Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Hardcopy to Electronic Conversion

Are you a writer with a hard copy edition of a fiction project that you need converted into Electronic format? Then try The Fictionworks service to do just that.  Up to 100,000 words for about $60 and you get a Kindle and a Smashwords formatted files.  They get rave reviews for their service and I've worked with them before as well.  Great folks at The Fictionworks.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Thing About Agents - Breaking Up Is Not So Hard To Do

I've had a good, no, wait, an excellent agent, I've had a not great agent and I've had a really, really bad agent. 

Authors are so often fixated so tightly on getting an agent they forget about all the ups and downs, the twists and turns a writer's career can take. 

Look, it's likely you'll have an agent, it's likely you'll have a good relationship, at least for a time, but unlike a romance novel its UNlikely you'll stick with the same agent throughout your career.

The best agent I ever had retired.  Sigh.  
The agent I had after him was good, but she didn't really pay much attention to me.  She was fairly well known, and at the time I resume I was just too small of a fish.  In between I sold some of my work myself.  
Then I had my last agent.  Jerk doesn't begin to cover it. I'm doing my own promotion again.  Will I get a  new agent?  Yes, at some point. It's just too much work to do everything. Write, sell, promote, negotiate.  A bit much for one person to handle, though some do it with grace.

So, let's consider agents.  What are some reasons you might want to terminate a relationship, other than simply discovering what a jerk he or she is (IF that is the case)?

Well, you might discover your agent is lazy, incompetent, or both.  Hey, they're out there.  Like any other profession, you find a lemon. If you send in a manuscript and don't hear back - check it out.  If you hook up with an agent who raves about your books and says they'll do wonders and you hear nothing for months, check back. If you discover your so-called agent hasn't even read your work (it does happen), it's time to take a walk.

If you want to expand your career, move from one genre to another and include them both in your area of expertise but your agent tries to keep you pinned in one genre, then its costing you in the career growth department.  If your agent takes forever to read a manuscript and get back to you then it's costing you time. If you get no input on how to broaden and grow your career, i.e. just stick with what you've always written, then it's costing you agan.  Time to wave Bye-bye.

Maybe you have an agent who gives you loads of time and attention, but then you discoer this wonderful person whom you like and is very personable, just doesn't have the experience in the industry or the knowledge to open those doors for you. There are agents who've been around, there are new agents. Their status in that hierarchy can affect what they can accomplish.  If the 'new' agent hasn't grown with you, if you've outpaced him or her and your work has gone beyond their ability to strongly represent you then, despite lovely personality attachments, it's time to move on.

Remember, the relationship between you and your agent is a business relationship.  If your agent doesn't share your vision for the future of your career, if he isn't willing to expand, doesn't have enthusiasm for your work any longer or you plain just don't like him, then it's time to think about going in a different direction.

Breaking it off with an agent probably won't be easy, but if you find you need to do just that, then remember to be professional.  Reread your contract and adhere to all contractual responsibilities. Don't try to cheat the agent no matter how frustrated and angry you  may feel. 

Don't twitter or blog about the termination you're contemplating and risk the embarassing situation of him or her finding out about it online before you handle it on a one-to-one basis.  And don't blog or tweet about it after either.

Don't go badmouthing your agent all over creation.  It's an interconnected profession.  Badmouthing is not good.  One caveat - in private, if asked, don't lie.  Be objective, but don't feel you must praise that rare jerk.  You don't want someone to think you left just for one certain reason, which might not apply to them,  and have the asker hook up with what is a 'bad apple'. Be professional, but be honest. Then if they do it anyway, it's on their plate.

Remember too, that separating with an agent almost never means you'll never communicate with that person again.  Assuming he or she sold something, you'll receive royalty statments, payments, and other professional bits and pieces over the years. It really is better if you keep a professional relationship and not let it devolve into bitterness. 

If it's already bitter for some reason, still best to keep it on a professional and businesslike footing.

Oh, and remember, there are time when that agent may break up with you.  That's the way of business.  Be professional and move on.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Agent Query

They're right, Agent Query is a great place to find an agent, free database, great resource. But don't stop there.  Explore the site.  They offer resources, info about EPublishing, and more.  Take time to explore this highly recommended resource.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Tips to Edit Life Into Your Novel

Doesn't matter what kind of book you're writing, what genre you've dipped your toe into, you already know it's a necessity to bring that story to life if you want to captivate readers.

But how?

Here's the thing.  Many new writers seem to want to avoid the painful themselves, so in their stories, they tend to skip right over the intense parts of the tale.

Two characters break up - three pages later they're divorced. A character contracts a deadly disease and one page later that character is already dead, alone, no fanfare, no drama.

I think we can all agree that in our lives we prefer to eschew conflict and even laugh at the 'drama queens' we know.  But when you're writing a story, that story absolutely desperately needs that drama, that conflict.  Without it the story dies.

