Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 23-26, 2012

Well, the Thanksgiving tryptophan hangover is certainly over! After a quiet weekend, bloggers are back in force today. LOTS to get to, so here we go.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) latest post in her series on lessons learned while writing her latest book has to do with 6 Types of Courageous Characters. This is something I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere. (The Bookshelf Muse’s Character Trait Thesaurus has an entry for courage but takes a different approach.) Katie qualifies courage, or “bravery,” as heroic, steadfast, quiet, personal, devil-may-care, or frightened, and describes and gives literary examples of each. This post and the thesaurus entry complement each other. Both are well worth the look.

I’d heard of “beat sheets” before but never really seen a summary of how they work. Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) provides that in her guest post, Adapting Story Structure for Any Project, on The Bookshelf Muse. In this long post, Lydia lays out her beat sheet for her most recent YA book, so you can see how it works, then makes an important point: “It [the story] should flow naturally from point to point, never feel forced.” In other words, don’t feel you absolutely MUST hit certain events at exactly certain points (especially by chapter or word count).

Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) offers some suggestions on how to start a novel based on What The Movie TRUE LIES Taught Me. OK, spoiler alert: what it taught him was to start fast. But to find out why and how it taught that lesson, check out the post.

Finally for this section, we haven’t had much information here on memoir but Gillian Marchenko (@GillianMarchenk) provides 5 Starter Tips on Writing A Memoir on WordServe Water Cooler. They’re all “don’ts” and some seem contradictory (don’t rush/don’t wait) but the piece is easy, useful, and fun. Don’t skip it!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) revisits a topic she’s written about before, “interval training for writers,” in Success in 90-Minute Increments. The basic idea, which she picked up from a Tony Schwartz post on, of all places, the Huffington Post, is that we work best if we work in concentrated 90-minute chunks (3 maximum per day), each followed by a bit of down time to refresh and recharge. Haven’t tried this myself, don’t know if it works, but give it a look. Let us know what your experience was in the comments below, if you’d like.

BUSINESS

I’ve been doing a fairly intensive study of platform-building lately, and blogging is an important part of that, says every source I’ve come across. So Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) Top 10 Tasks to Get Your Blog Ready for Prime Time is timely, even though this blog has been around for a bit over half a year now, particularly because I’m planning some changes (you heard it here first!). Whether you’re just thinking about starting a blog or have one running already, this post provides a good checklist to make sure you’re covering key bases.

Most of you don’t live in southeast Arizona, so you can’t take advantage of Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) in-person seminars, so his Everything About Epublishing (or Where to Find it) provides a good starting point for what you need to know if you’re considering e-publishing your work (with, of course, the obligatory plug for his own publishing effort, StoneThread Publishing).

On The Kill Zone, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) discusses a new but not really surprising development in e-publishing from Apple’s iBooks Author program, the “immersive” book. Bell’s take on this in Will Immersive Reading Save Publishing and Kill the Traditional Novel? frankly reminds me of other conversations inside and outside of publishing (Will e-books kill the printed book? Will recorded music kill the live performance?) for many years—over a century in the case of music. His concerns about the cost to produce such books are legitimate to a degree now but history shows these costs will come down over time as the tools get cheaper (many eventually free) and better. Anyway, the discussion in response is lively. Take a look. What do you think?

And last but not least, Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) posts key points from an interview podcast (plus a link to the YouTube video of the 40 minute interview) on Ebook Publishing on Kobo with Mark Lefebvre. Mark is the Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations for Kobo and also a published author, so he should know whereof he speaks. Kobo is actively looking to compete with Amazon and has a better international reach, so they shouldn’t be off your list if you’re looking to e-publish.

WHEW! I wasn’t kidding about LOTS of stuff, was I? Happy reading!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 6 and 7, 2012

Even though last weekend was a three-day weekend here in the U.S., it seems like it’s this weekend that my favorite bloggers are getting ready to take off for early. So, there’s not a lot of great stuff out there in the worlds of craft and business, but the fun and “that’s interesting” categories try to make up for them. Off we go, then.

