Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 18-22, 2012

Go on the road for a few days and the Great Stuff (and laundry) starts to pile up. So much that I’ve decided to put out a bonus Great Stuff post tomorrow. (The laundry’s already taken care of.) Today I’ll focus on articles on craft and the writer’s life. Tomorrow will be all business. Here we go.

CRAFT

I’ll confess right up front that I’m no fan of writing prompts and exercises—I’m BUSY, dammit!—so when Jane Friedman posted 3 Steps for Using Prompts to Writer Better & Get Published by Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA), I was a bit dubious. OK, more than a bit. But Gabriela’s approach is practical: use writing prompts to build writing stamina through practice, improve your skill at specific techniques, then apply what you’ve learned to a project. If you’re not sure about using writing prompts, give the post a look and the suggestions a try.

Characters’ emotions are at the heart of fiction, so David Farland’s (@davidfarland) Surprising Emotions: How Will Your Character React? on The Bookshelf Muse immediately grabbed my attention. Even better, his article offers three surprising (to the reader) ways of presenting emotion. The surprises are having the character: under-react, over-react, or react the “wrong” way. Used with care, these reactions will reveal something interesting or important about a character, and readers are always up for that.

James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Baloney Advice Writers Should Ignore on The Kill Zone shouldn’t just raise a smile—or an out-loud laugh—it should clear away the fog of bad (or at least questionable) advice that gets handed out to new writers. Check out his five bad pieces of advice and the counterexamples that prove them wrong.

CRAFT AND LIFE

I decided to use that subhead because these next two pieces live on that boundary between a writer’s craft and his or her life.

Anna Elliott (@anna_elliott) gets us started by Exploding the Perfect Writer Myth on Writer Unboxed. We’ve all run into it, probably, particularly from non-writers: the belief that a writer’s words come out as perfect pearls perfectly strung the first time we put them down on paper or screen. HA! Worse, of course, is the new writer who believes that’s what he’s just done. That’s a painful critique group meeting! But the flip side, as Elliott points out, is that nagging, secret belief that we should produce those perfect pearls each time. That’s why, she says, it’s so important to love the revision process.

So you got the darn thing DONE and it’s out there in reader-land. KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) thoughts about How to Tell if Your Book Is a Success on WORDplay center around each writer’s personal definitions of success and failure. Her 14 questions just begin to scratch the surface of the topic, focused as they are on ratings and money, but they’re a place to start the conversation—one that’s good to have before that book comes out.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Dr. Rita Hancock (@ritahancockmd) addresses preventing a problem that many writers have to deal with: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on WordServe Water Cooler. She covers the symptoms, diagnostics (which don’t sound like any fun at all), treatments, and most important, how to prevent the condition in the first place. Hint: it has to do with sitting position, arm angles, and keyboard height. Sound complex? It’s not. Check it out.

Finally, Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) suggests 12 Ways to Make Your Critique Group Effective. Twelve may sound like a lot but a few are one-time-only actions and the rest become automatic parts of how the group runs quickly. Practical and effective.

That’s all for today. What Great Stuff have you found? Share it in the comments below.

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.