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Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram – The Book Designer

Follow Other Authors Especially if you are a new author, following more experienced authors certainly can’t hurt. Even the most experienced author is not exempt from gaining insight from other authors. Networking with other authors as a new or previously unpublished author can be eye-opening and present you with opportunities you may not have otherwise come across.Instagram is one of the best social apps you can use as an author, because not only does it give us a rest from all those words, but it can be used in so many ways—personally or professionally. You just have start thinking less in words and more in pictures.

Source: Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram – The Book Designer

By Adrienne Erin (@adrienneerin)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered if the very popular but visually-oriented social media sites like Instagram are a good place to market books (over 300 million visitors a month, more than 70% of them from outside the U.S.). After all, books are words, not pictures (usually). Adrienne Erin knows that authors can get a lot of attention they might not otherwise get for their books with some savvy tactics in hand. Here’s her report.

Words are for us as writers what computers are to office workers. They are the lifeline to pretty much every facet of our work. Not only do we use them to communicate our art form, but we obsess, play, hate, love and need them in order to do what we do. Sometimes we need a rest from all the word playing—and hating.

Where can we find that rest without cutting ourselves off even further from social exchange, but also without having to use even more words? It can be done—with Instagram. Not only can you use Instagram, but as an author, you should be using Instagram. For more than one or two reasons.

Why You Should Use Instagram as an Author

There are a lot of authors who use Instagram in ways that may be entertaining. It’s entertaining in the same way the crazy lady in the grocery store is who pulls out every gallon of milk from the dairy cooler in order to get the one that has the furthest date of expiration. Yeah, it’s weird and maybe a little funny, but mostly kind of pathetic.

There are plenty of famous authors who evoke that kind of reaction on Instagram. Don’t be one of those authors. Instead, consider some of the following rational ways to use Instagram to help further your author name and influence.

  1. To Follow Bloggers Who Review Books
    This reason really shouldn’t have to be explained. I mean, duh – if you follow enough book-bloggers, you increase the chance that one or more of them will review your book, which is read by said blogger’s audience. Whether that audience is 100 or 100,000 – isn’t it worth it to reach that amount of potential buyers of your book for free?
  2. For Self-Promotion and Marketing
    Instagram can be used for promoting your name or your newest book. You can host a contest with a free copy of your book as the prize. You can ask for photo submissions that revolve around the theme of your book or you can just use photos to connect to your fans and readers. As BuzzFeed’s article on book covers altered to include James Franco shows us, humor can be a great marketing strategy.
  3. Inspire Yourself and Your Fans
    Visual imagery can be the source of inspiration on a daily basis. All you need to do is catalogue it and you have your own visual diary for defeating the worst case of writer’s block. Not only can these photos inspire you, but they may equally inspire your readers and fans, who will in turn, recommend their network to follow you as well. Many writers use inspirational tweets and Facebook posts to reach their readers. Your followers will respond well to inspirational messages that reaffirm their beliefs.
  4. Collaborate with Your Fans
    This could be a marketing project or it could be research for a new novel. Projects can range from social research to just-for-fun, to things like #100HappyDays, which seems to be a combination of both. 100HappyDays is inspirational, fun, challenging and engaging. Hosting a project like this could provide you with tons of material for your next book, or it could simply attract a ton of followers — aka, readers.
  5. Cover Art Photos = Free Book Promotion
    What better place to advertise your stunning new book cover than Instagram? Book covers are certainly one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal for attracting a new reader. I don’t know about you, but if I come across an author I’ve never heard of, but they write in a genre I like to read and they have a fantastically interesting book cover – I am much more likely to purchase that book. By the way, this is also another reason to never cut any corners on your cover art.
  6. Give Fans/Readers an Inside Look at Your Life
    You don’t have to reveal all the skeletons in your closet, but a few pictures of your most recent vacation, your adorable pets, a weekend trip to the harbor and a ride on a boat will get you noticed — people love this kind of stuff. The more you draw in your readers and fans by showing that you’re just like them, the more they will be inclined to follow you and interact with your more professional work.
  7. Follow Other Authors
    Especially if you are a new author, following more experienced authors certainly can’t hurt. Even the most experienced author is not exempt from gaining insight from other authors. Networking with other authors as a new or previously unpublished author can be eye-opening and present you with opportunities you may not have otherwise come across.

