Posts Tagged ‘Jason Henry Evans’

Getting into NaNoWriMo

When I first started out on my writing journey I got big into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It was the perfect solution to so many issues I had! Nano set up a short period of time I could finish my novel. It fostered an atmosphere of art and community. I got to meet creative people and be inspired by them. And finally, it made me write every day.

Above everything else, daily writing was the most valuable skill I learned from NaNoWriMo.

Why NaNoWriMo?

If you’re new to the writing word let me explain why NaNoWriMo is awesome. Every November people gather around the world and try to write a novel in 30 days. Yes, you read that right. 30 days!

When I was younger, the thought of cranking out 1667 words a day seemed daunting, but I was up for the challenge. I would have days where I could get out 2000, even 2500 words a day. Then I’d get distracted and miss whole days of writing. Suddenly it was November 25rd and I was hanging around 38K in words. How was I supposed to write 12k in five days?

Muscle through, that’s how.

NaNoWriMo taught me the importance of muscling through a draft. That it didn’t matter if the words weren’t perfect, or the dialogue was childish, or even if the plot was nonsensical. What was important? Word count.

Get to Publishing Faster

Now a lot of you will disagree with me on that. Not a problem. We all have our process. But let me remind you, oh gentle reader, that your first draft is never going to be perfect. That you’re going to have to go through that manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, regardless. The sooner you get to the editing phase, the sooner your manuscript can blossom into a publishable book. I’ll always remember what author Stant Litore told me once; “Amateurs write. Professionals re-write.”NaNoWriMo taught me the importance of muscling through a draft.

So, the faster your junk-draft is finished, the faster you can continue towards your path to publishing.

NaNoWriMo helps you get there. If you can get into the habit of writing 1667 words a day – every day – rain or shine, then you can write an 80K or even a 100K novel. I now write around 3K a day, pushing it to 5K when things go super well. I owe all of that to NaNoWriMo.
But word count and creating a writing habit is only one of the benefits of NaNoWriMo. Do you want to know the real benefit of participating in NaNoWriMo? Community.

Go to Writing Events

I once suggested to a friend that if he wanted to write he should participate in NaNo. My friend was hesitant but eventually agreed to participate. November went by and I checked on him as the month came to a close to find out how he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t even break 5K. When I asked him why, he said he just wasn’t inspired to write. I then asked him if he went to any of the writing events I pointed him towards. He said no. “That’s your problem, friend.”

See, NaNoWriMo is a GREAT opportunity to meet other artists and aspiring artists. People who love literature or have a story to tell.
I live in Denver and during NaNoWriMo we meet at the Perkins off of I-25 and Colorado Blvd, every Friday night. People come, tell each other about their lives since their last NaNo adventure and just be goofy. We eat dinner. Then, around 8:30 pm the computers come out. We start typing. At first, it’s only a few people. But slowly the conversation dies. More lap tops come out and we are on a roll! Everyone is writing. Pie is eaten. Coffee is inhaled. People work out plot points or share their ideas. It’s a wonderful experience and it motivates me.


Jason Henry Evans: Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Your Niche in Historical Fiction

By: Jason Henry Evans


Hello, gentle reader. This month on the historical fiction blog, I am writing about finding your niche in historical fiction.
You’ve got that great idea for a story. You’ve fantasized about the clothes your characters wear, the horses they ride and the type of weapons they carry.
STOP! Stop right there! Before you go and write ten thousand words, think about your story and ask yourself these questions:

What is the Conflict?
Every story begins and ends with conflict. What is the protagonist struggling against? What are they trying to overcome? Is the conflict centered on a person (Person v. Person)? A group of people, (Person v. Society)? A place (Person v. Nature)? Or an internal struggle (Person v. Self)? Are there multiple conflicts going on (A protagonist fighting an unjust system while struggling with an ally for control of a political group)?

Who is your Protagonist?
Many times we have ideas in our head about what a good story should look like. Many of those times it’s based off of our experiences with books and movies we’ve watched and read. The stories we envision sometimes are simply duplicates of what we’ve read or scene before. (Which is a natural part of the writing process. We all do it.)

What would make your story interesting is if you shift your point of view. A war story from the perspective of a refugee is pretty common today. A war story told by the villain, and justifying their villainy might be unique.

Writing historical fiction can be exciting and rewarding.

What is your Time Period?
This can be really hard. Not because certain time periods require a certain amount of research. Nor is it because you have to get every little detail from a time period absolutely perfect. The real reason is this: We as writers get it in our heads that our story belongs in a certain setting. Many times we are probably wrong.

