Friday, August 31, 2012

A 3-Step Way to Handle the Pain of Rejection by John Yeoman

by John Yeoman, @Yeomanis

2691840327_1fb6beb675 (1)How do you tell a mother her baby is ugly?

You don’t. You can't. Agents can't, either. We drop off our favourite child at their office, with love in our hearts, and wait for the compliments. When they don’t arrive, we cry: “But every limb is perfect! Count the fingers. And oh, that cute little dimple at both ends!”

Still, no sale.

Every new writer goes through that period of outrage. “He spat on my baby!” Agents know it. It’s why the better ones phrase their rejection slips with care: “It doesn’t suit our needs. But do pass it around. Someone else is sure to love it!” Nice agents scribble a personal footnote: “Don’t lose heart. Remember, Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times.” Bad ones don’t reply at all.

None of it helps, does it? We inspect our ms, lying forlorn in its bassinet. We count its fingers. All there! We dress it up in a pretty new blurb. And we send it out again.

Same result. How can we ever tell ourselves: “There’s something wrong with my baby?” But we must.

The day we do it is the day we turn professional.

Here are three tested steps to becoming a pro author:

1. Get an independent critique.

Sure, the nice opinions of our friends and writing group can keep us motivated. A thoughtful buddy can also spot our most embarrassing mistakes. “Why is your character called Jim in chapter one and Jed in chapter two?”

But friends give dangerous advice at the editing stage because they don’t know what to look for. “I don’t like your hero.” “Why?” “He reminds me of my uncle Bill.” It doesn’t help...

Have your ms professionally copy edited!

It will cost around $8 (£5) per thousand words and, if you choose an experienced editor, it’s an investment. Your ms will be fine-tuned or, better still, mangled. Perversely, that’s good news.

Otherwise, how would you have known that your opening passage, the one you laboured on for weeks, has all the appeal of a stagnant ditch? Or that your protagonist (modelled on yourself) is as lovable as the south end of a pig?

It’s better to hear the cruel truth “your story sucks, it needs a total rewrite” than to waste more time and heartache sending it out again. That said, copy editors are not ghost writers. They’ll only rarely give you creative solutions. A rewrite is your problem.

2. Cut your losses.

If you hear “the story is 90% okay, just do these things”, do them. And resubmit your ms. If any agent was courteous enough to make comments on your first draft, send that good person your new draft saying “Thank you! I have totally reworked the ms in line with your suggestions.” Conscience alone should induce them to read it.

But if you’re faced with a total rewrite, ask yourself: “Am I really in love with this story? So much so that I’ll devote another year to it? And another?” A novel is not a marriage. If it’s not working, dump it. Start the next one. It will be a lot better. You’ve learned the errors to avoid, and acquired a whole new mindset of craft skills unconsciously, while editing your last novel.

3. Smack yourself on the side of the head.

Walk away from the past. Abandon your favourite plot themes, the characters you fell in love with, the settings you know too well. Haul them back into your new novel and you’ll just be stomping over the same territory. It didn’t work the first time. Why should it now?

Smack yourself on the side of the head.

Find an outrageously new theme, fresh characters, a different place and time. Of course, you can stay with the same genre if you’re truly in love with chick lit, sci-fi, historical romance, or whatever. Just approach it from a radically different angle.

And why not experiment with a hybrid genre?

If you’re familiar with the tricks of the noir detective novel they’ll work well in a sci-fi story. (See the fascinating result in China Mieville’s The City & The City.) A chick-lit story set in ancient Rome might work well too, and never mind the anachronisms. (Marilyn Todd did that with her brilliant I, Claudia novels.)

Give your new craft skills a fresh landscape to play in.

That 3-step plan should get you through the slump of rejection. Every author has been there and some mid-list authors still succumb to it, when they fail to earn out their advance. Yet the successful ones have picked themselves up and gone that route above, time and again, to the best seller lists. Just remember, Gone With the Wind really was rejected 38 times...

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. A wealth of further ideas for writing fiction that sells can be found in his free 14-part story course at:

Yeo-HS-RightDr John Yeoman has 42 years experience as a commercial author, newspaper editor and one-time chairman of a major PR consultancy. He has published eight books of humour, some of them intended to be humorous.

Blog image: Jon McGovern, Flickr

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dusting Ourselves Off after Set-Backs

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

gaited appaloosa walkaloosaThe other mothers at the stables assured me that the day would come (probably sooner than later) when my daughter was going to come flying off her horse. Naturally, I assumed it would be later. :) So when I picked up my daughter at horse camp a few weeks ago and saw that she was completely covered from head to toe in red clay (which is what passes for soil in many parts of the Deep South), I knew she’d been thrown. The camp counselors were full of hurried explanations about a bucking horse and a stirrup that came off and the horse’s general disposition and youth. I listened a little, but mostly looked my daughter over. She was beaming. “I’m fine!” she said. Well, apparently she hadn’t really been fine at first. There was a time when she’d lost the reins and clutched the horse’s mane in terror trying to hang on for dear life before flying off onto her head. Toby apparently hadn’t wanted to jump, and he hadn’t. The counselor let her catch her breath and dust herself off. She’d also let the bucking horse gallop around the ring a few times to calm himself down. Then the counselor had my daughter climb back on the horse….not to jump, but to remind the horse that she was in charge. She also wanted to ensure that my daughter wouldn’t be scared to get on a horse again. My daughter made up with Toby and even chose to ride the horse during her birthday party a week later. Although I can’t say I was excited about her getting back on a horse that was misbehaving, I think it’s a smart way to deal with being thrown. It’s also a good policy for writers to adopt. Situations where we might fall off the horse: Querying Getting rejected by agents. Getting back on the horse: Increasing scope of our queries (keeping them targeted.) Rewriting our query. Considering direct submission to publishers (carefully targeted). Exploring self-publishing. Writing another book. Reviews (by readers, bloggers, professional reviewers) Receiving poor reviews for our book. Getting back on the horse: Taking an analytical view of the reviews to see if there’s anything we can improve for our next book. Working on our next book.

