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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
This issue of SPAWNews is dedicated to helping you get a jump start on National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, which runs from November 1-30. The idea behind NaNo is that you write a 50,000-word first draft in a month.
In the past, I’ve never even considered participating, mainly because I wasn’t a novelist. But now that I have written a novel, the prospect of doing it in a month no longer seems so far-fetched. I realized that if I can spend October blocking out the next novel in my series, I could potentially write a draft in November. The quest for NaNo success means you have to write about 1,700 words per day or 12,500 words a week. On my first novel Chez Stinky, I wrote the second half quickly because I knew what I was going to say.
Many tasks that initially seem utterly impossible aren’t as intimidating when you break them down to their component parts. If you need moral support or proof that writers really have written novels in a month, check out the NaNoWriMo site. It may give you the inspriation you need to turn your dream of writing a novel into reality.
For those brave enough to tackle NaNoWriMo, aka write a book in a month (November), we have some hints in this issue. SPAWN President Susan Daffron tells about her experience with Scrivener, a software program that will keep your book on track throughout the writing process. Jeff Howe uses Autocrit. It works for him in the post-writing period to find overused phrases and the like—it’s an instant editor right in your computer and can be used as you write, too. Stuart Horwitz has a new book to show you how to organize and revise your manuscript when the writing is done—he’ll even give hints about how to get the writing flowing.
It’s said that most people feel they have a book in them if they only had the time. With software and organizational tools, it’s possible to get that book from your brain onto the computer screen and then into book form. What are you waiting for?
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The October SPAWN Market Update offers 35 opportunities and resources for authors and freelance writers. Besides finding lists of eight possible freelance writing opportunities and seven new publishers in this issue, you’ll learn about a site where you can check your novel’s ranking as well as the rankings of your competitors. We provide links to a book-review broker site, five warning sites, and book-trailer service sites. We have contact info for a broker of radio talk-show lists in many varied categories. And we tell you where you can get a year’s worth of book promotion for under $50.
If you’ve been exercising your membership privilege by studying the SPAWN Market Update each month, you are probably more successful because of it. If you haven’t taken the time to discover the value, start here; now. It’s likely that you will tap into a resource that will land you a writing job, help you sell more books or help you find a publisher. Don’t forget, all issues are archived so you can find even more resources.
To join SPAWN and receive all of the benefits go 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
This month you can ask the Book Doctor “How was your vacation?” Bobbie Christmas is traveling, but will be back next month with more advice.
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
Blueprint Your Bestseller, Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architect Method by Stuart Horwitz
Penguin Group (2013) ISBN: 978-0-399-16215-2 Paperback 8 ¼ x 5 ½ 219 pages ($16.00)
Stuart Horwitz is the founder of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors. His latest book offers a step-by-step process for revising your manuscript from the first to the final draft using his book architect method. According to the author, this system can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction. The main criterion for using this system is that you have some pages written to start the process—between 80 and 100 is good. Horwitz says that if you don’t have that much material yet, you can turn to chapter two and learn how to generate material.
Many authors have trouble organizing their material. This seems to be one of Horwitz’s specialties, as he devotes two chapters to this issue. He also shows you how to use graphs and charts to maintain the flow and credibility of your scenes.
I found chapter five to be interesting, as it helps authors settle on a theme for their book. The thing is, if you can’t adequately describe your story or your nonfiction book, you may have too much going on—too many possible themes or multiple plots. This book helps authors to focus.
Are you still confused about the organization of your story or nonfiction book? Here’s a book that might help you to create a blueprint toward your next bestseller.
Five Ways Scrivener Helped Me Write My Novel
by Susan Daffron
Recently, I published my first novel, Chez Stinky (http://www.chezstinky.com), which is about a woman who inherits a house with a lot of quirky animals. It’s a romantic comedy, so no one is going to confuse it with serious literature. It’s getting good reviews and was an enormous amount of fun to write. Part of the reason the writing process was fun is because I discovered writing software called Scrivener (https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php). I wrote the entire novel in Scrivener and found that I enjoy using the program.
