When I started my writing journey, I had no idea what would be involved. For any of you who have been doing this a while, you know exactly what I mean. For those of you who are just starting out, it is my hope that my posts can help give you insight, direction or at the very least a laugh or two.
Early on in the process, and just after I purchased my very first smart phone, I stumbled across some writing podcasts that I have found extremely helpful. I tend to listen to them during the non-writing times in my life: driving in the car, folding laundry, even while I am getting ready in the morning. I would like to share the ones I have received the most value from and highly recommend you check them out!
Sell More Books Show - Bryan and Jim give great insight on the current trends and high-lights from other shows, articles and posts in the industry. Their show is typically about an hour, but is set up in a way that squeezes a lot of information in a very short time. I have gotten a lot out of listening to this podcast as pertains to marketing, publishing, other authors/podcasts/websites to check out, and the ever-changing Amazon environment.
#Twitter Smarter - Madalyn Sklar packs a ton of great tips on optimizing your use of Twitter in her 10 minute segments! She has her finger on the pulse of everything Twitter, and explains things in simple terms so even a newbie can gain a better understanding of the tools available. I have gotten some great direction from this show, and have found some tools that I would have never known existed without listening to her podcast.
The Creative Penn - I can't say enough about Joanna Penn's podcast! I am so glad I found it, I have learned so much from her and her amazing guests! She has an uplifting personality, has been in the business long enough to talk about the changes in the industry and make educated predictions for the future of Indie Publishing. She has published both Fiction and Non-Fiction, which makes her a well-rounded host and her guests have been truly inspirational. Her podcasts do run closer to an hour, but they are filled with a wealth of information you won't want to miss! She lives in the UK, so for authors planning on selling in overseas markets, you will definitely want to give her a listen!
The Science of Social Media - Buffer really squeezes a lot of information on marketing tips and things to check out in less than 15 minutes. They have suggested multiple books, websites and tools which helped me understand how marketing works, and have directed me to the best social media tools to consider in my overall marketing plan. This podcast covers everything marketing, but the concepts are easily converted to my needs as an author. They also have an amazing scheduling tool that is well worth checking out!
If you are looking to level up your author business, I highly recommend checking these podcasts out. And, if you have a podcast that you listen to (or host) that you feel is particularly helpful for writing, publishing, marketing for Indie or Traditional authors, please leave it in the comments below. I would love to check out what you are listening to!
Happy writing! - DH
In his book, How Fiction Works (1), James Woods gives a name to a technique I’ve been aware of, but never seen discussed. He calls it “free indirect speech,” used to show what a character is thinking. He demonstrates it this way:
“He looked over at his wife. She looked so unhappy,” he thought, “almost sick.” He wondered what to say.
That is direct, quoted speech.The most common technique, he says, is the “indirect speech:”
He looked over at his wife. She looked so unhappy, he thought. Almost sick. He wondered what to say.
“Free” indirect speech he demonstrates with this version:
He looked over at his wife. Yes, she was tiresomely unhappy again, almost sick. What the hell should he say?
On page 14 of the book Woods does a wonderful analysis of a passage from Henry James’s What Maisie Knew, which shows James using the “free indirect style” to show Maisie’s understanding of the adult world around her. Woods points out all the different voices in Maisie’s head: the things she believes adults have said, as she understands it.
Woods points out the opportunities the free indirect style offers for irony, when the author and the reader know more than the character does. I find a wonderful example in Hilary Mantel’s Fludd. In this paragraph the author tells us what the architect was thinking when he designed a supposedly “medieval” church.
The Church was in fact less than a hundred years old; it had been built when the Irish came to Fetherhoughton to work in the three cotton mills. But someone had briefed its architect to make it look as if it had always stood there. In those poor, troubled days it was an understandable wish, and the architect had a sense of history; it was a Shakespearean sense of history, with a grant contempt of the pitfalls of anachronism. Last Wednesday and the Battle of Bosworth are all one; the past is the past, and Mrs. O’Toole, buried last Wednesday, is neck and neck with King Richard in the hurtle to eternity… (2)
As I find more and more examples I remember something from discourse analysis/text linguistics, which study how text coheres, what holds a paragraph together and defines it as a paragraph.One example is the following:
Tom and Sam decided to go to a movie so Tom and Sam went down town and Tom and Sam bought tickets and then Tom and Sam went into the theater.
