Friday, August 28, 2015

Presenting: A Title that Sells

You can judge a book by its title, Photo by Linda Wilson
It's true that an intriguing title for your fiction or nonfiction book, article, poem or story is your first pitchperson, designed to interest an agent, editor or publisher to crack the first few paragraphs, even pages. If they like what they find? You're in. Be open, though. Your publisher might surprise you by
wanting to think up a new title, thus opening herself up to the same grueling process you thought you had conquered.

Often, the right title pops in place with little conscious effort. Thank you, Subconscious. However, some titles aren't quite as apparent. That's when you dig. There are many ways to uncover it. But before you start, make sure your title meets certain criteria.

Intriguing Title "Musts"
Your title:
  • is your reader's first impression of your work. It's got to be evocative, unique and precise. (Writer's Relief)
  • is memorable--catchy, short (except in rare workable cases), appropriate, specific and intriguing. (Emma Walton Hamilton)
  • is distinguished by an original title. (Lulu.com article by Arrie)
  • fits the genre of your book and sets the tone or feeling you want to convey. (Rachelle Gardner)
  • is consistent with the conventions of your genre because "fans of specific genres use titles as a kind of shorthand when they're deciding what to buy." (Writer's Relief)
  • gains acceptability from friends, family and your critique group, opening it up to new perspectives. (Writer's Relief)
Examples:
  • Adventure: Tends to fit a tale of a journey
  • Humor: Title is odd or quirky
  • Mystery: Lee Wyndam in Writing for Children and Teenagers, revised edition, calls titling a mystery a "baited hook," that contains clue words. She points out that words such as mystery, secret, case, riddle and puzzle were once required. Today for books at the nine-to-twelve level and YA's, titles are more subtle; such as these selections from her list of books nominated for a MWA Edgar:
                                            Bury the Dead (Peter Carter)
                                           The Other Side of Dark (a winner, by Joan Lowry Nixon)
                                           The Twisted Window (Lois Duncan)
Begin by Brainstorming
Rachelle Gardner, in her post "How to Title your Book," offered an idea that sounded so good I tried it and highly recommend it. Not only did the exercise open up new ways for me to view my story, but it was loads of fun. I will summarize her idea here, but recommend that you read her entire post, which includes additional excellent information.
  • To get a feel for your genre, find twenty books titles on Amazon that you like and are in your genre. Write them down. Decide what you like and don't like, then put the list away.
  • Make lists of words in columns that relate to your book: nouns, verbs and adjectives. For a novel, list words that describe the setting, major characters. Nothing is off limits.
    Think of the action in your story and write down words that capture it. For non-fiction, write words that describe what your book is about and how you want your reader to think, feel or do after reading it.
    Think of words that evoke an emotion, a sensation, a location, a question.
    Keep going until you reach 100 words. Write down 20 title ideas from these lists. Then put them away for 24 hours.
  • Time's up: choose three to five possibilities. Run them by some people. Go back to the list from Amazon and make sure your title stands out and is not too similar to the others.
  • Voila! You've come up with the best possible title!
Title and Copyright Law
Titles cannot be copyrighted in the U.S. Writer's Relief says, "we don't recommend using the same title that someone else has previously used. It makes it more difficult for your book to stand out."

Now for my rant: A recent experience prompted me to think more about titling my work than I had in the past. While browsing through a free magazine that I picked up at our local health food store, I ran across an article titled word-for-word the same as a classic children's book (not included are the
names of the magazine, editor or children's book). I immediately thought of copyright infringement and wrote the editor an email to question the use of the title. He wrote back with an inserted document of the copyright law from the U.S. Copyright Office, which I appreciated. I would have let the entire matter rest if it hadn't been for his attitude, which made my blood boil.

"Book titles are not protected under copyright law, especially if a book uses a COMMON PHRASE such as "Title." They can freely be used in various media and formats. This is why so many books and movies share the same title. If we had used the image or the original artwork from the book cover you refer to, we would indeed be in violation. However, book titles fall under no such copyright law."

The attitude so infuriated me that I searched to see if I could find out how the author came up with such a terrific title. This is what I found:

Q: How do you come up with such creative titles for your books? Do you come up with them before or after you write your books?

