Sunday, October 31, 2010

Twitterific

Terry3_thumb[1]Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week. If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Happy Halloween!

Did Steampunk Forget The Meaning Of The Word Dickensian? (NPR): http://dld.bz/3XJp

Tips for public speaking: http://dld.bz/3XHW @eveningfades

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Baking up the famous $250 Neiman Marcus Cookies and Comment to win HOLIDAY GRIND! http://bit.ly/b5zEAg @CleoCoyle

The new face of the MFA (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/3XHB

6 Golden Rules of NaNoWriMo: http://dld.bz/3XH7 @victoriamixon

NaNoWriMo Workshop – Plot: http://dld.bz/3XHt

Words that can weaken and dilute your writing: http://dld.bz/3UgC

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo: http://dld.bz/3UfK

Women in Horror Anthologies: http://dld.bz/3UeU

How to write like a rock star (Daily Beast): http://dld.bz/3Uef

How Writers Can Use Twitter for Networking and Success: http://dld.bz/3UdQ

Understanding Publishing: http://dld.bz/3UdF

Cranking out blog content: http://dld.bz/3UdB

Misconceptions about agents: http://dld.bz/3Udc

Building your tribe before publication: http://dld.bz/3UcT

Don't fall for publishing industry scams: http://dld.bz/3UcM

Are You Marketing Your Book With A Full Deck? http://dld.bz/3Uc6

An agent on dialogue: http://dld.bz/3UbT

POV--the cure for common writing problems: http://dld.bz/3UhE

How to send out requested materials: http://dld.bz/3BNW

On Launching an Online Community and Micropublisher from Scratch: http://dld.bz/3BNR

Avoiding the Slush Pile: http://dld.bz/3BNA

How to speak publisher - A is for Author: http://dld.bz/3BN4

Use the 5 Ds for a Purposeful and Peaceful Holidays (a system that can be applied to prioritizing tasks): http://dld.bz/3BNv

Gift ideas for writers: http://dld.bz/3BNc

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie http://bit.ly/drefz2 @CleoCoyle

Queries, Synopses, Pitches and Other Uneasy Friends, Part 2: http://dld.bz/3BMW

Steampunk Abstractions: On Commodification: http://dld.bz/3BMD

An editor's checklist of 13 things to look for when editing: http://dld.bz/3BMs

Outlines and plotting for novels: http://dld.bz/3BKX

6 Things Your Website Should Tell Book Reviewers About You (and Your Book): http://dld.bz/3BKU

Vividly depicted characters in crime fiction--making even an unknown victim come alive for the reader: http://dld.bz/3BTz @mkinberg

An agent on seeing the words "utterly original" in a query: http://dld.bz/3BK8

Working in 10 minutes of exercise a day to make us better writers: http://dld.bz/389Z

Authorial Voice: the many hued definitions: http://dld.bz/389K

A case of the not-enoughs: http://dld.bz/389h @bluemaven

A genre glossary: http://dld.bz/388K

How Acting Can Help You To Develop Character: http://dld.bz/388C

An agent on--What if there aren't enough agents? What if I don't like the ones that like me? http://dld.bz/388r

Similes, cliché, and added information: http://dld.bz/388e

Travel Writing 101: http://dld.bz/387T

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp: Choosing the Right Idea: http://dld.bz/3876

Let’s Make a Deal: An Editor/Agent Mock Negotiation: http://dld.bz/386K

Getting your NaNo on: http://dld.bz/386A

Writer platforms--why we need one and links to help develop one: http://dld.bz/3BPg

Reasons to write for writers not seeking publication: http://dld.bz/386q @jammer0501

Wonder why no one shares your blog content? Try this: http://dld.bz/385Y

Characters: When They Won't Talk To You: http://dld.bz/385n

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Let's get pickled! http://bit.ly/cXX56l @CleoCoyle

Understanding screenwriting: http://dld.bz/3hgd

Don't assume your reader isn't literally taking you literally: http://dld.bz/3hg2

What to consider before shortening links: http://dld.bz/3kPG

Busting the Top 3 Guest Blogging Myths: http://dld.bz/3kPE

5 Freelance Fears - And How to Conquer Them: http://dld.bz/3kPA

Should You Mention Using Freelance Editors? http://dld.bz/3kP8

Character development – Ken and Barbie vs. The Seven Deadly Sins: http://dld.bz/3kPz

Writing for children and youth--word counts for different age groups: http://dld.bz/3kPv

Teaching Writing for Extra Income: http://dld.bz/3kPh

Ten Tips For Your Favorite Crime Scene Investigator: http://dld.bz/3hfX

Basic author websites: http://dld.bz/3hfH

6 lies everyone knows about writers: http://dld.bz/3hfx

Writing and publishing questions answered: http://dld.bz/3hfa

You thought *your* rejections were tough? http://dld.bz/3hen

Neglected character types in women's fiction: http://dld.bz/3hae

Writing good sex scenes: http://dld.bz/3gZw

How Much Does a Book Change From First Draft to Final Copy? http://dld.bz/3gZe @jodyhedlund

Writing in the nooks and crannies of life: http://dld.bz/3gYZ

Does having 2 creative people in a relationship work? Take an informal poll: http://dld.bz/33KU

An Author's List of Things That Go Bump in the Night: http://dld.bz/3gYK

What makes a character a hero? Some qualities: http://dld.bz/33Ey @camillelaguire

A synopsis template: http://dld.bz/3gYJ

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Marvelous Meatloaf http://bit.ly/avdOQ2 @CleoCoyle

Is it ever time to self-publish? http://dld.bz/3gYE

Could Online Writing Communities Replace Creative Writing Programs? http://dld.bz/3gYz

The Ultimate Retro Laptop: http://dld.bz/3cQU @JanetRudolph

One writer's agent hunt experience: http://dld.bz/3cNP

A list of unusual tools for writers on the internet: http://dld.bz/3gZJ

Countdown to NaNoWriMo Part 4: Your Outline Will Fail: http://dld.bz/3cKp @PauloCamposInk

Jane Austen would have flunked English? (Baltimore Sun): http://dld.bz/3cHv

Nanowrimo - Make a list: http://dld.bz/3cF3

How a writer (or other creative) can develop multiple sources of revenue: http://dld.bz/3cEj

The Ecosystem of Independent Publishing: http://dld.bz/3cCZ

The No. 1 Component of an Effective Online Marketing and Promotion Strategy: http://dld.bz/3cBE

Writing compelling blog post titles--4 tips: http://dld.bz/3cAv

Reading That Helps Your Writing: http://dld.bz/3c8u

An Appeal to Poetry Editors: http://dld.bz/3c8d

How Live Readings Can Help Your Writing: http://dld.bz/3c7R

How to build a world--otherwise known as research: http://dld.bz/3cwZ

Developing contacts to promote your book (part 2): http://dld.bz/3hw5 @spunkonastick

Use Motion to Spice up Your Scenes: http://dld.bz/3cwj

Edits are *not* revisions: http://dld.bz/3hvv @authorterryo

A glimpse at some publisher-requested revisions: http://dld.bz/3hhc

How to state the obvious – obligatory scenes in Stephen King’s The Green Mile: http://dld.bz/3cvR @dirtywhitecandy

The Fine Line between the Writing and the Writer: http://dld.bz/3gYu @paulgreci

Helpful character creation links: http://dld.bz/3cvH

Get It On The Page: http://dld.bz/3cvD

17 Reasons your film script was rejected...in 1925: http://dld.bz/3cvC

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Jessica Faust! http://bit.ly/dn37oe @CleoCoyle

Revising Your Book? Check This: http://dld.bz/3cv2

50 Years of Mystery Book Awards in One Place: http://dld.bz/2S6z

The trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover (Guardian): http://dld.bz/2S6p

Best tweets for writers (wk ending 10-22): http://dld.bz/3dj7

The year murder got respectable: http://dld.bz/2S5X

Upcoming Events For YA Writers: http://dld.bz/3cQZ

Why one blogger deleted his Foursquare account: http://dld.bz/2S59

How to Avoid Using PowerPoint in 5 Easy Steps: http://dld.bz/2S52

Passion in Characters: http://dld.bz/2S5n

Writing Slow: http://dld.bz/2S4X

Twitterific--the week in tweets: http://dld.bz/3b49

Quality vs. Quantity: http://dld.bz/2S4S

The Seven Sentence Character Sketch: http://dld.bz/3baU

Writing with a formula (even if you're not a plotter): http://dld.bz/2S4Q

Where We Write: http://dld.bz/2S49

The Writing Fantasy: http://dld.bz/2S47

The Early Reader and Chapter Book Market: http://dld.bz/2S4z

How to Type in Your Own Handwriting on Your Computer: http://dld.bz/2S4q

Get Your Steam on II: New Steampunk Events the World Over: http://dld.bz/2S4n

Permission to Create “Bad” Art: http://dld.bz/2S4k

Ten of the best balls in literature (Guardian): http://dld.bz/2S3M

The Hay Festival: The literary institution to save the planet (Telegraph): http://dld.bz/2S34

Artfully recovering creativity: http://dld.bz/2S3w

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: CHIEF BAKER PAUL YATES with a LEMON CHESS PIE! http://bit.ly/bb8eRD @CleoCoyle

How to Get Boys to Read: http://dld.bz/2S2v

The Double-Edged Sword of Creative Community: http://dld.bz/2Ssu

When Every Word Is a Struggle (take 2): http://dld.bz/2S2s

Written for freelancers, but works for novelists, too: Keep Readers Hooked Past the First Paragraph: http://dld.bz/2S2m

Friday, October 29, 2010

Casting Characters

blog2Last Sunday, my husband and I took my daughter to church (our son was camping.)

