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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Today, my husband and I went for a short hike to Myrtle Creek Falls. On the drive back, we discussed the similarities and differences between types of writing. In my case, I do business-to-business copywriting work for clients and write nonfiction and fiction books. I’ve also written a couple thousand online and print articles.
Although I’ve done many types of writing, arguably the most successful things I’ve written have one thing in common: emotion. Most people have figured out that great novels touch people emotionally in some way. But so does good copywriting. And the most interesting nonfiction blog posts or books almost always have some type of personal touch.
No matter what type of writing you do, the next time you are feeling "stuck" think about the last thing that happened that elicited a strong emotion. Were you furious at someone? Sad? Overjoyed? You may be able to incorporate those emotions into your writing. And whatever you write will probably be a lot more interesting because of it.
This month we’re talking more about blogging—why you do it, what are the benefits, and how do you rope in the readers. Not all bloggers write to get more work—sometimes a blog is similar to a prompt. If you’re like me, you can find a hundred ways to procrastinate. If you tell yourself, “I’ll just get this little blog out of the way first,” you’re well on your way to starting your main project.
Does social media suck the life out of your writing time? Helen Gallagher says that a well-maintained, information-rich blog can be the answer to promoting your work without hours spent on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest. September is back to school for kids—it’s time the adults learn something new, too. Try her suggestions and see what happens.
Jan Christensen found her first two blogs didn’t fit what she really wanted to do. The third time was the charm and she’s just celebrated its first year on the ‘Net. Does it sell more books? That answer is still pending, but her following continues to grow. She posts twice a week. Mondays, it’s about organization and time management, something most of us could use, and it relates to her book’s main character. On Fridays, she writes about writing. Drop by to see what she has to say.
If you think you don’t have time to blog, check out Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo’s blog, Dirty Laundry and Dirty Diapers. She’s a producer, blogger, and mother of two girls, both under the age of five. She finds a blog to be the perfect place to put all those loose thoughts that clog your mind right before sleep, and she does it in an entertaining and funny way.
Next month will be preparation for NaNoWriMo—get ready to write your book in a month. It helps to plan ahead when you’re working on a deadline this tight. How do you keep the names, characteristics, and locations consistent throughout? The more done in prep work, the less editing needed. Karen Wiesner’s book could help. Patricia Fry reviews it below.
September is a time to rejuvenate after a lazy summer, to start a new project, or learn a new way to make life smoother and more imaginative. After Labor Day’s cookout, what will you do first?
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
Have you ever wondered who compiles the SPAWN Market Update? Since 2003, Patricia Fry has been writing this amazing resource for SPAWN members; that’s about 120 issues total. Our Market Update archives hold a hugely generous collection of literally thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of resources, tips, ideas, and techniques for the author, artist, freelance writer, and others interested in or involved in publishing. If you can’t find an important, pertinent, and/or valuable resource, link, or bit of information in just one issue of the SPAWN Market Update, you’re not even trying. Research the archives from time to time and you’ll find resources and information that will either save or earn you several times the SPAWN membership fee.
In this September 2013 issue, find out what book reviewers’ opinions are really worth. Why MUST an author have a website? Also in this issue, discover some new resources for getting exposure for your e-book, some of the best blog sites for authors, plus five new publishers and great resources for freelance writers.
Join by going to www.spawn.org and click on Join/Renew.
Ask the Book Doctor:
Ask the Book Doctor: About Point of View and Internal Dialogue or Thoughts
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I have been writing travel articles for several years but have never submitted a sidebar because I do not know exactly what they are. Can you tell me? Would it be additional info about another article, such as campgrounds and activities in an area?
A: A sidebar to a magazine article or a newspaper profile is usually a short news story that contains supplementary information. It is printed alongside a featured story. In some magazines, the sidebar is a bulleted list of the high points in the article.
As examples, an in-flight magazine gave me an assignment to write an article about an upcoming charity golf tournament. In the article I wrote about the tournament, its prior winners, the golf course itself, and other information pertaining to the event. I also wrote a sidebar that told a little bit about the charity that would benefit from the event.
