Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LHJ Personal Essay Contest

Ladies Home Journal is sponsoring a personal essay contest. The winner gets $3,000 (nice!) and the chance to have her essay published in the magazine. The topic: a memorable moment in your life – the day, the hour or the second that changed everything. “Be poignant, reflective, funny,” the instructions say. Word limit is 2,000 and the deadline is Dec. 7, 2012. For submission details, check out LHJ.com/essaycontest. Good luck! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Start Writing


Have you ever felt paralyzed by your ideas? You have the genesis for a book, short story or blog post but the idea doesn’t feel fully formed so you decide to think on it. And think. And think. And think. In fact, you may think on it so long you never even getting around to writing it. Or you may sit down at the computer, hands poised over the keyboard ready to write, but when the words don’t flow and the thoughts don’t gel in your mind, you get frustrated.

In these situations look to Edgar Allan Poe and just write. An article in the October issue of The Writer lays out Poe’s advice to writers (“Advice from the crypt” by B.K. Stevens). While we know Poe wrote creepy poems and haunting mysteries, he also wrote about the subject of writing.

The article notes:

The “mere” act of writing, Poe believed, helps writers make their ideas not only clearer but more logical. To use his phrase, the process of writing contributes to “the logicalization of thought.”

It’s a rare situation that our work is perfect in the first draft. We always go back and make edits or rearrange sentences. But you have to have some words on the page before you can begin the editing process. So taking that first step toward simply writing will set you on the path. No one has to read that first (second or even third) draft so let the words flow onto the page and you may just find that by picking up a pen or sitting at the keyboard your thoughts will be begin to make sense. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Your Self-Published Book Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

I recently received an email from a woman in our writer's group. She has just about finished polishing her book and has chosen to self-publish. Her question to me was: Does it matter if I purchase an ISBN from my print on demand publisher and therefore have their name as the publisher on my book, or is it better if I create my own publishing imprint, purchase an ISBN myself, and avoid having their company listed as my publisher?

That's a great question.

(I'm going to work from the assumption that she is not a speaker who is printing this book just to sell at her speaking engagements, personal appearances, and on her website. In that case it wouldn't matter much who the publisher is. I'm going to further assume that she would like as wide a distribution as possible for her book.)

The answer to this question is as simple as:   Do you want your book to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent?

The Guilty Until Proven Innocent Book:
As a book buyer, when a book is presented to me, one of the first things I look for is the publisher. If I see a print on demand company as the publisher of the book, it's a red flag that the product may be of lower quality or at the very least hasn't already been vetted by a trained eye. This book is now "guilty" in my eyes and needs to prove itself "innocent" of poor writing, poor editing and flawed information. If the topic seemed interesting, I will continue to browse the book, but now, the book has one strike against it and needs to convince me that it is a quality product.

The Innocent Until Proven Guilty Book:
Upon first examination of a new book, if I see the name of a publisher (or imprint) I don't recognize, I don't automatically turn it away. After all, there are many great Indie publishers out there and more are coming on the scene all the time. I will continue to look through the book. In my mind, this book is "innocent" so far, and won't be "guilty" in my mind until I see a topic that doesn't work for my store, poor writing, sloppy editing, etc. These books have a better chance with me and those are just the hard facts.

If at all possible, I encourage you to create your own imprint when working with print on demand publishers. Even if no one has ever heard of your imprint, you will be seen as a more serious writer, this book and subsequent books will be taken more seriously, and your chances of a wider distribution go up dramatically.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 Reasons You Should Participate in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is 15 days away!

Some of you are saying nano-what?

Na-No-Wri-Mo. Short hand for National Novel Writing Month. November is the month of the year in which novelists across the globe write with reckless abandon to attempt to reach the pre-set 50,000 word goal.

November is also the month of the year in which literary agents can be heard screaming from behind their laptops "Don't submit in December what you've written in November!" Because more often than not, what you have written for NaNoWriMo doesn't qualify as a full-length novel in most genres and because in most cases those 50K words need not just some, but  a TON of work.

So, if you don't actually finish a full novel, and most of the time (especially for first time novelists) what you do produce is a really rough first draft; why on earth would you EVER consider trying to write 50K words in 31 short days?

Here are 3 really good reasons:

Reason #1. NaNoWriMo is a great time to throw out all the excuses you've given to date about why you haven't written that novel.

Reason #2. Participating in NaNoWriMo allows you to be a part of a global community of thousands of writers all attempting to write roughly 1667 words a day.

Reason #3.  To actually achieve the 50K words, you have to get out of your own head and just write. It's tremendously freeing to be released from those pesky story arcs and massive self-editing as you go. This is the time to let your inner-story teller free!

If you have ever thought about participating in NaNoWriMo check out their website at www.nanowrimo.org  and register today. I'll be right there with you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is ebook Publishing Right For Everyone?

Photo by Adamr
Should you publish an ebook?

The short answer is YES, you should – at some point in your career. Ebooks are a fantastic way to reach people in a relatively quick time frame.  (Just to be clear, we are talking about ebook publishing specifically, NOT creating an ebook version of your new book in print.)

However, a much better question to ask yourself is: Is an ebook the best way now for me to publish my particular book and make it available to consumers?
The answer to this question requires a bit more information.

