Archive for February, 2011
Thursday, February 10th, 2011 by Candace Havens
My friend Nikki Duncan is always finding ways to hone her craft. She’s devised the easy tips for editing and we wanted to share them with you today.
5 Self-Editing Tips to Ease the Editing Discomfort
Editing, whether it’s after a critique from critique partners or with feedback from an editor or is being done on your own is an intuitive process. The biggest question though is knowing what changes to make and which ones to not. In and effort to help, I thought I’d share some of the bigger things I’ve learned so far.
1. It’s not about the line by line edits so much as learning to see the bigger picture.
2. Listening to those seemingly vague responses from agents and editors can reveal a lot. The key is taking a step back and looking at the work objectively.
3. Awkward/stilted writing is easier to spot and fix than you think.
4. Don’t rely on clichés. If everyone reading your story is going to be able to finish a phrase or sentence find a way to change it up.
5. Learn to identify and nix writing traps specific to you.
Okay, so those are big picture items. Let’s break them down some.
1. To learn to see the big picture, stop worrying about the smaller details like who a heroine’s possible stalker is and ask more pressing questions like why is she being stalked? How does being stalked impact her role or the hero’s role in the story.
Yes, the identity of the villain matters, but if you’re writing romance consider where you want the weight of the story.
2. Vague feedback. Even as a published author we get feedback from our editors or agents that leaves us scratching our heads. I had one recently that I’ve only just managed to fully figure out. What was it? you ask.
Well, I was told some parts of the story don’t seem fully realized. That’s it. That was the direction I was given.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re close to your characters and the story and will have a hard time pinpointing what element isn’t “fully realized”. Here’s what worked for me. Put that story aside and write something else for awhile. Thoughts about story A will pop into your head. Write them down and keep working on story B. Before you know it you’ll have story A worked out again.
And if you don’t have that much time to spare – try brainstorming with someone who hasn’t heard about the story a bazillion times.
3. Awkward/stilted writing. The easiest I think to fix. Read your work out loud. Trust me, you’ll hear missing details and bizarre cadences.
4. The greatest thing since [fill in the blank]. You put “sliced bread” there didn’t you? That’s the kind of cliché you need to nix or twist. And keep in mind, these things can also be overused phrases you use. Twisting it once but using it ten times is the same as using the original.
5. Your writing traps… I see this as mostly your patterns in writing. Examples:
Always using the same words to convey the same message like saying desire ramped/ratcheted higher becomes a trap that’s easy to fall into. Rewrite those lines differently to more actively show the scene.
Watch for sentence patterns and dialog tags. Look at how you’re putting words on the page. Unconsciously, she always began her sentences the same way. How often is a pattern repeated? Or…
“I do not,” she argued.
“You do,” he insisted.
“Well, you’re wrong,” she huffed.
They’re basic examples, but you get the idea right?
One last thing I try to watch for in my own edits is echo words. Look for the occurrence of things like: heart, lips, eyes, gaze, stare, pulse, brows, voice, tone. Do you describe them the same way over and over? Other overused words are often: that, was, just, so, as, like.
I know I’m forgetting stuff, so tell me what you keep an eye out for when you edit.
Nikki Duncan writes sassy and sexy fun with lyrically layered love, senses and often suspense. Check out her books, including her latest release WICKED …in Whispering Cove by visiting www.nikkiduncan.com.
Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
Lately, I’ve seen several agents rip off their rank insignia and surrender, aka, find another job. That is in line with the people laid off or leaving publishing houses, the midlist authors whose contracts were not renewed, etc. etc. So what will the agent’s role in the future of publishing be? Or more accurately, what should the role of agents in the future of publishing be?
For now, I see about a two-year window where agents can operate traditionally and survive if they are established. Read PW Daily/Deals and it’s pretty much business as usual, although less books are being bought for less money, which directly impacts an agent’s bottom line. But waiting that two years without changing will cause an agent to end up in the same boat as Dorchester which refused to see the changes occurring in publishing and suddenly decided this year to completely switch their focus in publishing, after ignoring the warning signs for a decade. Not working. A smart agent (like the smart author) will examine the handwriting on the wall and try to see through it, to what lies on the other side.
