Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Plan B

DSC00843_zWhile I was looking for blog posts to tweet last week, I came across a site where a blogger was particularly dejected over a rejection.

The blogger had met an agent at a conference, established a solid connection, and sent a manuscript to the agent, as invited to do.

The blogger is active in the online writing community, writes well, and follows industry news.

He’d been doing everything right, and he was getting frustrated. He mentioned throwing in the towel.

That’s a very natural response. I sent off each of my carefully-written, carefully-targeted queries with a good deal of hope and optimism.

When I’d see my SASE back in my mailbox, I can remember the sinking feeling I’d get. Some days I’d rip the envelope open quickly to get the pain over with—sort of like tearing off a Band-Aid. Some days I’d open everything else in my mailbox first…even the bills.

Either way, it felt like a punch in the gut. Particularly when I felt like the agent and I were a good match for each other.

So I wasn’t having any luck. My agent search was now stretching over the space of years.

Finally, I decided to go to Plan B. I’d keep the agent queries in circulation, but I decided to go ahead and submit directly to some carefully-targeted publishers, too.

I approached this a couple of different ways. I did submit directly to editors at smaller and independent publishing houses that accepted queries from the unagented (I usually got the editors’ names from the thank yous in authors’ acknowledgment pages.)

I also, I’ll admit, submitted to larger publishers who were closed to queries from the unagented…and a couple that were closed to queries altogether.

Sometimes, I think a different approach is really the only way to keep moving ahead. Obviously, you’ve still got to really make sure that the publisher is the one that fits your manuscript. You need to have a great query. You need to address it to the right editor.

But you don’t have to have an agent first. I’d rather have done it that way…but at the time, it wasn’t going to happen. And it ended up working out well for me—I ended up with a book at mid-sized mystery publisher Midnight Ink and interest from Penguin books, resulting in a new series. And, soon after that, an agent.

Change it up, go to Plan B. But please, don’t throw in the towel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Keeping it Interesting

Léopoldine au livre d'heures by Auguste de Chatillon --1813 - 1881I don’t know what it is about me lately, but I’ve been a difficult reader to please.

I think it’s the fact that I’ve been unusually busy since late-July. But it seems to me that I’ve been a more impatient reader than ever before—that when I reach a boring patch, it shouldn’t last very long or else I’m going to find something else to read.

This worries me—as a reader and a writer.

I was an English major and classical literature is known for its boring spots. :) I was always able to wade through it before…but I had a whole lot more time on my hands and was definitely a more patient reader.

As a writer, I’m working harder to make sure my story doesn’t drag. I’m reading my manuscripts as an impatient reader and looking for places where my book needs a little shaking up.

Here’s a list I’ve come up with on little ways (well, some of them are bigger ways) to keep things interesting for readers:

Change the setting (are the characters spending too much time sitting and eating?)

Add more dialogue.

Introduce a new character. Or, if you’re me, kill off an old one. :)

Shake up the sentence structure. Are all your sentences starting with the subject, followed by a verb (should you start some with participles or subordinate clauses)? Are there too many nouns preceded by adjectives (should you be choosing stronger verbs)?

Introduce a plot twist.

Add to the conflict.

I also get worn out with too much conflict (I warned you I’m becoming the impossible reader!) So maybe infuse some humor to break up the tension.

Move the characters around. Have them engage in an activity if they’re sitting a lot.

Use both long and short sentences.

Show more than tell.

Cut out the dead wood in the book. Do I have any scenes that seem dead? Do these scenes serve a purpose, or can they be cut out…or could the information in the scene be conveyed in a different way (through dialogue, etc.)?

How do you keep your readers interested?

Sunday, November 28, 2010



Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week.

There are fewer this week because I went on tweetcation for the Thanksgiving holiday. :)

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.

How to Build a Real Network (Not a List of Strangers): http://dld.bz/7R6J

Finding the theme of your book: http://dld.bz/7HVq

How to Get Unstuck: Mind Shifts for the Freelance Writer: http://dld.bz/7HUV

Formatting for E-Readers: http://dld.bz/7HUN

A crime writer's top 10 crime locations (Guardian): http://dld.bz/7HTS

Agent pitching technique: http://dld.bz/7HTu

Subtexting in Dialogue: http://dld.bz/7HTj

Why so many people want a Kindle for Christmas (Telegraph): http://dld.bz/7HST

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Some Cranberries—for Drinking! http://bit.ly/eelF3U

How to Nurture Your Creativity as a blogger: http://dld.bz/7HS5

The Most Dangerous Moment for an Author: http://dld.bz/7HSe

Christian Fiction and the Awkward Bookstore Dance: http://dld.bz/7HRN

Motivation to Write – How Writers Get and Stay Motivated: http://dld.bz/7FQe

Tips for writers to stay focused on writing while not abandoning other responsibilities: http://dld.bz/7FPn @swkehoe

NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Beginning of the End: http://dld.bz/7FNF

What Can Trade Book Publishers Learn from Comic Books about Branding? http://dld.bz/7FN5

The Knotty Problem of Quantum Gravity: http://dld.bz/7FMZ

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination: http://dld.bz/7FMJ

Letting Action Define Your Characters: http://dld.bz/7FMv

4 Types of Tweets: Don’t Yell Into the Wind-- http://dld.bz/7FMs

Becoming An Indie Author: Is Success Based On Luck? http://dld.bz/7F62

Practical Tips For The Nighttime Novelist: http://dld.bz/7CNx

List of dialogue tags: http://dld.bz/7CNu

7 Tips for Editing Your Way to the Best Story on the Planet: http://dld.bz/7CNs

Call me Ishmael… When to reveal your MC’s name if writing in first person: http://dld.bz/7CNc

10 Tips for Attending Writers Conferences: http://dld.bz/7CMW

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar and Pecans from Cleo Coyle http://bit.ly/fVSllG @CleoCoyle

The Making of a Novel: What Support Means to a Writer (Huff Post) : http://dld.bz/7BCu

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Published-Author Life: http://dld.bz/7BAF

How to write when you've got nothing to say: http://dld.bz/7BA5

Use Facebook and Twitter to Drive Crowds to Your Blog: http://dld.bz/7BA3

4 Reasons Why Best Sellers Get to Suck & You Don’t: http://dld.bz/7BAx

Writers--do you have impostor syndrome? http://dld.bz/7BDP @rebeccabehrens

How to build a character: http://dld.bz/7BAe

An agent on what *not* to do during the query process: http://dld.bz/7xUm @RedSofaLiterary

6 Ways to Cope With Writing Fears: http://dld.bz/7xVS

Acceptance and rejection--balance in the creative life: http://dld.bz/7xVJ

Author Intrusion: How To Stay Invisible: http://dld.bz/7xV6

Your Query Submission Checklist: http://dld.bz/7xTU @RedSofaLiterary

3 ways to get the distance you need for rewriting: http://dld.bz/7xTC

Revising A Manuscript That’s Already Making the Rounds: http://dld.bz/7xTv

At the Core: The Premise and How it Ties it all Together: http://dld.bz/7xTa

Writing 'high concept': http://dld.bz/7xST

23 Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger: http://dld.bz/7xSy

Six Tips for Getting the Most Out of Conferences: http://dld.bz/7xSt

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: RAGGEDY ANNE COOKIES http://bit.ly/cTTzjA @CleoCoyle

Authors, Social Media and the Allure of Magical Thinking: http://dld.bz/7xSd

Reference help--the reverse dictionary: http://dld.bz/7xRS

When Errors Are Found In Royalty Statements: http://dld.bz/7xPT

How high are the stakes? Building better conflict and dilemma into your book: http://dld.bz/7xRs

10 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Next Post: http://dld.bz/7xPJ

Inspiration: Even When You Don’t Want to Write: http://dld.bz/7umP

Top Five Mistakes Authors Make in Proposals: http://dld.bz/7umA

Preparing for hibernation--building a winter writing rhythm: http://dld.bz/7xQt

Handgun Tips for Writers: http://dld.bz/7um5

Tips for introverts at writing conferences: http://dld.bz/7umx

6 Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Foot: http://dld.bz/7umk @victoriamixon

Why Creative Writers Need To Reveal Themselves In Their Work: http://dld.bz/7umf

A plot twist too far – was Rick Deckard a replicant? http://dld.bz/7ukW

When Spell-check Fails: Proofreading and Your Manuscript: http://dld.bz/7ukT

Voice: Authenticity and Heart: http://dld.bz/7ukE

If you're serious about becoming a better writer--just sit down and write: http://dld.bz/7ujU

Facebook Messaging: Why Text and Email Aren’t Equal (Wall St. Journal) : http://dld.bz/7uj7

How to write 'hot': http://dld.bz/7rp2

Best Articles This Week for Writers 11/19/2010: http://dld.bz/7u9t @4kidlit

Supporting characters--recipes for conflict: http://dld.bz/7rm6

For crime writers--handling lengthy investigations in our fiction: http://dld.bz/7usF @mkinberg

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Support—It Comes in Different Forms

april fools 2010 020aThe writing life is a tough one for many reasons…and it doesn’t help that friends and family don’t completely get what we’re doing.

