Friday, April 29, 2011

Google Reader Roundup Re-run

This GRR originally ran on October 9, 2009.

  • Holy Krakow! This angel has a rage-raising story of being plagiarized. Not good. Happy place. Happy place! Don't do it, people. Be above that. Be better. BE A WRITER, NOT A THIEF! And I ask this question: doesn't "writing" someone else's work take all the fun out of the process? Why bother if you're not going to do it yourself?
  • Little Kettle-head is quite possibly the most bizarre and heinous childrens book ever about a little girl whose head burns off and then she replaces it with a kettle...but wait, there's a happy ending for all. This is by way of Editorial Anonymous, who recommends, quite rightly, that this sort of book is PSYCHO.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Re-Run: How to Escalate the Suck Factor, Star Wars Style

Or, "Throwing rocks at your characters. Lots of rocks."

Note: I loved this post from June 2010. Please enjoy again, with some edits for corrections and readability. Also, the comments on the original post were pretty awesome.

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I was the only girl in my grade that had a metal Star Wars lunchbox, and I had Star Wars sheets, and even Luke and Leia dolls. It was pretty great. It’s a great movie (and when I say “it,” I mean the original, but also the original three movies collectively). Apparently, I was three or so when the first film came out and my crazy parents took me to the theater. I was diverted by the striking resemblance between Chewbacca and my cat, Elco, and I shouted "Elco! Meow! Meow!" every time he came on screen. My parents had to take turns taking me out of the theater. And thus begun my fascination with the franchise.

When Spike TV ran a Star Wars marathon all Memorial Day 2010 weekend, Mr. Sierra and I couldn’t help but watch, even though we had to sit through interminably long commercials. I’m glad I did. It's been a while since I saw Star Wars, and of course now I looked at it differently -- I looked for what it can teach me about story. And guess what! Star Wars can teach us a lot about plot tension. Take a looky-loo:

In the original Star Wars film (episode IV if you keep track of those things), here's a great suck sequence of events:

  • Luke and Han Solo enter the Death Star.
  • There they discover that Princess Leia is being held prisoner (bad) and is scheduled for termination (worse).
  • They go to the prisoner level to rescue her. They’re wearing stolen Storm Trooper suits, and they handcuff a reluctant and surly Chewbacca/Elco to pretend they’re transporting him as a prisoner.
  • They arouse suspicion and so they shoot all the guards on that level. (bad)
  • Luke runs off to find Leia’s cell, and Han tries to tell the inquiring guard over the com that they had a “weapon malfunction,” but everything’s fine. The guard on the com is all "Whatevs" and he says he's sending troops in. (worse)
  • Luke rescues Leia, but then they have to get away from the troops that came down to investigate and find the guards all shot up. (bad)
  • Unfortunately, there’s no way off the floor; they’re trapped. (worse!)
  • So they go into the garbage chute. There’s no way out. (really bad)
  • THEN a nasty scary slithery monster slides around their feet! (super duper bad)
  • The walls start collapsing! Really fast! (really super mega bad!)

(And by the way, HOW AWESOME are these Star Wars trash compactor book ends? I KNOW, right?)

The garbage chute scene is a high tension moment. As we know, C3PO has R2D2 shut off the garbage and they’re fine. But then there’s the matter of getting away, and the movie is great at escalating that tension, too:

  • Luke and Leia run down a hall, chased by storm troopers!
  • But the bridge is shot out!
  • So Luke throws a really thin and breakable-looking rope thingy from his handy Storm Trooper belt (I'd have kept it, too) and they swing to safety. Your breath is held while they swing.

See how the action keeps making things suckier and suckier for them? The whole movie is like this. The next time you watch an action movie, watch for the way the story goes from bad to much worse. That's great storytelling. You need to push yourself to get that. For example, I had a sucky thing happen in the climactic event in my WIP. But after I saw Star Wars that weekend, I knew I had to add more sucky things in there to draw out the tension, and I'm glad I did. (I made my character get hit by a bus, just because. It was great.)

(Also check out this Lego Death Star. They never had that when I was a kid!)

How are you doing on making things suck for your characters?


