On Writing, Reading, and Publishing Well:April Eberhardt Interviewed by Chris Jane

Read the interview here on Jane Friedman’s site. I’ve mentioned Jane Friedman before. Her site is like the Fort Knox of information for writers.  Gold standard, gold mine, gold star–okay, enough. Some days I think my blog should simply be: check out Jane Friedman, repeated two or three times a week.

So much to read on editing and writing and publishing, so little time . . . so I often miss things the first time around. Or read them and file them somewhere on my computer. (I am most definitely not of the clean desk, focused mind school of thought.) This interview is a few months old. Apologies if you’ve already seen it.

April Eberhardt is an agent in the Bay Area, who’s embraced the changing landscape of the publishing world. This interview presents a good overview of that world in general, and good women’s fiction in particular. I urge you to check out her site as well.

What I particularly want to call out and re-emphasize is her recommendation to writers to read. My first creative writing teacher in college made form, function, and imitation assignments: write a poem in the style of ee cummings, a Shakespearean sonnet, like that. That’s one way of learning to write by reading.  There are others.

For me reading and writing are like one compound activity. As I read I notice pacing, story arc, characterization techniques, choice of details–dozens of things I’m not even necessarily consciously aware of. It becomes something akin to muscle memory that I bring it to my own writing.

And when I teach or coach writers I almost always encourage them to read something that their work reminds me of in some way or for some specific purpose.

Read on and write on!

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SF Bay Area Writers, Check Out This Narrative Writing Workshop Lead by an Editor and Writer Who Has Edited More Than 1,000 Books

If you live in the SF Bay area, if you’ve long wanted to write or book, or are stuck in the middle of the book, join me at Book Passages in Corte Madera for six Sundays beginning April 17 for a workshop on narrative techniques in fiction and non-fiction.

Click here for details and to register for the workshop.

You’ll get personal feedback on your chapters, stories, outline, and an honest assessment on how and where you might seek publication. You’ll get advice on making and executing a plan to publish your work from an editor and publisher with more that 40 years in the publishing business, who has edited everything from NY Times Bestsellers to amazing tales of other worlds, non-fiction and some fiction. (You can find more information about me on this site.)

I usually only work one on one, at a much higher cost to writers. So this is a rare opportunity of good value and an opportunity to hang out with other writers. There aren’t that many spots left. The workshop is limited to 10.

Join me if you can. (And if you can’t, please pass this invitation along).

Writing Because We Write, and Getting It Right so Our Readers Find Us

Gwendolyn Kiste posted a  blog which  Janine Kovac of sent out to a group I’ve recently joined, Write On Mamas. As Sherlock used to say to Watson, “It’s elementary!” And, as my daughter used to say when she was a teenager about most anything, “NOT!” Here it is: how to un-ruin your Amazon link in its entirety. And if I didn’t set up the link properly (possible, maybe even probable) look up Gwendolyn Kiste and you’ll find it.

The first time I used a computer, an Apple IIe, floppy disc, no hard drive, I was so apprehensive that it took me days to approach it. I’ve finally got to the point in life where I can try new things on my computer, and if they don’t work I breathe deeply, try again, panic, and call my friend Mark who might be getting sick of me by now. So I’ve made a resolution to breathe deeply and read the instructions.

Today I’m sharing an instruction worth following, whether you’re sharing the link for a your own new book or letting your friends and readers know about another writer’s book, this is good information to have. So I’m breathing deep while I follow the instructions in Gwendolyn’s article step by step.

In the meantime, write on!

 

If a Writer Publishes a Book/Article/Poem in a Forest . . .

I found this post on a Facebook Page, Writers on Writing. Here’s the link: Jennifergaram keep on writing. I love this post. Keep on writing because it feels better than not writing (even if you’re rejected, even if hardly anyone reads your post or article or book). Because you have something to say. Because you want to tell a story.

Reach out and touch someone used to be a slogan–maybe for long distance telephone calls (back in the dark ages before cell phones) or maybe for a greeting card company. The thing is, when we write and submit for publication and even publish, we are reaching out. And as Garam writes, we never know when what we write will touch someone.

Metrics and money seem to me not to be good ways to measure our success as writers. Okay, I don’t mean to be disingenuous and I’m not a fresh-eyed young artist who thinks money isn’t important. Quite the opposite. Many years ago, when I was a new mother, with a full-time job, and trying to write and submit poetry and have a life, something had to go. It was poetry because poetry didn’t earn money to support my family, and it took away from the little free time I had to spend with my family. So money was my metric.

Now I’m looking for a different one. I don’t have one. I’m looking for one. And I’m looking to connect with my writing–to find out what I think about growing older, living in this increasingly complex world, tell a story to entertain myself.

Why do you write?

 

If You Want to Self-Publish Your Book, You Should Know about The Book Designer

I’ve subscribed to the Book Designer’s newlsetter for years. It’s an amazing resource and you might want to check it out at bookdesigner.com. Not every post will speak to you equally of course. But these are some of the most detailed and best ideas available, written by a number of people who practice what they preach, with great guest blogs too. If I had a rating system I’d given this one five our of five, or ten out of ten, or, okay, maybe 95 out of 100–nobody’s perfect. If you subscribe, remember, take what you like (or can use or may not want to hear, but know to be true)and leave the rest, because there’s a lot to take in here.

