Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

trifectaOkay, so you guys totally had to know that another one of these was coming your direction. It’s been way too long since we’ve been able to pontificate on yet another reason why there is so much crap out there in the self-published world. Or, at least, stories that feel like crap when you read them. Because, let’s be honest, the overwhelmingly large majority of story ideas out there could turn into absolutely amazing novels–heck, entire series for that matter–if they were only dropped into the head of a great author instead of an ignorant noob. That’s why it’s uber important, in our vaulted opinions, that everyone understand a few key concepts when starting out: because everyone starts out as a noob. Yes, even we at EBR were once citizens of noobdom. And yet, no one ever picks up their three-thousand dollar Facebook machine (MacBook) for the first time, says to themselves, “Self? You’re about to sit down and write an amazing novel,” and is then able to sit down and actually deliver. A lot of them make particular mistakes, and it doesn’t take long for readers like us to become painfully aware of what’s holding those stories back from making a reader’s day. So grab your notebooks, sit your own butt in a chair, and get ready for yet another round of goodness from your Friendly Neighborhood Elitists.
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Well here we are. The end. It’s finally come. Oddly enough, I don’t mean this in a bad way. When I asked my fellow reviewers here at EBR if they wanted to participate in this contest, they said yes…but were worried. I shared that concern. Would we be able to get through a single novel? Would we be happy picking a winner? Would any of the novels be good? Adequate, even?

In our original slush pile of 26 novels, we finished exactly two. THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS and SAND AND BLOOD. We ended up sending THIEF on to the final round with a score of 7/10. Very respectable.

If you want details on what we thought of that original batch and our process for reading those pieces of fiction, we published a few articles here, here, here, and here. (more…)

Point of view (PoV) is how a story is narrated, usually through the eyes of a main character.  If writers are doing PoV right, it shouldn’t even be noticeable, it fades into the background. But when it’s done wrong, it’s a slap in the face. First-time authors don’t give PoV the attention it deserves. They treat it like the short kid when picking basketball teams during P.E. because there are better athletes of storytelling: setting, character, and plot. But we need the short kid to have a full team, and ignoring PoV is like not having a full team. Viewpoint is important because it affects how the story is told and the connections readers feel with the characters.

Let’s define a few terms:

  • First-person–Uses “I” to tell the story. Not used as often as third-person because it isn’t as flexible, but when done right is fun to read (prevalent in thrillers, YA, Urban Fantasy, and the ramblings of narcissists).
  • Second-person–Uses “you” to tell the story (Choose Your Own Adventure, RPG adventure primers, technical manuals, and lectures from your parents).
  • Third-person–Refers to “he” and “she” to tell the story. Most commonly used viewpoint in SF&F (as well as Vulcan mind melds). Styles include “limited” (one head per scene) and “omniscient” (sees and knows everything within a story).
  • Alternating viewpoint–When you just have to be in everybody’s business. Switches viewpoints between characters within a story (i.e., first-person for one character, third-person limited for others…seen most recently in RESIDUE! First-person PoV alternating viewpoints appear in books narrated via letters, such as DRACULA).

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Like all of the other reviewers here at EBR, I have a day job. It’s not one that I tout all that much as it’s a fall-back job that I kind of transitioned into after not being able to find a job in my field (rocket science). I’m a web programmer. So, I kind of feel obligated to say a thing or two about this relatively important part of the self-published author’s job.

My thoughts on the topic can be boiled down to something that is pretty simple (TL;DR):

Have an internet presence.

Ask yourself a question: what’s the first thing you do when you find a new author that you like? I don’t know about you, but I don’t pass go, I don’t collect $200, I go directly to Mr. Google. In that search, I look for a website, a blog, a Facebook page – something that will give me three distinct things:

  1. A listing of more stories by the author and possibly access to them
  2. Some kind of idea that they’re an active author
  3. A timeline looking forward to their writing activities/goals/publications

There are also a couple of things that turn me off rather quickly when I find them:

  1. No internet presence at all for the author
  2. An author-oriented site that is several months, or even several years, old

As a fledgling, self-published author what is the one thing that you want to do for someone that has very recently read one of your stories and absolutely LOVED it? You want to keep them coming back. Why is that? Because they are willing to exchange their hard-earned dollars for some more of your particular brand of story magic. And even though you love crafting stories, and having others join in the goodness of those things you create, let’s face it: a guy’s gotta eat, yeah? (more…)

Gestures of Humanity

Posted: May 28, 2015 by Steven Diamond in Editorial
Tags: ,

The following editorial is a guest post from Epic Fantasy author Peter Orullian. When he approached me about writing a guest post for EBR, I jumped at the opportunity. It is a rare author that can so clearly share his or her views on various aspects of their craft. I’m so pleased and honored that Peter chose to share his thoughts here with all of us.

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Gestures of Humanity

There’s every possibility that I wouldn’t be writing fiction today if it wasn’t for horror. More specifically, Stephen King. Hyperbole? Maybe. In recent years, I’ve mostly written epic fantasy. And it’s also true I’ve had the itch to be a writer ever since I was a boy. But if nothing else, Stephen King catalyzed that desire. How? One way to explain it is the contrast between light and dark. Or, said another way: gestures of humanity.

Stick with me. (more…)

Beginnings. Always been a heavy topic of discussion here at EBR. A good beginning can make a book awesome. A bad beginning can absolutely ruin a novel. Think about it. How many novels have you put down because the opening was horrendous? We’re talking about books you pick off the shelves at your local bookstore. At EBR, we’ll admit to triple digits. You?

With the The Great Self-published Fantasy Blog-off, the importance of beginnings has become a major focus for us. Many of the authors who submitted their novels have questions. Why isn’t my book selling? Why am I getting poor reviews? What can I do to improve it? Etc, etc. A huge part of the issues these self-pubbed authors are facing stems directly from the writing, but even mediocre writing can be dealt with if the story is good and the hook is set. There are so many published examples of this that it’s ridiculous.

Let’s talk about general stuff to avoid though:

  • Slow pacing
  • Starting too early in the story
  • Description heavy
  • Cliché
  • History of the cosmos
  • Describing your map
  • Mysterious babies
  • Forwards used to tell the readers that if you don’t like the book, it’s YOUR fault

Okay, maybe some of those were not so general. Still, that is by no means a comprehensive list. Nor does it mean you can’t do any of those things. The better writer you are, the more you can get away with. Current fantasy novelists prove this all the time. But let’s get into the details of some of the things we saw, and why they didn’t work. (more…)

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a tired, old saying that should be put to rest in regards to actual books. It’s a fine sentiment when applied to people but taken literally it’s damaging to the practice of publishing. Call me superficial but I believe it’s only natural to judge a book by its cover. I also believe you should factor in title and plot synopsis (if you get that far). Browsing the aisles of a book store or scrolling through Amazon there are countless titles vying for attention. Great covers get lost in the midst of this sensory overload, it’s true, but bad covers are even more likely to be skimmed over. If your book reaches out to someone through all the clutter it better catch their eye for all the right reasons.

Self-published books carry a stigma for many reasons; but before a critic can even dismiss them for horrible grammar, typos, thin plots, thinner characters, wonky POV, or any number of errors the critic first  has to first be enticed to even pick up and open the book. It’s all about first impressions and this is one area where self-published authors have a notoriously hard time. I get requests in my inbox to read and review self-published books frequently. (more…)