Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tips for Writing a Traditional Murder Mystery

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Nicole BasarabaHope you’ll pop over and join me today at Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City blog.  Nicole is running a blog series that focuses on the nuts and bolts of writing particular genres.  I’ll be giving some tips on writing traditional mysteries (and continuing my campaign to encourage every writer to consider writing a mystery!)

If mystery writing really isn’t your thing (sigh), then you might want to check out the upcoming posts in Nicole’s blog series—which include a look at horror, historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance, crime fiction, memoir, and others.  Check this post for dates and genres.

What to Do When Your Character Goes to Court—by Blythe Leszkay

by Blythe Leszkay

You’ve thought about writing a courtroom scene or a legal thriller. But maybe you don’t know how courts really work or how to use legal jargon. You’re not sure what evidence can or can’t be used in court, or how it should all play out. So, you let a great story idea drop away out of ignorance and fear.

First, and most importantly, don’t be scared! Non-lawyers are often afraid of tackling a legal storyline. But courtrooms are a natural setting for great drama. If your story idea takes your characters into court or jail or a lawyer’s office, follow it. Don’t let the complexity and mystery of the law scare you off from a potentially great courtroom scene or legal storyline.

Just as you might need to learn about police procedures or forensics to write about those topics, so too should you learn something about criminal law when your characters take that step.

Here are four simple ways to gain the background knowledge and confidence necessary to write a great legal storyline, or even a complete legal thriller.

1. Watch TV and Movies – Watching great legal drama on TV and in movies is a good place to start. I think Law & Order (the original) is on somewhere, sometime, every single day. A couple movies I would recommend for starters would be A Few Good Men and My Cousin Vinny. They are generally more accurate than a lot of others.

TV and movies like these can help you get a basic feel for legal procedures and terms. This can be a great way to see how criminal law is fictionalized in an authentic way.

However, I must give you an important word of caution: Pretty much every legal drama gets things wrong. Even the best TV shows, movies and books let accuracy take a backseat to drama. That’s why these are a good place to start, but they shouldn’t be your only source of legal knowledge.

2. Read the Paper – A somewhat more accurate place to get information about criminal law is in the news. Follow interesting real-life trials. Read true crime books. Watch true crime stories on TV. The Investigation Discovery channel (or ID) is a great source for those kinds of shows.

Again, however, be warned. These sources may leave a lot out of information for the sake of a good read or compelling TV. I know a prosecutor whose case was profiled on one of those shows. Before the show aired, critical DNA results came back, and the prosecutor updated the producer. Despite this, the show left the impression that the results were still unknown.

I guess the lesson is, don’t believe everything you read in the papers or see on TV.

3. Go to Court – If you want to get a taste of how legal proceedings really happen, go to court and see for yourself. Criminal trials are public. Simply go to your local courthouse and watch a real criminal trial. You can ask security or the court clerk if they know of any interesting criminal trials in session.

This is certainly an accurate source of information, but it may be the most time-consuming and inefficient way to learn. Real trials tend to move slowly, and they are filled with objections, motions, and procedural matters that would never be included in a fictional story.

Nevertheless, I think everyone who thinks of writing a legal storyline should check out part of a real trial, at least once. I’ll never forget the letdown I felt the first time I watched a real trial. No yelling lawyers, no “gotcha” moments, no confessions from the witness stand, and no pounding gavels. Even though we know that’s reality, it can be eye-opening to see it in person.

4. Talk to a Criminal Lawyer – A real-life criminal attorney is going to be your best source of information by far. They can give you a general understanding of the area of law you’re interested in. They can give you background information and tell you as much, or as little, detail as you want. They can focus on the law and procedures that would apply to your story or character.

Do you want to know the procedures of how certain evidence would be presented? Or would it even be allowed? Do you want to know the difference between murder and manslaughter? Do you want to know whether the crime your character committed would qualify him or her for the death penalty? If it did, would a prosecutor realistically seek the death penalty in such a case?

An attorney can help you understand, and correctly use, legal terms. They can help you brainstorm ideas or read your draft for accuracy. They can answer your specific questions.

The difficulty here is if you don’t know a criminal lawyer personally, it can be hard to find someone willing to take the time to talk to you about your project (without charging you a fortune). It can also be hard to find someone who can explain things in a way that’s easy for non-lawyers to understand.

That’s why I decided to offer legal consulting services to writers and filmmakers. After we have worked together, writers have the confidence and knowledge that their work is authentic and credible. That confidence can go a long way when it comes time to sell a project.

The bottom line is, if you’re thinking of tackling a legal storyline, go for it. Like any other topic, it may take some research and effort, but it will be worth it. Even if you’re not quite ready to take that plunge, I’ve created a few resources that I hope will be helpful for anyone interested in one day taking their characters into the courtroom – check them out below.

Blythe Leszkay is an experienced and successful criminal attorney, criminal law professor, and consultant to writers and filmmakers. She handles legal technical matters, so clients are free to focus on their creative genius.

Get a free Writer’s Guide: Top 7 Mistakes Made by Writers of Crime, Mystery and Legal Drama at www.criminallawconsulting.com/free-writers-guide.html.

blog1Enter for a chance to win a signed, hardcover edition of “Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit,” by Kerry Max Cook at www.criminallawconsulting.com/giveaway.html. The deadline to enter is February 15, 2012. If you have a published book you would like considered for a future giveaway, contact Blythe at criminallawconsulting@gmail.com.

Blythe is developing a resource page for information on criminal law concepts, which you can peruse at www.criminallawconsulting.com/resources.html. She regularly posts about all things criminal on her blog at www.criminallawconsulting.com/blog.html.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Promoting a Pen Name

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

delicious and suspiciousI wrote a post on January 10th about the benefits of being a novelist...one being that you can write whatever you want to write, under different names. It’s a fantastic way to get the opportunity to experiment with other genres or styles while not disappointing readers who might be accustomed to particular types of books.

The downside is actually promoting those different names.

This post is for those of you who write under two names—but want to link your pen name to your real name (in case you have readers who want to take the leap to another genre or series with you.)

There are some things that I’ve done that seem to work well for linking two names:

Having both names as my Blogger profile (I comment on my own blog and others’ blogs as Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams)

Email signature: My email signature includes the two names that I write under.

Facebook: I make sure that both names are on my Facebook page.

Website: The fact that I write under two names is prominent on the home page.

Amazon Central author page: This is probably one of the most important places to include both names.

More painful, time-wise, for pen name promo:

Having a separate Facebook page for the pen name. Which I do have. It doesn’t get updated often, but readers sometimes contact me there.

A separate Twitter profile for the pen name: It didn’t take long to give this idea up.

Separate Goodreads account: I’m bad to keep up with Goodreads, even with my real name.

Something to try for promoting your pen name:

Be on a rotation for a group blog—as your pen name. This is something I did for several years (as a once-a-week blogger on a food blog for my culinary mystery), although lately I’ve run out of time even for that. But, if you can spare the time, being a regular on a group blog that focuses on the genre you’re writing can be a way to reach new readers.

Do you use a pen name or have you thought about using one? How have you promoted it?

Sunday, January 29, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Below are the writing-related links I tweeted last week. The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links (now over 12,000) searchable.

imageSign up for the free monthly WKB newsletter for the web's best links and interviews:http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 .