It's through writing and reading that we, as, human beings, get the opportunity to examine those darker, and much less fun aspects of living are all about. Fiction is all about drama, conflict and character and it's also about evolving, resolution and growth.

In a broad sense reading provide a sort of therapy to the reader who wants to know how that divorce shook out with the drama of fights over property, children and unresolved issues between the characters.  They want to see into someone elses life to discover how they handled the death of a close loved one who battled illness.  They want to know if push came to shove, how the hero or heroine rose above obstacles, displayed true courage and came through it all.

And there is a wonderful balance to be found in fiction. When you write, you provide a multidimensional view of life, hopefully reflecting the good and the bad, examining the lives of your characters on many levels and providing a rounded view.

Here are a few things to think about after you're written your story and are rereading/editing it, before you send it on to a publisher or agent for consideration:

1.    Can you see your characers and the world you've created for them? The reader's imagination takes over, but you have to have provided the groundwork.  Make it real.  Do your research if it is an area you are  unfamiliar with, but don't just 'fake it'.

2.    Have you demonstrated and shown your readers the motivation for your characters doing what they do and given some backstory to let us know what pushes them forward?

3.     Are your characters balanced?  Is your Hero just too good and your villian nothing but black evil?  Even a serial murder can love a cat.  Even a hero can lose it and do something hurtful or damaging. Think about it. Who's your personal hero and what are his good and bad actions?

4.     Have you shown and told throughout your story?  It's not "show, don't tell", but rather some of both. You want to draw your reader into the story, engross him or her.  To do that you make them part of it and to do that you must draw them into the action by 'showing' and give them bits of information by 'telling' backstory.

5.    Have you kept a balance of the number of characters you have?  Have you dumped them all on the scene in an overwhelming mob or have you introduced them as they were woven into the story? The mob makes it hard for your reader to sort things out and is very confusing.

6.    And here's a big one - have you foreshadowed major events and have your characters grown and changed? If all remains static, if nothing builds your story to its climax...then there is none. You don't want to spell out what will happen in advance, but you want the reader, at the close of the book to say, "Oh, wow, I should have seen that coming!"
Those are just a few pointers as to what to keep an eye out for when you're reviewing your own work.  Fiction is all about change - for better or for worse. That change has to move through your story, be a part of it. It doesn't just spring out at the reader on the last page. As you read through your work with these few tips in mind, you'll naturally think about others and either nod your approval at what you've accomplished or dig down into that rewrite.

Have at it and made that novel shine!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writer's Websites Wednesday - Fake AP Stylebook

Okay, technically, The Fake AP Stylebook is actually a twitter account, so if you do Twitter you may want to follow.  It's for laughs and giggles for the journalist in you.  Follow along a while for grins. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writers' Self-Promotion - Using Your blog

We writers keep hearing it's tough to promote fiction on a blog, tougher than say, non-fiction.  Well don't despair, it may be a bit more difficult to get your message across, but it's not impossible, and actually it can be fun.

So, how do you, as a writer and blogger, promote your fiction on your blog?  There are lots of ways.  I'll suggest a few here, but once the seed is planted I have no doubt you'll come up with lots of other ideas. Some of those below I've used here, others I'm planning to.

You might think about posting short articles on your blog about trends, past present and future (?) in your genre.  Do a bit of research, talk about it and perhaps provide some sales statistics.

Don't be shy about reviewing books written by others on your site.  Books that are in the same genre as yours or in some way related to yours. This can also lead to cross promotion with other writers, a very good thing.

When you have a few followers initiate a contest of your own devising with a free copy of your book, Electronic or print version, as the prize.  Be sure to promote it and announce your winner with some fanfare. You  might consider having such a 'giveaway' on a regular basis. You might consider offering a copy of your book as a 'prize' to another blogger you form a relationship with.

Ask your readers to endorse your book.  It's always fun the comments you get back from fans when you make this request. Oh, and when you do, make your post more about the reader who gave you the endorsement than about yourself. Ask a few questions of them, focus on their taste in reading or something interesting they may tell you about their lives. Do a sort of a mini-interview with the person who endorses before you just slap their endorsement up on your blog.

Encourage your readers to ask questions of you, then post the answers. You may find your readers want to know even more about your characters and this will give you the opportunity to flesh them out even more - for your readers and for yourself.

Got another book in the works?  Talk about it!  Are you putting out a new edition of a published book such as Electronic or talking book?  Talk about it! Not just your book, but the area it's being released in.  Expound on Electronic books and their exploding popularity or Talking Books and how great they are for travel...think of new angles. 

Don't forget to have a post where you open up the door for your fans to give their opinions.  You'd be amazed at how much information you can accumulate for your next novel doing something like that and what a better relationship you can build between you and your fans. .

