Thursday, July 21, 2022

How To Create a "Blook"

 

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin)

After working with hundreds of authors on their books for decades as well as writing more than 60 nonfiction books for traditional publishers, I understand every book (of any type) has challenges to complete. The challenges are on multiple levels whether your book is for young readers or adults.

Last month I wrote about why I’m still blogging. Writing a blog is a fun way to capture your thoughts and also build an audience to attract publishers. Since 2008, I’ve been blogging and have a massive amount of content (over 1,600 entries). Years ago, I was aware of the large volume of content in my blog. I decided to take this writing, organize it into themes (or chapters) and create a nonfiction book. I did this creative process on my own initiative. After the fact, I discovered it was something others have successfully done with their blog content. Within the publishing industry, someone created a word for the process: Blook—where the content of a blog becomes a book.

A Bunch of Blog Posts Do Not Mean You Have a Book

It’s wonderful to have pages of content but that alone doesn’t mean you have a book. There are a series of questions which need to be answered:

Are these posts focused on the right audience? Is it an audience you can reach or are reaching? Every book needs readers. Thousands of new books enter the marketplace every day. Your book must be for a particular reader because no book is for “everyone.” New writers often include the “everyone” audience in their pitch—and if you have it, eliminate it because the editor or agent will probably roll their eyes and be likely to reject.

Can you organize the posts into themes (or chapters)? I looked at the various chapters as a long magazine article. Each chapter needs to have an interesting title, a solid beginning, middle and ending with a singular focus for the reader.

Create A Distinctive Book

Can you create some distinctions with your book to make it stand out from others? 

I asked Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul to write the foreword. In fact, I drafted a foreword for Mark to read and approve (which he did). As a writer, you have to make it easy for the person you are asking to say, “yes.” I have more detail about this process of getting endorsements in this link

I created a button on the front with $84 of Free Ebooks of additional value for the reader. 

I selected and purchased cartoons for every other chapter to add to the interior appeal. 

I created two reader applications sections at the end of each chapter: Dig Deeper and Awaken Your Dreams. 

These features are only a few of what I built into the fiber of this book.

There are numerous questions that you as the author have to answer in this process. Originally I self-published Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and sold several thousand copies. I worked through a number of other questions in the self-publishing process. I made sure I created a high-quality product which I would compare to anything from a traditional publisher (an important distinction). Then a few years ago I released an updated edition with Morgan James Publishing. The book continues to help many people. Recently a reader sent me an image where he had marked his book as he read it. 

Without question, blooks take work to organize and pull together. My friend editor and writing coach Nina Amir gives a lot more detail in her book, How To Blog A Book (Writers Digest Books). 

Every kind of book takes careful effort and creativity to pull together into a single product.  Making a “blook” is another way to accomplish this process. Have you used this technique? How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Tweetable:  

Are you looking for a different way to create your book? This prolific writer and editor tells how to make a “blook. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)

________________________________________

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. To download a free copy, click the book link or the image. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Grow Contract Awareness for Magazine Work

 

Grow Contract Awareness for Magazine Work by Deborah Lyn Stanley

As we grow writing skills and expertise through magazine submittals for publication, we must be contract wise.

Magazine work is a great way to earn money and to promote various topics to gage readership response. The online world has made it possible for the rapid growth of digital magazine publications. So, be sure to research the magazines that catch your interest for the right fit for you and your audience. Plus, a topic focused specialty is attractive to a publisher.

Once you land a deal with a publisher, a contract will follow. If for some reason, no contract is sent to you, create your own. Don’t work without a contract describing all conditions.

Contracts cover all pertinent information and must be considered point by point. Take it slow and break it down item by item. Be thoroughly aware of the publisher’s expectations and your commitments. For example, the delivery date must be doable.

The Contract’s main and subsections include:
1.    Payment method and rate
       a.    Payment upon acceptance or on publication, but typically between 30-90 days
2.    Rights and responsibilities
       a.    First North American Serial Rights,
             1.    Provides the publisher exclusive rights to be the first to publish your article. Note the time   period for this exclusivity, commonly 90 days.
       b.    One Time Rights,
              1.    Gives the publisher the right to publish your article one time
       c.    Second Serial Rights or Reprint Rights,
              1.    Grants the publisher a nonexclusive right to publish, one time, a piece already published somewhere else.
       d.    All Rights
             1.    You are selling all the rights to your article to the publisher—this takes careful consideration. What if you want to publish the article somewhere else? And, what if they rework the piece so much that it’s not yours any longer?
       e.    Electronic Rights
             1.    This means all forms of electronic media: CE’s, DVD’s, games, apps, etc.
3.    Deadlines, format for delivery, and Word count
4.    Magazines often have their preferred contract format; However, I have included two links that might help you get acquainted with a couple.

