Week 18, Conclusion: “Titles”

Well, since no one emailed me questions this week, I found something else to talk about, instead! This question was asked of me at the NCHE conference in May:

“How did you come up with the title for your book? Also, should you do chapter titles or not?”

So, here’s my answer. :-)

Actually, to start off with, I picked a different title for my first book. My original idea was “God Will Deliver Us,” because that was what all the characters were begging and praying throughout the course of the book. My publishers didn’t really like the name, though. It was very catching, and it didn’t reveal anything about the nature of the book. After a lot of discussion, we decided on “A Cry From Egypt.” It let prospective buyers know that the book was placed in Egypt, and it made people wonder what happened in the pages.

I’ve had a very hard time picking a title for my second book, which covers the crossing of the Red Sea and goes all the way to Mt. Sinai. I thought about “Following the Cloud,” but that sounded cheesy. We came up with “A Nightmare at Sinai,” and “Trial at Sinai.” But “A Nightmare” sounded too scary. I didn’t want parents with young children to be scared off from reading my book. “Trial” made me think of a court session with a judge in a big white wig with a gavel. So I didn’t like that one.

Then my dad and I were talking about my book and the themes in my book. We were also discussing how so many people today say that God in the Old Testament is completely different than the God of the New Testament. That is so not true! God is just as merciful and loving in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. The Israelites are just humans who failed, as we all do, to listen to God’s instructions. And that is even more obvious in the Old Testament! Even at Mt. Sinai, God could’ve killed all of the Israelites right there! Instead, He was merciful. So that gave us the idea for our book two title: “Mercy at Sinai.”

So, tips for coming up with a good book title:
1. Make sure it makes people who read it ask a question. It should grab their attention immediately. Book titles will make or break a book!
2. Keep it short. Try not to use more than eight words. Generally speaking, titles should be between two and six words.
3. Pick something that hints at the main theme of your story.
4. Even picking a quote or line for your story might work!
5. If you’re stuck, have some people read it and give you suggestions. It’s ok if you don’t have a title until the very end, by the way. If you don’t know what your theme is, you don’t necessarily need a title.

If you’re wondering whether or not to give your book chapter titles, here’s some thoughts.

If you’re writing for younger children and teens, book titles help them keep track of where they are and keep them engaged. If you’re writing for older teens or adults, chapter titles aren’t really necessary. However, they can be very fun to write! If you’re going to write chapter titles, make sure you do it right! Don’t give away major events. Don’t write out a summary of the entire chapter. Give us a little snapshot of something. Some of my chapter titles are as follows:

Rameses
Jarah’s Question
What Happened at the Nile River
Frogs?
Thank You
A Hardened Heart
Trapped in the Darkness
Back in the Palace

They either summarize events, ask questions, or make you want to keep reading. :-) Do NOT write chapter titles if you write them like G.A. Henty. For example: “A Captive.” Me: “NO! I didn’t want to know that he got captured!” OR…… “Marie Arrested” or “Escape.” Me: “Well thanks for ruining the whole book!” Do not write chapter titles like that. Or like this:

“Chapter Six: When Harry Goes on a Wolf Hunt to Find the Great Wolf and Ends up Getting Injured.” Don’t give away the whole chapter like that, either. :-)

Thank you all for reading my blog series! I hope that I’ve been able to help you and encourage you along your own writing journey. I will continue to update my writing blog with new events and happenings with my first book and second book, and other writing tips and news. Thank you so much! Happy writing!

Week 17, Step 17: “The Summary…..” :-)

And now we come to the closing of our blog post series. I’m going to summarize the points I’ve made through this series right here so that you all can look back at them and see if there’s anything you missed or that you want to look at in more detail.

But before I summarize that, there is one point I would like to make.

I know that I have a variety of people reading these posts. I’ve heard from people as young as thirteen and as old as retired adults. This point is mostly geared towards young, single people.

