Tuesday, May 31, 2011

8 Things Non-Writers Should Know About Living With Writers


I feel a little sorry for non-writers sharing a home with writers.

It’s got to be challenging, sometimes. And most likely no one warned you it was going to be. Writers should come with warning labels.

So I came up with some friendly warnings. :) You can check them out over on A Good Blog is Hard to Find.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What Our Characters Do When No One is Looking

blog11My family and I saw a great performance of Cats on Saturday. I’d seen the musical a couple of times before, but it’s been forever since I last saw it.

One of the things I hadn’t remembered from 20 years ago is that the cats who weren’t on center stage were still acting around the edges of the stage…in character. So while Old Deuteronomy might be in the spotlight, singing a solo, Rum Tum Tugger was flirting off to the side of the stage. Grizabella was trying unsuccessfully to engage with other cats. They were acting in character, even while the spotlight wasn’t on them.

It made me think about character development. One way that I like to learn more about my characters is to think about what they do when my characters aren’t on stage.

Most of the time I don’t actually use the information in a book (although sometimes it comes in handy.) But usually it just helps me to know how a character would react in a particular situation. How do they deal with emergencies? Do they laugh when they’re embarrassed or are they the kinds of people who get angry, instead?

Knowing a little bit about what characters do in their spare time and their background helps me to figure out how to portray them in a story—and sometimes they take the story in a different direction.

If you’d like some resources to help you think more about your character’s identity, here are some helpful links (and you can find a ton more on the Writer’s Knowledge Base):

Character Questionnaires and Worksheets: The EPIGUIDE.COM Character Chart for Fiction Writers The Script Lab’s Questionnaire Fiction Writer's Character Chart Adventures in Children’s Publishing worksheet- Part 1 (the other parts to this excellent series are in the left sidebar) Scribe Sisters Questionnaire

Mind mapping for Character Development and Plotting: Quips and Tips for Successful Writers Write for Your Life Routines for Writers

Nice article on Character Development Story Fix: 3 Dimensions of Character Development

What kinds of things help you develop your characters so they come to life on the page? And--Happy Memorial Day to all my American friends...and a big thanks to all our soldiers.


Sign up for the free, monthly Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter for writing tips and resources and to be entered in our first giveaway. Details here.

Finger Lickin’ Dead launches June 7th

Sunday, May 29, 2011



Below are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter in the last week.

The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links searchable—try it for searches on plotting, characterization, querying, book promo, and more.

Anyone signing up for the free Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter this month (and current subscribers) will be automatically entered in a June drawing to receive K.M. Weiland’s CD (or MP3) Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration CD . Sign up here for the web's best writing links and interviews: http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 . (You can unsubscribe at any time, and your email information is never shared.)

Chaperoning a field trip is like a well-told story: http://bit.ly/jSr4VB @laurapauling

The Art Of The Blurb Request: http://bit.ly/kYwfnn

A Critical Marketing Secret: Don’t Go It Alone: http://bit.ly/jzFXjf

The Art of the Two-Book Deal: http://bit.ly/mzSvWX

5 Sentences Saved by Em Dashes: http://bit.ly/it8waV

How to Start a Writers' Group (And Keep It Going): http://bit.ly/jKnoUu

Chatty Main Characters: http://bit.ly/l4gfJx

An editor on hyphenated compound adjectives: http://bit.ly/myrIhp

How to find out if your agent is an idiot: http://bit.ly/lbPpfy

10 questions to consider when hiring a freelance editor: http://bit.ly/kzVyjv

Tips for writing natural dialogue: http://bit.ly/kXpetZ

The Importance of First Impressions: http://bit.ly/lr0aiu @ingridsundberg

Is your idea blog-worthy or book-ready? http://bit.ly/kzixCc

9 Tips For Finishing That Novel: http://bit.ly/mChqLr

Diversity in SF/F for Young Readers, part 1: http://bit.ly/kKdeVf , part 2: http://bit.ly/j3RzVH , part 3: http://bit.ly/mqQox3

As a writer, it's normal to struggle: http://bit.ly/m7cyCC

PublishAmerica Will Be Your Literary Agent...For $199: http://bit.ly/kRRGxu

8 Ways to Use Blogging as an Interactive Marketing Tool: http://bit.ly/jeatLb

Find your unique hooks: http://bit.ly/mGIu7S

How to give a good interview: http://bit.ly/iDNBg2

Is there really such a thing as an original story? http://bit.ly/kRX5pk

Revisions Rock the House: http://bit.ly/kzDvzv

Strengthen Your Voice: http://bit.ly/kVgDC4

Do Stories Need a Theme? http://bit.ly/kAzeCx @jamigold

How to Tell a Compelling Story in 3 Steps: http://bit.ly/lvPzVf

Best Articles This Week for Writers 5/27/11: http://bit.ly/kPUHnF @4kidlit

Studying books you love: http://bit.ly/iJXkeH

Creativity Tweets of the Week : http://bit.ly/mjSZRH @on_creativity

An editor on chapter headings: http://bit.ly/iFVjOR

The Joy of Writing (Not More, Just Better) Sex: http://bit.ly/lpYIqD @BTMargins

5 Free E-Books Every Writer Needs: http://bit.ly/jFj6zf @janefriedman

Scenes in swim lanes: http://bit.ly/ipdzPN

5 ways to avoid an info dump: http://bit.ly/kvLUMo

62 ways to improve your press releases: http://bit.ly/jxHC0k

Are Your Blog Comments Good, Bad or Ugly? http://bit.ly/mmGtwY @BloggingMentor

How Many Projects Should You Have Before You Submit? An agent answers: http://bit.ly/lEVnFb

Tips for writing openings: http://bit.ly/lLauqd @authorterryo

10 Short Lessons From The World’s Best Copywriters: http://bit.ly/lAwwHp

Lose gaudy tag lines in your dialogue: http://bit.ly/l7Pchx

5 simple ways to make your blog more visually appealing to readers: http://bit.ly/lyVmHR

Marketing Lessons From Mom: http://bit.ly/izEMJR

8 journalists fired for tweeting: part 1: http://bit.ly/ksaRzP & part 2: http://bit.ly/k5oNcF

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Eggplant Bruschetta? http://bit.ly/lF1jSk

What not to do as a writer--a full rewrite: http://bit.ly/jRJz27

Best Films From Books (Daily Beast): http://bit.ly/lmGdpA#

Thinking in Nonlinear Terms: http://bit.ly/iQ0K9n

Can I Turn 'Children’s Book Writer' Into a Full-Time Job? 2 writers answer: http://bit.ly/mDyJcC

Coming Up With a Strong Conflict: http://bit.ly/m9WtoB

Are you growing, as a writer? http://bit.ly/j8FOZ1 @katieganshert

How To Find Music for Your Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/kKAd9m @galleycat

12 insider interview tips from 2 accomplished writers: http://bit.ly/kIgvqN

30 Signs You're a (Children’s) Writer-Parent: http://bit.ly/mAAqb0 @CherylRWrites

Capitalize on Keyword Searches on Amazon: http://bit.ly/jajjY9

22 ways to stay focused on writing: http://bit.ly/jw3LWa

Is That a TV Show You’re Reading? http://bit.ly/jUDqqz

Is Google Planning an E-Book Rental Service? http://rww.to/lUyxqU

13 principles of plot: http://bit.ly/itlQXT

The “New Era” of the Author is Imminent: http://bit.ly/kzwrJh

10 Tips to Balance Parallel Sentence Structure: http://bit.ly/mIBVhg

Previously Published Authors & Their Decision to Self-Pub: http://bit.ly/mNzODz

How Can We Possibly Connect With ALL Our Followers? http://bit.ly/kr0svH

Ebook covers are different from print: http://bit.ly/iBe0A4

One Surefire Way to Increase Your Productivity: http://bit.ly/lJ7zxn

7 Tips for Falling in Love with Your Blog All Over Again: http://bit.ly/ioxOjT

The endless war between pantsters and outliners: http://bit.ly/j1bqIx

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Killer Strawberry and Chicken Entree & Murder ala Mode Book Giveaway http://bit.ly/g4MtQa

An author's career arc: http://bit.ly/jDcZMl @pubperspectives

Challenges and rewards of being a pro writer--and qualities we should have: http://bit.ly/iN1Il2

5 Steps to Subconscious-Driven Creativity: http://bit.ly/mPo7wC

25 useful Mac apps for writers: http://bit.ly/j5PSnK

One writer's difficult choice between self-pub and small press: http://bit.ly/k9QAML @HeatherMcCorkle

Thoughts on writing action scenes: http://bit.ly/iXxeSH

Track goals to make your dreams a reality: http://bit.ly/j3uCE8

Finding the Right Writing Group: http://bit.ly/iqcKcW @bluemaven

Tips for Reducing Eye Strain for Readers and Writers: http://bit.ly/jbDLR0

7 things teen writers can do to hone their craft during break: http://bit.ly/kisonu

