Sunday, March 31, 2013


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Mike Fleming is working with author and writing coach James Scott Bell to offer an online, interactive, writing program to help make your next novel great. It's called "Knockout Novel" and you can learn more about it at Knockout Plus, all the data is stored in your Hiveword account for easy access.  The program is due to launch in early-April.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

The effect of digital publishing on literary fiction: @Porter_Anderson

Crime fiction--when secrets create problems: @mkinberg

Agents--changing attitudes and changing their business model?
@Porter_Anderson @DocSyntax @Melissa_Foster

The importance of continuing education for writers: @Allison_Brennan

Agent-Assisted Self-Publishing and the Amazon White Glove Program: @Melissa_Foster @JaneFriedman

Templates for self-published books that can be used with Microsoft Word-created manuscripts: @JFBookman

Bowker's latest pub. data and a look at the importance of bookstores to publishers: @Porter_Anderson @DouglasMcCabe

A free directory of cover designers, formatters, freelance editors, and more:

The Search Engine for Writers:

15 Questions to Help you Decide Your Next Writing Project: @fictionnotes

Agents share what they like to see in book openings: @MartinaABoone

3 Ways to Ground Readers in Your World: @Janice_hardy

How flipping elements of a flipped idea results in new ideas: @creativesomething

Freelancers: The Magic of Double-Whammy Headlines: And How To Use Their Enormous Power:

3 Types of "Not Only . . . But Also" Errors: @writing_tips

Transitioning from fanfic to original work: @JordanMcCollum

6 Historical Forensic Detectives Who Deserve Their Own TV Shows: @io9

3 ways back into the author marketing game:

To Be a Writer, You Only Need to Do Two Things: @write_practice

Infinitives: To split or not to split: @aliciarasley

3 Dimensions of Character – A Review of Larry Brooks' Character Development Technique: @Fictorians

1 writer's crazy three years since "the call": @tawnafenske

Understanding Screenwriting: Zero Dark Thirty, This is 40, Margin Call, & More: @slant

Should Independent Authors Have Their Books Translated into Foreign Languages? @goblinwriter

How to Write a Novel as a Collaborative Team: @adriennedewolfe

5 Unconventional Fantasy Relationships: @rajanyk

Classic Characters Whose Flaws Make Them Great: @BenClayborne

Should Writers Pay to Use Duotrope? @writeitsideways

Author Photos Step-By-Step:The Comprehensive Guide: @CharleeVale

Keep the "Cheesiness" Out of Your Author Website: @KerryLonsdale

Authors and Domain Names: Claiming Rights to Names and Titles: @SheilaJLevine

Killing the "Pay First, Read Later" E-bookselling Model: @pubperspectives

How Much Can an Editor Edit a Writer's Work? @BrianKlems

Scrivener for plotters: @Gwen_Hernandez

How @JaneFriedman Got a 6-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn't Matter):

Types of act-outs for screenwriters and other writers: @lillazuck

Filling the creative well with a rest break:

Do You Have a Purpose? The Absurd in Literature: @write_practice

Editors and Their Roles: @amazingstories0

Author Solutions: One Racket To Rule Them All: @EmilySuess

5 Blogging Tips for Indie Authors:

Dialect in Dialogue: A Little Goes a Long Way: @PamelotH

How to Know When to Quit Pursuing Publication: @jodyhedlund

1 writer advises writers to pick a genre and stick with it: @jimrubart

Defining your characters' dreams:

Leaving Room for Inspiration/Creativity Within an Outline: @martinaaboone @AnnaCollomore

5 Essential Qualities of Irresistible Product Descriptions: @KathrynAragon @buddhapuss

The Five Best Questions To Ask A Panel of Writers: @CarrieCuinn

How Writing a Short Story Differs From Writing a Novel: @susanjmorris

What Makes An Idea Worthwhile? @mooderino

5 Facebook Marketing Tips for Authors: @goblinwriter

An agent explains when to revise your manuscript and when to keep submitting: @carlywatters

Build Your Writing Community: In-Person Events: @DIYMFA

Build Your Community--Writing Classes and Workshops: @DIYMFA

Build Your Online Writing Community: @DIYMFA

Q&A With An Editor: The Acquisitions Process: @DIYMFA

The Author-Editor Relationship: @DIYMFA

Being Your Own Muse: @DIYMFA

What Writers Can Learn from Children's Books: @DIYMFA

Making Your Writing Real: @NaAlleyBlog

Using Flow Charts to Plot: @jillkemerer

Introducing Your Novel: Why the First Few Pages are the Most Important: @americanediting

