Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing for Wikipedia – The Rest of the Story

In an earlier post, we created leads for our articles. Today we draft the rest of the story.

If you haven't already done so, begin by reviewing existing author pages. What kinds of information is included? How is it grouped under sub-titles? What kinds of external links (links to pages outside of Wikipedia) are included? What kinds of wiki links? What kinds of categories are used?

Now look at the information you’ve gathered on your author. Can you organize it into chunks of related items? What heading (sub-title) would you give to each chunk of information? Organize the information that way in your document so you can cut and paste later.

What is typical for authors? It depends.

Take a look at Nevada Barr and Linda Barnes. They have the simplest form of article for authors – a lead and a list of publications. (Note there is no table of contents. That’s because there’s only one subheading – the list of books. We’ll learn tomorrow that Wikipedia automatically adds the table of contents for us when more than four sub-headers are included in the article.)

Also look at Robert Crais, whose page mentions a few other notable facts and Robert Heinlein, whose page contains a novela’s volume of information.

My article on William G. Tapley will contain two chunks of information: Biography and Publications. The Barnes, Barr, Crais, and Hemingway pages illustrate different ways to present a list of publications.

Next, consider what links (external and wiki) you’d like to use and gather those into your document. The author’s website can be included here, but don’t stop with that. Remember, you need to firmly establish notability or your article could be deleted by the Wiki Powers. If your author’s name is not instantly recognizable to the average person (e.g. Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway), deletion is a risk. Use external links to newspaper articles (large papers, not the neighborhood press), established news-based websites, publisher pages, etc.

Hint: When providing external links, it is important to provide the full address. Use your browser (IE, Fire Fox, etc.) to go to the target page. Once there, double-click on the address (top of page, begins with http://). Double-clicking guarantees you have the entire address selected. With the entire address highlighted, click your right mouse button. This displays a drop down menu. Click on the word ‘copy’. Now put your cursor in your document, right click again, and select ‘paste’. Now you have the complete address in the same place as the rest of your information. Do this for each link to save time later.

Can you use internal links–links to other Wikipedia pages? Yes! Use these throughout your article–the first time (and only the first time) you mention the item associated with another Wikipedia page. These are the links that make Wikipedia a such a useful tool.

Finally, scroll to the bottom of each page and review the Categories. Make a list of categories for your selected author.

My draft article now looks like this:

William G. Tapply (1940 - July 28, 2009), an American author also known as Bill
Tapply, and best know for his Brady Coyne mystery novels, penned more than forty
books during his twenty-five year novel writing career and nearly a thousand magazine articles during his lifetime. He was a Contributing Editor for Field & Stream and a columnist for American Angler. With his wife, author Vicki Stiefel, he ran The Writers Studio at Chickadee Farm from which they mentored young writers.

Biography
William G. Tapley, born in Waltham, Massachusetts, grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts where he graduated from Lexington High School. He added a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.A.T. from Harvard to his arsenal before launching his first career as a teacher Lexington High School, where he worked for nearly twenty-five years.

Although he always found time for his love of teaching (Lexington High, Concord High, Emerson College, Clark University, and , The Writers Studio at Chickadee Farm), in the early 1980s he began to share his love of the written word with the world, with magazine articles in such publications as Field & Stream, and Sports Illustrated. In 1984, he published his first novel, Death at Charity's Point.

For most of his career as a novelist, he lived in Hancock, N.H. At this writing, fans of the Brady Coyne novels have twenty-three pure Brady Coyne and tree Brady Coyne/J.W. Jackson mysteries to read. Readers who crave more also have access to three Stoney Calhoun mysteries, and fifteen non-fiction books on writing, fishing and life outdoors.

Published Works
Novels
Brady Coyne Mystery Novels
• Death at Charity's Point, Scribner, 1984
• The Dutch Blue Error, Scribner, 1985
• Follow the Sharks, Scribner, 1985
• The Marine Corpse, Scribner 1986
• Dead Meat, Scribner, 1987
• The Vulgar Boatman, Scribner, 1987
• A Void in Hearts, Scribner, 1988
• Dead Winter, Delacorte, 1989
• Client Privilege, Delacorte, 1989
• The Spotted Cats, Delacorte, 1991
• Tight Lines, Delacorte, 1992
• The Snake Eater, Otto Penzler Books, 1993
• The Seventh Enemy, Otto Penzler Books, 1995
• Close to the Bone, St. Martin's Press, 1996
• Cutter's Run, St. Martin's Press, 1998
• Muscle Memory, St. Martin's Press, 1999
• Scar Tissue , St. Martin's Press, 2000
• Past Tense, St. Martin's Press, 2001
• A Fine Line, St. Martin's Press, 2002
• Shadow of Death, St. Martin's Press, 2003
• Nervous Water , St. Martin's Press, 2005
• Out Cold, St. Martin's Press, 2006
• One Way Ticket, St. Martin's Press, 2007

Brady Coyne/J.W. Jackson Mystery Novels
• First Light, St. Martin's Press, 2001
• Second Sight, St. Martin's Press, 2004
• Third Strike, St. Martin's Press, 2007

Stoney Calhoun Mystery Novels
• Bitch Creek, The Lyons Press, 2004
• Gray Ghost, St. Martin's Press , 2007
• Dark Tiger, 2009

Non-fiction Works
• Those Hours Spent Outdoors,Scribner, 1988.
• Opening Day and Other Neuroses, Lyons and Burford, 1990.
• Home Water Near and Far, Lyons and Burford, 1992.
• Sportsman's Legacy, Lyons and Burford, 1993.
• Thicker Than Water, a romance/suspense novel co-written with Linda Barlow, published in 1995 by Signet.
• The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a resource for aspiring mystery writers, was first
published by The Writer, Inc. in 1995, and reissued by Poisoned Pen Press in 2004.
• A Fly-fishing Life, The Lyons Press, 1997.
• Bass Bug Fishing,The Lyons Press, 1999.
• Upland Days, The Lyons Press, 2000.
• A Brady Coyne Omnibus, containing three Brady Coyne novels, published by St. Martin's in 2000.
• Pocket Water, The Lyons Press, 2001.
• The Orvis Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing for Bass, The Lyons Press, 2001.
• Gone Fishin', The Lyons Press, 2004.
• Trout Eyes, Skyhorse Publishing, 2007.
• Upland Autumn,2009
Tomorrow we enter our masterpieces in Wikipedia.

