Tag Archives: blogging

When Correspondence Doesn’t Pay: The Costs Versus The Benefits of Blogging

Moonday Madness

a blog for writers (et al)

Today I’m getting ready for the Colorado Romance Writers Annual Retreat, where I will be conducting a workshop on Kickstarting your Writing Process with Improv. So, instead of our regularly scheduled blog, today I bring you a very interesting tidbit on the pros and cons of blogging. ie: Does blogging pay? Check it out here:

When Correspondence Doesn’t Pay: The Costs Versus The Benefits of Blogging.

via When Correspondence Doesn’t Pay: The Costs Versus The Benefits of Blogging.

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The Blog Tour, When Do You Stop?

Moonday Madness

a blog on the ins and outs of writing

When you are an author in the modern age, you must promote your book online. That doesn’t mean you won’t go to you local bookstores, or even the ones in the surrounding counties. It just means that online promotions are more effective, and cheaper. No gas, no hotel, no  lunches out. (Okay, take a lunch for yourself) And millions more potential people to see your book. (Okay, that’s hopeful.)

When you have  a print book, promotion has a definite stop moment. Harlequin print authors have six weeks, and then the release is over. They must get working on the next book. Typical print books run 2-6 months, and best sellers can run for years. But e-books have a shelf-life of forever, so when to e-authors get to take a break? Most experts say you should promote for three months around your book. A month before, during and after it’s release. Minimum.

That’s right. MINIMUM.

Blaze by Joan SwanMany people will tell you to start you promotions way before the book is out to create excitement. That’s what print authors have typically done. Joan Swan does this very well. She’s doing it right now with her second book in the Phoenix Rising series, Blaze.  If you go to her website, the cover and excerpt are up and there are pre-order links ready for you to place your order. For classic print sales, like Joan’s books, pre-order blog tours are a must. They drive pre-sales and so drive those first orders the bookstores place. More prominant spots in the bookstores equal more sales. Blog tours must start early and end soon so the print author can promote the next book.

But e-authors are unable to take advantage of pre-order, and the life of an e-book is different from a print book. Typically print books make it or break it in the first few weeks of life. If sales are good in the first week, bookstores order more and sales increase. But it doesn’t last long.

E-books have a different shelf-life. They can be sold forever, they don’t have to be pushed out to make room for the next month’s offerings. And they cannot be pre-ordered. So their sales arc is different. E-books typically start off slow. Their first few weeks are usually not as big as the next few weeks. And some of them have broken out as best sellers a year after being released. Why is that? That’s because they are not in the print book cycle. They are in a forever cycle. And they sell better when the next book comes out. And the next. If you have three e-books in the sales cycle, that’s when most authors typically see there sales go up. So when should you do your blog tour?

All the time.

Sorry authors, it never gets to stop. Do you have to be frantic forever? No. The best time to be blogging like crazy is still the three months around your release, and the next release, and the next. But keep a presence on the web. Your book is still on sale, and the next one is right around the corner.  Don’t kill yourself with the über-blog-tour. (Had to use über so I could use a diaeresis!) Just be sure to keep your self out there. Visit friends blogs. Schedule something once or twice a month. Keep up with your own blog and website. And definitely keep up on whatever social media you hang out on, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest. It’s important.

Antique Books

Photo by Lynn Kelly, author

The old days when an author could sit back and take two years to write the next book are over. Now you need to have the next one ready to go while you are promoting the first one. And you need to be promoting something virtually all the time. Maybe not frantically, but consistently. Find a level you can live with and stick to it, then bump it up right around your release and blog, blog, blog for that short period.

Then sit back relax and work on book number three, because book number two is already in the can, right?

How long have you been blogging? Do you ever want to take a break? Are you on the killer blog tour right now? What do you think is appropriate to be doing while you are in between releases? (Ok, that’s a leading question!)

Oh, and I’m on a blog tour stop today at Rom Con Inc!

http://romconinc.com/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=entry&year=2012&month=09&day=09&id=2475%3Alittle-red-riding-wolf-by-jessica-aspen&Itemid=24

Come on by and leave a comment to win a copy of Little Red Riding Wolf.