Reminding ourselves why we’re writing to begin with.


Sales fail to meet our expectations or our publisher’s. Getting back on the horse:

Working on the next book. Considering a pen name if querying other traditional publishers.

It’s interesting to me how many remedies come down to working on our next book. I know how exhausting that can seem when you’ve poured so much time and effort into finishing, revising, querying, and promoting a book. But really, it’s the only way to improve and have a better chance at success in this business. And it’s the only way not to feel overly-invested in one book.

How do you dust yourself off after a set-back?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bowling for Blurbs by Douglas Corleone

by Douglas Corleone, @douglascorleone

9780312552282One of the toughest parts of being a new novelist is requesting blurbs from established authors. You’re not only asking an author to take eight to ten hours out of their busy schedule to read your manuscript, you’re asking them to endorse you and your book – you’re asking them to put their good name on the line to help you and your career.

I was so put off by the idea of asking established authors for blurbs that I waited until my third novel to do it, and even then I asked someone I already considered a close friend. He read my book and provided a terrific quote, one that ends with: “Corleone is as good as it gets.” Although my third novel Last Lawyer Standing has only been out a few days, his kind and generous words have already generated sales and provided me several new loyal readers who raced out to purchase my first two novels and enjoyed them enough to write to me and tell me so.

Next spring I’ll be launching a new series of international thrillers, and this time around I wasn’t so shy. Thanks largely to the single blurb placed on the cover of Last Lawyer Standing, I had the courage to ask several A-List thriller writers to give my bound manuscript a read. Five of my favorite authors agreed to read my book, and I’m now anxiously awaiting their verdicts.

Bottom line is: blurbs from popular authors do work. Most blurbs are sincere, and after awhile, as a reader, you recognize those authors who are sincere and those who will put their name on any book that’s tossed in front of them. The authors I chose are all part of the former group, and for that reason I’ll truly be bowled over to have their names on the front and back of my dust jacket when my first “big book” is released next year.

431100_508521032507573_124352163_nDouglas Corleone is the author of three crime novels published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was nominated for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel. A former New York City defense attorney, Doug now lives in the Hawaiian Islands, where he is currently at work on his next novel. You can visit him online at Author Photo--Jennifer Crites

Sunday, August 26, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base Twitter_buttonsearch engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 17,000 free articles on writing-related topics. Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Thanks for coming by everyone! It’s nice to be back after my days away from the blog last week. And thanks so much for all the nice comments. Have a great week!

The Possible Cost of Segregating Stories by Gender: @btmargins

Tips for writer's conferences: @novelrocket

Using LinkedIn to Find Readers:

Getting past perfectionism with free writing: @karenschrav

Writing Third Person Omniscient:

Guide to social media scheduling: @lifehackorg

The step outline:

What is an agent's/editor's responsibility to a querying writer? @Porter_Anderson @jurgenwolff

Color coded revision: @ava_jae

Fifty Shades of Grey matter: the psychology of sexual arousal: @garwboy

What's not to like about 'like'?

Improve Your Character Instantly: Just Add a Ghost: @KMWeiland

Psychology Q&A: Schizophrenia & Police Work? @CMKaufman

Taking Responsibility as a Writer: @ginarosati

6 Laws for Becoming a Career Author: @duolit

Tips for social media automation: @nickthacker

5 Things to Track on Google Analytics: @karencv

Getting to the Core of Your Characters: @livewritethrive

7 secrets about editors every freelance writer should know: @MichelleRafter

Renew Your Love Affair with Pinterest: @kristenlambtx

Get creative on demand: @diymfa

The Philosophical Roots of Science Fiction: @charliejane

Transition as metaphor: @cdrosales

POV in genre fic: @sfsignal

Contract deal-breakers--the agent clause: @KristineRusch

How POV Works: @KgElfland2ndCuz

What Killed the Thriller Writer: Your Attention Span: @mrichtel

The influence of MR James on the horror genre: @ThisIsHorror

Sales--don't shoot yourself in the foot (5 tips): @deanwesleysmith

The Point of Process Porn: @JustineLavaworm

8 Ways Haiku Helps Fiction Writers:

Tips for beginners on getting published: @howtowriteshop

100 Best-Ever Teen Novels: @nprbooks

Pros and Cons of Small Presses: @JessicaKnauss

Ebook Best-Sellers: Where Are the ‘Indies’? @MikeShatzkin @Porter_Anderson @sarahw

Create a Writing Schedule that Fits Your Life: @authorems

Don't lose faith in yourself--strive to do what you love: @jodyhedlund

The Importance of Rising Tension in Your Story:

Go ahead, tell people about your book:

How to Legally Use Your Own Photos on Your Blog: @MarcyKennedy @MelindaVan

Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do: @woodwardkaren

Bookstores vs. Amazon – A Publisher's View: @behlerpublish

Author platform tips from NYT bestseller Rebecca Skloot: @danblank

Electronically Autograph Books: @adriennedewolfe

Should Writers Rethink Butt-In-Chair Mentality? @writeitsideways

Synopsis Writing - 101:

Tips for making your own business cards: @JillKemerer

The Right Way and Wrong Way to Let Your Mind Wander: @i09

The Waiting Game: Analyzing the Library Hold List: @kimthedork

Character Questionnaire: How Would Your Character Handle These Situations?

