Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 30 and 31, 2012

Happy Halloween to those of you living where the holiday is celebrated! I hope that if you live in the northeastern US that Superstorm Sandy did not treat you badly—that you have a home and power and water and heat and that you and everyone you care about is safe. All that stuff comes first; writing comes second or even farther down the list.

But since this is a blog about writing and publishing, it’s time to get on to that. Not much for you today. Not sure it’s because of the storm or what. In any case, as usual we’ll start with


KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) challenges us with the question Are You Skimming Your Story’s Potential? on her WORDplay blog. Her point is that just because you’ve hit the expected points in a story for your genre, you haven’t made the story a hit if you haven’t gotten down to your characters’ (especially the protagonist’s and antagonist’s) emotional drives. If you haven’t dug deep for their motivations, the story will lack the depth it could have.

Tracy Hahn-Burkett (@THahnBurkett) explores something on Writer Unboxed that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention, The Epilogue. Like the prologue, she writes, an epilogue, if your story has one, needs “to add something of value to the book” (emphasis hers). She’s right on target and uses much of her post to show epilogues that worked or didn’t (Harry Potter!) and to discuss why in each case.


As we move into the business posts, fair warning, some of these can be pretty depressing, but some offer ways to get past that feeling.

The traditional publishing world, especially the Big 6 publishers, are getting a lot of bad press on the blogosphere lately. Some of it appears to be deserved but some of it appears to be a function of writers’ unreasonable or naïve expectations. So it’s more than a little ironic that Laura Howard’s blog “Finding Bliss” would publish a piece titled Is Traditional Publishing a Happily Ever After? by Anthea Lawson (@AntheaLawson). Ironic because the answer is a resounding NO! But the reason for that answer is those unrealistic, or at least outdated, beliefs and expectations.

Still on the topic of unrealistic expectations, Kristin Nelson discusses some of the speculation regarding the pending Random House/Penguin merger, particularly regarding what might happen to writers’ advances in Because The First Thing That Comes To Mind Is The Size Of The Advance – Not on her Pub Rants blog. As an agent, Kristin’s got other concerns: fewer choices of major publishers to submit to, less competition among houses, narrowed market vision, and even more emphasis on blockbusters and even less on building authors, among others.

That, in turn, leads us to Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) 9 Reasons to Quit Writing. No punches pulled, here.

Oy, that’s a lot of bad news. OK, let’s dig out of that hole. We’ll start with Allison Winn Scotch (@aswinn) writing about The Waiting Game on Writer Unboxed. Writers, it seems, are always waiting on something, she writes, so we need to do something to keep our minds and fingers busy. With that in mind, she offers four suggestions: start something new, do something writing-related that interests you, be patient with the things you can’t control, and/or work on something else entirely. Seems to me like a little bit of each is a good plan, too.

Finally, let’s end on an up-note. Joanna Penn (@TheCreativePenn) guest posts on The Book Designer with ideas for how to turn your knowledge into multimedia products. OK, this sounds like something only for non-fiction writers, but Penn’s long list of suggestions includes things that even fiction writers can do to make their web sites more effective and provide products and services that even fiction readers will appreciate. That’s even stuff you can do while you’re waiting! J

Your turn! What Great Stuff have YOU found out there? Share it in the Comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 23 and 24, 2012

Business Tuesday continues into Business Wednesday with a lot of business-related posts today. But first, a couple on


You’ve probably heard about “morning pages” and we’ve ALL heard that the #1 rule of writing is “butt in the seat.” So how do you make that happen? Barbara O’Neal (@barbaraoneal) suggests a technique she calls The 20 Minute Win on Writer Unboxed. It’s really simple: she makes setting aside 20 minutes to write an early-in-the-day priority, then sets a timer, and writes about just about anything. How hard is that? Not so hard so long as you do that first thing.

So you’re in your 20 minute win window, and you’re writing that big conflict scene between the protagonist and antagonist. Whose POV should the scene be in? KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) post title on WORDplay should be a hint: When Not to Use Your Antagonist’s POV. Without giving too much away, here’s a clue: who should the reader care about most in that scene?

And now we can turn our attention to


specifically marketing, to start with. Yes, marketing is about product, but it’s also and very importantly about the people who will buy the product (or not) and how you develop the ideas on how to do the marketing.