As with most software, people either love or hate Scrivener. I’m part of the “love it” camp, largely because even though the software has a gazillion features, I don’t have to use them all. And I don’t. Mostly I just use it to write. The software stays out of my way, so I can focus on the words. Here are five key ways I believe Scrivener helped me write my novel more quickly and easily.
1. Get started quickly with the tutorial and templates
Because Scrivener has a lot of features, I started by going through the tutorial. Learning how to use software is always a good idea, and I recommend that anyone who tries Scrivener go through the tutorial first. It provides a great overview of the product, and as you go through, you can figure out the features you do and don’t want to use. For example, I never use the “corkboard” view. However, I use the “outline” feature extensively. After you’ve run through the tutorial, you can select a template to start your project. Because I’d never written a novel, I selected the fiction template. The templates have helpful information within each template about how to use it and have placeholders to get started. For example, the fiction template includes character and setting sketches to help you start crafting your story world.
2. Break text into chunks
Years ago my company sold a writing program that let you break up your text into “chunks” to make it easier to organize. Every big writing project needs to be broken down and Scrivener uses the concept of a “page” to help you break your project into more manageable sections. For my novel, each Scrivener page was a scene. For non-fiction, a page might be a section or subsection. You can create as many pages as you want, depending on what makes sense to you.
3. Use an outline
For me, the Scrivener’s “outliner” is what makes the program fantastic. In the writing world, you often hear the terms “planners” (or plotters) versus “pantsers.” Planners outline everything and know what their story is about before they start writing. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, let the story evolve, and organize later. I fall firmly into the first group, and I love creating outlines. However, even pantsers can benefit from Scrivener’s outline features when they get to the organizational phase toward the end of a project. Every project needs to be organized. The larger the project, the more difficult that process can be, but Scrivener makes working with your outline easy.
4. Store research and notes
Scrivener lets you keep research and notes outside of the text of your project. In addition to the built-in character and setting sketches, I stored notes about all the characters in my first novel, the pets (5 dogs and 5 cats), the overall series, title ideas for future books, and research I did about Myers-Brigg personality types. Now I’m starting on my second novel and I’m storing the writing exercises I’m using to help plot out the story.
5. Keep track of details
During the course of a book, you may change things. For example, I changed the name of the town in my novel three times. Scrivener has extremely powerful search capabilities, so it was easy for me to go back and find where I mentioned the town. I also ended up changing my mind about a plot point, so I was able to go back and find the scene where I’d referenced a key detail. In an 80,000-word novel, it can be difficult to go back and find these types of nit-picky things, but the tools in Scrivener make it easy.
I use maybe 10% of the features in Scrivener. I don’t even remember all the things it can do. Fortunately, it has great help files, so if you have an idea like “I wish I could print out my outline,” odds are good it can do it. (And yes, I wanted to do exactly that, and it can.) If you’ve been frustrated by writing in a word processor, I encourage you to try Scrivener. It has a 30-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose. I know I’ll never write another book any other way.
Susan Daffron is the president of SPAWN and the award-winning author of 14 nonfiction books and one novel. She owns Logical Expressions, which is a publishing company based in Sandpoint, Idaho.
After NaNoWriMo—Let AutoCrit Edit for You on December 1
by Jeff Howe
So you wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo, and you’re wondering how you might go about transforming the manuscript into something less “drafty”? One school of thought says to let it sit out of sight and mind for a few weeks, so you can revise with fresh eyes—but for those of us with a shorter attention span, there’s an online alternative to get the revision process jump-started. I’m not talking about simple spell-checks, either, but subtle mechanical tics human eyes won’t spot…well, mine won’t, anyway.
