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Checklist for Critiquing a Novel

An easy starting point. Where will they go, what will they achieve, how will they grow? See if you can condense all that succinctly in a single sentence or two.

Novel Planner

That sentence is the whole point of the Snowflake Method. You love writers like Raymond Chandler, but you want to offer something new as well. So maybe you throw in one unexpected ingredient — you want to do something that Chandler himself would never have done. A private eye Bernie Brandon is trying to track down the killer of beautiful murder victim Amy Adderley. Now write down something — a sentence or two — about your protagonist. Bernie Brandon is an ex-cop. Lives alone. Is a problem drinker. Somewhat lonely. But if it comes, it comes.

The purpose of the Snowflake Method is to build incrementally from a simple starting point. We need to build up these characters at some point anyway. Maybe this story is going to be a two-hander, where Bernie and Amy both take turns to narrate? Los Angeles in the s. The place is seedy, post-Prohibition, and most of the big money is dirty money.

This is an LA where the girls are pretty, but fallen, and the cops can be bought. Something clicked for me about Amy Adderley. You go round the various different elements of your novel Story, Protagonists, Settings , step by step, adding detail as you go. Those insights are what this outline process is all about. Amy Adderley is a rich girl, dead before the start of the story. She is or was a singer — but classical. She loves Schubert lieder and opera. A nightclub guy who made his money dirtily during Prohibition.

But now Amy is a singer, a classical one. Almost like they could be lovers, right? So, round we go again. OK, so here we go again.

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As we started to build the other elements of our novel outline, though, the story itself jumped into view a little more. Bernie rejects the henchman, but meets one to one with Dorcan, and agrees to take the job. Middle : Bernie investigates. Bernie discovers that Amy had a fling with the son of some big wheel in the LA underworld.


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He almost goes to the police with the news. The whole private investigation thing was just a way to throw the blame elsewhere and win a turf war at the same time. I just made it up as I went along. This is a trial and error process. So maybe we start off by giving Paul Prettyboy his own nightclub to run, a gift from daddy. Except maybe that makes the whole story a little bit too nightclubby in tone.

So how about we jump to the other end of things? Maybe Paul Prettyboy runs an upmarket art gallery, somewhere nice in Pasadena. A mini-me of his father. If you want to get an idea of what questions to ask about your character, you can get a great starting list here. In fact, for the avoidance of doubt:. You have to do this exercise in full. This rule is not optional and it takes precedence over all the others:.

If you get an idea, write it down. They think that dreaming around with characters and stories and scenes will produce a novel. So first we had Paul Prettyboy as a nightclub owner. Even mistakes are rich in insight. And that was fine, for back then, but now we want to know more. So that little beginning description might expand to something like this.

Beginning : Bernie Brandon is in his office. No work, nothing to do. There is whisky in his desk drawer and he is trying not to drink it. A big scary guy — suit, colourful — comes to hire him. Plonks down a roll of dollar bills. Brandon refuses the job. Big scary guy leaves. Brandon gets the guys registration plate, phones it through to the cops — his former colleagues — and gets an ID. Realises henchman guy is working for Dorcan Adderley — with whom he, Brandon, has some history. If I work for anyone, I work for the boss. Oh, and you know I said that thing about writing stuff down?

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She needs to make an early entry. Beginning : Bernie Brandon is in his office — blah, blah, blah — all the same as before, right down to Brandon getting an ID for the henchperson. Schubert Lieder. Strangely, the female singer is singing the exact song that Brandon had been playing on the piano shortly before coming out. He tries to find the source of the music, but it proves elusive. He has a constant sense of being watched. For example, my publisher sends me bookmarks with info about my current book and upcoming books later in the year, and everyone who writes me a letter receives one of these special bookmarks.

My publisher puts together book club kits, reading guides, and lists of praise. They also handle paid advertising campaigns, including scheduling a BookBub Preorder Alert. During this time, you can help create buzz by engaging with your existing readers on social media. Begin sharing creative ties to the book on various social media platforms. Create a polished look for your platform by creating an arsenal of images you can use throughout your marketing campaigns.

These images can help generate buzz, and do particularly well on Instagram! Another creative piece of collateral to have at-the-ready are fancy graphics with quotes from the book, quotes from you, or blurbs about the book from other authors or publications. When posting these on social media, remember to include preorder links in the description! Giving away early copies of your book is a great way to generate early reviews, which will make it more enticing to new readers upon its release. We typically do ARC giveaways with a prompt to comment on the photo.

Readers love getting free content, and when that content ties closely to an upcoming release, it can help them get excited for that book. The goal with sharing this type of bonus content is to simply give the readers more. I like to consider myself a value-added author. Early reviews can make great fodder for promotional graphics!

Critique My Manuscript | Checklist for Critiquing a Novel

These reviews might come from major publications, retailers, BookBub, Goodreads, or Netgalley — a platform publishing houses use to send advanced copies to early readers in exchange for honest reviews. My publisher uses these reviews to build out the retailer pages on Amazon and create early buzz. Additionally, my team of marketers share quotes from reviews in the promotional images they design. As you can tell, creating these images is an ongoing effort!

I used to do this more earlier in my career, but now my publisher handles this for me. Continue the activities above while also creating countdowns to the on-sale date. Build excitement by creating a countdown, and regularly remind fans of the launch date while encouraging them to preorder.

One month, one week, and one day are good time frames to promote. This is a wonderful way to include all the items you created in the last several months in one place for the book! My publisher Random House creates book trailers for me and they are a wonderful peek inside the book. If your publisher creates a book trailer — or any special videos or graphics — to promote your book, be sure to promote those on social media for your fans to see!

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Create a personal connection with fans by sharing glimpses of your author life, and how excited you are about your upcoming release. Better yet, offer a chance to win a prize in exchange for sharing their own content relating to your book! Consider sharing personal details, what inspired the book, or who you dedicated the book to. If you already have a story outline, build which parts of the story arc you will work on during each session into your plan.

If you are not sure how to outline, try one of these 7 outlining methods. Some books demand more background research than others. If you are writing about an unfamiliar location, take a tour on Google Street View and note down landmarks and what the architecture or natural environment is like. One way to organize your research is to keep a master document that is like an alphabetized dictionary of your story-in-progress. Under each letter, add any relevant information. Write down each of the locations of your novel as you write your story and create new ones or use real places.


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Note any important features next to each entry, for example:. Center of tourism. Wine-growing region. Ethnically and culturally diverse. Wide wealth gap. Having an overview of the individual places, themes, characters and other elements of your novel that you can refer back to will keep you focused on the details that bring your fictional world to life. Bad writing eventually leads to good writing and paragraphs eventually add up to pages, chapters, and a finished novel.

Write every day, even when you least feel like it. If this is a challenge while you write your first novel, divide your writing sessions into smaller units. If you write every day, even if for only a short while, your writing can only improve. Yet as author Susan K.


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