Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writers Circles and Readers – Valuable Comments

Last week I blogged about the need for writers circles and readers.  We all need feedback from others, because nobody can objectively read their own material.  As promised, this week’s blog shares some of the valuable comments I’ve received.
Projects 1, We Can Give Our Grandchild a Better World – The Next Golden Age: Diedre and I exchanged reviews of each other’s Proposal Packages.  I definitely received more than I gave in this deal.  First, she suggested that I add a list of endorsements (not the full endorsements) of my book and a list or description of potential follow up books. The endorsements say someone thinks your work is worth publishing, and the follow up books say there is potential for additional money to be made.  Her comments on my Overview and Sample Chapters gave me new perspectives of different generation, gender, geography, and social/political viewpoints.  These perspectives will help me re-edit my work to eliminate at least a few inadvertent offensive statements.  Note: this is a currents events book, so it will have a sufficient population of intentionally controversial ideas.  I don’t need unintentional discord.
Project 2, Sammy the Sock: This children’s book has received the widest review of my projects.  Some of my kids and grandkids read it… and liked it.  That told me I wasn’t totally off base. The children’s librarian at our local library was kind enough to read it.  She also liked the story, especially the surprise ending.  Great, a professional says it has merit and the “gimmick” worked.  She recommended working on some of the dialogue that seemed stilted to her.  Diedre took the time to give it a quick read, pointing out some areas where the tenses were ambiguous or confusing.  Finally, I’ve sent it to a professional editor. She  recommended adding more depth to the story by giving the main character deeper inner motivation.  I pulled off a "two-fer" by adding more dialogue for the main character, which also enabled the character tell more of the story.
Project 3, The Princess and the Blacksmith’s Son: a short story about a dragon, a princess, and the hero that rescues her. (Yes, I have too many projects, but this one is now on the back burner until the above two are in the query stage).  Through our writers club I was able to find two experienced writers willing to critique the project.  They returned 12 pages of comments on my 20-page short story.  I’ll spare you the details.  What I found most interesting was that their comments were very different.  One addressed more structural improvements, while the other emphasized improving character (and therefore story) details. The good news: both considered the project salvageable and worth salvaging, but needing a total rewrite.
Last thought, from The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, “After you’ve sucked all the advice you can out of your readers, and made your edits, take the time to read your manuscript to yourself out loud.  That’s right, your whole manuscript.  Out loud. You’ll be surprised to discover how you’re suddenly able to hear sentences or passages that sound awkward.”
Good luck and happy editing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction

A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, 225 pages, by Elizabeth Lyon is another reference book that I have tabbed, dog-eared, and highlighted. It really resonates with my engineer’s (left) brain, and may be even more useful tocreative right-brain writers.  About 75% of it discusses the mechanics and provides examples of how to organize and write a nonfiction book.  The balance covers marketing and, “What’s next.”   There are many books on basic composition, how to write good sentences and paragraphs; and books for the fiction writer on creating plots and developing characters. This book guides the nonfiction writer on the path of organizing their sentences and paragraphs into cohesive ideas and concepts.  The following chapters are excellent examples:
·         1 - “What Do I Want to Say?” discusses purpose, promise, and making a difference.  This chapter turns your nebulous idea into a concrete mission.
·          5 – “How Do I Begin?” Every journey begins with a single step, and that step is often the hardest. This chapter provides 15 types of lead sentences that can be used individually or in combination to set the tone of your book and start you (and the reader) on a fulfilling journey.
·         6 – “How Do I Develop the Middle?” This chapter discusses 11 methods of organization you can use to maintain the momentum and clarity of your lead.
·         8 through 11- “Writing About… People,...Ideas, …Things,…Places” respectively, provide approaches unique to writing about these subjects.
One of this book's key strengths is that you can find, study, and apply the sections that align with your project and skip or browse the others.  If you have an idea or have started a book or essay but are having difficulty getting traction and making progress, this book may be the answer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writers Circles and Readers