Andrew Wylie tried it. He announced in 2010 that his agency would bring most of his clients’ backlist into print in eBook. The publishing world went berserk. Random House blacklisted him for a while. One of the tenets of Warrior Writer is that anger is an indicator of a deep truth and a strong need for change. Random House’s extreme reaction indicated more to me than anything else that publishers fear agents supplanting them. After all, few of the Big 6 have a slush pile any more. They rely on agents to sift through that for them. So agents have to ask themselves, as eBooks take a larger and large slice of the market, why they need publishers if they’re doing the heavy lifting of manning quality control in publishing. Why wouldn’t an established agency with a list of headline clients, not set itself up as it’s own publishing house via eBooks and Lightning Source Print On Demand? Outsource the editing to the many editors who have been laid off from traditional publishers, and also outsource the formatting and cover art work? In essence, become what we’re doing at Who Dares Wins Publishing?
The line between agent and publisher is going to blur. What does this mean for authors? For now, not much, although if you have an agent, there should be some discourse on what your agent envisions their future to be. And yours.
Now for some blasphemy. I’ve attended a lot of writing conference over the years. I participate in social media and watch the discourses. Read blogs. Here are a couple of suggestions for writers and agents that are controversial, but, screw it.
Writers. Query every agent you can. I don’t care if they handle your genre/type of book or not. With electronic queries, what does it cost you? The time to get the email for the submission and the agent’s name. I’m so tired of hearing agents sit on panels and tell authors all the things they don’t want. It’s part of their job to go through the slush pile. A good book is a good book. The reality is that there are so few diamonds in the rough, that any diamond looks good. If the agent doesn’t handle that type of book, but recognizes quality, they will pass it on to someone who does. But by limiting your number of queries, you limit your possibility of success.
I’ve had authors tell me that will piss off agents. Don’t rejections piss you off? But you have to react professionally, and so should agents. If I see one more tweet about how hard it is to go through the slush pile from an agent, I’m going to scream. It’s called a job. Sort of like how hard it is for a writer to write. Besides, if you send to the wrong agent and piss them off, they’re the wrong agent anyway, so you haven’t lost anything. This is in line with my change in position on self-publishing. The reality for all of this is your odds of success as a new author are less than .5% (that’s not 5% but 0.5%). But someone is going to be successful. The more shots you take, the better the odds. Aiming better, for a writer, is writing better. Just last night I saw another tweet from some junior agent, with all of two years in the business complaining that ‘even published authors must follow our guidelines for submission’. So go ahead and keep rejecting based on form. Short-sighted.
Agents. Come up with a standard query format for fiction. You constantly complain about what you get and how it doesn’t follow your specific format. You’re not that important in the big picture. Get over yourself. The AAR needs to adopt a standard query format. A writer submitting hundreds of queries can’t spend weeks adopting their query to each specific agent’s desires. The funny thing about this one is: it will help agents clean out their slush pile that much quicker. Win-win all around. When I propose this, an echoing silence from all those agents who tweet-complain about their slush pile.
The twist on this is that the diamonds will follow my three rules of rule breaking in Warrior Writer anyway.
Writers: Detail for your agent your career plan. Give them your strategic and tactical goals as developed under Special Force One (What) of Warrior Writer. Show them you have a future and a plan. Then work with your agent to see how they can help you.
Agents: Come up with a training program for your writers. Just getting a writer a book contract doesn’t mean they know anything at all about how to be an author. Hell, use my Warrior Writer book and program if you want. But to not train your authors is to propagate the 90% failure rate for first novels. We just can’t afford such a failure rate in today’s market. Do you have a Standing Operating Procedure you give to each of your newly signed authors? In the long run, this will save you time and give you a higher success rate. Yet, not a single agent or editor I’ve talked to has an SOP for new authors. The first thing we did when a new team member joined our A-Team was hand them our team SOP. Writers, agents and editors need to be a team, but leaving the writer ignorant helps no one.
Authors: Follow up. I was stunned when I heard that only 10% of authors who get requested to send further material after a one-on-one at a conference (BTW, most agents tell everyone to send material) follow through. Then I thought about it. For years I’ve been telling authors who invest good money to attend my workshops to feel free to follow up with query letters, synopsis, whatever, after the workshop. Less than 10% do. So I believe that percentage.
It’s a rough world out there. Wishing for the good old days is like the dinosaur wishing it hadn’t strayed into the tar pit. Assimilate and succeed.
Write It Forward.
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 by Sasha White
Usually when I see a blog post by an author about social networking sites it focusses on the promotional angle of things. And there is no denying that places like Facebook and Twitter are handy tools in that area. However, I want to mention that there is another plus to being apart of those places. Support.
We all have our support network,friends,family and so on.(or we should have a support network), but sometimes that isn’t enough. Especially if/when you’re in the middle of a meltdown and everyone you know is too busy watching the superbowl to listen to you whine about your story issues.
