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Career changing Publishing

Teasing Your Work

Teasing Your Work

Teasing is a subtle art. It is a lot like a fan dancer’s moves or a shy person’s come-on.

Teasing should feel like a movie trailer because that is exactly what movie trailers do.

Teasers are usually a bit longer than blurbs and are meant to generate excitement. They often end with a question, but they don’t have to. Think of how films are teased if you’re stumped for ideas.

She was spoiled, rich, and beautiful, until the Civil War ended it all. Scarlett O’Hara has lost nearly everything. But there’s a rich man who’s interested, and he might
even love her. Can she win Rhett Butler
and save her beloved land, Tara?

Revealing too much

Don’t get too obvious! You do not do yourself any favors by spoiling your own book. Notice how the above teasing for Gone With The Wind does not go past maybe the middle of the film? And how it never mentions Ashley or Melanie Wilkes, the burning of Atlanta, or Scarlett’s first two husbands? I deliberately left the teaser off at just about when the first big reel ends. It used to be, in the theater, Gone With The Wind would have an intermission, the film was so long. This teaser ends just about a minute after intermission ends.

Revealing too little

This is another problem. If I just said Scarlett was a wealthy woman living a life of luxury on the brink of the Civil War, that would feel a bit incomplete. I can go a little further, plus adding Rhett Butler’s name to the teaser brings in the male main character. Marrying Rhett is one of Scarlett O’Hara’s main character drivers, whether it is to secure finances for her family or due to love on her part. Bringing Rhett into the conversation means the listener or reader gets an even better idea about who Scarlett is, and what motivates her.

Practical Teasing Practice

Can you write a teaser for a classic work? Try it in the Comments section, and let’s see how you do!

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Transitioning from fanfiction

Transitioning from fanfiction

If you first wrote in someone else’s universe, and now you want to claim your own, you may be transitioning from fanfiction.

Going from fan fiction writing to wholly original writing

It’s more than just ‘filing off a few serial numbers’.

How writing fanfiction can help you

It teaches you how to follow continuity. It can keep you writing when you’re stuck. Writing begets more writing (even fan fiction!), so it pays to keep going. You are better off, in terms of preventing writer’s block, to just keep on writing. Hence, if all else fails, go with fan fiction. Of course there are plenty of places to post it online. Here’s one.

How writing fanfiction can hurt you

It does not teach you how to make your own world, and it can hamper your growth in this area. Furthermore, if you are not used to making your own characters, it can hurt you there, as well.

Flip Your Perception

So consider what the foundational IP (intellectual property) does, and why it matters to you as you start the process of transitioning.

  • Interesting stories – spend some time deconstructing your favorites. Where did the writers hand-wave a problem away? Also, where did they get confusing? In addition, where did they deliver on the promise of their teaser/preview?
  • Compelling characters – why do the canon characters matter to you? Again, engage in some deconstruction. Forget who plays a character. So consider how you would feel about a character if someone else played them. Furthermore, consider how you would feel if the character’s gender and/or sexuality were swapped. Would you feel different if the character was of a race different from the current actor’s? Be your own casting director. Who, living or dead, could play the role better?

More ideas

  • Fascinating scenes – even within a familiar place, commercial intellectual property exists inside its own bucket. It might be a city block, a hospital, a car driving across the country, or somewhere else. What would happen if the scene shifted? Does the work succeed if it moves from Milwaukee to San Diego to Angkor Wat?
  • Action-driving plots – what kicks things off? If it’s a television program, what happened during the pilot? Did someone new move in? Did someone lose their job? Have a wedding? Have a kid? Graduate? Get arrested? Would the storyline still work if the pilot was different?
  • Believable effects, makeup, costumes, lighting, scenery, etc. – technology is a part of onscreen fiction writing. New techniques are constantly being invented, as studios save money but also enhance believability. What happens if an older show or film gets new makeup and green screening? Does that help the story, or harm it?

Blaze Your Own Trail

For every exciting intellectual property out there, whether it’s books, films, YouTube videos, TV programs, or something else, it all started somewhere.

