Monday, December 27, 2010

What does 2011 look like for you?

I heard or read somewhere that making New Years resolutions, while good in spirit, usually leads to depression when said resolutions fall flat. Yet every year, I’m moved to make the next year a better one, and therefore pledge to make improvements on some aspect of daily living.

My pledge this year is to complete two of my WIPs. Seems attainable now; after all, I have a head start and a whole year ahead. Right now, I’m fairly optimistic.

It also helps with this sort of resolution to have a plan in effect, rather than just hope and wait it comes to fruition. I have a plan by which I intend to tackle my WIPs and get them into some workable mode to send to pubs. I also have a plan to lose weight, but that’s for another blog. Point being, the main reason resolutions fail is the unrealistic expectations set and the lack of preparation. Saying you want something or you will do something is just the first step. Make sure all your bases are covered.

What about you? Authors, aspiring authors…do you have resolutions? A goal? A race to a personal deadline? And do you have a way to get there?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish everyone the happiest of holidays, whichever ones you celebrate! Or if you don't celebrate any, happy almost-2011. More great posts are to come from Romancing The Muses in the new year. Until then, eat, read, write and be merry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Yule!!



I just wanted to grab the chance to wish everyone 
a Happy and safe Yule season or Christmas
if that's what you celebrate ...

Many happy blessings on which ever version of the 
season you celebrate!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Knowledge is Power!

When I was in middle and high school, my parents did everything they could to get me away from the computer screen and into the real world. They knew I loved writing, and therefore made a point of watching out for events that I might attend locally to socialize with other writers and obtain direction and suggestions from those established in the field. Therefore, for six years, I attended Drury University’s Writing Camp. The camp consisted of rooming in the dorms with fellow aspiring writers and attending a number of conferences hosted by two or three well-known young adult authors between Thursday and Monday right after the school year ended. Here, I learned many things between there being no such thing as writer’s block (which I believe is, to put it nicely, horseshit) to write what you know.

Writing what you know is a great start in fiction, but as someone who has always wanted to learn more, I often look at various subjects or plots as a way to educate myself in which something I previously had little to no knowledge. For this reason, I would advocate writing what you WANT to know just as much if not more so than writing about things in which you are already educated. If there’s a subject you’re interested in, give yourself a reason to do some research.  

That being said, don’t go out of your way to show off your newfound knowledge. Info dumps, especially in world-building scenarios, can be very tempting, but do your best to pace yourself and your reader. Only reveal what is essential for the story UP UNTIL THAT POINT while maintaining a level of realism for eventual revelations. That is, don’t reveal A Very Important Device the minute said device is needed, but also don’t devote a paragraph to a nonessential element just because you have worked it out.

As this will be the last you hear from me before the holidays, I’d like to take a minute to wish all of Romancing the Muses subscribers and readers a fantastic week and a great weekend to come. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and seasons warmest regards to everyone else. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ask An Editor - Hooking Your Reader


I worked as an editor at an e-publisher for two years. In that time, I read and accepted submissions and judged writing contests, among other things. Over the next few months I'm going to share with you some of what I think will help you the most in getting noticed by an editor, but today I'm going to get us started with something I think that's vital - hooking your reader. And before you can hook a reader, you have to hook that reader who has the potential to buy your book: your editor.

It's imperative to start in a meaningful place. Right at the point of change or slightly before it is the common advice. One thing I'd recommend you not to start with, unless you have an extremely strong voice or unusual way of handling it, is a dream sequence. In one contest I judged, 4 out of 5 entries had characters dreaming or just waking up from a dream as their opener. Not good. You want to stand out as much as possible, and when you pick a scenario that already has a lot of mileage, you're running the risk of blending into the pack.

Another piece of advice is to limit the infodump. You want to intrigue us to keep reading that exciting opening scene you've crafted, not bog down the pace with lots of info that can be sprinkled in later on. I'm guilty of this too. Sometimes you'll find you need to write a few chapters of "getting to know your characters" but then you discover later on you can chop them off and leave them out of the book entirely.

Introducing too many characters at once is another thing I'd warn you against. As much as you want to set your scene, you also want your reader firmly seated in your heroine and hero's heads. Using deep POV (something I'll talk more about in a later post) and limiting the amount of characters you introduce early on will help your readers bond more easily with your protagonists. Not to mention the importance of not confusing someone trying to lose themselves in your story. Once I start getting confused about who's who, I start losing interest. And that's the last thing you want a prospective editor to do when they are considering your manuscript.

Do you struggle with opening your story? Sometimes I have to rewrite my opening several times until I have it just right. Showing off your voice and making sure your opener has impact can be difficult, but it's so worth it. Think of your opener as the foundation of your book. Once that's solid, you're in excellent shape to keep building.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Start at the Top

Fellow authors Madelyn Ford and Rosalie Stanton have touched upon this topic, but it is one of great importance.  As soon as you finish your manuscript, it's time to shop around for a publisher or agent. I know it's daunting and very scary, but there is one thing you must never do -- don't sell yourself short.

When I started, I wasn't aware of all of the presses out there, how they worked, or where to start.  I wrote a blog prior indicating places to check in the event you're looking for a home for you work.  However, the one thing I didn't stress enough is that it's very important to start at the top and work your way down.  I know it's tough when you have an extended wait on a submission, but it's always best to aim high and strive to place your book at the best possible press for your work. For this reason, I suggest you find your number one, two, and three publishers/agents and go for them first.  Rejections happen, so if this occurs, move along to the next on your list and so forth.  It's always fantastic to receive an acceptance letter, but you would be surprised at how quickly that happiness can turn to something else when one of your top choices expresses an interest and your manuscript is no longer available.

So please remember to be patient, to aim high, and to have confidence in your work.  Of course, I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite here, as I still harbor insecurities regarding my own material.  Still, if you don't try to land one of your top places, you'll never know what might have been, and that's a sting that continues to linger even after the contract has been signed elsewhere and there is little you can do about it unless you pay your kill fee and attempt to explain to the publisher who is interested that you're contracted somewhere else but really wanted to be with them.

It's terrifying to submit to the big dogs, but it's a necessary evil.  Just keep in mind that all opinions are subjective and you are often your own worst critic. You can do it if you just continue pushing forward.

Keep up the great writing!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? I really wanna know!"

Sometimes you have an idea in mind that has everything fleshed out. Details, rising action, climax, and resolution, all wrapped up nicely with every component a good author needs to tell a compelling story…all except one.

With one of my projects, I found it difficult getting into my heroine’s headspace. I knew her name and her personality, but because of the way she was meant to come across, finding her voice became difficult. There are characters who simply don’t want to talk; for these stubborn types, there are a variety of resources one may employ in order to get a creation to open up.

One of my favorites is character interviews. I’ve discussed them before in an earlier post, but they really are key to bringing forward a character and getting a feel for his or her voice. It can also determine whether or not a character is important to the story, especially if the character you’re trying to flesh out isn’t one who will be in center stage.


