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Category Archives: Publishing Experts

Writers – What’s the BUZZ?

We’ve created this website first and foremost because of our love for authors—we want you to get it right the first time, and we want to make it easy for you.

SilverHart is a unique combination that stems from two vastly different careers—encompassing both publishing and law enforcement so authors can write it right.

Writers – What’s the BUZZ?

 

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This Is What Editors Know About Publishing That Writers Don’t

Good editors really can add value, in two ways.

First, editors are industry professionals who can educate often-naive authors about the facts of life in the real world of publishing. (Agents are great at this too, often even better.) The other answers have some excellent details on this, but I think it boils down to: Just because you want to write it doesn’t mean somebody else wants to read it, and certainly not that he or she wants to pay for it.

Second, and even more important, editors can view writers and their products from the outside, which authors themselves rarely can. Think of Burns’ “wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us”–that’s the power editors have and writers usually don’t.

Sometimes, that means being able to see the positive things an author or a manuscript has to offer, even if it’s not very clear. For example, I’ve gone to writers and solicited pieces that the writers themselves didn’t think they could do or didn’t think would be worthwhile if they did, and sometimes managed to midwife the birth of great work, just by editorial vision and support. And sometimes writers don’t know the value of real gems of argument or information in their manuscripts, things that should be highlighted and brought to the fore, because they’re so used to knowing or thinking about them that they don’t recognize how interesting or important they’ll seem to others.

A lot of times, though, it means being able to see the chaff as well as the wheat, the haystack as well as the needle, and finding a way to tell authors infatuated with the sound of their own voices or opinions that the piece would be better if pruned back, rearranged, rewritten, etc. Or, unfortunately, sometimes just dropped entirely, with the writer moving on to a more promising project.

Bottom line, editors serve as proxies for readers at large–proxies who, if they are doing their job properly, not only understand what those readers need and appreciate, but are able to help writers do what is necessary to reach them. Readers are outer-directed, writers are often inner-directed, editors try to bridge the gap between the two so their interactions can be more mutually rewarding. (Spoiler alert: that usually means asking why anybody other than the writer should care about something, cutting verbiage, tightening language, getting to the point, all the usual stuff.)

This Is What Editors Know About Publishing That Writers Don’t

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Romance Writers of America’s 35th Annual Conference – Come along

We’re heading back to New York for this year’s Romance Writers of America’s 35th annual conference.We’re excited to see so many of our friends and the chances to meet so many others.

We’ll keep you updated and try to not get so caught up in the excitement that we forget to tweet from hash tag  #RWA15 – but no promises. It gets super exciting!

Will we see you there – let’s catch up.

There’s even a guide to surviving RWA – Check it out

 

Romance Writers of America’s 35th Annual Conference – Come along

 

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Lies, Denial & Buried Secrets—How to Create Dimensional Characters

True Detective.There is a line that’s repeated in the series and it is SO perfect for our purposes today.

Sometimes your worst self is your best self.

It’s tempting for us to create “perfect” protagonists and “pure evil” antagonists, but that’s the stuff of cartoons, not great fiction. Every strength has an array of corresponding weaknesses, and when we understand these soft spots, generating conflict becomes easier. Understanding character arc becomes simpler. Plotting will fall into place with far less effort.

All stories are character-driven. Plot merely serves to change characters from a lowly protagonist into a hero….kicking and screaming along the way. Plot provides the crucible. 

Plot is the push that drives the change. Without the plot problem, the protagonist is never forced to face weakness and can comfortably remain unchanged. Plot forces the protagonist to face the worst self in order to eventually unveil the best self.

One element that is critical to understand is this:

Everyone has Secrets

To quote Dr. Gregory House, Everybody lies.

All good stories hinge on secrets.

I have bodies under my porch.

Okay, not all secrets in our fiction need to be THIS huge.

Secret #1—“Real” Self Versus “Authentic” Self

We all have a face we show to the world, what we want others to see. If this weren’t true then my author picture would have me wearing a Batman T-shirt, yoga pants and a scrunchee, not a beautifully lighted photograph taken by a pro.

