Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 26 & 27, 2013

Well, here it is: the last Great Stuff post on the Cochise Writers blog. OK, not quite. I’ll put up a reminder so everyone knows these posts and my Critique Technique posts have moved. As of Friday, March 1st, everything will be over at my new web site, Great Stuff for Writers and Critique Technique will have their own menu items and pages. You’ll have to resubscribe, I’m afraid, but the RSS feed links and subscribe-by-email boxes are up at the top of the sidebar so they’re easy to get to. Every site is a work in progress, so I’ll be adding new features as I can and as they become relevant. I hope you like the look and feel of the new site. I’m pretty excited about it and I hope you will be too.

Meanwhile, there’s lots of Great Stuff here as well.


Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. @GrammarGirl, clears up once and for all (you believe THAT, don’t you?) when and whether to use the Oxford/Harvard/serial comma with an graphic from in The Oxford Comma, in Pictures. You may want to ensure you’re reading the post and graphic at a relatively large screen expansion because the color contrasts in the image aren’t the strongest, but the information itself is clear, concise(,) and easy to absorb.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has a post today on words that writers consistently confuse with others that are similar: Never Confuse These Words Again. Her list of doubles and triples is short—only 10 sets out of many—but still a good review. The one of her commenters pointed out a blog called Homophones Weakly (notice the “mis”spelling) that covers this topic in a fun way.

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) deals with a problem we all run into once in a while: Episodic Storytelling. When writing is called “episodic,” that’s generally not a compliment. It happens, Katie tells us, because the scenes that make up these episodes don’t seem to matter to each other—one doesn’t build into the next. The solution is straight-forward (to describe if not necessarily to do): make sure each scene contributes to the overall story.


Every so often the issue of “traditional” copyright bubbles up (I’m putting traditional in quotes to distinguish it from the Creative Commons copyright) and it has again on Writer Beware ® Blogs, in Victoria Strauss’s (@victoriastrauss) Why Not to Register Copyright for Unpublished Work. This piece has two parts: one clearly related to the title (short form: it’s not necessary and does nothing for you) and the other about why it can actually place you at risk. Say what? It turns out, Strauss reports, that there are various unscrupulous companies (she names one) that troll copyright and Library of Congress registration lists looking for naïve unpublished authors to scam with offers of “services” (exorbitant fees not mentioned, of course).

Here’s an important one for you: Thomas Ford’s Common Creativity: Understanding the Rules and Rights Around “Free” Images on the Web on ProBlogger. As Ford discusses, “free” isn’t necessarily an absolute term when it comes to images—or documents, for that matter—and if you’re going to use a “free” image, you’d better know exactly what you’re allowed to do under what circumstances. Just because something is available at no charge doesn’t mean there are no restrictions on what you can or can’t do with it. This is a long and detailed piece, particularly when it comes to the Creative Commons kinds of copyrights, and may be more than you can absorb in one reading, so bookmark it or flag it as a favorite and check out the resources the Creative Commons folks have put together for your use.


Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has a terrific post on 7 Ways to Look Good on Your Webcam. As I noted in my comment, I’m not an ENT doctor—I really don’t care to be looking up your nose—so her #1 suggestion to put your webcam at eye level or a little higher is a biggie. Her other points and those of her commenters are all good. With Google Hangouts, other video chats, vlogs, and podcasts all becoming more common, these pointers are all necessary for looking at least decent on camera.


Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) continues her writing community series with the start of a sub-series on how to Build Your Online Writing Community, the key word being “Online.” While she discusses the blogosphere and Twitter in a bit of detail here, she promises more posts on other parts of the online world in the future. As she notes, there are so many options that it’s hard for someone who’s just getting into social media to know what to do first. Let’s hope this series will help people like that (like you?) make that choice.

