The Right Excerpt

It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

For years, I heard my author friends complain about having to select, and in some cases, create appropriate excerpts for guest blogs and readings. I would politely listen, sympathizing but wondering what could possibly be the problem after countless rewrites and edits.

As I prepare to write a series of guest blogs and organize readings in the area, I realize that picking the right excerpt can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper does not necessarily work in a live situation.

I can still recall an Open Mic I attended several years ago. I took mental notes as brave participants ranging from pre-teens to seniors shared their poetry, personal essays and short stories. The most effective readings were the shortest, and many of us were disappointed when those presenters sat down. We did not feel the same way about the gentleman who rambled on for twenty minutes, determined to read his entire short story (at least ten pages). As I surveyed the room, I caught glimpses of polite smiles, yawns, and collective watch gazing.

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Here are some tips I’ve gleaned from seasoned authors:

1. Start at the beginning. Knowing that most agents do not read beyond the first few pages, you have probably polished those pages until they gleam. However, if the first chapter is devoted to setting the scene or introducing back story, select another excerpt. One author hinted those pages should be rewritten if they don’t contain enough tension to generate interest.

2. Include a short introduction to the excerpt. At longer readings, you can discuss your writing journey and expand on the back-story. Open Mic sessions are more casual with the organizer simply stating the presenter’s name. If this is the case, include a few details about the manuscript. This is especially important if the excerpt comes from a published work or one about to be published.

3. Don’t be afraid to pull excerpts from other parts of the book, especially if you are planning several readings and participating in a blog tour. When selecting from the body of the manuscript, consider scenes that offer strong conflict or tension. A stand-alone slice-of-life moment also works well. Most important of all, keep it simple and do not waste precious minutes summarizing the entire plot or back-story.

4. Edit. This suggestion surprised me. The excerpt does not have to be cut word-for-word from the manuscript. Remove sections that can only be understood in the context of previous chapters. Descriptions can be wonderful when read at leisure but deadly if they stretch out the action and frustrate or bore the listeners.

5. Start from scratch. At one reading, a local author surprised us by creating a story based on her novel. She featured one of the secondary characters; perhaps, test-driving an idea for a subsequent novel.

6. End on the right note. While you don’t need a “happily ever after” ending, there must be some resolution or hint of a resolution. Don’t frustrate the audience and leave them hanging.

7. Don’t assume that five pages of text corresponds to five minutes of reading time. Depending on how slow or fast you read, you may only get through two pages of text. To be on the safe side, time yourself and bring only those pages you can read in the allotted period. Five minutes may seem like a long time to stand in front of a sea of faces, but it passes very quickly, and if presenters are not careful, they can lose themselves in their own work and overstay their welcome.

8. Honor the word limits. I am paying special attention to the word limits for guest posts, blurbs, and excerpts. As a guest, I do not want to impose on my host’s generosity. If she specifies 250 words for an excerpt, I will stay well within that limit. I shudder when I see blog posts with entire chapters masquerading as excerpts.

9. Experiment with swagger. We’ve all sat through readings where authors kept their noses in their novels and never looked up once. Not everyone can inspire and motivate like Tony Robbins, but authors should look up at intervals and use vocal variety and appropriate gestures whenever possible.

Most important of all, relax and use the reading, Open Mic session, or guest blog to connect with the audience and introduce those wonderful characters you have lovingly created and nurtured.

Posted in What's Up With Joanne! | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

BOOK TITLES – What’s in a name?

By Suzanne Quill

What prompts you to pick up a new book? Or, revisit an old one for that matter? Is it the author? Is it the cover art? Is it the title?

Today let’s talk about a book’s title, because, for some of us, that is what can draw us in.

I read all kinds of books. Murder mysteries, both cozies and thrillers, historical romances, contemporary romances, fantasies, biographies, non-fiction, pretty much anything. Yes, sometimes it’s the author or cover that draws me in but so often it’s the title.

I think everyone has a subject or two that intrigues them. Could it be dragons? The Knights Templar? Da Vinci? Think about your intriguing subjects. Do you find you peruse book titles and if one of your favorite subjects shows up in a title you just have to pick it up and read the back cover? Will this be a book that you enjoy because you already have an interest in the subject around which it is constructed?

I love archaeology, especially Egyptian, history, murder mysteries, and romance. Some of my favorite authors combine these to put together a story that never fails to entertain. When one of these authors publishes a new book, I’m guaranteed to track it down as quickly as I can.

If I’m scanning bookstores, online or real, or in my local library, a title that triggers thoughts on any one of these topics will immediately get me to read the flap or back cover. It just might be an introduction to a new favorite author.