Note: I am currently on maternity leave, so forgive me if I don't respond to comments. I baked this post before birth and froze it like a lasagna for today. But rest assured that I love you and appreciate your comments and will read them (because I get them emailed to me) during bouts of middle of the night nursing and other moments of wakefulness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest post: The Name Game (Contest!)

Today I'm squeeing to welcome the always random and always funny Linda Grimes. Linda, for some reason, is incredibly kind of to me and always comments on my posts, even though she's a super big shot now with a book deal and an agent and freaking hilarious blog, Visiting Reality.

I'm honored and pleased to welcome her as a Maternity Leave Guest Blogger ( MLGB).


The Name Game (Contest!)
by Linda Grimes

When Sierra asked me to babysit her blog for a day while she tended to, yannoh, having that real baby and all, I told her I'd be happy to, and asked if she had any preferred subject matter. She said she was fine with something random.

Bwah-ha-hah!

Free rein. *rubs hands together gleefully while looking around Sierra's beautifully organized blog* Hmmm…I suppose it would be uncool to totally vandalize the place while she's off being maternal. So scratch that idea.

Though, really, she might enjoy coming back and seeing her blog overrun with pink unicorns and rainbow puppies. I mean, who wouldn't?

*sighs* No. That would be mean. FUN, but mean. And I can't do that to a woman who is-about-to/has-just-given (depending on when she decides to post this) birth.

So I'll be good.

Hmmm. What shall we talk about?

Hey, I know! I've noticed that Sierra doesn't use the real names of family members on her blog. Her hubs is "Mr. Sierra" (which I'm sure he loves) and her son is "the whippersnapper." Tres cute.

How about we come up with suggestions for her new little bundle of joy? I will even send a sur-prize (probably goofy & basically worthless) to the person whose offering I like best. Bonus points if Sierra actually winds up using it! (Note from Sierra: I will use the winning entry. Against my better judgment, I'm agreeing to have Linda pick the winner. Make it good, please.)

What do you say? How would you like to see the new little BoJ referred to? (Um, I'm assuming Sierra won't go for BoJ, so let's just leave that one out.)

The Name Game will end whenever Sierra decides she's seen enough.

Ready…set…GO!

.
.
.
.
.

[You're still reading? Look, I know you've come to expect more, content-wise, from Sierra's blog. But it's not my fault she spoiled you. Really. Now, scoot. Go think up a better moniker for little BoJ. Trust me. Sierra will thank you for it.]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Baby

At last!

Baby* has arrived. April 19, 2011. 7 lb. (Note: sorry for the confusion. The baby is a beautiful little boy, which makes boy #2 for me. My older whippersnapper is 4.)

* On Monday I have a fabulous guest post from the effervescent Linda Grimes - with a cool baby-naming contest!

Here's what happened: I labored for three hours in the hospital, and pushed for 10 minutes.

I realized today that people might think I am bragging when I say this. I assure you I am not bragging because I didn't have pain meds and it was the most unpleasant, heinous experience of my life, and quite frankly traumatic. Apparently, it hurts way more when your cervix dialates like a speeding express train. As in, I am actually afraid of the memory, it was so bad.

Okay, picture.
I have to say, I'm in love.

Special thanks to Kristen Lippert-Martin for moral support, even though she rather selfishly had her baby first. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do's and Don'ts for Submitting to Journals

When I announced the launch of my short story project, Small Tales, a few of you asked for a post on how to submit to short story journals. Et voila!

Keep in mind all the information I'm about to slaver about below is a) my opinion, and b) based on what I've seen from submissions thus far to Small Tales.

So with that, here are some do's and don'ts for submitting to small journals/magazines/short story collections:

Do check and follow the submission guidelines. If you can't find any, you might consider whether you really want to submit to something without clearly defined parameters. Submission guidelines shouldn't be difficult to find, nor should they make you jump through hoops. But if they do say "no attachments, please-- paste your submission into the body of your e-mail," then do that. Because guess what. No one wants to open your virus-laden attachment.

Don't disrespect the guidelines. If the guidelines say "no stories about antelopes with tapeworms," then for heaven's sake don't send a story about antelopes with tapeworms. And don't argue with the guidelines either. Don't send a sassy e-mail saying "I verily disagree with your rule about no stories about tapeworm-ridden antelopes. So therefore, here is my story about an antelope named Bob with a tapeworm."

