Monthly Archives: February 2014

3 Ways to Give Great Writing Feedback on Book Country

Posted by February 28th, 2014

Give feedback on Book Country

Readers have millions of choices when it comes to choosing a book to read. Without getting feedback, it’s extremely hard to see if your book is as interesting and smooth to read as the rest of the work that other writers are putting into the marketplace.

What are the best ways to give writing feedback on Book Country?

While we have offered you “Dos and Don’ts” for giving feedback on Book Country, we believe that there really is no wrong way to give writing feedback (as long as your feedback stays within the bounds of the Community Guidelines, of course!). However, if you’re unsure about how to craft a review that will really help other community members make their books better, try one of these three ways to give great writing feedback on Book Country:

Be specific, and don’t be afraid to have opinions.

Tori Schindler Brooks is a great example. Here’s an excerpt from one of her Book Country reviews:

Internal dialogue shouldn’t be in double quotes, it’s too easy to be mistaken for actual spoken words, except in the (hopefully) rare occasions the characters are genuinely talking out loud to themselves. Usually you use italics or single quotes, or just state ‘they thought’ for internal dialogue.

Along those same lines, when the book is in third person POV, “I” is going to be inside quotes almost always or it’s awkward. It feels like you, the writer, lost track of your POV when we’re reading it.

The dialogue was good but occasionally difficult to follow. Not all dialogue had clear tags or point of origin. Continue reading

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Literary Author-Editor Collaboration: Riverhead’s Manuel Gonzales and Megan Lynch

Posted by February 27th, 2014

THE MINIATURE WIFE coverThis weekend, Megan Lynch, a senior editor at Riverhead Books, will be joining her author Manuel Gonzales at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Seattle. They’ll be there for “Celebrating 20 Years of Extraordinary Fiction from Riverhead Books,” an unmissable reading on Saturday afternoon at the conference (Find more details here). Manuel will be reading from his short story collection THE MINIATURE WIFE, which Megan edited.

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LS: Why shouldn’t aspiring writers give up on the short story form or on the prospect of putting together their own short story collections?

Manuel Gonzales: The beauty of the short story is that everything has been done to the short story. It’s been turned into a shopping list, a set of twitter posts, a menu (Roxane Gay‘s “Contrapasso”), and a PowerPoint presentation. It’s been minimalized and maximalized; it can be as short as 500 or 100 words or as long as whatever Alice Munro wants to write and call a story. So there’s nothing you can’t do with the short story. As a writer, you’re free to do practically anything, can experiment or not, and there’s something exciting about all the possibilities open to you as a writer. But truthfully, if you write short stories, if you can’t help but write short stories, if that’s how narrative spills out of you–not as a poem or a novel or a script, but as a story–then that is reason enough not to give up on the form.

Megan Lynch: As a reader, I love short stories and always have. As an editor, their appeal is simple: they can be perfect in a way that even the most polished novel can’t touch. And getting to really perfect something in the editorial process is a true joy; plus it works different creative muscles than the kind of structural edit you might do on a novel. So I hope writers will absolutely continue to write brilliant short stories, but they should also be aware that not only can stories be perfect, they pretty much should be. I take on plenty of novels that need significant work, but can’t do that with stories. Continue reading

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Writing Prompts: Finding Inspiration with Manuel Gonzales

Posted by February 26th, 2014

the amazing story generator by manuel gonzalesMy own stories start—as most stories do, I’m  sure—with a voice, or an image, or a normal annoyance extrapolated into something severe and outlandish. Lately, though, I’ve found myself drawn to story starters, which I give to students as writing exercises. Most of these I’ve pulled from THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR, a flip-book that offers three story elements with which to start a story. They’re often ridiculous and rarely produce workable stories. For example: 1) Upon winning the lottery, 2) a reformed hit man, 3) meets the ghost of Ernest Hemingway.

As ludicrous as the prompts might be, they make for good writing exercises, though, forcing the students to write something new every week and giving them constraints, which are good for writers. Whenever possible, I like to hem writers in with constraints.

I am refreshed, too, by the expansive variance that comes out of these exercises. It is less that no two stories are alike and more that there is such a wide gulf between each writer’s crack at the prompt that time and again my faith in the wicked, cruel, sorrowful, and hilarious minds of new writers is renewed. And every so often, a writer will tackle a prompt and something compelling—to the readers, but most importantly to the writer—will emerge and a true story will have been started. Continue reading

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Enter the About the Book Contest for a Chance to Win Our Discover Publishing Package!

Posted by February 25th, 2014

about the book super finalWe all know how important that cover copy can be in selling a book, whether it is a physical book jacket you’re reading or the “About the Book” entry on an eBook retail site. To help you fine-tune your description—and attract more readers on Book Country—we’re launching the About the Book Contest!

How to Enter:

Describe your book in the “About the Book” section on Book Country and enter the URL of your title’s Book Details page in the contest form. (Hint: The page URL for your Book Details page is in the address bar at the top of your browser.)

instructions

Don’t have a Book Country account but want to enter the contest? No problem! Create an account for free, upload your manuscript, and enter the contest.

