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Showing posts from May, 2010

Priorities and Procrastinators

It's that time of year---again. Weddings. Bridal Showers. Rehearsal Dinners. First Communion. Confirmation. College Graduation. High School Graduation. Kindergarten Graduation. Day Care Graduation. Mother's Day. Father's Day. Memorial Day. With so many celebrations going on, when is there time to work? Yes, I said work, because writing---and marketing, and editing, and book signings---are work. It's how writers earn their living. People who work for others certainly know when it's time to work because their employers tell them. But how do writers stay focused? How do you maintain a reasonable work schedule amidst the chaos? All of the above is, of course, in addition to the usual list of family, friends, and neighbors who see working from home as "working" from home---meaning that we writers can just drop what we're doing at any time to run a quick errand, comfort a friend in need---the one who is heartbroken over her third boyfriend loss this week

Bookkeeping for Writers

Brigitte A. Thompson is author of eight financial books including the just released Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers published by Crystal Press. As writers, many of us may not think about the bookkeeping and financial side of our business. After all, we are creatives—we don’t have time to crunch numbers, and many of us don’t even like numbers. This is an important point..."writing is a business." During interviews with other writers, the question I was asked the most revolved around this very concept. Most writers didn't really consider themselves to be in business. It's a disadvantage because income needs to be reported at tax time and without the expenses to offset the income, tax liability is greater. Tell us what Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers is about. Writers have many important questions to ask about income and expenses, but no single source for answers. I created this book to be that source. It is an easy-to-understand guide to orga

An agent-turned independent editor, Part II

This is the conclusion of my interview with independent writing and publishing consultant Anne Dubuisson Anderson , a former literary agent. (Check out Part 1 here.) Kathryn Craft: You once told me that you are an editor, not a writing teacher. How do you perceive the difference, and how much "education" do you think a writer should expect from a developmental editor? Anne Dubuisson Anderson: A good piece of writing is the result of talent, both learned and instinctual, an intelligent (and perhaps unusual) read of people and the world, hard work, and the desire to always write better. While I am confident in giving direction in the art of revision (and yes, it is an art) which requires the latter two attributes, I think writers who need to nurture their talent or develop a different understanding of humanity should look to writing coaches (or experience life more fully!). Kathryn: Have you ever had to turn away an editing client because the work simply wasn't re

An agent-turned-independent editor, Part I

Today I'm interviewing the independent editor I hired to evaluate the novel I’m currently shopping around to agents, THE SPARROW THAT FELL FROM THE SKY. Yes, we Blood-Red Pencil editors walk the walk: knowing how difficult it is to fully assess one’s own work, we too have been known to hire independent editors. I was getting a lot of “beautifully written but not for me” feedback from agents who’d been intrigued enough to request my full manuscript, so when I was ready for fresh editorial eyes, I sought perspective from former literary agent Anne Dubuisson Anderson ( left ). From the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s, Anne was a literary agent for the Georges Borchardt and Ellen Levine agencies, where she represented numerous fiction and nonfiction writers, including mystery writers, first novelists, memoirists, and journalists. In 1998, she applied her insider’s understanding of the industry to a new role as an independent publishing and writing consultant. Since then, she has worked

What Is an Editor?

The answer seems obvious. An editor is one who edits, i.e., prepares a manuscript for publication. That preparation can run the gamut from a few comma corrections to a major rewrite. On the surface, this appears to be simple enough. But is it really? Have you tried to find a good editor? Authors pour their hearts into the words they put on paper. They bare their souls through their characters or through the nonfiction experiences they share with all who read their articles/books. Their words deserve to be handled with dignity and buffed to a soft glow or polished to a brilliant shine, depending on intent and context. People who call themselves editors abound. Anybody can hang out an editing shingle and be in business. But in way too many cases, writers pay big bucks for poor or almost nonexistent editing that neither dignifies their work nor validates them as artists. And make no mistake—good writing in an art. Great editing requires highly developed language, grammar, and punc