Why 1 writer reads all his reviews:

On being a submissions editor:

What Your Favorite YA Series Says About You: @flavorpill

Never Happier Than When Writing: @passivevoiceblg

Storyboarding – Not Just for Plotting Anymore: @joanswan

How Plugins Can Take Your Author Website from Okay to Outstanding: @jfbookman

Find Your Voice, Find Your Power: @RLLaFevers

What writers get from social networking:

When to italicize: @livewritethrive

Self Publishing Your Poetry – A Primer: @magdalenaball

Fixing broken characters with fusion:

How to Journal: 6 Tips to Boost Creativity and Polish Your Writing:

5 Common Writer Scams: @duolit

Why Use Multiple POVs? @ava_jae

5 must-have creativity apps: @tannerc

Shameless Self-Promotion vs. Shameful Self-Promotion: @goblinwriter

8 Easy Ways To Grow Your Social Media Footprint: @jhansenwrites

The Most Common Pitch Meeting Mistake (That You Don't Know You're Making):

Keep connected words/phrases together without intervening elements:

What Every Author Needs To Know About Alt Text: @authormedia

Relax while writing: @howtowriteshop

What to do with Defeat: @EmilyWenstrom

How Often Should You Blog? @problogger

The demise of books has been predicted for decades: @NYTimes

Religion in Worldbuilding: @BryanThomasS

When does a DRM become a nightmare?

Types of plots: @writing_tips

Proofread for Consistency and Convenience:

What to do When Your Word Count is Too Low: @joebunting

Authors Guild v. Google: @dearauthor

5 things to do when you're between projects: @YAHighway

5 Things Bruce Lee Taught 1 Writer About the Art of Writing: @writersdigest

How Much Can You Achieve In 4 Years? @thecreativepenn

A scientific explanation of Harry Potter's "wizarding gene": @io9

Why 1 writer is self-publishing: @litreactor

The motivation to write: @beth_barany

Write to the emotion: @sarahahoyt

Pet Peeves of a Professional Editor:

Are fan fiction and fan art legal? @i09

Thoughts on running a free book promo for a debut author: @annerallen

6 Ways to Pull off Dual Timelines in Your Novel: @KMWeiland

Make it happen IN the scene: @theresastevens

Be multi-directional to your approaches to setting and character:

Getting "too quiet and midlist" as a reason for rejection: @nicolamorgan

Writing Your First Novel: 6 Pieces of Advice: @sraichlen

Real vs. fictional settings: @junglereds

What is indie publishing? @passivevoiceblg

The evolution of sexuality in SFF: @fantasyfaction

Grounded in a scene? A critique of an opening scene: @janice_hardy

Stop, Look, and Listen for Better Book Marketing: @writersdigest

5 Types of Modifying Mistakes: @writing_tips

What To Do About Cranky Authors: @JustineLavaworm

Copyright: Or Creditright? @Porter_Anderson @jeffjarvis

What Offer Does Your Author Blog Make? @jfbookman

The Polarisation of Publishing: @danielsm1

The Fear of Being Scooped: @davidbcoe

Use of Adjectives and Adverbs:

How to Outline a Story: @LyndaRYoung

Correcting Problems with Pacing: @JulieEshbaugh

The Red Flags of Writing Contests: @victoriastrauss

5 Ways to Respect Your Writing: @krissybrady

What to Tell Agents While on Submission: @Kid_Lit

The Zen of Backstory: @ashkrafton

Can Readers Trust Book Reviews Online? @NinaBadzin

Ebook Formats: A Quick Guide For Self-Publishers: @bubblecow

The Typography of Authority — Do Fonts Affect How People Accept Information? @scholarlykitchn

Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule: @woodwardkaren

2 ways to hook readers:

Digital Self-Publishing Checklist: @LoriDevoti

Why Something Has to Happen in Your Story: @joebunting

Heating back up after a burn out: @writerstephanie

Why Writers Should Let Their Manuscripts Cool: @ava_jae

Copyright: Or Creditright? @Porter_Anderson @jeffjarvis

When a Character Lacks Social Skills: @jeanniecampbell

When Critique Partners Disagree: @juliemusil @lisagailgreen

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Short Break

I’ll be back on Sunday with Twitterific, but will be on break until then.  I’m suddenly the aunt of twins.  :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jump Back Into Your Story

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

5442311420_28108a7781It happens to all of us.

If life hasn’t hijacked your writing schedule, then you’ve either been very lucky or else you haven’t been writing for very long.

