Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 23-25, 2013

Several sets of FAQs for you today, plus tips on trilogies, writing magic, getting more out of Google+, and building your writing community. But before we get to that…

A LITTLE MORE LEAD-UP

Starting Friday, Great Stuff will not only have a new home but a slightly different name. I’m changing it to focus on what it provides: value to you. So when we make the move, look for “Great Stuff for Writers,” in place of the current title. It’ll have its own place on the new web site’s menu line. My other posts, under the title of Critique Technique, will remain the same, but they too will have their own menu line item. On Wednesday I’ll give you the new web site name and URL and then on Friday—deep breath—it’ll all officially go live.

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) finishes her series on scenes and sequels with some Frequently Asked Questions. Alas, her call for questions elicited only two and, well, let’s hope that those folks just came to the series late. So instead, Katie pulled in some questions that had been asked in the comments to previous parts of the series. Some are pretty basic but others drew out insightful or informative answers. Here’s a big THANK YOU to Katie for the series. It’s a keeper. (Do I sense a small ebook? :))

Other author’s who’ve written about writing a series have discussed overall story and character arcs and the like, and those are important things. Jordyn Redwood (@JordynRedwood) discusses some other details specifically regarding Writing a Trilogy that, if not taken care of, can catch the writer out, things like timelines, characterization absolutes, and moments that tie later books back to the earlier ones. Series writing introduces layers of complexity not found in a standalone work, so posts like this are valuable.

Here’s a big shout-out thank you to Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) of The Bookshelf Muse for bringing in horror writer Michaelbrent Collings to discuss The Magic of Misleading. Why? Because reading it made me realize one of the things that’s missing from the first draft of my current WIP. Are you ready? Here it is: “the secret to misdirection isn’t withholding information, it’s giving extra information, and focusing the audience’s attention on that.” (emphases his) That light you see is the 25 Watt light bulb flickering on above my head! There’s more to the post, of course, but this is a nugget I’ll be keeping. Maybe you will too.

BUSINESS

Query letters: one of the greatest mysteries in the business of getting published. What makes a good one? What do agents want??????  Back in September of last year, Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) wrote a roundup of frequently asked questions. Now he’s back with Query Letter FAQs (Part II): 10 More Questions Answered on Writer Unboxed. If you’re currently querying or want to get published by a traditional publisher, take a look at this post. But keep one thing in mind that Chuck only hints at: always always ALWAYS check the web site of the agent or agency you’re submitting to first to find out what they want and how they work.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Demian Farnworth’s (@demianfarnworth) Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+ (really 6 do’s and 1 don’t) is something of a paean to Google’s social media platform, but I suppose you could call it a practical paean. As I’ve noted elsewhere, in many ways Google+ isn’t all that unique (the major exception being the Hangouts free video conferencing feature), but what they’ve done is take a number of things other social media sites do, such as LinkedIn’s groups, and amplified them (Google+’s circles). So if you’re already on Google+ and want to know how to use it better, or you’re still trying to decide whether to add it to your social media repertoire, it’s probably worth your time to visit this long post on Copyblogger.

THE WRITING LIFE

We all know—and keep telling each other! :)—that the writing life is a lonely one, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be, and Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) is starting a series on how you can expand your circle, or as she calls it, Build Your Writing Community with In-Person Events. She offers tips on where to find such events, which to choose, and what to do once you get there. If you’re looking for ways to escape your garret, this could be for you. Then in part 2, she discusses Writing Classes and Workshops. Surprised that someone hosting a blog on creating a do-it-yourself Master of Fine Arts equivalent would be advocating finding classes? Don’t be—it makes sense in the context of creating your own community. Classes are simply another way of meeting like-minded and like-skilled writers. And be sure to check out her tips for evaluating the people and the classes.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 5 & 6, 2013

After a couple of big posts, today’s is much lighter. I imagine you might appreciate that. Some of today’s posts are practical—character and setting development, for example—others are thought-provoking. Feel free to disagree with them.

