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Friday, September 28, 2012

Publishing Pulse 9/28/2012

Happy Friday!

Author Kate Messner has some great tips on thinking before you thank writers in your acknowledgement page.

Thinking of branching out? Author Joanna Penn's post on the lessons she's learned from one year of being an author entrepreneur.

With more people reading ebooks, it's even more important to make sure the grammar and formatting are done well. Price is another important consideration as evidenced by the polarized reviews on Amazon for J.K. Rowling's latest release. (Via GalleyCat.)

Also in the news is the lawsuit Penguin is filing against several of its authors for failing to deliver their books after receiving a large part of their advance. (Via The Smoking Gun.)

Porter Anderson's Writing on the Ether has a great round up discussing fraudulent reviews and some things to think about if you're both a reviewer and an author.

Author Patricia C. Wrede discusses looking at the whole body in order to escape the body language code that's so easy to fall into: sighing, shrugging, smiling, etc.

No matter how you're published, keeping track of the numbers (of books sold) can be a maddening thing. Author Kris Rusch talks about why authors should avoid looking at numbers as it can lead to short-term thinking.

Have a great weekend!

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespellApplespell, and Frogspell), and Slippers of Pearl, and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Social Media Basket

by Stina Lindenblatt @stinall

Unlike in the past, authors are now expected to take an active role in marketing their books. This becomes even more critical if you’re not a bestselling author with a publicist at your beck and call. Social networking plays a key role in achieving success. Through it, we find our critique partners, beta readers, and writer friends. When it comes time to promote your book, they are the ones who will be talking about it with their friends, reviewing it on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. They might have industry connections that will benefit you. For example, they might know authors who would be happy to blurb your book or have contacts with major book blogs. Never underestimate the power of the connections you can make through social networking.

With the vast array of social media sites available, how do you decide which ones are worthwhile? All take time to do. All come with pros and cons. Choices are good, but before you decide, here are some tips to consider:

There Are Only 24 Hours In A Day

During that twenty-four hour period, you are supposed to sleep (yes, that isn’t optional), work, look after the kids, help them with their homework, do chores, exercise, oh, and write your next story (or non-fiction piece). Most mere mortals can’t do all this and spend several hours a day using every form of social media available with glowing results. You need to limit what you use and the time spent on it. Maximize your efforts to get the best results.

Fashions Change

Who here remembers the poodle skirt (or remembers seeing it in the movie Grease)? Who here still wears one? I thought so. Like fashion, the popularity of the different social media sites wavers over time, or the popularity of a given site might change for a certain target market. For example, Facebook used to be popularity with teens. Now, more and more are drifting to other sites such as Pinterest and Youtube (among others). This doesn’t mean they have abandoned Facebook entirely. There are plenty of teens who still use it. But with its growing popularity with adults, Facebook is losing teen appeal. This is why it’s important to know your target market. If you’re focusing on the wrong market, you’ll miss the mark by chasing after the wrong social media sites. 

And Then It Exploded

Last week, something happened to my blog that left me in a major panic. For some reason, my blog post didn’t show up in my subscribers’ inboxes. It took me a long time to discover the problem. Turns out, my RSS feed was no longer updating when I posted. Without the updates, my posts weren’t showing up in email inboxes, Blogger Dashboard, Google Reader, blog rolls, Tweeter, Facebook. You get the picture? Unless you visited my site directly, you wouldn’t have known I was still actively posting. I tried many things, and at one point I verified my blog according to Google instructions. It passed, but not without a long list of things I should change. And this came with a warning not to do anything if you don’t understand coding. I thought my blog was doomed and I would have to start all over ago. Not exactly comforting after all the years of hard work I’ve put into my blog. Fortunately, someone at the Google Help Forum was able to solve the problem*. But if I hadn’t been able to solve it, can you imagine how I would have felt if the only social networking I did was blog? I would have lost everything, including my followers. Fortunately, since I also use Twitter and Facebook, my social network was not doomed.

It’s Social Networking Not Promotional Networking

Some writers treat social networking as a one way street. They post on their personal blogs, but rarely take the time to comment back on the commenter’s blog. Yes, if you get a large number of comments, it does take time. In this case, you might want to blog less often, or at least make an effort to comment on some of the regular commenter’s posts once a week. If you only get a few comments, then take the time and read the commenters’ latest posts (you might learn something) and comment. It shows you care and are willing to give and not just take. 

With Twitter, you can auto schedule your tweets. The problem with this is it comes off as promotional, because you’re skipping on the social part of social media and that turns people off. Remember, when you give and take, it’s social media. When you take take take, it’s promotional. And when it’s solely promotional, you won’t gain the support of those who can help boost your writing career.

How many forms of social media do you actively use? Is there one you prefer over the others?

