Ideation: This is generating a story idea. I do this purposely several times a week on Twitter. For example:
You open the front door to get the mail. In the mailbox is a severed hand. Who put it there and why. How do you find out?
Brainstorming: Great idea. (I’ll write it someday.) But it needs a little—okay, a lot—of work. Here’s where I go through a process of answering questions about my character and his or her goals. I do a lot of work before I tackle structure. After all, I need events and motivation to plot.
Plotting: I develop character arcs for all my major characters and conform the brainstormed material into classic story structure. More at How to Write Stories that Sell.
Outlining: Here, I sort the information into a sequential scene-by-scene list from which I’ll write. I like my ducks in a row so that when I plant my butt in the chair, I can write without interruption.
Drafting: Using my outline, I write from beginning to end, incorporating all the information from my brainstorming, plotting, and outlining. I use Scrivener to build my manuscripts.
Editing: After one or more days, I’ll print the draft and edit it, making sure all the necessary information is in place and that I’m using the best language to tell a story. I go through at least five drafts before I consider the story ready for the reading public.
Marketing: I now have everything beta read. (If you’re a published writer and are willing to beta-read my fiction, contact me.) After final changes, I submit it to markets. If I don’t place a work after a while, I publish it myself.
This is my process, and I hope to perfect it this year so that I’m regularly churning out story after story, novel after novel. Expect to see more published this year. If learning about my process has been helpful to you, please leave a comment. I’d like to know your process, too.
In preparation for my website relaunch, I had a logo designed.
It’s based on how I sign my books for readers. (A decade ago I chose to market myself as “Lee Allen Howard” because I had discovered other “Lee Howards” were out there writing books too. But that long name took too much time, so I began to scratch my initials instead, with the L crossing the A and the H.)
I will write faster. Having planned and plotted stories beforehand, I will be able to write them at least 2500 words per hour.
I will write to market each chance I get. Having mastered the art of storytelling and writing much and more quickly, I will write stories for open calls to increase my chances of getting published (instead of writing only my ideas and trying to place them offhand in markets).
I will write flash fiction. I will turn poems I’ve written into flash pieces or short stories.
I will develop and write a self-editing text, reading and compiling source notes, outlining, and writing chapters until I’m finished. I will submit a proposal to a publishing company.
I will revamp my backlist so that I win steady sales. This will include creating new covers for my one-off short stories and shorter collections.
I will learn how to market books on Amazon, including placing ads.
I will read a book on writing craft monthly. I will continue my writing studies, reading at least one craft text each month.
I will redesign my website and launch it. Leeallenhoward.com needs a facelift! Stay tuned.
I plan to make progress on all these goals in 2021. Have you set goals for the new year? What would you like to accomplish? Perhaps more reading? 🙂
Like any other writer, I live or die by reviews of my books. However, while many people say they love my books or admire my writing, very few write book reviews—even if I ask them.
Perhaps it’s because readers aren’t sure how to write a review. Let’s solve that problem.
Here’s a simple and easy way to write a one-paragraph fiction book review.
1. Take notes as you read
The best way to remember what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book is to jot down your observations as you read, as well as any great quotes you’d like to mention.
I keep an index card handy as I’m reading a book. You can too. Make notes about:
Characters—Who were the main characters? Were they credible? Properly motivated? Did you sympathize with them? Who was your favorite character, and why?
Dialogue—Was it realistic? Revealing? Humorous? Engaging?
Genre—Did this book fit a particular genre, such as horror? Or was it a mash-up of several genres? Do you think the author did a good job of conforming to or breaking out of genre categories?
Plot—What was the story about? Did the series of events make sense? Any great twists?
Writing style—Does the writer write like another author you like?
2. Summarize your opinions
Jot some notes about your views (yes, it’s okay to express your opinions about the book):
Did you like the book?
What was your favorite part?
What did you like least about the book?
If you wish something were different in the book, what is it?
3. Make your recommendation
Would you recommend this book to other readers? If so, what type of readers would like the book? People who dig H.P. Lovecraft? Lovers of ghost stories?
Remember that a writer has spent a lot of time and effort in producing his or her labor of love. Although you may criticize, don’t forget to be constructive and kind. If you mention the author’s name, use his or her last name.
Writing the Review
A book review is not a long summary of the book, rather your brief commentary on it. Here’s the how-to of writing your paragraph review.
Start with an interesting sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. You could make it a question: “Have you ever wondered…,” “Ever wish you could….”
Introduce the subject of the book. What’s the genre? (horror, crime, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) “Book Title is a horror novel about…” Then write a one- or two-sentence summary. Be careful not to give away the ending!
Do you think the book measures up to the goals the author set out to achieve? Be honest yet tactful. Include some examples supporting your opinion.
Who will enjoy this book? “If you like early Stephen King, you’ll love this book.”
Book review paragraph template
If you’re having trouble getting started, use this paragraph as a template:
Have you ever wondered _______________ (hook). Book Title is a ____________ (genre) novel about ______________ (subject matter). In it, _____________ (main character) tries to _____________ (main story goal) but encounters trouble when _______________ (some complications or opposition). The characters were realistic, and I especially related to ___________ (character name). My favorite part of the book was ________________. [Optional: But the author could have done a better job at _________________ (something that needs improvement). For example…] The dialogue was excellent and moved the story forward. It was fast-paced (or something else you liked). I really liked this book because ______________ (your opinion about it). If you like reading early Stephen King (a comparison), this one’s for you.
The Book at Dernier is about a young man’s obsessive quest to learn about the dark and mysterious Marcus Phineas and his arcane rituals that led to past deaths in the superstitious town of Dernier.
Protagonist Paul finds a book by the late Phineas full of symbols and secret writing. Determined to crack the code, Paul succumbs to the thrall of bloody rituals. I feared for him and dreaded the results his search would lead to. As he descends into madness and the death toll mounts, can Paul solve the mystery? Will he escape a devastating fate?
Lienhard’s skillful writing drew me in and led me quickly to the chilling conclusion. Recommended for appreciators of Lovecraftian fiction.
That’s all there is to it.
Proof your review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you bought the book, Goodreads, Facebook, and on your blog.
Be generous with the stars: starred reviews encourage other readers to buy and read.
And why not let the author know you’ve written a review? It will probably make their day. I know it would make mine.
Throughout the month of February 2019, sign up for my private email newsletter, and you’ll be entered to win a proof copy of DEATH PERCEPTION.
I recently had new cover artwork done and ordered this proof (with a “Not for Resale” banner on the cover) to check it out. It looks great, and there are no marks or notices in the pages of the book. This piece is a signed collector’s item.
Drawing for the winner will be on March 1, 2019.
Subscribe to my email newsletter here and be entered for the giveaway:
I’m seeking beta readers for a 52,000-word psychological thriller/horror novel.
Pay is involved. Contact me if you’re interested in being a beta reader. Thanks.
THE BEDWETTER by Lee Allen Howard
Journal of a budding psychopath Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife,
Russell accepts his dark commission.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him, advertising his problem to all their high school classmates, who turned on him mercilessly. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now fixated on paying women back, Russell fantasizes about finding just the right girl—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.
This novel depicts intense violence, hardcore horror, and disturbing psychological terror in the vein of such works as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie, and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.
Although THE BEDWETTER is a fascinating in-depth character study into the mind and actions of a misogynistic and homophobic psychopath, the story events are vicious and brutal, the language coarse, and the approach to their reporting is cold and unflinching.
This book is not for the faint of heart or those easily offended by language, sex, or violence. Read at your own risk.
I’m seeking beta readers for a 75,000-word gay romance/horror novel.
Contact me if you’re interested in being a beta reader or writing a book review. Thanks.
Image from ZbrushCentral.com, #392423
Dead Cemetery by Lee Allen Howard
Jarod Huntingdon wants more than anything to have a family with children of his own, yet he’s unable to commit to his girlfriend and doesn’t know why.
He returns home to the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek for a season of soul-searching where he encounters his childhood friend, Scotty McPherson, and—despite their high school fallout—Jarod finds he’s still attracted to him.
When Scotty’s six-year-old niece, Madison, goes missing, a frantic search ensues. A violent rainstorm traps them in the valley, blocks roads, cuts off all communication, and hampers the hunt.
In the meantime, Jarod learns of a curse as old as he is, first placed on the community after five young people perished in a house fire during the sacrifice of a deformed child.
As the curse takes hold, the dead return to abduct the living, and the abducted turn into monsters.
To appease the curse, defrocked Pentecostal pastor Uriah Zalmon must find another sinner to sacrifice. The Covenant Trustees unanimously select Scotty. Who better to play the scapegoat than an “unrepentant homosexual”?
Faced with losing the love and support of his family and community, Jarod must choose between the life he’s always envisioned and saving Scotty from being sacrificed to a great winged beast hibernating in the bowels of an abandoned church.
Can he rescue his true love and break the curse once and for all?