Jeanne: What’s in a Blurb?

Blurb WriterAs I mentioned in last week’s progress report, I hired the inimitable Kat Sheridan to write back cover copy for The Demon Always Wins. 

Although it’s possible to write your own cover copy, and many writers do, I find it difficult to get the proper distance from my work to do that well. Kat is great at what she does, and really reasonable. Even at minimum wage, I would have spent more trying to write the thing myself.

So, I went online and filled out her Standard Fiction Work Order. It asks for title, author, short description and then descriptions of the two main characters, along with any additional characters the author deems worthy of blurb space. Continue reading

Michille: The Comma

Oxford CommaThe comma is my friend. Too friendly. I use too many of them when I write. We all learned in elementary school when to use a comma in the basic sense: in lists, to separate clauses, to enclose parenthetical words/phrases, between adjectives, before quotations, in dates, etc. One of my favorite writer websites if Writers Write and they have a series they call Punctuation for Beginners which goes up on Tuesdays. In general, I like to noodle around on grammar sites for refreshers as it’s been a while since I learned grammar. Yesterday, the post was All About Commas. I learned a little about writing, but mostly I found the humor.

I think my biggest problem is the parenthetical word/phrase use. I put a lot of parenthetical information in my writing for clarification and that requires a comma. Until I looked over that post and then dug a little deeper, I realized that I could use the comma as a flag to edit (well, as another way to edit). If I examine the use of commas in a sentence, and I’ve stuck in clarifying information that could be written another way with even more clarity – Voila! – better writing.

A woman that I work with refuses to use The Oxford Comma. We have good-natured arguments on a fairly regular basis (she is also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan so we argue about more than the comma). The Oxford Comma is defined, in the Oxford Dictionary, as “an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.” I send her any memes I come across that make the Oxford Comma critical to the meaning of the sentence in a funny way, like (pics not included):

After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God, and Ms. Trunchbull.
After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God and Ms. Trunchbull.

We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.
We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.

Of course, there is the standard comma humor, too:
Let’s eat, Grandma versus Let’s eat Grandma.
And “Stop clubbing, baby seals.”

I could go on and on with the funny stuff, but you get the idea and I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the ‘net. Do you have favorite grammar humor? Or a problem with being too free with your punctuation?

 

Nancy: Into the Great Unknown!

A few weeks ago, Jeanne told us about her plan to release The Demon Always Wins in September (yay!). In the comments section, I asked about her publishing schedule, and then jumped back into some deadlines for the day job and never got back to the conversation.

But with Jeanne and Jilly nailing down their 2018 self-publishing plans, the need to batten down the hatches with my own plan has been looming large in my mind. Like many of the ladies, I’ve joined Marie Force’s self-publishing loop, followed the work of self-publishing guru Mark Dawson, and tried to keep up with the ever-changing book marketing landscape. I’ve also had another great resource in some friends who moved from traditional to self- or hybrid-publishing, including Mindy Klasky, whose book The Rational Writer: Nuts and Bolts I discussed in a writing tools and resources post.

The take-away from all of this data is I know a lot of the what of self-publishing, and a good deal of the the how. The missing data, though, is the when. Continue reading

Jilly: Evaluating an Edit Report

So how’s the New Year shaping up for you?

I started January with a new challenge—deciding how to respond to my very first professional content edit. I’d previously seen the excellent report the editor, Karen Dale Harris, wrote for Jeanne’s The Demon Always Wins, so I knew roughly what to expect. That didn’t mean I was ready for it.

The overview/summary report alone ran to 24 pages, and covered everything from subgenre choice and the implications of that, to characters, conflict, plot, plot holes, world-building, language choices, inconsistencies…you get the idea. I’ll just say that it’s not a comfortable experience to have one’s every last choice subjected to such detailed scrutiny. Continue reading

Michille: Gifts for Writers (and Readers)

Writers Charm BraceletWe’re heading into a big holiday season for many. Personally, I celebrate Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate something in December, you likely have other times of year when you do, like birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. I’ve gathered a few ideas for the writer or reader in your life that are a little different than, say, an Amazon gift card. Last year’s edition of this included Aqua Notes. I have since found Eureka Shower Idea Whiteboard. Amazon also has The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain and I love this bracelet. Continue reading

Jilly: Five Great Writing Craft Resources

What are your go-to references for improving your chosen skill–creative, mechanical, sporting, whatever’s important to you?

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t spend any more money on writing craft—no books, workshops, courses or conferences—unless I come across something exceptional. It’s not that my writing is so good I don’t need it, but that I already have a great collection of resources at my fingertips and I’ve only scratched the surface of most of them.

Even if I write for another 20 years (and I intend to), I bet I could find the answers to 99.9% of my craft problems on my current bookshelf or the internet. My challenge is to digest all that great advice, evaluate it, select the bits that I need most in order to power up my strengths, bolster my weaknesses, and widen my skill-set, and apply those lessons until they become second nature.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this post that I was surprised to discover how much I’ve absorbed about the process of self-publishing. I’ve also learned that some craft resources hit the spot for me, while other famous names slide through my brain and out again, leaving no trace. I had fun choosing my favorite indie publishing resources, so I decided to play the same game with the writing craft references. I found it surprisingly easy to pick the ones I believe will support my writing journey all the way to the pearly gates.

Your mileage may vary (I’d love to know!), but here are my choices: Continue reading

Jilly: Ten Great Indie Publishing Resources

One of the most interesting changes at this year’s RWA National conference was the increased focus on indie publishing. For me, the timing was excellent.

Four years ago, when I attended my first Nationals, I was only vaguely aware of self-publishing. I fully intended to pursue a traditional publishing career and I found plenty of workshops to help me understand the role of agent and editor, to perfect my pitch, and to polish my query letter.

As I started submitting to agents and entering contests with my dream industry judges, I also began to seek out sources of information to educate myself about the industry I was planning to join. To my amazement I found a freely available treasure trove of solid, actionable information and over the last couple of years I’ve gradually come to believe that independent publishing will be a better match for my personal priorities, timelines and ambitions.

I attended a number of the indie-focused workshops in Orlando, and I was surprised to discover how much I already knew. So instead of recapping my learnings from the conference, I thought perhaps I should share the online resources I find most valuable: Continue reading