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Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs | 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Point of View

One of my personal bugbears when reading (and editing) is novels which headhop. In this excellent post, Most Common Writing Mistakes: Head-Hopping POV KM Weiland explains why headhopping is a bad idea … and how it’s often a symptom of a bigger problem:

it’s also a sign the entire narrative—all the way down to the structural foundation of the plot—lacks focus.

Publishing

Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses Rip Van Winkle Syndrome among writers—a summary of how the business of publishing has changed in the last decade. Anyone who hasn’t kept up might feel like Rip Van Winkle did after waking from his twenty-year sleep.

Marketing

Cover Design

Emilie Hendryx visits Novel Rocket to share 3 Ways Your Cover Sells Your Novel. I have to agree: people do judge books by their cover. There is a new release I keep seeing promoted on blogs and social media. I know from the title and blurb it’s supposed to be historical fiction with a romantic element. Maybe I’m the only one, but the cover image reminds me of Cruella de Vil … not my idea of a romantic heroine. No, I’m not going to share the name or author.

Amazon Ads

David Gaughran shares 9 Ways to Improve AMS – Amazon Ads for Authors. It’s a combination of instruction on how to use Amazon ads, and how Amazon could make their advertising more user-friendly i.e. encourage advertisers to spend more money by providing clearer information on how to get a positive ROI.

I don’t have any books for sale on Amazon, so my experience of Amazon ads is solely as a potential Kindle book buyer. Almost all the books I check out are Christian fiction, so I’d expect the advertised books to be Christian fiction—or at the most edgy, fiction written by Christian authors for the general market. But that’s not the case, and I guess we can thank EL James and Christian Grey for that. I wonder if these authors realise they are wasting their time and money?

Sharing to Social Media

Buffer have an excellent post on What to Post to Each Social Media Platform (Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter). You can post to five of these six using a free Buffer account, or to all six using a basic paid Awesome account (my choice). Anyway, check out the post. Or click here to find out more about how I use Buffer.

Website Maintenance

If you have a WordPress website (and you should), you need to keep it maintained (voice of experience here). Shannon Mattern explains how in How to Maintain Your Website.

If you want to set up your own WordPress website and don’t know where to start, I recommend Shannon’s free Five Day Website Challenge. It’s how I developed this site, and www.iolagoulton.com. Click here to find out more.

What’s the best blog post you’ve read this week?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs | 2 September 2017

I haven’t posted for the last two weeks (did you notice?). The first weekend, I was attending the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, listening to awesome speakers like Kristen Lamb and Christie Craig.

Kristen Lamb shared lots of great tips about developing an author platform and using social media, and I blogged about that at Australasian Christian Writers (click here to read my post). Christie Craig was a brilliant combination of writing craft, humour, and inspiration. I’ve got a guest post on her presentation coming up in a couple of weeks at International Christian Fiction Writers, so I’ll link to that when it posts.

Then last weekend my husband took me away for long weekend to celebrate my birthday. We visited the South Island—Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wakaka, and visited several Lord of the Rings filming locations. Not that any of you like #LOTR …

Anyway, let’s get back to what’s been going on in the writing world this week.

Publishing

YA Author Caught Manipulating the NYT Bestseller List

There have been several stories over the years of authors buying bulk copies of their books to gain a place on the prestigious (or is that once-prestigious) New York Times Bestseller list. The most famous (infamous?) in Christian circles is probably Mark Driscoll, but he is not alone.

The latest story is about YA author Lani Sarem and her YA novel, Handbook for Mortals. Despite being published by a miniscule publisher, with no preorder buzz, and out of stock on Amazon, the book somehow managed to make it to the top of the NYT Young Adult Hardcover list. This struck some YA blogger types as odd, so they did a little investigation.

To cut a long story short, they found someone (the author?) had manipulated the list by contacting bookstores which report to the NYT and ordering 29 copies (because orders of 30 or more copies trigger a warning that the book is being purchased in bulk). It appears these orders counted as sales, even though the book wasn’t delivered or paid for.

Good on the New York Times for doing their own research and revising the list.

How to Self-Publish

Self-Publishing Mastery is a free online course from Ian Robb Wright, run through Teachable. I’ve signed up, but haven’t completed it myself. David Gaughran has checked it out, and says while there is an upsell at the beginning, it’s only USD 28, and the rest of the course looks like it contains good solid content with no sales pitches. So if you’re looking to find out about self-publishing, this could be a good place to start.

