Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 1-3, 2012

Busy, busy weekend, with lots and lots of Great Stuff on the web. No more delays—let’s get right to it all.

CRAFT

OK, it sounds like an oxymoron, or maybe a new twist on a long-standing theme, or maybe even a new way to cross genres, but in fact Mark Alpert’s (@AlpertMark) The Poetic Thriller is none of these. Well, not quite, anyway. Along his writing journey, Mark realized that poem and thrillers should both (you’ll pardon his pun) “end with a bang.” Maybe not literally with a gunshot but with a line the reader won’t soon forget. Not just thrillers, either, by the way.

There were several posts relating to character over the weekend.

  • James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) What Writers Can Learn From Downton Abbey on The Kill Zone is one. Five of the 7 things he identifies have to do with character.
  • Harvey Stanbrough’s (@h_stanbrough) first part of a coming series on realistic characters, Stereotypes and Character Traits delves into what mix of what types of traits primary characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist,  and secondary characters should have.
  • Geoff Wyss’s Character and Mystery on Glimmer Train’s bulletin seems to contradict, at least in part, what Harvey wrote, but in large part that’s just the difference between the culture of literary fiction and other genres. Thanks to Jane Friedman for pointing out this article.

Receiving feedback on one’s writing, like editing and rewriting, are (or should be) part of our writing process. So Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) brought in Jake [Last name not revealed! What’s up with that?], founder of a feedback and editing advice web site called DocuToss to write about Editing Through Community Critique. He makes some good points about why we should seek out feedback from others, and maybe you’ll want to check out DocuToss, but I know, dear readers, you also know about my Critique Technique posts, and I hope they’re useful to you.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUSINESS

Denise Wakeman’s (@denisewakeman) Four Super Easy Ways to Create Quote Graphics for Facebook, Pinterest and Your Blog introduces some really cool tools. You know what a quote graphic is, of course: an image of some sort used as a background behind a quote. So now you can choose between Pinwords, Pinstamatic, Quozio, or Picmark to brighten up that post. What’s even more cool is all are free, all are purely web-based (no downloads required), and only Picmark requires you to create an account.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) compiled a set of 8 pieces she calls Best Business Advice for Writers on her own blog. Two stand out but all are worth a look.

  • Otis Chandler (@otown), the founder of Goodreads wrote How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel: A Case Study and I think it and the accompanying slide presentation available via slideshare are must-reads for any budding author. Critical information here on how one author (Colleen Hoover) went from unknown to picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books YA imprint in just 7 months! OK, a sample size of one should be treated with caution, but the study shows what she and Goodreads readers did to make that book a success.
  • Darcy Pattison’s (@FictionNotes) Facebook Best Practices for Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Posts is quite long and will take time to read and absorb, but if you want to get better results from this social medium, it’ll be worth your time to study this one.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) reminds us that when it comes to social media, A Community Means Getting a Response, and then goes on to suggest ways for you to do just that.

I know this post will have only limited appeal, but if you’re thinking about turning a blog into a book, check out Becca Puglisi’s (@beccapuglisi) guest post on How to Blog a Book, titled How a Blog Series Created Reader Demand for a Booked Blog. If Becca’s name rings a bell, it’s because she and Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse are the co-authors of the various thesauri they’ve put on the Muse. And you probably know that they turned their emotion thesaurus into a book, which is what this post is about: lessons learned along the way. Useful material if the idea’s been on your mind.

Speaking of turning, sure, plenty of us have thought or dreamed about, maybe even planned for having our book turned into a movie. But what about a TV series? Laurie Scheer (@UWwriters) discusses A Novel Idea for a Series: When Writers Think About Adapting Their Novel for TV on Writer Unboxed. Long post short, there’s a lot more to it than you’d probably expect at first, and a lot of work you’ll have to do. But, if the idea intrigues you, check the post out.

Staying on the subject of movies (sort of), mystery writer James Moushon (@jimhbs) looks at book trailers and wonders, Do Authors Get Enough Bang for Their Buck? The short answer to this long post is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Fortunately, he suggests ways for writers to get a trailer that’s a yes. Warning: the red background of this blog is a bit hard on the eyes.

On a lighter but still serious note, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) lists 7 Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh (and not in a good way). Don’t use these. Please!

