Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Give Yourself Royal Jelly, Part 2

This is part two of a series about basketball coach and writer David Thrope's metaphor of royal jelly. Click here for part 1.

Identify Your Strengths

When David Thorpe, author of the royal jelly concept, began coaching Udonis Haslem, he knew that the young basketball player had potential in the NBA, but not by playing the way he played in college. Haslem's gifts lied not in scoring more points than everybody else, but in rebounding, defending, and playing harder than everybody else. He gave Haslem a goal: finish in the top 5 in rebounding in the NBA's summer leagues.

Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
How did Haslem go from the star of his college to a role play in the NBA? Thorpe gave him a poster, hung in Haslem's bedroom, titled "Udonis Haslem is..." Together, they wrote adjectives that both described Haslem and would make him valuable to an NBA team

Make your own Udonis Haslem poster.

Only instead of "Udonis Haslem," write your name. Write ten adjectives about your writing that could get you published in today's environment. Start simple, and just write "I Am..."

Then, once you have ten adjectives, start writing a short story, flash fiction, or chapter with only those adjective in mind, and see what you come up with.

After they made it, they exploited their success.

My quotation from Jim Butcher in part 1 comes from the back of Ghost Story, and the last few books from the Dresden Files. It's a part of a multi-page advertisement placed in all of his recent releases. In other words, he's leveraged the strength of the Dresden Files series in order to sell and promote his "swords-and-horses" fantasy series, Codex Alera.

Point being, you don't always get your dream job in your dream scenario. Your first series that you've been waiting to write your entire life might fail completely. Insteady of running the same lap again, or giving up completely, Butcher reassessed his position, and tried experimenting with different paths to success. And when he finally achieved his dream.

The difference here is that artistic careers are longer than athletic ones, and we have more time to grow, to learn, and to achieve new things. While Haslem's career is winding down, Butcher is just getting started. He's already launched his first epic fantasy series, Codex Alera, and he's shown no indications of slowing down.

So learn from Jim Butcher, and experiment with different genres and styles. If you write fantasy, try a subsection of the genre you don't normally write in. If you write thrillers, try a romance. Even if it doesn't make you famous, trying new things will get you to develop skills that will come in very handy when you're developing subplots in longer stories.

Helping yourself develop isn't about self-belief. It's not about knowing you're the greatest writer of all time. It's about recognizing your strengths, and playing to them as often as possible. But sometimes, we have strengths that are lying dormant, just beneath the surface, and it just takes some creative practice to explore them. By trying new things while practicing old tricks, you might just find a different path to success than you ever thought possible.





Monday, July 30, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07/30/12


Random House is looking to expand its brand by creating its own TV channel.

After 125 years of publication, the Writer Magazine is going "on hiatus."

Many authors fear going into self-publishing because it could "kill their career." Dean Wesley Smith explains why this is a misconception, not to mention a baseless fear. He makes a good point: getting published traditionally is a shot in the dark, and you have a better chance of building a career by taking a chance on yourself, even if some of the established publishing houses look down on you for it.

In the future, there will be no more professional writers. I think "authors" would be a better term. After all, Tv and script writing isn't really going anywhere.

Stuck? Try asking your characters for help.

How to make a living writing.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Royal Jelly': The Stories of Udonis Haslem and Jim Butcher (Part 1)

How to Give Yourself 'Royal Jelly': The Stories of Udonis Haslem and Jim Butcher

Despite being a high-school basketball star and a Hall-of-Famer in the NCAA, Udonis Haslem couldn't get a job. While his game was fabulous in college, he was too heavy and too short to succeed professionally. He gave up on his dream to make the NBA, assuming he simply wasn't talented enough to make it - until he was introduced to coach David Thorpe, and his theory of Royal Jelly. Today, he's a two-time NBA champion.

Royal jelly is the food that turns a normal bee larva into a queen bee. Queen bees are not born - all bees in the same colony have the same DNA. Rather, they are made, as one bee is fed an exclusive diet of royal jelly, and the rest are condemned to drudgery. It's the diet and development of a queen bee that makes it unique, not the genes it was born with. Of course, I don't mean that you should literally douse yourself in the stuff.

Because I read too much sports literature, I stumbled upon David Thorpe's brilliant analogy on royal jelly and the development of athletes:

In most cases, players are largely the same. You've got your extraordinarily gifted players [...] guys like Kobe [Bryant] and Lebron [James], and then you've got players who just aren't very good. But most players are largely the same. And what separates them is the coaching aspect - where you get them to really believe they are able to accomplish whatever they believe in.
Thorpe goes on to describe how this theory of royal jelly can be practically applied:

I knew that he had a lot of things that the other NBA teams didn't see. And I had I had to get Udonis to believe that these things were enough to make it.
In other words, Thorpe knew Haslem wasn't going to be the best player in the league. But he also know that Haslem had strengths that, if emphasized and strengthened, would make him a valuable player in the NBA. So he focused purely on those.

I think the same thing applies to writers. Like it or not, not all of us have a Lord of the Rings in us. And while trying to build an epic fantasy that breaks down the established borders of fiction might be possible for you one day, it might not be what you're destined to do, even if it has always been your dream. Consider the story of Jim Butcher.

Jim Butcher wasn't always an urban fantasy writer
Jim Butcher wasn't always an urban fantasy writer
Butcher is most famous for his best selling Dresden Files series. It's a serial urban fantasy about Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, and his struggle to destroy everything from vampires to weregoats (yep, like werewolves, except with goat). It's a fantastic series that's carved a great niche for Butcher.

But that wasn't what Jim Butcher set out to acheive. The Dresden Files started out as a diversion from Butcher's true passion: swords-and-horses epic fantasy novels. Later in his career, wrote about how the Dresden Files actually came about.

When I set out to become a writer, I spent years writing swords-and-horses fantasy fantasy novels—ands seemed to have little innate talent for it. But I worked at my writing, branching into other areas as experiments, including SF, mystery, and contemporary fantasy. That's how the Dresden Files initially came about—as a happy accident while trying to accomplish something else.

What's the link between these two people, and what were the common keys to their successes? What can we learn from their failures, struggles and successes?

What they tried: Each started off trying to be something they weren't: Udonis Haslem an All-Star, Jim Butcher then next in line after JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Terry Brooks. And neither was suited for the task.

Why they failed: Haslem went undrafted and Butcher was unpublished.

What they changed: They abandoned their original dreams and tried different paths in their professions: Haslem lost weight, refocused his energy on defense and rebounding. Butcher started writing short stories in different genres.

