Outline or Treatment?

© Can Stock Photo / katielittle25

It can be a perplexing question for authors, particularly newbies. Do you write an outline, or a treatment, before you begin your book? Or do you just sit down and start writing?

Outlines are recommended for nonfiction books. They can be more precise. However, this blog is for fiction writers, so I’m going to talk about what is the best approach for us. And that is to write a treatment.

A treatment is a short summary of what your story will be about. The amount of detail you wish to include is entirely up to you. Some fiction authors may choose to write treatments summarizing each chapter. Others simply write a brief one or two paragraph description. It’s all a matter of personal preference. We’re creative writers, not technical writers, and the keyword is creative. For us, writing is an art, not a science.


My treatments tend to be short; no more than one to one and a half pages. My objective is how I will begin my story, and how I will end it. I used to fret over what to include in the middle. However, experience has taught me to keep it brief. The details will come after I begin writing. In other words, my treatment is my launching point.


Some fiction writers write bios for their characters, and that’s certainly okay. However, I don’t do it myself. My characters come to life rather quickly, and once that happens they have minds of their own. (This may sound freaky to non writers, but every fiction writer experiences this.)

Some authors like to refer back to their treatments as they write. And that’s perfectly okay. I prefer to put my treatment aside once I begin my story. As your characters come to life you may want to go in a different direction than you originally planned. Other ideas may come to you as you delve deeper into your story. Again that’s okay. We’re creative writers. This is how creativity works. 

Once my manuscript is complete I like to go back and look at my treatment. My books never end up as described in the original treatment. They always turn out better. That’s because I let my creativity flow as I write, and many new ideas will pop into my head as I go. My favorite example would be my first Marina Martindale novel, The Reunion.

One of my supporting characters, a young man named, Jeremy, was intended to be a rogue character. He would do his dirty deed and quickly disappear from the story. However, Jeremy was also leading man Ian’s son. And as I got into the story, I soon realized that Ian would never have a son like that. So, Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father to win leading lady Gillian’s affections. This made for a completely unexpected twist in the story that resonated with me, and my readers. 


As I’ve evolved as a writer, my treatments have also evolved. They’ve become less detailed and more generalized. But, as I’ve stated before, how you choose to write your treatment is entirely up to you. As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. 


Gayle Martin

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One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM

As writers we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can also be a double-edged sword. It must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me a few years ago.

After posting a comment on a friend’s Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. At the time I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher. I then asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. However, I found her content troubling. She ranted about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, and her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time. She also posted about her hatred of churches and of people of faith. Anyone who disagreed was told to “go f— themselves.” No matter how respectful they were, they got the same hateful, vulgar, response.

I soon realized that I could NEVER refer this woman to any of my authors. If she was that mean spirited and disrespectful on Facebook, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated them. So, instead of sending her referrals, I blocked her.

The point I’m making is to use caution when posting on social media. Mean spirited and hateful posts really can come back and bite you. In this instance, it cost someone business leads.

Gayle Martin

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Print Books or Ebooks?

The Amazon Kindle and other ereaders have certainly changed the way people read books. For a time ebooks were all the rage, and my sales reflected it. The vast majority of my books were sold as Kindle editions. However, it now appears that I’m selling more print books again.

Ebooks certainly have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded. You can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. Ebooks were also more affordable. At least they used to be, once upon a time. When ebooks first hit the scene, they typically cost a few dollars. However, I’m now seeing skyrocketing ebook prices, but here’s the thing. I’m not going to pay ten dollars, or more, for an ebook. Period. If I have to spend that much money then I may as well get the print edition. That way I’ll have something tangible to show for it.

Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those with vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read. And who among us hasn’t been disappointed upon finding their device has a dead battery. Ugh! I’ve so been there and done that.

I publish a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans, so I took a survey from my subscribers. Did they prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. While not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.

Is the ebook fad finally coming to an end? Who knows. I’ll continue publishing both Kindle ebook and print versions of my books. In case you’re wondering, I personally prefer print books. They’re low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.

Gayle Martin

P.S. If you would like more information about my newsletter please click on the link below.

 Marina Martindale’s Musings Newsletter

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How to Write a Spicy Love Scene

As I enjoyed my morning coffee I came across something hilarious on Facebook. A BuzzFeed article featuring snippets of so-called love scenes from male romance authors. Some men write romance and do it well. Then there are others who, frankly, have no business picking up a pen. Their work was nothing but poor syntax and descriptions that went way beyond any sense of believability. It resulted in some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in years. Unfortunately, I don’t think writing comedy was their intention. 

