Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to write a book by Scott Berkun (the honest truth)

How to write a book – the short honest truth by Scott Berkun

Every author I know gets asked the same question: How do you write a book?
It’s a simple question, but it causes unexpected problems. On the one hand, it’s nice to have people interested in something I do. If I told people I fixed toasters for a living, I doubt I’d get many inquires. People are curious about writing and that’s cool and flattering. Rock on.
But on the other hand, the hand involving people who ask because they have an inkling to do it themselves, is that writing books is a topic so old and so well trod by so many famous people that anyone who asks me, with the serious intent of discovering secret advice from my small brain and limited writing experience, is hard to take seriously.
Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this – Anyone can write a book. They want permission. The truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. A pen, paper and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. If Voltaire and Marquis de Sade could write in prison, then you can do it in suburbia, at lunch at work, or after your kids go to sleep.
If you want to write, kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but so what: it’s still a book. Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.
Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, whatever. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work.
Getting published. 30% of the time the real thing people are asking is how do you find a publisher. As if there wasn’t a phone book or, say, an Internet-thingy where you can look this stuff up. Writers-market is literally begging to help writers find publishers. Many publishers, being positive on the whole idea of communication, put information on how to submit material on their website. And so do agents. The grand comedy of this is how few writers follow the instructions. That’s what pisses off all the editors: few writers do their homework.
The sticking point for most wanna-be published authors is, again, the work. They want to hear some secret that skips over the hard parts. Publishers are rightfully picky and they get pitched a zillion books a day. It takes effort to learn the ropes, send out smart queries, and do the research required to both craft the idea for a book, and then to propose it effectively. So while writing is a rejection prone occupation, even for the rock-stars, finding a publisher is not a mystery. In fact the whole game is self-selective: people who aren’t willing to do the leg-work of getting published are unlikely to be capable of the leg-work required to finish a decent manuscript.
But that said – it’s easier today to self-publish than ever. Really. But again, this requires work, so many prefer to keep asking writers how they got published instead of just doing it themselves.
Being famous and wealthy: Now this is the kicker. About 50% of the time the real thing people want to know is how to become a famous millionaire rock-star author dude. As if a) I qualified, b) I could explain how it happened, or c) I’d be willing to tell.
First, this assumes writing is a good way to get rich. Not sure how this one started but writing, like most creative pursuits, has always been a less than lucrative lifestyle. Even if a book sells well, the $$$$ to hour ratio will be well below your average corporate job, without the health benefits, sick days, nor the months where you can coast by without your boss noticing. These days people write books after they’re famous, not before. And if the only books you read are bestsellers, well, you have a myopic view of the publishing world. Over 100k books are published in the US annually, and few sell more than a few thousand copies, and what causes books to sell may have little to do with how good a book is. Either way, to justify the effort you’ll need reasons other than cash.
Discouraged yet? Good. Here is the upside: I love writing books. I love reading books. I love the entire notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. That’s just awesome. If you like writing, if you enjoy the bittersweetness of chasing words into sentences, then you might love writing books too, despite, or even because of, everything I said above. If so, get to work – now :)

What did you think?  Is he right? Did he inspire you or depress you? Because he's actually kind of right about just about everything.  At least that's my opinion.  Give me your 2 Cents.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Serial Post-Apocalyptic Story? Yes, I know of one

Remember before the Internet, way, WAY, back? Okay, we're in the right time frame. Well, I remember there would always be serial stories in the newspapers and magazines.  They kept you coming back . . . and back . . . and back. Oh my heck! What is going to happen to Karen and John? That kind of thing.  And then you'd have to wait, anticipating the next installment. It was fun and it gave people something to look forward to.  We live in an instant gratification society now.  You want it?  Right this second? Well, okay just down load. Where's the anticipation?  Where's the yearning?  I think we're missing out on something.  However, don't get depressed.  I know of a Serial book. It's called: Sins of Prometheus.  Zach Hill is the author and he's using a blog format to do a serial post apocalyptic book. I know, brilliant.  Why didn't I think if that first!  Interested?  Of course you are.  Go to:  and check it out.  It's free and it's awesome.  What more could you ask for? Let me know what you think.

