Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #175

Guest blogger Heather Peters on writing ideas that work for her.

I'm certainly no expert in giving writing advice; I can only share my own beliefs and methods. These are simple suggestions, but ones that I live by.

First and foremost, never become discouraged by rejection. Take it as one person's opinion, and move on.

Next, write what's in your heart and head, always believe in yourself.

Never give your manuscript to a friend or relative to critique; they cannot be objective. Find a reliable critique partner from your writers group.

Finally, always write the story you'd want to read.

Heather blogs at www.BodaciousBabesBookBuds.blogspot.com or check out her website at www.HeatherPetersauthor.yolasite.com
Dixon says: Not everyone is fortunate to live near a thriving writing community that fosters critique groups. For those "in the sticks," search for helpful, positive online critique groups. It may take a few attempts - just like with local groups.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #174

Guest blogger Chuck Hustmyre on “from page to script to screen.”

In late July I saw something really unique: the premier of my movie on the big screen in Los Angeles. Granted, it wasn’t at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, and it was only in Los Angeles to the extent that the premier was in Los Angeles County. At the Regency Academy 6 Theater on East Colorado Street in Pasadena to be exact, as part of the Action on Film International Festival. But still... It was pretty cool.

How the movie and I got there was an adventure in itself. I used to be a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms . But I’ve been a tinkerer writer since junior high when I started my first novel. In 2004, I “sold” my novel, House of the Rising Sun, to a tiny POD publisher in Oregon. No advance, just royalties. According to the publisher, the book sold just 100 copies and was his worst seller. Fortunately for me, an aspiring local movie producer bought one of those hundred copies. He called me and asked if I would write a script based on the book -- for free, of course. I had some experience with writing screenplays, so I said yes. That began a six-year odyssey of ups and downs. The producer brought onboard a two-time Academy Award winner to direct, but even having two Oscars on the mantle didn’t help us overcome the No. 1 obstacle to getting a movie made -- finding the money to make it.

In 2010, with the local production group’s options long expired, I decided to strike out on my own. I sent out dozens of queries to producers, agents, and managers, the vast majority of which were not answered. I even used a query service that blasted my pitch to thousands more industry people. One producer -- that’s all it ever takes -- got back to me, but it wasn’t to buy my script. He had a question about the book business. I put the question to my book agent, who answered it, which in turn led the producer to pass my query on to a friend of his who was looking for a gritty crime thriller, something akin to “House of the Rising Sun.” That producer optioned my script -- again for free -- and shopped it around to other producers who had production money.

The script went through a few hands, but it ended up at Berkshire Axis Media, a Toronto-based production company. Producer Mark Sanders bought the script from me, and even though the budget was only $1.5 million, he managed to land a notable cast: Danny Trejo of Machete fame, Amy Smart (Crash and The Butterfly Effect), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), and WWE wrestling superstar Dave Bautista. Meanwhile, my book agent shopped the novel around (the rights had reverted to me) and eventually sold it to Dorchester. Then Dorchester seemed to implode and I was taking steps to cancel the sale, but the Dorchester ship seems to have righted itself. I got paid and the book came out last month in trade paperback and various ebook formats. I even talked the movie distributor, LIONSGATE, into letting me use the movie poster and DVD cover art for the cover of the novel.

So back to Grauman’s in Hollywood -- I mean the Regency Academy 6 in Pasadena -- where we were all set for the premier: me, my wife, producer Mark Sanders, some friends, even my mom was there, and then... nothing. The Blu-ray copy the theater had didn’t work. The projectionist called Mark out of the auditorium. They disappeared for a while. About 20 minutes later, Mark showed back up, sweaty and short of breath. He had run to Blockbuster to rent a copy of the movie, but the nearest Blockbuster was closed down. Then he went to Best Buy but he couldn’t find the movie. Finally, he discovered another Blockbuster that was still open, and he found the movie on the shelf. Then I got to see my movie, on the big screen, in Los Angeles (County). And it was pretty cool.