See you next time at our new site!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 12 & 13, 2013

Hope you’re not a triskaidekaphobe! Today’s double-13 day, and tells you it is: 2-13-13, or 13-2-13, if you prefer. Thirteen what to thirteen? Which reminds me of Albert the Alligator, a character from the old Pogo comic strip, for whom the 13th day of the month was always Friday the Thirteenth, even if it was a Wednesday.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Not a darn thing, as far as I can tell. In fact, you’re double-lucky to be finding out about today’s Great Stuff. Read on!


Here’s some really practical advice that we can all use: Writing Gender-Specific Dialogue from the Writer’s Digest There Are No Rules blog. Excerpted from a book by romance writer Leigh Michaels (@leighmichaels), the piece gives advice to women on how men think and act, and hence speak, and vice versa for men writing female characters. For example, women know and notice which colors go together and which don’t, while men generally don’t notice or care. That reminded me of a woman in my writer’s group who had a (straight) male character noticing that a woman’s eyes matched the color of her uniform. Um, sorry, no. We ad-dress-ed that. 😉 Have you run into this kind of thing? How did you address it?

Some writers like to have music playing in the background when they’re writing. Not me, it’s too distracting. But if you’re like Ann Aguirre (@MsAnnAguirre) and Let Music Set the Mood when you’re writing, you’ll definitely get her piece on Writer Unboxed today. But even if you’re not a writer/listener, there’s something for you here: a song may not set your mood, but it can set the story’s mood or reveal something about a character. In my first novel, one of my characters is a fan of rock music from the ‘60s to ‘80s and snippets from those songs will pop into her head from time to time, usually at high-stress moments. It tells you something about her and adds a new dimension to the scene. Do you do anything like this?

You might not expect to find advice on story-telling on ProBlogger, but that’s what Gregory Ciotti (@HelpScout) offers in The Science of Storytelling: 6 Ways to Write More Persuasive Stories. The piece is based on research by Dr. Philip Mazzocco and Melanie Green having to do with court arguments, but their six keys apply in fiction too. They are: audience, realism, delivery, imagery, structure, and context. Space doesn’t permit me to discuss them here, but slide on over and check out the article.


So, we’ve all heard that the job’s not over when the writing’s done when it comes to books, right? Sure, but what exactly does that mean? Enter Boyd Morrison’s (@boydmorrison) What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to be Published,  a list of 31—that’s right, 31—things that you’ll do after you get that magical phone call saying your book has been accepted for traditional publication. Indie publishers: think the list doesn’t apply to you? Wrong-o, Kindle breath! Of course, some steps won’t, at least as written. But many will in one form or another, and often they’re entirely on you to do, rather than in response to a request from the publisher. A real reality check here.

Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) has published many articles on e- and print book design, so Book Design Quick Tips for Self-Publishers doesn’t have anything really new, except for a hint at the end about something he’s going to be launching soon—a book layout service, maybe? But this pretty long but useful post lays out the basics in simple terms. This stuff isn’t cosmic or über-technical and you shouldn’t fear it. Take the time to study and absorb it and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) is releasing a new novel and using the free option on KDP Select for a few days. More important for other writers planning to self-publish is the other information on where and how to get publicity and reviews she offers in the FREE on Kindle post. If this is something to do, check out the post.

Looking into what the future might hold for Nancy, J A Konrath (@JAKonrath) discusses his recent experiences with having some of his books sold via KDP Select in his post Amazon Numbers. Three lessons to learn: (1) despite what he says, being a “name” in the business helps. It’s not required but your sales numbers will be better when you’re known than when you’re still an unknown. (2) Giving the book away for free boosts for-cash sales. I’m reading Cory Doctorow’s The Problem Is Obscurity right now, and he makes the same point. (Beats you over the head with it, actually.) (3) The more titles you have for sale, the better. Konrath closes this long post with two other discussions. He doesn’t like Amazon’s demand for exclusive sales fights for 90 days if you sign up for KDP Select (no one but Amazon seems to), and self-publishing gives you control over your work, which is a good thing.


