Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blog Touring

Across the Valley--Charles Reiffel--1862-1942 I was looking at my calendar yesterday and adding a guest blogger for Mystery Writing is Murder to it when I realized I have seven guest bloggers coming up in the next five weeks.

I enjoy having guests on the blog—I love reading  different perspectives on writing. It also gives me a chance to find out about some great new releases.

When I first heard about blog touring, though, I really didn’t have a clue what people were talking about.  It was 2008 and I loved the idea of it—the not having to physically tour part—so I spent some time looking it up online. I even signed up for a blog tour class on a Yahoo group that gave some really useful information on blog touring…both hosting one and being a good tour guest.

Reasons to Consider a Blog Tour

It’s hard for you to leave job/family/etc. to travel.
Traveling is expensive
A blog tour reaches many more people than a physical tour
Increased Google Hits for your book and a higher Google ranking
It’s a great way to increase visibility and buzz

Publishers like blog tours, which is another reason to consider having one.  A few years back, when blog tours were just really getting cranked up, Felicia Sullivan, a senior online marketing manager of a HarperCollins imprint,  was interviewed by the New York Times:
“If I had to choose, I’d rather have an author promote themselves online. You can reach at least a few hundred people on a blog, and save time, money and the fear of being a loser when no one shows up to your reading.”

Are you limited to just visiting blogs with a virtual tour?

No, it’s probably a good idea to mix it up a little. Podcasts are nice. (I was on Red River Writers once…that’s a good one to check out. There’s also the Reading and Writing podcast.)   You could also arrange to send your book to online book reviewers so they could review your book—you wouldn’t be making an appearance on their site, but your book would.  Also remember to promote or see if friends can tweet or mention your tour or release on Facebook and Twitter or other social media.

When should you start the book tour?

Probably you should kick it off with the release of the book, unless you’re shooting for good pre-orders.  And a tour can last as long as you like—and be as intensive as you like.  I’ve seen some blog tours where authors have every date in a three-week period booked for an online appearance, and I’ve seen tours (like mine) which were stretched out for a while, but with appearances every couple of days or so.

What kinds of formats should you consider for your appearance?

Reviews—You’d ask book bloggers to consider reviewing your book.

Interviews—The blog host would conduct an interview with you.

Character Interview—These can be fun—the blog host interviews your character.

Guest Post—You write a post for the blog host on a topic of the host’s choice…and it usually ties into your new release.

Contests—Holding contests for commenters is a nice way to spur interest in your book.

How do I reach potential hosts?

Finding good hosts is really key. You’ll definitely have online friends who’ll be happy to host you, but also consider reaching out to other bloggers who write or read your genre….particularly blogs that have a lot of followers (usually there’s a widget in the sidebar that shows followers), commenters, and participation.  Obviously, you want to get as many eyeballs as possible—and some potential new readers— to look at your book cover and buy link.

Usually, as a host, I get an email or a Facebook message from authors who are interested in appearing on my blog.  If I don’t know them, they introduce themselves, tell me a little about their book, mention the date it’s being released, and ask if there’s a date during their launch month that’s available for them to guest post.

Don’t forget to pitch the book.  Make sure that you provide your blog host with a “buy link”—a link to an online retailer where an interested reader can purchase your book.  Sometimes the blog host will hyperlink your book cover to a buy link, too.

List your tour dates on your blog sidebar.   It can help readers keep track of where you’ll be and provides nice exposure for the blog tour hosts.

Etiquette- don’t be obnoxious.  Not that any of y’all would be!  But some folks get a little too tour-happy and you end up with a bunch of BSP (blatant self-promo) coming out at you from all directions—all the time.  Usually it’s enough promo to send readers over to the blog stop du jour from your blog, tweet the stop, and Facebook the stop.

Interested in hosting others’ blog tours?  Here’s a post on how to be a good blog tour host that Helen Ginger created (scroll down after you click over.)

A lot of you have been on blog tours—have you got any additional tips to share?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ambiguous Characters

Jos Albert--The Supper--1921 I was shopping at the Costco warehouse—on a Saturday.  I must have lost my mind because there were gobs of people in there.

I quickly grabbed the things I’d come for, then navigated my way toward the cash registers.

Because it was a weekend, the food samples were really out in full force.  Almost every aisle end-cap had someone with a wok or a small grill, cooking samples.

Finally I got a little closer to the registers and was in the cleaning section of the warehouse.  But there was still a lady on an end-cap with some samples.  She had a bottle of cleaner next to her, a cup with the cleaner in it so you could smell how fresh it was, and some free sample packets that you could take home and try.

I’d forgotten garbage bags, so I dodged down that aisle real quick and heard a man come up to the lady behind me.  “Have you got something for me to taste?”

The lady was elderly and she gave a little, tinkling laugh and said, “Well, you wouldn’t want to taste it because it’s soap.  But I do have some samples for you to take home with you and clean with.”

“But everyone else’s table has samples you can eat or drink.  Sure I can’t eat or drink it? How about if I try to?”

Of course, I’m turning around at this point.  He was a sort of nondescript man about my age with a toddler with him. 

This is where I’d have expected him to wink at her or act like he’d been joking and ask some questions about the cleaning power of the detergent or whatever it was.  But he didn’t.

“Oh, I don’t think you’d want to, sir,” the lady said.

“So…it’s not to eat.  A sample that’s not for eating.  We can’t eat this, Jack,” he said to the little boy.
The elderly lady gave a funny laugh, but was clearly trying to figure out if the guy was trying to joke with her, or if he was just odd.  He looked over at me for a moment—I was clearly staring at him.  He smiled, but not a I’m-making-a-joke smile.  I smiled back, but I didn’t understand him or his smile.

“And it’s not for drinking!”  He lifted up the cup she’d put out, acting like he was going to take a sip.

“No sir,” she said, with some emphasis on the ‘no.’ She looked uncomfortable.

He kept going back and forth with it.  Was it a joke that was taken to a tedious length?  Was the man just a little off?  I wasn’t going to stick around and try to figure out more clues, though—especially since he was already clued in to the fact that I was watching him.

I’ve read a few books in the last couple of years that had characters that were hard to read. 

Were they good guys or bad guys?  Friends or enemies of the main character?

Sometimes an author has an unlikeable character do something good, or vice versa.  And as a reader, I was left wondering, “Was this good thing done by this bad character done 0nly because it was self-serving in some way?”

And occasionally, I’ve had a hard time finding clues to a character’s intent in the dialogue.  Sarcasm can be especially hard to figure out (unless a writer is using tags that leave no doubt that he’s wanting a sentence to be taken that way –‘he said sarcastically.’  Which isn’t considered great writing.)

I like ambiguous characters, I think, when I’m getting the feeling that I’m reading a complex character.  I don’t like ambiguity when I feel like the writer just doesn’t have a handle on the character and the character isn’t acting consistently. 

But if the ambiguity goes on for a long time, I think it needs to be really well written.  Rowling’s Severus Snape comes to mind—she did a great job showing different sides to him.  He wasn’t all good or all bad—and really, are most of us?

But if there were a character like my guy in the Costco?  I think I’d want a little more explanation at some point as to where he’s coming from—some background on why he might be behaving erratically.  Some insight on whether he’s got a weird sense of humor…or is weird, himself.

Are your characters easy to read?  If you give them some layers of complexity, is their motivation clear?  Or do you leave readers wondering for a while…and how long?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lists for Inspiration

h 041 I’m a huge list maker.