So what is your story? Who are your characters?

Who knows? Maybe someday someone will want to write fan fiction about your work.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Scene Setting

Scene Setting

Scene setting is important to know.

What is Scene Setting?

Basic scene setting is a fundamental skill which every writer needs to perfect. Let’s look at some ways to do it.

All the old familiar places

When your story takes place during the present day, you’re in luck! You can get away without going over basic information. Present-day Moscow has cars. Today in Paris, people used the metric system. Current day Kentucky has telephones. So your really basic information is already there. Don’t waste time or pixels or reader good will by explaining any of that, unless it’s somehow important. E. g. if your Russian character was raised in the sticks, maybe they never saw a car before. If your Parisian is a transplant from the United States, she might occasionally forget that most countries use different systems for weights and measures. And if your Kentuckian was deaf and now suddenly can hear (and also led a sheltered life) telephones might be odd things which now have a purpose they didn’t have before.

Familiar place, unfamiliar time

Then there’s the scenario where your location is close or familiar. But the time is now. So, what is it, the past or the future?

Forward into the past

If it’s the past, then you need to do some research. Wikipedia is not a good final source, but it’s not a bad first one. What I mean is, you can start there, particularly if you are unsure about names or parameters. But then you need to branch out. Hence if you are trying to determine whether there were gas lamps lighting the streets of Berlin in 1740, you might want to start with looking up gas lamps and moving on from there. If they were invented later, then your question is answered. But if they were invented earlier (I honestly don’t know), then you should be looking at other sources. You can check footnotes, or just do some creative Googling. I have found The Library of Congress has some great old images, but you may need to spend some time looking, as not everything is logically labelled.

Back to the future

For the future, of course you can invent what you like (and I will get into that with a later blog post). But it pays to do some research anyway. Get an idea of what’s coming. If, say, solar-powered belt buckles are being patented, then why not put them in your near-future story? However, if you are writing a deeper, later future, you might want to make them passé.

Familiar times, unfamiliar places

Is the place found on planet earth? Then do some digging. And don’t just look at touristy sites! I live in Boston. It’s not all Faneuil Hall Marketplace, not by a long shot . By the way, a public service announcement from me: Harvard University is in Cambridge, not Boston. And it is far from the only university in this city.

For alien places, consider what it means if the gravity is stronger, or weaker. What happens if the atmosphere is thinner? One way to make things easier on you is to research similar locations. The Andes or the Himalayas could stand in for a planet with thinner air, for example.

Totally alien

Consider not just the look, but what happens when you engage your other senses. Is the place hot? Smelly? Smoggy? Is the landscape muddy? Frozen? Sandy? Do your characters have to climb? Cross rivers?

Takeaways

Put the reader in the action by engaging multiple senses. Latch onto the familiar if you can. Analogize to give the reader a faster understanding of the place. Do the homework, even on the small almost throwaway scenes, so your readers won’t have to.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Genre Treatments

Genre Treatments

What are genre treatments?

Genre Treatments

When it comes to genre treatments, do you treat horror, science fiction, and romance all the same way? Or do you just stick to one genre and call it a day?

What are Literary Genres?

It might help to understand just what literary genres are. Let’s start with the short one.

Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction tells a story. Biographies and autobiographies are often more or less subsets. While it’s possible to relate a biography in a non-narrative form, that’s pretty rare. Essays are a form of short nonfiction. And speech is pretty self-explanatory.

Fiction

There’s a lot more here. Poetry is usually rhythmic (although it doesn’t have to be) and has evocative imagery. Drama is serious stuff, and it can be a part of theatrical performances.

Humor or Comedy?

Humor is of course the funny stuff. Don’t confuse it with comedy (although we use the terms interchangeably in common parlance). Comedy is just when the protagonist lives at the end of the piece. Contrast that with tragedy, which is where the protagonist dies by the end. But comedy, traditionally, does not mean something is funny.

By this definition, A Clockwork Orange is a comedy.

Fantasy or Myth?