Story structure: the 1st plot point: http://bit.ly/xIbywR @rebeccaberto

7 Lessons For Writers From Leonardo Da Vinci: http://bit.ly/AxytcE @thecreativepenn

20 things you need to know before you self-publish: http://bit.ly/wdwh3E @guardian

Round out your characters with contradictions: http://bit.ly/wylldQ @dirtywhitecandy

Make an Image become a Symbol: http://bit.ly/ysA1qY

Will an agent ever recommend self-pub? http://bit.ly/AwlgbQ @rachellegardner

Tips for finding your writing voice: http://bit.ly/scghYa @rebeccaberto

Starting Off a Book in Unfamiliar Territory: http://bit.ly/wigsI2 @janice_hardy

Tell a story only you can tell: http://bit.ly/wmTONh @bookemdonna

3 tests for the opening scene of a romance: http://bit.ly/ygeayA @teresamedeiros

Balancing reason with our love for writing: http://bit.ly/xDfCGT @WomenWriters

7 Negative Prefixes: http://bit.ly/zpuNU5 @writing_tips

How 1 writer learned to write: http://bit.ly/A2bfR9 @KMWeiland

12 Twitter Tips for Writers: http://bit.ly/y1uoOa @ajackwriting

When Book Publicists Go Too Far: http://bit.ly/xdpfly @pubperspectives

Author Blogging 101: Video Interview Tools & Tips: http://bit.ly/wx5fyI @JFBookman

The Value of Ambition: http://bit.ly/AzhMai

Getting back in the writing groove: http://bit.ly/yZUG40 @pepperbasham

Motivation and characterization: http://bit.ly/Aro0un @Dragonmuse

How to Keep Up Your Writing When You're Sick: http://bit.ly/Awvmnb @writeitsideways

Why Isn't Literary Fiction Getting More Attention? http://bit.ly/zDbMip @AprilLineWriter for @Janefriedman

Basic manuscript formatting: http://bit.ly/A7tIqy @behlerpublish

89 Book Marketing Ideas: http://bit.ly/wQShjI @Caitlin Muir

Word Count For Writers: To Count or Not to Count: http://bit.ly/AkG0tV @epubworld for @thecreativepenn

As demand for e-books soars, libraries struggle to stock their virtual shelves: http://bit.ly/wsnN6X @passivevoiceblg

Don't present written proposals to agents at conferences: http://bit.ly/zvt79Q @bookendsjessica

Breakdown of the story structure of a middle grade mystery: http://bit.ly/wKa2La @laurapauling

Can Critique Groups Do More Harm than Good? http://bit.ly/xpwwCP @KristenLambTX

A show, don't tell example in dialogue: http://bit.ly/zZJBHs

The first thing you do when you sit down at the computer: http://bit.ly/wxDaCK

Yes, You Do Need a Theme: http://bit.ly/xGZXP3 @LiveWriteThrive

Tips for lending realism to the paranormal: http://bit.ly/wDYUJ8 @lisagailgreen

Writing means many types of beginnings for writers: http://bit.ly/zYYaG3 @eMergentPublish

The Joys of Rewriting: http://bit.ly/xp04yJ @mooderino

Why Use Past Tense? http://bit.ly/wL6TDZ @ava_jae

When to use modifiers: http://bit.ly/z01Gd6 @theresastevens

The difference between sequence and scene: http://bit.ly/wm8KXZ @AlexSokoloff

The Power of Creative Storytelling: http://bit.ly/AajgRL @maxdubinsky for @jeffgoins

Book Cover Design and the Problem of Symbolism: http://bit.ly/yC5GCs @JFFriedman

Getting Through the Editing Process: http://bit.ly/xatvmi @Sarafurlong

Determining if your book is a "hot" property for agents & publishers: http://bit.ly/wyYcgE @rachellegardner

5 Confused Word Pairs: http://bit.ly/AnMvxA @writing_tips

The new author pitch: Show, don't sell: http://bit.ly/zO2Qen

Getting the most from your book's sell sheets: http://bit.ly/yVF5lX @BryanThomasS

Tips for introducing characters: http://bit.ly/z4FgE8 @Janice_Hardy

3 Ways to Use Pinterest for Book Publicity: http://bit.ly/zhnw1o @booksparkspr

1 Important Way for Authors to Get Discovered by Readers: http://bit.ly/xbRu5A @JodyHedlund

10 Tips for a Successful Author Talk: http://bit.ly/A3OB3g @janice_hardy

Getting started with Triberr: http://bit.ly/zfGt7H @JHansenWrites

What Sort of Goals Do You Need? 10 Questions to Ask: http://bit.ly/ybLu8z @CherylRWrites

The Rhythms of Work vs The Rhythms of Creative Labor: http://bit.ly/wNpacN @jkglei

Trying to make your fantasy unique? Try making a twist: http://bit.ly/zQZ1dl @JulietteWade

Themes and Story Premise in Novel Writing: http://bit.ly/wfBh1A

The Role of Google+ in Marketing: Get Googled: http://bit.ly/xeBGoh @candacemountain

The road to epub--Smashwords, KDP, PubIt: http://bit.ly/AbbEZA

Starting out our day with outgoing instead of incoming: http://bit.ly/wBm0gA

Self-Pubbed Author Beware: http://bit.ly/zpqJXW @jakonrath

Tips for writing tension--complex protagonists & escalating conflict: http://bit.ly/y1fksG @JodieRennerEd

Writing Nonfiction: Using Quotations: http://bit.ly/Akb6Gz @KarenCV

Forcing yourself to write a "big idea" instead of the scale that suits your story: http://bit.ly/yUl2UH @sarahahoyt

10 ways to boost your freelance writing income in 2012: http://bit.ly/zKEbRy @michellerafter

Fuel Your Critique Group With Google+: http://bit.ly/AbQrb7 @authormedia

Why Reader Taste Differs from Publisher Taste: http://bit.ly/z2f7ID @jennybent

Reader Reviews and What Not To Do: http://bit.ly/yKDk4g @WendySMarcus

How to prepare for a writers conference: http://bit.ly/zP3xxg @Bob_Mayer

Myers-Briggs: A Tool for Authors: http://bit.ly/AfsiId @FaeRowen

10 tips for writers to keep procrastination at bay: http://bit.ly/xe6Asl @TaliaVance

A report on a free ebook experiment: http://bit.ly/w37Jug @TheresaStevens

Tips for sifting through feedback: http://bit.ly/AvMrzx @WriteAngleBlog

Digital Rights Showdown: HarperCollins v. Open Road: http://bit.ly/Aru8cs @VictoriaStrauss

Correct use of apostrophes: http://bit.ly/xrUJCO @authorterryo

Bookish things for book lovers: http://bit.ly/Am1Uq4 @LitMusings

3 elements of a book title that sells: http://bit.ly/z7Caq7 @beth_barany

Creative Thinking Comes Before Creative Writing: http://bit.ly/x9XyM2 @bob_brooke

Do You Hold E-Rights to Your Traditionally Published Book? http://bit.ly/yLobG1 @PassiveVoiceBlg

Why Amazon's Plagiarism Problem Is More Than A Public Relations Issue: http://bit.ly/z0hoqS @jeffjohnroberts

Description in Fantasy: Finding the Sweet Spot: http://bit.ly/wj1XT6 @AmyJRoseDavis

Poking Dead Scenes With A Stick: http://bit.ly/xjxdnP @Janice_Hardy

How deep is your POV? http://bit.ly/AA0Bd4 @JoannaShupe

Reasons your book isn't selling: http://bit.ly/AaYrAa @DavidGaughran

10 ways to cut costs from your freelance business: http://bit.ly/ymCY1H @michellerafter

Harry Potter and the 3 Types of Heroes: http://bit.ly/wIvUCe @write_practice

Explaining "genre in the mainstream:" http://bit.ly/yLFFox @tordotcom

How to Write a Publishable Memoir: 12 Do's and Don'ts: http://bit.ly/zcL7wF @annerallen

A look at Harlequin contracts: http://bit.ly/w9m3hD @PassiveVoiceBlg

Why playing safe in publishing is riskier than ever: http://bit.ly/xge9zX @dirtywhitecandy

