Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Saying for Writers #101

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tip O'Day for Authors #147

Guest blogger Bill Gauthier thinks obsession isn’t all bad.

Write the story that grabs you, that becomes your obsession, that just won't get out of your mind no matter how much you try not to think or write about it. When you finally sit down and write it, do so honestly. Don't be afraid of what your friends, lovers, employers, children or neighbors think.

I recently wrote something so dark, someone close to me hated it but I still intend to tweak it and submit it for publication. The story stuck around in my head for almost 3 years and needed writing. As Harlan Ellison has said, "You must never be afraid to go there." I have that taped near my computer and, dammit, I try to live by those words.

Bill’s website is www.billgauthier.com and he currently has two novellas out, Alice on the Shelf (Bad Moon Books) and Shadowed (Delirium Books).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #146

Guest blogger Dellani Oakes offers a couple writing tips.

First, write often, even if it's only 100 words a day.

Second, don't sweat so over the details that it keeps you from writing. Take a deep breath and plunge in. Errors can be corrected later; the important thing is to get the idea down before it goes away.

Dellani’s book, INDIAN SUMMER, is available at www.secondwindpublishing.com as well as Amazon and Smashwords. Some of her short stories are available free at www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dellanioakes
She blogs at dellanioakes.wordpress.com/ and writersanctuary.blogspot.com

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #145

Guest blogger John F. Allen on an e-book marketing strategy.

When new authors look to get their e-books published, I recommend they take the time to formulate a marketing and distribution strategy. A simple start would be to look at advertising using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… This will allow the authors to inform a wide range of people that they have a book coming out, in order to build a level of anticipation. This can also serve to allow potential readers a glimpse into the author’s mind and process/writing methods. This can help to humanize authors and allow for interaction between them and their readers.

Next, they might determine where they will sell their e-books. Barnes & Noble has a platform for Independent Authors known as PubIt!. With this platform, the author creates a free PubIt! account, uploads their manuscript to the Barnes & Noble website, selects a price point and places the work for sell. Readers can purchase the e-book directly from the website for download to their PC, nook reader, or other mobile device by utilizing a free and easy to download app.

Amazon.com is another place to sell e-books. They have a similar platform called Kindle Direct Publishing which allows independent authors the ability to make their work available on the Kindle. With both of these platforms the author must agree to allow Barnes & Noble or Amazon to collect a percentage of the retail cost (usually a third or less, depending upon the price point set for the work). The remainder of the money is then deposited into a bank account designated by the author as a royalty. Going this route gives the author a slight reputation boost by having their work distributed by a two of the largest and most well known distributors of books.

Another avenue is for authors to sell copies of their e-books exclusively from their websites. With this option, the authors receive all of the profit made by selling their work; however, they are also solely responsible for getting the word out about their work. What authors gain in maximizing profits, they lose in having their work associated with a well known distributor and a generally larger platform for circulation.

I personally recommend using all three in conjunction with print on demand (POD) options, in order to maximize exposure and profit. I’d also advise authors to offer a pdf version of the work from their websites as well. This allows for those who haven’t yet obtained an electronic reader or other mobile device to have access to your work on their PC.

To learn more about John F. Allen, go to his website at www.johnfallenwriter.com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #144

Guest blogger Ezra Barany says adding a time lock turns any scene into a page-turner.

Need to build more suspense in your scene? Add a time lock! In fiction, a time lock is a deadline that the character must meet. It can be as blatant as a time bomb set to go off in three minutes, or as subtle as a young woman working up her courage to forgive her father who is on his deathbed. Adding a time lock turns any scene into a page-turner!

Warning! Use a time lock that fits the story! Unnatural time locks are only good for creating absurd scenarios. For example, imagine a young woman working up the courage to forgive her father as he's resting on a bomb set to go off in three minutes.

Ezra Barany is an instructor for authors at SavvyAuthors.com. His recent thriller The Torah Codes (#1 book in the UK Torah category!) is available at http://www.amazon.com/Torah-Codes-Ezra-Barany/dp/0983296014/

He asks that you not fax him Brussels sprouts. He does not like them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #143

Two authors duel over “write what you know.”

Timothy Louis Baker: Write what you know. You will enjoy it more than writing something you don't know anything about and have to look up everything.

Your readers will like it more too, especially when they find out that you actually do know what you are writing about and that it didn't come totally and completely from a volume on a shelf somewhere concerning a topic that you really didn't know what you were writing your book about. Choose a topic about which you are knowledgeable and you will do best.

To learn more about Timothy, check out his website at http://sbpra.com/authortimothybaker

Mobashar Qureshi : The old saying is “Write what you know.” I say, “Know what you write.”

More often than not, writing instructors preach that you should only write what you know. If I wrote only what I know, then that novel wouldn’t really be all that interesting. As a writer I am also a reader. I read books to learn new things. Hopefully, I pick up a few things from each book, essay or short story I read. This is the same with writing. While I write, I explore new things. I hope that by the end of writing that book, I will have learned a few things along that route, also.

