Showing posts with label jane friedman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jane friedman. Show all posts

Friday, August 30

How Not To Begin A Story

How Not To Begin A Story

There are many blogs that give good advice on the art and craft of writing. They have wonderful articles on story structure, finding your voice, sentence construction, admonishments to eschew weak verbs in favor of strong ones, as well as dire warnings against the ever-present danger of giving in to adverb use.

In my opinion, one of the best blogs is Jane Friedman: writing, reading and publishing in the digital age. (Of course Jane Friedman's blog is about a great many things.)

Anyway, enough of that. Let's talk about what's gotten me so darn excited!

K.M. Weiland wrote a post for Jane Friedman and it's one of the best posts on story openings I've read, so I wanted to both share it with you and encourage you to head on over to Jane Friedman's blog and read it for yourself. The title is: 4 Big Pitfalls in Story Openings.

Also, K.M. Weiland has come out with a book on story structure: Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. I bought it right after I finished the article, I'm sure it'll be worth the $2.99. I'd spend more than that on a coffee!

4 Ways Not To Start A Story

When I was a kid, I think I was five, I decided I'd tell my father a story. I think it went something like this:
I got up this morning and I dressed myself but my shoes weren't right so mommy helped me and then I walked to school and then I saw Michele in the playground and we talked and then the bell rang and then ...
It was horrible.

One thing that was missing was ...

1. Suspense: Raise a question with your very first sentence.

I've talked about this before, but the first sentence--the very first sentence!--of your story should raise a question in the readers mind.

Humans are suckers for wanting a question answered. This is used against us in dozens of ways every day.

You've probably seen those TV commercials where a huckster asks: "How much do you think you'd have to pay for this mop in the store? Well, I'm going to throw in another mop. That's right. How much would you'd pay for this now? I'll give it to you for the low, low, price of ..."

Humans can be manipulated in a number of ways. As Lee Child mentioned, sports shows try to retain viewer attention across commercial breaks by asking a sports question before the break. The idea is that viewers, even if they don't care about the question or answer, will be more likely to stick around.

Raising a question in the readers mind in that very first sentence is vitally important. (Also, answering it at the end of the book is equally important. If you don't, there will be howls of protest.)

K.M. Weiland points out that the strength of this technique can be diluted in a number of ways:

a. Don't withhold the protagonist's name.

K.M. Weiland writes:
Award-winning author Linda Yezak explains, “[N]ameless, faceless characters don’t usually draw readers into the story. In other words, get your readers to bond with your characters early … [by letting] the reader know who they are.”

b. Don't make readers guess about the age of the protagonist.

You don't have to be precise, but readers want to have a ballpark idea of the protagonist's age.

c. Give your readers at least one peek into your protagonist's personality early on.

K.M. Weiland writes that this could be his:

- occupation
- a prominent personality trait
- a defining action

d. Don't make your readers guess about where the scene is taking place.

K.M. Weiland writes:
"Don’t leave your characters exploring a white room. Readers need to know if the scene is taking place in a cafĂ©, a forest, a bedroom, or an airplane."

e. Make it clear who the other characters in the scene are.

When you introduce a character at least give the name of the character. I'm talking about major characters here, not characters that appear for a few sentences and then disappear. Some readers expect a character to stay around if you give them a name.

K.M. Weiland has three more points, but I think this post is long enough! I'll continue on Monday.

Fabulous Writing Resource: Roy Peter Clark on iTunes (FREE!)

I've included this link in my Twitter feed, but I wanted to share it with you here as well. Roy Peter Clark has put up a number of short audio files with fabulous tips on how to strengthen your writing.

This is the kind of thing I wish I'd listened to when it was just starting out.

Roy Peter Clark on iTunes: Roy's Writing Tools.

PS: My apologies. I pressed a mysterious key combo--I have no idea what it was!--and inadvertently published a draft of this post. I'm sorry for any confusion that caused.