Writing first thing in the day helps with this—but it’s not a sure-fire fix, either.

The important thing is not to let our falling behind completely shut us down.

I’m probably about 8 or 9 pages behind right now on my current project after a wild last week. I wrote every day, but I couldn’t make my daily goal.  What I’ll be doing this week:

Jumping back into our story:

Consider limited Re-reading: The worst part is losing the story thread.  I’ll usually read the last couple of pages and just forge ahead.  If I poke around too long in past pages, I start getting my editor hat on. For me, that kills the creative process.  But every writer is different.  And this is harder to do if you’re way behind.

Timer:  I’ll write as quickly as I can for 10 minutes.  I won’t worry about if it’s something that’s going to need to be cut later.  The important thing is making process on the story…mentally, that’s important.  The next day, the writing will be more focused.

Lists: At the very least, sit down and make a list for options for your next scene, options for your character’s development, options for the next big conflict. Get your mind back into the story again.

Silence your inner critic:  It’s not doing us any good.

Don’t try to catch up:  It’s not fun to meet your daily goal and then write more than that to satisfy your catch-up goal.  If I’m not close to a deadline (and right now I’m not), then I’m going to forget about those 8 or 9 pages I’m behind on.  Each day is an opportunity to meet that day’s goal. 

The important thing is to pick up our story again.  It might be that the only way of doing that means taking a small notebook on the go to jot down story notes.  I’m doing that today when I take my kids to their dentist appointment.  Just figure out a way to fit it in.

How do you jump back into your story after a break?

Image: Flickr: Hamad AL-Mohannna

Sunday, August 19, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base Twitter_buttonsearch engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 17,000 free articles on writing-related topics. Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Have a great week!

Science Fiction Is Here, It's Just Not Evenly Distributed: @timmaughan @worldsf

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict: @stdennard

Market the author or market the book? @nicolamorgan

Writing from the discomfort zone: @writerunboxed

Tips for avoiding passive voice construction: @LauraHoward78

Plan a D.I.Y. Writing Fellowship: @grubwriters

The Possessive Apostrophe: @mesummerbooks

5 Things You Shouldn't Say To The Librarian Who Is Also A Writer: @mistymassey

The joys of private writing: @MarkCN @UKTor

The importance of reading to writers: @jodyhedlund

5 ways writers can minimize essential writing tasks:

A post on using 99 Designs to find a cover artist: @woodwardkaren

Tips to Prevent and Overcome Writers Block:

Plot and Story Structure – More Lessons from ThrillerFest: @DiyMfa

A Facebook Optimization Tip: @authormedia

Women Writers in the Republic of Congo: @womenwriters @Victoria_Writes

Hacking Creativity:

Publisher as bully: @Porter_Anderson @philipdsjones @doctorow

Setting as character: @fantasyfaction

5 Secrets to Help You Stay Busy AND Sane as a Writer: @NickThacker

How to Promote Your Book with Social Media: @womenwriters @ZimblerMiller

What readers want in a heroine: @wordforteens

What if your inciting incident is a coincidence? @glencstrathy

Is Kickstarter a viable tool for writers? @litreactor @robwhart

3 Easy Tricks for Better Dialogue: @tiffanyreisz @janice_hardy

It's not all about the writing--skills that modern writers need:

Promoting Your Book Starts with Your Query: @4YaLit

Weave subplots around your main plot:

Big follower numbers don't necessarily equal big sales: @courtneymilan @adrienehill @Porter_Anderson

1 writer talks about the biggest mistake of her career:

4 tips for writing a book that will hold teens' attention: @sarahmussi

Why 1 blogger stopped using Feedburner: @janefriedman

Loyalty as a theme in crime fiction: @mkinberg

Do agents represent freelancers? @writersdigest

Is Omniscient POV Dying? @MarcyKennedy

How To Write For The Promotional Items Industry: @karencv

Who vs. that:

Can sympathy purchasing save bookstores?Should it? @Porter_Anderson @sarahrcallender@Victoria_Noe

10 Reasons Authors Should Format Old Novels as eBooks: @AdriennedeWolfe

Pre-release marketing key to promo success: @duolit

How To Get Great Photos For Your Blog Without Breaking Copyright Laws: @KristinNador

Social isn't a magic bullet, but it can sell books: @thefuturebook @thecreativepenn

Tips for getting your Facebook page noticed:

11 tips for writing a book: @NYTimes @colsonwhitehead

4 ways to plan surprises in your novel: @donmaass

Don't Forget the Dialogue: @kmweiland

The hybrid career of a popular author: @cjlyonswriter @thecreativepenn

Make-or-Break Verbs: @sinandsyntax

A free directory of #ebook pros--for covers, editing, formatting, & more: #epub

Publishers don't realize they already have social media expertise: @dennisyu @porter_anderson

Finding the right place to set your story: @KayKeppler

How One Editor Learned to Edit Herself: @emilywenstrom @janice_hardy

Varieties of Female Villains: @LBardugo

Learning Writing Skills from the film Hancock:

A Myth Studies Reading List for Fantasy Writers: @LBGale

How To Use A Camera To Bring Your Fiction Into Focus: @fuelyourwriting

The fantasy feminist: @fantasyfaction

What's Life Really Like as a Published Author? @JodyHedlund

Tips for faster writing: @sinandsyntax

5 Ways to Boost Creativity: @manon_eileen

Create a Freelance Writing Resume:

Tips for pitching book bloggers: @YAHighway

Save Your Creative Life In One Hour Or Less--Back Up Your Work:

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing:

Tips for writing great sentences:

Learning the craft takes time--enjoy the process: @livewritethrive

Omniscient POV:

LendInk--legit e-lending, not a pirate site: @Porter_Anderson @markcoker @mathewi

Tips for writing book reviews:

Crafting effective heroes: @storyfix

Tips for writing subtext:

7 Ways to Use Brain Science to Hook Readers: @LisaCron

Prequels, Sequels, Novellas...The Ebook Deluge:

3 Ways to Mess with Genre: @LBGale

Why Great Ideas Get Rejected: @LDRLB

In The E-Book World, Are Book Covers A Dying Art? @nprbooks

The Most Trying Part of Living a Good Story: @jeffgoins

3 Steps to Making Friends & Enemies at Writers Conferences: @victoriamixon

Elements of Fantasy – Frogs: @fantasyfaction

Using KDP Select as a marketing tool: @copyblogger @jeffgoins

An overlooked essential skill for writers: @Tsuchigari

Writing Tip: Hurt 'Em: @threekingsbooks

Form rejections: @janelebak

5 Keys to Writing Success: @KristenLambTX

7 Benefits Of An Author Collective: @thecreativepenn

An agent on rejections and rude agents: @breeogden

The Dearth-of-Epic-Endings Epidemic: @aimeelsalter

You only get one start – make the most of it: @jaelmchenry

How to Choose a POV Character: @ava_jae

The Self-Contained Narrator:

Big follower numbers don't necessarily equal big sales: @courtneymilan @adrienehill @Porter_Anderson

Private Inspiration Boards (Alternatives to Pinterest): @roniloren

Establishing tone: @mooderino

10 lit devices and where to find them in SF: @annaleen

Killing Your Sales One Shot at a Time: @deanwesleysmith

Infographic of Edgar Allan Poe's grisly death scenes: @guardianbooks

What 1 writer won't do to sell more books: @nicolamorgan

10 best end-of-world novels: @flavorpill

8 Romantic Readings from Contemporary Literature: @bookriot

68 Queries In 60 Minutes:

The internet is not a neighborhood in need of door-to-door salesmen: @SeananMcGuire

What's With Writers and Late Blooming? @debraeve

How To Make Your Own Book Trailers: @bubblecow

Storyboarding 101:

Does the Future of Publishing Need More Imagination? @jeffvandermeer

Putting the "Social" Back in Social Media: @jodyhedlund

5 Ways to Build a Pinterest Following With Facebook: @smexaminer

The New Publishing Paradigm: What Value Do Publishers Add? @jamigold

Goodreads v. LibraryThing: @deadwhiteguys

Mental Health Series for Writers: Panic Attacks: @kristinnador

Audition Your Cast of Characters: @juliemusil

Are you writing a dystopian? A checklist: @sarahlapolla

A look at NetGalley for reviews: @jhansenwrites

Tone in fiction: @theresastevens

Chapter titles? @juliettewade

Which vs. That: @writersdigest

5 ways to increase productivity: @manon_eileen

Jack London's Advice on Honing Your Creative Craft: @mcd_owell

5 Scenes Every Romance Novel Needs: @howtowriteshop

Science Fiction Is Here, It's Just Not Evenly Distributed: @timmaughan @worldsf

5 Tips For Making a Living as a Writer: @rachellegardner

The villain's journey: @diymfa

11 tips for writing a book: @NYTimes @colsonwhitehead

How One Editor Learned to Edit Herself: @emilywenstrom @janice_hardy

What 1 writer won't do to sell more books: @nicolamorgan

Publishers don't realize they already have social media expertise: @dennisyu @porter_anderson

The Dearth-of-Epic-Endings Epidemic: @aimeelsalter

11 top authors with their tips for writing a great novel: @wsj

Can readers trust online book reviews? @ninabadzin

What's Uplifting About Depressing Fiction? @btmargins

When Mainstream Publishers Do SFF: @jdiddyesquire

How to survive the creative life: @chuckwendig {lang}

Tips for collaborative writing: @MsAnnAguirre

10 reasons writers get writer's block: @JulieBMack

Mirror scenes and weak writing:

The Girlfriend's Guide to Being a Debut Author:

Being male is not a prerequisite for hard SF: @guardianbooks

Author FAQs (tips for answering wannabe writer questions):

12 Non-Negotiable Elements of Force in Writing: @writing_tips

Are You Hitting a Bulls Eye With Your Target Audience? @melissaknorris

Point of View in Genre Fiction:

The epidemic of niceness in online book culture: @silvermanjacob

3 reasons more people should focus on their writing: @nickthacker

Friday, August 17, 2012

Passive Voice and Writers

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Today I’m over at Laura Howard’s Finding Bliss blog. I’m going to be talking about passive voice—a tricky subject and one that’s frequently misunderstood by writers. Hope you’ll pop over!

Laura Howard--Finding Bliss

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Keeping Our Books Current—Or At Least Not Dating Them

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

6601589893_58be359e56One of the hazards of reading so many blogs is that I find out about a lot of fantastic-sounding books. I have a lot of to-be-read books on my Kindle and an even longer list of books that I plan to read.

