WRITERLY WISDOM: Terri Rocheski

 

 

Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn…

 

The Importance Of Having A Blog Tour
by Terri Rocheski

 

 
Let’s face it – in today’s publishing world of ebooks, if you have no online presence you’re doomed to fail sales-wise. You not only need to get your cover out there, but yourself as well. I’m not talking about just setting up a twitter account and a facebook page either. I’m talking BLOG TOUR.

 

What is a blog tour?

 

A virtual book signing. It’s ‘visiting’ various blogs with guest posts, author or character interviews, tens lists, excerpts, giveaways – or any other idea a host might throw at you. My favorite requested post was a letter to one of my characters. Doing so gave me an incredible insight into him, and made for better scenes in the sequel I was working on.

 

So, how do you set up a tour?

 

I use a google doc sign up / spreadsheet to keep my hosts and posts organized, but you can simply print out a calendar page – heck, write the dates of the tour down – and record peeps who agree to host you on those. Compile those email addresses and send them a media kit (I do a word doc) with the blurb, purchase links, bio, personal links, Goodreads link to your book, and the rafflecopter code or link if you’re doing a giveaway. Don’t forget to attach the cover and head shot of yourself as well.

 

How do you find hosts???

 

Do you belong to any online groups? Yahoo, WANA, critique sites, Goodreads, Book Blogs – go a’beggin! Contact review sites as well. There are countless ones out there, and you’ll find a lot are more than willing to help out. Don’t shy away if the blog only has 150 followers, either. Check to see how consistent they are and if people comment. THAT is a sign of a successful blog.

One of the most important things I can say … visit your host on post day. Thank them in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to those comments. Respond to everyone else who takes the time to read whatever your fingers typed up. Even if they don’t stop back to read your reply, it shows others that you’re proactive in the tour, that you’re likeable and worth following.

Heck. It’s polite!

Twice now, I’ve run two tours for myself at the same time. I’ll admit that it’s easy for me since I’m so crazy organized – like sick organized. This is why Roane Publishing asked me to become involved in their marketing department. Now I get to set up blog tours for fun.

Yes. FUN. I’m having a blast.

How ‘bout you? Blog tour or no blog tour? Questions? Need suggestions? Shoot me an email. I’m all about helping my fellow author. terrirochenski at yahoo dot com,

 

Terri
Terri Rocheski started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with storytelling.

Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.

Website: http://www.terrirochenski.com/

Blog: http://terrirochenski.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerriRochenski/?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TerriRochenski

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832199.Terri_Rochenski

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Patricia Hope

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the ten things to keep in mind when writing query letters…

 

TEN THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN WRITING A QUERY LETTER
By Patricia Hope

 

There are as many ways to write a query letter as there are editors to read them. After a lifetime of reading and writing them, I think most editors would agree writers should follow a few common-sense guidelines if they want their query letter to be read and responded to in a positive way.

A writer feasts or starves on ideas, said Robert J Hastings in his book How I Write. So do editors. That’s not to say they don’t get lots of ideas but good ideas are often turned down because the writer didn’t spend enough time presenting his idea. The following list is 10 of the things I’ve learned about writing query letters after decades of writing and selling articles, both for print and online publications. As a former newspaper editor, I’ve read my share of queries, as well. It would take many blogs to give you examples of what some writers have said to make editors say no, but hopefully, this list will help you get more yeses.

 

Do your homework.

 

Read the publications’ guidelines, if available, and follow them to the letter. If no guidelines are available, read several issues of the publication so you will know what style of writing it uses and what subject matter it covers. When I queried The Writer a few years ago on the idea of writing about my own writing critique group, I had been reading the magazine for more than 20 years, yet, I carefully read and re-read their guidelines.

 

Begin with Why.

 

Every good writer knows you must have the “who, what, where, when and why” to tell a good story. But first, “Why do you want to write this story? Why did you choose this publication?” Be honest in evaluating why this story matters to you and your potential readers. My “why” for the writing group piece was because we had been together 30 years and we had all reached success as writers.

 

Keep the query to one page.

 

An editor sifting through hundreds of letters and emails will be grateful. That’s basically four or maybe five paragraphs. The first two paragraphs should say why you think your idea is good for this publication and who is involved, what they are doing or have done, where all this takes place, and when it happened or will happen. The why should become obvious as you explain what your article is about.

