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, October 11 and 12, 2012

Some really excellent stuff out there today on craft and business, so without further ado…

CRAFT

Let’s start with big-picture stuff and work our way down to details.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which means that we’re going to see lots of articles thereon for the next six weeks. Lisa Cron (@LisaCron) starts the parade with NaNoWriMo—The Pitfalls and How to Deftly Avoid Them on Writer Unboxed. Her keys:

  • PLAN your work before November 1st. A month of flailing is not a productive month.
  • It’s only a first draft. This is the start of something, not the end.
  • It’s all about writing that first draft, not the rewriting that’s going to follow.

Keep those things in mind and you can have a sane and productive month. If you’re going to do it: good luck! Have fun.

Speaking of revising, once you’re working with an editor on a getting-ready-to-be-published work, Dara Beevas (@darairene and @Wiseink) guest posts on KM Weiland’s WORDplay blog on Revising Your Book: Do’s and Don’ts. Eleven do’s and 8 don’ts might seem like a lot but every one is practical, sensible, and easy—at least in theory. 😉

Cutting is a big part of revision, isn’t it? And it can be a painful part. YA writer Sechin Tower (@SechinTower) describes what he’s learned as a teacher of both gifted and at-risk kids in Is Cutting More Important than Adding? on The Kill Zone. One group writes too much, the other too little. Sounds familiar. Check out what he’s learned about finding the right words.

Eileen Cook (@EileenWriter) guest posts on the Guide to Literary Agents blog on 5 Ways to Increase Conflict. She’s got an interesting take, contrasting how the things we try to avoid in real life are the very kinds of things we need to bring into our fiction.

Finally for this section, advertising copywriter Elizabeth Miller Wood (@ElizMillerWood) offers 7 Lessons from Advertising on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about how to make your writing stand up and sing (that’s lesson #2, actually). When every word matters (lesson #3) because each one is pulling your reader forward to an anticipated reward (lesson #5), you’re on track to better writing.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) second of three pieces on Why Writers Disappear serves as a transition to the business pieces to follow. In this (long as usual) piece, she looks at writers who get discouraged, can’t handle the solitude, or can’t handle the financial problems that are natural in a writing career. The reason I’ve included this piece is it serves as an opportunity for each writer to ask themselves, “could I handle these things?”

BUSINESS

OK, let’s get on to happier stuff. Like promoting your work! What’s that? That’s not a happy topic? This next post might help.

Carol Costello (@carolcostello46) offers 5 Keys to Pain-Free Book Promotion on The Book Designer. Perhaps the most important of the 5 (actually 8, there are 3 “bonus tips”) suggestions is not to think of promotion as selling but as a conversation between like-minded people. That should help you relax and have fun with the process, rather than turning it into an exercise in agony.

Last piece for the day is a development that really isn’t a surprise in the world of e-books but something that’s needed some time to gestate, and in fact still is gestating: serials. Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) interviews Yael Goldstein Love (@ygoldlove) about the digital publishing effort she co-founded as a Kickstarter project (now more than fully funded) called Plympton, that is partnering with the Kindle Serials program to serialize fiction for digital readers (not just Kindles). It’s an interesting idea and another way for new and established authors to connect with readers and as Carol suggested above. Very cool.

What great stuff have you found? Share it in the comments below.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 14-24, 2012

Just flew back from Washington, DC, and boy are my arms tired. Ba-dum-bum-ching. Thanks so much. I’ll be here all week.

But seriously, it IS good to be back in the Great Stuff saddle. And contrary to my “promise” before I left for DC, there are a bunch of posts from the last 10 days that deserve a place here, so many, in fact, that I’m going to break them up into two sets and put out an extra edition tomorrow. Today we’ll focus on

CRAFT

and specifically,

Characters

Before I start, though, I need to make a public apology. For as long as I’ve been reading and watching K.M. Weiland’s WORDplay blog, I’ve been referring to her here and in my Facebook and LinkedIn posts as “Kim.” Turns out that’s wrong. You see, when she says “I’m K. M. Weiland” at the beginning of her vlog posts, I hear “Kim,” or more accurately, “Kem,” which I interpret as “Kim.” That, unfortunately, is wrong, and that kind of mistake is something I’m sensitive to since my first name is often mispronounced or misspelled as “Russ.” So, Katie, my apologies, and from now on you’ll be KM, as you wish.

