Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Defend or Declare by Diana Flegal

How do you handle constructive criticism or rejection?

Do you drive by the editor's house and shoot rolls of toilet paper into their trees when a night rain is expected? Or do you defend your plot twists on FB or Goodreads when someone gives your book a bad review?

Handling these things well is important. One does not want to turn off even one reader fan. They all have friends, and before you know it, your reputation precedes you like the smell of garbage downwind.

One of my authors happily saw the recent launch of her first book. And every review has been favorable, so far. She has been giddy with joy. And I, the voice of doom and gloom, remind her that one of these days, there will be that one reader that will say hurtful, hateful things. It happens to the best of the best, eventually.

“NEVER take rejection of your work personally unless it is accompanied by a punch in the nose”! Paraphrased quote of Ron Goulart 

Ignore them.

And go after some fresh reviews to cover them up in the list.

When someone tells you they loved your book and can not wait to read the next one, ask them if they would be willing to write you an Amazon review. Explain how helpful the reviews are to authors. (the more reviews you have, helps your book rise up in the search engines, and can even convince sites like Amazon to advertise your title for free.)

Kristen Lamb, published author and blogger said: Rejection sucks. There is no other way of saying it. Of course, the clincher is that rejection is not only part of life, but it is a necessary ingredient to the life well-lived. But, how do we handle rejection in a way that is constructive? A lot of how we handle rejection stems from how we view rejection. I have a saying: If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting.  

“What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

In, The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials intoTriumph, by Ryan Holiday, he uses three titles in his outline for turning our disappointments into success: Perception, Action, and Will. It is up to us to alter our perception, practice persistence, and love every thing that happens.  Because as Marcus Aurelius also said,  “we can accommodate and adapt.”     

What ways have you found to appropriately handle rejection and bad reviews?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pay Heed to Your Neighbors by Andy Scheer

Need inspiration for a character for your novel, short story, or even a comic strip? Pay attention to your neighbors.

That what a young cartoonist named Sparky did.

While living for a time in Colorado Springs, Sparky was developing his new strip and trying to build its audience. In the evenings, he'd play bridge with a neighbor couple. Sparky and Philip Van Pelt had served together in the 20th Armored Division. Recently they'd been surprised to meet in the stairway of the office building where they both worked.

“We grew up a few blocks away and they would play bridge all the time,” said Philip Van Pelt's daughter Martha in an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette. “During that time, when they were all playing bridge, he was developing the characters.”

Philip Van Pelt's wife was named Louanne. In 1952, Sparky Schultz introduced to his strip a new character named Lucy Van Pelt.

“Mom always said ... she was much nicer than [Lucy],” Martha said. “She was a loving mother, but she was very bossy. She even looked a little like her [Lucy], if you look at some of her old pictures, with dark wavy hair.”

“[Lucy] really does reflect a lot of her character,” said Louanne Van Pelt's son David Merrill. “What he did with her, a lot of it was accurate. But he was pulling out the eccentric moments instead of the normal moments.”

Schultz lived near the Van Pelts for only about a year before moving to California—and to fame and fortune with his comic strip “Peanuts.” But he continued to stay in touch with the Van Pelts,

Louanne Van Pelt died April 6 in Colorado Springs at age 85. An article in the Gazette said she left behind “three children, a 'passel of grandchildren' and an enduring, if somewhat ill-tempered, comic legacy.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

