Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Two crucial skills for the writing life.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Each day, we are bombarded by the tasks we must do, by the things we want to accomplish, and by the demands of tasks and people upon our time. There is only so much time, and so often too many things to do. We necessarily must master the skill of multitasking, of doing more than one thing at a time: answering the phone and emails, scheduling meetings and signings, managing children and pets, managing a household, making time for love, tracking our books and our word count.

Writing & publishing have become a multi-skill career, especially for writers, where we must write, have a business plan, set goals, design covers, write a blog, maintain a website, and market our books. Some of us do all of these things, some of us out-source some of it. And most of us do have other demands placed on our time, like family, friends, favorite past-times, other jobs.

And all of this demands that we multitask, and that is necessary. It’s almost a survival skill.

Lost in all of this multitasking, all of this busyness, is the equally crucial skill of … focus. Being able to focus fully, for long periods, is very important. Lost too is perhaps our best work, our richest and most engaging writing, and our real potential as writers. Without focus, our work suffers, our creativity isn’t as great or as deep. The constant interruptions and distractions mean we not only do not get as much done of what is really important for our dreams (writing, for example), but what we do during those crucial hours isn’t of the quality that we could want.

What can we do to more fully apply that skill of mental focus to our work, our writing. On my blog post about writer’s block (filed under Writer’s Life), I recommend using a timer and freeing up the mind from other things that might intrude. It’s kind of like beginning to practice meditation, where other thoughts and distractions must be kept to a minimum, and where mental discipline must be continually exercised. Once you’ve decided that it is more important that you become more deeply focused when you write, then you will probably think of other ways to accomplish this.

Here are some tips on focusing from that previous blogpost:

1) Before ending the day’s writing time, write a few lines of the next scene or a few ideas for that scene, so that it’s easier to pick up at the next session.

2) As you sit there, take the first 10 to 15 minutes to read a section of a book on craft or articles on craft, to switch your mind from the daily grind to writing and craft.

3) Set up your writing time so that all you have to think about is writing. Since you have other pressing things to do in your day, perhaps schedule your day on the evening before, so that when you begin to write, all of those other things are settled, done, and you’re not thinking about all the other things you have to do that day. Instead you’re thinking about and focused on writing. (see No. 5 & 6)

4) Write in a Journal before you begin your writing time, to dump all the things that are bothering you or distracting you. Assign a maximum time for this (5 minutes), otherwise it could take over much of your writing time.

5) Set a timer for the length of time you want to write and then think of nothing else during that time–that is the time you have for writing–until the timer goes off. This allows you to fully focus on your writing, and to set everything else aside for that hour or for whatever time you’ve allocated.

6) When you sit down to write, if other things occur to you that must be done or that are competing with focusing on writing, then quickly create a list of those things you need to do or think about. And then put it aside, so that they’re all written down and will be less likely to distract you.

7) Plan–an outline or variation of one, but at least a general idea of where you’re going with the novel, whether it’s a general statement, a synopsis with the main plot points, or an outline.

And a quote on the subject:  “…when you are completely open, when on all levels you are in complete communication, completely integrated, then there is joy and you begin to create … creativeness is a sense of total self-forgetfulness, when there is no turmoil, when one is wholly unaware of the movement of thought.” — Krishnamurti.

How do you see yourself applying & balancing these skills in your life?



How is your Publishing sonar? Or Size matters?

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Publishing and the future. Change is, of course the key word here. We’ve been seeing change, but not much of a response from the big 6 publishers.

Now some of the big publishers are merging or considering a merger–Random House & Penguin and possibly now Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. One wonders if this is the best direction for them to go, but it certainly makes sense to want to combine resources to survive.  I enjoyed the November 3rd article on, the “Quick, Tie the Rafts Together” by Devin Coldewey (the link is here: ) where he discusses the Random House/Penguin merger.

But with so many authors self-publishing and thus becoming entities that are both more nimble and faster in the new market–publishing in 2 months, thru ebooks, rather than in 2 years, thru print–I have to question this trend with publishers to want to go bigger. Normally, in the past, this would be the way to go in any industry that faces such change–to find ways to strengthen your company and maybe diversify a little.

