Yes, the holidays are upon us, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed all your opportunities to sell a few more books before 2020.
I’ve collected a list of important dates and strategies that work really well with the amount of time we have left and I encourage you to work in as many as you can—you’ll be glad you did when you’re relaxing, happily sipping eggnog and sales keep coming in!
Offer Free Holiday Shipping
Amazon has spoiled most consumers for shipping charges. Customers flat-out don’t like to pay shipping charges anymore. Because shipping costs have increased, it’s become increasingly important for every other online store to follow suit.
If you do sell books from your site, I encourage you to eliminate shipping costs during December. If you temporarily eliminate shipping costs, announce the start and stop dates to your email list and on social media.
To add sparkle to this offer, let buyers know that you personally autograph books for recipients, which makes wonderfully personalized holiday gifts!
Double Check Important Sales Days
As the holidays approach, the dates for special promotions seem to pile up. Let’s review the most popular dates to keep on your radar:
When: December 24
What you can do: Here’s your opportunity to reach the procrastinator.
Remember, e-books don’t require any shipping time. Promote your e-book as a last-minute gift or virtual stocking stuffer for all those people your fans and followers might have forgotten.
An e-book also makes an excellent no-clutter fruitcake alternative to a host or hostess gift!
When: December 26
What you can do: There’s a bump in e-book sales starting on December 26 that goes through the New Year, so Boxing Day is book-marketing gold.
Why? Lots of people receive brand new eReaders and tablets for the holidays, and start playing with—and buying books for—their new toys the day after Christmas.
Many people also receive gift cards for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple for Christmas and other holidays in December, and people start redeeming gift cards for merchandise and e-books.
Advertise your limited-time discounted book as a deal for new eReader owners!
New Year’s Day
When: January 1
What you can do: Online traffic picks up in the afternoon on New Year’s Day as people start to wake up and recover from the previous night’s festivities. They also don’t want to let go of the holiday bubble yet, AND, as mentioned for Boxing Day, many have gift cards to spend.
Don’t forget New Year’s resolution season is in full force by now as well. Get creative with your book’s sales pitch!
If you write nonfiction, you can no doubt think of some sort of resolution to tie in with your topic.
If you’ve written fiction, go with the resolution to read more—reading more is so common a resolution, it’s almost always a sure thing.
Bonus Amazon Shipping Deadlines
When: The 10 days leading up to Christmas Day (depending on your location and the shipping options)
What you can do: This is a great opportunity to promote your paperback or hardcover books.
Use a “books make great last-minute gifts” message and remind fans and followers that they still have time to get a gift to people before Christmas.
And thanks to Amazon’s full-service approach, your buyers can have your book wrapped and even include a gift message.
Get creative and make a plan around each one of these major holiday shopping dates, so you’re ready to execute your different book marketing strategies with minimal effort and drama. Which means now’s the time to start planning and scheduling social media posts, pre-write emails, and secure any discount e-book promotions.
Do Your Own 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways
Everyone is familiar with the 12 Days of Christmas. The theme even has an established hashtag.
Consider whether you can organize all your giveaway and promotion ideas into a 12-day series to play into the theme.
Your 12-day series can be as simple as picking 12 ideas for bonus content, promotional materials, and giveaways and fleshing out your own details and timeline.
If your book has an “easy to shop for” reader audience, you can invest in 12 small gifts to encourage readers to engage with your brand.
For example, women’s fiction, which is broad and relatively easy to shop for, a 12-day theme could include a small box of chocolates, a beaded bracelet, or a Dead Sea mud mask. Think stocking stuffers! Offer one of the stocking stuffers for giveaway each day so your fans and followers engage with your promotions. Maybe to earn a day 1 entry, they email you a receipt for one of your books they’ve purchased. Day 2 they share a link to your book on Amazon on their Facebook account, and day 3 they submit a screenshot of their review of your book on Goodreads.
The options go on and on. Focus on 12 valuable things your readers and followers can do for you, match those with 12 inspiring rewards, and you’ve got a 12 Days of Christmas promotion nearly ready to go!
Most authors fall short because they assume they’ve lost their chance at success, when in reality that’s rarely the case.
Instead of admitting defeat, think, “What can I still do?” because there’s always something, oftentimes a handful of somethings that, when added all up, actually start moving the needle and producing results that will inspire continued, consistent efforts.
