Searching for Betas? Check Out Ten Day Book Club

If you've revised and edited your manuscript, and your critique group has worked it over, it's probably time to get some feedback from folks who haven't been examining it through a microscopic lens. It's time for beta readers.

Beta readers (or first readers) are individuals who read your novel and let you know what's working, and which aspects could be changed. Betas won't always agree, and you as the writer must sort through the responses to decide what gets implemented.

Some writer choose among their friends and acquaintances for their betas. That can work, but one drawback is that people who know you sometimes are reluctant to sound negative. Your friends might also be dazzled just by the fact that you wrote a book, and won't find anything wrong with it.

Enter the Ten Day Book Club. Writers post part or all of their novels for ten days. Members of the site read the protected files and post comments on the work in forums or live chat. The cost to writers is $10. Here's a link to show how it works.

One author, Dax M. Tucker, posted his novel on Ten Day Book Club and ended up with a large number of fans, some of whom offered to help publicize his novel. Check out what other writers have to say about their experience with the site.

Ten Day Book Club also offers editing services, marketing, and social networking training for writers who desire additional help.

If you're worried about the safety of your manuscript online, here's a video explaining how it works:

Have you ever used beta readers for feedback? How did you choose them? Any advice you'd like to share?

How writers can prepare for next week's Facebook changes

Are you ready for the new Facebook changes? The new Timeline format will be mandatory starting April 4th. I've been dragging my feet about setting it up, but I found some sites that make it less of a challenge. Facebook is one of the huge foundations of social media, and a presence there is almost an essential for authors.

One nice thing about Timeline is that users get to choose a main photo to highlight. As writers, this is a great way to express your genre or focus on the books you've published. It only takes a few minutes to arrange photos in a powerpoint program and add text if you like. The arrangement I'm thinking about is above.

You'll have until April 4th to tweak your timeline before it goes live (unless you choose to publish it sooner). Some creative types have incorporated their profile photo into their design. Here are some pages with examples to get your imagination running.

If you're not up to speed on what Timeline is, Facebook has a video introduction to give you an idea of what's different from the previous Facebook "wall". For even more details, check out the Timeline Help page.

A couple of things to note:
+You'll be able to delete anything you don't want seen on your Timeline.
+You can choose who gets to see each post on your Timeline.
+You can highlight posts on your page, which makes them double width. Great for important announcements, or focusing on a particular blog post.
+You have the ability to "pin" a post to the top of your Timeline for seven days.
+When someone arrives on your page, they'll only see the bottom half of your cover photo, unless they scroll up. I may change the placement of my text so it will be seen no matter what.

And if you're concerned about privacy with the new set-up, check out this article on how to take control of your privacy.

If you do Facebook, have you already switched to Timeline? What do you see are the advantages or disadvantages of the new look?

Planning a Writing Getaway

The cabin (though I didn't have the snow)
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to get away. I didn't go far, but I did go alone. I spent the time at the beautiful Lodge at Elk Valley in Colorado.

I prepared for this weekend in a couple of ways. In case you can set aside some solitary time to write, here's what I did:

I started out with a shot in the arm. I met with one of my critique groups. Talking about writing always spurs me to sit down and actually write. Normally, after crit group, I go home and end up buried in household tasks. This time, I went straight to my retreat.

I stocked my supplies. Since I didn't want to be tempted to run out to the store, I planned my meals and snacks and brought everything I needed. When my husband called to see if he could bring me something, I said, "I'm all set." My supplies included my daughter's iPod (with lots of movie soundtracks for the mood of different chapters), nuts for munching, and some creme soda. Oh, and a huge cup of Sonic ice. Can't write without it.

I left some things home. Namely my Kindle. I'd be way too tempted to curl up and read if it came along. Instead, I brought some Writer's Digest magazines for those moments where I couldn't stand to write anymore. I left uncomfortable clothes and (most) junk food, too.

I used a tried and true technique. To keep myself focused, I used the Pomodoro Technique. This involves setting a timer for 50 minutes of work, then taking a ten minute break. You can do anything for 50 minutes! On my breaks, I took a brisk walk (this old ranch is beautiful!), got a snack, or checked my email.

I'll be heading home in a few hours (when I finish my next chapter).

