writing advice

How to Write a Novel; Russia Bans Gay Gathering For Holocaust Victims

How to Write a Novel

I don’t usually post about non-fic books like this, but I’m doing it this time partly because there aren’t many good books out there like it and partly because it’s a self-published book authored by former literary agent, Nathan Bransford. Bransford is also a long time blogger and the author of a middle grade book series, and the unusual thing about his blog is that it has continued to be just as popular even after he decided to pursue a professional writing career and leave agenting.

Speaking as a blogger now, the reason why that’s so unusual is literary agent blogs usually receive many hits because so many unpubbed writers want to snag a literary agent. The readers want something from the blogger. This makes sense. It’s not easy to snag an agent or a book deal in trad publishing and connecting with an agent through a blog makes writers feel closer to their goals. In other words, the odds are these same literary agent blogs wouldn’t be as popular if the bloggers weren’t literary agents. And Bransford has proven that it is possible to continue to draw a large audience as a blogger without having anything to offer them other than good blog posts that range from writing tips to personal conversations about life, books, and objective criticism. As a blogger, I know how hard that is to do.

In any event, I haven’t read How to Write a Novel yet, but I’m going to buy it later tonight just so I have something to use as a point of reference when I need to prove/discuss something here on my blog. There’s one other non-fic book I loved, also written by a literary agent, Noah Lukeman, I still refer to often when I’m about to submit a novel to a publisher. And from what I’ve read through excerpts and early reviews, it looks like Bransford’s new book just might wind up becoming a staple for other writers for many years to come. But more important, Bransford’s book is priced at $4.99.

You can read excerpts at Bransford’s blog, here. And this is the Amazon page where you can purchase it. I’m sure it will be distributed at Smashwords and other places where digital books are sold as well. Although the book cover isn’t anything elaborate, if you’ve been following Bransford’s blog for any length of time you know orange is his favorite color.

Russia Bans Gay Gathering For Holocaust Victims

I still shudder when I think about the Holocaust, especially when I think about how many gays were persecuted during that time. The millions of lives lost should never have happened, and it wouldn’t have happened if the world had been paying closer attention to what the Nazis were doing, and taking aggressive action against it.

Upon the rise of Adolf Hitler, gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians, were two of the numerous groups targeted by the Nazi Party and were ultimately among Holocaust victims. Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, who were compelled to sexually conform to the “German norm.”

And now when I read about what’s happening in Russia to gays it gets even more frightening. The other day I read something about Putin welcoming gays to Russia for the Olympics. But after reading this next article I can’t help but wonder how welcome gays really are in Russia and I think the call to boycott the Olympics is more important than ever. I’ve written a series of post on this, here. As you can see from those posts I’m not the only one who feels this way…aside from Johnny Weir who thinks sports is more important than lives. He makes me shudder, too.

Russia recently banned a gay gathering that was organized to pay tribute and honor to LGBT people who were persecuted and were victims of Nazi Germany. And in banning this gathering the Russian government has sent a message to the world and it’s infuriated gay activists.

But the authorities rejected the application, saying paying tribute to gay victims of Nazi Germany could potentially ‘influence’ children on homosexuality.

Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, said: ‘The Moscow authorities are becoming increasingly absurd, and the ba of the rally to denounce the crimes of Hitler and Nazism is more proof of this.

‘The government is approving of Nazi Germany’s genocidal policies.’

In an even more homophobic hate oriented move, it’s been alleged the Russian government has banned all gay gatherings.

You can read more here.


Bad Writing Tips That Make Me Crazy…

When I see profoundly bad writing tips that make me crazy, I get this feeling deep down that won’t go away unless I post something about it. This could be a joke, but you never know these days. I hate to see new writers get bad advice from those who think they know it all. At least the bad writing tips have to be profound to make me crazy, not just small things. And, this is why I rarely offer writing advice, not even in jest. With over 100 published works on Goodreads.com, I have yet to find a clear definition of what’s considered great writing because that’s just too subjective.

