Write Tips: How To Check The Ego & Be A Better Artistic Citizen With Fellow Creatives

You know, watching Celebrity Apprentice, a guilt pleasure, has actually brought back unpleasant memories this year of my days working in theatre and why I burned out. There’s something that happens when you get creative people together that can be very unpleasant: a clash of the titans, I mean, egos. If you’re artistic, you’re passionate, if you’re passionate, you’re ego driven, and if you’re ego driven, and Western, in particular, you’re likely an individualist. Those three traits combine to make collaboration a challenge for most of us. It can be hard enough dealing with editors, publishers and critics commenting on our ideas, our art, etc., but to have to create with someone equally driven and deal with their opinions too can just push you over the edge. But art is often, at its best, in collaboration. So proper care and feeding of the ego is important.

This post is not as much about how to collaborate well as how to be a decent artistic citizen, let’s get that straight, How to be professional and courteous when working with others, i.e. how to play nice.

1  ) Respect Others’ Gifts. You are not the only gifted person on Earth. It’s best to remember that. Think back to the last time you wrote embarrassing prose. Yesterday? The day before? Everyone writes crap, no matter how experienced or trained you are. Sometimes it’s quickly overcome and tossed aside, other times it consumes your frustrating day. You’re not above it, so before you pump up the ego and get cocky, give yourself a little flashback. Nothing tames the ego like a reminder of your own frailty.

2 ) Remember Your Last Bad Review. We all have gotten them. We all dislike them, even when they teach us stuff. It’s just not fun to have someone criticize a piece of your heart. Before Mister or Miss Ego mouths off to someone else, try to remember what it feels like to get a bad review. That ought to temper your words or at least slow you down enough to think before you speak.

3 ) Check Your Motives. Why are you there at that moment interacting with those fellow artists? Did you get invited or did you choose to come? What value can the interaction provide you? Unless they’re crashing a hot date, chances are, they’re there for a reason and you should take advantage of the opportunity to network and build relationships. These could be the people who recommend your work, vote for you in future awards or introduce you to your next publisher or agent, after all. No artist is really in competition with another. Our selling point is our unique voice. And, in the end, networking is so key to everyone’s success that we all need each other, so check your motives and remember that.

4 ) Your Art May Be About You But The World Isn’t. Yeah, sorry, the world doesn’t revolve around you. Ask the biggest names you know: Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Kris Rusch, etc. They’re all quite secure in their gifts and their goals and yet, they’re nice and respectful toward others. Why? Because they know that they are one of many: many have gone before them and many will come after. You can make a choice: do you want to be remembered well or badly? It’s your call.

5 ) Learning Rarely Occurs In A Vacuum. Sure, working out the nitty-gritty issues with craft can occur on your own in your office or studio, but chances are the interaction which gave you the insight needed to know where and how to make improvements in your craft came through interaction with others. People speak into our world all the time unexpectedly and without even being aware of it. If you view every opportunity to interact with other creatives as a potential learning opportunity, the chance to get better at what you do–even if it’s learning from someone else’s mistakes or wrong thinking–then your attitude during such encounters will adjust accordingly.

6 ) You Can Control Yourself, Not Anyone Else. Okay, so one of the other creatives is being an egomaniac jerk. So what? You can’t control their behavior, you can only control your own. If it gets too bad, you can always leave, yes. If it’s someone with whom you have a good relationship, you can try to pull them aside and let them know. But beyond that, it’s out of your control. Don’t let it stress you out or change your behavior. They’re the one who’ll really suffer from their behavior in the long run as long as you stay out of it. Remember what you can control and let go of the rest.

7 ) Listen More Than You Speak. One of the best ways to control that ego is to let someone else talk more than you do. Look at the interaction as an opportunity to practice listening skills. For most creatives, listening is key to learning things which we’ll later try to capture in our art. So…look at the opportunity you have to listen first and talk later. Make sure when you do speak that what you have to say matters. People who feel you’re listening to them are much more likely to listen to you anyway.  And frankly, the less you speak, the less chance you have of saying something dumb, right? Especially if your ego is making you tense.

Ultimately, any successful creative’s career involves interacting with other creatives and those who support them. My experience in television and film was that the most successful and longstanding people in Hollywood were the nicest. The ones who’d just appeared or risen quickly were more likely to be jerks. There’s always exceptions but that tended to be the trend. From my experience so far in publishing, I’d tend to say the same rules apply. I’ve already met people who fall into both categories. What about you? The best advice I ever got on entertainment came from Ted Danson, off the cuff, after I’d interviewed him one day. He said: “Always surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you the truth. You’ll get lots of people telling you how great you are all the time in this business, but what you need is someone who’s still willing to tell you when you’re being an asshole.”

Good advice for all of us, if you ask me. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

 

Write Tips: The Road Back To Discipline With Social Media

Well, this is a departure from my usual Write Tips post and I hope I don’t bore everyone, but I have a writing related issue to discussed and I thought I’d include it in tips because it might be useful to others. I’ve blogged about this before in Write Tips, the need for discipline to be consistent across the spectrum of one’s life to avoid distractibility from one area corrupting the others. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who struggles with discipline, and I find myself guilty of that very issue, so I am putting myself on the road back to discipline. I have been getting less wordage in lately than I used to manage. 1200 words if I’m lucky, 700 if I’m not. When I need to be getting 2-3k words a day for all the projects I’m working on. I also need to be more focused on the freelance editing work. Right now, those gigs are temporarily on hold with other people doing their thing before they start-up again, but I have struggled through some projects the past six months and realized I needed a better work ethic to avoid stress. I haven’t seen any major mistakes, thankfully, but I don’t want to see them either. So off on the road back I go.

There are several things besides my ongoing battle with depression and my ADHD which play a part in this. I am also facing a major diet which starts tomorrow, and so the timing is good to be more disciplined as that will require it of me as well. Other factors include computer issues wherein my computer freezes for odd periods and makes it impossible to do anything, thus requiring me to wait. I think I may lose 2 hours a day on this several times a week. Also, my exercise routine with the dogs fell off, which means less energy, so I must build that regular one hour walk back into the schedule. The dogs will appreciate that as much as I will. Additionally, my social media time, which I’ve found invaluable for networking, maintaining and building relationships and marketing, nonetheless has gotten a bit out of control.

For one thing, my Facebook was unmanageable. My Twitter feed is not much better. And Google+, which I’ve never warmed to is a mess so much that I stopped adding people two months ago, plus I had some blog issues for almost a month. With the blog issues recently resolved, I decided to start with social media, so I converted my 1100+ followers on Facebook to fans by making my Facebook profile an Author Page, deleted the old author page, and am rebuilding a Facebook Profile from scratch. The advantages are: 1) no timeline. Somehow when you reset your profile, timeline doesn’t come back in the new one until you choose it. I don’t plan to do so; 2) Friend Groups. Trying to keep up with anyone in a feed from 1100+ “friends” and groups on top of that became impossible long ago.

By starting over, I am admitting only a few “friends” at a time and grouping them as “Family,” “Close Friends,” “Friends” and “SFF People.” I also allow no subscribers. This will allow me to control my feed by posting to each group or to everyone. I can talk politics and religion with those whom I enjoy that interaction and stop having the frustrating and often irritating, meaningless debates with others with whom I don’t enjoy the interaction on those topics. I have stopped discussing them to a point in general, but I’m rather tired of having people feel the need to lambast my views or blast me with theirs, especially total strangers who subscribe, so I am putting the brakes on that and reining it in. Additionally, publishing and SFF business can be restricted to the group who care about such things without bothering others. I still have my author page which many people will follow, and my fans, old classmates who never speak with me, and strangers can either stay with that or leave. Someday, that page may reflect popularity if I succeed as editor and author but for now it frees me up to keep people informed of what I want and reserve privacy for what they don’t need to know.

Because I can only add people a few at a time, it will take me a while to sort through and reassemble my profile “friends,” but at least I already am enjoying the easier walls for each group and feeling less out of control. I lost all my games in progress but many of the ongoing ones had reached the boredom point. Scrabble can just pick up with new games, so I’m fine with that. Other than Scrabble, they’re all probably just distractions I don’t need anyhow.

I will maintain the SFFWRTCHT group and The Saga Of Davi Rhii page as well as my new author page. I will update them as appropriate and run contests, etc. But my more personal or controversial posts will stay with the new profile and the select groups I wish to share them with. I hope then less time can be spent in meaningless debate and  going-nowhere discussions and thus more time productively elsewhere.

This will be a good step in the right direction toward greater writing productivity, I hope. After all, I still have Twitter Lists to tackle to try to manage that feed. And I will have to sort out whether Google+ is part of my future or my past. I refuse to join Foresquare and Pinterest because I just don’t need another time swallowing social media outlet. I know some people love them, but I think no one really needs to know where I am all the time for one (Foresquare) and Pinterest looks like a lot of work I just don’t need at all.

I still have my regular blogging duties her, at SFSignal,  Grasping For The Wind, Ray Gun Revival and Adventures In SF Publishing, and with another blog tour coming up, and many Cons, I just don’t need to be scrambling or wasting time. I need to be focused. So I’ll report back on the results of my new strategies and how my routine falls into place. I am a creature of habit, and I really to work better with routine. Just in case, I also downloaded Cold Turkey, a program which allows you to lock out various programs to avoid being distracted. Once it’s initiated it cannot be reset, so if you change your mind when Facebook or Twitter are blocked, tough toodles. You’re stuck. Have to put that energy elsewhere. I know other writers who use it and I want it on hand if I find I might. I wonder if they have something similar for cable TV. I have had to stop watching my morning routine, including The Price Is Right and Live With Kelly, because that’s my prime writing time. Now if I can get off Facebook and use that time to write, I might actually be productive again before noon. Wouldn’t that be grand?

How do you discipline yourselves? How do you handle social media time? What would you do differently? Has anyone tried my approach? What path have you taken on the road back to discipline? I’d love to hear your thoughts. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Write Tips: 8 Copyediting Tips For Writers

It’s common wisdom that writers make terrible self-editors, even those of us who edit for others on a regular basis professionally. It’s a natural thing given the passions at play. Writers get so close to their work that it’s easy to gloss over missed words, typos, etc. We know what we meant to say and the mind just fills it in. Plus, you can only reread the same words so many times in a row without losing focus. But copyediting is an important step in the process. And when you get to the final stages of preparation for publication, you’ll face the need to review your manuscript one final time to make sure it’s right. After all, you have to live with the results ever after. So here’s 8 Tips I’ve learned from trial and error which have helped me when it comes to copyediting my own work.

1 ) Take Your Time — It’s easy to be impatient and rush. After all, copyediting isn’t the most exciting stage of the process. And again, you’ve already been over it so many times, the words just start blending together. But this is your last chance to avoid embarrassing mistakes you might regret later. So work at the pace you need to in order to pay attention to the details, even if that means taking a break every few pages.

2 ) Read It Aloud — I don’t sit down and read every word of my novels out loud. That’s hard to find time for. But I have friends who do that. I do read aloud scenes after I write them, and I read aloud passages which pop out at me in later drafts. If it raises a question mark, I read it aloud.  Run-on sentence? Read it aloud and see if you run out of breath. Awkward phrasing? Read it aloud and you’ll know for sure. Missing punctuation? Reading aloud will verify that, too.

3 ) Print It Out — Yes, I know. Cartridges and paper cost money. But if your galleys don’t come printed, it’s a good idea to print them yourselves. If you spend as much time each day staring at a computer screen as I do, you’ll understand how your eyes can begin to glaze over after a while and really affect your concentration. Copyediting required solid focus and full attention. Having the whole page in front of you without the back lighting, can really help you with this. It also makes it easier to get context and catch repetitive words or phrases. You can read aloud without scrolling. And you can flip back more easily to compare passages if the need arises.

4 ) Posture Makes A Difference — When you’re dealing with details and need focus, it’s not the time to lay on your bed or relax in a lounge chair. This posture sends signals to your body that it’s time to relax and your attention span tends to relax along with it. Seated in a good, straight-backed chair at a desk or table is a much better place for copyedits. It sends signals to your mind that it’s time to be alert and pay attention. And it really can make it easier to get the focus you need.

5 ) Plan Your Time — Through trial and error you probably have learned when your best creative times are; when you’re at your finest focus and most productive. Right after lunch when you’re needing a nap, for example, is not the time for detail work. Neither is anytime you’re riled up emotionally (angry, sad, frustrated, elated, etc.) For me, my most focused creative time tends to be from 7 a.m. to 12 noon daily. I get occasional spurts between 3 and 7 at night as well. But mornings are the times I can get the most done, so they are sacred for writing. Additionally, I edit well during the 3-7 window, post-nap and 1 mile walk with my dogs. So that is a time when I can concentrate well enough to take on editing, if my writing time was needed for wordcount that day. Experiment. Find your ideal times and guard them zealously. Plan appropriately so your copyediting will be most effective.

6 ) If It’s Not Obvious, Make A Note — There’s nothing worse than having an editor or publisher ask you questions about your copyedits and not being able to remember what you were thinking at the time. Some edits are obvious on the page. Others are not. Don’t count on your memory to keep it straight. There may be a delay before your editor or publisher has time to go through them, and if you’ve moved all your focus on to another project, you may not remember why you did what you did. If the change is not self-evident at the time you make it, write  a note for future reference.

7 ) It’s Called CopyEdits Not ReWrites — All writers have a tendency to be their own worst critics. Typos, grammar, etc. are obvious copyedits. So are repetitive words and unclear passages. But what if you suddenly decide your writing is subpar and get an urge to start fixing a lot more? Your editor and copyeditor have put a lot of time into this, and your manuscript has been approved for moving through the final stages. It costs money and time. They are not going to be enthusiastic about having to start over from scratch. In fact, they have other projects and deadlines and probably don’t have the time. Turning in a copyedited manuscript that’s so marked up it’s practically a new draft does not impress them with your diligence. Instead, it may piss them off. So remember, it’s a copyedit, not a rewrite. If something really bothers you and it’s a complicated change, include it in your notes and inquire about it later. They will happily change anything that you validly point out is worth fixing. But copyedits are for tweaking, not page by page redrafts.

8 ) Take Pride In Your Accomplishment — You, more than anyone, know the work that’s gone in to get you to this moment. So many people can only dream of sitting there looking at galleys of their about to be published work. It may not be perfect, but that doesn’t negate the significance of the accomplishment, so it’s okay to enjoy it. Allow the butterflies to dance in your stomach and enjoy seeing your work looking like real book at last. It’s come a long way, so don’t forget to enjoy the moment and be proud of yourself. You deserve it.

Well, those are 8 Tips for Self-Copyediting which I’ve picked up through trial and error as both author and editor. I hope they help you be more effective in the process. Have I left any out? What do you do that I haven’t mention? I’d love to have you mention them in comments so we can all learn from each other. Writers helping writers is what my Write Tips series is all about. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tips: The Power Of Diligence

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Steve Martin talks about how important diligence has been to his success. And the website Study Hacks, which explores how some people succeed and others don’t explores his comments. I also recently read that a high percentage of Robert Frost’s most acclaimed poems were written after he’d reached the age of 50. That got me thinking how important diligence is to the writer’s journey.

If anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, the writing life is a lifelong journey. The day you stop learning new things or striving to get better, you might as well close up shop because that’s what it’s all about. Through all the rejections, all the bad reviews, all the starving days, all the tribulations of artistic life, only one thing is sure: you can always get better. You’ll know know everything.

That’s why diligence is so vital for success as a writer.

If someone as respected and famous as Robert Frost did his best work in his later years, if someone like Steve Martin values diligence, how can we not ask ourselves to be diligent too?  You can only be the best you can be at any moment. But if you continue to grow and learn, i.e. through diligence, you can get better and better. And, like Frost, the highlights of your career can come later in life. Martin won two Grammys for his banjo albums, both well into his career as movie star, post-career as standup comedian. He’d been playing banjo for 50 years when he won one of them. Now that’s diligence.

How successful do you want to be? Do you want a career or just a hobby? One requires diligence, one doesn’t. Period. To do anything artistic well, one must constantly reexamine and strive to improve technique, craft, etc. No one’s perfect and there’s always room to grow as an artist. There’s a reason writers talk about the “writer’s journey.” There’s also a reason you don’t hear successful authors say “the journey is over.” In fact, many would say “my writer’s journey’s just begun.”

Think of writers like George R.R. Martin, who is writing a 7 book series but taking more than a decade to do it. The gaps between books are years, not because he intends to drive readers and his publisher to distraction, but because he’s diligent. He wants to get it right. Would anyone begrudge him that? To me, there’s something to be admired in that kind of dedication. It’s a level of intensity I sometimes wish I could match. On the other hand, GRRM has more financial security as a writer than I do and I wonder if I’d survive such long periods between paychecks. Still, I admire his dedication and diligence in writing it the best it can be and doing it the way he needs to in order to get there.

To do anything well, one must be willing to work hard. Some times working hard means different things for different people. For some, certain things come more easily than for others. I have writer friends like Jay Lake who turn in what they call “clean first drafts.” Others of us spend days going over copyedits. I think these are things one can improve on with time. I know some who struggle with POV and description, while others roll intricate flowery emotional prose off their keyboards like breathing air. (I hate them for it, don’t you?) Some are stronger on science than character. Some are stronger on dialogue than plot. Part of being human is to be imperfect. It’s not a crime. It’s a challenge. But it’s a challenge that can be overcome with diligence.

It’s a cliche, I suppose, to say anything worth having is worth working for, but in a sense, that’s just truth. The writers whose careers last decades are known for diligence: Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Anne Rice, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, Stephen King, Peter Straub, etc. All have worked hard to perfect their craft. All write with great discipline and take advantage of every opportunity. All produce multiple books and stories every year. And all will tell you it’s hard work and that they are always seeking to improve.

For me, part of following their example is modeling myself after their efforts. I am diligently blogging, writing, and networking. I am diligently educating myself about this business. I am diligently reading to be aware of what’s come before and who’s writing what. And I am diligently studying storytelling, craft, prose, etc. to understand how others do it well and improve my own work in the process.

How’s your diligence? Is it a priority for you? Are you in it for the long haul or short run? Good questions to ask, I think. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012 along with his book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing and the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novel for author Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Legacy), a historical book for Leon C. Metz (The Shooters, John Wesley Hardin, The Border), and is now editing Decipher Inc’s WARS tie-in books for Grail Quest Books.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

 

Write Tip: Cat Rambo’s Developmental Editing Checklist

One way to be sure your manuscript is ready to submit is to make sure you get a good developmental edit. Now unless you’re making a lot of money already, paying someone may be out of the question. Most submissions editors will reject anything that’s not at least ninety percent there. They do line edits, proofing and fact checks, not developmental edits. So the onus is on you. If you’re like me, being close to your work, can prevent you from not only knowing what questions to ask but having the objectivity needed to view your work well. Some sort of guide would make a big difference.

In her Editing Basics class, Author-Editor Cat Rambo (Fantasy Magazine) offers the following checklist for doing a good multi-pass Developmental Edit yourself. Cat suggests a multi-pass approach to allow yourself to address various aspects one at a time instead of trying to catch-all in one pass. The checklist is broken out by pass type. But before you begin the checklist, ask yourself the following questions:

1) What works and what doesn’t overall? (Make a list)

2) What is the story? Can you sum it up in a few sentences? If not, there’s a problem.

3) Look at the first and last page. Do they hook the readers in 13 lines or less? Does the story end strong?

 

Once you’ve addressed these basics, you’re ready for the more detailed Developmental edits. Be sure and ask questions down to a scene level, not just about the whole manuscript.

 

Character Pass:

1) Are the characters likeable?

2) Are the characters acting or reacting?

3) Can readers identify with the characters?

4) Does the reader know what the character wants?

5) Are there too many characters? Can any be combined?

6) What are the missed opportunities?

7) Where don’t we understand what the character is doing?

8 ) Where can we go deeper into the character’s head?

9) Is the dialogue interesting and informative of character?

10)  Can the reader put themselves inside the story?

 

Story Pass:

1) Is the ending set up in a satisfying way? Is it the result of character actions?

2) Does the story make sense or are pieces missing?

3) How does the story move? (Is pacing good?)

4) Should pieces be removed? (And what should be done with them?)

5) What are the secondary story lines and are they delivered on?

 

World Pass:

1) Is the world clear?

2) Does it feel generic? (Is it?)

3) Does it make sense?

4) How important is the science of it?

5) Where should we know more?

6) Are the facts right? (Light fact-checking)

7) Where can the world come forward more?

8 ) How are things ordered? Point A to Point B? Or more like Momento or Pulp Fiction?

9) How hard does it make things for the reader and is the effect achieved worth it? (Because if it’s not there for effect, it’s pointless.)

10) How can it be improved overall?

11) Are the conventions consistent?

12) Where are the info dumps and what strategies surround them?

 

Chapter Level:

1) Do the chapters make sense structurally?

2) Does something happen over the course of each chapter?

3) Does the POV change over the course of the chapter? (Should it?)

4) Is the Prologue or Epilogue necessary?

5) Is head hopping an issue?

6) How do you make the book match conventions?

 

Making these four Developmental Editing passes enables you to focus on specific aspects of your manuscript and strengthen them each in turn. You can be sure you’ll cover other aspects in other passes and thus free yourself to really focus in.  I hope this helps you improve your editing strategies not just for your own work but in helping others.  What are the questions and approaches you use to self-edit? I’d love to have you share them in comments. And if the checklist still isn’t enough, consider taking one of Cat’s fine classes. They are well worth the money and the time.

For what it’s worth…


John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. In 2005 she attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. Among the places in which her stories have appeared are ASIMOV’S, WEIRD TALES, CLARKESWORLD, and STRANGE HORIZONS, and her work has consistently garnered mentions and appearances in year’s best of anthologies. Her collection, EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT was an Endeavour Award finalist in 2010 and followed her collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, THE SURGEON’S TALE AND OTHER STORIES.

She has edited anthologies as well as critically-acclaimed Fantasy Magazine, is a board member of feminist science fiction group Broad Universe, a member of the Codex Writers’ Group, and volunteers with Clarion West.

Although no longer actively involved with the game, she is one of the minds behindArmageddon MUD, the oldest roleplay-intensive MUD (an interactive text-based game) on the Internet, which has been described as “like no other mud I have played before“, “the most entertaining game I’ve ever played“, “the most creative, emotionally involved mud on the Net” and “a place of astonishing beauty and detail“. She continues to do some game writing as well as technology journalism and reviews for Publishers Weekly.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: How Not To Use The 9 Free Ways To Market Your Book

Our recent Write Tip on 9 Free Ways To Market Your Book has been popular but people have asked me how NOT to use those techniques, so I thought it appropriate to do a follow up post. First, here’s a refresher on the 9 Free Ways which are:

1 ) Author Site/Blogs 
2 ) Author Profiles/Blog Interviews 
3 ) Goodreads/Library Thing 
4 ) Press Releases
5 ) PSAs 
6 ) Signings 
7 ) Appearances 
8 ) Book Clubs 
9 ) Reading Group Guides 

The previous post goes over how to use those, so I won’t cover that here. Here’s how not to use them:

1 ) Author Site/Blogs — The goal is to create a relationship with readers and other interested parties, but primarily readers. Don’t use your blog and author site to self-aggrandize and totally for sales. Use it instead to reveal yourself. You don’t have to just lay it all out there transparently. In fact, that, in and of itself, may be a big mistake. You have a right and need for privacy. Determine up front where the lines must be drawn and stick to them. A couple areas you might avoid are religion and politics. I rarely blog on these. They only lead people to be offended and possibly lose interest who might otherwise enjoy your books. Unless your books promote your political and religious views, you don’t really need to go there and you’re better off if you don’t. You also don’t want to lambast people. Flame wars may draw traffic but they don’t do it because you’re winning fans. People stare at car wrecks not because they envy those involved but because it’s just hard not to stare. The same is true of flame wars. Don’t get in nasty arguments and back and forth with people. Avoiding controversial topics can help avoid drawing those kinds of comments in the first place.

2 ) Author Profiles/Blog Interviews–Don’t reveal spoilers in your interviews or profiles, unless the book has been out a very long time and you are discussing aspects of craft where it’s relevant. And try and stick to authors and topics where an audience who’d be interested in your book and its genre/topic might find you. It’s okay to reach out to new readers but, seriously, you shouldn’t be on a Christian romance authors blog promoting your paranormal erotic romance, okay? It’s just a waste of time. And don’t lie either. Be honest. At the same time, try and hold back some in interviews. Don’t tell everything to everyone. And find a new way to answer the same old questions. Keep it fresh if you can. You’ll be answering a lot of the same questions again and again at various places. It’s boring for you but it’s all the more so for fans, so try and find new ways to say the same thing and reveal new tidbits with each interview if you can. It’s hard, so hold some things back and give a little each time.

3 ) Goodreads/Library Thing–Great for giveaways and networking with book lovers and fellow authors but these communities tend to give back what you put into them, much like Twitter. They are the most successful giveaway sites, in my experience, for spreading interest and generating reviews. Not so successful, in my experience, for their ads or for generating huge sales numbers. They are a tool to be used with lots of others for spreading the word. It’s important to remember they are about “community.” Door to door salesman are as welcome on Goodreads and Library Thing as anywhere else. Goodreads has the easier interface but both are popular. Approach them as opportunities to share yourself, your love of books, and review and discuss books, genres, trends. Author interviews so far don’t generate a lot of interest in my experience. It’s more about communicating through observing what people do and their observing what you do and say about what you read. Approach them accordingly in both time dedicated to them and how you use them.

4 ) Press Releases–Don’t just copy someone else’s and don’t write blind. There’s an art to this and the goal is give them a ready to print article about you, your book, etc. You want to minimize the work for them so they’ll jump on the opportunity for an easy to prep story. And that takes practice and careful thought and editing. If you can afford it, write the first few drafts, then pay a publicist to fine tune it. There are plenty of independent publicists, like Matt Staggs or Adonna Pruette, who would be happy to assist and charge reasonable fees.  Once you’ve done several and get the format and style down, you may be able to work on your own but I know from experience, your first several press releases will not get the results you need without a professional touch. The difference is startling.

5 ) PSAs–Public Service Announcements are a funny thing. They aren’t as common as they once were but they are indeed true to their name: Public Service. It’s not about sales. It’s about making the public aware of an event which might be of interest/benefit.  Stations can be very selective about the kinds of events which qualify. They make income from selling ads, after all. Library and school events, for example, are far more likely than bookstore events to be accepted. After all, both imply educational content. And both libraries and schools are publicly funded to serve the public. Still, it’s worth checking these out but you will have to write and time the text yourself and be very careful with wording. Again, don’t self-aggrandize and don’t sell. Just inform. If the radio or tv station does you a favor, you need to make it easy and worth their time. If you make them mad or offend, you’ll alienate them from not only PSAs but also other potential opportunities for you.

6 ) Signings–Don’t expect to sell hundreds of books. The average signing is 4-6 from everyone I talk to, unless you’re a bestseller with multiple books. Signings are as much about letting people know you exist and cultivating valuable relationships with bookstores as they are about actually signing and selling books. I’m sure it varies from author to author but especially new and unknown authors need to approach Signings as opportunities to put their best foot forward and network more than selling books. The signings I have done so far have all sold at least 4 books. The most I sold was 11. All of them brought stores who carry and promote my book for me. And all of them brought publicity opportunities in the community I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I also sell other people’s books. My goal at signings is for people to buy something from that store and to make customers feel welcome. Hopefully they buy my book or at least talk to me. But if not, at least I helped the store and the store will want to help me in return.

7 ) Appearances–Appearances are hand-in-hand with signings as networking opportunities. Especially when you get the chance to read or be on a panel, you get the opportunity for people who didn’t know your name or the titles of your book to remember you and learn of your expertise (or at least ability to b.s. really well in public).  The goal is to make a good impression on as many people as you can. You don’t do that by aggressively selling. You do it by being personable, knowledgeable and respectful. You do it by smiling a lot and being warm and friendly. If you can do that while waving a copy of your book subtly in front of yourself, all the better. But high pressure pushy tactics will not bode well for you.

8 ) Book Clubs–These are groups of book lovers who offer two advantages: 1. They go through a lot of books. 2. If they love it, they’ll buy more, recommend it to people and otherwise spread the word. The disadvantage is that some are quite picky and blunt in their response. Do offer to visit or otherwise interact with the group. Do offer group discounts if you can. Free books to group leaders are a good idea if you can afford it, but these are book buyers, so free books aren’t essential to win both interest and loyalty. The most important thing here is to write a good book. If they enjoy it, they’ll take it from there with very little effort on your part. Again, selling is less important than personal connection. Cultivate this as networking for word of mouth, more than an opportunity to sell multiple copies. If it works out, you’ll get both.

9 ) Reading Group Guides–Do not SPOIL. Do not SPOIL. Repeat after me. Reading Group Guides are for Book Clubs and others to stimulate thought and conversation, PERIOD. You do not repeat your story in intimate detail. Do not preach on your themes or message. Your goal is to get them to read thoughtfully and interact on what they’ve read. Help them enjoy the reading experience in a way which will likely result in their wanting to read more and spreading the word.

Well, those are some tips on how NOT to use the 9 Free Ways To Market Your Book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on other cautions, etc. as well as your successes. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: The Importance Of Distance

I know it’s not obvious but I’m not a patient person. I hate waiting. I hate lines. The only form of delay I enjoy is procrastination. I’m awesome with that one. But because of this problems have developed from time to time. I always heard people talk about how important it was to get distance from your work before doing second drafts, etc. I always struggled. So excited about it, caught up. It was hell to put it aside for two or three days, let alone a month or two. And I think some of the criticisms I got in reviews for The Worker Prince reflects that struggle. I see little things I could done better. I know, authors always do that. But I see a few bigger things, too. (Oh, you say, that never happens to me.) Okay. I’m not perfect. Is that what you needed to hear? Feeling good about yourself?

In early November though, I turned in The Returning, my sequel to The Worker Prince, and my publisher was busy with another novel release and I launched immediately into a sword & sorcery book I was chomping at the bit to write. And somehow, I didn’t look at The Returning again until early January, when we started editing it. My beta reader’s feedback had already been incorporated before the publisher got it. So I was feeling pretty confident it was a better book than The Worker Prince. (My goal in life is to improve, just saying). But nonetheless, before I cracked the pages, I compiled a chart of all the negatives from the good reviews The Worker Prince has received and decided to make sure none of them repeated in the sequel.

