Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Autocorrect is your Friend

It's true, it works well and Gary Corby first told us about it on his blog. Visit his post on AutoCorrect and see how many ways it can  help cut down on your typing time and give you more time to create - or hang out on twitter -  Oh, and the rest of his blog is pretty good too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

. Avoid Being A High Maintenance Writer

All right, us writers have a hard row to hoe. How do we determine where the lines are drawn? How to think about furthering our careers, being frank and forthright without alienating the exact person who can do us some good?

You need to cultivate good relations, dredge up some patience from the bottom of your soul and put on a good public face.  That doesn't mean you have to be a doormat, but here's some friendly advice to help you find that middle ground that's so important. 

So let's think.  Your advance check hasn’t arrived and you just want to scream…don’t. 
Your publishing company has dragged you through the wringer and you want to blast the whole company with an acidic email…oh, please don’t! Read on and find tips to help smooth your path.
If you want to be loved by editors and publishers one of the best ways is to meet your deadline early. Don’t rush to the point of screwing things up, but shock and surprise your editors by getting your work in ahead of schedule. Even a day or two will glean you points in your favor.
Find a way to balance your finances without being on a hair-trigger awaiting a check. Hounding an editor or agent for your missing check won’t get it to you any faster (no matter what you  may think on that subject) and you come across as desperate. Worse, you may be perceived as unprofessional. Naturally if it has gone past the date expected, inquire, but do so briefly and with professional air. Nagging and pestering are no-nos.
Work on your voice. Speak aloud in the privacy of a closed room if you need to, but listen to yourself. Don’t let your words come across in a high-pitched scream or whine or shrill. Imbue your voice with confidence (not arrogance). Keep your voice in the lower ranges and speak in a friendly, measured manner, not a staccato babble. Allow the other party to speak and don't cut them off.  It'll get you a lot further and it'll get you a reputation that won't include having secretaries tell you the person you want to talk to isn't in.

Move away from the phone. Just because you have one and your editor has one doesn’t mean you have to use it. Don’t call unless you’ve already got clearance or a request. The best way to communicate is a quick email. It’s easier to dash a few words back to you and it can be handled as they have time, thus being less intrusive.

And about that email. If you’re really pissed off about something, slow down and think. Draft your letter on a word document, not the email. Then save it and let it percolate. Don’t send it until it reads the way you intend and you’ve cooled down. Emails, as I think we’ve all learned, can take on a terrible life of their own. Don’t let it happen to you (again?)
Be old fashioned. Write thank you notes. Yep, you’ll truly endear yourself to your agent, editors and everyone in the business if you take a moment to write a thank you note when it’s appropriate. Don’t think “oh, they know I appreciated it”. Well, they probably do, and after all it’s a business too. BUT, doesn’t everyone like to be thanked when they go out of their way, go a little beyond the call of duty, or just do an everyday fine job? Take a moment, write the note. Oh, and be specific about what you’re thanking them for so it comes across as genuine as you are.
Do your own research. Editors are busy. Don’t go bugging them for things you can find on your own. Check out magazines you want to write for, read them, study the masthead for your contact. If it’s a book your pedaling check out publishers and their guidelines. Just knowing the writer’s guidelines will make an editor want to smile and shake your hand. You would not believe how many queries and submissions they receive that are totally inappropriate to their publications.
Those are the suggestions for the day. Interwoven through them all is, be professional, be civil and be patient even when it’s terribly hard to do so. This is your career we’re talking about here. Don’t self-sabotage.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Duotrope's Digest

It's that fun time again - when I offer you a website to check out and see how it can help you and your writing.  This week it's Duotrope's Digest.  It's been a favorite of Writer's Digest and it's a free database for fiction writers and poets offering more than 3,200 possible markets for you to explore.  Check it out, use their search and see what markets you can come up with where you work could be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Writers & Readers & Books, Oh My!

Writers talk about many things regarding their chosen poison-their craft and all the varied aspects of it. They discuss the nuts and bolts, the how-tos of writing craft, the jungle of the publishing world, how tough it is it find a great agent/editor/publisher, whether the should go with hard copy  publishing, Epublishing, self- publishing...etc. However, not enough time, I believe, is spent considering the symbiotic relationship between reader and writer.

Yes, there I said it, the relationship between reader and writer.  The reader wants, demands a great tale.  The writer is not nearly so alone as he/she believes while that reader is out there.