A: Before, after, during, and I don't think of them all myself. My mother titled [this book]." Titles I came up with the publishers didn't like and the publishers came up with titles I didn't like. "My mother was visiting us and one morning I took her a cup of coffee. She said to me, 'I think I found a title our of your own text . . ."

Bottom line: I personally enjoy titles that are tweaked from common phrases, jokes, movies, etc. as I have attempted to do with the caption under this post's accompanying photo.
End rant!

For so much advice on making titles short, I sure found a lot of information on creating the right title. Next month I'll include the rest of what I found in, "Presenting: A Title that Sells, Part 2."

Sources: Writer's Relief ; Emma Walton Hamilton; Rachelle Gardner; Lulu article by Arrie; Wyndham, Lee, Writing for Children & Teenagers, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1989.



Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on  Facebook.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Writers: Balancing Personal Life and Writing Career

Are you trying to create and maintain a writing schedule, only to have distractions or interruptions?

It takes trial and error along with time and effort to balance your personal life and writing career. You are working from home and that makes you vulnerable. If you don't manage your day well you won't be productive. Eventually, you will get discouraged, make little progress, and maybe even give up.


How do you balance your personal life and a writing career?


There is a practical side and an emotional side in approaching this. 


First, the practical:



Make an effort to give yourself “business hours” and stick to them;  both with yourself and with clients. Let everyone know what those hours are, and make sure they’re respected – from both sides.
He continues to say there are exceptions but make sure they are just that - exceptions. 

Identify the distractions from working at home and you will be ready when they come. Navigate through them and learn to manage them.


What you can control:

  • Your schedule for writing.
  • Muting your cell phone, closing personal email and social media sites.
  • Not answering the door.
  • Not allowing friends, family or your children interrupt unless it is an emergency.
Then there is the emotional side to life. We are not machines that input-output. We are human and we face difficult times.

What you cannot control:
  • Illness (yours) - temporary or chronic
  • Illness (others) - and your help is needed
  • Death in the family
  • Computer problems
  • Personal situations in marriage, family, or friends.
Here in the Northeast, sometimes the gray, cloudy winters seem to go on forever. If you face a serious situation out of your control, think of it as a season you will get through. It doesn't mean you don't write. It means you go easy on yourself and be flexible with your schedule. Your schedule is the framework and sometimes adjustments must be made.

Don't think of it as losing ground, even though the difficult season may be long. Often, the situations we find ourselves in ends up making us stronger, along with providing more writing ideas. 


It's all in how you look at it. Allow your personal life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, to positively shape who you are and let your writing flourish.


How about you? Have you found a good balance? Or are you struggling? 


Everyone is different. There is no one size fits all. Please share your thoughts and tips in the comment section.

Acer Chromebook on the white desk
                           

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com





Thursday, August 20, 2015

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 5



How is your blog coming along? Are you finding this series helpful? While I don't expect you to put all the suggestions into practice, but I hope some of them are switching on those little light bulbs we often see over people's heads (in pictures anyway). 

On the 20th of each month, we look at four letters of the alphabet. I choose one word per letter which shows how we as writers will benefit if we publish a blog. 

Today we're looking at the letters P to S. As usual, we will choose one word beginning with each letter.

So here we go:

16.  P is for Purpose.

  •  As writers, we all seem to experience desert times, times when we look at the computer screen with a sense of dread wondering what to write. Maybe you're currently busy with a book, but you've hit a road block. See if you can write a post about the problem. If you've hit a snag with one of your characters, how about doing an interview of her on your blog? Ask her about her situation. This might solve your problem, and it will also draw your readers' attention to the novel in progress. 
  • Maybe you're looking for a new project. You could blog a series of suggested topics and ask for input from your readers. Or you could come up with a few possible themes to explore. What would they enjoy learning more about? Following a theme is a great remedy to getting stuck. Like today: I knew I had to come up with reasons for writers to blog, beginning with P, Q, R and S. Somehow, that made it easier to come up with a goal for this session of writing.
  • Another excellent reason for blogging is to research a book project. For example, at the moment I am busy writing a book based on lesser-known women in the Bible. Recently it occurred to me this would be a great series to run on my website. I could just give a sketch of some of the women, and that would promote the book in the process.
  • One other purpose would be to get readers involved choosing names (for the book or for a character). You could continue on your Facebook author page. All of these steps make people aware of the book you're writing. And that can only be a good thing.