What fiction trends are coming and going? @MacGregorLit

Nail a Better Concept To Empower Your Story: @storyfix

5 Answers to Questions About Direct Address: @writing_tips

Never again hate self-promo: @rachellegardner

Worst exposition ever? @gointothestory

How do we discover what we want to read? @byrozmorris

Getting to know readers: the new accessibility: @tobywneal

5 Tips to Effective Dialogue: @MaloneEditorial

10 Steps To Write And Publish Your Non-Fiction Book: @thecreativepenn

Developing Scenes--revisiting the plot arc: @DeeWhiteauthor

Think Like a Publisher: Sales Plans: @deanwesleysmith

When is it overwritten? @juliettewade

Respect Yourself and Take Back Control of Your Calendar: @reallifee

The Best Characters Are Broken: @fcmalby

Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing:

The First Step to a Quality Book: @JeFishman

Is Scrivener Right For You? @NMusch

What Makes Good Horror? @craigdilouie

Journaling for writers: @getpulled

6 self-editing tips: @adriennedewolfe

Focusing your fiction: @JordanMcCollum

How your characters might be betraying readers: @kmweiland

Winning Battles for Writers: National Writers Union:

Many memorable characters are broken ones:

Stuck? Five Ways to Write Forward:

2 Dialogue Tips from Studying SitComs: Just Spit it Out: @fictionnotes

7 Ways To Improve Your Outlines: @goodinaroom

6 Ways To Get Rid Of Infodumps At The Beginning Of A Story: @woodwardkaren

One key to handling exposition: @gointothestory

Write first thing in the morning? Are you crazy? @JennaAvery

Writing for trends: @TaliaVance

"Sorry, the short story boom is bogus": @salon

How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Class: @michelledseaton

Famous Authors' Fan Letters to Other Authors: @flavorpill @theatlantic

8 Tips From @ChuckWendig On How To Read Like A Writer: @woodwardkaren

10 Books that Changed America: @listverse

The Dangers of Reading About Writers: @PeterDamien

A look at the award-winning movie Lincoln...from a screenwriter's perspective: @cockeyedcaravan

3 Things to Do When You Have to Start Writing (That Aren't "Start Writing"): @GeoffreyCubbage

Immaturity in Writing: @bluemaven

10 tips for creating great plots: @plotwhisperer

Point Of View: Enhancing Your Narrative Voice:

Self-editing tips:

Journaling for the Chronic Journal Abandoner: @roniloren

For a long writing career, fight for yourself: @kristinerusch

Why Being a Ghostwriter isn't as Soul-Sucking as You Think: @BeingTheWriter

How To Be Creative When Your Brain Doesn't Want To Play: @RebootAuthentic

Some thoughts on Authority and Credibility: @VeronicaSicoe

Rules of writing fan fiction: @charmaineclancy

What 1 writer has learned from her cat: @JordanDane

How Busy People Can Find More Time for Reading: @jodyhedlund

Worldbuilding--Making the Most of Holidays in Your World: @juliettewade

Make the Reader Weep or Laugh: @fictionnotes

What Worries Publishers Most? @bmorrissey

Facing Failure: The Art of Eating Live Frogs: @jeffgoins

11 Ways to Solve Your Writing Procrastination Problem:

The Future of Publishing for Authors and Professional Writers: @wherewriterswin

Blogging Help: 7 Tools For Success: @heidicohen

The Basics of DIY E-Book Publishing: @writersdigest

How to Get In Touch With Your Characters (Especially When You Have Writer's Block): @write_practice

Flog a Pro: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks: @RayRhamey

10 Important Questions You Should Ask A Website Company Before Buying A New Website: @authormedia

5 Reasons Agents Don't Explain their Rejections: @rachellegardner

A trad. published author tries self-pubbing. Her one regret: @annvosspeterson

Dialogue Involving Multiple Characters:

The Benefits of Talking Through Your Scenes: @Janice_Hardy

Snip Skimming in the Bud: How to be Eloquent and Snappy:

Judging Young Fiction By Their Covers:

How To Make A Professional Standard Print Book Interior: @JFBookman @thecreativepenn

A look at the new hybrids in creative nonfiction:

5 "Not This . . . But That" Parallelism Problems: @writing_tips

Memoir Writing Tips: How To Get Your Story On The Page: @thewritermama

Discoverability not a problem for readers...1 reader bribed a librarian to put books in her hold queue: @kimthedork

Guy Kawasaki's 10 Social Media Tips for Authors: @mediatwit

The Business of Screenwriting: Everything you wanted to know about specs: @gointothestory

When it's time to stop blogging: @yeomanis

Writing with an "authentic" voice: @TheHeraldRyanG

Down to Earth Structure: @Julie_Gray

Platonic Male-Female Relationships in Fiction (a.k.a. "The Glue"): @fictiorians

Story Structure Provides A Framework For Meaning: @woodwardkaren

Friday, March 29, 2013

How Ebook Sales Affect Traditional Sales

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

The series that I'm self-publishing had its start as a traditionally published product.