Basics Tip: An essay is all about the writer; whereas, an article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition, and an article is informational non-fiction prose.


Helpful Resources:
Writing for Magazine - Is It the Perfect Job for You?  By Suzanne Lieurance
https://www.writersonthemove.com/2014/02/writing-for-magazines-is-it-perfect-job.html

Contributor’s Agreement Sample  —    http://publishlawyer.com/contrib.pdf 

Memorandum Agreement Sample —   https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/LIGHTSPEED-Original-Contract-Short-Story.pdf   

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories


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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Grow Your Skills with Magazine Publication

Grow Your Skills with Magazine Publication by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Grow your writing skill and expertise with Magazine Publication. It is a great way to monetize your writing and to promote various topics for readership response.

The good news is the online world has made it possible for the rapid growth of digital magazine publications. Be sure to research the magazines that catch your interest, for the right fit for you and your audience. Also, specializing in a particular genre is attractive to a magazine publisher.

The list of Genres/Categories for magazine writing is extensive but here are a few for your consideration:
•    Consumer topics
•    Trends
•    Local news, highlighting merchants or events
•    Interviews with notable people in a field or industry
•    True crime
•    Sports
•    Parenting
•    Trade Journals
•    Health & Safety, Alternative Health
•    Aging, Seniors
•    Retirement
•    Travel
•    Humor
•    How-To
•    Arts & Crafts
•    Food & Cooking
•    Personal Essays
•    Writing to Inspire
•    Business to Business
•    Seasonal and Holiday pieces
Tip: An essay is all about the writer; whereas, an article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition, and an article is informational non-fiction prose.


Uncovering New Topic Ideas:
•    Do you have a notable vacation spot in your area?
•    Do you like to Travel?
•    Do you have specific or specialized knowledge for a certain topic? Write about it.
•    Are you into car repair and maintenance? Write tips and money-saving ideas.
•    Start a clipping file of articles, columns, newspaper/journalistic reports that have captured your attention, interest, or imagination.

Helpful questions to evaluate each selection you research:
•    Use a Marketing Guide to select the periodicals you want to study.
•    Would you be proud to promote the magazine and your writing included there?
•    What is the magazine’s specialty? Will your work fit?
•    How long is its typical article—300-500 words and an occasional 1,000-word piece?
•    Do the articles include the advice from experts? Is it an interview?
     What are the expert’s qualifications? How many quotes are included?
•    Which magazine would increase your byline influence?
•    Would the periodical send readers to your website or blog for more?
•    Does the magazine have a good reputation?
•    What is its readership base?
•    Would you consider working with a smaller magazine?
•    Does the magazine offer online and print subscription? Where would your work run—online and print?
•    Check your market guidebook and the magazine’s website for detailed submittal requirements.
•    Are the submittal requirements doable for you? Make detailed notes of the submittal process conditions missing no requirement, as the process varies from magazine to magazine. Don’t let a missed detail in your submittal be grounds for dismissal of your piece.
•    Does the magazine accept simultaneous submittals?
•    Consistently double check found information to confirm it as a credible resource.
•    Disclose your sources of information.
•    Use your personal experience, & be your own expert!

The “Writer’s Market” is an excellent resource to find the magazine that fits for your piece or interest.
Note:
•    Contact information for departments for freelancers
•    What they are looking for
•    Conditions for query letters
•    Word count requirements
•    Pay rate
•    Tips for landing an assignment.


Links of Interest
• 21 Magazines for freelance writing jobs:
https://makealivingwriting.com/write-for-magazines/

• Robert Lee Brewer: Writing Submissions for Magazines: How to Submit Writing to a Magazine
https://www.writersdigest.com/publishing-insights/writing-submissions-for-magazines-how-to-submit-writing-to-a-magazine

 

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories

 

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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: Get Organized


Want to be productive? First, get organized!
 
When you are organized, you spend less time looking for things and more time writing, working, or making progress on one of your numerous passion projects.
  
Last month, I talked about getting organized on #GoalChatLive with Molly Beran, Projects By Molly, LLC; Deborah Thomas-Nininger, DTN Productions International; and Stacey Soleil, Follow Up Boss. We had a rapid-fire, advice-packed conversation. Molly, Deborah, and Stacey share why they love being organized and how they do it, as well as why people find being organized a challenge, organization tips, and much more. 


