Back to School?

by Steve Laube

Depending on where you live and your school district policies you may already be in a back-to-school mode or preparing for it.

It got me to thinking about the need for all writers to always have a “back to school” mentality.

Here are six things we can learn from always going “back to school.”

  1. Anticipation. The joyful feeling that something great is going to happen.
  2. Dread. The accompanying feeling that something awful is going to happen.
  3. Fun. Put the first two together and you have an adventure.
  4. Learn. The desire to learn something new. Terry Whalin reads a new book on the craft of writing or the publishing business each month. That is an example for all writers.
  5. Growth. Growth happens over time and through much work and perseverance. Ronie Kendig spent eight years from the time she first began pursuing publication to the date her first novel was released. That is perseverance.
  6. Reward. There is never a “graduation” ceremony from the school of writing. It is a lifetime experience. But the rewards are great because words can change lives.

This Fall and next Spring I would encourage you to attend a writers conference. It can be like going back to school…but in a fun way (see #3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Responding to Criticism

When someone tells me she’s not sure she wants me to read her manuscript, I know she’s not ready for publication. Such sentiment shows a lack of confidence and a fear of both rejection and criticism. Even though readers usually treat writers with respect, a critical word can puncture the heart.

Imagine the wounds delivered on Internet sites such as Amazon from readers who lack that respect. A major complaint I hear from distraught authors is that people download free Christian novels and then post hostile reviews. A cursory bit of research reveals some say they felt duped because they didn’t realize they were downloading a Christian novel. It is likely they just grabbed it because it was free and did not look at other reviews or the book’s description. These readers aren’t victims of duplicity, they were, at the very least, lazy and then blamed others when the book wasn’t to their taste. Unfortunately the temptation is for the author to strike back with a serrated reply.

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Show or Tell: How Do You Know?

As we discussed last week, it’s okay to tell at times, but in fiction you want to show the important, emotion-laden scenes. That way the reader gets the vicarious experience along with the character. So how do you know when you’re telling rather than showing? Here are a few tips:

Beware the dreaded –ly adverbs.

“Get out of my novel, you –ly adverbs!” Alice said angrily.

Ah-ah-ah! Any time you use an –ly adverb (angrily, happily, stupidly, etc), you’re telling us what the emotion is rather than showing it. Instead, show the emotion, whatever it may be, through actions or punctuation. In the example above, the exclamation point tells us Alice is being vehement, but it’s not clear if she’s angry or frightened.

Alice stared at the page of her novel, her blood pressuring rising. Thirty-two! Thirty-two –ly adverbs on one page! What was wrong with her? “Auughh!” Her cry still echoing around her, she grabbed the page, crumpled it into a compact ball, and pitched it, as hard as she could, against the wall.

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News You Can Use

Pretend You Are on an Airplane – an excellent article on how to be more productive in your work day.

How to Handle Criticism – This is the bane of a writer’s existence. So how do you handle it when others criticize?

How Not to Write a Book Review – Three golden rules for those who review books.

Before You Send Another E-mail – Read this post by Seth Godin. For example: “If this e-mail were to cost me 42 cents, would I send it?”

Are You a Perfectionist Writer? – Jeff Goins has some quality advice about perfectionism.

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The Greatest Book (Ever) on Sales & Marketing

by Jim Rubart

Today’s guest post is from Jim Rubart. He and I first met at the Mt. Hermon writers conference where I infamously rejected him (see #10). A bit about Jim. Since 1994, Jim has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel Rooms released in April 2010 and hit the bestseller list that September. His next novel, Book of Days released in January. He’s also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world’s most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn’t sleep much. Visit his website at www.jimrubart.com.

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What’s the best book you’ve read on sales and marketing? I’m guessing that if you were to list your top five favorites,Green Eggs and Ham probably wouldn’t be in the mix.

But it should be.

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Tag, You’re It!

One of the most common habits I see burdening stories is overemphasis on conversational tags, which goes hand in hand with not making good use of action tags. Here’s an example I just made up:

“No,” she exclaimed. She looked at the the pot of stew bubbling the stove and saw red juice splattering. She began to stir.

Unable to resist multitasking, I demonstrated several bad habits in the above sample of poor writing.

First, punctuation. When a character exclaims, use an exclamation point.

“No!”

“She exclaimed” adds no new information unless you need to designate a character from several so in almost every case, omit it. Same can be said for tags such as “said” and “asked.” In fact, “asked” accomplishes nothing because the question mark says it all.

Any tag should reflect what the character is saying. “He’s a slippery snake,” she hissed, trumps, “What a viper,” she hissed. If in doubt, entertain the office cat. Read sentences aloud to make sure the tag works.

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Show, Don’t Tell

I’m From Missouri—SHOW me!

Okay, truth be told, I’m from Oregon. But in the 30 years I’ve been editing fiction, I’ve discovered a number of issues almost all writers face, regardless of how much they’ve written or been published. If I had to pick the top issue I see over and over, it would be Show, Don’t Tell.

What, you may ask, does that mean? It’s actually pretty simple. It’s the difference between telling us what someone is feeling, and letting us see it for ourselves through dialogue, action, and body language. For example:

Jack was so angry he could kill.

That, my friends, is telling. But…

Heat filled Jack’s face, his chest, his blood. His fingers tightened on the gun. Nobody did this to him. Nobody. His finger caressed the trigger, and he smiled. The fools thought they’d taught him a lesson, but they’d see they were wrong. They’d see it all right…just before they died.

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News You Can Use

45 Ways to Blog as a Novelist – Do you have blogger’s block? Here are some great tips for finding stuff to blog about.

Why You Are Receiving Rejections – Nathan Bransford weighs in and is both simple and profound.

Read Your Old Tweets – If you are an aggressive tweeter you’re stymied if you want to review your archives. The linked tool is an amazing way to pull them all into one document for your review. If you use Twitter like a diary it creates a timeline of your life.

What Should You Podcast About? – If you are thinking about adding a podcast to your marketing efforts read this article.

Find the Right Writers Group for You – A short article and a video from Joanna Penn. If you want to find out the Christian Writer’s groups in your area contact Reg Forder at American Christian Writers or ACFW (www.acfw.com).

iPhone app for 1500 Classic Books – A cool free app from Penguin Classics. Annotated descriptions of all 1500 titles in their collection and 65 quizzes for specific titles in the series.

Get the ESV Bible for Free – The English Standard Version is available for free in nearly every digital platform possible…for free.

The Ultimate Guide to Emoticons – Found at ChurchMag.com which is a really interesting place to visit.

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