Our church has a children’s moment worked into the service—a time for all the elementary-aged kids to come forward and listen to a homily by the youth pastor. The homily is usually themed, very short, and with a clear message.

Sunday’s lesson? I can’t remember exactly what it was. That’s because the youth minister asked the children what they were going to be for Halloween (as a sort of warm-up question), and my daughter loudly proclaimed she was going to be the devil.

It is true that she’s going to be a (cute) devil for Halloween. If I’d known the minister was going to ask such a question, though, I probably would have advised her not to pipe up that she was going to be Satan.

But then, this is a Presbyterian church (and a very laid-back one, at that) and the congregation burst out laughing both at what she said, where she said it, and the youth pastor’s Art Linkletter expression as he looked out at the crowd. My daughter, of course, was totally baffled at the reaction, not really seeing the good vs. evil implication. She just liked the costume.

Still...the devil wasn’t really the right casting for the minister’s homily.

It got me thinking about my own character casting. Because I do it, almost without thinking about what I’m doing.

If there’s not enough conflict, I add a character that grates on people’s nerves (and might end up being an additional victim.) If the book seems too serious, I’ll cast a funny character to bring some humor in.

But sometimes I miscast, too. I’ll put a character in who is too strong of a character and he or she steals the spotlight too many times. I’ll have to change the character or tone him down. Sometimes a character just changes the whole dynamics of the story (like the devil in the pastor’s homily.) Then I completely jettison the character, if it doesn’t work out.

Because the protagonist can’t do it all. They can’t carry the whole book and all its elements. Well, I guess they can, but it’s difficult. Much easier to have a cast of characters to support the protagonist or trip him up. As long as they’ve been well-cast.

Have you ever had to rein a character in or pull one out completely because of miscasting? Or added a new character to the cast because something was lacking?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

POV: The Cure for the Common Problem—by Janice Hardy

BlueFire 72I’m a firm believer that understanding point of view (POV) can cure most common writing problems. It’s such a versatile tool that does more than just help us pick which pronoun to use. It allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s head, empathize with them, see the world through their eyes even if that world is very different from our own. It’s what lets us be storytellers and not just someone who plops details on a page in a logical order.

Here are five common trouble spots and how POV can help fix them.

Telling, Not Showing

This is the biggie, and a problem every writer has likely faced at some point. One reason why is that when we tell, we’re explaining what is going on from our author perspective. We describe what we see as if we’re watching a play, because often we see our stories unfold in our heads like one. But try applying a solid POV to this problem. Look out through the eyes of your character and think about what they see and most importantly, how they feel about it. Forget what you as the author knows. What do they see? How does that fit into their life and their problem at that moment? Because when someone is running for their lives, they don’t bother to notice what the drapes look like. A solid POV can help keep you from telling what’s there and focused on what matters.

Backstory

If we’re telling someone else’s story, we tend to slip in extra information because the listener doesn’t know the person we’re talking about. But when we’re telling our own story, we usually only tell the details that are relevant to what we’re saying, because we already know the other stuff and know the person we’re talking to does as well. POV and backstory work in the same way. If you’re looking at a newly created room or character, you’re going to want to explain everything to catch the reader up. But think about that character as if you were her. Would you really think about your past out of the blue? Or bring up painful topics you’re trying hard to avoid? Unless something happened to trigger that memory, you’re more likely to go about your day doing what you do. If you stay inside the POV’s head, you’ll be able to see life as they do and know what’s relevant to that scene.

Weak Goals or Motivations

POV is all about motivations, because it’s how a character sees and feels about the world. Understanding how they feel or where they’re at emotionally in a scene will determine how they respond to the situation. Someone who’s terrified will react very differently from someone who is angry. They’re motivated by different things. They’re after different goals. So if a character is just acting out plot, get inside their head and think about what you’d do if you were them and why.

Low Stakes

Just like POV can help with goals, it can also help you understand what that character has at stake. It forces you to become that person, if only for a little while, and lets you ask why they’re risking their lives or family, or whatever it is that fits the plot. A lot of what we ask our characters to do, no sane person would comply with. They’d run for the nearest exit. So why is this person willing to act? What about them is making them choose this path? If you can’t find a reason for them to care, then you know where to start looking to raise those stakes. Find something about them that they do care about. To do that, get in their heads.

Voice

Voice is one of those things that’s hard to explain, but we know it when we hear it. For me, voice comes from the judgment of the character, and to get that judgment, you need a strong POV. Who that character is determines what they sound like. If all you’re doing is relating facts about a scene or story, it can sound flat, even empty. But if the scene is described how the character sees it and feels about it, it comes to life. There’s a soul behind the words. A personality. A point of view coloring every word.

I’ve found that point of view has its fingers in pretty much every aspect of writing. We can do all the characterization and study sheets and interviews we want, but until we put ourselves in that character’s head and show the world through their eyes, very little of that work can really shine.

Stories are about people. And point of view lets us be those people.

***********************

Janice Hardy Bio

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

You can find Janice at her blog: The Other Side of the Story

Blue Fire Blurb

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

***************************

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Platforms—Standing Out from the Crowd

The Charge--Andre DevambezSelling is usually not the favorite thing for writers to do. Writers like to write.

But, as we all know, selling is a big part of the job now in 21st century publishing.

What is new about selling is the indirect approach, or building a social media platform.

The basic idea, as I see it, of platforms, is to have a large enough social media presence so when a new release comes out, you’re able to promote it in a way that can impact sales. For pre-published writers, a platform gives industry professionals some insight into how much influence you have in the media…and how that might impact sales when they sign you as a writer.

It’s more than that, though, which is where some writers get off-track. They toot their own horn too much—and everyone will just tune that out.

The idea is to develop friendships, network, and provide something of value to the community. And then, to use that platform as a way to promote—indirectly and without overdoing it.

You’d think that once you get published that things would get easier---but there are just so many books out there. I walked into both Borders and Barnes and Noble (no independent stores are near me) yesterday and the number of books on their shelves was amazing. I made sure mine were in stock (they were) and signed…but what makes mine stand out from the probably 150-200 other cozy mysteries on the shelves near it?

Nothing—unless the reader happens to be someone who might have heard of me or seen me on Facebook or Twitter or on my blog or around the blogosphere as I guest post. The book covers or my name might seem a little familiar.

Really, though, that’s still statistically not likely. But it’s more likely that when I have a release, I might get some clicks online to a website to buy my book—from people in my online circles.

This sales approach is really indirect. REALLY indirect. But I did nearly earn out my advance…before the book even released, just on preorders. And who knew about this book? Mostly people I knew online. Besides, of course, the folks who order every cozy mystery that comes out each month (bless them!)

The latest issue of Mystery Scene magazine has a really generous review of Delicious and Suspicious in it. But it did tickle me when they wrote: “Riley Adams—the pseudonym of veteran author Elizabeth Spann Craig…” It made me sound grizzled! And I haven’t been around nearly as long as a lot of writers—but I think the difference is that I’ve been around online enough to give that impression.

So, summing up? Building platforms--I’m afraid we have to do it. But there are ways to do it where we’re not in people’s faces all the time or blasting out promo stuff so that potential readers unfollow and unfriend us. And best of all? It does seem to work…both for sales and for networking with folks in the industry.

This is a pretty big area right now, so I thought I’d link to a few helpful articles if anyone wants to look into this a little farther:

How To Discover and Build Your Author Brand What Platform Means for Writers Building Your Author Platform More than an Author? How to Become a Household Name–Branding 101 Your Author Platform – Branding

What kinds of things are you doing to get your name or your book’s name out there?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Creatives Together?

L'Atelier du Sculpteur--1887--Eduoard Joseph DantanMy daughter and I went to a Halloween party on Saturday night. Well, it was both a Halloween party and a premiere…the dad of my daughter’s friend had an official premiere of his band.

