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.

Other Posts Of Interest:

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