Improving Your Writing Skills & Marketing

Bookpleasures' is excited to bring you some excellent articles on how to improve your writing skills and other topics related to writing. Check these out. I am sure you will find them very useful.

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    We face a clean sheet of paper (or computer screen) and begin our stories and poems – starting tabula rasa. But are we really? Is it a clean slate in front of us? Are our characters pure before we bring them into being? And what about the plot of our stories or point of our poems? Do they just pop out of the ethereal ether? What is the role of the muse if not to bestow upon us eureka experiences to write about?

    Lilly Ledbetter’s Memoir and Everyday Language

    If you’re reading this column, you’re likely already a fan of the Internet. But do you use it to full advantage for all your wordsmithing? Here are a few sites I highly recommend:

    You think it’s tough to find time to write? You haven’t met Melissa Fay Greene, author of numerous books: Praying for Sheetrock, Finalist for the 1991 National Book Award and a New York Times Notable book; The Temple Bombing; There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children and her latest, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet.

    A good title not only draws readers in, but it can also be the actual start of the piece you are writing or can allude to some crucial meaning hidden in the writing. A good title is as important as your opening line, paragraph, or page – it should catch the attention of the reader as well as providing some insight as to what is coming.

    If you are a Jewish author or specialize in writing about Jewish issues, you should consider reviewing this list of book fairs in the Jewish community. Book fairs are excellent places for authors to interact with the public as well as network with book industry leaders, publicists, and book editors.

    In 2010 book publishing changed forever when Apple launched the iPad, a digital reading device that officially heralded the dismantling of the big publisher model that has been dominant for more than sixty years. A new bench mark was created and a universal platform has been established that allows every writer, publisher and business to profit without having to rely on a major publishing company Welcome to the new world of electronic publishing! Here are the three major trends in book publishing today.

    Will all of these specific tips work for you? Maybe, maybe not. But invest an hour or two in getting your hard drive better organized and I guarantee you'll see your productivity soar.

    In a rut with your writing? Bored with your sentences, your descriptions, your characters? Is your writing starting to feel contrived? It may be times to shake things up.

    It is, of course, possible for a self-published book to "breakthrough" to the fame and fortune category but by and large the self-published author's success will be measured by what can best be described as, "circles of interest," those networks of various dimensions made up of people who share the author's interests and appreciate his or her talents.

    For years people have been asking me how studios, producers, film executives and actors make their decisions on picking books to adapt to theatrical movies and television.

    Being a writer means you are insecure – it goes with the territory.  Yet, that’s not the full story.  As writers, we also have enough ego to think we can write something others will not only read, but also often pay to read.  That’s chutzpa.

    Here’s a question I get at least a hundred times a year. Why is writing so damn tough?

    We worry that, if we follow our own path, our work will never be published. But authentic voices and writing always get noticed. It helps our work distinguish itself from the rest of the slush pile that fills editors’ desks. Give them something different, something alive that comes from deep inside you. Do it well and you will certainly get noticed.

    I’m more inclined to agree with Stephen King who said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt.” He continued: “What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Hard work is what I want to talk about today. Many people seem to think that writers are always "born" rather than "made." No way!

    We often shy away from our dark side, scared that if we create characters who are unseemly, cruel, and vicious, we may be giving something of ourselves away. Acknowledging through our characters our own shadowy fantasies leave us feeling naked on the page – even if what we write is beyond our own believes or desires. But it is by acknowledging both sides of our personalities – our friendly natured, kind side and our deeper, brooding, harsh side – that help us develop not just multi-dimensional and believable characters, but also more intriguing stories

    Apple is a category killer in computers, mobile phones, tablets and is playing an increasingly important role in publishing and selling ebooks on iTunes for the iPhone and iPad. We can all learn a lot from Apple so when their ‘Genius Manual’ was revealed recently, I found ways the info contained was applicable to authors.

    As a reader, I often enjoy when an author has provide the details I need to make a leap into the unknown, a leap that takes me into another realm. This leap often comes at the end of a story, where the character is brought to the point of more than one possibility, but the reader is left not knowing what, if any, choice or action was made.

    The advantage of scouring your writing for these phrases is simple. If you focus on a few phrases -- with the passion and precision a 16-year-old girl might devote to applying her lipstick -- your brain will start to become attuned to other unnecessary words. It's been said it takes 21 days to form a habit. I don't know about that, but I do know if you work on ridding your text of a few common needless phrases, you're likely to develop the habit of eliminating all needless words.

    Don’t take anything personally. Nothings others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” - Don Miguel Ruiz

    Critiquing is part of the process that makes us better writers. It’s a great way to learn where you have lost your readers or bored them, where you have problems with how time works in your story, or what doesn’t ring true with your characters.

    When you're undertaking a big writing project – such as a book – or even a medium-sized project, like an essay, it's easy to get overwhelmed. The usual advice, which I'm sure you've heard several million times before, is to break the work into small, manageable chunks.

