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."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-13-12

Tao te Soul Morning Pages

Writer's Digest - How to Break the Rules: "Realize that great writing starts with an appetite for life. Ideas and real-life experience to inform your writing are everywhere—but the most compelling ones may not be out in the open, plain for anyone to see. So don’t be timid: Say yes to opportunities that come your way—even (especially) the strange ones. Sneak backstage. Do something that makes you nervous. Try stepping outside your comfort zone, and you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the discomfort of your sweaty palms."

Forbes - How My Book Became a (Self-Published) Best Seller: "I didn’t take the decision to self-publish lightly. In fact, I turned down offers from two big publishers because I wasn’t happy with the money they offered. McGraw-Hill’s offer was missing a zero—and I told them so. One from Bloomberg Press (which published my last book) was more than three times as much, but still pathetically low. We spent three months trying to negotiate a compromise that would give them print rights and allow me to retain electronic rights before the deal fell apart over contract wording. On Halloween of 2008, an auspicious day, I made the decision to self-publish."

Terribleminds - The Indie Writer Rejection Meme: "Sure, somebody rejected Harry Potter. And it’s good they did. Who knows what the book would’ve become under a different editor, different publisher? Oh, that rejection is proof that… humans are imperfect? That they don’t make perfect decisions all the time? Is the system flawed? Um. Duh? Of course it’s flawed. Everything is flawed. Nothing is perfect. No writer, no agent, no editor, no publisher. Could it be better? Sure. But that doesn’t automatically mean skipping the game just because you’re afraid you’ll skin a knee."

Not Writing? There's an App for That!

Red Lemon Club - 7 Things that Will Save Creative Writers: "The current economic climate isn’t particularly rosy when it comes to available work for a large proportion of us creatives. There are many people out there who, for various reasons, still do earn a very good living from creative projects, and many who are doing better now than they ever have in the past. Just like with all industries that get hit by an economic correction, the weak don’t survive and many of the strong remain. A difficult economy coupled with increasing competition over the next few years will pose various threats to creatives, especially independent workers."

Copyblogger - The Difference Between Good and Great Websites: "Scott is a young cartoonist. He creates a comic strip about an engineer creating bizarre inventions. The comic also features a dog as his sidekick. Scott puts the engineer and his dog in all sorts of funny settings and themes. His comic involves everything from social commentary, to political humor, to weird science experiments, to personal life screw ups. Unfortunately for Scott, the comic strip doesn’t do well. In the first year, only a handful of newspapers print his comic. But things change when Scott makes one change. Instead of putting the engineer and his dog in a lot of different types of situations, he starts putting them in only one kind of situation.

Terribleminds - 25 Reasons This Is the Best Time to Be a Storyteller: "For a very long time there existed one door. That door read EMPLOYEES ONLY, and it was locked until you… well, became an employee of someone — perhaps not a literal employee with the badge and the keycard and a Tupperware container of goulash in the fridge, but just the same you were someone who worked for a corporate entity in some fashion. They unlocked that door for you. Ah. But now a second door exists: the Do It Your Own Damnself door. It’s just a hole kicked in the drywall, the door itself fashioned out of whatever scraps lay nearby. On it a placard that reads, in hasty graffiti, INDIVIDUALS ONLY.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Create Engaging Supporting Characters

How to Create Engaging Supporting Characters: Tao te Soul

If the protagonist is your story's meat, and the plot it's potatoes, then your supporting characters are its vegetables, spices, and dessert. Over-stretched food metaphors aside, your supporting characters are what define your story and give it texture. Many of them don't exist past a single scene, so it's very important to create and define these characters as quickly as you can.

Below are seven easy tips on creating these characters as quickly and effectively as possible.

  1. Create a personality quirk - The easiest (and most fun) method is to give your supporting character an unusual personality trait for their archetype. Archetypes are inescapable in fiction, so whenever you find that one of your characters is flatly imitating thousands of like characters, throw in a curve ball. Make your gruff warrior/barbarian a fashion snob. Your scientist can be deathly afraid of his lab mice. Your vegetarian dog lover? A borderline sociopath. Create a stereotypical characterization, and throw a fly in the ointment.
  2. Establish a relationship before or after you meet them - This is cheating a little bit, but if your supporting is the main character's mother, foreshadow it with your protagonist's mommy issues. If your villain's sidekick is about to come in, tell us how your protagonist used to be his best friend. Characters don't have to grow from a void.
  3. Set an important task - Every Batman needs a Robin. Or a Morgan Freeman. If your supporting character is an important one, give him something to do that the protagonist needs done. Have your supporting characters remove kryptonite from Superman's neck.
  4. Give them power - Powerful people are important. They're automatically engaging because they have what your protagonist wants, or they stand in his way. Either way, a powerful person stands in your protagonist's way, and we love obstacles.
  5. Give them a flaw - Your protagonist is a hero, in somebody's mind. If somebody needs his help, that shines a light on who he is, no matter what his response. Even if they don't need help directly, having

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-11-12

Tao te Soul Morning Pages

Orson Scott Card on Ray Bradbury: "Five years later, a young woman who lived across the street had to wear eyepatches for several days, making her effectively blind. I went over to her house to help her pass the time.I brought that hardcover of I Sing the Body Electric. I read to her.That was when I realized that Bradbury’s stories were not meant to be read silently. Your lips have to move, your voice has to produce those words, the cadences of his language have to rise out of your own throat."

