Tuesday, December 10, 2013
As Callie crested the hill, the finish line appeared, lined with colorful flags – and then receded, as another girl thundered past.
Callie chased her on a gentle downhill slope, three hundred meters of fairway to the finish line of the State Championship. Through eyes hazy with exhaustion and the remnants of a cold, she could see Anna and Hanna, her twin teammates, sprint past the finish marker in a dead tie.
Two hundred meters to go and Callie could hear the gasping breath of another runner closing on her. Five strides later, the girl was beside her. Callie pumped her arms harder, willing her legs to move faster. Legs that could carry her for miles were failing now with the finish in sight.
Noise flooded both sides of the course and, penetrating over it, someone shouting her name. The cheers of the fans and coaches slid past her as she fought for position.
She saw the red singlet and slashing white diagonal as the last of the Fairchild Academy runners eased by her. Swearing, Callie leaned forward to gain momentum, rising up into a full sprint, her calves already starting to cramp, alternating with each foot strike, each spasm an opportunity to let the girl go, to quit.
Seventy meters and Callie still matched strides with the Fairchild girl.
At fifty meters, another girl caught both of them. She was a tiny runner from a small school up north, and her breath came in sobs.
The three of them closed on the flags at the top of the finishing chute. Callie felt the agony of each breath as it exploded from her lungs, too little air for starving muscles. The blood pounding in her head drowned out the runners beside her, and Callie’s vision squeezed down to a small circle focused on the white line that marked the end. She drew on the struggling efforts of the runners next to her, seeking just a small advantage.
The sobbing girl finished one step ahead, the last sob a moan as she collapsed. Instinctively, Callie dodged the fallen runner as she lunged past the line, a half-step ahead of the Fairchild runner.
Relief and exhaustion mingled with joy but a small doubt blossomed.
Was it enough?
Clearly, I erred in attaching a soccer image to this story about a race! I formed a clear picture of a drive down a soccer field in the first paragraph and never let go of that image, despite counter-cues in the rest of the page. That shows how readers can go offtrack--which is a subject for another blog!
I appreciate the way this page describes Callie's efforts during her thundering drive toward the finish. The writing regarding the action, concentration, and her sense of being pursued by others was convincing.
I do think that the first lines lost a bit of impact due to their construction. "As"used twice in the opening paragraph. It's important to vary your sentence constructions, especially in openers. Also--and this is just my personal opinion, others may disagree--starting a story with a sentence that begins with "as" is a weak way to open a scene. As readers, we don't yet have any context for relating the "as" to anything. The writer should the character's main action, rather than introducing "as" right off the bat.
While I enjoyed the way the running action was described, I do think we need to learn a bit more about Callie in this first page. As we've discussed so many times here on the blog, the first page of a story has to pull the reader into the character's world. As currently written, we only get the idea that Callie is trying to score a soccer goal. (Update: Oops!) For me, that situation is not quite compelling enough for a first page. We need a hint about Callie's character and motivation, as well as the story to come.
One nit: There were too many undifferentiated characters, I thought. To enhance the suspense, the writer might consider focusing Callie's running battle on one particular opponent in particular--especially if that rival will figure later in the story. (From my Soccer Mom days, I predict that the opponent will be the Dreaded Goalie.)
All that being said, I think the writer displays a promising strength for conveying action. That's a a real plus. Keep going, Writer! And thank you for submitting this page for discussion today.
TKZ'ers, what are your thoughts about GAMES OF CHANCE?