And write on!

Why You Might Want a Writing Coach, Instead of an Editor

When I speak to groups about writing and editing, people sometimes ask about what an editor can do for them. If you are closing in on a finished manuscript (fiction or non-fiction) or proposal (for a non-fiction book) you may want to look for a line editor–someone who can sort our tangles of sentences; re-order your paragraphs; suggest cuts or alternative wordings; and generally polish your work. And/or, if you have a more polished version of a manuscript almost ready for typesetting, you may want to find a copy editor (and if you are being traditionally published, your publisher will find one) who corrects grammar and punctuation; makes sure that there are eight steps when you say there are or that all your characters have retained their final version names and biographical details in a novel–details like that.

But, if you’re not at that stage, if you’re stuck in the middle or at the beginning of a new project, or don’t know if you’re writing a memoir or a novel, or need some motivation and direction, you might benefit from a writing coach. Like life coaches, writing coaches do a lot of different things, but what they mostly do is encourage you, find ways to allow you to be  your better self and write a better book.

In my consulting with writers, one of the things I do is to ask a lot of questions. I read the first 25-50 pages of a novel, maybe an outline if the person has one, or a chapter or two of a non-fiction book. In my first meeting, I’m generally trying to help writers clarify the scope of their project. We talk about structure, how to tell the story, what to leave in and often what to exclude. We agree to next steps–goals if you will, or assignments.  When we meet again, and these meetings can be in person or by phone, we review progress, set more goals. I continue to read and comment on the manuscript in progress. I make suggestions about possible avenues for publishing. And I continue to ask the questions and suggest the goals and deadlines that will get the book done. I’m on the virtual sidelines cheering, cajoling, coaxing you to get that book done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YA Books That Strike a Chord

It’s a good thing I clean out my email inbox every once in a while. I see the most amazing things there. I found an article about a Women’s Media Group meeting last month where editors and agents gathered with interested others to talk about YA novels (mostly) and what’s hot and what’s not. And what’s interesting to them right now and why. See the article here. If you write (or read) YA fiction, I think you might like this article.

A Treasure from the Top 100 Websites for Writers

One of my favorites is The Book Designer, started by Joel Friedlander, a San Francisco Bay area publishing fixture. This site, with its newsletter and monthly magazine “Carnival of Indies” really does have something for everyone. Independent (self) publishing has come a long way in the last decade. The Book Designer has kept up with the times. You’ll find articles for newbies, writing tips, and in-depth how-tos for typesetting and cover making and e-book conversion. Check it out here.

If ever I was stumped or had a specific question, especially about book production or design, about new software resources, I’d start here.

Beating the Bushes for Readers

I came across this post quite a while ago. It’s on Jane Friedman’s site, and it’s a guest post by Angela Ackerman. It’s one of the best marketing essays–or lesson, or maybe blueprint–I’ve seen in a good long time. Read the post here. 

In fact there’s so much good information here and on Jane Friedman’s site and on Angela Ackerman’s  One Stop for Writers and her main website that I can’t say a lot more. Except check them out. Put them in your quiver for when you have specific questions or need inspiration. You could do worse!

What’s a book? Who’s an author? What’s a publisher? A Rant-let!

Years ago, an old friend/colleague, a sales and marketing director in various well-respected, even high-toned literary, houses, once told me this is what publishing is about: what do you buy and what do you sell. In those days, as an editor, I was buying projects that interested me, that I thought fit in with our publishing program, and that had merit–were well-written, presented new ideas, etc. And none of that mattered to my colleague if he couldn’t sell the idea of the book, the author, the book. (And in those days there wasn’t as much direct selling to the reader as there is now. So we were selling to people who were going to sell the book. And of course that still goes on too.)

A few weeks ago I read this article posing the question: is Twitter a book publishing company? Now if I had a dollar for every publishing is dying/changing/being disrupted article I’ve read in the last forty years I could go on a very nice vacation.  (And yes, these articles have been going on for forty years. Those of you who are old enough may remember publishing jobs that no longer exist–typesetters, keyliners, typists.) So why do I keep reading these articles?

Because we are in a sea change. (Not the only one in history, maybe not even the biggest one–printing presses people!) A more recent sales colleague said, somewhat bitterly, he thought there may be more people writing books than reading them. I’m pretty sure that’s not literally true. But a lot of us have a story to tell, information to share. And everyday it seems there are more mystifying, sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, ways to get the word out.

I don’t think the name of the game is keeping up with technology. I don’t think anybody can. In the past week I’ve heard of at least seven new (to me) on-line marketing sites, at least three new independent/self-publishing companies. I’m happy to know about these things exist. I’m excited that there is a revolution in communicating, telling stories, writing the news, writing to celebrate nature, kids, animals. All of that and more. It’s a great time to be alive. But it is not a great time to think any one of us knows it all–the present or the future.

So I’m not going to tell you what a book is. Who an author is. What a publisher does. But if you want to write, and if you want to share your worldview, your story, your dream with readers, you will figure that out for yourself. You’ll spend time surfing (and yes going down rabbit holes) and trying things out.

Oh, yes, and you’ll probably spend hours tearing your hair out to get the structure just right. And more hours in the pure pleasure zone of seeing your ideas and stories come to life on paper or screen.

Write on!