A Look at POV Shifts--5 ways to spot them: http://bit.ly/l2FFpq

Worldbuilding: What's on the page? http://bit.ly/jqMoDb

Common flaws 1 writer has noticed in self-pubbed books: http://bit.ly/kNPIxZ

Are You Making Any of These 5 Mistakes in Your "About Me" section? http://bit.ly/jpTCDT

Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal? http://bit.ly/jUfahB

Give characters a chance to grow: http://bit.ly/joNTzR

The 2 Types of Blogs and Which One Is Right for You: http://bit.ly/lL2sQl

3 Reasons Action is Important, 3 Reasons It’s Not: http://bit.ly/iKnM2M

2 Tricks to Keep Your Online Reading Manageable: http://bit.ly/lMR8c7

Kill writer's block and become a master copywriter in 3 hours a day: http://bit.ly/joVZgX

Including crotchety and annoying characters in our books: http://bit.ly/ljwToN @mkinberg

How to Run a Successful Social Media Contest: http://bit.ly/mkG7k0

Killing a writing career? http://bit.ly/lruko0

This Week’s Twitter Fail Whale–The Hashtag Ho: http://bit.ly/loCDZe

No, That Character Is Not You: http://bit.ly/iidpV2 @LesaHolstine

Keep an eye on your objective, when writing: http://bit.ly/laQf3R @RavenRequiem13

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Pink Lemonade Pie—by Riley Adams http://bit.ly/jFdwm6

Detectives & their Drink: Cocktail Recipes & Thin Man Martini Video: http://bit.ly/iwCwxP @JanetRudolph

Tips for indie booksellers--hand-selling dos and don'ts: http://bit.ly/mMF38P and social media tips: http://bit.ly/mKjGwj

Word power--misaligned subjects: http://bit.ly/ip4qyT

A mash-up of helpful links for self-publishing: http://bit.ly/lssH3w @jhansenwrites

Reversals in Novels and Movies: http://bit.ly/mPlmnl

Why One Writer Doesn’t Count Followers, Mentions, Google Alerts, or Blog Hits Anymore: http://bit.ly/iOBUfn

Creating endings that resonate: http://bit.ly/iAJ56A @juliemusil

10 Commandments of Grammar for Fiction Writers: http://bit.ly/lRezTj

Romancing the Bookseller--dos and don'ts of working with bookstores to promote books: http://bit.ly/izvqzl @pubperspectives

How to Fix Big Problems with Small Changes: http://bit.ly/lcD5gJ @JamiGold

3 things to think about when writing modern dialogue: http://bit.ly/jH6v0B @DeeScribe

Improv tip for writers--keep it here and now: http://bit.ly/k6ETfs @thinkStory

3 Publishing Trends Writers Must Stay On Top Of: http://bit.ly/kPECKU

How Often Should You Update Your Blog? http://bit.ly/mbKBA0 @BloggingMentor

Critique Feedback: Accentuate the Positives: http://bit.ly/iSo2uE @keligwyn

A rapidly changing future for agents: http://bit.ly/mhYBbD

Creating a Series: http://bit.ly/koLvqy

Steampunk Sub-Genre Bingo: http://bit.ly/lic3U2

Why One Writer Still Believes in Big-Press Publishing: http://bit.ly/jXVwDJ

Goal Setting Success – the Charlie Brown Method: http://bit.ly/lj66Ku

How do you "write what you know" in SF/F? http://bit.ly/ifffwd

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: A Healthy Snack: Foolproof Stuffed Mushrooms from Cleo Coyle and a Giveaway from ... http://bit.ly/lQUxbW

The write apps: apps there *should* be for writers: http://bit.ly/jcSn2H

The importance of voice in your query letter: http://bit.ly/ldQRH9 @writeangleblog

2 things Hitchcock taught one writer about adding details to a story: http://bit.ly/jUHYu5

Building an Online Presence 101: Getting Started: http://bit.ly/jKkDjS

Plot Basics—The Events of Story: http://bit.ly/if9J39

Time to get passive aggressive – get your main character out of the back seat: http://bit.ly/lBP2oO @dirtywhitecandy

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 5/20/11): http://bit.ly/mF8U1X @janefriedman

The evolution of a writer: http://bit.ly/khEXdT

How 1 writer has consciously worked to improve his writing: http://bit.ly/iKck6O

The all-important writer bio: http://bit.ly/kmad7d

21 quick steps for blogging success: http://bit.ly/kltpeT

The Constant Drumbeat for Every Writer: http://bit.ly/kITBb6

Get Your Character Through That Door: http://bit.ly/ipcqlF

World Building: Don’t Do It! http://bit.ly/kqiCCK @thecreativepenn

The Kung Fu Panda Guide to Writing Action Scenes: http://bit.ly/mgFeVb

Tips for character creation: http://bit.ly/miyfqS

The 10 Terrible Truths of Book Marketing: http://bit.ly/jRLdi4

How to use the power of Twitter to develop and promote your zone of genius: http://bit.ly/jy36Hz

Search my tweets-- http://dld.bz/KPgS

How to Indicate Unspoken and Indirect Discourse: http://bit.ly/m8zT4K

LinkedIn: The Social Media Tool Writers Should Not Ignore: http://bit.ly/jwgwUI

Konrath on Why You Won't Succeed As A Self-Published Ebook Writer: http://bit.ly/j0vRaO

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Chocoholics Unite! http://bit.ly/lSLU6G

Helpful plug-ins for Wordpress bloggers: http://bit.ly/isYsIC @storiestorm

Top 10 most frightening books for teenagers (Guardian): http://bit.ly/jmlSva

On the future of journalism: http://bit.ly/mz9qKf

So How, Exactly, Does a Writer Grow? http://bit.ly/mbUQNb

20 tips to accomplish your dreams: http://bit.ly/mnmP5A

Do Facebook and Google Control Too Much Personal Information? (The Atlantic): http://bit.ly/m0Ofdp

Slow and Steady: http://bit.ly/lEw5Ip

Breathing new life into books with official hashtags: http://bit.ly/kY2OeB

Finding Your Blog’s Unique Voice: http://bit.ly/kYHxpI

A helpful thesaurus for settings, emotions, symbolism, & weather--now with character traits: http://bit.ly/mQINxh @AngelaAckerman

What it Really Means When Your Book Gets Rejected: http://bit.ly/j0CPKC @annerallen

Will Your Manuscript Survive to Page 20? http://bit.ly/j0aAVz

Why contemporary romantic suspense is an improvement over old school novels: http://bit.ly/kOsVnT

Don’t discard the librarians (Globe and Mail): http://bit.ly/ijmJb1

Tips for word thieves: http://bit.ly/jZCJ9y @juliemusil

Beyond the First Draft–Preparing the Perfect Proposal: http://bit.ly/lqeDHg

A cautionary comic for writers: http://bit.ly/lJbxV7 @inkyelbows

On Punctuation Gimmicks: http://bit.ly/lFukWn

The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King: http://bit.ly/kMSG2r

Balancing inner and outer story in your book: http://bit.ly/jbwkBg

4 Types of Reference Books You Didn’t Know You Needed: http://bit.ly/j0eZux

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Welcome Guest Blogger - Larry Sweazy! http://bit.ly/kMqken

Writing late? Writing early? How Little Sleep Can You Get Away With? (NY Times): http://nyti.ms/kyZnXZ

10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice: http://bit.ly/iWADJe @JeffGoins via @designerdaze

Putting your work in the market and keeping it there until sold: http://bit.ly/jelev9

Publishing--a small press adventure: http://bit.ly/mEDwbP

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Consciously Making Writing Goals

soccer_04My writing friend, Jan Morrison, had a great post on Thursday about the book The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.

Jan explains that Maurer’s approach to life involves asking ourselves small questions to move forward toward goals. Jan said that by posing small questions to ourselves we don’t freak ourselves out by goal-planning and subconsciously sabotage our efforts.

I like this idea a lot because while I’m a huge list-maker and goal-planner, the thought of the Big Picture of the next 20 years of my writing life tends to freak me out a little. If you were to ask me, off the cuff, where I’d like to be with my writing 20 years from now, for example, I’d probably be so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t even know how to answer the question.

In fact, my agent asked me a similar question about a year ago (we were having a coffee together at a conference) and I looked at her like she’d grown horns.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t see the forest for the trees—I’m just so darned busy. I’m working toward the next deadline at all times.

What my agent’s question forced me to do last year, though, was to actually pull myself out of my minute to minute scrambling and think about the big picture. It still freaks me out, though. My answer to my agent’s question, at the time, was to say that I wanted to keep doing what I was doing right now. That I was interested in exploring other genres and ideas….later on. I was very vague about it all.

Jan posted her list of small questions to herself on her blog post. She gives some good direction on how to start thinking about goals for life and writing. And asking myself questions is a much nicer way to approach goal-setting than making a bulleted list.

I also like the idea of breaking down goals (once I’ve identified them) into small steps…it makes it so much easier to reach a goal.

Have you set goals for yourself, as a writer?

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Original Story

blog10I just finished reading a very disturbing book all the way from cover to cover—so you know it must be book club time for me. :)

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t pick a story to read that gives me nightmares at night, but my book club seems to have a proclivity for picking them.

