A lollapalooza of great links to start off the week

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Birth vs Battle by David Corbett suggests that conflict ain’t everything in a story.

The Cyber Exchange Principle from the Writer’s Forensic Blog explains the Locard Exchange – the basis for using forensic evidence in crime detection.

An Almost Perfect Murder by Sue Coletta. Fascinating case study of a surgeon who almost got away with murder.

11 Tips to help you build your online community by Cat Michaels provides sage advice for building your platform.

Do You Know Where Your ISBNs Are? by Joel Friedlander, is a good nuts and bolts on ISBNs plus a free download.

How to write a great love scene by  Jessi Rita Hoffaman, provides some great tips on avoiding the schmaltz and getting to the gold in a love scene.

Who really killed JonBenet Ramsey by Garry Rodgers is an in depth analysis of the case and who the likely killer was of this sweet little girl.

Just for fun – I guess the shelf life for Shades has reached critical mass

And for laughs: Jimmy Fallon does a helluva Trump impression and this made me laugh out loud.

And just to get your week starting off right a little music.

Doing Backstory Right and Other Good Reads

 

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I’ve been away much longer than I realized, in my quest to finish the third book in a new trilogy among other highly distracting activities. And I wanted to reassure my three undying fans I still live and breathe. Also have been catching up on my reading and have some nice reads for you.

The Shocking Truth About Info Dumps by Lisa Cron discusses how to do backstory right. And folks, she is spot on.

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time by CS Lakin Good nuts and bolts on scene structure, especially good statements on time in writing.

Beware the Writing Rules Police by Anne R. Allen. Anne takes the writing rules police to task and kicks their butts.

Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules by Elizabeth Bear. Hardworking author Elizabeth Bear makes a good case for taking pressure and time off from writing. I totally get what she is talking about here.

Really Going There by Annie Neugebauer makes a good case for the argument that our best stories come from the places we are terrified to write about.

Have a good week everybody – step away from the political arguments on FB – real life is much better for your blood pressure. 🙂

Book Marketing Trends for Authors and Other Good Reads This Week

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I’m afraid I haven’t had much time to devote to blogging lately because I’m trying to finish a first draft of my novel. More on that later. In the meantime, following are some awesome reads for the Indie’s among us. Enjoy and have a great week.

7 Book Marketing Trends Authors Can’t Afford to Ignore. Kimberley Grabas offers some solid marketing strategies, with lots of actionable tips.

Why do we write? Lisa Kron offers a very interesting perspective on the impact that writing, even entertainment writing, can have.

Self Publishing Notebook. Jonathan Kile offers an interesting a funny perspective on indie writing and publishing.

Vetting Vendors: Public Relations Professionals. Naomi Blackburn has some advice on how to hire a PR pro that won’t ruin your PR.

Scene Structure: Understanding the Truth about Character Arcs. CS Larkin gives us a great nuts and bolts post on character arcs.

And just for fun, check out this Content Idea Generator. Who knows, it might be your next brilliant idea.

From conquering fear to business models that don’t react – best reads of the week

It’s been a while since I’ve done a link post – and I think I want to get that back in on this blog. The holidays and general craziness is over for now, so time to get back to basics. Following are some super reads that I wanted to share.

Overcoming Fear by Jo Eberhardt. This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever read on overcoming our own doubts about ourselves. I actually cried as I read this heartfelt and often funny story. Do yourself a favor and read it – it will make your day, put a little bounce in your step and lift your head just a little higher.

THE E-PUBLISHING REVOLUTION IS DEFINITELY NOT OVER (Regardless of what you’ve heard)
Literary Agent Laurie McLean, is pretty sure the ePub revolution is not over and that Indies still have some serious say in the world of books.

75 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. Yup that’s right WiseInk has 75 resolutions from which to choose that you could conquer this year. I have to admit, there were quite a few I think I’m going for.

9 Ways To Make Your Author Resource Box Sizzle by Publicist Joan Stewart. You know she has some great examples of the mini bios that authors can do for various platforms. Some of them really quite good.

Business Musings: The Reactive Business Model by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s a long read and there was a lot of ‘back story’ to get to the point but when she gets there, it’s worth the trip. And I couldn’t agree more with her.

As a little bit of further inspiration, I tossed in this trailer for a movie called, “Joy,” which I just saw this afternoon. If you are someone with a dream, I highly recommend the film. One of the most inspirational stories I’ve seen in a long time.

Have a great week.

