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Archive for the 'Writing Life' Category

Adventures in the Coffice

Coffee and Cake - dreamstimefree_216999

During the last few months I’ve been attempting to complete three different manuscripts. When I’m at home it’s easy to become distracted. Too easy! There’s all the housework, the Internet, my email, the puppy wanting to play and the phone, just to mention a few things likely to derail my writing day.

Since I know myself well, whenever I can, I leave the house and work in one of my favorite cafes. I’ve posted about the benefits of a coffice before (coffee shop/office), and for me writing in a cafe really works. For instance, I’ve completed the first draft of a 50K manuscript this month, writing the final words today.

But there is an interesting by-product to working in a cafe. I meet some entertaining people.

Most people are attracted by Rufus, my pink netbook. They stop to chat about the cute pink computer and want to know what it does and where they can get one.

At one particular cafe, a group of retired men and women meet after doing a twice-weekly walk. Usually, I get there before them and gradually become surrounded by their group who range in age from early 60s to 80s. They’ve started chatting to me and discovered I was a writer. I received the normal questions about research, along with a few smirks. I told one man that writers who write about murder don’t go around killing people therefore it wasn’t logical to assume I participated in all the kinky stuff he was smirking about. I heard him repeating my words verbatim to two elderly women about two weeks later. The lecture must have sunk in.

One of the elderly ladies in the group wanted to know if I’d speak at her book club. I asked what sort of books they read. “Oh, we’re very relaxed,” she said, waving an airy hand. “Each month we have a theme. This month our theme is color.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said.

“Yes, I’m reading 50 Shades of Grey,” she said. “The first bit was all right, but I’m not sure about all this bondage stuff and tying people up. How am I going to explain that to my book club?”

Yesterday, I was in my cafe around eight in the morning and was busy tapping out my words.

“Excuse me,” the man beside me said. “I’m sorry to bother you, but could you tell me a word to describe addiction.”

I must have looked a bit blank because he said, “This is my sentence.” And he read a sentence about how his gambling had overtaken him, causing him lots of problems.

“Oh,” I said, and I gave him a suggestion.

Wondering just what he was scribbling about in his notebook, I went back to my writing.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Could you spell…” He proceeded to ask me how to spell about half a dozen different words.  “Thank you,” he said politely once I’d finished.

I went back to my words.

“Excuse me,” he said.

I was starting to get the drift of what he was writing, and I was a bit nervous about what was coming next.

“I need a closing paragraph to read out to the judge. I’ve been very stupid,” he said. “I’ve done some bad things, and if this letter doesn’t work, I’ll have to go to jail.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, how about something like this? Your honor, I am truly sorry for my actions and have learned the error of my ways. I want to be a role model for my children. I’ve worked hard, gone to rehab and done everything required of me to turn my life around.”

He nodded, scribbled my suggestion down, adding a few words of his own. After a few minutes, he said, “Excuse me.”

I smiled politely and wondered what was coming next.

“Thank you for your help. I’m going home to shower and change now.”

“Okay, good luck,” I said.

He nodded and left. I watched him get in his car and drive away before going back to my words.

Life is never boring at the coffice!

What is the Big Deal With Pinterest?

“Oh, no!” I hear you say. “Not another form of social media to soak up my writing time.”

To be honest that’s what I thought when I first heard about Pinterest, and I turned my back and walked away.

Then, I started to see posts about Pinterest in my blog feeds. I read them. “Okay,” I thought. Maybe this Pinterest would be helpful with the new series I’m percolating in my head. I read the Pinterest posts again and requested an invitation.

Here are some of the articles I found useful:

Pinterest, oh, the potential by Nicole M Miller

A Few More Thoughts on Pinterest by Nicole M Miller

3 Ways Authors Can Use Pinterest Guilt Free by Caitlin Muir at Author Media

Pinterest: 13 Things Authors Should Know by Rachelle Gardner, agent

My experience with Pinterest:

1. The actual joining was very easy. During the sign up stage you tick the subjects you’re interested in and Pinterest automatically sets you up with people (friends) who have common interests.

2. I haven’t bothered searching out people to friend since my main purpose in joining Pinterest is to use it as a source of inspiration while I’m percolating new stories.

3. I set up boards for the heroines in my new series, and it has really helped me to think about facets of their characters.

4. I also set up a board for my blog, and it occurred to me that I could do a board for my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. This is something of a work in progress, but I added a link for the board to my book page as an added extra for readers. Cat Burglar in Training Pinterest board. I included images of elements from the book ranging from ball gowns, cars and jewels to peanut butter. The purpose of these boards is to hopefully direct traffic.

