Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 5-7, 2013

Boy, so much for a quiet weekend! Today’s post is CHOCK FULL of Great Stuff on a wide range of topics, including one we haven’t touched on in a long time: radio. Grab a cuppa and settle in.

CRAFT

Writer’s Digest editor Jessica Strawser (@jessicastrawser) provides a meaty set of tips in How to Start a Novel Right: 5 Great Tips. My fave of the five is Lee Child’s write what you feel, not what you know. The others are pretty darn good too, though: create a doorway of no return; minimize backstory; add character-defining sensory details (emphasis mine); and make secondary characters significant. Check out the details and the articles they were taken from.

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes with Pt. 5: Options for Disasters in a Scene. As Katie notes, “disaster” is a strong word that can conjure up the wrong image: that every scene has to end in a catastrophe. Before she gets into her detailed discussion of scene disasters, she notes, “The point [of the disaster] is to keep the pressure on and never let up.” Yup. Right on target.

Jael McHenry (@jaelmchenry) offers three things to look for when putting The Finishing Touches on a novel: follow the key thread all the way through, looking for inconsistencies; check for your biggest weakness; and strengthen your voice. Check out this quick and to-the-point piece on Writer Unboxed.

Can A Man Really Write Romance? Matthew Turner (@turndogmillion) claims he can and describes how he did on Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn. Some of his keys: watch, listen to, remember, and ask women about how they think, feel, and react. Lots of trust required there, on all sides.

Speaking of drawing from unlikely sources (I was?), Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) presents 6 Winning Ideas for Self-Publishers Straight from “Downton Abbey.” Sound like a stretch? Check these ideas out:

  • Pay attention to detail;
  • Keep the audience engaged with continuing storylines and evolving characters;
  • Seek feedback from the audience;
  • Do what it takes to stand out from the crowd;
  • Keep up with the changing market; and
  • Be memorable.

BUSINESS

So what’s the truth about the status and staying power of ebooks versus print books. As 2013 begins the jury is clearly still out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Derek Haines’s(@Derek_Haines) Authors – How to Promote Yourself is one of the better (particularly, more concise) descriptions I’ve seen recently on how to—and how NOT to—do promotion. While he doesn’t touch on even all of the major social media platforms (there’s nothing on Google+, LinkedIn, or Pinterest) it’s easy enough to extrapolate his comments on Twitter and Facebook to them.

Dan Blank (@DanBlank) asks four specific questions of authors preparing for the launch of their next/first book in Don’t Make Your Book Launch Like a Trip to the Dentist on Writer Unboxed: what have your ideal readers read recently, where can you go (on- and off line) to meet them, who manages and organizes these places, and who can you contact by e-mail who would care about the book? Figuring out those specific names and places well in advance is key to making launch day less stressful.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Here’s something we don’t see very often: Brad Phillips (@MrMediaTraining) on Jane Friedman’s blog on 5 Things Bad Radio Guests Do (And 7 Ways to Rock on Radio). Having been a radio guest a few times, I can tell you he’s right on track, although I’d add one more thing: remember that your audience can’t see you nod or shake your head! When the host asks a question, give a verbal answer. Seems silly, doesn’t it, but every host I’ve worked with has reminded me about that.

But not all radio programs are created equal: some are less equal than others, no matter what they claim. Check out Victoria Strauss’s (@victoriastrauss) Global Talk Radio: How to Waste Money and Fail to Influence People on Writer Beware® Blogs. These points ought to say enough: hosts pay to have shows; guests pay to be interviewed. More ways to separate novice/desperate writers from the money they don’t have.

THE WRITING LIFE

Divide and Conquer: Building an Author Platform by Proxy by Kristin Morin (@kristinba) on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog is one of those posts that could go into all sorts of categories—business, tech, social media—but it seems to fit best here. Kristin describes how she and her husband have partnered to create his writer platform. She knows the tech side but it has to be his platform. Lots of useful tips and steps for making this team approach work. Something to consider if the whole tech side of platform has you bamboozled.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has an interesting take on The Facts vs. The Story You Tell Yourself regarding some of the tribulations of the traditional publishing world. And while self-publishing advocates would see her discussion as more reasons to self-publish, we should be clear that the indie publishing world has its own situations that can make writers crazy.

Find something here that a writer friend should know about? Feel free to share it with them. (It’s that old pay-it-forward thing.)

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that whichever December holidays you celebrated, if any, brought you peace, joy, and maybe even some new stuff. And if you didn’t celebrate any holiday formally, I hope you at least absorbed the (non-commercial) spirit of the time without the religious content. It’s possible!

While I haven’t been blogging during this time, I have been reading lots of blog posts. There’s LOTS of stuff here, more than I’m sure you can absorb in one reading. Scan it, pick out what interests you and come back to the rest later—or not. That’s okay too.

One last thing before we get to all the Great Stuff below: I’d hoped to be making a Big Announcement today but alas, due to technical matters beyond my control, that announcement will be delayed by about a month. In the meantime, you’ll still find Great Stuff right here.

CRAFT

The holiday season is no obstacle for KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) to continue her series on scenes with Pt. 3: Options for Goals in a Scene. We already know that a story’s protagonist and antagonist need to have story-level goals and that the protagonist in each scene needs much more immediate and small-scale goals, a point Weiland reemphasizes. The important point she adds in this post is that sometimes a scene goal is actually part of a larger one that will take multiple scenes to reach or fail to reach. Thus partial (single-scene) goals build together into that overarching (multi-scene) goal.

She continues with Pt. 4: Options for Conflict in a Scene. Story is conflict. We all know that, or should, and there needs to be some kind of conflict in each and every scene. In this post, Katie discusses two key elements of scene conflict: options for the kinds of conflict the scene can have and whether the conflict is integral to the scene and the story. Terrific stuff. One subtle point worth noting: scene conflict doesn’t have to be huge but it has to be. Some of her examples illustrate just that.