Science fiction and fantasy are pretty close. While fantasy is generally more otherworldly, science fiction usually dovetails with possible science, no matter how far-fetched. Fairy tales, in contrast, are generally drawn from folklore. The more general term, folklore, goes beyond stories to songs and proverbs from long ago. Legends, on the other hand, often have a basis in fact. This can be the subject (a national hero, like El Cid) or the plot. A fable is often short, but it always contains a moral lesson. A short story is generally too brief for a subplot.

Realistic fiction is also fairly self-explanatory. It’s fiction which could be real. Historical fiction adds a historical dimension although it’s often also meant to be realistic.

Horror evokes fright and visceral reactions. Tall tales are overly exaggerated and are virtually the opposite of realistic fiction. Mythology is a traditional narrative with a religious or faith-based component. Mystery involves the solving of a crime or uncovering secrets. Finally, fiction in verse is much longer poetry which contains subplots and major themes.

What are generally not considered to be full-blown genres? Young adult, adventure, romance, etc. Hence the idea, for the most part, has more to do with length and execution than subject matter.

How Do You Treat These Genres?

First of all, consider pacing. Horror often slows down, and then speeds up. Mystery might take a while to build to a satisfactory conclusion. Furthermore, mysteries contain red herrings. Myths might contain repetition. Some of that comes from oral tradition. Humor is all about timing. Drama can often be slow and building. Traditional poetry has a sing-song rhythm.

What is your particular spin? Do you use short, choppy sentence to speed up the action? Do you also choose shorter words?

Consider your genre as you write.

Categories
Publishing Writing

Character Creation

Background – Character Creation

Character creation is rather personal. It depends on how organized you are, and how much you like to plan. So character creation will vary. This is what I tend to do. However, my methods are not necessarily the best or the most consistent ones.

Character Creation Adventures-in-Career-Changing
What’s your character creation process like?

Your mileage, when it comes to character creation, will undoubtedly vary. And that is perfectly okay.

This is actually a picture of me from 2015, by the way.

Origins for Character Creation

For me, characters arise in a few ways. One is just that I can ‘hear’ their ‘voices’. Or I might see a face clearly. Lots of situations or activities can create a focus. So I might walk around my neighborhood and consider what I see. This is whether it’s something from nature or just someone’s illegally parked car. Music in particular can be helpful for this, although it is not absolutely necessary.  For a fanfiction bad girl character I named Pamela Hudson, her personality came barreling in when I heard the Amy Winehouse song, You Know I’m No Good.

And sometimes, characters just appear, fully formed. I tend to consider names in the context of how they sound and what they mean. Hence a character like Marnie Shapiro Chase came out of nowhere because I liked how her name sounded. Then I worked on putting her together. The same was true of Colonel Craig Firenze. He started off sounding good and I built from that.

Character Creation: Ethnicity

Still other characters might arise out of names and ethnicity. Or even national origin. Jazminder Parikh and Akanksha Kondapalli are both Indian women, but Jazzie is a doctor, whereas Akanksha is an attorney. I also tend to like someone to be from the southern US. Hence Jeannie Louise Scutter and Patricia LaRue arose. Characters from the UK might be Dave Shepherd, super-spy, or Dr. Devon Grace. Plus there are also scullery maids Frances Miller and Ceilidh O’Malley. So it runs the gamut of rich and poor.

In addition, I try to write some characters of races different from my own. These run the gamut from Dr. Elise Jeffries and Dr. Mei-Lin Quan to Solar System President Fankald Williams and her sister, Tamara Woods.

What’s in a Name?

While draping a character around the meaning of their name is kind of silly, it can sometimes help to inspire. I liked the name Ceilidh O’Malley, and it was a bonus that her name means a type of jig. Hence someone who grew up in grinding poverty had a rather frivolous name. So I gave her the middle name of Aisling, which is Irish Gaelic for dream.

Dave Shepherd didn’t originate as a protector in the Obolonk universe, but as I wrote him, he became one.

