Monthly Archives: November 2014

Writing Contests

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I have probably spent to much money on entering contests by some standards but not enough by others.  How do you feel about entering writing contests? I personally think that any time you can get someone to read your story that it’s worthwhile. When my mind goes wild I begin to think I don’t really know if they read my book or not and it’s a total waste of my time and resources. I tend to go around in circles sometime.

I thought this article was worth sharing to give everyone an idea of what to look for.

Have a blessed day.

If you’ve spent some time entering writing contests, you know they are an investment. Whether it’s poetry, short stories, essays, or chapbooks, most contests charge reading fees. Plus, there’s the “cost” of your time. And when you don’t win, you start to think, “Well, that was twenty bucks down the drain!”

But writing contests CAN help your career if you play your cards right. Having diverse writing credentials is important if you’re trying to establish a reputation. A mix of publications, awards, nominations, and even a few contest wins can go a long way.

But how does a writer know when the entry fee and time spent are worth it?

Do you know how to evaluate a contest to know if it is worth your time?

Here are the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you fork over your entry fee:

1. Is this contest reputable?

First things first: Don’t enter shady contests (such as fake poetry contests). There are a number of websites out there that are “writing contest factories.” Authors are encouraged to sign up for online communities and/or prodded to enter contests again and again. These sites can be a lot of fun, and many writers use them as a way to build their craft and confidence. But “contest factories” are generally not reputable within the larger, professional publishing industry.

Look for contests that have a solid reputation and longevity (contests that have been running for several years or even decades).

The following questions will help you determine how reputable a contest is and how that level of reputation affects you.

2. Who are the sponsors and organizers?

If the contest in question is run by The New Yorker, then you know you’re looking at a contest of great renown. If the contest in question is run by Sam’s Auto Club and Horseshoe Factory, you’re probably not looking at a contest that is well-known in the industry.

If you can’t find the information you need from the “About Us” section of the contest’s website, email the organizers and ask for details. In most cases, the reputation of the contest’s organizers is directly related to the reputation of the contest.

3. Who are the judges?

Often, it’s the judge who can make or break a contest’s reputation. Some organizations don’t disclose judges (often, literary journal contests are simply judged by the journal’s editors, with no special mention of specific judges).

But a specific judge of a contest might affect your willingness to enter. If a new contest—one that nobody has heard of—is being judged by a fantastic, famous author, you might want to enter. If you win, you can always say “Joe K. Author selected my story to win the You’ve Never Heard Of This Contest Prize.” The famous author’s name goes a long way toward recognition and bragging rights.

4. What’s the relationship of the payment and the payout?

Would you pay ten bucks for a shot at being published in your favorite magazine, with the added incentive of a cash prize, a subscription, and/or the good karma points of financially supporting a publication you admire? If so…then this contest is probably a GO for you.

Would you pay ten bucks so an unknown editor can consider publishing your work on his/her unknown website (which means said work will then be considered previously published and therefore less likely to be eligible for publication elsewhere)?

Maybe, maybe not. Read on.

goldfish5. Would winning this contest positively augment your current writing credentials?

If you are a Pulitzer winner, entering a contest that Joe American runs out of his home office isn’t going to help much. Sure, you might win. Just like a shark might win a fight with a goldfish. Would winning help your cause? No.

But if you’ve never published anything before, then winning a smaller contest could be a windfall! There are some ethical but lesser-known contests out there that are really fantastic for newer writers. In fact, some contests are specifically created to encourage aspiring writers, as opposed to veterans.

Look honestly at your publication credits and see if a win would be a step forward for you. If winning the contest means you’ll go from being just another goldfish in the school to being the goldfish at the head of the class, then proceed to enter.

6. What are your odds of winning?

Certain contests—the very well-known ones—attract high-level, professional writers (Hint: These are the contests you should really want to win). Other contests attract hobbyists and new writers. Often, you can determine this by looking at the lists of people who have won in the past, judges, and affiliates.

Keep in mind that there is no rule that says you can’t email a writing contest organizer and ask, “How many entries did you receive the last time you ran this contest?” You might not get an answer, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: How many contests did you enter in the past twelve months

 

Previously published at Writers Relief

The Beginning

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Do you have a problem with the beginning of your book?  I know I certainly did. I was very insecure about how Dobyns Chronicles should start, but I finally made a decision. “OLD AGE IS hell, but it’s something all of us have to go through.” Right or wrong you have to make a choice. I wanted the opening to establish the voice of Charley Dobyns and to set the tone.  I don’t skip around when I write. I have to have the beginning before I can go on with my writing.

