Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 21 & 22, 2013

Quite a variety of Great Stuff today, from IndieReCon and elsewhere. Practical, thought-provoking, and even fun. All just a little bit down your screen. Enjoy!

ANNOUNCEMENT

One week to go before big changes—I mean, BIG changes—come to Great Stuff. The biggest changes will be a new location and a new look. For those of you who are following the blog by RSS subscription, I’m afraid that’s also going to mean a change for you, as you’ll have to resubscribe. Sorry! I don’t know how to transfer your subscriptions! (If you know how, please let me know. I’d love to make this a totally seamless process for you.) What won’t change is the frequency and the quality of the content. I truly appreciate every one of you who reads this blog and hope you’ll stay along for the ride on the new horse. Watch for more details in Monday’s and Wednesday’s posts.

FROM IndieReCon

IndieReCon finished yesterday and to be honest, my brain is more than full—it’s trying to explode. Fortunately, all the posts that were such a big part of the Con have been archived and will be available for at least a while, so one of the best things you can do is stop by the web site and browse. I have NOT mentioned every post that the contributing authors put up, so I may well have skipped the one that you were looking for.

Ali Cross’s (@ali_cross) Building an Author Brand is a long post but full of practical advice and examples.

Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) lists 12 Steps to Blog Tour Success. Simple to list but they’ll take effort and focus to do well. Nothing new there, right? Kind of like writing.

There’s a whole ‘nother day of IndieReCon to cover but it’ll have to wait. I need to get this post out! So I’ll finish for now with Bookshelf Muses Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) and Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) on Creative Book Launches That Command Attention. “Creative” and “Command” might not seem to go together, but they do if you think of command as “excite.”

CRAFT

In addition to being a contributor to Writer Unboxed, Ray Rhamey “flogs” (critiques) writers’ submissions on his blog—at their request! So for Flog a Pro: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, Ray decided to take a look at the opening page of a successful, multi-published author’s latest book, with this question in mind: “does the first page compel me to turn the page?” [boldface and italics his] Take a look. You can even answer the question yourself in an in-post poll. (I had my answer before the end of the second sentence. What was yours?)

BUSINESS

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) reports that Amazon has applied for a patent on a technology that would let people sell “used” ebooks (through them, of course). This has some authors up in arms, others wondering whether this is really going to happen (seriously? they’re wondering?), and Bransford himself (a former literary agent) wondering if there is such a thing as  “used” ebook (hearkening back to the model of physical book that can show signs of wear). Then there are people like Cory Doctorow and Joe Konrath who would wonder what the fuss is about because, they claim, free and/or DRM-free (not-copy-protected) books generate sales of the same work and others by the same author. The full story is in Should Consumers Be Able to Buy and Sell Used E-books? What do you think?

Scammers seem to be everywhere. The latest from Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) on Writer Beware® Blogs is Close-up TV News/Close-up Talk Radio. For a mere $5,000 contribution, you—yes, you!—can be part of a “huge” radio promotion! Uh, yeah, right.

As mentioned last time, Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) has developed templates for MS Word that you can use to properly format your ebook or print book. Now that the effort has launched, he’s doing his promotion tour, which includes a summary and video interview with Joanna Penn and on his own site, plus at a new, purpose-built web site, BookDesignTemplates.com. DISCLAIMER: I am NOT endorsing (or anti-endorsing) what Joel has done, merely telling you about it. I’m actually a little surprised it’s taken so long for somebody to do this. Whether any of these templates strike your fancy, whether you think the prices are acceptable, even whether you want to try to learn how to use one of these templates is entirely up to you.

THE WRITING LIFE

British poet (and recovering lawyer) Musa Okwonga (@Okwonga) says, “When you’re terrified in making a creative choice, that’s when [you’re] closest to getting it absolutely right.” Check out his short video on Kelly Russell Agodon’s Book of Kells blog.

FUN

You’d think a writing advice piece would go up in the Craft section, but when the title is What My Cat Has Taught Me About Writing, you just know it has to come down here. And I don’t even own a cat, claim to own a cat, admit to being owned by one, or even share the house with one (or more). No matter, for a smile and an understanding nod or two (or ten), check out Jordan Dane’s (@JordanDane) Kill Zone post.

Only we word geeks would consider Why the Plural of “Die” Is “Dice,” not “Douse” by Neal Whitman (@LiteralMinded) by way of Mignon Fogarty’s (@GrammarGirl) Grammar Girl blog to be fun. Whitman also explains why “wicked” (as in bad) is pronounced “wikid” and not “wict,” why “buck naked” is transforming into “butt naked,” and why these quirks of the language tell us about how it came to be what it is today.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 16-18, 2013

Quite a variety of Great Stuff today: it’s been a productive weekend on the blogosphere.

