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.

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 6-8, 2012

Good-to-great stuff in lots of areas over the weekend, so without further ado…

CRAFT

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) continues her Most Common Mistakes series with this surprising question: Are You Skipping the Best Parts? Let’s turn this around: have you ever read a book or story where things were getting really tense or exciting, a big event is waiting on the very next page, and then…nothing. No shift to another character or location to stretch out the tension. No promise of coming back to that big scene. Nothing. How frustrating is THAT? That’s what KM teaches you not to do in your own work.

L. L. Barkat (@llbarkat) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog with a not-really-so-unusual technique: Steal Your Way to Better Writing. Of course, she’s not referring to plagiarism, but learning via close reading of something that draws you. This may not work as well for you as it did for her would-be-poet daughter, but it has value for everyone.

Quality work depends to some extent on productivity, which is why Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) post How Productive Are You? may be something you want to follow up on. Rachelle introduces a product called “Rescue Time” that is supposed to help you identify your work habits—and, one presumes, the times and ways you’re wasting time—so you can be more productive. I haven’t tried or used this tool or others like it, so I have no opinions on them, but if this is a concern of yours, you might want to check them out.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

That’s a good transition into one way to use time productively: going to writers’ conferences and conventions. New Kill Zone contributor Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) offers 20 Writers’ Conference Tips to make your time there more fun and more productive. Very practical and right on target from my own experiences.

OK, this next post might seem a bit morbid, but you know what, I’m right there with James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) in his thoughts about How Writers Should Die. His story is about novelist James M. Cain, who after a string of early successes (The Postman Always Rings Twice, among others) hit a dry patch and was urged to quit writing. He didn’t, found his way back to success late in life, and died at age 85 after completing two more books. While he didn’t literally die at the keyboard as some writers have, he did what he loved right to the end. How cool is that?

BUSINESS

OK, on to a cheerier topic, although not necessarily an easier one. Cheryl Craigie (@manageablelife) takes on a topic on Write to Done we all have to face at one point, writing the dreaded author bio. How to Write About Yourself offers practical tips on saying what you need to say—and no more—for the audience you’re writing for at that moment.

Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) takes on the process of self-publishing again today, making the point that there are Only 2 Things Authors Ought to be Doing: writing and marketing. His central point is that there are a lot of very technical things that go into turning a manuscript into a self-published book and that an author who is an expert at none of them is going to end up producing something that looks like it was produced by an amateur. While Friedlander’s point might seem a bit self-serving since he is a professional book designer, leaving certain work to the pros is something we do every day, so why not do it in something we hope will make us money? That’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Along these lines, and maybe in direct contradiction to Friedlander, Matt Setter (@maltblue) posted over the weekend two tutorials on Essential HTML for Bloggers, part 1 and part 2.  Seems like a good idea, right? A quick and friendly introduction to the basics of the programming language that’s the basis for so much that’s done on the web, so you can use it better. Unfortunately, these posts weren’t proofread closely, so important information is sometimes missing and Matt’s web site isn’t available as I type this, both of which hurt his credibility, but since I mentioned this series in my last post, I feel obliged to tell you about it now.

Finally, Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) reports on Writer Beware® Blogs that Publishers Settle With Google—But What About Authors? This all has to do with an effort Google started years ago to scan and make available on-line every book that’s ever been written of which a copy survives. Several organizations, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Author’s Guild (AG) sued to block the effort over copyright concerns. After years in court, the AAP has settled with Google, Strauss reports, but AG has not and there are many questions remaining about what the AAP settlement means for authors, particularly in terms of royalties, because the terms of the settlement are confidential. This may seem very esoteric but the questions are legitimate. Much more to come on this in the years ahead, I’m sure.

What great stuff have you found out on the web? Share it in the Comments.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 25-27, 2012

Welcome to the first full-weekend edition of Great Stuff. Of course we’ve got stuff on craft and stuff on business but we’ve also got something new–stuff on writers’ conferences–and some just-for-fun stuff. We’re well and fully stuffed!

Nothing crafty about the fact that we’ll start with craft stuff.

