by Ruth Harris
As Anne and I looked back at the blog for the past year, a portrait emerged highlighting the themes and subjects that interested you most. We were intrigued by these clues about what was on our readers’ minds in 2014 and thought you’d be interested, too. So here are the topics that rang your bells.
As writers we care about how our readers respond so getting feedback is high on our lists. A series of three posts addressed this important issue from three different points of view:
- Anne delved into the function of crit groups and offered guidelines about what advice to heed and what to ignore.
- Editing is life. The blue tie? Or the yellow one? Peter or Paul? Or Mary? Ruth, a former editor, shared the secret of every successful writer, editors and editing,
- Jami Gold made valuable suggestions about how and where to find beta readers and how to hone your own skills as a beta reader.
Beginnings and endings
- Great first chapters, made even more important because of the “Look Inside” feature, seal the deal and impel the reader hit the buy button. Ergo: first chapters matter. A lot. Anne talked about how not to begin your book (and turn off your prospective reader).
- Now that you’ve written a grabby, impossible-to-resist first chapter, what next? Chapter endings keep the pages turning. Jessica Bell gave must-heed advice about the key to a great chapter ending.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Twitter Is big, confusing, fun, and scary and you have only 160 characters to make your point. Here’s Molly Greene’s stellar advice about how to behave (and how not to) on twitter.
- Aiming too high? Aiming too low? Stuck with a lousy deal? Anne wrote about the dumb things she did and what you can do so you don’t make the same mistakes. Pay attention!
- Tipping off that you’re a clueless newbie? Turning off readers and agents? You don’t want to do that either, do you? Here’s Anne’s guide to beginner’s mistakes—the mistakes you don’t want to make.
The no-outline outline, the killer blurb and writing for the 21st Century
- There are plotters and there are pantsers but what about those of us somewhere in the middle? Nathan Bransford boils it down to 3 great tips that will get you from that first vague idea to an actual, usable plan that will get your book (and you) off to the right start.
- Blurbs are so important that today even the Bible has one. They are a little bit art, a little bit craft, a little bit commercial poetry, so how the $^%# do you write one? Ruth, a blurb writer in a former life, shares some tips.
- Styles change in art, music, fashion. And in books, too. Sketch, don’t paint. Unbury your dialogue. The magic of white space. Anne offers valuable insight into writing for the 21st Century reader.
Genre, categories and keywords
- Romance with a side of horror? Happens in real life—oy!—but not such a hot idea in fiction. Cozy mystery with a side of blood and gore? Only if you want readers coming after you with shoulder-fired missiles. Genres come with rules that create guidelines for writers—and set up expectations in readers. Here’s Ruth’s round-up of genres with links to expert advice about how to write them.
- Readers know what they like and what they want. Categories and keywords help them find what they’re looking for and smart writers know how to use them effectively. Ruth delved into the mysteries of BISAC and BIC, of categories and keywords with lots of advice from the category and keywords gurus.
Coming attractions...from Anne
We've had such enthusiastic responses to our guest bloggers this year, we've invited some more great guests for 2015:
: Agent Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary Agency
on "Why You Don't Need a Literary Agent" (but why you might WANT one.)
This is an absolute MUST READ for anybody who is querying right now. Even though Laurie is closed to queries, SHE WILL ACCEPT QUERIES FROM READERS OF THIS BLOG.
Also in January
: an interview with Walter Reuben
, the winner of the L.A. Film Critics' Award for Best Indie Film for 2014
. His film, The David Whiting Story
, addresses the same mysterious Hollywood death as my novel The Gatsby Game
. But what's most important is that a Boomer who followed his dream--and not the rules--achieved amazing success with a first film. Walter is an amazing inspiration to all new writers out there, no matter what their age.
: Melodie Campbell,
Canada's Queen of Comedy and president of Crime Writers of Canada will be back for another of her hilarious how-tos.
Super-editor Jodie Renner
on How to Write Award-Winning Short Fiction.