One mini-announcement before I turn you loose, I’ll be “attending” the IndieReCon online writers’ conference Tuesday through Thursday, so Wednesday’s and Friday’s posts may be a bit thin.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) penultimate entry in her series on scenes and sequels has to do with Variations on the Sequel. These variations can happen in the reaction (it’s ongoing, delayed, or shown in a flashback), in the dilemma or decision (such as if the decision turns out to be a dead end), or in the entire sequel (how quickly or slowly it happens, whether its elements are in order or not, or are disproportionate in length or strength, or if the sequel is interrupted by a new scene). Of course, this summary doesn’t do the post justice, so click that link and get the whole story, as it were.

BUSINESS

I have no idea what prompted Suw Charman-Anderson to write Piracy, Saviour of the Book Industry for Forbes magazine, but her message to the publishing industry is somewhat similar to what Cory Doctorow has been saying to writers for over a decade: not only is piracy of written works a minor problem at best (Charman-Anderson calls it a boulder in the road), it’s (@Doctorow says) an opportunity to reach more readers, many of whom will eventually pay for their free copy or buy another one and, again from Charman-Anderson, opens up the possibility of a secondhand ebook market. I wonder who will listen.

Meanwhile, Joe Konrath’s (@JAKonrath) now ebooks are selling like hotcakes, maybe better (does $15,000 of income in a week sound good?), in part because he’s been giving them away via the KDP Select program. In Hungry Dogs, he explains how readers are like those hungry dogs—in good ways!—and offers six keys to Konrath-like sales numbers. Note (once again) that he, like Doctorow, is NOT worried about giving away copies.

SOCIAL MEDIA

We haven’t visited the hilarious Catherine Ryan Howard (@cathryanhoward) of Catherine, Caffeinated in a while, but today we get to with her Social Media for Authors: [Groan] Do I HAVE To? Here’s her answer from near the end of a very funny post: “You’ll only make money by selling books, and the first step in selling a book is to inform a potential reader than it exists. For a self-published author, social media is the only gateway to a global audience that doesn’t charge a toll. So yes, I think you have to.”

TECHNOLOGY

If you’re self-published and want to track your sales (of course you do), Carol Wyer (@carolewyer) has posted a Tutorial: NovelRank that introduces you to NovelRank and shows you how to use it. Well, sort-of shows you. Wyer posted lots of screenshots, which was a great idea, but they’re so small it’s very hard to see what she’s filled in, highlighted, circled, or got arrows pointing to. Now, there is a video on the NovelRank site that shows you how to do it, too, but it flashes through so much in 60 seconds that for a new visitor it’s hard to absorb what’s being done and there’s no narration or explanatory text, only background music. So, the idea of the post and video are both good, and the service may well be useful, but you’re going to need to spend some time with the post and site to make it work.

Well, this should be interesting. By his own (indirect) admission, Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) was a bit of a software snob, favoring high-powered (and high-priced) programs like Adobe InDesign over the relatively cheaper and more pedestrian Microsoft Word. And yet… people still insisted on using Word to format their ebooks! Badly, too often, which made Joel and others like him cringe. So he railed against using Word. But now he’s seen the light and announces today in Book Designer Confesses: The Truth About Word Processors that it’s time to help Word users do book design well, or as well as possible within the capabilities and limitations of programs like Word. And so a series is about to start. Stay tuned!

THE WRITING LIFE

Full-time high school math teacher and epic fantasy writer Patrick Carr posted How to Write While Managing a Full-Time Job: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Time on the Guide to Literary Agents over the weekend. If you, like so many of us, are in this situation, you’ll find these hints helpful. Personally, I would have put #5, “Make writing a priority,” at the top of the list, because if you don’t do this, none of the other four will matter—or happen—but that’s just me. The suggestions are all still good.

There are some people (I’m not naming any names) who are absolutely dead-set against writers’ groups, whatever they might be called. It’s too bad their minds are so closed. For the rest of us, Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Writing Workshop: How to Tell When You Need That Boost is a clear summary of what a group can do for a writer. If you think a group might be for you, check out Gabriela’s four ways to tell and three important factors to consider about yourself and the group(s) you might be considering.

Like anything you see here? Please share it with your writing friends!

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!

CRAFT

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.

BUSINESS

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.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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

THE WRITING LIFE

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, January 31 & February 1, 2013

Well here’s a post that will launch you into the weekend with plenty consider—at least, if you live in the U.S. and are an American football fan—when you’re not wrapped up in the Super Bowl. Eight pieces: some challenging, some sad, some practical, and some mostly for fun. Enjoy!