Q is for Questions.
  • As a writer, do you often wonder what to write? Use your blog to spark ideas. Ask questions. End each blog post with a question to get your reader thinking about the material you have covered. Can they add to the points you have made? Do they agree with your viewpoint? Encourage them to become interactive with your post, and they will remember you as a writer.
  • Write a post which questions some major decision made by a person in leadership. What do your readers think? Would they go along with the suggestions? Would they choose another approach altogether? Encourage them to ask questions to get your other readers thinking. I have read blogs where a post has become an entertaining and sometimes educational conversation between a group of people. Your goal here is to get readers to interact with each other and with the post. When they hear of the topic in the future they will think of you.
  • Ask your readers to contribute to your blog. Some years ago, I wrote a series of articles on International English on my blog. I gave a number of examples where a certain word in the UK means something entirely different in the USA. I shared anecdotes of times I had said something with my South African English that people in other countries didn't understand. I then asked if anyone had examples they could share of times when International English caused them embarrassment or laughter. I got so much feedback, I wrote two other articles.
  • You can also ask your readers for ideas. Discuss with them your next work-in-progress. Get them involved, and guess what? When the book comes out they will be eager to see how you resolved the issues they had discussed with you. 
R is for Research.
  • How grateful I am for the Internet.. I think back to the years in high school and college and the amount of time I spent visiting the library scouring through thick books for information. Yet today, Google has made it all much easier. We tended to write about topics we knew about, but now we can step right out of our comfort zone and tackle any subject that intrigues us. Because I heard my brother and sister-in-law were going to the Serengeti, and because I knew nothing about this distant part of my continent, I turned to Google. 
  • Of course, there are two dangers to beware of. 
    • The material on Google is often not written by experts, and it may be wrong.  You need to check references or be careful how you word your writing. 
    • Be careful of plagiarism. Google is a great source of information, but you need to write it in your own words or give credit where due. 
  • A blog is an ideal place to share your research, and ask others for further information. Are you writing a historical novel? You can share information you learn that may or may not end up in your story. Ask them for further input. Intrigue your readers so they will want to learn more about you topic and be eager to read your book.
  • Use your blog to get personal reactions to situations or locations. e.g. If you want your hero to come across a woman who survived the Rwanda genocide in 2014, this is not an easy scene for you to imagine. Why not write a blog post? Give some background to what you want to know, and ask if anyone experienced this. You may only get one or two responses to a question like this, but you can then arrange to make contact with them to get first-hand information. This will be way more fascinating than something your imagination, no matter how creative, could dream up.
S is for Scheduling.
  • If you plan to write regularly, you need to advertise what you're writing. I plan ahead what I'm going to write. This is excellent training for writers. Think ahead. Plan ahead. Write ahead. Then, as soon as you've finished the article schedule it to publish the day it's due to go live. You can write an entire series over a few days and schedule each "chapter" to go public once a week for several months. 
  • One of the huge highs and lows of today’s writing world is surely social media! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn . . . need I go on? All wonderful opportunities to get the word out and to make cyber relationships. They are also incredible time-suckers when it comes to procrastination. How easily we can become overwhelmed. Yet if we are going to write, we need to let our readers know where and when they can read our material.
  • Along came Hootsuite or other such software. Schedule promotions for your blog posts to appear on Twitter. In order to cover all the major time-zones, I suggest you plan on 8-hourly intervals, which means three posts, and then one random at a peak time, according to your time zone, about 24 hours later. You can also schedule the posts to appear on Facebook, but personally I prefer to have the direct interaction with my followers on Facebook. I could never keep up with all my posts if I didn’t schedule them to publish days or even weeks in advance. 
  • Scheduling also helps us plan our time and what we are going to write when. Spread your posts at regular intervals, and as soon as they're written, write the promotions for social media, and then . . . did I mention this? Schedule them.  
 Which of these will you try out during the next month? Leave a note in a comment below and report back how it goes.


