Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 29 & 30, 2012

Today marks the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo. If you were NaNo-ing, I hope you made your target. Now the fun begins: editing that (bleep)y first draft. 😉 Maybe the posts below will help you do that and get the final result published.

CRAFT

When Jeanne Kisacky writes about deep and shallow plots, she isn’t necessarily referring to graves, although for someone writing a murder mystery, that certainly could apply. Instead, what she’s referring to in Building a Plot of Variable Depth on Writer Unboxed is how plot relates to pace and character. When the plot is shallow, the story’s pace is quick. When the plot is deep, that’s a time of exploring character and change. A well-written story moves back and forth between the two.

Two posts on characters to check out. How Do You Create Characters? on The Kill Zone asks TKZ readers for their techniques. Mine’s there and you can check out other writers’ as well. Jennifer R. Hubbard (@JenRHubbard) has a concise discussion of The supporting cast on her blog, writerjenn, with good examples of how writers have used them badly and well. Thanks to Nathan Bransford for pointing out this piece.

There are also two posts on tension/suspense. Ollin Morales’ (@OllinMorales) How to Create Suspense on Write to Done uses an example of a Hitchcock movie to make the point of telling the reader just enough—and no more—to keep them wondering what will happen next. Victoria Mixon’s (@VictoriaMixon) longer Making Tension Tense on Writer Unboxed says much the same thing, but with three examples.

BUSINESS

Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) of Writer Beware joins the chorus of negative reviews today in Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division. In case you hadn’t heard, Archway is S&S’s link to Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), which I mentioned last time. Unlike Dean Wesley Smith’s previous post on the topic, however, Strauss goes into much more detail on why sensible writers should stay far far away from anything having to do with ASI. Read and heed.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s latest Business Rusch (@kriswrites; again, as always, very long) column, Getting Rid of the Middle Man, is really about Kickstarter, one of the “crowdsourcing” web sites (along with FaithFunder and IndieGoGo), writers and others can use to fund projects. Unfortunately, getting to the real meat of the piece—what to do and not do in order to have a reasonable chance at getting your Kickstarter project funded—requires skipping screen after screen of other material. If you’re thinking of using Kickstarter or one of the others, the piece is probably worth a look, but plan on hitting the Page Down key several times before you get to the good stuff.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) introduces something I think is very cool: A New (Free) Way to Sell Books from Your Sidebar. Agent Claire Ryan (@rayntweets) has created a WordPress plugin called Buy This Book (available through the WordPress Plugin Directory) that lets blog visitors to click on an image of the book’s cover and get a slide-out menu of links to websites where the book can be purchased. While the plugin is available only for blogs/web sites using WordPress.org software, Ryan also provides the HTML code that can be copied into a WordPress.com blog and modified as necessary—plus the instructions on how to install it properly as a widget.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Write It! Wednesday piece, Your Writing Superheroes talks about hers, which may or may not be interesting. But one of her four stood out to me: the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. (a.k.a 826NYC). These folks are part of an organization called 826 National, a nonprofit that supports eight writing and tutoring centers around the country for kids 6-18—in New York, DC, Ann Arbor, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. (Darn shame it’s just eight.) Anyway, if you live in one of these cities, have a thing for kids and writing, and want to do some volunteer work, you might want to check them out.

JUST FOR FUN

Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epigraph to The Great Gatsby is a fake—that he quoted a character from one of his previous books? Check out Robert Bruce’s (@robertbruce76) latest 101 Books post, The “High Bouncing Lover”?

And one more thing, from Dan Blank’s (@DanBlank) e-newsletter today. You may have seen images like the ones in this video by @kottke as chalk drawings on city streets… but you probably haven’t seen anything quite like them, either. What’s the relation to writing? They’re both illusions: some are optical, some are mental. Enjoy.

Come across something great? Don’t delay: share it in the Comments below!

Advertisements

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

Something happened yesterday (Tuesday) that has never happened since I started doing this blog back in May: nothing jumped out at me and made me say, “Wow!” Or, “That’s great!” Or even, “That’s good enough to share.” Well, it had to happen eventually.

