This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘author’

10 Common Writing Errors

In Editing Your Manuscript, The Craft of Writing on April 13, 2010 at 7:47 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to the PODCAST of this article.


All writers begin writing at the same point in their lives, as novices. And as such, most make many of the same errors as they hone their craft of writing. Today, I’ll discuss some of the most common writing mistakes with the hope it’ll move you along your writing path a bit sooner than otherwise.

1. Grammar is the most obvious mistakes novice writers makes. English is a difficult language on its own and contractions, dangling participles, punctuation and all the rest only add to the confusion. However, to improve your writing, improve your grammar. I use Reader’s Digest “Success with Words” to answer my questions.

2. Empty adverbs are another sure sign a writer is a new to the craft of writing. Most often these are the dreaded “-ly” words that have crept into the American lexicon. A classic example of how these words should not be used comes to us from The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. In it he writes, “Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino.”

3. Poor dialogue will indicate a novice almost at once. Dialogue in novels is a tricky device to master but all it really takes is a bit of knowledge and practice. See this post for more on how to write DIALOGUE.

4. The nefarious verb, “to be” and all its devious forms tells your reader you’re new to the game. (And I can prove that with my first manuscript.) This word and its cousins flatten your narrative and slows the pace of your novel. I’ll again use the example from The Da Vinci Code to illustrate this. He writes, “Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino.” Learn more about the verb “TO BE” here.

5. Lists of anything denote a novice. New writers might describe their setting with a list of things the character sees or they might depict someone’s emotions by clicking off a list of feelings the character experiences. This concept reaches into almost every facet of a novel. The problem with lists is they bore a reader. It’s as if you force them to tick off items on a visual clipboard. If you’re trying to describe something, focus on the small things that lie in unlikely places. For more on imagery, read this BLOG POST.

6. People in the early stages of their writing career often “tell” instead of “show” their story. That is, they issue vague statements in lieu of describing an idea in more detail. A classic example relates to how a writer depicts people. The inexperienced writer will describe a character as “beautiful” whereas the experienced writer describes the person in some detail so to allow the reader to visualize the woman’s beauty. They might write of the “perfect symmetry of her features,” which allows the reader to form their own mental pictures.

7. Talking heads are another common error of inexpert writers. A talking head is a character who exchanges in dialogue before the reader knows about this person or the setting in which they are placed. If you see pages with nothing other than dialogue on it, you may need to flesh out the characters, the setting or some other aspect of your scene.

8. Point of view issues identify new writers, too. POINT OF VIEW, or POV, indicates who is telling the story. There are a number of points of view and each has its rules as to who can tell the story. In First Person POV, the narrator of the story is the only character allowed to tell us what transpires. This means things he can’t see, for example the future, cannot be brought into the story. Further, this is the only character from which the reader will receive a firsthand insight into their feelings and thoughts. Readers can only learn about other characters by way of the narrator’s interpretations. In contrast, third person POV allows for more characters to get involved, but only one at a time. You need to move to another scene or chapter to bring in another character’s direct input.

9. New writers often don’t create scenes the reader can visualize. Did you realize the human mind works in pictures rather than words? This forces us to write in such a way as to “paint a picture” with our words. New authors often have yet to master than technique of creative detailing. You can learn more about COMPELLING IMAGERY in this article.

10. And finally, there is the tendency for new writers to pepper their stories with clichés. This is a sign they have yet to develop their creative abilities.

By no means is this a complete list of common writing mistakes, but if you review your work and find these everyday errors are missing, you’re well on your way to writing a great novel. I do hope your writing continues to improve and I also hope you know by now, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”

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How to Drive Readers to Your Blog

In blogging, How-to's on April 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

List to a PODCAST of this article.

With the emergence of self-publishing as a viable form of authorship, it behooves the writer to learn how to market his work for maximum success. One of the initial steps you should consider is blogging. Once that marketing piece is in place, you then need to drive readers to your blog.

Here are some basic steps you can take to do just that.

Publish regularly. You should author articles and post them to your blog as often as possible, but no less than once a week.

Learn how to title your articles. Determine what terms and phrases people use to find information on the Internet and use those to title what you write. I first started with Google Adwords and then began to keep a database of those terms and words people use to find my blog. Can you guess what the number one phrase is?

Populate your blog posts with subscription options. Most of us are aware of the RSS feeds but you might also consider an email subscription service like Feedburner.

Try some article marketing. Think about writing article for sites like EZine or Scribd.com and others. As long as you place a link to your blog in the article, it’ll drive traffic to your blog.