 

Don’t be cutesy or sloppy.

 

No colored paper or flashing emails. Be as straightforward and professional as you can be, whether sending a query by snail mail or email, be sure you check and re-check, things like grammar, spelling, capitalization, formatting, tenses, everything. Your query Letter is a prelude of what your article will be. It’s your salesman with his foot in the door. Don’t blow the only opportunity you might have with this publication by being sloppy.

 

Never address the query to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

 

Know the editor’s name and the correct spelling. It’s your job. This information should be on the masthead of the publication but if you can’t find it any other way, call the company and and get the spelling of both first and last names.

 

Do enough research to know where your finished piece is going.

 

 

Try to think of what your story opening would be. Something made you want to write about this idea. What makes your angle unique? My opening that got me an assignment from Ford Times about Dollywood, in Sevierville, TN began with, “It’s as country as a Tennessee Barn Dance and as colorful as a July Fourth fireworks display. It’s as down home as grits and gravy and as gauche as rhinestone-studded boots. It’s Dollywood . . . superstar Dolly Parton’s way of bringing something home.”

 

Share the meat of the story but don’t say everything.

 

In my query to The Writer, I went on to say, “You name it and we’ve written it. . . . We’ve won hundreds of contest awards, two members have columns that have run more than 25 years, one member has published a historical novel and one member has two novels for children. One has a play that was produced by a major university . . . . All have been included in anthologies . . . . five have taught creative writing classes, four have worked as newspaper editors . . .” What I saved was how we achieved all of this and the influence our critique group had on our success.

 

Be careful about adjectives and adverbs.

 

Don’t say “I have this wonderful article” or “I think your magazine is the best one I’ve ever read.” If your idea is a good one, it will stand on its own, without the sugar-coating.

 

Be truthful.

 
Don’t say you can get an interview with Justin Beiber if you have never met him. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver and don’t agree to deadlines you can’t keep. The editor will respect your honesty more that broken promises.

 

Save the last paragraph in your letter to tell about you.

 

List your credits and say if you are an expert in a particular field as it relates to your article. If you have not been published don’t say anything, and especially, don’t play on sympathy, i.e., “I’ve never written anything but if you give me a chance I know I could.” Remember, even club newsletters, church bulletins, and local newspaper guest columns can lend credibility to your writing.

So, go, and cultivate your ideas, then pick no fewer than five publications where you think an idea will fit and begin your query letter writing. Choose the publication first where your article idea is most likely to sell. Keep these ten steps in mind as you submit your queries. Don’t be discouraged if you get a rejection, just go to the next editor on your list and keep submitting. If an editor says something personal in his rejection, take it seriously, especially if he invites you to send him something else. Keep your query letters going and it won’t be long until the assignments will fill your inbox and/or mailbox. Happy writing!

 

Pat Hope 2

 
Award-winning writer Patricia A. Hope has published widely in anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and literary journals including the online literary journal Maypop and a short story in Muscadine Lines. Her articles have appeared in Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage, A Tapestry of Voices, Rocking Chair and Afternoon Tales, The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, An Encyclopedia of East Tennessee, These Are Our Voices, An Appalachian Studies Teacher’s Manual, and numerous more. She has written extensively for area newspapers including the Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Oak Ridger. She is Past Chairman of the Tennessee Writers Alliance (TWA) and Editor of the first TWA anthology, A Tennessee Landscape, People, and Places. She is the Past President of the East TN Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists, winner of the American Cancer Society’s statewide Best Media Coverage Award and winner of a Tennessee Press Association Award. She co-founded and served as Executive Director of Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc.(TMW), a non-profit writing organization. Because of her work with TMW, earlier this year she was recognized by the Arts Council of Oak Ridge (ACOR) as one of its “arts champions.” She lives in Oak Ridge, TN.

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the seven sins of procrastination…

 

The Seven Sins Of Procrastination
by Donna L Martin

 

Any one of these temptations could be a potential roadblock preventing a writer from reaching their publication goal. Take a look and see if any of them seem all too familiar.

 

TALKING IT TO DEATH

 

 
Ideas are all around us. Different people and events cross our paths every day and snap, we suddenly have a handful of ideas. Every one of them potentially able to carry us over the threshold from simply wishing we were authors to becoming the real thing. But instead of gluing our seats to the chair and actually using one of them, we mull things over and talk our ideas to death while we drown in a sea of indecision over which one to use first.

