Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Gettysburg Address

Who thinks the language of texting is hard to understand? Oh, yeah? Try this version of the Gettysburg Address written in the vernacular of the sixties known as "Beat". You can thank Lord Richard Buckley, an American stage performer and hip poet who died in 1960.

Now there's different kind of cats, you see. Now, like this here cat sittin' over there, he probably a George Washington cat, you see. He dig George making it across the stream with the ice and stompin' soldiers and all that. And that cat over there he probably a Benny Franklin cat, he probably - he's with Benny Franklin.

But myself, I'm a Lincoln cat. That's me. I dug sweet old swingin', non-stop, heavy-headed sweet Abe. Used to call him Lanky Linc. That's what they called the cat back in them days, is Lanky Linc.

Four big hits and seven licks ago, before our daddies swung forth upon this sweet groovy land a swingin', stompin,' jumpin', blowin', wailin' new nation. Hip to the cool groove of liberty and solid sent with the ace lick that all the studs, chicks, cats and kitties, red, white or blue is created level in front. In straight talk, the same, dig what I mean?

Now we are hung with a king-sized main day civil drag soundin' of whether this nation or any up-there nation, dig, so hip and so solid sent can stay with it all the way.

We's here to dig this chop-beating session on the site of the worst jazz blown in the entire issue: Gettys-motha-burg! We stomped out here to turn on a small soil stash of the before mentioned hassle site as a final, sweet sod pad for those who laid it down and left it there so this jumpin' happy beat might blow forever more. And we all dig that this is the straightest lick era.

But digging it harder from afar we cannot take no wailin' bows, we cannot mellow, we can not put down the stamp of the Nazz on this sweet sod 'cause the strong non-stop studs both diggin' it and dug under it who hassled here have mellowed with such a wild, mad beat that we can hear it but we can't touch it.

Now the world cats will short dig, you hear what I say -- short dig nor long stash in their wigs what we's beatin' our chops around here. But it can never successfully shade what they vanced here. It is for us, the swingin', to pick up the dues of these fine studs who cut out here and fly it through to Endsville.

It is hipper for us to be signifying to the glorious gig that we can't miss with all these bulgin' eyes. That from all these ace-stamped studs we double our love kick to that righteous ride for which these cats hard-sounded the last 'nth bong of the bell of their bell -- that we here want it struck up straight, for all to dig that these departed studs shall not have split in vain. That this nation, under the great swingin' Nazz, shall ring up a whopper of endless Mardi Gras and that the Big Law, of you straights, by you studs and for your kitties, shall not be scratched from the big race.