How they succeeded: And finally, each reached the height of their target professions: Haslem is a two-time champion, and will likely win at least one more. Butcher became a best-selling author, and has established one of the most consistent brands in literature.

The difference between failure and success for Haslem and Butcher was how they gave themselves Royal jelly - how they chose to develop It's the key for anybody who feels like they're struggling to find their own path to success.

Part 2: How to Give Yourself 'Royal Jelly'


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Morning Pages - 07/25/12


Amazon has used its Kindle products to spur software sales, to much success. Time's Ben Bajarin questions whether Amazon should be in the hardware business at all.

Forget the story of "The Dark Knight Rises." It's Batman himself who can teach you to be a better writer.

Seven ways you can tell if you're a good writer. #1: Somebody said, "You're a good writer!"

Somewhere in the world, a book company made profits. They said only academic books and that "somewhere" was Asia, but still.

"Transmedia" has become something of a buzzword in the writing industry. As we look for potential new streams of income and relevance in a world of declining books sales, authors look for more balanced and innovative ways to create. Jan Bozarth tells us of her experience on Publishing Perspectives.

Also, are transmedia stories better for kids than adults?

When we think of agents, we think of professionals trained to market and promote authors. But what if the situation is actually the other way around?

E-books: Not just for mommy porn anymore. Now they're also for Jesus.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-23-12

Apparently, copying Jack Daniels' design for your book will get you a the most polite 'cease and desist' letter of all time.
David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants continues to be the best writing blog on the internet. One day, one day.

Penguin bought self-publishing company, Pearson, for $116 million. In other words, the marketplace is changing.

Amazon is growing and shrinking at the same time. They're reportedly adding mobiles to their e-reader and tablet Kindle brands. Their entry into hardware manufacturing is fascinating to watch.

Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors



Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07/19/12

E-Books outsold hardcovers in 2011. That's hardcover books specifically, not paper books, but it's still impressive.

Editing. Is it too tough for women? (Hint: the answer is no.)

Authors have been criticizing Harlequin for a long time. Now, they're suing the publisher for royalties, among other things.

Thank God for Amazon! (And thanks to Passive Voice)

Pearson To Buy Self-Publishing Firm Author Solutions For $116M

21 Articles on Fonts in Book Publishing


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-14-12

Time - Will Amazon Take Over the World?: "Amazon is already a behemoth of American business. It’s the 56th largest company in America by market capitalization. It’s the 15th biggest retailer in America by revenue and by far the largest Internet retailer. And in a country that seems already dominated by ecommerce, the company has a lot of room to grow. After stripping out things like gasoline sales that can’t migrate to the web, Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler estimates that ecommerce represents roughly 12% of retail sales overall, and that that figure could double in the next ten years. And Amazon is not just growing along with internet retailing. It’s actually gaining market share in that category – by growing at three times the rate of ecommerce overall."

Publishing Perspectives - Should Agents Be Blamed for Stealing Authors?: "Agents who don’t have a roster of heavy hitters are in a much more vulnerable position. They must deal with the same publishers time and time again, likely negotiating on much more modest terms, and deliberately moving one successful author from one house to another might have long-term consequences."

The Miami Herald - 'Serious' Writers Green over Fifty Shades of Grey: "The trilogy, which was launched with Fifty Shades of Grey, has owned the top three spots on the bestseller list for more than two months, accounting for one in five adult-fiction physical books sold in the U.S. this spring. It took The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy more than three years to do what Fifty Shades has done in less than five months."

SFGate - Yelp's Trust at Risk from Phony Reviews: "Judging from recent reviews on Yelp, the Center for Counseling, Recovery & Growth was the place to go to turn your life around. The center in Torrance (Los Angeles County) racked up 14 coveted five-star ratings on the popular review site for its "warm and friendly therapists" and "beautiful offices." Many of the testimonials made similar points, sometimes in nearly identical language. That was no coincidence. Acting on a tip, Yelp uncovered what it dubbed a 'review-swapping ring' composed of members of a Los Angeles-area business networking group. Yelp said it was a coordinated effort by members to boost their ratings by posting glowing reviews about one another's businesses." via The Passive Voice

Write to Done: 10 Books for Writers - "Voice has become a buzz word in discussions of modern fiction; it is what every writer wants to have and what every reader wants to enjoy. Most writers struggle to unearth voice, not only because it is too familiar but also because it means confronting your world. You will find your voice by speaking naturally – by being yourself and not trying to be a great writer. Your voice is your most powerful tool. Your voice is how you write when you don’t have time to be elegant. Most writers infuse themselves in their work. When you read a good novel or a book, you leave with a sense that in addition to the characters, you have met a particular writer."

Writer's Digest - Lee Child Debunks the Biggest Writing Myths: "Show, Don’t Tell. Picture this: In a novel, a character wakes up and looks at himself in the mirror, noting his scars and other physical traits for the reader. 'It is completely and utterly divorced from real life,' Child said.bSo why do writers do this? Child said it’s because they’ve been beaten down by the rule of Show, Don’t Tell. 'They manufacture this entirely artificial thing.' 'We’re not story showers,' Child said. 'We’re story tellers.'"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing Advice from JRR Tolkien

Writing Advice from JRR Tolkein

I'm not one who thinks that advice from successful authors is the only advice we should listen to, for the same reasons that star athletes don't always make good coaches. We all think differently, especially the geniuses among us, and the skill of writing is different from the skill of teaching about writing. A mediocre writer might give great advice, while a great writer might give terrible advice - even if the inverse is more likely to be true.

At the same time, it's wise to listen to people who've had great success, if for no other purpose than insight into the mind of a success. With that in mind, I'm going to start looking at lessons from some of the great authors I'd like to imitate (read: steal from).

From JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit):

"I find it only too easy to write opening chapters--and at the moment the story is not unfolding. I squandered so much on the original 'Hobbit' (which was not meant to have a sequel) that it is difficult to find anything new in that world."

Lesson: Hold Nothing Back. It's amazing to think that Tolkien finished The Hobbit, and thought there was nothing left to write in that universe. But more poignant is the idea that he never planned to do so in the first place. When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he wasn't thinking about writing sequels, or about leaving anything left in the universe for future novels. When he wrote his first novel, he was simply writing the best book he could manage.

"Every writer making a secondary world wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it."

