If you are thinking of becoming a published author and have been doing your research, then you know that marketing is key.  In order to attract readers, you have to market not only your work, but yourself as well.  In this digital age, whether self publishing or going the more traditional route, authors are expected to market themselves by creating a platform.

What is a Platform?

     A platform is your tool, as an author, for creating a fan base, connecting with your target audience and making yourself visible.  It is a measurable way for publishers to gauge how large of an audience you have been able to amass and what sets you apart from other authors.  If you can show a publisher that you have a large number of people interested in your work, you are more likely to get published than an author with an unknown, unmeasurable audience.

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Do I Need to Build a Platform?

     If your goal is to publish, then you will most definitely need to build a platform.  You want to be able to show a publisher that you not only have a good product (your novel) but that you already have a market to sell it to (your audience).  Foresight is key and you should begin building a platform as early as possible.  Creating a platform is not something that can be done overnight, so don’t wait until your novel is finished, edited and ready to be shopped to publishers to get started if it can be avoided.

How Do I Build a Platform?

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     A platform can be built offline, online or a combination of the two.  An offline platform is made up of public speaking, classes taught, printed media, etc…  This type of platform is the more traditional route that is slowly becoming obsolete as a sole means of marketing.  An online platform consists of social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc…) and a website.  With the major shift to social media over the last several years, this is the best way for an author to connect with a large audience.  Social media allows you to connect with subscribers and followers in places you may not otherwise be able to reach.  It also allows the target audience to feel more connected with you as an individual.

     Once you have built your platform, your work is not done.  It is important that you take an active role with your audience.  The more you interact with and respond to your audience the more interested they will be.  Keeping your audience’s interest is just as important as getting their attention to begin with.

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     If you’ve been following along, then you know that I submitted my first full length novel for a peer review a few weeks ago.  After a little over three weeks, I have gotten back a total of four reviews.  It was my fear that the reviews would point out such huge flaws that I would need to practically start from scratch, deterring me from writing for a bit.  At the same time, it was my hope that the reviews would give me something specific to focus on while doing my next edit.

     What I got, is something in-between.  Other than the feedback on my spelling and grammar, each and every one of the reviews focused on something different, both strengths and weaknesses.  As it stands, I seem to be in a position of “you can’t please everyone”.  The best I can do at this point is to process all of the information and feedback that I’ve received and decide what works with my overall vision of the novel and what doesn’t.  With expectations of receiving a few more reviews, I plan to hold off on the edit for a bit longer.  

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     I never expected this to be an easy journey, but the decision to become an author is not something that can be taken lightly.  It is a decision to put your heart and soul into words and share it with the world, leaving yourself vulnerable and at the mercy of anyone who reads your work.  I’m glad to see that the overall consensus so far is that I’m on the right track and while there is quite a bit of editing to do, I’ve gained another supporter or two that will help motivate me to get the work done on not only this novel, but the follow-up, which I have completed two-thirds of the first draft for.

     It feels good to be taking another step forward, albeit a baby step.  While I wait for more reviews to come in over the next two weeks or so, the plan is to revamp my website.  It’s been quite a few months since I’ve made any updates and it is long overdue.  

     When writing a novel, an author has several choices to make that have nothing to do with plot, setting or characters, the meat and potatoes for any novel, that can either make or break their work.  The article Choosing a Tense and Point of View for Your Novel by Eileen Albrizio, explores all of these choices and various ways they can be combined.  Should the story be written in first person, second person or third person point of view?  Once that is established, the author then needs to decide whether to tell the story in past, present or future tense.

Point of View

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     First person point of view is when the story is narrated by the main character.  The reader would be able to know what the main character is thinking and feeling in addition to what they are doing, but they would not have this same connection to any of the other characters.   The story is also limited to the main character’s “line of sight”, which means the author cannot explore what is happening to another character that the narrator is not in direct contact with.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “I”, “we”, or “us”.  

     Second person point of view is when the narrator explains, directly to the main character, what is happening or has happened to them.  The reader would then become the main character, being guided on what to do or how to feel by the narrator. This view can be identified by the use of the pronoun “you”. 

     Third person point of view is when the story is told by an outsider looking in.  The narrator is able to see what is happening to each character, even if the characters are unaware of what is happening to one another.  The author is able to convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of all characters, not just those of the main character.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “he”, “she” or “they”.