The Prize

The writer of the best “About the Book” description will win a Discover Publishing Package ($249), a fantastic eBook publishing option that includes services such as eBook formatting and cover design help, BookStubs and Marketing Copy Polish.

Important Dates: 

Contest begins today, February 25, 2014. Entries must be received no later than March 18, 2014, 11.59:59 PM Eastern Time.

Contest Criteria

Entries will be judged on writing style, clarity, grammar and book premise/originality. If your book were already published and you could glimpse at the back-cover copy, what would it say? Put that in your About the Book section on Book Country!

Need some tips on writing an original and intriguing book description? We recommend that you consult professional copywriter Carly Hoogendyk’s blog post on how to write an “About the Book” for insider tips.

Good luck!

 

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Tumblr for Writers 101

Posted by February 24th, 2014

Digital marketer Lauren Hesse shares great Tumblr tips for writers. She’ll help you decide whether Tumblr is the right author platform vehicle for you!

tumblr for writers 2

Having worked in digital marketing from the inside of a publishing house, I know that when writers and authors think about managing blogs that comes to mind are sites like WordPress. While long form blog posts are fantastic and a wonderful way to instantly publish your writing, I am a huge proponent of Tumblr as a blogging platform. The site is a social media powerhouse for sharing photos, videos, quotes and long form writing. 

So how do you know if Tumblr is right for you?

Know the platform.

Lauren Hesse

Tumblr has the capability to share seven different types of media: text, photos, quotes, links, chats, audio and video. Uploading original videos, photos, links, blog entries and audio (including tracks from Spotify and Soundcloud) are as easy as tweeting or uploading to Facebook. As for quotes and chat, these functions allow you to attribute quotes or share dialogue between two people or characters, the perfect teaser to the writing you may be working on. While Tumblr may not be strictly for long form writing, it’s a great place to share both text and interactive visuals and has a huge capability for viral sharing and engagement.

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The Importance of Meaningful Writing Communities by Khaliah Williams

Posted by February 21st, 2014

Khaliah Williams author photoSometime in the autumn of 2006, I decided that I wanted to be a writer.  I took several writing workshops at The New School in New York City, where I worked. I often found myself scribbling down ideas that would be the foundation of my novel (still in progress) in notebooks during my hour long commute between the village and The Bronx.  Getting in the way of my writing ambitions was the problem of my full time job. My writing life, I wrote in my graduate school applications, exists in stolen moments at the office and crowded subway cars. I wanted more. Continue reading

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Getting “Literary” with Author & Tin House Editor Michelle Wildgen

Posted by February 20th, 2014

breadbutter_highThe restaurant business is at the heart of Michelle Wildgen’s most recent literary endeavor, BREAD AND BUTTER. Today we’re chatting with her about the new book, getting an MFA, and submitting to the prestigious Tin House literary journal. Michelle has some terrific advice for writers who’re interested in having their work in the magazine. 

NG: One of BREAD AND BUTTER’s main characters, Harry, compares designing a new dish to academic writing: “It was a lot like writing a thesis, actually, that same process of gathering information around a rough kernel of thought, a vague sense of flavor combination that might lurk in the back of the mind, and then the editing and revising and re-arranging.” How does your character’s process here mirror your own process as a fiction writer?

MW: Well, that sounds about right, actually. I’m not a writer who starts with an outline and a full plan. I start with a little thing, like an image or a moment, and I try to build it up layer by layer until it has enough complication to become a formative scene, and then I just take it from there, often writing with a lot of uncertainty, and figuring out how to rearrange and edit once I have something on the page to work with.

NG: In an essay for Tin House literary journal—where you’re also the executive editor—you write that editing others’ work has turned you into a writer who “who loves to cut.” How do you decide what to keep and what to cut?

MW: It’s mostly a gut feeling but it’s been honed over the years by discussing stories with other writers and editors. Sometimes you know a section has something in it that will be needed—even if it is just an idea you haven’t managed to convey effectively yet—and you hold on to it until you can figure it out and maybe just develop it elsewhere. Or until you lose your love of it, or you see that other sections are doing the same thing better, or you realize that something just lacks life and energy and you have to cut it to free yourself to create a more lively take on it. Especially early in my writing, in my teens and twenties, I often got sidetracked just listening to myself say pretty things, and I couldn’t always figure out how to make a nice line of prose be a part of the story. So as a defense against that failing of mine, I now go almost too quickly to saying, “Cut it! Hack it off!”

Continue reading

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Supporting your writing community: Be a fan!

Posted by February 19th, 2014

The most common question Book Country members ask me is: “How can I get people to read my book?”

be a fan

In the spirit of the 2014 Winter Olympics, I wanted to pose a challenge to the Book Country community. What would happen if we, as writers, embraced the fandom of authors as readily as fans worldwide embrace the Olympic Games?