I was reading the harrowing and unusual tale with great trepidation when I suddenly came across some story elements so familiar to me that they comforted me—and it all started with a crazy wife locked in a remote section of a large house. Jane Eyre! I thought with relief, and was able to keep reading the book club selection. Sure enough, the story was on a real Gothic kick from that point on.

I’ll sometimes hear writers worry about writing a really original, breakout story.

But I really don’t think there are any really original breakout stories to be written. I think that each of us has the opportunity to do a really bang-up job on an old story in our unique voice.

It’s been said that there are only seven basic plots in all of literature. Actually, there have been said to be several different numbers of basic plots, but seven is the number mentioned most frequently.

This site lists 1 basic plot, 7 , 20, and finally, 36 basic plots.

What if there are as many as 36 basic plots in literature? That’s still not many.

And yet, with all the similarity in theme, we’re not getting bored with books. Or movies, because films are limited to these plot lines, too.

That’s because each writer brings something of themselves to the book. It could be an amazing character they created or a fabulous setting. It could be the writer’s voice in the way he tells the story.

Just the fact that the writers are all different means that their stories will be unique. Their takes on the stories will be unique. Out of the 36 plots, one writer might use a particular plot in a thriller and another might use it in a romance.

It’s our different takes on life that make plots unique.

Do you ever notice this repetition of plots in books and movies? Most of the time, I’ll admit, I don’t…each story seems very different.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Staying Motivated by Starting Out the Day With a Win

blog9Lately, looking at my to-do list, I’ve felt pretty snowed. I’ve got Finger Lickin’ Dead releasing June 7th, a book due July 1, and a complete outline for another book due August 1.

And the children are almost out of school for the summer. :)

I’m good at prioritizing the things I need to do, but when everything is a priority, it makes it tough.

What I’ve found keeps me knocking through the items on my to-do list, is a couple of different approaches.

Some days I’ll put several quick and easy tasks on my to-do list—stuff that I need to do, but that only take a second. So my list could have these things on it: 1) Put sunflower seed in the birdfeeder 2) Water potted plants on front porch 3) Put newspapers in recycling bin

Honestly, I feel so smug after crossing three things off on my list, that I start attacking the rest of the to-do list with renewed vigor. Sad, but true.

My other approach is to put the most loathed, procrastinated task on the top of my to-do list. Then, the whole rest of the day, I’m proud of myself for knocking it out. It gives me more motivation to keep crossing things off my list.

I’m a productivity nut, so please share how you stay motivated and don’t get overwhelmed by your to-do lists. Inquiring minds want to know!


Sign up for the free, monthly Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter for writing tips and resources and to be entered in our first giveaway. Details here.

Finger Lickin’ Dead launches June 7th

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giving Characters a Chance to Grow

In the book I’ve just finished writing, my protagonist is a successful, self-assured, retired museum curator. She’s moved to a small Southern town to be near her daughter and get a break from the hectic pace of her life.

Of course, things don’t go all that smoothly for my character. Besides getting mixed up in a murder investigation (the main plot), she’s also faced with a number of challenges on a smaller scale—everything from dealing with the change of pace, to learning quilting (something she’d had no plans of ever learning.) My protagonist is pushed from her comfort zone at every opportunity.

Looking for the perfect way to challenge your character? Ask yourself how they view themselves. What do they think they’re good at? What do they find personally challenging?

Why we should play to a character’s weaknesses instead of their strengths:

It gives them the opportunity to fail. Who likes perfect characters?

It gives them the opportunity to try again. And persistence is a likeable trait.

It provides additional conflict for your book. Sure we’ve got the main plot and all the conflict that goes with it. But extra conflict adds tension to a book and makes for an interesting subplot that can motivate the reader to keep reading to see how the character deals with it.

It gives them an opportunity to ultimately succeed. Because we all like to see hard work rewarded.

Have you given your characters a chance to grow lately?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick Tip for Character Development

Seeing Creative BlogIn my blog reading last week, I came across an interesting post on the Seeing Creative blog.

Sometimes I think stereotypes are nice for writers.  I know that sounds odd to say, but if you’re writing a minor character--if you have your stock nerd, jock, prom queen, etc., the reader instantly gets the character. There’s not a lot of work needed there. It’s easy.  And it’s easy for the reader, too—particularly if they’re trying to get acquainted with all the other characters (the important characters) in your book.

But stock characters won’t work for a protagonist or other characters with large roles.  Obviously, if our books are overflowing with stereotypes,  we haven’t done our jobs as writers.

A cool way to shake up stereotypes and help create unique characters was mentioned in the post “Creating the Non-Stereotypical Character.” Stina Lindenblatt said that author Mary Buckham recently conducted a workshop through her local RWA chapter.  In the workshop, she had the writer either pick the occupation or hobby/interest of the main characters in their novel,  then list 5 character traits associated with those careers.  Ms. Buckham then had the author switch the traits around.  You can see some results here

Another good way to create unique character is by blending the traits of several different strong personalities of people you know. 

How do you keep your characters unique?  Do you sometimes use stock characters for minor roles in your book?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Who We Are—the All-Important Bio

Twitter bio

I came across an interesting post the other day by Michael Margolis called The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King.

In the story’s lead-in, the writer states:

If you’re a designer, entrepreneur, or creative – you probably haven’t been asked for your resume in a long time. Instead, people Google you – and quickly assess your talents based on your website, portfolio, and social media profiles. Do they resonate with what you’re sharing? Do they identify with your story? Are you even giving them a story to wrap their head around?

Margolis also gives a list of questions that can help you to formulate your bio in story format.

How many bios/taglines do you need? Probably more kinds than you think.

Blog: I’ll admit that the bio, or “About Me” is the first thing I look for on a blog—before anything else. That’s because blogging is about developing relationships and I want to know just some really basic information first. What do you write? What’s your name (and a pen name is okay—lots of anonymity online)? A picture can help readers identify with you, or, barring that, a book cover or an avatar that you feel expresses a little about who you are. It’s nice to also see one additional bit of information about the writer—are they a parent? Devoted dog owner? Avid filmgoer? Wine aficionado?

Email signature: I’ve mentioned before that this is a great way to tell your friends and family you’re a writer. Your email signature could have your blog link under it, and a link to a book or article that you’ve written. I have a different one for my personal email than I do for my writing-related account.

Twitter bio: Obviously, this one is tricky because of the space limitation. I play with my bio on Twitter from time to time. You can see it above. I’m basically saying what I write (and the name of the different series), giving my purpose on Twitter (tweeting interesting writing links), and then providing my blog address for anyone who’s interested.

Short bio: There are many times that I need a short bio. There are book catalogs for different organizations that ask for short bios and short book descriptions. Panels and conferences want a short bio. If I’ve written an article for a print magazine (which sometimes I still do, to keep my hand in it), they always want just a line. So it’s good to think up a very abbreviated way to tell who you are and where folks can find out more about you.

An adaptable base bio—a basic bio that can be adapted. Mine is a few paragraphs that I can take bits and pieces from, depending on the situation. I have one that’s sort of cute and funny when I’m writing humorous guest posts or if I’m talking about fun topics on a panel. I have one that’s very businesslike and professional sounding if I’m speaking in a more formal setting or on a more serious topic.

Facebook: Facebook just turns your basic info into a bio for you. Mine says where I work (which are the publishing houses I write for), where I went to school, and where I live. I’ve been meaning to dabble with my FB bio a bit—it would be easy to change your occupation to “writes traditional mysteries,” etc., if you wanted to showcase that info on your FB profile page instead of what your day job is.

Guest post bio/tagline: If you’re guest posting, there’s probably something that you’re trying to accomplish. Wanting to expand your blog readership? Promote a new book? For my upcoming blog tour, I mention my new release first (with a buy link hyperlinked to the book’s name….this is the main purpose for my tour), and the name I’m writing the series under (Riley Adams). Then I mention the other series I write. Then I mention my blog, the Writer’s Knowledge Base, and my Twitter handle (and I hyperlink those things, so they’re live links). Then I figure everyone has all the basics—and can click links to find out the rest. (And it’s shorter than it sounds…I think short works better.)

Have you got different bios for different occasions or different social media? Have any tips for writing bios or thoughts on what information you’re hoping to discover when you’re reading someone’s?


Sign up for the free, monthly Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter for writing tips and resources and to be entered in our first giveaway. Details here.

Finger Lickin’ Dead launches June 7th

Sunday, May 22, 2011



Below are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter in the last week.

The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links searchable—try it for searches on plotting, characterization, querying, book promo, and more.

Anyone signing up for the free Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter this month (and current subscribers) will be automatically entered in a June drawing to receive K.M. Weiland’s CD (or MP3) Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration CD . Sign up here for the web's best writing links and interviews: http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 . (You can unsubscribe at any time, and your email information is never shared.)

