Monday, October 16, 2017

Critique Group Etiquette - Mind Your Ps and Qs

One of the best things a writer can do to improve their craft is join a critique group. Yet as an insecure writer, it's scary. While it is a little easier to have critique partners online and hide behind the screen, meeting face to face can send some running for the hills. Looking someone in the eye as they evaluate your work is tough, but if you can push past that initial anxiety, you can learn a lot.

When I first joined my local critique group, I was petrified. I barely said anything the first three or four times. I drank a gallon of water and hoped I wasn't sweating as much. Yet just listening to them, I was amazed at how much I picked up about writing and how they valued my critiques. Every meeting, I grew a little more confident about speaking, and these days, I let my critiques flow freely as we discuss each story.

It's vital to remember these groups are built on trust and respect. People submitting their stories are trusting the group to be honest and helpful. As we evaluate them, we must respect that. This is why everyone should follow critique group etiquette.

Here are four tips to help critique group participants mind their manners:

1) When receiving a critique, sit back and make notes. Don't interrupt. The person has taken the time to read and evaluate your work. Listen attentively and save your questions or comments until later. You may not agree with everything they say, and that's okay, but hopefully it will help you see your story in a different way.

2) Don't be defensive. Writers can be fiercely protective of their work. I've personally seen it get ugly, but it helps no one when you react that way. Remember everyone joined the group to grow in their craft and to support others. You don't have to agree with a person's critique, but the important part is that you listened.

3) When giving a critique, point out the good and bad. Writers need to know what they're doing right as well as what is wrong. A constructive critique will encourage a person grow while a destructive one will break them down and ruin the trust in the group.

4) You are giving a critique on the writing not the writer. Don't comment on the person's skills. Focus on giving honest feedback of the story with specific explanations and suggestions. Mind your language as you do so. The difference between "your protagonist has no depth" and "more layers can be added to this character by doing this and this" is huge.

 Every critique group is structured differently, but all of them need to follow the basics of etiquette. With trust and respect, and a good dose of encouragement, we can nurture each other and our stories.

Do you belong to a critique group? Do you have any etiquette tips to add?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Should You Self-Publish or Try to Get an Agent? 4 Questions Can Help you Decide.

By Chuck Sambuchino

It's an exciting time to be a writer. 10 years ago, there was only one "correct" way to get published. You'd sell your book to a traditional publisher (usually through an agent) and sell physical copies of books at brick-and-mortar bookstores. Nowadays, you have two mainstream awesome options to get published. There is traditional publishing and self-publishing (also called indie publishing). Either route is acceptable for you, and it all depends on your goals for your book as well as what you can bring to the table in terms of time and marketing. Read on to understand the four major questions you should ask yourself before going down either road on any particular project.

Quick note: Keep in mind book to book can be different. Just because you self-published one novel doesn't mean a new novel in the future can't attract an agent for you.

1. Why do you want to see your book published?

Is it money or to be distributed widely? If you answered yes to either or both, then traditionally publishing should be your first goal. A publisher will typically distribute your book to all the bookstores they can, and perhaps even into specialty markets, be those airport bookstores or Target or anywhere else that agrees to carry the title. You also usually get money upfront (called an advance) that is yours to keep no matter how the book does. This is all good news.

Is it just to be read -- just to see it available and get it "out there"? If you don't have hard goals for your book or its sales, then self-publishing is an easy option. Some people just want to see their book out there and available. If so, just self-publish it. It may not sell big, but that's not the point. You just want it available for anyone down the road who wishes to enjoy it.

Is it to further your brand or business? If you're an entrepreneur, consider self-publishing a nonfiction book to build your brand. You can then introduce yourself as the author of that book.

Is it to have it as a free resource? Example: If you want to have your short stories available as a free download to newsletter subscribers, then just self-publish them to make them easily accessible.

2. How much proven ability do you have to market?

In the publishing industry, your ability to market yourself and your books is called platform. Last I checked, more than one million books and projects are self-published every year. In a sea with one million fish, what can you do to draw attention to your fish? Don't think it's as simple as "If I put it out there, readers will miraculously find it and buy it and share news of it." This almost never happens.

