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Showing posts from May, 2009

Book Promoting

After you write the story of your heart and go through the painful process of editing... wait it's not always painful...just sometimes...editors do try to be kind. Anyway, the next step is publication, then after that begins another painful process- promotion. Wait... that's not always painful either...just sometimes...when you'd rather be writing. Regardless, promoting is important and this year, actually starting last September, I have been trying virtual promoting over the traditional signing events, etc. I have done a number of those and enjoy them, but circumstances have limited my ability to be out on the road a lot, so I have been out on the Internet. I have been doing tours, guest blogging and a lot of other networking on the Internet, as well as doing some Internet radio. And I found a great site: The Authors Show where I am going to be a guest on Friday, May 29. This is not a plea for everyone to run over there to listen, although that would great, it is a plug

Eight Questions for Writers

Every story has an arc - a set up, obstacles for the main character to overcome, and a resolution. Sometimes, I come across a novel from a client that has holes in one or all of these areas. There's not enough set up to get me into the story and the main character. There's not enough conflict in that vast middle of the story to make me care what happens to the main character. There's not enough of a resolution, and I'm left wondering, "Why did I read this?" When these gaps are found within a story, I get into lecture mode and pose eight questions to the client: 1) Who is your main character (MC)? 2) What does the MC want? 3) What's the main conflict that keeps the MC from getting that want? 4) What's the event/situation that sets the MC in motion to achieve the want? 5) What are the obstacles the MC encounters, keeping him/her from the want? (Obstacles should escalate, building tension) 6) What's the event/situation that makes

In Plain Sight

An earlier post, Hiding Bones , from Morgan Mandel got me thinking about the different ways writers - especially mystery writers - introduce red herrings so they sound like significant clues and provide significant clues in ways that make them seem insignificant. One great tool for both is the simple list. Try this exercise. Set a timer for fifteen seconds, then study the list below. When the timer sounds, look away and write down everything you remember from the list. red icicles tricycle broken wheel blue sky polka dots gray beard framed art beach ball Valentines Day stack of books blond hair pill bottles How'd you do? Most people will remember the first two and the last two or three. So where's the best place to hide good clue in plain sight? Where's the best place for red herring? How many times have you read a mystery where a character or the narrator describes what is visible at the scene of the crime, on the first trip to a suspect's apartment, or even during a

Author/Editor Discussion

The Blood-Red Pencil specializes in advice from editors. Today, we’re doing something a bit different. We’re having an author and editor discussion. All of you can join in by adding your comments or asking questions at the end. Our author today is best-selling author, Sylvia Dickey Smith . She writes the Sidra Smart mystery series. Her series is set in Southeast Texas in the area where Sylvia herself grew up. That area of Texas is unique in its mix of people, from Cajuns to Dutch descendants to the Scots-Irish. As you might guess, her books are filled with lively characters and the area itself becomes something of a character. She has three books out starring Sidra Smart. The first was called Dance on His Grave . The second is Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets . And her most current book is Dead Wreckoning . Sylvia says the focus of her writing is on “the strengths and weaknesses of middle-aged and older women finding their way and developing a strong identity of their own.” Our editor is

Proofreading and the Hilarity in the Lack Thereof

Editors often cringe at hastily put together headlines. You know, those blaring boo-boos committed by harried "gotta rush and meet the deadline" news journalists. I collect them from time to time, and thought I'd share some of the more utterly ridiculous ones, along with my own quips, for your amusement today. Fun stuff. Here we go ... check these out. Include Your Children when Baking Cookies Certainly important in some recipes, "Northern Witch Missionary Lip Stew" comes to mind, but a rather expensive ingredient, no? Child’s stool great for use in garden Another reason to leave your kids out of your cookies. The fertilizer they produce is so valuable. Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case Hmm - must be a little people? Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents I sense a rather strong compulsion-to-bond personality disorder here. Seems hereditary, also. Iraqi Head Seeks Arms Oh my god - next he'll be wanting legs, too. Prostitutes Appeal to Pope Well, better

Hiding Bones

I often laugh at my dog, Rascal, because she does such silly things. One is to run around the house with a toy or bone, then drop it in a corner and scamper away. She acts like she hid it in a great spot, but I can see exactly where it is. When you write a novel, you have a choice of toys and bones to hide. They're also known as clues. How obvious you make them to the reader is up to you and your storyline. For example, if you want to show the goodness of a character, an easy way is to give that person a dog, cat or some other pet to love. Normally, you'd think the nice person would take in a stray animal. That clue seems easy to pick up. Since people are complex and many have good as well as bad points, such a clue might be hidden in plain sight. The villain could be really sweet to an animal, making him seem good to a reader's eyes, yet that same person could hate people and be really mean to them. Or, to stick true to form, it's said that killers and sadists st

