Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Stephie Smith's Writers' Resources

Stephie Smith's Writers' Resources is just that - quite the bubbling  over resource.  No articles or tips or anything like that.  Just links, lots of links to resources on all things writing - categorized.  Visit, check it out. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Writer's Drafting Zone

Let's face it, we writers produce 'drafts' before we come up with our final story. That's the way it works.  Don't think there are many (if any) writers who can crank out a great story on the first stroke with no changes, see it published and go to best-seller. 

So Here's a bit of advice when you're drafting. 

First create your mental quiet zone.  Unplug the phone, get the kids occupied elsewhere.  Do something to let your brain know it's time to write. Put on some favorite, quite music, chant a mantra, whatever it takes to set the stage and give the signal it's time to begin.

Then, don't begin actual drafting until you've created an outline of some sort for yourself, you know, a plan.  Doesn't have to be formal, just something that points the way.  Know your characters before you begin, maybe keep a notebook page on each one.  You don't want to have to ask yourself, "What is my protagonist, John Smith, going to do?"  You need to know how he'll react. Know the story you want to tell.  Hopefully have an ending in mind, where you want to take your tale.  Make notes by hand or in a digital file so you can remember where you're going later after you're hot and heavy into your story and maybe you lose track of exactly where you intended to go. 

Okay, ready to get some words up on that screen?  Now is the time to keep in mind that drafting is not about quality, it's about getting that story down on paper (or up on the screen).  It's about getting it out there.  Don't make yourself crazy about details here, just get the story in your head onto the page.  Use placeholders, whaterver it takes to get the story down.  Don't allow yourself to linger over every phrase or to continually go backwards to tweak what you've already written.  Keep moving forward. You can always toss notes into you draft in parenthesis (those placeholders I mentioned above) or using the note function of your word processor.  Then worry about those changes and additions later, in the next, polishing draft.  Constantly going back means you'll never finish the novel.  Again, keep moving forward.

And finally, make writing a habit.  Set aside definite times when you can write and stick to it.  And when you're writing don't allow yourself to be distracted by anything on the web.  Don't open a browser. Create goals for yourself whether it's so many words or an alloted amount of time and unless there's an emergency like  your kid just fell off the roof, stick to it.

There, that's it. That's how to get your first draft out there.  And actually, it's the easiest part of writing.

Now go write something.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Writer Gazette

Writer Gazette offers writing-related articles, tips, contests, resources and a free weekly newsletter. Worth hanging out at this site for a bit to see what resources here can help you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Gifts For Writers

As I was doing my snow shoveling this morning in a meditative state it occurred to me it's not to late to think about holiday gifts for writer friends, relatives, and even yourself.  And don't forget the other occasions that crop up during the year.

It occurred to me as shovel shushed through snow and I heaved it to the side  that money could be short.  It certainly is for a lot of people these days.

So, what to do?

Well, I just received a wonderful compliment on Twitter where one of my followers, StartYourNovel proclaimed me the ultimate link hunter.  I do keep my eye out for things that a writer might be interested in with the thought firmly in place that  many writers, especially those beginning, might not be cash flush.

So here's my suggestion.  Consider putting together a nice list of links that provide free or low cost help for writers.  I'll give you a few today in case the idea appeals.

There's Open Office Suite  which has word processing (including PDF conversion capabilities), draw, spreadsheets and more. It's free to download and works well.

There's Plot Shot  that offers random plot lines for those Writer's block days.

You might include Sci Fi writer Scott Card's site - Hatrack River  "Uncle Orson" offers writing lessons, articles and more for the writer.

PlotBot  is great for screenwriters a way to write screenplays online alone or with friends. You just register.

Like Random Generators  to help spark ideas for names, places, plots? There are a bunch of them here.

Know about Writers FM?   the radio station for writers by writers offering interviews and music.

Know a screenwriter who needs to read scripts, yourself maybe? Get 'em here at Drew's Script-o-rama  free.

Want a way to organize your querys, track them, and find places to send them? Query Tracker  is also free.  Read the terms.

Here's a good one - The Fiction Writers Guide to Psychology  she is selling her book, but the resources here are free.

For a great name generator try the Vitorian Steampunk Name Generator

Looking for an agent? Try Agent query 

There are a lot more out there, but you get the idea.  A great gift to give and one that would be greatly appreciated for any occasion!

Oh, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - QueryTracker

Here's a great site for the writer sending his or her material out to agents and publishers.  QueryTracker. It's free to join but your success statistics are collected. Still they have a lot of agents and publishers listed and provide tools to manage your query letters It's been one of Writer's Digest 101 best Websites for four years in a row now.  Check it out. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing Vision

The word Vision can be interpreted by different people in different ways so lets not get hung up on the word.  What I'm talking about is your Writing Vision, i.e. a specific goal. What you, as a writer want to accomplish, to do, to have in your life or what you expect your writing to become.

