Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 19 & 20, 2013

A double-dose of Great Stuff today (and again on Friday) as IndieReCon rolls on. Despite all the links from the Con below, I have NOT mentioned every post or video or chat from the first half! And then there are all the “usual suspects” you’re used to reading here. No more delays! Off we go…

FROM IndieReCon

Bob Mayer (@Bob_Mayer) starts things off with The Future of Digital Publishing. Okay, predicting the future is something best left to science fiction authors (but we’ll say we don’t predict THE future, but A POSSIBLE future), but Mayer’s taking trends and projecting from there. Besides his basic post, he adds 17 additional points in two comments. Key point of all is probably this: “The last thing is WRITE.  If you look at the bestselling indie authors, they aren’t much on Facebook and Twitter and blogging, etc.  They’re writing!  You must have product to sell.” I know some of us hate the idea of our work being considered “product.” Tough. It is. Always has been.

Jessie Harrell (@JessieHarrell) provides The Honest Inside Scoop: The Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing. Honest is right, particularly regarding the cons—or maybe we should say the realities—of being a publisher as well as a writer. Then Shelli (S. R.) Johannes (@srjohannes) gets into the “hats”—all 15 of ‘em!—self-publishers may or may not wear at any time in Entrepreneurial Authors Wear Many Hats. Personally, I’m not so sure about one: lawyer. Unless you actually have a JD degree, be careful here. And there are those, like Cory Doctorow, who do NOT see piracy (the reason for the lawyer hat) as a threat but another marketing venue, one you don’t have to put any effort into!

Harrell mentions up-front costs as a con of self-publishing. Miral Sattar (@miralsattar) gets more specific in her Costs of Self Publishing post. It’s good to see these numbers, even if they make you wince: forewarned is forearmed. One thing she does NOT mention is that you can, with some study and work on your own, format ebooks at no cost using Smashwords. (Disclaimer: I am NOT (yet, perhaps) a Smashwords user.)

We’ve all heard the advice to write a business plan, but who’s ever seen one for a writer? Denise Grover Swank (@DeniseMSwank) not only discusses hers, she provides excerpts from it in Setting the Foundation for Your Writing Career: A Business Plan. A long post but worth studying. Shelli Johannes follows this up with 8 sets of specific things to do in Marketing Plans Made Easy! Well, okay, easy once you get used to doing the kinds of things she recommends. (You DON’T have to do every single thing!) The point is the plan, not necessarily the specific details.

CRAFT

In this week’s vlog, KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) cautions that Your Character Might Be Betraying Readers If…. The “if” being if an apparently good character suddenly turns out to be bad. But is this the character betraying the reader, or the author? I’d say the latter. Even if you’re going for the surprise or twist ending, there need to be a few hints, a bread-crumb here and there, that might suggest that Character X isn’t quite what he seems to be. Then, when the big reveal hits, your reader smacks herself on the forehead and exclaims, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

BUSINESS

Here’s a warning for any of you who are Christians, whether you write in the “Christian” genres or not: Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) issues this Solicitation Alert: Blessed Hope Publishing. It turns out that BHP is a new “tentacle” (Strauss’s term) of a German company that solicits and sucks in naïve and/or desperate Christian authors with promises of publication, then ties them down with a contract that ensures little or no effort to sell the writer’s work, a near-total loss of copyrights by the author, and a near-zero chance of being paid. Even “better,” you don’t have to query them, they come hunting for—I mean—they solicit you! Other than that, it’s a great company! Writer: beware!

On the plus side, the Kristy Montee half of “PJ Parrish” (the other half is her sister Kelly Nichols) writes of their generally very positive experiences with self-publishing one of their first books and a new novella. “Generally” because they had a heck of a time formatting the novella for the Nook, but their experiences with the KDP Select program mirrors Joe Konrath’s, which I reported on last time. Check out their post, How to make it to the Big Show.

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his serialization of the update of his ebook Think Like a Publisher with Chapter 6: Sales Plans. This is really an introductory chapter to those that will follow, but there’s some material at the end you need to read if you plan to e-publish: He lists how many distribution channels you’ll reach if you just use Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace, B&N’s PubIt!, and Smashwords. Want to guess how many that is? Four? You’re way cold. Okay, okay, um, 25? Still way cold. Seriously? All right, 50. Still cold. I’ll tell you: by his count, 122 major outlets worldwide! Would I like to sell through over 100 outlets? Are you kidding me? Oh, heck yeah!

SOCIAL MEDIA

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has over 175,000 Twitter followers, and you know what? She doesn’t care. It’s not that she’s arrogant about that number, but as she explains in How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter), there are many things that go into getting such a large following—things that many of the rest of us don’t have the chance to do, like be the Twitter lead for a major media company—and nearly half of her follower accounts are either fake or inactive! Still, that leaves over 70,000 active followers. How did she get them? Check out her discussion on the things she did to deliver quality less than 141 characters.