We all have faces we show to certain people, roles we play. We are one person in the workplace, another with family, another with friends and another with strangers. This isn’t us being deceptive in a bad way, it’s self-protection and it’s us upholding societal norms. This is why when Grandma starts discussing her bathroom routine, we cringe and yell, “Grandma! TMI! STOP!”

No one wants to be trapped in a long line at a grocery store with the total stranger telling us about her nasty divorce. Yet, if we had a sibling who was suffering, we’d be wounded if she didn’t tell us her marriage was falling apart.

Yet, people keep secrets. Some more than others. Most of us have secrets we keep even from ourselves 😉 .

In fact, if we look at The Joy Luck Club the entire book hinges on the fact that the mothers are trying to break the curses of the past by merely changing geography. Yet, as their daughters grow into women, they see the faces of the same demons wreaking havoc in their daughters’ lives…even though they are thousands of miles away from the past (China).

The mothers have to reveal their sins, but this will cost them the “perfect version of themselves” they’ve sold the world and their daughters (and frankly, themselves).

The daughters look at their mothers as being different from them. Their mothers are perfect, put-together, and guiltless. It’s this misperception that keeps a wall between them. This wall can only come down if the external facades (the secrets) are exposed.

Secret #2—False Face

Characters who seem strong, can, in fact, be scared half to death. Characters who seem to be so caring, can in fact be acting out of guilt, not genuine concern for others. We all have those fatal weaknesses, and most of us don’t volunteer these blemishes to the world.

In fact, we might not even be aware of them. It’s why shrinks are plentiful and paid well.

The woman whose house looks perfect can be hiding a month’s worth of laundry behind the Martha Stewart shower curtains. Go to her house and watch her squirm if you want to hang your coat in her front closet. She wants others to think she has her act together, but if anyone opens that coat closet door, the pile of junk will fall out…and her skeletons will be on public display.

Anyone walking toward her closets or asking to take a shower makes her uncomfortable because this threatens her false face.

Watch any episode of House and most of the team’s investigations are hindered because patients don’t want to reveal they are not ill and really want attention, or use drugs, are bulimic, had an affair, are growing marijuana in their attics, etc.

Secret #3—False Guilt

Characters can be driven to right a wrong they aren’t even responsible for. In Winter’s Bone Ree Dolly is driven to find her father before the bail bondsman takes the family land and renders all of them homeless.

Ree is old enough to join the Army and walk away from the nightmare, but she doesn’t. She feels a need to take care of the family and right a wrong she didn’t commit. She has to dig in and dismantle the family secrets (the crime ring entrenched in her bloodline) to uncover the real secret—What happened to her father?

She has to keep the family secret (otherwise she could just go to the cops) to uncover the greater, and more important secret. She keeps the secret partly out of self-preservation, but also out of guilt and shame.

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Lies, Denial & Buried Secrets—How to Create Dimensional Characters

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5 Book Marketing Stunts That Backfired Spectacularly

It’s tough out there for authors. Between 600,000 and a million books are published or self-published in America every year, and most of those sell fewer than 250 copies. For every breakout success like A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay or Taken by the Lightning Bolt, there’s a thousand books whose sales slide slowly and painfully into a ditch like that time you decided to go rollerblading in an ice storm.

Which is why some writers get desperate in their quest to tear the reading public’s fickle attention away from whatever butt picture they’re currently looking at. Butts are pretty damn distracting, though, so it’s not unheard of for authors to turn to some intensely crazy stuff. Like …

5. Shooting Yourself

A man from West Virginia, Ray Dolin, had a dream. He was going to hitchhike all the way across America and use his experiences as the basis for a book, The Kindness of America. Unfortunately, Dolin’s dream was soon shattered, and not just because he ran into a bunch of mean people in L.A. Nope, it was something even worse: while Dolin was waiting for a ride outside of Glasgow, Montana,a stranger in a pickup truck pulled over, shot him in the arm, and then sped away. Police soon arrested a man from Washington state for the shooting, and it looked like the plot of Dolin’s book was going to get a whole lot more interesting.