Ebook Formatting

Draft2Digital have introduced professional ebook templates for epub and mobi files. This provides self-published authors with an alternative to the dreaded Smashwords meatgrinder, or the other options like Scrivener (which I can’t get the hang of), Vellum (which I can’t use, because I don’t use a Mac), and Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates (which I do like, but you have to buy them).

You can find out more at the Draft2Digital blog. How do you format your ebooks? Will you try the Draft2Digital templates?

Developmental Editing

I have a lot of potential clients approach me asking for copyediting and proofreading, but when I look at their manuscript, it becomes obvious their novels are not ready for copyediting. They need more work. They need a developmental edit. In Five Reasons Your Novel Needs a Developmental Edit, Jonathan Vars shares what a developmental edit should cover.

Writing

Free Story Genius Webinar

One of my favourite writing craft books is Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Lisa has teamed up with writing coach Jeannie Nash at Author Accelerator to offer an exclusive webinar next week on Thursday 7 September/Friday 8 September (it’s 10:30am Thursday Pacific Time, which unfortunately translates as 5:30 am Friday for me in New Zealand).

I expect there will be a sales pitch for Author Accelerator’s Story Genius training course, but I’m sure there will be lots of great content as well. It’s free, and there will be a replay (for those Australians who aren’t prepared to get up at 3:30am).

Writing Agathokakological Stories

Finally, Telling the Truth in Fiction shares some inspiration from Steven James, on why our stories must be agathokakological … telling good and evil. What James doesn’t say is that in order to tell the truth in fiction, we must know The Truth (which he does). That’s our role as Christian authors, no matter who our audience is.

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 12 August 2017

Best of the Blogs—the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing and marketing your book.

Writing

Plot Problems

First, Kristen Lamb is back with her usual sensitive discussion on we can improve our writing. No, wait. Kristen does kickboxing, not sensitive (and she might call this post Six Simple Reasons Our Story Sucks and How to Fix It, but fixing a story which sucks can be anything but simple).

Characterisation

One of the “rules” of fiction is to write characters our readers can connect with. But there is an exception to every rule. In The Importance of Infection in Fiction, Sarah Callender uses the movie Dunkirk to suggest an exception to the connection rule. She says:

Dunkirk reminded me that it’s not the amount of character development or back story that pins me to my seat. It’s the degree to which I am infected that matters.

Have you seen the movie? After reading this, I’m not sure I want to …

Self-Editing

Janice Hardy at Fiction University shares Improving Your Writing Without Raising Your Word Count. She identifies several ways we can make our scenes overly wordy without adding anything of substance, and how we can revise our work to fix that. (That sentence is twenty-six words long, and is a good example of the flab we editors love to trim.)

Publishing

America Star Books (aka Publish America) appear to be in trouble—they have published just two books since May (compared to up to fifteen a month in previous years). They are no longer accepting submissions (although, strangely, the submissions page at the supposedly defunct Publish America is open).

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing (except for the unlucky authors caught in their web). The world would be a better place without publishers like America Star Books and Author Solutions. As usual, Writer Beware have all the details.

Marketing

Back Cover Copy

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you writing those 100 words to go on the back cover of a book is infinitely harder than writing the actual book. In Blurbs, Back Cover Copy and Pitches, Oh My! Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense Author Lisa Phillips shares her tips.

That’s it from me for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read recently on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs | 5 August 2017

Best of the blogs—the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your book.

Writing

Opening Hook

How to Make a Grand Opening is a great post from Tina Ann Forkner visiting Writers in the Storm. We all know—as readers and as writers—that those opening paragraphs are vital. In this post, Tina explains what needs to be included. A lot—which is part of the reason they are so hard.

Show, Don’t Tell

We all know the rule: show, don’t tell. We even know why it’s bad. What can be harder to understand is the sometimes subtle difference between the two. In Showing Versus Telling: So SHOW Me Already! PJ Parrish visits The Kill Zone Blog to show us.

It’s long, with several examples, but it’s one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject.

Christian Fiction

Lee Tobin McClain addressed an important question for Christian writers at Inspy Romance: How Racy is Too Racy? She shows a before-and-after version of a scene from her new Love Inspired release. The editor queried the scene as being out of line with their standards. It didn’t seem that racy to me, but Love Inspired is known for their conservative storylines and content. What do you think?

Marketing

Book Marketing Checklist

Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies and The Book Launch Blueprint, is back with another great freebie. The Book Marketing Checklist is a 45-page pdf download of (I imagine) pretty much everything you need to think about in marketing your book or books.