In the craft world there’s just one post, from Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner): 4 Tips for Writing Your Personal Story by guest blogger Dan Miller (@48DaysTeam). While I’m not personally interested in writing memoir or other kinds of self-revelatory work, some of the members of my writers’ group are memoirists and I know some people feel driven to write such work. Miller’s tips have to do with being sure what you’re writing will be interesting to someone other than the author, a not-so-subtle point some would-be writers fail to get.

There’s more on the business side, starting with, unfortunately, a couple more tough pieces.

  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) very long, as usual, Business Rusch column, A Good Offense, deals with other slimy things traditional and electronic publishers and others involved in publishing have been doing and will continue to do. Kris’ fundamental point continues to be this: writing isn’t just a craft, it’s also, especially today, a business. If you’re not willing to learn how to operate, and especially, how to protect yourself, in a business environment where some actors are bad actors, you’re going to be hurt. GOING to be hurt. Kris offers examples of some of the scummy things people are falling for and offers tools and information on how to avoid them and protect yourself. Tough love for fellow writers.
  • Along the same lines, lawyers Sheila and Gerald Levine guest blog on Writer Beware! about Electronic Distribution and Control of Creative Material. WARNING: this post reads like it was written by lawyers. But at the same time, the examples they provide of how some “aggregators” of creative content (like your work!) can–legally!–get you to give up all control over it are chilling. Read, learn, and beware!
  • There’s another–different–group of people out there on the web who are if anything even scummier than the people Rusch and the Levines describe: “content scrapers.” These are folks who suck up others’ web-posted work and republish it for their own benefit (read, profit) without the original author’s knowledge, consent, or compensation. Robert Farrington of The College Investor (Google+ address) describes two relatively easy ways How to Hit Content Scrapers Where It Hurts on @ProBlogger. In short, the process involves filling out one or both of two Google forms, then sending a “Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice” to the offending site. As Kris Rusch notes, if you don’t defend yourself first on-line, no one else will.

WHEW! That’s enough of the heavy stuff! Let’s finish and head for the weekend with some MUCH lighter fare.

  • We’ll start with Kevin Kelly’s (@kevin2kelly) Sourced Quotes, 15 on The Technium. Perhaps my favorite is the “Understanding Online Star Ratings” chart, but the quotes are all over the subject map, going all the way back to a joke about the telegraph!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 13, 2012

Quite a variety today in these top-five posts. Let’s jump right in.

  • Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) reprises something he posted earlier this year on 101 Books: John Steinbeck On Writing, the master’s 6 tips on the craft. Steinbeck is yet another writer who counsels reading one’s dialog out loud. As I wrote in my comment to Robert’s piece, the advice applies to narrative, non-fiction, and poetry, too.
  • Next up is Michael Swanwick’s advice to Kill Your Darlings. By itself, the title is hardly new. What Swanwick does is different, however. He starts by critiquing the opening paragraph of “The Fish” by Isak Dinesen, then critiques his own critique! His points in the meta-critique are (1) critiquers are often critiquing for their own benefit, to keep reminding themselves of what they need to do to write well, and (2) those critiques may not be valuable to other writers, especially new ones. Or they might be. Interesting piece.
  • Clare Langely-Hawthorne connects the Olympics and Writing–Learning from Failure on The Kill Zone. While critiquing the Australian press’ focus on their athlete’s “failures,” such as placing second in an event, she notes that that focus on winning isn’t unique to them (since when is being second best in the entire world a bad thing?) but also that that degree of success, indeed any degree of success, is built on the “failures” of the past.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@Rachelle Gardner) uses an interview with Cheryl Strayed (@CherylStrayed) to discuss when someone should write their memoir. Strayed’s answer to why it took her so long to get to the point where she could write Wild, her story about her 1,100 mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, had two parts. She needed the time to (1) learn her craft and (2) gain sufficient perspective on what she’d learned from that hike. Gardner emphasizes the importance of both of those points.
  • Finally, Bruce Holland Rogers guest posts on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog about Selling Flash Fiction Via E-Mail–Successfully. This is doubly interesting. First, it’s a sales model I hadn’t seen before: readers pay $10 a year to subscribe to his web site (shortshortshort.com) and in exchange get 36 flash fiction stories a year from him. Second, editors DO NOT consider this work to have been “published,” so he can–and has–collect, publish, and sell the work again later. There’s even more to this concept. If you write flash fiction, this might be something to explore.