He’s an interesting guy—he has a huge record collection (vinyls— in floor to ceiling shelves), and just lives for music.

During the day he has a day job selling chemicals. The music really keeps him going.

His wife is a middle school assistant principal and is very matter-of-fact and serious.

I walked up to his wife at the party and raved over their house. It was full of antique music players and old radios and stereos—and books! Books everywhere. He also had a music room for all the LPs and his huge collection of 60s and 70s kitsch and toys that were on a shelf that ran along the ceiling. There were collections of different objects in different rooms. I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures. I was very impressed.

His wife said, “I get so overwhelmed in that room! I’m there for a few minutes and it drives me a little crazy so I have to go to a quieter room.” She paused for a few minutes and said, “Really, I’m kind of boring, compared to my husband.”

I said, “But I think if there were two people who were that creative in the same place, then they’d end up wanting to kill each other. Opposites work better.” I was thinking about my own daydreaminess and the way I’m easily distracted—and my husband who is nothing if not grounded. He’s very set in the here-and-now and helps rein me in from some of my flights of fancy. It works out well.

On the other hand, I do personally know a couple of husband and wife writing teams. And they work together really, really well. Although—I think they still have personalities that are very different from each other. Maybe that’s the aspect that makes it work.

I think back to all the creative unions in the past that didn’t go so well—the Sylvia Plaths and Ted Hughes of the world, or the Liz Taylors and Richard Burtons. Now there were other problems at work in those relationships, too, of course.

So I thought I’d take a little informal poll among those who’d like to participate. How many of you creative types are married to fellow artists? And how is that working for you? Or are you married to a non-creative? If you are, do they “get” what you’re doing? If they don’t “get” it, do they at least respect your reasons for writing?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Publisher-Requested Edits and Revisions

IMS00173My second book in the Memphis Barbeque series, Finger Lickin’ Dead, will launch June 2011. Last week I got the copy edited version of the manuscript—with items for me to clarify and corrections for me to make.

I was very happy to see that there weren’t really many edits or revisions to make. But I couldn’t feel smug about it—because it’s not like I always write clean copy. You’d think that it would be more of a linear thing—that the more books I write, the cleaner the copy gets. That’s sometimes true…and sometimes not.

But, despite the light load, there were my usual problem-areas to address. Editors are worth their weight in gold.

There were a couple of mind-boggling mistakes on my part that made me grit my teeth and get completely irritated with myself…and wonder if I’d had a small stroke in between the problem sentences. The cook is grating cheese and then is abruptly chopping onions? In the same sentence, practically? Really, Elizabeth!

The way that Berkley works is that even when these really, really stupid errors come up, they ask what I’d like to do. So on track changes, there was a comment in the margin—a polite “Would you rather have this be cheese? Or onions?” They don’t automatically pick one for you—you rewrite the problem area.

So, a few times where I guess the phone had rung when I was writing (or I temporarily lost my mind), and I made inconsistent statements, continuity errors, etc.

Now, of course, typos or style mistakes get automatically corrected. But not continuity or timeline errors.

A couple of the mistakes were much more subtle. There’s a can of beans that plays a (small) role in the book. It started out as baked beans. Then fifty pages went by and I referred to them as pork and beans. Then another one hundred pages went by and they were baked beans again. Continuity errors—got to love them.

This happened because I was writing the book pretty much straight-through—and I’d thought I’d written pork and beans, as I was busily working on the scene. I’d gone off of memory instead of checking the reference earlier in the manuscript.

I didn’t catch the error. My first reader didn’t catch it and my agent didn’t catch it. Thank goodness for the copyeditor. I went back and fixed all the references, thanking the editor in my head again.

Most of the errors were mistakes like that. They were easily fixed.

There were a couple of timeline errors that were also easily fixed—where I’d said that something was going to happen in a particular frame of time, but then—if you counted up all the days when I said “the next day” or “the next morning” or “two days later,” then the event hadn’t happened in that timeframe.

This is also a fairly common error of mine. It helps to keep a spreadsheet of the days. It can get complicated when lots of events happen during a novel.

Luckily for me, there was only one error where I went, “Oh hell.”

It was a timeline error and it was a fairly big one. It was going to cause me some rewriting.

I did what I usually do when I face a bigger revision—I slept on it.

The next day I made a list of all the possibilities I could think of to write myself out of the hole. And found the solution to the problem in my list.

What kinds of revision problems and edits do you usually run into? And how do you resolve them?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twitterific

Terry3_thumb[1]

Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week. If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Finding—and Losing—Memories in Fiction: http://dld.bz/2Sqw

Telling others that you're a writer--is it time to own up to the fact? http://dld.bz/2SpY

20 heroic librarians who save the world: http://dld.bz/2Mwp

AgentFail: http://dld.bz/2Jqt

Not Starting with the Action: http://dld.bz/2Jpd

Branding Leads to Landing...the All-Important Second Contract: http://dld.bz/2JnW

What if an agent doesn't like the revision I've done just for her? http://dld.bz/2JnN

The Truth About How Long it Takes to Get a Book Published: http://dld.bz/2JnF

Writing pitfalls to avoid: http://dld.bz/2Jn8

Backstory blunders: http://dld.bz/2Jn6

Writing full time--a user's guide for the newly agented: http://dld.bz/2Jng

How to Publish Your Book in the iBookstore: http://dld.bz/2JkT

When characters surprise you: http://dld.bz/2Jk6

Skirts on Camels: Early Women Travel Writers (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/2Jkx

Things Every Author Should Know about Promotion: http://dld.bz/2Jkr

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Apple Butter Spice Cake http://bit.ly/aLHdp6 @CleoCoyle

E-Books Finally Impact Bestseller Market: http://dld.bz/2Jke

10 steps to a better story: http://dld.bz/2JjU

Bob the Builder’s advice to writers: http://dld.bz/2JjM

Storytelling Voice: http://dld.bz/2Jj4

Spicing up the sagging middle of your manuscript--some tips: http://dld.bz/2M9U @juliemusil

iTunes and your writing: http://dld.bz/2M85

Are You A Slave to Your Email? http://dld.bz/2Jjt

Outline? Not if you don't want to. Do what works for *you*: http://dld.bz/2MtF

6 Ways to Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines: http://dld.bz/2Jjb

Flashback into Character Development: http://dld.bz/2Jhp

Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/22/10: http://dld.bz/2Jrj @4KidLit

Series writing for crime fiction writers--keeping it fresh and knowing when and how to end a series: http://dld.bz/2DTs @mkinberg

Writer's GUILT: http://dld.bz/2AUj

Authors Behaving Badly: What NOT to Do at Your Bookstore Event: http://dld.bz/2AUf

Writing Tip: Trim the Fat: http://dld.bz/2ATQ

Find the RIGHT agent, not just “an” agent: http://dld.bz/2ATt

5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Rights: http://dld.bz/2AS9

8 Great Mind Mapping Tools For Effective Brainstorming: http://dld.bz/2ASw

Insights about the current state of the ebook market: http://dld.bz/2ASv

Developing contacts to promote your book: http://dld.bz/2DQN

The Writer as Apprentice: http://dld.bz/2ASt

Eliminating unnecessary words: http://dld.bz/2ASn

Author acknowledgments: http://dld.bz/29TT

Mary Stewart—An Appreciation: http://dld.bz/2zBv

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Cleo Coyle's Chocolate Fudge Pumpkin Cookies with Easy Pumpkin Glaze and Two Instant... http://bit.ly/abLh2n @CleoCoyle

"Why I love Peanuts" (Guardian): http://dld.bz/2zBa

A picture book author/illustrator stands up for her protagonist after letter by concerned parent: http://dld.bz/2zA6

Dropbox for backup: http://dld.bz/2z9U

Spending cuts put libraries at risk, authors warn (Guardian): http://dld.bz/2z9S

Using old technology to buy & sell used books: http://dld.bz/2z9E

The "Strong Female Character": http://dld.bz/2z96

How to Write One Page Per Day: http://dld.bz/2z9w

An agent on some opening page tactics that fail: http://dld.bz/29TF

5 tough truths about the writing life: http://dld.bz/2z9t

Literary Terms--A Writer's Choice: http://dld.bz/29TB

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal: http://dld.bz/2z9c

The Great Steampunk Timeline: http://dld.bz/2z8W

What Not To Do At A Conference: http://dld.bz/2z6t

Richard Ford's 10 rules for writers (National Post): http://dld.bz/2z6k

Are you using protection? Free speech, libel, and risky writing: http://dld.bz/2z4W

5 ways to tap your unconscious creativity: http://dld.bz/244f

The Making of a Novel: 8 Enduring Truths About Publishing (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/2z4d