CHUCK HUSTMYRE is the author of the novels House of the Rising Sun and A Killer Like Me and the Penguin true crime books Killer with a Badge and An Act of Kindness (now Unspeakable Violence). For more information visit www.chuckhustmyre.com.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #173

Guest blogger Freddie Remza on where to start.
I once was told that after writing a good portion of your story, stop and ask yourself, "Where does the story take off?" Once you decide on that, make it your first chapter. It works! I'm currently writing a novel and I ended up starting the story with my Chapter 3.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #172

Guest blogger Suzy Turner on using your book reader to help your writing.
If you have a Kindle or Nook and want to read your manuscript on your device before you upload it to Amazon, etc, convert the file super easily (from Word to Mobi for example) via zamzar.com. It's a great way to spot any little errors that may have been missed in the editing process.
To learn more about Suzy, visit her website at http://suzyturner.com/
Dixon says: Also, Kindles have a read-back feature. Download your manuscript and listen to it in either a male or female voice. Any mistakes will jump out at you. The male voice seems more natural, less robotic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #171

Guest blogger Juliet Clark on setting up a writing schedule.
Establish a routine and stick to it. Writers can be unstructured. Make an appointment with yourself to write, just like you would make an appointment for an important meeting. You wouldn’t miss an important meeting with another person. Treat your appointment with yourself the same way.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #170

Guest blogger Steve Spatucci applies a watercolor concept to writing.

I was an Illustration major in college, and one of the classes in my major was Intro to Watercolor. Painting with watercolors has a surprising amount of rules and idiosyncrasies – different colors blend in different ways, and some have unexpected qualities when laid on paper. One technique I learned is the "wet edge". Watercolors tend to dry quickly, and once an area dries completely, its edge becomes defined - even if you try to expand it later. So, if you're painting a large area and you don't want visible separations, you have to retain a wet edge by continuously adding water to the boundaries you're working on, never letting it dry.

Only recently did I make the connection from the wet edge technique to writing. When I'm stuck on a story, I've found that the longer I stay away from the piece, the harder it is to get back into it – and sometimes it even winds up being abandoned.

Most writers have noticed this; the write-anything-even-if-it's-bad concept isn't new. But thinking of the wet edge when I'm having a hard time continuing is a nice little extra reminder that adding even just a sentence or two will prevent my story from being finished before it's complete.

If you’d like to learn more about Steve, his website is http://www.stevespatucci.com

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #169

Guest blogger Greg Vovos on the daily struggle to put words on paper, to fill the screen.

Show up every day and battle the keyboard. Get the scene down, the poem, the narrative, the entry. The words. Once you have something on the paper, then the real work can begin. Never let fear or writers block get in the way. If you have nothing, then write from intuition -- because you will always have that. Because when the words come, the magic will follow.

Remember, the victory is always—always—the ACT OF WRITING ITSELF.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #168

Guest blogger Amy D. Shojai on research.
Take time to research your topic but create a deadline so you don't lose yourself in that process. Authors need to know a LOT more about a particular subject but readers only need the tip of the iceberg for the story/plot to work for them. Probably the single most important thing an author can do to improve the chance for success is to hire an editor. No matter how experienced you are, or how wonderful your beta-readers might be (thanks Mom!), fresh eyes with savvy "writer-icity" will catch errors or highlight weaknesses and strengths in the work.
Amy is a certified animal behavior consultant with 23 books on pet care and behavior. The website at http://www.shojai.com/ has links to Twitter and her blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #167

Guest blogger Suzanne at Unruly Guides is my guru on all things self-pub and self-promo.
Giving a book away, such as in a contest or a way to obtain emails, is a great way to build a marketing list of readers that are interested in your genre. Plus, when they like it, they spread the word -- a good way to build your brand. Giving it away for a period of time for free is good for establishing yourself but don't miss the opportunity of gathering those golden emails. Make the giveaway on your own site, if you can.
Have I mentioned Suzanne is the best? If not – she’s the best!
By the way, I’m now over 300 posts on my blog, but all the other blogs say she doesn’t look a day over 200!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #166

Guest blogger Elisa Manalo-Simon says, “Story is king.”

My most inspired stories come from the heart. I’m a screenwriter, and it helps to craft a tale that can be experienced on several levels - evoking not only a vision, but also the sounds, the mood and the tangible things that bring about an emotional response. I start with an idea written out in one sentence. From that “logline” sentence, I expand into three acts in two pages. Two pages form the skeleton of the outline, beat by beat, scene by scene, into a series of sequences that form the screenplay.

When a story is effective, it has the capacity to entrance, enthrall and most of all, to teach and inspire an audience. They walk out of the theatre with an insight into the world they live in - or a window into another world they had never perceived existed. Writing a story is an art. Reading or watching the story can make us better people.