And that's why I'm a Lincoln cat.
~~~~~~~~
Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, as well as an editor, writer, artist, and teacher.  She frequently exhibits a slightly warped sense of humor and a fondness for language, past, present, and future.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is the Publishing Sky Falling? Part Two


In part one of this post I began a list of reasons to have faith in the publishing industry even though it is suffering from the crucible of change. I pick up here substantiating my use of the word "drivel" with respect of much of what the agents see:

• I know a lot of manuscripts are “drivel” because agents tell me so (okay, they used a saucier word). One told me that if you have a great story and a decent command of the English language, and submit a clean manuscript without dog-eared corners, you are already in the top tier (10%) of submissions. As a developmental editor, I see work all the time that is on the low end of the learning curve, yet the author has asked for that "final line edit." Even more than reduced publishing house purchases, this glut of unpolished submissions is the main reason for so many rejections.

• Keep in mind that your manuscript is not competing with other submissions for bookshelf space. It is competing against the work of every author currently in print, alive or dead, in addition to the growing volume of self-published works. There's a lot of good work out there. What does yours add to the canon? If yours is “just as good as” Hunger Games, why would a reader buy yours instead of Hunger Games? This knowledge is the key to effective marketing. If the agent digs your story, the whiff of convincing salability will seal the deal.

• Authors complain that their manuscript can't be judged by only a query and a few paragraphs. But that’s exactly how I purchase a book—back jacket plus the first few paragraphs and I know whether I’ll buy it. So if an agent sets yours aside, does that mean it's not publishable? No. It means the agent is setting it aside the way any book shopper might. It’s not like she’ll only have to read it once. It might take her a few years, with revisions and submissions, to make a sale. She must love it, because current market conditions often require that she go to the wall for it, time and again. And if she only "likes" it, she might as well dive back into that obscenely dense pool of submissions and find "love."

• Publishing still is a gambling business—read Publisher's Lunch, where agents report their deals on behalf of both established and debut authors. In fact, an untested author with a great book idea now has an advantage over an author whose foot is already through the door but whose first book didn't sell through.

The work of new authors, represented by our country’s some 850 literary agents, will continue to be acquired by editors. Roles will continue to shift in response to new technologies, and agents will strive to stay on top of this, predicting what success they can, as they have now for decades. Only you can decide how much rejection you can bear before you start submitting your next book—and if you decide instead to self publish, make sure you have in place the brilliant marketing plan that was escaping the industry professionals who already rejected your manuscript. Natalies of the world, take note: these agents may know a thing or two about what sells, after all.

The publishing sky is stormy, for sure, but I’m not convinced it’s falling—there are too many people passionate about reading and writing trying to hold it up. Yes, in this uncertain climate, there will be cloud-watchers who decide to leave the game. A sure way to avoid being among the
agents and editors and even writers who do so is to keep playing.
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Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist, she now writes women's fiction and memoir. The first chapter of her memoir, Standoff at Ronnie's Place, modified as a stand-alone essay, has been published online by Mason's Road, the online journal of Fairfield University's MFA program. She blogs about Healing through Writing.


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Is the Publishing Sky Falling? Part One

I stole this title from an e-mail responding to the career travails of a young adult writer I’ll call Natalie (I’ve always loved that name). Natalie’s agent had left the industry because she couldn’t sell a thing. NowNatalie is resubmitting the same query that landed her an agent a couple of years ago, and it is going unanswered. This rattled the e-mail writer, who’d always equated getting an agent with “making it” past the industry gatekeepers. Against a backdrop of technology shifts, bookstore closings, and other manifestations of our unhealthy economy, this felt to her like an industry death knell.

Can BRP’s resident optimist still find a positive spin on the situation (see my Ten Affirmations to Bolster Optimism, from 2009)? Of course she can! This is why.

• The agent—the one who believed in Natalie—no longer believes in the industry. This makes her, hands down, the wrong agent for Natalie. An agent's job is to sell. By leaving the industry, she has freed Natalie to move on.

• By her own admission, this agent couldn't sell a thing. Perhaps her personality wasn't well-suited to agenting, or her ability to identify a salable manuscript was off. Unfortunately this
makes her a questionable gatekeeper as concerns her enthusiasm for Natalie’s manuscript. Young adult readers are particularly fickle, and it takes a good agent to stay on top of the trends—a fact that raises the question of whether the project, well targeted just a year ago, might already have outlived its relevance. That may or may not signal the tabling of this one project—but it doesn't signal the death of publishing.

• Agents and editors leave the industry all the time. It is always aggravating for an author, but nothing new. I've heard many such stories over the past decade. It is the very reason for the term "orphaned" manuscript.

• This "not answering" is not so new. I have a friend who got a rejection back after six years. Another did get a request to resubmit, but only a full year after an enthusiastic request for the full—an assistant found the manuscript wedged between the radiator and the wall when they rearranged the office furniture (guess that’s the hard copy version of getting caught in a spam filter). Stuff like that happens. Who’s ultimately responsible? You are the one seeking an agent to help conduct your business. When in doubt, follow up.

• Computers have made it way too easy to fill white paper with little black marks; now low-cost electronic methods have thrown wide the door for submissions. No more hard copies slipped “over the transom”—now queries arrive in agents’ offices in a constant digital stream. Anyone can submit, and they do. So much of it is drivel. If agents responded to each and every submission they would never get any useful work accomplished. And why hire an assistant to answer drivel? In a sustainable business model, one hires an assistant to do work that can make you money!

Q: Kathryn, did you really use the word “drivel”? That doesn't sound optimistic! And as a developmental editor, don’t you believe that each project has a sacred core of creativity you hope to nurture into fruition?


A: Yes, I do! Join us tomorrow for part two, in which I substantiate my use of "drivel," and show how it should lead the diligent writer toward optimism.


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Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist, she now writes women's fiction and memoir. The first chapter of her memoir, Standoff at Ronnie's Place, modified as a stand-alone essay, has been published online by Mason's Road, the online journal of Fairfield University's MFA program. She blogs about Healing through Writing.


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writing a Novel from a Radio Show


My guest blogger today is Mara Purl, author of the Milford Haven series, which started out as a radio show. She is making a stop today at the Blood Red Pencil on her national blog tour for What the Heart Knows.

The traditional relationship between narrative fiction and screenplay is that book comes first, film comes second, as an adaptation of a popular novel. For me, however, this process occurred in reverse order. First, I created a radio drama. Second, I started adapting my scripts into narrative fiction.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived near its famous Farmer’s Market, a rambling collection of tented stalls selling everything from fifty varieties of fresh fruit juice to ethnic foods from thirty cultures. Of course, it had an espresso stand that served the most extraordinary latte in the city: the brew strong and bitter; the milk frothed almost to the consistency of cream; the cup thick and white, preferably with a small chip in the saucer, near the square cube of raw sugar balanced perfectly on the stainless steel spoon.

On certain mornings, I’d grab my yellow pad and be sipping a scalding hot latte before seven a.m., sunlight streaming past the cracks between awnings, round tables balanced on match books to compensate for the uneven pavement. Sometimes a sip of my freshly brewed elixir would produce a whole paragraph. Sometimes it would give me the perfect excuse for overhearing someone else’s caffeine-fueled conversation.

This was the location where I overheard the story my husband and I have now adopted as our own: a couple who seemed to have been married for a hundred years, she admonishing “Your sleeve is in your food!” “No it’s not,” he parried. “It would be if I didn’t tell you!” I’ve dined out on that story for years, marveling at its haiku-like capturing of an entire relationship.

I share this story because it’s about dialogue, and how important it is for a script-writer to be attuned to it. When you write for a medium that features only dialogue, augmented by sight or sound, but not by description—the conversation must fulfill several requirements. A) It has to sound natural, not over-laden with information. (At all costs, one must avoid what my editor and I call the “As you know, Bob” syndrome, where a huge chunk of plot is delivered like an overladen plate of teetering vegetables.) B) It has to carry sub-text which is the key to attitude, and thus to character. C) It must advance the story such that the scene actually serves a function.