THE WRITING LIFE

Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) shares some more ideas from fellow writer Bruce Coville on “Lengthening the Chain,” that is, doing things that will keep the reader engaged even after the story is done. The first two—on taking yourself, your art, and your business seriously, and not—aren’t terribly new, but the other two—never throw anything away, and embrace the unfinished chord—are at least new ways to express ideas about what we do as writers.

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.”)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 29 & 30, 2013

 

For a while this morning I thought I was going to have to write, “Nothing Great out there today. Sorry.” Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case, although the final list is short. That’s okay: quantity isn’t quality.

CRAFT

Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) continues his series on writing mistakes with The Next Five (Okay, Six) Most-Common Mistakes Writers Make. If you missed his first installment, you can find it here. This piece deals with assigning human traits to body parts, where to put descriptive narrative relative to dialogue, describing characters speaking to themselves, unnecessary “reaching” verbs, and others. Valuable basic craft stuff here, especially for new writers.

BUSINESS

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) interviews New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons (@cjlyonswriter) today about Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing: Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds. To be honest, there’s really nothing new in what Ms. Lyons says in this long piece, at least not if you’ve been reading this blog or any others for any length of time, but if you need to hear it from a big-name success, this is the piece you want to read.

THE WRITING LIFE

Now here’s a piece that’s the kind of thing writers need from time to time: Angela Ackerman’s (@AngelaAckerman) Success: Is It Happening To You, Only You Don’t Realize It? on The Bookshelf Muse. The subtitle, 7 Signs of Emerging Success, is the key here, or rather, the signs themselves are. They’re a terrific set of sanity checks against the crazy-making hunt for that 100,000th sale or the spot on the big-name bestseller list. None of us are likely to get there unless we had at least a few of these seven first.

I admit I’m always a bit leery of whoever’s the guru-du-jour—I’ve lived long enough to see too many of them come and go—so for that reason I’m not on the Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog) bandwagon. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good ideas or clever insights, I’m just not going to worship at his feet. That said, his interview with Kelton Reid (@KeltonReid) on Copyblogger, Here’s How Seth Godin Writes, is worth a look if nothing else than for the short and snarky answers to some of Reid’s questions. Example: Q: Do you write every day? A: Do you talk every day? Hmmm. I wonder if Godin’s getting interview fatigue. Or did Reid get the answers he deserved?

What do you think? Is Stanbrough right? What about Godin? Let us know in the Comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 12-14, 2013

We’ve got everything from variations on a scene to guest posting to number crunching (or not) to scams to friends to plot holes. Quite a smorgasbord of Great Stuff!

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her series on scenes with Pt. 6: Variations on the Scene. Said variations can apply to:

  • The scene goal: discovered after the scene begins; is implied instead of stated
  • The scene conflict: opens with conflict, not goal; is understated
  • The scene disaster: ends before the disaster, or
  • The scene as a whole: is skipped, implied, or summarized; is interrupted by a new scene; or switches POV.

Lots of great information here, especially for the intermediate writer.

Despite the title, Boyd Morrison’s (@boydmorrison) Have Gun? Won’t Travel on The Kill Zone isn’t about guns, per se, and it’s certainly not about the “debate” over “gun control” going on in the country now. It’s about plot holes, those practical, logistical, or logical impossibilities that movie-makers often get away with that writers can’t (or at least shouldn’t) and what you might do to keep yourself from leaving them in your own work. A long post, but worth a look.

BUSINESS

At first, Michael Swanwick’s Free Me! post was pretty much what I expected: an announcement of a free e-book from Tor.com that includes one of his stories. But then Michael went on to join the Kris Rusch bandwagon and remind authors to start recording their bibliography as soon as their first story is published. Why? Not just to have the record for your eventual estate, but to motivate you to get another story written and published so the first one won’t look so lonely. And then the first two won’t be lonely. And then….

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his New World of Publishing with a not-as-long-as-it-looks post titled Counting Numbers. This piece is going to be a bracing reality check on what realistic expectations for sales numbers and income look like, especially for many new, stars-in-their-eyes writers, but that’s okay. Perhaps his most important point is to think like a publisher: over a 10 year span, not month-to-month.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) wades once again into the quantity-now-versus-quality-soon debate that’s been bubbling around the blogosphere lately, with participants like DW Smith, Jane Friedman, and Porter Anderson with his Kill Zone post Publishing and Marketing Your Crap. It takes him a while to get to this point but it’s sure where my thinking is: “If readers don’t like the first book of yours they try, they’re most unlikely to buy any of the other 37.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) begins a series on Why Writers Should Write Guest Posts. This fairly long article covers five strategies for why someone would want to do this: to promote a blog or web site, to reach a new audience, to promote a new book, to help a new blogger build a readership, and to stretch your “writing muscle.” Future posts will cover the who, what, and how of guest postings. Should be a good series.

The second post, in fact, is pretty good, too. Gabriela discusses Navigating the Guest Post Process, including deciding specifically what to write about and for whom, how to pitch the idea (including a format for a pitch e-mail—very good idea!), things NOT to do in the pitch, and what to do when the post is published. All terrific stuff. She also provides a downloadable PDF form that you could use to track your submissions. Unfortunately, you can’t fill it in electronically but Gabriela’s accepted my offer to make it fillable. Check back tomorrow for news.