Problogger - How to Use Metaphors to Engage with Readers: "Sean Platt’s The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine is a great example of metaphor. Writing a blog post is likened to Eminem’s storytelling and rapping techniques. This controversial headline is catchy and Sean uses a popular artist to make us identify with his topic right from the outset."

Cirqued Du Mot - Is Good Blogging Also Good Journalism?: "As bloggers we write opinions and are not journalists. It reminds me of every geeky argument I have had about pop culture. Why do they arise, because someone wants to argue about the number of original Star Trek episodes (do you count the original pilot? I do). They treat their opinions as facts and then beat down everyone who disagrees. It just makes you feel battered, not informed. I feel that way sometimes after I read a piece on someone’s blog."

The Recommender: A Blogger's Style Guide: "Music blogs moved on from being self-obsessed, online vanity projects some years ago. Sure there’s still a sense of them being personal, independent and amateur, but upon these sites are voices and opinions that are commonly regarded as ‘tastemakers’ within the music industry. The blogging sphere is a zone in which influence can now be dispensed, giving useful, ever-growing spotlights to the music we cover. Blogs have created a place where you can genuinely discover something new, a home which is now anchored at the new cutting edges of emerging music. They’ve not so much replaced the traditional music media, more they’ve added a new exciting layer to the underground of music."

Writer Unboxed - Writing in Miniature: "Any kind of fiction presents its challenges, of course, but I find short stories especially hard. You can’t afford to waste words. The prose needs paring down to the length that will fit your story most effectively; the language must be tailored precisely to the emotional resonance you want to convey to your reader; the ‘voice’ must be perfect. A short story is not just a story with fewer words, it’s a distillation of meaning into a small container. Open the bottle, reveal a whole world. For a novelist, writing short stories can be daunting. It’s like tackling a miniature after years of painting murals."

Scribofile - Who's Your Audience and Why Should You Care?: "The artistic process, whether painting or prose, is admittedly the child of self-expression. The long-standing image of the artist cloistered in her studio — hunched over his writing desk or standing before her canvas to create from the depths of his or her soul — is surely a truism. Artists create from the heart; we dive deep inside our often tortured souls and closeted past to draw out the universal metaphors that speak to humanity and share—Ay, there’s the rub. For to share is to have a dialogue and to have a meaningful dialogue is to demonstrate consideration of the other. Somewhere in that journey that began with self, others entered."

Wordserve Water Cooler - Don't Let Your Muse Be a Prima Donna: "I fell in love with words and books as a little kid, and the magic holds as much of a spell on me as it ever did. Even now, watching the letters group up into words and the words into sentences on this page pleases my eyes and settles my soul; only now I know there is nothing mysterious about the magic! I once thought of my muse as this elusive creature who must be cajoled into making an appearance. I had to attend to her every need with just the right coffee/surroundings/writing pad, etc. Otherwise, like some spoiled prima dona, she might get offended and disappear as quickly as she arrived. There’s a good country word for that sort of thing: bologna!"


Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Morning Pages

Neil Gaiman gives tribute to the late Ray Bradbury: "I can imagine all kinds of worlds and places, but I cannot imagine a world without Bradbury. Not Ray Bradbury the man (I have met him. Each time I have spent any time with him I have been left the happier for it) but Bradbury the builder of dreams. That Bradbury. The man who took an idea of the American Midwest and made it magical and tangible, who took his own childhood and all the people and things in it and used it to shape the world. The man who gave us a future to fear, one without stories, without books. The man who invented Hallowe’en, in its modern incarnation."

Bradbury's 10 Best Predictions

Wordserve Water Cooler - How to Market Your First Novel: "After I got the call from my agent, Greg Johnson, that a publisher offered a contract, two thoughts crossed my mind. Strangely, they were not 'WOW, I’m going to be famous!” or 'Yes! I can quit my day job.' but 'Oh no, he’s going to expect me to be able to write another book.' and 'How on earth am I going to market it?'"

Terribleminds - Writing the Middle of Your Story: "For me, the middle is the hardest part of writing. It’s easy to get the stallions moving in the beginning — a stun gun up their asses gets them stampeding right quick. I don’t have much of a problem with endings, either; you get to a certain point and the horses are worked up into a mighty lather and run wildly and ineluctably toward the cliff’s edge. But the middle, man, the motherfucking middle. It’s like being lost in a fog, wandering the wasteland tracts. And I can’t be the only person with this problem: I’ve read far too many books that seem to lose all steam in the middle. Narrative boots stuck in sucking mud."