CRAFT

Hmmm. Well, okay, this is different. Editor Stuart Horwitz guest posts on Writer Unboxed under the title Plot is a Four-Letter Word. “Plot,” it seems, is verboten around his office. Instead, he tells writers to think in terms of “series.” Not series as in book 1, book 2, book 3, and so on, but series as in characters, and things, and phrases, or as he puts it, “a narrative element that repeats and varies” within a book. So each book has not just one series, but many, and they operate in series and in parallel. And they interact and together form a net which is the story but does not anywhere contain a plot. Got it? No? Well, check out the post and see if it helps.

It’s been kind of fun to watch Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) web site evolve and now she’s ready to take the next big step with an Online Workshop: Boost Your Writing With Seven Techniques next Tuesday, February 7th, starting at 1 PM Eastern Time. More than just a webinar you passively watch on your screen, this will be a truly interactive workshop. How cool is that? Even better, because it’s the first one, Gabriela’s offering it for free. Click on the link above for the full story or here if you already know you want to register.

BUSINESS

If you’ve wondered what the various kinds of editors do (you did know there are various kinds of editors, didn’t you?) and what the can do for you if you’re self-publishing—and what they can do to you if you let them—then you want to read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) Hiring Editors. Skip or plow through her de rigeur sliming of traditional publishing and agents because around that is valuable, maybe even vital, information on content editors, copy editors, line editors, and proofreaders (who aren’t editors but can be really important too).

Some people may find this news from Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) on Writer Beware® Blogs disappointing (at least): Christian Writers Guild Publishing: Pay to Play from Jerry B. Jenkins. Why disappointing? Three reasons. First, like companies like Author Solutions, CWGP is offering writers bundles of “services,” some of questionable value, for prices starting at—brace yourself–$9,995.00. Second, a big-name author like Jerry Jenkins is involved. And third, this is proof once again that just because something is labeled “Christian” doesn’t mean it can be trusted to live up to those principles.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Today Robert Lee “My Name Is Not Bob” Brewer (@robertleebrewer) publishes this year’s list of his Best Blogs for Writers to Read in 2013. While I’m pleased to say that many, indeed virtually all, of the blogs I report on here are included in his list, there are many that are not. Why? Because his list is 55 blogs long! Yikes! Okay, so sanity-check time here. No one’s suggesting that you MUST read all 55. What else would you do with your day if you did? But with so many to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find a reasonable number that are worth your time. And THANK YOU for including this blog in your list!

TECHNOLOGY

It’s easy to get intimidated by all of the capabilities your word processing software has, isn’t it? So many of us fall back to a default position of learning a few tools and ignoring the rest. Then, anyone who knows even a few more gets designated an “expert.” Which is a shame because those software designers created those tools to make your life easier. That’s Joel Friedlander’s (@JFBookman) theme in Getting Started With Microsoft Word Styles for Book Layout. Every word processing program has something like Word’s “styles,” although they may call them something else, so this post is well worth your time, no matter what program you use. And by the way, “styles” aren’t just for laying out books. I write this blog in Word and have set up a “WordPress” style that captures not just the header design Joel discusses but every format-related thing I want. With one click of my mouse button, a new document is automatically set up. Shazam!

THE WRITING LIFE

Don’t do it! Don’tcha dare do it! Don’t read those reviews. No, not even the good ones. That’s Michelle Gagnon’s (@Michelle_Gagnon) advice on The Kill Zone, and she’s got lots of good reasons. Not reading the bad reviews is pretty obvious: clearly the reviewer just didn’t get it. J But the good reviews, well, their traps are more subtle. Michelle’s not talking about the ego overload problem, but all those “good ideas” that can lead you into forgetting that the work, especially the next one in the series, is your work, not that gushy reviewer’s. There be monsters. Beware!

Sarah Callender (@sarahrcallender) takes a fun but also serious look at The Writer as Inventor on Writer Unboxed. Sure, we know we invent our (fictional) stories. What Sarah focuses on are the traits of successful inventors: curiosity, focus, loyalty, clarity, fear more-or-less balanced with foolishness (or vice versa), and someone to provide a sanity check without stifling creativity.

So what do you think? Does Horwitz’s idea make any sense to you? What about Callender’s: are you a writer/inventor?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 26-28, 2013

Good Monday, everyone! The story of scene and sequel continues today, along with more ideas on how to support your author-friends, writing for money and searching for success, and more. Don’t wait a second longer! Dive right in.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) part 8 of her series on scene and sequel dives into the Options for Reactions in a Sequel. As she points out, the purpose of the sequel is to present the character’s reaction to the scene-ending disaster they’ve just experienced and set them up for the next scene. Sequels can be chapters long or as short as a single sentence, but they will always contain an emotional reaction, an intellectual dilemma, and a decision leading to action. This excellent series is especially valuable for new writers.

