Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6

How To Not Write Crap

The Writing Blahs

Every writer is different but I think, at some point, most of us have felt we're writing garbage. Absolute drivel.

I've felt that.

The temptation is to stop writing. No one likes writing crap (or what you feel is crap, sometimes it's not).

Being honest, I have to admit that occasionally, in the past, I have stopped writing. Here are some of the excuses I've used:

- I need to read because the second rule of writing is "Writer's read (critically)".
- I need to do research on the Internet.
- I need to tidy my desk so I'll be more productive.

But what happens is that I waste a half hour, or an hour, doing something that isn't writing.

Most of the time, though, if I feel I'm writing crap, I keep writing. I keep writing because, if I don't, there is zero chance I won't write crap.

No writing = No good writing

Besides, often, I just need to push through the whispers (or shouts) in my head telling me I'm a fraud, my writing is crap, no one will buy it, I'm deluding myself.

As I write, these voices fall away, or I forget about them. A new world unfurls around me and exploring it becomes more interesting than self-flagellation.

And I write words that don't totally suck.

When this happens a few times--this process of ignoring the voices, of proving them wrong--the voices become less strident, less credible.

I think the voices will always be there, just as there will always be someone who doesn't like what I write. But that's okay. The important thing is that I'm a writer and that I write.

#  #  #

I'm not sure where that came from! Over the past week I watched the first season of Girls and most of the second, so maybe I felt it was time to do a personal essay. (Hannah, the main character, writes essays.)

Now I'm wondering if watching Girls was procrastination but, no, writers are allowed downtime. Something is only procrastination if I do it during the time I've set aside for writing. Writers needs lives or we wouldn't have anything to write about!

Did I really just use watching Girls as an example of my having a life? Wow. I need to get out today. (grin)

Before I go, let me leave you with a fantastic writing link I just discovered. Someone emailed this to me, but the link is public so I'm passing it along:

The Thirteen Weeks Novel Writing Program

I'll talk about that more later, I wanted to share it with you now because it looked like a fabulous read.

Other articles you might like:

- Writing Scenes: Getting Up Close And Personal; Using Sensory Language
- The Strange: How To Hook A Reader's Interest
- 3 Elements Of A Great Story Opening

Photo credit: "A Case of The Rainy Day Blahs" by D Sharon Pruitt at Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, August 10

Bob Mayer: Your Product Is Your Story

Writers" Your Product Is Your Story

This is from Bob Mayer over at Digital Book World:
The product is the story.  Not the book, not the eBook, not the audio book.  The Story.
The consumer is the reader.  Not the bookstores, the platform, the distributor, the sales force.  The Reader.
Read Bob's entire (very short!) piece here: A Simple Concept for Publishing.

I like the idea that, at the most fundamental level, what writers produce are stories. Similarly, what readers read are stories, conveyed in whatever medium--digital, print, big screen, little screen, holograms (one day!). As long as there are readers, writers will be able to make a living. * knock on wood*

Further reading:
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: Unknown

Wednesday, August 1

Google Wallet And Writers

Here's Google Wallet Overview, from YouTube:

You've probably heard about this. Rather than carry around a bunch of plastic you just carry around your smart phone which, chances are, you were going to take with you anyway. Rather than store a gazillion credit cards in a bulgy wallet you just use your phone to make purchases.

You might be wondering: Okay, but so what? This is a blog about writing and the publishing industry, not about new apps no matter how nifty.

It seems this technology could help change the way indie authors sell books. I don't know much about it, I've just watched a couple of Google videos, but wouldn't it be great if it made setting up an online store easier? Or at least gave us more options, more ways for folks to pay?

Wouldn't it be great if it made selling paper copies of our books easier? Just get your customer to use their phone to log into your online store, make the purchase, you'll be emailed a confirmation, and there you go! No more expensive wireless credit card machines.

Or am I on the wrong track? What do you think?

Related reading:
- How I Solved My Book Cover Dilemma, and How You Can Too
- Derek Haines: Are Free Ebooks A Good Marketing Strategy?
- My New MacBook Air: The Adventures Of A PC Gal In The MacBook World

Sunday, July 22

Penquin's Purchase Of Author Solutions: Going To The Dark Side?

penguin goes to the dark side

When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming an author and being published by Penguin. (Yes, I was an odd child, but that's a post for another day!) Even after I was stripped of my illusions about the publishing industry the name "Penguin" stood out for me as the mark of something special.

