Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blog Spotlights #27: Anne R. Allen's Blog ...with Ruth Harris

Today I'd like to steer you towards another great blog (for those of you who aren't devoted followers already.) Head over to Anne R. Allen's Blog ...with Ruth Harris today and comb through the archives. I can't even begin to say how much helpful information and great insight I've found through reading this blog. Ms. Allen is a writer of comic mysteries and Ms. Harris is used to be an editor for one of the major publishing houses. Their blog has won numerous online awards. Ms. Allen is great to follow on Twitter, as well.

Some recent posts:
Is Your Author Website Working Against You? Top 10 Things to Avoid on your Author Site or Blog
7 Ways Authors Waste Time "Building Platform" on Social Media
10 Things Your Opening Chapter Should Do: A Check-List for Self-Editing
Writer Power: The Rebirth of the American Author
How NOT to Self-Publish: 12 Things for New Indies to Avoid
Top 10 Questions from New Writers: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions

And there's more. A lot more. Go check it out.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MASH - The Publishing Version Pt. 2

Welcome back! Ready for the second half of the fortune-telling game? If not, go back one post and prepare your fortune sheet.

For those who have a prepared sheet, here's what happens next:

That number you first selected and wrote in the top right hand corner? That is your fortune number. Say I picked number 4. Starting with the first box, I would count four slots and cross out the fourth one. Count down four, cross out the next fourth. Keep going over and over through the document. When all but one slot in the boxes have been crossed out, circle the surviving slot and skip that section as you count through the rest of the boxes. When all of your boxes have one slot circled, stop.

S  I  M  A  E

Now for the fun part: interpretation!

Box #1, the letters stand for:
Indie/Small Press
Major Publisher

Box #2 determines who your agent/agency will be. If the blank slot was circled, it means no agent.

Box #3 tells you how many query letters you'll end up sending.

Box #4 tells you how many months you'll spend querying.

Box #5, the letters stand for:
Single offer
Multiple offers
No offers

Box #6 tells you which publisher you'll end up with. If the blank slot was circled, it means no publisher.

Box #7 indicates what your advance will be. Just add a dollar sign.

Box #8 tells you which social media site will have your strongest word-of-mouth campaign regarding your book.

Box #9 indicates which city you'll start with on your first book tour.

Box #10 tells you where you'll sell foreign rights to first.

Box #11 tells you which object from your story will be the focal point of your cover.

Box #12 tells you what the main color of your book cover will be.

Box #13 is your book's average rating from readers.

Box #14 is the infamous ill-fortune rub. If you circled ...
#1 - You end up losing your editor for one who isn't as enthusiastic about your project.
#2 - You lose your agent and have to start the query search all over.
#3 - The movie made from your book tanks.
#4 - No one takes on your manuscript. Back to square one with a new manuscript. All other numbers and predictions are voided.
#5 - One of your fans starts stalking you.
#6 - Your publicity campaign is scrubbed.
#7 - You get a lot of bad reviews.
#8 - Your second book dive-bombs the success of your first one.
#9 - A bad cover.
#10 - You signed a bad contract that gives you few rights or say in the publishing process.

So - what did you come up with? Share your results in the comments section.

MASH - The Publishing Version Pt. 1

Hey queriers! I'll be starting up the Agency Prospects series again in September. Summer is a notorious slow down time for querying because agents are taking vacations and doing rounds at conferences.

So instead, for fun and to keep up the querying ambiance, I give you MASH - the Publishing Version. I don't know if girls today still play this game. Probably not, since it requires two archaic tools: paper and a pencil or pen. MASH (mansion, apartment, shack, house) is a fortune-telling game where you create lists to determine where you'll live, who you'll marry, your career, how many children you'll have, etc. I came up with a new version. Want to play?

1) Get a piece of paper or open up a new word processing document. Pick a number between 2 and 20. Write this number in the upper right hand corner of your paper.

2) Now you'll begin to make the fortune-telling 'boxes'. Your first section should have these letters:
S  I  M  A  E

3) Your next box should be numbered from 1-6. Write 5 agent or agency names down, leaving one slot blank. (The blank slot can be anywhere in the list.)

4) For the third box, list five numbers between 0-300

5) The fourth box should have five numbers between 1-36

6) The fifth box should have the letters:
S  M  N

7) The sixth box should be numbered from 1-6. Write the names of 5 publishers leaving one slot blank. (The blank slot can be anywhere in the list.)

