Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday

Found BoSacks Precision Media Group this week and it's an excellent one. Bob Sacks delivers industry news from writing world along with his own well-reasoned commentary. There's a daily newsletter offered, publishing links, sometimes short videos. Yep, definitely worth a visit and some exploration time. Readers and Writers alike will find the site as well as the newsletter enjoyable and educational. So what're you waiting for? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Readers Stalking the Wild Indie Writer

Well, not stalking...not really, but readers don't you want to discover some writers who aren't always just the main stream? There are some great writers out there who aren't on the "best sellers" list whether said list is for real or manufactured. Yep, for every great or even rather poor author you see heavily promoted through a publisher, ther are many others wonderful writers out there who've opted to self publish and go the Indie route.

The market is driven by just that, the market. If a book doesn't fit the cubbyhole a certain agent or publisher has, then the book is passed over and it may be a great read you'll never see because of it. 

But the Indies are bringing it to you. You might dreat light reading in your favorite genre or discover very specific technical or research materials.

There is still a bit of a negative image of self-published writers and many misconceptions. So let's talk about that and see where we are.

One thought is that a self-published author can't be any good or that author would have publishing contracts with an established house. Well, I won't dispute there are lots of self-published books out there that probably should never have been published. But, if you think back over all the stuff you've read you no doubt feel similarly about a lot of books that were traditionally published.  I know there were a good number of those I never finished.

The reality right now is that publishing is changing - fast. Writers have a lot more freedom and many more choices. Some self-publish because they find themselves in a niche so narrow not enough people would buy the book to warrant a big publishing house or even a smaller one to publish. Others want to keep the entire process in their own hands and not be dependent on the publishing house's whims. Still other writers make the decision to self publish because it's business - they can actually make more money. Yes, writers, just like you, actually have to earn money to live.

I'm doing some self publishing now and I have been published by major houses Doubleday, Harlequin, Five Star, Pinnacle, Manor and internationally as well. Why? Because I like it. I like the process and the control. I can pick my own designer, my own art work, etc. And there are other reasons. That's just an example. Everyone has his or her reasons for being an Indie.

So, why would you, should you be interested in Indie authors? 

You might like to support individual artists.

You might like the variety, enjoy discovering new things and new sources for your entertainment buck.

If it's non-fiction you like you might unearth helpful books published by experts in your field - and you might not even realize they're self-published.

You might be interested in shorter works like novellas and such that major publishing houses don't do much of.

There are lots more reasons to support Indie authors, but that's just a few.

So, how do fascinated readers who want to become avid fans find these gems?

Well, Amazon  is one obvious place to look. There you can find lots of Ebooks as well as paperbacks, etc. through their hard copy arm, CreateSpace. Smashwords  offers a wide variety of Ebooks as well. You can toss a search into your search engine searching for your favorite genres and see what turns up.  There are smaller Ebook publishers as well. The Fictionworks handled publication of my book, Stormrider (2 5 star reviews so far and a recommendation from Tony Award Winning Actor John Cullum) and offer a wide variety of Ebooks and sees to it they're available in a variety of formats. Your local bookstore will no doubt carry Indie published titles by local authors and maybe some from afar. There are others, Kobo for example.

So go forth and seek. Oh, and hey, if you find a great source, a great book, or an equally great Indie writer let us all know. Post your suggestions in the comments box below and tell the world.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Adventures in Agentland

Photo by Chance Agrella

This is admittedly aimed much more at writers than readers, but I know it would have interest in readers who are thinking of pursuing the writing dream. 

It's Adventures In Agentland. It's run by Natalie Lokosil of the Bradford Literary Agency. A blog that answers a lot of practical questions about queries and submissions.

Self publishing, traditional publishing - it's all out there and if you're thinking of agents and publishing houses you'll find some helpful and interesting posts at Adventures in Agentland.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Three Helpful (I Hope) Writer's Decrees Readers May Find Interesting

- Your Space, Research and Revision

There are a whole lot more than three of them, but well, I don't have the time to go into all of them right now, or the space on my blog, or the typing finger (I just sliced it open while prepping food for Thanksgiving and the finger really  hurts when I hit a key). So, at great sacrifice I'm typing this up for your reading pleasure, edification, education, whatever you choose to consider it

Decree number one. You, as a writer, must find your space to write, daydream and create and you must shut the door. It doesn't have to be a large space, perhaps even a closet with a good light and space for a small desk (hope you're not claustrophobic).

Depending on circumstance it might not even have a door in the physical sense, but you have to create one for yourself anyway. A means to shut out the world and yourself into the world you're creating. Somehow you must arrange it so you're not constantly interrupted or distracted. You have to shut off your cell phone, the land line, the TV, any distracting video games (you might consider not having these on your work computer) and make sure your internet access is something you have to go to, not automatic running in the background.  You might need it for research, but your don't want it constantly clamoring for your attention. And if you're not actively engaged in research, shut it off. Email too.

