Monthly Archives: August 2015

Writing an outline or not for your novel?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Do you painstakingly outline your characters every move and every plot development in your novel before you write it? Or do you jump right in and write from your idea of plot and characters? With a series (like my Beyond Blood series) the second option is modified as you already have your main characters – they just need further development.

I do a little of both and by that I don’t mean outlining to the last detail what is going to happen. I start with an idea and some new characters and start to type in an outline. But something happens as I do this. The darn story wants to be told so I involuntarily switch to writing mode.

Not that I’m through doing outlines. Far from it. I have had to stop and think between writings what could happen next. I say “could” because characters and situations change (like people in real life situations). And being anal and sticking to the original plan is often not in the best interest of the novel. This is creative writing – fiction.

Because a few things happen when you are in creative writing land. You get better ideas and characters like to take over. Listen to them. Some original plot ideas may not work out. Some characters need fleshing out and/or need to be connected to the story more, particularly what I call the “guest characters” as opposed to the series regulars.

I tend to write complicated plots and am constantly going up and down the screen to fix inconsistencies. I do have a list of inconsistencies and also a list of what I call “Balls being juggled in the plot.” The latter refers to what evolves as I write, but they must be worked out in the story telling. Let no story thread be left well, unthreaded.

One thing readers hate is if some plot development is left hanging at the end of the novel. I’m not referring to continuation of series characters’ private lives – for example relationships that have formed in the novel and may continue in your next novel. If Alice and Joseph start dating in your novel, you don’t have to marry them off at the end of the novel. Leave that open-ended one way or the other as anything can happen in the next novel. But if you have a subplot that is a red herring (part of the criteria for mystery novels), you better resolve that one.

So I ask you again – how do you write – from an outline or by the seat of your pants?


Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.


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Promote your book alone or with other authors?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Do you join with other authors to promote your books? Or are you the lone wolf? I do both and there are pros and cons for each.

With other authors – to use a variation on an old phrase – there are benefits in numbers. If three or even five authors band together to do a reading or some sort of presentation, it can draw in some readers that might not otherwise attend your presentation alone. Not to belittle your book, but we all have preferences for books we read. In the crime genre there is fiction and non-fiction. So by mixing it up with a variety of sub-genres, you can draw in more people. They may not know you or your books but they will find out. The trick is to be friendly, knowledgeable and interesting. Panels with q and a and a bit of author reading work best I have found. And when readers congregate at the author table at the end, there is a good chance they will be purchasing books. Yours might be one of them. Just don’t push it. And you get to meet a bunch of authors writing in the same genre and learn from each other.

Going it alone is a good idea if you want to focus on a particular subject that your book deals with – that could be writing series characters, especially if some appear in short stories as well as novels. Or if you want to talk about particular issues that are in your book and use your book and its story as an example. Beyond Blood covers child kidnapping, serial killers, fraud and abortion pill issues. Although Beyond Blood is set in August 1998, the abortion pill in the novel is still illegal in Canada.

Lots of fodder for thought there. You may also have a specific type of crime writing workshop and use your book for examples.

Then there is the honey of all solo presentations. When the person in charge of the venue – whether library, cafe, pub or festival – asks you to come and do a presentation. The latter has happened to me a few times with Beyond Blood and yes, I have sold book copies. I will be doing it again Sept. 3 (see the Gigs and Blog Tours page).

Just remember not to come on as a salesperson. You are there to primarily entertain and of course underneath all that, hopefully sell some books. But if you stand up (or sit at a table) like some of these motivational speakers continually pitching their courses, you won’t sell a book.

My thoughts anyway.

What do you think?



Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.


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More tales from the book marketing trenches

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I continue with marketing my mystery novel Beyond Blood into bricks and mortar bookstores. And I keep in mind the possibility of book returns and loss in royalties. So I’m not exactly bombarding bookstores. However, I am plugging along to visit the bookstores on my list. At least I’m organized – after a fashion.

Yesterday I popped into another Indigo Bookstore, this one mid-town going north in Toronto. As usual I prepared in my head what I planned to say.

