Agitations of a Writer: Grammar, Content, and Dog Stealing

All writers and editors live in a constant state of frustration. Each and every blog, social media post, newspaper article, etc. are filled to the brim with incorrect grammatical phrases, punctuation errors, and badly written content that make us shake our collective heads. We usually grit our teeth and walk away, but today is not that day. My writer and editor friends will surely feel my pain, and I hope the rest of you get a kick out of the frustration that lives in the mind of a writer. Disclaimer: For you PETA-type people out there, don’t get your dander up. This post is not about dogs. If the subject was purple Chevys, I would have written the same thing.

I read the following letter on a forum a while back. As a writer, I’m agitated by the grammar. The more I look at it, the more I’m frustrated by the content. I copied and pasted it exactly as it appeared, and I have wasted my entire morning ripping it to shreds writing a blog about it.

 

found_collar_black2__33877.1362773206.1280.1280_2“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.

There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard. I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water. Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter? I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” – Anonymous Liker

 

While this letter is probably written by a good-deed doer, and I am all for rescuing neglected and abused animals, the post has many issues one simply cannot overlook. Grammar is the least of its problems.

“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.” 

There’s no need for a comma in this sentence. Why would a question need to be anonymous? Oh, you meant the person asking the question wishes to remain anonymous. Oh.

“There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard.”  

Where does one even start? This is a run-on sentence with two topics – the dog and ‘they.’ “You can see every single bone” is an exaggeration. It is not possible to see every single bone unless you’ve dissected the dog, in which case we have another problem. We understand the dog is skinny, but this exaggeration leads us to believe that nothing else you’ve written here is completely true either. I’m going to ignore the “their” typo, but who is “they” in the last part of the sentence? I’m thinking you mean your neighbors? Wait! If you know this is your neighbor’s dog, why don’t you take him home? Hang on to that thought for a moment.

I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water.

1005-alternate-1-440x400Is this a different dog? Do you have THIS dog in your possession? This sentence has me wondering how you knew this dog was wondering. Was he sitting on your back porch in the pose of The Thinker? Oh, you meant wandering, as in roaming around. Why didn’t you say so? Was he carrying a bowl of food and water with him? (…which would probably be TWO bowls, but that’s neither here nor there.) Did you mean YOU had the bowl (singular) of food and water? I’m so confused.

(photo credit: Rodin’s Thinker, National Gallery of Art, exhibiting how I’m feeling at this moment.)

Let’s continue…

“Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter?”

I understand the question, really, I do, but I don’t understand how over thirty people responded to the original post with phone numbers and names of shelters, and not one person noticed that the writer had STOLEN her neighbor’s dog. The wish to remain anonymous now makes more sense.

I’ll mention the obvious here. This was posted on a forum, using the Internet, which has “The Google” as my elderly friend calls it. Just look up a number.

There should be a dash between high and kill as this two-word adjective (see what I did there?) is describing the shelter.

“I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” 

Finally, a sentence written correctly, but after the exaggeration and the fact that you’ve stolen your neighbor’s dog, I’m not inclined to trust your judgment. I may want to imagine you sitting next to a malnourished Rottweiler, but what I envision is a busybody old lady with a dirty poodle on her lap.

 

 

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Self-realization Meets Fiction

Soooo, I’m going on a personal level here that makes me super uncomfortable. But, what do they say? Truth is better than fiction?

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I’m working on a book where my married heroine is debating having an affair with a man she knew from her childhood. The angel on my shoulder doesn’t want her to do it, because I want her to be an upstanding woman with deep integrity who puts her husband and family first.

The devil on my other shoulder thinks it will make a great side story to an all ready intense book.

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So, I dug deep in my gut and examined my own standards to make the decision.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t consider an affair because I would never put my husband in an embarrassing situation. I have far too much respect for him to ever purposefully do that. But this morning, I had a revelation! I not only think and feel that for HIM – I have my own personal reasons for ME!

I come from an abusive past and find it hard to let people close to me. This includes men. I can’t open that door to trust and intimacy without a lot of emotional pushing and pulling. And that is definitely not a one-night fling sort of process.

Back to my heroine. If she feels like I do (and they always do, don’t they?), she wouldn’t have the affair, because she couldn’t be intimate with someone without first trusting them. Since the man knows she’s married, the relationship would be built on dishonesty. That’s a rocky start. The affair would go nowhere and the friendship would certainly end badly. My poor heroine. I don’t want that for her with all the rest of the crap going on in this story. Maybe we’ll stick with sexual tension and not let it progress farther. Let’s see if my personal beliefs come out in this story. If they do, you’ll know the truth about their origin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

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Of course, these characters always have minds of their own, so we may find her in a moment of weakness.

We’ll see what happens….

 

Redundancy – as in being redundantly redundant

6a0120a85dcdae970b01287770508e970c-piRedundancy: the state of being no longer useful or the inclusion of extra components that are unnecessary.