No longer.

If you haven't read David Gaughran's article on Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions you should. It gives all the facts and in David's succinct and eminently readable style. Here's an excerpt:
Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, has announced the purchase of Author Solutions for $116m – news which has shocked writers, especially given Author Solutions’ long history of providing questionable services at staggering prices.

Author Solutions are the dominant player in the self-publishing services market – via their subsidiaries Author House, Xlibris, Trafford, and iUniverse – and had been looking for a buyer for several months. According to the press release, Author Solutions will be folded into Penguin, but will continue to operate as a separate company. Penguin’s CEO John Makinson stated:

“This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”

What does Author Solutions bring to the table? Well, for starters, around $100m in annual revenue. Roughly two-thirds of that money comes from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third from the royalties generated by the sale of their books.

Pause for a moment and consider that statistic. Penguin isn’t purchasing a company which provides real value to writers. They are purchasing an operation skilled at milking writers.

This is not a new accusation against Author Solutions. Industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received a litany of complaints about Author Solutions and their subsidiaries over the last few years: misleading marketing, hard-selling of over-priced services, questionable value of products provided, awful customer service, and, after all that, problems with writers being paid. (Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting Writers)
David gives examples a-plenty to back up his claims. Author Solutions is well known on sites like Writer Beware and Predators and Editors. The news that Penguin purchased the company astonishes me. I can only hope that Penguin discontinues Author Solutions' bad business practices and works with authors instead of preying on them.

Related reading:
- Writers Sue Harlequin For Underpayment
- Publish America: Writer Beware
- Jen Talty: Amazon's CreateSpace Vs LIghtning Source (Not about a scam, just a comparison of two good companies)

Thursday, July 12

Jody Hedlund: Talent Is Overrated

Ever wondered whether you had what it took to be a writer? Ever feared you weren't talented enough? Jody Hedlund's article is a breath of fresh air sweeping away the poisonous cobwebs of doubt. She writes:
Talent is over-rated. Sure it may help to have a little bit of inborn gifting to help you get going on something. Talent may help you progress a little faster and easier.

But . . . talent isn’t necessary to succeed. ...

1. Stay determined. Decide you want to do it. Then make up your mind to stay the course.

2. Don’t get discouraged (at least not for long). Don’t listen to the naysayers who don’t think you have what it takes (especially if that naysayer is yourself!). And if you are discouraged, let it push you to try all the harder.

3. Don’t give up too soon. Stick with it even when you know you’re not all that good yet. Remember that most don’t start out as super stars, that they have to work hard for years before honing their skills.

4. Surround yourself with friends who share and understand the passion. They enrich the experience.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others. While I may have compared my son to others, he didn’t. He always focused on what he needed to do and never worried about how he measured up to others.

6. Work your tail off. Go at it until you sweat and feel pain.

7. Practice daily (or at least regularly). Come up with a routine. Have a checklist (my son did).

8. Continually push yourself to improve. Once you’ve mastered something, then learn something new.

9. Keep the vision of what you can become. Always see the product of what you will accomplish if you work hard enough.

10. Most of all enjoy it. Find pleasure in the process itself, even when it’s hard.
Visit Jody over at Jody Hedlund Author and Speaker and read the rest of her article, 10 Traits That Are More Important Than Talent.

I agree with each and every one of Jody's points, especially #7. It reminds of Kris Rusch's post, Writers and Business. Kris writes:
Talent is, as the cliché says, its own reward.

And its own curse.

I have watched hundreds—and I do mean hundreds—of talented writers fall by the wayside as their less-talented (by the judgment of a teacher, editor, critic) fellows succeed. Why are the less-talented succeeding where the talented fail?

The convention wisdom is that the less-talented appeal to the masses, as if the masses are a bad thing. But what’s really happening here is this: The so-called less talented feel that they must work harder to get where their talented peers are naturally. So the so-called less-talented end up with a work ethic where the talented have none.

But what about the people who are clearly better at writing than others in the class? Aren’t those people talented?

No. Sometimes what’s considered talent by a professor is simply that a writer writes to that professor’s taste. More often, however, the “talented” writer has had more practice than others and is more skilled by the time they get to the class.
The rest of Kris' article is equally great, a must read if you've ever felt droopy and depressed, wondering if you have enough talent to make it as a writer.