CRAFT

This writing technique definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s certainly “different.” But if it works for you, terrific! What I’m talking about is Cinthia Ritchie’s (@cinthiaritchie1) piece on the Guide to Literary Agents blog called Marathon Training to Finish Your Book. Cinthia models writing a novel on Hal Higdon’s plan for training for a marathon. It’s a very different way of approaching the “write every day” mantra because it varies how much time you’re to spend writing, with “long writing days” comparable to the long training runs marathoners do as they prepare for the big day. Check it out. Maybe it’ll fit with your life and schedule. Maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t, forget it.

Two pieces today on characters and characteristics. Donald Maass’s (@donmaass) The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror on Writer Unboxed and freelance editor Jodie Renner’s (@JodieRennerEd) Essential Characteristics of a Thriller Hero on The Kill Zone. You can tell from the title that Renner’s piece is more focused on certain kinds of characters while Maass’s offers questions to ask yourself about yourself with the intent of then making those answers—good or bad—part of your characters, especially your protagonist. This is classic Maass and for my money a far better set of tools than creating the simplistic list of traits (what does your character eat for breakfast?) that other authors (NOT Renner!) often suggest.

Try this quote on for size: “…readers really don’t mind setting description so long as it entertains them.” Say what? So saith KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) in How to Create a Surefire Awesome Setting (emphasis hers, by the way). While I think I’d use “engage” rather than “entertain,” the point of the short video is that setting description can add to, even enrich, a story when its presentation is one in proper balance with other parts of the story.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Here are two pieces of news I found both interesting and potentially important. According to Brian Clark (@copyblogger) in his post Get Over Yourself and Get On Google+:

  • Google+ has become the second largest social media platform, passing Twitter, and
  • Google+ isn’t a social network, it’s a topical network (emphasis his), meaning it is more “organized around content” rather than people per se.

Clark also suggests that this difference is important to authors and their platforms (he quotes former Google CEO Eric Schmidt for support) and that the difference is one thing that distinguishes Google+ from its major competitors. Disclaimer: I do not have a Google+ account. (Okay, okay, so maybe I should. All I need is a 25th hour in my 24-hour day.)

THE WRITING LIFE

Hmmm, I wonder if Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) was aiming Be the Gatekeeper of Your Mind at me—and you, dear reader. Why? She writes that she’s found she’s more creative if she reads fewer blogs, not more, and when she reads longer, more “immersive” work, like full-length books. Could it be she’s got a case of information overload? She seems to think so. What about you? Have you decided to pare back on your information input?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 22 & 23, 2013

 

What do you know? A Great Stuff post without anything on craft! But that’s OK, there’s still Great Stuff out there: a convenient submission tracking form, yet another way to connect using social media and other ways to get support, acting like a writer, and a post like nothing you’ve ever seen—at least not recently.

BUSINESS

A couple weeks ago, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) published a post called Navigating the Guest Post Process on DIY MFA, which included a PDF guest post submission log form. Today she announced on Twitter a new and improved version that you can fill out using Adobe Reader. (Full disclosure: Gabriela designed the form, I suggested and created the capability to fill it in with Reader. Thanks for letting me contribute, Gabriela!) The form is good for other submissions besides guest posts, too: opinion pieces, even full-scale non-fiction articles for print or online publication. You can find the form by clicking on the link above or get it directly here.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Google+ continues to come up with its own takes on things other social media sites are already doing. Now Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) introduces us to the latest with Google+ Communities Create New Networks for Authors and Publishers. I won’t make any snarky comments about this being another way to spend time we should be spending writing: we know that already. What jumped out at me was this: there are four general types of groups: public, public moderated, private, and private hidden. That’s fine. But once the community’s been created, you can’t change the type, from public moderated to private, say? Really? If Joel’s not wrong, Google certainly is. That’s poor design.