Monday, December 9, 2013
The holidays are almost upon us and it's the time of year where we all tend to take stock of the year that's passed and start thinking about resolutions for the year to come. For me this typical means riding a roller coaster of emotions regarding my own writing - I berate myself for all things I failed to achieve, didn't seem to get around to doing, resolutions I failed to fulfil…then I come back up and feel good about all that I did manage to do, the accomplishments and for the progress made. Then I go back around for another ride:) Ah, the holidays…
It's also the time of year when, at various holiday events, I meet people who cross-question me about what it means to be a 'writer'. These tend to be divided into two camps - the first who think it must be nice to sit around all day daydreaming and having fun and the second who can't imagine how anyone could possibly have the self-discipline, patience or confidence to be a writer at all. I'm never quite sure how to respond to either camp because, as Jim said in yesterday's post - the publishing industry seems like such a crap shoot sometimes. It involves personal tastes, fads, uncertainties as well luck and often the decisions made don't make much sense at all. We've all wondered why some books are published and others rejected, why some books are successful and others aren't…and most of the time, when people ask me why, I can only shrug my shoulders and say "that's the industry for you!"
So today, I thought I'd outline some tips for coping with those myriad of questions you get around the holidays about what it means to be a 'writer' - a survival guide if you will - for a time of year when, let's be honest, we often question why the hell we do what we do!
Firstly, don't be honest (well not entirely)….people don't want to really know about the angst, self-doubt and hair-pulling we go through as writers. They want it to sound easy - something they could do, if they just had the time to do it. So I tend to smile when I'm asked 'what's it like to be a writer' and say it's great, and move on - because unless you're actually in the trenches as a writer, you have no idea what it really means.
Second, ignore all the crap about 'success' as it's impossible to talk about when you're going to be on the New York Times bestseller list or when some one's going to make a movie of your book…likewise don't talk about the 'numbers' because I think authors can go crazy enough thinking about sales numbers without getting into a competition about it. Which leads to…
Third, don't go into promotion overload. Some amount of self-promotion is fine, but just because its the holidays doesn't mean you have to feel the need to go into a promotion frenzy.
Fourth, start setting realistic goals for the next year. Patience, persistence and writing the best damn book you can is really what you need to aim for, but I find it helpful to set measurable goals for the following year (that helps too, when you start riding that roller coaster of emotions). My first blog post for the new year will probably identify some of these goals but in the meantime my plan is to hunker down, meet my writing targets for the rest of the year and try to stay sane…
Anyone got any other tips for my holiday survival guide for writers??
Sunday, December 8, 2013
I have a good friend who is a big-time business guy. One of his pet sayings is, "Data drives decisions." In a bottom-line world, you can't depend on sentiment, heart, hope, dreams or desire. Those all may factor into starting a business. But if the business is not making a profit, and you have hard data showing you why, you either change course or go under.
principles, and came up with 5 absolutely unbreakable laws. I stand by them. They are the foundation for creating your own "set of practices" for self-publishing success.
For example, the primary law is, "Write the Best Book You Can." The set of practices you design to make it so might involve craft study, writing, feedback, writing, finishing, revision, craft study, coffee, more writing. Plans are unique, but the writer who pursues a strategic and thought-out approach to getting better is more likely to win in the end.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Elaine Viets
So there I was reading my favorite blockbuster novelist, a writer with a shelf full of awards, kudos from critiques, a movie and more, when I was stopped by a stupid mistake. The angst-ridden hero tossed his clothes down the laundry shoot.
Well, chute. What happened to this normally careful and precise author? Where were his editor and copyeditor?
No, I’m not giving you this writer’s name. These mistakes happen to us all. Keep reading and I’ll tell you how I embarrassed myself in front of three hundred thousand readers.
Let’s just say that homonyms happen.
Here are a few common mistakes that make you look like an amateur. And no gloating, please. The next brain freeze could be yours.
– It’s bloody embarrassing when mystery writers have police and forensic experts talk about blood splatter. It’s spatter. Get the L out of there.
– Watch those bears. Grizzly murders are cringeworthy, unless the person was killed by a bear. Grizzly is another treacherous homonym.
– Triple threat. “Peaked,” “piqued” and “peeked” give writers three ways to go wrong. How often have you encountered versions of “this peaks my curiosity”? I didn’t want to see it, but I’d already “piqued” at the page and knew I wasn’t getting a “peek” literary experience.
– Twisted. Beer drinkers know that Heineken does not have a twist-off cap, but many writers don’t. Your character needs a church key for those green bottles.
