Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Amazon had to pull, redo and reload Neal Stephenson’s latest title Reamde after readers complained about numerous errors costing Harper-Collins and Stephenson considerable money and causing bad publicity. Beta testers for JK Rowling’s Pottermore web site were so underwhelmed with it, the opening of it has been pushed back. Reading reviews on Amazon I find numerous books from the Big 6, like Dan Simmons’ classic, Hyperion, getting savaged in eBook reviews because of serious formatting errors.

In his latest article, Bob Mayer talks about Experts making mistakes in publishing. Here’s a link to the rest of his article, Reamde, Pottermore, Hyperion and other mistakes from publishing “experts”

I’m excited! Later this month I’m going to be taking a couple of Bob Mayer’s classes at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I attended last year and had a fabulous time. Not only did I meet dozens are people like me — people I didn’t have to explain myself to! — but I learnt an amazing amount about the art and craft of writing. The keynote speeches alone were worth the price.

Okay, back to my blog post. Although Bob Mayer came at it from a different angle, some of what he wrote reminded me of Dean Wesley Smith’s latest blog post: The New World of Publishing: Traditional Publishers Are Getting What They Deserve. Well worth the read.

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I can always use more tips about how to manage my time! Most of them I already know, but I need reminding.

These tips come by way of Michael Haynes blog.

1. Have a goal. This may not seem like a time management tip at first, but it’s an absolutely essential input to any time management planning you are doing for writing. Without having a goal, you don’t know how much time you need to meet your goal. Another important input here is some idea of how quickly you compose. Be honest with yourself here. If you say “Oh, I can knock out 2000 words an hour” and that’s wishful thinking, then your planning will be off. I would suggest starting with a goal that isn’t a huge stretch for you. You can always choose to exceed your goal and/or increase your goal later on. If you set an overly-ambitious goal and don’t meet it, you can end up feeling frustrated.

2. Have a way of tracking progress towards your goal. If you’re doing a “word count per day” metric like I do, then the Seinfeld Chain which I previously discussed could be perfect for you. This gives you a way to track your progress which is easy and constantly visible. If you’re more interested in tracking your overall progress towards a large goal (like completing a novel) then you can use a wordcount tracker. There’s a very basic one which you can update by just changing one or two values (for words and target) in a link. The link/image reference

http://wordmeter.heroku.com/picometer/words=15000&target=55000

3. Make writing time a part of your schedule. This can be especially helpful if you’ve got a busy schedule of activities. If there are already a lot of things going on in your day/week, making a point to explicitly carve out some of your time for writing should improve matters. Once you’ve done that, make sure to commit to following through with using that time for writing. Naturally, every once and a while a true emergency will come up and you’ll have to skip a planned writing session. But if you find yourself doing that on a regular basis then you’re probably not getting value out of scheduling your writing time.

To read the rest of this excellent article, click here: Eight time management tips for writers

Want to publish a book that contains numerous photos? Then Blurb.com might be for you. The site is simple to use and, depending on what sort of book you want to create, will set you back around 20 dollars. You can then sell your book through Blurb.com’s bookstore. You set the price and pocket the difference between the cost of manufacture and the sale price. There is also a monthly processing fee.

One downside to using Blurb.com is that you can only sell your book from their bookstore, so it won’t show up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

All in all, worth a look.

The information in this article was taken from:
Blurb.com
Self-publishing options: From Kindle Direct Publishing to Blurb.com

I have never done a reading, but I know I’m going to want to re-read these rules before I do!

1. Choose the right passage. For any audience, it’s best to choose an excerpt that’s heavy on action and dialogue, or emotional weight, and light on description and backstory. Be careful not to choose something that gives away spoilers.
You’re also looking for something that will run a total of two to four minutes. That may not sound like a lot of time, but you’re going to put a lot of energy into it, so that’s plenty.

Finally, from beginning to end, it should be a complete scene, including conflict, rising action, and a great climax (Hint: Some authors end the reading right at the climax and tell people to read the book to find out what happens).

2. Treat the manuscript like a monologue. For your audience, listening to you is much like listening to a movie that’s on in the other room. They can hear the dialogue and the action. But they can’t see the scenery or follow the movement of the characters. All of that is meaningless to them.

So prepare for some surgery on the excerpt. Eliminate anything that doesn’t add to your reading, even if it’s an important thread to the overall plot. This includes long descriptions (of anything), and backstory references irrelevant to this excerpt. They’d feel like moving through mud while you’re reading. It also will include dialogue that may make sense within the total context of the story, but that is extraneous within the small passage you’ll be reading.

3. Narrow your characters. Remember that the excerpt should be a complete scene in itself. Very often the chosen passage has a line or two of dialogue that is vital to the scene, but that is spoken by a character who doesn’t matter in your excerpt. Unless the audience is already familiar with all of your characters, if you can attribute that dialogue to another character just during the reading, it will be less confusing to the audience. Sometimes to accomplish this, you may need to make a slight adjustment to the plot. Go ahead. Unless you’re JK Rowling and the world is paying attention to every syllable you utter, it won’t matter.

