Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 13 and 14, 2012

We’ve got it all today—pieces on craft, business, the writer’s life, and social media—so let’s make like bunnies and hop to it.

CRAFT

We’ll start with Ann Aguirre’s (@MsAnnAguirre) Writer Unboxed piece on Changing Your Process. Think there’s one and only one way for you to write? What if that way’s not working? What if you need to increase your production? What if you just want to finish something for once? Ann offers not only encouragement that you can change if you want to, but resources and ideas for learning how to do better by doing differently. Not a Chicken Soup piece but practical advice.

Speaking of practical advice, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) provides plenty in How to Write a Killer Logline. What’s that? You don’t know what a logline is? Check out your nearest TV program guide. The logline is the one sentence description of a movie or TV show. Capturing the essence of a novel in one sentence—just one—isn’t easy but it’s a craft you can learn. Not only does Gabriela provide tips, she walks you through the development of a real one and explains how it improved draft by draft. This is a good candidate for your keeper file.

We’ll step back to Writer Unboxed for a minute for Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) More Technology for Writers post, in which he reviews eight different software packages for writers, from one’s you’ve surely heard of, like Scrivener, to ones you likely haven’t, like Writemonkey. Some of these programs are free, some are fairly expensive; some are for PCs, others for pad/tablet computers or even smartphones. But don’t delay: these reviews will be obsolete by the end of the year! J

BUSINESS

Wow, here’s a tough one: would you ever turn down a publishing contract you’d been offered? Kfir Luzzatto (@KfirLuzzatto) has and explains why you should in Mustering the Courage to Turn Down a Publishing Contract on Writer Beware® Blogs. Better than that, though, he offers 10 things you should do (like check the proposed publication date) or not do (tell everyone you’ve gotten the contract before you’ve even reviewed it), or ways of thinking, especially if you do turn the contract down, to help you get through the process. Even better yet, after the end of Kfir’s post, Victoria Strauss adds a list of helpful resources on how to review contracts (including from Intellectual Property lawyers), where to go for information on publishing houses, etc. I have a feeling I’m going to be adding a lot of bookmarks as a result of this post. All by itself, the resource list is a keeper.

After your book is published, of course you want to plus up your sales. Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) hosts a guest post by Rob Eagar (@robeagar), founder of WildFire Marketing, on how to Sell More Fiction by Activating the Power of Book Clubs. Rob discusses three ways to get started: provide “spicy” discussion questions, turn the book into an event, and offer a virtual discussion with the author. At least one of these ought to fit into your comfort zone. Well worth checking out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) provides a useful discussion of Facebook Pages vs. Profiles for Authors today. The distinction is important and profiles and pages both have their pluses and minuses.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Finally, Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) describes her experiences at conferences/conventions for three different (sets of) genres: romance, mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy/horror. No surprise, there are Cultural Differences between each, which I can partially vouch for having just attended an sf/f/h convention myself. The point, of course, isn’t that one isn’t “better” than the others, but that each has its own focus and approach—in fact, even within a particular genre, different conferences do things differently and have their own vibes. Nancy’s commenters add their own takes on cons they’ve been to. If you’ve never been to one, this is a good way to get an idea of what you could experience.

That’s all for today. Got something to share? Add 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 16, 2012

I hate to start one of these posts with one that’s kind of a downer, but today’s leader is too important to place elsewhere. We’ll lighten up then and finish with a chuckle or two.

  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) has posted a series of articles on deal breakers when it comes to contracts. Today’s Business Rusch post, A Tale of Two Royalty Statements, is another long one, in part because it deals first with some new–and when you think about it, pretty bizarre–language Big 6 publisher Hachette is trying to put into publishing contracts. Then Kris gets into the grubby details of royalty statements and payments. Now, if this stuff makes your eyes glaze over, it’s time to get over that, however you do it. Royalties are your income; isn’t that important? These past three posts make me wonder about my desires to have my WIP (work in progress) traditionally published but let’s be clear, the indie publishing route isn’t all wine and roses, either, and unfortunately, I haven’t come across any kind of analysis of indie-pub contracts that has had the kind of depth Kris’ have had on traditional publishing. The bottom line, it seems, is still that writing is a business as well as a craft, and if you don’t do your own due diligence to learn the business side as well as you’ve learned the craft side, if you get screwed out of money properly due you, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

OK, on to happier topics.