I know a lot of you unmarried people are busy with school, family life, serving Jesus, spending time with friends, etc. Some of you probably really like writing but think, “I don’t have time to write. I like it, but I only work on it sparingly because I don’t have time. I’ll work on it when I’m older.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but life doesn’t become easier as you get older. Really, it gets much harder – AND busier! These single years before you’re married and staying at home with your children or working full-time is the BEST time to focus on your writing and see where God leads. Don’t put it off! Do it right now! Don’t wait until it’s too late. If God really is calling you to write, make it a priority and do it! I promise that you will regret it later.

Now, the summary…. :-)

Inigo Montoya: “Let me explain… No, that would take too long. Let me sum up.” :-)

1. Always write for God’s glory, putting His sacrifice and His desires above money, status, or fame.
2. When trying to get an idea, spend lots of time in prayer. Rely first and foremost on God’s inspiration. Remember to ask your family and friends for help, ideas, and other inspirations.
3. Find at least one writing buddy to keep you accountable and make you finish writing.
4. When starting your book or story, limit all detail. Introduce people and events slowly. Have a very, very grabbing opening that will force people to buy your book and read it!
5. The first sentences are crucial to catching the attention of your reader. Make them grip the reader!
6. Make sure you write a complete first draft. It is very important to God to finish what you’ve begun and to make sure all of your thoughts are tied together.
7. When it comes to firming up your plot-line, write out your main character(s) journey and make sure their are dips when your characters have conflict and ultimately a climax and resolution.
8. Remember to have the moral to your story be one that honors God. The main character also needs to have a spiritual journey where they learn to become more Christ-like in some way, shape, or form.
9. When you’re writing the middle, persevere! It will get better. Get your writing buddies to help you. Skip around in the story if you have to.
10. Make your climax huge and suspenseful! Keep the resolution short, or even have NO resolution if you’re writing a series of books.
11. As you start to revise, find people who know what they’re doing to help you and work with you to accomplish your goals.
12. Make you have readers, editors, copy-editors, and possibly a professional editor. They are invaluable!
13. Avoid pride as much as possible. Be teachable. Learn from others.
14. But don’t be too humble! Don’t fear man more than you fear God.
15. Pay about what publishing route you need to take. Where is God leading you?
16. For short stories, limit your use of characters. Make them all unique and different. All of the same rules apply, but condensed! :-)
17. Remember that Jesus is the one who gave us the gift of writing. He deserves all the praise we can give Him!

So there you go! That’s the summary of my blog post series! Please email me any questions you have that I might not have answered in the series. I’d love to hear from you!

Next week will be the Q&A week to wrap everything up. Please email me at hope@hopefulstories.com if you have a question that you want answered!

Happy Writing! :-)

Week 16, Step 16: “The World of Short Stories”

I’m sure some of you who have been following these blog posts are writing short stories.  Some of you are probably more entitled to write a blog post about short stories than I am! :-) I’m actually not very good at writing short stories. I’ve done a few, but I’ve only been happy with one of them. (By the way, that story should be released in just a few weeks to the world! I’ll be posting it here.) So I’m just going to give you some tips. And if there’s something I’ve missed, please feel free to comment and tell me – and everyone else! – what to do to make our writing better.

In some ways, writing a short story is way easier. Your plot line and build-up to the climax is a LOT shorter. There’s less details to worry about because it usually doesn’t cover a very long time. But there are some things that will help guide you along this process.