If you were a Doctor you might specialize in heart or lungs or brain.  If you were an Attorney you might focus on domestic law or educational law or litigation.

But you're not, you're a writer so you have two areas to focus.  You need to know where you want your career to go and you need to have a mental map for where you want each book you write to go (assuming you are writing books; if not you need to define what kind of writing you want to pursue).

Why do you need these images in your head?  The answer is simple.  It clarifies things for you and gives you direction.  It gives you a solid basis for saying "yes" or saying "no" to projects and work that comes your way. It provides a place to come back to in order to avoid getting sidetracked by other people's and yes, even your own great ideas. If you have it mapped out in your mind what's right for your career and what might not fit then you'll be able to recognize that rare opportunity when it comes along, the one that is exactly what you're working toward.

So take a few minutes to clear your mind and ask yourself some questions.

1. What kind of writing do you want to do?
    Short Stories

2. If you write books, what kind do you want to write?
    Horror/thriller like Stephen King & Dean Koontz
    Romance like Sherilynn Kenyon
    Many other types of romance

3. Want to work with a publisher - what kind?
    Top tier
    Small Press
    Into self publishing

4. Visualize your reader - Who is it?
    (no, you can't simply say everybody)

Write down what you come up with.  Keep it close to hand.  When you have a clear idea, a definitive direction you want to take your writing career in you know what conferences you might attend, what writing offers you'll accept, what agent you might approach, what publishing houses you might contact, what reference books might appeal, which other authors you should have on your reading list and a whole lot more.  The process becomes that much more simple.

And, of course, when you tackle what you expect from yourself for each book you undertake, or screenplay you write or article assignments you accept, as long as it fits your career goals you'll have plenty of wiggle room on the variety of your endeavors.

Got a book in progress?  Step back, think about it.

What category and if there is one, subcategory will this book fall into? (publishers/producers need to know this for promotion as well as for other reasons.)

Do you already have ideas for publishers or other outlets that would be interested in getting their hands on your book/script/article?

Have you thought about your audience? Who's your reader?

Seriously, write it down, and if you don't want to write it down, at least organize your thoughts.  What do you want?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Adventures in YA Publishing

Stumbled across a resource for those out there who are interested in Young Adult and Children's Publishing: Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing.  Produced by a couple of aspiring writers it offers helpful articles as they pursue publication, guest writers, links to contests and workshops and more.  A nifty little resource.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Hunt For Writers' Guidelines

You’re busy writing your heart out, but you know deep down that sooner or later you’re going to have to actually find a place to which you'll submit your writing. You may have bounced into a website or two, looked for guidelines and found nothing. Well I'm going to give you a few tips to help you find that information and do a professional submission that might actually get your work sold.  With my writing time so tight I sure do hate to waste it - bet you do to.

Fist of all here are some things you're going to need on your quest to find those guidelines:
    possibly a few bucks
    research abilities

Yep, all of that, and did I mention patience?  Um, yeah, that kicks in when you realize how much time you're wasting (well not wasting, but certainly how much of it is flying by) when you undertake this project.

For starters yes, visit the website of a publisher you're interested in. Poke around a bit. They call their guidelines a variety of things. Sometimes they’re located under “Write for Us” or “Submissions”, or “Submit a Story”. These are the easy ones. If you don’t see an out and out link to guidelines, visit the ‘about us’ section and see what you can dig up there. That’s where I’ve frequently found the submission information link. There are times when you swear they want to make it like a treasure hunt. 

The digital age - one person's logic is another's "huh?". 

Beyond that basic first step it’s amazing the kind of wild goose hunt publishers seem intent on sending you upon just to locate their contact information. Now, some writers claim they’re testing us, trying to see if we’re lazy or not and if we actually locate their information then, wow!, we’re not lazy after all. Or, some say, the publishers are testing us, trying to find out if we’re persistent enough to uncover the guidelines and if we are then we can research assignments. I’m not sure I buy either one, but the fact remains, it can be a real headache to locate them.

Then there are those, I swear, that you’ll never find on your own. I’ve spend amazing amounts of time pouring over sites only to be defeated. Either they don't want to put their contact information and guidelines out there on the web or they have a very inept web designer.  Whichever..

So here’s another approach. You can subscribe to writer's market online It’s about $5.99/mo. last time I looked and it’s very handy, online, at-your-fingertips information. If you prefer the actual book you can peruse that at your library or purchase a copy. Amazon usually has it at a good discount. And if you get the Deluxe edition for 2012 you receive a year's free subscription to the online edition which would be worth $72 on it's own.  I'm not pushing it, but it would probably worth your while to plunk down that money and get your own copy.   But, if you're stone broke, the library certainly will have a copy.