Sounds like you keep starting over and over, so the text linguists point out that the use of a pronoun subordinates the rest of the paragraph to the sentence with the proper names, and so gives the paragraph structure and coherence:
Tom and Sam decided to go to a movie so they went down town and they bought tickets and then they went into the theater.
Which still has too many pronouns, but it isn’t so distracting as the repeated proper names in the first version. It does sound like a complete paragraph.
If we take out all the pronouns it begins to sound like “free indirect speech.”
Tom and Sam decided to go to a movie, so went down town and bought tickets and then went into the theater.
I’m interested in how leaving out the pronouns binds the paragraph more tightly. It changes the density of the prose.
He looked over at his wife. She looked so unhappy, he thought. Almost sick. He wondered what to say.
When we take out the “he thoughts” we also subordinate that sentence within the paragraph, just as the pronouns serve to subordinate the sentences in the paragraph about Tom and Same. And it gives that “chunk” of prose a tighter, more cohesive structure. And it happens when we leave out the repeated pronoun subject:
He looked over at his wife. Yes, she was tiresomely unhappy again, most sick. What the hell should he say?
This prose is efficient, as well as vigorous. - SQ
1) Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
2) Henry Holt and Company, 1989, p.16.
So you decide to write a book and the main character is going to be a Firefighter because you've always thought it was an exciting occupation. Before you let your fingers do the walking through your search engine, you will want to consider contacting someone who knows something about fighting fires. What you need is a Subject Matter Expert.
It's fiction, you say, what the heck do I need one of those for when I can just make stuff up? Well, do what you want, it's your funeral - I mean book. But in my opinion even fiction writers need to weave believable elements throughout their plot. Here's why:
If you are looking for information on various occupations, start local and go from there. Chances are most of your questions can be answered by your local Emergency Responders, Public Officials or Business Owners. You can also reach out to the personnel in charge of responding to media requests, or go onto blogs through writing groups and ask other authors who have used that occupation for characters they have written. I have found that most writers are more than happy to share their knowledge or at least get you heading in the right direction.
Give yourself enough time to use Subject Matter Experts when writing your book, as waiting for responses can delay you from completing your edits or even making your publishing deadline. If possible, contact more than one source for answers to your questions.
Speaking to a Subject Matter Expert can provide you with small details that can make a huge impact on your story. When incorporated correctly the scene should be not only seamless, but the information contained in it should ring true. A well crafted scene with realistic details is where the real magic lies. Now if you will excuse me, I need to find some experts in the medical field...I have some healing that needs to happen in Book #4! - DH
Other articles on Subject Matter Experts/Research:
Thank you so much to all Emergency Responders for your hard work and dedication. Your efforts are truly appreciated! Safe journeys to you all...
I love reading almost as much as I love writing and I do lots of book reviews. Because I have been through the gauntlet of bringing an idea to life, I know that every book requires a great deal of work. When I do a book review, I keep this in the back of my mind. That way, even if I don’t particularly care for the story, I can focus on the positives.
I decided recently that I needed a system that would not only streamline my review process, but also help me to remain as objective as possible. I realize that ratings are ultimately reflective of the reader’s likes and dislikes, but sometimes I find myself in the position of reading a genre am not necessarily a fan of. I feel this system I am about to share helps me to rate the books fairly no matter the story or genre.
My rating system is set up for 10 points, but you can easily adjust it for a 5-star rating by cutting your score in half and rounding up or down. I have 10 criteria that I have listed on a worksheet, and each of those criteria are given a score of .1 to 1. They are:
Cover – Style/Color/Theme
Formatting – Justification/Flourishes/Spacing
Editing – Typos, punctuation, sentence structure
Blurb – Does it sufficiently describe the book? Or misleading?
POV – Is it consistent? Does it switch with sufficient transition?
Character Depth – Is character realistic?
Character Motivation – Does character’s motivation make sense? Is it explained?
Character Description – Is character description adequate? Can you visualize their qualities?
Plot – Does the plot move along? Any holes or things that don’t make sense?
Impression – Based on this book, would you purchase more from this author?
If you feel that this rating system will help you with your reviews, I have provided a copy of the document that I developed. Feel free to use it or pass it along to other reviewers who may find it helpful. I would like to add that I will only post reviews that I rate between 3 and 5 stars. Anything less than that would, more than likely, be the direct cause of poor editing or severe plot holes. I feel in these rare cases, the direct contact with the author with some constructive criticism is much more helpful to them than posting a negative review.
