News You Can Use – June 5, 2012

Six Tough Truths About Self-Publishing (That the Advocates Never Seem to Talk About) – Rob Hart writes an insightful and cautionary tale.

22 Rules of Story Telling According to Pixar – This is an excellent article for every novelist to read.

10 Great Science Fiction Novels for People Who Don’t Read Sci-Fi – I have to say that I agree with only four of their choices. Such is the nature of reading and recommending fiction! (Of the 10 I would choose Card, Bester, Shelley, and Herbert.)

Are Books Becoming too Long to Read? – A stimulating article that makes you think twice about the length of your books. I do see a trend in NON-fiction toward shorter books. Fiction is still a matter of taste and storytelling ability.

How Fast Do You Read? – Staples.com provides a quick little test including a comprehension quiz at the end. How fast are you?

A Summertime graphic for you to enjoy:

 

Read More

Are You High Maintenance?

by Steve Laube

Last week I was asked to define what is meant when an author is deemed “high maintenance” by an agent or a publisher. The more I thought about this the more I realized how difficult it is to quantify. Any attempt to do so is fraught with potential misunderstanding because most people are looking for specific rules to follow.

Normally “high maintenance” is a description of someone who is difficult to work with or is constantly in need of attention. It can be anyone from a “diva” to a “rookie.” The best way to express the issue is in the following word picture:

When you contract with an agent or a publisher you are granted a large measure of “Good Will” in the form of a bag of gold coins. You are free to spend these coins however you wish during the course of the business relationship. The cover design is completely wrong? Spend some coins. The marketing plan appears weak. Spend some coins. And as time goes by and positive things happen you receive more gold coins for your bag.

However, many authors make the mistake of spending their entire bag of coins the first time something goes wrong. And then the next time they need a favor or a special dispensation there isn’t any “Good Will” left.

I think there are three areas where these relationships can break down.

Read More

The Synopsis Tells the Tale

Because the synopsis is so critical to a proposal, I decided to write this spin-off of last week’s blog, “Keys to a Great Synopsis,”  in hopes of helping authors not only write more effective synopses, but to impart a bit about the fiction market, too.

When I read synopses from authors, much is revealed. For instance, I see:

Cozy mysteries that are meant to be romance.

Gothic plots presented as historical romances.

Women’s fiction that the author intended to be romance.

Mysteries masquerading as romantic suspense.

In the submissions I see, these are almost never flipped, so to my mind, this suggests the romance market in particular is one that many authors seek to understand, but don’t quite get. Hence the near-miss plots. I think this may be because the romance formula is strict and authors seek to offer readers something unique so without realizing it, they can stray into other genres. An eternal truth about romance novels is that editors and readers do want fresh plots. However, they also know that the romance story has set guidelines from which writers must not venture. Plots can hit the edges of the box but not punch holes. In my view, what the author must understand about the Christian romance reader is that she seeks to be assured that even in our coarse culture, a godly woman unwilling to compromise her faith and the accompanying physical and spiritual virtues can find a Christian man to love her forever.

Read More

A Time to Share

 I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’d like to do some mini workshops on this blog. Now, I have a boatload of topics I could teach on. After all, I’ve taught or keynoted at writers’ conferences all over the country for the last 30 years. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to teach just another workshop. I want to help you with the issues you’re facing in your writing. So here’s your chance to open up and share.

What struggles or questions are bugging you the most? Is there some element of the craft that you’re arm-wrestling lately? Or is finding and maintaining creativity your bugaboo? Are you losing sleep wondering about proper etiquette at writers’ conferences or trade shows? Whatever you most need as a writer, share that here. I’ll gather the responses and put together workshops to help you figure it out.

Sound good? Okay then.

Share!

Read More

News You Can Use – May 29, 2012

Self-Publishing: Under 10% Earn a Living – An article out of Australia makes a bold claim. I would claim, however, that only 10% of traditionally published writers earn a living too. Of course that depends on your definition of “a living.”

100 Best First Lines from Novels – In honor of the last two weeks where we talked about “first lines” I found this article from the American Book Review that chooses the top 100.

Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer – Jon Morrow extracts the best parts from King’s book on writing and then applies it to the blogger.

Six Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better – Linda Jay Geldens makes an excellent point. Never skip this step before putting your work out in the public.

The No-Tears Guide to Podcasting – There are many who say podcasting is an excellent way to extend your platform and engage your readers.

Two Excellent Articles about Commas: Their use and misuse – written by Ben Yagoda
Fanfare for the Comma Man
The Most Comma Mistakes

Read More

15 Latin Phrases Every Writer Should Know

15 Latin Phrases Every Writer Should Know

Persona Non Grata
“An unwelcome person” (lately defined by some as a literary agent) Habeas Corpus
“You have the body”  (The legal right to appear before a judge.) Cogito Ergo Sum
“I think, therefore I am.” For a writer it would be “Sribo ergo sum” E Pluribus Unum
“Out of many, one” Quid Pro Quo
“This for that” or in other words, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” Ad Hominem
“To the man” During an argument or discussion, when one party attacks their opponent’s reputation or expertise rather than sticking to the issue at hand. Soli Deo Gloria
“Glory to God alone” – a motto of the Reformation. Johann Sebastian Bach would sign his compositions with the initials S.D.G. Caveat Emptor
“Let the buyer beware” (before you use the “1-click” feature on Amazon.com) Memento Mori
“Remember your mortality” (also the name of an album by Flyleaf) Caveat Lector
“Let the reader beware”   (be nice to your reading audience!) Sui Generis
“Of its own kind,” or “Unique” – a key principle in copyright or intellectual property law Veni, vidi, vici
“I came, I saw, I conquered” – A message supposedly sent by Julius Caesar to the Roman Senate to describe a battle in 47 BC. For the writer? “Veni, vidi, scripsi” (I came, I saw, I wrote) Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
“For the Greater Glory of God” – see 1 Corinthians 10:31. Johann Sebastian Bach also used the initials A.M.D.G. Mea Culpa
“By my fault” – or in common language today, “My bad.” Pro Bono.
“Done without charge” – Incorrectly used by fans of U2.
Read More

Keys to a Great Synopsis

When I posted my ideas on some Keys to a Great Book Proposal, a few writers said they were challenged to write a synopsis. I agree that writing an interesting synopsis is difficult. However, it’s not an element you want to omit from your proposal because a synopsis orients the editor to the book’s contents. Here are my answers to often-asked questions:

1.) Do I need a chapter-by-chapter synopsis?

For fiction, no. I think I get this question a lot because years ago, a popular and respected editor I worked with asked for this type of synopsis. This is because some authors the editor worked with sometimes took liberties with the plot once they sat down to write the complete book. The book the editor received was different from the one contracted! Hence, this requirement. I got in the habit of writing this type of synopsis and found it helpful when I wrote my books. I knew exactly where I was going and why, as well as what my chapter cliffhangers would be. Working this way is a discipline that gave me confidence. I recommend that writers try this method at least once to see how they like it. But I don’t ask for this in a proposal because few fiction editors want to see a synopsis presented in this manner.

However, nonfiction proposals do need a chapter by chapter breakdown to explain what each chapter will contain. This is because often in nonfiction, chapters are loosely connected by a topic but can be read as separate entities. Readers may skip around with nonfiction books, gleaning information they need and discarding the rest. So this type of synopsis is helpful for nonfiction proposals. However, I do recommend summarizing the purpose and theme of the book in an overall description of a couple of paragraphs as well, then moving on to the individual chapter descriptions.

Read More