Amazon also has the “American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines: More than 1600 Magainze Editors and Book Publishers Explain What they are Looking for From Freelancers” by Stephen Blake Mettee, etc. - I've used it but unfortunately the latest edition is 2006.  You might have to search for a newer edition, if there is one. Or you can check it out at your local library.  A lot of the info would still apply.

Those are the basics. Get out there and start tracking them down. But, as you poise ready to do this, remember:
Do this when you have time to spare, not when trying to beat a deadline. Pressure makes it all the more frustrating.

Bookmark your sources once you find them.
Read the guidelines carefully once you get them and follow them to the letter.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Writer's resources

You might want to visit Para Publishing this week.  The site offers many resources for writers in many areas: fiction, non-fiction, promotion, publishing and more.  While you're there you might try out his free newsletter.  It was recommended by a publishing friend of mine and I've been happy to get it.  Since it is pretty broad-ranging you  might not find something every week for you, but there are enough kernels of information there each week to keep me skimming along in search of the next pearl. 

I'll be taking a break from this blog for the next week so you won't see anything  new.  But don't forget to check back Dec. 6 for  my next new post.  See you then!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Writer Beware - Agent Scams

We writers are generally a trusting lot.  We want to believe the 'agents' out there are going to represent us, get a sale and we'll both profit. 

And, most of the time there's validity to that hope/belief.  Most agents are legit, trying to make a living, and get downright excited on  many levels when their clients succeed.

But, there are the bad apples in the lot, as there are in any industry, and it's a good idea to know what red flags to watch for. 

Here are a few I've experienced or known about:

A.. Think about it carefully if an agent solicits you.  I got stung by this once earlier in my career after a couple of books had been published.  I loved the fact he approached me to represent me, but didn't do my research thoroughly enough and got stung.  That guy turned out to be a jerk of monumental proportions.  There are times an agent may approach you and it could be a very good thing, but don't just jump.  Check out the situation thoroughly first. Then decide.

B  If the agent you've contacted tells you your work is wonderful, fabulous, you're going to get rich - right after he/she does the needed editing - at a price, run, don't walk, in the other direction.

C. The agent charges a fee to read your manuscript.  Nope, no way.  Don't do it.

D. If an agent offers a contract the day after you sent your manuscript for his/her consideration, back off.  Be realistic.  Anyone needs some time to read your work.  If the offer is too quick you can be sure it hasn't been read.  So why, then, would he/she want to represent you?  Think about it.

E. Now here's one that should give every writer pause.  If the agent you've contacted replies with a letter that's written poorly and has many spelling errors think again.  And if his/her favorite manner of communication is through a form letter and he/she can't be bothered to pick up the phone or jot you a quick Email in response to a question or an opportunity, then this probably isn't the agent for you.

F. If an agent comes up with excuses as to why he/she can't/won't tell you who else they represent, consider it a warning.

G.  If you have an agent who 'represents' you, but dodges phone calls, never talks to you and doesn't want to discuss your work and where it's being sent, this is a very bad sign.  Run.

With all these warnings you might be thinking, gads, who wants an agent?  But as I said above, there are many reputable and great agents.  Just do your homework. Check out the red flags. If you see any whether from your own checking or hearing from other writers, keep looking. A reputable agent will recognize you are his/her client and your success is their success.  Don't let an agent intimidate you because he/she knows the business and you don't.  If the relationship doesn't feel comfortable from the start - then don't start it.

Keep looking.

Here are a few references that might be of help to you:
Agent Query   

Use your twitter account - search #agents #agencies #LiteraryAgents and be creative and thik of more and see what you come up with.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Introverted Writers Unite!

Seriously, writers, have you thought of how lucky us introverted types are to be writing in this age of the net?  There was the day when publishers very much preferred the author who as an extrovert.  One who got out there, hit the road, promoted his or her work with book signings, school visits, talks and more.  Writers who would get their faces out there and make of themselves, celebrities.  After all, it doesn't take a whole lot of work to promote when the writer already has a following, a 'brand' and a fan club. 

Can't blame them for that, really, they want to sell books.  Writers on the other hand just want to be left alone, emphasis on 'alone', to write their books.

So, the idea of going out, doing radio interviews, appearing on television and book signings doesn't cut it with most writers who are, at heart, introverts. 

But things are changing.  Us introverted writers have to open our eyes and realize ant those things are not the only ways to promote - or these days even the most effective ways to promote your books.  Us introverts have suddenly become much more valuable and at the same time have many more choices open to us. 

Yep, today, folks aren't reading print so much as they're online. There's a whole lot of reading going on, but it isn't the printed page. These days the writer can stay at home, write and promote.

Just think about it.  Amazon offers the opportunity for reviews by readers.  Book bloggers review as well, and the right blogger can be mighty influential.

Today, writers can send out review copies in Ebook format or in  hard copy. They can draft news releases, create their own blogs, mention their books in their Email signatures, Tweet, put up a Facebook page and much more.  Social media is the way to go, the way to say hi to your readers, get your face out there, and never leave home.

