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You're A Part of the Scene

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 26 February 2015 · 40 views

by R.S. Mellette

I've been binge-watching the Foo Fighter's series, Sonic Highways, on HBO. It chronicles Dave Grohl's journey with the rest of the band to record a song, inspired by and recorded in a different city around the country. While in that city, they delve into the evolution of the music scene that is unique to that part of the world.  Jazz in New Orleans. Blues in Chicago. Go-Go & Funk in D.C. etc. Not only is the history fascinating, I found the series inspirational for artists of all kinds, including myself as a writer.

But nostalgia is useless if it doesn't teach us something about today, or guide us toward a better tomorrow.

I got to thinking about those music scenes. For a brief moment, I wished I had been involved in something as cool as grunge in Seattle, or Willie Nelson in Austin. Then I said to myself, "You idiot! You are. Right now. Right here at From The Write Angle."

Sure, our Moveable Feast may not be in Paris, but this isn't the 1920s. None of us may be as famous as Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Joyce, but neither were they at the time. If they were, or if we were, then it wouldn't be a scene would it? All great "you should have been there back when" scenes start before the artists become household names. For those involved, it's not necessary for their peers to make it big. They are mythic not for what they will do as famous artists, but what they did last Tuesday when they couldn't afford breakfast.

So whether this little band of writers is destined for greatness or not, I thought I would provide my portion of the yet-to-be-made (or never-to-be-made) documentary on our little scene. Those who are a part of it, as participants or audience, feel free to chime in with your own angle of the story in the comments.

For most of us, From The Write Angle started with AgentQuery Connect, which is a scene unto itself. The head of that little movement is the mysterious AQCrew. No one knows who AQCrew really is, but his or her guiding hand has been a big influence to writers, published or not. The mystery of AQCrew's real identity adds to the mythic aspect of AQC's tale.

For me, From The Write Angle started when Robert K. Lewis, aka Thrownbones, got an agent. This was around 2008 or '09 on the first incarnation of Agent Query Connect. Not only was I completely jealous, which is my highest compliment, but he wasn't around the boards as much and I missed his posts. Shortly after that, I got an agent and I missed his posts even more.

There are a whole new set of problems a writer encounters once they make it to the next level, but to complain about them to writers on the level below is kind of rude. I had never been the type to think I needed a support group, but Agent Query Connect had become that as sure as if it were held in the rec room of a local community center. Once I'd found an agent I felt like I'd lost my support, so I asked AQCrew if I could form a password protected group for writers who have agents.

When ACQ moved to the new site, this group became The Class of 2009. Most of us moderated (or still moderate) forums on that site. At some point, AQCrew mentioned that writers were forming blog groups and that we should consider doing something like that. From The Write Angle was born.

My biggest contribution after that was writing the statement of purpose:

We learn best, not from our bigger than life heroes, but our big brothers and sisters. We run fastest to catch the person just in front of us, not who has already finished the race. We seek The Write Angle to help you, not because we have reached the summit, but because we are in arm's length, and when you are arm's length ahead of us, we hope you'll remember how you got there.

In 2012, Matt Sinclair started publishing short stories via his Elephant's Bookshelf Press. As I say in the acknowledgements of Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, he is our Sun Records. Thronebones went on to have his Mark Mallen noir series published. Mindy, R.C., Sophie, Cat, etc. have all done well and still blog here along with the rest of the team. Others, have moved on to emeritus status, but like any members of a scene, they are with us in our thoughts.

What scenes are you all currently a part of?  What are you doing now that will be a fond memory in a decade or so?

R.S. Mellette's new book is Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand. He is an experienced screenwriter, actor, director, and novelist. You can find him at the Dances With Films festival blog, and on Twitter, or read him in the anthologies Spring Fevers, The Fall: Tales of the Apocalypse, and Summer's Edge.

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 23 February 2015 · 27 views

by Mindy McGinnis

I work in a public school. The two libraries I help oversee serve 5th graders through seniors, and I end up in the building way past the hours that I stop getting paid. There's always something going on in a school, and basketballs bouncing in a gym have a way of calling to the ex-athlete, as does the ring of softballs hitting aluminum bats.

I don't get a chance to play much of anything anymore, taking the canoe out in the spring and hitting the gym every week is how I get my exercise now. But I'm often drawn into school sporting events, and while I know that the past is golden, I see some definite differences from the proverbial way things used to be.

I see the parents of fifth graders keeping stats in the bleachers, kids being pulled aside after games by coaches and parents alike (sometimes with a referee in tow for official backup) about what they did or didn't do, and how they can improve. I see adults talking about college admissions, scouts, percentages, injuries hurting playing time, and having conversations more suited to ESPN than a gym with fading paint.