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Added #Triberr Finally!

Moonday Madness

a blog on the craft of writing

Promotion. Marketing. Social Media.

We hear all about it, but we want don’t know how to do it. At least not effectively. And when someone tells us about this great new thing, all we can do is moan, “NO MORE.”

But Triberr is different.Triberr image

It’s the real deal, a time saver, not a time sucker. And I have a few friends to thank for helping me out with it.

The first person is the Triberr guru of my small circle of internet buddies, Jenny Hansen. I gave her a blog award a few weeks ago HERE. She is hysterically funny! But she is also very smart and tech savvy. My friends at my Colorado Romance Writing Group think I know it all, but it turns out I borrow heavily from people like Jenny. She wrote a wonderful series on Triberr. The first one starts HERE.

And Jenny said that Triberr would save me time. I did check it out. But is seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know how to make it work, and I was very busy and put it off. My bad.

I even had a group of friends who emailed each other about it. What is this? How does it work? None of us took the five minutes to figure it out. Even though I read Jenny’s post and signed up, that was as far as I got. I put it off till life got a little less crazy. Well you know what happened next. Life never did get less crazy.

Then I went to a CRW meeting and Amy Denim (The Free Book Queen!) said, it’s easy and we’re starting a tribe. Pay a dollar for bones and we’ll get going. I paid my dollar, she sent me an invite. But nothing worked and I gave up.

So another month rolls by. Meanwhile I’m giving up ground on Twitter as my life falls even farther apart, I start blogging less and less. I need help!

Saturday I got it. Amy got out her laptop at our meeting and walked us through Triberr, and my lightbulb went off.

I need this. This will save me. It is not a time sucker.

I went home and figured out that I had two accounts and that’s why nothing worked. Deleted one, fixed the other and got rolling. That took about twenty minutes. Mostly because I had to figure out that I had two accounts. I think getting started really takes about five. See Jenny’s post.

Now what I need is to add friends and some good tribes. To make my life easy, I need my friends to decide that they want to make their lives easy, and spend the five minutes to get started. I know it seems like another waste of time, but this will help you all. Please let me know if you are interested, and I’ll send you an invite.

What have you tried lately that’s new? Did it save you time? Or suck it away? What about Triberr? And check out the rest of that series on Jenny’s site. I will be walking through it myself. (I’m still on week one.)

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Get WET!

Moonday Mania

a blog about the craft of writing

This month’s Moonday Mania’s have been about Social Media. We started the month with Don’t Should on Yourself, by Keri Silk and moved on to my neophyte blog hints, Easy tips to Make Your Blog Outstanding and Slow Down and Smell the Coffee. So, for the last Monday in March I’m going to discuss a few things I’ve learned from the best.

As many of you know, I’m a big Kristen Lamb follower. Kristen blogs, not just on Social Media, but specifically Social Media and authors. Kristen’s advice is where I am trying to get to, not where I am. If she has any big pieces of advice that you can see I’m not doing, well, it’s because I’M STILL WORKING ON IT!

We Are Not Alone, by Kristen LambWhat have I learned from Kristen Lamb? I’ve learned that the author social media world is always changing. Kristen wrote this fabulous book, We Are Not Alone, the Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and I consider this my baseline bible to social media. But I can’t just read the book. Why? Because the internet is not a static environment. Actually, the world is not a static environment. Since Kristen wrote the book we’ve seen the demise of My Space and the rise of Google Plus. How can a book like Kristen’s, that has info on My Space and none on Google Plus a valid resource for this year’s writer?

Because the advice that Kristen gives in the book applies, whether or not I’m on My Space, Googe Plus or the Next Big SM Hotspot. Good advice is still good advice. (For some hilarious dated advice check out Miss Gloria Richard’s foray into the past via the Loo at Buca De Bepo HERE!)

Kristen’s ideas on creating a platform that centers around your personality and genre are still sound ideas, no matter where you are implementing them. I’m still struggling with this. At first I didn’t really know what I wanted on my site. Okay, Kristen, I need to represent me and my writing, but I’m writing so many things and I’m not sure which one is going to get published. But I plunged in anyway, trying to represent some paranormal theme with the spooky woods header and my Thursdays Bite.

