Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why Good Non-Fiction Articles Read More Like Fiction Writing

Why Good Articles Read More as Good Fiction

Why Good Non-Fiction Articles Read More Like Fiction Writing

You’re probably here to find some secret that no one else knows about – one that will give you an advantage over other writers. Or maybe just get people to read past your headlines.

This isn’t Click-bait, this is the opposite.

I finished writing and publishing my hundredth short story this past week. In a little over fourteen months. And can tell you it’s changed how I write non-fiction.

Because the same people who read non-fiction also read fiction. And fiction is more popular than non-fiction because it isn’t boring. I believe it was Hitchcock that said a good story is like life, but leaves out the dull parts.

And if you take a similar approach to tailoring your non-fiction with those elements, you’ll be in good shape. Because writing fiction follows the same proved concepts as good copywriting.

The Key Concepts of Fiction Make Non-Boring Articles

All short stories follow the same basic approach – at least in our Western culture:

  1. A hook
  2. The rule of three
  3. Validation

The hook gets their interest. It’s emotional, it gives the reader a reason to read the next line or paragraph. Good copywriting has this all the way through. Your headline and first sentence have to do something, or promise something to the reader. The reason click-bait has such bad connotation is because writers didn’t keep their headline tied into their first sentence, and that sentence then gets the reader to go onto the next one. Nothing worse than a story that starts slow. Louis L’Amour had the tagline of “stories that start out like a bullet”. And the point is to get the reader immediately into what’s happening next. Like Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and his three-witches opening.

The rule of three means the main character will try, but fail, and learn. Then the MC will try, fail again, and learn some more. Finally, the MC will try, then at last succeed. In non-fiction, every point has to build interest, excitement, and the pace needs to pick up as you go. Most people won’t remember over three points out of any list. In Malcolm Gladwell’s books, he usually puts a teaser at the end of each chapter that says something like, “yes this is true, but it’s not the whole answer…” Stick to three main points, make them flow from one to the next with rising interest.

Validation is at the end of a short story. This was probably first laid out by Algis Budrys. Once a story is over, tell the audience it is. Tie up all loose ends and explain how you didn’t fall for the red herring in the mystery. The villain either escapes or gets captured. And why the villain did it and how – that is all explained by someone. In non-fiction you have to summarize and connect the dots so that the reader knows how those three points help them get the benefit you promised at the beginning.

And then you’re done.

Or are you?

But Wait, There’s More…

The bonus point to all this is the teaser. Where your Call To Action really shines. In a serial fiction, you then start up another action or emotional situation that lies incomplete until they can get the next installment or chapter. The hero winds up in the last sentence hanging off a cliff. For non-fiction, it’s more like “If you think this is good, come see what else we have…” Just not that blatant… perhaps. Rather: “This is just a small excerpt from our library of ebooks and courses where you can learn more about (article subject). Click here or type into your browser…”

  • Hook
  • Rule of Three
  • Validation
  • Teaser

That should keep your readers coming back for more. If not, sit down with a stack of short stories and dissect the ones you can’t put down. And maybe re-read a few classic copywriters – the best are all good storytellers.

Sure – visit me at and I can show you more tips about writing – and yes, I have several books and courses you can invest your time in…

The post Why Good Non-Fiction Articles Read More Like Fiction Writing appeared first on Living Sensical.

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Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Mistakes and Opportunities

Great Fiction Writing Challenge - Mistakes and Opportunities

Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Mistakes and Opportunities

Along with lessons learned, there are also “things I should have done differently.”

While a shorter list than all the gains and benefits, it’s still a list that needs compiling.

Wattpad & Medium: Build a free audience.

At the start, I’d dug out of Chris Fox and other’s books that you want to find the avid readers who will want your books and populate your “also-boughts” on Amazon with these type readers (different from your friends and family, who have different reading habits.) The approach I should have recognized is that this is an Amazon-centric approach and doesn’t mean it will work for wide publishing (everywhere else.) Sure enough, Amazon in the U.S. has mostly done away with “also-bought” recommendations in favor of sponsored ads in that spot. So their whole system is gone. No indicators – useless.

