Writing a Story: Novel Ideas

Writing a Story: Novel Ideas

The world is full of original ideas waiting to be claimed. Even if the idea isn’t original, tweaking can be done to make an idea unique enough to appear original. So where does one start? Where does one go to get an storybook idea?

Keep your eyes open

Become a people watcher. Everyday people living their daily lives can be the start of a brand new story. This is where creativity comes into play. Ask yourself questions.

  • Where are these strangers going?
  • What are they doing?
  • Why are they at the particular place at that specific time?
  • What are they thinking?

Pay attention to details. Over seven billion people live in our world and not a one of them absolutely perfect. Use it to your advantage. For example, imperfect traits can if a fantasy or science fiction feel.

  • Why does that individual have overly pointy ears?
  • Does that man’s forehead protrude just a wee too much?
  • Are her eyes abnormally large to the point of looking alien?

Don’t be afraid to disguise real life. The world is rich in events. There’s a story waiting to written everywhere, because true life is amazing. Change the setting and names and fictionalize it. Look for ideas in:

  • The media.
  • Rumors spreading through the neighborhood.
  • Your personal experiences.

Ideas are EVERYWHERE. The world is your sociology experiment. It’s up to you to rip the ideas from it.

Listen to EVERYTHING

Eavesdropping. On the surface it seems rude, but really, it’s the right thing to do. If people didn’t want you to know about their lives, they wouldn’t talk loud enough for you to hear. A few tips on eavesdropping.

  • For subtle eavesdroppers:
    • Don’t look but be sure to keep one ear facing the talkers so you can hear as much as possible.
    • Keep yourself busy with another activity while listening.
    • If possible, take notes.
  • For bold eavesdroppers (my preference):
    • Don’t be afraid to look directly at the talkers so lipreading can be added to your listening abilities.
    • Ask questions and become a part of the conversation.

Stories in music. Many songs tell a story. Often times the songwriter has an entirely different story in mind than what it invokes in the listener. And that creates a wonderful opportunity to reinterpret a story from a song and make it yours. Some thoughts to keep in mind.

  • How does the music make you feel?
  • Where does the music take you in terms of setting?
  • How can you expand a story which is originally a few hundred words in a lyric into a full blown story?
  • Most importantly: Don’t plagiarize. A song can provide an idea, but the story must be uniquely yours.

Dream a Little Dream

Dreams are fascinating and often a lot more interesting than mundane life. That’s why keeping a dream journal can be a valuable tool when it comes to generating ideas for your story. We’ll skip the bullet points this time around. The biggest advice is to record as much detail as possible and as soon as possible. Dreams are so fleeting, don’t take the chance the thoughts will be lost throughout the day.

Here’s the bottom line with story ideas. Don’t neglect life around you. Stories can come from ordinary mundane things. With a little creativity, you can turn the mundane into something extraordinary.

 

$0.99 or $2.99: That Is the Question

$0.99 or $2.99? That Is the Question.

It’s true. I got caught up in all the hype of $0.99 or $2.99. What’s a gal to do? I started my book at the $0.99 level… stayed there for all of 3 days. For the most part, I earned 2-3 sales a day. I was happy with that. People wanted my books. I wasn’t happy with the pricing model of 35%, which earned me $0.35 per book. Yikes!

What’s My Work Worth?

Do I think my works are worth more than $0.99? or $0.35 for that matter? Hell yah. It’s an awesome read (author bias going here). Plus it’s 91k words of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, the characters did more of that than me… but still. It’s a full length novel. I’ve seen novellas priced at $2.99 and higher. Didn’t my baby deserve at least that?

So, I bumped up my price to $2.99. I earned 1-2 sales the first day. After that, nada. NOTHING! OMG. I’d even put up ad campaigns. Doubts pricked at me. Perhaps they read the sample and thought it was trash. No reviews, no sales to keep up my kindle ranking, no profit. Wah me!

Here’s the thing. Despite my stats at Smashwords showing people weren’t even picking up the sample, I believed my words crap, and no one would buy it. Instead, I should have seen that as a sign of too rich for my blood. People were thinking $2.99 was too much to even bother with the sample of a debut self-published author. At least that’s what I got out of it after I thought it through.

I ran to my husband, as I often do and lamented about my fears of failure. Failure! You’re panicking. Give it some time, Reena. I’m the anxious type sure, but I’ve seen the results other debut authors have had. And many of their works are priced at $0.99. I guess if I wanted to be fussy about the length, I should have produced a 20k novella first for the world. I didn’t. That’s my bad, but I’m not letting my work go down the drains because I didn’t make a smart first decision.

Kait Nolan said in a blog post “When you’re starting out, you cannot let it become a money game.” That’s exactly what I’d done—turned it into a game.

I did some fancy calculating. Let’s say I stuck with $0.99 and continued to receive 2+ sales a day. At a royalty rate of 35%, 2 * $0.35 = $0.70 a day * 30 days = $21.00. Not the greatest, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I had the 70% royalty which came to be about $2.05 after all the nickel and diming and computed to 0 * $2.05 = $0.00 a day. Hmmm? Let’s be generous with myself and say I earned 2 sales a week at that rate. Not saying that was happening, but it could have. So we have 2 * $2.05 = $4.10 a week * 4 = $16.40.

Look folks. I’m unknown. A no named nudnik. Okay, maybe not nudnik, but certainly nameless to most. It doesn’t matter if I’ve written the next great or not. There’s absolutely no reason for someone other than friends and family to purchase my book… or to look me up for that matter. Many authors who stress $2.99 have already established a fan base. That works for them. One day it might work for me, just not today.