-- Jack’s possessive. Jack Daniel’s always has an apostrophe. I had a sobering discussion with a copyeditor who wanted to remove the apostrophe, but that’s when hanging around bars paid off. I knew Mr. Daniel was possessive about his Tennessee whiskey.
– How to drive readers crazy: Get car details wrong. In 1968, hippies did not open the hood of their VW Beetles and check the engine. Beetles back then had rear-mounted, air-cooled engines. Check car details on the Internet.
– All wet. No, you do not “wet” your appetite. You sharpen it. Put that H to work.
-- Lift that bale. No, you don’t tow the line. It’s not a rope. Webster says when you “toe the line” you “conform rigorously to a rule or standard.”
– Watch those foreign words and phrases. When I was a newspaper reporter, I wrote about a waiter who wore “liederhosen” at a German restaurant. Amazing, a reader told me. A man with singing leather pants. I should have had the waiter wearing lederhosen – leather britches.
That extra “i” made a fool out of me.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
An author lifeboat team is a band of authors who join together to cross-promote their work. I became aware of the concept when I got invited to join one. This particular group was made up of paranormal romance authors, and their rules included sharing each other’s posts on Facebook and being responsible for one post a week.
I thought that obligation and the specific genre focus might be too restrictive for me, especially since I write in two genres. So while flattered to be asked, I politely declined. The idea brewed in my head, though, so when Terry Odell invited me to join her fledging group, I seriously considered and eventually said yes.
Why did I like this team? While we were encouraged to support each other with retweets and shares, we weren’t committed to any particular schedule. And the group consisted of multi-published authors in various genres. This interesting mix could attract new readers, and that would benefit our primary goal of increasing our visibility and readership.
It’s been one year since I joined. What have we accomplished in that time? We’ve established our website, Booklover’s Bench.
Besides each of us having an author page, we have added Behind the Scenes and Excerpt features. We run a monthly contest via Rafflecopter with a $25 Amazon or BN gift card as the main prize and e-books from each of us for runners-up winners.
In another effort to cross-promote, we’ve also started offering each other’s books as prizes for personal newsletter contests and sharing the resultant mailing list.
On Twitter, we’ve each created a List for our team members. It’s easy to access the list and retweet everyone’s posts that way.
In terms of results, my newsletter in Sept. 2012 went out to 4542 recipients. In Oct. 2013, I sent it to 5339 folks. That’s an increase of nearly 800 names. Some of these might have come from my own contests, but I’d say the majority of new entries are thanks to BB.
As one of the extra options on our Rafflecopter contests, we’ve put “Like my Facebook Page” as an added choice. My FB Likes have increased quite a bit as a result. So this is another benefit.
We’re also a sounding board for marketing ideas. I learned about doing a Facebook launch party from one of my team mates. If we have an aspect of the biz we need input on or just want someone to listen, we have each other. In the future, maybe we’ll expand and hire a virtual assistant. Our only requirement is to do what we can to support each other, to tweet about the contests, take over the $25 gift card contest prize once every couple of months, and support our efforts any other way we can. We split the cost of the website hosting and manage it ourselves.
Other ideas for future consideration are a subscribers-only tab on our website for free downloads of bonus materials or short e-reads, a blog hop, a street team, a Fan of the Month selection.
How do we communicate? We’ve held two Skype conference calls so far with a third one coming up to discuss our ideas and goals for next year. Otherwise, we have a private Facebook group page and a yahoo group listserve. Or we can send individual emails.
It’s hard to work alone, especially since most marketing efforts have moved online. Consider gathering together your own author lifeboat team. Again, it’s a group of authors who band together to support each other on social media with the goal of expanding their readership. How your team operates and what you do for each other is your choice. See what other groups do and borrow their ideas that appeal to you. We all learn from each other, and we must support each other, too. Just like we do on this group blog.
As Thanksgiving passes us by, thanks to each one of you for following us and for joining our discussions. We share a wealth of information about writing craft and marketing that contributes to our online community. We’re grateful for all our cyberspace friends.