Writing advice from @NathanBransford in <141 characters. It’s better than you might expect. (27 characters left.)


I could have put Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) Write Like You Mean It up in the Craft section, but since it’s really about attitude—making the effort to make anything you write a piece of quality writing—it fits better here. Keith’s piece is pretty long but he uses that length to approach the basic thesis—if you want to be considered a professional writer, write like one whenever you write, even on Twitter or Facebook—from a variety of different angles with the intent that if one doesn’t resonate with you, another one will. What do you think? Is this your approach?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 2-4, 2013

Wow! Busy weekend out there on the blogosphere, and Monday morning, too: rules and tools, emotions and responses, Star Wars attacks and attacks on Amazon. It’s all here, and more. No time to lose! Let’s get started.


CORRECTION! Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) workshop is on Tuesday, February FIFTH,  (that’s tomorrow) at 1 PM Eastern. Sorry for the confusion!

Anyone who’s been at this business a while knows that there are almost no rules to writing, beyond maybe, “Get your butt in the chair! Now!” So when a post is titled The Rules of Writing, naturally that’s going to raise some concerns. Fortunately, French super-bestseller Marc Levy’s (@marc_levy) “rules” on Writer Unboxed aren’t rules so much as guidelines, and wise and practical ones at that. A couple examples to whet your appetite: “Stop trying so hard to find a subject” and “Don’t show too much, don’t tell too much.”

Along these same lines, Joanna Penn’s (@thecreativepenn) guest post on Write to Done on 5 Ways To Take Your Writing Further includes some techniques I’ve heard before but haven’t seen mentioned much recently, namely free-writing and physically copying the work of published authors you enjoy and respect. Not only are these effective techniques for expanding your writing, they’re terrific for overcoming writer’s block. (See the Brandon Yawa post below too.)

I think it was one of the great Russian writers who said, “If there is no emotion in the writer, there will be no emotion in the reader.” Anyone know who that was? In any case, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) picks up on that theme with his post How To Get Emotional About Your Novel on The Kill Zone. “Emotion in the author,” he writes, “is literary electricity. It’s the X Factor, the game changer… Readers sense it.” Then he describes a couple of methods for finding it and bringing it out in your work. The last part of the post is a plug for his latest book but also serves as an example of how he was able to create genuine emotion in the story.

Speaking of emotion, KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes and sequels with Pt. 9: Options for Dilemmas in a Sequel. What does this have to do with emotion? After the emotion of the reaction to the previous scene’s disaster, now the protagonist should face a dilemma in which he or she has to figure out what to do next. This can be an emotional reaction, too, or a rational one, but it needs to start with a review of what’s happened, an analysis of options, and a plan for moving forward, which will lead to a decision, the next scene and, of course, the next disaster… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Lessons Learned from the Original Star Wars Trilogy to Up Your Writing Game? Seriously? Yup. Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) comes up with them on Writer Unboxed. Specifically, Episode IV (start in the middle), Episode V (destroy everything), Episode VI (expect the unexpected).  Hmmm. Y’know, that gives me an idea…. Thanks, Lydia!


Joanna Penn’s piece on her own blog, How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling, is a terrific insight into both. Yes, if you own an e-reader, your shopping habits may be different, but if you’re looking to e-publish, even how just one reader shops can be revealing. So are Joanna’s and her commenters’ views on samples: how long they should be, how much time a reader will spend with them, how often they decide not to buy based on the sample, etc. Valuable info here!

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has started a monthly feature called Best Business Advice for Writers, and the January edition is full to overflowing with links to other posts and articles that are full to overflowing with information. The ol’ veritable plethora, right on your screen: GoodReads, cover design, self-publishing lessons-learned, WordPress plug-ins, Kickstarter, and more. Goodness. It’s a week’s worth of reading all by itself! Pick what most interests you.