Have you ever done a holiday promotion? What other ideas do you have?
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon Optimization programs as well as Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
AME has had dozens of books top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.
by Lisa Hall Wilson
One of the more common questions I get asked by those interested in learning Deep POV is: how do I know if I’m going deep enough for deep POV? How do you tell if you’re actually writing in deep POV? How do you know if you’ve “got it” or not?
Quick recap: What Is Deep Point Of View?
Deep POV is a stylistic choice to remove as much narrative distance as possible between the reader and the point of view character. It’s an immersive storytelling style of writing – like putting your reader in a virtual reality SIM or first-person shooter style of writing.
The problem, especially when you’re newer at writing, is that you can read a couple of blog posts and get a survey of the basics and believe you’re writing in deep POV. All I have to do is remove these few red flag telling words and I’m good. Not so much.
I spent ten years in that demoralizing cycle of: Am I in deep POV now?
No, not yet.
Deep POV is hard, it takes the idea of telling to new levels of intensity. Your internal dialogue must sound like the character is alone in their own head. The emotional depth is almost visceral. And simply obeying the rules isn’t enough.
To make deep POV work for you, you need to do more than know which words to avoid, you need to know what effect removing those words is aimed at creating. Then you strategically use that tool to create specific effects.
The Basics Aren’t Enough
The basics of deep POV are outlined in many many blogs online. Remove distance. Create immediacy. Write tight. Incorporate sensory details. Avoid naming emotions.
Most of the time, in deep POV, if you name an emotion: angry, hated, loved, envied, grieved, etc. it’s considered telling in deep POV. What’s considered telling in deep POV is perfectly acceptable in shallower writing styles, so it’s not that it’s wrong but it’s creating distance between the reader and the character and removing that distance is the goal.
Bronnie hated going to school. Everyone teased her. She trudged towards math class and wished she was anywhere else. The faces lining both sides of the hallway weren’t angry, in fact, they looked to be having fun. They laughed and giggled and pointed like she was the freak at the circus they’d all come to gawk at. She ducked into class, her shoulders sagged with relief, and counted the seconds until the bell rang.
This is very close to deep POV, but there’s telling, some emotional distance that feels like storytelling. Instead of walking that hallway with the character, the reader is in a theater seat watching this happen – which isn’t wrong, but it’s not the immersive effect we’re trying to create.
Below, I’ve highlighted where the telling and distance creep in, and anyone just learning deep POV will reword the sentences to avoid using those words. However, it’s still not diving deep into the emotions of the moment – what I call the character’s WHY.
How To Dive Deep
The reason this feels like storytelling is because the reader is being told how the character feels. Deep POV gets curious about how emotions feel and lets the reader decide what emotion is being experienced. Bronnie hated going to school. This is telling and author intrusion in deep POV because it’s there simply for the reader’s benefit. Deep POV is written as though the character moving through a scene doesn’t have an invisible audience.
Three more doors, then math class, and then she could escape. Go home to her books.
This sentence does more than TELL us she hates school, it SHOWS us how she feels. The reader now becomes the judge and decides what label to give that emotion. It’s a view through this character’s particular lens.
Everyone teased her. She trudged towards math class and wished she was anywhere else. The faces lining both sides of the hallway weren’t angry, in fact, they looked to be having fun. They laughed and giggled and pointed like she was the freak at the circus they’d all come to gawk at. She ducked into class, her shoulders sagged with relief, and counted the seconds until the bell rang.
The big red flag words here are “wished” and “with relief” because they’re telling, but removing those words/phrases still doesn’t put the scene into deep POV. The whole paragraph is written as though the reader is being told a story. There’s no intimacy, no raw emotion, no stakes, no why. Let’s try a rewrite aiming to remove the distance and immerse the reader IN the story.
Three more doors, then math class, and then she could escape. Go home to her books. Bronnie clutched three text books to her chest like a shield and set a fast pace as though the hallway were a bed of hot coals. The cool kids stood at their lockers waiting to pounce like bored over-fed cats. She kept her head down. Please don’t notice me. Please be too busy with your boyfriend and your gossip.
“Freak.” Lizzie’s high-pitched taunt had every head turn in Bronnie’s direction.