Do make sure your submission is ready. You wouldn't send a query to an agent or editor for an incomplete manuscript, and nor should you for short stories. Send your most polished, final draft.

Do make sure you are comfortable with the way the journal handles your submission. This means that if the journal takes all the rights to your story forever, you should carefully consider whether you want that. If the journal says "By submitting, you agree for us to use your name, story, likeness, social security number, and your first-born child for any and all purposes as we see fit, including promotion about tapeworm fundraising" then you might want to scoot away and not submit. (For the record, Small Tales does not have outrageous rights-holding rules. One of the things I didn't want is for people to submit and then lose their rights to their story.)

Do feel comfortable asking questions about how your story will be treated. This is your story we're talking about. And I know that I would want to know where my story's going to end up. Is the end product clear? Will it be sold for profit and will you, as a contributor, see any of that money?


Do you have any to add? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Guest post: How I Met My Critique Partners

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lyrical Julie Dao. Julie writes women's fiction and YA, and her blog The Silver Lining is not only hugely popular, but also a great example of how beautifully she writes.

I'm honored and pleased to welcome her as a Maternity Leave Guest Blogger ( MLGB).


How I Met My Critique Partners
by Julie Dao
Making the decision to blog can be a scary, scary thing. You know that myth about how when you get your picture taken, the camera is capturing your soul? Well, putting your work on the internet is like storing a big piece of yourself in cyberspace. For the first time ever, it's not just Mom or dear old Granny reading what you write anymore. As soon as you hit "Post," your words - and your dream of one day seeing your paperback on bookstore shelves - are instantly accessible to anyone from anywhere.

But if blogging is so terrifying, why, then, do so many aspiring authors do it? Because taking the plunge comes with unimaginable benefits.

I've had my blog for about two years now, and during that time, I have learned more about the art of publication, the art of writing, and the art of reading and critiquing than I could ever have imagined. And the best part about all this learning? The friends I've made, and especially my two critique partners. They are my writing buddies, my (gentle) critics, my personal pep rally, my home slices, my seconds if ever I get challenged to a duel.

And with such great people to back me up - and to be honest with me when a character's out of whack or a chapter stinks - blogging, writing, and querying don't seem so scary after all because I'm not doing it alone.

When I first started out, I read everything I could find: agents' tips, publishers' websites, other writers' blogs. I did my best to leave thoughtful comments, or even just to say a quick "thanks" when a particular post helped me out.

That's how I met many of my writerly friends, and also a talented blogger named Lynnette Labelle who happened to be doing a "matchmaking" service for those in need of critique partners. I filled out a form, got paired with one Sierra Godfrey (do you guys know her? She's awesome, y'all), and we hit it off.

After a few bumps in the road, we found a third critique buddy, the ever suave and savvy DL Hammons. And the rest is history.

I can't tell you how many times these two have kept me going with my WIPs. I'm not someone who just gives up, by any means, but any writer will tell you that there are days when burning what you've written seems like a good idea. Let's just say Don and Sierra hid the torches from me, and what's more, they challenged me to keep up with them. And let me tell you, they don't set an easy pace. But even while I'm sweating buckets, trying to keep up with their talent and motivation, I know I'm doing it with a couple of pretty great role models.

Whether we're g-chatting about one of our latest chapters, what we had for breakfast, character development, what we want for dinner, or how jealous Sierra and I are that Don looks better in a cheerleader uniform than we do, it's nice to know that I've got their support.

So to those of you who are reading, I hope that your critique group is everything you want it to be. And if you don't have one, I hope you eventually do, 'cause when you're traveling down that long, dark, forest-y road of blogging and publication, it's nice to have other people to hold the flashlight and scream right alongside you at scary noises.