Conclusion: Do your homework. Research enough that when you write you know what you are writing.

Mobashar is the author of RACE, The October Five, and The Paperboys Club, all now available on amazon kindle. To learn more, visit www.mobasharqureshi.com
or his blog Mobashar's Musings

Friday, August 26, 2011

Saying for Writers #100

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” - Charles Peguy

Tip O'Day for Authors #142

Guest blogger Garret Garrels says to dance with your true self.

I used to be so focused on the finished product, I forgot to dance while the music was playing. Writing is not about the final draft. I now think of writing the same as dancing. If we wait until the song is over, we miss the fun. It's within the process that we dance with our true self.

Garret is a motivational author and speaker, and a Montanan.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #141

Guest blogger Merrill Heath discusses tools for outlining.

There are any number of tools you can use, from low-tech to high-tech, depending on your preference. The method I prefer is actually very low-tech – multi-colored index cards (or large post-it notes) and poster boards. This is easy to use and provides a great big-picture, visual depiction of your plot.

Here’s what I do. I use different colored cards for the main plots and subplots and red dots to signify the “hooks.” Hooks are simply points where I want to provide surprises or throw out something that will keep the reader turning pages. On each card I write a quick note explaining what happens in that chapter. Then I stick the card on the poster board. If the chapter includes both MP and SP content then I’ll put the SP card below the MP card on the board.

I prefer different colored cards because it makes it very easy to survey your plot to make sure everything is flowing like you want it to, that the SPs are woven through the story at the proper intervals, and that you’re providing enough hooks at the right places to keep the reader interested. You can easily shuffle things around if you find gaps or problems with the sequencing of events. You can add hooks if you identify any slow areas that need a boost. And you can quickly see where you’re repeating yourself or putting in scenes that aren’t really needed.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to write out your chapter cards in order, either. You can write the cards as the chapter ideas come to you, then shuffle them around to see how they best fit together. And if you’re one of those writers who feels that outlining stifles your creativity, this is still a great tool to use after you’ve finished the first draft. On subsequent rewrites and edits it will help you identify areas that need work.

Merrill blogs on writing at http://merrillheath.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #140

Guest blogger Al Lamanda has quick tips on getting published.

Your book is done. You’ve spent many months, possible years writing and polishing your manuscript and it’s finally complete. Now what? What good is your book without readers, so the obvious next step is to publish your work. Not even ten years ago, your only choice was traditional publishing. Today you have EBooks to consider as a second choice, but before you try the EBook route, you want to give traditional publishing your best shot.

To do that, you have to capture the attention of someone who loves your book. Someone has to read your words and say, “Wow.” But, who? The quickest and most effective way to a traditional publisher is through an agent. After all, that is what agents do, open doors for you to a publisher. To capture the attention of an agent, you must write the perfect Query Letter. Less than one page, to the point, a short bio if you have one, it has to capture the agent’s attention because they receive hundreds of query letters in any given week. Yours must stand out or it gets deleted. For some examples of query letters see the links I’ve included below.

Once you’ve written the perfect query letter, you now must send it out to agents. Do not make the rookie mistake I did and blanket agents with your query. That is a waste of time, theirs and yours. Here’s why. Agents generally read queries about books they are interested in and want to represent. Most will tell you upfront what they like and will represent, so why bother sending your mystery/action query to an agent looking for historical romance. Find the agents interested in your genre and query them. For a list of agents see the links I’ve included below.

What now? Well, be prepared for an agent to request a synopsis of your book, along with three or more chapters. Some will ask for the entire manuscript, but three is the general rule. A synopsis is a difficult thing to write. You must put into six to ten pages your entire 75,000 word plus novel, and do it in such a way that the agent is sold on you and will want to sell your book to the highest bidder. Check the links I’ve included for samples of Synopsis’s. Write yours, then rewrite it and polish it to perfection before sending it out.

There are no guarantees in the publishing world, but being prepared and professional does give you an edge. I hope these tips carry you forward, and good luck to you all.

Links to check out:
Predators & Editors

Al Lamanda is the author of the mystery/action novels Dunston Falls, Walking Homeless, Running Homeless and Sunset (2012 release date.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #139

Guest blogger Vanessa Cavendish warns that tips will cause you extra work.

This article HUMAN XEROX originally appeared in "The Asylum" (used with permission). Longer than usual for this blog, but I found it interesting.

I recently suggested to my fellow inmates at The Asylum (J. S. Chancellor’s blog http://welcometotheasylum.net/ ) that the best advice is the kind you learn the hard way. That goes double for writing tips, because what you get from a tip is only the sharp end of the arrow, minus the parts that make it fly. What else you don’t get is the litter produced by the sharpening process—all the chips that get knocked off the stone to make it pointy and slender enough to bind to the shaft with a strip of rawhide from an animal you did not have to hunt and slaughter and skin. Also not included is the bird from which to pluck the feathers to fletch the other end of the shaft and the prayers you have to say as you apply your personal and tribal markings to the branch you have to strip and shave and balance for your lonesome.

