Monday, December 23, 2013

'Twas the Month after NaNo

by Jemi Fraser

‘Twas the month after NaNo and all through the lands,
Writers were massaging cramps out of their hands.
The stories were resting all snug in their files,
Hoping to one day bring readers some smiles.
The writers were exhausted, brain-dead and worn out,
Only raising their heads when others bothered to shout.
Fed up children and spouses fought for attention,
But writers only used that as fodder to increase the tension.
“It’s December!” they shouted, “It’s time for St. Nick,
You have to prepare and you have to be quick!”
Lifting their heads from desks with the blurriest of eyes,
The writers considered a multitude of lies.
But writers are persistent, hard-working and smart,
As one they declared, “It’s past time to start!”
With NaNo as practice, they outlined their chores,
Drafted their lists and headed out their front doors.
They searched and they shopped and they bought and they wrapped
They baked and they cooked and they prepped and they napped.
Like good ol’ St. Nick, they enlisted their crew,
With NaNo as training, there’s not much they can’t do!
Writers finished their lists with extra time on their hands,
And thoughts turned to NaNo with revisions and plans.
The story was settling, marinating with time,
With lots of revisions it soon would be prime.
So the chaos of the season has its own special gift,
Allowing the story to simmer and ideas to sift.
For great writers know without any doubt,
Stellar stories never follow the easy, short route.

So enjoy all the chaos and family and fun,
Give weary brains a rest and get other things done.
Sit back and enjoy the season shining so bright,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good write!

(With apologies to Clement Moore and the wonderful folks at NaNoWriMo!)

Here at From the Write Angle, we're going to take the rest of the week off to enjoy some of that shining season with our friends and families. We hope each and every one of you find something wonderful to celebrate this season! Best wishes to all!

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance who is currently emerging from a NaNo coma. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs along with a gingerbread cookie or two.

Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Ways to Make Author Friends

by +Jean Oram

It's easy for people to hide behind their monitor and use their keyboard to pillage online. Pillage information from others. Hurt feelings--intentional or not. Make others feel 'less than' for whatever reason.

But being online is also an excellent way to make friends, network, find cheerleaders (the personal encouragement kind…although I'm sure it is possible to find other kinds), cross promote, learn from others, share information, and so much more.

If you've been online awhile you've likely run into people who only pop up to be friends when they want to drain your brain of info you've worked hard to accumulate. And as soon as you have a whiff of success they are going to appear--trust me. You will also run into people who like to take but not give and wig right out when you offer to do them a favour--no strings attached. It's a weird, weird world and people and their actions are so much more transparent online.

But really, this post is about how to make friends online. How to make those connections that result in getting you and your work out there. In being someone people want to know and interact with online--and not avoid. In becoming someone people want to help out. In other words: how not to be a douche.

How to Make Friends Online

1. Be Interesting and Chat

I know. Seems kind of basic, but take a peek around. How many people are 'friends' one week (often when they need something) and then vanish?

Chatting is basic. Check in. Say hi. Reply to their online content. Share their stuff.

And those annoying posts on Facebook where you mask bragging about how awesome/shitty/amazing/thrilling/envious/whiny your life it? Those have to go. Now. Show me, don't tell me. Make it something others can CHAT with you about. Would you walk up to your friend and say: I am so in love with my husband. [Full stop.] Uh, not likely. So why would you say that online? Try something that would engage your friend and allow her/him an opportunity to join the conversation. (That's right…conversation.) In real life you might say: My hubby rocks. He shovelled the driveway for me. What do you think I should get him as a way of saying I love you? Instant conversation.

2. Be Helpful

Want to make friends who can mentor you? Share info? Be helpful. Share what you know (even if it feels small beans)--if they are open to it. And don't start the conversation with "Do me a favour and fix your website." Be kind. Be gentle. See if they want help. People who give are happier and find others want to help them in return.

However, don't be doormat. Got it? It's an online world. Be smart. Be safe. Don't fall for sob stories unless you are okay with being 'taken.'