As I began to go back through, it was fun to rediscover my book. It had been written over nine hellish months during which my now ex was hospitalized five times for mental illness, I lost my part time job, went through divorce, came close to bankruptcy, etc. In other words, a period where I had weeks, even a whole month, of no writing. So I wrote in total chaos. To make matters worse, the plot was complicated and I had fifteen Point of View characters. By the time I was done, I was totally struggling to remember what I’d done earlier. I was sure the book was a complete mess. My beta readers, however, raved and, upon reading The Worker Prince (which I refused to let them do until they were well into The Returning), assurred me this book was better. I didn’t really find it that easy to believe. Until I started back through.

Not saying it’s genius. Not saying it’s Twain. But I did find the book a lot better than I remembered. I also found a lot of conflicting plot holes and repetition and other items needing fixing. Things I didn’t catch on my second pass with beta reader’s notes. Things they didn’t catch. I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t have caught them without that distance. So, yeah, I’m starting to believe even more than I did before that good distance is vital to better writing.

For example, descriptions are a weakness for me. I come from a screenwriting and journalism background so having to wax poetic about setting and emotions is hard for me. I didn’t practice it much until I started with fiction. Much of my rewrites involve looking for opportunities to do this. In fact, I found that I had not even described the various vehicles in my story. Everybody knows what they are from book 1, right? Ha! Never assume. I’ve striven very hard to make book 2 a standalone entry for the series, not requiring people to go back to the first book unless they want to. (I hope they will, I need the sales and it has its own charms, I swear). That was why I wanted betas who hadn’t read the first book. So here I was leaving out vital description. How embarrassing would it have been to leave that out?

Other examples, I found repeated scenes where I did the same thing twice in separate settings. I found extraneous dialogue to cut. I found repetitive word choices. All things it’s so much easier to see with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes also helps me see character arcs and themes better. I find motifs and other elements I can repeat or use to add depth to the story and characters as well.

So, yes, I do believe distancing yourself from your work is vital to good fiction writing. And I think we do ourselves a favor when we force patience and take time away. After all, it writing is an art (and I do strive for it to be), part of the artistic process is seeking excellence. Anything one can do to get better perspective and improve is worth doing. Don’t you think?

What are your experiences with taking time away? Do you have a set period? Do you ignore the advice? Has it helped you? Hindered you? Frustrated you? I’d love to discuss it more in comments. I’m sure there’s a lot more to say but those are my thoughts for now. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 12 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: Five Tips For Social Media Promotion Success

This post originally ran as part of the blog tour for my debut novel, The Worker Prince,  at the blog of Patty Jansen.

Social Media has taken over the world, or at least parts of it. Its rise in popularity has been stunning. It’s literally changed the way most of us use the web forever. And that’s no exaggeration. Of course, along with it, Social Media has risen to be one of the most important tools for promotion, especially self-promotion. Yet a challenge remains: finding a delicate balance between self-promotion and alienation. How can you promote yourself well and still keep followers happy? How can you avoid being obnoxious? Here’s some suggestions from one who’s spent a lot of time and effort studying that very thing.

First, Social Media is called Social for a reason. Your focus needs to be on socializing not selling. The key to Social Media success, no matter what you do with it, is networking and relationships. When authors ask me when to start Social Media so they can promote their forthcoming book, my response is: you haven’t already? I started two years before my book came out. And I had almost no work to promote. Instead, I built friendships, learned who was out there, what people were doing, and supported and promoted them. My focus was not on me, it was on others. And that’s key to Social Media success. Making it all about you is the quickest route to obnoxious failure. Making it about community is the quickest route to success.

Second, Social Media sites are communities. Yep, I repeated myself. That’s okay, because this point is important. The key to Social Media success is providing useful content people will enjoy and value. The quickest route to that, before you’ve found your own niche, is to retweet the links and content of others. If you read it, and it’s valuable to you, share it. If someone’s doing something cool, let people know. Take the time to pass it on. People will remember. And they will reciprocate. And if you have established a history and reputation for supporting your community, your community will support you.

Third, support people with praise. If someone succeeds at something, congratulate them. It takes seconds to do it. It feels good. You’ve been on the receiving end, right? So I don’t have to tell you. Let people know you care what’s happening with them by responding with support. If they’re having a hard time, encourage them. If they’re succeeding, congratulate them. If they write something cool or send something useful, pass it on. It’s all about community.

Fourth, self-promote with care. I send out the same self-promotion tweet no more than twice a day. This may be supplemented by Retweeting or posting something someone else says, yes. But that’s them tooting my horn, not me. If I have several things to promote (I run more than one blog, for example), I will still only do two a day per item I am promoting. I do once in the morning and once at night to catch both crowds. I cross post from Twitter to Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and that’s it. The rest of my Social Media day is spent either encouraging, supporting or spreading the word as described in the points above. It’s not all about me. It’s not obnoxious. My friends know I have projects I am excited about. Many of them are in the same position and doing similar promotion. Being with a small press, they also know I may tweet a bit more about it than they do. It’s okay. Small measure is fine. Posting twelve or fifteen times a day about it, that’s obnoxious.

Fifth, wording matters. Use your sense of humor. Use humility. Don’t be pushy. When you do self-promote, do it in a way that’s not obnoxious in presentation. People don’t mind you letting them know your stuff exists. You have a right to be proud of your accomplishments. You have a right to want to share it. But if you’re obnoxious about it, they will mind. Most won’t even bother with it.

Okay, so there you have five tips for Social Media Self-Promotion success. Really, five tips for Social Media success, I hope. I wish you the greatest success in your Social Media endeavors. And hey, in case you’re interested, I wrote a book.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Book Sell Sheets

In our previous Write Tips post, we talked about Why Your Book Needs A Sell Sheet How To Make One. This time, let’s focus on how to use the Sell Sheets once you have one.

Right off the bat, here are some ways you can put Sell Sheets to work:

1) Market To Bookstores — When given to bookstores and libraries, Sell Sheets help get your books on their shelves. That’s their purpose. And by creating one for each book and describing the book in context of your qualifications and publishing experience, you are selling yourself along with your book. It’s about credibility. And professional marketing materials add a lot to credibility. Every bookstore that I approached with Sell Sheet in hand was willing to discuss ordering my books and doing signings. I have yet to encounter one who didn’t take me seriously after seeing my Sell Sheet for The Worker Prince. They knew I was professional and taking it seriously and those are the kind of authors they want to do business with.

Adonna spoke with a bookstore manager to get an opinion from the other side of the counter for us. “According to a large independent bookstore manager that I interviewed for this post, he felt that the sell sheet gave him something in hand to refer to later when he had the time to consider whether or not to carry the book. Remember, the employees can be busy doing any number of things when you walk in and may not have half an hour to discuss your title with you. *You*, however, came prepared because you have in hand the very thing they will need later when making their purchase decisions – all of the information about your title on a neat and handy little paper. The manager stated that the first two things he looks for are the book’s cover (attractive? appealing? sellable?) and if the book would be available through his current book distributors (Ingram, etc.). Overall, he felt that unknown books that had a sell sheet with all of the pertinent information on it received more consideration than ones that did not.”

2) Market To Libraries — As mentioned by Librarian John Klima in our write tip on How To Get Your Book Noticed By Librarians Or Not, getting a library to buy your books is tough. Sell Sheets are a great tool to make them aware of your books value for them and their community. They’re something you can give to them as you stop by to introduce yourself and offer to do events if they ever need local authors. And something you can leave behind to remind them when they’re thinking about making the next book order. Remember, don’t hand them the book itself. Don’t ask them to evaluate it on the spot. As John told us, if you make them aware of the reviews and other information in a non-pressure way, it’s much more effective. Your word isn’t enough. Your being nice isn’t either. And it’s even better if you can do it at a ALA meeting or outside the library. Because they get way too many authors walking in trying to get libraries to stock their books already and most of them are crap. Don’t throw on the sales pitch either. Talk to them like a person. Relate to them. Share their love of books. Find out what they like in books. Find out what they like in having authors visit the library. But be subtle. Not pushy.

3) Increase Author Appearances — You can use Sell Sheets to get more opportunities for readings, book signings, lectures and other author appearances. Sell Sheets can showcase your qualifications and experiences to conference planners, event organizers, stores and media and that gets you noticed when those people are looking for speakers and presenters. Make sure that if you are available for those that you explicitly say so on the sheet and remember to put your direct contact info.

According to Adonna, “Go ahead and ask the bookstore manager when you talk with them about your book (with sell sheets and a copy of the book in hand of course) if they currently allow book signings in their store. Find out what requirements they have for those and how far out they are booked up. If they do let you have a signing, expect to help promote it in within your community and on local event calendars and such. In any case, make sure that you leave a copy of your sell sheet behind with the employee that you spoke with.”

4) Sell More Books To Readers – Many authors attend fan cons, book conventions and author events every year but what do you do when the people that are passing by your table aren’t ready (for whatever reason) to buy your book at that time? Adonna suggests: “Hand them your sell sheet while you tell them about it. Flip it over and write something on it that relates to what they have discussed with you (perhaps another book or con that you’ve recommended, the name of a section on your website they may be interested in, etc..) People have a tendency to hang on to things that have human (that’s you) writing on them. See there? Your autograph is good for something important already!”

Note: Take the time to reformat your sell sheet beforehand to remove book distributors, etc. as this wouldn’t apply to marketing directly to readers.

5) Sell Products and Services — If you’re not just an author but an editor or teacher, etc., Sell Sheets are quite cost effective ways to get the word out. You can print them as you need them, customize them for specific markets/audiences, and you can distribute them across a broad base by carrying them with you wherever you go.

6) To Inform The Media — Adonna had some advice for us here. “If you do approach the media regarding your title, a copy of your sell sheet is a great thing to send to them along with a handwritten thank you note for taking the time to speak with you. It will help them to remember your title and more importantly – YOU – for the next time that you are in touch with them. Never underestimate the power of reaching out the old fashioned way, especially in the digital age.”

Additional Tips:

** Book Sell Sheets are best delivered by hand. YOU are part of what helps to sell a buyer on an unknown book: your very own sales force and book cheerleader.

** Try posting them on bulletin boards on college campuses. College students read a lot and if the book looks appealing, they might just pick one up, especially if you modify your Sell Sheet to let them know where to find it.

So get those Book Sell Sheets together and let people know about them. Good luck! We hope these tips were helpful. Big thanks to Adonna Pruette for her help and advice and be sure and remember to check out her special offer below.  And please post links to your finished Sell Sheets in the comments so we can all learn from you and see how you did, ok? For what it’s worth…

Exclusive Offer:

Adonna has agreed to a special offer exclusively for the visitors here.
PR Quick Check $35 – Adonna will check your current sell sheet offering general guidelines as well as give you tips for how to revise and improve it yourself to increase it’s marketing value for bookstores.
PR Sell Sheet Review – If your sheet needs more than just a few tips, she can fix it up for you for a range from $50 – $150 depending on how much work is needed. You will be given a quote before any work is completed.
Custom Book Sell Sheet – Created for your book from scratch for $200 (which is $100 off of the normal fee for this type of detailed service). Contact her at adonna@theauthorpro.com to get started. From DIY help to full service PR, there’s something for everyone in there. You must mention this site in your email to her to get these discounts! Enjoy!


Bio:

Adonna Pruette is a freelance professional publicist that works with fiction authors and publishers to create digital PR as well as traditional media outreach. Her clients range from well known writers like urban fantasy author Faith Hunter (www.faithhunter.net) to debut authors such as Lillian Archer (Twitter: @LilliansBooks). Her online home at TheAuthorPro.com (http://www.TheAuthorPro.com) is her current WIP. You can contact her at adonna AT theauthorpro.com or connect with her on Twitter @PassionMuse.

Contact details:

Website:  http://www.theauthorpro.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorpro

Twitter: @PassionMuse https://twitter.com/#!/passionmuse

Google +: http://bit.ly/Ar7hzi


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

 

Write Tip: Why Your Book Needs A Sell Sheet & How To Make One

Book sell sheets are a key component of publicity for books in traditional publishing. Having a professional sell sheet can help distinguish your book from thousands of others and really help it get noticed. It’s important that it stand out from the crowd, because a mid-size bookstore can receive a hundred or more sell sheets a year. For your book to get noticed, you need to distinguish yourself and your book from the crowd. A professional presentation, careful selection of items to include, and proper placement of wording can make all the difference in the hands of the bookstore’s buyer on the other end.

Although you can do one book sell sheet for whole series, typically a sell sheet exists for each book you release.

Professional book publicist Adonna Pruette explains: “When you are making efforts to promote your new novel, you want to walk into the bookstore with at least two things in hand – your books (buy some to take with you!) and your sell sheet. You want to be able to hand the manager, owner, or book buyer an attractive sheet that will act as an actual sales piece after you leave. It’s wise to spend some time reading up on the basic rules of effective sales copy to make sure that your sell sheet makes the grade. You want to present your book (and yourself) well on paper so that your book can get it’s foot in the door at that bookstore.

“Please remember while you are designing your sell sheet to try and make it as quickly scannable as possible. You aren’t trying to bog them down with a full page of paragraphs. Use color, lists, and boxes where possible and effective to make it a quick read with all of the info that the store needs. The person that you hand this sheet too will read it just as you would – they are going to quickly scan it from top to bottom with their eye stopping briefly on focal points on the way down.”

Let’s cover the basic information suggested or expected, look at some examples, and then talk about how to make your own, okay?

This is the sell sheet for my novel The Worker Prince.  It’s probably easier to just click on it and open a separate screen so you can view it as I go through the elements. I have marked them on the sheet for visual reference. But here’s a breakdown:

Book Sell Sheet Examples1. Book title. Make it big, use the font from the cover and put it at the top. The title of your book is the most important thing on the page. Try the squint test. Look at your sell sheet and squint. Can you see the title really well? Make sure the font is very readable. If not, try adding spacing between the letters o u t just a bit. If that still doesn’t help, then change the font to something similar but more readable than what is on the cover of your book.

2. Sub-title (if you have one). Not as large as the title though.

3. Next, a brief book teaser description. Two paragraphs max. Don’t tell the whole story.  Keep it open ended so they want to find out what happens. Leave them with questions they just have to get answered! Get a friend or fiction loving neighbor to read over your description and see if they want to know more about your book after reading it. Do they start to ask you questions about it? That’s a good tip off for you that it is “just right”.

4. Basic data: book categories, include the number of pages, ISBN (this is super important), all formats available, pricing per format, and publication info. (Stores will use this to look it up right away.)

5. Special honors, especially national ones come next, followed by blurbs or excerpts from reviews which demonstrate your book’s quality or appeal. Use the more well known reviewers or larger book blog review snippets toward the top of your reviews section. You will bold the reviewer’s name or site name to make it stand out more than the review itself usually. This practice will make your sell sheet a much more scannable read.

6. Which book distributors can your book be ordered from, if any? Two of the largest are Ingram Book Company (http://www.ingrambook.com ) and Baker & Taylor ( http://www.btol.com  ). Adonna says that the store will want to know if your book can be ordered along with the normal book order that they place to their suppliers. If not, make sure that complete ordering info is on your sell sheet: Publisher’s name, web address, phone number, and email.

