Posts Tagged With: writing

Forget The Voice, authors have “The Pen.”

Day of the Book ink wellAfter following The Voice, and voting with iTune downloads, I decided that  aspiring authors need a smiliarily televised contest.

I call it “The Pen”  (cue the pyrotechnics because we hardly ever get a theme song and pyrotechnics at our poetry readings)

The judges are an eclectic representation of style and genres:

  • Leah Durham
  • David Sedaris
  • Stephen King
  • Amanda Hocking

The contestants were many and varied, but to save time, here are the final five:

  • Brad –   a mid list author who’s last two publishers shelved his Dungeons and Dragons series under the DIY section in every brick and mortar store in the country.
  • Amber –  our cute, bubbly Teen author who naturally talented even though she’s written nothing more than poetry and song lyrics before entering “the Pen”.
  • Mary Beth – the  most mature contestant, has been the president of her writing club five times, yet never published beyond the group’s own anthology.
  • Sybil –  who is  looking for a comeback after her re- tread of her last paranormal romance series as ebooks tanked.
  • Susan and Mark – the only writing team still speaking to each other in person. They write  mystery novels but their indie publisher just went bankrupt, lost the storage contract and their sales are not high enough for them to be picked up by any other publisher.

Last night the contestants read passages of their work written after a grueling week of coaching and revision with their coach.  The production value was high involving smoke machines, projections of odd gears and rain drops and sparkly stuff.

  • Amber employed a large Greek Chorus for her re-imagining of the Iliad.
  • Brad brought out a bongo ensemble to play while he read his work, Howling.  He also distributed  marijuana to all the judges in the hopes it would help.
  • Mary Beth stole the audience’s heart with her rhymed rondeau dedicated to Sprinkles, her Chihuahua.

(all rights are reserved by the production company).

American voted for their favorite author by downloading the full work from  Smashwords at .05  cents each. (All income is divided between the show sponsors and Mark Corker)

The writer who earns $100 first, wins the grand prize.

Highlights of the  feedback from the coaches after last night:

  • Leah Durham –  “Susan and Mark, it seems like you were struggling to hit that metaphor, ease off, let it speak for you.”
  • David Sedaris –  “Sybil, you had the room, that was a prefect sentence.  The best double parallelism we’ve seen all night. But you need to be funnier, you know, I’m funny.”
  • Amanda Hocking – “Amber, don’t be afraid of those compound sentences, just breath into them, and take that pause at the semi colon. Although I don’t think compound sentences earned any author much money.”
  • Stephen King –  “Mary Beth, I can’t believe the dog died, that was so moving – I know I’m not the only one here crying.”

Of course, we need  lame, behind-the-scene interviews  with the strung out contestants, here are the most publishable comments:

  • “Amber’s style is so natural,   I had a lot of red-line editing to do before tonight, but I think I’m ready.”
  • “I know I’m only 16,  but my family is really supportive.”
  • “I’m just going out there and read my work and hope American votes for me.”
  •  “I can’t believe she used the dog story.  It was a cheap shot.  I wish I thought of it.”

And the Winner  is . . .

Amber, who apparently knows more people who are familiar with the complexities of downloads.

Amber was offered a publishing contract with  “The Pen” sponsor, Penguin Books.  But after weeks  hanging out with the other contestants, Amber  opted instead for a million dollars up front and took a lucrative speaking engagement offered by Author Solutions that is in no way influenced by the sponsor.

We wish Amber the best, because like winning the Pulitzer, she will forever be introduced as “Winner of “The Pen”” before her name.  It’s quite an honor.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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Five Key Book Publishing Paths

This helpful chart  from Jane Freidman came across my email and I pass it along to you.

This is an easy way to compare the different options for book publishing.  My caution is that publishing is a moving target, and what is true right now won’t be true in two years, or even in two months.  But for now, I have Jane’s permission to forward this onto my readers.  It should help!

5 Key publishing models

Visit Jane’s Blog for a larger image if necessary.

Now that you know where you want to publish, how’s the book coming?

Drop me a line (bramkamp(at)yahoo.com for a free 1/2 consultation, I promise I’ll put you on the right track.