I’ve included links before (who may find them here if you like!) and even if you’re not struggling with a particular character at the moment, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the interviews. If for nothing else, you can use these as a way of determining whether or not your character is two-dimensional or has enough personality to be someone readers would recognize on the street.

Another important aspect of writing is a phrase all authors should know intimately, and should likewise know how to identify. “Show, Don’t Tell” is the philosophy that writers should strive to demonstrate actions and sensations rather than explain them. Recently, I’ve encountered “telling” a lot in reading, wherein an author might tell me why Bob loves Sue and describe how passionate their relationship is, but telling me isn’t going to evoke the same reaction as showing me. It’s through internal thought, action, tension drawn between characters, and a thousand different steps that separate your book from the “okay” and the “fantastic.” If you’re writing a romance, beware of phrases like, “the heat between them was palpable.” If you need to tell your reader what the characters are feeling in plain language, your scenes, while passable, might need revision.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Buried in edits...and snow!


I've been dealing with something most writers will encounter from time to time, if they're lucky - edits due on two different books at one time. In my case, they were with different publication houses, which means adjusting your edits to the individual house style, etc. Each publication house has their own rules about how they like to handle certain grammar and punctuation mandates so it's necessary to conform to those. In my case, one house likes to use the serial (or Oxford) comma; the other house does not. A serial comma refers to the last comma before "and" in a list of items: i.e., the ball, car, and house, by the way. I grew up using the Oxford comma and it's been really difficult to "unlearn" that habit. But that's all part of conforming to what each individual publisher wants.

A few weeks ago (yes, it's been that long since I've blogged - bad blogger!) Leilani asked what I was working on. I've just completed first round edits on Insatiable, a contemporary m/f erotic romance due out in early 2011 from Loose Id and also edits for Reveal Me, another contemporary m/f erotic romance coming to Ellora's Cave in 2011. Along with that I've been readying another story for submission - which has involved extensive edits as well - and also trying to write a new story. This is how it goes if you're trying to make a go of it as a professional writer. Not to say that some writers may not have a different process and only focus on one thing at a time, but usually once you're submitting, you'll be dealing with your books at different stages of the game simultaneously. It can be challenging, but it's also hugely rewarding to do what you love. I can honestly say I'm thrilled to be pursuing my "dream job" and I'm so grateful to have an opportunity to do what means the most to me.

And then there's the snow! By last night, we'd reached 42 inches of new snow in 72 hours in my area of NY - and it snowed throughout the night! We'll definitely have a white Christmas this year. 

So I've been buried, metaphorically and literally, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully soon I'll be able to get into some "Ask The Editors" posts. Any questions you may have, feel free to ask them here or email me at cariquinnauthor at gmail dot com.

In the meantime, happy holidays!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Writers Beware


I know I promised I would post about the variety of shortcuts in Word to help make your writing and editing a much quicker and easier process but this crossed my path and I thought it deserved to be discussed. I've mentioned before just how important it is to really read over your contracts. Everyday it seems a new e-publisher springs up and while a few of them will probably turn out to be good reputable publishers, some will not. There is one, Tinglemedia, that I have serious qualms about.

Red flag number one:
Tingle Media agrees to pay a portion of the fees collected in respect of Accepted Content (“Payment”) that is purchased by members according to the rate schedule set forth on Exhibit A to this Agreement, as it may be modified from time to time (the “Rate Schedule”). The Rate Schedule is subject to change in the sole discretion of Tingle Media, Inc. in the ordinary course of its business without notice by posting such changes on the Website. If at any time the Rate Schedule is not acceptable to the Author, you may refrain from providing additional Content or terminate this Agreement in accordance with its terms.

So while presently, Tinglemedia is offering 40% of the proceeds from each story purchased, they can, as per their contract, change this number at any time. Their termination clause is also very obscure:

Upon termination, Tingle Media, Inc. will be entitled to retain all amounts owing to the Author for a period of thirty (30) days to determine any applicable rights of set-off, and shall be entitled to deduct from such amounts, a reasonable administrative fee for establishing, managing and terminating your account.


If that alone didn't have me running the other way, red flag number two certainly would.

Authors understand that Tingle Media will be providing a platform for Authors’ content to be viewed and purchased by not only consumers, but also by publishers. Author will benefit from Tingle Media’s marketing efforts, site traffic initiatives and presence at industry events, etc. If Author subsequently signs a publishing contract with any publisher after their Content has been published on the Tingle Media website, Author shall pay Tingle Media 15% of any Payments Author receives from such content for the first 2 years of any such contract. Such Payment shall be to compensate Tingle Media for all marketing, networking and publicity efforts enacted on behalf of Author at no charge while Author has Content published and available on the Tingle Media website.

As per the beginning of Tinglemedia's contract, this is a non-exclusive contract, so I guess if the Content they are describing about is the actual work you are contracting, this might make sense (though personally I'd never sign it). But the language is so vague, you could in effect be signing away 15% of any future works because Tinglemedia presumes that they will be marketing not only the content but YOU.

Now I've seen some interesting additions to contracts where the publishers (even some of the biggest) just make mad dashes to grab whatever rights they can, even rights to things as an e-publisher they never have any intention of using. So I cannot stress enough how important it is to read those contracts very carefully. I know nothing about Tinglemedia other than what I've read on their website so they could turn out to be a perfectly legitimate publisher. Time will only tell.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frankie Says Relax

I've mentioned Graham Greene before, and I likely will again, but I particularly like him as an example because of how little he wrote per day and how much he produced over his career. There are writers out there that get down on themselves if they let a day go by without committing something to paper. We've all been there at some point or another. The key is to set realistic expectations for yourself in the time marked as your own. Don't focus on what you want to accomplish; focus on what you CAN accomplish reasonably within the time allowed to write per day.

Right now, I'm working on three novel-length WIPs at once. I won't go into too much detail, because that's what my personal blog is for, but the other night I decided to pull the reins on what has been my standard plan of attack whenever I feel ambitious enough to work on more than one thing at a time. Mind you, this has never worked for me; it might fly for a few days, even a couple weeks, but I end up getting discouraged over how much time it takes me to complete a chapter. Chapters were my old goal. One chapter per one WIP, and then shifting attention to another. You would think that after having failed repeatedly in the past, I would have reevaluated this plan for its flaws and amended it to something that better suits me. It's no wonder the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Therefore, I have decided to focus on the word count rather than the chapter. The rest will come to me.

This plan might fail as well, but the key is to find something that works for you and your schedule. I have a full-time day-job, not to mention a part-time job. I also have a husband who occasionally likes getting attention, and while I don't have kids yet, there are plenty authors who do, and therefore have their writing time further encroached upon by the beast that is real life. Setting the bar too high regarding writing goals can lead to discouragement and depression, and that's something I definitely seek to avoid. By restructuring the way I look at my various projects and the time I have to dedicate to them, I can at least go to sleep knowing I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish within the reasonable limits I set for myself.