Whoa, this is a tough one. Clare Langley-Hawthorne reports on The Kill Zone on a series of Concerted Amazon Attacks meant to discredit and kill the sales of a book. The book, an apparently non-sycophantic biography of Michael Jackson received so many 1-star reviews on Amazon (over 100), many of which were factually inaccurate, that despite Amazon’s selecting it as one of their best books of the year, sales were a small fraction of the number of books printed. So, whose free-speech rights prevail in a case like this: the authors’ or the reviewers’? Or is this an either/or decision at all? What do you think?


It might be a bit of a surprise to see a post from ProBlogger here in the Writing Life section, but Brandon Yawa’s (@BrandonYawa) How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block fits. Interestingly, his idea is NOT compassion by the author for someone else, but compassion by the author for him- or herself. Self-forgiveness, in other words, when the words won’t come, plus a few non-writing techniques for getting that mental break that releases the block. Marc Levy (above) says not to fear writer’s block because it’s a natural thing. Without the fear, then, the forgiveness should come more easily. Hope so, anyway!

If you’ve ever been in a writers’/critique group, you’ve probably encountered people like those described in Donna Cooner’s (@donnacooner) Top 10 Worst Types of Critique Partners. If you haven’t, yes, you might well encounter people like these. But don’t assume as some writers and bloggers (NOT Donna) insist that all groups are like this. They’re not, and a good group is worth its weight in ink cartridges.

So, can you name that Russian writer? Have you run into any of those awful critique partners? How about great ones? Tell! Tell! (This is one time you don’t have to “show.”)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 20 & 21, 2012

Happy New Era Day! The 14th Bak’tun seems to have started without incident. Hope you’re not one of those prepper folks who’s now looking around at their cases of Twinkies® and wondering what they’re going to do with them all. (Oh, right: eBay!) Anyway, today is also Flip-Flop Day. Bet’cha didn’t know that. (And it has nothing to do with politics.) Check it out: 12-flip-21-flop-12. See? Flip-Flop Day. And there won’t be another one until January 10, 2101.

OK, enough silliness. We have SERIOUS stuff to consider.


Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) pulls back the curtain a bit to reveal her techniques for World Building – Indigo-style on The Kill Zone. For those of you who aren’t aware, as I wasn’t, Dane’s latest book, Indigo Awakening, is the next in a YA psychic-mystery series about teens with special abilities who might be the next evolutionary form of humanity. Whether you’re willing to accept that premise or not isn’t important here; what is is Dane’s discussion of how she created the world in which the Indigo children and their variants live and try to survive.


Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) addresses a subject that can be awkward, or at least lead to unsatisfying results: Should Fiction Authors Be Bloggers? While his ultimate answer is “it depends,” which isn’t very helpful, he does suggest things a new fiction writer might do in order to build a following during those first few lonely years of your career. All of you, dear readers, are part of the path I’ve chosen. Thank you! In time we’ll see where it takes us.


I realize not all of you have a web site or blog and not all of you who do base it on WordPress. If you fall into the first of those “not” categories, you can skip this summary. If you fall into the second, the basic message is important, even if the specific details may not apply. Anders Vinther writes on ProBlogger, Backing Up WordPress? Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes. Some of the 9—not backing up ever, not backing up often enough, not backing up the right things, not backing up to a secure and separate location—apply to anyone with a blog or web site. Even better, Vinther, who writes for the web site The WordPress Security Checklist, also provides links to other posts and tips to help you do things right. Having had a website crash without a backup, I know how painful failing to do this is.


A couple of posts back we had a dozen dozens. Now Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) does one better with his occasionally tongue-in-cheek A Baker’s Dozen: Thirteen Traits of a Great Writer. A couple examples: “You are an avid reader” [serious]; “You are vaguely aware of other people, whom you believe probably live in your house because they seem to be there with some regularity” [not-so-serious?].