"Pretty is as Pretty Dies" was published by Midnight Ink in 2009.  The book earned out, but apparently wasn't considered a huge financial success by Midnight Ink, who indicated to me in 2010 that they'd rather not publish a sequel. I've never had hard feelings--publishing is a business. They need to make good business decisions or else they won't stay afloat. I was definitely disappointed, since I loved the characters, but I was too busy to be crushed.  I was already, at that point, working on the Memphis Barbeque series and was hearing that I might be considered for a second series with Penguin.

In both 2010 and 2011, I continued hearing from readers, asking when the next Myrtle Clover book was coming out.  I was buried in work at the time with the other series, but I hated telling them there wouldn't be more books in the series.  I did tell a couple of readers that...then I started telling them that I was considering putting more Myrtles out, myself.  My agent offered to shop the series to Penguin and St. Martin's, but I really didn't want to go that route because I knew it would take forever and the first book had come out in 2009. 

After dragging my feet for a while, I decided to take the leap into self-publishing.  It took a while.  During that time, I kept hearing of the success other authors were having with self-publishing and was kicking myself for not getting my rights back and finding the time to find editors, artists, and formatters.  Finally, I just gave myself a deadline.  I wrote to the publisher, asking for the rights to my characters back.  They returned them.  Then I put a team together and starting releasing Myrtles--the book that Midnight Ink had turned down, a revamped version of the very first book in the series, and a new book. 

While I was releasing the books, I ran sales on the self-pubbed items, frequently making one of the books free by making it free on Smashwords, then indicating to Amazon that the price was lower there.  Sales of the other books increased, I got a large number of reviews on a couple of the titles, and began getting more visibility with the Amazon algorithm.

I noticed that sales were also increasing for the traditionally-published, "Pretty is as Pretty Dies."  It was, after all, in the same series and introduced a main and recurring character in the series.  The sales seemed to be mainly Kindle sales and placed the book in the 25,000--35,000 Amazon bestsellers rank for many weeks...pretty good for Midnight Ink and pretty good for a 3 1/2 year old book. The book was garnering new reviews and interest...the book was enjoying a second life.

Then last September, I received an email from Midnight Ink.  I was curious, since I knew the sales for the book were suddenly strong.   Sadly, the email stated:

"As you likely know, sales of the book have slowed considerably to the point where we have decided to designate the book as out-of-print. This means we will be returning available rights to you and discarding the remaining inventory.

Prior to discarding the inventory, we are offering you the opportunity to purchase as many copies as you would like for 80% off of the original retail price plus freight. Please contact our customer service department at {redacted}to order your books. This is a one-time offer and your order must be placed by Friday, September 14, 2012. Any remaining inventory be shredded and recycled on Monday September 17, 2012. If you miss the deadline, you will be unable to purchase any copies of your book.

Midnight Ink hereby returns all international and domestic rights to you to the above named title with the following exceptions:

English large print rights (domestic and international)
Note that this rights return does NOT include rights to the covers, interior or exterior artwork. Nor does it include typography or electronic files."

No, I didn't buy any books at 80% off.  :)  What on earth would I have done with them--stacked them up in a closet?  And the book is selling really well as an ebook...that seems to be the format that readers want the book in. It was just a pity I didn't have the ebook rights to that book back. 

It was a little sad that my books were shredded and recycled.  :)

What's my takeaway from this?  One takeaway is that Midnight Ink did me a tremendous favor by refusing a second book--I've certainly done well on my own and who knows when I'd have taken the self-publishing leap without an unsold book handy?  Another lesson is that ebooks are a lot more popular than print (I can't really draw another conclusion with the data I've got--few wanted the print version and the ebook version is selling briskly.) Another is that we don't have to let publishers decide when our series are over (as long as we can get the rights to the characters back.) I've also learned that it helps to have a series if you're self-publishing...the individual book sales build off each other. I haven't noticed as much of an effect on the sales of my other traditionally-published books in other series.  And I've learned that--now, anyway--offering books for free means increased visibility and sales for related books.

