Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 2-4, 2013

Wow! Busy weekend out there on the blogosphere, and Monday morning, too: rules and tools, emotions and responses, Star Wars attacks and attacks on Amazon. It’s all here, and more. No time to lose! Let’s get started.

CRAFT

CORRECTION! Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) workshop is on Tuesday, February FIFTH,  (that’s tomorrow) at 1 PM Eastern. Sorry for the confusion!

Anyone who’s been at this business a while knows that there are almost no rules to writing, beyond maybe, “Get your butt in the chair! Now!” So when a post is titled The Rules of Writing, naturally that’s going to raise some concerns. Fortunately, French super-bestseller Marc Levy’s (@marc_levy) “rules” on Writer Unboxed aren’t rules so much as guidelines, and wise and practical ones at that. A couple examples to whet your appetite: “Stop trying so hard to find a subject” and “Don’t show too much, don’t tell too much.”

Along these same lines, Joanna Penn’s (@thecreativepenn) guest post on Write to Done on 5 Ways To Take Your Writing Further includes some techniques I’ve heard before but haven’t seen mentioned much recently, namely free-writing and physically copying the work of published authors you enjoy and respect. Not only are these effective techniques for expanding your writing, they’re terrific for overcoming writer’s block. (See the Brandon Yawa post below too.)

I think it was one of the great Russian writers who said, “If there is no emotion in the writer, there will be no emotion in the reader.” Anyone know who that was? In any case, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) picks up on that theme with his post How To Get Emotional About Your Novel on The Kill Zone. “Emotion in the author,” he writes, “is literary electricity. It’s the X Factor, the game changer… Readers sense it.” Then he describes a couple of methods for finding it and bringing it out in your work. The last part of the post is a plug for his latest book but also serves as an example of how he was able to create genuine emotion in the story.

Speaking of emotion, KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes and sequels with Pt. 9: Options for Dilemmas in a Sequel. What does this have to do with emotion? After the emotion of the reaction to the previous scene’s disaster, now the protagonist should face a dilemma in which he or she has to figure out what to do next. This can be an emotional reaction, too, or a rational one, but it needs to start with a review of what’s happened, an analysis of options, and a plan for moving forward, which will lead to a decision, the next scene and, of course, the next disaster… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Lessons Learned from the Original Star Wars Trilogy to Up Your Writing Game? Seriously? Yup. Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) comes up with them on Writer Unboxed. Specifically, Episode IV (start in the middle), Episode V (destroy everything), Episode VI (expect the unexpected).  Hmmm. Y’know, that gives me an idea…. Thanks, Lydia!

BUSINESS

Joanna Penn’s piece on her own blog, How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling, is a terrific insight into both. Yes, if you own an e-reader, your shopping habits may be different, but if you’re looking to e-publish, even how just one reader shops can be revealing. So are Joanna’s and her commenters’ views on samples: how long they should be, how much time a reader will spend with them, how often they decide not to buy based on the sample, etc. Valuable info here!

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has started a monthly feature called Best Business Advice for Writers, and the January edition is full to overflowing with links to other posts and articles that are full to overflowing with information. The ol’ veritable plethora, right on your screen: GoodReads, cover design, self-publishing lessons-learned, WordPress plug-ins, Kickstarter, and more. Goodness. It’s a week’s worth of reading all by itself! Pick what most interests you.

Whoa, this is a tough one. Clare Langley-Hawthorne reports on The Kill Zone on a series of Concerted Amazon Attacks meant to discredit and kill the sales of a book. The book, an apparently non-sycophantic biography of Michael Jackson received so many 1-star reviews on Amazon (over 100), many of which were factually inaccurate, that despite Amazon’s selecting it as one of their best books of the year, sales were a small fraction of the number of books printed. So, whose free-speech rights prevail in a case like this: the authors’ or the reviewers’? Or is this an either/or decision at all? What do you think?

THE WRITING LIFE

It might be a bit of a surprise to see a post from ProBlogger here in the Writing Life section, but Brandon Yawa’s (@BrandonYawa) How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block fits. Interestingly, his idea is NOT compassion by the author for someone else, but compassion by the author for him- or herself. Self-forgiveness, in other words, when the words won’t come, plus a few non-writing techniques for getting that mental break that releases the block. Marc Levy (above) says not to fear writer’s block because it’s a natural thing. Without the fear, then, the forgiveness should come more easily. Hope so, anyway!

If you’ve ever been in a writers’/critique group, you’ve probably encountered people like those described in Donna Cooner’s (@donnacooner) Top 10 Worst Types of Critique Partners. If you haven’t, yes, you might well encounter people like these. But don’t assume as some writers and bloggers (NOT Donna) insist that all groups are like this. They’re not, and a good group is worth its weight in ink cartridges.

So, can you name that Russian writer? Have you run into any of those awful critique partners? How about great ones? Tell! Tell! (This is one time you don’t have to “show.”)

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 3, 2012

I’ve discovered a purpose for Mondays: so bloggers can put together great stuff that they then post on Tuesdays! To wit: a Tuesday full of terrific stuff. We’ll start with the one negative thing and then get to the positives.

  • Kathleen Pickering (@KatPickering) writes in Identity Theft:Cloud Files and Urgent Phone Calls about a recent encounter she had with an aggressive phone scammer, her reactions to him, and her actions since. I have no opinion plus or minus on the specific anti-identity theft tools/services she recommends but her 6 specific action recommendations are things we all can do easily and at little or no cost.
  • Moving on to a more positive and interesting, but perhaps still a little scary subject, we go to Hugh McGuire’s (@hughmcguire) short (13 minute) TEDx Montreal talk, discovered via Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) via Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman), in which he asks, eBooks Gone in 5 Years? One reason why I don’t own an e-book reader isn’t because I’m a Luddite (I’m writing a blog, after all, on a computer), but because I see them as transitional devices. As tablets like the iPad and Microsoft Surface get more and more powerful, not to mention smart phones, I see e-book reader software migrating away from single-purpose devices like the Kindle to similarly-sized multi-purpose devices like the tablets. McGuire’s take is a little different–that the future of e-books is in a much more interconnected, interactive, hyperlinked, format which retains and even improves on the quality of the content now associated more with printed books than the internet. Scary for some writers, maybe, but fascinating and exciting for those of us willing to explore this terra incognita.
  • The next logical stop on today’s tour, I guess, is Victoria Strauss’ (@victoriastrauss) repost of something she first put up on Writer Beware (R) Blogs! a couple years ago: Rights vs. Copyright. This is a good summary of the difference between literary rights and copyright, a difference every writer needs to understand.
  • Going back yet farther into the writing process, we find Therese Walsh’s (@ThereseWalsh) A Study in Opposites on Writer Unboxed, in which she describes how she used some time spent with  thesaurus.com before she began writing a story. She started with two words with opposite meanings and connotations, then created lists of synonyms and antonyms via the thesaurus as a way to develop ideas for characters, plot events, etc. To my personal tastes, this feels too much like a writing exercise, which I generally don’t like, but you might find it interesting or helpful, so pop on over to her post to get the full, um, story.
  • I’ve saved the best for last today: Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) 6 Things To Learn From Hemingway. Rather than take a literary-criticism approach to the subject, Rachelle looks at different aspects Papa H’s process, from what other writers he read to what he did with a “completed” work before it was truly done. Professionalism, every step of the way. And things we can all do.

Great stuff, I think you’ll agree.