Help For Authors

My favorite author has a page offering support for other writers, and I can’t tell you how many times I read it. She made mistakes. She got rejections. But, she said to keep pressing on. It gave me confidence when I was really down, which all writers need. The publishing world is a hard one. It can be full of rejections and uncertainty. But, if you really want to be a writer, then keep going. Once you finish something, submit it and keep going. It only takes one little yes!

By the time Jupiter Gardens picked me up, I already had several stories finished in the form of novellas, shorts and novels. They picked up all of my stories I had sitting around! Wear those rejections like a badge of honor. Brag to your friends to see who has more. The more you have, the harder you’ve been working!

Belonging to several writer’s groups, I do a bunch of conferences, conventions, workshops and classes. Here’s a little bit from some of my classes that may help with your writing!

Author Lingo

Manuscript- You know, that thing you’re working on with all the words. Your book before it’s a book. That’s a manuscript. It can also be referred as an “M.S.” in text.

Words- Professionals in the writing world gauge the length of a manuscript by how many words it has, not by pages. Chapters have spaces, and different style fonts and sizes can vary in how many pages your manuscript may have.

Font- The style of the words you write in. The most common and accepted is Times New Roman, size 12.

Query- A professional letter you send to agents and editors. A query is never more than a page (usually half a page) with a teaser blurb about your manuscript, your writing credentials, and the basics of the story, i.e.- how many words, genre, sub-genre.

Synopsis- These are often requested along with a query. A synopsis boils down your story into 2-5 pages (12 point font). You must include every pertinent detail here, even the ending. It is always written in present tense.

Genre/ Sub-genre- In Layman’s terms, what kind of book. Romance, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, western, contemporary, ect. A sub-genre is when your manuscript covers more than one field, such as a paranormal romance, sci-fi horror, or urban fantasy.

Plot- The events that make up a story. In order to find your plot the simplest way is to answer these three questions. What does your hero want? What’s standing in their way? How do they get it? And Presto! You have a plot.

Flow- How the story moves. Jumping from one scene to another too quickly can make your story feel “clunky.” Flow can be applied to the words as well. When you write too many sentences of the same amount of words you will have no flow in your sentence structure.

Deep P.O.V.- Deep Point Of View is where you (the author) attempt to draw the reader completely and thoroughly into the world of the story. You do this by “showing” your reader what you want them to see.

Showing” vs. “Telling-” This is a difficult concept for all authors to get. While writing you can “tell” a reader what the weather is- Another hot summer day greeted Jim. But your goal is to “show” the reader. Beads of sweat gathered on Jim’s brow as he stepped outside. His hand blocked the glaring rays of the sun as his eyes adjusted. He rushed to the car where air conditioning waited for him. Not once did I say it was hot, or that it was summer, but the character showed the weather by body language and events. This lets the reader stay in Deep P.O.V.

Scene and Sequel- A scene is where an event or action occurs. This is the place where you hold your breath until it’s over. A sequel is where you breathe. It’s the slower part that connects two scenes, and yet shows character growth. A book should always start with a scene.

Critique- This is where ravenous wolves tear your beloved manuscript to shreds. Oh wait, that’s just what it feels like (sometimes).  When another person reads your work and tells you its strengths and weaknesses.

Elevator pitch- Think 30 seconds. Just a few sentences that describe and tempt a potential reader. Very helpful if a publisher at a convention asks you what your book is about.

Blog- A journal on the internet that focuses on a particular subject or target. People can follow your blog and comment.

Loop- an internet group through Yahoo! Where others of the same mind gather to discuss and ask questions.

Writing Sprint- A set time where authors set aside EVERYTHING and write non-stop for that time limit. Often a race, where the winner gets bragging rights.

The Big Six- These are the top publishing houses in the industry. They include Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Self-Promo- It doesn’t matter if you’re published by one of the Big Six or are self-published, everyone needs to do self-promoting. Many authors do this by blogging, Facebook, twitter, and items such as bookmarks, flyers and pens.

Agent- There are many publishers that won’t accept a query unless it’s through an agent. An agent helps guide you through contracts and sets up promotional opportunities, but takes a percentage for their work. Usually 15%.

Swag- These are promotional items given out for free, usually as contest prizes or at conventions.

W.I.P.- If we mention a WIP on Facebook or twitter we’re not talking handcuffs and leather (though that might pop up in our work ). We’re talking about our latest Work In Progress, or unfinished manuscript.

H.E.A.- Happily Ever After, it is mandatory for a manuscript to end with a Happily Ever After (or “happily for now”) for it to be considered a “romance.”

ISBN #- An ISBN number is assigned to every published book in order for book sellers and buyers to keep of each title. Kinda like its own social security number.

Author Brand- These are usually two to three words that describe your genre/writing style. Often this is worked into a short, punchy line. This lets a new reader what they can always expect from you. For example Bonnie Paulson’s is- Science Flavored with Romaction.

Track Changes- This is a program in WORD that all agents and editors work in. It highlights changes made to a document and allows a column to leave remarks.

Em-Dash- The em-dash is used at the end of a hanging or broken sentence, often where dialogue has been interrupted. It looks like this “—”. (not the “-” located on the keyboard) You can find it under “Insert” and then “Symbol” in WORD.

