Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NaNo Pep Talk

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, but I have friends who are, and I have friends who would like to, so I'm doing my annual NaNo pep talk.

NaNo Pep Talk 2017

by Marian Allen

You cannot "lose" at NaNo
however few your words.
The "word count" is a goal, you know,
and "winning"'s for the birds.
The point is not to "make it";
the point is just to think --
to think about your writing goals
or just step off the brink.
With NaNo, you just concentrate
and concretize your goals.
It's possible you'll write a lot
of plot, including holes;
but maybe you'll just realize
that you don't write this way.
It may be you're a slowby
not a sprinter. That's okay!
Relax! Enjoy! Just savor
the pleasure of immersion
in writing -- your own flavor --
your NaNo -- your own version.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, October 21, 2017

But How Long Is A Piece Of String? reblogged from MarianAllen.com

The Reedsy folks have put together a post on novel lengths. Yes, that's supposed to be plural. If you don't already know, lemme tell ya: Different genres generally have different ranges of word count. Books for different ages have different ranges of word count. Even different publishers can have different ranges of word count they prefer to see.
As always, you need to check a publisher's or agent's guidelines before submitting the book. Better yet, have a word count range in mind -- not before you write or as you write, but certainly as you edit.

This Reedsy post covers most, if not all, of the bases, including the fact that there will always be exceptions. Also including the fact that you're heading for heartbreak if you count on being one of those exceptions.

As for my title, I asked an agent once how long my fantasy novel needed to be, and he said, "How long is a piece of string?" The answer supposedly being, "How long does it need to be?" The appropriate answers, though, might have been, "How long does a publisher want it before they'll look at it?" or "How long does a reader looking for your sort of book expect?"

'Cause, look: Maybe you write for your own pleasure or artistic expression, but once you step into the marketplace, you're in somebody else's sandbox. You write for you; you sell for the buyer. If that irritates or sullies you, I'm sorry. Either accept and deal with that or you might as well go all Emily Dickinson and fill a desk drawer with with your work. Even if you self-publish, if you want to sell your self-published book, you need for somebody to buy it, amIright?

Think of word count within or just outside expectations as a tool in your grasp, rather than as an imposition. If you choose to (or feel you must) ignore what the marketplace advises, try to realize you choose to put that tool aside and to work without it. Maybe that will alleviate some of your frustration, if you don't sell as quickly or in as much volume as you expected.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Freebies -- Yes or No?

My pal, Martin Cavannagh of Reedsy, has sent me a link to a whole raft of book marketing "opportunities," all of which feature only free and/or deeply discounted books.
...BookBub and Bargainbooksy as well as some lesser known ones that we've done our best to vet. https://blog.reedsy.com/book-promotion-services/ You can sort by genre and advertising cost — and we've even allocated them into tiers based on their reputation: from tier one, meaning that they come highly recommended; to tier four, which probably won't do much for you (but at least they're free).
Yeah, well, I pass the link along, in case any of you want to discount and advertise your books. Or in case any of you want to score some free or deeply discounted books. Me, I subscribe to the Ruth Brown school of sales.
I might just possibly consider doing a freebie or discount on the first volume of my SAGE trilogy, or on the short story collection set in that world. It seems that people who are several books along into a series would do well to try to entice readers into that ongoing set of characters/adventures. Almost all of my books, so far, are stand-alones, though.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady 
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Many Reasons For Keeping a Journal

I believe that everyone has a story. Some of the best ones I’ve read came from members of critique groups who were writing their life stories to pass along to their grandchildren. Those stories were filled with captivating details about times and places long gone. How did they do it? Aside from great memories, most of the writers kept journals. The ability to revisit times and places through old photos and the written word was invaluable.

I’ve kept a journal for most of my adult life. It began with boyfriend and school issues, then slowly progressed to work challenges, and later parenting ups and downs. Lately, I’ve discovered another reason to keep a journal. In fact, I’ve started a second one which has nothing to do with me as a writer, but as a daughter.

I call it the dementia journal. Our family saga began two and a half years ago, when my sister and I realized that our mother’s cognitive skills were diminishing. It seemed like a good idea to record what we were experiencing. I’ve since learned that journal records can give healthcare professionals better insight as to what’s happening.

Journals have many purposes, and not all of them are about writing fiction or memories. You don’t need to be a professional or even a passionate writer to note things down. But you can jot down a few lines about a memorable vacation or event. How about keeping a food journal filled with great recipes you’ve experimented with? What about writing down goals, or challenges to help you focus, or put things in perspective?

In his blog, Benjamin P. Hardy outlines several potential benefits when one starts to keep a journal. It’s never too late to start. 



Friday, July 21, 2017

Writing Mary Sue

If you don't know what a Mary Sue is, go read this discussion on fanfiction.net. You still won't know, but you'll be highly entertained.
A Mary Sue is, by general consensus, a female character who irritates people other than the author by drawing all the attention to herself. True Mary Sues are adorable to the other characters and/or to the reader (in the writer's mind, at any rate) because she's perky and perfect or a lovable goof-up who nevertheless saves the day. True Mary Sues exist only in fan fiction -- stories set in established universes like Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien's Middle Earth. Hard core fans of those universes resent these upstarts' hogging the limelight and warping the stories/personalities of the official characters.

Some folks claim that, if the official stories and personalities aren't warped, the new character isn't really a Mary Sue.

NOW, as someone points out in the discussion I linked, sometimes the character labeled a Mary Sue fulfills the author's fantasies: She battles bad guys. Or she has a romance (preferably doomed) with an official character. Or she saves an important person's life. And she's the main character of the story, driving the action and solving all the things!

AND, as someone else pointed out in the discussion, and I think this is my point, although I'm never sure, all our characters are pieces of us, living out fantasies of what we would do if we were in various situations. But kind of not.

Because our characters are not us, playing out fantasies. Our characters have their own backstories, their own likes and dislikes, their own childhoods, and they can't all be the same as ours. That's why I have so many prompts asking things like, "What's in your character's wallet?". Sauron doesn't have the same things in his wallet as you do, most likely; why should any of your characters?

It's fun to write #menotme characters who get into and out of scrapes in other people's universes and wrap the narratives around themselves. And there's nothing wrong with doing that, if it pleases you. Just do it on purpose, because you choose to do it, not because you don't know any better. And expect some people to call your character a Mary Sue and sneer at her. Because folks are like that, sometimes.

Me, I've done it. And I've extracted my Mary Sue, changed all the official characters, and given her her own book. ha!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Power and Importance of Reading

From an early age, I’ve loved to read. Books kept me company in a life that involved frequent moves, and were solace when family life was tough. Although I didn’t plan to become a writer, a love for the written word and a good imagination found me delving into the world of fiction.

Reading has many benefits. One study says that readers live longer. An article in Blinklist states that the common link among the world’s high achievers isn’t IQ or luck, it’s a love of reading. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, are all avid readers. I’m not saying that they read fiction, but that they make a point to read daily and often learn something new nearly every day. How cool is that?

I’ve learned a lot about the craft of storytelling by reading thousands of works of fiction and books on writing. I’m turning to other types of nonfiction these days, and I can’t wait to learn many more things.

By the way, for those of you who love to discuss books, I belong to three great groups on Facebook. All are well moderated, so the discussions usually stays friendly.



Happy reading!