As Stephen King once wrote: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.


Related links:
- Terry Gilliam: Talent is less important than patience
- Kris Rusch: The Value Of Imperfection
- The Key To Being Talented: Work Hard!

Photo credit: ♥JanltoilE♥

Thursday, June 28

Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection

Kris writes:
At every craft workshop I teach, I make at least one writer cry. ...

How do I bring writers to tears? Usually by saying this:

I loved this story. It’s wonderful. Mail it.
I found this very touching. As Kris says, professional writers "are workshop-hardened folk, people who have been eviscerated by the best of them ...".

It is so true, and one reason why I am leery of workshops. I think every writer--priofessional or otherwise--has had the experience of being told that, in some way or other, their writing didn't measure up.

Since we pour who we are, our souls, into our prose, when our work is dismissed it can be a soul-crushing experience.

Kris' point is that no story is perfect. She quotes Tina Fey: "The show doesn’t go on when it’s finished; it goes on because it’s 11:30". So very true. Kris writes:
Exactly. At some point, you must simply let go of that book or story or play and move to the next.

If our workshopping friend Bill Shakespeare strove for perfection, we would never have heard of him. We wouldn’t have gotten all of that marvelous writing, all of those wonderful—flawed—plays. (You don’t think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the only one riddled with possible workshop-identifiable errors, do you? Think of Romeo and Juliet. Why didn’t those crazy lovesick kids just move to another town????)
So many times in Kris' post I felt like jumping up, pumping my first in the air and yelling, "Yes!". I couldn't, though, because, first, it would have destroyed my reputation as being quietly introspective and, second, it would have disturbed the cat who had chosen to sleep on me.

There's one more thing I want to share with you:
When I became an editor, I learned just how important taste is. The difference between the short stories in Analog and Asimov’s, two of the science fiction digest magazines (that now have e-book editions each month if you haven’t seen them before), isn’t that there is such thing as an Analog story or an Asimov’s story that I as a long-time reader can tell you about. The difference is in the taste of their editors. Stanley A. Schmidt of Analog likes different kinds of stories than Sheila Williams of Asimov’s does. Occasionally their tastes overlap. Most often, they do not.

If there were such a thing as a perfect sf story, then both editors would always buy the same stories, and you couldn’t tell the magazines apart.

As readers, you all know this. As writers, you forget it.

And when you forget it, you make the weirdest decisions.

You give control of your product to the wrong people. You submit romance novels to science fiction markets (and wonder why the editor didn’t read your manuscript—was it the passive sentence on page 32?). You try to revise to please everyone in your peer-level writing group.

You self-publish your novel, make sure it’s edited and copyedited, add a fantastic cover, and then revise to address concerns posted by reviewers who gave your book one star. That’s complete and utter idiocy. Seriously.

Some nutty brand new writer, with one or two novels to her name, posted a blog on Digital Book World espousing just that. She says writers should always address their critics’ concerns.

I read that and nearly snorted my tea all over my iPad. If I even tried to address all the nasty reviews I’ve gotten over the years, I’d never write anything new. If I tried to address all the somewhat valid criticisms I’ve gotten on my books, I’d still spend forever revising.

Only a writer with one or two publications to her credit would have time to even think such a thing is viable.

Her blog post has gone viral, and I’ve seen new writers everywhere wring their hands over the fact that they now have to pay attention to their one-star reviews and constantly revise.

I’m here to tell you this: If you want a career as a writer, ignore your critics.

When the book is finished, when the book is published for heaven’s sake, then it’s done. Irrevocably done. Mistakes and all.

And there will be mistakes. Lots of them.
This makes so much sense! I really needed to hear this. Again.

I would encourage your to read Kris' post in full, as my mother used to say, "It's a keeper". This one is being indexed in Evernote under the heading, "When you feel like a crappy writer, READ THIS!!!". Here's the link: The Business Rusch: Perfection.

Remember, keep writing!

Related reading:
Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments
- Write Or Die: The App
- Tips For Writers From Richard Nash, Previously Of Soft Skull Press

Wednesday, June 27

Writer Beware: Outskirts Press

outskirts press, hollywood scam
Writer Beware

Writer Lee Goldberg (Monk, The Dead Man series) spoke up a few days ago about a scam that Outskirts Press is running.

