Monday, January 25, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from January 18-22

5. "Newsletter = Marketing Gold" on Romance University (Tonya Kappes)

Link: http://bit.ly/1OTOCwo

There's a lot of talk among writers and freelancers about the importance of a blog, but have you thought about putting together a newsletter for your readership, as well? When you want to reach a lot of people and keep them engaged in your work, and with how you can benefit them, an email newsletter may be just the thing. Check out this post for tips on what to incorporate into a newsletter and how to get one started.

Do you have a newsletter from your website or blog? How often do you send out updates? What's the most popular item in your newsletter from one to the next?

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4. "Setup and Payoff: The Two Equally Important Halves of Story Foreshadowing" on K.M. Weiland

Link: http://bit.ly/1OLdE3a

When writing a work of fiction, or a memoir, for that matter, foreshadowing is one item in your toolbox that, when used well, really ramps up the tension and causes the reader to keep turning pages, way past when he or she should have put your book down for the night. But for foreshadowing to be effective, it needs two things: not only a fantastic payoff at the end, but also a subtle but consistent setup from the beginning, so that readers have something to anticipate. Don't overlook this incredibly powerful writing tool.

What's the most important plot point you foreshadow in your current work-in-progress (WIP)? Find a way to subtly allude to the eventual payoff twice more in your manuscript, between the setup and the payoff as they now stand. Report back: how did it work?

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3. "The Difference Between Setting and World Building" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QoEfU9

Maybe you've always wanted to write a fantasy or science fiction novel, but you're not sure where to start. Or perhaps you only write in sci-fi and fantasy, and now you're looking to create a story in the usual, modern-day world. Authors who work with fantasy and science fiction tend to be most familiar with world building, while authors of everything else are usually pretty good at establishing setting. What's really the difference? Find out here.

Are you world building or creating setting in your current WIP? How do you know? Was that your original intent?

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2. "11 Tricks and Mythbusters of Writing" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Renee Rosen, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1lMd6iZ

How many times have you heard that writing is a solitary activity? Or that editing isn't really important as long as you have a good story? Ever wondered about the truths of those statements? This expert post puts to rest six myths about writing, including the aforementioned (whose answers may not be what you think) and then adds five writing tips to better your skills. Don't miss these points!

What's your least favorite writing myth? Which writing myth have you found to be false? What's a writing myth that has an exception (or two) to the stated rule?

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1. "How to Be a Successful Blogger: Follow These Two Major Tips" on The Write Life (Chuck Sambuchino, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1SETQlQ

Author Chuck Sambuchino, on staff with Writer's Digest, knows a thing or two about marketing. He's the author of the user-friendly book Create Your Writer Platform, about which I cannot say enough good things. His expertise in the writing industry is legion, so when you see his byline, it's time to sit up and take notice. This post, intended to exponentially up your blogging game, is absolutely no exception.

Which of the two major tips had you heard before? Which will you begin to implement immediately? What one step will you take first to get started?

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BONUS: "The Single Biggest Mistake Self-Published Authors Make" on Fiction University (Marcy Kennedy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1ZOKX8o

Yes, two posts highlighted this week from Fiction University, and this one is a bonus to the usual five articles I list every week because it was way too good to leave out of the lineup. And frankly, I think the insight Kennedy provides here applies to all authors ... not just those who are self-published. What's the one thing you need to stop and fix before you move any further in your writing work and career? Read this post for the answer, and resolve the problem immediately!

What mistake did you think Kennedy was going to write about in this post? How did you react when you read her suggestion? What will you do now, in response?

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There's the lineup for last week, plus the extra article. Enjoy, all!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from January 11-15

5. "5 Ways to Tell If a Subplot Is Leading You Astray" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1RuYQcu

As entertaining as is the main plot of your current work in progress, imagine how much more your readers could fall in love if you incorporate subplots. Plot and subplots, woven together, make for satisfied readers who delight in untangling all the expertly intertwined nuances you've included. Here are five questions to ask yourself, for each of your subplots, about whether they are doing your project good or harm.

How many subplots do you have in your current work in progress? How many are there in the average book in your chosen genre? Are all of those subplots working?

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4. "How Writers Can Craft an Effective Setting" on Jane Friedman (Mary Buckham)

Link: http://bit.ly/1nlOkYv

Jane Friedman is arguably one of the foremost experts in the writing industry today, and her blog is chock full of detailed, user-friendly posts on all things related to writing. This fabulous post gives an in-depth look at the use of setting in your fiction, and how setting affects (or is affected by) every other component, from characters to pacing and more.

