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Showing posts from July, 2018

Talking in the Nineties

One way to define a generation is their use of language, especially the slang developed in their teens and twenties. Slang words and phrases often reflect the political changes or social preoccupations of the time. You probably have stories that are built around the use of these timely terms. I recently ghostwrote a memoir with many scenes set in the 1960s. One of the themes of this memoir was how secrets were preserved in the family by simply not talking about them, or even ignoring that they existed. I wrote that the children in the family had internalized their parents’ wishes to keep things secret by telling themselves “don’t go there.” It wasn’t until I was in the editing phase that one of my beta-readers said he was jarred by the “don’t go there” phrase because it didn’t seem to belong to the 1960s. And of course he was quite right. I unconsciously took a slang phrase that originated in the 1990s and applied it retroactively. This is one of the common pitfalls in writing memo

So You Want to Self-Publish

Getting your book plucked from obscurity isn’t just a self-publishing nightmare. A writer can be with the best publisher, get solid reviews, or win awards, but it still doesn’t guarantee the kind of success that few writers enjoy. For most, after the buzz of an initial success dies down, getting back in the public’s sphere may take another push. It could be a second successful book, controversy, a movie contract, or such amazing writing skills that reviewers persevere until readers catch on. Few self-published books get there. Andy Weir’s, The Martian , originally a self-published book picked up by a major publisher, was then optioned for film. Fifty Shades of Grey, Eragon, Legally Blonde , and, coming soon, Hugh Howley’s Wool , were all initially self-published before Hollywood came calling. However, a self-published author has to work twice as hard to get noticed as some believe that if she were any good, she would have had a publisher to begin with as validation of her talent.

Why Novelists Should Consider Writing Magazine Articles

You can spend months researching fascinating bits of information for your novels. Maybe you found out your character who lived in the early 1900’s couldn’t be drinking Makers Mark because it wasn’t available until 1958. Or maybe you read about an ancient Japanese tradition that says if a sumo wrestler makes a baby cry it will bring the little one good health. Some research finds its way into your novels, while other facts make you shake your head in amazement, but never make it to the page. Instead of having all this interesting information die a slow death in the depths of your computer hard drive, consider writing articles using these topics. Writing magazine articles is a great way to use all this fascinating research, and it allows you the chance to get your name out there to potential new readers. If people read your article and enjoy it, it may compel them to look up your website or one of your other books listed in your short bio at the end of the piece. One Facebook post

POV or Writer Intrusion?

What is you favorite book? Why? Who's your favorite author? Why? What qualities in a book draw you to its story? If it's fiction, do you relate to the characters or their situations or both? What makes any book memorable for you? When a writer—first time or with decades of experience—sits down to apply words to paper or hard drive, he or she begins a journey that often travels many roads before reaching its destination of publication. Is there a shortcut? Almost always. Should a writer take that shortcut for the sake of expediency or for any other reason? Definitely not. Why? Writing a book demands the creation of a life or, more often, several lives. Just as in the real world, this doesn't happen overnight. Characters in a story must be as three-dimensional as those we see walking down the street, those who live next door, as family, friends, and, yes, enemies. This realism must resonate with our reader to such an extent that the reader can step into the story and w

Snarky Cousin Is Back

Ah, my dearies, it appears that my cousin, The Style Maven, has run off somewhere. Perhaps with that charming-in-all-ways cabana boy that we saw last week at the club. I've called and called and looked and looked, but she is nowhere to be found. Of course, her mother, my dear Aunt Sadie, denies that her darling daughter would do such a thing, but I know my cousin better than her mother does. Enough said about that before I let loose a little secret or two that I'd rather not. I'm sure my cousin will be back when she tires of her little "vacation," but in the meantime, I must do my best to continue in the fine tradition of writing lessons masked in humor and snark that she established oh so well here. You may recall that  a few weeks ago, I wrote about  body parts , that some authors move about all willy nilly - namely eyes - without giving a thought to the fact that eyes do not like to roll all over the place as if they have lost their sockets. Since then

Writers on Their Toes

~ Editor/Author/Publisher Mysti Berry is our guest at the Blood-Red Pencil today. ~ I’d like to share with you the most marvelous discoveries of my first adventure as a publisher. Editing a charity anthology LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE was my first time editing a collection. The process was a series of delightful discoveries punctuated by occasional fits of swearing at the software. I’ll spare you the swearing but share what I learned about crime writers during this madcap adventure.  Discovery #1: Crime Writers are Generous  Exhausted by my own pointless rage-tweeting and desperate to do something useful, I decided to publish an anthology of crime short stories to raise money to help fight voter suppression. I invited writer friends and writers who are barely more than acquaintances to contribute. Nearly all of them said yes. This astonished me, because most of the writers in the anthology are well published—he or she has something to lose if a story shows up in a low-quality bo

What is a Sentence?

Photo by Sean Mason , via Flickr Oxford English Dictionaries online defines a sentence as ”A set of words that is complete in itself, typically containing a subject and predicate, conveying a statement, question, exclamation, or command, and consisting of a main clause and sometimes one or more subordinate clauses.” In fiction, an enormous amount of leeway is given in sentence length and structure according to the novel’s genre. Short sentences increase tension in thrillers that feature fast-paced scenes. Dialogue-heavy fiction gives the author an opportunity to play with fragments and short, snappy exchanges. The secret is to understand what a sentence is before messing around with it. One of greatest failings of modern education is the removal of sentence diagramming from the study of writing. Editor Linda Lane explored this topic in her Blood-Red Pencil post, Excuse Me, Please, I Need a Diagram . Linda noted, “Knowing the parts of speech helps us use words most effectively

Is Editing a Dying Art?

Like the English language, the landscape of professional editing is an ever-changing kaleidoscope. We've come a long way from the days of the legendary Maxwell Perkins, the Charles Scribner editor who first discovered and published F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. Perkins had running battles with the poetic but entirely undisciplined Wolfe, but ultimately convinced the author to let him cut 90,000 words from Look Homeward, Angel , a seminal novel that would have been indecipherable (not to mention unpublishable) in its original form. Back then book editors were gatekeepers and kingmakers. They were both despised and revered. Today, opinions tend to run more to the "despised" side of the equation. I doubt many of us, no matter how excellent our work, feel much revered. Like so many jobs in the Arts, our profession has fallen a long way. Other than acquisition editors who buy books for publication, most publishing houses have eliminated the maj

The Antagonist Role in Romance

Love stories are primarily about two characters who meet, are attracted, face a set of challenges, and overcome those challenges to live happily ever after. They have friends who are thrilled for them and foes who are not so thrilled. Do you really need an evil lord or a psychotic killer to keep them apart? Not unless you are writing a paranormal or crime thriller. Do you really need an antagonist at all? No, if you want to keep the tone light and conflict mild, friends and foes can cause enough mischief. But you do need antagonistic characters. If someone in your lovers’ story world is dead set on keeping them apart and actively working against them, the potential for breakup conflict is higher. Your job as a romance writer is to instill doubt in the reader that your love interests will end up happily ever after. There are several types of antagonism to draw from. Let’s look at a few: 1. Disapproving parents or family members. 2. Disapproving best friend who rejects the