Lesson: Write Your Dreams. One of the most seductive aspects of writing is your ability to play God. It's unique to writing as an art form that you have the ability to create your own universe, and to manipulate it as you see fit. The greatest writing comes from our ability to fully flesh out our greatest ambitions.

"If you're going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you'll never make a map of it afterwards."

Lesson: Outline, Outline, Outline. I know from my own experiences that this is an important tip for beginning writers, and especially for novels. A lot of people think they can wing a novel without an outline. Unless you're a savant, you really can't. Even if you are a "discovery writer" you need a plan to pull off the more complex plot elements in your writing.

"I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at." ~On the pending publication of Lord of the Rings

Lesson: Fear Not Failure. We're all scared that our dreams won't come true. That the story we've been slaving over for months or years has actually been a complete waste of time. And that might be true. But it's better to have tried and failed; the payoff could resonate longer than your lifespan.

Source: Arwen Undomiel

The Morning Pages: 07-13-12

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

Writer's Digest - Money Is All that Matters in Marketing: "As a consultant and author, I’ve found that marketing represents the fast-lane to making more money. If you develop a good product or service, promote it to the right audience, and empower them to spread word of mouth, you can be rolling in dough before you know it. But, new technology seems to be acting like a strange pied piper luring people away from this business reality. Social media is causing too many authors to let their marketing efforts get hijacked by numbers and measures that are inferior to money."

Publishing Perspectives - iDreambooks Promises "Rotten Tomatoes-like" Site for Books: " promises to collate reviews from 'reputable sources,' thus helping readers make the correct purchasing decisions. Just as Rotten Tomatoes has its fresh/rotten rating, so iDreambooks has its equivalent, a 'must read' which occurs when a book scores at least 70% positive reviews on the Readometer. Simha defines 'reputable sources' as 'All the major papers and magazines — The New York Times, Washington Post and so on. We accept new magazines also, but they need to have been around for at least one year. On our site we have the criteria we use to define professional critics.'"

David Farland - Avoiding Cliché Openings: "In this past quarter, I came upon nine stories in a row where characters were opening their eyes and wondering where they were, who they were, and in some cases what they were. The tenth story skipped, and then I got four more. Unfortunately for the authors, I probably didn’t give those stories a fair shake. Literally, I saw a hundred of those openings in one quarter. In the same way, if you wrote a story about teens taking a journey to the center of the earth, that probably didn’t get you far, either."

Forbes - What Is the Future of Publishing?: "I get questions all the time from prospective authors who wonder whether it’s worth it to publish in the traditional way at all.  The quick answer is, for speakers it’s still important, for now.  For everyone else, it depends.  But everyone wants to know, where’s the book business headed?  Who’s going to survive, and what will the terrain look like when the battle is over?"

New Wave Authors - How the Kindle and KDP Helped Me Save My Little Girl: "You’ve probably heard from a lot of indie writers about the freedom that self-publishing in general or KDP in particular has afforded them. That’s all true for me, too. But what I will always remember most about my publishing experience in the winter of 2011-2012 was the surreal experience of receiving—on the same day—a packet of medical bills that scared me half to death and a royalty check that erased them."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-11-12


Pando Daily - MacMillan Planning for the Future: "The publishing giant has given Williams a sum greater than $100 million (he won’t say exactly how much) to acquire ed-tech startups that will eventually be the future of Macmillan. The plan is to let them exist autonomously like startups within the organization, as Macmillan transitions out of the content business and into educational software and services. Through the entity, called Macmillan New Ventures, Williams plans to do five deals this year and 10 to 15 over the course of the next five years. He’s buying companies that will help Macmillan survive as a business once textbooks go away completely."

Publishing Perspectives - Why Is Europe's E-Book Policy so Schizophrenic?: "VAT on print books and e-books across Europe varies significantly from country to country (see our chart below, in which the UK, with a 20% VAT on e-books is absent). Earlier this month, the European Commission have been issuing notices that seem to be at cross purposes. Yet earlier this month the Commission said it was launching an “infringement procedure” against France (France is currently at 7% on e-books with plans to again reduce it to 5.5%) and Luxemborg (at 3%) for offering lower rates on digital than print titles. This news came only days after top publishers met with the EC, and where Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s vice president, responsible for Europe’s Digital Agenda, and advocated an open market policy for e-books."

Book View Cafe - The Amazing Story of Amazing Stories: "The history of this publication is fascinating to read and rife with conflict and change. It was often considered little more than a publication of pulp fiction, and yet such writers as Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, and our own Ursula K. Le Guin published stories in Amazing. The magazine was declared dead in 1995, revived in 1997, declared dead in 2000, revived in 2004, declared dead in 2006. For five years Amazing Stories lay in its grave until 2011 when Steve Davidson acquired the trademark name and announced he intended to revive it as an online concern. Which brings us up to date. Steve Davidson has indeed launched an online version of Amazing Stories."

A New Kind of Book - What Readers Need vs. What Devices Can Do: "Most ebook experiments do a better job of showing off our devices rather than solving specific reader problems. We get video extras, web links, piped in Twitter feeds. Problem is, these “enhancements” often answer the wrong question: what can we add? In an age of Information Overload, readers don’t need more; they need help. A video of battle footage may be fun to watch, and a simple way to add what’s not possible in print. But what students of World War Two often struggle with is much more mundane: remembering key events for that upcoming test or prepping for an essay they’re writing."

Huffington Post - The Magic in Writing: "Many hesitate to record their journeys and muses because they feel their words are not eloquent, that their thoughts are not important enough to be recorded. Once again, I say there is a magic in writing. As a therapist, I encourage every client to write. This journaling need not be anything more than personal letters to ourselves, reminders and a witness of what we are experiencing. In this journaling we record and build bridges in our journeys, leading to pathways previously not traveled. It is one of the master keys to a puzzle that will reveal itself through time and review. Journaling is one of the most valuable therapeutic tools one can participate in. The bonus is there is no financial investment (other than a tablet and pen) and done consistently, its rewards will amaze you."


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Love a Cheater - Character Building

How to Love a Cheater

We like cheaters. Don't get me wrong, we hate being cheated on, and we might not like a cheaters as people. But in stories, cheaters create lies, subterfuge, and deception - drama. And we love drama.

The balance comes when it's your main character - a person who almost always needs to be liked - doing the cheating. To deliberately deceive and lie to a person that you're supposedly in love with is something that repulses most of us, and not many writers want their protagonists to be repulsive. So at the risk of being crass, how can you make cheating OK with your readers?