Editor- There are three kinds of editors. The Developmental Editor covers the plot, characters, the story in general. The Line Editor checks for passive voice, repetitive phrases and decides on cuts to the manuscript. Finally there is the Copy Editor who checks for final grammar and punctuation.

Back Cover Copy- often referred to as a BCC. This is the blurb on the back of a printed book or the info that sells an e-book.

The Backstory Breakdown

Every character has a backstory. The problem is: how do we reveal their past without info dumping or other blunders? This is something all writers struggle with, including me. Here’s a breakdown of different forms backstory can take, and tips to make it work.

The Prologue. Prologues in the past were a common occurrence. But now they’ve fallen into the backstory category. Most often than not, the prologue is backstory. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it can be woven into the story instead of floating on its own, then do it. Yes, it’s extra work, but it’s always better to start with immediate action right out the gate.

The Info Dump. This is where something happens to a character, and the author breaks into the story to tell why what’s happening is important. For example- “George the Gladiator lifted his new helmet in salute before sliding it on. Little did he know, the helmet had been the downfall of every gladiator who’d worn it before. Malley the Masculine died from a blade to the eye, while the helmet simply slid off the head of Homer the Hairless…” I could go on, but hopefully you see that we went from the story of George, to a list of a bunch of other guys we’ve never heard of, or care about. George is about to go into battle and the reader wants to know if he’s going to survive, not how Homer the Hairless died. George could find out the info of the helmet by reading it in a scroll after the battle, or hearing about it from a friend. There are many ways to get this info to George and the reader. Be creative!

The Dream. Here’s where the character slips into a dream, and relives a traumatizing past (or silly, or revealing, you get the picture). Unfortunately, this technique has been overused in the extreme. While it can still be used as a valuable way to explore the past, I urge you to use this method sparingly.

Old Friends Reminiscing. This is one of my favorite techniques. Introduce the crazy friend from the past, or snarky ex, and open those past wounds. Two buds can share a glass of wine and say “Remember when you cast that spell that made your mom sneeze fire?” In that one line we learned the character is good with fire magic, and has a mischievous side. However, I urge you to avoid starting with “As you know, Maude, the new T-75 laser model fires at a bandwidth of…” If Maude already knew what bandwidth the laser fired at, then there’s no reason to share that information. The “As you know…” starter has also been used in excess in the past and should be avoided.

Paragraph Two. This is a pet peeve of mine. You’ve opened up with a great line, which turns into a fantastic opening paragraph. You’ve got me hooked. Then paragraph two starts with “Earlier that morning, as I ate my cereal and read the box, I would have never thought my day would have turned out like this. I brushed my teeth and chose my clothes, searching for my favorite shirt…” Anyone asleep, yet? It seems this most often occurs when authors start out with “I brushed my teeth and chose my clothes…” Then, someone tells them to liven it up. So they write this great paragraph of what’s going to happen at the end of the day, and stick it at the front to draw you in. That’s a no-no. Put in the elbow grease and rewrite the whole opener, please. I always walk away from stories like this, and they happen quite often, believe me.

Storytelling. What’s this? Using storytelling to tell a backstory? Yeppers! This works especially well in fantasy and paranormal tales. This is where one person relays a quick story of the whereabouts of a mythical sword, or the tragic life of a paranormal creature, etc.  It can be a bedtime story, a lesson, or a warning on a wall. The important thing is to remember to keep it short. One page is best (double spaced). If the story happens to be longer, then split it up. Have the storyteller get interrupted, then have the receiver of the story ask for more in the following chapter. These can also make great shorts if you want to release them in an extended version, separate from your story. Or it can be an added bonus at the end of a series.

Backstory is often seen as a villain, but it can be your friend, too. I hope these tips can help you beat that backstory into submission. And if it helps, write the backstory out on a completely separate page. Then break it up and weave it into your manuscript. Sometimes after you get it all out, you can trim the excess to make it quick, snappy, and to the point. And that’s usually what your reader wants: just enough to help them along, but not so much that it will yank them from the current story they are falling in love with.



2 responses to “Help For Authors

  1. McKayla Bennett

    Hello Mrs. Martin! My name is McKayla you came to my school (River City Middle School) for career day. I’m interested in writing, I have many stories in mind but I’m having problems with simple things like titles, how to start a story, and many other aspects of storytelling. You are a HUGE inspiration to me and I wanted to know if you could maybe help me a little. I’ve tried asking Google but a lot of the information given contradicts itself and I’d rather speak to one person than to many people. I love your writing style and I’d love to hear your insight on being an author and I’d like to hear your feedback on my story ideas. I take inspiration from many things such as anime, tv, movies, and other books I read. Thank you so much for reading this message, and if you get the time to respond to me I would appreciate every word you share with me. Thank you again!

    • HI McKayla! I’m so sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. This website has been having some serious issues! If you want to send me some questions, I’d love to help you out! My personal email is In all caps put “Requested Information Mckayla” so that I know it’s you and won’t dismiss it as spam 🙂

      I look forward to hearing from you!

      Shelley Martin

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