I want to share an example. In case the superbowl comment didn’t give you a hint, I had a bit of a meltdown on SUnday when trying to write a story. The same story I’ve been trying to write for over a week. Okay, so a week of trying to start a story doesn’t really warrant a meltdown,. But what if I’d just spent the past 3 months trying to start another story-never getting past the first 500 words? So with that in mind I switched ideas, and started from scratch so I could make the deadline that had been set (Feb 10th) That gave me 10 days to write a 12k short story.Not that bad really,1k a day. As long as I could get started. Only I couldn’t. My new idea that had felt so exciting last week petered out and I was left with nothing but dread inside me.
so I posted on Twitter (and Facebook, as my twitter feeds into my Facebook) about thinking I was crazy to think I could ever write again.
That got a few comments, and on Facebook the comments turned into a discussion which led me to write this in the notes section to explain what I was feeling and why I was in such a mood.
Someone please kick me in the head….
maybe if you rattle my brains something creative will shake loose.
Here’s a couple of ideas…maybe you can help…:)
The story theme needs to be centered around a Rock somehow…and I want to connect it with my previous contemporaries…
Straight -up Simon Banks (can either be cop or DR..was originally thought to be Dr, but then I felt lazy with research…I already know lots about cops..lol and it would work) is in a bad place in his life because his little sisiter is in a coma, and he feels like it’s his fault. (Big Brother guilt, no real reason)
He walks into her hospital room to find some freinds (other characters from my other stories) had brought in a holistic healer to work on her since there is no medical reason for her to be in a coma. As a traditional Dr,(or just a set in reality cop) he ofcourse derides the holistic, and so on. But really, that it’s. I have no plot for the other 8k. LOL and there needs to be more than the relationship and it’s oppsites attract thing or it will be just a rewrite of THE DEVIL INSIDE from Sexy Devil.
I could go stalker angle with how the sister got hurt,head trauma, and that could add something, but it doesn’t excite me as I can’t thnkof anything new to bring to that to make it so not cliche.
I have another idea about revisiting Karl and Lara from WICKED, but it would be no real story, just sort of their HEA with hot sex… and really, is that enough?
Same goes for Kelsey and Harlan from My Prerogative…
So, keeping in mind Carrie post from a couple weeks ago on Pretty Good v good v Sellable , and Charlene’s post las week on Being Special. I was in a pickle.
It would be easy to blame those posts on my block, but in reality it was me. I’ve always been better under pressure, when I have to think on my feet and not think too much, and over the last couple years, during my break from writing I’d convinced myself that a new writing process would work for me. Then reality hits, and guess what?That new process, the whole plot, just a little, didn’t work for me.
I’ve always known I’d never be a full on plotter, but I thought “Hey, if I have an outline, that would work.” Yeah, not so much. All I see when I try to think past the first scene in a story is holes. And the more I look, the bigger the holes get, then the tighter my chest gets, and the harder it is to breath until I just want to quit. And I hate quitters, so I get mad at myself, and yeah, that really helps. *snort*
Anyway, the point is, when iI put it out there that I was feeling like I should just give up and move on with something else (something non-writing) I got a response-from more than one person. Other writers,, and readers responded to alternately cheer me on, give me advice, or kick me in the butt. Maybe because it wasn’t my normal support network, but those responses somehow seemed more honest and heartfelt because these people really had no reason to lie to me. They also had no real reason to support me. They just did it because I’d put it out in the open, and they understood. They showed me the love, and it helped.
After being online for some tim, I took a nap for an hour,woke up refreshed, with a new idea, and I started in on it immediately. I’m going back to my old process -Don’t think too far ahead – because it works for me. Just like reaching out into cyberspace for some psychological support did.
Just something to think about the next time you hear someone say Facebook or twitter or blogging is a waste of time if you’ve got nothing to promote. Making friends, sharing yourself, and finding support is never a waste of time.
Monday, February 7th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
I want to talk about how to write a synopsis, but I also want to try an experiment. This is one of those topics that I see discussed far and wide, with a lot of anxiety. Writers will approach their novels with a sense of joy and accomplishment, but when it comes time to write the synopsis, dread sets in. They’ll spend as much time and stress on the three-to-five page summary of their story as they did the four hundred page story. Before I start talking about synopses — what they need to accomplish, and how I approach writing them — I want to ask you all: What is it about the synopsis that scares you, frustrates you, makes you pull your hair out? What kind of advice are you looking for?