*if you have a Blogger account and it’s linked to Feedburner, check out this link. Everyone is susceptible for the same thing happening to their blog. It’s an easy fix, and it will save you time and a lot of heartache.  

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Write Tighter, Write Smarter

As a homeschooled writer, I'd learned to improve my craft one layer at a time.

My first WIP was a stack of notebooks, pages of endless prose that I'd written one summer. I wrote it for fun, an imaginary escape, without the least care for grammar or structure or plot. It was a technical wreck but I wasn't worried--because no one but me would ever read it.

My second…that was different. I knew I wanted to share that story. I also knew I had a lot to learn about writing. I began to amass my writer's library and scoured the internet for articles and discussions and workshops, all in the hopes of improving my writing. I spent years learning how to be a better writer--and will spend many more years learning, too.

Recently, I came across those notebooks of my first attempts at writing a novel and was shocked to see what my style was like when I wrote it eight years ago. I think the aspect that struck me the most was how much I rambled.

It wasn't that I wrote endless chapters of setting or backstory or dialogue. My problem was that I wrote the way I spoke--and I spoke with a lot of extra words.

Extra Words

Extra words make your sentences flimsy. A reader wants the heart of the story--and extra words get in the way. Readers crave hooks and action and a thrilling pace but extra words can cause the story to stumble.

My WIP had a lot of extra words. When I read back through those pages, I found myself skimming. That's the ultimate sign that I lost my audience--and my audience was me. How bad is that?

Tighten Those Lines

When I started homeschooling myself, I'd picked up loads of tips on how to improve the mechanics of my writing. Without realizing it, I began to write smarter because I wrote tighter. Of course, I was learning as I went--and applied most of my new skills through editing.

Editing is a technique that should always be done in layers--sentence, paragraph, scene, and story. You can tighten your writing at each of these layers, resulting in better craft and a better story.

Sentence Level

Extra words like to hide in sentences, adding bulk without substance. You can use the "find" function on your word processor to hunt out those words and eliminate them. The biggest culprits? Words such as really, very, and just, to name a few. You don't need them.

And not just single words-- entire categories such as adverbs and adjectives will loosen your sentences. If you need to enhance a noun or a verb, it may mean you didn't pick the right word in the first place. Find a stronger word and kick the enhancers to the curb.

Another tip to tighten your sentences? Skip the obvious. "He put his hat on his head." Unless he often puts his hat on a different body part, you can skip telling us where he put it.

You can also skip the obvious by eliminating things like "she could see" or "I heard"--because you follow those phrases with whatever is seen and heard. And gerunds? You probably don't need them--if your character grabs a gun and has no intention of swinging it like a club, you can drop the "to shoot" that might follow.

Paragraph Level

When looking to tighten a paragraph, I look for sections that feel like telling and not showing. I'll add a line or two that shows the action and then go back to eliminate the telling part.

Okay, you may be thinking, how can that be tighter? You're adding words!

Yes, I am…but they are healthy, vibrant words, packed with wholesome story goodness. I eliminated the empty calorie words. End result? Better writing and a stronger story.

Example: I could tell she didn't believe me.

The fix: With a sharp shake of her head, she jabbed a finger into my chest. "You do this every time! I tell you that I'm finally happy, and you concoct some stupid story about why I shouldn't be."

Yep, more words…but now the reader sees the disbelief and doesn't have to take the narrator's word for it. I added action and dialogue. That original line "I could tell she didn't believe me" is now fluff to be eliminated. Bye bye, extra words.

Scene Level

Sometimes your sentences are tight but your scenes aren't. Maybe you've got too much going on.

You can tighten your scenes by watching for unnecessary elements--any character or prop or intention or action that doesn't move the scene forward can be removed because they are distractions.

What if one of the characters wasn't present? Is someone worrying about an issue that is keeping the scene from being streamlined? If you can change a character's thoughts or attitude before the scene occurs, would you ultimately improve the flow of the scene itself?

Watch for elements that seem stagnant or present obstacles to your action. Removing them will tighten your scenes and your story.

Sometimes the element is an entire scene. Try deleting it and see what it does to improve the story.

Story Level

Take a step back and think about your story as a whole. How can you tighten it?

List your plotline and sub-plotlines. Do you have sub-plots that do little to move your story forward? If the little stories don't contribute to the plot or to the character's growth, you may be hindering the big story.  It's time to send those extra words on their way.

And the characters that are window-dressing? Send them home. Extra people mean extra words. If they don't work the story, there isn't a reason to keep them around.

Make the Cut

You may be intimidated by the prospect of cutting scenes and storylines and even characters from your story because of the damage it will do to your word count. Keep in mind that readers only want the words worth reading. You can always go back and add to the real story, using strong, vibrant language.