Photo credit: "untitled" by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 29

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Jane Friedman recently asked book design guru Joel Friedlander to talk about the dos and don'ts of book design: How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design? A Q&A With Joel Friedlander.

The most common mistakes in interior book design:

1. Not using full justification for their text, so that both the right and left margin square up and create a rectangle on the page

2. Not hyphenating the text, resulting in gaps and spaces on the page

3. Putting the odd-numbered pages on the left, when they should always be on the right

4. Leaving running heads on display pages like part or chapter openers

5. Margins that are either too small to allow the reader to easily hold the book, or that don’t take the printing and binding of the book into account

6. Publishing a book with no copyright page

How much should an author expect to pay an interior book designer? 


Joel writes:
For novels and other lightly formatted books, you can expect to pay between $200 and $1,500 for interior design. At the low end you’re likely to get a “template” design. At the higher end, expect to receive several custom designs prepared expressly for your book. You’ll also want the designer to take responsibility for producing the reproduction files for your printer, and make sure there’s an allowance for “author’s alterations,” because I’ve never seen a book yet that went all the way from manuscript to press without at least some changes being made.
Joel mentions that for cover designs the range is between $200 and $3,500.

Professional design can make all the difference, when folks are browsing the cover is all they see. I know I've started reading many books because of their stunning covers.

You can read more of Joel Friedlander's design tips on his site The Book Designer.

Question: Do you have a cover design, or interior design, tip to share?

Other articles you might like:

- Cliffhangers
- New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words
- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go

Photo credit: "paesaggio3" by francesco sgroi under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 3

C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity

C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity

Amazon KDP Select

C.J. Lyons, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, describes the Amazon Select program:
In exchange for giving Amazon exclusive use of a piece of digital content for 90 days, you receive five days (any five you choose) to make your digital content available for free, and you also get paid for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library.
But is the price of exclusivity worth it?

Here is C.J.'s conclusion based on her experience in the program: For the two 90-day periods I was in Select, it was a virtual wash financially.

Should You Try Amazon KDP Select?

Although C.J. Lyons didn't make any money through Select, you might be able to. Here are three questions C.J. suggests you ask yourself before enrolling a book in the program:
1. Can I obtain the level of engagement I’m looking for via Select? For a standalone book with lagging sales or to bring new readers to an established series by giving away the first book, the answer might be yes.

2. Will enrolling in Select anger my readers? Know your audience and have a plan in place to gift them a version if they shop at a different venue.

3. Will this help me increase sales/make a bestseller list/grow my audience? Don’t try to do all three at once, but instead choose one goal for this particular title at this particular time.
C.J. Lyons concludes: "Keep your options open and don't be afraid to experiment."

Great advice!

All quotations are from C.J. Lyon's guest post on Jane Friedman's blog: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors?

Have you ever used Amazon KDP Select? Would you recommend it?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Straight Lines, Story Structure And Why Storytellers Need To Be Unconventional
- Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction
- How to record an audiobook at home

Photo credit: "I want to play a dijo el gato." by Rodrigo Basaure under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, March 16

To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is Jane Friedman's Question

To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is Jane Friedman's Question
Well, not really. It's L.L. Barkat's question.

Jane Friedman--web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and blogger extraordinaire--invited L.L. Barkat to contribute a post to her blog.

Nice, right? Jane Friedman has one of the most popular blogs in North America; its reach is enormous. So, what did L.L. Barkat blog about?

It is time, Barkat announced, for experienced writers to stop blogging.

This call did seem to possess a certain amount of Chutzpah, being issued, as it was, on the blog of an experienced writer. L.L. Barkat writes:
[I]n 2006, I started blogging. Over six years, I wrote more than 1,300 blog posts, garnered over 250,000 page views ....

But on Saturday, November 10, 2012, I suddenly did the unthinkable. I myself stopped blogging.
.  .  .  .

