Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Links of Interest

MARKETS: An agent blogs about what romance editors are looking for.

CRAFT: Writing the Short Story.

CRAFT: Using interruptions in dialogue to create tension.

MARKETS: Links to markets for long and short fiction. (NOTE: I know nothing about these markets so use them at your own risk.)

CRAFT: Transitions and bridges in fiction.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Ten things you should know about a writing career.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Publishing, 2009

This last year has been, in many ways, a watershed year for publishing as both the failing economy and the drastic changes in distribution have stressed the major publishers' bottom line and the way they have always done business.

However, probably the most important news has been the war for control over content, for without content, none of the other news matters. Here are some of the things that have happened this year.

Amazon's attempt at a closed Kindle system failed, and they are opening up the Kindle to other sources of ebooks in both format and distribution sites.

Other ebook readers and distributors have fought back against Amazon's dominance of the market.

Amazon's Kindle's text-to-speech feature raised an uproar because Amazon was grabbing a right they hadn't contracted for, and they were forced to drop TTS.

Amazon has controlled ebook prices by imposing the $9.99 price point on most ebooks, and other distributors are following along. They also started a price war on paper bestsellers.

Google attempted to control content by trying to make all books, no matter what the copyright status, available for free on the web. Publishers and authors have fought them back on this issue.

Google declared "dibs" on books out of copyright and orphaned copyright books, but publishers, other distributors, and author organizations have screamed foul and are fighting it.

Many of the epublishers who have been around for years are being acquired by other epublishers. The latest acquisition is Hard Shell Word Factory by Mundania.

A number of the large conglomerate publishers, including Simon & Schuster, are making drastic reductions in ebook royalty rates.

Random House is again saying that old publishing contracts signed before ebooks existed give them ebook rights to books by authors such as William Styron. They have fought this battle once before and capitulated when they sued Rosetta Books for copyright infringement.

Many of these events and issues will be still in contention in the next few years so we're in for some interesting times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Links of Interest

QUERIES: How to query nonfiction.

MARKETS: Editors are eagerly looking for next big debut author in mainstream/literary fiction.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: This year in publishing recapped.


EDITING: Yet more suggestions to clean up your manuscript. This time, removing extra spaces.

WRITING EXERCISES: Authors list their most effective writing exercises.

PROMOTION: Are booksignings worth it?

PROMOTION: Can you have an online platform AND keep your life private?

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: What happens after you sell your book to a major publisher.

PROMOTION: What you need to do to get yourself in the reading public eye.

BOOKS ON WRITING: Suggestions of writing books on everything from craft to marketing.

AGENTS: Agent Chip MacGregor is taking questions for the next week. So go read the answers and ask one yourself. His blog entries have no special URL so you'll have to scroll down. Questions start on his December 22nd blog.

CRAFT and CHARACTERS: An interesting site that includes plot and character generators as well as tons of info on character psychology.

CRAFT: A writing challenge generator.

PROMOTION: Your book is out, now what?

CRAFT: Balancing worldbuilding, pace, and action.

CRAFT: How long should that short story be?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Camera as Pacing, CRAFT

In my blog entry on participant viewpoint , I talked about the dangers of using camera viewpoint in writing scenes, but the idea of a camera shooting the action can be useful when you are writing description.

As you describe a room from a character's viewpoint, imagine that the character is that camera as he scans the room as he enters.

In a scene which doesn't start with high action such as a fight, he would scan right to left or left to right, and the important objects would be described in relationship to those near it. The character would see the piano, then the bar, then the poker tables on the far side.

If some object or person is important--the character is looking for it or meeting him, etc., then that object or person is described first with the general impressions of the room then the details of the room can be filled in as needed. For example, if someone is coming at the viewpoint character with a sword, he won't notice the piano or the bar except as possible objects to hide behind.

When writing that description, the idea of the camera shot can also keep you from making a mistake in visual pacing.

For example, you are describing the room, then you put in a character's brief mental comment about something, then you go back to describing the room. That's the equivalent of beginning to pan the room with a camera then jerking the camera toward the main character's face, then the camera returns to panning.

By thinking of the visual description as camera work, you are less likely to make mistakes in visual and action pacing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why a writer should have professional goals and how to formulate them.

AGENTS: Agent Jenny Rappaport is closing her agency at the end of December because of the economy.

AUDIO "PUBLISHER" WARNING: Hudson Audio Publishing appears to be the newest scam to hit writer. (I've already received spam from them.)

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Contract Negotiation, Part 2.

CRAFT: Why a character does something. Creating backstory to make the story more believable.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The big advance versus better royalties.

AGENTS: Do you need an agent who handles multiple genres when you write them.

CONTRACTS: Foreign rights.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Things not to do when sending a query to an editor or agent.

CRAFT: The small things you need to do during an edit.

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Karen Ball, Executive Editor of Pure Enjoyment fiction at B&H Publishing Group which is a Christian publisher.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making a Main Character Likable, CRAFT

Sometimes, you can start out your story with a main character who isn't very likable, but a character must be likable or, at the very least, relatable for the reader. Here are ways to show more than the prickly outer elements of her personality.

If you give the main character a worthy goal in the first pages of the novel, then you give yourself time to make a seemingly unlikable character grow on the reader.

By worthy, I mean something the reader will want that character to succeed at– rescuing children, helping a nice person find happiness, etc. Even if the character starts out doing it for a base reason like money, the reader will still want him to succeed.

Simple things can help make a character start to grow on the reader. Pets are always a good option. Either he has one, or he can't resist the heroine's kitten, or something like that. Having him interact positively with a child is also a good likability quickie.