Do I mean to imply that writing tips are worthless? Not in the least.

I do mean that each piece of writing advice you decide to act on will cost you a ton of work that might seem unrelated to your own writing, until you develop the knack of seeing how one activity complements another. And because a knack is something you pick up gradually, through something akin to what a pianist or a kick-boxer calls muscle memory, each thing you do as a writer, you have to do over and over again in order to get the hang of it. I’m sorry, but you have to drill. And you are going to get your ass handed to you time and time again.

So here is tip number one for the new writer and a reminder to the veteran: Shake hands with Sister Frustration; she will be your constant companion, nemesis and mentor. If you do not sense her near, you must have invited Miss Complacency to your party, and the two of them cannot be in the same room together.

Tip number two: When you find a writer who does a particular thing really well, copy it. I did not say emulate, I said copy. Find the passage that struck you dumb and write it out, longhand, word for word. A scene, an opening, an exchange of dialog—whatever it is that you wish you could do that well. Copy it down verbatim, over and over and over again. Ien Nivens, who taught me to do this, says the rule of thumb is to copy a passage 20 times. I say, do it until you have internalized the flow, the thought process, the rhythm that went into the creation of that piece of writing—until you feel something click inside you and, if only for a split-infinity, you become that other, better writer.

Let the work sink in. Go take a nap.

Tomorrow or the next day, copy someone else who is good at the same thing. Get a notebook, a thick one, and use it for nothing but copying. Fill it up and buy another one. Think of it as learning how to chip a flint. You watch your elders do it, and you copy them exactly. You tie your ego, your identity, to that other writer and forget about things like style and voice, because in this business, vocal chords need time to develop.

Ien estimates that two writers in ten thousand will take this advice. Five years from now, we’ll be reading both of them. Her vocal range, his command of human emotion, will astonish us. We’ll wish we could write like either one of them.

Vanessa also blogs at http://vanessacavendish.wordpress.com/

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saying for Writers #99

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Be obscure clearly.” - E.B. White

Tip O'Day for Writers #138

This blog usually features tips on improving your writing craft or getting published, but today some readers share thoughts on what they look for in books:

Marilynne Smith. I'm finding a lot of my books among the mid-range writers. I like mysteries and I am often disappointed by best sellers. I have many writer friends and I'm willing to give them a try. In return I've found many a great read.

Marilynne blogs at maxiebooks.blogspot.com

Joe Hartlaub. What prompts me to read a book: The inside front cover.
Let me know in the first paragraph (or sentence) what the genre is, and where the story is set. I am a sucker for hard-boiled detective novels set in New Orleans or anywhere in Ohio. Tell me that early.

Sandy Nathan. Why I choose one book over another: Voodoo. Magic. Sorcery with words. I read all sorts of books, all the time, whether published by traditional publishers or indies. What makes me finish a book and recommend it is an emotional/psychological/spiritual wallop that really good writing packs. Examples? The Swedish author Jan Guillou's Crusades Trilogy, three long books that I gobbled down. Historical fiction at its best. White Oleander - just finished that. Incredibly depressing and painful, but the words soared. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Diana Galbadon's Outlander Series, all nine million pages of it. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. All of these grabbed me, charmed me, had me telling my friends about them. (They were also well written in proper English.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #137

Guest blogger Megan Held on daily goals.

Don't aim for a minimum word count.

When it comes to writing, don't create a word count target. This may stress out the natural writing flow by making a writer add unnecessary details. A word count should be a guideline, not a must reach.

Most novels for adults are between 60,000-100,000 words, the larger amount being more for fantasy or epics. This is a great range to aim for. Always aim lower because if you exceed that amount it is a great feeling. Once you edit, you can add details needed and eliminate details not needed. But, remember, just write and conclude when the novel needs to.

To learn more about Megan, see her blog at http://meganheld.blogspot.com/

Dixon says - I agree one shouldn't create an info dump, simply in order to meet a self-imposed word count. That would be a very, very, very, very, very bad, awful, insidious, cruel, dangerous and unethical thing to do, accomplish or actuate.

On the other hand, some of us frail humans need daily goals and weekly deadlines to keep us focused on our craft. Sometimes I feel that, without my critique group, I wouldn't get a thing accomplished.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saying for Writers #98

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” - Samuel Goldwyn

Hollywood buffs will recognize Samuel Goldwyn as the studio boss who referred to screenwriters as “schmucks with Underwoods.”

Tip O'Day for Writers #136

Guest blogger Sandy Nathan likes social networks for reasons other than you’d think.

Facebook and Twitter are invaluable writing aids. Having to create a convincing, emotionally compelling message in 140 characters is a terrific exercise. Ditto fitting your message onto Facebook with its limited number of lines/characters to accompany an initial post. Just pruning your "too long" message to fit is a great discipline. (I love the way Twitter says, "Over 140 characters. You have to be more clever." You do.) Then apply the above to everything you write.

