Monday, September 26, 2011

$10 for your Scrivener input.

Today I'm calling on each of you to add your input. We're going to talk a little about a writing tool called Scrivener.

A lot of the authors I speak with, and the blogs I visit, mention this product as the be-all and end-all when it comes to keeping writing clear, correct, and organized. Having always been easily influenced, I decided to take the plunge and download a trial copy. I must admit, it is a very robust writing tool, although somewhat intimidating for the beginning user.

So, with that said, I'm asking for your input. If you're a Scrivener user, tell us about it. What do you like about it? How do you use it? And what's the first step in getting started? In other words, if you were a new user, what information would you need in order to start using the program to create a new book? Be as verbose and detailed as you wish (you're a writer, aren't you?) If you'd like to give a step-by-step tutorial, or a link to a tutorial you found helpful, that's fine, too. We're taking any and all info that you can furnish. Think of yourself as a teacher. And there's a bonus for being helpful.

$10 Barnes & Nobel Gift Certificate.

In order to encourage you to participate, I'm going to send one of you a $10 Barnes & Nobel Gift Certificate. But there are some stipulations. First: There must be at least ten comments with some helpful information. Your comment doesn't have to be high-tech or lengthy. Just something to help the new user get started. Second stipulation: There is only one entry allowed per person. If you supply a YouTube link, you also need to include some additional information in your comment on what the video covers and why you found it helpful.

Final stipulation regards the deadline. I'll accept comments until the end of the week. The cutoff time is midnight (Central Time) on Friday, September 30, 2011. So be sure to add your comment prior to that time to be eligible. Winner will be selected by a random number generation system.

Good luck! And thanks for participating.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Site

Since I utilize this blog for a multitude of things, I decided to create a new and separate site for the upcoming Lost in the Bayou book. But we'll get to that momentarily.

As previously mentioned, Musa Publishing is a brand new organization that's attracting a lot of attention and a lot of new authors. They are currently accepting submissions for their various imprints. The people I've worked with so far have been nothing less than highly professional, courteous, and encouraging. Here's the link: MUSA PUBLISHING.

And now, here's the link to my new site where you can get to know Lost in the Bayou a little better. But here's a word of warning: If you're easily frightened, be sure to lock the doors and windows before you visit: LOST IN THE BAYOU.

If you submit to Musa Publishing, please let us know what happens. We'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Release Date Announcement

It gives me great pleasure to share this news with my dear and faithful readers. I'm thinking we need to cue the drum roll here.

I have recently signed a contract with a publisher for my manuscript, Lost in the Bayou. I am very happy about this event. Today, I want to provide some information about this publisher and what they're currently doing and what they plan to do in the future.

The publisher is Musa Publishing. They are brand new, and they're going to be publishing works in numerous genres. Here is a LINK to their site. When you visit, you'll discover they have ten distinct imprints. Additional good news is that, since they're so new, they're still accepting submissions, so this might be perfect opportunity for you to get published.

I have spoken with several of their editors and staff, and I am very impressed with their professionalism. My editor, Meredith, is a gem and very experienced in the MG and YA genre. During the coming weeks, I'm planning on posting updates on what's going on, along with some snippets of the book and perhaps some information on the characters.

It's exciting, and I'd like you to share it with me as it unfolds. Oh, and since I entitled this with a reference to the Release Date, it might be appropriate to include that here as well. Lost in the Bayou is scheduled for release on December 2, 2011. If I can figure out how to have a virtual Release Party online, we'll certainly do that and you're all invited.

Keep writing!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Improve your writing in 5 easy steps

I’m often asked what is the secret of good writing. I used to tell people that I had a small group of editing elves that assembled in my office at night and worked their magic on my rough drafts. They used to do that, but I haven’t seen them in a while.

If you love to write, and if you’re seeking publication, there are a few things you can do to improve your craft. Below are five activities that can prove beneficial in making a noticeable difference in your writing. They’re all easy to do, and they can produce a significant improvement.

1. READ. You already know this one. It’s been pounded into your brain since that time in the third grade when you told everyone you were going to be a writer when you grew up. Writers are readers. Obviously, you want to read a ton of books in your favorite genre, but occasionally you’ll want to branch out and pick something outside your comfort zone.

For instance, if you’ve decided to write thriller or horror, you certainly want to read Stephen King and Michael Crichton. But after you finish your next novel by one of those authors, pick up a classic from yesteryear. Read something by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Have you ever spent any time with Scarlet O’Hara? It’s a long book, but it’s worth the read.

If Gone With the Wind is too slow for you, you can always join James Bond on an exciting and dangerous international espionage adventure and see how Ian Fleming writes. Or get your space helmet on and head for another world with Arthur C. Clark or Ray Bradbury. Any of these books can give you a different take on how to create a setting or put a sentence together. Every author writes differently, and therein lies the beauty of the individual’s observations and the way they relate everything to the reader.

2. EDIT YOURSELF SEVERELY. You love your words. Of course you do. You’re a writer. They’re beautifully written and every one is perfect. So you think. Here’s an exercise that might help prove a point and show you how many words you can cut from your writing and end up with something that’s actually better in most cases.