How Do You Feel About Change? By Linda S. Glaz

I grew up on Bronte, Austen, Jack London, and much later, Mary Higgins Clark.
How do you feel about change? Changes like: get rid of dialogue tags, tell the adverbs to disappear, get deeper into the POV, don’t head hop, omniscient is losing favor, and on and on and on.
Everything in life changes. We all know that, but how do you feel about recent changes or suggestions in the writing industry? Our villains and heroes used to growl, snarl, bark, and sneer. Heroines would purr, coo, murmur, and sigh. And while we still see that from time to time, it seems to have moved over for stronger physical action around the dialogue. Do you like that, or do you miss the hisses and chirps?
I remember not long ago when women did housework cheerily, and husbands, after a long day, responded impatiently. Children played happily, cats purred lazily, and dogs barked aggressively. What happened to the good old days when folks’ actions and dialogue were always followed by an adverb? Did we need them to beef up weak verbs, or was it just an old habit that desperately needed to change?
Little seems to be written in omniscient unless it’s by an author who has written that way for decades and his or her readers expect it, accept it. Is that a good thing, or has the push for a deeper POV in order to get to know a character better the best style? Does it matter?
Will you keep reading if there is head hopping page by page? Is it different for you if the author is male? Will you tolerate more distance from the character if you’re reading a male author? Do you only truly expect deep POV from a female author? Warm fuzzies, touchy feely only from female authors? Inspy vs. secular stories? Does it matter whether the story is plot driven vs. character driven, or have we come to expect these changes across the board?
How do you feel about changes, and how has it affected your writing?
None of us like change, and for good reason. Sometimes it works for the good, and sometimes…not so much.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Just Bought a Book with the Number 50 in the Title, by Jim Hart

This week my wife found a used copy of 50 Short Science Fiction Tales for me at a local thrift store.  I was pretty excited! I was like a little kid with a new toy and started reading it in the car on the way home. (No, I was not the one driving.) 

Short stories are great for us short-attention span readers. You dive right in, and then in just a couple of pages you hit the punch line and you’re left either saying "cool…..didn’t see that one coming”  or maybe just "hmmm……that’s nice.”  But doesn’t sci-fi really lend itself to this type of quick story telling?

The copyright page says this book was first printed in 1963. The edition I now have was the twentieth printing from 1979 and it’s a Perma-Bound library edition. I wonder how many students fingered through the pages while the words floated through their minds.

One of the first stories, from sci-fi great Isaac Asimov, is The Fun They Had.  This little story is set in the year 2155, and it starts out with a little girl writing in her diary “Today Tommy found a real book!” 

The story tells us that the little girl’s grandfather said that his own grandfather once told him that “there was a time when all stories were printed on paper.”  

Asimov goes on to write that young Margie and Tommy  “turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to – on a screen, you know. And then, when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it that it had when they read it the first time.”  

This short story, even though included in this collection from 1963, first appeared in 1951! Isn’t that one of the things we love about sci-fi – the often prophetic view into a possible future?

So you never know what small gem is waiting for you on the thrift store book shelves!  Isn’t it worth taking the time to scan through the titles? What’s the last treasure you uncovered in the used book section?

Oh – and the story goes on to say that as little Margie and Tommy were looking through this old paper book, Tommy declared, “What a waste. When you’re through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have had a million books on it and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

conferences by Terry Burns

I'm getting ready to get in the RV and head to Orange County California for a Christian Writer's conference. It's the first time I have been to that one but I hear they do a nice job with it.

For years I've done a couple of conferences a month and I do prefer to drive if I can because I genuinely do hate airports. I've tried to start cutting back the last couple of years. It's not like I need to generate submissions, I get a ton of them. I can cut back on one that someone from the agency is already working but it is hard to turn down a small conference that's not too far away and needs me.

Then there is the Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 13-17th. We love that one and have gone there for many years. Marlene puts on a great conference. I'll be at the Tulsa Christian Writers May 20-30th,  Inspiration Alive in Amarillo June 11th, and Rose State College in Midwest City OK Sept 18-20th. There's a couple of others I'm not sure about, but I have cut back a bit.

I believe conferences are absolutely essential if we want to write, primarily because they are specifically designed to help us better learn our craft. More than that they give us a chance to interface with other people who really understand what we are doing and what we are going through. Having the support of family and friends is nice, but we really need times when we can interface with other writers, when we can just immerse ourselves in it for a short time.