Here is a snippet from the press release put out by Outskirts Press:
These services solve a real problem for many authors who dream of making it big in Hollywood. In fact, just getting Hollywood's attention is nearly impossible, but with the Book Your Trip to Hollywood suite of services from Outskirts Press, authors receive turn-key, full-service assistance with the push of a button. And with each option, authors receive the feedback and/or participation of a real Hollywood producer and production company; the final results are added to a Hollywood database that is perused by industry professionals for new projects; and exclusive efforts to option the author's book are immediately set into motion. The author doesn't have to lift a finger.
As Lee writes, "Except to pull out his or her credit card."

If a writer falls for Outskirts Press' song and dance, how much could he get taken for? The following is from Writer Beware writer Victoria Strauss:
[T]he total bill for your Hollywood pipe dream comes to $15,239. Outskirts can even claim that this is a bargain: the very similar services offered by Author Solutions will set you back over $18,000. 
 At the end of his article Lee Goldberg advises, "Give your $15,000 to the first homeless person you see instead... not only would it be a better use of your money, you would also have exactly the same chance of making a movie sale as you would giving it to Outskirts". That seems like a fair assessment.

I encourage you to read Victoria Strauss' article: More Money-Wasting "Opportunities" For Writers

Lee Goldberg's equally valuable article is here: Outing Outskirts Press

Sunday, June 24

Ursula K. Le Guin On Literature Versus Genre

ursula k le guin, literature vs genre
Ursula K. Le Guin

What is the difference between genre and literature? Here's what Ursula K. Le Guin has to say about it:
I keep telling myself that I’m done writing about Literature vs Genre, that that vampire is buried at the crossroads with a stake in its heart and garlic in its coffin. And then it pops up again, undead. Its latest revival is a cheery one in an entertaining article, “Easy Writers,” in the May 28 New Yorker by Arthur Krystal, who discusses the literature/genre divide and while seeming to make light of it does a pretty thorough job of perpetuating it.
 .  .  .  .
If we thought of all fictional genres as literature, we’d be done with the time-wasting, ill-natured diatribes and sneers against popular novelists who don’t write by the rules of realism, the banning of imaginative writing from MFA writing courses, the failure of so many English teachers to teach what people actually read, and the endless, silly apologising for actually reading it.

If critics and teachers gave up insisting that one kind of literature is the only one worth reading, it would free up a lot of time for them to think about the different things novels do and how they do it, and above all, to consider why certain individual books in every genre are, have been for centuries, and will continue to be more worth reading than most of the others.
You can read the rest of her excellent article here: Le Guin’s Hypothesis. Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for bringing Ms. Le Guin's post to my attention.

This is completely off topic, but Ursula K. Le Guin was born in 1929 which, by my calculations, makes her 84 this year. She is one amazing lady. I think I need to re-read her book The Left Hand Of Darkness.

Saturday, June 2

What To Do When Life Hates You

Marilyn Monroe

This morning I found a link to "12 Most Unexpected Life Lessons from Marilyn Monroe," in my mailbox. I was a huge fan of Marilyn's as a kid but had never thought of her as having anything valuable to say about getting through the hard times.

I was wrong.

Here are a few of my favorites:

- I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.

Yea! I had never thought of it that way, but it's very true. As Niles used to say on Fraser: You have to pay the tole.

- Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

- It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.

- This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth.

- We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.

Read the rest here: 12 Most Unexpected Life Lessons from Marilyn Monroe.

Tuesday, May 29

What To Do BEFORE You Give Up On Your Dreams

Gideon Stevens writes:
We’ve all been there, right? Nothing seems to be working, you’re not seeing any progress, and everyone, including you, has lost faith that you can do it. Maybe it’s time to give up.

Okay, maybe it is. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Maybe you’re going in the wrong direction. Maybe your dream is not realistic. Maybe you’ve changed your mind, or you now see clearly how much effort is required, and you’re not willing to make a sacrifice that large. That’s okay. You gave it a shot, and you’ve learned from the experience. Maybe it’s time to move on. I’ll bet those grapes were sour anyway.