Her teeth ached and she unclenched her jaw. Just leave me alone. Bronnie shifted her books to ward off Lizzie’s insults.
“I donated that sweater to the church last summer. It has a hole under the arm doesn’t it?” Lizzy latched onto Bronnie’s wrist and jerked her arm up to point at the hole. The hallway roared with their laughter.
Bronnie jerked her arm free. Papa got her birthday gift at the church clothing bank? Heat from her chest erupted upwards, her face on fire. Her daddy’s the town drunk, Papa’s deep voice echoed in her mind. She don’t know any better.
Steven stepped into her path. Bronnie swerved to avoid him, clutching her books so he couldn’t knock them to the floor again.
He blocked her escape. “What’s the matter, freak? Cat got your tongue?”
She couldn’t swallow around the lump in her throat. Be the bigger person – maybe that was true, but Papa didn’t have to get to math class. Why hadn’t the bell rung? Her eyes stung.
She flinched from the verbal punch.
Steven’s head tipped up with the force of his laugh. “Loser!”
Tears welled up, but she sucked in a deep breath, enough to inflate her belly. She ran the last few feet to class. The bell rang and she slid into her seat in the front row. Safe.
Yes, the deep POV version is much longer. Deep POV will add to your word count which is why you need to be strategic with it. But do you see how this scene puts the reader IN that school hallway with Bronnie? The reader is left to figure out what emotions she’s feeling, but understanding how that emotion feels is more immersive than labeling it would be.
Can you see the difference?
There’s no storytelling, there’s just a raw experience filtered through Bronnie’s perspective (her perspective dictated by what’s important to her RIGHT NOW).
Now, if this scene doesn’t move the story ahead, if Bronnie just needs to get to class, then diving this deep will slow the pace for no reason. That’s where an understanding of the rules and the effect the rules are intended to create, is essential.
Starting January 2nd, I’m launching 15 days of deep POV where I’ll be going live on the Confident Writer’s page on Facebook answering the most common questions I get about deep POV.
Does writing in deep POV frustrate you? What’s your biggest struggle right now?
* * * * * *
Lisa Hall-Wilson is a national award-winning freelance journalist and author who loves mentoring writers. Fascinated by history, fantasy, romance, and faith, Lisa blends those passions into historical and historical-fantasy novels. Find Lisa’s blog, Beyond Basics for intermediate writers, at www.lisahallwilson.com.
The idea of finishing a manuscript is exhilarating—especially if you’re in the thrilling rush of momentum that is NaNoWriMo. (Hope it’s going great, NaNoers!) But as rewarding as it is to complete a draft, most writers know that isn’t the end of the road, just the first rest stop. Before you reach your destination—meaning agents, publishers, readers—you have to get out of the echo chamber of your own head and see what’s actually on the page. And for that, writers need objective feedback.
Yet once you get that feedback—whether you’re hiring a professional editor, sending the manuscript to your crit partners, or soliciting input from beta readers—what do you do with it?
It can be overwhelming to look at pages of editorial letter (often upward of 6-7K words, if you’re working with me), dozens or even hundreds of embedded comments, or an array of varying opinions among your critiquers and readers and process it all, let alone figure out what (and how) to translate that to your story.
Here are my step-by-step suggestions for how to navigate editorial feedback and most effectively approach revisions.
1. If there’s a separate note or letter of overview input, read it.
Read it more than once if you need to, but not too deeply. At this stage you’re not worrying yet about how to put any suggestions into practice, just taking it in.
After you’ve read the big-picture input, if there are also specific notes embedded in the manuscript, go through and read those too—again lightly, just to get a sense of the editorial thoughts.
2. Now step away.
The same way I advocate getting some literal and metaphorical distance from a first draft before you start editing and revising, I recommend taking in the gist of your editor’s or reader’s input and then leaving it alone for at least a day—more if you can. Let it swim around in your head—not necessarily in the foreground of your thoughts, but just percolating in the background as you go about your business. Don’t jump in and start revising yet—don’t even look at your manuscript during this time.
Instead be very, very kind to yourself. Getting feedback on your fresh literary newborn can be painful—even if you know it still needs work. We’re all tender in the creative places, and even the most well-intentioned, insightful, and constructive editorial input can smart—especially when it comes in volume. Have some wine. Take a bath. Walk your dog in the woods. Buy yourself a little something pretty. You deserve it, you fine artistic soul, you. You fabulous finisher.