What is Copyright and What Does it Do? http://bit.ly/wxmcpK @DiyMFA

5 Ways Bad Reviews Can Help You: http://bit.ly/wRG0bh @AJackWriting

6 Signs of Description Misuse: http://bit.ly/xa4qnG @LyndaRYoung

2012 tax tips for US writers and publishers: http://bit.ly/x4zbGl @GLeeBurgett

How Unemployment Inspired an Interactive Book: http://bit.ly/wOdl0H @GalleyCat

The value of publicity: http://bit.ly/ACq2aW @JAKonrath

How to Clean Your Blog's Junk Drawer: http://bit.ly/xTbMMl @pushingsocial

12 Evocative Words That Include "Ae": http://bit.ly/x647kl @writing_tips

Remember what really matters..and write: http://bit.ly/wChfbI @amysorrells

Fact-checking matters with fiction, too: http://bit.ly/ArvgoU @JodieRennerEd

Interesting roundup of Digital Book World, esp.the gulf btw. writers & the publishing industry: http://bit.ly/ysf9pP @Porter_Anderson

How to Make Your Book Play Out Like a Movie: http://bit.ly/zXDWFY @JodyHedlund

Book Sales Aren't Everything: http://bit.ly/xAsAkI @selfpubreview

Writing your book's final sequence: http://bit.ly/w3XSol @katepaulk

Found Object Stories: Think Like a Writer: http://bit.ly/zgPrQO

4 Writing Routines You Can Live With: http://bit.ly/yN6BMP @writeitsideways

Worldbuilding--Setting up alternate social parameters: http://bit.ly/ydguht @JulietteWade

Blog Topics: Original or Commonplace? http://bit.ly/xE2HRU @cherylrwrites

Han Solo, Scarlett O'Hara, and Your Characters: What Makes Them Compelling? http://bit.ly/ywO5e7 @KMWeiland for @write_practice

Why our voice and the rhythm of our writing is important: http://bit.ly/xcRnyr @janice_hardy

10 Questions for Publishing CEOs: http://bit.ly/xUdESG @DonLinn

Querying a publisher after you've fired your agent: http://bit.ly/Aw3YFd @bookendsjessica

Authors, Bloggers, and When the Internet Feels Like A Low-Budget Horror Movie: http://bit.ly/w9ThEW @BooksAreMyBFs

How to Remove the OCD from Your Blogging: http://bit.ly/yjbmeI @KrissyBrady for @catseyewriter

How to Add Goodreads to Your Facebook Timeline: http://bit.ly/yLK735 @GalleyCat

The importance of keeping in touch with our readers: http://bit.ly/w8lXne @GoblinWriter

The Skinny on Social Networking: http://bit.ly/xnwVL3 @writersdigest

Read. Write. Repeat: http://bit.ly/wBdFMh @SusanMayWriter

Line editing in action: http://bit.ly/z29PvS @theresastevens

What a teething toy taught 1 writer about branding: http://bit.ly/xi5PKe @Lit_Gal

The Uncertainty Principle: how do writers know if they're any good? http://bit.ly/wyHIDb

The myth of the bestseller: http://bit.ly/Abq5ay @JAKonrath

Publishers Less Optimistic About Digital Books This Year: http://bit.ly/yslZVW @GalleyCat

5 Tips For Social Media Promotion Success: http://bit.ly/y7KWWy @BryanThomasS

Writing for Life: 5 Practical Goals For Writers: http://bit.ly/xx5tRu @thecreativepenn

Coincidence Destroys the Suspension of Disbelief: http://bit.ly/yj6BHn @noveleditor

Coincidence Destroys the Suspension of Disbelief: http://bit.ly/yj6BHn @noveleditor

Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career: http://bit.ly/zklggd @KristenLambTX

Adverbs: They're Really Not All Bad: http://bit.ly/vZieKi @janice_hardy

97 Ideas for Building a Valuable Platform: http://bit.ly/waUEuL @chrisbrogan

Writers: How to Avoid Stagnation: http://bit.ly/xPF3JX

Strip down your writing: http://bit.ly/AfpN0p

3 ways to alleviate self-doubt: http://bit.ly/zH8q8x @turndog_million for @JaneFriedman

3 ways to alleviate self-doubt: http://bit.ly/zH8q8x @turndog_million for @JaneFriedman

Is KDP Select Salvation or Damnation for Indie Authors? http://bit.ly/A89Dp6 @craftycmc

How Computer Games Can Help You With Your Plotting: http://bit.ly/xEgChK @janice_hardy

Agatha Christie on writing: http://bit.ly/zT2CzB @becke_martin

Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing to Done

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

img-016My husband, God bless him, is a perfectionist.

I had some pictures that I’d wanted to hang on one of our walls. They’re nice botanical prints.

The problem was that there were six of them. It wasn’t really a problem, except that it meant that my husband wanted to devote a lot of time into getting the pictures hung. You know—measuring the wire on the back of the prints, cutting out tissue paper replicas of the pictures to arrange on the wall, carefully marking up the wall with pencil, using a tape measure to create a grid on the wall…

This is not to say that this is the wrong way to hang pictures. No, it’s the right way. Except that it requires a lot of time—and my husband has very little free time. And I don’t have the patience to hang pictures that way.

My botanical prints sat neatly stacked on the floor for many months…until a few weeks ago when my husband left town for a trip.

While he was gone, I grabbed the hammer, eyeballed the pictures and the spot I wanted them in, and started putting nails in the wall. Ten minutes later, the prints were hung. I think they look pretty good.

Now…are there a bunch of holes in the wall under my pictures where I had to rehang crooked prints? Absolutely. There are also a few holes in the walls between the pictures. Can you tell, looking at the wall, that there are a bunch of little holes in it? Not unless you get really, really close. The overall effect is very nice.

The important thing is just to finish. We shouldn’t let perfectionism keep us from ever finishing a book because we want to get the story or the diction or the voice perfect. If we finish our book, then we can fix any problems or mistakes.

I do know a lot of writers who like to edit as they go and work really well that way. I’d just add that if you do write that way and it’s not going particularly well, consider taking the time to reevaluate your process and see if a different approach might work better for you.

How do you put perfectionism behind you during your first draft?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Outgoing vs. Incoming

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

First a special note—yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine. The WKB is the free, searchable archive, developed by Mike Fleming, for all the writing-related links I share. Hope you’ll try it for information on writing a novel, querying an agent or publisher, or promoting your book.

blog2I think a lot about ways to be more productive. We all have only a certain number of hours in our day and a certain number of things we need to accomplish in those hours.

I have a really tight schedule up until summer and I’ve been grabbing my writing time when I can find it.

I’m an early riser. In the past, I’ve tried to go straight to my computer in the morning and get some writing done….first thing.

I knew I was supposed to do this. I knew it helped me get my writing goals met for the day. I knew it made me start off the day on the right foot—with a win.

But I didn’t really think about the underlying reasons I was doing it. And because I didn’t, it meant that I didn’t ascribe the importance to the task that I should have.

Over the holidays, I got into a different sort of habit. I still got up before dawn, but I was checking my calendar, checking my emails, and checking online activity: had the blog I’d scheduled posted correctly? Did I have any messages in my Twitter DM folder that I should read?

Those are things that do need to be done. Do they need to be done at 4:45 a.m., though? No. I really don’t even need to check my calendar before 5 a.m.—what could I possibly be needed for at that hour, anyway?

Seth Godin had an excellent post a couple of weeks ago. He asked what was the first thing we do at the computer each morning. He suggested it was “checking our incoming.” But he reminded us that, if we’re artists, that:

“the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded….to what happened yesterday.”

In other words, we should be focused on our outgoing, not our incoming. Start out our day creating something new.

After reading Godin’s post, I decided to start writing first each day again. This time, instead of feeling like it was just a chore to knock off my long list, I felt like I had more of a sense of purpose to my writing. I was creating something, moving forward, not looking back at what I might have missed in the last eight hours since I’d last checked my emails or other messages.

And it felt good. In fact, I was more inspired and felt more purposeful.