For a local magazine, I wrote an article about home security systems and added a sidebar that listed all the local security companies and their contact information.
For one travel article I wrote, I included a sidebar that listed contact information for the museums and other places mentioned in the article.
Not all magazines want sidebars, and many don’t want them for every story, but sidebars add value to your articles and add pennies to your purse, if you get paid by the word.
Q: When and when not does one place a comma in front of the word “as?”
A: Sorry, but I can’t come up with a hard and fast rule for commas as they relate to “as,” especially when the word has so many meanings. The use of a comma will depend on how the word is used. Look at all the ways “as” can be used:
To the same extent or degree; equally: The baby smelled as fresh as a new morning.
For instance: I like domestic animals, as the cat or dog
When taken into consideration in a specified relation or form: The second report, as opposed to the first one, was complete.
To the same degree or quantity that. Often used as a correlative after so or as: The crash was not so bad as the news media described it.
In the same manner or way that: You must walk as a model walks.
At the same time that; while: I tore my stockings as I danced on the rough floor.
For the reason that; because: I read the reports, as I was interested.
With the result that: He was so foolish as to lie.
Though: Skilled as the athlete was, he exhibited poor sportsmanship
In accordance with which or with the way in which: The business trip was boring, as expected.
That; which; who. Used after same or such: Mary ordered the same meal as John did.
In the role, capacity, or function of: Gladys stepped in as teacher.
In a manner similar to; the same as: The students protested as one.
As you can see in the examples, some of the sentences call for commas, while others do not. Each sentence will have to be addressed individually to determine if it calls for a comma.
Q: A friend of mine is a male writer with a manuscript that has a female as the lead character in first person. He has repeatedly gotten rejections and comments that he has not developed her voice, and I concur that he hasn’t, although his plot structure seems good. It is a good story, but the female has a male voice and doesn’t sound believable.
Would a book doctor’s duties include rewriting all fifty of the chapters to make the female character’s voice come to life? Would that job be too much of a complete overhaul of the fabric of the book to delegate to a book doctor? It would seem that something that huge would fall under the description of co-authorship. What is your opinion? Would using a book doctor, particularly a female, be appropriate in this circumstance?
A: Indeed, such a vast rewrite would require a coauthor or ghostwriter. The elements of voice and character development require much more than a book doctor would or should handle. A good book doctor makes suggestions for change but does not rewrite the content extensively.
I am a book doctor as well as a ghostwriter. As a ghostwriter I have rewritten books for authors and barely gotten a “thank you” in the acknowledgments, and I have rewritten books for authors who named me coauthor. I work on a flat fee and do not participate in the proceeds, so the authors who hire me can choose to acknowledge my help or not, once the project is completed. If your friend does not want to name a coauthor, he can use a ghostwriter to assist him.
To read more questions and answers, order the book Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at http://zebraeditor.com/book_ask_the_book_doctor.shtml.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
First Draft in 30 Days, A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript by Karen S. Wiesner
Writer’s Digest Books (2005) ISBN: 978-1-58297-296-1 Paperback, size: 9 x 7, 216 pages ($19.99)
Last month we reviewed Karen S. Wiesner’s From First Draft to Finished Novel. This book, First Draft in 30 Days, is actually an earlier book and the focus is on helping you to create a system of creating an outline so detailed and complete that it is actually your first draft. The beauty is that Wiesner can teach you how to do this in just 30 days.
With this book, she hopes to save authors time and the heartache of having to toss out draft after draft of unfinished, not-quite-adequate fiction works.
Here’s what she hopes readers will accomplish by using the wisdom in this book: a preliminary outline completed within six days; research completed by day 13; your beginning, middle, and end established by day 15; your outline formatted during days 16-24; and your formatted outline completed by day 30.
This book includes several worksheets and an enormous amount of information and instruction. She also offers examples, which I always find useful in the how-to books I study.
If you write novels or are thinking about writing one, consider purchasing both Write Your Novel in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel. I’m writing a series of mysteries and I’m using both of these books in the process. Thank you, Karen.