  • One more business piece. Jean Huffman (@huffman_jean), guest posting for Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner), offers 5 Tips for Hiring a Blog Designer. Yes, there are now people who specialize in designing blogs, not just web sites. And yes, you can get taken if you don’t do your homework on them. (Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be a happier post???) Jean’s tips, based on her own experiences, are meant to help you avoid those traps.
  • A couple of craft-related posts, now. Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) of The Bookshelf Muse guest posts on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s (@CynLeitichSmith) Cynsations blog on Writing Body Language: Moving Beyond the Basics. It’s easy enough, maybe too easy, to insert certain kinds of body language into a story to show emotion. Unfortunately, those easy gestures can become repetitive, unoriginal, cliché, or any combination thereof. Angela offers ways to discover different body-language actions to spice up your writing.
  • C. Lee McKenzie (@cleemckenzie) guest posts on The Bookshelf Muse with a piece on How to Start Your Synopsis: One Strategy. While nailing the start of a synopsis may not be as critical as nailing the start of a novel, it has its own measure of importance, and given how hard synopses are to write in the first place, any clues on making them better are bound to be valuable.

And let’s wrap today up with a couple of practical, even funny pieces on stress management:

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 9, 2012

Pretty much an all-business day today. We’ll start with one post on craft, then, to coin a cliché, get down to business.

  • Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) final post from her experiences at ThrillerFest, talks about how to Get Creative on Demand. The thing to remember from this post isn’t the specific technique–playing certain music, lighting a scented candle, or some other thing that she mentions–it’s the general concept: do something consistently that gets you into your writing mode.
  • Matt Richtel’s (@mrichtel) piece on The Kill Zone, What Killed the Thriller Writer: Your Attention Span is an interesting follow-up to Monday’s post by Clare Langley-Hawthorne on the pressure to sell short fiction on the web in addition to full length novels. To be clear, the title is a little misleading. Richtel and several of the commenters find value in this kind of publishing while still acknowledging the challenges and additional pressures to produce it puts on writers.
  • Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) provides a sanity-check on Writer Beware today with her Ebooks Outsell Print! Putting Headlines in Context. Now, the news media or industry spokespeople (what an awkward word) would never hype or mis-report statistics, would they? Would they? Hmmm, maybe they would.
  • Finally, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) strongly-worded Business Rusch post, The Agent Clause (Deal Breakers 2012) makes my “caution-light” come on for two reasons: (1) I’m cautious about any opinionated post, but (2) I’ve had to read other (not writing-related) contracts before and am very aware of how even a single word can make for serious trouble of one party or the other, especially when one party isn’t aware of the potential negative consequences. So, with that thought in mind, plus the knowledge that many of us writers don’t think like business people, to say nothing of lawyers, Kris’s post got flagged as a “favorite” (something I rarely do) so I’ll be able to refer back to it when the time comes for me to be reviewing agent and publishing contracts myself. Caveat auctor: writer, beware.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 2, 2012

Some tough stuff every writer needs to know, today, but also some inspiration, and much in-between.