Resources:
Help
New Contributors Help Page
Your First Article
Quick Reference Cheat Sheet


Other articles in this series include:
• January 15 – Wikipedia Registration
• January 22 – Background on Biographies
• February 05 – Writing the Lead
• March 31 – Creating an Article in Draft
• TBD – Removing article from draft status, Benefits, Odds and End

----------------------------------------
Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books and short stories at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Dialogue: Just the Way We Talk?

Dialogue is two or more characters talking to each other. We can all talk. Writing dialogue should be easy, right? Well, yes and no.

Here’s what dialogue is:

Talk is an ACTION. An ideal, compact way to advance your story by having one character tell the other what’s happening—to reveal, admit, incite, accuse, lie, etc. It can speed up a scene.

A way to define a character. The way someone speaks—accent, vocabulary, idiom, inflection—tells as much about what he is like as his actions do. And let’s us see him better than just using description. It can also reveal motive.

One way to show emotion and set a mood. Characters reveal themselves when under stress or angry. Dialogue is used to create an emotional effect in the reader.

Another way to show POV.

Often used to get across what is NOT said. Example, if you want to show that someone wants to avoid an unpleasant encounter, you can show this by having them talk around the subject uppermost in their mind, but never quite touch it. In this way, you’re asking the reader to read between the lines. It’s tricky, but think about how you talk to someone yourself when you’re angry at them but don’t want to tell them exactly why—by being sarcastic, arch, nitpicky, oversolicitous, etc.

To intensify conflict. Dialogue is often adversarial or confrontational. Dialogue should be natural, but never the way we really talk.

Example:

The minute the phone rang, Janet snatched the receiver, grateful for a distraction—any distraction. “Hello,” she said.

“Hey, Jan. It’s me, Shirl.”

“Oh, hi. How are you?”

“Good,” replied Shirl. “How about you?”

“Okay. What’re you up to?”

“Ah…you know,” said Shirl. “Not much.”

“Yeah. Not much new on this end, either. I brought home a ton of case files to read.”

“Same here. We need a shift lieutenant who knows what a shift is.”

“You got that right,” Janet agreed. “But I almost wish we were still at the station. Maybe we could get some buzz on the new detective, that Ross. Supposedly he’s an investigative whiz.”

“Maybe not,” said Shirl. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “He’s why I’m calling. Roger, the guy in records? He told me Ross comes with a lot of baggage—maybe even a criminal record.”

“Say what? That can’t be possible.”

Make sure your characters have something worth saying before they open their mouths, and get to the point quickly. What did Janet learn from Shirl that moves the story along or tells us something critical about one or both characters?

Example rewrite:

The minute the phone rang, Janet snatched the receiver, grateful for a distraction from the case files she’d lugged home from the station.

Shirl was on the other end. She said a fast hello, then dropped her voice to a whisper. “You lay eyes on that new detective yet? Ross?”

“Sure,” said Janet. “Supposedly he’s some kind of investigative whiz.”

“Maybe not. Roger, the guy in records? He told me Ross comes with a lot of baggage—maybe even a criminal record.”

“Say what? That can’t be possible.”

We’ve cut the conversation down from 17 lines to 8 and made it much more exciting. We know, without a lot of chit-chat, that she’s brought home extra work. Shirl cuts right to the chase with her tidbit of gossip.

Next month, I’ll write about some of the common mistakes we all make in dialogue.

--------------
A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.


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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ten Good Reasons to Be a Ghost

I’m a ghostwriter, and have been for more than ten years. For many years before that, writing was something I did “on the side.” It didn’t pay the mortgage or put my kids through college; that’s what my day job was for. I didn’t actually start making a living writing until I began to write for others. Now I no longer live on the sidelines of my own life. Ghostwriting is the vehicle I used to get in the game.

Other writers ask me about ghostwriting, often with an undertone of sympathy, as if ghostwriting was a last resort. When I tell them I love ghostwriting, I don’t think they really believe me. But although there are downsides to ghostwriting, there are plenty of upsides. Here are ten of them.

1. You can make money doing what you love – writing. Now I must admit I’m not raking in the dough and getting filthy rich. But I am making a comfortable living, and I am hundreds of times happier than I used to be while making twice as much working for corporate America. There were a few lean years in the beginning, but I’m still here, over ten years and nearly 40 ghostwritten books later. There are many people who long to write a book, but lack the skill or the time to do so – but that doesn’t mean they lack the money to pay you to do it for them. It takes time, skill, and effort to write a book, and you can charge accordingly.

2. You will learn many new things. I now know what it was like to fight in the Korean War; how to cure a nasty digestive condition; how to telepathically communicate with a horse; theories of modern parenting; how to make a good compost pile; why not to use male enhancement products; and a history of sauerkraut making. Just to name a few.

3. Your mind and your heart will be stretched, and your tolerance and compassion will grow. You will learn how others think – even others radically different than you. Like actors, ghostwriters play many roles, just on the page instead of the stage. Unlike an actor, I’m not constrained by my gender, age, race or culture. I am a middle-aged white American woman from the West Coast. But as a ghostwriter, I’ve been an African-American man from New York, a Japanese-American woman, an Iranian immigrant, a self-described redneck from Oklahoma, and oh yes, some middle-aged white American women. I’ve been any age from 20 to 90. I’ve been a doctor, an accountant, an entrepreneur, a cop, a scientist, a shaman, a gardener. Etcetera.

4. You will hear and tell great stories. It’s a cliché that everyone has a story, but it’s true. Everyone’s life matters. Everyone knows some interesting things. You can even help people find the stories they didn’t know they had.

5. You can give a written voice to those who can’t write, or who think they can’t. Just because they can’t write well doesn’t mean they don’t have good stories. (See #4.)

6. You don’t have to come up with all the ideas all by yourself. You just have to ask questions and listen for the answers. Your listening skills will improve mightily.

7. You can help ideas and wisdom get “out there” that otherwise wouldn’t. Perhaps the book you write for someone will change the world in some fantastic way. Books have a long and distinguished history of doing just that.

