Links falling like leaves

It’s autumn. It’s turning cold out there. So settle down with your pumpkin spice latte and do some reading…

The First-Book Feeling (a view from both sides)
KJ Charles, author of The Magpie Lord talks about what it’s like both to make and to recieve The Call when the first book sells.

…I’ve made ‘The Call’ (the offer to publish someone’s first book) many times, and I can say with certainty that it’s far and away the best bit of the job. After all, to make someone else that happy normally takes a lot of money, several hours in the kitchen, or a level of sexual favours I’m just not prepared to offer authors. (Maybe the really good ones.)

The Vanishing Closed-Door Romance
Sunita on Dear Author about the demise of romances without sex. A good or bad thing?

That exchange made me think about the discussions we have about sex scenes in romance novels. I think everyone would agree that explicit sexual content in romance novels has increased over the last decade. Some readers say that they now skip sex scenes, but many other readers feel cheated when they’re not there, or when the scene stops at the bedroom door.

The Dos and Dont’s of Critiquing
Author Anna Sugden at The Romance University blog on working with critque partners – giving and taking!

Anyone who has been trying to get published knows the value of a great critique. Constructive criticism, done properly, can be inspiring, energising and invaluable to the writer. Unfortunately, as many of us have also learned the hard way, a poor critique can be damaging — demoralising, frustrating and even block writing altogether — worse than no critique!

4 Big Pitfalls in Story Openings
K.M. Weiland on the four main ways writers mess up the start of their story.

1. False Suspense

As your story unfolds, you want readers asking concrete questions. Who stole the Statue of Liberty? How is Westley going to escape the Pit of Despair? Why did Cinderella order glass slippers a size too large? You don’t want them asking the dreaded four-word question: What’s going on here? Or, worse: Huh?

The Four Fears That Stop You From Writing
And another list of four! Andrea Phillips on some of the fears that can paralyse writers and even make them give up on writing entirely.

Like home-made ice cream, these anxieties come in many, many delectable and word-stopping flavors. As many as you can imagine! And we’re all writers, so our imaginations can cough up some really impressive and persuasive things to be afraid of. …Go team?

9 Reasons to Give Up on Publishing
Provocative title from Rachelle Gardner on the Books and Such blog. Should you give up on being published? Or should you readjust your expectations of what being published entials.

The publication journey isn’t easy, no matter how you approach it. I’m always encouraging people to be patient, persevere through the obstacles, and doggedly pursue their dream. For some people, this means persistence through years or decades.

But… is there a time when you should give up? Maybe so. I could be wrong but I think there are a few signs the publishing journey is not for you.

Series – a Two-Edged Sword?
Charlie Cochrane, author of the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series on the upsides and the downsides of embarking on a series.

You run some risks with a long sequence of books. Will people, even the most ardent fans, lose interest, or feel that the series has “jumped the shark”? Will you be so buoyed up by the demands from those ardent fans that you write one book too many? How can you maintain interest with a constant(ish) cast of characters? Romances are tricky – just how many tropes can you work through and still make the story a fresh and interesting category romance? How many storylines can you think you’ve invented only to find somebody else got there first?

Hit & Myth: Legendary Underpinnings of Genre Tropes
Damon Suede on the surprisingly ancient origin of story devices still common today and why they still work.

I’m struck by the similarity of popular romance to Greek tragedy, not in tone, but their relentless foregone conclusions and their insistent retelling of the same stories. Greek tragedians had to use an established set of well-known stories with little room for modification. When ancient audiences lined up to see Medea or Agamemnon, they already knew the entire plot. No one expected Medea to bake cookies or Agamemnon to splash around with his rubber ducky. The appeal of Greek theatre was in seeing how the heroic characters faced their dilemmas: the granular variation of details specific to an author and a voice.

Is a Story a Toaster?
Sarah Black on her Goodreads blog talks about whether stories can ever be merely products, or are they something more.

I’m greatly disturbed by things I’ve read lately. That’s the point, though, right? Aren’t we supposed to be disturbed? Or changed in some way? Don’t we expect to open our minds and let someone else’s ideas in? And of course, once your mind is open, it’s hard to close it again.
I have been reading the theory of story as commercial product, readers as consumers of a product manufactured for sale, and we buy and sell and this interaction is governed by the rules and behaviors of commercial transactions. I have always thought of fiction as different, not a commercial product. I buy books not for the value of the paper and ink, but for the ideas inside, the potential for those ideas to change me.

The Art of the Blurb: How to write back cover copy
KJ Charles on writing the dreaded blurb.

And this means, for each book, the blurb should be the most polished passage of writing you do – including the manuscript. Labouring over a MS and then knocking out a quick blurb is like spending hours creating a marvellous feast of molecular gastronomy, and then serving it on paper plates off which your toddler has eaten jelly.

Rejection 101: What Authors Should NEVER Do When They Get Rejections
Writer Catherine Ryan Hyde on one of the wrong ways to react to rejection of your book. Very interesting piece!

The rejection system is part of your education in the publishing industry. Getting your work accepted before you’ve had time to learn about the business can backfire. Big time. You can get scammed or talked into signing a bad contract, or you can bumble into a comedy of errors the way I did.

Teasers and backstory: Holmes vs Harry Potter
K J Charles again on the difference between stories that tease and stories that give us everything!

These little references give us a hinterland. A confirmation that the character exists outside the page, a sketch of landscape to populate with our own imaginations. If there were no untold stories, some of the magic would be lost.

How Not to Be a Writer: 15 Signs You’re Doing It Wrong
K.M. Weiland on how you might be approaching the business of writing the wrong way.

If we’re investing all our energy and hopes in surpassing some of the biggest names in the industry, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Worse, if we’re trying to imitate great authors’ styles in hopes of one day mimicking their success, we’re dead in the water before we even start paddling.

Baby Got Back…Story
Tiffany Reisz on how to introduce backstory without sending readers rushing for the exits.

What is backstory? It’s the story that came before your story. If your lead character is a war hero now returned home, his backstory is the war that he fought and the events that led him to becoming a soldier. This can include events of his youth and childhood, previous romances, old wounds, past traumas. Backstory is information from a character’s past that is relevant to the story currently being told. [Note the use of the word “relevant.”] Backstory done right can add moving and meaningful layers to fiction. Backstory done poorly can weigh down your work with tedious and pointless information.

You’ll Never Believe This, But… Coincidence in life and fiction
KJ Charles talks about the use of coincidence in fiction and if it’s ever acceptable as a plot device.

The Victorians could get away with coincidence. More than that, they embraced it. When Jane Eyre leaves Mr Rochester and goes out into the night alone, she winds up, exhausted and starving, at the doorstep of some random house…which belongs to her long-lost relatives. Obviously. Of all the people in the entire country, she pitches up at the house of her hitherto-never-heard-of cousins, by sheer chance. It’s not even like she has a big family.

Is Bronte embarrassed about this? Has she seeded the text with references to Jane having family in the area to make it remotely plausible? Has she hell. This isn’t a plot device so clunky you can hear the gears scream, it’s meaningful fate.

Series Writing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Larissa Reinhart with thoughts and practical advice about series writing.

It’s finally time to launch yourself into the publishing world. Your manuscript is complete, your conference carefully chosen. You walk into a room full of editors and agents prepared to wow them with your pitch. You’ve even managed to shake their hand, maintain eye contact, smile, and deliver the pitch without stumbling. You’re on a roll! Then they ask you, “What else have you got?”

Cheese and crackers, you think. What I’ve got is a great story.

The editor thinks so, too, except she wants at least two more great stories.

How to be a good blog guest
Practical advice from Mia Downing about how to not make the person hosting your guest blog post regret it.

So today, I’m going to clue you in on how to be an awesome guests who makes sure I have everything I need at my fingertips and not one who turns a blog post into a scavenger hunt. To avoid this scenario (because it’s really not fun to do a scavenger hunt with no competition and no prize) consider the below.

Want to Be Successful? Beware of End-of-the-Rainbow Thinking
Kristen Lamb on not looking only at the goals and not the work needed to get to them.

Our culture has been infected with a disease of distortion, what I’m calling “End-of-the-Rainbow-Thinking.” We can all be guilty of this. We see the mega-best-selling-indie, the New York Times best-selling author, the successful small business, the guy with the big house or the family who lives debt-free and we scope-lock on the end result as if this “success” POOF! erupted from the ether.

Personal, Political, Cultural: Parsing the Concept of Author Behavior in Goodreads Policy
Ceridwen Anne with one of the many posts about the latest Goodreads controversy.

But I’m a little more worried about what I see as creep in the policy towards silencing political responses or cultural responses based on the author’s actions or words. Self-avowedly, Mike’s review of Mein Kampf is a troll, because of course it’s stupid to say that you can’t mention that Adolf freaking Hitler was a genocidal maniac. That’s a matter of the historical record, and unassailable. And in fact, when you deny Hitler’s actions, you can go to jail for it in some countries. Manny took the troll a step further in his review of The Destruction of Dresden by David Irving, who was convicted of Holocaust denial in Austria. (The Austrians have, historically understandably, harsher rules about this sort of speech there than in the US.) To quote from Wikipedia, because, shut up, Internet:

Do you have the bottle for a major re-write?
Nicola Morgan on finally biting the bullet and doing the major rewrite one of her books needed.

It’s something that separates the sheep from the goats, writing-wise: the ability and willingness (OK, that’s two things) to tackle a major rewrite. Some writers – and I’m one of them – feel that all their writing is rewriting. I’m constantly trying to improve, hone, think what might be better. But I am not talking about tinkering and self-editing.

Ten Rules for Writing Joyless Books
KJ Charles on why following the “rules” of writing too closely can suck the life out of your book.

I’m bored of reading text that feels like it’s been run through a set of rules. I’m bored of literary novels by authors that have been through the same Creative Writing MA course and learned to do the same things. I’m bored of genre fiction that knows how genre fiction should be written and does it just like that because it should, not because it wants to. I’m unbelievably bored of books that don’t play.

How To Outline Your Books
Some timely advice on Outlining – with NaNoWriMo looming!

It’s never been a secret that I’m in love with lists. Lists are important to me and keep me on track. Plus, it keeps my thoughts organized so I may refer back without having to decipher any mystical notes. Now, not everyone uses outlines, but there are cases where they will be beneficial to you. Namely, when you’re working on a MS and inspiration strikes for another. I’ll discuss how to choose which work later, but for now, let’s talk about how to outline a book so that you can write up that MS later.

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