The incident made national news, with Internet comment sections beating their chests about America’s failing moral values (conservatives) or degenerate redneck gun culture (liberals). Unfortunately for the human desire to seize on news articles that prove what we already believe anyway, the truth soon came out: the Montana drive-by shooting never happened. Dolin admitted that he’d shot himself in the arm, either to drum up publicity for that upcoming book of his or because he was stuck on page 200 and couldn’t think of an interesting plot twist (hell, it worked inFight Club).

The Awful Consequences

Montana law enforcement wasn’t impressed with Dolin wasting their time and money for the purposes of book publicity, particularly since he stuck to his story even after an innocent man was arrested and jailed for the crime. He was given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay fines and restitution. Tragically, Dolin couldn’t get to the courthouse to pay because a missile silo fell on him, and he’s writing about the event in his new book, Missile Silos Falling on Me in America.

4. Trapping Yourself in a Glass Cage

Belgian mystery novelist Georges Simenon, who died in 1989, was a pro at that whole writing thing: the guy could apparently pump out a novel in 11 days. Christ, it took me longer than that to decide whether to call my action-thriller protagonist Buck “Hardboiled” McGruntman or Lance Fist. But Simenon wasn’t happy with what his writing superpowers had already allowed him to achieve: he wanted more. So, in 1927 Simenon announced that he was going to write a novel in 24 hours. Sitting in a glass cage. In public. Furthermore, people watching would be able to decide the book’s characters and plot elements, presumably by banging on the glass and yelling things like “BAD GUY SHOULD BE MORE ITALIAN,” “SCENE NEEDS MORE PONIES,” and “ARE THERE GOING TO BE BUTT PICTURES?”

By other accounts, Simenon had 72 hours to write the book. But the stunt definitely involved a glass cage, and hopefully he got all the kinks worked out with the ventilation system, because as much as some people don’t like pretentious writers, no one really wants to watch them slowly asphyxiate in public.

The Awful Consequences

The 24-hour novel stunt went awry when a terrorist broke into the cage and Simenon had to interrogate and finally kill him while exploring the moral boundaries of our post-9/11 Western society. Well, OK, no — the whole thing died with more of a quiet, whimpering fart than with a bang: the newspaper that planned to finance it went bankrupt. This was unfortunate for Simenon, but it was probably a good thing in the long run. I mean, think about what the world would be like if the “writers in glass cages” craze had taken off. I’m sure we’d get the next George R.R. Martin novel quicker, but it would probably involve a lot of human rights violations. Hey, that gives me an idea for a dystopian thriller novel.

3. Rigging Your Way Onto Bestseller Lists With Cold, Hard Cash

In 2013, the Wall Street Journal noticed that several business-themed books had shot to the top of the paper’s bestseller lists, only to drop off quickly. Really quickly. In some cases, sales dropped so dramatically that less than a week after hitting the top of the bestseller list, more copies of these books were being returned to stores than were being sold. What was happening? Did the pages smell? Did it turn out that everything after page 63 was just scrawled racial slurs and bad pie recipes? Nope, the truth was far more sinister.

The authors of these quick-selling books had hired a marketing firm called ResultSource that had propelled them to the top of bestseller lists. They did this by buying up massive amounts of books, sending them out to dozens of addresses across America, and using hundreds of different payment methods to evade the statistical precautions that bestseller lists have in place to prevent shit like this. All authors had to do was hand over a hefty fee: getting onto the New York Times bestseller list with ResultSource would cost you about $200,000. Personally, I’d rather just keep the $200,000 and buy a robot butler that pretends to like my writing, but I guess my heart’s not really in the bestseller business.

The Awful Consequences

Not long after the news came out, Seattle mega-church leader Mark Driscoll and Grace, his wife, were forced to apologize after it came out that they’d paid the company hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their book, Real Marriage, a New York Times bestseller. Since then, ResultSource seems to have disappeared to that big bulk-buying warehouse in the sky, so I guess rich wannabe authors have to content themselves with robot butlers.

