Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 19-21, 2013

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a grumpy Monday around here and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was that hard-sell video lying in wait in my inbox this morning. Grrrr. But enough of that: there’s Great Stuff ahead!

CRAFT

Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) Writing on the Ether posts have always been frustrating for me. On the one hand, they often have useful or at least interesting information in them. On the other hand, they’re so freakin’ long. I mean, 5,078 words this time? Seriously? Which is a shame, because buried in all those words are two useful sections. One is on a study by Teresa Frohock (@TeresaFrohock) on whether readers can tell the difference between male and female authors when they don’t know who wrote a particular piece. The short answer is no. You can find the full report here. If you want to read the full Ether discussion, including a diversion into whether boys or girls are reading more, and two tangential tweet copies, click here.

So it’s ironic that the next piece here is Joe Bunting’s (@write_practice) 3 Ways to Compress Your Story Like Les Misérables on Writer Unboxed. Compress like les Mis, eh? Turns out, Bunting’s referring to the compression of the original novel into the play and the recent movie musical, which he says requires these steps: choose the right moments; combine characters; and write a good story, then cut. Good advice, all, though tough to do. Be sure to check out the supporting quotes.

Let’s stay with the practical tips and visit Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) Top Five Mistakes Writers Make. Clear, simple, practical advice that I’m much more conscious of since he pinged me on most of them when he edited my WIP. D’oh!

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) has pretty much finished teaching us how to structure our scenes, so now it’s time for the sequel, which would be… sequels. And in Pt. 7: The Three Building Blocks Of The Sequel, she does just that. To give you a preview, those blocks are Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision, which every sequel, no matter how brief, should include.

BUSINESS

Anderson also includes a section on author Cory Doctorow’s (@doctorow) take on writing, publishing, and visibility in another section of the same Ether post titled Beyond DBW: More Conferences. What that has to do with what Doctorow says isn’t clear. Here’s the key quote, though (emphasis Doctorow’s): “Here’s the thing about fame: although it’s hard to turn fame into money in the arts, it’s impossible to turn obscurity into money in the arts. It doesn’t matter how you plan on making your money — selling books or downloads, selling ads, getting sponsorship, getting crowdfunded, getting commissions, licensing to someone else who’s figured out how to make money — you won’t get the chance unless people have heard of your stuff.”

THE WRITING LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) summarizes the key points from the Stockdale Paradox and applies them to the writing life (courtesy Jim Collins, author of Good to Great) in 3 Ways to Change Your Thinking Today. “Stockdale” refers to 8-year Vietnam Prisoner of War Jim Stockdale and the philosophy he used to survive that ordeal. In short, for writers, the 3 points are: decide that you will find success; embrace your current challenges; and face your situation realistically, being willing to work as hard as necessary to overcome your challenges. Easier to say than to do, but necessary.

I hope this sets you up for a great week.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 20 & 21, 2012

Happy New Era Day! The 14th Bak’tun seems to have started without incident. Hope you’re not one of those prepper folks who’s now looking around at their cases of Twinkies® and wondering what they’re going to do with them all. (Oh, right: eBay!) Anyway, today is also Flip-Flop Day. Bet’cha didn’t know that. (And it has nothing to do with politics.) Check it out: 12-flip-21-flop-12. See? Flip-Flop Day. And there won’t be another one until January 10, 2101.

OK, enough silliness. We have SERIOUS stuff to consider.

CRAFT

Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) pulls back the curtain a bit to reveal her techniques for World Building – Indigo-style on The Kill Zone. For those of you who aren’t aware, as I wasn’t, Dane’s latest book, Indigo Awakening, is the next in a YA psychic-mystery series about teens with special abilities who might be the next evolutionary form of humanity. Whether you’re willing to accept that premise or not isn’t important here; what is is Dane’s discussion of how she created the world in which the Indigo children and their variants live and try to survive.

BUSINESS

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) addresses a subject that can be awkward, or at least lead to unsatisfying results: Should Fiction Authors Be Bloggers? While his ultimate answer is “it depends,” which isn’t very helpful, he does suggest things a new fiction writer might do in order to build a following during those first few lonely years of your career. All of you, dear readers, are part of the path I’ve chosen. Thank you! In time we’ll see where it takes us.