Goals for Getting Organized

To be better organized, start by setting goals. I say, set appointments for all your activities, including the time you spend getting organized time. Also, categorize your projects and put them in separate folders (electronic or actual).  

Also:
  • Molly: Make a todo list on a post-it note. It’s small, so just enough room for things you can do; this helps you build momentum
  • Deborah: Prepare on Friday for the following week
  • Stacey: Start your day before looking at your phone

Final Thoughts 

Everyone does "organizing" differently. See what's out there. Do more of what works for you and stop doing what doesn't.

Also:
  • Stacey: Start where you shine!
  • Molly: Use Trello for home projects
  • Deborah: Put personal tasks on your todo list

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! 

* * *

What's your best tip for getting organized? Please share in the comments. 

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses

 


July 5, 2022, #1
How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
This is the first of a series of guest posts for #WritersontheMove 
that help writers understand the power of reviews with excerpts from her 
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: 
The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing caree
r

Follow them on the fifth of each month through October 5, 2022.
“Very simply put, reviews are the gift that keeps giving.” ~ CHJ
So you have a review now. Maybe it’s your first. Maybe it’s your umpteenth. You may be able to determine that sales resulted from it. You may not. If not, you may be disappointed. Don’t be. The work a review can do for you has just begun. Here are a few ways you can extend its usefulness.

Permission To Reprint the Review
The sooner we ask for permission to reprint any review we get, the better. That gives us the freedom to use it as needs arise. As our file of reviews-with-permission grows, we come to understand that it is an unmatched cache of promotion jewels.
The best way to get permission to reprint from amateur and reader reviewers is to ask the reviewer personally. If your review is in a journal, you may not know who the reviewer is, but you can ask the editor or publisher for permission. Tell either contact you would like to reprint. Ask them how they would like to be credited and what link and other contact information they would like you to use. Just these two questions should suggest to your reviewer that they could benefit from giving you that permission. Add those details to your file so you it will nudge you to the right thing long into the future when you may decide to use it again.

Keep in mind that copyright law gives you the right to quote excerpts from a review without asking. So if all your grant-permission-rights efforts fail, you can choose, quote, and credit a positive sentence or phrase from the review when you can get permission—and when you can’t--as long as you credit the reviewer. The guidelines for quoting from a review are called fair use and they differ from genre to genre and situation to situation. But for novels and full books of nonfiction, Amazon uses twenty-five words as a guideline and I trust they have great copyright attorneys advising them.

Caveat: Getting unnecessary permission can be cumbersome and counterproductive. Or it can be a great advantage. When you’re working with reviews, asking permission can slow you down, but it can also earn you friends as you work with those who reviewed your book. They are influencers in communities of readers. So balance your decision-making process each time you get a review. Ask yourself, Is the reviewer and/or publisher prestigious, credible, approachable? Is the long-term advantage of networking worth the time and effort in your schedule as it exists in this moment. I hope you use networking approach most often. A great contact (read that friend!) is almost always worth the time it takes to make one.

Here is how to use both the reviews and blurbs excerpted from my 300-page-plus How To Get Great Reviews. It will help WritersontheMove subscribers and visitors extract ethical blurbs (endorsements) from their reviews and credit them appropriately.

Excerpting Blurbs and Endorsements from Reviews

Most of us weren’t taught this excerpting business in school, probably because excerpting seems such a nonissue. Many have no idea how to do it and don’t realize they need to figure it out. They can go miserably astray.

Blurbs may be neglected because there is confusion about what they are. I have heard them called endorsements, testimonials, praise, quotes, blurbs, and even bullets because they are frequently printed on the back cover of books set off by little BB-sized dots.