THE WRITING LIFE

Scams, alas, are a part of e-life, and Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) relays a report of one that’s been making the rounds in the UK in Alert: UK Speaker Scam Targets Writers (and Others) on Writer Beware® Blogs. In essence, the scam comes as an e-mail that says the recipient’s been selected to be a guest speaker at a university-sponsored conference but (there’s always a but) there are government fees that need to be paid up-front. You can figure out the rest. This scam isn’t unique to the UK; it’s a variation on a theme whose purpose is always to separate the naïve or unthinking from their money. Writer: beware!

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) points us over to the Glimmer Train Bulletin for an article by Kate Gale, the Managing Editor of Red Hen Press in which she advises, Find Someone Who Is a Stakeholder in Your Writing Life. She suggests three sources—family, spouse/lover, and other (published) writers—and a total of five people, or so, who will believe in you and support you. Contrary to the opinion of some writers, this is where a writers’ group can—not necessarily will, but can—provide that kind of support. Food for thought.

Don’t forget, you can always share Great Stuff with your friends. At no cost! 😉

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 8 & 9, 2013

Dystopian fiction and subplots, the future of fiction (maybe dystopian, maybe not), publicity in all its forms, and keeping your head in the game: we’re covering it all today. Dive in!

CRAFT

Dystopian fiction may not be your cuppa java—it wasn’t Karen Duvall’s (@KarenDuvall), at least not to write—but when she had a chance to write it she discovered 5 Ways Dystopian Fiction May Surprise You, which she shares on Writer Unboxed. The most surprising to me: opportunities for romance (love among the ruins, and all that).

So what good is a subplot, anyway? KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) explains why you should Use This Subplot to Bring Depth to Your Story. The “this” she’s referring to, by the way, is the emotional subplot, which brings out personal aspects of a character that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the story.

BUSINESS

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) Commodity Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Future of Fiction provides a very long for her overview of where she thinks the publishing industry is now and where pieces of it might be going in the future. There are points here I agree with and points I disagree with, sometimes vehemently. Give it a look, though. What do you think?

Ever wonder how to get book reviews? I have been lately. Dr. Rita Hancock (@DoctorRita) details how she went about Generating Buzz Through Book Reviews on WordServe Water Cooler. Note that some of her suggestions apply primarily to authors publishing primarily in print rather than electronically and it may not really be necessary to engage in 13—that’s right, thirteen—different publicity platforms the way she did, but her advice to start early is certainly on target.

Denise Wakeman (@DeniseWakeman) provides a bit of a sanity check against the last post with her post What’s Your Path to More Online Visibility? Her note that “you don’t have to do it all” is a welcome relief, although she also cautions, “Boosting your online visibility requires commitment and consistent action.” (Emphasis hers both times.)

Getting reviews is just one piece of the publicity pie, though. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle) guest posts on The Book Designer on 5 Reasons It’s Hard to Market Indie Fiction and What to Do About It. Practical, actionable, reasonable advice.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan O’Hara’s (@janohara) Solving a First-World Blogging Problem on Writer Unboxed, after a bit of a tease that makes a point, gets down to asking whether numbers (number of books sold this month, number of words written today, Klout score, etc.) really matter to writers and more importantly, if they do, how they should. In case you were wondering, 76.2% of her commenters agree. (I made that number up, by the way.)

Kind of in the same line of thought, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) advises, Don’t Feed Your Discontent. Among other things, she asks, “Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of focusing on things within your sphere of influence?emphasis hers, and suggests ways to refocus.

There must be something in the air this week—New Year’s resolutions starting to fail, maybe?—because here’s the third article posted in the last two days on keeping focus: James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Don’t Let Worry Drag You Down. His pyramid diagram puts into a concise image the writer’s path. Keep climbing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten for staying focused on your long-term goals?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 5-7, 2013

Boy, so much for a quiet weekend! Today’s post is CHOCK FULL of Great Stuff on a wide range of topics, including one we haven’t touched on in a long time: radio. Grab a cuppa and settle in.

CRAFT

Writer’s Digest editor Jessica Strawser (@jessicastrawser) provides a meaty set of tips in How to Start a Novel Right: 5 Great Tips. My fave of the five is Lee Child’s write what you feel, not what you know. The others are pretty darn good too, though: create a doorway of no return; minimize backstory; add character-defining sensory details (emphasis mine); and make secondary characters significant. Check out the details and the articles they were taken from.

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes with Pt. 5: Options for Disasters in a Scene. As Katie notes, “disaster” is a strong word that can conjure up the wrong image: that every scene has to end in a catastrophe. Before she gets into her detailed discussion of scene disasters, she notes, “The point [of the disaster] is to keep the pressure on and never let up.” Yup. Right on target.