Kid's faces are intense, and don't get me wrong - I think that's awesome. I know exactly how it goes in the moment, when a turnover under your hands feels like the end of the world, when sliding into home and winning the game could very well be the best thing that ever happened to you. Yeah, that's all true.

But sometimes I wonder if anyone out there is having fun anymore. Or anyone in the bleachers, for that matter.

Writing often feels the same way. I spent ten years receiving rejections for books that I was certain were Pulitzer material (they're not, for proof hit up my hashtag #BadFirstNovel). I was writing with visions in my head of awards, fame, and yes, money (that's a whole other post).

What I wasn't doing was writing because I loved it. I was writing because I was intent on making it my everything, and proving to myself and the world how freaking awesome I was.
  • Reality check #1 - I just wasn't.
  • Reality check #2 - That's partly because there was no heart in my writing.
After ten years of failing of I gave up. I truly did just let it go for a few years. I came back with a recharge and the thought that maybe I should try writing YA, since I had just started working in a high school. I came up with an idea I loved. A fun idea, nothing that was going to land me at a table with the President someday, but something fun. Something I liked.

And I wrote it.

And while it didn't garner representation or achieve publication, I rediscovered the enjoyment of writing. Which prompted me to write NOT A DROP TO DRINK, which opened up a whole new chapter of my life.

So if you're mired in your stats, or singing sad misereres over the dusty bones of the novel you've been rehashing forever, try to remember why you started doing this in the first place. And then maybe have some fun with it.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer's Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET in October of 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. Mindy is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary.


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A PRUDE’S GUIDE TO WRITING SEX SCENES

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 19 February 2015 · 53 views

With the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey (full disclosure: I’ve never read it, nor seen the movie, but I have seen the trailer) currently dominating the box-office despite being widely panned by critics, one thing seems as true as ever, sex sells. Most of us however are not writing romance or erotica, so what place do such scenes have in other genres, and how to manage them if, like me, you’d rather have all your fingers broken than have to type up a steamy scene?

1.  Are they necessary? 
Sometimes. We’ve all heard actors say things along the lines of, ‘I only do nudity when it’s integral to the plot,’ and then we all roll our eyes, knowing integral to the plot is Hollywood speak for will make the producers more money. Books can easily suffer from the same gratuitous and superfluous addition of sex scenes as movies are known for, but the difference is you the author can save us! (And yourself) from the awkwardness of an unnecessary sex scene. 

Look at your story, and at your own motivations. Are you letting yourself feel pressure from society because other books you’re reading included such scenes? Well, don’t. Instead, focus on your characters and your story. 

Your characters: They may very well be having sex, they also go to the bathroom, but it doesn’t mean such actions need to make it into the novel. I like to view sex scenes like bathroom breaks, you’re only going to include a bathroom break if something truly important to the plot happens during it. Such as if your character gets eaten by a T-Rex while on the toilet, à la Jurassic Park. Which brings us to point two.

2. Sex scenes are not about the sex.
If the scene is necessary to the plot it means there is a whole lot more going on than just the sex. This is the thing that got me through the most recent steamy scene I’ve written, realizing that while yes the characters are physically getting intimate the scene is not about the physical mechanics of what they are doing, which I feel so uncomfortable writing, but about the subtext of what’s going on with the characters, which is way more within my wheelhouse. 

In my case the love scene I was dreading is about a burn victim who hasn’t let anyone actually see her in years finally overcoming her own shame at her disfigurement. When I was thinking of it as just the scene where Helen and Chase have sex I was terrified to write it. I left it out entirely in the first draft, and it proved to be a vast gaping hole in the plot, so I had to address it. Once I started viewing it instead as the scene where Helen goes from letting fear of her disfigurement dictate all her choices, and works through those challenges and overcomes them finally making the choice she wants not what her fear requires the scene practically wrote itself. 

You may not know anything about writing a sex scene, but you know your characters and the subtext the scene is really about, so let them guide you, and it will be so much easier.

3. Fade to black. 
I always use this. It may be a cop out, but it’s one that works. If you write way past the point you feel comfortable it will probably result in writing that your audience is going to feel uncomfortable reading. No one wants to end up winning Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction award. Sure, some authors get graphic, but you don’t have to. I am a firm believer that implied sex is the best kind. Readers have a great imagination, they can totally pick up in their minds where you left off if they are so inclined. Plus, if someone really wants there to be more sex in your book they will write up some fan fiction.