The Rumpus - Gender, Race and Writers: "The numbers are grim. Nearly 90% of the books reviewed by The New York Times are written by white writers. That is not even remotely reflective of the racial makeup of this country, where 72% of the population, according to the 2010 census, is white. We know that far more than 81 books were published by writers of color in 2011. You don’t really need other datasets to see this rather glaring imbalance."

The Guardian - How to Become an Ebook Superstar: "It has never been easier to publish your own book. Traditional publishers may take a year to turn your manuscript into print on a page but you can get your own ebook on sale around the world in about four minutes. The real battle, however, is the same as it ever was: how do you find an audience?It has never been easier to publish your own book. Traditional publishers may take a year to turn your manuscript into print on a page but you can get your own ebook on sale around the world in about four minutes. The real battle, however, is the same as it ever was: how do you find an audience?"


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-04-12

Tao te Soul: The Morning Pages
The Write Practice - What's the Story Behind Your Story? "Without these greater truths, writing falls flat; it leaves us bored; or perhaps worse, we walk away from a work without questions or insights to consider later, we walk away unchanged. For work to stick with us, it has to have some larger point behind it.Lest you think I am advocating that we all write fables, let me be clear: direct moral lessons, as I see it, belong in only three kinds of writing—children’s picture books, fairy tales and fables, and sermons. The rest of our writing needs to be more subtle, more driven by undercurrent, or else we run the risk of our readers feeling like we preach to them."

Scribophile - Choosing the Less Worn Path of Intuition: "Intuition is the ability to sense, see or feel about someone or something. It is sometimes called 'gut instinct' as opposed to using evidence-based rationality. Some describe it as the ability to see any event or object from a viewpoint of “the cosmic whole, from its culmination—the seed, the flower, the fruit—to the whole: the comprehensive grip of the principles of universality. A person who develops intuition can “know anything without the barriers of time, space and any other obstructions.'"

Goins, Writer - Every New Author's Greatest Enemy: "We don’t read authors we don’t knowOf course, there are exceptions to this. You and I might take a chance on a random book we’ve never heard about, but not very often. And usually we mitigate these risks by taking them at the library or in the bargain bin. More often than not, we humans naturally avoid taking chances with our wallets."

Wordserve Water Cooler - Self-Editing for Structure: "Structure: Think of the structure of your work as an arched bridge spanning a great river. If the contractor takes short cuts (such as using less cement, steel, or fewer bolts) because she’s bored with the process and rushes to the end, the bridge is weakened and will collapse. The same holds true for both ends of the bridge. If too much cement is used at either end of the bridge, it will collapse from the added weight."

The Creative Penn - Getting to Know Your Readers: "Recent surveys have shown that most self-published authors don’t sell many books in the end, and that’s a shame. Part of the problem, I think, is that the authors didn’t take the time to really think about this question and all that it implies for their publishing prospects."

Character Trait Profile: Courage

Red Lemon Club interviews Susan Cain about Quiet: The Power of Introvers in a World that Can't stop Talking: "This is a kind of civil rights mission for me. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men in 1950s America–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to pass' as extroverts."

Wordplay - The Two Conflict-Creating Needs of Every Character: "In Frank Oz’s comedy What About Bob?, Bill Murray’s neurotic character sobs to his psychiatrist (who’s trying desperately to get rid of him), “Gimme, gimme, gimme! I need, I need, I need!” Ultimately, this is what every one of our characters should be screaming on the inside. We’re all familiar with the idea that our main character must be driven through the story by some great need. But the truth is one need just isn’t going to be strong enough to get a character all the way through a book. He’s going to need not just two (or more) needs, but two friction-causing, conflict-creating, mutually exclusive needs."


Friday, June 1, 2012

The Morning Pages: 06-01-12


Newbie's Guide to Publishing on how blogging helps you learn: "But everything I write is already in my brain. That's not the way to learn. Knowledge comes from seeking outside sources of information, from looking at other points of view, from being forced to defend an argument or position from an attack that hadn't been considered, from changing viewpoints as new information or better logic presents itself.I go looking for that information. But there's also another way to obtain it. Namely, to host a forum, and let the information come to me in the form of comments."

Five Tips on Improving Your Writing.

Rachelle Gardner - Why Self Published Authors Should Seek an Agent: "1. If your self-published books are extremely successful, you may want an agent to shop the print rights and subsidiary rights such as audio, film, and foreign rights. “Extremely successful” can be defined in various ways, but certainly it would mean you’ve sold several thousand units on your own in a short period of time, maybe a few months.2. If you’ve self-published previous books but want to go with traditional publishing for your subsequent ones, you’ll need an agent for this."

The Creative Penn - How Self-Publishing Can Give You Professional Options: "Self-Publishing, or Indie Publishing, or DIY publishing, call it what you will, is seen in a number of lights in this industry. Undeniably, we Indie authors have caused quite a ruckus for both the consumer and the publishing house. This has caused a huge division of opinion, and can often cause quite a lot of animosity. Nevertheless, thanks to the internet, we have turned the publishing model on its head."

Goins, Writer - 10 Simply Tips on Writing Your Novel