 

Instagram is one of the best social apps you can use as an author, because not only does it give us a rest from all those words, but it can be used in so many ways—personally or professionally. You just have start thinking less in words and more in pictures.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “10 Things I Learned About Writing and Publishing From Managing a Porn Store” | LitReactor

Source: 10 Things I Learned About Writing and Publishing From Managing a Porn Store | LitReactor

By Christoph Paul

I used to manage a porn store in northeast D.C. I worked there for two years and it was the best writer job I ever had. There were whole blocks of time where I could read and write while I sat behind the counter. It was a blessing to get paid to practice my craft. All the hours added up and I became a better writer, but managing the porn store also taught me certain skills that I use on a daily basis in my writing and publishing career.

Covers and Titles

The first thing I learned was that we had to buy and sell lots of rentals on our new releases to stay afloat. If I picked a lot of bad movies for the new release wall that didn’t get bought or rented within the first month, my boss would be pissed. The customers also got pissed, and then I would have to deal with a lot of bullshit instead of focusing on writing or reading. The only real work I had besides putting movies back on their shelves was picking the weekly new releases. With the goal of having my boss stay off my back, I made sure to kill it each week with my new release section. I learned what sold and what type of titled stood out. I use that same skill when writing or publishing a new book. Whether it be porn or fiction, the cover and title has to show the readers and viewers that they will enjoy the product. The cover must at least peak curiosity and satisfy something a reader or porn watcher is wanting. Bad covers, whether on a porno or on a novel, are easy to spot and will always stay on the shelf.

Dialogue

My shift was eight hours a day, five days a week. Though I would have loved to spend every hour reading and writing, I had to interact with the customers. There were a lot of regulars who wanted to talk about politics, sports, their personal lives, their kinks, and their jobs. They would not hold back, and almost treated me like a priest. I heard some hardcore confessions. When I am figuring out how a certain character would sound, I have a ton of examples from the porn store. I can use their quirks and speech patterns to inject more realism and humor into my dialogue. Whether it be someone in the closet renting gay porn or a person explaining why they don’t want to have sex with their significant other anymore, I heard people speaking their truths. This gave me an ear for both inner and outer dialogue. There are things that a character reveals in more subtle and nuanced ways, through their rhythms, vocabulary, and even through the things they pointedly leave out.

Writing Through Chaos and Distractions

You can write anywhere. That is what I learned those years behind the porn store counter. I’d have homeless people come in, zoning law inspectors, gang bang recruiters (seriously), cops coming in to shoot the shit, the boss stopping by to complain, and customers looking for very specific fetishes. I learned to stop and deal with who or whatever I had to attend to, and then get back to writing. While there, I finished the second draft of a literary novel, some short stories, and read a ton. I learned there is no perfect place to read and write, and that even through the most awkward disruptions you can still find time to be creative.

Con Selling

If you can sell a $29.95 DVD with ‘anal’, ‘cuckold’, and/or ‘big cocks’ in the title, you can sell a book you have edited or written to a stranger. I picked up some practical sales skills at the porn store. My constant goal was to keep enough money coming in so my boss never suspected I was writing on the job. Though selling shitty porno movies and fake penis growth pills felt disenchanting at times, it taught me how to interact with strangers. When I started doing book festivals and conferences three years ago, they were a joy, because I actually believed in my books and understood how to communicate each book’s value. While penis enlargement pills are bullshit, I actually believe in what I sell. That combination of enthusiasm and sales skills has helped me finish in the black for almost every con/festival I have attended.

Character Studies

It wasn’t just dialogue I learned from the porn patrons. It was crafting real characters with real quirks and commonalities. Listening and talking to the porn store patrons was as good as reading any craft book on creating realized and memorable characters. After working the store for a year, I could usually tell a lot about a person within the first minute of talking to them. I noticed the physical: body language, the sound of their voice, build, did they look me in the eyes or not; sociological: how well read or educated they were, where they worked, what kind of money they made, religion, nationality; and emotional: were they stable, lonely and needing to connect, fake happy, assertive or aggressive, timid. All of these characteristics combined into making them who they were. I could use this skill to build real characters in my fiction. I could take physical, sociological, and emotional attributes and combine them into a unique human being. I would sometimes compare them to real individuals I met at the porn store to see if they felt ‘real.’