Other characters just almost tell me their names. This was certainly the case with Craig Firenze and Kitty Kowalski in Mettle. In Mettle, the two bratty tweens were always going to be Kitty and Mink. Tathrelle was another name that sprang up, for Untrustworthy. Frances always existed in The Real Hub of the Universe, but her surname started off as Marshall, not Miller. Her name was changed as a character named Marsh was mentioned too often with her.

Other characters are named for people I know, in whole or in part. The Enigman Cave is particularly chock full of such characters. It’s everyone from the Chief Veterinarian to a space defender to the Chief Engineer. The Real Hub of the Universe has some, including the Chief of Police. Plus the Ashford baby is named for a man I know.

Character Creation: Show Some Emotion

Characters also exist to make the main character feel something. And this isn’t always something good. Ben Chase exists to piss Marnie off in The Enigman Cave. Johnny Barnes exists in The Real Hub of the Universe to terrify Ceilidh and force her into action. Jeannie exists in Mettle to anger Craig and eventually make him not feel too bad about getting on a plane. And one of the reasons Dave Shepherd exists in the Obolonk universe is to help Peri get over Charlie.

Plus there are always love interest characters, even if they don’t last. That’s Lex Feldman in Enigmans and Dalton Farouq in Time Addicts, the 2019 NaNoWriMo novel.

Shapiro, Shapiro, Shapiro

As a kind of personal ‘tell’ and Easter egg in my works, every longer piece (except for Untrustworthy, as none of those characters are human), somebody is named Shapiro. This is even true in fan fiction, where characters Ethan and Rebecca Shapiro (father and daughter) figure prominently in the overall storyline.

The Obolonks series has Greg Shapiro. He’s a wisecracking cop living in Connecticut. The Enigman Cave has Marnie Shapiro Chase, the captain of the spaceship. Marnie’s kind of frumpy and nerdy but also very smart. Then in Real Hub of the Universe, the name is subtle. Blima Shapiro Taub is a character never actually seen ‘on screen’. Blima is known more for her jealousy than anything else. In Mettle, Shapiro is Eleanor Braverman’s maiden name. Eleanor suffers from Alzheimer’s.

So you can see that the Easter egg characters are all rather different.

In the November 2019 NaNoWriMo novel, the name shows up as a the married name of a sibling of the protagonist.

Character Creation: Purposeful Characters

Sometimes characters are necessary to fulfill some purpose or another. Technically, that’s supposed to be the case with all characters (oops!). Either advance the plot or be background exposition. Hence Noah Braverman’s fellow reporter, Francine O’Donnell, serves to give him a bit of a reason to express his thoughts out loud in Mettle. Ben Chase serves as Marnie’s foil, but he also makes a big discovery which helps drive the Enigman plot. And I needed Livia Thorson in Obolonks to explain some of the robotics, just as I needed Ned O’Malley in Real Hub to explain how Ceilidh was going to get to the states.

Sometimes purposeful characters come in the form of radio or TV show hosts, or nameless people reading news stories aloud or commenting on them. How many times have you stood in line at a coffee shop and heard people discuss the events of the day? Even if it’s the sports section or politics or whatever, it can still help to orient readers as to time and place.

In Untrustworthy, Ixalla started off as a kind of explainer character, but then the role grew when I turned her into a revolutionary.

Takeaways

Why do you need a character? Do you like them? Do they drive the plot? Will you kill them off if you have to? Make characters to fulfill these purposes or to add depth and background. Give your story dimension with people who feel real.

In addition, do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Career changing Publishing

Editing Tips

Editing Tips

Some editing tips and tricks for you, me, and all the writers we know! And don’t know, too ….

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Editing Tips
 

Because if you did NaNoWriMo this year, then now is right about the time you might start to thinking about attacking the editing beast. Or maybe you just don’t want to look at it yet. And that’s perfectly fine. However, you need to edit it eventually. Since professional editors cost money, it will pay for you to do some of the work early. Furthermore, if you have beta readers (and every writer should!), then you owe it to them to not waste their time reading an unpolished manuscript. Of course they should expect some issues as that is why you’re turning to them in the first place. However, a big garbage can full of word salad does no one any good.