Let’s face it, if we want to be professional writers, then we have to know about market saturation. We have to know about certain time periods that are overwhelmed with stories. English Regency romance about a destitute woman who finds love and regains her stolen estates? Overdone. American Revolutionary War about orphan boy who finds himself in the middle of two armies? We’ve read that.

Stop. Just stop.

Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Find a niche that is both familiar to your potential audience, yet interesting and creative.
Aimie Runyan took a basic story about frontier farm living in her novel Promised to the Crown, and turned it on its head by setting it in 17th century Quebec. All the tropes of frontier fiction, just twisted a little.

Want to write a mystery set in Victorian London? You want to write about the opulence of high society, while the poor suffer in the street? You want political intrigue? OK. Why not choose another time? How about 1820’s London? How about the London of 1665, during the last big outbreak of Bubonic Plague? What a backdrop THAT would be!

Choose your Setting.
Finally, if you’re really set on a time period, like Renaissance England, or World War II, why not flip the story upside down and write about a different setting? The American Revolutionary War is a grand time period for a story, but instead of your story taking place in Boston or Charleston, could it be set Quebec? (Remember, Benedict Arnold led an expedition up there in 1775.) That mystery in Victorian London? I bet a story set in Victorian upper crust of Bombay or Hong Kong would be even more decadent and mysterious than one set in London.

I know from personal experience that writing historical fiction can be both exciting and rewarding. I also know that when I wrote my first story, I didn’t think too much about setting, or time or conflict. It was a painful lesson I learned as I got pummeled in my critique group. But I learned. If you can hold off on writing that story, do the research to avoid over-saturated markets, then you can write a novel that is closer than you think to getting published.


Jason Henry Evans: Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Your Historical Villain

So, you’ve got a great idea for a story of historical fiction. You know who the protagonist is. You know who their sidekick is and their love interest. You’ve imagined them full of contemplation at the midpoint and you’ve thought about what would drive your hero to despair during the whiff of death moment. But you don’t have a villain?

Your first thought was to use that really cool historical figure. You know, the guy who everyone hates in the history book. That sadistic general, or sleazy politician. The out of touch monarch or the self-righteous moral crusader. But the time line doesn’t match, or maybe you want to save that dastardly villain for another book. What’s a writer of historical fiction going to do? Fear not, gentle reader! I have come to your rescue!

Here are the Top Four ways to craft a historical villain!

1. Make your villain fictional.
I know. I know. You’ve read a lot about the time period and you’ve stumbled across the perfect this really jerk who can be the antagonist of your plot. But the problem is that real historical people tend to be in certain places antithetical to your plot. Let’s say your villain is none other than Joseph Stalin. Great! Read bad guy! But the problem is Stalin tended to have his locations recorded most of the time. If you want to write a scene that takes place in the Ukraine in 1944, chances are Stalin was in Moscow or Eastern Poland. Your story will be criticized for the inaccuracy.

“But I have a secondary villain who is Stalin’s henchmen,” you say.

OK. So why not make the henchmen the true villain? This gives you a lot more flexibility then having an historical character. That antagonist can be places historical figures can’t, and can do things historical figures can’t. Stick with fictional villains.

2. Make your villain symbolic.
What’s really cool about fiction is that you can infuse themes into your story. Do that with your villain. Aimie Runyan did that very well with her fictional priest in Promised to the Crown. A running theme of the book is how men lay multiple and over lapping claims on women’s bodies. Fr. Cloutier, the head priest in Ms. Runyan’s book, is a stand in for the power of the Roman Catholic Church in 17th century Quebec.

Or, what about Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest? She is clearly a stand in for institutional medicine and the power of bureaucracy. A villain who represents what’s wrong with your society helps you develop your theme. Such a villain can also allow you to explore the values of antiquated societies and show them to your reader in a modern light. Either way, it’s a great way to add some spice into your story.

3. Make your villain a reflection of your hero.
There is nothing better than a fun-house mirror version of the protagonist. Maybe they’re the exact opposite. Maybe their very similar to the hero, but just a little off. Great villains should make your hero question themselves, their motives, and their actions. Great villains should humble the hero when she realizes there, but for the Grace of God, go I.

4. Make your villain have cause.
There is a great saying going around about villains. Every villain is the hero of their own story. This is so true! Every villain was once a potential hero, now corrupted. Make your reader understand your villains tragic arc. Of course, the story is about your protagonist, but leave enough room so that your readers can sympathize with your villain, even if they don’t agree with them. Think of the Monster in Frankenstein.