Sandy writes fiction and nonfiction for both adults and kids. She likes challenging herself with contests, and so far has won 17 national awards. Her website at http://sandynathan.com has links to her blogs and other helpful information.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #135

Guest blogger Kathleen 'Kat' McLaughlin on the dreaded edit-to-cut-word-count.

If you face the dilemma of reducing your word count, there are several things to keep in mind when revising your manuscript. Of course, the obvious is deleting the word 'that' since in most cases 'that' isn't necessary. Using gerunds eliminate unnecessary words, but don't go overboard. Reword sentences to eliminate prepositional phrases. Use contractions unless a character's first language isn't English; not using contractions gives flavor to a foreign character in lieu of speech patterns clogging the dialogue, making it difficult for the reader to understand.

The most important rule is not to rush revisions or you'll end up revising more times than necessary. Slowing down the revision process will sharpen your editing skills. Carving sentences and sculpting words lowers your word count, and raises the quality of your writing. You might even find passion for the art of self-editing.

Kathleen 'Kat' McLaughlin is an aspiring writer who is working on the final revision of, BLOOD CLOUDS, the first manuscript in the Jordan Ireland Series. Connect with her through her blog (http://kathleenkatmclaughlin.wordpress.com/), Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/KatMcLaughlin), or email (kathleenjeanemclaughlin@hotmail.com).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #134

Guest blogger Jessica Keener on her magical Drawer.

As much as I’ve resisted this strategy, I’ve come to respect the magic that comes with putting my work back in The Drawer. The Drawer, it turns out, has become an essential part of my writing life cycle. When I utilize The Drawer, wonderful things happen.

My writing life cycle goes something like this: First there’s the excitement of working on something new, ideas are flowing, etc. At some point, though, ideas begin to bog down, problems with scenes and plot points and characters emerge and clog up the pages. I struggle to clear log jams, to solve puzzles, but at some point I may lose my way or grow confused. That’s fine. I tell myself to keep struggling away. That’s part of my writing cycle. Eventually, I will bear down so hard on the work it begins to feel as if it’s evaporating. It’s disappearing. I've lost it. I’ve failed. That’s when it’s time to put my work in The Drawer.

The Drawer is a dark, quiet place. I think of it as a proofing place—bread rising, baby sleeping in crib. My work gets to rest and do some unconscious thinking there. It may sleep and dream. It may stretch out and grow. Once my work goes into The Drawer, I’ll distract myself by starting on something new or I might find there’s another work waiting to come out of The Drawer. (Disclosure: some of my work has been in The Drawer for years, some for just a few days.)

Here’s where the magic happens. Work lifted from The Drawer looks different. I can read it as if someone else wrote it and that’s when I become an efficient editor and writer. I can cut, add, rearrange sentences without emotional duress. It’s cleansing. Things move forward with clarity. The work improves substantially. Often, this is when I am able to finish the work. If synchronicity happens, I’ll send it out, and the work will get published. So, my writing tip is to encourage writers to embrace the creative and transformational power of The Drawer. It’s real.

Jessica’s website is www.jessicakeener.com and her novel, NIGHT SWIM, is coming out from Fiction Studio Books http://fictionstudiobooks.com/Fiction_Studio_Books/Home.html

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Saying for Writers #97

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” - Flannery O'Connor

Tip O'Day for Writers #133

Guest blogger Bob L. Morgan on what to write & how to get published.

As far as choosing one book to write over another, that just comes down to what excites me enough to sustain my interest through the entire process. If I'm not excited then I can't keep my readers excited. The only thing I always promise is that my readers will never be bored when they read one of my books. They might be grossed out, or disgusted or maybe ticked off but they will never be bored.

As far as getting published: I just write what I really like reading then look for publishers who seem to fit the type of book that I just put together. But don't be too picky. There is no perfect fit. If you search for the perfect fit you'll be searching forever. My stuff blends several genres at once so finding publishers has not been easy. You just keep throwing it out there. Somebody will publish it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saying for Writers #96

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one.” - Baltasar Graci├ín

Tip O'Day for Writers #132

Guest blogger Stella Deleuze wrestles with the question: To review or not to review? (Used with permission, from her post on July 20, 2011 at http://wordsbystelladeleuze.blogspot.com/)

When I started out with self-publishing, I promised myself to review every book I buy and read, simply because I knew every author yearns for reviews. Now, I have come to the conclusion that it's better to not do it anymore. The point is, and I know I'll be making enemies by saying this, I've tried a few self-published books and soon switched on my editing-programme in my head, which is a bad sign, really. Of course, being an editor has somewhat destroyed the ability to just read and take in the story, I will admit that. A book must be really well-written, with well-developed characters, a complex story with no holes in it and logical.

If a book fails to fulfill that, I will stop reading and move on to the next. Others might not see those mistakes, but I do. Not saying I've written the perfect book, but moving away from me being an author, to me being a reader, I have high expectations and rightly so. I did have those beforehand and I have stopped reading traditionally published books in the past, but not that many.

