Friday, March 30, 2012


First of all, I want to thank the folks at Writer’s Digest for putting this blog in their list of 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2012. It’s much appreciated.

Today I thought I’d kick around the topic of endings again…since they’re my nemesis and I’m dealing with them now. :) Beginnings are something that I have absolutely no problem with. I almost always open with dialogue that deals with a problem resulting from the mystery or the future victim.

But endings drive me a little crazy. I’m turning in a manuscript in May and I’m done with it so I thought I’d give it a couple of days to just marinate while I worked on my next project.

I decided I wasn’t crazy about my ending for the book. It ended on a bit of a down-note. I didn’t think that would be very popular with my readers since I always end on an up-note. I have, for the first time, put in a series subplot and it was the subplot that created this down ending.

I’ve got to be vague here since obviously this isn’t a book that’s even going to hit the shelves until spring 2013. Basically, I wanted to keep the ending for the subplot, but I wanted to extend the book’s ending so that there’s something positive happening at the end of the book (and so readers will want to read book three!)

What I did was to make some lists…my favorite way to work through plot problems or to generate plot ideas. To come up with an alternate/extended ending I:

Made a list of as many possible endings for the book that I could come up with. These ranged from the sublime to the completely ridiculous. The idea was just to come up with options and to get my creative juices going. No, aliens are not going to come down and take up the citizens of Dappled Hills in their spaceship. Brainstorm as many as you can, even if you get an idea that you like. Especially if you get an idea that you like, because you may find that you can come up with an even better one.

Took another look at various subplots in my story while brainstorming my list. One of my subplots involved membership for the protagonist’s quilting guild, for instance. Another involved a newcomer trying to fit in to the cliquey small town. I realized I could combine the two subplots to create an ending that would also lead into the next book in the series.

Brainstormed ways to connect to the theme of the book. I’ve got a couple of different themes running in the series—as basic as quilting and the fabric of friendship and as complex as adjusting to life changes and aging. It’s always a good idea to check back with your themes and look for tie-ins at the end.

Those are what works for me and for my genre. But for other books, I’ve seen writers plant doubt, hint at future conflict, and create a change through a secondary character and his interaction with the protagonist.

Do you have a tough time with endings? How do you create resolution at the end of your story?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing—Getting Rid of the Fear

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I was at an event recently and heard one of the PR people for the corporation coming out of his office, sort of flustered. “Hectic day,” he said.

I asked him what was wrong and he launched right into it (he knows I’m a writer): “I’m organizing another event,” he said. “A retirement dinner with speakers. And none of the three people who are talking about the honoree at the dinner wants to write their own speech! So I’m writing three different speeches in three different voices. And they all know this person better than me!”

I said, “That’s got to be frustrating, and a lot of extra work for you. I’m asked to write a lot of stuff for people, too. Resumes and cover letters, letters to principals, complaint letters, whatever. Maybe when people know you can write, they just want to hand it over.”

“You know what it is?” he asked. “You’re not afraid. You’re not afraid of writing and they are.”

It’s true. The times that I’ve been asked to write things for other people, I got the distinct impression that they were afraid if they did it, they’d screw up. If they wrote their own material, it would mean opening themselves up to being misunderstood or having their mistakes on display. They were worried their letter wouldn’t sound right and would present a poor impression of them.

But writers haven’t totally shaken the fear, either. Ours just takes different forms—it goes to the next level:

We might be afraid:

That we can’t finish a book.

That we can’t successfully represent on paper the story that’s in our heads.

That our book will be rejected by publishers or agents or readers. Or that we’ll be rejected by our family for writing the thing to begin with.

That we’ll fail at trying to write something new.

That our reviews will be bad.

That our book won’t sell.

But there are ways to move past these fears:

Write frequently. Practice always means improvement.

Just keep moving forward on the draft. Poor writing can be fixed.

Be forgiving of first drafts.

Write quickly, edit thoughtfully.

When finishing one project, start right in on the next. Don’t invest all your emotions into an “only-child” book.

How do you move past your insecurities and fears and keep writing? Do you do a lot of writing for your family and friends?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Keeping Challenged While Writing One Genre

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Elysabeth ElderingHi everyone!  Today I’m over at writer Elysabeth Eldering’s blog.  In my interview with her there, I talk about juggling several series, my typical writing day, and why I write mysteries, among other things.  Hope you’ll pop by.

Today’s post will be a short one here, since I’m deep in edits for one book and writing another. I thought I’d pose a question to you that nearly stumped me at a recent event.

It was after a talk I’d given and one of the writers in attendance asked me, “So you’re only writing mysteries. Don’t you want to try writing other things?  How do you keep getting creative satisfaction from writing one genre? How do you stay challenged?”

I know that I am currently satisfied writing mysteries. I’ve written eight books in the same genre and haven’t gotten bored with it a bit. But I’d never really thought about why.   So it took me a while to answer his question…in fact, I had to tell him, “Hold on a second while I think about that.”