But still, most of us get some support from the people around us.  We might have a first reader among our friends and family. 

We might have a spouse who gives us the time and space to stare out the window and write for a while.

And then, when our books come out, we have friends who are excited for us and rush out to buy our books.


Last week, I tweeted a post by mystery publisher Agatho (he’s anonymous) entitled For God’s Sake, Buy Your Friends’ Books.  It was one of the most retweeted tweets that I made. 

I got many direct messages from writers on Twitter saying that all of their family and friends expected them to provide them with a free copy.

This is, actually, pretty shocking to me.  I usually have one person who might angle for a free copy, but everyone else I know is at the bookstore soon after release day—supporting me.  My latest release was $6.99 at full retail…but even if it had been a lot more, they’d be trying to help me out. 

Because we wrote a book.  It took us many hours of relative isolation, writing and rewriting, and work to get that book in a bookstore.

As Agatho put it:

Please tell me why you choose to ignore this remarkable accomplishment by a family member or someone you call a "friend."  This person has labored, most likely for years, not only in writing a manuscript, but also in jumping through an endless series of hoops to get an agent and/or publisher. S/he has then had to exercise the utmost patience in rewriting several times to please an editor. Then, of course, comes the proofreading, which is even more work.  At the end of the process, s/he holds an extremely affordable, compact, 300-page book that is the culmination of years of hard work and determination.  And you - who will spend $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, drop $100 for dinner for two at a trendy restaurant, or waste your money on cheap plastic crap at Walmart - cannot find it in your heart to buy a copy of this book?

Truthfully, though, some of the responsibility for this problem goes to the writer—who is giving these friends or family members free copies of the book. 

I know it’s tough because writers can be reticent and don’t want to address the problem—it’s easier to just hand out the freebies.

But honestly, this is the best response (and it’s true…this is what we’re supposed to be doing with our author copies): “I’m sorry, but all of my author copies are spoken for. My publisher specifically requested that I send them to book bloggers and other reviewers to drive up sales.  But I see that my book is available at ____________ for just  $_____.  I hope you’ll pick up a copy because I really think you’ll enjoy it.”

We can’t force them to buy our book…but we can educate them about the purpose of author copies.

Have you got good support on your book launch days?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks—for Writing

Pierre de Nolhac --1859-1936--conservateur du musée de VersaillesOn this day after Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a minute to celebrate some of the facets of writing that I’m really thankful for.  Lots of times my writing challenges get center stage as I wrangle with the craft side of writing…or I work through the promotional side of it all.

So here, in now particular order are some of the things I love about writing:

The moment a character comes to life

When the beginning or end of the book falls into place

Feeling completely comfortable with the protagonist and knowing what she’d do in any situation

When the perfect chapter break happens

Writing on a rainy day

Writing outside on a pretty day

Seeing the book’s cover for the first time

Author copies

Getting good feedback

Getting struck by a great idea and scrambling for paper

The support of the writing community

What are some of the things you love about writing?  What keeps you going through writing frustrations and challenges?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Full Kitchen--1566-Joachim BeuckelaerBest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. I’m going to be celebrating the day here at home with my family and parents.

I’ve lots to be thankful for today—and I’m adding my writing friends and the online writing community to my long list today. Thanks so much to all of you for your support and encouragement. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Some Distance from Our Words

Woman reading in bed- by Gabriel Ferrier--1847 - 1914We’re having some painting done inside our house.  Years of children with sticky hands have taken their toll on our walls.  :)

While the painters were here, the owner said to me, “Would you like us to do your front door and shutters, too?”

I frowned.  “Why?  Do you think they should be painted?”

He hesitated.  “Well, what color do you think they are?”

“I think the shutters and door are black.”

“Could you step outside with me for a minute?” he asked.

As he pointed out, and as I was surprised to see, the shutters and door had faded quite a bit in the sun.  They used to be black—but now were varying shades of grayish-black.

He painted them yesterday and the house looks brand-new.  But I never would have noticed that they needed to be done because I drive up to my house every single day.  I don’t even see it anymore.

You see this analogy coming. :)  It’s true, though—we get just as close to our manuscript.  It can be really tough to see its problems when we’ve been reading the book every day.

First readers or an independent editor are obvious solutions to this problem.  They will read our work with fresh eyes and the problems will pop out at them easier.

Unfortunately, some of us may not have first readers to help us out.   I’ve had a couple of writers volunteer to read for me, but because I have more than one project going on at once, I tend to get right up on top of my deadline.  I just don’t feel comfortable asking anyone to drop everything in their life to read 280 pages in a few days’ time.  Oh—except I do ask it of my mother.  :)

So what’s the solution if we need to get some distance from our work to thoroughly edit it?

Time:  You can put your manuscript down for as much time as possible, then return to it.  This method does work, although I don’t have the time to do it anymore.  When you pick up your manuscript again, it’s almost as if someone else wrote it.

Reading aloud: This is a method that I use and it does help.  There are only so many pages I can read without going hoarse, but the reading does put a bit of distance between us and the work.

Change of scenery: I really don’t know why this works, but it does.  If I’ve written the majority of the book at home, then I’ll go to the coffeehouse to edit it.  Different setting, different task at hand?  Whatever it is, it seems to work for me…I think my brain is easily tricked. :)

Different font: I’ve heard this trick before, but haven’t used it.  Some swear by putting your manuscript in a completely different font for editing.

How do you get distance from your words? 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Watermelon and Seed

blog3I was volunteering in my daughter’s classroom on Friday for a Thanksgiving party for 4th grade. 

While I was in there (supposedly setting out snack supplies so the kids could make their own teepees out of ice cream cones, chocolate, and hard candy), I couldn’t help but look at all the writing-related posters on the wall.

Fourth grade is a big writing year in elementary school.  There were posters covering punctuation mechanics, grammar rules, commonly misspelled words, etc.

There was one poster though, that was a little more interesting to me.  “Is your story idea a watermelon or a seed?”

Kids, naturally, sometimes come up with big ideas for stories—that don’t really work for a short writing assignment.  “My Summer Vacation” instead of “The Worst Amusement Park Visit Ever!”  The teacher’s point was that they needed to narrow their focus to get a better story.

But novelists are working with more pages to fill.  We can afford a bigger picture.

Sometimes, though,  that big picture doesn’t always work.  I’ve definitely read books where I felt lost in the imaginary world the author had created.  What was the primary plot?  What character am I supposed to care about…and who is the protagonist?  These books felt unfocused and rambling.  What was the point?  Was it a murder mystery or a family saga or lit fic with an agenda? What was the seed?

With genre fiction, the seed is pretty easy to find.  The underlying thread of my books is a murder.  And I don’t need to get too far away from it or else I’m off-target.

I’ve definitely edited down books before to get to the seed.  Maybe there’s a subplot that’s fun, but doesn’t really tie in enough with the main story—maybe it’s an idea that needs its own book instead of being squeezed into a subplot.  Or maybe there’s a secondary character that’s stealing the show and needs his own book.

Have you read books that don’t have a sharp enough focus? How do you winnow your plot down to the seed when you write?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why We Write

100_5048My 8th grade son has really enjoyed his Language Arts class (what the schools are calling English these days) the last couple of years. His teacher actually moved up from 7th grade to 8th grade and he’s having her for a second year.

