Monthly Archives: October 2012

How to Make a Book Trailer

As promised, here’s my post on how to make a book trailer!  I hope you’ve had a chance to view my Lords of Askalon trailer on the SisterMuses YouTube channel, but if not, here it is again…


So, now that you’ve finished watching it, I’ll explain how I put this trailer together so you can make one for your own project.  It was so much fun to do – and if you hit a writing roadblock or mental wall, doing something that uses a different part of the creative brain can be very helpful!

I followed just eight simple steps to put this together.  And be aware that steps 2-4 may happen in a different order than that in which I present them here – I just set things out this way for clarity.  But we all know that a creative endeavor is very rarely a linear process!

1. Fire up your movie making software.

I used Windows Live Movie Maker.  If you have a Mac, just use the equivalent movie producing software.

You’ll notice that you have a lot of different options – different fades or animations, different visual effects, adjusting the time allotted for each frame, etc.  Take a few moments to orient yourself to the software if you’ve never used it before.  We’ll come back to these in a later step, once you actually have content.

2. Decide on the feel (mood) you want for your trailer.

There are a couple of factors to consider in this step:

  • the mood of your story: tragic, heroic, contemplative, etc.
  • the angle of your pitch to your audience (what do you want to highlight about your story?)

Why is this step critical?  You have to identify the mood to be able to choose the right…you guessed it…mood music.  And mood images, for that matter.  So really do take some time to think about this.  In my case, Lords of Askalon is a high-action novel, but there is a significant contemplative thread woven into the story.  I really wanted to emphasize both of these, and that helped me to choose the right music.

3. Consider how to present your novel in images.

Now that you’ve decided on a mood for your trailer, you can start thinking about the visuals.  Consider your story in terms of its high points.  Try to identify the most significant plot points, twists, or turning points.   Consider also the key moments for your main character.  I suggest using the third approach, because a good story will be both plot and character driven.

For a two-minute trailer, 10 images is really the maximum you can include and still give each image justice.  You could certainly do fewer than 10, with more time spent on each frame.  So now that you have a general idea what plot or character points you want to use to convey your story, start searching for some images.

I used Foter for my image search.  Foter is a huge collection of free, royalty-free stock images.  These images are licensed under the Creative Commons license and you can download as many as you like.  Let me just offer a few words of advice:

  • DO look at the permissions given for each image.  There are different levels of licenses under the Creative Commons umbrella.  The most liberal of these is the attribution-only license (indicated by the letters CC-BY).  All that’s required here is that you acknowledge the artist – I do this in a credits page at the end of the trailer.
  • It’s probably safest to look for images that offer a commercial license.  There’s not a great deal of explanation on what constitutes commercial and non-commercial usage.  You could probably make the case that you’re not charging for the book trailer, so that’s non-commerical use, but you are promoting something you hope people will buy…so…to be prudent, you might just want to go with images that have commercial permissions.

You can also look at Flickr for Creative Commons images and browse by license type if you want, but Foter brings together Creative Commons images from a number of sources, including Flickr.

Look for high-impact, high quality images that convey both the mood and the moments of your story.  And sometimes you have to do a lot of searching to find the right images!  This step can take some time, so be patient.

4. Add your text.

This shouldn’t be too hard to do once you find your images.  And it is a fantastic exercise in high-impact language.  I tried to use powerful, mood-based words (i.e., “crouches”) as I presented the story.  You don’t need to get into insane detail – in fact, that’s really impossible.  Remember, you want to give your reader a glimpse of the story on the levels of mood and plot.  Tweak, tweak, and tweak some more until you get just the right flavor!

5. Add your music.

Finding free music is much trickier than finding free images.  You can find stock music in many different places, but if you want to make a trailer for free, your options are limited.  I found my track at Royalty Free Kings.  They had several tracks available for free – most of them pared down slightly from the full version.  They have a lot of music available for purchase as well.

Moby (yes, the band) has a free music section of their website for music that they wrote for film.  You just need to sign up and then you can browse and download what you like for your project.

You can Google “royalty free music” for some other options as well.  Freestockmusic.com has some free cinematic music, for instance.  AudioMicro also offers film music, but I didn’t find anything free when I hopped over to check it out quickly just now.

6. Play around with the effects.

Now that you have your pictures, text, and music, you can play around with the different tools and effects to finalize your project.  Make sure you have your credits pages (photos and music) and a link to your website at the end so people can navigate to find your work!

