Great Stuff for Writers, June 24, 2013

Major changes coming again to my Great Stuff posts. Starting next month, I’m going to again scale way back on these posts, for a lot of reasons:

  • Technical buffoonery on my part that made the Twitter links back to them produce “page not found” errors that I didn’t know about (but should have). I know better now.
  • Time. This is the main reason. It just takes too much time to produce these posts in the current form.
  • Others are doing it better. They have bigger audiences. Another reason why my time isn’t being well spent on these posts.
  • I need to rethink my social media involvement, such as it is.

So, July 1st, when Google Reader dies, is a good time for a reevaluation and restructuring on these posts. What will that be? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s the Great Stuff for Writers from the past week.

CRAFT

The unreliable narrator is one of the most interesting kinds of characters in fiction. In Who Ya Gonna Trust, editor Dave King discusses how four writers—Agatha Christie, Reginald Hill, Dorothy Sayers (all mystery writers), and J. D. Salinger—used their narrators in different ways to reveal different things about their characters.

James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) uses two movies, 12 Angry Men and City Slickers (now there’s a contrast for you), to illustrate how not only is conflict necessary to the story, it’s better if there’s conflict between every important character in the story. And by conflict, Bell means potential death—physical, psychological, professional. Okay, so what is A Key to Creating Conflict in Fiction? Orchestration of the suspense: will he or won’t he… survive, retain his moral values, etc.?

Since the protagonists of my first two books are both women, I was interested in Andrea Lochen’s Female Protagonists: Do They Need to be Friend Material? Now, I don’t read to find friends (is doing so “a woman thing” as Lochen seems to suggest?) and it was interesting to note that women writers are apparently taught, blatantly and subtly, that their characters, especially their female leads, “should be” friend material. Lochen closes by writing, “Maybe in the future this notion of female characters needing to be agreeable will be dispelled. Maybe their personalities will run the gamut, just like real-life women. But until then, my advice is to focus less on making your characters likeable and more on making them interesting and believable.” Sad, isn’t it, that this needs to be said.

Henry McLaughlin’s brief What Does Your Hero Yearn For? touches on a key piece of character development that gets far too little attention, I think. A yearning is a deep-seated, strongly-felt but perhaps not recognized or understood need a character has. Note—it doesn’t have to be just the hero who yearns. A yearning makes the antagonist more human too.

BUSINESS

I’ll bet the bloggers who love to trash traditional publishing will be all over Porter Anderson’s (@Porter_Anderson) reporting in A Major Publisher Jumps the Shark what agent Brian DeFiori recently revealed: by their own presentation to investors, HarperCollins is acknowledging that their authors get less money in royalties and HC gets more in profits from ebook sales than hardcovers. Four things to note here:

  1. This data is for hardcovers only, not paperbacks.
  2. This data is from only one major publishing house. What are the other houses doing? What about small publishers? That’s all unknown.
  3. As DeFiori notes, this affects only authors whose books earn out their advances, which most don’t. Those successful authors get punished with lower royalties.
  4. The example cited above is based on a $14.99 ebook price. Meanwhile, Smashwords head Mark Coker has data that shows that the optimal prices for ebooks are 99¢ and $2.99. There are some caveats to this data that are worth paying attention to, but the gap between what HC charges and what indie authors charge is large. Is it significant, too?

SOCIAL MEDIA

If you’re a self-published author, want to be, or think you want to be, and you’re on Twitter (you are, aren’t you?), you might want to check out #indiechat. Joel Friedlander (@jfbookman) introduces it and gives a sample of June 18th’s conversation in #indiechat Book Launch: An Evening in Tweets. The chat runs for an hour, starting at 9 PM Eastern.

TECHNOLOGY

I’ve become (in)famous within my writers’ group for my MS Word adverb-finder macro. It’s a little program that finds and highlights adverbs that end in –ly (and, admittedly, some adjectives and even the occasional noun or verb that ends in –ly that I haven’t told the macro it shouldn’t mark. Well, Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) introduces a program called Smart-Edit, which does something like that—and a lot more. Her Smart-Edit Video Tutorial post contains her own overview—not really a tutorial—of the program. It’s certainly worth checking out. I’m going to recommend it to my group. DISCLAIMERS: (1) The program is free for a 10-day trial but otherwise costs $49.95. (2) Neither Katie nor I have an affiliate relationship with Smart-Edit.

Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) presents a 12 minute video, Social Media for Writers: Interview with Dan Blank (@DanBlank) of We Grow Media. Dan’s key point: too many writers focus on the “media” part of “social media”—the technology, in other words—rather than the “social” part, the human side of the equation. He offers some practical tips for making initial connections via social media and then growing them into real person-to-person connections that have greater depth, and potentially, reach.

THE WRITING LIFE

The bottom-line message in Sharon Bially’s (@SharonBially) Dos and Don’ts for a Good Self-Published PR Experience is that good pub—and lots of it—IS possible but only if you’re smart and realistic about what you’re going to get, from whom, and for how much effort. Thanks to the internet, “local” isn’t just local anymore. Something that’s published in Portland (Maine or Oregon) might just reach Porto, Portugal. You just never know.

Dan Holloway (@agnieszkasshoes) guest posts for Joanna Penn on something we know we should do but usually terrifies us: Performing Your Work: Reading Your Book Aloud. You mean, like, to an audience? Of real people?? Who are in the same room??? Yes, that’s what he means. Dan’s done it and not only survived to tell the tale, he’s done it enough he enjoys it and wants you to, too.

FUN

Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) leads off The Kill Zone’s Reader Friday: A Collective Noun for Writers? with a list from Quill Café and adds her own “a critique of writers” but true to our creative nature, there’s no shortage of ideas in the comments. Many are laugh-out-loud funny. Some are even thoughtful. (What’s up with THAT?)

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