Do you prefer series, as a reader? Have you tried self-publishing?  Run any deeply discounted sales? Taken a discontinued series and re-started it, yourself?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creative Exploration

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Image: MorgueFile: Bang
I recently read two posts that I found very interesting.  Most interesting to me was the different positions they took (unknowingly...the posts and authors weren't connected in any way) on the same issue--creative exploration.

One of the blogs is Original Impulse.  The blogger is Cynthia Morris, who describes herself as a creative coach for others...I think of her as a writer, since that's how I know her online.  She's a novelist and essayist and a proponent of having fun creatively, exploring creativity, and--as her site mentions--having a "creative adventure."

I think I've watched with interest especially because she does things that I don't do...she takes risks where I'm cautious.  She does things on a bigger scale than I--she travels to France to sketch and recharge her creative batteries where I might go to a local coffee shop.
And she recently decided to forego her regular blogging and focus on focus on painting.  She explains the hows and whys in her post "Getting Real, Getting Vulnerable, Getting Visual."

Which I find really inspiring.  I do. I never want to feel boxed-in, creatively.  Of course, I'd have to adapt what she's doing to suit my own life.  My visual-artistic talent is sub-zero on any scale and I've got two kids who still depend on me a lot, so travel is pretty much out of the question.'s just another reminder of those stories that are asking to be written.  Some time soon I'm going to shift focus to them (and no, they're not traditional mysteries.)

The other post, which took a strikingly different view, was by experienced writer James L. Rubart in his post "You Can Only Write in One Genre. Period. End of Story."  And, as he mentions in his first paragraph, the post title pretty much sums up his feelings on the subject...the remainder of the post he explains his position on the topic.

My post isn't a tale of a good approach and a bad approach or what to do or what not to do.  James Rubart has some very good points in his piece and he's looking out for readers and writers, too...which I appreciate.  Yes, readers can get confused when we branch out into different genres.  We've carefully built up reader loyalty, then we're pulling the rug out from under them.  Worst case scenario, they feel tricked.

This, honestly, is one of the real joys of self-publishing.  As I read through the comments, I kept looking for someone to bring that point up.  Finally, near the middle of the (long) list of comments, I found someone--James Scott Bell, as a matter of fact.  As James stated:
Branding has been an essential element here, due to readership building, store ordering and shelf space. All that's been turned around in the digital age. I reflected on that a bit ago. Traditional publishers are starting to catch on, albeit slowly, to the idea that (to paraphrase the old Wonder Bread commercials) a writer can build strong readers 12 ways. 
There are many ways to address this problem and none of them involve short-changing ourselves creatively.  For one, we don't have to face a roadblock from an agent or publisher if we want to explore a different genre--we can publish the book ourselves.

For another...if we really don't want a dedicated reader to accidentally purchase a book in a different genre, we could use a pseudonym.  Yes, it means building up another brand. But it's worth it.'s easy enough these days to link the two names together on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.  Our websites could also list the books with a disclaimer: it's a different genre than they're used to reading from us.

Creative freedom and freedom of expression is incredibly important for us to thrive and continue producing...and producing quality content.  We need to find the balance between satisfying our own creative impulses and making it a satisfying experience for our readers.

Have you considered writing other genres?  Or...even exploring other artistic formats?

Monday, March 25, 2013

When to Start or Stop a Series

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I'm a real fan of writing series.  That's probably obvious, since I write three of them.  It gives me more opportunity to fully-develop my characters and give them growth throughout the series.  In's honestly a lot easier to write series.  You put a setting in place, and recurring characters in place--which makes subsequent books easier to write.

As a reader, I like series, too.  I feel more invested in the protagonist and recurring characters if I know I'll be spending several books with them.  I'll even soak in the setting and descriptions a bit more, since I know they'll be needed lately (as I've mentioned before, I frequently will gloss over any descriptions when reading.)

Elements that make for a good series:

A strong protagonist.  This character shouldn't take a back seat in the story--he should make things happen instead of having things happen *to* him.  There should be room for character growth there, too, and change.

Either a big conflict (for linked series where the plot continues from book to book) or solid new conflicts for each non-linked book in a series.  Some subplots work well in series, too..romantic subplots are frequently popular with writers of all genres. 

An interesting setting.  And one that's interesting for the writer to write, too.

Elements that also make for good standalones...strong supporting characters, believable conflict, good pace, etc.

