Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 15-17, 2012

Last Friday I wrote about the snow we were getting and how it would look once the storm cleared. Here’s how it looked this morning just after sunrise.

 Snow on mountain at sunrise

That’s the way I like my snow: pretty to look at but no shoveling required!

As for writing, we’ve got quite the variety today, including a new section on technology, plus posts on covers, selling books on consignment and KDP Select, and much more.

CRAFT

Part 2 of KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) series on scenes is about their Three Building Blocks. It’s correct but incomplete to note that each scene has its own arc—beginning, middle, end. The building blocks fill out those pieces by providing a goal (much smaller than the characters’ overall story goals, but goals nonetheless), a conflict that grows naturally from the events of the scene and those preceding it, and a disaster of some sort at the end. As Katie notes, “disaster” seems like a strong word but the point is that in most scenes, the main character’s situation needs to be worse than it was when the scene began. To read Katie’s development of each idea, click on the link above. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s time for Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards column. These posts are always very long because lots of folks submit their covers for his review (111 this time: 95 fiction, 16 non-fiction). The ones Joel likes best get award icons and an explanation of why he picked them, others get comments (not always positive!), and the rest are just displayed with any comments the submitter included. These posts are always worth spending time with because, even if you’re not a cover designer (heck, I have trouble drawing a straight line with a ruler!), they’re a great opportunity to not only see what works and what doesn’t and learn why, they’re also a great source of ideas and the names of designers.

BUSINESS

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) addresses one of those questions that’s always getting asked, especially by new writers: Should You Re-Query an Agency? This is a nice summary of the ways agents generally think but one point she mentions doesn’t get anywhere near enough emphasis: read AND FOLLOW the agency’s guidelines!!!! I don’t understand why this is such a problem for so many writers.

Did you know bookstores can sell your (hardcopy) books on consignment? I didn’t either but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Stephanie Chandler (@bizauthor) not only shows how on her post on the Authority Publishing blog, she even offers a free, Word-format example consignment agreement you can download and modify as appropriate. Joel Friedlander pointed this article out.

Kill Zone author Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) provides us with a Giveaway Report from his 5-day experiment with giving away his latest novel for free via the Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP) Select program. Long story short, he’s happy with the results, but keep in mind, he’s an established author. One knock against KDP Select (I heard it again this weekend) is that Amazon demands 90 days of exclusive sales if you want to sign up, meaning you can’t sell your ebook through any other channel—Nook, Kobo, Sony, even your own web site—until that 90 day period is up. Morrison’s experience is that he made enough during that time to cover what he thought he would have made via those other channels but as he notes, “one anecdote doesn’t equal data.” In other words, your experience will almost certainly be different.

THE WRITING LIFE

I suppose this piece could go up in the “craft” section, but James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Honor Thy Fiction is about more than craft. It’s about who we are as people, and as writers, and how that comes through in our writing. The post starts out seeming to have nothing to do with writing, but stick with it. You’ll be rewarded.

Seth Godin is the latest in a long line of self-help gurus and his new book The Icarus Deception is getting a lot of attention. Mary Jaksch (@Mary_Jaksch) has the first of a two part interview with him on Write to Done (Why We Are All Artists) and Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) a much shorter review in Art Isn’t A Result. It’s A Journey. I’m not all that impressed by what I’ve seen so far but maybe you’ll respond differently.

TECHNOLOGY

Another new category today. Had to create this one for Julie Hedlund’s (@JulieFHedlund) Create Your Own Storybook App on Writer Unboxed. I’m sure there’ll be more pieces to fit here in the future. So what’s a storybook app? Well first, for those of you who don’t know, an “app,” specifically a “book app” is a software application (a program) for a smartphone, e-reader, or computer that requires the reader to interact with the story in order to move forward. A storybook app, then, is a book app for young children. These kinds of apps have been getting more and more attention, not all of it positive, over the past year or so although other than the technology to implement them, they’re not really new. Certain things remain unchanged from other storytelling forms: story matters, first and foremost. If you’re curious about this kind of “mixed media” for writers, irrespective of genre, check this post out.

Back on the self-help theme, Jan O’Hara (@janohara) offers a series of tools for maintaining focus and momentum in Tormented by Toothless Writing Goals? Try These Tools on Writer Unboxed. Some are long-established and low-tech, like the SMART format; some are new and web-based. I’ve you’ve been looking for this kind of help, check out Jan’s post.

