Thursday, February 4, 2016
Ex: With songs: I italicize the name of the album, but for the name of the song I use quotation marks.
I hope this helps those who needed to know. And I do not take credit for this link, as it is a great post on The Editor's Blog, which I find very helpful. This one was written by fiction editor, Beth Hill.
If you have any tips that work for you, please feel free to let us know.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
1. a summary of the book besides the blurb;
2. the readers’ feelings about the writing, content and story-line;
3. whether it’s worth my hard earned dollars.
Consequently, I expect certain things from a book review, whether it is positive or negative.
Some time back a reader emailed me after purchasing one of my books and said she was about to leave a review but there were already so many reviews she didn’t think it was needed. So many? The last time I checked I could have counted them on my hands. So of course I looked and there were over a hundred reviews. I proceeded to read. Some were detailed while some were the bare minimum. When I was finished reading many of the reviews as well as for my other books, I came away wondering if there is a proper format for consumers reviewing a book.
Since there seems to be no established format for consumers reviewing and rating books, I would share with you some tips that may be helpful to potential readers considering purchasing the book.
1. Read the darned book
Reading the first three chapters or the blurb at the back of the book doesn’t qualify one to review a book. I saw one review of one of my books where the person claimed the hero and heroine didn’t get together in the end. That person clearly did not read the book in its entirety because as other reviewers pointed out they did get together in the end. Even professional reviewers when they are pressed for time do this. A review of one of my books on a professional reviewer’s blog site was so scant in the detail it was clear that the person only read the first few chapters before writing the review. It did not capture the essence of the book and it was not very helpful.
2. Give a summary of the book before reviewing it
Readers want to know what the book is about. Most blurbs on the back of the books don’t give as much details as readers would like. That’s where reviewers, even consumer reviewers come in. It helps orient the reader.
3. Be honest
Have you ever read a review that was so superfluous that it lacked credibility? If you are asked to review a book and you don’t feel you can give an honest review, simply bow out. To be honest, I don’t like to give negative reviews. I had one author acquaintance who asked me to write a review of her book on Amazon. I read it (and after 2 years I’m still reading it), and I did not find it interesting in the least. So I did not post a review since it would have been negative. Whether you like the book, or not just be honest in your review, because that’s what readers need.
4. Don’t post a rating without reviewing
If you give book a 5 star rating, we want to know why. What is so interesting about it? Is it the story-line? The characters? The writing style? In the same vein, readers want to know why a reviewer gave the book a 1 star. Most of those ratings without reviews are deemed not helpful.
5. Don’t be nasty
There are some reviews that are written just to be mean. One reviewer said their intention was to balance out the four and five stars so they gave it a 2 star. That’s not the purpose of reviewing. I’ve read a review that suggested the book be used as toilet paper to wipe ones @&*@#$. I purchased the book anyway and discovered it was a great read. The point of rating a book is not to vent frustration, but to give an honest review about the product. And even a negative review could be written without being nasty.
6. Review the product, not other things
This applies to more than just books. Some people give great books or great products a 1 star because the shipping was slow or they had issues with the supplier. I read a review where the person took issue with the author name because it sounded fake. There was nothing about the book in the review.
This list is by no means exhaustive. It merely contains my pet peeves because I absolutely hate to read a review that doesn’t at least offer me insights that would aid in my decision to purchase the book.
How do reviews influence your decision in purchasing books? What are some of your pet peeves about Amazon or other online book reviews?
Friday, January 22, 2016
|Lesley A Diehl |
Author of cozy mysteries
featuring sassy country
gals who enjoy snooping
However, writing a story based upon your own work background or even a hobby you’re familiar with doesn’t guarantee you a book or short story your reader will find enticing. There are some problems with writing what you know. I’ve identified five of them.
1. There is no distance between you and elements in your story.
I was a retired college professor, so I decided to be safe in my first mystery manuscript. I wrote about a college professor who helped local authorities solve murders, especially those occurring on the college campus. Aside from my very real problem of still writing like an academic rather than a mystery author, I was so close to my subject matter than it sounded as if I had an ax to grind. Well, I did, of course, but all those juicy little details about academe came across not as texture in my story, but as insults I had not yet gotten beyond. I needed to remind myself I was writing fiction, not true life adventures of a wronged professor.
I recently read a manuscript written by someone with a medical background. It was filled with details that should have given a reader insight into the profession. Instead it read like a diatribe against certain aspects of the profession. The story was lost.
How to get beyond this? Well, it took me almost ten years until I came to understand my story should not be mine, but my protagonist’s story. The juicy details now became embellishments in her life, not mine.
2. You know too much.
You have an extensive background in some profession or hobby or have researched an aspect of your protagonist’s life that you find interesting, and, by golly, you’re going to put all of this into your story. You believe it provides the detail necessary to flesh out the life of your protagonist, or so you say. But your reader yawns halfway through your account of how to make Origami Christmas decorations and decides he/she doesn’t have the time for a protagonist that thinks crafting is as important as her love life or solving her best friend’s murder. You’re just showing off.
There’s a delicate balance between providing enough detail to make a scene feel real and creating nausea in your reader by over burdening her with particulars that lead to boredom. A good critique group or a critique partner may help you establish this balance.
3. You read and read and read.
You know you want to include information about your protagonist’s life that you do not have knowledge about. You do this because you want your reader to understand that your protagonist has a multifaceted life. She likes camping, backpacking to be exact, but you are afraid of bugs, so you use the internet to find out all you can on backpacking. And you hope your reader will not discover how little experience you have. You’ll be found out, if not by gaping holes in the breadth and depth of your camping research, but by the rather tiresome tone you use to describe your heroine’s recent camping trip.
It’s fine to bolster your understanding of some area with research, but, if you limit it to what you read and not what you experience, your writing will suffer for your lack of intimacy with the subject matter. I find that experience in the form of tours, interviews or partaking in some event can be fun for the author and, by extension, that fun finds its way into your writing. I’ve done things like touring numerous microbreweries to find out about the process of brewing, taking an airboat ride, or, my favorite, shopping, shopping, shopping yard sales, consignment shops, secondhand stores and junk yards. The feel of places where your protagonist travels or lives makes your story come to life.
So, use a lot of bug spray or choose another activity for your protagonist.
4. You learn about something no one else is interested in.
When I decided I need to create a protagonist with a career in some field other than the ones often found in cozies, e.g., quilt shops, catering services, crafts, bookshop owners, I thought about occupations that were unusual for a woman. The two that came to mind were taxidermist and microbrewer. The first seemed exotic, to say the least, but I knew I’d have to learn firsthand about the business, and the thought of sinking my arms elbow deep in squirrel entrails did not appeal. I’m sure it wouldn’t have appealed to readers either. I chose microbrewer for my protagonist’s work and spent many happy hours in breweries talking with brew masters, sampling their wares (that was fun) and learning directly about making beer. I couldn’t brew a batch myself, but I have a better appreciation for the art than before I did my research, and I think it shows up in my mysteries set in a brew barn in Upstate New York.
I can’t tell you what topic would send your work off track, but perhaps asking friends and relatives, even strangers if they’d be interested in reading a mystery about a woman who worked in a factory that made peanut butter might give you some insight. If you put her in a mobile home and made someone in the factory responsible for intentionally contaminating the product, you might have a winner, but it’s a stretch. Avoiding this pitfall might be where common sense prevails.
5. You feel trapped by your boring life.
Well, let’s face it. Most of us have pretty mundane lives. If you are a writer, you are a storyteller, and the story you tell will not be about your life, the vocation you chose or even events you have experienced. To make a story sing, you will select feelings, perspectives, attitudes, and judgments about people and events in your life. Then, as a good story teller, you embellish what you know to create a world you never lived in but one you fashioned out of the important aspects (anguish, joy, loss, love, anger) of the one you did experience.
I had a truly crazy family, but I’d never write that story. I mean, I became a psychologist, and that should say enough about my family. Instead, I have chosen to take an aunt I was fond of and make her bigger than life. The love and admiration I had for this woman helped me create a character she would never recognize as herself, but I think I have distilled the essence of her flamboyant nature into a person who dominates the story. You can make a story from the central kernel of people you know.
How does a writer use a boring life and create memorable characters and stories? Your life may be boring, but you are a writer because you have an imagination. Few of us want to write about our own lives. Most of us are interested in writing a story.
The key to avoiding all these pitfalls is your own imagination, fashioned from your own experience, of course, but honed into a writer’s imagination by writing, reading and talking with other writers. And, oh yes, getting out of your own way so you can write.
Have you experienced these difficulties in writing what you know? Are there other pitfalls you’ve run into in your own writing or that of others?