We as writers have to keep in mind that only one person at a time reads the book you've written. It's not a theater crammed with people who react and share the experience.

One person, with a book, reading.

That's it.

The truly excellent writer must learn to link with his or her reader's imagination. The writer offers ideas, thoughts, color, a story, but it is the reader who sits with the book and strings those thoughts and ideas together and applies the supplied color. It is the reader the writer must seduce and draw into the story. It is the single reader the writer must trust to 'get it'. Much better to assume your reader is smarter than you are than the reverse.

So what is it about the reader that we as writers must remember?  Well most writers are readers (and dare I say ALL excellent writers are readers?). Think about what it is you get out of what you read. What draws you in and holds your attention. Why do you read one author and not another? Even discounting your possible genre preference - what draws you to one writer but not another?

In addition to that, here are a few thoughts.

*Why read a story? To see someone struggle against all odds, succeed, and somehow grow while succeeding. Those kinds of stories are uplifting and give hope to what is experienced by the reader in non-reading moments.

*People love to read about themselves. Writers, in crating great books, convince their readers they're doing just that. The reader is able to put himself into the story.

*Luckily for Writers, Readers really do want to suspend disbelief. They don't want to just read the words you've written, the story you've created - they want to be drawn in, seduced to experience it. They don't want to, however, suspend credibility. Your created worlds must be real and true to their own reality. (I've discussed this before and it remains bedrock.)

*When it comes to book series, readers love them. A good series provides familiarity and deeper connection to the characters. Emphasis on the words "good series". So if you have a 'series' in you, it's a great way to go. You'll love it and your readers will love you for it.  The best kind are the kind, like "Harry Potter" in which the readers don't want to let you go.

*When you really think about, the gift of the writer is to stimulate other peoples' imaginations. The book, the story,  is given birth in the writer's mind, but it is in the reader's mind where it truly lives and expands beyond the limits of what was written. Oh, if you could only see inside your readers' minds!

*Another bit of reality: it doesn't matter how good your book is, someone won't like it. There is no way for any single piece of writing to appeal to everyone equally. And, whether you as the writer see it or not, accept it or not, the writing will not speak to all readers in the same way.  Each one will take something different away from the experience. Each one will create his own world from what you've written.  That's the way it is.

There are  many aspects of the reader/writer relationship; all sorts of nuances. But remember, in order for a writer to create a really great book that will appeal to his reader he must keep in mind readers automatically ask several questions when picking up a book:  Who are the people?  Is this story even possible, could it happen for real? and Why the heck should I care about any of it? They don't usually ask those questions out loud or even consciously think about them, but they're there.

Fortunately for the writer the reader wants to be convinced. He wants to care, he wants to spend a few  hours in your world. So the writer's job is to bear these questions in mind and answer them even before the reader picks up that book.

So write your story, live in the world you create for a time, but think about your reader along the way.  You've got company in that world. Reades are a writer's best friends.  Treat them that way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Slushpile Hell

Slushpile Hell.  This is one truly entertaining literary agent website.  It's tagline is "One grumpy literary agent, a sea of query fails, and other publishing nonsense." It's really worth a visit.  You'll even find some great advice buried in here. Some great laughs too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Avoiding First Page Fumbles

Photo by Sabir
This is pretty much an insane week for me, so today's post is going to be one of my briefer ones and I'm going to focus on one thing - your first page.

Your first page is probably the most important page.  It has to intrigue the reader, draw them in, clear confusion and serve as portal to the rest of the book. 


So,  here are some tips for that first page.

*Watch your characters from the get-go.  Are the reacting to events that are happening or what you, the writer are reporting?

*Readers are drawn to characters more than anything else.  No matter your setting, matter how fascinating, don't allow it to dominate your story and overwhelm your characters. Your characters are central.

*Read your first page aloud, walk through it (really, walk your room as if it were the scene from your book).  Does it flow?  Does it feel clumsy?  Does it work?

*Remember the look of your page.  White space is imperative, long blocks of narrative can be off-putting to your reader.  Vary sentence structure and consider paragraph length.

*Don't explain anything.  Consider yourself a director of a movie or a puppeteer. Trick is making the director or the puppet strings invisible.  You want your reader to focus on the characters, the story, not on where it originates from. Not on you.

