Sneak Preview: Astrology for Writers

You know what I always say: If you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s not being marketed correctly.

Here’s a sneak preview of my next release, Astrology for Writers. Isn’t this a fabulous cover design?

I wrote the book knowing that it would appeal to a lot of the same readers who bought Tarot for Writers — and Kevin R. Brown, who designed both covers, obviously kept that in mind, too.

Astrology for Writers  is going through editing and production now, and Llewellyn has it scheduled for publication next May.

How to Write a Book, Part 4: Market Research

Two weeks ago, I was part of a panel discussion about writing books. A woman in the audience raised her hand to say that she had almost finished writing her first book — and that it was nothing like any other book on the market.

While she was justifiably excited and proud, my heart sank for her. I could hear at least one other author on the panel take a deep breath, too — because if that new writer in the audience was right, her book will never sell.

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t publishers be looking for new voices and groundbreaking manuscripts?

Well, yes. But before you can convince a publisher that your masterpiece is the wave of the future, you have to demonstrate that your work has an audience that’s dying to get your book in their hot little hands — and the best way to do that is to show them that buyers are already going crazy for other books on the subject.

I usually do my research before I start writing, when my ideas are still flowing from the brainstorming process, and when I’m still outlining and designing my table of contents. And while “market research” sounds like a lot of work, all you really need to do is visit

Do a quick search of comparable titles.  Use the “Look Inside This Book” feature to review other authors’ table of contents. Read a few sample pages to get a sense of their writing style: Is it formal? Informal? Easy to read, or studious and deserving of deep contemplation? To know your audience, you have to know your competition.

Along the way, you can check the sales rankings and reviews, too.

It won’t take long to learn whether any readers — or publishers — are interested in your material. You’ll  also see what buyers expect to find in a book like yours, as well as which approaches delight or disappoint them.

In short, you’ll figure out which books sell, and why.

And if you’re especially perceptive — as I know you are — you’ll be able to plot the selling points and special features that will make your book stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Part 1 of this series is here:

Part 2 is here:

Part 3 is here:

How to Write a Book, Part 3: Your Ideal Reader

"A Young Girl Reading" by Jean Honore Fragonard

While I hope that everyone will buy my books, I usually have a very specific audience in mind when I write. In fact, I try to write each book for a single person — an “ideal reader.”

Books, after all, are an intimate form of communication. They’re read by one person at a time — not by large groups of people, all snuggling together on the couch. A book is a private, personal exchange, in which the author whispers in the ear of a single reader.

Before I start any book, I actually develop a written description of my ideal reader, so I can keep her in mind as I write.

In my case, my ideal reader is usually a woman in her mid-20s to mid-30s. She has a college degree — probably in a liberal arts field. She’s married, she has two or three children, she’s got a professional career with an income of $40,000 to $65,000, and in her spare time she watches the Discovery Channel and “Dancing with the Stars.”

Now, if you’re especially perceptive, you might notice that my ideal reader happens to be a woman a lot like myself — or at least, a lot like I was when I started buying the types of books I write. When teachers tell you to write what you know, I would add that you should write for the people you know, too.

When you can clearly imagine your ideal reader, you’ll know and understand the person who will read your book. You’ll be able to relate to her on a very personal level, choose language that will appeal to her, and include descriptions that could be drawn from her own life (or yours). You’ll write directly to her, as you would write to a friend — and that will help keep your work lively and interesting.

Later on, your editors and publishers will know who you’re writing to, as well, and they’ll be able to market your book accordingly.

And as an added bonus, everyone who reads your book will pick up on that sense of intimacy you established from the start.

Part 1 of this series is here:

Part 2 is here:

How to Write a Book, Part 2: Outline

Photograph: Hans Neleman/zefa/Corbis

I started this series of posts yesterday. If you missed Part 1, you’ll find it here.

I know you probably hate outlining. You were forced to create outlines in seventh grade. They were dull then, and they’re still dull.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: You’re a grown-up now. You don’t have to write a formal outline.

And here’s some even better news: your seventh-grade English teacher isn’t going to review your work. You’re not going to get a letter grade, and if you feel obstinate and uncooperative as you struggle with this assignment, no one is going to call your parents.

Instead, you can create your outline as a simple bullet list. Bing, bang, boom. It’s not any harder than writing a grocery list.

If you’re starting with a stack of sorted index card ideas, as I suggested yesterday, the bullet list will practically write itself. Just come up with a clever chapter heading for each main topic in your book, and then record all the sub-topics that you’d like to cover in that chapter.

