Jonathan Wolstenholme There are nearly three dozen free writing contests in October. They cover the full range of topics, style…
BY Martin Cavannagh “All you need to be a writer is a pen and paper,” is something you might say if you’re one of those smug savants who can just sit down and write an entire novel longhand. But for the rest of us? Well, we can take all the help we can get. Naturally, there are the everyday low-fi accessories that every writer should already have in their arsenal, …
But You Promised to Review My Book
Via Indies Unlimited
At first glance, my assignment seems straightforward. Write a post about what authors can do to not get taken advantage of by reviewers who ask for a print version of your book and then don’t come through with the promised review. The short answer is probably “not much.” But Ms. Brooks says one paragraph of seventy words won’t cut it as a “real post.” So, I’ll ramble on.
The reality is that once this has happened, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. It doesn’t matter whether the “reviewer” is a scam artist looking for inventory to sell at his or her local used bookstore, or a well-meaning reviewer who didn’t follow through. (The latter might be because life got in the way, they discovered reviewing really wasn’t their thing, or maybe you’re better off that they didn’t review it because they thought your book su … wasn’t very good.) My advice is, if you’ve gotten to this point, the best move is to drop it and move on. Next time, remember your mom’s advice about an ounce of prevention.
The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a cliché at this point, but it got that way because it’s so true. What can you do to prevent yourself from getting to the point of needing a cure instead? I’ve got a few ideas.
The first idea is guaranteed to work. Don’t send print versions of your book out to reviewers. On the one hand, I can see this from the side of the reviewer. If they prefer to read in print or (strange as this may seem in today’s world) don’t have an eReader or a tablet or a smartphone or anything else that can be used to read an eBook, I can’t blame them for insisting on paper. Even if their only reason for insisting on paper is that they plan to read the book and then get a couple of bucks selling it at the local used book store, I can’t fault them for that. Whatever the cost for you to get the book to the reviewer short of sending it overnight to the other side of the world is a low price for the amount of time you’re expecting the reviewer to spend reading, evaluating, and writing a review of your book. (That doesn’t excuse the reviewer for lack of follow-through, but the cliché about beggars and choosers comes to mind as well.) If a reviewer not reviewing your book after sending him a paper copy is that big of a deal, not sending it to begin with is the only sure answer. (A short detour for a bit of self-promotion. I run a site with a list of reviewers who all are willing to accept electronic versions of books for review. Check it out. http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/ And we have an entire resource page here at IU dedicated to helping authors get reviews…)
If you’re willing to send out paper copies for review and sometimes do, a percentage of those aren’t going to come through. Just like a percentage of those reviewers that you send electronic copies to won’t come through. That’s the nature of the beast and you aren’t going to change it. However, if you’re willing to accept some failures, there are things you can do to help minimize them. Some of these ideas are good when chasing reviews, even for those who will take or prefer an electronic copy.
- Follow the site’s instructions. If they say query first and include these items in your query, then query first and make sure to include whatever else they ask for. (If they say “send me a paper book to this address and I promise I’ll review it,” be suspicious.)
- Look over the site and make sure that your book seems like a good fit.
If they’re insistent on a paper copy, do a quick Google search looking for discussion among authors to see if anyone reports issues with this reviewer.
- Look at how often they publish reviews on their site. At least every week or two is okay, more often is better. If it’s only every couple months, it’s probably not worth your effort to even try.
- Last, you’re a business. A review from this site has some kind of monetary value to your business. What that value is, only you can say. But if that value isn’t at least the cost of the paper book, shipping, plus a little more to make up for those reviewers who don’t come through, then it might make sense to move on to the next reviewer.
I’ve rambled enough now. What are your thoughts? I’ll bet some of you have ideas to throw in the mix, too.
In my oh-so-very-pleasant work room upstairs, where I spend so much time hacking away at this machine whose letters on keys are disappearing fast from overuse, and my wife Diana leaves me alone to bleed and brood when the thinking and writing aren’t going well and to be stricken with ecstasy when they are, I am surrounded by books–many volumes about the arts and the immensely gifted people in them.
This morning I had a busy schedule of things to do that I’ve wanted to do for weeks but haven’t. I’m Chicago born and bred, Spartan tough, so I told myself that today was “time to get serious, buster. Enough of this uncharacteristic self-indulgence.” Today would be different; I’d “dig in,” “put a dent in things,” “make progress,” “do my thing.” I checked over my list of current projects, every single one of which oddly is “top priority.”
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by Megan Stielstra
This is the thirteenth in a series of micro craft essays exploring the finer points of writing. Check back each Tuesday for a new Craft Capsule.