Jael McHenry (@jaelmchenry) offers three things to look for when putting The Finishing Touches on a novel: follow the key thread all the way through, looking for inconsistencies; check for your biggest weakness; and strengthen your voice. Check out this quick and to-the-point piece on Writer Unboxed.

Can A Man Really Write Romance? Matthew Turner (@turndogmillion) claims he can and describes how he did on Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn. Some of his keys: watch, listen to, remember, and ask women about how they think, feel, and react. Lots of trust required there, on all sides.

Speaking of drawing from unlikely sources (I was?), Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) presents 6 Winning Ideas for Self-Publishers Straight from “Downton Abbey.” Sound like a stretch? Check these ideas out:

  • Pay attention to detail;
  • Keep the audience engaged with continuing storylines and evolving characters;
  • Seek feedback from the audience;
  • Do what it takes to stand out from the crowd;
  • Keep up with the changing market; and
  • Be memorable.

BUSINESS

So what’s the truth about the status and staying power of ebooks versus print books. As 2013 begins the jury is clearly still out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Derek Haines’s(@Derek_Haines) Authors – How to Promote Yourself is one of the better (particularly, more concise) descriptions I’ve seen recently on how to—and how NOT to—do promotion. While he doesn’t touch on even all of the major social media platforms (there’s nothing on Google+, LinkedIn, or Pinterest) it’s easy enough to extrapolate his comments on Twitter and Facebook to them.

Dan Blank (@DanBlank) asks four specific questions of authors preparing for the launch of their next/first book in Don’t Make Your Book Launch Like a Trip to the Dentist on Writer Unboxed: what have your ideal readers read recently, where can you go (on- and off line) to meet them, who manages and organizes these places, and who can you contact by e-mail who would care about the book? Figuring out those specific names and places well in advance is key to making launch day less stressful.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Here’s something we don’t see very often: Brad Phillips (@MrMediaTraining) on Jane Friedman’s blog on 5 Things Bad Radio Guests Do (And 7 Ways to Rock on Radio). Having been a radio guest a few times, I can tell you he’s right on track, although I’d add one more thing: remember that your audience can’t see you nod or shake your head! When the host asks a question, give a verbal answer. Seems silly, doesn’t it, but every host I’ve worked with has reminded me about that.

But not all radio programs are created equal: some are less equal than others, no matter what they claim. Check out Victoria Strauss’s (@victoriastrauss) Global Talk Radio: How to Waste Money and Fail to Influence People on Writer Beware® Blogs. These points ought to say enough: hosts pay to have shows; guests pay to be interviewed. More ways to separate novice/desperate writers from the money they don’t have.

THE WRITING LIFE

Divide and Conquer: Building an Author Platform by Proxy by Kristin Morin (@kristinba) on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog is one of those posts that could go into all sorts of categories—business, tech, social media—but it seems to fit best here. Kristin describes how she and her husband have partnered to create his writer platform. She knows the tech side but it has to be his platform. Lots of useful tips and steps for making this team approach work. Something to consider if the whole tech side of platform has you bamboozled.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has an interesting take on The Facts vs. The Story You Tell Yourself regarding some of the tribulations of the traditional publishing world. And while self-publishing advocates would see her discussion as more reasons to self-publish, we should be clear that the indie publishing world has its own situations that can make writers crazy.

Find something here that a writer friend should know about? Feel free to share it with them. (It’s that old pay-it-forward thing.)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that whichever December holidays you celebrated, if any, brought you peace, joy, and maybe even some new stuff. And if you didn’t celebrate any holiday formally, I hope you at least absorbed the (non-commercial) spirit of the time without the religious content. It’s possible!

While I haven’t been blogging during this time, I have been reading lots of blog posts. There’s LOTS of stuff here, more than I’m sure you can absorb in one reading. Scan it, pick out what interests you and come back to the rest later—or not. That’s okay too.

One last thing before we get to all the Great Stuff below: I’d hoped to be making a Big Announcement today but alas, due to technical matters beyond my control, that announcement will be delayed by about a month. In the meantime, you’ll still find Great Stuff right here.

CRAFT

The holiday season is no obstacle for KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) to continue her series on scenes with Pt. 3: Options for Goals in a Scene. We already know that a story’s protagonist and antagonist need to have story-level goals and that the protagonist in each scene needs much more immediate and small-scale goals, a point Weiland reemphasizes. The important point she adds in this post is that sometimes a scene goal is actually part of a larger one that will take multiple scenes to reach or fail to reach. Thus partial (single-scene) goals build together into that overarching (multi-scene) goal.

She continues with Pt. 4: Options for Conflict in a Scene. Story is conflict. We all know that, or should, and there needs to be some kind of conflict in each and every scene. In this post, Katie discusses two key elements of scene conflict: options for the kinds of conflict the scene can have and whether the conflict is integral to the scene and the story. Terrific stuff. One subtle point worth noting: scene conflict doesn’t have to be huge but it has to be. Some of her examples illustrate just that.