Is blogging a waste of time? ... For the experienced writer, my answer is yes … in 2013.
L.L. Barkat's post has, it must be said, the advantage of being unambiguous.

Jane Friedman's Response

Contrary to how it may seem, I'm not here to write about L.L. Barkat's post. No. I'm here to write about Jane Friedman's short but eloquent response.

I don't usually share another person's comment without asking, but in this case I think Ms. Friedman won't mind; it was publicly posted on her own blog.

1. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing

Many writers blog, a lot more than used to even five years ago, and it has become more challenging to attract readers. But, even in this rich reading environment, it's far from impossible.

Besides, just because a thing is difficult (like, say, breaking in as a writer) doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Jane writes:
If it were, then why bother writing fiction or poetry or memoir or essay? Thousands upon thousands of writers are already out there doing it—more so than ever—but yet we all know and agree that a new voice still has the chance of finding an audience.

2. Blogging is less difficult for experienced writers

Jane Friedman writes that  if anyone should  be discouraged from blogging--and she's not saying they should--it would be new writers not experienced ones.

New writers may find it more difficult to split their writing focus between their manuscript and their blog--something I can attest to!

Jane gives us three things to think about when considering whether to try blogging:
(a) what is giving you energy rather than taking it?
(b) what will lead to career progress in your *current* situation, and
(c) do you have something to say—or a voice/personality—that's a great fit for a blog?
Jane concludes:
Blogging can help both new and experienced writers with discipline, focus, and voice development. But it is indeed a waste of time if you're doing it because someone admonished you to (e.g., to build your platform), and it's a forced chore. If you're not enjoying it, neither are your readers.
Also, it's easier for an established writer to maintain a popular blog because one's audience will also be made up of those who read, and liked, your books. Jane writes:
Established authors likely have more reason to blog than beginners for the simple reason that they have an existing audience who seek engagement and interaction in between "formal" book releases (or other writings). It may take less effort to interest and gather readers if you're known, and it's valuable to attract readers to your website (via a blog) rather than a social media outlet since you don't really own your social media profiles, nor do you control the changing tides that surround them. You DO, however, own your website and blog (or should).

3. Growing your blog

Although blogging can be discouraging, especially in the beginning before you've developed any sort of an audience, there are things you can do to attract readers.

New and experienced writers alike can grow their blogs by contributing to writing venues--other blogs for instance--that are more popular than their own. Jane Friedman writes:
Such efforts not only bring you into contact with new audiences/readers, but also drive traffic back to your existing site or blog.
I have also found that blogging regularly--whether it's once a day or once a month--helps build an audience.

#  #  #
What do you think? Is blogging beneficial for writers, experienced or not, or is it just one more thing to distract them from their works-in-progress?

Other articles you might like:

- Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing
- 7 Secrets To Writing A Story Your Readers Won't Be Able To Put Down
- Review Of Grammarly, Its Strength And Weaknesses

Photo credit: "songs about buildings and trees" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, August 17

Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio

Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of Twitter in building my author platform. My Twitter Bio is my public face on Twitter, it's the first thing folks see and also what they use when deciding if I'm the sort the tweeter they want to follow.

Every writer owes it to themselves to make their Twitter bio the absolute best it can be. Enter Jane Friedman and her blog post

Jane breaks the Twitter bio into four components:

1. Photo
2. Name and handle
3. 160 character bio
4. Link

Jane Friedman goes into much more detail, here is the Coles Notes version:

1. Photo
- Clear and closely cropped image of your face
- High contrast

2. Name and handle
Name: Use your real name or a pen name. This is part of your platform so you want people to be able to find you easily.
Handle: You probably won't be able to come close to your real name, don't worry about it. Just pick something easy to remember and type.
Tip: Jane suggests not putting "author" as part of either your name or your handle.

3. 160 character bio
- Inspirational quotes or aphorisms
- Excess marketing
- A description that is so general it could fit anyone.

