Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Create a Simple Writer Blog - Guide to Literary Agents - Peta Jinnath Andersen (Guest Post).

How to Create a Simple Writer Blog - Guide to Literary Agents - Peta Jinnath Andersen (Guest Post).

Twice in one day! This must-read is a guest post on Guide to Literary Agents, hosted by Chuck Sambuchino. Again, we continue the trend of "less is more". This post is a basic intro to a complex subject. Admittedly, it leans heavily toward WordPress, while I myself am a Blogger guy. But, it's all good. I would recommend anyone who reads this intro to check out available intro posts for Blogger, as well as the lesser known platforms. Sorry I don't have any links available now - but I'll be keeping my eyes open.

Within the last few days I highlighted a post by Eric on Pimp My Novel who advocated the author blog as the center of a writer's online presence. I agree with his point, though I have to admit I don't have one (yet). But I also don't have my first novel even half finished. And I have a day job.

'Nuff said for now. Check out this post here.

Check out Chuck's entire blog at


Blog Alert - Do You Own Your Characters or Do Your Characters Own You? - Nathan Bransford

Blog Alert - Do You Own Your Characters or Do Your Characters Own You? - Nathan Bransford

It's been a while since I found a "must read" on Nathan's blog, but this one is. A perennial debate on writer's forums is "Character Driven? Or Plot Driven?". The consensus (here) seems to be a balance, with a bit of a lean toward the characters. The comments are all over the map, from extreme control freaks, to extreme character-driven anarchy. But there's a nice lump about 1 SD from the mean in the character direction. (Just showing off - I really have no idea where the lump is :).

Check out the post here

Check out Nathan's blog at


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blog Alert - Website Wednesday (Author Websites) - Pimp My Novel - Eric

Blog Alert - Website Wednesday (Author Websites) - Pimp My Novel - Eric

This is a consise and useful post about author websites - an overlooked subject in the midst of the social media feeding frenzy. Eric presents a strong case that the author website is the natural center of a writer's online presence. He gives a few good tips for making the website work and avoiding common pitfalls.

There isn't a lot I can add. Eric's "Bullet View" (tm?) points give a good intro to a subject that could easily run much longer. Less is more!

Check out the post here!

Check out Eric's complete blog at


Monday, February 22, 2010

Blog Alert - Do Small Press Credits Hurt My Chances? - Mary Kole -

Blog Alert - Do Small Press Credits Hurt My Chances? - Mary Kole -

This is an issue I have not seen discussed much - especially as framed here. Mary addresses the issue in a succinct post which, however, carefully avoids the issue of self-publishing. The bottom line is that credits from small presses can't hurt your chances - although they may not help.

The one piece of advice I would add is ALWAYS be guided by a prospective agent's submission guidelines. His or her stated preferences about listing writing credits should always trump any general advice.

Mary hints that she may have a longer post upcoming that will tackle the general question of self-publishing. We're waiting!

Check out Mary's post here.

Check out Mary's blog at


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blog Alert - How To Write About A Real Location If You Haven’t Been There - Joanna Penn

Blog Alert - How To Write About A Real Location If You Haven’t Been There - Joanna Penn

This post appeared today on Joanna's blog, The Creative Penn. I think some of these tips probably exist elsewhere, but Joanna's post is concise, readable, and well-organized.

Who hasn't struggled with how to get more realism into a fictional setting? I'm currently trying to write a scene that takes place in a semi-exclusive neighborhood, in a home people of my income bracket usually would not be invited to. What to do? My own bright idea was to Google and browse real-estate listings in the price range of interest. Plenty of good pics, including interior shots.

Joanna has compiled a wide ranging set of strategies for researching grographic locations.

Two I like especially:
Surf Flickr and Travel blogs.
Google Maps Street View.

Honorable mention: Interview someone who has been there.

Want to know more? Check out the post!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blog Alert - The Top Ten Query Mistakes - Rachelle Gardner

Blog Alert - The Top Ten Query Mistakes - Rachelle Gardner

For writers who seek traditional publication, one thing that can cause them to freeze like a deer in the headlights is the dreaded query letter. Most publishers, especially the major houses, no longer accept submissions form writers not represented by a literary agent. As these agents receive MANY more submissions than they can accept, the process of finding an agent to represent a writer's project is fraught with difficulties - not the least of which is the inevitable rejection letter(s). These can be emotionally traumatic - even heartbreaking - especially for a new and hopeful writer. The initial approach of an aspiring novelist to an agent has become formalized as the "query letter" or simp[ly "query".

Badly written queries have been more the rule than the exception and until recently, the options of the agent have been to curse, to laugh (sometimes with friends, over drinks), or to cry. (Rejecting the badly presented query goes without saying - that's not an "option" - it's a necessity of the process). The Internet offers a fourth option - to blog. The rise of literary agent blogs has empowered concerned agents to stop complaining about atrocious queries, and start doing something about them - through educating aspiring writers about what makes a well or poorly presented query. As a result, there now exists on the Internet a wealth of articles, discussions, tips and guidelines covering more than you ever wanted to know about the art and craft of writing an excellent query and avoiding total lameness.

