Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 17 & 18, 2013

A full weekend’s worth of Great Stuff reading for you! We open with opening lines, pass through structure, find information and the right (or wrong) readers, gain Facebook fans, writing tools (including a quick-ish way to publish a Word document to the Kindle), and close with a little help from our friends. Should be something for just about everybody.

CRAFT

This is the best piece to start out with: Zachary Petit’s Famous First Lines Reveal How to Start a Novel. Lists of great or terrible opening lines are a dime a dozen, but Petit turns the post over to Jacob Appel, who suggests seven ways to start, and we’re still talking here about the very first sentence or two. These tips are excerpted from a longer Writer’s Digest article (which the link in the post DOES NOT lead you to) but they stand well on their own.

Anna Elliott (@anna_elliott) discusses the differences and connections of Plot vs Story on Writer Unboxed, including what’s more compelling (story) and how to craft that story, whether you’re a full-out outliner or, like Anna, someone who starts from character.

You might think, then, that J E Fishman’s (@JEFISHMAN) 5 Elements of Story Structure on KM Weiland’s WORDplay blog would present a contrary view to Anna’s, but it’s complementary. Element 4 is character development (after establishing and disrupting normalcy and creating turning points, and before restoring order), so it’s just a different way of approaching the bigger problem of creating the story.

BUSINESS

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) Found Information has several items worth reading—on how book cover design is so important to branding (identifying the genre and series, if appropriate) of your novel, whether in print or e-book format; kids (and adults) are reading more than before, in print and e- formats, despite all the hand-wringing you hear; and the story of how persistence finally paid off for Eleanor Burford Hibbert (a.k.a. Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr, plus 6 other pen names). Unfortunately, you have to get past two sections of self-satisfied I-told-you-so chest-puffing first. Fortunately, you can drag your scroll bar down to that third boldfaced header.

OK, let’s assume you’ve accepted the idea that you have to market your work. And you’re trying. And nothing seems to be happening. Or not enough. Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) wonders, Are You Targeting the Wrong Readers? and then offers 7 tips to fix the problem. To some extent he’s channeling Seth Godin’s “tribes” and Kevin Kelly’s “1000 true fans,” but that’s not bad at all.

SOCIAL MEDIA

So you’ve got a Facebook fan page, or think you should have one? If so, then Gillian Marchenko’s (@GillianMarchenko) 3 Top Tips to Gain Facebook Fans on your Author Page on WordServe Water Cooler could be very helpful. That tip about Facebook’s rule against advertising on your cover photo could be a page-saver, all by itself!

TECHNOLOGY

At first I thought Michael Hyatt’s (@MichaelHyatt) My Top 10 Favorite iPad Apps and How I Use Them wasn’t going to have much value to me (and maybe you) because I don’t have an iPad (does that make me some kind of criminal?). But it turns out many of the apps have non-iPad versions as well and I can vouch for their value: Google Calendar, Dropbox, Google Reader, Kindle’s emulator versions, and Hootsuite.

When I saw the title to Ed Ditto’s (@BooksByEd) post on The Book Designer, How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in Under Ten Minutes, I thought, Cool! I need to know that. Then I read his process: use Scrivener. Gaaah! Well, sure, that’s certainly a way to do it. And since Scrivener is famous for its format conversion capabilities, it makes sense. So, OK, let’s read through the rest of the post. The good news is that Ed’s done a nice job with step-by-step instructions and plenty of screen-shot illustrations (Mac-based, but the PC steps are similar if not identical) that really take advantage of Scrivener’s tools. If you can read and carefully follow these instructions, you can do it. “Under ten minutes?” Maybe not but that’s OK. And $40 or $45 for a copy of Scrivener and the time to climb the learning curve is A LOT cheaper than spending hundreds of bucks to have someone do this for you. I’m bookmarking this one.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan Dunlap’s piece, The Joy of NOT Going Solo on WordServe Water Cooler isn’t about team writing, as I thought it would be, but about the benefits writers get from joining a writers’ group that’s right for them. That last phrase is key: the wrong group can be harmful but the right group can be amazing.

Don’t be afraid the share the Great Stuff. That’s what friends are for, eh? Have a great weekend.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 15 & 16, 2013

Lots of business stuff today—promotion, covers, and publishing in general—but there’s also conflict and woe… and Gary Busey on hobbits.