You must have a strong opening and that’s not easily done. Duff Brenna, author of Too Cool, a New Times Noteworthy book stated his beginnings stay in flux also.  Sometimes the second or third sentence may be the best beginning or even the second or third chapter.  We seem to do a lot of rearing of our words to get the beginning that strikes the right cord with us.

I used a dialogue opening which can pique a readers’ curiosity. I noticed a lot of writers go for the scenic opening. The real question is what type of opening will cause your reader to go on though the story.  I know for myself that I have picked up a book and read the first page and put it back on the self.  If it doesn’t grab my attention, I don’t read it. A good first page captures the reader’s interest and makes them want to read on.

Ellen Sussman, author of A Wedding in Provence, tends to open her novels with a scene. “I want to ground my readers in my fictional world.” She says. “It’s as if I want them to jump right in and join the characters in action.  I try to make sure that the opening scene captures some of the tension of the novel as well as introducing the main character and the setting.  Of course, the tone gets established right away as well.  Tall order for one scene!”

Does your beginning have conflict?  Conflict is what drives all fiction. Readers may tend to have certain expectations about an opening based on what genre it is.  The avid mystery reader is on the outlook for the story’s victim. Readers also keep an eye out for the protagonist. Even in fantasy a reader has to know that they are in another world where there may be wonders or terror. It doesn’t matter the genre, the beginning has to contain the components to catch your reader.

“Crafting the beginning takes careful attention, patience and a flair for the dramatic” said Jack Smith the author of the article Start to Stop which this blog was based on. It is a major investment of time and energy so we have to make the beginning the best we can make it.  Happy writing.

The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue Tags

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Rebloged on Shirley McLain Writing, Muse and Inspiration. Great information.

A Writer's Path

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Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