I’m a very fast reader, but I’m wondering if my list of books can possibly be read in a year or two—if I stop putting new books on it.

Right now, I’m reading a book that mystery writer Margot Kinberg recommended back in February of last year. :)

The book is Josephine Tey’s The Man in the Queue, which was first published in 1929. It’s been a very interesting and enjoyable read so far.

I loved the feeling of being taken back in time with this book. It opens with a line of people waiting to enter a popular show that has a very Vaudeville feel to it.

The police investigation that’s portrayed is, of course, completely different from our modern day methods. There aren’t any police cars—they’re walking or taking the train as they work the case.

This is the enjoyable part of reading a book set in a different time—being transported back in a time machine. This is what I’m expecting and enjoying most about reading a book that launched in 1929. It’s the same enjoyment I get from watching a costume drama at the movies or even from watching black and white films from the 1950s.

It’s a little different when something brings me to a full-stop in a book or movie. That’s when I’m taken out of the experience and am trying to figure out what’s going on.

With Tey’s book, it was a term she used to describe the murder victim: Levantine.

At first, I tried my usual tricks to figure out the word—looked at the context, etc. Then I just skipped over it, hoping I wasn’t missing something important to do with the mystery.

But darned if she didn’t repeat that word over and over again in the next few pages, referred to the victim as a Levantine. Then I remembered that my Kindle had a handy dictionary so I right-clicked on the word and the definition came up.

Le·van·tine CHIEFLY ARCHAIC adj. of or trading to the Levant: the Levantine coast. ■ n. a person who lives in or comes from the Levant.

(2010-04-01). The New Oxford American Dictionary (Kindle Locations 470127-470142). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

I hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t know where the Levant is/was. I had to look that up, too:

Le·vant ARCHAIC the eastern part of the Mediterranean with its islands and neighboring countries. <ORIGIN> late 15th cent.: from French, literally "rising,” present participle of lever "to lift” used as a noun in the sense "point of sunrise, east.”

(2010-04-01). The New Oxford American Dictionary (Kindle Locations 470088-470099). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

So---an archaic reference. Definitely something I’d want to avoid having in my own books! All the books I’ve written are available as ebooks. To me, this means that they’re going to be around for a long time and potentially read by people after I’m long dead. With any luck.

Of course, we’ve always had the ability to read very old books. But now, digital books provide an even greater chance that our books will be read far into the future. They’re going to be more easily available.

It would be impossible (nearly impossible—I’ve tried) to write a book relevant to modern life without including any modern devices. But naturally, mentioning modern devices dates the books. And I’m writing for today’s reader, primarily.

Old references to technology, to me, date the books in a charming, period-piece way. As long as the references aren’t huge stumbling blocks.

What I am trying to do, though, is construct my sentences so that a reader could get the experience of living in the early 21st century, but hopefully not be completely confused by what they’re reading. And still make sure I’m not irritating today’s readers by over-explaining anything.

I’ve used the word Twitter in one of my books, but I’m thinking in future I might skip references to a particular platform. Because although Twitter is a strong pop-culture reference right now, who knows what will happen to it in the future.

I’m trying to avoid slang and pop culture references that seem micro-trendy.

I’m making sure that there’s enough context around any technology mentions so that a reader could figure out the type of technology I’m talking about. Without annoying modern day readers.

Basically, I’m just trying to make sure there’s nothing in the books that will ever stop a reader completely cold.

I’ve recently heard, on email loops I’m a member of, of some authors who uploaded their backlist to Amazon and edited their books when they did—removing dated references from past decades.

There’s definitely some charm in reading books set in the past, so I didn’t think the authors necessarily had to update their books. But—I did make a couple of changes to Dyeing Shame when I self-published it from backlist. Just a couple of things that jumped out at me as dated when I was reading through the book that I’d originally written in 2002ish.

I really hesitated recently when I structured a murder mystery around a postal carrier as a victim (for a book for Penguin that’s coming out next year.) With all the troubles for the US Postal Service, I wondered if I were dating my book before it even released.

But then I decided that would be a reference that would date the book in a pleasant way instead of a confusing one. My editor seemed to agree with me.

How much has the shift to digital (and the longevity of books) changed the way you write modern-day references into your novels?

Image: Daniel Moyle

Monday, August 13, 2012

It’s All in the Details

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

1181030674_68b642194bA friend of mine has a party each summer. Each summer she tells me, “Now, Elizabeth. I know you don’t like parties, but I’m counting on you to come!”

Each year, I forget this party is imminent and when she reminds me about it (always, always in person), I’m sure I look completely stricken before I say, “Of course! I’m looking forward to it.”

The thing about this party is that I usually only know a few people there. This isn’t a big deal because I’m actually more comfortable with strangers—except for the fact that every single year I’m somehow introduced by the people I do know at the party as “their author friend” to the other guests.

Y’all know what I mean. Terrifying. I usually down my fair share of wine at this gathering.

Each year I also forget that everyone else in the world (excepting, perhaps, other writers), enjoys parties. Each year when I visit my friend in the days before the party, she’ll say something like, “What dish are you bringing to the party?” or “What are you wearing to the party?” or “What do you think if we do such-and-such at the party?”

