Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Writer's Essential Reference

It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences

Subtitle: a writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences
By June Casagrande
Ten Speed Press (2010)
ISBN: 9781580087407
Nonfiction/How-To (Writing)
Buy Link: http://budurl.com/GrammarSnobs
Publisher's Site: http://www.tenspeed.com/

New Book May (Should!) Replace Your Stunk and White!

Grammar Guru Offers Advice
Like None You’ve Ever Seen—All in One Place!


Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracings, a chapbook of poetry and the How To Do It Frugally Series of book for authors

Rules. Rules. Rules. I didn’t realize how tired I was of the same old writing advice until this little black book landed in my mailbox. I promised to review it fast, but this It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences book by June Casagrande isn’t a book a serious writer wants to flip through fast.

I could see from the subhead in the first chapter that this book would include something better than most. It read, “Thy Reader, Thy God.” What a concept that is! The Reader and not The Rule Book! Ahem! And it got better and better as Casagrande explored all the subjects I knew everything about. Or thought I did. She uses examples so a writer can see the differences between OK writing and acrylic-clear writing.

By the time I got to “Are Your Relatives Essential?” I was really sold. This is a Wow- Chapter, even for accomplished editors. The writing tips she gives in Chapter Twelve for using tenses effectively are just what I need to convince my students that I’m not the only editor/teacher in the world who believes that tenses needn’t match all the way through a story (or even a paragraph, for that matter!). That chapter is called “You Will Have Been Conjugating.”

I could go on and on, chapter by chapter. What isn’t new to a writer or what doesn’t elucidate will remind and amuse Casagrande’s God, The Reader. For those who know Casagrande’s work, this book isn’t as funny as her first one, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

Nevertheless, the reader will still occasionally get a good laugh. For chuckles read Chapter Nine, “Antique Desk Suitable for Lady with Thick Legs and Large Drawers.”

For Casagrande, the lesson is always that grammar needn’t be dreary. Why should it be when we love writing? How could it be when grammar is the nails and tacks, the color and structure of what we love? Writing.

------

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.
Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers,USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't.The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation's top agents.  Learn more about Howard-Johnson at her new site http://howtodoitfrugally.com/ .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Create and eBook – 5 Simple Steps

E-books are an amazing product that has multiple uses. And, it can be created for FREE, or for a very minimal amount. What else can you create that costs only your time and effort, and sells for whatever the market is willing to pay?

1. Create content

The first step is to create your content; this can be done as a simple word document. The content can be anything you think your readers or target market will want or need. In addition, it can be any length you decide upon. You can create a simple 10 page e-book, or a 100+ page e-book.

You can also create a compilation of articles you’ve already written on a particular topic and organize them into an easy to read product that includes a content page.

Note: It’s wise to include a disclaimer explaining that you, the author, strived for accuracy, but cannot guarantee it due to the ever-changing nature of the internet. And, it’s advisable to include an “All Rights Reserved” with a copyright reference.

TIP: If you’re offering the e-book as a freebie on your site you can allow others to pay-it-forward, emphasizing that all information must remain intact. This will help increase your visibility and lead readers back to your site/s.

2. Organize Your Content

Whether your product is a few pages or 100 pages, having it organized is important. The e-book needs to offer easy reading and clarity, along with value. If you are creating a longer product, divide the content or articles into sections or parts, and provide a Content Page.

Be sure to use a large and bold font for section headings and it’s advisable to include page breaks for each section.

Finally, be sure to add a brief bio including promotional material on an About the Author page.

TIP:  have plenty of white space. If you notice, this article has very short paragraphs, making it easy to read.

3. Include Images and Tweak Your Content

Once you have the content in place, add images. You can add an image at the beginning of each section, or where ever you see fit. This is another trick to make the e-book more interesting to read.


The images will help break up the monotony of straight content.

TIP: You will also want to include your own head shot on your About the Author page. Readers connect more with a face, rather than just a name.

TIP2: Be sure you are using royalty free images. You don't want to get caught infringing on someone's copyright.

4. Create a Cover

Every book needs a cover, so you will need to create one. Again, you can use clipart, or other source of free images. You can also use the Word Draw Toolbar. I’m not sure if all versions are the same, but mine is located at the bottom of my document.

