Uncategorized

Food For Thought


Here’s my chance to debut my cover for Sly. It’s not the final. I haven’t yet purchased the high-res images without the watermark. This crudely-thrown-together figure is two faces and five clothing items combined to make my ideal Sly.

Who knows? Should it be Eyes, William, or Eyes; William? Spirit, Francis or Spirit; Francis?

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They joke about writers cannibalizing their relationships for fun and profit, and sometimes as payback. Better yet is to cannibalize our own lives, lives we know from the inside out. I say, why the hell not? Use what you have.

My family is full of nuts. How many of you have a sister who was married to a predator priest who’d served time for altar-boy abuse? I do. To this day she has never admitted he might have been guilty of the crime. She says: “He said they were all trying to extract money from the church.” I’d been told of one accusation. I’m thinking: They all? What’s this they all?

Most everything I write in Sly, and now in Maisie, is rooted in my personal experience. I am the crazy old lady narrator in Maisie in Hollywood.

I have the brother who married money, and has spent his whole life leading the life of a grad student, with all the freedom to come and go that that entails. Meanwhile, his wife was the grad student. She finally got her PhD ten years ago, running through a large inheritance in the process. She’s down to her last two-three million. She had to sell her one-hundred-forty-acre family-descended property to revive her finances. But she’s still got the house in town. Nice, right?

We all have mountains of personal experience to assign to a character, and have a ball with, stretch it, twist it, as you would a slab of taffy. That’s why a book I discovered on Facebook really pushes my buttons. This is as bland a telling as I ever encountered. I’m tempted to buy the book to learn if the vapid storytelling continues down the same path. (Moonbeam Bay floats plenty of boats. The author is a USA Today Bestseller.)

GD writes about his experience in Viet Nam. Perry writes about his lifelong love of fly fishing. What pastures of plenty do you have in your past, that you can make hay of, that will enable you to write a story no one else could have written?

New writers frequently worry that their idea will be stolen. It’s not the idea, it’s what you do with it. Write something no one else could have written. Develop a signature point-of-view, and a signature style. If you can’t do that, what kind of writer are you?

Hmmm. I suppose Kay Correll has done that.

Develop an interesting point-of-view.

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

This Space Not Reserved

If you drop in from time to time to see what’s being discussed, feel free to stir up a discussion of your own. If you have author privileges, put your post in “Draft” and I will post it on Mondays – on a first-come-first-posted basis. If not, email it to me at
GD(at)Deckard(dot)one
(If you replace the parentheticals with “@” and “.” you’ll have my address. If email-collecting spam ‘bots see it, hopefully the code will thwart them.)
Enough ifs.

This weeks’ commentary is completely open. Open comments week ocurrs when nobody can think of anything to post. Personally, I’d like to hear that Sue channeled Matsuo Bashō to write a haiku, or Boris became apprenticed to Mel Brooks, or that Perry fly fished with Lee Wulff. Or see a link to a new Space Cowboy song. Or watch a Youtube of Victor plugging his latest novel on the Tonight Show, or one of Curtis in Africa accepting an award for his charitable contributions. Or Mimi’s creations becoming NFT art.
But enough ors.

Comment on whatever aspect of writing you care to.

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marketing

Marketing

Of the Co-op’s stated goals when it was established six years ago, Curtis Bausse says, “Well, I think we’ve done pretty well on the whole. Still struggling with the marketing side, but who isn’t? And as Carl says, there’s more to come, so maybe one day we’ll crack it. One can always dream….”

Why do writers find marketing so difficult? Is it, really? Or are we just that bad at it? I suspect both. Asking me to market my book is like asking me to the moon for lunch.

Traditional publishers that pay royalties and advances have a system. They list your book in their “release ad” in Publishers Weekly and other magazines and provide tip sheets and advance selling materials to their sales forces, who go out into the field and talk to booksellers and librarians; send catalogs to libraries, bookstores, specialty outlets & schools; put your book on the web; send out review copies to review sources and advance reader copies to booksellers; and show your book at conventions for librarians, booksellers, and teachers. They provide metadata about your book to Amazon and other online bookstores, as well as getting it into the pipelines of wholesalers. Most promote new books on social media. They may even take out ads, create giveaways, help organize online or physical tours, write and send press releases.

This is the point to ask oneself, can we do all that? No. Some of it? Yes. Should we try? Probably not. Traditional publishers have honed their marketing. Doing “all that” must be required or they would not have spent all that money doing all of it.

So how do we crack book marketing? Sometimes, problem solving begins with listing what we do know, or can find out, then coming up with some/any idea to try, to see what we can learn from the effort.