So, we’ll start with Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) guide on The Book Designer: Authors, Gather Your Tribe on Twitter. I admit I’m still in the early stages of figuring this Twitter thing out, so Joel’s 8 tips are pretty much gold to me. Some I’m happy to say I’m using already, but others…? Got some work to do. If you’re like me, this one’s a keeper.

Gathering the tribe can help you with the next step, courtesy Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner), which is building a marketing team. While her How to Create Your Own Marketing Team focuses more on Google+ due to its video-conferencing feature, these 12 steps might do for your marketing what your (useful) critique group is doing for your writing. The theme underlying this post is: this is a business, so treat it like one.

All right: the tribe is built, the marketing team created and working, and there’s even a book to sell online. Blitz time! Jan Dunlap offers her TIP (Timing, Images, Preparation) technique in How to Stage an Online Blitz on WordServe Water Cooler. Timing involves time of day as well as time of year; images need to be relevant and frequently refreshed; preparation—well, you want this to be successful, don’t you? Check out the details by clicking on the link.

One more post before we leave the self-publishing world. This one comes from Mark Coker (@markcoker), the founder of Smashwords, the ebook distributor. “Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns” he writes on (via Dean Wesley Smith’s blog). This isn’t an anti-Amazon rant, however (Coker knows and says he likes Amazon executives), but more of a plea for Amazon to get rid of the exclusivity demand in its KDP Select program and a warning for Kindle-published authors to avoid the program because of it. Hmm, I wonder if this might become a B2B (business-to-business) spat played out on the internet. Anyway, interesting reading for how businesses deal with each other.

And speaking of how businesses treat other businesses (read, we authors), especially if you haven’t published yet, be sure to read Kristin Nelson’s If You Remember One Thing, It Should Be This on her Pub Rants blog. What’s the “this?” NEVER sign an unnegotiated boilerplate publishing contract! This isn’t a new topic but it’s a critical one. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written a “deal breakers” series recently (see this, this, and this for starters; WARNING: long posts!). Kristin (no-e) goes into specifics on the pitfalls of boilerplate (standardized text) contracts in much less space and with a lot less angst. Never the less, the problems she lists are big, they’re serious, and they will hurt you. Read and heed!

OK, now it’s your turn: what Great Stuff have you found out there? Share it in the Comme

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 11, 2012

It’s a fairly busy Saturday out there on the blogosphere, but only a few things rose to the top for me.

  • Regular readers know I’m a fan of Yuvi Zalkow’s (@yuvizalkow) monthly video posts on Writer Unboxed. This month’s Notes from the (Failure) Field isn’t one of his funnier ones but does contain a couple of gems. First, he describes and sort-of shows his experiment of using videos as part of his readings at author events. Hmmm, interesting. Second, he describes his reaction to the first really negative review of his book. What did he do? Mourned for a night with friends and family, then got back to work. Perfect.
  • Science fiction author Nancy Kress (@nancykress) makes a rare appearance here to discuss something about Young Adult Fiction, specifically, that recent Newberry Award winners are flops with young adult readers. Librarians and the Newberry committee are perplexed: how could YA readers not recognize top-quality writing? Maybe it’s because what the committee and librarians value is out of touch with what the readers value. Could it be this is why Jo Rowling and Stephen King sell so many copies while winners of the National Book Award, say, don’t do quite so well? What do you think?
  • Finally, Kristin Nelson brings us a 17 minute TED video, shot last March, by book designer Chip Kidd (@chipkidd), Anatomy of Book Cover Design. (That’s Kristin’s post’s title. Kidd calls his talk Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.) Kidd’s Robin-Williams-ish appearance and presentation style lightens up what could be a dry topic, but that’s an added bonus. What he discusses–how he came up with the designs for various covers–is fascinating, a great insight into that kind of creativity. (NOTE: because of the way the video window is placed in the post, at least on my screen, the right edge–maybe 20%?–of the video was cut off and I couldn’t access the control to take it full-screen. No worries: nothing was lost because of this, but your computer screen may produce a different–worse–result. You can avoid the problem by going to the video on the web site using the second link above.)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 7, 2012

I would call today a “light” day except three of the four posts deal with the darkness of rejection. And yet, each agent or author finds a spark of light at the end of the submission tunnel. And we’ll finish with something just for fun. OK, if you’re still with me, off we go to rejection-land.

