Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Making Lemonade by Andy Scheer

This past weekend I bought a netbook computer at a garage sale.

The machine was just a few years old, the price was great, and they said they’d take a lower offer. I gave it a test, and it seemed to work fine. They said it had hardly been used. After I got home, I discovered why. But only after I’d invested multiple hours.

I spent much of Saturday sorting it out: removing factory-installed bloatware, replacing the internet access program, and adding Open Office and a few other free programs. I added my data files and favorite desktop photos and adjusted program settings just the way I liked.

I figured I’d spent a little money and a few hours for a nice, compact, backup machine.

I was wrong. Turns out this make and model has a glitch. Like a fainting goat, it’s given to freezing at random moments, with no solution but to push the power switch and start over. Even the promised solution of updating the BIOS files didn’t help.

Did I gain anything from the experience? Probably. Every now and then I need a reminder that a deal that looks too good to be true is likely just that.

It didn’t hurt to get a refresher on how to set up some key programs.

Best, I learned the data files I keep in my pocket on a flash drive are indeed sufficient if my real computer crashes.

Plus, I got something to write about here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Surrounding Our Word With His Word by Linda S. Glaz

I saw the greatest picture this morning of a woman sitting inside a Bible, and she was working on her laptop. The Bible was held open by a pencil. Obviously, she was a mini-me, but the impact was palpable.
We write everyday as authors, or should. And often writing can be a very singular task. We might be holed up for hours alone. However, we can always be surrounded by the Word. By God. By His direction. And that’s what this picture did for me. I suppose that was the intent.
Are we surrounded by God when we write? Do we allow Him to direct all of our words? It’s very easy to get caught up in moments that distract us. But we can cover ourselves with the Word if we start each day sharing a few minutes with God.
That photo was such a reminder of the importance of grounding ourselves before we start to write. Our words will be stronger, more focused, and possibly more positive if we let God in before we let the words out.
How about you? How do you start your writing day?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Proposal Tip: Competing Titles, by Jim Hart

When reading through the competitive analysis, or comparable titles section of a proposal, it’s interesting to read something like "there is nothing else out there like my book".

What a statement like that communicates is:
1) The book may be so unique that there isn’t an audience for it, or enough of an audience. (The author is too weird.)
2)  The author was not motivated enough to do their homework. (The author is too lazy.)

But this is one part of your proposal that deserves to be as strong as the other sections. It’s important to remember that there is always competition for your book.

Here are some tips, for both fiction and non-fiction proposals, when assembling your comparable book list:

1) Find, and list, similar comparable books from the past five years. Although it’s possible that a classic title may be a good comparable, such as something by C.S. Lewis or Tolkien. Finding suitable titles may be as easy as looking at Amazon, or Good Reads. (Although it’s much more fun to actually go to a bookstore or library.) List the title, author, year of publication and the publisher.

2) Avoid books that have not sold well, or have been self-published (unless that self-published book sold exceptionally well).  You want to show that there is a large and vast audience for the type of book that you have written.

3) Give a one or two sentence synopsis on the competing work. Don’t assume that the person reviewing your proposal has deep, intimate knowledge of each book that you’re listing. As a reminder, you don’t necessarily want to list a book, or at the least, more than one book, that is somewhat obscure.

4) Briefly highlight how your book is similar. Don’t be afraid of doing this. Remember, if these books are popular, then it’s alright to show how yours aligns similarly.

4) Indicate how your book differs. This is where you can now state how, and in what ways, your book is different and superior. Do you cover new material? Have you approached the subject from a different point of view? How are your characters unique?

By the time the reviewer has finished reading this section of your proposal you want them to be thinking that there is a sizable potential audience. And if not a large audience, then at least a fiercely loyal audience to your particular genre. The goal here is to show that there is a market for your book.

Here is one other thing to think about when doing your research: One of my clients was finding it challenging to find a number of comparable titles for her proposal. I suggested a certain movie, yet to be released, as a comparable, and encouraged her to use it. My reasoning is that there are more than just books competing for a reader’s attention (and spending money). And this will also show that the subject matter of her book is current.

There is content everywhere, especially on-line. With that in mind, at the end of your competitive analysis, or possibly in your marketing section, you may want to list a popular blog, a pod-cast, or even a You Tube channel. But don't forget that it's still a book proposal, and other books will remain your largest competition.

Every section of your proposal is important and you don’t want there to be any noticeable weak links.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5 Basic Tips to Organize Your Writing by Diana Flegal

When in the midst of spring cleaning, I realized many of the rules I worked by, applied to the writing life. Here are 5 that might be helpful to you.

While deep in our storage closet, empty boxes kept falling on me. While they were good boxes, and had served me well in the past, they were now in the way.

I kept two solid ones, and placed the rest in the recycle bin.