This has a lot to do with my need to outsource my horrible memory.
It also helps me sleep better at night, knowing that I’ve thought of all the things I need to do the next day…and I haven’t dropped the ball anywhere.

So it’s only natural that making lists would help me write my book, too.

Somehow, it’s easier for me to come up with lots of different ideas if I make them into bullet points and put them in list form.  I can  focus my list and have it be:

My protagonist’s catch-phrases.
My protagonist’s features.  Different physical traits of my protagonist.
My protagonist’s facial expressions.

If you do this with plotting, it can be useful, too.  The idea is to come up with as many different resolutions for the scene you’re writing or for the next scene as you can…no matter how outlandish they might be.  Some ideas will be completely ridiculous, but some might end up being useful.

5 possible endings for this book.
5 twists.
5 possible subplots.
5 ways the subplots could tie into the main plot.

Or you could do it for character growth:

5 ways the character could grow.
5 surprising things that we could learn about a character.
Top 10 list of things that bother the protagonist (then 10 things that would drive the character crazy that I could write into the book.)
10 things this character loves more than anything.

You could find other uses for lists, too:

5 ways to add some unexpected elements to the book (humor, suspense, sadness, fear.)

5 ways to describe the setting.

I love making lists because sometimes I’m looking for a way to squeeze in just a little more writing—but I only have ten minutes.  That amount of time is perfect for list-making, and I’ve found the exercise can really help me brainstorm more ideas.

Sometimes I’ll just add list titles in my notebook and keep it in my car or laptop bag for when I end up with a little dead time.  That way I don’t even have to figure out what list I want to start…I can just jump right in.

Do you use lists to brainstorm?  Mind maps?  What works for you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Diverting Attention

cohdra100_1687 My daughter and I were at the Halloween store last weekend, trying to find her a costume.  For some reason, it’s never easy finding one for her—she has this perfect mental image of what she’s looking for…and the store rarely has it.

We decided to walk around the store a little bit. It was one of those huge Halloween warehouse places that’s a temporary store—it opens up wherever there’s a vacant big-box store or a vacant strip mall spot, then closes down after Halloween is over.

This store had some really scary stuff in it.  Not only did it have creepy masks and costumes, but it also had a large amount of Halloween yard decorations.  So there were leering, six-feet tall clowns, a large zombie baby display, a huge werewolf, and—at the back of the store—three life-sized recreations of horror movie favorites Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers,  and Jason Voorhees.

They had “try me” buttons. You’d hit the button and then they’d say something really creepy and lift a knife or a claw-like hand threateningly. 

At this point I was ready to go back to the Halloween costumes and do some shopping.  I didn’t need any nightmares from a certain 9 year old girl.  But she was determined to press the buttons.  So I thought…well, okay.  Maybe they’d look really fake and we’d laugh and that would be the end of it.

She tentatively reached out, then pulled her hand back.  These things really did look terrifying.  “Do you want me to press the button?” I asked.  She shook her head.  “No. I want to do it.”

She leaned forward again and I held my breath as we both focused on the Freddy Krueger she was reaching out for.

Suddenly a store clerk came up from behind us, grabbed my daughter’s shoulders and yelled, “Boo!!!”
My daughter jumped a mile, but she quickly recovered and laughed at the joke.  Me?  I was still trying to get my heart out of my throat—I wasn’t able to manage a laugh.  We’d been so intent on looking at the creature that we weren’t paying any attention to anything else.

So by having our attention diverted with that much focus, we were able to receive a huge surprise.

The use for this is obvious for thriller writers—pull reader attention to the closet door, then have something come through the window.

Other genres could use this kind of technique, too.  Make sure your reader is totally absorbed in one character, or one problem and then twist the plot so that the problem is actually something really different and surprising to both the character and the reader.

Mystery writers use this distraction technique to slip clues in.  They reveal a clue then distract the reader (and sleuth) by creating an absorbing diversion somewhere else—maybe by laying down a fake clue (red herring) that looks like more of an important clue than the actual clue itself is.

Or, just when everything seems completely ordinary and banal in the character’s world, drop a bomb into it (not literally.  Well…but you could…) Great for conflict and to stress our characters out—which is good for our books.

Have a character unveil a surprise—about themselves. We’ve focused the reader attention on the character’s good qualities or made the reader think about the character in a particular way—then shatter their illusions. 

How do you distract your readers then surprise them?

Sunday, September 26, 2010



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

Unfortunately, I’ve had technical difficulties the last couple of days with the program that usually puts my tweets in Excel for me—it’s down. :(   So there’s no formatting today….sorry for the mess!

2010-09-26 10:01:28
elizabethscraig: Don't rush to submit your manuscript:

2010-09-26 09:01:18
elizabethscraig: Does Literary Matchmaking Work?

2010-09-26 04:10:58
elizabethscraig: 100 Ways To Not Write Your Book:

2010-09-26 03:01:16
elizabethscraig: The Importance of Magic and Wonder in Fantasy (and How a
Series Can Destroy That):

2010-09-26 02:01:20
elizabethscraig: 6 Ways To Turn Acceptances Into Rejections (Huff
Post--photo essay):

2010-09-26 01:01:14
elizabethscraig: Who Wrote it? Pen Names in Literature:

2010-09-26 00:01:15
elizabethscraig: Ten of the best disguises in literature (Guardian):

2010-09-25 23:01:19
elizabethscraig: Publishing--Where the Boys Are Not:

2010-09-25 22:01:18
elizabethscraig: An Agent: "Quit Wordsmithing The Opening - It will NEVER
be right.":

2010-09-25 21:01:23
elizabethscraig: Plot discrepancies in comic books:

2010-09-25 20:01:44
elizabethscraig: 8 Tips on Starting Your Own Grass-Roots Campaign For Your

2010-09-25 19:01:28
elizabethscraig: Giving Stuff Away Is Not a Marketing Strategy: @JaneFriedman

2010-09-25 18:02:08
elizabethscraig: Has any author's reputation fallen further or faster than
Dostoevsky's? (Guardian):

2010-09-25 17:02:16
elizabethscraig: Grit, Wit and It - Writing Compelling Characters:

2010-09-25 16:01:30
elizabethscraig: Secrets of Better Writing: The Powers of 1, 2, 3, and

2010-09-25 15:00:07
elizabethscraig: Writing For Yourself:

2010-09-25 14:00:05
elizabethscraig: The Rules of Fictional Worlds (The Atlantic):

2010-09-25 12:59:08
elizabethscraig: The importance of knowing the *kind* of story you're
writing--and how that knowledge helps your writing:

2010-09-25 12:04:20
elizabethscraig: Fixing a Stumbled Scene:

2010-09-25 11:41:34
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Lazy Day Apple Strudel @CleoCoyle

2010-09-25 11:04:22
elizabethscraig: Short Story Contracts:

2010-09-25 10:04:57
elizabethscraig: The Writer’s 5 Ws:

2010-09-25 07:10:36
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: MY DEBUT

2010-09-25 04:09:01
elizabethscraig: The importance of a strong opening for your book--and tips
on what NOT to open with:

2010-09-25 03:04:28
elizabethscraig: Writing Compelling Characters:

2010-09-25 02:04:22
elizabethscraig: Reviewing the 7 habits of successful nonfiction authors:

2010-09-25 01:04:23
elizabethscraig: Our Evolving Publishing Vocabulary: Why Do We Use the
Words We Do?

