Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 30 and 31, 2012

Maybe it’s because a long weekend’s coming up, at least here in the US, that there wasn’t a lot out there on the blogosphere that really jumped out at me yesterday and today. That means a light (mostly) reading day for you.

The only piece on craft today comes from Neil Abbott (@NeilAbbott), guest posting on the WORDplay blog. Neil suggests that you Use Character Quirks to Grab Readers’ Attention and names two specific ways to do this: quirks as part of the story or as symbols for some aspect of the character’s personality. All fine and well, and I know I’ve done that in my WIP, but I think a word of caution is in order, too: don’t be heavy-handed about it. Readers won’t be so thrilled if you give a character a symbolic quirk and then beat them over the head with it to make sure they get the meaning.

Four things for you on the business side of the topic: one practical, two big-time warnings, and one practical and encouraging, in that order.

  • Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) offers some tips for How to Find Out What Readers Want on The Book Designer. Joel suggests both on- and off-line places writers can go to find out and discusses techniques and resources for doing surveys.
  • Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) brings a disturbing story to the Writer Beware! blog: Fake Jared And His Friends: Author Solutions’ Misleading PR Strategies. It seems that “Jared Silverstone,” a “Publishing Consultant” for Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), a company that’s been getting a lot of negative attention lately, both before and after Pearson Publishing acquired it, isn’t a real person. “He” even has fake Twitter and Facebook accounts. I can’t fathom what ASI is trying to accomplish by creating fake people for PR purposes. This is really bizarre.
  • In a similar vein, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) posts a very long (again, *sigh*) jeremiad titled A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing. The article centers around a many-times New York Times bestselling author who, apparently because she didn’t read the Terms of Use for a web-based company’s e-publishing “services” may now be locked into a horrible contract-like situation (even though no formal contract was ever signed) that might result, Kris says, in the author not only not ever getting any money from any of the e-books sold but may not be able to sell those e-books through another outlet if she becomes dissatisfied with what this unnamed company is doing. Kris’ ultimate point–read and make sure you understand what you’re signing up for, whether it’s in a formal contract or a contract-like document, no matter where it’s located or what format it’s in–is absolutely spot-on.  (That’s why I’ve boldfaced and italicized it.) I know we writers often don’t like to deal with all this business stuff, but I’ll bet we like getting screwed out of income that is rightfully ours even less.
  • Finally, and on a much more positive note, publicist Crystal Patriarche (@booksparkspr) announces Indie Authors–You CAN Do It on Writer Unboxed. Crystal offers five steps indie authors can take (well, four they can/should plus one they shouldn’t–buying positive reviews) that will help them achieve their sales goals. Note that the first three involve spending money to make money and require knowing what you’re signing up for when you do. Once again: it’s a business.

Have a great weekend. “See” you again on Monday.

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 3, 2012

I’ve discovered a purpose for Mondays: so bloggers can put together great stuff that they then post on Tuesdays! To wit: a Tuesday full of terrific stuff. We’ll start with the one negative thing and then get to the positives.