2. Illegally Flying Into Buckingham Palace

A few years back, an Australian man named Brett De La Mare was having trouble finding a publisher for his novel Canine Dawn, which he described as a story set in the Australian bush that features plenty of of “sex, money, and adventure.” So he decided to edit the manuscript some more, develop a catchier hook, and maybe start on a new project in the hope of improving his craft. No, hang on. He decided to get attention for his manuscript by flying a motorized paraglider into the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

I’m not sure how De La Mare thought this would achieve his goal of getting his book published, because a story about Australians having sex in rural areas doesn’t have much to do with gliding into restricted buildings. It’s not like he was trying to get a deal for a book called How to Get Inside the Queen’s Laundry Room or My Life With Bad Impulse Control. If publishers gave out book deals on the basis of who happened to dramatically catch their attention during the working day, you could start a luminous career by simply visiting Random House’s headquarters in New York City and throwing cats at people. And, believe me, that doesn’t work. I know.

The Awful Consequences

De La Mare had earlier tried a similar “publish me” stunt in New York, circling the Empire State Building in his glider before landing in a garbage bin outside a police station and being arrested. You’d think he would interpret that as God telling him to rethink his direction in life, but he didn’t, and he was arrested in London as well, with a palace spokesman remarking that the struggling author seemed “surprised by the vigor and speed of the police response.”

All things considered, though, De La Mare was lucky: both of his publicity attempts occurred in late 2000, so being arrested was the worst thing that happened to him. Try something like that these days and you’d be shot down by drones before you could say “Guantanamo.” It doesn’t work out that well for everyone.

1. Being Sent to a Thai Prison

In 2009, Australian lecturer and writer Harry Nicolaides was arrested in Thailand. Most foreigners who get arrested in Thailand at least get to enjoy some drugs shortly beforehand, but Nicolaides’ crime was far less enjoyable: several years earlier, he’d self-published a novel that contained a passage obliquely insulting the Thai royal family. This happens to be totally against the law in Thailand, where the king is revered as semi-divine. Seriously, it’s like going to a World Coffee Fan Convention and declaring that you prefer decaf Nescafe. You just don’t do it.

According to Heath Dollar, an old friend of Nicolaides’, the decision to break the law was a deliberate attempt to be arrested. Nicolaides, Dollar said, had confessed to him in the past that he believed the key to getting a publishing deal was creating a publicity stunt. He’d even admitted to Dollar that the anti-monarchy passage was a deliberate way to drum up talk about the novel.

The Awful Consequences

Nicolaides’ stunt happened during a particularly harsh crackdown on printed “we hate the king” material. The writer was denied bail and sentenced to three years in a Thai prison, a place that ranks up there with “bovine anti-diarrhea-drug testing facility” in the category of places you probably don’t want to stay for three years. He was released after six months, but unless being kept in a crowded, unhygienic cell with murderers and rapists does a lot for your creative-writing juices, it still probably wasn’t worth it.

Here, I should also note that Nicolaides denied Dollar’s accusation that the passage was a publicity stunt and accused Dollar of making up the story so that he could further his own writing career. So I guess the next step is for someone to accuse me of inventing the entire Thai royal family to get another entry for this article. Come on, has anyone you know actually been to “Thailand”? Wake the hell up, people.

 

5 Book Marketing Stunts That Backfired Spectacularly

 

 

 

 

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Now! Learn How to Conquer Your Writer’s Block and Summon Inspiration (In E-Book Form)

We at SilverHart really appreciate great resources for helping authors – we’re back again with KM Weiland

The one essential of the writing life is inspiration. You’ve got to keep those ideas flowing–or you’re out of luck. We’ve all battled writer’s block from time to time, and, brother, it ain’t very much fun. So what if I told you I knew a way to beat writer’s block 99.9% of the time?

It’s simple, really. All you have to do is create a lifestyle that nurtures creativity. When you learn how to fuel your mental, emotional, and inspiration tanks throughout the day, you’ll never run dry when it’s time to sit down and write.

But as you’ve no doubt discovered: that can be easier said than done.