For me, these are the reasons I’m sticking with my genre and staying satisfied (for at least the foreseeable future):

I love reading mysteries.  I’m a fan.

I’m writing more than one series.  So each book focuses on a different setting and different characters with different personalities.

I love the characters I’m writing.  I enjoy spending time with them in the made-up worlds I’ve created.

It’s a challenge to come up with different plots instead of recycling the same ones.  That’s creativity in action.

With each book, I’m introducing new characters as suspects and victims. 

I’m curious to hear from you.  Do you focus on a single genre?  A single series? How do you keep feeling creatively satisfied and challenged?

Sunday, March 25, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Below are the writing-related links I tweeted last week. The free Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links (now over 14,000) searchable. The WKB recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. WKB

Sign up for the free monthly WKB newsletter for the web's best links and interviews:

Tips for writing with vivid detail:

Blog Commenting - Is It Going Extinct? @roniloren

3 Things You Must Have in Your Novel's First Paragraph: @LiveWriteThrive

Should Authors Design Their Own Books? @jfbookman

Story Setting: How to Make It Unique and Realistic:

Using The 12 Stages of Physical Intimacy To Build Tension In Your Fiction: @jhansenwrites

Ways to use em-dashes: @janice_hardy

Worldbuilding--religion in fantasy:

12 Writer Woes and the Books to Cure Them: @roniloren

How to Identify Top Websites & Blogs in Your Category: @janefriedman

Are You Giving Readers the Tools to Understand Your Story? @KMWeiland

Your Character's Language: @janelebak

A New Breed of Writer for the Digital Age of Publishing: @KristenLambTX

Characterizing Details: @Kid_Lit

An agent on pitching: @greyhausagency

How to Submit to Literary Magazines: @difmfa

5 Muse Abusers: How To Protect Your Creative Flow: @roniloren

Agent Loses a Suit Against an Author for Commissions: @passivevoiceblg

6 aspects of writing YA that surprised 1 writer: @carrieryan

Heroes Who Fail: (with spoilers--as examples)

When Are You Finished with Your Revision? @fictionnotes

Tips for polishing your manuscript: @msheatherwebb

Understanding the "Show Don't Tell" Rule:

How to start a book project:

The broken van (writers have options): @sarahahoyt

Promoting Your Blog With Twitter – 3 Underutilized Methods: @tomewer

Matching booze with bestsellers: @ebooknewser

3 Lessons for the Traveling Writer: @Christi_Craig

Unusual creatures from myth & legend to use as inspiration: @GeneLempp

How to Win the War Against Grammar Trolls: @seanplatt

Your Book's Palette – Using Color in Your Fiction: @SamanthaHunter for @Ravenrequiem13

Regency romance--the popularity of the highwayman: @bookemdonnna

Adverse vs. Averse: @writing_tips

How to network without being obnoxious: @writerashley

Endurance: whatever happens, just keep writing:

Marketing Fiction vs Non-Fiction: @thecreativepenn

How to Write Like You Can't Fail: @LyndaRYoung

5 things that really matter to search engines: @rule17

Reader to Writer: Write it Clearer:

Why aren't you writing? @fantasyfaction

3 Ways to Find the Perfect Opening for Your Story: @jodyhedlund

Not Just Another Writer's Writing Blog: @writeitsideways

Why writers should care about indie bookstores: @ThereseWalsh

What makes a character unique: @JamiGold

Tips for heightening the suspense: @JodieRennerEd

How to Check Your Grammar Online: @galleycat

1 writer's Feb. sales report for epub: @DavidGaughran

Writing Stress for Freelancers:

Logic: Without It, Your Story May Have A Serious Neurological Disorder:

Book Design Case Study: Two Contemporary Novels: @JFBookman

Writing sentences with rhythm:

"Read What We Publish" - What editors really mean: @greyhausagency

Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble? @NathanBransford

4 Quick-Fix Ways to Improve Your Novel's Opening: @MuseInks

What 1 writer has learned from joining a book club:

Calculation of Royalty Fees In Publishing Contracts (& 2 things writers should remember): @SusanSpann

Your Homepage Isn't As Important As You Think: @WeGrowMedia for @janefriedman

What Makes Fiction Literary? @KMWeiland

Getting Better vs Being Good: @the99percent

Dialog Mistakes (Part 2 – Idle Chatter): @WritingChronicl

When a Writing Contest Has a Hidden Agenda: @victoricastrauss

Facing the blank page:

10 Essential Tools & Apps for Freelancers:

13 Stephen King Quotes on Writing: @writersdigest

Politics, Religion and Our Author Platform: @kristenlambTX

Arsenic and Old Leaves: The Art of Poisoning Your Fantasy Characters: @fantasyfaction

Describing characters through POV: @Janice_Hardy

Top 5 Tools for Writing the Setting of Your Story or Novel:

E-Book Smackdown: Who Should Control Pricing—Publishers Or Amazon? @laurahazardowen

Tips for taking a vacation from technology:

Deepening Your POV: @Janice_Hardy

The Real World and the YA Novel: @zeitlingeist

Three or Four acts to your story's structure:

Story Structure: The First Act: @KMWeiland

Getting Better vs Being Good: @the99percent

Are the Big 6 Publishers Really Dying? @annerallen

How to Handle Criticism: @LyndaRYoung

When Acting Impulsively Can Hurt Your Writing: @catewoods

Techniques for Building Suspense: @JodieRennerE

The midpoint – where your story gets personal: @dirtywhitecandy

Clarifying What Your Characters Do: @Janice_Hardy

8 Key Elements For Capturing The Star Wars Feel In Your Story: @BryanThomasS

4 Rewards from Creative Writing Immersion: @PatrickRwrites

4 cardinal rules for social media: @victoriamixon

An agent says: "It's Not Just About 'Paying Your Dues'": @greyhausagency

Is A "Niche" Or "Non-Niche" Blog Right For You? @serbaughman @writeitsideways

Don't QWERTY, Be Happy? @vwishna

Blog Tours: The Good – The Bad – The Ugly: @CynthiaDAlba

11 of the greatest bromances in Southern Literature: @HunterMurphyYea

Finding Value in Your "Mistakes" @jamieraintree

Libraries as publishers? @Porter_Anderson

Authors: climbing the walls: @Porter_Anderson

Getting Better vs Being Good:

How to Get Your First 1,000 Blog Readers: @pushingsocial

How to be creative: @WSJ

Story Structure With a Hole In It: @write_practice

5 Uses for a Lull in Writing: @fictionnotes

Building a Believable Author Brand through Blogging: @catseyewriter

Why Self-Publish When You Have a Chance to Go Traditional? @goblinwriter

The Problems with Strong Female Characters: @AnnieNeugebauer

What bestsellers have in common: @ava_jae

How publishing auctions work: @rachellegardner

How To Start A Story The Stephen King Way: @mooderino

An argument in favor of outlining:

3 Ways to Keep Social Media from Taking Control of Writing Time: @jodyhedlund

Is Your Favorite Author A Jerk? (Interesting discussion among readers in the comments): @deadwhiteguys

10 Types of Filler Content for Your Blog: @ProBlogger

The importance of writing likeable characters:

Writing lessons from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn": @juliemusil

Writing Action Sequences: a process of layering and research: @JulietteWade

Several processes for starting a book:

10+ Ways to Find Blog Post Ideas: @CherylRWrites

Your Story's Time Line: Cut It Up: @fictionnotes

Writing on the Ether by @Porter_Anderson features @naypinya @mikecane @philipdsjones @jonnygeller @ByRozMorris

How to Submit Short Stories:

A Quiz About Combining Sentences: @writing_tips

Why 1 writer dislikes outlines: @sarahahoyt

An explanation of author-agent agreement: @rachellegardner

How to Position Your Book To Go Viral: @storyfix

An Agent on Shopping Self-Published Titles: @SaraMegibow

Tips for Conference Planners--The Simple Guide to Caring for an Author: @nicolamorgan

Creating Cover Love: @StinaLL

Comments — The Weakest Part of Blogs: @scholarlykitchn

Hook 'Em on the First Cast: @LiveWriteThrive

Three Keys to Building Your Author Platform: @JFBookman

Sometimes revision means rewriting: @TaliaVance

Are You Committing These E-mail Sins? @janefriedman

Imagery and your story: @KarenCV

Does Publishing Support the Writer-Artist? @KristenLambTX

The Difference between Style and Voice:

Hook Your Reader with Character: @howtowriteshop

3 Myths of Guest Writing for Big Websites …and 6 Tactics for Doing it Well: @copyblogger

The Social Networks of Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin & Charlotte Bronte:

Self Publishing: Perils, Pitfalls, and Promise: @lisajanicecohen

The Contract Between Writer and Reader: @MsAnnAguirre

What We Can Learn From The Poets: @greyhausagency

Lessons 1 writer has learned about memoir writing: @jhansenwrites for @nicolebasaraba

Illustrate a Character Through His Possessions: @kmweiland

Writers--the promised land is where you find it: @sarahahoyt

3 Helpful Tools For Writers Who Struggle With ADD: @lformichelli

Friday, March 23, 2012

Isn’t it Ironic? by C.E. Lawrence

by C.E. Lawrence, @C_E_Lawrence

SilentKillsLife is nothing if not ironic. You spend all your time working for money or fame or adulation or whatever – only to find out that in getting what you thought you wanted, you don’t get what you were after all along – happiness.

How ironic. Or you finally marry that fabulous blond bombshell you always thought was the idea woman, only to fall in love with that funny little neighbor next door with the short brown hair and lopsided smile. Ironies in life abound, even for the rich and famous: Republican Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger marries Kennedy Babe Maria Shriver; Democratic policy wonk James Carville marries Republican Spokeschick Mary Matalin. How ironic. Super anal retentive Felix Unger’s best friend is super slob Oscar Madison, and vice versa. Hmm . . . do I sense a pattern here?