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Hunting for an Agent Part II

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7.

Here are more  features of Agent Hunter I like:

Meet Agents

Some agents make themselves available to meet writers at conferences like the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York. If you want to meet agents, you can set this option to “yes” to select only those agents you have a chance of meeting face to face.

Notice when we say meet, we do not mean stalk. You are not encouraged to follow an agent around during a three day conference.

Hakone

Sometimes, everything is linked.

  • Do know who you want to sign up to meet during an agent speed dating session.
  • Do sit in on their presentation.
  • Do discover who they represent who is also at the conference and talk with THAT author.
  • Do sit  at their table during a meal.
  • Don’t trap them in the rest room
  • Don’t push your manuscript to them under the bathroom stall door  (true story).
  • Don’t follow them outside to share a smoke if you don’t smoke.

Blogs / Twitter

If an agent blogs or tweets, you can sometimes get a useful idea of who they are and what they want. If you value that kind of data, set these search terms to “Yes” to select only those agents with the relevant online profile.

If you are a fan of Twitter, do follow the agents you love!  It’s cheaper than a conference and easier to start a relationship. When to follow?  Now, even as you are creating your book. By setting up the relationship ahead of time, you’ll be poised to send off your book to the right agent, who, at the very least, will send you a more personal rejection.

On line directories and sites are very, very helpful in honing in on the best agent to pitch to.  It does take time. The most frustrating part of finding an agent is how long it can take. Overnight success is like that.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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Hunting for an Agent Part I

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7, in the mean time,  today and Thursday I’ll list a couple of features about the site and about finding an agent.

Oh, and first of all – for fiction, have the MS finished, really finished, already reviewed by friends/professional, already edited, and copy edited.  THEN you are ready to hunt down an agent.

Emily Carr's House

Emily Carr’s House – She had an agent.

For non-fiction, you’ll need a full outline and maybe the first two chapters written, and a strong proposal.

Here are features of Agent Hunter I like:

Who Represents Who

If you love an author, you can use a keyword search to see if you can locate the agent who represents that author. Do note that not all agents disclose their client lists, so the keyword search won’t work where a given client-author relationship is not public.

This is marvelous idea and well worth the visit to Agent Hunter.  Is your book “like” another author’s book? Do you write similar things?   Have you met an author who recommended you look up her agent and now you can’t remember the agent’s name?  This feature can really help, because believe it or not, that high concept pitch – my book is just like X –  is very helpful.

Likes / hates (keyword)

If you’ve written a thriller set in the Italian Alps, try searching on related keywords (Italy, thriller, mountaineering, mountains, Alps, etc) to see if you can locate a thriller addicted mountaineering agent. We get likes / dislikes data direct from agents and from other published sources.

Again, what a good idea.  I’ve talked with agents who really, really resent listing what they like, announcing what they like, handing out business cards with the list on the back of what they like and they still receive pitches for books that have nothing to do with what they like.

I had the misfortune of meeting with an agent who said he only dealt with macho books filled with car chases and explosions.  I held a manuscript filled with relationship angst.  Terrible fit,  but I was devastated anyway.  Sending your precious book to the wrong agent can set you back weeks or even months.  Don’t do it.  Set yourself up for success!

Read more in two days.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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Newbie Writer Podcast Guest Carly Findlay

Thank you Carly Findlay at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com for being a great guest on Newbie Writers.  She had a few bits of advice for bloggers:

  • Just start writing
  • Stay with it

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend which has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with wine

  • Write about what you like
  • Don’t let it become a chore
  • Sign up for social media
  • A writing career is 40 percent marketing, so  use social media
  • If you are using twitter, a strategy is to be considered a   trusted source, so people follow you  in order to get the information they need.
  • And of course, the twitter and the facebook and the linked in all direct followers to your blog!

And if you want to know if your book has what it takes,

Contact me for your complimentary consultation and book – Start Your Book Now

Bramkamp@yahoo.com

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In Despair

Typewriter IrelandIn despair about your novel?  Come join my pity party.