I’ve been impressed with the way the teacher has taught topics like mood and tone and the quality of the assignments she sends home for projects. I feel like he’s getting a really solid background in a subject that’s important to me.

He does have a new assignment, though, that’s got me puzzled. To be fair, it hasn’t actually come from the Language Arts teacher that he and I like so much—it’s a school-wide, quarterly book project and is supposed to supplement his other curriculum.

For the assignment, he’s to take the books he’s reading for pleasure and do a comprehensive project on them. So, not the books that he’s reading for class---books he’s reading for fun.

Commercial fiction. Genre fiction. For him, this is Sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian literature, etc…and do a project.

Fine. But one of the questions on the assignment is “what was the author’s purpose in writing this book?”

My immediate reaction was to snort. For commercial fiction? That purpose is personal to the author. It could be because they can’t NOT write. It could be that they’ve studied the market and studied the craft and written a book that they thought could sell…to break into a difficult and crowded market. It could be for money. It could be that they dreamed up a character that demanded to have a story written around them.

But almost always? It’s to entertain. It’s probably not to inform or educate. It’s to provide a reader a few hours of escape. It’s been carefully thought-out and designed and revised and sweated over to seem seamless and to be riveting.

Why do you write?

Sunday, November 21, 2010



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.

For crime writers--handling lengthy investigations in our fiction: http://dld.bz/7usF @mkinberg

Why fairy tales are immortal (Globe and Mail) : http://dld.bz/7ugZ

Making Sense of a Rejection Letter: http://dld.bz/7rmj

5 Tips For Choosing The Perfect Book Interior Designer: http://dld.bz/7rmd @thecreativepenn

Understanding Advances And Royalties: http://dld.bz/7rk7

Things that have surprised me about the writing life: http://dld.bz/7tgH

Publishing -- The Synopsis: http://dld.bz/7rk5

Thanksgiving Mysteries: 2010 List: http://tinyurl.com/2g96waz @JanetRudolph

How to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly (And Keep Your Readers Happy): http://dld.bz/7rk2

Writing Cannot Be Strictly An Independent Activity: http://dld.bz/7rkb

A tale of a successful query: http://dld.bz/7rjS

For God's Sake, Buy Your Friends' Books: http://dld.bz/7rxY

When Writing Doesn’t Pay (And It Feels Great): http://dld.bz/7rhb

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Hot Seafood Dip http://bit.ly/aFeFNI @CleoCoyle

Bloggers: How to Slash your Writing Time in Half: http://dld.bz/7gmx

3 Steps to Fan Page Awesomeness: http://dld.bz/7gkX

Tips on Writing Action Scenes: http://dld.bz/7gkU

Agent Donald Maass On: Your Tools for Character Building: http://dld.bz/7gdc

How to Use WordPress as an Online Notebook: http://dld.bz/7gcH

Keep the Passion to Write: http://dld.bz/7dnM

"Should I Quit My Job to Work as a Writer for Hire?" http://dld.bz/7dns

6 Tips for Writing for Young Adults: http://dld.bz/7dnd

13 Tips for Beginning Bloggers (Which One Blogger Learned the Hard Way): http://dld.bz/7dmP

Writing Should Be Treated as a Business: http://dld.bz/7dmJ

How to write a Q&A: http://dld.bz/7dmD

Get Past a Motivational Brick Wall: http://dld.bz/7dmh

Writing the synopsis before the book: http://dld.bz/7dkR

Should You Include Illustration Notes in Your Picture Book? http://dld.bz/7dkM

Writing Devices: Transitions: http://dld.bz/7dkB

Stop and Go Sentences: http://dld.bz/7dkx

Can An Online Presence Help Make a Best Seller? http://dld.bz/7dkf

Working as a Copywriter Abroad: http://dld.bz/7dkb

Six Ways to Trick Yourself into Working Harder: http://dld.bz/7fRJ

Nicolas Gary: France’s Digital Man of Letters: http://dld.bz/7dj5

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Pumpkin Pie! http://bit.ly/d53M1Z @CleoCoyle

The Most Sympathetic Villain Ever: http://dld.bz/7djx

Literary rejections on display: http://dld.bz/7aXg

The Dark Side Of Your Novel's Hero: http://dld.bz/7aWV

Negotiating your own contract: http://dld.bz/7dnS

How to Connect and Network With Writers – 5 Social Media Tips: http://dld.bz/7aWK

Steampunk Abstractions: The Inevitability of Imperialism: http://dld.bz/7aW5

4 Agent Pet Peeves: http://dld.bz/7aWr

The Cons of Procrastination: http://dld.bz/7aWk

Writing Through the Doubt: http://dld.bz/7aVF

Starting a Scene with Dialogue: http://dld.bz/7aVv

Should You Grant an Exclusive Read to an Agent? http://dld.bz/7aVj

7 tips for improving your writing (especially for bloggers and freelancers): http://dld.bz/69N8

Seven Tips to Start Your Travel Blogging Journey: http://dld.bz/69Nv

Novels – Sagging Middle Fixes: http://dld.bz/69MA

How to Gain Twitter Influence: http://dld.bz/69Mz

Lock up the darn writer: http://dld.bz/69K2

12 Dozen Places To Self-Educate Yourself Online: http://dld.bz/69Ky

Top 5 Query Mistakes Freelance Writers Make: http://dld.bz/69Kp

How to speak publisher - A is for Acquisitions: http://dld.bz/69Kc

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Thanksgiving Treats http://bit.ly/c4Q2Zb @CleoCoyle

How to Write for Translation: http://dld.bz/69JM

17 ways for writers to publish their content: http://dld.bz/69J7

The importance of first impressions: http://dld.bz/6SZR @joanswan

How to Write Safely in a Publishing Universe: http://dld.bz/69Jh

How to Salvage a Scene: http://dld.bz/69Hp

Thanks to the Writing Masquerade blog for interviewing me: http://dld.bz/6USZ ! I shared my recipe for corn pudding, too. :) @eveningfades

6 Articles for a Stronger, Faster, Better First Draft: http://dld.bz/6UCE @Writeitsideways

How To Write Three Blog Posts A Day: http://dld.bz/69Hg

9 tips for writing back cover copy: http://dld.bz/6UAT @TheCreativePenn

How to Unblock Your Writing and Create Effortless Words: http://dld.bz/69Hd

Building an Author Platform from Scratch: http://dld.bz/69GV @pubperspectives

This Is Your Brain on Metaphors (NY Times): http://dld.bz/69G4

Developing contacts to promote your book: http://dld.bz/6Tfg @spunkonastick

How to write a profile article: http://dld.bz/69F4

6 Vital Signs of A Healthy Plot: http://bit.ly/dgD3PK

The value of pre-publication blurbs: http://dld.bz/69Fr

iPhone Apps for NaNoWriMo: http://dld.bz/69Fd

Tips for having a blog tour: http://dld.bz/69Fa

Things one writer didn't expect about writing full-time: http://dld.bz/69EF

Book rejection bingo: http://dld.bz/69EB

Cultivating your Imagination: http://dld.bz/69Er @jammer0501

Five Steps to a Strong Main Character: http://dld.bz/69Ed

Checking for plot holes: http://dld.bz/69Ea

Inspiring the uninspired: http://dld.bz/69DR

3 blogging blunders: http://dld.bz/69DM

A reader asks:is Our Attention Span Getting Shorter? http://dld.bz/6z9M

Do You Even NEED an Agent?: http://dld.bz/69DB

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Thanksgiving With a Little South on the Side http://bit.ly/bEcpv9 @CleoCoyle