So, how you do write a spicy scene that won’t make your readers burst out laughing? Just like with any other writing, it’s all about the proper technique. In one of my other blogs, Marina Martindale’s Musings, I wrote an article called, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romance?  It discusses the different romance subgenres. I write sensual romance, which is probably the most common. However, the advice I’m giving would also apply to writing erotica.

Have a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology.

Human beings come in two body types with two distinct sets of equipment. This equipment only functions in certain ways. When in doubt there are plenty of medical websites out there where you can get more information.

Handle euphemisms with care.

While you can call body parts by name in erotica, they may be too graphic or harsh for sensual romance. Euphemisms can be substituted, but be careful. Certain words, such as manhood, tend to be overused. Others, such as butterfly, can be downright corny. If you’re new to this kind of writing I would recommend reading some erotica from established authors, such as Anais Nin. 

Use proper grammar, syntax and punctuation

Nothing screams amatuer louder than poor writing. No matter the genre, if your story is poorly written it won’t be read. This is why even the most well known authors use editors and proofreaders. 

So, if you’re ready for a good belly laugh, I’ve posted a link to the article below. Be sure to put your coffee down first as an unexpected burst of laughter while you’re swallowing may result in the coffee coming out of your nose and splattering your computer screen. 


Gayle Martin

And here’s the article. 
I’m So Sorry, But Here’s How Some Male Authors For Really Real Described Women In Books

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Pondering the Meaning of Life

© 2019 Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

The other day I learned that an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. 


I’ll call her Jane. I saw quite a bit of her when I was young, but once I became and adult and left home I only saw her at special events; weddings, anniversary parties, and funerals. The last time I saw her was over twenty years ago. As soon as I heard she had passed away, I looked up her obituary. It included a photo, probably taken a good fifty years ago. And while Jane wasn’t overly pretty, she was an attractive woman and surprisingly photogenic. 


Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born. It mentioned her parents, grandparents, and siblings. It mentioned her marriage and a business her husband once owned. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother, and that’s when her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, it listed all the country clubs she’d belonged to. It concluded with saying that she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge at the country club. 

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for full time moms. I think they have one of the most important, and overlooked, roles in society. I also think we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It brings meaning and balance in our lives. If playing cards is what you enjoy doing then so be it. However, there’s a whole lot more to life than just playing cards at the country club.

Life is about what we do for others, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. It’s also about the legacy we leave behind. Whether it’s my Luke and Jenny series of novelettes for young readers, or my Marina Martindale contemporary romance novels, my job as a novel writer is to bring a little joy into people’s lives, even if it’s only for a few minutes out of their busy day. For me, doing what I can to help people take a break from their troubles is a life well spent.

Gayle Martin

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Storytelling 101

Fundamental Plot Development

Graphic by Gayle Martin

All stories, whether it’s a short story or Anna Karenina, revolve around conflict and basic plot structure. I call it, The Four “Cs” of Writing, although other writers may call it something different. It’s the formula I use with every story I write, and it works each and every time.

The four C’s of writing

  • Characters
  • Conflict 
  • Climax
  • Conclusion

Characters

Who is your story about? Without characters there is no story to tell. I begin my stories with my lead protagonist(s). However, I don’t consider this a hard and fast rule. Depending on your genre, you may wish to begin your story with a minor character or even your antagonist. Whichever way you go, the plot revolves around the characters and what they do.

Conflict

The meat and bones of the story. It’s all about the conflict because conflict creates the drama. Imagine a story about a happy couple who never argue or disagree. Nothing bad ever happens to them. They live a long, happy, charmed life where nothing ever goes wrong. The end. 

Now let’s take that same couple. He tells her he has to work late that night, but he arrives home in the wee hours of the morning. She smells another woman’s perfume on his clothing and sees lipstick on his collar. Care to guess what’s coming next? So, which story would make the most compelling reading? The one about the perfect couple whose lives never go wrong? Or the one where the husband is about to get his butt kicked? Plotlines revolve around conflict, and how the characters react to it.

Climax

The high point of the story. The punch line. They argue. She grabs a lamp off the nightstand, and in a fit of blinding rage, she coldcocks him over the head. He falls to the floor, unconscious and bleeding. Meanwhile the neighbors heard them fighting and called the cops. The police soon arrive and bust down the door. He’s lying dead on the floor while his blood, and her fingerprints, are all over the lamp. 

Conclusion

This is when loose ends are tied up and you end the story. She’s hauled off to jail, goes on trial, and ends up convicted. Since I write stand alone novels I resolve the entire conflict and leave my readers with a definitive, satisfying ending. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule either. Some authors may prefer a more ambiguous ending, so they might end the story with a hung jury. Those authors who are writing a series will certainly want to leave something unresolved to continue in the next book.

