Thursday, January 29, 2015

Social Media thoughts by Terry Burns

It caused me to think.

I just got an endorsement on Linked In from someone I don't know on some sort of thing that I don't really do. That amazes me.

I get a lot of friend requests, more than I can have without going over the limit so I don't accept them all. I accept the ones I know or sometimes people I know are writers and who have a large number of contacts in common because I know that will expand my own contacts. That means the ones I don't accept get counted as 'followers' and it's good to have a nice size number of followers too.

I keep getting added to groups and other sites. I get out of such groups immediately. I'm funny that way. I like to control the number of things that I'm in and groups that I follow and if I want to be in a new one I will join it myself. I'm still having trouble believing Facebook allows people to put us in a group without our permission. Getting an invitation to join something is one thing but just being put in is something else.

I don't play games. I'm sure it would be fun but I just don't have the time. But my Facebook wall is clogged with game invitations. I think if you start getting too much on a particular one that you can go stop that but there are a lot of them. I do stop one occasionally.

Social media can waste a huge amount of time. It is addictive and we really have to be careful how we budget the time we spend on it. My computer is on and by my side  14 or 15 hours a day and if I'm not by it my email and Facebook is on my phone. I see a lot that is going on even if I'm not participating. But most of my business is done by email so constant monitoring is a must.

Still, even though I fuss about some of these things social media can be very valuable for writers and even for us lowly agents. One of the greatest things a writer needs is name identification . . . visibility, and social media is critical for selling books and social media can be a valuable tool in accomplishing that. I have contact with family, friends and school-mates that I had virtually lost contact with them. As long as it is not overdone that is very nice.

Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, often the families of writers do not understand. Social media can help with this problem, can provide contact with people who DO understand and get feedback and information when needed. I have a mandatory private group of my clients, where they can choose to be an active member or just receive priority messages when I want to send something to all clients at once. Most choose to participate, and the ones that do have become a very tight group, a family, and they have turned out to be a group of prayer warriors for one another.

So it has its little nuisances, but social media is much more help than hurt. For me it is a necessity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seeking Wisdom by Diana Flegal

I am still pondering John Eldridge’s book Waking the Dead in my devotions each morning. Meat takes a while to chew and digest. 

He mentions four streams coming out from the throne – one in-particular called ‘counseling’. Of course, first and foremost we seek God’s counsel in His word.

But we also often receive help from others. Professionals and friends.

Then he made this statement: “In every great story the hero and heroine must turn to someone older and wiser for the answer to some riddle. Dorothy seeks the wizard; Frodo turns to Gandalf; Neo has Morpheus; and Curdie is helped by the Lady of the Silver Moon.

I thought of the authors I read, the ones I treasure, want to own a copy of, and for the most part I find this to be true.

Formula romance has two crises in their plot lines that threaten and separate the protagonist from the one they love, leaving them in need of advice- often from a friend and sometimes a professional.

The resulting happy conclusion finds those in my favorite tales learning something about themselves they had forgotten or buried. They emerge truer to themselves and find: Love, career, or mission.   

 What riddle in your story line is needing to be solved. If you do not know, ask your characters to tell you. They have buried or forgotten something wonderful about themselves. Weave that in and you will leave your reader satisfied and wanting more from you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The World's Greatest Storytellers? by Andy Scheer

Want to grab 15 minutes of buzz? Compile and post a list of the world's greatest anythings. If the category
hits home with enough people, expect a reaction.

Consider the list of the “world's greatest storytellers” recently compiled by and presented in the form of an infographic 

The British group interviewed 500 people in these categories: authors, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, and students, as well as people working in finance, health care, marketing, and media. (The infographic includes a bar chart showing the types of storytellers each group favored, whether:
author, musician, poet, politician, painter, presenter, actor/film director, playwright, business person, or screenwriter.)

The study's top six is skewed decidedly toward recent British storytellers, with two nods to greats of English literature: William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

The other top four “world's greatest storytellers” (in chronological order):
Roald Dahl
Stephen King
Neil Gaiman
J.K. Rowling

Yes, Jesus made the list, but with fewer votes than Cormac McCarthy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and David Attenborough.

Disagree? Take your own survey, post your findings, and stand back.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Organizing Your Thoughts and The Great American Novel by Linda S. Glaz

So let’s get down to work. Keyboard’s dusted and…oh, there’s a tortilla chip crumb trapped between ‘l’ and ‘k’…wipe that mess up and put it in the tras…”somebody forgot to do their dishes. Hello-ooo” Squirt in the soap and tackle all the greasy…Whoa! that torn nail really has to be cut! Pad to the bathroom, get out the clippers and…what a mess in here. Soft scrub, Lysol and what the heck? Nobody thought to throw in a load of towels?
You get my drift. Organizing writing time, or in my case with a home office—agenting AND writing time—can be a tough task. Even though I plan to be in my office from around 8 to 8, I often get sidetracked, and then it becomes 8-sidetrack, and I have to stay there until 10 in the evening instead.
Years ago there were two sisters who called themselves the Slob Sisters. One girl’s husband, who was a policeman, even had his partner think their house had been broken into and ransacked, it was such a crazy mess. What did the slob sisters do? They organized all of their housework onto index cards: daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal. And they were devoted to their cards. I tried it, whoa baby, it worked! But I found that I was a slave to those cards. There was no room for flexibility, so it didn’t last (I’m back to my house being a disaster, but I’m happy and it works for me).
However, when it comes to an office, I am completely ADHD with all capitals! I call myself a Triple-A personality which is awesome when it comes to getting work done, but difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time. Probably why I multi-task well. But there are days when I’d love to be able to have tunnel vision.
About the only time that happens is when a PERFECT, I said it, PERFECT manuscript slides across my desk. I can’t be persuaded to move from it, not even for dinner. Shucks, I think a fire could start and I wouldn’t budge.
Some of you ask me what it takes to get me to sign on with your work. Make me sit at my desk, not moving even when the tornado warning sounds, and I’ll sign you faster that John Hancock scribbled his name! That takes a mountain of stick-to-it-tiveness. Learn the craft: write, write, write, and write some more.
Being organized is for wimps. Being ADHD and OCD and still making a go of things? Priceless…

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's not personal by Terry Burns

I hear it all the time.

A writer gets a few rejections and they take it personally and many quit trying to write. Others quit submitting and decide to go the self-publishing route. I have nothing against self-publishing, I've done some of it myself, but if it is done it should be a business decision weighing the pros and cons and never just as a knee-jerk reaction to getting a few rejections.

A few rejections are part of the business of being a writer. Our work may only fit at one place in the entire publishing industry at any given point in time. A short time later it may still only fit at one place but now it is a different place. It is all about getting a submission in front of the right person, at the right place, at exactly the precise time it is needed.

By definition that means many are being sent to a person or place that is not looking for what we are offering. And timing is critical. It can be too early, too late, just did one like it, don't have an open catalog slot for it right now, any of these means it is not a fit at this time. It also means knocking on a lot of doors before we find a place where all of the pieces are in place.

If we knock on the door and the pieces are NOT in place they are going to tell us it isn't a fit right now. There is absolutely nothing personal about that, just telling us whether they have a place for it or not. It can't be personal, after all, as they probably don't know us well enough for that. It's probably not even about the writing, but about the fit for their market.

Actually, to the degree that it MIGHT be personal is a great thing even if it is a no. Not often do editors take the time to point out why they didn't connect with a work or what might could be done about it. Such input is very valuable and should be strongly considered. Not that we should greatly change a project on the basis on the opinion of one editor, not unless we really see the merit in what they are saying and agree with it. But it should be given great credence and strongly considered. And if similar advice is given from more than one source it definitely should be addressed.

But most of the time it is not personal, the person responding is just telling us that it does not meet that elusive person, place or time. At least not now.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eliminate Unnecessary Words by Diana Flegal

One of my favorite writing workshops I teach is one called, Write Tight. We have talked about this subject more than once on our blog but it bears repeating. Before sending your manuscript out to an agent or editor, eliminate all unnecessary words.
A few words I ask my clients and workshop participants to watch out for are:
Just, then, that, feel/feeling/felt, it, there, knew/know, maybe, see/saw, hear/heard, could, look, ly adverbs, maybe, was/were.
Finding and cutting these words will tighten your manuscript and improve its pace.
 In a word document use your search tool. It is the one resembling binoculars. Open your document, then click on the icon, and a search window will pop open. Type in the word, just. See how many times it pops up throughout your manuscript. Or type in ly, to spot all of the ly words you have used.
Superfluous, unnecessary, and redundant words add up to verbal flab. /// Andy Scheer 
The success of a book is measured by the satisfaction of its reader. /// Sol Stein

Most people can write, but only writers can rewrite. /// Anonymous

Rule 17 in The Elements of Style by E. B. White/// Omit needless words.

Let's all tighten our verbal flab in 2015.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Selling Remnants by Andy Scheer

The circumstances that led this morning to my buying a new hardcover nonfiction title were never included in the author's marketing plan. Or anything cooked up by the Little, Brown sales department, except as an unwelcome afterthought.

I didn't buy the title at a bookstore, and I didn't visit the store looking for books. Until this morning, I didn't even know this author had released the title. But as soon as I saw the books, spine out, and noticed the author's name. I knew I had to buy a copy. Especially for just one dollar.

My wife wanted something at Dollar Tree. I visited the back corner where they shelve overstock books. This time I struck pay dirt: Here, There, Elsewhere, a collection of travel essays by William Least Heat-Moon. Having enjoyed his Blue Highways, Prairie Erth, and River-Horse, how could I lose? Especially for a buck.

I don't often buy books at Dollar Tree, but over the years I've found enough treasures to keep checking: a coffee-table book about the filming of Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. And titles by hardly obscure writers such as Stephen King and Clive Cusssler.

No matter how successful the author and how good the book, the publisher usually ends up with extra copies at the end of the print run. These remnants find their way down the retailing food chain – sometimes as far as Dollar Tree.

As my wife drove us home, I began the first essay. Serious pay dirt. In the opening pages I received food for thought about how the author's career began (a letter to the editor of his local paper), the odds of getting published (“Writing books is indeed a gambler's trade because it's one of hope against probability: the belief someone somewhere sometime might choose to spend money on your words rather than on a nice bottle of cabernet or on a couple of lottery tickets”), and the judgment of editors to limit a writer's vocabulary to what's accessible to an average reader.

All that in the first six pages.

Somehow my copy of Here, There, Elsewhere wasn't needed by a brick-and-mortar bookstore or an online retailer. My gain. Even better, the store on Austin Bluffs near Academy Boulevard had maybe a dozen more copies. If you're lucky, maybe a Dollar Tree near you also has a copy. Based on those first six pages, you'll more than get your dollar's worth.