In cases of nonfiction, you may wish to bullet point your platform and what you offer as a speaker and expert here. Why should you be chosen? What do you offer which no one else can? What distinguishes you?

7. CALL THEM TO ACTION: Ask them to order copies and give them the info to do it NOW!

8. Sell yourself, not just the book, with a brief bio and contact info, including 1 or 2 (max) social media accounts.  Make it easy to go directly to you. You’re the one with whom they want a personal relationship. Not just an order desk.

9. If you can’t give them an ARC (they cost money, of course), then tell them how to get a peek inside right now. Tell them where they can read an excerpt in big, bold, colored letters that say FREE.  This also gives them a good reason to hold on to the sell sheet. If they’re intrigued by all of the rest, they’ll look into it.

10. Always include the publisher’s logo, if you have one, and the book cover shot and your photo. Be professional. If your book is traditionally published, even by a small press, this helps it to stand out as gatekeepers have approved it.

Here are links to sample sell sheets. One covers a series, the others individual books.

http://www.iuniverse.com/uploadedFiles/iUniverse/Expert_Advice/Selling_Your_Book/Make_a_Sell_Sheet/iU_LoveWhatYouDo_Sell%20Sheet%208%2028%202009.pdf — Here’s one for a Nonfiction book from iUniverse.

http://www.captainwrite.com/SalesSheet.pdf — This series one was created by my friend, graphic designer Jeana Clark (@jeana_with_a_j on Twitter.)

http://www.beaverspondpress.com/assets/files/Johnson_Sellsheet.pdf — another nonfiction example

http://www.beaverspondpress.com/assets/files/sickbug_sellsheet.pdf — this is fiction

You can create these Sell Sheets in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher fairly easily. Having a publicist create your sell sheet isn’t a necessity but it can be helpful if you still feel lost or unsure about your sell sheet. In my case, publicist Adonna Pruette looked mine over for tweaks after the fact. She also suggested this alternate layout as yet another option:

Book Sell Sheet ExamplesMy version was created using Publisher and Adonna’s using Word. Either way, text and photo boxes and other tools, it’s fairly easy to create one.

Adonna has some final thoughts:

“Your sell sheet is an actual marketing piece. It’s not just a piece of paper that you should throw together haphazardly. After you’re gone, a store employee may see it on the counter three hours later, check out your book info, read it, and then ask the manager to order in a few. This is marketing material will be used over and over again to sell your book to the book buyers. Take your time pulling your sheet together. Make sure it looks really nice. No typos! Color printed (if color adds to your layout). Attention to detail matters here and it just may sell you quite a few books.”

Ok, once you have a Sell Sheet, what do you do with it? Well, that’s what we’ll talk about Monday in Part 2: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Book Sell Sheets. So meantime, get to work on those Sell Sheets. OMG Blogging guy just gave me homework! Why yes, yes, I did.

For what it’s worth…

Additional Resources:

Here’s what Absolute Write says about Sell Sheets: http://absolutewrite.com/novels/sell_sheets.htm.  Independent Book Publisher’s Association offers another resource: http://www.ibpa-online.org/publishers/flyer.aspx. Check http://www.fedex.com/us/office/templates/sellsheets.html for templates.

Exclusive Offer:

Adonna has agreed to a special offer exclusively for the visitors here.
PR Quick Check $35 – Adonna will check your current sell sheet offering general guidelines as well as give you tips for how to revise and improve it yourself to increase it’s marketing value for bookstores.
PR Sell Sheet Review – If your sheet needs more than just a few tips, she can fix it up for you for a range from $50 – $150 depending on how much work is needed. You will be given a quote before any work is completed.
Custom Book Sell Sheet – Created for your book from scratch for $200 (which is $100 off of the normal fee for this type of detailed service). Contact her at adonna@theauthorpro.com to get started. From DIY help to full service PR, there’s something for everyone in there. You must mention this site in your email to her to get these discounts! Enjoy!

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Adonna Pruette is a freelance professional publicist that works with fiction authors and publishers to create digital PR as well as traditional media outreach. Her clients range from well known writers like urban fantasy author Faith Hunter (www.faithhunter.net) to debut authors such as Lillian Archer (Twitter: @LilliansBooks). Her online home at TheAuthorPro.com (http://www.TheAuthorPro.com) is her current WIP. You can contact her at adonna AT theauthorpro.com or connect with her on Twitter @PassionMuse.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: 15 Top New Year’s Reads For Writers

As my Holiday gift to fellow writers, who have been so supportive of the tips offered on this blog, I’ve compiled a list and brief descriptions of 15 really top writing resources to help you move forward in your growth as a writer. Links to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble are included for those who want to purchase the books or just read reviews. With the exception of one series, they’re individual books, organized by category. All on my shelf and well worth your time and money. Thanks again for the support you’ve shown me and this blog in 2011!

Standards:

On Writing by Stephen King — a go to book by a master storyteller. Part autobiography, part examination of craft and writing process. Widely recommended for all writers with good reason.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser — Yes, I know, the subtitle is about writing nonfiction. Don’t let that put you off. An amazing classic on how to write well which every writer of all genres and stripes should have on his or her shelf. Period.

Imaginative Writing: The Elements Of Craft by Janet Burroway — a standard textbook for MFA programs, very useful for any fiction writer. Really in depth examination of the elements of craft with exercises, tips and more.

 

Marketing:

Guerilla Marketing For Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen and David L. Hancock — Great tool to learn marketing on a budget. Walks you through all kinds of promotional resources you didn’t even know you had as well as breaking down the ones the pros use and how to plan your PR campaign like a pro. Very useful tool with great resources in the appendices as well.

Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore — great marketing book on the psychology of successful marketing and pushing through to the next level. A standard in marketing.

Getting Known Before The Book Deal by Christina Katz — A new standard for how to build your platform and audience well before your book’s release. A must read for writers of all levels.

 

Craft:

Screenplay by Syd Field — One of the all time most important books on story structure, often used at film schools, of great use to novelists as well. Learn how to follow the three act structure and develop your plot in a solid, powerful way.

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — written by a leading literary agent with years’ experience selling books and writing them. Agent to many big name authors. A really powerful book for any author on how to make your novel top notch.

Revising Fiction by David Madden — a great book full of tips on how to revise your novel to the minutest detail. Covers anything and everything with good organizational suggests for how to approach it and think through later drafts. Out of print but well worth tracking down used and easy to find.

Writer’s Digest Elements Of Fiction Writing series — a series of books by successful authors like Orson Scott Card, Monica Wood, Nancy Kress and more covering specific elements in each book: Plot, Description, Setting, etc. Very useful tools. Like a classroom in your bookcase.

The 10% Solution: Self-Editing For The Modern Writer by Ken Rand — life changing, hands down. A great, short, concise editing methodology which will improve your writing over night. A must have for writers. The one writing resources I seared in my brain and use daily.

 

Resources:

The Writer’s Guide To Creating A Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier — useful for any writer needing to learn worldbuilding. Although it’s specific to science fiction, the reasoning and tools apply to any genre. Very useful. Also out of print but easy to find used online.

Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide For Authors, Agents and Lawyers by Mark L. Levine — Step by step guide to book contracts covers standard clauses, negotiation, and how to identify what you want and get it. A must read for anyone involved with book contracts by an author who also happens to be an attorney.

English Through The Ages by William Brohaugh — Another out of print gem which covers the origination of English words through history. Helps authenticate your language usage in writing novels set in particular periods, especially historical or fantasy ones. Easy to find used.

I Have This Nifty Idea…Now What Do I Do With It? by Mike Resnick — A collection of book proposals for best selling novels compiled and edited with commentary by Mike Resnick. If you hate writing outlines, proposals, synopses, etc., this is the book for you. How the pros did it. You can emulate it. Can be hard to find. Small press. But well worth the hunt.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 9 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

 

Write Tip: The Importance of Heroines

A modified version of this post first appeared on the blog of author Jeremy Ship on October 27th. A companion piece on heroes appeared around the same time on Adventures In SF Publishing’s blog.

One of the traditional tropes of much science fiction and fantasy has long been the damsel in distress. Naturally, modern women often find such characters hard to relate to. They certainly find them hard to admire. So in revisiting the Golden Age style for my debut science fiction novel, The Worker Prince, one trope I was determined to avoid was the damsel in distress. In the end, I wound up with four strong female characters in major supporting roles. Here’s a break down:

Tela—pilot, slave rebellion leader, young but very smart and very independent.

Miri—Boralian princess, spoiled but yet independent. Refuses to accept the history and philosophy officially espoused by her ruling family, instead educating herself and her son, Davi, with exposure to diverse sources. Unafraid to question. Unafraid to confront her brother, who rules the Boralian Alliance, when necessary.

Lura—slave woman long separated from her husband who disappeared along with their only son, Davi, twenty years before. Nonetheless, she takes care of her sister’s family and stands firm in her faith and conviction and hope for the future.

Kray—sole female member of the ruling Boralian Council, life-long friend of Miri, independent, strong-willed, not intimidated by the powerful men around her.

One advantage in writing strong women characters is that I grew up in a family of strong women. From my mother to my grandmothers to my twin sister, the women in my family were taking no guff, and believe me when I say I tested those boundaries. But you quickly learn to respect women who are not pushovers. It’s amazing to be both loved well and scolded well by the same people. Yet you learn that their passions for both run deep, and it makes you a better man.

To me, the importance of strong heroines is twofold. First, for inspiring young women to grow up to be proud and comfortable and secure in their identities. And second, to raise young men who will respect and appreciate those women for all they have to offer.

Literature is influential. It teaches even as it entertains. If all we provide for young readers are examples of weak heroines, they will, in some way, grow up expecting that’s all they should find in the real world. All human beings have their weaknesses, of course. No two humans are exactly alike, we are all individuals. So writing characters as individuals is vital. And offering examples of the infinite possibilities available to our young people, I believe, is an author’s responsibility. A part of this is modeling behaviors which such strong individuals might exhibit. Being strong women does not automatically mean bitches. That is one old stereotype we can all do without. At the same time, strong women can cry and express a variety of emotions. Showing emotion is not a weakness. It’s just something women in society have learned to do better than men. In many ways, they are fortunate in that opportunity.

For me, the trick to writing strong women is to write them like men. But remember key things. Women are all about communication, especially emotional communication. Whereas men tend to prefer action to show their emotions and don’t tend toward long emotional discussions, those things are the opposite with most women. Of course, women also have different priorities and often different concerns. From child birth to homemaking, etc., women do have different societal expectations to wrestle with than men. Whether your characters go the traditional route or buck the trend, the questions must be asked and answered and can be used in building their characters.

One important clarification point: when I say I write them like men, what I am saying is that if I treat women characters like men in initial approach it’s easier to make them stronger and write them with the same considerations I give male characters. Because I, like many male writers, never claim to understand women, there is a tendency to write weaker women and feel uncomfortable with approach but if I approach them the same as male characters, it becomes easier. Then I apply the key things mentioned to focus on aspects which address femininity and differences like the importance of emotional express and communication and it works well for me. Female readers, at least, respond to it.

There’s also certainly nothing wrong with male heroes rescuing or helping their women. Some women in real life even fantasize a bit about this. But you can have a woman in jeopardy without her being weak and defenseless. Especially in larger than life space opera settings, such as mine, the odds against characters are often larger than life themselves and require teamwork to overcome. A male hero leading the way is not all bad if that character has knowledge the female character would rely on to help get them out of the trouble they’re in. The woman can use her skills as well to contribute and work with the man to extract themselves to safety.

I think the key to keeping heroines strong while still building dramatic situations with real jeopardy and challenges for the characters is to emphasize the individual strengths of the characters and think about how those can be used for each character to react differently to the various circumstances you put them through. It’s also not wrong to have the woman rescue the man sometimes. In my case, having a woman partner who can do that is a big turn on. I like to be taken care of, too. Don’t you?

It doesn’t make me feel week to rely on someone else’s strengths. It make me feel loved and safe, and that’s a good feeling. So employing these things in your story just makes it more relatable for readers. It also makes it more fun and connected to their contemporary reality, and that, when writing in the speculative realms, can only make your stories more accessible and successful.

There are many ways to approach this, of course, but here’s one technique you may find helpful:

Make three lists:

1) Traits typically associated as typically associated with men

2) Traits typically considered associated with women

3) Traits your story will require characters to have

Be sure and write these lists in context of the world you are creating. In other words, if it’s not set in the contemporary world, think through how things might be different in the period/place in which you are writing from the contemporary world in which you live and employ those ponderings in making lists of traits which would exist in that world.

Then pull items from the first two lists to create characters which meet the needs of the third. Consider specifically how these traits can be used to surprise readers, not in a “that’s unbelievable” way but in a “I didn’t expect that way.” Remember, they still have to believe the character could exist. Part of that depends on setting, situation, etc. of course, but don’t overshoot the mark either. You can use traits appropriate to a made up world which might seem different from the contemporary one. You just have to set them up properly through world building. The key here is to be aware of what you are doing and work deliberately to sell it in the context of the story.

So don’t forget about the need for strong heroines. What are some ways you can employ them to make your stories rise above the rest?


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. The sequel to The Worker Prince is forthcoming in 2012, The Returning. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

The Worker Prince is the story of a prince who discovers he was born a slave. When he raises objections about the abusive treatment of slaves, he finds himself in conflict with both friends and families. After a tragic accident, involving the death of a fellow soldier, Davi Rhii winds up on the run. He then joins the worker’s fight for freedom and finds a new identity and new love. Capturing the feel of the original Star Wars, packed with action, intrigue and interweaving storylines, The Worker Prince is a space opera with a Golden Aged Feel. 

4 5-star & 8 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: The Dichotomy Of Writing Life-Dealing With Criticism

Two of the most valuable skills one must cultivate as a writer are being hypersensitive to write passionate, powerful, emotion-filled prose, and having a thick skin to handle criticism. Ironically, these two skills are often diametrically opposed. How can you be thick skinned and sensitive at the same time? In truth, I don’t know anyone who can.

Criticism hurts, no matter who’s giving it or what it says. No one who puts themselves out there, especially artistically–pouring their emotions, thoughts, ideas, and heart into their work–enjoys it when people criticize that work. It’s just hard to hear. Some may claim to be immune, but being used to it and being immune are not the same thing. One can certainly learn to accept that criticism is often a daily, or at least weekly, part of the life of an artist, especially when work is newly released. But I don’t honestly know how one can ever totally get to the point where it doesn’t sting. After all, any serious artist, of whatever medium, works hard to do their best at what they do. From studying craft, learning tools, and experimenting to long hours conceptualizing and planning, serious art takes work.

Having my first novel out there for seven weeks, it’s been hard to hear that I didn’t do it perfectly. The human side of me, which knows all of us are imperfect and that I still have lots of room to grow as a writer (always will), knows that people will find fault with my work. But the artist side of me cringes and feels a jab in the heart region every time they do. Mostly I have learned to bite my tongue and just keep it to myself. Occasionally my publisher and I discuss it. It’s hard sometimes to keep your mouth shut when you feel the criticisms are unfair (which is not every time). I’ve made a mistake a time or two but, in every case, I made sure to learn anything I could to apply in future novels so I won’t have to hear the same criticisms again. My goal is to make them work hard to find faults. It may be difficult to reach that point, but that’s what I’m shooting for.