I was at the Montrose Dog Beach in Chicago, throwing tennis balls into Lake Michigan for my pit bull. My son, then four, splashed next to us in knee-high water. It was summer, early morning, the sun beginning to rise, and behind us we heard singing. A group of people, all dressed in white, had gathered on the beach. Two of them waded into the lake, passing us to deeper water. The woman’s skirt streamed around her waist; then the man dunked her backwards and she sprang up dripping, joyful, her face turned towards the sun.
I didn’t have much of a religious upbringing. This was my first baptism.
Recently, trying to write about this moment and what it meant for me, I realized my memory was tangled with a scene from Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother Where Art Thou (2000). Have you seen that movie? It’s based on Homer’s Odyssey and is set in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression with a terrific bluegrass soundtrack. Three escaped convicts in the woods are engulfed in a wave of bodies dressed in white—what “appears to be a kind of congregation,” one convict says to the other two. Everyone is singing: Oh sisters let’s go down, come on down, down in the river to pray. It’s beautiful; magical, almost. They move as one towards the water in four-part harmony and yes, fine, of course the people on Montrose Beach that day weren’t really singing “Down in the River to Pray.”But still, that’s what I hear. I shut my eyes and I can see them, their clothes swirling white in the water, their voices in my bones.
I’m interested in how art and pop culture influence memory and, subsequently, the choices we make when crafting creative nonfiction. Do I include that song in my retelling? The white clothes, the magic? When I find myself searching for rules of how one can and cannot write, I go back to Francine Prose’s beautiful essay “Learning From Chekov.” “Admit that you understand nothing of life, nothing of what you see,” Prose writes. “Then go out and look at the world.”
The achingly personal connections we’ve built with books and movies and music is as true to our stories as standing in the sun.
Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections including The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, forthcoming this August from Harper Perennial. Her work appears in Best American Essays, the New York Times, Guernica, the Rumpus, and on National Public Radio.
By Kristen Lamb
So last time we introduced Deep POV. What is it and why do readers love it? Well, as I touched on last time, I think readers love it because it’s just clean, tight writing that pulls them into the story. I also think like all other POVs that have evolved in tandem with social changes, deep POV is a consequence of our world. We are a reality TV generation and we love that intimacy.
But after noodling it a couple days, I thought of yet another reason it behooves writers to learn deep POV. I think the reason readers love it is it hooks them. We live in a world chock full of millions of tiny distractions, which has made all of us more than a little ADD. A hundred years ago, readers weren’t distracted by emotionally distancing words.
They were an easier fish to catch, so to speak.
I think these days, writers really have a challenge. We are already competing with countless distractions, so why add more into our work? We need to hook early, hook hard and drag that reader under before he swims away.
Today is the HOW TO DO THIS.
To accomplish “deep POV” yes, there are style changes we can make, like removing as many tags as we can and ditching extraneous sensing and thinking words. But deep POV is more than just tight writing, it’s also strongly tethered to characterization. Good characterization.
It is essential to know our cast if we hope to successfully write “deep POV.”
KNOW Your Cast
There are all kinds of ways to get to know our characters. I often write detailed character backgrounds before starting a story so it doesn’t become a fish head.
Why we need to know our characters is that deep POV is a reflection of the inner self, how that character sees the world, responds, evades, processes, etc. It is also a reflection of personal history and relationship dynamics. It is his/her PARADIGM.
*cue brain cramp* *hands paper bag*
It’s okay. Breathe. We’re going to unpack this.
Reflection of the Character
Back when I ran a weekly workshop, I had writers do a little exercise to help them learn POV and also strengthen character-building skills. I gave this scenario:
We have a family of four—Mom, Dad, a grandparent (either gender) and a teen (either gender) who has spent a year saving for a family vacation. On the way to their destination, the vehicle breaks down. What happens and tell it from the perspective of EACH family member.
Every week, writers showed with the perspective of one of the four. We had ASTONISHING creativity.
Who These Characters ARE Changes the Story AND Deep POV
When we layer in some background, the characters (and consequently the story, problems and conflict) all change drastically.
What if dad is finally home from his forth tour in Afghanistan and has terrible PTSD?
What if Mom is a closet alcoholic?
What if the teen is recently in remission from Leukemia?
What if Grandma is a tireless flirt who’s antics got her turned into a vampire and the family can’t understand why Granny wants to travel only at night?
What if the teen is an asthmatic and forgot his inhaler?
What if Granddad has early on-set Alzheimer’s?
What if the teen has been recruited for a mandatory deep space mission by the New Earth government and will never see the family again?