With the year seemingly rushing to its end as I write this, it’s appropriate for Katie to also write about not rushing a story along in Should You Slam Your Story’s Brakes? on her WORDplay blog. While it is important to keep a story moving, there is such a thing as going too fast too, she writes, and that’s a good time to use other techniques besides speed to build a story’s tension.

Donald Maass (@DonMaass) is always good for thought-provoking columns on Writer Unboxed and The Paradox is no exception. He actually discusses two: that your story matters “more than anything, and… not at all” and that characters should both embody their conflicts and yet not be in a hurry to resolve them. The first paradox allows you to take the time you need to flesh out your story, and the second allows your characters to become rich and full. Great Stuff!

Maybe it’s not surprising but agent Paula Munier (@PaulaSMunier) of Talcott Notch Literary Services also disagrees with Dean Wesley Smith (below) on the value of writers’ groups in her Literary Agent Interview on the Guide to Literary Agents. She’s got other important advice, too, that can’t be repeated often enough. The interview’s brief so I won’t try to reprise it here.

If you’re interested in cover design and the thinking that goes into it, check out Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) A Book Cover’s Evolutions—Embrace of the Daimon. This cover went through four iterations, starting in the late 1990s, one published, one soon to be, with some pretty significant changes along the way.

BUSINESS

Mark Coker (@MarkCoker), founder and CEO of Smashwords, writes a very, very long (multiples-of-Kris-Rusch long) 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions – Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge on the Smashwords blog. This is by far and away the longest blog post I’ve read or written about here, but since Smashwords has become such an important player in the indie-pub world, Coker’s thoughts carry weight, even as he freely acknowledges that each and every one of his 21 projections could be wrong. Still, if you’re interested in the indie-publishing world, especially if you’re already in it or planning to/considering getting into it, this post is worth the time (plan on an hour) to study. Thanks to Joel Friedlander for pointing it out.

Joel also highlighted Free Book Promotions by James Moushon (@jimhbs) on Self-Publishing Review. Moushon offers a set of 10 planning steps authors should take before engaging in a giveaway program, plus steps to take during and after. He also includes comments from writers who have done giveaways—and not all are positive about the experience! I hope that was intentional: an expectations-management exercise. Moushon also seems to focus on using Amazon’s KDP Select distribution channel for this effort, which some (Coker among them) caution against because of Amazon’s 90-day exclusive distribution demand for participation in KDP Select. Good information here, but also some ideas to approach with caution.

I generally don’t include Porter Anderson’s (@PorterAnderson) Writing on the Ether posts on Jane Friedman’s blog because they’re so long but I’ll make an exception this time because he includes an extended set of excerpts from a discussion that begins with a Steven Levy comment in an interview in Wired magazine, in which he says, in part, “I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit.” Besides extended excerpts from this piece, there are also extended excerpts from a November Charlie Rose Show featuring Tim O’Reilly, Ken Auletta, the other Jane Friedman (the former HarperCollins CEO) on this whole topic of elitism in publishing and the rise of e-publishing and crowdsourcing for books. I found it interesting; maybe you will, too.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) reissues an article she originally posted in the July/August 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, with some edits, titled How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? In this long-for-a-blog piece, she examines four things writers do that sabotage their efforts to get published; how to evaluate where you are on the path to publication, including signs you’re getting close; three signs that it’s time to change course, perhaps even away from writing; and three ways to revise your publishing plan. All good stuff, if hard truths. With one exception: one thing Jane didn’t change from the original article, I don’t think, is that she treats independent publishing as the last refuge of the incompetent and (from the perspective of traditional publishing) unpublishable. This, I think, is tremendously unfortunate and fails to reflect how the whole publishing industry is changing. Much of what she writes DOES apply to writers who want to publish independently, rather than through a traditional house, large or small, though, and this disrespect for that decision doesn’t take away from the value of her other observations.

New Year’s is a time for all those wink-and-a-nod resolutions that are forgotten by the end of the second week. But Jordyn Redwood (@JordynRedwood) on WordServe Water Cooler and Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) on his own blog take similar cuts at goal setting. Hyatt’s Do You Have a Personal Platform Plan for 2013 and Redwood’s Goals?!? are focused on slightly different things but it’s interesting how much they parallel each other. Read both for the details and the reinforcement. Hyatt also links back to a two-year-old post on setting goals using the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his New World of Publishing series with a powerful and highly challenging fourth installment: How to Keep Production Going All Year. Naturally, this post builds on the previous three (which you can find here, here, and here). “Production” means writing “new” (that is, publication-ready) words and Smith offers four different ideas for how to set long- and short-term goals for the year and , importantly, how to deal with the inevitable failures to meet those goals that life is going to impose on us. Smith’s goal here isn’t to just help you be more effective, it’s to separate the pros from the wannabes and his methods will certainly do that.