TIP: After you create a cover, be sure to click on Page Break.

5. Turning Your Word Doc into a PDF

Okay, you’ve created a great word document, now it’s time to magically turn it into an e-book. There are a number of free PDF creator software applications to do this.

For those wondering, PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format. A PDF creator is an application that converts documents into PDFs by creating a virtual printer that prints to PDF files.
If you don’t already have a PDF converter, it’s time to do an online search for “free pdf creator.” Just be sure the one you choose is Adobe compatible.

My experience is with PDF995. You can check it out at: http://www.pdf995.com/

But you can just do a Google search for one you like.

The new versions of Microsoft Word has a PDF printer build in.

It’s that simple.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out the e-classes she offers through WOW:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/

MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING

Why Purchase Your Own ISBN?
Writing, Submissions, and Working with Editors
4 Realities New Writers Need to Face

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Editing—It Makes All the Difference

By Cheryl C. Malandrinos

As a reviewer, I’ve had the opportunity to read hundreds of books in a variety of genres. While not every book has been my favorite, what leaves me feeling most disappointed is when I think to myself, “This could have been a great book…if only it had been edited more thoroughly.”

I once read a series of children’s books. I enjoyed the message and loved the characters, but the sheer number of typographical errors took away from the reading experience and became distracting. 

There was a mystery novel written by a famous author. It was an excellent read, but do you know what I remember most about it? In one chapter, the bad guys had kidnapped the hero and taken his belt. In the following chapter, the hero used the belt—the one he no longer had—as a tool to assist in his escape.

In another book, the main character’s mother’s name changed several times and one of the character’s cars was green early in the book but silver later on.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m not as good at editing my own work as I am at spotting errors in the work of others, but the editing phase of completing a manuscript can’t be rushed. In addition, a critique group, and a third party editor are going to catch errors and inconsistencies you’re going to miss.

After sending a manuscript to my critique group, I review the feedback and make the changes I feel are necessary. Then I let the manuscript sit for at least a week. I go back and perform three rounds of edits: one to pick up typos, one to focus on grammar, and the last to check for inconsistencies. Then it goes back to my critique group. 

I didn’t hire a third party editor for my first children’s picture book, Little Shepherd. The publisher and I went through it, and it had been looked over by my critique group numerous times. When I complete Amelia’s Mission, however, which is a middle grade historical, I will definitely send it off to an objective set of eyes to help me polish it before I submit it to a publisher. 

I once spoke with a woman who had been in the entertainment industry for decades. She had written a book about her father, an award-winning composer.  She had a difficult time finding a publisher. She said that breaking into the publishing world was more of a challenge than catching a break in entertainment. 

In such a market, taking the time to edit your book thoroughly will make a huge difference. Proper editing can turn a good book into a great one.


About the author: Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.   


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Write for Your Audience Vs. Write for Yourself

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning novelist, poet and author of how-to books for writers

I recently read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, the founder of  How to Write a Query Letter.com in Dan Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.”

It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet. But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree. Certainly authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing for Your Audience.” I do a bit of acting and learned that new actors should learn to give to the director not what they he or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself” when it came to selecting merchandise for my store. When I did, I very often brought whatever I bought home because my customers wouldn’t buy it.

But back to writing!

That same balanced note is a good one for writers to follow, too. Certainly, they must keep their audience in mind. As an example, they must trust their audience to be readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them.

And certainly authors of nonfiction books should do some research before writing the same book someone else has written. There are probably many other aspects of “Write for your Audience” that I haven’t covered here.

Still, there is another side of the coin and here it is:

When you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which we may then choose to break). But we must love what we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion. Keep at it. Market it. And your audience will find you.

I’m an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the author who denies his or her dream and considers only what he figures someone else wants of him.

~Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning writer of fiction and poetry as well as the author of the much-applauded HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one series for writers and one for retailers. Learn more at www.howtodoitfrugally.com.  And learn her secrets for marketing what you love to write in the second edtion of The Frugal Book Promoter.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Karina Fabian and Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator

Hey, there, Writers on the Move readers and visitors. I have the pleasure of being part of Karina Fabian’s book tour and featuring her newest book, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. But, along with this, Karina has also graciously offered to provide a great article, “Random thoughts on Seat-of-the-pants Writing.”