Blogs: The Key to a Strong Platform
by Helen Gallagher
Even if you’re a whiz at Facebook, you can’t expect editors or agents to dig around and find you there. Maybe you have a stellar website to showcase your writing, but is anyone visiting it to see your clips?
Or maybe you do a little bit of everything, hoping something will work. Is that a good way to market your writing—hoping to get noticed by people who would appreciate your work?
Did you know that maintaining a well-written blog can form the nucleus of your entire writer/author platform, including social media?
Authors seeking exposure need a platform as a way to reach readers. A visible, effective blog at the core of your platform can help you sell your book to an agent; keep up a dialog with your followers; and attract attention for interviews, guest appearances, and other wonderful things that bring fame and money your way. Getting accepted for freelance assignments is also easier when you can direct an editor to a page bursting with clips that show your track record.
If you update your blog with targeted information and add inbound and outbound links, your search results will rise and the volume of fresh text you add will increase your exposure across all search engines. With that as a solid core, you can grow your platform and widen your connections by linking your blog posts to Facebook, tweeting about new posts, sending email blasts, and connecting with people through the dizzy array of online portals and sites, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumbler, and dozens more.
Cut down on labor by posting several ideas at once and scheduling them to appear on specific dates. To keep your traffic growing, don’t let your loyal readers get bored when they stop by your blog. As writers, we devour magazines because we love fresh articles and stories. Your frequent updates deliver exactly that to your loyal readers, and your commitment to your writing will be evident to the agents and editors who view your work as a marketing asset.
Success with self-promotion requires that we give more than we take. So spend a few minutes each week boosting someone else’s work too, by leaving a useful blog comment, offering a guest post on a high-traffic blog, or writing an online review of a colleague’s book. Post it on your blog, and you’ll increase traffic from visitors who follow that author and want to read your review.
Remember, if you’re noncommittal about your blog, your readers will be, too. It’s September: take a fresh look at your blog. Could you make it better; post more often? You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish and you might impress a few people in the industry as well.
Helen Gallagher writes for several sites and blogs on technology, travel, and publishing. Her writing blog is at www.releaseyourwriting.blogspot.com. Helen is SPAWN’s membership director, and a member of ASJA and several great Chicago-area writing groups.
by Jan Christensen
Why do I blog, people ask me. Quick answer: I love to write, plus “they” say it’s a good way to market your other writing. I’ve had three different blogs over the last decade, but I think I’ve finally found my rhythm with my latest one, which celebrated its first anniversary last month. The first two didn’t last that long.
It started when I hired someone to set up my website, and we integrated a WordPress blog into the site. Now it all has the same look and feel. So far, that is the biggest chunk of change I’ve spent on my writing career at one time, but it was worth it. I can make changes to both the blog and the website myself, as far as content for each page is concerned. Only if I want to change something about the site itself will I need more help.
When I finally combined two major interests of mine in one novel (my third published), I figured out how to set up my blogging schedule and posts. My mystery novel, Organized to Death, is about a professional organizer. So, on Mondays I blog about personal organization and time management, and on Fridays I write about writing.
The odd thing is that it’s easier to come up with the Monday posts than the Friday posts. I’ve been a writer a lot longer than I’ve been studying organization and time management, so this surprises me. One major way I’ve found to come up with post subjects is to read other blogs and articles. I subscribe to many writers’ blogs, and I have Google alerts set to alert me every day to posts about time management. Sometimes just one sentence in an article can get me going.
I’m positive you have to enjoy writing blog posts to have much success at it. You also have to post on a regular schedule. They say it’s good to include pictures and images. My blog is set up on my website, so it has a lot of images around and about. I also use a legend image at the top of each post that applies to the type of post it is. Since I write mysteries, I used some fedoras, and for time management, it’s a clock wearing a top hat. There’s a newsboy hat for news. Finding or making your own images for your blog can take a lot of time. I use Creative Commons to find those I can use for free inside the post, but I don’t always include one, because of the time involved in finding them. I also started off by using sketches, and have continued with that, usually including one in each post. I’m afraid I will eventually run out of images to use. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Time involved can be large if you’re not a fast writer. I guess I spend about two to three hours at most each week for both posts. That includes drafting, final edit, finding an image, and uploading. I reply to every comment (extremely important!). The time for that varies, of course. I make sure that by Tuesday or Wednesday every week I have both Friday’s and the next Monday’s posts ready to go.