It’s great that they’re finally really perceiving the need for change. As best-selling author and Cool Gus Publishing’s copublisher Bob Mayer said, back in April 2011 (and actually before that), the big publishers response to the epublishing trend was basically to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic–mostly they have been just protecting their turf (see his Write It Forward blog post, “I Don’t Know; I’m Guessing; I Know–the future of publishing for authors”). And in the industry itself, the rearranging has been in the percentage of books that are Indie vs Traditionally published, ebook vs print. Personally I like the combination–ebooks & print–and see the necessity for a combination of them in our society, but that’s another story.

I’ll take the analogy of the Titanic just a little further. The Titanic itself was so huge that it could not be turned in time to avoid that collision with the iceberg. And it didn’t help that it was also going too fast for the dangerous terrain.

So, while it’s good that these publishing houses are no longer just rearranging the deck chairs, are they becoming like the big ship itself? That is, a ship that’s too big to navigate through today’s uncertain waters, where the normal sonar may not register the shifting undercurrents and icebergs of change..or at least signal that a change of course could be needed quickly to avoid a disaster. And about the number of lifeboats…

As an aside, our government is facing the same issue. In the form of the Fiscal Cliff. Can we change course in time to avoid disaster? Congress seems to have its head in the sand.

On one final note, in the movie TITANIC directed by James Cameron, in the scene where most of the major characters are gathered around a table discussing the building of the huge ship, the heroine makes the comment about Freud’s theory on the male preoccupation with size. (In the context, it was funny.)

But it’s also interesting to note that one of the causes of the Titanic disaster was that the ship’s rudder…was built too small. A little irony.

In this case, maybe smaller would be better. The raft…


Interior Book Design — Ebooks

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I love ebooks. I buy them, borrow them. For my Kindle Fire.

But as a publishing professional, who has some training in interior book design and a love of books, I’ve noticed that ebooks don’t usually have a lot of interior design elements. I’d love to see the art of bookmaking restored, in epublishing. And maybe it will be. I’ve noticed a gradual change from the first ebooks, toward a certain standard, geared toward making the reading experience better, and for navigating through a book. Not that I wouldn’t buy an ebook that is basic in style or presentation. It’s not the wrapping but the substance that counts. It’s the writing, and writing a great book–writing great books–that gets reader to return to an author’s novels again and again.

And of course, there is always the cost consideration–costs for cover design, for formatting, and so on. And now add interior design?

But there is a part of me that would like to see a bit of a renaissance of the art of bookmaking, applied to ebooks. Certainly, there are parts of interior design that aren’t really needed in ebooks. Page numbers, or folios,  for example.

Interior design can add a little style, flavor, beauty and personality to books. An aesthetic appeal. There are typographical ornaments called Dingbats, and Drop caps. Running heads and running feet, chapters openings with design elements, front matter, back matter and epigraphs–all of these things are part of the art of bookmaking.

And certainly, ebooks have their own special interior attributes: links, dictionaries, and so on. I can’t complain–I’m still really appreciating them.

Epublishing is still changing, growing. Cover design still has its place. Maybe interior design will gradually emerge in ebooks too.


Story Arc … and I pose a question

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

The Story Arc is the essential or main plot, the external conflict that becomes the focus of the hero or heroine through which all the conflict is played.

The external conflict involves the protagonist’s main goal and the obstacles that must be overcome.  A novel begins by establishing the protagonist’s ordinary world, and then moves the action ahead with the Inciting Incident, the escalating conflict and turning points,  the black moment, and concludes with the climax, and resolution.

In my previous blog post about conflict (last week), I wrote that conflict unifies and drives the story.  Without conflict, without a unifying plot of some sort, there is no novel. By definition, a novel must have a plot.

The story arc is set up in Act One, by introducing all the story elements–characters, plot, setting, tone, Inciting Incident, POV. The setup orients the readers and focuses the story line.  The Inciting Incident should happen within the first 3 chapters.

But the setup of the story is not completed when the inciting incident happens. Here I’ll pose my question to readers of this blog: What element that starts with the letter C must be introduced to complete the setup? (I’ll answer the question in a future blog if the Comments don’t provide the answer.)