Meanwhile, remember the old advice when you were in school to study right up till the day before the test and then leave it alone so your subconscious could process and internalize the information? Editorial input often seems to work the same way: While you’re taking good care of your hardworking, accomplished self, under the radar your brain will start making connections, collating the input you’ve received into categories, making a subconscious, orderly to-do list to some degree—and your mind will start mulling over the suggestions that most resonated (or most annoyed).
By the time you sit back down with the notes and your manuscript to contemplate revisions, you may find your subconscious already presents you with some clear ideas for improving your story.
3. Now it’s time to reread all the input, this time analytically.
A professional editorial letter will likely already be broken up into categories of specific story elements that may benefit from more development or clarification, but if not, break down the major points yourself: e.g., character notes in one category, plot in another, structure, tension, stakes, etc., each in their own. Usually you’ll tend to wind up with two to five areas of primary focus—and don’t worry for now about minor notes. With revisions it’s most productive to start high-level and drill down.
4. Let your gut weigh in at this point--how do the suggestions feel to you?
One of my favorite things to hear from authors after I return editorial notes is, “I knew that was what needed work!” or “It’s so obvious now—why didn’t I see that?” Not because I like being right in general (but oh, how I like being right in general), but because that tells me the edits resonated and are on the right track, that they hit on the places where the author was already aware, on some level, that her story wasn’t quite there yet, but couldn’t clearly see or articulate it till someone held up the mirror.
Those are the easy revisions to tackle—you already knew you needed to take a different route, and now you have a map.
The harder ones are those suggestions that rankle, that rub you the wrong way. These are the ones that you may feel a knee-jerk, visceral resistance to. The ones that make you snarl, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or immediately start to explain or defend your intentions or execution.
Pay special attention to these irritating suggestions—they may be off-base…but they may be critiquers doing you the great favor of highlighting a “darling” that might need killing. Try—hard as it can be!—to keep an open enough mind to at least consider the idea, even if it makes you want to chew glass.
I recently worked with an author who resisted my editorial suggestion that her use of journal excerpts wasn’t serving the story well. When she finally decided to take them out and just see how it worked without them, she said she immediately realized the improvement.
Remember we’re often too close to our own work—and our own beloved darlings—to be fully objective. (Writing hack: Never delete a darling completely. Move it into a separate file and save that puppy. Not only will it make it easier emotionally to delete it from your manuscript and offer a safety net in case you change your mind—like moving discarded clothes into a spare closet till you’re sure you’re ready to part with them—but every now and then you may also find that the material serves another story perfectly someday. Reduce, reuse, recycle.)
5. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground in certain areas.
You are the boss of you and your story. The same author I mention above didn’t agree with a few of the suggestions I made for fine-tuning her plot, and went in another direction—which wound up working beautifully. Feedback—even from a professional editor or agent—is subjective, and no story will please all readers. But note consistencies: If more than one reader or critiquer is telling you the same thing, you might be clinging to a darling.
In the above author’s case, she took the essence of my note—which was that a certain element wasn’t working as effectively for her story as it could—but effected the revision in her own way, rather than per my suggestion.
Remember Neil Gaiman’s advice about feedback: “When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Meaning your story is your vision—readers may tell you (accurately) that you’re missing the mark, but how you redirect to hit it is up to you.
6. Problem solve, but only with a plan.
Now it’s time to start problem-solving—but still not in the manuscript yet. Just as you wouldn’t add on to your house without drawing up blueprints, first you need to chart your course for diving back into the pages to do the actual revising.
Did your readers tell you that any of your characters didn’t feel fully believable or three-dimensional, or their motivations were unclear? Then do the work—outside of the manuscript—to more fully develop who your main players are and what they want.
Were there parts of the plot where readers were confused, or their investment in the story lagged? Create an outline or bullet list of every event that moves the story forward (what I call an X-ray) and finesse that plot till it’s airtight.
It’s easier and more productive to think about these big-picture story elements first outside the full manuscript before you start addressing them directly in your WIP—you’re creating the metaphorical blueprint for revisions before you plunge back in.