Using flow for writing productivity: http://dld.bz/69Dw

How to Make Down Days Work for You: http://dld.bz/6zAp

Is Our Attention Span Getting Shorter? http://dld.bz/6z9M

Anatomy of a Scene Cut: http://dld.bz/6z9D

A Hidden Market for Freelance Writers: http://dld.bz/6z93

Writers: Be Bold! http://dld.bz/6z9f

How to Set Up Your First Blog the Right Way the First Time: http://dld.bz/6z9d

For freelancers: Ten Good Reasons the Editor Said "No": http://dld.bz/6z8M

Want to Be a Professional Writer? Act Like One. http://dld.bz/6z8C

Why modern books are all too long (Guardian): http://dld.bz/6z85

Writing the flip side of our characters: http://dld.bz/6GHx

The 7 Rules Part III: Rejection: http://dld.bz/6z82

The 3 types of negative book reviews: http://dld.bz/6z8u

5 Steps for Crafting the Perfect Book Review Pitch: http://dld.bz/6z8m

The Writer’s Bucket List: http://dld.bz/6z8f

How to Keep the Conversations on Your Blog Civil: http://dld.bz/6z8a

Researching believability: http://dld.bz/6z7Q

5 Tips for Writing Scenes: http://dld.bz/56B2

One easy way to improve your writing--be specific: http://dld.bz/6DgJ @Paize_Fiddler

An agent with some Twitter tips: http://dld.bz/6z7A

The power of perspective: http://dld.bz/6z7y

Take the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam: http://dld.bz/6z6P

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: COMMENT TO WIN TODAY! What is Your Must-Have Thanksgiving Side Dish? http://bit.ly/9jR5pW @CleoCoyle

Character Traits vs Author Traits - Reaching for the Brass Ring: http://dld.bz/6z6B

Why are you writing this story? http://dld.bz/6z6c

Why good guys need to win in detective novels (Boston Globe): http://dld.bz/6z5Z

Biographers fear that publishers have lost their appetite for serious subjects (Guardian): http://dld.bz/6z5M

5 Ways To Tell Your WIP Is Progressing: http://dld.bz/6t47

9 Ways To Elevate Your Speaking To Black Belt Level: http://dld.bz/6t45

Don’t Prejudge Editorial Taste When Submitting to Magazines: http://dld.bz/6t42

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 11/12/10): http://dld.bz/69NK

Things that authors get wrong: http://dld.bz/6t4f

Modifiers to avoid: http://dld.bz/6t3Q

Pleasing Ourselves or Pleasing the Reader? http://dld.bz/6t3K

Avoid 5 Plotting Mistakes by Using Scenes: http://dld.bz/6t34

Multiple Points of View: http://dld.bz/6t2t

Bad Boy Heroes: Three Types: http://dld.bz/6t2q

Top Five Mistakes that New Freelance Writers Make: http://dld.bz/6tzT

An Agent on Addressing Your Query: http://dld.bz/6tzv

5 Reasons Writers Get Stuck with Tips How to Unstick: http://dld.bz/6tzn

Ethnicity in writing--should you worry about including it? http://dld.bz/6475

A look at ending our scenes: http://dld.bz/6tzg

Archetypes, not Stereotypes: http://dld.bz/6tyy

Finding the Writing Groove: http://dld.bz/6tyr

5 Causes and Solutions to Writer’s Block: http://dld.bz/6tyd

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: First Murder Bourbon Pecan Pie http://bit.ly/bblVwk @CleoCoyle

Ten of the best angels in literature (Guardian): http://dld.bz/6txX

An editor on backstory: http://dld.bz/6txM

Character Emotional Development: http://dld.bz/6txE

Definitive list of cliched dialogue: http://dld.bz/6txB

An agent on whether a writer should resubmit a manuscript, even if only one chapter is changed: http://dld.bz/6tx6

The online graphical dictionary: http://dld.bz/6sTQ

Twitterific--the week in tweets: http://bit.ly/cwFKYM

Business Writing Jobs and Rates – How Much Do Writers Make? http://dld.bz/6sTH

Taking history: top writers select their photographs of the decade: http://dld.bz/6sT9

An agent answers whether it's all right to scream or squeal when you get 'the call': http://dld.bz/6s6F

The New Girls' Network: How a debut author got a little help (PW): http://dld.bz/6s64

Feed your writing soul: http://dld.bz/6s6x

Events not worthy of a full screen: http://dld.bz/6s6u

5 More Ways to Jump Start a Writing Career - Part 2: http://dld.bz/6s6k

Did all these fantasy stories really rip off Harry Potter? http://dld.bz/6s6j

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Guest Blogger, Barb Goffman! http://bit.ly/9DKDMd @CleoCoyle

One writer's 10 ground rules for writing about her kids online: http://dld.bz/6s6f

The Life of a Furtive Writer: http://dld.bz/6s5Q

15 Secrets For the Perfect Business Portrait (or Author Photo): http://dld.bz/6mbw

The debate on prologues: http://dld.bz/6mbm

An agent with a thoughtful post on the necessity of author platforms: http://dld.bz/6t2G @pubperspectives

How to Use StumbleUpon: Your Comprehensive Guide: http://dld.bz/6maZ

10 Guest Blogging Tips: http://dld.bz/6maU

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The More We Write

Taunuslandschaft--1890--Hans ThomaThere was an article that ran this week on the Genreality blog by urban fantasy author Carrie Vaughn entitled “Things I Didn’t Expect About Writing Full-Time.”

I thought it was really interesting because I have noticed things that surprised me about spending my day as a writer.  But I hadn’t actually sat down to articulate them.

Carrie Vaughn mentions things like the number of emails she gets, and the endless waiting for different things on the publisher’s end to happen.

Those things wouldn’t have made my list, but I’ve definitely noticed other things that have surprised me about being a writer. One thing that is that I spend most of my day writing.  It’s not just work on my novel, of course—it’s also answering emails, writing blog posts, creating short tweets, writing status updates, commenting on blogs…I’m actually writing most of the day.

I’m writing to people who also spend most of their day writing.  Other writers, my agent, my editors. 

These people all have excellent communication skills.  Way above average communication skills.

So lately—I’ve also noticed that I’ve had some frustration (well-hidden.  I hope…) with regular people who aren’t writers and don’t write clearly.    That’s something I never would have expected as a byproduct of spending my day writing.

I’m not picking out typos or being picky about grammar or anything like that—I’m just trying to figure out the point of the school-related email or the Scout-related email or the church-related email.  Because the emails frequently ramble and aren’t clear.   And I’m always in such a hurry to get to the crux of the missive.

And I’m used to corresponding with writers.

Which is ridiculous, of course.  These non-writers aren’t practicing their writing skills like we are.  I’m just learning to reread emails a few times to figure out what some of them are trying to say.  And saving the emails and using my highlighting feature. :)

My husband has wonderful writing skills for a non-writer. But it  takes him a long time to write an email.  He wants to get the word choice exactly right. 

So that’s what’s surprised me the most—the fact that I apparently think everyone writes well, or that writing is just a basic skill like reading is,  because of the amount of time I spend interacting and corresponding with writers.  :)

What surprises you, as you spend more time writing?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Setting the Mood

DanielGarberBayou19354After so many years of setting the clock back, you’d think I’d expect the changes.

But each fall I’m surprised how dark it is in the late afternoon. Every morning I’m surprised how light it is so early.

The darkness puts our whole family in a different mood. We light candles at suppertime. We feel sleepier at bedtime. And when I take my daughter to her scout meeting at 6 p.m., she gets the delicious sensation that she’s up really late at night and out on the town.

I’ve noticed lately, though, an aggressive attempt by stores to put me in a very particular mood.

The Christmas shopping mood.

It was November 3 and I walked into a store that was playing Christmas music. Whoa! There’s no way I’m ready for that stuff yet, y’all. I picked up some things for the kids last summer and that is it. The Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving. It does! But I kept running into stores that were selling the season awfully early.

These stores’ determination to put me in a money-spending mood was a slap in the face. It was not subtle. It felt very pushy to me.

I’ve read some books where I felt the writer abruptly and clumsily tried to force me into a mood: a tense mood, a frightened mood, a maudlin mood. It jumped off the page at me and I don’t think it’s because I’m a writer.

It’s like watching a poorly-done horror movie. You know the bad guy is going to leap out at you because of the scary music, heavy on strings, that’s loudly playing.

Subtle ways to create a mood:

Skillful (and, to my liking, brief) description of the scene’s setting: an abandoned, deteriorating house (unease). A crowded train with body to body people (stress).