Writing erotica already cuts out a large portion of the reading audience. I don’t want to dismiss the rest of my potential audience by pricing my untested work in a range where folks say, thanks, but no thanks. My works are in a situation where supply and demand affects price. I’ve got the supply but with no fan base, little demand. If starting at $0.99 is going to get my name out there, you better believe I’m taking advantage of the opportunity.

That was then. This is now.

I originally wrote that post February 2012. I’m not a writer who is making a living selling my works. In fact, since I’ve disappeared for about half a year, my sales have dwindled from a few hundred a month to a couple of handfuls a month. My prices range from $0.99 to $4.95 plus 1 free work. And since I haven’t been real active these days, those prices have been the same for months… probably a year or more.

Looking back, do I think my prices have anything to do with my sales? Not so much these days. And here’s the reason why. I believe effectively promoting works has more to do with prices than anything. Judging by my sales numbers, I’m not the best at promoting. I’ll be outright with that.

So why do I say effective promoting is the key? Well, because I’ve read some diamonds out there which aren’t doing any better than my works. On the other hand, I’ve also come across some garbage which is doing pretty well. Excuse me… I don’t want to talk bad about the works of other writers, but we know crap is out there bringing in the dough. And we wonder, what the heck is going on? 🙂

Is it price? I think not. Because one of those crappy books will sell great at $9.99 when an awesome book might struggle to get off the shelf at $0.99.

Now don’t get me wrong, writing a good book does help. However, what it comes down to is one of two things:

  • Getting your book in front of the right people who will help spread the word for you.
  • Creating a promotional network which puts your book in front of enough buying individuals who’ll boost your book to visible levels on the chart.

Now don’t ask me how to accomplish either of those two items. If I knew how, my books would be at the top and selling great. 🙂

One thing I will say is this: What works for one author doesn’t work for every author. Add that to the fact that methods become outdated.

A couple of years ago, a writer could offer a work for free and watch the rest of their books climb to the top of the charts. When the free book went from free to paid, they’d also see a significant boost in sales. These days, free books flood the market. They’re not unique, so it takes a lot more than a free book to attract an audience.

So… research, experiment, and good luck!

Got a Story Idea?

Desecration - Nano eBook Cover 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve written ANYTHING. I’m going to say the last time I’ve written any fiction of significance was back during NaNoWriMo 2012. By the way, have you seen the cover for it? Desecration. My first high fantasy novel. Looking back, I have no idea why I decided to try high fantasy. I stopped reading it before I graduated from high school. Ramble, ramble.

Back on track. So, I’ve been thinking it’s time to share story ideas. Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read but it hasn’t been written yet? Not saying anyone is going to attempt to write it, but who knows? In a few short sentences… share with us your story idea.

Now don’t be afraid someone will steal your idea. That’s the point of posting it in the comments. 🙂 haha okay… but here’s the thing. A couple of sentences isn’t going ruin it for the book you may or may not write. The reason is: an idea is just the start of the creative process. The way one person interprets an idea will be different than the way another individual interprets an idea. Therefore, one idea will generate an untold number of original stories… none of them the same as the story you’ve got festering in your brain. 🙂

So share!

I’ll start. I would like to read a book that occurs in the future that reveals the existence of supernatural creatures. Those folks who have pointy ears might be part-elves or something. Folks with extra pointy canines might have some wolf blood in them. The further into the future the story goes, the better. I’d love to see some futuristic technology mixed into the story.

Who’s going to write my story for me?

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

A while back, my daughter clued me into something important… not everyone reads prologues. So, I’m a reader of prologues, so I admit to being quite surprised. I’m afraid I’ll miss something crucial by skipping the prologue. As an afterthought, I guess a prologue is not supposed to be filled with crucial information.

It’s the nice-to-have details that are supposed to enhance the story but not make the story.

Why bother with a prologue?

Prologues are rather tricky. As I mentioned, it should be filled with non-crucial information. So, if the information isn’t important, why bother? It just means folks (like my daughter) will skip all the hard effort you, as a writer, have put into the story. The other thing about prologues is it’s typically just backstory. And really backstory should be kept to a minimum. Because less face it, info dumps are boring. So to save everyone the bother, avoid starting your story with a dull info dump disguised as a prologue.

If you must

I’m not a dictator. If you want to use a prologue, go ahead. It’s not as if I can stop you. So here are a few items to consider before including a prologue.

Does the story stand alone without it? Remember… the prologue is not meant to be an info dump. If the story stands alone without it, perhaps it’s better to exclude the information all together. One alternative to info dumps and prologues is to use it as bonus material. Add a page on your website with inside looks into your story. If your story is captivating enough, people will visit your website to learn more.

Can you turn it into a first chapter? One of the main reasons for writing and publishing a work is to have folks read it. There’s no point in going through all the trouble of slaving through (editing, formatting, publishing, etc) a piece that few people are going to bother reading. As I mentioned, many people skip the prologue. On the other hand, who skips the entire first chapter of a novel? Put your hands down. If you’re skipping the first chapter, you’re weird. In reference to “normal folks”, if the information is important enough to include, why not make it the first chapter?

It’s a must. So you’ve decided your backstory (I mean prologue) is a must. If the backstory is important (absolutely necessary) and can’t be interwoven within the story effectively, consider a prologue. Just keep in mind, a lot of folks my skip it. Ask yourself: Is it worth my time and effort to create a prologue which will be skipped by many?