 

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

 

Contrary to popular belief, the only things a writer really needs to create a story are a writing instrument and something to write on. Sure, things like a top of the line computer system, antique writing desk, & pearl handled ink pens are all fine and dandy, but our ancestor the caveman still told a great story with just stone and ash. Don’t let your search for the perfect tools of the trade distract you from the task at hand which is to get your story written.

 

FINE TOOTH RESEARCH

 

Some stories like nonfiction require a lot of initial research before the actual writing can begin. Other stories like fiction, not so much. It’s one thing to gather the right amount of information in order to maintain your story’s believability and quite another to bury your idea under mounds of unnecessary research. Learn the difference.

 

CHANNEL SURFING

 

There will come a time in every writer’s career when they need a mental and sometimes physical break from actual writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact a writer will usually return with more clarity when their story is seen through a fresh pair of eyes. Just don’t let the time spent away from the writing to become an excuse for channel surfing. Television, social media, online games and the Internet in general are extremely tempting and it takes a dedicated writer to exercise some self-control when it comes to their “down” time.

 

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

 

This is where a writer decides on a story line and might even get off to a great start. The words fill up the pages and the dialogue flows sweet like wine. Then comes the reality check when the writer takes time to actually read what they have written and discovers they have been playing Plot Ping Pong…a nasty little game where a story’s main character zigzags through a great story idea with no clue of where they are actually going.

 

REVISION HELL

 

Very few writers stand on the mountain top and proclaim to love doing story revisions. Most consider them a necessary evil. But again, like fine tooth research, there is a difference between performing multiple revisions in order to mold your story into the finest creation you can and revising simply to avoid facing the fact your story is now ready to face the critics of the world.

 

HERE A CRITIQUE, THERE A CRITIQUE

 

Successful writers know they can’t travel the path to publication alone. Well, they can…but chances are they will not achieve their highest goals. Great stories are the result of a collective process where a manuscript goes through the hands of critique groups, agents, editors, and publishers before it makes it to book form. It may even pass through those same hands more than once. But when a writer continuously seeks the opinions of others simply because of a fear…be it fear of failure or fear of success…a potentially great story finds itself stuck in the never ending Critiqueland Loop until it passes out from exhaustion.

 
I have found there is a simple weapon in the fight against these sins of procrastination. I call it my SHIELD OF BELIEF. When I BELIEVE in the strength of my story idea, I will put my best writing foot forward. When I BELIEVE I have done the proper research to create the foundation of my story’s world, I can relax and let my story speak for itself. When I BELIEVE in the opinions of those I trust to be honest with me about my work, I can send my completed manuscript out into the world with the confidence it will one day find a proper home.

All I need to do is BELIEVE. What about YOU? Do you BELIEVE you were born to write or do you let the seven sins of procrastination prevent you from your true calling?

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Karen R Sanderson

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about whether or not we really need an editor…

 

I don’t need no stinkin’ editor
by Karen R. Sanderson

I know…what an opening sentence for an editor’s post, right?

 

What is an editor?

 

Ask any editor, you get a different answer. Developmental editing, line editing, copy editing – and the list goes on. Then you need to worry about the final proofread – punctuation, spelling, etc.

With each editor you find, he/she will have a different idea about each type of editing and proofreading as well as a different skill set.

 

Get samples

 

No matter what you are looking for in an editor or proofreader, I suggest discussing your work in progress with at least a handful of editors. Ask for free samples so you can assess the skill set of each editor.

Send them all the same bit of your work – see how they edit and what mistakes they find on a proofread, see what suggestions they make. Do you love their ideas or totally disagree? Do they “get” you?

 

Develop a relationship

 

I cannot harp on this enough. I have had so many strangers come to me (with imminent deadlines) – how can I edit you if I don’t know you? What sort of writer are you? What are you looking for in an editor? Do our styles mesh or clash?

Of course, each editor has his or her own specialties – I love poetry, horror, women’s fiction, historical, memoir, and non-fiction. I do not care for sci-fi or fantasy, so I don’t think I’d be the best match if you are a writer of those genres.

 

My Editor Spotlight series

 

realize not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. That’s why I’ve presented the blog series, Editor Spotlight. Over the years, I’ve highlighted other editors on my blog. I want every writer to find the right editor (even if it’s not me!).

