Great Stuff for Writers, March 2-4, 2013

I hope you’re enjoying Great Stuff’s new home. I had a bit of a scare with it on Friday (web site launches are always a bit fraught anyway, so I shouldn’t have been surprised) but all ended well. There’s still more to do with the site but at least we’re up and running.

Today’s Great Stuff is full to overflowing, so I won’t hold you up any longer. Dive in!


You might not think that writing and lawyering have much in common (we’ll not get all snarky here), but lawyer and published novelist Tara Conklin (@TEConklin) makes the case for the commonalities—or case-preparation techniques—you can use to write more effectively in Write Like a Lawyer: 5 Tips for Fiction Writers. A few examples: create a timeline, interrogate your characters, and use only persuasive facts.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) advises writers to Put Your Stamp On Everything You Write. Okay, so STAMP is an example of that hoary old technique of an acronym as mnemonic (say that three times fast) for Self, Training, Audacity, Moments, and Passion, the ingredients you should be putting into what you write, but when was the last time you saw those particular elements phrased just that way? Check it out: if STAMP resonates with you, you’re on your way to better writing.

You could think of Incidents and Happenings: Scenes That Aren’t Actually Scenes as part 13 of KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) recently-completed 12-part series on scenes and sequels. If you did, you wouldn’t be far off, as Katie herself acknowledges. But incidents and happenings don’t have the goals, conflicts, or disasters of regular scenes, so they don’t quite fit the mold… and yet, they may be just as necessary to advancing the story as scenes and sequels are. Hop on over to Katie’s WORDplay blog to learn what they are, how they differ from each other, and what roles they play in stories.

Dr. John Yeoman (@Yeomanis) suggests three ways to Win More Readers with a Powerful Close on Write to Done. None of these techniques—deliberate ambiguity, the unexpected twist, and echoing the beginning—are new but done well, each can be quite effective. Take a look at his examples and you’ll see what I mean.

Stuart Horwitz (@Book_Arch) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog with If You Struggle With Plot, Here’s How to Think About It Differently. His idea is to initially ignore plot altogether, no matter whether you write work that is more “plot-driven” or “character-driven” (which are somewhat arbitrary concepts anyway). Instead, scratch out a first draft, then look for the “series” (think threads, maybe) that show up repeatedly throughout the draft. Identify and develop them. Hmmm. Well, it’s a technique. Maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t. If not, no biggie. If yes, great!

Jael McHenry’s (@jaelmchenry) Choose Wisely: Metaphors in Character addresses one of those subtle things that, done right, can bring a character to life (or done wrong, will be as obvious as a kangaroo on an ice floe). The idea is simple: what metaphors (or similes) a character uses—in other words, how she expresses comparisons—should reveal her past life and experiences, and hence her character.


Sometimes it’s really important to get the terminology right. When Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) writes about How to Get a Terrific Professional Headshot on the Books & Such Literary Agency blog, she is NOT talking about hiring a professional assassin! (At least, I don’t think so.) She is talking about getting a professional photo, for places like your blog (ahem), your book jacket, your promotional material, your… you get the point. Perhaps the most important one is to not go cheap: like with a book cover, your picture is important for your professional image, and you don’t want it to be amateurish or look like the photo on your driver’s license!

In a separate post on Author Rights and Responsibilities, Rachelle lists and dozen pairs for the traditionally published author, or one seeking traditional publication: one responsibility with each right. The unspoken point underlying the whole post is that your responsibilities do not end once you’ve signed with an agent or even with a publisher. You must remain actively engaged, no matter how uncomfortable that might be for you. Passivity is unacceptable.

Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) Best Business Advice for Writers: February 2013 is so chock-full of stuff that it could be a column like this all by itself. There are articles on social media, Amazon, contracts, effective book events, and more—a dozen in all. Scan through, see what interests you, then follow Jane’s links out to the full articles.

LynDee Walker (@LynDeeWalker) broke the rules. No, she broke just one, carefully, with forethought, and no doubt with fingers crossed too. That “rule” was “never reply to a rejection letter.” In Querying? Think outside the box to get noticed, she explains what she did and how she did it, and how doing so landed her the book contract she’d up until then failed to get. As with so many other “rules” of writing, knowing when and how to break one, and why you’re doing so, can be the ticket to success.

In a related post, James Duncan, manager and editor of Hobo Camp Review, discusses Submission Letters: How Much Is Too Much? at some length. (No pun intended.) He covers both how to make a positive connection with the editor(s) you’re submitting to and some things to include or not include in your bio.

I’ve reported Victoria Strauss’s (@victoriastrauss) posts on Writer Beware® about Author Solutions. Now, in Law Firm Investigates Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), she names the New York firm and provides a link to their contact form. They’re looking for authors who believe they’ve been victims of various deceptive practices by ASI. Note that Strauss is not aware of any lawsuit having been filed. It appears to her this is a preliminary investigation only. Still, if you’ve dealt with ASI and aren’t happy with the results, you might want to check this post out.


If you’re one of those would-be/wannabe/wish-you-could-be writers, Lisa Velthouse’s (@lisavelthouse) How to Get Started Writing: Hamster Wheels and Hurdles may be for you. Her prescription is pretty simple: don’t worry about all the things you’re “supposed” to do just yet; just sit down and start. Easier said than done? It doesn’t have to be. That’s where every one of us who writes started, truth be told.

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