Tips on cliffhangers: http://bit.ly/kknQxX @juliemusil

What Ju-Jitsu Can Teach Us About Writing: http://bit.ly/krFW5S

Creating the non-stereotypical character: http://bit.ly/kSgmks

5 Fixes for Pop-Culture Pile-Ups: http://bit.ly/ka4aTt

Summer Survival Guide for Writers: http://bit.ly/kwuFOE

4 tips for dissemination of info in your story: http://bit.ly/le8Xkb

Writing Myths Busted: http://bit.ly/mr2Vla @yaHighway

Do You Tell People You Write? http://bit.ly/mTDOF1

5 ways to know your characters before you even meet them: http://bit.ly/kyznnc @jammer0501

When You Feel Like a Nobody: http://bit.ly/lAOle9

What Not to Write–The Submission: http://bit.ly/kRjUD5

Using MS Word to Auto-Outline and Keep Track of Revelations: http://bit.ly/jamI6a @4kidlit

How to Turn Your Dream Into a Plan In 5 Simple Steps: http://bit.ly/j4KZlQ

When your agent can't sell your book: http://bit.ly/kpVVee

A look at teachers in crime fiction: http://bit.ly/ifxlUC @mkinberg

How To Make a Super 8 Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/lA2dju

When you’re an ind. publishing professional, is the expense of attending BEA worth it? http://bit.ly/kLNGpo

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Dinner tonight - easy as pie! http://bit.ly/kyAsDc

All Stories Are Speculative Fictions: An Inquisitive Supposition: http://bit.ly/jUoaVd

How to Captivate New Readers for Your Blog in 5 Seconds or Fewer: http://bit.ly/lKHOEz

It's wedding season--and an opportunity for a 1-chapter critique: http://bit.ly/iRZwXX @jhansenwrites

How To Look for a Publishing Job at BEA: http://bit.ly/kIBWv2 @galleycat

Creativity Tweets of the Week — 5/20/11: http://bit.ly/ilfAaZ @on_creativity

How one writer revised her work to prepare for publication: http://bit.ly/kqRdLx

Working Backward to Flesh Out Your Plot: http://bit.ly/lp2tNF

5 things 1 writer has learned about increasing tension in a story: http://bit.ly/lX0bJN

Writing mentors (Ntl. Post): http://natpo.st/jzoeZa

Are MFA programs ruining American fiction? (Salon): http://bit.ly/lNA2eh

10 ways to improve your proofreading: http://bit.ly/mpINbH

Sucker punching writer's block: http://bit.ly/iJCLMh

Best Articles This Week for Writers 5/20/11: http://bit.ly/k9MAAX @4kidlit

People-Watching with Purpose: 20 tips: http://bit.ly/l0GAVg

How to earn your info dump: http://bit.ly/l6z6TA

Konrath: Tech Talk and the Active Ebook: http://bit.ly/imEbQH

Writing Descriptions: Setting the Scene: http://bit.ly/m5I4SI

A Deeper Understanding of Craft: http://bit.ly/iu5PFr

Figuring Out Your Genre: http://bit.ly/m0zjxx

On Amazon, is fewer than 5 stars a bad review? http://bit.ly/l2k1MW

The Antagonist: http://bit.ly/jqLKAf

Does Your Manuscript Have a Good Hook? http://bit.ly/iTwUOp

Liberty Media Bids $1 Billion for Barnes & Noble (PW): http://bit.ly/lJHixn

5 Things The Great Books Taught @JaneFriedman About Writing: http://bit.ly/lu9724

Genre and Soy Sauce -- Finding What You Want: http://bit.ly/lp5v8e

5 Types of Eponyms: http://bit.ly/j6Jnib

Past Tense or Present Tense...or Both? http://bit.ly/kC7IY7

BEA Survival Tips: http://bit.ly/lDpQj8

Common Sense Writing Superstitions: http://bit.ly/mLs893 @Rachel__Graves

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: My Summer Challenge http://bit.ly/jBExzn

A question on multiple lead characters: http://bit.ly/iClM9Z

The 5 Horsemen of Literary Apocalypse: http://bit.ly/jtm5Eb

Is there gold in your backlist? Self-publish and find out: http://bit.ly/lhzCB2

The secret to worldbuilding success: http://bit.ly/ihNQPV

Rock Stars and Writers–Yes, We Really Do Work: http://bit.ly/mK2IAd

Resist the Urge to Explain: http://bit.ly/mnPkBD

Are Teenagers Too Young to Write Good Fiction? http://bit.ly/ieRON2

Amazon and Waterstones report downloads eclipsing printed book sales (Guardian): http://bit.ly/mmd3Ov

An Agent on Interiority vs. Telling: http://bit.ly/kUSxeD

Tips on Copy Editing Your Own Work: http://bit.ly/mmQCR9

What to Do on a Writing Vacation: http://bit.ly/kyDh3I

Why Are We So Obsessed With Our Numbers? http://bit.ly/jB78Bq

How fantasy author @JaniceHardy uses real places as a foundation for her world-building: http://bit.ly/inIwfM

Running Mind Movies to Bring Life to Your Characters: http://bit.ly/kSkhhm

5 Tips for Working with Hollywood as a Publisher or Author: http://bit.ly/jqwp1D

Characters who grow on you: http://bit.ly/imhEiX

Stir Up Your Setting–REAL Fictional Settings: http://bit.ly/jA6dCZ

Dos and Dont's for Pitching: http://bit.ly/iEmBjl

Self-editing checklist for POV: http://bit.ly/mCir2O

This Week’s Fail Whale–Tunnel-Vision Tweeter: http://bit.ly/m67jjz

How to explain superpowers: http://bit.ly/kQYqEp

How watching bad 80s movies made one writer cooler: http://bit.ly/miwHCS

When is a writer 'good enough'? http://bit.ly/mHDwvm @camillelaguire

3 Reasons Why Personally Visiting a Source (or Location) Will Better Your Writing: http://bit.ly/j6jWm4

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Kid-friendly Porcupines http://bit.ly/l3df8X

Tools to Make Scheduling Your Time at BEA Easier: http://bit.ly/lhfiGh

Getting Started: The Hardest Part: http://bit.ly/lGHWNE

5 Ways to Write High-Quality Content – Fast: http://bit.ly/mI2euZ

Does your imagined audience hinder you from writing? http://bit.ly/ikN8Ji

What Is The Point Of Writing A Book If You Have No Online Presence? http://bit.ly/kGVkp1 @bubblecow

Thanks to Diane @TheBookResort for hosting me on her blog: http://bit.ly/luVJxv Finger Lickin' Dead releases Jun. 7th! http://amzn.to/iRM9Hw

42 LinkedIn Groups for Publishing Professionals: http://bit.ly/kRtmaI @galleycat

10 Comma Cases in Which More Is More: http://bit.ly/kRdXtQ

An example of a fiction synopsis: http://bit.ly/ktI4sm

Facing Rejection? Here Are 5 Key Steps To Handle Them Like a Pro: http://bit.ly/iH00rj

The Physiology of Foreshadowing: http://bit.ly/krWrcW

Writing When Life Explodes: It Can Be Done: http://bit.ly/l8L7nE

The Ultimate Money Guide for Freelance Writers: http://bit.ly/j5Mjuw

Myths Of Creativity in Business: http://bit.ly/ioRepP

How to Write a Query Letter to Publishers – Fiction Manuscript: http://bit.ly/jN509Z

Stir Up Your Setting: Using All 5 Senses: http://bit.ly/jOgQTB

To Do Digital Books Right, Writers Will Learn to Talk Tech: http://bit.ly/jMOy0f

How to Send Visitors Away from Your Website in Two Seconds or Less: http://bit.ly/klD4l8

Battling the Stigma of the YA Writer: http://bit.ly/kvGbjH

Anatomy of Conflict: http://bit.ly/ixuVfb

Targeted Writing: Remember Your Audience: http://bit.ly/l9wo0k

Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Control: http://bit.ly/mgsqes

The Handy-Dandy Survival Guide to Shipping Doomed Couples: http://bit.ly/lWGVph

Orchestrating the Thriller: http://bit.ly/mSdCxn @RavenRequiem13

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Easy, Cheesy Bread http://bit.ly/ieGkbz

Copywriting ABCs: Why Every Piece of Content You Create Must Always Be Converting: http://bit.ly/m8lBDt

Place holders in fiction: http://bit.ly/jWlIUA

8 Things Readers Want From Self-Published Authors: http://bit.ly/m1qJnF @janefriedman

How ‘Not Writing’ Could Save Your Story: http://bit.ly/ij0rXG @storyadaymay

What Disneyland Can Teach Us about World-building: http://bit.ly/l8j2Aw @jamigold

Choosing the Right Stories for an Anthology: http://bit.ly/lYpccO

The 10 Deadly Sins of Pitching: http://bit.ly/jYWL4d

Worldbuilding--Research: http://bit.ly/kfNVc6

The rule of 3: http://bit.ly/mKFiFH

Mix and match characters: http://bit.ly/mAAkel

Writing profanity: http://bit.ly/lbptUP

The 2 most important things to know before hiring a freelance editor: http://bit.ly/iPlphH

Why It’s Good For Writers to Love Then Hate Their Books: http://bit.ly/ipRO7B @jodyhedlund

