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Showing posts from March, 2010

Writing for Wikipedia – The Rest of the Story

In an earlier post, we created leads for our articles. Today we draft the rest of the story. If you haven't already done so, begin by reviewing existing author pages. What kinds of information is included? How is it grouped under sub-titles? What kinds of external links (links to pages outside of Wikipedia) are included? What kinds of wiki links? What kinds of categories are used? Now look at the information you’ve gathered on your author. Can you organize it into chunks of related items? What heading (sub-title) would you give to each chunk of information? Organize the information that way in your document so you can cut and paste later. What is typical for authors? It depends. Take a look at Nevada Barr and Linda Barnes . They have the simplest form of article for authors – a lead and a list of publications. (Note there is no table of contents. That’s because there’s only one subheading – the list of books. We’ll learn tomorrow that Wikipedia automatically adds the table

Dialogue: Just the Way We Talk?

Dialogue is two or more characters talking to each other. We can all talk. Writing dialogue should be easy, right? Well, yes and no. Here’s what dialogue is : Talk is an ACTION . An ideal, compact way to advance your story by having one character tell the other what’s happening—to reveal, admit, incite, accuse, lie, etc. It can speed up a scene. A way to define a character . The way someone speaks—accent, vocabulary, idiom, inflection—tells as much about what he is like as his actions do. And let’s us see him better than just using description. It can also reveal motive. One way to show emotion and set a mood . Characters reveal themselves when under stress or angry. Dialogue is used to create an emotional effect in the reader. Another way to show POV . Often used to get across what is NOT said . Example, if you want to show that someone wants to avoid an unpleasant encounter, you can show this by having them talk around the subject uppermost in their mind, but never quite touch

Ten Good Reasons to Be a Ghost

I’m a ghostwriter, and have been for more than ten years. For many years before that, writing was something I did “on the side.” It didn’t pay the mortgage or put my kids through college; that’s what my day job was for. I didn’t actually start making a living writing until I began to write for others. Now I no longer live on the sidelines of my own life. Ghostwriting is the vehicle I used to get in the game. Other writers ask me about ghostwriting, often with an undertone of sympathy, as if ghostwriting was a last resort. When I tell them I love ghostwriting, I don’t think they really believe me. But although there are downsides to ghostwriting, there are plenty of upsides. Here are ten of them. 1. You can make money doing what you love – writing. Now I must admit I’m not raking in the dough and getting filthy rich. But I am making a comfortable living, and I am hundreds of times happier than I used to be while making twice as much working for corporate America. There were a few lea

Quotables

Do you prefer writing or revising? Revising, no contest! I actually tend to revise as I go. When I'm a good girl and fulfill my word-goal for the day, I let myself work over the previous couple pages as a treat. I almost always discover they're better than I thought. It's like they cure overnight or something. ~ Sarah Miller Read more about this author and her thoughts on the writing process and publishing by clicking here .

Finding the Right Writers' Conference -- Summer Events

In our January 25th post , I listed a sampling of upcoming conferences through April 2010. This month I’m taking a look at conferences scheduled for May through August. The list is representative of events across the country available to help you improve your writing skills and get feedback from editors and agents. You can find more information at Shaw Guides . For a series of informative articles about conferences from Writer's Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino, check out the Writers Conference category of his blog archives. The focus of these conferences is writing. The cost is minimal for some of the one-day programs. Pitch sessions are available at several. All of the information for each conference or workshop can be found at its official website. Click on the conference name and follow the link. May Florida Center for the Literary Arts Miami Dade College Miami, Florida May 5-8, 2010 Lighthouse Writers Workshop Denver, Colorado Ongoing workshops, retreats Mar

A Spoonful of Sugar

Recently, I had the less-than-stellar experience of editing a manuscript for a first-time writer who believed her every word, every comma, every sentence contributed to her perfect book and under no circumstances should be changed. Emotions ran high, and reason ran out the door. Resistance became the word of the day, every day. A few years ago, I attended a seminar where we were told that our books are not our babies. However, books are birthed after months, sometimes years, of hard labor. That does suggest a kinship between the two b’s—babies and books. Let’s take that comparison a step further. What happens when our baby gets sick? Do we take it to the doctor? Yes. When the doctor writes out a prescription, do we fill it? Of course. We even get well-baby checks and follow a schedule of immunizations to prevent measles, mumps, chickenpox, tetanus, hepatitis, and other diseases. Why? We want our baby to be healthy, the best it can be. What about our manuscripts? When they are less

