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Archive for September, 2015

Name that tune … the one that captures the essence of your book

If there were one song… For Day 18 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, we add music to the publishing mix. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 18 writing prompt:

If there were one song that captured the meaning, spirit, message, energy, and or substance of your book, what would it be? How can you use that song or piece of music to market your book or enhance your readers’ experience with your book?

book song

So the idea for this prompt came as I was scratching my head to think of an icebreaker for a networking-only meeting of the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup. A novel (ha – pun intended?!) way to introduce their books that would help others remember them. It was a fun exchange that actually resulted in an earlier post right here on the Marcie Brock blog. Click the link to see some of the books and songs members of our group introduced that night.

My song choice to introduce Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World was the rather on-the-nose “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Perhaps more famously played by Peter Paul and Mary, it was John Denver who wrote the song, and the artist I think about when I hear – or look for – it.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

songs - leaving on a jet plane

However, in giving the topic slightly more thought for this blog post, I came up with several other songs that also speak to, hint at, or generally describe the reasons, feelings, and decisions Stan makes throughout his travels. There are dozens of lists of travel songs out there – this one is mine.

When I think of this song, I’m reminded of my musician husband’s recent off-the-cuff quip: “Have you noticed that no one really writes songs about rambling anymore?” Of course, this quintessential Zeppelin song is hardly your average ballad, now is it?

Ramble on and now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song
I’m going around the world, I got to find my girl, on my way
I’ve been this way ten years to the day ramble on
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams

songs - ramble on

Of course, it’s the postcards, message, and I Nine’s clear, beautiful voice that captured my attention with “Same in Any Language.”

Those postcards I sent to Birmingham,
All the way from those windows of Amsterdam,
I copped a gram from Dappersan
Just to fall at her man in another jam,
Oh yeah,
Oh oh yeah.

It’s the same in any language,
A brother is a brother if there’s one thing I know,
It’s the same in any language,
Wherever you go.

songs - same in any language

And regardless of the topic, I’d probably never, ever make a song list (or an MP3 playlist, for that matter) that didn’t include a U2 song. Fortunately, “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a perfect fit for this list.

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name

songs - where the streets have no name

Coincidentally perhaps, as I was driving East, leaving the quiet desert of Tucson for the bright lights of NYC and the Tri-State area, Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway” was getting near-constant airplay. Today, I prefer the Rascal Flatts’ version…

Through all these cities and all these towns
It’s in my blood and it’s all around
I love you now like I loved you then
This is the road and these are the hands
From Mozambique to those Memphis nights
The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights

Knock me down get back up again
You’re in my blood
I’m not a lonely man

songs - life is a highway

And although Stan’s travels would hardly be described as a mere vacation, as a child of the 80s, I’d be utterly remiss if I neglected to include The Go-Go’s on this list, now wouldn’t I?

A week without you
Thought I’d forget
Two weeks without you and I
Still haven’t gotten over you yet

songs - vacation

Travel songs. None of these is mentioned in the book – and a number of songs do make it into the story at various places. But songs that bring to mind the theme of the book. Traveling, rambling, learning, growing, grieving, relating…

What song(s) would you use to promote your book or enhance your book signing? Tell us in the Comments section below!

Please be check in again tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing an interview with one of my favorite readers in the whole world…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to wonderful writing surprises!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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The writing “zone”: Pinnacle of FUN!

Who’d have thunk it? Writing fiction is FUN! For Day 17 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, we discuss the biggest surprise in writing our books. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 17 writing prompt:

What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

Hands down and without a doubt, the most surprising thing about writing my first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, is how much FUN it’s been. When I first sat down to begin the 3-Day Novel Contest at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, September 3, 2004, I had a vague idea of what would happen to my main character. Then, I got in the zone. Yep – that zone. The one athletes talk about all the time.

Kobe quote

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi gathered the results of 25 years of research into a book that explores “the zone,” including the ways it enhanced Michael Jordan’s performance. According to Pathos.com, “In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi identifies a self-surpassing dimension of human experience that is recognized by people the world over, regardless of culture, gender, race, or nationality. Its characteristics include deep concentration, highly efficient performance, emotional buoyancy, a heightened sense of mastery, a lack of self-consciousness, and self-transcendence.”