If you don’t have an editor, perhaps you can find one by paging through my Editor Spotlight blogs. Here’s one to get you started – my own editor, Shawn MacKenzie.

Here’s another editor I find particularly awesome and her Editor Spotlight – Chris Eboch.

 

Let’s back up

 

Before you start the search for an editor…have you learned the craft of writing, plot, and dialog? Have you tried to improve your writing skills? Have you learned about showing not telling? Do you understand punctuation?

 

My three favorite writing-craft references

 

Donald Maass – Writing the Breakout Novel
Deb Everson Borofka – Memory, Muses, Memoir (additional note – I took her class through UCLA Extension and it rocked!)
Stephen King – On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

 

Additional desk references

 

Diana Hacker – Rules for Writers
Strunk and White – The Elements of Style

 

Must haves

 

A comprehensive dictionary and a thesaurus (Roget’s of course). I’m old school, and I still prefer the paper tomes. My mom used to work for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader (this apple didn’t fall very far, did she?), so I like M-W.

For you new-wave writers, there are loads of online references.

 

Quick Editorial Tips series

 

Are you making these mistakes? Here’s a list of the blogs I’ve posted with Quick Editorial Tips.

Quick Editorial Tips I – Discusses pronouns, name consistency, adjectives, commas, redundancy, ellipses, listing chapters.

Quick Editorial Tips II – Discusses just and that, adverbs, white space, echoes, answered/expressed/questioned (instead of said).

Quick Editorial Tips III – Discusses was and were, seemed, appeared, dialog, same mundane sentence structure.

Quick Editorial Tips IV – Stop following my advice – Discusses your editor/writer relationships, are you getting advice that doesn’t feel right, are you in sync with your editor?

Quick Editorial Tips V – Lessons from home – Discusses lay and lie, exact same, continue on, me or I.

Done writing. Now what?

Are you ready to edit or proofread? Are you about to hire an editor? Can you afford an editor?

I have answers to all these questions in my four-pack of DIY Editing and Proofreading.

Proofreading an inch at a time
Copy editing – getting the bugs out
Hiring a proofreader – don’t get stung
Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs

Photos on the four-pack of editing by Gwen Dubeau.

 

karen
Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun. Her favorite book is the dictionary.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and an awesome grandmother. Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Facebook, Fan Page, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Margaret Greanias

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn the difference between looking for an agent and going directly to a publisher with our manuscripts…

 

Agent or Publisher?
By Margaret Greanias

 

As I’ve plunged headlong into my agent search, I can’t help but feel in limbo. Here I am, eager to share my HIGH-larious stories with the world – busily revising, tweaking, polishing (maybe too busily; ask my critique partners) and otherwise doing everything in my power to make them shine. But, when I shoot off an agent query, it disappears into the black hole of cyberspace, perhaps never to be heard from again. I’m left to wonder, “Was it read? Was it not read?”

Agents are the gatekeepers to publishing. They deflect thousands of manuscripts a year (cue space shields: Pew! Pew! Pew!). But they don’t have to be. Plenty of picture book authors have gotten published without one.

So why do I continue shooting my manuscripts at the agent cyberspace shield?

 

An agent will get your manuscript considered by the right editors.

 

Successful agents work at maintaining personal relationships with editors. These personal relationships give them access to editor preferences and tastes, what’s selling and what’s not, wish lists and more. However, having that relationship with the editor goes beyond being able to tailor submissions. Just as in our own lives, editors are more likely to consider recommendations from trusted associates. In fact, fewer and fewer publishing houses are open to unagented submissions.

 

Agents have expertise in negotiating book deals, contracts and the industry in general.

 

Agents know standard advances and royalty rates as well as other technical publishing stuff like foreign, digital, film and audio rights (my eyes are glazing, glazing, glazing and…their crossed). In addition, if a manuscript gets stalled somewhere in the process between acquisitions and printing – agents have the know-how and know-who (at least more so than this writer) to potentially help un-stall it.

 

Agents act as the buffer between authors and publishers.

 

Agents handle tension-filled issues like business and money so we can maintain our fluffy cloud relationships with editors.

 

Agents have book smarts (in a useful way).