Annie

The Indie author’s list of new year’s resolutions

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Ah, it’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that has passed and the changes we want to make in the coming year. Typically, losing weight, quitting smoking and/or drinking and having higher self esteem tops the list for many. Though as indie authors, our lists are a might different. Here’s a few that might resonate:

  • Buy, download, read and review every book written by someone who retweeted you on twitter.
  • Write, edit and publish four books by the end of the year.
  • Learn how to write standing up to stop the spread of writer’s ass
  • Stop seething every time that writer you follow on Facebook posts yet another glowing review or quotes herself
  • Stop obsessing over that one review that befuddles you
  • Discover the mysteries of tweeting. Cat pictures only go so far.
  • Learn to make and like a writer’s drink, like bourbon or something manly.
  • Delete the blog you started for your characters (how lame was that?).
  • Force yourself to learn how to use that horrible template from Create Space without throwing your computer out the window.
  • Stop checking your sales dashboard every twenty minutes – get a life.
  • Find something that tears you away from the computer and has absolutely nothing to do with writing.
  • Stop subscribing to marketers claiming they have the product that will make you a best seller.
  • Write better, write calmer, be happy with the stories that belong to you, share accordingly.

How about you? Any special resolutions you have made for yourself? Feel free to share or add to the list in the comments.

Note: I am offline for a few days, but will happily respond to any comments on my return. In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday.

Annie

The Unvarnished Truth – Do We Want it?

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Porter Anderson wrote a very thought-provoking post on Writer Unboxed the other day: Truth Be Told? Truth Is on Thin Ice.

He opens with a formula for ‘authenticity’ as developed by branding expert, Marc Ecko, which is this:

Authenticity is equal to your unique voice,
multiplied by truthfulness,
plus your capacity for change,
multiplied by range of emotional impact,
raised to the power of imagination.

And then Porter uses this formula to springboard into the main topic, which is truth in publishing. And poses these questions:

How good are you at truthfulness? Why don’t we tell the truth more in publishing? And especially in writing?

He answers them in part by using his own experiences from an event called Author Day that he put on in London. Long story short, during the conference things were said that were kind and encouraging, afterward criticism was launched from the same people that was not so kind.

And then he makes the point that many of us have made. We say things that we don’t mean about books we don’t read, to be nice. Or write reviews that a more glowing than they should be, and so it goes. And it’s of course, something that all of us have done. We have our reasons. Maybe to be nice. Maybe to avoid conflict. Maybe because we’re worried that if we are totally truthful, someone may turn around and do the same to us. And each person has their own version of truthfulness, and some versions can be quite devastating.

The Truth Bureau – are we ready for it?

Ultimately, Porter suggests developing what he calls the Truth Bureau. A group of anonymous readers who agree to give the unvarnished truth about books that are submitted for their critique. The books of course would be anonymous too, with no clue as to the author or any other identifying data that might give a clue. This would then ensure that we could learn the real truth about our books. It would possibly be set up as a service for which authors would pay. All from the view of course, of improving their work.

I found this to be a very interesting idea. Certainly on the face of it, there is a lot of potential to opening the doors of truly improving our work. And I don’t know any writer who is serious about their craft who doesn’t want to be better than they are. It’s a natural desire for any artist to strive for improvement – otherwise, you are in essence just phoning it in. And what writer worth their weight in words wants that?

Of course there is the bugaboo of having yet another thing that we indies must pay for. And you can’t swing a dead cat (sorry cat lovers) without hitting some guy with a service that guarantees he will realize your writer dreams. There’s even one guy out there promising people he will make you a best selling author on Amazon – even if you hate to write. Think about that one for a minute. Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

The other main stumbling block, I believe to something like the Truth Bureau is I think, human nature. We can be quite cruel to one another, especially when anonymous. The Internet is teeming with trolls and flamers and people who love to visit their hatred on poor unsuspecting strangers. The whole review system online is problematic. There are so many concerns people have; if they are authors they know that whatever they say online can be found and used against them; writers are cautioned against responding to negative reviews; and conversely I’ve seen writers attack reviewers, which only ends up making people think twice about writing them. And the list goes on. And what’s to say that people wouldn’t sign up to be an anonymous reviewer just to get their hate on?

Likely a service like this would have better oversight than Amazon, where anybody can lob hate bombs with impunity, but there would still probably be damage done before they were removed from participating.

What about a co-op?

Personally, I do like the idea of a Truth Bureau because it has great potential to help authors and thusly readers. Perhaps a co-op of writers and readers who are not completely anonymous but instead are committed to truthfulness. With a list of criteria to follow in their critiques, to avoid the feedback from becoming personal would work. The names of the authors could be left off, so that wouldn’t act as influence and perhaps the reader picks a genre that they read and gets a choice of 3 or 4 titles to choose from. Or perhaps I’ve just described a critique group. Not sure.

I do agree with Porter though, who I believe to be one of the good guys out there, telling the truth as best he can. We need more truth online in general, and in publishing specifically. The current review system is broken. Is is unpoliced and you honestly have no idea what you’ll get. Good. Bad. Hate. Love. It’s all up for grabs. And a crap shoot at best.