Recently, I read a short story in which the heroine breaks into the apartment of a possible villain-- a hard-ass security agent. A teddy bear is sitting on his couch, and he later admits it belongs to his nephew. With that simple stroke, the author made a seemingly unlikable bad guy a much nicer person.

Giving a character a vulnerability that the reader can relate to is also a good likability quickie. It can be as simple as a chick lit heroine having a bad hair day and the boss from heck, or the bad ass hero getting into a small plane and freaking out because he finds a snake.

Eventually, more likable elements of that character's personality will have to be shown, though, so the bad parts of her personality don't overwhelm the reader.

In some genre fiction like thrillers, the immediate likability quotient doesn't have to be high at the beginning, particularly if the character is strong and effective in what he needs to do.

But in a romance, the hero or heroine should be likable from the very beginning. The other main character can become likable as the book progresses, but he should not start as totally horrible. Some character traits like cruelty can't be forgiven or changed because, in real life, they never are.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Links of Interest

AGENTS: What should you expect from an agent.


BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: When does the money come? The confusion of a publishing contract explained. December 2, 2009 blog

CRAFT: Self-editing.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The art of negotiating.

MARKETS: St. Martin Press has a new YA Teen line.

BRAIN SCIENCE: How a writer can use what we know about brain science and reading to become a better writer.’s-brain-can-neuroscience-teach-how-to-be-a-better-writer/

CRAFT: Common words many use incorrectly.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: How long should you wait to hear from an editor?

PROMOTION: Using fans to help promote.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why those books appear at special spots and B&N and other bookstores.

MARKETS: The best paranormal fantasy (urban fantasy and paranormal romance) in the last ten years. A must read if this is your market.

CRAFT: Creating emotion in your stories.

CRAFT: Does your story have a message?

CRAFT: What a bad movie can tell you about not writing a bad book.


AGENTS: Agents from the point of view of an established author.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Picking An Epublisher, MARKETS

If you've read my blogs on the pros and cons of different types of publishers, and you've decided on marketing your book to epublishers, here's how you find likely candidates.

Picking an epublisher is a bit trickier than picking a traditional New York publisher because there are so many and their methods are so different.

To start your search, first check out review sites and look for reviews of novels similar to yours and see which ones get the praise. If you can't tell an ebook publisher from one of the traditional publishers, use Google to check out the publisher. Soon, you'll recognize publisher names.

You can also ask about at various online writing groups and sites where writers hang out. Some clueless types hype their very poor publishers so don't take everything you hear as correct.

When you find likely publishers, check out their site. Look at the kinds of books they sell.

If your book is straight fantasy, you may regret a publisher which emphasizes romance on its home page or has a very small amount of fantasy because you'll have difficulty selling to the fantasy crowd even if your book is a perfect example of a great fantasy. The SF/fantasy crowd tend to be snobs and run in the opposite direction if they associate your publisher with romance.

Another way to check out epublishers is to see if the publisher's books are available in a wide range of formats and at other sites besides their website. Without exception, my ebooks sell worst at the publisher's site than anywhere else because readers prefer the one-stop shopping of places like Fictionwise.

Go to the main venues like Fictionwise and see who is selling the most books in your genre. (The lists can be arranged in best-selling order.)

Go to publisher sites and read their guidelines and their posted contract. Compare the contract to EPIC's model contract. ( Also, look at EPIC's "Red Flags" article. Links to both can be found under "Helpful Items" on the left side of the site.

Read a number of the publisher's books, or at least, the posted promotional chapters. Are there grammatical and spelling errors? Are the books bad? If so, find another publisher.

Also, look at their covers. Would you want a cover like that? Do the covers fit the genre of the book?

Once you get a few possibilities, ask about them on listservs where authors congregate. Most of us will warn you away from the crooked and inept publishers. Also, check them out at Preditors and Editors.

You'll soon discover that the biggest epublishers with the best reputations are closed to submissions most all the time. Their stable of writers can produce more than enough books for them without dealing with the slush pile.

But there are new publishers who are more than eager for good material. Unfortunately, they usually don't have a track record so you really don't know what you're getting in to.

All this research won't guarantee a safe passage through the stormy waters of publishing, I've had a few disastrous publishers who have lost distribution after I've signed with them or who have proven to be inept, but publishing is like life. Sh*t just happens despite whatever we do.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Links of Interest

PROMOTIONS: Marketing Principles Part 3 of 3

NEW MARKET: A new magazine publisher seeking sf/fantasy/horror short stories.


BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The dangers of success.

CONTRACTS: Dangerous language to watch out for in contracts.

PUBLISHING TRENDS: Booksquare talks about the future of ebook

AGENTS: Finding a reputable literary agent.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: What major changes we'll see in electronic publishing in the next year.

PROMOTION: Why an author should have promotion ideas before they sell that book.

CRAFT: How to test your writing's readability.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding a Traditional Publisher, MARKETS

Following up last week's look at the different markets for your novel, I'm going to look at specific types of markets and how to find the right publisher for you. This week it is traditional paper publishers.

Months before you finish your novel, you should be thinking about the right market for it. This is important even if you intend to get an agent because you will have to tell that agent where your book fits in the market.

If you read a recently published book that has similar elements to the book you are creating, look at who published it and make note. Look at the publisher's line it is printed under. Is it their fantasy line or their romance line? How many pages long is it? When was it published?

Does the writer thank his agent or editor by name in the acknowledgment or dedication page? Has the writer published other books or is this the first?

Make a note of all this information as well as a brief plot summary and your impressions of the book and put it in a file for later when you begin to plan the marketing of your book.

Also mention where the book is physically. This will save you from ripping your keeper shelves apart when the book came from the library or was loaned to you by your best friend.

Now is a good time to get that subscription to "RT Bookreview," or "Locus," or some other review magazine in your genre.

