Monday, June 29, 2015

The Secret to Getting Published

Don't forget that this Wednesday is the first of July. It's post day for the IWSG. Can't believe it's time already.

I wrote my first novel in long hand before I joined a writing group. I remember walking into that meeting, nervous but excited. It was held in a meeting room behind a food court. When I entered, people were already sitting at the tables and talking to each other. When I took a seat, one of the members greeted me with a new member packet that would tell me all about their group. Then the meeting started and I got out my pen and paper. Now I would learn the secret.

I didn't learn it that first meeting but I paid up for a membership and kept coming back. I learned lots of things about formatting, voice, query letters, writing a synopsis, passive verbs and every other thing I didn't know that I didn't know. Yet no one had spilled the secret after a few years and a writing conference later.

My first novel underwent numerous changes and rewrites. I queried it and received numerous requests for the manuscript but I obviously didn't know the secret. I had completed three more novels before I found the small publisher that I'm still with. I discovered the secret. Hard work and persistence.

In the years since, I've encountered many new writers searching for the same elusive secret I was when I walked into that first meeting. I've even met writers who angrily accuse published writers of hoarding the secret and not sharing it to prevent competition. Some never accept that there is no secret. With all the options open to writers these days like in publishing and promotion, there are new things to learn every day. And still, the secret is work and persistence.

In a recent Book Page publication, in an interview debut author Ericka Swyler shared her Words to Live By.  "Don't worry. No one else knows what they're doing either."

So don't feel as if there is a hidden entrance into the world of published authors. Speak with any successful, published author and they will gladly share how hard they work and how they first succeeded by refusing to give up.

If you're still looking for secrets, read this article by Margot Finke written a while ago but if you like lists, it has one.

Do you know writers who think there is a secret? What would you tell a new writer if they asked you the secret?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Crutch Words by Jessica Page Morrell

Crutch Words
Jessica P. Morrell©

Style means the right word. The rest matters little.” —Jules Renard

Besides contributing to magazines, newsletters and anthologies, I write books, teach writing workshops and work as a developmental editor. My editing clients are both published and unpublished writers.  Mostly I strive to improve structure, tension and character arcs in their manuscripts. I suss out plot holes and fix subplots and help express themes.  

Using the Track Changes function I ask questions and make comments and observations in the margin; delete unnecessary words; fix spelling errors and typos; replace dull words with brighter ones; and perk up dialogue. As I work on the manuscript I craft a memo that elucidates my overall impressions of the story, commenting on what’s working, what is not working, and specific techniques that can bolster the story. Then I provide the big picture of what needs shoring up such as character development or tweaking the ending along with suggestions for specific pages and scenes. 

One section of the 10-20 page memo is devoted to style issues. Lately I’ve included a list of each writer’s crutch words. These are the words and phrases that become lodged in our brains and appear too often in our stories. We all lean on words—I’ve got my share: perhaps, emotional, deeply, dazzle, simmer, and resonate— just to name a few.

 Crutch words are also part of our culture and easily spotted online and heard on  television, especially on talk shows and reality shows: Awesome, amazing, journey, so, in fact, honestly, personally, seriously, whatever, basically, totally.  But here’s the deal: If I can train myself to search out crutch words in my own and my clients’ writing, you can too. Lazy, repetitive and clichéd writing diminishes your credibility, but more important, in this huge and crowded publishing world, there is no room for irksome habits.

Here are some of the crutch words I notice most often: just, suddenly, very, quite, various, stride, strode, quiet, quietly, got, get, getting, could, a couple, spoke, have, brainstorm, lay, hopefully, slowly, quickly, really, seemed, appeared, smirk, grin, even, that, weird, okay, every, all, eyes, only. 

Let’s take on a few of these offenders. Suddenly is typically used as a transition or forewarning: As the sounds grew closer, suddenly the hairs on her neck started prickling. Suddenly it all became clear. Suddenly is rarely necessary because an action that happens without warning doesn’t need an announcement. You want the reader to be surprised, to experience the action firsthand and so use a direct sentence as the reader leans in closer. As the moans grew louder the hairs on the back of her neck prickled. Instead of trumpeting a new development, allow the character to react appropriately or slip in more context as the scene unfolds.

Always slash very and quite and really. Really.  They’re intensifiers or qualifiers that weaken the meaning of the word they precede and should be axed and replaced with specific language or vivid examples.  Instead of very small, minuscule. Instead of very hungry, famished.  Instead of quite angry, enraged. Instead of really happy, ecstatic. Use these duds only in dialogue and your writing will immediately improve.  
While in hunter mode, search out your wimpy modifiers and ax them. Notice how the meaning is not affected afterward.  Here’s a list  that you rarely need: hopefully, decidedly,  considerably, reportedly,  actively, mindfully, certainly, positively, both,  extremely, comparatively, in fact, per se,  herself, himself, inherently, truly, deeply, incredibly, definitely, fortunately, generally, in general, simply, particularly, absolutely, inevitably, actively, presently, alleged, careful, carefully, definite, relatively, namely, unfortunately, necessarily, overall, rather, relatively, so-called, somewhat, and totally.

Crutch words also come in the form of bland verbs—look, see, saw, hear, sit for example are used often, but they act like stage directions instead of describing action. For example is the person gazing, studying, staring, or gaping? Same with terms such as walk— be precise because three-year olds scamper and scoot; teens lope and saunter; old people mince and hobble. Pay attention to these limp-as-noodle types: get, took, take, put, got, run, ran, turned, leave, move, went, lie, lay, left, go, gone, have, had. Trade them in for more vibrant choices, but beware of using florid or bizarre verbs such as the car ping ponged to a stop. Or, the car hollered to a stop. Powerhouse verbs are important, but you can’t hire muscle for every sentence.

            As you search for wimps slash or replace colorless words:  nice, some, thing, good, bad, pretty, smile, since, stand, stood, keep.

I’m happy to report that there are solutions to using crutch words, all of them elucidating. 1. Create your own “search list.”  Pay attention to the redundancies pointed out by your critique group or beta readers.  Then open the manuscript file and perform searches to weasel out those rascals. 2. Reading your work out loud will help you hear crutch words as does using voice recognition software such as Dragon. This can also help with productivity since most of us think and talk faster than we type. 3. If you respond well to visual cues check out websites such as and They’re two of a dozen or so word cloud generators. These sites allow you to paste in large amounts of text and then it spews out images of your text. The words are placed randomly in the image, highlighting your most important and frequently used words.

Becoming aware of your repeat offenders is only the first step. Next, make a list of synonyms you can substitute and keep this list handy. There are many synonym sites online or you could use The Synonym Finder by Roget.  The trick is choosing the precise substitutes since not all synonyms are created equal. For most of us conversational writing is the aim because it’s fluid and easy to follow. But informal never means redundant, so pay attention word by word.  

Jessica Page Morrell understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and author. She writes with depth, wit and clarity on topics related to writing and creativity along with other topics and is the author of Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected; Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction; The Writer’s I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life; Voices from the Street;Between the Lines: Master The Subtle Elements Of Fiction Writing; and Writing Out the Storm. Her forthcoming books are No Ordinary Days: The Seasons, Cycles and Elements of the Writing Life and White Heat: Zero to Novel in 90 days. Her work also appears in anthologies and The Writer and Writer’s Digestmagazines. Morrell founded and coordinates three writing conferences Summer in Words, Making it in Changing Times, and Claim Your Story. She is a former food columnist and restaurant reviewer, has been creating columns about the writing life since 1998, and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences throughout North America. Morrell lives in Portland, Oregon where she is surrounded by writers and watches the sky in all its moods and permutations.

Many thanks to Jessica for being here today. Her website has a multitude of resources. And to top off this informative day, reward yourself with a small gift. Every member of IWSG should have one of the original design tee-shirts created by Retro Jeremy Hawkins. You can own it yourself today.

Do you have crutch words? How do you deal with them? Has Jessica given you some ideas on improving your writing? Did you order your tee-shirt yet?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Self-Publishing Resources for Writers

Self-publishing has never been more attractive and easier for writers. Between the ebook revolution and POD/digital printing, the gates have opened for writers to publishing their own books.

What many forget is that publishing is a business. And before starting any business, you have to do your research if you hope to succeed. Most businesses require a serious investment of money and a clear understanding of how the business works. Self-publishing a book should be no different.

We have many resources listed here under “Self-publishing.” I’d like to highlight a few key sites that will help you on your journey.

Dan Poynter is the self-publishing guru. He is the author of numerous books, including the Self-Publishing Manual. He’s also owned and operated ParaPublishing for over 30 years.
His site lists hundreds of resources and articles on running a publishing company, book production, distribution, and marketing.

Book Market
John Kremer is a publishing and promoting master. He’s the author of the famous 1001 Ways to Market Your Book
His site contains hundreds of free and paid articles that cover marketing, distribution, book store lists, etc.

Aeonix Publishing Group
While no longer a publisher, this site has many free articles on production, vanity presses, printers, and other resources.

The Creative Penn
They have articles on self-publishing, plus lists of book cover designers and more.

Gropen Associates The “Reference Desk for Publishers,” covers everything from budgeting to production and distribution.

Self Published Authors Helping Other Authors
This blog has many resources and tips on writing, publishing, and promoting.

The Alliance of Self Published Authors This is a professional organization for writers. Their blog features advice and tips on a variety of topics.

Publishing is a business. Do your research before starting on this path. Your books are your babies and your dream - give them the best possible chance to succeed!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Audio Books for Indie Authors

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Many (including author Joanna Penn) have predicted that audio, via podcasting and audio books, will increase in popularity due to the launch of Apple CarPlay and Google Cars.

And indie authors do have the option to publish to an audio book format through ACX.

Questions to ask ourselves before delving in:

There are a few things to consider before we get started. First of all, are we qualified to narrate our books ourselves (do we have the necessary equipment and expertise…and time…to take it on)?

If we would rather use a professional narrator/producer, would we rather pay the narrator/producer upfront (do we have the cash on-hand) or would we rather participate in a royalty-share option?

Do we want our audio book exclusive to ACX or non-exclusive? My opinion…ACX gets our audio books on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes and ensures us a 40% royalty (unless we opt to share that royalty with a narrator). Although I usually don’t condone exclusivity for authors, here I can’t see the point in going non-exclusive and getting the 25% royalty. Besides, anyone interested in the royalty-share option must be exclusive to ACX.

If we choose royalty-share, are our book sales and social media presence strong enough that our project looks appealing to narrators? If so, we need to pitch our presence and our sales on our audio book audition listing under “additional comments.” We should understand that narrators who consider royalty-share options are taking a tremendous risk in terms of their time—this may result in fewer auditions for us to choose from unless we’re fairly successful authors with a good track record.

We also need to consider how we want our books to sound while being read. More about that below.

Production options:

When we list our book for audition, we have the opportunity to choose what type of voice we’re ideally looking for. This includes gender and age of narrator, but also the style of voice. Here’s a sampling of the style options:

announcer, articulate, brooding, deadpan, engaging, enthusiastic, female narrating a male part, feminine, flirtatious, frightened, girlish, hip, host-interviewer, husky, hysterical, informed, ingénue, inspirational, intimidating, male narrating a female part, masculine, mature, nasal, perky, raspy, refined, snarky, sheepish, soothing, storyteller, sultry, upper-class…you get the idea.

My thoughts on ACX: Although audio books don’t supply me with a staggering amount of income, the income it does provide is pure profit and a consistent monthly payment. My only part in the process has been choosing narrators, listening/proofing the finished audio, modest attempts at promoting the audio book, and then receiving checks. The narrator, as the producer, has the bulk of the work…taping, editing, and formatting/uploading the finished product.

Have you explored going into audio books yet? Are you an audio book listener?

Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs HERE and curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day! Plus Changes and Upcoming Events

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.

Our awesome co-hosts today are M. Pax, Tracy Jo, Patricia Lynne, Rachna Chhabria, Feather Stone, and Randi Lee!

We are filling our schedule for the summer with posts every Monday, many from industry professionals, and we hope you’ll stop by for the great information and tips.

We are also adding new things to the site. The Publications page now includes conferences, conventions, workshops, festivals, retreats, and seminars, broken down by month. Keep checking back as new things are added every week!

For those of you who are new to the IWSG website, be sure to pick up your free copy of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Guide to Publishing and Beyond . Hundreds of great articles from those who have been there, done that.

We have other things in the hopper as well – contests, books, and maybe even an IWSG t-shirt.

Our goal is to be the best writer and author resource on the Internet – we want to help you on your journey!

Fighting any insecurity today? Fired up by the changes and upcoming events?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Your Writing Career - Taking The Next Step

For many writers, the day comes when you think, hey, this is a little more than a hobby. More time goes by and you decide, you know what? This writing thing is serious business.
You put yourself on some kind of schedule and you decide you’re gonna be disciplined if it kills you. You might get close to all out catatonia as you balance work, family and your writing regimen. You stay the course and begin to release books, but without a massive promotion drive, the books sputter and sales fizzle. You begin to realize that few are the books that have non-stop sales without some kind of ongoing marketing or promotion. Exposure is critical when you’re unknown and trying to build a readership.

The fact is, promotion takes money, but the internet provides unlimited research material that helps with the decision making process and finding the best deal.

·         Say you need book covers? Fiverr has a host of cover artists that provide service starting at – you guessed it – five dollars.

·         Need a blog tour host? Google is your go-to unit and if you want to get close and personal, Facebook is a great place to find individuals and businesses that provide this kind of service. Type in book promotion as you would with any search engine and potential sellers will pop up.

·         Looking for someone to run your promotions or host a book release party? You can find many outfits via search engines or Facebook and your writing buddies are also a source for checking out service providers.

·         Want to find book clubs to expand your base of readers? Facebook is a good source as well.

·         Have people who like reading your books? Start a group on whatever platform you like best and encourage them to share your work and add others to the team.

Do your research and also be mindful that regular book releases help to keep you on your readers’ TBR lists, but with the number of writers in the marketplace, it pays to find what methods work best for you and utilize them. 

Just this past weekend, I took the time to find out how to include a free book as part of my welcome message for those who subscribe to my newsletter. A small step, but it adds value to what I’m offering and yes, I’ve had people signing up for the mailist.

Gone are the days when we can afford to keep our nose to the grindstone and ignore the reading public until we have a new book for sale. In the world of publishing, it’s not necessarily the best writers who have repeat readers, but those who find a way to keep themselves relevant and in front of those who are buying books.

Have you made the decision to take your publishing efforts to the next level? Are you doing enough promotion and marketing? What has worked well for you in selling books? 

Don't forget this Wednesday is our IWSG post day. Get ready to share your doubts and words of encouragement with all the other IWSGers!