The best writers are the best readers: http://bit.ly/iSwzS0

3 Reasons Description is Important, 3 Reasons It’s Not: http://bit.ly/lyUN9b @victoriamixon

The word count debut writers don't need to exceed & word count guidelines for children's and YA: http://bit.ly/ivPO4b

Is the ebook the new query? http://bit.ly/ihVJNj @annerallen

Stir Up Your Setting–Finding a Happy Medium: http://bit.ly/lSjKoW

429 Television Script Ideas That Sold: http://bit.ly/kKu83i @galleycat

100,000 Reasons Why You Probably Can’t Banish Envy (and May Not Want to): http://bit.ly/mQCo1a

Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch: http://bit.ly/kZCNlC @Bookgal

5 Mixed-Up Malapropisms: http://bit.ly/jd1ENr

Crime fiction examples of tightly linked series and series that are more loosely connected: http://bit.ly/jyAdi0 @mkinberg

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: (Low Fat!) Strawberry Shortcake Muffins from Cleo Coyle http://bit.ly/jW1YNH

Amazon Book Sales Page Tips: http://bit.ly/k0P7yd @thecreativepenn

10 Reasons To Love & Embrace Platform-building: http://bit.ly/mNe9Kw

Why Writers Need Writer Friends: http://bit.ly/kvgNAg

Gardening and writing--filling the well by following the love: http://bit.ly/ilizet

Ready to query but don't know where to start? http://bit.ly/fYkgJA

15 Tips for Accomplishing More in Less Time: http://bit.ly/mfxG6B

Dealing with Discouragement: http://bit.ly/jK6YU7

Social Media for Unpublished Writers: http://bit.ly/kQuuHj @cheshirescribe

7 Weekly Book Marketing Goals You Can Adopt Today: http://bit.ly/kluqZD

Can Writing Be Taught? http://bit.ly/iewWnq @2bwriters

Show vs Tell: http://bit.ly/isnMOV

The Secret Ingredient of Original Stories: http://bit.ly/k1f8Mq

Stir Up Your Setting–Making Setting a Character: http://bit.ly/jSxbu0

21 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue: http://bit.ly/jBq91Q

10 Simple Ways to Double the Speed of Your Writing … Right Now: http://bit.ly/mHEz8B

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 5/13/11): http://bit.ly/j2pTAy

You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order: http://bit.ly/mFpLae

You don't have to have a book to be a writer: http://bit.ly/ihKUcq @Harrison314

An agent explains what's in a publishing contract: http://bit.ly/l0Q5Bt

How to Create Characters That Are Believable and Memorable: http://bit.ly/lUW9xv

When it Makes Sense to Have Multiple Blogs: http://bit.ly/jcqTJo

Wait! Don't Query Too Soon: http://bit.ly/jKIdQ3

An agent on starting a novel in the wrong place: http://bit.ly/lafnAA

The Right Tools for Planning a Writing Group: http://bit.ly/jFzAkS

An agent rants about prologues: http://bit.ly/kmdR5Q

Are you over-editing? http://bit.ly/mdUiHX @juliemusil

Use Manuscript Markers for Your 1st Draft: http://bit.ly/kqXu3r

The Ultimate Guide to Twitter Marketing: http://bit.ly/mmj9uD

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Cardamom Pound Cake http://bit.ly/lSCzU1

Beginning In Media Res: Some Options: http://bit.ly/kqGf3S

Shrugging and Pursing: http://bit.ly/kdSDQr

What NOT to Write: The Query Letter: http://bit.ly/iSc0or

That duck in the T-shirt is a boy: The gender divide in children’s lit: http://natpo.st/inReKc

How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release: http://bit.ly/myqDn6

Fiction and Empathy: http://bit.ly/l3uKIX @wordrunner

How to Avoid Writing-related Panic Attacks: http://bit.ly/jw48JX

Writer's Knowledge Base -- Search 8000+ articles on : http://bit.ly/dYRayA

Beyond the First Draft—The Query Letter: http://bit.ly/jEN1uh

How Science Fiction Movies Can Help You Write Novels: http://bit.ly/jtu75I

Worldbuilding, part 1: It's not just for science fiction anymore: http://bit.ly/iWvGwG

How to Revise (When You'd Rather Just Drink): http://bit.ly/mS4QAI

Twitterific--my week in tweets: http://bit.ly/mvgje5

One important reason for a day job: http://bit.ly/lmKFVm

Against Professionalism: http://bit.ly/maJOFq

Characterization is important–character is key: http://bit.ly/lS4jhz

Why Doesn't Your Blog Click? http://bit.ly/lyGoZd @hopeclark

Tips for selling more books on the Kindle: http://bit.ly/kSR0Xk

One writer's process: http://bit.ly/lPhPmJ

Short writing tips from a variety of published authors: http://bit.ly/k2Lfiz

On nature and nurturing your inner Gladys Kravitz: http://bit.ly/lln0BF

Advice to teens wanting to publish: http://bit.ly/ljhbkY

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Kate Carlisle’s Weeknight Taco Casserole http://bit.ly/j7oVmV

Plot Devices and Other Stupid Things: http://bit.ly/igpzuy

How to Build an Email List: Rich Man, Poor Man List Building: http://bit.ly/libkdP

Stereotyping people by their favorite author: http://bit.ly/mEGeV7

Like With Like = Great Story Flow: http://bit.ly/lGnT9i

Plot Development: Climax, Resolution, and Your Main Character: http://bit.ly/j5Ub1E

Writing Beautiful and Unique Snowflakes: http://bit.ly/lyXHnr

Putting the Character into Characterization: http://bit.ly/lIq8cT

What to do with short stories: http://bit.ly/jpCfjS

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

8 Ways NOT to Describe Your Main Character: http://bit.ly/iEuG4j @victoriamixon

The Power of No: http://bit.ly/mI6fdT

Social media is for interacting, not BSP: http://bit.ly/jJ6ZdD

3 lessons from the "Vampire Diaries": http://bit.ly/iPTE6C

Why You Should Build Your Freelance Career on Your Own Domain: http://bit.ly/iAV4k8

3 Ways to Know When to End Your Chapters: http://bit.ly/l4NHCL

Using tags to sell books or ebooks on Amazon: http://bit.ly/lGyt07

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Getting With the 21st Century

economysepOverall, I’m feeling pretty smug that I’m adapting to the changing publishing environment.

I have a Kindle. I’m not at all opposed to putting backlist items out as ebooks (I’ve even got a book in mind for it). I edit my manuscript on my Kindle when I’m on the go. I feel fairly progressive.

But when the Charlotte Observer called me up last week and offered to give me a special price to make the move to an electronic edition of the newspaper, I was practically speechless.

“It’s an exact reproduction,” the sales representative said soothingly. “Even the ads. It’s a PDF.'”

“Uhhhh…” I said.

“When you go out of town, you can still read the Charlotte Observer. You can read it anywhere in the world!”

“Ummm….” I said.

“It’s interactive, too. And you can search the archive, make the font size bigger, and you can access it 24/7! And it’s a lot less expensive than the print edition.”

It all made a lot of sense…I just couldn’t do it. But first of all, I asked if I had to do it—was the print edition going under in the immediate future? Because I’d rather read an e-edition of the newspaper than lose my local paper altogether.

It wasn’t to the point of the print edition disappearing, thankfully. There’s still something very nice about unfolding a newspaper and sipping my coffee while catching up on the news.

But I’m 40---and the representative, laughing a little, said that was the gray area. She said that everyone over 40 was very indignant at the thought of losing the physical, newsprint paper….that everyone under 40 was excited to get the same paper, as an e-edition, for a much lower price than the printed edition.

This is interesting to me, because I think a lot of Kindle users are middle aged and up. But maybe there’s a difference between getting a book on a reader and receiving a newspaper that way. I know there’s a difference for me. And I’m not sure I want to interact with my newspaper, anyway.

Are there some areas where you’re just not wanting to make the switch yet? Or are you fully onboard with the ebook revolution?

Friday, May 20, 2011

5 Star Reviews


I was speaking to a group of writers a couple of weeks ago when a question came up about what my opinion of a good review on Amazon was.

I winced, because I knew what the questioner was getting at.

If I were reading a movie review, 3 out of 5 stars means a good movie to me. Maybe it’s no Academy Award winner, but it’s good entertainment. It’s no waste of time to watch. 4 stars seems to mean very good to me…maybe a more complex plot with some top-notch acting. 5 stars? I should be watching Casablanca, Citizen Kane, or The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

Now, if it’s Amazon, then it’s totally different. Many of the published authors that I know consider anything less than a 5-star review something of a slap in the face. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong…I’m just saying that’s what I’ve heard. Of course, none of us feel good about a 1-star or 2-star review, but most authors aren’t rejoicing over a 3 or 4 star one, either.

If I were to apply the same rating system to books that I apply to movies, I’d make a book like The Complete Works of Shakespeare a 5 star, The Great Gatsby a 4 star (because it’s VERY good, but not really on par with Shakespeare), then I think many of the rest of us would be 3-star-good. Good entertainment… a nice read… good use of a reader’s valuable time.