Where is your current work-in-progress (WIP) set? What's the most interesting setting in your project? How can you add greater subtext?

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3. "7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (K.M. Weiland, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1CVxjKR

Not everyone is a plotter ... someone who sits down and writes out a detailed outline for his or her next project. And that's okay. Some people prefer to write in a more free-form style, which is also okay. There's no right way as long as you get the project written and completed.

On the other hand, some writing experts recommend that you have at least a basic outline going in to your writing sessions, so you have something to aim for. Even if it's a fluid outline, at least you've got an idea where you're heading. This excellent post will give you guidance on putting together a flexible outline, whether you're a plotter or a pantser.

And you? Plotter or pantser? Detailed outline or fly-by-night? What's the best part about being whichever type you are? What's the greatest challenge?

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2. "How to Start Writing a Book: Use This Trick to Find the Time" on The Write Life (Anita Evensen)

Link: http://bit.ly/208IGHg

Finding time is always one of the hardest parts about life. Anything you want to do, you have to find the time. If it's important enough to you, you'll make the time. If not, you won't. (Which makes a great way to vet your priorities and hobbies.) Here's an article that will give you a one-stop question to ask yourself for each item or activity you face on your to-do list, and with any luck, you'll wind up with a way to prioritize your writing.

Where does writing fall in your priorities? Top of the list? Somewhere in the middle? Working its way up? At the bottom? How important is writing to you, really? What are you willing to do to make it a priority?

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1. "Author Newsletters: 6 Tips for Smart Strategies" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1Or3RyT

A newsletter is almost a total necessity for authors nowadays. It has an effect on your branding, your marketing, your outreach, and your ability to connect more directly and personally with your readers. Not everybody knows how to throw a newsletter together, though, so take a gander at expert writer Jami Gold's tips and tricks in this article.

Do you have an author newsletter? What's its greatest strength? What could you add or amend to make it even better?

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There's the lineup for last week. Add comments, ask questions, complain about your current work-in-progress or your characters' disloyalty or the weather. I'm here for you!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from January 4-8

5. "5 Easy Tips for Dealing with Email" on Romance University (Kayelle Allen)

Link: http://bit.ly/1OYyAAL

Maybe your New Year's goals or resolutions include slimming down everywhere, not just so you can wear clothes a size or two smaller. Is email taking over your life? Do you feel more beholden to your inbox than to your family, friends, or writing? Time to make an adjustment. Start with these five practical tips for how to rein in that inbox.

What do you do to manage your email so it doesn't manage you?

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4. "Want to Speak at Writing Conventions? How to Write a Great Pitch" on The Write Life (Arin Black)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Z7sgwe

What do you need to know or be or do to start speaking at writing conventions and conferences? For starters, you need to tailor your approach from the word go because first impressions really do make a tremendous difference. Read this author's tips for crafting a pitch that will get your name in the ring the next time a conference coordinator needs a presenter.

Have you ever presented at a writing conference or convention? How was your experience? What would you do differently in the future?

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3. "Most Common Mistakes Series, Pt. 47: Ineffective Setting Descriptions" on Helping Writers Become Authors (K.M. Weiland)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Ovm2F0

When is description in a novel unhelpful or unproductive? Probably about the time that you start skipping over it, or skimming through it, if you're me and you're reading a novel. So how do you keep your readers from doing that with your writing? Weiland offers expert insight into correcting the problem and making sure that your setting descriptions do their fair share of the work.

Some authors love description. Some authors abhor it. Where do you land? Why?

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2. "Improve Your Writing Platform (or Author Platform) in 30 Days" on the There Are No Rules blog at WritersDigest.com (Robert Lee Brewer)

Link: http://bit.ly/1kW5sSQ

If 2016 is your year to either create or better your platform, then Brewer's thirty-day challenge is the place to start. From branding yourself to defining your goals to joining select social media as a way to connect with your potential audience, his recommendations are broken down into (heard of setting SMART goals?) measurable, attainable, specific, bite-sized steps that you can take, one per day, until you've got a platform to be proud of.

What step(s) will you take, right now, to improve your platform?

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1. "Personal Branding: Why You Should Start an Email Newsletter" on The Write Life (Meryl Williams)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Ph509Q

Your personal brand is what will sell your books, your classes, your workshops, your blog, your social media presence ... everything. It's about how people see you, and what they associate with you, far beyond the most basic "Nora Roberts writes romances" sort of association. I couldn't resist including this second post from The Write Life in this week's lineup. What could an email newsletter do for your brand?

Do you have an email newsletter? If so, does it reflect you as you want to be known? If not, why not?