  • Stories, of course, start with the opening line–hey, how about that for a revelation!–and that’s where we’ll start, too, with Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s Kill Zone piece on That all important first line. There’s some debate in the comments about how important it is that the first line be great, but it should be clear that a bad opening line (á la last Friday’s Bulwer-Lytton contest winners) can be the wrong kind of killer.
  • Next, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) warns of 5 Ways You’re Preventing Readers from Suspending Disbelief. Experienced writers know all about (or should) avoiding the things on Kim’s hit list–incorrect facts, clichés, plot holes big enough to drive a truck through (oh, sorry), and the wrong kinds of character behaviors, but this is a good review for new writers.
  • Writers’ conferences can be a terrific asset for writers, new or experienced, but only if the potential attendee picks wisely and well. Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) offers A Crash Course on Writers’ Conferences on his Writing the World blog.

Moving on to the business stuff, we find:

  • Victoria Strauss (@VictoriaStrauss) adds another thoughtful, rational piece to the discussion on the publishing industry with her Writer Beware post Vanity, Vanity: Turning the Label Around. Strauss calls for an end to the “vanity” versus “legacy” name-calling and distorted story-telling advocates on both sides are engaging in and refocusing on producing quality work, irrespective of how it’s published. Hear hear!
  • Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) addresses one of the possible reasons for all the name-calling in his somewhat long Writer Unboxed post ‘Social’ Media: Author Ignorance. Porter’s central point is that if you’re going to speak out on the issues surrounding what’s going on in the publishing world right now, it’s wise to have the real facts, not what your own beliefs and biases tell you are the “facts.”

Enough of that serious stuff, let’s have some fun.

  • For starters, Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) follows up on the Bulwer-Lytton contest with one of his own on Writer Unboxed: the “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest: Seeking Awful Plot Ideas. Instead of an awful opening line, Chuck wants to see your ideas for horrible “loglines”–those one-sentence (60 words maximum) descriptions of a story’s plot. Want to play? You’ve got until 11:59 PM Pacific time on September 3rd to submit your (maximum of 2) loglines. See the post for the rest of the rules.
  • And finally, Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) must have had too much time on his hands over the weekend 😉 because he came up with this: The Publishing Process in GIF Form. I’m not sure I want to know where he came up with all of these animated GIF clips but, well, just take a look.

Have a great week. I’m off to a radio interview on writing in a few hours. Should be fun. (No web link, unfortunately, or I’d invite you to listen in.)

TFOB 2012

Well, another Tucson Festival is in the books, you should pardon the pun.  I’ll bet everyone who went can feel a few muscles–walking muscles, stair-climbing muscles, book-toting muscles, and writing muscles.

I didn’t take a lot of notes this year but would like to share a few points I found worth jotting down.

T. C. Boyle, novel and short story writer:

  • Take an ordinary event, such as a man not wanting to go to work, and see how you can up the stakes, push it over the top.

Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig:

  • When you can’t believe in yourself, you can believe in your animals.
  • When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Sometimes it’s an animal.
  • If you’re writing about animals, ask why you were attracted animals in the first place.  What do you get out of your relationships with animals?

Ilie Ruby, Naomi Benaron, & Sarah McCoy – panel discussion, Capturing a Sense of Place in Fiction:

  • Capture the moment when everything changes for good or ill.
  • History and myth can add depth to a setting.  Show what it has come to mean in people’s minds.
  • Capture the voice that makes you want to write.  Then just write the story.

William Pitt Root, poet and teacher:

  • What do you need to be in touch with in order to write well?

Richard Russo, Margaret Coel, & Louis Bayard – panel discussion on Edgar Allan Poe:

  • Remember to get to the interior life of all your characters.  Villains are people.  They have mothers, too.
  • Everything a character experiences in a story prepares him/her to face himself/herself and  the external challenge at the story’s climax.
  • Read “up”–that is, read work that is better than yours is at the moment.  Read like a writer.  See how good writers achieve the effects that make their work excellent.

Alison Hawthorne Deming, Heid Erdrich, Ofelia Zepeda – Layers of Knowing – poetry reading & discussion:

  • Efforts are being made to save indigenous languages that may contain ways of knowing that we need for survival.
  • Arts improve empathy between individuals and between people of different generations.

Pam Houston, writer of fictionalized memoir (I’d recommend Sight Hound)

  • Looking for something to write about?  Feel around for your own emotional bruises and press on them.
  • Shine the light as strongly on yourself as you do on others.

Hope there’s something useful in this potpourri of ideas.