When to call a series quits:

When your publisher says it's finished.  :)  (These days you should see if you can get the rights to those characters back and continue the series yourself.)

When your characters start becoming static and your ideas are drying up.

When you find you're recycling plots.

When readers lose interest.

Do you prefer writing and reading standalones or series better? 

Image: MorgueFile: beglib

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Mike Fleming is working with author and writing coach James Scott Bell to offer an online, interactive, writing program to help make your next novel great. It's called "Knockout Novel" and you can learn more about it at Knockout Plus, all the data is stored in your Hiveword account for easy access.  The program is due to launch in early-April.
Book Design Quick Tips for Self-Publishers: @jfbookman
5 tips for writing humor: @fictionnotes
On the Interbook Indecision: @KgElfland2ndCuz
What writers need to know about the business of writing: @kristinerusch
How To Use Stereotypes In Writing Fiction: @VeronicaSicoe
Are Self-Pub Books the New Slush Pile? @rachellegardner
9 Tips To Develop A Winning Blog Personality: @HeidiCohen
5 Facebook Marketing Tips for Authors: @goblinwriter
Crime fiction sleuths who aren't conventionally attractive: @mkinberg

Need a unique way to round out your flat characters? Try stressing the characters out: @DianeKrause2

Dated reference or lexicon? @authorterryo

5 Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention: @janefriedman

Rumors of the ISBN’s Demise: @Porter_Anderson @ljndawson @Personanondata @MickRooney7777

How 1 writer's Amazon sales translated into income: @Porter_Anderson @salon

The Used-Digital Debate: @porter_anderson @LloydJassin @JDGsaid

Troubleshooting your mystery novel:

"Everybody Publishes, You Stinking Gatekeeper": @Porter_Anderson @oxfordthrillers @hughmcguire

Writing a realistic plea bargain scene: @DADiaries
Physical Attributes Entry: Stomach: @angelaackerman
Is Jane Austen Overhyped or Underappreciated? @slate