Meanwhile, what was recommended were the social media of Wattpad, Medium, LibraryThing, and Goodreads. The first two are marvelous – but be consistently posting to them. A point I couldn’t keep in with all this production I was doing. (Sheer writing and publishing, devil take the hind-most.)

LibraryThing turns out to be for printed books in Ingram’s database, essentially. Publishing on Lulu with their global reach doesn’t get your book there for weeks if not months. You scan the bar code with their app – and it says “nope.”

Goodreads is also another “can’t add your own book” scene. Unless you want to spend a great deal of time being “social” on their platform and add a lot of other’s books to your fabled “To Be Read” lists.

Again, I don’t do social because it detracts from my other work (writing and publishing) and is miniscule in getting your books discovered, bought, and read. Social media are little worlds of themselves. Like Content Inc. you want to pick one line of promotion first – and that should be mailing lists. And my mailing lists have been where I’ve gotten the most response. Watching other people use social media posts on Instafreebie/Prolific Works showed that they have a lot of views, and nearly no claims. It’s the reverse of the 1% rule – where 99% do nothing beyond opening the social post.

Meanwhile, another prolific author got a four-book set under contract with a traditional author and as the article was being written, was on the set of her movie as a producer. She was posting new chapters every day (for years) writing on her smartphone and posting to Wattpad.

Should do instead: Weekly posts to Wattpad and Medium.

A how-to for unknown writers: Publish everywhere first (waiting for it to clear on Amazon) and then post in 2K chapters – with serial cliffhangers – on these platforms. Post with header and footer text that has a link to where they can buy your book. Ignore the silence and start posting. (You want to get on Amazon before posting “free”any where else to avoid their “duplicate content” bots.) Plus, your links back to that book means it’s promotion.

Why this approach? You want to find your audience and enable them to find you. While not everyone goes to Wattpad to get their reading fix, they do have over 3.5 million users worldwide. Sure, this doesn’t get you in front of middle-aged women who like romance (well not as many) but it gets you people who want to find fiction, and will leave comments on your work.

Jumping into Free Subscribers via Instafreebie (Prolific Works)

I’m on the fence about this. I spent a lot of time working out how to make Instafreebie work best. And had to develop my own “best practices” guide to work things out from experience. (You can find this on Amazon and almost everywhere online.)

What I don’t know, even now, is whether this was the right timing. If I shouldn’t have held off and gotten more “back of book” subscribers first.

The reason was, and is, that Instafreebie/Prolific Works (IF/PW) gave me so many in such a little time. To where my costs for servicing these subscribers was going up, but my income in book sales (to pay for all this) wasn’t. Meaning: I wasn’t converting free subscribers to paying customers fast enough. And I had to take some time to work up email sequences (autoresponders) instead of just blindly encouraging people to take my free books and join my list.

What made this mad rush possible was writing in four genres, each under its own pen name, and finding which was most popular.

What made this mad rush worse as a giveaway organizer was running my analysis in the background that showed me what were the best performing genres and giveaway subjects. (I have chronicled all of this in my over-long “Errata” post, and a few separate articles besides that book above.)

Yes, I’m still having more work to do in building those autoresponders. Because my emphasis has been on writing and publishing. That leans me toward the point of ignoring subscriber-acquisition pushes until there is a sufficient amount of certainty on your own writing.

But those subscribers have been able to show me – through the small sales I’ve had to this point, which of those pen names are more popular.

Where this is sorting out is my background study of Content Inc. One of the pen names, covering satire/parody, has gotten no traction. Another I thought had a very exciting story arc also did poorly. The one pen name that seems to sell and get claimed better than the others is in a tiny, tiny genre of paranormal detective, specifically “ghost hunting”. The other that is having steady sales is more of a fantasy memoir – but with a lot of passion in each story.

