Monday, February 29, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 22-26

5. "Getting the Pacing Right" on Writers Helping Writers (Becca Puglisi)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QlPxdi

Pacing is one of the most challenging elements of writing an excellent novel. As Puglisi points out in this post, it's the sort of thing that nobody notices if it's done well (and consequently doesn't know how to accomplish in his/her own work) and that everybody notices if it's badly done. That said, here are some of the story elements you'll need to weigh against one another to ensure that your pacing is as fast, or slow, as it needs to be.


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4. "Story Description: Finding the Right Balance" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1QnduO4

Balance is another aspect of writing a novel that requires a great deal of attention and care. How much is too much ... when you're talking about each character's screen time? Or when you're talking about active plot elements versus the down times in between each? Something many writers wonder about is the balance between setting and description, on the one hand, and the rest of the story, so to speak, on the other. Gold offers excellent advice on how to make sure your description does double- or even triple-duty.


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3. "How a Small Shift in Your Vocabulary Can Instantly Change Your Attitude" on Michael Hyatt

Link: http://bit.ly/1QFcJPp

If you have trouble getting motivated to accomplish your writing, or to manage your social media platform, or to keep up with your blog posts, perhaps it's something you're telling yourself that's holding you back. Industry expert Michael Hyatt offers three recommendations for making a small shift in how you talk to yourself, and the words you use, that could result in a monumental difference in your outlook and productivity.


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2. "Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner's Guide" on Jane Friedman (Kirsten Oliphant, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/24vHD7q

What good is Pinterest for authors? It's an excellent question, and one that this article takes time to answer. After all, building a platform often necessitates using more than one social medium, and Pinterest speaks to the visual learners among us more than, perhaps, other media. From reasons writers should use Pinterest in the first place to insider tips to what to post, the guidance you'll find here is unsurpassed for detail and user-friendliness. 


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1. "Creating a Lasting Writing Practice" on There Are No Rules blog at WritersDigest.com (Paula Munier, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1WRHkhq

Training yourself into a regular habit or practice isn't easy, whether you've committed to exercising every day or learning a new language or mastering public speaking. Writing is no different, and yet it's one of those undertakings that really must become a consistent habit, or it simply won't happen. With patience and wisdom, Munier offers inspiration and insight into how to make writing a regular practice.


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There's the lineup for last week, folks. What caught your eye? What did you notice around the web that spoke to your writing? What are you currently working on?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 15-19

5. "5 Common Problems with Middles" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QTzX4W

Anybody who writes a novel will be well aware that there's something challenging about the middle of the story. You're trying to incorporate subplots and maintain pacing and tension, and build character motives, all at the same time, and make sure it all makes sense when you get to the climax and denouement. Here are five more issues to watch out for as you're drafting, or editing, that difficult middle section.


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4. "5 Reasons You Should Pitch Your Writing to Smaller Markets" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Don Vaughan, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1WBURcI

You've got your heart set on writing for one of the big names in the industry. Maybe Forbes, for business articles, or Writer's Digest, for articles on the craft of writing or the ins and outs of publishing. And that's all well and good. But to build your resume and portfolio, this writer suggests, it might actually be best to start small, and here are five reasons why.


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3. "Hack Your Readers' Brain by Describing the Five Senses" on Helping Writers Become Authors (Heather Blanton, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/217HMia

What you want for your readers is the same thing you want as a reader: when you pick up a book, you want to be transported right into the story world. One of the easiest ways to achieve that as an author in your own writing is to appeal to your readers' five senses. It's fairly common for writers to rely heavily on one or two of those senses, and to kind of overlook or even forget about the others, but to paint the most vivid scenes possible, here are ways to use all five, on every page.


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2. "Working for 'Exposure'? Get the Most Out of It" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1PQxSce

There's a lot of give and take on the question of whether writers should work for free, in any capacity, at any time. But if you're going to write for free, you'll likely be doing it to gain exposure ... a byline, for instance, or a couple of sentences at the end of the post or article with your brief bio and website. And if you're doing it for exposure, well, author Gold has expert tips for you on how to milk that for all it's worth.