Rewards happen when people comment. I can’t tell yet if anyone has bought one of my books or stories because of my blog. I suspect it could take two or three years before that begins to happen.
Discipline is key. I have missed only one scheduled day of blogging in the last year; I’ve done over a hundred posts now. My ideal schedule is: two hours a day of writing fiction or editing it and one to two hours a day of marketing, which includes writing those two blog posts, any guest posts I’m scheduled for, getting on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, my writing email groups, and so on. Since I’m now self-publishing, I have to spend some time contacting my cover artist for the design, getting the book formatted, and uploading it. I also write short stories and spend time submitting them, reading contracts, doing more edits for them sometimes, and publicizing them. I would say having at least four hours a day total for all this is ideal—if you have trained yourself to be a fast writer. I can usually write a thousand new words in an hour or so. My blog posts are usually under five hundred words, which counts as marketing time. Two hours of fiction writing will usually get me between one- and two-thousand words a day, depending on where I am in a project. Early on, it takes longer to get to a thousand words a day. Later, they usually flow better.
One advantage to blogging, if you enjoy it, is that it doesn’t cost money, just time. Although I don’t think my sales have improved much, if at all, because of my blog, I do believe that given more time, it will help. I’m looking forward to the day I get an email from Google about time management and my blog shows up.
Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Her published novels include Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, and Breakout. Over fifty of her short stories have appeared in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award. She enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in a while she steps out of that comfort zone, blogging about personal organization and the writing life, for example. Learn more on her website: www.janchristensen.com www.janchristensen.com/blog http://www.amazon.com/Jan-Christensen/e/B004XTXSYO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 https://www.facebook.com/jan.christensen.9275
From Floating Hearts and Stars to Dirty Laundry and Dirty Diapers
by Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo
The earliest memory I have of my love for creative writing is from the third grade. My classroom entered a statewide contest where each student was responsible for writing and illustrating a hardcover book. That’s when I penned the ever-famous (in my home) Floating Hearts & Stars, the story about a young girl who was absent from school, sick with the chicken pox. I’m not sure if it was her wild imagination or delirium that allowed her to see floating hearts and stars in her room, but they cured her. I was named one of the contest winners.
As the years got away from me, I began writing only for school assignments and somewhat obligatory handwritten letters to my grandparents. Remember those? In one response, my grandfather asked me for a promise that I would never stop writing. Many years later, my desire to fulfill that promise is a large part of the motivation behind my blog, Dirty Laundry & Dirty Diapers.
I am a working mother in Los Angeles. I have two young children, a very demanding career, and an exceptionally supportive husband. Still, I had little time for myself. I found that once my head hit the pillow at night, I’d remain sleepless with all the thoughts that existed outside of a to-do list. Ironically, in an effort to get more restful sleep, I took on yet another job: blogger.
My goal for Dirty Laundry & Dirty Diapers (a title suggested by a great producing mentor and friend) is to cover anything pop culture, but always through the eyes of a working mother in Hollywood. My very first post, which remains very popular, is about going into labor with my first child on a very busy set of The Bachelor. Since then, I’ve written about anything from teenage mom Farrah Abraham waxing her toddler’s eyebrows, to my disappointment in millionaire Zach Braff for choosing KickStarter to fund a project. In a way, I am all over the place. If you were in my head, it would make perfect sense.
I was terrified to hit “publish” on my very first post, and at times the fear still gets to me. Though there always tends to be a celebrity angle, my work all comes from a very personal place. I have written about heartbreak, losing my father too young, and life-changing experiences in third-world countries. Sometimes writing about things so close to my heart is difficult, but I truly find that the more raw I am, the more people I touch. We are able to identify with true emotion.