 

It’s an agent’s job to know books and the book market. Some are editorial and help you revise, tweak and polish your manuscript until it shines. Others are more business-savvy and can help you market yourself and your book. Either way, they are a wealth of information on books and can help advance your authoring career.

So why wouldn’t a writer automatically go the agent route? Here are some considerations:

 

Agents serve as gatekeepers – gatekeepers who have their own tastes and preferences.

 

By going the agent route, you’ll need to find an agent who loves your manuscript (and most likely your body of work). That agent will need to find an editor who loves your manuscript. If you submit direct, that’s one less roadblock to getting your manuscript published.

 

The agent-writer relationship is a long-term commitment.

 

Bad news commitment-phobes, but it’s true. You want an agent who will guide your writing career. Someone who does not work the way you expect can increase your anxiety and frustration. Even worse, a bad agent may be worse than no agent at all because they can damage your morale and potentially your chances of getting published.

 

Some publishers are open to unagented authors.

 

While many of the big publishing houses are closed, there are quite a few reputable houses still open to unagented submissions. In fact, I was very surprised by the number of open houses I found. Check them out!

· Albert Whitman (http://www.albertwhitman.com/content.cfm/editorial-guidelines-for-writers)
· Arthur A. Levine Books (https://www.arthuralevinebooks.com/submissions)
· Boyd Mills Press (https://www.boydsmillspress.com/Submissions)
· Capstone Publishing (https://www.capstonepub.com/library/service/submissions/)
· Charlesbridge (http://www.charlesbridge.com/client/client_pages/submissions.cfm)
· Chronicle Books (https://www.chroniclebooks.com/submissions)
· Dawn Publications (http://www.dawnpub.com/submission-guidelines/)
· Lee & Low (https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/writing-guidelines)
· Sky Pony Press (http://www.skyponypress.com/guidelines/)
· Tanglewood Books (http://www.tanglewoodbooks.com/submissions/)
· and many, many more.

However, there is no guarantee your submission or query will be read. Your submission will become part of the infamous Slush Pile. Most houses (like agents) only respond if interested. Also to beware: some publishing houses do not accept simultaneous submissions. This means your manuscript could be off the market until a publisher responds or does not respond to you (not very fair, is it?).

 

You too may submit to closed houses.

 

In special cases, you may submit to normally closed houses. You may do so by attending conferences, submitting during special (rare) submission windows and also being a member of specific writer groups. These submissions do not guarantee a response.

 

You can negotiate your own contract.

 

Say you land your own book deal (you industrious writer, you). Resources are available to help you wade through the legalese. SCBWI offers The ESSENTIAL GUIDE to PUBLISHING for CHILDREN available for sale or free download (https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/ ) which includes FAQS on contracts. The Authors Guild (http://www.authorsguild.org/) and the Literary Market Place (http://www.literarymarketplace.com/) can recommend literary lawyers, who will help you negotiate your own contract and save you from paying from agency commission.

 

You keep your earnings.

 

No agent? No agency commission. Enough said.

There you have it: considerations when choosing agent or publisher. If you have any additions, please feel free to chime in below.

I’m still in the agent camp. For me, the benefits outweigh the negatives. What about you?

 
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Margaret Greanias is a picture book writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes picture books and is currently brewing up a batch of middle grade ideas.
You can connect with her on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Kristen Lamb

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn from one of my all time favorite bloggers, the lovely Kristen Lamb…

Warrior Writer: Business Plans & Stretchy Pants—One Size DOES NOT Fit All

by Kristen Lamb

Too often a writer is left to sink or swim on her own, relying on tenacity, trial and error, or plain damn luck in order to enjoy the fruits of her hard work and sacrifice. There has to be a better way, right?
There is, but before we get to that, let us take a tour of other common writer business models…
How many of you out there think that buying lottery tickets is a good investment portfolio for your retirement? Maybe diversify with some scratch-offs? Bingo anyone? And I know you laugh, but too many of us approach the publishing industry with roughly the same mentality…which brings us to our first writer business model.