FUN

Finally, it’s almost time to HELP THE ELF! This is Bookshelf Muses Angela Ackerman’s (@AngelaAckerman) and Becca Puglisi’s (@beccapuglisi) fun plan to have as many of us as possible reward some special writer or writing pal on the 19th. Here’s their message to you:  How about you, Readers? Is there someone you’d like to say Happy Holidays to, or tell them how much they mean to you? JOIN US! There’s plenty of days left until Christmas, and sometimes a kind word can lift people up in a way that they really need. It’s as easy as sending a free e-card or email note, posting on a Facebook wall or sending out a tweet. So go ahead and spread some kindness and cheer! Check out their original Help the Elf! post.

Like what you see here? Was something especially useful or informative? Feel free to share this post with your friends.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 11 & 12, 2012

Better than a Baker’s Dozen, today is triple-dozen day: 12-12-12! Like a triple-dip, only less fattening. And then there are those two, one-second periods at 12 seconds after 12 minutes after 12 o’clock (local time) when you get a half-dozen dozens: 12:12:12 on 12-12-12. But—gasp!—you’ve missed one already! Maybe both! Still, twice in one day means a dozen dozens! Is that cool, or what? (Okay, okay, maybe it’s “what.”) Anyway….

CRAFT

I haven’t put much up on this blog about blogging itself, but Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) How to Create an Endless Stream of Blog Post Ideas is one worth sharing, not only because it is valuable to bloggers but also to folks writing non-fiction articles. I can see how it could be extended to a whole bunch of short stories or even poems. The post centers around the concept of mind-mapping, a way of generating connected sets of ideas or concepts: start with one, generate ideas/concepts related to it, then generate more related to each of those, and so on, kind of a four-dimensional onion. Okay, maybe that last phrase makes it sound scary and complex; it’s not. If you’re scuffling for ideas at the moment, give this post a look.

Okay, so there’s a market for stories like Dumb and Dumber, but it’s a small market, which is why KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) discusses Why Stupid Characters Make for Stupid Stories, and not the good kind. If you want your story to reach beyond that demographic that likes characters who do dumb things over and over, this is a quick post for you.

BUSINESS

BIG NEWS from Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) at The Bookshelf Muse. In February, a group of indie writers will be hosting the first-ever INDIE ReCon (INDEpendent publishing REvolution CONvention), a FREE, on-line, three-day event. According to the INDIE ReCon web site, this convention will feature eight hours’ worth of presentations each day, with new topics beginning every hour or even half hour. There’s an initial list of topics on the Con’s schedule page. The organizers have already lined up half a dozen partner organizations and a LONG list of presenters (41 as of yesterday!), including Muses Angela and Becca, Orna Ross, book designer Joel Friedlander, and Joanna (The Creative) Penn. The only down-sides I see to this event are that the dates are February 12-14, 2013, a Tuesday through Thursday, and yes, that last day is Valentine’s Day. No times have been posted yet, but this is an event to watch, I think—in more ways than one!

WHAT???? Social media is NOT necessary for self-publishing success??? Heresy! Blasphemy! Or is it? Ernie J. Zelinski makes a case for not using social media to market books in Creativity Trumps Following the Rules on Robert Lee Brewer’s My Name Is Not Bob blog, and he’s been successful at doing it his way. Zelinski’s tone and content have created some contention in the comments, as any strongly-held opinion will. My own take is that we should each do what works for us. Don’t like social media? Don’t use them. Willing to give them a shot? Go for it but don’t expect them to be panaceas. Any path you choose is going to be challenging and a lot of work. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Speaking of different paths, Judy L. Mandel’s (@judymandel) guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog, about her success at Getting a Traditional Book Deal After Self-Publishing illustrates one—that took years to follow by the way.

Agent Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) covers one of the basics of the traditional publishing path when she addresses Why You Should Pitch a Single Book on her blog. Space doesn’t permit me to reprise her six reasons but the fact that she’s got six suggests it’s good to read and heed what she has to say.

OPINION

A new heading today. I don’t plan to use it often. Today’s question: are the days of the dedicated e-reader numbered?