Here are my current thoughts on the subject:
Stop thinking of it as the dreaded synopsis. You’ll psyche yourself out.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m cheating, because I haven’t written too many of these, and I don’t know how important any of them were to actually selling any of my books. When I get some time I want to see if I can find the one I wrote for Kitty and The Midnight Hour, but it’s on a different computer and backup disk, so it’ll take a little while to dig it up. If folks are interested, I can look for a synopsis I wrote for an actual published book and post it next week.
If the synopsis is for a book that isn’t finished yet — as it usually is when shopping proposals for subsequent books in a series — don’t sweat the details. No one is going to get upset if the final book doesn’t happen exactly the way the synopsis says it does. When pitching subsequent Kitty novels, I usually write a one to two page summary of what I’d like the book to be about, to give the editor an idea of what I’m thinking. In the end, the two don’t always totally resemble each other. And that’s okay.
The synopsis isn’t supposed to be a description of everything that happens in the book. It only needs to get across a few pieces of information: Who’s the protagonist? What’s the conflict? What’s the arc of the story? (The synopsis should include an ending.) What’s the tone of the story? Why should a reader care?
And it’s just like writing the book — show, don’t tell. You don’t need answer those questions explicitly, but an editor should have a good idea what those answers are after reading the synopsis.
The synopsis is a sales tool, and that’s it. It’s not being graded as a piece of art in its own right. It needs to get across a lot of information in a short amount of space, in a way that makes someone want to read the book.
Start with a one-paragraph summary that you might use for your query letter. You get one paragraph to convince an editor or agent to look at your book. How do you do that? Well, how do publishers do it? They put a paragraph on the cover to convince the reader to buy the book. You can do the same thing: here’s your chance to write your own cover blurb. What are the three or four most important things about the story?
Once you’ve got that cover blurb, expand it. Who’s the main character? Who are the most important secondary characters? What’s the primary conflict/mission? What’s the tone and style and purpose of the story? Write in that style. Use that voice.
Write practice synopses of your favorite books and movies, making them as streamlined and punchy as possible. You may be too close to your own novel to be able to do this well, but learning how to do it on someone else’s work may help you gain some objectivity with your own.
Is any of this helpful? What else would you like to talk about? What problems have you had? What have you tried that’s worked? Should I post a synopsis next week?
Saturday, February 5th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
Last week, I talked a bit about goals as a writer and shared that one of my values that I actively set goals for is paying it forward. I thought that I might expand on that a bit further this week.
For me, the concept of paying it forward as a writer is built on a foundational understanding that there is plenty of Publishing Pie to go around for everyone. And I believe that what we do is special enough that I want as many voices as possible in the Great Library we’re building.
As I look back on my career so far, there have been many, many people who paid it forward to me, showing me what they knew and pointing me towards what I needed to know. English teachers, writing friends, pros at conventions. In my case, it took something more than a village. It took a city. But their generosity and kindness made a difference and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
So here are some simple ways you can pay it forward. I hope you will.
1) Schools. This has become one of my favorites. Young eager brains excited about writing is…well…exciting. If you’re not quite established, you can still volunteer to help a teacher out. And if you’re getting established, you may even find them calling on you. Paying it forward to the younger folks behind us leaves a mark they’ll not forget.
2) Conventions. These are great for paying it forward. If you’re established, you can sit on panels about writing and even meet up with new writers afterwards in the bar. If you’re not established, you can meet pros and other new writers in the same places. And when you’re out at conventions, if you go, take the time to introduce people around. It takes nothing and that simple act could pay huge dividends for one or both people.
3) Critique Groups. I attended one exactly twice and though I took little away from the vast majority of the critiquers, I met one of the best friends I’ve ever had (and my first ever writing friend). John “J.A.” Pitts and I were pretty close to neck-and-neck in our development as new writers but he knew stuff I needed to know and he paid forward to me. I suspect he’d say I did the same for him. And it’s been a lifechanging friendship. For others, they’ve sworn by their crit groups as having given them what they need to move to the next place…and they’ve shared what they learned in helping the folks just a nudge behind them on the trail by offering insight into the stories that are workshopped.
4) Blogging. These days, you can reach an entire world of people. Share what you learned yesterday. Someone out there is bound to find it useful tomorrow.
5) Books. I think we all have favorite writing books that gave us a bit more of the puzzle. Other people’s mileage may vary but it never hurts to recommend or pass over a book that helped you along the way.
So what other ways have you paid it forward? And how have others paid it forward to you??
Friday, February 4th, 2011 by Rosemary
So, I get this question a lot: What’s your daily page goal?