8) The seventh box should have these numbers:

9) In the eighth box, list four social media sites.

10) In the ninth box, list five major cities.

11) In the tenth box, list five countries (other than your own.)

12) In the eleventh box, list 5 objects having to do with your story.

13) In the twelfth box, list 4 colors.

14) The thirteenth box should list the numbers 1-5.

15) The fourteenth box should be numbered from 1-10.

Come back this afternoon for Pt. 2 where we'll finish the game.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dangers of Blinding Ourselves

I was able to participate in a great object lesson this past weekend, something which I think also applies to the writing and publishing process.

Step 1:
Get two pieces of paper.

Step 2:
On the first paper write down all the positive, good things going on with your writing life.

Step 3:
Write down one recent instance when someone or something made you mad, hurt, frustrated, or depressed.

Now, here's the trick. Put the paper of positivity on your lap. Hold up the negative paper to your nose. Can you see the positive paper anymore?

It's human nature. One bad thing pushes away all of the positives going on in our lives. We nurse it, focus on it, and make it grow. And if not checked it can consume us.

Whether it's a negative review, lack of interest from agents or publishers, a mean critique from a beta reader, apathy from your writing group, or even that little internal voice that whispers horrible things about ourselves and our abilities - these are all like that second piece of paper. We hold it above everything else and become blinded.

So how do we get rid of it? It's not easy most of the time. The first part is recognizing there is a negative slip of paper duct taped to our faces. We need to replace it with the positive list. And in some cases, where it involves someone else, we need to let the offense slide past and forgive. Even if they never apologize or go on to hand out more offenses. If we don't, we're letting that negative person or experience control how happy we are.

How have you handled the metaphorical negative slip of paper and gotten rid of it? Are you still struggling with one? Or share some of the positive things from your first sheet of paper. Some of mine are:

People who love my writing and are clamoring for more.
I have great writing friends who beta read for me.
Looking at my writing five years ago compared to today, I see major growth.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Some of the Best Stories Are Still Unpublished

For members of the Speculative Fiction Group on Agent Query Connect, this week begins an annual ritual known as Marathon. Twelve intensive weeks of posting work and critiquing the work of others with the common goal of helping each other and getting fresh eyes to see past our personal blinders. (If anyone reading this writes speculative fiction and would like to join the group you can find out more information here. People can jump in and out of the Marathon at any time.)

I usually critique and I'll tell you why. Some of the best stories are still unpublished or works in progress. I think this is what I love best about diving into a writing community, the opportunity to read stories that the general public doesn't have access to, yet. My inner reader is tickled when I come across a manuscript that I fall in love with. At times I wish I were an agent or publisher so I could say, "Yes! This! This needs to be published!"

Of course, I sometimes run across not so good material, but I don't want to focus on that today.

Whether in a forum setting or even privately as a beta reader, it's a joy to work with someone else on their project, to help them out, and even better, to be touched by what they've written.

One of the down sides is loving someone else's story, eagerly rooting for them as they go into the query process, and then being just as baffled as they are when no one picks the story up. It's frustrating. This is a book you'd actually buy. (And for me, that's saying a lot.) This is a story you couldn't wait to tell everyone you knew about. Whether it had a fresh spin, or an original idea, maybe loveable characters, or a plot that kept you on your toes. It makes you wonder, why isn't it being snatched up?

I'm not the type of reader who gushes over every manuscript I read. I only buy books I know I'll read again. Of course, I have my subjective tastes, but I don't critique subjectively. Yet I love it when a story not only appeases the objective critic in me but also excites the subjective reader at the same time. There are many talented writers out there, promising manuscripts at different stages of development, and so many styles to sample.

I'm excited for this year's Marathon. I know the writers who are participating have been working hard on honing their craft. Of course, I hope that every manuscript will be stellar and something I'll enjoy. And I hope that they go on to be published. Realistically, some great ones will not. It'll sting for the author and it'll sting for me, a supportive party. The one consolation is that because I'm active in a writing community, I'll at least have read their story.

If you want to find some true gems that aren't on the shelves, become a beta reader.

Tell me your frustrations, as a beta reader or critique partner, regarding someone else's work that you love who is still unpublished. Tell about the success stories, too. Did you throw a little celebration? Spam social media sites on behalf of that writer? Please don't pitch someone else's story ideas in the comments.