8. You can help eliminate the stigma of self-publishing if your clients are going that route. Many self-published books are written by amateurs and you can tell. Your skill can make them professional creations instead.

9. Ghostwriting is good for your ego. You don’t get any glory or credit. Nobody knows it was your writing that made a book sing, or caused people to weep, or others to cry “aha!” as an idea illuminated their life. Your writing does not belong to you. It belongs to the author, who is not you. Yes, this is a positive thing. It keeps you from getting puffed up with self-importance.

10. You can use your inborn artistic talents in a way that helps people. You were given a gift – you can write – and by ghostwriting you can use that gift to give back. What is more fulfilling than that?

If you are interested in becoming a ghostwriter, my new online interactive program, “Living as a Ghost” (www.primary-sources.com/learntoghost.html) teaches writers how to be successful ghostwriters and provides a resource for ongoing support. We ghosts should stick together – it can get lonely out here in the ether.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.

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Quotables

Do you prefer writing or revising?
Revising, no contest! I actually tend to revise as I go. When I'm a good girl and fulfill my word-goal for the day, I let myself work over the previous couple pages as a treat. I almost always discover they're better than I thought. It's like they cure overnight or something. ~ Sarah Miller

Read more about this author and her thoughts on the writing process and publishing by clicking here.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding the Right Writers' Conference -- Summer Events

In our January 25th post, I listed a sampling of upcoming conferences through April 2010. This month I’m taking a look at conferences scheduled for May through August. The list is representative of events across the country available to help you improve your writing skills and get feedback from editors and agents.

You can find more information at Shaw Guides. For a series of informative articles about conferences from Writer's Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino, check out the Writers Conference category of his blog archives.

The focus of these conferences is writing. The cost is minimal for some of the one-day programs. Pitch sessions are available at several. All of the information for each conference or workshop can be found at its official website. Click on the conference name and follow the link.


May


Florida Center for the Literary Arts
Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida
May 5-8, 2010

Lighthouse Writers Workshop
Denver, Colorado
Ongoing workshops, retreats

Maryland Writers' Association
Baltimore, Maryland
May 2010 (details to be announced)


June


Wesleyan Writers Conference
Wesleyan University
Middletown, Connecticut
June 17-21, 2010

Philadelphia Writers' Conference
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
June 11-13, 2010

Wyoming Writers, Inc. Annual Conference
Cody, Wyoming
June 4-6, 2010

Iowa Summer Writing Festival
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
Workshops throughout June and July

Jackson Hole Writers Conference
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June 24-27, 2010


July


Midwest Writers’ Workshop
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana
July 29-31, 2010

Romance Writers of America
Nashville, Tennessee
July 28 - 31, 2010


August

Sun Valley Writers’ Conference
Sun Valley, Idaho
August 20-23, 2010


I attended the Midwest Writers’ Workshop in Indiana many, many years ago and considered it a valuable learning experience. If anyone has additional feedback on these conferences, please let us know. Do you have a favorite writers' conference to add? If so, please give us a link with your comment.

--------------------

Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).


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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar

Recently, I had the less-than-stellar experience of editing a manuscript for a first-time writer who believed her every word, every comma, every sentence contributed to her perfect book and under no circumstances should be changed. Emotions ran high, and reason ran out the door. Resistance became the word of the day, every day.

A few years ago, I attended a seminar where we were told that our books are not our babies. However, books are birthed after months, sometimes years, of hard labor. That does suggest a kinship between the two b’s—babies and books. Let’s take that comparison a step further. What happens when our baby gets sick? Do we take it to the doctor? Yes. When the doctor writes out a prescription, do we fill it? Of course. We even get well-baby checks and follow a schedule of immunizations to prevent measles, mumps, chickenpox, tetanus, hepatitis, and other diseases. Why? We want our baby to be healthy, the best it can be.

What about our manuscripts? When they are less than healthy, do we take them to the doctor, a.k.a., editor? When the editor writes out a prescription (suggestion to make the book better), do we fill it? Suppose we don’t think the story’s ailing. Do we still get well-manuscript checks? Do we immunize our book against lack of continuity and flow, poor dialogue, plot and character weaknesses, redundancies, lagging story lines, absence of hooks, telling rather than showing, and a host of other disorders? Do we want our story to be the best it can be?

Most of us agree that the doctor’s ability to ascertain the true state of our baby’s health exceeds our own. Similarly, a competent editor’s ability to determine the well-being of our manuscript far surpasses ours. Yet, do we resist the editor’s efforts to make our book the best it can be?

We writers often love our words and are loath to part with a phrase that epitomizes our feelings or paints an extraordinary (in our opinion) word picture. We may need to be convinced that a few more strokes of the brush will enhance our emotions or add depth to our scene. But if we are resistant writers, we want to protect our words at any cost.

Sometimes that cost is very high. Take the writer mentioned above. Her book has great potential to become a bestseller. However, much of her unedited writing rambles and digresses from her topic. If polished, her incredible story and unique delivery will draw in many readers. But its present state falls far short of excellence and stifles the realization of that potential.

How do editors reach a writer with the needed prescription before the manuscript’s poor health becomes terminal? According to Mary Poppins, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” We editors—a.k.a., book doctors—prescribe cures for almost all literary ailments. How can we help resistant writers to swallow those cures? What is that "spoonful of sugar” that "helps the medicine go down”? What do you think?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Linda Lane loves words. She writes, edits, and publishes books, a lifelong dream come true. Two books she edited have won national awards, and her own latest book, a psychological drama, goes to press this week. Visit her under-construction Web site at http://www.penandswordpublishers.com/

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mixing Tenses

Previously we looked at how to use a blend of pluperfect tense and past tense to integrate flashbacks. Today we will look at mixing past and present tense.

Deliberately Mixing Past and Present Tense

I've read some interesting stories using a mixture of tenses. One book involved a current investigation that triggered constant flashbacks for the protagonist to a previous investigation. The author handled this by separating the two stories and writing the main narrative in present tense, alternating full scenes of present tense and past tense reflecting the present and past respectively. It helped to clarify for which case clues were being processed.

Another story was written in first person past tense in a confessionary style. When the narrator spoke of scenes that were emotionally "present" to him, he slipped into present tense narration. Take care with this technique, as you need to have a good handle on your own grasp of tense.