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1. "How to Be a Freelance Writer: Skip These 10 Embarrassing Mistakes" on The Write Life (Marian Schembari)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mRqqTQ

Working for yourself has a lot of perks. It also comes with a lot of its own challenges. And freelancing is challenging enough without falling over the ten all-too-common stumbling blocks, in the process. From prioritizing to organizing to networking to taxes and everything in between, visit this in-depth article and head off the stumbling blocks before they trip you up.


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And that's the lineup for last week. Keep in touch!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 8-12

5. "How to Connect on Twitter Without Selling Out Your Community" on There Are No Rules blog at WritersDigest.com (DMG Byrnes, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1oev2V5

As social media go, Twitter can be a tough nut to crack. You've only got 140 characters, which includes spaces and punctuation (give me a break). People complain when you add more than your requisite share of hashtags per message. And it's often a challenge to find ways to engage and still get word out about your own books. Check out this excellent post on how to circumvent some of the difficulties and make a fresh start on Twitter.

Are you on Twitter? What do you like about the platform? What do you hate about it? What would you change about it?


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4. "Here's a Fun Way to Build Your Freelance Writing Brand --- And It's Free!" on The Write Life (Marian Schembari)

Link: http://bit.ly/1R3sRNP

Working to build your brand can be a challenge, whether you're a freelance writer or a blogger or an author or all of the above. What do you stand for? What do you represent? How do you want people to know you? What do you want others to associate you with? (For instance, what comes to mind when you think of Jane Friedman? Paula Dean? Michael Hyatt?) Here's a (free!) tool you can use to rack up some face-time in your chosen industry.

What's your brand? What do you think people think of when they see your name? What do you want them to think of? What can you change to bridge that gap?


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3. "Are You Confusing Readers?" on Live Write Breathe (Janalyn Voigt)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PVPSmE

Okay, fiction and memoir writers, and even nonfiction writers ... I'm sure you've seen a list like this one before. Still, there's no accounting for how many times it can take before something really sinks in so that we start recognizing it as a problem and work to change it, so I feel justified citing a brief, well-written article like this one. Check your writing against these things, from redundancy to wordiness, that can leave readers confused.

Which one of the pitfalls on the list is your nemesis? How do you watch out for that in your own writing? How can you recognize it earlier?


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2. "5 Common Problems with Beginnings" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/20xTWeu

As hard as it is to get through that middle hump of your novel, or to craft just the perfect ending to a well-told tale, there's something about beginnings that make them equally difficult. The beginning sets up everything that comes after ... everything. I've even heard it said that the very first sentence of your novel should summarize the entire rest of the story, even if the reader won't realize that until the conclusion. Here are five prevalent challenges that come with starting your story.

Are any of those problems present in your own work-in-progress? What steps will you take to correct them?


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1. "How to Make Beta Reading Work For Us" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1R3tuad

Beta reading has been going on for a while now (as in, decades at least) but it's only recently been given a name. And it turns out that it's one of the most helpful things an author can arrange for his or her current work-in-progress. We authors are too close to our own works to pick out problems with pace and mood and tension and characterization. That's what beta readers are for. Author Jami Gold knows whereof she speaks, and this post is packed with great advice on finding beta readers and establishing working relationships.

Do you use beta readers? Why or why not? After reading the article, did your opinion change?


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And that's the lineup for last week. What resonated with you? What fell flat for you? What are you working on these days? How did you celebrate Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: "Cruel Beauty" (Rosamund Hodge)

When your own father makes a bargain with a monster to marry you off to said monster, and that monster happens to rule the place where you live, like it or not, your fate is pretty much sealed.

Unless you're Nyx, a valiant, rebellious young woman who has never really belonged to the world in which she grew up. Now, with her impending marriage looming, she is even more aware of the dichotomy between herself and the family she has always known, as she prepares to meet her fate not empty-handed but with battle-trained hands designed to kill.