If you read a review of a similar book, clip the review, date it, and toss it into the file, too.

You may be eclectic in your reading, but the NY publishers aren't eclectic in their buying. Every line, whether romance or otherwise, has neat little pigeon holes for each kind of book, and if you choose the wrong pigeon hole to put your book in, they'll toss it back to you.

Being published for the first time is hard enough when you have an incredible book that's perfectly crafted. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and waste your time and some editor's by sending a book written for one market to another.

Also, notice what the first-time writers have sold to publishers. Nora Roberts can do incredibly innovative things because she has the name and audience to do it so editors let her do it. The first-time writer shows you what you probably can get away with and sell. Of course, if that new writer's book failed badly, I wouldn't use it as your poster child to a successful career.

Now is also the time you should start searching out the market news. If you are a member of RWA or another organization, start studying the market news offered.

Be sure to go back through the last months of my "Links of Interest" where I have listed editor and agent interviews as well as market information.

The Internet offers an incredible number of other market resources, and some offer listserv newsletters. I subscribe to Cindi Myers romance market news/blog. To join, send a blank email to .


The Market list for sf, fantasy, and horror

Mystery Readers International another list of links to publishers, etc.

SF romance small press markets:

SF romance traditional publishers:

SF/fantasy/horror markets:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: A point by point analysis of Harlequin Horizon's offer to authors.

PROMOTION: Tips for book readings.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The top 10 myths about ebooks.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Some smart advice on whether to self-publish or not.

AGENTS: Seven Reasons an agent stops reading the first chapter.

SELF-PUBLISHING: Self-publishing done right.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: How much does a publisher make per book?

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Digital rights and ebook royalities.

PROMOTION: The four basic marketing principles.

Part 1:

Part 2:

MARKETS: Self-publishing, good or bad?

BACKGROUND FOR STORIES: An editor at WIRED tried to disappear for a month. He talks about how he created his new identity, and the problems he faced in this day of nosy technology.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Epublishers and Other Online Distribution Methods, Pro and Con


Epublishers release their books in digital format although some also offer print options mainly in the form of print-on-demand publishing.

The advantage to epublishing is a wider range and number of publishers as well as less pigeonholing of book types. Since the costs of producing an ebook are much smaller than with paper-published books, the publisher can afford to publish books that don't fit tight market requirements.

Most epublishers handle the cost of editing and cover design, but only a few offer a very small advance of royalties.

You will usually have a great deal of impute into the cover art, editing, and the book blurb.

Distribution is nonexistent in bookstores, of course, but the books are available at the publisher's website and ebook distribution sites like Fictionwise where they will be sold with the ebook versions of books from traditional publishers and small press.

One major disadvantage is less money. Not enough people are buying ebooks yet so the money isn't there.

Even erotica, the growth market for ebooks, isn't offering much profit for most new authors because of the glutted market.

Those most successful in ebooks are prolific writers who are able to produce three or more high quality books a year that are sold to the same audience. That audience buys all their books, and each new book draws in more readers who buy the backlist. Darrell Bain and Charlee Compo are good examples of this kind of success.

Epublishing companies also have the same disadvantage as small press. They are run by individuals so an illness or family tragedy can put your book on hold, or the publisher can fail completely.


You can format your book into an ebook then sell it from your website or through a few ebook distributor sites. Some of the major distributor sites like Fictionwise are closed to the self-published.

The advantage is total control and a much cheaper setup cost than a paper book. The disadvantages are much the same as with any form of self-published book.


The final market really isn't a market because no profit is made.

If you want to be read and money doesn't matter, putting your book on the web for free via a website, a blog, a free download site like Memoware, or a listserv like Yahoogroups may be the route to take.

You will have to promote for readers, but you will get them, and a few will actually comment on your work.

Some writers do this as a learning experience. Others simply don't want to bother with the hassle of the publishing process.

The disadvantages are no money and the possibility your book may end up elsewhere without your permission.

The simplest way to gain popularity, readers, and comments is to write in a popular fan fiction universe like Harry Potter or HEROES. A decent writer can become a big fish in a very small pool with lots of fans and none of the heartache of the professional markets.


If you're still confused about which market you should try, think long and hard about what you really want from publishing and go from there.

And welcome to the wonderful world of publishing. Tighten your seatbelt because you're starting one heck of a bumpy but fascinating flight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Subsidy/vanity Presses and Self-Publishing, Pros and Cons


Many of the subsidy and vanity publishers have a system for publishing the book set up so all you have to do is plug in the various components of the book.

You will design the cover or pay to have someone design the cover, you will write the book blurb, and you will edit or pay someone to edit your book. They will take all this and print the book for you.

Unfortunately, they will expect you to pay all the expenses in this process and will still take a huge chunk of the profits for doing nothing. Most of the services cost considerably more than if you found someone else to do them.

Some of these presses also have contracts which control your book forever so that you can't sell it elsewhere.

Even those subsidy presses who claim they can get your books on those shelves rarely do.

Frankly, there is no pro in this kind of publisher, only cons.


With self-publishing, you must find a printer to print your book for you, etc., but you will receive all the profits. Some printer services offer help with covers, etc., but it's added cost.

The major advantage to this method is you have most of the control for every element of your book.

A major disadvantage is that you have control over every element of your book. If you don't know what you are doing, you will spent a lot of money to make a fool of yourself.

Distribution is the biggest disadvantage of self-publishing. It is almost impossible to get your book onto the shelves of bookstores and in the catalogs of distributors.

You will have to literally hand sell each book. To do this, you must have the soul and charm of a successful used car salesman and lots of time.