7. Beta test your trailer!

Try to have a few kind friends view your trailer and give you feedback before you offer it for general consumption.  I subjected my husband and my kids to my trailer (more times than they’d like to count, actually), and made J. Leigh and our mom watch it too!  They all gave me valuable feedback.  When you beta test, ask your viewers if

  • it made a strong impression on them
  • they enjoyed it
  • it made them want to read your book
  • if there is anything they would change to improve points 1-3

Tweak your trailer if necessary.

8. Publish!

You’re ready to post your video!  Set up a YouTube channel for yourself, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website/blog, Pinterest, reading boards like Goodreads and Shelfari…everywhere you have an online presence!

That’s it, folks!  I hope you have as much fun putting your trailers together as I did!  And please come back and post a link to your trailer in the comments section so we can all see what you’ve put together!

Happy directing!!!

SK

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Lords of Askalon Book Trailer

I’m so excited to share this with you!  Here is the book trailer for The Lords of Askalon!  Tomorrow, I’ll be doing a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a book trailer like this for your own work!

Enjoy!


Editing Focus 4: Syllabic Editing

Okay.  So.  Long overdue editing blog post: check.

This is the last Editing Focus blog post we’ll have for our Fall Blog Fest…so…hope you enjoy it!  It’s my personal favorite, as far as annoying things like editing are concerned.  😉

Syllabic editing isn’t something you’ll hear talked about a whole lot.  I first heard about it from the amazing writer/teacher/mentor Dave Farland, who has really taught me so much about the business and the…well, business…of writing.

So what is syllabic editing?  It sounds mystical and amazing, so what exactly does it involve?

Quite simply, it’s listening.  I’m not trying to be flippant.  Writing is an oral and an aural art.  Most of us, when we read, do at least some amount of subvocalization.  We listen to stories as we read them, even if we’re not reading them out loud.  But more than that, we notice things like rhythm and cadence and musicality — it’s just our nature.  Our brains are designed for that.  Just think about how most storytelling has been done throughout human history.  It was an oral art before it ever got written down.  Language is meant to be spoken.  And it’s meant to be beautiful.

When we look at syllabic editing, we’re actually focused on a couple of things.  One is flow, and one is conciseness and focus — on the level of the sentence, not on the level of the story.  I’ll look at the conciseness issue first.

Here we’re actually looking at the sentence and saying, “Am I conveying this idea as clearly as I can in as few words as I can?”  Now, this doesn’t mean we have to strip our style down to postmodern minimalism or anything, unless that is — God help you — your true style.  I’m also not saying you should excise every single adverb or adjective.  But it does mean you can get rid of useless words that tend to clutter up the stream, like little dams that choke up and bog down the story as you try to drift through it.

For instance, if you have two characters in conversation, you don’t need to say: “Bob smiled at Anna.”  You can just say, “Bob smiled,” unless it’s absolutely crucial to the story that the reader knows he’s smiling at Anna — for instance, if Bob has a phobia of smiling at people but for some reason smiles at Anna just now.  You see.  Cutting out those two words is a syllabic cut.  You’re trimming down the number of syllables so that what is conveyed is what is most important.

I think a lot of this kind of editing comes from accommodating editors/publishers who insist on a certain word count for submissions.  So, if Publisher Bob only accepts manuscripts up to 100K words and your masterpiece is 110K words, well, you need to find 10K useless words to scratch.  But even if you’re self-publishing, you should go through your manuscript with the same brutality….err…..care.  Set yourself a word limit and then find all the places where you can cut.

Limits are a lot like deadlines.  They can be incredibly powerful motivators.  And the best thing is, the tighter your manuscript is, the better it is.  Always.  Trust me.  You might make a macro cut — like excising a whole scene — that you later regret, but I’ve never come across a situation where I regretted cutting out “at Anna.”

Now, the other part of syllabic editing — and the part I think is the most interesting — is what gives that first part a positive quality, so that you’re “adding by subtracting,” as they say, and not just subtracting.  In other words, you want your prose not only to get from Point A to Point B in the most concise way possible (for your particular style/tone), but also to get there as effortlessly as possible.  And I mean effortless on the part of the reader.  A well-made movie doesn’t draw attention to itself on a mechanical level, but lets you simply live the story.  Likewise, a good novel should sweep the reader along without giving them any reason to stop and say, “Wait, why did he write that sentence like that?”