I don’t own an e-reader, not because I’m some kind of Luddite (would I be writing a blog if I was?) but because I see technology trends heading in the direction of making dedicated e-readers obsolete. Soon.

Want proof? Head on over to any Amazon.com e-book page. Want to buy the book but you don’t own a Kindle? Check out the subtle little box titled “Try it free” over in the right-hand sidebar. Notice that little bit of boldfaced text, “Deliver to your Kindle or other device,” especially those last three words? And that hyperlink just below it: Available on your PC.

If you click on that link, you’ll be taken to a page from which you can download FREE Kindle emulator software for your PC, and there’s another page from which you can access other free Kindle reading apps for reading Kindle-format e-books from the cloud, smartphones, tablets, and Macs.

So why buy a Kindle? Or a Nook? Barnes & Noble has similar apps available here. Given what smartphones and tablet computers can do today—so much more than just present and edit text and pictures—to say nothing of what they’ll be capable of two years from now, it seems to me the dedicated e-reader is an electronic dodo bird walking. It just doesn’t know it’s extinct yet.

Is this a smart, dumb, or just natural move on the parts of Amazon and B&N? Natural, I think: just going where the technology’s going. The eventual death of the dedicated e-reader is an evolutionary process, nothing more, and the companies understand that. Your dedicated e-reader won’t become another piece of e-waste for a long time, but one day I’ll bet you’ll wonder why you still have it.

FUN

Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) of The Kill Zone has a writer-friend who’s afraid of animals, especially the wild kind. And yet, when the moment came, she had the presence of mind needed for Grabbing the Zebra, and Other Survival Tactics for Writers. What’s this all about? Go check out the post.

Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers is long and serious but also fun, as Keith’s wit peeks through repeatedly. And while I’m not a resolution-maker myself, his are all good ones for any time of the year, especially long after New Year’s week, when the pressure’s off.

Thanks for all the comments and tweets in response to Monday’s post. I appreciate all of them and will actually respond to them soon. Promise!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 8-10, 2012

It’s been a busy weekend and Monday out there on the blogosphere. Plenty of terrific stuff in all the areas we’re interested in.

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) begins a 12-part series on scenes today with Structuring Your Story’s Scenes, Pt. 1: Mastering the Two Different Types of Scene. Twelve part??? Boy, there must be more to this scene thing than I’d realized. 😉 Actually, if you’ve read Jack Bickham’s book Scene and Structure, which I highly recommend, that won’t be such a surprise. For this first post, Katie defines the two types of scene—scene and sequel—just as the post title says she would. This should be a valuable series.

Cathy Yardley (@cathyyardley) offers what she calls A Simple Approach to Revisions on Writer Unboxed. Now, “simple” might be a relative term, particularly when you see the level of detail she goes through in her first of three passes through a text, even more so if you’re a pantser. On the other hand, that material reminds me very much of Scene and Structure, so it makes a lot of sense. Best bet? Check out the post and decide for yourself.

Scrivener, the software package designed specifically for writers, is becoming more and more popular, and with good reason. Unfortunately, if it has a weakness, it’s the tutorials that come with the program. Well-intentioned but, at least for my learning style, not as effective as I would have liked. Despite its title, Scrivener: An Introduction to Novel Writing is the last (so far, anyway) of Nick Thacker’s series on Scrivener on Livehacked. While the post looks really long, that’s deceiving because it’s full of screenshots. Even better, this is one of the best practical summaries of (just some of!) Scrivener’s capabilities I’ve seen. If you’re still on the fence about using this program, or have it and are feeling overwhelmed, take a look at this post. (Thanks to Joel Friedlander for pointing it out.)

BUSINESS

Having just been through a freelance edit of my WIP and query letter, I can tell you that Chuck Sambuchino’s (@ChuckSambuchino) Freelance Editing: How to Hire an Editor for Your Book or Query Letter is right on target. I didn’t run into any of the red flag issues he highlights but it’s good to be aware of, and beware of, them.

My first reaction to Robert Lee Brewer’s (@robertleebrewer) What Writers, Editors, and Publishers Should Worry About was that it applied primarily to non-fiction since he ends his first paragraph with, “Deliver what your audience wants and needs.” To some extent, that impression is correct, but at the same time it’s too limited. It does apply to fiction writers, memoirists, and poets, too, because he’s not talking just about content, although that’s first and foremost, but also about discoverability (can your potential readers find you and your work?) and connection (do your potential readers see you as human?). The key to a successful writing and publishing career isn’t any of these three things but all of them together.