Have you ever thought about changing your morning routine? Or considered writing before checking in with social media?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lending Realism to the Paranormal—by Lisa Gail Green

by Lisa Gail Green, @LisaGailGreen

Photo on 2011-12-09 at 13.02 #2Lending realism to paranormal. It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But allowing your readers to suspend their disbelief is vital if you’re writing in this genre or any other type of speculative fiction. Think of Harry Potter for a moment. What was it about an entire society of witches and wizards complete with schools, government and other fantastical creatures that allowed us to read on while hoping for an owl of our own?

I’ve broken down five features I believe are imperative to creating “realistic” paranormal.

1. The details.

It’s the small things that matter. If I buy into a world I want to be able to taste the food, feel the textures, hear the sounds – not just for the major things, but for the everyday bits as well. How does a werewolf shave? Does he laugh at the silliness of it?

2. The characters must be human.

I don’t mean literally. Your MC can be an alien with three heads for all I know. What I mean is that inside, the thoughts and feelings should be familiar to the reader. We have to be able to connect on a visceral level. So as long as we have that internal connection, the character will be much easier to accept.

3. The world must be complete in the author’s mind.

If you don’t understand your world, neither will your reader. You have to know how everything works and fits together if you want to have a hope of conveying it to others. Don’t gloss over parts you are having trouble with, make sure you have a reason and that it all fits together, otherwise fix it.

4. There must be no discrepancies.

If your vampire can’t see himself in a mirror, you better have a very good reason why the girl see’s him coming at the end through a reflection in the water. Make sure if there’s a rule, you carry through to the end. If your MC saves the day because of some hidden power, please build up to that reveal, so it feels natural and not like something you came up with to get yourself out of a corner you’ve written yourself into!

5. The rules must be based on universal truths.

I’m going to assume the laws of gravity apply unless otherwise stated. And even if you don’t reveal every last thing, you will find it helps to have a solid reason as to why things are the way they are. The logic will translate onto the page.

What do you think? Have I missed any key elements?

newestpicLisa Gail Green writes paranormal and fantasy. Her newest publication is IDENTITY CRISIS in the anthology GODS OF JUSTICE. Lisa is an active participant on EnchantedInkpot.com as well as ChildrensPublishing.blogspot.com. You can find Lisa most often on her own blog at paranormalpointofview.blogspot.com or Twitter as @LisaGailGreen. She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Below are the writing-related links I tweeted last week. The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links (now over 12,000) searchable.

