Should it be free?

Frequently, I see e-books for free for a limited time or longer on Amazon. Some of these books are downloaded enough times to earn a ranking in the top 100 e-books in the Free in Kindle Store category.

Some authors will give away e-books for free in hopes that readers will be interested and perhaps buy one of their other books for money. Or maybe they are just feeling generous or their sales are lagging and they want to promote their work. Or the free e-book may be a new release, which the author hopes will become hot if he offers free downloads. There may be other reasons as well.

Free e-books are great publicity and combined with good reviews can make a book successful. However, if one's book is worthy of a price tag, why undervalue one's work?

For example, if one offers a $3.99 e-book for free, is one not actually giving away $3.99 to each of those people who downloaded the book? If one's book reaches a thousand downloads, has one in fact given away approximately 70% of $3990 in royalties which is $2793? Is that good marketing?

It could be argued that one wouldn't sell a thousand e-books if one kept to the higher price, but then one would have to consider the quality of the work and other reasons the book may not have sold.

One can't go into Chapters or another bookstore and get a book for free. One can borrow books or e-books through the library system, but I'm pretty sure the library paid something to carry that book.

Maybe it's not such a hot idea to offer one's prized work for free.

The writing process in fan-fiction

I have a friend who writes fan-fiction stories.  Fan-fiction is based on original works (also called canonical fictional universes) from which writers may borrow characters or settings. Fan-fiction is almost never professionally published because their origins belong to the original author. Writers may alter the events in a character's life from the original, or put the characters in a different setting or situation. On FanFiction.Net, authors serialize their work, posting chapters one by one. Reviews are frequent. Commenters provide constructive criticism and communicate with writers.

The author I know is onto her third novel published online. Her stories contain druids, elves, mages, rogues, and humans set in the Warcraft fantasy universe.

Blizzard Entertainment developed the Warcraft franchise which includes video games and novels and other media. A film adaptation of Warcraft is rumoured to be released in 2013.

My fellow writer has a different approach to writing than I but her techniques are used often in fan-fiction. She publishes a chapter at a time online. Her first story was over twenty chapters. Her second was longer. When I asked how she is able to complete and post chapters one by one, she says that she only plans a few chapters ahead at a time. She may have an overall idea of the outcome or conclusion of a story, but the details and crafting are done step by step. When she gets closer to the end, she'll think it through and formulate the twists and turns and ins and outs in more detail. After she received some feedback on one story, she went back and edited one crucial chapter but she didn't need to edit very much.

I was impressed that she could write a book this way. I edit a lot and go back and flesh out different details. What I learned from her is that one should have a strong sense of story structure including the overall story arc and minor threads. Continuity is as important as conflict. She also arranges different scenes in a chapter to open and end each one on strong note for best impact. Her use of cliffhangers create tension and suspense. She has an amazing ability to create big climaxes with fight scenes including magic as weapons. Her characters are imaginary but each have believable motivations, emotions and behaviour which are consistent. I think her stories are mainly plot-driven but the main characters do evolve and go through a transition as in other types of fiction.

By the time I read the final chapters of her first serialized book, I was so excited I flew through them. Her sentence structure is fluid like a dance with rhythm. I would say her stories are popular and she has fans of her own.

So for the next book I write, I'm going to spend a lot more time preparing before actually writing. It will save me a lot of headaches later.

A Word about Morgen Bailey

Morgen Bailey is an amazing person. She's personable, dedicated, efficient, and effective. And I know this because I've been in contact with her and I've viewed her website. She's the author of The 365-Day Writer's Block Workbook, free eShorts and other e-books available on Smashwords. Since June 2011, she has posted 281 blog author interviews, about 60 author spotlights and the numbers are rising.

When I think of all the hard work and amount of time she puts into aiding and supporting other writers, I'm blown away. I don't think she's paid by the authors she promotes, but maybe the rewards come a different way.

Writers may contact her at if they would like to participate in an interview, author spotlight, guest blog, or Flash Fiction Fridays.

Morgen is based in Northampton, England. Besides maintaining her extensive website, she's also a freelance writer.

I wish for her success as she has given others so much of herself.

I'm proud to be included in her 281st blog interview! A round of applause for Morgen Bailey.

Junying Kirk, writer

Junying Kirk's ability as a writer shouldn't be underestimated. I first befriended Junying on Goodreads. We exchanged stories of our experiences and commonalities. She's knowledgeable, articulate, and honest and a voracious reader. She was born in the 1960s and grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China. In 1988, she moved to the UK where she received a degree in English Language Teaching and further postgraduate degrees. Besides writing, she currently works as an interpreter and translator. If you visit her blog, you will find many images of her trips to beautiful places.