I have a novel, I have the rough, rough first draft – created during NaNoWriMo.  And I was delighted with it, it was, of course, brilliant and interesting and insightful.

Then I began thinking about it.

  • I thought about it while watching Back to The Future for the 55th time.
  • I thought about it while creating blogs (there is a lovely, deadline based – immediacy to blogging).
  • I thought about it while cleaning the house.

When I   collapse on the couch and choose to watch  Back to the Future again, am I lazy or researching?

When I wander around the house muttering about dust, am I wasting time or considering the complex plot points that are apparently  more complex than necessary, or  am I wasting more time?

When I blog about writing a book, does that count as “real” writing?

Does thinking about the book  count as writing the book?

We all ask these questions as we push and pull and examine our forming plots like ameba under a microscope. Sometimes I think If I leave the little creatures alone in their dish, they will morph into something interesting without help or even further observation on my part.

This is the hope.

When I was younger, I could never understand the idea of an author taking ten years to create their book and story.  Now I get it.

It’s easy to think about my book as it is to make excuses:   I have to teach at night and am too tired to write.  I have to diet and now I’m too hungry to write.  I’m cranky because my brother is visiting from out of town, I’m busy wishing my sibling would return from where he came.  I must let the dog out. I must pick up after the dog.

I’m good at this.

What can we do when we are circling, circling   around our imagined book, not writing but slowing walking a maze, withe the work at the center.  Thinking is good – I’m a big fan of thinking.

But I also know, even as I walk a maze, that walking and thinking are poor substitutes for actually putting something – anything – down on paper.

  • So I sat down and created about a minute of dialogue.
  • Then I sat down and described one scene.
  • Then I realized that the heroine needed to be in more danger.  So I described the danger.

Did writing this blog put off the writing the story?  You bet.

Just wanted you to know you are not the only writer hiding in the shower for 45 minutes or until the hot water runs out waiting for that ultimate moment of inspiration.

We’re all doing it.  And on behalf of all the writers in the shower or cleaning it,  good luck.

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Don’t Do This!

Books out doorsWhat we don’t read  can be as instructive as what we do.

I found this Linked In post in my in box:

This is Interesting

“Hmm, where do I even begin? There is so much to share. I am so blessed every day and I just hope I can remember everything that has happened!  When so much awesomeness happens I am compelled to immediately share with with you all here, as it is most fitting and want to share my good news with you all!  This month my recovery…”

– from a real linked-in post but I altered the details 

In this Linked- In post, the headline is the best part.  But the opening narrative is ineffective and a turn off.  We are not, on any level, compelled to read anything more.  So the writer could be announcing the end of the world, and we’d miss it, because she didn’t start her post well.

A long time ago writers commanded  enough page space to be able to “clear our throats” , we had time to set up a comment or explain all the points necessary for an essay to really sing.

But now we don’t.

Those opening lines cannot be wasted, they are the critical and arguably the most important part of a post or a blog. They must   grab the reader’s attention. And with this post, by the time I read to the third line – I was out, I  did not have the time to listen to the writer’s thinking process.

The solution is easy.  Do clear your throat.  Write all that introductory material because it helps focus the work and gets you really into your subject.  But before you post the work, delete those opening sentences and just start with something interesting like zombies invaded my home last night!  It’s the end of the world.

I guarantee  you I will continue to read.

Do you have a novel in you?

Get your own Start Your Book Kit

  • Includes: copy of  Start Your Book
  • ½ hour  consultation with Catharine
  • Subscription to  Newbie News
  • Contact me:  bramkamp@yahoo.com

 

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Possibly Not Really Productive

Cologne TypewriterWhen I’ve been spending more time reading blogs and newsletters than  writing my material, I feel like my son who used to sit very still and quietly in class.  The teacher was thrilled he wasn’t making trouble, and he wasn’t.  Of course, he wasn’t learning anything either.

For weeks I’ve been sitting quietly at the computer – typing, reading and generally looking very engaged and busy. And I am thrilled with all the work I’ve been doing.  But I haven’t really accomplished a damn thing.

Writers and creatives are at risk for miserable failure if we don’t  understand the difference between being busy and being productive.

Because distinguishing between the two can be tricky.