2010-09-25 00:01:01
elizabethscraig: Bribing my muse: 5 Sentences worth imitating. @smaiorca

2010-09-24 23:00:45
elizabethscraig: Amazon Updates Kindle App For Android:

2010-09-24 22:01:16
elizabethscraig: Elements of teen pride:

2010-09-24 21:01:28
elizabethscraig: Hostility, Mr. Konrath? One editor thinks not:

2010-09-24 20:00:59
elizabethscraig: 5 Tips for Remembering and Organizing Ideas:

2010-09-24 19:01:32
elizabethscraig: 10 Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week (NY Times):

2010-09-24 18:01:06
elizabethscraig: In Defense of Dead/Absent Parents in Children's Literature
(Huff Post):

2010-09-24 17:01:11
elizabethscraig: How do you know when to stop tweaking your manuscript?

2010-09-24 16:01:44
elizabethscraig: 5 Mistakes Every Blogger Will Make:

2010-09-24 15:01:37
elizabethscraig: What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing:

2010-09-24 14:01:03
elizabethscraig: Twitter etiquette--there's no standard:

2010-09-24 13:01:36
elizabethscraig: Things Writers Should Keep Track Of: Part 4:

2010-09-24 12:01:29
elizabethscraig: The e-reading revolution--finding books when we're not
browsing bookstores:

2010-09-24 12:01:01
elizabethscraig: 10 tips on the pace and structure of a thriller:

2010-09-24 11:00:36
elizabethscraig: Half a Dozen Unsolicited Pieces of Advice about Running a
Small Press:

2010-09-24 10:04:06
elizabethscraig: 10 Tips To Have Your Most Productive Day:

2010-09-24 09:01:51
elizabethscraig: Time management, creative productivity and multitasking: @inkyelbows

2010-09-24 05:52:05
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: Newly Released

2010-09-24 04:03:55
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Rustic, Honey-Glazed Crostada with
Fall Peaches from California by Cleo Coyle @CleoCoyle

2010-09-24 03:59:16
elizabethscraig: Migrating your TypePad blog to WordPress:

2010-09-24 03:00:29
elizabethscraig: Mystery Writer's Guide to Forensic Science--Exhumation:

2010-09-24 02:00:45
elizabethscraig: How one author accidentally became a book scout:

2010-09-24 01:00:56
elizabethscraig: Tips for writing profanity:

2010-09-24 00:05:30
elizabethscraig: Proper format for long quotations within a text:

2010-09-23 23:05:30
elizabethscraig: Manage Multiple Facebook Pages with Hootsuite:

2010-09-23 22:29:09
elizabethscraig: Bad Jobs in Novels Hashtag Sweeps Twitter:

2010-09-23 22:05:37
elizabethscraig: 7 Mindfulness Tips to Energize Your Writing:

2010-09-23 21:01:10
elizabethscraig: An editor says that writers have to have MS Word:

2010-09-23 20:34:07
elizabethscraig: How to Become a Household Name–Author Branding 101: @KristenLambTX

2010-09-23 20:01:47
elizabethscraig: Kafka’s Last Trial (NY Times):

2010-09-23 19:01:27
elizabethscraig: Could Konrath Become the First Kindle Millionaire?

2010-09-23 18:01:24
elizabethscraig: 7 Ways the iPad Can Bring Back Your Writing Mojo:

2010-09-23 17:20:08
elizabethscraig: 5 questions that always surprise me when I write a book:

2010-09-23 17:02:49
elizabethscraig: Intimacy and Invasion:

2010-09-23 16:01:23
elizabethscraig: Two Reasons To Update Your Writing Goals On Your Birthday:

2010-09-23 15:03:37
elizabethscraig: Plotting from Character:

2010-09-23 14:13:50
elizabethscraig: 5 Simple Questions for Revision:

2010-09-23 13:35:03
elizabethscraig: Gauging Your Story's Marketability:

2010-09-23 12:11:37
elizabethscraig: 13 ways to make characters lovable:

2010-09-23 11:04:03
elizabethscraig: Did John Milton write filthy, innuendo-laden rhyme?

2010-09-23 10:29:46
elizabethscraig: Woo Your Muse by Killing Your Inner Editor. @smaiorca

2010-09-23 10:04:54
elizabethscraig: Personalities and Professionalism:

2010-09-23 09:28:23
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: Adele Speaks

2010-09-23 09:02:14
elizabethscraig: Some questions to help with characterization:

2010-09-23 04:45:51
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Cheesy Chicken and Gravy @CleoCoyle

2010-09-23 04:09:34
elizabethscraig: Restart in the Moment:

2010-09-23 03:00:40
elizabethscraig: 8 Books to Sharpen Your Ninja Marketing Skills:

2010-09-23 02:00:51
elizabethscraig: 4 Articles on Pitching Agents at Conferences:

2010-09-23 01:06:10
elizabethscraig: How to respect the craft of writing. Maybe. @WritingAgain

2010-09-23 01:01:03
elizabethscraig: Tips for diversifying your influences while in an MFA
program and avoiding robotic writing: @litdrift

2010-09-23 00:23:09
elizabethscraig: Wrangling the Writers' Brain--Writing Software: @ultraswan

2010-09-23 00:01:05
elizabethscraig: Things Writers Should Keep Track Of: Part 3:

2010-09-22 23:01:09
elizabethscraig: Writing Without Using Labels:

2010-09-22 22:01:07
elizabethscraig: The importance of knowing our characters' favorites:

2010-09-22 21:01:25
elizabethscraig: Dos and don'ts of feedback:

2010-09-22 20:01:10
elizabethscraig: Could your book be a series? Things to consider:

2010-09-22 19:00:53
elizabethscraig: Putting together an anthology? Rein in your egotism and
leave yourself from the mix (Boston Globe):

2010-09-22 18:01:01
elizabethscraig: Think your publisher will be filing for bankruptcy? An
agent with some tips:

2010-09-22 17:02:15
elizabethscraig: Approaching agents at conferences--some tips:

2010-09-22 16:01:09
elizabethscraig: Wonder why you got rejected? An agent says they're not
required to address that:

2010-09-22 15:01:22
elizabethscraig: E-books, Google, and “The Long Prose Curse”:

2010-09-22 14:34:18
elizabethscraig: Publishing's Big 12 (Huff Post): via

2010-09-22 14:01:49
elizabethscraig: Top 10 stories about sisters (Guardian):

2010-09-22 13:01:40
elizabethscraig: Finding a market for your short fiction: @bmillerfiction

2010-09-22 12:07:31
elizabethscraig: What's hot? Who cares:

2010-09-22 11:02:41
elizabethscraig: 18 Types of Posts That Get More Comments:

2010-09-22 10:04:11
elizabethscraig: For a Good Read, Let the Characters Shape The Plot:

2010-09-22 09:01:38
elizabethscraig: The Publishing Catch-22:

2010-09-22 05:27:04
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: EPIC CUPCAKE WAR:  PART 2 @CleoCoyle

2010-09-22 04:27:17
elizabethscraig: Back Up Your Files Now:

2010-09-22 03:27:17
elizabethscraig: 3 Tips for Character Relationships:

2010-09-22 02:27:30
elizabethscraig: How to Comment on Blogs (and Drive Traffic Back to Your
Author Website):

2010-09-22 01:27:30
elizabethscraig: How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Taking responsibility for our writing:

2010-09-22 00:27:24
elizabethscraig: Polishing up your short fiction:

2010-09-21 22:27:27
elizabethscraig: Writing a book--getting started:

2010-09-21 21:27:25
elizabethscraig: Pacing ourselves as writers:

2010-09-21 20:55:20
elizabethscraig: RT @ComicSocialClub: Top 10 Writing Tips for Comic Book
Writers: "You can't pass off bad writing as 'style'"
- #ma ...