Most of the preliminary outlines I develop this way wind up being a page or two long, typed and single-spaced in Microsoft Word.

Oddly enough, an outline at this stage will almost look like a book’s table of contents … because it is, in its very first form.

How to Write a Book, Step 1: Index Cards

Staples 4  x 6  Line Ruled Assorted Color Index Cards, 100/Pack

Not too long ago, somebody asked me how to write a book — not just in theory, but in practice.

Here’s the first step I usually take: I buy two or three packs of index cards, and then I brainstorm. I write down every thought, idea, or point I’d like to include in the book. It doesn’t take long to go through 100 or 200 cards, because I only put one idea on each card. Sometimes it’s is just a word. Sometimes it’s a sentence. Sometimes it’s an entire paragraph that emerges fully formed, like Athena — and eventually that paragraph will find its way into the finished book.

As the ideas start coming, more ideas follow, and some of them have no obvious connection to each other. That’s okay, because index cards are easy to reorganize.

More importantly, I start to see patterns and themes develop, so I can categorize them. Later, I can sort the cards into sections and chapters, and use them to generate an outline.

Disneystrology: A mini-interview with author Lisa Finander

Lisa Finander

I’m so proud of my friend Lisa Finander, the author of Disneystrology — a clever new book that reveals the astrology behind 366 Disney characters. While the book itself is approachable and compact, the project was massive. I asked her how she developed it.

Q: How did you come to write “Disneystrology?”

A: The opportunity presented itself in a magical way. I was sitting at my desk filing papers and thinking about what direction my writing would take. I heard the chime of a new message entering my inbox, and there was an email from Jason Rekulak at Quirk Books asking me if I was interested in writing a birthday book using Disney characters. I stared at the email for a while to enjoy the moment and commit it to memory. (Ok, there was joyful screaming too.) Of course, I said I was very interested, and he asked me to write three sample birthday entries for Quirk and Disney to review. The samples (Tinker Bell, Mowgli, and Remy) were approved, and the rest is Disneystrology history.

Q: How did you choose the 366 characters for your book?

A: It might surprise you to learn how much effort went into not only choosing the perfect character for each birthday but also discovering forgotten ones from the past and learning about new ones created for upcoming movies. I started by building a huge database of Disney characters that I updated daily. It contained the names and movies of over 400 characters. Then, I researched each character diligently by watching movies, clips, reading books, searching online, and viewing images. As I added bits of dialogue, the movie’s backstory (the making of movie), and any prominent personality traits to the database, I additionally noted my impressions of where they might fit in the book.

For every month of the year, I printed out a sheet of paper where I made hand-written notes about the astrology, numerology, and tarot card associated with each day of that month. This is where I kept track of which dates were filled and which ones where still available.

Next, I used the two databases simultaneously to determine which characters I would use and assigned them to a specific day of the year. Many people have asked me if I wrote the book in chronological order. I didn’t. Instead, I started with the character and then chose the birthday that they would preside over. In the beginning, it would take me hours to match up a character with a certain day of the year.

Q: What did you learn about astrology in the process of writing the book?

A: I learned to look at each day in detail. Every astrological sign has approximately 30 different expressions, and I discovered how to tune into the subtle nuances that occur within the same sign. Also, I became aware of the energy and potential each day holds.

Personally, I use Disneystrology as a book of days and have a copy sitting on my desk next to my computer. I love looking at the images and remembering how much fun I had writing the book and getting to know the characters. Besides, why limit myself to just one day of magic and possibility when there are 366 days to enjoy!


Straight from the Source’s Mouth

I’m working on my next book, a collection of scary stories called The Ghosts of Devils Lake. One of the thing that makes them really scary is the fact that they’re all based on true events, and I have sources to back everything up.

But that’s led me into a geeky technical conundrum, too. 

I’m writing the book in Microsoft Word, which has built-in tools for automatic endnotes, footnotes, citations, and bibliographies. That means I have a lot of options when it comes to referring readers to my sources. There are so many options, in fact, that I’m a little overwhelmed.

So, lovely readers, riddle me this:

  1. Do you like endnotes and footnotes? (Sometimes I really like the extra information they can provide, but at the same time, they’re also sort of disruptive. They can really interrupt the flow of a good story. What do you think?)
  2. If you are a fan of endnotes and footnootes, what would you think of a subtle break with convention? How would you react, instead, to a “source note” at the end of each story? Like footnotes or endnotes, the source notes would offer details about the newspaper archive, historical text, or journal that originally described each event.
  3. Do you appreciate footnotes and endnotes that conform to the Chicago Manual of Style, or do you prefer a more conversational approach to your references?
  4. And, as long as you’re here … Do you have much experience with source management in Microsoft Word? Have you ever used the feature that automatically generates a bibliography from citations?
  5. If you are the Microsoft Word geek of my dreams, do you have any tips or hints to share?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Cartomancy and Character

Diane Chamberlain blogs about tarot for writers today on her Red Room blog:

I’m not much of a believer in the occult, but I do love Tarot, not in any small part because the 78 cards in a Tarot deck can be so beautiful. There’s something undeniably fascinating in the symbols and images, and it’s easy to get caught up the magic.

My first reading was done by a real pro: author Nora Roberts. We were at the Washington Romance Writers’ annual retreat at the fabulous Hilltop House in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Nora was doing readings for her friends. I think she told me my marriage was destined to last forever. The next reading I had was by another fellow writer, the late, beautiful Virginia Ellis, shortly after my divorce.  Ha! So as I said, I’m not much of a believer, but I do believe in taking brainstorming help wherever I can get it, and a good Tarot Card reading–for a writers’ characters rather than for the writer herself–can jumpstart a scene, or even an entire book.

Like Nora, Gin Ellis was a generous reader. At a Novelists, Inc conference in Santa Fe one year, she read for every major character in my work-in-progress. I learned one character’s deepest, darkest secret, why another was afraid to be a mother, and why yet another  chose his particular career. There are many, many other ways to brainstorm, but none as intriguing or fun as Tarot.

I’m aware of one book on Tarot specifically for writers (Tarot for Writers, by Corrinne Kenner), but I’m sure there are more, because writers have turned to Tarot over the years (over the centuries, since Tarot’s been around that long) to help them develop characters and story lines.

Tarot came into play with my upcoming novel, The Lies We Told. I didn’t use it to help me brainstorm, but my characters themselves use it to. . .  well, I’ll wait until the book comes out to tell you!

So how about you? Have you ever had a Tarot reading?

Source: Cartomancy and Character | Red Room

The Tarot as a Tool for Writing Your Novel

It looks as though a lot of novelists will be using “Tarot for Writers” this November!

by Chris Gladis

Note from the Editor: November sees the beginning of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Anyone can join the thirty days of literary abandon. WTD will run posts to inspire and encourage you on the way.

By Marelisa Fábrega of Abundance Blog

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins in just a few days, on November 1st, and thousands of would-be authors are registering with high hopes of crossing the finish line on November 30th, novel firmly in hand. The objective of writing at least 50,000 words in 30 days doesn’t seem so daunting, until the sobering thought hits that you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to write about. Or perhaps you do have an idea—one that would look great as a blurb on a book jacket cover–but the plot is eluding you, or you can’t see your novel’s characters very clearly. One solution is to prime your creativity pump by turning to the tarot.

Although the tarot is most often used as a tool for divination, tarot cards are also great, practical tools for writing and creative thinking. Corrine Kenner, author of “Tarot for Writers”, explains that well-known writers, such as John Steinbeck and Stephen King, have used tarot cards for inspiration. She adds that Italian novelist Italo Calvino went so far as to call the tarot “a machine for writing stories.”

If you’re thinking of writing a novel, you can apply the imagery and symbolism of the 78 cards of the tarot to help you develop plot, conflict, character profiles, dialogue, and scenery, as well as to introduce unpredictable elements. The cards can even serve as a creativity prompt if you hit a brick wall while you’re writing. With a tarot deck beside you, you won’t be starting out with a blank sheet of paper. Instead, you’ll have a world of imagery as your disposal, which, if you allow your imagination and intuition to step forward, will begin to move, speak, and take action. This article will help you get started in using the tarot to write your novel.

Read more here: The Tarot as a Tool for Writing Your Novel

Drama Free Tarot: Tarot for Writers

The amazing Stacey posted a shout-out for Tarot for Writers today! She’s a fascinating person to follow – she’s the  mother of five (yes, five) young girls with groovy names, and she writes ghost stories.

Drama Free Tarot: Tarot for Writers

When I’m not tripping the tarot cards fantastic, you can find me buried under books or writing them. I’m lucky enough to have found Tarot for Writers to help with some sticky plotlines. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short) and this method of using the cards to help with plot, character development and challenges will be a great help!

Join me at my writing blog, Flibbity Gibbet, to track my progress or better yet, join me!