If you want to get really creative you might consider posting a short story of sorts - using the voice of one of your main characters in your book you could tell a story - about your book!  And while they're at it they can mention the title and you can provide a link.
Readers sometimes enjoy seeing a new angle, a fresh story from the characters you've created.

Thre are lots of other ideas out there, but you're the writer, get creative, think of new angles: what would you, as a reader, enjoy or benefit from as a blog post?

And if you don't do a blog yet, keep the content on your website fresh.  Update regularly whether blog or site and keep your readers coming back.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Inkpop for Teen Writers

photo by Sarah Sturtevant
Inkpop is a site aimed at teen authors.  Here you can submit your work, review the work of others and if you're really lucky, have your work ready by a Harper Collins editor. The site is owned by Harper Teen and allows not only for posting your own writing but discussing books, authors and more about publishing as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writers - Just Take The First Step

photo by Chance Agrella

I've heard it said in many ways my different people so I don't know to whom the exact quote is attributable, but it remains as truth. "Take the first step. Do it blindly; you don't have to see the entire staircase to climb it."
So, why am I telling you this? 
Well, because so many writers get caught up in some loop consisting of "I want to write, I have a great story to tell, BUT I don't have the time, I don't know how to write, I can't put the ideas together..."or whatever else they come up with. Excuses, reasons, ways to avoid taking that first step. 
You're a writer, you have the opportunity to create worlds and/or destroy them.  The only thing required of you is that you  make it believable 
But lo, the distractions are many.  You need that second cup of coffee.  You pass the Wii in order to get it and suddenly you're into the game you didn't finish last night. Or maybe you have a day job, or you just remembered a friend's birthday and have to run out for a gift, or you have dinner to prepare, or any of many other distractions.

But here's the thing.  You're a writer.  The words may be in yur head, but you MUST write them down in order to spin your new world into being.

So motivate yourself. Take the first step. And that step can be anything.  You can simply decide what your story is meant to be; a book? a script? a pilot for a TV series, a short story?  Which? Nothing is ever etched in stone as far as writing goes these days (you aren't wielding a chisel for Pharoah) so you can always change your mind later, but for a starter, decide.

Now that's out of the way, whether you decided that ten minutes ago, a hour, or last week, you can take that  decision and make your next move.

Write something down.  Anything. Put some words up there on your computer screen (or if you're old fashioned, write in your notebook). Start by writing down things that are trapped in your head about this story.  Maybe you want to use a certain location, perhaps you have characters' names in mind along with background information.  Got a plot twist idea already? Write it down. It doesn't matter how little you have in some areas of your idea or how much research would lay haead, write down the simple things you know about the story you want to create.

Write anything at all, but keep it simple and get those words up before your eyes.

And, if you're one of those writers who get ideas in floods, if you're overwhelmed and confused as to how to get that story out onto paper, do the same thing.  Choose one simple aspect of what you're creating and write it down.

So, if you're working with characters in your story, just write down your character's first and last name.  If you don't have the name yet, but know all about the character, either make up a 'place holder' name quickly, or call him something like 'hero' 'hero's side-kick' or whatever. The right name will come to you later, and you DO have a find and replace tool for that eventuality on your computer.

With the name or placeholder in place, write down one thing you know about your characer - something about who this character is right now. Something like he's a lawyer or she's divorced. Or he's opening a fast-food restaurant. This is a great way to get yourself moving. Don't worry about your backstory right now, that'll come later, just get things written down. And if you're one of those 'idea flood' people feeling like  you're drowning in confusion, this process will help you to focus and eliminate a lot of the details that are hiding your character from you.  Those details will be valuable later, but not now.

If you don't have a character yet, just start with what you do have in your head - the place where the story takes place? Here? Another planet? Suburbia? Big City?

If you have a place, write that down and then write down one thing you know about that place - followed by another. Use the same process as mentioned above.

Then, if you had a place, but no character, go to character next.  If you had character, but no place, go to place next.

If you break the process into steps, things come together much more easily. One thing generally leads to another.

Once you have character and place, define the problem for your main character. You may already have this in your head.  Now's the time to write it down.

Keep writing stuff down.  Keep making stuff up.  You're a writer, that's what you're supposed to do. And don't worry about doing it 'right' or 'good'.  The polishing to better and best comes later. You can correct and polish, but you have to write it down first.  You can make anything you've written better, but if it's stuck in your head that's where it'll stay.

So get started. Write something down. And if you keep yourself in the present, create your world, fill in the details after you establish the bones, you'll have a sound foundation and gain control of your world. 

So write. And do it now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Pimp My Novel

Pimp My Novel is a blog by a publishing sales rep that gives the scoop on what happens after your books is acquired. Be sure to check out his "What You Can Do: 12 Easy Steps", "Terms to Know" and his list of "Notable Blogs" while you're there!

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