Self Publishing II: Before Launch

To those in America, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you have a long list of things you are thankful for. I most certainly do. I try to remember every day, no matter how bad the day before was, has the opportunity for me to improve.

Next, I am published. Nothing like driving through Chicago traffic (it’s not as bad as they say as long as it’s not morning, night, or Sunday after a holiday), and you get a phone call telling you the book’s live. Two weeks before what they told you it would be.

“But Paul, that’s great!”

“But human being, you don’t get what goes into marketing!”

Today I’m going to tell you what goes into marketing before the book releases.

First, after you hand in a finished manuscript, you will need to do the cover art. Often you have the option, especially with a vanity press, to use some stock photos, or to supply your own. I appreciate the starving artist, so I often help someone out, especially people just getting into art. Simply because they’re $200 instead of $1000. I can sort of afford one of those.

There is also font to think about. You will need to note internal font (I really like minion, but garamond is pretty solid as well), external font (I literally just told them something that looks like the Aladdin title), and don’t forget to mention what scene breaks look like. While the industry standard (or what I’ve been exposed to) is to leave a space, #, space, for the publisher I used it means keep the hashtag. Awkward. Usually they have some sort of glyph bible to go off.

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Depending on how you do self publishing depends on how much layout you have to worry about. Fortunately I worried about none of it.

At this point I also highly suggest you have a platform, some teasers, and you’re looking into events. The platform is something as simple as WordPress. Get your name out there, get people interested. Understand that audience does not equate to sales. I have over 600 followers. If I get 20 sales through my WordPress, not a bad day.

On the flip side, people who read my book and like it will likely look to my WordPress. Now my WordPress is my way to keep a hooked reader coming back, since it will likely be 18 months before another novel, with a few short stories here and there.

Teasers make people interested. You have a cover release. You show the synopsis. Talk about your inspirations. Make sure to be quick to interact with your audience. If they feel they’re getting to know you, they’re more likely to want to read what you write. They feel a connection.

As for events, everything I’ve seen says this is the most important part of sales within the first six months. I will talk about events more on a later post.

This is a good precursor to preparing yourself for the news your book is live. Hopefully you have a more solid date so you can prepare for it, but either way, when you have a plan, you can enact it when required.

Next time I will talk about what happens after the book goes live! Most of this will be what I’m planning, as well as information gleaned by those already published, since I just got published yesterday.

Self Publishing I: After the Manuscript

I get published next week. Or the week after. It’s surreal. It becomes more surreal when you’re told three months after final proof approval you’ll be in print. Then you send in final proof approval and they say you’ll be in print within 5-7 business days. I went to a vanity press, that’s why the dates are a little weird. I also think they’re a little slow and trying to push as much through the pipeline as possible. Being in the restaurant equipment industry, I get this sentiment.

I want to write about my experience with publishing. Despite the dates, with the whirlwind that goes into getting published, it has been surreal. I have been published already two times, but they were short stories and it just feels empty. I don’t know if that’s me or if others get that, but when I see my short story out, I’m a little like Thor.

Another

Publishing a novel feels different. I hope and think. It may also be that I want to build a large literary empire around it. I’m ambitious. I mean, what’s the point otherwise?

Anyway, you don’t care about that. What you care about is what happens after you finish the manuscript. Not after you finish the first draft, the second or third draft, but the draft where you had a friend look at it, your mom loves it, you love it, but it’s time to thrust it into the world.

By the way, did I say this is very subjective and everyone has their own way? I’ve spoken to a lot of published authors and even publishers on how they do this, and everyone has their way. The only thing that matters for success is that you have a way, you stick to it, and you’re hardheaded. Thick-skinned. Heavy-sacked. However you want to say it. Seriously. I just know I was a little side swiped by what all goes into this.

Continuing!

A common trend today in writing is once you’re feeling good about the book, find beta readers. These are often friends, though usually friends with some reading and editing insight. Also preferably friends who are bought off with a signed copy in the future and maybe a hug and a lunch. Or just mutual beta reading. While I still suggest hiring an editor, this is sort of a test group.

Give the manuscript out to a half dozen or so souls you trust for their opinion. Through writing groups I’ve made friends that I trust in different areas, whether it is grammar, plot, etc. They are still friends, but writing groups are also a great way to do strategic networking.

The beta readers can give a lot of information as far as what worked, what didn’t, and where you’ve been so distracted that even though you “edited” the part five times, you missed a period. I’ve had a few correct bad grammar habits I didn’t realize I had. Apparently towards is British and toward is American. Who knew?