    How well do you capture specific folks in your characters? It’s easy to fall into stereotypes – the country woman, the Bible-thumping preacher, the heart-of-gold hooker, the self-absorbed businessman. But our characters are not stereotypes – they need to be living, breathing individuals. To do that, you need to capture the specifics that transcend stereotypes.

    I was listening to an interview with Nancy Packer, author and former director of Stanford University’s creative writing program. (For those of you with access to iTunes, you can find the interview under the podcast How I Write – Feb. 4, 2011.) She talked about how often writers come up with a great idea to write about, but when they look more closely, all they really have is an anecdote. It’s not really a story.

    So what is the difference?

    Mark Twain once famously said: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

    How many times have your read a story or book and you just don’t get or don’t care for the character.  It doesn’t feel good when the protagonist is triumphant in the end or the bad guy has to pay for his sins.  That’s because the character isn’t well drawn, isn’t multi-dimensional – and he/she is like that because the writer never goes deep into the nitty gritty of who this person is.

    Is your story predictable?   Are you characters molded too tightly?  Is the ending expected? Is the conflict easily solved?  Is your language everyday verbiage?  Shake it up.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m glad there’s someone out there who can still laugh about grammar!

    Leonardo Di Vinci’s search for beauty led him to explore ugliness in many forms.
    His sketches of battles, grotesques, and deluges often appear next to
    sublime evocations of flowers and beautiful youths.”
    – How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

    Does the fear of perfection keep you from writing? I mean, why even try if you can’t be the next William Faulkner, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, or Isabelle Allende? Why should you even think you have a story to tell in comparison to their stories, and really, what is your little talent compared to theirs?

    I recommend authors look into hiring a book shepherd for a current or upcoming writing and publishing project. A book shepherd is someone whose expertise in books and publishing will help you throughout the entire book process. From cover art, editing, dealing with Amazon to locating a printer, a book shepherd will assist you from start to finish.

    Negative thoughts will not only hurt your writing; they'll also make writing slower and more painful. Don't let the devil get away with it. Fight back.

    The more you know, the easier the writing will be and the more your writing will come alive.

    There’s no clear boundary between experience and imagination. Who knows what glimpses of reality we pick up unconsciously, telepathically.” -- Normal Mailer

    In a dark and gloomy pit, deep in the bowels of the earth, a large and strongly muscled man rolls a heavy boulder up a steep hill. The task takes him the entire day. But when he gets to the top, ooophhhh, the stone escapes his grasp and rolls right back down to the bottom. So the next day he must begin all over again.

    Reading exposes us to all types of characters and ideas we might never encounter in real life.

    The first part of this article defined pace and gave some tips on how to speed up or slow down the pace of your story. Here are some more tips.

    Like many ex-journalists, I pride myself in being skeptical. But I also have a Pollyanna streak that leads me to believe that being kind is one of the keys to success. A recent York University study found that people who performed small acts of kindness — every day for five to 15 minutes for a week — increased their happiness and self-esteem.

    Time, in fiction, is anything but a mirror of reality. Think about it. You can have a short story where time is moving from tonight to tomorrow morning or, more dramatically, from the present back several years to the past or forward to the present. Yet, if the story is written well, the reader easily buys into time and its passage.

    American journalist Gene Fowler spoke for many of us when he sized up the challenge of writing by saying it was easy – “you just stare at a piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

    When I have a hard time understanding a piece of writing, I often discover the author is dipsy-doodling in "height." He or she is going from big ideas to small without giving me enough warning.

    As the publishing industry gathers in New York for its annual trade show, BookExpo America, they’re discussing everything except the one piece of information authors crave:  how many books they actually sell.

    The more adept you become critiquing other people’s writing, the more adept you become at critiquing your own – your skills will grow over time.

    Book fairs and festivals offer authors an excellent place to interact with fellow authors and publishers, network with book industry leaders, locate the help you need, such as a publicist or book editor, and learn what’s new in the marketplace. Here is a list of 20 book fairs and events that are worthy of your attendance.

    Everyone touts critiquing groups as a great way to get feedback for your writing. That’s debatable and depends on the dynamics of the group. On the other hand, what is perhaps the most advantageous reason for participating in critiquing groups is that they allow serious writers an excellent way to strengthen their skills even more by giving feedback, rather than getting it.

    Is Your Writing Clear Enough That People Can Understand What You Are Trying To Say?

    Whatever your character is doing or wherever he is going, you need to be able to supply the details of the chore or place.

    A lot of new writers believe that as long as they are writing fiction, they really don’t need to do any research. And while, on first blush, that may seem to be the case, experienced writers know that almost any story they write will require research. The main reason? To make their writing resonate with readers by being authentic.

    I know the feeling. You really, really, really don't want to write. You're blocked. You've hit the wall. The words just won't come. You're bereft of inspiration.

    Incorporate your life with your writing, and not to put “writer” over in a column separate from all the other parts of you

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