Monday, May 28, 2012

12 Rules for writing

 I have to admit I didn't come up with this list, but I like it.  It's basic and it'll get you started.  But the most important rule I think, is #2.  If it's boring to you it's boring to your reader.  I can't remember how many times I've deleted a whole chapter, because at the end of it, I had to say, 'Who cares?'.   I know didn't.  Which for sure means you wouldn't have.  Be grateful, and now be kind to your readers.  Take a look at your most recent manuscript.  Now get rid of all the boring parts.  Ta Da!  Perfection.

1.) If you write every day, you get better writing every day.
2.)  If it's boring to you, it s boring to your reader.
3.)  Get a writing routine and stick with it.
4.)  Poetry doesn't have to rhyme.
5.)  Resist stereotypes in reality and in writing.
6.)  Writers read a lot.  All the time. Really.
7.)  Make a list of your favorite words, books and places.
8.)  There doesn't always have to be a moral to the story.
9.)  Always bring your notebook and a spare pen.
10.)  Go for walks, dance, wed, do the dishes.  Then write about it.
11.)  Don't settle on one style.  Try something new.
12.)  Learn to tell both sides of the story.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What are you reading?

It's just about here.  Summer!  The best time of the year to grab a good book, a blanket and head to the park with your kids.  Or grand kids. Or dogs.  Or whatever.  But you get my point.  So help me out, Stephen King has said that if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.  So help me re-fill my bucket so I can start a new book.  I need a bunch of good books to inspire me.  I want it all!  So give me some suggestions on books that you love, that you go back and re-read, that inspire you, that turn a bad day into a good one. Give me one book that you love.  If you're on an island, shipwrecked of course, and you can only take one (non-religious) book with you, what would it be? I'm not really into the depress me until I can't stand it any longer and then pull out a good ending at the very end.  Blech.  Sorry, I know a lot of people love those books.  I don't mind a little tragedy here and there, but for the most part, if I'm going to spend a precious hour (or 2) on a book, it better be a vacation.  I'd much rather be in Hawaii than the arctic. Although, I do love biographies and non-fiction too.  I like to learn and grow, I just don't want to get depressed over it.  Help me out!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Excerpt Weekend! And this one is from my Unpublished book, Do Over!

Okay, everyone, I was going to hold off (for a really long time) but I can't wait to share just a little smidgen of Do Over.  So here's your first little taste of Trey's story.


“I hate men.” Iris whispered furiously as she gripped the beautiful woman’s cell phone so hard one of the rhinestones popped off.

The woman gently pried her phone out of Iris’s clenched, white hand. “Well, like I said, I just thought you should know. By the way, since I’m your new best friend, call me Cherish.”

Iris glanced around at her wedding reception and felt a cold heavy dread settle over her shoulders. It went well with the misery, shock and despair that were already suffocating her.

“Telling me yesterday would have been nice,” she said softly as the lace on her wedding dress started to itch her arms.

The tall voluptuous blond winced and stepped closer, looking like she was about to drop yet another bomb on the happiest day of her life. “Look, I didn’t even know about you until last night when Riley’s other girlfriend confronted me. Some trashy girl named Germaine. An office assistant. So cliché. She knew all about you and was fine, but when she found out about me, that was too much I guess. And just for the record, I didn’t know about either of you when I started seeing Riley. Trust me, I’m not the type to share. I don’t even know why I’m here to be honest. I think it was your wedding announcement she threw in my face. It was just so sweet. I had to see what kind of girl would cover her announcement in bright red poppies. And here you are. Just as I pictured you,” Cherish sighed as if she were exhausted and scanned the room quickly.

            Iris’s head swam as she took in the addition of yet another woman Riley had cheated on her with. Correction. Still cheating on her with.

            “Now don’t faint. I work out, but not enough to catch you and all that lace. Give me your email and I’ll forward you Riley’s emails. You know, in case you want extra proof. ”

            Iris sounded like a robot as she gave her information to the woman. Cherish finished adding the address to her phone and then slipped it into her purse.

Cherish winced at Iris’s white face and reached out and patted her shoulder. “So you have a choice I guess. Ignore what I’ve told you and leave on your honeymoon as if everything’s fine, or save yourself a lifetime of heartache. It’s up to you. Now, since I’ve done my good deed for the day I think I’ll head out.”

