Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tip O'Day #417 - How One Reader Spots Winners

Guest blogger Trisha Russon on choosing what to read.

I'm passionate about the things that interest me. I'm addicted to reading. One of the most beneficial outcomes of reading is relaxation. For me, this is important therapy. To some people, myself included at times, reading offers an escape from the real world.

I'm an avid reader, always searching for new authors to fuel my addiction. I enjoy reading different genres depending on my mood. When I choose a book by an unknown author, there is a combination of specific things that draw me to the book. First and foremost are a striking cover, an impressive title and an intriguing description.

If a book lacks these qualities it gives me the impression that the unknown author is an unprofessional beginner who doesn't know how to write. In my honest opinion, that's a sure way to quickly lose a reader’s interest. I know there are people out there who believe in the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover." Sorry, but I have to disagree. I want to be captivated and drawn into the book like a child entering a candy store for the very first time.

I like to use a variety of different sites to help me when choosing a book. Web pages like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, authors and readers blogs, and even Facebook pages and groups with descriptive blurbs, synopses, anthologies and great reviews are all helpful tools.

With that being said, I still don't base my final decision about a book solely by what others have to say about it, for one reason. We all have different opinions about the books we read. What other people like or don't like will not sway me either way. At the end of the day it comes down to one thing.

Did the authors have what it took to draw me into buying their books?

Dixon says: These are all good points, and yet we’ve all had the experience of buying what appears to be a professionally-produced, thought-provoking book, only to quickly realize it’s poorly written garbage. However, there’s a way to prevent that.
Let’s say you’ve been intrigued by the catchy title, striking cover and interesting blurb. You’ve seen it mentioned on some websites you follow. You’ve read a few positive reviews, and noticed it has a high rating on Goodreads. My suggestion is that you now read some sample pages.
Sure, we all know the first chapter get edited and proofread a lot more than later sections, and yet believe me, any writer too lazy or clueless to run a book past Beta Readers or a critique group, will demonstrate those same qualities in the first five pages. One of the things I really enjoy about eBooks is the ability to preview a certain amount of the opening pages, usually about ten percent, just as you might do browsing in a physical bookstore. I recently previewed a book where I didn’t need to go past the second page to find about a half-dozen misspellings and misuses of there, their and they’re. So be a smart consumer, and do the work needed to avoid buying junk.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tip O'Day #416 - Hello, Lurkers!

Guest blogger Lucy Pireel rants about online forums for authors.

When Dixon asked me whether I would like to supply him with a guest post for his blog, I jumped at the opportunity — like I always do. Head first and oblivious to the existence of shallow, shark infested waters. But that’s me.

Anyway, I had a nice topic to ramble on about — where to get new ideas — but got distracted. By? Yup, the evil Book of Faces. It has me in its clutches and won’t let go. Mind you, I’ve liked being on there ever since I signed up rather reluctantly. It’s a major distraction, but also a source of great fun and a wonderful means of reaching out to people. We get to ‘meet’ individuals we would have never known without Facebook.

I thought it would be useless to me, but to be honest I’ve learned quite a bit about self-publishing and marketing during the mere month since being suckered in. Hahaha. But there’s a balance to be kept, because before you know it — Poof! — there went another day that could, no should, have been spent on writing, editing, or other writerly habits.

So, there you have the topic of today. Facebook. Let’s take a long hard look at it. Fun? Yes! Useful? Yes, and… Oh, well, yes. Even if I sometimes think the authors gathered there are mainly promoting our works to one another, I still honestly believe that there must be other people watching and reading too. People who lurk in the shadows and think, because they do not write, they have no right being part of an authors group.

How wrong they are. There are heaps of readers too. Readers who love to connect with writers. Take for example the Book Junkies group, a gang of readers who not only love books, but are also dedicated to helping writers get their names and works more exposure throughout the online universe. Book Junkies members think ‘outside the box’ and have set up not only their group, but also a site to promote authors, and a site to promote books by posting reviews. They offer a complete platform for writers.

And there are many other similar groups.

Not only are there promotional groups, but recently a new group called Authors Against Piracy has been formed. Now we not only unite in the search for an audience, but we’ve started the effort to protect our intellectual property against thieves. Much like the music industry struggles to protect itself, we ought to do the same. Digital books need the same kind of protection that recorded music has. And I don’t mean that lousy excuse they call DRM, because any second grade digital thief can take that off any file in a jiffy, ruining a beautifully formatted book while at it. Leaving the ripped off copy a mucked up mess.