My first impulse is to e-mail the author and tell him or her about my concerns, but then you have cases like the infamous author, who couldn't take criticism and hell broke loose. Further on, it's not my responsibility to give constructive criticism; I'm a reader, by buying the book and spending time with it, I've fulfilled what can be expected from me.

Back to me being an author again, I feel a little bit in a pickle; if I give a negative review, I might be in danger of getting one in return, just for revenge, or when I give a positive review - despite my dislike of the book - I'd lie and I don't like lying.

In addition to that, pure readers check out the reviewers of a book and indie authors reviewing other indie authors is widely understood as cheating. People automatically assume it's a review exchange. I will also not tell an author anymore that I've bought his or her book, in case I don't like it, I can just walk away, silently, but if I really love a book, I'll be there to support it. And that's a promise.

It’s a long walk from Kalispell, Montana, to London, England, so Stella and I haven’t yet met, but we’ve become good friends in the past year – just one example of how helpful and gracious writers around the globe can be, if you give them a chance.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #131

Guest blogger Jimmy Pudge says to make like a tree.

My only advice as far as enhancing success is to branch out. Meet as many writers as possible, and network with them. Here's the thing: you may have written the greatest thriller ever, but it still won't sell if no one knows about it. You need reviews, and you need other writers to help you promote the book. Having a great cover and a nicely edited manuscript is also important in the long run.

Check out Jimmy’s blog at http://www.jpudge.com/

Saying for Writers #95

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves.” - Don Marquis

Tip O'Day for Writers #130

Guest blogger Joan De La Haye doesn’t follow instructions. I asked for one writing tip, and she came up with eight – each one excellent. All is forgiven.

1. Go on a writing course. The people you'll meet there will be an invaluable support system.

2. Join a writing group in your area or start your own with some of the people you meet on the course, or else join a Yahoo on-line writing group. There are hundreds to choose from in all the different genres.

3. Set aside a place and time each day to write. I know it's hard, but it's the only way you'll ever get that book finished.

4. Read and research your preferred genre, as well as other genre's. In other words read a LOT.

5. Read the following books: Stephen King’s “On Writing” & Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style” -

6. Find your own voice and style.

7. Send your completed manuscript to as many publishers or agents as possible. You’ll never get published if you don’t put yourself out there.

8. And finally, NEVER give up!

Here's the link to Joan’s blog: http://joandelahaye.wordpress.com/
And here's a link to her book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Joan-Haye/dp/0983279209/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #129

Guest blogger Pete Morin on a Hemingway tip.

I was sitting outside in the shade this morning, doing a little research to answer an assertion that Ernest Hemingway was a "hack" who didn't take the craft of writing seriously. I was trying to source the quote often attributed (wrongly, I think) to him that there is nothing to writing, "all you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed." Combing through Ernest Hemingway On Writing, a collection of his letters and writings edited by Larry Phillips, I ran across one of my favorite pieces of advice.

Hemingway recommended that the best way to write is to STOP when you're going good and know what's going to happen next, so when you come back to it, you won't be stuck. That way, he said, your subconscious will be working on it until you next sit down to write.

I've found this enormously effective, especially as an out-and-out pantser. I start a scene without knowing perfectly well where it will end, and stop in the middle of it. My mind turns it over and over, and when I come back to it, I am ready to continue.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saying for Writers #94

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“If you trust in yourself, and believe in your dreams, and follow your stars, you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy." - Terry Pratchett

Tip O'Day for Writers #128

Guest blogger Roger Smith on your true audience.

As a writer your challenge is to find stories and characters that stimulate and excite YOU -- material that you are passionate about. If you find yourself shocked, amused, terrified and moved by what appears on the page, then agents, editors (and ultimately) your readers will be too.

Roger’s website is found at www.rogersmithbooks.com

The link to his latest book, DUST DEVILS on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dust-Devils-ebook/dp/B0054TR7GM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1311225691&sr=1-1

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #127

Guest blogger Devika Primic says Web readers have no tolerance for fluff.

Your Web points must fit; don’t waste your time with unnecessary text. Online time is a fleeting thing and your reader doesn’t want to spend the few minutes looking for the main point. Be focused.

Be conversational, not boring. Talk to your readers like you would face to face to generate buzz for your work.

Don’t Be Salesy. If you are trying to promote yourself in your social media contacts, your content will be buried because of ulterior motives.

Dixon says: In the new publishing paradigm, I feel self-promotion is a necessary part of the mix. Even agented authors who are published by a major house don’t receive the marketing support they would have expected just a few years ago. I think most of your social networking partners will accept some self-promotion, especially if it is combined with educational or entertainment value. What turns people off is the blatant “Thanks for adding me. Buy my book.”

Saying for Writers #93

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.” - T.S. Eliot

Tip O'Day for Writers #126

Guest blogger Beatriz Terrazas says there’s no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny, and no Muse.