On the way to the Final Draft – Self Editing #5: http://dld.bz/2z2v

The Edward Cullen Guide to Metaphor Posts: http://dld.bz/2zzY

How To Create Believable Characters: http://dld.bz/2zzn

Seven Ways Electronic Books Will Make Us Better Readers (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/2zzf

Keep Unlikable Characters From Alienating Readers: http://dld.bz/2zzc

Writing Devices : If the Glove Doesn’t Fit, Introduce a Rooster. And Raison d’etre: http://dld.bz/2zyY

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Halloween in a Hurry—Spooky, Yummy Ghosts http://bit.ly/cgUZbW @CleoCoyle

Novel Writing Strategies and Links: http://dld.bz/2vqR

Copy-Editing the Culture: The Rise and Fall of Woody Allen, as Experienced Through His Punctuation: http://dld.bz/2vqG

Manuscript Request Etiquette: http://dld.bz/2zy6 @HeatherMcCorkle

The Secret to Social Media Success–Slow & Steady Wins the Race: http://dld.bz/2zyt

I Don't Like You! - Creating Sympathetic Characters: http://dld.bz/2zya

Ways to Generate More Traffic to Our Blogs: http://dld.bz/2zrM

Mark Twain on bestseller lists with release of memoir (Globe and Mail): http://dld.bz/2zB9

5 Ways to Make Your Novel Inescapable: http://dld.bz/2zrF @VictoriaMixon

The importance of test readers: http://dld.bz/2zyH

Finding free images for your blog: http://dld.bz/2vpE

How to kill your story before you write it – in 7 easy steps: http://dld.bz/2vpA

Make Your NaNoWriMo Experience Count (4 Posts): http://dld.bz/2vp3

How to handle agent questions when you tell them you've found representation: http://dld.bz/2vpc

Countdown to NaNoWriMo Part 3: Outlining A Novel Worth Reading: http://dld.bz/2rkR

Cold Iron: David Boyer, Plagiarist: http://dld.bz/2rkK

Reading fees – a money spinner? http://dld.bz/2rkv

How to speak publisher - A is for Agent: http://dld.bz/2rkq

Block That Adjective! (Wall St. Journal) http://dld.bz/2rhG

Originality in Genre Fiction – An Oxymoron? http://dld.bz/2rkh

3 Simple Ways to Rapidly Create Custom Facebook Landing Tabs: http://dld.bz/2rjE

Twitter 101--Who Can See My Tweets? : http://dld.bz/2rkB

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Coconut-berry granola goodness! http://bit.ly/cAkr25 @CleoCoyle

Paris’ Seine-side Bookselling bouquinistes Tout Trinkets, but City Hall Cries “Non”: http://dld.bz/2rkz

Why Simply Knowing Your Book’s Genre Isn’t Enough To Get Published: http://dld.bz/2mWT

3 Things To Help You Make The Most Of Every Day: http://dld.bz/2mWS

10 ways to find material to blog about: http://dld.bz/2mUS

An Agent on The Value of Professional Organizations: http://dld.bz/2mUJ

Finished your novel? Start writing the next one: http://dld.bz/2mUD

Mind-mapping: http://dld.bz/2mUt

The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking: http://dld.bz/2mUs

View to A Kill: Finding the Best Point-of-View: http://dld.bz/2mW2

Making a Book Stand Out: What Helps the Most? http://dld.bz/2mTQ

Debut series writing: http://dld.bz/2mSS

How to revise your novel without getting stale – take a tip from Michael Caine: http://dld.bz/2mSk @dirtywhitecandy

Nanowrimo Prep: Elements of Act One: http://dld.bz/2jKG

The writing advice you need but don't want: http://dld.bz/2jKq @jammer0501

6 Things To Do Before Submission Day: http://dld.bz/2mWu

How to reject an agent and let other agents know you have an offer: http://dld.bz/2jKp

Moving past checklists and writing rules--it's all about the story: http://dld.bz/2mVU

"Stop Beating Me Over the Head With Your Book": http://dld.bz/2jKf

An Agent Answers General Questions on Proposals: http://dld.bz/2jJU

Do It All, Or Die Trying: The Way Of The Renaissance Writer: http://dld.bz/2jJu

Why give critiques? http://dld.bz/2jJf @clarissadraper

Those unsolicited guest post offers: http://dld.bz/2jHJ

Peter Jackson to begin filming The Hobbit in 2011: http://dld.bz/2mVb

The Seven Stages of Editing Grief: http://dld.bz/2jH9

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 10/15/10--Jane Friedman, Writer's Digest: http://dld.bz/2jHv

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Bloody Shirley http://bit.ly/aMDTSR @CleoCoyle

New Agent Alert: Elena Mechlin of Pippin Properties: http://dld.bz/2jHn

Dramatic Tension: http://dld.bz/zWpy

Writing Articles to Build a Solid Online Business: Four Tips: http://dld.bz/zWpu

Ten of the best taxis in literature(Guardian): http://dld.bz/zWph

Plotting--should we be keeping it simple? http://dld.bz/2jgw

Five great e-reader apps for your iPad: http://dld.bz/zWpb

Make sure it's your character's voice speaking, even when they're not talking: http://dld.bz/2jgg @authorterryo

Kurt Vonnegut, e.e. cummings & Shel Silverstein Are Most Popular Literary Tattoo Inspirations: http://dld.bz/zWnR

5 common Facebook faux pas: http://dld.bz/zWne

The Art Of Writing And Selling Memoirs (NPR): http://dld.bz/zWmX

Don't mention blogging in your query...unless you *really* blog: http://dld.bz/zWmV

Silhouette Fades as Harlequin Rebrands: http://dld.bz/zWmP

Horror fiction--10 cliches to avoid: http://dld.bz/zWmE

5 Famous Writers That Lived in Exile: http://dld.bz/zWmv

Our libraries must branch out into a world of tweets and blogs (Telegraph): http://dld.bz/zWmt

Remember to write like Strunk and White: http://dld.bz/zWmh

10 Steps to Successful Video Blogging: http://dld.bz/zWmc

4 Factors for Choosing an MFA Program: http://dld.bz/zWma

How to Show Up and Write: http://dld.bz/zWkY

The Rule of 5 for Book Promotion (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/zWjM:

6 Ways To Cure Blogger Writer’s Block: http://dld.bz/zWkn

Listen to yourself--why writers should interview themselves: http://dld.bz/zTwz

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Trick or Treat! Say Cheese!! http://bit.ly/dBhO8c @CleoCoyle

Ten Things About You To Make You An Identity Theft Victim (some can be found by our carelessness online): http://dld.bz/zTwy

Agents Talk Trends, Platform, eBooks and More at Wrangling With Writing: http://dld.bz/zTwu

On parallel construction of your sentences: http://dld.bz/zTwn

How to break in to non-fiction and fiction... a primer: http://dld.bz/zTwa

Themes in crime fiction--"the one that got away": http://dld.bz/zTnq @mkinberg

RT When novelists sober up http://bit.ly/m0R1i (via @WillLangdale, @AdviceToWriters)

Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/15/2010: http://dld.bz/zWp8

E-reading--pros and cons: http://dld.bz/zTvZ

Authors--is your book missing from your local bookstore? Don't be afraid to ask about it: http://dld.bz/zTvR

10 things writers should never forget: http://dld.bz/zTuM @ZiggyKinsella

Amish Romance: More Faith And No Sex In This Slice Of Christian Fiction (NPR): http://dld.bz/zTuJ

Using Dropbox with your Kindle device: http://dld.bz/zTrF

How to pick the right POV for your novel: http://dld.bz/zTrz and http://dld.bz/zTr2

Why writers *must* write: http://dld.bz/zTh6 @camillelaguire

An independent editor with tips on creating unique characters: http://dld.bz/zTec

Why authors should love all their characters: http://dld.bz/zTfH

Confused about writing synopses? Take a look at Wikipedia: http://dld.bz/zTf8

The book tour: is it worth it? (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/zTfz

The author bio--6 important components: http://dld.bz/zTfq

James Ross and The Agony of the One-Hit Wonder: http://dld.bz/zHp3

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Guest Blogger Kathleen Ernst! http://bit.ly/bzQAL1 @CleoCoyle

Do You Try Your Agent’s Patience? http://dld.bz/zHpz

8 Lessons To Learn from Screwing Up Your Manuscript: http://dld.bz/zHnN @victoriamixon

Thoughts From An Aspiring Picture Book Author: http://dld.bz/zHnJ

5 Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month: http://dld.bz/zHnH @thecreativepenn

4 Tips for Researching a Novel: http://dld.bz/zHkV

Time Saving Tips for Freelance Writers: http://dld.bz/zHkP

10 classic SF books that were originally considered failures: http://dld.bz/zHkG

The Making of a Novel: A Simple Solution for Overusing Certain Words (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/zHk7

5 Articles on Perseverance: http://dld.bz/zHkz

How to fire your agent: http://dld.bz/zHku

How to speak publisher - A is for Advance: http://dld.bz/zHkp

"My Story Isn't What You Represent But You Should Still Sign Me": http://dld.bz/zHkg

Should you mention your competitor in your marketing message? http://dld.bz/zAnR

The Top 5 Free eBooks for Fiction Writers: http://dld.bz/zAnN

Countdown to NaNoWriMo Part 2: Why Outlining Your Novel Is Essential: http://dld.bz/zAnB

Saturday, October 23, 2010

“I’m a Writer.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Longtime readers of this blog will know that for a couple of years I’ve been really reluctant to admitting to be a writer.  Especially in casual conversation with a new acquaintance.