It works, but is it where I want to be? No, and I know it. Thanks to Kristen I’ve been searching for my identity as an author and a blogger, and I think I’m starting to hit it. So my last piece of advice is: be yourself, whoever that is. Figure it out. It may take time, and it’s okay to take the time. It’s okay to start with just the basic template and then add a header and then maybe get a header done and jazz up the site.

The point is, don’t wait till you know exactly who you are to get started. If I had waited till now to get my site and my blog up and running, I might not have as good an idea of who I am as an author. I might still be struggling with the very basics. But I’m not, I’ve moved ahead, still struggling. Still discovering who I am. And guess what?

That’s life.Stock Images - Cold feet

You change. You change as a teen to a twenty-something. The Facebook page you put up at thirty is different from the one you would do at forty. And the blog you do as a newbie pre-pubbed author will be different than the one you do as a newbie, just-pubbed author, and different again from the one you do when you are a famous know-it-all author. but if you don’t put your toe in the water, you never get wet.

So get wet! Jump in! Make your mistakes and just keep paddling till you get somewhere! ‘Cause I know you will be getting somewhere, even if it’s just back to the shore for some icy marg’s on the sand!

Have you jumped in yet? Have you changed what you started with? For someone who’s done this check out Sherry Isaac’s new site (HERE). She’s totally revamped it and it’s got SIZZLE!

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Expert Advice on Finding Experts

Moonday Mania

a blog centered on the craft of writing

My writing days are centered on two things.

One, writing! (Okay, you probably knew that)

Two, marketing.

When I decided to become an author I had no idea that I would need to become an expert at websites, blogs, peeps and tweeps. And if you had told me that I would need to become an expert in all this internet stuff, there is a distinct possibility I would not have even started down this path. You see, until three years ago, I didn’t even own a cell phone.

But I am now an expert! Okay, not an expert. But I am a person who my writing friends now go to for advice about where to find the experts. And that is a giant step for me! Last year at this time I didn’t have a blog, a Facebook account, or a Twitter account. And now I have all three (and Goodreads, don’t forget Goodreads!). But still I struggle with how to wander their myriad pathways. And here is where my expertise of finding experts come in handy.


Gloria Richard is another fellow writer struggling with creating a blog. Her solution has been to enlist the advice of the expert Brinda Berry to help her “Pimp my web”. Not only is Brinda the author of a new YA book, The Waiting Booth (Click HERE for her fabulous article, Interview with a Synesthete) but it turns out she is also a terrific source for how to improve your blog.

For some easy step by step ways to get going on the path to bloghood (globhood?) visit Gloria’s site (HERE) and go back to Brinda’s first post (HERE). That should get you started on pimping your own web.

Brinda, through Gloria, has helped me with the ever challenging widgets on WordPress. I did buy a book, WordPress for Dummies. But I’m with Gloria and I think I need a more basic book. The Guide to WP for the really Dummies would suit me just fine on those days when I am searching for a how to. Hey Gloria, which book did you buy??

Eventually I hope to get this blogging, tweeting, posting, work down to a science. In other words: the more I learn, the easier it should be. But for now, like Gloria, I’m stumbling through getting it all together. So for that I need the experts. Tune in next Moonday Mania for more advice on who to get your advice from. (Okay, not grammar advice, never end a sentence on a preposition.) In the meantime leave a comment for me. I’d love to know how all of you are doing with your forays into new worlds, blogging or otherwise!

Only a few months left till my debut novella Little Red Riding Wolf is released! Tune back to this station for details as we get closer to February 18, 2012!

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Halloween Treats 2011 Grand Prize Giveaway Today!

Moonday Mania

a blog about the craft of writing

Today is the day I announce the  Halloween Treats Grand Prize Winners for the entire month! Three lucky people will win a swag bag with wonderful Jessica Aspen Swag and a Barnes and Noble $15 Gift Certificate! But hold your horses, I have to gab for a minute first.

This has been a whirlwind October for me, and believe you me,  I have enjoyed riding the whirlwind. From running my first big contest, Halloween Treats, to exploring the world of Flash Fiction with Rach Harrie’s Third Writing Campaign, it’s been one new experience after another. I feel like I’m at the amusement park on my game board of life.