Remember that villains are just as important as heroes are. Sometimes, they’re even more important.


Jason Henry Evans: Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

You can catch up with jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Realistic Diversity in Historical Fiction

Readers, today we hear from Jason Henry Evans’ latest installment on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction. This month, Jason addresses diversity in historical fiction, the what, the why and the how.


It is January of 2018 and having diverse characters is still a big deal in historical fiction. But how do you add diverse characters when the market you write in is pretty, well, white? 

I mean, how much diversity was in the English Regency?  How much diversity was in Ancient Rome? Or Tudor England? How much diversity was in the Highlands of Scotland where my Highland Romance takes place? 

Ah, never fear, gentle reader. Never fear. We will go over this. 

But first, let’s check our privilege at the door and understand what diversity really means. 

What Exactly do we Mean by Diversity?

Diversity is not only about race. 

Diversity is about sex. 

Diversity is about orientation. 

Diversity is about gender.

Diversity is about age. 

Diversity is about ableism. 

Diversity is about thought.

If you are a new writer without a formal education in history, sometimes the world can seem pretty vanilla. Sometimes it can seem segregated, too. But with a little research and a little creativity you can peel that veneer off of the tableau you’re looking at and discover a rich and varied world. 

Also – and let me be blunt – you are writing historical fiction. No one is going to get 3 units transferable to the college of their choice by reading your book. You don’t have to be absolutely historically accurate to write a compelling piece of historical fiction. 

Don’t get me wrong – you do have to get the details right. You gotta know your stuff about horses, crops, firearms and swords. You have to know your way around corsets and fabrics and etiquette and politics. But you do NOT have to be perfect. 

How do We Write Diversity in Our Stories?

So, how do we write diversity into our stories?

Maybe you are writing a romance set in the English Regency. You feel diverse characters would add richness to your story and make it pop. But you can’t bring yourself to make one of the supporting characters from Africa or Asia. That’s OK. What if your character were disabled, in some way? A veteran of the war in the colonies who’s now in a wheel chair? Or, perhaps blind? How many romances have disabled characters?  What about a supporting character who is very old, but wise? Someone who can reminisce about the love of their youth and give good advice to the protagonist. 

Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Occur Natural in Times of Great Exchanges

But if you did want someone to stand out because of their ethnicity and background, please remember, the settings of most of our great pieces of historical fiction have been during times of great exchanges. Many take place in cities or on frontiers where cultures meet, clash and trade. It is there you will find the diversity you seek. 

My first novel takes place in 1590s Ireland, in the Queen’s Army. It is a hotbed of war and culture clash. English Anglicans work alongside Irish and Highland Catholics. There are Italian mercenaries and French smugglers. And the Spanish. Boy, are there lots of Spanish. More importantly, able bodied women who work in and with the Queen’s Army. Sometimes, they fight too. 

Don’t Force Historical Characters to Adopt Unrealistic Modern Attitudes

I’ve said this before, but there have always been gay and transgendered people. Why not have a gay or transgendered character in your novel? It would not feel right to me for my characters to adopt modern attitudes about the gay and transgendered. I think that would be going too far. (Although, open minded people always existed.) But wouldn’t it be a lovely subplot to add to your novel if your protagonist discovered one of their friends were gay and have to wrestle with that knowledge? And, as the book moves forward, your character realizes that their friend is their friend and comes to accept them? I would read that book. 

Ethnic Diversity in Historical Fiction – It Comes Naturally

But maybe you really want ethnically diverse characters in your novel. Ok. Then let’s talk about diversity. 

Any story set during the Columbian Exchange is going to have diversity. Native Americans went to Renaissance Europe. (Many, unfortunately, as slaves.) The French, Spanish, Papal and English courts all had ambassadors from the Ottoman Empire. (Turkey.) Those ambassadors brought staffs of servants and slaves from throughout North Africa, the Mideast, and Persia. 

If your story is set later, say the 18th century, the same thing applies. However, now you can add Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and people from Southeast Asia as potential characters into the mix. The closer to our modern period you get, the more diversity becomes apparent. Mexican miners in 19th century Colorado. Black cowboys and buffalo soldiers. Chinese migrant workers who toiled on the railroad and in San Francisco immigrant communities.  

Is your story set in Medieval Europe? Crusaders sometimes came back to Europe with Armenian and Arab Christian wives and servants. Spain before the Reconquesta was a home for Jewish and Islamic scholars and artist for a millennia. People who came from around the Islamic world. As far south as Timbuktu, and as Far East as Jakarta. That is diversity. 