Or maybe – just maybe – you’re having a bad day. Maybe you still want it as much as you ever did, and you’re just feeling hopeless right now. So before you give up:

Ten Things To do Before You Give Up On Your Dreams

1. Put the gun down.

I’m being dramatic, but I’m serious too. If things have gotten that bad – if you’ve written the note, loaded the bullet, and are about to give up on everything – please stop. Put the gun down. Call 911 now. No problem is ever solved by ending your life. I read once about the small handful of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. They all said pretty much the same thing:
“As I was falling, I realized that I did not have any problems that I could not solve, except for one – and that was that I had just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge!”
On a far less serious note, perhaps the “gun” in question is the “delete” key. You’ve been working on your blog forever, and so far the only readers you have are your mom and your cat, and your mom stopped reading two weeks ago. Your finger hovers over the delete key. The thoughts going through your head are all negative. “I’ll never get more readers. No one is going to buy my book. I’m not good enough, smart enough, cute enough,” and so on.

When you’re being overwhelmed by negative thoughts, it is not a good time to make a decision, especially one that is irrevocable. Put the gun down. Turn the computer off. Walk away.

2. Have lunch.

Remember HALT. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Ask yourself if you’re feeling one of those. Emotions are delicate things, and can be influenced by outside forces. Take a nap, and you may wake up with renewed determination.

3. Call someone.

Get on the phone with a friend. Tell them up front “I need your help. I’m feeling like this just isn’t ever going to work and I need you to be my cheerleader. Tell me I can do it. Tell me not to give up.” They will. You’ll feel better. They might even tell you something that will help.

4. Do something else for a while.

Look, you’re a smart person, and smart people crave novelty. You might just need a break. Don’t delete anything, just start something new. Work at that for a little while, then come back to your main project.

5. Reconsider the goal.

If you’re about to give up, maybe your goal is unrealistic. Shooting for the stars is wonderful, as long as you’re not overwhelmed. If you’re not seeing progress, try setting TINY goals. I want to sell ONE copy of my book. Reaching that goal, set the next goal: I want to sell another copy, this time to someone who is not a relative or friend. Setting a small goal can keep you going, and if you keep going long enough, one day you’ll look up and find that you’ve arrived.
To read the rest of Gideon's excellent article, click here: 10 Things To Do Before You Give Up On Your Dreams – Guest Post by Gideon Stevens

We've all been there, down in the dumps because nothing seems to be working. Sometimes it seems as though it's never going to ever get better even though we know, rationally, that one day it probably will.

Indie authors are lucky to be part of a large, supportive, growing community. Take advantage of this. Write about your experiences, write about how you're feeling. You might be surprised how many people feel just like you. Strangely, that sort of realization can be very comforting. :)

Here's hoping you had a good lunch. ;)


Thanks to @DarinCalhoun for the link.

Tuesday, May 22

Elizabeth S. Craig's Tips For Developing A Story Idea

Ask yourself ...
What works best for your genra?
First of all, we have to know our genre. We should be a fan of our genre and read a lot of it. What story elements satisfy us most when we read our favorite genre? Do we like more action, more humor, really strong characters, flawed main characters, lots of internal conflict?

What do our readers like? 
This is where I read over my Word file where I’ve compiled both complaints and compliments for my past books. I provide more of what was successful (particular characters, particular situations, etc.) and less of what readers disliked or complained about in reviews.

Is this a big enough idea that you can develop it for at least 75,000 words? 
Can this idea carry a full-length plot?

Is the plot too derivative? 
If it’s too much like a hundred other books in your genre, what fresh take can you give it? Can you provide your character with a unique voice? Think of some fresh spin on the old plot? 

How much trouble/tension/conflict can your story engender? 
Can you think of ways to add more? Will there be enough natural conflict to keep a fast pace?
Specific to mysteries:
For me it all starts with the victim—they’re the catalyst for everything. Why would someone want to kill this person?

Why would my sleuth (I’ve got an amateur, so this is an important question for me that wouldn’t be if you’re writing a police procedural or private eye story) get involved in this murder?

Who are the suspects? 
This question ties in very closely to the victim question since these are the characters who wanted to kill the victim. But this is where I decide if they’re male or female and how they all knew the victim.

What do these people have to hide? 
What are they trying to cover up?

What different kinds of motives could these suspects have? Again, this one ties into the victim question, but I actually list the motives out. My editors aren’t real crazy about having three different people who all wanted to seek revenge on the victim, for instance. Better to have a variety of motives: personal gain, jealousy, ambition, revenge, rage, etc. 

