Seattle Writing Course Addresses Self-Publishing

Emilie Sandoz-Voyer talks to The Writer's Workshop's Seattle writing course about self-publishing.
Emilie Sandoz-Voyer talks to The Writer’s Workshop’s Seattle writing course about self-publishing.

In my Seattle writing courses, I tell students that once upon a time, writers would send out manuscripts to traditional publishers until they got a contract. If they tried and tried but got no contract, some of them would send the manuscript to what was called a vanity press, a company that published the book for payment by the author. Such “vanity” books had little cachet or influence and often promptly disappeared, though it must be noted that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden was first published in this manner and has sold thousands of copies. Most of these titles however disappeared without much of a trace.

Now, with the advent of Amazon’s CreateSpace and other publishing tools, the world of self-publishing is gaining new cachet. For this reason, I invited Emilie Sandoz-Voyer of Girl Friday Productions to speak about the latest trends in self-publishing for my Seattle writing course, Writing for Story.

“I shepherd authors through the editorial and publishing process,” she said. “Self publishing is my bread and butter. What does it mean to be a self published author? It means you are the publisher, writer, editor and producer, uploading your title to be available on Amazon and other places. You’re a publishing entrepreneur. It can be overwhelming at first, but there are resources available and it’s become easier to self publish your book.”

Sandoz-Voyer emphasized you have to think like a publisher if you choose the self-published option. Who will buy your book? How will you get copies to them?

“Amazon’s CreateSpace service books will ship via Amazon, a great option for self published authors.” she said. “You can also go through Ingram Spark or Lightning source. You can go through more than one channel. You’re the publisher, not the distributor, and you keep all your royalties.”

Keeping all your royalties sounds very appealing. What’s not so appealing is doing everything a publisher does to come up with a professional quality book. Writing the book is just one aspect of this, as I remind students in my Seattle writing course.

“I highly recommend hiring editors to polish that prose, so it looks professional,” said Sandoz-Voyer. “Hire a cover designer to make your book stand out.”


Great Writing Advice from John Steinbeck

The Writer’s Workshop Blog highlights my adventures teaching writing classes, Seattle writing classes, writing stories, articles and books, leading travel, food and wine writing classes to France and Italy, traveling the globe, promoting my books including the novel, The Storms of Denali, and other aspects of the wild and crazy world of writing and publishing. Writing and publishing are changing enormously and I hope this blog will help keep you up to date on some of the changes.

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

by Maria Popova

John Steinbeck — Pulitzer Prize winner, Nobel laureate— with six tips on writing, culled from his altogether excellent interview it the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
  3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
  4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
  5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
  6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Planning or Spilling?

Are you a planner or a spiller? Do you like to think ahead about your writing or do you simply like to get black on white and let the Muse take you where she will? Though there is much to recommend in both approaches, it really pays to be something of a planner when it comes to writing. You don’t need to know everything in advance about your story or book, but it’s good to know the broad outlines of it; this will allow you to focus on characterization, details and dramatic scenes.

Structure is the biggest challenge for most writers. While most have mastered sentence structure and paragraphing, they have trouble organizing individual paragraphs into a larger coherent story.

Writing for StoryOne of the best ways of structuring a story is to begin with an outline. This needn’t run pages and pages: sometimes even a simple three or four sentence outline can do the trick, such as the one I’ll explain below.

By using this outline, whether for a story or book, you’ll have a good chance of figuring out the larger shape of the story in advance. If you fail to do this, it’s like building a house without a strong foundation; it can easily collapse.

The dramatic outline allows you to chart the emotional peaks and valleys of the story so that you’ll know where you’re heading when you sit down to write.

The five short statements below describe the major actions in the story. There is one statement for each major focus.

This is not like the outline you wrote in English composition class; these statements highlight on the dramatic actions in story. They help you focus on what’s essential to the story.

This is a conflict-resolution outline, with the conflict introduced in the first statement, developed in the next three statements, and resolved in the last statement.

  1. Complication – Make it simple and active. Have you chosen active verbs to show action? Is the main character included statement? How will you illustrate the main action? Do you have the source material for this? Is the action dramatic enough?
  2. Development Action – Clear, cogent, related to complication.
  3. Development Action – Clear, cogent related to complication, tied to previous development, tied to main character.
  4. Development Action — Clear, cogent related to complication, tied to previous development, tied to main character.
  5. Resolution – Must fit the complication.

Writing this outline will save you a lot of time. You’ll be able to figure out in advance where the story is going. You can still change it as you go, but at least you’ll have a clear direction when you write the first draft of your story or book chapter.

For a more in-depth look at storytelling, please consider signing up for ones of my summer Seattle writing class, Writing for Story, or one of our online classes.