Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Agent Game, by Lisa Lickel


I had to give back the engagement ring the other week. We'd actually gotten to the altar, smelled the roses, Mr. Annerson and I, but I had chilly feet and asked for a pre-nup at the last second. Didn't go over too well, and the love died before we even considered consummation. At least we hadn't bought a dog or had any kids. Small favors.

I should feel worse. I've been divorced twice: once I left him and the other time she dumped me. Supposed to get easier every time it happens, isn't it? Ah, there's the rub. With each exciting new love affair, we lose a little piece of our soul. Every ad in the singles page reveals a little more of our vulnerability, our desperation. Along with the constant blood loss, a body wears thin.

Scared ya with that last one, didn't I? But you authors know it-that's real crimson hemoglobin, salty sweat and gummy tears on every page we crank out. Every jot, every word, each sentence, scene, story arc, personality, theme-all groaning for an audience.

A hundred years ago, insurance was a kind-hearted in-law. Twenty years ago, literary agents were held in high disdain. "Go wrangle over yer supper check with a lawyer, ya horse thief" the mobs would jeer. Today? The author who can't sell a million on Smashwords and has her sights set on one of the big seven-oops, make that six-publishers crawls on her belly the lowest. You can't even bribe 'em. Now where's the righteousness in that?

I started my authorial career doing pretty well. Top ten finisher in Jerry Jenkins' first CWG First Novel contest. Sold an article to Writer's Digest. Three years later sold my first novel to one of the larger Inspy houses and signed with an agent at the same time.

And then, nothing happened. Nada.

Until I stretched out my little hands to the mid-level independent traditional royalty-paying publishers. No, I was not overwhelmingly welcomed. It's a business, people. With real dollars invested during a messy downturn in the economy and ink media drying up and children in the workforce who must tweet instead of read whole words. But I have sold novels, won awards, attracted a few followers and stuck to them like Velcro. I try my level best to reach out and haul other newbie writers after me, and warn them that they're about to enter ... a nuptial horror show.

The real pity is that I didn't even really want the Matrix Agency that Mr. Annerson was attached to. And when Mr. Annerson held me dangling for three months, hemming and hawing and asking me to revise this, and put a picture on it and tie it with a bow and douse it in smelling salts, I went along with it. When he mailed me the real company contract I was pretty thrilled. Sure. Another notch on the belt. I had two questions that weren't even that hard to answer: 1. Who else can control my fate if I sign with the agency rather than you personally? 2. What if none of the agents wants to send out a manuscript, but I do, and I sell it? You really think I'm still going to give you fifteen percent of that?

Before we started dating, Mr. Annerson and I, I asked him how he felt about the machine world. He was curious, he said, and would get permission to visit. Good, I said.

Apparently not. For two weeks after my questions, Mr. Annerson pulled the plug saying the machine world didn't really exist. At least, not for him. Look! Over there! Another bridal boutique has business for you! he said. 'Ta.”

So, dear newbie friend: If you open the door to the sound of wedding bells, wave back at the tentacles for me, K? And plug me back in, please. I'm going in for another trip up the rose-petaled carpet first chance I git.

*****
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and of OtherSheep, a Christian spec fiction/nonfiction magazine. She loves to encourage new authors. Find her and all her connections, books, and resources at LisaLickel.com.
Now available: Meander Scar, A Summer in Oakville (with Shellie Neumeier), Lavender Dreams, and coming in April 2012, The Map Quilt.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Resource Roundup


Since getting published, I've been on the look-out for things that will help increase traffic at my different sites and pages. So I was excited to find Pagemodo. This site is for the sole purpose of creating exciting fan pages on Facebook. And it has free templates!

Along the same lines, Simply Amusing Design Studio does the same thing, but for a fee. This company provides several other services as well, such as:


  • Web Design & Development
  • Facebook Design & Development
  • Facebook Business Development
  • Marketing Strategy Development
  • Blog Design & Development
  • Branding & Identity
  • Newsletters & Brochures
  • SEO & Copywriting
  • Social Media Training
  • WordPress Training


  • Suzanne Woods Fisher used them to design her fan page. I chose Pagemodo for Give the Lady a Ride. It was amazingly easy to use, and allowed links to other sites (like Amazon!) along with the images you upload.