One of the first recommendations I received from an experienced writer was to join a good writers group and a writers circle.  Let me define a writers circle as writers working in similar genres who read and critique each others' work.  Because nobody can objectively read their own material, we all need feedback from others.  What comprises a good writers circle?  First of all, they should be the best writers you can connect with. This is tough if you’re a rookie like me, because what’s in it for the seasoned writers?   What do you bring to the table to help them?  Second, if you are expecting to sell your work, the circle members need to provide solid critiques.  My first mentor cautioned against groups that are mutual admiration societies.  They don't improve your work. Third, the group members have to be interested in helping each other, not stroking their own egos by being overly critical.  There are plenty of other ways to get discouraged on the long slog from inspiration to publication. 
If you are not fortunate enough to be in a good writers circle, you have to put in some extra effort to find readers.  It may be necessary to hire professionals. Here are some readers I’ve been able to enlist: people from or through our writers group, i.e. my first mentor and Deidre; the children’s librarian at our local library; a professional editor, for a fee; my children and grandchildren, admittedly not objective; a friend’s son who is about to graduate with a major in English.  I’ve had different mixes of these folks for my various projects.  Contrary to advice from Henry Miller - work on one project until it’s completed - I work on one draft of a project then let it age a bit.  The idea is to return with a fresh set of eyes, thus improving my own objectivity.
Next week I’ll discuss my various projects and who has provided what type of feedback for them. Confession, I’m short on time this week due to a hobby.  My Mustang car club is hosting its 32nd Annual Spring Show & Shine on Sunday, and as co-chair I have a myriad of last minute details… and a car to prep. 
p.s. This week’s book review: A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Memoir is #5 on Amazon's BestSeller List! Free Today!

My book Saving Mary:The Possession hit the  #5 spot in the memoir category--due to my giveaway--in fact my book is still FREE TODAY AND TOMORROW!  


If you want to download a free copy go here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write

How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write, A Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Writer, 293 pages, by Skip Press - the title and subtitle say it all. Per the front flap, “Get advice from a pro…celebrated screenwriter, author, and editor Skip Press makes himself your personal source for the practical, real-world advice you need to build a successful professional writing career.”  This is an excellent book for anyone on the fence about writing, or just starting a writing career.  It covers the entire spectrum of writing: fiction, non-fiction, newspaper articles, novels, and screenplays; and the entire process from starting your career through publishing your great American novel.  It also includes a good discussion on the business of writing.  Press does his best to keep you from being a starving artist.  I believe this book enabled me to start asking the right questions early on, which is the first step in getting good advice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Free Summer Reading!

After working hard to upload my book Saving Mary to Amazon (the story of how I went and got myself possessed during a transcendental meditation session) and fixing html code, I’m glad to say I’m done and the book is up. By the way, if you plan on publishing an ebook, be sure to delete all code from your manuscript and then re-add what you need. I had weird things go on because of old code (at least I think this was the reason). The weirdest one: the word “paper” was changed to “papier” (French for paper). Other weird things included commas showing up in strange places. But at least the book is done, and with that being said, for all those who like free things…today my book is free!

Just go HERE and download a free copy onto your kindle. If you don’t have a kindle you can go HERE and download an app that will allow you to read a kindle book on your computer, phone, tablet or Ipad. So far, this morning, I’ve given away 45 free books.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Join a Writers Club?

As I’ve posted before, Deidre and I belong to a writers club that is billed as a screenwriters club, but is attended by a variety of writers (genres).   I believe the broad popularity of the club can be attributed to three things: 1) Writers of various genres have much in common; 2) Our discussion leaders provide high quality information, and all share something of value at the meetings; 3) The experienced writers provide both information and inspiration.  Let me expand on these three thoughts.
1-      The writers in the club include (but not limited to) a couple of actual screenwriters, several YA Sci-Fi authors, some folks working on children’s books and stories, at least one award-winning poet, a few non-fiction folks, and at least two production people (editor, book doctor, micro-publisher).  Whatever our genres, we need to capture the reader’s attention quickly, keep them interested, and bring the piece to some worthy conclusion.  To do this, we need to craft our thoughts and images, then edit, and edit some more.  When we’ve polished our piece to a brilliant product, we need to market it, which is an entire process of its own.
2-      Our club’s leader/president does an excellent job of organizing the topic of discussion each month. Often times he’s the presenter but not always. Last month we learned about pitching (see last week’s blog).  This month we discussed character development and how it moves and energizes our stories.  (Note: for non-fiction, I think there is a parallel between fictional characters and non-fictional ideas or theories.)  The main discussion topics generate spin-off topics and comments by all, adding to the fun and value. 
3-      We have several successful writers and authors who provide firsthand insight into what has worked and not worked for them. Most importantly they inspire the rest of us by demonstrating that there is a light at the end of the curved tunnel.  I always leave our monthly meetings with renewed energy and determination.
If you are not a member of at least one writers group, and live is better than on-line, I highly recommend joining one that supports your creative and emotional goals.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: The Essential Guide to Geting Your Book Published