Thanks again, Julie, and not just because you were so awesome and flattering to moi. It's been a joy and a pleasure working with you! - Sierra

Friday, April 15, 2011

Google Reader Roundup Re-run

This GRR originally published on July 2, 2010.
On Monday, I have a wonderful guest post for you from Julie Dao.
  • Janet Reid points out that you shouldn't query when you're dead. I found this to be a good reminder, because I often worry that I will expire before seeing myself in print and wonder what would happen then. I think I thought Mr. Sierra would submit for me, but that assumes Mr. Sierra would be able to handle using email enough to even find an agent. (He is rather a Luddite in such matters).
AND FINALLY .....
Don't forget to check back Monday for the fab guest post from Julie Dao.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Working Girl fiction lessons

For many reasons, I love the 1988 film Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. Why I love it is fodder for another post some other day, but suffice it to say, I've seen this movie billions of times since it came out and it remains one of my favorites. Even despite how unrepentantly 80s it is, with shoulder pads, glasses that cover half the face, and gross sterotypes. (The link above goes to the Wikipedia entry, where you can read a run-down of the plot.)

Say what you want about this movie (let's not bother discussing the annoying baby-doll pitch of Griffith's voice, okay?), but it does a number of really smart things that I think apply to fiction really well.

Using scenes to full advantage
One of those things is detail. I never appreciated this until I saw the movie again recently, but every scene has great little details. One example is when Tess (Melanie's character) is talking on the phone to Jack (Harrison Ford). Instead of just showing the two in their offices talking, Jack takes off his shirt while on the phone, splashes water under his armpits and then wipes them up with his old shirt, grabs a new shirt still in the package from a desk drawer, and puts it on. All the office workers outside his glass door clap. It's just a great scene, and not the point of the scene at all--the phone conversation is--but it really makes the whole thing work. It gives you more picture into Jack's character and sense of desperation about doing anything, including working through the night and showing up to work in a dirty suit, to make a deal work after previous failures. The way Harrison Ford wipes his pits with his old shirt is classic, and shows you he's kind of funny, if a bit hygienically challenged.

Clever, sharp details
Another thing Working Girl does very well is not assume things, and this point is key. There are a lot of ways for characters to react to information, and I think there's a temptation (certainly I've experienced it) to have your character go "Oh really? What was that?" Here's an example: Jack is in bed with Tess. The phone rings, and it's Tess's boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) calling. Tess doesn't know that her boss and Jack were in a relationship before Tess and Jack got together. But she can tell instantly from his tone of voice that a woman is calling--a rather bad thing when in bed nekkid with someone.

When Jack picks up the phone, he goes, "Oh...hi." His voice is softened, as it might be when taking a call from a supposed lover. Tess knows at once that it's another woman from his tone of voice, and you can tell this by her expression--she looks up and kind of sighs and you can see in her face that she's like "Damn." As Jack talks in halting words, she continues to look up in despair.

Here, the temptation might be for Tess to say, "Who was that?" or "Was that your girlfriend/wife?" She doesn't even ask. She doesn't have to-- his tone of voice while talking to Katherine says it all. This is what I mean by smart dialogue and smart details.

More showing, not telling
Another good example of using expressions and body language to convey words and feelings is when Tess sees her slimy ex-boyfriend, Mick (fantastically played by Alec Baldwin), again at their friend's wedding. She doesn't say much, and neither does he, but they stare at each other a while. Mick is clearly thinking "Man, I lost her and I'm sorry, but I'm doing okay," and Tess is clearly thinking, "I feel like a screw-up for the way I handled him, but I'm glad I'm not with him anymore. Now I have to go clean up the way my life is headed." Instead of saying these things, Mick just stares at her and nods, and Tess just stands still and stares too, but without the rancor of their previous meeting. It's another really good scene that uses details like costume --Tess is wearing a truly hideous bridesmaid gown as you can see from the photo, far removed from the business suits she wears regularly at that part in the movie--to convey the point that even though she's back in the dress of her roots, so to speak, she still feels out of place and no longer belongs with the other hideously dressed people (like Mick and the slut he cheated on Tess with, Doreen). This silent conversation with Mick conveys this final departure from her Staten Island working-class roots. Say what you want about the stereotype of the Staten Island crowd, but the point is made and the film doesn't use dialogue to do it.

Have you seen Working Girl? Did these things ever occur to you before?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest post: “Every No Brings You Closer to Yes”

Today I'm honored to welcome the always side-splitting Kristen Lippert-Martin. Kristen writes YA and blogs over at A Rock in My Pocket. Her tweets are astoundingly funny and you need to be reading everything she produces, because she's a dynamo. Also, she herself is on maternity leave! Yes!