That’s because, in my experience, whenever you mention being a writer, the focus of the conversation shifts to you.  Many writers are introverts and aren’t especially excited about being in a conversation with someone they don’t know anyway, much less being the focus of it.

For me, though, it got to the point where it was ridiculous not to mention it.  I found that if I didn’t mention my writing, then people didn’t understand why I couldn’t volunteer every day at the school (I still volunteer a lot there), or why I couldn’t talk on the phone for long periods of time during the mornings.  Or why I’d disappear into my house around deadlines and not be seen out.

Writing and promotion became such a huge time-taking part of my life that it was impossible NOT to say something about it.

But I’m not a salesperson.  Or, at least, I’m a really rotten one.  So I tend to say, “I’m a writer” in the same tone of voice that someone would use for “I’m an accountant.”  It’s very matter-of-fact.  If they ask a lot of questions, I hand them my business card (especially since I have a pen name.  New acquaintances have a hard enough time remembering my real name, without having to learn a pen name, too.)

Then I get the heck out of the conversation as fast as possible.

I’ve decided that there is no typical response when you say you’re a writer.  I’ve gotten:

“Should I know who you are?”  (No.)
"Are your books at the library?” (Yes.)
"I have an idea for you! I’ve always wanted to write about…”

There are, also, questions I always get:

“What types of books do you write?”
"Are you published?”
"Do you write under your own name?”
"How many books have you written?” (7, but there are only 2 on the shelf right now—and one on backlist, 1 in production, and 1 that’s due in a month that I’m editing. And one that will be finished in a few months.)

This past week I had two times where I needed to mention what I do.   And they were probably the worst reactions that I get. So for those of you who are worried about mentioning your writing?  These are the worst-case scenarios…and it’s really not that bad. 

The first time was on Monday.  I was on a field trip and had been asked by the school to pick up another chaperone and carpool with her for the 45 minutes to the field trip destination.

She said, “So, tell me what you do.  Because I haven’t yet met any housewives here in Matthews.”  (She was new to the area.  There are plenty of homemakers and stay-at-home moms.)

“I’m a writer.”

“You write books!?""

“Yes.”

She looked at me disbelievingly and changed the subject.  Lovely ride for another 40 minutes or so in the car. Smile

The next time was last week with a new physician I’m seeing.  He’s intended to cure me of my lifetime sleep problems (good luck with that.)  He asked me what I did for a living.

“I’m a writer.”

“You write books.  They’re on the shelf."  (These were not questions.)

“Yes.”

“I could go over to the store and get them.”

“Yes.”

He looked at me very seriously for a minute.  He apparently has one of those really dour personalities.  “That’s very interesting,” he said, in a completely deadpan voice.

I burst out laughing because his expression and his tone totally belied his words.  He really didn’t find it very interesting, but thought he should say that he did.

Now there are writers out there who really don’t want to (and shouldn’t) reveal they’re writers.  Being put in the spotlight might affect their creative process too much.

But for those of you out there who would actually make life easier by admitting to being a writer (because people would leave you alone more during your free time)—I’m here to tell you that it can be done.  And you can become immune to people’s reactions (I think I have now), find them interesting enough to make the people into characters if they have a unique reaction to your revelation (that doctor may have to fit in to a WiP somewhere)—or possibly even sell a couple of books.

If I can do it, so can you!

Are you still in the closet, in regards to your writing?  Or have you come out to the world about it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Doing Things Our Own Way

167

I had a conversation with my agent a couple of days ago that reminded me of something that happened at the pool this past summer. Y’all know by now that I spent most of my sweltering summer at the swimming pool with my kids.

This particular day, I was there with my daughter and her best friend. Since we were at the pool between noon and 3, I’d packed a lunch so that we didn’t have to buy the expensive pool snack-bar lunch.

I’d stuffed a motley assortment in the cooler—1 peanut butter, 1 ham, a couple of apples, some chips, some cookies, some water, some lemonade. The kids came out of the pool, plopped down at the table, took things out of the cooler, ate off the table, dropped things on the cement, called the “five second rule” and ate everything I’d brought.

I was writing my book for a few minutes while they laughed and talked with each other. Then I put my notebook down and I talked to them while they ate about people I noticed at the pool—I wondered about people and what they were doing and where they came from and made up little scenarios about them for fun. They both came up with some of their own ideas about their fellow pool-goers. They stuffed the food down their throats and hopped back into the pool. I started writing Memphis BBQ 3 again, and looked up from time to time to make sure no one was drowning (and that the lifeguards looked like they’re on top of things.)

Suddenly this other mom sat down at the table next to me and I felt like a complete Mommy Failure. “Wait! Don’t touch! Don’t touch!” she said to her kids. She took out wipes and proceeded to wipe down the table and chairs. Then she spread the red towel you see in the picture down as a tablecloth (yes, I’m afraid I take pictures with my phone of anything I find interesting. :) I scare people sometimes…)as the two cute preschool children looked on.

She unpacked a HOT lunch from her cooler (which, I guess, makes it really a “heater”). Then, while the children ate lunch, she talked to them about how to tell time…pointing out the analog clock and quizzing each of the kids. She was completely engaged, though, instead of being distracted and vague like I was. At the end of it, she talked about simple addition and subtraction as she put things in and out of the cooler.

Then she talked to them about general pool safety.

But… the kids I brought to the pool just ate a (fairly) healthy lunch. They were happy. I did visit with them, but I didn’t strain their brain or anything. They were having a good time.

I’d done it all differently from the other mom. But, I think, we came up with the same results. Except that my kids didn’t learn anything too academic from our exchange. Maybe they were more creative during it, though.

She was a good mom. I think I am, too. But we parent differently—although hopefully both of us end up with children who’ve been well-raised.

Writing is like this. There must be at least a hundred different ways to complete a manuscript. Who cares as long as we all make it to the finish line? And, yes, hearing someone else’s success story about using a particular method may make me rethink mine…but after all, shouldn’t we just go with what works for us?

I talked to my agent a couple of days ago. I’ve got something new that I’m going to start working on in the next month. Of course, I’m also putting the finishing touches on the third Memphis barbeque book.

“Good thing you can keep these storylines straight!” she said with a laugh. “That’s where outlining and thinking it all out in advance comes in, right?” She’d talked to this other author who did a lot of outlining.

I paused. “Actually, Ellen, I…don’t outline.”

“Oh. Oh! Okay.” She thought about this for a minute. “But mysteries are really kind of complicated, though. An outline wouldn’t help?” she asked.

“I think outlining kind of messes me up, actually. I just make everything up as I go along. My first drafts are awful, but the mysteries end up making sense after the revisions.”

I’m sure this sounds like a really disorganized way of writing a book…especially to someone who isn’t a writer.

And there are writers I know of who have great careers and use a totally different process than I do. But we both sell our books.

Whenever I start questioning myself and the way I write a book, I just remind myself that it doesn’t matter how we do it—it’s just important that we write. We all have different processes---but then, we all end up with different books.

Do you have a writing process that works for you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tapping Unconscious Creativity—by K.M. Weiland

author-pic Studies have proven that most people are noticeably stronger in one hemisphere of the brain or the other, mostly due to their tendency to exercise one side more often. Neither side of the brain is better than the other. But, as writers, we can’t discount the value of figuring out which side we live in most—and then stretching ourselves to explore the uncharted territories on the other side.

Our work (and our lives) would be pretty useless without the logical sides of our brains. Our writing would be a frenetic wash of color and emotion, which would probably end up being indistinguishable to anyone but ourselves. We need that logical side of our brains to help us organize our thoughts into coherency. But the power of art is almost always the result of the right side of our brains—the unconscious side. So how do we keep our conscious brain out of the way long enough to tap into our unconscious creativity?

1. Make time to dream. In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (http://www.kmweiland.com/books_CWBASI.php), I talk about the importance of daydreaming. Quietude can be difficult to find in the midst of our hectic lives, but even just a few minutes of daydreaming every day can reap significant results.

