Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 17-19, 2012

Ran out of minutes yesterday to get my usual Monday post out, so here it is, just a little late. Lots of business stuff in this edition, but first…

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) has been doing a series of posts on what she learned while writing her latest book, Dreamlander. Why Non-Writers Give the Best Critiques is worth passing along. Her point is that while other writers can give good critiques (although they don’t always), they (we) tend to get caught up in the technicalities and techniques of writing, while non-writer beta readers can, if they have the right turn of mind, tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Even better, Katie provides tips for how to choose non-writer beta readers, something I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan O’Hara (@janohara) continues her Stop Feeling Like an Author Wishbone series on Writer Unboxed by drawing on her medical background to advise you to First Do No Harm. What she’s describing in the long post is the process of deciding what you’re going to do in the way of marketing your book. “Harm” in this case isn’t necessarily physical but it is very personal: it happens when what you’re trying to do is out of sync with your personal goals, values, perhaps finances, etc. So, doing no harm means listening selectively to the “experts” and only doing those things that make sense for you. Wise advice, I think.

BUSINESS

And that provides the nice transition into the business-related posts. We’ll start with Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Four Steps to a Winning Query. This material comes from a series of query letter “bootcamps” Gabriela attended at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar recently. After a few dos and don’ts, Gabriela gets down to the details of the four components, as propounded by Jason Allen Ashlock, the President of the Movable Type Management agency: “the hook, the book, the look, and the cook.” “The hook” should be obvious; “the book” is the one-paragraph pitch. “The look” is the title, genre, length, and the comparable books, if any. “The cook” is you.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) discusses a too-often-asked question, Can I Make More Money via Traditional or Self-Pub? Rachelle’s too nice to just come out and say this is a dumb question. Instead she politely says it’s too hard to estimate with any confidence what might happen. There are a lot of factors to consider, many of which are out of the writer’s control. (Note: this post is also a plug for Rachelle’s upcoming e-book on how to decide which path to follow, self- or traditional publishing.)

Why do people ask such questions? Well, because of authors like CJ Lyons, who has sold over a million self-published copies. Mark McGuinness (@markmcguinness) tells the story on CopyBlogger of How an Enterprising Author Sold a Million Self-Published Books. McGuinness discusses the seven things Lyons did (he calls her an “entreproducer” and “author-entrepreneur”) to reach this level of success. The thumbnail summary is that she wrote lots of books and did a lot of work (smart work) to market them. (But see the “do no harm” post above—does this amount of work make sense for you? Can you do that much work for that much work and retain your core self? You need to ask and honestly answer those questions.)

Since we’re on the topic of money, Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) offers a quick and clear summary of Separate vs. Joint Accounting when it comes to royalties. This has to do with multi-book deals and whether one or more books have to “earn out” (cover their advance(s)) before the publisher starts paying additional royalties.

I know this section has kind of bounced around, so let’s close with Some Perspective on 2012 from Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith). There’s been an awful lot of heavy breathing this year over the changes the publishing industry has been going through so it’s natural to think this year has been one of extraordinary turmoil and upheaval. Not so, Smith says. In fact, he calls this year’s changes “pretty minor and predictable and normal.” Surprised? Check out his explanations. Smith also discusses what he calls “impact events” that might happen in the near future and what might happen if they do. Or not. This is a long post, but a sane and rational one and worth your time.

Have you found anything interesting, stimulating, or exciting about the world of writing and publishing? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 13 and 14, 2012

We’ve got it all today—pieces on craft, business, the writer’s life, and social media—so let’s make like bunnies and hop to it.

CRAFT

We’ll start with Ann Aguirre’s (@MsAnnAguirre) Writer Unboxed piece on Changing Your Process. Think there’s one and only one way for you to write? What if that way’s not working? What if you need to increase your production? What if you just want to finish something for once? Ann offers not only encouragement that you can change if you want to, but resources and ideas for learning how to do better by doing differently. Not a Chicken Soup piece but practical advice.

Speaking of practical advice, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) provides plenty in How to Write a Killer Logline. What’s that? You don’t know what a logline is? Check out your nearest TV program guide. The logline is the one sentence description of a movie or TV show. Capturing the essence of a novel in one sentence—just one—isn’t easy but it’s a craft you can learn. Not only does Gabriela provide tips, she walks you through the development of a real one and explains how it improved draft by draft. This is a good candidate for your keeper file.