THAT is writing.

Check out Elisa’s website at www.storyartisan.wordpress.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #165

Jolyn “Jodi” Palliata shares the best piece of advice she got as a beginning writer.


It seems so simple, really. But it’s true. The best writers are great readers. By simply indulging in other’s words (and worlds), I learned so much about plot development, character arcs, various styles, etc.

Another piece of advice I got: get involved. Again…brilliant. By beta reading and critiquing others, I honed the skills I already had and developed new ones I didn’t even know I was missing. Plus, I was surprised at the tightness and flow emerging naturally in my own writing as a result.

Jodi is an indie author with her first book to be released next year. Check out her website (www.jolynpalliata.com)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #164

Guest blogger Linda Lavonne Barton on being part of a writing team:
Being a new indie author has been quite an adventure, full of excitement and some frustration. When I started my first novel, I never expected the wild ride from being an indie author and the thrill of seeing a story idea turn into a great book. When my husband came up with the idea for NEXT MOVE, YOU’RE DEAD, I knew instantly I could turn it into a great book. It's exciting to be able to share this adventure in writing with my husband, as we consider ourselves a writing team. The ideas come from his wonderfully creative mind and I build upon them and put them together into a book. I've been very lucky so far and haven't had too many things frustrate me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

More on Screenwriting

Guest blogger Peter Floro on screenwriting and structure.
In my limited experience, I’ve found that structure is essential. If my work is ever optioned, it’s quite possible the studio might want to rewrite it, or the director has ideas, or the actor has ideas, so the dialogue can change. But if the structure is sound, then no matter what is said, the story remains the same because it is anchored in the structure. Blake Snyder's Save the Cat is one of the best examples of explaining story structure. Snyder talks to you, not down to you. My advice is to spend the time beforehand nailing the structure and getting it tight, and the rest will flow.

Tip O'Day for Authors #163

Guest blogger Bart Polin on getting published.
Since I read around six books simultaneously from fiction to hardcore non-fiction-technical, I'd like to read just about anything. But the writers I do read, who are published by the major leaguers, all agree as to one thing: If people can't see your book on the shelf at B&N--you're not going to get a major publisher. Be glad if you get a legitimate publisher at all.
Vantage House publishers and their like will publish anything for your money, and offer you a lousy return. Be curious to learn who your publisher is. The latest copy of the Writer's Yearbook is one excellent source. Some publishers will accept unsolicited queries so even without an agent, you stand a good chance.
To learn more about Bart, check out: http://bullittinn.wordpress.com/

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saying for Writers #103

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:
"Asking a writer how he feels about editors is like asking a lamp-post how he feels about dogs." - E.L. Doctorow

Tip O'Day for Authors #162

Guest blogger Sandra Yuen MacKay on writing for publication.
The more you experience and learn, the better writer you will be. Personally, I watch a lot of movies which tell a story in two hours based on a 120 page script. So it makes sense I should be able to entertain, inspire, or excite a reader in 250 pages of a novel.
An editorial assistant at a large publishing house gave the following advice: "We are looking for books that are eye-catching, wow the reader, and are innovative. In order for your book to stand out of the crowd, you must pull in the reader from the first page, move at a good pace, and be original. It needs to be exceptional with characters that readers care about."
When I walk into a DVD store, I look for a movie with a back cover blurb that makes me go 'wow' or one with a fantastic trailer. Similarly, one's book must be marketable and readers must be able to identify with your characters. A protagonist may drive the plot, rather than just react to other characters and events around them. I hear of other writers who say their characters create their own story, and they are only the vessel to deliver the scenes.
Sandra is the author of My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness and her website is http://symackay.blogspot.com She is also the editor of Majestic, an online newsletter for Lit.org at http://majestic.lit.org/wordpress

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #161

Guest blogger Johanna Pontes Frappier says it's a brave new technical world.
As for getting published, do it yourself. Get some reliable people to double and triple check you on your edits (and when I say "you," I mean "me"). Also remember that these days, even the big publishing houses want you to do their share of marketing your book, so you may as well publish yourself and market yourself.
To learn more about Johanna, here's her blog: http://www.johannafrappier.blogspot.com/ and here's her book: http://www.amazon.com/Fairy-Circle-ebook/dp/B004ZZPOB6/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #160