I think it was especially hard with the first novel because it was, for me, my legitimization as a serious professional writer. Not self-published, not a free zine, this was someone paying me an advance against earnings for something I wrote, spending money on editing, printing, cover art, etc. Serious professional writers were writing blurbs and reading it to do so. For me, this book sent a message: Bryan Thomas Schmidt is for real about being a professional writer. He’s a peer.

It’s hard to explain that feeling to someone who hasn’t gone through it or isn’t preparing to, but, in part, it’s a sense of not wanting to let anyone down. People have supported and helped and encouraged me, and I wanted those efforts to have been worthy of the work I put out in the world. Of course, even name writers like Stephen King and Orson Scott Card and Mike Resnick get bad reviews. We all get criticized but if my book is sharing the shelf space, I just want to feel like I belong there. Do you know what I mean? Shelf space in bookstores and on bookseller tables is in high demand and all the more so as stores like Borders go bankrupt. It’s a competition just to get your book on the shelves, so if I ask someone to carry my book, I want them to get some income to make it worth their while. If not, why should they ever support me again?

Also, publishing a book feels so permanent. This is something which may one day make it into collections or library shelves. People may hold on to it and pass it down to kids, grandkids, pass it to friends, etc. My name and my picture will forever be associated with it. So I want that association to be a good thing, not one I or anyone else regrets. No frowns. Smiles. That’s what I want when people think of Bryan Thomas Schmidt and fiction. And when they criticize it for faults, I feel like I failed in that.

It’s best, of course, to remember that opinions are subjective. What’s the old saying? “Opinions are like buttholes. Everyone has one.” That’s crass, yes, but it’s true. And the reality is not everyone is going to like your work. Taste is a huge factor. Some people just don’t get science fiction or fantasy. Some people won’t like anything without serious, hard researched science involved. Some people won’t like your book because the characters aren’t like them. Some won’t like it because you had a male antagonist and not a female. The list of reasons can go on eternally. But in the end, those are just opinions. Your target audience will rarely be “everyone.” There are always specifics. So if you aim to please those people and yourself, I think you can find satisfaction.

For example, I knew when it went out that my book wasn’t perfect. I knew that from the first agent query rejection and publisher rejection. Not everyone liked my book or thought it was perfect. Okay. But I knew that would never be the case. I could never please everyone. It’s that way with everything in life. Instead, I focused my attention on how to make the book the best it could possibly be right up until the final deadline. If I wrote The Worker Prince today, I’d do things differently. In many cases, I’d do things better. Writing book 2, The Returning, was so much easier for a reason: I learned craft in the past two years I didn’t have when I wrote book 1. Every book has lessons learned which you automatically apply to future works, so every book should be easier and better, in theory. So my goal was to release the best book I could at that point in my writer’s journey and to know I had to be satisfied that I did my best. It’s all I can ask of myself.

How do you be sensitive enough to write characters who come alive with emotion and touch readers and still have a thick skin for criticism? I don’t have the answer. The best advice I have is to focus on what you can change and let the rest go. If you can find tips to improve your writing in the criticisms, use it. If you can’t, let it go. If you can do that, you can’t ask much  more of yourself. Sorry if you were looking for easy answers. I don’t have them. But as long as you remember that writing is a journey and a process that  never ends and stay on the road of discovery, I think you can recognize you’re growing and so will your works and that makes it easier to accept the bad with the good in critics. At least, that’s my approach.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

‎3 5-star & 8 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Writing Dialogue Better

Writing dialogue can be a challenge for some writers more than others, but it’s an extremely important part of good fiction. There are many tools and techniques one can use, the most important being to use your powers of observation. By listening to dialogue of the real people around you, you can learn how people talk, especially people of different socioeconomic, educational and age groups. But there are craft elements involved as well. Here’s 10 Tips For Writing Better Dialogue:

1) Use Simple Tags Sparingly. Fancy tags like “he expostulated” or “she espoused” are less clear and more distracting than anything. So keep the tags simple when you absolutely must use them. Instead, convey the manner in which a character speaks instead. Make it obvious from what is said.

2) Instead Of Tags, Use Actions. People talk while actively engaging in activities. So should your characters. Giving them business to do during dialogue allows you to identify who’s speaking without resorting to overused tags. Some can come in the form of characterizing the speaker: “His eyebrows lifted with menace,” for example. “Bob’s fist clenched as he spoke.” “Tears rolled down her cheek with every word.”

3)  Avoid Expositional Dialogue When Possible. We’ve all violated this rule, but especially when two characters should already know the information being imparted, it seems unnatural and distracting. In such cases, internal monologue is a better tool and more natural. Characters may think about stuff they already know but they wouldn’t tell each other stuff each of them knows.

4) Keep It Short. People talk in choppy sentences. Long soliloquies are rare. So in dialogue, use a combination of short sentences to make it flow and feel like real people talking. Let them interrupt each other, too. People do that in real life. It adds to the pace, tension and drama of it.

5) Avoid Phonetic Spellings For Accents. They are difficult to read. Indications of dialect can be used instead to get the reader to do the rest.  Overuse of a dialect becomes distracting to readers and can actually take them out of the story. Keep the words your characters say as unobtrusive as possible so your story flows seamlessly.

6) Dialogue Is Conflict. Conflict keeps the story moving. People talk like they’re playing table tennis–back and forth. This moves the story forward. Lace your dialogue with conflict. It adds dramatic urgency to every line the characters say and keeps the story’s pace.

 7) Use Other Characters. Let a character imply who’s speaking to them by saying something specific to only that person. If you use business well (see number 2 above), having a character refer to something the other character is doing is a great way to do this.

8 ) Give Each Character A Distinctive Voice. Overdo it and its caricature but we all have our own speech tics. Create some for your characters and sprinkle them throughout. Readers will learn them and know who’s speaking. For example, Captain Jack Sparrow loves the term of affection: “love” and uses that a lot. He also says “Savvy?” a great deal as well. He has others you can probably remember, too. Study characterization and see what other writers have done.

9) Speak It Aloud. Talk it out. Get inside the heads of your characters and say the lines. Play out the conversation you’ve written. Does it sound natural? Does it flow? Your ear is often a better judge than your eyes and hearing it will give you an idea how readers will hear it.

10) Remember What Medium You’re Writing For. TV and Film dialogue and novel dialogue are not necessarily the same.  There is no third party to use intonation, facial expressions and/or body language to bring it to life. Your words alone are the conduit between yourself and the reader and your prose skills and the readers’ imaginations make it work.

Well, those are my 10 Tips of the moment for writing better dialogue. Do you have any others? We’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS

Preorder THE RETURNING here for June 19th release!

Write Tip: 10 Resources For Educating Yourself About Book Contracts

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, thus, no legal advice is implied nor offered in the following post. What I offer instead are resources and ideas for how to inform yourself and prepare for understanding and negotiating contracts with better satisfaction and success.

You’ve written a book, run it through beta readers, then polished it until it sparkled. Then you queried, waited, now it’s out and someone’s interested. Congratulations. Soon you may have an actual book contract in your hands. But you don’t know anything about contracts. How do you find out what you need to know to make sure you get the best deal, to make sure you know what you’re signing? Here’s some resources to help:

1) Get Yourself An Intellectual Property Attorney–Agents are not attorneys. Neither are publishers. And it’s unethical for them to give you legal advice. Besides, they are in business to serve their interests first, not yours. So get someone whose job is to be on your side. That’s the IP Attorney. How do you find one? Author Laura Resnick offers a list on her site hereNovelists Inc offers a list for members. Author friends and acquaintances can recommend them. But don’t just roll dice and hire them. Know what to ask and vet them first. Make sure the one you hire is a good fit. You can get recommendations from friends, but you can also check them out. Here’s 10 Questions You Should Ask.

2) Learn About Copyright–It’s boring, yes, but it’s absolutely essentially. I post on how to register copyrights here but what you really need is to understand the law. One of the best books for you to check out, and there are others, is The Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press.  You can also read a lot directly from the Library Of Congress Copyright Office’s site at http://www.copyright.gov/. Novelists, Inc. has copyright info here.

3) Familiarize Yourself With Contracts–The SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) offers sample contracts on their site. For television and film contracts, Writers Guild Of America West has examples on their site here. Novelists, Inc. also has great stuff on their blog here.

4) Buy Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers by Mark Levine. This book is written by an experienced IP Attorney and examines clauses in detail: what they mean, what they mean to you, why they matter, and how to get what’s best for you. It’s a thin book but rich with data and well written. Absolutely essential. I used it in negotiating my own first book contract to great success. There are other books out there but this one I know is helpful and accurate.

5) Visit The Business Rusch–Kristine Katherine Rusch is a very experienced author and editor who blogs regularly about the publishing business, copyright and contracts. She does not offer legal advice but she does help authors understand how things work and what they need to know. Very helpful, very extensive.

6) Visit http://www.thepassivevoice.com/–another informative blog on all things publishing, contract, and writing related. Very helpful information on negotiations, agents, contracts, and more.

7) Talk With Other Authors–As you can see, there are plenty of authors out there willing to offer advice, lists, etc. Find one you know, especially one who works with your genre because they’ll have experience with the publishers and agents you’ll be dealing with, and ask them who their IP attorney is and get their advice on negotiating. What are things you should look out for? How did they educate themselves? Which aspects of the contract which matter most in their opinion?

8 ) Take A Contract Law Class–My Copyright Law class was one of the best I ever took in college. Very helpful throughout my creative career in so many ways. There are lots of them available at universities and colleges all over the country. If you’re serious about a career as a creative, you can never be too informed. Being under informed is the only liability here.

9) Consider The Author’s Guild Contract Services–The Guild offers legal services to help authors review contracts and get advice on negotiating them. For a reasonable fee, you get unbiased help from experts knowledgeable about ethics, the law and business standard practices to help you ensure you get the best deal and understand what you got.

10) Start Now–Don’t wait until a contract’s on the table. You don’t want to feel rushed or nervous then, so start educating yourself now. It’s often boring reading, so spread it out over time and do the research. This way when the time comes, you’ll be prepared.

Getting published is a huge accomplishment and one to be proud of but nothing can spoil it more than a bad contract or negative negotiating experience. I hope these suggestions help ease the process for you by aiding your preparation. It’s much better to feel confident you know enough to do what’s right and protect yourself so instead of worrying about a bad deal, you can enjoy the satisfaction of having a deal in the first place. What are your tips for learning about book contracts? We’d love to here more. Feel free to post them below.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS

 

 

Blog Tour Roundup: The Worker Prince

Well, my first book tour and first ever blog tour was a lot of fun. Truly a blast. And I think all the bloggers and readers who participated. The comments were encouraging and helpful. The posts were fun to write and participate in. Timing was fairly smooth in most cases. And I think we provided worthwhile and diverse content for everyone. So thank you. I look forward to the next one and I look forward to hosting blog tours as well.

Here’s a list of all the posts broken down by category/type for easy access. I hope you continue to enjoy them and, please check out The Worker Prince. You can purchase it here: 1 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS. If you do, please review it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com and send us a link. You can get a free chapter from the sequel before it releases next year.

 

Guest Posts: (Blog/post title)

SFSignal: 15 Science Fiction Classics With Religious Themes

Juliette Wade: The Worker Prince, Worldbuilding & The Clashes of Culture

Mary Pax: Coming Of Age & The Quest To Belong

Bibliophile Stalker/Charles Tan: 7 Tips For Being A Good Beta Reader

Functional Nerds: Working With A Small Press For Authors

Matthew Sanborn Smith:  My Approach To Storytelling

Jeremy C. Shipp:  The Importance of Strong Heroines

AISFP: Why I Like Old Fashioned Heroes

Patty Jansen: How To Promote With Social Media Without Offense

Moses Siregar: Relatable Characters

Livia Blackburne: SFFWRTCHT & How To Run A Social Media Event

 

Dialogues:

Jamie Todd Rubin: Dialogue: Golden Age SF’s Influence on The Worker Prince

Laura Kreitzer: Laura & Bryan Talk Writing

 

Worker Prince Novel Excerpts:

Anthony Cardno:  Exclusive Excerpt From Chapter 10

Grasping For The Wind: Exclusive Excerpt of Chapter 3

Mae Empson: Interview & Excerpt: Chapter 7

Andrew Reeves: Author Spotlight/Excerpt from Chapter 5

Simon C. Larter: Excerpt

 

Reviews:

Jaleta Clegg: Review: The Worker Prince

Apex Reviews: Review: The Worker Prince

Grace Bridges: Review: The Worker Prince

Rick Copple: Review: The Worker Prince

Raymond Masters: Review: The Worker Prince

Jenn Baker/Pony Tails Book Reviews: Review: The Worker Prince

Lyn Perry: Review: The Worker Prince

 

 

Interviews:

Anthony Cardno: Author Interview

Brian Knight: Interview with me & Davi Rhii/Author Bio/Blurb

Travis Perry: http://travissbigidea.blogspot.com/ – Author Interview

Nicole Peeler: Interview with Lord Xalivar (antagonist, The Worker Prince)

Grasping For The Wind: Author Interview

Gene Doucette: Author Interview

Sarah Hendrix: Author Interview

Mae Empson: Interview & Excerpt: Chapter 7

William J. Corbin/Silverthorn Press: Author Interview

L.M. Stull: Interview

Andrew Reeves: Author Spotlight/Excerpt from Chapter 5

 

Other:

Podcast: Functional Nerds Episode #78 with Bryan Thomas Schmidt (hey, that’s me!)

Residential Aliens: Rivalry On A Sky Course (Davi Rhii prequel story)

Grasping For The Wind: Mediation Between Xalivar and Davi Rhii

 


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Writers, Be Who You Are: A Process Of Discovery

I love when I come across an article, as I recently did on a blog, where a person is so enamored with their way of writing that they insist it’s the only way to do it correctly. Pantser v. Outliner: it’s an old debate. And I think it takes most of us a long time to sort out where we fit on the very broad scale. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it may vary by project. Sequels, for example, do take more planning than the books they follow, perhaps. And certainly much experimentation is involved as one learns and develops writing craft to sort out what works and doesn’t for him or her. The only advice I feel absolutely confident in offering to everyone, as much advice as I tend to offer on this blog, is to Be Who You Are.

Don’t get me wrong, these advisors mean well. They’re very passionate about what they do. They have rightfully put a lot of thought into it and develop the understanding an comfort with it over time. But the writing journey for me, and most writers I’ve spoken with, has always been a process of discovery. You try something for a while then hear something knew and try it on to see if it fits. Sometimes you adapt it in full, sometimes you just take parts, and so on it goes as you fill your toolbox and learn new skills. In the end, much of it tends to become intuitive anyway. Some things need to be intuitive to be effective, others need more thought and deliberation every time they’re used.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We are individuals, after all, unique beings with none exactly like any other. So why assume that such unique beings could have only one way to do something as complicated as writing? It doesn’t even seem possible when you think about it. No, I mean really think about it, setting aside those preconceived ideas. There. See what I mean?

So don’t succumb to any pressure to be like some other writer, no matter how famous they are, how much money they make or how much you like their work. You will never approach writing exactly like them. And that’s absolutely fine. Your journey is not their journey, and their journey is not yours. You have to find your own way. Sure, you can learn from their mistakes sometimes. You can even borrow their shortcuts, but there is no real shortcut to being the best writer you can be except trial and error and writing itself.

Along the way, you choose your tools, and no, they don’t all have to come from Sears. Ace Hardware has good stuff, too, and so does Target sometimes. Even Walmart. It doesn’t class down your writing to use what works for you and toss what doesn’t. That’s just smart. After all, writing is a personal activity and it’s also a business. Run it the way that allows and enables you to be most successful and never look back.

Be Who You Are, writers, and be proud of it. It will continue to change as long as your on the journey, and here’s hoping it’s the journey of a lifetime.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: Top 10 Reasons You Should Go To SFF Conventions

If you’re like me, you may have been a long time fan who rarely or even never went to Cons. So much of the mainstream publicity surrounding Cons leaves it kind of mysterious about what’s going on. Panels? Is that lectures? Who wants to pay for that. I had enough in college, thanks. Or even scarier–strange people dressed up as aliens who insist you call them “Zorg” all weekend. I have nothing against CosPlay but no, I don’t think I’m calling you “Zorg.” If you recognize those reactions, let me tell you why I changed my mind about Cons and why I think you should, too.

1 ) You Are Not Alone– If you’re a fan of speculative fiction movies, TV shows and books, Cons are congregations of people like you. Oh sure, some may be a bit more extreme than you, like Zorg, but you have a lot in common. You don’t have to like or agree with everyone on politics and religion to be part of this community. Since I got actively involved again in fandom, only twice have I felt rejected for my beliefs and political differences. The majority of people I know in the SFF community don’t share my points of view but couldn’t care less. We have too much else in common for it to matter.  We can spend hours chatting about all kinds of topics and never get to politics and religion. And the conversations are passionate and fun because we each love what we’re talking about so much.

2 ) Networking– In addition to connecting with like-minded people, you can connect with like-minded people who might become important career contacts. This is true for writers, editors and illustrators, of course, but it’s also true for others. I know people who have made all kinds of business contacts through Con friendships. Cons are about having fun and building relationships and friendship is full of opportunities. Many Con friendships last a lifetime.

3 ) Meet Heroes– Authors, Editors, Actors, etc. come to Cons for one reason: to meet fans and each other.  They are like-minded people, too, and they enjoy the conversations, socializing and celebrating of genre fiction as much as anyone. Most are really accessible and available, especially at smaller Cons. From getting books signed to picking your favorite’s brains, there are lots of opportunities to chat you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

4 ) Swag– Cons vary in the swag you get but both dealers and Cons give away everything from books to food to collectibles. World Fantasy, for example, sends every member home with a stack of new books donated by publishers. Vendors in dealer rooms, authors and others often have samples and special gifts or even bargain deals to offer. Every attendee who wants to has many chances to load up the suitcase with goodies. And many items are hard to find or unavailable anywhere else. ComicCon and DragonCon, for example, often have items custom made for distribution at that year’s Con by various vendors.

 5 ) Parties– Like free food and drink? Like to dance? Like to party? Cons are full of opportunities to do just that. From publishers to fan groups, everyone’s throwing parties. You can move from room to room until the wee hours of the morning if you want. And most provide a great spread of food and beverages along the way at no cost to you. Just attending a party often makes the price of your membership a bargain.

6) Sneak Peaks– Publishers and filmmakers and more use Cons to launch books, movies, etc. and also to tease upcoming ones. You can get first looks at books, movies, tv shows and more just by attending a Con. Part of being in the right place at the right time, after all, is just knowing where to hang out, and Cons are the place to take advantage of Sneak Peaks for specfic fans.

 7 ) Great Art– Love book covers? Cons are a chance to not only see the work of those artists and more up close but to meet and chat with the artists themselves. Almost every Con out there has an art show and art sale. So you can even walk home with framed copies of your favorites.

 8 ) Cushy Digs– One criticism by many of Cons is that they always pick expensive, fancy hotels for their host sites. On the other hand, if you rarely get the chance to stay in such fancy hotels, the reduced Con rate may be a great excuse. After all, being at the center of the action does have its advantages. Especially for those late night parties. And on top of that, most hotels love Cons and usually go out of their way to treat Con attendees with special care. So spoiling yourself with a Con has added benefits.

9 ) Cosplay– Costume Play, if you’re into that, is a huge advantage of Cons. Some people take a different outfit for each day, like my friend Scribe. Others wear the same outfit the whole time (don’t get too close in case they smell). Still, if you like dressing up and need an excuse outside of once a year at Halloween, Cons are a tailor made opportunity for you. People who like that will compliment you on your outfit and creativity and those who don’t won’t stare.

10 ) PhotoOps– You get great opportunities at Cons to take pictures not just with celebrities but with other fans in costumes, set pieces from TV and movies, great locations near where the Cons take place, etc. Cons are full of PhotoOps. And, after all, the number one rule of Cons is: if there’s no photos, it didn’t happen. So take your camera!

So, if you’re a fan of Science Fiction or Fantasy, there’s ten great reasons to join your fellow fans at Cons. What are you waiting for?

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: 8 Tools For Using Humor In Your Fiction

Humor can be an important part of both character development and reader engagement. When used well, it can endear both writer and characters to readers. When used poorly, it can ruin an otherwise successful tale. Here’s some tips for how to use humor effectively in your stories and novels.

 1 ) The Running Gag– This tool is one of the stand-by tropes of good comedy. Typically employed following the rule of threes, the running gag will repeat three times, with each one increasing in absurdity and corresponding laughter inspired. The first two act as set-ups for the big pay off of the third. Study any sitcom or romantic comedy and you can always find running gags used to great effect. For example, a character slips on a banana peel on the sidewalk in front of his paramour’s door, embarrassing himself. The next time he goes there, he looks around carefully to avoid something similar but this time, something falls from above, knocking him down. The third time, perhaps during the finale of the story, he winds up ignoring the fear and facing running after her behind a banana truck whose cargo is falling out scatters across his path, leading to all kinds of slippery footwork. This is a basic slapstick example. Most running gags or more complicated. But I think it gives you the idea.

2 ) The Love-Hate Relationship– Nothing brings out humor better than two characters thrown together who are constantly at each other’s throats–not in the “I want to choke you to death” sense, but rather in the “hurling biting insults and cutting down” sense. Watching them each attempt to outdo the other can be mined for great humor and,  at the same time, used to build character. One of the best ways is for them to exploit each other’s flaws for their comments.

3 )  The Flawed Character– No one’s perfect. We all know this about ourselves. Your characters become more real when you also show this about your character. And the worst part of flaws? The way they embarrass us or put us in difficult situations where we look bad in front of those we want to impress. Exploit these situations, and you’ll find all kinds of humor in them. Another advantage is that readers are drawn to characters who are flawed in relatable ways. “Oh man, I know just how he feels!” That response endears your character to your reader and draws them into your story. It’s just part of using your character’s humanity to build empathy and sympathy and connect him or her with your readers, which, in turn, keeps them more involved and interested in your story.

4 ) The Subverted/Misunderstood Context– While creating empathy is helpful, at the same time, your character needs distance from readers for them to see the humor. If they identify too much, they won’t laugh at the humorous situation in which the character finds him or herself. It helps to have the character see the humor in the situation, nor matter how painful it may be, but again, make sure it is not too painful or offensive or the readers will be turned off. Key to this is subverting or applying misunderstood context. People interact daily with different worldviews and understandings of the context in which that interaction occurs. Mining that for misunderstandings and humor or allowing circumstances to subvert one character’s correct understanding of the context can be used to mine humor in the situation for readers.

5 ) The Fish Out Of Water– There’s always humor to be found in situations where a character is put in situations or places with which he or she might be unfamiliar or even made uncomfortable–a priest visiting a crack house, for example, or a Sunday School mom in an NFL locker room. The interactions with other characters who are comfortable in that world and even the character’s reactions can be used for great humorous effect.

6 ) Exaggeration– Exploiting a character’s perspective through exaggeration is a great tool to create humor. Pushing the character to the edge of their limits can result in funny reactions, dialogue and situations for readers and interesting ways of building or wrapping up a scene. It makes everything a bit more outrageous, but to use it effectively, everything the character does needs to have elements of exaggeration throughout. It starts small and builds to be most effective, until they are pushed to a point where they explode (figuratively, of course, in most cases).

7 ) Surprise– Another great tool is the element of surprise. If a character walks into their apartment to find all their furniture turned upside down or a totally unexpected situation, or if events unfold in ways that catch both characters and readers by surprise, humor can result. The surprise can be either physical or emotional, but as mentioned above, it can’t be too painful or offensive that it would alienate the reader. The character’s discomfort is fine and can be used for humor, but the reader’s own discomfort has more limits and must be carefully considered when using any of these tools. Be sure to arrange the elements of the scene to maximize tension and release. This will make the effect of the humor more powerful.

8 ) Satire/Parody– South Park, The Simpsons, and many other popular TV Shows employ satire and parody to mock socially relevant attitudes or even current events and point out flaws or ironies in these situations and you can too through your characters and plots. These two can be tricky to pull off well. Avoiding preachiness, for example, can be hard when it’s a subject on which you feel passionate. Take great care never to push the humor too far. Most especially, allow readers to draw their own conclusions. A few prompting remarks can be carefully exploited through dialogue but don’t overdo it. Especially if you yourself have spoken out publicly about such issues, readers will tend to see right through it and the moment may be destroyed. Still, satire and parody are classic humor tropes which should always be a part of your toolbox when writing humor.

So there they are: 8 Tools to be employed in adding humor to your fiction prose. Like any tools, using them takes practice and development of skills. Some do tend to have more natural instincts than others, but like most tools, these can be learned and incorporated instinctually into your writing arsenal. Despite being age old methods, they remain popular because they consistently work. If they work for other writers, you can be sure that, when done well, they’ll work for you.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: Top 10 Tips For Using Social Media Well

If you’re at all concerned with marketing yourself or your products, by now you’ve probably heard a million times how important Social Media has become for marketing yourself and connecting with/building an audience of customers. The challenge can be knowing exactly how to go about it without coming across as pushy or self-centered and alienating more people than you draw. Here’s ten tips from successful people who use social media on how you can approach it with greater success:

1) Be The Best You-– “But you can still be you. Uhh, unless “you” just so happen to be some kind of Nazi-sympathizing donkey-molester. In which case, please back slowly away from the social media.” – Chuck Wendig, Author He has a great sense of humor but mixed in is great advice. His point is that you should present yourself well but not whitewashed. Readers want to know YOU not the person you project yourself to be. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a salesman. Just be you, but a good, likable version. Warts are okay within reason, after all, the human you is the you people want to connect with, but put a little makeup over the warts so they appear their best. The human but attractive you is still the goal.

2) Have The Right Conversations— “Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.” – Seth Godin It’s not just whom you talk to but how you talk to them. People are talking about your product already. Being a part of the conversation means learning how to talk to them. Don’t be pushy. Don’t sell. Just talk and listen. And listening may be the most important part. Whether you’re a writer or in another profession, finding the conversations you need to hear and engage in, listening first, then joining is the best way to discover the audience for what you sell.

 3) You’re Not In Control— “If you think you are in control, you’re fooling yourself. As soon as you start listening, you realize you’re not in control. And letting go will yield more and better results.” – Charlene Li, Author Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, Type A or not, the tendency is to want to control everything about your marketing, sales, etc. You want to control how people respond. But in truth, you can’t. Of course we all want to sell books and build our audience as authors. We all want to build product awareness and desirability as sales people. Social Media is a great tool. But it’s also a tool you don’t produce. Instead, you use it by participating. And that means, you can’t be in control of anything but yourself. How you act, what you say, how active you are–you can control. But everything else is out of your hands.

4) It’s About Passion—  “Don’t worry; skills are cheap, passion is priceless. If you’re passionate about your content and you know it and do it better than anyone else, even with few formal business skills you have the potential to create a million-dollar business.” – Gary Vee, Author of Crush It It’s less about how skilled you are than how passionate you are. You can build skills, but you can’t build passion. So don’t worry about developing skills, worry about getting across your passion. That, in the end, is what will hook people’s interest in you and your words. There’s nothing more compelling than someone passionate about what they’re selling or discussing.

5) Learn About Them First— “On Twitter, Search is your friend. Are you writing a book about archaeology? See who’s talking about it. Looking for Buddhists? Oh, they’re there. Look for them. Start following them. Start seeing what they’re talking about.”   Chris Brogan, Author/Speaker on Marketing This goes hand in hand with what I said above about how listening may be the most important part. How can you engage with people if you don’t understand what their interests are? Social Media is about conversation and networking and that involves give and take. It’s not about you. It’s about the community. Take the time to get to know the community. Who’s out there? What are they interested in? Why?

6) All Users Are Equal— “There aren’t very many things you can do as a marketer to attract a huge number of highly followed influencers to your content beyond the same tactics that you would use to attract a huge number of ‘normal’ users.”  Dan Zarrella, Social Media Expert Don’t focus on attracting celebrities or people with big lists of followers, focus on attracting people period. All followers will be attracted the same way. There is no short cut to get the big users. All users become followers for the same reasons, in the same ways.

7) It’s About The Long Term— “’Build it, and they will come’ only works in the movies.  Social Media is a ‘build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.'” – Seth Godin If you’re not in it for the long term, why should your followers be? It’s not about today, it’s about tomorrow. Like building a good marriage, a house, or a career, Social Media is a long term effort and strategy to be worked on daily. Don’t make it about today. Make it about the long term.

8 ) It’s Called Social NETWORKING— “The most successful marketer becomes part of the lives of their followers. They follow back.”  Marsha Collier, Author Do you remember me mentioning community? It’s called Social NETWORKING for a reason. It’s about interaction, two way. Hand in hand with listening, people will invest in you as much as you invest in them. Yes, celebrities don’t have time to engage with everyone. I get that. Neither do those with thousands of followers. But when you have something to say in response then respond. When you see a cool link someone passed around, share it and credit them. Find ways to encourage and thank your followers for their interest in you by taking an interest in them.

9) It’s Not About Numbers— “Quit counting fans, followers and blog subscribers like bottle caps. Think, instead, about what you’re hoping to achieve with and through the community that actually cares about what you’re doing.” – Amber Naslund, brasstackthinking.com It’s not about how may, it’s about what you say, how you say it and how they connect with it. People who feel that you care about them will care about you. So don’t worry about stats as much as content and interaction. And make every word count. Be real with people above all. They’ll respond to that more than anything.

10) Keep It Informal— “Informal conversation is probably the oldest mechanism by which opinions on products and brands are developed, expressed, and spread.”  Johan Arndt It’s not a website or marketing brochure. It’s not a commercial. It’s not a news feed. It’s your social media feed. Relax and be a real person. Of course you need to watch what you say. The internet, after all, is public. Things can come back to haunt you. But that doesn’t mean you have to be stiff and formal. Relax and enjoy yourself. If you don’t, you won’t fit in, because that, above all else, is what Social Media are about–relaxed conversation.

A few inspirational quotes which have inspired me from various sources. How do you use Social Media? What lessons have you learned? What great quotes do you have? Feel free to share below. I’d love to hear them.