When my husband solicited blurbs from VIPs in the Asian community for his first book What Foreigners Need to Know about America from A to Z (bit.ly/AmericaAtoZ), he came up with a few other . . . ahem! . . . choice words for getting them. He had been told it is a difficult process. Difficult, but not impossible. He ended up with endorsements from the ambassador to China from the U.S. and the ambassador from China to the U.S. This illustrates why authors shouldn’t listen to naysayers who think approaching influencers is futile. You can do it and you can do it effectively. His step-by-step method takes a full section in How To Get Great Book Reviews and it may be something you need for your process. But for now, the excerpting process is easy and a lot of fun. Let’s say you have a review that includes some praise or even a word that made you happy. Perhaps the rest of it wasn’t all you’d like it to be. Perhaps (yikes!) it doesn’t include your name or title! Here’s how to proceed:

    Put on your marketing bonnet and reread your review thinking “soundbites” or the phrases that remind you of the praise you see in ads for movies. Many of them are excerpts or little clips from advance reviews of that film.
    Choose the little gems that make you glad you wrote the book. Some will be very short. Even one word. Shorties are used for everything from restaurants to movies because they emphasize the raves that are . . . mmmm, over the top—even forbidden when publishers and authors use them about their own work. Words like awesome and fantastic.
    Select some of the praise that points out the benefit a reader might get if he or she reads your book.
    When you must leave something out of the sentence you choose, let ellipses (three little dots…) take the place of those missing words.
    Sometimes you need to substitute for purposes of clarity or brevity. If the blurb says, “If there is any justice in the world, this book is destined to be a classic,” and you would rather have the title of your book in that excerpt rather than this book, you can do that. Remove this book and replace those words with the name of the book: “Two Natures by Jendi Reiter.” You need to put the squarish brackets around the part you insert yourself. So it would read “… if there is any justice in the world, [Two Natures by Jendi Reiter] is destined to be a classic.”

Note: You can see that your job is to make the excerpt as true to the original meaning as possible without sacrificing its value.

    Stow your excerpts in a file you can refer to later. Be sure to include the accreditation for each blurb. That avoids confusion later and makes using one of them a quick copy-and-paste process. The best accreditation included the name and of the reviewer and the entity the review was published in or the position or book the reviewer is most known for.
    Though we should also take care when we quote others, it is legal to quote for certain purposes and in certain amounts without getting permission especially if you write commentary, satire, criticism, academic material, or news reports. Reviews are considered criticism. If you are using your reviews efficiently, you will probably already have permission to reprint according to guidelines we’ve already mentioned. (Use How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically’s Index to look up all the references to copyright in that book.)
    The number of words you can use without permission depends upon the size of the copyrighted work as a whole. Guidelines differ from genre to genre. Find specific guidelines at the Library of Congress web site (loc.gov/) or let a research librarian help you. The online bookstore division of Amazon protects itself by allowing quotations and blurbs of up to twenty-five words directly from reviews.

Note: Those who want to learn more about copyright law as it applies to authors will find help in Literary Law Guide for Authors: Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts in Plain Language (bit.ly/LitLawGuide) by Tonya Marie Evans and Susan Borden Evans with a foreword by my deceased friend and book marketing guru Dan Poynter.

Once you have asked for reprint rights or a review journal like Midwest Book Review notifies you when your review has been posted and the notification includes permission to reuse it—a very nice service that benefits both Midwest and you—record each permission you are given in a folder reserved for great blurbs and reviews. Use  a subfolder for each of your book titles. At that point, you are ready to go to work.

Watch for my next guest blog on WritersontheMove on August 5, 2022. We’ll cover ways you never imagined you could use your reviews and the excerpts (blurbs or endorsements) you have gleaned from them. Trust me, there are probably several free and frugal ways to use your blurbs and endorsements you have never thought of. If you can’t wait, try my How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically at https://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews available as an ebook or paperback.



More on Guest Blogger and Regular WritersontheMove Contributor 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter, now in its third edition from Modern History Press. Her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. The third full book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.

The author loves to travel. She has visited ninety-one countries before her travels were so rudely interrupted by Covid and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.



Friday, July 1, 2022

Writing and Supporting Characters

 


By Karen Cioffi

 Every story has a least one supporting character.

According to Cynthia Lord, author of "Rules," a Newberry Honor Book, "A secondary character has two jobs: to show us another side of the main character and to create tension and problems that will move the plot ahead." (1)

To understand this, think of any story. Now imagine that story with just the main character.

Who would he talk to?

Yes, he could talk to himself, but that would get old fast.

How would we learn more about the character other than what he would tell us himself?

We wouldn't.

Supporting characters are necessary to every story.

Using Supporting Characters to Learn More About the Protagonist

A movie I loved is Cast Away, the 2001 movie with Tom Hanks.

Hanks played Chuck Noland, a FedEx worker who gets stranded on a remote desert island. He's stranded on this island for four years.

No other people are around.

So, the clever writer, William Broyles, Jr., created a supporting character for Chuck. A volleyball that washes up on shore.

Yes, a volleyball.