For radio drama, and for television, most scenes last three minutes, which is three pages in the script. It’s a very tight structure, with a beginning and end, and some sort of twist or “landing” in the middle, which can be either “soft” or “hard” but must be tangible.

After writing several screenplays and theatrical plays and over one hundred radio scripts, I had a good sense of mastery of these forms. But now I faced the daunting task of writing narrative voice. I had a background in journalism, which taught me a very different kind of tight structure and flow, but it was mostly an information delivery format without too much room for poetic juxtaposition or colorful imagery.

My first attempt at converting the Milford-Haven scripts resulted in novelizations—not yet novels. They tended to be dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, description, dialogue. Or, they’d be terribly choppy with original dialogue interspersed with minute descriptions of everything “else” the actors had conveyed in their marvelous performances. These attempts were very useful, because my production company printed short runs and distributed them to potential readers. We found immediately that I did have a following into this printed form, and that the story easily jumped the pond back to its home territory of America. But I knew I had a long way to go, and much to learn.

So now I returned to my undergraduate studies as a lit major, reconnecting with everyone from Faulkner to Malamud, and from the ancient “Tale of Genji” (arguably the first novel, written in 1001) to Charles Dickens, a long-time favorite who also wrote serial-stories. I also re-read some of my mentor Louis L’Amour’s work, and found some even more contemporary authors I enjoyed. The only thing I avoided was reading authors whose work seemed as though it might be similar to mine, because I had to listen closely for my own narrative voice.

What I “heard” in the novelists I did read was their own distinct voice and style. That’s what I had to listen for in myself. And there is simply no substitute for this core work. Indeed, the roots for the words “author” and “authentic” are the same, pointing to an integrated sense of creating with one’s own hand.

Gradually, through this process of listening, and by working with a brilliant and dedicated editor, Vicki Werkley, this narrative voice did emerge, and has resulted in numerous literary awards for early editions, and a new contract with the publisher of my dreams. But most importantly, the reader can now hear an authentic voice that takes her on a journey into her own heart.
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A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. 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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Friday, August 26, 2011

He did the Hokey-Pokey

The following is from the Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person. The winning entry was The Hokey-Pokey (as written by William Shakespeare). We like to periodically share this for a little chuckle!

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

(Written by Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls, Maryland, and submitted by Katherine St. John.)

There are more than 800 assorted invitationals at this Washington Post link, one more creative than the next. Be sure to bookmark it for ongoing fun. To read more about how the invitational came to be and who's behind it, click here.

Have you participated in one of these contests? I confess I'm a bit intimidated by some of the winners. The submissions are so clever, I feel, you know, sort of... hokey-pokey.
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Dani Greer runs the Blog Book Tours Yahoogroup which teaches authors how to promote their books with a virtual tour. Next class begins September 5, 2011. She is founding member of The Blood Red Pencil. This time of year, she can usually be found in her two-acre garden trying to whip the grow-y stuff into some form of visual interest if not beauty. She is also special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press.
4.29.09

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Readin’, 'Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic

Readin’, 'ritin’, and ’rithmetic,
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick…


School’s starting again, and it’s come a long way from the little jingle that was popular decades ago. Is that a good thing? I suppose it’s a matter of opinion, but what’s interesting about the above is the reference to writing right along with the necessities of reading and math. That for a certainty has not changed. The hickory stick, on the other hand, has fallen by the wayside.

Today, the ability to write well is just as important as it was in the pre-computer world. (Yes, there was a world before computers.) Emails and texting have replaced more conventional forms of written communication—and those come with their own peculiar abbreviations and acronyms—but the art of formal writing is more important than ever in our shrinking world - one that communicates less and less on a personal level. What does this have to do with going back to school?

Dull and boring as many consider English class to be, it serves a vital purpose in our lives. Learning to read and write separates us from the animals and gives us a wealth of past wisdom and experience on which to base present directions and decisions. Without written language skills, we wouldn’t have laws that create civil order, histories that show us how we arrived at the present, medical records and reports and research papers that save lives, or anthologies that tell us who we are and where we came from—the list goes on and on. The legacy of the past is written for us in the present and those to come in the future. Without it, we have no basis for government, no map for our destination, no guide for living.

Moral of the story? Learn to write well! The skill acquired in a few short years of school will serve you for a lifetime.

Why do you think it's important to learn to write well during one's school years?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Linda Lane believes that writing well is essential for all written communication. With this goal in mind, she and her team at editors work with writers to create great books that hook readers and build fan bases. Learn more about what she does at www.denvereditor.com.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hyphen-powered Punctuation

I realize you all know this. I love hyphens. So needless to say, I use them often. It's a rare occurrence for me to take pause, stymied by the proper use of this lovely and under-utilized punctuation mark. But it happened to me just a few days ago.

It wasn't a bad thing. I got to use my new, blue Chicago Manual of Style. Have I told you how much I love my new CMS? No? Oh, yes, I do love it. It's so wonderfully new and improved, including the cover color. How improved is it? Check out the changes in Edition 16 by clicking here. Included is a new and improved hyphenation guide! Now tell me if you've heard of anything cooler than that in the past week.

So back to my hyphenation dilemma. I was editing a blog post which referred to a children's book written for 5 to 8 year olds. I knew that was wrong. 5 to 8-year-olds. Nope. Hmmm. 5-8-year-olds. Wow, that really didn't look correct. What does the CMS say?

It states in the section about compounds and hyphenation related to age terms, in category 7.84 Omission of part of a hyphenated expression: When the second part of a hypenated expression is omitted, the hyphen is retained, followed by a space. So the correct way to write the above is:

5- 8-year-olds

See the space after that first hyphen? That's the correct way to write this. Doesn't knowing that just make your day? Yes, it's true. Editors geek out on this sort of stuff and it thrills us to the core. How about you? Do you have the new Chicago Manual of Style? How often can we find you poking around in it? Go ahead, confess! You are among friends.
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When not reading fascinating tomes like the Chicago Manual of Style and her favorite dictionary, Dani Greer is managing this blog, planning her next blog book tours class (which begins on September 5th and is free to authors with a new book to promote), and is special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nouns and Verbs

Here’s an exercise I borrowed a long time ago from Natalie Goldberg, that I’ve found keeps my writing sharp. Dull writing uses lazy nouns and verbs, those general catch-alls that tell and do not show. But sharp writing uses action verbs and specific nouns, and puts them together in unique or surprising ways.

A good way to practice this is to make two lists. One list contains action verbs – not run, which is a general verb, but skip, or scamper, or dart, or lope – all specific kinds of running. A trick to picking good action verbs is to choose a profession – any profession – and ask yourself what this kind of person does. For instance – what does a boxer do? Well, a boxer thrusts, jabs, shuffles, weaves, bobs, and punches. Those are all action verbs. Or what does a psychiatrist do? A psychiatrist probes, nods, smiles, questions, listens, suggests. All action verbs. Or a dancer, or a chef, or a secretary -- you name it, and then tell what it does.

The other list contains specific nouns. They don’t have to be fancy nouns, in fact you can look around your living room or kitchen or office, and start naming things – but be sure they are specific nouns, not general ones. For instance, if you spot a tree outside your window, the noun you write down on your list is not “tree” – instead write down maple, or oak, or cedar. If you see your car in the driveway, the noun is not “car” – it’s jaguar, or SUV, or pick-up truck, or VW Beetle. Of course, you might also see your kitchen faucet, and the word “faucet” is specific enough for anyone.

