Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 2-4, 2013

Wow! Busy weekend out there on the blogosphere, and Monday morning, too: rules and tools, emotions and responses, Star Wars attacks and attacks on Amazon. It’s all here, and more. No time to lose! Let’s get started.


CORRECTION! Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) workshop is on Tuesday, February FIFTH,  (that’s tomorrow) at 1 PM Eastern. Sorry for the confusion!

Anyone who’s been at this business a while knows that there are almost no rules to writing, beyond maybe, “Get your butt in the chair! Now!” So when a post is titled The Rules of Writing, naturally that’s going to raise some concerns. Fortunately, French super-bestseller Marc Levy’s (@marc_levy) “rules” on Writer Unboxed aren’t rules so much as guidelines, and wise and practical ones at that. A couple examples to whet your appetite: “Stop trying so hard to find a subject” and “Don’t show too much, don’t tell too much.”

Along these same lines, Joanna Penn’s (@thecreativepenn) guest post on Write to Done on 5 Ways To Take Your Writing Further includes some techniques I’ve heard before but haven’t seen mentioned much recently, namely free-writing and physically copying the work of published authors you enjoy and respect. Not only are these effective techniques for expanding your writing, they’re terrific for overcoming writer’s block. (See the Brandon Yawa post below too.)

I think it was one of the great Russian writers who said, “If there is no emotion in the writer, there will be no emotion in the reader.” Anyone know who that was? In any case, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) picks up on that theme with his post How To Get Emotional About Your Novel on The Kill Zone. “Emotion in the author,” he writes, “is literary electricity. It’s the X Factor, the game changer… Readers sense it.” Then he describes a couple of methods for finding it and bringing it out in your work. The last part of the post is a plug for his latest book but also serves as an example of how he was able to create genuine emotion in the story.

Speaking of emotion, KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her excellent series on scenes and sequels with Pt. 9: Options for Dilemmas in a Sequel. What does this have to do with emotion? After the emotion of the reaction to the previous scene’s disaster, now the protagonist should face a dilemma in which he or she has to figure out what to do next. This can be an emotional reaction, too, or a rational one, but it needs to start with a review of what’s happened, an analysis of options, and a plan for moving forward, which will lead to a decision, the next scene and, of course, the next disaster… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Lessons Learned from the Original Star Wars Trilogy to Up Your Writing Game? Seriously? Yup. Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) comes up with them on Writer Unboxed. Specifically, Episode IV (start in the middle), Episode V (destroy everything), Episode VI (expect the unexpected).  Hmmm. Y’know, that gives me an idea…. Thanks, Lydia!


Joanna Penn’s piece on her own blog, How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling, is a terrific insight into both. Yes, if you own an e-reader, your shopping habits may be different, but if you’re looking to e-publish, even how just one reader shops can be revealing. So are Joanna’s and her commenters’ views on samples: how long they should be, how much time a reader will spend with them, how often they decide not to buy based on the sample, etc. Valuable info here!

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has started a monthly feature called Best Business Advice for Writers, and the January edition is full to overflowing with links to other posts and articles that are full to overflowing with information. The ol’ veritable plethora, right on your screen: GoodReads, cover design, self-publishing lessons-learned, WordPress plug-ins, Kickstarter, and more. Goodness. It’s a week’s worth of reading all by itself! Pick what most interests you.

Whoa, this is a tough one. Clare Langley-Hawthorne reports on The Kill Zone on a series of Concerted Amazon Attacks meant to discredit and kill the sales of a book. The book, an apparently non-sycophantic biography of Michael Jackson received so many 1-star reviews on Amazon (over 100), many of which were factually inaccurate, that despite Amazon’s selecting it as one of their best books of the year, sales were a small fraction of the number of books printed. So, whose free-speech rights prevail in a case like this: the authors’ or the reviewers’? Or is this an either/or decision at all? What do you think?


It might be a bit of a surprise to see a post from ProBlogger here in the Writing Life section, but Brandon Yawa’s (@BrandonYawa) How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block fits. Interestingly, his idea is NOT compassion by the author for someone else, but compassion by the author for him- or herself. Self-forgiveness, in other words, when the words won’t come, plus a few non-writing techniques for getting that mental break that releases the block. Marc Levy (above) says not to fear writer’s block because it’s a natural thing. Without the fear, then, the forgiveness should come more easily. Hope so, anyway!

If you’ve ever been in a writers’/critique group, you’ve probably encountered people like those described in Donna Cooner’s (@donnacooner) Top 10 Worst Types of Critique Partners. If you haven’t, yes, you might well encounter people like these. But don’t assume as some writers and bloggers (NOT Donna) insist that all groups are like this. They’re not, and a good group is worth its weight in ink cartridges.

So, can you name that Russian writer? Have you run into any of those awful critique partners? How about great ones? Tell! Tell! (This is one time you don’t have to “show.”)