Setting tone through dialogue. Obviously this would be two or more characters sharing more than just chit-chat with each other. There could be an urgent tone set, a joyful tone, somber tone…

Syntax: We convey our feelings about a person via word choice—choosing words with negative connotations instead of positive ones. Someone’s face has pity, not sympathy. Someone is smug, not content. A person is cloying, not sweet. The character contributes toward establishment of the mood—the reader feels suffocated by the closeness of the cloying character, e.g.

Weather: I’ve seen this overdone. But it can be used very effectively in unusual ways. We all remember what a beautiful day it was in New York city on 9-11. It just illuminated the horror that played out.

Light: The daylight savings time shifts play havoc with my moods. You could do the same with blackouts, houses with uncertain electrical wiring, uncovered ceiling lightbulbs creating sinister shadows, etc.

I appreciate subtlety in creating moods instead of having a writer lay it on too thick. Are you the same way? As a writer, how do you invoke mood?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Negotiating Your Own Contract

Meeting in a café-- by Constant Désiré Clety -1899-1955I haven’t run a post on negotiating your own contract for a while, and received a recent email from a writer looking for resources on the subject.

I did negotiate my first contract myself since I didn’t have representation at the time--and didn’t have enough time to really hunt when the publisher came calling.

I wouldn’t recommend doing it by yourself, but sometimes it’s just not an option—agents are hard to come by, and you can get an offer from (usually small-to-mid-sized) publishers before you’re able to land a literary agent.

There are posts, by agents, on negotiating your own contract: the "Agenting 101" series (look for it on the right hand side of the page. There are eleven references) on the Pub Rants blog by Kristen Nelson, a blog entry called "Ten Things to Know if You Go Commando" on agent Janet Reid's blog, and a series called “Contracts 101” on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog:

http://tinyurl.com/2rneqq http://tinyurl.com/yaebq3t http://tinyurl.com/y882fn5

There’s a guest post by agent Holly Root with Waxman Literary Agency on negotiating contracts: http://tinyurl.com/ybedos7

A general post by an agent on negotiating your own contract.

Another site I found helpful showed a sample author contract, just to give you an idea what the document may look like: www.writecontent.com.

Stroppy Author blog ran posts covering each section of a contract. Just scroll down for all the posts.

Usually publishers will go off a basic template contract—what’s known in the industry as a “boilerplate.” Publishers will expect counteroffers (I countered on my contract), but likely won’t budge too much from the original offer.

If something in the contract seems a little off to you, though, the information on these different blogs can definitely help keep you from being taken advantage of.

Hope this information will help some folks out there. :) Google searches on this topic are sometimes hard to sort through.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Becoming a Convert—the Kindle

The New Novel-- by Winslow Homer -1836-1910I really never thought I’d be writing a post like this, but I have to admit that I really like the Kindle.

I was definitely not expecting to like it—for several reasons.

One is that I love being in places where there are books. I grew up surrounded by books in the public library and my house. There was always a book on the table and books making the bookcases groan.

Another reason is that I have enough screen time as it is. If I’ve had a busy writing week (or promo week, or both), then by the end of the day my head aches and my eyes hurt and I just can’t wait to get away from my laptop, the desktop, my smart phone, whatever.

So I wasn’t exactly expecting to be a fan of the Kindle when my husband bought one a few weeks ago.

But—it’s so sensible.

It takes up hardly any space. The screen isn’t backlit like a computer screen, so (as yet) I haven’t experienced any eyestrain. I can actually read the Kindle outdoors because there won’t be glare on the screen. It can hold all the books I want.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve reached the point where we can’t collect many more books. Books are even stacked on the floor in some rooms…and this is after culling our collection! No, if some come in, then some have to go out….

Unless you have a Kindle. Then you can have a huge library on a single device…and back it up to another.

Usually, if I go out of town, I have to make a big decision as to which books I’m going to bring with me. This involves skimming the first chapter of each book to see which ones I’m more likely to want to read.

If you have a Kindle, you can bring all the books with you.

I’m a clumsy person. Very. Yes, I’ve already dropped this brand-new device. While I wouldn’t recommend dropping the Kindle, it has survived its scary experience.

Do you like to write in the margins of your books? I’m a margin-writer and highlighter, myself. Yes, you can do it in the Kindle.

Like a book, you will still need a booklight if you read the Kindle in your bed in the middle of the night and don’t want to wake the person sleeping next to you. That’s because it’s not backlit. But that’s sort of comforting and almost book-like.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. I’m a fan.

I still go hang out where there are books. I go to the library once or twice a week. I’m frequently in the bookstores…and yes, I’m still buying paper books (after I give away several to make room for the new ones.)

But I think I’m seeing a glimpse of the future. It’s a little scary because it’s creating a lot of discord in the publishing industry…but I’m definitely a convert.

Have you got an eReader? Are you planning on buying one? How do you like yours?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Flip Side of Our Character

Zinaida Serebriakova--Self Portrait--1909If you think about it, every trait, even the good ones, can be taken too far or have a flipside to it.

What if our good traits start to work against us and create conflict for us or add tension to a situation?

I’m really Type A about some things. I have to be on time. It’s almost an obsession for me…and I’ll do just about anything to be on time.

That definitely has a bad side. If I get any hint that a situation will make me late…a traffic jam, a last-minute emergency that crops up…I’m stressed out. Stress isn’t good for me and isn’t good for people around me, either. :) I’m not nearly as fun to be around when I’m stressed out—and that’s a lousy way to start out a lunch date or a night at the movies, or a school event, or whatever I’m on my way to.

An organized person who plans their day may have low tolerance for a sudden change in plans.

Sometimes people who are too nice don’t have much of a backbone.

Someone can be industrious but could cross the line into being a workaholic.

Charismatic people can be egotistical.

Intelligent people sometimes need constant stimulation or else they get bored.

And on it goes. :) Have you thought of the flipside of your characters’ positive traits and how they might trip them up?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ethnicity in Writing—by Julia Buckley

Hope you’ll all welcome fellow Midnight Ink author Julia Buckley to Mystery Writing is Murder today! Julia’s Madeline Mann, which Kirkus called “a bright debut” is now available on Kindle.

Book Design 2 smallMy writer’s group has gone through many incarnations and has been winnowed down to five dedicated, hard-working women. Once, more than a decade ago, it had more members who had varying levels of commitment to their writing. It was this group that did a reading of my first draft of Madeline Mann, which came out on Kindle a couple of weeks ago.

While the group discussed my book, a young woman pursed her lips over the names of Madeline’s brothers, Fritz and Gerhard. “Must they be so ETHNIC?” she asked, sounding almost disgusted.

This shocked me for a variety of reasons. First, because we live in a country that isn’t very old; therefore everyone, either immediately or distantly, is from somewhere else. Second, I felt the question revealed more about the woman posing it than it did about my characters, and what it revealed wasn’t flattering. Third, I thought that the German ethnicity of the Mann family, informed as it was by my own childhood with European parents, would be one of the things they liked best about the book.

Ethnicity, in fact, is simply one of many things that makes fiction either authentic or not so. Because I had a German mother and a Hungarian father, I felt that I could create a fun and authentic picture of what Madeline’s German-American family would be like. Had I chosen to write a character who was French, or Mexican, or Russian, I could certainly have tried to make her life authentic by researching and talking to people who came from those particular cultures, but I wouldn’t be able to write with the same authority that my own background gave me.

I’m not sure what would make a reader shy away from “ethnic” fiction, and in fact Madeline’s German family is really mostly similar to the stereotypical American family. What seemed to offend the reader the most, then, were the characters’ names. She seemed to think they were somehow an exaggeration because they were so different from names she was used to.

One of the joys of fiction, to me, is that we can enter worlds where things are different and names are different and behaviors are different–and then we learn things from all of those differences. Gerhard and Fritz were names I heard on a daily basis, because not only did my mother have family members with very German names, but she had many German-American friends whose children had names just like these.

Ironically, my parents married in the late 1950s and their cultural world suggested that the best way to raise “American” children was to speak only English in the house. Since neither of my parents could claim English as a native tongue, they felt obliged to make us feel comfortable in our environment. They spoke only English at home, and they gave us distinctly non-European names: William, Christopher, Claudia, Linda, Julia. This, despite the fact that my mother’s friends and relatives had beautiful German names like Loli and Lizabeth and Nanne and MariTereze, and her brothers had the lovely names of Ferdi and Hermann-Josef.