Your lists can contain as many words as you like, but I usually aim for twenty. Don’t put your lists in any kind of order – in fact, it can be fun to put each word on its own little slip of paper and put it in a “verb pile” or “noun pile.” Then randomly pick out one verb and one noun and make a sentence. The sentence doesn’t have to make sense, but the noun must carry the action. For instance, if your noun is “rake” and your verb is “thrust”, the sentence should not be, “He thrust the rake into the pile of leaves.” Instead show the rake thrusting – “The rake thrust its prongs into the intruder.” Of course rakes do not thrust on their own, but your aim in this exercise is not necessarily to make sense, but to use common words in a new and different way.

Have fun.

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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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Monday, August 22, 2011

Shitty First Drafts

This post first published in 2008, but I thought it was worth a repeat for our new readers to enjoy.

Writing is a talent, a dream, an obsession, a release, a thrill, but it is also a craft. The words don't just magically appear on paper - all arranged at their finest. The words we love to read were painstakingly crafted by the author, paragraph by paragraph, line by line.

Anne Lamott, a wonderful writer describes the process in her book, Bird by Bird, this way: “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts."

And further:

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”

What wonderful advice. No wonder her books are so good.

A book can go through as many drafts as necessary, and every author has his or her own method of getting to the finished manuscript. The following suggestions are not RULES. Do what works best for you.

The first draft - get the story down from beginning to end. Some people like to edit as they go, and if that works for you, great. Others, like Ms. Lamott, prefer to get the story down, then go back to edit, and I am in that camp, too. I may do a little editing of two or three pages, just to jump-start the writing the next day, but I don’t go to far back. Fine-tuning can sometimes be just an excuse to avoid going forward.

A hint I picked up a long time ago is to stop writing in the middle of a scene. That gives you something to work on right away the next time you sit down to write, and often the next scene will flow naturally out of the one you are working on.

More about the second draft when I post again. In the meantime, have fun playing with your characters.
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Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Information about her books, her editing services, and her blogs can be found on her web site.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot!

Here is another bit of advice from Jodie Renner. We always appreciate the fact that she is so willing to be our guest now and then and share some of her experience and expertise.

You’ve spent months or years writing your novel. Then you’ve found a writer friend or freelance editor to help you polish it up and get it ready to send to agents and acquiring editors. Maybe you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a copy edit, detailed line-edit, or even thousands on a developmental or substantive edit. After many revisions, the manuscript is finally ready to send out to literary agents and publishers.

The standard first approach is to submit a query letter and a synopsis. You’re eager to get the book out fast and you think, “Anybody can write a query letter,” so you whip one off quickly and send it around, with a synopsis you threw together. You wait. And wait. All you get back are a few form rejections. You know you’ve got a great story, well told, and your editor and/or writer friends have confirmed that and encouraged you to seek publication. What’s the problem?

The problem is that you should have put as much effort into your query letter and proposal—or more—as you did to initially writing your opening and first few chapters of your story. This is not the time to suddenly skimp on spending more of your time and effort, and a bit more money for a professional edit. Too many aspiring writers make the fatal error of whipping off a query letter in an hour or so and sending it off, thinking “It’ll be good enough.” 

I’ve spent months working closely with writers on their novels, with all kinds of back and forth and revisions and more revisions until we’re both very happy with it, only to have them say they can do the query letter on their own. Then I follow up later and they say they’ve received only rejections. I ask to see their query letter, and it’s obvious why—hasty writing, no hook at the beginning, typos, details and info included that should be left out, the most compelling aspects of the story not mentioned—the list goes on.

So their manuscript sits, gathering dust, either literally or electronically. This has been so frustrating to me that now I include free editing of the query letter after I’ve edited the manuscript, just to put my own mind at ease.

For all the effort you’ve put into making your story the best it can be, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by skimping at query-writing time. And it’s best to get a qualified copy editor or an excellent writer to help you with it—  someone who’s read the manuscript. I’ve gone over a query letter nine or ten times with a client, just for content and wording to punch it up more, before a final proofread. First impressions are everything, and your query letter is your introduction to the agent or acquiring editor. This is your foot in the door. Don’t shoot it.

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Guest blogger Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction manuscript editor, specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries, romance, YA, and historical fiction. Jodie’s services range from developmental and substantive editing to light final copy editing and proofreading, as well as manuscript critiques. Check out Jodie’s website at http://www.jodierennerediting.com/ and her blog, dedicated to advice and resources for fiction writers, at http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/.

Posted by Maryann Miller who has not shot herself in the foot recently. She learned this valuable lesson a long time ago, and also helps clients with their query letters and proposals. 

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Publishing on Kindle - A Tutorial

In keeping with our August theme of  "Back to School",  I thought I would offer some tips for those wanting to learn more about publishing and marketing e-books.

This post is not going to be about how to format a book for the Kindle and other reading devices. Nor is it going to go into the details of editing and design and cover art - although all three are important and an author would be wise to make sure all three are professionally done. There are a number of resources available to take an author through those processes.  

The ABCs of e-book format conversion: Easy Calibre tips for the Kindle, Sony and Nook By John Schember    

How to Publish Your Own Amazon Kindle Ebook By Tony Bradley, PCWorld

Or you can go directly to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which also has information about CreateSpace for self-pubbing books in trade paperback. 

For Barnes and Noble, their publishing arm is PubIt, and there are easy directions for formatting and uploading content, once you find the right pages.  Like Amazon, the site is not easy to navigate if you want to do something other than buy a product. 

And for those who would like to use a third-party to handle all the formatting, there is always Smashwords. They format the book and make it available for all electronic reading devices.

What I would like to focus on today is the importance of ratings on Amazon and how they translate into sales.

Under the picture of the cover art on the Amazon sale page for a book, there is a listing for: Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought  and under that are book covers. The more books that your book is compared to, the higher your visibility because your book will show up on the pages for those other books.

Then you have Editorial Review, Product Information, and Customer Reviews. Here again, the more reviews you have the higher your rating. Hopefully the reviews will be positive and give you three or more stars, but even the one-star reviews count. 

Next is More About the Author, which I like to click over to as I love meeting other authors. If you set up and update a page on Author Central, that will keep readers interested, and interested readers tell other readers about this new author they just discovered.

That is followed by: What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?  On my page for One Small Victory, I was thrilled to see books there by Dana Stabenow.  If your book is listed along with some "name" authors, that can help push sales, as fans of those book are apt to buy yours.

Next is Popular Highlights where passages that people have highlighted while reading your book are noted.  If people are taking the time to highlight some things they like, that can influence a casual browser to take another look at your book.

Then comes Tags Customers Associate with This Product. These are keywords that are usually put in by the author first. For my book I put in, fiction, romance, mystery, gangs, literature, romantic suspense, hard-boiled, female sleuth, grief, kindle, cheap kindle books, backlist e-books, family, drugs, suspense. That way when  folks do a search for a book dealing with any of these topics, my book title will be listed among others. Customers are encouraged to check the boxes next to the tags they consider relevant or enter their own tags. Tagging helps bring your book to the attention of people searching for a book to read on a particular topic or in a specific genre. For instance, if they are looking for a romantic suspense and your book has been tagged romantic suspense by 150 readers, it will probably come up in a search.