imageSign up for the free monthly WKB newsletter for the web's best links and interviews:http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 . Different approaches to naming characters: http://bit.ly/A5vLkK @kirstenhubbard How Barnes & Noble Can Take a Bite Out of Amazon: http://bit.ly/Am4STf @JosephJEsposito for @scholarlykitchn How "Literary" and "Entrepreneur" Are Becoming Intertwined: http://bit.ly/zNU4E6 @biblioracle for @janefriedman The symbiosis linking SF and mainstream: http://bit.ly/zhyS5w A look at social media tool Triberr: http://bit.ly/wNnfhu @Jhansenwrites A Singularly Unpopular View of Adverbs: http://bit.ly/wN4rLf @KeithCronin Writing daily when you have a day job (written for bloggers, works for novelists): http://bit.ly/wUVh7f @PushingSocial Your dialogue can do more: http://bit.ly/xcV9DS @JulietteWade 5 Ways to Draw Readers Into Your Articles: http://bit.ly/yFyHmg Publishing house procedure for consideration of a manuscript: http://bit.ly/A5cPdH @bookendsjessica Using Either, Neither, Or, and Nor Correctly: http://bit.ly/xMDu9d @write_practice You can write daily: http://bit.ly/zyhBkZ @eMergentPublish Dealing with deadlines: http://bit.ly/wUaDQm @rachellegardner 10 Tips on Guest Blogging and Blog Tours: http://bit.ly/wFacwh @pstoltey Evaluating a new publisher? Give yourself the gift of time: http://bit.ly/w1qA3V @behlerpublish Creative forced association: http://bit.ly/wzavUO @changingminds for @SiriusPress 4 Ways to Recycle Dusty Manuscripts: http://bit.ly/x3gkIp @JulieMusil Thoughts on second books: http://bit.ly/wM40zc @KALongshore 6 Simple Ways to Reboot Your Writing Routine: http://bit.ly/yP0wrF @BrianKlems Some truths about publishing aren't true anymore: http://bit.ly/xVhae5 @PassiveVoiceBlg 8 Effective Ways To Harness Creativity: http://bit.ly/zM8lfX Some stories just aren't yours to tell: http://bit.ly/yeRIVz @sarahahoyt How to Avoid 10 Common Conference Mistakes That Most Writers Make: http://bit.ly/zJyV2y @BrianAKlems All the links I shared on Twitter last week: http://bit.ly/xAkL10 Selling & Managing Audio Rights: http://bit.ly/xE0aPd @SaraMegibow Query letter template: http://bit.ly/A7g22v @BubbleCow Pinning down what makes a book high concept: http://bit.ly/yv6VFR @4kidlit When agents pitch to editors: http://bit.ly/yv6VFR @rachellegardner Punctuation in Fiction—Are There Prohibitions? http://bit.ly/yNfbqz @noveleditor Punishing the Peccadillo: http://bit.ly/xviN5X @behlerpublish 20 Economical Book Marketing Techniques: http://bit.ly/wac61d @selfpubreview Creating Profitable and Successful Blogs: http://bit.ly/wqAQqP @problogger Forging Stories: Exploring the Metaphor: http://bit.ly/wfYBOc How subplots are useful for writers: http://bit.ly/wHgA2i @Mommy_Authors Twitter: Top 5 Ways to Find Your Tribe: http://bit.ly/yT2Fa1 @JFBookman Repurposing Blogs as Books for 'Immediacy': http://bit.ly/Ah0s3y @pubperspectives You must ship: http://bit.ly/z1NLK6 @JeffGoins How To Pick and Choose a Writers Conference: http://bit.ly/yLA27Q @Bob_Mayer How to Be a Better Blogger, Part 1: http://bit.ly/xpqLgI @SarahForgrave 7 things to consider when trying to find readers for your ebook: http://bit.ly/AERXsE @SuspenseAuthors Why should never be a chore: http://bit.ly/yI741X @eMergentPublish Do You Hold E-Rights to Your Traditionally Published Book? http://bit.ly/zPTj0A @JaneFriedman 12 Ways to Help Your Friends' Pre-Release Promotion Efforts: http://bit.ly/ArngG3 @KeliGwyn Learning tension from hoaxes of the past--part of the Designing from the Bones series from @GeneLempp: http://bit.ly/xa7CIa 6 Steps to Getting Started With Google+: http://bit.ly/y99FSp @smexaminer An agent reminds us that trends started years before: http://bit.ly/z59QSM @greyhausagency 2 Surefire Symptoms of a Static Character: http://bit.ly/zhc3Ai @KMWeiland 5 productivity tips for writers: http://bit.ly/yuP2PR @MsAnnAguirre What Is Your Online Avatar Saying About You? http://bit.ly/xRRj2D @catseyewriter The Counter-Intuitive Benefits of Small Time Blocks: http://bit.ly/AyMB1U @RealLifeE Culture-building through Holidays: http://bit.ly/xbUi2G @AmyJRoseDavis New Fight Breaks Out Over Digital Rights to Old Books: http://bit.ly/xR9yYx @PassiveVoiceBlg Character vs. Plot vs. Language: http://bit.ly/ymnPdS @BookishWallace Short Stories as Marketing Tools: http://bit.ly/xfaNkZ @howtowriteshop Blog Trolls–How to Spot Them & What To Do: http://bit.ly/xdfQWM @KristenLambTX How to Write a Novel Based on a True Story: http://bit.ly/xkBA5U @HarlowCoban The Business of Character Engagement: http://bit.ly/wjGyBa @jhansenwrites Tips for setting up a blog tour: http://bit.ly/z2kM17 @spunkonastick Responsible Reviewing: http://bit.ly/yZLnvi @authorterryo Tips for eliminating echoes in our writing: http://bit.ly/zeudv4 Examining our ideas to ensure they're genuinely original: http://bit.ly/ApfPNh @SarahAHoyt Staying True to Your Characters: http://bit.ly/zUJtqo @AnnetteLyon Konrath's successful last 3 weeks with epub: http://bit.ly/wNLzZH @jakonrath Worldbuilding--how romantic partners meet, expectations for relationships, etc.: http://bit.ly/zHx763 @JulietteWade Freelance Life: The Right Tools: http://bit.ly/x48tiv @writertank Guest Blogging Etiquette 101: http://bit.ly/ykJtEL @roniloren Publishers Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic: http://bit.ly/xSejs9 @PassiveVoiceBlg Why 1 authors isn't fond of writing groups: http://bit.ly/x3NtNv @mykecole What Makes a Great First Sentence? http://bit.ly/yAsO48 @Ava_Jae 1 writer's experiences during the past decade of publishing: http://bit.ly/y75VYG @marilynpeake For the Resolute at New Year's: Promises, Process, and Progress: http://bit.ly/ApBYCL @SarahAveryBooks 6 reasons to write flawed characters: http://bit.ly/yDWdUw @LyndaRYoung Writing tension--giving readers something to worry about: http://bit.ly/xWChv1 @JodieRennerEd Should Authors Add a Paypal Donation Button to Their Sites? http://bit.ly/y7a3Qe @GoblinWriter The Question You Should Ask Before You Ask "What if?" http://bit.ly/zMOcsX @storyfix An Interview with editor Alan Rinzler: http://bit.ly/A3FOgY @CAMorganti Types of rights for writers: http://bit.ly/zjVwiq @querytracker You Are Exactly Where You Need To Be: http://bit.ly/w5XpaS @AKathrynTrombly A post on horror writer R.L. Stine: http://bit.ly/AasgWZ @writersdigest BookStoreMarketing.net: Beware Spam PR Services: http://bit.ly/ACFHbF @victoriastrauss How cliches can actually be useful: http://bit.ly/z5Jf2k @storykim Songwriters : 6 Traits of A Badly Written Song: http://bit.ly/wcCxM1 @usasong Songwriters : The Dos and Don'ts of Co-Writing: http://bit.ly/y4NY5e @edusongwriter Tips for writing emotion: http://bit.ly/xRvCy1 @katepaulk 11 ways to make a memorable impression at a writers' conference: http://bit.ly/x4LGaj @kirklandatlarge How to make good writing great: http://bit.ly/AyOSQG @jammer0501 Writing fighting--12 things writers should know: http://bit.ly/zwAQ62 @ajackwriting Why your book needs a sell sheet and how to make one: http://bit.ly/ADTzFh @BryanThomasS Sensory Tips for the Distracted Writer: http://bit.ly/ACJGl3 @ThereseWalsh How Writing Groups Can Work for You: http://bit.ly/zXpsSA @2KoP for @writeitsideways How Tightly Do You Control Your Blog? http://bit.ly/y24ZLB @jamigold Usage tips of common tech terms in our writing: http://bit.ly/y0I8pk @writing_tips What writers really need: http://bit.ly/z53coo @billycoffey for @rachellegardner 5 Writing Prompts to Overcome Writer's Block: http://bit.ly/xK54go @write_practice What NOT to do With Your Press Release: http://bit.ly/zePHnk @FriesenPress Crime fiction--when suspects get off on the wrong foot with investigators: http://bit.ly/zcXOBf @mkinberg Calendars for organizing writing and life: http://bit.ly/AwxB3f Social media is not direct sales: http://bit.ly/A7N0G0 @KristenLambTX 5 Literary Devices to Make You a Better Writer: http://bit.ly/w2D3zm @nickdaws Top 5 Miscast Literary Roles: http://bit.ly/AlObOw @NewDorkReview Does EPub Change the 32-Page Illustrated Picture Book? http://bit.ly/wUTCLw 9 ways to make an idea your own: http://bit.ly/xzGkMN @sarahahoyt 7 Blog Mistakes That Drive Readers Nuts: http://bit.ly/wtL55P @pushingsocial Walls on the Path to Publication: a Necessity or a Nuisance? http://bit.ly/xDzkKN @JodyHedlund Categorizing your book: http://bit.ly/w48eWz @Bookendsjessica 5 hidden elements that help us effectively tell our stories: http://bit.ly/yvd7km 10 Ways To Get More Email Subscribers For Your Blog: http://bit.ly/xnP3To @problogger A sf/f writer experiments in literary thinking: http://bit.ly/Ap8TIu @JulietteWade Investing in Your Own Future: http://bit.ly/yoawdC @deanwesleysmith How much promotion is too much? http://bit.ly/wfSMWr @nicolamorgan Print and eBook Covers, a Matter of Resolution: http://bit.ly/wuM0PE @JFBookman 10 Resolutions for Self-Publishers in 2012: http://bit.ly/yLOLWI @pubperspectives 3 Ways to Handle Time in a Novel: http://bit.ly/zn8RLF Magic systems: http://bit.ly/yrk3mw 2 tricky areas for writers--dialogue and description: http://bit.ly/wgOKyR CreateSpace Ins and Outs: http://bit.ly/yriUmJ @Desertwriter Live coverage of cons #wdc12 (today/Fri.) and #dbw12 (Mon.) & #dbwsum (Mon.) by @Porter_Anderson with roundup here: PorterAnderson.com Editors under marketing's thumb, poorly digitized trad. titles, scarcity as a biz model, Apple gossip: http://bit.ly/yDFjur @Porter_Anderson Writing on the Ether's @Porter_Anderson features @SheilaB01 @namenick @lizcastro @JulieBertagna @jeffjohnroberts : http://bit.ly/yDFjur When Loved Ones Don't Love Your Book: http://bit.ly/zEyRXb @wckdwriter Making writing goals using the S.M.A.R.T. method: http://bit.ly/zpjEf2 @ArtMktgMentor "Write What You Know" Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does: http://bit.ly/z9xCpo @fuelyourwriting Put Your Reader in Your POV Character's Skin: http://bit.ly/yi1gI2 @jhansenwrites Editing out 'as': http://bit.ly/yJLdop The Pros and Cons of Comparing Yourself to Other Writers: http://bit.ly/w3T9yC @KMWeiland Ebooks Outsell Print For Majority Of Titles On USA Today Bestseller List: http://bit.ly/zvBFcK @laurahazardowen How to maintain a creative, healthy perspective: http://bit.ly/yLxbmv @tannerc Know The Business *Before* You Get Too Far In: http://bit.ly/z87fU7 @greyhausagency Authors, Bad Reviews, and Bad Reactions: http://bit.ly/xVr0Yu @CassandraNeace Pandora's box about to be reopened: Who owns erights to old books? http://bit.ly/xTOZBW @PassiveVoiceBlg Women and Men, and Cover Art: http://bit.ly/xJWsmN @ocelott @jimchines Why Use Present Tense? http://bit.ly/wfVf95 @Ava_Jae 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing While Thinking Like a Comedy Writer: http://bit.ly/Aw0ifq @lajfun What mystery writers should know about the brain: http://bit.ly/AjJhgR @JungleReds Places to find writers online: http://bit.ly/zvY6jc

Friday, January 20, 2012

Finding Writers Online

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

100_5048If you’re a new writer or have recently decided to spend more time writing, you might be looking for other writers online.

Plugging into the online writing community can be very helpful for writers. Finding support and encouragement is probably the main reason, with accessing resources a close second.