Inadvertently Mixing Tenses

Some writers find they unintentionally mix their tenses. There are two main reasons for this. One is not being able to separate dialogue from narrative in your mind. Past tense creeps into the characters' words, and when the quotes close, the narrative continues in present tense for a few words.

The other reason is the tendency to tell someone about a past experience using the present tense: "So, I ordered the fish, and it arrives, and it's still got the head on, and I absolutely freak." Listen to yourself in conversation next time - do you drift back and forth from past tense to present tense in your speech?

But if you want to train yourself so that you have the choice of which tense you use and when, try some dialogue and action exercises. Write the dialogue in present tense, then immediately follow it with past tense action. You might even want to try monitoring your own speech and "correcting" yourself when you use present tense to describe the past - just to help yourself gain awareness of the differences.
---------------------------------------------Elsa Neal
Elsa Neal owns HearWriteNow.com, an online magazine for writers. Read her writing insights at her Fictional Life Blog. Elle is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Author Platforms

What is a “platform” when it pertains to a book? This can be confusing – with good reason. The confusion is because what used to be meant by platform has morphed into something more.

In the past, when someone said you needed a platform for your book, they, first off, meant your nonfiction book. Only nonfiction books were required to have platforms. What it basically meant was that you, the author, were an expert on some subject others want to learn about.

Expert + important topic = platform.

Over the last few years, platform has come to mean more than that. It no longer is enough to be an expert on some subject people want to read about. You now have to have a built-in audience or a way to get publicity.

Expert + important topic + ready audience = platform.

The sad thing is this last part of the equation (the ready audience) has taken on great significance, so much so that it can be more important than the other two parts. That’s why you see so many celebrities writing books (or having them ghost written). It sometimes doesn’t matter they know no more on the subject than you; it doesn’t matter the subject is superficial. They have easy access to TV shows, radio, magazine and newspaper exposure, and hundreds of thousands of people who will buy the book based solely on their name, regardless of subject or even need.

You can have a platform without being a Hollywood celebrity, though you still need the platform part of the equation. Not the promise that if published you’re willing to make speeches, conduct workshops, appear on TV and radio, and do book tours. A platform needs to be in place prior to getting published, even prior to querying. Not what you would do in the future, but what access to publicity and book sales you already have in place. You are already a recognized expert; you’re already doing speeches and workshops; you have a blog visited by thousands every day; you have a following based on prior sales, your work, your newsletter, your mailing list; you have name recognition – the wider the better.

Another way the meaning of the term platform has morphed is that it now applies to fiction, as well as nonfiction. Agents and editors now look to see if fiction writers have a platform. They want good writing, a genre that will sell, and a new and interesting twist to the book – all the things they’ve always wanted. But now they also expect the author to have that third part of the equation – a ready-made audience. If you’re not a national celebrity then a local celebrity will do. If you’re not a celebrity, then you need to have already set up ways you can get yourself out there to sell your book. You’re already doing speeches and workshops, or you have an active, highly visited blog, or you are involved in so many organizations, groups, and activities that you can count on big sales. OR – you are so cute, young, and personable that the camera will love you and you can be made into a celebrity. OR – your book has a unique twist (that is anchored in you) that will make it easy to get publicity. For example, a heart-wrenching story with a fictionalized protagonist based on some new, highly reported event that involved you. What you can contribute to publicizing the book has taken on almost equal status with the subject of the book and your ability to write.

Good writing + unique, interesting topic or plot + ready audience = platform.

Agents will tell you they only care about the writing. They say they look at the pages and whether it hooks them. The hard truth is publishers – and agents – look at the bottom line – will this book sell.

So when you think of platform, imagine an actual platform in a room. You, the author/expert, are standing on that platform. You’re holding your book, ready to talk on this intriguing subject/ idea/plot. That used to be the platform.

Nowadays, you also have to imagine the audience you bring along with you. They’re up there on that platform with you. The bigger your audience, the bigger your platform. The bigger your platform, the more happy an agent or editor is going to be to see you, read you, sign you, buy you.

What are you doing to build your platform?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Hearing Voices - The Children's Book

I’ve been a fan of children’s literature since writing and illustrating my first little book as a senior in high school, winning the art student of the year scholarship and award. Wow, that was a very, very, very long time ago.

Over the decades, I collected children's literature for my own pleasure, and even worked as a trade rep at the Denver Merchandise Mart just so I could sell all the Random House imprints. What a marvelous time that was, getting boxes of new books every week. I was gifted with a tremendous selection, from classics to the newest contemporary, and before very long I developed an “ear” for a story that children and adults both could learn from and enjoy. It was an education through immersion. Of course, it didn't hurt that Dr. Seuss himself was the director of the Beginner Books division at the time. What could possibly inspire a fledgling writer more?

Recently, Little Pickle Press caught my eye at Facebook just as owner, Rana DiOrio, was releasing the first title in her What Does It Mean To Be? series.

What Does It Mean to Be Global? is a book written for her children, and every other child whose parents want to instill strong social values about caring, diversity, and protecting the environment. This book is for children ages 4-7. Or is it? The questions and answers presented are actually quite relevant for anyone from  ages 4-70.

Here are a few examples of text:
What does it mean to be global?

Does it mean being round? No!

Being global means...recognizing that your language is jut one of thousands spoken on our Earth.

... understanding how your actions affect another person's experience.
Following the guidance of child psychologists, each page answers the question in a simple and direct way, without elaborating on the issue any further than the child requires. This is an important part of teaching – give the information the child asks for, but don't confuse him by offering more than he needs. He'll ask more questions when he is ready. This is also the essence of "voice" in children's stories – it must be clear and more importantly, spare. Every word has to count.

Illustrations build on the straightforward text in a colorful and detailed style reminiscent of a youngster’s finest little masterpiece. Parent and child alike will spend time exploring the pictures and embellishing on the simple storyline, because there are many wonderful details well worth examining. Use them as a catalyst for further discussion once the child has thought about the fundamental lesson.

Little Pickle Press takes a strong stand in the area of environmental impact. The book is printed on recycled paper using soy inks and distributed with green packaging. And 10% of the purchase price of each book is donated to Starlight Children's Foundation.