Getting away by myself is great, but it's not perfect. In The Lonely Cabin Myth, I wrote about why I'm sometimes more productive when I'm writing in the middle of a hectic life. Maybe you experience the same thing.

Do you get more done when you go away by yourself? Or does fighting for your writing time bring better results? What else would you bring on a writing retreat?
The beautiful view I enjoyed. That's Pikes Peak in the distance.

What's a writer to think about the #HungerGames?

The group dressed up and headed to the premiere.
My house is unnaturally quiet. It's the first official day of Spring Break, and I have extra teens in the house besides my own four. Yet no one's stirring.


They all attended the midnight showing of the Hunger Games, based on the bestselling books by Suzanne Collins. If you haven't heard about the movie by now (and there will be several sequels), it's time to understand what the hype is about. After all, you do want your own books to be made into movies, right?

What is it that made Collins' books so compelling? I have a couple of opinions.

The writing is good. Even the most fantastic idea will fall flat if the execution is not there. Collins is not a debut author, and spent years writing fiction and for television. Though her novels are written in present tense, which not all readers enjoy, you'll be surprised how you don't notice it because you're pulled in by the characters. Though it's a young adult book, adults have caught the fever and devoured the series. If you haven't, you should. All in the name of writerly research, of course.

She employs constant conflict. Collins not only fills her novels with nonstop action, but the characters each have complex inner and outer conflict. For a fantastic analysis of how the conflict is used to its best advantage, check out Randy Ingermanson's article Characters in Conflict. I guarantee reading it will improve your manuscript.

She takes advantage of screenwriting techniques. Collins has written for children's television for over twenty years. That kind of long-term experience brings huge benefits for novel-writers. Making use of screenwriting techniques helps to pull your reader along, instead of letting the story meander. When it came time for the screenplay to be written, Collins wrote the first draft herself, and collaborated on the further evolutions. For more information on screenwriting techniques, check out the free plot tools from Save the Cat.

I'm sure there are many other opinions of what Collins did right. What's your opinion?
Midnight madness over the Hunger Games

The Down and Dirty on Deep POV

Right now I'm fine tuning my manuscript in preparation for pitching to an agent next month. One of the things I'm looking at is whether I've done a good job (and a consistent one) with deep point-of-view. Since I might not be the only one thinking about this,  I checked around to see what resources are available to those writers looking to take the plunge.

First up is the amazing free ebook from Jordan McCullom, Take the Plunge Into Deep Point of View. It compiles a huge blog series she posted on the topic of deep POV. With thirty pages and eleven topics, it's a great primer for those who need to get a handle on what deep POV is, and how to make sure it shows up in your writing.

Savvy Authors has a great explanation in Demystifying Deep POV in 5 Minutes or Less. You'll find great examples where author Liz Pelletier takes a snippet of fiction and shows how to make it evolve into deeper POV.

Girls with Pens shares how to make deep POV enrich your dialogue. Read the five ways to make it happen, and how to work around problems.

On RT Book Reviews, there are four tips for deep POV. Find out what needs to be deleted and what not to do.

From The Muse Online Writers Conference, Christopher Hoare helps writers decide if they even want to use deep POV. Just a hint: once you read his examples, you'll be a believer.

And lastly, TalkToYoUniverse offers a nine-item checklist for deep POV.

Have you ever examined your manuscript for deep POV?

How would you like to have dinner with Donald Maass?

Making writing contacts is a big part of the publishing process. Attending workshops and conferences can put writers in range of coveted agents, editors, and authors. But here's an opportunity for anyone to sit down for dinner with one of four publishing stars.

Dinner with the Stars is a fundraising event connected to the wonderful Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Guests do not have to attend the conference to have a shot at one of the coveted seats.

Here's how it works. Bidders submit bids on one of eight seats at a banquet table with either agent Donald Maass, mystery author Robert Crais, romance author Susan Wiggs, or crime writer Jeffrey Deaver. Bids start at $50, which covers the gourmet dinner. The two highest bidders at each table sit on either side of the honored guest.

The date for the event is April 19th at 6:30pm. Each guest receives a gift from the VIP (like a signed book), and a photo with the VIP. Guests also enjoy priority placement for the book signing following the dinner. Bidding opened only a few days ago, and there are plenty of slots left. Check out the bidding action at the Dinner with the Stars page.

So if you're in the Colorado area (or can get there), you've got a guaranteed way to meet four amazing people. Would you do it if you could?