Would I actually use this scale to rate my friends’ books? No, I sure wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have a whole lot of friends left. The way the Amazon scale runs is more like a recommended/not recommended rating—if it’s 5 stars, you heartily recommend it. If it’s fewer than 5 stars, in the Amazon environment, you’re not really recommending the book to others. I’m not saying this is right, but it seems to be what authors and what I think many Amazon readers believe. Amazon could practically switch to a Facebook-esque thumbs up or thumbs down symbol and just cut to the chase, if that’s the way we’re all treating their ratings.

To me, it looks a little phony to have all 5-star reviews. It has the appearance of being in cahoots with our reviewers. I just don’t think that everyone is going to love my book. I’d love it if everyone did, and I deeply appreciate the readers who feel that way, but the reality is that different readers enjoy different types of books. Some might love my book, some might think it was pretty good, some might put it down and pick up a thriller instead. I know I prefer some types of books over others.

The emphasis on a standing ovation review was driven home to me on Wednesday at the pharmacy when I was asked by my pharmacist to call a number on my receipt and complete a survey to be entered in a drawing. “But please,” he said, “don’t give us any fewer than 5 stars. Anything less than that is a strike against us, in Corporate’s eyes. If you’re only somewhat satisfied, please just don’t fill out the survey at all.”

It left me with a icky feeling that someone could suffer negative consequences from an overall favorable review of their service.

What do you think? Has Amazon changed the way we think about book rating and review? What’s a good review on Amazon? Are you hesitant to give fewer than five stars for a book?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Characters Who Grow on You

Blog7When I first took my now-14 year old son to kindergarten, I didn’t completely understand the elementary school carpool line. Actually, I didn’t understand it at all. And there seemed to be a lot of rules that I wasn’t aware of—where to turn in, which entrance was for what grade, where it was acceptable to drop off your child, where it wasn’t.

My very first day in the carpool line, I pulled up to the curb by the sidewalk that led into the school. But I didn’t pull up at the right place. As my son got out of the car, the teaching assistant—a stern-looking older lady—bent to look through my passenger window and fussed, “Excuse me! You’ll need to pull up allllll the way up here in your car. That way more cars can pull up behind you! We don’t have all day to unload!”

She was very indignant at my carpooling ineptitude. I was indignant, too. Here I was, a kindergarten parent with a baby in the backseat….how the heck was I supposed to know how the crazy carpool line worked?

We’ll just say that I started off with a negative impression of this teacher.

Over the years, though, I learned a lot more about the teacher from volunteering at the school. She has an old-fashioned way of phrasing sentences and a dry, sharp wit. She’s extremely well-read and sometimes makes obscure literary references that perfectly match whatever situation we’re in.

She’s now one of my favorite teachers at the school—and I think I like her even better than some other teachers because I so thoroughly disliked her at the beginning.

As a reader, I’ve felt the same way about characters that have grown on me. Particularly if the protagonist and I both share the negative opinion of the supporting character.

I remember, as a kid, thinking that Ben, the gardener in The Secret Garden was a total grouch. Then, as I reader, I found out with Mary that Ben was friends with a robin, was a real lover of nature, and was excited for Mary to start gardening.

Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series was another character that I detested at first, but then found really grew on me.

So I’m not really talking about a character that changes and becomes more likeable, I’m talking about one who stays the same, but has characteristics that make readers eventually, maybe grudgingly, like them.

I was thinking about this the other day in the carpool line, realizing I wanted to write some more characters that a reader can grow to like…because I’ve enjoyed reading them so much that I’d love to try my hand at writing one.

Have you read any characters that grew on you? As a writer, have you written any?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Building a World From the Ground Up—by Janice Hardy

The_Shifter_72As a fantasy author, creating the worlds my characters inhabit is half the fun. But it can also be a lot of work, because there’s so much you need to know to create a whole world – and most of it never even makes it into the book. To make this easier on myself, I like to use real places as a foundation and build my worlds from there.

For my adventure fantasy, The Shifter, I wanted to create a lakeside Venice, so I started researching the world’s biggest lakes. Lake Superior had interesting possibilities, but it was pretty deep and cold, and anyone building a city on a lake would probably need it to be shallow. Lake Tanganyika was an option, but it was too long and skinny for what I had in mind. I wanted my city to have a sense of isolation that only a vast expanse of water could create. Then I found Lake Victoria in Africa. Round, shallow, interesting geographic location—it was perfect.

Now that I had my lake, I researched what plants grew in that area, what people ate, and what kind of animals there were. All the little details that make a world come to life, and things that I could easily grab when I needed a detail for a scene. Fishing would obviously be important, so that would be a large industry and where most of Nya’s (my protagonist) odd jobs would come from. In a small city riddled with canals, vehicles would takes up a lot of space, so most people would probably walk. Carriages and horses would be restricted to the very rich or powerful. Instead, boats would likely be used to carry people and goods from one side of the isle to the other. With just a little research I could already see my world coming to life.

Darkfall_72I also found some fun real life details I could use. Like how water hyacinths are a problem around Lake Victoria, because they grow so fast and get caught in boat propellers. This translated into a problem my city of Geveg could have, with plants clogging the canals and boat owners needing someone to yank them out by hand. Sounded like a risky job to me, so why not make it even riskier by adding crocodiles to the mix? People desperate for a job would risk being eaten to pull a few plants now and then. And since I knew Nya was going to be poor, this could be something she might consider doing. (And it turned out to have devastating consequence in the third book, Darkfall)

Once I had a basic world foundation, it was time to think about the technology. I wanted my people to be advanced enough to have certain things like clocks and glass, but still maintain a fantasy feel (which can't have too much science or it starts to feel like science fiction). I picked 16th century Italy, giving the world a Renaissance undertone. Education was available, books existed, commerce was more developed, but it was still an old-fashioned world. I cross-referenced this with the natural resources of my African lake climate, so I could see what technologies would have developed and which wouldn't have. For example, if there's no access to gold, then you don't have gold smithing or gold jewelry.

Then it was on to style. (This is where the artist in me came into play) What would the art look like? How would these people decorate? Again, I went back to my base influences. The African lake and the Italian city. I decided to mix the two and go for a Byzantine feel. Arches, tiles, mosaics, beads, bright colors and patterns. Textures.

And of course, every culture has a religion (if not several). I decided to give my world a spiritual side, but not one that required the deities to actively participate in the lives of the people. Something that guided morality and faith, but didn't dominate it. Saints popped into my mind (couldn't even tell you what inspired that) and since the story involved sisters, I wanted to make all the Saints female and sisters. Alliteration naturally took me to the Seven Sisters, and that worked into the seven deadly sins. My Saints became the opposite, and represented the seven virtues. Nya’s patron Saint is Saint Saea, Sister of Compassion. That really fits Nya since she gets into the trouble she does by being compassionate.

Slowly, my world took shape, and it was time to start naming things. I used an African lake as a world foundation, so I thought it would fun to create names from African words. I chose Geveg as my city’s name, because geveg means struggle, which suits a city struggling under the occupation of enemy forces (which it is). That enemy is called Baseer, which is a derivative of beseer or hurt, because they’re the ones doing the hurting. Pynvium, the magical metal in my story, comes from pyn, the word for pain. Few people are ever going to know the meanings when they read the book, but having a little secret makes it more fun for me. And since Afrikaans is close to Dutch, I’ve actually had readers e-mail me asking if a certain name really does mean something in particular. Many of my names have hidden meanings in them, and you can get a hint about those characters if you happen to know what their name means.

Once you name something it’s yours, so I had my world and my story and I was ready to write it. And figure out what kinds of troubles I could cause poor little Nya in her fun little world. Because for me, the other half of the fun is seeing how my characters get out of the messes I put them in.


Janice Hardy RGB 72Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE. DARKFALL, the final book of the trilogy, is due out October 4, 2011.

She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel. You can visit her online at www.janicehardy.com, chat with her about writing on her blog, The Other Side of the Story (http://blog.janicehardy.com/), or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing Profanity

april fools 2010 020aIn the post, WTF is Up With Cursing in YA, agent Jennifer Laughran answers writers’ questions on offensive language and its location in a manuscript.

She also points out that you’ll want to make sure you’re not sending a profanity-laced book to a publisher that focuses on younger-YA books or clean YA. She states that profanity can work:

Provided of course that it is right for the character, that it makes sense in context and you aren't just randomly throwing words around….cursing CAN be a lazy writer's way of making a character seem "edgy."

I write traditional mysteries, also called cozies. Use of profanity is generally discouraged in these books—it’s just not what the reader is expecting or looking for when they purchase a cozy mystery.

Conversely, if a reader has chosen a novel that focuses on the harrowing day-to-day life of members of a Mafia family…they’re going to be shocked if there’s no profanity. That would likely be something they’d expect (especially since Goodfellas and The Godfather have conditioned us to it).

So I think reader expectations can play an important role in whether a writer should include profanity in a book. Readers are, ultimately, the people we’re trying to please if we’re publishing.

Some things to consider when deciding on use of profanity in your book:

Would the character ordinarily use it? Is it realistic?

Does it make sense in the context? Is it really needed in the particular situation? Could it be left out and have the scene be just as effective?