*When considering description remember, if your reader will assume something there's no need for you to describe it. This usually applies to things like traffic flow in the street, subway station platforms, arrangement of furniture in a room, etc. If you must describe, if there's a blip in that traffic flow, make description short, a few well-chosen words.

*If your character has to take part in some activity which you haven't tried - go ahead and do it.  I learned about the kick of a rifle when I wrote a western and a friend took me out to 'shoot the hill' on a ranch in Arizona.  Much different than I would have imagined, and it changed my writing.  Never walked on spiked heels? Try it. (Yes, I mean you guys too)  Ridden in a puddle-jumper plane?  Give it a shot.  If it's within your ability to experience, give it a shot - that's how I found out roller coasters make me sick. Believe me it will add color to your narrative as well.

*And try to time your writing.  The idea is to get your reader to turn the page.  If you have a gem of a line, a particularly great turn of a phrase, a leading quote - try to put it at the end of that page to draw  your reader to the next.

That first page is your attention-getter.  It grabs agents, publishers and will sometimes have content from it used by a reviewer.  Write tight.  Dump the fluff and make it shine.  It's easier to learn to do than you think. Just takes a bit of self-training.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Backspace!

photo by Chance Agrella

Okay, this is one great site for writers -Backspace offers forums - articles by writers, agents, publishers - conferences and more.  Visit this site with a bit of time to roam around.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writers Get Fit Resources & Ideas

As writers we spend a lot of time sitting down at a desk, focusing on a computer screen and/or writing, typing, reading.

Hazard of our lives, right?

Well yes and no.  We do need to be fit if we want our brains to function at top efficiency, if we want to avoid things like obesity, depression, heart disease - to mention a few of the  hazards of the 'sit-on-your-butt' work life-style.

So how do we find the time to get away from our desks?  Well, the truth is, we probably won't.  So I've been reading about the stand-up desk, the treadmill desk and other helpful goodies to help keep myself  moving.  I'm still working through how to do this for my space but thought I'd share some of the info I've uncovered so far.

There's the treadmill desk.  First reaction to this was, weird!  No way!  What the #*&^? This concept apparently comes out of  done by a doctor at the Mayo Clinic a few years back.

The theory here, grounded in numbers and facts, is we need to be exercising all the time, not just a short burst at the gym, or a brisk walk after work.  
So here's the deal.  If you walk at just 1 mph, which is slow enough for most of us to be ale to do  most of the tasks involved with writing, you're going to burn a heck of a lot of calories - as I understand it 20 times more than just sitting. 

You can consider buying a actual Treadmill desk which would be staggeringly expensive at somewhere over $4,000 which most of us can't afford.  But if you can, have at it. 
Or you can get yourself a Treadmill and create your own. If you can get a treadmill from friends, family, or maybe buy one at a yard sale you can get it free or pretty cheap.  From there it takes a bit of imagination and minimal construction ability and/or a friend who has such to create your own treadmill desk. Check out Treadmill Desk site and Build Your own Treadmill desk.  You can buy a 'treadmill desk'  (check out Amazon for ideas and cost and ideas) separately from a treadmill, combine them and save considerable money, though even that can be expensive.

Okay, so we know this is the best idea (ideally with a desk that can be easily raised and lowered - again, more expensive).  

But what are you going to do if you just can't afford any of it right now? 

Well, you can set up your work space so you work standing up.  Standing burns more calories than sitting.  You could buy a cheap 'stepper' and use it.  There are small weights you can purchase in most low cost retailers like Ross or TJ Maxx, keep them by your desk and use them to do simple exercises while you read or talk on a speaker phone. Consider replacing your desk chair with one of those stability balls.  You can find them really cheap on sale at times and sitting on that while working will work your core muscles even while you sit. You could hang a work space on your wall so you can do your noting, plotting and planning standing up.  Just  standing burns calories, remember. Oh, and standing is great for your thought processes as well.

So what am I going to do?  I have a treadmill.  I'm going to check it out, see if/how a desk could be added and work into doing at last part of my writing at the treadmill.  I may not be able to do it all day as suggested, but I know it will work for stretches of time.  It will be a most interesting experiment.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kick Back Monday

Happy 4th everyone in the US who's celebrating.  Check back tomorrow for a brand new post!

Other Posts Of Interest:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...