How is the victim going to die? 
Who discovers the body? Who seems to have an alibi? Motive/means/opportunity.

Who is my second victim? 
How does this change the investigation?

Who did it? 
(And I do change this a lot. But for the purpose of handing in a proposal, I name a killer in the outline. Sometimes I’m asked to change the murderer…I changed it by editor request for the book I just finished May 1.)

And really, that’s all I need to know for this proposal/outline. And it’s all I need to know to write the book.
I always like getting writing tips from my favorite authors. Read her entire article here: Developing a Story Idea

Friday, May 18

Why Dropbox Is A Writer's Best Friend

My brand new wonderful computer isn't working. I try to boot it up and electricity starts to surge, willy-nilly, through its circuits. That's never good.

Due to my computer being temporarily out of commission, I wasn't able to meet a writing deadline because my completed, vetted, manuscript (A Night In The Country) was on the malfunctioning machine and therefore inaccessible. If my story had have been on Dropbox -- and after this ALL my stories are going on Dropbox -- this wouldn't have happened. I have another computer--the one I'm using to type this post, one I've had since the stone age--and it works just fine. I could have used this computer to access my manuscript on Dropbox and meet my deadline.

But enough about me and my woes. I think Dropbox is the perfect solution for writers, even if you don't travel a lot, or have multiple devises you shuttle between each day. Because, as I'm experiencing right now, you never know when your machine is going to go down. (And yes, if I had backed up my work, I wouldn't be in this fix either. I know, I know.) But, again, enough about me.

Dropbox is free up to 2 gigabytes of storage and 2 gigs of stories is a lot. If you're Stephen King you might go over and have to pay, but if you're Stephen King I think you could afford 9.99 dollars a month!

In case anyone is unfamiliar with Dropbox, it allows users to store files in cloud storage and provides file synchronization across devices. My favorite feature is that it keeps a one-month history of your file revisions and any of those revisions can be undone. Here's a complete list of Dropbox features.

Note: I wrote this post yesterday and (* loud cheers *) my computer is working again. I'll be publishing the next installment in my A Night In The Country series later today.

Tuesday, May 8

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt, Sylvia Plath

sylvia plath: the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt

Having one of those days where the words won't come? Here are a few inspirational quotations for the writer in us all.
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.  ~James Michener

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.  ~Anton Chekhov

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.  ~Orson Scott Card

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster.  ~Isaac Asimov
These quotations were taken from Quote Garden.

Ann Voss Peterson, Long time Harlequin Author, Goes Indie

Ann Voss Peterson has been writing for Harlequin since 2000 but doesn't have enough money for her son's braces. Joe writes that, in paper sales, Ann has outsold him at least 5 to 1 but that he earns triple what she does.

Granted, Harlequin gave Ann, and many other authors, their break into the industry -- and she thanks them -- but if the company isn't going to give her a decent contract (20% ebook royalties on net but with "net" undefined) then they're practically pushing her, and other authors in the same boat, out their doors.

To announce her departure Ann is offering her new book, Pushed Too Far, free for the next few days. Get it on Amazon here: Ann Voss Peterson, Pushed Too Far.

Read Ann's guest post on Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, here.

Go Ann!

Wednesday, April 25

Writers: Don't Despair

At nineteen they can card you in the bars and tell you to get the fuck out, put your sorry act (and even sorrier ass) back on the street, but they can’t card you when you sit down to paint a picture, write a poem, or tell a story, by God, and if you reading this happen to be very young, don’t let your elders and supposed betters tell you any different. Sure, you’ve never been to Paris. No, you never ran with the bulls at Pamplona. Yes, you’re a pissant who had no hair in your armpits until three years ago – but so what? If you don’t start out too big for your britches, how are you gonna fill ‘em when you grow up? Let it rip regardless of what anybody tells you, that’s my idea; sit down and smoke that baby.
- Stephen King, The Darktower 1: The Gunslinger, Revised Ed.

At the end of the 2010 Surrey International Writer's Conference Robert Dugoni gave a rousing speech entitled, "This Day We Write!" based on the one Aragorn gave at the Black Gate. Close to 1,000 writers were on our feet stamping, clapping, hooting and chanting. There were even some tears. But, mostly, there were face-splitting grins. We left that conference the most inspired we had been in our lives!