  • I have to start with Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) long Business Rusch post The Future and Balance (Deal Breakers 2012). Unlike yesterday’s light-hearted promo, today Kris deals with publishing contract clauses that should be treated with caution at best, outright rejected (even at the risk of losing the contract) at worse. That’s the reason for the parenthetical “Deal Breakers” comment. This is one to be bookmarked, studied, and saved.
  • Rachel Randolph (@rachelrandolph) offers tools for Keeping Track of Contacts, Media History, and Speaking Engagements on WordServe Water Cooler. Her intent is certainly good but the tools are all Excel 2007/2010-format spreadsheets, so if you’re not comfortable with Excel and/or spreadsheets in general, don’t have a current version of the software, use other software that isn’t compatible, or don’t even know what spreadsheets are, these tools may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with Excel, give ’em a look.
  • Robert Lee Brewer (@robertleebrewer) has taken some time off from his My Name Is Not Bob blog to spend more time with his family (good for him!) but he’s back now with a response to a reader who asked, with regard to social media, Where Should I Spend My Time? Robert’s answer refocuses the question from which platform(s) to what you are trying to achieve there and what’s most important in your (writing) life.
  • Juliet Marillier’s story on Writer Unboxed about how a community came together Out of the Ashes of her granddaughter’s arson-burned school is really about the power of story and how not just writers, but whole communities, can use it to make it through hard times.
  • Donna Galanti (@donnagalanti) guest posts on The Kill Zone about Watchers: Heroes in Fiction. The “watchers” she refers to are characters who may or may not be prominent yet play critical roles in stories, background heroes, you might say. It’s an interesting idea, one I’d never heard of, and worth a look.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) encores a previously-published piece on the fact that The Writing Rules Are Just Tools, a lesson many writers and writing instructors need to take to heart, it seems.
  • And that leads us to today’s last piece, by Becky Levine, which comes by way of Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford). Becky writes about Critique Comments: Remembering to Give Them Time, in other words, remembering that our first, often defensive, reaction to critique comments may blind us to something of real value–if also sometimes to a lot of reworking. Not easy advice to follow, but so true. (Something I’d better keep in mind myself when I get my WIP back from my editor!)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 18, 2012

Whoa! My little corner has been busy the last 24 hours, with lots of terrific stuff posted. Heavy stuff, light stuff, funny stuff, serious stuff; it’s all there. So, how to organize it all? Oh, let’s see…let’s start with business stuff.

  • What to do with those old paper and electronic files we’ve all been storing for years and years and years and… is something we tell ourselves we’ll get around to “one day.” Yeah, right. Well, Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) offers 6 Tips for File Management on The Kill Zone that will not only help you tame the monster, but also give you the reason you need to finally get started.
  • Gabriella Pereira (@DIYMFA) discusses Branding for Authors. Not only does she define what “branding” means for writers, even unpublished ones (hint: it does NOT have to do with being poked in the side with a hot piece of iron, nor does it have to feel that way), she even offers a radical-to-some suggestion regarding social media: you don’t have to be everywhere all the time.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) answers the question many of her clients ask: What’s Happening With My Publisher Contract? She then goes on to explain what she’s thinking about as she’s reviewing and negotiating a contract, and why. Good stuff to know.
  • Matt Setter (@maltblue) discusses on @ProBlogger How Privacy Breach Notification Laws Affect Your Blog. If you have a blog or web site and do e-commerce on it, this is information you should know. This topic might seem scary–and it does deal with something that might be a problem–so all the more reason to get smart about it.

Now for a couple pieces on craft:

  • Rebecca L Boschee’s (@becca_leone) What Writing Fiction Taught Me About Human Nature on WordServe Water Cooler at first didn’t seem to offer anything new on heroes and villain, but then she got to the “backstory wound,” that personal failure that keeps both heroes and villains from achieving their goals, at least until they change and overcome/heal the wound. That’s a useful take on that deep character flaw.
  • On a less serious note, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) describes Why Your Hero Needs a Yappy Sidekick on her WORDplay blog. “Yappy” doesn’t need to be annoying-little-dog yappy, but the sidekick, Kim says, gives us both an opportunity to gather insights into the hero we might not otherwise have and at the same time introduce a new source of tension and conflict. Clever! And I’m glad to see that I did this in my WIP. Yay!

Finally, a couple pieces on literature and culture:

  • Kevin Kelly’s (@kevin2kelly) Robot, Child of God on The Technium ponders the future and our expanding definitions of intelligence and what that might mean…and puts all that into his new graphic novel The Silver Cord, which is available as a free download here for just another day or two.

Wow! A banner day, eh?