But what if you have to name a book as each author must do every time a new book is published?

What does the title have to do? It has to hint at the genre. It might have to hint at the era. It should instigate a thought process in the reader even before the first page is read.

No mean feat, that.

My first book, IF LOVE WERE ENOUGH, came by its title and even its plot because of an early episode of Grey’s Anatomy. A woman was dying and nothing could be done to prevent it. Her spouse was heartbroken and said something to the effect that if love were enough he would/could save her or even die for her.

As I wrote my story I kept coming back to that thought. There are so many ways that a loved one would wish his/her love was strong enough to save their beloved. This could be the love of a parent for a child, one sibling for another, the hero for the heroine. So my heroine, Priscilla, contemplates that theme through to the end of the story. She even mentions this thought out loud to the hero, Brandon, because of the impact it has on her life.

ONLY YOU, my second book, has a title that tells the reader right from the beginning that for one of the people in the story, in this case the hero, Jonathan, there is no other option for him. Jessica is the one and only love of his life. All that he did and will do he does because only she can complete him. The depth of his love and therefore the strength of his actions are all empowered by his commitment to the one and only purpose he sees in his existence.

But some books are not easy to title. My third book went through multiple titles. Though it was published as AN IMPROPER SEDUCTION, over the course of my writing it was titled The Seduction of Angeline, Shadow of Love and Forbidden. Any of these titles would have been acceptable based on the story line. What it came down to, for me, however, was the fact that the story was about seduction. Angeline had no need or desire for marriage and didn’t want to be some man’s brood mare. Geoffrey brought her to heel by enticing her with the joys and intimacies of sex. The fact that he fell in love with her in the process (as, of course, she did with him) was the unplanned side effect as two extremely obstinate individuals tried to have their own way and gain the upper hand.

But there are still challenges. I have a contemporary romance I’d love to publish but I can’t decide on a title. The original one I selected, SECOND TIME AROUND, has been so overused it won’t do anything to make the book unique and/or enticing. Until I can come up with a suitable alternative I’m left ruminating and postponing a publication date.

So, in the end, the title must speak to the author as well as entice past and future readers. But, still, it’s all a little bit of luck. Who knows what words will tickle the fancy of a reader scrolling through hundreds if not thousands of book titles?

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Random Thoughts on Writing: By Rose Lange

It’s been almost a year since I’ve been published, and as I draw closer to that special day, August 26, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown. How much I’ve learned, and grown as a writer, not only in the writing itself, but also in my social media platform, and things I didn’t even know about until I became published.

In one year I went from being so terrified of social media, that my stomach would churn just thinking of putting myself “out there.” So I started small, took a deep breath, and  have since flourished. Not to say I’m an expert, but I’ve grown more comfortable in the social media realm. Although I’ll admit, if I ever have to speak in front of crowd on writing, or *gasp* read my work out-loud, I’m not sure how far that would get me. But I’ll let you know when I’ve crossed that bridge.

I would think by this point, having one book out there already, that submitting the second would be a breeze. Boy, was I wrong. I’m just as scared, if not more so this second time around. I’m working on a final round of personal edits, and, as I’m sure you can relate, I’m going through a multitude of emotions. Even at this late stage of the game. One minute thinking this is the greatest thing *throws confetti in the air,* and the next minute thinking why did I even bother *slumps down in chair.* I know I need to let go, and trust the process. To trust my writing abilities, but I have writer’s stage fright, if there is such a thing. It’s like I’m up on that stage for the first time again, peering out at the audience from behind a curtain, and praying they’ll like me. Because let’s face it, you feel exposed when you’re writing. You’re putting a piece of your heart and soul out there, and it’s a nerve-wracking, scary as hell concept. Sometimes I question my own sanity, wondering why I would put myself through this multitude of mixed, crazy, pull-your-hair-out, what-are-you-thinking emotions.

In a few words, because writing is like air, I need it. And I’ve noticed this in action very recently. While we were in the process of moving, I wasn’t able to focus on my manuscript, and I think this went on for two weeks, maybe longer. I didn’t notice it so much in the first few days, but as the days turned into weeks, and then another week…I was antsy, anxious, and very crabby. It was as though somebody took my candy away and I really needed it! Even through the mental roadblocks, and the writer blocks, and the varied stages I go through, I still love what I do. Writing feeds my soul, my spirit, and I can’t imagine being without it.