The Instant Blind Luck Fame Plan

We just KNOW our idea has never been done before, so why write other books when THIS ONE is going to be the key to our success? And our book is really meant to be part of a series anyway. Oh, and we don’t want to give away the ending, because, well, the real ending is in Book Fourteen of this long and lucrative series we have mapped out in our mind. We can’t tell you who the antagonist is until Book Three, because this villain is the villain behind the villain behind the villain—and there is the merchandising to consider.
Most of us made excellent grades in English, so we don’t bother going to the craft workshops at conferences. We are there to pitch to an agent. We just need an agent. Why? Because with this one manuscript, we just know we will be instantly catapulted into a life of fame and fortune. We have endless enthusiasm, and are known for our daring. Speaking of which…did you hear about that guy who sent his query letter in a pizza box? Genius!

The Spaghetti Noodle Plan

Some of us are more realistic in our approach to publishing. We aren’t fools. We know there are instant successes, but they are few and far between. We know it will take years of hard work and sacrifice to get to the top…but we still don’t have a real business plan. Why spoil all the creativity? We became writers so we could delete Excel and free up some space on our hard drive, right?
We have a nice Social Media Network. We are on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter…oh, but our sites are either 1) a collage of family photos or 2) are locked down tighter than Fort Knox as Private. You have to know the secret handshake to see our pages. Self-promotion is so gauche. Twitter is about happy inspirational quotes. Facebook is a good way to keep up with high school pals, and MySpace a neat place to post cute pictures of our kids and dogs.
And we are a gentle, polite sort who would never dream of sliding our query letter under the stall to an agent trying to pee. We go to all the craft workshops, attend writers’ groups religiously, and write and write and write. We don’t like business plans, because they cramp our free spirits. We know, deep inside, that “Persistence prevails when all else fails.” We don’t know who said that. We saw it on a Successories poster at the office of our real job, so we posted it for all our writer friends on Twitter. We are hard workers and know if we toss enough noodles (manuscripts) against the wall, eventually one will stick.
And, lastly there is the…

Bug the Crap out of People Long Enough and They Will Buy It Plan.

 

This plan is frequently a course taken by the overzealous non-fiction writer. Often we were salespeople or marketers in a former life. Most of us figure, “Heck, if I can sell a million dollars worth of software, rubber dog poo, whatever, books will be EASY!” We are charming and confident, great at advertising and promoting…but learning how to actually write? We’ll get to it later once we hit the NY Times Best-Seller List.
Adherents of this plan are easy to spot. The back of our cars tend to ride a little low due to the added weight of boxes of books in the trunk. Many of us are very tech-savvy and can tell you all about how to print CD labels for your e-books while simultaneously giving you the skinny on the latest PayPal applications for your iPhone. And while most people are content to fritter their lives away, we eager beavers Twitter ours away with endless self-promotion.
Some people call it a family reunion, a wedding or a funeral. Not us. We call those chances to market and sell lots of books. We figure that if we hit enough Lions Club meetings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and flea markets that Random House will come knocking with that million dollar book deal.
If only Oprah would return our call.
Okay, so this is a bit of a parody, but you have to admit one of those made you laugh because it hit home with some of your own thinking. I think I saw a little of myself in all three :) .
What makes the Warrior Writer approach so radically different is that, when it comes to a business plan? To be good, it must be as unique as the individual. Personality has to be the primary consideration.
Warrior Writer focuses on the author. Why? Because everything stems from us—the product (book), the marketing, the business savvy, etc. That is why Bob’s first question is WHO? We have to understand who we are before anything else.
Each of us are going to gravitate to a different genre, topic, style of writing because of who we are. The same goes for how we will approach (or not approach) the business side of publishing.
While we all had a good laugh at the poor souls above, all three of those types of writers had notable strengths. The first group? Enthusiasm and confidence. These authors laugh in the face of adversity. They aren’t afraid of anything, and that is a tremendous asset. The second group? Persistence and hard work. Talent will only take one so far. We have to be willing to do the work and never give up. The third group? They understand writing is a business, and they are passionate and willing to work harder and longer than their competition.
This is the key to being a Warrior Writer. We all have weaknesses and blind spots. But the good news is we also have talents and strengths. Face it. We aren’t going to win a marathon wearing One Size Fits All shoes. Why would we expect to achieve our greatest writing goals with a One Size Fits All business model? Until now, many of us have been relegated to piecing together a patchwork business plan from on-line articles and inspirational stories mixed with snippets from “Marketing for Dummies”—that is, if we bothered to make a plan at all.
Editors and agents, being overworked and spread far too thinly just aren’t going to sit down and help us formulate our strategy for success. Meanwhile, the publishing industry remains content to play the odds. The question is, are we content to remain playing the numbers as well? Warrior Writer is a holistic understanding that incorporates all of who we are for maximum advantage that is tailored to fit. Bob teaches us not only about the industry (no sending queries in a pizza box), but more importantly, he helps us learn about ourselves. This translates into better writing, a better writer, and better business. So while we are waiting on Leno’s people to get back with us, we can learn how to tackle the publishing industry in true warrior fashion.
(At the time Kristen originally wrote this wonderful post back in 2009, NY Bestselling author Bob Mayer offered writer workshops like the Warrior Writer one.  Now you can go to www.bobmayer.com for more on his writing workshops and other classes. Who knew such a wonderful writing resource lived in my own town? )
 
Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” & “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.” She is the CEO of WANA International, a company dedicated to empowering artist of the Digital Age. She’s also the creator of WANATribe, the social networking site for creative professionals. 
You can find Kristen at her website (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com)

WRITERLY WISDOM: Margot Finke

 
classics

 

 

Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the difficulty in writing a great story from my friend Margot Finke…

 

Writing a Masterpiece Ain’t Easy!

by Margot Finke

 
Like any other job or career, a writer must spend time learning the craft of writing – an apprenticeship if you will. The rules are available for those who take the time to learn them. And once you learn the rules, you can take an occasional deep breath. . . and break them with impunity.

 

Active and powerful words are a BIG Plus:

 

The creation of active and powerful plots is much the same whatever the age or the genre. It is all in the words you choose, the dialogue you use, and the way you put it all together. Whether you are trying to appeal to adults, kids on the cusp of adolescence, or teens with raging hormones, success depends on HOOKING your reader.

If you plan to whip up an action packed book that will HOOK reader interest, here is a preview of the ingredients you’ll need to dig out of your imagination and your well-honed craft box.

Think out of the box
Tight writing + action and pace
Active and powerful verbs.
A plot that’s cool and fast paced.
Characters alive with authenticity.
Dialogue that is true to the characters.
A background rich with possibilities or mystery.
Your own unique writing voice.
Hints and clues that are woven into the fabric of the plot, and tell of past history and things yet to come.
End of chapter HOOKS that keep readers turning the page.

· A Thesaurus (either a book or Shift F7 in Word) is your best friend when looking to replace problem words.

· For further clues regarding weak “Stuff” to cut from your chapters, visit my

Self Editing Tip Sheet and Powerful Writing Tips

 
When completed, your MG or YA masterpiece needs to be somewhere between 30,000 and 80,000 words. Yes, I know Jo Rowlings upped the ante with her succession of Harry Potter books, and if your plot and characters have the same appeal as her Harry, you too might get away with a bumper word count. However, first-time authors might be wise to err on the side of fewer words. Adult books can have a much higher word count.

WARNING: there needs to be a pile of really good “meat” in the plot sandwich to make that larger word count worthwhile.

 

Action Rules:

 

Action does not have to be a gun fight, a car chase, or a fight to the death. Great action means keeping your story moving along. Scenes that have good pace, great humor, or introduce intriguing clues also qualify as action. Your plot, characters and dialogue, must tease, lure, and draw the reader in. If your story keeps the reader turning the page, eager to discover more about the characters and the plot, then you have ACTION covered.

 

Lack of Action is when. . .

 

Stagnant “waffling on” does not move the plot along to the next cool scene. You add long descriptions that interrupt the build up to a momentous scene. Lots of “telling,” rather than using actions and dialogue to show what happens.. If your book is billed as a mystery, a thriller, an adventure or the like, chapters that drag will turn off readers. NOTE: short punchy sentences build better pace and tension.

 

A Sample:

 

From my young teen ghost mystery, the “Revenge of Thelma Hill.” Note the shorter sentences and the word choices.

Heavy rain clouds hid the moon, turning her room into a dark cave. Half awake, Frannie shivered. Brrrr. . . Might as well sleep in the fridge. She tugged the comforter over her ears. The prickle of goose bumps slid up and down her spine. The room had frostbite. Wow! Could this mean the return of the gray ghost? Why didn’t I put that camera closer; like under the pillow?

Nervous excitement battled dread. Was the ghost there? The urge to know overwhelmed her. Pushing herself up on one elbow Frannie peered at the foot of the bed.

