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

CRAFT

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.

THE BUSINESS AND THE WRITER’S LIFE

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 But the reason for that answer is those unrealistic, or at least outdated, beliefs and expectations.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

CRAFT

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

BUSINESS

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 selfpublishingadvice.org (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 TED.com 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.