Looking for Leafy Inspiration

2007. That's when our last 'official' family photo was taken. In four years our kids have changed so much, and we've yet to document it. So this morning, we're heading out into the mountains for a new family photo.

Right now in the Rockies, the Aspen trees are amazing. Gold everywhere, with some hints of orange. There's nothing like driving along roads covered in leaves, tunneling under colorful canopies, and taking in amazing mountain views.

Natural beauty always inspires me to write. I wonder what scenes will be born today?

What inspires you to write?

NetGalley: A Book Reviewer's Paradise

One of the things I try to do as a writer is read whenever I can. I read in my genre, and I read outside my genre. Each book, good or not-so-good, furthers my education as a writer, my understanding of the craft, and my knowledge of what to do and not to do.

But books cost money. I wish I had an unlimited budget to buy every book I want to read, but that's not realistic. Some I buy. Some I borrow from friends or the library. Some I even find for free or low-cost on Kindle.

Publishers give away copies of new books to reviewers, hoping to spread the word. If you'd like to review for a particular publisher, check their website to see if you can sign up for physical or digital copies of their new releases.

Another option is netGalley. This is a site where dozens of publishers post their books. Once a reviewer sets up a profile, they can browse the offerings and request digital galleys. You can browse by recent offerings, by genre, or by publisher.

If the publisher accepts the request, you get an email alerting you that the book is ready for download. Most publishers have several download options. Some are even available as Kindle books. After a book is read, the reader posts their review on the site.

So far, I've read three YA books through the site, a memoir and two historical novels. All three are books I likely wouldn't have come across otherwise. It's a win-win situation. I'm reading more widely and learning from the authors, and my reviews will hopefully help others become aware of great books.

Do you review books? How do you choose which ones to review?

Book Review: Story, by Robert McKee

Today's review is a classic writing book. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee has inspired countless screenwriters, directors, novelists, poets, and playwrights.

McKee, a Fulbright Scholar travels the world giving Story seminars, and even has an online equivalent, Storylogue, but writers anywhere can access decades of knowledge through his book. It's called "the Bible for screenwriting" and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

If you're writing a novel, understanding the principles of screenwriting is essential to getting the pacing right, and making sure the tale you're telling doesn't get swallowed up by unnecessary descriptions. McKee divides his book into four essential parts:

The writer and the art of story.
The elements of story.
The principles of story design.
The writer at work.

The chapters within each section flesh out the details of structure, scene design, crisis, climax, and resolution, and many other critical aspects of storytelling. A number of appendices give writers additional information about suggested readings, and the films McKee references throughout the book.

I've never taken McKee's seminar, but word is that it leans heavily on this book. So if you'd like to save yourself a chunk of change, get the book first.

For more from McKee, check out his resource page--it has a section for novelists.

Free eBook: How to Monitor Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day

Authors and aspiring authors get bombarded with the message: Establish your platform. Increase your exposure. Spread your name via social media.

The problem is that these things take time. Time that could have been spent writing. A quick check of Facebook turns into an hour of flipping through photos and status updates. Dip a toe into Twitter, and some feel they get swallowed by the staggering amount of links to check out.

Rebecca Corliss at HubSpot tries to answer these concerns with a free ebook: How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day. Ten quick and colorful chapters will introduce the reader to the best social media channels, and how to use them to your best advantage.

Corliss helps readers to streamline their choices and the time spent checking the social media avenues they're connected with. By setting goals and using some helpful online tools in new ways, users can master social media instead of feeling like they're drowning in information.

The folks at HubSpot offer all kinds of helpful information for those of us trying to navigate the web and social media. Check out the many articles they offer.

How do you keep social media from controlling your life? Do you have a schedule, a timer, or something that keeps you from getting sucked in?

One More Chance for a Free Writing Conference: The Muse Online Conference

You may have missed some of the recent online writing conferences I've posted about. Well, you've got one more opportunity, and it starts next week. From October 3rd through the 9th, writers of every genre and in any country can enjoy the same perks that would normally cost big bucks.

The Muse Online Writers Conference has been going on for several years, and each year it gets bigger and better. You'll find all kinds of workshops to attend, plus pitch sessions with publishers and agents.