Webster’s first definition of irony is: "1. expression in which the intended meaning of the words is the direct opposite of their usual sense: as in irony she called the stupid plan 'very clever.’” (We’ll talk about the second definition later.)


The word irony is derived from the Greek “eironeia,” which means "simulated ignorance." The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says irony is "the use of expressions having a meaning different from the ostensible one; a subtle form of sarcasm understood correctly by the initiated." In literature, this kind of irony can proceed from one character to another - or from the author to the reader. In “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” Flannery O’Connor gives us an accurate portrait of Julian through the constant use of irony. What Julian thinks about himself is not at all what we are invited to think about him; the story fairly drips with irony.

And E.L. Doctorow, in writing about Mark Twain, has this to say:

"Huck, making the socially immoral choice to assist the escape of a slave - someone's rightful property, he thinks - creates in himself an ethically superior morality that he defines as outlaw, and appropriate to such a worthless tramp as he. And Twain can deal with the monstrous national catastrophe of slaveholding, not head on, in righteousness, in the manner of Harriet Beecher Stowe, but with the sharper stick, the deeper thrust, of irony."

In other words, the initiated reader “gets it” – Huck is not immoral at all, but is the product of a society whose values are so twisted that Huck actually believes that giving an enslaved fellow human being his freedom is wicked. How ironic. I might also point out that while Huckleberry Finn is still flying off the shelves, read by children and adults alike, few people other than English graduate students ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Of course, Twain is one of our national treasures – but it is his use of irony that makes his political writing so sharp, even today. (And also, he’s a pretty funny guy – I have yet to see a really good comic writer who doesn’t use irony. It literally comes with the territory.)


Using irony in your writing also makes your readers feel smart – they “get it,” they’re part of the “initiated.” It’s like belonging to a club. In “Everything That Rises,” Flannery O’Connor invites us to sort of “gang up” on poor Julian; in seeing him for what he really is, we become her cronies, her cohorts, her co-conspirators, in a sense. This is fun for us; we feel like we’re “in on something.” Of course, the only person “left out” is a fictional character, but no matter. We still get the same naughty thrill we got as children when we formed the Glass Club and kept out those nasty boys across the road. After all, what’s the point of a club if everyone can join?


For those of you who watch The Daily Show, (and I hope that’s everyone with cable), don’t you get a little kick out of the fact that you’re pretty sure your parents wouldn’t get this kind of humor, and if they did, they wouldn’t think it was funny anyway? Irony, like comedy to which it is so closely related, has a point, a cutting edge - it is an attitude born of anger. Like comedy, it also invariably involves a “twist” of some kind. It can be dry or wet, but not everyone "gets it." You have to be one of the “initiated.” I have a kind of "irony meter" when I judge people's characters, and some people have little or no sense of the ironic. I have found, for example, that as you head west across the United States, the irony meter drops rapidly, until, some time after crossing the Delaware, you come to the Great Midwest, or, as I like to call, the Irony Free Zone. (To those of you who live there, my apology; every rule has its exceptions.)


In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Swift, noted author, journalist, and wit, wrote a rather famous essay called "A Modest Proposal.” In it he suggested dealing with the problem of famine in Ireland by eating Irish children. He felt this was an elegant solution because it would both reduce the population while providing a plentiful and cheap source of nutrition. Needless to say, his irony – wet as it was – completely escaped a certain percentage of the population. In fact, the editor of his newspaper received letters from outraged readers castigating Mr. Swift for his insensitive and wicked ideas. So much for political satire. Irony will always have its “initiated” audience, but, as they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But go out there and have fun – be funny, be satirical, be ironic! After all, what can they do to you – shoot you?

Oh, right, I guess they can. I forgot this is America, where everyone owns guns. On second thought, maybe this is a good time to move to Canada. Long winters and moose meat. Oh, yeah.

CELawrencePhototoUseCarole Bugge ( C.E. Lawrence) has eight published novels, six novellas and a dozen or so short stories and poems. Her work has received glowing reviews from such publications as Kirkus, The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Boston Herald, Ellery Queen, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Winner of both the Euphoria Poetry Competition and the Eve of St. Agnes Poetry Award, she is also a Pushcart Prize nominee and First Prize winner of the Maxim Mazumdar Playwriting Competition, the Chronogram Literary Fiction Prize, Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Award, and the Jean Paiva Memorial Fiction award, which included an NEA grant to read her fiction and poetry at Lincoln Center. A finalist in the McClaren, MSU and Henrico Playwriting Competitions, she has read her work at Barnes and Noble, The Knitting Factory, Mercy College, Merritt Books, the Colony Cafe and the Gryphon Bookstore. She has received grants from Poets and Writers, as well as the New York State Arts Council. Her story "A Day in the Life of Comrade Lenin" received an Honorable Mention in St. Martin's Best Fantasy and Horror Stories, and she was a winner in the Writer's Digest Competition in both the playwriting and essay categories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Focusing on a Setting Detail

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

IMG_20120318_174225On Sunday, my daughter and I took advantage of the nice weather and went for a walk at the park.

