Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 17 & 18, 2013

A full weekend’s worth of Great Stuff reading for you! We open with opening lines, pass through structure, find information and the right (or wrong) readers, gain Facebook fans, writing tools (including a quick-ish way to publish a Word document to the Kindle), and close with a little help from our friends. Should be something for just about everybody.

CRAFT

This is the best piece to start out with: Zachary Petit’s Famous First Lines Reveal How to Start a Novel. Lists of great or terrible opening lines are a dime a dozen, but Petit turns the post over to Jacob Appel, who suggests seven ways to start, and we’re still talking here about the very first sentence or two. These tips are excerpted from a longer Writer’s Digest article (which the link in the post DOES NOT lead you to) but they stand well on their own.

Anna Elliott (@anna_elliott) discusses the differences and connections of Plot vs Story on Writer Unboxed, including what’s more compelling (story) and how to craft that story, whether you’re a full-out outliner or, like Anna, someone who starts from character.

You might think, then, that J E Fishman’s (@JEFISHMAN) 5 Elements of Story Structure on KM Weiland’s WORDplay blog would present a contrary view to Anna’s, but it’s complementary. Element 4 is character development (after establishing and disrupting normalcy and creating turning points, and before restoring order), so it’s just a different way of approaching the bigger problem of creating the story.

BUSINESS

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) Found Information has several items worth reading—on how book cover design is so important to branding (identifying the genre and series, if appropriate) of your novel, whether in print or e-book format; kids (and adults) are reading more than before, in print and e- formats, despite all the hand-wringing you hear; and the story of how persistence finally paid off for Eleanor Burford Hibbert (a.k.a. Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr, plus 6 other pen names). Unfortunately, you have to get past two sections of self-satisfied I-told-you-so chest-puffing first. Fortunately, you can drag your scroll bar down to that third boldfaced header.

OK, let’s assume you’ve accepted the idea that you have to market your work. And you’re trying. And nothing seems to be happening. Or not enough. Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) wonders, Are You Targeting the Wrong Readers? and then offers 7 tips to fix the problem. To some extent he’s channeling Seth Godin’s “tribes” and Kevin Kelly’s “1000 true fans,” but that’s not bad at all.

SOCIAL MEDIA

So you’ve got a Facebook fan page, or think you should have one? If so, then Gillian Marchenko’s (@GillianMarchenko) 3 Top Tips to Gain Facebook Fans on your Author Page on WordServe Water Cooler could be very helpful. That tip about Facebook’s rule against advertising on your cover photo could be a page-saver, all by itself!

TECHNOLOGY

At first I thought Michael Hyatt’s (@MichaelHyatt) My Top 10 Favorite iPad Apps and How I Use Them wasn’t going to have much value to me (and maybe you) because I don’t have an iPad (does that make me some kind of criminal?). But it turns out many of the apps have non-iPad versions as well and I can vouch for their value: Google Calendar, Dropbox, Google Reader, Kindle’s emulator versions, and Hootsuite.

When I saw the title to Ed Ditto’s (@BooksByEd) post on The Book Designer, How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in Under Ten Minutes, I thought, Cool! I need to know that. Then I read his process: use Scrivener. Gaaah! Well, sure, that’s certainly a way to do it. And since Scrivener is famous for its format conversion capabilities, it makes sense. So, OK, let’s read through the rest of the post. The good news is that Ed’s done a nice job with step-by-step instructions and plenty of screen-shot illustrations (Mac-based, but the PC steps are similar if not identical) that really take advantage of Scrivener’s tools. If you can read and carefully follow these instructions, you can do it. “Under ten minutes?” Maybe not but that’s OK. And $40 or $45 for a copy of Scrivener and the time to climb the learning curve is A LOT cheaper than spending hundreds of bucks to have someone do this for you. I’m bookmarking this one.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan Dunlap’s piece, The Joy of NOT Going Solo on WordServe Water Cooler isn’t about team writing, as I thought it would be, but about the benefits writers get from joining a writers’ group that’s right for them. That last phrase is key: the wrong group can be harmful but the right group can be amazing.

Don’t be afraid the share the Great Stuff. That’s what friends are for, eh? Have a great weekend.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 15 & 16, 2013

Lots of business stuff today—promotion, covers, and publishing in general—but there’s also conflict and woe… and Gary Busey on hobbits.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) video blog this week is on what she considers The Most Annoying Type of Story Conflict, which, not to keep a secret, is false conflict: little conflicts that get blown up all out of proportion. Don’t do it, Katie says: your readers will catch on and then they’ll be mad at you. Put in conflicts that are real, legitimate for the characters, and advance the story.

BUSINESS

Joanna Penn’s (@thecreativepenn) How To Publish A Book 101 is chock full of useful and practical information. The post could have been a mile long but instead she’s filled it with links so you can easily jump right to the information you need. A top-notch collection. Definitely worth a bookmark so you can refer back to it.

P. J. Parrish’s You CAN tell an eBook by its cover on The Kill Zone goes in the other direction where length is concerned but it too is full of excellent information, lavishly illustrated with examples of each point she makes. (And yes, do follow the link to lousybookcovers.tumblr.com, or go directly to the cover of “Lumberjack in Love” on page 4.)

Matthew Turner (@turndog_million) continues his pre-release blog tour with Using a Short Story To Rock My Novel on The Bookshelf Muse. This is NOT a bad thing! Matthew describes how he used a free prequel short story to (a) introduce readers to the characters of his romance novel Beyond Parallel, (b) hoping to turn them into buyers of said novel, while (c) learning the ropes of self-publishing. And now he’s offering us, again for free, what he learned. (Be sure to check out the list of over 50 free sites where you can promote your ebook on the web site he found: ebookbooster.com.) Cool!

THE WRITING LIFE

Lesley Leyland Fields’ (@SpiritofFood) All the World’s a Page: The 9 Woes of the Writing Life on WordServe Water Cooler is certainly a challenging message, particularly for the new writer. Some on her list don’t seem to be woes, at least not to me: “You will gradually be divested of your most cherished stereotypes and grudges.” This is a bad thing? The process might be painful but the result should be worth it. Is there no woe (or are there no woes on this list) without reward? Challenge yourself with this post.

FUN

OK, so we can thank (?) Robert Bruce @robertbruce76) of 101 Books for coming up with this one: Gary Busey Reflects On Hobbits. Fun? Um, well…

OK, your turn: what great stuff has crossed your screen lately?

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, August 12, 2012

It’s all about the craft, today. Two crafts, actually. The craft of writing and the craft of designing covers.

  • We’ll start off with Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) discussing 6 Ways to Pull Off Dual Timelines in Your Novel on WORDplay. Having two separate but related timelines running at the same time in a story–as Kim says, essentially having two separate stories running along in parallel within the same novel–isn’t easy to do, so her tips should be useful to anyone thinking of trying it.
  • James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) provides a quick but excellent tutorial on How to Write a Novella on The Kill Zone. If you’ve ever tried to write a novella, want to, or are considering doing so, this is a keeper.
  • Finally, today’s the day for Joel Friedlander’s (@JFbookman) monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards post. Joel did something a little different this time, giving the judging honors to Tamara Weaver and her colleagues. WARNING: over 130 fiction and non-fiction covers were submitted and all are presented in this post, some with comments, so it’ll take some time if you want to go through the whole thing. Still, I find it interesting to see what people are doing with covers; especially since I’ll be facing the need to have a cover designed “soon.”