A self-published book, unless it achieves best-selling status, also does more harm than good to a writer's reputation and future because most in the publishing world have a great deal of disdain for the self-published, particularly in fiction, so moving into another form of publishing later is much harder to do.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about electronic publishing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Traditional Publishers and Small Publishers, Pros and Cons

You have your novel finished. Now what?

You have lots of options -- ebooks publishers, small press publishers, traditional publishers, or some form of self-publishing.

In the next few days, I'll talk about each form of publishing with some pros and cons to consider with each type of publisher.


Traditional publishers are the publishers you find in bookstores. In US publishing, many are based in New York City. Some of these publishers of genre/popular fiction include Tor, Pocket, St. Martin, Dorchester, and Kensington.

The major advantage to these publishers is distribution. Their books are usually carried by all the major bookchains and distributors so anyone can walk into the neighborhood bookstore and buy or order your book.

The better the distribution, the more books sold.

They will also give you an advance on your earnings and cover all the costs of creating the book itself including editing, the cover, and the printing.

Authors published this way are on the top of the author pecking order.

The major disadvantage is competition. You will have an uphill battle to gain a coveted slot in a publishing schedule and your competition will include many published authors.

In some markets, you'll need to get an agent even before you begin the fight for that slot, and this is an equally difficult and slow process.

Another disadvantage is lack of control. You will have almost no say in your book's title and cover. More often than not, you will also be required to change some of the book's content.

Pigeonholing is another problem. You must write to fit the current trends in popularity. It's a rare book that can be totally different.


Small press is a minature version of the traditional publisher, but rather than being owned by a conglomerate, it is owned by individuals. Many are niche publishers specializing in a particular market like regional mystery or paranormal romance.

Some have the advantage of good distribution through book chains and distributors so they can be found in bookstores, but others do not. It will be much harder to find your book in a bookstore, but it should be available for ordering.

All the expenses of editing, cover art, and printing are covered by the small press, and some offer advances on earning which are usually much smaller than the traditional publisher.

The amount of author impute in the publishing process ranges from none to a great deal according to the individual press.

The disadvantages include poorer distribution, the vagaries of the how each runs its business, and the inherent risk of working with a small company where an owner's illness can stop the presses.

TOMORROW, I'll discuss self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Self-publishing versus Vanity/subsidy Press

Recently, several major publishers, including Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, have announced self-publishing options for authors under their brand name. In Harlequin's case, it is Harlequin Horizons.

You pay them for various services including editing, covers, etc., and they publish your book in paper and in common ebook formats like the Kindle.

But are these services really self-publishing, or are they vanity/subsidy press?

Here are working definitions of these two types of publishing--

SELF-PUBLISHING: The author must find a printer, editor, etc., and must pay for each service, then must find the distribution services, as well. All profit goes to the author.

SELF-PUBLISHING THROUGH A ONE-STOP PRINTER: Some printers offer all the services necessary to publish a book. Each service is paid by the author. All profit goes to the author.

VANITY/SUBSIDY PRESS: They offer all the services necessary to publish a book like the one-stop printer. You can buy in for the basic service, then you can add on various services like editing, cover art, etc. The vanity/subsidy press, however, then takes a large cut of the profit with no risk or cost to itself.

By these definitions, Harlequin Horizons is a vanity/subsidy press because they take 50% of the profit.

If you'd like to study a line by line explanation of Harlequin Horizons' promises to authors, and what those promises really mean, I suggest Jackie Kessler's blog on the subject.

What do I think of all this? I believe that an author should educate herself on all the options and make an informed choice. An educated writer won't be a victim to the parasites of dreams who prey on writers.

For the next few days, I'm going to publish a series of blogs about all the publishing options available to an author. I'll talk about the pros and cons of each method so you can decide which is right for you.

I'd appreciate it if you would share this special blog event with your writing friends, etc.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Links of Interest

WORLDBUILDING: Highly respected fantasy author Katherine Kerr shows how she created her magical world.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The tricky out-of-print contract clause.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why publishers are having an increasingly bad time of pushing specific titles, particularly nonfiction.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: How the no-competition clause in a publishing contract affects separate electronic rights.

CRAFT: The inciting event in a novel.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Yet more words to know about books sold--sell in, sell through, returns and earn out. Simple words that can make or break your career.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: An overview of the revision of the Google Book agreement with links to various articles.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Introduction to the things you need to do to get ready to submit your novel to agents or publishers.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Three things you want to figure out before you try to sell your book to agents or publishers.

Agent Irene Goodman will auction off 25 partial (3 chapters and a synopsis) critiques for charity.

NEW WORD OF THE YEAR: The people at New Oxford American Dictionary have choosen their new word of the year among such contenders as netbook, ecotown, teabagger, hashtag, intexticated, unfriend, and sexting.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Ebook sales are exploding, and paper book sales are getting better.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Agent Kristin Nelson gives her take on Harlequin's new self-publishing/vanity press line, Horizons.

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Harlequin editor Charles Griemsman.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Viewpoint as Camera or Participant, craft

The most common mistake in writing third person viewpoint is the writer becomes a camera rather than the actor in the scene. In other words, the writer is sitting in the corner scribbling away as they describe the movie going on in front of them.

As a camera, the writer would write:

Faith struck at him with the edge of her hand, but he caught her wrist and held it.

"Don't," he said harshly.

She clawed at his eyes, but he dodged. Yanking free, she came to her knees but paused.

He took advantage of her slowness by throwing himself on top of her and pinning her to the bed.

She kicked at his groin and missed. Screaming and twisting, she tried again.

The correct place for the writer to be is in the brain and body of the viewpoint character. She should describe what the viewpoint character sees and feels to make the scene come alive. Here's the same scene through the filter of viewpoint character, Faith Cody.