After this, give it a run through for the beta readers.

While beta readers were digesting the manuscript, I was also working on some information touches! I give my beta readers a month, and I don’t want to slack off.

Think of a synopsis. I know, 250 words is difficult, but tell your story in 250 words. Keep doing it until it looks succinct and awesome.

Now that that’s over, tell it in 25. I know. Some of you had your eyes bulge. Your gut clenched. You may have even vomited. It’s okay. I’m here to hold your hair back.

The 25 word synopsis is important. This is the keynote, and it’s a brief description so people can get an immediate idea of what they’re about to read. It is not so much about your story, but about what it is like.

For G’desh (though this isn’t the exact one, as it’s on another computer):

An action epic inspired by Arabian Nights, in which two armies declare a holy war. Follow an assassin, prophet, and warrior in this mystical world.

Boom. 25. I rewrote those probably a dozen times. I think this may actually be my best yet, but it’s too late for that nonsense. The more you practice the 25 word keynote/synopsis, the better you get at it. From just those 25 words, a reader knows it’s going to be Arabian, magicky, there will be war and religion, and there are three view points, or at least three central characters. Maybe they’ll read the book based on that alone. Maybe they will at least read the 250 word synopsis which is far more detailed in breaking down the conflicts and characters. At the very least they have a brief idea of the story. This can also be equated to an elevator pitch.

Don’t forget a picture and author biography. Make the biography awesome. There are plenty out there to look at to get an idea. I throw a little mission statement in there about wanting readers to look to the classics, as well as get excited to go on their own adventures. This will help people understand and relate to you. Yes, it’s on a shallow level, but I’m going to tell you now half of it is perception. So figure out the perception you want, and conjure it up in 50 to 100 words.

I also used this time to come up with keywords for Amazon. It helps people search you more easily. I’d suggest doing research on good keywords. Despite the simplicity I probably went a week on and off to figure out exactly what I wanted.

In two days I will go over getting ready for proofs and release date.

As I said, there are a dozen ways to do this, especially self publishing. Everyone’s journey is different, and I’m by no means a master, but I was definitely overwhelmed when I signed the contract for the vanity press. What do you do to get ready for publishing? Leave comments to help educate.

Write, but Don’t Write for the Money

2c9cb67So, my fiancee just beat me horribly at a game of monopoly… seriously, my luck in this game was just plain pathetic… and I might have made a bad trade call that effectively ended the game… still, with better luck I could definitely have pulled it out. Anyway, I was low on money, and even mortgaging my properties wasn’t going to pull me out of the hole I was in. A lot of us have been at this point in real life as well. I know I have… honestly, most of my friends are tired of hearing my story about the time I could only afford to eat a can of green beans (which I got for free) a day. It was rough, and when things are rough it’s easy to put your faith in stories. As writers, most of us have heard about how J.K. Rowling was living on the British welfare system until the first Harry Potter novel brought money flowing in, or we hear about some self-published author who’s making a living wage off of one book that sells for $.99 a copy. Now, I’m sure that there’s more to each of these stories than we often think. I have no doubt that a lot of sweat, tears, and yes, possibly even blood went into the books that sent these author’s into the literary stratosphere. However, even if you are willing to put in the work, which most of us generally aren’t, and have the skill, which most of us probably don’t, something similar still probably won’t happen to you.

Consider that Rowling is a truly excellent writer. Of course, there are plenty of published author’s whose works I pick up and the first thing I think is ‘I can write better than this.’ This is the first lie that we tell ourselves – 1) even if it isn’t a very good author, if I’m honest I can probably write as well as that author, but maybe not better. We all tend to exaggerate our own skill, especially when comparing it to someone we don’t like reading very much. The second lie we tell ourselves is ‘this will happen to me.’ Note, we often phrase this as ‘this could happen to me.’ However, I have to admit that when I decided to self-publish my first book I did a lot of research. I knew the stories of several self-published authors whose work took off, but I also knew that most self-published books were lucky to sell ten copies. Even though I knew that, there was a little part of me that said, ‘I’ll be the exception.’ My book will sell, people will love it, a publisher will find out about it and beg to give me a huge contract to write a series, and soon stickers will be put on my books that read ‘2 Million Copies Sold’… …my book sold about a hundred and thirty copies, give or take ten.