In this case, I saw this gem below on this publishing blog and I couldn’t help thinking about all the writers that might get confused by this kind of advice. You have to remember that what works for one writer won’t work for another. It is all subjective and whenever you see someone offer writing tips like this, take it about as seriously as you take the alleged facts in Presidential debates.

Let’s start with #1:

I’m thrilled this author always has a plan. But that’s not how it works for all writers and this should not be taken seriously. I rarely have a set plan…even when the publisher asks for an outline I tend to deviate because my characters decide how the books end, not me. I sit down and start writing.

#2:

I rarely decide the endings of my books. My characters do that. My characters guide me. So while I know that when I’m writing a romance it will end happily, I’m not exactly certain where…or how…the book will end. And I like that. I like being kept in suspense while I’m writing the book. And if I’m not, I start to wonder if readers will be. So take this one with a HUGE proverbial grain of salt.

#3:

I’m just going to refer this one to other books I’ve read recently. I see the words was, got, and put, in books that have been written by Pulitzer prize winning authors all the time and there’s nothing wrong with using them. Like all words, they shouldn’t be overused. But if you do use them no one is going to fault you for it. In fact, most readers use those words themselves and won’t even notice. But more important, during copyedits words like this are almost always removed anyway if they are overused.

#4:

This blows me away whenever I see it. Truly proven authors like John Irving use adverbs all the time and there’s nothing wrong with them unless they are, once again, overused. But then nothing should be overused. There’s this bigotry against ALL adverbs these days that passes me by and I don’t think readers care all that much about it.

#5:

I don’t even get this one. So I’m not going to comment. But I’m certainly not going to pay attention to it either.

I would like to say this author and blogger were joking around, but I’m not certain. I think it could be a joke because the blogger used the word “got” in the post. If it is in jest, I think it’s hysterical. But for those who might take something like this seriously, always remember that advice like this is subjective and it should NOT be taken too seriously. This is the kind of advice that can screw up an author for years until the author finally reaches that seasoned point where he or she sees how subjective writing is. As far as I know, no one has ever written a set standard for what’s considered good writing. If they do, I’ll be the first to read it.

Beware of Bad Editorial Advice on the Web!

When I say beware of bad editorial advice on the web I’m not talking about all advice. There are more than a few places where writers can go to get excellent advice. There are also excellent editing/writing web sites where writers can go to get varying opinions. And that’s what you want: varying opinions so you can decide what’s right for you.

What I’m talking about when I say beware of bad editorial advice usually pertains to loud unpublished amateurs who think they know it all. And they don’t. They will trick you into thinking they know it all. But I’ve never seen one who got it right. In some cases they remind me of used car salesmen from the old days.

They set bad detailed rules about what’s considered good editing/writing and what’s considered wrong editing/writing. They never list publishing credits, they never talk about their own publishing experiences, and yet they lead you to believe they know more than anyone else in publishing.

Here’s an example of the difference between good and bad advice. There’s been an age old debate about whether or not prologues work…or for that matter whether or not they should even be written. The best advice would be there’s no set answer to this. Prologues work well for some books and some authors, they don’t for others. Most readers don’t seem to care one way or the other. Now, bad advice about prologues is when you see someone slam them and tell you never to do them. Frankly, I’m not a prologue fan and I hardly ever write them. But I’ve read books with prologues that worked and I would never tell anyone not to write a prologue. I might tell them to be cautious about prologues because I don’t like them. But I’d never say never.

Another age old debate has to do with showing verses telling. A literary agent recently posted some great examples of how “telling” can actually work out well sometimes. I not only agree with her, I trust her advice because she has good credits that back her up, and authors who have been on all the bestseller lists. In other words, she knows what she’s doing, at least in this respect. And in her post she gave good solid examples of how “telling” works sometimes. Once again, bad advice is when someone without any publishing credentials states “telling” is always bad and you should never, ever do it.