Yes, it’s a list. And I know some of you don’t like lists because they only tell you what you need to do, not how to do it. If that sounds familiar, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Follow my blog on Feedly or your favourite RSS feed app, so you don’t miss any of my more detailed how-to posts.
  • Subscribe to my newsletter, so you’ll get a heads-up the next time I run my Kick Start Your Author Platform challenge (click here to subscribe).

Book Reviews

Jason B Ladd, author of Book Review Banzai, visits The Creative Penn to explain How to Get Book Reviews as an Unknown Author. He makes some great points (and I must read his book).

Facebook

I know next to nothing about Facebook advertising. The one thing I do know is that if you are using Facebook advertising, or intend to use it in the future, then you need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website.

If that’s gobbledegook to you, then you need to read this post from Social Media Examiner:

What are the best posts you’ve found this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 29 July 2017

I’m back with best of the blogs, the best posts I’ve found this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. What’s the best or most useful post you’ve read this week? Let me know in the comments.

Writing

Conflict in Romance

In Conflict – Avoid the Easy Route, posted at Romance University, editor Julie Sturgeon looks at conflict in romance. She explains how getting the internal conflict wrong can leave you with a grown-up version of “Green Eggs and Ham”. Oops.

(As an aside, Andrea Grigg uses exactly this trope in Too Pretty, but without coming off like an adult Dr Seuss book. At least not in my view).

Characterisation

How to Write Characters Who Don’t All Feel the Same is an excellent post from Janice Hardy at Fiction University on showing character traits though dialogue, dialogue tags, and action.

Janice is the author of Understanding Show, Don’t Tell. I haven’t read it yet, but one of my clients credits it with cutting her editing bill in half. After reading this book, she did another round of intensive self-editing on her manuscript (including cutting 25,000 words to go into a sequel). As a result, I was able to complete her edit for half my original quote. It made it a much more enjoyable job as well!

Editing

I was interviewed by Christine Dillon about my role as an editor. Do you have any burning editing questions you’d like me to answer?

Marketing

Website Design #1 (Big Picture)

As well as being a freelance editor, I’m also a book reviewer. As part of my reviewing activities, I like to be able to link to an author’s blog, add their brief bio to a review, link to their books on Amazon, tag them in a post on Twitter and so on.

It’s amazing how often I can’t do these things because the author doesn’t have a Twitter account or hasn’t set up an Amazon Author page or (worse) doesn’t even make their books available on Amazon.

These authors are missing out on free publicity from me (and probably from other reviewers as well) for the simple reason that they haven’t taken the time to set their basic passive marketing up properly. Most authors claim to loathe marketing ,which is all the more reason to do this part well.

After all, if you can get other people (readers and reviewers) talking about your book to their friends, that’s even more powerful than you talking about your book.

Author Jami Gold has recently updated her website, to make sure she was doing all these basics right. In this blog post, she explains what she’s done, and why: To Make A Reader Friendly Website.

Yes, I know this is a list of activities without any explanation of how she has done it. Don’t worry—I’ll cover as much as I can over the next few months in my Wednesday blog posts. In the meantime, follow my blog on Feedly (or your favourite reader) or subscribe to my monthly Newsletter to ensure you don’t miss any posts.

Website Design #2 (Detail)

Ever wanted to add quotes to your WordPress site (like Bible quotes, quotes from your books, quotes from books you’ve enjoyed …). This blog post explains how you can add quotes using a free WordPress plugin. Very clever!

How Do Successful Authors Market their Books?

BookBaby have released a survey on what successful authors do in terms of marketing. The survey was completed by 7,677 published or aspiring authors in October and November 2016.

There are some interesting results, such as the table comparing the activities of successful authors ($5,000 or more in annual book sales) vs. unsuccessful authors ($100 or less in annual book sales). What would be more interesting is understanding the return on investment (ROI) of these activities—especially the high-cost-no-guaranteed-return activities such as hiring a publicist.

There were also interesting comments on soliciting reviews. Successful authors were more likely to ask book bloggers for reviews, while unsuccessful authors asked friends and family. This is significant: Amazon will delete reviews from people they suspect of having a financial or personal relationship with the author, which defeats the purpose of asking friends and family for reviews.

Also, it’s not good marketing. If I look at a book on Amazon and notice that two of the five reviewers have the same last name as the author, I’m going to assume those are reviews from family members—especially if the author has a less common last name (e.g. Goulton). And I’m going to ignore the reviews, because I know they are biased.

What reviews do you pay the most attention to?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 22 July 2017

Writing

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

This week was the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop hosted by Raimey Gallant. Over twenty writers shared their tips on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Erika Timar has helpfully compiled a listing of all the posts—and there are some good ones. I’ve included a couple of my favourites in this post.

LM Durand presents 35 ideas for marketing your book on Instagram.
Kristina Stanley shows how to open a scene.
ML Keller shows us when and how to transform telling into showing.

Song Lyrics

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about whether authors can use song lyrics in their books (short answer: only if the song’s writer has been dead for over seventy years).

In Should I Use Song Lyrics in My Writing?, published at The Steve Laube Agency blog, Christian literary agent Tamela Hancock Murray suggests we’re asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t be asking “can we?”. Instead, ask “should we?”

Marketing

Marketing Must-Haves

Chris Syme shares a short post introducing her three marketing must-haves for newbie authors. At the risk of stealing her thunder, I’ll tell you what they are:

1. An author website with a URL that matches their author name (e.g. www.iolagoulton.com).
2. An email list.
3. A Facebook business page. No, your personal profile isn’t good enough (click here to find out the difference).

Chris goes into more detail about each of these in her marketing books, all of which I recommend:

SMART Social Media for Authors

Sell More Books with Less Social Media 

Sell More Books with Less Marketing

 

Marketing Plan

Everyone tells us we need a marketing plan. There are even some internet templates to help you write one. Unfortunately, most are so long it looks like writing the book would be quicker.

In this short post, Joel Friedlander takes us through the five essential questions that need to be answered in a book marketing plan (actually, substitute “customers” for “readers”, and it will probably work in other industries).

Missing Lettr

Over the last two weeks, I’ve written posts explaining how I use the paid versions of Buffer and Social Jukebox to manage my social media sharing. There are other tools, such as Hootsuite and CoPromote.

Missing Lettr is another tool. It allows users to promote blog content over the next year. The free version allows users to share one campaign (i.e. blog post) a week, from one website to one social media profile.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books are sharing a limited-time promotion on Missing Lettr’s paid plans—6 months for the price of 1. The cheapest paid plan (Personal) is usually $15/month, and allows users to schedule four campaigns a week from up to two websites, to four social media profiles.

It’s a good deal, and I might be tempted if I wasn’t already using the Power Scheduler and Buffer’s Awesome plan ($10/month) to achieve the same result. Let me know if you sign up for Missing Lettr—I’d love to know how you find it.

That’s all for this week! Which post did you think was the most interesting?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 1 July 2017

Last week was all writing craft, and this week is marketing (well, almost all marketing)!

Marketing

Branding

First, two linked posts from Kristine Rusch on branding and discoverability. There are a lot of things that make sense in here (including a brief explanation of why non-fantasy readers like myself still love the Harry Potter series).

She quotes Lee Child on his Jack Reacher series (which I’ve never read, but apparently a stunning 70% of Child fans will buy his next book, because they know what they’re going to get:

There are two components of loyalty: one is the author and the second is the subject. If you like the author but you’re uncertain of the content of the next book, that’s an obstacle. It runs counter to the literary view of writing that values originality and growth. Jack Reacher is the same person in every book.

(However, she also points out that some readers will abandon the series for the same reason: that Jack Reacher is the same person in every book. The lack of character growth gets stale.)

She also quotes a Codex Group survey, which states:

consumers are willing to pay a 66% premium for a book by a favorite author over an unknown author.

This is why new authors often discount their first book (or make it permanently free): to attract the new reader in the hope their book turns that reader into a paying customer. It’s not platform: it’s brand.

 

Brand vs. Writing to Market

Author Rosalind James expands on this idea, saying that if we brand ourselves as authors and write to that brand, we won’t need to get stuck in the “churn” of writing to market.

Facebook

First, do you have a separate Facebook author page? Social Media Examiner tells why you should.

BookWorks have a tutorial especially for authors.

If that’s not enough detail for you, BookBaby blog has a series. It’s older, but the steps haven’t changed.

Facebook Header Videos

What has changed recently is that you can now use video in Facebook headers. In An Exciting Opportunity for Your Facebook Author Page, non-techy author Jebraun Clifford shares the 8 steps she took to create her own video header.

She also got a shout-out from Chris and Becca Syme at the Smarty Pants Book Marketing podcast (listen to the whole thing for an excellent discussion on recent changes at Facebook, or listen from 20 minutes to hear them discuss video headers).

Writing

Yes, I know I said this week was all marketing. But I couldn’t resist including this excellent post from the Reedsy blog. Learn What Irony (Really) Is and How To Use It discusses three types of irony and gives examples of how they have been used in writing, cinema, television, and on stage.

 

What’s the most interesting post you’ve seen online this week?

 

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Although mostly on writing, thanks to the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop hosted by Raimey Gallant. (Click here to read my contribution to the blog hop).

Writing

Passive Voice

What’s The Deal With Passive Voice, from ML Keller, is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on passive voice—what it is, when it’s bad, and when it’s not so bad (hint: it’s not removing every was or to be from your manuscript).

Point of View

Point of view is a huge issue for writing. With beginners, it’s understanding that third person is not omniscient, or that headhopping an issue. (Adding a *** every three lines doesn’t make it a new scene with a new POV character.)

In Deep Point of View, K Kazul Wolf shows how to write deep point of view. As she points out, it’s nebulous and hard—it’s moving beyond ‘rules’. You can make a ‘rule’ not to use filler words. But it takes skill and hard work to move from “they fought” to showing the reader the fight.

Micro-Plotting

Micro-plotting is David Farland’s term for ensuring you’ve got all those nitty-gritty details in your story that ensure your readers are engaged with your character, and that your plot makes sense. Confused? Read the post.

Writing Christian Fiction

Blog posts from Mike Duran at deCOMPOSE always get me thinking. In The Importance of Implicit (v. Explicit) Christian Content in Fiction, he explores the trend for Christian authors to write for the general market. Duran introduces Holly Ordway’s idea of a “two-step conversion”: moving first from atheism to belief in God, then to embracing Christianity.

He points out that many Christian novels focus on this second step (or feature characters who are already Christians), and don’t address the necessary first step. Duran says:

While a work of fiction may not explicitly articulate the Gospel, it can still contain implicit elements which engage a person’s imagination and move them forward in their spiritual pilgrimage.

Not Writing Preachy Characters

It’s not just Christians who overdo the preaching in their writing. In this post (also from the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop), Raimey Gallant shares Five Ways to Temper the Preachy in Your Plot. She’s not talking about religious preaching, but about the issues preaching—the environment, assisted suicide, political views …

I can think of a general market romance author I stopped reading after her novels detoured from straight romantic suspense with a touch of comedy to romantic suspense with a heavy dose of gay rights. I could have lived with a gay couple (hey, I can skip pages I don’t want to read). What I couldn’t live with was the preachy telling. Remember the show, don’t tell rule? Well, this author switched to tell, don’t show, and it did her message no favours.

I’ve recently read a Christian romantic suspense novel where the heroine was All About The Issue in a way which made Erin Brockovich seem like a disinterested lightweight. I couldn’t like the character even though I agreed with her stance, and that made it impossible for me to enjoy the novel.

Marketing

Craft Your Self-Publishing Plan for Success: Tips From an Indie Author is an outstanding case study from author Laini Giles, visiting Your Writer Platform. Giles takes readers through her publishing objectives, and how she worked to achieve them. What I thought was especially clever was how she identified her target audience, then marketed to them—including attending events her target reader would also attend.

One learning point: for all her success, she wishes she’d started building her email list earlier.

Productivity

Book coach Nina Amir is also a Certified High Performance Coach. This week, she gives solid tips to reaching your writing goals (and not making excuses).

What blog posts have you read this week that are worth remembering?

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 17 June 2017

Best of the Blogs

The best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

The focus this week is on writing craft. That’s not deliberate—it just happened that way. Some weeks it’s a mix, some weeks it isn’t.

Story Genius

First up, Myra Johnson visits Seekerville to discuss Story Genius by Lisa Cron. It’s a brilliant book, and I highly recommend it. Myra talks about the “third rail,” the emotional power that keeps our story moving forward.

Using the MBTI for Characterisation

I don’t know about you, but I find getting to know “my” characters (the characters I’m writing) one of the most difficult aspects of writing a first draft. And characterisation is also what makes or breaks a book for me—that’s how important characterisation is.

In fact, Lisa Cron says:

Ultimately, all stories are character driven—yes, all stories.

That’s because great stories aren’t about what happens as much as they are about how the characters react to and make sense of what happened.

In 5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters, KM Weiland recants on her previous aversion to using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to profile her characters, and gives five great tips. And do read the comments. One commenter has written a virtual essay, which is informative (and technical).

Inspirational Romance

Jamie Lynn Booth visits Kristen Lamb’s website to discuss Why the World Needs More Inspirational Romance.