To market a book, you need either a platform or a marketing plan or both. Will you send out review copies? If so, to whom? What are you doing on social media to gain followers? Are you making contacts through any sort of media platforms, such as newsletter editors or blog owners or members of the media? Are you spending money to buy ads on different websites?

If you self-publish, you are the entire team for your book -- all marketing, all distribution, all promotion, all everything. People who enjoy writing but not the business end of things (i.e., marketing and promotion, in particular) may find self-publishing difficult if they want to sell big numbers of books.

3. Who is your audience and how do you plan to reach them?

An old adage in publishing is "A book for everyone is a book for no one."

If I ask you who will enjoy your self-published novel and you say "Everyone who enjoys a good book," then I know you're in trouble concerning marketing. How will you promote such a product? How can you succeed when aiming in all directions?

Meanwhile, if I ask you who will enjoy your self-published novel and you say "Well, it's a good book for women readers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s -- especially new divorcees, because the main character is a recent divorcee who's clueless in the modern dating scene," then we have something here to work with. We can identify good websites and message boards and newsletters and forums that such women are reading, and get involved in those places.

If you can't do a good job of identifying your specific target readers or composing a plan on how to get involved with their community, then it's tough to self-publish and market well. Maybe traditional publishing is a safer choice for you.

4. How much time and effort can you put in everything?

If you just want to self-publish your book and get it out in the world, with no specific sales goals, then go for it.

But if you do have specific sales/financial goals for your work (and future works), then I suggest investing a lot of time into the process. Educate yourself. Read dozens of blogs and articles by self-published writers and learn from their successes and mistakes. Spend money (advertise, etc.) to make money. You're starting your own small business; that means a steep learning curve and it may take years to generate the profits you seek. Be patient and take it extremely seriously.


These questions should help you along your journey. If you have more questions, reach out to me on Twitter at @chucksambuchino, or online at

Chuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) is a freelancer editor, bestselling book author, and former longtime staffer for Writer’s Digest Books. For many years he edited the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog was one of the largest blogs in publishing, and he wrote the platform guidebook CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck’s books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, Buzzfeed, Mental Floss, New York magazine, and many more media outlets. He is a successful freelance editor of queries, synopses, and manuscripts—seeing dozens of clients get agents or book deals following his consultations/edits. He loves meeting new writers.

IWSG Show Your Writer Insecurity Contest Winners

Thanks to everyone who participated! Wow, there were so many awesome photos. You guys were really creative. But we only had three prize packages with dozens of books, audio books, IWSG features, and IWSG erasers…

Third place goes to: J Lenni Dorner

Second place goes to: Mary Aalgaard

And the grand prize winner who also finally told all his Facebook friends he’s a writer: Ken Rahmoeller

For more awesome images, visit the other participants:
Sarah, Karen, SE White, Carrie-Anne, Tyrean, Fundy, Sandra, Erika, Olga, Toi, IB Nosey, Morgan, Nancy, Deniz, Zan Marie, Allison Kathy, and Sharon.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Do You Substitute They For I?

At some point we all find ourselves comparing this to that or that to this. You can substitute anything in for that or this in your life. Sometimes it may even be favorable. It could give you the best bang for your buck in many cases. But when it comes to writing have you ever noticed how a lot of it hinders more than helps?

If you are anywhere on the internet, which authors tend to be in some form because you need a platform, then you have come across the inevitable they thought. At some point it could even become all about they and less about I. Life shouldn't be all I, I, I but sometimes I, I, I is just what you need to see your true progress and keep going.

So how do we go from they to I?

1. They write 5000 words a day. I wrote 50 words today. Whatever your word count, whether it be 50 or 5000, you pumped words out today. Focus on that. You may not have written as much as someone else, but I guarantee you that you wrote more words than millions of other people.

2. They have 50 books released. I have 2 books released. One book is an accomplishment. Someone else may have more or less but you did it. You published a book. That is a feat that so many others will never accomplish.

3. They have a publisher. I keep getting denied. They may have a publisher. They may have one better than yours. But how long do you think it took them to get that? Chances are that they got denied just as many times as you. You will learn and grow with each denial. All your hard work will be that much more worth it when you get that first yes. I have to keep trying will keep you on the track of I and off the track of they.

4. They have an agent. I don't have one. This is all a matter of preference. You could get the same result without one. You may not. Depends on if you think you have the connections and know how of many of the agents. But again, you have to keep trying if you want an agent like they have.

5. They have 50,000 followers. I have 50. Followers are all a matter of perseverance. They didn't instantly get 50,000 followers. Chances are it took them years to do that. Nothing will happen overnight. You have 50. That is a start. Those 50 will continue to grow if you work at it.

6. They have more time. I can barely find any time. They have more time because they make time. Yes, there may be many other tasks that you have that they don't. Yes, you may have more of a full plate. No, you don't barely have any time. You just choose to do other things with your time. Carve out a slot of time and then it soon goes from I have no time to I have time.

7. They have more funds. I'm on a fixed income. Only spend what you can afford. Some have more than others and always will. You may not get there as fast as one with a lot of disposable income, but while they are throwing money at everything to see what works, you will be searching out the best options for what disposable income you have.

8. They have more ideas. I only have a few. But you have ideas. The more you write, the more you will find ideas may show. One little scene can give you a whole new idea for a book. Pretty soon you will find that you have plenty of ideas.

9. They have more experience. I just started. Experience comes from starting. You have to take that first step no matter what you do in life. The more you do, the more you learn. Also it doesn't hurt to ask they for any advice or use resources like IWSG to your full advantage.

10. They have such luck. I have none. This one is all a state of mind. Kind of goes down into poor pitiful me territory. Luck = hard work. As far as I've always been concerned luck is a word made up by humans to try and make themselves feel better. Better about what? Better about someone else getting what they what. That someone, usually, worked for it. Ditch luck and do the work.

In the end you will find it is a state of mind. The less you care about they and the more you focus on I, the more you will see your own progress. And you never know, maybe you'll become the they to other writers who should be focusing on I.

What do you do to stop the comparing? Has the they over I ever crept in and left you discouraged in your writing endeavors?

Monday, September 25, 2017

How to Record an Audio Book – Narrator James Newcomb Speaks Out

This past spring, I was given the opportunity to record Matowak: Woman Who Cries by Joylene Nowell Butler.

My primary gig as it pertains to using my voice professionally is as a podcaster. I'm the host of a weekly podcast called MusicPreneur: Making Money Making Music as well as a daily podcast called Preneur Problems.

However, I decided to throw my name in the Audible ring and the publishers of Ms. Butler's book saw it fit to hire me to record it.

Recording an audiobook is very different from recording a podcast.

Recording a book requires a fairly strict observance of diction and pronunciation, not to mention understanding the nuances between the various characters - if it's a fictional book.

Being overly concerned with those things can be detractors from a podcast as audiences tend to prefer a more conversational, "warts and all" type of dialogue between the host and the guest.

My Process

Because I have a number of projects on my plate at any given moment, I chose to record Matowak in small portions.

Basically, I did one chapter per day. This includes recording the text, editing out my errors, mastering and uploading it into the Audible platform.

Over time, I developed a little system to expedite the editing process.

Anytime I made a mistake, I would make a "click" sound in my mouth. Since these sounds are distinct from my speaking voice, I'm able to see where these occur on my software. Rather than listening to the entire chapter, I'm able go directly to those spots and delete my mistakes.

Most recording software programs have features that allow you to mark where you'd like to edit. I prefer to simply make a noise with my mouth so as to not interrupt my flow while recording.

In retrospect, I believe I would have been better off recording the book in larger segments.

Recording only a chapter per day, I had to "get in the zone" every day for 30+ days. Had I arranged my schedule to allow 3-4 hour blocks of recording/editing/mastering/uploading, it could have been easier to stay in the proper frame of mind.

I also found it necessary to take breaks from recording. Focusing on correct pronunciation, diction, etc. is mentally tiresome. This is why I chose to edit/master/upload after each chapter, rather than try to record multiple chapters at once.

My equipment

It may surprise you to hear that my equipment is very minimal and inexpensive.

I recorded Matowak using my trusty ATR-2100, which you can find on Amazon for around $70. I've used the ATR-2100 in over 300 podcast episodes and consistently receive praise on the audio quality it produces.

I use Audacity recording software. It's a free download (google it) and is surprisingly user friendly. You may need a few tutorials (which I'm happy to provide if you're interested) but it is quite easy to use.

My "studio" is my master bedroom. Of course, it is carpeted and has some sound absorbing panels on the walls, but it is very minimalistic and effective.

I know of some podcasters and voice actors who record in their closets because the clothes absorb all the sound. Plus they're able to hide from their children!

What you can do to assist your voice actor

Perhaps you embrace modern technology and want to make your work available in as many mediums as possible.

Or you may believe that an audio version detracts from the intent of your book; you begrudgingly accept the need to produce an audio version because your publisher says you need to in order to keep up with the times.

Hey, I'm a musician and I work with musicians. I understand the need to preserve artistic purity and balance technology accordingly.

However, once you make the decision to make an audio version of your book, here are a few things you can do to produce a recording that honestly reflects - and even improves - your original intent with your work.

  1. Have a conversation with them. Set up a phone or Skype call. Explain the "if you didn't get all that, get this" core message you desire your readers to take away. Take the time to explain the personalities and nuances of your characters. A good voice actor wants to "get it right," and channel your intentions into the recording. Investing time upfront to explain these things will reap their rewards when the final product is finished. If you don't do this, they'll have no frame of reference and will inevitably interpret your work based on their own personal paradigm.
  2. Cultivate a relationship with them. This person is taking a considerable amount of time from their life and work to record your book. For example, a 12 hour audio book typically takes around 100 hours of labor to complete. If it's on a royalty share arrangement, they're doing so without a solid idea of how much they'll be compensated financially. Get to know them personally; allow them to get to know you. Open up a line of communication so that they'll feel comfortable approaching you when questions about how to interpret the book come up.
  3. Regard them as a collaborator, not as an employee. This person is putting a human voice to your words. The best way to get an authentic telling of your story is for your voice actor to feel as though they are personally invested in your work. Because, guess what? They are. When you erect that barrier of "I'm the author, you're the actor;" when you communicate only via a third party such as a publisher, the actor is going to feel like it's just another gig. They're going to quickly turn their impassioned attention to something else. Should you choose this approach, don't be surprised when they fail to meet your expectations.

Obviously, the best way to channel your intent as a writer in an audiobook is for you to do it yourself. ACX has many tutorials on how to DIY on a bootstrapped budget.

Should you decide you prefer a voice actor to record your book, perhaps these suggestions will help you in your endeavors!

James Newcomb 

Find James at MusicPreneur: Making Money Making Music and on Twitter

Find M√Ętowak: Woman Who Cries at iTunes, Audible, and Amazon

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rewriting - How Do You Know When It's Right?

We hear a lot about the importance of rewriting in our authorial journeys. But what form exactly should this take? How much rewriting is too much and how much is too little?

The answer - like with so many questions like this - depends on your book.

It's very unlikely - if not impossible - that you'll produce the perfect manuscript the first go round. If you do, then the gods have decided to smile upon you. The world's greatest classics no doubt underwent multiple rewrites to get to the condition we know them in.

Here are some tips to bear in mind when embarking on a rewrite.

  • Before going in and doing anything to your actual draft (or a copy of it - you want to keep copies of all your drafts in case you end up deciding the early version of a particular section was best), go through and write down a dramatic narrative of everything that happens in your book - every chapter and scene. (Some of you, like me, might not have chapters at this point.) You can create a story board on several sheets of paper, maybe including sketches of the action if you're the artistic type. If you're a plotter, you can compare this against any outline you might have already prepared, which might help you see where you need to insert or change things. Plotter or not, you're looking to see what each part does to drive the story forward, increase the tension, or develop the characters. If anything's not doing that, you should focus your attention there first, either looking to see how it can be changed to better serve the story or ultimately deciding to drop it.
  • Make lists of action points as you go through this process; this way, you'll always know what you'll want to achieve when you start your rewriting journey. It will also help if you want to add elements such as foreshadowing, and generally making sure everything's on track in terms of consistency - so your MC doesn't mysteriously change hair or eye colour with no explanation.
  • Don't get overwhelmed. Redrafting should always be broken down into manageable chunks. You could choose to focus on one scene at a time, or one character, going through and seeing how their actions impact on the rest of the story. That will have a knock-on effect on several other things, which you could concentrate on on your next pass, and so on.
  • Rewriting takes many forms. Some decide to start completely from scratch and a blank page. Others will consider individual sentences and how they can be refined and perfected. Although, bear in mind that there is no such thing as "perfect"; remember that often our instinct is our best friend. That resolution that came to you in a flash of inspiration might have been just what the doctor ordered, and trying to second guess it might have the opposite effect to what you intended, cooling the tension rather than upping it. It's important to recognise when your rewriting is going too far and taking the oomph out of your writing, defusing that feeling of adrenaline that powered you through the original draft.
  • When you feel you can't do any more, that's when it's time to give it a rest or - ideally - send it to some trusted critique partners for their opinion. The time it takes to get back to you will also allow the story to percolate in your mind, and combined with the fresh input of their ideas, this will help you tackle your opus afresh when they've finished their reading.
Do you have anything to add to this? How do you go about redrafting and rewriting?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Straight Talk From Janet Reid, Literary Agent

The Insecure Writers Support Group is excited to host Janet Reid from New Leaf Literary today. We asked her some questions that we felt other writers would like answers to. I think we were right. Take a look at what she has to say.

Hi, Janet
So great to have you here today. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. 

  • How many query letters do you read in a day, and how many, on average, lead to an offer of representation?

I get about 100 queries a week. I read them in spurts, often when I need to feel like I've gotten at least one thing done in the last hour. I try not to read queries when I'm tired, hungry, or in a general snarl.  I'm actively looking for good projects so I want to read with a positive attitude.

I looked at my stats for query to rep, and frankly they're daunting. In 2016 I requested about 50 fulls. I offered rep on two. This year, since I'm expanding the categories I'm working in, those numbers will be higher but not by a lot. For example, I've requested 53 projects so far this year. I've offered rep on one, and two more in the pipeline.

But, and this is a big ol but, you can't let those numbers discourage you. They're raw stats. They don't account for people querying on things I would not take on if you paid me upfront and promised no one would ever know it was mine; for categories I don't work in at all; queries for novels that were simply unpublishable.

Every single agent I know is looking for good material. There's a lot of dreck to wade through to find it but your job is not to worry about the dreck, it's to not BE the dreck.

  • What’s the biggest mistake an author can make in a query letter they submit to you?

Failing to tell me what the book is about. It sounds very simple. It's not. In fact, I practice pitching my books before I got out with them, just to get input from smart, successful people on what works and what doesn't. (One of the many benefits of working at New Leaf.)

What the book is about is generally the plot. It's what your main character wants and what's keeping her from getting it.

A good way to think of this is how you'd tell a friend to read a book. You'd tell them what it's about, not about the theme, or why the author wrote it, or why the agent is the best choice for the query.

  • Do you have any favorite query hooks that you can share? Ones that sold you on that book and that writer?

I looked through my client emails and most of my guyz (not a typo--it's the gender neutral version) have been with me so long, their queries were lost in the great computer crash of  09. Or the other one in '11. (It still gives me the shivers!)

But, for a terrific query, one that breaks all the rules take a look at Josin McQuein's query for PREMEDITATED (Harper)--still one of the most highly recognized entries at QueryShark (#192)


Dan Krokos, FALSE MEMORY (Hyperion)-winner of the inaugural International Thriller Writers Best YA (Query Shark #124) had a memorable query.

as did 

Curtis Chen, WAYPOINT KANGARO (Macmillan) (Query Shark #242)

  • What misconceptions or wrong expectations do writers have when signing with an agent?

That the hard part is over.

It hasn't even started.

But let's not dwell on that or we'll get too depressed to write.  Solve today's problems. Hit your word count. Read good books. Let tomorrow take care of itself.

  • Are there some key questions an author should ask when they’re looking for the right fit in an agent?

Communication style! Does the agent reply quickly or should the author know to expect lag time.

Does the agent expect to do some editorial work on the ms before it goes on submission.

Most important: what happens if the ms doesn't sell.

These were great answers and I hope they helped our readers today. Did you look at those queries Janet touted? How about subbing a query for shark inspection; are you going to do that? 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Anthology Contest!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

September’s optional question - Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?

September marks six years for the IWSG group and four years for the website. You know what that means…

The annual IWSG Anthology Contest!

Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller

Theme: Tick Tock. The story revolves around a clock, is time sensitive, or has something about a specific time. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines. No erotica, R-rated language, or graphic violence.

Story deadline: November 1st 2017

How to enter: Send your polished, previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please format double-spaced, size 12 font, and no headers or footers. Include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging or Facebook IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:

Elizabeth S. Craig writes cozy mystery series for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine Writers Knowledge Base.

Anne Hawkins is a partner in John Hawkins & Associates, Inc., New York. Founded in 1893 by Paul R. Reynolds, it is the oldest literary agency in the country. She works with mainstream literary and commercial fiction, including mystery, suspense, and thrillers and a wide variety of serious non-fiction, particularly history, politics, biography, science, and natural history. A number of her books have gained distinction through award nominations, book-to-film contracts, significant foreign rights sales, major book club selections, or placement on the New York Times bestseller list. Anne Hawkins is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Candace Havens is the Editorial Director of Covet has written multiple novels for Berkley, Entangled and Harlequin. Her books have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards. She is one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists, runs a free online writing workshop, and teaches comprehensive writing class.

Author, Public Speaker, and Executive Producer, Lynn Tincher was born just outside of Louisville, Kentucky in the beautiful city of La Grange. She has written four books, with the fifth one currently in the making. Her first book, Afterthoughts was optioned for movie production by Kilted Pictures and Dancing Forward Productions in Los Angeles. It is currently in pre-production with plans to shoot in Louisville, Kentucky very soon.

Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia's longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998. His qualifications and employment range from horticulture through electronics into literature and communications.

Patricia (Pat) Stoltey is the author of four crime fiction novels published by Five Star/Cengage including a historical mystery called Wishing Caswell Dead ( (December 2017). She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Sassy Dog, and Katie Cat. To learn more about Patricia and her books, visit her website/blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mason Canyon had a love of books since childhood encouraged by a mother who loved to read. A 30+year career in journalism fueled her desire to know what a story is all about. Blogging at Thoughts in Progress since 2009 and operating MC Book Tours for over a year. Loves to read and share great stories with others. MC Book Tours

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

We’re excited to see the creativity and enthusiasm that’s such a part of this group put into action. So don your creative caps and start writing. And spread the word!

Don’t forget that October 4 is the Show Us Your Writer Insecurity Contest! On Wednesday, October 4 (IWSG Day), post a photo of yourself (or your alter ego) with any of the IWSG swag or with the IWSG logo. Then leave a comment that day at either the IWSG website’s post or the IWSG Facebook post directing us to your photo. (All blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and newsletter members welcome, but photo must be posted on a blog or Facebook to qualify.)
There are some cool prizes to be had!

Plus the IWSG Writing For Profit will be available by that time.

And finally, don’t forget to submit your news to the IWSG Newsletter – free advertising for your new releases, sales, and more. Contact Christine Rains or send directly to the IWSG email address.

Ready to create something for the anthology contest? See your story in an anthology such as the IWSG’s Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life or Parallels: Felix Was Here? And are you ready to show off your writer insecurity next month?

Monday, August 28, 2017

EBook Formatting Tips

EBook formatting may seem overwhelming at first. Even once we get the hang of it, there are still little details that are often overlooked. As authors, we want our eBooks to stack up those produced by the big publishers.

Here are some tips for producing a professional-looking product:

The layout is similar to print books. Keep in mind that text sizes can be changed by readers, so don’t overload the front matter - we want those who download a sample first to get a portion of the first chapter. The general page order should be:
Title page
Copyright page
Table of contents
About author
Other books by author or excerpt from next book - with purchase links if possible

Set font size to 12 and stick with standard fonts. Unusual fonts don’t translate well.

Clean up the manuscript. Remove all extra spaces at the end (and beginning) of paragraphs. Those extra spaces at the end could create a blank page.

Always use the “Paragraph” feature in Word (or similar feature in other programs) to set indents. If the tab key or space bar were used, remove all of those with the “Find and Replace” feature. Indents can be set at .2-.5 for fiction. (With the first line of each chapter not indented and the first letter a special character or larger size if desired.) Non-fiction isn’t indented–paragraphs are separated either by a line or by setting the spacing in the “Paragraph” feature.

Text should be justified for a more professional appearance.

