Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 10-12, 2012

Spent the weekend at the TusCon science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention. Had a great time and learned a lot, too. Many thanks and kudos to the Baja Arizona Science Fiction Association (BASFA) for putting on their 39th con!

The downside of convention-going, of course, is catching up, which I’m now doing…with these results:

CRAFT

Clare Langley-Hawthorne has an interesting piece on The Kill Zone about Unreliable Narrators. Inspired by the first-person narrator of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Clare discusses the key things that make an unreliable narrator someone we still want to spend time with. If you’ve ever considered writing (or tried to write) such a character, stop on by to check out Clare’s insights.

We all know the dictum that writing is rewriting. And rewriting means deleting—drowning your darlings, killing your kittens, all that. But deleting material doesn’t have to mean that it’s gone for good and forever. The mechanics and rationale for that are the subject of KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) Why Writers Should Never Hit Delete on her WORDplay blog. Her technique—moving to-be-removed material to a separate file—is one approach; there are others. In any case, it’s material you can get back if needed. And sometimes you need to.

Back at The Kill Zone, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) discusses The Perils of Internet Information, especially how easy it is for something supposedly true can be spread around as if it were. Jim’s article centers around various famous quotes, but of course the message is much broader.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nina Badzin (@NinaBadzin) has a terrific post on Writer Unboxed about How to Tweet so People Will Listen. What I particularly liked about this post was, rather than being a list of don’ts, it suggests good ideas and explains why they’re good (okay, plus some bad ideas and why they’re bad, but just a few).

Nathan Bransford’s (@NathanBransford) guest poster Jon Gibbs (@jongibbs) takes care of the negative side with his 10 Marketing Techniques That Annoy Potential Readers. Not all of these are done on social media (and, to be honest, I saw some of them used at TusCon) and some of them are just flat astonishing but yes, people really do them. (This is one of three posts that came to my attention via Joel Friedlander’s weekly summary on The Book Designer.)

BUSINESS

Robert Lee Brewer (@robertleebrewer) offers several great tips for how to Develop a Slogan to Help Your Author Platform on his My Name Is Not Bob blog. The key points are that a good slogan builds an identity and communicates value while distinguishing you from your competition. Big companies and political campaigns have known this forever but writers can benefit from it too.

That said, however, Dan Blank (@DanBlank) has an exceptional piece on We Grow Media titled What We Leave Behind—The Real Meaning of Your Platform as a Writer. The title is almost longer than the post but this one part is so good I have to quote it here: “The effect you have on others is the platform. The meaning and purpose behind your work is the platform. The information you share that reshapes someone’s understanding is the platform. The story that inspires and opens new doors – that is the platform.” Wow. Kinda puts things into a different (and better) perspective, doesn’t it? (This piece also came via Joel Friedlander.)

Finally, and again via Joel Friedlander, a very cool set of Tools for Testing Your Ebooks from the PressBooks Blog. The authors list 7 (and provide links to 6) tools that let you look at your ebook in EPUB and PDF formats as they will appear on various ereaders so you can be sure they’re okay before you actually publish. Man, can this ever save heartache!

That’s what I found. What have you found out there on the blogosphere that’s worth sharing? Post your suggestions in the Comments.

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 8, 2012

Happy Hump Day, everyone. Just one post on craft today, a couple or three on the business side, and one on food and books, just for fun.

  • Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) brings us the craft piece on her WORDplay blog with her advice on how to Improve Your Character Instantly: Just Add a Ghost. Now, this ghost doesn’t have to be a literal ghost, it can be, and often will be, a figurative one–something from the character’s past that haunts her. As Kim points out, the haunting adds back story and voilá, the character’s more interesting.
  • On to business, now. Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) presents the first in a multi-part series of My Best Advice for First-Time Authors. The post itself contains just a thumbnail summary of the contents of the 38 minute podcast, but you can also download a PDF transcript from a link at the bottom of the blog page. The value in this piece isn’t that there’s a lot of new information–at least not if you’ve been working on learning about the business for any time at all–but that it’s all in one convenient package. And since Hyatt is a former publisher, this information is credible. One last note, this material is focused more on non-fiction than fiction, but substitute “query” for “book proposal,” for example, and it fits the fiction-writing world, too.
  • Nick Thacker offers advice on How to Build the Writing Platform of Your Dreams Using Social Media on Write to Done. This, of course, is a topic of interest for everyone who’s trying to figure out how to do this without “platform” and social media becoming massive time-sucks, so most of Thacker’s suggestions have to do with software tools to automate various processes. I haven’t used (or even heard of) any of the tools he suggests, so I can’t comment on them. And, of course, automation is only one part of building a quality and time- and effort-reasonable platform.
  • Michelle Griep (@MichelleGriep) lists three Author FAQs she gets from people when they find out she’s a writer. Her commenters add more. Many of them are surprising. Some are quite revealing. This list could grow and grow.
  • And we’ll finish with something funny, Robert Bruce’s (@robertbruce76) When Books Make You Hungry on 101 Books. Why yams got so many mentions, I have no idea. Because they sound funny? Why not kumquats, then? Or rutabagas? It’s a mystery.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 31, 2012

Back to busy days, again. Today we’re covering the range from craft to publication.

  • We’ll start with the very most basic of skills: grammar, spelling,and  punctuation. This first article actually wasn’t a blog post but an article in the Harvard Business Review, which I found thanks to Brian Klems (@BrianKlems) and the Writer’s Digest e-newsletter. Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) writes I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why. Now, Mr. Wiens runs a couple of businesses that are writing-focused, but then, so do we. If we claim to be writers, but can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re, is our claim legitimate? Don’t think so.
  • Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) continues her series of posts on what she learned at ThrillerFest with a post on Plot and Story Structure, in which she introduces us to Daniel Palmer’s 4-step approach: The Rhino, The “What if?”, The McGuffin, The Characters. Which would you think is most important? Answer at the end of the post.
  • Jeanne Kisacky introduces us on Writer Unboxed to Writing in the Discomfort Zone, the idea that getting out of what makes us comfortable is what gets us into our best writing.
  • Transitioning us out of “craft” and into what I might call “post-production” topics, Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) recommends 15 Resources for Pro Bloggers (or those who want to be). While most of these tools are specific to blogs and blogging, and two (Byword and Mars Edit) are Mac-specific with no Windows counterpart mentioned, a few, like Evernote and SnagIt should be useful even to those who don’t (yet) blog.
  • Speaking of blogging and “platform” in general, Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) posts a provocative discussion on “Shadowy Platforms” on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog. The platforms he’s referring to aren’t locations for thrillers or mystery novels, but all the ways the whole platform-building enterprise can be a time-suck for writers.
  • Moving beyond “platform” to querying, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) reprises a 2010 post on The Top Ten Querying Mistakes authors can make (plus a bonus one). The info’s good but be sure to check out the street sign in the photo, too. 🙂
  • And last but not least, we go back to controversy with Kathleen Pickering’s (@KatPickering) Kill Zone post, Kirkus Indie: When a Review Is Good for You. The thing that gets Kathleen’s commenters so riled up is that authors pay for the reviews on Kirkus Indie, the independent-publishing side of Kirkus Reviews magazine. For those of you who have never heard of them, Kirkus provides reviews to librarians, bookstores, publishers, agents, and other movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. A positive review is A Very Good Thing. And hard to come by. BUT! There’s no guarantee that buying a Kirkus Indie review will get an author a good review (morally, that’s as it should be), but that also means the author might pay as much as $575 for something he or she can’t use (morally, that’s questionable: is Kirkus exploiting authors’ need for approval to improve their bottom line?). So as you might imagine, the commentary to Kathleen’s post is, shall we say, animated.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 26, 2012

Going to do something different today and start with the fun stuff.