  • We’ll begin with agent Kristin Nelson describing not only how she made it through 68 Queries in 60 Minutes on her Pub Rants blog, but what caused her to issue 58 rejections and 10 requests for more pages. In one hour. Much worth noting here.
  • Keith Cronin (@KeithCronin) picks up the story from there, discussing The Rejection Reaction(s) we have after getting one Kristin’s, or any other agent’s, “no.” Keith goes through our phases of reaction, with doses of humor at each step, and finishes with a terrific quote from Michael Jordan on how many times he’s failed and why/how those failures motivated him to be the superstar basketball player he was.
  • Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) long EXTRA ETHER: Are You a Good Writer? on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog addresses what being a “good writer” means, which of course includes failing and being rejected.
  • WHEW! That’s enough of that! Let’s close with something that’s funny now and may be funny later. Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) names her personal muse and those of a couple of famous writers (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway), and starts to draw some lessons from what she observes on Finding the Right Muse. She closes by asking readers to send in pictures of their personal muses, to be published on The Kill Zone on Friday. That should be interesting. Might even be funny. Or it might be a lot of cat pictures. Stay tuned.


Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 21, 2012

Well, quite an interesting Saturday. Four items, all completely different.

  • We’ll start with Erika Robuck’s (@ErikaRobuck) A Gift for You on Writer Unboxed in which she makes the case for going to a writer’s retreat, even if you have to scrounge up the money to do so. She writes, “…with each conference I’ve attended, I’ve reached a new level in my profession.” That’s a pretty powerful statement.
  • Greg Johnson, the founder of the WordServe Literary Agency, offers advice on how to Be Your Agent’s Dream Client. The details of the advice may not be new to everyone, but worth reviewing from time to time.
  • Roni Loren (@roniloren) guest posts on Kristin Nelson’s Pub Rants blog: Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. The original post appeared on Roni’s own web site and includes the links that dropped out of the Pub Rants post. The suit had to do with a copyrighted photo Roni used without permission and got caught. The post is her cautionary tale of what can happen and how to avoid it. Roni links to Meghan Ward’s (@meghancward) Where to Get Photos For Your Blog, which has good info, especially on how to read the Creative Commons logos and codes associated with images that have the Creative Commons copyright. Every blogger needs to read these posts!
  • And finally, something not serious…or maybe it is. Joe Hartlaub announces, We Will Read No Book Before Its Time, a post on The Kill Zone about a book published in Argentina. The book, titled “El Libro que No Puede Esperar” (The Book That Can’t Wait), is sold in an air-tight plastic wrapper. When the book is taken out of the wrapper and exposed to light and air, the ink begins to fade. After 60 days, it completely disappears. Why in the world would a publisher do that??? To get people to read the book and its new authors right away, the publishers say, rather than let it sit for months while they fail to get a readership for their work. There’s more on the Los Angeles Times‘ web site, including a promotional video put out by the publisher. The Kill Zone’s commenters are split on whether they like the idea or not. I think it’s interesting: it certainly generated a lot of buzz. That’s good marketing. What do you think?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 29, 2012

Must be a Friday. Just a few things for you to end the week.

We’ll start with a couple things from agent Kristin Nelson and her Pub Rants blog:

Over on WordServe Water Cooler, Sharon A. Lavy (@SharonALavy) poses the question, “Is Reading Fiction…Safe?” She cites some evidence–and there’s a lot more out there in the scientific literature–that people react physically as well as psychologically and emotionally to what they read, and as a result, change.

As it happens, one of the members of my writers’ group noted at dinner after our last meeting that she’d recently read a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard University, that shows that the level of interpersonal violence has gone down, dramatically and world-wide, since the 1700s. That’s when the first modern novels started to appear. The thesis behind the research was that novels caused people to begin to empathize with others, and that caused, over time, a change in behaviors. Interesting thought.

Speaking of interesting thoughts, I haven’t pointed to anything from Write to Done for a while, but today I get to. Cheryl Craigie (@manageablelife) asks Does Writing Make You Feel Like a Failure or a Fraud? Like, you mean, it doesn’t? But then she makes an even more surprising statement–that being blocked is good! Say what??? Her point is that being blocked is the time when your subconscious is at work and has put up a sign that says, “Don’t bother me, I’m working. I’ll get back to you when I’m done.” Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” So go off and work on something else for a while, and when the light bulb finally turns on, get back to work.