And I expect the rest of the year to continue to be filled with wonderful and scary new experiences. I’ll be working on my first professional edits, with my new editor from Passion in Print Press. I’ll be researching my options for my first professional blog tour. And I’ll be doing all this while running CRW’s Award of Excellence, our amazing contest for romance authors with books published in 2011.

This year not only was the beginning of this blog, but it also marked the beginning of Paranormal Freebies. A blog and ezine that I share with ML Guida, Hillar Seidl and Marilyn Wigglesworth. We’ve had great fun creating a place for paranormal readers and authors to converge.

My latest ride on the whirlwind came on Monday, October 24th with the opening of the Choose Your Own Adventure blog hop, Ahoy Sea Serpent. If you havent tried it start at  Kerri Cuevas’s blog and find out what happens when a group of random bloggers get together to write a story, and make you, the reader, the decision maker. Thanks Kerri for a wonderful opportunity.

This month I’ve given away a book with every blog post and today is the grand prize drawing! If you’ve been hanging out here you know that I’m running the contest in celebration of my novella Little Red Riding Wolf’s acceptence from Passion in Print Press. Little Red Riding Wolf will be available February 18th, 2012

My last giveaway book winner from Saturday’s blog is Gloria! WOOT!

I will be doing a whirlwing blog tour during January and February and promoting Little Red Riding Wolf‘s release date. And I’m thinking I just might run another contest in February. It’s not only my release month, but it also contains romance’s biggest holiday, Valentine’s Day. So don’t forget to check back during the month of February and find out what fun prizes are being given away. Who knows? I might even have copies of Little Red to give away.

So, on to what you’re really here for…

Drum roll please!

And the winners (you had to have commented during the month of October during my blogs to win) of the three amazing Jessica Aspen Swag bags complete with Barnes and Noble gift certificates are…..

CASEY W!

KT HANNA

JEN

Congratulations! Send me your contact info through the contact page and I’ll get your prizes to you! Any prizes not claimed by November 30th will be forfeit.

And for everyone who dropped by and commented this month, thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet each and every one of you and hope to keep hearing from you on a regular basis.

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Shadow Fall Review

Sensational Saturdays

A blog for whatever I feel like writing

Today I’m posting my end of the month Thursday’s Bite Book Review, delayed one posting by the amazing Hillary Seidl’s take over of Thursday’s Bite. I plan to be back on schedule for the month of November, so check back on the last Thursday of the month for a new review and another Bite.

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Erin Kellison rocks!

Not only is she amazingly sweet and funny, but she can really write romance. Her book Shadow Fall is the second in the series that began with Shadow Bound and continues with Shadow Man out September 2011. I had the opportunity of meeting Erin at Rom Con 2011 and she made our paranormal games a blast.

Shadow Fall tells the tale of ballet artist Annabella whose talent for ballet creates a link between our world and the shadow world. Annabella’s grace and beauty lure not only a shadow wolf, but also tempt a fallen angel, Custo.  Custo’s tale of desperation as he races time and deportation back to heaven to save Annabella from the stalking wolf intertwines beautifully with Annabella’s ballet and the world’s battle against the wraiths.

Confused? You won’t be. I read this as a stand alone and was up to speed immediately without being bogged down in backstory. Ellison’s skill as a story teller sucked me in and kept me wanting more. And I’ve awarded her the coveted five omegas, ΩΩΩΩΩ not just for a superb book I’ll want to read again, but for creating a fabulous series that call me from the shadows.

If you’ve read the first book in the series, Shadow Bound, you will have already met Custo. I have yet to read the first one, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the story of Adam and Talia the half-breed daughter of the Shadowman himself. All three of these characters play important roles in Shadow Fall, but the stars are Custo, Annabella and the wolf.

And if you’re like me and love a good series it looks like the fourth in the series a novella entitled, Shadow Touch, will be out June 2011. Definitely add Erin to your TBR pile, in fact put her on the top!