Forget about the muse. There is no such thing. Inspiration, yes, but that comes as a result of being aware and open to the world and the people around us, and of course, of our own personal histories and adventures, good or bad. Yes, at its best, writing is art but even art is work, hard work. This art is only achieved by sitting at the notebook or computer and putting down the words day in and day out. Sometimes the words are pure crap and you may wad up the sheet of paper or hit the delete key the next day, but it's part of the process. I say it again: there is no muse. Only your fingers on the pen or keyboard priming the pump in your mind.

Beatriz recently won first place in the American Society of Journalists and Authors for a first person narrative about taking care of her mother with Alzheimer's. She says the essay was fairly raw as it was pretty much written under duress in the way she described above, “by simply putting down the words.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #125

Guest blogger Dee Stewart on rattling your skeleton.

Before you write your novel have a plot skeleton designed. I use an 8-point plot structure. It really helps once you've become published, because you can swiftly give your editor a proposal for a new novel. It also helps on writing the next draft, editing for marketing content, and staying focused through the writing process.

Saying for Writers #92

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working even when he's staring out the window." - Burton Rascoe

Tip O'Day for Writers #124

NYT bestselling author Gayle Lynds says to search for what fascinates you.

For twenty years I carried a Los Angeles Times clipping about Ivan the Terrible’s long-lost library of gold-covered books, so fascinated I couldn’t make myself throw it away. But I write contemporary spy novels. How could I use the idea in one of my books? Finally I realized that if the CIA were tracking terrorist financing and the path led to the library, I had the basis of a good story. The result was The Book of Spies, which has just been nominated for the Nero Award.

When the Cold War ended, many spies around the globe in every national intelligence agency were suddenly out of work. I was fascinated by what would happen to such a highly trained, committed, focused individual if his raison d’etre were suddenly removed. The result was The Last Spymaster, named by Library Journal as one of the Top 5 Thrillers of the Year.

My point is simple: If you’re fascinated, you have a better chance of fascinating your reader. So find what you love, what you care about, what FASCINATES you, then figure out how to use it in your novel. You will feel inspired, and your readers will be grateful.

To learn more about Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Spies, The Last Spymaster, Masquerade, and others, check out the website at www.gaylelynds.com

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #123

Guest blogger B.P. Baggett on the decision to self-publish.

As a writer, I looked for a publisher that would support a fantasy writer and wanted stories that fit their ideals. Eventually, I chose to self-publish with Authorhouse, since I’d have more control and the personnel there were very helpful and easy to speak to.

In the end, each author chooses what he or she looks for in a publisher. I personally found what I wanted in Authorhouse.

For a look at this writer’s DIY book trailer, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQbtRd6aqRY

Saying for Writers #91

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin.” - Karl Kraus

Tip O'Day for Writers #122

Some writers on what they look for, when deciding what to read:

Kate Collins: "When I open a book to the first page, I want to be sucked into the story immediately. If those first several paragraphs make me ask questions such as; "Why did s/he do that? What happened to get to that point? What on earth will s/he do next?", I have to read on to find answers. Hopefully, the answers will lead to more questions or problems that will keep me hooked. That's what I strive to do in each book I write, and what I look for in reading material."

The official website for mystery author Kate Collins is http://www.katecollinsbooks.com/

Joy Castro: "For me, it's all about voice. No matter what the blurbs on the back say or how fabulous the reviews have been, it's all about reading that first page myself and feeling the rhythms, the originality, the intimacy and honesty of the particular voice the writer has created on the page. Voice is what hooks me--or leaves me cold."

Joy Castro teaches creative writing, and is the author of a memoir, THE TRUTH BOOK, and the forthcoming thriller, HELL OR HIGH WATER. She blogs at www.joycastro.com, or readers can follow her on Twitter @_joycastro.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #121

Guest blogger Sibel Hodge insists on quality.

Get your manuscripts edited and critiqued professionally before you publish them. I think this is invaluable to a newbie (or indeed any writer) for producing a top quality novel.

Also, you can accomplish anything you want in life. You may have to take a different route to get there, but if you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

Saying for Writers #90

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension.” - Norman Mailer

Tip O'Day for Writers #120

Guest blogger Matthew Q. Dawson gets to the heart of writing.

As a writer, you must be willing to open your heart to the words you are writing. When the reader can feel the writer’s heart as expressed in the words written, you have become a successful author.

Check out some of Matt’s writing at http://hubpages.com/author/Matthew+Q+Dawson/hot

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #119

Guest blogger Shalini Boland said she’d love to share a writing tip or three.

1. When promoting, think laterally. Don’t necessarily promote in the same places as everyone else. It’s okay to start small. I did a book signing in a gift shop in the area where my book is set. People loved it and I sold out. I didn’t sell thousands, but I generated a buzz and the local press got involved.

2. I know you spent days researching that scene and you discovered all kinds of interesting facts and details, but if they don’t enhance the story then there’s no point shoe-horning them in. Honestly.

3. An atmospheric piece of music can eliminate writer’s block. If I want teenage angst, I’ll play indie guitar tunes with haunting strings. For horror, I'll dig out classical film soundtracks or a bit of punk metal. And nothing says lurrve like Motown or Amy Winehouse. For maximum inspiration turn up the volume and melt into the music.