TECHNOLOGY

I realize not all of you have a web site or blog and not all of you who do base it on WordPress. If you fall into the first of those “not” categories, you can skip this summary. If you fall into the second, the basic message is important, even if the specific details may not apply. Anders Vinther writes on ProBlogger, Backing Up WordPress? Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes. Some of the 9—not backing up ever, not backing up often enough, not backing up the right things, not backing up to a secure and separate location—apply to anyone with a blog or web site. Even better, Vinther, who writes for the web site The WordPress Security Checklist, also provides links to other posts and tips to help you do things right. Having had a website crash without a backup, I know how painful failing to do this is.

THE WRITING LIFE

A couple of posts back we had a dozen dozens. Now Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) does one better with his occasionally tongue-in-cheek A Baker’s Dozen: Thirteen Traits of a Great Writer. A couple examples: “You are an avid reader” [serious]; “You are vaguely aware of other people, whom you believe probably live in your house because they seem to be there with some regularity” [not-so-serious?].

I’m tempted to send Anna Elliott’s (@anna_elliott)—well, her husband’s, actually—post On the Care and Feeding of Your Writer on Writer Unboxed to a writer friend of mine. Her loving and well-meaning husband isn’t a writer, they live in a very small house, and, well, you can guess the rest of that story. (Or what was the end until she created, with his help, a special writing place.) In any case, Anna’s husband’s eight ways he supports her just might be the sorts of hints you’ll want to share—ever so subtly, of course, like taped to the front side of a 2 X 4—with that special someone in your life. Might make a great Christmas present—sans the 2 X 4, anyway. ;)

FUN

The folks at Writer’s Digest (Zachary Petit, specifically) have put together a fun little set of holiday quotes in Happy Holidays from WD. Phyllis Diller had something to say about the holidays! Who knew?

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

Like many other blogs and bloggers, Great Stuff will be taking a break until just after the new year—January 2nd, to be exact. I’m WAY behind on my Critique Technique posts, so I’ll try to get one or two of them up, but many other things are under way that will lead to IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS soon(-ish). I’m excited about what’s coming and I hope you’ll enjoy the results one they appear on a computer screen near you.

Here’s hoping that whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year, they’re wonderful. And if you don’t have a holiday to celebrate, celebrate anyway! It’s better than sitting around moping and there’s a whole year of new writing waiting just around the corner for you.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 1-3, 2012

Busy, busy weekend, with lots and lots of Great Stuff on the web. No more delays—let’s get right to it all.

CRAFT

OK, it sounds like an oxymoron, or maybe a new twist on a long-standing theme, or maybe even a new way to cross genres, but in fact Mark Alpert’s (@AlpertMark) The Poetic Thriller is none of these. Well, not quite, anyway. Along his writing journey, Mark realized that poem and thrillers should both (you’ll pardon his pun) “end with a bang.” Maybe not literally with a gunshot but with a line the reader won’t soon forget. Not just thrillers, either, by the way.

There were several posts relating to character over the weekend.

  • James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) What Writers Can Learn From Downton Abbey on The Kill Zone is one. Five of the 7 things he identifies have to do with character.
  • Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) first part of a coming series on realistic characters, Stereotypes and Character Traits delves into what mix of what types of traits primary characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist,  and secondary characters should have.
  • Geoff Wyss’s Character and Mystery on Glimmer Train’s bulletin seems to contradict, at least in part, what Harvey wrote, but in large part that’s just the difference between the culture of literary fiction and other genres. Thanks to Jane Friedman for pointing out this article.

Receiving feedback on one’s writing, like editing and rewriting, are (or should be) part of our writing process. So Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) brought in Jake [Last name not revealed! What’s up with that?], founder of a feedback and editing advice web site called DocuToss to write about Editing Through Community Critique. He makes some good points about why we should seek out feedback from others, and maybe you’ll want to check out DocuToss, but I know, dear readers, you also know about my Critique Technique posts, and I hope they’re useful to you.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUSINESS

Denise Wakeman’s (@denisewakeman) Four Super Easy Ways to Create Quote Graphics for Facebook, Pinterest and Your Blog introduces some really cool tools. You know what a quote graphic is, of course: an image of some sort used as a background behind a quote. So now you can choose between Pinwords, Pinstamatic, Quozio, or Picmark to brighten up that post. What’s even more cool is all are free, all are purely web-based (no downloads required), and only Picmark requires you to create an account.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) compiled a set of 8 pieces she calls Best Business Advice for Writers on her own blog. Two stand out but all are worth a look.