CRAFT

KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) video blog this week is on what she considers The Most Annoying Type of Story Conflict, which, not to keep a secret, is false conflict: little conflicts that get blown up all out of proportion. Don’t do it, Katie says: your readers will catch on and then they’ll be mad at you. Put in conflicts that are real, legitimate for the characters, and advance the story.

BUSINESS

Joanna Penn’s (@thecreativepenn) How To Publish A Book 101 is chock full of useful and practical information. The post could have been a mile long but instead she’s filled it with links so you can easily jump right to the information you need. A top-notch collection. Definitely worth a bookmark so you can refer back to it.

P. J. Parrish’s You CAN tell an eBook by its cover on The Kill Zone goes in the other direction where length is concerned but it too is full of excellent information, lavishly illustrated with examples of each point she makes. (And yes, do follow the link to lousybookcovers.tumblr.com, or go directly to the cover of “Lumberjack in Love” on page 4.)

Matthew Turner (@turndog_million) continues his pre-release blog tour with Using a Short Story To Rock My Novel on The Bookshelf Muse. This is NOT a bad thing! Matthew describes how he used a free prequel short story to (a) introduce readers to the characters of his romance novel Beyond Parallel, (b) hoping to turn them into buyers of said novel, while (c) learning the ropes of self-publishing. And now he’s offering us, again for free, what he learned. (Be sure to check out the list of over 50 free sites where you can promote your ebook on the web site he found: ebookbooster.com.) Cool!

THE WRITING LIFE

Lesley Leyland Fields’ (@SpiritofFood) All the World’s a Page: The 9 Woes of the Writing Life on WordServe Water Cooler is certainly a challenging message, particularly for the new writer. Some on her list don’t seem to be woes, at least not to me: “You will gradually be divested of your most cherished stereotypes and grudges.” This is a bad thing? The process might be painful but the result should be worth it. Is there no woe (or are there no woes on this list) without reward? Challenge yourself with this post.

FUN

OK, so we can thank (?) Robert Bruce @robertbruce76) of 101 Books for coming up with this one: Gary Busey Reflects On Hobbits. Fun? Um, well…

OK, your turn: what great stuff has crossed your screen lately?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 12-14, 2013

We’ve got everything from variations on a scene to guest posting to number crunching (or not) to scams to friends to plot holes. Quite a smorgasbord of Great Stuff!

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her series on scenes with Pt. 6: Variations on the Scene. Said variations can apply to:

  • The scene goal: discovered after the scene begins; is implied instead of stated
  • The scene conflict: opens with conflict, not goal; is understated
  • The scene disaster: ends before the disaster, or
  • The scene as a whole: is skipped, implied, or summarized; is interrupted by a new scene; or switches POV.

Lots of great information here, especially for the intermediate writer.

Despite the title, Boyd Morrison’s (@boydmorrison) Have Gun? Won’t Travel on The Kill Zone isn’t about guns, per se, and it’s certainly not about the “debate” over “gun control” going on in the country now. It’s about plot holes, those practical, logistical, or logical impossibilities that movie-makers often get away with that writers can’t (or at least shouldn’t) and what you might do to keep yourself from leaving them in your own work. A long post, but worth a look.

BUSINESS

At first, Michael Swanwick’s Free Me! post was pretty much what I expected: an announcement of a free e-book from Tor.com that includes one of his stories. But then Michael went on to join the Kris Rusch bandwagon and remind authors to start recording their bibliography as soon as their first story is published. Why? Not just to have the record for your eventual estate, but to motivate you to get another story written and published so the first one won’t look so lonely. And then the first two won’t be lonely. And then….

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his New World of Publishing with a not-as-long-as-it-looks post titled Counting Numbers. This piece is going to be a bracing reality check on what realistic expectations for sales numbers and income look like, especially for many new, stars-in-their-eyes writers, but that’s okay. Perhaps his most important point is to think like a publisher: over a 10 year span, not month-to-month.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) wades once again into the quantity-now-versus-quality-soon debate that’s been bubbling around the blogosphere lately, with participants like DW Smith, Jane Friedman, and Porter Anderson with his Kill Zone post Publishing and Marketing Your Crap. It takes him a while to get to this point but it’s sure where my thinking is: “If readers don’t like the first book of yours they try, they’re most unlikely to buy any of the other 37.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) begins a series on Why Writers Should Write Guest Posts. This fairly long article covers five strategies for why someone would want to do this: to promote a blog or web site, to reach a new audience, to promote a new book, to help a new blogger build a readership, and to stretch your “writing muscle.” Future posts will cover the who, what, and how of guest postings. Should be a good series.