Who hasn't felt trapped into a situation not of his or her own making, and has chosen to become a victor instead of remain a victim in the face of even terrible circumstances?



Author Rosamund Hodge presents Cruel Beauty, a beautiful and intricately re-imagined rendition of the familiar childhood fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

Hodge's story owes far more to the original French version by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and to an abridged and rewritten edition by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, both published in the 1700s, than it does to the familiar Disney classic with which so many of us have become familiar since its debut in 1991.

The characters in Cruel Beauty are lively and brilliantly created, three-dimensional and wholly unexpected in their dealings. Indeed, those familiar with the original fairy tale might find themselves caught off-guard by the divergence of this story from that one, and yet the divergence is welcome, the newness refreshing and intriguing.

Part fantasy, part fairy tale, part romance, part adventure story, interwoven with lush Greek mythology, under-girded with suspense at every turn, and intended for young adult (YA) readers but well-written enough to fascinate adults as well, Cruel Beauty is one of the most unusual fairy tale retellings I've had the pleasure of reading in a long time, and it's truly an honor to make my readers aware of its existence and excellence.


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Author: Rosamund Hodge
Title: Cruel Beauty
ISBN: 978-0-06-222473-6
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1PJk5ku

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 1-5

5. "How to Find and Work With a Freelance Editor" on Nathan Bransford (Christine Pride, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PKxHjT

It's not enough to have a great idea for a novel. It's not even enough to create interesting characters and a fast-paced plot and an attention-grabbing hook. You could have the greatest story idea in the history of the world, but if your work hasn't been edited for those sticky little errors in grammar and punctuation and spelling, you can't expect it to be taken seriously. That's the sad truth today.

It's also, though, an empowering truth. Now you know what you need to do to make your novel or memoir or whatever the best it can possibly be. Get it edited. And here's an expert post on what to look for and what to expect from that process.

Do you have an editor with whom you regularly work? What's your favorite part about the editing process? What's your least favorite part? Why?


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4. "Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 48: No Conflict Between Characters" on Helping Writers Become Authors (K. M. Weiland)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QQX6aI

Maybe you've already got an editor (see #5 above) and you're hot and heavy into the revision process, but you keep coming across comments in the margins in your editor's decisive handwriting: "Boring," "Not enough going on," "Nothing happening." All of that together can mean many things, but one huge indication of "nothing going on" is a lack of conflict. Story is driven by conflict; otherwise, we don't care what happens.

So what does it take to infuse conflict into every single page and paragraph of your manuscript? Start with conflict between characters, and read this excellent post on what you can do to deliberately bore your readers to death, should that be your goal ... or to solve the dullness problem and keep them turning pages.

Where does your work-in-progress (WIP) lack conflict? What three things will you change to infuse conflict into that scene, chapter, or interaction?


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3. "Emmie Mears: Hi, Hello, We're Here to Revoke Your Artist Card" on terribleminds.com (Emmie Mears, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1T0t06C

Almost every writer, if he or she is honest, will admit to having felt like an impostor. Like you actually have no talent or gifts or ability whatsoever, and why are you even sitting at a desk day after day pretending to be able to write when you know you're only producing drivel that no one will want to read?

That's impostor syndrome. And it's hideous and awful and horrible and debilitating ... and normal. Yes, normal. I promise. Check out this hilarious, unrepentant, uncouth, insightful editorial on the subject by an author colleague of Chuck Wendig's. He only posts the best.

When have you felt most like an impostor? What made you feel that way? What did you do with those feelings? What will you do differently next time?


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2. "13 Productivity Apps to Help Keep Your Writing Goals on Track" on The Write Life (Jett Farrell-Vega)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mnTjXt

You know your limitations. You know what distracts you the most, what you have to do before you can get into the right mindset for writing, what rituals and routines make your muse show up on time every day. You know yourself best. Here are more than a dozen different recommendations for ways that technology can assist you in achieving your writing goals, so you don't stay too distracted or disorganized to create.