  • Otis Chandler (@otown), the founder of Goodreads wrote How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel: A Case Study and I think it and the accompanying slide presentation available via slideshare are must-reads for any budding author. Critical information here on how one author (Colleen Hoover) went from unknown to picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books YA imprint in just 7 months! OK, a sample size of one should be treated with caution, but the study shows what she and Goodreads readers did to make that book a success.
  • Darcy Pattison’s (@FictionNotes) Facebook Best Practices for Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Posts is quite long and will take time to read and absorb, but if you want to get better results from this social medium, it’ll be worth your time to study this one.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) reminds us that when it comes to social media, A Community Means Getting a Response, and then goes on to suggest ways for you to do just that.

I know this post will have only limited appeal, but if you’re thinking about turning a blog into a book, check out Becca Puglisi’s (@beccapuglisi) guest post on How to Blog a Book, titled How a Blog Series Created Reader Demand for a Booked Blog. If Becca’s name rings a bell, it’s because she and Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse are the co-authors of the various thesauri they’ve put on the Muse. And you probably know that they turned their emotion thesaurus into a book, which is what this post is about: lessons learned along the way. Useful material if the idea’s been on your mind.

Speaking of turning, sure, plenty of us have thought or dreamed about, maybe even planned for having our book turned into a movie. But what about a TV series? Laurie Scheer (@UWwriters) discusses A Novel Idea for a Series: When Writers Think About Adapting Their Novel for TV on Writer Unboxed. Long post short, there’s a lot more to it than you’d probably expect at first, and a lot of work you’ll have to do. But, if the idea intrigues you, check the post out.

Staying on the subject of movies (sort of), mystery writer James Moushon (@jimhbs) looks at book trailers and wonders, Do Authors Get Enough Bang for Their Buck? The short answer to this long post is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Fortunately, he suggests ways for writers to get a trailer that’s a yes. Warning: the red background of this blog is a bit hard on the eyes.

On a lighter but still serious note, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) lists 7 Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh (and not in a good way). Don’t use these. Please!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

I have to admit when I saw this title on Writer Unboxed—What Working Out Taught Us about Writing OR How We Saved Our Writerly Asses—I wondered if it was one of those posts that would end up with a 404 Page Not Found error. Or worse. Not so. In fact, it’s Julia Munroe Martin (@wordsxo) and Bernadette Phipps-Lincke (bernadette.lincke on Facebook) writing about how getting regular exercise helps their writing. It’s a long post, so it’ll take a little endurance to get through it, but they’re right and I know I should be getting more exercise than I am, too. So, OK, “yes, dears.” ;)

FUN

Know a special writer? Of course you do. Want to give them a special holiday gift? Check out OPERATION: HELP THE ELF! On The Bookshelf Muse. You can also put your name and blog address if you have one on Santa’s “Nice List.” :)

Have you “Liked” this Great Stuff post, or another one in the past? Thank you! But don’t keep it a secret! Tell just one writer friend about it. They’ll be glad you did.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 3-5, 2012

It’s interesting how the best posts over the weekend had to do with the writing life. We’ll do a couple of others first.

CRAFT

There’s a genre that lives on the boundary between mainstream fiction and fantasy and incorporates elements of both. In Defining Magic Realism Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) discusses the genre and its key characteristics. If this is a genre you’re interested in or just curious about, check out this post.

SOCIAL MEDIA

I’m not a Google+ user myself but Maria Peagler’s (@SM_OnlineClass) How to Use Google+ as an Author Platform on Write to Done is one of the most thorough yet practical and approachable articles of its kind I’ve seen. If you’re already a Google+ user or considering signing up, this is a must-read article.

BUSINESS

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) posts a long-for-him piece on why The Publishing Industry Is Not Deserving of Special Protection. This, of course, goes back to the various lawsuits floating around regarding Amazon and the Big-6 publishers, and his point is that while there’s some reason to be concerned about a potential Amazon.com monopoly over book distribution, that’s no reason for protectionist legal rulings simply because an industry is going through changes. Books will still get to readers. The prices may be lower and the distribution methods different, but readers will still read. Will the publishing houses embrace change and help shape it, or will they fight it to their own deaths?