The point is this: don't set out to do more than you can. Set realistic expectations for the writing you produce. Even a couple hundred words a day is better than nothing, and if that's all you can manage in your hectic schedule, getting that much done should be your goal. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel


There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to being a writer. I have heard an array of horror stories from a variety of authors. One of the most common seems to be epublishing is so easy to get into anyone can do it. All you have to do is write something.

For those of you who know how false that statement is, here's a little bit of humor (or cause for major depression, you choose:)I found on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Takedown Requests (DMCAs)


Imagine that after hours of hard work in creating, editing, and submitting your work, your book is now available for the reading public. You've been promoting, trying to spread the word, when you learn that your book has been uploaded on a file sharing site for the masses to take free of charge. It's a horrible feeling, as well as something that is incredibly confusing for a new author. I remember when this first happened to me, I had no idea what to do. I didn't have a formal letter, nor any idea of how to have the links removed. It's not enough to state you are the owner of the copyright, rather you have to list numerous things, especially if you want to see results.

In an effort to help those new to this, I wanted to share a couple of templates I use when sending out DMCA notices. As soon as I have book that is released, I also make sure I create a new word document with all the information and fill out the blanks as necessary. Although I hope you're not faced with piracy, perhaps these will help make the task a bit easier in the event you need them.

DMCA Templates:

Hello,

My name is <insert your name here> and I am requesting take down of my work that is being shared in violation of copyright, as is stated in the warning issued in the work being illegally shared below.

<insert name of your work here> -- ISBN#: <insert ISBN here>

is available for purchase at: <insert link where your book can be purchased>

I have good faith and belief that the use of aforementioned material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agents, or the law. No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or
mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from <insert the name of your publisher here>. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the (copyright) owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Links are available on your site here:

<insert link where book is available on file sharing site>

I would appreciate it if you could remove these as soon as possible.
 

You can contact me via at the address below:

<insert your name here> c/o <insert name of your publisher here>

<insert the address of your publisher here.  You can usually find this information on your publishers website, or by asking your editor, etc>

Regards,

<insert your name here>



Another good letter to use is this one:


Attn: Moderator,

Pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), this communication serves as a statement that:

(1). I am the duly authorized representative of the exclusive rights holder for <insert name of publisher here> and all of its holdings;

(2). These exclusive rights are being violated by material available upon your site at the following URL(s): <insert link where you material is being offered on file sharing site>

(3) I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law;

(4) Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question;

(5) I may be contacted by the following methods:

Send mail to: <insert publishers address here>

Call: <insert phone number of publisher here, or if you prefer, you can leave this blank although some file sharing sites require a phone number>

Or

Email:  <insert your email here>

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you for your kind cooperation.

Regards,

<insert your name here>

Piracy is a tangled web, one that's hard to maneuver, but once you have a letter, it's just a matter of ensuring you have a Google Alert for your material in place (which you can learn about by doing a Google search for Google Alerts).  I also register at the piracy sites and check them frequently.  It does take a lot of time and diligence, but if you're willing to stay on top of things you can be successful in having the links removed.  Keep in mind that there are places, namely torrent sites, who will not comply with DMCA requests.  Trying never hurts, but be prepared in the event you come across these.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The same word!

It occurred to me that many times we’ve mentioned editing, proofing and polishing but there hasn’t been a great deal of pointers diving a little deeper into it.  I am not fabulous at self-edits, so anything I suggest in this area I have learned the hard way in the last few years.

One thing to watch for beyond the spelling mistakes and comma mishaps is over using the same words.  It might seem completely necessary to use the word ‘smile’ as often as you do or ‘look’ while you’re writing the story but when it’s finished it distracts or possibly bores the reader to see the same words close together.

A quick way to check for this in MSWord when going through your manuscript is to do this:

Click Ctrl F and then type in your word.
 Put a check in the box that says “Highlight all items found in:”   
Click <More>
Check the box that says “Find whole words only”
Click <Find All>
Choose a highlight color on the top right of your menu.  
Close your Find box and look through your document to see how often you have used the same word.

I was completely thrown the first time I did this.  After proofing the ms ten times I thought surely I’d found all the words that appeared too often.  I was wrong.  
   

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Waiting Game

Once you’ve gone over your manuscript with a magnifying glass, received feedback from your betas and crit partners, typed up your synopsis, finessed your blurb, and compiled your submission package, the road can seem a little empty. You hit “send” to your selected publisher (or publishers), receive the automated receipt for your submission, and sit back and wait.

Response time varies from publisher to publisher. Some turn around within a matter of days with a yes or no. Others quote a time period of anywhere from two to six weeks. The publisher to which I sent my latest manuscript quoted a time of 12-16 weeks. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s three to four months!

I submitted at the beginning of November. It could be March before I hear anything. What do you do in the interim? You could submit to another publisher, but if you’re anything like me, you have the one you really, really want.

So what do you do while waiting for a response?

Don’t think about it.

It’s hard not to think about it. It’s hard not to hold your breath every time you login to check your email. Believe me—I’m a month deep, and this post is as much a lecture to myself as anything else. Do whatever you need to do to get your mind off the wait, even if you have the patience of well, me (that’s to say not any).

So here’s what I’m planning to do in the wait.

1) Write!
2) Read
3) Outline

There’s a sense of completion that follows the end of every story. I like to ride that high as hard and fast as I can. Take the time between now and whenever you receive word from one publisher as a free period for your muse. Who knows? You might just love the outcome.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!




I planned on talking last week about short cuts in Word that can help you while writing your manuscript. I'll get back to that next week. After a very long drive last Friday and Saturday, we finally arrived at my in-laws in Florida. So Happy Thanksgiving from the Sunshine State! All those dealing with harsh weather, please be safe and have a happy holiday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pushing Through

We’ve talked about writing roadblocks and exercises, and getting through those times when words don’t come as easily as you’d like. It can be excruciatingly difficult getting anything committed to paper, much less anything you consider good writing.

If you're anything like me, you come up with little scenarios for stories all the time -- sometimes knowingly, but not always. These aren't always obvious, but the writer's mind never rests for want of creativity. Maybe it's while you're in line at your local bank drive-thru, and you wonder why the car ahead of you is taking so long to complete its transaction. You then envision a robbery happening inside. What-ifs are great starting points for a good story, and even if you don't turn it into your next masterpiece, these small distractions can prove endlessly useful in overcoming whatever is otherwise blocking your muse from speaking.