Romance, meanwhile, showed itself to be full of spammers with “rubberstamp” books. So much so that their books are being rejected in other genres by cover alone (six-pack abs, nude male torsos). I wrote some romance and still take part in those giveaways – as I have written romances in all these pen-names, but only run a “romance” giveaway under the Teen and YA genre. Just because of those spammers.

Content Inc says to continue to find your sweet spot and then move into a specific niche with your “content tilt”. This is what is happening. What disguises it is Amazon’s tendency to let all new books sink into the swamp of their millions of books and authors. So Instafreebie helps in this, as people are comparing your book and title against just a handful of other books – replacing their “also bought” function. I then can survey my own lists to find out what books and genres are most popular by what subscribers have picked. IF/SW meanwhile keeps a complete list of how many subscribers you’ve ever gotten, so this raw data (regardless if they unsubscribed for any reason later) is always available.

And Instafreebie is a great way to test covers and descriptions and finding those books who outperformed yours in that giveaway.

Meaning: the answer is both yes and no. Your own mileage may vary.

Writing So Many Books So Fast

To anyone else, I’d now say stick to one short story per week – and then use the rest of your time to study more books and consolidate your back end. Visit forums, hob-nob with other authors, build your non-subscriber network.

For me, this was just fine. Not everyone can do what I did – very few, I imagine. It’s a rare skill set. And as a reclusive writer, I only focused on what I liked to do most. Talking with other people fills my head with a lot of extraneous concepts. Sure, my “networking” suffers, perhaps. But I don’t burn the day up on social media. If I don’t feel like writing, I’ll have some movies going in the background while I get other things caught up. Movies was my substitute-shorthand for reading. They didn’t improve my grammar or give me a lot more choice phrases – but kept me going with plots and story-arcs. (Tip: if you don’t like how a movie starts – drop it, just like you do a book. It doesn’t matter if you paid for the whole 10-year series. Lousy direction and lousy scriptwriting won’t train your inspiration as good or fast as exciting movies you don’t mind watching over and over.)

This is all in hindsight – and lays out what I’ll be doing for myself this coming year. One fiction work each week and polishing my back end up the rest of the time. So my model this year is to do what a veteran author can do. I’ve proved to myself that I can start writing at a moment’s notice, and can keep that up until I drop from exhaustion. I can churn out five good books in a week, plus their anthology. Three is my best average.

For the just-starting writer with no list, I’d suggest both. If you take over three or four days to write and publish a short story, then just stick to one book per week. It doesn’t mean you write more slowly or carefully. Practice will bring you certainty. Certainty will bring you speed. I took about six months to get the process down to two days per book. When I wrote those five books (about 25K words total) I did literally nothing else except write, revise, proof, publish. 12-16 hours days, often. I did that one week – ever. And don’t intend to try it again. I have published several more anthologies than that in a week, but there you are compiling already-proofed books.

Faster isn’t lower quality. Lack of proofing and revision makes lower quality. Everyone has their own pace of writing, their own various interruptions in life. If you want to write a story over several days (at 2K per day for 3 or 4 days, that’s fine. Then you have another three or four days to get the revising and editing done. For me, it was better to work flat out on a book until I couldn’t work anymore that night. The average was two days per book from start to published. But I’d also already published over a thousand books by the time I started writing fiction (although I still can’t come up with an accurate, final number of my non-fiction books.) My work as an editor and publisher is more prolific than my writing. I’ve done a lot of tests with others’ books to improve my publishing speed. As I’ve often joked, “The first hundred books are the hardest. After that, it gets a lot easier.

– – – – –

Overall, this year was a great success. The next year should be even better.

The post Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Mistakes and Opportunities appeared first on Living Sensical.

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The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 50 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 50 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 50 Results

100 original short stories written and published! It can be done by anyone – given enough discipline and persistence. Now digging into Content Inc. to get my content-business growing – the next challenge.


Published Words Fiction:

– free – 0  (Own Site)
– paid – 20444 (D2D, Amazon), 0 (Medium)

Published Words Non-Fiction:

– free – 2973
– paid – 1817 (Medium)


New Instafreebie/PW: 336
New Others: 0
Overall Total: 3489

Book sales this week:

Amazon – 13, Draft2Digital – 2, Gumroad – 1 = Total Week’s Fiction Sales – 16

Books (pre-)published this week:

Aggregate Production:

Total fiction books published this year: 131
Total short stories published as individual ebooks: 100
Total anthologies published: 29 (plus two 200+ page books)
Countdown to 100 published short stories: 0 in 0 weeks (Yay!)
(100 total short stories, plus around 7 more anthologies for 34 total – 140+ original books published in a single year.)


Finally got my Calibre program to say that I did indeed publish 100 short-story books, and its now has me as publishing 31 other books (29 anthologies.)

Pushing these last three books through was necessary so that I’d have that goal made, regardless. The next two weeks get into holiday distractions, and I didn’t want that hitting my production. Not when I was that close.

I did get some paid work out to Medium, though. Otherwise, I was really just writing most of the week.

Interesting was that by adding author and publisher pages at the end, it took the two sub-8K books over into the 32-pages required by Lulu to become a printed book. And the use of these in general is to make the ebooks look like better values. (I could very nearly write a blog post on that, and might – someday.)

Coming up is the last quarter anthology of authors, plus the biannual anthology for each author (excepting, perhaps, the Hooman Saga that I wrote in November.) There’s also another Ghost Hunters Anthology to compile, perhaps more than one.

I also started digesting the book “Content Inc” more, all as preps for next year. Figuring that I’ll be putting out some posts in these next two weeks that will establish my next challenge. This will also re-arrange my site menu bar. The more I get into this, the more ideas I have. (Seek-and-find method.) But that isn’t for this post – probably another right on the heels of it.

Another “What I Learned” Moment

Going through “Content Inc” gives a great deal of internal inspection. Most of the first three points are simply working to build your differentiated content out on a platform of choice. (And I have a lot more to say about what a platform is – and I have. You can search for it on this site.)

I found that I’ve been writing parables in my fiction. Modern versions. In the model of the TV-series episode. They all have a core idea in them, and understanding that idea (internalizing it) rewrites the book for the reader. That was the reason for writing fiction – my self-help/self-improvement/spiritual books were too easily rejected by too many. So if I can borrow another platform to get these messages out…

Surprising to me is that this actually goes down the line of writing the “perennial-selling” book. Because those that have survived through the ages are mostly parables. They have strong themes in them. And this is how Max Brand continues to sell, as he was sitting in Italy re-writing the classics as Westerns. Same theme, different setting. He wasn’t a stickler for details like Louis L’Amour. But still sells just as L’Amour does. (And the “Star Trek” TV shows were all morality plays in a space-opera setting.)

Fiction writing will still be a weekly action for me, but I’m expanding the publishing outlets for each book. (More on that later.)

Parables are the original “perennial-selling” book. Aesop, most of the Bible stories, fairy tales (where both Disney and Shakespeare got their original inspirations).

Tide Changes in Self-Publishing

Amazon is still cannibalizing authors on its platform – and so, another reason to build your own and recognize that you don’t want to build on rented land. Their recent “disappearing” of the “also-boughts” carousel in favor of sponsored links has bit into the income from the backlist. And “makes” Amazon more money by requiring authors to take adds even on their own book pages to promote their other books.

The solution is to build ways to sell your own books on your own site first and foremost. You see here where I send people to my own page (using bity short links as trackers) and give them a books2read link so they can go wherever they want – or Pay What You Want via gumroad – or buy the paperback at 50% off through my own link. Both of those others are less costly than Amazon, and keep people (in general) on my site and with my other books available to them. I also get 90% royalty from Gumroad for direct sales, and slightly more royalty on the printed books than I do when that same book is sold on Amazon.

Amazon is not the self-publishers friend. They are more like a frenemy. You have to keep an eye on what they are going to try next.

One other point – don’t publish your fiction paperbacks on Amazon, other than to make your ebooks look better price. Because most people don’t buy fiction paperbacks. In non-fiction, it’s about 50/50. And audiobooks are eating into paperback sales almost across the entirety of book sales.