3. Don't Be a Taker

If you are going to waste someone's time asking for advice (remember you are taking time away from them earning a livelihood) acknowledge the advice. Don't brush it off. Don't be a bitch. Don't argue. You asked. Listen. And don't come to them in a panic when you haven't done your homework. When you have a deadline you ignored. When you didn't listen to their advice the first time and did something plain and simply DUMB.

And for eff's sake, don't email someone for advice so you can turn around and sell it to someone else. (True story.)

Say thank you. And mean it.

4. Cross Promote

Share the author love. Not only is it AMAZING when it works out, but it really shows you what other authors are made of when you promote their stuff. Yes, some will ignore you as they don't know how to take the generosity. Others will become your helpful friend. Others will return the favour with interest. Big lesson here: cross promotion, when done right, works. So make TRUE friends with people in your genre. Do it now. (Well, finish reading this post first.)

5. Share

Yes, there are takers. Yes, some people will not value your knowledge--unless you charge them for it. (Crazy, but true.) But share. Share other good books with your readers. Share what you know--I'm not saying you have to give away your trade secrets to takers. And share the spotlight. Be kind. Pretend you are in kindergarten.

Now that you've looked at how to be an online friend from the write angle, tell me how you've been dazzled lately? And let us learn from what you've experienced as well. Thanks for reading.

Jean Oram is a formerly agented author who has gone the indie route with her Blueberry Springs romance series. Champagne and Lemon Drops is FREE and Whiskey and Gumdrops is her latest release. She's also traditionally published short stories, magazine and newspaper articles. You can find Jean dishing writing tips once a week at and having conversations with readers at You can follow her on Twitter--she's @jeanoram.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movin' On Up

by R.S. Mellette

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Dr. Who fan – have been since the Tom Baker days.  Back in the 1980s I ran into some Brits who worked for the BBC, so naturally the Doctor came up.  They laughed at the American fan base, saying, “That show is made by newbies for kids.  It’s like a training ground for the BBC.”

For some reason, that comment always stuck with me.  The idea of a farm league for the entertainment industry was attractive for a Theatre Major.  A place where one could prove their worth, improve their game, and transition into the majors – all while being paid.  Where could I find such a program in the US?

Sure, there are some internships.  You can work as an assistant in a related field, hoping to crossover from admin to production – but there’s nothing like stepping up to the plate with your peers and swinging the bat well to prove you can… step up to the plate with your peers and swing the bat well.

Thanks to the digital revolution, the publishing industry might be on their way to developing a farm league.

Independent publishing – not to be confused with Vanity Publishing, which is a whole different game – used to mean a few books, limited to a specific micro-genre, sold in a handful of stores.  As we all know, the One Great Book Store that is the Internet, has changed all of that.  Independents now play on the same field as the Majors.  Sure, they don’t always get the press coverage unless they develop a superstar.  That means they don’t get the same reviews, or the same kind of sales numbers, but they get them.  And that is something that can be tracked like a batting average.

Independent publishers, like our own Matt Sinclair’s Elephant's Bookshelf, have an opportunity to develop writers; let them prove themselves in the real world.  Projects that are too risky for the corporate structure of the Big Six can find an audience in the indie market, where the Majors can scout their success, look for trends, and find the next big stars.

It all reminds me of the scene in Tom Hanks’s movie That Thing You Do, about a band that hits it big in 1964.  The band is first discovered by a local promoter.  He does such a good job that they are given a record contract from a national company.  You’d think the local promoter would be upset, but his contract is bought out.  He has done his job, and is well-paid.  It’s time for him to scout out the next big hit, and use his relationship with the national company to move them up as well.  The record company is happy.  They have a national hit, with the potential for more.  The band is happy.  They get to quit their day jobs, go on tour, and make the most of this professional opportunity.

Some people see indie vs. traditional publishing as an adversarial relationship, but if both sides keep their wits about them, it can become symbiotic.