And think of it this way--you'll save an agent or editor the trouble of asking you to revise those same issues. Extra words keep your work from attaining "shelf-ready status". Be brave and do what's best for your story. You and your story and your writing craft will be all the better for it.

(Image courtesy of nkzs.)

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Publishing Pulse for Friday, September 21, 2012

Success Stories

Congratulations to the latest writer to share her success story with us! Best wishes go out to Jessica Taylor, whose tale can be found here.

Ready to write your own success story?

If you're a QueryTracker member (membership is free) you can view the database of more than 1200 agent and publisher profiles. Premium Members can be notified whenever an agent or publisher is added or updates their profile, in addition to receiving access to several other enviable features.

Social Media

The Inspired Selection blog held a "TweetUp" on Thursday with the theme "How To Get Into Publishing". If you use Twitter, you may want to search the hashtag #InspiredTweetUp to see if you find any helpful tips.

Are you a hashtag user? Share your favorite "hashtags for writers" with us.

EBook News

Would you share your Kindle highlights with a fellow reader? You'll be throwing yourself into the latest fray in the DRM wars: can sharing highlights be considered piracy?

The results of Aptara’s and Publisher’s Weekly’s April ebook survey are out...and if you think digital reading is just a fad, you'll be disappointed. According to this article, almost 900 publishers from publishing houses of every size range participated. The surprises? Ebook lending (43% of publishers don't participate in lending programs) and enhanced ebook formats (most felt they didn't increase sales). Other highlights can be found here and the full report here.

The Bloggity Blogs

Rachelle Gardner gives us five reasons why she goes to writers' conferences...and they make me want to go, too!

Suzie Townsend shared this post on what her query responses actually mean--an excellent post for us queriers who agonize over every word in a form rejection and over-analyze each response. (Thank you, Suzie, for saving us from ourselves. *grin*)

Are you a blogger? Here are steps you can take to turn your idea into a fabulous blog post worth sharing.

Wishful Thought for the Weekend

Can Norway's publishing model work in the US? Ah, but we can dream, right, folks?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The art of the complete rewrite

A few years ago, a local homeowner took a contractor to court because the contractor had assembled his house off-level, then attempted to hide the flaws by shimming the cabinets and installing doors at a slight angle. The final straw was when the homeowner spilled a beer and it went under the kitchen wall and soaked the living room carpet. The house couldn't be fixed; it would need to be rebuilt.

No one wants to talk about this, but the same thing can happen to your novel. The novel you carefully crafted in every detail may in some way be "off level."

Rewriting: the edit-beyond-an-edit. I've done it three times.

A rewrite is a necessity when you've got what's basically a good novel, but it has a structural flaw so deep that you cannot prop up the thing by any other means. The scope of the change is such that it's going to affect every page, if not every line. For example, changing from third person to first person, or present tense to past tense, or changing the setting from Cincinnati to feudal Japan.

When I got back the rights to The Guardian, I discussed my intended changes with my agent. "I just need to move all the commas around," I said. "I didn't know back then what a comma splice was."  She said, "That sounds like a pain."  And with what Mark Shea calls "hermetically-sealed pride," I replied, "I type really fast. It'll be easy."

In actuality, as I began "moving all the commas around," I discovered that a) I didn't know how to write back when my first novel got published, and b) the commas were the least of the matter. Every single sentence in the book changed. That's not a joke. I realized in rewriting that the message of The Guardian could be summed up as "Emotions are dangerous and hurt people, and the most dangerous and hurtful is love." I realized one of the main characters was a classic codependent, and this was held up as a laudible thing. Worst, I saw that in my authorial intent to help the main character find redemption, I'd given every other character that same goal, when in effect the main character was a murderer and understanding him should be the last goal on everyone's mind.

Rewrite. Time for a huge rewrite.

(I'm sorry my examples are from my own work, but I don't feel comfortable sharing the flaws of others' pre-rewritten books.)

Several years ago, I looked at a book I'd written in when I was 19, and when I finished, I remembered a scene from the "Gorgo" episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where a ship has just finished fighting a storm and a monster, and then, after a harrowing moment...it's the next day and they're having smooth sailing. Mike and the 'bots sing to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,
They pulled into port -- everyone was okay!
They went out for lunch and felt better!
(Just a note: being a MSTie has helped immensely with editing my own work. Either I make fun of it or everyone else will. Guess which option I prefer?)

The story was okay, and I loved the characters, but there was no tension. In my effort to have the main character survive the initial attack, I'd had everything happen too quickly, too easily.

Rewrite. Time for a huge rewrite. Moving scenes, changing motivations, maintaining the danger, having one of the protagonists inadvertently hinder the others -- rewrite.

So how do I recommend you do it?

