Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: The Internet is Forever

Originally, I intended to write a post regarding deadlines, but an event a few days ago prompted me to rethink my plans for this week. It seems a self-published author took offense to a reviewer's 3-star rating of her book and posted--not one, but several--scathing replies on the reviewer's blog. (Don't ask for the link; I won't contribute to the poor girl's idiocy.)

There are two lessons to be learned in this tragedy. First of all, authors must remember that not everyone is going to like your work. Every reader opens a book with a set program of experiences, biases, and expectations ingrained in his/her DNA. As authors, we hope to manipulate the reader's emotions. To do so requires a strong voice, and the very reason your work might resonate with one reader will be the exact same reason another reader hates your work. That's the nature of the beast. Deal with it.

But the far bigger lesson to take away from this week's Twitter drama is that regardless of how you feel privately about someone's opinion of your story, you must always maintain a public persona of professionalism, tact, and sanity. To blow your stack and then demand the site's owner remove the post serves no purpose. Anyone with Google can find your deleted words in a "cache."

So whether it's about a review, an author who got a better deal than you, an editor who done you wrong, or that thing your husband does that seriously has you considering murder, if you must spew venom, do so to trusted friends. Face to face. Do not record your bad behavior for posterity. If you must write your feelings for them to have weight, write on paper and burn it afterward.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five: Five Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for RWA National

RWA's National Conference is just a few months away. Planning to attend? Here are a few things you should be doing now to get ready:

1. Order business cards. Even if you're an unpubbed writer, it's a good idea to have some business cards made up. Vistaprint helps you put together a nice, professional card at a great price.

2. Finish that WIP! You want to pitch to all the editors and agents in attendance, don't you? But they won't ask for anything unfinished unless you have a stellar track record. Increase your odds by barreling through what's left of that manuscript.

3. Practice your pitch. Check out my article on my website: The High Concept Pitch: The Ten Items or Less Line to Success. Follow the guidelines I've posted and be ready to let your pitch fly off your lips at your pitch session, in the bar, in the elevator (but not in the ladies room!)

4. Save your cash. National isn't cheap, particularly in a place like Manhattan. Start putting aside a few dollars out of each paycheck to cover your incidentals, the quick cup of coffee, or the drinks and appies at the bar.

5. Start planning your schedule. RWA has the list of workshops up on their website, including mine on Wednesday, Hips Don't Lie: Body Language Between the Sexes. Start bracketing your time in a datebook or Google calendar so you get to see and do everything you plan to!

Hope I'll see you there. Don't forget to check out the rest of the Friday Five Family today. Their links are in my sidebar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: The Stiff Upper Lip

One of the things you'll hear often in the publishing world is that it's an "incestuous" business. What exactly does this mean? It means that yesterday's editor at House X could be today's editor at House Y, an agent at Z Agency, or even the latest new sale author competing for the same publishing slot as you. Everyone has a tendency to bounce. So when you meet all these professionals, you know to behave and watch what you say.

But what if Editor A requests a full of your story, but then switches houses? It happens all the time. And what if her replacement, Editor B, rejects your story because she doesn't like the very angle Editor A loved?

You suck it up and move on, grasshopper. Don't complain, don't badmouth Editor B for the rejection. Don't whine about Editor A's move or her poor timing. Because you never know when the two will get together and talk. And you don't want your name to come up unless it's to discuss a bidding war!

So keep yer big trap shut, keep writing, and keep your reputation solid!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome Spring!

I'm thrilled that I can *finally* start putting my winter clothes away. Looking forward to sunshine, warm temps, and flowers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Five: Five Things to do to Conquer Writer's Block

Every once in a while, all writers face the blank page with dread. Whether or not you believe in writer's block, there are things you can do to get your creative juices flowing. Here are five tips to help you get back in the groove and finish that scene!

1. Exercise. Yeah, I know. But rumor has it, exercise gets your endorphins flowing and endorphins enhance the creative side of your brain.

2. Change your writing scenery. If you normally work on your laptop, try writing with pen and paper. Always indoors? Go outside. Head to a coffee shop or diner for a little outside influence and the buzz of white noise.

3. Skip ahead. Just can't seem to get the scene right? Jot down a few notes and move on. You can come back to it later.

4. Rewrite the scene in another point-of-view. Sometimes the issue is that you're trying to show a scene from one character's viewpoint when another character really wants center stage. Indulge that other character. You never know what might develop.