tumblr_lv4ndj59en1qi5zdvPublishers receive tens of thousands of manucripts a year, and even with an agent (and your chances of getting an agent for a first novel aren’t incredible), you book isn’t likely to get published. Further, even if it does, most works of fiction don’t stay on the shelves for very long. The books that stay on the shelves are the ones that sell. Often the ones that sell are the ones that 1) are written by household names or cult favorites, and 2) the ones that are advertised out the wazoo and receive stellar reviews from influential critics. So, even if you do get a book published, don’t expect to make a living off of it. I met an author a couple of years ago who was a good writer… he’d written over 150 books and most of them were out of print. When I met him he was working on two different projects just to keep a reasonable income. On top of this, even if you book does sell fairly well, it’s likely that you’ll never receive royalties that overrun your forward. If you do publish a book the company will generally pay you for the right to publish it and make money off of it up front. I’m told that this is usually about $5000 for new fiction authors. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it… how long did it take you to write that book? Now consider – most people make over $20,000/year, and you’ll probably never make more than that first $5000 off of your book.

So, with all of these challenges, why would anyone write, much less try to make a living writing? Well, first of all, the majority of authors in the world don’t make a living writing. Most authors have a day job and write because they love it. They don’t expect to live off of their income from writing and this is actually less true now than in the past. Further, most writers who do make a living writing actually write non-stop, and they’re good at it. I remember reading a passage from Terry Goodkind… he pointed out that he generally spends 12-14 hours a day writing. Also, many writers who write for a living are journalists, not fiction authors. Writing magazine articles is a lot different than writing novels. So, as a writer, don’t expect to make a living off of your writing. Keep your day job (at least until you’re making enough to live on).

1090078Second, as I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, writing is worth it even if you don’t make money. The point of all writing should be, in the words of Aristotle in Poetics, ‘to entertain and to educate.’ If you make a little money along the way, that’s great. However, the best works of fiction are those with a point. Think about Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Herbert’s Dune, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Asimov’s I, Robot. Here we have two works of moral philosophy, a work of philosophical theology, a work of theology, and a work of speculative science and philosophy in the guise of fiction. Truly great books have something to say and what the author’s are trying to say is more important than making money. Now, this isn’t to say that we should sacrifice story for message, but it is to say that writing for money masks the real purpose of writing – to say something meaningful to the world.

Third, writing is catharsis. I mentioned this as well a couple of weeks ago. The book I wrote was, honestly, as much for me as for anyone else. I think it’s a worthwhile novel with a worthwhile message, a good story, a strong voice, and an original world. Those who’ve read it seem to agree. However, it also helped me deal with some serious questions I’d had, and with a difficult time in my life. Write for yourself and your message first, money is a bonus.

The Treatment of Women in Fiction Part 2

In my last post I broached the topic of how women are portrayed in fiction. I think I made it clear that I am not a feminist, that I do not have an particular disagreement with the use of graphic material in general, and that I have no actual problems with male centered media. However, this doesn’t men that I don’t recognize the fact that the mistreatment of women in fiction is a problem, or that there is a relative lack of female centered media in some genres and/or mediums. For instance, I can’t think of many female centered comic books, and while Urban Fantasy has a high number of female authors writing female centered works of average or higher quality, Epic Fantasy doesn’t have many (or at least I haven’t found many good, published ones… actually aside from Gail Z Martin and K.E. Mills [neither of which I particularly like, though my issues with Mills have more to do with personal style preferences than quality, while her writing is strong, I get bored…] I can’t actually think of any off the top of my head apart from Ursula Leguin, and all three focus on male leads).

This is, I think, one of the key problems. For instance, if we look at works written by female authors, I’m guessing (I haven’t actually done a study, though perhaps somebody should) that most of them pass the Bechdetest, but I wonder how man of them would pass a male oriented view of the test. As a male author I have to admit that I don’t really know what women think about, or what they talk about when I’m not around. I can write believable, realistic male characters because I am a man, but I struggle to write believable, realistic female characters outside of a man’s perspective on them. I could, obviously, write female characters that thought and acted like men, and if I did so, then I could easily write works that pass the Bechdel test. However, I don’t think that giving men breasts and calling them ‘Lucania’ is a working answer to the underlying problem. Certainly a significant part of the reason that many television programs don’t portray realistic females is due to the lack of female Television writers. I’ve no doubt that many will argue that this shows obvious sexism in Hollywood’s employment practices, and it is certainly a possibility (there isn’t much that I’d put past Hollywood), but this strikes me as a kneejerk reaction until I see evidence that writers are actually being rejected because of their gender. Ultimately, there are many reasons why women are under-represented in certain professions, and equally over-represented in other professions.