It was like a hundred other walks at the park that we’ve taken over the years. Sunny and warm. There were lots of people and dogs walking. The birds were chirping loudly, since it’s a protected habitat there. And my daughter wanted to play Poohsticks on the bridge for the eleventy-bazillionth time.

It was all very peaceful…and unremarkable. My daughter and I stood on the small bridge and waited to see which of the two sticks she threw into the fast-moving creek would come out quicker on the other side.

Then I saw him. A Mr. No-Shoulders, as my mother would call him. A snake, sunning himself on a rock.

Now, snakes in the Southern US are not remarkable. They’re everywhere. And this winter they really didn’t hibernate since it never really got cold. There are probably a ton of sleep-deprived, grumpy snakes around North Carolina right now.

But snakes usually wisely avoid Southerners. They don’t want to see us and we don’t particularly want to see them.

And this snake was watching my daughter and me closely, suspiciously. It was pretty in the sun, actually. Until it quickly leaped into the water to get away from us.

We continued on our walk…until we saw another snake sunning itself. I took a picture of one of the snakes (above) and didn’t have a chance to ask my Scout son or outdoorsy husband what type it was. Water moccasin? Cottonmouth? Copperhead? Who knows?

I’m never a fan of writing setting. It’s the kind of stuff that I skip over as a reader---unless there’s a remarkable detail that makes me interested. If a snake intrudes on a normal, everyday walk at the park, I’m more interested. If the setting is atmospheric, if I feel the setting is setting a mood, if the setting is viewed through the eyes of a character and gives me more character insight….then I don’t skip it.

How about you? How do you set apart your settings to make them pop and tie them into the story or indicate something interesting about your characters? Do you enjoy reading and writing setting?

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Exciting Future for Writers

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Neville HallTonight I’m speaking with the creative writing students at my alma mater, Presbyterian College in SC. It’s a great liberal arts school with a strong English department.

I’ll be giving a reading (a short one, since I have little faith in my ability to be entertaining) and then talking a little about the writing business before taking questions.

And I’m planning on spreading the exciting news about being a 21st century writer—that it’s the best time ever to be a writer.

I’m never sure if that message is getting out to writers, unless they’re plugged into the online writing community. The talk of bankrupt book chains, struggling independent bookstores, and decreasing advances from traditional publishers might be eclipsing that message.

Ultimately, writers have got a new gateway—directly from us to our reader.

Why this is exciting:

We have choices. We can choose to follow the traditional publishing route of finding an agent and then a publisher. Or we can hone our work, get our manuscript professionally edited, formatted, and designed and self-publish our books. Or we can do both (I’m taking the hybrid approach, myself.)

We can develop a niche readership. Let’s say that you are completely engulfed in working on projects that feature your favorite things—horror and marine biology. Before, if your idea wasn’t commercial enough to get the strong sales needed for a slot on the bookstore shelves, then there was no hope for you. You could either publish the book yourself (with a great deal of expense and poor distribution) or else you could just share the story among your friends and family.

Now you can self-publish it…but for very little expense, compared to the old days. And your distribution is online—it has the potential of reaching millions, worldwide. In that group of millions is your niche reader…the ones who are also obsessed with horror and marine biology. The challenge for you is to get the word out to these readers, in an un-obnoxious way, that your book exists.

We can explore different genres. In the pre-ebook days, if you’d made a good name for yourself in one genre, it was pretty difficult to make the leap to another one. Some agents only represent one type of book. So, if you were a fantasy writer who wanted to write thrillers, your agent might not represent thrillers. You’d have to find another agent….by again going through the query process. And then you’d have to basically start from scratch to find a publisher.

Now, if you can write it, you can publish it. (It still might be wise to use a pen name if your name is particularly associated with a particular genre…that way you’re not confusing your readers. You can still always give them the chance to read your other books by telling them you’re writing another genre under a pseudonym.)

We can explore formats. Do we feel like experimenting with short stories or poetry? Previously, if we wanted to reach readers with those formats…well, it was going to be a long-shot. We’d be trying to get inclusion in anthologies, or literary magazines or publishers who put out chapbooks. There was a strong possibility that the stories or poetry would never find an audience, never get reviewed, never inspire, never receive feedback.

Now we can sell short stories or serials or poetry, ourselves. We can price them as a collection or price them as singles. We can even sell them at a low price as a loss leader to gain visibility for our other, full-priced work. We can experiment.

We can have complete creative control. Now, admittedly, this is a scary area sometimes. And I’m one who previously just wanted to write the stories and promote them and not have to think about formatting or covers or design.