7. You are ready.
Now it’s time to start revising your manuscript. As I suggest in approaching early-draft revisions, start with the macroedit areas—character, plot, stakes—and once those are solid, circle in tighter to the microedit areas like suspense and tension, showing and telling, etc. And last, address the line-edit notes on the prose itself.
One final word for when it’s your turn to offer critique: Remember how painful it can be to receive even the most helpful of feedback, and make sure to offer yours kindly, constructively and positively. And taking time to call out what especially resonated with you as well as what might need a bit more development can go a long way—I can’t tell you how many authors I work with tell me that just my smiley faces sprinkled amid what’s often hundreds of embedded comments keep them going through the hard slog of revisions.
Remember the Golden Rule, and critique unto others as you would have them critique upon you.
Note: This post is partly excerpted from my upcoming book Intuitive Editing: Creative and Practical Ways to Revise Your Writing. Sign up for my newsletter here for release updates, and to receive my 13-page guide on how to find, vet, and work with a professional editor.
Do you work with an editor or a critique group? How do you handle the feedback and the revisions to your manuscript? What questions do you have for Tiffany?
* * * * * *
Developmental editor Tiffany Yates Martin is privileged to help authors tell their stories as effectively, compellingly, and truthfully as possible. In more than 25 years in the publishing industry she’s worked both with major publishing houses and directly with authors (through her company FoxPrint Editorial), on titles by New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestsellers and award winners as well as newer authors. She presents editing and writing workshops for writers’ groups, organizations, and conferences and writes for numerous writers’ sites and publications.
by John Peragine
In the last year, short story competitions have helped focus my writing. I read many short stories in elementary school and always enjoyed them, but I believed they were some condensed form of a larger work. I never thought of short-form writing as something special on its own.
Fast forward to adulthood and the beginning of my own writing journey.
Over the years, I have written short stories, but mostly as a writing exercise. To me it was practice for long-form. I believe I was half right.
When I wrote the stories, I never really thought about word counts, genre, or anything else- I just wrote, and when I was done, I might tinker with it a bit, but then I would set it aside. It was not until the past year that I began to realize how wrong this was and how much I was missing.
I am a big Neil Gaiman fan and began reading his short stories, along with his book, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. In it he explains his process of writing the stories.
I was intrigued. Each story was the perfect length. They weren’t shortened versions of books at all, they were perfect miniature works of brilliance.
In my hubris, I thought I could try my hand at it.
In my typical (unfortunately too typical) fashion, I decided to try my hand at some serious short story writing. I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. It was one of the most frustrating and awesome experiences in my life, and I believe it is has helped improve my writing.
The lessons I learned from my experience:
1. You must enter to learn the lessons.
I had never entered a writing competition. I'd heard many people say they were scams and not worth the time and effort. They were mostly an exercise of ego inflation, and that everyone got some prize. Now while I am sure there is a fair share of those types of competitions, the NYC Midnight Competition was none of those things. It was legitimate and hard.
2. It’s harder when someone gives you the guidelines.
To break it down simply: you are given a genre, an object, and a character description. My first one was spy story, mountain, journalist. The rule was that you had to include those elements prominently. . If you didn’t, you were disqualified. To up the stress factor, I had to do the story in 3 days with 2500 words. Piece of cake, right? Not even close.
3. I suck at writing under guidelines.
I had to focus my creativity using the materials given to me. I felt like what contestants in the show Iron Chef must feel like when they are told to make a complete meal using an electric eel.
4. The gamification of writing is both fun and motivating.
A competition that I could get excited about, against other really good writers from all over the world. As a professional writer, I don’t get too many opportunities to pit my writing skills against others. I was hooked!
5. Ticking clocks trigger neuroses.
I felt the clock ticking. My inner fraud police were screaming loud in my head, “Are you nuts. You aren’t a real writer. What were you thinking? You will lose the first round- give up now.”
6. You must ignore self-doubt.
I ignored the little devil me on my shoulder and pressed on. I typed and typed. I could do this. When I was done- it was 5,000 words. Crap.
7. Editing is a blessing and a curse.
I began cutting and consolidating, and I quickly realized something. Something horrible. My story was not going to work in the 2500 confines. I had to start over- Over 24 hours were done.