2010-09-21 20:53:09
elizabethscraig: A writer's dilemma--characters vs. plot: @duolit

2010-09-21 20:27:41
elizabethscraig: An Agent Explains What Platform Means for Writers:

2010-09-21 19:27:30
elizabethscraig: How to read a publishing contract (25):

2010-09-21 18:27:21
elizabethscraig: Writer's Digest's best tweets for writers (week ending

2010-09-21 17:28:11
elizabethscraig: Tips for writing suspense:

2010-09-21 16:28:06
elizabethscraig: The best way to measure your growth as a writer:

2010-09-21 15:01:37
elizabethscraig: Why conflict is so important to your novel:

2010-09-21 14:01:37
elizabethscraig: An agent with some query quantification:

2010-09-21 13:22:07
elizabethscraig: Tips for smooth transitions in our story: @authorterryo @Paize_Fiddler

2010-09-21 12:16:33
elizabethscraig: The quick and dirty guide to story structure (everything's
in sets of 3):

2010-09-21 12:08:38
elizabethscraig: Why Being Too Diligent About Your Facts Can Hurt Your

2010-09-21 10:32:43
elizabethscraig: The editorial letter (or how to take suggestions):

2010-09-21 09:01:56
elizabethscraig: 4 Effective Email Spam Filter Tools:

2010-09-21 04:51:12
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: Newly Released

2010-09-21 04:05:47
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: WELSH CHICKEN

2010-09-21 03:00:40
elizabethscraig: Writers Belong To The Professional Waiting Society:

2010-09-21 02:01:18
elizabethscraig: 5 ways to make your novel unforgettable: @victoriamixon

2010-09-21 01:01:00
elizabethscraig: Character arcs and suspension of reader disbelief: @authorterryo

2010-09-21 00:01:12
elizabethscraig: Gender bias in the literary world:

2010-09-21 23:27:33
elizabethscraig: 10 ways to annoy a literary agent:

2010-09-20 23:00:56
elizabethscraig: 5 things a writer always overlooks:

2010-09-20 22:01:31
elizabethscraig: The use of flashbacks in crime fiction:

2010-09-20 21:01:49
elizabethscraig: Writing and revising in layers:

2010-09-20 20:01:17
elizabethscraig: Looking for extra writing time? 10 Benefits of Rising
Early, and How to Do It:

2010-09-20 19:00:52
elizabethscraig: How to write descriptions vividly and well: @dirtywhitecandy

2010-09-20 18:01:08
elizabethscraig: Journaling Techniques to Improve Your Writing: @thecreativepenn

2010-09-20 17:01:45
elizabethscraig: 6 New Thoughts That Will Get Your Book Published: @bubblecow

2010-09-20 16:01:24
elizabethscraig: Anatomy of a Book Contract:

2010-09-20 15:01:18
elizabethscraig: Is a Writer’s Conference Worth the Money?

2010-09-20 14:01:29
elizabethscraig: Write what you don't know:

2010-09-20 13:01:22
elizabethscraig: 4 Reasons to Appreciate Your Self-Doubts:

2010-09-20 12:01:08
elizabethscraig: How to make an agent happy:

2010-09-20 11:07:48
elizabethscraig: 7 Ways Freelance Writers Can Get Inspiration from the
'Ellen Show':

2010-09-20 10:08:23
elizabethscraig: For the disorganized writer: 9 Clutter Clearing Tips for
Good Feng Shui:

2010-09-20 09:01:06
elizabethscraig: 10 of the best umbrellas in literature (Guardian):

2010-09-20 04:39:03
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Pineapple & Ham Quiche from The Long
Quiche Goodbye @CleoCoyle

2010-09-20 04:15:40
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: The Name Game

2010-09-20 04:09:13
elizabethscraig: 5 Rewarding Social Networks for Book Lovers:

2010-09-20 03:00:33
elizabethscraig: 10 books you have to read this fall (Boston Globe):

2010-09-20 02:00:39
elizabethscraig: How To Disarm Your Inner Writer’s Worst Fear:

2010-09-20 01:00:51
elizabethscraig: Writers reflect on their favorite paintings (Guardian):

2010-09-20 00:00:48
elizabethscraig: How To Use Book Trailers Effectively:

2010-09-19 23:39:08
elizabethscraig: Twitterific--the week in tweets:

2010-09-19 23:00:44
elizabethscraig: "The Hunger Games" Series--Lessons for Writers: @thecreativepenn

2010-09-19 22:00:52
elizabethscraig: Fitting Promotion into Your Writing Life:

2010-09-19 21:00:57
elizabethscraig: Life’s missing white space:

2010-09-19 20:01:22
elizabethscraig: Tying Up Loose Ends With Your Plot:

2010-09-19 19:00:50
elizabethscraig: 4 Reasons to Appreciate Your Self-Doubts:

2010-09-19 18:01:01
elizabethscraig: Are you a writer? How we define ourselves as writers:

2010-09-19 17:02:54
elizabethscraig: 12 Social Media Buzzwords Redefined:

2010-09-19 16:01:39
elizabethscraig: Grammar and You:

2010-09-19 15:00:57
elizabethscraig: Creating Compelling Characters:

2010-09-19 14:01:15
elizabethscraig: Peeking Inside a Successful Crit Partnership:

2010-09-19 13:01:05
elizabethscraig: The Fail-Safe Guide to Overcoming Procrastination:

2010-09-19 12:02:50
elizabethscraig: Chapter Breaks and Pacing:

2010-09-19 11:07:21
elizabethscraig: The importance of good posture for writers:

2010-09-19 10:03:52
elizabethscraig: The 5 Questions Every Book Proposal Must Answer:

2010-09-19 06:01:48
elizabethscraig: On Killer Char's: I Never Thought I’d be Dead At This
Point In My Life @LornaBarrett

2010-09-19 04:19:24
elizabethscraig: Myst. Lov. Kitchen: PTA Driving You Crazy?  Meet Laura
Alden! @CleoCoyle

2010-09-19 04:09:13
elizabethscraig: Fancy is Not Always Better:

2010-09-19 03:00:23
elizabethscraig: Bookish loyalties:

2010-09-19 02:00:32
elizabethscraig: How to make dialogue tags work for your story:

2010-09-19 01:00:38
elizabethscraig: Editing Filler Words:

2010-09-19 00:00:43
elizabethscraig: Horror Writing Tips:

2010-09-18 23:00:50
elizabethscraig: Noun Clauses:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Big Reason Agents are Hard to Come By--Time

Astronomical Clock detail Last week, I posted some resources for finding agents.
It’s really tough to find representation.  I think, honestly, there are lots of reasons for this.

One is that agents need to believe they can find a buyer for the manuscript you’re pitching.

I have a strong suspicion that another reason is because just one author is a lot of work.

My agent, Ellen Pepus, spends a lot of time just with me.  I know this because of the number of emails that we send back and forth when we’re really at fever pitch before deadline.

Ellen likes to edit.  Not every agent is like that, but a lot of them are. So she’s making editorial suggestions for me before we send the manuscript to the editor.

Ellen also does other things I don’t want to do—like make friends with industry professionals.  I’m really uncomfortable schmoozing and who knows…she might be too.  But she does it a heck of a lot better than I do.