Faith struck out with the edge of her hand, but the self-defense blow which should have smashed his windpipe was as clumsy and slow as the rest of her drugged body. He caught her wrist in steel fingers.


His hard-voiced command spurred her from her hopelessness, and she raked at his eyes with her free hand. His hand loosening her wrist, he dodged.

Yanking free, she came to her knees in bed. She wore only a large tee shirt.

Shocked by her vulnerability, she paused before attacking again or fleeing. In that moment, he threw himself at her, pinning her to the bed, his hands manacling her wrists to the sheets.

Her knee seeking his genitals, she twisted, but her knee glanced off his inner thigh. Screaming like an angry jungle cat, she writhed beneath him as she tried to hit him again with her knee.


The trick to being in a character's head is to create a reality for the reader. Use visual language. Make the reader SEE what the character sees. Make the reader FEEL what the character feels.

Don't say, "Pamela was afraid." Say, "Shivers ran down her back like cold fingers." In other words, show, don't tell. If a character is angry, don't have him shout dialogue or "say angrily." Use his actions instead. If he's grinding a wadded paper to pulp in his hand while he's talking, you can be darn sure he's mad.


Camera or panoramic viewpoint does have a place in fiction, particularly in epic fantasy or historical novels, where the writer wants to show the large overview of a great battle or event. Tolkien in LORD OF THE RINGS often uses the camera viewpoint.

If you are considering using camera viewpoint within most genre, you need to decide if the larger viewpoint is worth the loss of immediacy. In most cases, it isn't.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Links of Interest


BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: SL Viehl shows the money reality of was a massmarket bestseller looks like.

CRAFT: Using a fairy tale as the structure for your novel.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Licensing your book rights.

MARKET NEWS: Harlequin has started a digital-only publishing company, Carina Press. It is looking for not only all subgenres of romance, but also mystery, suspense, thrillers, erotica, and fantasy.

AGENT INTERVIEW: Agent Diana Fox of Writer’s House.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Simple explanation of royalties and advances.

AGENT INTERVIEW: Editorial assistant to Matt Bialer, Lindsay Ribar.

PROMOTION: Acknowledging your weaknesses and strengths in promotion.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Ten things to remember if you want to be a published author.

AGENTS: Canadian agent Sally Harding is interviewed.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Is your book financially worth publishing? Publishers and numbers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Using a Real Place with a Fictional Name, CRAFT

QUESTION: I've tried to turn small towns with which I'm familiar into fictional towns or settings--usually for a paranormal world. Each time, I've ended up with a big, confusing, frustrated mess. You have mentioned that you have done this. Do you have any tips or tricks for developing your hometown into a fictional town?

In my novel, TIME AFER TIME, my heroine’s hometown of Moravia is literally my hometown with the location of streets, etc.

The heroine's engagement party is in a country club that's about five miles away from where I live.  I fiddled a bit with the look of the huge room and the patio where she meets the hero, though, to fit the plot.

The hero picks her up in a horse and carriage and takes her to the golf course to the east of the country club.

I know where the McDonalds is that they stop at for a late snack and the apartment complex where she lives.

In a series I'm working on now set in Moravia, the hero's house is about a block away from where I live. The house is across the street from the Methodist church I went to as a child.

The hero and his best friend ride on trails I rode as a girl, and the heroine goes to a fictional version of my alma mater.  When she drives there, I know what she passes, and the campus is described accurately.

If I change some element of the real town for my fictional town, I make a note to myself to that effect although I rarely reuse settings like the country club.

I give the streets different names because I don't want people to make too close a connection between High Point and Moravia, and for the new series, I'm using the High Point of twenty-five years ago because it fits better.  Those riding trails are now housing developments, for example.

Rather than a map, I have an equals list.
Willow Street = Chestnut Drive
Nathanton = Greensboro

Most of my names have a word play involved.  Willow and Chestnut are both trees, and Greensboro is named after Revolutionary War hero, Nathaniel Green.

I never use exact distances, but I know how long it would take to get from the magic equipment storage warehouse to Daniel's house in the middle of the night if you were driving well over the speed limit.

This information doesn't really change what happens or anything, and I could change the time for my own convenience, but just knowing helps keep the place real for me, and, hopefully, that makes the place more real to the reader.

QUESTIONS: Ask me a writing or publishing question! Contact me via my blog or webpage.

WRITING WEBSITE AWARDS: If you enjoy this website, be sure to nominate it and recommend it to friends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Links of Interest

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Megan Records of Kensington.

QUERY LETTERS: Agent Janet Reid blogs about the effective query letter.

CRAFT: Story structure.

CRAFT: Back story. What it is and how to avoid putting too much of it in.

RESEARCH: Paranormal Investigations.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The Top Five Secrets to Getting a Book Deal

STRESS: Learning to deal with the stress of being a writer.

EBOOK READERS: An overview of all the ebook reader hardware now available.

COPYRIGHT: Free download of Cornell University’s “Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums”

CRAFT: The difference between foreshadowing and telegraphing future plot points.

QUERIY LETTERS: Agent Jessica Faust discusses query lengths.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Mistakes a new author should avoid.

AGENTS: How to turn off an agent.

CRAFT: Exposition.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Formatting Internal Dialogue, CRAFT


I have query about the correct way to convey internal thoughts and sounds.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style: "11.47 Unspoken discourse:
Thought, imagined dialogue, and other interior discourse may be enclosed in quotation marks or not, according to the context or the writer’s preference."

I gather whether quotation marks are used and which type varies from publishing house to publishing house. Is that correct?

ANSWER: The only times I’ve ever seen quotation marks used for interior dialogue in popular fiction is along the lines of -- “Brilliant move,” I said silently to myself.