Give yourself a break. If you seriously want to write, you need to commit to the environment that allows you to do so to avoid frustration, self-anger, and never getting anything accomplished.

Decree Number two: research. You know, that thing I just mentioned above, the reason you might have your internet access running. You've read lots of books (um, at least I hope you have). You know there are writers who do a heck of a lot of research and then create page after page in their story parceling that newly discovered information out. Some do it well. Some not so much.

Research is a tricky devil for writers. If you're writing about something you know little to nothing about then you're going to have to research. But, once you've done the research pick out the plums and spice your story with them. Research always must take a back-seat to the story. The story always comes first and should never be overwhelmed by all that great research you've done. All that stuff you found out is really cool. And you may have waded through a morass of text to extract exactly what you need, but don't let that become the star of your show.

Story always comes first.

Decree Number Three: Revision. Ah, yes, the biggie. The one writers really don't want to face at all and yet it it is at the heart of good story telling. It's part of the process.

And the process for me, is this: slap the story down on paper, writing unleashed, not editing! Put it away, let it rest. Later, come back with pen in hand and start reading and making notes. Look for character discrepancies, large logic holes or plot gaps, whatever jerks the reader out of the story. Then open the door to my writing room a crack and slip the manuscript out to First Reader. Get comments and reactions. Then revise some more.

Now this process can be different and take different amounts of time for every writer. The first part can be hardest for people who can't resist editing as they write. It's a matter of style. I highly recommend not editing as you go, but some must. If you MUST, then do so, but try to keep it minimal and in the background as the story goes up on your computer screen.

The waiting period can vary wildly as well.  Writer Stephen King says leave it marinate/fester/mold/whatever for a minimum of six weeks in that drawer or on that shelf. Really? Six weeks? I can't wait that long, but if you can perhaps while you get some new ideas down  on paper or crammed into your computer, then have at it. If you have to get to it sooner, then do it, but do give it a rest between finishing the first draft and thinking about revision.

Oh, and when you come across all those 'mistakes'; plot gaps, character gaffs, logic jumps, don't be too hard on yourself. You're a writer, you can fix it, and your readers will be all the more thrilled for the flotsam they never saw.

And that First Reader, that ideal reader you hand your manuscript to trustingly for opinions and input? By all means, listen to the suggestions and comments, digest them and make adjustments, this is your trusted reader, the one who'll give you the most honest input whether you want to hear it or not. But don't think you have to respond to every little thing the reader suggested. Work with it and you'll come up with a better manuscript or screen script.

Who's your Ideal, most Trusted Reader?
 Have you over-researched? 
Do you have an unusual or beloved writing space? 

I'd love to hear about it. Put it in the comments below.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday has been online since 2000, bringing writers of all interests and skill levels free writing tools, inspiration, free portfolios so you can store and/or display your writings and contests.  Great website services for the writer and mostly for free. You need to join before you're let in on all the details, but it's worth giving up your e-mail address to join.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Four Simple Successful Writer's Suggestions

Many times I've heard the questions, how do you write? How do you learn to write? How can I learn to write (or write better)?

Good questions, and believe it or not there are some pretty simple answers. Much easier than finding your way through a maze.

One way to improve your writing or to just begin writing is to write. Yep, that simple, that direct. Write something every day. Whatever your writing interest, make sure you put words up on a computer screen every day. Some days you'll love what you other days you'll hate it, but hey, that's what revision and rewriting is for - curing that hate. All that writing keeps you primed to write some more. And you'll be amazed at how your brain begins to work, how you begin to compose in your head when you're doing other things. Something else to write - notes on all those great thoughts. But don't let keeping notes throw you off track. Remember your goal is to actually write.

Number two. This one is important (well, so are the others, but this one really is important). Finish what you start. Your Mom undoubtedly told you this on subjects other than writing, but it applies here just as well. Insert a bit of discipline and do it. Yes, there will be the occasional time when it just isn't worth the angst to finish a particular project, but that is extremely (let me repeat that - extremely) rare. The simple fact is you can't give up each time the writing gets tough and you can't quite figure out where to take the story next. And, you can't quit one project every time a new idea crops up.  If you do, you'll never finish any story you begin whether it's a novel, a short story, a script, or a non-fiction book. (see discipline above). Make it your goal to finish everything. No one reads unfinished anything.