Genre Expectations and Surpassing Them

Different fetishes and types of porn are really just different genres. The videos that end up getting rented and bought the most not only meet ‘genre expectation,’’ they also add something special. While I don’t want to get super graphic here, it usually involves something memorable in the video—a scene, a style, and many times, a certain actress. I learned from the popular porno videos that when writing in a certain genre you have to make those genre fans happy, but also give them something unique. It can be your style of language, it can be taking a new approach on a familiar trope, and most importantly giving the reader an outstanding character. When you meet the expectations of genre and create something memorable in your story, your books will sell as good as porn.

Talking Books

On very slow days I would sit behind the register and read. A lot of customers didn’t want to interact and I would just look up, put in my bookmark, and get them their movie. This was pretty standard, but sometimes the porn patrons would be curious about what I was reading. Many of these guys were proud non-readers. I took this as a challenge to infuse the porn store with at least a little literary curiosity. To do this I had to tell them why the book was enjoyable and get them interested enough to want to hear more. I was very proud when I was able to get 4 men excited about the story of one of my favorite novels, Anna Karenina. Experiences like that have made it a lot easier for me to write the back copy of my own as well as other writers’ books.

Vibrator Editor 

Until I got the hang of it, selling and recommending vibrators was a challenge. Though white male privilege exists, it doesn’t come in handy when talking to a woman about what vibrator she should buy. At first it was very awkward and I didn’t sell many vibrators, but I learned that I had to help the female customer feel comfortable. I also needed to be knowledgeable and a little humorous, as well as respectful. When I took this approach I easily sold vibrators and learned better communication skills. These skills help me so much when editing other people’s work. Communication and making artists feel comfortable is important. Sex toys, someone’s story, they both involve vulnerability, but if you communicate the right way, a writer will be able to access the right technique and tool for the job.

Storytelling

When it was cold, the porn sales always rose. Wintertime was the most popular time in the store. Not just for rentals and purchases, but for guys just wanting to hang out. The porn store would feel a lot like a barbershop. There were guys who proudly didn’t read and didn’t even like watching movies or TV. They only liked sports, but some of these guys would come up with the funniest stories I have ever heard. There were always men wanting to talk, but if you couldn’t tell a good story or keep people’s interest, they wouldn’t give you a chance to be heard. I saw that being a great storyteller had nothing to do with being a great writer. Storytelling was a separate skill, and there were some guys who might not have ever picked up a book but could tell a great story. I started listening to these guys and dissecting their stories. I realized they were using many of the techniques I read about in the craft books about great storytelling.

Snobbery

I started the porn store job a good 7 years ago. At the time, I was a big literary snob. I believed that only the serious literary novel is what people should read, and even though I was selling porno, I thought erotica and romance writers were total hacks. After two years of working there my mind really opened, and I saw that whether it be porn, erotica, or romance, they were art forms and audiences enjoyed the fantasy and desire that they provided. I lost my snobbery, seeing that any kind of storytelling takes skill. A few years later I would take what I learned at the porn store and write erotica under a pen name. The erotica I have created is still the most successful work I have published. If I hadn’t worked at the porn store, I would be just another bitter failed literary novelist complaining about Chuck Tingle.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Writer and writing”

George Saunders: what writers really do when they write

A series of instincts, thousands of tiny adjustments, hundreds of drafts … What is the mysterious process writers go through to get an idea on to the page?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/04/what-writers-really-do-when-they-write

George Saunders

 

 

by George Saunders

 

1

Many years ago, during a visit to Washington DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out to us a crypt on a hill and mentioned that, in 1862, while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie, died, and was temporarily interred in that crypt, and that the grief-stricken Lincoln had, according to the newspapers of the day, entered the crypt “on several occasions” to hold the boy’s body. An image spontaneously leapt into my mind – a melding of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pietà. I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt, and now I find myself in the familiar writerly fix of trying to talk about that process as if I were in control of it.

We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.

The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.

2

A guy (Stan) constructs a model railroad town in his basement. Stan acquires a small hobo, places him under a plastic railroad bridge, near that fake campfire, then notices he’s arranged his hobo into a certain posture – the hobo seems to be gazing back at the town. Why is he looking over there? At that little blue Victorian house? Stan notes a plastic woman in the window, then turns her a little, so she’s gazing out. Over at the railroad bridge, actually. Huh. Suddenly, Stan has made a love story. Oh, why can’t they be together? If only “Little Jack” would just go home. To his wife. To Linda.

What did Stan (the artist) just do? Well, first, surveying his little domain, he noticed which way his hobo was looking. Then he chose to change that little universe, by turning the plastic woman. Now, Stan didn’t exactly decide to turn her. It might be more accurate to say that it occurred to him to do so; in a split-second, with no accompanying language, except maybe a very quiet internal “Yes.”