Offer to guest post for other bloggers. Just this past Friday Elizabeth S. Craig was kind enough to allow me to guest post. Of course, she’s posting on my site in just a few days. These reciprocal arrangements encourage people to read both blogs so it builds readers for each party.

Consider if you should place a link under your email signature. Now everyone who sees your emails will be exposed to your blog. And you never know who knows whom.

Link your posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social networking sites to which you subscribe. As long as they serve your target market, it’ll help build your blog.

You may wish to add a button that allows your reader to retweet your posts. This encourages their followers to find you. I’m been remiss with this but will pick it up this week.

Read other blogs within your market and comment on them. People do tend to read article comments and everyone who does will see the link to your blog.

Build an email list of people who visit and comment. Send an email announcement to each of these people whenever you have a new article posted.

You might also implement share buttons on your blog posts. If you allow your readers to connect with you on various social networking sites, it’ll generate word of mouth advertising for you. One person did this for me on Stumbleupon and I received more than four thousand hits in one day, by far my largest number of hits from a single site in a day.

If this is a topic that holds interest for you, keep an eye out for this blog as I’ll be doing more on this subject soon.

So, what are your favorite tools to drive readers to your blog?

Until we speak again, you know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


Why I Will Self-Publish – Probably.

In General Information, Marketing Your Book, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on April 7, 2010 at 7:04 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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I’m about to finalize my decision as to how I am will sell my emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.” With that in mind, I must soon decide if I am to self-publish and endure all that entails or face the gauntlet of the publishing industry and all the rest that comes with that. (We have not chosen an easy industry, have we folks?

I see advantages with either scenario and I also see drawbacks with both. However, the more educated I become on the subject, the more it seems it is in my best interest is to go it alone. Here’s my train of thought. Please so advise if you disagree. I am open to an honest discussion on the matter.

Agents:

I like the idea of an agent who represents me and feel I have the capability to find a quality agent. That part doesn’t concern me. I really don’t like the process of how they choose the writers they represent. No, I agree with the query process. After all, even writers need a resume. What tweaks my cheeks is their query restrictions. One minor, unintended error that has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and you’re only opportunity to have them read your resume is lost. Don’t get me wrong, they have to do this. I understand and even agree. I just don’t like it. I also consider how once I find the proper agent for me, will I be the proper author for them? The odds are quite limited. Why hang my future on such low odds when I have other options? However, the real rub? After I’m through with the exhaustive experience of agenting, then I have to deal with the pub houses.

Publishing Houses:

Publishing houses do ease, though not guarantee, entry into the brick and mortars, which are the premier distribution channel for the writing industry – for now. However, distribution is their only remaining asset of any real worth and with the explosion of technology, I see their grip on distribution slip with each day that passes. In fact, I believe the Internet is about to leave them in the dust and take over their monopoly with distribution. Amazon, a technology company, even affects their sales model. That’s not a sign that instills confidence in me relative to their strength or ever their stability within the writing world.

Another major issue I have with pub houses is they’ll hire some salesman who MAY give my book a ten second pitch. If he wants to. Honestly? I want that salesman to answer to me, not some conglomerate who sees me not as a customer but as a product. Again, I understand and have no solution for them, I just don’t like the system.

Further, there’s almost no chance for an advance, which means I work on commission – a commission based not on my productivity but some unknown salesman’s capability. Now, I’ve worked on commission before and made a bunch of money doing it. But I either held the salesman’s position or the salesman worked directly for me. Under their arrangement, I’ll most likely never even meet this person, let alone develop a relationship with him. And yet, my career hinges on his efforts. It’s a scary thought to someone like me who has always pulled up his own boots.

The pub houses will not assist with marketing, so that effort and expense lies with me regardless.

The pub houses sometimes offer editing services, but even that benefit is dying. Plus, I can purchase that service on the open market and have a say in whom I hire. They do have book cover design services and that’s nice, but I give up all control over how they present what, in the final analysis, is my work. Further, I can purchase that service on the outside at a reasonable price and maintain total control.

Something else of which I do not approve? The publishing industry is absolutely subjective and good novels are lost all the time to this limiting aspect. Again, I do understand and it can be no other way, but that also dilutes my potential to a great degree. Again, I could lose not on my abilities, but on a stranger’s tastes or even their emotions of the moment.

This whole process just does not send that proverbial tingle up my leg.

