Monthly Archives: March 2013

Visit My Virtual World


Visit My Virtual World.

This intrigues and scares me at the same time. Scares–because it is new and unfamiliar. Intrigues–because it is new and unfamiliar.

Since I am still in my writing hideaway, I am not prepared to join the virtual world just yet. But I’d like to learn more about it.

 

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Guest Post from Karel Henneberger–Think Christmas


Time to Write Those Christmas and Chanukah Stories

by Karel Henneberger

a member of Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe

It’s not even spring yet, but it’s time to get those Christmas stories and articles ready to submit to publishers. Most magazines require six or more months from receiving an article to the published issue, partly because most issues are printed (or posted) almost a month earlier than the date on the issue. And partly because there is usually a huge influx of manuscripts to read, approve, and send up the line for further approval and acceptance.

Start with an idea and then decide how to use it. You might write about:

  • Facts about traditions from a particular ethnic group
  • A facet of the holiday as your family celebrates
  • A reminiscence of past holidays
  • Exaggerate stories of incidents about a child’s experiences
  • How your family blended traditions of the parents’ families
  • How a mixed-marriage celebrates

Then consider whether you want to make your piece fictional or factual:

  • Facts can lead to fictional, semi-fictional–or docudrama stories
  • Semi-factual stories also work
  • One story line can lead to another

With your idea almost on paper (or screen):

  • Look online for some writer’s guidelines for a few possible markets
  • Check if there is a word limit
  • Check to see if there is a specific format required
  • Check for submission dates for Christmas stories

Now begin writing in earnest (or in your office or bedroom or in your living room):

  • List a possible market at the top of your first page
  • Include that market’s word limit and format requirements
  • Include the URL for that market
  • Write a tentative title
  • Then just stream the words–the first draft is never the best

With a rough draft sort of complete:

  • Check that you’ve always spelled names the same way (use the FIND feature on your computer with initial letters of the first name in the piece–ie: Jo for John, Joan)
  • That won’t catch all errors, but will catch some and the rest will be caught later
  • Make sure you are consistent in tense

Once you’ve written your piece–or pieces:

  • Let it sit for a couple of days
  • Then go back and read it out loud to yourself
  • Do this again, running your finger along the lines as a beginning reader does–this forces your eyes to really look at the words and may catch those mismatched names
  • Correct any typos, grammar or punctuation difficulties
  • Read it out loud again–this time to yourself OR to a critical audience
  • Take or send it to your Writers’ Critique Group (you do belong to a Critique Group, don’t you?)
  • With critiques in hand, go over your piece again and make any changes that seem right to you, not  necessarily what your critiquers thought right

When you are satisfied with the piece:

  • Follow the  market’s submission directions
  • Check for other possible markets
  • Rewrite your piece to that market’s needs

You can get several articles out of a single idea:

  • A fictional story
  • A fact-filled piece
  • A story aimed at adults
  • A story aimed at children of various ages
  • A how-to piece for children or adults–this may be how to make a candle or  holiday card or a no-bake cookie recipe

It will be closing in on Easter or Passover by then, so you will be looking for ideas for those holidays.

  • Jot down some notes of possible ideas
  • Check writer’s guidelines for possible markets
  • Submission dates will probably be in early summer

Check online for holiday calendars, especially for unusual holidays. These can give you additional ideas for stories or articles. Then go back to the beginning of this article and work your way through again. Holidays are always good for stories. Most magazines accept these, but often will accept the unusual first.

MATCH YOUR COVER TO THE CONTENT


Recently I met an author who shared with me an interesting story about yet another author. There is a lesson in the tale for those of you about to publish.

An author wrote an adult book that started off with two chapters that sounded more like a youth book. You know, the part Amazon.com let’s you read before you buy? A parent reading the preview could wrongfully assume the book was safe to purchase for a child. The cover art also suggested the story would be suitable for the Youth/ Adolescent market.

However, once a reader read past the first two chapters, the book had language and sexual depictions that were not suitable for kids.

The book was purchased by a parent for a child. Once the child read the adult material, and brought it to the parent’s attention, the author received protest on misleading the buying public.  Poor reviews on the book followed. True Story.

The trouble could have been avoided if the author had designed a cover that made it plain that adult material was part of the book. The cover art should have looked “adult” versus “youth-oriented.”

Sometimes an author has an image in mind for the cover. The rendering artist, knowing the content of the book, may suggest revisions, but the author (or publisher) is adamant about the original image. The author-selected image may be all wrong for what is inside the book. And the image may, indeed, mislead the reading public.