To buy copies for the little ones in your life (and why not donate a set to your library?) visit Little Pickle Press at their website. You'll find the other titles in the What Does It Mean to Be? series, too, so be sure and collect them all. Notice the foreign language editions as well.

Second in the series is What Does It Mean To Be Green?

Coming this Fall What Does It Mean To Be Present?

Highly recommended, and a fantastic example of simple but strong voice in kidlit.

~~~~~~~~~
Dani Greer is a founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, and lately she's spent more time drawing than writing as she explores the graphic novel format. She also edits for other writers, paying particular attention to voice and detail in their manuscripts. Contact her by email for critique costs.

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Ask The Editor: Making the Big Time

This is another in our continuing series Ask The Editor. Normally I edit the questions, if need be, but decided to leave this one as is. Explanation will come later.

The question comes from:

Gregg Seeley
Big Bobby Boom and the Marble Mayhem
(Moose Hide Books 2009)
Ages 9-11
buy link
Goodreads
Redroom

Question: I am published under a small independant press and have recieved wonderful reviews on this book from Schools, journalists, reviewers and readers alike and am in the process of having more published that are terrifically favourable as well. My question is, How can I bring this book to the attention of a larger publisher or larger distributor in order that they consider it for purchase of publishing rights in order to give it international exposure and distribution? Please let me know if you are able to offer me advice on this and the other authors who are facing the same challenge.

Answer: The stories of authors who successfully move from small press or self- publishing to a major press don’t mention how rare and how difficult that is. A book has to be exceptionally well-written and have a highly marketable concept. Case in point is Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Ph.D. It was first self published through iUniverse, received rave reviews, and was picked up by Pocket Books. Not only is it a beautifully written book, it deals with Alzheimer's, which is a hot topic of interest to many readers. Yet, that is just one out of thousands of books coming from small markets.

That said, I would not discourage anyone from trying to gain greater exposure for their work. Persistence in querying major publishers can pay off, if the approach is professional and well researched.

Part of that professional approach is to make sure that all your writing is the best it can possibly be. I realize that your question was probably written quickly and you most likely did not think that the errors mattered since this was just a question to a blog. However, all writing matters, whether it is on a blog or elsewhere. That is especially important for your first approach to a potential publisher. Your query letter should be polished and error free. That may mean the letter is written and rewritten several times until it is concise, smooth, and has no typos or misspellings.

The other part of making a professional approach is to do your research about the publishers. How do they want the submission made? Query only first? Don’t think that you can disregard that guideline for any reason. Do their FAQ tell you clearly what genres they accept? Don’t decide to send something else just because you think it is so good they have to consider it. Do they accept phone calls to follow up on a submission? If not, respect that. One of the first marks of a professional is that he or she can follow directions.

With the Internet, that market research can be done from the comfort of your home. To find a specific publisher, you can simply Google the name and find a Web site. For comprehensive lists you can visit sites like Writer's Net Agent Query and Publishers Marketplace. They all have information about publishers and/or agents, as well as helpful tips on writing query letters and preparing submissions.

Good luck.
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Posted by Maryann Miller, who believes that an editor's job is to edit, not rewrite the book. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Clea Simon and Why We Kill

Recently, I have been thinking about why we kill. Because that is what mystery writers do. We set up a situation with a variety of characters, and we kill one of them. Fun, huh? But if we’re going to do it right, we need to have a good motive. It can be one of the classics – lust, jealousy, rage, or greed (a form of lust) – but it has to make sense. If we’re going to respect our readers, we, as authors, need to come up with a good reason for one of our characters to die.

I should explain, I write the kind of traditional mysteries (yes, sometimes called “cozies”) that are peopled by rational types, more or less. I do not write nor am I a fan of the kind of mystery or thriller in which the irrational is accepted. I don’t care about crazed serial killers/terrorists, alien invasions, or the like. (Yes, I do have the occasional ghost, but he’s feline.) I want to understand what is going on, and that means understanding the villain, too. Even if the villain’s motives are slightly off, the result of a misunderstanding or a slightly warped perception – and, after all, is there ever a good reason to murder someone? – I want them to follow a logical progression.

So why does a more or less reasonable character kill? Usually, I think, it is because a normal irritant has been pushed too far. But not in a gradual, sequential way – or not entirely. The irritant may build up, but there also has to be a crisis, even if it is off screen or entirely internal.

You know the apocryphal story of the frog that sits in water as it is heated, until the water becomes so hot the poor amphibian dies? Wouldn’t happen. I once cornered a herpetologist at the local museum of comparative zoology. “The frog would jump out when it got too hot,” he told me. And I believe that’s true for people, too. Although we may need the pressure to build up, it is usually a singular event or act – one particular trigger – that pushes us over the edge. The trigger may appear minor to us – the fender bender or the rude stranger on the bus – but to the character, it is decisive: the final straw. Our character may then lash out or plan a meticulous crime, but by then it makes sense. Something has changed.

This came up for me in my most recent book, because at first I was trying too hard to force one character into the role of murderer. She was beleaguered. She had secrets that were in danger of being revealed. She was under pressure. But she wasn’t near the boiling point. She had no trigger. And soon I realized that almost all of my characters had secrets – had reasons to get really ticked off at the victim. But triggers? Something that would give that final shove? Only one. And this fell into place for me when I realized that, basically, what I needed to understand and depict was the logical, but disturbing transformation of my real central character. Not my protagonist, whom I adore, but my killer. Once I had that, the rest of the story fell into place.

This is not that far off from what writers of straight (aka “literary,” non-genre) fiction do. I teach writing sometimes, and one of the most common problems I see my students having involves plotting. Too often, they can come up with a beautiful scene, a tableau, but they do not know how to move it forward. How to make the story progress. Look for the change, I tell them. Figure out how your protagonist grows, or is acted upon, by what happens. Look for transformation.

What I am really telling them is “look for the motive.” Because we writers love all the bells and whistles. Every time I find a new way to disguise a clue or pass off a little misdirection as a hint, I dance with glee. Almost every time I hear from a reader, it’s about how they relate to my protagonist or her colleagues, the good guys. But as I sit down to start a new mystery, I have to accept that none of that matters, really. How our villains change is. What happened to them. Why they do what they do – why we do what we do – that’s the story.
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Clea Simon is the author of two mystery series and three nonfiction books. Her latest Dulcie Schwartz mystery, Grey Matters, comes out this month from Severn House, and features a sleuthing grad student, an absent-minded professor, and the ghost of a beloved cat. Excerpts of all her work can be found at http://www.cleasimon.com and she can be followed on Twitter @Clea_Simon .

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pitching to agents: How to throw a fiction fast ball

Ah, it's conference season again.

Writers everywhere are crawling from their winter writing spaces, blinking a few times, and sniffing the air: Time to meet with others of my kind.

I admire these writers, who will plunk their money down to invest in a career that may still be one of their imagination. They will don their best "business casual" (clean and pressed—yes; over-eager—no; professional yet confidently relaxed and "I too could be on Oprah" is the image they seek) and stride through the hotel ballroom doors with a game face on because this is what they've been working for, what they can find nowhere else: the chance to sit down with an agent, editor or publisher, face to face, and advocate for their work.