For my third offering I suggest learn the rules. Writing is amazing really. Once you have the basic skills of language writing can be greatly self taught. Read - a lot. Read fiction if you write it, non-fiction, books on writing, blogs, author's sites, whatever you can. Pick up tips and information. Learn more, always learn. Maybe find a mentor, though I admit great mentor relationships are usually stumbled on by chance. But if you don't look for that exposure you won't stumble on that chance. So, sometimes get away from your computer and maybe take a class at a local college or join a reader or writer group. I do have a shop at Amazon where I continue to accumulate good books for writers along with software suggestions; things I've read, used or had highly recommended to me. Yes, I do get a commission on a sale there, but you can find many of those books at your local library too if your budget is tight. Or with the holiday season approaching you might ask for a book you want as a gift purchased at a local book store (especially if you have independent book stores in your town). So read, learn, write.

And my fourth and final suggestion for today is break the rules. Well, hell, you have to know what they are to break them, that's why I mentioned the learn the rules idea first. Once you have a solid understanding of what it is you want to write, the basics of fiction, the innards of non-fiction, the form of scriptwriting, don't be so locked in that you're afraid to go beyond their present confines. Style, format, method, it all changes over time. It evolves because if it didn't, if it stagnated, writing would die. Just look back at the 'classics' of fiction. Stuff written by H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Leo Tolstoy - you get the idea. The writing was different, the style much different. The basic rules have been proven to work but that doesn't mean they can't be changed, broken, stretched.

So have at it boys and girls - go forth, learn, create, break, finish, create again. These four basic  habits will take you far. Tell me which ones you stick to and, though I like to keep things simple, which ones you use I haven't mentioned.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Stormrider Gets 5 Star Review

Not my usual post (that will come tomorrow) but wanted to share with my followers my book Stormrider just received a 5 star review on Amazon in addition to other great reviews already received.  

A very fun book to write! Come check it out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writers and Readers Websites Wednesday - Zeno's Site

Yep, it's that day again - I have a site for you all. This time it's Zeno's Forensic Site. For all you writers out there in need of resources on chemistry, arson, guns, traffic, explosives, fingerprints and much more, here you go. For you readers with great curiosity on how this stuff works, this is the place. It offers a lot of links to a lot of resources. 

Satisfy your curiosity or do the research your book or script needs. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Writer's Bane & Joy - Character Naming

Names = preconceptions. 

That's the way it is, you can't get away from it. You hear the name John or Cameron, Elizabeth or Carie and from somewhere deep inside you conjure.

Yes, you do.

Elizabeth can become Liz or Lizzie Bet or Betty.

Names can come from ethnic background, religious beliefs, or maybe a roll of the dice.

Think about it and you realize quickly enough how important the naming of your characters in script, novel or short story can be. Names can be a stumbling block or an inspiration. Easily remembered or a struggle. Give a character a wimpy or even just neutral name and you're liable to have a character who's unmotivated and doesn't do a whole lot.  Give that character a spunky name, a heroic name and weirdly it will even affect you as the writer. The right name fills a void and pumps life into that character.

Readers will tell you the same. A name that's right, for whatever reason, strikes a chord and draws the reader in.

What's in a name? A whole heckuva lot!

I still have a collection of name books on my shelf in hard copy.  Names are a must, they're important, they're character. When I'm stuck for a name it drives me crazy and I know it affects other writers the same way. There should be some magic method, but alas, there isn't.

But there are some things you can do, some places you can go.

Okay, simply, for starters, don't have your characters names all start with the same letter.  No Mary, Max, Megan, Melissa, Matt, get it. It slows the reader down, makes him focus on which "M" character has taken the stage. I've mentioned this in another post, but it still holds.

When you pick a name, choose one that's realistic. When you're plowing through all the possibles it's easy to start reaching, you know, going for a  name that really stands out. Something flowery and expressive, or out of the medieval texts (that's okay  if you're writing a historical piece). But don't get carried away. Some characters are just "Bob" or "John" - really. The key is in how the character name fits - both the character and the story.

If what you're writing has a historic or geographic need to fulfill with the name, then do so.  The last thing you want to do is to insert a name so out of character with the time or place that you trip your reader right into a sudden dose of reality that drags them out of the dream world you created.

Another thought.  Is the name you've chosen gender-neutral?  Is it Lee or Tracy? If it is, make sure you make it plain from the get-go whether it's male or female.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, don't hesitate to change a name when the first one you picked just isn't working.  That's why you have a global replace function.

So, where can you look for all these names.  Lots of places. The Character Naming Sourcebook 

There's the Social Security Administration's records of baby names

You can find Victorian Era names.  

Then there's The Random Name Generator 

 The Fantasy Name Generator  that has links to several generators.

The Random Title Generator  Ooops, but that's a whole 'nother thing.

The Elvish Name Generator 

The Fake name Generator  

Behind The Name - Baby name meanings of first names

Then there's the Victorian and Steampunk name generator 

and probably a whole lot more if you care to spend some more time searching.

Check them out, tell me what you think and comment on your own name selection struggles.

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