BUT! Today we’re back on track, and there’s some pretty terrific stuff to share, for which, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., I’m thankful. Off we go, then.

CRAFT

Let’s start once again with KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) the value of preparation. And that would be: Preparation is Worth a Pound of Proofreading. This is a lesson I’ve learned for sure, having removed, oh, probably 500 pages from a 380 page manuscript. Yikes! And it’s why I’m doing LOTS of prep work as I start on WIP #2. Anyway, Katie makes the case for outlining, even though (gasp!) she admits didn’t for her about-to-release novel.

So, you’ve done your preparation work and now the writing’s underway. Or maybe it’s done. And you or one of your readers says, “It’s slow here.” What’s happened? Editor Laura Carlson says it’s lost momentum. So what can you do to go about Increasing Your Book’s Momentum? Carlson suggests the following on The Bookshelf Muse: especially at the beginning, limit the long-winded interior or exterior monologues, trim the descriptions, and can the boring scenes. Replace them with exciting scenes and snappy dialogue. Easier said than done, maybe, but read on.

John Vorhaus (@TrueFactBarFact) reveals one of his secrets (well, several, actually) to successful writing on Writer Unboxed: Procrastinate Later! That’s right, put off putting things off! You can do that later. That’s a great twist on an old problem. John’s other secrets—don’t worry about writing the best story, give your characters a clear call to action then never have things go as planned, see what happens next, and, outside of the story itself, share what you’ve learned with others—are all excellent, too. (By the way, I haven’t listed all of them. Even if I had, you’d want to read the post for yourself, anyway.)

BUSINESS

Just one business post: Janalyn Voigt’s (@JanalynVoigt) What Is Branding Anyway? (7 Reasons Why You Care) on WordServe Water Cooler. “Branding” isn’t something nasty—or doesn’t have to be. It’s about connecting with your readers. Janalyn’s 7 reasons should make the whole idea less painful, if not painless.

FUN

And finally, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) is Giving Literary Thanks on 101 Books. Some of his thanks actually are serious, some are fun, and there’s one I’ll echo here: thanks for all of you who read this blog, whether you comment or Like it or not. I know you’re out there, I know you’re reading, and I’m grateful.

If you’re in the U.S., have a great Thanksgiving. If you’re not, feel free to give thanks for the good things and great people in your life anyway. There doesn’t have to be a dedicated day for that. I’ll “see” you again on Friday.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 8 and 9, 2012

Wouldn’t you know it? The day I need to hurry, there’s LOTS of great stuff to write about. To work, then!

CRAFT

Let’s start with Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) on The Kills Zone and Writing Dialog – Tips. It’s not that there are any astounding new insights here but Jordan’s compiled a lot of good ideas into one easy-to-access location.

Similarly, Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) piece Read Like an Agent doesn’t break any new ground but provides a good all-in-one-place summary of why the first few pages of your book are so important and how to make them so strong they are, as she puts it, un-put-downable.

Robin LaFevers’ (@RLLaFevers) long but excellent article on Transformational Journeys—Working with Archetypes on Writer Unboxed not only lists and describes various archetypes, it also discusses how to use them to turn ordinary characters and writing into something far greater. Very well worth your time.

Also on Writer Unboxed, Lisa Cron (@lisacron) discusses 2 Ways Your Brain is Wired to Undermine Your Story—And What to Do About It. Her two main points are that we all have a tendency to write about the world the way we see it (to “see the world as we are” as she puts it) rather than how it really is, and we naturally resist any idea we don’t already hold to be true. Clearly, both of these things can work against us, especially if our characters hold significantly different views from our own, have different motivations, etc. Another terrific article.

Whether your manuscript is done or not, people are going to ask you, “What’s it about?” How can you answer without launching into your entire “elevator speech?” That’s where the one-sentence summary, or logline, comes in. Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) Writing a One-Sentence Summary provides an excellent—though not one sentence long—guide for how to construct it (courtesy of ex-agent Nathan Bransford), plus an example.

Finally for this section, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) and his commenters provide their lists of The Best Writing Quotes That Ever Existed on 101 Books. Okay, so maybe “ever” is a bit of hype and the quotes aren’t new, they’re still worth rereading every now and then.