4. Have someone who is less of a prude beta read it for you.
It’s always a good idea to have a variety of critique partners and beta readers for many reasons, but especially for areas that you feel are not your strong suit, or are not as comfortable with, the input of someone who is can be priceless. 




Brighton can be found motivating fellow writers with Jennifer Connelly memes over on Tumblr at JC Writing Motivator, and documenting his adventures on Instagram, and Twitter. 


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Pomodoro and Procrastination

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 16 February 2015 · 30 views

by +J. Lea Lopez 

If you've been hanging around our little slice of the Internet for a while, you may remember when I created and shared some slow writing memes last year. Including this one:

It's true that I tend to take longer to write a draft, and I favor a cleaner first draft that doesn't need as much rewriting and hair-pulling in the editing stage. It works for me as a writer, and maybe it works for you, too. But in addition to being a fun way to show solidarity with my fellow slow writers, this graphic I made hides a deep, dark, shameful secret...

I'm a world-class procrastinator.

Oh, the shame! The horror!  But it's true. When left completely to my own devices, my time management skills leave a little something (maybe a lot of something) to be desired. When I worked retail, time management wasn't really an issue. There were schedules and timelines to stick to, and there were only so many hours I could work in a day. And there were consequences. I obviously wanted to keep my job. But as a self-employed, self-published author, the only thing keeping me accountable for self-imposed deadlines is a Candy Crush-playing, dog-cuddling, daydreaming, deadline-shifting procrastinator who needs more coffee. AKA me. And to be honest, I don't really get mad at myself when I say this story is going to be finished by this date, and then that date comes and goes. I'm not going to fire me. Sure, you can argue that I'm losing sales or... something? But I'm too damn laid back for that. Those kinds of consequences just roll right off my back and I keep doing whatever I'm doing. Or not doing.

Obviously this is not the best long-term business strategy. I've been a hardcore procrastinator for literally as long as I can remember. Dr. Phil or some other (probably every other) pop psychologist on TV used to say that you wouldn't continue a bad behavior or habit if you weren't getting some kind of payoff from it. Perhaps if I had bombed even one major class project or assignment after leaving it until the last minute, I wouldn't be such a procrastinator. But the truth is, it has always worked for me. The looming deadline gave me the kick in the pants I needed to focus and get the work done. I do some of my best work at the very last minute, which I suppose is why I keep doing it, even when I drive myself nuts.

I'm getting to the tomato sauce part of this post title, honestly. As a way to (supposedly) increase my productivity and keep me accountable, several writing friends and I have an ongoing Facebook group chat going throughout the day to discuss word counts, daily and weekly goals, and to swap knowledge about various writing, publishing, and marketing things we have going on. It helped a little bit. Sometimes. At first. The act of saying to my friends, "I'm going to get some writing done" made me want to do it so I wouldn't look foolish. But that didn't last long, and now the shame factor isn't much of a factor at all. "Ha ha, just kidding, I've accomplished nothing/very little/only part of what I wanted to do," quickly became my battle cry. You might hypothesize that I don't place the same value in myself, my own time, and my work that I do in other people and other things and therefore don't feel that time spent writing is important... but let's not psychoanalyze, mmkay? *gets too close to truth, shifts focus to something else... dog picture time!*

Cuddling > writing, amirite??
Ahem, where was I? That's right, the pomodoro part. My group of friends introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique and a cell phone timer app. You may be used to pomodoro on your pasta, but this is a time management technique, named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. The basic gist of it is you set a timer and do 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a short break. Repeat. There's a bit more to it, and you can check out a short video here about mastering the technique, but so far I've only used it to help me focus and do some short writing sprints. I downloaded an app on my phone and made sure to tell it to disable my phone's Internet connection so that I wouldn't be distracted by the beeps and noises of emails syncing, or Twitter, or whatever. Twenty-five minutes felt like a much easier time limit than, say, an hour, if you're familiar with the 1k1hr sprinting method. I was skeptical, since very little seems to keep me focused on getting words down without one of those elusive sparks of inspiration. But after a few rounds, I discovered I liked it. And it worked! Some rounds are slower or faster than others, but I can get in a few hundred words in 25 minutes usually, which is still slow by many standards, but just right for me, considering I would sometimes struggle to get much more than that in an hour. I know that I need to keep going until I hear the timer go off. Maybe it's that clear goal of waiting for a timer combined with a more manageable time frame that makes it work for me. I'm not sure exactly what the psychological trick of it is, and as long as it keeps working for me, I don't care.