Guest blogger Linda Boulanger says her writing tip is…wait for it…wait for it…to write!
Sounds simple, I know, but what I’m referring to is less about honing your skills and more that if people like your work, as soon as they finish one, they will want another. Yes, you have to promote and give each piece of work its due, but at the same time, get busy on the next one. Be prepared and don't be afraid to put them out there!
Dixon says: I like the Sidonie Gabrielle quotation, “Writing only leads to more writing.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #159

Guest blogger Denise Alessandro Taymore thinks maybe “it’s all in the hype.”
I am an amateur writer, but when I glance at professional writer's books I am not impressed enough to be intimidated. A friend instructs me and tries to drill it in my head that you have to write strictly in a way that the reader can feel the character's point of view. We know the reader has to have an extreme desire to keep turning the pages of course. I chose a suspense thriller as my first because it was the easiest for me to write. I found the editing grueling. Big shots pay loads of money to editors.
I look at it this way...if your book is fairly good...it's all in the hype of advertising. Just like a new box office movie that is coming out. Hollywood pays big bucks to advertise the movie and then it hits the theaters...even if it stinks...they made their 25 million or more and then it goes to DVD. It was the hype in the advertising that got the audience. And if the movie was good, then all the best to them.
Dixon says: By the way, the last few writing tips have been fairly brief. One potential guest blogger told me, "Oh, I see you're just looking for sound bytes." Noooo, Short is fine, but if the idea doesn't seem fully developed, I'll get back to the writer about beefing it up a bit. Long is also fine, but if it seems "flabby," I'll edit it for tightness, hopefully retaining the essence of the idea. A few submitted tips have been quite lengthy because they contained multiple concepts, in which case I've broken them up into several posts, which allows both of my loyal readers to focus on each central idea. Anyway, don't let either brevity or the lack thereof stand in the way of sending me a proposed writing tip.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Screenwriting advice

Guest blogger Roy Gonzales has screenwriting advice.
When I first started out writing screenplays, I learned that you need to hook the reader within the first ten pages.
You need to at least introduce the main character, and tell the reader what the story is about and what to expect. Your target audience is that reader who gets paid to read twenty scripts a weekend. If you want him or her to pick out your script, make sure your first ten pages keeps the reader wanting more.
Sometimes it may take twelve pages, but try for ten.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #158

Guest blogger Garret Garrels on writers as crime solvers.
You may notice today’s guest blogger has one T in his name rather than the usual two. He was a stutterer as a youth, like his father. When a name was being chosen, Dad declared, “No son of mine will have two Ts in his name.” Garret is a wonderful motivational writer and speaker. I met him through Toastmasters and it’s my honor to call him Friend.
When I write, I am a detective investigating the disappearance of ‘The Real Me.’ Society made me hide and writing helps me solve the crime. During each revision, I find new clues, and my final draft is merely a police report.

A Great Writers Conference

The Authors of the Flathead is a very active writing group in the scenic Pacific Northwest. Each Fall, they sponsor one fo the most writer-friendly conferences around. This year, it will be October 1-2, 2011, on the Flathead Valley Community College campus, at the north edge of Kalispell, Montana. As always, it is limited to 100 participants, so don't come expecting the hordes you may have trampled under at other conferences.
Glacier International Airport is less than 10 miles away. In Kalispell, we do have fine restaurants and hotels, rental cars, paved roads, and cell phone coverage. No need to bring your six-shooter, since wolves and outlaws rarely cross the city limits.
Rather than me bragging on and on, follow this link and check out the fine speakers that have been assembled.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #157

Returning guest blogger Sandy Nathan on editors.
The most important asset for a writer is a good editor. I'm talking about one who will tell you if you're writing garbage (a bit more kindly, I hope), are wandering all over, need to learn English (though a copyeditor can fix that), or whatever you need to know so that your writing doesn't embarrass you later.
Having found such an editor, the next thing the writer must do is follow his or her advice. Cut those extra words! Strengthen those characters! I know it hurts, but what your reviewers will say will hurt more.
Sandy writes fiction and nonfiction, for adults and kids. Her website is at http://sandynathan.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Saying for Writers #102

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:
“An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.” - Gustave Flaubert

Tip O'Day for Authors #156

Guest blogger Bart Baker is economical with his words and wise with his writing advice.
If you want to make a living at writing, treat it like a job. Write like it's your business and it will become exactly that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #155