When your cover artist makes suggestions about changes to your cover art, please listen. You may spare yourself–and your title–criticism.

Time Is the Enemy


Kristen Lamb speaks truth when she says time is the enemy of the writer. If you have followed my blog, you know I have worked in fits and starts on my novel. The manuscript has collected dust for months between writing sessions.

Recently I chose to cloister myself away from life to finish my first novel. It has been a struggle for the exact reason Kristen warns about: loss of momentum, massive re-writing, and sometimes loss of interest in the story because time has passed.

My terrier-like persistence is what keeps me working. Setting a daily quota of words also helps. I set a goal–1,000 words per day–that isn’t too arduous, but makes completion likely within a month. (I don’t write on weekends.)

My advice? Read the following and heed the warning!

Time is the Enemy

When writing anything (but especially fiction) taking time off can kill momentum. We need to go back, reread, familiarize ourselves with the story and characters (since we’ve slept since that last bit we wrote). This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress. We get bogged down in the first part of the book.

Take too much time? Likely, you’ll have to start all over.

I did. Yes, even NF authors are vulnerable to time.

I spent more effort trying to retrofit work I’d done for my agent back in 2011 than I want to admit. Finally, I just tossed most of the writing and started over. 100 pages of wasted work all because I didn’t keep writing.

My mistake. Won’t happen again.

Guest Post From Lauren Carr–Never Say “Please Don’t”


Never Say PleaseDon’t: Three Books in Twelve Months

By Lauren Carr

A couple of weeks ago, Fay’s post, Three Books in Twelve Months, made me laugh and blush, both at the same time. The laughter came not so much because she mentioned my accomplishment of writing and publishing three books in the span of twelve months (Shades of Murder, Dead on Ice, Blast from the Past, not to mention Beauty to Die For & Other Mystery Shorts ,an anthology), but from embarrassment.

Ironically, less than two years ago, I wrote a blog post pleading with independent authors not to strive to release multiple books a year.

In that article, I had explained that the wonderful breakthrough for writers to easily and inexpensively publish their books has become a double-edge sword: No longer are we dependent on the gatekeepers in New York to make our books available to readers.

The other edge of the sword is that since anybody can slap together a book and publish it, the market has been hit with an avalanche of bad books. I define “bad books” as unedited books filled with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, poorly formatted (either ebook or print), and/or unprofessional cover design.

My post went on to explain the math: At the time of this article I was writing and publishing one, maybe two, books a year. I go through several drafts:

  1. Reviewed by a fellow author for flow of storyline and loose ends after no less than three rough drafts.
  2. Rewrite after said review.
  3. Edited by professional editor.
  4. Proofread
  5. Layout & formatting
  6. Proofread
  7. Corrections based on proofread
  8. Release

Let’s say I release two books in a year. In that same year, another author whips out five books without any review by someone who would give him honest feedback, nothing more than the benefit of his MS Word spell-checker as far as editing, and a cover slapped together by a twelve-year old neighbor.

Math: That is five bad books to two good ones. Let’s go further and multiply it by ten. Out of a total of seventy self-published books, we have fifty poorly done to twenty well done.

The result: Quote from one reviewer: “Looking for a good self-published book is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

I had written that blog post in response to recently releasing one of my books and discovering that some bloggers who had previously reviewed self-published books had only recently shut their doors to independent authors. One reviewer told me that the problem of new authors whipping out books without any review or editing had gotten worse in the last few years. Another blogger, who does accept self-published books, compared it to mining for a gem in a pile of rocks. It’s exciting to find a good book because there are so many bad ones.

As an author and publisher on a mission to change the perception of self-published authors as second-rate, I am horrified by this development. The marketplace has been hit with an avalanche of bad self-published books. As quickly as doors to publishing are being opened, doors to promoting us are being closed and it is the fault of some of our own members.

The message in my blog post: When one writer cuts corners in quality in order to rush to publish his book, he doesn’t hurt just himself, he hurts all self-published authors.

Yes, I released three books and an anthology in twelve months last year. I am at a new high in my career as an author. The reviews and sales on my books have been stupendous. I am thrilled every day to check my sales and author ranking on Amazon, where I am regularly listed in the top one-hundred of police procedural & cozy mysteries.