Frost covered her quilt, the dressing table and the curtains. Icicles dangled from her bedside lamp, their eerie white light shimmering over everything in the room. The Ghost hung in mid-air, swaying gently. A low moan escaped her. The gray spidery veils clung to her like a drowned woman’s gown.

Frannie gasped. Her breath went in just fine, but it refused to go out again. The camera lay on the bedside table, forgotten.
As a professional Critique Service Provider, here are snippets of advice, hot from my latest manuscript critiques.

 

Wordiness: (Tight writing rules)

 

Nothing kills tension and fast pace quicker than wordiness. When fingers hit the keyboard, and their owner has a fresh document begging to be filled, many writers never know when to quit. I prune and trim acres of unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. Think of these words and sentences as frills on a fussy looking ball gown. Rip off those frills, and you have an elegant and exciting gown. Your writing needs to be like that gown – elegant and exciting. Sure to make an editor drool. Tight Writing keeps the pace and action moving along. It is also vital for tension building. A few short punchy sentences create tension far better than one long ramble.

 

Puny Verbs:

 

The writer who understands the value of verbs already has the battle half won. Great verbs, active verbs, and powerful verbs, they all have the same goal – pages and chapters that crackle with excitement, dynamic plot twists, and vibrant dialogue. Strong verbs create strong characters, memorable plots and evocative scenes. If your plot and characters read like a bowl of over-cooked noodles, look at your verbs. Your verb choices probably don’t deserve all the blame, but they definitely led the retreat into a big yawn!

 

Lack of Focus:

 

Focus is a juggling act. Everyone admires the way a juggler keeps all those balls in the air at the same time. He can do this because his focus never wavers. A good writer must also juggle. It our case, it involves juggling the plot, the subplot, the main character, and the lesser characters. While keeping these vital elements in place, a writer must also juggle word choices, character enrichment, pace, and the action. Lack of focus on one or more of these fundamentals, and your story loses momentum. The pace and action wanders, and other crucial elements scatter.
Having a really good critique group nit-pick your chapters will help a lot. And picking the brains of the published and established members of the group is a bonus. Their advice and support will be invaluable.

 

“Stuff” That Only Adds to Your Word Count:

 

These I find in manuscripts everywhere: irritating tag-ons, and add-ons that waste space, yet offer zero in the way of plot enlightenment pace or action. Some are adverbs that snuggle up to weak verbs. Some are overused and tired adjectives. Others appear as twenty ho-hum words that need to be exchanged for 8 more evocative words that explode with meaning.

Here are examples:
Prune the Fluff: very, some, just, like, that, and words ending in LY.
Verbs to Strengthen: Any verb preceded by WAS or ending in ING. Plus: ran, sat, looked, talk, ate, fell.
Adjectives That Need a Boost: pretty, happy, nice, good, big, small.
Unneeded Thoughts: it seemed, perhaps they will, maybe they can, he felt, they feel, would catch, would do etc.
Runaway Sentences and Descriptions: Put those long compound sentences under a microscope. Cut them in half. Do this by using more active and powerful verbs, and breaking it up into at least two shorter sentences that offer more punch and active content.

 

Your Competition:

 

Today, writers must compete with action heroes, action movies, and computer games that hemorrhage violent bloody battles. This is especially true for men and boys. These movies and games do not bother with good story lines – violent action rules! The trick is, for you to offer compelling stories that also have fast pace and action. Give them heroes and heroines they can root for and identify with, and you will HOOK your readers. Research your readership ( your niche market), and bring them characters and plots that have meaning to them. When done right, tension intrigue and action can effectively GRAB readership.

The Author’s “Voice”:

 

And finally, it all comes down to the “Author’s Voice.” The unique way you string sentences together: your word choices, verb choices, and the phraseology that makes a story YOURS. Sometimes voice comes early. At other times it takes time, experience, and lots of rewrites.

 

 
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Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant, now living in Oregon with her husband and family. She has sixteen published books (PB to young teen), and runs a well known Manuscript Critique Service.

*Website : http://www.margotfinke.com
*BOOKS: http://tinyurl.com/bg9dtxt

*FREE “Sneak Peek” insidell her books: http://tinyurl.com/9npjy9n
*SKYPE Author Visits (schools etc) : www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-LLo_eWdxk