Get Ready for ScriptFrezy!

There are some serious connections between good movies and good fiction. That's why so many novels get made into films. Screenplay writers cultivate the ability to pull the best and most visual elements from a story and translate them into 100 pages of script. 

If you're a novelist, learning to write a screenplay is important for two reasons. One, the skills you learn will help you write a better book. The second, though less likely is this. If your book is published, and gets optioned for film, you may have the opportunity to write the screenplay yourself.

The month of April is the perfect time for a screenplay education. The same folks that bring you NaNoWriMo every November also offer ScriptFrenzy each April.

The goal is to write a script of 100 pages during the month of April. Besides screenplays, writers are welcome to work on stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels. Also included are novel adaptations and radio scripts. Sign up is free.

Like NaNoWriMo, the ScriptFrenzy site offers tons of support. You'll set up a profile, and can message back and forth with those you meet. There's an active forum, where participants can discuss the particular genre of script they're working on, get questions answered, and find help when they're stuck.

The best part of the free site, which can be accessed even if you don't sign up, is the Writer's Resource page. Once you scroll through the long list of resources, you'll be as impressed as I was. Even if you never write a screenplay, the resources can help you in outlining, figuring plot twists, and creating realistic dialogue, just to name a few. Jump over there and at least bookmark the page. It's full of invaluable tools for writers of any type. And if you've never written a screenplay before and want to learn, all the info is in the resource section.

Though I'm not planning to write a script in April, I'm still considering a personal challenge to write 100 more pages on my manuscript. Three pages a day doesn't sound like much, but it would bring me to the end of my current novel.  
Anyone else up for the challenge?

Guest Post: Marketing: Beginning With The End in Mind, by Randy Ingermanson

Today's guest post details the journey to publication from the end to the beginning. Randy Ingermanson has a way of explaining things so they stick with you. If you haven't signed up for his free monthly newsletter, click the link at the bottom of the post. It's worth your time.

Marketing: Beginning With The End in Mind, by Randy Ingermanson

In Stephen Covey's classic book, THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, he recommends that you "begin with the end in mind."

He's talking about living your life in a way that you'll be proud of it when you die. The "end" he has in mind here is death.

But beginning with the end in mind makes sense, no matter what path you're taking, and the path we writers care about is the road to publication.

The "end" of that path is the happy day when an editor calls you to say, "We voted today and we've decided to offer you a contract on your book."

That's a good end to a long, long path. Getting published by a traditional, royalty-paying publisher is validation for your work. (You may also consider it validation for you, but it's really just validation for the novel you wrote.)

It's important to know the "end" you're trying to reach, because then it's not hard to work backward from that "end."

Let's do that now. Let's work backward several steps.

What comes before you get the contract?

That's easy. The last thing that happens before your editor calls to offer you a contract is that the publishing committee meets and your editor pitches your book to them and they vote on it.

What happens before the committee meets?

That's also easy. The editor reads your manuscript (and probably also your proposal) and decides that this is a manuscript she wants to champion.

What happens before your editor reads your manuscript and proposal?

There are two normal ways to get a manuscript in front of an editor. Either you or your agent sends the editor the manuscript. It doesn't matter who sends the manuscript. The only thing that matters is that the editor recognizes the name of the sender.

If your agent sends the manuscript, the editor accepts it because she knows your agent. If you send the manuscript, the editor accepts it because she knows you.

If the editor doesn't know either of you, then she doesn't even look at your manuscript. She's too busy dealing with professionals to be bothered with amateurs.

And how in the world would the editor know you? What has to happen in order for the editor to know you?

That's extremely simple. The editor will only know you if you have met her. The usual way that happens is that you meet her at a writing conference and pitch her your story and she says, "Wow! Sounds interesting. Send me your manuscript and/or your proposal."

If meeting an editor at a writing conference sounds scary, you might think that it's better to just get an agent and let him do it. OK, fine. Let's say your agent sends the editor the manuscript.

What happens before the agent sends the editor your manuscript?

Again, very easy. Your agent first has to offer to represent you and you have to accept that offer of representation.

Why does an agent offer to represent you? What has to happen first?

That's also easy. You send that agent a copy of your manuscript and/or proposal, and he recognizes your name on the cover, reads it, and decides that you are a
talent worth spending time on.