Yep – that’s what I experienced. And it surprised me to no end. Writing had always been easy for me, but it had never been fun. This – creating characters out of whole cloth – was a blast! The gnarled old fisherman wasn’t there a moment ago, and now he is. Interacting, advising, foreshadowing. And it kept going that way, new characters coming to life before my eyes. Until I hit Asia – a continent about which I have little personal knowledge, but which Stan would have to visit if he were truly to circumnavigate the globe.

Fortunately, I got through that too.

Then, thinking I was nearly done with the first draft, I was reading Chuck Wendig’s ebook, 250 Things You Should Know About Writing, on a plane trip back to New Jersey to visit my son. Much like Steven Pressfield does in The War of Art, Wendig smacks you upside the head and tells you what you need to know to improve your craft. Point #6 of Section 2, “25 Things You Should Know About Plot,” fell on me like a collapsing brick wall: In life we avoid conflict; in fiction, we seek it.

I think I scared the lady next to me when I yelped and smacked my hand over my mouth like I’d just seen a big, fat, hairy spider. Oh, my god – my novel doesn’t have nearly enough conflict!

Back to the drawing board – the word picture drawing board – for a number of additional scenes and characters. But, also, back to the fun!

Since beginning this novel, I’ve come up with ideas for at least a half-dozen others. I totally Careful, or I'll put you in my novelunderstand how and why people want to make their living as writers in a way I could never appreciate when I was writing exclusively nonfiction. When contemplating writing a screenplay (which we actually started a few years ago!), my sister and I used to joke about the funny situations we experienced that would make good movie scenes. Now, they get filed away as perfect enhancements for my present and future novels. I can’t wait to finish Stan off (no, he doesn’t die at the end) and get started on another world with new fictional friends.

What’s been your most challenging or surprising experience with your book or manuscript? Share the details in the comments section below!

Please be check in again tomorrow, when I’’ll be revealing the song that I think best connects with my book…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to wonderful writing surprises!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Aiming high has benefits and drawbacks…

For a lifelong writer, putting the words of my novel down on paper was a new kind of challenge. For Day 16 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, we examine our biggest publishing challenges. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 16 writing prompt:

What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you’d known before you began?

I have been blessed, in that for as long as I can remember, writing has been easy for me. I’m not talk your bookdownplaying the significance of the struggle some authors/writers experience. I hear nearly every day from people who say something along the lines of, “I’d love to write a book, but I just can’t arrange my thoughts on paper.” I typically suggest they try “talking” the book instead of writing it. Sometimes answering questions from an impartial person and transcribing the interviews is the way to get your thoughts “on paper.” For others, a long list of bullet points can turn itself into a book with the help of a good editor/writing partner.

Fortunately, I’ve never had to rely on any of those techniques, because writing has always been like breathing for me. I just do it – I don’t think about it, slave over it, worry about it, dread it, or procrastinate it. My brain can organize words and I can almost always get what I’m thinking to read exactly the way I intend it. And yet … writing a novel has proven to be my biggest creative challenge to date. Now, I will make the caveat that I think it’s less the writing than it is my audacious choice of subjects for my very first novel: sending a 30-year-old guy (I was a 37-year-old woman when I began writing this story) around the world (he visits 23 countries; I’ve been to five of them). And yet, I was inspired to write this story as my first novel.

Stan in Minsk

Stan and Isis in Minsk

Parts of it have actually been easy. It’s a fairly straightforward travel account, so once I decided which countries Stan would visit, the outline pretty much wrote itself. I have good organizational skills, so even with the inclusion of a generous number of flashbacks, keeping track of who did what when has just been a matter of adding notes to the timeline. Describing places I’ve never been, based on other travelers’ videos and images and blogs – and making it sound like I know what I’m talking about? That has proven quite tricky in places. The good news is that the writers’ block seems to have resolved itself, so the words are flowing again.

Another helpful bit is that I’ve got more marketing ideas than I have time – so I’m already certain of Stan’s success, even though he’s still being shaped. I’m targeting January 8th for the book’s release. Stick around. More details to come.

Please be check in again tomorrow, when I’’ll be talking about my biggest surprise in writing this book…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to meeting the challenges head -on!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: Find the reason that commands you to write…

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

open book on a cloud

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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Cover my world…

Next to writing and editing, your book cover is of vital importance, particularly when it comes to marketing your book. For Day 15 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, we explore the book cover design process. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 15 writing prompt:

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

A semi-pro, self-trained graphic designer, I decided to give the first draft of my cover for Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World a go. Ha! It was alternately well received, panned, or utterly and completely misunderstood.