So as I see it, to work with a major pub house, I give up a huge portion of my potential profits in exchange for little more than a diminished distribution system based primarily upon old technology? Hum…

Self-Publishing:

I do have one advantage most writers do not. I’ve owned and operated my own businesses since the days of paper boys with bicycles. I’m experienced with going it alone and I’m comfortable with the idea. I will admit this aspect of who I am influences me a great deal.

The major drawback to self-publishing? All the issues rest with me. I don’t worry too much as I’ve been a business decision maker my entire adult life, so making these kind of judgments are sort of par for the course.

Cost. It’s a big issue. However, it won’t break the bank, so it’s not too large of an issue. Besides, my wife is on board, so the real hurdle is already crossed.

Marketing. This is a major issue with those who self-publish and beyond the well-written novel itself, it’s the meat and potatoes of success. However, I’ve been self-employed and marketing since I my tenth birthday. Though the cost of it is a consideration, the Internet has supplanted much of that cost. I can work up copy, build web sites, use social networking and all the rest. I’ve even got contacts.

Product: I do believe I’ve got my breakout novel in hand and am convinced my novel will sell with correct marketing. It’s a great story and the narrative is well written and well edited. In fact, I dare say it’s better than most books the pub houses crank out. I know… I know… we all feel that way about our babies, but I’ve written two stinkers, so I’ve got somewhat of a handle on good vs. bad. This one is good.

Publishers: I’m not too worried about that. I’m good enough at research and I’ll find a good print shop with benefits, which is really all they are. I used to own a wholesale print shop, so I have a feel for what to look for.

Editing: I’ve got a relationship with an excellent editor who is reasonably priced and brutally honest with me. Besides, I’ve grown into a pretty good editor myself over the years.

Book Cover Design: Graphic artists are everywhere and some are even reasonably priced. Besides, I’ve got some great ideas and I’d like to see them fleshed out.

Distribution. Now here’s the other of the three big issues which also included cost and marketing. Again, I’ll forgo the brick and mortars for the Internet any day. The B & M’s are a dying breed and the Internet allows me to get my marketing message into almost every home in the English-speaking world. I’ll have a worldwide market, which includes their customers. So again, marketing is the secret to distribution. By the way, have you noticed the B & M’s now sell the very products that will either kill their business model or force them to become something other than a book store? “Here’s yer sign.”

Profit potential? I’ve worked up a business plan and feel I’m actually ahead with self-publishing. Especially when you consider the digital end of things. I’ll not have the overhead the pub houses do so my business plan gives me an huge edge when I keep all the profits rather than some small percentage. I retired from the business of coaching other businesspeople and did so for many years. I have confidence in my plan.

So, that’s my way of thinking on this important writing decision. I challenge you to show me where I’m wrong.

In the mean time, how ‘bout some referrals to self-pub houses that have impressed you?

Thanks for your help.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


The Key to Your Author’s Platform

In blogging, General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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The word, “platform” is bandied about these days as one of those many things an aspiring author is required to have. So what is an “author’s platform?” Here’s your quick definition. Your platform is nothing more mysterious then how you get the word out about your book. It’s how you market your novel. Or, as they describe in this associated ARTICLE, it is “your writing and publishing resume.”

The good news? A platform is within the reach of everyone who works at it. The bad? It takes time and effort to establish your platform.

The next question, of course, is why does someone writing a novel need one of these things? The initial answer is obvious. It helps you reach your target audience, those who will purchase your novel. And that is why you’re writing, right? Also, for good or bad, your platform gives you a leg up on garnering the interest of agents. If you think from the agent’s perspective, he gets paid only when your novel sells. So, he wants to know you already have a list of book buyers interested in your novel. The larger your platform, the better the chances an agent will represent you. The same thing applies to those who decide to self-publish. You’ll sell more books if you’ve developed a ready audience of novel buyers. It really is all about the money.

Now that I’ve mentioned money, if you’re smart about what you do, you can develop your platform for very little financial input. Though they could help, you don’t need expensive newspaper and radio ads. Neither is it required you find some wealthy benefactor to support you. (Boy, wouldn’t that be nice?) The fact is, most tools an aspiring author needs to build a platform are free or nearly so. Money should not be your stumbling block.

What might you do to create your author’s platform? As Joanna Penn says in her ARTICLE, “there is no magic bullet.” But here is a primer on how to get started.

Develop an email contact list. Every person with whom you come in contact is a potential book buyer. Get their email address and keep in contact. There are all sorts of programs for this, such as Constant Contact or even ACT! (No, I’m not a paid endorser of either.) However, this is one of your best tools with which to build your platform.

Here’s another idea, and one I appreciate. Write Articles. Like this one, for example. Create a blog and post your articles. This establishes credibility and offers people an opportunity to learn how you write, to experience your writer’s voice and so on. It allows them to get to know you.

You may also wish to join and utilize various social networking sites. Those you should consider include Twitter and Facebook.

Another optimum step is to publish and optimize your web site. This is your premier sales tool.

Secure testimonials. This can be daunting for many, I know, but there is nothing like word of mouth to get your platform cranking. Often when people read those articles you write, they’ll give you testimonials on their own. They leave them in the comment section of your blog. In fact, I’ll ask you to leave a testimonial when you’ve finished reading this article. Will you do that for me? (See how easy that is?)

Another option to consider is to publish a newsletter and send it those people who follow you throughout your various digital incarnations.

Don’t forget to utilize Amazon.com and its many tools. It’s a marvelous site to develop your writing platform.

There are any number of other ways to build your platform and you might look to THIS post by Rachelle Gardner for ideas from other successful authors.

As I close, allow me to offer one telling statistic I received from a very successful author here in Richmond. He told me only 6% of the people who came to his book signings found out about him from his efforts with traditional ads. 94% come from his social media contact work. So, you now have the key. Go open some doors.

Best of luck in your efforts to create your platform and drop a line if you have any questions.

I hope you know by now I wish for you only bestsellers!

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”


How to Find Your Agent

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on March 23, 2010 at 6:52 am

By C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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Most of us understand the passage to shelf space at the major book retailers is best realized by way of agent representation. And whether a writer wishes to admit it or not, each of us at least fantasizes about seeing our titles on the stores’ shelves.

So, how does an author find an agent to offer representation? This isn’t so difficult, though it does take time and effort.

It goes without saying you first must have mastered the craft of writing, with all that entails, and have that well-written book or novel completed. After all, an agent can’t ask to represent you unless you have a quality product they can sell for you. However, once you’ve traversed that long, arduous path of writing, it’s time to look for your agent.

A first priority is found in your professionalism. Few louts will ever receive an offer. Think of it from the agent’s perspective. Would you rather work with an idiot or a professional? So would they.

Next, you need to take the time to focus on the right kind of agents. Take careful aim at those suitable agents who might offer you the best chance of representation. The shotgun approach, that is querying every agent that might still live and breathe, will only waste your time, ego and money, not to mention the time and money of the various agents. Your purpose is to identify those agents who are most suitable to your novel or book, those who represent your genre.

Here are some tips on how to find the right agents.

If you’re unpublished to date, a great way to find your agent is at writers’ conferences. (Check out James River Writers for a great one in central Virginia, USA.) Focus on those agents who represent your genre and those with whom you’re a match on a personal level. Don’t forgo the personality match. It’s kind of like getting married to the wrong person.

There are any number of literary publications that can point you toward that perfect agent. They include, Writer’s Market, Literary Marketplace, Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest Magazine and the current Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up or check out these and other literary sources at your local library. All of these publications can assist you to identify those agents who might be interested in your novel.

Review books of those authors who write in your genre, then read the acknowledgement section. Quite often a novelist will mention their agent in this part of their novel. Those identified are, without question, agents who accepts your genre.

The Internet is loaded with sites to help you find that one agent you need. Consider Agent Query or The Society of Authors’ Representatives. Google “literary agents” and see what else you might find.

Network with other writers. Join a local writers’ group or two and become active in those groups. Being active is the secret to become known within these organizations. The membership should include a number of published authors and after they get to know you, they may be willing to introduce you to their agents.

Join one or more of the hundreds of national and international writers’ associations such as Poets and Writers, National Association of Women’s Writers or The Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Take the time to insure the groups you join are useful to you. Again, after they get to know you and your work, these members may be willing to pass your name along to their agents.

In time, you’ll have a list of potential agents developed. Once you do, organize it according to those who best suit your needs. If you’re an aspiring author, the secret is being honest with yourself. Look first to those who don’t represent the biggest names in the business. Try to find those agents with a bit of experience, but who still seek new authors to represent within your genre.

Once your list is complete and organized, it’s time to query. After that, it’s time to wait. On them, not on your writing. It can take months to hear from an agent, so here is where your mother’s warning comes into play: patience is a virtue. In the mean time, work on your next novel, enhance your education and so on. Just keep writing.

Once you do receive that first exhilarating call, be particular. The wrong agent can be worse than no agent at all.

Best of luck with your agent search and know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”