Great Stuff for Writers, May 20, 2013

Wow! TONS of Great Stuff this week, in just about all categories. Titles, critique groups, emotions, made-up words, publishing paths, “scarcity thinking,” and dogs reading books! Even a traditional/self-publishing poll. Something for everyone.

CRAFT

Right up there with a great cover, a great title is critical to getting a potential reader to consider your book. That’s why Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) provides 17 Steps to a Reader-Grabbing Title. Seventeen sounds like a lot, but she breaks them into 5 elements, 7 questions to ask, and 5 brainstorming tips, to make them easy to digest.

There are writers out there who hate critique groups. HATE ‘em. Sometimes there’s plenty of reason to. But sometimes not. Kris Montee, one of the sister pair who write as PJ Parrish, discusses this in Getting pecked to death: Are critique groups worth it? Her answer, not surprisingly, is “it depends” but she does a good job describing how to select a group that will meet your needs and how to get value out of it. Definitely worth checking out if you’re considering looking for some help and support.

To Be Great, Strive to Be Ordinary. Really? Elizabeth Sims’s (@ESimsAuthor) guest post for Jane Friedman isn’t as counterintuitive as it might seem. Her point is that trying too hard to be great is a sure way to be awful, to stifle your natural writer’s voice, or at least to end up with writer’s block. Relax and be you, especially in the first draft, and you’re on the road to something special.

If you’re really a writer, you just can’t get upset by a post like Demian Farnworth’s (@demianfarnworth) 11 Compound Word Errors that Might Make You Look like a Numbskull (and the three other posts it links to on similar topics) on Copyblogger. These are basics every writer needs to know—cold.

Super-agent Donald Maass (@DonMaass) knows a thing or two about writing, so Angela Ackerman’s (@AngelaAckerman) notes from a workshop he led, Donald Maass Wisdom: Cultivate Reader Interest Through Unexpected Emotions, is something I’m going to pay attention to. The exercise he had attendees do was to have a character from a scene in their work feel an emotion that they would never dare to voice or show.

Here’s an interesting question: Are Your Bad Guys Dying in the Right Order? That’s the question Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) answers in this week’s vlog. So what’s the right order? The one in which the most important antagonist—the one the hero has the largest personal investment in—dies last. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Speaking of dying, Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) thinks Dan Brown’s enthusiasm for his work is dying in Inferno. Her spoiler-free review in What Writers Can Learn from Dan Brown’s Inferno discusses not the plot or characters but what happens when (1) an author isn’t writing what he or she loves, (2) the resulting book’s title, marketing, and theme don’t work together, and (3) the writing confuses the reader (which means, my opinion, the author didn’t get well edited—or edited at all). Joanna’s still a fan, but….

It takes a while to get to the point (to say nothing of the title!) of Jan O’Hara’s (@jan_ohara) Linguistic Quirks: What Wordbirthing & Name-Nicking Can Do for Fiction, but that point is an excellent one. Namely: the unique twists of language characters use, especially couples with each other, reveal lots about them, their culture, and their relationships, in ways that are both economical and effective.

BUSINESS

Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) has an interesting poll question in How Do You Plan to Publish Your Work-in-Progress? After a week of polling, almost half (45%) of the 721 respondents consider traditional publishing their first preference. Almost quarter each consider self-publishing their first choice or will ignore it completely. Less than 10% intend to ignore traditional publishing. What about you?

One of the on-going problems with indie publishing is that it’s been all but impossible to get print copies of your book into bricks-and-mortar bookstores. That appears to finally be changing. Kristine Kathryn Rusch (@kriswrites) reports in The Business Rusch: Shifting Sands that the two major book distributors, Baker & Taylor and Ingrams, have now put together processes for getting print-on-demand books into stores. Unfortunately, to get to the key news, you have to wade through a lot of other stuff first. To save time, search for “Createspace” [sic] and read the four paragraphs starting at the first hit. Then search down for “Earlier this year” and start reading there. This is great news!

Casey Demchak’s (@caseydemchak) guest post on The Book Designer, 7 Secrets to Writing Persuasive Back Cover Sales Copy, might seem to apply only to print authors—ebooks don’t have back covers, after all—but it doesn’t. Think about the book summary on Amazon.com or bn.com. Same thing, same purpose, different location. After the cover, this is what makes the reader look inside and maybe, just maybe, make the decision to buy.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has created an Infographic: 5 Key Book Publishing Paths that nicely consolidates a lot of information on methods of publishing and their characteristics, values, and risks and then adds a few special cases. You can download it directly here but reading the post will provide a lot of additional information and depth.

TECHNOLOGY

Thanks to Copyblogger, we jump over to The Orbiter to find Andy Crestodina’s (@crestodina) Email Signup Forms: 4 Things That Lead to Huge Success or Total Failure. Those four things are: prominence (visibility on the page), promise (of what will be delivered), proof (how many follower/subscribers you already have), and privacy (you’ll protect it). The examples illustrate each point, and the last example—of a really bad form—shows how not to do it.

THE WRITING LIFE

This post could have gone in the Business section, but it’s really about you, not business. Orna Ross (@OrnaRoss) asks Should You Self-Publish? 15 Questions on Jane Friedman’s blog. For starters: are you brave, hard-working, entrepreneurial? Have you made plans for all the things that go into self-publishing? Plus nearly a dozen more. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. What about you?

What? STOP writing? Yes, sometimes it’s necessary—for your craft, for your sanity, or just because life demands it. That’s why Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) and written 5 Reasons You Should Stop Writing—to let you know that it’s okay, even necessary. And that, as she says, just because you have to stop for a while doesn’t mean you’re not a writer.

“There isn’t enough (whatever).” That “scarcity mentality” is what Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) says is a hurtful falsehood in Letting Go of Scarcity Thinking. There is enough time to get things done, there are enough readers for your book to find its place, there is enough room in the market for it. If we believe there is enough (not too much, but just enough), we’ll do fine.

FUN

Definitely just for fun: Robert Bruce’s (@robertbruce76) 12 Photos of Dogs Who Love to Read.

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