  • Kathleen Pickering (@KatPickering) writes in Identity Theft:Cloud Files and Urgent Phone Calls about a recent encounter she had with an aggressive phone scammer, her reactions to him, and her actions since. I have no opinion plus or minus on the specific anti-identity theft tools/services she recommends but her 6 specific action recommendations are things we all can do easily and at little or no cost.
  • Moving on to a more positive and interesting, but perhaps still a little scary subject, we go to Hugh McGuire’s (@hughmcguire) short (13 minute) TEDx Montreal talk, discovered via Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) via Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman), in which he asks, eBooks Gone in 5 Years? One reason why I don’t own an e-book reader isn’t because I’m a Luddite (I’m writing a blog, after all, on a computer), but because I see them as transitional devices. As tablets like the iPad and Microsoft Surface get more and more powerful, not to mention smart phones, I see e-book reader software migrating away from single-purpose devices like the Kindle to similarly-sized multi-purpose devices like the tablets. McGuire’s take is a little different–that the future of e-books is in a much more interconnected, interactive, hyperlinked, format which retains and even improves on the quality of the content now associated more with printed books than the internet. Scary for some writers, maybe, but fascinating and exciting for those of us willing to explore this terra incognita.
  • The next logical stop on today’s tour, I guess, is Victoria Strauss’ (@victoriastrauss) repost of something she first put up on Writer Beware (R) Blogs! a couple years ago: Rights vs. Copyright. This is a good summary of the difference between literary rights and copyright, a difference every writer needs to understand.
  • Going back yet farther into the writing process, we find Therese Walsh’s (@ThereseWalsh) A Study in Opposites on Writer Unboxed, in which she describes how she used some time spent with  thesaurus.com before she began writing a story. She started with two words with opposite meanings and connotations, then created lists of synonyms and antonyms via the thesaurus as a way to develop ideas for characters, plot events, etc. To my personal tastes, this feels too much like a writing exercise, which I generally don’t like, but you might find it interesting or helpful, so pop on over to her post to get the full, um, story.
  • I’ve saved the best for last today: Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) 6 Things To Learn From Hemingway. Rather than take a literary-criticism approach to the subject, Rachelle looks at different aspects Papa H’s process, from what other writers he read to what he did with a “completed” work before it was truly done. Professionalism, every step of the way. And things we can all do.

Great stuff, I think you’ll agree.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 20, 2012

We’ll start with a warning that came in late yesterday.

  • Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) reports on Writer Beware (R) Blogs that Author Solutions Introduces BookStub. The “loyalty card-size” BookStubs seem like a clever idea but what Author Solutions is charging is crazy-high–$1,199 for starters. No, that’s not 11 dollars and 99 cents. Yikes.
  • On a much brighter note, Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) describes on The Technium how he’s using “crowd-funding” through Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) for User Pre-Funding of a project he’s working on. This isn’t for everyone but it is interesting.
  • Urban fantasy writer Suzanne Johnson (@Suzanne_Johnson) continues the Guide to Literary Agents blog series 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far by listing her 7 things, including, to my surprise, “Expect pushback from other authors, especially online,” referring not to negative reviews (which she addresses, too) but to the traditional vs. indie publishing kerfuffle.
  • Harvey Stanbrough (@hstanbrough) and Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) both address clarity in writing:

That’s all for now.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 13, 2012

Happy “hump day,” everyone. The weekend’s just 2+ days away. The first time I lived in Germany, a British DJ I listened to used the tag line, “Never more than five days from the weekend.” Which is true, of course, but in fact we’re never more than THREE days. OK, so sometimes that weekend is behind us. Details, details. What does that have to do with writing? This: emotion. Looking forward to what’s coming, or perhaps wishing for (or regretting!) what’s past. That leads me to:

  • Jo Ann Fore (@JoAnnFore) picks up on this point somewhat in her WordServe Water Cooler post, A Writer’s Flash-Point. While she lists three of her own, there’s an emotional component to each.
  • Ann Aguirre (@MsAnnAguirre) continues the theme, but brings it back to our own need to have joy in what we do in What Fresh Obsession on Writer Unboxed.
  • K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) asks on WORDplay, Should You Give Your Antagonist a POV? Hmm. Interesting question. Her answer is, generally, no, unless there’s something compelling about the character, including a possibility for reader sympathy or character change. But really, wouldn’t you want to have an antagonist with those qualities in the first place?
  • And now for something completely different (yet I’ll bet it has a subtle emotional component, too). Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) discusses some of the details most of us would never suspect when it comes to Picking Fonts for Your Self-Published Book. OK, maybe I’m being a bit of a geek but I found this interesting.
  • One more post related to self-publishing and emotion (in this case, anger) by Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) on Writer Beware (R) Blogs!: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against PublishAmerica. Writers have been complaining about the way PA has treated them for many years. A trio has now found a way to sue because of it. Stay tuned.

Finally, a correction and apology. In yesterday’s post I referred to a piece by “Joanne Tobrakos.”  What I MEANT for my keyboard to enter was “Joanne Tombrakos” and “@JoanneTombrakos” (notice the m that got left out the first time). Sorry, Joanne! It’s the keyboard’s fault, I’m sure. 🙂