Uh-oh. How would the agent recognize your name?

The agent will only recognize your name if he's met you. The usual way that happens is at a writing conference. You make an appointment and pitch your
story to the agent, and he says, "Wow! Sounds interesting. Send me your manuscript and/or your proposal."

You may be wondering why you have to meet people in person. Can't you just mail in your manuscript? Or e-mail it? Are agents and editors too snooty to read their mail or their e-mail?

No, they're not snooty. They're busy. They're overwhelmed with the zillions of other writers sending in stuff by mail and e-mail. Your mail or e-mail is lost in the flood. Unless they know you.

A writing conference is your best chance to capture the undivided attention of an editor or agent – for fifteen minutes. You make an appointment. You've got a
quarter of an hour to show what you've got. No interruptions. Nobody else.

Sure that's scary. Sure that's hard. So was getting your driver's license. So was getting your first kiss.

Lots of things are scary and hard, and you do them because the rewards are worth the risk. Life is about doing the scary and hard things you need to do to get what you want.

If you want to meet an editor or agent and have a more-than-fair shot at making an impression, then a writing conference is an excellent place to do it. In my 20+ years as a writer, I haven't seen a better way to make that connection.

About once a year, I write a column in this e-zine about the enormous benefits of going to writing conferences. I believe in conferences.

I sold my first book (and my second, and my third) on my own, without an agent, as a direct result of the contacts I made at writing conferences. I met my first agent (and my second and my third) at conferences. Most of my published novelist friends did the same.

No need to belabor this point. Either you're ready to go to a conference and make some connections, or you aren't. If you are, then what are you waiting for? The year is early. Make it happen.

If you aren't, then now might be a good time for me to mention that writing conferences are a great way to learn more about the craft of writing fiction.

I joined my first critique group as a result of going to my first conference. I met my first writing buddy at another conference. I first heard the phrase "you're going to get published soon" from a novelist at a conference.

I don't usually make a sales pitch for my products in this column, but I will now, because it would be wrong not to mention it.

I've got an e-book available, the WRITER'S CONFERENCE SURVIVAL GUIDE, that tells you all about how to pick the right conference for you and how to get the most out of it.

You can find out all about the WRITER'S CONFERENCE SURVIVAL GUIDE here:

If the "end" you have in mind is to get published with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, then a writing conference is very likely to be one of the last steps you take before you reach that "end."

Nothing happens unless you take action. Go to it.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 30,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Where are you on Ingermanson's list? 

How to Format Your Own Ebook

More and more writers are testing the publishing waters with their own ebooks. Likewise, many traditionally published authors are dusting off their backlists and offering their previous books for sale (if they've got the rights back). 

But putting an ebook online is much more than just uploading a Word document. There's formatting and cover design, and choosing which of the ebook formats to target. You can pay someone to do it for you, but fortunately, it's not impossible to do it yourself.

Recently, my local Pikes Peak Writers group offered a workshop on how to format an ebook. The presenter, author Deanna Knippling, has graciously provided the same information in a series of blog posts aimed at beginners in the ebook world.

Part 1: The most common ebook formats, and which ones you should target first. Plus, the importance of editing.

Part 2: The nitty-gritty of formatting your ebook. Knippling saves authors a huge amount of time by teaching how to make an ebook template, so future ebooks will be a snap to format.

Part 3: Finalizing, uploading, and validating your ebook. Also how to trouble-shoot if things aren't working well.

Part 4: How to design your book cover, with information for beginners and advanced cover artists. Knippling includes a list of helpful tips about what to put on your cover, and shares advice about what not to do.

Part 5: Advanced formatting topics, and links to resources for ebook writers.

And if you need some plain-English information on ISBN numbers, here's an easy to understand post by author Claire Delacroix.

Have you formatted your own ebook? Are you thinking about it?
Exciting news this week. I received a call from the contest coordinator at Pikes Peak Writers,  letting me know that I placed second in the young adult category of their writing contest. It's funny that I almost didn't even enter. Being the self-conscious writer most of us are, I had serious doubts about my entry, which was a brand new project. Only the encouragement of my critique group got me to enter. That's another reason everyone should be in a critique group!

When the conference rolls around in late April, I'll have the opportunity to sit down with one of three agents: Kristin Nelson, Weronika Janczuk, and Taylor Martindale. I'll be using the next two months to polish my current manuscript in case I need to send some pages to an agent.

