Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, February 12 & 13, 2013

Hope you’re not a triskaidekaphobe! Today’s double-13 day, and tells you it is: 2-13-13, or 13-2-13, if you prefer. Thirteen what to thirteen? Which reminds me of Albert the Alligator, a character from the old Pogo comic strip, for whom the 13th day of the month was always Friday the Thirteenth, even if it was a Wednesday.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Not a darn thing, as far as I can tell. In fact, you’re double-lucky to be finding out about today’s Great Stuff. Read on!

CRAFT

Here’s some really practical advice that we can all use: Writing Gender-Specific Dialogue from the Writer’s Digest There Are No Rules blog. Excerpted from a book by romance writer Leigh Michaels (@leighmichaels), the piece gives advice to women on how men think and act, and hence speak, and vice versa for men writing female characters. For example, women know and notice which colors go together and which don’t, while men generally don’t notice or care. That reminded me of a woman in my writer’s group who had a (straight) male character noticing that a woman’s eyes matched the color of her uniform. Um, sorry, no. We ad-dress-ed that. 😉 Have you run into this kind of thing? How did you address it?

Some writers like to have music playing in the background when they’re writing. Not me, it’s too distracting. But if you’re like Ann Aguirre (@MsAnnAguirre) and Let Music Set the Mood when you’re writing, you’ll definitely get her piece on Writer Unboxed today. But even if you’re not a writer/listener, there’s something for you here: a song may not set your mood, but it can set the story’s mood or reveal something about a character. In my first novel, one of my characters is a fan of rock music from the ‘60s to ‘80s and snippets from those songs will pop into her head from time to time, usually at high-stress moments. It tells you something about her and adds a new dimension to the scene. Do you do anything like this?

You might not expect to find advice on story-telling on ProBlogger, but that’s what Gregory Ciotti (@HelpScout) offers in The Science of Storytelling: 6 Ways to Write More Persuasive Stories. The piece is based on research by Dr. Philip Mazzocco and Melanie Green having to do with court arguments, but their six keys apply in fiction too. They are: audience, realism, delivery, imagery, structure, and context. Space doesn’t permit me to discuss them here, but slide on over and check out the article.

BUSINESS

So, we’ve all heard that the job’s not over when the writing’s done when it comes to books, right? Sure, but what exactly does that mean? Enter Boyd Morrison’s (@boydmorrison) What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to be Published,  a list of 31—that’s right, 31—things that you’ll do after you get that magical phone call saying your book has been accepted for traditional publication. Indie publishers: think the list doesn’t apply to you? Wrong-o, Kindle breath! Of course, some steps won’t, at least as written. But many will in one form or another, and often they’re entirely on you to do, rather than in response to a request from the publisher. A real reality check here.

Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) has published many articles on e- and print book design, so Book Design Quick Tips for Self-Publishers doesn’t have anything really new, except for a hint at the end about something he’s going to be launching soon—a book layout service, maybe? But this pretty long but useful post lays out the basics in simple terms. This stuff isn’t cosmic or über-technical and you shouldn’t fear it. Take the time to study and absorb it and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) is releasing a new novel and using the free option on KDP Select for a few days. More important for other writers planning to self-publish is the other information on where and how to get publicity and reviews she offers in the FREE on Kindle post. If this is something to do, check out the post.

Looking into what the future might hold for Nancy, J A Konrath (@JAKonrath) discusses his recent experiences with having some of his books sold via KDP Select in his post Amazon Numbers. Three lessons to learn: (1) despite what he says, being a “name” in the business helps. It’s not required but your sales numbers will be better when you’re known than when you’re still an unknown. (2) Giving the book away for free boosts for-cash sales. I’m reading Cory Doctorow’s The Problem Is Obscurity right now, and he makes the same point. (Beats you over the head with it, actually.) (3) The more titles you have for sale, the better. Konrath closes this long post with two other discussions. He doesn’t like Amazon’s demand for exclusive sales fights for 90 days if you sign up for KDP Select (no one but Amazon seems to), and self-publishing gives you control over your work, which is a good thing.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Writing advice from @NathanBransford in <141 characters. It’s better than you might expect. (27 characters left.)

THE WRITING LIFE

I could have put Keith Cronin’s (@KeithCronin) Write Like You Mean It up in the Craft section, but since it’s really about attitude—making the effort to make anything you write a piece of quality writing—it fits better here. Keith’s piece is pretty long but he uses that length to approach the basic thesis—if you want to be considered a professional writer, write like one whenever you write, even on Twitter or Facebook—from a variety of different angles with the intent that if one doesn’t resonate with you, another one will. What do you think? Is this your approach?

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Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, November 27 & 28, 2012

WOWSERS, is the season of giving ever upon us—and I’m not talking about shopping, unless you mean shopping for great information on writing and publishing out there on the blogosphere. Check out today’s jam-packed line-up of articles, starting right now with

CRAFT

Today’s three pieces form an interesting contrast between themselves and between the cultures and to some extent between the demands of “literary” and “genre” fiction. We’ll start with Barbara O’Neal’s (@barbaraoneal) Cornerstones of Excellence: the Art of Detail on Writer Unboxed. While I certainly don’t disagree with her point that the right details in the right places can create depth and insight that a story without them would lack, I guess it’s my bias that there’s such a thing as too much, too. I’m just not a fan of spending so much time querying a character, for example—especially within the piece—that the story ends up getting lost. The “right” amount of detail for a particular story depends in part on the genre it’s a part of.