She keeps track of my checks—what I’ve been paid for, what I’m due for.  Ellen sends me a statement for my taxes.  I have a hard time keeping up with the money side of the business.  I’m familiar with my contract, of course, but I don’t really want to spend my time hunting down manuscript-acceptance checks, or Kindle-version royalties, or my author copies, or whatever.

If I have any questions about release dates or deadlines or what exactly my editor is looking for?  She takes care of that, too.

Basically, Ellen gets to do the dirty work and I get to just write and promote books.   Which works out really well…for me, anyway.

There are some weeks that I’m a lot less time-consuming than others.  But then—it seems like everything happens at once and I’ve buried my agent again.

Thanks to Ellen for all that she handles for me.  And best of luck to everybody on their agent search.  It does take a long time to find an agent (years, in my case), but in the end the effort is definitely worth it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

E-Reading Revolution—Finding Good Books

bookCN_1412During my August book tour, I visited lots of different bookstores and talked to many different managers.

Several of them mentioned, with some concern, the e-book revolution.  One manager went so far as to say that their bookstore would likely resemble an Apple store or a cell phone retailer in a few years—with e-readers and e-reader accessories on display. 

She added that bookstore staff would be needed to sell and offer customer support for the readers.  They’d have a service department to fix or replace broken e-readers.

And she said, of course, they’d need a lot less retail space.  Although they might keep the cafes open since that brought people in.  So customers could read books on their e-readers and drink coffee and study.

Although I’ve thought a lot about the e-reading revolution, I’d never really thought of bookstores actually changing.  I think I’d just sadly written them off as closing their doors and having an online storefront only.

The one thing that I did hear consistently from the managers was their concern over book browsing.  Which is understandable—you wouldn’t be able to pick up an e-book, feel it, or flip through it. 
Or could you?

I’m not going to get into the e-reader debate, mostly because I’m resigned to the fate of books at this point and just planning on going with the flow—at least, in this computer-centered future, people are still reading—but I have noticed that my own book-buying habits have been changing, even with the physical books that I buy.

I look online a lot for book recommendations.  In fact, I look almost exclusively online for book recommendations.  Our newspaper here seems determined to review books that are heavy lit fict (not my current cup of tea), so I’ve had to find reviews elsewhere…and the book bloggers do a bang-up job at it.

I like sites like “What Should I Read Next” which help direct readers to books similar in style and genre to books they’ve enjoyed.

You can frequently read an online preview—a first chapter or an excerpt of the book you’re interested in—of the book you’re interested in. Not quite the same as flipping through a book at the store, but I could get used to it.

And for those of us who say covers can make a difference in our book buying?  The covers aren’t going away—they’re right there, online, in living color.  So we can judge a book by its cover as often as we like.

I’m fond of the automatically-generated “people who bought this book also bought these books” lists.  Frequently I find some really interesting series that way. 

What about those specialty bookstores and Mom and Pop bookstores?  It kills me, it really does. I love those bookstores. But eventually—maybe they’ll move their stores online?  Maybe they’ll still be offering their incredible expertise to readers and directing them to great books…just in a new and different way.

No, there’s nothing like picking up a book—or a pile of books—and flipping through them at the bookstore.  Bookstores and libraries have always been my favorite places.  I still  hope that there would be a need for libraries a long time into the future.  It’s hard to be upbeat about all the changes.

But as long as we still have books and readers—that’s the most important thing.  We’ll just have to find new ways to discover good books.

How do you shop for books?  Online?  In a bookstore?  How are you finding books to read? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

5 Questions That Always Surprise Me When I Write a Book

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Every time I write a book, I’m surprised by the problems I run into—even though the problems are always the same. And actually, looking at my list of issues, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot I can do to prevent them from cropping up, unless I really wanted to change my approach to writing a book. Maybe that’s why they keep recurring!

5 Questions that Always Pop Up Once While Writing My Books

1. Where do I go next? I’m guessing this is a problem faced more frequently by folks who don’t outline…people like me. Usually I have an idea in my head about where I want to go next with the plot and the characters. But a few times in each book, I have an uhhhh moment where I’m really not sure what I’m writing in the next scene. Or the one after that.

2.What’s this character’s deal? Sometimes my characters aren’t well-behaved. In every book, a character will either try to steal scenes, act out of character, try to change their character, or exhibit a stunning lack of motivation. This is one of those problems I look out for while I’m writing a book—and I fix it when I see it, going forward from that point in the manuscript. Otherwise it can make a huge mess in a story. But I’m always so surprised when it happens!

3. Whodunit? Okay, this is going to be specific to mystery writers—but I don’t usually have a killer planned out until much later in the story. I like it that way because it means that I set up all my suspects as possible murderers. But—it means that at the end of the book I’m going back and forth…and back and forth…and back and forth on the killer’s identity.

4. How am I going to wrap this up? Writing endings is tough for me. Beginnings I like, but wrapping up a book? Ugh. I manage to conveniently forget what a pain it is for me until it’s time for me to write another one.

5. How many more pages are there left to write?! It’s actually pretty easy for me to get overwhelmed when writing--which is why I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the unwritten pages stretching ahead of me…it’s easy to freak myself out. But I don’t feel overwhelmed when I start a project—but I sure do about a third of the way through.

Maybe forgetting these things is my subconscious way to ensure I keep writing books. Because if I remembered my struggles with this stuff, then I’d probably start a new book with a lot more trepidation than I do.

Are there problems that you always encounter when writing? Do you find that you forget about them in between projects?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Charles Webster Hawthorne-1872-1930--First Mate My daughter is nine years old. Like lots of nine year olds, she loves to poll everyone on their favorites.

And you’d better have an answer.

I haven’t thought very much about my favorite anything for probably the last thirty years.

Until now. :) After several conversations with my daughter that ended with her saying, “How could you not know what your favorite song/color/food/season/book/movie is?!” then I actually took a few minutes to think about it one night.

I was able to make some headway on some of my favorites. I’m partial to yellow, although brown is my favorite color to wear. I like spring. I still wasn’t too sure about a favorite song, book, or movie.

My daughter, though, wasn’t going to leave it at that. Why was spring my favorite season? Had it always been my favorite?

This actually, made me think a little deeper about it. Winter was my least favorite season, so spring always makes me feel relieved because winter is over. I always did love spring—especially when I was a kid because I have a spring birthday…and we had Daylight Saving Time, which meant more time to play outside in the evenings.

It started me thinking about my characters’ favorites.

I didn't used to do major profiles of my characters before writing because I felt I knew my characters right off the bat. They were frequently amalgams of people I knew and were easy for me to write.

But now, I’ve written so many characters that I’m finding character surveys more helpful.

What are my characters’ favorite TV shows? Why? Or do they even watch TV? Are they readers, instead?

I don’t spend a ton of time doing character profiles, but I spend a lot more time than I used to. I rarely use the information that I come up with in my books, but it does help me to create a more rounded character that pops off the page.

One of the more helpful collections of character development worksheets can be found here: Adventures in Children’s Publishing (and, no worries…these worksheets are for adult characters, too). There are four parts to the worksheet and four posts on it.

Do you know your characters’ favorites?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pacing Ourselves

Farmer on a Bicycle-- Alexander Deineka--1935 On Saturday, the kids and I went on a bike ride.