One of the things good writing can do, something that is often ignored, is this: It can inspire.

Today I was going to do a follow up on an article I wrote some months ago, Writers Despair, which was about how traditional publishing has changed over the years and how this change has effected writers, especially midlist writers.

But I'm not going to do that.

It's true that many writers despair, and with good reason. Their series have been dropped by publishers, their contracts haven't been renewed, their new work hasn't been accepted. It's not hard to find these stories and it's not hard to find credible predictions that the trend is not only going to continue, but accelerate.

But wait! There's good news. Actually, there's good news and there's great news.

The good news is that good writing will always have an audience. Heck, as Stephen King would stay of James Patterson, it doesn't even have to be all that good! (BTW, I've read a few of Patterson's books and enjoyed them. Personally, I'm rooting for the man, it's great to know a writer can make the kind of money even the CEO of a multinational corporation would be envious of.)

That was the good news, here's the great news: writers now have the ability to create our own audience, one that the vicissitudes of the publishing industry can't cut us off from. We do this by putting up our own websites, by blogging and by being open to the possibility that a self-published book or two could get us exposure and some money without making us a pariah in the industry.

What could we publish? A professional writer usually has a backlist, and it's generally not the case that all those books/short stories/articles are in print. Too often it has been the case that fans have wanted a book but they can't get it. Also, every writer I've met has manuscripts wedged into shoe boxes languishing under beds. Granted, many of those works were first attempts and should stay in exile, but many times they have been rejected, not because they weren't good, but because the publisher couldn't figure out how to market them. Joe Konrath has made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling books his publisher rejected.

I'm not saying that if others can do it then so can you. I'm saying: If others can do it, then why not try? What's it going to cost you? A bit of time and money.

I want to make it clear that I'm not bashing publishers. I know being a traditional publisher is one of the highest risk endeavors on the planet. Restaurants are notoriously high-risk but when restaurant owners get depressed they say to themselves, "It could be worse. At least I'm not a publisher." Traditional publishers, especially small or medium sized publishers, are in business because they love books and are passionate about writing. A few years ago I took a publishing course taught by the owner of a small literary press, one of the most successful small presses in the country, and he approached his work with an evangelistic furor. These men and women are dedicated to their craft.

Unfortunately, though -- and small and medium sized traditional publishers would be the first to tell you this -- it is vanishingly unlikely that the overwhelming majority of writers who are published by them -- not those who submit their work, but who are accepted and published -- will be able to live on what they are paid.

But that doesn't mean you can't make a living as a writer. Times have changed and we must change with them.

This pep talk was as much for me as for anyone else. I think, really, it comes down to this:
Write what you are inspired to write, get what you've written out to people however you can, through any medium you can, and eventually success will follow.
I believe that.

Recommended Reading:
Stephen King: On Writing

Other blog posts of mine you might like:
Writers Despair
How To Publish On Amazon
The Starburst Method

Stephen King's Greatest Lesson For Writers
Surrey international Writers Conference
Robert Dugoni

Photo credit: Recruiterpoet's Blog

"Writers: Don't Despair!" copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward

Tuesday, November 8

Hiring the Right Web Designer

Many years ago I was a website designer/developer. Nowadays, I leave the website designing to other folks, but when I read Jane Friedman’s blog post about what to look for in a web designer I knew I had share with you. Her questions are spot on.

My advice: pay special attention to #6.
1. How long have you been designing websites?
If someone has been creating websites for awhile, there’s a good chance that they will be around for the long haul. Being in business a long time is not enough to prove they’re competent and reliable, but it’s a start.

2. Can I see your portfolio?
Looking at someone’s portfolio can provide you with a lot of information. You should be looking for a few things.
- Do you like their design style? It’s important that you like their style, because the design they do for you will probably have a similar style.
- Do their sites function well?
- Are their sites easy to get around? Is there a lot of clutter, or is it clear how to find what you’re looking for?
3. Are you primarily a designer, programmer, or both?
Some people can create a beautiful design as well as expertly code your site. But most people excel at one or the other. In some cases, you only need one set of skills. Make sure your web designer has whatever skills are needed to get the job done right.

4. Can we meet and talk (virtually or in person)?
Creating a website is a joint effort between you and the designer. You will be having a lot of conversations over the course of the project, and it’s important that you can communicate well with each other and that you are comfortable with their communication style. The only way to get a sense of that is to have a conversation.

