Saturday, October 10, 2015

What Peter Bernhardt Learned From a Dozen Years of Writing Successful Fiction


What a Dozen Years of Fiction Writing Have Taught Me, by Peter Bernhardt

Now and then during my twenty years of composing legal briefs and reports evaluating federal agencies, I expressed my desire to write a book. Little did I know that my wife would call my bluff when we moved to Sedona in retirement.No longer did I have the excuse of a demanding caseload and supervisory duties that bound me to courtroom and desk at the U.S. Attorney's Office. Nor could I plead lack of time since running and playing tennis only take up so many hours a week.

So after a year of procrastination and having run out of excuses, I enrolled in a workshop for wannabe authors.
The workshop was a bust, but it did push me into tackling my first book, The Stasi File-The Stasi File – Opera and Espionage: A Deadly Combination,  in which, following the age-old advice to “write what you know,” I wove together the unlikely combination of a German upbringing, a lifelong love of opera and my experiences as an attorney.As I struggled with an outline and the first chapter, I realized that I needed to seek counsel from more experienced writers. Point of view, filters, dialogue mechanics, narrative voice, passive voice, subjunctive, nominative absolute—these and endless other writer's tools I learned in our Sedona Writer's Group.
Let me emphasize that not all critique groups are the same. Puff groups (praising your work like your mother would) will do more harm than good.

Receiving honest, critical feedback is crucial to your goal of improving your writing. A group that offers such constructive critique is
The Internet Writing Workshop [IWW]. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, short stories, memoirs, poetry, or other genres, it offers a critique group to meet your needs. IWW’s Writing Group’s spirited discussions gave me a new understanding of writing topics.

IWW’s Novel Group members hail from the far and near corners of the English-speaking world. Their honest and constructive critiques will improve any manuscript—that is certainly true for the three novels I submitted, chapter by chapter.
Many proclaim that a first novel seldom works.

Due in large measure to the things I learned at IWW and in my local critique group, I managed to craft The Stasi File – Opera and Espionage: A Deadly Combination competently enough for it to be named a finalist for Book of the Year by the British Arts Council sponsored website,
You Write On which ranked my book a bestseller. The novel was also a quarter finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.


After the above writers' groups helped me put the sequel,
Kiss of the Shaman's Daughter, into publishable shape, my muse whispered a new cast of characters into my ear. Real-life events inspired me to come up with the story line for Red Romeo. Over forty West German government female employees were convicted of spying for communist East Germany for love. They fell for the charms of Stasi Romeos trained by one of the greatest spymasters of all time to seduce lonely single or divorced secretaries with security clearance.
 
Red Romeo has now undergone the vetting process and is currently available as an ebook preorder. You might ask why put a book on preorder when you can publish it upon final editing?The answer to that question leads me to mention one of the rare writing workshops I've ever attended that was worth the time and money: Ebook Publishing Intensive, recently given in Phoenix by Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords.

Mark made a convincing case for using preorders through which retailers accept customer orders for your book in advance of your official on-sale date.
In May 2015, Smashwords found that during the preceding 12 months, 7 of its 10 bestselling titles were born as preorders and 67 percent of its top 200 bestsellers titles started out as preorders. Yet, surprisingly, only about 10 percent of authors avail themselves of this powerful marketing tool. Read a detailed analysis
here.

The potential buzz building and the fact that most retailers credit on the on-sale date all accumulated preorders convinced me to put Red Romeo on preorder before its publication date of November 7, 2015. You'll find the blurb and a sample of the first 15 percent of the novel at Smashwords Book Review.

The ebook can be preordered at a special price at the following retailers:
Apple iBooks.
Kindle.
Barnes & Noble.

Kobo.
 

In twelve years, I've not only learned the craft of writing by joining the writers' groups I mentioned, but the best ways to self-publish by giving my newest baby the greatest possible chance of a successful birth.

Your manuscript will shine after it has undergone honest and constructive critiques, whether by one of IWW’s groups and/or your local writers’ group. And once you have polished your novel into publishable quality, consider releasing it as a preorder.

Peter Bernhardt,
Sedona Author.
Twitter.
Bernhardt Profile.
 

4 comments:

Edith Parzefall said...

Very interesting article, Peter. I can't wait for Red Romeo to be released. The book sounds very interesting, and knowing your first two novels, I'm sure I won't be disappointed!
Wish you continued success with the new baby!

Peter Bernhardt said...

Thank you, Edith. Peter.

Unknown said...

Great post, Peter! You're one of IWW's stars, and I wish you much success with Red Romeo.
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

Peter Bernhardt said...

I just now saw your comment, Guilie. Thank you. Peter.