    For free designs for your Twitter home page, try Twitr Backgrounds. They also will create custom designs. But, honestly, I'm on the lookout for something better. Know of one?

    I also found an interesting post about advertising tools and results. In contrast to my own analysis of pay-per-click ads (on Goodreads and Facebook), I found this one, written by Laura Pepper Wu, who probably did a better job of running her ad campaign than I did. She also includes an analysis of ads purchased on search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. You may find her conclusions interesting!

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    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Fabulously Fun Friday ~ Are you a Terrible Speller?

    Okay, I am a notoriously terrible speller, so this cracked me up. Hope you all have recovered enough from your turkey induced comas to enjoy this. Happy Friday, all!



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    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Edgy - Should Christians Write on the Edge?

    As you move through the process of presenting your work, you'll be bombarded by the typical industry 'lingo'. Some might come in the form of a rejection letter or others in conversations making suggestions regarding your writing. Before succumbing to the lingo you need to take time to understand what the terms mean and how they will affect your book - or if they even will.

    Perhaps the most used catchphrase today is edgy. The tide has been turning against classic, solid timeless storytelling to edgy. But what exactly does edgy mean? Edgy is different for adults than young adults, though some are heavily pushing more adult material into young adult, juvenile and even little children's books. Certainly edgy in secular fiction is quite different than in Christian novels. Or is it? Have the lines blurred so greatly between secular and Christian fiction that the distinction is barely visible?

    To an editor, edgy means to push the envelope, to take people just to edge of improper and pull back. In short whet their appetite and go a little further next time. Is that really what we’re called as Christians- or even authors - to do? Bring people the edge of sin and pull back? To entice them into wanting more darkness and then satisfy induced curiosity with further edginess? Where does the author’s responsibility come into this trend? All publishers are in the business of making money and will follow current trends to help their bottom line – profit.

    Fortunately, in my experience, despite the push toward edgy, people aren’t biting. I’ve encountered many who are rebelling against the trend. Parents seek suitable substitutes for these edgy books on school reading lists in favor of what they feel is more appropriate for their children. Even kids want fun stories. In the Christian market the Amish books dominate. Some of the most popular secular kids books are Narnia, Percy Jackson, and oh, yes, the ultimate of edgy - Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

    So when an editor, publisher or agent throws the term edgy at you concerning your manuscript, ask them what exactly do they mean? How will it help your book? Does their suggestion compromise what you want to say in your story? Don't go edgy for the sake of publication. Just like trendy fashion fads come and go but classic styles remain, so fiction styles change, but timeless, well-told stories live on. Do what you feel is right for your story, your peace of mind, your readers and ultimately, the impact and legacy your books will someday leave behind.

    Shawn Lamb is the author of the epic Christian YA fantasy series Allon, along with The Huguenot Sword, and once wrote for the animated series BraveStarr, produced by the same studio that did He-Man and She-Ra. She has won several screenwriting awards including a Certificate of Merit from the American Screenwriters Association. This year she is among The Authors Show - 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading 2011.
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    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Interview: Bryan Thomas Schmidt



    Johne here - I first  met author Bryan Thomas Schmidt while wearing my editor's hat for our online magazine and have followed his career ever since. I have a specific set of interests online, and started bumping into Bryan over and over in these various widespread and frequently obscure places. I was delighted when T.W. Ambrose and Randy Streu of Diminished Media Group picked up Bryan's first novel for publication. This has been a whirlwind year for Bryan, and I wanted to give our readers a peek behind the curtain. Without further ado, I present the AuthorCulture interview with Bryan Thomas Schmidt.


    AC: Genre fans used to be the nerds, the outsiders. What prompted you to write in the genre form for your debut novel, The Worker Prince?