I’m tempted to send Anna Elliott’s (@anna_elliott)—well, her husband’s, actually—post On the Care and Feeding of Your Writer on Writer Unboxed to a writer friend of mine. Her loving and well-meaning husband isn’t a writer, they live in a very small house, and, well, you can guess the rest of that story. (Or what was the end until she created, with his help, a special writing place.) In any case, Anna’s husband’s eight ways he supports her just might be the sorts of hints you’ll want to share—ever so subtly, of course, like taped to the front side of a 2 X 4—with that special someone in your life. Might make a great Christmas present—sans the 2 X 4, anyway. 😉


The folks at Writer’s Digest (Zachary Petit, specifically) have put together a fun little set of holiday quotes in Happy Holidays from WD. Phyllis Diller had something to say about the holidays! Who knew?


Like many other blogs and bloggers, Great Stuff will be taking a break until just after the new year—January 2nd, to be exact. I’m WAY behind on my Critique Technique posts, so I’ll try to get one or two of them up, but many other things are under way that will lead to IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS soon(-ish). I’m excited about what’s coming and I hope you’ll enjoy the results one they appear on a computer screen near you.

Here’s hoping that whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year, they’re wonderful. And if you don’t have a holiday to celebrate, celebrate anyway! It’s better than sitting around moping and there’s a whole year of new writing waiting just around the corner for you.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 6-8, 2012

Good-to-great stuff in lots of areas over the weekend, so without further ado…


KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her Most Common Mistakes series with this surprising question: Are You Skipping the Best Parts? Let’s turn this around: have you ever read a book or story where things were getting really tense or exciting, a big event is waiting on the very next page, and then…nothing. No shift to another character or location to stretch out the tension. No promise of coming back to that big scene. Nothing. How frustrating is THAT? That’s what KM teaches you not to do in your own work.

L. L. Barkat (@llbarkat) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog with a not-really-so-unusual technique: Steal Your Way to Better Writing. Of course, she’s not referring to plagiarism, but learning via close reading of something that draws you. This may not work as well for you as it did for her would-be-poet daughter, but it has value for everyone.

Quality work depends to some extent on productivity, which is why Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) post How Productive Are You? may be something you want to follow up on. Rachelle introduces a product called “Rescue Time” that is supposed to help you identify your work habits—and, one presumes, the times and ways you’re wasting time—so you can be more productive. I haven’t tried or used this tool or others like it, so I have no opinions on them, but if this is a concern of yours, you might want to check them out.


That’s a good transition into one way to use time productively: going to writers’ conferences and conventions. New Kill Zone contributor Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) offers 20 Writers’ Conference Tips to make your time there more fun and more productive. Very practical and right on target from my own experiences.

OK, this next post might seem a bit morbid, but you know what, I’m right there with James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) in his thoughts about How Writers Should Die. His story is about novelist James M. Cain, who after a string of early successes (The Postman Always Rings Twice, among others) hit a dry patch and was urged to quit writing. He didn’t, found his way back to success late in life, and died at age 85 after completing two more books. While he didn’t literally die at the keyboard as some writers have, he did what he loved right to the end. How cool is that?


OK, on to a cheerier topic, although not necessarily an easier one. Cheryl Craigie (@manageablelife) takes on a topic on Write to Done we all have to face at one point, writing the dreaded author bio. How to Write About Yourself offers practical tips on saying what you need to say—and no more—for the audience you’re writing for at that moment.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) takes on the process of self-publishing again today, making the point that there are Only 2 Things Authors Ought to be Doing: writing and marketing. His central point is that there are a lot of very technical things that go into turning a manuscript into a self-published book and that an author who is an expert at none of them is going to end up producing something that looks like it was produced by an amateur. While Friedlander’s point might seem a bit self-serving since he is a professional book designer, leaving certain work to the pros is something we do every day, so why not do it in something we hope will make us money? That’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Along these lines, and maybe in direct contradiction to Friedlander, Matt Setter (@maltblue) posted over the weekend two tutorials on Essential HTML for Bloggers, part 1 and part 2.  Seems like a good idea, right? A quick and friendly introduction to the basics of the programming language that’s the basis for so much that’s done on the web, so you can use it better. Unfortunately, these posts weren’t proofread closely, so important information is sometimes missing and Matt’s web site isn’t available as I type this, both of which hurt his credibility, but since I mentioned this series in my last post, I feel obliged to tell you about it now.

Finally, Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) reports on Writer Beware® Blogs that Publishers Settle With Google—But What About Authors? This all has to do with an effort Google started years ago to scan and make available on-line every book that’s ever been written of which a copy survives. Several organizations, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Author’s Guild (AG) sued to block the effort over copyright concerns. After years in court, the AAP has settled with Google, Strauss reports, but AG has not and there are many questions remaining about what the AAP settlement means for authors, particularly in terms of royalties, because the terms of the settlement are confidential. This may seem very esoteric but the questions are legitimate. Much more to come on this in the years ahead, I’m sure.

What great stuff have you found out on the web? Share it in the Comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 4 and 5, 2012

Quite a variety of great stuff today, so let’s jump right in.


Let’s begin with beginnings. Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) is currently reviewing Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man on 101 Books. One of the things he does with each book he reviews is discuss the opening line or paragraph. Ellison’s first line is, “I am an invisible man.” As Robert writes, “A good first line pulls you in right away” and Ellison’s certainly does. Check out the post to find out more.

Some authors like to create their first line, and in fact their whole book, as part of a team. Frank Viola (@FrankViola) guest posts on Rachelle Gardner’s blog on Co-Authoring: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Co-writing isn’t something I’m personally interested in doing, but if you are, or think you might be, this is a good look at what’s involved.

Finally for this section, freelance copy editor Linda Jay Geldens (@LindaJayGeldens) makes the case for professional editing in A Professional Editor Takes on Self-Editing on The Book Designer. Full Disclosure: As someone who’s WIP is currently being edited by a freelance professional editor, I admit to being sympathetic to her arguments.


Decided to give these topics their own section because there were so many good posts on them.

If you’re a Gmail user, check out Nathan Bransford’s (@NathanBransford) brief post, with a link to more info on CNet, on a Two-step E-mail Verification process. If you have ANY web presence at all, including e-mail, which of course you do because you’re reading this post, web security is something you should be not just thinking about but learning how to do. There are a lot of things that are SIMPLE to do if you just know how.

Speaking of simple to do (really!), ProBlogger will be providing a two-post quickie course on HTML, one of the major programming languages of the internet. Darren Rowse (@problogger) announces the plan today on Weekend Project: Get a Handle on HTML. I’ll post the links to these articles on Monday.

As if you haven’t heard enough about Why You Need an Author Platform—and How to Get One, Ali Luke (@aliventures) provides yet more reasons and methods today on Write to Done. Her key point: start small and grow. There’s also a link to special access to some of her Writers’ Huddle paid material (a webinar audio recording, transcript, and worksheet).

Finally here, something you’re familiar and comfortable with: reading blogs! We’re back to Robert Bruce with his 9 Must-Read Blogs for Book Geeks. OK, maybe you don’t consider yourself a book geek, or don’t want to be called one. I’m with you. But who knows, maybe there’s something in one of the 9—actually 10, there’s one more in the comments—blogs you might enjoy.


When Sarah Callender (@sarahrcallender) writes on Writer Unboxed that You Can Get (Almost) Anything on EBay, including suits of armor, she notes that there’s one thing (the almost) that you can’t: a suit of armor for your heart when you’re rejected to criticized, especially anonymously and/or unfairly. But there are still ways to keep going. Hers include her tribe, her goal, and her faith.

For some writers, though, those things aren’t enough, or aren’t the right things, so in this week’s long Business Rusch column, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) discusses Why Writers Disappear. Kris’ dozen reasons are too many to list here but they range from “they achieved their goals” (that’s good) to “they became toxic” (that’s really bad and something you want to avoid). Despite the length, this is a post worth checking out.