            Iris didn’t even watch as she walked quickly down the hallway of the reception center and out into the bright summer light.

            “Iris! There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you dear. It’s almost time to cut the cake.”

Iris looked up at her mother in law, Clarisse Shelton and shuddered. She glanced over her shoulder at the door leading to freedom and knew if she ran for it, it would only make matters worse.

            “I’d like you to get Riley for me please,” she asked in a strained voice. Clarisse’s eyes sharpened on her as she noticed Iris’s pale, distraught face. She turned without saying a word and hurried back down the hallway towards the ballroom.
Copyrighted material

Friday, May 18, 2012

The crazy world of publishing

Okay, I had this on my Facebook page, but I couldn't help putting it on my blog too because it's just so funny, pretty much because it's just so true.  If you want the easy route to getting published first get famous.  Otherwise . . . . it's just a titch harder and by titch, I mean, incredibly, incredibly harder.  But not impossible! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie part 2

Okay, sorry.  Can't let this go.  Once I start a game, it's just impossible to stop.  So, we'll switch to The Makeover.  I have to pick the right actors/actresses for this movie or it's going to be a huge flop. (I'm not insane and yes, no movie rights are in the talks - I'm just planning ahead). So I've already picked Emma Stone for Sophie.  For the grandma, I'm thinking Meryl Streep.  Maybe she's too young, but if you can play the Queen of England, you can play a witchy grandma.  I'm thinking she'll jump at the chance.  So the rest of the characters I need are:  Sam, Tess, Jacie and Daphne.  Hmmm, Sam.  I still think that Australian actor Simon Baker would be perfect if he was 15 years younger.  But you get my drift, right?  Tess.  Let's think of the most evil blond in the world.  Really Evil. Got it!  Charlize Theron.  Think evil witch/queen from the Snow White movie.  And there you have Tess.  Perfect! Home run.  Now, Daphne.  This is harder, because Daphne is yet again, kind of evil and kind of blond.  You might think I hate all blonds and think they're evil.  Not true!  I'm a blond and Allison from the Broken Road is a blond.  So no generalizations, just the luck of the draw.  But Daphne has to be perfect because I hate her so much.  (Yes authors are crazy) Hmmm, which blond is up to the job? I'm thinking Amanda Seyfried. She has that look, right?  Super sweet, and then wham, stab you in the back.  Yep, another home run. Okay, that leaves  Jacie the best friend.  Another blond.  Wow, what was the deal with all the blonds in this book?  This is killing me.  So think the coolest chick in the world, feisty, fun, daring and yet big hearted.  How about a younger Reece Witherspoon? I know, she's more leading lady than best friend.  Maybe she'd be a good Allison Vaughn instead?  Okay I'll keep looking.  Can we make Sandra Bullock a 20 year old blond?  I know.  A crime.  Help me out on Jacie!  I'm stuck.  So that's it for now. Play time is over.  Tell me if I'm wrong or right.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Making a book into a movie

Yeah, I wish!  But this is a really fun game to play.  I actually see the big time players do it all the time, so why not me?  So if I had to pick a book to turn into a movie, I'd probably pick my latest one Do-Over. I know, no fair, since none of you has read it.  But since I have, and this is my game, I make the rules.  For Iris, one of the coolest women in the world, I would have to say,  Anne Hathaway.  Easy.  Tall, arresting looks, strong heart and a great sense of humor.  Slam dunk on that one.  And for Trey?  Hmm, I was thinking Ryan Gosling, because, who wouldn't? But I'm not sure anymore.  I'll get back to you on him.  For Sophie, I'm going to cast Emma Stone.  Love her!!  She'll be great in this role, especially since she tries to ruin everything.  Oops, let something slip there.  Okay, I'll keep going.  Maggie.  Hmm, she's hard.  She' so tough, but so awesome and kind too.  Very protective, tall, gorgeous.  Maybe a younger Catherine Zeta Jones.  Any other suggestions? I need help on this one. Allison? Hmm, gorgeous blond.  Whose your favorite blond actress? This is actually harder than it looks.  I would hate to mess this up.  Give me some suggestions!!  And Donny? He's the one trying to steal Iris away from Trey.  He's a mix between Vin Diesel, The Rock, and the cute guy from the blue Avatar movie.  What is his name?  I'll get back to you.  That's it for now.  I'll update you on the rest of the casting later.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maurice Sendak