Honest Mistakes Happen - We can accept when people make mistakes, but only when they behave like adults and own up to them. Not to say cheating is, or isn't forgivable. But as outsiders, we're more likely to forgive and forget if a character treats his mistake as such, and does what he can to make the situation better.

It's Her (or His) Fault! - Show us that this person is in a truly miserable relationship, and that it isn't their fault. After all, if your partner is an evil, jobless leech who treats you like dirt, but you have to stay together because of kids/mortgage/lawyer fees, wouldn't your be tempted?

Make It Sexy - Then there's the temptation itself. Don't just tell us that your character wanted to stray, and did. Show us the person they're cheating with. What makes them appealing and irresistible to your character? In doing this, you not only show us more about what makes your character tick, you do the job of putting us in their shoes. After all, if reading about the new flame turns us on, how can we blame your character?

Nobody's Perfect - Everybody has a weakness. Some people eat too much, some are emotionally needy, and some people cheat. Adultery is a sin that has some dark consequences for the people who get hurt, and that struggle and pain can add real depth to your story. Instead of explaining it away as a one time mistake, explain to us why your character has this issue. Did something happen to him as a child? Does he have commitment issues? Is he just always surrounded by temptation? Use your protagonist's philandering to help us define him, and those around him as people.

Cheating is one of the real "show, don't tell" situations in writing. It's often treated fairly casually by authors, but in most situations, it's anything but. Whenever your characters stray from their relationships, (even if it doesn't culminate in sex) it's important to give the readers concrete and enticing reasons for it. It doesn't have to be explicit - our relationships with people are among the most powerful and emotional experiences in our lives. Dig into their depths and they will deepen your prose.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Morning Pages: 07-09-12

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

How Penelope Trunk Got a Big Advance and Self-Published Anyway: "More than 85% of books sales are online, mostly at Amazon. It used to be that a print publisher could look at the data about which stores are selling the book and which are not, and then they’d have a good handle on who is buying the book. Suburban people or city people. Northern people or Southern people. Business book stores or gay and lesbian bookstores. It was decent demographic data. But Amazon tells the publishers nothing. So the publishers have no idea who is buying their books. Amazon, meanwhile, is getting great at understanding who is buying which book. The person who has the relationship with the customer is the one who owns the business."

Book View Cafe - The Fine Art of Faking It: "But what happens if the writer really isn’t paying close attention, and really doesn’t realize how little she knows about a subject, and chooses a subject that’s a bit more fraught than a farriery schedule? What if she chooses a real setting, either contemporary or historical, and writes about real events, which living people may remember, or may have heard about in detail from their elders? What if she’s convinced that she’s researched enough to write with authority about the setting and the events–but she’s in fact missed significant details? Can she still claim the 'it’s just a romp' defense?"

The Wall Street Journal - Your E-Book Is Reading You: "In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them."

Publishing Perspectives - DRM, Publishing, and How We Can Help Privacy End Itself: "Nevertheless, it also raises one of the big three issues which is causing consternation and confusion in the publishing industry - whether to DRM or not to DRM (the other two issues being the agency model and territorial rights). It’s already difficult enough for customers to find, purchase and read e-books in the manner in which they would like, as the Open Road issue above illustrates. If independent retailers hope to compete in an online marketplace, and publishers hope to continue to work with a wide variety of retailers, we must not construct any extra barriers such as DRM."

L.A. Times - Neal Stephenson Kickstarts Video Game Career: "Neal Stephenson, author of science fiction novels such as “Snow Crash” and “Cryptonomicon,” wants to swap his pen for a game controller. The 52-year-old writer, whose work has been honored with a Hugo Award,  the Arthur C. Clarke Award and multiple Locus awards, has come up with a concept for a  fantasy sword-fighting game called Clang.

But as the author followed an unfamiliar industry’s path, he learned how difficult the terrain can be for independent game developers who have a fresh idea but not a track record or reliable brand name."

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-29-12


Pushing Perspectives writes a story abut an overseas English-language bookstore destroyed by the digital age: "Founder and owner Odile Hellier, along with a faithful team, has kept her shelves stocked with the best that publishers produce for three decades, running impressive literary events over the years with authors such as Raymond Carver, Edmund White, Don DeLillo, Mavis Gallant, or David Sedaris. Moreover Hellier succeeded in creating a veritable community of book lovers.But the deregulation of book prices in the Anglo-Saxon publishing world, the rise of Amazon, and more recently the advent of e-books, took a terrible financial toll on the bookshop and had Hellier battling for years. The Village Voice’s swan song began two years ago — Hellier spoke to people far and wide trying to find a financial solution, but no one stepped up to the plate. Now that she has finally made the decision to close the bookstore, customers are having a very hard time 'letting us go,' she says."

Dean Wesley Smith - Some Real Perspective on Publishing: "After all the comments on the last post about electronic pricing, it became very, very clear to me that indie fiction writers seem to think that pricing an electronic book is done in a vacuum. They just make up some number that feels right or is what they heard and then stick to that price without any thought of customers or history of publishing or what anyone else in publishing is doing.And most importantly, writers give almost no thought to the perception of the buyers. The decision is often made on pricing because it’s what the writer likes, or how the writer personally buys, or what the writer can afford. That’s usually as far as the thinking goes.And worse yet, indie books are often priced because a writer doesn’t think their work is worth the same as a traditionally published book. That’s just flat sad."

Writer's Digest - Lebron's Lessons for Authors: "In 2011, LeBron and his team suffered a humiliating loss in the NBA finals, which brought a load of doubt and criticism into his life. After eight seasons of basketball, he began to wonder if he’d ever win a title. But, he didn’t let his superstar status go to his head by retaliating and accusing other people for the defeat. Instead, he humbly took the blame upon himself. Accepting this burden positioned LeBron to fight back and win a championship this year.As an author, it’s humiliating when you can’t get someone to publish your book. Over the past three years, my proposal for Sell Your Book Like Wildfire was rejected by 15 publishers and 4 literary agents. Talk about humbling. It’s tough to keep writing when the setbacks feel endless. But, instead of blaming other people, I had to accept the rejection with humility and use it as fuel to propel me forward." - The (Hand)writing on the Wall: "I cannot write any more. Well, at least not as well as I used to. My handwriting, once round, neat and cursive, is now a disjointed, chicken-scratch mess.Earlier this week, I was partially relieved to know this degeneration was an unfortunate consequence of the relentless march of technology. A study commissioned by Docmail, a British company that allows you to upload and mail letters, revealed that one in three people of 2,000 people polled had no cause to handwrite anything for six months. Two-thirds said their only writing consisted of hastily scribbled notes or reminders to themselves."