1. First of all, use very minimal characters. The less time you spend introducing people, the better. That means that having huge families or big nations is probably not a good idea. The ideal number would be between 3 and 12 people. There are 5 main types of characters in your story. Having one of each of them makes for a great short story.
The Protagonist: The hero or heroine, the one on the journey
The Antagonist: The villain OR the idea or fear or thought that is trying to stop the hero from accomplishing their goals/dreams
The Mentor: The one leading, guiding, and/or protecting the hero
The Side-Kick: The one who supports your character and helps them and goes through all the struggles with him/her
The Comic Relief: The character who could act as a side-kick or an assistant to the villain who provides some good laughs or less suspenseful moments
The Romantic Interest: This one is actually not completely necessary, but almost every single GREAT story in the world has some small amount of romance in it. However, there are many EXCELLENT stories without romance. Take the Chronicles of Narnia, for example! But adding a hint of romance to your story, especially if it’s done Biblical, is not a bad thing.

All you need are those five or six characters to have a good story. And some of them can even overlap! The comedic character and your side-kick can be combined into one. Your side-kick and romance character can be combined into one. There are several options and combinations. Many children’s books only have two or three main characters. But really, you don’t need a ton of characters to have a really good story.

2. Figure out your plot and how each of the characters fit into it and when. Use the same plot-outline that you would use for a big book, but make it a lot shorter. Make sure there’s still a grabbing opening, a struggle, a climax, and a short resolution.

3. In the beginning, don’t introduce everyone at once. Introduce the main character, then slowly add everyone else. Don’t overwhelm us with a ton of facts. All the necessary information should be given in just a few sentences or paragraphs. Make sure you have an opening that will really grab the audience!

4. For short stories in particular, you don’t really need to say much about your characters, the surroundings, etc. The less that can be explained, the shorter and more compact your story is, and the more exciting it will be because you’ll be using more dialogue. Readers LOVE dialogue. They can picture so much more using dialogue than whatever long descriptive paragraphs you can write in your story. And sometimes for short stories, when every single word counts, description can get in the way and take up unnecessary space.

So, to summarize….
1. Short stories are very similar to tiny itty bitty novels. Most of what we’ve talked about in the other blog posts apply in a condensed form.
2. Limit your characters! Pick them carefully and make sure they fit the character-types that we’ve discussed.
3. Remember to have really short introductions and an intense or mysterious opening!
4. Don’t put in much description at all. Let the dialogue be your description.
5. Spend time writing out a plot-line that works before you write out the short story. Make it compact and very plot-driven instead of character driven.

That’s it! Don’t forget to email me at hope@hopefulstories.com to ask me any questions that I haven’t answered! Week 18 is going to be our last and final week and our Q & A week! Thank you for reading!

Suggested Homework:

For those of you writing short stories, put into action the points listed above.

For those you who are NOT writing a short story, try it! Pick a character that’s in your novel and write a short story about them. It’s good experience, and you can possibly use it to publicize your book when you get ready to publish it!

Week 15, Step 15: “Publishing: Which Route To Take?”

So, about publishing. This is every writer’s goal and dream. It’s the end of a long, hard, but rewarding race. But, it can also be very, very overwhelming.

What I’m going to tell you today is what I’ve learned from my publishers and other writers about the publishing process. I’m going to lay out three different paths that you can take and tell you the pros and cons of each. Then you can chose for yourself which path meets your goals. Decide what’s important for you in a publisher/publishing house and then go from there. Hopefully what I’m telling you today will help narrow down your options and get you heading in the right direction. 

Self Publishing

There are many advantages to the self-publishing route, but there are also several things that you need to seriously consider before you think you can do this all on your own. Here are the pros and cons.

Pros: You can keep your copyright of your book, meaning that you have complete control and everything looks the way you want it to look. There are many places where you can now self-publish very easily and order books on demand instead of having tons of books sitting around your house. Websites like Lulu and Xlibris provide easy ways to make this happen. There are many other websites out there that provide similar services. All you have to do is search “publishing your own book” on google, and there you go!

Cons: You have to do a ton of work. You also have to do all of your own marketing. It’s hard to get into major book stores – or any book stores for that matter – without a recommendation. It generally won’t look as professional if you do it all by yourself, which means it won’t sell as much. It’s also more expensive to print books on demand instead of printing large bulk orders because they charge way more per book.