Kindle does not do any promotion of books on the request of authors, but they do offer tips on how to promote your book.  Here is a direct link to their page on merchandising.   https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A37SMD4NYVZDI7

One person from Kindle support responded to my request for help with this post:

You can increase the visibility of your book(s) in the Kindle Store by adding additional "Search Keywords" to your titles. "Search Keywords" may be updated at the title level in your KDP account, and we recommend choosing up to five keywords that relate to content of your book.  Try to avoid using vague keywords. For example, a book titled "America's National Parks" may gain visibility with the keywords "Yellowstone" and "Grand Teton", but not "Parks."

Word of mouth still is the best way to sell books, but people need to be able to find your book to start recommending it. Rankings and rating help increase your visibility on a site like Amazon, so it is important to do what we can to increase the rating of our books. If anyone has tips they would like to offer on merchandising,  please do share with us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten nice reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. One Small Victory, is a top seller in the mystery bestseller list at the Amazon Kindle store. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. She will stop playing with her horse and work, honest.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School for Business Math

When you decided to become a wordsmith, you may have thought you could leave the world of numbers behind. No such luck! Today’s authors are entrepreneurs: even if traditionally published, once sales are involved, your writing becomes a business.

For a multitude of reasons often expounded upon at this site, one of your main expenses may end up being editing services.

Why does editing cost so much?

Since editing is my business, I hear that question all the time. I thought I’d embrace BRP’s “Back to School” theme to provide a business math lesson as applied to editing.

“Back to School” isn’t just a late summer theme for me, it’s the theme of my life. To keep up-to-date on trends in the publishing industry, I’m constantly seeking out new learning opportunities. Here’s a peek at what I spend each year on my continuing education alone (previous investment in post-graduate college education assumed):

Conferences $500
Workshops/Classes $200
Professional dues $120
Resource materials $125
Travel/lodging $750

That comes out to almost $1,700 per year, or $17,000 for the past ten years. And I don't count here the money I pour into the industry by purchasing newly published novels, the reading of which is a valuable part of my ongoing education.

I’m sure many of our readers spend this and more.

My number is skewed to the low side. For one thing, I’m naturally frugal, and take advantage of many free and low cost resources. It also doesn’t reflect the fact that every few years I spring for a major conference requiring costly travel: the Maui Writers Conference and the Sewanee Writers Conference each cost me about $1,500. In addition, I’ve paid to have my own writing edited, another valuable part of my education.

(If you are an author who invests similarly in your education, may I please take this opportunity to thank you? You are, no doubt, a delight to work with. May your efforts provide the springboard to success that you deserve. Yet I’m not really writing this for you—chances are, you already can see the numerous benefits of purchasing a developmental edit.)

What if you work full time, have a family, and can’t devote the time and monetary resources to a $30K MFA program, or community college classes, or even the frugal education outlined above? You may not even have the time to join a writer's group, but you have a book that’s itching to be born. How can you make it competitive if all you have time for is the writing and promoting of it?

In addition, what if—and yes, I actually heard this on the phone one day—you flunked high school English, are dyslexic, and use creative spelling when you write, yet believe you have a good, marketable story to tell? After such a compelling pitch is no time to dicker about the editor’s stated fee.

By purchasing developmental editing services, you are taking an educational shortcut. You are receiving the sum total of your editor’s 10- or 20- or 30-year education, and all of her writing experience and developed analytical skills and natural aptitudes and insider knowledge, applied to your specific project.

That’s a huge jumpstart.

Suddenly, when you do the math, that $1200 fee for developmental editing services you might have griped about doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

As the former owner of the aging farmhouse in which my home-based business was located, I’ve paid that much for a single plumbing emergency. When presented with the bill, I had no choice but to pay my plumber’s stated hourly rate.

“But that’s different,” you might say. "Any business needs plumbing."

Fair enough. But as an author you own a special kind of business, with specific kinds of start-up and maintenance costs. One of them is good editing.

So next time you want to complain about the math, think instead in terms of the investment you're making in your business goal. The goal is not publication—that is simply a means to an end. The goal is connecting with readers in a way that results in repeat sales. That's how any entrepreneur stays in business.

What are you willing to do to make your book competitive?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist, she now writes women's fiction and memoir. The first chapter of her memoir, Standoff at Ronnie's Place, modified as a stand-alone essay, was published online by Mason's Road, the online journal of Fairfield University's MFA program. She blogs about Healing through Writing.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Are You Lying or Laying?

Once again we welcome Terry Odell with a guest post. We like her so well, we have invited her to contribute regularly on the third Tuesday of every month. In keeping with our August theme of Back to School, Terry takes us back to grammar 101. This was covered a couple of years ago in a guest post by Lauri Kubuitsile, an award-winning writer living in Botswana, but it is always good to revisit this topic.

I was reading a book recently where a character saw the "break" lights on the cars. And someone was waiting with "baited" breath. Or the book where a character put "peddle to the metal." And one I've been seeing far too frequently: "peaking" where a character ought to be "peeking" – which is not the same as something "piquing" one's interest.

Are these simply typos missed by copy editors? One would hope that's the case, because if your editors are using Spell Check (or if you are), these aren't going to get flagged. Basic grammatical errors should be avoided, and if copy editors are too busy to catch some of these, then writers need to make sure they know the basics and don't make the mistakes in the first place.

Here's one of the most common problem children:

Lie/Lay (You'll notice the past tense of lie is the same as the present tense of lay, which is probably where the confusion starts.)

LIE:
means to rest or recline (also to remain or be situated)
never takes a direct object
has the following principal parts:

PRESENT INFINITIVE:
Lie

PRESENT PARTICIPLE:
(is) lying

PAST
lay

PAST PARTICIPLE:
(has) lain

LAY:
means to put or place (something)
usually takes a direct object: a word that tells what was placed
has the following principal parts:

PRESENT INFINITIVE:
lay

PRESENT PARTICIPLE:
(is) laying

PAST
laid

PAST PARTICIPLE:
(has) laid

Some examples:
LIE
If you're tired, lie down and take a nap.
Mother is lying down because she has a headache.
Your shoes are lying on the floor in your room.

Last summer, we lay on the beach every day.
The books lay unopened on my desk for three days.

I have lain in bed all morning.

LAY
Lay the baby down gently.
I was laying a new floor in the basement.
I laid my packages on the counter and sat down.
I have laid my cards on the table.

Hope this helps a little and doesn't add to your confusion.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Posted by Maryann Miller who has never met a present participle she ever liked, whether it was lying or laying.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Do Editors Use Red Pencils?

Someone recently commented that the red pencil on this blog doesn't have a red point. That's because when I created the blog, I used the same type of pencil I use as an editor, and the kind many, if not most, old editors use - one with a regular graphite point. A black pencil. Why? For the simple reason that it erases better than a red colored pencil. We do go back and change our minds and comments, you know! I have never seen an ARC from any editor that used a red lead. We are not school teachers grading papers when we edit a manuscript. There is no need for a red pencil. Besides, red won't hold a sharp point.

In today's world, pencils (red, black, or otherwise) are falling by the wayside anyway. The shift to digital editing in the last few years has been dramatic, and most of the major publishers now insist their authors send manuscripts attached to emails, they review and edit using Track Changes and Comments, and then return the digital manuscript to the author for another round of revision. Back-and-forth it goes. It's much faster, many say more accurate, and certainly a more environmentally-sound practice.

So what about it, authors and editors? When was the last time you used a red-lead pencil? Leave us a message!
~~~~~~
Dani Greer started this blog and is grateful to all the many writers and editors who have contributed to it, and who have helped make it a success. She is a writer, editor, and special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press and also teaches authors how to arrange their own blog book tours. She has one free class this year starting on September 5th and you can sign up by clicking here. Please read the directions when you get there to make sure you qualify.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Cues from the Coach: Turning Writing-Rule Lemons into Literary Lemonade