A Knife and a Quill - Things Writers Shouldn't Google: "We get a lot of readers here at AKAQ that google weird and crazy things, like “How To Kill Some One With A Knife” or “How To Kill Someone Quickly”. I wrote one article called “How To Kill Someone”, which was about writing, and now we get all kinds of crazies visiting the blog. (Which is kinda cool.) So when you finally find that website that helped you kill someone and the police look at your computer and see your history, don’t look at me. I warned you."


Thursday, June 28, 2012

On "Write What You Know"

write what you know
Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Write what you know. We've all heard the advice before. Like most pithy writing advice, it's wise, correct, and utterly useless - especially when you're writing speculative fiction. Who "knows" what magic really feels like? And how limiting would it be to truly follow this advice? But there's a reason this has become such a truism: if you don't take it literally, there's more than a grain of wisdom here.

You know what you've read. If you want to write well, read lots. Part of this is so you can see different techniques and ideas. The other part is that you can't experience everything first hand. Some things need to come from second-hand sources, and what better way to learn something than through entertainment. For an example, my own first novel, A Land Before Time, is entering a scene on a sailboat - something I've never been on before. So I'm reading Robin Hobb's "A Ship of Magic," to get a fresh idea on what fantasy can look like on a ship. Note: Research other authors' facts before you use them in your own book. You never know what liberties they have taken, or whether they're wrong about something.

You can learn what you don't know. If you've never shot a gun before, one of the great ways to learn how one feels, looks, smells and sounds like is to shoot it. And if you don't know what kind of gun to give your characters, ask somebody who knows guns. Like the owner of the shooting range. This applies to every field. If you can't experience first hand, ask and expert, or read a "For Dummies" book.

Don't write everything you know. The sandworm from "Dune" is great, in part because Frank Herbert (an amateur ecologist) makes a great case for the reasons why it should exist in its world. But while you should explain many of the oddities present in your own fiction, your audience doesn't need to know every step of your world's evolutionary process. This mistake often hides itself int he dreaded info-dump. Beware.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-27-12

Huffington Post - Ten Tips for Finding a Literary Agent: "So, after years of torturing yourself beyond emotional repair, making several highly unnecessary sacrifices to the gods, and, finally, signing a contract (in blood) entitled Deal with the Devil, you've managed to finish your book. Yay! But here's the funny thing about those esteemed publishers you've had your eye on since carefully crafting your first sentence. They don't give a **** about you! So what's a writer to do? Get your very own literary pimp, that's what. Pimpin' ain't easy, though, so agents don't represent just any Tom, Dick, or Rumplestiltskin. You have to convince them. Shamelessly shake your money-maker in their vicinity. Do whatever it takes to grab their attention and NEVER LET GO."

Ian Sales - What I Learned Self-Publishing My First Novel: "I made sure Adrift on the Sea of Rains was a quality product – a well-made paperback and hardback, with striking cover art, and properly-edited text. None of that is obvious online. The same is true for the quality of the writing. Amazon provides a preview for the Kindle edition, but is that really enough to get an idea of how good the book is? You read the previews for some self-published authors, and the prose is semi-literate. Yet they seem to sell hundreds of copies a day. I suspect it’s the number of books such writers have available which is the chief factor in driving sales."

Courage 2 Create - 5 Simple Ways to Research Your Story: "Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, you know well before the drafting stage what topics you’ll have to study to realistically write your story. If you’ve got a lengthy list, trying to research every item on it will invariably drag out the planning stage and put off the necessary drafting. To avoid this, study only the topics that will enable you to write the bulk of your story. Leave the rest and start drafting. As you write, you’ll come across sections that need more research. Highlight those spots, add the topics to your list, and keep writing. Once the first draft is complete, you can finish your research and tweak the highlighted areas of the manuscript to include what you’ve learned. Prioritizing your research in this way ensures that both the researching and the drafting get done."

Freelance Writing Jobs - 5 Chrome Extensions for Writers: "One of the most difficult aspects of making money from home is the “from home” part. Although this is appealing to most, writers quickly learn that working from home is no easy task. There are many tips available to help a writer stay focused, but the biggest distraction usually isn’t the food in the kitchen or the soap opera that comes on at noon. The biggest distraction is, of course, the computer. The particularly tricky part of this truth is the idea that writers have to work on the computer. In other words, writers need to somehow figure out a way to be productive on the very thing that causes distraction."

Book View Cafe - On Self-Rising Characters: "Many writers craft their main characters – from a casual “this is who they are” rough draft all the way along the spectrum to the detailed checklist, completed with rolled-up attributes and established back stories.  You use what works best for you.  But sometimes, even in the most tightly-prepared cast, a character – often a very important character – will appear 'out of nowhere.' It’s not nowhere – it’s because there’s an empty character-shaped space in the manuscript.  In other words, you’ve already created them, you just haven’t started writing them yet.  You’ve created a scenario where the character will emerge like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, because that’s exactly what is needed at that time and place.  I call those characters 'self-rising characters.'"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Express Emotion in First Person

How to express emotion in first person

First person point of view is used to display a character's voice to the reader. For many writers, third person sounds to formal, too distant, to effectively reveal a character's internal tone and voice. First person lets the protagonist tell us the story through his own personal filter of personality. In essence, the author tells the story in third person. The character tells us the story through first person. When your character's wit, intelligence, pain, and/or insights are as valuable to the story as the events or plot, tell the story in first person.

The flip side of the first person filter is that it is, well, a filter. That means every action and event is perceived by the character, and then the character tells us about it. If your character is truly engaging, then that's fine. Most of the time. But in a story's most important, gripping moments, we don't want somebody else to tell us as story. We want to live the story. We want to get so absorbed in the narrative that we forget about everything else that's happening around us. And for that to happen, your character needs to get away.

How to Express Emotion in First Person

Show, don't tell. It's in expressing emotion where we most commonly violate this truism. But it's in first person where it's most deadly to violate it. When your character tells us about an emotion he's feeling, that emotion is being processed through a logical filter - and the emotion itself is lost. In the case of expressing emotion, "show, don't tell" can be taken in two ways.

Don't think, act. When we get angry, we don't think "I got angry." Our fists clinch, heat rises to our face, and our actions become aggressive. When we are hurt, we stop, and the sensation becomes the only thought on our minds. Everything else loses importance to us as we focus on that one source of pain, and try to eliminate it.