What if the teen was adopted and the purpose for the trip was to meet the child’s birth mother? How would this impact the emotions of those in the vehicle?
What if there used to be TWO children and one had died in an accident a year previously?
Do you see how by changing WHO these people are, this cannot HELP but affect everything else?
If Dad has PTSD, he might jump at every lump of roadkill because that’s how insurgents hide IEDs. If the family is stranded and Mom can’t get to a liquor stash, she might start getting belligerent or, left too long, start going through DTs. What would an addict notice? Likely nothing beyond how to get a fix.
While a kid in remission with a new lease on life might enjoy being broken down in the middle of nowhere (appreciating the little things in life) the addict would be hysterical.
All of this will impact Deep POV because we are in the HEAD and EMOTIONS of the character.
Let’s pick on Mom for an illustration. I’m riffing this, so the writing is just an illustration. Just roll with it.
Kidding! Lighten up. You seem tense.
Fifi clutched the baby picture, the one she’d carried everywhere for fifteen years. She hated she was happy the old van had finally given out. Her husband stared, bewildered at the smoking engine. Other than car trouble, he seemed fine. Fine. How can he be fine?
She glanced back at her daughter, the living reflection her of all her dreams and failures. She’d wanted a baby more than life. Every night on a freezing floor. One miscarriage after another and then came a tiny bundle of everything she’d ever longed for.
That woman hadn’t wanted her. That woman had abandoned her. That woman was Gretchen’s real mother and now Gretchen wanted to meet her. Real mother, like hell. And I’m a real astronaut.
How had she failed? If she’d been a good mother, Gretchen would have forgotten that woman and they wouldn’t be here.
“You okay?” Her daughter bent between the seats and kissed her cheek. “You said this was okay, that we could do this. You’re sure, right?” A wary smile revealed new braces, the braces Fifi paid for with money she’d saved for a new van.
“I’m fine, Honey.” She crumpled the baby picture and opened the van door. She needed air.
Fifi clutched the baby picture, the one her daughter had given her a week ago for Mother’s Day when they picked her up from rehab. Ninety days clean. At least that was the lie she’d packed along with her swimsuit and the hairspray can with the secret compartment and the only pills they hadn’t found.
The pills that were now gone.
They should have already been at the resort, the one staffed with eager friends willing to help her out. Friends with first names only who took cash and asked no questions.
Fifi scratched at her arms. Millions of insects boiled beneath her skin, invaded her nerve endings and chewed them to bleeding bits. Pain like lightning struck her spine, the section crushed then reconstructed. Pain like lightning spidered her brain, frying her thoughts. She glanced again at the baby picture, then at the fine young woman in back. Her daughter Gretchen.
What am I doing?
Maybe she would be okay. Maybe she hadn’t had enough pills to completely undo her. Maybe she could ride this out. And maybe I’m the Queen of England.
Gretchen bent between the seats and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you, Mom. You okay?”
Tears clotted her throat. She nodded. “Yes, I’m fine, Honey.”
“You mean it?”
She hesitated then smiled. “Yes. Yes I do.”
She tucked the baby picture in her shirt pocket, close to her heart and opened the van door. She needed air. She also needed to change their plans. Visit somewhere with no friends. With no one who took cash.
Do you see how changing WHO Fifi is changes everything? Everything she is sensing, feeling, thinking. Being in the emotions of a heartbroken mother who feels betrayed is a very different experience from being in the head of a sympathetic addict who’s struggling to get clean and stay clean.
Both women are impacted by the daughter. One Fifi is hurt by the daughter, the other Fifi finds hope in the daughter. Both women are conflicted. One is tormented with feelings of failure and betrayal and the other is tormented by failure, but very real physical problems of addiction that impact the story.
Deep POV has thrust us into the head and emotions of both women. We feel what they feel. The author is invisible because there are no tags. The sensations are raw and visceral because we have gotten rid of the coaching words.
Fifi felt millions of insects boiling beneath her skin….
We get right to it.
Millions of insects boiled beneath her skin…
The sensation is CLOSER. There is no psychic distance. She isn’t thinking she is going to lose it. She isn’t wondering if she can keep it together. She is experiencing everything real-time and up-close.
Fifi thought, What am I doing?
She just does. We KNOW Fifi is thinking because we are camped in her head.
Deep POV is Akin To Method Acting
When we know our characters, who they are, how they came to be, the formative experiences, what they want from life, etc. we can then crawl in that skin and become that person. By us becoming that character, we then have the power to transport our reader into the skins we have fashioned.
I hope this helps you guys understand the magical, mystical deep POV and now you’re all excited about writing stronger characters. What are your thoughts?