Today’s last post comes from the Guide to Literary Agents blog. In it, Michael Larsen, one of the principals of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, offers some thoughts on The Bookselling Revolution: How to Connect Commerce and Community. Are his ideas utopian or workable? Is competing with Amazon realistic? What about 4,000 square foot, community-based, non-profit local bookstores stocked with Espresso book machines? I don’t know but Larsen’s thinking is at least creative and gets beyond us-vs.-them.

That’s all for today. Have a great weekend.

Find something great about writing or publishing out there on the web? Share your discovery in the comments.

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 17, 2012

Sorry for posting so late today but meetings and errands intruded. Anyway, lots of variety in today’s posts, from working out your characters to working out your worries to working out your body. Let’s get working!

These first two posts are especially good for new writers.

  • Characterization–how to do it well, especially–is always a big topic of discussion. Anna Elliott (@anna_elliott) uses a number of points from Donald Maass’ book The Fire in Fiction to show on Writer Unboxed how you can present your characters, Warts and All, to your readers.
  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) takes us a step up the structure chain on today’s WORDplay post when she writes about Scenes: The Building Blocks of Your Story. She discusses the elements of a scene, when scenes change (at least, one professor’s idea of when), and how to get the most out of each scene.

As you’re getting farther along with your WIP, especially as you get close to publishing it, these next two will be valuable.

  • Lawyer and novelist Brad Frazer (@bfrazjd) discusses why Copyright Is Not a Verb on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog. This post is a follow-up to his June 15th post, Trademark Is Not a Verb. Brad succeeds at defining what a copyright is–and isn’t–and clearing up some of the myths and misunderstandings (taken together, would those be mythunderstandings?) surrounding copyright with a minimum of lawyer-speak.
  • Speaking of not knowing what you don’t know, or not knowing as much as you think you know, Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) presents a rather disturbing piece on Writer Beware called LendInk, Author Activism, and the Need for Critical Thinking. In brief, LendInk was a web site that legitimately arranged lending and borrowing of Kindle e-books. Some authors, not knowing this was perfectly legal the way LendInk was doing it, made such a fuss on social media that the site was shut down. Strauss goes on to discuss the polarized and uncritical and uncreative thinking going around on the web regarding legacy/traditional publishing and indie publishing and worries about how much damage such “bombast” can do in a time when the publishing industry is in the middle of changes, not anywhere near the end.

We’ll close with a couple of much less stressful posts.

  • And finally, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) posts some Fun Things From Around the Web. I’m no doctor, but I like the Speed Bump cartoon, myself.

Hey, it’s Friday! Have a great weekend.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 15, 2012

Too bad today’s not Tuesday. Why? Because if it was I could have called today’s post How-to Tuesday, or even better, How-Tue Tuesday. How-to Wednesday just doesn’t have the same ring. But since I’m stuck with that lemon, it’s time to make lemonade. We’ve got how-to’s on craft, marketing, social media, and self-publishing, plus one non-how-to on the Author’s Guild. Lot’s to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Let’s start with craft:

  • Joanne Brothwell (@JoanneBrothwell) lists the 7 Things [She’s] Learned So Far on The Guide to Literary Agents blog. Nothing really new here for experienced writers but a terrific summary for new writers, like many members of my own writers’ group.
  • In a similar vein, Mary Jaksch (@Mary_Jaksch), chief editor of Write to Done, offers 7 Instant Fixes for better writing. Much like Joanne’s post, these fixes are post-first-draft techniques and are especially good for new writers, but hers are more specific and focused than Joanne’s.
  • Finally for this section, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) asks, Can You Define Your Character in One Word? Of course, she acknowledges, doing so leaves out so much of a character’s personality, but like a log-line does for a story, it gets to the core of that character. Challenging! Can you do it?