And last but not least, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) announced today that The DIY MFA Workshop is now up and running on DIY MFA’s Facebook page. They’ll take “the first 500 words” of any writing, fiction or non-fiction. One piece will be selected each week to be posted and critiqued.

Have a great weekend and send up a thought or prayer (or a donation to the American Red Cross, @RedCross) for all the people around the United States (and elsewhere?) who have been evacuated from or lost their homes due to wild fires. I had to evacuate last year. It wasn’t a happy experience. At least I didn’t lose my home, like hundreds and hundreds of families have.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 28, 2012

Another day of synchronicity on the blogosphere. I know, I know: technically I shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many blogs out there that it’s a certainty that some are going to touch on the same topic on the same day, but when you only read a dozen or so (“only”!) and four hit the same thing on the same day, that catches your attention, doesn’t it? It does mine, anyway. So here we go, with multiple posts on feedback and two on transformation.

  • Feedback first. I don’t usually read or mention Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@KristineRusch) posts because while Kris is a terrific and prolific author, her posts tend to be really long and, well, my time is a limited resource. Isn’t yours? So with that caveat about today’s almost 3,800 word post Perfection, I’ll say give it a look anyway. She’s right about the simple fact that no story will ever be perfect and there comes a point when a writer has to stop listening to critique and send the story out.
  • Agent Kristin Nelson is famous–some might say infamous, but not me–for her Agent Reads the Slush Pile workshops. Feedback in a very public setting! (If you’re not familiar with the workshop, someone–Kristin, her assistant, or brave authors–read (out loud!) the first page or two of their work. If Kristin says “stop” before they finish, she explains why she would have rejected the manuscript. If they make it to the end, she explains why the piece “worked.” Except sometimes, even then, it doesn’t.) And that’s the subject of today’s post, Mechanics Vs Spark on the Pub Rants blog: when a piece is mechanically fine but lacks the spark of a distinctive narrative voice.
  • The third feedback piece comes from freelance editor Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, a.k.a. The Edit Ninja, (@EditNinja and @popculturenerd) on the Authors’ “Habits” & Predictable Writing she’s encountered. Examples: reusing an atypical word; using the same descriptions and mannerisms for different characters; reusing a letter, name, number, or color; and many more. This post really (one of my “writer’s tic” words) brings home the value of not just a second set of eyes on a manuscript, but a set of trained eyes. Thanks to Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) for bringing Elyse to The Kill Zone.
  • The last one is from John Vorhaus (@TrueFactBarFact; love that Twitter handle!) on Writer Unboxed. A Tale of Two Readers describes what he learned from his encounter with two readers and what they told him about one of his books, once he assured them honest feedback was OK. In particular, “What I take away from this tale of two readers is to keep playing to my strengths yet still shore up my weaknesses.” Deep? Maybe not. Fundamental? Definitely.

Now on to transformations.

  • In Three “Flaming Young Stars” Share the Big Screen, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) discusses on 101 Books how the movie A Place In The Sun changed–and didn’t–its source novel, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and what that might mean for viewers and readers.
  • In a piece on visual rather than literary art, Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) examines how The Rule of Transformation applies, or doesn’t, to artistic images and how the rule of (copyright) law has been applied, or hasn’t, to some of those images, from Andy Warhol’s famous re-imagining of the Campbell’s tomato soup can to colorization of origami folding patterns. Interesting stuff.

What’s great out in your world?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 26 & 27

Ah, the joy of having to miss a day at this during the week! So much to explore. So much to discover. So much to get behind on. 😦 Off to the great stuff (and a close with something more than a little weird). Like one of my last posts, this one has a certain flow to it, starting with…