So if you too are a procrastinator looking to reform, or if you just need a better time management tool, grab yourself a kitchen timer, or download an app (the one I downloaded is called ClearFocus: Pomodoro), and try the Pomodoro Technique. And maybe make some pasta for dinner. Mmm... pomodoro sauce...

Do you struggle with procrastination and time management? Have you had success using this technique? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

J. Lea López, also known as Jennifer, Jen, J, JLo, jello, and the Mistress with the Red Pen, is a romance and erotica author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She also provides copyediting services with a special focus on the sexy stuff.

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Challenges of Writing Diversely

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 12 February 2015 · 45 views

by R.C. Lewis

#WeNeedDiverseBooks2014 was, among other things, the year of the We Need Diverse Books movement. And we do need them—stories with diverse characters, diverse backgrounds, diverse perspectives, particularly those that are drastically underrepresented right now.

If we want such books, someone has to write them.

Sit up, fellow writers. This means us.

But wait! Is this really for me to do?

Hi there, voice-of-doubt. Thanks for joining us. Why wouldn't this be for you?

Because I'm white/straight/cis/able-bodied/by-the-book majority. Is it my place? What if I get it wrong?

Beyond the fact that yes, we need books from diverse authors, too, I think this is actually a good concern. It means we're being mindful of authenticity, of avoiding stereotypes, of "getting it right." We may not have experience being gay or deaf (or Deaf—there's a difference) or Cambodian ... but I don't have experience being male, either. Should that stop me from writing a male protagonist?

At the same time, it wouldn't be good to dive in with a carefree shout of, "It's fiction! I can just make it all up anyway!"

It comes back to my belief that we don't need to write what we know, but rather know what we write. We can diversify our knowledge base. Read books by and about the people in the branch of diversity you're working on. Research. Talk to members of that community—find those who are willing and able to educate. (But have respect. It's not an interrogation. Listen more than you talk.)

We probably won't get it completely "right" (and that's if everyone can agree what "right" is in that circumstance), but we won't get better unless we try.

But there are lots of kinds of diversity. Does every character need to have a "diversity tag"? Or more than one, maybe for the main character? How do you choose? Pick descriptors out of a hat?

Thanks for bringing that up, because that's my main worry. I accept and believe that we need more diversity in literature (especially kid-lit, the realm I inhabit), and I'm willing to try to do my part.

But how to I escape the Grab-Bag (random assignment of demographics) or Smorgasbord (including everything conceivable) Effects? If the book is ABOUT that aspect of diverseness, we're covered, but aren't we looking for more than that? For diverse characters in ALL the kinds of stories?

Some authors may approach it as just rolling with the character as they first pop into the author's head. That may work for some, but without more directed mindfulness, I'm afraid most of us will default to the same cis/straight/white/you-get-the-idea.

So how does an author, say, like me write diversely WITHOUT it seeming pandering ... or shoehorned ... or like jumping on a bandwagon?

(Maybe if the bandwagon is headed up the right road, it's not such a bad thing.)

I don't know the answer to that yet. Still working it out. Maybe it's my super-analytical nature, but I worry about finding myself in front of my blank screen with a story idea and freezing. "Should my main character be Latino? Black? Asian—wait, so many subsets to all these—Mexican or Chilean, Ethiopian or Jamaican or Haitian, Chinese or Japanese or Indian or AAAHHHHHHH! And that's just ethnicity!"

It's probably just me, but sometimes too many choices freak me out.

What if you just try one that feels right and see how it goes? There's always editing. And there are always more books to write later.

Looks like it's time to listen to that inner voice.

What are your thoughts on writing diversely? Challenges that worry you? Advice for my own worries? See you in the comments!

R.C. Lewis is the math-teaching, ASL-signing author of Stitching Snow and the forthcoming Spinning Starlight (Oct. 6, 2015), both from Hyperion. You can find more information at her website, or watch her overanalyze one thing or another on Twitter.



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Write What You Don't Know: The Art of Literary Cross-Training

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 09 February 2015 · 74 views

by Paul Krueger

[My esteemed colleagues here on FTWA have previously covered the topic of creative cross-training in these informative posts here. Today, I'm offering up my own experience with the phenomenon.]

I’m not purely a novelist. Prose has always been my most comfortable home, but about once a year, I’ll suddenly find myself thinking in terms of scenes or verses instead of chapters. I always end up wandering back into my copy of MS Word (yes, I’m a serf who doesn’t use Scrivener; COME AT ME, BRO), but every sabbatical from prose has actually made me a stronger prose writer.