There’s one piece of advice I strongly disagree with, though: not showing others your work in progress. As I noted in my comment to the post, that’s fine if you’re an experienced author, but if you’re new, you need feedback on what you’re doing wrong—and you will do lots wrong. Specific, constructive, actionable feedback is vital to the new writer who wants to get better quickly. (I should note that Dean and a group of commenters responded negatively to this opinion, particularly as it related to getting feedback from writers’ groups. That’s fine: everyone’s welcome to their opinions. But I will not be convinced that all writers’ groups are wrong for all writers. Each of us has to make our own decisions based on our own personalities and needs and what local groups can do for or to us.)

 

Here’s wishing you LOTS of Great Stuff in 2013.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 11 & 12, 2012

Better than a Baker’s Dozen, today is triple-dozen day: 12-12-12! Like a triple-dip, only less fattening. And then there are those two, one-second periods at 12 seconds after 12 minutes after 12 o’clock (local time) when you get a half-dozen dozens: 12:12:12 on 12-12-12. But—gasp!—you’ve missed one already! Maybe both! Still, twice in one day means a dozen dozens! Is that cool, or what? (Okay, okay, maybe it’s “what.”) Anyway….

CRAFT

I haven’t put much up on this blog about blogging itself, but Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) How to Create an Endless Stream of Blog Post Ideas is one worth sharing, not only because it is valuable to bloggers but also to folks writing non-fiction articles. I can see how it could be extended to a whole bunch of short stories or even poems. The post centers around the concept of mind-mapping, a way of generating connected sets of ideas or concepts: start with one, generate ideas/concepts related to it, then generate more related to each of those, and so on, kind of a four-dimensional onion. Okay, maybe that last phrase makes it sound scary and complex; it’s not. If you’re scuffling for ideas at the moment, give this post a look.

Okay, so there’s a market for stories like Dumb and Dumber, but it’s a small market, which is why KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) discusses Why Stupid Characters Make for Stupid Stories, and not the good kind. If you want your story to reach beyond that demographic that likes characters who do dumb things over and over, this is a quick post for you.

BUSINESS

BIG NEWS from Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) at The Bookshelf Muse. In February, a group of indie writers will be hosting the first-ever INDIE ReCon (INDEpendent publishing REvolution CONvention), a FREE, on-line, three-day event. According to the INDIE ReCon web site, this convention will feature eight hours’ worth of presentations each day, with new topics beginning every hour or even half hour. There’s an initial list of topics on the Con’s schedule page. The organizers have already lined up half a dozen partner organizations and a LONG list of presenters (41 as of yesterday!), including Muses Angela and Becca, Orna Ross, book designer Joel Friedlander, and Joanna (The Creative) Penn. The only down-sides I see to this event are that the dates are February 12-14, 2013, a Tuesday through Thursday, and yes, that last day is Valentine’s Day. No times have been posted yet, but this is an event to watch, I think—in more ways than one!

WHAT???? Social media is NOT necessary for self-publishing success??? Heresy! Blasphemy! Or is it? Ernie J. Zelinski makes a case for not using social media to market books in Creativity Trumps Following the Rules on Robert Lee Brewer’s My Name Is Not Bob blog, and he’s been successful at doing it his way. Zelinski’s tone and content have created some contention in the comments, as any strongly-held opinion will. My own take is that we should each do what works for us. Don’t like social media? Don’t use them. Willing to give them a shot? Go for it but don’t expect them to be panaceas. Any path you choose is going to be challenging and a lot of work. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Speaking of different paths, Judy L. Mandel’s (@judymandel) guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog, about her success at Getting a Traditional Book Deal After Self-Publishing illustrates one—that took years to follow by the way.

Agent Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) covers one of the basics of the traditional publishing path when she addresses Why You Should Pitch a Single Book on her blog. Space doesn’t permit me to reprise her six reasons but the fact that she’s got six suggests it’s good to read and heed what she has to say.

OPINION

A new heading today. I don’t plan to use it often. Today’s question: are the days of the dedicated e-reader numbered?

I don’t own an e-reader, not because I’m some kind of Luddite (would I be writing a blog if I was?) but because I see technology trends heading in the direction of making dedicated e-readers obsolete. Soon.

Want proof? Head on over to any Amazon.com e-book page. Want to buy the book but you don’t own a Kindle? Check out the subtle little box titled “Try it free” over in the right-hand sidebar. Notice that little bit of boldfaced text, “Deliver to your Kindle or other device,” especially those last three words? And that hyperlink just below it: Available on your PC.

If you click on that link, you’ll be taken to a page from which you can download FREE Kindle emulator software for your PC, and there’s another page from which you can access other free Kindle reading apps for reading Kindle-format e-books from the cloud, smartphones, tablets, and Macs.

So why buy a Kindle? Or a Nook? Barnes & Noble has similar apps available here. Given what smartphones and tablet computers can do today—so much more than just present and edit text and pictures—to say nothing of what they’ll be capable of two years from now, it seems to me the dedicated e-reader is an electronic dodo bird walking. It just doesn’t know it’s extinct yet.

Is this a smart, dumb, or just natural move on the parts of Amazon and B&N? Natural, I think: just going where the technology’s going. The eventual death of the dedicated e-reader is an evolutionary process, nothing more, and the companies understand that. Your dedicated e-reader won’t become another piece of e-waste for a long time, but one day I’ll bet you’ll wonder why you still have it.