He just liked it better that way, for reasons he couldn’t articulate, and before he’d had the time or inclination to articulate them.

An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this. According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Gerald Stern put it this way: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking – then you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Einstein, always the smarty-pants, outdid them both: “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.”

How, then, to proceed? My method is: I imagine a meter mounted in my forehead, with “P” on this side (“Positive”) and “N” on this side (“Negative”). I try to read what I’ve written uninflectedly, the way a first-time reader might (“without hope and without despair”). Where’s the needle? Accept the result without whining. Then edit, so as to move the needle into the “P” zone. Enact a repetitive, obsessive, iterative application of preference: watch the needle, adjust the prose, watch the needle, adjust the prose (rinse, lather, repeat), through (sometimes) hundreds of drafts. Like a cruise ship slowly turning, the story will start to alter course via those thousands of incremental adjustments.

The artist, in this model, is like the optometrist, always asking: Is it better like this? Or like this?

The interesting thing, in my experience, is that the result of this laborious and slightly obsessive process is a story that is better than I am in “real life” – funnier, kinder, less full of crap, more empathetic, with a clearer sense of virtue, both wiser and more entertaining.

And what a pleasure that is; to be, on the page, less of a dope than usual.

3

Revising by the method described is a form of increasing the ambient intelligence of a piece of writing. This, in turn, communicates a sense of respect for your reader. As text is revised, it becomes more specific and embodied in the particular. It becomes more sane. It becomes less hyperbolic, sentimental, and misleading. It loses its ability to create a propagandistic fog. Falsehoods get squeezed out of it, lazy assertions stand up, naked and blushing, and rush out of the room.

Is any of this relevant to our current political moment?

Hoo, boy.

When I write, “Bob was an asshole,” and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, “Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,” then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, “Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,” and then pause and add, “who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,” – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame.

But it is more compassionate. Bob has gone from “pure asshole” to “grieving widower, so overcome with grief that he has behaved ungraciously to a young person, to whom, normally, he would have been nice”. Bob has changed. He started out a cartoon, on which we could heap scorn, but now he is closer to “me, on a different day”.

How was this done? Via pursuit of specificity. I turned my attention to Bob and, under the pressure of trying not to suck, my prose moved in the direction of specificity, and in the process my gaze became more loving toward him (ie, more gentle, nuanced, complex), and you, dear reader, witnessing my gaze become more loving, might have found your own gaze becoming slightly more loving, and together (the two of us, assisted by that imaginary grouch) reminded ourselves that it is possible for one’s gaze to become more loving.

Or we could just stick with “Bob was an asshole,” and post it, and wait for the “likes”, and for the pro-Bob forces to rally, and the anti-barista trolls to anonymously weigh in – but, meanwhile, there’s poor Bob, grieving and misunderstood, and there’s our poor abused barista, feeling crappy and not exactly knowing why, incrementally more convinced that the world is irrationally cruel.

4

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs. I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.

But why did I make those changes? On what basis?

On the basis that, if it’s better this new way for me, over here, now, it will be better for you, later, over there, when you read it. When I pull on this rope here, you lurch forward over there.

This is a hopeful notion, because it implies that our minds are built on common architecture – that whatever is present in me might also be present in you. “I” might be a 19th-century Russian count, “you” a part-time Walmart clerk in 2017, in Boise, Idaho, but when you start crying at the end of my (Tolstoy’s) story “Master and Man”, you have proved that we have something in common, communicable across language and miles and time, and despite the fact that one of us is dead.

Another reason you’re crying: you’ve just realised that Tolstoy thought well of you – he believed that his own notions about life here on earth would be discernible to you, and would move you.

Tolstoy imagined you generously, you rose to the occasion.

We often think that the empathetic function in fiction is accomplished via the writer’s relation to his characters, but it’s also accomplished via the writer’s relation to his reader. You make a rarefied place (rarefied in language, in form; perfected in many inarticulable beauties – the way two scenes abut; a certain formal device that self-escalates; the perfect place at which a chapter cuts off); and then welcome the reader in. She can’t believe that you believe in her that much; that you are so confident that the subtle nuances of the place will speak to her; she is flattered. And they do speak to her. This mode of revision, then, is ultimately about imagining that your reader is as humane, bright, witty, experienced and well intentioned as you, and that, to communicate intimately with her, you have to maintain the state, through revision, of generously imagining her. You revise your reader up, in your imagination, with every pass. You keep saying to yourself: “No, she’s smarter than that. Don’t dishonour her with that lazy prose or that easy notion.”