The post I want to feature here comes from agent/blogger Rachelle Gardner, a pioneer in helping break down the institutional barriers between agents and aspiring writers by creating a lively and open community around her blog. One of her major areas of interest is helping new writers understand the query process.

This post of Rachelle's is noteworthy not because it breaks new ground, but because it covers an important piece of old ground in a concise and readable manner. The mistakes she lists are common and annoying to the typical agent. Although she will not automatically reject a query containing one or more of these if it describes a compelling story, they are all mistakes that weaken the presentation, and can be easily avoided if the writer is aware of them. (All agents have different standards, and some WILL automatically reject a query for even minor errors).

So, if you're struggling to frame a query, or just want to admire a well written set of tips, do check it out.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Blog Review - Writer Unboxed

Blog Review - Writer Unboxed

Writer Unboxed bills itself as "about the craft and business of genre fiction". I'm not sure exactly what "genre fiction" is, unless it means fiction that can be enjoyed by readers who may not be writers, don't have an MFA degree, and need not live in New York City. :)

But seriously, although the site is billed as focusing on "genre fiction" , I really believe any aspiring writer and many working writers, in whatever area of fiction, will find something of value here.

In their January 2006 Welcome statement they say

Our goal is to offer writers of genre fiction a little inspiration to help get ideas flowing again. (We could’ve called the blog, “Writer Unconstipated,” but the imagery wouldn’t have been nearly so appealing.) We’ll get things flowing for you by blogging about technique, but we’re not restricting ourselves to the world of literature; you’ll be hearing about art, music, movies…wherever we think there’s a nugget of writerly gold to steal, we’ll tell you about it.

Now I'll start out with a very minor gripe about this excellent blog. No "About Us" link. I had to hunt down the welcome post by backtracking to the beginning of the archives. Can we show blog reviewers some love? :)

I found the blog a few months back when I became an aspiring YA novelist. I immediately subscribed.

It's been a bit tricky to pin down exactly why I like this blog - but I think it comes down to a fresh, open and undogmatic attitude. So often I see writer advice sites or blogs that deliver mass quantities of hard-line attitude along with the advice. There seems to be a "this way is best" that pops up all too often. This is rarely seen on Writer Unboxed. The mood there is one of suggestions and things to try. It's a blog that makes writing seem more like fun than work.

The blog theme for January has been "voice", and it's hard to imagine that voice can be looked at from so many different angles. I won't even try to summarize - in the words of the old song might as well "try to catch the wind". You'll just have to check it out.

The blog is multi-author, and as far as can tell all of the contributors are publlished authors.

The list:

Kathleen Bolton
Therese Walsh
Allison Winn Scotch
Ann Aguirre
Anna Elliott
Barbara Samuel
Donald Maass
Jane Friedman
J.C. Hutchin
Juliet Marillier
Ray Rhamey
Sophie Masson

The links column is much too long to copy here, but here are some stats. Writer Unboxed has conducted over 80 interviews with authors, and lists over 30 "industry" interviews with knowledgeable insiders on a wide variety of topics. There are oover 70 blog links listed, and almost 40 links in the "box cutters" section of writer resource sites.

I will reproduce the "Tag list"at the end of this post. It's not too long, and gives a good summary of the kind of things that are covered. The HTML makes the presentation unwieldly - my apologies)

A couple of special mentions go out to individual contributors. Ray Rhamey, totally deserves recognition for his new novel "The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles". Ray's attempts to find a niche for the book are chronicled in a blog post from November 2009.

From the excerpts I've read so far, the book is adorable and fun - and I speak as a person who doesn't usually read either vampire or cat fiction :)

As Ray recounts in the post I linked to, he finally decided to self-publish. This is in the sense of do-it-yourself (DIY) publishing with the production elements outsourced, which is distinct from the subsidy/vanity publishers who sometimes refer to their own (quite different) business model as "self-publishing".

I suspect that it was the frustration of finding his work "unpublishable" by traditional standards - simply because it had no definable "niche" that led Ray to create the Platypus Fiction imprint of his FTQ micropress.

As he descrines it

The platypus breaks all the rules—it’s the only mammal that lays eggs, is venomous, has a duck bill, a beaver tail, and otter feet—and it does just fine, thank you.

Platypus publishes novels that take readers on unique paths to entertainment, truth, and most enjoyable reads.

And there's Writer's Digest's Jane Friedman. I'm tempted to say the ubiquitous Jane Friedman :). When I decided on Writer Unboxed as my latest review target, I had no idea Jane was a contributor. As fate would have it, I reviewed Jane's own blog "There Are No rules" last week. Jane, you are a busy lady, and you're doing excellent work for the community. Keep it up!


APPENDIX: The Writer Unboxed Tag List