Sunday, August 14, 2016

Your Story Deserves to be Boarded!

If you've ever read Shakespeare's Othello you probably know that the titular character kills his beloved Desdemona by smothering her with a pillow. She then laments with her final line, "Nobody; I myself. Farewell: Commend me to my kind lord: O, farewell!" when Emilia asks who killed her.

Now, if you're like me, you'd probably not be able to come back from the dead to eek out that final line if someone has just smothered you with a pillow; neither would you likely die after making this statement. Sure, some may say she got an aneurism, which is what really killed her after Othello's failed attempt; but those people are reaching.

The plot hole in Shakespeare's classic play is not unique to the bard. Many writers have left significant plot holes or errors in their works, either as a result of revision or editing, or simply a mistake in the writing. So how can you, as a writer, avoid writing about a character who has a cigarette in hand who walks into a warehouse, and somehow the gas leak in the warehouse is not ignited (because suddenly the cigarette has magically disappeared)?

Filmmakers utilize a tool that most writers do not use but should: storyboarding. If you are not familiar with what this is, I recommend doing a little research and implementing it in your own process. Storyboarding is essentially a graphic version of each scene, depicted on individual "boards" or panels. Filmmakers use them to arrange and rearrange scenes in a film for purposes of flow, consistency, and visual appeal. They help because most films are not made in a linear fashion, but rather shot as individual scenes and then "cut" into the final work. My own writing is done in this way: I write individual chapters or sometimes just scenes, and then cut it all together in the end before revision.

Storyboarding can help even if you write in a linear fashion. If you can see the "shot" as a drawing, it can help you better visualize the character's perspective; it can help you label different elements that you'd like to describe so you don't fail to tell the reader that the sky was dark or that the mountains in the horizon appeared to be collapsing because of the dust storm that was approaching; and it can help you notice that darn cigarette in Jose's hand just before he enters the warehouse. The picture can help remind you to write in that Jose flicked the cigarette away just before entering the gas-filled warehouse, thus helping him avoid a horrific death.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Don't Be Easy

Killer on the Noose is on the Loose

This week I received two alerts from Google (if you don't know how to set this up, email me) to notify me that one of my books, Killer on the Noose, was available on two different websites for free. Well, one of these websites was from China (big surprise there) and the other was from somewhere in Africa. These sites required a membership to be established, along with a recurring membership fee every month that would allow the user to read and download as many books for free in PDF format as he or she wished.

This sounds great and all, but the only authorized websites to sell my books are (in various countries) and Barnes and Noble ( This meant that I was being ripped off. Of course, sending a lawyer after international criminals for stealing a modest amount from me would not make financial sense, so I composed a "cease and desist" email and sent it off to the webmaster of each of these sites. If they do not comply within reasonable time, I will file a complaint with the US Copyright office, and the full website may get removed from search results like this result on Google search:

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at

The lessons here are, 1. monitor your stuff to avoid being ripped off, 2. create value in your product and work, or your brand, by not giving it away, EVER (with some minor exceptions, such as leader stories or teaser chapters - but NEVER a full work!) 3. learn the pitfalls of self-publishing and marketing so that you don't get ripped off.

This last one is very important, because if you go on Facebook and see one of the many groups with 200,000+ members each who are all authors giving away copies of their books, or you go on an author-saturated website like,,, and thousands of others, you'll notice that to stand out as an author, giving your work away for free in a careless manner is not the answer - because everyone else is doing it. And frankly, most readers don't care if your book is free if they have no idea who you are.

How do you give away a book for free the right way? Hold a contest, like those on Goodreads (which, by the way is not author-saturated, it's reader populated):
Offer autographed hard copies of your book, etc. A hardcopy is a much better marketing tool than allowing yourself to be ripped off, because the reader now has something tangible, with a perceived value. It will also be passed around and may sit on a shelf on display. It's a conversation starter: "Hey! I won that book through a contest the author was holding on Goodreads or whatever... and she autographed it, too!" This person will never forget your name or your book.

However, if you offer  your book for free as an ebook on a website where 37.2 million other authors are doing the same, the reader WILL simply delete your book once they finish reading it and move on to the next one.

If you'd like more tips and advice on how to be a better writer or a more successful author, please email me at, follow me on Facebook at, +1 me on Google Plus, or follow me on Twitter @ChrisOhn.

Good luck, and happy writing!