    BTS: Is this a therapy session or an interview? Yeah, okay, I have issues. I’m an outcast, outsider. That’s right. I need to be loved. Please love my book. Give me a good review. I am an adopted child. I have ADHD. I have always been socially awkward and a bit of a loner. And, as a result, I have always felt on the outside looking in. That shows in my writing work which often have similar themes or certainly themes of characters finding themselves, coming into their own, finding their place in this world. That said, my first attempt at a novel was not Science Fiction (SF). It was love story. I love Nicholas Sparks books. I have a great story I want to tell. But my prose level was not there yet. Then I remembered this idea I’d been carrying around since my teenage years of Moses in space. It just seemed like a great epic story which would fit well told as space opera with all the tropes I loved from my youth reading Golden Age SF and watching movies and shows like Star Wars and Star Trek and Battlestar Galatica. So one day, I just sat down and started writing. Four months later, I had a completed novel. Of course, that was just the beginning.

    AC: The Worker Prince uses a famous Biblical character for some of its source material. Did that impetus make the writing easier or harder?

    BTS: Easier in borrowing plotline and story structure for part of it. Harder in dealing with a  story people already know so well. How do you keep it interesting and unpredictable? So I made the characters Christian and chose to have the Moses story as part of their prehistory. In parts, the story echoes that biblical story, but it also allowed me to depart from it and take it new directions, while still utilizing the themes from the biblical story and key scenes.

    AC: Blogger and uber SF fan Steve Davidson argues there can't be a reconciliation of religion and SF while blogger / author Mike Duran counters it is a logical topic for SF. What say you? Is there room in SF for discussions of religion without the fiction becoming a tract for proselytizing? How might that work?

    BTS: Well, Davidson's post is one of the most opinionated, badly written posts I’ve seen. The guy was criticized by people who agree with him, so in the end, I don’t think he made his points well. He had an agenda and that was all that was about. Of course I think religion and SF go together. I did a post for SF Signal which was quite popular about SF classics with religious themes. And it includes some big name books like Dune, Asimov’s Foundation series and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Ender’s Game and more. I think religion is something that is a part of every society in some form, so one has to deal with it in worldbuilding somehow for people to find your work believable. So Davidson’s suggestion was ludicrous just based on that. But at the same time, I think the greatest witness we have is our lifestyle and how we live. Shoving our beliefs down people’s throats is offensive. Who likes it when the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door? Not very many people. And all too often, Christian fiction is guilty of shoving beliefs in people’s faces. Why can’t we just show through our themes, our characters’ lives, etc. and let people ask questions which give us an opening? To me, that’s much more effective. With Worker Prince I worked it into my worldbuilding. I explain it briefly to be clear what these people believe. They are not fundamentalist. They are Evangelical and since so often people confuse that, I wanted to be clear. But even those who wish I hadn’t included those themes all tell me it’s not preachy. So how can it be done? With great care and deliberate intention to reach people well, not preach at them, but tell stories.

    AC: In addition to writing, you're also editor of an upcoming Anthology. What have you learned about the writing game when you donned the editor's hat?

    BTS: Rejection sucks from both ends. Who likes to tell someone their story isn’t good enough? Not me. But there are also lots of reasons for rejections that have nothing to do with that. I rejected stories from Jay Lake, Kevin J. Anderson and Chuck Gannon which were fantastic but just didn’t fit the theme. So it certainly gives you perspective in facing rejections yourself.

    AC: You've become a successful marketing machine promoting your new book. Can you give our readers an overview of what you've done to market The Worker Prince? What's has been most and least effective?

    BTS: Boy, this could be a long answer. First, I started building a blog, website, and social media presence long before my book came out. I worked really hard to just network and build friendships and support people. I listened to them and learned what they’re doing, what they like, and tried to identify who might be interested in my work. I started blogging and tweeting valuable content, content which would help people. It took some time to sort out the kinds of things that people responded to, but once I did, things really took off. I also built relationships with fellow bloggers and writers by encouraging them, spreading their posts, etc. Those paid off when I needed help spreading the word about my stuff. Some retweeted or posted my stuff without asking, some I requested. A publicist for Random House included my book release on the Suvudu releases list with all the major releases just because I’d helped him so much in the past. That got me huge notice and legitimized my book as a major release. Second, I planned a blog tour. I went out of my way to plan a blog tour in advance and write meaningful, valuable, quality posts. I worked hard to make sure they fit the themes of the blogs I would appear on and to schedule a variety so that I had reviews, interviews, guest posts, excerpts, etc. scattered rather than the same thing day after day. I also experimented creatively, using dialogues, character interviews and more. This also included podcast appearances and a prequel short story being published. Many linked to each other so people just followed it daily and it kept the interest up. Certainly my presence daily out there made a difference. Third, press releases to local media. I didn’t wait on my publisher. I did them myself. Still doing this, in fact. Fourth, plan appearances. Contact conventions, bookstores, libraries, etc. but know how to do it. Do your research. Fifth, get books out to reviewers and keep doing it. Reviews are the single best selling tool. The more good reviews, the higher the listing on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And the more impulse buys you get as well. Sixth, contests. Goodreads, Facebook, etc. Giveaway copies and get it out there. More reviews, more word of mouth. Two essentials to success. So far what’s worked best? Doing everything you can. It’s not just a one-track thing. You have to do everything you can.

    AC: Speaking of social networking, you're also the host of an innovative weekly Twitter interview column called SFFWRTCHT. How did that come about?

    BTS: I went to some conventions and met so many successful authors and learned so much. Then I was unemployed and knew I wouldn’t get the chance again for a while. I had met so many people in the business from Twitter and knew of some chats, I thought, why couldn’t I utilize this to create content which provides opportunities to learn from successful writers, helps them promote their books, and builds networking and my brand all at the same time? So I did it. And it just took off.

    AC: Who's been your favorite interview? What's been your greatest surprise about SFFWRTCHT?

    BTS: Wow. Tough call. AC Crispin was pretty awesome because she’s a writing hero. Also, Mike Resnick. I loved having Ken Scholes too. But for sheer fun, Maurice Broaddus was a real blast. Greatest surprise is how influential and popular it became so quickly. Most major publishers send me books without even asking now. They contact me to book their authors. It used to be all on me and my wallet. It’s really made  me a known presence in the industry too. And I’ve made a lot of friends who have helped me and advised me, etc. It’s been great on so many levels. I didn’t have any idea all of this could happen so fast. Less than a year. It’s pretty amazing. Our one year anniversary is December 7th.

    AC: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


    BTS: Write. And remember, concert musicians practice daily. So why shouldn’t you? It’s easy to think up ideas. It’s easy to dream. It’s hard to write. You are not a writer until you actually write. And that means writing a lot of crap along the way. Get over it. It’s part of the journey and process. We all do it. Robert Silverberg still throws stuff away. So does Orson Scott Card. So does Stephen King. That’s the way it goes. I offer regular tips posts on my blog every Thursday on various topics. Those might be useful as well. There are lots of people giving advice out there though. Find them. Learn from them. Use what you can. Discard the rest. Most of all, do it because you love it and can’t help it. It’s not to make money. It’s a passion.

    ~

    Starting this Wednesday, Bryan's novel will be serialized with a new installment every week over at Ray Gun Revival magazine. Come on over and get a taste of some great throwback Space Opera adventure!
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    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Fabulously Fun Friday, with guest, Penny Zeller

    Penny Zeller has written several books and numerous magazine articles. She is also the author of the blog A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author, www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com where she also provides weekly doses of humor, along with movie reviews from a Christian worldview, and interviews with some of her favorite author friends.
    So, without further introduction, here's Penny's guest post:
    The other day, I was writing a scene for my new historical romance series. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I ventured back to the 1860s…
    Glancing from side to side looking for a place to hide, she willed her feet to move. Would this be how it would all end for her – a moment’s decision sealing her destiny?…
    Of all the genres I enjoy writing, historical romance is my favorite. However, there are some days when it’s clear to me that I’ve spent a bit too much time in the days before modern technology.
    If you write historical fiction, you know exactly what I mean. So, just for fun, I’ve listed six surefire ways to know that you’re a writer of historical fiction…
    1. You’re getting ready for a family outing and you ask your husband to please hitch up the wagon instead of start the car.
    2. Speaking of husbands, although your husband’s name is Lon, you find yourself calling him Zach, Jonah, or Nate because you’ve spent so much time with your male protagonists…
    [Caption: Zach Sawyer from McKenzie in my Montana Skies Series]
    3. You say “I reckon” far too often.
    4. Your kids are beginning to call you “Ma.”
    5. You reach for a bonnet instead of a baseball cap to cover a bad hair day.
    6. Your family doesn’t let you visit museums anymore because they know that when you visit, you become so engrossed in the historical photos that you never want to leave. They clearly don’t understand that gazing for a mere few hours at antiques and old photographs gives you 10-years-worth of inspiration!
    [Caption: You are grounded from museums until further notice...]
    So there you have it…six surefire ways to know you might be an historical fiction author. Now back to the 1860s I go!
    Bio:
    Penny is an active volunteer in her community, devoting her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom.
    Hailee is Penny’s latest book and the final book in the series, which began with McKenzie and Kaydie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. When she's not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband reside in Wyoming with their two children.
    Penny loves to hear from her readers at her website, www.pennyzeller.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks


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    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Should You Use a Real-Life Setting for Your Story?

    Speculative authors don’t give a second thought to creating settings out of thin air. They create whole planets when their stories demand them. But even authors writing within the confines of the “real world” are sometimes confronted with the choice to use an existing setting or make one up. This setting can be something as relatively miniscule as a made-up restaurant within a real town, or it could be an entire city. But the question, of course, is how do you decide when a made-up setting would be preferable to a real-life setting? And if you do utilize a made-up setting, how do you pull it off convincingly?

    Let’s consider an example. Pulitzer-winning author Edna Ferber’s final novel Ice Palace takes place in pre-statehood Alaska in the 1950s. The real-life Alaskan setting is vital to the story’s plot. The book couldn’t conceivably have taken place anywhere else, and it’s very obvious that Ferber did her research and layered her setting with a wealth of realistic details. However, within this real-life setting, she chose to use the made-up sub-setting of the supposedly prominent city of Baranof, which she created entirely out of thin air for her own purposes.

    So why did she do this—and how did she pull it off? I suspect Ferber chose to create Baranof for the same reason I created the town of Hangtree in my historical western A Man Called Outlaw. Namely, she wanted the freedom to depart from the facts wherever it would benefit her story. Had she set the story in Juneau or Sitka, she would have been bound to historical fact. However, she obviously understood that for the make-believe setting to work, she had to make it just as convincing and realistic as any real-life town. She researched real Alaskan cities and composited them into her make-believe one to keep readers from ever having a reason to suspend their disbelief.
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    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Setting Your Story to Right Order

    As story-crafters it is our job to give our readers a powerful emotional experience - that, after all, is what keeps them coming back for more.

    To that end, we want our writing to be gripping, easy to follow, and emotion inducing.

    One very simple tool in our "easy-to-follow" tool box is to keep the actions of your characters and your descriptions happening in the correct order. It is subtly jarring to your reader when things are stated out of order.

    Let's look at a couple examples to clarify what I mean by this.
    "Taylor walked down the hallway toward her office. She smiled when the scent of new carpet and fresh paint assailed her as she paused to absorb the peace of her little domain after opening her door."
    What is wrong with this little bit of description? It's a bit jarring, isn't it? The reason is, we've stated the characters actions out of order. She can't smell the new carpet and fresh paint until she opens the office door. So as readers, with the way this little paragraph is written, we jump ahead to the scent of new paint and then are thrust backward to see the door opening. Instead try wording it like this:
    "Pushing open her office door, she paused to absorb the peace of her little domain. The scent of new carpet and fresh paint assailed her and brought a smile to her face." 
    The second way is nice and smooth and easy to follow because we do everything in the correct order. First we open the door, then we pause, then we are assailed by the scents and respond to them.

    This might seem like a fairly obvious technique, but if you look over your manuscript, I'll bet you'd be surprised at the number of times character actions and responses happen out of order. It is a very easy little glitch to miss.

    I'll give you one more "before" example here. How would you correct the order of the paragraph below to smooth it out?
    "She reached into her top drawer and snatched up the bottle of pain killers to alleviate the headache that had been pressing at the back of her head all morning. Lifting her ever-present Dasani water bottle she swallowed down the three pills she tapped into her palm."
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    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Fabulously Fun Friday: Voting time again?? Oh, NOES!

    Well, the mid-year elections are finally over, the victors are popping champagne corks while the losers eye high bridges, and the Presidential political season is upon us again. Lock your vaults and hide your daughters.

    It seems every politician, known and unknown, from both sides of the aisle, is throwing his (or her; hi Hillary!) hat into the ring. Or since hats are passe, "forming exploratory committees." You know. Like a colonoscopy.

    The runup to the Presidential choosing is policial Darwinism at its most elemental. "Dog eat dog" is too bland a phrase for what we're about to witness; "slash and burn" says it more plainly. And brother, does it seem to take forever, this time we're entering. If farming season lasted as long, we'd be harvesting green beans the size of dugout canoes. This Chinese water torture we Americans put ourselves through every four years puts me in mind of a childhood memory.
    When I was a boy, my family would sometimes take Sunday drives. Long Sunday drives. Endless, bleak, soul-killing, waiting-for-Godot Sunday drives. There we'd be, my dad behind the wheel of our Ford Galaxy (Clark Kent hat tilted at a rakish angle), my mom beside him. In the back seat were my little brother, and yours truly.

    Along about the eighteenth hour (or so it seemed) of the drive, my brother and I would grow bored, although "bored" doesn't really say it; that's like calling the firebombing of Dresden a "warmish day." Anyway, Scott would casually throw his leg over mine. I'd toss it back. He'd do it again, with a bit more force. I'd toss it back. He'd stick his tongue out at me. I'd look back and pretend to eat boogers. He'd pinch me. I'd slug him. And so on.

    The only thing that could end the fun was my dad, eyes still on the road, screaming obscenities while flailing his arm over the back of the seat, hoping to nail one of us, or both. While this occurred my mom would laugh behind her hand, but I still saw it.

    That's kind of like what election season is reminiscent of. Yeah.
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    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Review of The Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon

    Longtime freelance fiction editor Victoria Mixon follows up her hilarious and enlightening The Art and Craft of Fiction with this “2nd Practitioner’s Manual.” In the first book, she covered the basics of storytelling; in this one, she digs deeper to show the bones beneath the flesh of any good story. Her warm, engaging, incorrigibly cheeky voice guides you past the surface level of the craft to understanding those seemingly mystical inner workings of structure.

    The first half of the book was easily my favorite section, surpassing even the treasure trove of advice offered in her first book. Sections on character and narrative arc, exercises in utilizing our pleasure reading to learn major plot points and structural efficiency (some of those exercises can be found in a guest post on my blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors), developing rounded characters who fuel the plot, and, especially, several delightful sections on the differences and similarities found within the broad scope of genre.

    The second half of the book focuses on that ever-important, but oft-overlooked subject of plot structure. Using examples from several novels and short stories, Mixon walks you through the major plot points of a successful story and further breaks them down, showing you how each beat needs to be structured. This section of the book might be heavy going for some, especially those not already familiar with the basics of structure, since Mixon throws a lot at her readers at once and it’s easy to lose track of where she’s at within the overall story framework. However, the section is worth reading and re-reading, since it’s chock full of solid structural advice.

    In short, this is a heavier book than the first one, but just as worthy of a place on the serious author’s shelf of writing craft books.
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    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Marketing

    I'll be the first to admit that although I'm not the most tech-savvy person around, one thing that's helped me get the word out about my books is social media. Everyone knows about Facebook and Twitter, of course, and even a couple hours a week making posts there will help let people know who you are. But one thing: don't make every post about your book; use most of what you put there to help folks know about you. Do this enough times, and they will naturally be receptive about what you've written. But constant bloviating about your latest tome will tend to make you come off like the old joke, "but that's enough about me; what do YOU think about me?"

    The sites I'm talking about in particular are ones you may not be familiar with, AbsoluteWrite dot com, and, for those of you writing for the Christian market, ChristianWriters dot com.

    The former is the largest online writing community if, in not the world, at least the United States. There are a lot of forums there devoted solely to craft, but there's also one strictly for posting info about your works. Free publicity: you gotta love it. These forums get thousands of visitors a week, and to me, becoming a member there is a given.

    The latter also has a sub-forum for posting your book news, with the added benefits of fellowship.

    Hope these help!
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    Friday, November 4, 2011

    FFF: I'm Guilty of This Myself

    So, hey, it's Friday already? WHERE DID THE WEEK GO?

    (Sorry, CAPSLOCK error.)  ;)

    This observation into how dependent we've grown on the internet for our knowledge from the always-observant Randall Munroe over at xkcd:


    See also Let me google that for you.

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    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Genre Talk: Conflict in Romance

    Romance. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. Whether comedy or drama, whether he's getting her or she's getting him, that's the basic format, but not all three components have to be involved in the novel. Boy met girl and lost her before your novel started, and the story now is about getting her back. Or, boy meets girl, and spends the entire novel "getting" her, with an implied happily-ever-after. Maybe boy loses girl, which, 350 pages later, we discover was for the best, and happily ever after means they both recognize they weren't meant to be.

    But a story that jumps from "boy meets girl" to "happily ever after" isn't much of a story. As with every novel, romance needs conflict--plausible, realistic conflict. Leigh Michaels, on page 63 of her book On Writing Romance: How to craft a novel that sells, lists what conflict isn't:
    • Fighting, arguing, or disagreeing.
    • A delay that prevents progress (which is only an incident, not conflict).
    • Failure to communicate.
    • The trouble-causing interference of another person.
    • A main character's unwillingness to admit that the other person is attractive.
    Tension caused by any of these listed is artificial and won't endure throughout the novel--it's not conflict, that which threatens the characters' relationship.

    The conflict in romance comes from several sources:
    • Character/personality differences--from something simple, like he's a morning bird and she's a night owl, to something more complicated, like she's a lady of the evening and he's a man of the cloth.
    • Situational problems--maybe she's dying, maybe he's married, maybe she lives on the east coast and he lives on the west.
    • Conflicting goals--he wants to tear the building down and create a parking garage, but she wants to save the neighborhood hangout. She wants her client to have a bigger slice of the pie than his client, he wants to cut her client out entirely.
    • Conflicting motives--he wants to feed the hungry, she wants a photo-op. She wants to convert the natives, he wants to sell them cheap trinkets.
    • Conflicting backstories--she had a fairy-tale childhood, he lived on the streets. He graduated college with honors, she has a third-grade education.
    Whatever the conflict, it must be plausible and realistic. Whether it's insurmountable depends on how you picture the end of your story. If you're aiming for "happily ever after," the conflict must be resolved in a forever-love way. If you're aiming for bittersweet, you have two alternatives: the relationship didn't work and both characters are happy with it, or the source of the conflict--death, for instance--makes a happy ending impossible.

    So, we've got the basic components and the different conflict sources--now we can mix and match. Where do you want to start your story? Boy gets girl back? What separated them to begin with? Maybe he needed to grow up (conflict based on character), and now that he has, he's ready to prove his worthiness. Maybe she was transferred to Tokyo (conflict based on situation) and he finds her there.

    What if you want the boy to lose his girl? By the time the story begins, they're already a couple. Maybe she's comfortable with surburbia and he's got his eye set on a mansion (conflict based on conflicting goals). Maybe they get thrown together to work on the same project--he's more take-charge and bossy than she realized from their home life, and their conflicting personalities drive them apart.

    Wherever you start your story, however many components of the format you want to include, be certain you have a conflict that is realistic and plausible.
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