Today is the last day in my Halloween Treats giveaway in celebration of my novella Little Red Riding Wolf available on February 18th, 2012 from Passion in Print Press. Leave a comment to enter in today’s drawing for The Bride Wore Scarlet and to get a final entry into Monday’s drawing for three grand prizes of swag bags and B&N Gift certificates. Contest closes Sunday, October 30th night at midnight!

Thursday’s winner is Sherry Isaac! Congratulations and send me your address through my contact box and we’ll get you your prizes!

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Who’s Lurking in the Shadows?

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal Blog

Welcome to Thursday’s Bite! Today’s Halloween Treats guest blogger is Hillary Seidl. Hillary is a regular contributor and team member at Paranormal Freebies and will be blogging there on Friday at her regular blog, Hillary’s Haunts. Hillary also has the novella Sia debuting in the anthology Finding Mrs. Wright with fellow authors Lori Corsentino and ML Guida. ML Guida will be here as my guest on November 3rd, so you can check out Hillary’s fellow author. Thanks for being here Hillary!

            Thank you so much for having me, Jessica!  I’m very excited to announce that my paranormal novella, Finding Ms. Wright: Sia, is being published by 5 Prince Publishing November 15th in e-book format and November 25, 2011, print on demand.  The world of the paranormal has always fascinated me.  Writing about it is so much fun!
            Sia was inspired by what ghost hunters call “shadow people”. Seeing dark figures out of the corner of your eye, quick blurred figures that you see and do a double take.  Ghost hunters have documented this phenomenon of shadow people in several hauntings.  Most of the shadow people are perceived as dark, malevolent beings.
            Sia starts out being tortured by these shadow figures and hushed voices whispering in her ear.  Needless to say, she’s freaked out.  Poor girl!
            Enter Andrew Grant, sexy stud.  He can find supernatural objects but finding his brother, Ben, is his main concern!  The town of Grand Rock is a hotbed of paranormal activity and Andrew and Sia are smack in the middle of it!
Here is an excerpt:
Sighing wistfully, she rose and grabbed her empty coffee cup. And to her incredible joy the lunchroom was empty. She poured herself a cup of coffee. She saw something out of the corner of her eye. It was the dark shadow figure. Her hands stilled and her heartbeat increased.
She closed her eyes. This was not happening. It was her imagination. Slowly, she opened her eyes and another shadow darted from right to left.
No!” she said to the empty room. Forgetting her coffee entirely, she set the cup on the table and walked quickly. She looked back over her shoulder — and ran right into Hailey, sending them both flying.
Sia hit the wall, but Hailey landed on her butt hard. “Ooommpphh!”
Sia bent down and offered her a hand. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” As much as Sia thought she was a snooty bitch, she was horrified at actually knocking her down.
Hailey stood up, ignoring Sia’s hand. She flipped her vibrant red hair, totally dyed, over her shoulder and starred daggers at Sia. “Ugh! You’re so clumsy!” She tugged her short skirt back down.
Sia’s back straightened at the angry words. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.”
Hailey sighed. The anger was clear in her eyes.  “Yea well, just get out of my way.” Hailey walked by, her shoulder hitting Sia’s as she stormed past.
Sia stood there trying to get a hold of her temper. The anger made her shake. She tried to breathe.
“What happened?” Delina’s nasally voice shrieked when Hailey went into her office. Both of them stood while a red faced Hailey pointed at Sia. The more Hailey talked the more she got dirty looks from Delina.
It was all that Sia could take. 
Sia’s hands clenched at her side while the helplessness and anger boiled inside of her. “I said, I was sorry,” she whispered. Her hair lifted as a great wind came out of nowhere and she watched as a cloudy line went from her through the office.
Sia watched in fascination, and horror, as the wind rose up and blew papers everywhere in Delina’s office. Books flew of the shelf, the chair was knocked over, and Hailey and Delina screamed as the intense wind continued.
Grayson came out of his office. “What’s happening out here?”  Sia’s concentration broke as Grayson ran past her. Delina’s office was now calm. No wind just a few papers settling. Delina and Hailey were standing close to each other, starring at Sia.
“I d-don’t know,” Sia sputtered, still trying to understand what had just happened. As Grayson rushed into the main room, Sia ran back to her desk and yanked the drawer open, quickly grabbed her purse. With everyone yelling and running around, she slipped out of the office quickly and quietly headed for the safest place she could think of.
The library.
At twenty-five it seemed to be, as she feared. She was losing her mind just as her mother had. The hallucinations were getting more intense and soon the darkness would claim her mind, body and soul.