Check out Shalini’s blog at http://someonewotwrites.blogspot.com/

Myself, I like something bluesy like Carly Simon.

Saying for Writers #89

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” - Unknown (Sometimes wrongly attributed to Samuel Johnson)

Tip O'Day for Writers #118

Guest blogger Alicia M. Dean offers some tidbits.

I don't have any great words of wisdom. I'm still a struggling writer myself. I'm published, but not exactly in the bestseller category. However, I have a few tidbits.

Write your first draft in first person, then go back and revise it into third (unless you WANT a first-person book). Writing first person helps you connect with your character, have more control of POV, and convey more easily what the character is experiencing.

When revising, read your pages backwards (last page to first). You will more easily catch errors because you won't be as caught up in the story and your eyes will see what is there, rather than what your mind thinks is there. Also, read aloud. Hearing the words will help you with pacing and to know when something is 'off.'

This is one reason I love hosting guest bloggers - I'd never before heard that last bit of advice. I intend to try it myself.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #117

Guest blogger Keith Gouveia on breathing life into your “truck stories.”

There are so many writing tips, tricks, and practices that never pan out for everyone. Let's face it, you can't catch lightning in a bottle. If there was ONE way to getting published and being successful at this game we'd all be best sellers.

However, there is one tip that always works for everyone, and that's persistence. The more you write, the better you become, and then suddenly the rejections start turning into acceptances.

Discouragement is a writer's worst enemy. It'll bring on writer's block, self-doubt, and envy. So you wrote a story and you can't sell it. There's a reason for that. Nine times out of ten, it's not ready for publication. So you put it away and write something else. So on and so forth, and one day you revisit those trunk stories. Then you see with clear eyes what all those editors who passed on them saw. You're now able to polish them and resend them, or gather them all together in a single book and hit the bestseller's list.

When I turned in my collection Animal Behavior and Other Tales of Lycanthropy to my publisher I was told it was the best thing I've ever written, and then I turned in The Black Cat and the Ghoul, and that was said to be the greatest thing I've ever written. And you know what will happen when I turn in my next book? That's right, the same thing. Practice makes perfect, it's true. It's a natural progression. So chin up. Put pen to paper, and keep writing.

Dixon says: I love the expression “a trunk novel,” which I have understood to be a labor of love that one writes mostly for oneself, without the intention of seeking publication. Here, Keith uses the term “trunk stories” to mean stories that benefit from sitting on the shelf awhile while the writer gets some emotional distance and learns more craft.

All that perseverance, all those rejections, all those blind alleys were not wasted time because now you’re able to recapture the creativity of your earlier self, and fuse it to your improved skills and experiences to create something truly exceptional.

Saying for Writers #88

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” - George Orwell

Tip O'Day for Writers #116

Guest blogger Nicole Ireland is thumping her thesaurus and preaching to the choir – believe!

The most important piece of advice I can give a fellow writer/author is to believe in your creations.

Sure, we all have moments of indecision and self-doubt. We question whether or not our work is up to par with others out there. But at the end of the day, we need to believe in the words we write because if we don't, how can we expect anyone else to? And it's that self-belief that will carry you through the hard times, the negative reviews, poor sales, etc. So stop worrying.

Start believing.

The Amazon link to Nicole’s novel SACRIFICE is http://www.amazon.com/Sacrifice-ebook/dp/B0054EX3UG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1310233948&sr=8-1

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #115

Guest blogger Walter Jon Williams says know where you’re going.

Try to know the end before you start. It saves a lot of time and anxiety and wandering down dark corridors in search of the plot. You can aim each scene at the ending, and that means that every scene will contribute its own energy to the resolution, and the resolution will thus have more impact.

Dixon says: Good advice. I subscribe to the “writing in the headlights” school of fiction, midway between Planners and Pantsers (as in ‘flying by the seat of your pants’). When I start a novel, I know generally how it will end, and I have a pretty clear vision of what will transpire in the first 3-4 chapters. As I progress, the headlights expose more and more of the plot details along the roadway and my understanding of the climax grows progressively clearer.

For me, discovering exactly how everything will work out in the end is one of the most exciting parts of writing. Besides, my characters keep doing unexpected things, the rascals, and the plot I envision when I start is never exactly what transpires.

Saying for Writers #87

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.” - E.B. White

Tip O'Day for Writers #114

Guest blogger Kathy Reinhart says never stop learning.

First, never get too 'big,’ too 'smart,’ or too 'arrogant' to stop honing your craft. Read as much as you write; there is always something to learn.

Second, don't stop studying the market. Where it was once enough to create, submit, create… and let Mr. Publisher worry about how to place your work in the hands of the masses, it is now our responsibilty to meet and greet the world. We have to follow the trends, create a brand, build a platform, network (aggressively) and do it all while writing. I believe that writing in itself is enjoyable, something we have in us to do, but writing overall has taken on a business feel. We must keep up or get left behind.