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     Once it has been decided what point of view to use, an author must then decide what tense the story should be told in.  As Nicole Thomas says in her article Past vs. Present Tense When Writing, the tense chosen can set the mood of the novel.  Eileen Albrizio’s article, mentioned earlier, points out that sometimes the choice in point of view will steer an author towards the use of a particular tense. 

     The use of past tense means that the narrator is already aware of everything that has or is currently transpiring.  Future events can be hinted at or foreshadowed, because the narrator already knows the final result.  Through the use of past tense, a first person narrator could describe how other characters felt at a particular point because it may be revealed to them at a later point in time.  This is the most common tense used by writers.  Why?  According to Nicole Thomas’ article, this is the way our brains are programmed to write.  We tend to reflect on events that have already occurred.

     The use of present tense means that events are unfolding at the time the reader is reading about them.  The future is unknown to both the reader and the narrator and can only be revealed as time goes on, creating a sense of camaraderie towards the main character.  Nicole Thomas advises that present tense works best when used with the first person point of view.  Does this mean that it cannot be used with any other point of view?  Absolutely not.  Eileen Albrizio’s article explains how to use present tense with the various points of view.

     The use of future tense means that events have not yet occurred; everything is about to happen.  This is a great way to create suspense, but can heavy for the reader and is best used when writing short fiction.

Decision Time

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     Now that all of the options have been explained, it is time for the author to determine the combination to use.  Is there a formula for success?  Unfortunately, there is no specific combination of point of view and tense that will determine if a novel will succeed or fail.  What works for one author, may not work for another.  And even for the same author, what works for one novel, may not work for another.  The choice is dependent on things like the author’s comfort level,  skill or intention.  There is no right or wrong choice.  The key is to remain consistent in your choice to avoid confusing the reader.

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     At this time last week, I was consumed with ideas for one of my series.  Although the plan for the next few weeks did not include writing, I couldn’t get the series out of my head and set to work revisiting a book that I had attempted to write over four years ago.  Combing through my documents, I found two very lengthy character bios, one for the main character and one for a friend of hers.

     It may sound odd, but I really didn’t remember putting so much effort into writing these bios; but I was happy to find them because they contained a lot of the ideas I had for the entire series, spanning several years.  What I did remember from the time when I first came up with the concept was some research that I had done, but for some reason, I couldn’t find any of it.  Of course, this means that I needed to do it again, because if you hadn’t noticed by now, I can’t do anything without first doing extensive research.  Even if I don’t retain half of what I’ve looked up, I feel better just for having done it.

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     I got so caught up in the research over the next day or two that I only managed to write the opening for the book.  After that, the creative ideas that had been bombarding me, slowly but surely subsided and I was able to focus on my reading, which was my original plan.  I managed to finish one book and make significant headway in a book that I am critiquing for a fellow author.  

     The second book is taking me a little longer than usual because I want to try to be as thorough as possible.  I don’t think I was really built to be a book critic because when I read, I don’t analyze the book word for word the way I have seen in many reviews.  Instead, I base my opinion on how the storyline grabs my attention or fails to.  Does the story make sense or is it something I wish could really happen?  I focus on the characters and whether or not I can relate to them.  Do they remind me of myself or anyone I know?  I let my emotions take the lead.  Did I feel the emotion the author was trying to convey allowing me to feel what the character(s) felt?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then I count that as a good book.  

     I don’t try to discover hidden meanings in what I’ve read.  I don’t pick the story apart and question each and every choice the author made.  I don’t take it so seriously that I fail to find the magic of the portrait the author is trying to paint.  To me, this is like looking at the Mona Lisa and wondering why da Vinci didn’t choose a happier model, a lusher landscape, or a more cheerful color palette.  The Mona Lisa would not be the Mona Lisa if da Vinci had made any other choices; yet, this simple work of art is one of the most famous paintings, still known to the masses after over 500 years.

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     But, I digress.  Having reverted back to my original plan, the writing is once again on hold.  The focus is on reading and eagerly awaiting feedback on my novel that was submitted for peer review about a week and a half ago.  I’m trying not to do any writing in an effort to clear my head and prepare for the feedback I get.  If I set my mind to having the novel go a certain way, then I won’t be open to hearing the feedback I get and won’t be able to grow and learn how to become a better writer.