THE WRITER’S LIFE

I have to admit when I saw this title on Writer Unboxed—What Working Out Taught Us about Writing OR How We Saved Our Writerly Asses—I wondered if it was one of those posts that would end up with a 404 Page Not Found error. Or worse. Not so. In fact, it’s Julia Munroe Martin (@wordsxo) and Bernadette Phipps-Lincke (bernadette.lincke on Facebook) writing about how getting regular exercise helps their writing. It’s a long post, so it’ll take a little endurance to get through it, but they’re right and I know I should be getting more exercise than I am, too. So, OK, “yes, dears.” 😉

FUN

Know a special writer? Of course you do. Want to give them a special holiday gift? Check out OPERATION: HELP THE ELF! On The Bookshelf Muse. You can also put your name and blog address if you have one on Santa’s “Nice List.” 🙂

Have you “Liked” this Great Stuff post, or another one in the past? Thank you! But don’t keep it a secret! Tell just one writer friend about it. They’ll be glad you did.

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, September 1-3, 2012

Happy Monday, everyone. Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a day on which governments (generally–police, fire, and the military excepted) stop laboring in honor of labor unions who represent a smaller percentage of the total workforce than they have in decades, while many businesses stay open. Hey, no one said this had to be logical!

The last couple of posts have been real downers, I know, what with some of the scandalous and/or sleazy news that’s been out there lately. Fortunately, the weekend has provided a respite and we can get back to articles on craft, on the good sides of the business, and even have a little fun.

As usual, we’ll start with the pieces on craft, and start those with a couple on character.

  • Kim Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) 17th entry in her WORDplay blog’s Most Common Mistakes series asks, Do Your Characters Lack Purpose? This can be a real problem. Purposeless characters, like purposeless people, wander aimlessly through the story–a story most readers won’t finish because it’s, well, aimless. Characters need goals, Kim writes, and she’s right. Goals are similar to wants and needs, but perhaps a bit more tangible. And if a character has a goal, then the reader has something that will maintain their interest as they watch the character struggle to achieve it (more on this a little later).
  • Not all characters, of course, are nice people, and some of those not-nice people can be story protagonists–the antiheroes. Dr. Antonio del Drago’s (@mythicscribes) The Antihero–Writing a Dark Character that Readers will Love deals with how to develop that complex character whose take on the moral dilemmas he or she faces is different from that of “ordinary” people, while being fully understandable.
  • Another Writer Unboxed entry is Jael McHenry’s (@jaelmchenry) last post in her Flip the Script series. Appropriately, at the end of the series, she advises us to End Anywhere. OK, that sounds too easy, and in fact Jael provides suggestions on to write a satisfying–or at least appropriate–ending without falling into any of these traps: “happily ever after,” the too-twisty twist, or tying up absolutely every single loose end that was ever spun in the story. Of course, a story can end happily, it can finish with a surprise, and it can tie up the loose ends. It just doesn’t have to.
  • Stefani Nellen is a German native who lives in the Netherlands and writes in English (it’s a long story). Her Glimmer Train article (via Jane Friedman’s blog) Things to Do in German When You’re Bored might at first not seem to have anything to do with writing, but it does. You see, she tried translating some of her work originally written in English into German, and discovered in the process that doing so, and trying to make the result something that sounded right and natural in that language, forced her to stop doing some of the tricks she’d been using to try to impress other writers and readers and get to the core of the story. If you speak another language well enough, this might be an interesting exercise. (And am I the only one to notice the irony of an article like this appearing in a literary magazine like Glimmer Train?)

Harvey Stanbrough’s piece On Setting Priorities serves as our transition from craft to business posts, since doing so is ultimately one of those things we all have to do in order to get anything done. Despite all of the other demands on his time, Harvey’s #1 priority is his writing. What each of us places as #1 tells us how much our writing really matters to us.

  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne puts what I hope will be a period on the discussion on buying positive on-line book reviews in her Kill Zone piece Another Bell Tolling? Reviews in the Age of Amazon. Clare’s provocative question is this: do on-line reviews even matter? Has, in other words, this whole kerfuffle about phony reviews been much ado about nothing much? While in some respects, I think the answer is clearly no–there’s a major issue of integrity here–but at the same time, if potential readers are not making their purchasing decisions based on those reviews, why have them at all? Food for thought.
  • Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) reprises a 2010 article from The Book Designer explaining the Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes. Some of these are real doozies, like being proud of a “deal” that gives the author ten (ten!) “free” copies of their book for a $6,000 cost to publish. All ten represent the kind of ignorance and naivete that can get newbie writers into real trouble.

OK, let’s close with a little bit of fun: Debbie Ohi’s (@inkyelbows) Writer Prep comic on Writer Unboxed. This one’s especially for all of you who write flash fiction.