With the year seemingly rushing to its end as I write this, it’s appropriate for Katie to also write about not rushing a story along in Should You Slam Your Story’s Brakes? on her WORDplay blog. While it is important to keep a story moving, there is such a thing as going too fast too, she writes, and that’s a good time to use other techniques besides speed to build a story’s tension.

Donald Maass (@DonMaass) is always good for thought-provoking columns on Writer Unboxed and The Paradox is no exception. He actually discusses two: that your story matters “more than anything, and… not at all” and that characters should both embody their conflicts and yet not be in a hurry to resolve them. The first paradox allows you to take the time you need to flesh out your story, and the second allows your characters to become rich and full. Great Stuff!

Maybe it’s not surprising but agent Paula Munier (@PaulaSMunier) of Talcott Notch Literary Services also disagrees with Dean Wesley Smith (below) on the value of writers’ groups in her Literary Agent Interview on the Guide to Literary Agents. She’s got other important advice, too, that can’t be repeated often enough. The interview’s brief so I won’t try to reprise it here.

If you’re interested in cover design and the thinking that goes into it, check out Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) A Book Cover’s Evolutions—Embrace of the Daimon. This cover went through four iterations, starting in the late 1990s, one published, one soon to be, with some pretty significant changes along the way.

BUSINESS

Mark Coker (@MarkCoker), founder and CEO of Smashwords, writes a very, very long (multiples-of-Kris-Rusch long) 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions – Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge on the Smashwords blog. This is by far and away the longest blog post I’ve read or written about here, but since Smashwords has become such an important player in the indie-pub world, Coker’s thoughts carry weight, even as he freely acknowledges that each and every one of his 21 projections could be wrong. Still, if you’re interested in the indie-publishing world, especially if you’re already in it or planning to/considering getting into it, this post is worth the time (plan on an hour) to study. Thanks to Joel Friedlander for pointing it out.

Joel also highlighted Free Book Promotions by James Moushon (@jimhbs) on Self-Publishing Review. Moushon offers a set of 10 planning steps authors should take before engaging in a giveaway program, plus steps to take during and after. He also includes comments from writers who have done giveaways—and not all are positive about the experience! I hope that was intentional: an expectations-management exercise. Moushon also seems to focus on using Amazon’s KDP Select distribution channel for this effort, which some (Coker among them) caution against because of Amazon’s 90-day exclusive distribution demand for participation in KDP Select. Good information here, but also some ideas to approach with caution.

I generally don’t include Porter Anderson’s (@PorterAnderson) Writing on the Ether posts on Jane Friedman’s blog because they’re so long but I’ll make an exception this time because he includes an extended set of excerpts from a discussion that begins with a Steven Levy comment in an interview in Wired magazine, in which he says, in part, “I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit.” Besides extended excerpts from this piece, there are also extended excerpts from a November Charlie Rose Show featuring Tim O’Reilly, Ken Auletta, the other Jane Friedman (the former HarperCollins CEO) on this whole topic of elitism in publishing and the rise of e-publishing and crowdsourcing for books. I found it interesting; maybe you will, too.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) reissues an article she originally posted in the July/August 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, with some edits, titled How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? In this long-for-a-blog piece, she examines four things writers do that sabotage their efforts to get published; how to evaluate where you are on the path to publication, including signs you’re getting close; three signs that it’s time to change course, perhaps even away from writing; and three ways to revise your publishing plan. All good stuff, if hard truths. With one exception: one thing Jane didn’t change from the original article, I don’t think, is that she treats independent publishing as the last refuge of the incompetent and (from the perspective of traditional publishing) unpublishable. This, I think, is tremendously unfortunate and fails to reflect how the whole publishing industry is changing. Much of what she writes DOES apply to writers who want to publish independently, rather than through a traditional house, large or small, though, and this disrespect for that decision doesn’t take away from the value of her other observations.

New Year’s is a time for all those wink-and-a-nod resolutions that are forgotten by the end of the second week. But Jordyn Redwood (@JordynRedwood) on WordServe Water Cooler and Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) on his own blog take similar cuts at goal setting. Hyatt’s Do You Have a Personal Platform Plan for 2013 and Redwood’s Goals?!? are focused on slightly different things but it’s interesting how much they parallel each other. Read both for the details and the reinforcement. Hyatt also links back to a two-year-old post on setting goals using the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his New World of Publishing series with a powerful and highly challenging fourth installment: How to Keep Production Going All Year. Naturally, this post builds on the previous three (which you can find here, here, and here). “Production” means writing “new” (that is, publication-ready) words and Smith offers four different ideas for how to set long- and short-term goals for the year and , importantly, how to deal with the inevitable failures to meet those goals that life is going to impose on us. Smith’s goal here isn’t to just help you be more effective, it’s to separate the pros from the wannabes and his methods will certainly do that.

There’s one piece of advice I strongly disagree with, though: not showing others your work in progress. As I noted in my comment to the post, that’s fine if you’re an experienced author, but if you’re new, you need feedback on what you’re doing wrong—and you will do lots wrong. Specific, constructive, actionable feedback is vital to the new writer who wants to get better quickly. (I should note that Dean and a group of commenters responded negatively to this opinion, particularly as it related to getting feedback from writers’ groups. That’s fine: everyone’s welcome to their opinions. But I will not be convinced that all writers’ groups are wrong for all writers. Each of us has to make our own decisions based on our own personalities and needs and what local groups can do for or to us.)

 

Here’s wishing you LOTS of Great Stuff in 2013.