As time goes on, Chuck names the volleyball Wilson.

If not for Wilson, the viewer would know very little about Chuck and there wouldn't be much of a story.

Chuck talks to Wilson, confides in Wilson, argues with Wilson, and even cares about Wilson.

If you haven't seen it, it's an amazing movie. One that proves even an inanimate object can be a powerful supporting character.

While Wilson showed us a lot about Chuck's character, an inanimate object as a supporting character doesn't really do much to move a story forward. And, it doesn't have much ability to add tension or problems into the story.

In this movie, the elements and Chuck's emotional state were the antagonists causing conflict.

Using Supporting Characters to Provide Conflict

Supporting characters can actually provide the conflict for the main character and drive the story forward.

I'm writing a sequel to my middle grade fantasy, Walking Through Walls, and it's the supporting character who is adding a big serving of problems for the main character.

In the first book, the story was solely about the main character, Wang. It was about his struggle to get what he wanted. While the supporting character Chen was introduced, he didn't have a significant role.

In Book Two, Chen is the source of the conflict and struggles the two friends go through to reach their goal.

In this new story, which I haven't given a title yet, Chen is the one with a problem. His sister was abducted by evil warriors and he asks Wang's help to get her back.

As the main character, Wang is learning his skills as an Eternal student while helping Chen. This all allows the reader to see more of Wang's character and to connect with him.

The story is a fantasy action adventure, so along the way, the two friends will encounter a number of obstacles on their journey to save Chen's sister.

Using Supporting Characters to Provide Subplots

Sometimes, a story from Point A to Point B, may be a little boring or may just need a little something to spice it up.

According to New York Book Editors, "subplots add dimension to your story. They have the power to transform flat black-and-white stories into a living, breathing, prismatic experience." (2)

Subplots can also help pace your story.

I'm using this strategy in a middle grade story I'm ghostwriting.

The main storyline is strong, but to carry its weight through 40,000 words, it may lose steam.

The solution is to have the supporting characters have their own little stories going on. While the main character is privy to everything that's going on, these little diversions create reader engagement and help move the story forward.

Another benefit of subplots with supporting characters is that they can be in the forefront for a short while to liven things up, then lie low until needed again.

These subplots help the reader get better acquainted with the characters.

It's important to remember, though, that when you create a subplot in a story, you need to have an arc for each subplot you create. You need to tie up any loose ends it creates. Think of it as a mini-story within the main story.

So, if you're writing your first book, think about your supporting characters. How will they help liven your story up and engage the reader? How will they help move your story forward?

References:

(1) https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/great-characters-wilson-cast-away-5a6ff322139d
(2) https://nybookeditors.com/2017/11/the-importance-of-subplots/ 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

 

 MORE ON WRITING

The Foundation of Every Children's Story

5 Revision Tips 

Six Steps to Finding Writing Jobs and Building Your Business 

 


 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Writers: Tips on Writing Humor, Part One

Lots of Humor in Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
                                  Linda Wilson's latest picture book, illustrated by Nancy Batra

By Linda Wilson @LinWilsonauthor

In articles about writing funny, some authors say if you can write well, you can also be funny. That sounded reasonable. Others say humor writing is "tricky." Getting warm. Note: mustn't mistake for hot flashes. I didn't even let Frank Gannon discourage me when he said, If you want to write humor "you obviously have something wrong with you, and that is the one single quality that all humorists must have. You have something wrong with you, but you don't want anyone to notice what it is. Therefore, you try to make them laugh." What a relief. Finally, someone has the guts to tell me what's wrong with me--I want to write humor!

Jokes aside, the truth is most say humorous writing is hard work. I say, we writers work hard at everything else. Why not humor, too? Here are three reasons to try:

People love to laugh; laughter is good for us.

Humor is an effective communication tool that can humanize our work and even make the act of writing more enjoyable. Also, it boosts creativity by challenging us to approach our craft in new ways. From: How to Write Better Using Humor, by Leigh Anne Jasheway.  

Toss in the bottom line and there you have it, every reason to give humor a go: "Humor is the one thing that I've never seen an editor say they have too much of . . . period. They all say they'd like to see more." Jan Fields, Author, Instructor and Web Editor of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Ways to Ease into your Funny Bone

Make your humor lighthearted: Try poking fun at human nature. Funny things happen around you every day. Everything you do has potential for humor. The keys are to remember to be gentle, be consistent throughout the book; and as stated below in the Tips, your humorous parts must move the story forward and/or relate to the story's theme (just like everything else, or out it goes).