R.S. Mellette is an experienced screenwriter, actor, director, and novelist. You can find him at the Dances With Films festival blog, and on Twitter, or read him in the Spring Fevers, The Fall: Tales of the Apocalypse, and Summer's Edge anthologies.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Art, Resonance, and Subjectivity

by MarcyKate Connolly
"Since the one thing we can say about fundamental matter is that it is vibrating and, since all vibrations are theoretically sound, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that the universe is music and should be perceived as such." -Joachim-Ernst Berendt
The above is one of my all time favorite quotes (emphasis mine). It appeals to me on a lot of levels (not the least of which is that I majored in music in college), but I think it explains one fundamentally tricky beast that plagues all artists.


Yes, that word. The one that strikes fear in many hearts, but especially writers. If you’ve been through the query trenches, you’ve most likely heard something along the lines of “this business is subjective” in agent responses. It’s true, and it can suck.

But take heartwhat doesn’t work for one person, may very well resonate with another. 

And that’s the keyword here—resonate. Have you heard the phrase, “That struck a chord with me?” If we think of each novel  (or other creative work) as a note swimming in a sea of other notes, it begins to make a little more sense. If your book is a C, then it isn’t going to jive with the agent or editor who’s resonating at a D flat. But if you find an agent at E or G, you’re on your way to a full chord. 

For those who aren’t familiar with music notation, basically, the first example sounds dissonant, but the second is more harmonious. Point being, just because your C book doesn’t work with the D flat agent doesn’t mean C is bad. It means your C needs a E. 

The same is true with readers. As someone whose book will be out in about a year, reader subjectivity makes me particularly nervous (read: TERRIFIED).  Every person, every reader, resonates on their own note. There’s so many potential ways my book could resonate or jar with readers, that it’s downright scary. If you’ve ever visited Goodreads and taken a gander at any book’s review section, you’ll see what I mean. Subjectivity abounds.  A book may only partially resonate with someone, while it will knock the socks off another. Just remember that it doesn't mean the book itself is necessarily bad—it means it wasn't right for that reader.

So what exactly do I mean by resonance? You know that feeling when you read a book (or hear music, see a work of art) and it tugs at your insides? Ever read a book that you could not put down because you had to know what happened next? Ever had to keep listening to a song over and over because somehow something in it just clicked with you? That is resonance. Art can tear you up and sew the pieces back together in the best of ways. Resonance is when you can feel, sometimes in a physical way, that a book, or song, or painting vibrates on the same wavelength as you. 

And that can change. We grow and our tastes evolve. Our tunes change. What resonated years ago, may not today. Or that same passage in a book or piece of music may floor you every time.  For me, there’s too many books like that to pick just one, but I can tell you the one piece of music that still guts me whenever I hear it—the “Lacrimosa” section of Mozart’s Requiem.  Never fails to give me chills. 

So tell me, what books, or other art, have resonated with you? Share in the comments!

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things Non-Writers Don't (Always) Get

by R.C. Lewis

You've been there, right? Someone asks a question or makes a comment about your writing, and you realize they don't get it. How writing a novel works. How agents work. How self-publishing works. How traditional publishing works. They just don't understand. That's part of why writers' communities are so great—they bring you together with people who have some shared experience and knowledge.

To be fair, some non-writers do get it and some writers don't get it all … yet. Another great thing about such communities—we can always learn more from each other.

Here are a few things where I sometimes hit the "never mind" wall with other people:

  • A novel manuscript has to be complete before you try to sell it.

  • Being complete doesn't mean it's done. Selling to a publisher doesn't mean it's done. There are rounds of edits yet to come.

  • Working with an editor doesn't mean just cleaning up commas and typos. Not at first, and not for a long time.

  • Revisions can be a messy, big, creative process. Big-picture stuff isn't just adding a word here and deleting one there.

  • Traditional publishing is a REALLY LONG PROCESS.

  • What query letters are. Why they're used. Anything about how agents work.

  • To all my students: No, I will not sell you copies of my book at cost, nor will I give each of you one for free. Yes, it's because I'm mean. Same reason I give you homework.

How about you? What makes you run to your writer-friends because you know they'll understand?

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she's a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. Her debut novel Stitching Snow is coming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2014. You can find R.C. on Twitter (@RC_Lewis) and at her website.