Are you one of them? If you too are gearing up to pitch to an agent or editor this conference season, and you write fiction or memoir, here are a few tips on how to put together your pitch.

By now your manuscript may have swelled to 100,000 words or more, but your pitch needs to be brief. Succinct. Depending on the conference you'll have somewhere between 5-10 minutes, which will feel like about the same amount of time it takes for a fastball to get from the pitching mound to home plate. The first few times you pitch you'll think this is horribly unfair. Your work is so complex! So intriguing, in every detail!

But truth is, you only need a minute. The rest of the time you can spend answering the agent's questions.

The very brevity of your pitch will speak volumes to an agent. She'll know you have a clear handle on what you've written, how it can best hook a reader, and that you know how to market it in the requisite sound bytes.

Attempting to write a pitch also might reveal that you are still wrestling with what you've written, feel vague about how it might hook a reader, and that you have no clue what market it belongs in—also useful information.

So what is a pitch?

The pitch is a 2-3 sentence summary that includes the “who, what, why, and why not.” Just enough information to intrigue the agent (I want to read that book!) and induce salivation (I think I can sell that book!).

You can structure the pitch any way you want, but you can’t go wrong with the following formula: When [A] happens, [B] wants [C] because [D], but [E] must first be overcome before [F].

A = inciting incident
B = protagonist
C = desire that drives the book
D = motivation of main character
E = obstacle/conflict
F = ending

Using an example referenced repeatedly in Debra Dixon’s valuable book Goal, Motivation & Conflict (available on line from Gryphon Books), a pitch for The Wizard of Oz might read:

When a tornado deposits an adventure-seeking girl in the fantastical Land of Oz [A], Dorothy [B] wants to find the wizard who can help her get back home [C] because her aunt is sick [D]. First she must overcome the witch who wants back her magical shoes, which Dorothy wears [E]. When the wizard can’t help her, she discovers she always had the power to get back home, where she has everything she’s ever wanted [F].

To get the most out of your pitch, layer the A-to-F formula with descriptors that imply the genre—in this case, “adventure-seeking girl” suggests YA, “Land of Oz,” and references to a “wizard” and a “witch” suggest fantasy.

Without this kind of concision, your ten minutes will flit past while you flounder around trying to help the person you are meeting with “get” your book. (I speak from that kind of mortifying experience that emblazons life lessons on our consciousness.) Give the agent or editor a handle on the “who, what, why, and why not” right out of the gate, and he or she will be free to devote the remaining precious minutes to the bottom line of this meeting: discussing the marketability of your project.

If the project is right for that agent or editor, you will leave the pitch session with an invitation to submit. Always ask: submit what and how? Every agent has his or her preferred method, and your attention to this detail will speak well of you. If the agent gives me a card, I usually write on the back, "first 50 pp, e-mail attachment," "first 3 ch., in body of e-mail" or "first 100 pp, snail mail." I wouldn't rely upon memory at a conference: the influx of new information can be staggering.

Remember: whether or not you are asked to submit, and whether or not that submission is met with a form letter or an invitation to send the full manuscript, pitching is a sport that takes practice. The fact that you are willing to step onto the mound for your manuscript—sometimes again and again—shows that you have what it takes to win in the publishing game.

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Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com. She loves any event that brings writers together, so she's attended writers' conferences from New York to Maui. She serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers' Conference, and 2010 marks the second time she has chaired The Write Stuff conference in Allentown, PA, at which she has volunteered in one capacity or another over the course of a decade. This year she initiated a blog for the conference, ALL THE WRITE STUFF, featuring interviews with presenters and conferees who used the conference to make successful publishing connections.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Craig Lancaster Loves What?

I just spent an intimate week with the novel -- tentative title THE SUMMER SON -- that I finished back in August.

Except I wasn't really finished. Hence, the intimate week.

While I waited to decide what I want to do with it, and waited for others to decide what they want to do with it, I decided to take a fresh run at the manuscript, to see what perspective a few months' distance would give me.

This brings me to a confession: I love revising and editing. I love it more than I love writing a first or second draft. Drafts fill me with anxiety. Without really meaning to, I write quickly as I try to transfer what's in my head to the computer screen, even as story threads blow up and transform and head in new directions. I tend to work at a breakneck pace -- not so much because I enjoy it, but because my head and my fingers compel me to.

Ah, but revisions. Revisions are a love affair in full bloom. I sit with a printout, red pen in hand, and I bleed on the pages. I strike extraneous words. I banish entire stretches of exposition. I zero in on the tell and turn it into show. I move pieces of the story around. I discover new motivations for characters major and minor, and I flesh those out. The word count drops precipitously on one page, then rises by a few hundred on the next few. With a draft, I see my story at a distance. With revisions, I see it up close -- the flaws, yes, but also the beautiful moments. I try to excise the former and amplify the latter.

As I made my way through THE SUMMER SON, I drew a bead on an irritating tendency that pervaded the novel. The story, in the voice of the protagonist, Mitch Quillen, was polluted by constructions like this:

"I could hear them ..."

"I could see it ..."

"I could feel the fear ..."


Out came the red pen, and my sentences went on a diet:

"I heard them ..."

"I saw it ..."

"I felt the fear ..."


At a crucial emotional juncture, I simply shook my head at how lazy and expository I'd become. As young Mitch lies in bed and listens to a fight from the room next door, I described it this way:

Marie hated life alone on the ranch, hated life out in the field with Dad, wanted something new, something better, something more fitting her station, or what she believed her station to be.

Dad laid out his discontent, too. He had no tolerance for Marie’s spendthrift ways, her meddling in business matters, her wandering eye. I gathered that Dad had found her in Billings – making his day of driving very nearly a thousand miles. She was at a nightclub, in the arms of another man. There had been confrontations, first Dad against the interloper, and then Dad against Marie all the way back here.

He called her a whore again. She said she had done nothing he hadn’t done first, which was true, although I don’t know if she had proof or was just scattershooting accusations in hopes of a hit.


By the time my red pen was finished, it looked like this:

The words were quieter now, delivered in low tones so as not to rouse me. It was a senseless consideration. I lay in the dark, my eyes open, and took in every syllable.

“I hate it here,” she said. “I hate being with you out there. I deserve better.”

“This is the deal,” Dad said. “You knew it when you married me.”

“I didn’t know it would be like this.”

"That makes two of us.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t keep up with you, Marie. You’re bleeding us dry, you’re out gallivanting around. I come home and find you in Billings –”

“I was just having fun.”

“It looked fun, you and that guy.”

“He’s just a friend. Not that you’d know –”

“He was friendly, that was clear. He can be friendly with a busted nose.”

“Oh, yeah, big man Jim. You can’t understand it, so you’ve got to hurt it.”

“Whore.”

“I didn’t do anything that you didn’t do first.”

“Lying whore.”

I turned over, wrapped the pillow around my head and said a silent prayer that it would end soon. It seemed to me, lying there in the dark, that Jerry had made the only sensible decision.

He had gotten out.


When I see the difference, I'm thankful for revising. Every writer works differently, and the trick for all of us is figuring out the way that best suits us. For me, learning to love editing and revision allows me to see the greatest possibility for my work.

Oh, and if you're wondering what happens to Mitch, here's my advice: Stay tuned. How about that? In revising, I managed to write in a cliffhanger.
~~~~~~~
Visit Craig Lancaster at his website or his blog by clicking here. He is the author of 600 Hours of Edward which we recently hosted on a blog book tour.