VERSION #1

Stan Finds Himself - L Orsini - first draft

The second version was getting closer, but still missing something.

VERSION #2

Stan Finds Himself - L Orsini - second draft

Time to bring in a pro. I gave the first two drafts to my amazing artist friend, Dana Ball, who came back with this. It’s moving in the right direction … I liked the colors and simplicity. Not crazy about the font.

Stan Finds Himself - Dana Ball take 1

Then this. Now we’re getting somewhere! Too much color and the font’s really hard to read, but I’m liking the concept.

Stan Finds Himself - Dana Ball take 2

Then, he landed this version.

Stan Finds Himself - Dana Ball take 3

Compared to all the others, I loved it! It captures the story, is visually appealing, and the sepia tint make it gender neutral – important for a story about a 30-year-old guy. The font is still a bit too difficult to read, though. And as baseball figures prominently in the story, I asked if Dana could add the suggestion of a baseball to the globe. With that, we arrived at the final cover design.

Stan Finds Himself - Dana Ball - Final

If you’re still in the design process, I recommend you brainstorm your concept first. Sketch it out, if you’ve got even rudimentary drawing skills. Your designer won’t laugh at you – he or she will likely be grateful that you’ve got a direction in mind. Discuss how many concepts they will provide you to start. If your designer has lots of experience with book covers, they should be able to advise you about what will have commercial appeal. Identify your audience: gender, age, academic achievement, social interests – all the demographics and psychographics you need to consider when building your general book marketing plan.

For more book cover tips, see my prior post: 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Your Book Cover. Most importantly – if you haven’t already done so, get started now! Your book marketing is stalled until you have a cover to share with the world.

Please be sure to come back and read my next post, when I’’ll be talking about my biggest challenge with this book…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Celebrating cover designers, near and far!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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Well traveled with an eye for detail?

Perhaps the most important aspect of the publishing process, after the writing, is editing. The  Day 14 prompt for the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge invites us to talk editing. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 14 writing prompt:

Describe your editing process. Who edited/will edit your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve the process? What might you do differently in the future?

Having begun my business as an editor and honed my skills for years, I find the writing process – particularly for fiction – much more difficult. It’s easy for me to determine where to cut, condense, and reduce the number of words. Another story completely when it comes to enhancing, adding description, painting word pictures that require more – not fewer – words.

That said, I’m extraordinarily particular when it comes to who will give editorial input to my novel. I’m no idiot – so I know it will require at least a once-over from another professional. Who that is – will be – I have no idea, yet.

Here’s a little list excerpted from my special report, “The Fist-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU.”

eye for detail

The Least You Should Expect from a Skilled Professional Editor

  • Listens, hears, and understands the author’s concerns, vision, and intent.
  • Makes suggestions in a way the author can hear and appreciate without being made to feel wrong, criticized, or patronized.
  • Identifies and understands the needs of the reader.
  • Has a very strong sense of structure and excellent organizational skills.
  • Has excellent writing, grammar, and copy editing skills.
  • Has an ear for language (e.g., diction and idiom).
  • Can quickly familiarize himself/herself with virtually any subject.
  • Makes technical passages and complex concepts accessible to the average reader.
  • Keeps the text focused on speaking directly to the reader.
  • Calls attention to unclear writing and/or faulty logic.
  • Checks for consistency throughout the work, in voice, tone, message, and more.
  • Knows when it’s necessary for the author to rewrite and/or add text.
  • Will unabashedly write new text when appropriate.
  • Can emulate the author’s usage, style, and tone when rewriting.
  • Catches “isms” and prejudices without a compulsion to be politically correct.
  • Treats the author’s writing with detachment and objectivity, never inserting or superimposing his/her personal beliefs/positions into the author’s work.
  • Knows how and when to use humor, analogies, examples, and literary devices to maintain and increase reader interest.
  • Can create appropriate chapters, subsections, bullet lists, sidebars, and graphics to improve flow and readability.
  • Is readily available for author questions and consultations.
  • Can determine and explain the appropriate depth of editing.
  • Develops a strong author/editor relationship.
  • Challenges the author to give his or her best.
  • Is compulsive, but not overly.
  • Is flexible, but not overly.
  •  Can spot legal problems with trademarks, citations, etc.
  • Reads, reads, reads, and reads — any and all types of material.
  • Will offer a sample of his/her work to the client at no fee.
  • Expects to be paid a fee commensurate with his/her skills.