The second post, in fact, is pretty good, too. Gabriela discusses Navigating the Guest Post Process, including deciding specifically what to write about and for whom, how to pitch the idea (including a format for a pitch e-mail—very good idea!), things NOT to do in the pitch, and what to do when the post is published. All terrific stuff. She also provides a downloadable PDF form that you could use to track your submissions. Unfortunately, you can’t fill it in electronically but Gabriela’s accepted my offer to make it fillable. Check back tomorrow for news.

THE WRITING LIFE

Scams, alas, are a part of e-life, and Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) relays a report of one that’s been making the rounds in the UK in Alert: UK Speaker Scam Targets Writers (and Others) on Writer Beware® Blogs. In essence, the scam comes as an e-mail that says the recipient’s been selected to be a guest speaker at a university-sponsored conference but (there’s always a but) there are government fees that need to be paid up-front. You can figure out the rest. This scam isn’t unique to the UK; it’s a variation on a theme whose purpose is always to separate the naïve or unthinking from their money. Writer: beware!

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) points us over to the Glimmer Train Bulletin for an article by Kate Gale, the Managing Editor of Red Hen Press in which she advises, Find Someone Who Is a Stakeholder in Your Writing Life. She suggests three sources—family, spouse/lover, and other (published) writers—and a total of five people, or so, who will believe in you and support you. Contrary to the opinion of some writers, this is where a writers’ group can—not necessarily will, but can—provide that kind of support. Food for thought.

Don’t forget, you can always share Great Stuff with your friends. At no cost! 😉

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 8 & 9, 2013

Dystopian fiction and subplots, the future of fiction (maybe dystopian, maybe not), publicity in all its forms, and keeping your head in the game: we’re covering it all today. Dive in!

CRAFT

Dystopian fiction may not be your cuppa java—it wasn’t Karen Duvall’s (@KarenDuvall), at least not to write—but when she had a chance to write it she discovered 5 Ways Dystopian Fiction May Surprise You, which she shares on Writer Unboxed. The most surprising to me: opportunities for romance (love among the ruins, and all that).

So what good is a subplot, anyway? KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) explains why you should Use This Subplot to Bring Depth to Your Story. The “this” she’s referring to, by the way, is the emotional subplot, which brings out personal aspects of a character that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the story.

BUSINESS

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) Commodity Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Future of Fiction provides a very long for her overview of where she thinks the publishing industry is now and where pieces of it might be going in the future. There are points here I agree with and points I disagree with, sometimes vehemently. Give it a look, though. What do you think?

Ever wonder how to get book reviews? I have been lately. Dr. Rita Hancock (@DoctorRita) details how she went about Generating Buzz Through Book Reviews on WordServe Water Cooler. Note that some of her suggestions apply primarily to authors publishing primarily in print rather than electronically and it may not really be necessary to engage in 13—that’s right, thirteen—different publicity platforms the way she did, but her advice to start early is certainly on target.

Denise Wakeman (@DeniseWakeman) provides a bit of a sanity check against the last post with her post What’s Your Path to More Online Visibility? Her note that “you don’t have to do it all” is a welcome relief, although she also cautions, “Boosting your online visibility requires commitment and consistent action.” (Emphasis hers both times.)

Getting reviews is just one piece of the publicity pie, though. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle) guest posts on The Book Designer on 5 Reasons It’s Hard to Market Indie Fiction and What to Do About It. Practical, actionable, reasonable advice.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jan O’Hara’s (@janohara) Solving a First-World Blogging Problem on Writer Unboxed, after a bit of a tease that makes a point, gets down to asking whether numbers (number of books sold this month, number of words written today, Klout score, etc.) really matter to writers and more importantly, if they do, how they should. In case you were wondering, 76.2% of her commenters agree. (I made that number up, by the way.)

Kind of in the same line of thought, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) advises, Don’t Feed Your Discontent. Among other things, she asks, “Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of focusing on things within your sphere of influence?emphasis hers, and suggests ways to refocus.

There must be something in the air this week—New Year’s resolutions starting to fail, maybe?—because here’s the third article posted in the last two days on keeping focus: James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Don’t Let Worry Drag You Down. His pyramid diagram puts into a concise image the writer’s path. Keep climbing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten for staying focused on your long-term goals?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 5-7, 2013

Boy, so much for a quiet weekend! Today’s post is CHOCK FULL of Great Stuff on a wide range of topics, including one we haven’t touched on in a long time: radio. Grab a cuppa and settle in.