8. Write concisely and strategically.
I had to learn the efficiency of words. Working as a journalist meant I could write a column a certain length, but a fiction story was a totally different creature. I had to write more concise and strategically. Instead of spending 3 pages with a scene, I had to write the same information cleverly in two sentences. Every word counts. Some sentences took 30 minutes to work out. But I did it. I wrote the 2500 perfectly crafted words.
9. Appreciate editors and beta readers.
I had some insight into my soul over the next few hours. I learned that I really appreciate editors and beta readers, but I don’t always like them. Mostly because their suggestions are dead-on, which meant I had work to do.
Why couldn’t they just ignore my instructions and tell me my prose was Pulitzer worthy?
Instead, they eviscerated my draft. I could not add any more words, so I had to consider their suggestions (quickly) and tear my manuscript apart and rewrite. I barely made my deadline, and then I just waited.
10. Waiting is HARD.
Because there were thousands of competitors all over the world, the feedback took a couple of months for the judges to complete. It was torture. If I did not rank in the top five in my group, I would not move onto the next round.
Confession: I was so unsure of my ability to do well in the competition, that I used a nom de plume. That way if I failed miserably, nobody would know.
11. Critiques help you grow as a writer.
I have always encouraged feedback and criticism in all my writing. I like the praise, but I appreciate the critique even more. In those red pen reviews, I have the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer.
I felt that the three judges were spot on with their comments. I found out I was not as horrible as I imagined, while at the same time, there was a lot I needed to learn and practice in my short-form writing. I came in 2nd in my group, so I moved on to the next round.
12. The smaller the wordcount, the harder the writing.
I did not do as well in the second round (I came in 7th). The word count dropped to 1500 words and I had only 48 hours to complete it. Again the comments were spot on, and I loved to have been a part of the competition. I have entered two other writing competitions since, and I have had the same great experiences.
Writing short form has made me much more aware of the conservation of words in my long-form fiction. This in turn helps me in the editing and rewriting of my manuscripts. I’m also much more disciplined and willing to scrap an idea to make room for better ideas.
I would love to win one of the competitions but losing hasn’t deterred me or made me feel like I am a bad writer. On the contrary, I feel it is making me better at writing and editing. Also, it has taught me how to write with strict deadlines. I had no time for distractions, and it forced me to focus on just writing.
If you have never tried your hand in a short writing competition, try one. You will be surprised about how your perception and your writing skills will change.
Have you tried writing short stories? Have you entered writing competitions? What are your thoughts on switching up your writing every so often? Let's talk about it down in the comments!
* * * * * *
John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, The No Frills Guide to Book Marketing, will be released in Summer 2020.
You may have read portions of this blog on WITS in 2012. It’s still a winner.
Writers are all powerful. Well, in their fictional worlds they are all powerful.
Two of the 74,386 story dynamics that writers control are expanding time and compressing time. Today we’ll focus on the most fun of the two, and the one writers sometimes neglect: expanding time.
When would you want to expand story time?
When scene events justify zooming in on the POV character’s experience, minute by minute, or second by second. Maybe even picosecond by picosecond.
You’ve got to love that word. Picosecond, one trillionth of a second.
In real life, people can send and receive up to 10,000 nonverbal cues in less than one minute.
Yes. That’s a true statement.
We can process up to 10,000 nonverbal cues in less than a minute. Such a shocking number, and cool too.
When what’s happening in your scene is critical or crucial, decisive or dangerous, life-changing or life-threatening, you want to expand time, big time. Don’t hold back. I recommend writing it bigger than you normally would, then rein it back in until it’s just right.
My first example is from Joan Swan’s debut paranormal romantic suspense, Fever. Now Joan has over twenty books out as Joan Swan and Skye Jordan.
Fever, Joan Swan, 4-time Immersion Grad
The Set Up: Alyssa, a radiologist, just completed a scan on a prisoner named Creek.
The hair on her neck barely had time to lift before heat washed her back. Creek’s hard body closed around her. What the hell? A cool chain cut across her throat. No. She sucked air. No. Her fingers clawed at the metal. No!
“Don’t make a sound.” He spoke soft and slow, his chin on her shoulder as he bent over her and pressed his cheek against hers from behind.
Her brain finally came back online. Air wisped into her lungs and fed the new baseline of fear. When Creek straightened, he rose ten inches above her. And she now registered not only his size, but the sheer strength in all that corded muscle she’d been admiring. His movements controlled, purposeful, almost zen-like in confidence.