I studied screenwriting in college. My school didn’t have a screenwriting program, so I MacGyvered one together by taking a Communications major, a Creative Writing minor, and spackling them together with a healthy helping of parental disappointment. For three years, everything I wrote was in present tense, twelve-point Courier New. But one day, I got an idea too big for a screenplay. I realized that for the first time in forever, I had a novel rattling around upstairs. And when you’ve got an Athena sitting pretty up in your head, you’ve got two choices: let her spring out, or try to stop her and immediately fail, because she’s the goddess of war and you are but her feeble mortal shell.


I let her out.


To my surprise, this attempt at novel-ing went far smoother than any of my others. But I was able to pinpoint the reason right away. Screenplays are, by nature, incomplete works of art. They’re skeletons upon which the bones of artistic direction, production design, and unwelcome studio meddling can be hung like California-tanned flesh. So it stands to reason that anyone who wants to write a screenplay worth a damn has to know their story structure cold.


(Which isn’t to say that a novelist shouldn’t, but a novelist also has other tricks they can fall back on. A screenwriter’s main tricks are Joseph Campbell and a bunch of guys who say all the same things he did.)


So there I was, knowing my story structure cold. And once I’d opened my brain to the idea that storytelling principles could be refined in one art form and then applied to another, I found myself casting about for every other trick I’d picked up. My semester in a poetry workshop taught me how to make every sentence of my new project shine. My experiments with stage drama keyed me into character voices, which helped me bring even the most incidental spear-carrier to life on the page. Even a radio play I’d once written proved instructive. In that form, I only had a single sense to convey my ideas with. Knowing what it was like to have no sensory information made me that much more thoughtful in how I doled it out to the reader.


There’s no better practice for writing a novel than writing a novel, but writing almost everything else first shifted my mental feng shui for the better. Drafting that project was like being Daniel LaRusso at the moment he realized all his house chores had made him black belt material. I saw small but significant improvements in my technique that I don’t think I could’ve ever achieved if I’d stuck to prose alone. Years of hard-earned wisdom from so many different crafts coalesced into a single work, then calcified from a draft into a manuscript. It was, without a doubt, the single best thing I’d written up until that point.


It was summarily rejected by seventy-eight agents, and cheerfully gathers digital dust on my hard drive today.


But conveniently enough for the purposes of this narrative, right next to it in my trunk folder is another document. That other document is dated to the day I received both my Calls: the one telling me I had an agent, and the one telling me my newest manuscript was going to be a book. It’s the document I created to celebrate those Calls, because I didn’t know how else to celebrate a deal except by writing something.

It’s a TV pilot. And it took me to school.


Are there non-prose pursuits that have given you insight into prose writing? Of course there are! So why don't you share them in the comments below, eh? C'mon. You know you want to.

Paul Krueger wrote the upcoming NA urban fantasy, The Devil's Water Dictionary (Quirk Books, 2016). His short fiction has appeared in the 2014 Sword & Laser Anthology, Noir Riot vol. 1, and in his copy of Microsoft Word. You're most likely to find him on Twitter, where he's probably putting off something important.

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5 Reasons to Read Your Draft Aloud

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 05 February 2015 · 55 views

by Jemi Fraser

As a teacher, I'm pretty comfortable reading aloud. I know not everyone is, but I think there are some really valid reasons why you should read your story aloud to yourself. Not the first draft, but when you're nearing the end of the process, when you suspect the story is almost there.

Here are some of the benefits I've found from reading aloud my own stories - and the stories of others.

