Friday, October 8, 2010

To Smash Or Not to Smash

I’ve been looking into Smashwords about getting my suspense novel, Tangled Webs, into ebook format. I thought it would be easy — just hand over my manuscript and plug in my iPad. Not quite so.
Each ebook “reader” (Kindle, iPad, B&N Nook, Sony Reader, iPhone) has its own set of parameters that must be met. And if you don’t format your manuscript properly, it won’t translate into one of the many formats in use today — with more coming down the pike!
The amazing thing is that someone (thank you, Mark Coker!) has been able to take all these disparate protocols and create a program that takes your manuscript and puts it into these different formats so that authors can reach the widest possible audience. And he gives us an amusing ride along the way with his ingenious program names: Meatgrinder (such a reassuring name) grinds up and spits out your baby in a multitude of unrecognizable formats (that magically become recognizable when you turn on your reader device); the Autovetter vets your manuscript for inclusion in The Premium Catalog, no human input necessary (another reassuring concept) Just reading the Smashwords style guide is great good fun — and understandable (mostly), too.
There is no cost to the author. And you don’t have to be a computer genius to figure out how to format your manuscript, though it does help to have either a Computer or Word Guru on call if you’re technologically challenged like me. Or just like your hand held along the way, never a bad idea when mixing technology with anything. Follow the step-by-step instructions and they’ll format your masterpiece eight different ways, and list vetted works in their Premium catalog. It’s a writer’s distribution paradise.
It’s not hard, but it’s not all that easy, either. It’s a fairly steep learning curve to switch gears from traditional print format to e formatting; a whole new way of thinking about publishing. It throws one from college back to kindergarten — not necessarily a bad thing, because learning keeps us young and knowledge is power. However I, for one, am glad it’s kindergarten. After a few hours of e formatting research, I’m ready for some milk and cookies. And a nap. Anyone seen my blankie?
Post total: 375 words
Week 2 Running Total: 905 words
1,000 - 905 = 95 words still needed

Running Blog Totas: 1,905 Words

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anne R. Allen's Blog: Getting Energized at a Writers’ Conference

Don't miss Anne's great post on this year's Central Coast Writer's Conference, voted the most friendly conference in CA by AAA's Westways Magazine. See you there next year! Anne R. Allen's Blog: Getting Energized at a Writers’ Conference

A Writer's Strengths

Here I am, still in Buffalo, NY, and it’s raining. Again. I’ve been here almost two full weeks and have seen the sun only four times. I’d forgotten what the rainy season is like here, how leaden the skies can be, how bone-chillingly cold and damp the air. What a turnaround from the first three days of high temperatures and humidity. So far, Buffalo has presented three of its four major weather conditions to remind me why I left, snow being the only holdout.
All this rain has made me wonder about those writing abilities that we’ve either forgotten about or become so inured to that we no longer see them. I believe that once we “forget” (ie, start to take for granted) anything about our writing, we begin to lose touch with our inner essence, that raw voice inside that lends our writing the aura of freshness and authority it needs to rise above all the rest. It’s that part of us — the spirit of who we are as human beings — that keeps readers clamoring for more of what we do best: storytelling.
What is your major strength as a writer? Perhaps it’s the ability to create compelling characters; to devise devilishly twisted plots; to spread open and explain the motivations and desires of humanity; to create vivid, entrancing settings that become characters themselves; to manipulate language in ways that tug at heartstrings or change obstinate minds; to craft witty, dynamic dialogue that captivates readers. If you’re not sure what yours is, think about this: Our greatest strength usually is what comes naturally to us. We do it without thinking, while other aspects of our writing take work and angst to pull off successfully.
The danger is we often don’t value what we do easily, that which comes naturally. It’s just something we do, and so we shrug it off and turn our attention to those aspects of our writing we have to work at. We take classes, go to conferences, join critique groups. We experiment with different writing styles and techniques, seek out the latest trends, chase the elusive dream of publication. And in the learning and critiquing and experimenting, we often work against our greatest writing strength because we have forgotten what it is. In doing so, we lose the essence of who we are as a writer. We dilute our voice.
I urge you now to journey inward to find your strength. Pull it out of you and set it in plain sight, where it can remind you of who you are, where it can inform and infuse every piece of writing you do. Let it become the platform from which you declare to the world, “Here I am. This is me, and I am worth listening to.” Don’t lose your greatest strength to the mists of forgetfulness, like I lost the memory of the gloom and rain that covers my hometown at certain times of the year. To write from the heart, from your core essence, you must know who you are, believe in what you have to say, and trust your voice. 
That voice is mirrored in your greatest strength. Celebrate the view.
Post Total: 530 words
Week 2 Running Total: 530 words