And in revising your reader up, you revise yourself up too.

5

I had written short stories by this method for the last 20 years, always assuming that an entirely new method (more planning, more overt intention, big messy charts, elaborate systems of numerology underlying the letters in the characters’ names, say) would be required for a novel. But, no. My novel proceeded by essentially the same principles as my stories always have: somehow get to the writing desk, read what you’ve got so far, watch that forehead needle, adjust accordingly. The whole thing was being done on a slightly larger frame, admittedly, but there was a moment when I finally realised that, if one is going to do something artistically intense at 55 years old, he is probably going to use the same skills he’s been obsessively honing all of those years; the trick might be to destabilise oneself enough that the skills come to the table fresh-eyed and a little confused. A bandleader used to working with three accordionists is granted a symphony orchestra; what he’s been developing all of those years, he may find, runs deeper than mere instrumentation – his take on melody and harmony should be transferable to this new group, and he might even find himself looking anew at himself, so to speak: reinvigorated by his own sudden strangeness in that new domain.

It was as if, over the years, I’d become adept at setting up tents and then a very large tent showed up: bigger frame, more fabric, same procedure. Or, to be more precise (yet stay within my “temporary housing” motif): it was as if I’d spent my life designing custom yurts and then got a commission to build a mansion. At first I thought “Not sure I can do that.” But then it occurred to me that a mansion of sorts might be constructed from a series of connected yurts – each small unit built by the usual rules of construction, their interconnection creating new opportunities for beauty.

6

Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems. A book has personality, and personality, as anyone burdened with one will attest, is a mixed blessing. This guy has great energy – but never sits still. This girl is sensitive – maybe too much; she weeps when the wrong type of pasta is served. Almost from the first paragraph, the writer becomes aware that a work’s strengths and weaknesses are bound together, and that, sadly, his great idea has baggage.

For example: I loved the idea of Lincoln, alone at night in the graveyard. But how is a novel made from one guy in a graveyard at night? Unless we want to write a 300-page monologue in the voice of Lincoln (“Four score and seven minutes ago, I did enter this ghastly place”) or inject a really long-winded and omniscient gravedigger into the book (we don’t, trust me, I tried), we need some other presences there in the graveyard. Is this a problem? Well, it sure felt like one, back in 2012. But, as new age gurus are always assuring us, a “problem” is actually an “opportunity”. In art, this is true. The reader will sense the impending problem at about the same moment the writer does, and part of what we call artistic satisfaction is the reader’s feeling that just the right cavalry has arrived, at just the right moment. Another wave of artistic satisfaction occurs if she feels that the cavalry is not only arriving efficiently, but is a cool, interesting cavalry, ie, is an opportunity for added fun/beauty – a broadening-out of the aesthetic terms.

In this case, the solution was pretty simple – contained, joke-like, in the very statement of the problem (“Who else might be in a graveyard late at night?”).

I remembered an earlier, abandoned novel, set in a New York State graveyard that featured – wait for it – talking ghosts. I also remembered a conversation with a brilliant former student of mine, who said that if I ever wrote a novel, it should be a series of monologues, as in a story of mine called “Four Institutional Monologues”.

So: the book would be narrated by a group of monologuing ghosts stuck in that graveyard.

And suddenly what was a problem really did become an opportunity: someone who loves doing voices, and thinking about death, now had the opportunity to spend four years trying to make a group of talking ghosts be charming, spooky, substantial, moving, and, well, human.

7

A work of fiction can be understood as a three-beat movement: a juggler gathers bowling pins; throws them in the air; catches them. This intuitive approach I’ve been discussing is most essential, I think, during the first phase: the gathering of the pins. This gathering phase really is: conjuring up the pins. Somehow the best pins are the ones made inadvertently, through this system of radical, iterative preference I’ve described. Concentrating on the line-to-line sound of the prose, or some matter of internal logic, or describing a certain swath of nature in the most evocative way (that is, by doing whatever gives us delight, and about which we have a strong opinion), we suddenly find that we’ve made a pin. Which pin? Better not to name it. To name it is to reduce it. Often “pin” exists simply as some form of imperative, or a thing about which we’re curious; a threat, a promise, a pattern, a vow we feel must soon be broken. Scrooge says it would be best if Tiny Tim died and eliminated the surplus population; Romeo loves Juliet; Akaky Akakievich needs a new overcoat; Gatsby really wants Daisy. (The colour grey keeps showing up; everything that occurs in the story does so in pairs.)