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy in amateur/unedited/poorly-edited writing, it’s when the writer insults my intelligence by being redundant. I know it takes months and sometimes years to write a book. I know it’s important that the reader understands the characters, their motivations, their wants and needs. I’m convinced some writers and editors don’t realize it only takes a few hours to read a book.

Case in point:

I just finished a story that contained a side-character: an old busy-body woman who lived in the town. The main character ran into this woman in the first chapter. Let’s call her Mrs. Beeman.

Mrs. Beeman owned a cat that was unfortunately stuck in a tree and the main character got suckered into helping rescue said cat. For the next six hours, each and every time Mrs. Beeman’s name was mentioned, I had to stop the progression of the story so the writer could remind me who Mrs. Beeman was and force me to re-live her tragic cat incident.

“Mrs. Beeman, the woman whose cat was stuck in the tree, entered the room.”

“Mrs. Beeman, who Billy had helped early that day when her cat got stuck in a tree, stomped out of the room.

“Mrs. Beeman, yadda yadda cat yadda, sobbed.”

I am not stupid. I know who Mrs. Beeman is.

Keep in mind, unless you’ve penned a tome as lengthy as “War and Peace,” it will only take the reader a few hours to read it. We can and do remember the characters and the names. We don’t need to be reminded over and over of who a character is. And, if we do need to be reminded, then you did not make their entrance as grand as you should have. Write all the details of your characters at our very first meeting. Once the reader has a solid picture of who this person is, you don’t ever need to remind us again. Ever.

Give your reader credit for having at least an iota of intelligence. Do NOT remind them who Mrs. Beeman is or mention her stupid cat who has nothing to do with the story. We got it.

So, did you hear about the day Mrs. Beeman’s cat got stuck in the tree?

Celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with a Shiver up Your Spine…and it’s FREE!

Happy All Hallow’s Eve to all of you ghouls and goblins.

Just for fun, I’m offering a Kindle copy of

The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge

for FREE!

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Old Man Stuckey is the perfect accompaniment to a frightful Halloween week. He’s a little bit Dexter with a streak of Hannibal, but somehow, he makes me laugh.

 

Pick up a copy…if you dare! Sweet dreams.

Click HERE to go to Amazon October 24-28 and pick up a FREE copy! If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries. Click HERE to download the app to your tablet, computer, or phone.

 

 

3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

xrory3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NKcnIrcztY3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

 

Technically, a “synopsis” is the summary you write about your book. A “blurb” is an endorsement usually written by someone else, singing your praises. But, neither here nor there, we know what we’re talking about. We want a short, snappy, sales pitch that makes our book sell. We want a summary that calls to the right readers. We want a description that makes money!

Where to start…

 

Let’s start with a simple formula:

Plot, Problem, Possibility.

1) What’s the plot of your story? We need a general description of the situation.

2) We need a problem (usually following the plot and proceeded by the word ‘but’ or ‘however’).

3) We need the possibility that our hero may overcome the problem.

Let’s insert a book we all know into this formula. How about Green Eggs and Ham?

Plot: Sam tries to get someone to eat green eggs and ham.

Problem: No matter what Sam does, he can’t accomplish his goal.

Possibility: After begging and pleading, someone finally tries green eggs and ham. Will they like it?

Blurb: Sam travels the world trying to entice someone to try green eggs and ham, but no matter what Sam does, he can’t seem to accomplish his goal. After begging and pleading, someone finally tries Sam’s green eggs and ham. Will they like it or will Sam be forced to continue his journey?

Many writers say to keep the blurb short and don’t give away too much. I agree with keeping it short. Don’t tell about the boat and the goat and the train and the rain. Subplots don’t sell books. But I don’t see a problem with giving away anything. Movie trailers always show the funniest or most dramatic parts. Think of your blurb as a movie trailer. It’s a sneak peek into the story and hopefully will entice the looker to buy. Did everyone skip the movies Titanic and Apollo 13 because we already knew the endings? No, of course not. Tell your potential reader whatever you want them to know, and give them the Plot, the Problem, and the Possibility. Do yourself a favor…include the blurb when you send your manuscript to your editor. He/she can tighten that mess right up!

…and lay off the adjectives. Don’t fill me with flowery crap, just tell me what the story’s about.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Easy as Pie Virtual Book Tour

imagesDo you have a new book coming out? Try a virtual book tour. I actually fibbed a bit about the easy-as-pie part, but hey, nothing worth doing is ever easy, is it?