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Monday, March 15, 2010

I Declare: Envisioning Your Writing Future

Sit and think about your dream writing life. What does it entail? Do you spend vast parts of your days writing and taking trips and spending time in the library to research and experience the world to which you will write about? Are you a novelist? An essayist? A poet? A screenwriter? A playwright? All of the above?

What do you SEE? And just as important: what do you WANT?

It's not good enough to simply have these visions and wants locked inside your mind. You need to DECLARE them - to yourself and to others.


When we declare, we

1. make known or state clearly, esp. in explicit or formal terms;
2. announce officially; proclaim: to declare a state of emergency;
3. state emphatically: He declared that the allegation was a lie;
4. manifest; reveal; show ("Declare" - dictionary.com)


Take out a sheet of paper, and number it from 1 to 5 for starters (you may have more than five declarations, but let's start here.)

After each number, write "I".

Each of these "Is" will begin a declarative statement about you and your writing desires.

Some of us may think it's not very humble to go off declaring all over the place, but this isn't about you simply tooting your horn. You are affirming what you know to be true.

Once you have written your declarations and have announced them, then you must plan to achieve them. What are you going to do, what action are you going to put into motion so that you can realize your declarations?

Nothing comes to fruition without a declaration of it and then a plan to obtain it. Having these two things will practically guarantee your literary success.

What are YOUR writing declarations? What is your plan to make your declarations reality?


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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has

published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell, will be released June 2010; you can read an excerpt here. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Living As a Ghost – Without Having to Die First

Today we welcome Kim Pearson, a ghostwriter and owner of Primary Sources. Kim has just started an online course for writers interested in becoming ghosts, so read on for more information. We look forward to additional posts about the ghostly career in the future. Welcome, Kim.
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The first book I wrote as someone else was for my own grandmother. I wrote the story of her coming to America as a child, her experiences as a “flapper” in the 1920s, her housewife life in a mountain logging town during the Depression, and her war service in the Second World War. I interviewed her and recorded our conversations, and she loaned me a box of old letters in spidery handwriting, plus about thirty albums full of photos of people even she couldn’t remember. I wrote it in first person, in her voice, using many of the phrases characteristic of my grandmother, with idioms common for her era. I wrote the book for love of my grandmother and because I wanted my own two daughters to know their heritage.

Grandma loved her book. She was so proud of it she showed it to all her friends, and since she was a highly social woman, a lot of people got to see it. One of those people raved about the book to her daughter, and then the daughter called me up and asked me to do the same thing for her mother. That was my first paid ghostwriting job. I charged a miniscule amount considering the energy and time I spent on it, but it was a great learning experience to write for/as a total stranger. It too was a success, and for the first time it occurred to me that I might be able to make a living doing what I loved – writing – and had been doing “on the side” for the previous twenty-odd years.

So I was off and running … well, not really running. I was off and limping. I had a lot to learn about ghostwriting, especially about how to market my services. But that was almost 15 years ago, and here I still am. And now I am so much smarter about the ghostwriting business, and how to live the ghostwriter’s life. I no longer charge miniscule amounts, for one thing. I know how to conduct a great interview, winkling out stories and ideas my clients thought they had forgotten. I know some tricks to make my writing sound like someone else wrote it. I know legal stuff about copyright, royalties, and confidentiality. I know how to combat the ghostwriting “stigma” so people know it’s okay to use a ghostwriter. I know how to convince people that it’s worth their time, energy, and especially their money to write a book. And those are just a few of the many things I now know about being a ghostwriter.

I believe that writing – or sharing in some way – our stories, ideas, and wisdom, is one of our most important life tasks. Our stories show us how we connect with each other, they allow us to teach and learn, they inspire us, and they heal our divisions and our wounds. Our ideas, and our lives, matter. This is why I do what I do, and it’s why I think the more writers helping non-writers share their ideas and stories, the better.

And that’s why I developed my new program for writers called Living as A Ghost. In it I share all the ghostwriting information it has taken me years to learn. For only $349, writers who enroll in this program receive:

Comprehensive, in-depth information about the ghostwriting business and the ghostwriting life, that saves time, energy, and money.