Now, though, we can expand our thinking into other channels. We can envision what we’d like our cover to look like and the kinds of readers that we’d like to appeal to with them. We can set a tone. And, importantly, we can outsource these tasks to experts and have them complete our vision of our book. If that vision proves not to connect with the readers…well, we can change it. That’s amazing, in itself.

We can put our books in readers’ hands faster—keeping series continuity and making our connection with readers stronger. Traditional publishing takes a while. When I hand in a manuscript, it’s a full 12 months before that book gets to the reader. Now, after I write a book and edit it, I send it to professional editors and cover designers and then to my reader. It takes about 1-2 months after I turn over my manuscript.

What do you look forward to most as a writer these days? How are you enjoying our new freedom? Does it still seem scary, or is it becoming exhilarating?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Below are the writing-related links I tweeted last week. The free Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine, designed by software engineer and writer Mike Fleming, makes all these links (now over 14,000) searchable. The WKB recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. WKB

Sign up for the free monthly WKB newsletter for the web's best links and interviews:

Top Ten Pacing Tips: @aliciarasley

How to Resurrect a Stalled Manuscript:

Getting the bookstores stocked for your signing: @behlerpublish

Accenting passages: @LiteraryLab

Break down your story into a logline: @Gary_Fearon_

QR Code Fiction Series Seeks Stories: @ebooknewser

Sympathetic Characters:

What 1 writer learned & the mistakes she made when epublishing: @rachel_abbott

Science Fiction eBook Market Under the Microscope: @KOMcLaughlin

Self-esteem & your online presence: @gripemaster

Top 5 Fake Bookish Twitter Feeds 1 Editor Wishes Existed: @NewDorkReview

Article Writing 101: @juliemusil

An editor explains the different types of editing & how writers could improve their books: @TheresaStevens

The gift of music breathes life into stories: @KMWeiland for @byRozMorris

Types of Numerical Terms: @writing_tips

Your Email Might Be Somebody's Last Straw: @rachellegardner

1 Writer Believes Amazon's KDP Select Is God's Gift to Authors: @TweetTheBook for @thecreativepenn

Formatting your book with OpenOffice: @selfpubreview

How to Use Archetypes in Literature When Creating Characters for Your Novel: @writersdigest

A look at romance writing and romance subgenres: @roniloren for @nicolebasaraba

7 Ways to Brainstorm the Best Title for Your Book: @beth_barany

Writers cons--editor and agent appointments: @bob_mayer

The Tech-Empowered Writer (AWP Panel Resources): @janefriedman

5 Steps to Write an Ending:

With KDP Select, Amazon Gains Authors' Exclusivity—Cheap: @laurahazardowen

Quick Mind Tricks for More Productivity: @RealLifeE

Solidifying Scene Structure: @Mommy_Authors

How to Write an Effective Email Pitch: @alexisgrant

Script frenzy in April:

How To Spot A Reader: @BookishWallace

Let go of the glass slipper dreams: @sarahahoyt

When Your Backstory Becomes Your Story: @KMWeiland

Dragging historical figures into the 21st century: @annerooney for @history_girls

Alliteration in picture books: @Kid_Lit

True Colors: Using Color Theory to Boost Your Writing: @DiyMfa

7 tips for beginning a romance novel: @ruthieknox

Misadventures in publishing:

Brushing up on irony: @readingape

Editing Tips–Tightening Scenes: @jamigold

Outline Failure: @fantasyfaction

Tips for Inventing Names: @writing_tips

Do Writers Get Better the Longer They Write? @jodyhedlund

Writing Job Listing: Is It Legitimate or a Scam? @luannschindler

Creativity Blocked? A Solution:

Can Blogging Help Your Writing Process? @jhansenwrites

Powerful Dialog: Shorter Is Often Sweeter:

Target audience--what it means and tips for finding yours: @mjcache

Commonly Misused Words: @lynnettelabelle

Procrastination Tools for Writers #1: Recycling Your Old Manuscripts: @JoWyton

An editor warns against arguing with a rejection letter: @behlerpublish

12 Dos and Don'ts of Blogging: @writersdigest

How to Give a Character a Personality:

Structure for screenwriters: @jacobkrueger

Stay Independent or Sign on with a Publisher? @goblinwriter

Branding: Where Marketing and Writing Become Friends: @JFBookman

Getting an agent - Mortal Kombat style: @emlynchand

Tips for Turning Online Procrastination Time into Writing Research Time: @lbgale

5 Tips for Publishing Ebooks: @FictionNotes

The Eightfold Way: The 8 Basic Don'ts for Novel Writers: @Bookgal

Digital Self-Publishing: Should Publishers Be Worried? @TheAtlantic

50 ways to get more people to like your Facebook page: @FacebookFlow

Rules vs. Practice—Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammar: @noveleditor

Creativity Is More Like Expertise Than Intelligence:

The Unexpected Ending: @dpeterfreund

An agent says that writers can't buy quality writing: @greyhausagency

When Nostalgia Gets in The Way of Your Writing Career: @Margo_L_Dill

Writers and Charlie Bucket Syndrome: @BooksAreMyBFs

45 Synonyms for "Food":

Protecting our writing time:

The 7 Worst Mistakes Of Indie Authors And How To Fix Them: @thecreativepenn

A refresher on infinitives: @heidiwriter

Transitions & Seeding – Essentials For Plausibility: @BryanThomasS

Worldbuilding with horses--horses in space:

7 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel: @MelissaKNorris

Establishing Style: @Ravenrequiem13

Tips for writing a synopsis: @writersherry

Writing multiple books a year--in less time than you think:

Can you get away with starting a book with a dream sequence? @Janice_Hardy

How to Think Like an Editor:

Thoughts on writing evil characters: @sarahahoyt

A look at subplots: @TheresaStevens

Anchor Scenes for Story Structure: @WriteAngleBlog

An agent on 13 things writers should know about Pinterest: @rachellegardner

Gradable words: @writing_tips

25 Inspiration Sources for the Discouraged Writer: @cherylrwrites

Author Blogging 101: The Power of Viewpoint: @jfbookman

5 things about traditional publishing that surprised 1 writer:

Turning your author website into a store: @JenTalty

How reading fairy tales can help us with our writing: @rebeccaberto

On The Road: How To Produce Great Work While Traveling The World: @jacobmcook

5 tips for building popularity--not just followers--on Twitter:

Eventually You'll Care Less (...and that's a good thing!): @SaundraMitchell

6 Reasons Authors Should Love Facebook's Timeline: @marcykennedy

Never Run Out of Blog Topics: @MariaZannini

Flip the Script: Tell, Don't Show:

Fire Your Muse: @jillkemerer

How 1 writer decides when to be part of an anthology:

If the coffeehouse is losing its appeal, remember your library: @fuelyourwriting

The Big 6 and Agency Pricing: @Porter_Anderson

The controversy over 4G human hotspots: @Porter_Anderson

Amazon singles--the sales figures: @Porter_Anderson

Tips for developing your short story into a novel:

5 eBook Publishing Experts To Watch: @ebooknewser

Crafting Memorable Scenes in Fiction: @4kidlit

Why the Video Game Industry Needs Writers: @jasonboog

Failure–The Key Ingredient to the Successful Writing Career: @kristenlambTX

How to Climb Out Of Your Blogging Slump:

How to speak publisher - D is for double-page spread: @annerooney

How to Pin Quotes on Pinterest: @galleycat

Entertainment vs. Truth:

Thoughts on writing strong female protagonists: @VioletteMalan

Meaningless motivations:

A Quiz About Tactical Syntactical Revision:

8 things writers should know about Goodreads: @rachellegardner

Tips for writing historical fiction: @sanjidaoconnell

Are Your Promo Efforts Unique? Or Do You Blend In? @jodyhedlund

15 common grammar goofs: @copyblogger

Tips for moderating panels: @mistymassey

When Does Fan Fiction Cross an Ethical Line? @jamigold

Article Writing 101 (Part 2--Organization, Writing, & Markets): @juliemusil

Tips for creating interesting characters:

Are most agents qualified to negotiate contracts with publishers? : @PassiveVoiceBlg

How to End a Novel With a Punch:

Diversity in writing: @YaHighway

10 Favorite Fictional Archers: @tordotcom

Getting the ugly out: @bookemdonna

3 ways your values can help you write your book: @originalimpulse

The Average Book Has 64,500 Words: @PWxyz

Transitions - linking forward through the story: @juliettewade

The secret of epub success: @bob_mayer

How to Use Your Blog to Sell More Books: @goblinwriter

Adding sensory details to our stories:

Finding an Agent--Why You Can't Always Trust the Source: @victoriastrauss

A guide to the Christian publishing market: @rachellegardner

How Your Reading Material Can Influence Your Writing:

Tips for writing with vivid detail:

Friday, March 16, 2012

One Writer’s Editing Process

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Red penAfter my post Wednesday on writing multiple books a year, I got some questions on Twitter and via email about my editing approach. I thought I’d tackle that topic today.

First off, I want to stress that—like writing—not every editing method works out best for every writer.

This is my method and I’m probably fast at it because 1) I’ve practiced it a lot 2) I note all editorial feedback and use it for future books 3) I read quickly 4) I make quick decisions on my manuscript’s changes.

I just finished a book on Wednesday and this is the process I’ll use to edit the book:

I read the book from start to finish. As I’m reading, I put in chapter breaks (I don’t put in chapter breaks as I draft the book.)

During my first read-through I fix easy errors like typos or poor word choice. I make sure there’s variety in my sentence structure, I add strong verbs…I basically work to make the book better on a very basic level.