Even if you’re traditionally published, publishers don’t support book tours anymore. So, a writer is left with two options: 1) schedule events and signings yourself or 2) do a virtual tour. Either way is a lot of work, but the virtual tour is far less expensive. You can pay someone to put it together for you, but remember, nobody cares more for your work than you do. You will be much more passionate and energetic about promoting your tour than anyone else on the planet. That being said, if you’d like to put together your own tour, here’s what you need:

  • Preparedness
  • Organization
  • Communication

Ask everyone you know who has a blog and has the kind of customers you could entertain. Don’t ask the guy who writes the auto repair blog to host your chick lit book. You don’t need a lot of blog hosts, only enough to fill a week or two – maybe eight or ten sites. Don’t bother blogging on weekends. Most people blog Monday through Friday. Fill in any holes with Release Parties on Facebook and Live Twitter Events.

  • Prepare all of your blogs, interviews, excerpts, links, media kits, photos, etc., far in advance and keep them in a folder on your computer desk top. Write blogs on why you wrote the book, when and why you started writing, the era the story took place, even an interview your main character. To make it a little easier on yourself, schedule some blogs to simply be short snippets from the book, or even just the synopsis and your bio. Don’t forget to include buy links with every post!!!!
  • Organize your schedule, along with host information, email addresses, etc. You need this all in one place. Excel spread sheet, anyone?
  • Communication with your hosts is key. Keep all correspondence – Invitation, Response, Follow up, Confirmation, Reminder, and Final Thank You. You’re not being a pest. You’re simply making sure all your hosts are on the same page. You also need to communicate with your audience. I suggest posting the schedule and links on one page (maybe your website?) and direct everyone to that page to see the schedule. Don’t try to update six different sites. That’s too much work.

The secret is to be WAY ahead of yourself. Give yourself at least two months, minimum, to plan. You have blogs to write, promotions to do, organizing and scheduling to accomplish. Don’t squeeze yourself into a corner and get stressed.

Give away freebies to attract readers. You can offer eBooks, gift cards (Amazon will let you email them saving on postage), swag, or you can set up an account and do an official raffle. Rafflecopter is awesome. Rafflecopter allows you to give readers entries for specific actions like following you on Twitter, liking your Facebook page, signing up for your newsletter.

Consider offering an end-of-tour Twitter Chat on one day for one hour with a specific hashtag. Announce it throughout the tour. Invite other authors in your genre to participate, so you can discuss your book with them if you have a roomful of lurkers but no tweeters.

book tour 4banner-elly-book-tourHave some crafty photo-shop-type person make you a banner announcing your tour and post it EVERYWHERE. Here are two I used. One matched my book cover, one matched my website. Notice I put my website as the landing point on both advertisements. That way, I only needed to update sites or links on that one page.

When the tour is over, the hosts thanked, and the giveaways done, clean up your sites. Remove dates from your website and blog, but leave the posts and links up. They will continue to bring business for a long time.

Promote Promote Promote – before – during – and after!!!!!

 

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Where does your book belong?

Incognito-silhouette-150x150So, what’s the deal with the genres Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense??

Most readers don’t know the difference, but if you’re trying to place your book in the best genre to find the perfect readership, a writer should know the difference. The difference depends on if the reader knows what’s going on in advance and which character is telling the story. There is also some vague talk in the industry about pacing playing a role. Some say a thriller moves at a faster pace and a suspense novel moves at a slower pace.

Mystery – A mystery is a story where the reader finds out what’s going on at the same time as the character. Sherlock Holmes knows he has dead bodies piling up but doesn’t know who the murderer is. The reader can decipher the clues as the Sherlock uncovers them.

Thriller – In a thriller, the reader already knows whodunit and is merely along for the ride. If a story is about Jack the Ripper, the reader already knows what is going to happen and who is responsible, and in the story, the reader lives in the moment with either Jack or the one chasing him. If the story is told from the victim’s point of view, it could be categorized as Suspense (see below) because they know something is going to happen, but don’t know what it is. (One can usually recognize suspense by the ominous music in the background. LOL).

Suspense – The reader knows something is going to happen and perhaps knows who will do the deed, but something is unknown. Either the character doesn’t know it’s coming, or the reader doesn’t know the specifics of what, when, who, or how and is turning pages to find out. The reader may witness a person setting a bomb with a timer, but the characters don’t know they’re about to get blown to smithereens in ten minutes. In the above example about Jack, the reader will know Jack is heading toward the victim, but the victim is oblivious, or the victim will know someone is chasing them, but they don’t know who it is.

So, Jack’s story can be a Thriller or Suspense? Yes.

Often the categories will overlap. If there are scenes of suspense where the victim doesn’t know what’s coming, it could be categorized as Thriller/Suspense. If Sherlock’s story revealed the killer to the reader in the beginning and Sherlock was simply chasing him, it could be Mystery/Thriller. Generally, if the work falls into more than one of the above categories, a writer should narrow it down to two. A work of Mystery/Thriller/Suspense will only get lost in the shuffle. Narrow it down as much as you can.

small_moving_boxesBottom line – Don’t fret too much about genre. If it’s a good story, readers will find it and buy it. It doesn’t matter what box the bookstore wants to put it in.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.