Some links to egg you on

April is here, the clocks have gone forward, it’s officially summertime here (hollow laughter) and soon it will be Easter. Meanwhile, here are the best blogs and articles I’ve read this last month. Enjoy!

Is ‘happy for now’ happy enough for you?
Robin Reader on Dear Author about the different types of happy ending.

Perhaps, as Jane said, it comes down to trust for many Romance readers, especially when real world relationships are failing at such a high rate. Knowing that you can find constancy in a fictional love match can be a point of comfort for readers. Also, readers invest considerable time and emotional energy in reading, and the HEA can serve as a dual payoff– not only do readers know that their time will not be wasted with protagonists who may not go the romantic distance, but there can also be a sense of emotional justice for characters who suffer or undertake a really difficult struggle to find true love. The more obstacles protagonists face, the more invested a reader may become in seeing the protagonists in an enduring happy relationship.

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March of the Links

February is a short month, but I still found lots of luscious links.

The Women We Don’t See
E. Catherine Tobler on the invisibility of female authors to some readers.

So, was it actually a coincidence? Could a reader not realize they hadn’t read a female author in two years? Unfortunately, I believe the answer is absolutely and completely yes, because male authors remain the default. Readers just go there, without thinking twice.

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Not yet Spring Links

When Stories Go Bad: what to do with a flatlining MS.
KJ Charles about how to rescue a story in trouble.

So you need a brutally honest beta reader or crit partner that you can trust to say, ‘Mate, this is just not that good.’ That way you can believe them in the unlikely event they tell you it’s great. (They won’t. It sucks. Sorry.) It is very hard to be that beta reader, and if you have one, take them out to dinner or something and assure them you still love them. You should.

I-SPY: Choosing a pen name
Clare London considers the various issues around choosing a pen name.

Remember, you’re going to be answering to this pen name for (hopefully) the rest of your life. Maybe you want to keep your “real” first name so you don’t have to train yourself to be called by a second name. Or maybe you’ve always wanted a new name and now’s your chance!
I kept my first name – and yes, it’s amazing how useful that is when people call to you in a group setting e.g. at a conference.

19 Questions to Ask (and ask again) about Voice
Emma Darwin about choosing the voice of the narration for your story.

Either way, the voice of the narrative will be formed by who the narrator is, and so by your thinking about characterisation-in-action. But even when you have found a voice for the narrative, how do you keep it strong, and consistent, in the long haul? Characters change – change is the motor of storytelling – but how do you make sure that the voice or voices change convincingly, and don’t just lapse into the bland default that you’ve taken such trouble to get away from?

Is Writing a Hobby or a Profession for You? Why Either Path Can be a Good Choice.
Anne R Allen about choosing which writing path is right for you.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to become a successfully published author, it’s a good idea to consider first what that means to you.

What is your personal definition of success?

Do you want to be a professional writer or a hobbyist?

Working Out Your Writing
Hansel at the Romance University blog about how establishing a writing routine when you are new, or coming back from a break from writing is a lot like establishing an exercise routine.

was frustrated with my writing as well as my lack of motivation for getting myself back to the gym. These were both things I did routinely every day of the week but one. A few months back I looked at the wall of machines at my local Planet Fitness the same way I did at the words “Chapter 1” staring back at me from my iMac. With fearless abandon. I knew I could handle it and hang in there for the long haul. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure I could do either.

The Secret to my Success
Josh Lanyon spills the beans on how he got where he is today and what lessons you can learn from his journey.

1 – Write the best possible book you have in you. Publish every three months. In the short term, quantity counts. In the long term, quality. If you want your writing career to last more than a decade, take the time to write quality stories. Write them as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. You need about four “big” releases a year. More than that and you’re probably cutting corners somewhere. (I should probably qualify that a “big” release doesn’t refer to word count. It refers to how much promo effort you’re going to give to it.)

Fast Drafting – what I learned from my first Nanowrimo
Liam Livings did his first NaNoWriMo in 2013 – and did fantastic! Here’s what he learned from it and his advice.

Write through the blocks. If you’re stuck on scene put XXXX that’s my code for ‘need to come back here and fix something’ write THEY HAVE AN ARGUMENT whatever needs to happen, and move onto the next scene you can write, the next scene you have excitement to write.

Query Letters: What Agents Love And Loathe
Agent Helen Zimmerman with some tips on query letters and how not to destroy your book’s chances with one!

Don’t spend the first two sentences writing about how you know how busy we are and thanks so much for taking the time. Ugh. Just get to the point!

Lower Your Standards: getting through the book’s babyhood
KJ Charles on how accepting less than perfection helps you battle through a first draft – and incidentally, bringing up children.

‘Lower your standards’ got me through early parenthood. The house did not fall down, nobody got cholera, the kids survived and so did we. We lowered our standards, and cleared up later, and you know what, it’s worked out pretty well.

Research Part Two: Too Deep
Sam Starbuck on not letting research take over your story.

It’s easy to go down the rabbit-hole when you’re researching, especially on the internet. It’s called “wikiwandering” — looking up one thing you need to know, and ending up reading about ten thousand things you didn’t need to know but suddenly desperately want to know. It happens on Wikipedia, but most infamously on the TV Tropes website, and other sites like Cracked.

Trust Me, You Need a Good Editor
Rachelle Gardener on what a good editor will do for a good writer.

I was excited to read this book—a memoir—and it started out promising. But it quickly devolved into a self-focused, rambling hodgepodge of preaching interspersed with bragging. I did finish the book (luckily it was rather short) but I ended up with strongly negative feelings toward the author. Since this was a memoir, I doubt that’s what the author was going for.

Six Pieces of Bad Advice New Writers Need to Ignore
Anne R Allen on some of the bad advice new writers hear and why it is wrong.

And for some reason, everybody who’s ever watched Oprah (or Richard and Judy in the UK) thinks they know all about what it takes to be a professional writer. Tell somebody you write and you’ll immediately get lots of clueless advice from the “civilians” around you—from your family to your hairdresser to that know-it-all guy at work.

But the truth is, writing for a living is hard. If you love it, that won’t stop you for a minute, but if you believe there are shortcuts, you’re going to be awfully disappointed.

Finish with the funny!

Author reviews his own book that hasn’t been released yet.
Patrick Rothfuss concludes that his book must be popular with time travellers, given the number of reviews it’s got on Goodreads before he’s even finished the edits.

This is strangely reassuring, as it lets me know that, eventually, I do finish my revisions, and the book turns out good enough so that I still have a following out there in the big ball of wibbly-wobbly…. timey-wimey…. stuff that I like to think of as the future.

Happy new links!

Happy New Year! Despite the usual madness of Christmas I still found some great things to read. Sharing them with you is a nice first post of the year.

The Mouth on this One
Mark Henry on the Romance University blog about finding your writer’s voice.

Each time my mother reads one of my books, I hear a variation on this phrase, “Why can’t you write something nice…a sweet romance?” That’s a good question and if I could stop rolling my eyes at her over my coffee cup, I could answer…also there’s pouting—the less you know about that the better. The answer is obviously that I can produce a romance. In fact, I have, my romantic comedy with demonic transplant organs and amateur surgery PARTS & WRECK is available this week. My issue is around the word “sweet.”

Why You Should Burn Your NaNoWriMo Novel
Philip Overby on Mystic Scribes blog with a provocatively titled post about how you decide the fate of your NaNoWriMo novel – or any draft really.

Maybe the best answer would be to burn the screeching banshee of a manuscript and hurl it back into the swirling abyss where you jerked it out one painful, gut-wrenching word at a time.

Yes, I said burn it. Throw it away. Hide it. Delete it. Whatever.

The fat lady’s warming up: the importance (?) of series
Erica Hayes wonders why the constant call for ever book to turn into a series.

Lately it seems readers have insatiable appetites for series. Especially in contemporary, where we’re seeing loads of related titles, featuring brothers, cousins, townsfolk, platoons, secret societies, stamp collecting clubs – whatever connection the author can find.

All About Sales: a rant
KJ Charles about the attitude that caring about sales is selling out.

But the fact is: Yes, it is about sales, because sales are people reading my books, as author or editor. Sales are royalty cheques that will cover my childcare costs while I write in the afternoons. Sales are paying a good designer to do a great cover. Sales are my salary as an editor. Sales are what allow me to make a business case to publish the author’s next book. Sales may be what allow me to rejig my life to more writing and less paid work, rather than stealing writing time from my sleep and my family.

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Copyright — And Focus on Craft Instead
Kathryn Goldman talks about how you might be worrying too much about the wrong thing.

There are only so many ways to depict common themes

Perhaps you’ve written a gritty coming-of-age story about a young man whose tumultuous upbringing exposes him to a life of crime and violence which he is able to overcome. It’s about life in a hardened inner-city neighborhood, complete with drug corners, intimidating dealers, crack houses, prostitutes and chases with the “five-oh.”

When You Have Editorial Differences
Excellent post from Lynn Price about how to deal with having a difference of opinion with your editor.

So you’ve signed the contract, the ink is dry, and now your book is in editing. Yay! Welllll…maybe. There are times when authors will have differences of opinion with their editor, and this can either go well or make you want to mainline Drano. Let’s face it, there are few authors who agree with every suggestion their editors bring up. Ten years in the biz has afforded me all kinds of experiences in the editor chair, so I thought I’d offer some perspective that may help you when your manuscript is under the bright lights.

7 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Novel
Janice Hardy on the Romance University blog about how to up the conflict.

2. Offer an impossible choice

Choices move the plot, but impossible choices make the protagonist work for it. When there’s no clear answer, and both choices have terrible consequences, readers know something about the story is going to change and the stakes are going up–two solid ways to keep readers hooked.

“Listen to the Silence” Combatting distractions and keeping the focus on your writing
Paula Mingle talks about how to get control of the distractions and get the real work done.

I was reaching for my iPod at the gym to adjust the volume, and it hit me. I am never (well almost never) without access to the internet. I sit, walk, work out, wait in line, eat, even watch TV with some device delivering a song, book, website or other social media. I check and re-check email, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, forums—you name it. My mind, instead of being allowed to rest, wander, daydream, or engage my subconscious, is continually bombarded by noise and information of one kind or another.

The Truth About Typos and Why You Keep Missing Them
Why proof reading your manuscript is so hard.

When you are proofreading your post, you are falling victim to what Chabris and Simons call the “illusion of expectation.” Your brain is wired to find what is expected: an error-free post. Basically, your brain is on auto-correct, so you actually do not see the typos. They are invisible.

Embracing Challenges by Toni Blake
Toni Blake on Romance University talks about how she rose to the challenge of writing a series she never planned to write.

So I got a new attitude. I approached the change as a challenge, and the truth is, writers need new challenges from time to time. From the outside, switching from stand-alone stories to a series doesn’t look like a big deal, but for me, it truly changed everything about the way I approach a book – it was recreating the wheel. But I decided to embrace the challenge – which was to write books within certain new parameters not of my choosing, and still find a way to make them books of my heart, each and every one.

50 cliched dialogue to ban from your script
Useful for novelists too. Excuse me while I scour all of my works in progress for these.

Great lines can outlive a movie and transcend its story, no matter how good or bad it was. Great lines make their ways to playgrounds and office spaces, become private jokes that can cement friendships for decades and become cultural symbols for generations. Cliched Dialogues? Not likely, and if so, for all the wrong reasons.

Show Don’t Tell: The Case For Story-Showers Vs. Storytellers
Oh no, I hear you say, not “show don’t tell” again! But Neal Litherland on The Literary Mercenary has a nice take on it.

I’ve seen some terrible shit as an editor. Stories with plot holes big enough to accommodate a longshoreman’s forearms, characters so shallow they had “no diving” tattooed on their foreheads, and honest-to-gods villain monologues have all made their way across my desk. If I had to pick the one thing that keeps coming back like a monster movie slasher though, it’s writers who didn’t get the “show, don’t tell” memo. Rather than just complain about a problem though, I want to try and help writers of all levels stop being storytellers, and start being story-showers.

The Mouse That Roared—Invasion of the Micro-Trend & Why Indies Hold Increasing Power
Kristen Lamb on one of the many ways publishing is changing.

Big publishing has a number of limitations. First, their size. Second, massive overhead. Third? 20th Century thinking. They have to find the mega-trend to stay in business, but what does this mean in a marketplace that is rapidly shifting to micro-trends?

NY is less able to spot the micro-trends, because in a world of algorithms, numbers and spreadsheets, one relies on the past to predict the future. Business is always looking backward in order to move forward. It’s like trying to drive our car using the rearview mirror as the main guide. Says a lot about where we’ve been, but gives limited information as to what’s ahead.

The Rules of Writing…and Why Not To Follow Them
Anne R Allen on why all those “rules” for writing you’re always reading on the internet should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

The “secret writing rules” are the ones you hear at conferences, critique groups, and forums: the ones people say you MUST follow to be a successful novelist—although as an avid reader, you somehow never ran into them before you started writing.

Jamie pointed out that nobody knows where these rules come from, or why so many great books have become classics without following a single one.

Should You Eliminate “Was” From Your Writing? Why Sometimes “the Rules” are Wrong.
And to lead on from the last one – Anne R Allen goes into more detail about one of those rules of writing.

As soon as you joined your first critique group, found a beta reader, or joined a creative writing workshop, somebody no doubt lectured you about avoiding the word “was.” In fact, you were probably admonished to eliminate all forms of the verb “to be” from your fledgling prose.

The Experience of Editing (with glossary)
KJ Charles talks about her experience of being on the other side of the editing equation after years of being an editor.

Regular readers will know that I am both an editor and a writer. I have spent eighteen years tweaking* people’s manuscripts. (* See Glossary.) However, I am a novice at being edited, and I have just had my first major line-editing experience. Imagine a desolate post-nuclear wasteland of shattered buildings and shambling undead. Then imagine that’s your MS after the copy editor’s comments.

4 Tips for Making Your Writing Resolutions Stick
Resolutions are easy to make and easy to break too. Check out to tips to make you more likely to keep them.

78%. No, that’s not the amount of Americans who’ve vowed to disown at least one member of their family during the holiday season. It’s the percentage of people who, according to a recent study, end up failing to keep their New Year’s Resolutions. For scribes like us, this statistic is especially fraught. Sure, everyone else plans to do general things like lose weight, learn a new skill, or give back to the earth by turning at least some of their bongs into bird feeders. But for so many of us writers, when we make plans for the coming year it’s personal; so much of who we are is what we do.

Funny Finish – Novelist Error Messages.

Early links

I know it’s only November 30th, but tomorrow is December, so I’m calling this the first weekend of December, okay. Also, NaNoWriMo just ended and my brain is too knackered to write anything. Hence – links!

5 Things Successful People do in the Evening
Something useful on Yahoo!? Who’d have thought it! Yahoo Small Business advisor on effective habits of night owls.

There are lots of sayings to highlight how getting going early can really lead to success. ‘The early bird catches the worm,’ ‘…early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’ But what about the other end of the day? New research suggests that night owls may actually be more successful than morning people.

What Doesn’t Happen When You Sign a Book Deal
Addie Zierman with a reality check about what having a book deal will really do to your life.

The contract will come in the mail with the publisher’s name on it, and for a few minutes or hours or days, you’ll feel on top of the world.

Here you are, at the beginning of a dream come true, at the precipice of all you’ve been waiting for.

You’ll sit down at the kitchen table. You’ll lift your pen to sign the papers.

The Business Rusch: Reality Check
Fascinating article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch on the relationship over the last few years between NaNoWriMo and self-publishing.

But I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years now, and I’ve learned that beginning writers, for the most part, are the most delusional of all artists. Ninety percent of all beginning writers believe they should sell the very first thing they finish.

So you want to be an Indie author: Ten things you absolutely must and must not do
Allan Leverone’s advice to indie authors, which applies for the most part to non-indies too.

5 – Try new things. The world of books and publishing is in the midst of the kind of upheaval not seen since Johannes Gutenberg decided five hundred years ago that it might be a good idea to give those monks’ aching hands a break.

Take advantage of that upheaval. Tinker. Try stuff. If a new form of promotion seems like a good idea, give it a shot. You might be the breakout success in whose footsteps everyone else follows. Until next year, when everything changes again.

That Throwaway First Book
Ally Broadfield on the Romance University blog about what writing the first book can teach you – frequently that’s how not to write a book.

I made all the classic newbie mistakes. Though I had a black moment and a beginning, middle, and end, I started the story in the wrong place, there was too much backstory, and most of the scenes were full of fun, witty dialogue and very little conflict. I knew enough to recognize that my manuscript needed a major overhaul, but I didn’t have the skill or experience to fix it. So in early 2011, I made the difficult decision to set it aside and start a new project.

The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters
Brian A. Klems on Writer’s Digest on choosing character names and avoiding the pitfalls.

Choosing a character name for your novel is as pressure-filled as picking a name for a baby. It has to suit the character’s personality, makes sense for the era and, most important, be super awesome (sorry friends, the awesome name of Brian A. Klems is already taken by this guy). Names like Harry Potter, Holden Caulfield and Stephanie Plum are memorable not just because of the amazing stories they navigate, but also because these names “fit” those characters so well. You need a name that “fits” your character too.

Science Fiction’s Queer Problem
Oliver Keane on LGBT characters – or rather the lack of them – in science fiction. And why, in the face of much evidence to the contrary, the people with the money and power continue to assume the audience for sci-fi is still limited to a single demographic.

Sci fi has a problem with gay and lesbian characters. This is especially true of TV science fiction, but print is almost as guilty, and most games with a sci fi flavour are exercises in testosterone-fueled head-stomping (which, while good fun, does not generally make for nuanced or diverse characters). I can probably name on the fingers of maybe both my hands the number of gay or lesbian characters I’ve come across in the genre as a whole, across all media.

Terrible Advice for Aspiring Authors
KJ Charles talks from the point of view of the commissioning editor about how not to get your manuscript noticed.

And you go through all the steps that people tell you – make it the best book you possibly can, research agents and publishers, follow the submission guidelines slavishly – and still nobody will even look at it, and now you’re getting desperate and frustrated and angry, too, because God damn it, you know your book’s at least as good as a lot of other published stuff. And surely there’s a way to bypass what seems like a set of arbitrary barricades…

At this point, some people turn to more extreme methods. As a commissioning editor, I have experienced all of the following. None of them have worked.

What the Heck is a Character Outline? Why do I need one?
Whitley Gray with some useful pointers for getting to know your character better and keeping track of pesky details with a character outline.

It’s a list of everything you know about your character, starting with his family of origin and ending at the start of your book. There are many, many lists out there for making a character outline, ranging from extraordinarily detailed to “just the basics.”

An Educational 12 Months with Escape Publishing Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert
Some thoughts about writing and publishing learned from a year of running Escape Publishing,

I wish I had the answers on how to get readers to buy your books, but here’s a secret: no one really does. If they did, every book would be a best-seller. There are tricks and tips, but from what I can tell it comes down to writing good books and a whole lot of being in the right place at the right time.

14 Ways to tick off a writer
Finish with the funny!

1) Go on Amazon and give the book one star because “the plastic wrapping was slightly ripped when it arrived from the seller.”