As a word artist, do you find your imagination shackled by admonitions and restrictions from the grammar police? Do you struggle to remember the “rules” on

• subject-verb agreement?
• active vs. passive verbs?
• show, don’t tell?
• whether or not to put a comma before the conjunction in a series?
• avoiding fragments, run-ons, and dangling modifiers?
• substituting sharp, original expressions for perfect but forbidden clichés?

Are your creative juices draining away beneath the pile of writing-rule lemons? These rules are not intended to hamper creativity, but to establish order, credibility, and clarity. Let’s consider the ones noted above.

In any written material, the absence of subject-verb agreement becomes an instant bump in the reading road. Flow is interrupted, and the reader experiences a “huh?” moment.

Example 1: Emma and Charles was seen running from the crime scene.

Unless we’re inside the head of a viewpoint character who has had neither formal schooling nor exposure to those who have had, we’ve stopped reading.

Example 2: Emma and Charles were seen running from the crime scene.

We’re still reading because we want to know why they were there and why they were running away. The subject-verb agreement rule empowers our writing and keeps the reader reading. We have lemonade.

With occasional exceptions, active verbs should take precedence over their passive counterparts. Why? It’s that “show, don’t tell” thing. Telling the readers a story may put them to sleep. Showing them the action by pulling them into it keeps them wide awake and turning pages. More lemonade.

Example 1: It was a dark and stormy night. (Passive verb. Very telling.)

Example 2: The rumbling storm shot jagged fingers of light into the darkness. (Active verb. Paints [shows] a graphic word picture.)

Whether or not to put a comma before the conjunction in a series seems to be an ongoing debate. Called the Oxford comma, it is often omitted by writers and reporters. However, The Chicago Manual of Style urges its usage to avoid ambiguity. Because consistency in our writing is vital—and this comma may clarify one or more sentences that could otherwise inspire another “huh?” moment—we should always use it. This offers a big glass of lemonade to our reader.

Many writers realize that fragments and run-ons don’t work in formal writing. Occasional fragments may be used in more casual settings—such as novels and how-to books—but that only holds true if the writer has demonstrated he/she knows the rule.

Dangling modifiers are another matter. While they may elicit a laugh from the reader, they do nothing to enhance clarity.

Example 1: While sitting on the balcony, the setting sun painted the evening sky with bands of gold, coral, and amethyst. (The sun was sitting on the balcony, painting a picture?)
Example 2: While sitting on the balcony, Emma watched the setting sun paint the evening sky with bands of gold, coral, and amethyst. (Oh, Emma was sitting on the balcony, but not painting.)

Note: In both cases, “evening” is superfluous. The “setting” sun indicates it’s evening, so we need to eliminate the redundancy.

Clichés, comfortable and familiar as they are, imply lazy writing. The one exception to this might be characterization—a single character whose persona includes these trite expressions; even in this case, they should be used infrequently.

Example 1: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. (cliché)

Example 2: You can present him with the facts, but whether he chooses to accept them is up to him. (You can no doubt think of a more original way to say this, but you get the idea.)

When we review the writing rules from the perspective of what they can do for us rather than to us, we open the window wide and let the breezes of imagination in. Then those sour, writing-rule lemons that inhibited us in the past are squeezed into a crystal pitcher, sweetened with organic sugar, diluted with pure water, and voilà! We have lemonade. Would you like a glass?

How do you make your lemonade?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Linda Lane teaches writing and editing in addition to doing book edits. Her online workshops will be available this fall. Visit her at www.denvereditor.com and www.penandswordpublishing.com.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Agents and Conferences

Conferences used to be about learning to write. They had workshops on Editing, POV, Cutting the Passive Verbs, etc. Now it seems most of them are about finding an agent. The conference will have three or even twenty agents in attendance. Attendees can sign up to pitch to an agent. If there’s a pre-conference cocktail party, attendees show up in hopes an agent or two will be there and they can meet them and possibly fit in a pitch.

But the truth is … the chances of you snagging an agent are small. During your pitch, for which in many cases you have to pay extra beyond what you paid to attend the conference, the agent may ask you to send 30 pages. Or he may not. There are no guarantees. Or an agent giving a talk may tell all the attendees in her class to send the first ten pages if they think their manuscript is ready.

In either case, make sure your pages are stellar. You won’t get a second chance, unless the agent sees something in your story and writing that makes them ask you to rewrite and resend, but that’s rare.

If your goal is to meet and pitch to an agent, do your research. Check out the conference site and see which agents are interested in what you write. Figure out how much it will cost you to register, stay in a hotel, drive or fly, eat, drink, print business cards, and any other costs you foresee. Too much? But you really want to go?

Don’t give up. Look at other conferences that are cheaper or closer or near your Aunt Beth where you can stay for free. Once you begin to look at conferences that feature agents, you’ll find that a lot of the same agents appear at multiple conferences.

Listening to an agent speak is a good way to decide if you want to be represented by him or her. But if you can’t go, don’t think conferences are a waste for you. Check out the site for the conference, link to the page that lists the agents who are attending, read their bios. You’ll find out what they like -- and whether they are accepting queries. And if they don’t state whether they’re accepting queries, there will most likely be a link to their agency site where you can get that information.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. If you’re looking for conferences or upcoming events, check out Helen’s site where she maintains lists of Events and Contests for writers. Both lists are updated weekly. You can also sign up for her free weekly newsletter, Doing It Write, which includes publishing news, links, and more, by sending an email to: doingitwrite-subscribe@topica.com

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

O Sock, Where Art Thou?


There have been unsolved mysteries since the beginning of history. Did Atlantis really exist? How was Stonehenge built and what was it used for? What was the fate of the little Princes in the Tower? What happened to Amelia Earhart? But the biggest unsolved mystery of all...

When two socks go into the washer, why does only one sock come out the dryer?

I have a pile of socks waiting for their mates. I'm not talking about 2 or 3 socks, I'm talking about a lot. I know, however, the moment I decide to get rid of them, the other sock will materialize. I know this for sure.

I've looked under beds. I've looked under and behind sofas. I've looked behind the washer and dryer. No socks.

Where did that other sock go?

There are unproved theories. The rings of Saturn are actually made up of single socks. The missing socks go into the same vortex as lost luggage. There is a compartment inside every dryer that sucks up one sock. If you find the compartment, you'll find the socks.

Socks were one of the first items of clothing worn by early man. These 'socks' were animal skins gathered up around the ankles and worn to protect the feet and keep them warm. Ancient Greeks used matted animal hair. By 1000 AD, wearing socks was a sign of wealth among the nobility.

This tells me missing socks have been around since the dawn of time. There were misplaced socks hiding in the back of the cave, or dropped on the way back from the river. I'll bet if you looked under the stones at any ancient Greek ruins you would discover ancient Greek socks. Middle Ages socks were probably eaten by wandering livestock or put into stews.