Authors truly appreciate feedback and I hope that you will consider leaving a review the next time you read a book that you feel others will like. I would love to hear from you if you feel this tool has been helpful, just make a comment here or shoot me an email. Happy reading (and reviewing) everyone! - DH
Original Post: saraybooksllc.com/2017/02/25/my-book-review-rating-worksheet/
Recently, the Muse Crew attended a writer's conference during which four of the members pitched to attending agents. This was a first time experience for each of us, and even though we each write in different genres, the feedback I received from each member had common threads. I thought others might be interested in our experiences, so I summarized my questions and the responses below:
For more information on developing your pitch, check out D.A.'s recent post here.
The pitch is a B, but my goodness, it gets you where you need to be. If you are in the stage of your writing where you’ve completed your novel, you need to perfect your pitch. Don’t wait your book is polished, do it when you know the skeleton of your story is complete.
There are a few kinds of pitches: the pitch in your query letter, your elevator pitch, and your pitch for talking to an agent in person at a conference. I’m talking about the in-person pitch. Working on any pitch will help you with the others. They are all interconnected, which is the good news because after spending hours creating a pitch for an agent, it makes the elevator pitch and query letter pitch that much easier. It made talking about my books in any situation more of a breeze too. I realized that the earlier you perfect your pitch, the easier life becomes.
If you’re like me, perfecting your pitch is enough to make you lose sleep. It provoked some serious anxiety within me. I mean, how can I narrow down a whole novel, which is brimming with plot, characters, and psychological insight into a one minute pitch? How? Well, I know it sounds daunting but it can be done. I’m not going to fool you, it is work, but it’s so worth it. Like anything, it gets easier with practice. Jump in, don’t be afraid, you will come out better from this experience.
Here are some basics to get you started. Your pitch should include the following:
A high-quality agent will likely ask you some questions. Be ready to answer them. They might be...
Practice your pitch!
Get everything you can from your conversation:
So, go forward, write your pitch, and see how much you learn about yourself and your story in the process.
An intriguing piece of art is engaging both today and tomorrow. We might notice something new or feel slightly different with each viewing. Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling is like art to me. Every time I read this book it satisfies my appetite for extending my writing craft.
I first read this book early in my writing journey—not when I dabbled in the craft, but when I could call myself a writer without bursting into awkward laughter. I remember paging through the chapters and finding things that spoke directly to my WIP. I found inspiration around every corner of this book and you can tell by looking at it. I wrote all over this book. I know that some of you may find that offensive, but get over it, I like to occasionally talk back to my books (and yes, I dog ear the pages too).
The second time I looked through this book, it was to find discussion questions for The Muse Crew’s writing meetings. Each chapter ends with questions that make you dig deep into the concepts at hand. Answering these questions as they relate to what you’re writing is the perfect activity to extend your skills at any stage in the writing process.
The third time I picked up this book was a few weeks ago. It is in my pile of go-to books so I went to it. I wondered if this book had anything to teach me three novels later. Honestly, I doubted it. If I enjoyed it as a newbie, then by now I must be beyond such things. Wrong. So wrong (and not the first or last time I might add). With my lens of writing experience, I saw the pages in a new light and they still had things to teach me. I could relate to the strategies more deeply because I’ve used many of them. Also, it helps to think about your current WIP and consider how it can be strengthened. This book helps with that. In other words, reading it again was no let down, in fact, I feel like I learned even more.
Did you notice that I haven’t given any of the specific strategies or tips from the book? Well, that’s because there is too much! If this is a topic that you find interesting or relevant, then I suggest buy the book. You will not be disappointed. You might even learn something.
Review of Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right
By: Bill Bryson
Reviewed by: Judy Bobrow
Amazon is great! I love shopping there for books and many other things. And I will be forever grateful to the online giant for making it possible for me to complete the daunting task of publishing my family history, “Carrying On.” But one thing Amazon cannot do for me is replace the joy of book browsing for treasures in a bricks and mortar bookstore.
Case in point: On a recent trip to Portland Oregon, I had the pleasure of book browsing for treasures with my 10-year-old granddaughter, Eliana Grace, at Powell’s Books (also known as Powell’s City of Books). After checking out her stack of books she announced: “I want to live in this store.” And while Eliana was finding her treasures, I found one of my own: “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting it Right,” by Bill Bryson, author of “A Walk in the Woods,” and “A Short History of Nearly Everything.”