Posted in Rose In The Garden!, Soul Mate Publishing | 4 Comments

Romantic Times Convention – Dallas, Texas

This morning I’m blogging for cloud-covered downtown, Dallas, Texas. I’m at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention with my good friend and author, Beth M. James. If you haven’t ever been to this convention, it is quite the experience. It’s a chance to mingle, talk, and promote with readers, librarians, booksellers, aspiring authors, and published authors. The convention lasts four days, and I can tell you, they are exhausting days. There are workshops, parties, giveaways, more workshops, parties and giveaways. You don’t go home empty handed, that’s for sure. At one event I won nine books, and with the books at our table, I left the room with thirteen books!

IMG_9995This is my fourth RT convention, and each year I meet more and more wonderful people. It’s also great fun to re-connect with people you only see at the convention and be greeted like a long-lost friend. I won’t be able to attend next year. I’ll miss not seeing these people.

This year I’m participating in the Club RT Author Spotlight. Every half hour, a different group of authors come into the room, sit at tables with three other authors and talk to readers. It’s great fun. Beth and I also do a giveaway basket.

The first day here, before the convention actually started, we walked downtown and saw where

Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy.

Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy was shot. We visited the museum which is located on the sixth floor of the Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy. As I was not quite a teenager at the time of the assassination, it brought back many memories of that day and the days that followed. I cried a few times.

On Wednesday, Soul Mate Editors, Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko did a Publisher spotlight. Since there are only a few of us Soulies here, there were only two of us SMP authors in the audience, Susan Muller and myself. Char and Cheryl did a great job and hopefully they picked up a few more prospective authors for SMP.

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As an author, if you’ve never attended RT, I recommend trying it at least once. It’s an experience you’ll never forget. Today is the huge book fair with over 600 authors selling and signing. I haven’t been brave enough to do this one as an author. I’ve been to it as a reader and its chaotic, noisy, and a blast. It’s a chance to meet the “big” authors. Last year I met Lee Child, Jill Shavis, Jude Deveraux, Shayla Black, Eloisa James, and many others. This year I hope to meet Kathy Reichs.

So off for some work and fun.

 

Posted in Catching Up With Tina S! | 2 Comments

The Novel’s Shorter Cousins by Beth Carter

According to Writer’s Digest, May is National Short Story Month. There are MANY forms of short stories and I have a few favorites. I adore writing shorter pieces in between wrangling a long novel. Here are some short fiction forms:

Flash Fiction – I belong to a group on Facebook called the Friday Fictioneers. Each week, a photo prompt is posted and we are supposed to write a 100-word story based on the photo. I used to do this religiously but haven’t posted in months. It’s amazing the variety of stories and genres each person will write–all based on the same photo. I’ve kept mine and could envision creating several into a longer piece.
I encourage you to find the group on Facebook.

Novelette – This term is new to me but I know SMP author Collette Cameron has written a novelette or two. According to Writer’s Digest, these are between 7,000 and 20,000 words. I have several novel drafts and “starts” that hover around 5-7,000 words. I’m excited to try this form that’s new to me. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Soul Mate Publishing accepts novelette submissions. Yet. :)

Novella – Novellas are the shorter cousin to novels. They range between 20-50,000 words and are again rising in popularity due to hand-held devices which make shorter reading while on the go a popular genre. I’m actually working on my first novella which is set on an island. I’m at 12,000 words and hope to double or triple my word count soon. I’m excited to try my hand at this.

Short Stories – Think anthology here. I’m in four anthologies and most of my stories are between 1,500 and 3,000 words. One of my favorite stories is in an anthology called “Bad Hair Day.” How fun is that? I plan to rewrite my story to at least novelette size. I have another one that’s a YA and a little spooky. I may try to embellish that one as well. Be sure you have the rights back before submitting previously published work.

Six-Word Memoirs – Six-word memoirs are about the coolest thing on the planet. Addictive as chocolate, these tiny stories pack a punch. I’ve written over 300 six-word stories and have been published in three different six-word collections: IT ALL CHANGED IN AN INSTANT by SMITH Magazine and Harper Perennial (which had over 200,000 submissions worldwide!); a 2013 desktop calendar (yes, I’m a calendar girl!) and SIX WORDS AT WORK also by SMITH MAGAZINE. Give them a try at http://sixwordmemoirs.com They often have themes like “Food,” “Life, “Love” and many more. Ernest Hemingway allegedly started the whole phenomenon with his infamous sixer – “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” That says a lot, doesn’t it?

I believe short stories help all writers learn to write concisely by cutting excess words and using powerful word choices. And they’re a nice breather. Do you enjoy writing short stories? What’s your favorite form?