I'm honored and pleased to welcome her as my first Maternity Leave Guest Blogger ( MLGB).


“Every No Brings You Closer to Yes”
by Kristen Lippert-Martin


Perhaps, like me, you have a fellow writer friend who says chipper, inspirational things like this. And he or she says them in a well-meaning attempt to keep you motivated. Which is, you know, nice.

It’s just… come on. Every no brings you closer to yes? Gawd. I feel like I should gargle with bourbon after that phrase leaves my mouth. I’m sorry, but this sort of knee-jerk optimism brings out the defeatist curmudgeon in me. Seriously, when I first heard someone say this I thought, OK, what brand of cold medicine are you are taking, and did you have to register your name and address at the pharmacist’s desk when you bought it?

Who thinks like this? (I don’t.) Where do they teach this stuff? (I’m guessing maybe writers conferences or at training seminars for people who do time-share presentations.)

I had a discussion one time with an aspiring author who asked me if I’d ever heard of something called “The Secret?” And I thought, oh, lordy, here it comes. She’s going to try to recruit me into some cult or something, and believe me, I am the last woman on earth who you’d want as a sister-wife. But then she explained it’s this approach to things wherein you make your dreams manifest by behaving as if the thing you want to happen has already happened. I said, “Oh. OK, sure. I’ve heard of that. Although when I heard this concept explained to me previously it was known as ‘being in denial.’”

I must ask what kind of crazy business we’ve gotten ourselves into that we must engage in these acts of mental contortion in order to not pitch ourselves onto the shift key and end it all. How are we to strike a balance between realistic assessments of our work and the kind of benign, dreamy hope that puts rings of imaginary bluebirds around our heads to egg us on with their lilting warbles as we write?

Well, let’s get back to that “every no brings you closer to yes” idea, and I’ll tell you.

I would be willing to concede that maybe – MAYBE – this is a concept that might be true. BUT, let me stipulate that it’s not true in the sense that these ultra-optimistic sorts might say it, while still in the afterglow of a motivational speaking engagement. Like, if you just keep going for long enough, you’ll find a bag of magic beans at the end of the unicorn’s rainbow, and you will transform into a best-selling author. Sorry, no. If you're peddling that idea, you can take your seven dwarfs and move on to the next sucker.

Every no brings you closer to a yes is true only because there’s nothing like stinging, eviscerating rejection to make you work harder and do better.

Every time someone said no to my manuscript, I improved it. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And what was more, I knew I’d improved it, and weirdly enough, I was ultimately glad that I’d heard no, because I simply would not have reworked my story otherwise. Oh, sure, maybe after enough time passed, I might have gotten there through less harsh, painful, and discouraging means, but as we’re all hoping to get published in this lifetime and not posthumously, you’ve got to admit, rejection can be quite the short-cut to revelation.

Every no brings you closer to yes is true when you are willing to face the one thing you don’t want to believe about your work. Whatever hard truth that may be.

When you have a history of digesting rejection and asking, please, sir, may I have some more, then you can open up the window and let those bluebirds of happiness in. Heck, spread birdseed around your desk while you’re at it. We NEED those little birdies to keep us going. Believe me, I know.

That being said, you’re never going to find me wandering around saying “every no brings you closer to yes,” and if you do, know that I've gone over to the dark side. Or the light side. Or whatever is the side that encourages you to always keep bottles of bourbon handy for gargling purposes.

Thanks Kristen! Note to readers: when Kristen sent me this post and asked me what I thought of it, I said "I loved it because I too believe every no bringing you closer to a yes is bs. Every no is a no." Kristen just says it much more engagingly than I do. - Sierra

Friday, April 8, 2011

Google Reader Roundup Re-run

This GRR is from October 22, 2010, but it was chock full of goodies. Enjoy again!