THE WRITING LIFE

I’m tempted to write that it’s sad we need etiquette reminders and what a reflection that is of this day and age and yada yada yada but I’m not so sure this time and generation is all that much different from those who’ve gone before. In any case, Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) Manners Matter: 13 Etiquette Tips deserves a look. My absolute favorite, and one we need to stand up for when we’re on the losing end of it, is #11: “Pay attention to the person with whom you’re interacting.” In other words, when you’re talking with someone in person and your cell phone rings, LET IT RING. That’s what voice mail is for! It’s rude and disrespectful to blow someone off to answer your phone, check the latest instant message or tweet, or whatever. Why we don’t understand that is beyond me. GRRRRR.

On the topic of personal interactions, James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) post Making Readers One at a Time is not only an great example of treating someone—in this case, a perfect stranger—with kindness and respect, he shows how he was able to turn that stranger into a new reader of his books.

Continuing with that theme, Becky Johnson (@beckyajohnson) writes about Stranglers or Wranglers? The Super Power of Encouragement on WordServe Water Cooler. Her story is about two critique groups at the University of Wisconsin. One called themselves “The Stranglers,” the other “The Wranglers.” Over the years, the members of the Stranglers, who had focused on criticism, never achieved any literary success, while the Wranglers produced a Pulitzer Prize winner. Johnson’s point: be sure to include encouragement in your critiques. Always good advice.

Finally, Mark Alpert issues a warning: Be Careful What You Read!!! It started when he noticed that after reading a log of Tom Wolfe’s writing, he began to write like Wolfe! Especially when it came to using exclamation points! To excess! Everywhere! What about you? Do you tend to pick up certain tendencies if you read a lot of one author’s work in quick succession?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 28 and 29, 2012

Today’s round-up features a lot of business-related articles again, with a special focus on e-publishing. Important information here. But we’ll start with one piece on

CRAFT

Literary fiction in particular loves the ending that leaves the reader hanging. Other genres will accept it, too, but less often and less well. KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) lists 10 Stories with (Brilliant) Loose Ends on her WORDplay blog, and her summaries of each are worth studying. But more important, I think, are her two summary points on what’s needed to make such endings work: “create a sense of realism and verisimilitude,” and “engage the readers’ imaginations in filling in ‘the rest of the story.’” Good advice. Not easy to do!

OK, on to

BUSINESS

Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) provides a self-described “definitive post” on Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Clear, concise, and simple.

Since we’re on the topic of numbers, Clare Langley-Hawthorne starts a conversation on The Kill Zone about what sales numbers an independently published author needs to hit in order to have a reasonable shot at attracting the attention of a traditional publisher in Low Down on the Numbers. She begins by citing a post by agent Janet Reid that 20,000 for one book is the magic number. What’s “right?” Good question.

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) discusses e-book sales—where they are and where they might be going—in The New World of Publishing: eBooks at 25% but his more important point may be about how the way royalties are calculated in e-publishing contracts from traditional publishers has changed and why the change is bad for writers.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) continues the discussion with a long Field Report from the E-Book Revolution #2 on The Kill Zone, which is long because it covers a lot of topics, ranging from the business cycle to “happiness” as the new currency.

But if e-publishing is still the way you want to go, Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) offers Ten Tips for Emarketing because, after all, all of the job of marketing is likely to fall on your shoulders if you go this route, even if you hire someone to develop your marketing plan. It’s nice to have all of these techniques listed in one easy-to-reference place.

That’s all for today. Have you read something great—or at least interesting? Share it in the Comments below.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 13-15, 2012

YIKES! Where has the day gone? Well, that’s what happens when you drive 45 minutes one way for a 30 minute radio interview—and lunch with writer friends first, of course. Oh, and there were errands to run, too. Of course.

But that’s not getting this post written! It’s been a value-packed weekend and Monday, so let’s get to the Great Stuff, shall we?

CRAFT

Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) reprises a July piece containing his Top 10 Steps to Proofreading Your Own Work. Ones I hadn’t heard before: check long words for omitted vowels; check words for omitted suffixes like –ed and –s; know which words have double vowels and which don’t. And my #1 all-time this is really important one: read your work out loud.