5. Go to the water. Okay, this might sound weird, but there's something about water that releases creative ions in the brain. Head to the beach, fill a bathtub, take a shower. Ideas will flow like the water!

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Friday Five Family. Their links are in my sidebar!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Your Baby's Not Perfect

There. I said it.

Too often a writer becomes so involved with her manuscript, the faults are no longer visible. An author who allows normal common sense to flee when the spotlight falls on her latest creative work has switched gears from Writer to Mommy. What's the difference?

A Writer can not only handle criticism, she embraces it, considers the feedback, and makes changes to the work, based on the suggestions she believes will strengthen the story or the characters. If the story's already been published, she shrugs off the negativity, accepts the criticisms that have merit, and focuses on making her next story even better.
Mommy doesn't like anyone to say anything negative about the work, whether the feedback comes from a critique partner, an editor, or a book reviewer. In fact, she's liable to lash out at the professional who dares to comment on a potential flaw. Anyone who insults her precious work is fair game for an online onslaught of flame wars, a boycott, or some kind of ugly retaliation.

A Writer understands that a publisher is looking to sell your book and may request changes to make the story more appealing to a wider audience. She will carefully consider the suggestions presented and accept the opportunity to do revisions when offered.
Mommy refuses to change the end, take out the subplot, or rewrite the secondary character's point-of-view simply because she worked so hard on those scenes. Those who don't immediately see the perfection in her work are just dense. (And Mommy doesn't work with dense people.)

A Writer studies the market to find the right home for her work, considers all her options, and weighs what's best for her career future.
Mommy places her story in the hands of a friend in the business, someone who "understands" her particular type of genius and won't ask for too many changes. So what if she'll have little to no distribution or the company goes bankrupt soon after the book's release? At least she kept her story's integrity whole.

A Writer is a mature professional who can separate her love for her story--and the hours of toiling over the manuscript--from the market's needs and wants.
Mommy expects accolades for simply typing The End.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Five: Five More Times to Use a Comma

So last week, I gave you five different times to use a comma in writing. As promised, here's part two: five more times to use that friendly little punctuation mark.

1.                          To denote a directive from its target: Put that shirt on, Joshua. has a very different meaning from Put that shirt on Joshua.
2.                          With an adverbial clause: Although Cara hated cats, she nuzzled the kitten’s furry black face. OR Because I’m failing English, my mother’s making me go to summer school.
3.                          To differentiate a clause that conflicts the statement: Irene’s allergic to strawberries, not raspberries.
4.                          To set off a non-restrictive clause (aka “which”): The Leaning Tower, which is located in Pisa, is a major tourist attraction.
5.                          To separate a list of items or adjectives: Lisa tossed romaine, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, and carrot curls into a salad bowl. OR Travis was tall, lean, and rugged with dark hair, light eyes, and a hint of stubble on his cheeks.
Here’s the tricky part: Many writers will leave off that last comma (before “and”). Old dogs (like me) and Catholic school grads have heart palpitations at the very idea. Why? Because, for us, that last comma denotes the last item. Without it, the last two items become one entity. The buffet held shrimp, fried chicken, spaghetti, and macaroni and cheese. You wouldn’t separate macaroni and cheese, but if you switched the sentence around: The buffet held shrimp, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and spaghetti. Fried chicken and spaghetti have become one entity, like the macaroni and cheese.
Lucky for you youngsters, the rule isn’t quite so stringent anymore. So if you prefer to forgo the last comma, despite my stellar example here, that’s your choice. Just be consistent throughout your manuscript! And be flexible if your editor/agent wants you to change your mind.

That concludes this week's grammar lesson. Don't forget to visit the other Friday Five gals. Their links are in my sidebar.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mid Week Rude Awakening: Rolling the Dice on Publishing Houses

The publishing waters are teeming with sharks. These days especially, anyone with a laptop, a printer, and access to photo images can launch a publishing site. So how do you tell the good guys from the bad? What's a good risk vs. a bad risk? Depends on what you're looking for.

