That All-Important First Line

That All-Important First Line Let’s talk about the opening line of your book. The first thing to know about “first lines” is that they are not going to make or break you. Sure, it’s a lot of fun coming up with great ones. But as long as the first line makes someone want to read the second line, and that line makes you want to read the third… you’re on the right track.   The second thing to know is that the opening line might be the very last thing you write before your book is finished.   That said… don’t you just love a great opening line?   The fun thing about writing a book is that you get to choose what kind of opening line you want, what type of sentence appropriately sets up your book. You can choose to set a stage or create a setting. You can reveal a character. You can...
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How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/about-me1-150x150.jpg Sometimes it’s hard to believe how difficult it can be to write about yourself in a bio—after all, you’re a writer! But I understand it’s not as simple as that, so here are a few tips to make it easier. Write your bio in first person for query letters, third person for most other purposes including proposals, book jackets, article bylines. Make it professional but you also need to convey personality and writing style. Don’t try too hard to be funny, but include something that makes you seem like a real person. What gives you credibility? What makes you interesting? What helps people connect with you? (When you’re on Twitter, Facebook or your blog, what kinds of posts seem to get the most comments?) These are things you can briefly include. If your book centers on...
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Nobody Writes Good First Drafts

Nobody Writes Good First Drafts I spend a lot of time working with my clients to edit and revise their proposals and manuscripts. I give notes and suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I take them through draft after draft, until everything seems just right.   I know it’s tiring for them, and sometimes frustrating to be pushed to go over it again and again, especially when they know they’ll go through more edits with their publisher. I admire every writer who does whatever is necessary, who keeps pushing through, who remains dedicated to making the work the best it can be.   This is what it takes to be good. When an editor pushes you to be your best, or when you push yourself, you’re doing exactly what’s necessary to rise above the hordes of regular writers to become a good writer....
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Trust Me, You Need a Good Editor

Trust Me, You Need a Good Editor I just finished reading a self-published book on a topic I’m passionate about, by an author whose blog I occasionally read. As I’ve mentioned before, I regularly read self-pubbed books, and the fact that I work in traditional publishing doesn’t mean I’m biased against them.   It does, however, mean I’m aware of the ways a book could have been better, had the author availed themselves of the best assistance available, whether in design, writing, editing, cover, or even title.   I was excited to read this book—a memoir—and it started out promising. But it quickly devolved into a self-focused, rambling hodgepodge of preaching interspersed with bragging. I did finish the book (luckily it was rather short) but I ended up with strongly negative...
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How to Trick Yourself into Writing, Editing and Marketing

How to Trick Yourself into Writing, Editing and Marketing Guest Blogger: Bryan Cohen (@bryancohenbooks)   Self-motivation is crucial for authors, regardless of which publishing path you choose. Writing a book is difficult enough, but when you add on editing and marketing, it can feel impossible. And I’m crazy enough to have self-published 32 times. How did I do it? I learned a few ways to trick myself into doing work when my brain wants nothing but mindless entertainment.   Tricks for Writing   My inner critic hates it when I write. This voice in my head enjoys pointing out all the faults in my work and howls with laughter when I close up shop early for the day. My most prolific writing periods came after I silenced the inner critic.   I accomplished this in two distinct ways. The first method was writing so early in...
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Where Your Passion Meets the Market

Where Your Passion Meets the Market Last month I wrote a post about building a long-term writing career (Are You in this for the Long Haul?). In my list of things writers can do to develop a long-haul career, I said: Pay attention to where your passion intersects with the market. I want to expand on that because it’s so crucial. Most writers start out writing what interests them (obviously) which is the way it should be. But things change once you transition from writing for fun to writing for fun & profit. The profit part requires you think about what you can sell. I often hear writers debating whether it’s best to write what you love, or try to write to the market. I think this is a false dichotomy. You need both. As a writer, you’re probably interested in a variety of topics and genres. So if you...
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5 Habits of Motivated Novelists

5 Habits of Motivated Novelists Last year at this time, I introduced RescueTime, an online productivity tool that helps people make the most of their time while on the computer. Once again this year, RescueTime is teaming up with writers participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and offering a free month-long membership in RescueTime, complete with their premium productivity tools. See my post today at Books & Such for how to get signed up with RescueTime and NaNoWriMo for November. RescueTime… tracks your online activity and generates reports to help you manage your time and increase productivity lets you block out distracting websites for pre-set periods of writing time sends reminders and alerts to help you stay on track You do NOT have to be participating in NaNoWriMo to get this deal...
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One Simple Secret for Success as a Writer