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Book Binding

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  Do you think about the binding on the books that you publish? I can say I don’t give it a moment’s thought in those terms.  I think of hard or paper covers.  I think of book binding as what makes a book hold together but it is much more than that. And since the proliferation of ebooks the concept has made a change. I’m calling it digital binding. Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching a book cover to the resulting text-block. Before the computer age, the bookbinding trade involved two divisions. First, there is stationery or vellum binding which deals with making new books intended to be written into, such as accounting ledgers, business journals, and guest log books, along with other general office stationery such as note books, manifold books, portfolios, and etc. Second is letterpress binding which deals with making new books intended to be read from and includes fine binding, library binding, edition binding, and publisher’s bindings. Western books from the fifth century onwards were bound between hard covers, with pages made from parchment folded and sewn on to strong cords or ligaments that were attached to wooden boards and covered with leather. Since early books were exclusively handwritten on handmade materials, sizes and styles varied considerably, and there was no standard of uniformity. Early and medieval codices were bound with flat spines, and it was not until the fifteenth century that books began to have the rounded spines associated with hardcovers today. Because the vellum of early books would react to humidity by swelling, causing the book to take on a characteristic wedge shape, the wooden covers of medieval books were often secured with straps or clasps. These straps, along with metal bosses on the book’s covers to keep it raised off the surface that it rests on, are collectively known as furniture. Terms and Techniques Most of the following terms apply only with respect to American practices: A leaf (often wrongly referred to as a folio) typically has two pages of text and/or images, front and back, in a finished book. The Latin for leaf is folium, therefore “folio” should be followed by a number to distinguish between recto and verso. Thus “folio 5r” means “on the recto of the leaf numbered 5”, although technically not accurate, it is normal to say “on folio 5r”. In everyday speech it is common to refer to “turning the pages of a book”, although it would be more accurate to say “turning the leaves of a book”; this is the origin of the phrase “to turn over a new leaf” i.e. to start on a fresh blank page. The recto side of a leaf faces left when the leaf is held straight up from the spine (in a paginated book this is usually an odd-numbered page). The verso side of a leaf faces right when the leaf is held straight up from the spine (in a paginated book this is usually an even-numbered page). A bifolium (often wrongly called a “bifolio”, “bi-folio”, or even “bifold”) is a single sheet folded in half to make two leaves. The plural is “bifolia”, not “bifolios”. A section, sometimes called a gathering, or, especially if unprinted, a quire, is a group of bifolia nested together as a single unit. In a completed book, each quire is sewn through its fold. Depending on how many bifolia a quire is made of, it could be called: duernion – two bifolia, producing four leaves; ternion – three bifolia, producing six leaves; quaternion – four bifolia, producing eight leaves; quinternion – five bifolia, producing ten leaves; sextern or sexternion – six bifolia, producing twelve leaves. A codex is a series of one or more quires sewn through their folds, and linked together by the sewing thread. A signature, in the context of printed books, is a section that contains text. Though the term signature technically refers to the signature mark, traditionally a letter or number printed on the first leaf of a section in order to facilitate collation, the distinction is rarely made today. Folio, quarto, and so on may also refer to the size of the finished book, based on the size of sheet that an early paper maker could conveniently turn out with a manual press. Paper sizes could vary considerably, and the finished size was also affected by how the pages were trimmed, so the sizes given are rough values only. A folio volume is typically 15 in (38 cm) or more in height, the largest sort of regular book. A quarto volume is typically about 9 in (23 cm) by 12 in (30 cm), roughly the size of most modern magazines. A sheet folded in quarto (also 4to or 4º) is folded in half twice at right angles to make four leaves. Also called: eight-page signature. An octavo volume is typically about 5 to 6 in (13 to 15 cm) by 8 to 9 in (20 to 23 cm), the size of most modern digest magazines or trade paperbacks. A sheet folded in octavo (also 8vo or 8º) is folded in half 3 times to make 8 leaves. Also called: sixteen-page signature. A sextodecimo volume is about 4 1⁄2 in (11 cm) by 6 3⁄4 in (17 cm), the size of most mass market paperbacks. A sheet folded in sextodecimo (also 16mo or 16º) is folded in half 4 times to make 16 leaves. Also called: 32-page signature. Duodecimo or 12mo, 24mo, 32mo, and even 64mo are other possible sizes. Modern paper mills can produce very large sheets, so a modern printer will often print 64 or 128 pages on a single sheet. Trimming separates the leaves of the bound book. A sheet folded in quarto will have folds at the spine and also across the top, so the top folds must be trimmed away before the leaves can be turned. A quire folded in octavo or greater may also require that the other two sides be trimmed. Deckle Edge, or Uncut books are untrimmed or incompletely trimmed, and may be of special interest to book collectors. Paperback Binding Though books are sold as hardcover or paperback, the actual binding of the pages is important to durability. Most paperbacks and some hard cover books have a “perfect binding”. The pages are aligned or cut together and glued. A strong and flexible layer, which may or may not be the glue itself, holds the book together. In the case of a paperback, the visible portion of the spine is part of this flexible layer. Spine Orientation In languages written from left to right, such as English, books are bound on the left side of the cover; looking from on top, the pages increase counter-clockwise. In right-to-left languages, books are bound on the right. In both cases, this is so the end of a page coincides with where it is turned. Many translations of Japanese comic books retain the binding on the right, which allows the art, laid out to be read right-to-left, to be published without mirror-imaging it. In China (only areas using Traditional Chinese), Japan, and Taiwan, literary books are written top-to-bottom, right-to-left, and thus are bound on the right, while text books are written left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and thus are bound on the left. In mainland China, all books have changed to be written and bound like left to right languages in the mid-20th century. The spine of the book is an important aspect in book design, especially in cover design. When the books are stacked up or stored in a shelf, what’s on the spine is the only visible information about the book. In a book store, the details on the spine are what initially attract attention. Spine Titling Early books did not have titles on their spines; rather they were shelved flat with their spines inward, and titles written with ink along their fore edges. Modern books display their titles on their spines. In languages with Chinese-influenced writing systems, the title is written top-to-bottom, as is the language in general. In languages written horizontally, conventions differ about the direction in which the title on the spine is rotated: In the United States, the Commonwealth, Scandinavia and for books in Dutch, titles are usually written top-to-bottom on the spine. This means that when the book is placed on a table with the front cover upwards, the title is oriented left-to-right on the spine. This practice is reflected in the industry standards ANSI/NISO Z39.41and ISO 6357. In most of continental Europe and Latin America, titles are conventionally printed bottom-to-top on the spine so, when the books are placed vertically on shelves, the title can be read by tilting the head to the left.

Read To Yourself Aloud

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Reading your written words aloud can spark a deeper approach to editing and developing your story. Read to yourself or to anyone who will listen. A lonely neighbor, your dog just read aloud.  If possible, read for 30 minutes at a time, but any amount of time will help.