So next time you're at a loss for words, try writing something fresh based on your own particular what-if. Don't worry so much with semantics or how feasible it is; just try to get the blood flowing. Also, keep your expectations reasonable and realistic. Author Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, each day. That might not seem like a lot, but he published more than thirty books this way, so he obviously found a method that worked for him. Your method may be better; if you find something that works, stick with it! It'll lead you where you need to go. Something is always better than nothing. And who knows? Maybe one of your what-ifs will turn into a real barn-burner. Inspiration is a tricky thing. You might want it aimed at a certain project, but it keeps driving you to something else. Listen to your muse and allow your creativity to take you where it will. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do you have a CP?

I'm in the midst of edits on two books - along with finishing up another for submission - so I'm time crunched at the moment but I wanted to give a brief shoutout to my critique partners (or CPs.) They've helped me so much. Taryn has been there from the beginning and has saved me numerous times, while some of the others are newer but still so helpful. It's so nice to have another couple sets of eyes to go over your story before you submit. And believe me, editors appreciate authors who have others give their manuscripts a read before they hit send! Even the most seasoned author is too close to their story to see all the potential holes. True, sometimes it's just not possible to have someone take a look before you sub, especially once you're a published author with close deadlines. But whenever possible, it's a good idea. They'll see things you never thought of...and if you're lucky, help you make your book the strongest it can be before it has to compete with all the other books in your editor's inbox.

Do you use CPs or beta readers? Have they helped you along the way?

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WRITING LIFE FILMS PRESENTS: Amazon Reader Reviews



I'm so sorry I'm short on time, but this says it all about reviews. Hope you enjoy! ;-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Smokin' fingers!


I know I missed my day last week - at least I
think it was last week. This month is a blur for
me so far.
I had to attend to some details in life that we
always would prefer not to have to handle.
But such is the real world outside of writing.

Of course after that I fell into NaNoWriMo
(National Novel Writing Month) and my fingers
have been smokin' since then.  
November is the one month of the year many
writers around the world try to forget proper
formatting and constant self editing and see
if they can make that goal of 50,000 words in
30 days.  I'm roughly half way there - which 
reminds me I need to update my word counter.

Does anything ever come out of this?  Besides the
nifty 'finished' certificate at the end, yes many 
actual novels are the result of challenging yourself
to meet this goal.
My own 2008 NaNo novel was published in
September - as are many others.  There's a list
under media kits on the NaNo site.
www.nanowrimo.org

Sometimes it's just wonderful to forget all the 
details and HAVE FUN writing.

Has anyone else accepted the NaNo challenge
this year????

See you at the finish line!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing exercises

Sometimes when you’re at a loss for ideas, basic writing exercises can help get the creative juices flowing. Here are two of my favorites.

The following are a few kick-off sentences. Write what happens next.

1) She had run as far as she could go. The door at the end of the hall was locked.
2) She had never jumped out of a moving car before, but there was a first time for everything.
3) The child’s eyes widened as he approached the coffee table where his father’s matchbox sat unobserved.
4) It wasn’t as though he didn’t know these woods, but they had never seemed darker than they did right now.
5) Whatever came next didn’t matter. She just needed to wash the blood off her hands.

Another one of my favorite tools is a character interview. For both developing characters and characters you know well, interviews allow you to get inside the head of your creation or help them form views, beliefs, and opinions. Here are a few sites with form interviews. If you're anything like me, your characters will take the interview out for a spin and not bother returning.

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Character-Interview-as-a-Writing-Tool
http://caradavies.com/images/character_interview.pdf
http://www.therthdimension.org/FictionWriting/Char_Profile/char_profile.htm
http://www.suspense.net/profile.htm
http://www.biohunterhq.com/wiki/index.php/Ultimate_Character_Profile_Sheet

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pre-editing Part Two


In last weeks post, I talked about some of the more obvious things to look for when editing your manuscript. Now I'll point out some of the issues that can be harder to spot or seem to go against how as children we were trained to write.

First off, all the unnecessary wordage that when cut can clean up your manuscript:

1. Directionals: up, down, and out; words that imply direction aren't needed. Example, she sat down should be she sat. These can be overused.

2. Could: She could hear change to she heard.

3. Redundant words: she nodded her head, he shrugged his shoulders, her heart beat in her chest. These are all obvious when you think about it but it is something you might have a tendency to automatically add without giving it any thought. So, she nodded, he shrugged, her heart beat.

4. Wandering body parts: these can be a little harder to spot. Body parts cannot move independent of the character. Eyes can't roam, hands can't move, etc.

5. Dialogue tags: first time writers especially can be susceptible to the pitfalls of overusing said and asked. Instead of he said, have the character perform an action to show he is the one speaking. And if you end the sentence with a question mark, it's kind of self-explanatory. Also watch for impossible dialogue tags. Voices don't shout, people do.

6. Felt, heard, know: you might find yourself relying on these words to express POV. Here is a wonderful example from my editor, Heidi:

She could hear the sound of rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.

She heard the rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.

The rain pattered on the roof overhead, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.


The last sentence is the tightest with the deepest POV and practically drags you into the scene.


Lastly, keep a lookout for repetitive words or actions in a scene or throughout the manuscript. Does your heroine like to toss her hair a lot? Or your hero fold his arms while arching his brow? And does she giggle or he drawl through half of the book? Correcting these simple and common mistakes can tighten your story and hopefully help you get that publishing contract you've been striving for.

Stop back by next Thursday. I'll be going over some of the tricks in using Word that might make your writing experience easier.

Monday, November 8, 2010

You Probably Think This Post Is About You

In this industry, self-advertising is a big key to success. New releases are issued every week by numerous e-pubs, and unless you have a built-in audience, it’s easy to disappear in the mass. For a new author, this can be incredibly overwhelming, and likewise, it can take a few publications before you get the swing of how to promote yourself and your work.

Here are a few ways a new author can get their name “out there”:

1) Set up a Twitter account.
2) Set up a FaceBook account.
3) Create a free blog.
4) Create a website.
5) Contact other authors.

There is nothing more rewarding for an author than being approached by someone who has read what you’ve written and enjoyed it. It can forge truly rewarding relationships within the writing community.

Another way to get your name out there is to offer free writing samples. Aside from synopses and blurbs, offer some free short stories or glimpses into an upcoming work.

You are the key to your success. What you do or don’t do will determine your future in the publishing world.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Developing A Thick Skin

Rosalie wrote a great post about reviews a few weeks ago, but they've been on my mind this week so I decided to talk about them briefly. I think criticism - constructive or otherwise - is something we all face in life and it's one of those things that can help make us or break us.


As someone who works in graphic design for her “day job” and writes for her “I hope will someday be full time” job, I know well how sensitive creative types can be. I'm definitely not exempt. It's hard when someone doesn't like your design or your book. We put so much of ourselves into them that it can be difficult not to get hurt feelings. But the important thing is what you do with those feelings. Do you bottle them up until you find yourself staring at the blinking cursor, paralyzed at the thought of sending something new out into the world? Or do you go online and defend your creation, because surely if you just say the right thing, they'll take their criticism back? After all, you've worked so hard.

The answer? No and no. The world is full of critics, and as tough a cookie as it may be to swallow, once someone pays for your design or your story, they feel justified in reviewing it. That is their right, just as we would feel comfortable complaining about a burger we ordered that was undercooked. Our creation is their consumable good, and if they aren't satisfied, they may tell people. Does that mean you did something wrong? Not necessarily. Everyone sees things differently. That's a good thing. Sometimes a review will point out something you could have handled better, and that's a bonus. That happened with me recently. I'd like to thank that reviewer, because now I'll be on the lookout for the potential problem she raised in my future manuscripts. But I didn't get into a discussion with her, because that can be a slippery slope. I just thanked her (in my head, in this case) and moved on. And my skin got just a little bit thicker.

I thought my first 1-star review or “poor” rating would hurt like hell. It did. I thought it would stop me from writing. It didn't. I search for what will help me from my reviews and return to my job, whether it's designing or writing. And each time I try to improve.

We've all been there, and really, I look at reviews as a badge of honor. To get your work reviewed means you're putting yourself out there. Some people will love your work. Some people will hate it. That's okay, because it means you've done your job. You've written the best story you could at that time. Take what you can use from reviews and leave the rest. Then go write your next book!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pre-editing Part One



Before I started the editing process with my editor at Samhain, she sent me a pre-editing guide of common mistakes. I thought over the next couple of weeks, I would share with you some of them because getting published is difficult enough. Why make it any easier for them to reject you?

1. Numbers within the manuscript should be spelled out. This includes chapter headings.

2. Garbage words: so, that, then, and then, just, really. These tend to get overused. I know I have to keep an eye out for just, I seem to like it a lot.

3. Watch for multiple as, and, then, and while phases in a sentence.

As Jack turned away, Judy frowned, folding her arms across her chest and watched him move across the room as if he were mad at her while she could think of nothing to have drawn his anger.

A sentence like that has too many actions happening simultaneously; therefore, they lose impact on the reader.

4. This leads to one of my favorites, the simultaneous action.

Walking across the room, Jack opened the door and drove downtown.

You might see this quite often, especially in much older romances, it is a big no-no.

5. The use of he's and she's: when you have more than one person of the same sex, you need to be really careful it is obvious of whom you are speaking. The last person mentioned is the one who gets the pronoun attributed to them. If you have more than two individuals, you should probably stick to using their names.


Well, there are a few. Next week, dialogue tags, redundant actions, and the dreaded wandering body parts.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month

It's something few authors partake in because they know the task is daunting.  Create a 50,000 word novel in the course of a month.  Some are able to meet this goal and send their stories off (and achieve publication), while others come close or cave in early on.  It's a lot to ask for, that's for sure.  However, it is something that brings authors together from across the world, united in their desire to create a story that shines even as they push themselves to meet a word count goal each day.

This year, I'm using NaNo to finish up a story that is long past due.  I've set a goal per day that allows me to have the weekends off (of course, I can always write during the weekends if I'm inclined, but this gives me some wiggle room with my family).  2.5k words per day, Monday through Friday.  Will I make it? I sure as hell hope so.  My story is all but thought out, it just has to be brought to paper.

Which brings me to my question:  Are you participating in NaNo this year?  Have you participated before?

For those of you who haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, you can learn more by clicking HERE.  I wish you all good luck, speedy writing, and fantastic stories.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stealing The Show

While writing is my primary literature-bound occupation, I also edit and review books when I can. This gives me wide exposure to material I might not otherwise encounter, as well as a broader understanding of how various writers find their stride. For all aspiring authors, there are certain dos and don’ts that will go far in separating your book from the mass.

Characters begin life one-dimensionally: a name on a page, a vague face in the author’s head, and a murky idea where the character’s story will lead them. As you begin to outline or place setting and conflict around your character, he/she gradually assumes two-dimensional form. For the sake of pronoun abuse, let’s say our character is Penelope Grindle. She’s a thirty-one year old accountant from Nevada and has just discovered her sister, we’ll say, Lydia, was bitten by a werewolf.

Penelope has a job and a sister. We know where she lives, and after a few paragraphs, we discover she has short, curly brown hair, a few freckles, and is maybe ten pounds overweight according to societal expectations. Her clothes have a way of hiding her assets and she doesn’t date much since her college boyfriend—let’s say, Scott—dumped her for her best friend. Penelope is quiet until provoked—then she’ll tear your head off. She’s intelligent and witty, if not slightly insecure.

There are writers who are satisfied with this level of development. Penelope's story goes from here, a bit chaotic, undoubtedly, but very much according to plan. She says everything she's supposed to say, according to the author, and does everything she's supposed to do. She nods and frowns and smiles and cries exactly on cue. She falls in love with one of her sister's new werewolf friends, and gets her HEA. The conflict is neatly tied up.

Does this make Penelope anything more than two dimensional?

No.

Characters who behave are boring to write and, at times, boring to read. I'm not talking about their actual behavior within the manuscript, rather their inability to rebel against the author's wishes. These characters have no heart and soul whatsoever: if they get in trouble, it's the sort of trouble the author intended. For your characters to be truly three-dimensional - that is, to feel like the sort of characters you know and could picture running into on the way to the supermarket - they have to not kowtow to your every demand. You might want to end a scene with sex, but true three dimensional characters have a MUCH better understanding of their world than you do, sorry to say. They know whether or not they want sex or if they'd rather cuddle on the sofa and watch television. They veer off script frequently, and give you the finger when you try to lasso them under control.

Don't be fooled, two-dimensional characters please a good number of readers, and there's nothing wrong with that. I have enjoyed numerous books with characters whose names I couldn't remember the next day, and I've recommended them to others. However, the books to which I return are always the ones that have characters I'm sure caused the author a lot of trouble during the writing process. Those are the ones that stick out and warrant a second, third, fourth, and twelfth read-through. Characters who feel like people - that's the dividing line, and the one toward which I strive every time I start a scene. Whenever my characters take over, I know I'm onto something good.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!


I'm running around like a madwoman today, but I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Halloween weekend! Have fun, watch a few spooky movies, eat some candy. But most importantly, be safe!

Tune in next week for more insightful posts from the authors of Romancing The Muses!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One of the unfortunate evils of publishing



One of the unfortunate side effects of being published is piracy, and I'm not talking about the black skull and crossbones, Jack Sparrow and a boat. In the publishing world, piracy is the term used for someone freely sharing the work you've spent months, if not years, slaving over without compensating you financially. It is something that truthfully until I was first published I had not known was going on. Since then, I have had my fair share of dealing with this issue.

The reason for this illegal behavior (and per copyright laws in the US, it is illegal) are a dime a dozen. I've probably heard them all uttered at one time or another, and while some of these reasons might seem more legitimate than others, I am not writing this blog to get into a debate on the why's. I'm not even going to give them the satisfaction of mentioning by name any of the places where file sharing is occurring. Believe me, as soon as you log into your first author's loop, you'll find them bandied about. Instead, I'm going to discuss what you can do once you've discovered your work on one of these sights.