Ah, the new age for the new writer. Social media is where the readers, the buyers are and the introvert writers likes to spend time online, meet their readers and make new friends. 

Now tell me who's valuable?

 **note to my readers - this blog is posted a bit early as my office is about to be torn up for some construction...I think/hope I'll be able to post as usual next week though I may miss a Writers Wednesday Post this week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - GoodReads

Reader? Writer?  Have you stumbled on Good Reads yet?  Its an excellent site for both writers and readers. Readers can find great new books to read, folks to recommend them, groups to discuss them and giveaways to get free books and sometimes special deals. 

Writers get a great opportunity to connect with readers, to chat with them, to get their newest book into their hands and perhaps reviewed. A great community -take a bit of time to check it out.  

In fact, just for reading this far, I'll offer you 50% off my Global Ebook Award finalist novel, Stormrider.  Click this link and use promotional code SL67D at checkout. Take advantage of me while you can. The offer is good until the next Writers Website Wednesday post - November 16.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Marketing Your Novel - Tips & Insights

Come on, you know you're going to have to do it.  You're going to have to bite the bullet and put some time and, yes, money into the marketing of your novel whether you've self-published or published with a House.

When I mention money it's because in all probability you'll be putting in at least some real time appearances and will find yourself in the position of being asked for take-aways either from folks at a signing or personal appearance or from folks who put together 'goody bags' for conventions and conferences or maybe from bloggers who do giveaways for their readers.

So, while you can give away a copy of your Ebook easily online with no cost to you really, there are other things that work that are going to cost you something. And you probably want to keep a few things on hand so  as to avoid the mad scramble of trying to get personalized items on short notice.

So let's talk about some ideas.

Bookmarks with a picture of your book cover and your info on them are great.  They aren't the best for bookstores or conferences since almost everyone is handing them out there.  But I woldn't say no either.

Postcards are a great item.  They give you a bit more space to work with - book cover on one side, your book & personal info on the other, and maybe some space left to give to a fan with an autograph.  And I've seen a lot of folks using them as bookmarks so that postcard might have a longer life than we might expect. VistaPrint is one resource, there are many others. You can even  make a calendar there if you have enough material to creatively fill 12 'spots' of the year - then offer them as prizes or giveaways.

Buttons can be kind of cool and people frequently leave them pinned to things like totes, backpacks and vests.  Thing is, don't get one too clunking large and avoid the very tiny. Design is very important here.  Maybe just a bit of your cover and the website.

Magnets remain popular with people and they frequently find their way up onto refrigerators or stuck in cars or on the side of filing cabinets. That makes them a great giveaway and not too expensive either.

If your book is in  hard copy, be prepared to give some copies away.  Take advantage of the special price your publisher gives you and get them into the hands of reviewers, contest winners and the like. People love free stuff.  Ebook?  Even easier. And with an Ebook you can have cards printed up with a website where the book can be downloaded free.

There are plenty of other ways to promote yourself as well.  You can blog and work with other bloggers to do some cross-promoting and cross-bloggng.  If you don't want to have your own blog (and that's all right) you might be able to do the occasional 'guest blog' at a sight you like.  Contact the site's owner and ask. 

Do participate in some social networking - Twitter, Facebook, and others are out there. The goal is to make that persomal connection with your readers. To be real, and accessible.

What about personal appearances.  Yep, it's a good idea to do some of those as well.  The Book Tour isn't what it used to be, but getting your face out there is a big help.  Book signings are okay, and can be fun, but not the first line of attack these days. 

Book festivals are better.  Conferences are good.  School visits, if you write for that  age group are good too.

 You might think about getting a few T-shirts or coffee mugs with your book cover and info as giveaways.  That can get pricy, but a few, as contest prizes or special bonuses can be a good idea.  Cafe press is one place you can design and create your own 'stuff.'  There are others, maybe even locally, look
around.  The advantage of Cafe Press is you can order as little as one or two and you can create a store right there online if you want to 'sell' those T-shirts and mugs, etc. as a sideline. 

So make some effort, be creative, think of little things like pens or pencils, cards or postcards, notebooks and such you can stamp with your personal book cover and get into peoples' hands. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Off The Bookshelf

A site worth visiting for Readers and Writers - Off The Bookshelf offers for the readers print books, Ebook, audio books and more.  For the Writer there're tools for publishing, a cover art, Ebook converter and author services.  Spend a bit of time and look around. Times they are a changin' - and fast - good to keep up on what's available.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writing To An Audience or From Your Heart

--Or both.

Sigh, I thinks most writers have been told to write to the market. To train yourself by reading other books, books in your genre and out, books that are loved by reading groups and book clubs, books that win awards!

It's not a bad strategy in many regards. Writers must read. And studying the market is a plus, just as long as you add to that approach, the realization that you need to write to your strengths as well. 