Then: up go the pins. The reader knows they are up there and waits for them to come down and be caught. If they don’t come down (Romeo decides not to date Juliet after all, but to go to law school; the weather in St Petersburg suddenly gets tropical, and the overcoat will not be needed; Gatsby sours on Daisy, falls for Betty; the writer seems to have forgotten about his grey motif) the reader cries foul, and her forehead needle plummets into the “N” zone and she throws down the book and wanders away to get on to Facebook, or rob a store.

The writer, having tossed up some suitably interesting pins, knows they have to come down, and, in my experience, the greatest pleasure in writing fiction is when they come down in a surprising way that conveys more and better meaning than you’d had any idea was possible. One of the new pleasures I experienced writing this, my first novel, was simply that the pins were more numerous, stayed in the air longer, and landed in ways that were more unforeseen and complexly instructive to me than has happened in shorter works.

Without giving anything away, let me say this: I made a bunch of ghosts. They were sort of cynical; they were stuck in this realm, called the bardo (from the Tibetan notion of a sort of transitional purgatory between rebirths), stuck because they’d been unhappy or unsatisfied in life. The greatest part of their penance is that they feel utterly inessential – incapable of influencing the living. Enter Willie Lincoln, just dead, in imminent danger (children don’t fare well in that realm). In the last third of the book, the bowling pins started raining down. Certain decisions I’d made early on forced certain actions to fulfilment. The rules of the universe created certain compulsions, as did the formal and structural conventions I’d put in motion. Slowly, without any volition from me (I was, always, focused on my forehead needle), the characters started to do certain things, each on his or her own, the sum total of which resulted, in the end, in a broad, cooperative pattern that seemed to be arguing for what I’d call a viral theory of goodness. All of these imaginary beings started working together, without me having decided they should do so (each simply doing that which produced the best prose), and they were, it seemed, working together to save young Willie Lincoln, in a complex pattern seemingly being dictated from … elsewhere. (It wasn’t me, it was them.)

Something like this had happened in stories before, but never on this scale, and never so unrelated to my intention. It was a beautiful, mysterious experience and I find myself craving it while, at the same time, flinching at the thousands of hours of work it will take to set such a machine in motion again.

Why do I feel this to be a hopeful thing? The way this pattern thrillingly completed itself? It may just be – almost surely is – a feature of the brain, the byproduct of any rigorous, iterative engagement in a thought system. But there is something wonderful in watching a figure emerge from the stone unsummoned, feeling the presence of something within you, the writer, and also beyond you – something consistent, wilful, and benevolent, that seems to have a plan, which seems to be: to lead you to your own higher ground.

 

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Writing tip Wednesday: “New Agency to Consider”

New Agency to consider

kt literary

From their website: Books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are. We become the sum total of our reading experiences – the romance, the adventures, the coming-of-age, the fantasy, the dare-to-believe. At kt literary, we want to be more.

It's not too late to start your novel.

It’s not too late to start your novel.

Madeleine L’Engle once said, “You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.” Write for children. Write for adults. Write for yourself. And then, when you’re ready to find a literary agent to take your work to the next level, think of us.

kt literary is a full-service literary agency operating out of Highlands Ranch, in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where every major publishing house is merely an email or phone call away. We believe in the power of new technology to connect writers to readers, and authors to editors. We bring over a decade of experience in the New York publishing scene, an extensive list of contacts, and a lifetime love of reading to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

And did we mention our boundless optimism?

Source: http://ktliterary.com/

Agents and what they are looking for:
We’re thrilled to be actively seeking new clients with great writing, unique stories, and complex characters, for middle grade, young adult, and adult.

Kate is looking only at young adult and middle grade fiction and selective nonfiction.

Sara seeks authors in middle grade, young adult, and adult romance, erotica, science fiction, and fantasy.

Renee is looking for young adult and middle grade fiction only.

Hannah is interested in speculative fiction in young adult, middle grade, and adult.

To query us, please select one of the agents at kt literary at a time. If we pass, you can feel free to submit to another. Please email your query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript in the body of the email to either Kate at katequery@ktliterary.com, Sara at saraquery@ktliterary.com, Renee at reneequery@ktliterary.com, or Hannah at hannahquery@ktliterary.com.