MORE ON THIS TOPIC: 

26 Reasons to blog - part 1: A - C
26 Reasons to blog - part 2: D - G
26 Reasons to blog - part 3: H - K
26 Reasons to blog - part 4: L - O
Write More Often - Blog Faster

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, has brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.


Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm too . . .

This last week I spent some time with a group of want-to-be-writers. And why were they want-to-be-writers and not writers? Good question!

The reasons were many. Some had felt a desire when they were younger, but somehow they had felt they hadn't lived long enough at that time to have something to say.

That didn't stop the six-year old from the UK, Christopher Beale, who had his 1,500-word, five chapter novel published. And he's not alone in being a young writer. There is Christopher Paolini, a bestselling novelist of a fantasy series who started the series when he was 15. And Flavia Bujor who wrote her first book at age 12, The Prophecy of the Stones. All three thought they had plenty to say and that age shouldn't be a factor.

In this group there were also, surprisingly enough, the people who felt they should have done it when they were younger, but now they were too old. Too old! Laura Ingalls Wilder author of Little House on the Prairie didn't start writing until she retired at age 65. Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes was 66. But the oldest first-time published author award goes to Bertha Wood who had her first book, Fresh Air and Fun: The Story of a Blackpool Holiday Camp published when she was 100 years old.

So it's really not age that keeps one from writing. It's fear. I don't want to downplay the fear, because it is a challenge to put yourself out there in written form for others to read, but everyone faces fear. Yep, each and everyone of us has a fear or had has a fear to overcome. And you know what, the best way to overcome that fear is by facing it head on and moving forward. So if you are someone who is too young or too old or just too afraid to write your story, now is the time to begin.

According to Julia Cameron: "The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner's humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step."

Writers on the Move will be there, holding your hand for each step. We've got you.

______________________________________
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                            

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com                                      

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook.

Friday, August 14, 2015

10 Bad Writing Habits to Break

by Suzanne Lieurance

Want to write better fiction?

Then see if you’ve developed any of these 10 bad writing habits. If you have, it's time to break them. When you do, your fiction can’t help but improve.

#1. Waiting to Hook Your Reader

Ideally, you want to “hook” your readers with the very first sentence of your story. If you can’t do it in the first sentence, at least do it by the end of the first page.

#2. Including Huge Chunks of Backstory in the First Few Pages

Backstory tends to remind the reader that he is reading a story, whereas plenty of action and dialogue help the reader feel as if he is living the story right along with the characters. Try to eliminate long chunks of backstory as much as you can.

#3. Using Vague or Weak Verbs with Plenty of Adverbs and Adjectives

Why say things like “he said softly” when you can simply say “he whispered”? Strive to use the strongest verbs you can. Strong verbs don’t need modifiers.

#4. Tacking on Too Much Description or Action in Your Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags are meant to let the reader know which character is speaking. Good tags aren’t noticeable to the reader. But if too many actions or too much description is tacked onto these tags, they begin to stick out to the reader and distract from the story itself. Create a separate sentence if you need to describe what the character is doing as he speaks.

#5. Starting too Many Sentences with Participle Phrases

Participle phrases are a prime example of passive writing. They also stick out to the reader when they are used too often to start a sentence and they distract from the story. Read the work of really good writers and you won’t see many, if any, sentences that start with participle phrases.

#6. Using Few, if Any, Sensory Details

If you want your characters and settings to come alive for your readers, you need to weave plenty of sensory details into the story. Sensory details help “show, not tell” how things felt, smelled, sounded, even tasted to the characters, and therefore, help the reader experience all these story elements, too.

#7. Not Creating a Big Enough Story Problem

What’s at stake in each of your stories? It has to be something BIG! Something the main character really wants to get, solve, or be. If your main character doesn’t really care about the story problem, readers won’t either.