Small Publishers

Believe it or not, there are a lot of small publishing houses out there that will do a decent job with marketing and getting your book professional-looking and ready to sell! Here’s a link to a database I found by simply googling “small publishing houses.”

http://www.pw.org/small_presses?perpage=*

Pros: Generally with small publishing houses, you have a more personal relationship. You can be very involved in your book and not feel like you have no access to your publishers. They help with some marketing so you don’t have to do it all yourself. If keeping your copyright is important to you, your best bet is to probably go to a small publishing house. You still get to be the “face” of the book and get to do all the important, yet fun and time-consuming stuff while still interacting with your audience. Royalty fees will usually be a slightly bigger percentage when going with smaller publishing houses.

Cons: They won’t have as big of a reach as some bigger publishing houses, so your book might not get too far to start off with. It also requires more work from you than just handing your book off to some big publisher, but you get more control.

Big Publishers

Pros: They do a lot of the work for you. They will get your book out on the market and get it selling. They look professional and they know their stuff!

Cons: Getting into a big publisher can take years, especially if you’re a new writer. You have to fill out tons of query letters and know published authors to help you work up the ladder. And once you do work up the ladder, sometimes your book just gets dropped by the wayside. If you give your copyright to the publishing house, you’re basically trapped with them and not able to do anything at all. Most big publishing houses take your copyright from you, though there are some publishing houses that I’ve heard of (Bethany Publishing House for example) that won’t take your copyright. For some publishing houses, if they take your copyright they will give you a date and time when your book should be out. Be aware that you can lose a lot by giving up your copyright. You’ll lose control and the ability to do things in your timing. But… you might also have a bigger reach in the long-run. Also, you only get a very, very small percentage of royalties compared to self-publishing or even publishing with small companies. I’ve heard as little as 5% of the money made on a book goes back to the writer.

My Search and My Experience 

So what was my search and my experience?

Well, at the beginning, my dad had a contact with LifeWay and I was talking to them about the possibility of publishing my book. But I was still open and exploring other options, particularly Bethany Publishing House. I began to put query letters together and realized that I really needed an endorsement from some published authors or well-known writers. I asked Hal and Melanie Young of Great Waters Press to read my book to see if they could recommend it. They did. They not only loved my book, but they asked me if I would consider publishing with them!

After a lot of prayer, God made it clear that I was supposed to publish “A Cry From Egypt” with Great Waters Press, which is a smaller publishing house with a huge opportunity for personal ministry. That’s what I wanted. It’s been a lot of work, but it has been so rewarding! I’ve kept my copyright. I’ve been able to advertise my book and really be in charge of what happens to it and making it turn out the way I wanted it. But my publishers have given me a ton of great advice on marketing and publishing a book and have worked hard to get my name and the name of my book out into the homeschooling community and beyond. I have an incredibly dedicated team behind me making all of this stuff happen! I really don’t care that I might not get as much money as I would with a big publishing company. I know that my publishers care about the message of my book and getting it out to the world. That’s what really matters — sharing God’s message with everyone we meet and everyone who reads our work, not the money. It has truly been an amazing journey.

So there you have it! Please remember to email me any questions you may have that I’m not addressing at hope@hopefulstories.com. We’re almost to week 18, which is questions and answers week! So please don’t hesitate to send those questions in! :-)

Suggested Homework:

Now is when you need to be finishing up the first or second drafts of your story! Start putting what you’ve learned into action. Don’t worry about publishers now, but do think about which route sounds appealing to you and pray through where God wants you to be.

Enter To Win “A Cry From Egypt”!

Hello All!

Dawn Winters wrote an amazing review about “A Cry From Egypt,” and she’s also offering to give away a book for free! Please go to the link below to read the review and find out how you can enter the drawing to win a free copy! Thanks!

http://guidinglighths.com/book-review-a-cry-from-egypt-by-hope-auer/