Active vs. Passive Voice

Have you ever read a book, a paragraph, or even a sentence that you thought was far too wordy for its own good? The truth is, there are a lot of culprits when it comes to poor writing, but one of the more common ones is their overuse of passive voice. Passive voice is far less engaging, after all, than active, and no amount of excuses is going to change that.

Below are two versions of a sentence:

  1. A cake should have been made.
  2. I should have made a cake.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the second one is more engaging, but in some cases, it also takes fewer words to write in active voice. Here’s a couple more sentences:

  1. The car was stolen by Robert, using a fake key.
  2. Robert stole the car with a fake key.

As you can see, the second sentence takes two less words and five less syllables. This can go a long way when it comes to making your fiction flow better in the eyes of your readers. Something I’ve noticed is that there are two major culprits when it comes to passive voice: helping verbs and prepositions. Neither of those are bad to use, but pay attention to what you’re doing when you do. If your prose sounds better without them, don’t use them. And remember, the best way to tell if it sounds good is to read your work aloud.

Also remember that passive voice takes your reader away from the action. You want the subject of your sentence doing the action itself. Saying “The arrow was shot at Dave” is not as effective as “Josh shot Dave with the arrow.”

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

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Should You Use a Pen Name?

Have you ever wanted to publish your work, but you didn’t want anyone to know you wrote it? The truth is, authors like this are more common than you think. If you thought Napoleon Lovecraft was my legal name, it isn’t. So I figured that for this post, I’d go into some reasons why you might want to consider using a pen name.

Hiding Your Identity

This is the most obvious one, since hiding your identity is going to naturally happen if you choose to use a pen name. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have both written novels under other names, and in Rowling’s case, it was because of the massive success of Harry Potter. Without fan expectation, her book was able to get a fair look by readers, which didn’t happen with her adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. But this is the story of a publishing elite. The truth is, there could be a hundred reasons why you want to hide who you are. Perhaps you’re a Mormon publishing erotica. Whatever the reason, if you want to hide who you are, pen names are an option you want to look into.

You Want to Switch Genres

This is a valid reason to use a pen name. If you’re a published author and you write (for example) in the romance genre, it will confuse your readers if you turn around and publish sci-fi. Therefore, using two different pen names is an option you can think about.

You Want to Distance Yourself From a Failed Project

If anyone wants to know why I’m writing under a pen name, this is why. An earlier draft of Kingslayer was published by a small press and wasn’t treated very well by them. So I’m changing my writing name and I’ve changed the title to hide the failure from the masses. I’m not the only author who’d done this either.

Your Name Is the Same As a Famous Person

This is self-explanatory. Say your name is George Martin. Your books won’t sell because anyone looking for them will find George R.R. Martin’s books.

These are just a few reasons you may want to use a pen name. There are likely others, and if you choose to do this, you need to think hard about why you’re doing it.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Why I Write Fantasy

There are many famous authors–living and dead–who have published wonderful fiction in the fantasy genre. This list, of course, includes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, and even Pat Rothfuss. But what makes writers like this tick? Why do they write fantasy and genres similar to it? Well, the honest truth is I can’t speak for any of them; however, I can speak for myself as to why I write fantasy.

To me, fantasy represents a melting pot of ideas. You can literally write about anything outside the norms of reality and call it fantasy. For example, Star Wars is fantasy from my point of view. You have a princess, a hero, a wise mentor, and a Dark Lord. The limitless possibilities is just one aspect of fantasy that I love. Star Wars, of course, is just one example of how fantasy can be mixed with another genre to create something new. My novel Kingslayer has a lot of thriller elements to it (since the main plot involves a heist for a magic sword), which is why I tell people it’s a “religious political fantasy thriller.”

Of course, you can also let your imagination run wild by combining everyday aspects of life with the unique style of fantasy. What kinds of food do the characters eat? Do the recipes include dragon meat? How does the technology in the fantasy world interact with the magic of said fantasy?

I think you get the point. There are a lot of things that can be done in fantasy, which is exactly what makes the genre so appealing to me. There are zero limitations to what you can do, and with the advent of self-publishing, the limitations that once existed no longer do. You can write the fantasy you want, and you can find the readers who want to read that kind of tale. These are just a few things that make fantasy my favorite genre, which is why I only write fantasy to begin with.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Scams in the Publishing Industry

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve posted about various types of publishing. But what scams are out there, waiting for unsuspecting writers to fall victim to their schemes? The truth is, there are too many out there to name one by one, so the best thing I can do is give you certain things to look for. Basically, I’m giving you some tips on whether or not the company you’re submitting to is legit or a scam.