Read Aloud Benefit #1 -- Stilted Writing
  • what may sound okay on paper, might reveal itself as stilted once you read it aloud
  • of course there are different levels of formality in writing and in speech, but generally, we want our writing to sound accessible and comfortable
  • if you feel even a little awkward reading a certain section, rethink it because your readers may feel just as awkward when they're reading it
Read Aloud Benefit #2 -- Sentence Structure
  • as you read, you'll notice if your sentences aren't working
  • sometimes, they're just too long -- you should be able to breathe easily as you read
  • you'll also be able to hear if you've got a variety of sentence lengths. If many of your sentences match structure-wise, you'll probably find yourself sounding mildly robot-like. Mix it up!
Read Aloud Benefit #3 -- Dialogue
  • dialogue should sound like people talking (obviously), so, if you've got a problem, reading aloud makes this one easy to spot. If you automatically change your words to their contraction form as you read, it's a good idea to do that with the written form too. Same with sentences, words, or phrases. If you say it differently from the actual text (good readers do this all the time because their eyes are tracking ahead), consider if what your brain substituted is actually a better choice
  • when you're reading aloud, it's also easy to spot when you have too much dialogue with too few physical actions or reactions between. If you get confused as to who is saying what, your reader is going to be confused as well
Read Aloud Benefit #4 -- Humour
  • humour is tough! I'm not talented in this area at all, but I've read aloud a lot of books by authors who are
  • when you read aloud, you'll hear & feel the beat of the humourous sections, and it's easier to tell if it's working or falling flat
  • you'll find there are better places for humour than others (in the sentence, in the paragraph, in the chapter)
  • you'll hear what works directly after that beat of humour - sometimes the silence of a chapter ending is the perfect finish for the punch line
Read Aloud Benefit #5 -- Practice
  • one day, you might be asked to read aloud some of your own work - at a book club, a book signing, on TV, or to a group of movie directors asking how you want to play out a scene (hey, if you're going to dream, dream big!). You want to be comfortable doing that. 
  • as with anything else, reading aloud takes practice. I would NEVER ask a student to read aloud something they hadn't had a chance to rehearse and I'd suggest the same to you. The first time we do anything, we tend to not be very good at it. So, don't make an important read aloud your first time. I advise students to read aloud the section at LEAST ten times before they present. 
  • the more you read your own work, the more natural your voice. You'll know when to pause, when to inflect, how to pace yourself. And you'll actually find yourself having fun!
Hope some of those help you decide to try this out! I've found it a very helpful and effective editing technique. Have you tried it before? Any tips or reasons to add?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.


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Super Bowl Blues

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 02 February 2015 · 47 views


By S. L. Duncan

It’s hard not to feel the hangover from last night’s big game. Like most Americans, I tuned in to watch those fabulous commercials interrupted occasionally by some football. And man, they went dark this year, didn’t they? Revenge...war...child death. Freaking child death? REALLY? What ad exec psycho jerk came up with this one? This was, like, Nationwide’s version of some bizarre-world ice bucket challenge, in the fight to cure fun, because the energy in the room definitely cooled after that one. But I digress.
If you happened to check out some of the football, you might have noticed it was a pretty good game. And what a finish! It’s difficult to not feel the disappointment suffered by the Seahawks. To get so close, to see the fruits of all their hard work and labor nearly paid off - the trophy mere moments away from being held in their hands. And then what?  They blew it right at the end.  Stolen by an interception.

Tough break, right? Like, a tough break for the ages. LIKE EPIC TOUGH BREAK.
There seemed to be a lot of that this year, especially in publishing. I was lucky, I guess, but I had many author friends see their publisher’s doors get shuttered before their book came out. Can you imagine? All the stuff we talk about here at FTWA – the queries, the writing, the agents – all the hoops you jump through to get to that bookstore shelf, picked off at the very end. Interception on the one yard line.

If you’re setting out, seeking publication, you've probably figured out that at some point you’ll be disappointed, sometimes devastated, and often there’s nothing you could have done to prevent what happened form happening. Don't focus on that. Focus on what you can do; what is within your control. Let the fates decide the rest. 

My advice if you've taken one of this major hits is to take a play out of the Seahawk's playbook for next year. Do you think they're going to just roll over on this? They'll be back. Fighting harder. Recognizing their mistakes, and bettering themselves to get there again. They'll also take an honest look at themselves and figure out what they aren't and what they are good at. I think every writer should do this. It's how you learn to write like you and not try to write like someone else. In other words, don't try to be a passing team on the one yard line when you're outstanding at running the ball. 
Many of my friends that had the publishing bomb detonate in their face this year did the same. Do they all have new book deals? No. But I know where I'd place my money on them getting one soon.
 
 
S.L. Duncan is the author of THE REVELATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, available now, and the upcoming SALVATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, (August 2015, Medallion Press), available now for preorder. You can find him on twitter @SLDuncanBooks and occasionally blogging at INKROCK.com.


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How to Get Free Books

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 29 January 2015 · 68 views

by +Denise Drespling


Everyone loves free stuff. I mean, really, why wouldn't you?

I read a lot of books for free. Just for fun, I looked over the list of books that I read in 2012 (find them here), just to see how many I paid for (or borrowed from a friend) and how many were free. Of the 70 books I read, 39 were free.

And I don't just get to read old books for free. Nope. New ones. Popular ones. I read Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane right after it came out. Lots of new books are available. For free!

Want to know my secret?

I GO TO THE LIBRARY!!

library_peanuts

What did you think I was going to say? I pirate it? Pffhh. I'm only a pirate on September 19.

Anyway.

It seems obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people--readers, even--don't have a library card and have never stepped foot inside their local library. This, to me, seems plain ole crazy.

Or maybe, you just don't know what the library has to offer. Let me brag a little because I love my library. Actually, I frequent two. One near work, one near home. Because I can't get enough!