Hopefully when you do it will all coalesce and you will be able to write to an audience you love where you can display your writing strengths and really pull a rabbit out of a hat. 
But, if that magic combination doesn't happen, then I strongly recommend you reconsider and direct your efforts to writing what you write best - THEN find your market. 
It's true, "the market"  can be a good thing, but just as true is the fact that markets can dry up, what was popular yesterday could well be defunct today. In other words, "the market" can crash. 

So, how to ensure you're not writing to a dying market? First, nothing is a 100% guarantee.  Sorry, just doesn't exist. 
Next, remember 'the market' is in constant change. Elements come and go.  Genres add back corners and subgenres. Yes, you need to be aware of the market, to track it, to constantly evaluate where your work fits in. To be aware of current market favorites and to be able to edit your book to fit current trends. Can a setting be changed, rural to urban, can the hero or heroine's job be transformed from one field to another? Can your narration be shifted from first to third or third to first? Can you add a sidekick, or another character to breathe more life into your plot?
But all the while, and I'll admit this sounds like I'm being contrary here, the most important thing is that the author remain fixed on his or her own voice and vision. Trends come and go.  The 'hot' market fades and something else surges to the fore. 
Instead of following the crowd wouldn't it be much better to be the writer who's writing what you love, telling your story with the greatest zeal, creating a new path, perhaps a new genre or subgenre?
Success is not guaranteed by that route either.  Not every new idea, every new leading edge created out of enthusiasm and passion will sell.  But the writer (unless a superstar) is not guaranteed a sale by writing to the market either. 
Balance is what is needed.  Awareness, familiarity with what's churning through the market, coupled with what you love to write will tip the odds in your favor.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Newbie's Guide To Publishing

Thriller writer J.A. Konrath uses his A Newbie's Guide To Publishing to share his opinions on the best practices for seeking tradition publication as well as on self publishing and digital editions. And he certainly isn't shy about it. A fun site for writers and readers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writers, Writing And The IRS

New Writer?  What if You're facing an IRS Audit? Or are you just trying to figure out how to keep it all straight so you'll be prepared should that happen?

This week I decided to get down and dirty and and practical and send up a few warning flags BEFORE tax season approaches.

We're writers, we love to play with words - numbers, not so much.

But writing is a business and if we want to be in the game and take full advantage of tax deductions in light of what writing costs US, then we better be on our toes and pay attention.

Ahead of when the tax man commeth.

So here are a few tips that you should be following all year long, not just as (horrors!) income tax deadline swings around.

The biggest thing you need to do is maintain good documentation of all your expenses.  Keep those receipts.  List them clearly in a notebook or if you're up for it, use an spreadsheet, learn just a little about basic bookkeeping and spread out your income and expenses in a professional way. Simple double entry bookkeeping is a snap and it's a great way for your to keep an eye on what's going on financially.

As a writer your expenses include things like postage, office supplies, reference books, computer hardware and software,  possible conference travel expenses, dues for membership in writing organizations, possible contest entry fees and possible web access fees (at least half can be attributed to your business if you're using it to send queries and proposals, do research and the like.)  Your expenses might also include mileage if you travel for your writing (keep a detailed mileage log if that is the case).  You might be able to claim a  home office which would include a portion of utility bills, home maintenance and repair bills, etc. (I, personally don't do the home office despite the fact I have one, for a lot of complicated personal financial reasons).  You might want to do some detailed research to be sure what you think is deductible really is.  A consulting visit with a bookkeeper or accountant to get you started would be a good idea.

Once you have a good grasp of what expenses are supported by your writing, keep good, clear records, save those receipts, and don't toss it all in a shoebox and expect someone else to figure it out.  What might take you just a few minutes a week to keep up with would take someone (or you!) hours at the end of the year to sort out. Don't let yourself get caught in that trap.

Track your income as well, and don't try to hide it!

If you get called in for an audit (for some reason the IRS seems to love auditing artists and writers) you're going to need to be able to produce your records quickly (they also seem to have a habit of giving short notice).  Be aware car expenses are one of the most common audit items so keeping that mileage log and keeping up with what the current per mile allowance is is critical if you spend much time in the car associated with your writing.

The IRS may also come back at you and claim you have no right to claim deductions related to your writing as those writing activities don't constitute a business.  

Horse hockey.  Keep very clear records of the writing you do, the proposals you send, the responses you get and emphasize that you run your writing 'business' in a professional manner and publication and income is your goal. Keep track of everything you do publish.  Substantiate the time you invest in your writing business.  If you go to the IRS website at and type in "business or hobby" in the site's search box you'll pull up helpful information on the distinction the IRS makes between business vs. hobby.