Chapter titles/numbers are a couple sizes larger than the text font and usually centered. Use a “Heading” style (in Word) for chapter titles, adjusting it to the correct size and position. This helps when hyperlinking the chapters, as that feature will seek out headings.

Images and tables are often bumped to the next page. The nature of eBooks makes positioning them exactly almost impossible. (Unless you are creating an ePub in InDesign where you have a little more control over image placement.) Set them “in line” with text to create a smoother flow. Always use 72 dpi sized images.

Pages are impossible to control since readers can adjust the font size, so don’t include page numbers.

Once the eBook is formatted, chapters can be hyperlinked. Create at table of contents. In Word, highlight the words “Table of Contents” and go to the “Insert” tab. Click on “Bookmark” and call it ToC. Then highlight your first chapter title in your table of contents and click on “Hyperlink.” Choose “Places in this Document” and select chapter one. Repeat for the remaining chapters and double check after finishing.

There are two ways to include links. The actual link can be used or a hyperlink. If using the actual link, it must be the full web address.
Correct -
Incorrect -
For a hyperlink, highlight the text in the book and when setting the hyperlink, select “Existing File or Web Page.”

Be sure links line up with the retailer. Barnes & Noble will not appreciate links to Amazon in the eBooks they sell.

Follow these guidelines and produce a professional-looking eBook that readers will devour!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Do You Look Ridiculous If You Dance?

I was curious about how Goodnight Moon could be such a successful children’s book that it has sold millions of copies. It had no plot. It was repetitious and terribly simple. If its goal was to put toddlers to sleep, that was one thing, but I thought books were to enrich and engage readers. 

Then I stumbled on an article a few of months ago, and there was my answer. Margaret Wise Brown had discovered that books for this age group had to be about their own world, not one manufactured by an adult writer. Fantasy was great for older readers, but not those pre-schoolers who might even be confused by it. She’d discovered that for her readers “. . .the pleasure of language lies less in what it communicates than in its sound and rhythm.” [Amy Crawford,, January 26, 2017] 

"In the great green room
There was a telephone
and a red balloon
And a picture of–
The cow jumping over the moon. . ."

In her biography, The Great Green Room, Anne E. Fernald, writes that in Brown’s book there is “a love of color, joy in ordinary objects, repetition with unexpected variation.” [Anne E. Fernald, In the Great Green Room: Margaret Wise Brown and Modernism, November 17, 2015]

Then I began thinking that all of these elements are what I enjoy while reading. When a writer enables a vibrant color in words, that's exciting. I love seeing those azure seas or mountains soaring into black and turbulent clouds. 

Ordinary objects place me in a setting. Even if it's sci-fi and the world builder has created something that's not of this time and place, that object helps me "be" in the story. The neoprene wetsuit from Dune. The powered exoskeleton from Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Remember those ordinary object from the future? They were central to the stories, and I saw them clearly while I devoured the stories. 

And who doesn't love unexpected variation? Those surprising turns of words can be as exciting as a plot twist.

Stein's quote has those repetitions.

Gertrude Stein, who happened to be one of Brown’s favorite writers, appeals to older readers but using these three same techniques. Here’s some of Stein’s prose. Notice the "joy" in it, the ordinary things she refers to, and the "unexpected variation and repetition." So many of her words sing to you. A lot of grown-ups could use a good song after a day of being a grown-up.

“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don't dance
So you might as well dance.” Gertrude Stein

Everyone has a style, but sometimes writers can "borrow" a technique and play with it to see if it enhances their work. Evidently, that's exactly what Margaret Wise Brown did, and it worked--very well.

And so thank you and Goodnight, Moon. Goodnight, Miss Brown. Goodnight, Gertrude Stein. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

#IWSG -- Sometimes writing sucks.

Sometimes writing sucks

Why do I say that? Cause it’s absolutely true. I’d even dare to say that there are more days that suck being a writer than there are days that are truly amazing or noteworthy.

There are times when the 'writing well' is just empty.

And I don’t mean writer’s block. It’s more like, writer’s complete shutdown OR writer’s out-of-gas OR writer’s screeching halt.

You don’t feel like writing.
You don’t feel like editing.
You don’t feel like marketing.
It all just sucks.