While Deidre is busy marketing her book, I’ll provide one brief book review per week.   In my first blog, Pitching, I quoted from The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, 481 pages, previously published as Putting Your Passion into Print.  Both authors have been employed at multiple functions in the book world including author, agent, and editor so they speak from first hand knowledge. The original book was written as a one-stop-shop for selling your book, and the revision added extensive information on e-books and social media. It covers the details of all the steps from query letter through selling your next idea, including: proposals (fiction and nonfiction), enticing agents, working with editors and other team members, obtaining a favorable contract, and marketing your book.  My copy is dog-eared, tabbed, and highlighted.  I was surprised at how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know, or rather how much of the book business works differently than I would have expected.  Contrary to the cliché, what you don’t know can bite you.  If you are thinking of writing a book, or you’ve written one and think you are ready to sell it, The Essential Guide… will give you give you the information you need to see your book on the bookstore shelf.

Manuscript Critique on Ebay

Didn't want anyone to miss out on The Hunger Mountain Auction where you bid on getting your manuscript critiqued by agents and established writers. Check it out HERE

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Deidre and I belong to one of the local writers clubs.  Officially it’s a screen writers club, but in reality the members are a mix, covering genres from non-fiction to poetry, including a couple of actual screen writers for legitimacy. We find that we have more in common as writers than we have differences (digression: in our world of bipolar politics when we get down to the basics, don’t we all have more in common than we have differences? – I think I’ll blog that on my blog.)

To prepare us for the summer conference season, April’s Writers Club topic was “Pitching” presented by Karen Fisher-Alaniz, Breaking the Code – a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question that Changed Everything (now in its second printing).  The subtitle was the basis for Karen’s successful Pitch which she used to sell her book at a writer’s conference.  In this era of electronic communication we need to remember the power of face-to-face communication.  The following are the key points from her presentation:
·         Do your research on which agents will be at the conference or other event you are attending.  Know as much as you can about the agents themselves and the books (authors) they have represented.  This applies to editors and publishers as well.
·         Hone your one or two sentence "elevator pitch" and your long (30 to 60 second) pitch.  Practice on everyone, see what works. 
·         Be prepared for success.  If your pitch catches their interest, and they ask, “So tell me more about this book?”  What is your answer?
·         Plan A may not work.  Karen “sold” her book to an agent suggested by a third party at the conference, not to her primary target.  I remember reading a quote, “Plan A never works.”  This is not an excuse to skip the first bullet; research pays dividends.
From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Arielle Eckstrut and David Henry Sterry, “The first time you announce to anyone that you’re going to write a book, there’s an excellent chance their response will be ‘What’s your book about?’  When you approach an agent, you will have to explain what your book is about…”   I've found that pitching my book to friends and acquaintances is great practice.  These are opportunities to polish the pitch, to test what gets their attention and what doesn’t.   Sooner or later we’ll be pitching to someone with connections, and it might happen when we least expect it.
One further thought, not every book appeals to every person.  There are 300 million Americans, 7 billion world citizens.  You only have to sell your book to a small fraction of them to be successful.  For my (draft) book, We Can Give Our Grandchildren a Better World, there are 85 million grandparents in the U.S. and over 100 million in North America. When people ask me what my book is about, I often get an enthusiastic, “Cool, when will it be out?  I’d like to buy it.”  Other times I get a yawn.  The latter is a bit of a cold shower.  Then I remind myself: a) what did I learn, and b) if I can sell my book to just one percent of those 100 million, it will be a million seller! 

What’s your experience with pitching to family, friends, and influential people?  We’d like to hear from you.