It didn’t go exactly that way. But it doesn’t help if you (read me) have some health issues acting up when you are talking to the bookstore manager. Mine is an on-again off-again (mostly on it seems) sinusitis infection that sometimes goes down lower to glands. It makes me tired sometimes – I also don’t get enough sleep some evenings because late at night I suddenly decide I have a lot of house-related stuff I just have to do and get to bed late. Obviously it is important to be organized in your personal life as well.

So what did happen? First the manager thought I was trying to get the book in on consignment and said no openings for that until next April. I had managed to remember to introduce myself, my publisher and that the book is not self-published. I also mentioned what other branches in the chain it was in and BB wasn’t on consignments there and they just ordered from the distributer. Still not exactly clear because yours truly forgot one important point. Beyond Blood is for sale on line at this bookstore chain. Magic words. He was interested. I also said I do book signings, but he said that branch doesn’t do that anymore because they don’t get the people like they used to. Different demographic now. We talked about a couple of other branches, but I did agree with him. So he took my business card (with the info – including photos of the book covers and one of me – thanks to my son’s design, and web links to more). I got his contact info.

So, we shall see.

Meantime I keep watch on the other bookstores handling Beyond Blood and also book more library gigs where I can read and present and sell books directly. It is also a good way to connect with readers. I have a new one September 3 on my own at Brentwood Library branch in Toronto. Will get that one in the Gigs and Blog Tours page on this blog shortly and also my website Also organizing one with other Crime Writers of Canada in another library branch for late next March. And there will be another bookstore CWC one outside Toronto in late November.

You have to keep plugging and don’t give up.

But get lots of sleep and scrap those late-night house chores.


Meantime, if you are in the Toronto area, check out the big Indigo Bookstore in the Manu-life Centre. As of yesterday there was still a copy there. Or go to their online ordering. Print copies and e-copies – Kobo – available (among other places) at And if you want e-copies in either Kindle or Kobo go to my publisher, Blue Denim Press, at


Happy reading.



Sharon A. Crawford


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Beyond Blood into bricks and mortars bookstores

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Sometimes we focus on promoting our books through social media only. Sometimes we focus on e-copies only.

Let’s not forget that many books still come in print too. Sure they are available online, but sometimes the bricks and mortars bookstores can be a selling resource too.

And it may not be as difficult to get them to carry your book. Especially if you have a distributor. Especially if you do events with writing organizations that you belong to – and those organizations are sponsoring an event in a bookstore.

Not trying to turn back the clock here. There are other instances of media that didn’t disappear just because something new didn’t come along. Think TV. Think radio. Think print newspaper and magazines. They have just all changed and expanded on how they present. But some variation of the original still exists.

Back to bookstores. First, my Beyond mysteries series are not self-published and my publisher through the distributor (Ingram for those interested) has had my books placed online at various bookstores – Barnes and Noble in the United States for example, and Indigo-Chapters in Canada. But anyone can go in any bookstore and order in a copy of Beyond Blood and/or Beyond the Tripping Point. The bookstore will just order through Ingram.

That’s not exactly in the store, though. Here’s my story on that.

I belong to Crime Writers of Canada. Every April CWC holds the Arthur Ellis Short List party at one of the main Indigo Bookstores in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As part of the celebrations, CWC published authors are invited to read. Well, not all members, but 12 to 16 or so – first to sign up, first to read. That means Indigo has to order in print copies of these authors’ books. Any not sold at the party go into the bookstore’s section. It really helped that Beyond Blood was available through Indigo Chapters online.

Indigo/Chapters is a bookstore chain in Canada and once in one bookstore (especially a big one), it helps to get the book in others. So I’m doing this now. So far I haven’t had to go into a big spiel to pitch my book – at least with this chain. With other smaller independent bookstores – chains or not – I may have to use the competition angle.

It also helps that I write in the mystery genre. Mysteries and romances are selling well, in Canada, at least.

Meantime,  you can get e-copies of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point online at my publishers at Print copies and e-copies – Kobo – available (among other places) at


Sharon A. Crawford


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