Remember, adding diversity to your story can be as simple as thinking about outside the box about the culture you’re trying to explore. There have always been diverse characters, we just have to illuminate them. 


Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans

Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer

Read my personal blog at www.jasonhenryevans.com

 

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Book Launch Marketing – What Works and What Doesn’t

Readers, today we have installment number eleven of Jason Henry Evans’ series on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction.  Today he shares book launch marketing, what works and what doesn’t.


OK today we talk about the digital book launch and the things you have to do to make your book financially successful. Now I am going to say some controversial things to say about common ideas about book launch marketing and it might upset you. So this is your trigger warning. 

Things that don’t work

Kirkus Reviews. Among the professional writer community, receiving an excellent Kirkus review is a mark of status. It means you have literary chops. It means you have arrived among your peers as a well thought of writer. 

However . . . 

The vast majority of book readers don’t even know what Kirkus is. They go to Amazon, they look at the section called “Customers who bought this Item also bought . . .”  and the peruse titles like the titles they’ve already bought. 

Look, if you really want a Kirkus review, go get one! But please do not think this is going to help book sales. 

Spamming Private author FB sites or any other sites. Dude. You’re just going to piss people off with this. Stop it. If you’ve been invited into a private fb author group, please know that blasting the same old add about your book is only going to upset people. Besides, why are you trying to sell to other authors? Sell to readers, not authors. 

Book launch parties. Unless your Diana Galbadon or JK Rawlings, planning a book launch party should be a fun event to celebrate you. I have gone to these things to be supportive of other authors. Some will buy $400 in hor d’ourves. I went to one where we got free, premium beer! These parties are great and you should have one. But if you spend $600 bucks on a book launch party, how many books will you have to sell to break even? 

These activities are about you, the writer, celebrating your hard work. You should do them, if you want to. But disabuse yourself of the idea that these things will help you sell books. 

What does work? 

Getting reviews. Many authors use a lovely little tome called The Book Reviewers Yellow Pages by Christine Pinheiro. This book is updated every year. (Currently on edition 8) What I love about this book is it has an extensive list of websites that actually give reviews on new books. If you get twenty to thirty of these websites to read and review your book a couple of wonderful things happen. 

First, your book is now in front of their audience. These are readers from all over the world who now know about your book. They trust these websites and will probably go buy based off of their recommendations. You now have an audience. 

Second, the vast majority of website reviewers will also write a review on Amazon. This is HUGE. Everything I’ve heard from authors is that fifty reviews on Amazon seems to be the magic number. If you can get those from these book review websites, that makes selling your book a lot easier. 

Send out a press release to the sixty or seventy sites you want to review your book about 2-3 months before you launch. Actually read the details in The Book Reviewers Yellow Pages of each website so you know when and how to submit your book copy. (Most take digital copies, a small few only take physical books. Do your research.)

Sign up for Instafreebie. This site is for whale readers. (Readers who will read your entire back catalogue.) If you put up a novella, a long short story, or a chapter or two of your novel on this site, readers will download it and read it. Are you getting sales? No. But you are getting publicity. You can even ask that readers surrender their email address before downloading your piece of historical fiction. This helps with your mailing list, which helps with your sales. 

Write your next book. I was recently at the RMFW conference and I met author independent  David Gaughran. He said something author Susan Spann and others have said before. The biggest marketing tool you have is your next book. Constantly write. Constantly publish. The world is changing and there are readers out there who won’t even consider your book unless you have two sequels out. They want to get to know characters over the long haul. 

Writing multiple books, regardless of the genre, will capture your reader and get them to buy more!  

 


Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans

Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer

Read my personal blog at www.jasonhenryevans.com

 

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From Art to Can of Soup – Marketing Your Book

Readers, today we have installment number ten on Jason Henry Evans’ series on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction.  Today he shares marketing tips.


Wow. Ten months ago I said I wanted to do a series of basic how-to’s for historical fiction. While this was originally conceived as an eight part series, it has grown to ten – yes ten blogs – on how to write and publish your historical fiction.

Over this year we have covered:

  • Story ideas
  • Historical research
  • Story planning
  • Character arcs
  • Publishing goals
  • Writing strategies
  • And a bunch of other stuff.

So now what are we going to talk about? Cover art? How to handle your millions in royalties? Managing the paparazzi in three easy steps? Make-up techniques for television?

Nope. None of that. There is one area we have not covered. It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

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