The subject line of your email should include the word “Query” along with the title of your manuscript. Queries should not contain attachments. Attachments will not be read, and queries containing attachments WILL be deleted unread. We aim to reply to all queries within two weeks of receipt. For examples of query letters, please feel free to browse the About My Query archives on this site.

In addition, if you’re an author who is sending a new query, but who previously submitted a novel to us for which we requested chapters but ultimately declined, please do say so in your query letter.

If we like your query, we’ll ask for the first five chapters and a complete synopsis. For our purposes, the synopsis should include the full plot of the book including the conclusion. Don’t tease us. Thanks!

We are not accepting snail mail queries at this time. If you have an aversion to email, perhaps we’re not the best agency for you. We also do not accept pitches on social media.

Source: http://ktliterary.com/submissions/

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Healthy writing”

11-reasons-writing-is-good-for-your-health

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/11-reasons-writing-good-health?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-nl-170214&utm_content=921445_WDE170214&utm_medium=email

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February 15, 2017 · 11:56 am

Writing tip Wednesday: “Write better Villains”

How to Write Better Villains: 5 Ways to Get Into the Mind of a Psychopath

By Peter James

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/write-better-villains-5-ways-get-mind-psychopath?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-170124&utm_content=915933_WDE170124&utm_medium=email

1. Where to find a psychopath who will talk to you – the importance of meeting your monster.
Over my years of research for my Roy Grace mystery novels I’ve given many talks in prisons for the charity, The Reading Agency, which encourages literacy in UK prisons, as it gives me the opportunity to meet many different kinds of criminal face to face.

I had been wanting to write about a female “black widow” character for some time, and had been studying past cases, and thinking hard about creating a convincing character. Three years ago I was talking in a women’s prison and there was a well-spoken middle-aged woman in the audience who was asking particularly smart questions about literature. She fascinated me, being clearly well educated and I wondered what crime she had committed. Perhaps she killed someone drunk driving, or something like that, I wondered?

steve-james-featuredOne big perk of my talks is that I get to mingle with the prisoners after and chat to them one-on-one. I made a beeline for her. I never ask a prisoner outright what they have done – it’s not proper etiquette! So as an icebreaker I said, ‘How much longer do you have to serve?’

She replied, in a booming voice, ‘Nine and a half more bloody years – and it’s just not fair! A woman did exactly what I did, in London, and she’s only got six more years to go.’

‘So, what brought you in here?’ I asked, somewhat startled.

‘I poisoned my mother-in-law, the old bag!’

‘OK,’ I replied, somewhat astonished. Then she went on.
‘The thing was, she went into hospital to die, so I embezzled her bank account. Then the bloody woman didn’t die – she came home. I realized she would find out so I had to poison her. Then I realized my husband would find out so I had to poison him, too. And it’s just not fair – this woman in London did exactly what I did and she’s only got six more years!’

As I was being taken back out by a prison officer I said to him, ‘Is this woman for real?’

‘Oh yes sir, he replied. ‘Her husband was three months on life support and he has permanent brain damage – and she’s just angry about the length of her sentence…’

I knew at once I had found my character for Love You Dead!

2. Make your monsters lovable.

If you think about the most endearing – and enduring – characters in the history of literature they are the ones that are not simply portrayed as black and white evil, but with shades of coloring. Think about Dracula – he is a monster but he has huge charisma and charm. Frankenstein’s monster turns to his creator, Dr Frankenstein and tells him he never wanted to be born. Hannibal Lecter, perhaps the most success monster in all of modern literature, is enormously charming, charismatic, he has style and people find themselves rooting for him, despite knowing just how utterly evil he really is.

3. Avoid stereotypes. A psychopath isn’t always a man in black in a dark alley with a sharp knife.

It may be a surprise to some people, but yes, there really are good psychopaths as well as bad ones. Or perhaps, paraphrasing from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, puts it into better perspective: Some psychopaths are less evil than others. He could be a past or a President of the United States? The CEO of a Fortune 100 company? Being a psychopath is the best qualification to get you to the top of a chosen path in life, but the worst to have once you are there: The reason most serial killers get away with it so long is that they are bright and cunning – and often total chameleons, able to blend into society. Ted Bundy, America’s worst to date is a classic example. A good-looking, charismatic former law student, estimated to have killed and raped over 100 young women. But it’s not just a good qualification if you want to be a serial killer, it’s a great one if you want to become a captain of industry or a top politician. The combination of charm, intelligence and utter ruthlessness is potent. The psychopath is capable of saying anything just to get to the top – how many politicians do we all know who’ve said totally opposing things many times during their climb up the greasy pole. But ultimately it is hubris that can be their downfall because their lack of empathy means they fail to read the warning signs. President Richard Nixon is a classic; Idi Amin; Saddam Hussein; Gadhafi. And how many CEOs of major companies, like Bernie Madoff and the late Robert Maxwell?