CRAFT

Writer’s Digest editor Jessica Strawser (@jessicastrawser) provides a meaty set of tips in How to Start a Novel Right: 5 Great Tips. My fave of the five is Lee Child’s write what you feel, not what you know. The others are pretty darn good too, though: create a doorway of no return; minimize backstory; add character-defining sensory details (emphasis mine); and make secondary characters significant. Check out the details and the articles they were taken from.

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes with Pt. 5: Options for Disasters in a Scene. As Katie notes, “disaster” is a strong word that can conjure up the wrong image: that every scene has to end in a catastrophe. Before she gets into her detailed discussion of scene disasters, she notes, “The point [of the disaster] is to keep the pressure on and never let up.” Yup. Right on target.

Jael McHenry (@jaelmchenry) offers three things to look for when putting The Finishing Touches on a novel: follow the key thread all the way through, looking for inconsistencies; check for your biggest weakness; and strengthen your voice. Check out this quick and to-the-point piece on Writer Unboxed.

Can A Man Really Write Romance? Matthew Turner (@turndogmillion) claims he can and describes how he did on Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn. Some of his keys: watch, listen to, remember, and ask women about how they think, feel, and react. Lots of trust required there, on all sides.

Speaking of drawing from unlikely sources (I was?), Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) presents 6 Winning Ideas for Self-Publishers Straight from “Downton Abbey.” Sound like a stretch? Check these ideas out:

  • Pay attention to detail;
  • Keep the audience engaged with continuing storylines and evolving characters;
  • Seek feedback from the audience;
  • Do what it takes to stand out from the crowd;
  • Keep up with the changing market; and
  • Be memorable.

BUSINESS

So what’s the truth about the status and staying power of ebooks versus print books. As 2013 begins the jury is clearly still out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Derek Haines’s(@Derek_Haines) Authors – How to Promote Yourself is one of the better (particularly, more concise) descriptions I’ve seen recently on how to—and how NOT to—do promotion. While he doesn’t touch on even all of the major social media platforms (there’s nothing on Google+, LinkedIn, or Pinterest) it’s easy enough to extrapolate his comments on Twitter and Facebook to them.

Dan Blank (@DanBlank) asks four specific questions of authors preparing for the launch of their next/first book in Don’t Make Your Book Launch Like a Trip to the Dentist on Writer Unboxed: what have your ideal readers read recently, where can you go (on- and off line) to meet them, who manages and organizes these places, and who can you contact by e-mail who would care about the book? Figuring out those specific names and places well in advance is key to making launch day less stressful.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Here’s something we don’t see very often: Brad Phillips (@MrMediaTraining) on Jane Friedman’s blog on 5 Things Bad Radio Guests Do (And 7 Ways to Rock on Radio). Having been a radio guest a few times, I can tell you he’s right on track, although I’d add one more thing: remember that your audience can’t see you nod or shake your head! When the host asks a question, give a verbal answer. Seems silly, doesn’t it, but every host I’ve worked with has reminded me about that.

But not all radio programs are created equal: some are less equal than others, no matter what they claim. Check out Victoria Strauss’s (@victoriastrauss) Global Talk Radio: How to Waste Money and Fail to Influence People on Writer Beware® Blogs. These points ought to say enough: hosts pay to have shows; guests pay to be interviewed. More ways to separate novice/desperate writers from the money they don’t have.

THE WRITING LIFE

Divide and Conquer: Building an Author Platform by Proxy by Kristin Morin (@kristinba) on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog is one of those posts that could go into all sorts of categories—business, tech, social media—but it seems to fit best here. Kristin describes how she and her husband have partnered to create his writer platform. She knows the tech side but it has to be his platform. Lots of useful tips and steps for making this team approach work. Something to consider if the whole tech side of platform has you bamboozled.

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) has an interesting take on The Facts vs. The Story You Tell Yourself regarding some of the tribulations of the traditional publishing world. And while self-publishing advocates would see her discussion as more reasons to self-publish, we should be clear that the indie publishing world has its own situations that can make writers crazy.

Find something here that a writer friend should know about? Feel free to share it with them. (It’s that old pay-it-forward thing.)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that whichever December holidays you celebrated, if any, brought you peace, joy, and maybe even some new stuff. And if you didn’t celebrate any holiday formally, I hope you at least absorbed the (non-commercial) spirit of the time without the religious content. It’s possible!