Thank you so much for having me on, Jessica!  A lucky commenter will win a $10.00 Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory!
Check out my monthly blog at http://paranormalfreebies.com/
“Where the paranormal world meets extraordinary love.”

When you leave a comment to enter today’s Halloween Treat’ book from my fellow Passion in Print author Lizzie T. Leaf, Beyond Magic you’ll also have the chance to win Hillary’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Gift certificateAnd don’t forget to come back on Monday for my final Halloween Treats giveaway of three swag bags and B&N gift cards!

Monday’s winner is Kelda! Send me your address through my contact box and I’ll send your book out.

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Retreat Bijou, Elizabeth Pelletier of Entangled Publishing

Sensational Saturdays

a blog about whatever is on my mind

This is the last in a three part series about the wonderful jewels I gleaned from the Colorado Romance Writers Retreat. To read the initial post about the CRW retreat you can visit HERE. To read about the amazing Margie Lawson’s Defeating Self Defeating Behaviors you can visit HERE. And to read about coping with contest grief with Ann Brady you can visit HERE.

Have you ever wished you knew exactly what an editor was thinking when they read through the slush pile? Do you want to know what stands out and how you can get your manuscript read? Well, we were lucky enough at the retreat to have our very own editor at our mercy. Liz Pelletier from Entangled Publishing was brave enough to step into the room and answer all our questions. She was frank, she was open and she let us know exactly what we could expect from Entangled when we sent our babies off to the slaughter.

No, that’s the first thing. Entangled is a small press. They are fairly new and they really take the time to look at your query and to try to read through those first five pages. If you are worried that no one even looks at your piece, Liz does. She can’t read everything, but she looks at the query and decides if it should be read in depth by an intern. So how do you get her attention?

She said it was simple. She needed to connect to the story, connect to the characters. And she needed to do it right away. Make your character either likeable, in a situation of adversity, sympathetic or empathetic (put the reader in the character’s shoes).

That’s it. If you do that, right away, Liz will send it on to the next step where they read it and critique it. At least the first thirty pages.

And then what happens? Well a few books get picked up. Most don’t. Why?

  1. The reader couldn’t connect with the character
  2. Lack of voice or too much voice
  3. Too many books just like it
  4. Just don’t love it
If you can hit the character hook, the interesting plot or a twist on an old plot, then you will make it to the next step. As long as they have a place for it. Liz said occasionally it happens that there is a fantastic book, but they just signed someone with a similar plot and they can’t publish two books that are so similar.
At Entangled they work with each author in depth, so they have to really like the book. Liz reads the books she’s responsible for multiple times. She has to love the story or she just won’t want to face it over and over and over again.
Is there anything else you can do to maybe get a leg up with a publisher? Yes. Edit your query and your submission. Then edit them again. Actually read them, don’t just spell check. And if you can, have someone else read them and make sure you didn’t use the wrong there, or two for to. I know you’ve heard this many times, but editors are still getting manuscripts with major editing mistakes. Don’t be a victim!
Be on the internet, be a prescence. We’ve talked about this before, but you should at least have a website and be on some sort of social networking platform. Editors want to know you can market yourself. Or at least that you know you should be doing it!
Google yourself. Check out if someone can find you, or does that stripper with the dog face come up instead. (Hey, it happens!)
Make sure your book is within the parameters for their house. If they don’t do YA, don’t send your YA mystery to them. Check the submission rules and be aware. Every  house is different with different rules. Get in line with the rules and you stand at least a chance. Get out of line and you will be receiving an auto rejection. Next!
I want to thank Liz for her time and consideration. She made me think and even though I’m not sharing everything on my three pages of notes I hope this made you think. Sometimes we take rejection personally, but after listening to Liz I had a new respect for how an editor makes her decisions. Thanks Liz!
Let me know about your experiences with rejections. Did the editor give a reason? Did you listen?
Today’s Halloween Treats book is giveaway is a signed copy of CRW’s very own Alegra Gray’s Nothing But Scandal. Halloween Treats is my treat to you in celebration of my novella Little Red Riding Wolf’s publication on February 18th, 2012 by Passion in Print Press. Leave a comment to enter the drawing for the book and to enter the grand prize drawing on October 31st for three swag bags and B&N gift cards!
Nicole Grueber has won Thursday’s book, Dragon Moon. Send me your address through the contact box and I’ll send you your book. Congratulations!