An unexpected turn in Bruce Coville's book, The Skull of Truth, made me laugh out loud when the main character, Charlie, ate dinner with his family. Charlie had somewhat of a problem: he was a liar. Throughout the book the theme of "Don't lie" came out loud and clear. The dinner table discussion offers a seamless example of combining humor with the book's theme: "Andy Simmons ate a bug today," put in Charlie's youngest sister, Mimi, who was in kindergarten . . . "Then he spit it out. It was gross." She looked very pleased with herself. "Charlie wondered if the story had any truth to it. He still hadn't figured out how to tell when Mimi was fibbing."

Jack Gantos' book, Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery prize winner, is replete with good ole, new-fashioned edgy humor. If the first sentence about Jack's mother ruining his summer vacation doesn't grab you, the excruciatingly long second sentence will: "I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker's roof, and then up the Novelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been erected." Talk about getting hooked by an introduction. I was already smiling, which made absorbing the opening facts effortless.

Exaggerate: Author Connie Willis wrote that Mark Twain called exaggerations "stretchers." Stretching the truth is funny, just don't go too far.

Later in the Norvelt story, it would be hard to top how Jack saved a deer his dad had in his sights when they went deer hunting together. At the most intense moment when his dad was about to pull the trigger, Jack was squatting high up in a tree house in the freezing cold   . . . when . . . "a gut desire to save the deer gave me just enough oomph, and I let out a thin stream of gas which sounded roughly like the slow opening of a creaky coffin lid that had been closed for a thousand rusty years .  . .'Good timing.' [his dad] said sarcastically without even looking at me." (I urge you to read this exhilarating, hilarious yet touching book because this example is far too brief and covers only a slight part of that scene; like so much else in the book it is hilarious while at the same time pulls the heart strings.)

For Children

Bathroom humor: Describe situations where someone breaks wind, something smells, mention underpants, make up words and names

Slapstick comedy: Exaggerate physical clumsiness, such as slipping on a banana peel

Tell Jokes

David Lubar, author of Hidden Talents, an ALA Best book for Young Adults, voted onto over twenty state lists by thousands of kids and educators; the sequel True Talents, and short collections including, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies on writing funny:

Overstatement: Comic exaggeration or overstatement is especially easy with first-person narration. In "Get Out of Gym for Free:" "I figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off someone's head and spit it on to the floor. Maybe after sucking out the eyeballs."

Understatement: In "At the Wrist:" "I'd lost Dad's hand. This was not good."

Death, and taboos: In general, can be funny as long as it isn't personal. Lubar wrote a whole series about a dead kid that is a hoot.

Relief: We laugh at pitfalls because we're relieved that they've happened to someone else.

Surprise: The joy of figuring out the unseen connection or seeing the unexpected solution. Humor arises when the reader figures out the unstated connection. In "Cat Got Your Nose?": "Emily liked visiting Miss Reaker. She made wonderful cookies, as long as you didn't mind a bit of cat hair among the chocolate chips, and the occasional little crunchy thing that was better left unidentified." Seeing the connection between two objects is funny, too: "Even with his face wrapped in black cloth, I had no trouble identifying Jimmy, thanks to a unibrow that could have been mistaken for a climbing rope." From: Seven Stages of Humor, by David Lubar.

Ideas from Susie Brown's blog

Use Funny Words:  For "destroy, " say "pulverize;" for "impractical," say "dorky."

Timing: Construct an artificial lull by starting a new paragraph before something funny happens; gives the reader time to think about what came before and brace themselves.

Tell a dumb joke, then make fun of it.

Say the punch line in a foreign language.

Make fun of yourself: Keep self-ridicule light; don't be afraid to call yourself a dimwit, but if you do, do it proudly. The key to self-ridicule is confidence. From: Write Funny--You'll Make More Money. by Susie Brown

Additional sources: How to Write Funny, by John Kachuba, Chapter 6, "The More and Less of Writing Humorous Fiction," by Connie Willis; and Chapter 12, "Writing 'Funny Bits' for Kids," by Patricia Case; "Writing Humor--But Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alper, Writer's Digest, January 1982; "How to Write Funny," by Lynn Coulter, from an undated SCBWI newsletter; "Funny Business," by Frank Gannon, Writer's Digest, December, 1993.

Next month: Part Two of "Tips on Writing Humor" takes a peek at how farce and sarcasm are used in fiction.


Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.





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