Check out some of the workshops offered:

How to Correct, Trim, and Enhance Your Manuscript
Submission Etiquette 101 
Making a Pitch
How to Submit
Mind Mapping your way to deeper characters
The Myth In Mythology. Use it to sell your breakout novel
Why do You Write? 
Keeping Track of Your World: How to Create a Story Bible       
Perfecting The Pitch Synopsis   
Conceptualization of the Afterlife 
Serious about Series?   Considerations for Building a Multi-Volume Fantasy Series 
Uncharted Territory: Creating a Fantasy World 
Creating Villains Your Readers Will Love to Hate 
What Every Beginner Needs to Know About Writing  
Writing Through Thick and Thin    
Look Who's Talking: The Controversy of Dialog Tags  
Craftsmanship and the Hidden Truths of Being Alive    
Marketing Off The Grid 
Survival 101: When Edits Become Rewrites  
Beta Readers: the good, the bad, and the just plain mean   
Plotting the Teen/Tween Romance One Day Workshop
First Paragraphs with Nancy Bell
A Poor Man's Guide to Shoestring Marketing

Construct Your Social Media Platform
Crafting the Perfect Query
Creating and Building Your Author/Writer Online Presence
Developing a Unique Voice
Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book
Flash Fiction: What is it? How do I write it? Why should I bother? 
Freelance Writing: It's a Business, Stupid!
From the Inside Out: Discovering Your Characters
HOOK an Editor with Your FIRST Page
How to Build a Great Book Review

Note: this is only a partial list--I didn't have room for them all. Check out the rest on the workshop page.

There's lots more information on the conference blog. And if you need to feel sure the conference is worth your time, check out these testimonials. I'll be there--how about you?

Agent Friday: Louise Fury

It's always interesting to hear how a literary agent got into the business, but Louise Fury's story is more fascinating than most. Now with the L. Perkins Agency, Fury initially researched queries and agencies for her husband, who planned to write a book. With a marketing background, she successfully helped him navigate a quick path to representation, and soon found herself with a new career. 

Fury represents both fiction and non-fiction, for adults, young adults, and middle grade. She particularly enjoys sci-fi, horror, and romance. Having been born in Cape Town, one of her passions is connecting with South African authors (and I know there are some who read this blog!).

Fury blogs at Louise Fury (I like how she mentions that a personalized rejection is not an invitation to resubmit your work). Here are some posts and interviews to find out more about this writer/agent.

Fury's list of query don'ts. Whether you're thinking of attaching a photo to your query, or wondering how long your book description should go, check out this post.

With so many bad book trailers out there, it's nice to see which ones an agent thinks are worthwhile. Take a look at Fury's favorites.

An interview by Writer's Digest's Chuck Sambuchino.

And another interview by the Romance Writers of America New York City chapter.

There are dozens more agents to check out from past Agent Friday posts.

Writing Groups: Scribophile

 For some reason, this post is one of the most searched-for on my blog. I thought it worth running again, for those that haven't heard of this great group.

Writing is a solitary profession. But even the most introverted writer needs encouragement. To battle the ever-present negative comments in their head. To share ideas when they're stuck. To commiserate over rejections. And to celebrate the successes.

Joining an in-person writer's group is wonderful, and nothing beats meeting face to face. But maybe you live in a remote place. Or you're an expat who can't find writers who speak your language. Perhaps you write at odd hours.

This is where an online group shines.

It doesn't matter the hour. Someone, somewhere in the world is awake, and ready to connect.

I've highlighted quite a few writers groups so far, but I haven't come close to exhausting them. I hope that one of them is just the right fit for you.

Today's group is Scribophile (Thanks to member Joshua Morris for cluing me in!). Scribophile is a warm and welcoming group of writers who aim to connect and critique each other's work.

Sign up is free, and even if you've never critiqued someones writing before, you'll learn quickly with Scribophile's templates. When you critique, you earn "Karma Points", which can be redeemed when you post your own work for review. The site guarantees at least three well-thought-out critiques for each of your submissions.

Beyond the critique aspect, you can join "circles" of writers with similar interests, or those that share your geographical area. There's also an active forum, where all the members discuss a variety of topics relating to writing and publication.

Check out the Scribophile Blog for posts on all aspects of writing (a recent post was entitled "9 Things To Do While Waiting For a Response To Your Query"). The folks at Scribophile also host regular contests for members.