More about Story Arc: The story arc and suspense are powered by the turning points, obstacles, barriers, reversals and complications.  The suspense, as a function of that external conflict or story arc, should be strong enough to carry the reader through to the end of the book. If the story arc ends too soon, the novel, action and characters would then have no direction, no purpose.–the conflict ends, the suspense ends and you’ve lost the readers.


I’ll be presenting a workshop on the Novel Arcs: Piloting Your Craft, at the Write on the Sound conference, which is October 6th & 7th, with pre-conference workshops on Friday.

Have a wonderful week!!  And a happy and hot August!

Your eBook Public Library

Friday, June 1st, 2012

If you haven’t tried the ebooks at your local library, it’s a marvelous option. And you don’t have to have a Kindle or a Nook to take advantage of it. Keep reading…

Here’s a trip through one online ebook system at a local library.

First, you don’t have to log in to scan the books they offer.

The link to the ebooks is on the Home page and once you log in–of course, you do have to have a library card–then the first page you will see offers the following  list of options.

My Cart
Lending Period
My Bookshelf
My Holds
Wish List
Rated Titles: titles you have rated and allows you to change ratings.

The basic rules are that you can check out 5 ebooks at a time, and have 5 ebook holds at a time. Any number of ebooks may be added to the Wish List–as you might assume. Ebooks may be checked out for 21 days, and when due, they just disappear from your device or computer. When ebooks placed on hold become available, the system emails you and then you have 5 days to check them out.  The formats available are Kindle and ePub & epub/PDF, and from 1 to 6 of each title is available for check out–for each title, the screen shows how many copies are available and how many total library copies there are. If you don’t have a Nook or a Kindle for reading ebooks, there is  also Adobe Digital Editions for use on your PC, as well as Apps for reading on Mobile devices–all available for download, right there.

Beginning on the browsing pages, there are several windows: fiction, nonfiction and teen/kids sections. There are also sections to browse, such as:

New ebook Additions
Most Popular
Suggested Titles
Recently Returned
All Subjects
All ebooks 

For the almost 3,000 titles of fiction, the categories are Classical Literature, Historical Fiction, Literature, Mystery & Suspense, Romance, Sci Fi & Fantasy, and View All Fiction. 

The categories for the approximately 1,000 nonfiction titles are Bio & Autobio, Cooking & Food, Health & Wellness, History, Humor, Family & Relationships, Religion & Spirituality, Self-Improvement, and Travel.  For Kids, there are about 250 titles; for teens, about 100 titles.

Once you have your titles in My Cart, you have 30 minutes to check them out. Checking them out requires that you log in to your Amazon account, where they will be available for download to your account and then to your ereading device.  The books you have checked out will then be listed in the My BookShelf of your ebook library account.

Some of the fiction authors available on the system include:

Lisa Jackson, James Patterson, Janet Evanovitch, Heather Graham, Karen Robards, George R.R. Martin, Danielle Steel, Terry Brooks, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, Anne Perry, Nora Roberts, Alexander McCall Smith, Tami Hoag, Barbara Freethy, Rita Mae Brown, Toni Morrison, John Case, James Lee Burke, Ted Dexter, Tess Gerritson, Lisa Unger, Suzanne Brockmann, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Iris Johansen, Linda Howard, and Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, Susan Mallery,  Fern Michaels, and so on….

So, what’s on your wish list?

National Writers Union – benefits for writers

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

This organization of writers is an activist group For writers, working together to share information, to speak out collectively, to improve the working and economic lives of all writers, in all genres. I am a member.

Some of the benefits of NWU membership:

1.) Organizing and Advocacy. With 16 chapters nationwide, they advocate for writers through legislative action for things like: copyright, unfair publisher practices, rights to free expression (both here in the U.S. and elsewhere).

2.) Member education. This includes the Grievance & Contract Division, but also events and trainings held nationwide, and Publications and resources online.  Some of the publications that are available to members are:

  • Freelance Writers Guide;
  • Copyright: A Guide for Freelancers;
  • Guide to Book Contracts;
  • Authors Network: making book promotion tours easier with 100 hosts and a list of reading venues and reviewers;
  • On the Road: A guide to book promotion & touring that was written by NWU members, with tips on pitching to the media, organizing local tour, and so on.
  • Standard Contracts & Guides (for Journalists);
  • Tips for Better Work-For-Hire Contracts;
  • And so on.