Joe Konrath (@jakonrath) has an Interview with Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) on his blog today, conducted by Barry Eisler. If you haven’t heard of Guy, he’s the former Chief Evangelist (I’m not making that up!) at Apple. Now he’s an entrepreneur, lecturer, and most important here, author of “numerous books on marketing, start-ups, and entrepreneurism,” according to the intro, including one launching today called Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book (abbreviated APE!). It takes a while to get to the interview, so to speed up your reading, I suggest you scroll down to questions 6-8 at the end; that’s where the really interesting stuff is, on the future of publishing and the self-published author’s responsibilities.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nina Badzin’s (@NinaBadzin) 7 Ways Twitter is a Writer’s Endless Holiday Party on Writer Unboxed offers some great tips on how to make better use of Twitter. I can see several are hints—I mean, tips—I need to take!

Chris Robley’s (@chrisrobley) How to Promote Your Book on Twitter: An Intermediate’s Guide to Tweeting on The BookBaby Blog takes those tips to the next level with introductions on how to use TweetDeck, HootSuite, Google Analytics and more. Thanks again to Joel Friedlander for pointing this post out.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) 10 Ways to Sabotage Your Writing on The Kill Zone could fit either in this category or “business,” since it applies to both. If you’ve been studying this craft/business for a while, or better, been actively practicing it, these 10 ways will be familiar, but for someone new to the craft, this post contains warnings well worth heeding—even if that’s not always easy to do!

An important (and unavoidable) part of the writing life is getting feedback, and dealing with it isn’t always easy. In Sticks and Stones: The Highly Sensitive Writer Toughens Up, Kimberly Vargas (@_KimberlyVargas) offers some examples of the really rough criticism some well-known authors have received and suggests ways we can deal with the sting, even if we can’t eliminate or avoid it completely.

So that’s it for today. What do you think? Which posts did you like most? Which least? How can I serve you better? Let me know via social media or in the Comments below.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 6 & 7, 2012

Some really important stuff in the Business and Life sections today, not to mention valuable things to know about Craft and a little bit of crazy and not-for-the-squeamish Fun.

CRAFT

Juliet Marillier touches on an interesting but not that uncommon topic in A Dog’s-eye view on Writer Unboxed. Science fiction and fantasy authors have had to deal with the question of how you make a non-human character, especially if they’re a POV character, both comprehensible and alien at the same time. Many authors have tried it, with varying degrees of success—“success” being a very squishy concept, depending on what they were trying to do. If this is something you’ve ever tried or want to try, give this piece a look.

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) offers some suggestions on How to Write Smart, Not Fast on Write to Done. I was concerned at first when he wrote, “…you need a system…” but fortunately he doesn’t prescribe a particular system, per se, but a system for developing your own. OK, I can live with that.

Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) discusses her process of revising in Writing a Book: What Happens After the First Draft? While her particular technique is, of course, her own and may not work for you or me, not only does she have a few interesting twists, like editing on her Kindle for word choice, but she provides quite a few links to other posts, not only her own. For my own immediate needs, the link to her article on beta readers was helpful but there are half a dozen others as well. They alone make this post worth your while.

How Do You Know If Your Work is Any Good? It’s one of the oldest questions around, and not unique at all to writing or even the arts. Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) takes a crack at it, starting by asking how each of us define “good” and what kind of validation we’re looking for. Nothing really new or revelatory here, just good solid reminders to help you keep yourself in balance.

Along this line, check out the quote from Steven Spielberg, provided by Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) in Being Fearless Is Overrated.

BUSINESS

I’m still having trouble with writers who slime all agents all the time because some (small? who knows?) percentage manage to screw up. But that said, when you read pieces like Dean Wesley Smith’s (@DeanWesleySmith) A Side Note About Agents you can’t help but wonder what’s up with agents like the one Smith discusses, who’s being sued for failing to do his job. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder why the competent agents aren’t (a) speaking up for their profession and (b) making a real effort to weed out the bad apples. (Mixed metaphor—sorry!)