This is another post where the comments are as enlightening as the post. Many of the commenters describe themselves as Christians, but say they aren’t writing with the major CBA publishers would recognise as Christian fiction. As one commenter says:

I firmly believe that God has called us to be truth-tellers in a broken world.

I take the point. A lot of Christian fiction is telling the Truth (God’s Truth), sure. But it’s failing to tell it in an authentic way that will resonate with non-Christians. While I love Christian fiction that’s written for Christians by Christians, there is also a need for fiction written by Christians for the general market, but that will still lead people to God.

Part of this is about having flawed characters non-Christian readers will recognise.

Authentic characters.

And that’s what Lanette Kauten is talking about in Writing Authentic Characters (also at Kristen Lamb’s website). Lanette is a Christian, but isn’t writing “Christian fiction”. She says:

My characters are a part of the world they live in and act accordingly.

And her world is messy. Her heroine is described as a confused atheist in a lesbian relationship escaping from her upbringing in a weird Charismatic church. That’s part of the story, but it’s not the whole story. Her message is that our writing must be authentic.

Now for something lighter …

I enjoy humour. Who doesn’t? But I often come across novels where the humour either falls flat, or crosses the line from humour into a cringefest of slapstick.

In this excellent post at the BookBaby blog, Scott McCormick explains why: because Your Story Needs a Good Straight Man. If I think about it, a lot of the humour that didn’t work for me as a reader was because both characters were trying to be funny. And that doesn’t work. As Scott explains, good humour needs a straight man.

The best humour isn’t when one character says something funny and the other character laughs. It’s when one character says something funny, and the other character ignores the humour and carries on with the conversation. Terry Pratchett was a master at this.

McCormick also says:

Interestingly, a straight man doesn’t have to be limited to comedies. A good straight man can make your heroes more heroic, and your tragic figures more tragic.

Worth thinking about …

Do you use humour in your writing? (Or humor?)

I’m currently running a giveaway of Then There Was You, the new novel from RITA finalist (and Christian Editing Services client) Kara Isaac. Click here to enter.

Best of the Blogs 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: 10 June 2017

Six of the best blog posts this week in writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Skills Writers Need

Frances Caballo from Social Media Just for Writers visits The Book Designer to share 5 Skills Every Writer Should Develop. I don’t think each point should get equal weighting: learning writing craft is far and away the most important skill. And I think I’d substitute building a website and email list for blogging (I agree non-fiction authors need to blog. I’m not convinced that fiction authors must blog. But they do need an email list).

What do you think?

Writing Effective Backstory

An excellent post with practical tips on how to drop in your backstory, from Kathryn Craft via Writer Unboxed. I especially like her idea about using continuity words—a new term to me, but one I’m going to remember (and apply).

The (Social) Rules

Literary agent Donald Maass visits Writer Unboxed to ask What Are the Rules? When I read the headline, I thought he was going to be talking about writing rules. Because, you know, he writes books like Writing the Breakout Novel.

But no. He’s talking about the unwritten social rules we all live by, and asking which of those we bring into the lives of our fictional characters. Take food as an example. For those stuck in poverty, the main concern is quantity—is there enough? For the middle classes, the concern is quality—did you like it? But for the wealthiest among us, the concern is presentation. Hmm …

Characters

Author Sonja Yoerg visits Writers Digest to share her tips on writing mentally ill characters. As she points out, up to one in five people have some form of mental illness. As authors, we have a responsibility for getting the details right and building a rounded character who suffers from a mental illness:

Mental illness can be debilitating and all-consuming, but it does not define a person. That job still rests with the writer.

Publishing

What Authors Earn

Written Word Media share the results of their latest survey into author earnings. The result which surprised me was how little people claim to spend on editing (often less than they spend on cover design). I get that cover design is important to attract a potential reader, but it takes a lot longer to edit a novel than it does to design a cover, and it’s the quality of the writing and editing that turns a casual buyer into a reader and fan.

Amazon Book Sales

Last week I commented on the kerfuffle around Amazon’s changes to the buy button. Kara Isaac visited Australasian Christian Writers this week to share her view in Buy New, Get Secondhand? If you’re buying a paper book from Amazon, make sure the book ships from and is sold by Amazon. If you buy from a reseller, it’s likely that the book is secondhand. This means the author doesn’t receive a royalty on the sale.

Or buy the ebook—the author probably earns a higher royalty on the ebook sale. Or ask your library to order a copy, or borrow the ebook from your library if you have that option. Remember, authors are paid for library copies and some are even paid more if the book is borrowed more.

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