Do you have to use dialogue with the profanity, or can you just state: Kevin cursed fluently as he hit his thumb with the hammer?

Does it fit your genre? Your audience?

Could it potentially be offensive to a reader, or is it fairly mild?

Is it distracting in the text? (By its frequency, wording, etc?)

Is it gratuitous? Is it there just for shock value or does it add something (realism, character insight) to the story?

Does profanity work with your genre and your intended readers? How much is too much?


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Monday, May 16, 2011

You Are Already a Writer. Now Write, Dammit. by Harrison Bradlow

If It Still Has A Head...Being a writer is not about how many people have read your work. It is not about getting an agent who will take you on as a client (or, for that matter, who will respond to your repeated contacts). It is not even about being published. If you have passion for writing and you’ve ever put a pen to paper, then you’re already a writer.

All those other things are nice, of course. There could be writers out there who don’t dream about being on the New York Times bestsellers list, but I haven’t met them yet. Being published in twenty-seven different languages, selling tens of millions of copies, and seeing your work transformed into movies starring Hollywood’s A-list celebrities would all be really cool. But nobody expects that of you right out of the gate, and you shouldn’t either.

I have been a voracious reader all my life, and I’ve always dreamed of being a published writer. Note the word “published” in there. That’s where the glamour comes from, isn’t it? Holding a book in your hand with your name on the front and your head shot on the back? That’s what I dreamed of. I didn’t stay up at night thinking about the actual writing process, which is weird, because that’s really where my passion was.

And looking back, I realize that in my own way I’ve been a writer most of my life. Even as a kid I wrote stories, mostly just for fun. Whenever a writing assignment came up in class I’d jump on it.

I remember in fifth grade we were directed to read a book and write a story about ourselves set inside the book’s world. It was a very creative assignment, actually. I chose “The Indian in the Cupboard.” The story, if memory serves, was supposed to be a minimum of five pages, typed and double-spaced. Mine was thirty-something. I’ve searched and unfortunately cannot find a copy of it anywhere.

I’ve always been a writer, but I wasn’t confident enough to call myself one, which is sad. I was shy about it. I didn’t dare share that passion with friends or family. I didn’t attend writing seminars. I didn’t take writing courses in college.

I thought I had to have an agent, or be published, before I could call myself a writer. I expected way too much out of myself, much as I imagine so many others out there do too. I thought that because I didn’t have my name on a cover, I wasn’t really a writer.

It took actually getting my name on a cover to realize how superficial that was. I recently published my first book, a work of poetry titled If It Still Has a Head, It Isn’t Quite Dead. I’ll probably never forget the moment when I first held a copy of that book in my hands. Wow. It was overwhelming. But after that moment passed, I realized something I should have known all along.

Books don’t make writers. Writers make books. Not having a book yet does not mean you’re not a writer. It just means you’re a writer who hasn’t made a book yet. I didn’t pick up that book and become a writer. I just picked up a book.

I’ve wanted to write all my life, but I didn’t pursue it until very recently, thanks in large part to encouragement from my wife. I should add, I didn’t even open up to her about my desire to write until long after I should have.

Why was I so afraid?

I don’t know. I suppose I was afraid of being judged, afraid of failure, afraid of all the things anybody might be afraid of before doing something new. That was probably natural for me. It was also really stupid! I put off doing something I loved, and for what? Fear?

I didn’t have the courage to share with my friends and family what I wanted to be until after I had that book in my hands. Can you believe that? I was publishing a book, and I didn’t tell anyone. It was among the most exciting things I have done in my entire life, and I didn’t tell anyone. It shouldn’t have taken me so long, and if you are in a similar place to where I was a year ago, don’t let it take you that long either.

Write, dammit. Set up a blog. Write poetry (it worked for me, which believe me, still boggles my mind). Write short stories. Post them online for all to see. Email them to anyone you think might read them. Solicit everyone and their mom for feedback. Grow.

In the process you’ll build a fan base as well, so that once you finally do have that book in your hands, you won’t be starting from scratch.

I was afraid. I can’t go back and change that, but perhaps I can help some readers out there who have similar fears overcome theirs faster than it took me to overcome mine.


Harrison is a very proud first time author. He invites readers to follow him on Twitter @Harrison314 and to visit his website: www.harrisonbradlow.com. His book, If It Still Has a Head, It Isn’t Quite Dead: A book of poetry on zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, and other generally scary monster-type creatures, is available online from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com, among other outlets. Poetry excerpts from the book are available at his website as well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011



Below are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter in the last week.

The Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links searchable—try it for searches on plotting, characterization, querying, book promo, and more.

Anyone signing up for the free Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter this month (and current subscribers) will be automatically entered in a June drawing to receive K.M. Weiland’s CD (or MP3) Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration CD . Sign up here for the web's best writing links and interviews: http://bit.ly/gx7hg1 . (You can unsubscribe at any time, and your email information is never shared.)

Hidden Treasures You Find at Conferences: http://bit.ly/m5gxwN @hopeclark

One writer's 10 steps to novel completion: http://bit.ly/mhjpl2

Staying Out of the Story: http://bit.ly/m6RIKn

202 Tips To Increase Your Blog Traffic: http://bit.ly/jXKO5C

The downside of the e-revolution in publishing: http://bit.ly/mthOYP @BSquaredInOz

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: CONSIDER THE ASPARAGUS http://bit.ly/mnYna5

Writers Are Worth It: http://bit.ly/iXavj3 @merylkevans

Starting Erotic Stories: Two Things That Work, and Two Things That Don't: http://bit.ly/kS7cD7

20 Tips for Freelance Writers: http://bit.ly/mfq4LU

Choosing Your Main Character and His/Her Essential Counterpart: http://bit.ly/m2JxUb

How Online Writers and Publishers Still Rely on Each Other for a Payday: http://bit.ly/jFVttu

Best Articles This Week for Writers 5/13/11: http://bit.ly/j8Pq0D @4kidlit

Libraries are in crisis, but literary culture is thriving (Guardian): http://bit.ly/kpt8VI

5 Questions Never to Ask at a Bookstore Reading: http://bit.ly/khdDDL

Query letters – do you have personality? http://bit.ly/ixNKSa

Viewpoint Character and the Need to Choose Wisely: http://bit.ly/mB672h

12 Easy Steps to The Making of a Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/kP5jpk

The inexorable link between Science Fiction and Fantasy: http://bit.ly/lhPLiX

20 email list-building tips: http://bit.ly/libkdP

5 Ways to Kill Your Creativity: http://bit.ly/jY4f8n

Why Writers Are So Antisocial: http://bit.ly/ketTqj

5 Fast Differences Between YA and MG: http://bit.ly/iJ5rcs

What Self-Publishing Isn’t: http://bit.ly/jEdwBO

How journalists can make use of Facebook Pages: http://bit.ly/mu3QSG

5 tips for writing flash fiction: http://bit.ly/kqE4R1 @mkinberg

Why libraries still matter (Salon): http://bit.ly/mFgDsa

Should you self-publish after a near miss? http://bit.ly/mvlwjR @janefriedman

Crime writers--The Difference Between Extortion and Blackmail: http://bit.ly/j29DrU

Helpful books on writing: http://bit.ly/iqqOAR

Tackling revisions: http://bit.ly/jd1Skr

Story Structure, Part 1: Beginnings: http://bit.ly/lviwfx

Tips for finishing a book: http://bit.ly/jjiWnd

What a trendsetting book is, and isn't: http://bit.ly/ji21KE

Lessons learned from a pencil: http://bit.ly/iGK9uk

Facebook Dramatically Restricts Authors & Publishers’ Ability To Host Contests: http://bit.ly/kf7B8n

Tips for confident writing: http://bit.ly/mUcp4a

The Chekhov's Gun Plot Device & How To Use It When Writing Your Novel: http://bit.ly/lq5bNj

Get More Done with Creative Quickies: http://bit.ly/mFHc8Y

Narrative Tension and the Ticking Clock: http://bit.ly/kAgdYi

Formatting red flags: http://bit.ly/isBR78

Does Your Story Have a Hook or Merely a Gimmick? http://bit.ly/kStVsh

Self-doubt and writers: http://bit.ly/l0MPPt

Best practices for finishing that book: http://bit.ly/jcoyoT @patriciastoltey

5 tips for writers who want to publish: http://bit.ly/jjiWnd @4kidlit

Five Things Writers Must Do Before They Die: http://bit.ly/iruBnZ @clarissadraper

When is it time to sign an author-agent contract? http://bit.ly/jDWHk4

"Write-by-number" Synopsis Recipe: http://bit.ly/lKETYR

Search my tweets-- http://dld.bz/KPgS

Name your protagonist: http://bit.ly/lbhZAV

Editing: It's About the Big Picture, Too: http://bit.ly/jAxb4J @authorterryo

Using Storyboard W to Structure a Self-Help Book: http://bit.ly/iXGksu

Best practices for beta readers: http://bit.ly/jPIwca

Should I Use Absolute Phrases? Absolutely: http://bit.ly/myCSVs

19 Ways to Use Images to Enhance Your Blog: http://bit.ly/it4msq

Tips for body language and description: http://bit.ly/mmylI7

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Avery's Garlic Blue Cheese Fondue http://bit.ly/incswU