Be cool, be polite and be sure you've done your research ahead of time.  Oh, and don't fall for that "you can just pay the proposed amount due to avoid any additional penalty and interest" line that comes with many an IRS audit letter. You can stand up for your rights and get matters straightened out in your favor. Don't forget, folks who are auditors are people to - they can make mistakes. Educate yourself.  If you can possibly afford it, use the services of a great bookkeeper or accountant.

This doesn't take as much time as it seems at first glance and once you have tracking expenses as part of your routine believe me, your writing will flow with much more peace of mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Publetariat

Publetariat is an online community and news channel designed for small, independent imprints and self-published authors.  The "Write" section focuses on the writer's craft and they cover many other aspects of the writing business like design, selling, publishing, book trends and more. Definitely worth an exploratory visit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adding that Novel Punch

You’ve got a great story drafted and you've put your heart into it, but when you go back to edit, it just doesn’t have the zip, the spark, the sparkle you’d hoped for. How do you perk things up – give it more oomph? Here are a few tips; things to think about when you're putting those touches on your manuscript.

For starters, the goal is to get your reader into the story. Let him or her experience the emotions your characters are experiencing first hand. Don’t distance them. 

For example, don’t say Amy was angry. Instead of leaving your reader with just a bunch of words, leaving it up to him or her to fill in the blanks, show the reader how we know Amy was truly pissed off.

Something like –

Amy stormed into the room, slammed the door behind her and clenched her fists at her sides.

or, if Amy is more the steaming angry type you might say --

Amy entered the room with stick-like movements, her jaw set, eyes blazing. She turned very slowly, crossed her arms and glared at Rich.

Think Amy might be angry? So will your reader. Just consider what you might do if you were really, really mad and show that in your scenes. Body language, sounds, let your reader have it all.

Remember when editing cut, cut, cut. All of us writers pretty much naturally over write. We’re in love with words, we can’t help it. But, come editing time, get real. Really seriously cut. It won’t make your writing worse, it’ll make it better. Here’s an example:

Instead of something like –
Amy took notice of the horses, scores of them, running over the uneven ground toward home.

Try –
The herd of horses thundered for the home corral.

If Amy is our point of view character there’s no need for her to ‘take notice”. Doesn’t hurt to cut that sentence a bit either. You may well have some better ideas of how to do it, but you get the drift.

To further tighten, shorten and add punch to your writing try skipping lead-ins like “he saw”, “she saw”, “he noticed”, “they looked at”. Instead cut right to the action.
Like this:

Instead of –
Amy watched Jack ride past on his bicycle.

Jack raced by on his bike.

You'll notice that not only did I eleiminate the 'Amy watched' but there's more action to Jack's bike riding.  Of couse he could also 'leisurely pedal' or 'cruise past' depending on the mood you're setting.

By using language that gives your story more color, adds more action your reader will be more easily captured by your story and drawn in. Once that happens, they’ll imagine what it would be like to be one character or another of your story, maybe even sucked into that wonderful fiction world where they can lose themselves for a while and they’ll love you for it.  And that's what you want, right? You want your readers to love your work so much they can't wait for the next book to come out.

Remember, a novel isn’t just a bunch of words where something happens. It’s a tale, a story, populated by interesting people (we hope) and beset by fascinating events, perhaps romance, mystery and thrills. 

Don’t keep your readers at arm’s length, separated from the action. Draw them in. Read your favorite authors and notice how often the dialog doesn’t have an identifying tag at all, or is very short like “Amy said”, or “Amy snapped”, and sparingly used.

You might grab a highlighting pen and go through a book you've liked, highlighting description, action and dialog along with taglines that appeal, then analyze why that is; how you can do it better in your own book. A great exercise for your writing ‘muscles’.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Editio

If you're diving into the world of digital publishing - you know, kindle, Smashwords, iBooks and the like, then Editio can probably offer you some help.  

Its focus is on self publishing and it offers resources and instructional articles.  Since I've been published by Doubleday and Harlequin and others AND am handling some of my own self publishing by re-releasing some of my former hard copy books in digital format it's given me some tips and hints I've been able to make use of including a list of blogs that will review a book (some will accept Ebooks, others only hard copy). 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Metaphoria - time to play

Metaphors, they're a great way to express ourselves.  Colorful, informative, sometimes amusing, they get a point across as nothing else can.  I highly recommend understanding them and using them in your writing, all your writing and by that I mean your book, your promotion, whatever you write. 

Now that doesn't mean you should go wild and stuff them into every sentence, regardless, but cultivating a grasp of their usage will give life to your writing as well as deeper meaning.

Did you know metaphors have been around one heck of a long time?  Even in the ancient Sumerian language.  And Aristotle described a metaphor as: “Metaphor is the application of a strange term either transferred from the genus and applied to the species or from the species and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy.”

A simpler definition of metaphor is: A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.  Here are a couple of examples:

"No man is an island" —John Donne

'Forever since that time you went away I've been a rabbit burrowed in the wood" —Maurice Sceve

Life is a beach.