Sometimes an afternoon of reading was spent  gathering ideas,  researching and catching up with industry trends.   Ot it’s a  colossal waste of time.

Conversely, in a traditional job, taking a walk in the middle of the afternoon, chatting in the break room, standing around in the hallway, is considered goofing off.  For a writer, those exchanges, especially the walks, are critical to real production.

Day dreaming is productive

Checking Facebook is not.

Lunch with a friend, or better, lunch with a fellow writer, is productive.

Eating at your desk, compulsively answering every email is just exhausting and will give you heartburn.

Since Just sitting at the computer does not necessarily mean you are accomplishing anything, how do you know you have been productive?

The increasing word count on the novel is a big indicator.

Another indicator is how tired you are.  Not emotionally exhausted, or frustrated but tired.

Writing is a full body activity; we lean in, we tense up.  We hurt ourselves because we’ve held a crouching tiger position for hours as we bang on the keyboard or scratch with our pens.  We get carpal tunnel and bursitis and leg cramps.  And paper cuts, but I never get any sympathy for those.

Are you exhausted  because you’ve spent the morning in the zone?

Or are you just emotionally exhausted from a project  that has been over thought to death?

Did you finish up your work at exactly 5:00 and think, GOD I need a drink, I’m so finished with this.

Or did you finish for the day because a power failure killed the computer and stopped you cold?  But you unearthed a flashlight and notebook and continued?

Set this idea of  being busy aside, and tap into your passion;  allow it to drive the process instead of over  thinking it.  Put  away the to do list, turn off the alerts for email and Facebook and just focus on the book, even if only for   ten minutes.

It may be the most productive part of your day.

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Kick Start the Sonoma County Book Festival —

Sonoma County Book Festival —.

I love this festival, mostly because it has grown on a Moores Law scale.  But to make it better, we need your help –  go to kick starter and enter Sonoma County Book Festival and in exchange for your help, you get, yes, books.

That’s all, just doing my part.

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What if the Future Sucks?

On Newbie Writers Podcast this week, we are reviewing  the second draft of a book:  mine.

This is the second part of the Opening chapter  to  The Five Elements of Time so you can play the game at home.

Statue from Turkey

Please do comment here, or email me with suggestions.

And thanks!

Premise: What if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks? 

The sheets were not even dry.  Charity pushed them away and lit the stove.

The house lights flickered again, Charity held her breath, the lights dimmed, then surged back on to full strength.

Charity took the last two pieces of the dense, coal – like fuel, dranit, and fed them into the stove.  It was the only certainty this week – that fire was warm.  Was real.

“Nancy reported the Fabers in the market were down.”  Mother walked into the kitchen, testing the sheets as she went.  She wiped her damp hands on her pale blue skirt.

They used to just toss the dirty sheets and Nancy, their main servant would bring in new from the market replicators every week, the old sheets were recycled for their essential material. The family was probably using the same sheets over and over, on a molecular level, but it was still nice to have new.

Not any more.

Charity glanced at the hanging sheets, no longer the original white. Just this morning she had helped her mother  wrestled those sheets out of the big tub, the fire burning underneath.

Charity was used to such odd behavior from her mother.  She had little choice but to help.  So she automatically arched over the hot flames and helped her mother pull the wet fabric to the wringer.

“They are out of material for fabric.”  Her mother said quietly.  “I told you it’s  good to know how to wash. Your sister, “  she left the rest unsaid and continued to wrestle with the old wringer.

“She was suppose to return today.”  Charity announced.

“Mirabella?” Her mother jerked the wet fabric from the rollers and gave the fabric a mighty twist putting her shoulders into the effort.   “I know, she was.” Her mother held Charity’s gaze for a second before twisting the sheet with   more force than Charity ever saw. Water, precious water, streamed from the fabric.  Finally mother stopped her shoulders sagged.

“She is gone honey.” Her mother’s faded blue eyes watered. “I’m afraid she  died in yesterday’s train wreak.”

Charity’s whole body turned cold.  Her first friend in school, her first pal, her only pal,  gone?