Some Words of Wisdom

I was looking through some quotes by writers for a project I'm working on, and some of the quotes were so good I thought I'd share them here. "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~ Anaïs Nin "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." ~ E.L. Doctorow "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison "What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931 "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth "The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become

How to Write a Great First Draft

Many writers think a first draft of a novel has to crappy. Anne Lamott in her nonfiction book about writing, Bird by Bird , has a chapter called Shitty First Drafts . A recent Murderati blog post was titled, “Your first draft is always going to suck.” I respectfully disagree. Of course, no first draft is publishable as is, but it doesn’t have to suck either. There’s no reason a novelist can’t craft a readable first draft that needs only minor revisions in the second round. Every writer has his/her own style, but my personal belief is that if you start your journey with a good road map and a tangible destination, you won’t get lost. In other words, I believe I write decent first drafts. Which saves me a lot of time and trouble. How do I do it? With a lot of advance planning. These ideas may only be workable for crime fiction, but here’s how I craft a great first draft without any gaping holes or illogical twists: 1. Create an outline. Once I have a basic story idea (comprised of an e

Lean and Mean Writing

Elmore Leonard , one of my favorite writers, has the cleanest, leanest writing style on the market. Here are his simple rules, which I diligently follow. 1. Never open a book with weather. 2. Avoid prologues. 3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue. 4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said.'' 5. Keep your exclamation points under control. 6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.'' 7. Use regional dialect sparingly. 8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. 9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things. 10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. 11. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For . She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at: Write First

A Touch of Humor

Once when I was helping my daughter with homework, I discovered that some things are beyond description. Think about it. How do you explain parenthesis to someone who has never seen them before? You can’t really call them brackets. Besides, my daughter didn’t know what a bracket is either. And how does one describe parenthesis? “Those funny little lines. One goes one way and the other goes the other way.” It’s no wonder the poor girl started crying. Then when I drew them, we got into another gray area. “That doesn’t look right,” she said. One of them is backwards.” “No it’s not. They’re supposed to be that way.” “But it looks backwards.” “Take my word for it. It’s not.” “Okay. But what do you call that one?” “Uh, well, you don’t call it anything. There is no singular of parenthesis. They’re a pair. Just like a pair of shoes.” “But you call one shoe a shoe.” She had a point. One that stopped me cold for a second. Then I shuffled her papers together and said rather breezily, “Okay. What


This famous speech is rewritten in sixties beat vernacular: Four big hits and seven licks ago, our before-daddies swung forth upon this sweet groovey land a jumpin' wailin' stompin' swingin' new nation, hip to the cool sweet groove of liberty and solid sent upon the Ace lick dat all cats and kiddies, red, white, or blue, is created level in front. We are now hung with a king size main-day Civil Drag, soundin' whether this nation or any up there nation, so hip and so solid sent can stay with it all the way . We have stomped out here to the hassle site of some of the worst jazz blown in the entire issue... Click here to read the rest. I don't know about you, but I think the older version might have been a little easier to understand!

Is E-Publishing For You?

Over the past ten or fifteen years e-book publishing has steadily grown as an industry, but the debate continues as to whether it is a legitimate outlet for quality books or just a repository for work not up to standard. As the e-book reviewer for ForeWord magazine for several years, I would have to say that a lot of what has been published was not up to standard, but more and more e-publishers are taking a stricter stance on what they accept and doing a much better job with editing. For a new writer, going with an e-publisher might be a good option. There are a number of e-publishers that have been in business for a long time, such as Hard Shell Word Factory , New Concepts Publishing , and new ones such as Uncial Press . In addition, there are there are a slew of new publishers for erotica. A directory of publishers can be found here So, should you as a new writer consider going the electronic route? Before you decide, there are a number of things to consider: Are there benefits to an

One Editor’s Editing Process

I’m sometimes asked by writers, “What is your editing process?” As I think about the question, it occurs to me that, I believe, editing someone else's work is easier than editing my own. And it's not because I don't have a stake in the other author's work. Actually, I do. I want to help the author make the manuscript the best book it can be. I want the writer to understand why I mark or change things so he’ll be able to catch his mistakes on his own next time. I want to hold the published book in my hand and be excited about its publication. It's easier because, basically, I didn't write it. When I start reading, I have no idea what will happen as the story evolves. I have no clue what the finale will be. I don't know the characters or their backgrounds or their relationships. Therefore, lots of things that would slip by the author stand out to me. I catch them -- or hopefully I catch the majority of them. I have to have quiet -- no music, no distractions