A lot of writers fill their pages with fluff just to increase their word count. Bad idea. Stephen King said the best advice an editor ever gave him was, “Kill your darlings.” It’s necessary at times to take something you’ve written and simply delete it from the manuscript in order to make it better. You can tell if it really, really needs to be in there or not. So let’s do an exercise to get past the trauma of severe editing and get comfortable with it as we add it our writing repertoire.

Take your current WIP and pick a chapter. Any chapter. If you’re working in MS Word, do a word count on it and write that number down. Take 75% of that number. (If you’re not a math whiz, just multiply the number of words by .75.) That is the number of words you need to end up with. Approximately.

Now start cutting. This is going to prove difficult at first for some of you, but it becomes easier with practice. It’s a good thing. Really it is.

Track your changes and delete anything that’s unnecessary. If it sounds like too much explanation, cut it. If you’ve mentioned it before and you’re just repeating it, cut it. Look at your sentence structure. Is there a way to construct that sentence with fewer words and have it say the same thing? Look at your dialogue tags. If it’s obvious who’s speaking, cut the tag. If the reader doesn’t need it, it doesn’t need to be on the page. Get rid of it.

Check for adverbs. In case you didn’t know, literary agents hate them. So, unless they’re absolutely necessary, cut them. You’re cutting 25% of your word count, so you need to be brutal in this exercise if you’re going to arrive at your target number. You may have to rewrite some sentences in order to maintain the flow, but you can do that. You’re a writer. Those pages should look like someone sacrificed a sheep on them when you’re finished.

When you finish, read what’s left. In most cases it will be an improvement. The pace will be faster and more alive. Many writers have a tendency to over explain things to the reader and repeat themselves. This slows things down unnecessarily. This exercise will reduce that or eliminate it. Your readers will be grateful and your book will be much better for it.

3. JOIN A CRITIQUING GROUP. If you have a local writing group, attend one of their meetings. Get to know your fellow writers. If you don’t have such a group available locally, there are a lot of forums and networks on the Internet. One of my long-time favorite places for critique and advice is a site called ABSOLUTE WRITE. It’s free and you can share your work with others and get peer input and suggestions for improvement.

LinkedIn has numerous groups of writers you can connect with as well. Facebook and Twitter can also offer additional connections if you tell people what you’re looking for. So get yourself out there.

4. ATTEND A CONFERENCE OR WORKSHOP. This will get you away from your computer and out of the house, which you need to do occasionally.

Most writing organizations hold conferences and workshops throughout the year. If you’re a writer of picture books, chapter books, middle grade or anything geared toward the juvenile market, SCBWI most likely has a branch near you. Google them. Check out their conference or workshop schedule.

You might also check out any book signings at your local bookstores. This can give you an opportunity to speak with a published author face-to-face. Many of them would be happy to offer advice to help out an aspiring author.

5. WRITE. Although all five of these steps are important, we’ve saved the best for last. Writing is what you do. You need to practice that craft. If possible, try to set up a specific writing schedule. If you’re fortunate enough to have an office in your home, you need to be in for a pre-determined number of hours per day. If you don’t have an office, per se, pick an area where you can work undisturbed by the television or other intrusions. If there’s a Starbuck’s nearby, and if you have a laptop, that’s an option that might work for you, too, especially if you’re a coffee lover.

If you implement these five steps, or even a few of them, your writing will improve. And that’s the whole point.

STEP 6. This is for AFTER you do all the other five steps. You can always use another pair of eyes to smooth out the details and make your writing flow more professionally, to get ride of repetitive words and pesky typos. Before sending you completed manuscript to an agent, have an editor/proofreader look it over.

If you'd like a free evaluation of your writing, CLICK HERE and look for the THE LINK.

Keep writing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Facebook Fan Pages

Much has been written lately about the importance of creating a "platform" as a writer. It is important, but it isn't a quick fix.

Creating a platform is going to take more than six days. Be prepared to spend some time starting out and a lot of continual effort in growing your "platform."

Why is this important?

Primarily, it's a marketing tool for your writing and your books. You may be the best writer since Hemingway, but if you aren't marketing yourself, you're not going to achieve the level of sales or exposure you need. And, if you can create and maintain a large following, this is going to play well with an agent or publisher who is considering you as a potential client or author. It also helps if you decide to self-publish either POD or eBooks. The larger the platform, the more potential sales.

A starting point.

Now, along that same subject line, here's an item of interest. I just discovered the "fan page" on Facebook. This is one item you can do in short order that will get you started in the platform-building mode or expand your current efforts. The screenshot above is of the page I created. Here's the LINK. I hope you will visit it and "LIKE" me. I just posted this last night and I already have 32 Likers. Thanks for that.

It was fairly simple to create, and the great thing is that it costs absolutely NOTHING! So, I'm all for passing those freebies along to my dear reading writers. The site where you can do this is called WIX.COM. They offer a great variety of templates you can start with. You'll just need to find something that works for you and start building it from there.

Use your creativity (I know you have tons of that) and get going on it. And send me a link when you finish. I'll visit you and "LIKE" you while I'm there. And that's how you start building your platform.
Have fun.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ask the Agent Interview . . .

As scheduled, we are meeting today with Joyce Holland, an Associate Agent at D4EO.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Joyce. There’s a lot going on in the industry right now and we’ve got a lot of areas to address. I have a few questions that my readers have proposed, so let’s begin, shall we?

Q. First off, what made you decide to become a literary agent, and how did you get started?

I help run an annual writer’s conference in Destin, Florida each year. I invite editors and agents from all over the country. One of the editors I invited kept in touch with me over the years.

When she quit editing and decided to become a literary agent, I did some reading for her. I had been a reader for a magazine for years, so it was old hat to me. When she decided to resign from that position she recommended me as her replacement, and after a trial run, I was an associate agent. That was two years ago.

Q. Why would a writer seek out an agent? In other words, what does the agent actually bring to the table?

In the case of D4EO Literary, lots of experience. Bob Diforio has been in the industry for decades and his contacts are impossible to count. When it comes to contracts, I believe you need an agent. Check out

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I wake up every morning believing today will be the day I find that jewel in the slush pile. Somewhere out there is a gifted writer who will absolutely thrill audiences, and I’m going to find him/her.

Q. What’s your least favorite thing?

You mean genre? I am sick of vampires, witches, and wizards. They may still be selling but I don’t want to read them.

Let’s talk about the bigger picture for a moment. The publishing industry as a whole. Obviously, ebooks have changed traditional publishing, and digital publishing has had a significant financial impact. Estimates indicate that ebook sales will exceed $1 billion in 2011.

Q. As an agent, what effect has digital publishing had on your job?

I think the future is in ebooks. Speaking for myself, it’s the only way I read now. So I think when you approach an agent you should tell them you are willing to go that route. I will always try print first, but the ebook market is moving up fast.

Q. If a writer decides to publish their work as an ebook, does that prevent them from ever having it published as a printed version? In other words, would an agent ever make an offer of representation on a previously published work?

It doesn’t prevent them, but personally, I wouldn’t be interested in a book that has already been epublished. Now tell me you sold ten thousand copies of your ebook and we might talk. But as you know, I don’t speak for all agents.

Ok, let’s get back to traditional publishing and what’s going on there.

Q. Are agents requesting as many fulls and partials as they once were?

I request very few. Actually, I prefer authors send me a one-page synopsis in the body of their email, along with the first chapter, and I want them to attach the entire book as a Word file. I can make a decision based on the synopsis and first chapter. If I love it I don’t want to have to send for it, I want it there, now. This saves us both time. By the way, please tell your readers to always include the ending in the synopsis. You won’t believe how many people say…if you want to know what happens, read my book. An instant reject will follow that approach.

Q. So how would a writer impress you? What makes a query letter stand out?

Start with your hook. Unless I love your idea, I don’t care how you came to write the book and who in your family liked it. This is a business. If you hook me with a blurb I can’t resist, I will want to know all about you. I suggest a subject line on top that has the title, genre, and word length. Then lay out your hook. Include your credentials at the end.

Q. What genres to you handle, and which is your favorite?

I love thrillers best, then mild sci-fi, romance, horror, memoirs, true crime, and non-fiction that teaches something new and exciting.

Q. When an agent replies 'this is not what we are looking for right now', what does that really mean?

One of two things. They mean it, or they don’t like it. LOL

Q. Are you accepting query letters now?

I’m closed to submissions until the end of September.

Ok, readers. Mark your calendars and get your queries and synopses ready to send out.

Q. If you could open an email and discover the Query of Your Dreams, what would it say?

I’ll give you an example of a query I fell in love with. The query was for a book called A Little Primitive and this is how the letter began:

Few people know that Lewis and Clark, the intrepid 19th century explorers, recorded testimony about tiny Indians living in the western wilderness. That odd snippet of history bugged me and soon evolved into a 95,000-word thriller called, A Little Primitive. Set in contemporary Wyoming, it features a host of odd characters, one of whom is a very strong female, and another who...well, just isn't very big.

After moving to a remote cabin, Tori Lanier merely wants to write her second novel in peace. That's when she discovers a two-foot tall Indian lying in a pool of blood beneath her house. While nursing him back to health she learns of a hidden treasure and prehistoric cave paintings. They form a tenuous alliance and the hunt is on. Meanwhile, trouble arrives in the guise of a redneck ex-con, an academic n'er do well, a dealer in phony Indian artifacts, and a cowboy grocer, to name a few. Oh, and Tori's abusive ex-husband, who wants to kill her.

Who could resist A Little Primitive?

You've given us something to aim at, Joyce. And be prepared. We have a lot of really great writers in our family here, so you might be getting that magical query sometime after September.

We certainly want to thank you for taking the time to grant us the interview. It’s very generous.

Q. In closing, do you have any words of advice for aspiring authors?

Yes, never give up. I read this advice in a magazine years ago and don’t know who to credit for it, but I repeat it at every conference. ‘If you can’t keep your kitty litter lined with rejection slips, you aren’t sending stuff out enough.’