My concentration this next year will be setting up audio as part of the production line and working to get every fiction and non-fiction book I have converted to audio and published via Findaway. With self-recorded audiobooks, it costs you nothing more than sweat equity to get these uploaded.

That then bridges you right over into courses for your non-fiction books. If you podcast your blog posts, this then allows you to create chapters at a time to produce the ebook, print edition, podcast, audiobook, and course in one production flow. You then update the backmatter in all of them to cross-link to the others. At least a single landing page on your site that gives them more options. (Like a giveaway to join your mailing list.)

Fiction books will still go the route of having a single book page on my site with these links – just adding an on-page promo for the audiobook with a sample.

This doesn’t change the point that I still recommend any beginning author to build a Blogger blog to host their author site, using Draft2Digital for book and author pages where you need them, and using to host your podcast audio and then linking these into your Blogger blog to get an RSS feed (Google’s Feedburner) and then have it promoted through iTunes and Stitcher.

Fiction authors should diversify into non-fiction courses. And use what you write about on your blog to help you build that course. Again, using audio as a proofing step, then leveraging that audio into audiobook, podcast, and course.

And so I find myself writing next year’s challenge in spite of myself.

But the bottom line is to first work out what you should be writing as an author, and then to build a content-business on your own platform and get paid to write. Amazon and the other platforms just prove the point – when you publish on their platforms, you are subject to their changes.

Build your platform as you go, and stay independent as you can.

Requiem: My Kickstarter “Course”

Just as an update – this “free course” I signed up for is finally complete. What it turned out to be was a way to get Prolific Works (PW), Reedsy, and Kickstarter into the author’s production line, and everyone got some income out of helping that author run a successful kickstarter campaign. It wasn’t a course to just learn hands-on about setting up a kickstarter. It was intended (and poorly communicated) that you were going to actually build a kickstarter and make it go live on their date – so they could promote it for you.

I finally told them that I wasn’t going to launch it, due to “scheduling conflict.” Mainly, that I found in about the second week that when you are already getting regular income from your other books, you don’t need to run a kickstarter. You can cover your own costs. Kickstarters can build more list for you, and can improve the conversion of your lists to better fans. But so do launches. And if your costs are already covered, all the work you’d put into kickstarters are silly if you aren’t going to meet your goal and get nothing out of it. (Although other platforms do enable you to keep whatever monies you do make.)

The first weird point I ran into was PW saying they were wanting exclusive rights to publishing my book for three months after the kickstarter completed. So that would mean I would write the book, proof it, and wait for the three months it was taking to build and run the kickstarter campaign, and then another three months before I could publish it broadly.  Six months. Compare that to my current operation where I write and publish 50 books, plus another dozen anthologies during that time.

The kickdstarter model is for authors who are needing a lot more support to get their first book out the door.

Self-starters and veterans like me don’t need kickstarters. They need to do regular book launches – on the bigger anthologies they create.

Unfortunately, there was one person at PW who was was sour grapes on my not making it active. Left me with a poor opinion of her. The people running the Instafreebie end of things are great, as usual. And I learned a lot – which was the reason I did it.

Now it’s done, and I’m moving on to this next challenge.

Last Week’s To-Do’s:

  • Today: Boil Down of the Lessons Learned to a bullet point series. DONE
  • Mon: Emails & Kickstarter lesson (or start new book if not.) DONE
  • Tue-Wed: New Book Written & Published DONE.
  • Thu-Fri: New Book Written-Published. DONE
  • Sat-Sun: New Book Written-Published. DONE
  • Sun: This analysis. DONE.

This Week’s To-Do’s:

  1. Emails out on schedule.
  2. Post setting up next year’s Challenge
  3. Mon-Tues: New fiction work written and published.
  4. Wed-Thurs: publishing articles on own site, Medium, Wattpad
  5. Fri-Sat: Build anthologies and publish as possible.
  6. Sun: This analysis

The post The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 50 Results appeared first on Living Sensical.

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