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chad-Allen-150x150.jpg Guest Blogger: Chad R. Allen (@ChadRAllen) “Sometimes it feels like nobody’s listening,” my writer friend groaned. Can you relate? Have you ever poured your heart and soul into an article or proposal only to hear the cruel sound of silence? It’s frustrating. So we just keep slogging away, right? Well, yes, but there is a way of thinking about your writing that just might make all the difference in the world. To illustrate, let me tell you about my inventor friends Al and Andy. Al and Andy invented a device they call the “Nothin’ But Net Free Throw Trainer.” The purpose of this invention is to help basketball players become better free throw shooters, and it works. Nationally known coaches now use the device. The product is simple. It’s a four-inch piece of...
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Are You Afraid to Tell the Truth?

Are You Afraid to Tell the Truth? I am a reader of memoirs. I love them as much as I adore good fiction. I love the way great memoirists unflinchingly bare themselves to us, showing the good and the bad, the admirable moments and the shameful ones. I just finished reading an unusual memoir (Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas) which is already one of my favorites for many reasons, the primary one being the author’s honesty. In the book, he takes the reader along as he ventures outside his comfort zone, violates societal norms, faces his own limits, stares down his demons and accomplishes some major personal victories. He shares his thinking all along the way, oftentimes a bit immature or selfish or unenlightened, and brings us with him as his perspectives mature and blossom. He lets us in, even as he knows he might be...
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Those Annoying Exclamation Points!!!

Those Annoying Exclamation Points!!! Over many years of editing books, it seems I have become a heartless eliminator of exclamation points!!! Seriously, I developed a hatred for them! People tend to WAY overuse them! Not to mention italics and bold, and that oh-so-effective use of ALL CAPS!!!!!!! Here’s a hint to avoid coming across as amateur: Use the above devices sparingly in any writing intended for publication. (I’m being specific here, because in blog writing and emails, you’re free to go crazy. I do.) If you tend to use a plethora of exclamation points, do a search-and-replace in your manuscript and put a period in place of every single one of them. Yep, every one. Then you can go back and add an exclamation point here and there if you really must. But I’m not kidding: VERY . . . SPARINGLY. Same with other...
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Does Story Trump Craft?

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/10463420_s-150x150.jpg We’ve discussed various aspects of writing many times on this blog, including the importance of mastering the craft along with how crucial it is to have a terrific story (or for non-fiction, a strong, compelling topic). Having been an editor for years and an aficionado of both literary and genre fiction, I’ve always advocated the position that “writing craft” is of primary importance. But I wonder if it’s time to change my tune. Are we entering an era in which the story is the single most important element, and issues of “craft” are secondary if considered at all? We are seeing: The rise of self-publishing Scaled-back editing at many of the major publishing houses More competition than ever for readers’ attention and time Could all of this...
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How Do You Know If Your Work is Any Good?

How Do You Know If Your Work is Any Good? A question from a reader on Facebook: I’ll ask the question that’s been asked a hundred thousand times by writers perhaps at all levels. Outside of selling, how do you know that your work is actually good? You may pitch a book, and it might be good but might not be what an agent likes. So how do you validate that what you are doing is good? Always a good question! And a tough one. Here are some thoughts: First, there’s the definition of “good.” Art and entertainment are completely subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While there are certain standards by which many of us agree to judge worthiness, it’s still not even close to being objective. Organizations routinely give awards to books that would bore the heck out of most  readers....
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Writing a One-Sentence Summary

Writing a One-Sentence Summary Let’s discuss the one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence pitch. (It is not a tagline, however.) What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested in reading your book. When to use it: The start of a query, book proposal, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?” What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book. What it should include: → A character or two → Their choice, conflict, or goal → What’s at stake (may be implied) → Action that will get them to the goal → Setting (if...
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7 Lessons from Advertising

7 Lessons from Advertising Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Miller Wood (@ElizMillerWood) As an advertising copywriter, my job is to sell stuff using words. Regardless of what I’m selling—a product, a service, a destination—the copy strives for two goals: capture readers and compel them to take action. For the next few minutes, pretend you’ve got something to sell—in this case, your writing. You need to “sell” that agent on requesting your manuscript. You need to “sell” that reader on continuing to the next chapter. You need to “sell” your blog followers on coming back again. Here’s the catch: advertising copy allows very little word count. You have to sell your writing quickly and efficiently. This takes discipline! And discipline is a valuable skill for writers to hone. Here are seven lessons of...
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