The standard method is to italicize the thought-- The bell slipped out of my fingers and clanged loudly as it hit the floor. I winced. Brilliant move, Byerly.

Some publishers, particularly of nonfiction, will state the stylebook they prefer, but most fiction publishers don’t. In the case of no stylebook mentioned, use grammar correctly and be consistent.


In deep third POV, it’s quite common to have a fair amount of interior dialogue.

I try to ask myself whether the person is posing themselves a specific question or stating some fact to themselves. If they are, I put them in italics, otherwise I don’t. Is this the best way to do it?

What if they ask themselves a rhetorical question?

ANSWER: You seem to have a firm grip on where you italicize sentences. For rhetorical sentences, either way would work.

I tend to avoid italicized internal dialogue because it breaks the reader’s rhythm, particularly if it’s done too much or too little. Instead, I write so that I remain deep in POV.

For example, to remove the internal dialogue of my earlier example, I’d write: The bell slipped out of my fingers and clanged loudly as it hit the floor. I winced at my clumsiness.


I also have problems with the verb’s tense in internal discourse eg. She loosened her grip, so the rope slid through her hands and let her feet slide over the knot. Shit – rope burn. Her feet reached another knot. She clung to the rope, her body shaking, her palms sweating so hard they felt cold. This wasn’t working.

Should the last bit be This isn’t working.?

ANSWER: If “This isn’t/wasn’t working” is deep POV, the sentence would use “wasn’t.” If it’s internal dialogue, use “isn’t.”

If you’re confused about the tense, pretend it is dialogue for internal dialogue and speak it aloud to see if it sounds right. If it’s a thought, the tense remains the same as the rest of the narrative.

QUESTION CONTINUED: If you’re trying to signify there is a sound made, does it go inside single or double quotes or can you use italics?

ANSWER: Sounds are italicized only.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Online browsing habits and selling books.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The royalty statement and the Reconciliation to Print clause/

Sales by accounts:

Lack of information on some statements:

CRAFT: Self-editing. Redundancy and wordiness.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: THE FCC clarifies the blogger/book review issue.


I'll be busy with visiting family next week so I won't be blogging.

Use this free time to check out the archives of this blog. The label index on the left side is a great way to find subjects you are interested in.

My domain site,, also has loads of articles on writing. Click on the short stories and articles navigation icon at the bottom of each page to see the articles index.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Long Should a Chapter Be?

QUESTION: How long should a chapter be?

There is no "official" length for chapters.  Most run around 15-20 manuscript pages in genre.  Category romances run a bit shorter.

The best rule of thumb is to end the chapter at your strongest hook/cliffhanger so the reader can't resist reading a few more pages to see what happens next.

The worst place to end a chapter is after solutions have been found, and the next disaster hasn’t started happening.


RESEARCH SOURCE: In my blog on creating psychic characters, I discussed using television resources. A new documentary show called PSYCHIC PI is starting tonight on A&E at 11 PM ET which should prove a wealth of ideas on how a psychic can work with the police to solve crimes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Agent Kristin Nelson begins a series on the nuts and bolts of contracts. First up, the royalty accounting periods.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: What the FCC ruling about bloggers and reviews will mean to authors.

PROMOTION: An author’s guide to working with publicists. (Be sure to check out the rest of this blog for new authors. It looks awesome.

AGENTS: A handy-dandy guide to finding the right literary agents to query.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The profit and loss statement. Part One. This will be hard slogging if you aren’t that into business, but it’s worth your time. Read the dang thing!

Part Two: The Details

Part Three of Four: Exceptions to the rules mentioned.

SHORT STORY MARKETS: Bibliophile Stalker is maintaining a spreadsheet of speculative fiction short story anthologies looking for submissions.
If this link doesn’t work, go to to find a live link.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why short stories are good for publishers and some writers. More about literary than genre fiction, but some interesting ideas.

PROMOTION: The Book Tour

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Royalty statements. Agent Kristin Nelson talks about the Random House royalty statement.

AGENT INTERVIEW: Agent Kelly Mortimer who handles mainly Christian fiction and romance.

CRAFT: Cutting down the overlong novel to publishable size.

AGENTS: What to do when an agent wants to represent you.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Getting permission to quote music lyrics.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Active versus Passive Goals, CRAFT

I'm a great fan of Andre Norton, the incredible sf and fantasy author.

When I read Norton’s MERLIN'S MIRROR, I was so disappointed by the book I reread it to figure out why.

The character of Merlin has a mirror which tells him the future, and he has to make it happen. Through the whole novel, he does all kinds of active things but doesn't make the first important decision about his own life or what he wants to do. Instead, he's led along by that dang mirror.

He is as passive, in many ways, as a character who is always reacting to others rather than charting his own course, and a passive main character means a boring book.

Being active as a character is as much about choices as it is about running around doing stuff to achieve a goal, particularly someone else's goal.

ASK ME A QUESTION! If you have a writing or publishing question, please ask. Contact me via this blog or via email at marilynnbyerly at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The ebook survey from the Frankfurt Bookfair on the future of ebooks as seen by publishing pros.

PROMOTION: Pro author promoters tell what an author needs to do to create a successful blog.

COPYRIGHT: Good overview of copyright including creative commons licenses.

PROMOTION: How to have a successful author event at a bookstore. Written for bookstore owners but with lots of good advice for an author.

EBOOK FORMATS: Scott Marlowe explains the different ebook formats available as well as their potential for conversion to other formats.

CRAFT: SF writer Vonda N. McIntyre discusses some of the pitfass of writing sf fantasy.’s-in-the-right-place/

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Agent Kristin Nelson talks about the major increases she’s seeing in ebook sales numbers from her clients.

PROMOTION: The first in a series on writing press releases.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Editor lists her blogs on many aspects of writing with the writer in mind. A Must Read!