Time is a thief.

"He is a pig. Thou art sunshine." - unknown

Barack Obama captains the ship of state.

Life is a journey, a dance, a dream.

Metaphors are pervasive in every day life so why not put them into your writing - and learn to do it well?
Here are some helps. 

1.  Check out The Metaphor Observatory click the links and see how it's done.

2.  Consider starting your own metaphor list and keep it handy so you can add to it easily.  When you hear a good one in public or at work or at a family gathering, write it down. Use metaphors you hear from others as springboards for your own.

3.  Pay attention when you read magazines or books or newspapers. Notice the metaphors.

4.  Play with metaphors. Think about them and all the different twists and turns they can take.  For example, your own writing.  Writing is.....(what?) a roller coaster ride? as painful as slamming your finger with a hammer? the bringer of sweet peace and serenity? -- keep going.....

5. Experiment.  Try to use a metaphor in your book title

6. Complete some of the metaphor starters below. Use concrete words–of image, sound, and feeling. Remember those old cliches? Avoid them.  Be new and fresh and creative.
·    I’m as angry as
·    I’m as frustrated as
·    I’m as dizzy as
·    I’m as low as
·    I’m as powerful as a
·    I’m as tired as
·    I’m as energetic as
     I'm as confused as

Expand the list using your own ideas.  Don't settle for the old, remembered cliche metaphors - create new ones.

Mix them if you like, but don't go entirely crazy. It could become a parody of itself - which could be a good thing if that is your intent, not so good if it isn't. Here are some mixed up metaphors to give you an idea:

"I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" -- Irish politician Boyle Roche.

"If we can hit that bullseye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate." -- Futurama character Zapp Brannigan.
As writers we play with language.  We all have the potential for seeing things in our own unique way, for making connections in ways others have overlooked.  Play with metaphors. You don't want the Sumerians to have the last word, do you?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Name Generator

Time for another website I've stumbled across and this one is fun.  I do like the Random Name Generator.  I've posted more than one link to them.  This one has a good variety of names, ideas, places, etc. that can jump-start your own creativity or might be the exact thing you were searching for.  Check it out, amuse yourself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Writers's Cafe

For a free sign up Writer's Cafe offers quite a bit.  Contest, the ability to post your story for review if you like, writing groups already established or start your own. Info on literary and publishers. It's worth looking around, you might find some gems.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Multi Faceted Writer

Zorba Publishers Edition
Writers have a lot more on their plates than most people think they do.  There seems to be this mythology of a writer sitting behind a desk, pounding the keyboard, selling his/her work with ease, then sitting back and collecting a check.

Anyone who's been in writing and publishing for any time knows there's no truth to that image.

Nope, writers have to write the book, sell the book (this can take quite some time with or without an agent - and oh, yes, woo an agent if the writer wants to work with one), then help in the selling while writing another book.  Whew, that was a lot to cram into a sentence and that's just the easily visible part, remember all the subheadings that come under each heading. Things that include book tours, virtual or physical, maintaining a website and maybe a blog, spending time on social networking, sending out queries and yes, perhaps visiting conventions.

So, this round I'm going to talk a bit about pitching your manuscript to an editor or publisher, or perhaps an agent you'd love to have represent you.

Conventions, whether a national do or a local conference, are great places to exercise your promotional muscle.  It can be frightening or stress-inducing, depending upon how shy you are and how much you do or don't like presenting in front of others.

But, contacts at conventions can be a great shot at getting your manuscript on front of editors and agents so  you want to make your time spent with these folks count.

So, what's a pitch? They use them in the film industry to sell a script and in the book industry to sell manuscripts - or at least get them read.  It's a short description of your story, the plot narrowed down to one or just a few sentences (one is best).

How do you do this? You break it down into smaller bits that you can handle. Know who you're pitching to.  Take the time to research who will be at the convention, of them who you want to pitch to, who of that group you can actually get a chance to pitch to and then check those people out. Know about the publisher or agency they're attached to, the types of books they're interested in (hopefully you won't pitch a SciFi novel to someone who only reps or publishes romances). You can find a lot of information online and you might ask other writer friends, or you might call the company directly and speak for a few moments with a receptionist or secretary to get information.  Take the time to know who you're talking to and you'll put yourself above all those who don't bother to find out anything about whom they're going to see.

Research on who you're going to pitch to completed, you need to work on your actual pitch. You'll need to be able to tell the person what genre or subgenre your book falls into.  They'll want to know that for marketing purposes. You'll need to tell them where and when it takes place and of course about how long it is - an accurate word count.  Pitch only stories you've already written and can send a complete copy of. Very few things frustrate agents and publishers more than a great pitch followed by "I haven't finished it yet". Don't sabotage yourself.