Don't attempt to this kind of scope with an edit. Begin with a blank document. (Okay, I'm lying: that second one? I rrewrote it by hand.) Print out your entire novel and glance at what you're about to rewrite, then turn away and type it fresh. For any pet sentences you must keep, freewrite to that point and then glance at the sentence and type that, but then look away again.

Here's why: most likely any mistake you made wasn't by accident. You (and I) made those mistakes with full intention because we didn't know at the time not to do it. We probably made a decision to write that novel in that way, and at the time, those decisions appeared correct. Of course I know how to put commas in a sentence. Of course I know what tension is. Of course that's not codependency -- that's sacrificial love. Can you hear me now? Because doubtless I said it back then when I created tension-free comma-spliced codependent novels.

You can't edit that out. Artifacts of your old way of writing are going to stay if you just try to sit the new writing on the old structure. Your novel deserves better than that. Give it a level foundation. Start with a blank document.

As you go through, mark up the old document. Throw out the pages as you finish them, but if there's something you need for later, circle it and save the sheet and place it when the time comes. That scene from the end which makes no sense when the MC is safe but would be heartbreaking when it appears he's going to die? Yank it up front. All that backstory which is so heartbreaking to you and boring to the reader? Use your scissors, cut it up by paragraphs if you have to, and paper-clip it to places later in the manuscript so the reader can enjoy the heartbreak then.

Make every change you have to. Don't leave anything "for later." Know in advance every change you think you'll have to make, and then don't be discouraged when clearing up that problem uncovers a dozen more.

It's worth it. How do I know? Seven Archangels: Annihilation was published in 2008 by the first publisher I submitted to after the rewrite. The Guardian will be re-released at the end of the month as The Wrong Enemy. (One dollar per preorder goes to Heifer International!) And the third one...?  It's on submission now. I'll let you know what happens.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemyto be released by MuseItUp on September 28th. She is also author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Online Writing Resources

Courtesy of fangol
I've never been very good at reading books on writing. I'm not sure why, but I have a hard time making it through them. There are a few that were definitely worth reading: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Save the Cat, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Emotion Thesaurus, and Spunk and Bite (a livelier and interesting take on Strunk and White's Elements of Style). Bird by Bird is another I haven't gotten around to yet, but have heard nothing but good things about. And, of course, I would love a complete set of The Oxford English Dictionary. (I am a word geek and proud. :p)

But even though I have a hard time sitting down with writing books, I have a few online resources that I would have a hard time doing without.

For pesky grammar questions, I head straight to Grammar Girl or the Purdue Online Writing Lab. I also google my writing question--especially if it deals with whether or not to hyphenate words or if it's a word I know but can't remember how to spell. Edittorrent is also an awesome grammatical resource.

If I'm looking for links to industry news, I check here on Fridays for the Publishing Pulse. Stina Lindenblatt's Friday round up is especially awesome as is Cynsations. I also check out Porter Anderson's Writing on the Ether every Thursday and The Passive Voice every day. Kris Rusch's Thursday posts are also excellent if you're interested in writing contracts. Twitter chats can also be especially useful--like #yalitchat, #mglitchat, #kidlitchat, etc. (Full disclosure, I'm a co-founder of #mglitchat.)

For writing tips, I enjoy author Patricia C. Wrede's blog, The Secret Story Lair (focuses on analyzing episodic serial fiction, and David Farland's Daily Kick. The Writing Excuses podcasts are also excellent, as is The Bookshelf Muse.

What about you? What are some of your favorite online writing resources?

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespellApplespell, and Frogspell), and Slippers of Pearl, and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Publishing Pulse for September 14, 2012

New At QueryTracker:

Congratulations to Tess Sharpe, our newest success story!

We've updated six agent profiles this week, including Natalia Aponte, who's new to the database. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.

If you're a QueryTracker premium member, then you can be notified whenever an agent or publisher is added or updates their profile. If you're not a premium member, you can just check for yourself.

Publishing News:

Apparently 55% of YA books are purchased by adults, and 78% of those are purchased for their own reading.

Harper Voyager will be accepting unagented submissions for two weeks in October. Bring them your SFF and horror!

If you love ebooks, be warned: your purchased digital content may die with you.

A security breech led to tickets for a JK Rowling reading going on sale too early. Well, no one wanted fans left out in the cold, so after a venue change, they're going to honor them anyway.

Around the Blogosphere:

Indie authors share the one thing they've done that's brought them more exposure.

Eight writing secrets most writers won't admit to.

Mistaking melodrama for emotion and complexity for plot: why you need to kill your darlings.

And over at my personal blog, I'm making an offer: for every copy of The Wrong Enemy pre-ordered (release date September 28th) I'm donating a dollar to Heifer International. Let's buy them a goat or two!

Literary Quote of the Week:
"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." -Franz Kafka

That's all we have for now. Until next week, keep those queries flying!

Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemyto be released by MuseItUp on September 28th. She is also author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids.