If you live in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area and are curious about self-published ebooks, mark your calendar for February 9, from 7:00-8:30 P.M. The super smart Margaret Yang and I will be at the Ann Arbor District Library’s Traverwood branch with a workshop that will help you navigate the brave new world of indie books. Please help me spread the word about this event, or email me with questions at: at lara [at] help4writers [dot] com.
Category Archives: Resources
I’ll admit, when I first heard the word NaNoWriMo (pronounced nah-no-wry-mo) I was confused. What did it mean? And why were all the writers I knew talking about it, asking me if I was going to “do it?”
So you don’t experience the same confusion I did, here’s the skinny:
What is it?
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a creative endeavor in which writers commit to using one month to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. (Update: I had previously listed it at 60k. Thanks, Amity, for the clarification!)
When does it take place?
Now! It starts today and goes through November 30. The schedule is the same every year.
How many people do it?
Lots! There is an entire community built around NaNoWriMo. You can go online to “partner” with other writers, and you can also track your progress through some of their web tools.
Is it a good idea to write a novel in a month?
Yes and no. The discipline of sitting down to write every day and reach a goal is great. The problem is when writers stop there and don’t revise/edit. Lots of agents complain about submissions in the month of December, because they receive everyone’s NaNoWriMo text — usually unpolished and fresh off the presses. Completing a first draft is awesome, but that’s where the hard work really begins.
What happens if I reach 50,000 words in a month?
Writers often use the phrase that they “won” NaNoWriMo — and that means they reached the 50,000-word mark. You can also get a little badge for your website or blog showing you completed the endeavor.
Have you ever done it?
No, I haven’t. I’m great at pounding out stories really quickly. What I like to challenge myself with is taking my time with a story, really developing the characters and the setting.
Where can I go for more information?
I’ve linked to it above, but NaNoWriMo has a website chock-full of information, which you can access by clicking here. It’s not too late if you want to sign up! Just don’t forget to edit, edit, edit after November is complete.
[Image Source: ithree graphic design]
The article below on query letters is from the Help for Writers newsletter, delivered quarterly to your email inbox with supplemental tips, information, and pricing deals from yours truly. If you are interested in signing up for the newsletter, please fill out the form after the query letter article. It’s free, and your information always remains confidential. Also, spam sucks and I’d never clutter your inbox like that. And now … on to making your query letters rock!
Pump Up Your Query Letters
How to zero in on exactly the information editors and agents want
Save your query letter from the slush pile by focusing on critical details that highlight the best parts of your story.
A great query will grab the reader’s attention by succinctly outlining the protagonist’s problem. One way to do this is to give an agent or editor a sense of what’s at stake. Think of it as a formula, where you solve for X: Unless the protagonist can accomplish X, then X will happen and then the protagonist will lose X.
Without bogging the query in backstory, you’ll also want to highlight why solving for X is nearly insurmountable. What hurdles are in the protagonist’s way? What is stopping them from achieving their goals? The things that could stop them will be both external (they are poor but in love with a queen!) and internal (they’ve had their heart broken and are afraid to fall again!).
A great query will also showcase a fresh storyline that hasn’t been done before. It’s great if you want to write about a regular boy who finds out he’s a wizard, but you’ll need to convince editors and agents that you’ve done it in a new way. Ask yourself: what’s truly unique about the storyline? For example, perhaps you’re taking readers into a unique world — think behind the scenes of a Depression-era circus as in Water for Elephants, or inside a remote hotel in the frigid winter months as in The Shining. Or perhaps you are putting an empowered twist on a familiar tale — creating an all-female pack of werewolves, for example, and reversing the romantic roles (human boy in love with female werewolf), as author Christine Johnson did in her debut, Claire de Lune.
Are you in the process of penning a romance? You’re smart to do so. According to the Romance Writers of America, sales from romance novels generated $1.36 million in 2009. These books fly off the shelves, even in a down economy.
If you’re wondering what elements are essential to making your romance work, I hope you’ll check out the “Five Rules of Romance” PDF on the Get Started page. Here’s a sampling of what’s in the PDF, which covers the five elements essential to making every romance live happily ever after:
Readers must meet the hero in the first five pages. He doesn’t have to be a hero right away—in fact, many romances are set up so that the hero and heroine dislike each other at first. Yet there needs to be an intense attraction there that hints to readers there’s more there to be explored. Pun intended.
In the future, I’ll be offering more PDFs, as well as an e-book. If there is a topic you’re interested in reading about, please let me know in the comments. I want to help writers get the information they find most useful.
For the next few days, I’ll be sending tweets from the South by Southwest Interactive conference, a manic, intense, information dumping ground held annually in Austin, Texas. Some of the events I’ll be attending are:
- The self-publishing novelist: report from the trenches
- 15 slides, three writers, three ways, one hour
- The end of reading in the USA
- Why new authors should think like indie bands
I hope you’ll follow me here and plug in to the embarrassing riches of insight, education, and information that’s available.