I’ve recently been asked by a few newer writers where to find other writers online. There’s not one main watering hole. Here are some of the places writers hang out online:

Twitter: There are tons of writers on Twitter. If you put #amwriting or #writetips or #writechat into the search box on your home page, you’ll find writers. Or go to my followers. Almost all of them are writers.

Blogs: Blogs are great places to connect with other writers (find active blogs to follow, then branch out and follow folks in their blog rolls.) There are plenty of writing blogs in my sidebar to get you started.

Forums: Absolute Write , Writers Net, and Writing Forums, among others, connect writers with each other and with resources and information.

There are also Yahoo Groups that operate on an email loop (or you can choose to visit the group’s board). Just go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ and search for “writing” or the genre of your choice.

Facebook: Writers are all over Facebook. What I’d recommend is finding a blogging writer who has a Facebook account, friend them, then go to their followers’ list. You’re sure to find other writers there to friend….then repeat the process.

National organizations (USA): The Authors Guild is the oldest of the organizations for published authors. There are also many groups that are genre-specific: SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), RWA (Romance Writers of America), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), ITW (International Thriller Writers), HWA (Horror Writers Association), Sisters in Crime, etc. There are also local writing organizations. Some writers find it very rewarding to connect with other writers in person and exchange ideas about writing, publishing, and marketing. If you’re looking for an in-person group, it’s worth the few minutes to pop over to Meetup.com and type in ‘critique group’ and your location to see if there are groups in your area. Writers conferences are a good, if frequently costly, way to meet other writers. Or you can participate in a free online writing conference like The Muse Online or challenges like the annual National Novel Writing Month and make writing friends there.

There are probably gobs of other places that I’m not mentioning here. Where are some of your favorite places to hang out with writers?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Calendars for Organizing Writing and Life

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig imagesI'm always interested in finding new ways to get organized and take more control over my day.

Although I've been busier than ever with my writing and family life, my productivity has improved in all the different areas I'm juggling---home, as well as writing.

I’m pretty sure it's because of my calendar.

The last time (April 2011) I wrote on this topic, I was still using a variety of different calendars—a wall calendar, a day-planner style calendar, and an online calendar.

A few months ago, I started using Google Calendar for almost everything. Lists of things to do, grocery lists, remembering the dog's heart-worm pill...and now blog post ideas (as a sort of informal editorial calendar.) I've even put my supper plan on my calendar for each day--it reminds me to take whatever the meat is out of the freezer the night before to defrost in the fridge overnight.

I've also tried to go, if not paper-free, then paper-reduced. When the children bring home flyers from school or their activities, I transcribe the important bits into my Google calendar and then recycle the paper.

There are tons of calendar apps out there, but the point is to have something that you can easily change, update, and carry with you. It doesn’t have to be Google. When someone asks me now if I can drive children home from play practice/driver's ed/elementary school, I take a look at my phone. Because Lord knows I can't remember what I'm doing from one day to the next.

I also took this a step farther with my writing...with some excellent results so far. I've mentioned that I hate outlines, but I do love knowing what I'm planning on writing the next day. With my schedule, I need to hop right into the book when I find 15 free minutes. If I use those 15 minutes trying to figure out what scene I need to pick up with, and what I'm trying to accomplish, the writing time is quickly over without my doing any actual writing. So now I jot a line or two on my calendar to remind myself where I want to go with my story the next time I pick it up. If that 10 minutes of time happens to be while I’m waiting for my son to walk out of his high school, then I have my plan for the writing day with me on my phone…and I start right in.

Another nice thing is that this calendar is on a cloud. I can access it from anywhere. If I lose my phone or drop my phone in the sink or something, I can still recover my calendar. If I’m traveling, my calendar is accessible and able to be updated.

One other note--I'm trying an experiment with my calendar....working on more than 1 project at a time. I have two books due at nearly the same time this year, and I've never before been able to work on more than one book at a time. But if I'm being this organized and if I plan the next day’s writing for both books, I’m curious to see if it will work better. I’ll report back on the experiment later.

How are you staying organized and juggling all the things you need to do? Are you a calendar-user, too? What other tools do you use?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eliminating Echoes in Our Writing

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

P4020070I recently got my copyedited manuscript back for the first Southern quilting mystery, which is releasing in June.

I was pleased with the lack of mark-ups on the manuscript. It was probably the cleanest doc I’ve ever gotten back.

Except for one major thing.

I had the most echoes I’d ever seen. Actually, it was an embarrassing number of echoes.

Editors (at least mine at Penguin), refer to repeated words as echoes. Echoes haven’t usually been an issue for me. And this manuscript was full of them.

I think it might be due to the number of times I picked up and put down the document while writing it. I had a full schedule at the time and wrote in very small chunks of time. That approach worked well, in terms of getting the book written. But, since I make a point of not reading what I wrote the previous day, this meant that sometimes I reused words that I’d just written (that I guess were fresh in my mind from the day before.)

An example from the first page of my manuscript: I reference a wild looking woman at the protagonist’s front door. Five lines later: I describe the woman’s wildly colored, mismatched clothes.

Some other repeated words: disastrous and disaster (4 lines apart), quickly (4 lines apart), chilled and chill (10 lines apart), honestly (2 lines apart), normally (2 lines apart), running late and run by (in the same line)….yes, the list goes on!

Amazingly, neither my agent nor my senior editor noticed the echoes in a read-though…but they were reading for content in those passes. Which just goes to show that copyeditors are worth their salt—and that we all can miss echoes unless we’re making special passes for them.

On the upside—they’re extremely easy to fix. I’d corrected the entire manuscript and returned it to my editor in just about 30 minutes. But I felt sorry for the poor copyeditor.

I’ve caught my own echoes before—that’s why I’ve never had a book returned to me with so many. These are the ways I’ve found them (and I use the same method to locate other errors):

Read aloud: You can either read your book aloud to yourself or load the manuscript on your e-reader and have the device read aloud to you.

Read in a different font: This drives me nuts after a while, but if I only plan on editing a chapter, I’ll put the one chapter in a different font. It makes the words look different and gives me a little distance from the document.

Use beta readers: Sometimes my betas will find these types of errors.

Make a special pass: This is my plan for my next manuscript. I’m going to make a special pass through the document, looking especially for echoes.

How do you find errors like echoes in your drafts?

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Below are the writing-related links I tweeted last week. The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links (now over 12,000) searchable.

imageSign up for the free monthly WKB newsletter for the web's best links and interviews:http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 .

Ways to judge whether your character is likeable enough for readers: http://bit.ly/A7fc0A @lisagailgreen

Surviving the Publishing Industry's Looking Glass: http://bit.ly/ABKZro @writerboyESPN

Do you have a marketing plan? http://bit.ly/yr66Yl @robeagar

10 Types of Hypercorrection: http://bit.ly/wNsR76 @writing_tips

Making Friends Without Making Them Feel Used: http://bit.ly/zlg5Mg @JodyHedlund

Your Top 12 Author Marketing Moves for 2012: http://bit.ly/Apz3G6 @writersdigest

Do You Know Your Characters? Do You Know Yourself? http://bit.ly/xuuwAu @curiosityquills

G is for Gerund: http://bit.ly/zMhAjH

6 Ways to Create Writing Goals That Stick: http://bit.ly/zBy8cQ @msheatherwebb for @krissybrady

Building emotional cues into scenes: http://bit.ly/wO6O4C @JulieWuAuthor @BTMargins

Your Top 12 Author Marketing Moves for 2012: http://bit.ly/Apz3G6 @robeagar for @writersdigest

J.K. Rowling's Writing Process in Her Own Words, part 2: http://bit.ly/wAhxoA @shelleysouza for @HP4Writers

Being The Evil Overlord: http://bit.ly/yCJ51M @katepaulk for @sarahahoyt

How to create mood: http://bit.ly/wO5PxU

The 7 Components of Book Marketing Strategy: http://bit.ly/wJyYVF @JenniferAFusco