5. I was so pleased with the Cat Burglar in Training board that I also started one for my Middlemarch Mates series.

Shelley Munro's Pinterest Boards

 

Here’s the link to all my boards if you’d like to check them out: Shelley Munro’s boards.

What are your thoughts about Pinterest? Have you succumbed? If so, how are you using Pinterest? Is it for writing purposes?

Ten Suggestions For Writing Well-Rounded Heroines

I’m visiting Savvy Authors today and talking about heroines. Here’s the link to my post, which contains suggestions for writing a good heroine.

I intend to try and catch up on some writing this weekend, and I’ll be watching the quarter-finals of the rugby World Cup on both Saturday and Sunday. The All Blacks are playing Argentina.

What are you doing this weekend?

Meet Me At The Coffice

These days technology allows us to conduct business from anywhere. We can live in different countries and communicate with each other for business purposes. For example, one of my publishers often holds virtual meetings I can attend in the comfort of my lounge.

On the news the other night, there was an item about a new thing called a coffice. The words comes from a combination of coffee plus office. Coffice.

It seems many business owners are running their businesses from coffee shops, conducting appointments and meeting with clients in their favorite coffee shop rather than at the traditional office.

There are loads of advantages to a coffice.

1. It’s cheaper than renting an office.
2. The coffee is good and always hot.
3. The milk doesn’t usually run out.
4. You never have to do the dishes or clean up after everyone else.
5. Many cafes offer free wi-fi these days for people to keep up with their email or surf the Internet.

I’ve written in coffee shops for years, and I have my favorite coffee shops in various towns. There’s even a pub where I sometimes spend a few hours writing. It’s perfect in winter because they have a huge open fire. I find it easy to concentrate on my writing even with the background noise and find I finish my target number of words in a much shorter time than if I stay at home.

Who knew I was ahead of the times? I’d actually mentioned to my husband not long ago that there were always heaps of business meetings at my favorite McDonald’s McCafe. I’ve eavesdropped on interviews and listened to a man organizing temp workers. Some of the local charities also hold their meetings there.

Do you have a coffice?

Fixing A Broken Character

Recently someone told me the hero in my story wasn’t heroic and didn’t behave like a hero. He was unsympathetic. Instead of panicking or becoming defensive, I took another look at my hero and, to my horror, found the criticism was justified. While I still liked my character, I definitely needed to do something to make him more likeable to readers.

Most of us want to read about characters that have the qualities we see in our friends and family—the same qualities we like to think we possess. We want to connect with characters and be able to relate to them.

So how do we do this?

In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says we should start showing the reader that our character has heroic qualities right from the first page of our book. Even if our character is an average person, in an ordinary job, we need to demonstrate a special quality in them. At the start of a book, it will most likely be something small. They might help an elderly woman cross the road or rescue the next-door neighbor’s cat from a tree, but it will make us, the reader, sit up and pay attention. This is a character we would like as a friend, and we want to follow them through the course of the book, during the ups and downs, to the happy ending.

In my case, I looked at my character’s interactions with other characters. My hero snapped and snarled quite a bit, so I softened his language and the way he interacted with the other characters. I added some extra scenes, which I hope show my hero in a favorable light. I also looked at the inner conflict and checked I’d done everything I needed to in this area.

Fixing unsympathetic characters isn’t easy, and I hope I’ve managed to get the job done. I’m awaiting the verdict at present.

Do you have any hints for changing unsympathetic characters to ones that readers will love? And do you agree with Donald Maass—that we should see the hero/heroine doing something heroic almost as soon as we meet them in the story?

Thirteen Things For Authors To Tweet About

Thursday Thirteen

I’m fairly new to Twitter, and I’m always wondering what to tweet about. I subscribe to The Book Marketing Expert newsletter and this week they included an article covering things for people to tweet about. Here are a few of them.

Thirteen Things For Authors to Tweet About

1. Teach stuff – teach a little mini-lesson on Twitter. Delve into your area of expertise or just talk about book publishing and how to get published.

2. Share sites or blogs that your followers would be interested in. Be their “filter” to new and exciting information.

3. Use Twitter as a news source: you can easily announce news both from your world (as long as it relates to your topic) and from the world of your expertise.

4. Tweet any good reviews your book gets, it’s always fun to share the good stuff!

5. Feed your blog through Twitter using Twitterfeed.com

6. Use YouTube to share helpful videos you think your followers will love.

7. Run a contest.

8. Ask for advice or ask questions that encourage responses.

9. Talk about the latest trends in your industry.

10. Review a product or book on Twitter.

11. Post an inspirational quote or message.

12. Follow big names in your market on Twitter: this will often bring in their followers too, and you want to see what the “big guys” are up to.