Do you prefer an online or in-person group, or both? I'd love to hear what makes you lean towards one or the other.

Book Review: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Today I'm listing some of the reasons I think Get Known Before the Book Deal should be on a writer's shelf. Well, actually, it shouldn't be left on the shelf. This volume, by Cristina Katz, ought to be dog-eared, sticky-noted, and excessively highlighted. 

Like mine.

I read this book long before I started blogging. Before I'd finished my first manuscript. And while I still need to act on much of Katz's advice, what I've taken to heart has been a tremendous help. So, here are my reasons why writers should check it out.

Get Known is all about establishing a platform. And even though Katz is a freelance writer, she's fully aware that fiction writers have to be more creative in establishing a platform. She divides the book into three sections: Platform Ready, Platform Set, and Platform Grow.
In Platform Ready, Katz uses her own experiences, plus short quizzes for the reader to help identify the niche writers might not even realize they occupy. She offers practical tips to figure out a writer's passions, who their audience might be, and how to begin connecting with that audience.

In Platform Set, readers will find ways to begin a web of connections that will reap rewards in the long run. From teaching, to volunteering, to hosting and more, Katz covers creative ways of helping even the shyest writers to build the relationships that will let others know who they are.

Platform Grow involves specific activities for authors with publication in mind. Katz instructs writers how to make use of their email signature, how to write the several typse of biographies they'll need, and even how to make the best of an author photo shoot. She also goes into detail about collecting blurbs, highlighting your blog, and writing a one-sheet.

Writers interested in either traditional publishing or self-publishing will find this book one of the most practical and well-used books on their shelf. Check out Christina Katz's website for more information and to sign up for her newsletter, and this interview, where Katz talks about Get Known Before the Book Deal.

What have you done to get your platform started? What are your next goals?

Writing Video Roundup: Learn from the Masters

Once upon a time, writers were either lucky or rich enough to hear masters of the craft speak about their work. Now, with the access the internet provides, the opportunities for learning are endless.

Two of my online friends have pointed me to videos I wouldn't have been aware of otherwise. Author Beth Vogt shared a video today from writing teacher James Scott Bell. It's a short, humorous piece focusing on the topic of writer frustration.

And the incredibly helpful C. Hope Clark, founder of Funds for Writers (an excellent site), shared a GalleyCat link to five college-level writing and literature videos. Since most of us can't expect to sit at the feet of such writers as Ray Bradbury and Clive Cussler, these videos are the next best thing.

Any recommendations for your best video tutors? Leave a link in the comments for the rest of us to check out.

Call For Submissions: To #NaNoWriMo or Not To Nano?

National Novel Writing Month is an institution. November would seem so boring and listless without the scramble to put fifty thousand words on the page (ok, there is Thanksgiving, but still).

Believe it or not, there are more than a few writers in the world who have not made the leap into the land of NaNoWriMo. Shocking, I know. But I think those of us who embrace the frenzy are called upon to give them a nudge.

So next week's blogs will be devoted to your opinions. Why do you participate (or not)? What does NaNoWriMo do for you as a writer? Maybe it's inspiration, a kick in the pants, or the sense that you're not alone. Perhaps it's the motivation you need to start working on that idea rolling around in your brain. 
What would you say to a writer on the fence about taking a month of their life for the project? Maybe they should run screaming in the other direction, or maybe they should embrace the challenge.

Whatever your opinion, positive or negative, we'd like to hear it. Keep your reply to 100 words or less, and include a link to your website or blog. Email submissions to dallenco[at]gmail[dot]com.

Here's a few links to get you into the spirit:

Are you planning to do NaNoWriMo? Is it your first time, or are you a veteran?

Too Many Books/Not Enough Books?

Writers are readers. It's no surprise to writers' homes and offices packed with shelves loaded with books. Stacked on the floor, squeezed into every nook and cranny. But the owners of these libraries would invariably admit their collection is not complete. 
New books are published all the time. That favorite novel just came out in paperback. There's always 'a few more' needed. The trouble is, books cost money. And they take up room.