5. Will we sign a contract?
Verbal agreements are not enough. You should receive written documentation that spells out the scope of the project. You should know exactly what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost. This protects both you and the web designer, and is essential for preventing misunderstandings. If the designer is billing by the hour, you should be given an estimate along with some agreement as to what happens if the process takes longer than the estimate.

6. How are website updates handled?
It used to be that you had to hire your website designer to update your site for even the smallest changes, unless it was built with an expensive proprietary content management system. A content management system, or CMS, allows you to update your site without knowing any code or programming languages. These days there are a number of free systems that nearly anyone can use without special knowledge, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Of these systems, WordPress is the easiest to use. If you want to update your site yourself, ask your website designer if they use WordPress or another content management system.

7. Who owns my site after it’s completed and paid for?
You should have full ownership of your website. Make sure you get all of your login information so that if somewhere down the line your website designer is no longer in business, you have access to your site.

Some companies build their websites with proprietary software. This may work well while you are hosted with them, but you will not be able to move your site anywhere else, since it needs the proprietary software to run.

WordPress is a very popular platform, so I recommend using it if at all possible. If you want to move your site or change website designers, you’ll have no trouble finding someone else who can take over.
Read the rest of Jane's article here: How to Hire the Right Website Designer

Thursday, September 8

Kristine Rusch: Should writers be compared with abused spouses?

Writing is challenging regardless of whether you're going the traditional route or are independent. Many of us have been told since we were toddlers that we couldn't make a living as a writer. Not only are we not good enough, but there is just no money to be made. If you are stubborn and persevere, it only gets worse.

Kristine Rusch writes:
Last week in her blog, writer Sarah Hoyt compared writers to battered spouses. She says that some of what she hears from writers reminds her of the reasons battered spouses stay with their abusers. I have to admit, I’ve had that same thought myself, but I’ve never written a blog post about it because it seems too simple.

Writers do react badly to any suggestions for change, from leaving an agent who is clearly no longer interested in working for them to staying with a publisher even as the publisher’s contracts and advances get worse. But I think the way that writers act has a lot more to do with crisis response than with abuse.

The writers who stay in the business become survivors. “Survivor” is an interesting word because it implies that the survivor went through something traumatic. Indeed, my handy dandy Encarta World English Dictionary defines the word “survive” as managing to stay alive “especially in difficult situations” or “after something such as an accident or war that threatens life.”
Read Kristine Rusch's entire article here: The Business Rusch: Fighting Uphill.

Sunday, July 10


Circles, hangouts and huddles, oh my!

Writers can be out of the information loop, so focused on their little patch of the news world that big news events can take them by surprise.

Or perhaps it's just me.

Until yesterday I had never heard of Google+. Since then I have diligently read up about it (see the links below for articles I thought were informative) and am very excited.

Facebook never worked for me, perhaps because I have groups of friends with very different interests. My writing friends aren't interested in my personal life and many of my closest friends don't read, so you can imagine how interested they are about developments in the book world!

From what I've heard about Google+ it also seems to be an especially good fit for a writer who has more than one pen-name. Writers can organize their readers into groups and send each group only the information they would be interested in. Less spam might mean more satisfied readers, and that would be great.

The Google+ Project
What is Google+?
Google takes on Facebook with the Google+ project
Google Makes Facebook Look Socially Awkward

Sunday, June 5

Writers are Odd

I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and saw paradise. The sun was shining (and in Vancouver that is a rare a sight), birds were flitting, Disney style, between trees, flowers were blooming and the scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns wafted up to me from the bakery down the street.

It was heaven.

What did I do? Did I go for a walk? Did I go for a (much needed) run? Did I make myself coffee and sit by my open window to enjoy the sights and sounds of spring?

No. Of course not. I'm a writer.

I booted up my computer, drew the curtains, and picked up editing a scene I'd been editing on and off for the last three days. I did, eventually, take a coffee break and, when I did, got to thinking about writing and its relationship to good mental health ... and whether there was one.

Who but a writer would spend a beautiful sunny day locked in her apartment punching away at little black buttons for hours on end? I guess a case could be made for writers, necessarily, being a bit ... let's call it eccentric.

Okay, that's my self-reflection for the day. :)