She published two e-books The Same Moon and the sequel, Trials of Life which are part of the Journey to the West trilogy. She plans to release the last book in the trilogy this year. Even though the novels are fictional, some of their content is based on different periods in her own life and demonstrate the challenges faced within the Chinese culture and how one adapts to another culture. 

Her books are strikingly poignant and multifaceted, full of history, culture, and conflicts faced by the protagonist Pearl. In the opening chapter which takes place in Sichaun in the 1980s, she has a forbidden, secret relationship with a man against her parents' strict wishes. The story gives insight into the political and societal constraints of the times.  Lying to her parents, she suffers from fear, guilt and shame. When she is found out, she is severely punished. Filled with anguish, she must break off her relationship. In chapter two, the story flashes back to her grandparents' lives in a harsh political and economical climate and their sacrifices to pay for their children's education. 

If you are interested in Chinese culture and the transition of Chinese to other parts of the world, these stories will give you insight. Viewing her writing from a contemporary western perspective, I was struck by the extreme differences of Pearl's life and my own. The hardships she endured were significant and made me realize that I should not take living in Canada for granted. Junying's personal experiences make these stories authentic and credible.

If you visit Amazon, you may preview the first chapters of each of her books.

I was grateful to be featured on her blog in an interview. Please click here to view. Thank Junying!


What I learned in the process of setting goals in writing

So after a month of writing short stories, reading how-to books on writing, and editing my current manuscript, I'm feeling a little stressed and worn out. I was pretty much on the computer for every spare moment I had. I pushed myself to set a deadline to finish editing my novel but found I was rushing the process and missing mistakes.

As for my short stories, the first ones I was really pleased with, but by the fifth one, I was racing to get to the conclusion, and telling more than showing. Such is my nature!

So I spoke to my dear friend and she told me something interesting. If I have a home, food on the table and enough money to spend, why push myself to work more hours or set a deadline at all? The joy of writing is self-discovery, learning the craft, and the act of writing. Why do I write? It's not to make a great deal of money so maybe I don't have to work so hard if it affects my health.

Having a stress-related illness means I have to learn how to manage my time and energy well. I could pound away and finish my manuscript in the shortest time possible, but I would think the work would suffer and my mental health, physical health and psychological health may be affected.

So the new rule is: Do what I can, but pace myself and achieve a balance in my activities. Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

For those of you out there who can manage to set goals of writing more than a few books and market them successfully, I salute your dedication and talents. But for me, I need to take the time to move slower. Be a tortoise rather than a hare.

Having said all that, I believe my manuscript will be finished but maybe later rather than sooner.

Just to add, my flash fiction story "Follow Me" was accepted and published on Flash Fiction World. Julie Elizabeth Powell, a prolific writer who just completed her tenth published book and is working on her eleventh, left a wonderful comment. She is the author of the Avalon Trilogy. If you are interested, look her up on Goodreads or check out her books on Amazon or Lulu. Thanks to Julie!

If you like, please leave a note and/or rating under comments on my page at Flash Fiction World.

Nancy Kress: Beginnings

So I recently finished Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress, an award-winning author who teaches writing. In her book, she discusses weaknesses in those three areas and how to improve each one. I share some of her ideas on the beginning of a novel with you here.

The first sentence of one's novel needs to be unique and grab the reader's attention. The first scene should introduce at least one character, a conflict, be specific in detail, and credible. It has to be interesting enough that the reader will want to read on. It shouldn't be generic but original, demonstrating that your book is different than others and special in some way. In the beginning of a story, one wants to set up a conflict via an event or situation. It might be a problem or mystery that the protagonist has to solve. Details and building engaging characters will give one's story more believability.

The first chapter may set up a promise. If someone is murdered, the reader wants the crime to be solved and/or shown what lengths the detectives or others go to in order to find the killer. If a girl meets a boy, the reader expects a romance to fulfill that promise. If a character is conflicted within himself, battling with a conscience or inability to act, the reader wants to see the character go through a transition for better or worse. The promise doesn't always mean a happy ending, but a journey that explores, inspires or brings the reader to a different place then where he started. It doesn't necessarily need to be a lesson learned but shed a different perspective or give an insight into human nature.

Those are just a few examples from this great book on writing. I encourage you to read it if you are a struggling writer or if you are new to writing stories.