We’ll step back to Writer Unboxed for a minute for Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) More Technology for Writers post, in which he reviews eight different software packages for writers, from one’s you’ve surely heard of, like Scrivener, to ones you likely haven’t, like Writemonkey. Some of these programs are free, some are fairly expensive; some are for PCs, others for pad/tablet computers or even smartphones. But don’t delay: these reviews will be obsolete by the end of the year! J

BUSINESS

Wow, here’s a tough one: would you ever turn down a publishing contract you’d been offered? Kfir Luzzatto (@KfirLuzzatto) has and explains why you should in Mustering the Courage to Turn Down a Publishing Contract on Writer Beware® Blogs. Better than that, though, he offers 10 things you should do (like check the proposed publication date) or not do (tell everyone you’ve gotten the contract before you’ve even reviewed it), or ways of thinking, especially if you do turn the contract down, to help you get through the process. Even better yet, after the end of Kfir’s post, Victoria Strauss adds a list of helpful resources on how to review contracts (including from Intellectual Property lawyers), where to go for information on publishing houses, etc. I have a feeling I’m going to be adding a lot of bookmarks as a result of this post. All by itself, the resource list is a keeper.

After your book is published, of course you want to plus up your sales. Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) hosts a guest post by Rob Eagar (@robeagar), founder of WildFire Marketing, on how to Sell More Fiction by Activating the Power of Book Clubs. Rob discusses three ways to get started: provide “spicy” discussion questions, turn the book into an event, and offer a virtual discussion with the author. At least one of these ought to fit into your comfort zone. Well worth checking out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) provides a useful discussion of Facebook Pages vs. Profiles for Authors today. The distinction is important and profiles and pages both have their pluses and minuses.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Finally, Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) describes her experiences at conferences/conventions for three different (sets of) genres: romance, mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy/horror. No surprise, there are Cultural Differences between each, which I can partially vouch for having just attended an sf/f/h convention myself. The point, of course, isn’t that one isn’t “better” than the others, but that each has its own focus and approach—in fact, even within a particular genre, different conferences do things differently and have their own vibes. Nancy’s commenters add their own takes on cons they’ve been to. If you’ve never been to one, this is a good way to get an idea of what you could experience.

That’s all for today. Got something to share? Add it in the comments.

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 1 and 2, 2012

Yesterday and today have been much less depressing out there in blog-land than earlier parts of the week were, plus there’s some terrific content out there, so let’s get right to it:

CRAFT

Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) guest posts on Write to Done about something she knows a lot about: Character Emotion: Is It Written All Over Their Face? Her point is simple but important: faces aren’t the only places where characters show emotion. Body language, writ large (pun intended J, but don’t overdo it), not only can communicate emotion very effectively, it can also be easier to describe than a fleeting facial expression. And of course, although Angela was careful not to mention them, don’t forget the various thesauri, including the ones for emotions and body parts, on her own blog, The Bookshelf Muse.

Every so often Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) points her readers to articles from the Glimmer Train Bulletin, and today is one of those days, particularly a quick piece on Consequence and Agency in Fiction by Joshua Henkin (@JoshuaHenkin). If that sounds complicated or esoteric, it’s really not. It means simply this: for a piece of fiction to be successful, someone (the agent) has to do something, and that action has to have consequences, all of which have to be apparent in some way to the reader. Seems obvious, right? Apparently not, especially in some kinds of fiction (I wouldn’t be referring to “literary” fiction, now would I?).

THE WRITING LIFE

Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) addresses on DIY MFA a topic that many writers worry about (unnecessarily, I think): Idea-Stealing: How Not to Let Your Fear Stifle Your Creativity. Gabriela actually spends more time on the worry some writers have that they will steal someone else’s idea than on a writer’s idea being stolen. All of her suggestions are excellent but it’s worth keeping in mind that the chances someone will reproduce your exact story or you doing the same to them, are very small after you discount blatant plagiarism, and she lists ways for dealing with that.

Mike Duran (@CerebralGrump) guest posts on Rachelle Gardner’s blog with a thought-provoking question: Are Writers Too Insulated from Their Readers? He picks up on a point Joe Konrath made earlier, that “Readers are my customers, not writers,” to suggest that many of the things we discuss among ourselves, including blogs like this one, are the kind of “inside baseball” topics that our readers don’t care about. All readers want to do, Duran argues, is enjoy the stories we write. While he’s got a point, it’s worth noting that there are some genres (literary not being one of them) that have a way to de-insulate their writers: conventions (not writers’ conferences), where fans and writers meet.

BUSINESS

That post serves as a nice transition into these posts on business. Let’s start with a very long Business Rusch post from Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) called No Reader Left Behind. Her most important point, among many thousands of words, is this: “Make your books as widely available as possible. Don’t rank one reader above another. Don’t leave any readers behind.” (Italics hers.)