So Facebook and other online forums offer an opportunity for authors to network and create friendships all over the globe. We get to learn more about the craft of writing, about the publishing business, and about our legal rights. We have the chance to discover what readers are looking for, and how they choose which books to purchase. For those of us in rural or isolated locales, we have the opportunity to create a writing platform.

And the lurkers get plenty of places to hang out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tip O'Day #415 - The Best POV

Guest blogger Carolyn Arnold says “First Person POV Can Save Your Writing.”

All of us -- both as authors and as readers -- want characters we can relate to and connect with. Nothing can kill a plot much faster than cardboard shadows roaming the pages. I’m sure we’ve all been victim to this plague at one point or another, whether the infection has been injected by us as the author, or we’ve tried to read a book that has them.

The question as an author is, how can we avoid flat characters and get ones our readers feel they can pinch?

When we start out writing, we all have areas we can improve on. In fact, even once we may have “mastered” one technique or area, we’ll find there are still ways to sharpen it further. That’s why I always say that writing isn’t a destination but a journey -- a metaphor that holds true in so many ways.

So if we are to improve our craft, the old adage, practice makes perfect, is always in play. When I started out writing, I didn’t even know where it was headed. My goal was simply to write a full-length novel. I didn’t see beyond that until a few months after I finished the first draft. And it wasn’t until I wrote Ties that Bind, the first Madison Knight novel, that I realized how serious writing was to me. Going from a single goal to a lifestyle, I was reborn an author. It’s quite likely my situation mirrors your own. You may also relate to the fact that once you decide you want to make money with your books and have people “out there” read them, you have to refine them to the point of exhaustion, and beyond.

Along my journey, I discovered I needed to sharpen my characterization. I went back to Ties that Bind repeatedly revising and tightening until Madison Knight came alive off the page. It was at this point I proudly published the novel satisfied she was relatable and like a real woman I could run into on the street.

This didn’t happen overnight. As mentioned, it took many return visits to the manuscript and time. Maybe you’re wondering how I knew what I was looking for? Here’s how: writing first person POV saved my writing.

Possibly you’re cocking an eyebrow right now, or smirking at the statement, but it’s true. Think of it this way: the most popular point of view to write in is third close. That is the use of “he” and “she”, where as the author you’ve distanced yourself immediately by pulling out of the character’s head. You may argue that third close gives you “insider knowledge,” and it does if executed properly. That latter part is the key. So, how do you get there?

Think of writing first person. The use of “I,” “me,” “we” and “us” become the terms used in this point of view. It instantly feels more personal. By using “I” and looking at emotions and situations in first person, you are right inside that character’s mind. You feel what they feel, see what they see, hear what they hear, and smell what they smell.

In consideration of this, my suggestion to all authors is: write something in first person.,/p>

For myself, this came in the form of a full-length novel (Restitution, not yet published). But you don’t have to write a novel. Why not just try a short story, or if you’re struggling with a scene, re-work it (for your purpose) in first person?

Close your eyes. Immerse yourself in the scene. Breathe in deep and focus. You are your character. How do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear? You get the idea.

By writing in first person, it benefits your writing in at least two ways:

1. It strengthens your intimacy with your characters, and in turn, your readers -- even when writing in third close. In fact, I find when I’m writing close third in a first draft, I have inadvertently put “I” because I felt that close with the character.

2. It takes away any hesitation to branch out and try something new. This is very important, because as author as we must continually challenge ourselves.

For myself, after I wrote Restitution, that was then I revisited Ties that Bind. In fact, at the time of this post, I have written three novels utilizing this point of view with a fourth in the works. Here’s another challenge for you: switch off between first and third to play with the plot of the story and further heighten conflicts and create more suspense.

Of course, my advice to all authors, write any story the way it demands to be told. For me, I took on the challenge of mixing first and third in a few thrillers I have written. My thriller/police procedural Eleven (part of the Brandon Fisher FBI Series) utilizes this and is currently available for Kindle or in print.

An effective way of switching between characters for different scenes, mixing first and third or not, is another challenge -- and another post. For now, just keep writing, and heck, why not give writing first person a try? It might save your writing.

Carolyn Arnold is the author of both the Madison Knight and Brandon Fisher FBI series. To find out more information about her available books and upcoming releases, you can visit her at carolynarnold.net or peruse her Amazon Author Page.