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Best of the Blogs

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

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.