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In Media, Rest

Books come in all shapes and sizes, as do authors.

Books come in all shapes and sizes, as do authors.

Blasphemy!  We’re novelists with books to sell and we must be tweeting, posting, blogging… it’s the golden rule of marketing in this digital world. [Myth!]

“In medias res” is the golden rule for novelists and storytellers of every venue. It’s an adverb, a literary technique that means :

into the middle of a narrative; without preamble.

“having begun his story in medias res, he then interrupts it”

into the midst of things.

Novelists know this golden rule so well that they’ve forgotten the term was coined in the 18th century and related to the oral tradition as the printed form of books was still being typeset by monks with quills on parchment.  The meaning of “In medias res” has been redefined only slightly, though it is stated in variety of ways, and is still a literary device that instructs storytellers to begin with a dramatic scene that is active and grounded so the reader is emotionally engaged. The author has to know all the back story and nit-picking issues that set up this first scene but the audience just wants to experience the events. Too often an author loses readers through boredom or confusion in the opening paragraphs.  The audience wants to be swept into the story as it is fully formed.

This boredom or confusion from the audience also happens when an author jumps into social media in the middle of things with the dramatic event of “My BOOK is for SALE!” The only one emotionally engaged is the author and [maybe] a handful of close friends or family. The content of your announcement must be more of a story than a news item that you did something.  The authors who make sales with only an announcement already have a fan base that they have cultivated for years with many novels.

Sales, through any media, are made by quality before quantity.  Sales through social media require both quality and a quantity of socializing. An author who interrupts a social group without preamble will get a literary kick in the adverb.

Now to explain that myth; tweeting, posting and blogging are more Push-Pull promotions depending on the content. Your marketing is the hidden back story and nit-picking details that are invisible to your audience. Tweets are usually Point-of-Purchase links. Confused? It gets better since we have entered the story In medias res – as social sites rise and fall and change the rules and support and subscribers and it takes a lot of reading and socializing to understand the dynamics of any venue.

Worry not! I will provide the magic button for your marketing and promotions. This is the one dynamic link that is forever in your control and can be used on every social media profile. This magic button is only one-click between your brilliant story and an avid fan. It can be on business cards, included with all promotional matters to any media venue, and even be on your author pages at Amazon, Goodreads, and wherever else you hope to find readers now and in the future.

This magic button, this single dynamic link in the digital cloud does not guarantee sales BUT if you don’t have it – good luck making any sales. What is it? Whose soul do you have to sell to get your hands on it? It can be free. It’s your Website. It is the Three to Five page, in only a few thousand words, Novel that You Create about yourself As an Author and the Books you wrote that are worth reading!  Give it care and attention.

Until you’ve got a great website, give the media a rest. Socialize wherever you have fun, write more books.

For more information – all for free: Author Marketing 101 – The 7 primary points to stand out from the crowd.

CheckmateFirstMateAs an example, my website is www.terripatrickbooks.com and it costs about $13 per month and only the time I spend on a new blog post. No matter where I am online, or what I say or do that generates a click on my name; picture, or profile, a potential reader gets exactly what I want them to know and the option to read and buy my book.

Now I’m off to give Media a Rest because my current project was left In medias res and I have more interesting troubles to create for my characters.

Happy Reading!

Posted in Terri Tells All! | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

On a Mission (in a very cluttered house)

HappyWriter-ShareAlike-FlickrAs I worked on the final chapters of my first (romantic) cozy mystery, two opportunities popped up. One, a contract job that would start in June, and two, a trip that starts in two weeks and ends just before the contract job.

OMG!

I couldn’t delay finishing the mystery for a whole month or more, right? I was too close, and the plot and characters were too fresh and compelling for me to do anything other than finish the draft.

I know you know that dilemma…

So, starting ten days ago, I was on a mission to complete the draft and get it out to beta readers before my trip. They were excited to hear the book was nearly finished, and their enthusiasm kept me moving forward.

Well, I did it. The drafts are now on their way to two trusted readers, with two more readers standing by once those copies come back.

I returned from the post office a few minutes ago and (for the first time in ten days) really, truly saw the state of my house. Shopping bags with purchases still in them (Ahhh, that’s where the toothpaste is!). Winter clothes piled on a chair, begging for a trip to the dry cleaner. A UPS box with the little table for my porch, still unopened. The list goes on. I won’t even mention the dust.

I’m ever so grateful I can focus intensely and see the job through, but yikes! what clutter all around me. Can anyone else identify?

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing, Take Five With Kate! | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments