It happened again this morning at my critique group. After listening to a critique, the writer shakes her head in frustration. [Read more…]
I once belonged to a critique group that was so anal… [Read more…]
Reading a book shouldn’t be work.
I’m reading a murder mystery right now, and the author is making me work, which I resent. Although it’s a compelling story, the author (and his editor) are in love with his original similes and metaphors. I’m not. Many seem contrived and, worse, a distraction from the story. I mean, how exactly do the breezes “jackknife”? I guess they change direction sharply, but if your reader has to stop and think, “What the hell?” you might consider using a different turn of phrase.
I just got invited to speak to a group of senior citizens on any topic I chose. I had to decline because, while I know a little about a lot of things, I don’t know a lot about any one particular thing. So I missed a chance to enhance my platform.
How often have we been told that in order to establish a marketing platform, we should specialize or become a bit of an expert in something? For example, my friend Dodie Cross, who wrote “A Broad Abroad in Thailand” can talk about her experiences living not only there but in Iran before the Islamic Revolution. My friend Vicki Mills who wrote “Any Body Can Enjoy Computers — the Clear and Simple Basics,” can talk about that. What can I speak about?
Let’s consider my almost-finished novel, Dakota Blues. I could become more of an expert on any one of its themes. See how many you can spot:
A middle-aged workaholic executive gets the kiss-off from her job and husband while attending her mother’s funeral in her Midwestern hometown. She wants to race back to California, but wonders if she should reevaluate – if she has wasted the first half of her life. Besides, North Dakota beckons; she meets a whole new network of dynamic gal-friends and falls in lust with a sexy professor. She is drawn by the sweetness of her hometown, and by her immigrant roots. Torn between the familiar and the possible, she rejects them both, and instead agrees to ferry a persistent 90-year-old neighbor cross-country in an aging RV. It turns into a road trip that will change her life.
I’ll bet I could talk about a lot of things from the above. Mid-life crises, the second half, Banat German immigrants to the Midwest, modern-day patterns of reverse migration…The next time I get invited to speak on anything at all to a group of kindly, receptive people, will I accept the offer? Ask me in three months.
My first blog was a tester. I wanted to get comfortable with the idea of blogging, so I started Any Shiny Thing and proposed to write about anything my hyperactive mind found attractive. I assumed that other people would find my topics attractive, too.
Brrrrrt! Wrong assumption. Let Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist tell you why it’s critical to make your blog about something specific.
Do you know that there are now more than FIFTY MILLION blogs on the Internet? With all those choices, why would anyone read yours (or mine)? I began to suspect Any Shiny Thing wasn’t a good idea when I’d explain what it was about, and my listener’s eyes would glaze over with polite boredom. “Oh, just anything I find interesting” is not a compelling reason to go there. Denise Welch of Computerworks, Inc. has a related viewpoint. “You tell me, ‘Read my blog! read my blog! I don’t want to read your blog,” she says. Unless you are going to make it worth her while. In her view that means you have to GIVE something to the reader (beyond the pleasure of your company).
I hope I have given you a tool today for making your blog more effective.
The singer/composer Judy Collins (“Send in the Clowns”, “Both Sides Now”) in her wonderful book on writing called “Morning, Noon and Night“, talks about the necessity of developing good living AND writing habits in order to be successful. As you read this, please know that her only child committed suicide at the age of 33, and she fought alcoholism most of her life.
“My singing has brought me a career of international proportions that has taught me discipline. I have to keep my body fit. I have to keep my attitude positive, I have to eat and sleep and walk and talk in a healthy manner. I cannot afford the luxury of whining, and I cannot afford the sloth of letting my body or my mind go, for then they would not be ready for the long tour, the short walk, the days on end on airplanes and cars, the hotel rooms and the stages on which I make my living.
“And if I am not disciplined about my writing, I will not get any writing done! Nor any songs written.
“There is talent, and there is the discipline to get the talent to pay out. I have to harness the talent, use the discipline, and I then find that, surprise, there is pleasure in the discipline, and the discipline will say to me, I am not your enemy! I am your friend!
“Finally, the malaise lifts, and I can see clearly again. But these times are not ever entirely over, and I must always be willing to go back to discipline for the lessons it brings of freedom.”
According to Wikipedia, these are KV’s eight commandments:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.
It hurts me to ask that question, but after reading this article in USA Today, I must. I’ve dreamed of having an agent to work with. He or she would work hard toward finding a publisher, and on the happy day the manuscript is sold, the team would expand to include an editor and the publishing team. This is where the dream bubble pops, however. From everything I have heard, and please correct me if I’m mistaken, the budget for marketing my book will be virtually zero, and I’ll receive no assistance or support in doing so, which means I’ll have to sell the book myself. I’ve heard that a publisher can get my book into a national chain of bookstores, but that just means my book will be placed on the shelf with 500 other new ones that month, and if it doesn’t sell like gangbusters, Barnes and Noble will pack it up and send it back in about six weeks. Then I will have a black mark on my marketability scorecard when I attempt to publish future books. Wouldn’t it be smarter for me to go this self-publishing (or E-publishing) route, see how I do, make a few bucks, celebrate with my friends and family, and try to build on that success for future books? Would anybody care to weigh in?
Quoting Janet Reid from a recent post on her excellent blog:
“It got me thinking. I realized there is a very simple solution for all your rejection problems. All of them, forever more. You really don’t want any more of them do you? They’re totally awful, completely depressing, and we all know Rejection Just Sucks.
“Ok, here’s the solution: Stop Writing. If you never send out another query, you’ll never get another rejection. Easy-peasy.
“Wait, that’s not a solution you’re willing to accept? Well ok then. How about we look at rejections like this:
“You love to write. You love to write more than you hate rejections. You love being a writer. So, you love rejections the least of all the parts of writing you love, but faced with a choice of no writing/no rejections, you choose to be a writer. You choose ALL the parts of being a writer, because it’s all or none, and you are a writer.
“Now back to work.”
Back in October I attended a conference at the HQ of Writers’ Digest. I met Chuck Sambuchino – a very cool guy. Good speaker, easy to look at, but most important, his advice is practical and smart. I read his blog regularly. Today’s post is by a guest, a new writer (like you!) who shares what works for her. You can read about it here. The only place I differ from Jessica is that I loved reading about Stephen King’s desk in his book “On Writing.” In fact, I love asking authors where they work, what their “office” – if they have one – looks like, when they work (morning, evening, on the freeway? Hope not!), how they motivate themselves, how they divide their time between writing and everything else, like family, day job, and life in general. In future posts, I’ll interview authors and tell you about it.