Is it important to publish short stories before you publish a novel?
My answer is here:
Got more questions for me? Click here and ask away!
The January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest is all about partnering with other writers to boost your own writing career, and, as usual, it’s chock full of great information.
But this latest issue has something else it in: Help for Writers!
I partnered with my friend and fellow author Eileen Cook to write an article on the theft of ideas. Eileen and I both had books come out the same year with striking similarities: main characters who were part of evangelical families but who were struggling with their faith; a Midwest setting; college decisions; protagonists named Emma. The list goes on. There’s no way Eileen or I could have stolen the other’s work, and this kind of thing happens all the time with writers, actually. But some writers let it stop them in their tracks. In Writer’s Digest, Eileen and I explore ways that this kind of simultaneous discovery (a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell) can actually help, not hinder, writers.
If you pick up a copy, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the piece. But even more, I’d love to hear about situations where you’ve written something, only to find that either there’s something else on the market very similar to it.
November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Essentially, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that encourages writers to commit to writing a 50,000-word novel one month. Yep, one month.
The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that they have tools that help you track and post your progress, not to mention forums where you can connect with other writers. You also get a certificate at the end. Admittedly, you do have to print the certificate yourself but still. It’s cool.
It’s a great exercise in discipline, not to mention networking and putting yourself out there, letting everyone know you’re writing a book. NaNoWriMo takes courage. If you’re thinking about doing it, Writers Digest offers some ideas on how to go about penning a novel in a single month, and this Suite 101 post has some great tips for staying motivated. And there’s of course a wealth of information on the NaNoWriMo site itself.
I confess, I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo to date. But this might be the year all that changes. How about you? Who out there has done it and has feedback to share? Anyone like me thinking of doing it but hasn’t fully committed? Let’s hear it!
Writing is a solitary craft, but connecting with other people in the writing community is invaluable. I’m a firm believer in networking, but my disclaimer is always this: networking doesn’t mean schmoozing and hand-shaking your way through an event, exchanging business cards the whole time. In my definition, networking means connecting with people in a genuine and mutually beneficial way.
So how do you do that? Here are three tips:
1.) We’ve heard a lot about social media, but I want to put in a special plug for Twitter. In the latest issue of Writer’s Digest, author Jeanne V. Bowerman, @jeannevb, (whose site you should definitely visit because she has an entire blog post about what networking is and isn’t) has a great story about how Twitter helped her connect with other writers and how that changed her whole writing paradigm. There are hundreds of great writers and resources on Twitter sharing information and ideas and supporting each other. In my case, I met a friend on Twitter, Neil Shurley, (@thatNeilGuy) because we share a passion for donuts. He wound up using Twitter to recommend Donut Days to some donut franchises including Dunkin’ Donuts, who actually responded. He did it because we genuinely connected over a topic that we both love, not because I gave him my business card then asked him to. If you’re new to this and, heck, even if you’re not, check out Jeannie Ruesch’s blog post on how writers can use Twitter to connect and learn from others in the writing biz.
2.) In addition to sharing, networking also means learning. Want to meet other writers? Want to connect with agents and publishers? Try attending conferences, seminars, and workshops. Can’t afford a plane ticket to get to travel somewhere to engage in the latter? Never fear: Writer’s Digest hosts numerous webinars on a variety of topics. Recently, I had a friend who attended a query letter webinar through WD. As part of the webinar, the agent hosting it read and reviewed the attendee’s queries. She read my friend’s, offered feedback, then asked to see the first 30 pages of the manuscript. Now, my friend didn’t attend to because she was expecting to get her book in the door, but it was a wonderful outcome from her genuine efforts to simply learn more about the industry.
3.) Send hand-written cards in an e-world. What does that mean? In part, it means say thank you. For everything. Now, I’m not perfect about this — in fact, I want to be better at it — but saying thank you, for everything, goes a long way. And part of really saying thank you is taking the time to write something out instead of typing it. That might seem like a contradictory statement when I just told you to get on to Twitter. But Twitter is not the means for giving thanks. We live in a world where sending an email or an IM is the easy thing to do. Has anyone bought wedding gift and been thanked for it on email? I have, and it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. But thanking someone sincerely with a hand-written, hand-stamped card can certainly show someone how much their efforts meant to you. Similarly, hand-written notes can go a long way toward forging a genuine connection. Case in point: I just launched a hand-written postcard campaign where I wrote and mailed a number of postcards to librarians across the country telling them that Donut Days is now out in paperback. I have seen some great results, which I probably wouldn’t have seen if I’d just sent an email.
Got a networking best practice? Feel free to share here. How about a question? This is a topic I’ll be revisiting, so I’d love to hear from you!
[Image source: The Write Solution]