Authors using the Helix Review: Gary Briley

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.00.43 AMAs a part of our ongoing series looking at self-published writers who have used Helix Review, we interviewed Lulu author Gary Briley, who wrote the mystery novel: Stalemate. Helix, powered by The Book Genome project, allows authors to upload a manuscript and receive an incredibly in depth analysis of the book.

Tell us a bit about Stalemate:
After artist Julia Storey is murdered by a hit and run, her journals reveal a secret life that her husband Nick realizes puts him, his son, sister and parents—away on one of their “trips to nowhere”—in the crosshairs of a vicious killer.  Police Detective Sam Oliphant focuses on Nick as the prime suspect. Nick pairs up with Oliphant’s reluctant partner, Olivia Barton, Nick’s first love, to rescue his parents, now held hostage by cohorts of Lupo, an organized crime boss. Their search leads them through a maze of betrayal and murder, and ultimately to revelations that rattle through the Storey family and their construction business.

How would you describe your writing style:

I like to present characters that are real, but not perfect, and involve them in authentic life situations, challenges they struggle to overcome; characters that the reader can identify with through their interactions and dialogue. I like to create a story with intrigue, and suspense that could happen to any of us.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

To compare my story and its development with others.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

That my book falls well within the parameters of the genre, that my dialogue is probably better than most.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

To achieve a better story structure.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

It is well worth the money to see how your story compares to best sellers, and what is special about your book.

For more information about Gary Briley and Stalemate:

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About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Top ten errors writers make that editors hate

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.40.50 PMHelga Schier, independent writing and publishing consultant and founder of Withpenandpaper.com, recently gave a brilliant presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference covering the trials and tribulations of book editors.  More specifically, she eloquently and succinctly outlined a list of the top ten errors editors hate — and often see — the most. For the writers in the room, this was a gold mine of valuable information and I would like to share what I learned.

First and foremost, there are three levels of editing and they should all build upon each other.

  • Editing that deals with the surface structure of the words on your page – copy-editing.
  • Editing that deals with style and voice, as well as, tightening your manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary sections – line editing.
  • Editing that deals with ways to make your world come to life, including ways to create your characters, build your world, and write good dialogue  – conceptual editing.

Before you hand your book to an editor, you should have already gone through these three levels of review…

The Basics: Writing

1. Editors hate it when it’s clear that you never ran that spell-check.

These are things everyone can fix.  This level deals with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your words are your tools so make sure they are in good working order. Some may argue that editors should care more about the story and characters. This is true, but these kinds of mistakes greatly distract readers from understanding and absorbing the book.  Your job as an author is to take the reader by the hand and take them on a journey through the story.  Bad grammar or spelling mistakes detract and sway from that journey.

2. Editors hate it when you serve leftovers.

  • Plot or character inconsistencies
  • Timeline issues

A good way to keep this from happening is to run a second reader check. Give your book to someone who will critically read it and ask them to report on things that don’t make sense to them.

Beyond the Basics: Writing in Style

3. Editors hate it when the writing is heavier than a ten-ton-truck.

  • Inflated sentences – polish your sentences, don’t use unnecessary lead-ins. Get to the point or meat of the sentence quickly.
  • Stilted language – you want to meet your readers through your work and you want to call the readers attention to your story or argument.  Unnecessary language reminds readers that they are actually reading and takes them away from being immersed in your world.
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs – makes a story feel cumbersome and lazy.  Most adjective and adverb phrases don’t do the description justice.

4. Editors hate it when style isn’t really style but writing in your comfort zone.

  • Repetitive use of vocabulary
  • Repetitive sentence structure and length

Every writer has a set of words that they fall back on and don’t often notice unless they specifically go looking for them.  Remedy: make a list of your most used words/phrases and go through your manuscript hunting them down.  Make sure your characters use their favorite words not yours.

Vary the length of the length and structure of sentences to provide a unique mix for the readers. Also, allow your characters to use varied sentence structure depending on their personality, background, and environment in which they find themselves. Step outside your comfort zone and find your voice.