First though, let’s take a look at Neeta Lyffe Zombie Exterminator:

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator takes place 30 years in the future when causes unknown make people to rise from the grave. Unlike the dystopic tales like Zombieland, Fabian's world has taken measures to curtail the spread of disease. The result: zombies are pests and nuisances--and who better to take care of such things than an exterminator?

Neeta Lyffe is a professional exterminator down on her luck when a zombie she sets on fire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch. Desperate for money, she agrees to host a reality TV show where she'll train apprentice exterminators in a show that crosses the worst of The Apprentice with Survivor with Night of the Living Dead. Can she keep her bills paid, her ratings up, and her plebes alive and still retain her sanity?

Ah, horror with a sense of humor. Sounds intriguing! Check below for the details.

Now, let’s hear from Karina about her thoughts on writing techniques:

Random thoughts on Seat-of-the-pants writing
By Karina Fabian

Plotter or Pantster?

It's one of the most commonly asked questions among writers. Plotters like to have their plot defined--they know where the characters go, how they get there, what they'll feel and do, and what route they'll take to get to the next plot point. Pantsters just start writing and, as Tigger said, "Open the door and hope for the best."

Neither is right or wrong--it's a different way of thinking, and as we all know, writers are wired differently. I'm definitely a pantster. Even the few times I have plotted, they've been very loose and always with the unspoken assumption that they will change, maybe even drastically.

So how do pantsters even write? That can vary, too. Some get an idea; others, a world. Most I know, however, start with a character. Not just any character, either: one that has sprung from their mind like Athena from the mind of Zeus--smart, engaging and full enough that this character has a story to tell--and they want to tell us!

That's how it worked for me with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. Neeta came to my mind as a 20-something, slightly cynical, tough but caring exterminator who happens to specialize in zombies. She had a crush on a guy who didn't seem to know she existed, and a quirky way of looking at things. (Who else sees a zombie playing with fried rice and thinks, "Hm, pointillism. I'm a Picasso-type, myself" as she slices through it with her chainsaw?)

Sometimes, the character has the story, which comes straight from who they are. Vern is my dragon who lives in the Mundane world solving crimes, but many of the short stories I write come from learning who he is.

Other times, an idea presents itself, and the character says, "That's fun." So it happened with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. I was talking with friends about reality TV while mulling over writing a zombie novel for Neeta, and having her host a reality TV show was so tempting. All I had was "They ate Eidleberg. *dammit,* Neeta thought, *I hadn't finished training him.* I started with that and she showed me the rest.

One great thing about seat of the pants writing is that you always get surprised. I didn't plan for Neeta to have a boyfriend, Spud to fall in love, or Dave to be so oblivious as to offer his traumatized personal assistant a safari to the Outback to relax. Oh, and I'll never be able to listen to "Unchained Melody" the same way again. (You'll have to read the book to find out why!)

However, this kind of writing takes a lot of trust. Once, I had a story fleshed out in my mind which called for the main character's fiancé to be the spunky sidekick. Instead, she turned into the damsel in distress. She REFUSED to be spunky--until I let her get kidnapped and rescued. Live and Let Fly isn't out yet, but it's such a better story for having let her have things her way.