The most important thing you can look for is, which way is the money flowing? In other words, does a publisher want money from you? What about an agent? One thing I’ve heard the big names in the publishing industry say over and over is that if an agency or a publisher wants money from you, it’s a scam 100% of the time. If a publisher claims to be a traditional press but offers “author services,” that’s a scam. If an agency wants money for representation, that’s a scam too.

I should also point out that this doesn’t include companies like CreateSpace or LightningSource. Those are legit companies that exist to help you publish. But if a company wants money claiming to be traditional, they’re lying and they’re what you call a vanity press. Avoid those companies like the plague.

There’s one company out there that claims to be a traditional publisher but is only interested in their bottom line. This is very common among vanity presses, but PublishAmerica is something else entirely. There’s literally too much bad PR to list it all here with this specific company, but I bring it up because you need to understand how bad these scams can be, and how sneaky they can be as well. PA also gives an advance to make it look like they’re traditional ($1 to be exact, which is laughable), but they lock you into a contract for seven years.

The point is, there’re a lot of scams out there and they don’t care about making you money. So all of this is something to look for, but there’s also a couple of useful websites that are available if you want to see if a company is a scam. One is Writer Beware, while the other is a forum called Absolute Write, or the “water cooler.” The second one is particularly useful when finding out if a company is a scam, because almost every publisher has its own thread dedicated to it.

This information is by no means complete, but it’s a start for those of you wishing to avoid scams on your way to publishing.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Should You Write Every Day?

If there’s one thing I hear published writers say more than anything else, it’s the line “Write every day.” And to be honest, it seems like pretty good advice. But should we as writers write every single bleeping day? Well, I think you’ll get different opinions depending on who you ask, but personally I don’t write every day.

I think it’s more important to write consistently than anything else. Some days, you just can’t get the words in, and that’s okay. Maybe you have a wedding to go to and you’re the best man. Whatever the reason, it’s impossible to write every single day, but that’s not to say you can’t write consistently. I don’t write every day, but I try to do it consistently. That’s what really matters.

Now, I should conclude by saying that saying write consistently could turn into a slippery slope of non-productivity. Right now you say to just want to take one day off because you have a cold, but the next thing you know, you could be taking several days at a time off. So, it’s important not to fall into this trap. Write consistently, even if it’s a couple hours every other day.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Ideas Are Cheap

There are a lot of books out there, and many of them stem from two or three concepts that are not always clear to the reader. These concepts, of course, come together to form an idea for a novel or a short story and give the reader something worth reading. But there’s something that they never tell you when it comes to creating an idea for a book.

To be honest, ideas are cheap.

When I say that, I’m paraphrasing Brandon Sanderson’s lectures at BYU. What Sanderson was discussing in that particular lecture was how we as writers generate ideas for a strong storyline. The truth is, a good writer can take a terrible idea and make a wonderful book out of it. Jim Butcher did this. His Codex Alera novels are something of a combination of Pokémon and the lost Roman legion. The books are all bestsellers.

So, you can write about anything if you approach it the right way. The idea doesn’t matter. All that matters is the writer and their imagination.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Some Things About Self-Publishing

In last week’s blog, we discussed a few things about traditional publishing. With all of its platforms and bells and whistles, there are certainly a lot of options when it comes to going the traditional publishing route. In today’s blog, however, I wanted to get into a few options when it comes to self-publishing.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out, of course, is that if you plan on self-publishing like I am, your sales will come primarily from the ebook format. This is because they are cheaper and easier to get into the hands of readers, but of course there is also a benefit to you in this arena as well. You get to sell it for cheaper, but because of the zero production cost, you also get more money from this than a traditional author would.

Something else to point out is that you want to have a print version available. If you have an ebook and a print version for them to compare its price to, then you automatically entice them to buy the cheaper ebook (provided that you set the price to $2.99 as recommended by Amazon). This may be different on other self-publishing sites, where my knowledge on the sales trends is small, so keep that in mind if you’re not using Amazon.

You can also self-publish without any publisher at all, and instead post your work on a blog. I honestly don’t see the logic behind this move, since an author almost always publishes their work to make a little side money, but if that’s what you want to do, go right ahead. All I can say for sure is that this has become a thing among some more traditional presses.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017