Enter a new solution: swap the ones you don't need for the ones you do. There are at least two services that allow book lovers to do this. BookMooch and PaperBackSwap. Both sites let users post the books they have. When another user wants that book, you send it to them via Media Mail, which is quite inexpensive. Each book you send out garners points that can be used to request books from others. You only pay postage for the books you send, not the ones you receive.

If you need an inexpensive way to fill your shelves and weed them at the same time, these sites may be your solution.

What makes you decide to get rid of a book on your shelves? Is it whether you liked it or not? Whether you actually read it?

Interview with Author Dustin Kuhlman and #bookgiveaway

 Today I'm interviewing author Dustin Kuhlman, who has recently released his debut novel, Warned. I wanted to pick his brain about his self-publishing experience. But first, a few words about his book:
Warned is a science fiction with an ecological bent. Scientist Jon Castel is part of a team charged with preserving human life in outer space, since global warming is bringing earth to an imminent end. Thrown together on a team with an antagonistic ex-girlfriend, and an impossible mission, he's about to make the greatest discovery mankind has ever known.
DMA: What's next for you: mainly marketing, or are you starting another novel?
DK: Marketing can be a two or three year process. I will be spending a few years on marketing. I will write more novels in the years to come.
DMA: What was the decision-making process for you? Did you try traditional publishing, or did you plan to self-publish from the start?
DK: While I was finishing up Warned I was drafting query letters and a synopsis along with everything else you need to publish a book. The more I researched the more I started to think about self-publishing. There are many negatives of getting a publisher, from making about $1 per book, having to do most marketing on your own, losing control of editing what stays what goes, and the fact that it would have probably added one or two years delay to my release date. I decided to keep control of my content and self-publish. I never contacted one agent or publishing company. There are only two reasons why I would try to get published. If you are unable to afford the costs involved with self-publishing from editors and cover designers, etc. The second reason would be the prestige of getting picked up by a major publisher.
DMA: Your book is available as a print book and an ebook. Would you take that route again, or go completely digital?
 DK: It is a very unique time right now to publish a book. The market seems to be nearly 50/50 when it comes to print and digital books. For the next five or ten years I would go both routes, despite the fact that ebooks are starting to outsell print books. There is something nice about holding the physical book in your hands after years of work. Ebooks on the other hand are much cheaper to publish.
DMA: What were/are your biggest hurdles? What do you know now, that you wish you'd realized earlier in the process?
DK: There are many things I wished I’d known before I started this process. What stands out the most is submitting a “stock up request” to Amazon about two weeks before my release date. Amazon orders books from the author with an algorithm, in other words there are not people sending you orders, they are computers. I ran out of stock on my release date and it remained out of stock for over a week. I felt like I missed some orders because some people won’t order something that is out of stock. Another benefit for a stock up request is shipping prices. Using media mail is great, if you can send many copies at once it is much better. To send one book media mail runs about $2.60, to send 24 books runs around $10. Amazon already keeps 55% of sales so keeping shipping prices low will help maximize profits.
DMA: Two of the biggest criticisms of self-published books are poorly designed covers, and books full of editing errors. What steps did you take to make sure your book stood out?
DK: Since this was my first book and I was very passionate about it, I decided to contact a famous cover artist and find a great editor too. The internet was essential in this search. I was able to negotiate a lower price for the cover artist, since I was a self-publishing author. It wasn’t cheap but I felt it was a good deal. After all, he had designed the covers for many famous authors and worked on movies such as Star Wars and I,Robot.
Dustin Kuhlman was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska and studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Growing up he loved to draw and always thought drawing and producing art would be his creative outlet. Around his 24th birthday, through unusual circumstances, he found his calling to write while living in Las Vegas. He currently lives and writes in Colorado Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak. Now 28, with his first novel finished, Dustin hopes to write many more books in various genres. He puts high importance on self-education and learning, whether it is literature, philosophy, science, or the human condition. He enjoys quotes and studying the great thinkers of mankind from Eratosthenes and Einstein to Voltaire and Thoreau and always considers himself a student of the world. Find out more about Kuhlman at his website.

  Do you have a question for Dustin? Leave it in the comments, and Dustin will answer it.
I'll choose one commenter at random to win a copy of his book (sorry, US only)

Book Review: The Timetables of History, by Bernard Grun

If you write historical fiction (or, like myself, historical fantasy) there's always research involved. The Timetables of History, by Bernard Grun is a phone book-sized volume that can be the foundation for your research.