“Ray is devastated of course.” Her mother concentrated on the laundry and did not meet her oldest daughter’s eyes again.  “Of course.  He’ll find someone else. He needs a wife to go into the Government Guards.  All Guards have a wives.” And all those men involved in the RC ,the Reality Cloud, needed a wife to keep the family fed, organized and together.  If a man wanted to work, or participate in any of the Realty Cloud world, he needed to marry, put his wife into a nice house and make sure she was blessed with children.

Charity stopped wringing  the sheets. The warm water dripped on her bare feet.  They never wore shoes in the house, an old tradition. There used to be so much toxic material outside that the women finally stopped everyone from tracking it into the house by creating the rule – no shoes inside. Now it was a law.

“He asked for you.” Mother said finally.

Nancy, one of their five servants,  was late.  She pulled her kerchief more firmly over her blond hair and ducked her head.  “I’m so sorry Mother, the lines were long for the dranit today. And the village riots stopped us from leaving the market.”

“Takes a lot of electricity to manufacture the dranit.”   Mother never raised her voice at the servants, she insisted on treating them as people, even individuals.  Charity kept that eccentricity to herself, her friends, like Mirabella, reported that Mothers were suppose to berate servants and keep them in line, something Charity’s mother never did.

Mother simply   took the offered fuel, two day’s worth.   “If only we could harvest  wood ourselves.”

“There are no forests.”  Hope importantly flounced into the kitchen. She was 16 and just feeling her strength as a leader, now that all the boys in her class had been transferred  to the RC Colleges.  “I learned that today.”

Mother sighed and considered the huge wood burning stove.  The electricity was channeled mostly to the Government where the replicators and RC equipment were kept.  The family owned a small one of course, but the food pods were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, even for a well placed family like themselves.  The only reason they weren’t hungry, the only reason Faith was even as well as she was, was because mother grew food in the back of the house.  Dirt Food.  Charity never told anyone.  But she had to grudging admit  that her mother eccentric gardening had kept them from going hungry many nights.

Only two days ago everything was as it should be.  If she had known, she would have ben kinder, not pinched so hard.  Charity drew in a shuddering breath and batted away the drying sheet.  She wanted things back the way they were.  But according to Mirabella, that wasn’t even possible.   “RC has been fluctuating,  I can feel it.  Most women our age can feel it.  Sometimes I worry that we aren’t even real.”  She held out her arm.  “Pinch me.”  She commanded.

Charity reluctantly took a pinch of Mirabella’s flesh and dug her nails into the skin.

“Yikes!”  Mirabella  glanced down. “That’s going to bruise.”

“Then you’ll know you’re real won’t you?”  Charity shot back.  They didn’t dare linger on the street.  They continued to the Temple, but now that Mirabella mentioned it, the   houses really did vibrate as she walked: sometimes revealing a plain one story home and sometimes turning into the glass and wood castles she always envisioned, remembered.

It wasn’t all that bizarre, they heard early on in their education that reality was one of two things: a shared community effort or an individual vision.  The shared world community, represented by the 100 year old Reality Cloud, was preferable.  Women were proud to support such an instrument of world peace.

Yes, increasingly,   Charity was experiencing the individual version of reality. It was not comforting.

Mirabella liked to see her world one way, and Charity sometimes wanted to see it differently.

But they were alike in two important ways.

Their reality was shifting.

“What do you think is going on?”

“My dad said the grids are down more and more that it’s difficult to work in the RC, there are surges.  They  blame the villagers.” She lowered her voice, “They sent out bot after bot to fix the problem.  I heard they are even sending out drones but can’t find any reason for the electricity or for the the decrease in pod production .”

“Nancy said the lines were getting longer.”  Charity confirmed. The food pods for their replicators ran low at the end of every month, forcing some family to eat dirt food.

“They’ll have to find the villagers .”  Mirabella  confirmed.

But they didn’t need to find the villagers, the villagers had found them.

Can you do better than me?

Get your own Start Your Book Kit  

  • Includes: copy of  Start Your Book
  • ½ hour  consultation with Catharine
  • Subscription to  Newbie News
  • Contact me:  bramkamp@yahoo.com
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