OK, on to marketing, promotion, and social media.

  • Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) offers a set of very practical tips to Build a Better Author Bio on Twitter. You’ve only got 160 characters plus room for a photo, your name, your Twitter handle, and ONE link. Using that limited space well is not just a real-world exercise in tight writing, it’s a matter of focusing on achieving your purpose: effectively communication who you are as a writer.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) stretches beyond Twitter to provide 8 Tips for Promoting Your Book Online. Some of her suggestions are outside my personal comfort zone, but that’s just me. I’m sure she’d say, “pick the ones that work for you and ignore the rest.”
  • Dealing with how to get outside your comfort zone, if that’s necessary, is also the theme behind Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Networking for Authors: 5 Survival Tips on DIY MFA. This time, though, the topic is doing that networking in person rather than from the comfort of your own keyboard. These tips range from business card etiquette to having a wing-man along at writers’ conferences.
  • Abhishek Raj’s (@buddinggeek) post on @ProBlogger, Protect Your Content from Being Copied in 3 Steps really jumped out at me. I’ve wondered for a long time if there was a way to keep someone from simply copying blog or web site text straight off the screen. It turns out there is and the author provides links to the JavaScript code for Blogger and the plugin for WordPress. He also describes how to watermark images and manage RSS feeds. If all that sounds like gobbledegook, well, if you’re a blogger or have a web site, it’s time to learn the language. I’ve flagged this post as a “favorite.”

Next up is a how-to, or how-not-to, regarding self-publishing.

  • Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman) was a judge recently for the Bay Area Independent Book Publishers Book Awards competition. In Why Self-Published Books Look Self-Published, he describes the kinds of mistakes self-published authors make too often that leave their work looking amateurish (beyond poor writing).

And last of all, the one non-how-to piece:

  • Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) continues a conversation that’s been bubbling for a while in some corners (e.g. some of Joe Konrath’s and David Gaughran’s posts) when he asks, Does The Authors Guild Serve the Interest of Writers? It’s a provocative question, but one that’s been coming up more frequently given the AG’s position on the Justice Department’s suit against the Big 6 publishers. Nathan’s post is more measured and less emotional that those you might come across elsewhere.


Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 22, 2012

BUSY Sunday! That’s good. Off we go.

  • Gotta start by returning a favor and giving out a big THANK YOU to Harvey Stanbrough (@hstanbrough) who, while Taking a Little Break today put these Great Stuff posts at the very top of his list of resources for writers, even ahead of his own web site and editing, cover design, and e-publishing services. Wowsers! Thanks, Harvey. (I should note that he also posted a correction to the original post regarding the pricing of his services. If you plan on using them–and I do, soon–then this is something you’ll want to be clear on.)
  • While we’re on the subject of resources, Joel Friedman’s (@jfbookman) This Week in the Blogson The Book Designer has five excellent posts, including:
  • Seeming to stay in the general area of e-publishing, James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) piece It’s No Longer an Either/Or Publishing World and Other Notes from ThrillerFest on The Kill Zone has some terrific stuff on the craft side, more so than the e-pub side. There’s this keeper from super-agent Donald Maass (@donmaass): “Backstory is not just for plot motivation, but deep character need.” Then there’s Jamie Raab’s list of “game-changer” thrillers and her or Jim’s discussion of why they were: in short, they did something “more” than thrillers before them had done. What were the books, and what “more” did they do? You’ll have to go read the post to find out. 😉
  • Sticking with craft, K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) asks, What’s the Purpose of Your Scene? on her WORDplay blog. For my tastes, her method of figuring out the answer is a bit mechanistic, but what she’s aiming for is just right.
  • Lastly, we’ll head over to @ProBlogger for Matthew Turner’s (@turndog_million) 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement. The rules aren’t new, and they’re not iron-clad rules, but this is certainly a list of smart practices.

And with that, I’ve completed my 100th post! A milestone reached.