CRAFT: The cure for the sagging middle of a novel.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Yen and Yang of the Hero and His Opponent

When you are planning your novel, you need to make sure the protagonist and the antagonist are made for each other like a romantic couple.  A sort of yen and yang of power and abilities.

For every power, strength, ability, or skill the hero/heroine has, the bad guy or guys should have one that tops him/her enough that he/she can barely survive each attack.  The hero/heroine should win more on guts and a need to protect his/her romantic partner or innocents than those abilities.

The hero/heroine's fight must also be as much about fighting against an emotional weakness/fear as it is about fighting the bad guy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

LInks of Interest

MARKETS: Science fiction romance markets--small press and epublishers.

CRAFT: Fictional versus real settings.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The new publishing paradigms. Agent Lucienne Diver talks about the changes in publishing and what it means for writers.

CRAFT: Does male viewpoint work in women’s fiction?

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Earn out. What it is and what it means for your career.

MARKET NEWS: Steam and cyberpunk wanted.

CRAFT: The active main character versus the reactive main character.

CRAFT: First impressions, the first paragraphs of your story.

MARKETS: Primarily sf/fantasy/horror markets for short stories and novels.

MARKETS: An automatic book description generator. It creates good general ideas but not the final product for a query.

PROMOTION: Online promotion. Social sites.

Yet more on social sites and the newer forms now appearing.

AGENTS: Questions to ask a reputable agent before signing up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who Is the Main Character? CRAFT

Figuring out who the main character is in your novel is often hard for the romance writer when both the hero and heroine are strong personalities.

The simplest way to find out is to ask yourself who has to change the most in very important ways to reach her/his goal.  That person is the main character.

The main character should act to reach that goal, not have it happen to him/her as a matter of events.

Why do you need to know? If you know, you can make the novel stronger by emphasizing that character’s changes.

And when it comes time to market that novel to a publisher or the reader, you’ll know who to emphasize when you describe your novel.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I'll be busy with visiting family the week of September 21st so I won't be blogging.

Use this free time to check out the archives of this blog. The label index on the left side is a great way to find subjects you are interested in.

My domain site,, also has loads of articles on writing. Click on the short stories and articles navigation icon at the bottom of each page to see the articles index.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: The myth that you have to know someone to be published.


STEAMPUNK DEFINED: One of the hottest subgenres around right now.

PLOTS: When back story is a bad thing.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: An overview of the state of big publishing from a survey by “Publishers Weekly.”

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: One of the people behind the failed epublisher Quartet talks about the digital publishing model.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Some of the dangers of self-publishing to an author’s career.

MARKETS: Galaxy Express blogs on print markets for science fiction romance. This is part one. Check the site for part 2.


PROMOTION: What kinds of marketing campaigns work. No direct link to the article. Look for the September 14th blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Classifying Cross-genre

If a novel is cross-genre, one of the genres must be the strongest and its genre tropes and plot must drive the novel throughout.

A sf romance is first and foremost a romance.  Linnea Sinclair's sf romance novels are driven forward by the romance. Catherine Asaro's novels are science fiction novels with a romantic element.  The science fiction plot and worldbuilding drive the novel forward, not the romance.

A werewolf novel that is driven forward by the worldbuilding and various werewolf political/pack struggles is urban fantasy.  A werewolf novel where boy wolf meets girl vampire, and they fall in love during various werewolf political/pack struggles is a paranormal romance.

The important thing to pull out of this is that you must understand what the central genre of your novel is so your novel doesn't fail by genre standards.

When you are writing your book, staying within genre or subgenre expectations makes the book much easier to sell to the big publishers in NY.

If you write what you want to write outside of those expectations, you are more likely to have a book that will only sell to smaller markets like an ebook publisher.

You will also have a harder time finding the right readers for your novel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Links of Interest

CRAFT: How to critique your own manuscript. This subject continues through the week at this blog so keep reading past this entry.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why you should be careful of what you say online.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Career planning and money. There’s no direct link to this article. Go to this website and look for the September 5th, 2009 entry.

CRAFT: Who is the main character of your story?

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Some of the factors to consider when you are trying to decide if you can quit your day job to be a full time writer.


MARKETS: Editorial Assistant, Latoya Smith, for Grand Central Publishing (formerly Time Warner Books) talks about what she’s looking for. Normally, GCP only looks at agented authors, but this blog doesn’t specify.

PROMOTION: When should an author pay for professional promotion? The September 9th blog at

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Why you need an agent even though the publisher doesn’t require one.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Minor Characters, CRAFT

A minor character is one who makes one or two appearances in a story, or if he has more appearances, he has no real character growth. He can be anything from the stable boy who tends the horses to the best friend’s brother who has a few comic moments.

Here are things to consider when you have minor characters in a scene.

If all the characters in a scene are minor to the plot, you need to ask yourself whether you need the scene.

If the scene is only there to tell readers something about the main character, then you should move it to a scene that is necessary with characters who are more important.

If the person is familiar to the point-of-view character, very little physical description is needed unless the physical description has importance in the scene.

For example, Jim studies his friends and decides to take Fred with him to meet the bad guy because Fred is built like a linebacker and is good in a physical fight.

However, if it's in the heroine's viewpoint, and she's introduced to the hero's friends, she will pay attention to what they look like and their names so more physical detail is needed.

If the scene needs a waitress who adds nothing to the scene beyond taking the food order, you can use some line like "the waitress took their order and left."

If the hero is flirting with the waitress to make the heroine jealous, then a bit more of a physical description may be needed and a bit more personality if the character flirts back.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Links of Interest

MARKETS: Harlequin Editor Birgit Davis-Todd is interviewed.