Here are 16 reasons to go to the library:

  1. Books! Books!
    More books over here! Look! There's more aisles there! I'll use as many exclamation points as I can to show you all the BOOKS!!! Oh, and they will let you take them home for a while. For free.
  2. Not only books
    Want to read the New York Times, without springing for a subscription? The library has you covered! They keep a bunch of magazines around, too.
  3. Audiobooks!!
    If you have not discovered audiobooks yet, you are missing out. Perfect for your morning commute, road trip, or even to keep you entertained while doing housework. I love audiobooks, and I listen to them all the time. But, they're pricey. Even with sites like Audible.com (You even get a book FREE when you sign up!) making them affordable, why buy it when you can get it for free at the library!
  4. eBooks!
    Oh, you didn't know that, did you? You can actually borrow an eBook from the library. Some libraries will lend you the eReader, too.
  5. Overdrive
    I don't know how widely available this program is, but oh. My. Goodness. It is awesome! If audiobooks and eBooks weren't enough, how about an app that puts them right on your phone and lets you download them to your computer? This is my most favorite thing right now. I can download a new book in a matter of minutes without even leaving home or work. If your library participates, you get access thousands of eBooks and audiobooks. For free.
  6. Geographical reach
    Besides the plethora of books available in the library, you can also have books sent to the library from other libraries. It's like going to a whole bunch of libraries at once. Plus, in PA, if you have a library card from an Access PA participant, you can get a library card at any other Access PA library. To get a library card in the first place, you only need to live or work in the area. And they're FREE. (Or you can pay a small fee if you're out of the area, but like I said, if you have a card from an Access PA library, you're good anywhere.)
  7. Book clubs
    What's better than sitting around with a bunch of people who share your love for books and who have just finished reading the same book you did? I look forward to my book club all month. I love my book club! We have some brilliant, engaging discussions about books. Plus, it exposes me to awesome books I might never have read otherwise. If you are a writer, join a book club IMMEDIATELY! You need to be able to talk about books and hear what others say about them. You will learn much and have a blast while doing it.
  8. DVDs and CDs
    When it's out of the theaters, not yet on Netflix, and left RedBox long ago, chances are, you can find that DVD at the library. Some libraries have a tiny fee, but some, like the Cranberry Library, let you borrow for free and keep it 3 nights! CDs are usually available, too. Seriously. Where else can you go to borrow a CD?
  9. Computers and the internet
    If you don't have a computer, they do! If you don't have internet access, they do! And while you can't watch porn there, you can do pretty much whatever you need to do online. For free. At the library. You can even connect your laptop or mobile device to the wi-fi. Oh, and you can print. Not for free. But cheap.
  10. Stuff for kids and families
    Everything from toddler story time to teen reading groups. Want your kid to read more? Sign them up for something at the library. It's not only about books, either. Sure, Dr. Seuss Day is an awesomely fun time, but there are also movie nights, art clubs, princess parties, etc.
  11. Other random, fun events!
    Halloween Pet Parade. Need I say more? It's a real thing. And the library has it. Every year. And other things like Dinosaur and Fossil Day or the Oscar Party. There is always something.
  12. Learn stuff
    If it's not an event, it's a class! Learn about Native Americans, the new healthcare act, what your handwriting says about you, learn about computers, knitting, photography, eReaders, and just about anything people can get together to do. Somewhere, there is a library teaching about it. You can even learn a new language.
  13. Author readings/signings
    I hope, if you are a writer, you know this. Libraries are great places for readings and to meet authors.
  14. Used books
    Most libraries have a section or, in New Castle, an ENTIRE BASEMENT, of used books for sale for very cheap. If that alone wasn't awesome enough, the money all goes to the library and helps them keep the lights on and new books coming in.
  15. Your ancestors
    No, not dead bodies. But the records of them! If you're a genealogy fan, you have likely spent time in the library's research section looking up things like death records and birth records. Hey. Guess what. They'll even help you do it!
  16. A place to go
    Got an hour to kill? Want a quiet, cozy place to sit and read? What not go to the library? Most even have a kid's spot with some toys and things to entertain. Let your kid play while you sit and read. What more could you ask for?



I could go on and on. The library is so much more than books. It's a community treasure.

Go to your library. Go there so often that the librarians know you by name. And while you're there, leave a few bucks behind to keep the library going. With so much FREE stuff, they need support from all of us who take full advantage of what the library offers.

stacks

You never know what you'll see when you're there. The Cranberry Library actually has a real, live Abe Lincoln impersonator who has been known to come in wearing full costume and sit and read the paper with his black hat popping out the top. The New Castle Library has a bone fide library cat, Stacks, who is great entertainment and quite lovable.