So, look.  The goal of syllabic editing is not to go from, “Bob wandered in meandering lines through the cool autumn mist with a slow, steady stride, drinking in the intoxicating scent of coming snow in the wind” to “Bob walked home through the mist.  It smelled like snow.”  Fewer syllables, yes.  Better writing?  No.  Now, “Bob wandering through the cool autumn mist, etc.” is not really good writing either.  It’s actually kind of awful.  But to correct it, you want to listen to the way the sounds fall on your inner ear, and go from there.  Test out your potential revisions.  Taste them.  Roll the syllables around on your tongue, and find the one that packs the biggest punch.

My Bob sentence above has a major problem.  It stutters and gasps and falls on its face.  My mental tongue trips over the syllables.  The words don’t sound right to me.  Reading them makes me wince and take out my mental red pen.  So how would I fix it?  Well, for one thing, watching out for prepositional phrases is usually a good place to start.  If you’ve got a sentence that strings together more than two prepositional phrases in a row, or maybe three at the most, you should look at restructuring the sentence.  “Should” pretty much meaning “must” in this scenario.

So.

Bob wandered in meandering lines…

Okay.  I don’t need to put the “meandering lines” bit in there.  It’s superfluous.  I already know he’s wandering, which suggests he’s not walking with a definite purpose.  So, SLASH. Continue reading


How to Listen to Your Beta Reader

Both J. Leigh and I have had two insanely busy weeks — doesn’t that always seem to happen right in the middle of huge and important projects?  And it’s obvious that I “missed” my self-imposed publication deadline of October 4 for the release of Lords of Askalon.  Part of that is life getting busy — and it’s a luxury (and a curse) of being self-published that you set your own publication schedule.  But the real reason why I put off releasing the book is that I took the time to listen — really listen — to J. Leigh, my beta reader.

But what does that mean, exactly — listening to your beta reader?  Doesn’t it mean just approving all those deletions and additions in Word’s track changes feature?

No.

Don’t get me wrong.  Track changes is fabulous for collaborative work like this.  And for incorporating line edits, it can save a lot of time and trouble.  But you don’t just give your beta reader carte blanche to rewrite your manuscript.  Instead, you need to internalize the criticism and use it to make your story better.  Let’s look at how this could play out, using Dr. Banner/the Hulk from the movie The Avengers (disclaimer: this is purely a thought exercise):

BR: I really want to see the Hulk become more thoughtful as the story progresses.  He should start moving from “Smash everything because it’s there” to “Smash the enemy because I recognize they’re my enemy” by the end of the film, because otherwise he’s just not very sympathetic or heroic.

Writer: Ah, I see your point.  Hmm.  I know!  If the first time the Hulk becomes the Hulk it’s purely a response to stimuli — uncontrolled and destructive and scary — and then later Dr. Banner chooses to become the Hulk to help his friends, that might convey this change in his character.  That means I need to rework this first scene a bit…and really need to highlight the shift in this later scene…and…

Edits like these are macro edits, and they take more time to “fix” than word changes or tense agreement fixes.  You have to take what your beta reader tells you — i.e., the Hulk (even for a big guy) is flat unless we have him develop as a character — and figure out what needs tweaking to make your story really successful and satisfying.

Remember, one of the most important things your beta reader does is to go through your manuscript like a reader.  You want your story to be satisfying to your readers.  If your character has hit a developmental plateau that’s becoming endless and therefore boring and unsatisfying, you want your beta reader to convey this to you.  If your plot has a massive hole in it, thus making the story boring and unsatisfying, you want your beta reader to say so.  And then you need to listen!   Don’t say, “That’s hooey.  My story is perfect just the way it is.  You’re wrong.  I’m right.”

If criticism of your work makes you cringe and feel ill and strikes at the very core of your being, then you’re in the wrong business.  And if you can’t take the criticism of your beta reader, then don’t even consider actually publishing your work for the public.  Take criticism as an opportunity to improve, not as a personal slight.

So, really maximize the usefulness of having a beta reader by discussing his thoughts on your work.  How did this scene work?  Could this other plot arc be a problem?  Was this shift in character convincing?  Is the ending a total flop?  Is the climax intense enough?  Don’t just cut and paste his line edits into your “finished” manuscript.  If you’ve gone through the trouble of asking for a beta read, then make it count.  Take your story from “just okay” to “awesome” by listening to what your reader tells you and considering how best to adjust.

Your readers will thank you for it.