Behold: AutoCrit (https://www.autocrit.com/index.php), a website developed by Nina Davies, built around a tool originally designed for her own revisions. Nina is both a writer and a computational linguist—someone who analyzes language via deriving statistics from immense piles of texts. She applied her expertise in the field to several hundred published novels, to find out what de facto rules of usage they might suggest for people grooming a story for submission. The result is AutoCrit’s “Editing Wizard.” Copy and paste from your manuscript to the Wizard, and apply the ten tools AutoCrit supports to your work. The Editing Wizard reports on overused words, sentence variation, clichés and redundancies, repeated words/phrases, phrases appearing more than once, pacing, dialogue tags, initial pronouns/proper names, readability, and possible homonyms.
I’ll run through my own routine as an overview. I start with the “Overused Words” test, which highlights problem words and word categories that appear significantly more often than they do in the pool of published works mentioned earlier. Scrolling down reveals how the issues display in the text. Problem words literally light up for your perusal. Now here’s the beauty of AutoCrit: the service doesn’t fix anything. All the Wizard does is point out the troublemakers you use more than a large sample of published authors do. You then decide what to change, if anything.
Next on my usual agenda is the “Repeated Words and Phrases” tool. I use repetition in dialog for cohesion and pacing, so why do I bother to check for it? Simple—egregious repetitions dilute the effect of the intentional ones, so I want to make sure as few of them remain as possible. Some of these are going to be more problematic than others. Using “my” a few times in a paragraph is less distracting than repeating “perspicacious” over and over…but again, only you, the writer, can make that call. The Editing Wizard reports, but does not prescribe.
After a quick check of “Clichés and Redundancies,” my next stop is “Initial Pronouns and Proper Names,” a tricky issue in scenes involving, say, dialog involving more than two characters. Here the Wizard labels all of the occurrences, so you can decide if they get too thick in places. After I recast any sentence to avoid pronoun pile-up, I run the revised text through again and return to the Overused Words report, to make sure I didn’t create any new issues when fixing the old ones. When the chapter is clean enough, I load the next one and repeat the process. One nice thing about this iterative approach is that as I use AutoCrit more, my first drafts contain fewer issues, since I start to shy away from what the reports flag.
Those are the four reports I use consistently, because they address the problems I know I have. The others may prove useful to you as well—not to mention the hundreds of articles on more than two dozen specific aspects of writing located in the Writer’s Library at the site. Try AutoCrit and find out what the Wizard says about your manuscript. The website offers a free version that reviews up to 500 words at a time and provides three reports. Subscribe and you get all the reports and the capability to review 1,000, 8,000, or even 100,000 words at a time. It beats blowing the dust off a manuscript you put in a drawer last month.
Jeff Howe’s short fiction appears in The First Line and at Untreed Reads, including the new SF/Mystery anthology Moon Shot. He ruminates on Twitter (@mercilessidioms) and at his Merciless Idioms blog (jeffreyhowe.wordpress.com). Jeff lives with his wife and son in the scenic Black Creek Bottoms near St. Louis. He is represented by Evan Gregory of the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.
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
Barbara (Bobbi) Florio Graham received an order for 10 copies of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing for a new writing group in Edmonton, Alberta. The woman who showed the book to the group at one of their first meetings took Bobbi’s online course, Tapping Your Innate Creativity, many years ago, and has kept in touch. After signing the books, Bobbi inserted bookmarks for Mewsings/Musings, along with a “sell sheet” describing her other books, mentoring services, and online courses.
Tammy Ditmore of eDitmore Editorial Services (www.editmore.com) served on a panel of five editors at the 29th Central Coast Writers Conference (http://www.communityprograms.net/wc/wcindex.htm) in San Luis Obispo, California, in September. The editors conducted one-on-one manuscript critique and evaluation sessions and participated in a group feedback session during the conference, which included keynote sessions from Rebecca Rasmussen and Joel Friedlander.
Patricia Fry has revised her first novel, Catnapped, a Klepto Cat Mystery and republished it as a Kindle book. Her second novel in the series, Cat-Eye Witness, will be launched through the Kindle Direct Publishing program sometime this month. It’s just $2.99. http://amzn.to/14OCk0W Subscribe to Patricia’s new e-newsletter: Publishing/Marketing News and Views. http://www.patriciafry.com.
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