In Madeline Mann, I was able to pay tribute to my mother’s German ethnicity while writing a very American murder mystery.

A day or two after the book appeared on Kindle, I got an e-mail from my uncle, Hermann-Josef (nicknamed Ebbo) in Germany. I have not seen Ebbo in person since I was one week old; he came to America to be with my mother during her final pregnancy, and he was there when I was born. He held me in his lap and they took photos to commemorate the occasion, but that is the only physical bond between us.

In his older years, though, Onkel Ebbo has discovered e-mail and the Internet, and his world will never be the same. He sends me e-mails all the time, either in German (which I can only partly translate) or in an English that he has translated online, and which is ultimately garbled. But the gist of his e-mail was “Congratulations on your book! I love the German names Fritz and Gerhard!”

And that was a wonderful antidote to my earlier experience, in which my wonderful German-American brothers were viewed with such disdain.

When Robert Fate was kind enough to read my book and blurb it, the brothers were what he loved best: He wrote “I love Buckley's flawless style; her small town American settings are perfect, and her characters are so real it wouldn't surprise me to discover one of the brothers rummaging in my refrigerator.”

Vindication! And a reminder that ethnicity is as integral to a story as is plot or setting.

Julia Buckley, the proud daughter of a German mother and a Hungarian father, lives in the Chicago area. Her first mystery, THE DARK BACKWARD, was published in 2006. Visit her website at juliabuckley.com or her blog, Mysterious Musings. She also posts at Inkspot and Poe's Deadly Daughters.

Buckley is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA and RWA. She recently earned her Master of Arts in Literature, and is at work on a young adult suspense novel and on a new mystery series. Kirkus Reviews called Madeline Mann "a bright debut," and The Library Journal called Buckley "a writer to watch."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


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.

Be sure to come by tomorrow when Julia Buckley will be guest posting on "Ethnicity in Writing."

Best articles this week for writers (11-12 edition): http://dld.bz/6s6Q @4kidlit

Writing Killer Content in 140 Characters or Less: http://dld.bz/6maN

A useful foreshadowing device for crime fiction writers: http://dld.bz/6s57 @mkinberg

On Submission Etiquette and Offers: http://dld.bz/6mau

Smart Querying for Unagented Writers: http://dld.bz/6mah @Georgia_McBride

How to write a review: http://dld.bz/6kZN

Taking our readers into account as we write: http://dld.bz/6qU4

Should You Use A Pen Name or Pseudonym? http://dld.bz/6kZE

Question Mark Placement in Dialogue: http://dld.bz/6kZA

Best book marketing tweets of the week: http://dld.bz/6kZe

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Going Bananas! http://bit.ly/9iFDL0 @CleoCoyle

Ten of the best zoos in literature: http://dld.bz/6fKB

When—and How—to Compress URLs: http://dld.bz/6fK8

The Unauthorized Biographer's Challenge (Daily Beast): http://dld.bz/6fKs

How to Use Google Reader to Keep Up with Your Favorite Blogs: http://dld.bz/6fJQ

The 3 stages of speed writing: http://dld.bz/6fJG

No More Drinking the Publishing Cool-Aid: http://dld.bz/6mcF @KristenLambTX

Blog tour effectiveness: http://dld.bz/6fEC

Nominate Your Favorite Writing Blog: http://dld.bz/6fEu

Tips to keep your blog from getting hacked: http://dld.bz/6fEj

Don't label your characters: http://dld.bz/5ZcT

Stop Worrying About Subgenre: http://dld.bz/5ZcH

Dust off your drafts and submit them: http://dld.bz/5Zc5

How to write yourself out of a dead end: http://dld.bz/5Zcp

Deepening Your Novel with Imagery, Symbolism & Figurative Language: http://dld.bz/5Zcf

All Writing is Good for Writing: http://dld.bz/5ZbB

4 Tips on What NOT to Say (or Pitch or Do) to Get Your Book Reviewed: http://dld.bz/5Zb8

What one writer wants to tell new writers: http://dld.bz/5Zbc

10 Important But Overlooked Tips for Writing Conferences: http://dld.bz/6dWa @MasonCanyon

Learning from Rejection: The Ongoing Monologue: http://dld.bz/5PTg

Tips on writing great novel hooks from Writer's Digest: http://dld.bz/5PQV

When is close TOO close? http://dld.bz/5PSS @bluemaven

Excuse Editor Troubleshooting Guide for Successful Writing: http://dld.bz/5PRN

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: You CAN Beet Chocolate Cake (just don't underestimate Flour Power!) http://bit.ly/bp0GrP @CleoCoyle

6 Golden Rules of NaNoWriMo: http://dld.bz/5PNS

Toward a Steampunk Without Steam: http://dld.bz/5PNw

The Small Press Book Contract, Pt 2: http://dld.bz/5PNj

Dealing With the Self-Doubt Monster: http://dld.bz/5PMT @jodyhedlund

Impressive collection of "Best Books of 2010" lists (B&N, Library Journal, PW, etc): http://dld.bz/6aqD @largeheartedboy

Dictate your novel draft: http://dld.bz/5PMP

14 Ways to Make Your Facebook Page Fun and Lively: http://dld.bz/5PMF

Acquiring An Agent After Self-Publishing: http://dld.bz/5PMt

Plotting with Scenes: http://dld.bz/5PMk

7 Ways to Use Writing Prompts With Your Current Project: http://dld.bz/5PMb

5 Good Practices to Use with Writing Clients (for freelancers): http://dld.bz/5PKX

Three Lessons from Nano: http://dld.bz/5PKz

Five Writing Tips From Reading J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter": http://dld.bz/5MJR

"Niceness" only goes so far in the publishing industry: http://dld.bz/5MHW

The Making of a Novel: The Lessons of a Bad Book (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/5MHy

Why realistic teenage dialogue isn't necessarily a good thing: http://dld.bz/5MHm

Wake Up! 7 Simple Ways to Energize Your Writing Powers: http://dld.bz/5MGX

Word count--incl. links to find the target count for your genre, beefing up your count, or slimming it down: http://dld.bz/5V8E

The art of the gesture: http://dld.bz/5MGF

The Importance of the Uglies: http://dld.bz/5MGA

How to Get Past the NaNoWriMo Danger Point and Finish Your Novel (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/5MG3

6 Useful Steps To Tackle Procrastination: http://dld.bz/5MGx

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Sweeeeeeeet Potatoes http://bit.ly/9yiFK5 @CleoCoyle

Digital to Represent 20 to 28% of Publishing’s Profits, says Forum d’Avignon/Bain & Co. Report: http://dld.bz/5MGh

Writers who love their characters too much: http://dld.bz/5MGb

Moving from gaming to novels: http://dld.bz/5MFQ

Under Pressure: Dealing With Deadlines: http://dld.bz/5MF9

Book cover design--a book designer explains the process (video): http://dld.bz/5RSd @thecreativepenn

The agent-client relationship: http://dld.bz/5AzP

Amazon Increases Kindle Royalties to Publishers (NY Times): http://dld.bz/5MEG

Writers, it's not about the toys: http://dld.bz/5ME3

Polishing up a manuscript draft: http://dld.bz/5MEb

The 3 elements of a novel hook: http://dld.bz/5MCF

20 Essential Works of Noir Fiction: http://dld.bz/5PYU @janetrudolph

7 things your characters do too much of: http://dld.bz/5MBP

Before you write: http://dld.bz/5PPQ @elspethwrites

Creative blocks and how to overcome them: http://dld.bz/5MBA

Now You Have No Excuse Not to Write: http://dld.bz/5MB5

To Prologue or not to prologue: http://dld.bz/5MBq

10 Resources and Tips for Writers - setting: http://dld.bz/5GxC

An agent on publishing contracts: http://dld.bz/5A3T

Judging the quality of your writing: http://dld.bz/5A3P

So You Want to Be a Book Editor? http://dld.bz/5A3N

Manuscript formatting: http://dld.bz/5A3v

Social networking should work for you: http://dld.bz/5A3p

5 Keys to Building Networks Over Time: http://dld.bz/5A3n

The curse of being a writer: http://dld.bz/5A35

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Sunday Chicken--on Wednesday http://bit.ly/9wxUOX @CleoCoyle