You know what? That’s okay, because there are times when EVERY job out there sucks.
Being a ditch digger isn’t always glamorous.
Being a celebrity certainly has its ups and downs.
Try being a proctologist and tell me that every day is rainbows and unicorns.

So, it’s all good to have some down days because they will have to swing back up.

It’s true. Science says so.

It’s what you do when you’re down that can make the difference in your well-being, and for that matter, your career.

Don’t wallow. Don’t sit on your couch and pine for the good ol’ days.

Feed yourself.

Go where the people are. Watch. Listen. Maybe even join in. It doesn’t have to cost anything, except maybe some of your time.

Do stuff with family and/or friends. Lots of writers are introverts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t socialize with people you trust and understand you. Your family will appreciate it.

Read / Watch / Listen to entertainment. It’s okay. You’re not cheating on your writing. It will only help you become a better writer.

Meditate / exercise. I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Learn a new skill to make your brain do something completely different. Check out YouTube for how-to videos on just about everything.

Fill up on all the good things around you and once you’re back in the upswing you will have TONS of new material to work with.

The life of a writer isn’t for wimps, so go kick some ass.


Don't forget to show us your insecurity on October 4th!

Check out all the details...HERE

There are some great prizes for the winners and some great IWSG SWAG to choose from – notebooks, pens, mugs, tote bags, etc.
Proceeds go to fund the upkeep of the IWSG site.

Monday, August 7, 2017

How Much Do You Know About Irony?

Read the complete post

Alanis Morissetter

Alanis Morissette should have read this Reedsy post before she sang Ironic. If she had she would have gotten irony right instead of. . .well, rather wrong. It's not ironic when you're already late and stuck in a traffic jam, now is it? And it's not ironic if it rains on your wedding day. Tsk. Tsk, Song writers. Call Reedsy before you tackle irony again because the only irony in the song, Ironic, is that the writers didn't understand irony. 

Reedsy On!


What Is Irony?
As Reedsy points out, "Irony is a storytelling tool used to create contrast between how things seem and how they really are beneath the surface." There are three main types of irony:  dramatic, situational, and verbal."

Dramatic Irony and Why Use It?
Simply put, dramatic irony occurs with the reader/audience knows what will happen before the characters do.  It's a great way to raise and sustain tension until the character finally is allowed in on the secret. Reedsy uses A Touch of Evil to show the effect of dramatic irony.  In the first scene, there's the planting of the bomb. Next, there are delays and some confusion. The bomb's ticking and we're the only ones who know it. 
  • Use dramatic irony if you want to create sympathy for a character or if you want to bring the reader closer to a character.  We all know Peter Parker's Spiderman, but the other characters in the story don't. That allows us to relate to him very differently than if everyone knew his secret identity.

  • Do you want your characters vulnerable? Give them a sense of security that doesn't really exist, and let the reader know the truth. They aren't safe at all.

  • Add a dash of comedy. Shakespeare did that with poor Malvolio and his "cross garter" fashion debacle. Reedsy uses a more modern example. "In an episode of Friends, Joey picks up Ross’s coat and a ring tumbles out — a ring intended for Rachel. When Joey kneels down to pick it up, Rachel assumes he is proposing and accepts. Comedy ensues as misunderstanding and miscommunication take the day." 

Situational Irony should not be confused with “coincidence” and “bad luck.” Here's Reedsy's example: "To differentiate, consider this: If you buy a new car and then accidentally drive it into a tree, that is both coincidence and bad luck. If a professional stunt driver crashes into a tree on their way home from receiving a “best driver” award, that is situationally ironic."
What does Situational Irony accomplish in a story?
Surprising twists like those found in thriller, crime, and mystery genres.
To emphasize themes. When the outcome is unexpected, we're made very aware of the underlying message. Reedsy gives the Tortoise and the Hare as an example of Situational Irony. 

Verbal Irony is when the intended meaning of a statement is the opposite of what is said. Somewhat like sarcasm, but not exactly because as Reedsy points out not all sarcastic statements are ironic. 
It gives insight into characters. In verbal irony, characters know what they're doing and why, so when they "intentionally state something that contradicts their true meaning" they reveal a lot about themselves.

If you'd like to read the complete post, go to REEDSY's site. It has more examples and more thorough explanations of each type of irony.