There is also conflicting evidence and arguments concerning the amount of women who are actually trying to write speculative fiction (see here and here for two very different sets of numbers). So, one very real possibility for the very masculine view of women portrayed in Science Fiction and Fantasy is that not many women are actually writing science fiction and fantasy. As I pointed out above, men aren’t women, and while some of us do our best, writing good female characters doesn’t come naturally to us. It is also very possible that there is a degree of sexism in the editing and reviewing industries that is involved. However, it is equally possible that there is simply a lack of interest. A fairly high percentage of reviewers (both professional and non-professional) are male, and this brings me to conflate a point I made in my last post with a point I made above.

Men and women think differently, and this leads the genders to different hobbies, pursuits, enjoyments, etc. While I tried very hard to read The Necromancer King by Gail Martin, it just wasn’t very good. The Accidental Sorcerer by Karen Mills, on the other hand, was actually a well-written book. It just wasn’t one I was particularly interested in. Like Mark Twain, Mills’ story just didn’t click with me, and this has been true for the majority of female authors that I’ve read. I do enjoy a few female Urban Fantasy and light fantasy authors such as Patricia Briggs and J.K. Rowling, but again, other well known female fantasy authors such as Stephanie Meyers, Suzanne Collins, Charlaine Harris, and Anne Rice hold little interest for me. By and large most of the men that I know (and this by no means equals all) tend to prefer to read male authors than female authors. Likewise, most of the women I know tend to prefer female authors (though, again, this by no means equals all). Does this mean that those people are all sexist? By no means. I think a much better explanation is found in the above claim that men and women think differently. Likewise, men and women tend to write differently, and enjoy different styles of writing.

So, while I do certainly think that it is important to support the female authors in the science fiction, fantasy genre already, I think that if we really want a stronger percentage of good, strong, realistic female characters we need a higher percentage of female authors, publishers, and reviewers. Which, of course, presents its own set of problems. …There’s never an easy answer, is there?

Considering Your Goals in Writing

Well, Paul’s out of the country at the moment (or soon will be, I can’t actually remember the email he sent me) and can’t put up a post for today. I’m afraid that I’m also swamped this week, so the posts for today and Thursday are probably going to be fairly brief, and I want to apologize for that in advance. However, something that I’ve been thinking about lately is goals in writing. What are your goals? Do you want to be published professionally? Do you want to write a novel? Are you simply writing for fun or to express some part of your inner self? Do you have something specific to say? Ultimately, the goals that we set forth with can and should influence both the way that we write, and what we choose to write in the first place.

For instance, if my goal is to be professionally published, then I probably need to focus on writing things that publishers think will sell. There are, at any given time, a few specifics that publishers are looking for. Sometimes its a particular genre (such as mystery or epic fantasy), sometimes its a format (last I looked long, drawn out series of novels were popular), sometimes it’s a specific theme. Right now, I’m fairly sure that drawn out series of paranormal romance novels are popular (why I haven’t been able to figure out). Whatever publishers are looking for at the time, if you write that, you have a better chance of catching someone’s attention.

That being said, it’s important to think about your ultimate goal in writing, because that will shape both what you write and the way you write. Robert Heinlein often showed a willingness to sacrifice story elements in his novels in order to make the point he was getting at stronger (Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land are both excellent examples of this). On the other hand J.K. Rowling’s novels are excellent stories, but often don’t seem to have any particular point to make (though she does obliquely address several issues. Some novels *cough*fiftyshadesofgray*cough* seem to be little more than fanfiction fantasies that someone put a book cover on.

Everyone, obviously, want to write our best works. Writers want to do the best we are capable of doing (…admittedly I’m making some egregious assumptions here), and we want people to appreciate that. However, something that each writer has to realize is that the best I can do is not the same as the best that Stephen King or Frank Herbert can do. If we focus on our specific goals in writing, then we can hopefully have a better experience overall and actually enjoy the writing that we love to do. One of the most damaging things that I’ve found is unrealistic expectations. If I write something expecting to be the next Stephen King, and I only sell 2000 copies, then I will probably be miserable. However, if I take my abilities in stride and do the best that I can, recognizing the limitations of my own ability, then I stand to have a great time, and possibly receive even better responses than I might have expected.

