceral level. And that means your book will stay with a reader long after they read the last line.
About the Author
5 Reasons to Keep Creating in Troubled Times
The Secret to Building a One-Sentence Pitch
Love in the Time of Covid-19
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