Long before I became an agent I tried to go to a couple of conferences a year as a writer and it was invaluable to me. It is where I learned the business. There are a lot of them to choose from, some large and well attended, some regional ones that might be right in your own back yard. I mentioned the ones above because I'd love to meet you at one.

What conferences do you like to attend and when and where is it?

And if you haven't been at one, well . . . don't you think it is time that you did?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interuptions by Diana Flegal

Sometimes unforeseen things outside of our control interrupt our lives. Family medical emergencies. Like cancer, or an auto accident, or your child going off their medicine and winding up far away and in a hospital, not in their right mind.

Or a good thing happens, you receive a bonus from work that allows you to take that long dreamed of vacation, but will be away from your desk and unplugged for several weeks.

Perhaps your wife or husband gets a job offer in another state and you must leave your very helpful critique group behind.

 Other times it is as simple as writers block.

What has taken you away from your writing of late?

Anything we can pray for?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Check Your Blind Spots by Andy Scheer

While reading someone else's book, have you ever caught yourself skimming? I thought so.

The next time you find yourself not reading every word, take advantage of the opportunity. Try to figure what went wrong – why this passage doesn't hold your attention:

The author stepped away from dramatization and dumped a long passage of summary or backstory.
She let a character deliver a speech.
He wants to explain something in numbing detail.
She spent too many pages exploring a subplot instead of advancing the story.

Whatever the problems, store them in a self-editor's checklist, and use that list to examine the nearly complete pages of your work in progress.

If you're fortunate, you'll find pages to revise. But don't trust yourself. You have blind spots – especially about your own work.

That's where beta readers come in. Or they should.

I doubt the author of the nonfiction manuscript I recently edited used beta readers. Or heeded their advice. Most of Chapter 2 expounded basic information his target readers should already know. It interrupted the flow between Chapters 1 and 3, and he'd done nothing to set it in context.

He was impassioned about the information, and the entire chapter sat squarely in his blind spot. After a paragraph or two, readers will skim. If the author is fortunate, they'll peek ahead to Chapter 3 – and check back in.

If you've secured an agent and anticipate traditional publishing, you're working with a safety net that independent authors may bypass. But you're working with gatekeepers who set the bar high.

They'll expect you're aware of your biggest blind spots—and have taken steps to address them.

There's no point in writing words your audience will want to skim.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I Want to Get There Fast! By Linda S. Glaz

Sound familiar? Sound like the mindset of a new author?
“I think I’ll sit down and write a novel. It will be a bestseller in just weeks. I’m already planning how to spend the money!”
I don’t know about the rest of you as writers, but I have to admit, with a slight variation, this did go through my mind at some point. Have I ever said I’m pretty honest? That was over twenty years ago. I’ve since published six novels and two novellas. Have another releasing in December, but I’m not rich yet. Don’t have a bestseller, and am still waiting to save up enough to spend all at once on something awesome.
But I write! I no longer try to do it fast. I try to do it…well.
I try to understand the changes that have taken place the last few years and incorporate them into my writing instead of fighting them. I work on deep POV and try to make my characters stronger, better, more believable. I want the plot to flow, make sense, transition well. In other words, I have a better clue where I’m going and how I plan to get there.
As an agent, I expect the same from the authors I work with. I don’t make suggestions and send changes only to let them know and then see the work back on my desk two hours later. “A complete rewrite? No problem, Linda. I’ll have it to you by morning.”
They take their time to get it right. Or at the least, make it better.
If your intent is to be the next Brandilyn Collins or Ted Dekker overnight, I don’t want to see your proposal unless you’re doing the work to go with it. And even then, only if you have a sincere heart that is willing to learn.
However, if you want to be a bestselling millionaire by next week, and you have the story to get you there, we’ll talk about it! $$$ Huge smile on my face!
Seriously, there is no substitute for hard work. A teachable spirit. A willing heart to learn and learn and learn, and then work some more!