NaNoWriMo

Didn’t I tell you there’d be lots of articles leading up to the National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo? Here are two more:

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) offers his suggestions for How to Write a Novel in a Month on The Kill Zone. He (of course) suggests starting with a week of planning using his LOCK method: Lead (who is it?), Objective (what is it?), Confrontation (the antagonist), Knock-Out Ending (you want one). The ending may change—probably will—but having one to work toward is vital to getting started, even if you’re a “pantser.”

Meanwhile, over at Writer Unboxed, Martha Alderson (@plotwhisperer) advises you to Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo. With a Twitter handle like hers and books like The Plot Whisperer already published, this is no surprise, but her take is to lay out the plot week by week: character introduction and story start in week 1 (or The End of the Beginning), character explores the exotic world of the middle of the book in week 2 (the Recommitment), character faces major challenges in week 3(the Crisis), big finish in week 4 (the Climax).

SOCIAL MEDIA

We’ll head off to the business side of the business with another stop at Writer Unboxed, where Nina Badzin (@NinaBadzin) begins a monthly series on simplifying Twitter. Episode 1: Be a Person, Not a Brand. Her 3 quick tips: have a picture of your face as your avatar; write an inviting, writer-oriented but still human, bio; NO automatic messages! Pop on over to get the details.

BUSINESS

Today’s business posts all have to do with attitude and expectations.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) leads off with Big Dreams vs. Realistic Expectations. She notes the contradictory advice writers get: on the one hand to dream big, on the other to keep their expectations realistic. Her take on this is to be persistent about pursuing those dreams but to manage and control your negative emotions when things don’t go well—which they will at times. Managing your emotions, Rachelle suggests, is the way to keeping your train on its tracks and headed toward your dream destination.

So, how do you deal with that negative emotion of self-doubt? Jon Bard (@CBIClubhouse) offers 5 Ways for Writers to Blast Through Self-Doubt. There’s #3: The Pimple Rule—don’t worry about what other people think of yours; everyone else is worried about theirs. And #2: Ignore the Haters. Check out all 5.

OK, so the book’s done, it’s about to be published. It’s time for you big book launch. Are you ready? Are you planning to do things that sound great—but aren’t? Publicist MJ Rose lists on Buzz, Balls & Hype 11 Things Not to Do Before Your Book Launch. Like: don’t assume people are going to just rush out and buy a book they’ve never heard of, or don’t spend more than 10% of your marketing/PR budget on a trailer. How does she know not to do these things? Because she’s done them all. If you’re getting close to launch time, be sure to check out this post.

This week we welcome Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith), best-selling author and husband of Kristine Kathryn Rusch to the Great Stuff fold with his post The New World of Publishing: Maybe You Wrote a Good Book. Really! Maybe you did. But if you did, you probably got there with an attitude of being hungry to learn the craft and become a better storyteller. But the only way to know for sure is to put your work out there, learn, if possible, from the rejections, and KEEP WRITING.

But what if your book isn’t selling. Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) lists 10 Questions You Need to Answer Honestly if You Want to Sell More Books. A lot of the questions and answers in this long post seem like they should be obvious—has you book been professionally edited, has it been submitted to the right e-book store categories—but others, and the answers to all, are worth the time and study.

Whew! That’s a lot of Great Stuff. What Great Stuff have you found? Share it in the comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 29-October 1, 2012

Lots of Great Stuff showed up over the weekend, so let’s get right to it.

CRAFT

One of the on-going problems I see with the new writers in my writers’ group is punctuation. This isn’t a “kids today don’t know how to…” rant, in part because some of these writers haven’t been kids for a while. Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) provides a one-post summary of most of what writers need to know in Punctuation for Writers. Here’s the one-phrase summary of  the summary: it’s all about the pause. Check it out.

I announced a while back that Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) and Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) of The Bookshelf Muse were starting yet another thesaurus, this one on physical attributes. Their first sample from this one, Hands, appeared over the weekend. If you haven’t checked out any of their thesauri, take a look at this entry. It’ll grab you.

BUSINESS

Jael McHenry’s (@jaelmchenry) Show Me the Baby on Writer Unboxed starts out with what seems like a rant but its real focus is on professionalism: how to be one in query letters, conference pitch sessions, and author interviews. Her point is that “the baby”—how much time and effort we put into writing our book—is of little or no interest to many people, including agents and interviewers/listeners, so we need to minimize how much time we spend talking (or worse, whining!) about that.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) addresses a question we all wonder about these days: How Will Your Book Get Discovered in The Roiling Sea of Digital Publishing? This is, of course, an important question and Bell takes a long time answering it, in part because as his first of six points notes, “There is No Consensus on What Works.” No surprise if you find that unnerving—the entire publishing industry is in such a state of flux right now—but Bell’s suggestions provide a sense of direction and a reason for hope.

Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) Author Bloggingg [sic] 101: The Evolution of Spam is, to be clear, a little mistitled. Better than being just a dry piece on how spam (in this context, the phony comments on blogs) has evolved over time, it offers at the end several ways we bloggers can block, filter, and mostly avoid spam comments, while providing the important reminders that no anti-spam method is perfect and spammers are always coming up with new methods and approaches.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Here’s a new category of columns for you, with four entries today.

Lucille Zimmerman (@LucilleZ) guest posts on Michael Hyatt’s blog on something we all need to know how to do from time to time: How to Avoid Procrastinating When You Feel Overwhelmed. You don’t have to follow all six of her suggestions—in fact none of us probably will—but I’ll bet there will be at least a couple that will click for you and bring your stress level down. “Break assignments down,” her first one, works for me.

What cued me to create this category was two closely-related posts that appeared over the weekend. Kimberly Vargas’ (@_KimberlyVargas) Ever-Increasing Returns on WordServe Water Cooler and Vaughn Roycroft’s (@VaughnRoycroft) The Mentor/Mentee Benefit on Writer Unboxed (isn’t “mentee” an awkward word?) both talk about how we writers benefit by giving and receiving help from others. Finding a mentor, or being one, or giving critique as well as receiving it, help us not only become better writers but get us out of that writer’s garret syndrome it’s so easy to fall into.

Finally, we’ll circle back around to interviews, or in this case, a correspondence. The first writer was in unidentified college professor. The second, Flannery O’Connor. In Flannery O’Connor Gets Snarky, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) shares a part of the professor’s letter to the author, seeking, let’s be honest here, confirmation of his and his class’ literary “interpretation” of A Good Man is Hard to Find. O’Connor’s reply reads, in part, “Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.” Yowch! You can read the entire O’Connor reply here, on the web site Letters of Note.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 8-10, 2012

Whoo-ee, it’s been a busy weekend and Monday out there in writer/blogger-land. Lots to share with you, so let’s get right to it.

On the pure craft side there’s really only one post, Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) To Capitalize or Not To Capitalize: That Is the Question. This is a good summary of a few of the rules regarding capitalization but then there are many more Harvey could cover, and I hope he will. If capitalization is one of your personal bugaboos, give this post a look.

There were a surprising number of posts on the writer’s life, the process of writing, writing tools, etc.

  • If you’re a Scrivener user (I’m just getting started, myself) and you intend to self-publish, then Nick Thacker’s (@nickthacker) Live Hacked post Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.) may be just the thing you’re looking for. Thacker takes you step-by-step, with pictures, through the process of converting a Scrivener file into the ePub and .mobi file formats, using both Scrivener’s built-in tools and a separate program called Calibre. NOTE: this is fairly advanced stuff, so if you’re a new Scrivener user and/or aren’t sure you want to handle e-publishing on your own, just bookmark this article and save it for later. Thanks to Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) for pointing this article out.
  • While we’re on the topic of technology, Whitney Adams lists five Mobile Apps for Writers on DIY MFA. Some, like dictionary.com we’ve probably all heard of; others, like Inspiro, maybe not. But if you’re a mobile-enabled writer, check these out.
  • James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) writes on The Kill Zone about A Writer’s Ego. Face it, we all have one: how else could be dare to write things for publication, to believe what we have to say is worth reading? But of course,our  ego can get us in trouble in all sorts of ways, too, and Bell writes about how to avoid some of those traps.
  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) writes about 10 Excuses for Not Writing – and How to Smash Them on her WORDplay blog. Many of these are inverse-ego (that is, negative self-image) beliefs: “I have no talent,” “people will ridicule my work,” and so on. Kim’s practical yet realistic tips should help if you have problems believing in your own abilities.

Shifting all the way over to the business side now.