On Pace

Today I want to share with you another example of writing styles. It's all about pace - the speed of movement of your story. Here are two versions of the same scene. One is slow paced, the other fast paced. *** Crack! The ball went up. Up. Up. Out. Further. Higher. Further. Thirty thousand fans held their collective breath as time stopped and held them transfixed. Glen clutched at his sinking heart. Still there was hope. Maybe. A mighty west wind had held center field yard unbeatable all afternoon. The ball rose higher. Glen's heart sank deeper. Surreal, it seemed, as the slow motion play unfolded below. Like clay puppets struggling to scramble, but without actual muscles to propel them with any efficient motion. Fate seemed to mold their motions frame by frame in a stop/adjust/stop/adjust/stop/adjust impossible to believe lackadaisical series of jerky hiccups. Excruciating. The pitcher's pained face was fixed on yonder far yard. The catcher's mask was off, his stance a

Cut It Out!

Ever wonder why you don't see characters paying their bills? Because it's boring! I know that because I do that. I pay the bills. And it's boring. Unless paying the bills has something to do with the plot, it's probably best to leave it out. Don't put in boring, mundane tasks just to increase the word count. When you’re editing, stop and ask yourself if what the character is doing is interesting, moves the plot forward, establishes the character, or in some way greatly contributes to the manuscript. If it doesn't meet one of those criteria, seriously think about cutting it. Or try to think of some way the character could pay the bills that would make it more interesting or show his/her character in a unique way. If your goal is to demonstrate that the character is in reality boring, then come up with a way to show it so that while the task may be mundane, your way of telling it is not. Part of your editing process should be to cut the boring stuff. If it

Discovering & Developing Your Voice, Part 2

You may spend lots of time discovering your voice. Or you may already know your voice and just want to make it stronger. You can do these in tandem, or as phased steps. Part 2: Developing Your Voice Blog. While many, many writers have debated the merits of blogging, a personal blog gives you an opportunity to practice your writing on a regular basis. And practicing is the best way to improve your writing, which will help you develop (or even discover) your voice. Of course, whether or not you blog, you should write – and write and write. Let your voice dress up (or down). Susan Shapiro mentions her women’s magazine voice in her book Only As Good As Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus . Her women’s magazine voice has the same straightforwardness as her memoir, but there’s still a distinct difference from what you “hear” in the book. But both voice sound like the same person and are distinctively Susan. How do you sound when you’re hanging out with your best friend

Discovering & Developing Your Voice, Part 1

I have multiple personalities: writer and editor. The last few years, I’ve kept my rent paid and my cabinets stocked with corporate editing and writing gigs. It’s my editor self that landed me the first gig and that has kept me employed. Even when I take writing jobs, I bring my red pencil personality with me – it helps me adapt to in-house style guides and turn in squeaky-clean work. But, with so much emphasis on my editing muscles, some days I worry about losing my own unique writing style and voice. When I switch from marketing copy to writing my personal essays, it can take me a while to clear my mind and focus on hearing my voice. Here’s part one of a two-part piece on Discovering & Developing Your Voice. Part 1: Discovering Your Voice Read. Don’t try to write like someone else – unless you’re being paid to temporarily adopt that voice. Figure out what makes the author’s voice unique. Is it the sentence structures? Specific word choice? A certain approach to descriptions? Thin

Show and Tell

An important element in effective writing in fiction is knowing when you are telling the readers your story and when you are showing it to them. There is a place in any good book for both methods, but the shown passages are always more illustrative, while the told passages are more narrative. They create two entirely different effects. Instead of telling you the difference, I will show you. Here is a short paragraph, an example of a story being told to the reader. *** Bob walked over to the door. He turned the door knob, opened the door and started to walk outside. It was an icy cold winter day so he hurried back inside and put on his coat. *** Now, if I’m the reader I haven’t missed anything, I know what’s happening, but the passage doesn’t draw me into Bob’s world. It doesn’t let me feel or sense much of anything. Now I’ll rewrite the same passage showing you the story. *** Floor boards creaked underfoot. Step by step, across the room. The chill of cold brass felt smooth in his palm