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.

Suggested Reading

Probably the people who make the most money off of writing, as a group, are those who publish books on writing and give writing seminars.  It’s easy to spend a lot of money on these things with no assurance that our work will see publishing/financial success.

But what are we to do? Most of us didn’t apprentice to successful writers when we were ten years old, and the colleges and universities didn’t offer creative writing programs until more recently. We have to get our education where we can.

That said, I’d like to recommend a book on writing–Les Edgerton’s Hooked, about short story and novel beginnings and structure.

Putting what I learn into practice is the big deal for me.  I can’t keep the notes from dozens of books and seminars in front of me, consulting them constantly while I write  and revise.  Does that information sink into the undifferentiated mass of stuff in my subconscious and surface automatically when I need it?  I hope so, but often I’m unsure.

For me, the three most important elements of learning are repetition, repetition, and repetition.  Did I mention repetition?  Edgerton is a pro at reviewing concepts, building on them, and solidifying his ideas in the reader’s mind.

He also suggests an exercise I found useful.  It involves taking a number of novels, short stories, and movies you’re familiar with and identifying the three basic elements he wants us to be aware of:

  • the inciting incident that causes the protagonist’s initial surface problem;
  • the surface problem caused by the inciting incident; and
  • the underlying psychological problems that now must be addressed.

Doing this exercise has honed my awareness and has given me ideas to improve my existing fiction.  It’s also turned my head around regarding the opening to my memoir.

I’d like to suggest Hooked to writers who haven’t discovered it yet–and urge my fellow bloggers to respond with books that have helped them and at least one way they were able to internalize what they learned.