  • Mega-mega-mega-trombone-boy-night-mega congratulations to Roni Loren for her two-book book deal! Read all about it here. Roni is a smart writer whose time has come...believe it. Suck up your envy and go congratulate her.
  • Nathan Bransford's guest poster Kay Elam defines the cozy mystery, and thank God she does because I have long wondered what exactly it means!
  • The Guardian's Robert McCrum (who, by the by, is married to Sarah Lyall, whose book I'm reading RIGHT NOW!!!) writes about Ford Madox Ford's page 99 challenge. Very interesting indeed.
  • Janice Hardy at Meghan Ward's Writerland talks about dialogue. "Don't miss this post," Sierra said, "or else you'll be toast." (Rhymes, yes!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Five Star Review: When You Reach Me

One of the things that being very late in pregnancy does for me is make me entitled. Entitled to more space, to doors being opened for me, for people to move out of the way automatically without me having to ask. (Sadly, these things do not happen very much at all. I don't remember whether they did back when I was pregnant nearly five years ago with my whippersnapper--to be honest I was more concerned with keeping people's roaming hands off my belly then. If you are one of those people who rubs a preggo belly like it's a lucky Buddha, I implore you to please, please not do that.)

Anyway, entitled. And one of those things I feel entitled about right now is inflicting upoin you a new bloggy tradition. This goes hand in hand with general feelings of grandiosity (again, it does seem to have something to do with my size. As I become less mobile, I become more demanding.) With that rather long tangent, I announce the brand new tradition of Sierra's Five Star Review.

The Five Star Review follows the grand tradition of the Google Reader Roundup and will no doubt be not only a success, but world-famous in no time (I think of the GRR as a hot dog stand in its world famousness).

What is the Five Star Review? This is where I go on about how awesome a book I just read is, and why I've given it five out of five stars. I'm too chicken to ever post one or no star reviews and nor would I want to. Books that warrant low stars need no further lambasting, certainly not from me. I think of low rated books as cockroaches slinking away into a dark alley corner. Let's concentrate on the best books out there. And with that, I present the first ever Five Star Review.

Five Star Review of When You Reach Me
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is a middle grade novel (ages 8-12) in the grand tradition of Madeleine L'Engle. Before I tell you why it deserves five stars, let me first tell you that when I posted about why I don't post about my progress and blamed the post on Kristen Lippert-Martin only to find that I had erred (shockingly) and really it was Roni Loren who'd inspired it, I felt the need to find something else to blame Kristen for. And I found one, oh yes. Kristen posted in the past about reading widely--reading outside your genre and target age. So while I write women's fiction (and indeed, am within that demographic if any publishers wish to send me ARCs, just saying, la la la), I was willing to open my mind to young adult, even middle grade, if need be. There are so many completely fabulous YA books out there, how could I not?

I actually spied When You Reach Me in the B&N children's section while my whippersnapper was trying to negotiate which lame Transformers book he wanted and deftly avoiding more sensible selections like Richard Scarry. When You Reach Me had been thoughtfully set out on a long counter in several neat little piles by some awesome salesperson. The book cover attracted me, as did the Newberry medal sticker (yes, I was a sucker), and so did the title. Then I picked it up and read the back.

THEN I was sucked in.

I mean, the plot of this thing...wow. Very unique. Even Mr. Sierra was highly intrigued, and when I placed the book in my purchase pile, he didn't even bat an eye when I said it was for me. It's that good.

And the book itself is that good. The writing is honest. It's truthful, and it's well constructed. The story is a beautiful time travel story ladden with clues, and I didn't even guess the outcome (although I like to think it's because I'm a busy adult with lots on my mind). But I did guess that everything mentioned was mentioned for a reason, and therefore was able to identify the clues as being clues, but after that it was as though I was twelve years old, which is the age of the heroine, Miranda, in this book.

The end was great. Very satisfying and thought-provoking. The writing was superb. The length was just right--it seemed to cover everything. The beginning was interesting and funny. There were notes of sadness throughout but not enough to make it a difficult or heart wrenching read. Miranda was a great heroine, a strong kid who was still vulnerable to being a kid. She makes mistakes. She does what she knows is the right thing. She moves on. I loved her for it.

I can't recommend this book enough. It's different, it's strong, it's well-written, and I loved it.
If it hadn't won the Newberry, I would be sitting here clamoring for it.