Yep – that’s the least you should expect. Any less than that, and you’re not getting your money’s worth. Is it any wonder I’m a little particular about who will edit my work? I am looking for someone with a super-skilled eye for detail. And since Stan does travel all the way around the world, a person who’s been to a few of the countries I’ve never visited wouldn’t hurt.

The way I work with a client is have them submit either the first chapter – OR the chapter that is most representative of their work. (Writers have a tendency to do a lot of work on the first or early chapters, so that part reads very well – but they seldom give quite as much attention to the latter part of the manuscript.) Then I evaluate the writing and degree of editing necessary. Not every writer needs intense developmental editing, as some manuscripts come in quite clean. Others need to be reworked from the ground up. Then I give them a sample edit of four or five pages.

Once we agree to move forward, they send the complete manuscript in a Word document. I work with revision marks – and use the comment feature if the client prefers that. Otherwise, I make my comments within the text in an alternate font and bold/highlight them. Once I’ve finished the manuscript, I send it back. The client looks it over, makes changes based on my suggestions, and returns it to me for a final reading – unless we make other arrangements. This is how I expect the process to work with my novel, as well.Front cover

Visit WriteMarketDesign.com to download a copy of the complete special report.

Please be sure to come back and read my next post, where I’’ll be talking about my book cover design process…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to skilled wordsmiths everywhere!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Make sure your advice-givers are qualified to advise you

Everyone’s a critic. The prompt for Day 13 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks input on critique groups. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 13 writing prompt:

Have you participated in a critique group? If so, how did it work out for you? If not, why have you avoided joining one to this point? Is your critique group online or does it meet in person? What is the most useful thing you get out of your participation? How do you think a critique group could help you improve your writing?

Smart authors will agree that they need feedback in order to publish the best books possible. YA author and fellow member of the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion group, Patrick

Writinggroup

Hodges, recently wrote a post for our group blog where he exhorted authors of every level and genre to use beta readers to improve their books. I couldn’t agree more – critical evaluation by those qualified to do so is essential if an author wishes to make a good book. Period.

There’s a key phrase in that last sentence, though: “those qualified to do so.”

I recently overheard a conversation between an aspiring author and a couple of self-published authors, one an award-winner and the other newly minted. The advice to the aspiring author was flowing freely. One problem: it wasn’t all good advice. Just because someone has already published a book does not mean they’ve published a good book, a polished book, or the best book they could have released. It would behoove a person who’s seeking advice on publishing, book marketing, or just about any other subject to pay attention to the skills and experience of the advice giver.

critique pro con

Take a casual survey of the authors you know. Chances are you’ll find some who love critique groups, some who hate them, and a few who could take them or leave them. I find myself in the take-them-or-leave-them category. I tried a couple of groups in the past – probably 10 years ago – and found them to be alternately hyper-critical, to the point that nothing constructive came out of the advice, or so focused on the social get-together that critiquing each others’ writing took a distant second place on the priority list to gossiping and dishing. I think I quit trying after visiting four groups.

This is not to say that critique groups can’t – and don’t – offer invaluable input that can immeasurably improve WIPs (works in progress). But, as LM says above, if the advice-givers are unskilled, the recommendations can be from middling to terrible. Not the kind of input most authors need when it comes to improving their manuscripts.

TO DO

In short, definitely get input from readers who are qualified to give you feedback. This does not have to be in the form of a critique group. Accept the feedback graciously. Consider it before dismissing it – even the responses that initially make you ask, “Delete that scene? What – are you out of your mind?!” Act on the suggestions that actually improve your manuscript, and dismiss the rest.

TO AVOID

Choose your beta readers carefully. Don’t hand your book over to Nancy Nitpick and then act surprised when she’s ripped the whole thing to shreds. Don’t ask for feedback and ignore all of it – especially if you receive the same advice/feedback from several sources. Don’t give your book only to readers who will blow smoke up your ass in an attempt to please you. They’re not doing you any favors if they tell you a bad book is good just to avoid hurting your feelings.

Please be sure to check out my next post, where I’’ll be talking about editing. An editor’s input on editing. I wonder where I’ll come down on that…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to changing things up every once in a while!

Laura

**Blogs from which “pro” and “con” comments came:

PRO: https://loribeasleybradley.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/day-13-abc-critique-groups-yes-or-no

CON: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/can-critique-groups-do-more-harm-than-good

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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