  • Would you believe a red British double-decker bus that does push-ups? Michael Swanwick found it, and it’s One Buff Bus.
  • Michelle Gagnon (@MichelleGagnon) invites everyone to play Tag Line Haiku on The Kill Zone. “Tag line haiku?” Yup. Use tag lines from books or movies to create haiku poems.
  • Maybe this isn’t “fun,” exactly, but it is interesting. Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) announces on 101 Books that The Folio Society is about to produce The Sound and The Fury…In Color! Now, if you’ve read Faulkner’s masterpiece, you know it’s no easy read, especially the first chapter, Benji’s. Faulkner himself was aware of how confusing that chapter was (he should have been!) and told his publisher he wished sections could be printed in different colors so readers could better keep track of what was happening when. It couldn’t be done then, but it can now, and it’s about to happen.
  • OK, back to fun. John Vorhaus @TrueFactBarFact) advises us on Writer Unboxed to not be shy about Taking the Win, that is, enjoying that moment when we finish something, be it a scene, a day’s tough work, or a draft, especially the first draft. As someone who’s just days away from declaring draft #6 of my WIP done and good enough to be sent to an editor, this is advice I’m ready and willing to take!

But we can’t be all fun today, can we? Well, we could, but there are some good craft-related posts to tell you about, too.

  • Becca Puglisi (@BeccaPuglisi) of The Bookshelf Muse scores two guest posts on the same day on the topics of tension and conflict.
    • The first one, Becca Puglisi on Conflict vs. Tension on A Writer’s Journey discusses the difference between these two closely-related subjects, how a scene can have conflict without tension, and what to do if that happens.
    • Then, on Writing, Reading, and Life, she examines Tension-Building Tips, Rowling Style, using Jo Rowling’s techniques from book 5 of the Harry Potter series. If you haven’t read the book (what? you haven’t?), the story references will be a bit of a mystery, but hang with it and all will become clear.
  • Finally, Erin Reel (@TheLitCoach) guest posts on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about one writer’s journey From Blog to Book: Building an Online Platform. Now, at first blush, this post might not seem relevant to you: it’s about a woman who wanted to publish a book on the first year of raising twins. While Erin’s tips are focused on non-fiction, where established author expertise is a requirement, at least some of her suggestions can apply to fiction writers, too.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 22, 2012

BUSY Sunday! That’s good. Off we go.

  • Gotta start by returning a favor and giving out a big THANK YOU to Harvey Stanbrough (@hstanbrough) who, while Taking a Little Break today put these Great Stuff posts at the very top of his list of resources for writers, even ahead of his own web site and editing, cover design, and e-publishing services. Wowsers! Thanks, Harvey. (I should note that he also posted a correction to the original post regarding the pricing of his services. If you plan on using them–and I do, soon–then this is something you’ll want to be clear on.)
  • While we’re on the subject of resources, Joel Friedman’s (@jfbookman) This Week in the Blogson The Book Designer has five excellent posts, including:
  • Seeming to stay in the general area of e-publishing, James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) piece It’s No Longer an Either/Or Publishing World and Other Notes from ThrillerFest on The Kill Zone has some terrific stuff on the craft side, more so than the e-pub side. There’s this keeper from super-agent Donald Maass (@donmaass): “Backstory is not just for plot motivation, but deep character need.” Then there’s Jamie Raab’s list of “game-changer” thrillers and her or Jim’s discussion of why they were: in short, they did something “more” than thrillers before them had done. What were the books, and what “more” did they do? You’ll have to go read the post to find out. 😉
  • Sticking with craft, K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) asks, What’s the Purpose of Your Scene? on her WORDplay blog. For my tastes, her method of figuring out the answer is a bit mechanistic, but what she’s aiming for is just right.
  • Lastly, we’ll head over to @ProBlogger for Matthew Turner’s (@turndog_million) 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement. The rules aren’t new, and they’re not iron-clad rules, but this is certainly a list of smart practices.

And with that, I’ve completed my 100th post! A milestone reached.