As a young copy editor in 1983, while on the staff of The London Times, Bryson began collecting troublesome usage questions he encountered every day in his work. And from those questions “The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words” was born. The book I found at Powell’s Books, in Bryson’s words, “is not so much a new edition of an old book as a new edition of an old author.” But whatever its name or genesis, the book is a treasure for anyone writing, editing or reading. In it, Bryson tackles, in his words, “the merry confusion of quirks and irregularities (in English) that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense.”
Leaf through this little book (only 232 pages including an appendix for punctuation questions), and you will find explanations for many of the “quirks and irregularities” those of us in the writing business constantly puzzle over. There are explanations addressing the differences between who and whom; which and that; sometime and some time; abbreviations, contractions and acronyms; and a long section on number. Here are a few brief examples of Bryson’s explanations to whet your appetite:
behalf: A useful distinction exists between on behalf of and in behalf of. The first means acting as a representative, as when a lawyer enters a plea on behalf of a client, and often denotes a formal relationship. In behalf of indicates a closer or more sympathetic role and means active as a friend or defender. “I spoke on your behalf’” means that I represented you when you were absent. “I spoke in your behalf” means that I supported you or defended you.
connote, denote: Denote means simply to convey information. Connote describes additional aspects that follow from what is denoted. My frown as I approach the house might denote to an interested onlooker that I am unhappy, but connote that I have just spotted the large new dent on the rear passenger door of the family car.
navel, navel: The first pertains to a navy and its possessions or operations, the second to belly buttons and like-shaped objects. The oranges are navel.
needless to say: is a harmless enough expression, but it often draws attention to the fact that you really didn’t need to say it.
prophecy, prophesy: The first is the noun, the second the verb. Thus: “I prophesy war; that is my prophecy.
Bryson says that while all of these distinctions help to make the language we use clear to those listening to it or reading it, they are not made in the interest of “making words conform to an arbitrary pattern.” They are simply “a compilation of suggestions, observations and even treasured prejudices.” For anyone interested in words and their meanings, this book is a treasure to be used as a reference, and to read just for fun. Keeping it on my desk is a constant reminder that the goal in my editing work is to make usage choices that are based on bringing clarity to the works of fiction and non-fiction that I am responsible for.
Using--or Overusing--Symbols to Reinforce Meaning
“Show, don’t tell. ” This is the advice from successful writers. They are referring to using words and phrases that communicate emotion and bring readers a deeper understanding about the stories we are telling. Grammatical symbols like commas, hyphens, dashes, parentheses, colons and semicolons also help us communicate more deeply with our readers. Of all of these, the dash seems to be gaining in popularity. Some believe it is being used too liberally and that this overuse discourages truly efficient writing.
In Elements of Style, Strunk and White caution, “Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate.” Philip Corbett, writing for the online Times Insider, says, “Even if the dashes are correct and the syntax intact, we should avoid overdoing the device. It can seem like a tic; worse yet, it can indicate a profusion of overstuffed and loosely constructed sentences, bulging with parenthetical additions and asides. Dashes are useful, but can become a shortcut or a crutch." He suggests, "Be judicious. Look for ways to streamline or break up sentences, or to knit the elements more closely together.”
If you are going to use dashes, here are some guidelines from The Chicago Manual of Style.
1. There are three lengths of what are all more or less dashes: hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—). They should all be used without spaces between the words, numbers or phrases they are connecting.
2. The hyphen (the shortest of the three) connects two things that are intimately related, usually words that function together as a single concept or work together as a joint modifier (e.g., tie-in, toll-free call, two-thirds).
3. The en dash (longer than the hyphen but shorter than the em dash) connects things that are related to each other by distance, as in the May–September issue of a magazine. In fact en dashes specify any kind of range, which is why they properly appear in indexes when a range of pages is cited (e.g., 147–48).
4. The em dash has several uses. It allows, in a manner similar to parentheses, an additional thought to be added within a sentence by sort of breaking away from that sentence. Its use or misuse for this purpose is a matter of taste, and subject to the effect on the writer’s or reader’s “ear.” Em dashes also substitute for something missing. For example, in a bibliographic list, rather than repeating the same author over and over again, three consecutive em dashes (also known as a 3-em dash) stand in for the author’s name. In interrupted speech, one or two em dashes may be used: “I wasn’t trying to imply——” “Then just what were you trying to do?” Also, the em dash may serve as a sort of bullet point, as in a list of projects or a grocery list.
For more about using grammatical symbols, go to chicagomanualofstyle.org or apstylebook.com
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