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

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

A LITTLE MORE LEAD-UP

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

CRAFT

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

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

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

BUSINESS

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

SOCIAL MEDIA

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

THE WRITING LIFE

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

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 6 & 7, 2012

Some really important stuff in the Business and Life sections today, not to mention valuable things to know about Craft and a little bit of crazy and not-for-the-squeamish Fun.

CRAFT

Juliet Marillier touches on an interesting but not that uncommon topic in A Dog’s-eye view on Writer Unboxed. Science fiction and fantasy authors have had to deal with the question of how you make a non-human character, especially if they’re a POV character, both comprehensible and alien at the same time. Many authors have tried it, with varying degrees of success—“success” being a very squishy concept, depending on what they were trying to do. If this is something you’ve ever tried or want to try, give this piece a look.

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) offers some suggestions on How to Write Smart, Not Fast on Write to Done. I was concerned at first when he wrote, “…you need a system…” but fortunately he doesn’t prescribe a particular system, per se, but a system for developing your own. OK, I can live with that.

Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) discusses her process of revising in Writing a Book: What Happens After the First Draft? While her particular technique is, of course, her own and may not work for you or me, not only does she have a few interesting twists, like editing on her Kindle for word choice, but she provides quite a few links to other posts, not only her own. For my own immediate needs, the link to her article on beta readers was helpful but there are half a dozen others as well. They alone make this post worth your while.

How Do You Know If Your Work is Any Good? It’s one of the oldest questions around, and not unique at all to writing or even the arts. Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) takes a crack at it, starting by asking how each of us define “good” and what kind of validation we’re looking for. Nothing really new or revelatory here, just good solid reminders to help you keep yourself in balance.

Along this line, check out the quote from Steven Spielberg, provided by Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) in Being Fearless Is Overrated.

BUSINESS

I’m still having trouble with writers who slime all agents all the time because some (small? who knows?) percentage manage to screw up. But that said, when you read pieces like Dean Wesley Smith’s (@DeanWesleySmith) A Side Note About Agents you can’t help but wonder what’s up with agents like the one Smith discusses, who’s being sued for failing to do his job. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder why the competent agents aren’t (a) speaking up for their profession and (b) making a real effort to weed out the bad apples. (Mixed metaphor—sorry!)

Along those same lines, Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) issues yet another warning on Writer Beware, this time about The Albee Agency: Book Publicity Faked. What amazes me—and her—is that this agency seemed not to think that nobody would check on their claims. So when Strauss did… I’ll let you guess what happened. “Writer Beware”: it’s so true.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

With the end of the year approaching, we’re tempted to look back and assess. Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) continues her Write It! Wednesday series in that vein with What Successes Will You Celebrate This Year? Celebrating, or even just acknowledging, our own successes isn’t a bad thing. I can list a few: the continued growth and success of the Cochise Writers’ Group, the creation and growth of this blog series, the fact that all of you are reading it (THANK YOU!!!), and the soon-to-happen transition of my major Work In Progress to Work Completed (for now, anyway). What are your successes?

On a much less happy but perhaps even more important topic, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) continues her series on estate planning with Ghosts of Writers Future. This long as always but important piece is the first of a series on the relationships between wills and copyrights and what how long copyrights last after your death means for your estate and heirs. I know this isn’t a comfortable topic—I’m working on a change to my will and one of its charitable remainder trusts right now—but having lived through what happens when someone dies without a will, trust me, if you value your writing work and love your family, you’ll want to read and heed what Kris is writing here.

FUN

Whether you’re a mystery or thriller writer or not, check out Jordan Dane’s (@JordanDane) White Elephant Christmas Gifts for Crime Fiction Buffs on The Kill Zone. Some of them, like the outfit consisting of a horrible Christmas sweater, pink cowboy hat, and plaid shorts are funny, others, like the bleeding bath mat are just plain creepy. All in good fun, though—at least so long as the words “you have just been poisoned” at the bottom of the coffee mug aren’t true!

Have a great weekend. Happy reading and writing!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 15 & 16, 2012

A light post today but what I have is all over the map—literally as well as writerly. Here we go:

CRAFT

Ray Rhamey’s Writer Unboxed post Characterize through Experiential Description, Part 2 touches on something that maybe ought to be an obvious technique, but wasn’t, at least for me: using characters’ experiences in real-story-time to describe not only what they’re experiencing but who and what they are. It’s a way of holding a mirror up to the character that I found interesting—and should be using!