FUN

Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) of The Kill Zone has a writer-friend who’s afraid of animals, especially the wild kind. And yet, when the moment came, she had the presence of mind needed for Grabbing the Zebra, and Other Survival Tactics for Writers. What’s this all about? Go check out the post.

Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers is long and serious but also fun, as Keith’s wit peeks through repeatedly. And while I’m not a resolution-maker myself, his are all good ones for any time of the year, especially long after New Year’s week, when the pressure’s off.

Thanks for all the comments and tweets in response to Monday’s post. I appreciate all of them and will actually respond to them soon. Promise!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 1-3, 2012

Busy, busy weekend, with lots and lots of Great Stuff on the web. No more delays—let’s get right to it all.

CRAFT

OK, it sounds like an oxymoron, or maybe a new twist on a long-standing theme, or maybe even a new way to cross genres, but in fact Mark Alpert’s (@AlpertMark) The Poetic Thriller is none of these. Well, not quite, anyway. Along his writing journey, Mark realized that poem and thrillers should both (you’ll pardon his pun) “end with a bang.” Maybe not literally with a gunshot but with a line the reader won’t soon forget. Not just thrillers, either, by the way.

There were several posts relating to character over the weekend.

  • James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) What Writers Can Learn From Downton Abbey on The Kill Zone is one. Five of the 7 things he identifies have to do with character.
  • Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) first part of a coming series on realistic characters, Stereotypes and Character Traits delves into what mix of what types of traits primary characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist,  and secondary characters should have.
  • Geoff Wyss’s Character and Mystery on Glimmer Train’s bulletin seems to contradict, at least in part, what Harvey wrote, but in large part that’s just the difference between the culture of literary fiction and other genres. Thanks to Jane Friedman for pointing out this article.

Receiving feedback on one’s writing, like editing and rewriting, are (or should be) part of our writing process. So Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) brought in Jake [Last name not revealed! What’s up with that?], founder of a feedback and editing advice web site called DocuToss to write about Editing Through Community Critique. He makes some good points about why we should seek out feedback from others, and maybe you’ll want to check out DocuToss, but I know, dear readers, you also know about my Critique Technique posts, and I hope they’re useful to you.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUSINESS

Denise Wakeman’s (@denisewakeman) Four Super Easy Ways to Create Quote Graphics for Facebook, Pinterest and Your Blog introduces some really cool tools. You know what a quote graphic is, of course: an image of some sort used as a background behind a quote. So now you can choose between Pinwords, Pinstamatic, Quozio, or Picmark to brighten up that post. What’s even more cool is all are free, all are purely web-based (no downloads required), and only Picmark requires you to create an account.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) compiled a set of 8 pieces she calls Best Business Advice for Writers on her own blog. Two stand out but all are worth a look.

  • Otis Chandler (@otown), the founder of Goodreads wrote How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel: A Case Study and I think it and the accompanying slide presentation available via slideshare are must-reads for any budding author. Critical information here on how one author (Colleen Hoover) went from unknown to picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books YA imprint in just 7 months! OK, a sample size of one should be treated with caution, but the study shows what she and Goodreads readers did to make that book a success.
  • Darcy Pattison’s (@FictionNotes) Facebook Best Practices for Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Posts is quite long and will take time to read and absorb, but if you want to get better results from this social medium, it’ll be worth your time to study this one.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) reminds us that when it comes to social media, A Community Means Getting a Response, and then goes on to suggest ways for you to do just that.

I know this post will have only limited appeal, but if you’re thinking about turning a blog into a book, check out Becca Puglisi’s (@beccapuglisi) guest post on How to Blog a Book, titled How a Blog Series Created Reader Demand for a Booked Blog. If Becca’s name rings a bell, it’s because she and Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse are the co-authors of the various thesauri they’ve put on the Muse. And you probably know that they turned their emotion thesaurus into a book, which is what this post is about: lessons learned along the way. Useful material if the idea’s been on your mind.

Speaking of turning, sure, plenty of us have thought or dreamed about, maybe even planned for having our book turned into a movie. But what about a TV series? Laurie Scheer (@UWwriters) discusses A Novel Idea for a Series: When Writers Think About Adapting Their Novel for TV on Writer Unboxed. Long post short, there’s a lot more to it than you’d probably expect at first, and a lot of work you’ll have to do. But, if the idea intrigues you, check the post out.

Staying on the subject of movies (sort of), mystery writer James Moushon (@jimhbs) looks at book trailers and wonders, Do Authors Get Enough Bang for Their Buck? The short answer to this long post is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Fortunately, he suggests ways for writers to get a trailer that’s a yes. Warning: the red background of this blog is a bit hard on the eyes.