We’re mismatched bikers. My teenage son is the super biker, easily losing us without even realizing it. My daughter is still on a little-kid bike with no gears, and I need to stick behind her to make sure she doesn’t get left behind. Me? I’ll fall off the bike if I bike too slowly…which sometimes happens when the greenway gets too sandy and my daughter pops off her bike unexpectedly to walk the trail instead of bike it. I always seem to think I can stay on the bike just going slowly behind her as she walks…but I topple off it, instead.

There was a man running on the greenway while the children and I were on our bike ride. To me, he was sort of like Pepe Le Pew from the Bugs Bunny cartoons…not for any olfactory reasons, but because no matter how hard we biked, he always ended up right on the point of passing us.

Obviously, this is because we were stopping a lot. My daughter had to stop once because her legs hurt. The chain on my son’s bike came off once and we stopped to get it back on. My daughter stopped for water a couple of times.

Each time my daughter and I stopped, my son kept biking ahead until a point where he realized we weren’t there anymore (which seemed to take a while.) So my daughter and I ended up pedaling really fast to catch up. Which wore me out (since I’m no longer designed to be a speedy biker) and then I had to stop and rest.

And each time we got passed by this man in his late-50s who was jogging along very steadily. Every time I’d hear the pat-pat-pat of his feet, I’d look up with disbelief. No matter how fast we’d been biking before, our little pit stops meant he always caught up quickly.

Finally I said to him, “I think it’s really sad that you’re going faster than us and we’re on bikes!” Which he thought was funny, although he blushed a little.

But it’s like that, isn’t it, for a lot in life—slow and steady wins the race.

Before deadlines ruled my writing life, I always wrote a page a day. I remember telling the critique group that I was in at the time my daily goal…and they thought I wasn’t writing enough.

But—I ended up with a finished book before they did. That page a day was manageable for me. So I did it every day, without fail.

If I feel like I’m behind with a book and start scrambling, I’ll end up burned out or irritated with the manuscript or myself.

If I go too slow, I get overwhelmed by the project and the amount I have left to write.

It’s like a New Year’s Resolution—it’s better not to make a resolution to lose twenty pounds. Better to make a resolution to cut out junky afternoon snacks, or to stop drinking soda, or to walk twice a week or something else that’s more manageable. Something we’ll actually do.

Because everyone wants to feel successful. And if we haven’t set ourselves up for success with our pacing, it’s easy to just ditch the project altogether when we get frustrated or burned out.

How are you pacing yourself?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing and Revising in Layers

cohdra100_1413 Working on a first draft can be really challenging. There’s the plot to wrangle into shape, the conflict to ramp up, the characters to breathe life into. And there are a whole lot of pages to write before the final scene.

There’s so much to include that I frequently don’t include it all in the first draft.

In fact, there are some things that I never put in my first draft because I spend way too much time thinking about them and it messes up my pace.

Using a layered approach to writing a book makes me feel a little more focused on working through my first draft. I know that I don’t have to worry about a million different things while I’m writing the draft-- I only worry about half a million things. :)

Parts of the book that I add in layers for 2nd and 3rd drafts:

  • Setting descriptions
  • Character descriptions
  • Character last names and place names (I’ll mark as *** on the draft so I can find my spots later.)
  • Any scenes I was stuck on. I just make a couple of notes about what I wanted to accomplish with the scene and move on to the next scene.
  • Sometimes I’ll add entire subplots as a layer

I do the same thing with revising. If you think to yourself that you’re editing a whole book, the thought of it can be just as overwhelming as writing the book was.

These are issues that I address in layers for the revision:

  • Typos/grammar
  • Favorite words of mine that I use too frequently
  • Conflict—I make a pass through to make sure each scene either forwards the plot or adds to the conflict
  • Continuity (is the character wearing the same outfit on page 20 that she’s wearing on page 21?)
  • Subplots—did they resolve? Did they tie into the main plot?
  • Loose ends—is everything resolved at the end of the book?

And, because everyone’s writing process always really fascinates me, I’ll ask y’all about it: how do you work through your first draft? Do you try to include it all in one pass, or are you working in layers, too?

Sunday, September 19, 2010


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

What do the most highly paid authors have in common? @ thecreativepenn

How to read a publishing contract (24):

Beating Your Submission Letter Into Shape:

Re-inventing Book Marketing:

Serial Comma Drama: Which Side Are You On?

The positive in a negative review:

10 activities for a writer with a head cold: @elspethwrites

Self-Publishing: The Numbers Game:

Creating Quirky Characters:

5 tips to get big exposure for your book through book touring:

Writing: Find the Time or Don’t:

How to Blog Like Bond. James Bond.

6 Steps One Writer Used for Creating an Anthology:

When Dreams Become Expectations:

I Plot, Therefore I Am...:

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: It's Oktoberfest! @CleoCoyle

How to Write a Better Rant:

Simile vs. Metaphor: Smackdown!

How to choose a good writing critique service:

Writers are Voyeurs:

The lack of publishing statistics: @victoriastrauss

Are You Too Confident About Your Writing?

7 Ways to Improve Your Blog's Readability:

Synopsis Tips – Show Don’t Tell:

Your “Success Identity” And How It Keeps You From Writing:

Best Articles This Week for Writers 9/17: @4kidlit

Fitting the Character to the Story:

Manuscript problems--which to jump on right away:

How to Survive Negative Feedback On Your Story:

Can you describe your character in non-gendered terms?

The Ultimate Blog Checklist:

4 Elements of a Scene:

Looking for an agent? Query-writing links, agent blogs, and agents on Twitter:

A 3-point revision checklist:

What’s your book’s MOJO?

(How) Do Authors Make Money?

An agent says, "Published Authors - Know your contract and stay on top of things...":

You can write? So you can screen-write:

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Get two Mystery Recipes from Cleo Coyle's ROAST MORTEM and Comment to Win Her New Book! @CleoCoyle

Freelancers--3 Tips to Make Sure You Get Paid for Your Writing:

Nonfiction Authors: Make Your Content Actionable:

Writing Tips From Famous Authors – How to Become a Writer:

Forget your distress and focus on your writing:

Which social medium is most effective in reaching readers?

Steampunk zombies? Yes, there are more ways to write about zombies than you think: @Kirrmistwelder

Copywriting Jobs - How to Find the Best Jobs for You:

An Agent Answers Questions about Writing Conferences:

Agatha Christie and Nursery Rhymes: @JanetRudolph

To Handle Rejection: Build Your Writer's Muscle:

Sentence spacing for manuscript formats:

Stop Tweaking, Start Writing:

How can you tell how well your book is selling?

12 Ways to Create a Mailing List that Will Sell Books:

Distance and Lists in the Editing Process:

Temporarily tweetless--SocialOomph is down for maintenance. Guessing my tweets will show up after their tech difficulties are resolved.

The inciting incident of our novel:

What to put in your media kit: @SpunkOnAStick

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Last Bit of Summer—Tomato Pie @CleoCoyle

If You Give a Writer an Idea:

The accidental creative identity:

Should you use real life in your novels? @dirtywhitecandy

An agent on whether authors should do their own marketing:

For the Introverted Writer--Revenge of the Introvert (Psychology Today):

The ins and outs of editor/agent lunches:

An Agent on Losing Out on a Hot Commodity:

Grammar Police! How to write standard Numbers:

On agent pitching:

Develop Your Character Inside and Outside:

Plot Check Time:

The Agent Hunt: How Long Is Too Long?

Are Writing Routines Important to Success?