Before we go, check out the new classes below (including a two-week workshop on Deep POV by powerhouse editor Lisa Hall-Wilson). W.A.N.A. is also offering two NEW classes for romance authors, one on how to write shifters and the other on how to write great historical romance without needing a PhD in History.
I also have a SUPER AWESOME DEAL to help you whip that WIP into fighting form! I put together a Book Bootcamp (3 craft classes—6+ hours of instruction with MOI—for $99 & RECORDINGS included in the purchase price) as well at a Book Bootcamp GOLD (also 3 craft classes for the price of two PLUS three hours with ME one-on-one plotting your novel OR repairing the plot for your novel). So make sure to check those out below along with all kinds of new classes!
Make sure you check out the newsletter class with Jack Patterson. He’s sold almost a quarter million books, so probably someone to listen to. Just sayin’…
What are your thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.
Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?
Talk to me!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!!
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!
April 29th $45
In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.
With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.
Book Bootcamp $99 ($130 VALUE)
Book Bootcamp GOLD $269 ($430 VALUE) This includes the log-line class, antagonist class, the character class AND a three-hour time slot working personally with ME. We will either plot your idea or, if your novel isn’t working? Fix it! Appointments are scheduled by email. Consults done by phone or in virtual classroom.
Individual Classes with MOI!!!
Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 April 13th, 2017
Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017
Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-line $35 May 4th, 2017
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist $50/$200 (Gold) May11th, 2017
The Art of Character $45 May 18th, 2017
Growing an Organic Platform on Facebook $40 May 6th, 2017 Lisa Hall-Wilson is BACK! She is an expert on Facebook so check out her class!
Method Acting for Writers: How to Write in Deep POV $85 for this TWO WEEK intensive workshop with editor and writing instructor Lisa Hall Wilson.
Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear $35 May 19th with powerhouse editor Cait Reynolds.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
TESLA: Issue #28, Published 2-28-2017
—is now live on Literary Orphans! Please go check it out!
The new issue of Literary Orphans is now out. Literary Orphans is a digital magazine and free so you can click the link and go to the magazine which has lots of good stuff, including my poem published in it!
One of my poems was just accepted by the magazine Maintenant. Maintenant is an annual magazine of contemporary DADA art and literature. I am so excited to be in this. The issue comes out in June, but I have a sneak peak for you of the cover. My piece will be in here!
There are millions of apps, tools, extensions, and plugins available online. This is Part 2 of a big list of tools for indie authors that I’ve discovered and tested.
You can find Part 1 of this article here:
So, let’s take a look at Part 2 which includes social media dashboards, Pinterest extensions, scheduling apps for Instagram, WordPress plugins and editing apps.
Social Media Dashboards for Indie Authors
Use one or more of the following applications to schedule your updates for a variety of social media networks.
Buffer is a popular choice. You can use Buffer for free. If you’d like to schedule images to Pinterest, you’ll need the Awesome plan, which is about $102/year. What’s fun about Buffer is its integration with other social media applications, such as its curation app, Daily, as mentioned in Part 1. Buffer is one of the easiest scheduling programs available.
This free service allows users to schedule messages on Twitter.
People new to social media tend to start with the free version of Hootsuite. It’s easy to set up and will allow you to post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, your Google+ page, and Instagram. You can set up your feeds and use Hootsuite to keep in touch with your friends, fans, and followers by aggregating your social media news feeds on this application. What this means is that you can navigate to Hootsuite to see all of your friends’ and followers’ posts in one place. The paid version provides analytics.
MediaFunnel will help you to distribute your content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and WordPress.com. In addition, you can use MediaFunnel to manage your brand and engage with your followers. For $5.95/month, you can manage 10 social media channels, schedule your posts, and use a variety of URL shorteners to track your click-through rates. This is a great price considering all of this app’s features.
This application interfaces with Twitter and Facebook, and offers plans that range from free to $199.95/month. The free plan is all you’ll never need as long as you don’t connect more than five Twitter accounts or send more than 10 scheduled tweets daily. You can also use this application to help you to find new friends to grow your following.
An application designed for Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter, and Pinterest, PostPlanner enables you to find content and schedule your status updates. It costs about $108/year. This application will show you the newest content trending in your niche and provide you with real-time analytics. It also has a cache of thousands of updates that you can select from on those days when you absolutely can’t think of anything to say.
Shareist is an all-in-one system for planning your content, producing it, distributing it via social media, and then viewing your analytics. The program features a bookmarklet system for capturing images, videos, and tweets to share. It also has a system for importing your favorite blogs and it will schedule your social media posts. You can start with a free account and then decide whether you like the app enough to sign up for its pro account for $25/month.