Learning to Find a Balance in Showing Versus Telling: http://bit.ly/iYXDcd @jodyhedlund

The Importance of a Literary Nemesis: http://bit.ly/jFWc99

Dumping Those Info Dumps: http://bit.ly/iIzvDt @jemifraser

How an Agent Works with a Self-Published Author: http://bit.ly/jFaD7C @galleycat

Key Story Elements: Into The Special World: http://bit.ly/moUzww

How to Get into a Subjunctive Mood: http://bit.ly/l7hpep

Ticking Clock or Option Exhaustion: 2 Ways To Bring Your Novel To A Crisis: http://bit.ly/jin0Q3

5 Key Research Sites You May Have Missed (Plus Cool Tricks): http://bit.ly/mADZQB @janefriedman

Writing Out of Order: http://bit.ly/mMQLGK

10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love: http://bit.ly/lSbj93

How Spelling Diverges Between American and British English: http://bit.ly/muKiEF

Synopsis Example: ''The Fly'' (Horror / Sci-Fi): http://bit.ly/lXiRm8

Mindful Writing: Accepting Failure: http://bit.ly/koiDtF

Tips for giving readings: http://bit.ly/jtw0lK

5 Common Writing Pitfalls: http://bit.ly/iQcuhF

When Characters Lie: 8 Questions to Ask: http://bit.ly/lBoWAp @CherylRWrites

Tips for Writing Picture Books: http://bit.ly/mBh3QV

5 questions that can save your book: http://bit.ly/mp2Okq

How to Practice Perseverance: http://bit.ly/lekZnq

Discouraging Decisions: http://bit.ly/jANR7P

Why traditional publishing is about more than a few weeks of chain bookstore distribution: http://bit.ly/jnestQ

10 Scifi Novels To Give People Who Hate Sci-fi: http://bit.ly/ixFEMv

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Bacon and Buttermilk Garlic Mashed Potatoes http://bit.ly/mN9bm6

A Bookseller Who Bridges Print and Digital: http://bit.ly/l8YGRZ

Surfing the fantasy network: http://bit.ly/jyfZq3

How Many Times A Day Should You Check Your Email? http://bit.ly/lQjsip

How The Right Cover & Title Can Help Women’s Fic Cast A Wider Net: http://bit.ly/irR1rc

Promo time vs writing time: http://bit.ly/mMUXPA

Royalty statements update: http://bit.ly/luh4a7

Why writing advice is utterly meaningless: http://bit.ly/makY6v

Choosing a Theme for Your Novel: http://bit.ly/iDUIF6

Blog categorizing and tagging: http://bit.ly/kusGUL

3 things one writer learned from graphic novels: http://bit.ly/lCU4ga

How to write more-the only thing you NEED to do: http://bit.ly/ljl2ft

Make your boring character a fish out of water: http://bit.ly/jr4ARq

Bringing characters together:http://bit.ly/juZrxd

A tangled plot structure: http://bit.ly/lYtSYn

How to Blog Without Comparing Yourself to Others: http://bit.ly/m690Nw

Creative Marketing for Indie Authors: http://bit.ly/kaF6ch

Beat writer's boredom: http://bit.ly/jBLa5f @clarissadraper

Why One Writer Wants Her Women’s Fiction Published By A Traditional Publisher: http://bit.ly/mfenZ2

Crit partners in crime: http://bit.ly/kLlO4j

Never bring a knife to a gun fight: http://bit.ly/krbGtP

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

Do Plots Just "Happen"? http://bit.ly/ioqYa9

Top 7 Repeated Science Fiction Phrases or Words That Have Become Annoying: http://bit.ly/jV9QxK

9 reasons to visit your real-life setting: http://bit.ly/ji59la

Ebook Authors: 17 Great Information Sources: http://bit.ly/k9KJEp

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: HUSBAND vs WIFE: Cleo Coyle asks, "Is it a Sauce or a Soup?" http://bit.ly/llM8vB

The Joy of Booking: http://bit.ly/k03LEt

Making the most of the Kindle's "Before You Go" screen: http://bit.ly/iF1LAc

10 Ways to Create a Plot Twist: http://bit.ly/my7K0W

8 ways writers can make the most of online video: http://bit.ly/iQe4Xf

How to Avoid Freelancing Burnout: http://bit.ly/iTVBEH

The 3 ages of becoming a writer: http://bit.ly/mAkgRi @dirtywhitecandy

Creating Archetypal Characters To Fill The Dramatic Functions in Your Novel: http://bit.ly/lpcw1r

10 Ways to Totally Screw Up Your Novel: http://bit.ly/mD7nh5

Juggling parenthood and writing: http://bit.ly/mN6I6H

3 tips for writing horror: http://bit.ly/mrsNUX

Twitter For The Shy Writer—Secrets of Stress-free Tweeting: http://bit.ly/jUQaSA @annerallen

Romance novels and the dogpoo filter: http://bit.ly/k8V0BL

10 Kindle Tricks and Tweaks: http://bit.ly/kjKtLT

What Works: Promo for Ebooks: http://bit.ly/l5LBc9

Single Quotation Marks—A Reader’s Question: http://bit.ly/lOjDWX

Online branding for authors--how it really works: http://bit.ly/jAlHYY

The ABCs (and Ds and Es) of Plot Development: http://bit.ly/lLXN7p

How to Become Wildly Successful at Anything: http://bit.ly/mljulE

Avoid the 3 “Tell-Tale” Signs of Self-Published Books: http://bit.ly/lAK1ca

How to quickly change a document’s spacing with a single keyboard shortcut: http://bit.ly/mH1LA1

Subsidy Publishing: Proceed With Caution: http://bit.ly/m8V9Qn

The tasks of technical writing: http://bit.ly/l3KtEy

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Mini Cherry Sponge Cakes http://bit.ly/mrGT4c

6 tips for fitting writing into a hectic schedule: http://bit.ly/jdLZqL @Sarafurlong

Metaphors vs. Similes: http://bit.ly/mI5nQ3

Weekend writer: http://bit.ly/lgsB2R

Writing--finishing what you start: http://bit.ly/jhnL2n

Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. Bennet: Jane Austen’s Mothers: http://bit.ly/jd17w1

The Rise of Urban Fantasy: http://bit.ly/jpqZZG

Help for restless writers: http://bit.ly/iA6uUs

5 Reasons Why Moms Matter in Children's Literature: http://bit.ly/lzWXLv

10 essential self-editing tips: http://bit.ly/iDAMcw

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 5/6/11): http://bit.ly/kNwBXI

How To Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps: http://bit.ly/lHq5Od

How one writer uses Scrivener to plot with flexibility: http://bit.ly/mfZypM @SarahKetley

The Dos and Don’ts of Your Online Presence: http://bit.ly/iwJmJU

The rule of 3 in fiction: http://bit.ly/lGypLz

Character building tools for writers--astrological signs: http://bit.ly/mj3qfu

Social Networking: Twitter v. Facebook: http://bit.ly/l9HUY7

5 Things to Consider Before You Spend Time Editing: http://bit.ly/m82DDG

Collaboration: 3 Rules You Can’t Break: http://bit.ly/lcjecF

An Editor’s Quick Tips on Submissions: http://bit.ly/iiKBkN

Creativity tweets of the week: http://bit.ly/jCxRdZ

Voice: The Right Words: http://bit.ly/mTF99f

Writing Passionate People: http://bit.ly/m1mNGT

How Self-Published Authors Found Success by Staying Local: http://bit.ly/iB6kCm @galleycat

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Happy Mother's Day - Not Just Desserts http://bit.ly/kAEDeI

How to Build Your Twitter Tribe: http://bit.ly/kKf3Sg

The World’s Best Libraries: http://bit.ly/lhXIrf

How role-playing games (RPGs) can improve your writing: http://bit.ly/k2Wkq5

How to Be a Conference Extrovert: http://bit.ly/mK7xCG

Writing an eBook: How to Get Started (and Finish!): http://bit.ly/kffCwO

Organizing a Writers Workshop: Marketing-- http://bit.ly/jlsdhr

Present tense problems: http://bit.ly/kARovC

Writers Write–Creativity Is a State of Mind: http://bit.ly/iS9HIA

The Practice of Ying / Yang Productivity: http://bit.ly/jjpsQq

4 laws of characters: http://bit.ly/jlvNJm

Narrative conflict vs narrative tension: http://bit.ly/jVsNMK

The Muchness of a YA Heroine: http://bit.ly/muI06B

Check Your Adjectives at the Door: http://bit.ly/l0uUWM

3 Edgy Little Tips to Make Your Story More Compelling: http://bit.ly/m7V8Fd

How To Meet Literary Agents and Editors on the Web: http://bit.ly/lQ6srW

An editor on the importance of good dialogue: http://bit.ly/mfWYTT

Bullying in crime fiction: http://bit.ly/lBxIFz @mkinberg

Ready to query? Step away from that send button: http://bit.ly/mkx58u