Keep an eye on the stupid things:

The Bride’s Guide to Manuscript Monogamy:

Rewriting: Stuck? Make a list:

What is book tour really like?:

The Character and the Reader-- expanding the response:

An agent advises not to expect agents to be more specific on what they want to read:

A Book Deal That Was Too Good To Be True:

How to win fans and influence people:

How To Pick The Correct Genre For Your Book:

4 Easy Tips to Help You to Write Your Book--

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Epic Cupcake War! @CleoCoyle

How To Know the Difference Between Its/It's and Effect/Affect:

When Author Intrusion Rears Its Ugly Head:

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: And The Winner Is @CleoCoyle

5 Ways to Blog Like Bruce Lee:

Book marketing tips:

An agent lists openings to avoid:

How Do You Know If an MFA Is Right For You?

Choosing the Right Writing Course: @UrbanMuseWriter

The Latest in Typewriter Repair (New Yorker):

Ipad apps for writers: @inkyelbows

Tweeting for authors--tweeting into the void:

Getting Violently Epic:

Fixing Character Errors:

Dialogue--to tag or not to tag?

For crime writers--why police officers censor themselves on social media sites, even during off-hours: @authorterryo

Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot: @victoriastrauss

Creating an Authentic Teen Guy's Voice:

Rewriting: Pay Attention To Sequences!

Money matters for authors:

A major flaw in teaching creative writing lies in our terminology:

The Great Facebook Debate: Personal Account or Page?

7 Ways to Stay Focused for Attention-Challenged Writers:

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: The Long Quiche Goodbye giveaway winner @CleoCoyle

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: CONSIDER THE MONKFISH @CleoCoyle

In praise of copy editors:

Agent Hunting Tips:

Choosing a Blogging Platform for New Bloggers:

3 Causes of Writer’s Block:

"I mock your To Be Read piles! I snort at your complaints of time! And I think you are missing the point!":

The writer's guide to reading people--your character's home: @clarissadraper

Best tweets for writers, week ending 9-10 (Writer's Digest):

The 10 Core Values Of A Winning Personal Brand:

How editing could have helped Larsson's book and why it will help yours: @clarissadraper

An extroverted writer's way to avoid writing alone:

Dangling plot lines:

Michael Eisner on Media's Future:

New York Times Will End Print Edition (Eventually), Publisher Says (Atlantic):

How to Score a Traditional Deal After Self-Publishing:

Seven Keys to Writing Good Dialogue:

7 Reasons You Need A Facebook Fan Page:

When It Looks Like We’re Headed for a Crash:

Tips to Survive The Writer’s Road:

Stretch Your Body To Revive Your Writer Mind:

How To Sell A Book? Good, Old Word Of Mouth (NPR):

Talking to Agents at Conferences:

The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing Your Book:

What writers can learn from reading the headlines:

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Ice Cream's a Breeze @CleoCoyle

The Promise of Fall: How to Achieve a Balanced Writing Life:

5 Things Magicians Can Teach You About Blogging:

6 Tips for Writing an Epistolary Novel:

Finding the Funny in Your Writing:

How to Get Feedback on Your Manuscript:

Superheroes are misunderstood (Guardian):

Scheduling busy work:

How Linguistics Can Help You Part 3: Syntax:

The trouble with Google Books:

How to Write a Travel Memoir:

Learning About Characters with Clifford The Big Red Dog:

Using Multiple Twitter Accounts:

Personality traits for characters:

Writing vs Marketing: 5 Tips for Scheduling Your Freelance Time:

Love and character:

10 Small Changes (To Your Life) Which Make a Big Difference:

How to read a publishing contract (23):

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Hannah Reed, author of the new Queen Bee Mysteries! @CleoCoyle

I'm a storyteller, not a writer:

10 second writing tip:

Ritualize Your Writing: A Shortcut Into Creative Productivity:

Choosing A Point Of View:

What better way to judge your fellow commuter than by the book in his hand? (Boston Globe):

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Moody Reading and Writing

Dosso Dossi--1486-1541--Portrait of a young Man holding a Dog and a Cat Lately, I’ve not really been in the mood to read anything emotionally disturbing or heavy. Lately being the last couple of years. :)

I grew up reading heavy literature in school. I read a ton of the classics, which aren’t usually known for being lighthearted.

But for some reason, every time I pick up some really heavy literary fiction lately, I struggle with the topics.

For crime fiction, I handle it better. I wondered why, started thinking about it, and realized that the bad guy gets in trouble at the end of the book. It satisfies my sense of poetic justice, I think.

My book club has really been reading heavy literature, which is why I keep trying to read it, myself. Right now we’re reading Geraldine Brooks’ historical novel Year of Wonders. It’s elegantly written, meticulously researched, powerful…and disturbing. Basically, a village in 17th century England is hit by the plague. They decide to stay in the village instead of running away and spreading the contagion. The narrator fights against superstitious villagers and their fears about witchcraft.

It’s excellent and I’ll highly recommend it to anyone who is interested…but I’m just not in the right mood to read it.

I’m the same way with my writing—you’re just not going to see me writing books that aren’t humorous right now. Right now being the foreseeable future.

I’ll write scenes that are heavier in the book than others—dead bodies don’t make for humor, after all. But I’m not writing the entire book with a serious tone.

And then, some days I’m not in the mood to write something funny. Those are the days I’ll skip ahead and write a tense scene between my protagonist and the murderer, or I’ll describe a murder scene.

Does your mood affect your reading? Your writing? How do you handle it?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking for an Agent—Thoughts and Resources

IMS00173 Looking for an agent can be a really overwhelming process.

When I was first looking for an agent, that there wasn’t enough information out there online.

Now it seems like there’s almost too much information—but it’s scattered around. So I thought I’d run a post with at least some of the information in the same spot.

Below I’ve listed websites that can help you narrow down your agent search, helpful posts on writing query letters, popular agent blogs, and agents on Twitter.

Good luck!

Some links to get you started: An agent on how to write a query How to know if you’re ready to query Should you query a first novel? Common mistakes in querying and a suggested template 8 tips on querying from the Queryfest workshop at RWA The difference between querying an editor and querying an agent How *not* to query Querying—where to start, tips for writing a query letter Are you ready to query? A checklist Motif in query letters Theme in query letters 6 tips for querying How long is too long to search for an agent? Debunking querying myths How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material (Writer’s Digest)

More Help in Finding an Agent:

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who take advantage of aspiring writers. I’d recommend researching agents on Agent Query and checking the ones you find against Preditors and Editors and Writers Beware to make sure there aren’t any complaints against the agency.

Agent Query—A searchable database of agents. Association of Authors’ Representatives—Helpful way to vet your agent. Query Tracker—Helps you track your queries and has a blog with useful tips.