Friday, May 4, 2012

If Something Can Go Wrong (with Amazon) It Will

Working with Amazon is kind of like working with a very intelligent monkey who lives on the back of a giant elephant. You yell up to the monkey… "I want to publish my great book!" Then the elephant’s trunk comes swinging down and you quickly upload your awesome book into its curled and warm trunk. Normally the elephant drops the book into the monkey’s hands (paws?) and then the monkey sticks it onto a virtual book shelf up in the world of the internet. BUT…and here’s the catch, sometimes when the elephant uploads your book, he drops it and then scrambles to pick it up–swishing it around with his thick trunk. When your fab book finally gets to the monkey, sometime later, a few pages within it have been crumpled, but the monkey doesn’t notice because that is simply not her job (it’s my job), and so she plops my now not so perfect work into its place on Amazon’s virtual bookshelf–crumples and all.

Somehow, when my book uploaded it crumpled. What I mean is, the file became corrupted in the loading process, scrambling a few capitals (only capitals were affected)…how strange is that? When I noticed the weirdness (which was quite a while back) I let my publisher know and she began the process of whatever gets done to fix a messed-up file. Then she uploaded the new file to Amazon again, but for some reason that elephant just hung onto the book–he wouldn’t pass it to the monkey. In fact, he’s still holding onto the file as I write this! Of course I’ve contacted Amazon, and an email from the monkey said, my file is stuck and  the situation was being looked into, and she’s very sorry for the inconvenience.

So, with all this going on, what can we learn? (Besides working with large conglomerations and intelligent little monkeys isn’t easy). I guess I’ve learned this: publishing is difficult! And in this world of doing things faster, I have to remember to go slower, making sure all my i’s are dotted…and my capitals are still capitalized.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Alliance for Self-Pubs!

Before our guest blogger for the month of May (Chris Wollam) introduces himself (and gives me a much-needed break), I wanted to mention--for those who are self-published authors--that a new alliance has been formed just for us--I'm feeling the love!

Check out the AIA here

Mission: The Alliance of Independent Authors is a global, nonprofit, collaborative collective of independent self-publishing writers. We invite such writers to join together in a spirit of mutual co-operation, empowerment and service to the reading and writing community. 

Now, I'll leave you in the hands of Chris while I lie back and cruise the internet (I just love a good staycation)...

A little bit about me. 
-          Born & raised in Washington State
-          Two year “vacation” at Ft. Bragg N.C. (U.S. Army) drew a long straw and literally dodged the bullet of Viet Nam
-          College, all over Washington State, finally graduated EWSC (now EWU) ’76, GO Eagles! Then two years at Ohio Sate U, ’78, GO Bucks!
-          30+ years as an engineer
-          Now semi-retired aspiring author.

What am I working on?  My main project is non-fiction. Here’s the “elevator pitch” We Can Give Our Grandchildren a Better World is the antidote for the attitude that the Baby Boomers are the last generation who can expect to live better than their parents.  This is a scary attitude that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we let it.  Just as our grandparents gave us a better world than they received, we can pass along a better country and better world to our Grandkids.  But can is not the same as will; it takes hard work.  Grandchildren’s Future shares why we should be optimistic, and what we have to do to get there.  

I started my book as a labor of love.  I was tired of hearing and reading pundits and columnists complain that boomers are the last generation to live better than their parents.  This whine has been around for at least 20 years and it scares me to think that if too many believe it, it will become true - no team ever won a game they expected to lose.  So I set out to write a Rah-Rah book that “Called BS on the negativity.” After completing the Competition section for my Proposal Package, I realized it has a good chance at commercial success, i.e. I believe the niche is there, if I can: sell the message, produce quality writing and editing, create the right pitch, and find a little fairy dust.   Additionally, when I was laid off /retired and became a full-time aspiring writer, I found that it is really fun to try to craft words into something worth reading.  The acid test: is the piece good enough to pay money for?  Stephen King said (paraphrased), "you can call yourself a writer if someone wrote you a check for something you wrote.  Then you actually cashed the check and paid the light bill with it.Deidre is a writer; I’m an aspiring writer.

Deidre has shared many ides for gaining a following, most of which involve social media.  For starters I’m on facebook and have a blog:  [blatant commercial message, Please visit my blog].

‘Nuf about me.  Future blogs will talk about the talents of some of the other folks in our writers’ group, their wisdom and experiences, and some of the books I’ve read on the business of being a writer.