4. How to come up with a well-developed backstory for your psychopathic character.

Some years ago I spent a day at Broadmoor, the UK’s premier high-security psychiatric hospital. It took me a year before my request was accepted, but it was worthwhile because what I saw and learned there has helped me with so many subsequent characters. The qualification for admission to Broadmoor is, essentially, to be violently criminally insane. I asked the resident chaplain if he felt that there were some people who were born evil, or did something happen in their lives to turn them that way?

He replied that the inmates were divided roughly 50/50 into schizophrenics and psychopaths. Schizophrenia was a chemically treatable mental illness, and provided they took their medication, around 70% of the inmates in this category could eventually go back into the world and live ordinary lives. But for the psychopaths, it was very different.

He explained a psychopath is likely to first present symptoms at around the age of four. The majority is male but there are female ones also – as we will see. The earliest signs are likely to be a lack of empathy and no real sense of a moral code of right or wrong. A boy steals his best friend’s favourite toy – with absolutely zero guilt. He will also from an early age be an accomplished liar – and rarely found out.

The psychopath brought up in a loving, stable family may well go on to become a hugely successful businessman or politician. But the one brought up in a broken home, or a violent, abusive situation, is likely to become dangerously warped. Many serial killers come from such latter backgrounds, as did Adolf Hitler who had a bullying father who would not let him pursue the career as a painter he wanted in life.

5. Talk through any major villain you are creating with a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.

I was chatting at lunch with former armed serial bank robber, and self-confessed psychopath, Steve Tulley. As a teenager in prison, for his first robbery, he met criminal legend Reggie Kray, and persuaded him to let him be his pupil and teach him everything he knew. At 58, broke, Tulley is living in a bedsit in Brighton and has spent more of his life in jail than free. I asked him what was the largest sum he had ever got away with. He told me it was £50k in a bank job. So what did he do with the money? He replied, excitedly that he’d rented a suite in Brighton’s Metropole Hotel and, in his words, ‘Larged it for six months until it was all gone.”

I asked Steve if he had the chance to live his life over again would he have done it differently? ‘No,’ he replied with a gleam in his eyes. ‘I’d do it all again. It’s the adrenaline, you see!’

From subsequently talking to forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, I’ve learned that this “adrenaline” buzz that Steve talks of goes hand-in-hand, with some criminals, with the ruthless, chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence they lead. One of the most chilling things I ever saw was the police video of Dennis Rader – the BTK Strangler– confessing. When asked why he had bound, tortured and killed – horrifically – his victims he replied, simply and matter-of-factly, ‘It was erotic, I got a buzz from it.”

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Writing tip Wednesday: “New agent to consider”

Quressa Robinson of D4EO Literary

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/new-literary-agent-alert-quressa-robinson-d4eo-literary

quressa-robinson-literary-agentAbout Quressa: Quressa Robinson joined the D4EO Literary Agency in 2016 and is actively building her client list. Quressa was an acquiring editor at St. Martin’s Press, where she edited both fiction and nonfiction. Her acquisitions include Certain Dark Things (a Publishers Weekly Fall Announcement Top 10 Pick and October B&N Staff Pick) and The Beautiful Ones—both by Locus, World Fantasy, Sunburst, and Aurora Award-nominated author Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Spells of Blood and Kin (which received a starred PW review) by Claire Humphrey; and The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams, among others.

She is seeking: Science fiction/fantasy (including speculative/magical realism), nonfiction (celebrity, pop culture, pop science), upmarket and commercial women’s fiction, historical fiction, family sagas, contemporary young adult, and science fiction/fantasy young adult crossover. “I am particularly interested in OwnVoices and inclusive narratives. Genre bending is also great, i.e. epic fantasy romance or upmarket fantasy.”

How to submit: Send all queries to quressa@d4eo.com. Include the first fifty pages of your novel or full proposal and sample chapters as a Word attachment. If the submission is a simultaneous submission, please indicate that in your query. E-mail queries only.

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