While I haven’t been blogging during this time, I have been reading lots of blog posts. There’s LOTS of stuff here, more than I’m sure you can absorb in one reading. Scan it, pick out what interests you and come back to the rest later—or not. That’s okay too.

One last thing before we get to all the Great Stuff below: I’d hoped to be making a Big Announcement today but alas, due to technical matters beyond my control, that announcement will be delayed by about a month. In the meantime, you’ll still find Great Stuff right here.

CRAFT

The holiday season is no obstacle for KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) to continue her series on scenes with Pt. 3: Options for Goals in a Scene. We already know that a story’s protagonist and antagonist need to have story-level goals and that the protagonist in each scene needs much more immediate and small-scale goals, a point Weiland reemphasizes. The important point she adds in this post is that sometimes a scene goal is actually part of a larger one that will take multiple scenes to reach or fail to reach. Thus partial (single-scene) goals build together into that overarching (multi-scene) goal.

She continues with Pt. 4: Options for Conflict in a Scene. Story is conflict. We all know that, or should, and there needs to be some kind of conflict in each and every scene. In this post, Katie discusses two key elements of scene conflict: options for the kinds of conflict the scene can have and whether the conflict is integral to the scene and the story. Terrific stuff. One subtle point worth noting: scene conflict doesn’t have to be huge but it has to be. Some of her examples illustrate just that.

With the year seemingly rushing to its end as I write this, it’s appropriate for Katie to also write about not rushing a story along in Should You Slam Your Story’s Brakes? on her WORDplay blog. While it is important to keep a story moving, there is such a thing as going too fast too, she writes, and that’s a good time to use other techniques besides speed to build a story’s tension.

Donald Maass (@DonMaass) is always good for thought-provoking columns on Writer Unboxed and The Paradox is no exception. He actually discusses two: that your story matters “more than anything, and… not at all” and that characters should both embody their conflicts and yet not be in a hurry to resolve them. The first paradox allows you to take the time you need to flesh out your story, and the second allows your characters to become rich and full. Great Stuff!

Maybe it’s not surprising but agent Paula Munier (@PaulaSMunier) of Talcott Notch Literary Services also disagrees with Dean Wesley Smith (below) on the value of writers’ groups in her Literary Agent Interview on the Guide to Literary Agents. She’s got other important advice, too, that can’t be repeated often enough. The interview’s brief so I won’t try to reprise it here.

If you’re interested in cover design and the thinking that goes into it, check out Joel Friedlander’s (@jfbookman) A Book Cover’s Evolutions—Embrace of the Daimon. This cover went through four iterations, starting in the late 1990s, one published, one soon to be, with some pretty significant changes along the way.

BUSINESS

Mark Coker (@MarkCoker), founder and CEO of Smashwords, writes a very, very long (multiples-of-Kris-Rusch long) 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions – Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge on the Smashwords blog. This is by far and away the longest blog post I’ve read or written about here, but since Smashwords has become such an important player in the indie-pub world, Coker’s thoughts carry weight, even as he freely acknowledges that each and every one of his 21 projections could be wrong. Still, if you’re interested in the indie-publishing world, especially if you’re already in it or planning to/considering getting into it, this post is worth the time (plan on an hour) to study. Thanks to Joel Friedlander for pointing it out.

Joel also highlighted Free Book Promotions by James Moushon (@jimhbs) on Self-Publishing Review. Moushon offers a set of 10 planning steps authors should take before engaging in a giveaway program, plus steps to take during and after. He also includes comments from writers who have done giveaways—and not all are positive about the experience! I hope that was intentional: an expectations-management exercise. Moushon also seems to focus on using Amazon’s KDP Select distribution channel for this effort, which some (Coker among them) caution against because of Amazon’s 90-day exclusive distribution demand for participation in KDP Select. Good information here, but also some ideas to approach with caution.

I generally don’t include Porter Anderson’s (@PorterAnderson) Writing on the Ether posts on Jane Friedman’s blog because they’re so long but I’ll make an exception this time because he includes an extended set of excerpts from a discussion that begins with a Steven Levy comment in an interview in Wired magazine, in which he says, in part, “I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit.” Besides extended excerpts from this piece, there are also extended excerpts from a November Charlie Rose Show featuring Tim O’Reilly, Ken Auletta, the other Jane Friedman (the former HarperCollins CEO) on this whole topic of elitism in publishing and the rise of e-publishing and crowdsourcing for books. I found it interesting; maybe you will, too.