  • MAYBE the biggest news of the weekend was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ announcement that not only was Amazon about to release new versions of the Kindle and at new price points, but that Amazon was going to start offering e-books in serial form. That generated a whole spate of comments.
    • The Bookshelf Muse guest blogger Sue Quinn’s (@susankayequinn) take is all positive: It’s a Great Day to Be a Writer. While she’s not just stoked about this new take on an old concept (Charles Dickens, anyone?), she’s certainly right that we writers have more options and opportunities to reach our readers, whether 5 or 5 million, than we’ve ever had.
    • Joe Hartlaub’s take on The Kill Zone, Books on the Installment Plan is more cautious, looking at what he sees as some of the pros and cons of the concept.
    • Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) takes that view into even more detail in his long, as usual “Extra Ether” post, Serial Iterations. This 4-part post discusses the basics of how serialization is going to work on the Kindle, British writer Roz Morris’ experiences with serialization (some positive, some negative), speculates on how reader reactions to a serial’s installments might influence future installments, and closes with some cautionary notes about what that might mean for writing. My take: interesting idea; some writers will embrace it, others won’t at all, still others will use it only in ways that suits their writing and preferred ways of working; but this is not the end of writing as we know it.
  • One more piece on independent publishing. Irish writer Nick Rooney writes about The Self-Publishing Honeypoton The Independent Publishing Magazine’s blog. Rooney notes how the Big 6 publishers are finally, slowly, getting into the electronic publishing world themselves as they realize its business (read money-making) potential. Two interesting and perhaps disturbing points:
    • Rooney identifies a number of publishers who are using services “powered by ASI” (that’s Author Solutions, Inc., the company with a questionable reputation recently purchased by Pearson Publishing). What, exactly, does “powered by” mean and what “services” are these “independent” (?) companies going to provide?
    • Rooney may not have been aware of it, but “honeypot” has a second meaning in American slang which comes from the days before indoor plumbing. “Thunder mug” is a synonym. Significance?
  • And finally (TOLD you it was a busy weekend!), Joel Friedlander is back with a discussion of Chris Brogan’s Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing. The concept, intended to be a time-saver, has a writer establishing a social media “hub”–their web site or blog, say–and then picking social media “outposts” from which they can reach the kinds of readers they’re looking for and bring them back to the hub via links. Joel’s going to be hosting a (NOT free) webinar on this topic next week.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 1-3, 2012

Happy Monday, everyone. Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a day on which governments (generally–police, fire, and the military excepted) stop laboring in honor of labor unions who represent a smaller percentage of the total workforce than they have in decades, while many businesses stay open. Hey, no one said this had to be logical!

The last couple of posts have been real downers, I know, what with some of the scandalous and/or sleazy news that’s been out there lately. Fortunately, the weekend has provided a respite and we can get back to articles on craft, on the good sides of the business, and even have a little fun.

As usual, we’ll start with the pieces on craft, and start those with a couple on character.

  • Kim Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) 17th entry in her WORDplay blog’s Most Common Mistakes series asks, Do Your Characters Lack Purpose? This can be a real problem. Purposeless characters, like purposeless people, wander aimlessly through the story–a story most readers won’t finish because it’s, well, aimless. Characters need goals, Kim writes, and she’s right. Goals are similar to wants and needs, but perhaps a bit more tangible. And if a character has a goal, then the reader has something that will maintain their interest as they watch the character struggle to achieve it (more on this a little later).
  • Not all characters, of course, are nice people, and some of those not-nice people can be story protagonists–the antiheroes. Dr. Antonio del Drago’s (@mythicscribes) The Antihero–Writing a Dark Character that Readers will Love deals with how to develop that complex character whose take on the moral dilemmas he or she faces is different from that of “ordinary” people, while being fully understandable.
  • Another Writer Unboxed entry is Jael McHenry’s (@jaelmchenry) last post in her Flip the Script series. Appropriately, at the end of the series, she advises us to End Anywhere. OK, that sounds too easy, and in fact Jael provides suggestions on to write a satisfying–or at least appropriate–ending without falling into any of these traps: “happily ever after,” the too-twisty twist, or tying up absolutely every single loose end that was ever spun in the story. Of course, a story can end happily, it can finish with a surprise, and it can tie up the loose ends. It just doesn’t have to.
  • Stefani Nellen is a German native who lives in the Netherlands and writes in English (it’s a long story). Her Glimmer Train article (via Jane Friedman’s blog) Things to Do in German When You’re Bored might at first not seem to have anything to do with writing, but it does. You see, she tried translating some of her work originally written in English into German, and discovered in the process that doing so, and trying to make the result something that sounded right and natural in that language, forced her to stop doing some of the tricks she’d been using to try to impress other writers and readers and get to the core of the story. If you speak another language well enough, this might be an interesting exercise. (And am I the only one to notice the irony of an article like this appearing in a literary magazine like Glimmer Train?)