In the meantime

But in the meantime, given the way things are currently I will probably still continue to give overly nice reviews. Sorry but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Even with authors I don’t know, I am ever aware of the fact that if I’m too honest I will be attacked whether by the author or their fans or someone else. So, for now, I won’t write the unvarnished truth. Is this wrong? Perhaps. But in my experience, it is the rare person who wants the total truth about their creations. And sometimes a little truth goes a long way.

What about you? Are you totally truthful in critiquing another’s work? Are your reviews/critiques overly nice? Short and sweet? Any ideas on how a Truth Bureau could work? Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments.

Note: I’m offline for a few days but will happily respond to any comments when I return.

Annie

Parting thoughts about NaNo

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Well, it’s December 1st and those of us who participated in NaNo, likely are taking a collective breath and saying, “I can’t believe I did the whole thing.”

Technically, I was a ‘winner’ because I hit the 50K mark, although the draft wasn’t finished at that point. In fact, I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday but forgot to post it, so even my word count is off. Still, it was an experience and something I can now cross off my bucket list. And you can too.

Why I did it

A lot of people may wonder why any writer would try to write a novel in 30 days. For a long time, I did too. But this time around, I had a few reasons:

  • I’d tried before and failed, so I wanted to see if I could do it.
  • I was writing a novel anyway, so what could it hurt?
  • I hoped to connect with other writers.
  • I thought the deadline would serve as extra motivation.

What was good?

The good things that came out of NaNo for me were:

I met the target. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but setting a goal and accomplishing it is good for your ego. And it was good for mine.

I met two lovely writers. I ‘buddied up’ with two other writers for sounding board stuff and encouragement. Both writers were kind, intelligent, and fun. And I hope to stay in touch with them.

It made writing a priority for me. While I am always writing because I make my living that way, I don’t always work on my stuff. The non-client stuff. NaNo changed that because I had a deadline and was forced to make my novel a priority.

The time limit made my internal editor shut the heck up. One of the things that writers go through is endless conversations/arguments with their internal editor. And it can be a real sticking point and stop you dead in your tracks if the dialogue gets out of hand. Because of the finite time period I had in which to meet my goal, I had to force my internal editor into silence. The good thing about this is that I learned I could do it.

What was not so good?

That’s right, at least for me, NaNo is not all sunshine and unicorns. It presented a few problems for me which I didn’t expect:

The external pressure seemed a little artificial and unnatural. I have no problem with deadlines – actually in my line of work they are a way of life. But the arbitrary deadline of x number of words within x number of days felt a little forced. And it created an unnecessary anxiety in me. Like somebody was peering over my shoulder, ruler in hand, waiting for me to crap out.

I went out of touch with friends, family, and colleagues. Participating something like NaNo requires tremendous focus. You have to make choices and usually those choices have to do with cutting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary out of your life temporarily. So, I didn’t chat with friends on the phone, barely took a minute for the holiday, and my social media buds probably think I’m dead.

It stressed me out. Even though I participated in NaNo willingly – the tight deadline and the volume demanded stressed me out. I dreamed about writing. I barely left my desk and I was pretty grumpy throughout. Oddly, it reminded me of working a regular ‘job’ where someone else was in charge of my time and energy.

It forced me to decide. Now, making decisions is not a bad thing. However, again because of the pressure and short deadline I was forced to make decisions about the story that had I had more time to consider might not have made. I had to ignore glaring outpoints in the storyline and plot and gloss over a lot, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I can fix those things during the editing/revision stage in subsequent drafts, so it’s not permanent. However, in some ways I wonder if I ended up making more work for myself than I otherwise would have.

What didn’t matter?

NaNo has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings and there are a lot of non-writing activities offered, as well as other things. Most of them, unnecessary in my opinion:

The write-ins. I didn’t do any travel to do any IRL write-ins but I tried a virtual one. After about ten minutes I logged off because it wasn’t conducive to writing for me. Mostly it was a couple of cute guys who liked to giggle a lot, giving timed exercises to the participants. I could see how that might’ve helped other writers but it did nothing for me.

The offers, sponsored products, and freebies. I didn’t decide to participate in NaNo so I could receive discounted products or freebies. It’s nice that they offer such things but I already have 25 books on writing, structure, marketing and so forth that I haven’t yet read so more wouldn’t have helped any. And who had time? Also, I’m pretty old school, a simple word processing program works just fine for me when I write.

All in all, I’m glad that I participated in NaNo and can now check that off on my bucket list. It was an experience and I did get a pleasant little high when I reached the 50K mark, and met a couple of people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t. And by the end of the day my draft will be complete. So, yay. And thank you NaNo for being there.

What about you? Did you participate? Did you love it or hate it? Did you finish? Did it change the way you write or your process? Was it a help or a hindrance? Regale us with your NaNo experiences in the comments.

In the meantime, write on brothas and sistahs.

Annie

NaNo Report – Week Two

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So, Chuck Wendig did a quick little post, asking everybody who was participatingin NaNo to give him a status update.

Turns out, I liked his questions, so I thought I’d answer them here:

How are you doing?
I’m doing okay. I had a little chat with one of my writing buddies and it was fun because I was able to help her just by being a sounding board. I love that writerly connection.

How has it (NaNo) been for you?
Honestly, it’s different than what I expected. I had visions of hooking up with a bunch of new writer buds and cheering each other on – and then of course talking shop. But really, aside from my chat as mentioned above. Not very much socializing going on.
I did attempt to participate in a virtual write in. But for some reason I had to open a YouTube account in order to participate in the chat, which I didn’t feel like doing. And the live stream was cute – the two young men who were conducting the write in (which as it turns out is just a series of timed prompts, designed I tink, to get your creative juices going) certainly were having fun. But after about 20 minutes I gave up and went back to the book to write.

How is the book?
The book is actually going much better than I expected. I have somehow managed to overlook the ugly prose, sketchy descriptions and conflicting plot points, in order to surge forward. Knowing that I will tend to all those things on the next run-through.
I did hit a snag for a couple of days where it seemed that every word was an absolute effort. But then I just decided to let the characters go where they wanted and I ended up with a plot twist I totally did not see coming and really like a lot.

Also, character relationships are developing in unexpected ways, which I am pleasantly surprised about as well.

How and what is your process?
My process is essentially to do my best to get at least 2,000 words a day. Not always easy if the plot is sluggish or I have freelance work to do. But I have managed to average that or more every day so far. I’m a pantster who outlines vaguely. Meaning I know the broad strokes of the story and how it will resolve as well as the subplot resolutions. But I don’t plan out how the characters will get there. In fact in Book One, my MC (Lottie Stark) suddenly has her dad visiting. A character I never dreamed of until he just appeared. I try to write first thing in the morning if possible. But also have high energy in the mid-afternoon and try to get in time then as well. If things get sticky. I take a break, do something else, read, work on a freelance gig, fool around on social media, then go back to it. Or I do research germane to the story. I found a cool book on Police Procedure, which I’ve been reading and it’s been quite helpful and oddly has shown me that I knew more about police procedure than I thought I knew – which was zero. But mostly, my process is just to write and to trust myself and my characters. Not sexy but it does the job.

If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, how do you find it?
This is not my first time doing NaNo. However, my previous attempt at NaNo lasted perhaps 3 or 4 days. So maybe in essence I am a newbie at this. I am finding it helpful. I do get a little thrill when I update my word count. Even though nobody else notices. It still makes me proud of my accomplishment. And they have this cool little dashboard where you can see your stats and how far you have to go. So, it’s a fun nerdy writerly thing.

Today I hit the 40K mark. According to NaNo I am 80% done. But to complete a full first draft I’m more like 50-60% done. Still, I think I might actually finish the full draft by the end of the month.

Parting thought: It is funny that if you just decide that you’re going to do something. That you just are. That you can. And that is probably the coolest thing about NaNo for me. I just decided I was doing it – no matter what – and I’ll be damned – I am. Yay for discipline.

Hope you’re all having a great week.

Annie

Marketing – let me count the ways. Great links to help you market your books

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Did I just hear a mass wince? Yup, I’m sure I did, or maybe it was just me. Writing a novel is nothing compared to having to then market it. From the ‘deer in the headlights syndrome’ of just not having a clue – to the ‘it just makes me feel so icky to self promote’ whiners, none of us seem to like marketing very much. But if you’re in it for the long haul and have any hope of making it as an author, marketing is something in which you must become proficient.
Following are links to some kick-ass articles about book marketing. If you have a book you need to market, you need to read these posts.

Can You Promote a Book without Making Yourself Miserable? Jane Friedman gives us some decidedly authentic and down to earth advice about book marketing that may surprise you.

Standing Out on the Crowded Shelf—How to Help Your Fiction Find an Audience
Sage advice on what you can do to find your audience and get your books into the readers who want them.

Marketing Your Book on Social Media? How to Avoid Scams
Anne R. Allen warns about the the pitfalls of those feeding off authors with marketing scams.

A 12-Month Strategic Plan for Marketing Your Book before Release
CS Lakin writes a great nuts and bolts post about marketing your book, 12 months before release.

The 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Made by Authors
Another great post from Writer Unboxed about common marketing mistakes made by authors. No more excuses after you’ve read this.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to slog through week 2 of NaNo, clocking in a total of 34,993 words so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll meet the NaNo target of 50K – but that won’t produce a finished first draft. So, I’ll persist and hope I reach my target of 75K. The good news is that I have now developed some awesome callouses on my fingertips which makes the typing go a little faster.

Have a great week.

Annie