13. Widen your network – follow other Twitter folk, this will not only give you some ideas for your own “tweets” but it’s a great way to network with other writers or professionals.

Source: Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

Are you on Twitter? If so, what is your Twitter handle? (I’m @ShelleyMunro) What do you tweet about?

Dear Author – A Note From Your Heroine

This post is inspired by Heather at The Galaxy Express and her post, Attention, please! This is your heroine speaking.

Dear Author,

I salute you. You sit for long hours in front of the computer as you labor over our stories. Without you none of us would be here. Mostly, you do us proud but I’d like you to consider the following:

1. Please, please don’t make me go down to the basement when there is a killer on the loose. Credit me with a little common sense and help me do something intelligent. Heroine
I don’t want readers to snigger at me and call me Too Stupid To Live. I deserve more than that, don’t you think?

2. I know popular opinion says heroines are slender and pretty, but how about making me stand out from the crowd? Make me sexy–sure, I like sexy as much as the next girl, but I can be sexy and an average size. Give me a few curves. Don’t you know I enjoy food? Oh, and if you give me curves, don’t go on and on about my size. I’m happy, really I am.

3. Please don’t take a stereotype and foist it on me. I’m not a hooker with a big heart. I’m not an ice princess. I’m not a geeky librarian. Give me individuality.

4. I like alpha men–really, I do, but at least give me a spine so I can stand up to them. No wimps should apply here.

5. I’m not perfect. I know that, but do you know it too? Give me some flaws and balance them with some of the good stuff. Make me human because readers will like me better that way.

6. Give me a snarky voice. I’m cool with that, but don’t make me snark all the way through the book. Readers won’t like me if I do that. They might call me a bitch, you know, and wonder what the hero sees in me.

7. Likewise, if my hero is going to be a bastard, let him fall off his high horse at some stage. Make him see the error of his ways or at least let me use my knee in his private parts. It might hurt him, but it would make me feel better after all the verbal abuse.

8. And finally, if you’re gonna make me have anal sex, please, please, please give me some lube.

Yours faithfully,
A Heroine.

What would your heroine write in a letter? Readers, what do you think the heroine should write?

Birth Order

Today I read a magazine article about the birth order of children and how it affects their lives. Experts believe that birth order definitely influences a child’s personality. It also has a bearing on their career choice and the way they deal with relationships.

I found the article interesting because I have a brother and a sister, both younger than me. It was fascinating comparing the first, second and last born characteristics with my family.
First born children love to succeed, they’re good leaders, are good at solving problems, and easy to work with. They can also be overbearing and insensitive, overly concerned with rules, have high stress levels and strive too hard for perfection.

I definitely like to succeed (who doesn’t?) I take charge (sometimes) and I’m good at problem solving. (yes, that’s true—I’m a facts and figure person). The stress part is true, but I constantly work to keep the stress levels down. I worry too much about order, process and rules—sometimes. Insensitive? Sometimes I can be tactless, but I don’t think I’m insensitive. My family and friends might disagree. I’m not sure.

First born children are often company directors and have valuable and enjoyable careers. In truth, I’ve never aspired to be a company director. I like being my own boss and enjoy the creative writing process even though the business drives me nuts at times.

Middle born children are independent, know how to keep a secret, are mentally tough and are good mediators. On the negative side, they can be cynical, they might feel too much on the outside, may be uncooperative and bottle up their true feelings.

Middle born children can be mysterious and keep to themselves. Yes, this is my brother. They’re willing to do things differently. Yes, again. My brother is very innovative. They see issues from both sides. This actually sounds more like me, but no one said this is a perfect science.

On the down side, they’re often stubborn and unwilling to cooperate and they keep opinions to themselves. Yes, to all of this, but I’m also stubborn when I feel the need.

Middle born children are good in mediating roles (nope, can’t see this one at all) and entrepreneurial roles (definitely! This is my brother) and they enjoy building close working relationships.

I know that some writers use this research when developing their characters and give their hero and heroine the quirks associated with their birth order. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when working on your characterization.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine June/July 2000, The New Birth Order Book: Why you are the way you are by Dr Kevin Lernan.

For those who are interested, I intend to blog about last born and only children later this week.

Are you a first born or middle child? Does any of this sound like you? Does it sound like your brothers or sisters who have these positions in your family? And for the writers out there – have you used birth order when developing your characters?

Notes on Thinking

I do my very best thinking in the shower. I think about my day. I think about my current work-in-progress and plotting problems. I think about my goals. The only problem with doing my thinking in the shower is that I can’t take notes. By the time I get out of the shower, some of my brilliance is forgotten. So, imagine my excitement when I saw Stepcase Lifehack’s post on Productivity PrOn: 5 Unusually Useful Nightpads and found a mention of some special notebooks.