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As you read, not sections that cause you to hesitate or stumble.  Those spots need editing.  Notice where you need to speak loudly or alter your inflection to make your point.  Remember that your reader will not have your voice to help.  Those spots may need editing.  Pay close attention, and you may also catch typos and gaps in logic in the story.

After you revise, read the new section aloud again, Read your entire book aloud again.  This is the kind of time it takes to write a truly good book.  If you are very lucky, other people may read your words to you.  The hero of my second novel was loosely based on my boyfriend Howard who had the gifts of an actor. He read the novel to me and often my parents, a chapter at a time.  When he died tragically some years later, I                                                                              re-read the novel and could still hear his voice.

Words are not just their meanings they are sounds.  There is poetry in all effective language, even if it is not organized on the page to look like a poem.  As sounds, words can have the emotional power of music.  I believe that neuroscience will one day explain what poets know, that words arranged with full use of their musical qualities allow us to think and feel simultaneously in a unique way.

By: Temma Ehrenfeld

A Bad Book Review

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The only way to respond to a bad book review

We All Get There

We All Get There

As a writer when I have received my first bad review I have to admit made me doubt myself. In fact it made me almost quit writing. Then I decided they didn’t know what they were talking about and I didn’t care what was said because to me I do wonderful work 🙂  This article will tell you the right way to handle your bad reviews. Maybe you will be lucky and never receive any.  Enjoy

My first Amazon review included two stars and the words “very disappointing.” The reader had expected a different kind of book, so the review seemed unfair to me, as if the book wasn’t being judged on its own merit but on the reader’s desire for something else. One of my “favorite” GoodReads reviews of my book simply states, “Wasn’t great writing, but I really enjoyed the content.” And yet it was granted four stars.

No writer ever wants to read those kinds of words, and sites like Amazon and GoodReads don’t make it any easier for our egos since they allow authors to reply to their own reviews.

The one time I replied to a review — and a good review at that — was to correct a factual assumption I thought the reviewer had made. To me, the reviewer seemed to say that I had personally conducted interviews for the book. I simply responded that I’d only done research and quoted from already available interviews.

The next day, the reviewer had deleted their review! I learned a hard lesson that day, and I hadn’t even responded to a bad review. While those less-than-stellar reviews still haunt me on some days (I’m writing about them here, after all), I know now what every successful writer understands: you can’t please everybody.

As a writer, you can’t please everybody.

Plus, trying to change someone’s mind who’s already decided against your perspective on life, or who despises your writing style, or who just doesn’t like the fact that you’re a fan of the Oxford comma, is like George Bernard Shaw’s famous illustration: “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

A majority of reviewers don’t understand the kind of inner devastation they cause an author when they quickly type and publish two lines of a poor review. What you’ve labored for months on, they’ve minimized in two minutes. From that perspective, it’s enough to make any author’s blood boil.

And an angry author set loose online can be a dangerous thing. This is exactly why an author has to prevent their inner vitriol from spilling over.

7 non-career-destroying ways to deal with bad book reviews

1. Don’t read your reviews

Yes, there are some authors who follow this rule, though I’d hazard a guess that it’s a hard one to stick to for first-time authors. Don’t worry, though — it’s only the first suggestion.

2. Print out your bad reviews, then burn them

It’s a symbolic gesture that releases your inner ire. Alternative disposal methods could include a paper shredder, compost for your garden or turning them into origami.

3. Respond to your bad reviews . . . in a document that’s never made public

You’re a writer, so you’re bound to write. Go ahead and give in to every last cutting remark you’d like to make, but ultimately keep those words to yourself.

4. Talk about it with other writers

Find a writer’s group, whether in real life or online. Every writer gets a bad review from time to time. When you share your bad reviews with other writers and hear their just-as-bad reviews, laughter inevitably erupts.

5. Re-read your good reviews

So long as you keep working at your craft, good reviews will come. Don’t allow one bad review to occupy your mind 90 percent of the time, while letting nine good reviews occupy the remaining 10 percent. (Also, don’t think about your reviews 100 percent of the time).

6. Realize that writing is a journey, not a destination

I know I just went cliché on you, but it’s true. Bad reviews bring growth to authors, and if you’re serious about a career in writing, you’ll work through and past any bad review. Don’t allow a bad review to stop you from taking another step.

7. Start writing your next book

The best way to get over a bad review is to start your next book. Sure, it may garner a bad review as well, but I’m willing to bet that it’ll be better than your last work. Plus, now you know how to better handle bad reviews.

By Blake Atwood