The Difference Between Dreaming and Starting: http://bit.ly/y9GRes @jeffgoins

An Agent on Why The Writing Process Trumps Everything: http://bit.ly/ApZ76j @greyhausagency

The drive to write: http://bit.ly/xOIit4 @kalayna

How to Catch More Life in Your Writing: http://bit.ly/AwWax7 @write_practice

Revision: A Fine Line Between Polish And Overkill: http://bit.ly/zZ9uKD

All my tweets from the past week: http://bit.ly/ADefRm

Goal setting for writers: http://bit.ly/xN8lba @eMergentPublish

Why perfect endings rankle: http://bit.ly/w5bSkr @SolomonAnna for @BTMargins

Why books make the best movies: http://bit.ly/xT6Bin

75 Synonyms for "Talk": http://bit.ly/wikVpf @writing_tips

Playbook For Self-Promo: http://bit.ly/zIvrhK @bigblackcat97 for @WriteAngleBlog

Is Your Website Hurting Your Writing? http://bit.ly/xdzvGq @menwithpens for @thecreativepenn

Are readers really ready for the self-published author? http://bit.ly/ABbKWW @tonyakappes11

Writers--Will Work for Cheap: http://bit.ly/xPwbA5 @KristineRusch

When promo gets pushy: http://bit.ly/x5M8or @blurbisaverb

Genrefication: Romance, the Novel, and Literary Fiction: http://bit.ly/yWAfDX @JustBethanne

Giving our characters epiphanies: http://bit.ly/xSdi1H

Thoughts on setting writing goals: http://bit.ly/wagTru @/andrewgreybooks

Crime fiction--creating ordinary people for readers to pull for: http://bit.ly/xWx5Uw @mkinberg

An Authors' Guide to the Almighty 3% Rule: http://bit.ly/AcinQw @TweetTheBook

Approaching Success or Avoiding Failure? http://bit.ly/xHyYU2 @WriteNowCoach

4 Ways To Develop Your Authentic Voice For Book Marketing Success: http://bit.ly/wgEhnt @Beth_Barany

Using small questions to get past a block with your manuscript: http://bit.ly/wvuje5 @SusanSquires

Using data to develop a social media strategy: http://bit.ly/wTK4bf @andrewphelps

9 Villains in Literature & Film--& Making Your Own Better: http://bit.ly/y1Ffcr @joebunting

Making Backstory Work for You: http://bit.ly/xSlkv4 @janice_hardy

Your YA Protagonist–Some Dos and Don'ts: http://bit.ly/wFvt0j @Kristi_Cook

What stillness reveals: http://bit.ly/AwqPXc @OllinMorales

For the disorganized writer: How to tackle clutter: http://bit.ly/xistZ7 @zen_habits

How to Find Your Inner Sadist: http://bit.ly/yRpH7O @Ava_Jae

Just because they offered you a contract doesn't mean you need to take it: http://bit.ly/xwEsfP @behlerpublish

Why You Should Add E-mail Subscription Service to Your Blog: http://bit.ly/wnRoC6 @JaneFriedman

When authors are swallowed whole by their books: http://bit.ly/wWOxR1 @FebruaryGrace

Finding time to blog *and* write: http://bit.ly/Amg1gL @dirtywhitecandy

The author/reviewer relationship: http://bit.ly/zFFOOl @YAHighway

How to generate a year's worth of content in an hour: http://bit.ly/ygz6JJ @viperchill

5 Ways to Bring Your Blog into the Spotlight: http://bit.ly/yYMkXT @youngprepro

Don't Drown Your Reader in Explanations: http://bit.ly/x8hecT @KMWeiland

Commenting On Reviews: A Different Type of Author Intrusion: http://bit.ly/z67817

How Images Improve Blog Traffic: http://bit.ly/zrVW6y @robertleebrewer

Weekend Writing -Writing as a Second Job: http://bit.ly/A8mxGs @camillelaguire

Possible Problems and Obstacles for Superheroes to Face Besides Supervillains: http://bit.ly/A6yNNe

The New World of Publishing: Writer vs. Author: http://bit.ly/A8crBJ @deanwesleysmith

Pros and Cons of Multiple First Person: http://bit.ly/xRBn8i @Janice_Hardy

Story structure--set-up: http://bit.ly/wcpzOx @rebeccaberto

Your new writing blog: avoid these faux-pas: http://bit.ly/y8fATp @dirtywhitecandy

Use a Rewrite to Add What Your Story Lacks: http://bit.ly/w1g5jE @noveleditor

12 Ways To Give Your Career A Jump Start For 2012: http://bit.ly/xUzbMJ @lilywolf

How to Develop a Successful Multi-Author Blog: http://bit.ly/yOFu4v @smexaminer

The Loneliness of the Icelandic Translator: http://bit.ly/xLtcvS @oliviasnaije for @pubperspectives

What Costco can teach us about writing: http://bit.ly/z2IxR5 @JulieMusil

How to Buy eBooks from an Indie Bookstore: http://bit.ly/zvRYV5 @galleycat

Lord of the Rings: The Revised Edition: http://bit.ly/AfJz7T @ChrisDolley

How to Make Chapters for a Novel Manuscript in Microsoft Word 2010: http://bit.ly/xHTeg1

Hooks, Loglines, and Pitches: What Every Writer Needs to Know: http://bit.ly/zQF8Z7 @AnneRAllen

Revive Your Creativity by… Not Being Creative: http://bit.ly/w2Ys7A @misfitsmascara

Blogging (or writing) with kids--9 tips: http://bit.ly/zlQKtn @WritingH

Why Bequeathing Your Intellectual Property is Crucial: http://bit.ly/wsvyvQ @DebraPurdyKong

Unleashing creativity begins with a timeline of your past: http://bit.ly/AxuGlb @tobywneal

Technical Aspects of Creating A Nontraditional Ebook: http://bit.ly/yyMumV @indieauthor for @thecreativepenn

Tips for preparing your doc for epublishing: http://bit.ly/wSPl2K

1 writer on what she likes about romantic suspense: http://bit.ly/wSPl2K

10 New Year Resolutions For Writers (that might actually stick): http://bit.ly/x3f84x @ajackwriting

Stabilizing Influence: http://bit.ly/xK0luH @Ravenrequiem13

An agent's tips for aspiring memoir writers: http://bit.ly/Ajfpap @rachellegardner

3 Secrets to e-Book Cover Design Success: http://bit.ly/xmoHlX @jfbookman

Literary Devices to Help Writers Who've Lost the Plot: http://bit.ly/yo66Wi

The Mirage of Fixity — Selling an Idea Before Understanding the Concept: http://bit.ly/zEr7QE @scholarlykitchn

6 Dos and Don'ts for Busy Parents Who Blog: http://bit.ly/z8Ijy8 @writeitsideways

Getting The Most From A Critique: http://bit.ly/Anbf1d @marcykennedy

A Tested Social Media Success Formula: Talk as Yourself, Not about Yourself: http://bit.ly/AALRCB @danzarrella @copyblogger

Worldbuilding with Horses: Preindustrial Revolution: http://bit.ly/z9RsUc @dancinghorse

Stop Waiting to Be Picked: http://bit.ly/w9TIYs @JeffGoins

35 Genres and Other Varieties of Fiction: http://bit.ly/w7rHN6 @writing_tips

Which League Are You Playing In? http://bit.ly/wP4op7 @bob_brooke

Reasons to give writing poetry a go: http://bit.ly/yccQ85 @eMergentPublish

How Not To Mutilate A Foreign Language: http://bit.ly/zCMH8B @StinaLL

5 things 1 writer wishes she'd known before she sold her manuscript: http://bit.ly/z85mIz @PBRWriter

When is your manuscript ready to be sent out: http://bit.ly/w1Z5E6 @lisagailgreen

