One author’s experience of choosing a title and cover for their self-published short story collection

Over on my reading and writing blog, I’m featuring a guest post by self-published mystery author Virginia King on how she chose the title and cover for her latest short story collection, Leaving Birds. I found it helpful and interesting to hear about how she approached the process. I hope you do too.

Authors, how do you choose titles for your stories / books? If you’re a self-publishing author, how do you choose your covers? I’d love to hear, so please leave a comment below.


Adventures in Book Mapping, Part 2

As promised all the way back at the start of the summer, I’m finally sharing my free book mapping template with you. As a reminder, a book map is best thought of as an outline which is created after your story has been written—so it’s not what you intend to write but what you have written.  It’s best thought of as an editing tool to help you examine your story prior to redrafting. But you can also use a book map as a plotting tool, to help you examine any weak areas and address them prior to writing. How—and if—you use it all depends on your creative process.

To get your free book map just click on the link below to download it to your computer.

Book Map Template

You’ll see that I’ve created the template in Excel but, as mentioned in my previous post, you can create a book map using any number of different formats. I’ve also created book maps using MS Word and even good old fashioned pen and paper in my notebook. But I find Excel to be the most helpful when creating a more in-depth book map as I can quickly filter information as I see fit. I can also add notes to the different columns to give myself (or the writer) reminders as to what’s most important to take into consideration when analysing the story.

When looking at the template you’ll notice that there are a number of different columns with headings for character development, plot progression and subplot progression as well as a couple of columns focussing on theme. You can alter these to fit your manuscript. So, for example, where Character 1 and Character 2 are listed, enter your characters names instead. Choose the themes you’ll be following in this draft and name them (chances are there are more than two). Alternatively, if you’d like to focus purely on plot progression, then omit the other columns. Next, enter the information which is relevant to this character / plot strand / theme in each column. As you’ll probably have noticed by now, the column on the far left is for the chapter number / title. The information given in this column can be further broken down by scene. As you go through the manuscript, continue adding information to the relevant cells.

Once you’ve finished filling in all of the columns, take a step back. Have you captured all of the information about the main characters, plot strands, etc? If so, take a short break and, when you return, read each column from top to bottom to see how each element is handled throughout the story. Then, read from right to left to see how they connect (or not). At the very end you can create a row ‘tallying up’ these elements.

Some questions to consider when analysing your book map:

Does the protagonist grow and change as a result of his/her experiences?

How about any supporting characters you’ve chosen to map?

If you’ve chosen to map character relationships, then how do these change throughout the story?

Do all the plot threads resolve themselves?

Are the themes consistent throughout? There may not be an entry in every chapter for the theme but it should be represented consistently throughout the story.

Used wisely, this tool should help you look deeper into your story and its various elements.

I hope you enjoy your adventure in book mapping! I’d love to hear how you get on so please do consider sharing how you found the experience by leaving a comment below.

Until next time.


Adventures in Book Mapping

I recently finished another interesting and substantial editorial project, this one involving a #bookmap. For those of you who don’t know what a book map is, it’s a visual overview of a novel and charts things like plot arc, subplot progression and character development. It may also show elements such as theme, setting, day/date when an action takes place, significant objects, minor characters present and/or anything else that the writer/editor thinks would be helpful to analyse. In short, it’s a tool to assist writers and editors in seeing the big picture of their novels, and where they might take the next draft. It’s particularly useful for spotting areas of under-development—such as plot strands which aren’t followed through on or characters who suddenly drop out half way through a novel. It’s also useful for structural editing—showing writers and editors where a scene needs adding or action which needs to be rearranged and/or reintegrated into a book.

There’s no right or wrong way to create a book map either. Some writers like to plot out their stories prior to writing, while others only look at the structure of the book after it’s been written. Some book maps are handwritten, as JK Rowling did with Harry Potter, others are created using index cards, Post It notes or even MS Word. The key is to use your chosen method to create a detailed scene-by-scene outline. So far my book maps have been created using Excel spreadsheets, but I may look to try other methods in the future (I’m still fairly new to book mapping). To give you a better idea of the various types of book mapping techniques, check out writer and editor Heidi Fiedler’s Pinterest board:

I started using book maps for editing purposes after taking a course with Heidi last autumn. The course, Book Mapping for Developmental Editors, was run by the Editorial Freelancers Association. And, while I really enjoyed the course, creating the editorial book map was time-consuming and so I couldn’t see a situation where I would seek to use it. However, I’ve since come to appreciate how useful book mapping can be, especially when it comes to novels with numerous plot strands, or gaps in logic. A book map can be an invaluable editorial tool as it allows me to think about the book on a deeper level and to swiftly spot weak or overcomplicated areas of the manuscript, thus making my job easier, if not quicker.

While I’ve only used a book map on a few occasions so far, it’s a technique which I’ll continue to explore and may look to offer as an added service to clients in future (watch this space!).

In my next post I’ll be sharing a free book mapping template which you can use with your own work.

Until then, have a great week and I hope that you continue to enjoy the writing process.

All the best,