Text to Speech

AI

A useful strategy for editing your manuscript is to read it out loud. By doing so, you focus on each word more and can catch mistakes in your writing whether it is a missing comma, a misspelled word, or an auto-correct that is not correct.

Another tool that writers can use is text to voice programs. NaturalReader is a program that will read your manuscript back to you. They have a free version with a male and female voice, and they have a paid version where you get two more, higher quality voices and a few more options for $69.50 U.S. One option I am interested in is turning the book into an MP3 audio file giving me the ability to listen to my manuscript as I do other audiobooks. Granted the electronic voice is a little weird, but if you can get over that issue, having your manuscript read to you is a great way to find extra sneaking mistakes. NatrualReader has multiple languages options such as German, French, and Spanish.

I’ve looked at the IVONA text to speech program too. It’s an Amazon product. IVONA has a thirty-day free trial of their program. You can buy different packages of voices. It’s $59.00 U.S. for one voice and the ability to convert into an MP3. You can get three voices for $119.00 U.S.

yWriter is a free writing program that you can download. It helps with structuring your novel and keeps track of location, time passage, characters, and any other object you put into the program. You can input as little or as much information as you want into the program. It also has the ability to read the scenes to you (you have to be in the Scene page).

Another way of having your manuscript read to you is by changing it to a PDF document and emailing it to your kindle and having your kindle read it, which makes it more portable than a laptop.

Having another voice read my manuscript adds another layer of objectivity, at least for me. Separating myself from my memoir has been difficult. I’ve waited four month before going back to edit it, and I still find it hard at particular points to step back and experience the book as a reader.

Has anyone else tried any of these programs and have a favorite?

 

Structuring Your Novel: Part Three

Structuring-Your-Novel

The motivation-reaction unit (MRU) helps writer’s structure sentences and scenes alike. It is a way of thinking about the cause and effect relationship of incidents within your story. Many writers place the effect before the cause, which makes readers slow down and think about what happened. Even a seconds slowing can distract and/or confuse a reader, so it’s best to keep things in the right order.

Here are a few examples:

Effect then cause:

The cat scratched Simon’s face because Simon pulled it’s tail.

Cause then effect:

Simon pulled the cat’s tail, and it scratched his face.

Effect then cause:

Gertrude slammed the front door, after seeing a man with a shotgun running across the lawn.

Cause then effect:

A man with a shotgun was running across the law. Gertrude slammed the front door.

Each of these examples is more powerful when the cause comes before the effect. The reader has to think less about what just happened when the motivation (cause) come before the reaction (effect).

Sequencing your reaction in the right order is also important. A person reacts to a stimulus in a very specific way. When you get things out of order, it slows the reader down. Reactions occur in the following order:

  1. Emotional and thoughts
  2. Action including involuntary actions
  3. Speech

If you stop to analyze how you reaction to various things in your environment, you will see that you have an emotional response or thought first, followed by an action, and finally speech. Keeping things in the right order helps readers suspend their disbelief and reduces the acrobatics their brains have to engage in to understand what is happening with your amazing characters.

If you want to learn more about structuring your novel, I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s book Structuring Your Novel (picture above).

Part one of this series can be found here.

Part two of this series can be found here.

Happy Writing!

Structuring Your Novel: part two

Structuring-Your-Novel

The Scene is the basic building block of a story. A Scene has two parts: the action part and the reaction part.

The action half of a scene consists of a goal, conflict, and disaster.

The goal of a scene is usually a small piece of the overall plot goal or it can be a major piece of the plot goal. The goal of a scene must make sense in the overall plot of the story. It cannot be something random just to add something interesting to your story. It must move the plot forward. The goal of the scene has the PoV character (generally the protagonist) trying to obtain or avoid something physical, emotional, or mental. The goal must directly affect the PoV character, if it doesn’t you may what to switch to a character who has a higher stake in the scene. The goal should also lead to a new scene.

The conflict within a scene must flow from the goal. It should be about something that matters to the PoV and threaten the PoV’s ability to achieve the goal. It must be logical or your reader will not be able to remain in the story. Not every scene has to be a major battle. It can be something small that gets in the way of what the character wants.

The disaster should answer the question driven by the goal of the scene and prompt a new goal for the next scene. It needs to be flow logically from the goal and conflict. The disaster needs to raise the stakes, but not be melodramatic.

For example if your protagonist has a goal to obtain information from another character. The question is will he get the information. The conflict could be a million things but for this example, it is that the character with the information is intoxicated and doesn’t make any sense. The disaster is the protagonist never getting the information he needed because the character dies in a car accident on the way home.