Rainy day? Go to the library. Bored at home? Go to the library. Kids driving you crazy? Take them to the library. Want to people watch for a while? Go to the library. Want to discover and learn and laugh? GO TO THE LIBRARY!

And if you do, tell me your best library moment in the comments.


Denise Drespling is the author of short story, “Reflections,” in the Tales of Mystery, Suspense & Terror anthology (October 2014) and “10 Items or Less,” in 10: Carlow’s MFA Anniversary Anthology (April 2014). You can also find her work in these anthologies: The Dragon's Rocketship Presents: The Scribe's Journal and Winter Wishes.

Hang out with Denise at her blog, The Land of What Ifs, her BookTube channel on YouTube, or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or Instagram.





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The Art of ARC-ing

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 26 January 2015 · 54 views

Advanced review copies, or ARCs, seem to spark two distinct emotions in debut writers: elation (my book is a book!) and confusion (what the heck am I supposed to do with these?). To add to the confusion, depending on your publisher and your contract, you could get anywhere between one single ARC to 20 or more.

Once you’ve got the requisite joy out of your system and have spent some quality time getting to know your ARCs....
Sit back and relax with your ARCs....
And don't forget to show it off to your friends!
...you will likely be told to use them for publicity and outreach.

I know a lot of new authors cringe every time they hear the word publicity, so I thought I’d share some practical ways you can use ARCs for outreach that may or may not be on your radar already:

Getting to know your local librarian. If you’re an introvert (like me), the idea of cold calling/emailing/visiting your local librarian in the hopes they’ll buy your book can be terrifying. However, having something to actually givethem (in this case one of your lovely ARCs!), can make that a whole lot easier. It provides an opening for discussion and there’s less pressure. And if you stop by your library and they’re not available, you can always leave the ARC with a staff member in the appropriate section along with a note, a bookmark, and your business card.

Getting to know your local bookseller. Depending on your publisher, your local bookstore may already have ARCs of your book, so this may not need to be high on your list if your publisher is one of the Big Five, for example. But even if they do have your ARC already, it can be a nice gesture, and again, an opening to discuss books in general, as well as the possibility of doing an event there when the book is out. Also, if you’re a young adult author, some indie bookstores have ARC buckets for teens to read and review, which is another opportunity to look into.

Send it on tour!If you’re a debut author (especially a children’s author) you might be part a debut group, most of which tour ARCs among their members. This is a great idea for a couple reasons: 1) If other authors on the tour are comfortable rating your book on Goodreads, then it can give you some good reviews early on 2) It’s an excellent way to begin word of mouth for your book and 3) when you get it back at the end of the tour, you’ll have all sorts of notes from the readers, making a great keepsake.

Give one to a local teacher. (More for YA/MG/Picture book authors, than adult) If you have children in school or know people who are teachers in your local area, consider asking if they’d be interested in reading your book. School visits can be a great way for children’s authors to connect directly with readers, and gifting an ARC could pave the way for one.

Give one to a book blogger. If you’ve made connections to book bloggers, you may want to consider one or two who are particularly excited about your book. Many book bloggers will passionately talk about books they love. This can be a great way to activate word of mouth for your book. 

Send one to your local paper. Always check with your publicist at your publisher before doing this (provided you have one). But if your local paper has a books section or highlights local people, the ARC along with a brief press release could get your book an article or review.

Goodreads giveaway. This is also something to check with your publisher about first, as many do this and you don’t want to duplicate efforts. If they’re not running one it can be a great way to connect with Goodreads users who may not yet have heard of your book.

Blog/social media giveaways. People LOVE to win stuff. You can setup a rafflecopter giveaway to make the entry requirements things like following you on twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc. The trick is to keep those new followers engaged after the giveaway is over!

Annotated ARC giveaways. Annotated ARCs are a fun thing to giveaway and readers love seeing the notes, fun facts, and behind-the-scenes info. However, they can be time-consuming because you’ll need to go through your entire book and handwrite those notes. If you have the time and inclination, an annotated ARC could set your blog/social media giveaway apart.

Blurbs. Again, depending on your publisher and agent, you may not need to request your own blurbs from established authors. But if you do, those ARCs will come in handy.

Friends and family. This may not have the biggest impact publicity-wise, but giving an ARC to your parents or best friend or whoever you dedicated your book to can be a lovely and much appreciated gesture.

This list is, of course, by no means comprehensive. Please share your suggestions and ideas in the comments! :)


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