The Pillars of Zedrun-Tor

I’ve written here several times about my new world, Kalagrosh, and used it as an example in some of the world building and background writing posts that I’ve put up.  Well, recently one of the editors of Gallery of Worlds from Lantern Hollow Press, and he asked me to consider writing a ‘creepy story’ for their next issue.  I haven’t entirely decided yet, but I’m seriously considering doing so, and I’m seriously considering setting it in Zedrun-Tor.  Of course, this means that I need to some serious development on Zedrun-Tor, because right now all I have for it is a few city names and the basic idea that it’s ruled by hybrid demon summoners.  Lastly, I’ve been dealing with some writer’s block lately, and whenever I try to write a blog post, well… nothing good seems to come out.  So I figured I’d try to kill two birds with one stone and make my next few posts about Zedrun-Tor.  I’m sure that some of you will find these very interesting, and others will probably be bored stiff.  Please bear with me while I get myself together.

So, the cities of Zedrun-Tor.  Zedrun-Tor is a small country, at least relative to many of the other nations of Kalagrosh, but it has nine cities or outposts worth noting:

Zorek’har: The capital of Zedrun-Tor is also one of the largest port cities in Kalagrosh.  Zorek’har sits on the northern coast of Kalagrosh and at the mouth of a river known as the Hav to those of Zedrun-Tor and as the Nyoka by the Ubinese to the south.  The ruler of Zorek’har is the Bhutara, or the demon-blooded, and is always the most powerful sorcerer in the nation.  The nobility of Zedrun-Tor are all demon spawned sorcerers, and they regularly challenge one another to dangerous, and sometimes lethal, duels to determine their ranking.  Zorek’har commonly welcomes ships from distant lands, and then trades these exotic goods with the river lords, the people of Fa’ar, and sometimes even with the Ubinese, though relations with their neighbor are often strained.

Drun’har: Drun’har serves a dual purpose, both as a grain city, sitting on a good deal of fertile land, and as a guard against the wilds of the Krevari Highlands to the west.  Though Drun’har sits on the Hav, it is not much of a port city.  The strong military presence combined with the generally sedate nature of the cities inhabitants lends itself to a high degree of order, which does not attract the much wilder sailors from Zorek’har.  Strengthening this orderly attitude even more is the fact that the ruler of Drun’har is not an average sorcerer.  While very powerful Harahen does not take part in the obsessive politics and power-plays of the elite.  In fact, he is content to ignore his fellow sorcerers, and they are equally content to ignore him.

Torban: Torban is a small city, little more than a farming and fishing community, and yet it is also the port of choice between Zaronda and Zoreh’har.  While the city itself is small and has little to trade, it does have a large number of taverns, inns, and hostels, and many fishermen make a little extra money by renting out their rooms (and sometimes their wives or daughters) to traveling sailor.  Needless to say, the people of Torban are not exactly the most moral, even in a nation like Zedrun-Tor, but they are good at making a little money off of just about anything they can.

Zaronda: Zaronda is either the first or the last Zedrun city that river travelers see.  Zaronda is also a much wilder city than Drun’har, and sometimes even wilder than Zorek’har.  While Zaronda has a large farming community, much like Drun’har, the farmers do not have nearly as much control over the rule of the city proper.  The city is ruled by the Yajam of the Bhatastik Salaph (or School of Demonology), and his council of instructors, which means that the magical elite has a very strong presence in Zaronda, almost as strong as it’s presence in Zorek’har.  Zaronda also has a strong military presence, but unlike the defensive stance and mindset of Drun’har, the garrison in Zaronda commonly sends raiding forces into Ubio.  Much of the military in Zaronda is demonic in nature, and the city also employs a large number of mercenaries.

Dulun: Dulun is more fort than city.  There are a few farms and ranches scattered around the area, but Dulun itself is an obviously and entirely military establishment.  Much like Zaronda, Dulun often focuses more offensive military action than defensive.  There are regular raids and border disputes with Ubio, and many of these are started by the Zedruns.  Of course, to the Zedrun mindset, the Ubinese are simply in the way, and haven’t yet realized that they need to bow to the greater strength of Zedrun-Tor.

Mim’har:  There are two cities in Zedrun-Tor named after the great holy man and demonologist, Mim.  Mim’har, or the City of Mim, was founded by the self-professed prophet of blood and shadow (though many would call him a madman).  Mim’har has always been a religious center to the Zedruns, though it does not have the political clout of either Zaronda or Zorek’har.  While the majority of sorcerers in Zedrun-Tor are trained in Zaronda, the temple of Masadna Kater has trained a number of the strongest sorcerers in Zedrun-Tor.  However, the temple is extremely selective in their admittance, and only graduates a handful of sorcerers every year.  These mostly join the temple orders and provide a strong religious foundation for the nation.

