indieBRAG Blog

What inspires the story ideas and characters of Alan Bray

ALAN BRAY   I appreciate the chance to write about this. It’s one of the most difficult and important questions I can imagine. I certainly don’t claim to have any original techniques but I can describe how I use some of the time-honored ones. I will wake up in the early morning with a story idea, or more specifically, a character in a situation. It’s coming from dreams, I suppose. There’s that moment when I wake up and become aware of being in the bed and the light, and a strong memory will be there too. Sometimes it’s a development on a story I’m working on, sometimes it’s something entirely new. I don’t usually rush to write the idea down as it will stay with me through morning coffee, getting my daughter to the bus stop, and breakfast. I usually begin a story with one of these images of a person doing something—as opposed to first developing a plot. I know that some experts advise outlining stories before starting to write. If writers can devise a plot first and then develop characters and scenes, I admire them. My God, it would save so much time! I’ve tried to do it,…

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WHAT SPARKS THE SPARK? By Helen Hollick

So where do ideas for a story come from? An event you witness? An overheard conversation? A dream? Or is there, perhaps, a parallel world of Imagination where a characters reside, their exploits and adventures leaking into our Universe via a sort of telepathic mind-link? Far-fetched? Yes maybe, but ask any author where a certain powerful scene originated from and I bet they’ll answer, “I don’t know, it just came.” There are scenes in my books that I have no recollection of writing – and I occasionally find my male protagonists suddenly immersed in dangerous scrapes,  and then relying on me to get them out of it (thanks guys). And what about the stories that, before you know it, have gone off at a completely different tangent to the one you’d planned out? Writing a novel is a bit like going off into uncharted waters. You know your starting point, you know the end point (probably), and have a vague idea of a mid-way encounter. The rest is a bit like they used to put on the old maps to indicate unexplored territory: “Here Be Dragons” (In some cases for fantasy writers – literally! One of my novels, Harold The…

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Welcome to the exciting new world of indieBRAG!

I am very excited to announce the re-launch of our indieBRAG website along with our new proprietary book evaluation process. It has taken us six months to develop the process, which was longer than we expected. However, I am confident that the benefits it offers to self-published authors, both here in the United States and around the English-speaking world, as well as to members of our global reader team, will make the wait well worth it for everyone involved. As I have alluded to in the last several editions of my newsletter, the new book evaluation process will enable our readers to provide a candid assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each book they read for us, both those they recommend for a B.R.A.G. Medallion®, and those they do not. This will be done via a simple and quick, user-friendly book report that our readers will fill out on-line. Their reports will then be combined with those completed by the other readers who read the same book, and the results will be provided on an anonymous basis to each author who has submitted a book for our consideration. In so doing, indieBRAG will be able to give indie authors…

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Blurb-Craft 101

AMBER FOXX It’s harder than writing the whole book! How many authors have said that about the back cover blurb? I know I have. At some level it can feel more challenging to get those few words right than it did to get the entire novel in satisfactory shape. It’s a different kind of writing. If you’re a plotter, you might write the blurb along with your outline and find it easier than a “pantser” or a hybrid plotter/pantser will. Those of us who work that way don’t know how the story works out until we’re done, so we usually have to create this short, tempting piece of reader bait after we have spent months to years immersed in the depths of the story. That adds to the challenge, because we have to step back from the details of the plot. Some of the least effective blurbs are like synopses. A good blurb A: Makes readers want to know what happens in the story. B: Helps readers decide if it’s the kind of book they like. The instigating incident for your plot belongs in the blurb. What sets the ball rolling? Like much of what goes in this description, it’s…

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Bad Review? Hmm, Is there Anything Good to Say About Them?

Helen Hollick Funnily, enough, yes there is! I look at reviewing novels with two different hats (and I do actually wear hats!) as Managing Editor of the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and as an author myself. As Managing Editor I have one main goal, and that is to improve the standard of indie-published novels. Indie (that includes all forms of self-publishing, whether using a company to help you produce your book, or completely Do-It-Yourself) has received a bad press over the years, with the assumption that if it isn’t good enough for traditional mainstream publishing, then it must be rubbish. Fortunately this out-of-date, somewhat bigoted view is rapidly receding because it has been proven to be wrong. Indie can, and often does, mean “darn good read”. I have a splendid US and UK-based review team and, as with Indie B.R.A.G., our criteria is to review novels that we would recommend people to buy. To this end, we will not review a self-published book that is incorrectly formatted: you’d be surprised how many books we receive that have such tiny font you need a magnifying glass, or the text is left-justified (i.e. ragged margin on the right… margins should be straight on…

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A Journey to Self-Publishing