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Sunday, January 17, 2016
One that I’ve always remembered, mostly because for years a copy of it occupied a space on the small tack board above my desk, was “The 6 Phases of Any Project,” which consisted of the following:
- Search for the guilty
- Punishment of the innocent
- Praise and honors for the non-participants
As I am currently in the grips of a Writing Project That Will Not Die, my brain somehow jumped to thinking about how I had started it with such exhilaration, and then all of that initial energy began to fade as time wore on, the book wasn’t coming together the way I wanted it to, and now there’s pressure to Just Get It Done so I can move on to Other Things, because deadlines and bills to pay and I’m really just so very tired of staring at this same manuscript for so long.
The result of all that thinking? My own list: “The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.”
1. Enthusiasm - Hey! It’s a new story! You’re excited to get started! Perhaps you’ve spent weeks if not months developing an outline and character back stories, or maybe you’ve just settled into a brand new pair of comfortable sweats which are ideal for writing by the seat of your pants and seeing what springs forth from your imagination and your fingers. Regardless, it’s time to get going! Those words aren’t going to push themselves, after all. Chapter 1, and away we go!
2. Procrastination - What? It’s only the first week. You’ve got plenty of time to get this done. Meanwhile, there are whole new seasons of awesome shows dropping all over Netflix, or that stack of DVD or Blu-ray gift sets you just bought thanks to those gift cards you got for Christmas. What, doesn’t everybody binge watch The Bachelor or Deadliest Catch to relax after a hard day spent staring at that manuscript in progress? What’s the big deal? The story will still be there after the weekend.
3. Disillusionment – Well, this was a pretty stupid idea for a story, huh? The luster has worn off and all there is now is a lot of blank white page and a deadline. That outline you were so proud of? It made a nice sound going through the shredder, didn’t it? Writing by the seat of your pants sounds like an awesome plan right about now. Besides, whatever blob of incomprehensible gibberish you might conjure will still be more productive than the three hours you spent organizing your book shelves alphabetically by height, format, and subject. That was before you put everything back the way it was when you started, because what the hell were you thinking, anyway? When’s this damned story due?
4. Panic – The story’s due when? Are you kidding? That barely gives you enough time to post an ad to Craigslist hoping to hire a ghost writer and pay them with a Starbucks gift card and whatever loose change you find in your couch. Do ghost writers like Ramen noodles? You hope not, because you’re down to your last package. When is somebody going to option your last book for a movie and send you a check, for crying out loud? Wait. Who’s that talking in the other room? Your kid? Wait, when did you have a kid? Can they ghost write? Do they have a brother or sister who can help?
5. Self-Loathing – You’re starting to question your very existence by now. Nothing’s going right. Even the inconsequential things are conspiring against you, trying to trip you up any time you’re able to string together two coherent sentences that you don’t completely hate as you type them. How long have you been wearing those sweats, anyway? Are those Frito crumbs in your hair? You’re taking coffee intravenously at this point, and you’ve run out of milk for your cereal but hold on! Wine works just as well, if not better! Tell those other people to stop judging you. Tell those people to shut up. They’re not your mom!
6. Cramming – You can do this you can do this you can do this you can do this. There’s only twenty-five thousand words to go, and ten hours to get there. Your fingers are numb and bleeding, but the muscles in your hands haven’t given up the fight just yet even if you can’t remember the last time you had feeling in your butt. You’ve ingested enough caffeine that you can see sounds. Every time you look up at the clock thirty minutes have passed but you’ve only typed ten words, and three of those were “I HATE EVERYTHING.” Still...you’ve got this, right?
7. Coma – Congratulations! You’ve finally finished and delivered your manuscript, and you’re now entitled to collapse into an insensate heap across your bed or your favorite recliner, and give yourself a well-earned rest. Feel free to reacquaint yourself with any other denizens of your household, who to this point have been little more than ghostly apparitions in your peripheral vision whenever you paused to look away from your monitor. Might want to grab a shower and burn those sweat pants, too. However, you can’t spend too much time basking in the afterglow of this achievement because hey! You’ve got this new story, and you’re excited to get started....
Thursday, January 7, 2016
The theme of Rocky II is success after success. Rocky struggles to find a job after he can't make it in commercials. He sells his car, flails around, and finally decides to fight again after trying to retire.
It is NOT always easier to succeed after you have succeeded. If getting a book published in some form is considered a success, what do you do after that book? Mostly try to get another one out. Books come out fast these days. Whether traditionally or self published. And to stay on the radar more books have to come out. But getting more books out doesn't mean they will be a success.
One book published doesn't grow a career and that's what publishing is. Well, to be fair it's always been that. But few authors have the luxury of going seven years between books anymore. Now it's a book every year. Two years at the most. Maybe a little longer of you have an understanding traditional publisher and a back catalog.
One book is no longer a success. It's about the success after success.