Meanwhile, back in the present...

I don't want to make sock bunnies. I don't want to use it as a duster. I don't want to find out new and crafty ways for these single socks to better my life.

I just want the other sock.

Or a trip to Saturn to discover if the rings theory is correct.

---------
Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her twelve murder mystery games and two plays are available through host-party.com. She has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine "Elias". Her blog, "It's A Mystery" explores the writing process with a touch of humor. She is on Twitter as @elspethwrites.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leave a Tip Today on the Blood-Red Pencil

As on every second Tuesday of the month, it's Leave a Tip Day at The Blood-Red Pencil.

I'd guess you know something about writing or you wouldn't be doing it. Maybe it's something simple you think isn't worth mentioning, because everyone else probably knows it. Think again. You may be surprised how many people don't.

Or, it could be something clever that you've thought up or maybe heard from someone else. Whatever the case, please share.

Your tips can pertain to any aspect of writing, publishing, or editing, and can be about any format or venue, traditional, indie, self-publishing. To share, just leave your tip in the comment section. You may also wish to leave one website or blogspot URL, in case our readers would like to find out more about you.

If you want to, we'd also appreciate your telling us where you've heard of this blog.

Here's my tip:

If you're like me and feel the need to print out what you feel is important to keep it close at hand, you may wish to invest in transparent folders. I bought what's called poly zip envelopes from Staples today, so I can spot the contents, but eliminate some of the desk clutter. They expand to an inch, and even have a zipper on the top like on Zip Lock baggies, so my papers won't slip out.

What about you? Do you have a tip? Or, maybe you'd like to comment on someone else's?
------------------------------------------------------------
Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,
romances, and thrillers. She's a
past president of Chicago-North
RWA, was the Library Liaison
for Midwest MWA, and is an
active blogger and networker.
Her personal blog is at:
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
and website is http://www/morganmandel.com.

See her new senior blog at http://spunkyseniors.blogspot.com/
Her romantic suspense, Killer Career, is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Her thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release first soon on Kindle and at Smashwords.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Break Writer's Block: Become the Storyteller, Not the Protagonist

In Eric M. Eisenberg's "Building a Mystery: Toward a New Theory of Communication and Identity," one of the things Eisenberg discusses is the therapeutic approaches to rewriting personal narratives. He makes a comparison between being a protagonist and being a storyteller and how each role can either constrict a person's identity and his or her view of the world or help expand one's identity and view. Being the protagonist, for example, is safe--we know that story, we know the character, and even if we feel trapped by the role, the safety of it, the comfortability of it keeps us trapped within that identity. It can also keep us from seeing beyond the role to the world and other people that surround us. On the other hand, the storyteller, as Eisenberg asserts, "always keeps one metatruth in mind: I am not the story" (547). Not "being the story," the storyteller easily moves from story to story. The storyteller stays in a story long "enough to feel the emotional connection, to experience the heroics and the relationships, but the storyteller always reserves the right to tell a different story." In short, "whereas the protagonist's resources always are limited by the context, the storyteller's resources are limited only by his or her imagination" (547).

Now, you may be wondering why I'm spouting off on an article I read for my dissertation work on a blog about writing.

Well, as I read this article, I thought about writer's block. Often, I hear writers talk of their inability to move forward in a story. "I don't know how to move on to the next part," one might say. "I know what I want to happen, but it won't come out," another might complain. "My characters totally left me and this story," another will bemoan.

I would argue that sometimes, when we're in the drudgery of writer's block, we are performing the role of Eisenberg's protagonist. As a "protagonist" writer, we are stuck in the context we created for our story. We have developed outlines that we refuse to break from, we have an idea of who the characters are and the "right" way to write the story. We are so focused on that one "identity" of our story that we can't see beyond it. When things don't work to fit in that story's identity, we become frustrated, the creativity stops flowing: we enter the domain of writer's block.

To break one's self from writer's block, we can see ourselves as Eisenberg's storyteller. Now, I know what you're thinking. But I AM a storyteller! Yes, yes, you are. Congratulations. But just listen. I know we are all very close, very personal to our stories, but I think at times it's important to remember Eisenberg's metatruth: "I am not the story." When we find ourselves unable to move forward in our story, we should know to zoom out on the story, to look beyond it--the characters, the plots, the structure we have determined to be musts for the story--to see what other people, what other parts of the world are around the story we are trying to write so that we can perhaps incorporate those things and refashion our story in a way that makes it stronger. The "storyteller" writer looks to find the stories that fit the best...not the story we think should fit.

So, the next time you find yourself at the door of writer's block, stop, zoom out, and pan your story's surroundings. Move beyond the constructs you have created for your story and figure out what other elements of your story's surroundings might help to develop a stronger story.