Lucky for me, after over a decade of working in television, I have a wonderful network of friends with great outreach. Their support in getting the word out about the start of the blog was a tremendous gift. Since then, it has been picked up by the Huffington Post and other media outlets.
Promotion is never easy. I rely heavily upon Facebook and Twitter. I also try not to beat myself up over the reviews, or (sometimes) lack thereof. I post once weekly, on average, but at times my verbosity gets the best of me and I’ll post thrice. (Wow, I just lost my use-of-the-word-“thrice” virginity.)
One thing I remain unsure about is if blogging helps or hinders my career. There are certainly times that I am inspired enough by something on set to write about it, and I already mentioned the help of my peers, but there are other times when it can be a bit of a distraction.
Thankfully, the distraction is usually welcome. Dirty Laundry & Dirty Diapers is a place for me to clear my mind, exercise my voice, and fulfill a promise that I made to my loving grandfather long ago. And I believe I am a better mother because of it.
Susan Daffron‘s novel, Chez Stinky is now available in print formats at online booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This new romantic comedy is about a tech writer who inherits a house with malodorous issues and a number of quirky dogs and cats. It’s also available in eformats such as Kindle and Nook. Visit the book web site for more info: ChezStinky.com
Patricia Fry has revised Catnapped, her new cozy mystery novel, and replaced the original Kindle version with this new, freshly proofed, improved one. If you haven’t read it, this is a good time to order it from Amazon.com for your Kindle. It’s only $2.99. Member Bonnie Myhrum has proofed it and a few changes were made based on reader feedback. Catnapped is the first in a series of light novels in the Klepto Cat Mystery series. Order your copy for your Kindle here: http://amzn.to/14OCk0W. Many of you already follow Patricia’s Marketing and Publishing News blog (www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog ). If you like cats, also check out her Catscapades blog at www.matilijapress.com/catscapades
Patricia Fry has launched a newsletter. If you’d like to receive Publishing/Marketing News and Views every other month, let Patricia Fry at PLFry620@yahoo.com. Request a sample copy of the August 2013 issue.
Arlene Uslander has re-released her beloved children’s book, That’s What Grandparents Are For. First published in 2002, this charming verse book, with colorful, engaging illustrations by Freddie Levin, was designed to be shared by grandparents with children ages three and up. She wrote the book as a way of staying connected to a grandchild who had moved with his parents to Guam. That’s What Grandparents Are For makes a great gift as a creative birth announcement or as a tool to help new and veteran grandparents establish that forever bond with a youngster. It is available in hardback at Amazon.com and through Uslander’s web site: http://www.thatswhatgrandparentsarefor.com.
Dallas Woodburn, SPAWN’s Youth Director, had a short story accepted to be published in the next issue of Arroyo Literary Review. She also had essays accepted for the forthcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul books Think Positive for Kids and The Dating Game. Visit Dallas online at http://dallaswoodburnpr.com.
On August 16, 2013, Laura Dobbins and Lucinda Sue Crosby, co-founders of SPAWN member Luckycinda Publishing, won First Prize in Dan Poynter’s Global E-Book Contest in the Non-fiction/Marketing category. The book is called $ell More Ebook$ – How to increase sales and Amazon rankings using Kindle Direct Publishing. $ell More Ebook$, a Kindle best seller, was released by Luckycinda Publishing and is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold in paperback and digital formats. For more information, please contact Lucinda Sue Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sherlynn Alen-Harris’ first novel, Under the Same Moon, is now available on Amazon. Follow the link http://www.amazon.com/dp/0985961511 to see more.
Tammy Ditmore was interviewed for the Editor Q&A series posted regularly on copyediting.com. Questions for an Editor-Proofreader was posted August 22 and can be seen here: http://www.copyediting.com/questions-freelance-editor-proofreader-tammy-ditmore. In the interview, Tammy discusses some of the highlights of the 30 years she has spent working as an editor, which have seen many phases and even some “wondering moons.”
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