Mim:  The city of Mim is important as a site of religious pilgrimage.  While it is a relatively large mining city, it is also the birthplace of Mim, and was renamed in honor of the prophet.  Mim is seen as a holy city, and so the temple of Masadna Kater maintains a strong presence within.  The temple ensures that the population of Mim maintain the temple rituals and honors that Masadna Kater demands, and thus maintain the holiness of the city.  They also determine which pilgrims are holy enough to visit the city, and which are not.

Dormiz: Dormiz is less of a city and more of a cluster of inns and taverns that stand about a day’s travel from Mim (the closest anyone is allowed to travel without permission).  Dormiz is where pilgrims wait until they are either allowed entrance to Mim, or turned away, and it is also where pilgrims attempt to purify themselves in order to gain admittance to the holy city.  Along with inns and taverns, Dormiz has many small shrines and temples dedicated to Masadna Kater and his many servants.

Miniz: Miniz is a port city, and is also the major port from which Zedrun-Tor’s mineral deposits are shipped.  While some shipments travel downriver from Mim to Mim’har, the danger of the Mimna Usiru (or Mim’s Breath) flows into Ubio shortly past Mim’har, and the Zedruns do not generally trust it as a means of shipping goods further south, as neither Mim nor Mim’har have the military forces to effectively protect the transports.  Thus, much of the mineral wealth (both ore and gemstones) or Zedrun-Tor finds its way to Miniz, and from there is either shipped overseas or down the coast to Zorek’har.  Needless to say, a city populated mostly by miners and sailors is not a peaceful place.  So, while Miniz sees little interference from either the priesthood or the magical elite, it is a wild and unruly city, and is known as a haven for criminals of every stripe.

Okay! So, those are the nine major cities of Zedrun-Tor.  Comments are welcome, of course, and I’ll try to put up more as each city, and the nation itself, is developed.

 

Time to Start Writing

Spears are fun!

Alright, so if you’ve been following along with the character creation posts, then by now you should know your character fairly well.  Either you’ve taken the time to talk to your character, and to find out about his/her personality, or you’ve answered a ton of questions about the character.  Your character should also have a set of things that he/she is good at, or that he/she is bad at.  Now it’s time to start writing, but the first thing to write is not what you want to use the character in.  You see, the best character’s have history – a backstory – and you’ve only started to develop that.  Now you want to start fleshing it out.

This is where the two models of character creation merge into one.  You should pick an important event in your character’s life (something that the character told you about [natural method], or a question that you have already answered in brief [ordered method]) and write a story about it.  This doesn’t have to be a long story, it could be as little as a few hundred words, or as long as a few thousand, but the key is to write the story of something important to the character.  Don’t just do this once, do it several times.  Take the time to write out several of the most important events in your character’s life – his wedding, his father’s death, how he left home, or where that giant scar on his back came from.  This allows you to get to know your character even better, but of equal importance is the material that it gives you for later stories.  Remember that references (even in passing) can make a character come to life – mystery makes things interesting.

Remember that whether it's a character or a location, a little mystery can make a story a lot more interesting.

This mystery can be introduced by just making stuff up – Kellin has a scar on the back of his hand from the battle of Jacink – but this leads to the question, what happened at the battle of Jacink? What were they fighting over? How was Kellin involved? If he was the general of the victorious army, then he might wear the scar as a badge of pride, but if he was a bystander caught in the middle of a fight, then he might be bitter about it.  These details don’t have to make it into the story that you want to write, but they will affect how the character reacts to certain situations.  If the scar is a badge of pride over winning a close battle, then Kellin might display it, or even draw attention to it.  If it is a reminder of a horrible event then he might refuse to answer questions, or even try to hide it.  The details of the character’s life will help to lend the character reality, even if you never tell your audience what those exact details might be.

These small stories can also help in other ways.  For one it is a way for you to get to know the character better.  The more you write about the character, the better you will know how that character will respond to a given situation.  They can also be polished, and later used as advertising material (if you are self-publishing) or sold to magazines.  This kind of writing gives you a backlog of stories that can come in handy in any number of ways, and even if they never get used – it’s fun to write them.  Try to write at least three to five stories about a new character.  That way you have a sufficient number, without going overboard and setting the rest of your writing too far back.