BUSINESS

Just one business piece today. Top 5 Goals for your Book or eBook Cover comes from Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) and is based on his experiences not only of designing covers himself but of reviewing hundreds of others. Quickly, the goals are: announce the book’s genre, telegraph its tone, explain its scope, generate excitement, and establish a market position. Of course, to get a fuller understanding of those goals, you need to hop on over to the article itself. It’s a quick and easy read.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

At the other end of quick and easy is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) Want to Be Read 100 Years from Now? Here’s How. Now, from the title I thought this was going to be a piece on quality writing. Instead, it’s a very long piece on estates and copyrights. Not a happy topic but an important one. I just wish the post wasn’t over 3800 words long. SIGH.

That’s it for today. Monday’s post will be delayed as I’m (a) heading off to a science fiction/fantasy/horror convention in a few hours and then (b) taking part in a Veterans’ Day parade on Monday. We vets have made sure no foreign power has interfered with your right to read, write, and say what you wish (at least here in the United States) in the last 200 years. (This year is the bicentennial of the beginning of the War of 1812. Has anyone noticed?) I hope you’ll keep that in mind not just this weekend but throughout the year.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 6 and 7, 2012

Ahhh, blessed peace! A day without political ads. Even so, we’ll have one—just one—fun piece (promise!) on presidents. But before we get to that, a bit on craft, a bit on the writer’s life, and a larger bit on the business of writing. Let’s get started, shall we?

CRAFT

Joe Moore (@JoeMoore_writer) wrote an excellent piece today on The Kill Zone on Kick starting your story. While that sounds like it might be plot focused, it’s actually character focused, with a list of about 18 questions about characters’ motives, goals, and obstacles. Answer them for your protagonist and antagonist and you’ll be a long way toward knowing the story. I’m doing something similar for my new WIP and it’s exciting. (Be sure to check out Jordan Dane’s and “Jim in Missoula’s” comments, too. Jim’s interview your characters technique is one I’ve used.) This one’s a keeper.

BUSINESS

Jordyn Redwood hosts self-described “book marketing expert” Rachel Simeone (@Zetablue), founder of Zetablue Marketing, who discusses The Book Review Conundrum: are they good, bad, or both, and how do you get authentic ones? Despite the recent kerfuffle over paid and/or fake reviews, they’re still an important way of getting people to make the decision to give your book a try, so this is a piece worth a look.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has a couple of posts I’m recommending today, although with caveats on both.

  • The first is 26 Questions on Writing & Publishing: My Answers on Reddit (note: to save you a step, the link goes directly to Reddit, not to Jane’s blog). The caveat should be clear from the title: 26 questions and answers is a lot. And, because the topics cover a wide range, not every question is going to interest every reader. That said, it’s worth skimming the piece for the topics that interest you. You do not have to have to be a Reddit community member to read the Q&A.
  • The second post is a video recording of an interview Jane did on a Google+ Hangout with a group of women who are part of the BABs, the Bay Area Bloggers. As with the Reddit post, you do NOT need to have a Google+ account. The caveat here is that the interview, called A Framework for Thinking About Author Platform, is a bit over 30 minutes long.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

The one post in this section is from Therese Walsh (@ThereseWalsh) of Writer Unboxed, on Admitting Defeat to Find Success. The piece is about far more than admitting defeat, though, it’s about what to do after you reach that point where you know something’s not working and you don’t know what or where or who to turn to to fix it. Therese suggests people to call on and things to do to get past that roadblock, even if it means completely redoing the work.

JUST FOR FUN

And finally, now that the Presidential election is over with, whether your happy or unhappy about the result, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) of 101 Books and his readers offer up their choices for Literary Characters As President: The Good & Bad. And really, after the two years of non-stop campaigning we’ve just endured, who can’t use some creative “what ifs?” Enjoy.

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

Apologies for missing you yesterday: 3 hours on the road for a 2 hour meeting will chew up a big portion of a day. So we’ll catch up with a 3-day post today and Monday’s will cover just what’s left of today plus Sunday and early Monday.