Mixing Tenses

Previously we looked at how to use a blend of pluperfect tense and past tense to integrate flashbacks. Today we will look at mixing past and present tense. Deliberately Mixing Past and Present Tense I've read some interesting stories using a mixture of tenses. One book involved a current investigation that triggered constant flashbacks for the protagonist to a previous investigation. The author handled this by separating the two stories and writing the main narrative in present tense, alternating full scenes of present tense and past tense reflecting the present and past respectively. It helped to clarify for which case clues were being processed. Another story was written in first person past tense in a confessionary style. When the narrator spoke of scenes that were emotionally "present" to him, he slipped into present tense narration. Take care with this technique, as you need to have a good handle on your own grasp of tense. Inadvertently Mixing Tenses Some wr

Author Platforms

What is a “platform” when it pertains to a book? This can be confusing – with good reason. The confusion is because what used to be meant by platform has morphed into something more. In the past, when someone said you needed a platform for your book, they, first off, meant your nonfiction book. Only nonfiction books were required to have platforms. What it basically meant was that you, the author, were an expert on some subject others want to learn about. Expert + important topic = platform. Over the last few years, platform has come to mean more than that. It no longer is enough to be an expert on some subject people want to read about. You now have to have a built-in audience or a way to get publicity. Expert + important topic + ready audience = platform. The sad thing is this last part of the equation (the ready audience) has taken on great significance, so much so that it can be more important than the other two parts. That’s why you see so many celebrities writing books

Hearing Voices - The Children's Book

I’ve been a fan of children’s literature since writing and illustrating my first little book as a senior in high school, winning the art student of the year scholarship and award. Wow, that was a very , very, very long time ago. Over the decades, I collected children's literature for my own pleasure, and even worked as a trade rep at the Denver Merchandise Mart just so I could sell all the Random House imprints. What a marvelous time that was, getting boxes of new books every week. I was gifted with a tremendous selection, from classics to the newest contemporary, and before very long I developed an “ear” for a story that children and adults both could learn from and enjoy. It was an education through immersion. Of course, it didn't hurt that Dr. Seuss himself was the director of the Beginner Books division at the time. What could possibly inspire a fledgling writer more? Recently, Little Pickle Press caught my eye at Facebook just as owner, Rana DiOrio, was releasing the f

Ask The Editor: Making the Big Time

This is another in our continuing series Ask The Editor. Normally I edit the questions, if need be, but decided to leave this one as is. Explanation will come later. The question comes from: Gregg Seeley Big Bobby Boom and the Marble Mayhem (Moose Hide Books 2009) Ages 9-11 buy link Goodreads Redroom Question : I am published under a small independant press and have recieved wonderful reviews on this book from Schools, journalists, reviewers and readers alike and am in the process of having more published that are terrifically favourable as well. My question is, How can I bring this book to the attention of a larger publisher or larger distributor in order that they consider it for purchase of publishing rights in order to give it international exposure and distribution? Please let me know if you are able to offer me advice on this and the other authors who are facing the same challenge. Answer : The stories of authors who successfully move from small press or self- publi

Clea Simon and Why We Kill

Recently, I have been thinking about why we kill. Because that is what mystery writers do. We set up a situation with a variety of characters, and we kill one of them. Fun, huh? But if we’re going to do it right, we need to have a good motive. It can be one of the classics – lust, jealousy, rage, or greed (a form of lust) – but it has to make sense. If we’re going to respect our readers, we, as authors, need to come up with a good reason for one of our characters to die. I should explain, I write the kind of traditional mysteries (yes, sometimes called “cozies”) that are peopled by rational types, more or less. I do not write nor am I a fan of the kind of mystery or thriller in which the irrational is accepted. I don’t care about crazed serial killers/terrorists, alien invasions, or the like. (Yes, I do have the occasional ghost, but he’s feline.) I want to understand what is going on, and that means understanding the villain, too. Even if the villain’s motives are slightly off, the r

Pitching to agents: How to throw a fiction fast ball

Ah, it's conference season again. Writers everywhere are crawling from their winter writing spaces, blinking a few times, and sniffing the air: Time to meet with others of my kind. I admire these writers, who will plunk their money down to invest in a career that may still be one of their imagination. They will don their best "business casual" (clean and pressed—yes; over-eager—no; professional yet confidently relaxed and "I too could be on Oprah" is the image they seek) and stride through the hotel ballroom doors with a game face on because this is what they've been working for, what they can find nowhere else: the chance to sit down with an agent, editor or publisher, face to face, and advocate for their work. Are you one of them? If you too are gearing up to pitch to an agent or editor this conference season, and you write fiction or memoir, here are a few tips on how to put together your pitch. By now your manuscript may have swelled to 100,000 words

Craig Lancaster Loves What?

I just spent an intimate week with the novel -- tentative title THE SUMMER SON -- that I finished back in August. Except I wasn't really finished. Hence, the intimate week. While I waited to decide what I want to do with it, and waited for others to decide what they want to do with it, I decided to take a fresh run at the manuscript, to see what perspective a few months' distance would give me. This brings me to a confession: I love revising and editing. I love it more than I love writing a first or second draft. Drafts fill me with anxiety. Without really meaning to, I write quickly as I try to transfer what's in my head to the computer screen, even as story threads blow up and transform and head in new directions. I tend to work at a breakneck pace -- not so much because I enjoy it, but because my head and my fingers compel me to. Ah, but revisions. Revisions are a love affair in full bloom. I sit with a printout, red pen in hand, and I bleed on the pages. I stri

I Declare: Envisioning Your Writing Future

Sit and think about your dream writing life. What does it entail? Do you spend vast parts of your days writing and taking trips and spending time in the library to research and experience the world to which you will write about? Are you a novelist? An essayist? A poet? A screenwriter? A playwright? All of the above? What do you SEE? And just as important: what do you WANT? It's not good enough to simply have these visions and wants locked inside your mind. You need to DECLARE them - to yourself and to others. When we declare, we 1. make known or state clearly, esp. in explicit or formal terms; 2. announce officially; proclaim: to declare a state of emergency; 3. state emphatically: He declared that the allegation was a lie; 4. manifest; reveal; show ("Declare" - dictionary.com) Take out a sheet of paper, and number it from 1 to 5 for starters (you may have more than five declarations, but let's start here.) After each number, write "I". E

Living As a Ghost – Without Having to Die First

Today we welcome Kim Pearson, a ghostwriter and owner of Primary Sources . Kim has just started an online course for writers interested in becoming ghosts, so read on for more information. We look forward to additional posts about the ghostly career in the future. Welcome, Kim. ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ The first book I wrote as someone else was for my own grandmother. I wrote the story of her coming to America as a child, her experiences as a “flapper” in the 1920s, her housewife life in a mountain logging town during the Depression, and her war service in the Second World War. I interviewed her and recorded our conversations, and she loaned me a box of old letters in spidery handwriting, plus about thirty albums full of photos of people even she couldn’t remember. I wrote it in first person, in her voice, using many of the phrases characteristic of my grandmother, with idioms common for her era. I wrote the book for love of my grandmother and because I wanted my own two daughters to know

Writing as an Art — Passing the Palette . . . and the Brush

We’ve created our character sketches in great detail. Our completed outline tells us exactly where our story begins, how it develops, and where it ends. Now all we have to do is get it on paper (or hard drive), and we have a book. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If only it were that simple . . . but it isn’t, so let’s take a deeper look at this process. How do we create scenes? We place one or more characters in a particular situation and allow him/her/them to react to it. We tell the character(s) what to say, what to see, what to hear, what to think, what to do, and how to do it. Scene’s done. Wow! But it’s not working. The action is stilted, the dialogue’s stiff, nothing about it rings true, and even we don’t care what happens next. Why? Complete sentences, proper punctuation, and good verb choices should make this a great scene. Each character said and did just what we wanted them to say and do. So what happened? More importantly, what didn’t happen? We didn’t allow the characte

Ask the Editor: Character Growth

Last month, in my February Ask The Editor post , I answered a question about strong female characters. In the comments on that post, Carolyn Howard-Johnson , award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally series, wrote this: I had trouble with my female character in This Is the Place at first because her character arc was to start out with her needing to get some understanding (and backbone!). I wanted to keep my modern readers and still stay true to that arc. The novel is done but it might benefit all to discuss this. With her permission, I’m posting my thoughts here. Having a character (either modern or set in an historical time period) who is weak in some area is definitely okay. It would, in fact, be realistic. As people, we’re all weak in some area or even several areas. A character who is strong in every aspect (male or female) would be more fantasy than real. Even ultra-strong characters, like Vince Flynn ’s Mitch Rapp, has his weaknesses. He can be hurt in both body and he

Exploring: Twitter Lists for Writers

If you’re published, or about-to-be published, you’ve heard plenty about establishing your online presence with a website and/or blog and various social networking sites you can use to spread your message and promote your book. Twitter , probably the most popular and the most ridiculed of all social sites, is popular with readers and writers. Even more exciting, agents and publishers hang out on Twitter . This venue offers several features that can be useful to writers. The one I’m looking at today is Lists. The List feature appeared in 2009, but I ignored it at first. It seemed like one more way to waste time. Now that my follows total about 850, I realize how convenient it is to have a few specialized lists that allow me to see a stream of messages from a few selected people. Since I’m about to embark on an agent search for my new novel, I want a convenient way to scan agent comments and advice before I send queries. To accomplish that, I created a new list called “Literary Age