Michelle Gagnon (@Michelle_Gagnon) makes a plea on The Kill Zone to quit the sniping and insults between advocates of traditional publishing and e-/indie-/self-publishing. “Enough already,” she says, and she’s right. There are plenty of ways for writers to get their stories in front of readers (see above) and the “right” way or ways is or are the one(s) that work for each of us. Thanks for the sanity, Michelle.

And finally, speaking of e-/self-publishing, Tracy R. Atkins (@TracyRAtkins) provides a long and detailed but informative Guide to Book Launch and Advance Sales Strategies with CreateSpace and Lulu on The Book Designer. If you’re considering publishing through either of these venues, be sure to check this post out.

So what do you think? Any thoughts on these posts? Anything else you’ve found that’s worth sharing? 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, September 8-10, 2012

Whoo-ee, it’s been a busy weekend and Monday out there in writer/blogger-land. Lots to share with you, so let’s get right to it.

On the pure craft side there’s really only one post, Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) To Capitalize or Not To Capitalize: That Is the Question. This is a good summary of a few of the rules regarding capitalization but then there are many more Harvey could cover, and I hope he will. If capitalization is one of your personal bugaboos, give this post a look.

There were a surprising number of posts on the writer’s life, the process of writing, writing tools, etc.

  • If you’re a Scrivener user (I’m just getting started, myself) and you intend to self-publish, then Nick Thacker’s (@nickthacker) Live Hacked post Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.) may be just the thing you’re looking for. Thacker takes you step-by-step, with pictures, through the process of converting a Scrivener file into the ePub and .mobi file formats, using both Scrivener’s built-in tools and a separate program called Calibre. NOTE: this is fairly advanced stuff, so if you’re a new Scrivener user and/or aren’t sure you want to handle e-publishing on your own, just bookmark this article and save it for later. Thanks to Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) for pointing this article out.
  • While we’re on the topic of technology, Whitney Adams lists five Mobile Apps for Writers on DIY MFA. Some, like dictionary.com we’ve probably all heard of; others, like Inspiro, maybe not. But if you’re a mobile-enabled writer, check these out.
  • James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) writes on The Kill Zone about A Writer’s Ego. Face it, we all have one: how else could be dare to write things for publication, to believe what we have to say is worth reading? But of course,our  ego can get us in trouble in all sorts of ways, too, and Bell writes about how to avoid some of those traps.
  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) writes about 10 Excuses for Not Writing – and How to Smash Them on her WORDplay blog. Many of these are inverse-ego (that is, negative self-image) beliefs: “I have no talent,” “people will ridicule my work,” and so on. Kim’s practical yet realistic tips should help if you have problems believing in your own abilities.

Shifting all the way over to the business side now.

  • MAYBE the biggest news of the weekend was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ announcement that not only was Amazon about to release new versions of the Kindle and at new price points, but that Amazon was going to start offering e-books in serial form. That generated a whole spate of comments.
    • The Bookshelf Muse guest blogger Sue Quinn’s (@susankayequinn) take is all positive: It’s a Great Day to Be a Writer. While she’s not just stoked about this new take on an old concept (Charles Dickens, anyone?), she’s certainly right that we writers have more options and opportunities to reach our readers, whether 5 or 5 million, than we’ve ever had.
    • Joe Hartlaub’s take on The Kill Zone, Books on the Installment Plan is more cautious, looking at what he sees as some of the pros and cons of the concept.
    • Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) takes that view into even more detail in his long, as usual “Extra Ether” post, Serial Iterations. This 4-part post discusses the basics of how serialization is going to work on the Kindle, British writer Roz Morris’ experiences with serialization (some positive, some negative), speculates on how reader reactions to a serial’s installments might influence future installments, and closes with some cautionary notes about what that might mean for writing. My take: interesting idea; some writers will embrace it, others won’t at all, still others will use it only in ways that suits their writing and preferred ways of working; but this is not the end of writing as we know it.
  • One more piece on independent publishing. Irish writer Nick Rooney writes about The Self-Publishing Honeypoton The Independent Publishing Magazine’s blog. Rooney notes how the Big 6 publishers are finally, slowly, getting into the electronic publishing world themselves as they realize its business (read money-making) potential. Two interesting and perhaps disturbing points:
    • Rooney identifies a number of publishers who are using services “powered by ASI” (that’s Author Solutions, Inc., the company with a questionable reputation recently purchased by Pearson Publishing). What, exactly, does “powered by” mean and what “services” are these “independent” (?) companies going to provide?
    • Rooney may not have been aware of it, but “honeypot” has a second meaning in American slang which comes from the days before indoor plumbing. “Thunder mug” is a synonym. Significance?
  • And finally (TOLD you it was a busy weekend!), Joel Friedlander is back with a discussion of Chris Brogan’s Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing. The concept, intended to be a time-saver, has a writer establishing a social media “hub”–their web site or blog, say–and then picking social media “outposts” from which they can reach the kinds of readers they’re looking for and bring them back to the hub via links. Joel’s going to be hosting a (NOT free) webinar on this topic next week.