Kathy’s contact info: twitter @kathyreinhart
Her blog, The Lily White Liar: http://wp.me/pZwht-1F
LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=80654612&trk=tab_pro
Her book, LILY WHITE LIES: http://www.amazon.com/Lily-White-Lies-Kathy-Reinhart/dp/0971327882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1308587603&sr=1-1

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #113

Guest blogger Mercedes Murdock Yardley on well-meaning advice that, well, sucks...

Never let somebody say that you're aiming too high. They're misguided and may be trying to protect you, but they don't realize that they're crushing your creative spirit. Above all, be gracious when you prove them wrong.

Dixon says: Wonderful advice, Mercedes, and it got me thinking about the general topic of who to show your work to. I've heard it said, "Never show a work in progress to anyone you're currently sleeping with." Of course, I know a few writers where that doesn't narrow the field much.

It's easy to climb up the steps of a podium and announce rules, and often they only work for certain people at certain times, but here's an honest attempt: (1) Don't show your drafts to someone unless you've already seen that person provide balanced criticism - by which I mean pointing out not only the elements that need fixing, but also the aspects that are working beautifully. (2) Don't show it to someone you're in a relationship with, if there's a chance that person will clobber you over the head with it, the first time you show up late for dinner with beer on your breath. (3) Don't show it to anyone not in the publishing biz, unless you're ready for a bunch of really stupid questions and terrible advice.

Saying for Writers #86

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Let's hope the institution of marriage survives its detractors, for without it there would be no more adultery and without adultery two thirds of our novelists would stand in line for unemployment checks.” - Peter S. Prescott

Tip O'Day for Writers #112

Guest blogger Gordon VanGelder on personalizing your query or submission.

When I was editing books for St. Martin's Press, here’s some advice I used to give writers:

When you submit a book or proposal to an editor or agent, it's great if you say something in your cover letter like, "I saw you edited/represented this other book and I thought you might like mine." Not only does it separate you from the rest of the pack by indicating that you've actually read a book, but it also shows that you have some awareness of and respect for their work.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #111

Guest blogger Dakota Banks on writing your synopsis first.

The best piece of writing advice I have gotten is the use of the synopsis. This technique literally saved my writing life. When I wrote my first book, I started right in without planning. That book expressed my basic writing talent, but I hadn't studied my craft enough to know how to organize a book. I thought it would all work itself out as I went along. The result was a rambling, hard to follow mish-mash (as I can see from hindsight). For my next book and every one after that, I've started by writing a synopsis of the story with a beginning, middle, and end, characters that both fit and create the situation, and pacing that provides the correct balance of action and breathers. All of these elements are laid bare when you boil your story down to ten pages or less.

I'm not talking about a chapter outline that defines what goes in each chapter or even how many chapters there are. Just get down the high points of the story so that it makes sense and the synopsis is an exciting read in itself. This is the brainstorming portion of your writing. You still have intense creative work left to do to transform that shell of a story into an engaging novel. But you have an overall guide to follow instead of losing your way, getting discouraged, and giving up. The synopsis is a tool, not something set in stone. If you think of a better way to handle the story, try it out in the synopsis first. It's better to change a few pages to see if the new idea works out in short form rather than put it in your manuscript and discover that 100 pages later, you've put yourself in a blind corner. Writing a synopsis is a crucial skill, because you're going to need one as a marketing device when you try to get your book published.

An agent might ask for three chapters and a synopsis. Why not get double use out of that synopsis by writing it ahead of time instead of hurriedly trying to scratch one out for an agent request? And best of all, you'll soon be getting contracts based on your synopses instead of having to write the whole books first!

Saying for Writers #85

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“It's not plagiarism. I'm recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do.” - Uniek Swain

Tip O'Day for Writers #110

Guest blogger Beth Anderson gives short but memorable advice.

Write like a lover.

Edit like an ex-wife.

Dixon says: First I laughed for a couple minutes, but then I found myself nodding my head. It’s not only great advice but also easy to remember. By the way, Beth says she tries to follow her own advice on every single page.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #109

Guest blogger Joe Hartlaub on submissions.

To get published, submit the cleanest possible manuscript. Check for typos, (unintended) grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and misspellings. I am the world's worst proofreader. Find someone who is the best and pay them if you must, but have them go through your manuscript with the critical eye of an eighty year-old nun. SpellCheck is the first step, not the last.

Saying for Writers #84

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.” - Jean Luc Godard

Tip O'Day for Writers #108

Guest blogger Cynthia Echterling on making dialogue realistic.

Many authors will tell you to read - a lot. Well, when you get done with that, get off your duff and go out where there's real people. Listen to them! Eavesdrop on the drivers at the nearest truck stop, the young couple at Starbucks, the family with the unruly kids at McDonalds, old farmers at some small town restaurant, business types on their cell phones. It doesn't matter what they're talking about. Listen to how they express themselves. Notice the differences of regional dialect, ages, occupations. It's fascinating.

Realistic dialogue brings your characters to life.