Being able to teach a person something new in a way that makes others feel enlightened is a gift. That’s why one of the blogs that I frequent most is Fiction University, formally known as The Other Side of Story. Its creator, Janice Hardy, has a way of explaining things in her weekly posts that makes the reader feel as though that smudge that covered your mind’s creativity has just been cleaned with Windex, leaving you with a sense of clarity and inspiration (cue the harps and angels singing “Ah”).
Well, you get the point.
Hardy, who is also the author of the young adult Healing Wars trilogy The Shifter, Blue Fire and Darkfall, has now put her helpful writing techniques in the new book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, A step-by-step guide to turning your idea into a novel (PYN). I am happy to say that Hardy has carved out some time in her busy schedule to visit Marti Ink and talk about what makes this writing guide different than the others, what readers can expect to get out of the book, what she learned by self-publishing, her future projects and more.
1. There are countless books for sale about writing a novel, what makes yours different from the others?
My book is more of a self-guided workshop, designed to take the novel planning process step by step and make it more manageable. It asks questions throughout the chapters so by the time the writer gets to the exercises, they’re prepared to do those exercises because they’ve made notes or done the brainstorming questions along the way. There’s also a goal for the entire book, and by the end, writers will have rough drafts of their one-sentence pitch, query blurb, and synopsis. At this stage those are just for the writer, but having rough drafts of them will make it much easier to craft those elements when the writer is ready to start submitting.
2. You have such a successful blog that offers great advice to writers. Why did you decide to come out with a writing guide book now?
I’ve been wanting to do a book for years, but the challenge was determining how to approach it. I didn’t want the book to be just a compilation of blog posts since readers could get that on my site for free. But with over 1200 articles at this point, knowing what to do first was a little overwhelming. When I first got the idea to refocus the site to writing education, things clicked and I knew I wanted the books to be education focused as well. Then it was a matter of figuring out how the series would unfold and what would go in each book. I wanted someone to be able to start with the first book in the series and read right though to the end, and each book would take them another step in the journey to publication and beyond.
While the books are naturally based on the articles on my site, and long-time readers will recognize articles, I wrote a lot of new material and reorganized old material to fit the workshop format and goals. The book is very interactive, since writers can use it for any novel they’re working on–from planning to revising. I wanted it to feel like these were the detailed notes from attending one of my workshops.
3. What would you say are the three most important things that every person with a novel stuck in their brain needs to know in order to write a book?
What does your protagonist want, what’s in her way of getting it, and what will happen if she fails? Basically goal-conflict-stakes.
4. Why should people buy this book if they already visit your site on a regular basis?
The workshop format and the exercises. It’s more than just information, it’s leading someone through the novel-planning (or revising) process. It’s also organized to make that process easier, so you’re not hunting down the right articles you need for a particular step. A writer will come away with something they can use to write their novel or make their manuscripts better by the time they’re done.
5. Why did you decide to self-publish this book?
It just made sense. My audience for the book is readers of my site, so I had the platform in place already. It’s also a book aimed at a niche market, which is perfect for self-publishing. Plus, I wanted to be able to control how often the books in the series came out, how I bundled them, when to run price specials and whatnot, which is easier to do on my own.
6. What are some challenges and benefits that you have experienced along your self-publishing journey thus far?
I pretty much went into this blind, so learning about the self-publishing process took some time. I attended lots of self- publishing workshops at every conference I attended over the last year, which gave me a good foundation to work from. Things like how many ISBNs I needed, where to publish, who I wanted for my distribution, the technical aspects of creating an ebook (the non-fiction book had formatting issues a novel wouldn’t encounter for example). There’s a lot of information out there, but I’d often hit a spot where I couldn’t find any answers or I’d find conflicting answers and then I had to muddle through it. I was lucky in that I’m a graphic designer by trade, so at least designing the book and creating the cover were easy for me. As for benefits, I enjoy the flexible schedule and being able to release the books when I want to, and it’s nice being on the larger end of the royalty split for a change (grin).
7. You’ve said that Planning Your Novel is the first in a series. What will the other books cover, and when they will be released?
The next book will be on plotting and story development, and there will be two more books in the Planning Your Novel section. Then it’s off to Writing Your Novel, Editing Your Novel, and finally Selling Your Novel (I’ll be busy the next few years). I have those books planned out, but I’m sure aspects will change as I write them. But I can say that each book will build on the previous one, and they’ll all have goals so the writer will come away with something concrete after doing the workshops. Someone doesn’t have to read the previous books of course, but they’ll all work together.
8. What is your favorite part/section of this book and why?
The examples. They’re a reader favorite on the site, and I wanted to use them throughout the book. I also wanted them to look and feel like someone who was actually doing the exercises, not be polished and perfect, so I planned three novels right along with the reader. I had the idea for Bob and Zombies from my site (it’s a long-running story I use as an example), but I created two other ideas from doing my own exercises. For example, if someone isn’t sure what their blurb or synopsis should look like, there’s an example right there for them to refer to.
9. What is the most surprising feedback that you’ve gotten from the book thus far?
My beta readers were all my crit partners, and three of the four were stuck on their own novels when they read PYN. They said the planning exercises got them unstuck, and worked just as well for revisions as for planning. They kept stopping their critique to actually do the exercises. I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m thrilled the book works on both levels.
10. When can we look forward to another fiction book from you and what will it be about?
Hopefully I’ll have something out next year. I’m revising a YA science fiction suspense right now and should have that to my agent in a few months.
Special thanks to Janice Hardy for spending time with Marti Ink.
To learn more about the author visit her blog Fiction University.
Click here to pick up a copy of Planning Your Novel.