5. Editors hate clichés. Except when they don’t.

  • Innovate and personalize clichéd images and comparisons.
  • Use clichés and stereotypes as character markers.
  • Turn stereotypes upside down to define a personality or relationship.

Leave trusted clichés behind. Clichés are predictable and writing should never be predictable.  Replace established clichés with your own creative ones. These images should be new and personal but, not obscure to your readers. You want your readers to turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what is beyond the next paragraph.

Far Beyond the Basics: Writing to make your world come to life

6. Editors hate it when characters resemble cardboard cutouts.

Don’t let your characters be predictable and don’t give your character’s entire back story all at once.  Readers can’t digest that volume of information and the story comes to a screeching halt with all suspension of disbelief gone. Giving the character’s back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. You want fully developed characters with their own psychological make-up, who have a past, hopes for the future, and most importantly, a motivation or reason for their actions.

7. Editors hate it when the narrative tells rather than shows.

  • Scenes need to show how characters act and interact.
  • Narrative needs to observe, not comment.

Show don’t tell, but this does not mean that you should shy away from the description. “Show don’t tell” refers to the way your characters should interact. Scenes cannot happen in a vacuum. Your narrative must develop the scene.  Don’t simply say, “the restaurant was loud”, rather describe the conversation at the bar, the waiter dropping the tray, the phone ringing off the hook at the host stand. If you show something well enough, there is no reason to tell the reader.

8. Editors hate it when dialogues turn into speeches.

  • Dialogue requires that people interact with each other verbally and non-verbally.
  • Dialogue passes on information.
  • Dialogue defines characters and their relationships.
  • Dialogue exposes tension and conflict.

Dialogue in a novel is polished speech that serves certain functions…it shows relationship, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc.  None of your characters should ever lecture or pontificate. Dialogue should always have at least two people interacting verbally and non-verbally. The words a character chooses says a lot about the character’s background, personality, and status. Again, words should be theirs, not yours. Dialogue words must also fit the situation. Someone will speak differently given a different situation.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. There is often a subtext. Do the characters have a relationship? Trust each other? Hate each other? Have a secret crush? This all can come through in the subtext of the dialogue.

9. Anything goes! But just because you say doesn’t make it so.

  • Events must be caused by earlier events and lead to the next.
  • Natural story development depends on the interplay of plot and character.
  • A character’s natural behavior must be motivated by his/her psychological disposition.

Remember, in a novel one event must lead to the next and the interplay of your characters and events should create the plot…in other words, it is the characters that write their own stories.

10. Editors hate hangnail writing.

  • Everything in your story has an impact on your readers.
  • Show and tell your readers only what is relevant. No more.
  • Show and tell your readers everything that is relevant. No less.

An extra scene, banter, subplots, or characters that don’t drive the story forward create boredom and distrust of the author.   Show the readers what is relevant, no more and no less. Readers take in everything about the story, so you must follow through. You absolutely must show everything that is relevant as readers only see what you show not what you may know.

Quick but hugely important tip:

Take time off from your manuscript, a step back, and gain distance. In that time…READ, READ, READ (other people’s work) then, reread your work.  First, start looking for the big picture stuff. Before you edit, read it again and look at style and genre. The third time, go for typos, spelling etc. DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO REVISE!

For access to Schier’s slide deck, click here.

 

 

 

Authors using the Helix Review: Brett Russell Andrews

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 10.56.00 AMBrett Russell Andrews, author of Teaching Abroad: The People’s Republic of China is next up in our Helix Review series.

Tell us a bit about your book:

This is a collector’s book which chronicles cross-cultural exchanges and teaching experiences at secondary and post-secondary schools in China. The memoir includes a profile, three central essays, photos, mementos, syllabus, assessments, movies in review and municipality “model worker” honor.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is specific to painting a clear picture in the minds of readers with words. My approach is to take any reader with me on a literal academic odyssey. I often question myself on whether or not the information I offer is not only helpful, but ultimately useful.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

I used the review to gain an objective perspective about my book.

What did you learn from the Helix Review?