Preliminaries

So first of all, before you do anything else, run spell check. While that sounds simple and obvious, I have beta read for people who didn’t do that first. Second, check your dialogue tags. So, what are dialogue tags? Dialogue should run one of three ways:

  1. She said, “I’m hungry.” Notice the comma before the first quotation mark, and then the period before the second? The first two words are the dialogue tag. The comma is mandatory in this case. And it’s the same thing if you move the dialogue tag to the end. So in that case, you would write: “I’m hungry,” she said.
  2. She patted her belly. “I’m hungry.” Notice there’s no comma this time? That’s because the initial sentence is an action; it’s not a dialogue tag at all.
  3. She growled, “I’m hungry!” The comma is back! And Grammar Girl (as usual) says it best: “Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.”

So make sure your dialogue tags are correct and your dialogue makes sense. And third, get into your scenes and anything (or anyone) else you need to describe. Too much description can bog down the action. And too little can leave your readers guessing. So here is where a knowledge of films can help. Current movies rarely show little transitional scenes like walking down a hall or driving unless something else is going on. And you should do the same. If your character starts off at school and then comes home, don’t show the character on the school bus unless that particular scene matters.

Takeaways

Do some basic editing, at the absolute minimum, before anyone else looks at your work. Respect others’ time and they’ll keep helping you.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Bad Reviews

Bad Reviews

Reviewing – Bad Reviews – lousy reviews are tough to write! However, you need to write the occasional less than wonderful review in order to establish and maintain credibility. Not every novel is a stellar one. Not every effort is perfect and pristine.

This blog post is about reviewing badly-written works. But if a work is out and out plagiarized, then have at it. That’s just plain wrong, and it may be copyright infringement.

Soothing Hurt Feelings and Maintaining the Relationship

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Bad Reviews
Cry tears of joy even when writing bad reviews? It can be done …

Let’s face it. A less than glowing review is going to engender some hurt feelings. Plus there is every possibility a friendship will end over it. That’s not someone being a prima donna (at least, that isn’t necessarily the case). Rather, it’s that you just told someone their baby was ugly.

Yeah. It’s like that.

So, what do you do?

I believe one reasonable response is to essentially perform a cost-benefit analysis. Not everyone is a critic of any sort. Consider how hard it is to get your own work reviewed at all. It’s work! And people like to be pleasant, plus they want very much to be liked. They may be a part of the community and hoping for positive feedback in return. Or they might be friends or family. Hence we are all essentially graded on a curve. Know that going in.

One thing you can do is, delay and defer. Maybe that’s weasel behavior. But it will soften the blow if the negative review is not the first one anyone sees when researching a book. If someone already has 100 reviews, then it won’t be quite so noticeable. Of course, lots of indie writers never get that many reviews. But you might be able to delay a bit.

Another idea is to go fast. Detail and length are not your friends here, so make it quick.

Consider the Audience

I suggested this for middling reviews. But it holds true here as well. Who is likely to read your review? If the writers asks you to review on Amazon, then you are going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you are being asked to review on an obscure book blog read by sixteen people, then the impact will not be as great. Plus you can initially post your negative review only on the obscure book blog. Once the writer sees the review, I doubt he or she will push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Providing Constructive Criticism

While this is a good idea in theory, it’s not really what someone is looking for when they request a book review. Instead, rather than hearing that they should learn dialogue tags by checking out this Grammar Girl link, they want to read about how their book moved you.

However, you still might be able to slip in some constructive criticisms, and write things like I would love to see this book with shorter chapters; it might benefit from another round of edits or some strategic splitting. Or I was hoping for a less challenging mystery. This one was hard. You’re not damning with faint praise but you’re also not putting lipstick on things.