I know that advertising with Google ads doesn’t work.
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/jousting-windmills/

I know that books are not a commodity, in the sense of candy bars or beer, because, like houses, nobody buys a six-pack. Books are sold one at a time like cars and if the buyer likes it, they may come back in the future for a new one from the same dealer. Unfortunately, one book makes too little profit for an author to open a dealership unless that author has a ton of books out there. Steven King or Clive Cussler have their own book dealerships. Amazon does.

Not to compete with Amazon, but to copy what they do well as well as we can, I wonder if authors shouldn’t form independent book clubs where, together, we sell our books. A club’s webpage could be here on the Writers Co-op website. Members could link to the club’s page from their own website and social media. The club could include independent publishers and would offer a wider selection of books for readers to browse. Our advantage over Amazon is that, being small, our books wouldn’t be lost in a digital storm. And members would keep control over their books and keep all profits. What do you think?

What other ideas can we kick around?

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Uncategorized

Writing Contest Rant

I recently entered a short story writing contest–one of these where you write 1500 words to a prompt.* I had no expectation to win; I was just having a good time.

The winner was announced today, and I read it to see what a winning short story was like. It was terrible. I couldn’t follow the plot. Poorly drawn characters. Key elements not explained. Bad word choices. It was like a low-quality kids’ story. And they didn’t even write to the prompt. I’m guessing it was written by somebody for whom English was not their first language.

I considered leaving a comment like this in the Comments. But the other comments were glowing, so I decided I couldn’t rain on that parade. Thus I’m dumping on you folks.

It made me angry, and also sad. I just had to get this off my chest.

Here’s my question. What should you do with bad feedback like this? I know the Oreo game, but I had nothing good to say about it. No redeeming features.

*The prompt was “happily ever after” and my story was about a couple who discovered that this meant forever and ever–and they got tired of each other.

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About Writers, editing, Writers Co-op, writing technique

What IS a Good Story?

While working with editors to screen stories submitted for publications, I find many are rejected because the submission is not a story. It is a scene, a statement, a monologue, maybe a rant. Sometimes, the rejected submission is beautifully worded sentences that literally have no point beyond themselves.

It is not true that any account of a series of related events or experiences constitutes a story. I know that is the definition of a narrative. But for our purposes, it is no more a story than is the space in a building between two adjacent floors. We need stories with conflict, or tension, or surprise, or extraordinary characters or character behavior, or controversy, or mystery, or suspense, or -you get the point. Something that interests a reader and draws them in. And, will give readers reason to buy the next issue of the magazine or anthology.

Google “what makes a story good” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many writers and teachers of writing offer useful advice for crafting a story. But that advice is useless to the writer who has no story of interest to tell. Editors reject stories with form letters that say nothing. But among themselves, they share reasons such as,
“The writing is good, but the story is uninteresting.”
“A boring telling – no effort is made to pull the reader into the story.”
“I’m sure this entertained the writer more than me.”
“Uninteresting with a predictable ending.”
“No. Not a story.”

Obviously, we all know a good story when we see one. Maybe I’m attempting to categorize an observable element although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. But if someone could succently state what a good story is, they would be helping all of us to get more work published.

What do you think?

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Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Find a Critique Partner

A critique partner is a good idea. It’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. Sue Ranscht and I are currently reading each other’s WiP to provide one another with outside perspective and mutual support. I can only hope that my critiques are as useful to her as hers have been for me. Thanks to Sue’s honesty, I’m re-writing my set up. She pushes me to write deeper.

If you are considering critiquing another writer’s work – but, you know, you hesitate to criticize another writer’s work – here are some tips to get you thinking in a useful direction.
Read thoroughly. Don’t skim or speed-read. Surface-level feedback (“I liked it!”) sucks as useful.
Consider using a “compliment sandwich” approach. Start your critique with positive feedback, then offer any criticisms or suggestions, and conclude with additional positive input.
Use clear, specific language.
Make suggestions, not mandates.
Don’t let personal preferences cloud your judgment. Easier said than done, but try.
Practice striking the perfect balance between praise and being constructive.
Watch your tone! Email is notorious for giving the wrong impressions.

Sue has offered to connect you with a writing partner, right here on the Writers Co-op. See:
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2022/04/24/lets-exchange-critiques/

It also helps to find a writing partner if you stay in touch with people in the writing life. Browse these links.
https://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php
https://www.agentquery.com/
https://www.critiquecircle.com/landing
http://winebird.com/
https://www.critiquematch.com/
There are a ton of other such sites, but I have zero interest in those that charge a fee for use, exist mainly to collect personal data, or don’t strike me as currently active.

The easiest way to get a writing partner, of course, is to email a piece of your work to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. You are thereby agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work. But that’s why they’re called a partner.

NOTE: The image at the top of the page has nothing to do with this discussion. I just liked it.

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