Here are three ways to start:

1.    Go to readings at your local bookstore.

There’s no better way to see book publicity in action, and it’s a great chance to ask the author your questions about the process of completing a book and finding a publisher. And being a bookstore “regular” is a great way to learn about how books are marketed and sold in your community. (I’ve attended approximately 3 million author signings in my life, and still I learn something new about writing and publishing at every single event.)

Continue reading

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Why I’m Going to AWP 2014 by Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Posted by February 18th, 2014

Arna Hemenway author photoAnybody in the Book Country headed out to Seattle next week for the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference, colloquially termed “AWP”? Our friend, the writer Arna Bontemps Hemenway, will be attending, as he’s done every year for the past four years. Here he explains what this conference means to him, and why Book County members might consider participating in this massive conference themselves.

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It is not hard to find someone who will tell you his or her opinion of AWP, the massive Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference held annually. A simple Twitter search for “AWP”, for instance, will deliver a representative sample of the very wide range of opinions and witticisms offered on the subject. There’s everything from presenters asking you to go to their panels to novelists loudly and proudly proclaiming why they will or won’t be attending this year. But very few of these thoughts are directed specifically at you, dear reader, by which I mean the kind of aspiring writer and reader who has found a community like Book Country. So let me attempt to rectify that.

To wildly misappropriate a quote from Corinthians (that is nevertheless spot on), it might be said that AWP has become all things to all people in order that it might help you, whoever you are.

When the conference begins this year in Seattle, Washington, I will be attending as many things: a panel presenter (my panel on post-Iraq War fiction was accepted earlier this year), a professor of Creative Writing from Baylor University, an author with a book coming out (my short story collection, Elegy on Kinderklavier, will be released in July from Sarabande Books and is available to pre-order now), the holder of an MFA from Iowa, and, relatively speaking, an AWP veteran. But when AWP 2010 was held in Denver, I was, basically, nobody. I was a college graduate living in Pittsburg, Kansas with the girl who is now my wife, working as a janitor and writing fake blog entries for certain jewelry companies’ Google results for money.

Now, there was no bookstore in Pittsburg, Kansas. There was one literary reading in town that year, given by a New Yorker flown in by the local university, a man who berated me for daring to ask a question about his influences in the Q&A that followed. This is all of which to say I had no writing community. Each day that I had the chance, I drove to the local university and pretended to be a student there so I could sit in the library and write. Continue reading

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Book Dedications: Dedicated to the Ones We Love by Julia Fierro

Posted by February 14th, 2014

Julia Fierro bio photoWho knows the importance of community to a writer better than Julia Fierro? In 2002, she founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, one of New York’s most important literary institutions. Over 2000 writers have passed through Sackett Street’s writing classes to date. Julia’s debut novel, CUTTING TEETH, comes out May 13th, 2014 from St. Martin’s Press. Take a look at Julia’s social network channels (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest) and you’ll see that she’s at the center of a thriving group of some of the most gifted writers of our time, sharing news, advice, and pithy humor on everything from doing copyedits with a sleeping child in your lap to a rave review in a national magazine. With the same dedication to community that Sackett Street is known for, Julia came up with a lovely collection of enigmatic book dedications, and some thoughts on to whom writers bestow this high honor. Her post also functions as an excellent mid-winter “To-read” list, which is why we’ve linked to each book on Goodreads below.

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Love is sacrifice.

What is more sacred to a writer than that stretch of white space at the start of their published book, otherwise known as The Dedication?

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I asked writers about the people, places and pets they chose to honor in that sacred spot. Their speedy and enthusiastic responses were surprising. Unlike the dreaded acknowledgments (dreaded by me, in any case—what if I leave someone out?), for most, the dedication is a no-brainer. They simply know who is most deserving. We won’t mention the handful of books dedicated to partners, lovers and friends, who may have proved unworthy of the dedication later. That is another story.

The type of love and gratitude that motivates most writers’ dedications falls into three major categories: partner, friendship, and familial.

Precious are the words worthy of a writer’s partner—wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, soulmate—who may be responsible for convincing us to take that dusty manuscript out of the drawer. They are our constant companions who put up with our ever-growing piles of books, our scraps of notes, as well as the stratospheric highs and lows of our writing process and publishing experience. Our partners tolerate being passed over for the company of imaginary people who exist solely in our minds; they put up with our doubt and anxiety, with us waking them in the wee hours of the night to ask—do you think character X is believable? Do you think the book has enough narrative momentum? Do you think anyone will want to represent it, publish it, read it, love it?

Gillian Flynn, in her darkly thrilling novel, DARK PLACES:

What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?

F. Scott Fitzgerald in THE GREAT GATSBY (Therese Anne Fowler echoed this dedication in her 2013 book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald):

ONCE AGAIN

TO

ZELDA

Emma Straub’s pitch perfect dedication in her Hollywood-themed novel, LAURA LAMONT’S LIFE IN PICTURES:

FOR MY HUSBAND,

A GOLDEN STATUE

IF EVER THERE WAS ONE

And love tongue-in-cheek style—David Rosen’s dedication to his wife in his novel, I JUST WANT MY PANTS BACK:

For Rachel, Damn It Continue reading

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