Great Stuff for Writers, April 22, 2013

If you read nothing else this week, read Joel Friedlander’s piece on the destruction of the writing web site Publetariat down in the Technology section. Protecting your blog or web site needs to be high on your priority list because there are slimeballs out there who will destroy web sites just for the pleasure of destroying them. If you have a WordPress.org-based site, I point you to a resource that will help you keep your site safe.

In addition we have posts on picking titles, getting everything right in a story, ending it well, ebook publishing options and resources, going to writers’ conferences, writer’s courage, and the differences between Microsoft Word formats and why that matters to you.

CRAFT

Kris Montee, one of the sisters who write as PJ Parrish, has plenty of great advice about picking the title for your work. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. And When Titles Go Bad, sales tend to follow, if there are even sales in the first place. So while at the end of the piece she lists 10 things to do, I like this one (#10) best: write 20 candidate titles and let them sit for a week. When you come back, one will pop.

It must be titles week, because here’s another piece on Finding a Good Title, this one by Sophie Masson (@SophieMasson1). She provides only 4 tips, compared to Kris Montee’s 10, but they’re also good: titles can be simple but complex, poetic, or mysterious can work as well. Theme, atmosphere, setting, or characters can also provide the keys. Bottom line: keep your mind and mental ear open for that magic phrase.

Giving your story a satisfactory ending is one of the surest ways to bring your reader back for more. So how do you play The End Game well? Joe Moore (@JoeMoore_writer) provides a number of ideas: the protagonist gets what he wants, or doesn’t, or gets something different but better (or worse), or has done to him what he was trying to do to others. Or something entirely unexpected happens. Or something else entirely. Whatever you do, leave the reader satisfied.

Before the reader can be satisfied, the writer needs to be, but as Boyd Morrison (@boydmorrison) points out, Getting Everything Right Is Wrong. When it comes to self-satisfaction, there’s a time to let go of tweaking the micro-details that don’t improve the story.

BUSINESS

We all know—or we should know—that going to writers’ conferences can be valuable. But what about other kinds? In Get Thee to a Conference, Writer!, Jan Dunlap describes why she goes to what she calls “pre-writing conferences”—conferences that have to do with the interests and topics that form the backgrounds of her stories. These meetings provide not only the latest information on what’s happening in these fields but are also new marketing opportunities. Wins all around.

Last week James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) wrote about publishing options. One of the responses got him thinking about How to Make Money Self-Publishing Fiction. Using Earle Stanley Gardner as an example (although, of course, Gardner didn’t self-publish), Bell suggests writers treat their writing as (1) a job, (2) a craft, (3) a sacrifice, (4) a mad passion, (5) an adventure. Aren’t those contradictory? Not really: they’re components. And even if they were, isn’t contradiction what we writers deal in?

Looking for a one-stop shop for information on How to Publish an E-Book? Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has assembled a compendium of literally dozens of resources on getting started, marketing and promotion, tools, major retailers and distributors, and e-book bloggers. Keep in mind, as Jane notes, that the e-book world is changing constantly and what’s true today may not be six months from now.

TECHNOLOGY

This one’s for the geeks among us. In X Hits the Spot: Why .DOCX is Better than .DOC for Authors Using Word, Tracy R. Atkins (@TracyRAtkins) explains the important differences between Microsoft Word’s .docx format and the .doc format that preceded it. The short version: it’s FAR more than just one letter added to the end of the filename extension. And there are a lot more and better reasons than Microsoft wanting to make money by forcing us to buy a new software package.

If you have a web site, or even a blog, you MUST read the first section of Joel Friedlander’s (@JFBookman) News: Publetariat, New York Times, BookDesignTemplates.com.  That first section deals with the web site Publetariat, which Writer’s Digest just named one of its 101 Best Sites for Writers, and as one of the Best of the Best. A week later, it was hacked and all but destroyed. Joel tells the story in brief. The lesson to be learned is this: Do everything you can to protect your site. WordPress is the best-known (and probably therefore most-attacked) Content Management System in its WordPress.org incarnation, but Publetariat was based on Drupal, another CMS, and still got whacked. If you have a WordPress.org-based web site, I strongly recommend checking out The WordPress Security Checklist, available either in free ebook form here or in its online form here. NOTE: the authors of the checklist say it’s written for the non-technical user, but that’s not entirely true. Even so, if you know how to install plug-ins, you’ll be able to do much of what the Checklist recommends (and if you don’t, it’s easy to learn how).

THE WRITING LIFE

Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks a challenging and important question: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? Naturally, she focuses the question on work and writing (hers and ours), and of course that’s legitimate, but it could also be extended to the rest of our lives. And the answers could be very revealing. Scary, no? But valuable? Yes!

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