Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: Three Stupid Things Writers Do

Baby Evil Writers 101: Three Stupid Things Writers Do
Julie Butcher

So I‘ve been around publishing for a while. There have been people who should have known better than to do what they did, but went ahead and let their stupid fall out all over everything. Since you are beginning evil writers, I’ll list out the things and then you do not do them. If you go ahead and act like a mental midget, it’s your problem. I won’t try and save you. I’ll just wave good-bye and leave you in the pit that you dug for yourself.

1.      Fire off a nasty email in reply to a rejection letter.

You can print it out and stomp on it. You can yell in your house. You can eat ice cream and cake and watch sappy movies and cry. There are a million things you can do instead of snapping out a rude and angry reply. Out there in publishing land, they send tons of those emails. They are not an insult to you. They are a reply to your query. If you don’t snap, that particular door is still open. Later you can send another manuscript. When you snarl and curse and bite, that door shuts forever. There are a limited number of doors. Don’t be stupid.

2.      Reply negatively to a review.

Everyone gets bad reviews. If you don’t believe this fact then go and look at the top authors on Amazon. They have one star reviews. Totally you are allowed to feel badly. You can cry. You can put that reviewer’s picture on your wall and throw darts if you like. What you absolutely cannot do is to go online and refute what they posted. My suggestion is not to read reviews period. Then you are not temped to get in a cat-fight in the comments, or to fire off another terrible email which can be copy pasted and shown to the world. For goodness sake keep your dignity. No one wants to work with a toddler who throws tantrums whenever they don’t get their way. People are allowed to have an opinion—even people who don’t like your book.

3.      Insult other publishing professionals.

If you are trying to be published (or if you are already there) and you disparage any other publishing professional you are shooting yourself in the foot. Do not moan about how long Agent X is taking to reply to your query. Don’t insult other people’s books—like writing scathing reviews online or elsewhere. Don’t gripe about your editor or agent. Use some common sense. Publishing as a whole may seem enormous. It isn’t. Everyone eventually knows everyone else. Yes, this is an eclectic bunch. Yes, you won’t like some of them—too bad. Put on your big kid pants and act like a grown up.

Most of this should be common sense and good manners people. Don’t make it harder than it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Author Website Challenge - Does Yours Pass?

A few weeks back I went to the Willamette Writer's Conference. This time around (having learned from hard experience how important this is) I attended a slew of marketing classes. And I learned a lot. Whether I ever actually use what I learned in a meaningful way, or not, is still up for debate.

As it turns out, all I want to do is write books. Some things never change.

But one of the pieces of advice that made a lot of sense to me was about the author website. I went to a class taught by author William Hertling. And then I went to another class taught by William Hertling. He seemed to know what he was talking about and has sales to back up his claims. Some of the information he presented is difficult for me and I haven't got my mind around it yet, but I'm chipping away at some tasks.

One of the first things I did after I got home was to make some changes to my own website. It's not perfect, but it's better.

Want to try the challenge on your own website? Open it up and look to see if the following five things are readily visible. You get FIVE SECONDS to decide:

1. Is your site easily identified as the "right place?"
2. Are there easily discoverable links to buy your books?
3. Is there unusual or valuable content?
4. Is there a visible mailing list sign up?
5. Is there a clear bio/about me section?
6. Make sure you include contact information.

Most new visitors to your site will give it about that five seconds before deciding whether to hang around for a bit or click away.

And that, my friends, is it. You can check out William Hertling's site here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: How Long Does Publishing Take

Baby Evil Writers 101: How long does it take to get published?
Julie Butcher

Write a million words.

So you see my sweet evil babies, it all depends on you. If you wrote one thousand words a day, every day. Then, in one thousand days, you would have your million words. But even the most fervent writer doesn’t work each and every day. The evil children must be fed and if you miss the evil queen mother’s birthday—you’re toast.

So let’s assume that you do not write for two days of the week and that you do write for five days. (Like a real job) Now you’re down to twenty-two days per month or 264 days per year and this doesn’t count holidays. Let’s take away twenty days for holidays and making dinners and birthdays and blowing up stuff on appropriate holidays. Now we have 244 days per year.

“Oh!” You say. “That is 244,000 words or around three manuscripts.”

Not so much. You’ll spend twice the time editing that you do writing—if you do it correctly. It will take a lot longer because you are new at evil. After a few books you’ll only use one day to edit for every day you write. Eventually, you won’t have to edit hardly anything because you learned all of the things. But now, that takes away from your actual working time so you’ll have one book to edit and I’ll be generous and say that your book is 100,000 words.

