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Author: Hazel Edwards
Author Hazel Edwards currently runs a year-long non-fiction masterclass at the Victorian Archives Centre
Stuck in the middle of a BIG writing project? Then you realize! You’ve been doing it the wrong way. There’s too much stuff. And not enough TIME.
All writers, even highly experienced ones, have the same feeling mid-project. Being an author is about time and energy management. Here are THREE strategies to streamline the process of structuring your time and your manuscript, bringing you some focus when writing a BIG book. These strategies are helpful whether you are an aspiring or multi-published author, working on your first non-fiction book or drafting a family history.
1. Describe your book in ONE SENTENCE
This is helpful to do at the beginning of your project. The description will focus on the themes or idea threads in your story. Hint at the conflict. But you can’t do this until you have a title. e.g. Via anecdultery, memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake; Being an Author’ shares the risks of being an author longterm when you also have a family. (26 words)
2. Choose the title, very, very carefully
Invest time here, but do this ideally early on in the writing process. Titles are the first clues for the reader but also for you, of what your story is about. Tag ‘Working Title’ onto your temporary heading until you find the BEST TITLE for that story, Be prepared to discard many.
An effective title hints at conflict, genre and even the tone of the book. The major character’s name is not enough. Maybe a sub title will help? Change the word order to make it a question. Or re-use a phrase significant in the book. Position an unexpected word like ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’.
Say it aloud. For media interviews, that title must be memorable and easy to say, for you and them.
e.g. My memoir is called ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’, the 19th choice for title. Notice reversed emphasis font size on the cover, by the marketing department. The rationale was: ‘Cake’ is relevant to my cake-eating hippo on the roof picture book series, but the memoir is meant for adults. ‘A piece of cake’ is a colloquial phrase which means something is easy. Writing for children is NOT easy. It’s harder than writing for adults. This memoir is about the process of creativity; being a longterm author with a family who writes in various genres. The ‘Being an Author’ is the factual link for cataloguing. So I played around with lots of cake titles. ‘Takes the cake’, ‘ Slice’, which fits with memoir being a 'slice of life and cake.’ 'Let hippos eat cake’ was discarded.
Consider length. A one word ambiguous title where all the meanings apply is ideal but hard to find. Extra long titles can be informative but time consuming to say or write on forms. Also has to fit the cover design.
e.g. My recent book title ‘Celebrant Sleuth; I do or die…’ was a compromise title to cover the mystery genre but also the wedding and funeral settings where celebrants work. Fake I.D is my best title.
Name, not number, your chapters. Take the best chapter heading for your book title.
A pitch, a synopsis (synopses is plural) and a back cover blurb are NOT the same. But the idea content may be. And some of the strategic phrases can be re-used.
Think different formats for different purposes.
A PITCH is a 2-3 minute outline to convince a publisher to invest in this project. May be spoken or written. This should be drafted even before book is written.
A SYNOPSIS may never be published but forces the writer to plot and format the entire story in a way to intrigue with motives, setting and fast characterization. For this reason it's helpful to write your synopsis first. One page only. Placed on the front of the manuscript. Handout used with pitch.
A BACK COVER BLURB is to inform the potential reader what the book is about. You can do this once your manuscript is complete. If written carefully, this can be used for publicity.
The discipline of writing a one-page synopsis of your book forces you to plan the whole project. Some writers do it in reverse.
Keep to the word limit:
Until I drafted the blurb, I hadn’t realized my unconventional memoir was about intellectual, physical and cultural risk-taking plus the process of using ‘Anecdultery’ as a storytelling structure.
Prepare your key messages:
Jot down the 10 most common questions you are asked about this project and write brief answers. These form a generic Q&A resource for PR down the line. But don’t use in exactly the same way for different interviews.
e.g. What is anecdultery? Telling stories as anecdotes and using that as the structure.
Be your own publicist:
Often the ‘indie’ author has to be the publicist too. With only 24 hours in a day, time and energy management matters. Have a generic description of less than 100 words which you can attach to any media. Could be the BCB (back cover blurb) but needs to be written in the style (and tone) of the book.
Having this kind of information on the cover via blurb and bio is a time efficient way of sharing publicity via one file. Then add links to your website book page. e.g. https://hazeledwards.com/authpreneurship.html
Prepare handy media content:
Put a hi-res magazine quality author photo (& book cover) on your website under Media Resources for easy download. Saves time, looks professional and controls the quality of the visuals. Take a look at my website for an example:
Don’t agonise over what you HAVEN'T written about. Save that for the next project.