I learned the weak points and the strong points of my book and was shown what I needed to see to make a decision on future works.

How are you going to use what you learned?

In regards to the data, my word length, sentence length and paragraph length were comparable genome plus biography and autobiography averages. My use of unique vocabulary was in fact above par in respect to each. This spoke well to the overall density of my book. Sometimes less is more. My writing style averages including motion, density, dialog, description and pacing were collectively balanced…I was very satisfied with results of my book’s Story DNA. It was right in line with my initial intentions.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

There is no better feeling than looking into your minds mirror and liking what you see.

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Shontaine

For the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, we spoke to Shontaine, author of Married to Madness.

Tell us a bit about your book:

The book tells the volatile story of the marriage of eccentric Brandon and her charmingly domineering husband, Zack Cerasani. The adoration they share hasn’t gone much unappreciated by either in over a decade. They raise their children and love philanthropy work in unison and with great pride. There’s also the occasional moonlighting as vigilante killers that they do behind each others backs as well.

How would you describe your writing style?

I write in an offbeat, quirky, and “urban” voice. I take on writing like a good man, I ride until the wheels fall off.

Why did you decide to submit “Married to Madness” for a Helix Review?

It seemed interesting to get a general, in depth analysis of my book.

What did you learn from the review?

The review confirmed that I had an interesting story that was a simple enough to understand and follow through on.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

It’s actually very informative and useful. My comparison was fairly accurate overall.

For more information about John Locke and “Stuff I’ve Written So Far,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Writing the breakaway self-published book…words of wisdom from Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMIvory Madison isn’t only  the RedRoom.com CEO and Editor in Chief, she is an accomplished writer and author coach with numerous years of experience.  I was fortunate enough to catch her session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, where Madison shared her “Red Room Method”, which helps authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop into razor-sharp writers.

Her opening question to the audience and what you should contemplate while reading this post: is your book as good as it can be already?

A lot of people jump the gun.

One thing learned in teaching writing is that most people are doing it wrong.  They are trying to do too many things at once…worrying about marketing, if the structure is correct, do they need an agent, etc.

The Red Room method separates what you are doing into different buckets: Writing, Editing, and Marketing and focuses on getting your book done faster, easier, and at a better quality.

Writing (words of wisdom)

  • Writing comes from passion and processing. First drafts WILL be bad…they are supposed to be. A writer should  focus on the writing ONLY at first. Stop trying to do two things at the same time, “It’s like trying to run a marathon and you keep stopping and saying ‘Oh, I got the first steps wrong’.” Your first draft has to be imperfect so that your can productively edit.
  • There is a level of self awareness that is required for writing…it is a shift of self-perspective.  Stop trying to write like a writer and write like yourself!
  • Ann Rice once said that the great thing about writing is that it can be an expression of you without any special training or access. In other less eloquent words, writing is about yourself and marketing is about everything else.
  • If your goal is to finish your book then, schedule your hours with other people. Sit down with the group and dedicate the full hour to writing. People won’t show up for appointments with only themselves. Just remember that you can’t win a Nobel Prize in an hour BUT, you can write about 1,500 words. Relish that accomplishment.
  • Quit worrying about the quality. A baby’s first few steps aren’t fantastic but, they are still wonderful.
  • Remember to not write.  Don’t forget the other things in your life and relax and don’t always worry that you should be writing. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy the other parts of your life and let your brain process it.
  • Some people have “blocks” and only think about all the reasons they aren’t finishing their book: I don’t have enough time, money, knowledge, etc. Bottom line is you make time for what you make time for. Don’t feel like you SHOULD be writing…GO WRITE!
  • Some people believe the myths about being a writer. Remember, every brilliant, successful author was told by someone somewhere that they were terrible. Perfectionism is the opposite of high standards.  High standards means getting it done, perfectionism means never getting it done.