Along those same lines, Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) issues yet another warning on Writer Beware, this time about The Albee Agency: Book Publicity Faked. What amazes me—and her—is that this agency seemed not to think that nobody would check on their claims. So when Strauss did… I’ll let you guess what happened. “Writer Beware”: it’s so true.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

With the end of the year approaching, we’re tempted to look back and assess. Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) continues her Write It! Wednesday series in that vein with What Successes Will You Celebrate This Year? Celebrating, or even just acknowledging, our own successes isn’t a bad thing. I can list a few: the continued growth and success of the Cochise Writers’ Group, the creation and growth of this blog series, the fact that all of you are reading it (THANK YOU!!!), and the soon-to-happen transition of my major Work In Progress to Work Completed (for now, anyway). What are your successes?

On a much less happy but perhaps even more important topic, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) continues her series on estate planning with Ghosts of Writers Future. This long as always but important piece is the first of a series on the relationships between wills and copyrights and what how long copyrights last after your death means for your estate and heirs. I know this isn’t a comfortable topic—I’m working on a change to my will and one of its charitable remainder trusts right now—but having lived through what happens when someone dies without a will, trust me, if you value your writing work and love your family, you’ll want to read and heed what Kris is writing here.

FUN

Whether you’re a mystery or thriller writer or not, check out Jordan Dane’s (@JordanDane) White Elephant Christmas Gifts for Crime Fiction Buffs on The Kill Zone. Some of them, like the outfit consisting of a horrible Christmas sweater, pink cowboy hat, and plaid shorts are funny, others, like the bleeding bath mat are just plain creepy. All in good fun, though—at least so long as the words “you have just been poisoned” at the bottom of the coffee mug aren’t true!

Have a great weekend. Happy reading and writing!

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.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 29 & 30, 2012

Today marks the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo. If you were NaNo-ing, I hope you made your target. Now the fun begins: editing that (bleep)y first draft. 😉 Maybe the posts below will help you do that and get the final result published.

CRAFT

When Jeanne Kisacky writes about deep and shallow plots, she isn’t necessarily referring to graves, although for someone writing a murder mystery, that certainly could apply. Instead, what she’s referring to in Building a Plot of Variable Depth on Writer Unboxed is how plot relates to pace and character. When the plot is shallow, the story’s pace is quick. When the plot is deep, that’s a time of exploring character and change. A well-written story moves back and forth between the two.

Two posts on characters to check out. How Do You Create Characters? on The Kill Zone asks TKZ readers for their techniques. Mine’s there and you can check out other writers’ as well. Jennifer R. Hubbard (@JenRHubbard) has a concise discussion of The supporting cast on her blog, writerjenn, with good examples of how writers have used them badly and well. Thanks to Nathan Bransford for pointing out this piece.

There are also two posts on tension/suspense. Ollin Morales’ (@OllinMorales) How to Create Suspense on Write to Done uses an example of a Hitchcock movie to make the point of telling the reader just enough—and no more—to keep them wondering what will happen next. Victoria Mixon’s (@VictoriaMixon) longer Making Tension Tense on Writer Unboxed says much the same thing, but with three examples.

BUSINESS

Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) of Writer Beware joins the chorus of negative reviews today in Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division. In case you hadn’t heard, Archway is S&S’s link to Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), which I mentioned last time. Unlike Dean Wesley Smith’s previous post on the topic, however, Strauss goes into much more detail on why sensible writers should stay far far away from anything having to do with ASI. Read and heed.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s latest Business Rusch (@kriswrites; again, as always, very long) column, Getting Rid of the Middle Man, is really about Kickstarter, one of the “crowdsourcing” web sites (along with FaithFunder and IndieGoGo), writers and others can use to fund projects. Unfortunately, getting to the real meat of the piece—what to do and not do in order to have a reasonable chance at getting your Kickstarter project funded—requires skipping screen after screen of other material. If you’re thinking of using Kickstarter or one of the others, the piece is probably worth a look, but plan on hitting the Page Down key several times before you get to the good stuff.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) introduces something I think is very cool: A New (Free) Way to Sell Books from Your Sidebar. Agent Claire Ryan (@rayntweets) has created a WordPress plugin called Buy This Book (available through the WordPress Plugin Directory) that lets blog visitors to click on an image of the book’s cover and get a slide-out menu of links to websites where the book can be purchased. While the plugin is available only for blogs/web sites using WordPress.org software, Ryan also provides the HTML code that can be copied into a WordPress.com blog and modified as necessary—plus the instructions on how to install it properly as a widget.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Write It! Wednesday piece, Your Writing Superheroes talks about hers, which may or may not be interesting. But one of her four stood out to me: the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. (a.k.a 826NYC). These folks are part of an organization called 826 National, a nonprofit that supports eight writing and tutoring centers around the country for kids 6-18—in New York, DC, Ann Arbor, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. (Darn shame it’s just eight.) Anyway, if you live in one of these cities, have a thing for kids and writing, and want to do some volunteer work, you might want to check them out.