Writer's guide to G.I.M.P.--image reflections on glass: @clarissadraper
Why Do Female Authors Dominate Young-Adult Fiction? @Meg_Lewit
How to Get Your ISBN: @MyBookShepherd
Let Music Set the Mood: @MsAnnAguirre
Quality writing time: @julie_gray
"Promoting your Book on Facebook and Twitter is a Total Waste of Time": @MaryWWalters
Worldbuilding--Crafting Cultural Interactions: @juliettewade
Pace Your Novel Perfectly: @lindasclare
On Being a Professional Amateur:
Hyphens vs. Dashes vs. Commas:
Top 10 Tips For Self-Publishing Print Books On Createspace: @thecreativepenn @GunBossBooks
Another Class Action Suit Launched Against PublishAmerica: @victoriastrauss
Tips for submission letters: @writersdigest
5 Things Children Teach Us About Writing: @writenowcoach
The Bad PR Hangover (and How to Avoid It): @SharonBially
8 ways to be a happy author: @rachellegardner
5 Quick Tips to Writing More: @kathysteffen
Secret sauce for a good book: Re-vision: @JordanMcCollum
6 Months of Vocabulary Practice: @write_practice
On Behalf of Neglected Night Creatures: @thisishorror
Top 10 Stupid Movie Quotes About Reading: @NewDorkReview
The Crazy Plan to Save Barnes & Noble: @passivevoiceblg
Script To Screen: "Notting Hill": @gointothestory
Identifying the Character Tics in "Lost": @suelange
Sex in SF/F: For the sake of the story: @mikemartinez72
How to Raise Funds for Your Book Project: @wherewriterswin
5 Steps To A Successful Digital Rewrite: @chris_shultz81
Why One-Star Reviews Matter: @selfpubreview
Write Like a Lawyer: 5 Tips for Fiction Writers: @ChuckSambuchino
Tips for completing a novel: @ronvitale
Tips for stronger book sales for self-pubbed authors: @rxena77
How 1 writer uses music as part of his creative process: @byrozmorris @agnieszkassshoes
How to Write a Novel as a Collaborative Team: @adriennedewolfe
The Biggest Problem With Trick Endings: @kmweiland
5 reasons readers love your story: @LisaCron
Should Independent Authors Have Their Books Translated into Foreign Languages? @goblinwriter
Considerations when planning your literary estate: @kristinerusch
How to Get Help from Amazon: @Authopublisher
1 writer advises us to never delete unwanted story bits: @write_practice
The Business of Screenwriting: Everything you wanted to know about specs: @gointothestory
How to Use Introversion for Career and Personal Success: @lifehacker
1 writer explains how to be more prolific:
Accessing Creative Energy:
How Much Time Should Writers Spend Blogging? @scottmarlowe
Using a Variety of Ebook Price Points:
Netflix says it's a great time to be a writer: @rule17
Pay attention to commas when using the words since and because: @livewritethrive
5 Key Questions to Ask as You Write Your Novel:
7 Deadly Myths and 3 Inspired Truths About Book Editing: @StillpointDigPr
5 Tips to Writing a Great Historical Novel: @MyBookTherapy
5 Tips To Avoid A Blah Blah Blog: @wherewriterswin
How Much Money Amazon Is Making From The Kindle? @sai @passivevoiceblg
5 Unconventional Fantasy Relationships: @rajanyk
How To Write Short Stories: @woodwardkaren
How to Bring Subjects to Life in Your Nonfiction Writing: @amywilentz
Answers to Questions About Tense: @writing_tips
Taking your writing seriously: @writersrelief
Classic Characters Whose Flaws Make Them Great: @BenClayborne
Losing Sight of the Target: @StinaLL
Why Hunter S. Thompson Would've Loved Author Rank: @copyblogger
Great Characters: Vincent Vega ("Pulp Fiction"): @gointothestory
Tricks Your Left Brain is Playing On You (And What You Can Do About It): @lifehacker
Lazy Ways to Keep The Reader Hooked - The Dan Brown Secret: @yeomanis
Ebook parts: @jakonrath
The art of biography is alive and well: @guardianbooks
Re-Posting Old Blog Posts: @Janice_hardy
5 Hilarious Reasons Publishers Rejected Classic Best-Sellers: @passivevoiceblg
10 Giveaway Freebies to Get Readers to Opt-in:
Can Libraries Lend eBooks Without DRM? @gluejar
Where's the Line between Spamming and Sharing? @jamigold
Tips for a better LinkedIn profile: @JennyHansenCA @KristenLambTX
Analyzing Story Structure: @woodwardkaren
5 Facebook Marketing Tips for Authors: @goblinwriter
25 commandments for journalists: @guardianbooks
Writing A Feel Good Story: @woodwardkaren
4 reasons an agent kept reading recent queries: @petejknapp
An agent explains when to revise your manuscript and when to keep submitting: @carlywatters
How to Produce and Distribute Your Own Audiobook: @bookbaby
23 Ways To Promote Your Blog: @HeidiCohen
10 shifted perspective novels 1 reader would like to see: @readingape
Neologisms, Pseudowords, & The Pleasures of Deviant Language in Fantastika: @sfsignal
The Secret of Success: Stop Trying to Be Famous: @jeffgoins
Great Scene: "Double Indemnity": @gointothestory
Memorable openings in science fiction: @amazingstories0
The Case For Libraries: @passivevoiceblg
Why Cliffhangers Keep Readers in Your Raft: @jefishman
6 Ways to Fall in Love with Writing: @litreactor @robdyoungwrites
How to Stay Calm and Creative while Coping with Stress: @brandenbarnett
Novel experiments in publishing: @JennWebb
Check your ebook files before you publish them: @behlerpublish
Do you need a literary agent? @dirtywhitecandy
4 Elements of Epic Storytelling: @mythicscribes
Writing Workshop: How To Tell When You Need That Boost: @diymfa
Is Scrivener Right For You? @NMusch
A Five Author Street Team = Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen? @Tracy_March
Scene questionnaire:
How to Write a One Page Proposal: @shalvatzis
Konrath's results using Amazon Select: @woodwardkaren
10 Creative Habits of the Pro Artist: @brandenbarnett
18 Bad Guys Who Were Way Too Easy to Defeat: @io9
15 famous beautiful creatures: @slant
Tips for writing realistic fight scenes: @thecreativepenn @JarrahLoh
Post price fixing settlement thoughts: @jane_l
Building a platform vs. promoting a book: @rachellegardner
The author has four faces: A writer's survival guide: @katewritesbooks
Write Your Truth: @jamesscottbell
Screenwriting Software: Adobe Story: @woodwardkaren
Structuring Your Scenes: Variations on the Sequel: @kmweiland
The Power of the Author Interview: @BookMarketer
Writing Historicals – How Accurate Must You Be?
Adding Contrast to Your Writing: Character: @ava_jae
Writing Vivid Scenes: @KatZhang
How to Find a Critique Group:
Being a smart author in a changed industry: @kristenlambTX @SusanSpann
2 self-pubbed authors debunk indie publishing myths: @SusanKayeQuinn @laurapauling
When You Have to Admit You've Failed: @alexisgrant
Engaging in non-writing art can influence your writing: @Jan_Ohara
Self-Published Authors Share 5 Things They Learned in 2012: @livewritethrive
13 Geeky Ways To Beat Writer's Block: @VeronicaSicoe
Writing a Character's Dark Side:
Violent Femmes: The Place of Women in Horror: @HorrorMovies
Top 10 vicious literary hatchet jobs: @telegraphbooks
How 1 writer began writing and stopped lying: @randysusanmeyer
Order to the Chaos of Life: Isabel Allende on Writing: @brainpicker
For the stressed-out writer: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime: @lifehackorg