Write and bring along copies of a short page that tells your story.  A synopsis.  Also have as a separate sheet or at the top of that one, the VERY short, one sentence or maybe two condensation of your story. Make it a very succinct statement of a story premise which would hopefully induce the editor/agent to want more.

Once the pitch is ready you need to practice. Do it out loud. Train your voice to be enthusiastic, filled with the power of your story, not strident, or stuttering. Go over it until you know it front, back and up-side-down. Be ready for a full blown pitch session, or if the fates point a finger in your direction and you find yourself in the buffet line with that editor or agent you want to pitch to and he or she turns to you and politely asks, "So, what do you write?" you'll be able to answer without considerable stumbling.

Oh, and don't forget to dress well. You don't have to be perfect or flashy, just clean, neat, you know, business casual.  You can bring your single sheet with your story synopsis to the meeting, but don't try to load that person down with more like disks or complete manuscripts.  You can always mail or email other materials later. And don't forget to ask for one of their business cards - you need that address whether to contact later or to have an accurate address to send materials that have been requested.

And remember these folks are people just like you.  Smile, draw a nice deep breath and try to relax. And if you mess up?  Don't worry, keep going and remember, the more you do it the easier it will become.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Media Bistro

If you haven't found Media Bistro yet, I'm surprised, but for those who haven't, check it out.  It offers industry news, jobs, blogs, articles and more for the freelance writer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Settng the Scene; Writing The Mood

I was sitting down to write this post when I started thinking about what a beautiful day it is here today, sun shining, not a cloud in the sky, a touch of autumn in the air, how good I felt, how much I was smiling.

These are all things a writer needs to think about and identify.  These are things that enrich stories and bring them to life.

There are  many things that affect character and setting so I thought I'd pull one out and get you to think about how to use an element in your story.

For example, weather can be an important element in your setting. If it's sunny, windy, rainy, snowy, sleeting, hailing or just overcast. The weather can contribute to the mood the writer sets in a scene.  It can, and would, affect a character's emotional being and it can be used to foreshadow upcoming events.

So let's think about rain for one.  Consider how it looks.  If it's raining the sky is overcast and dark, things might seem bleary and depending on the power of the rain it might be drizzling or pounding.  It would put a sheen on everything like asphalt, sidewalks, windows; even more so if it's night. Leaves shake beneath the onslaught, awnings collect water and dump the overflow on people walking the street. Water can ooze into puddles or splash up with a downpour. Rain will drench hair, soak clothing and send people running for dry sanctuary. Think about how everything is affected, how it appears.

Then think about the other sensory input.  How rain smells.  It washes the air clean laving behind a fresh smell, unless you're in the tropics in which case it might be a more heavy, earthy, moldering vegetable smell.  If it's a full blown storm lightning might leave behind traces of an ozone smell.

Would there be a taste?  Water is water- BUT in an urban area might there be traces of something else?  Has the rain washed through something acidic in the air?  Is there something else?

And how does it feel?  It could be cold and wet making things clammy and very uncomfortable, or if it's a warm rain it might make the air heavy, humid and the characters miserable. In either hot or cold clothing would be saturated against skin, shoes would be soggy and irritating and a driving, hard rain can actually be stinging against the skin. People hunch over in the rain, they grab newspaper, briefcase, umbrella to huddle under for protection. Most people run in the rain, though some seem to relish it and stroll. Characters might shiver in a really cold rain. Some may be ready to dance naked in a warm rain.

Don't forget the sound it makes.  It can be a soft whoosh, an irregular pink-plonk, a powerful pounding. Rain falling on a tin roof can create a cacophony to the point where it's almost impossible to hear anything else. Or, of falling gently on a green lawn it might make only a whisper of sound. It depends on where the rain is falling, how hard, and if it's coming down at an angle or dropping straight from the heavens.

And what does all this do to the mood, the emotions of your characters?  Rain might stop your character from getting where he/she needs to be or doing what he/she needs to do.  It might force characters together seeking shelter from the rain who would otherwise not choose to occupy the same space and give you, the writer, the opportunity to take things slow for just a while, reflecting while the storm passes. It could be a depressing moment for the character or a cleaning one. It could be humbling before nature's power or romantic as in Gene Kelly's "Dancing In The Rain".

Be original, think of new associations or new twists as to how this can be used to your advantage.  BUT, avoid the old cliches.  Let's not have drizzling rain at a funeral or a little girl crying in the rain or the rain washing away the sins of the character.  It's been done.  Be more original. Think about how you, yourself, react to something, in this instance, rain. Think about how a character, feeling bleak, might feel that more intensely if the ran is followed by bright sunshine and a rainbow. Consider how joy can be tamped down by a drizzling rain or a biting wind that foreshadows trouble to come.

Don't be afraid to put this test out there when you're writing, and rain is just one of hundreds of examples.  How does it affect the character?  How does it feel?  Smell? Taste? Look? Stretch your writing and grow.

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