THE WRITING LIFE

No doubt Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) chose the title Got Any Wise People in Your Village? Or Just Idiots? with the intention of getting our attention. And she succeeded. But the village she’s referring to is the group of writing-related people around us—the people who should be our support group. Are they wise or, um, not so helpful? Her key points are: (1) you need them; (2) you decide who to keep close and who not to.

Having that village around you will only help so much, however, if you’re not willing to help yourself. Carleen Brice (@carleenbrice) answers the question Can Acting As If You’re a Writer Make You a Writer? with a qualified yes. Yes if you use acting-as-if to get started or keep yourself motivated to keep going. There’s even scientific evidence now to show this works. But it’s the doing that matters in the end, not the pretending.

FUN

Oh, man, this is just too much fun to pass up. John Vorhaus’s (@TrueFactBarFact) Simile Fever Spreads Like Wildfire on Writer Unboxed is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Good thing you’re done with this post. You can stop what you’re doing an go read it—now!—without guilt.

Then share the laughs with all your writer friends.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 3-5, 2012

It’s interesting how the best posts over the weekend had to do with the writing life. We’ll do a couple of others first.

CRAFT

There’s a genre that lives on the boundary between mainstream fiction and fantasy and incorporates elements of both. In Defining Magic Realism Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) discusses the genre and its key characteristics. If this is a genre you’re interested in or just curious about, check out this post.

SOCIAL MEDIA

I’m not a Google+ user myself but Maria Peagler’s (@SM_OnlineClass) How to Use Google+ as an Author Platform on Write to Done is one of the most thorough yet practical and approachable articles of its kind I’ve seen. If you’re already a Google+ user or considering signing up, this is a must-read article.

BUSINESS

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) posts a long-for-him piece on why The Publishing Industry Is Not Deserving of Special Protection. This, of course, goes back to the various lawsuits floating around regarding Amazon and the Big-6 publishers, and his point is that while there’s some reason to be concerned about a potential Amazon.com monopoly over book distribution, that’s no reason for protectionist legal rulings simply because an industry is going through changes. Books will still get to readers. The prices may be lower and the distribution methods different, but readers will still read. Will the publishing houses embrace change and help shape it, or will they fight it to their own deaths?

THE WRITING LIFE

I’m tempted to write that it’s sad we need etiquette reminders and what a reflection that is of this day and age and yada yada yada but I’m not so sure this time and generation is all that much different from those who’ve gone before. In any case, Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) Manners Matter: 13 Etiquette Tips deserves a look. My absolute favorite, and one we need to stand up for when we’re on the losing end of it, is #11: “Pay attention to the person with whom you’re interacting.” In other words, when you’re talking with someone in person and your cell phone rings, LET IT RING. That’s what voice mail is for! It’s rude and disrespectful to blow someone off to answer your phone, check the latest instant message or tweet, or whatever. Why we don’t understand that is beyond me. GRRRRR.

On the topic of personal interactions, James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) post Making Readers One at a Time is not only an great example of treating someone—in this case, a perfect stranger—with kindness and respect, he shows how he was able to turn that stranger into a new reader of his books.

Continuing with that theme, Becky Johnson (@beckyajohnson) writes about Stranglers or Wranglers? The Super Power of Encouragement on WordServe Water Cooler. Her story is about two critique groups at the University of Wisconsin. One called themselves “The Stranglers,” the other “The Wranglers.” Over the years, the members of the Stranglers, who had focused on criticism, never achieved any literary success, while the Wranglers produced a Pulitzer Prize winner. Johnson’s point: be sure to include encouragement in your critiques. Always good advice.

Finally, Mark Alpert issues a warning: Be Careful What You Read!!! It started when he noticed that after reading a log of Tom Wolfe’s writing, he began to write like Wolfe! Especially when it came to using exclamation points! To excess! Everywhere! What about you? Do you tend to pick up certain tendencies if you read a lot of one author’s work in quick succession?