Friday, March 22, 2013

Focusing on the Writing First

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

When I was a kid, my elementary school would have tornado drills at least twice in a school year.  What I remember most about these drills was that the teachers would direct all the children into the hallway to kneel with our arms covering our heads...and then they'd spend the entire drill busily cranking open the casement windows.  The prevailing wisdom at the time (at least, in my elementary school), was that the windows must be opened or else the school would explode from the pressure during a tornado.  I sounds nutty now.

Actually, it seemed crazy to me at the time that the teachers would be working so long and so hard to open those half-painted-shut windows...during a tornado. I remember thinking, "So...if this were a real tornado, the kids will all be safe in the hall.  And all the adults will be dead because they're trying to open the windows.  What will we do then?"  The windows just weren't the right things to be focusing on.

Twice recently, I've had new writers approach me to ask me publishing-related questions for unfinished first manuscripts.  I actually used to love talking with new writers.  I couldn't figure out why other writers disliked it so much.  Lately, though, I completely understand.  As I listened to them asking me questions about the industry, my heart sank.  How could I possibly give them any direction in only a few minutes? 

Neither had ever finished a book.  One had been working on a book for years, but not regularly.  It was something she picked up every few months.  She was concerned about agents and publishers and how to approach them.  

The other writer asked me about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and building a platform.  And the writer looked totally overwhelmed.  I'd have been totally overwhelmed, too.  Working on a first novel, thinking about all the social media and the way the industry is imploding or exploding or improving (depending how you look at it.) 

It all reminded me of the teachers trying to crank those windows open.  Their principal had them focused on the wrong task.  They should have huddled down next to us in the hall.  Writers need to huddle down and write. 

Yes, we've got to follow the industry news.  It will help give us direction when we're figuring out the best avenue for publishing our story.  Plus, it's just such a dynamic time that our whole concept of the publishing industry could become outdated in a short period of time.  But the story comes first.

Platform building is important. But the timing of its importance is in question.  If it prevents you from writing that first book, that's a problem.   Industry expert Jane Friedman put it bluntly in her recent post (and the entire post is an insightful read)  on Writer Unboxed,  5 Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention:

If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing. 

I do think it's nice to have a home base on the web...a website, a blog, some place to hang your hat.  Definitely a professional-sounding email address, at the very least. But instead of platforming, new writers should think about discovering information from the writing community--craft, industry news, support.  Again, nothing that takes the place of the writing.  Platforming makes more sense for writers who have books launching. 

Once the book is finished, we do have lots of decisions to make and tons of information to absorb.  But we're focused in the wrong direction, it makes it even harder to find time to write.

How do you keep focused on your writing instead of all the other writing-related issues (industry changes, networking, platforming, agents and publishers)?  For me, it means knocking out my daily writing goal before hopping online.

Image: MorgueFile: npclark2k 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Troubleshooting Your Mystery

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Hi everyone!  I'm over at the Writer's in the Storm blog today, with a guest post aimed at mystery writers--"Troubleshooting Your  Mystery."  I'll share some common problems mystery writers face and offer some potential solutions.

Hope you'll drop by if you have a chance. Writers in the Storm , if you haven't visited there, is a helpful blog, focusing on the writing craft...their archives are fun to delve into!

Update--I'm trying a new plug-in for comments.  When I turned on comment moderation yesterday afternoon, I promptly received 50 spam comments to moderate.  By this morning, it was in the hundreds.  Hoping that a third-party site will improve our commenting experience here, but we'll see!

Yet another update--Never mind.  Somehow, Blogger managed to eat the commenting widget.  I've never seen a widget just disappear!