10 signs you're not in the writing zone: http://bit.ly/yVNPYg @elspethwrites

Tips for better book openings: http://bit.ly/wxAQXo @anasleuth

Tips for writing dialogue tags: http://bit.ly/wiwFUq

Approaching agents who rejected you...after you've gotten an offer from a publisher: http://bit.ly/wmniWF @bookendsjessica

5 Narrative Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now: http://bit.ly/wut7Hy @EliseRome for @RoniLoren

Tips for creating effective characters: http://bit.ly/yLYc2t

Making a living writing--1 writer's story: http://bit.ly/wngwmt @MeredithEfken for @HowToWriteShop

Show Editors & Agents How You Meet Their Guidelines: http://bit.ly/z9irTQ @greyhausagency

Knowing Where to Start Your Novel: http://bit.ly/xa6zwU @Janice_Hardy

Why the internet is a trap - and how 1 writer deals with it: http://bit.ly/xJoEFu @JulietteWade

How to mine your childhood for story gems and more: http://bit.ly/AcYp23 @CAMorganti

Subtext: What is this Story Really About? http://bit.ly/xAfj1C

Story ideas--what they are, what they're not: http://bit.ly/xzrNcB @SarahAHoyt

Apple v. Amazon,libraries & piracy, authors & e-rights--& more top ind. news from @Porter_Anderson for @JaneFriedman: http://bit.ly/y9VFI0

Top Ten Made-Up Literary Couples: http://bit.ly/yhSbiU @deadwhiteguys

Author Rex Pickett on Surviving Rejection: http://bit.ly/xMLCIz @GalleyCat

Advice for authors from social media guru Seth Godin: http://bit.ly/yc0Xqr @passivevoiceblg

Proper Nouns vs. Pronouns: http://bit.ly/zDEzmA @KeliGwyn

A Model for Crowdsourced Publishing: http://bit.ly/wnMGRm @mightyscoo for @JaneFriedman

Thoughts on staying motivated when writing that first novel: http://bit.ly/zb3Ljn @KatieGanshert

Build Your Author Brand in 5 Easy Steps: http://bit.ly/yuCGR5 @scribblinghappy

How to Explore Your Characters' Motivations: http://bit.ly/yK7Ix1 @write_practice

How to Make Sense of Critiques: http://bit.ly/AbAxu5 @DiyMia

An Industry for Arts Graduates Who Can Count: http://bit.ly/xD8n9S @PassiveVoiceBlg

Writing on the Ether's @Porter_Anderson features: @johnemcintyre @DonLinn @lizcastro @michellelegro @naypinya : http://bit.ly/y9VFI0

Daily writing vs. weekday writing: http://bit.ly/wDH9nP @camillelaguire

Finding a good balance for crime fiction endings: http://bit.ly/wzDWe3 @mkinberg

Tips for moving forward with your manuscript after getting stuck: http://bit.ly/x6AWUj @alanorloff

Vocabulary has to be true to our POV character (and familiar to our target reader): http://bit.ly/yxdmXP @authorterryo

An Author's Guide to NetGalley: http://bit.ly/zvWdVQ

What Star Wars "A New Hope" Can Teach Us About In Medias Res: http://bit.ly/z2pzfV @KristenLambTX

Fewer copy editors means embarrassing errors in newspapers: http://bsun.md/z60zzA @johnemcintyre

The Same River Twice: On Rewriting Your Past: http://bit.ly/yvZe3C

10 Ways Writing Fiction is Like Performing for a Camera: http://bit.ly/wcye8l @victoriamixon

Are New Tablets Slowing The Growth Of E-Readers? http://bit.ly/zmnrJ7 @laurahazardowen

5 Things You Have To Think About Before You Self Publish: http://bit.ly/Alu1Y1 @Ajackwriting

7 Tools for Tracking Ebook Sales: http://bit.ly/xmmY03 @PYOEbooks

Games Agents Play: http://bit.ly/xSKcL2

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hows and Whys of my Link-Sharing on Twitter

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteI’ve gotten a good number of questions lately via email and Twitter about my platform on Twitter. I came up with a Twitter policy last year (which sounds funny to say, but it became necessary—I’d get well-meaning messages from folks asking me to tweet their book releases), but I haven’t posted anything about it for a while. I thought today that I’d dust it off and give it another run: 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 2318 blogs. I add to this number every single day. I have my Google Reader set on “list” view and I scan through them quickly—usually looking for writing craft-related posts or publishing news. I don't tweet promo posts or contests or giveaways. But if you write a wonderful post with interesting content for writers and you happen to have a giveaway or contest at the bottom of the page…that’s fine, of course! 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 legitimate users 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. 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 posts on how to effectively promote. 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 tweet reviews, sorry.

(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 10,000 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’m trying. Some of them I do know by heart, if they frequently have good material. Sometimes the post’s author isn’t on Twitter and sometimes I just can’t find their handle, if they are on Twitter. 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 avoiding partial RSS feeds (I usually don’t have time to click through to find out if the content is worth tweeting). I’d also recommend a non-rambling post, 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. 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? All of my links are searchable through the Writer's Knowledge Base search engine. Designed by Mike Fleming, the database ensures that great content and resources for writers can be pulled up on an as-needed basis (which means writers don't have to bookmark everything!) The Writer's Knowledge Base is free and has over 13,000 links to search. 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. I want to supply writers with different ideas and different opinions on different topics and letting them disseminate the information for themselves. Now it’s your turn. :) Are you on Twitter or Facebook? What makes you decide to share or retweet a writing post?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Killer First Lines--by Lois Winston

by Lois Winston, @anasleuth

Death by Killer Mop Doll-low resUpstairs, the front door slammed with enough force to register a five on the Richter scale. That’s the first line of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. I’m a firm believer in first line hooks. The first sentence of a novel should make the reader want to read the second sentence. The hook doesn’t have to be defined in the first sentence, but that first sentence should lead you into the next. And that one to the next. Until you have a paragraph that becomes a hook that grabs and won’t let go. That first paragraph should do for the first page what the first sentence did for the first paragraph, and the first page should do for the subsequent pages what the first paragraph did for the first page. Finally, those first pages should create a first scene that refuses to let the reader put the book down.

The opening of a book should be filled with interesting action and/or dialogue that intrigues and makes the reader want to continue reading. One of the worst mistakes I see beginner writers making is filling the openings of their books with paragraph after paragraph of back-story and/or description. The opening of a book should suck the reader into the world the author has created. Back-story can come later, trickling in to tease the reader to continue reading more, not as information dumps that pull the reader from the story. A good opening will include only the barest minimum of back-story that is essential for that moment.

As for description, it should be woven into the narrative and dialogue. Nothing bores more than long paragraphs describing everything from the length of the protagonist’s hair to the color of her toenail polish. It pulls the reader from the story. And pulling the reader from the story is a BAD thing. It adversely affects the pacing of the book, and good pacing is something that is important to a well-written novel.

Sometimes the plot and conflict might not be evident in the opening of a book, but there should be enough of a tease within that opening to give the reader an indication of events to come. With the first sentence of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the reader knows something is about to happen.

Dialogue and/or narrative action are usually the best ways for a writer to create this foreshadowing of things to come, but internalization done well will also work as a hook. One technique is to begin your story by throwing the reader right into the middle of a conversation or event.

One of my favorite first sentences of all time is from Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. That book’s first sentence is:

Daisy Devreaux had forgotten her bridegroom’s name. How can anyone not keep reading after that sentence?

Do you have a favorite first sentence? Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll I’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month. The full tour schedule can be found at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/15173-death-by-killer-mop-doll Also, for anyone attending The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference January 20-24 in Dallas, Midnight Ink will be raffling off the hand-crafted mop doll shown in the photo during the opening reception Friday evening. Register for the drawing at the Midnight Ink booth #1459.

Lois Winston and mop doll Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt at http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptap2.html. Visit Lois at her website: http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.