So the moral of the story is to join a critique group, and overcome your hesitancy to enter a writing contest. You never know what will happen!

I'd love to hear some of your experiences with writing contests!

How Picture Book Writers Can Read and Give

All of us have favorite picture books from our childhood. Two of mine are Ferdinand the Bull and Flat Stanley. Oh, and Tikki Tikki Tembo. I could go on. Really.

Though I'm not a picture book author, I know many of you are. It's not easy to keep up with the market trends unless you have a great local library, or lots of money. 

One way to be aware of new books on the market is to sign up for Any New Books, a service that lets you know new titles being released. But to be able to read the books themselves, We Give Books is the place to go.

We Give Books is a site dedicated to giving books to children in need. They offer books that can be read online, and for each book read, they donate to one of the many organizations of the reader's choice. You'll find current books, and classic books. Remember Courduroy?

While browsing, I discovered a new favorite. Make sure you check out the SkippyJon Jones series, featuring an intrepid Siamese cat. I laughed out loud. It's a fun way to research your genre, and feel generous at the same time. 

How do you keep up with picture books?

How Pinteresting! Pinterest for Writers.

Writers write. But in this day and age, writers sometimes feel they're sucked into a black hole of social media. It seems every time you turn around there's another site that promises to be the solution to all your marketing dilemmas.

I've toyed around with the idea of Pinterest, but I haven't yet taken the plunge. I'm worried that I'll be sucked into another time waster. So when agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a couple posts about the benefits of Pinterest for writers, I paid attention. 

I did a little searching around the web, and I'm coming around to the idea that Pinterest could be a useful addition to my social media arsenal. I figured I'd share what I found, since I may not be the only one pondering "pinning".

Rachelle Gardner wrote two posts about Pinterest:
13 Things Writers Should Know: this includes some compelling reasons for considering Pinterest
Ten Tips for Authors Using Pinterest: a list of ways to use the site, and a link to frequently-asked questions about Pinterest

If you're looking for a nitty-gritty explanation of how to use Pinterest, consider downloading the free ebook How to Use Pinterest for Business from Hubspot. Though it's not just for writers, it has a lot of information on how to grow followers and why Pinterest makes sense for business.

And a few more posts to help you think it through:
Allena Tapia lists ten creative ways to use Pinterest (and describes the site really well, too)

Susan Johnston highlights four authors and how they use Pinterest to its best advantage.

Christina Farley has collected a list of Pinterest boards that relate to publishing (like agents and the books they represent).

I really like the idea of using Pinterest to research inspirational photos for my novels. Since I already collect images for characters, costumes, and setting, I imagine one day my readers might like to see the photos that brought the novel to life.

What about you? How do you use (or envision using) bulletin boards like Pinterest?

Get Yourself to a Writing Conference

Great news today. I opened an email that let me know I received a scholarship to the amazing Pikes Peak Writer's Conference. And the cherry on top? My daughter won a scholarship as well.

There's nothing better than a writing conference. To be surrounded by people who understand your passion. People who want to talk plot, synopsis, and marketing.

And there's nothing like attending a conference with one of your favorite people.

This will be Katie's first conference. Though she's a creative writing major, she's never had a chance to go to one. She'll get to hear speakers like Donald Maass, Kristin Nelson, and Rachelle Gardner

If you've never attended a conference, there's no reason to wait. Even if you're not finished with your novel, it's a great way to learn more about the craft of writing and soak up motivation to keep going. If money is an option, here are a couple of ways to make it happen.

Search for Scholarships. Most conferences offer them. Check the websites of those near you. Your best bet is to find a local conference where you can drive back and forth, saving you airfare and hotel fees. And remember, regional conferences are a significant savings, and can be just as incredible as the expensive national conferences. Most of us are starving writers. It's ok to admit it.

Pitch In. A writing conference is a huge undertaking, and it can't happen without a lot of help. Contact the conference staff to see where your skills can be put to work, or what they can teach you to do. You'll make fantastic friends, and usually you'll get a nice discount on the conference as a thank you.

Visit Virtually. If your location or budget make an in-person conference an impossibility, plan to attend an online conference. Two free ones are Muse Online and WriteOnCon, but there are others available, too.

What would it take to get you to a writing conference this year?


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