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 24, 2012

Some top-notch stuff, some interesting stuff, and some maybe-it’ll-work-for-you stuff today on craft, marketing, and social media. We’ll start with craft:

  • Right at the top is Gabriela Pereira’s (@DIYMFA) Lessons on Character from ThrillerFest, featuring key points from a presentation by super-agent Donald Maass (@DonMaass). If you’ve read any of Maass’s Breakout books (The Breakout Novelist, Writing the Breakout Novel, etc.) you’ve seen his discussions of how characters are the story, and the roles of characters’  internal and external struggles. If not, Gabriela’s piece is a terrific summary of those points.
  • Somewhat related, Michael Swanwick discusses why writing “rules” aren’t really rules in Elmore Leonard’s Eleventh Law. That “law” (spoiler alert!), which Swanwick says is implied in Leonard’s first ten, is “don’t follow rules if you can transcend them.” Of course, if you’re a new writer, there can be a big difference  between believing that you can transcend a rule and proving you can, but the only way to find out is to try.
  • Carleen Brice’s (@carleenbrice) Q&A With Novelist J. D. Mason on Writer Unboxed touches all the required bases of writer interviews: editing, pace, character development, revising, and dealing with writer’s block. Perhaps you’ll find Mason’s views and insights informative. (Mason Facebook fan page.)

Let’s move on to marketing and social media, now.

  • In the context of Pearson Publishing’s purchase of Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), last week, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks and answers the question, How Does Your Publisher Make Money? Now, since Rachelle works in the “legacy” publishing world, it’s no surprise she’s not so hot about ASI’s business model, but others who work on the self-pub side have been critical of ASI, too, so what Rachelle’s really saying is “understand the business.”
  • Jan Dunlap offers some interesting ideas for Creative Venue Planning on WordServe Water Cooler. “Venue” meaning places you can tell people about your book and maybe sell some copies.
  • Finally, Angela Ackerman (@angelaackerman) of The Bookshelf Muse guest posts on The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective on What to Do…If You Believe Social Media Isn’t for You. Her tips are about how to dip your toe in some corner of the pool before you go on to developing that strategy for how you’re going to use some part of social media effectively.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 7, 2012

Happy Saturday, everyone. A classic Arizona monsoon thunderstorm just dumped almost half an inch of rain in about 20 minutes here. Woo-hoo! We’ve been so dry, that’s very welcome–except that now it’s doing the same thing in the mountains where we had a major forest fire last year. That means flash flooding. Definitely a good news/bad news situation.

But hey, I’m not supposed to start with weather, am I? NO! So let’s get to the blogs.

  • First up is C.G. Blake (@CGBlake1) on Writer Unboxed, offering Strategies for Overcoming Writer’s Block. Suggestion #1: look for cause and effect relationships in actions and events in the story. Missing any? There’s something for you to work on. Pop on over to the article for the rest of his suggestions.
  • Cause and effect are intimately related to a character’s intentions, but Barbara Scott (@BarbaraScott01) puts her focus on the author in her Top 5 Self-Editing Tips: Intention on WordServe Water Cooler. Key point: “Once you finish your first or second draft, ask yourself, ‘Did I fulfill my overall intention for writing this piece, and did I achieve my intention in each scene or section?’” Whoa. Big-time question. But do you have the answer?
  • Joe Hartlaub’s Like Sugar on a Sidewalk on The Kill Zone might hardly seem to fit the subject of intention, yet it does, and illustrates the power of social media in the process. The “intention” in this case was his young daughter’s desire to get a closer look at the members of the boy-band One Dimension before one of their concerts. With a little help from daddy, she happened to find the group’s hotel just as their tour buses were pulling up. A couple or three or 27 tweets later, well, can you spell “screaming teenage girl flash mob?” Okay, so we writers don’t get that kind of attention–mostly. But Joe’s post goes on to illustrate other kinds of social media outreach and success. While Joe’s right to write, “Your results may vary,” it’s a lesson we ought not to ignore. (And thanks to all of you who are tweeting me, retweeting these posts, and making other connections. It’s working!)

Have a great weekend. If you’re living anywhere from the high plains to the east coast, may you get some rain or at least relief from the heat soon.


Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 29, 2012

Must be a Friday. Just a few things for you to end the week.

We’ll start with a couple things from agent Kristin Nelson and her Pub Rants blog:

Over on WordServe Water Cooler, Sharon A. Lavy (@SharonALavy) poses the question, “Is Reading Fiction…Safe?” She cites some evidence–and there’s a lot more out there in the scientific literature–that people react physically as well as psychologically and emotionally to what they read, and as a result, change.

As it happens, one of the members of my writers’ group noted at dinner after our last meeting that she’d recently read a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard University, that shows that the level of interpersonal violence has gone down, dramatically and world-wide, since the 1700s. That’s when the first modern novels started to appear. The thesis behind the research was that novels caused people to begin to empathize with others, and that caused, over time, a change in behaviors. Interesting thought.

Speaking of interesting thoughts, I haven’t pointed to anything from Write to Done for a while, but today I get to. Cheryl Craigie (@manageablelife) asks Does Writing Make You Feel Like a Failure or a Fraud? Like, you mean, it doesn’t? But then she makes an even more surprising statement–that being blocked is good! Say what??? Her point is that being blocked is the time when your subconscious is at work and has put up a sign that says, “Don’t bother me, I’m working. I’ll get back to you when I’m done.” Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” So go off and work on something else for a while, and when the light bulb finally turns on, get back to work.

And last but not least, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) announced today that The DIY MFA Workshop is now up and running on DIY MFA’s Facebook page. They’ll take “the first 500 words” of any writing, fiction or non-fiction. One piece will be selected each week to be posted and critiqued.

Have a great weekend and send up a thought or prayer (or a donation to the American Red Cross, @RedCross) for all the people around the United States (and elsewhere?) who have been evacuated from or lost their homes due to wild fires. I had to evacuate last year. It wasn’t a happy experience. At least I didn’t lose my home, like hundreds and hundreds of families have.