I also turn on Word’s Track Changes and use their comment feature to make notes to myself. I make comments in the margins character description, setting details, character motivation, etc. That way I can go back and layer in those changes when I’m done reading through the book.

I make a pass for continuity errors, which are very frequent errors of mine, since I write in short chunks of time without looking at the previous day’s writing. During this pass, I’ll also make sure my scene transitions are smooth and that story elements are consistent.

This time I’m also going to make a special pass for echoes—unintentional word repetition. I always do a search for my favorite overused words/crutch words (just, nodded, sighed), but this will be a new pass for a related area since my last manuscript had a lot of echoes in it.

I’ll make a pass for pace (this includes looking for conflict) and strong characterization. Is the story moving along at a fast enough clip? Are there boring parts? Do my characters pop? Are there weak characters who need additional fluffing up? I’ll also eliminate some of my weak word choices (little, very, so, really, some, seem, maybe) and some filter words (to provide a deeper POV).

Because the timeline is so crucial to mysteries, I’ll have a pass where I chart out suspect timelines and make sure my sleuth knew what she knew when she knew it. While I’m doing this, I make sure the solution makes sense and there were enough clues for the reader to reach the same conclusion my sleuth did. I also look for any potential plot holes during this timeline pass.

I go through and address the problems/issues that I found.

Then I read it through again to get the big picture view. And I make sure the subplots and main plot wrap up at the end. When I find more problems, I address those as I go.

Then usually I’ll read it through again, quickly, and frequently aloud. And I make the corrections that my first reader (thanks, Mama) finds. And read it through again (yes, by this time I’m heartily sick of the book).

I can do this all in about a week. It’s a different process than the creative process, so I can write at the same time and not feel any sense of burnout.

Then I immediately hand it all over to qualified professionals. :) In the case of my Memphis Barbeque mysteries and my Southern Quilting mysteries, the manuscript goes right to my managing editor. Then it goes to various copyeditors and proofreaders. In the case of my Myrtle Clover mysteries, I hire freelance editors to take a good, hard, critical look at my books. I’ve got a free directory of freelance editors here.

What’s your editing process like? What types of things are you looking out for?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing Multiple Books a Year--It Doesn’t Take as Much Time as You’d Think.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig


As a busy mom, I’m squeezing my writing time out every day. For you, you might be limited by a day job or an elderly parent, an illness, or other responsibilities.

I’m averaging writing between 3 1/2 and 4 books a year.

That might sound like I’m pouring an excessive amount of time each day on my writing.

I’m really not. I really can’t.

I started, in January, to write the two books that I’m contracted under to finish by July. They are in two different series.

To do this, all I have to write is 3 1/2 pages a day until I hit 275 pages for each book. In one month, you end up with slightly over 100 pages.

I’ll admit that I’m a pretty quick editor, but that’s just from practice and a knowledge of the kinds of screw-ups I typically make. After each book goes through my publisher’s editorial process, I have even more data on the types of errors I should watch out for the next time.

I wake up at 4:50 a.m. , an hour before I get my children up. I usually write nearly three pages in about 40 minutes. The rest of the time I check emails, respond to messages on social media, and plan blog posts.

I don’t have a full outline for my stories. I do have an idea where I want to go. But I always know what I want to write the next day. I also have a note reminding me where I left off the day before. This helps me jump into my story when I open up the document on my computer.

The rest of each day’s writing goal I finish outside my son’s high school while I’m waiting in the carpool line for about 20 minutes.

On good days where the words are really flowing, I’ll write more. Days when I have unexpected dead space, I’ll write a little more.

It doesn’t really take that much time. And most people won’t want to write three or four books a year. One is enough for many.

For one book, you again just need to think about what makes a reasonable goal. I’m pretty fond of a page or a page and a half for writers who are just trying to establish a regular writing habit. Or maybe if you set yourself a weekly goal, instead of a daily one.

I think the problems crop up when you have a goal that’s really big…like a chapter a day. I’ve only once set a chapter a day goal and and I was sitting right on top of a very scary deadline that had sneaked up on me.

Let’s say your goal is 1.5 pages a day. That’s 270 pages in just 180 days. That goal still leaves you half a year to edit, even if your first draft is a disaster and you’re a slow editor. A page a day gets you 275 pages in a little over 9 months.

I found I could always hit a page a day or seven pages a week. This was when I had a toddler in the house and life was especially crazy. It might mean that I had to write two pages some days to play catch-up (sick baby, sick mama, travel, holidays), but I could definitely hit that goal on a weekly basis.

I also noticed that if I wrote regularly, I could hop right into my story again with very little trouble.

If I finish a book early, then I start right in with the next book.

The most important thing is not to get discouraged. Writing a book can seem like this tremendous challenge. If we break it down into achievable blocks, it keeps us motivated.

Another tip? Don’t be critical of your first draft. It’s fixable. :)

How do you set and hit your goals? Do you have page goals or time-related goals? Daily or weekly goals?