Backstory is king. Our most powerful emotions are bared when years of planning, caring and worrying are stripped bare in a moment. That isn't the type of sentiment that can be expressed in a line, or a paragraph. The groundwork for true pain is laid in the setting of the story. Your fear of drowning began when you saw your mother drown as a child. When you get near water, you have flashbacks to that moment. So when you see your own child drowning in the water, it has significance to you beyond the obvious turmoil of the situation itself. And to continue with that line of thought.

Let the action do the work. To continue with the previous example, a mother watching her child, in and of itself, is a traumatic event. It can't exist on its own, but while it's happening, try just letting it happen. The input from your character can come during the editing process. Take a look at how the event looks uncut to get some perspective on where commentary is needed.

Remove the filter. "I felt my hands shake" is wrong. The correct sentence is "My hands shook." New writers (myself first and foremost) have the habit of over-using the protagonist's voice in critical moments. The voice needs to be used to set up those moments, sure. But when the game is on the line, your character's witticisms and grave observations need to be thrown to the wayside, at least most of the time.

Like all writing advice, these are guidelines, not rules. The important lesson is awareness, not a specific technique. There are more different ways of thinking about this than I could cover, or even imagine. First person is an important point of view for character expression, but it needs to be moderated as much as it is explored in a successful story.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-25-12

Psycology Today - From Blog to Book: How to Succeed on the Internet: "Perhaps the most extraordinary facet of Nick’s writing process is how public it was. Since he began a tumblr blog in 2010, Nick has amassed a steady readership of online fans. This built-in audience has been privy to sneak peeks and excerpts from his novel, before it was even really a novel. But this is no ordinary group of well wishers composed of family and friends, but a massive army of more than 100,000 fans who bombard his site with thousands of responses of encouragement and little red hearts each time he posts – whether it is a photograph or a single quote."

The Guardian - Has Twitter's #badwritingtips Improved Writing?: "Ah, Twitter. With your endless links, distractions and feral gangs of impassioned pop fans (I'm still feeling the wrath of Michael Jackson fans after posting a joke about him a week or two ago), you are indeed the writer's worst enemy. Just occasionally, though, Twitter is good for something and the #badwritingtips hashtag that has been trending on and off for the past two days has produced a plethora of barbed nuggets by and for writers, professional and amateur alike. Agents, book cover designers and publishers chipped in too."

The Wall Street Journal: What Makes Bad Writing: It's impossible to define bad writing because no one would agree on a definition. We all know it when we see it, and we all see it subjectively. I remember going almost mad with irritation at how many times Carolyn Chute used the phrase 'fox-color eyes' in her best-selling novel 'The Beans of Egypt, Maine'—bad writing, I thought. On Amazon, other readers called it 'brilliant.'"

Rachelle Gardner - How We Choose the Best Publisher: "Crucial to the author’s positive publishing experience is the editor who’s acquiring the book. It’s important to us that the editor convey sincere enthusiasm for the author and their book(s). We want an editor who has truly caught the vision for the book and hopefully for the author’s career; someone who seems to appreciate the author’s unique style and wants to work with it (as opposed to immediately offering ideas for changing it)."

K.M. Weiland - Are You Writing Your Novel Too Fast?: "As a reader, I often cringe at the notion of authors churning out a book (or more) a year. Not that some authors can’t balance consistent excellence with speed, but too often quality is sacrificed for quantity [...] When it comes to writing, I admit I’m a tortoise. I spend roughly a year outlining and researching, a year writing the first draft, and as much as five years editing the thing. I deliberately plan three years between each of my publications, and I’m always a book ahead of myself."

A Dribble of Ink - Publishing Isn't a Meritocracy, It's a Casino: "In 2011, after much angst and delay, my first novel, God’s War, came out from Night Shade Books. It went on to win the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel and was nominated for a Nebula Award as well as a Locus Award for Best First Novel. I earned out my advance in about six months and sealed the deal for the third book in the series not long after that. I’ve also just sold UK and audio rights for all three novels in the series. Looks like a smashing good success all around when you string it all together like that, doesn’t it? In fact, it looks almost miraculously easy, as if I must have written some kind of exceptional book or something. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my books. But I also read a lot of other books in 2011 that I thought were a lot better, some of which didn’t make any awards list and many of which are still earning out their (probably substantially larger) advances.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-22-12

New Blog Alert - New Wave Authors: "Simply put, New Wave Authors is a community of Amazon authors who have come together to talk about our experience with writing, publishing... and pretty much whatever else we feel like talking about. This site is about our books and our stories. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy writing them."

Salon - Male Arrogance: "On Monday night, some 400 people attended a fundraiser at the cavernous Brooklyn Brewery, most of them people whom magazine editors in New York contend to be a rare breed: serious women writers. It was a benefit for VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, the organization that recently shamed many editors by compiling byline statistics that showed that the “serious” journalistic publications of this country, including Harper’s, the Atlantic and the New Yorker, overwhelmingly publish men."

The Huffington Post - Making E-books Is Harder Than It Looks: "As a literary agent, I fell victim to the same false conclusions I think most readers do, that e-books are easily produced from paper books. But that's not quite true. For older books, publishers didn't own the typesetting file (the typesetter did) and those files were not usually maintained forever. So publishers often have to physically take an old book and have it scanned and then converted using OCR -- optical character recognition -- which is far from perfect. So publishers -- good ones at least -- then have the resulting file professionally proofread for scanning errors. And in a perfect world, they also ask the author to proof it again."

USA Today - Ebook Readers Slow to Borrow from Libraries: "The Pew Research Center published a survey Friday that reports around 12 percent of e-book users 16 years and older downloaded a text from the library over the past year. Earlier in 2012, Pew issued a study showing that around 20 percent of adults had read an e-book recently." Related: Most US Readers Unware of E-Books in Libraries on Amazon's Algorithm: "The $.99 price point has also been a wonderful tool for breaking into a large market and competing successfully against established names. In fact, the $.99 price is part of the strategy I used to propel Absolute Liability to the Top 100 last summer. It is less likely to work now though, and this frustrates me a bit because it removes a tool from my toolbox. What’s changed? Amazon’s algorithm." (Source:

Scribofile - Is Your Writing Safe?: "During my career as professional author and teacher and coach, I’ve run across many questions by novice writers about keeping their writing “safe”: safe from interlopers wishing to copy their precious epic; safe from the prying eyes of jealous naysayers; safe from the negative impact of those “threshold guardians” who do not believe in you and wish only to ridicule you. There’s a lot of angst out there, especially among beginning writers, about their work getting snarfed, copied and plagiarized and—these days particularly—shared casually all over the Internet."