Berlinica is Born: How a German Journalist Became a US Publisher: http://dld.bz/5A3d

Resources for writers--an exhaustive list: http://dld.bz/5A2D

External and internal conflict: http://dld.bz/5A2g

Checking for Plot Holes: Does Your Story Add Up? http://dld.bz/5GvS

When an agent requests your manuscript: http://dld.bz/5A2b

10 writing pests: http://dld.bz/5EGN @elspethwrites

Let Their Reputation Precede Them: Introducing Characters For Maximum Impact: http://dld.bz/5Azh

4 Post-Its to Stick Up Over Your Writing Desk: http://dld.bz/5AyN @victoriamixon

7 rules for utilizing writing time: http://dld.bz/5FhY

Knowing when to cut or fix a crap scene, and how to do it: http://dld.bz/5Ayz @jammer0501

Mystery Writer's Guide to Forensic Science - Poisons V: http://dld.bz/5ERx @clarissadraper

Bolstering your word count: http://dld.bz/54YY

Showing character through reaction: http://dld.bz/5Auq

Flashbacks and backstory:http://dld.bz/56Cb

5 tips for writing scenes: http://dld.bz/56B2

Building a strong story foundation: http://dld.bz/56Ba

Staying True To Your Character's Voice: http://dld.bz/56AP

When writers break their agreement with their readers: http://dld.bz/56Ar

Using Facebook to market your book: http://dld.bz/5693

Word placement and micro-construction of sentences: http://dld.bz/569v

Lit agents in and around Ireland: http://dld.bz/569m

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: A Writer's Breakfast: Pumpkin Muffin Tops from Cleo Coyle http://bit.ly/9hY1eP @CleoCoyle

Agent Scott Eagan On: Author Branding and Career Planning: http://dld.bz/54YN

Subtext in dialogue: http://dld.bz/54Y6

Micro-Inequality: Why Review Equality Matters: http://dld.bz/54XN

Questions to ask as you write your novel: http://dld.bz/54XD

How to write fights, games, races and chases – in three easy stages: http://dld.bz/54WW @dirtywhitecandy

Lighting our scenes--keeping it real: http://dld.bz/564N @authorterryo

Pacing, dialogue, and research: http://dld.bz/54WE

The writer's comment filtration system: http://bit.ly/a0Bpju @EverettMaroon

What Makes Romance Awesome: http://dld.bz/54WA

Authors weigh in on what makes a good blog tour: http://dld.bz/56xN @spunkonastick

The 3 act plot structure: http://dld.bz/54Ww

Writing: Mistakes Are Future Tips: http://dld.bz/54VH

How To Handle Subjective & Contradictory Feedback: http://dld.bz/54V8

Deciding which story to write: http://dld.bz/54Zs

Bolstering your word count: http://dld.bz/54YY

Secondary Characters: http://dld.bz/5xeJ

Magic Systems as Characters: http://dld.bz/5xeG

Useful websites for writers: http://dld.bz/5xeh

The great backstory debate: http://dld.bz/5xb5

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 11/5/10): http://dld.bz/5xbq

Writing time jumps: http://dld.bz/5xbn

Is NaNo Really What Writers Need? http://dld.bz/5wZC

Nathan Bransford’s Decision, Self-Published Kindle books, and You: http://dld.bz/5wZ5

Are you dating your fiction? http://dld.bz/5wZt

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Pecan Lace Sandwich Cookies with Orange Buttercream http://bit.ly/caofQg @CleoCoyle

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome, Kate Carlisle! http://bit.ly/cc8GTy @CleoCoyle

ElizabethSCraig is having another busy weekend--please check back Monday morning for more writing tweets. Happy weekend!

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Pomegranate Goodness! http://bit.ly/aT4nGg @CleoCoyle

How to Improve Your Blogging Quickly and Drastically: http://dld.bz/4MU3

Formatting sample pages of a manuscript in a query email: http://dld.bz/4MUt

The crux of character: http://dld.bz/4MUd

Managing Writers in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers: http://dld.bz/4MTP

How textbook publishing got so scary: http://dld.bz/4MTy

Are Blog Comments the new Mundane Commute? http://dld.bz/4MS7

The Making of a Novel: Developing Character Through Dialogue (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/4Hj9

The Argh Moment: vanity publishing = mainstream contract? http://dld.bz/4Hju

NaNo: It's okay to fail: http://dld.bz/4Hjq

The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Main Characters: http://bit.ly/9z0BmI

The joys of the plot twist: http://dld.bz/4HhT

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers: http://dld.bz/4HhN

Writing With a Daily Word Goal: http://dld.bz/4Hdv

The role of a Rights Manager at a literary agency: http://dld.bz/4HbM

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Mushroom Risotto! http://bit.ly/domujA @CleoCoyle

Writing with heart: http://dld.bz/4HeJ

An unofficial guide to NaNo: http://dld.bz/4HbR

Why Sex and Violence May Be Good For Young Adult Books (WSJ): http://dld.bz/4Hfg

Personalizing queries: http://dld.bz/4He4

ISBNs and E-books: The Ongoing Dilemma: http://dld.bz/4Hef

Getting a lot of critique is great--if the advice is all in sync: http://dld.bz/4Hd2

Why revisions matter (or, giving editors a reason to say yes): http://dld.bz/4Hdr

Get others to make your writing mistakes for you: http://dld.bz/4HcR

The 10 Horrors of Blogging: http://dld.bz/4HcS

Writing humor: http://dld.bz/4HcK

Publishing in the land of Larsson: http://dld.bz/4HbY

The action/adventure genre: http://dld.bz/4HcD

A caveat about starting your book with action: http://dld.bz/4TRb @authorterryo

Facebook Blocking Friend Requests: http://dld.bz/4Hcp

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Avery's Easy Cheddar Soup http://bit.ly/93DwJf @CleoCoyle

The wrong end of the telescope: http://dld.bz/4HaY

Online Tools for NaNoWriMo: http://dld.bz/4Ewe

The Pitch and Why We Should Care: http://dld.bz/4Ev3

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taking Readers into Account

IMG_20100921_104146Every night at bedtime, I make up a story for my daughter.

She loves them.  But she’s a very picky listener.  She prefers stories centered around her favorite cat, Shadow.  With the magic of storytelling, Shadow can speak English and have exciting adventures.

In real life, Shadow is a fluffy, fat, beautiful tomcat.  He’s also really mischievous. It fits his personality to have him do mischievous things in the bedtime stories.

But if my daughter can tell that my story is veering off into an area where Shadow is getting into some sort of scrape and heading into trouble, she revolts.

“No! Don’t make Shadow do it, Mama! Change it! Change the story!”

Yes, she would rather hear a watered-down, happy-sappy story about Shadow having a picnic with her on the top of a breezy hill in the sunshine rather than hear an exciting tale of adventure with Shadow possibly getting in over his furry head.

She just can’t bear to hear anything bad—even something made up—about her favorite pet.

It reminds me of the problems JK Rowling faced when she was writing her last Harry Potter book.  I read an interview with her where she expressed her discomfort at the fact that parents would email her begging that Harry’s life be spared so their children wouldn’t be devastated.

Then there was the case of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  He eventually got so tired of writing Sherlock that he killed him off during a fight with his archenemy Moriarty at a waterfall.  Readers were so outraged that he had to bring Sherlock back from the dead.

I don’t really have much of an answer for this. Obviously writers want creative freedom to write the story the way they want to. This has, I think, to be balanced with the commercial element of writing for our readers. 

I think if we are planning to do away with a main character, then some foreshadowing would be a good idea.  Anything that’s really abrupt and out of the blue and doesn’t fit with the tone of the story and our readers might feel cheated. 

Yes, I can have Shadow the cat get into a major jam and have to spend his imaginary afternoon in time out for his mischief.  (I would never dream of having the kitty get into any harm in a story.) But if I’ve lost my listener because she’s plugging up her ears, then I’m basically telling a bedtime story to myself.