2. Don’t censure yourself. Creativity is a delicate and temperamental creature, and it often wilts away under the weight of “the rules” or the carping of our infernal internal editors. Not everything that bubbles up from the depths of your unconscious creativity will have worth, but give yourself time to get it on paper and let it rest for a while before judging it.

3. Tell your left brain to zip it. Your left brain can be a pushy character. When he’s telling you he thinks he knows best how to write this story, tell him to stow it for a bit, so his chatter doesn’t distract you from the offerings of your right brain. Your left brain will get his chance later.

4. Focus on the senses. Our subconscious works on a level deeper than words. It feeds our brains with images, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings, which our conscious brains then translate into words. Nothing wrong with those words (they’re the tools of our trade, after all!), but give a try to focusing on the raw sensations. Close your eyes and visualize the scene you’re writing. What colors stand out? What can you smell? What does your body feel like? This is the best way I know to find those all-important “telling” details that bring a scene to life.

5. Listen to your gut instinct. Ever get that itching feeling that something is wrong with a story? You’re zipping right along, having a good ol’ time with your characters… but something just doesn’t feel right. I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct. I can’t think of an instance in which it has ever failed me. We just have to learn to interpret what it’s telling us.

Most authors would be the first to admit that the best of their writing is beyond even them. It comes from someplace outside the conscious realm. Once we recognize and accept that fact, we are then able to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity of harnessing our unconscious minds. The two sides of our creativity—the conscious and the unconscious—working in harmony, the one pulsing and pounding ahead, the other slowing and refining, are capable of producing some pretty fantastic things.

CD K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Importance of Test Readers—by Alex Cavanaugh

CassaStar Elizabeth invited me to share with you today something about writing. Since this was an important part of my process, I decided to focus on test readers. Why would you need test readers? Bluntly put, it’s another set of eyeballs on your work. Test readers will see things you’ve overlooked – stilted dialogue, plot contrivances, continuity errors, lack of information, confusing transitions, and so forth. We are so close to our work that we often miss these things. Test readers need to be objective in order to be effective. A spouse or close friend might feel reluctant to hurt your feelings. (Then again, that might be your toughest critic!) Test readers should be familiar with your genre and know what to look for in a good book. I also believe a mixture of readers and writers is best. Allow your test readers the opportunity to read through the entire scene or manuscript. When they return your work, read every suggestion and consider changes. If at all possible, sit down with your test readers (or get with them online or on the phone) and discuss each page. Sometimes comments are vague and you need clarification. If there’s an issue with a scene, you need to know exactly why it doesn’t work. This opens up discussions and you can bounce ideas off each other. It’s easy to grow defensive, but resist the urge. Consider the validity of each suggestion. If your test people had a problem with a scene, then so will other readers. Be open to changes that will improve the flow of your story and strength of your dialogue. Once you’ve made alterations, let them read it again to be sure all issues were addressed. My test readers for CassaStar identified several mistakes. They pointed out scenes where more description was required to clarify the situation. They really assisted with my dialogue, suggesting cuts and changes where necessary. We even read through several scenes to achieve a smooth flow of dialogue. Without their help, my manuscript would still be a jumbled mess! Do you employ test readers? Alex J. Cavanaugh http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/ CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC To pilot the fleet’s finest ship… Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard. Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential. As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit? “…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67YBjQve00U Links to purchase: AMAZON - BARNES & NOBLE - BAM Also available in eBook format for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and others Bio: Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Picture

The Banks of the Spree near Stralau--1817--Karl Friedrich Schinkel My 8th grade son is working on a social studies project that’s due tomorrow.

He’s carefully portioned out the work over the space of a week. He’s researched, cited sources, found images, organized data, and decided on a format.

His teacher gave a grading rubric and he’s meticulously followed it, ticking off each thing as he’s worked.

I decided to look over the assignment before he handed it in. The research and mechanics and presentation? Wonderful.

The problem? “Sweetie,” I said, “this is supposed to be an advertisement. Your brochure needs to convince people to move from overcrowded 1735 Britain to the New World to settle in Massachusetts. The facts are right. But it has to be persuasive.”

That was the whole point of the project. Not, however, listed on the rubric. :) He rewrote the material.

I think lots of writers do the same sort of thing. I know I did when I was new to writing— I followed a mental checklist. What was my hook? Did my first sentence grab the reader? Did I use too many adverbs? Show instead of tell? Write too much description…or not enough?

But, really, I was missing the whole point, which should have been: had I written a good story? Had I entertained the reader? Because most of us are writing to entertain.

Instead I should have been asking:

Did my characters come to life on the page? Were there moments of excitement? Humor? Characters for readers to relate to—and characters for them to hate? Was there something at stake for my protagonist?

Would the reader keep turning the pages… for the character depictions, the quality of the writing, or the exciting plot?

The other stuff can be fixed in revisions. Everything, ultimately, just boils down to the story.

It can be hard to get rid of the rubric in our heads—the checklist of the writing rules. How do you return the focus onto your story?

Hope you’ll join me tomorrow in welcoming Alex Cavanaugh to Mystery Writing is Murder. He’ll be talking about the importance of test readers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keeping it Simple

frozen Recently, I heard a couple of different people talk about simplicity in writing.

The first time, I heard two authors at an event I was attending, talk about another author’s books. The books are very successful. “But—they’re so simple!” said one author. “The plots aren’t complex at all—the stories are just so basic!”

The other author agreed. They’d both worked hard on complicated plotlines with twists and turns and surprises and were amazed that a very simple plot was working so well for readers.

Then, last week, a local movie reviewer came on a radio show to talk about good horror movies to rent for Halloween. His pick wasn’t some of the bigger budget horror films, but a movie called “Frozen,” which had had a limited theatrical release when it had come out earlier this year, but has apparently started to gain a following.

The movie’s plot, said the critic, is very simple. It involves snowboarders who get stuck on a ski lift—and, no one knows they’re up there or will know because the resort closes during the week.

And there’s a snowstorm, frostbite, extreme cold, scary heights—and wolves.

Very simple. But effective…maybe because it’s believable?

My plots aren’t really that simple—there are plenty of red herrings alongside clues, suspects tell lies (and tell the truth and it’s hard to tell which is which), and there are multiple possibilities for the mystery’s solution.

But at the same time, I try not to make it too complicated—after all, this is supposed to be fun.

I think my question is this: why does simplicity work with some plots and are there times when it doesn’t work as well as others? How complex or simple are your own plots?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Creating Unique Characters—by Marvin D.Wilson

Hugs Front Cover Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for having me on your blog today. When you agreed to host a stop on the tour, you asked for a guest post, offering several suggestions for topics; and I settled on the one about ‘how to create distinctive characters for your novels’.

There is the old adage, ‘write what you know’, and it certainly does help for a writer to have lived long, loved and hated, had several peaks and valleys during the journey, been ‘around the block’ several times and experienced lots of different situations.

I read that Hemingway would seek out wars and hire on as a mercenary so he could experience the intensity of real life and death battle. I’ve never been in a war, but part of my writing arsenal is having had a rather widely varied and experiential life background. From a young Hippie Rock and Roll travelling musician, to nightclub entertainer, to a formally trained Zen student, to carpenter, to small business owner, to network marketer, to sales and sales training, to skilled trades instructor and adult education teacher, to public speaker and motivational coach, to mention some.

I came from a small, lily-white northern Michigan town, but have during my adult life hung out in metropolitan cities, been down in the ghettos and made friends there, got to know and make friends with people of all races, ethnic and religious backgrounds. And I have had first hand experience with serious narcotics addiction, complete with considerable interaction with underworld characters: hookers, drug dealers, hustlers, etc. So it’s easy for me to draw from all the different types of people I have known to put composite characters together that are going to feel real to the reader because they are based on actual people I’ve known. Not usually just one person, but piece this from that one with that from another—that sort of thing.

But a writer does not have to have all that much first hand life experience to create real and distinctive characters. You can write people that you never have ‘known’. You just have to be a fastidious observer, a people watcher at all times, a perpetual, insatiable sponge of information gathering. Go sit in the mall and watch people. If you are from a small town, go to big cities and hang around downtown observing people. And visa versa if you’re from the big city and have not experienced small town living. Interview crooks, ex-cons of all types of crimes, set appointments with pastors, doctors, nurses, pilots, war vets, etc., and build up a vicarious life experience background from which to draw on when creating characters.

Also important is making sure you keep your ‘self’ out of your characters. Unless you want to speak through a character who is going to represent you and your messages, and that is perfectly fine—just keep it to one—you should guard against having your characters talk and act like you do. As an editor I see this all the time from novice writers. There might be anywhere from three to seven main and supporting characters and all of them use the same pet phrases—an obvious giveaway that the author uses those phrases. Same goes for mannerisms, emotional reactions, everything. Create one-of-a-kind characters, each with his or her own mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, ethical and moral, sexual persuasion, whatever, makeup.