How to Overcome Writers’ Block in One Easy Step

How to overcome writer’s block: the most famous dilemma a writer can face. It happens in every field: an athlete’s sophomore slump There are thousands of Web pages, books and forum threads that deal with the topic, advocating everything from reading until your eyes fall out to taking a vow of silence in a Buddhist temple. Thankfully, there’s only one real way to overcome writers block, and it’s a simple as a journey of 1,000 miles.


That’s all there is to it. There’s no magic remedy, no herbal tea, and no drug-induced therapy that will help you out of a slump. There’s only one way to get out of a rut: put on your working boots and dig yourself out of it. Everything else is simply a distraction that’s keeping you from achieving what you deserve to achieve. There is one way to overcome writer’s block: WRITE! It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, or how fast, just that you get some words on the page in spite of your struggles.

Here’s three strategies’ you can use to help yourself forget about the obstacle of writer’s block, and refocus on the goal of finishing your work.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Political Correctness, Fear, and Humility: Opposing Viewpoints

I no longer use words like “retarded” or “gay” or “fag” in my posts or my daily parlance (though once upon a time I, quite lazily, did in fact use those terms as clumsy and inept shorthand).
The reason I don’t use those words, however, has nothing to do with political correctness. It has nothing to do with me hoping to not offend you. Strike that from your mind. I’m not trying to “not get caught” saying those words. Some parents teach their kids not to say those things because of what people will think when they hear them — as if, were it more politically acceptable, the kid could say “faggy” all he wanted.
Rather, what it has to do with is that I don’t want to hurt anybody. That’s the thing. Offending people? Happy to do it. With a shit-eating grin, as a matter of fact (and there is a turn of phrase that deserves reexamination — why am I smiling if I’m eating shit? What’s wrong with me? Is the shit mysteriously delicious?). But I don’t want to be mean. Or cruel. Or conjure up words that ding a person’s armor. I care little about minimizing offense, but I care quite a lot about minimizing people.
-Chuck Wendig, On the Subject of Being Offensive (, 06/20/12)

As if there is any difference between offending somebody and hurting them. As if there is a difference between ignoring a person's feelings and minimalism who that person is. As if political correctness exists as nothing more than the shackles cultural over-sensitivity. Just as there is a line between freedom of speech and hate speech, there is a line between expressing yourself as a honestly as possible, and simply being a jerk. Drawing that line around a few explosive words, while ignoring the real issues they address, is irresponsible and lazy.

The term "political correctness" has a negative stigma attached to it, especially among people who like to think of themselves as bold trendsetters, as individuals. We think of the term from a lens of censorship, of the faceless, offended masses bearing down on us, enforcing their ideals and restrictions upon us.

To be fair to Chuck Wendig, he's absolutely right about the laziness of pejoratives like "fag," "gay," and "retarded." And I think in drawing the line against hurting people, he has good and honorable intentions. Where I take offense (if you will) is in the black and white drawing of the line between offending and hurting people. When it comes to the words we speak, the two concepts are simply degrees on a scale, and they require much more care than just avoiding a few curse words and images.

Wendig defines political correctness as "a desire to minimize or eradicate offense." What he left out was "in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent." (Wikipedia)

In other words, political correctness is the desire to not humiliate another person because they aren't paid as much. To respect people regardless of gender or orientation. To judge not by the color of skin, but by content of character. In other words, it's the desire not to bully those around us based on their weaknesses.

We do not avoid vulgarity among our elders because we are afraid of them. We do not censor our basest desires out of cowardice. When we refrain from saying things that might offend others, it does not make us weak. We observe political correctness because we have the humility to be aware of our own flaws, weaknesses and sensitivities. Because we are aware enough of ourselves to draw parallels between our pain and another's. Political correctness is simply our observance of the golden rule.

Does that mean we should hide our own opinions, for fear of hurting somebody else? Of course not. And at the same time, of course we should.

Like all of life, there's a such thing as too much censorship, especially when it is externally imposed. I have no problem with vulgarity, other than its intellectual clumsiness. Of course you should express your opinions. But how and to whom you express them are important. Not for legal or spiritual reasons, but because words have power. And with that power comes the responsibility, as Wendig himself implies, not to hurt others.

If your opinions are so virulent that they actually hurt their subjects, you should do everything in your power to minimize that pain. That's the true purpose of political correctness.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-20-12

David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants - 10 Reasons Why I Reject Your Story: "1) The story is unintelligible. Very often I’ll get submissions that just don’t make sense. Often, these seem to be non-English speakers who are way off in both the meaning of words, their context, or in their syntax, but more often it’s just clumsiness. I’ve seen college presidents who couldn’t write. But this lack of care is on a gradient scale, from “I can’t figure out what this is about” to “I don’t want to bother trying to figure this out” to “there are minor problems in this story.” For example, yesterday a promising story called a dungeon the “tombs.” Was it a mistake, or a metaphor? I don’t think it was a metaphor. The author had made too many other errors where the “almost correct” word was used."

Inside Higher Ed - When University Presses Fail: "American literature is slowly going out of business. The publisher of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes and The Complete Sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson is closing up shop. Starting this July, the University of Missouri Press will begin to phase out operations. The press, which was founded in 1958 by a University of Missouri English professor, William Peden, has published approximately 2,000 titles over the course of its history." (Souce: The Passive Voice)

Writer's Digest - Why "Show, Don't Tell" Is a Lie: "It doesn’t follow from this that a writer should never say a character is handsome or happy. It doesn’t follow that all a writer should do is show. To my mind, the phrase 'Show, don’t tell' is a wink and a nod, an implicit compact between a lazy teacher and a lazy student when the writer needs to dig deeper to figure out what isn’t working in his story."

Copyblogger - How to Write Emails that Sell: "Even though I’m always pitching and selling my products, I get few (if any) spam complaints. Hate mail about my daily email frequency is non-existent. And it’s a cold day in Hades when I teach anything found in my paid products. Customers have never been happier, and my list has never been more satisfied. So what’s this big email secret? And, how can you use it? It’s called 'infotainment.'"