JUST FOR FUN

Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epigraph to The Great Gatsby is a fake—that he quoted a character from one of his previous books? Check out Robert Bruce’s (@robertbruce76) latest 101 Books post, The “High Bouncing Lover”?

And one more thing, from Dan Blank’s (@DanBlank) e-newsletter today. You may have seen images like the ones in this video by @kottke as chalk drawings on city streets… but you probably haven’t seen anything quite like them, either. What’s the relation to writing? They’re both illusions: some are optical, some are mental. Enjoy.

Come across something great? Don’t delay: share it in the Comments below!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 27 & 28, 2012

WOWSERS, is the season of giving ever upon us—and I’m not talking about shopping, unless you mean shopping for great information on writing and publishing out there on the blogosphere. Check out today’s jam-packed line-up of articles, starting right now with

CRAFT

Today’s three pieces form an interesting contrast between themselves and between the cultures and to some extent between the demands of “literary” and “genre” fiction. We’ll start with Barbara O’Neal’s (@barbaraoneal) Cornerstones of Excellence: the Art of Detail on Writer Unboxed. While I certainly don’t disagree with her point that the right details in the right places can create depth and insight that a story without them would lack, I guess it’s my bias that there’s such a thing as too much, too. I’m just not a fan of spending so much time querying a character, for example—especially within the piece—that the story ends up getting lost. The “right” amount of detail for a particular story depends in part on the genre it’s a part of.

So it’s no surprise, then, that freelance thriller editor Jodie Renner (@JodieRennerEd) would have a different take on details in Writing Tense Action Scenes on The Kill Zone. Her dozen techniques for writing these scenes, plus before-and-after-editing examples, are excellent for any writer whose work includes action scenes, irrespective of genre. Even “literary!”

And then we get Writing Advice from Somerset Maugham on Michael Swanwick’s Flogging Babel blog. The advice is a couple of quotes from his introduction to a collection of his own work. Swanwick sums it up thusly: “Gonnabe writers should keep this in mind:  Advice from writers on how to write the sort of thing they themselves write is usually very good.  Their advice on what not to write, however, is always suspect.” Bloggers (and their readers) beware! J

SOCIAL MEDIA

Lori Lynn Smith (@lorilynnsmith) provides a very long but very thorough resource in The First 7 Steps to a Successful Social Media Plan for Writers on Write to Done. Not just bullet points but hows and whys for each step. This post happens to be particularly timely for me and my writers’ group as it’s something we’re starting to pay more attention to. I’ll be spending more time with this post, that’s for sure.

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) 10 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog is a terrific complement to Smith’s piece. Also long but full of links to other resources, this one is definitely another one to linger with.

And then there’s Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) ‘Social’ Media: ‘Sharing’ Our Narcissism, also on Writer Unboxed, which isn’t really a counterpoint as much as a sanity check: does everything we “share” on our social media platforms really have value to all our followers, friends, connections, circles, etc., or some of them, or, if we’re not a foodie writing for foodies, does anyone really care what we had for lunch? Not just a rant, Anderson provides three tips for better SM posts.

BUSINESS

Jordyn Redwood’s (@JordynRedwood) One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists on WordServe Water Cooler ponders numbers and what they mean, whether in a college basketball game or on somebody’s bestseller list. You probably won’t be surprised to learn her take is that it depends on whether and how the points were earned. Kinda hearkens back to the kerfuffle of a month or so ago about the purchased and ghost-written reviews, doesn’t it? The desperation to get ahead can be a sad thing.