Common sense tells you to do your research. Check out previous sales figures, talk to other authors who've been published with the house, scour their website and check their online presence. How approachable are they? What kind of education do their editors have? Is there an art department for covers or is it the owner pulling stuff off some stock photo website? Most important of all, don't ignore your inner voice that might warn you against signing on the dotted line.

But what if you're considering selling your work to a company that just opened its doors? Research on sales figures, previously published authors, and online presence can be hard to come by. And yeah. Even the big boys started out small at some time. So you might be willing to take the risk when it comes to a new publisher. And that's okay. Just go into it with your eyes wide open. Be aware you're probably going to get burned, the company probably won't last long, and you'll wind up fighting to regain your rights to your own book, a book few other publishers will want because it's already been released. If it still means that much to you to be published, no matter how the stats stack up, go for it.

Just don't blame bad karma, bad luck, or any other mystical mojo when the publisher suddenly disappears from the Internet. You swam with the sharks. You lost a limb. Learn your lesson, pick up what's left of your dignity and take your talent elsewhere.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Five: Five Times to Use a Comma

Oh, goody! I get to combine two of my favorite things today: Friday Five and a grammar lesson! Confused about that poor little comma? When to use it vs. a semi-colon or a period? Take a gander at these five instances. There are more, but these are the most common:

1.                          To separate introductory phrases from the main sentence: While running across the park, Jeremiah thought his lungs would burst.
2.                          To separate two independent clauses: Rosa double-checked her watch, and they boarded the train. OR Ryan hit the baseball almost to the warning track, but Diego caught it in fair territory.
3.                          When opening a sentence with a gerund used to describe action by the subject: Grinning, the earl nodded. OR Breathing hard, she flopped down on the grass. NOT Shimmering sunlight tipped the blades of grass with gold.
4.                          To break out description of a subject: Dirt-streaked and sweaty, Bob longed for a shower. OR Bob, dirt-streaked and sweaty, longed for a shower.
5.                          To separate dialogue or any quotation from its tag: “You don’t know me that well,” Emma purred. OR Boy George said Madonna was, “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.” NOTE: "I hate you." Lisa fisted her hands at her sides. does not earn a comma because there is no dialogue tag. There is an action performed by Lisa. Dialogue tags are words like said, replied, shouted, retorted, asked or exclaimed.

Next week, five more! Don't forget to visit the other members of the Friday Five Family. Their links are in my sidebar.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Pay to Play?

Welcome to a new feature here at Flights of Fancy where I'll attempt to slap you silly with reality in the writing world. Or at least, my version of reality. Feel free to disagree or dispute my arguments in the comments and I'll be happy to join any kind of spirited debate on the topics I bring up.

Ready for today's pearl of wisdom? Here goes:

Everyone who writes is not destined for publication and everything you write doesn't necessarily deserve to be published.

Harsh, huh? Maybe. But also true. Ask any bestselling author and I bet they'll admit to the manuscript that stays hidden, never to see the light of day. Why is it hidden? Because it's not good enough and they know it. Maybe their grammar skills were weak. Or the storyline didn't have a full array of successful elements. What matters is, regardless of how long they worked on it and how they struggled, they understood that particular manuscript was not ready and might not ever be.

Nowadays, it's easy enough to take those drekky pages and publish them. You can use a vanity press or self-publish. Or you can hire on with a so-called professional that asks for money up front to improve your story or help get you published. The opportunities to "pay to play" are limitless. But when you pay to play, chances are excellent you'll wind up with nothing but fewer dollars in your bank account. Or maybe you'll be one of the "lucky ones," who pays the cash, and forever links your name to something less than stellar that will eventually become an embarrassment and a hindrance to your career.


You can skip laying out the cash and pay your dues. What do I mean by that? Take writing courses, join writing organizations like RWA, find critique partners to help you improve your skills. Absorb, keep writing, keep learning, and keep growing as a writer. Stash those less-than-stellar stories in the dark. Be patient, grasshopper. Forget about Author X who sold her first book right out of the box or Author Y who just signed a three-book deal and isn't even that good. Focus on your writing. Figure out what your weaknesses are and strengthen those skills to improve your chances in the real writing world.

Don't be in such a rush to see your name on a book that you pay to play. Pay your dues, learn your craft, and offer a quality story time and again. That's what will keep people coming back for more. No shortcuts, no secret words, no genie in a magic lamp, and no amount of dollars can make a poor story good.