The Atlantic - The Incredible Resiliency of Books: "For all these existential matters in play, the mood at the recent annual gathering of the industry known as Book Expo was strikingly upbeat. The floor of New York's Javits Center (a venue that does not get any more appealing as it ages) was full for all three days of the fair. There were scores of educational sessions devoted to every aspect of the digital transformation. Many of them attracted packed rooms of authors, booksellers, and publishing staffers intent on making sense of subjects that were once the domain of engineers, such as DRM (digital rights management), the as yet unsettled policy for controlling the reproduction of e-books once they are downloaded, to limit piracy. Given that the role of chain stores once loomed so large and no longer does, predicting the future of publishing in the age of Amazon's dominance is little more than a considered guess. "

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When to Murder Your Darlings

When to murder your darlings

One of the hardest aspects of writing - especially in the sci-fi/fantasy world - is deciding when to murder your darlings. George R.R. Martin's Eddard Stark is one of the most famous recent examples of an author killing off a major character. Until he was beheaded, Stark was the protagonist of his story. Most authors have a hard enough time killing their minor characters; after all, that's a small piece of us we're killing off.

But more important than our feelings is the dilemma of how. When do we kill our characters? Why? How? Which character do we kill. We don't want to turn off the reader, after all. But if the character you kill isn't likable and engaging, then the death itself is pointless.

Timing is Everything. Killing a character is easy. And then he died. That's all. The hard part is making a death count for something in your story. How does it affect our perception of the character? And how does a character's death shape and characterize the rest of your cast? You have to wait until a character has made a lasting impression on his environment, but when it still propels the action forward.

Death Means Something. Death is how we define life. Even if there is no heaven or afterlife, our perception having life defines our every action. Ever make a five year plan? Do you have goals you want to achieve in the next ten years? Over the course of your life? An unexpected death shatters all of that, and crystallizes everything we've actually done as everything we'll ever do. It changes the way we're seen by everybody who we've come into contact with. It's a jarring, serious, and sometimes catastrophic event. Treat it as such.

So Does Life. Death doesn't render life insignificant, not to the people who are still left alive. If anything, death is what lends life its importance. Death is the frame of life's portrait. It brings our lives into focus, centers us, and drives us. When you kill a character, be aware that you're casting his legacy in stone (posthumous revelations notwithstanding). We talk about our lives flashing before our eyes, but death does the same thing to the reader: it prompts an immediate review of the character's existence.

When One Door Closes, Another Opens. Killing a character places a void in your story, and you have to fill it. Don't just rely on what you have already. Use death as an opportunity to create something new, or to expand on an underdeveloped storyline.

Most of all, don't forget that death, in many ways, is the most significant event in our lives. It's our responsibility to treat it with the dignity and care it deserves - and then exploit it for the sake of entertainment!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-18-12

Buffalo News - Self-Publishing Via Local Bookstore: "Self-publishing has been made easier since the Espresso Book Machine by On Demand Books debuted in 2006. The machine also can make copies of out-of-print editions [...] Thor Sigvaldason, chief technology officer of New York-based On Demand Books, said the technology can help book retailers twofold. 'It can, potentially, give them a huge virtual inventory so they can have as many books as Amazon, all in a little bookstore,' he said. 'It turns independent bookstores into places to get books published. It's a new thing for the bookstore to do: not just sell books, but actually create books.'"

The Wall Street Journal - Author Finds His Own Way to Success: "Most novelists who self-publish probably earn their Rodney Dangerfield-style rants about respect. But author Sergio De La Pava is a special case. Mr. De La Pava, a 41-year-old public defender in Manhattan, spent six years writing his nearly 700-page novel, "A Naked Singularity." After another three years of trying to find an agent and publisher, he made it available online via print-on-demand in 2008. At first, nothing happened. But when a few literary websites reviewed it favorably, word of this ambitious, sprawling book spread–ultimately reaching the University of Chicago Press, which in May published the novel in its original form, save for a new cover and distribution plans. "A Naked Singularity" is in its third printing."

Copyblogger: 11 Ways to Bore the Pants Off Your Readers: "What was that you were saying? Of course you don’t ramble on like that boring old history teacher in high school. You’re likeable. You tell stories. You keep it short. But somehow, it’s not working. Your content doesn’t get the tweets, shares, and comments it deserves. Sometimes you wonder… Does your content not captivate your readers? Are they clicking away? Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to know for sure. You can’t see the doodling, the fidgeting, the yawns. But there are warning sign"

Write to Done: How to Blog and Write Your Book at the Same Time: "Many aspiring writers complain, “I know I need to blog, but I don’t have time. I’m too busy writing my book.” Or, if they whine, “I’m so busy blogging in my attempt to build an author’s platform that I can’t find the time to finish my book.” What’s an aspiring author like you to do? Simple. Blog your book."

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Morning Pages - 06/15/12 - Comics as Literature (Father Figures): "A lot of comics that depict family life present some sort of dysfunction. This is not all that surprising, actually: it’s also what you tend to find in a lot of literary fiction. What’s that quote from Tolstoy? “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I suppose it’s much harder to write a gripping tale of contentment and satisfaction."

The Bookshelf Muse - Adding Subtext to Your Story: "About 90% of the time, we human beings don’t say what we mean to say. Instead, we speak in subtext. The beauty of subtext is that it makes human interaction fascinating; and, likewise, it’s what will make your story worth reading. If you, as a writer, can fundamentally understand the importance of subtext, I guarantee that you'll see the benefit in adding it to you story."

Wordserve Water Cooler - Advising New Writers Lovingly: "Today I received an email from a freshly graduated student about a blog he’d been writing for the past two years that he wants to get published as a book. It was about being an only child—a topic I recommended he consider transforming into a memoir after he turned in a wonderful English 101 essay about growing up alone. Ever since, he said, he’d been writing. He included a link to the blog, clearly hoping—despite assurances to the contrary—that I would read it and somehow singlehandedly applaud it onto bookstore shelves."

Rachelle Gardner - Using Setting As a Character: "Choosing the right setting is just as important as choosing the right characters, plot, and dialogue. Setting grounds your readers, helping them to experience the action and drama more effectively. But it does so much more than that! A setting can be so vibrant and alive that it becomes one of the characters in your story, assisting or hindering your protagonist in achieving his/her goals."

New York Times - How to Read a Racist Book to Your Kids: "“Dad, why do the pirates have a gorilla?” This unexpected question intruded on a recent intergenerational cultural exchange: I was introducing my 6-year-old son to Asterix the Gaul. The pirates in the “Asterix” comics don’t travel with a gorilla, of course. One of the pirate crew is a grotesque caricature of an African who does indeed more closely resemble a gorilla than a person."