 

 

 

Mythbusting: Traditional Publishing vs. DIY Publishing

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 1.32.51 PM“The only reason I’m here is to support and do whatever is possible for an editor to do to support a writer” is how Roy M. Carlisle started his presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference.  This was refreshing…especially since it was being said by a man who lived in traditional publishing for years. Carlisle is currently the Acquisitions Director for the Independent Institute and gave us the inside scoop about traditional publishing and the myths associated with the industry.

A few things that are myths in traditional publishing:

  • Traditional publishers will always tell you that the self-publishing marketplace don’t exist.  Truth: that is completely false and your market is out there. Editors are often going to small publishers now to find authors.  Independent small publishers have grown by 5,000% in the last few years and there are 40,000 independent publishers now publishing really interesting, creative things.
  • You can’t do this on your own.  Truth, you CAN publish individually! You need to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are…in other words, know yourself. Reach out to experts from editors to cover designers and listen to their advice.
  • Only the GOOD books are published by traditional publishers. This is a blatant lie! There are numerous examples of amazing books done by DIY publishers. Refer 50 Shades of Grey sales figures. Don’t believe the hype!
  • Minor myth: Authors get rejected for specious reasons. Often times, traditional publishers are limited in their ability to respond in detail because of legal reasons. Get strong editorial critique from a qualified editor and don’t be afraid of it.

Final word: you are the future of publishing.

Yes, we are!

Editing the breakaway self-published book with Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMI just had the pleasure of sitting in on Ivory Madison’s session on writing and editing breakaway books at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Madison is CEO and founder of Redroom.com, the “Facebook for authors”.  She was also named “Best Writing Coach” by San Francisco magazine and has been a guest lecturer to the faculty and writing coaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Stanford Publishing Course.

In this particular session, she provides some amazing advice and insights on editing your next book:

  • Once you have finished your writing, having said everything you have to say, in all it’s sloppy glory, you will want to get through your editing quickly, painlessly, and efficiently. Now, imagine a giant bulls eye.  Each ring is going to represent a stage and focus in your editing journey.
  • The outermost ring is very big picture questions: What type of book is this?  What are the themes? What are the cast or characters? How do they develop?
  • Then, we get into the inner structure ring (this is also the hardest part). Can you write a one-page hero’s journey? Does it flow and follow correctly? These aren’t necessarily templates but, rather insights into how people tell stories. Structure is also where you look at point of view, tense, pacing, and what kind of voice the story has.
  • Story Fractiles: scientific concept that posits that everything is ultimately a repeating pattern. Applying this to writing, you need to ask yourself “is this all the same book?” If you took a small piece of it, does it still reflect the overall work?  Does each chapter reflect a short story of the book? Your writing should ultimately sound like YOU speaking at your most eloquent…it must be real and authentic.
  • Copy-editing Ring: is everything fluid and in the right word? Is everything true? This is also where you look at metaphors…do your metaphors make enough sense to have an impact?
  • Mechanics Ring: Looking at each word, grammar, formatting, and punctuation.

Madison’s final editing words to live by, “it’s worst to not get published than cut things out of your book”.  Finally, sit down and have someone read the manuscript out loud at full volume, you will be surprised by what you find.

 

Lulu.com Liveblog @WritersDigest #WDCW2013

Writer's Digest Live Blog

Lulu is excited to be heading to the annual Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles this weekend, where writers from all over the world gather to further their education in both the craft and business of being a writer.  We’ll be reporting live from the event throughout on Twitter and here, so tune in often for updates.

This year’s list of speakers and presentations is quite impressive and includes an appearance by Lulu’s own Dan Dillon, who will be speaking on a panel about the new frontiers in self-publishing.  Of course, we will be providing coverage of the self-publishing side of the conference with blog updates on what we are learning from the experts on site. Some of the sessions will include:

  • Self-Publishing Now – Phil Sexton, Publisher at Writer’s Digest, will be discussing the state of self-publishing today, including the biggest industry news, most recent success stories, and insights into the growth of hybrid authors.
  • Writing and Editing the Breakaway Self-Published Book - Red Room CEO and Editor in Chief Ivory Madison will be discussing methods and best practices that help authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop skills to be a better editor of their work.
  • Mythbusting: Traditional Publishing vs. DIY Publishing - Roy M. Carlisle, a veteran of 36 years in traditional publishing, dispels the myths about self-publishing and examines the bold truth about why DIY options are trumping traditional publishing in very important, career-making ways.
  • Congratulations! You Published It – Now How Do You Sell It? - A panel discussion with top industry experts discussing everything from “what can you do to help ensure people find your book?” to “what makes the difference between readers saying ‘not interested’ and “I’ve got to have that?”
  • New Frontiers in Self-Publishing – Panel of industry insiders looks to shed light on where self-publishing is headed and how it will affect authors.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in the way of awesome information that will be coming out of the conference, so check back as we will be frequently updating from onsite. You can also participate directly in the conversation on Twitter under the hashtag: #WDCW13

If you have any particular questions you’d liked to have answered or sessions or speakers you would like us to cover, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Authors using Helix Review: Laird David Elsworth Mason

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 2.02.28 PMLaird David Elsworth Mason, author of My McCurdy Family and Collateral Lines Including Native American and Some Royal Family is next up in our Helix Review series. Mason has painstakingly
researched generations of family history to expose unique connections to Ancient Royalty and Native American relatives.

Tell us a bit about your book:

The book is a generation to generation accounting of individual persons who were the ancestors of the McCurdy Family starting with the author’s mother, Dorothy Lenore McCurdy.

How would you describe your approach?

My approach was to add all the family data possible so that I could assemble the correct ancestral line for this reader’s family. I have assembled the most accurate listing of data to date or ever will be…there is no smoke or mirrors here, just pure DATA. This book contains at least 98% more data than any other book of this type has ever had.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

I wanted to see if I had accomplished what I set out to do.

What did you learn from the Helix Review?

I learned the weak points and the strong points of my book and was shown what I needed to see to make a decision on future works.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I will use this tool with my next book to help me build a better story line.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

A small investment will help you produce a better product for the market place.

For more information, please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Teresa Meola Vincent

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 5.17.36 PMTeresa Meola Vincent, author of Running Blind, a gritty psychological novel about addiction, is latest addition to our Helix Review series.  Vincent used personal experiences growing up in New Jersey as the basis for the book and as a focused author, well versed in grammar and structure, she wanted to gain further insight into her own writing style.

Tell us a bit about your book:

Running Blind deals with issues surrounding long-term addiction and too much hard partying. The book follows a group of friends growing up in New Jersey’s bustling northeast corridor, from their wild teen years into their disillusioned and shattered adult lives.

How would you describe your writing style?

I write about my home state of New Jersey, which is so much a part of me. My characters are tough, troubled, addicted, sexually hardened, psychologically damaged. All of that being said, I am a seasoned editor and a very careful writer, making sure my work is structurally and grammatically sound. Everything must fit together perfectly, including complex timelines. Factual details must be researched, because I value my credibility. I use a great deal of regional slang in my dialogue, but as they say, you have to know the rules in order to break them.

Why did you decide to submit “Running Blind” for a Helix Review?

I was intrigued by the concept, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Helix Review is the first really good example of Artificial Intelligence that I have seen in my own life. When I was a young copy editor at a technology magazine, all the talk was about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that would be coming in the future. Well, the future is here. The Helix Review objectively analyzes the elements of a book, and it’s amazingly accurate.

What did you learn from the Helix Review?

The Helix found my book to be similar to such books as Go Ask Alice, Leaving Dirty Jersey, Candy: A Novel Of Love And Addiction, and Long Past Stopping. All these books deal with the subject of addiction, which sounds right. The Helix somehow knew what my book was about…Another interesting feature of the Helix Review was the “keywords” feature, which gave me a list of words unique to my particular writing style.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I will incorporate what I learned into my marketing strategy.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

Any writer would benefit from the Helix Review, and they should definitely try it. The Helix Review is an impressive tool. If a machine can read my mind, I want an electronic therapist who can listen to my problems at four in the morning.

For more information about John Locke and “Stuff I’ve Written So Far,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.