Guest blogger Ezra Barany says to turn so-so fans into raving fans.
The more hoops and opt-ins your fans have to jump through, the more you know they are committed to your writing and are likely to help you spread the word about your book. Building a quality list of raving fans for your fiction can be done with a combination of a Facebook fan page and an e-mail service provider (an ESP like aweber or constant contact). Using Facebook apps like “Static HTML: iframe tabs” and “Static HTML Iframe Tab : Custom Icons” will help you create the pages you need to convert your fans.
First, offer chapter 1 or a short story if they "Like" your fan page. Then, offer chapters 2 and 3 or another short story if they submit their name and email. Check out what I mean at http://www.facebook.com/TheTorahCodes .
Ezra Barany is an instructor for authors at SavvyAuthors.com. His recent thriller The Torah Codes 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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #154

Guest blogger Glenn Kleier on what gatekeepers look for.
In my humble opinion, agents and editors are hyper discriminating these days about the new fiction they'll take a look at. It's all about marketing. What will sell. If you're aiming for whatever is currently hot out there, chances are you're behind the curve. Agents especially are looking for manuscripts that are fresh and well-paced, or at least have a unique twist on an existing concept (a la a clever mashup). And do your homework on the agents you solicit—make sure you match your material to their specific interests. Good luck!
The link to the website for Glenn’s book is http://www.kleier.com

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #153

Guest blogger Surya Sunder Dey, a thriller author and avid reader, on what helps her choose a book to buy.
I mostly choose books from the short descriptions one finds on the dust jacket. In this regard, I'd say tastes differ. A reader of one genre might find novels of another genre tedious, if she is solely going by the blurb. Now, if you turn this thing around, you can say writing a very good short description might be one of the important elements of selling a title. E-books sold online also come with these descriptions.
A good story always makes the reader ask, "What happens next?" I'd hasten to add that this is a very personal idea and might be wrong from more than one angle. Yet when I read those Ludlumesque novels (there are other authors catering to the fans of this genre, but somehow Robert Ludlum manages to stand as a landmark for this type of story), I can hardly let my back touch the backrest of the chair. My point here is that this element of "what happens next" should be there in that brief description.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #152

Guest blogger William Simon on outlining your story.
Always try and have a clear view of where your story is going. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the halfway point, and having it all come apart. That's happened to everyone, but it's never easy to deal with. A one page outline can help the writer a lot.
To learn more about this author, go to: www.wmsimon.com
Dixon says: I’ve had suggestions of writing a chapter-by-chapter outline before starting on a book, or even a detailed synopsis. I like Mr. Simon's advice since it gives you direction while allowing some wiggle-room for when one of your characters grabs the storyline and goes scurrying off in an unexpected direction.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #151

Guest blogger Marlene Cronkhite on creating characters.
I like to create real life characters. I think it's one of the most essential parts of what makes a story come to life. I love all my characters, even the bad guys. It's like creating the good, the bad, and the ugly, each character with his own persona—each with a tangible history, a cause and effect that motivate actions and dialogue.
It's a lot of work, but a large part of this stems from creating a believable history for my characters. I find if I write their bios in first person this helps me get to know them and become a part of their lives. Their history turns them into real life people and they grow on their own throughout the story.
Marlene blogs on writing at http://story-gems.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #150

Guest blogger Alicia M. Dean returns with a few more tidbits.
1. Even if the writing is going poorly, keep at it. Once you can get the words down, you can always fix them. If you never write them, there will never be anything to fix. 2. Set up a writing schedule. Write for an hour or even thirty minutes each day and you will see progress in no time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #149

Guest blogger Jeff Mariotte says “You write with your writing muscles.”
Like any other muscles, you've got to use them, exercise them, keep them in shape. If you let them atrophy, they won't be there when you need them. If you take care of them and work them out regularly, they will. So write. A lot. It doesn't necessarily make writing any easier. But it almost invariably makes your hard work turn out something better.
Learn more about Jeff at his blog: http://jeff_mariotte.typepad.com/my_weblog

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tip O'Day for Authors #148

Guest blogger Andy Remic has 5 pithy writing tips. 1) Omit needless words. 2) Make your characters interesting and believable. 3) Write what you love; write for yourself. 4) Don't ever think of the money. 5) Be persistent!!