What one distraction is your biggest nemesis? Is there any app in the article that will help you eliminate that? What two other actionable steps will you take to minimize its impact on you?


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1. "Nourishing Our Creativity to Help Our Writing" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1SEtBwp

Maybe you find yourself blocked. Maybe you can't figure out how to move your character past an obstacle. Maybe the amazing story idea you had last night or last week looks flat and boring on paper. Maybe you just can't think of the right word. What you need is a dose of creativity, something upon which your imagination can draw and expand.

Whether you see yourself as an artist or not, I guarantee you'll get a lot of inspiration out of this brilliant, beautifully written post by author Jami Gold, whose honest approach to the topic will reassure you that even long-time, multi-published authors need regular infusions of creativity. Why not you, too?

Why not you? What do you think keeps you from being creative? What one new thing will you try this week to jar your creativity back to work, even if you have to take a leap outside your comfort zone to do it? Will you commit?


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Happy Fat Tuesday tomorrow, readers, and happy Ash Wednesday this week! What are you up to these days?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: The Scarlet Trilogy (A. C. Gaughen)

Ever imagined yourself a swashbuckling outlaw leaping through the forest, inches ahead of the greedy nobility from whom you've just stolen money enough to ensure that your people will withstand another tax season with their heads intact?

No? Just me? Oh, well ... 




For those of you who nodded as you read that descriptor, never fear. There are a number of us, and I imagine one of them is probably author A. C. Gaughen, whose Scarlet trilogy is a tremendously well-written and engaging, and newly re-imagined rendition of the classic story of the hero and outlaw Robin Hood.

The trilogy consists of Scarlet, Lady Thief, and Lion Heart, listed in correct reading order, and trust me when I tell you, you really need to read them in the right order. Otherwise, you'll be thoroughly confused, having been plunged into a melee of intricately crafted subplots peopled with characters compelling enough to walk right off the pages.

My favorite character throughout the series is Scarlet, the title character of the first novel, and the point-of-view character through whose eyes readers experience the entire story line in all three books. She is as three-dimensional and realistic as can be, full of unique qualities, abilities, and contradictions --- like her gruff exterior versus her soft heart for the suffering --- that make her a sympathetic character from the first page.

And anyone who appreciates the original Robin Hood tale will be relieved to know that Gaughen took great pains as she crafted each character, and that she included all the usual suspects, so to speak, from Little John to Friar Tuck, but with her own delightful twists in every individual instance.

It's a delight and a pleasure to present this trilogy to my readers for their consideration, and I can't stress enough how highly I regard the trilogy and its author for its heart-warming, suspenseful, devastating impact.


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Author: A. C. Gaughen
Title: Scarlet
Series: Scarlet (#1)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2346-8
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1P6xzre

Title: Lady Thief
Series: Scarlet (#2)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-3614-7
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1SleIPB

Title: Lion Heart
Series: Scarlet (#3)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-3616-1
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1TvwPkD

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: "Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers" (Gisela Hausmann)

Adults aren't the only ones who need to be able to communicate effectively in the world today. After all, how many teenagers and young people do you know who are currently holding down one or more jobs?

If you've got a job, or you're a student, or you're volunteering in society in some way, then you're professionally connected, like it or not, and you need to be able to communicate like the professionals alongside whom you're working.



Which is why it's such a pleasure for me to introduce to you Gisela Hausmann's latest nonfiction work, Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers, an in-depth resource for teenagers on the importance of being able to write an effective, approachable, and courteous email.

Hausmann, who is also the author of Naked Words: The Effective 157-Word Email, writes an easy-to-understand and easily applicable guide that, in fact, applies to anybody looking for simple, straightforward, and unapologetic wisdom about email writing. The principles she espouses will even be applicable in personal relationships, as with friends or family members. (Can you really imagine yourself sending a well-received email to your grandmother and not including a salutation?)

Email has leveled the playing field, in many ways, for young people. Today, it's just as easy for a teenager to draft a courteous, professional email and send it to a potential employer, and be taken seriously as a result, as it is for an adult to do the same. Teenagers have an opportunity of which they should take considered advantage.