For instance, are the people you are targeting in this particular book (your tribe) likely to download their books, or are they more apt to stop in their local Barnes & Noble to pick it up?  That is an important piece of information to have. YOU may be personally savvy enough to download and read ebooks regularly, but if the group of people you are trying to reach aren’t generally that tech savvy, your sage wisdom or latest novel will never make it into their hands.

If you feel that your target audience - your market - would be inclined to download a book, your next step is to weight the advantages against the disadvantages of ebook publishing.


  •  Ease.  Once you have written an ebook, it is relatively easy to upload to websites such as Amazon or B&N.com.
  • Higher Profits. Your royalties (profit) for each ebook sold is generally higher than if you were to go through the traditional publisher / print route.        
  • Full Control.  You have complete control over your work from cover design to typesetting to price (although price setting takes a little maneuvering!)
  • Ripple Effect:  Publishing an ebook can help promote and sell books you may have published in paper/print.
You may be sold already by this list of advantages and be thinking “Why would anyone not publish an ebook?” The answer has to do with your overall business plan as an author.  If you are a professional consultant or speaker, your primary goal may be to get your work into the hands of people you speak to, or who use your materials.  Ebooks work well here. You don’t have to cart around boxes of books to conferences, or ship and warehouse them yourself.

But, if you are a writer whose professional goals include having your book on the New York Times bestseller list one day, you may find that goal tougher to obtain by relying solely on ebook publishing. Here’s why:


  • ·      “Vanity Publishing”:  Ebook publishing is still not held in as high esteem as publishing your book through a traditional publisher.  But this is changing and changing fast. In August of this year, four self-published ebook authors landed on the NYT Bestseller list in higher positions than well know print authors’ (such as James Patterson) ebooks .
  •     You are CEO:  When it’s your ebook, the buck stops with you. You are responsible for putting out a quality product.  Your book will only be as good as the team that you put together, and good teams cost money and some extra time.  How much are you willing to pay in time and money for a quality product?
  •     Marketing and Social Media:  When you have put out a book you have to market it to let people know it’s out there. This is no different for ebooks.  You will need to carve time out of writing the other areas of running the business to market and connect on social media.  However, social media is tremendously more important for an ebook author. If you have determined that your “tribe” is tech savvy, then the best way to reach them will be online. That requires time and it requires it from you in the form of building online relationships.

Ebook publishing is on the rise because it is easy, profitable and provide quick access for consumers.  However, you will only know if you should publish that ebook when you spend some time looking at your professional goals and business plan to know if it is best for you right now. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

There's An App for That

Photo/Brian Lary

Whether you’re writing blog posts, magazine articles, books or something else, you know the amount of research, information and ideas you have can be massive. I know I’m continually running across a useful blog or article or brainstorming some great blog post ideas. 

So how do you manage the volume of words and ideas you have?

Charleston blogger Andra Watkins (and a recent guest at Voices Third Thursday) recommended a program called Scrivener. She’s used it to keep her book projects organized. I’ve not used this program myself but it looks great for keeping track of information and seems useful for a variety of writing projects. 

A favorite tool of mine is Dropbox. Sign up for free and use this program to share files with others or among devices. If I’m working on something on my laptop, I can pop it into Dropbox and, thanks to the Dropbox app for the iPad, keep working on it on my tablet. If you collaborate with others or need to share files with clients, this program works great for that. I finally had to upgrade to a paid subscription of $60 a year, but that's pretty reasonable considering how much I use it.

If you’re like me, you probably have a zillion projects going on at the same time so you need to make sure you’re being efficient with your time. And if you’re working on a billable project, you’ll need a way to keep track of your hours. I use a free time management program called ClockingIt. In the year I’ve used this program, it’s only been down once. But, hey, it’s free, so I really can’t complain.

Don't let a computer meltdown or hard drive crash wipe out all your work. I use Carbonite, which starts at $59 a year. I consider that a bargain compared to the time it would take to recreate all my files. I also recently got a new laptop and just let Carbonite upload all my files to my new computer.

Here’s a good post from 10,000 Words on the 25 Most Popular Apps for Freelancers

I’d love to hear what tools, apps and programs you use to keep yourself organized and on track. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Octobers Writing Contest

I have a confession, I am a poetry nerd. For years I have poured my self over Frost, Angelou, Cummings, Dickinson and Poe. There is something about a poem, the words sing, they climb into your mind, pulling, tugging, reaching deep in creating an emotion like no other form of writing. Like I said I'm a poetry nerd. Throw reformed drama kid on top of it and there will be no question what my favorite poem is. 

 Robert Frost: Nothing Gold Can Stay 
 Nature's first green is gold, 
 Her hardest hue to hold. 
 Her early leaf's a flower; 
 But only so an hour. 
 Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
 So Eden sank to grief, 
 So dawn goes down to day. 
 Nothing gold can stay.

This is Octobers writing contest. No you don't have to write a poem so everyone can breath, just be inspired by this one. We are picking one blog post and one traditional piece for the winners.

All entries must be in by third Tuesday with winners announced at our Third Thursday meeting! 

Winners will be highlighted the following month on the Voices blog, with an interview and the winning piece posted during the month! 

All blog entries must have an active blog.

All writers must be apart of Voices, 
either in a critic group or participating in the Third Thursday meet ups. 

All entries must be emailed to voicescharleston(at)gmail
  Sorry bloggers no link-ups.

Get inspired and have fun!