SocialOomph is a scheduler app for Twitter and LinkedIn. It will allow you to schedule your social media posts, set up recurring tweets and LinkedIn posts, find new followers, and track your click-through rates and keywords. It also provides limited analytics. In addition, you can schedule recurring tweets. A recurring tweet is a message that will repeat itself at any interval you choose. You can create a variety of messages with the same URL, just vary the language of the tweet as well as the hashtag. Use SocialOomph for free or subscribe to the app to take advantage of all of its features.
SproutSocial offers many benefits. You can schedule your posts, including to your Google+ page, connect your account with the URL shortener Bit.ly to track click-through rates (hits to your website), unfollow users on Twitter, and find new followers. The real value in having SproutSocial is the analytics. However, the app is somewhat pricy: the monthly fee starts at $59/month.
With this free Twitter application, you don’t have to be on the Internet to check your account. Once you download it to your desktop, you can check your Twitter account and respond to Mentions, Direct Messages, and Retweets as they arrive. It’s an easy tool to set up and use, but it allows scheduling only to Twitter.
This free and user-friendly program will schedule your tweets, show you your news feed, and send you milestone reminders. To use this tool, you’ll need to sign in with your Twitter account, set your time zone, and start scheduling your posts.
Chrome Extensions for Pinterest Make Pinning Effortless
Open your Chrome browser, navigate to the Chrome Web Store, and search for the following extensions.
Again, to use this feature right-click an image you like and post it onto one of your pinboards. If you highlight text on the web page (including your own blog post), it will automatically appear in the description box.
You can add this extension to your Chrome or Firefox browser. Once you add it, click on the extension button on your browser and it will provide the option for you to click on any picture you see on the web and save it to one of your Pinterest pinboards. This way you can save as you travel across the Internet without needing to open Pinterest.
When you see an image you’d like to save, click the browser extension, select a pinboard, and add a description. It’s that simple.
Scheduling Apps for Instagram
Instagram is a popular social media network, and if your reading demographic uses it, you’ll want to check out these applications
With this app you can upload images and videos from your computer, not just your smartphone. Onlypult also provides analytics. Plans start at $12/month.
This tool enables you to upload images from your computer, iPhone, tablet, or Android; plan and schedule your posts; upload videos; and manage multiple accounts, if you have more than one. On a free account, you can upload 30 posts per month.
With this tool you can organize campaigns or schedule images one by one, manage multiple accounts, create content, and add bulk uploads at once. For a single account the cost is $20/month.
Use this free app to schedule images to Twitter and Instagram simultaneously. You’ll find it at iTunes and at Google Play where it’s called Publish.
The WordPress plugins mentioned here will aid you in socializing with your community. You’ll need to download the plugin to your computer, upload it to your WordPress website, and activate it. If you have trouble uploading or activating the plugin, ask your webmaster to help.
Have you noticed the ribbon of social media icons that appear alongside the blogs you read? You can install this plugin to encourage social sharing right from your website. Social sharing buttons include Twitter, Buffer, Facebook Share, Facebook Like, Digg, LinkedIn, Google+1, and many more
This plugin will let you embed and promote your Facebook Author page on your website. You need to visit Facebook to get it.
You’ll find a number of different formats for your Twitter button, including “tweet” and “follow on Twitter.” Select the button you prefer, and copy the html code onto your website. On a WordPress website, you’ll need to go to Widgets to add the code.
For $39, you can purchase this plugin and enjoy an unlimited amount of forms, auto-responders, spam protection, updates, and support. This plugin integrates with iContact and aWeber email newsletter programs.
This plugin will analyze your content and enable you to select the wording and image you prefer when visitors share content from your blog. For example, you can select the exact title and description of each post that will appear when your readers add your post to social media. In addition, it will help you to improve the SEO of your post, thereby appearing higher in Google results.
This is one of the most popular social share buttons on the internet. You need to pay a low one-time fee for lifetime use of the plugin and updates.
No list would be complete without editing apps. Here are the two that I use.
Use it online or download the app to your desktop computer. Then cut and paste in your blog post or new chapter and let Grammarly get to work, notifying you of the use of passive voice, split infinitives (I don’t worry about them since The Grammar Girl told me not to), misspelled words, and other grammatical mistakes and poor word choices.
Similar to Grammarly, the app highlights complex sentences and common errors. If you want to write like Ernest Hemingway, get this app.
This concludes my list apps, tools and plugins for indie authors in 2017.
If you have something to add to this list, please let us know in the comments.