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Big Search

A couple of decades ago, writers had to pound on the closely guarded doors of the New York City publishing machine, whose defensive strategies seemed designed to keep even the best out in the cold. 
Today the industry is in flux. The paradigm is shifting. What’s emerging is an increasingly accessible publishing industry where writers can take charge of their own careers, sometimes even by-passing the traditional system altogether. Today there are doors and windows where sturdy walls stood just ten years ago.
But these doors and windows require more work. We have to: write advertising copy, design marketing plans, build readership, erect platforms and utilize today’s internet technology. It’s both exciting and frustrating because all this takes time. Time to learn new writing skills. Time to access and use social media groups, online organizations, blogs and websites. Time to build a platform and create a marketing strategy, both of which need to be started long before the book is even begun! And all this time must be snatched away from what we do best: write books. Like I said, both exciting and frustrating.
Take agent submissions, for example, since that’s where I’m at at the moment: finding an agent for my newly-finished paranormal suspense book. The internet made it quick and easy to search out those who handle my genre. But each agent wants my work submitted according to his/her own protocol. And each one is different. Some want traditional snail mail submissions with varying numbers of pages. Some want email only. Some require a combination. Some will accept email attachments, most won’t. They want the first 5 pages, the first 10, first chapter, first three chapters, first 50 pages, etc. All of which must be formatted for the body of the email or it’s unreadable. Or reformatting as independent documents if they’re attachments.
This search requires skilled organization, advance planning, and effective record keeping. None of these are my strong suits. This whole thing is going to be a steep learning curve, a gleaning of new skills. Maybe they’re not skills I’d choose to develop, but they’re necessary these days to play the “get an agent” game. 
All I can say is, it’s a good thing I write suspense. My mind is already churning, a new story in the making. All this time spent organizing, planning, reformatting and record keeping will serve double duty. Someday soon they’ll be instrumental in either killing off a character, or solving the crime du jour. Or both. Just wait and see...

Previous Word Count: 578
Today's word Count: 422
Week #1 Total Count: 1,000
Exactly! Week One down...and counting...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Need To Blog

Get yourself out there: I heard it from almost every presenter at this September’s Central Coast Writers Conference (at which I took first place for Young Adult Novel in the Lillian Dean First Page Competition, my first time out writing for the YA market — wow!). To be a successful writer these days, you must have a platform, an internet presence that drives potential readers to follow you, eagerly awaiting your next thought, opinion, book. It’s what agents look for, what acquisition editors look for and, most importantly, what the marketing department looks for. (After all, they are the ones who have the most to say about whether or not your Great American Tome will sell.)
To blog successfully you need to be unique. You need a hook with which to capture as large an audience as possible. But with so many blogs in existence (I heard 180 million and rapidly counting…) pretty much everything has been done a hundred or more times over, unless you fill a very specialized niche. What’s an “average” writer to do to rise to the top of an immensely huge milk vat? Hard not to be discouraged before one even starts.
Had a long talk with my son (and outlook mentor) on this subject, during which he pointed out that I was defeating myself with an “I can’t” attitude. His advice? Forget about who’s writing what about what and just go do it. Even though there are 180 million blogs out there, there are a few billion or so readers floating around, too, so there’s an audience for everyone.
Huh. Why didn’t I think of that? (I guess that’s why I keep the kid around…) So, with the pressure to be unique and sparkling and intriguing off my fairly frail shoulders, I was free to allow my subconscious to ruminate on the sticky problem of how to go about blogging in a way that would be fun for readers and challenging for me (in a good way, not a “rats, I’ve gotta go write yet another blog!” way). And suddenly, out of the blue — well, the dark, actually, since it was nighttime — it hit me.
My nickname in my family has always been “A Woman of 1,000 Words,” mainly because I like to talk (maybe too much, but that’s for another day). And I write the same way: if everyone else can say hello in 10 words, I need 100. Minimalist is not my style. I love to wallow in words, though I have learned to control my love-affair with adjectives. Why not capitalize on what I already have? My way with (multiple) words?
And hence my blog, both title and weekly aim: 1,000 words. Exactly. Each week. I will write about writing: about the process, the muses, the stories, the plot conundrums as they arise in my work. About new directions in literature. About writing groups, critique groups, writing events. About books and reading and readers. In 1,000 words. Exactly.
Not all at once. Some weeks I may post three, four or more times; some weeks only once or twice. But each time it will add up to exactly 1,000 words. Words of advice, words of instruction, words hopefully of interest to some of the billions of readers searching internet blogs for enlightenment and entertainment. Come follow me on my journey and watch the weekly word count.
1,000 words. Exactly. After all, I’ve gotta live up to my nickname, don’t I?
Post Total: 578 words
First Week Running Total: 578 words