Susan Appleyard A long, long time ago, in the days of yore, even before the internet and all its offshoots was anything more than a gleam in a mad scientist’s eye, I was traditionally published. The publishing company gave me a three book contract. Wow! And they actually paid me for the right to publish my book. Wow! Wow! I was very excited and perhaps a little smug. There were a number if people in my life who thought I couldn’t do it. Come what may afterward, my book had earned money and people would read it. So far so good. The book was about the favorite mistress of King Edward IV, and I called it The Merry Harlot because… well, that’s what she was. My editor didn’t like the title. She was afraid my readers wouldn’t know what a harlot was! She suggested The King’s White Rose. Who was I, a young housewife with three rambunctious kids, to argue with someone of such vast experience? So I agreed to the name change. After all, I consoled myself, a king figured prominently in the story and one of his heraldic symbols was the white rose. So there was some relevance.…

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Start at the beginning

ELISABETH MARRION The Night I danced with Rommel is my first book, and it was a long time coming. Over fifteen years, if I recall correctly. It was supposed to have a totally different title: 6 Married Children, don’t ask why. I actually started writing the story at that stage and thought it would be a good idea to contact Manfred Rommel, then the Mayor of Stuttgart, whether he still had the photographs my mother had sent him years ago, especially, the one of her dancing with Field Marshal Rommel. He searched his files, but I was out of luck on that one. I did receive, however, a private photograph of himself with his father and mother. I shelved the project for a while, fearing people might laugh about my idea to write a book. Eventually, I stopped worrying about that issue and joined a local writing group. Thank God I did. Otherwise, who knows what my writing would have been like? I destroyed my first draft and wrote a totally different novel. Which, to my amazement, wrote itself. I was totally clueless about the publishing world, believing publishers would queue for my story. Well, I soon learned the truth…

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An Author Needs YOU … yes, YOU!

HELEN HOLLICK I am an author. I know several other authors – some at the very top of the Book Tree, others setting out at grass-root level taking their first hesitant steps into the World of Publishing. Some are mainstream. Some are Indie. Some are fabulous, some are – well, let’s just say their book/s need a little extra polish one way or another to give that final shine. It takes a lot of effort – and hard work – to produce a readable, entertaining novel; especially if you are an Indie Writer with no agent or publishing house to back you up and help with sales and marketing. Being an indie author can be a very lonely occupation. There’s the writer’s block to wade through; the confidence to delete scenes you think aren’t working (the confidence to keep going with the ones that are!) The getting the first draft finished – then re-writing the second, third, fourth (how long is a piece of string) draft. Then there is editing by a (preferably) professional editor – and yet another re-write. The copy-edit. (and then doing the corrections) The proof-read (ditto corrections). Getting it published. Getting it noticed. Marketing and more…

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Controversial Topics in Fiction

R.A.R. CLOUSTON In his book, “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories,” the English journalist and author, Christopher John Penrice Booker (no apparent connection with the award), expands upon the long-held view of many literary experts that there are only so many basic plots in fiction writing. While I have not yet read his critically-acclaimed book, I could not help but be struck by two things about it: first, that the author has two middle names, an encumbrance that he apparently was saddled with at birth as was I (my parents having had great expectations for baby Robert—a goal against which, I freely admit, I have under-delivered, in large part because of the snooty sticker slapped upon my rosy red and quite commonplace bottom). But I digress… The second thing that caught my eye about Booker’s Jungian-based analysis was that the first basic plot he cites is precisely the one that has dominated my writing in all four of my novels; namely, “overcoming the monster,” or as some authors have interpreted it, “good versus evil.” In my case, I have taken this a step further and restated it as “God versus Satan,” a topic that is certainly controversial to…

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The Holistic Writer: Define Your Mission, Then Design Your Career

Lorraine Devon Wilke I was gathered with a group of writers recently—some with impressive resumes, others with little or no experience—when a conversation was sparked by one of the women in attendance: “I want to be a writer but I can’t think of anything to write about. I keep trying, month after month; I’ll get an idea, and sometimes I even start it, but after a while I fizzle out, bored and disinterested. I don’t know what to do. I really want to publish a book, but how do you know what to write about?” While the rest of the group jumped in with every kind of mental exercise, writing routine, inspirational drill, etc., in hopes of helping her jumpstart her process, I got a little twitchy and went a whole other way: “Maybe writing’s not your thing.” The conversation stopped as if I’d spoken another language. I continued: “I’m being the Devil’s Advocate, clearly, but if after all this time of trying you aren’t inspired and can’t find anything to write about, isn’t it possible this just isn’t your path? Maybe your Muse is better served in another art form, another discipline, say... music. Art. Something that actually compels…

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