Speaking of which, maybe you haven’t heard that Simon & Schuster is the latest publishing house to sign on with Author Solutions, Inc., a company that’s made it (bad) reputation by selling packages of “services,” that could be done for little or no cost, to naïve authors for substantial amounts of money—in some cases in the tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not kidding. Dean Wesley Smith (@deanwesleysmith) basically says, “didn’t I tell you this was coming?” in his New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly article Smith links to.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Do You Have Impostor Syndrome? What in the world is that? It’s that feeling that you really don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re just an impostor writer (or agent, in her case), or whatever. We’ve all had that, haven’t we—those days when the words won’t come, when our characters go on strike, when our plot drifts off into the wrong morass—definitely NOT the one we wanted the characters to get into! Oh, yeah. When that happens, Gardner writes, that’s the time to remember those days when things DO go right, when the words sing, when the plot flows, when you’re confident in saying, “This is what I do.”

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) says much the same thing in Tempted to Give Up on Your Story? Don’t! In her last in the series on what she learned from writing her latest book, she talks about how she had those give-up days but didn’t give in to them, and as a result, she’s now able to promote that book.

WHEW! Told you there was a lot of Great Stuff out there today! But surely that wasn’t everything. What did you find?

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

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

CRAFT

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

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

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

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

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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

BUSINESS

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

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

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

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

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

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 22 & 23, 2012

The Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. made for a quiet couple of days on the blogosphere (are the other bloggers out there in the Black Friday crowds, or still digesting yesterday’s meal?) but those who have contributed are, in some cases, really making some noise. Take a look.

CRAFT

Characters are the order of the day in the Craft section. The Kill Zone’s authors ask their readers to name their Favorite Minor Characters. Over on the WORDplay blog, KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her week of promoting her new book by “letting” us Meet Dreamlander’s Cast of Characters. OK, so this is a bit of marketing (more on that topic below), maybe more than a bit, but it’s clearly part of a strategy on Katie’s part to engage potential readers (that’s not a bad thing) and at the same time, illustrate a clever technique she used to bring her characters to life in her own mind: imagining who would play them in the movie version of the book. Adding snippets of scenes in which each of the four major characters figure, along with their relations to secondary characters or to each other, is another marketing tactic—and a good one. Take note.

BUSINESS

Marketing is mostly the topic du jour over here on the business side but I’m going to start with Ed Cyzewski’s (@edcyzewski) Grinchly post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog, Are You Ready for the Pain of Publishing? I suppose the best way to look at this post is as a case of tough love. Cyzewski pulls no punches on the pitfalls, land mines, and roadblocks that lie in the traditional-publishing (and, to some degree, self-publishing) path between “finished manuscript” and not just “published” but “successful book.” This post is one of those things that weeds out those who think they want to be published and successful from those who are determined to be. Do you have the right stuff to read it?

Over on Writer Unboxed, Dan Blank (@DanBlank) asks, Do You Cringe When Authors Market Their Books? I’ll bet you do, at least sometimes. A lot depends, of course, on how that marketing is done. Dan discusses how to make marketing less painful for those of us who aren’t naturals at it (make it about communication and trust, not selling selling selling, for one thing) and, citing Tad Hargrave, four reasons why marketing is valuable, even if you’re not trying to make a gazillion dollars. This is a fairly long post but if marketing is something you dread, or just don’t know how to do, it’s definitely worth a look.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Today’s final item is one that I honestly haven’t made up my mind about yet but am willing to call it to your attention so you can decide for yourself on whether or how to respond to it. Former publisher Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) is making A Black Friday Special Offer for Get Published 21 audio presentation set (plus four “bonus” downloads) for $147 (claimed retail value for all of it $548) today, or $197 through midnight at the end of November 26th. Note that the offer is not for the CD set nor for the bonus item CDs or hard-copy books: the presentations are online access only and the bonuses are downloads only. A summary of the contents of each of the audio sessions plus the bonuses is available here, after the sales pitch. Is this worth you money (or mine)? As I said at the beginning, I haven’t decided. Check it out and decide for yourself.

Like what you’re reading here? Please share it with your friends. If you’ve come across something worthwhile elsewhere, Great Stuff’s other readers would like to know about it. Share it in the comments below.

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.