  • Joe Moore (@JoeMoore_writer) identifying on The Kill Zone the two Magic Words that can start just about any writing adventure. Know what they are? Sure you do. “What if?”
  • So where and when are you going to set the story than answers “What if?” Well, maybe in a fantasy setting, in which case Chuck Wendig’s (@ChuckWendig) 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Fantasy might help. Or it might not. Chuck himself warns us that he is “woefully underqualified” (his emphasis) to provide this list. And you should be aware of, and perhaps beware of, two other things: (1) this is a long post, almost 3,000 words, and (2), Chuck being Chuck, the f-bomb is going to find its way into the post more than once.
  • Before you can get to getting the story down, however, you might want to do some interviews. Why? Barbara O’Neal (@barbaraoneal) explains and provides some examples in The Art and Power of Interviews on Writer Unboxed.
  • Finally, it’s time to start writing. But how? With action, right? In medias res, right? SLAM! BANG! BOOM! CRASH! Right? Um, maybe. Or maybe not. Kristin Nelson explains how Action Vs Active Openings…Grab Attention on her Pub Rants blog. (Actual title slightly edited to fit into the text here.)
  • [Some months later…] Whew! The writing’s done. Time for critiques. Amazingly, four different posts addressed critiquing just in the past two days.
    • We’ll start with a bit of self-critique, or self-editing. Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) warns us that there’s a word that too often is dropped in by authors who aren’t even aware that they’re doing that. What word would that be? Find out in A Quick Ode Against “That” on WORDplay. (A note: Kim’s video didn’t run when I visited the site on two separate occasions, but the transcript’s just below the intro screen, so that’s all right.)
    • Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) follows with two posts on critique groups on DIY MFA: 3 Things I Look for in a Critique Community and Critique vs. Discussion: What Kind of Feedback Do You Need? I fully agree with her three things, plus add one: a group that works the way you need it to. See my comment on that post for more. The second post offered an insight I hadn’t considered before. Interesting thought.
    • Then, once you’ve gotten that feedback from your critique group, Carleen Brice suggests How to Tackle Critique Notes on Writer Unboxed. Now, her post deals most with things like an editorial letter from an agent, editor, or beta reader, but they apply just as well to the comments from you friendly (let’s hope! See Gabriela’s first post above) neighborhood critters (critiquers).
  • So now it’s time to publish. Indie or legacy? Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) enters the fray with a new (to me, anyway) and eminently sensible discussion of Becoming Your Own Gatekeeper on The Kill Zone.
  • And finally, for the main topics today, Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) discusses his thoughts on Why Self-Publishing Is a Tragic Term on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog. Hmm. “Tragic” might be a bit of a stretch, but Ed’s point is that almost any publishing effort takes a community of people, not just a single individual.

And finally-finally, a little bit of news of the weird, from Kevin Kelly’s (@kevin2kelly) The Technium blog: I See Cats. Seems some Google artificial intelligence researchers linked together a set of 16,000 computer cores (the central processing units) running a special program and turned the network loose to “view” ten million randomly downloaded  pictures from the internet, specifically YouTube videos.  What did they find? Cats. Without ever being told, “this is a cat” or “go look for cats.” Here’s the full New York Times article. As Mr. Spock would have said, “Fascinating.”

Pretty good stuff, no?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 5, 2012

Let’s see what’s great out there today…huh, nothing I’d call “great.” But there are some things that I’d call interesting or useful, namely:

  • There are three pieces on the writing process, two heavy, one light:
    • I admit I was put off by Mark Milan’s (@Mark_Milan) bossy, “I’m the expert, do what I say” tone in Five Steps towards Making Peace with Criticism on Write to Done, but if you can get past that, his advice is reasonably useful.
    • Lisa Cron’s (@lisacron) no-nonsense piece Unmasking the Muse on Writer Unboxed can be summarized this way: there is no muse, there’s a build-up of skills acquired over years and years of practice at your craft. “The muse in the basement is you.” That may be disturbing for some, liberating for others. My vote’s for liberating, but it does mean accepting responsibility for the quality of your work. Scary? Shouldn’t be.
    • On a much lighter note, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) asks What’s Your Creative Process? and invites everyone to share. This is the first of a week-long series of “process” posts on DIY MFA.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) offers 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents. This one, part of #3, shouldn’t be a surprise: “…the bottom line is that it’s the writer’s job to provide a marketable book.” The fact she needs to write that says a lot, and none of it good. Yikes.
  • And finally, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) writes on 101 Books about Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s (author of Things Fall Apart, a Time magazine Top 100 book)) suit against rapper 50Cent last year. Fiddy wanted to use the book title for a movie he was making. Achebe didn’t want to let him. Copyright wasn’t the issue, branding was.

And there we are. Did you find anything better?