The reaction half of a scene consists of reaction, dilemma, and decision. The reaction half can be very short, just a couple sentences, or it can be much longer. At times, it is interlaced within the action.

The reaction needs to correlate to the proceeding disaster. The reaction must make sense in the context of the story and be true to the PoV character’s personality. Reactions are important because they create the bond between the character and the reader. Don’t skimp on the reaction half of scenes.

The dilemma of the reaction portion is where the character reviews what happened, analyzes it, and plans his/her next step. The disaster of the action part of the scene influences the dilemma of the reaction portion. Be as clear and specific as called for in the story.

The Decision must be an organic result from the dilemma. It also needs to lead to a strong goal for the next scene and advance the plot. As will every piece of the scene it must be an important logical step in the plot of the story.

All the scenes of a story should line up like dominos. Each triggering the next in the line.

Overal Structure of a Novel

Structuring-Your-Novel

As some of you know, I internet and book stalk K.M. Weiland. I just finished reading her book, Structuring Your Novel Essential keys to writing an outstanding story. It’s an excellent resource for beginning and more experienced writers. Her informal witty conversational tone make the book easy to read and understand. She uses examples from her own fiction to demonstrate ideas throughout the book. Here is part one of what I learned. I’ll cover Scenes and Motivation Reaction Units in Part two and three, so stay tuned in.

K.M. Weiland is a proponent of the three-act structure for novels. From the opening sentence, you must hook your reader with action and a specific character. Within Act one, you have the inciting event and the Key event.  The reader should ask the major story question, which will be answered in the climax. Smaller questions will keep the action and suspense going along the way.

The inciting event is the thing that sets the story in motion. Sometimes this occurs before the story begins, but frequently it will be in the first couple of chapters. The Key event draws your protagonist in to the story. Act one concludes with the first major plot point. This point should draw your protagonist into the plot and slam the door behind him. There is no going back or changing course.  Typically, the setting and/or surrounding characters change from this point out.

Act two is the bulk of your novel and contains pinch point one, plot point two (midpoint), and pinch point two. Pinch points are times in the story, between the plot points, where the antagonist flexes his muscles and reminds the antagonist of his strength and determination lest the protagonist forget what is at stake in the story. The second plot point(midpoint) is a game changer in the story. The protagonist goes from reaction to situations to taking action toward his goal.

The first half of the novel the protagonist is climbing the mountain dodging whatever the antagonist throws down at him. The summit is the second plot point. The second half is the protagonist chasing the antagonist down the other side. Mind you, the antagonist is still a huge threat and lays landmines and other nastiness along the path.  The antagonist is not running out of fear of the protagonist, but because recklessness is fun.

The second act ends with the third plot point. This is usually a low point for the protagonist. A reminder of the challenge he took on at plot point one. Like plot point one, this is a doorway that must slam shut once the protagonist steps through. Things change here, probably not for the better and the protagonist must rise to the occasion enough to keep moving toward the climax.

The pace of the novel increases in act three. All of your subplots and twist should be funneling into the climax. You probably want to wrap some of them up on the way. The climax occurs about three quarters of the way through act three. The climax should resolve the major question proposed at the beginning of the story.

The resolution follows the climax. The resolution doesn’t have to be long, but the reader needs to know that the lives of the characters they have grown to love go on in one form or another. This is important even if you are writing a series.

 

WTF is an Author Platform?

book-platform-graphic

A few years ago, I was asking this  question. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been focusing more on building my platform and a little less on writing my manuscript.

Writers write, but if they don’t have a platform they don’t publish or sell the book that they have spent so much blood, sweat, and tears getting on paper. Because of my other commitments (single parent, day job, ultrarunning), it took me two years to get my first manuscript written and ready to be send to a professional editor. During those two years, I didn’t understand what a platform was or how to go about building one.

The importance of a platform didn’t really sink in until six months ago. Then I made some excuses about how I didn’t have time to write and build a platform. Now, I am trying to achieve the balance of building a platform and writing. At this point, my time is about 50/50 on these two tasks because I’m behind. Once you have your platform built you can ease back on it and let it grow of its own accord. Initially, it does take a lot of time because you are just getting it going. If you put the work in upfront then it will take off and you don’t have to put forth the same effort if you do not want to.

What is a platform? A platform is an audience, followers, fans, or readers. People, other than your parents, who want to read what you have written. People buy books because they are recommended by friends, reviewers, or some other form of media. Occasionally, people do pick up a random book in the bookstore or from Amazon read the back and buy it.

Readers have to know that you exist or they cannot buy your book no matter how amazing and life altering it will be for them. You can self-publish the book and wait for people to find it, decide to buy your book, read it, and then decide if they want to tell others about it or write a review of your book. I don’t recommend going this route. You will likely end up in some dark depression staring at computer screen displaying your book on amazon with zero reviews and zero sales (okay two sales your mom and dad).