#8. Creating Indistinct Characters

What sets each of your characters apart from the other characters in your story? Be sure each character sounds, looks, and acts differently from all the other characters. Otherwise, it will be too difficult for readers to keep your cast of characters straight.

#9. Not Enough Rising Action

This is probably the biggest bad habit new writers seem to have. They love their characters so much, they hate to see them get into too much trouble or face too many difficulties. But without complications in a story (you must have things get worse and worse for your main character), you really don’t have a story. You simply have a series of incidents.

#10. Unsatisfying Endings

Do your stories end too abruptly with no real resolution? You need to tie up all the loose ends after the climax takes place in your story. Otherwise, you won't have an ending that satisfies your readers.

Use these 10 bad writing habits as a checklist as you're writing your next story to help you break these bad habits.

Want to write a novel? Suzanne Lieurance can help. Check out her Book Boot Camp for Novelists.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 30 published books. For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

Monday, August 10, 2015

August Blogging Prompts

It's approaching the end of summer. It's hot and sticky. There are things to do, but chances are you don't want to do much of anything. Instead of letting the heat get the better of you, beat the heat! Pour a cold drink, sit by the fan or air conditioner, and write some cool blog posts,

Here are some ideas of what to blog about in August.

Bad Poetry: August 18 is Bad Poetry Day. The idea is to get bad poetry out of your system, so you can write better. There's value in writing poorly (in any genre), whether it's to get bad ideas out of your head to make room for the good ones or to just write bad material on purpose, just because you can, and to have fun in the process

Plus:

August Holidays: August is Family Fun Month, Romance Awareness Month and National Picnic Month. August 13 is Left Hander's Day, August 15 is Relaxation Day, August 16 is National Tell a Joke Day, August 25 is Kiss and Make Up Day, and August 27 is Just Because Day.

August Food Holidays: There are lots of food holidays in August. August is National Brownies At Brunch Month, National Peach Month, and National Sandwich Month. August 20 is Lemonade Day, August 24 is National Waffle Day, and August 30 is National Toasted Marshmallow Day (campfire stories, anyone?). August: 31 is Eat Outside Day, International Bacon Day, and National Trail Mix Day.

Bonus: Fiction writers, you've taken characters out on day trips over the summer months. Time to send them on vacation. No, I'm not talking about taking a break from your writing (although you can do that too). Send them out of town (or even on a staycation). They can have some fun, of course, but something always goes awry on vacay. Throw some challenges at your characters during their "time off" and see how they handle it.

Take you characters out of their normal routine, it will get you out of your routine, as well, and maybe even help you expand your creativity. Have fun!

***


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Freewriting Frees You From Your Inner Editor



How do you get rid of that inner editor—the devilish one that sits on one shoulder, whispering,
“That’s not very good. What makes you think you can write? You can even spell!” Or “Doesn’t that need a comma there?” Or “Is that the right word? I don’t think so.”

Freewriting or flow of consciousness is a great exercise to shake off that devilish inner editor and get yourself back into a fun, playful sense of creativity. I think Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind) was one of the first who promoted this form of writing.

The rule for doing this is there are no rules. Choose a topic. Set a timer for ten minutes and put pen to paper. Do not stop for any reason. Don’t worry about commas and spelling and grammar. Don’t think about what you’re writing, just write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s “I can’t think of anything to write. This is a stupid exercise.” Something will come to mind. Go from there, see where it takes you. You may end up on a topic far from the one you started with.

But what do I write about? Anything you want. Something you see out your window, something that’s bothering you, a resignation letter to your boss, a mini-murder mystery in which you kill off your boss. When I teach beginning writing classes, I ask my students to make a list of 5-10 things they’d like to write about. Then each picks one and we do the 10-minute exercise.

Take something from your Work In Progress. Have your character talk to you or write you a letter. Write a page describing your setting. Pick a feeling and write everything you associate with that feeling: what’s your physical reaction? What smell does it evoke? What color do you associate with this feeling? Any tastes come to mind? Music? What memories?

You might end up with pages of drivel, but you might also find a diamond in the rough, something that could help with your WIP or be the beginning of a whole new novel.

Try it. You might enjoy it!
---------------------

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches
writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, have just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.