My previous post was not to tell authors to refrain from striving for the same goal, which is how some authors took it; nor am I being judgmental by saying that there are a lot of bad self-published books out there. That assessment is from reviewers and bloggers, not me.

Multi-book years can be done—but I do beg other self-published authors to please, for the sake of all independent authors, do it right. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Get an editorial review done. This is extremely important. An editorial review provides feedback on your storyline, plot, and those elements that reviewers and readers are most likely to comment on: One-dimensional characters, loose ends in your plot, lack of research, bad ending.

Have this done by someone who knows the genre, reads books, and is not afraid to hurt your feelings. Don’t take your book to your grandmother who would never hurt your feelings. These reviewers are called perfect readers. Most published and successful authors have them. My publishing company Acorn Book Services provides editorial reviews for a fee, but if you know someone who meets this criterion, maybe someone in your writers’ group, then you can have it done for free. Author Cindy McDonald is my perfect reader.

Get a good editor. Getting a good editor is like looking for a good hair stylist. They are hard to find and when you find one that you can work with, don’t let them go. Every editor is different. Some are light editors who don’t make a lot of changes. Others are heavy-handed and make a ton of changes.

Proofread, proofread, and proofread!  For all the work that you put into your masterpiece, nothing can ruin the whole project more than typos that you would have caught if you had simply proofed it. It looks sloppy. You cannot proofread enough. (As a publisher, I say you can. There does come a point where I have to tell every author, “Let it go!”) As a self-published writer, I implore you, proof your book at every stage. Proof it in hardcopy at least twice. Proof it after it has been formatted. Stuff happens during formatting. If your book is in print, sit down with a pen, put yourself in the mind of the reader, and read through it.

Proofing Tip: If you have a friend who is willing, ask them to proof your book in the final stage. At this point, you will have seen and read through it so many times that you will be unable to see mistakes. A fresh pair of eyes at this point will prove invaluable.

Have a professional looking cover. Like typos, a cheesy cover can repel readers. If you cannot afford to hire a real graphic artist, then at least study tips on the Internet for what makes a professional looking cover. There are dozens of sites that offer these tips and they cost you nothing. Go to Amazon and study the covers of the top-selling books in your genre.

You may be asking, how is it possible for me to release so many books when I put so much into them, and do it well, in a course of twelve months?

As you can see on my list of tips, at many points, my book is off in someone else’s hands. While Cindy is reading one of my books for an editorial review, I’ll be working on the first draft of my next book. After a re-write of the first book, I’ll send it off to the editor. While that book is gone, I’m working on the second book. I am always working on a book but it is not always the same book.

Yep, it takes a lot of work, by a lot of trusted professionals, to publish a lot of books. Also consider this. Ten years ago, none of this was possible.

Isn’t it great?

Fay’s Note: HEY, LAUREN– YOU FORGOT “A GNARLY CHRISTMAS.” IT’S BEEN A GREAT YEAR! Keep up the good work.

Writing the Perfect Short Story


Writer, blogger, and attorney Lasesana recently featured Uruguayan  author Horacio Quiroga’s Ten Rules for Writing a Perfect Story. As Lasesana said, the first few are very general, so I have selected the latter part of the list to reproduce here. The rules have been translated from Spanish:
horacio quiroga

  • Have blind faith in your capacity to succeed, or in your desire to achieve success.  Love your art like your girlfriend, giving it all your heart.

  • Don’t begin to write without knowing where you are going from the first word.  In a good short story, the first three lines are almost as important as the last three.

  • If you want to express “a cold wind blew from the river,” write just that.  Once you have mastered the use of words, don’t worry whether they are consonant or assonant.

  • Don’t add unnecessary adjectives.  Colorful words attached to a weak noun will be useless.  The correct noun will have incomparable color and brightness.  The trick is finding it.

  • Take your characters by the hand and lead them firmly to the end, ignoring everything but the way you have plotted.  Don’t get distracted by seeing things that they cannot and care not to see.  Don’t abuse your reader.  A short story is not a miniature novel.  Hold this as an absolute truth, even though it isn’t.

  • Do not write from under the power of your emotions.  Let the feeling die and evoke it later.  If you are able to conjure up the feeling again, you are halfway to mastering your art.

  • Don’t think about your friends when you write or on the effect that your story may have.  Tell your story as if it only mattered to the confined world of your characters, of which you may be a part.  This is the only way to give your story life.

from http://lasesana.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/horacio-quirogas-ten-rules-for-writing-a-perfect-short-story/