AGENT INTERVIEW: Laura Bradford “How dark is too dark?”

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden talks about the future of science fiction, ebooks, etc.

CRAFT: Point of View, Unreliable Narrators, and Subjective Experience

AGENT INTERVIEW: Agent Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Word Count and Manuscript Format

New York publishers all expect a standard page format for manuscripts.  

Why is this important information for you to know before you start sending your book out?

If you start out in the "official" format, you will have a better idea of the book's word length.  

Word length in publishing is figured out by page, not by the exact number of words in your document.  

In "official" format, each page equals 250 words whether there is white space or not.  If you want your novel to be 100,000 words long, divide 100,000 by 250 to find out the number of pages needed.  If you've written 130 pages and want to know how many words you've written, mulitiple 130 by 250.

Here's how to format.

Font: Courier New in 12 point

Margins:  1 inch borders on all sides

Double spacing

25 lines per page excluding the header

Two spaces after each period

For the header, include your last name/MANUSCRIPT NAME at the left margin and the page number at the right margin. (Some publishers prefer this differently so check their guidelines before sending your manuscript.)

To indicate breaks between scenes, either double space twice, or double space, type three asterisks* * * or pound symbols # # # with spaces between them, center them, then another double space.

 If you use Word, don't type the three symbols fast because Word considers that instructions to do something weird to your formating.  

I prefer to use the three symbols because that makes it easier to tell scene breaks when the scene ends at the bottom or top of a page.

For each new chapter, drop down 4 inches, then type the chapter heading in caps-- CHAPTER TWO, center that, then double space to begin the text.

Some word processing programs make it pretty darn difficult to get the format perfect, particularly the 25 lines per page. If you have one of these programs, I use iPage which is one of them, it’s better to fiddle with the top and bottom margins and the line spacing so you have the 25 pages than to have the other format elements perfect.


Most epublishers want the literal word count, not the NY publisher formatted word count.  Sometimes, they'll tell you so on their site; sometimes, they won't.

Epublishers who don't have a print line tend not to be so hung up on word count because the word count doesn't matter as much.

Paper publishers, however, have to figure in the cost of paper as well as maintaining a certain size of book.  

These days, to cut expenses, most of the big paper publishers don't want a book over 100,000 words from an unpublished or midlist author.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Links of Interest

GENRE SALES NUMBERS: Pimp My Book is looking at sales numbers for various popular genres. A very general overview, but his lack of information on the specific makes his commentary less than useful for those in that market.


THE GOOGLE SETTLEMENT: Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon join in against the Google settlement.

CRAFT: Reasons and solutions to why you can’t finish writing that book.

PLOT/CRAFT: An excellent series of articles on story structure.

PROMOTION: What does and doesn’t make a good website.

PROMOTION: What is your online persona? This site analyzes all the places where your name appears online. Not surprisingly, mine is equal parts books and education, but I also have a solid presence in religion for no reason I can think of.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Dollar of Trust, CRAFT

I recently read an online discussion of whether readers of paranormal romance are as put off by poor research or bad science as other readers. Whether you believe this is true or not, as a writer, you must consider this.

Imagine that a reader gives you a dollar’s worth of trust by reading your book. That trust means she expects you to give her certain things like a good story, interesting characters, and competent craft, among other things.

Every time your story fails in one of these elements, the reader takes away a bit of that money, and when there is no money left, the reader tosses the book without finishing it and will no longer trust you enough to buy the next book.

Maybe, every time the reader spots a grammatical mistake, she may take a nickel out of that dollar, or if she really hates grammatical errors, that error may cost you a quarter or the whole dollar.

Do you really want to risk losing that reader by being sloppy with grammar, science, or plot logic?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Links of Interest

CRAFT: Three person conversations in fiction. How to make them work.

WORLDBUILDING: A physicist explains time travel.

PROMOTION: Social Networking in 15 minutes. General overview.

PROMOTION AND SALES NUMBERS: How to use Amazon’s book sale ranking to determine how effective a current promotion is.

SFWA says no.

The National Writers Union says no.

Possible Class Action Lawsuit:

PROMOTION: Should you hire a publicist?

CRAFT: How to tighten up that manuscript.

MARKET NEWS: From “Publisher’s Lunch”

“Angela James has joined Quartet Press as editorial director. Previously she was with Samhain Publishing.”

GENRE SALES NUMBERS: Pimp My Book is looking at sales numbers for various popular genres. A very general overview, but his lack of information on the specific makes his commentary less than useful for those in that market.





Monday, August 17, 2009

What Genre Is It? CRAFT

If a novel is cross-genre, one of the genres must be the strongest and its genre tropes and plot must drive the novel throughout.

A werewolf novel that is driven forward by the worldbuilding and various werewolf political/pack struggles is urban fantasy or horror.  A werewolf novel where boy wolf meets girl vampire, and they fall in love during various werewolf and vampire struggles is a paranormal romance.
You must understand what the central genre of your novel is so your novel doesn't fail by genre standards, and you will know where to market it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Links of Interest

THE AUTHOR BIO: What should be in it for query letters.

QUERIES: What not to do in a query letter.

WORLDBUILDING: Patricia C. Wrede’s worldbuilding questions have a new URL:

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Terms used by the publishing industry.

CONTRACTS: Agent Jenny Bent discusses publishing contracts.

PROMOTION: Why A Video Will Sell Your Book

CRAFT: Ten Things to Spark Creative Ideas

CRAFT: Why a writer should know grammar.

PROMOTION: What every author website needs to contain.

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Editor Angela James of Samhain.

GENRE SALES NUMBERS: Pimp My Book is looking at sales numbers for various popular genres. A very general overview, but his lack of information on the specific makes his commentary less than useful for those in that market.