This week an amazing author died, Maurice Sendak.  I think we all paused somewhere and said, ahhhh. Who hasn't read Where the Wild Things Are?  I've read that book to my kids so many times. I think we all mourn great authors when they pass.  In schools all over the US, they have a Dr. Seuss day.  I LOVE that.  Sometimes writers change the world. Sometimes, the pen is mightier than the sword and it's hard when that pen is laid down, to never be picked up again.  I think we should think about that and maybe do a little introspection on how, what and why we write. Sometimes, what we write makes a difference in some one's life.  I hope it's for the good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hearing voices

We all watch the show, The Voice, right?  Okay, I watch the show The Voice. (Love it!) And it made me think about writing, of course.  In music, there are huge sound barrier breaking voices, the powerhouses, and then there are the softer, or raspier, or more unique voices, that still have the power to grab you.  As a writer, know your voice.  If you're a Corinne Baily Rae, don't try to carry off a Whitney Houston song and if you're Jason Mraz, there's just no need to do what Pavarotti does.  Because you can be so amazing at just being you.  Same thing with writing.  If you  know what you do and you're good at it, someone out there is going to love it.  We each tune in to our own radio station, because that's what we like, that's what makes us feel good.  Have you ever fought with someone over a radio station, because you were both so passionate about hearing what you wanted to hear?  Readers are the same way. So don't beat yourself up about not being John Grisham or whoever it is you're comparing yourself to.  Because there's someone out there, who'd much rather hear your voice, tell your story.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Writing Conferences and The Hulk

I do enjoy writing conferences.  How can anyone not?  I haven't gone to any this year so far, but all my writer friends are talking non-stop about the Whitney Awards and the Story Makers Conference.  Congratulations to all the winners by the way.  But I remember what it's like. The best way to describe it is like it's writer crack.  Sorry.  But it's true.  Everyone, me included, comes back from every conference so pumped up to write, it's the only thing we can think of.  And we're so inspired by the speakers and their success that anyone who gets in the way of us and a computer should have good health insurance.  I'm just being honest here.  If publishing companies were smart, they'd sponsor writer's conferences all the time.  I hear Italy is a good place to  hold a writer's conference. (hint, hint).  If my publisher is listening, I've been yearning for a week in Hawaii.  But for sure, if you're in a rut, if you're blocked, if you've lost your zeal, if you're questioning even being a writer, sign up for the next writer's conference and hold on to your seat.  You'll come back a new woman (man) within two days, supercharged, more talented than ever, and practically unstoppable.  Think the Hulk with a computer. Anyone disagree?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Help Me! Help Me! (I'm serious)

So here's the deal, every (most) LDS author/artist knows it's all about advertising and we never get as much as we want.  Here's my chance to get some!  Please Like the LDS Books and Things Facebook page - Find MY name in the comments and like my comment and I win.  Please Please Please pretty pretty Please!! Thanks guys, Love YA!
Who is your favorite LDS Author/Artist? Help them win by "liking" their name in the comments below. Don't see their name yet? Add it in a comment and then like it. The LDS Author/Artist who has their commented name "liked" most on this post BEFORE JUNE 1 will get a FREE 1/4 page ad in the 2012 Fall Issue of Books & Things, circulation over 150,000! - START LIKING & SHARING!

Step 1: Like the LDS Books & Things Facebook Page (Like Button Up Top)
Step 2: Find your favorite Author/Artist's name in the Comments and "Like" their comment.
Step 3: Tell your friends to vote too!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing tip of the day

Nora Roberts has said, “I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank one.”  Yes, Nora said that, not me, but I follow that advice all the time.  If you're stuck, just  get something down, and then keep moving.  The story will continue to progress and you can always come back and fix it.  Don't let writer's block, be a road block in your story.  Keep moving, keep typing and then know that you always have tomorrow to change everything.  It keeps the creative juices flowing and there's no need to pull your hair out.