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

Wednesday already! How did that happen? Putting up that Critique Technique post yesterday must have thrown me off. Well, anyway, lots of terrific stuff to get to, so no more stalling!

As usually, we’ll start with matters of craft:

  • Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) announces and begins a new series on DIY MFA called Creative Power Tools. Tool #1: Words gets things going. This is somewhat surprising post because it compares words to weapons. OK, we’ve heard that before, so we’ll see how this series develops. Gabriela also announces an upcoming project with super-publicist Dan Blank.
  • Speaking of “super,” super-agent Donald Maass (@DonMaass) is back on Writer Unboxed with a piece on why and how your characters need to change Without Delay. What’s interesting here is that his observations, as he notes, apply to all genres of fiction, “literary” or otherwise. The longer you delay having your characters change, he writes, even a little bit, the more likely it is your readers are going to get bored and look for something else to do.
  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) looks at another thing that can chase readers away when she asks Is Your Scene Break a Lying, Cheating Fraud? Well, that’s certainly a provocative question! To be clear, it’s not the scene break itself that can be the problem, but what happens on either side of it. If the scene before the break ends with something dramatic but the scene that follows doesn’t live up to the expectations the drama placed in the reader’s mind, that’s where you get into bait-and-switch territory, which is what Kim helps you avoid.
  • We go back to Writer Unboxed for Therese Walsh’s (@ThereseWalsh)  Interview with Erika Robuck (@ErikaRobuck), author of the recent book Hemingway’s Girl. What I want to point you to is the portion of the interview,starting about 5 questions in, where Robuck discusses dialog, layers of the story, and publication. That’s not to say the first part of the interview, about research and Hemingway’s relationships, aren’t interesting, but I think the later parts are better.
  • We’ll close this section with 3 Free Photo Tools for Author Bloggers on Joel Friedlander’s (@JFBookman) The Book Designer blog. Friedlander introduces us to photopin.com, which helps you search through the gazillion photos that are posted on Flickr for the one(s) you really want. Then there’s freeonlinephotoeditor.com, which is, surprisingly enough, what it says it is. The last tool is one that exists in Google Image search: a way to use one image to search for others like it. Now that’s pretty cool. I haven’t tried any of these tools myself but they do sound like they’re worth a try.

OK, on to business stuff:

  • Patrick Icasas (@PatrickIcasas) writes the first of two guest blogs relating to freelance writing this week on Writer Beware! Blogs, this one on 7 Freelance Writing Scams and How to Fight Them. These scams have to do more with folks who are writing non-fiction pieces for hire than writing fiction “on spec,” but even fiction writers should give this post a look. You’re not immune to at least some of them.
  • On a MUCH happier note, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) provides 6 Tips for Successful Networking. Rachelle’s writing about the in-person kind, the kind that leads to sweaty palms, stammering and blathering, and much general discomfort among writers. It doesn’t have to be that way, and Rachelle’s tips can ease the fear and pressure.
  • Finally, Kimberly Vargas writes in Radio Days on WordServe Water Cooler about her experiences with the online radio program, The Authors Show. Since I’m going to be doing a local radio interview myself tomorrow, this had some personal interest, but the point is that radio interviews are often a lot easier to get than other kinds of publicity. Local radio stations with talk segments or a talk format are always looking for content and not all shows are about politics. Online programs reach an even wider audience which can be, at the same time, more focused by topic or genre.

One more piece, in the “that’s interesting” category: Michael Swanwick has a short piece about what appears to be The Oldest Novel in the World & Its Genre. The book is Callirhoe by Chariton of Aphrodesias, and it was written around the first century A.D. Would you believe, it’s a romance novel? I guess since the author was from Aphrodesias, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

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, August 15, 2012

Too bad today’s not Tuesday. Why? Because if it was I could have called today’s post How-to Tuesday, or even better, How-Tue Tuesday. How-to Wednesday just doesn’t have the same ring. But since I’m stuck with that lemon, it’s time to make lemonade. We’ve got how-to’s on craft, marketing, social media, and self-publishing, plus one non-how-to on the Author’s Guild. Lot’s to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Let’s start with craft:

  • Joanne Brothwell (@JoanneBrothwell) lists the 7 Things [She’s] Learned So Far on The Guide to Literary Agents blog. Nothing really new here for experienced writers but a terrific summary for new writers, like many members of my own writers’ group.
  • In a similar vein, Mary Jaksch (@Mary_Jaksch), chief editor of Write to Done, offers 7 Instant Fixes for better writing. Much like Joanne’s post, these fixes are post-first-draft techniques and are especially good for new writers, but hers are more specific and focused than Joanne’s.
  • Finally for this section, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) asks, Can You Define Your Character in One Word? Of course, she acknowledges, doing so leaves out so much of a character’s personality, but like a log-line does for a story, it gets to the core of that character. Challenging! Can you do it?

OK, on to marketing, promotion, and social media.

  • Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) offers a set of very practical tips to Build a Better Author Bio on Twitter. You’ve only got 160 characters plus room for a photo, your name, your Twitter handle, and ONE link. Using that limited space well is not just a real-world exercise in tight writing, it’s a matter of focusing on achieving your purpose: effectively communication who you are as a writer.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) stretches beyond Twitter to provide 8 Tips for Promoting Your Book Online. Some of her suggestions are outside my personal comfort zone, but that’s just me. I’m sure she’d say, “pick the ones that work for you and ignore the rest.”
  • Dealing with how to get outside your comfort zone, if that’s necessary, is also the theme behind Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Networking for Authors: 5 Survival Tips on DIY MFA. This time, though, the topic is doing that networking in person rather than from the comfort of your own keyboard. These tips range from business card etiquette to having a wing-man along at writers’ conferences.
  • Abhishek Raj’s (@buddinggeek) post on @ProBlogger, Protect Your Content from Being Copied in 3 Steps really jumped out at me. I’ve wondered for a long time if there was a way to keep someone from simply copying blog or web site text straight off the screen. It turns out there is and the author provides links to the JavaScript code for Blogger and the plugin for WordPress. He also describes how to watermark images and manage RSS feeds. If all that sounds like gobbledegook, well, if you’re a blogger or have a web site, it’s time to learn the language. I’ve flagged this post as a “favorite.”

Next up is a how-to, or how-not-to, regarding self-publishing.

  • Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman) was a judge recently for the Bay Area Independent Book Publishers Book Awards competition. In Why Self-Published Books Look Self-Published, he describes the kinds of mistakes self-published authors make too often that leave their work looking amateurish (beyond poor writing).

And last of all, the one non-how-to piece:

  • Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) continues a conversation that’s been bubbling for a while in some corners (e.g. some of Joe Konrath’s and David Gaughran’s posts) when he asks, Does The Authors Guild Serve the Interest of Writers? It’s a provocative question, but one that’s been coming up more frequently given the AG’s position on the Justice Department’s suit against the Big 6 publishers. Nathan’s post is more measured and less emotional that those you might come across elsewhere.

 

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 9, 2012

Pretty much an all-business day today. We’ll start with one post on craft, then, to coin a cliché, get down to business.

  • Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) final post from her experiences at ThrillerFest, talks about how to Get Creative on Demand. The thing to remember from this post isn’t the specific technique–playing certain music, lighting a scented candle, or some other thing that she mentions–it’s the general concept: do something consistently that gets you into your writing mode.
  • Matt Richtel’s (@mrichtel) piece on The Kill Zone, What Killed the Thriller Writer: Your Attention Span is an interesting follow-up to Monday’s post by Clare Langley-Hawthorne on the pressure to sell short fiction on the web in addition to full length novels. To be clear, the title is a little misleading. Richtel and several of the commenters find value in this kind of publishing while still acknowledging the challenges and additional pressures to produce it puts on writers.
  • Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) provides a sanity-check on Writer Beware today with her Ebooks Outsell Print! Putting Headlines in Context. Now, the news media or industry spokespeople (what an awkward word) would never hype or mis-report statistics, would they? Would they? Hmmm, maybe they would.
  • Finally, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) strongly-worded Business Rusch post, The Agent Clause (Deal Breakers 2012) makes my “caution-light” come on for two reasons: (1) I’m cautious about any opinionated post, but (2) I’ve had to read other (not writing-related) contracts before and am very aware of how even a single word can make for serious trouble of one party or the other, especially when one party isn’t aware of the potential negative consequences. So, with that thought in mind, plus the knowledge that many of us writers don’t think like business people, to say nothing of lawyers, Kris’s post got flagged as a “favorite” (something I rarely do) so I’ll be able to refer back to it when the time comes for me to be reviewing agent and publishing contracts myself. Caveat auctor: writer, beware.