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As always, comments and questions are more than welcome. I hope everyone is settling into his or her new year routines!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Review: "Minder Rising" (Carol Van Natta)

When you're given a second lease on life, whether you asked for another chance or not and whether you wanted it or not, what will it take for you to step back and really consider the possibilities?

If you've ever found yourself in that situation, you'll be able to relate in spades to Lieren Song, one of two protagonists in Carol Van Natta's most recent science fiction romance novel, Minder Rising, book two in her Central Galactic Concordance series and easily one of my favorite most recent reads.




Science fiction isn't usually my thing ... I'll be the first to admit that. On the other hand, I think that any genre, well-written, can engage any reader, with enough care and consideration to the fact that a reader needs to remain engaged and be entertained by well-rounded characters and a forward-moving plot.

Van Natta is an absolute expert in her craft.

Her futuristic science fiction world is one of the most well-thought out and intricately detailed I've met in my recent forays into speculative fiction. In Overload Flux, book one of her series, of which you can read my review here, the world (or, rather, universe) she has created works seamlessly within itself, leaving me with no glaring gaps or dropped loops as to how everything works together. Minder Rising only continues with that same attentive consistency.

The characters left me intrigued and more than willing to keep reading to find out "what happens next" for each of them, especially Lieren (aforementioned) and Imara Sesay, the other protagonist, and Imara's impish, gifted son Derrit. (Even the characters' names make you want to find out more.) Each has his or her respective arc within the larger story narrative, and those arcs are fascinating enough that I missed each one when I switched to the other main point of view throughout.

While more theoretical and with more explanation than the first in the series, Minder Rising joins the Central Galactic Concordance books as a reinforced example of the same excellent standards according to which Overload Flux was written. I have no doubt that whether you're a science fiction fan or not, you'll be delighted to have picked up a copy of this work.


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Author: Carol Van Natta
Title: Minder Rising
Series: Central Galactic Concordance
ISBN: 978-0983174127
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1SzLRp0

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from December 28 - January 1

5. "The Verb 'To Twit'" on Daily Writing Tips (Maeve Maddox)

Link: http://bit.ly/1MOCWsF

Having sent a tweet to someone on Twitter, you have ... twitted? Check out this insightful post on the linguistic background and evolution of the word "twit "as a verb, and take a few minutes to browse through the other daily posts. You might even want to sign up for the email version.

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4. "Happy New Year! Let's Talk (Story) Beginnings" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1OtYgcm

This time of year --- end of December, beginning of January --- everybody is talking about endings: how the year 2015 treated you, what you learned looking back, what you probably haven't learned yet, that sort of thing. This time, though, Gold takes a different tact and offers up her insights into getting your novel or story's opening down on paper.

Where does your current work-in-progress (WIP) start? What do you want your opening to accomplish? Find a beta reader and ask if it's working.

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3. "Finding Your Path to Publishing" on Fiction University (Beth Revis)

Link: http://bit.ly/1O52HH7

There are only ... okay, an assortment of paths to publishing your work-in-progress these days. Go traditional? Try self-publishing? Come up with a hybrid version? Serialize? Anthologize? How do you know which path to take? Start with this excellent article, full of to-the-point directives and questions so you can discover the best potential method for you.

How do you most want to be published? What are you doing to achieve that goal this year?

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2. "10 Habits of Highly Effective Writers" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Robert Blake Whitehill, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mVo3Qq

If you're like me, you're already behind on your New Year's resolutions, but that's okay. What really matters is that you choose, every day, to make time for what's important to you. If that's your writing, then take a look through these suggested habits writers can make work for them.

Which habits do you already have incorporated into your routine? Which one (or two, if you feel brave) would you like to incorporate? Share how you plan to go about that.

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1. "How to Be More Productive: 21 Ways to Start the New Year Right" on The Write Life (M. Shannon Hernandez)

Link: http://bit.ly/1JnWMQO

The new year is already underway (in case you hadn't taken time to swap out your calendars yet). Maybe this year you've decided your theme will be productivity, or focus ... something that will get your writing done, revised, perfected, out the door and into the hands of an editor or literary magazine or agent. Step your way through this extensive list of tips to bring closure to last year's endeavors, and to find fresh inspiration for 2016!

What did you learn about your writing career, habits, or self last year? What do you hope to learn this year? What one thing do you want to achieve in 2016? What step will you take toward that?

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And there's the lineup for last week, which bridged the gap between the years 2015 and 2016 with pretty quiet certainty. Share some of your goals or resolutions for this year in the comments, if you like!