On a lighter but still serious note, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) lists 7 Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh (and not in a good way). Don’t use these. Please!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

I have to admit when I saw this title on Writer Unboxed—What Working Out Taught Us about Writing OR How We Saved Our Writerly Asses—I wondered if it was one of those posts that would end up with a 404 Page Not Found error. Or worse. Not so. In fact, it’s Julia Munroe Martin (@wordsxo) and Bernadette Phipps-Lincke (bernadette.lincke on Facebook) writing about how getting regular exercise helps their writing. It’s a long post, so it’ll take a little endurance to get through it, but they’re right and I know I should be getting more exercise than I am, too. So, OK, “yes, dears.” 😉

FUN

Know a special writer? Of course you do. Want to give them a special holiday gift? Check out OPERATION: HELP THE ELF! On The Bookshelf Muse. You can also put your name and blog address if you have one on Santa’s “Nice List.” 🙂

Have you “Liked” this Great Stuff post, or another one in the past? Thank you! But don’t keep it a secret! Tell just one writer friend about it. They’ll be glad you did.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 27 & 28, 2012

WOWSERS, is the season of giving ever upon us—and I’m not talking about shopping, unless you mean shopping for great information on writing and publishing out there on the blogosphere. Check out today’s jam-packed line-up of articles, starting right now with

CRAFT

Today’s three pieces form an interesting contrast between themselves and between the cultures and to some extent between the demands of “literary” and “genre” fiction. We’ll start with Barbara O’Neal’s (@barbaraoneal) Cornerstones of Excellence: the Art of Detail on Writer Unboxed. While I certainly don’t disagree with her point that the right details in the right places can create depth and insight that a story without them would lack, I guess it’s my bias that there’s such a thing as too much, too. I’m just not a fan of spending so much time querying a character, for example—especially within the piece—that the story ends up getting lost. The “right” amount of detail for a particular story depends in part on the genre it’s a part of.

So it’s no surprise, then, that freelance thriller editor Jodie Renner (@JodieRennerEd) would have a different take on details in Writing Tense Action Scenes on The Kill Zone. Her dozen techniques for writing these scenes, plus before-and-after-editing examples, are excellent for any writer whose work includes action scenes, irrespective of genre. Even “literary!”

And then we get Writing Advice from Somerset Maugham on Michael Swanwick’s Flogging Babel blog. The advice is a couple of quotes from his introduction to a collection of his own work. Swanwick sums it up thusly: “Gonnabe writers should keep this in mind:  Advice from writers on how to write the sort of thing they themselves write is usually very good.  Their advice on what not to write, however, is always suspect.” Bloggers (and their readers) beware! J

SOCIAL MEDIA

Lori Lynn Smith (@lorilynnsmith) provides a very long but very thorough resource in The First 7 Steps to a Successful Social Media Plan for Writers on Write to Done. Not just bullet points but hows and whys for each step. This post happens to be particularly timely for me and my writers’ group as it’s something we’re starting to pay more attention to. I’ll be spending more time with this post, that’s for sure.

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) 10 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog is a terrific complement to Smith’s piece. Also long but full of links to other resources, this one is definitely another one to linger with.

And then there’s Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) ‘Social’ Media: ‘Sharing’ Our Narcissism, also on Writer Unboxed, which isn’t really a counterpoint as much as a sanity check: does everything we “share” on our social media platforms really have value to all our followers, friends, connections, circles, etc., or some of them, or, if we’re not a foodie writing for foodies, does anyone really care what we had for lunch? Not just a rant, Anderson provides three tips for better SM posts.

BUSINESS

Jordyn Redwood’s (@JordynRedwood) One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists on WordServe Water Cooler ponders numbers and what they mean, whether in a college basketball game or on somebody’s bestseller list. You probably won’t be surprised to learn her take is that it depends on whether and how the points were earned. Kinda hearkens back to the kerfuffle of a month or so ago about the purchased and ghost-written reviews, doesn’t it? The desperation to get ahead can be a sad thing.

Speaking of which, maybe you haven’t heard that Simon & Schuster is the latest publishing house to sign on with Author Solutions, Inc., a company that’s made it (bad) reputation by selling packages of “services,” that could be done for little or no cost, to naïve authors for substantial amounts of money—in some cases in the tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not kidding. Dean Wesley Smith (@deanwesleysmith) basically says, “didn’t I tell you this was coming?” in his New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly article Smith links to.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Do You Have Impostor Syndrome? What in the world is that? It’s that feeling that you really don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re just an impostor writer (or agent, in her case), or whatever. We’ve all had that, haven’t we—those days when the words won’t come, when our characters go on strike, when our plot drifts off into the wrong morass—definitely NOT the one we wanted the characters to get into! Oh, yeah. When that happens, Gardner writes, that’s the time to remember those days when things DO go right, when the words sing, when the plot flows, when you’re confident in saying, “This is what I do.”

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) says much the same thing in Tempted to Give Up on Your Story? Don’t! In her last in the series on what she learned from writing her latest book, she talks about how she had those give-up days but didn’t give in to them, and as a result, she’s now able to promote that book.

WHEW! Told you there was a lot of Great Stuff out there today! But surely that wasn’t everything. What did you find?