Congrats, Rebecca Stead, for telling a great story--and there's your first ever soon-to-be-world-famous Five Star Review. Also, she has a kick-ass author web site. Check it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Will You Do With Your Blog Once You're Published?

Blogs -- did we really think them through when we started them in a bid to establish ourselves as writers?

Samuel Park recently transitioned his blog, called Daily Pep for Writers, into a more cohesive, author web site-blog platform that reflects his forthcoming book being published in July. I’ve always enjoyed Samuel’s blog and thought a little about his choice in the grand scheme of bloggy things.

Some of us (maybe most of us) are blogging with no clear outcome except the whole murk of getting followers (which by now you know really should be "engaging with other writers" -- you know this, right?). I’m going to go ahead and assume that most unpublished writers who start blogging really don’t start with the idea of where the blog will go once they reach the shang-ri-la of being a published author.

Here are some possibilities:
  • Ditch your old blog and start a new one around your forthcoming book. Pros: built-in marketing. Cons: limited to your book and doesn’t, in my opinion, look down your career far enough because it is about your book and not you.
  • Transition as Samuel Park did to an integrated blog/website. Pros: one stop cohesive shop. Cons: can change the focus of your blog. If you were writing about your trials and journey to publication (as many writer blogs do), then what will you write about now?
  • Subtly shift the focus of your current blog. This would be probably be what I’d do. Pro: you get a mix of the old while getting some new. I don't know what that means yet. Con: you might bore your loyal existing following of readers.

Case Studies

There are many ways to handle your role of published author and blogger. Here are a few authors who have handled blogs in different ways:

  • Tawna Fenske, Roni Loren, and Jody Hedlund. Both Tawna and Roni have debut books forthcoming, but have continued to blog about writing topics. Tawna specifically incorporates her writing style so readers are familiar with her humorous type of writing--she's essentially writing a humor blog around writing. Roni writes posts about writing topics, which made her very popular. Both Tawna and Roni have given no signs of ditching their writing blogs, and while it isn't known whether the blogs will speak to their actual readers, Roni did a very interesting poll about whether blogs sells books. (Ladies, feel free to chime in here with thoughts.)
  • Catherine Ryan Hyde incorporates her blog on her web site as well, but uses it for both personal and official author business.
  • Janice Hardy maintains two blogs: one for writers (a very well-indexed, well-topiced site) and also one for readers that speaks to appearances and book news.

I'm interested to hear from any of the names mentioned above on this subject, plus everyone else--have you thought about what will happen to your current blog when you publish? What do you think you'll end up doing? For those of you who have blogs with anonymous names, what will you do?

And finally, here's a guest post on editor Victoria Mixon's blog about why you shouldn't abandon your writing blog. It's not written for people who have gotten book deals, but rather the beginning writer, but the points are still relevant.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

Happy April Fool's! In lieu of actual brain power (the large, squirmy baby in my belly feasts on it and has taken everything I've got) to think up a lovely April Fool's Day post for you (like last year's), I will invite you instead to just go over to my nemesis' blog and laugh at him for being a fool to think he could ever take me down.

But to other matters, this may (or may not) be your last GRR for a while, and that is no April Fool's day joke. But do not fear! I have some very lovely posts scheduled for you over the next several weeks. I have been busy baking posts for you and freezing them like lasagnas for your reading pleasure.* Call it e-nesting. And some of them are doozies. For example, I have guest posts lined up for you from the likes of: Kristen Lippert-Martin, Julie Dao, Linda Grimes, Anne R. Allen, my nemesis Simon Larter, Meghan Ward, Mike Chen, and Lt. Cccyyyxx.

Plus much more, including regular and original brilliance from moi.**

*credit for that line must go to KL-M.

** See first paragraph of this post.

Now, on to our GRR!

  • Tawna Fenske posts about a most embarrassing experience at work involving farts. Here's the thing. Tawna shows us the power of humor by writing about those really crunchy moments in life. I tend to cringe and dive into a pool of self-loathing about such things. I include this post so we can all learn from her ability to laugh at herself.
  • Jennifer Shirk asks something I've been wondering about for a long time: where is the red-headed hero? Because honestly let's face it: ginger-heads are not revered on men, but on women it's considered sexy and fiery. Why? No reason. I personally like ginger.