There are superstars out there, who have been able to get huge sales despite no one knowing who they are, but I’m not relying on the idea that I’m a superstar and neither should you.

How do you build a platform?  Social media such as Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook are the best way to build a platform. Pick two or three primary social media sites that you enjoy interacting on and build your empire with them. It’s important to pick the ones you like to use. If you don’t enjoy it, your dedication will falter and you will stop updating them. It needs to be something you can dedicate some time to each day at least 30-60 minutes.

The numbers slowly go up as you find other people who are interested in the same things you are. You want to use social media to build relationships not to advertise. Connect with people. Readers buy books and remain loyal to an author they have a connection with. Your numbers are not going to grow to thousands overnight. It is going to take six months to a year to get some decent numbers going. So relax.

The best advice I have heard about how to use social media is to create connections to others and provide useful information. Its fine to post what you are doing every once in a while, but if you do this all the time, the only people who will follow you are your friends and family.

In my opinion, having a blog is the absolute best way to build a platform. People get to know you on a deeper level when you blog (connection). Choose your topic wisely, because it has to be one that you can maintain over a long time. We are talking years here. It needs to be broad enough that you don’t feel restricted and contained. Choose something you are passionate about.  It doesn’t matter what it is, other people are passionate or interested in the same thing.

The topic is likely to change a little from when you first start blogging and that is fine.  Your style and topic will develop and grow as you realize what your readers like to read. Consistency is also important. You need to post on your blog at least once a week, but daily can be a bit much for busy people. Personally, I find multiple posts during the day overwhelming and sometimes I will unfollow the blogger.

You won’t have many followers/readers for your blog during the first few months, but numbers grow exponentially. You have to hang in there for the long haul. A great way to get other people to follow your blog is to follow and comment on other blogs on related topics. This again goes back to making a connection and being useful.

You don’t have to be famous or have a book published to start building your platform. You need to start building it sooner rather than later.

Even writers planning to publish traditionally, should build a platform. Most agents and publishers will google your name when you send in your query letter. If they don’t find anything, they are probably not going to agree to take on your book no matter how awesome and life changing it is.

Other ways to build your platform include: podcasts and youtube videos.

In fiction, we find ourselvs.

child reading

Writing for me is a release. I often wonder how I ever got along in life without it, but then I realize it’s always been there in one form, or another. As a teen, I kept a journal and wrote poetry trying to express those overwhelming emotional upheavals that seemed to continually crash upon me like tidal waves over the sandy coast. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also kept a journal and written stories on and off.

I write to share my experiences and my perspective on the world and life. I don’t believe my perspective is better or worse than anyone else’s, but it is uniquely mine. I do believe that trying to understand other’s experience is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another human being.

Knowing that others out there who have dealt with the same thoughts and circumstances gives us a sense of not being alone in this unforgiving and harsh world. Knowing that someone is willing to take the time to at least try to understand lets us know that we have value and worth even if we don’t’ see it at the time.

Both fiction and non-fiction writing allows readers into the author’s world. Even in academic writing, the author cannot help infusing the writing with a piece of their soul through the words that they choose. They breathe life into the pages with the rhythm and cadence of the words.

I enjoy writing non-fiction, but for me there is a limit to what I can write about as a non-fiction writer. As a fiction writer, there are no limits. The world is mine for the making.

Non-fiction’s value and place in the world is clear and easy for anyone to see. Sharing knowledge and experience has immeasurable value to us all. Fiction’s value is equally precious, even if there are some who do not recognize or appreciate it.

Fiction allows the reader to pursue dreams and goals they never thought possible. It allows the reader to see through another set of eyes. It gives expression to the pieces of our souls we hide and protect from the rest of the world. Fiction allows readers to maintain a firm grip on wonder and hope within the real world.

When I get lost in the pages of a book, I’ve become a part of the story. I’ve identified completely with a character. We are one. Together we face challenges and fail. Together we face challenges and conquer. We never really part ways, even when I’ve set the book on my nightstand or slipped it into my bag. Sure, I know I’m not in never never land any longer, but I will always have a sense of strength, courage, and hope to draw upon in my own life.

What about dark stories that plunge the reader into the depths of hell and never fully brings them back? I love these stories most of all. How in the world does a reader draw a sense of wonder and hope from that, you ask.

It makes them feel less alone in the world. The darkness in the book resonates with an equally dark piece of their experience.  It also makes the real world appear so much brighter and radiant once you’ve looked hell in the eyes.

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