Life has the totally endearing quality of derailing even the best of our plans, and as a writer, that can lead you to some serious episodes of banging your head against your keyboard when the words just refuse to come. It’s funny (or maybe not) that some of the most popular #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen tags I share on Facebook and Twitter are the ones about writer’s block:

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Now! Learn How to Conquer Your Writer’s Block and Summon Inspiration (In E-Book Form)

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50 Writing Tools: Quick List as Handy Reference

Use this quick list of 50 Writing Tools as a handy reference. Copy it and keep it in your wallet or journal, or near your desk or keyboard

I. Nuts and Bolts

1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
Make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right.

2. Order words for emphasis.
Place strong words at the beginning and at the end.

3. Activate your verbs.
Strong verbs create action, save words, and reveal the players.

4. Be passive-aggressive.
Use passive verbs to showcase the “victim” of action.

5. Watch those adverbs.
Use them to change the meaning of the verb.

6. Take it easy on the -ings.
Prefer the simple present or past.

7. Fear not the long sentence.
Take the reader on a journey of language and meaning.

8. Establish a pattern, then give it a twist.
Build parallel constructions, but cut across the grain.

9. Let punctuation control pace and space.
Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think.

10. Cut big, then small.
Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.

II. Special Effects

11. Prefer the simple over the technical.
Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity.

12. Give key words their space.
Do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect.

13. Play with words, even in serious stories.
Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands.

14. Get the name of the dog.
Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.

15. Pay attention to names.
Interesting names attract the writer and the reader.

16. Seek original images.
Reject cliche and first-level creativity.

17. Riff on the creative language of others.
Make word lists, free-associate, be surprised by language.

18. Set the pace with sentence length.
Vary sentences to influence the reader’s speed.

19. Vary the lengths of paragraphs.
Go short or long — or make a “turn”– to match your intent.

20. Choose the number of elements with a purpose in mind.
One, two, three, or four: Each sends a secret message to the reader.

21. Know when to back off and when to show off.
When the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate.

22. Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
Learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both.

23. Tune your voice.
Read drafts aloud.

III. Blueprints

24. Work from a plan.
Index the big parts of your work.

25. Learn the difference between reports and stories.
Use one to render information, the other to render experience.

26. Use dialogue as a form of action.
Dialogue advances narrative; quotes delay it.

27. Reveal traits of character.
Show characteristics through scenes, details, and dialogue.

28. Put odd and interesting things next to each other.
Help the reader learn from contrast.

29. Foreshadow dramatic events or powerful conclusions.
Plant important clues early.

30. To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers.
To propel readers, make them wait.

31. Build your work around a key question.
Good stories need an engine, a question the action answers for the reader.

32. Place gold coins along the path.
Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle.

33. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Purposeful repetition links the parts.

34. Write from different cinematic angles.
Turn your notebook into a “camera.”

35. Report and write for scenes.
Then align them in a meaningful sequence.

36. Mix narrative modes.
Combine story forms using the “broken line.”

37. In short pieces of writing, don’t waste a syllable.
Shape shorter works with wit and polish.

38. Prefer archetypes to stereotypes.
Use subtle symbols, not crashing cymbals.

39. Write toward an ending.
Help readers close the circle of meaning.

IV. Useful Habits

40. Draft a mission statement for your work.
To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.

41. Turn procrastination into rehearsal.
Plan and write it first in your head.

42. Do your homework well in advance.
Prepare for the expected — and unexpected.

43. Read for both form and content.
Examine the machinery beneath the text.

44. Save string.
For big projects, save scraps others would toss.

45. Break long projects into parts.
Then assemble the pieces into something whole.

46. Take interest in all crafts that support your work.
To do your best, help others do their best.

47. Recruit your own support group.
Create a corps of helpers for feedback.

48. Limit self-criticism in early drafts.
Turn it loose during revision.

49. Learn from your critics.
Tolerate even unreasonable criticism.

50. Own the tools of your craft.
Build a writing workbench to store your tools.

50 Writing Tools: Quick List as Handy Reference

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