Here they are — Aqua Notes – the waterproof notepad.

Photobucket

I wonder if they ship to New Zealand because I want some!!

Where do you do your best thinking?

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two)

This is part two about the pros and cons of writing for different publishers. Part one appeared yesterday.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two) by Brenna Lyons

Choosing your publishers: Risk Management?

Bride Ball by Brenna LyonsSplitting your investments- This is actually another reason that many people choose more than one publisher. There are authors who have experienced the fall of a publisher and had to scramble to place all their books again. Understandably, they don’t want that to happen to them again, so they keep their eggs in different baskets. But…

Watch your percentages in high risk baskets– You have to look on choosing publishers as risk management much as you would view investing your money. What makes a high risk? A new company. A company that doesn’t have a full, competent, experienced staff. A company based on a “radical new idea” for shaking up the industry. An owner who doesn’t have a solid business plan. An owner that lacks people skills…or depends too highly on people skills and too little on business sense. A business that has already had financial and interpersonal blow-ups. You can take on some high risk, as long as you balance it with low to moderate risk publishers. It’s a good idea to weight your basket toward low and moderate risk companies and not high risk. Even the most aggressive planning doesn’t advocate putting all your resources in high risk. Placing all of your work with high risk carries the high risk of losing it all.

Do your homework with ALL publishers– Having more than one publisher does not make you all knowing. No matter how much you might like to claim you can, you cannot “spot a good company or bad” at a hundred paces, though it is usually easier to spot warning signs of a bad risk than it is to say with conviction that the company is a good one at a glance. You have to research all prospective publishers and assess their risk factors. For more information see my two part series about choosing a publisher. Part one. Part two.

New companies/old associates: does experience translate?– As I said earlier, it is never a good idea to choose a company just for…the company you would be keeping, though choosing not to work with someone you clash with may be a very good idea. Just because someone has good ideas for marketing her own book does not mean the person is capable of marketing an entire company. Just because someone was an EIC for five years does not mean that person is skilled as a company owner and will make the right decisions for the company when given all decision making. Not all experience is equal, and friendship is not business savvy.

You can actually hurt your chances rather than help them– Choosing the wrong publishers can hinder you toward your goals….which we will cover more in contracts. But, you can also hinder yourself by spreading your books too thin. Conventional wisdom says that it takes roughly three books with any publisher to start making a name with the company…and making decent money. It is almost impossible to break even and build an audience when you have one or two books each thrown in a half dozen venues.

Special concerns when you have more than one?

Contract provisions to watch out for– You have to be very careful, especially with the contract you sign. There are contracts that specify that the author is expected to keep a web site for only the publisher’s books…or that the publisher will not link to your site if you don’t comply. Forcing you to split your audience (or not giving you the same exposure they give every other author) is counterproductive to your aims of building an audience, and you should not sign something that does it. Always keep your contractual obligations in mind when signing a contract. Can you live to each contract you sign? How long will your rights be held up? How soon can you move to another publisher if things don’t work out? Do you have an “out clause?” Never sign a contract that gives blanket first refusal rights. Why?

Splitting series and related books– You do not want to be forced into a position where you have to split a series or related books from a series because you have signed first refusal to someone else. Keeping related books together is usually a good idea. Putting out shorts in anthologies that relate back to an established world somewhere else, while not overly appreciated by the anthology publisher in some cases, are a different matter. I look on them more as throwing out bait. It’s further exploiting the idea of bringing readers from one company home to another. Always spell out how far that “series” ranges in first right of refusal clauses. If you write the same world in another timeline and with new characters, is that still the series? If you write related books not on the same world (don’t you love science fiction?), is it still the series? The first is debatable. The second is arguably no, even if you see characters from the series there.

Pen Names– Never allow a company to own your pen name. That both steals your word of mouth from you and forces you to split your marketing. Instead of selling YOU and the books. You are forced to sell YOU and YOU and the books. This is a bad idea all the way around. The closer you can bring your pen names, assuming you aren’t writing in clashing genres like erotica and children’s, the better it is for you. It is always better to spend $100 promoting Brenna Lyons than $60 promoting Brenna Lyons and $40 promoting Brenna Stuart, with no apparent connection between them. If you are separating two adult reading genres, you may want a single site that splits into the pen names/genres. That allows for possible carry-over from one pen name to the other from regular readers. If your genres are children’s and adult, you may want two different sites entirely! In fact, it’s probably preferable that you do it that way.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Thanks so much for the informative posts, Brenna! If anyone has any questions just ask them in the comments section.