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Advanced Plotting with Chris Eboch

Moonday Madness

A blog about the craft of writing

Today’s guest is multi-published author Chris Eboch. Chris is not only an accomplished fiction author, but she now teaches what she has learned. Her book Advanced Plotting will help you smooth out those bumps in the road. 

A woman heard I was a writer with 12 books published, and she said, “Why aren’t you living in Beverly Hills?”

I managed to keep a straight face. Besides the fact that I prefer New Mexico to Beverly Hills, 12 books in about as many years does not pay a living wage. It does, however, mean that I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve written historical fiction (The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery set in ancient Egypt, and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure, both for ages nine and up), an original paperback series (the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs, also for kids), and various types of work for hire. I also recently started writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock (Rattled is a treasure hunting adventure in the New Mexico wilderness).

Besides my published books, I have a dozen unpublished manuscripts – part of the learning process. I learn a lot from teaching other writers as well. I lead workshops, work with students through a correspondence school, and do private manuscript critiques. You can’t analyze thousands of stories and novels without learning a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

And yet, somehow, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see the flaws in your own work. But I’ve found a method to help. I call it the Plot Outline Exercise, and I discuss it at length in my book Advanced Plotting. The short summary is, you make an outline of your finished manuscript, briefly describing the main action and any subplots in each chapter. Then you analyze your plot. Looking at the outline, rather than the entire manuscript, makes it easier to see the big picture without getting distracted by little details.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a lot of work to make a manuscript strong, so I ask over 40 questions, divided into sections for Conflict, Tension, Main Character, Subplots and Secondary Characters, Theme, and Fine Tuning. For example, here are the opening three from Conflict (and each of these bullet points I consider to be one question, despite the multiple question marks):

·         Put a check mark by the line if there is conflict in that chapter. For chapters where there is no conflict, can you cut those, interweave with other chapters, or add new conflict? The conflict can be physical danger, emotional stress, or both, so long as the main character (MC) is facing a challenge.

·         Where do we learn what the main conflict is? Could it be sooner? Is there some form of conflict at the beginning, even if it is not the main conflict? Does it at least relate to the main conflict? The inciting incident—the problem that gets the story going—should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.

·         Where do we learn the stakes? What are they? Do you have positive stakes (what the MC will get if he succeeds), negative stakes (what the MC will suffer if he fails), or best of all, both? Could the penalty for failure be worse? Your MC should not be able to walk away without penalty.

As you answer each question, you make notes on the outline for where you need to make changes on your manuscript. Then, of course, you need to actually make the changes. Advanced Plotting has over 20 additional articles to explain how to make these changes, covering topics such as getting off to a fast start and using cliffhanger chapter endings.

As I said, it isn’t easy to do this kind of revision, but when the result is a much stronger manuscript, it’s worthwhile. Since I now outline before I start writing, I use the Plot Outline Exercise at that planning stage and catch a lot of problems early, but not every writer can – or wants to – sketch out a manuscript in detail in advance. However you write, making an outline at some point can help you see what you really have, so you can identify and fix problems.

Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at www.chriseboch.com (for children’s books) or www.krisbock.com (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/. You can also read excerpts from Advance Plotting on her blog:http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.

Thanks Chris! Leave a question or comment for Chris and you will be entered in today’s Halloween Treats drawing for an autographed copy of Michelle Celmer’s A Clandestine Corporate Affair. All commenters will be entered in the drawing for three grand prizes to occur on October 31st, so check back to see if you are a winner! Saturday’s winner is Gloria Richard! Congratulations Gloria, send me your address and I’ll send you the book!

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