Plan B--migrate to WordPress in late-summer so that I can use G.A.S.P. to rid myself of spammers.  Sigh.  In the meantime, we're back to Blogger's limited options for commenting.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stressed-Out Characters – Just the Way We Want Them--Guest Post by Diane Krause

by Diane Krause,@DianeKrause2
In addition to writing and editing, one of my other interests is human behavior and personality types. I’m fascinated by the way we’re each uniquely wired, and what it takes for us all to work and play nicely together.
For a number of years, I’ve worked with a personality assessment called The Birkman Method™. This particular assessment stands out among others, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, because Birkman measures more aspects of an individual’s personality than other assessments. One of those aspects is Stress Behavior, a concept that can be quite useful for fiction writers.
Stress Behavior, according to The Birkman Method™, is the behavior we exhibit when our needs aren’t met. That seems logical, right? When all is right with the world -- the bills are paid, the laundry’s done, the children are behaving, and we’re exceeding our word count quota – our behaviors are usually pretty positive and we’re a joy to be around. Yet when all is not right with the world, well, it’s not a pretty sight, is it?
The Birkman assessment takes that concept and breaks it down by the four primary personality types, with each type possessing its own set of positive behaviors, basic needs, and stress behavior. An understanding of the four types and some common stress behaviors can help us add a bit more dimension, or complexity, to our fictional characters. After all, we do want our characters to be stressed, right? Stress creates conflict, which is critical to creating great fiction.
The following is a crash course in the four basic personality types, and some common stress behaviors that are likely to pop up in each when all is not right with his or her world.
The Doer Personality. This is the classic Type A personality. He’s quick to make decisions, likes to be in charge, and lives to see results. This is the Ready-Fire-Aim guy. He’s most comfortable with people who think and act like him, and he tends to have little patience with creative types who prefer to explore options and think before acting. He prefers to deal with people in a frank, direct and straightforward manner with a minimal amount of emotion and sentimentality.
The Doer’s Stress Behavior. When his needs aren’t met – say he’s stuck working with a bunch of free spirits ­­-- he will tend to become insensitive, bossy, dogmatic, impulsive, edgy, and impatient. He’ll be overly factual and abrupt, and will tend to have difficulty responding to the personal needs of others.
The Influencer Personality. This is your killer saleswoman. She loves being around people and can work a room like nobody’s business. The Influencer likes novelty, change, a minimal amount of structure, and the freedom to do her own thing. She tends to get along well with most people, but doesn’t care for people who are overly insistent on rules and procedures.
The Influencer’s Stress Behavior. When the Influencer is stressed – say her personal freedom is limited and she’s stuck following rigid rules – she’ll tend to become defensive, argumentative, resistant to rules, easily side-tracked, and may be overly concerned with saving face.
The Rules and Regs Personality. This is your class process person. To him, Heaven – not the devil – is in the details. He loves working with rules, definitions, processes, and systematic procedures. He’s not much of a people person and is typically content working quietly by himself. He’s orderly, consistent and cautious, and likes all the lines clearly drawn. He wants to know what’s expected of him, and what he can expect of others (preferably that they’re following the rules).
The Rules and Regs’s Stress Behavior. When order is lost or abandoned, the rules guy will be stressed. In reaction, his fear of the unexpected will cause him to become over-controlling, too factual, opinionated, and resistant to change. Personal interactions with others will be even more challenging than usual.
The Thinker Personality. She’s the best idea person around – creative, innovative, and almost always able to see things from a new angle (a good quality in a sleuth). She’s insightful and typically easy-going. She longs for freedom from social demands, values strong personal relationships, and needs plenty of time to make decisions. 
The Thinker’s Stress Behavior. If the Thinker’s world gets too loud or busy, she’s easily overwhelmed. Extended social demands, pressure to make quick decisions, heavy doses of criticism, and bossy people will all cause the Thinker to become stressed. When that happens, she’ll become oversensitive, easily hurt, idealistic, withdrawn, and even more hesitant to make decisions. She’ll also tend to second-guess almost everything she does.
As writers, of course we want to create fictional characters as complex and unique as real people – a formidable challenge. Borrowing traits from the living and breathing can often give us a jump-start on creating the characters that will bring our stories to life.
Are there any interesting stress behaviors you would add to this list? What are some characteristics you’ve given to your characters to increase the conflict in your stories?
Diane Krause is a freelance editor, writer, and author of 25 Ways to Create Classic Characters Readers Will Love. You can connect with Diane through her website at, or on Twitter @DianeKrause2.
25 Ways to Create Classic Characters Readers Will Love is a short book designed to inspire writers and provide a jump-start on creating believable fictional characters. Available on Amazon.