  1. Many sentences in your draft are repetitive. Tighten your writing by eliminating excess words. Click to tweet

In an attempt to organize, I came across a few items I was sentimentally attached to. Yes, they were special. BUT, they were also taking up valuable real-estate, making it difficult to reach the items I did occasionally need. Like the picnic cooler.

I placed them in the garage sale pile.

  1. Like Stephen King says in his book, Stephen King: On Writing, you have to kill the little darlings. Get rid of the sentences that are pretty but do not move the plot along. Click to tweet.

I found a shopping bag filled with spare electronic cords and remotes. Chances are I would never reunite them with their partners. Many looked as if they belonged in a tech Museum.

I decided to donate them to the Goodwill for their electronic department. Maybe some senior citizen could use that VCR remote.

  1. Are you using outdated rules in your writing? How many open doors are there for Literary Style? Be sure you are writing marketable material if you’d like to sell your words. Click to tweet

One item I came across looked like a collectable. Was it worth something? A friend of mine sells items online she finds at estate sales and thrift shops.  I decided to give her a call. Sure enough, it was similar to several already posted.

I’ll clean that up and she will post it for me. It should be worth a couple cups of coffee or a meal out with a friend.

  1. When you are not sure if that additional plot line is valuable, ask an expert. Tweet this. Google for a blog on the subject in question, or private FB that editor friend you made a few years back at a conference. (Do not abuse a friendship, but an occasional question is fine.)

Choosing to organize an outdoor storage unit in the midst of a national heat wave had me sweating up a storm, or as they say in the south, ‘glowing’.

I found it helpful to slip inside where the air-conditioning and some sweet ice tea gave me a much needed break while I planned my reward- a night out on the town with a friend. In Asheville, a special treat.

  1. Walk away periodically from your writing and take an artist date. Click to tweet. You will return to your WIP refreshed and inspired.

It feels good to look at our organized space. And it is much easier to access what we need.

Following these basic writing tips, will result in a much more appealing manuscript, and enjoyable read. Do the work, enjoy the reward!       

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Plenty of Experts by Andy Scheer

My father-in-law explains the engine of his 1930 Ford Model A.
It happened again this weekend at a Father's Day car show. I spent about an hour in conversations with a half-dozen car owners. Especially the owners of a 1955 Studebaker, a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle, a 1957 Dodge, and a Chrysler 300C.

All it took was a genuine interest, a targeted question, and they were off. I learned about the in-car phonographs that were optional for a few years on Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos, and Chryslers. I learned about what years the big Chryslers used cross-induction manifolds. Potentially useful information if I were writing writing a story set in the early 1960s.

But it wasn't just their own cars the owners told me about. The owner of one Porsche asked if I'd seen the Porsche Spyder a few rows over. I hadn't. He told me it was likely the most valuable car there. Then he talked to another Porsche owner about how he'd love to show the owner of the Spyder how to clean the engine area before an event. “Detailing,” he called it.

I took his suggestion and found the tiny German two-seater, hidden by large 1960s muscle cars. He was right; the car was unlike any other I'd seen. I'm grateful he pointed me in the right direction.

But that's so often the case with people who are experts in a field. Passionate about their topic, they're pleased when someone shows interest.

The day before, my father-in-law had shown his 1930 Ford Town Sedan at two car events. He loves inviting people to sit inside and showing them under the hood. Most people have heard about Model Ts and Model As, but known nothing about them. He's happy to set them straight.

As someone with expertise in a few fields, it pains me when an author gets something blatantly wrong. Even when it's a field in which I'm not an expert. Like the novel where the hero overpowered one gunman and took not only the bad guy's revolver, but also his spare ammo clips.

If you can't spot the problem with that, don't include guns in your next novel. Or better yet, ask someone who's an expert in the kind of firearms you want to put in your story. You won't lack for willing experts.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Always Excited to Head Out by Linda S. Glaz

Well, there you have it. It’s conference time for me. And I’m always excited to head out for conferences.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, a lot of prep, and often a lot of driving, but meeting with folks who “get” us, understand where we’re coming from, and excited to talk about writing which is such a huge blessing. I spent Saturday in Fort Wayne at a workshop. Awesome time and wonderful experience.
Why are conferences so popular?
Where else do writers, agents, and editors all congregate to talk nothing but the writing process and industry?
Are you planning to attend a conference this year?
Where are you going?
If you have a pitch all ready for an editor, did you prepare well? Follow the instructions on their site?
There is no better time to plan ahead than for a conference.
Do your homework, research the agency or publisher, and do your very best work. This is no time to rush your proposal.
If you pass me, say hi. If you have an appointment with me or share a table? Tell me who you are and why you write. I really do want to know.
Yup! I’m excited. Conferences are starting, and I get to meet some of the most amazing people in the world.