There’s one tenth of what you need to be awesome. Ten years until awesome hits the shelves.

Unfortunately, most of us are not quick learners. All of your words need to be filled with evil and wonder. Each word needs to further the plot of your book. Add two or three years to learn to plot without holes and to write concise sentences. (At 1.000 words per day it will take that long.)

Now we’re at twelve years if you write 1,000 words five days each week.

So put on your big kid pants, put your butt in the chair, and write. Dreaming about writing will not get you there. Stalking agents and editors on twitter will not make you one word closer. The one and only thing that will make your journey faster is to write.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Teachers come in a lot of different forms. Sometimes they are traditional, classroom educators, certainly, but more often than not, our greatest teachers are not technically designated as such. We can learn from situations, from trauma, and from the individuals that wander in and out of our acquaintance.

Or we can ignore the lessons and fail to recognize the opportunity to learn.

I keep an eye out for teachers because I personally believe that we're here to learn as much as we can. When it comes to the craft of writing, I'm certain of it. The learning never stops. The author is never, ever, too good to learn something new and improved.

I've had the great pleasure of working with some amazing editors over the course of my publication. I consider each one a teacher. The process of editing a manuscript as a team (and it is a team effort) is both eye-opening and incredibly instructive. I don't think you can do it without learning something about craft, about your own habits, faults, strong points, and about the things you can do to make your prose stronger.

Sadly, this year I've lost a few good editors. For different reasons, my regular editor is no longer my editor, twice. Each time I've adjusted to a new editor, I've also had to adjust to new ways of working, but the flip side is, I've learned a whole new set of lessons with each change. As hard as it is to be forced from your comfort zone, this is exactly where you learn new things. And so, more teachers, new teachers and new skill sets pass through our experience.

We get to seize that opportunity...or fight it. But if we truly want to be the best writer we can, then hard or not (and we do like our safe little trenches) we can open up to the next experience and see what new information we can harvest from it.

In the same way our readers can teach us, our reviews and our beta readers and our fans and our peers. If we're open to feedback, and if we are looking for the lesson, we'll find it's all around us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Buy the Book

So, a while back, I took this class at a conference. It was talking about using beat sheets for outlining.  The speaker talked about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, which I'd seen referenced all over the internet for a while. But, the lesson seemed really straightforward, so I did what any money-conscious idiot would do. I plowed ahead...without reading the book.

Now, I don't know about you, but I always read the directions when putting stuff together. In fact, I tend to have the directions sitting right next to me for reference the entire time. I'm completely anal that way.

I was also the student who read every word in my textbooks. I'm talking every class from elementary school through college. If it was assigned, I read it. Period. No questions asked. Because I always believed there was more in the book than just what the teacher/professor presented. (I was not always correct about that, but I digress.)

Anyway, I'm not sure where I lost that habit, but I did. It never occurred to me to read, much less buy Blake Snyder's book. After all, it's just about filling in these blanks on this worksheet. Come on, a monkey could do that.

Then I got a new editor. We were talking about outlines/synopses and how I really hated the way my previous editor made me do my outlines. I detested it. She brought up the beat sheet thing. And I was all, "Oooooo...hey, monkeys can do those! Perfect!"

I will say one thing for the synopsis style I hated. It made it very obvious to me that what I was filling in monkey-style wasn't going to cut it. I'd missed some key piece somewhere along the line. After wrinkling up my forehead and staring at my computer screen, hoping the answers would just reveal themselves like some well-timed pop-up ad, I decided there were better uses for my time.

So I messaged an author friend who is all about the non-fiction. I asked if she did beat sheets. "All the time." Then I asked if she used the book or just the sheets. The pause was ridiculously long, as if she was sitting at her laptop, waiting on the punchline. Then she said something to the effect of, "That book has saved my life more than once. Get it."

Of course, being of a very frugal nature, I looked up the price and laughed (used copies are as pricey as new ones!) then I hit up my local library and borrowed a copy. I've never kicked myself so hard for not just buying a book. I wanted to highlight it--in multiple colors. I wanted to take notes in the margins. And I sure as hell didn't want to give it back.


As Sean Connery said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "There is more in the book than just the map." I had the map all along. The the key to reading it. I really wish I would have figured that out a year ago.

Seriously though, probably the best book on story structure I've ever read. I have to return this copy to the library soon. I've already ordered one of my own.

Our Theme Song