BUSINESS

To be, or not to be (a participant in Amazon’s KDP Select program, that is). It’s a question lots of self-published authors ask. Thanks to Joel Friedlander’s (@JFBookman) monthly Carnival of the Indies post, M. Louisa Locke (@mlouisalocke) lists 7 Things joining KDP Select Can and Can’t do for you [capitalization hers]—4 can’ts, 3 cans. Good information here but I was a bit surprised by the idea of putting a book into KDP Select after it had already been on sale with Amazon (and other sales platforms) for a while. Seems like putting all of one’s eggs in one basket. A BIG basket, sure, but hardly the only one.

On Friday I mentioned Rachelle Gardner’s piece on how you can help support an author. Now along comes Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) with 11 more ideas on Writer Unboxed on How to Support an Author’s New Book. At first it looked like the ideas were going to be only for traditionally published books but that’s not true: at least some of these ideas apply to every kind of book, e-, POD, or trad. What I especially like about this post is that Chuck suggests things you can say to your friends, and that they can say to their friends, that will give them even more reason to be interested in helping.

Focus on the word “returned” in the title of Joanna Penn’s latest post and 9-minute video, Self Publishing In Print: Why I Have Returned To Printing My Books. She made the new-author mistake of paying lots of money to have her early works printed, and then was stuck with copies that weren’t selling. In the video, she talks about that decision and why now, with three books selling well in eBook format, she thinks she’s ready to get back into (print-on-demand) print. Very practical discussion, if you don’t mind the repeated flashing of the newly-printed book.

THE WRITING LIFE

Dean Wesley Smith (@deanwesleysmith) points us at a recent post by John Scalzi (@Scalzi) called A Moment of Financial Clarification, in which Scalzi admits (gasp!) that he not only writes for money, he has done so with the (achieved) objective of getting rich. There will be some who find this objectionable: writing is art after all, isn’t it? Yeah, some of it is, but there are lots of artists in other fields (painting, music, and so on) that have gotten pretty darn rich an no one seems to mind that. If I have a beef with this piece is that Scalzi doesn’t mention how long it can take to become that overnight success. Otherwise, this moment of brutal honesty is refreshing.

If you’ve been reading blogs on writing for any time at all, you’ve run across the message, “to learn how to write, keep writing! To be an ‘overnight’ success, write lots.” Boyd Morrison’s (@boydmorrison) But I Want Success Now! on The Kill Zone repeats that message, but with plenty of examples of how many novels now-big-name authors wrote before the one that made them big-name authors. The numbers might be scary but the truth is what it is.

What do you think? Are you willing to work and wait for success or do you want it yesterday or not at all?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 22 & 23, 2013

 

What do you know? A Great Stuff post without anything on craft! But that’s OK, there’s still Great Stuff out there: a convenient submission tracking form, yet another way to connect using social media and other ways to get support, acting like a writer, and a post like nothing you’ve ever seen—at least not recently.

BUSINESS

A couple weeks ago, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) published a post called Navigating the Guest Post Process on DIY MFA, which included a PDF guest post submission log form. Today she announced on Twitter a new and improved version that you can fill out using Adobe Reader. (Full disclosure: Gabriela designed the form, I suggested and created the capability to fill it in with Reader. Thanks for letting me contribute, Gabriela!) The form is good for other submissions besides guest posts, too: opinion pieces, even full-scale non-fiction articles for print or online publication. You can find the form by clicking on the link above or get it directly here.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Google+ continues to come up with its own takes on things other social media sites are already doing. Now Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) introduces us to the latest with Google+ Communities Create New Networks for Authors and Publishers. I won’t make any snarky comments about this being another way to spend time we should be spending writing: we know that already. What jumped out at me was this: there are four general types of groups: public, public moderated, private, and private hidden. That’s fine. But once the community’s been created, you can’t change the type, from public moderated to private, say? Really? If Joel’s not wrong, Google certainly is. That’s poor design.

THE WRITING LIFE

No doubt Becca Puglisi (@beccapuglisi) chose the title Got Any Wise People in Your Village? Or Just Idiots? with the intention of getting our attention. And she succeeded. But the village she’s referring to is the group of writing-related people around us—the people who should be our support group. Are they wise or, um, not so helpful? Her key points are: (1) you need them; (2) you decide who to keep close and who not to.

Having that village around you will only help so much, however, if you’re not willing to help yourself. Carleen Brice (@carleenbrice) answers the question Can Acting As If You’re a Writer Make You a Writer? with a qualified yes. Yes if you use acting-as-if to get started or keep yourself motivated to keep going. There’s even scientific evidence now to show this works. But it’s the doing that matters in the end, not the pretending.

FUN

Oh, man, this is just too much fun to pass up. John Vorhaus’s (@TrueFactBarFact) Simile Fever Spreads Like Wildfire on Writer Unboxed is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Good thing you’re done with this post. You can stop what you’re doing an go read it—now!—without guilt.

Then share the laughs with all your writer friends.