BUSINESS

Caleb Jennings Breakey (@CalebBreakey) guest posts on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about what you might do if your project needs funding. (“Project” includes “novel.”) The post is about three so-called crowdsourcing web sites, kickstarter.com, faithfunder.com, and indiegogo.com, but especially Kickstarter. In case you don’t know, these sites let you advertise a project (defined very broadly) that you’d like to do but need funding for. You set a funding goal and a date by which you want to have it all raised. If your idea is compelling enough, people will donate (actually pledge to donate) to it. If you reach or exceed your goal, your donors are obligated to actually sending the money; if not, they’re not. There’s a lot more to it than that, and Caleb’s post only begins to cover it all, but it’s a good place to start learning about these programs. Which makes me wonder: could this be one of the futures of publishing?

I asked that question with a purpose. We all know about the turmoil the entire publishing industry is in right now. Money is at the center of it, or close. This week’s Business Rusch piece by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) deals with her (WARNING: highly negative) take on Agents and Money. To be clear, Kris has had some bad experiences with agents and publishers. It’s terrific that she is willing to share what she’s learned with the intention of helping us avoid the troubles she’s had. But then there’s this statement from this latest (very long) article: “Are there good agents in the world? Yes. I partner with one on occasion…. But are there bad agents? Infinitely more bad agents than good.” Infinitely more? Really? This article is worth reading; just understand where the author’s coming from and make your own decision on how much to accept and how much to ignore.

As a counterpoint to that piece, here’s Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) on Writer Beware ® Blogs: Publishers Hate Authors? Really? The post is about a Huffington Post piece by Michael Levin titled “Why Book Publishers Hate Authors.” Let’s just say that Strauss disagrees with both Levin’s article and his “logic.” Somewhere in this noise there’s got to be some sanity. Doesn’t there?

FUN

Whew. Let’s close with something that I found fascinating: Kevin Kelly’s (@Kevin2Kelly) latest post on The Technium, The Average Place on Earth. This post is about a project called Degree Confluence with is seeking to have people go to every place on land where a degree of latitude and a degree of longitude meet—the crossing point for each one-degree line—and photograph what’s there (plus the GPS device proving that the photographer was really at that spot). So far, over 6,000 of the 10,000 total intersection points have been photographed and guess what? The vast majority of them are in places that are not urban, not farmed, but wild. Kelly cites unsourced projections that by 2050, most of the planet’s 8 billion people will live in networks of megacities which will result in an emptying of the countryside. Whether that turns out to be true or not, only time will tell, but the project is interesting—and surely the source of many stories!

Found anything great, good, or just fun or interesting? Share it in the comments below.

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, July 16, 2012

A couple different takes on writing-related topics, dealing with rejection, and a thought-provoking movie are on the agenda today.

  • Amy K. Sorrells (@amysorrells) combines carpentry and writing in Everything I needed to know about writing I learned from my Dad’s level on WordServe Water Cooler. Amy uses her first do-it-yourself home improvement job as the structure around which she builds a set of writing lessons. While she doesn’t use “measure twice, cut once” in so many words, the concept is in there: it’s called editing.
  • Jan O’Hara (@jan_ohara) takes a medical perspective in Diagnosis: Storyteller on Writer Unboxed. Her lessons about writing are built around her son’s recent hospital stay and how, among other things, his doctors responded to his injury and their judgments about the way his parents were behaving.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) discusses how even experienced, many-times-published authors sometimes have to go Back to the Drawing Board. There are reasons why even these authors sometimes get rejected, and Rachelle’s seen them and how these authors respond.
  • Speaking of responses, multi-award-winning SF writer Nancy Kress, whom I’ve featured too rarely here, recently went to see Woody Allen’s To Rome, with Love and found herself Happy at the Movies. Not just happy, but provoked to thought about whether any of us would choose to be famous if we knew how we were going to be treated because of our fame, especially if we’d done nothing in particular to earn it. Hmmm. Would you?

And that’s it for today.