Here are a couple things that can help. One, keep a character journal. For every main and supporting character, have a list of all their characteristics, including special notes to yourself as you write and develop them. Here’s a sample from my Hugs character journal-

Full name: Destiny Marie Jackson – Nickname, “Cocoa”

Gender: Female

Age: Twenty nine

Height: 5’ 7”

Weight: 110 lb

Race: African American

Occupation: Prostitute

Skin tone: Creamy coffee when healthy, ashy when book opens and she is on heroin

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Unkempt medium sized Afro

Body type: Slender, medium sized perky breasts, long legged

Sexual persuasion: strongly sexed heterosexual, and totally not satisfied sexually in spite of all the sex she’s having.

Voice tone: Raspy alto

Speech mannerisms: ghetto slang talker, swears a lot in opening chapters. As story unfolds she cleans up her language and expands her vocabulary.

Pet phrases: hecky; good googely moogely; okey dokey

Distinguishing features: large scar under her chin. Tramp stamp tattoo of a Harley Davidson logo

Role in story and relationship to other characters: Secondary main character, falls in love with and marries The Old Man. Becomes best friends with Angel, Christian Wilson’s fiancĂ©.

Religion/spiritual path: Agnostic at first, then Christian

Notes: Abused sexually by her father as an early teenager. She ran away from home at 16, never finished high school. Her parents live off Fenkel Street, just west of Livernois. She now lives on eight mile. Likes pizza, hip-hop, Mountain Dew, not a heavy alcohol drinker, favorite books are romance novels. Detroit Pistons fan.

~~~~~

I use the same list for all my characters. I might not have all the categories filled in as I start writing, but I go to the journal and fill in the blanks as they are created.

And here’s another technique I’ve just started using: before you write your book, interview your main characters. Just as if they were sitting in the room with you, ask them questions like ...

· What is your favorite food? (ask color, music, kinds of books, movies, etc)

· What are your core spiritual beliefs?

· If you were in a situation where you could help someone—a total stranger in desperate need—but it meant you had to make a personal sacrifice to do so, what would you do?

· What was your upbringing, your family situation like?

· What do you hate the most in life?

· What do your fear most?

· What turns you on, makes you happy?

· In a relationship, what do you want to get out of it ... be it a sexual, life partner, friendship, spiritual, or business relationship?

You get the idea. Be creative, and adjust the kinds of questions you ask your characters according to the genre you are writing in.

So there are some ideas, some things I’ve found to be helpful in creating and developing unique, distinctive, and believable characters. I hope you all find them useful, and I do look forward to reading the comments today. All you writers ... share with us one of your special techniques, hmm?

Beware the Devil’s Hug introduces readers to a mishmash of deftly-drawn, misguided characters who are prone to bad decisions and worse circumstances. But as one homeless man proves, things are not always what they seem. This book is part-magical realism, part-spirituality and part-social commentary; and remarkably, Wilson’s cornucopia works harmoniously to create an utterly engrossing and enlightening story.”

~ Jen Knox, author of Musical Chairs (a memoir), and the forthcoming novel, Absurd Hunger

K 1

Marvin D. Wilson writes primarily in the spiritual/inspirational genre, but likes to pen “cross- over” novels that appeal to a wide variety of readers. His books are uplifting, sometimes weighty, oftentimes humorous, abidingly thought-provoking, meant to instill and create passion and emotion, more than occasionally provocative to the point of controversial, and always “tell it like it is”, real world, no punches pulled writing.

He likes to deliver spiritual messages in a non-preachy, often irreverent, sometimes sexy and ribald way, through the medium of an entertaining story.

Marvin's tour schedule and dates are here, and please be sure to visit him at his next stop: Books and Authors. Please check out his contest---the contest rules and prizes can be found here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twitterific

Terry3_thumb[1] Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week.  I’m doing a special Saturday version of Twitterific since I’ll be hosting a guest tomorrow—Marvin Wilson.

If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Hope you’ll return tomorrow as Marvin Wilson addresses “Creating Unique Characters.”

Some questions to ask as you revise: http://dld.bz/zAn6

How to Use the New Twitter Design (Video Tutorial): http://dld.bz/zAnu

The Fiction of Memories: http://dld.bz/zAmk

5 Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Outstanding: http://dld.bz/zAkF

Madonna’s 6 Secrets to Personal Branding Mastery: http://dld.bz/zAjU

On Teaching the Graphic Novel: http://dld.bz/zAnU

Writing Erotica: A Little Steam May Be Just What You Need: http://dld.bz/zAjP

3 Critical Steps After Rejection: http://dld.bz/zAjE

5 basic tips for writers: http://dld.bz/zAjB

When truth is too strange for fiction: http://dld.bz/zAjv

How a writer can develop multiple streams of revenue: part one: http://dld.bz/zAhF

Future Classics: Best science fiction by women written 2001-2010: http://dld.bz/zAhD

Considering A Rewrite? Some things to mull over: http://dld.bz/zAh6

Newbie writers: Watch out for these big writing no-no’s: http://dld.bz/zAh3

Are you organizing your novel's information well? http://dld.bz/zAhn

Judge Refuses To Dismiss Suit Against J.K. Rowling (NPR): http://dld.bz/zAgR

This Query Sucks (or how to fail and still succeed): http://dld.bz/zzaj

Dialogue tips--a balancing act: http://dld.bz/zzac

5 Resources To Help You Plan Your NaNoWriMo Novel: http://dld.bz/zyZQ

An agent on--"I Was Published In The Past And Want To Be Published Now!": http://dld.bz/zyXM

Small ways to show, and when to tell: http://dld.bz/zyXF

Writing Discipline. Or Not. http://dld.bz/zyXD

How to Integrate Video Into Your Social Media Marketing: http://dld.bz/zyX3

How To Adjust Your Blog According To Your Visitors: http://dld.bz/zyXz

Reading like a writer (Writer's Digest): http://dld.bz/zyUK

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Coffee Drinking Cocker Spaniels and a THIRD RAIL LATTE for Victoria http://bit.ly/bAkbnS @CleoCoyle

10 ways to know your WIP is in trouble: http://dld.bz/zyJH

Are You a Triple-Crown Writer? http://dld.bz/zyJx

Social Media Savvy–The Art of Making Others Feel Welcome: http://dld.bz/zyJu

The Writer's 10 Commandments: http://dld.bz/zyHT

Is the First Line Really THAT Important? http://dld.bz/zyFa

Let's talk about goals--for your characters: http://bit.ly/9ypQpQ @p2p_editor

Synopsis transition words: http://dld.bz/zyEw

Dr. Seuss Manuscript Surfaces: http://dld.bz/zAnY

What's our character like on an *ordinary* day (when they're not trying to save the world): http://dld.bz/z9M8

Unpublished writers--an agent on your chances of getting published: http://dld.bz/zyEk

Writing a sex scene is an impossible task (Telegraph): http://dld.bz/z9J9

Adults Take the Fun Out of Reading, Again (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/zqun

Ease Up On The Self-Pressure: http://dld.bz/zh5k

The Nine Stages of Dating a Novel: http://dld.bz/zh4t

The Future of Publishing: You Get to Decide (Writer's Digest--Friedman): http://dld.bz/zh4f

6 reasons you should be a writer: http://dld.bz/zh4c

The Best Characters of All: Seth Johnson on Gaming & Writing: http://dld.bz/zh38

Myths and misconceptions in publishing: http://dld.bz/zh3y

What do writers make at different publishers? The famous (and now updated) "Show Me the Money" survey with answers: http://dld.bz/z6f2

Five Digital Publishing Considerations: http://dld.bz/zh3t

Plots and Characters and Settings, Oh My! http://dld.bz/zh3r

Why You Shouldn’t Click “Free Public Wifi” Network While Writing Remotely: http://dld.bz/zh3n

What Writers Can Learn from the Masters of Horror: http://dld.bz/zh3a

Keeping Books vs. Getting Rid of Books: http://dld.bz/zhzt