How much are you taking your readers into account as you write your book or your sequels? 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Things I Should Probably Say About Twitter

follow-me-btnI think I’ve put off posting about Twitter, except for my weekly tweet roundup.

For a while, I’ve gotten some hints from tweeters that I should have a sort of Twitter Manifesto. :) But I’m not much of a manifesto writer.

I get a lot of the same questions from folks on Twitter, though—through @ replies and DMs, so I figure I should probably run a post on them. For anyone who’s on Twitter, I’m at @elizabethscraig.

I’ll post this in a Q & A format and cover the questions I usually get:

How did you start tweeting links and why?

I was reading a lot of writing links and it seemed like it would be helpful to pass on ones that I thought were especially good. That snowballed until I had followers that were very interested in a variety of writing-related tweets. These were writers in different stages of their writing career—some just starting out, some veterans. So I started searching for good, solid posts—even if they were on topics that didn’t directly apply to what I’m writing.

It’s a platform for me, too, and provides a very indirect way of marketing and getting my name out there—and being indirect is really the only way I feel comfortable with promo.

How do you find the links?

I don’t get them from my Twitter feed—I actually subscribe directly to the writing blogs’ RSS feed and read them in my Google Reader.

How many blogs do you subscribe to and how do you browse them?

According to my Google Reader, I subscribe to 1,482 blogs. Ack. I have my Google Reader set on “list” view and I scan through them quickly—usually looking for writing craft-related posts.

How long does it take you to find posts, read them, and tweet them in a day?

It usually takes a little over an hour each day.

Are you on Twitter all day?

Actually, no—I usually just check in with Twitter a few times a day. If I have more free time, I check in more frequently.

How do you schedule tweets?

I use an application called “Social Oomph” to schedule my tweets. The idea is to spread them out through the day so that they’re (hopefully) not overwhelming and are reaching people in other time zones.

Why aren’t you following me back?

I follow everyone back, although sometimes I get a little behind with updating my list. If I’m not following you, then I think you’re a spammer or else you’ve just started following me. If you’re not a spammer, just send me an email at elizabethspanncraig(at)gmail(dot)com. Or try to DM me on Twitter (jury's out on whether you can DM someone who doesn't follow you on the new version of Twitter) and let me know. :)

What’s the best way to contact you?

I check my DMs on Twitter at least once a day, but you can also email me at elizabethspanncraig(at)gmail(dot)com.

I have a great writing blog—how can I bring my blog to your attention?

I’m always looking for new writing blogs to add to my Google Reader. Just send me a DM or an email with your link and I’ll subscribe to the RSS feed.

How do you pick which posts to run?

I’m usually looking for craft-related, industry-related, social media, or promo-related posts. I love posts that are easily skimmed, have great content, and can be helpful to a lot of writers.

Can you tweet my book review?

I don’t usually tweet reviews, sorry.

Can you tweet something out to your followers?

It depends on what it is—I’m trying to stick to writing-related, tip-related tweeting. I figure the more I send spammy stuff, then I’m watering down my tweet stream.

(From PR firms, who do like to contact me): What is your marketing strategy behind these tweets? Does it seem to be working?

There wasn’t a whole lot of marketing thought that went into this, which is why I’m probably getting so many DMs from PR people! I’m focusing on the tweeting mainly as a service to other writers, but I am gaining a nice platform in the process. It seemed to work out really well with pre-orders for my last book.

Do you read your tweet stream?

Honestly, I find my tweet stream totally overwhelming. If I try to read or follow all those incoming tweets then it makes me feel like I have ADHD. :) I follow over 6100 and I can blink and find 20 updates.

What if I wrote a great blog post and you didn’t notice it—can I bring it to your attention?

Sure—feel free to DM me with it. I can’t promise to run it, but I promise to take a look…and I’ll make sure I subscribe to your feed.

If I wrote a great post a few days ago and tweeted you about it and it hasn’t run, will it ever run?

Sometimes I schedule tweets way out—sometimes a week or more…so it might still run.

Do you @ all of the blog post authors whose links you tweet?

I used to, and I’d really like to be able to. Some of them I do know by heart, if they frequently have good material. Some of them I’ll @ because it’s someone I know I’ve never tweeted. But usually I just don’t have enough time to look up the Twitter handle on each blog to @ the authors. If your “Follow Me on Twitter” is very visible to the top of your blog page, then you’re a lot more likely to be @ed.

Do you ever chat on Twitter?

I don’t ever @ anyone in conversation…but I do have DM conversations with people. I’m just trying to keep my Twitter profile page completely link-related so make it an easier resource for folks to access.

What types of posts are most likely to be tweeted by you? Which are most popular and most likely to be retweeted by others?

Craft posts and clever humorous posts are the top favorites of my followers. List posts are appreciated, too. Anything that’s helpful about social media, or organizing our writing life helps, too.

Is there a way to make my blog posts more likely to be tweeted by you or by others?

Definitely. I’d recommend a post title that is clear as to the post content, an RSS feed button, and a visible Twitter button on the top half of the blog main page. I’d also recommend a non-rambling post, top-notch, concise content, and something that’s easy-t0-scan (bullet points and bold type helps.)

Some days your links seem better than others. How do you do quality control?

Sometimes, despite the large number of blogs I subscribe to, there’s a lack of content out there…right now I’m blaming NaNo. :) Holidays play into that, too. And...sometimes I'm busy and I have less time to hunt through my Reader.

Do you do #FF and #WW? Why not?

I used to, but with the number of followers and FFs and WWs I get now, I’m just not able to return the favor without sending out an entire page of spam. I really appreciate the ones I get from followers, though!

Is there a place where I can locate these links or search them?

I’m posting all my tweets from the past week each Sunday here on my blog. My blog is searchable (top, left corner). I’m going to have a page with all my Twitterifics on one page, which I think will make searching the content easier. I’m hoping to get started on that soon. :)

And now...a disclaimer (I know--so corporate-sounding...)

Occasionally I'll tweet links that I think show an interesting point of view on, or controversial approach to, writing or the publishing industry. This doesn't necessarily mean that I agree or disagree with the post's author--just that I think the discussion is interesting and believe that others would, too. Please don't assume my opinion of a subject, or my support of an author's opinion, based on my tweeting the link.

That being said, if I think a post's writing advice is completely wrongheaded, I'm not tweeting it.

Thanks everyone! Hope this helps.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Word Count

Interno-- Gigi Chessa -1895-1935I’ll admit that as I’m writing, I keep half an eye on my word count.

It used to mess me up to do that. But now, I think it’s like checking my speedometer when driving a car—it just helps keep me in line so I don’t get into trouble later.

If you’re way over or way under the target word count for your genre, it’s going to mean some work later on. You don’t want to feel like you’re adding fluff to a book to get up to the target count and you don’t want to feel like you’re slashing important scenes, either. Sometimes it’s easier just to watch it as you go along.

When I’m done with a first draft, it’s usually a short 68,000 words. I write pretty sparely now—it used to be that I’d babble on and on when I was writing and wasn’t sure what direction I was going to take the plot next. Now I just stop writing when I get to that point and do some quick brainstorming. Otherwise, I have filler to remove later.

My target is 75,000 words and my manuscript goes right up to that after I add setting, character description, and the small subplots that I love including.

If you’re a newer writer, though, it might be better to just write the book you want to write and worry about the word count during revisions. I know that worked better for me while I was getting my feet wet.

I know some writers worry that word count limits creative freedom. But we can write whatever we want and make the book as long we want it….it just might not sell. If our goal is to sell our finished manuscript, at some point word count is going to have to be considered. Unfortunately, even if your book is excellent, it’s going to be hard to have it read by an agent or editor if it’s too long.

Here are some useful links to consider if you’re at the point that you need to take a look at your word count:

Word Count for Novels and Children's Books: The Definitive Post

Think twice before querying your 291,000 word book

A Few Words on Word Counts: How to Beef Up or Slim Down (especially for freelance writers, but some tips that will help novelists, too)

An agent on word counts (and here, where she defends her position)

Writing Nowadays–Word Count Violations and You

Bolstering Your Word Count

How To Get Ahead When You Are Behind On Your Word Count

Do you watch your word count as you write, or is it something you worry about later in the process?