Interestingly, the best posts of the last few days have either been about the business of writing, or just plain fun pieces. Nice contrast. Let’s get the work done first.

BUSINESS

We’ve all heard about (pun fully intended) audio books—they’ve been around a long time. Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) writes about her experiences in Self-Publishing in AUDIO on The Kill Zone. She worked with an organization called Audiobook Creation Exchange, so other sites and companies will be somewhat different. For Your Information.

James Watkins (@jameswatkinscom) provides seven reminders/warnings to follow to ensure you Don’t Sabotage Your Writing/Speaking Career on WordServe Water Cooler. Many of these cautions are against having “unprofessional” e-mail addresses, business cards, web presence, social media posts, and so on. Having a bad reputation is, of course, bad. And so is having taken advantage of “free” publishing opportunities in ways that brand you still an amateur. Remember: writing is, at the end of the day, a business.

Along that desperate-amateur line of thinking, Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) has put up a couple posts on Writer Beware ® Blogs warning of Two More High-Entry Fee Book Awards and a dodgy America’s Next Author Contest. Strauss goes into detail on why each of these programs are ones you should stay away from. Far away. Desperation to be published is one of the worst reasons to give up your rights as an author. Don’t.

In that same vein, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) discusses Rights Reversion in her weekly Business Rusch column. What is “rights reversion?” It’s getting back certain of the publication rights (part of your overall set of copyrights) from a publisher after a certain period of time has elapsed or certain conditions have been met. In this very long post, Kris discusses how publishers can play games with authors to keep rights from reverting, and how authors can unwisely sign away any chance of having the publication rights to a given work ever come back to them. This post IS long, but if you don’t read any other one, read this one.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) writes a long post discussing the question Do Publishers Need to Offer More Value to Authors? The key word here is “need” and the underlying question is who has the need. To summarize the piece, Jane says that while authors would like publishers, particularly the “Big 6” publishers, to provide more author-centered service, publishers do not yet see the need to do that, and until they do—and she believes they never will—they won’t. Depressing? Maybe. A case for more and more self- and e-publishing? Probably.

OK, enough depressing stuff. Let’s have some

FUN

Could you write your own memoir in just six words? That’s Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) challenge to her readers in Too Much Coffee? No Such Thing, which, by the way, is hers.

Bad reviews are depressing, right? But what about, in the scope of history, they also turn out to be wrong—really wrong? Enter Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) of 101 Books, excerpting some such reviews from a longer list on Flavor Wire, in “Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking.” It’s interesting to note how many of these reviews come from the New York “Literary” circles. Guaranteed to raise a smile.

And finally, John Vorhaus (@TrueFactBarFact) complains about (with tongue planted firmly in cheek—I think), then engages in Verbing the Nouns on Writer Unboxed. This is all about playing with words to create our unique writer’s voice, and while it’s laugh-out-loud funny, there’s also a serious point to it. (I know, I know: how disappointing. J)

What Great Stuff have you discovered? Let us know in the Comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs Business Bonus Issue

As promised, here’s the Great Stuff on the business side of writing that appeared over the weekend.

Let’s start with something that might seem a bit controversial: Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) Should All Authors Blog? It might seem counterintuitive, or at least contrary to all the talk today about platform platform platform, but her answer is “no.” Her reasons are common sense: if it’s work, if you don’t know what you’re going to blog about, if you’re doing it only because you think you have to, etc., then maybe your time is better spent on other things. She also lists a half-dozen-plus reasons why blogging could be right for you. Well worth a look.

Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) provides A Great Example of What a Pitch Should Not Look Like on the Guide to Literary Agents. What’s funny (and sad), he reveals, is that with a couple of minor tweaks to disguise the pitch’s original use, what he’s showing you was the plot summary for a big-time action movie and it’s chock-full of generalities and clichés. Goes to show you, I guess, what an established franchise can get away with versus what a new writer cannot.