Eisenberg, Eric M. 2001 “Building a Mystery: Communication and the Development of Identity.” Journal of Communication 51.3 (2001): 534–552. Web.


~~~~~~~~~~
Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. 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, tinkering with the idea of self-publishing, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Busted!—Andre Dubus III Caught Adding a Late Entering POV

Authors can get away with breaking almost any writing rule if they do it artfully, intentionally, and without pulling the reader from the fictive dream. Today I bust Andre Dubus III for breaking his own rule—to wonderful effect—in his novel The House of Sand and Fog.

At the outset of his book, Dubus sets this rule: the story will be told in alternating first person accounts limited to Behrani, an Iranian colonel who lost his money and stature in his native Iran and must start over in the United States, and Kathy, an alcoholic house cleaner. The two come together by administrative error when Kathy’s house goes up for sheriff’s sale for unpaid taxes, and Behrani purchases it for a song. The colonel is thrilled to provide a home for his family with his meager resources; Kathy is devastated to lose her inheritance and only connection to her deceased father.

Here are the points of view Dubus adopts to tell his tale, pulled from each character’s first words:

First page
The fat one, the radish Torez, he calls me Camel because I am Persian and because I can bear this August sun longer than the Chinese and the Panamanians and even the little Vietnamese Tran.

Page 34
My husband got to miss all this, that’s what I keep thinking, that he didn’t have to be around for any of this, and I was stuck at the El Rancho Motel in San Bruno.

Page 221
It was dark now, and Lester had been sitting on the fish camp’s porch for over two hours. The fog was thick in the trees, and it made the black woods around the cabin appear to be under a milky water. He could still smell the maple he’d cut, split, and stacked, and twice he heard a car go by…
Wait—who’s that final POV, why is it third person, and how does he get away with adding it on page 221?

The first-person accounts allow the reader to empathize with both characters as Dubus deepens conflict born of presumption and cultural misunderstanding. Yet two-thirds of the way through his novel, he also wants to dig deeper into the character of Lester Burdon, the married deputy sheriff who’s fallen for Kathy and is trying to help her get her house back. Lester’s backstory arrives at this conclusion:
Lester began to feel as inauthentic a man as was possible, living in a marriage he no longer felt, working as a law enforcer when he’d never been able to face any man down on his own, to serve or protect anyone without the San Mateo County Sheriff’s department behind him.
The added characterization allowed through Lester’s POV proves critical to the tragedy now heating up.

How does Dubus get away with it?
1. He raises questions the reader wants answers to. Lester’s third person POV enters so late it jarred me at first. I accepted it, however, because Dubus had already driven his primary characters deep into the heart of the conflict. I wanted to know how this would play out. And since Lester had already pulled off some pretty shady stunts on Kathy’s behalf, I was eager to learn why a law enforcer might act that way.

2. He tweaks his story’s structure to accommodate a rule change. He didn’t throw his POV rule out the window; he modified it, and indicated this with a section break. The addition of Lester’s perspective allows Part II a more prismatic look at the final, tense build toward the climax.

3. He uses third person POV to subtly underscore meaning. Lester got involved where he didn’t belong—he wasn’t even part of the original conflict—and now look what happens.

Rookie authors are best off mastering the rules before starting to break them. But if you must break rules—do it well, like Andres Dubus III.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kathryn Craft specializes in developmental editing at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and editing service. What she believes: 1. Editing forever changed the way she reads. 2. Well-crafted moments of brilliance help her forgive many other problems in a manuscript. 3. All writers have strengths and weaknesses—but why settle for weaknesses? 4. We can learn as much from what other authors do right as we can from what we do wrong. This is her series, "Busted!—An author caught doing something right."


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time out for a little fun

Sharing with us today is humorist, Tracy Farr, writing about the very first review of his book. This first appeared on his blog in May 2010, and since he doesn't think more than ten people actually read the post, he thought it was okay for us to use it today. Enjoy....

J-Walk reviews "Never Trust a Goat"

Holy Cow! Somebody other than my mother actually downloaded my "Never Trust a Goat" e-book and read enough of it to actually write a review.

And the reviewer? None other than John Walkenbach of The J-Walk Blog!

Okay, so let's cut to the chase and see what J-Walk thought of my little book:

"Just a bunch of humorous essays. I got it because a few of the essays mention banjo. But, as it turns out, he plays a 4-string banjo. I'm pretty sure I could write a book like this."

Plus, out of Five Stars, he gave me a Three! I mean, that's like a "C+" -- just enough to pass the class and not have to go to summer school. Hot Diggedy!

So, how about I review the review? I mean, just in case you're not used to reading reviews it might be best for me to point out some "between the lines" sort of stuff. Okay, here we go:

"Just a bunch of humorous essays."  First off, the word "just" implies that something "unremarkable" is about to happen, and when associated with "a bunch," that means there's going to be a lot of it! And what kind of essays are there going to be a lot of? Unremarkable but humorous essays! Score one for me!

Next: "I got it because a few of the essays mention banjo." And indeed they do. The title of the e-book was just the title of the first essay -- you know, to grab a person's attention to make them want to at least think about downloading the book. The book is not totally about goats. But to find that out, you've got to read all of the book's description before you download it -- which obviously Mr. Walkenbach did. And since he found something that might interest him -- the possibility of there being banjo stories -- he downloaded it. Score two for me!

Let's continue: "But, as it turns out, he plays a 4-string banjo." Oh well, I knew it had to happen someday. You mention you play the banjo and people automatically assume it's the five-string type. A bluegrass banjo. I guess I could have made that a little clearer (I play the four-string banjo, which is used in jazz and Dixieland), but I didn't. I guess one of these days I'm going to have to learn how to play the five-string so as to not disappoint the masses. Score one for J-Walk.

And finally: "I'm pretty sure I could write a book like this." Well, of course you could. I just threw some stories together, wrapped them up in an e-book cover, and just put it out there. Anybody could do it. Of course, I thought my mother would be the only person to read it, but I was wrong. Even she hasn't read it. Score two for J-Walk.

To sum up my review of J-Walk's review, I think he hit the nail right on the head. The book is unremarkable. Anybody could write one just like it. There's really no excuse to even have something like that offered on the Internet. I mean, it's no Thurber; it's no Benchley; and it's no Barry. It's Farr, and that in itself speaks volumes!

Anyways, thank you J-Walk for taking the time to at least look at the book. I am sincerely appreciative. I promise that my next book will be super-duper remarkable -- or in the trash.

Writers, have you ever had the urge to review the reviewer?

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Tracy Farr is a teacher living in East Texas who enjoys writing funny stuff and playing a banjo. You can get a  free copy of his e-book Never Trust a Goat HERE
Posted by Maryann Miller, who also has goats she does not trust. She also has books that she does trust. For information about her books and her editing services visit her website.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ask the Editor Free-For-All Is Open For Questions

In my corner of the world, this summer is one of extremes. We went from a drought to a flood, both undesirable.

Writers suffer from similar maladies, either struggling for ideas and/or word count, or the opposite, trying to decide which of too many ideas and/or words to include or discard.

Whatever your symptoms, our Ask the Editor Free-For-All  can help. Today, as on every first Tuesday of the month, our Editors will be on hand to answer your questions about writing basics, manuscript submissions to publishers or agents, aspects of traditional and/or self-publishing, and more. It doesn't happen often, but if we don't have an answer, we'll offer suggestions where you can find one.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Simple Steps:

Leave a comment below in the comment section, including your name and blog URL or website. That way, you'll get promo and we'll make sure you're a person and not a robot. (One link only, please!) Double check to make sure your comment actually got added before you leave, since sometimes Blogger tests people to be sure they're real. You may need to repeat a step to make your comment stick.

Our Editors will stop by off and on during the day to answer questions in the comment section. If an answer can be expanded, an Editor might choose to do an entire blog post on your topic. In that case, you may get extra promotion, along with the possibility of forwarding jpegs of your profile photo and cover, along with a buy link.

It's not a requirement, but if you wish you may leave your email address. Also not necessary, but helpful, is including where you've heard about us.

Others will ask questions, so it's a good idea to check back later in the day to see what might turn up. Some of our participants are on e-group Digests, or don't get to their computers right away, so their questions and the corresponding answers might carry over through Wednesday or Thursday.

The comment section is now ready to accept questions, so come on over.
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Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,romances, and thrillers. She's a past president of Chicago-North RWA, was the Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, and is an active blogger and social networker. Her personal blog is at:

http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Her romantic suspense, Killer Career, is available on Kindle and Smashwords, for 99 cents. Her paranormal thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release soon on Kindle and Smashwords, also.

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