Need Manuscript Help?

1 comment:
I had a lovely email the other day from Susan Siegmann, a fellow freelancer. She heads up S.S. Transcriptions, "committed to providing professional, personable service for copyediting, proofreading and transcription."

In the world of freelancers and consultants, we're always looking for our next gig. To that end, if you need help with copyediting, proofreading, transcriptions, or formatting, consider Susan. Whether it's a manuscript, dissertation or transcription, Susan can help you out. She's got over 20 years of experience and promises to expedite your work in a timely manner, with high standards of literary excellence.

Susan can be reached at her website which is linked above or by email: sstranscriptions at earthlink.net.

Takeaway Truth

Life's short. Help others. Spread good karma.

Online Writing Portfolio

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Freelance writing demands a portfolio so clients can see your level of writing expertise. (Even writers of fiction can make use of a writing portfolio. Read tomorrow about that.)

I've never bothered with the online portfolio sites to display writing samples and showcase my writing skills. Usually, the sites are cumbersome to navigate and take far too much time in uploading writing samples. Plus, it's just more URLs and passwords to have to remember.

Control Content

I've always thought it was far easier to set up a website or blog and use that as your online portfolio. That way you control the content, the URL, etc. The portfolio site can't suddenly change its Terms of Service and commandeer ownership of what you post. (Sure, Facebook failed in their recent attempt to claim ownership of posted content, but who has the time to mount these campaigns to make a site back down?)

Choose Free

I love blogs, especially because you can use your name for the blog and that will be your URL i.e. MaryJones.blogspot.com or you can use your handle that you're known by on a freelance writing site i.e. NewYorkWriter.blogspot.com. A name is much more appealing than a portfolio site with your identity being a string of numbers.

I think Blogspot is the easiest platform I've used. You can personalize it every which way from Sunday so it will be more memorable than just another segment of a portfolio site. You can use 3rd party templates, and some of them are really beautiful. Plus, it's so easy to update.

Invest Time

Spend time making your site look professional. Decide the editorial content and select Labels accordingly so clients can easily find something that fits what you're pitching to them. For example, for a portfolio where your talents lie in business, technology, finance, and marketing, those 4 categories would be labels on your blog. You designate the posts (articles you write to showcase your talent) by the respective label so if a client wanted a technology writer, he could click Technology and find all the articles you uploaded.

Start a blog and make your content fit the categories for which you want to be viewed as an expert writer. Then start filling the blog with articles that fit your categories. Aim for at least two articles in each category.

When you talk to a potential client, you can point them to your website or blog, the best showcase of your writing skills.

Basic Rules For Freelance Portfolio

1. Figure out that for which you want to be known as an expert.

2. Make your Labels or Categories reflect those niches i.e. Family, Health, Home, Travel, etc.

3. Write one article for each category immediately.

4. When that's done, write another for each category.

5. Market yourself as a competent, professional writer who adheres to deadlines, produces excellent work, and maintains the highest standards in dealing with clients and the confidentiality required by those business arrangements.

6. Proofread relentlessly.

Takeaway Truth

Take advantage of the free blogging platforms because less overhead means more profit.

Online Fiction Portfolio

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If you're trying to showcase your writing skills, either for fiction or for nonfiction, then you need a writing portfolio. Writers of fiction can make use of a writing portfolio just as freelance writers do. Be careful though that you don't post something that affects its intrinsic value if you wish to market the rights at a later date.

As I stated before, I don't bother with the online portfolio sites to display writing samples and showcase my writing skills because the sites are cumbersome to navigate and take far too much time in uploading content. Plus, it's just more URLs and passwords to have to remember.

Control Content

I've always thought it was far easier to set up a website or blog and use that as your online portfolio. That way you control the content, the URL, etc. The portfolio site can't suddenly change its Terms of Service and commandeer ownership of what you post. (Sure, Facebook failed in their recent attempt to claim ownership of posted content, but who has the time to mount these campaigns to make a site back down?)

Choose Free

You know how much I love blogs, especially because you can use your name for the blog and that will be your URL i.e. MaryJones.blogspot.com or BobJonesFiction.blogspot.com. A name is much more appealing than a portfolio site with your identity being a string of numbers.

Blogspot is the easiest platform I've used, and it can be personalized so it will be memorable. Plus, it's so easy to update.

Fiction Portfolio

You can create a portfolio either on an existing site or a separate blog to showcase your fiction too.For a fiction portfolio, make your categories fit the work. For instance, if you're posting a novel that has been flogged from here to Estonia with no takers, and you just want someone to read it, then post it chapter by chapter with your Labels being Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. Then maybe have a category in which you analyze why you think the manuscript didn't sell or what you learned about writing from that manuscript or maybe collect the comments about it in a category.

When you talk to other aspiring novelists or industry professionals, you can point them to your portfolio. (Fiction is such a different kettle of fish that you have to analyze every action when dealing with industry professionals like agents and editors to make sure you're not making a misstep. Make sure a fiction portfolio does NOT look amateurish in case you do want to show it to an agent.)

Basic Rules For Fiction Portfolio

1. Figure out what kind of fiction for which you want to be known.

2. Make your Labels or Categories reflect those niches i.e. chapters of a novel, Short Fiction, Poetry, or Genre.

3. Write blog posts that deal with the work of fiction you've posted. Perhaps give your inspiration for the piece, the theme, the symbolism, the characterization, etc.

4. Use really great eye-catching graphic images to illustrate your fiction.

5. Market yourself in the same professional way you are trying to market your work - with great graphic images, interesting profile, insights, etc.

6. Proofread relentlessly.

Takeaway Truth

Take advantage of the free blogging platforms because less overhead means more profit.

Cover Art Contest Winners

4 comments:
One of my RWA chapters, Houston Bay Area RWA, hosts the annual Judge A Book By Its Cover contest (JABBIC). This contest recognizes excellence in covers of romance genre books published each year. The judges are booksellers from around the world.

Winners for 2008 were announced recently. The first place winners of all six categories are featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April edition of Romance Writers Report. You can see all the finalists and winners at the Houston Bay Area RWA website.

2008 Winners

Contemporary Series Romance: Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir by Paula Roe

Romantic Suspense: Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox

Single Title/Mainstream Romance: Weddings Can Be Murder by Christie Craig

Historical Romance: A Knight Well Spent by Jackie Ivie

Sexiest Cover: Lyon, The Lords of Satyr by Elizabeth Amber

This is the only contest of its kind. Bookmark Houston Bay Area RWA and check for the 2009 contest details to be posted in the fall for the 2009 contest.

Takeaway Truth

Everyone complains about romance novel book covers so it's nice to see an event that honors the best of that genre's cover art.

Snap! You're The Bomb

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If you've wondered if you can really get paid to blog, the answer is yes. Snapbomb is an expert at buzz marketing, and they pay bloggers to do what comes naturally. What's buzz marketing? It's the word of mouth advertising that's more effective than any number of television commercials.

Snap!

Every time I hear Snapbomb, I think of one of my fave TV shows, House. Curmudgeonly Dr. House is prone to saying, "Oh, snap!" I think I've heard him say, "It's the bomb." You put the two together, and you get Snapbomb, a process so easy that it's a snap, and so cool, it's the bomb.

Articulate Bloggers

Snapbomb utilizes talented bloggers in their Buzz Marketing. It's like a friend telling you, over a cup of coffee, about a great new book, or product, or website they've discovered. The only difference is that the friend is an online blogger who shares the information.

New World

In today's world, good bloggers not only share information but also they entertain. Most people once read the newspaper with their morning coffee. Now, they take their cup of java to the computer and click on their favorite blog.

Simple Process

Want to write for Snapbomb? The process is easy. Just register. Snapbomb will assess your blog and set a value for it. Once you're approved, login. Find an opportunity, write a blog post about it, and get paid via your PayPal account.

Takeaway Truth

Few things in life are as easy as getting paid to blog.

Why Websites Don't Work

4 comments:
If you do a search for your name or your blog name, you want it to come up on page 1 of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It should at least appear within the first 2 pages. If you've only had a site up for a couple of months, it might be understandable that it takes 4-5 pages for it to list.

If it's been up longer than two months and it takes more than 4-5 pages to find it, then something about your website/blog isn't working. You need an overhaul because you're not making the most of your Internet Presence.

As most of you know, I do website consulting when I wear my freelance hat. I offer a lot of blog posts free here and on my other blog under the label Internet Presence so you can read those if you want to see what I've previously posted on the topic.

Value Of Free

Recently, I offered some free advice to someone as to why they weren't getting the blog traffic they wanted. I told them what needed to be changed. Their reply wasn't a thank you but a response that seemed a bit huffy about how useless my advice was because it was too general.

I didn't bother replying. I moved on down the road because time is money. If they think the list of things that needed correction was general, then that meant they didn't know enough about the various elements. They needed educating, or they wanted chapter and verse about how they needed to change the items. For free apparently.