For what it’s worth…

 

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Doing A Good Interview–As Both Interviewer and Subject

Interviews are a fact of life for successful people–especially entertainment people like writers. At some point, you’ll be asked to do an interview about your work. How do you prepare? How do you stay calm and fight nerves? How do you overcome introversion or shyness? Interviews require different things from an interviewer and an interviewee. I do both, so here’s some suggestions to help you in whichever role you find yourself.

As INTERVIEWEE:

1) Be Yourself. The interview was requested because of a desire by readers and the interviewer to know the person behind the stories. So don’t let them down. Be you. Yes, you should try not to be you at your most obnoxious, but don’t overdo it either. Relax, take a deep breath, and be honest.

2) Ask To See The Questions In Advance. Most interviewers will happily supply a list of potential questions in advance. If they don’t, don’t assume they’re out to trip you up or embarrass you. They may just be unorganized. But if they do, go over them, think through and practice potential answers, trying to smooth out the rough edges so you can give them good soundbytes. Public speaking takes practice and even if the interview takes place in private or by email, it will be published in a public foreign so practice makes perfect.

3) Practice. As I started to say above, practice is a vital part of your preparations. Ask someone you trust–your agent or a friend or spouse–to interview you. Sit down like you would in a real interview and field questions. When you stumble, stop, and do it again. Get used to talking about yourself. It’s something many of us are not good at and never comfortable with. That’s okay but you should at least be able to exude confidence and calmness. And that may take practice.

4) Be Prepared To Say No.  You don’t have to talk about anything that makes you uncomfortable. Sort out in advance where your boundaries are and stick to them. Personal and professional can and should be separated for your own mental health. Some people are more comfortable sharing things than you might be. That’s fine. Being yourself means knowing where to draw line and not being afraid to do so.

5) Have Fun. Interviews are more fun both to participate in and read if you have a sense of humor. Don’t be afraid to use it. Figure out the things you like about what you do and share them with a healthy dose of humility. People like those who can laugh at themselves. And your attitude goes a long way in helping you fight off nervousness and relax.

6) Keep It Short. Don’t ramble on and on. Be as concise as you can in answering questions. It’s the interviewer’s job to ask follow up questions if he or she needs or wants to know more. Besides, holding back leaves you with more to talk about later in the interview. Don’t use all you’ve got on the first few questions.

7) Know The Audience. Who’s the interview for? Fellow writers? Talk about how you write, why you write, what your writing day and approach to craft are like. Readers? Where’d the ideas come from? What are the themes and how did you develop them? Who are these characters and why did you write them the way you did? Etc. Knowing who will be the target audience for the interview will help you comfortably shape your answers to  keep them interested.

8 ) Dress Comfortably.  It’s not a job interview. So don’t dress to impress. Dress to be comfortable so you can just relax. If you like wearing a tie, wear one, but if you don’t leave it at home. Don’t dress hot. Don’t dress cold. Be yourself but look presentable so neither you nor the interviewer are distracted by other issues. You’re there to relax and have a conversation. Make that easy on yourself.

9) Arrive Early. Don’t put the pressure on yourself of running late if you can help it. You don’t want to be disheveled or out of breath. You want to be able to relax. So arrive a few minutes early to give yourself a chance to get comfortable with the location and the interviewer before you get down to business.

10) Bring Bottled Water. Many interviewers will provide this for you. Sometimes your publicist will. Don’t be afraid to ask in advance and, if you forget, ask when you arrive. Have cool water to drink when your throat gets dry. Skip the soda or juice or other thick liquids which coat your throat or cause belching or otherwise inhibit smooth speech. Just have water so you can stay lubricated when you need to.

There’s 10 Tips to help you as subject of an interview. Now here’s 10 more for conducting one.

As INTERVIEWER:

1) Do Your Research. Research not just the subject, but read their books. Read past interviews they’ve done. Talk with people who have met them. Get to know how they talk, their speech cadence, typical vocabulary, hobbies, marital status and anything else which can help you. The more knowledgable you are, the more comfortable they’ll be. Know which subjects to avoid, too. Unless you’re working for a tabloid, your goal should be to make both yourself and the subject look good.

2) Prepare Your Question In Advance.  Don’t wing it. Follow-up questions can be done on the fly but your main questions should be written down and refined before you show up. Whether you memorize them or read them off a cue sheet is up to you but have them ready. Know what the intended audience wants to know so you can word your questions appropriately. Also know what the interview subject most wants to discuss so that you can be sure and ask about that. Be prepared.

3) Dress Appropriately. Like the subject of your interview, things will go better if you’re relaxed, but don’t show up looking like you just got out of bed. Be well groomed and well attired. It doesn’t require wearing a suit and tie, just not dirty or torn clothes and shoes. Look professional, even if it’s casual. So the interviewee feels respected and takes you seriously. A confident interviewee is a better interview.

4) Practice. Just like the interviewee needs practice so do you. Once your questions are prepared, run through them. Practice enunciating and talking slower than you might normally so that you articulate well and can be understood. Think up follow up questions which might need to be asked based on various answers the subject provides. Get comfortable with your wording so that you can avoid confusion and stay in control.

5) It’s Your Job To Set The Tone. If you’re relaxed, the subject will feel more relaxed. If you’re tense, so will the other person be. So be prepared to set the appropriate tone. People who are relaxed and comfortable talk more freely and longer.  Make it like a conversation between friends, not a police interrogation and you’ll have more success not only getting through interviews but scheduling the next one.

6) Choose A Good Location. You need a location where both of you can sit comfortable and relax with minimum distractions. If you’re interviewing a celebrity of any level, you don’t want fans interrupting for autographs every five seconds. You don’t want tons of friends hollering ‘hellos’ across the room at either of you. The best location would be somewhere quiet and out of the way, not public. Follow Hollywood’s example and scout the location, even if it’s an hour before. Give yourself time to adjust what needs adjusting, even the location itself.

7) Don’t Be Late. The Subject can be late but you can’t. Keeping somebody waiting whom you’ve scheduled for an interview is not just unprofessional, it’s rude. They are giving you their time out of a probably busy schedule. Any time you miss, will be time you lose, if they have somewhere else to be right after. Also, you’ll want time to relax and feel prepared so be on time. Early even.

8 ) Bring Liquids. Don’t let yourself or your subject suffer from dry throat. Have bottled water or a pitcher of water and cups ready to help lubricate your throats as needed. Don’t even let them ask. Just have it there where they can see it and help themselves. Your preparedness is part of setting the right tone to help them be comfortable as quickly as possible. And your consideration will go a long way in helping a stranger feel like you’re a friend.

9) Make Small Talk. Before you jump right in, make sure the person is comfortable with you. If you’ve met before, it may require only a few quick greetings, but if not, a bit of small talk goes a long way. Ask them about their day, offer water, make sure their happy with their chair, etc. Set a the relaxed tone with your attitude of treating them with respect and care and they’ll assume you’ll do that through the interview and feel much more at ease quickly.

10) Get It Right. Don’t put words in their mouths. If something’s missing or unclear as you review the interview notes or recording after, call or email to follow up. Clarify. Don’t assume. One of your goals is to capture their voice, so be sure it’s them, not you. On the other hand, take out any pauses or stutters or stumbles. Fix obvious bad grammar. Make them look and sound good. They’ll be pleased with you and both they, their publicist, and their friends will be more willing to interview with you in the future.

Well, those are 10 Tips For Conducting Interviews from a guy who has done a lot of them. I hope all 20 tips in this post are helpful. If nothing else, you can understand the responsibilities and concerns of both sides of the interview. Going in informed is always helpful. Have other tip? We’d love to hear them in the comments. Don’t be shy. We’re here to help each other.

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For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Finding Time To Write

One issue writers who work around dayjobs face is finding time to write. From job demands to family demands to everything else, it can be a real challenge. So how do you do it? Here’s some suggestions:

1) Write When You Can. Carry your laptop or notebook with you and write whenever you get a free moment. Whether it’s five or fifteen, such moments can add up and you’ll get more words than if you wait for the elusive big chunk of writing time which may never come.

2) Set Goals. It seems obvious but if you just write when you feel like it, you’re unlikely to be as productive as when you actually set goals. If you have a word count to meet, you have motivation to write. So set goals and work hard to accomplish them.

3) Treat Your Writing Like A Job. Can’t find time to write? What if you tried telling your boss that? If you’re serious about writing, you have to treat it like a job. Especially if you aspire to a career as a writer. That means setting aside time somehow and sticking to a schedule. It means being disciplined. It may require you to get family members on board so they won’t interrupt you during this time or will at least respect your goals for it. It will certainly require you to act like that time is work time and be productive.

4) Make A Time Budget. A time budget is a spreadsheet of your entire week, 24 hours a day, where you record all the ways you use your time. Some items have set times, like work hours, which must be blocked off. Others are more flexible. Start by blocking out what you absolutely must do, then see how much time is left and start blocking in other things you’d like to accomplish. If writing and reading are important, make time for them, then stick to it. Even if writing time isn’t an issue for you right now, making a time budget might be a good exercise. You’ll be surprised how much time you waste every week which could be put to better use.

5) Write With Others. Google+ has reminded many writers how productive peer group writing can be. You not only get to network and fellowship a bit, but the pressure of hearing clicking keys during writing time is a great motivator. Even greater is the encouraging support when you check in about word counts. Writing in a group setting like this can really be quality time.

6) Submit Your Work. Okay, you have to write it first yet, but the greatest way to encourage yourself to keep writing is to get positive feedback, especially when you sell a story. When someone else actually thinks what you’re doing is good enough to publish, it’s a huge motivation to set aside time so you can write more.

7) Use Beta Readers or Critique Groups. Unlike submitting your work, where you might get form rejections instead of feedback, working with beta readers and critique groups gets you guaranteed feedback. Some may be negative, but inevitably some will be positive too, and just knowing someone enjoyed what you did tells you you’re on the right track and motivates you to keep going. Finding time to write is easier when you know someone appreciates the results.

8 ) Hang Out With Writers. Even hanging out with writer friends without any specific writing time group goals is a great motivator to write. Hearing about their projects and accomplishments makes you want to have some of your own. After all, who wants to be the only one without a great new brag to share?

9) Learn To Say ‘No!’ One of the biggest obstacles to writing time is overcommitting yourself. Don’t do it. Learn to say ‘no,’ one of the first words most babies learn. If you don’t leave time for your writing, you can’t write. Set priorities and make writing one of them.

10) Reward Yourself For Success. If you meet your word count goal or writing time goal, reward yourself. It may be an ice cream cone or buying that special book you’ve been craving after a period of success. Whatever the prize, find ways to reward yourself as positive reinforcement for sticking to your goals. Ultimately, the greatest reward will come in other ways but you have to finish the book or story first. 

There they are, 10 Tips For Finding Writing Time. I hope these help you with your writing goals. What are some ways you find time to write? Please add to the list in the comments below.

F0r what it’s worth…

Write Tip: 15 Web Resources Invaluable To Writers

We all have our favorite tools we use when writing. But one of the advantages of the modern age is having a lot of great resources available right here on the World Wide Web. What are the tools you never write without? Here are 15 of mine:

1) www.dictionary.com This great website is a quick and easy way to look up any word you need and quickly right on the web. Other similar sites exist, such as http://www.merriam-webster.com/, but this one has become my go-to source. In addition to the dictionary, it also has a companion http://thesaurus.com as well as a reference, translator, quote engine and more. Very useful for writers of both fiction and nonfiction.

2) http://www.behindthename.com/ A source for etymology and history of names which can be invaluable for helping pick names not just at random but for their deeper meanings. Again other similar sites exist, such as http://www.thinkbabynames.com/. Either way, they’re quite handy to have around for naming characters.

3) http://geology.about.com/ and www.geology.com. Great resources for current and past information on everything geological. Wanna build a realistic world? Don’t forget your geology. What kinds of plants and trees grow in which type of environment? What might a map of your world look like? What exotic plants exist in a climate far from your own? These sites can tell you, stimulating your creative process and helping you make a more believable world.

4) Reference.com offers hundreds of links to references of all shapes, sizes and types from almanacs to dictionaries and literature. Sister site to www.dictionary.com but worth its own separate listing because it’s such a great resource.

5) Encyclopedia.com an online encylopedia with short articles on all kinds of topics to aid your research or even story generation. Offers links to published resources like Oxford University Press and Britannica right online.

6) Internet Public Library  a site offering links to full text books, articles and references for free.

7) Library of Congress access photos, manuscripts and an online library of books from the U.S. government’s key gatekeepers and copyright warehouse.

8) http://www.authorscopyright.com/ a blog offering news and other up to date information on copyright which every writer should be aware of.

9) Creative Writing Prompts offers over 300 writing prompts for writers to help stimulate you and get you started.

10) http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/ a site from SFWA providing information helping weed out scams. There are lots of people preying on our dreams out there. It’s good to have a resource to help avoid them.

11) querytracker.net find agents, see sample query letters and schedule email follow ups on your queries all from this handy database.

12) writenews.com Up to the minute news for writers on the publishing business.

13) http://duotrope.com/index.aspx Looking for a home for your story? This is a go-t0 source for many writers. View listings by genre, pay rate and more. Get weekly reports sent to your inbox. Easily find new markets. All in one handy online database.

14) English Usage, Style, & Composition A collection of reference works which includes American Heritage, Strunk & White, Fowler’s King’s English, and other indispensable public-domain works.

15) http://www.copyright.com/ The copyright clearance center is a go-to resource for finding out what’s in the public domain and what isn’t. Especially invaluable for nonfiction writers.

These are just a few examples of the numerous resources out there. What are your go-to web tools for writing? Please add to the list in the comments. In the meantime, I hope this list proves helpful to you.

For what it’s worth…

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Naming Characters

One of the most important tasks for a writer is creating character names. Everyone has their own approach. Some find it more challenging than others. Here’s 10 Tips which might help you with the naming.

1) Keep A List. Mary Robinette Kowal kept a spreadsheet of names when writing Shades Of Milk And Honey as a handy reference. So keeping a list is a tool professionals already know about. For one thing, when researching a particular period or locale, names are often unique to the period and locale. Keeping A List is a way to stay true to your research. For another, sometimes you’d rather focus creative energy on other details than stopping to think up names. Having a list can save time and focus.

2) Write The Story First. Some people use filler names until their plot, characters and worldbuilding are complete, naming the characters Scott or Bill or Mary or Linda as they write with the plan to go back later and research appropriate names. This seems particularly useful if you’re a pantser, when the characters don’t reveal themselves until late into a project, well into their arcs. In this way, you can write with the filler names but later find names which fit them better.

3) Draw From People You Know. My friends and family get a kick out of their names popping up in my stories. I’ve named both characters and worlds after my mother, for example. Sometimes I spell it differently just to make it more science fictional or something. Still, they know where it came from. I usually don’t even have to ask. In your case, if you don’t know how they’d feel, always ask. And one other bit of advice: don’t choose unlikable characters to name after them. No one wants a jerk to share their name. And in this case, they’ll be wondering if it’s a reflection of your opinion of them. So use them but do it respectfully and with permission.

4) Use a Name Generation Tool. There’s all sorts out there like: The Fantasy Name Generator, Dwarf Name Generator, Character Name Generator,  Elven Name Generator, etc. Some are charts you use to compile names, others generate them. Either way, you can come up with interesting names or even prompts. My tendency is to generate names then modify them to make them my own. After all, other writers probably use the same tool. But the value of them is stimulating your thinking and generating ideas as much as actual names themselves.