A Few Escape Hatches

Preface a bad review with some escape hatches which will help the writer. After all, you’re not there to trash them, right? Here are a few ideas:

  • I am not the intended audience for this work or genre. – If you’re over 50 and asked to review YA, you probably aren’t in the intended audience. Maybe younger folks would be big fans.
  • The work is unique. – Unless it’s plagiarized, this is honest and accurate.
  • It is a good freshman effort. – This is straying into the realm of damning with faint praise. But it’s not a horrible thing to write about a work. Most people are not going to do well with their first novel. And that’s okay.
  • I really liked this one thing and think you should have written a lot more of it. – Liked one of the supporting characters? Enchanted by the setting? Think the plot was a good idea but poorly realized? Then this is for you. Of course you are not rewriting the piece for the writer. But your suggestions might just become helpful plot bunnies for them for later. Maybe they really will write a sequel or prequel, or revisit the scene, or rework the plot in another piece.

Salvaging the Relationship by Privately Reviewing

You might be able to save things by privately telling someone – you don’t want me to post this review. There are review sites which will do this, and will often give the writer a choice. If a writer really wants reviews, they might be okay with a less than wonderful one.

You are presumably friendly or at least cordial with the writer. Give them a break and give them the option.

By the way, negative reviews can often help a new writer. Not only do they give the writer what could end up being really valuable feedback, they can even boost sales. For consumers considering taking a chance on a new, unknown author, a rash of 5-star super-perfect reviews can seem suspect. But a few poor reviews can give the whole thing more credibility,

How about Bad Reviews for Famous People?

If you only write 4- and 5-star reviews, then you are probably selling everyone short. Just like bad reviews can give a writer more credibility, they can also give the reviewer more credibility.

But if you don’t want to hurt your friends’ feelings, what do you do?

One idea is to review all sorts of books. Review classics where the writer is long dead. Or review popular works with hundreds or thousands of reviews where no one will notice your review much, anyway. Did you hate reading The Scarlet Letter? Then go ahead and trash it on any review site you can find.

It’s not like Nathaniel Hawthorne is going to rise from the grave and complain, right?

Er, right?

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Middling Reviews

Middling Reviews

Reviewing – Middling Reviews – fair to middling reviews are harder to write. Because there is definitely a skill involved. But you are probably going to write more of them than any other type of review. Why? Because truly superlative works are uncommon.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Middling Reviews
This is what happens when you have to write middling reviews.

As always, kindness should be your guide. The work isn’t out and out awful. It just needs some help. Mid-level reviews can be extremely helpful. They can provide valuable feedback for a new author. Because it is sweetened with praise and other positives, it is more palatable.

Consider the Audience

But who is most likely to read your review? If you review on Amazon, then anything you write is going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you review on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. So what happens if you post your middle of the road review only on the obscure book blog? Once the writer sees the review, he or she might not want to push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. Or maybe the author will want to see your review spread all over the internet. It’s hard to say. Your mid-level review may be the best one they get.

The value of middle of the line reviews

For a new author, potential buyers are often suspicious of 100% stellar reviews. Hence if the 5-star reviews are peppered with some 3-stars, then potential buyers tend to feel more comfortable that they are seeing accurate reviews that were not bought and paid for. Furthermore, if the author has enough reviews (the number seems to be ten or more), Amazon will sort them by most helpful positive and most helpful negative. If your middle of the road review is the most helpful negative review, that can actually help the writer.

So, how do you get started?

The Shit Sandwich

Yeah, you read that right. Since this is not going to be a wholly negative review, you can split it into thirds. This makes it feel less unremittingly negative. The first third should be the smallest or smaller positive thing you have to say. In the middle is the negative thing you need to say. Finally, end with your strongest positive.

But why am I suggesting this particular order? Let’s look at some examples.

Consider these examples

  1. The Cowardly Lion character was fantastic and very credible. The Tin Woodsman was dull. Dorothy was okay.
  2. The Dorothy character was all right but could have used some work. The Tin Woodsman was hard to take at times. My favorite character was the Cowardly Lion.
  3. The Tin Woodsman was terrible. Dorothy was passable. The Cowardly Lion was amazing.

In the first example, you might think it’s a purely positive review. It’s easy to forget the negative in the middle when the positive starts off so strongly. In the third example, the writer is put on the defensive nearly immediately. The review feels negative, even though the end is positive.

