Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 31 & February 1, 2013

Well here’s a post that will launch you into the weekend with plenty consider—at least, if you live in the U.S. and are an American football fan—when you’re not wrapped up in the Super Bowl. Eight pieces: some challenging, some sad, some practical, and some mostly for fun. Enjoy!

CRAFT

Hmmm. Well, okay, this is different. Editor Stuart Horwitz guest posts on Writer Unboxed under the title Plot is a Four-Letter Word. “Plot,” it seems, is verboten around his office. Instead, he tells writers to think in terms of “series.” Not series as in book 1, book 2, book 3, and so on, but series as in characters, and things, and phrases, or as he puts it, “a narrative element that repeats and varies” within a book. So each book has not just one series, but many, and they operate in series and in parallel. And they interact and together form a net which is the story but does not anywhere contain a plot. Got it? No? Well, check out the post and see if it helps.

It’s been kind of fun to watch Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) web site evolve and now she’s ready to take the next big step with an Online Workshop: Boost Your Writing With Seven Techniques next Tuesday, February 7th, starting at 1 PM Eastern Time. More than just a webinar you passively watch on your screen, this will be a truly interactive workshop. How cool is that? Even better, because it’s the first one, Gabriela’s offering it for free. Click on the link above for the full story or here if you already know you want to register.

BUSINESS

If you’ve wondered what the various kinds of editors do (you did know there are various kinds of editors, didn’t you?) and what the can do for you if you’re self-publishing—and what they can do to you if you let them—then you want to read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) Hiring Editors. Skip or plow through her de rigeur sliming of traditional publishing and agents because around that is valuable, maybe even vital, information on content editors, copy editors, line editors, and proofreaders (who aren’t editors but can be really important too).

Some people may find this news from Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) on Writer Beware® Blogs disappointing (at least): Christian Writers Guild Publishing: Pay to Play from Jerry B. Jenkins. Why disappointing? Three reasons. First, like companies like Author Solutions, CWGP is offering writers bundles of “services,” some of questionable value, for prices starting at—brace yourself–$9,995.00. Second, a big-name author like Jerry Jenkins is involved. And third, this is proof once again that just because something is labeled “Christian” doesn’t mean it can be trusted to live up to those principles.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Today Robert Lee “My Name Is Not Bob” Brewer (@robertleebrewer) publishes this year’s list of his Best Blogs for Writers to Read in 2013. While I’m pleased to say that many, indeed virtually all, of the blogs I report on here are included in his list, there are many that are not. Why? Because his list is 55 blogs long! Yikes! Okay, so sanity-check time here. No one’s suggesting that you MUST read all 55. What else would you do with your day if you did? But with so many to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find a reasonable number that are worth your time. And THANK YOU for including this blog in your list!

TECHNOLOGY

It’s easy to get intimidated by all of the capabilities your word processing software has, isn’t it? So many of us fall back to a default position of learning a few tools and ignoring the rest. Then, anyone who knows even a few more gets designated an “expert.” Which is a shame because those software designers created those tools to make your life easier. That’s Joel Friedlander’s (@JFBookman) theme in Getting Started With Microsoft Word Styles for Book Layout. Every word processing program has something like Word’s “styles,” although they may call them something else, so this post is well worth your time, no matter what program you use. And by the way, “styles” aren’t just for laying out books. I write this blog in Word and have set up a “WordPress” style that captures not just the header design Joel discusses but every format-related thing I want. With one click of my mouse button, a new document is automatically set up. Shazam!

THE WRITING LIFE

Don’t do it! Don’tcha dare do it! Don’t read those reviews. No, not even the good ones. That’s Michelle Gagnon’s (@Michelle_Gagnon) advice on The Kill Zone, and she’s got lots of good reasons. Not reading the bad reviews is pretty obvious: clearly the reviewer just didn’t get it. J But the good reviews, well, their traps are more subtle. Michelle’s not talking about the ego overload problem, but all those “good ideas” that can lead you into forgetting that the work, especially the next one in the series, is your work, not that gushy reviewer’s. There be monsters. Beware!

Sarah Callender (@sarahrcallender) takes a fun but also serious look at The Writer as Inventor on Writer Unboxed. Sure, we know we invent our (fictional) stories. What Sarah focuses on are the traits of successful inventors: curiosity, focus, loyalty, clarity, fear more-or-less balanced with foolishness (or vice versa), and someone to provide a sanity check without stifling creativity.

So what do you think? Does Horwitz’s idea make any sense to you? What about Callender’s: are you a writer/inventor?

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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, August 28 and 29, 2012

Welcome to post #201 on the Cochise Writers blog! Today we have everything from scenes to themes in our craft entries and several posts on what might be called the down sides of desperation for fame and fortune. Unfortunately, there’s nothing funny today to offset that bad news. Anyway, let’s get to work.

  • Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) brings us an excerpt from Martha Alderson’s (@plotwhisperer) The Plot Whisperer Workbook containing what she considers the 7 Essential Elements of Scene & Scene Structure. These include time and setting, conflict and tension, and theme, and much more in between.
  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) offers one tip on How to Find Your Character’s Voice on her WORDplay video post. Her technique–write random scenes in which the character is prominent, without worrying about where they will eventually fit into the story–will work. I added two of my own in the comments: interview the characters or have them write something autobiographical. Then the author HAS to get out of the way.
  • Canadian author Suzannah Windsor Freeman (@Writeitsideways) draws 3 Fiction Tips from Stephanie Vaughn’s “Dog Heaven” on Writer Unboxed. These tips are broader in scope than the first two posts today, and include how to break rules with intention and create a memorable ending.
  • And in the last post on craft, Dr. John Yeoman (@Yeomanis) discusses The Power of THEME on The Bookshelf Muse. This might sound scary and super-literary, but it’s not. Every story has a theme–its meaning–and Dr. Yeoman addresses what to do when either you’ve written the story but aren’t sure what the theme is or have an idea for a theme but no story to go with it.

On the business side…

  • Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) long Extra Ether piece on Jane Friedman’s blog on Buying Book Reviews is the first of several that have shown up in my blog reading in the last few days (one is definitely enough) about authors, including best-seller John Locke, buying positive but completely bogus Amazon.com reviews from a company (GettingBookReviews.com–now shut down) whose only business was to provide them. It’s yet another sad example authors being desperate for fame and sales and the people who are willing to take advantage of them for their own profit. Honest work? Who needs that? Integrity? C’mon, man, this is the 21st century. (In case you’re wondering, I’m being sarcastic. And very sad.)
  • Along similar but more positive lines, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) warns Not So Fast: Ideas to Rethink, when it comes to beliefs like quality in writing doesn’t matter any more or that electronic publishing is easy. There are a couple more, including one that might be seen as self-serving–her riposte to the idea that agents are becoming irrelevant. Judge for yourself.
  • Finally, to end on the most positive note I can, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) lists 5 Lessons About Community that Writers MUST Learn (emphasis hers) on DIY MFA. The essence of her piece is that while writing is primarily a solo occupation, maybe even because it is, it’s important to be a part of a community of writers (not necessarily a critique group) that gives and receives help and support to and from its members. (Which, she notes, is a way to generate legitimate Amazon reviews, among many other benefits).

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 31, 2012

Back to busy days, again. Today we’re covering the range from craft to publication.

  • We’ll start with the very most basic of skills: grammar, spelling,and  punctuation. This first article actually wasn’t a blog post but an article in the Harvard Business Review, which I found thanks to Brian Klems (@BrianKlems) and the Writer’s Digest e-newsletter. Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) writes I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. Now, Mr. Wiens runs a couple of businesses that are writing-focused, but then, so do we. If we claim to be writers, but can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re, is our claim legitimate? Don’t think so.
  • Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) continues her series of posts on what she learned at ThrillerFest with a post on Plot and Story Structure, in which she introduces us to Daniel Palmer’s 4-step approach: The Rhino, The “What if?”, The McGuffin, The Characters. Which would you think is most important? Answer at the end of the post.
  • Jeanne Kisacky introduces us on Writer Unboxed to Writing in the Discomfort Zone, the idea that getting out of what makes us comfortable is what gets us into our best writing.
  • Transitioning us out of “craft” and into what I might call “post-production” topics, Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) recommends 15 Resources for Pro Bloggers (or those who want to be). While most of these tools are specific to blogs and blogging, and two (Byword and Mars Edit) are Mac-specific with no Windows counterpart mentioned, a few, like Evernote and SnagIt should be useful even to those who don’t (yet) blog.
  • Speaking of blogging and “platform” in general, Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) posts a provocative discussion on “Shadowy Platforms” on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog. The platforms he’s referring to aren’t locations for thrillers or mystery novels, but all the ways the whole platform-building enterprise can be a time-suck for writers.
  • Moving beyond “platform” to querying, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) reprises a 2010 post on The Top Ten Querying Mistakes authors can make (plus a bonus one). The info’s good but be sure to check out the street sign in the photo, too. 🙂
  • And last but not least, we go back to controversy with Kathleen Pickering’s (@KatPickering) Kill Zone post, Kirkus Indie: When a Review Is Good for You. The thing that gets Kathleen’s commenters so riled up is that authors pay for the reviews on Kirkus Indie, the independent-publishing side of Kirkus Reviews magazine. For those of you who have never heard of them, Kirkus provides reviews to librarians, bookstores, publishers, agents, and other movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. A positive review is A Very Good Thing. And hard to come by. BUT! There’s no guarantee that buying a Kirkus Indie review will get an author a good review (morally, that’s as it should be), but that also means the author might pay as much as $575 for something he or she can’t use (morally, that’s questionable: is Kirkus exploiting authors’ need for approval to improve their bottom line?). So as you might imagine, the commentary to Kathleen’s post is, shall we say, animated.