And with a thorough reference tool like Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers on your (literal or virtual) bookshelf, no one will have any excuses left to justify a sloppy email doomed to be deleted.

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Author: Gisela Hausmann
Title: Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers
ISBN: 978-0-9963893-9-6
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1QAOTHy

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, February 1, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from January 25-29

5. "How to Write Better Using Humor" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Leigh Anne Jasheway, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/20sTgsI


Humor writing isn't just a genre or a sub-genre. Sometimes, the situation calls for a little humor to get a particular point across, as in a personal essay or memoir. Maybe you're writing fiction and one of your characters is the comic, and whenever he or she enters the room, hilarity needs to ensue. How do you make that happen? Check out this in-depth post detailing five different qualities of humor, and five easy-to-use methods to use them in your own work.


What are you writing now? Would it benefit from a dose of humor? How will you interject that organically?



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4. "Stay Focused: 4 Ways to Delete Writing Distractions From Your Life" on The Write Life (Meg Dowell)


Link: http://bit.ly/1UuKzdN


It's too easy for most of us to use life as an excuse to explain or justify why we're not writing. The truth is, if you're a writer, you write. Period. No matter what your particular nemesis, here are four of the most common things that distract us from work, and what you can do about it to improve matters. Don't be a victim to time and circumstances any longer.


What is the biggest distraction that keeps you from working? What are you going to change this week about your routine, office, or habits to minimize or eliminate that distraction completely?



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3. "The Organized Writer: Making a Production and Marketing Bible" on Fiction University (Angela Quarles)


Link: http://bit.ly/1RU0k06

You've heard of a business plan. You've heard of a marketing plan. But ... a production and marketing bible? If it sounds intimidating, rest assured that once you have all the necessary components in place, you'll be relieved to have the resource at hand. When you're finished, you'll have your e-book publication data, including ISBN information, sales numbers, and reviews, as well as the contents of your marketing plan all in one convenient location.


Do you have a production and marketing bible? What first steps will you take this week to start putting one together? What information unique to your situation will you include?



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2. "The New Way to Write Your Life Story: The 10 Themes of Legacy Writing" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Richard Campbell, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1P5UrXQ


It's likely that not everyone goes to bed at night thinking, Now what did I do today to further the legacy I'm going to leave behind me? (Unless you do, in which case I'd love to hear from you!) Legacy is kind of a concept most of us assume we can't affect. Isn't a legacy whatever we leave behind that outlives us ... or not? On the other hand, if you're a personal essayist, memoir writer, or autobiographer, legacy probably consumes your thoughts. Here are ten legacy-oriented themes to take into consideration, whether you're writing your memoirs or not.


What kind of legacy are you leaving? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? What will you do about any discrepancy between the two?



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1. "25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing" on terribleminds.com (Chuck Wendig)


Link: http://bit.ly/1nve7Ok


I haven't highlighted one of Wendig's posts here in a while, but that doesn't mean he's not still publishing excellent expert content and writing tips. This post, in particular, caught my attention because he manages to combine difficult truths about the harsher realities of the writing industry with his signature snarky, entertaining, down-to-earth tone and style, the combination of which somehow leaves me feeling hopeful about the writing world anyway.


Which of Wendig's hard truths did you need to hear today? What would you add to his list for novice writers?



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BONUS: "The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2016" on The Write Life (Marisol Dahl)


Link: http://bit.ly/1VlsQWs


Two bonus posts in two weeks ... I know, unprecedented (but we can't say that any more!). And this fabulous resource for writers is just way, way too good to pass up. Visit this mother-of-all collection posts, packed with the best of the best blogs and websites in the industry, broken down into categories for creativity, blogging, freelancing, and more. Thanks to The Write Life for putting together such a fantastic reference tool every year!



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And that's the lineup for last week. Let me know in the comments how your January has gone, and what you're looking forward to with the start of February!