“You idiot…” She barely breathed the words, the metal and pressure restricting her vocal chords. “Let go—“
The chain jerked once, cutting into her trachea. “Shut. Up.”
Pain cut off all thoughts but sheer survival. Air. Breath. Air.
She wedged her skull against his collarbone to allow a fraction of relief on her airway. Oxygen wisped through the stricture. In. Out. In. Out. Her gray matter slugged back to work, edged with hot, sharp panic that threatened to invade every crevice and drive her insane.
The officers’ boots were still visible beneath the curtain where they stood in the hall, but she couldn’t draw enough air to speak let alone scream. And the links of metal weren’t cool anymore. They burned, as if Creek’s body heat streamed through the metal.
A FEW PARAGRAPHS DOWN: CREEK GOT SCISSORS OFF HER DESK
Jesus. “Put…those down.” A spurt of terror gushed up her chest. Her fingers searched for a millimeter of leverage between the chain and her skin. “You’re…burning…me.”
Creek’s head tilted down, his whisker-roughened chin scraping her cheek.
The pressure eased and Alyssa ran her cool fingers over raw skin, choking in blessed air. Her relief was short-lived as the rasp of metal on metal sounded in her ear. A hard blade pressed against her neck. Her eyes squeezed shut.
“Not another sound,” Creek whispered, “or I’ll cut your throat.”
“All right.” The older guard sounded relaxed and jovial as he swooshed the curtain aside. “Are we all done in—?”
The room went completely still. The extended, shocked moment expanded, taking on weight and mass and volume like one of the cancers Alyssa fought so hard to find and fight in her patients.
Kudos to Joan Swan!
What techniques did she use to make expanded time work?
1. Visceral Responses – hair on neck lifted, spurt of terror gushed up her chest
2. Specificity – One of dozens of examples: She wedged her skull against his collarbone to allow a fraction of relief on her airway.
3. Body Language – throughout
4. Dialogue Cues
- He spoke soft and slow
- The older guard sounded relaxed and jovial
5. Power Internalizations – throughout
6. Power Words – cut, fear, strength, muscle, confidence, restricted (airway), pain, survival, air, breath, oxygen, hot, sharp, panic, invade, insane, skull, airway, screamed, burned, terror, pressure, raw, choking, blade, cut your throat, shocked, cancers
7. Backloading – Power words at the end of sentences.
8. Cadence, cadence, cadence!
1. Asyndeton – His movements controlled, purposeful, almost zen-like in confidence.
2. Polysyndeton – . . . taking on weight and mass and volume . . .
3. Simile – . . . like one of the cancers . . .
4. Onomatopoeia – whooshed, wisped, rasped
5. Alliteration – throughout
Wow! Look how Joan powered up her expanded time passage.
Our second example of expanding time is from Writers in the Storm veteran, Laura Drake. Laura wrote this zoomed in version of expanding time after Immersion class. Now Laura has eleven books in print.
Days Made of Glass, Laura Drake, 2-Time Immersion Grad, and Cruising Writer’s Grad
The Set Up: Harlie saves a Pomeranian from being pummeled by a bull.
Yipping in triumph, the dog shot like a flaxen arrow to the center of the arena and faced Patrice with a panting grin.
The bull stood in front of the gates, snorted, threw his head up and with white rimmed, rolling eyes, regarded the irritant. Harlie watched, frozen. The bull strutted, looking around, deciding. It might have walked to the open exit gate if the Pomeranian hadn’t challenged it with a cascade of furious yapping.
The bull wheeled to the center of the arena, dropped its head, and with a heavy snort, charged. The dog held his ground, barking at the charging one-ton animal like a drunk with little-man syndrome.
Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Besides Patrice, who shrieked from the bleachers. Harlie’s hands jerked from the pole fence. The dog was a pain in the ass, but it was about to be pummelled to a bloody rag under the bull’s hooves.
She didn’t think. Ducking between the poles, she judged the bull’s trajectory and ran on a diagonal that would allow her to scoop up the dog without getting stomped.
She barely heard the shouts of the onlookers. Instead, she focused on the speed of the bull, gaining, gaining.
No way she’d make it to the fence.