So it’s no surprise, then, that freelance thriller editor Jodie Renner (@JodieRennerEd) would have a different take on details in Writing Tense Action Scenes on The Kill Zone. Her dozen techniques for writing these scenes, plus before-and-after-editing examples, are excellent for any writer whose work includes action scenes, irrespective of genre. Even “literary!”

And then we get Writing Advice from Somerset Maugham on Michael Swanwick’s Flogging Babel blog. The advice is a couple of quotes from his introduction to a collection of his own work. Swanwick sums it up thusly: “Gonnabe writers should keep this in mind:  Advice from writers on how to write the sort of thing they themselves write is usually very good.  Their advice on what not to write, however, is always suspect.” Bloggers (and their readers) beware! J

SOCIAL MEDIA

Lori Lynn Smith (@lorilynnsmith) provides a very long but very thorough resource in The First 7 Steps to a Successful Social Media Plan for Writers on Write to Done. Not just bullet points but hows and whys for each step. This post happens to be particularly timely for me and my writers’ group as it’s something we’re starting to pay more attention to. I’ll be spending more time with this post, that’s for sure.

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) 10 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog is a terrific complement to Smith’s piece. Also long but full of links to other resources, this one is definitely another one to linger with.

And then there’s Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) ‘Social’ Media: ‘Sharing’ Our Narcissism, also on Writer Unboxed, which isn’t really a counterpoint as much as a sanity check: does everything we “share” on our social media platforms really have value to all our followers, friends, connections, circles, etc., or some of them, or, if we’re not a foodie writing for foodies, does anyone really care what we had for lunch? Not just a rant, Anderson provides three tips for better SM posts.

BUSINESS

Jordyn Redwood’s (@JordynRedwood) One Hundred Thirty-Eight Points and Bestseller Lists on WordServe Water Cooler ponders numbers and what they mean, whether in a college basketball game or on somebody’s bestseller list. You probably won’t be surprised to learn her take is that it depends on whether and how the points were earned. Kinda hearkens back to the kerfuffle of a month or so ago about the purchased and ghost-written reviews, doesn’t it? The desperation to get ahead can be a sad thing.

Speaking of which, maybe you haven’t heard that Simon & Schuster is the latest publishing house to sign on with Author Solutions, Inc., a company that’s made it (bad) reputation by selling packages of “services,” that could be done for little or no cost, to naïve authors for substantial amounts of money—in some cases in the tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not kidding. Dean Wesley Smith (@deanwesleysmith) basically says, “didn’t I tell you this was coming?” in his New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly article Smith links to.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Do You Have Impostor Syndrome? What in the world is that? It’s that feeling that you really don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re just an impostor writer (or agent, in her case), or whatever. We’ve all had that, haven’t we—those days when the words won’t come, when our characters go on strike, when our plot drifts off into the wrong morass—definitely NOT the one we wanted the characters to get into! Oh, yeah. When that happens, Gardner writes, that’s the time to remember those days when things DO go right, when the words sing, when the plot flows, when you’re confident in saying, “This is what I do.”

KM Weiland (@KMWeiland) says much the same thing in Tempted to Give Up on Your Story? Don’t! In her last in the series on what she learned from writing her latest book, she talks about how she had those give-up days but didn’t give in to them, and as a result, she’s now able to promote that book.

WHEW! Told you there was a lot of Great Stuff out there today! But surely that wasn’t everything. What did you find?

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 15, 2012

Surprisingly busy Sunday, so let’s get right to it, shall we? We’ll go from the inside of the book to the outside, and beyond–but not quite, as Buzz Lightyear would have said, “To infinity–and beyond!” 😉

  • Starting between the (book) covers, James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) offers Writing Advice from John Steinbeck on The Kill Zone, and comments on same. (Hmm, maybe my writers’ group members will listen to Steinbeck’s advice to read work aloud; I don’t have the street cred, apparently.)
  • In a closely related vein, K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) lists 10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask on WORDplay. It’s a good list although I would have liked her caveat against info-dumping to come earlier, as answers to at least these two questions–what does the character look like, what is the narrator’s relation to the other characters–are vulnerable to the info-dump.
  • Stepping outside the covers now, Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) shows the book covers submitted for his June e-Book Cover Design Awards contest on The Book Designer. This isn’t just a contest. Joel also critiques the covers, and if he’s not pleased with a cover, he’ll say so and say why. Worth studying.
  • Finally, we’ll step away from the book entirely and into the writer’s workspace. This topic feels to me like it ought to be on Pinterest, but, hey, it’s just for fun. Besides, now that Harvey Stanbrough’s (@hstanbrough) A Space of One’s Own on Writing the World is the third posting on the topic in the last two weeks or so, maybe there’s something going on. While Harvey’s piece is text-only, Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) hosted the previous two (first one here, second one here), complete with pix. (Note: beware the green-eyed monster!)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!