Another thing authors shouldn’t do

Hi, kids! Here’s Auntie Andi with yet another “Things Writers Shouldn’t Do.” This one falls in the public relations department, though it’s also a good example of what could happen if you don’t adhere to one of the golden rules: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

That’s a good rule for just about anything in life. But let’s see how it applies in the writing world.

As many of you know, I’ve talked quite a bit in the past about what not to do as a writer. For example, I don’t recommend responding to reviews (see why here). And here are some other things I suggest authors not do.

And here’s another suggestion.

Don’t bash your fellow writers. Especially not in a public article.

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Things readers can do for writers

Hey, all–

Caught this cool post at Writer Unboxed from January 28 (okay, so, most of their posts are great) about what readers can do for writers. Specifically, writer and editor Chuck Sambuchino provides 11 tips with regard to supporting a writer’s new book. Number 1?

Buy the author’s book.

Here’s what he says:

An obvious point, sure, but important nonetheless. Naturally, we must buy new copies of books, not used copies, for the sale to “count” and the author to get a royalty. So buy new. Heck, consider pre-ordering the book. Publishers pay attention to pre-orders to help get a sense of what titles are getting buzz and attention. Impressive pre-orders help the author.

No, authors do not make money off of used copies, no matter where you buy those used copies. Just wanted to clear that up. And we certainly don’t make money off pirated copies of our work. Now before you start in on how you can’t afford a new copy and all that, hey. It’s cool. I get it. I understand why you buy used. I also understand why you borrow a book from a friend or a library. I totally get that. That said, I am not down with piracy. Sorry.

At any rate, if you buy used and/or borrow a book, how about if you really like the author, could you do her a favor and tell your friends about her? And about her books and stories? Especially if you buy used or borrow a book. And if you do buy new and you loan your copy out to a few friends so they, too, can discover a new author, THANKS. So yes, ideally, authors REALLY appreciate it when you buy new. But we also appreciate it when you tell your friends about this cool author you discovered and how about giving her a read.

Moving along, Sambuchino also offers these tips (and I’ve been known to do stuff like this for authors I enjoy): face the book out at bookstores and read it visibly. The latter, I’m afraid, is going to be much harder to do these days, because many people no longer read actual physical books where you can show off your book cover. Instead, you’re on an ereader, and that makes it harder. But if you do have a physical copy of a book and you enjoy that author, hey, let the world see the title and author’s name. Another good tip is to spread the word about the book/author via your social media channels.

Basically, Sambuchino offers easy things for readers to do to help spread the word about an author and her new book(s). And believe me, authors appreciate it SO much when readers talk up authors whose work they enjoy. So thank you, readers. Thanks for buying our work, thanks for reading it, thanks for letting others know about your fave authors. You’re part of this whole publishing thing, too. And I think sometimes some writers forget that, much to their detriment.

Anyway. Happy Tuesday!

Dude, where’s your story?

Hi, peeps–

Hope everything finds you groovy. I’m currently working on my latest novels. One is the third installment of my science fiction series and the other is the fourth book in my New Mexico mystery series. And I like to keep up with blogs that offer tips and writing hints/fun stuff for authors. To that end, this post by writing guru Lisa Cron over at Writer Unboxed has some excellent advice.

The post, titled “The Biggest Mistake Writers Make and How to Avoid It,” notes that STORY is the crapfall for writers. That is, many writers don’t know what that is or how it works within the framework of their plot. You’re scoffing. But wait. Hear Lisa out.

So even though they have a great idea and their prose is gorgeous, there’s no story, thus no sense of urgency, and ultimately, no reader. It’s as simple – and heartbreaking – as that. And it’s extremely common.
(from “Biggest Mistake“)

Does that make sense? Really think about that. No story = no sense of urgency. Lisa tells us that THIS is what her definition of a story is:

A story is how what happens (the plot) affects someone (the protagonist) in pursuit of a difficult goal (the story question) and how he or she changes as a result (which is what the story is actually about).
{from “Biggest Mistake”)

A story, she says, is not about the plot. It’s about how the plot affects the protagonist. It’s thus INTERNAL, not external.

Thus, first and foremost, a story is about how the protagonist makes sense of what happens, and how she then reacts as she pursues her goal. In short, it’s not about what she does, it’s about why she does it.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Cron then notes 5 reasons that can make your story go astray. I’ll give you Point 3, here:

3. Good novels very often trick us into believing that the writer never ventured into the protagonist’s mind, when in fact, that’s where the story unfolded.

Pull just about any novel off your shelf and look specifically for how the writer is conveying the protagonist’s internal reaction to what happens; you’ll see it everywhere. When reading for pleasure it’s nearly invisible, precisely because it’s how the novel gives us the sense that we’re in the protagonist’s skin. That’s why it’s maddening that writers are often warned not to include internal thought. Why is this advice given? Because when done poorly, internal thought can turn into long, rambling, irrelevant monologues that derail a story. So the best advice is simply this: learn to write internal thought well. After all, it’s what lets us know how the protagonist is really responding to what’s happening, and that’s where the power of story lies.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Author Joan Opyr and I had a conversation about writing and writing styles a while back. She observed that good writing and good structure means that a reader is caught up in the reading. She said it’s when all the moving parts work seamlessly together. When they don’t — when there’s a little hiccup or a grinding of the gears — that means the novelist missed something in the telling of the story.

I struggle with story myself, and I know I’m not the only author out there who does. Cron leaves us with this advice: “. . .in the beginning, it’s all about nailing the story. When you get to that last draft (which will most likely be many drafts away), it’s about polishing the prose.”

Good reminder. Thanks, Lisa.

Happy reading, happy writing!