3.) Grievance Resolution & Contract Advice. Is the publisher refusing to pay you? Delaying the publication of timely work? Misreporting your royalties?  Or,  perhaps you don’t know how to negotiate — the NWU nationwide network of contract advisors assists members by reviewing contracts of all genres.  Contact the GCD at for FREE assistance.

4.) A Community of Writers.

5.) Journalism, Book and BizTech Division Activities & Resources.

6.) Union Plus. Go to directly to see how this program can save you money.

7.) Health Insurance.

8.) Press passes.

To read about NWU recent initiatives and advocacy on behalf of writers or to join, visit You can join online or download an application form.

Focusing your story, your writing life

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Something on focus–or “framing”–today…in fiction, in life.

When we’re talking about having a great opening, preventing a sagging middle, and jazzing the readers with a terrific ending, we talking about focusing that story, about keeping it moving, keeping it intriguing–and keeping the readers turning those pages. I wanted to touch on that today, and on ourselves as writers, focusing our writing lives–so that our writing careers have a great opening, middle and “ending.”  When we hold up a frame, like an artist might, to look at different aspects of our fiction and our lives, what do we want to include within that frame?

We want the story to be compelling from beginning to end.  When we hold up that frame, what is our focus? Here are a few questions to consider:  Is there too much backstory in the first few chapters? Are the first few chapters seamlessly leading readers through your opening–introducing your characters, your Central question, your plot, voice, genre–and then into Act Two? Where are the turning points? Does the conflict build, scene by scene,  to a satisfying climax? Are there too many subplots, which don’t support the main plot, so that the plot and conflict are diluted and fizzle? Or are there too many characters or too many scenes that don’t go anywhere, that don’t support the main story, that don’t add to characterization or conflict? 

In the same way, is your writing life focused? Are you building your brand? Are there too many distractions and your efforts are diluted–they’re not focused on your goals. Are you supporting your main goal, your greatest desire and dream, with how you spend your time, your energy?

For inspiration, here’s an excerpt from my Plein-Air writing, The Harvest from Earth’s Palette:

“…Art captures those moments, those stories. The Earth whispers into our bones the age-old ways of storytelling, of capturing life in art. But the Earth captures who we are. We are the art; our lives and selves are the medium. We paint the world with who we are. We are the figures in our own paintings, the heroes in our own stories, the decisions we make about life and others–decisions that may be truth, or what we need or want to believe.

The courtyard of the land awaits, with empty tables, to be filled with players. We carry around a frame, holding it up much like an artist, seeing sections of that courtyard, like a photo album, spread across the landscape, a scene here, a grouping there: visitors on covered porches; painters with canvases, on balconies, near orchards; writers sitting in gardens, gazing at mountains. Each group, each person creates their own story. While Life frames us into what or who we are, we frame ourselves by what we do, how we live our lives, by the choices we make. So we paint ourselves into the landscape, surrounding ourselves with our own frames. …”

Our fiction tells the stories of people,  but your own life is your own story, one you are telling right now, right here, with how you choose to spend your time, your energy. With how you express your passion…or don’t.

For the full text of The Harvest From Earth’s Palette, here’s the link:

The New Year of Writing

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

It’s the New Year, a time for resolutions, a time for renewal, and a time for renewed commitment to writing.

Here are some books that have inspired me or helped me:

One of the first books in my writing life that inspired me is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Chapters that may be particularly good are “Interlude: On Taking Advice,” “The Critic at Work on Himself,” and “The Source of Originality.”

Another great book for writing, for setting goals and for achieving successful  as a writer in the publishing world, is Write it Forward: From Writer to Successful Author by Bob Mayer, NY Times best-selling author of over 50 books.  This is an excellent book. It takes you through a unique process of setting goals, a process he adapted to writers and writing from his experiences at West Point and in Special Forces as an A-Team leader, and then as a best-selling author.  He is also one of the top indie published authors in the country, and speaks at workshops and conferences around the world. This process works. His website is:

A more general book about setting goals, but one that is also excellent is Work With Passion in Midlife and Beyond: Reach Your Full Potential & Make the Money You Need by Nancy Anderson. Nancy cofounded two career counseling firms and then established her private practice. She has hosted her own radio show, appeared in numerous television and radio programs, and spoken to civic, business and professional organizations.  Her website is:

One more very good book on creativity is Freeing Your Creativity: a Writer’s Guide by Marshall J. Cook.  Some especially very good chapters for getting yourself motivated are: “What’s Getting in Your Way?” “Creative Procrastination” and “Keeping That Writing Appointment.”