- Tell people what you do. If you're a writer, tell them that.
- Let people know what you'll be tweeting about.
- Add some personality. People like humor.

Jane writes:
As far as that third item [add some personality], it’s popular for people to mention their hometowns or states, the universities they graduated from, or other things we share in meet-and-greet environments. That little bit of personality is more often than not what starts a conversation on Twitter. For me, it’s bourbon and usually my city of residence. (I do highly advocate listing your location—again, it’s likely to spark more connections.)
 Jane's bio is excellent. Here it is:
I share links on writing, publishing & tech. Web editor for + former publisher of . Bourbon lover & Hoosier native.
Charlottesville, VA, USA ·  

4. Link
Leave a link to your digital home. For most folks this will be a website or perhaps a blog. If you don't have a digital home and you're a writer hoping to sell your work, what are you waiting for? Get one! (This article may help: How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website.)

To read the rest of Jane Friedman's article click here: Build a Better Author Bio for Twitter.

Jane's article inspired me to revamp my Twitter bio. If you'd like to see it, click here. While you're there say hi, I love hearing from readers. :-)

Other articles you might be interested in:
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following
- Twylah: Turn Your Tweets Into A Blog
- Aherk! Makes Writing App 'Write Or Die' Look Tame

Friday, July 13

Writers & Blogging: Should You Host Your Own Blog?

Jane Friedman has published a terrific blog post today about whether writers should host their own blog or go through a free service like or a free-to-start service like Jane comes down firmly on the "thou shalt self-host," side of things and makes excellent points. For instance, free services can be much more limiting (in design, in your ability to monetize, etc.) than one you have complete control over.

In another equally great article, blogger Roz Morris explores the other side of the issue (Blogging – should authors go self-hosted or not? Part 1: two bloggers who don’t). Roz points out that if something goes wrong with your self-hosted blog you're responsible for fixing it or for paying someone else to. (Of course it helps if you have techie friends willing to lend you a hand!)

For instance, websites can and do get hacked. Kristine Kathryn Rusch experienced this firsthand in May. She ended up paying a specialist to fix the problem and help her restore the website. Kris hasn't blogged about how much it cost her but I don't imagine it was cheap. Kris has been making a living through her writing for decades and her website is, I imagine, an integral part of her business so it makes good business sense for her to spend money on it. Someone just starting out and trying to do everything on a shoestring budget might not want to take on this kind of responsibility, this kind of risk.

Split strategy: blog on a free host, website writer-hosted
Some writers--J.A. Konrath for instance--employ a mixed strategy. They host their blog on a free site like and then set up a website in a hosting account they pay for and control. I suspect that, like me, Joe started blogging on and then realized he needed a website but didn't want to move his blog.

Perhaps not, though. There are reasons for keeping ones blog with a service such as even if you host your own website:
- Although you should back up your blog regularly, just in case, you don't have to sweat the technical issues like combating hackers, fixing broken software and upgrading software. You have professional website admins taking care of all this for you behind the scenes. For free.

- Spikes in traffic. What would happen if your blog got featured on Reddit? My guess is it would go down., on the other hand, will likely keep your blog up and running even under the most extreme conditions. You might be thinking that it's not at all likely your blog will be featured on Reddit. That may be the case, but even more modest spikes in traffic can bring down a site and I like to be prepared.

Although my little blog definitely gets far less traffic than Joe Konrath's (his landing page has a Google page rank of 6!) I've had a few spikes in traffic and I enjoy not having to worry about whether my blog can handle it.
Whatever you decide to do, getting out there and blogging is better than not blogging so my advice is: don't over-think it. Do what feels right for you. 

Related article:
-How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website

Photo credit: Hubspot blog

Friday, January 6

Let your readers subscribe to your blog!

Jane Friedman has a great post on how you can set up email subscriptions to your blog and why you would want to. If you have a blog and haven't done this already, it's worth a read!

Jane Friedman: Why you should add an e-mail subscription service to your blog