Thursday, May 30, 2013

All the King's Horses

Deanna and I have a couple of novels that are

(Yes, the air quotes are significant.)

We know they aren't publishable in their current state because there are some major structural issues with the projects, and we haven't been able to wrap our minds around how to take it apart and put it back together again.

We've tried a couple of times to sit down with it and mark up which sections to move where, but soon become overwhelmed with what we are looking at and what to do next.


This is a word processing system that also functions as a card file. It allows the writers to create their novel, or in our case to parse out our novel, into scenes that are nested into chapters that can be combined into the whole. What makes this so dreamy is that the cards can be moved around by just a drag and drop, or if bravery is required, completely hacked from the novel but stored--you know, just in case it was a terrible idea to remove it.

This is how the screen looks most of the time:
The left side-bar shows where the current work is housed in the overall structure.
The middle section shows what you are typing on at the moment, and in this case there is a split screen with reference material as well.
And the right side-bar shows tools that you can use to footnote, determine key words, hold prewriting notes...

Really, I'm just learning here, but so far I love it. It allows us to crack the whole novel apart and piece it back together again, hopefully into a more powerful story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ISBNs- Do We Need Them?

Let's start with the nitty-gritty-

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for  International Standard Book Number. That, along with a barcode and the book's price are found on all books you buy from a store. I'm talking about physical copies.

The ISBN system is an internationally recognized book identification system that's been in use since 1970. An ISBN is used for a variety of purposes, including inventory control; sales tracking; and order processing by booksellers, wholesalers, distributors, libraries, and universities.
Some books have similar titles, or the same book may have multiple editions published over several years. To help keep track of every edition of every book that's published, each book is given a unique ISBN. The ISBN is displayed not only on the back cover, but also inside the book's interior on the copyright page and sometimes on the inside front or back cover.
In other words, it makes sure your book is not confused with any other book out there. That's pretty darn important, especially if your book has the same or similar title as someone else's.

I have ISBNs for all my books. One for the print versions and one for the eBook version.

All books are not created equal in the eyes of the ISBN.

Print books-all must have an ISBN
If your books are printed with a publisher, they will take care of the ISBN for you.
*If you are publishing your own book, you need to get your own ISBN.

If you use Createspace or another POD -(print-on-demand) publisher/distributor, they will give you choices when it comes to purchasing ISBNs from them.
  • The free option-this option is very tempting simply because it is FREE. There is nothing wrong with choosing this option as long as you understand what it means. Choosing this option will list Createspace as your publisher. It also means that you can not sell your book in physical stores. Bookstores require the ability to return your books for 100 years. If you use Createspace or another POD, the books are not returnable. Createspace owns that ISBN and won't let you use it outside their system.

  • The $10 option- this option lets you imprint your publishing name to the ISBN. This is a better option than #1, but still has its limitations. People won't see Createspace as your publisher. Your book will not be in stores. It will only be available through distribution and  Createspace still owns the ISBN and the book is still not returnable.

  • The $99 universal option lets you sell the book wherever you want. Yay, you say, but that's expensive. Here's the scoop. Go to and buy 10 ISBNs for only $250. A much better deal.
You get the most and best control of your books when you purchase your own ISBNs and have them listed under your publishing company's name. The more you buy at once, the cheaper they are.

The other thing you have to get is a barcode. This is what it looks like-

Createspace will generate one for free for you, but there are strings attached. It will not have the price encoded in it. This means you can not sell it in stores. Stores need the price encoded in the barcode. All Createspace barcodes end with the numbers 9000. 

As a recap- 
  • Your print books must have an ISBN
  • You need to decide if you want to be listed as the publisher or not
  • You need to decide if you want your book to be sold in stores
  • You get the most control by buying your own ISBNs
  • Get your own barcode

eBooks-you must decide if you want an ISBN attached.

It used to be that in order to sell your eBook through Apple that you had to have an ISBN. That just changed. They no longer require it.

Smashwords will assign your eBook an ISBN for free. Again, that is linked to Smashwords and not your own publishing house. You can also opt to have your publishing company's name imprinted on it for $10. They will use this ISBN for all the places they distribute-Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Diesel, etc. You can also assign your own ISBN that you purchase through Bowker.

Amazon lets you list your ISBN, but then assigns your book an unique ASIN number that they use to identify your book

Barnes and Noble uses your ISBN to identify your book if you give them one, or they assign it a unique BN number if you don't.

Apple  uses your ISBN to identify your book if you give them one, or now they assign it  a unique number

While it used to be that everyone got an ISBN for their eBooks so that Apple would carry them, it is no longer the case.

A lot of my author friends are opting out of using ISBNs for their eBooks now and are letting the various .coms assign their own numbers to them. 

I like having my eBooks all listed under the same number on all sites-they are so easy to find and it gives me less to keep track of- so I still buy ISBNs for them. $25 for my own convenience.

My advice? Get a bundle of 10 ISBNs to use for your print books for sure. If you like the convenience of only having to keep track of one number for your eBooks, use one ISBN for each title as an eBook, too. Otherwise, go free, baby.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writing Emotions

While I was on the chat room last night (You use the chat room, right? Well, why not? It's super fun!) I asked the ladies what they'd like me to blog about. They threw out some pretty frisky answers - keep in mind, we were all super tired - but they seemed to agree on one thing: they wanted to learn more about writing emotion.

I'm good with that.

Emotion can suck your reader into the story. It can make them read for hours on end without coming up for air. Lack of emotion, on the other hand, will make your readers grow tired of the story. It will give them a reason to put the book down, and we don't ever want to give them that reason.

So, how do you write emotion?

1. The first thing to remember is that your characters should come across as real people. That means that they will feel every emotion a real person would feel. Use your imagination and put yourself in your character's place. How would you feel if that scenario was happening to you?

2. Every emotion has a corresponding physical reaction. If you're feeling worried, you might find your stomach clenching. If you're under a lot of stress, your chest might get tight. If you're trying not to cry, you might find your throat starting to hurt. Tap into the physical manifestations of emotion as well as the ... emotional ... aspects of emotion.

3. Don't overdo it. I frequently see authors make the mistake of over-dramatizing the moment. The character isn't just sad - she experiences waves and waves of despair and she can't stop crying and she feels broken and ... we start to lose patience. Or he hears a joke and he's laughing so hard that he's wiping tears from his eyes and he's pounding the table. The joke wasn't actually that funny ... Keep the emotion appropriate to the situation.

4. Avoid emotion words. Happy, sad, scared, whatever ... they're too flat and don't do a thing for me. Instead, show me how the character felt. Avoid "She was happy."

Okay, shall we see some examples?

Example A:  "Jenny was happy. She had just passed her history final with an A. Now she could prove to her mom that she could get good grades. She was relieved."

Example B: "Jenny looked at the grade on the top of her paper and her hands started to shake. It was an A. An A? Really? She glanced around, wondering if anyone would notice if she suddenly started dancing. Now she could prove to her mom that she could get good grades. She took a deep breath, feeling her stress drain out of her fingertips."

Okay, the first example was purposely flat, but do you see the point I'm making here? Bringing in emotion enlivens the piece. It also helps us get to know the character, and - something we all want - we get to feel some of what the character feels.

Take a scene from your book and bring in some emotion. Remember, your characters are people too, and they should get to feel just like a real person.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Grammar Tip: "Try and" vs. "Try to"

by Donna K. Weaver

Our own Laura Josephsen caught me on this one when she was reading my book, A Change of Plans. It's one of those things that, if we stop to think about it, makes perfect sense.

So, think about this commonly used idiom:

try and ....
Source: PowerPoint

Typically, what does the word "and" do? Doesn't it connect things?

I sing and dance

I try and ... fail? Okay, in this instance I can buy "try and".

But how about this:

I will try and call her.

I will try [what?] and call her. See what I mean? It's confusing. What makes sense is this:

I will try to call her.

Now it's clear the speaker is going to attempt something.

According to Grammar Girl, "try and" is acceptable in informal speech but should be avoided in formal writing. Well, I don't know about you, but I tend to write the way I speak (even if my editor doesn't believe me). 

I say to go for clarity. Every time.

Does this little bit of grammar trip you up? Do you think it's just a matter of time before we have a new grammar rule?

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And while you're at it, don't forget to set aside July 12th & 13th for a wicked awesome writing conference. We've got a stellar list of presenters and topics, and it's so affordable! You can register at the top right. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reading, Writing and Kids

       I am one of those readers who like to blaze through book after book after book. I'll read almost everything, non-fiction, self help, YA, picture book, issues books, magazines, I like them and own a lot. My bookshelves are filled to the max and books are on the floor next to it, and scattered around the house. I love the movie that plays in my head while I read a book, the feel of the paper and the satisfaction of a well thought out and executed ending. I love books. My kids love books. They love them because I love them.
       We've probably all heard the Emilie Buchwald quote: 

"Children are made readers in the laps of their parents."

I live by this. I read with my kids from the moment they are born. When we go to the bookstore, we stop by the children's section for them to look around and choose a book as well, we enjoy family trips to the library, before bed the older girls read aloud bedtime stories to the younger ones. We are a family of readers.

I love writing books. I love the characters developing in my mind and changing on the paper, I enjoy the structure of plots and predictability of a romance and creating all the tension necessary for a satisfying ending. But the reason I write is because I read. <3

Come find me on Goodreads!