And of course, there’s Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for artists of all kinds.

Are there books that have helped you as a writer or inspired you?

The Kindle Fire…What can I say?

Friday, December 30th, 2011

I received a Kindle Fire as a gift over the holidays, and while I’m new to this eformat technology–at least as a user–so far, I LOVE this machine. I think it will be a wonderful tool, both for work and for pleasure!

First, let me say that I wondered if it would be too small, wondered if (what I perceived would be) the smaller page and the amount of text-at-a-glance would be limiting, and thus, slow me down. Not the case. The screen/page on the Kindle Fire is about the same size as that of a paperback.

Here are some of the things I really like about it, and some of the great features:

It gives me the option of buying ebooks…and I love that. Options are good. 🙂

The back-lighting is a great feature. I read a lot.

It’s very easy to set up and to use.

There are highlighting and comments/notes functions that allow the reader to easily highlight text  and add comments. And…Kindle Fire assembles all those notes and comments in one place for you, under the heading, “My Notes and Marks,” for each separate book. Easy reference.

I can send my own documents to the Kindle.

The New Oxford American Dictionary, a text that was part of the package, gives the reader an instant reference to word meanings, etc., with just a touch to the screen–the short or long version. The longer version can be more than two pages–for those who love words.

The lighting, size of text, line spacing and margins can be changed.

Navigation is very easy.

And so far, customer support has been excellent.

You can also download music, videos, magazines, newspapers, blog feeds, and Apps.

When I received it, there were touchscreen icons available for 12 webpages, which are listed under the “Web” menu: Amazon, Twitter, FB, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, Craigslist, LinkedIn, ESPN and IMDb.

The touchscreen keyboard appears and disappears as needed.

And I’m sure there are more great features yet to be discovered…

What a great machine. I think I’m in love. Will see if it’s an infatuation … or something more lasting. But if this is foreplay, Kindle Fire, then it was so easy to turn you on and Fire you up… with great books.  I’m so seduced.

Anyone like to share their experiences with the Kindle or Nook? Or share other great functions that I haven’t mentioned here?

Words Played in Harmony

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In my 2011 Writer’s Digest’s Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market article (whew, that’s a mouthful), “Which Arc Are We On?”  I compared the composer of music to the writer:

“And like the composer of music, who drafts the right notes, phrases, and movements for an orchestra, the writer creates the words, scenes and arcs to be played in the readers’ mind. There are many arcs in play, at any time in a novel…and they must all work together in harmony.”

In this case, writers are both the composers and the conductors. Writers, like composers, determine what parts are played by which “instruments,” by which elements of fiction–characters, setting, dialogue, opening, theme.  Both music and fiction are made to elicit emotions, and have a beginning, middle and end, themes, movements…

However, the conductor, once those elements are arranged, determines how those phrases, how that composition is interpreted for the audience–as does the writer. The writer, or conductor, determines how the composition unfolds, how it flows, & to some extent, what its voice will be–how dynamic, how loud, soft, passionate, exciting…for the audience.  The conductor brings all the elements together for the final “interpretation,” to be played for the audience, making certain that everything works together for the right effect.

But it is the audience who determines if that composer/conductor has “perfect pitch”–or in this case, the writer. And I see this being played out more and more now with epublishing. It is the readers who determine whether they will buy or read our books, who let us know how “on pitch”–or off key–we are, or if our works / words have that interest, beauty, excitement, passion that draws an audience.

As best-selling author and epublishing expert Bob Mayer has said on his blog, Write It Forward, it is really the writer who determines who will be in their audience, by the quality of their books, and thus,  it is the writer who is the ultimate gatekeeper. The writer must first create a quality product, must learn to compose and create that harmony, learn to master those elements and achieve that perfect pitch, so that readers will want to be in their audience.

And then we have to promote our books, but that is another story… and another kind of “pitch.”  😉

If you would like to add anything to this, please feel free to comment.