4. Practice aloud. Forget about “reading” and focus on the emotional center of the story. Your reading should capture the emotion, not the plot. Each word can be a tool that reaches inside the audience and holds them captive. To do this, say the words as what they are. “Cold” should be spoken as if your breath was made of ice, and “warm” would be the opposite. If your character is hurrying, read it faster. If your character is hiding, your voice may become softer.

This is a technique known as “coloring words,” and it is the biggest difference between an ordinary reading and an unforgettable one.

Feel free to mark up your excerpt as you practice. I underline words I want to emphasize, put slash marks between places I want to pause, and draw arrows to show where I want to go faster. They work like stage directions for me as I’m reading.

5. Prep your audience. Part of every reading is first orienting the audience to the scene. The setup should be brief and clear. The audience needs to have a basic idea of who the protagonist is, a general idea of the book’s plot, the more specific circumstances of the scene, and finally, a brief introduction to the other characters they’ll meet. Rehearse this orientation so that it’s just as fluid as your reading.

6. Read with your whole heart. A good reading is a little bit of theater. Dive into it, holding back nothing. It’s the people who keep one foot in the safe zone who end up looking ridiculous. Don’t worry about overplaying it. You don’t have the benefit of costumes, scenery, or fellow actors, so all you have is how you read. Pour everything you have into it, bringing the scene alive.
And have fun. Because even if your reading isn’t perfect, if you’re having fun, then the audience will too.

To read the rest of the article, click here: Guest Blogger Jennifer Nielsen: The Rules of Readings

This blog started out being about book blogs and then it morphed into something slightly different. Is this post the better or the worse for it? I’ll let you, kind reader, be the judge.

Book blogs. I’ve considered starting a book blog on and off for some time. As far as I understand it, a book blog contains bits of a work in progress. Not posts about a work in progress, the work itself.

I think I would name the blog, “The Naked Writer,” after Jamie Oliver’s show “The Naked Chef” where the idea was to “strip food down to its bare essentials”[1]. I guarantee you the blog would be PG, no nudity except the intellectual kind.

To test the waters, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post containing the rough draft of a horror story I’ve been working on for the past few days. I know, I know, horror isn’t my genre, I’m urban fantasy gal, but I wanted to challenge myself to do something different, something I’ve never tried before.

I’ve got the story more or less plotted out and have even started writing it but I feel like an extra little bit of motivation might be just what I need.

I want to skip out of the flow of this post for a moment (I told you about this!) to mention an incredible moment of … what? synchronicity? Basically something happened that I think is pretty darn cool. Sneak peek: it involves Stephen King.

A few minutes ago I got up to get a cup of coffee and (it’s a habit!) checked my email when I sat back down at my desk. One way I get content for my Twitter feed and this blog is though a bunch of Google Alters on a great many topics including Stephen King.

The latest Alert (I imagine them as spiders on a great web scuttling to and fro, juicy morsels of information grasped in their shiny chitinous jaws) contained a link to an interview. The article, “Stephen King: One of the best writers of all time?” was about King’s collaboration on Scott Snyder’s graphic novel series “American Vampire”.

Okay, bla, bla, bla, here’s what I’ve been leading up to. At one point in the interview Snyder is asked:

Q: Horror plays a big role in your books. Where did you get this wild imagination?

Synder’s answer is great, and I’d encourage you folks to read it in its entirety, but here’s the part of Snyder’s answer that made me catch my breath:

… for me, really, really good horror is a character being challenged by their greatest fear as it manifests itself in the form of either a monster or just a challenge. It really cuts to the heart of what that character is afraid of. The story matters in that way, especially in comics, where you are taking these characters that are so heroic and have so many amazing qualities, and then going for something that you think is a great quality but also going for the weak side of that thing.

Q: Can you give us some examples from the superhero world?

For Superman, it’s almost like the fact that he’s a god, or almost a god, in terms of his limitless power can also be something that you could write a story about in a way that really frightens him about being completely alienated and lonely and turned upon by everyone. Or, for Batman, his knowledge of Gotham, his pathological and obsessive needs to not have connections to people and just be the best there is. You could easily do a story where that’s thrown in his face by somebody like the Joker who’s calling him crazy and saying, “You should live in the Asylum with us.” At that point the Bat-world is like Stephen King; it puts you in a situation where you face your fears, where there are terrible things you did … or the things that you don’t want to tell anyone about, but that you’re frightened of that are coming from life and coming for you in some way. In that way, I’ve always been a big fan of psychological horror. Or, it might just be that I watched too many of those slasher films in the ’80s.

Wow! The horror writer puts you, the reader, in a situation where you face your fears, where the terrible things things you did, the things you didn’t want to tell anyone about, the things you’re afraid will come to life, those things are coming for you.

As a writer, that’s inspiring. I can see the ending for my short story. Gotta go write!