The DMCA or The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. What is it, you ask? The DMCA is the circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to protect their works and one on tampering with copyright management information—and adds civil remedies and criminal penalties for violating the prohibitions (for more info, follow the link). So now that you know what the DMCA is, you're safe, right? The government's got you back.

If only. The DMCA is a nice little law with no real backing. So what do you do now? Well, ask any published author and they'll tell you, here comes the fun part (insert tons of sarcasm). You get to send of DMCA notices. What are DMCA notices, you ask? Basically it is a letter you send to the file sharing site as proof that you are the copyright holder of the work being illegally shared and asking them to remove it. Where do I get one of these letters, you now ask? I'd post one here but it's kind of long. Ask your publisher or any fellow author. They'd be more than happy to share.

Okay, so you're ready. You have your letter, it's all ready to send out. Now what? Most of these site have a DMCA policy and a place to send these letters but some don't want to make it easy for you. The ones that do, you'll see a DMCA Policy notice at the bottom of their site. Others, you can hunt around for minutes or hours, trying to no avail to find where to send your notice. If you are having difficulties, ask around. Just like the pirates are more than willing to share your work, fellow authors will be more than willing to help you stop them. Someone will have the correct place stored in their email and will be eager to pass it along.

You've sent out your notice. What's next? Sadly, you wait. Most of these sites will take the file down within 24 hours. If they don't, keep sending the notice until they do. It might take several frustrating hours or days but I've yet to find one who hasn't eventually complied.

Well that's the end of it? Right? Sorry. My laughter is not at you. Really, I promise. I just wish it were that easy. But it's not. More often than not, your book will reappear within hours or days, right back on the same sight. Why? Because these pirates can. Either these file sharing sites really don't give a damn about the law or they just are too busy to pay attention to repeat offenders (I'll let you decide which but I think you can already guess where my thoughts fall).

So what do you do? You get to repeat the procedure all over again. WTF, you ask again in dismay? Yeah, I know. All I can say is welcome to publishing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your cover letter

This week’s post will be short and sweet.  For two reasons, first it’s about the cover letter and it’s more about fact than creating a fabulous blurb or detailed synopsis.  Second, I have an insane week lined up for myself and just found out today I have to fit all of that in with work as well as a wake and funeral. So I promise to babble more next week.

Now it’s time to get that cover letter put together. 
While it sounds relatively simple keep in mind that this is the first thing the editor will see when you send in your submission so you want it to be something worth reading. Most important thing (again) make sure it is error free.
Each publisher will list what they want to see in the cover letter, and it varies so I won’t write it step by step.  Most important thing – make sure it is error free.
This is where you can brag a little.  If you’ve had something publisher before, put it on the cover letter.  It got a five star review, list that as well.  It’s your first time submitting your writing – that’s okay too.
I usually introduce myself (if you have a pen name put that in too) and then give them the facts about the book.  Genre, word count, heat leave.  This is a good place to put your tagline if you have one.  The brief description of the book is usually my blurb.  (all the details are in the synopsis, so there’s no need to go on and on in the cover letter)
Many publishers will now ask for your promotional plan.  Telling every person you see is not considered a plan – while word of mouth is a great way to promote, it’s not really what they’re looking for. 
If you belong to writer’s / reader groups or are a part of an organization, this would be the place to list that.  I list what groups I’m in, my website (yes you need a website) my blog.  As a part of my promoting I do Blog tours for the release of my new books.  Setting up chats is another great way to get your book out there. If you have an opportunity to do a book signing once you have said book, regardless of how small, add that to your plan. 
Bottom line with this area of the cover letter is, the smaller publishers will promote their company, but do not have the budget to promote each individual author.  No one will know about you and your book unless you start the ball rolling and jog along beside it to keep it moving.

Until next time...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Blinking Cursor

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve talked a lot about how to get a manuscript ready for submission, contract negotiations, how to deal with rejection, how to respond to negative reviews, and all the effort that goes into the ever-important release day.

I’m going to pull everything back for my topic today. Before the production wheels can even consider turning, you must have a product to sell. In this case, our creativity is on the market.

One of my favorite writers is Aaron Sorkin. He doesn’t produce traditional material, but some readers might be familiar with his writing through shows like The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and movies such as The American President, and most recently, The Social Network. Sorkin has always been an inspiration to me; his dialogue has an almost Shakespearean cadence that can get stuck in your head like a catchy song. On writer’s block, he says the following:

I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, "You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy. I'm a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?" And I really, really don't.

I’ve made no secret of this: the past year has played me like a yoyo. To anyone who creates, the inability to do what you love, regardless of the objective, is absolutely devastating. In my case, my inability to put words on paper had a variety of causes, a terrible work-environment and battling my obsessive compulsive disorder at the top. Among other things, once the dust has settled and you have a book out there—in the general vastness of the thing called the Internet, or life as we know it—pressure to reproduce can drive you crazy. I started a new project, one currently stalled for the want of other things, but couldn’t make much headway because my mind wasn’t with the story, rather with what would happen after the story’s completion. What would an editor think of my writing? Would this novel stand a chance among the dozens upon God-knows-how-many others up for consideration? Why in the world did I think I could write, when I could barely choke out a hundred words? I started and stopped more times than I care to consider, but it all harkened back to a simple inability to focus.

I spoke with friends about my predicament, but that didn’t help. What could people offer aside from sympathy? Words simply wouldn’t come. I closed the document and waited.

After a few months, I started dabbling with a few side-projects to see if I could coax the creative juices to flow again. I revisited old stories, wrote fan-fiction, and did pretty much anything I could to write for the sake of writing, rather for the sake of publication. This, alongside quitting my hellish job and working out some of the insanity that occasionally screws with my head, enabled me to push past the Block. I’ve written a lot recently. It might be bad. Hell, it might ALL be bad, but I finished something, and that feels damn good.

The point I’m getting at is this: for writers, the inability to do what we love feels like drowning. There can be many symptoms, least of which the environment outside your writing sanctuary. If you do encounter such demons, don’t run away. They don’t deserve your anger. The Block will alleviate, if not sooner than you hoped. In the meantime, try a few writing exercises, or read a good book. The best authors will inspire other writers. This is one of the many reasons we read—to be inspired.

The most important thing: when writing, never second-guess a word or mull over a phrase for too long. You can always go back and revise. Nothing is ever set in stone anymore. There is time to worry with that, and it’s not during the process itself. For me, this is often easier said than done, but it won’t keep me from trying.

In the end, doing what you love, and loving what you do, is worth the frustration and the wait.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writing Blurbs, part two

Melissa commented on my Writing Blurbs post last week, asking for more hints and techniques on writing queries along with an example of a great blurb. When choosing one, I didn't hesitate. As anyone who knows me has heard umpteen times, my favorite book is Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost. Bones and Cat are the ultimate hero and heroine in my eyes and I think this blurb (along with the gorgeous cover) is what drew me in first.


Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.


In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.  


Standard blurb advice is to write one paragraph about your heroine and one about your hero, while nicely - and briefly - showcasing their conflict. Here both Cat and Bones are introduced in the first paragraph in dramatic fashion. Descriptive tags help a lot - "half-vampire" and "vampire bounty hunter" immediately show that these two could be at odds. Or if your hero is an arson investigator and your heroine an arsonist - boom, instant conflict, easily illustrated.

In the second paragraph, we get a short synopsis of the plot. From the word choices used, we get a sense of the author's style, which is imperative. Picking words with a lot of impact is so important. By mentioning how "sexy" Bones is, we learn this probably won't be a sweet romance. Phrases like "battle reflexes as sharp as his fangs" and "she's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner" help show that Jeaniene's writing will likely be fun and maybe a bit sarcastic. (Two reasons I love her!)

The blurb ends with the all-important conflict - Cat having to choose a side. That's why blurbs are SO crucial to selling a book to a reader. If there's nothing at stake for your characters in your blurb, there may not be much conflict in your book. And conflict is what makes a reader eager to flip pages.

Hopefully this helped a bit. I'll be revisiting this topic again, as it is one of my favorites. Thanks so much for the question, Melissa!

Contracts: are they set in stone?


First off, let me state quite emphatically, writing is a business and while most publishers are not out to screw you, their number one priority is what is in their best interests. Not yours. So I cannot stress enough, please, please read your contract. No matter how exciting a first publication can be, do not just sign on the dotted line and expect everything to be great. It can cause problems later on down the road.

Here are some things to consider. I write strictly paranormal and while each of my publishers own the rights to my work, they do not own the world I've created. Nor do they own the rights to any of my characters. While I have no intention of attempting to sell a Grigori book anywhere but Loose Id, biblical myth plays a huge part in my writing. If I'd signed away my world, I never would have been able to publish My Avenging Angel with Samhain as the story of Lucifer's insurrection and Michael's role in his fall play a large part in the world I have created.

Some publishers want first right of refusal. This is fairly standard. If you write the sequel, they want to see it before you send it somewhere else. Rumor has it there is a publisher who wants first right of refusal for the next thing you write, no matter the subject. This I would be very hesitant to sign away.

Which brings me to my next point. Contracts are negotiable. After you've read every word of your contract and you discover something in it that makes you uncomfortable, contact the publisher. If they are unwilling to work with you that should be your first sign to run the other way. Even if they are not willing to change the terms, they should be willing to talk to you about them. From there, only you can decide how important the issue is and whether or not to sign.

My advice, hire an attorney familiar with digital rights to go over the contract. I know this can be difficult. Attorneys cost money and if might be hard to come up with the funds. But like I said, this is a business and all businesses require start-up capital. There will be other things you'll need to do once that contract is signed; purchase domain names, set up an author website, etc., but making sure you are legally protected is the most important. It just might save you a huge headache later on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time To Read

First, I need to apologize for the length of this blog entry. Due to family obligations, things have been rather chaotic, which brings me to my advice to all the aspiring authors out there.  Writing, while important, is only surpassed by reading. I've always believed that the best way an author can grow is by learning what else is out there.  Reach out, explore material outside your comfort zone. Consider it a new form of research.  For example: I'm not a chick lit fan.  However, I do make room on my schedule to read at least one or two books in the genre per year. 

Today I have two appointments (and tomorrow I have three), and I plan to use the time I have as I sit in the waiting rooms to finish up a few books I've had sitting around.  One is for review, the others are some YA's I've been anxious to get to.  My hope is that I can become inspired to return to writing my own things, as well as enjoy the journey fellow authors have created.

So that's my advice for the day.  When you're too busy to write, find the time to read.  It's a win-win.  I'll be back next week with a better, more informative, blog.  Have a happy hump day!

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Olh4290m3UM/TKuyHL_-8zI/AAAAAAAABF0/164hdgUrTvA/s1600/JaimeMuse2.jpg

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Putting it together - formatting.

Okay we’ve got the dreaded synopsis all finished and polished up; we’ve found a publisher (following the great advice of Madelyn) not what?  The next step to sending this is of course reformatting according to the publisher’s guidelines.  You want the manuscript to be laid out the way the editors want it to be.  If they want Times New Roman 12pt, double spaced, no indents at the start of paragraphs and one inch margins with no blank lines after scene breaks, than that’s exactly how you need to do it.
Make sure you send it in the format they prefer as well.  In most cases this is DOC or RTF, a simple ‘save as’ in your writing program takes care of that.
This is a tedious process, I know, but a very necessary one.  The submissions editor will be constantly distracted from what they are reading if they are stopping to grumble about a writer that can’t follow simple instruction.  I have done some submission reading and it is really hard to follow a plot when one chapter is double spaced with perfect indentation and then the next is single spaced with no margins at all.  I’m sure the writer was wrestling with the reformatting, and I understand that part having done that at few times myself – but will the editor understand when they have many submissions to get through?
Another way to grasp what I’m saying is, if you ordered a burger with no ketchup, lettuce or mustard and asked for the salad instead of fries and upon getting home and opening the bag you found french fries and a burger with only ketchup, lettuce and mustard on it ... how likely are you to enjoy eating it?
Follow the guidelines.

Monday, October 18, 2010

No Means “Not Right Now”

One of the most difficult words to hear, much less accept, is “NO,” especially when you put everything you have into a project or manuscript. You might have done everything right. Your characters are well developed, your dialogue is smooth and authentic, your plot progresses naturally, and your conclusion leaves no stone unturned. Publishers can say NO for a variety of reasons. The important thing to remember is NO doesn’t mean NEVER, and it’s hardly the end of the line for your book.

Every author is intimately acquainted with NO. NO can shadow any author’s doorstep. Once NO turns up, however, the ball returns to your court. How will you receive NO? And how will you turn NO into his foil, the almighty YES?

I’m going to illustrate my point with some suggestions of what NOT to do, using a personal example. I submitted a manuscript—one I deeply cared for and believed would make a good addition to any publisher’s roster—to a number of publishers, particularly those I truly wanted to call home. One publisher’s requirements were the standard first three chapters with the synopsis, blurb, and other usual suspects. The first three chapters were received with enthusiasm, and the publisher quickly requested the rest of the book. I sent it in and started daydreaming about how the cover would look, how well it’d be received, and hoping I’d get along with my editor.

Of course, this story has a predictable ending. After six weeks of impatience, the publisher contacted me and said thanks, but no thanks. I was devastated. I quickly sent the manuscript to another one of my dream publishers, and they sent back a rejection letter as well as advice on how to improve the book for possible future consideration. I read over the advice and agreed with everything said, but I was too eager to see the book published. I’ll blame this on being a twenty-something who’s wanted to have a print book since she was nine years old, and hadn’t the patience to do it the way it ought to be done.