The short answer is: Depends on when the book is due.
I have a wacky process that I don’t recommend to anyone. But I’ll share it with you, because I always hear people post their disciplined, 5, 10, 20 pages a day routine, or their 8 hours of writing, or whatever, and sometimes, if I’m not doing that, I feel like a sloth, or an undisciplined hack, or both.
Usually when I start a book, I’ll write some chapters (which may or may not be the actual beginning of the book) do some research, write my outline. And then I’ll go into this phase where it doesn’t look like I’m working but I’m thinking about the book all the time. This is my germination period. For instance, before I wrote The Splendor Falls, I watched every ballerina movie I could get my hands on, and re-read my favorite gothic novels, and went and drove around Alabama (not something I always have the luxury of doing.)
This may go on for a couple of weeks, then I’ll usually start back in slowly and, to be honest, go in some wrong directions while I convert the internal process to an external one. Then things will get rolling. (knock on wood.)
During my active phase, my goal is usually “write every day.” Sometimes I go on a research tangent, and end up writing one page. Sometimes I do a lot of thinking, running a scene different ways in my head, write barely anything, and then turn around the next day and write 20 pages. (That’s what happened yesterday.)
When I do set myself a page/word count goal (which I always eventually do), it’s usually because I’m letting myself get distracted when I really need to buckle down and get the story out of my head and on the page. In other words, I don’t really NEED more research, but I’m using it as a procrastination tool. Or I’m second guessing myself, and I need to force myself to more forward.
So the moral of this story is… find what works for you, what motivates you, and what keeps you moving forward. For most people, it’s a combination of things. Give yourself germination time, but know when it’s time to turn incubation into perspiration.
I’d love to hear your creative process in the comments.
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 by Candace Havens
I’m on deadline this week for two big projects so I’m reusing an old blog with a slight update. I picked this one because I’m so feeling this pain right now and I’m hearing a lot of other writers are too.
I don’t know a single writer who isn’t insecure in some way. Many times I feel like it’s those insecurities that make us such great writers. We are able to show our characters real insights, emotions and insecurities, because we feel them too.
It doesn’t matter what level you are in your writing career. Nora Roberts and my mentor Jodi Thomas have often commented that each time they sit down to write a book they fear this is the one where everyone will find out the truth. That they don’t really know what they are doing. I share that same fear, but like them, I push forward.
But right now I’m suffering from another insecurity. One I haven’t really experienced since my first book. My agent is shopping something new for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything shopped in the publishing world and it’s disconcerting to say the least.
For those new to the industry I should explain. My first book, Charmed & Dangerous, went to auction and we ended up going with Berkley. As my contracts came up with them I just continued on. Then Harlequin asked if I would be interested in writing for them, and it was a matter of coming up with a concept that would work. So for the last six or so seven contracts, we haven’t had to shop manuscripts or proposals around to different publishers. It’s been a big blessing.
Now, I have this new YA that I’m very excited about, and it’s kind of fun jumping off that cliff again into something totally new. Nerve-wracking but fun. I’m lucky that I have a brilliant agent to see me through. She can actually read my mind and she’s fully aware of my insecurities, usually before I am.
Still, I can’t help but worry. I know I wrote a great book, but industry is so tough right now and editorial houses are pickier than ever. But I also know that what I’ve done is fresh, there isn’t anything like it out on the YA market right now, and my voice is strong in that book. At least that’s what I tell myself when that hole in the pit of despair in my stomach begins tying me into knots.
I’m telling you all of this because I want you to understand that it is no easier for me than it is anyone else there. As I mentioned in the beginning, it doesn’t matter what level you are at, there is scary stuff along the way.
So how do you get through it? You move forward. I’m lucky that I have so many irons in the fire. While, my agent is shopping the YA, I have two books due in the next six months or so. I choose to move forward with those. I give myself about three minutes each day in my insecurities and then I get on with it. I start working on the next project.
That’s what you need to do too. Whether you’re submitting manuscripts to agents, or waiting to hear from your agent, you have to be working on the next thing. It is the only way to stay sane.
I also try to keep a positive attitude. It isn’t always easy, but I can’t live with negative thoughts all the time. It actually affects me physically. I can give myself strep, mono or any number of diseases if I focus on the negative. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. So a positive outlook is a necessity.
I have to hope that there is an editor out there who will love and care for these beautiful characters I’ve created and love the story as much as I do. She or he is out there. I just know it.
Feel free to share your insecurities and what you do to move past them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.