First Steps to Building Your Author Brand by Blythe Gifford

I'm happy to offer a special post from Blythe Gifford today about building your brand. I attended one of her workshops on the subject and was surprised to learn things about my own writing I didn't know before. Hopefully, you can take her advice to heart as well. - Morgan Mandel  Under a pseudonym, Blythe Gifford has been providing marketing and industry affairs counsel and execution for many years. She holds an MBA and has worked in public relations, advertising, and corporate marketing, with businesses ranging from Kraft Foods to Westin Hotels to First Alert. And now, here's Blythe to tell us the First Steps to Building Your Author Brand: Talk of author branding and how to do it is everywhere these days. If it seems overwhelming, it is, even for professionals. (I was in marketing and advertising for several decades before selling my first romance.) It is difficult for many reasons, not the least of which is that it requires you do two contradictory things: Expla

Getting Non-Fiction Clips

If you want to build a non-fiction career, one good way to start is right in your own backyard. While local newspapers are facing tremendous economic pressures, they still need content, and many of them have laid off positions in the editorial department. That means fewer writers and fewer stories, as they often have to concentrate limited resources on crime, schools, government, and the usual core community interests. This leaves room for freelance feature writers. While some newspapers still pay a small flat fee for articles, the operative word may turn out to be “free.” Still, writing a few features can give you some credits, build your skills, and possibly lead to more work (or a job offer) down the road. In my 12 years in the business, I have seen a stream of freelancers come and go, yet a few stuck and turned in regular content. A couple got hired with us, were hired by other papers, or moved on to other writing occupations. Here are tips that set apart the successful fre

Brainstorming Your Way to a Completed First Draft

Whether you’re writing your first book or your tenth, whether you’re writing memoir or fiction or non-fiction, you will occasionally encounter roadblocks (which sometimes look a lot like brick walls). You might have trouble getting your character from one place to another, or from one year to another – a troublesome transition. Your character could be stuck in a situation with no practical and believable way to escape. Perhaps you discover a fatal flaw in your timeline, destroying the logical progression of events across six chapters. The end result? You’re stuck and you can’t find a way out. Before you delete big sections of prose or feed the whole manuscript to your shredder, one tortured, tear-soaked page at a time, try a brainstorming session with a couple of writer friends or members of your critique group. Even a session with non-writers who read a lot can be helpful. Invite the idea team to sit around your kitchen table, share tea and cookies, and focus on your writing

Imperfect Editors

A recent post on an author forum caught my attention and generated many comments from other writers as well. Here’s the post: I am so pissed off right now. I spent $500 on an editor and caught errors. In the past I had edited my stories and then published them, but I kept hearing how good it is to have an editor and thought I would save some editing time. The problem? It's not the first time it's happened. I bartered services with two other people (who supposedly were good at editing) and had the same thing happen. It's just this time around, I thought if I paid a professional, then I would get better service, you know? Does anyone else have similar experiences, do you have a good editor who catches everything, or do you do fine on your own? Editors are not perfect, and no single editor can catch everything in an 80,000-word document. Which is why books need to go through an editing/proofreading process that involves many reads. What was most interesting to me was in th

What a Character!

As readers, don’t most of us enjoy identifying with a main character of a story, finding someone we can cheer on, even crawl into their skin for a vicarious adventure? I know I do. Characters in our stories are human beings—readers want them to seem like real people. So we have to get to know them as well as we know ourselves. Even those of you who are writing memoirs or family history—it’s going to be a lot more engaging and readable if the people you’re writing about seem three-dimensional. Developing such a character is one of the most important elements of writing and can be one of the hardest. I read a lot of books and often, as soon as I go on to the next, I’ll forget about the plot of the one before. But I love it when I discover a compelling character that stays with me long after I finish. Edward in 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster is such a character. He is a middle-aged man with Aspergers disorder who keeps a log of the minute he awakes each morning, records the hi

Ask the Editor - Question from Free For All Tuesday

Terri, one of the writers who follows this blog, asked this question on our Free For All Tuesday post earlier this month: "I'm certainly not opposed to hiring an editor. I'd love one. But I realize I must do a lot of fixing up before I'm even ready for that. My question was about how a writer would go about editing after the first draft of a novel. After I get that done, I'll pray for the money to go the next step and hire an editor." I had to laugh at her comment that she would pray for the money to hire an editor. If you find some benefactors, Terri, send them my way. I need to hire an editor for my next book. I take a 3-step approach to editing after finishing the first draft, looking first at the big picture. Is the story holding together? Are the characters consistent? Does the time-line make sense? Then I start looking at individual scenes to see where things can be tightened and improved. The final go-through is for more detailed editing, mostly gra

When to let your inspiration go

I recently gave my first keynote speech at a writer’s conference. Hoping to speak on a topic to which my multiple-arts experience could give a new twist, I explored what literary artists have in common with people like choreographers, painters, composers, and architects: we are all trying in some way to manipulate a piece of this great big messy thing called life so that we might come to terms with it. I outlined my draft from experience, then looked up quotes from artists in all genres that would support the points I wanted to make. I had great stuff from poet Amy Lowell, painter Pablo Picasso, director Federico Fellini, and more. These witnesses gave me the authority I needed to chart my arguments. My husband timed my speech the day before the conference. He said I made a lot of good points but—God love him for telling me—he admitted to being bored in a few places. We quickly pegged the culprits: he drifted every time I read one of those quotes. They pulled him away from what I

Reading Your Work in Public

Today, we welcome a new member to our blogging group. Say hello to Jo Klemm. We look forward to many more posts from a librarian's point-of-view. *** In the last Ask-the-Editor post, there was quite a bit of discussion about promotion and publicity of new books. Many authors may find that during the promotion process that they are called upon to give public readings from the book at book signings or author events. This can be great way to hook readers into a story but it can also become a liability if not done well. Here are some hints about readings or book talks to help you get the most out of the situation.     * Know ahead of time what you will read. Don’t try to just open your book on the spur of the moment and find a good passage. Have the passage highlighted or, better yet, copied in larger print so it is easy to read.     * Choose passages that set the stage for the story. Passages that describe characters or settings will help the listener quickly develop a relations

Writing as an Art: Words That Sing

Most people enjoy music. They like the rhythm, the cadence, the beat, and most of all, the sound. Music can calm the troubled mind, soothe the angry spirit, salve the battered heart. Far fewer people, however, enjoy reading. They can’t find the rhythm, the cadence is missing, the beat is off, and the sound grates on their psyches. Troubled minds, angry spirits, and battered hearts might be touched if the words sang, but sadly, dissonant sounds incite negative attitudes when harmonies should be inspiring readers to turn pages to see what happens next. What’s the problem here? The answers could be many, but likely the readers don’t hear the melody. The words don’t sing; they don’t resonate with the soul; they neither caress the spirit with their joy nor stab the heart with their pain. So how do we make the words in our books sing? Let’s have a little fun here. Below you will find a grammatically correct paragraph that gives new meaning to “boring.” It’s taken from a lesson in my Pe

How To: Remove Section Breaks

Not long ago, while editing a client’s book, I came across Section Breaks. Many of them... messing with the formatting... and driving me nuts. I deleted some, then after a while, wrote the author a note telling her to delete them. On the second read-through, I deleted more. Then more on the third read. After she read my comment, she wrote and asked, "How do I delete the section breaks?" Ahh. Maybe you’ve had this problem. If you have, it’s easy to fix. First step, you have to diagnose it. Generally, there are two ways to know if you’re having errant Section Breaks in your manuscript. One way is… you see them. The other way is… there are gaps in your manuscript. You figure you’ve somehow put in blank lines, but when you go to delete the blanks, they won’t, and yet the gap is there. Second step, you fix the problem. If you can’t see the section breaks, you need to switch to “Print Layout View.” When you do, you’ll see them. They show up in this view as dotted lines with

Exploring: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing Blog

Sometimes I discover a website or blog that's so full of information I recommend it to writer friends over and over. One of those, of course, is The Blood-Red Pencil. Another is Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing . In addition to the blog's regular posts, brimming with information to help the beginning writer get published, Joe now has his material organized in The Newbie's Guide to Publishing , available as a free PDF download or as an e-book from Kindle. From information on how to format for Kindle, to guest posts on promotion , Joe's blog is a must-read. ------------------------- Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog . You can also find her on Facebook (Patr

Word Play Tuesday

Word Play Tuesday - The Second Tuesday of Each Month Time to Play - Today, and every second Tuesday of the month, we play with a chosen word or string of words. I make a choice, offer some uses, then invite you to comment below with a sentence using the word(s) we’re playing with. If you wish, you can use one of my phrases below and expand on it, or you can make up a sentence or paragraph from scratch, as long as you use the monthly word(s). When you comment, if you have a website or blogspot, be sure to include it along with your name, in case someone really likes what you've written and wants to visit you. May's Word - Spring Again, I've picked a versatile word with many meanings. Here are a few examples of its use: Daffodils are a sign of spring.- A noun denoting a season. The deer drank from the spring. - A noun for outdoor running water. How did that spring come loose? - A noun for a mechanical part. Don't spring that kind of surprise on me. - An acti

Finding Time to Write

During the month of April, “busy” was the operative term to describe my life. In fact, “busy” is not a strong enough word to define me. In April, I: edited 4 novel manuscripts and a collection of poetry wrote several articles for various columns read over 30 articles and sections of books for various academic projects hit crunch time for end-of-semester, where I had to produce drafts of non-profit grant proposals, business proposals, pilot studies, etc. racked up many hours of “bonding time” with my Usability team as we went through testing for a project that’s due soon This list does not count for time in class, time on phone with various clients (current and potential), time conducting research for various projects (current and potential), and time on phone as sisterfriend. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of time to sleep. But there is one other thing I did in April that was probably the most rewarding: I started and completed Script Frenzy [

Advice from a Reader

A prolific reader (and book reviewer) I know posted this advice in a discussion forum. If you’re working on a novel, it’s worth considering. 1. Don't give me time shifts or reverse time chapters unless you clearly indicate what you are doing and the purpose is absolutely necessary to make your story work. 2. No backstory after chapter one . If it's that important, you should have written the earlier book instead. 3. Don't assume I have read all your previous books, but don't fully include them in the current book unless relevant. 4. Refrain from obscure references outside the current book. No, I don't recall what painting is hanging on the far west wall in the room of the Louvre just beyond where the Mona Lisa is displayed, and frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. 5. Don't start multiple stories in the first 50 pages with the vague promise that they will all be resolved by the end of the book. Life occurs in sequence, not parallel. 6. Give y

Busted! Authors caught infusing first lines with conflict

Conflict (discussed in my April 16 post ) is so crucial to creating reader interest that it's never too soon to introduce it. The following authors were able to suggest conflict right off the bat, in their opening sentences. Whether indicative of the story’s central conflict or some other introductory or bridging conflict, these openings pique our curiosity — Ooh, what's this? —and tip us into the story because we want more. Each of these sentences is sprung with tension born of conflict. They are worth studying. Jeffrey Eugenides in Middlesex (fiction): I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Tobias Wolff in This Boy’s Life (memoir): Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide. John Irving in A Prayer for Owen Meany (the novel the movie Simon Birch is based on): I am doomed to

Is Your Story Science Fiction or Urban Fantasy?

The Science Fiction and Fantasy subgenres are very often blurred, and, if you don’t set out with the intention of deliberately writing one or the other genre, it can be difficult to categorise a story that has elements of both genres. Science Fiction Science Fiction – which is shortened to SF, not “Sci Fi” – is used to describe hard- to medium-core science-based fiction. The science forming the background of the book can be hard science, such as nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, chemistry, biology, geology, genetics, robotics, etc – or it could be a soft science like psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. Whatever the science discipline referenced, it forms a large part of the plot process. The current laws of the discipline must be followed, or, if broken, there must be an explanation for the fictional possibility of breaking or bending the laws. Sci-Fi Sci-Fi is the fun version of Science Fiction. Sci-Fi can play with concepts that would never be possible based on our