[1] From http://www.jamieoliver.com/tv-books/the-naked/chef

If you follow these steps will your blog be wildly popular? As Jay Baer, the author of, “12 Most Imperative Must-Dos for the Serious Blogger,” says, there’s no guarantee, but you’ll have decent shot at it. Here are three of Jay’s imperatives for a successful blog:

1. Be patient. Every blogger starts with the exact same audience… zero. Eventually, relatives will read your blog, followed by sympathetic friends and neighbors. And then you’ll be on your way. But this notion that you start a blog and it becomes “a big deal” overnight is as rare as Keanu Reeves nailing a Victorian British accent.

2. Be specific. You have to have a clear sense of what your blog is about, and for whom you’re writing. There are no shortage of blogs out there, and if you’re going to successfully compete with a site like 12 Most, you better have a sharp understanding of what role you play in the educational or entertainment panoply of your audience.

3. Be consistent. Imagine if you subscribed to a magazine and it showed up at your house only whenever they “felt like” publishing an issue? The surprise factor might add a sprinkle of delight for a time, but the unpredictability would become irksome. We prefer to consume content in a disciplined and patterned way. Your blog should not contradict that circumstance.

The hard truth is that not every blog post you craft will be your best work. Nor is every meal you create, sentence you utter, hug you lavish, or bed you make. Nobody is at their best at all times. So this notion that some bloggers cling to of only writing when they “have something important to say” wrongly values inspiration over predictability.

As long as your quality doesn’t suffer markedly, recognize that more = more. Seven posts a week are better for your business than five. Five is better than three. And if you can’t write two posts a week, you’re probably kidding yourself if you think you can drive real business results from your blog.

I encourage everyone interested in growing an audience for a blog to head on over to The 12 Most … and read the rest of Jay Bear’s article, 12 Most Imperative Must-Dos for the Serious Blogger.

Word-of-mouth advertising can only work if you have fans out there spreading the word. This then is presumed to be a chicken and egg dilemma. How can you have word-of-mouth if you don’t have fans, and how can you have fans without word-of-mouth? Therefore self-publishing can’t work.

Michael J. Sullivan writes:

What I find so fascinating about this argument is that it is like a magic trick. It appears real until you’re shown how the magic is done and then it is just so obvious. Until then however, the argument can be quite convincing.

….

It was about this time that I saw an episode of The West Wing. It was a rerun, but I hadn’t seen it before. This was one of the later episodes where Santos is running for President. It doesn’t matter if you know the show or not, the point is that this guy was running for President, and no one knew who he was. His successful and experienced campaign manager took him to New Hampshire to start his campaign. And Santos, like me, expected there would be this rally, or convention where he would address hundreds of people. And just like me that didn’t happen because hundreds of people didn’t know he existed. Instead he was driven to the city dump, where people were known to frequent, and he was instructed to walk up to folks as they dumped their garbage and introduce himself. Just as you might expect Santos looked at his manager incredulously. He was running for President of the United States, not city council of Concord. This was ridiculous! How can you get to be President if you can’t get people to come hear your speeches? If no one knows who you are, how can you gain a following, and without a following how can people know who you are? How can you get fans if you don’t have fans?

The answer is very simple, so simple it is hard to accept especially for those expecting more, and I’ve noticed people are always expecting more, expecting life to be easier than it is. There is this idea that when you are published, you’ve done the same as winning the lottery, and now all your troubles are over. You’ll be able to quit your day job, and spend your time basking in the adoration of your fans. This is the fantasy, but the reality is a bit different.

The truth is—the answer to the question of how you get fans without first having word-of-mouth is…one at a time.

This sounds insane, I know. When I finally realized that I was expected to build a beach one grain of sand at a time, I was stunned. Really? Do you know how long that will take? The sheer absurdity of the size of such a task is overwhelming. I just did the impossible! I wrote a novel, and I got it published! Do you know how hard that is? And my reward is that I have to build a beach grain of sand by grain of sand? Are you nuts?

I went to my first signing like Santos went to the dump. I introduced myself and felt foolish doing so.

“Excuse me, sir. Can I tell you about my book?”
“You wrote it?”
“Yes, sir.”
“So you’re an author?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Huh. I’m just here with my wife. She likes these romance books. Honey, you want to talk to this guy, he’s an author!”
“No! I’ve got what I came for, I just need to pay for it.” She had a copy of one of the Twilight books under her arm.

At this point I wanted to crawl under a desk somewhere.

“But he wrote this book—he’s a real author. Tell her what your book’s about.”

In my mind I was imagining stabbing myself in the eye with an ice pick. Can I leave now? But I grudgingly went through the motions of explaining, knowing it is pointless and humiliating at the same time. I’d never sell any books like this. This isn’t what I thought being an author would be like. I might as well give up and keep whatever shred of dignity I have left.

“Will you sign it for me?” she asks.

“Huh?” I ask. “You want to buy it?”

“Sure.”

“Really?”

Afterwards I turned to my wife with a huge grin on my face and she smiled back then whispered in my ear. “Next time try not to look so shocked.”

Read the rest of Michael Sullivan’s article here: A Sandy Beach is No Vacation