Are Book Signings Worth the Time & Effort? http://dld.bz/zhyY @jodyhedlund

Writing mentors: http://dld.bz/zhyU

Your blog is your resume: http://dld.bz/zhyG

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: A Family-Pleasing Casserole—Creamy Beef Noodle http://bit.ly/aFEAHm @CleoCoyle

Thoughts on Writing Series: http://dld.bz/zhy5

The rebooted "Sherlock" world where Dr. Watson blogs and Holmes prefers to text: http://dld.bz/zhym

How to email a busy person (like an agent):--six tips for effective emails: http://dld.bz/zeWM

When writing just isn't fun anymore: http://dld.bz/zeUG

Word Count Violations and You: http://dld.bz/zeUu

Sex in YA: http://dld.bz/zyYH

Why the Booker is the best literary award (Salon): http://dld.bz/zyKk

To be or not to be: on passive writing-- http://dld.bz/zeUn

2010 National Book Award Finalists Announced: http://dld.bz/zyKc

Talking crap about your WiP: http://dld.bz/zeT6

Mistakes writers make: "Dear Editor": http://dld.bz/zeT4

Thinking as Writing: http://dld.bz/zeTy

A publishing timeline: http://dld.bz/zeTm

How to use Facebook to promote your writing business: http://dld.bz/zeTc

The Best-Selling Novels That Made You Snore: http://dld.bz/zeSW

10 things writers know: http://dld.bz/zwhZ @elspethwrites

Five Ways to Add Suspense to Your Story: http://dld.bz/zeSJ

Mystery Writer's Guide to Forensic Science: Poisonous Plants: http://dld.bz/zwgR @clarissadraper

On book blurbs--why an author might not be able to blurb your book: http://dld.bz/zwjZ

Debunking some publishing myths: http://dld.bz/zeSx

Tips for writing emotionally gripping scenes (use visceral reactions): http://dld.bz/zwfp @authorterryo

A Few Common Writing Problems: http://dld.bz/zeRN

An unusual writing challenge: http://dld.bz/zeR7

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Cupcake Love-In was off the hook! http://bit.ly/d9s9fs @CleoCoyle

Choosing Which Manuscript to Query: http://dld.bz/zeRz

A Few Words on Word Counts: http://dld.bz/zeRr

On Ted Hughes's 'Last Letter' to Sylvia Plath (Guardian): http://dld.bz/zeQW

Creating a character is like dressing a mannequin: http://dld.bz/zaQb @YolaRamunno

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: And the winner is... http://bit.ly/aguosh @CleoCoyle

Nobel Literature Winner Tried Other Jobs (NPR): http://dld.bz/zaPX

Top 10 Classic Horror Stories: http://dld.bz/zaPW

Writing long fiction--the allure of plus-sized books: http://dld.bz/zaPM

Publisher Evaluations--a Checklist: http://dld.bz/zaPF

How to create a futuristic world (with working link!) :) : http://dld.bz/zrWe

The 7 Deadly Fears of Blogging and How to Overcome Them: http://dld.bz/zaEE

The printed book is not dead yet (Guardian): http://dld.bz/zaED

The All-Important First Chapter (and tips for yours) : http://dld.bz/zaE7

Writers should have a domain name--here's how: http://dld.bz/zaEv @clarissadraper

How to write presidents, kings, queens and superstars: http://dld.bz/zaEk @dirtywhitecandy

5 Ways to (Re-)Capture Creativity: http://dld.bz/zaEh

Brainstorming--Turn "What If" Into "Maybe": http://dld.bz/zptq @ultraswan

The Value of Writing for Anthologies: http://dld.bz/zaDp

Writing Tip: Use of Body Language: http://dld.bz/zaDf

Writer's block--2 different types and resources to cure yourself of it: http://dld.bz/zn2W

5 Free Online Writing Courses for Freelancers: http://dld.bz/yUEb

10 typical questions from writers (that are really just fear in disguise): http://dld.bz/zn2D

Winning the staring contest: http://dld.bz/yUDY

Halloween Mysteries 2010: http://dld.bz/yUD8 @JanetRudolph

Comics Publishers Recognize Digital Opportunity: http://dld.bz/yHpB

Dickens in Lagos: http://dld.bz/yHp8

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: http://bit.ly/ctPUfI @CleoCoyle

10 Minutes of Fun: (The Importance of Not Taking Our Writing Too Seriously): http://dld.bz/yHpz

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Julie's Fish Delish! http://bit.ly/cRL3JL @CleoCoyle

Children's writers--Cricket Magazine Group Looking for Writers and Illustrators: http://dld.bz/yHpv

Matt Forbeck on Gaming & Writing: http://dld.bz/yHpp

Self-Esteem Tool Kit, for Writers: http://dld.bz/yHpf

A Tale of Contracts: One Children’s Author’s Experience: http://dld.bz/zhWV

Tautologies: http://dld.bz/yHnF

Writing memoirs--thoughts on making yours as readable as fiction: http://dld.bz/yHnC

Book promo gone wrong--book thrown at Obama a misguided publicity stunt? http://dld.bz/zh4y

An RSS rant: http://bit.ly/bTqqBj (I second this--it's hard for me to find blogs to tweet w/ truncated feeds in my Reader). @nethspace

Are US Publishers Using E-books to Undermine Territorial Rights? http://dld.bz/yHnn

How Not to Be Inspired: http://dld.bz/yHnj

Writer Zen Ten: http://dld.bz/yHmS

Can We Create a National Digital Library? http://dld.bz/yHmF

American writers--want to be a writer-in-residence? Try crossing the Atlantic: http://dld.bz/yHmA

Developing a character? Try this questionnaire: http://bit.ly/charchart @epiguide

Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children (NY Times): http://dld.bz/yHm2

A Character Development Questionnaire: http://dld.bz/yHmf

Police procedure and info to help crime writers get their facts straight: http://dld.bz/zeTQ @authorterryo

Are You Overworking? 7 Important Steps To Avoid Burnout: http://dld.bz/yDFT

10 ways to start your mystery with a bang: http://dld.bz/zeRj

5 Blog Naming Basics: http://dld.bz/yDFK

I Can, I Will, I Should, Maybe Later: http://dld.bz/yDE2

Tips for querying: http://dld.bz/yDEu

5 Articles You Should've Read Over the Summer (Writer's Digest): http://dld.bz/yDEf

Two Brilliant Strategies for Overcoming Fear of Failure: http://dld.bz/yDEa

E-book Pricing: http://dld.bz/yDDT

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Do you love breakfast? http://bit.ly/aniKMp @CleoCoyle

5 Life Skills You Already Have that Can Make You a Great Blogger: http://dld.bz/yDDQ

50 Excellent Photography-Related Tutorials (for all the writers who dabble in photography): http://dld.bz/zaFr

The magic of reading aloud: http://dld.bz/yDDt

Self-help and Memoir: Dos and Don’ts to Save Your Book: http://dld.bz/yDDK

Buying books is fun, with a glass in your hand (Guardian): http://dld.bz/zaQQ

How to Promote your Book with a Blog Tour: http://dld.bz/zaET @annerallen

Excel For Authors – Characterization: http://dld.bz/yDDF

How E-Readers Are Changing Readers (Atlantic): http://dld.bz/zaQF

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 10/8/10): http://dld.bz/zaEN

7 Things Your Blog’s Sidebar Can't Live Without: http://dld.bz/yDDv

10 essentials for an inspired author's life: http://dld.bz/yDDd

Why Should You Publish a Regular Email Newsletter? http://dld.bz/yDDa

12 Reasons to be Excited About Publishing’s Future: http://dld.bz/yDCX

When should you stop marketing your book? http://dld.bz/yDCU

The Easy-to-Use Tool that Helps You Build a Breakthrough Blog (for WordPress users): http://dld.bz/yDCH

6 Self-Confidence Tips for Writers: http://dld.bz/yDBG

Strong Dialogue: http://dld.bz/yDB7

Twitterific--the week in tweets: http://dld.bz/yXyQ

Wordiness: "The Post in Which I Discuss Reduction of the Aforementioned": http://dld.bz/yDA9

Refresh Your Writing By Leaving The Past In The Past: http://dld.bz/yDA3

Deleting Hard Returns with Find and Replace: http://dld.bz/yDAk

5 Ways to Become Your Own Muse: http://dld.bz/yD9G

How to Promote Your Facebook Fan Page: http://dld.bz/yD95

Subscribing to Blogs in a Feed Reader: http://dld.bz/yD93

Publishers Weekly Editor Finds Egregious Formatting Problems In Poetry E-Books (NPR): http://dld.bz/yD9r

National Graphic Novel Writing Month (part 3): http://dld.bz/ySyu

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Kathy Borich! http://bit.ly/9ejTOL @CleoCoyle

5 situations where it's better to tell than show in your fiction: http://dld.bz/ySxU

YA writers--don't be a geezer: http://dld.bz/ySxJ

Procrastination: 5 Perspectives: http://dld.bz/ySxF

Backing up your work--some options: http://dld.bz/yVsh @DaphWrites

5 Ways Gigs with Deadlines Help Freelance Writers: http://dld.bz/ySxA

Author Branding: The You That Is Everywhere: http://dld.bz/ySx9

Keeping Ourselves & Our Stories as Pliable as Clay: http://dld.bz/ySxw