In its third edition, the book is based on Werner Stein's 1946 classic, which has sold millions of copies. Now, translated into English, the volume is accessible to even more people.

I first bought this book as a reference for our homeschooling history program, but soon realized it would be invaluable for writers of historical fiction.

The book is a huge timeline, beginning at 5000B.C. What makes it unique, is that each year is divided into seven sections, giving readers a comprehensive look into what else was happening that year.

The categories are:

* History and Politics
* Literature and Theater
* Religion, Philosophy, and Learning
* Visual Arts
* Music
* Science, Technology, Growth
* Daily Life

It's fascinating to look up well-known events or people and discover what music everyone was talking about, or what scientific advancements were just being discovered. A book like this can give your novel more of a comprehensive feel. A detailed index is included, if you have a specific event, invention, or person in mind. It will take you directly to the page you need.

Though online resources are available, this inexpensive (but massive) volume will be well-used. Everything at your fingertips.

Do you write historical fiction? What resources do you turn to most?

Writing an Ebook? Check out this free seminar.

With all the major changes in publishing, ebooks continue to rise in significance. Gone are the days when a self-publishing author needed a huge sum of cash to publish their book. Now, without moving from a desk chair, writers are able to share their books with the world, and enjoy monthly earnings.

However, along with the seeming ease of creating an ebook, quite a few issues have cropped up. Most of the complaints I see have to do with poor editing, shoddy formatting, and amateurish covers.

On Thursday, September 22nd, at 9pm Eastern Time, author and writing coach Terry Whalin will interview Ellen Violette on The 7 Biggest Mistakes People Make Authoring an eBook, and How to Avoid Them. Violette runs The Ebook Coach website, and is the author of several books on writing ebooks.

Here's a few things from the description page:
* Why ebooks are a must-have for a successful internet business
* How to take the guesswork out of the process
* How to avoid the twin dragons of Perfectionism and Procrastination that stop so many people from becoming successful authors
* Why you are your worst critic and how to stop it
* Why people start ebooks and don't finish them, and how you can
* How to make maximum profits with minimal effort

Even if the timing doesn't work for you, sign up anyway. You'll receive a link to the recorded interview the day after it airs. Plus, there are several freebies offered to those who sign up.

Are you planning to try the ebook route, or will you go for traditional publishing first? Is your decision today different from what it would have been a year ago?

When You're Backed Into a Corner, Write Your Way Out

Life gets in the way of writing. But without the stuff life throws at us, there would be nothing to write about. What a conundrum.

Life threw me a curve ball last night. The week before, I was hit with a different one. At times like these, it's tempting to drop my writing and completely immerse myself in working out the solutions.

But I'm determined to take a different path. To set aside at least a little time to write. To create. To work through issues with words. 

Writing can be a solution in itself. A release valve for the stresses that come with being alive, and caring about people.

I don't want to compartmentalize my life. Separating writing from living would make it antiseptic, untouched by the ups and downs of living. So today I'll write. At least for an hour or two.

And we'll go from there.

How do you handle life's curve balls? Does your manuscript get shoved in a drawer, or do you keep going?
In case you missed it, author Sherrilyn Kenyon has some great answers to these questions.

Agent Friday: Meredith Barnes

Meredith Barnes works as an associate agent at Lowenstein Associates. She's interested in both non-fiction and fiction, and has a particular affinity for "blog-to-book" projects. Barnes also handles digital strategy and subsidiary rights.

Barnes blogs at La Vie en Prose. I browsed through her archives to share a sampling of her posts.

On self-publishing: Barnes discusses when to self-publish (and what to try first), the stigma of self-publishing, how many copies of your book you should try to sell in order to make an impression on publishers, and patience in the query process before you decide to self-publish.

On Online Author Marketing: Marketing when you don't even have an agent yet, what authors need to do, how to work on your platform once you're agented,

On Platform: Barnes describes a non-fiction platform, and an anatomy of a fiction platform.

On marketing in general: the importance of the book cover (you might also be interested in yesterday's post on covers), all about literary agencies with their own publishing divisions, and an excellent post on packaging and positioning your book.

There are lots more Agent Friday posts here.

Judge a Book by Its Cover

One of the best things about browsing in a bookstore is letting my eyes roam the different covers. Some make me want to read the back cover, while others leave me cold. For those of us who hope to see our books in print, book covers are something to start thinking about, even if publication seems a long way off. And if self-publishing is in your future, you definitely want to make sure your cover looks as professional as possible.

Besides strolling the aisles of your local bookstore (which I hope you do, but it's becoming harder as more stores close), I found a site that will let your fingers walk you through thousands of book covers--without having to pull them off the shelf. It's called The Book Cover Archive.

This site allows readers to peruse book covers randomly, or by designers, titles, authors, art directors, photographers, illustrators, genres, publication date, publishers, and even typefaces. It's an easy way to get ideas, or to narrow down the type of covers that appeal to you or turn you off. If you end up traditionally published, you may not have a lot of control of your cover decisions, but the publisher might ask for your ideas. Here's how to collect some:

  1. Use the 'screen capture' feature on your computer. When you see book covers online that strike you, take a shot of them and keep them in a folder on your hard drive. If you saw a cover in a bookstore, note the title (or buy the book!) and search for it once you get home.
  2. Collect photos of people and places and objects that relate to your story. This is something writers should do anyway, as visuals help in the writing process, but they can also jumpstart cover ideas. Remember, you won't be able to use these actual photos on your cover unless you purchased them, or took them yourself. But when it's time for your cover, you can show them to a photographer or cover artist to give them an idea of what you want.
  3. Likewise, collect examples of fonts that seem like a good fit for your genre. You can snag them with a screen capture, or cut words from magazines.
  4. Play with color schemes that match your manuscript's mood. If you're computer-savvy, you can try a graphic design software. For the less technical, try scrapbooking websites, or the good old-fashioned cut and paste method.
Any more ideas on building your own book cover? 

Note: C. Hope Clark has an excellent post about When a Cover Misrepresents. She includes some excellent ideas for authors seeking cover artists. 

Book Review: Twitter For Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time

Let's face it. Twitter is here to stay. Whether you've embraced "micro-blogging" or stayed far away from hashtags and @ symbols, authors need to know what Twitter can do in the promotional world. Thanks to my eagle-eyed friend, Stacy Jensen, I found Twitter For Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time, by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.

I'll admit, it's been tough to wrap my brain around why Twitter is helpful. I 'get' Facebook, but I hadn't spent much time on Twitter, besides the occasional tweet. Diaz-Ortiz works for Twitter, leading social innovation and philanthropy. She also co-founded Hope Runs, a non-profit helping AIDS orphans in Africa.

The book is comprehensive. Not only does Diaz-Ortiz help you get started if you're a newbie, she helps you set goals for what you want to accomplish and then meet them. Diaz-Ortiz has mastered the art of using Twitter for highlighting projects, like the one she founded. Many of the points can also be translated into marketing ideas for authors. 

Avid Twitter users will find in-depth chapters on how to use multimedia in their tweets, connecting with target audiences, and using Twitter overseas. Diaz-Ortiz goes details the best way to write tweets, and how your 'voice' can make a difference. The book ends with questions and case studies to help the information sink in. Definitely a book for today's authors!

Find more information on Diaz-Ortiz' website.

Do you use Twitter? How do you see it helping you as an author?

Your New Writing Year

I made a batch of pancakes for my kids this morning. It's tradition. I use pancake batter to form their initials and the grade they're starting, we open the new school supplies, and take pictures. We've done this for years.

It got me thinking about my 'new year' as a writer. September is a great time to reevaluate where I am. Like my daughter's plate of pancakes in the picture, it shows who she is and where she's going.

Who am I as a writer? What are my goals this year, and what do I hope to accomplish by the time summer blows my schedule to bits?

I thought about these things last year, and wrote a post Back to School, Back to Writing. I hope it encourages you.

How is the new school year affecting you as a writer?

Three Fiction Powerhouses Answer Deep Writing Questions

They're called 'storymasters'. Agent and author Donald Maass, along with authors James Scott Bell and Chris Vogler. Together, these men comprise decades of experience as writers and writing teachers. 

James Scott Bell, besides numerous novels, has written Plot and Structure, Revision and Self-Editing, and Writing Fiction for All You're Worth.