So there you have it. The four basic components of plot development and storytelling. 

Gayle Martin

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Welcome to From the Writer’s Desk

a blog for novel writers

There are a lot of writing blogs out there, and many offer great advice. However, most of the ones I’ve seen are geared toward nonfiction writers. As novel writers, we have different goals and needs. We’re storytellers. We write to entertain.

This blog is about helping you write a better novel as I pass along what I’ve learned about this crazy business. So please, pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable. And if you see something you like, please be sure to post a comment.

Gayle Martin

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Is Writing a Memoir a Good Idea?

© Can Stock Photo / khunaspix

Writing memoirs has become a popular trend. When I was publishing books for other authors, it seemed like most of my inquiries came from people wanting to write their memoirs. My advice today is the same as what I gave back then. Ask yourself what is it about your life story that’s so compelling that other people would want to read it. It’s a question you need to answer honestly before proceeding any further.

Our life’s journey is certainly interesting to us. After all, we’re the star of our own show, but I want to be brutally honest here. No one, other than your immediate family, and perhaps your closest friends, really cares about how wonderful your spouse is or how smart your kids are. Nor does anyone care about the details of every little thing you did on your cruise to Hawaii. So, the first thing you need to do is to check your ego at the door.

Have you overcome an obstacle that was beyond the ordinary? For instance, have you survived a violent crime? Did you survive an accident or horrible disease that would have been fatal to most people? Have you traveled to some faraway, exotic destination, such as Antarctica, which few will ever see? Were you ever a first responder? Were you ever in showbiz? Have you had some other extraordinary life experience which few people ever will? Most importantly, would your story be an inspiration to others? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then perhaps you should give some thought to writing a memoir.

People read books because they want to be entertained or inspired, or because they want to learn something new. In other words, there has to be something in it for the reader. Your memoir should be a story that inspires others, and perhaps changes people’s lives for the better.

Gayle Martin

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It’s Time to Go Without a Net

© Can Stock Photo / airn

Once upon a time I used to advise other authors and writers that if the .com name they wanted wasn’t available to get the .net extension instead. Dot net websites were fairly common at the time, and whenever I registered a new domain, I’d get both .com and .net. This was to prevent someone else with the same, or similar, name as mine from getting the .net extension and creating confusion.


The Internet, however, is an ever changing landscape. What may have worked five years ago, or even last year, may not apply today, Such is the case with the .net extension. Over time we’ve learned that people will automatically go to .com out of habit, even when .net was clearly posted. It’s sort of like my name, Gayle. Not a bad name, I suppose, but it has the less common spelling. And no matter how many times I spelled it out for people, they still give me the more common, Gail.


So please disregard my earlier advice. From what I’m seeing now, the .net extension is becoming extinct, and you certainly don’t make yourself look dated. If the .com isn’t available, you’ll have to come up with other variations. If you’re an author, try adding, author, writer, or books to your name. By the way, if the .com version of your name is available, I still recommend getting authoryourname.com or yournamebooks.com with it. Domain names usually aren’t that expensive. However, they’re crucial for building your brand and promoting your book. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to grab as much Internet real estate as you possibly can. 


Gayle Martin

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Should I Enter a Book Competition?

From time to time my inbox fills up with calls to entry for various book awards, and I always have mixed feelings about entering. While winning an award is certainly a good thing, there is also a downside.

PROs

I’ve entered competitions in the past and some of my books, such as Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, the  have won awards, so I’m not going to lie to you. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that your book beat out dozens, if not hundreds, of other entries. Awards are also a nice marking tool. There’s nothing quite like having that award sticker proudly displayed on your book cover. In fact, I’ve included one of mine. Not to brag, but to point out a downside to winning a book award.

CONS

I won the award in 2007. By 2010 my book look dated. 

The other big drawback is the cost. The last time I tried to enter a book competition the early bird entry fee was $90. They also wanted four printed copies of the book. By the time I added in the cost of the books, and my best guestimate for the postage, I realized I’d be spending at least $120, if not more. This was just to enter one title, in one category. If I wanted to enter a second category the cost would double. Competitions aren’t without risk. There is no guarantee your book will win, so as I thought it over I realized I’d be better off spending that $120 dollars on advertising my book. 

So, is entering a book award competition a good idea? It’s something  you have to decide for yourself. If you have the inclination, and the budget, then go for it. Who knows? Your book could be a winner. But if you don’t have the money, or if you feel unsure, then don’t. While it’s nice to win an award, winning an award does not guarantee that you’ll sell more books. 

Gayle Martin

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