Valuable tips on how to turn writing skills into a way to both make money and help others.

Actual ghostwriting practice – including professional feedback.

An ongoing resource for answering questions and discussing the challenges and opportunities that may come your way as you pursue your ghostwriting career.

A Certificate of Course Completion.

And finally, you will have a lot of fun. (And so will I.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There is more information at http://www.primary-sources.com/learntoghost.html. Or you can email me and I’d be delighted to share how excited I am about this new program.


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Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing as an Art — Passing the Palette . . . and the Brush

We’ve created our character sketches in great detail. Our completed outline tells us exactly where our story begins, how it develops, and where it ends. Now all we have to do is get it on paper (or hard drive), and we have a book.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If only it were that simple . . . but it isn’t, so let’s take a deeper look at this process.

How do we create scenes? We place one or more characters in a particular situation and allow him/her/them to react to it. We tell the character(s) what to say, what to see, what to hear, what to think, what to do, and how to do it. Scene’s done. Wow!

But it’s not working. The action is stilted, the dialogue’s stiff, nothing about it rings true, and even we don’t care what happens next. Why? Complete sentences, proper punctuation, and good verb choices should make this a great scene. Each character said and did just what we wanted them to say and do. So what happened?

More importantly, what didn’t happen? We didn’t allow the characters tell their own story. Instead, we put our words in their mouths, imposed our actions on theirs—we told our story. We painted our scene.

How do we fix it? We step back from the canvas (monitor), and pass the palette (keyboard) to our characters. Then we take it one step further—we give them the brush and let them paint the scene. In other words, we give our characters free reign to tell their stories without our interference. Sounds crazy? Perhaps. But it works every time.

What’s involved in implementing this change in perspective? First, we must know our characters and be as familiar with their personalities, peculiarities, and penchants as we are with out own. Then we start to write, and the difference begins. Because of what we know about them, we can type whatever our characters tell us without conscious consideration, letting the dictated words flow off the palette and onto the canvas. And when it’s finished, we’re in for a surprise. We may even be exclaiming, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

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Linda Lane is about to release her second novel, a psychological drama entitled Treacherous Tango. She specializes in editing fiction and has edited two award-winning books. Visit her Web site-under-construction at http://www.penandswordpublishers.com/

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ask the Editor: Character Growth

Last month, in my February Ask The Editor post, I answered a question about strong female characters. In the comments on that post, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally series, wrote this:
I had trouble with my female character in This Is the Place at first because her character arc was to start out with her needing to get some understanding (and backbone!). I wanted to keep my modern readers and still stay true to that arc. The novel is done but it might benefit all to discuss this.
With her permission, I’m posting my thoughts here.

Having a character (either modern or set in an historical time period) who is weak in some area is definitely okay. It would, in fact, be realistic. As people, we’re all weak in some area or even several areas. A character who is strong in every aspect (male or female) would be more fantasy than real. Even ultra-strong characters, like Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, has his weaknesses. He can be hurt in both body and heart and he sometimes misjudges how others will view his actions. If you read Robert Fate’s Baby Shark series, you know sometimes when Baby Shark sees someone in need of help, she steps in first and thinks later. She’s also a loyal friend who puts others above her own safety.

Those “weaknesses” don’t sound so bad, do they? Maybe not, but they’re still weaknesses and cause problems.

Another good thing about having characters with weaknesses is that you can use this “flaw” to show the character’s arc. If you’ve read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, then you know your protagonist needs to go on a journey over the course of the book. S/he needs to grow as a person and ultimately find the elixir that not only solves the problem or crisis, but shows that s/he has overcome the weakness.

This works in books, whether your character lives in 2010 or 1910 or 1110.

Another plus to having a character who is weak in an area is that your readers can identify more easily with this type of character. We may want to be strong and invulnerable, but we know we’re not and we see ourselves in characters who are struggling to overcome any faults they feel they have. When those characters grow and change or gain insight, we cheer for them (and ourselves).

And lastly, if you’re writing an historical character, be true to that time period. Women of a hundred years ago faced different problems and situations than women of today. What we consider “strong” may not apply to an earlier time period. And what was considered strong back then may be “weak” today. But what is consistent is that the desire and effort of characters (people) to grow, change and overcome is considered strength in all time periods.

Thank you, Carolyn, for asking about character arc.

Carolyn Howard- Johnson is the author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. You can also find her on her blog, Sharing With Writers, or on her website.

When I emailed Carolyn to tell her I was going to use her comment for another Ask The Editor post, she made a great point:
Movies have the same problem. They open with a character you don't like or feel lukewarm toward. Then as the Arc proceeds, one is glad one didn't leave the theater. The trick is, just how do we keep people in their seats until the character starts to see the light.
This is a great topic for all writers to think about. Let’s see if we can get a discussion going here in the Comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
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Helen Ginger is an author and freelance editor. You can visit her website and blog, Straight From Hel, follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to her free newsletter, Doing It Write, now in its eleventh year of publication.


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Exploring: Twitter Lists for Writers

If you’re published, or about-to-be published, you’ve heard plenty about establishing your online presence with a website and/or blog and various social networking sites you can use to spread your message and promote your book.

Twitter, probably the most popular and the most ridiculed of all social sites, is popular with readers and writers. Even more exciting, agents and publishers hang out on Twitter. This venue offers several features that can be useful to writers. The one I’m looking at today is Lists.

The List feature appeared in 2009, but I ignored it at first. It seemed like one more way to waste time. Now that my follows total about 850, I realize how convenient it is to have a few specialized lists that allow me to see a stream of messages from a few selected people.

Since I’m about to embark on an agent search for my new novel, I want a convenient way to scan agent comments and advice before I send queries. To accomplish that, I created a new list called “Literary Agents."

To create a list: On your Twitter Home Page, in the right side bar, there is a link called “New list.” Clicking on that link brings up a box in which you’ll enter:

List Name
Optional Description (less than 100 characters)
Privacy designation (Public or Private)

I chose to make my literary agent list public so it would be available to other writers. I found some of the agents by using Twitter’s “Find People” feature, and discovered more on the AQ Connect list at Agent Query.

If you use Twitter as one of your networking sites, try using the list feature. As your follow list grows, you’ll have a way to follow small groups outside the main stream of “tweets.”

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Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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