  • Speaking of KM (@KMWeiland), she writes about Creating Two-Word Characters, or more accurately, two-word character descriptions. Now, of course, that adjective-noun combination isn’t going to come anywhere close to being a complete description of each character, but the point of the exercise is to come as close as possible to the character’s core.
  • Speaking of descriptions, Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) and Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) have announced a new addition to their set of thesauri on The Bookshelf Muse: the physical attribute thesaurus. If any of you have used any of these resources, you know how amazing they are. I expect this one will be a winner, too.
  • Sophie Masson introduces four character types for Heroes and Villains on Writer Unboxed: each “hot” or “cold.” As you might expect, the “hot” types are the more active and less subtle, the “cold” or “cool” type more subtle and active in less apparent ways. Note that these characteristics are not necessarily the same as introverted and extroverted, although they can be related.

Conflict

  • Heroes and villains and the conflict between them are at the heart of every story. No conflict, no story; it’s that simple. Here are some posts on those subjects.
    • Misunderstanding is a terrific source of conflict, and Becca Puglisi offers four kinds in A Beneficial Misunderstanding on Peggy Eddleman’s Will Write for Cookies blog. Whether the confusion comes from things not heard, things overheard, misinterpreted actions, or misperceptions, confusion leads to conflict and you’ve got the makings of a story, or a part of a story.
    • But what if you’ve got conflict but there’s something lacking, leaving you wondering Why Your Story’s Conflict Isn’t Working. KM Weiland suggests it may be because you have conflict just for the sake of having conflict. For conflict to work, it has to flow naturally from the story’s plot, and for it to do that, it has to flow from the characters and their motivations.

Reader Engagement

is the last topic for today.

  • Ray Rhamey recently judged a writing contest. In Here Comes the Judge on Writer Unboxed, he describes how a writer’s failure to engage him from the very start was the first criterion for deciding a story would not be a contest winner. Three factors were at play in whether he was engaged or not: the story, the immediate scene, and the writer’s voice. If these didn’t capture him, he was off to the next submission. This is what we hear from agents, too.
  • In a similar vein, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) offers Three Rules for Writing a Novel, and the first one, as you might expect, is “Don’t Bore the Reader.” “Put Characters in Crisis” is #2 and “Write with Heart” is #3, which reminds me of a quote from Dostoyevski, I think: “if there is no emotion in the writer, there will be no emotion in the reader.”
  • On the topics of both characters and engagement, Angela Ackerman writes on Stina Lindenblatt’s blog about Writing Characters Readers Trust but Shouldn’t. This is a very tricky subject (pun intended) because it’s the writer’s intention to trick the reader, and that’s usually a bad thing. Ackerman offers three techniques for doing so in ways the reader will accept and closes with this reminder: when your goal is to trick the reader, set up is vital.
  • And finally, we’ll come back to KM Weiland for some thoughts on Why Story Beginnings and Endings Must Be Linked. At the beginning of your story, you should have established the “story question,” the thing that will drive the protagonist and the story all the way to the end. At the end, the reader expects the story question to be answered. Failing to do so will leave your reader dissatisfied. So will doing it badly. And that could mean a reader who won’t engage with your next story at all because they’ll feel you let them down.

Next time, in the bonus post, I’ll cover what Lisa Cron considers a writer’s biggest mistake, what to do after the first draft is done, a couple posts on adverbs, several posts on social media, and perhaps most important, how to keep from going to your next Scrabble contest naked. 😉

‘Til tomorrow, then.