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

Maybe it’s because a long weekend’s coming up, at least here in the US, that there wasn’t a lot out there on the blogosphere that really jumped out at me yesterday and today. That means a light (mostly) reading day for you.

The only piece on craft today comes from Neil Abbott (@NeilAbbott), guest posting on the WORDplay blog. Neil suggests that you Use Character Quirks to Grab Readers’ Attention and names two specific ways to do this: quirks as part of the story or as symbols for some aspect of the character’s personality. All fine and well, and I know I’ve done that in my WIP, but I think a word of caution is in order, too: don’t be heavy-handed about it. Readers won’t be so thrilled if you give a character a symbolic quirk and then beat them over the head with it to make sure they get the meaning.

Four things for you on the business side of the topic: one practical, two big-time warnings, and one practical and encouraging, in that order.

  • Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) offers some tips for How to Find Out What Readers Want on The Book Designer. Joel suggests both on- and off-line places writers can go to find out and discusses techniques and resources for doing surveys.
  • Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) brings a disturbing story to the Writer Beware! blog: Fake Jared And His Friends: Author Solutions’ Misleading PR Strategies. It seems that “Jared Silverstone,” a “Publishing Consultant” for Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), a company that’s been getting a lot of negative attention lately, both before and after Pearson Publishing acquired it, isn’t a real person. “He” even has fake Twitter and Facebook accounts. I can’t fathom what ASI is trying to accomplish by creating fake people for PR purposes. This is really bizarre.
  • In a similar vein, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) posts a very long (again, *sigh*) jeremiad titled A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing. The article centers around a many-times New York Times bestselling author who, apparently because she didn’t read the Terms of Use for a web-based company’s e-publishing “services” may now be locked into a horrible contract-like situation (even though no formal contract was ever signed) that might result, Kris says, in the author not only not ever getting any money from any of the e-books sold but may not be able to sell those e-books through another outlet if she becomes dissatisfied with what this unnamed company is doing. Kris’ ultimate point–read and make sure you understand what you’re signing up for, whether it’s in a formal contract or a contract-like document, no matter where it’s located or what format it’s in–is absolutely spot-on.  (That’s why I’ve boldfaced and italicized it.) I know we writers often don’t like to deal with all this business stuff, but I’ll bet we like getting screwed out of income that is rightfully ours even less.
  • Finally, and on a much more positive note, publicist Crystal Patriarche (@booksparkspr) announces Indie Authors–You CAN Do It on Writer Unboxed. Crystal offers five steps indie authors can take (well, four they can/should plus one they shouldn’t–buying positive reviews) that will help them achieve their sales goals. Note that the first three involve spending money to make money and require knowing what you’re signing up for when you do. Once again: it’s a business.

Have a great weekend. “See” you again on Monday.

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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?