So, OK, what’s the right way to pitch, then? Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) provides some answers on the new-look DIY MFA when Agents Share Conference Tips. These tips come from agents Gabriela spoke with who will be at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in New York next month. The points I found most helpful had to do with the difference between the written and spoken pitch. It should be obvious that these are two different things, and yet what should be obvious isn’t always so, is it? Here’s a quick test: got a pitch paragraph handy? Read it out loud. Yikes, huh? Too long, doesn’t sound natural, I’ll bet. Can’t be said in one breath (not that it should be, necessarily). That’s a great hint.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our regular format.

Meanwhile, I’m always interested in what Great Stuff you’ve found out there. Share it with all of us in the comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 4 and 5, 2012

Quite a variety of great stuff today, so let’s jump right in.

CRAFT

Let’s begin with beginnings. Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) is currently reviewing Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man on 101 Books. One of the things he does with each book he reviews is discuss the opening line or paragraph. Ellison’s first line is, “I am an invisible man.” As Robert writes, “A good first line pulls you in right away” and Ellison’s certainly does. Check out the post to find out more.

Some authors like to create their first line, and in fact their whole book, as part of a team. Frank Viola (@FrankViola) guest posts on Rachelle Gardner’s blog on Co-Authoring: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Co-writing isn’t something I’m personally interested in doing, but if you are, or think you might be, this is a good look at what’s involved.

Finally for this section, freelance copy editor Linda Jay Geldens (@LindaJayGeldens) makes the case for professional editing in A Professional Editor Takes on Self-Editing on The Book Designer. Full Disclosure: As someone who’s WIP is currently being edited by a freelance professional editor, I admit to being sympathetic to her arguments.

PLATFORM AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Decided to give these topics their own section because there were so many good posts on them.

If you’re a Gmail user, check out Nathan Bransford’s (@NathanBransford) brief post, with a link to more info on CNet, on a Two-step E-mail Verification process. If you have ANY web presence at all, including e-mail, which of course you do because you’re reading this post, web security is something you should be not just thinking about but learning how to do. There are a lot of things that are SIMPLE to do if you just know how.

Speaking of simple to do (really!), ProBlogger will be providing a two-post quickie course on HTML, one of the major programming languages of the internet. Darren Rowse (@problogger) announces the plan today on Weekend Project: Get a Handle on HTML. I’ll post the links to these articles on Monday.

As if you haven’t heard enough about Why You Need an Author Platform—and How to Get One, Ali Luke (@aliventures) provides yet more reasons and methods today on Write to Done. Her key point: start small and grow. There’s also a link to special access to some of her Writers’ Huddle paid material (a webinar audio recording, transcript, and worksheet).

Finally here, something you’re familiar and comfortable with: reading blogs! We’re back to Robert Bruce with his 9 Must-Read Blogs for Book Geeks. OK, maybe you don’t consider yourself a book geek, or don’t want to be called one. I’m with you. But who knows, maybe there’s something in one of the 9—actually 10, there’s one more in the comments—blogs you might enjoy.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

When Sarah Callender (@sarahrcallender) writes on Writer Unboxed that You Can Get (Almost) Anything on EBay, including suits of armor, she notes that there’s one thing (the almost) that you can’t: a suit of armor for your heart when you’re rejected to criticized, especially anonymously and/or unfairly. But there are still ways to keep going. Hers include her tribe, her goal, and her faith.

For some writers, though, those things aren’t enough, or aren’t the right things, so in this week’s long Business Rusch column, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) discusses Why Writers Disappear. Kris’ dozen reasons are too many to list here but they range from “they achieved their goals” (that’s good) to “they became toxic” (that’s really bad and something you want to avoid). Despite the length, this is a post worth checking out.

BUSINESS

Today’s last post comes from the Guide to Literary Agents blog. In it, Michael Larsen, one of the principals of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, offers some thoughts on The Bookselling Revolution: How to Connect Commerce and Community. Are his ideas utopian or workable? Is competing with Amazon realistic? What about 4,000 square foot, community-based, non-profit local bookstores stocked with Espresso book machines? I don’t know but Larsen’s thinking is at least creative and gets beyond us-vs.-them.

That’s all for today. Have a great weekend.

Find something great about writing or publishing out there on the web? Share your discovery in the comments.