And again I’ll give her this completely startled look. Sometimes I will even have already forgotten about the upcoming party (it would be on my calendar--but not in my head.) I won’t have given a thought what to bring to the party or what I’d wear. Each year it makes her laugh.

Each year I'll go to the party (I went last week, actually.) I'll visit with everyone, then leave fairly early with great relief. Without my serving dish.

Yes, I’m really a difficult person to be friends with. :)

There are details, while I’m writing, that are just not particularly important to me. A lot of them have to do with the things I mentioned above.

Setting, clothing descriptions, character descriptions, and dialogue tags come to mind. Details. Even as a reader, I tend to skip over them. I had some description. I had some tags. But obviously, I didn't have enough.

At first, when I was writing, it took repeated notes from my different editors to point out the problem. Subconsciously, I must have thought that if it didn’t matter to me, it didn’t matter to the reader. And, really, it went deeper than that. These characters and places were so colorful and animated in my head--I think I forgot that others couldn't see them too.

I’d find notes in Track Changes on the first few books from editors (different publishers, different series): Elizabeth, who is talking here? or Elizabeth, how old is this character? or Can you tell us a little more about what this store looks like? I can’t picture it. or This would be a great opportunity to tell what everyone is eating at the party.

Eventually, I realized I was getting the same notes a lot. Although writing description and other details slows me down while I’m writing (because I do labor over it—it’s not natural for me), I now layer in my details after I’m done with the first draft of the book. That way, everyone’s happy.

Because of course readers want that kind of information! Most people do. But it took my editors to point that out to me.

The point I’m making with this post is a couple of different things. First of all, we could all do with beta readers and editors to help point out what we’re blind to in our own book.

Also, if there are things that take extra effort from us—things that we have to take special care to write well—then layering in the text after the first draft can be a good way to accomplish that goal.

Have you ever found holes like this in your story—or had someone else point them out? Do you enjoy reading or writing details and description?

Image—Flickr Abdallah™'s photostream

Sunday, August 12, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base Twitter_buttonsearch engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 17,000 free articles on writing-related topics. Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Have a great week!

Using details for setting - insider details and audience details: @juliettewade

Comparing pitches and queries:

Help for Burnt Out Bloggers: @writeitsideways

Tips for producing podcasts/other interviews with multiple guests: @Porter_Anderson @philipdsjones @samatlounge

An agent on publishing uncertainties: @rachellegardner

Tips for Dealing With Rejection + Other Success Strategies: @janefriedman

What's your motif? @livewritethrive

On writing diversity: @sjaejones

Marketing and writing--the balance between strategy and creativity: @thecreativepenn @turndog_million

5 Everyday Life Ways to Spark Article Ideas: @JulieBMack

Disable Comments for a Better Blog? @problogger

15 word games: @writing_tips

The mechanics behind some ebooks' success: @laurahazardowen @Porter_Anderson

Birdhouse-like Mini Libraries: @pubperspectives

Why Your Hero Needs a Yappy Sidekick: @KMWeiland

Afterward vs. Afterword: @write_practice

Revising with Anticipation: @4YALit @marissaburt

Is Your Character Stagnating? @KMWeiland

3 Book Marketing FAILs and Lessons Learned: @duolit

Should you stop writing? @ronvitale

The Courage To Launch: @originalimpulse @ollinmorales

Writing Creative Non-Fiction: @TimHillegonds @janice_hardy

Is Your Writing Any Good? 7 Ways to Tell:

20 Tips for Writing Strong Heroines: @adriennedewolfe

Do Books Need A Beta Version? Analytics For Books Pave The Way: @fastcompany

Lightning Source Best for Self-Publishers? @bengalley

Ways to make money that go beyond ebook sales: @goblinwriter

Why Boredom Is Good for Your Creativity: @markmcguinness

How Batman Can Teach You To Be a Better Writer: @fuelyourwriting

How To Harness Your Creative Temperament and Stay Sane, Married and Sober: @kristinnador

A History of Sisters in Fiction: @theatlantic

How and Why to Guest Post: @karencv

Building an Online Platform: @TheLitCoach

7 Free and Legal Places to Find Photos: @marcykennedy

The New World of Publishing: Fear: @deanwesleysmith

Pros and cons of POD:

Finding writing quotations on Goodreads:

Preparing the perfect pitch: @writerashley

An agent and author discuss the romance genre: @RoniLoren @SaraMegibow @janice_hardy

All about medical writing: @womenonwriting

How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career: @passivevoiceblg

5 lessons from a book tour newbie: @jamigold

Writers--be careful what you pay for: @nicolamorgan

5 Ways to Keep Your Writing Submissions Organized: @krissybrady

How to Know When to Go to a Writing Conference: @jodyhedlund

How to create and maintain narrative interest: @jammer0501

Research Guides For Every Subject: @litreactor

The 7-Step Write a Book Fast Program: @zen_habits

Jack London's Advice on Honing Your Creative Craft: @mcd_owell

25 Helpful Websites for Writers: @JulieBMack

30 Dr. Seuss quotations:

When authors apply a signature touch to a crime fiction novel: @mkinberg

Tips for perfecting your pitch: @behlerpublish

Too old to debut? @nicolamorgan

The Discard Pile. Or, Learning by Doing:

How to Control a Media Interview: @writersdigest

6 tips for increasing ebook sales: @woodwardkaren

Structure--why it might be the missing element to make your writing sing:

A series on POV: , , @noveleditor

The Development and Popularity of "Gritty Fantasy": @The_Idlewilder

Handy hyphenation chart: @livewritethrive

Take Your Author Website to the Next Level: @writersdigest

When you have too many 'looks' in your manuscript: @janice_hardy

How 1 writer (who says she has less talent than her peers) had a successful trad. publishing career: @threekingsbooks

The villain's journey: @diymfa

Snappy Answers To Awkward Questions About Characters: @EeleenLee

Printing up your book for submission purposes? @behlerpublish

Writers...Weathering the Transition – Keeping the Faith: @passivevoiceblg

Writing the skeptic: @glencstrathy

Why Readers Pirate eBooks: @jasonboog

A Blog Series that Look at Great Characters: Marge Gunderson ("Fargo"):

How Being Lazy Can Fuel Your Writing: @krissybrady

10 Recent Science Fiction Books That Are About Big Ideas: @io9

In Praise of Ripening:

Understanding Screenwriting: Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave, Bernie, and more: @House_Next_Door

Lightning Source Best for Self-Publishers? @bengalley

An agent on publishing uncertainties: @rachellegardner

Help for screenwriters--resources on drama:

A Small-Budget Advertising Experiment: @DeeDeTarsio

7 Prompt Websites to Fill Your Creative Writing Well: @KrissyBrady

Tips for writing action scenes: @thomasaknight

Creating Flawed but Enjoyable Characters: @yahighway

20 Synonyms for "Type":

5 Reasons to Write Your Scenes in Order (and 3 Not to): @KMWeiland

How Indie Authors Can Work With Trade Publishers: @ornaross

The Use of Drugs In Fantasy: @BenGalley

The Principle of Fair Use and Image Usage for Bloggers: @jane_l

Is "Show, Don't Tell" Overrated? @jamesscottbell

The 10 best closing lines of books: @guardianbooks

Weird O'Clock: On the Mainstream Success of "Fifty Shades of Grey" : @wordforteens

Self-Publishing Audiobooks: Is it Worth it?

Plan a Book Launch Party for an Ebook: @BookMarketer

Do former journalists make good novelists?

What Makes A Mystery Cozy? @NancyMehl

Why You Need to Harness Your Sorrow to Write Well: @write_practice

What TV Taught 1 Writer About Writing Epic Fiction: @yahighway

How to choose an excerpt to showcase your novel: @dirtywhitecandy

A Former Big 6 Editor Gives 5 Tips for Sure-Fire Rejection: @RuthHarrisBooks @annerallen

Professional screenwriters analyze "The Social Network":

Which Type of Opening Works Best? @Janice_Hardy

Making the most of ideas--dealing with our fear: @davidbcoe

5 Tips For Making a Living as a Writer: @rachellegardner

How to speak publisher: E is for e-books: @annerooney

Why Counting Words May Be Hazardous to Your Health: @livewritethrive

Which is Right for You - Lightning Source, CreateSpace, or Both? @MorganMandel

5 Scenes Every Romance Novel Needs: @howtowriteshop

On the term 'aspiring writer': @avajae

The importance of sabbaticals for writers: @threekingsbooks

Publishers need to speak their readers' language. Recommendations: @Porter_Anderson @DigiBookWorld

3 Misplaced Modifiers:

Writing to the Market: @JustineLavaworm

Writers should create a journey for their readers: @TurndogMillionaire

Why Are We Wired for Story? @lisacron

5 Simple Steps to Let Your Writing Back In: @krissybrady

1 writer's goal--25 words a day: @Tsuchigari

Are You a Good Writer? @Porter_Anderson @silvermanjacob @JaneFriedman

The perks and pitfalls of signing books: @guardianbooks

Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F: @jimhines

Common manuscript problems: @novelrocket

Differences between rookies and pro writers: @Peter_DeHaan

5 Emotional Stages of a Book Launch: @roniloren

Publishers need to speak their readers' language. Recommendations: @Porter_Anderson @DigiBookWorld

The future of bookstores? @Porter_Anderson @peterturner

Dialogue Attribution Tips:

Add layers to your plot: @DeeWhiteauthor

Hotels as Escape in Romance Novels: @meganf

After The First Draft--Approaching Revision: @mooderino

Offsite book events: @behlerpublish

Social media isn't the magic bullet for self-epublished authors? @passivevoiceblg

Upgrade Your Superlatives: @writersdigest

A Writer's Audience: Important or Not? @susanjmorris

Genre prejudice:

Top 10 query mistakes: @rachellegardner

Time Management For Writers or How to Herd Cats: @SarahAHoyt

Character Mind-Reading:

The particular perils of historical fantasy: @Gollancz

After the pitch, cover your bases by sending in requested materials:

The future of bookstores? @Porter_Anderson @peterturner

Crime fiction research--knot analysis and use of luminol by police: , @clarissadraper

Tips for naming your characters: @JodieRennerEd

Why there is no epub bubble, & how to market ebooks responsibly: @DavidGaughran

List of 170+ authors who have sold 50,000+ self-published ebooks to date: via @JaneFriedman

The path to survival for the illustrated book biz? @MikeShatzkin

How to put more emotion into your writing: @JoannaSlan