Further, in the second instance, the first part is generally positive albeit with constructive criticism. The middle part is negative. But it gives a specific reason for the reviewer’s negative reaction. This is also something the writer could potentially build on and fix in later works. And the final part adds a positive personal touch.

Of course you would never write such a simplistic review. Plus you are reading this blog but you are not the author of The Wizard of Oz, so these quickie reviews are not personal to you. So substitute your own work, and consider how each review would make you feel.

Length

Because this is not a negative review, you can add some length to it. But because it’s not unremittingly positive, it does not have to be lengthy. The ideal length is about 50 to 100 words. If you want to say more, contact the writer in private. For self-published works, editing and republishing are usually pretty easy. Hence if you find a glaring translation error, the writer can fix it. You can save the day with your review.

Ending on a High Note

End with a positive. Seriously. Don’t lie, but there is no reason to be nasty. Be encouraging; so many indies suffer self-doubt. This is your opportunity to be kind. After all, next time, you may be in the hot seat.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Positive Reviews

Positive Reviews

Reviewing – Positive Reviews – these are the lifeblood of any independent author. We live for them! But how can you make them even better?

Caveats

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Positive Reviews
Positive reviews should melt your heart – and the writer’s!

Don’t provide a positive review in exchange for a positive one you just got. And don’t provide one in the hopes that you’ll get one in return. Personally, I very rarely give out five stars. A book has to truly leave me sock-free. I can enjoy a book immensely but still not give it five stars. However, I give out a lot of 3- and 4-star reviews, particularly to indie authors. And if my review is a positive one, I spread it to as many places as I can.

Length

Just saying you loved a piece is not enough. It’s better than nothing, of course. But you, too, are a writer. You can do better than that! While you don’t have to hit an actual word count, it is more helpful if you give the review some time and attention. Naturally, if you are pressed for time or you have to do a lot of reviews, then you will not get into things like you would if your time was more open. Plus it does not have to be a novel. A 50 – 150 word review should do nicely, unless it is a blog post. In that case, best practices for blog posts is 300 or more words. So adjust accordingly.

Specificity

Writers often get crippling self-doubt. Imposter syndrome is common. Generalized reviews don’t help much. Be clear about what you loved.

Scarlet O’Hara was a strong female character in a man’s world. What is most impressive about her is the fact that she was written in 1936. Hence Margaret Mitchell was almost revolutionary in writing her. While today we might scoff at some of Scarlet’s machinations, she still manages to be a memorable and memorably flawed character. Her motivations are clear and logical. Her endgame is satisfying.

While the author is no longer alive to read my praise, the paragraph still gets across my admiration for the work (I do, for real, like the book, although it’s not one of my absolute favorites). This is also a meatier review than just “It’s great!” The review does not just make the writer feel good; it also provides vital information for potential readers.

Spoiler-Free

Please don’t give away the ending! My above review snippet about Gone With the Wind does not give away the ending. In fact, it gives away just about none of the plot at all. I would write a longer review (the above bit is really just a part of it) where I would probably mention the US Civil War and Rhett Butler. I might get into Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, particularly if I were writing a blog post and needed to make word count.

Spread the Love

There are several online places which take reviews.

Amazon reviews most directly affect a writer’s sales and potential sales. If you provide positive reviews on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. You can also review on other countries’ versions of Amazon (UK, Canada, etc.), GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Call to Action to Read the Author’s Other Works

A call to action is anything from ‘click here’ to ‘buy this’. It is a statement online whereby you are asking someone to do something. It does not have to feel like a hard sell. Instead, you can write things like:

  • This book was fun and I can’t wait to see what else the writer has written.
  • I hear there is a sequel and I can’t wait.
  • I checked out the writer’s Amazon page (provide the link) and they are blogging there. I’m excited to read what they have to say.

Above all, you are really doing someone a solid.

Categories
Career changing Promotions Publishing

PitMad on Twitter

PitMad on Twitter

So have you ever seen the #PitMad hashtag on Twitter? Also, why should you care about PitMad?

