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.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beans Popping out on a Warm Day by Linda S. Glaz

I read a scene in the Little House series about Grace watching the beans popping up from the ground one very warm day…one after another after another. And it made me think of notes from my clients:
Have you heard of Exon-Freon-TakeAnything Publishing? Or…WeWant it-You’ve got it Press?
There’s hardly a week, shucks, a day, that we don’t hear about a new publishing house coming to life. And yes, they say they are royalty paying houses that want YOUR book. Most often, there are ‘conditions’ such as using only their editors for a fee, their marketing associates for a fee, or their design team…for a fee.
Do your homework. Know who the folks are who want you to turn over your baby. Are they going to charge you for diapering? Burping? Or are they truly willing to become a village and help you bring your baby to adulthood? There are plenty of smaller houses with wonderful reputations who do put the author and his or her work first.
Very often I’ll have a client contact me all excited with a prospect. Then I begin to lay out some of the hidden costs involved. One more disappointment.
Folks, there are no shortcuts that will get you from point A to point B.
You must learn the craft, write a brilliant novel, synopsis, and proposal. You must wait patiently while someone considers the work. And then, if rejected, you must go back to point A and figure out where you went wrong. Or if you went wrong at all. Maybe that person just simply was not a good fit. That happens often.
Don’t give up. Don’t put the novel in a drawer and forget about it. Don’t whine to your mom. She loved it, right? Of course, she did. Take it to crit partners who know their stuff. Hire an editor. Do what you must to make your submission marketable, but do…not ever…give up.
And by all means, research where and to whom you submit your work.
Don’t go for one of the beans popping up tomorrow unless you’ve checked them out. There are as many unscrupulous folks waiting to take your money as there are authors.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Getting Untracked by Terry Burns

Anybody besides me having trouble getting untracked and getting going in the New Year?

Okay, I was sidetracked a little by the young man in the picture, Grant Jackson Hendrichs, Beau for short. He's my fifth great grandchild and was born on Elvis' birthday, January 8th. His parents picked the middle name Jackson early as it was a family name but agonized long and hard over the first name. They eventually settled on Grant without realizing that they had linked up to both the top Union Civil War general and the top Southern general. How diplomatic of them. They took to calling him Bocephus while they were trying to decide so the name Beau stuck as a nickname.

Anyway, back home and trying to get back to work is a challenge. I have things to do that were put off during the holiday season as the publishing industry all but shuts down anyway. That practically insures that it is time for a lot of 90 day follow ups on client submissions.

Then there's the matter of getting back up to speed on where all client activity stands. All of my clients are in a private online group and we pretty much stay in touch with one another but even at that it can also be a challenge juggling all the balls and keeping them up in the air without dropping anything.

Of course there is also the natural tendency to put off getting started on activity. I've always intended to become a procrastinator but somehow have never gotten around to it. Then again, sitting here ruminating on this blog is also putting off getting to work.

Guess I'd better get after it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Whack a Mole by Diana Flegal

I have to admit; my eyes glazed over then rolled back in my head. I took a break and went onto Pinterest- for a long while.

Some days I don’t want to tweet, FB something relevant, read anything to do with publishing trends, or open up another submission of a stellar proposal. I daydream about become a wedding planner, traveling the world, or taking up welding. 

I have gone to Chuckie Cheese and smacked the heads of the moles again and again in that Whack a Mole game. Don’t judge me, just try it sometime. Poor moles.

What brought this on? An email came into my box telling me I had to measure my social media with these metric thingy’s. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT!! #pitchinafit

How do you rebel against what we know we all must do today to promote ourselves and sell our books?

Just like any hissy fit I pitch- it thankfully doesn’t last long.



“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit sayeth the Lord.”

I will use social media again, I will ask my clients to use it, but I will not trust in chariots and solely in the ways of men.

Learn what you need to but be sure the bottom line is- His will done His way.

And take time off to whack a mole once in a while!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Shopping for Ideas by Andy Scheer

This past weekend my wife and I visited a home improvement show.

After attending the show last year, we bought a set of replacement windows and had our house painted. So did our son and daughter-in-law.

But this year, we don't have any home improvements budgeted. So why attend?

To get ideas. Even if we don't initiate any projects right away, we'll have fresh ideas—of what we might want to do and also what we don't. Until we're ready to take action, those ideas we gathered can percolate in our minds. What we eventually decide will be better than what we could have chosen on our own.

Where do you go to get writing ideas—not only for your work-in-progress, but also for what you want to write next? Besides reading other authors to see their techniques, where do you find plot elements, lifelike characters, evocative details, and realistic dialogue that you haven't already stored in your idea stockpile?

You can't get ideas from aisle 7 of a big box store. But neither do you have to worry about whether they'll fit in your minivan.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home Sick and Recycling! Go Green! by Linda S. Glaz

Developing Evil Characters (first appeared 08/15/11)

Later that evening, with the family fed and occupied elsewhere, she went into the bedroom and sat down. The comforter, warm and soft against her legs, offered a place to open up, to become Laura again. But it seemed hiding was more difficult than before, and she rubbed her temples to relieve the anxiety. The first few weeks of a new identity always sapped her energy. She had so much to remember, and the act could be brutal. As she got older and the strain more evident, she worried of irreparable mistakes. Small stress lines had crept in and sent deep creases across her brow. And the weight she’d lost.

For the last few years they’d plotted and planned and worked well together. Nothing stood in the way of their plans, plans so close to coming to fruition. But this year, a few things had gone awry: the wrong child, the wrong town, maybe even the wrong identities. Tonight, she needed more than just a nice warm bubble bath to steer the panic away.

Taut muscles banding her forehead, she sidestepped into the past, and as usual when under pressure, her thoughts rested on Mother. Her breath hitched and jammed in her throat.

Standing up promptly and brushing the horrific memories from her mind, she smoothed the covers on the king-size bed. Why waste energy on things that couldn’t be changed? There was enough in the present to keep her occupied.

She stood perfectly still. Stared. Created a short video in her mind that brought the expected relief.

And the tightness was gone. It always worked. All she ever had to do to relieve the stress was to envision all of them strewn about, lifeless; mothers and daughters scattered here and there. How she hated mothers and their daughters.

A twisted grin started deep inside her until she sensed it creep over her entire face like a mask. “My, my, Hannah Housewife.” She spoke to the silence, letting her smile change her character. “Let’s go bake some nice warm cookies for your hubby and little girl.”

How do you create creepy, evil characters? What do you draw on? Visit my blog for another sample into the dark world of evil characters.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What if? By Diana Flegal

I am a fan of the Food Network show CHOPPED. It amazes me that the chefs can take the “mystery basket” ingredients and prepare an actual tasty and presentable meal.

While watching the show recently, I wondered what a “mystery basket” of ingredients for a writer might contain? Which reminded me of when I participated in a writers group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

At each meeting, we began our time with the setting of a timer in 5 minute, then 15 minute periods in which we were given a prompt, then wrote until the buzzer sounded.  

These prompts were like “mystery baskets”; our ingredients, a string of words.

Placing a character in an imaginary world in answer to the question of “what if?” is Speculative Fiction.

I thought it might be a fun exercise to offer you a couple “mystery baskets” in the speculative genre as writing prompts. Prompts are a great writers tool, especially helpful to stir inspiration when you are stuck, or in need of a recharge.

  1. What if?- a young man raised as an orphan, finds out he is a twin, and meets his sister when he is given an assignment on Tatatui.
  2. What if?- a conservative bible thumping dog reads his masters mind and feels compelled to foil a jewel heist his owner has planned.
  3. What if?- a fairy named Shitza embarks on a quest to find a schroom needed to brew a tea, that if drank by her fiancé, could release him from a spell.
  4. What if?- Eric’s name is drawn and he must engage in a war he is staunchly against.
  5. What if?- a toad and a kitten fall in love.

 May you be greatly inspired, and wildly imaginative in your writing endeavors.