THE WRITING LIFE

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) reissues an article she originally posted in the July/August 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, with some edits, titled How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? In this long-for-a-blog piece, she examines four things writers do that sabotage their efforts to get published; how to evaluate where you are on the path to publication, including signs you’re getting close; three signs that it’s time to change course, perhaps even away from writing; and three ways to revise your publishing plan. All good stuff, if hard truths. With one exception: one thing Jane didn’t change from the original article, I don’t think, is that she treats independent publishing as the last refuge of the incompetent and (from the perspective of traditional publishing) unpublishable. This, I think, is tremendously unfortunate and fails to reflect how the whole publishing industry is changing. Much of what she writes DOES apply to writers who want to publish independently, rather than through a traditional house, large or small, though, and this disrespect for that decision doesn’t take away from the value of her other observations.

New Year’s is a time for all those wink-and-a-nod resolutions that are forgotten by the end of the second week. But Jordyn Redwood (@JordynRedwood) on WordServe Water Cooler and Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) on his own blog take similar cuts at goal setting. Hyatt’s Do You Have a Personal Platform Plan for 2013 and Redwood’s Goals?!? are focused on slightly different things but it’s interesting how much they parallel each other. Read both for the details and the reinforcement. Hyatt also links back to a two-year-old post on setting goals using the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) continues his New World of Publishing series with a powerful and highly challenging fourth installment: How to Keep Production Going All Year. Naturally, this post builds on the previous three (which you can find here, here, and here). “Production” means writing “new” (that is, publication-ready) words and Smith offers four different ideas for how to set long- and short-term goals for the year and , importantly, how to deal with the inevitable failures to meet those goals that life is going to impose on us. Smith’s goal here isn’t to just help you be more effective, it’s to separate the pros from the wannabes and his methods will certainly do that.

There’s one piece of advice I strongly disagree with, though: not showing others your work in progress. As I noted in my comment to the post, that’s fine if you’re an experienced author, but if you’re new, you need feedback on what you’re doing wrong—and you will do lots wrong. Specific, constructive, actionable feedback is vital to the new writer who wants to get better quickly. (I should note that Dean and a group of commenters responded negatively to this opinion, particularly as it related to getting feedback from writers’ groups. That’s fine: everyone’s welcome to their opinions. But I will not be convinced that all writers’ groups are wrong for all writers. Each of us has to make our own decisions based on our own personalities and needs and what local groups can do for or to us.)

 

Here’s wishing you LOTS of Great Stuff in 2013.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, December 18 & 19, 2012

We’re clearly getting close to the Christmas holidays and things are slowing down on the blogosphere. Just a few bits of great stuff for you today.

CRAFT

Despite its title, Nancy J. Cohen’s (@nancyjcohen) Blending Sex and Suspense on The Kill Zone isn’t so much about sex as about romance and relationships in general, and for that reason, it’s a terrific summary of how to build tension into the relationship between characters, even if there’s no sexual component. If there is, of course, then the romance- and sex-related parts of the post apply too.

Sticking with characterization but focusing now on just the protagonist, KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) What’s the Most Important Moment in Your Character’s Arc? addresses that crisis point where the whole story turns, where the protagonist finally decides her only course of action is to face her fears/enemies/whatever and do what she needs to do. It’s not the climax of the story but the turning point that leads inexorably to it.

SOCIAL MEDIA

I’ve seen tweets embedded in blog posts but never known exactly how that was done. Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) solves that little problem with his How to Embed a Twitter Tweet Into Your Blog Post. It’s a little complex but I’ll bet it’s one of those things that after you’ve done it once or twice, it’ll be a piece of cake.

THE WRITING LIFE

One of the sisters who write as P. J. Parrish (not sure which one) offers a generous set of Christmas gifts all writers need on The Kill Zone: everything from permission to write badly (at first!) to the honest critic and the good friend (two different people?) to time off to time for your family—15 gifts in all. The great thing about all of these gifts is that they’re gifts we can—and should!—give ourselves, without the slightest bit of guilt.

Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) adds her take on Santa’s Lessons for Writers (and Creative People of All Stripes), including what to do with that darn lump of coal.

FUN

Today is Help the Elf day and I’m happy to have pointed Pete the forgetful elf (and Santa) to the rest of the Cochise Writers Group, my friends and writing partners. I hope you’re as blessed with writing friends as I am.

Even if you can’t help Pete, who are the writing friends you’re thankful for?

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.