5) Use A Baby Name List. Lots of these exist, even whole dictionaries. If they fit your time period and milieu, they may be the perfect solution.

6) Use A Dictionary of Names. These often include both modern and historical names from which you can pick with more variety to better fir your characters. Again,t hey must fit your time period and milieu, but they can be an important resource for names.

7) Science Fiction Names Don’t Have To Sound Like It. Combine common names to make a new one: Veronica and Donna, for example, can become Donica. Use mythological or biblical names. Whatever you do, make sure they’re both easy to pronounce and spell. Readers and reviewers may use them a lot.

8 ) Use Terms Of Endearment. People often refer to each other by nicknames or pet names, why shouldn’t your characters? This should not be used in lieu of actually naming them but can be the name their most known by and remembered by from your story.

9) Pick Opposing Names. If you name your antagonist and protagonist with opposing  names, the names themselves add to the conflict between characters.

10) Use Names From Other Cultures.  It can be very interesting, for example, to name aliens with African names or Brazilian names or mix in names from various cultures to add spice to your worldbuilding. Names not only tell you a lot about a character but also about their world. Employ that to make your world more vivid.

There you go, 10 Tips to help you name characters. I hope they give you some ideas you haven’t thought of and maybe even some resources.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Fighting Off Writer’s Block

It’s the bane of any writer’s existence–Writer’s Block–like a monster in the closet, creeping out when you least expect it and stalking you with relentless determination. It can be devastating to your sense of creative flow in a project and frustrate your word count and other goals, when you’re on a deadline. For years writers have debated what to do about it. I’ve interviewed a lot of writers this past year and frequently ask advice on writer’s block. All of them have their ways of dealing with it. And many agree. Here are some tips to help you.

1) Write Anyway. As author John Pitts puts it: “Concert pianists and pro football players practice every day. Why shouldn’t writers?” Whether the music is good or bad, musicians work on their technique and craft daily to succeed. So should you. Don’t let this bane block you from your necessary exercise. Write anyway, even if the result is a crumpled page in the trash can. Some suggest this is a good way to get the block out of your system. Others merely that by writing you may push through it. Either way, you exercise your writing chops and that practice does you good.

2) Always Have Multiple Projects. Writer after writer has told me that when they get stuck on one project, they switch to another. I frequently have short story projects going while working on a novel just for such contingencies. And I also work on revising other projects, when I’m stuck on my main one. I find this keeps my creative juices flowing in ways that help me feel good and productive that day. Positive reinforcement and good psychological satisfaction is important for writers because motivation can be easily lost. It’s more fun to sit around and imagine the story than to actually work it out in words. So having multiple projects allows you to get word count and make creative progress on something, even when something else is blocked.

3) Identify The Block. To get past a block, you have to first identify the blockage. Where does the problem lie? Author Mary Robinette Kowal suggests: “Look at what’s causing the block. The way you react to working on the story can often tell you what’s wrong with it.” What spot are you stuck on? Where is the stress occurring which makes you just stop? Figure it out and you’ll be well on your way to figuring out why you’re blocked and seeking a solution.

4) Skip It. Author Paul S. Kemp writes scenes out of order: ” I’ll write according to my mood or as inspiration strikes. ” As a result, he struggles less with being blocked. There’s no one who says you have to write scenes chronologically or in any particular order. If one scene is giving you trouble, put a place holder in and move to another. Write something you have a good image of, where you know what to do. It’s better than not writing at all. You’ll keep to your word count and you’ll avoid the distraction of frustration by getting back to it later when you know what to do.

5) Change Your Approach. One way to work through a block is to approach what you’re trying to write a different way. This does not refer to pencil and paper instead of laptop and Microsoft Word, but rather to changing the Point of View of the scene or starting it in a different place or even changing the sequence events. Experiment. By finding a new approach, you can often overcome the block.

6) Ask Fellow Writers. One of the things authors often say about the community of writers is how advantageous the encouragement and support is that they get from their peers. After all, no one understands what you’re going through like someone else going through the same thing. Wherever they gather, authors discuss things like contract terms, agents, publishers, stories, and sometimes problems like blocks. Just by running through the issue with another writer, you can find yourself sorting it out before they say a word. And sometimes, they’ll solve it for you with a creative suggestion or by giving you a needed perspective. Don’t be afraid to make use of this resource. After all, the next time around, it could be you helping them.

7) Take A Break. Nothing frees up the creative juices from a block like walking away. Don’t just sit there getting more and more tense. Author/Editor Jennifer Brozek suggests: “I go exercise because then I realize how much I’d rather be writing.” It may not fix your exercise block, but it can fix your motivation block and motivation is key to writing.  Similar to getting a fresh perspective, it’s like getting a second wind–of motivation by reminding yourself how much you enjoy writing, something it’s very hard to remember when sitting at your writing station in a block.

8 ) Turn On The News. Author Nnedi Okorafor says: “All I have to do is turn on the news–stories galore.” Whether it’s to find a new project to work on when you’re stuck on the one you’ve been writing or to find a new way to look at the project on which you’re blocked, news stories are often full of varied perspectives which can shake you out of your thinking box and help you look at it with new eyes. And sometimes new eyes is all you need to break the block.

9) Switch Art Forms. If you’re creatively blocked in your writing, try making music instead. You paint? Switch to that for a while. Stimulate your creativity in a different way. It’s not only satisfying to your muse but it gives you the joy of creating and gets your mind off the issue. If you’re not obsessing over it, sometimes a solution will present itself the next time you sit down to write.

10) Accept It. Sometimes life just overwhelms you. In two years, writer Ken Scholes had major deaths in his family along with the birth of twin daughters and other crises. Despite signing a contract for multiple novels, he found himself unable to write. And he had to give himself permission to let that go and focus on what he needed to at the time. Once he dealt with grieving and family, the freedom to write returned. Sometimes you just won’t be able to get past it. Sometimes you just won’t be able to write. And sometimes there really are more important things you need to be doing. Forget the deadline. Forget the pressure. Get your priorities straight. Dealing with what you need to is the quickest way to get back to writing again. It’s hard to do for many of us. But sometimes the best thing you can do get over a block is accept defeat and refocus. This doesn’t mean you’re accepting it forever. Just for the moment. Once you’ve focused your energy on what you really need to, you’ll be writing again.

Well there they are, 10 Tips For Fighting Off Writer’s Block. Lessons learned from my personal experience and that of many successful writers.  Have others? We’d love to hear them in the comments. In the meantime, I hope you find something you can use. Happy writing.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: 10 Tips For Writing Good Action Scenes

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a fan of action. Movies like the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard series always entertained me. I like action in my reading, too. Space opera is my favorite science fiction genre and sword & sorcery tops my fantasy favorites. Is it any wonder that I find myself often writing action in my stories? But writing action can be a challenge for writers. When making movies, you have visual and other clues to use to inspire the tension and pacing in the audience, but when writing prose, this can be more difficult. So here are a few key tips I’ve learned.

1) Write in short snippets as much as possible. Action scenes are not the time for long internal dialogues by characters. Think about a time you were involved in a high adrenaline situation. You didn’t have time to take long pauses for deep thinking. You had to react and do so quickly and so must your characters. The same is true of long speeches. People tend to be interrupted in speaking by the need to act or react. So dialogue and even action should be described in short spurts. If you have more than four sentences to it, think twice about whether it should be split up.

2) Use action to break up dialogue and dialogue to break up action. Intersperse the two components in short segments to add a sense of pacing and tension. Writing long sections of dialogue and long sections of action will tend to read slow and thus stall the pacing. This is especially true of dialogue as noted above. Alternating them adds a sense of realism and keeps things moving.

3) Get to the point. Long descriptions of weapons and scenery don’t belong here. If things need to be set up, do it before the sequence occurs so you don’t have to interrupt the action to do it. You want to focus on sensory details–what the characters see, feel, touch, etc. Are they sweating? Are they hurting? Not on what the building behind them looks like or even the street itself. You don’t want to spend pages like Tom Clancy describing their weapon here. We need to know what it is and how it works and their skill level so we can not be surprised by their actions, but set that up elsewhere. During the action, we should already know.

4) Don’t make it too easy. Yes, the hero will likely win. But make it a challenge. Be sure and make the opponents threatening enough that the hero is in real jeapordy, otherwise the dramatic impact will be greatly lessened. No matter how skilled your hero is, he or she must have to face obstacles. In action sequences the odds should seem stacked against him.  Let them bleed from a wound. Let them misfire or miss with the sword. Let them sweat and even have to run, barely escaping. Sometimes it’s even good to let them lose one time only to have them win later on. Force them to stretch themselves in some way to succeed. Make them human or the reader’s will struggle to care.

5) Keep it believable.  This goes hand in hand with number 4. Real people are imperfect. They make mistakes. They fail. Make sure your action sequences are well researched and realistic. Besides humanizing the hero, don’t have vehicles or weapons performing beyond their capabilities. You may assume readers won’t know the difference but some will. And writing without limits rings hollow. Make sure you respect the limits and use them to up the tension. A man stuck with a sword fighting men with guns will face tense moments. A man against incredible odds is a man we root for.

6) Keep it tight. Anything absolutely not necessary should be cut. This includes long descriptions and dialogue as mentioned in number 1 but also the scene openings and closings. The rule I learned in film school was to get in a scene as late as possible and out as soon as possible. Nothing hurts pacing more than disobeying this rule. Be sure you start the action as fast as possible and end it the same. Don’t drag it out unnecessarily in your desire to make it more dramatic or a “cooler” sequence. Make it exactly as long as it really needs to be to serve the story and no longer.

7) Give the readers breathing space. Be careful about putting too many action sequences too close together. Movies build to a climax which may have twenty minutes of action but before that action scenes are interspersed with slower moments. Make sure you intersperse your action sequences with moments of character building and reflection, dialogue and discovery–slower sequences which allow readers to breathe a bit before the next intense action scene. In between scenes are where you make action sequences matter.  Action is not just about a character we care about surviving but about stakes he or she has in that victory. What is the character’s driving need or goal? This gets set up in other scenes and provided driving undercurrent to the action which makes us care.

8 ) Pick your moments. Action stories tend to have several sequences spread throughout. Be sure you consider in choosing which sequence to include where the overall dramatic level of them. You want the biggest action sequence in the entire piece to be either at the closing of the piece. Those in between should leave room for a build up to the major action sequence to come. Ideally, each scene builds up to those that follow but this can be accomplished in ways besides upping the stakes and tension or odds. With proper character arcs, character’s emotional stakes can be developed in such a way that each later sequence matters that much more, making the readers care more as well.

9) Make it matter. Action scenes do not exist solely to entertain readers and add tension. They have a greater purpose to serve the story. Something must happen which ups the stakes or increases the challenges with each scene in your story and action scenes are no exception. Don’t write action for the sake of action. Write action because it serves the story. Every action sequence should move the story and characters forward in their journey, if not, they don’t belong int he story.

10) Incorporate humor. Humor is a great tool for not only breaking the tension but building character during action sequences. It’s no accident characters like LEthal Weapon’s Riggs and Die Hard’s McClane engage in witty banter during such moments and your characters can as well. From funny actions to funny dialogue snippets, this makes the action both more enjoyable and less tense when done at the right moments and can add a lot to reader enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to incorporate it when you can. It doesn’t have to be cheesy catch phrases either. It’s all in the wording.

Just a few tips I hope will help you in writing action scenes for your stories and novels. I know these lessons have helped me.

As an example, here’s an excerpt from my debut novel, releasing October 4th, The Worker Prince: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2011/04/26/novel-excerpt-the-worker-prince-chapter-1-opening/

For what it’s worth…

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Write Tip: 7 Tips For Being A Good Beta Reader

One of the things I’ve learned in the past year from working with editors and beta readers is how important a role these folks play in the creative success of any published product. Now there are good editors and bad editors, good beta readers and bad beta readers. I’ve been lucky with my editors so far but had a few beta readers who left things to be desired. (Actually my current crop are fantastic but took a while to find them.)

What you need to understand as a beta reader is that the author needs your focus and honesty to make a good book or story. In fact, without you, the story can’t be all it can be, so you’re actually participating in the creative process and can have huge influence over the final product. If it’s good–and even better because of your thoughtful attention–you can proudly brag about that, and I’m sure the author will credit you in the Acknowledgements as well.

So what does it take to be a good beta reader? Here’s Seven Tips:

1. Pay Attention. You need to read with focused care. Note everything that engenders a response in you. You don’t necessarily have to report them all in your notes, but pay attention, nonetheless, and analyze how that works as you assess the story. Because the author needs to know what works, what doesn’t, etc. This requires you to read with more effort and thought than you might be used to. So it may challenge you. But it will also enrich your reading life in later efforts by teaching you to look at things more deeply in ways you hadn’t imagined.

2. Ask Questions And Seek Answers. If you have unanswered questions or are confused, those are the first notes the author needs. Often we’re so wrapped up in our story with all its details, we don’t realize we’ve underexplained things or done so in a convoluted way. We desperately need you to point it out to us. And we’re thankful when you do. Sometimes what seems perfectly clear to us won’t be to you. This has happened many times editing my novel, and I’m always grateful for those chances to make it better.

3. If You Get Annoyed, Let Me Know. If I over explain or over foreshadow and ruin the surprise, I need to know. I need to know what bores or annoys you. You’re smart enough to realize when it was unintentional, so tell me, because I need to know.

4. Offer Me A Little Praise Too. I’m nervous and excited to put my work out into the world. I need to know the bad stuff, yes. But it’s also helpful to know what you liked. What made you laugh or smile? What surprised you in a good way? What made you want to shout and read it to someone else? Those things matter, and hey, the process is so long, I need the encouragement to keep going. Please let me know.

5. Don’t Be Afraid Of Hurting My Feelings. If I ask you to beta, I am giving you carte blanche to be honest. I need it to make my work all it can be. If I asked, you’re probably someone I trust or at least whose opinion I value enough to believe you can help. And although some of your notes may frustrate me, I won’t take it personally or hold it against you because I need your help. And in the long run, my writing will be better for it not just with this project, but every project to follow.

6. Take good notes. Either on the manuscript itself or via comments in Microsoft Word or on paper. Whatever the case note page and paragraph numbers and be as detailed as you can. The more you give the author, the more helpful your notes will be and the more impressed and grateful the author will be for your time and effort.

7. Check your political, religious and other opinions at the door. You should do this any time you read if you want to actually be informed by the experience. If you are only reading to reinforce existing opinions, your goal is not to grow. Being a beta reader is a challenge, growth is inherent for both you and the writer. It is liberating to set aside preconceived ideas and look at things in a new light, through someone else’s eyes. Reading it fairly doesn’t mean you have to agree or change your mind. But if you intend to help the author, you cannot operate under your own prejudices. Writers are human, our own biases do shape how we see the world and how we project it in our writing, no matter how hard we try to avoid it or how often some deny it. But it’s not your book. The beta reader’s responsibility is fair feedback, untouched by bias, to help the author make his or her book the best of theirs that it can be.

Well those are my seven. No list is perfect. But if you take my advice, you’ll have good success as a beta reader and probably get lots of chances to read stuff before anyone else. How cool is that?

For what it’s worth…