Pantsters, just like plotters, can make wonderfully complex and complete stories--and sometimes, the story will demand either plotting or pantsting. I do think, however, most people are wired one way or another. The key is to trust yourself and your story--and have fun!

~~~~~
I’ve used both techniques, and while I find the outline method a bit more secure, the seat-of-the-pants is fascinating. Thanks for sharing your insights on this topic, Karina.


And, thanks so much for visiting with us today!

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator is categorized as horror, humor, science-fiction.

For more info visit: http://www.fabianspace.com


Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Find Your Writing Rhythm with Marsha Casper Cook


Writing Rhythm is what I perceive to be my own writing style. Over the years, I have realized that when writing a poem, a novel, or a screenplay my voice is what I feel in my heart. When I write I try to be honest with my feeling and never try to write like anyone else.

There are some days when I write something I really don’t like but I usually don’t discover that until the next day. I then ask myself what was I thinking when I wrote that. There is usually no answer to that question, so I go on and hope that my story will come to me. Usually my stories come to me in small segments. I am happy about that because it takes time to know your characters so you can develop them and maintain the rhythm of a smooth sorry that flows naturally.   

Most of the time when I can’t seem to figure out where my story is going I close my eyes and place myself into the situation that my character is in.  My characters are not me they are just coming from thoughts and ideas that I may have on the subject good or bad.

When I write I try to be flexible and go with the flow. I always hope that my characters come to life and they usually do. When I speak about writing, I tell stories about how I sometimes write a letter as the character and try to understand the problems my character may or may not have. If they have no problems, they are not real. They also have to have a past to get to where they are at the time I am writing about them. When I’m finished and happy with the storyline I always hope that the next day when I re - read it again and again I will be happy with what I have written. If not, I re- thinks my thoughts and makes changes or start again. If at the end of the day I don’t like my storyline and I don’t think the reader will I begin again and inevitably it does become better with a better flow and a realistic rhythm.   


Author Bio:
Marsha Casper Cook is the author of six published books and 11 feature-length screenplays, a literary agent with 15 years of experience and the host of a radio talk show about the business of writing and entertainment, “A Good Story is a Good  Story,” on the Red River Radio network. She and her guests discuss writing and what’s new in the entertainment field. This year, she also began hosting another talk show “The Whole Truth”; on this show she and her guests discuss day to day issues that effect family life. Marsha has also appeared as a guest on other network shows and will continue to make frequent visits to other shows.

Links: 





Saturday, December 4, 2010

What is required for a character to be believable?

J.D. Holiday is the author and illustrator of two children’s books: Janoose the Goose, picture book and a chapter book for six to eight year olds, THE GREAT SNOWBALL ESCAPADE. A chapbook of her short stories called, Trespasses was published in 1994 and she has had short stories printed in literary magazines and numerous articles about writing and publishing published. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, (SCBWI) and Small Publishers of North America, (SPAN). J.D. Holiday lives in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania.

We chatted with J.D. Holiday about the process of creating characters and how it is so varied. We suspect there are as many methods as there are authors and every writer must do what works for him or her. However, learning each other’s techniques helps us hone our own writing skills.

J.D. Holiday’s Tips on How to Make a Character Believable

A believable character is one that can show human traits and emotions through body movement and dialog. Know your characters well.

Each character must have an identity; name, age, background, a hobby or two and likes and dislikes. Your readers have to see where your characters live what the characters think and feel about the situations they find themselves in.
1. Do they play an instrument?
2. Do they run in the park mornings or in the evenings?
3. Who are their friends? And on and on.

I put myself in their shoes and use myself as a model for all sorts of emotions and problems my characters face. This applies to even emotions I have not felt or traits I don’t have. If my characters have to be something I am not or feel what I have not, I picture myself being or doing what my characters must and write it down.

Do an outline sketch of each one and even with all of that, your characters, especially your main character should standout and for the most part, are likable to the readers.

The characters personalities have to be consistent throughout the story.

That's the basic recipe for character creation. I hope it helps you get your characters off the ground and running. Remember- characters are the building blocks of story- don't forget to spend time on your characters before you dive into your first draft.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~





A little about “The Great Snowball Escapade”:
Wilhemena Brooks’ cousin, Bud Dunphry come to live with her family. Wil, as she likes to be called, finds her pink pencil sharpener is missing after Christmas. Wil knows Bud has it! Who else would have taken it? Her mother told her to be nice to Bud and to treat him like she would like to be treated. If Wil treats Bud nicely does that change anything for her?

Publisher: Book Garden Publishing, LLC
ISBN Number: 978-0-9818614-2-5
Publication Date: March 16, 2010

Places where J.D. Holiday’s book is available for sale other than Amazon.com: B&N.com, Books-a-million.com, Powell's Books.com

E-books on sale at: Amazon, B&N, Scridb, LULU, and soon at Google Editions


Blog Address: http://jdswritersblog.blogspot.com/


What Drives Your Publishing?

By Terry Whalin ( @terrywhalin )  Few people talk about this truth of publishing: it is hard. I’ve been doing it for decades and it is still...