Harvey Stanbrough’s piece On Setting Priorities serves as our transition from craft to business posts, since doing so is ultimately one of those things we all have to do in order to get anything done. Despite all of the other demands on his time, Harvey’s #1 priority is his writing. What each of us places as #1 tells us how much our writing really matters to us.

  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne puts what I hope will be a period on the discussion on buying positive on-line book reviews in her Kill Zone piece Another Bell Tolling? Reviews in the Age of Amazon. Clare’s provocative question is this: do on-line reviews even matter? Has, in other words, this whole kerfuffle about phony reviews been much ado about nothing much? While in some respects, I think the answer is clearly no–there’s a major issue of integrity here–but at the same time, if potential readers are not making their purchasing decisions based on those reviews, why have them at all? Food for thought.
  • Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) reprises a 2010 article from The Book Designer explaining the Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes. Some of these are real doozies, like being proud of a “deal” that gives the author ten (ten!) “free” copies of their book for a $6,000 cost to publish. All ten represent the kind of ignorance and naivete that can get newbie writers into real trouble.

OK, let’s close with a little bit of fun: Debbie Ohi’s (@inkyelbows) Writer Prep comic on Writer Unboxed. This one’s especially for all of you who write flash fiction.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 25-27, 2012

Welcome to the first full-weekend edition of Great Stuff. Of course we’ve got stuff on craft and stuff on business but we’ve also got something new–stuff on writers’ conferences–and some just-for-fun stuff. We’re well and fully stuffed!

Nothing crafty about the fact that we’ll start with craft stuff.

  • Stories, of course, start with the opening line–hey, how about that for a revelation!–and that’s where we’ll start, too, with Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s Kill Zone piece on That all important first line. There’s some debate in the comments about how important it is that the first line be great, but it should be clear that a bad opening line (á la last Friday’s Bulwer-Lytton contest winners) can be the wrong kind of killer.
  • Next, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) warns of 5 Ways You’re Preventing Readers from Suspending Disbelief. Experienced writers know all about (or should) avoiding the things on Kim’s hit list–incorrect facts, clichés, plot holes big enough to drive a truck through (oh, sorry), and the wrong kinds of character behaviors, but this is a good review for new writers.
  • Writers’ conferences can be a terrific asset for writers, new or experienced, but only if the potential attendee picks wisely and well. Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) offers A Crash Course on Writers’ Conferences on his Writing the World blog.

Moving on to the business stuff, we find:

  • Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) adds another thoughtful, rational piece to the discussion on the publishing industry with her Writer Beware post Vanity, Vanity: Turning the Label Around. Strauss calls for an end to the “vanity” versus “legacy” name-calling and distorted story-telling advocates on both sides are engaging in and refocusing on producing quality work, irrespective of how it’s published. Hear hear!
  • Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) addresses one of the possible reasons for all the name-calling in his somewhat long Writer Unboxed post ‘Social’ Media: Author Ignorance. Porter’s central point is that if you’re going to speak out on the issues surrounding what’s going on in the publishing world right now, it’s wise to have the real facts, not what your own beliefs and biases tell you are the “facts.”

Enough of that serious stuff, let’s have some fun.

  • For starters, Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) follows up on the Bulwer-Lytton contest with one of his own on Writer Unboxed: the “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest: Seeking Awful Plot Ideas. Instead of an awful opening line, Chuck wants to see your ideas for horrible “loglines”–those one-sentence (60 words maximum) descriptions of a story’s plot. Want to play? You’ve got until 11:59 PM Pacific time on September 3rd to submit your (maximum of 2) loglines. See the post for the rest of the rules.
  • And finally, Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) must have had too much time on his hands over the weekend ;) because he came up with this: The Publishing Process in GIF Form. I’m not sure I want to know where he came up with all of these animated GIF clips but, well, just take a look.

Have a great week. I’m off to a radio interview on writing in a few hours. Should be fun. (No web link, unfortunately, or I’d invite you to listen in.)