The sweet rush of adrenaline hit her like a heroin-mainlining junkie. Just as strong, just as welcome. It sang through her veins, lifting her, making her impervious -- superhuman. She sped up, heart thundering in her ears -- or maybe that was bull’s hooves.
Everything seemed to slow. Details stood out in perfect focus: the shine of spit on the dog’s bared teeth, the whorl of hair at the center of the bull’s forehead, a small scar next to its white-filled eye.
In full stride, Harlie reached the center of the arena, snatched the now cowering fur ball by the nape, and kept moving. The ground shook with pounding hooves. She tensed her muscles for impact, but felt only a sliding rub of horn on her butt and the rush of air at her back as the bull passed. Clutching the suicidal mutt in a death grip, Harlie sprinted for the fence.
She’d only taken a couple of steps when the panicked yells of the onlookers penetrated the swelling chorus of the adrenaline song in her head. Harlie didn’t have to look. She knew bulls. The animal had wheeled, and from the vibrations in the soles of her fancy cowgirl boots, was bearing down to gore her.
No time. She heaved the dog toward the open-mouthed, red-faced men on the opposite side of the fence. Harlie’s brain registered a stop-action photo of the little dog, hair blown back, flying through the air, mouth open. She hadn’t known that dogs had an expression for terrified, but this one sure did. It hit the ground running and streaked for the line of boots at the fence.
Harlie spun on her heel. The bull was farther away than she’d guessed, but closing fast. She shot a glance to the fence. It seemed as if she were seeing it through the wrong end of a telescope. A bull will beat a human in a race, every time. She’d never make it.
Tension zinged through her. The timing had to be just right. Failure would come in the form of lunging horns and bone-snapping hooves. Head down, the bull came on.
Decision made, the fear in Harlie’s chest lay down before a rising exaltation of knowing. Crouched in a marathon runner’s stance, she shook the jitters out of her hands and gauged the bull’s closing speed.
One more step –
Harlie exploded, launching herself straight at the bull.
She took two long-jumper strides.
The bull charged in, lowering its head to hook her.
On the third stride, perfectly timed, her foot came down in the center of the bull’s broad forehead. He threw his head up and she was launched, flying over the beast’s back
It seemed she rose forever, her stomach dropping, shooting the sparkly fireworks of a roller coaster’s first hill. A quiet, high-pitched sound escaped her lips. It might have been a giggle.
When the arc finally began its downward tail, Harlie looked for a place to land.
Wow. Pacing. Pizzazz. Passion. Power.
That’s the kind of writing that earns contracts.
Kudos to Laura Drake!
What did Laura Drake do to make her expanded time piece work?
Review my deep editing points for Joan Swan’s passage – and fill in content for Laura’s excerpt. Consider your WIP. Where could you add power by expanding time?
POST A COMMENT AND YOU MAY WIN a Lecture Packet or an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy valued up to $100.
We’ll have two drawings, one for each prize. I’ll post the name of the LUCKY WINNERS on Friday night.
Online Classes offered by Lawson Writer's Academy in December:
1. NEW CLASS: Building from the Ground Up: Character Development and Story Structure, Instructor: B. Dave Walters
2. NEW CLASS: It’s a Wonderful Writer’s Life, Instructor: Lisa Norman
3. NEW CLASS: Just for You: A Two-Week Intensive Mentorship, Instructor: Rhay Christou
4. Lights, Camera, Tension; Instructor: Sarah Hamer
5. Kid-Lit Crash Course: Writing and Publishing Your MG-YA Novel; Instructor: Michelle Schusterman
6. Two-Week Intensive on Revision, Instructor: Shirley Jump
* * * * * *
Margie Lawson —editor and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners.
She’s presented over 120 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as taught multi-day intensives on cruises in the Caribbean.
To learn about Margie’s 5-day Immersion Master Classes, full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses through Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com
Interested in inviting me to present a full day workshop for your writing organization? Contact me through her website, or Facebook Message me.
Interested in attending one of my 5-day Immersion Master Classes? Click over to my website and check them out.
Registration is open for Immersion classes in Atlanta, Denver, Poulsbo (WA), Pittsburgh, San Jose, Jacksonville, and Milnathort, Scotland!
I’m adding three Immersion classes in Australia too. Email me if you’re interested.
Thanks so much for reading this blog. I’m looking forward to your comments!