Did I get this book published? Yes. Did I make sacrifices? You bet. Do I wish I’d followed the advice presented by the second publisher? Oh God, yes. I feel like I compromised my integrity by being eager and selfish, which didn’t harm me so much as it harmed what the story could have been. As it is, I ended up rewriting most of the book, anyway. When someone tells you NO, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad manuscript, and there are ways to turn a no into a yes.

Don’t sell yourself short in order to see your book published. When you get the dreaded NO, ask yourself “why?” Have a third party, someone you trust as well as someone who will give an honest, impartial opinion, look over your book. Is it something you would buy? Is it something you would enjoy? What changes could you implement to make it more accessible for readers? Don’t settle when it comes to your work. NO is the gateway to improving yourself. Take it as a blessing. After all, NO isn’t permanent in this industry. What happens after NO is up to you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing Blurbs

Thanks so much for the questions posed last week for my Ask An Editor segment. I'll probably start answering one a week here on the blog very soon, so keep the questions coming! Every publishing house and every editor is different but I'm hoping my experiences will be informative.

This week, however, my topic is one of my favorites. Writing blurbs. I love, love, love writing blurbs! I know that a lot of writers don't enjoy them but I sometimes find them even more fun to write than the book. My advice for writing a strong blurb is pretty straightforward.

* Try to match the tone of your book with words that pack a lot of punch. Is your book sexy? Make sure your blurb oozes heat. Does your heroine have a quirky sense of humor? Try to convey that through your word choices.

* Show off your voice with action words. You're selling your book in the fewest words possible and this is definitely the time to skip the passive sentence constructions if you can. Make sure each sentence does double duty. Most epubs that I know of want your book's blurb to be 200 words or less. Sounds daunting, I know, but practice really does make perfect (or closer to it!) in this case.

* Save the in-depth story for the synopsis. Think of your blurb as the ultimate tease. You're trying to "pick up" your reader, so just hit the highlights while focusing on showcasing your voice.

One more great thing about the blurb? For a non-plotter like me, writing the blurb before I write the story has become a micro-capsule way for me to see where I might have a hole in a manuscript. Since I like ending blurbs on a "cliffhanger" - will she marry Bob or will she decide her life in Montana is all she needs? that sort of thing - I can sometimes spot where I have an undeveloped conflict between the H/h. If I can't find a way to make the conflict dramatic enough for the blurb, I might have a problem.

Since writing queries and blurbs are one of my favorite subjects, I'm sure I'll be visiting this topic again. Happy blurb writing!

This is an exciting time to be in digital publishing. With the changes going on in traditional publishing, like Dorchester dropping their mass marketing for digital, the digital side of the publishing industry is only going to continue to grow. Though this is great for those of us already familiar with this side of publishing, for those new to e-publishing, this can be problematic. New e-pubs seem to be popping up all over the place and unfortunately, not all of them are going to have your best interests in mind. So how do you avoid the pitfalls of the unscrupulous e-press?

1. RESEARCH! I can't stress this enough. Do a Google search. Read everything you can find on the publisher, especially blogs and forums. If an author has had a bad experience with a publisher, chances are he or she has mentioned it somewhere. The e-pub community really is smaller than you would think and this kind of stuff does not stay quiet for long.

In an earlier post, Jaime mentioned Absolute Write and Piers Anthony. I would like to add The Passionate Pen, EREC, Dear Author, and Smart Bitches. Believe me, if something is going on with a publisher, there will be information about it at one of these places.

2. Contact some of their authors. While an author might not be willing to discuss any problems they might be having with the world, most will not hesitate privately. And if they are happy, they will definitely be sure to let you know.

3. Now keep in mind, even if after all your research, you find nothing but glowing praises about a publisher, it still might not be the right place for you. Make sure you read a good sampling of what they publish. Some genres sell better at one pub than they do at another. Look at their newest releases and you should be able to quickly determine if your ms will fit. But make sure you actually read some of what they are selling. Not all e-presses are the same when it comes to editing, cover art, and content. Now imagine your name on one of their covers. If you don't get a sudden case of the heaves, add them to your list of possible pubs.

4. I cannot stress this enough. If the pub is new, please proceed with extreme caution. Personally, I would hold off all together. Too many have folded and while a year under a pub's belt isn't proof of success, the last thing you want is a pub folding, taking your ms with them. While the contract might say you retain your rights in the case of a pub folding, 9 times out of 10 your ms will get piled in with the companies other assets in bankruptcy proceedings.

After all your research, you will have a small list of pubs you are interested in but please keep in mind, just because a e-pub as been around years does not exclude them from questionable practices. I can think of three that I would run far away from, so like I said, RESEARCH. Please. The information is out there and as long as you don't jump into this business feet first, you should do fine.

Check back next Thursday, as I'll be discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly; the dreaded contract.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting it together

If you recall last week I said I was going to help in the organizing area of things – or try to.   
A good place to start would be after your manuscript is complete... 
It’s finished and you are more than happy with everything your mind and muse have come up with to complete it.  So now what?  You proof it and then proof it three more times!  Is it ready to send?  No.  Even if you’re an editor, proof-reader or whiz with grammar you still need to take a short break from it (at least a week) and then read it again or send it off to a crit partner(s).  I have even used friends and relatives in a pinch (those that are going to give me more feedback than “It’s great.”)  Why do this?  You are too close to the story and while reading it your brain is automatically going to insert the correct words whether they are actually there or not.  I have laughed myself silly when someone has pointed out the messed sentences I have written and read more than ten times without seeing the mistakes.  One story of mine made it all the way through submission read, contracted and to the editor before a name error was noticed.  I had put the name of a character from one of my other stories in it instead of my main characters name!  Having someone else read it will also confirm that those quirky lines and complex scenes make as much sense the way you wrote them as they sounded in your head. 
What next?  You get your synopsis written and polished up.  I keep waiting for the publisher that will say they really don’t need to see one – but I think that’s one of those fantasy moments my imagination has, because it’s never going to happen!!  I dread the synopsis.  I can write 200+ pages without missing a beat, but trying to summarize it all in 2-5 pages is worse than doing !  If you plotted your story and stuck to the plot before writing it, then you’re half way there when it comes to the synopsis ... however if you are anything like I am and are a pantser that has no definite plot or a muse that takes your characters far away from the idea you had plotted out, then you have some work to do. During the 5th to last read through of my story I jot down points that I’m going to put in my synopsis from each chapter.  After this it’s a matter of writing it in a way that makes sense.  It doesn’t have to be a literary work of art, the publisher wants the details not a ‘left hanging’ kind of summary – generally its 2-5 pages but the length will depend on how complex the story is.
Polish this up and make sure it is error free and you’re only a few more steps from submitting to a publisher.

Until next time...