Christopher Vogler is the author of The Writer's JourneyMemo from the Story Department, and Myth and the Movies, among others.

These amazing instructors will teach a three and a half day workshop called Storymasters in Houston, Texas on Novemeber 3-6, 2011. To give you a taste of what they offer, they answer the following questions. Each of them have some fascinating answers.

Q: There are lots of dark protagonists around lately.  Is this a fashion or an archetype?  What makes them popular?  What makes them work?

Q: Is there really any such thing as plot, or is that just an easy label for something else? 

Q: In constructing character arcs, what’s the most important consideration?

Q: Beginner story mistakes are obvious, but even pros have weaknesses.  What’s their most frequent shortcoming?

Q: You three Story Masters each teach universal principles but also singular techniques.  What dimension of storytelling is most important to you?   

To find out what they say, go to the Writer's Digest article. And for a fun read, check out Bell's new novel, Pay Me in Flesh, about a female zombie lawyer. It'll make you laugh.

My favorite points: Bell's discussion of 'layers of character', Maass' explanation of how authors wimp out with their plot, and Vogler's explanation of why some professional writers overthink and overwrite. How about you?

Agent Friday: Sarah LaPolla

Sarah LaPolla is an associate agent with Curtis Brown, Ltd. She has been there since 2008, and represents both adult and YA fiction and non-fiction. She writes her own YA fiction when she gets the chance.

LaPolla blogs at Big Glass Cases, and has posted some really wonderful and helpful articles for aspiring writers. But beyond that, she also posts short fiction from her blog readers. Check out her site to see how you can be published on her blog.

Here are several of her blog posts that inspired me:

How to Get an MFA in Five Steps: LaPolla comments on the free MFA book (check it out here) offered on Amazon, and gives her own take on giving yourself an education in creative writing.
Things You Didn't Do: A list of items an enthusiastic queryer may have forgotten.

What the Fudge?: A thoughtful post on using strong language in fiction. When it works, and when it's distracting.
Do Endings Matter?: LaPolla examines the differences between satisfying and unsatisfying endings.

What I talk about when I talk about Revisions: The three things that most need work in a manuscript.

Triangles of Love: The ins and outs of love triangles in fiction.

The Beta and the Omega: If you're in the market for beta readers, you must read this post. LaPolla lists who your beta readers should not be.

My Inevitable Prologue Post: LaPolla doesn't care for prologues. Here, she explains why. See if your prologue should stay or go.

I've learned so much from spending a little time reading LaPolla's posts. I'll definitely be checking out more of her archives! What resonated with you?

Writing Groups: David Farland's Writer's Groups

It's funny how I come across resources some days. The other day I was perusing Deana Barnhart's blog. I love reading her "Firsts Fridays" interviews. She recently interviewed Robin Weeks, and in that interview I learned about David Farland.

David Farland is a bestselling science fiction and fantasy author, and a writing instructor, who counts authors like Stephanie Meyer (of Twilight fame) among his students. He founded a forum, David Farland's Writer's Groups, where writers could join together for feedback and encouragement.

Writers who join the group get to specify the type of group they'd like, depending on size, genre and sub-genre, the audience they write for, how frequently they'd like critique, experience, length of submissions, and content. This helps to fashion a group that specifically meets that writer's needs. Members can ask to join an existing group, or recruit for a new one. Beyond critique groups, there are many other topics: compare your first page to others, discuss writing software, daily writing prompts, and many more.

But that's not all. Connected to the forum is another website (not requiring a sign-in), called Farland's Author Advisory Conference Calls. On this site, once or twice a month, an author is interviewed via conference call. Readers can dial in and listen live, asking questions if they want. If you've missed a call, the highlights are posted on the site, along with a recording of the entire call. 

I spent a wonderful hour the other day, listening to an interview with author Aprilyyne Pike. I had some papers to organize, so I played the interview while I worked (interviews can also be downloaded to your computer for playing on an iPod). You might be interested in this particular interview, as Pike explained in detail how she learned to plot and outline her books from a master author. Highly recommended.

I can't wait to listen to more of the interviews. The right side of the site lists the upcoming interviews through December. Several of them are going on my calendar.

So thank you Deana Barnhart and Robin Weeks! It would have taken me a lot longer to find these sites without you!

Are you a member of an online writing group? If so, which one?


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