What is #PitMad | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Adventures in Career Changing

So, let’s take a look at what PitMad is.

What is #PitMad?

PitMad is a quarterly pitch session on Twitter. So essentially what you are doing is tweeting about your work, but it is only on specific dates, and agents and publishers are watching.

In addition, it happens in March, June, September, and December.

Getting Ready With PitMad Hashtags

So do yourself a favor, and create your tweets now. As in, today. You want to know what to tweet, and you want to be able to fit both the #PitMad hashtag into your tweet, but also the hashtag specific to your genre. So, according to Sub It Club and Brenda Drake, the hashtags are as follows:

Main Hashtags for PitMad

  • #AC – Action
  • #AD – Adventure
  • #BIZ – Bizarro Fiction
  • #CON – Contemporary
  • #CR – Contemporary Romance
  • #E – Erotica
  • #ER – Erotic Romance
  • #ES – Erotica Suspense
  • #F – Fantasy
  • #FTA = Fairy Tale Retelling
  • #GN = Graphic Novel
  • #H – Horror
  • #HA – Humor
  • #HF – Historical Fiction
  • #HR – Historical Romance
  • #INSP – Inspirational
  • #LF – Literary Fiction
  • #M – Mystery
  • #MA = Mainstream
  • #Mem – Memoir
  • #MR – Magical Realism
  • #NF – Non-fiction
  • #P – Paranormal
  • #PR – Paranormal Romance
  • #R – Romance
  • #RS – Romantic Suspense
  • #S – Suspense
  • #SF – SciFi
  • #SFF – Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • #SH = Superhero
  • #SHRT = Short Story Collection
  • #SPF = Speculative Fiction
  • #STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
  • #T – Thriller
  • #TT = Time Travel
  • #UF – Urban Fantasy
  • #VF = Visionary Fiction
  • #W – Westerns
  • #WF – Women’s Fiction

Age Categories

So, per the Pitmad site, you must use an age category. And here they are:

  • #A – Adult
  • #C – Children’s
  • #CB – Chapter Book
  • #MG – Middle Grade
  • #NA – New Adult
  • #PB – Picture Book (this is the youngest age category)
  • #YA – Young Adult

Added Hashtags (Optional)

  • #DIS = Disability subject matter
  • #IMM = Immigrant
  • #IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural subject matter
  • #LGBT = LGBTQIA+ subject matter
  • #MH = Mental Health subject matter
  • #ND = Neurodiverse subject matter
  • #OWN = Own Voices
  • #POC = Author is a Person of Color

Older Hashtags (Not Sure If They Are Still Being Used)

  • #AA – African American (might not be used anymore?)
  • #CF – Christian Fiction (might not be used anymore?)

So there do not seem to be particular hashtags for Zombies or Vampires or the like, but that may change in the future.

What Are The Rules?

Per Ms. Drake and PitchWars (run by the same people), the rules are:

  • You can only pitch complete, polished manuscripts. This means, no works in progress allowed!
  • So, you can’t pitch anything already published, no matter how many changes have been made to it.
  • Keep the feed clear, so don’t favorite your friends’ pitches. But you can always retweet and even add commentary to the original post with the #PitMad hashtag.
  • Also, don’t tweet agents or publishers unless they tweet you first.
  • Plus be courteous and professional, of course.
  • In addition, if you can’t be there, use HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule your pitches.
  • You can only pitch three times during a dedicated #PitMad day. And the tweets have to differ somehow, even if it’s just a difference of a period.
  • But if you have more than one MS to pitch, you get three tweets per MS.
  • Finally, if you are invited to submit a manuscript, be sure to put PitMad Request: TITLE in the subject line of your email when sending your request. Plus, of course, follow all other submission guidelines for the requestor.

What is the Schedule?

It’s March, June, September, and December. Times are 8 AM – 8 PM, Eastern Time.

For 2021, the dates are:

  • March 4
  • June 3
  • September 2 (hey, that’s my birthday!)
  • December 2

Note: all of these are Thursdays.

So you’d better get crackin’!