April: Robin Houghton
, author of the great book Blogging for Writers
with some Insider's Blogging Tips.
We also hope to have a visit from radio talk show host Dave Congalton with tips for authors on how to be a good radio guest.
We're also hoping to have some of our great guests from last year back again.
Coming up from Ruth: She's been researching the newest approaches to creativity and productivity and she's planning a post I know will help and inspire us all.
Coming up from Anne:
- How Kindle Unlimited has changed indie publishing and why we need to think outside the Amazon box.
- Has the Indie Bubble Burst?
- How new changes to social media affect authors.
- Authors as marketers: why a lot of marketing advice doesn't apply to selling books.
- Should you follow the trend and return to newsletters and drop social media?
- Why quality, not quantity, is what still matters.
- Why blogging is more important for authors than ever. In spite of what you may hear.
- Why customer reviews are becoming less relevant.
- How to save money and time by ignoring people who are exploiting authors.
- Tips for entering (and winning) contests.
- How to decide if your book will do better with trad. or indie publishing in today's market.
Both of us wish all of you great reviews and happy readers, sentences that flow and books to be proud of. We look forward to seeing you in 2015 and, until then, wish you the very best of New Years!
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Chanel Caper
JAMES BOND MEETS NORA EPHRON. OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?
Blake Weston is a smart, savvy, no BS, 56-year-old Nora Ephron-like New Yorker. Her DH, Ralph Marino, is a très James Bond ex-cop & head of security for a large international corporation. At a tense time in their relationship, Blake & Ralph are forced to work together to solve a murder in Shanghai & break up an international piracy ring.
A totally fabulous, LMAO adventure with some of the best one-liners I've ever read!!! Ruth's wit is just a hoot, and her characters have the best sassy mouths in the biz!!!...bestselling author D.D. Scott
The Gatsby Game
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO A 40-YEAR OLD UNSOLVED HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY
When Nicky Conway meets Fitzgerald-quoting Alistair at a Princeton mixer, she falls for his retro, Jazz-Age charm. But she discovers he’s a con man obsessed with his own “Daisy”—British actress Delia Kent. After Alistair manipulates Nicky into nannying for Delia’s daughter on the set of a Hollywood film, Delia finds Alistair dead in her motel room. Local police can’t decide if it’s accident, suicide—or murder, in which case, Nicky is the prime suspect.
"For anyone who likes their books to be witty, with great characters, an atmosphere which it is a delight to experience, and a fast moving plot, this book is one you definitely shouldn't miss." ...Gerry McCullough of Gerry's Books
VIGNETTE WRITERS, here's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest
. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25.
Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.
THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE.
The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words. Deadline February 1, 2015.
The M.M. Bennetts Prize for Historical fiction. $10 Entry fee.
$500 prize for the best historical novel published in 2014. To be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June in Deadline January 31st, 2015
Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition.
First prize $3000. Top 25 will be published. Entry Fee $25. 1500 words or less. Deadline January 16th, 2015.
THE GOVER PRIZE FOR SHORT-SHORT STORIES
from Best New Writing
. $5 Entry Fee.
The prize is $250 and publication in Best New Writing to the best short fiction and creative nonfiction. Entries are limited to 500 words or less. Gover Prize winner and finalists will be published in the upcoming BNW edition. Deadline January 10th, 2015
WALKER PERCY PRIZE IN SHORT FICTION $15 ENTRY FEE
. Winner receives $1,000 and publication in New Orleans Review.
All finalists considered for publication. Enter previously unpublished original stories up to 7,500 words. Deadline December 31st
Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Contest: $24 entry fee.
Prizes of $1600, $800, $400 and $80. A further ten Highly Commended entrants will receive a free entry in the next round. Professional feedback provided for all entries!
Any genre: up to 3000 words. Deadline December 31st.
Labels: 21st Century prose, beta readers, Chanel and Gatsby, critique groups and criticism, Guest blogging, how to start a novel, Ruth Harris, self-editing tips, The David Whiting Story, top posts of 2014