Friday, September 28, 2012

Self-Publishing:--Is It for You? Four Writers Share Their Experiences with Releasing Their Own Books

Several years ago, I was browsing through a recent issue of The Writer's Chronicle, a wonderful publication from AWP.  AWP has been around for four decades, and its purpose is to help writers become better writers, usually through writing programs in schools and colleges.  It's a good place to stay current on publishing news, see what's new in writing classes, and cheer on colleagues who have just released their new books.

The Writer's Chronicle always has ads for these new books, and I turned to a full-page ad for a recent release by a multiple-award winning writer I admired.  I scanned the page to see who his publisher was, and there in bold type was Lulu Press--a self-publishing company.
Wow, I thought, self-publishing has come up in the world!  Not long after that, I began reading articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times about writers who were making their millions from self-published books, often landing a six-figure advance and contract from mainstream houses as a result.

It used to be called "vanity press," but now it's looking like a good deal for many writers.  Why?  What are the pitfalls and the benefits of publishing yourself?  Why are so many writers considering it a great option these days? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reading Your Work Aloud--Whether You're Sharing with a Group, a Big Audience, or Just Yourself, Some Tips on Why Reading Aloud Helps You

Many years ago, when my books were first being published, I took a class on reading my writing aloud. 

It was taught by a television actor from California.  He was a wonderful teacher, funny and engaging, and he got us introverted writers right up out of our chairs. 

He spoke about basic "reading aloud" tips like good breath control and how to pause, but the most important take-away was passion.

"You have to love what you're reading," he said.  "Without passion for your work, your listeners will never really get why they are listening.  Read it as if it's fresh, exciting, and enjoyable to you."

A very basic guideline yet one that writers often miss.  We know our work so very well, and we see all the hiccups and stumbles.  It's hard to read it as if we are fresh to it, excited, and enjoying the story ourselves.  We're mostly worrying about whether anyone else is liking it!

I've given lots of readings over the years, during book tours and on television and radio interviews.  This bit of advice has been very helpful when I choose my excerpt to read aloud and when I practice.  In my practice time if I don't feel any passion for the story, it's not the right piece to read. 

This week's blog is all about the basics of choosing, as well as how to find that passion again, so your reading will be inspired and inspiring. 

We'll also explore the benefits of reading aloud to yourself--what you can learn from this technique used by so many pros.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Plotting--How to Go from Predictable to Perfection in Your Storyline

Plot is the most basic outer-story structure your book can have.  Fiction and memoir plots are all about action--what happens, where it happens, who is involved.  It's always external, never inside someone's head.  We see plotted events onstage, in front of us.   

Nonfiction writers also use plot.  Their outer story is about the method or ideas they are delivering.   

Obviously, in both cases, plot that's predictable is boring.  How many books have you picked up where you can foresee the ending so easily it's not even worth reading?  Plots must surprise the reader, and therefore also surprise the writer.  Again, nonfiction writers attend to this too--they have to present their material (their "plot" or outer story) in a way that shows its uniqueness.

Like agents will ask you:  How is your book unique, different, a twist or a surprise?  Plots give you this opportunity.

But most of us stay safe with our plots.  We keep to the knowns rather than venture into material that will surprise.  How do you get out of this rut, as a writer?  How do you stop repeating yourself with predictable plotting?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dialogue Decisions--How to Choose When to Use Dialogue (and What Kind) in Your Fiction and Nonfiction Writing

Dialogue isn't easy to write well.  In fact, it is one of the red flags that editors use to spot an amateur writer.  Maybe it's because beginning writers use dialogue more as a vehicle to deliver information than for its primary purpose:  to increase tension and emotion in a scene.

Both fiction and nonfiction writers need to know dialogue skills.  Nonfiction writers, memoir to how-to, now incorporate at least 50 percent scenes in their books.  Scenes include action and dialogue.  If you can't write a good scene, your book won't sing. 

So how do you learn to write great dialogue?   

I was taught a two-step  method that serves me well.  Step 1:  Learn to listen to how human beings talk--and how they don't listen to each other.  Step 2:  Learn to pare down the real-life dialogue into dialogue that works on the page.