I always find it interesting when beta reader advice is given to writers. I’ve been working in publishing and getting published for twenty years and I’ve never had a beta reader. My publishers are my beta readers. The editors and copy editors who work for my publishers are my beta readers. The two times I’ve self-published the copy editors I’ve hired are my beta readers. But when I’m writing I work alone and I don’t want anyone else’s influence in my work. And yet once again, this works for me and I would never tell anyone else they shouldn’t have a beta reader. It’s all about what works for you and what makes you comfortable. I’d rather eat dirt that have a beta reader. I know other authors who depend on their beta readers and crit groups. And there’s nothing wrong with either way.

Aside from all this, I think the biggest piece of bad advice I’ve seen of all time from amateur unpublished editors on the web is that you need to have a fully professionally edited manuscript before you submit it to a publisher or an agent. I’ve never found this to be true. You do need a neat, clean manuscript that’s grammatically correct and easy to read. You do need a good story and a great hook if you’re unpublished and you’re trying to get an agent or an editor to notice you. You need to know how to write a great query letter with a perfect book/plot description to get the agent or editor’s attention. And you need to know the basics of crafting a novel. But you don’t need to pay a high priced freelance editor out of pocket if you’re in the query stages.

This is what publishers do if they decide to buy your book. They edit the book, not you or the freelance editor you hired before you started to query. Some agents even edit before they start shopping books to publishers. I’ve seen this more often than not. But you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a freelance editor if you’re querying and shopping a book. For some, this is where beta readers can come in handy. They can help you get the manuscript to the point of being neat, tight and ready to submit.

Over the years I’ve worked with more editors and publishers than I can count offhand. The editors I’ve least enjoyed working with have teaching experience, especially on a college level. In fact, I usually don’t submit to them more than once because it’s too frustrating to deal with them. They. Know. It. All.

But each time I’ve submitted a book or story to a publisher the editing process was a different experience. For one recent book that I released with a pen name, I submitted the book thinking there were very few things that needed to be changed. That’s usually how it works out. However, the editor returned the manuscript and asked me to cut 8,000 words and turn the first chapter into the prologue. And guess what? That editor was right. I did what she asked me to do and it made the book better. And I’m the one who hates prologues. Go figure. As a sidenote, I also turned the 8,000 words I’d cut into a short story and sold it to another publisher. Like a chef who doesn’t believe in wasting food, I don’t believe in wasting words.

Before I submit a manuscript I do all kinds of checks. One of those checks is to look for words I sometimes write too often without realizing it. One of those words is “that.” I do a search, find, and delete. My copy editor usually thanks me for this. But it doesn’t always work out this way. I once submitted a manuscript to a publisher and the managing editor sent it back with revisions. And huzzah, she’d added the word “that” in all the places where I’d removed it. But better than this, when it came back for the final read through from the copy editor, she’d removed the word “that” in each place where the managing editor had inserted it.

I’ve always found that my copy editors are the most important people with regard to getting a book out. I depend on them more than anyone in publishing, because they are the people that can make or break a book. I’ve worked with many and they all have different styles and different opinions, too. The best know the meaning of the word diplomacy. Which leads me back to where I began in this post: there are not set rules and anyone who tries to tell you there are isn’t someone you want to take seriously. So beware of that kind of advice. It’s only going to leave you wondering why you bothered to listen in the first place after you’ve had a book published and found out what it was really like to go through the editorial process. Believe me, it’s nothing like what they say. And that’s because it’s always different, with each book, each professional editor, and each publisher.

Advice and Tips for Aspiring Writers…

When I came across the blog post I’m linking to below I had to share. I couldn’t agree more with everything in the post. And if you’re an aspiring writer you’ll want to check it out.

Number one is especially important. I hear a lot of new writers talk about not having the time to write. I understand this, trust me I do. I owned two businesses for a long time and worked seven days a week dividing my time between the two businesses.

I still found time to write. Sometimes it was only a page a day. But I made a point to make the time.

Here are eight great tips I think are very important.