Some of the Best Agent Blogs Nathan Bransford Curtis Brown

Lucienne Diver The Knight Agency

Jessica Faust BookEnds

Rachelle Gardner WordServe Literary Agency

Mary Kole Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Chip MacGregor MacGregor Literary

Kristin Nelson Nelson Literary Agency

Janet Reid, and here FinePrint Literary Management

Also check out Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog

Literary Agents on Twitter (from the AgentQuery site)

@ColleenLindsay / Colleen Lindsay @ChrisRichman / Chris Richman @EpsteinLiterary/ Kate Epstein @BookEndsJessica / Jessica Faust @BookEndsKim / Kim Lionetti @michellebrower/ Michelle Brower @hroot / holly root @KnightAgency / The Knight Agency @ellenp / ellen papus @literaticat / jennifer laughran @cbfine / Celeste Fine @ByrdLeavell3 / Byrd Leavell @mattwagner/ Matt Wagner @jasonashlock / Jason Allen Ashlock @chipmacgregor @JanetKGrant / Janet Kobobel Grant @tomwillkens / Tom Willkens @jodimeadows / Jodi Meadows (agent assistant) @foundrymedia @thecroceagency / The Croce Agency @DanielLiterary / Greg Daniel @laurieabkemeier / Laurie Abkemeier @TracyMarchini (agent assistant) @rgradinger/Rebecca Gradinger @dianafox/ Diana Fox @jennyrae / Jenny Rae Rappaport @NathanBransford / Nathan Bransford @Janet_Reid/Janet Reid @MichaelBourret / Michael Bourret @DeidreKnight @cjlitagency / Johnson Literary @carenjla / Caren Estesen @elanaroth / Elana Roth @ElaineSpencer / Elaine Spencer @BostonBookGirl / Lauren E. MacLeod @DaphneUn / Kate Schafer Testerman @KellyMortimer / Kelly Mortimer @barrygoldblatt / Barry Goldblatt @jennybent / Jenny Bent @twliterary / ted weinstein @wendylawton / Wendy Lawton @MarleneStringer / Marlene Stringer @dsvetcov / Danielle Svetcov @craigkayser / Craig Kayser @movabletypenyc / Meredith Dawson @melflashman / melissa flashman @scottwaxman @JeffeyG / Jeff Gerecke @kate_mckean @jdystel / Jane Dystel @MiriamGoderich / Miriam Goderich @jeffreymoores / Jeffrey Moores (has now become a literary consultant) @JillCorcoran / Jill Corcoran @mikalroy / Michael Stearns @Bookfan / Kae Tienstra @LucienneDiver / Lucienne Diver @StrothmanAgency / Strothman Agency @madamepsychosis / Kristen O'Toole (agent assistant) @skagency / Stuart Krichevsky @RachelleGardner / Rachelle Gardner @dbartoli / Diane Bartoli @JuliaLordLit / Julia @KHM126 / Kirsten Manges @hoffmanlit/ Scott Hoffman @NepheleTempest / Nephele Tempest @Ginger_Clark/ Ginger Clark @KAndersonbird / Kathleen Anderson @FoundryLiterary / Foundry Literary @jessregel / Jessica Regel @Emmanuelle15 / Emmanuelle Alspaugh @AliceTasman/ Alice Tasman @michellelit / Michelle Andelman @FolioLiterary / Folio Literary @WolfsonLiterary/Michelle Wolfson @MarkMcVeigh / Mark McVeigh @4writers/Jennifer DeChiara @daniellechiotti/ Danielle Chiotti @LukemanLiterary/ Noah Lukeman @Katelynn Lacopo/KatelynnLacop (literary assistant) @agentgame/ anonymous agent assistant

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inciting Incidents

Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue--1906--John French Sloan--1871-1951 Usually, when I think about plots, I’m thinking about conflict.

But I keep running into the term “inciting incidents.” It’s usually a scriptwriting term but I’ve been hearing it more and more in regards to fiction.

Actually, I really like it. It reminds me that there really is a pivotal event in each book that jump starts the plot. It’s the whole reason there’s a story to begin with.

What happens that takes our character out of a boring, ordinary day into an adventure?

In my books, the inciting incident is always a murder.

That’s followed by an inciting reason for my amateur sleuth to get involved. Because if you were an older lady with a comfortable life, why would you choose to get mixed up with a murder investigation? So for my stories, there’s not only the main inciting incident, there’s also an inciting reason for my protagonist to get involved with it.

The inciting incident isn’t always something that’s as shocking or unnatural as a murdered body. It could be an everyday problem that propels the protagonist in a new direction. The protagonist decides to move to the South of France and take up cooking lessons. The inciting incident—a painful divorce. Or it could be any number of things that represent the final straw to the protagonist and makes them act.

If the problem is something the character could put off acting on, then maybe the ante needs to be upped. The problem needs to be intensified. It should be an overwhelming issue for the protagonist that has to be addressed—they need to drop everything for it. It’s the whole point of the story.

When I’m reading a book, I’m ( if reading a modern book and not a classic) looking for the inciting incident to show up pretty quickly. Most publishers want the inciting incident early in the book.

As a writer, though, I do need to have some set up before my murder. If I drop a body on page 1 (which I could do), I still have some work ahead of me. Who are the characters who could have murdered this person? Who is the victim and why should the reader care that they’re dead? All of those things have to be addressed, too. And flashbacks aren’t ideal. So usually I put off the inciting incident just long enough for the reader to get to know the suspects and victim and form an opinion of them.

How strong is your book’s inciting incident? How much set up do you have before introducing it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Manuscript Problems—Which to Jump on Right Away

P8281499 I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that I spend a good deal of my time on auto-pilot.

Any rote kind of activity in my life—laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen counter—it’s sort of committed to muscle memory. Sometimes, when I’m done with it, I don’t even have any memory of having done it and I have to check myself (this is what happens when you write books in your head while you do housework.)

Unfortunately, I was apparently on auto pilot a couple of days ago when I went to the grocery store.

Going to the store is another activity that sometimes doesn’t require a lot of thought. It does if I’m going for special ingredients, but there are some trips that are just to replace staples from the pantry—and I don’t even need a list for those trips. I need milk, bread, fresh fruit, sandwich meat…you know.

So yesterday, I show up at the store and I’m apparently not even really there. I load up my cart, pulling things off the shelves, then go to the checkout line—and I have no money with me.

No money. That’s right. I’d gone to the lake with my sister and had changed my pocketbook and put my money and debit card into a beach bag.

So I left my cart at the store, told the cashier I’d forgotten my money (yes, she looked a little worried about me) and drove home for the debit card and cash. And then drove back to the store, got the fully-loaded cart and checked out.

You’d have thought forgetting to bring money to the store would have been enough to shake me out of auto pilot for the rest of the day. But then when I was unloading the groceries I apparently resumed it—and left the milk in the trunk.

There are certain things that I do when I write a book that put me on auto pilot. The story is never on auto pilot (that would be a bad thing), but the way I just keep on going, plowing through to the end, staying in the writing zone is me just doing what I always do…following the usual path. If I’ve really gotten into the groove of a plot, I feel like I’m almost just the typist, putting the story on the page. The characters tell me their bits of dialogue, I watch them as they lie to my sleuth, and the story just unfolds on the screen.

If I run into a plot wrinkle, I’d rather just keep on going and iron it out during revisions. Again, I’m just plowing through to the finish line.

But there are some problems that are big enough that I stop immediately to fix. Because if I just keep to my usual auto pilot plan for quickly working through to the end of the first draft, these problems will balloon and be more of a pain to fix later.

These are problems I pay attention to as I’m writing that can pull me out of my auto pilot zone:

The protagonist seems to be coming off as unlikeable. Or flat.

The character seems to have changed—a lot. With no reasonable explanation.

The plot is unfocused…and not in an easily-fixed way.

The main characters’ behavior doesn’t seem to have any motivation.

Now I still like to keep on plowing ahead. If I shake up my routine too much then it messes me up. But what I like to do with these major problems is to immediately make the change to the rest of the manuscript from that point on. I mark the point where I straightened out the character or plot issues in the margin of the manuscript with a Track Changes comment…then I can fix the earlier part of the story during revisions.

Do you ever find yourself on auto pilot with your writing routines? What shakes you out of it?