Educate Thyself

I'm a firm believer in education. If I need to learn something, then I invest the time. No one spoon fed me that which I now know about making the most of your Internet Presence. I use what I learned in my freelance business. Sure, I'll offer advice when I have the time, but the burden of education and knowing how to change an element then implementing those changes belongs to the website owner. (I'd call that person the client except they're not paying me.)

I gave them this free information after looking at their site so I decided to summarize it for you too in case your site isn't working for you. Here are the elements that need to be analyzed and addressed.

Keywords and SEO

Search Engine Optimization is the process of using keywords to enable your site to rank high in SERPs. What are your keywords? Have you used the words a searcher would enter in a Search box? Are those keywords in the first paragraph of each page of your site? Are they sprinkled throughout the rest of the page in an organic manner?

Flash

Did you make the mistake of using a Flash doorway? Looks pretty, but web crawlers do not index those doorway pages so you lose the opportunity to gain valuable rank.

Text Content

Have you got text that is formatted for Internet writing? Is it a font that's preferred for Internet reading? Is it of sufficient interest, germane to the theme of your website, and keyword rich?

Appearance

Is the template or design of your site pleasing in appearance? Have you committed the Internet sin of using black background/white text or worse brightly colored text? Have you changed fonts too many times? (If more than 2 fonts are used, one for headline and one for body, then that's probably too many.)

Graphic Images

Do you have appropriately-sized, pleasing graphic images to illustrate your text?

Takeaway Truth

When you ask someone for free advice, and you receive same, say thank you even if you think he or she is an idiot. If you don't understand how to implement the advice, do some research about each of the things mentioned. You might be surprised how the advice then makes sense.

Invictus Inspires Vietnamese Video

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Recently, I posted to one of my lists about the need for protecting your original work. I said once you put it on the Internet that it will be there forever or until a nuclear winter kills all technology.

Validation

Ironically, that same day I received a comment on a post that validated what I'd said. The visitor VNTuongLai commented on When Lilacs Last In the Courtyard Bloom'd, a post I'd written 3 years ago in which I'd mentioned Invictus by William Ernest Henley.

Poetry Inspires - In Surprising Ways

My visitor invited me to view his video Bhat Kuat, music inspired by Invictus. The tempo and portentous sound of the music complements the words of the poem. At the video's 7:25 mark, the words of Invictus are displayed in English. (There is a vocal track, but it's superseded by the music tracks. Even if it were clear, it's in Vietnamese so I wouldn't understand it. I assume the vocal track is the poem in Vietnamese.)

I liked Bhat Kuat because of the incongruous mix of a nineteenth century English poem with a Vietnamese flavored music track. (Yes, I have a taste for the funky and strange.) It reminded me of I Am spartacus, which I love! That's the drum sequence from the movie That Thing You Do.

The post that my visitor commented on was just a little something I wrote 3 years ago, but it's still there to be found. So if you have an original work which may have intrinsic value, don't just throw it out on the Internet. Protect it, and plan how to best use it if you're trying to make money from your words. (I'll post more on this subject later.)

Takeaway Truth

How refreshing that a poem like Invictus can be given new life in a different medium by someone who was inspired by its words - just as I was inspired in English lit class when I first heard it so many years ago.

Commitment

2 comments:
Quote for the Week

Biologist James Womack, a professor at Texas A&M University, is often quoted by others. I like what he said about commitment. "Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the right stuff to turn our dreams into reality."

There are a lot of jokes about men who are commitment-phobic, but, in truth, a fear of commitment pervades many lives. Of course, I'm not talking only about relationship commitment, but all kinds of commitment. People talk about wanting to get in shape, but they never make a commitment to walking every day.

What Is Commitment?

The dictionary defines commitment as a pledge or a promise. If you want to make a change in your life, you must first make a promise - a pledge - to yourself that you will create that change. Nothing ever changes unless you first make a commitment.

Want to be more optimistic? Pledge to say only positive statements. Want to be more patient? Pledge to count to ten before you sound off. Want to lose weight? Pledge to substitute water for your soda habit. Want to write a book? Pledge to write so many pages a week.

Need some encouragement to make a commitment? Guess what? The season for commitment begins Wednesday, February 25, 2009. That Wednesday is the day after Mardi Gras wherein you can wallow in your sloth until midnight tolls the next day, Lent.

Lent

Lent is a limited period of time. Traditionally, it's a season of fasting and prayer to improve your soul. Why not use the forty days of Lent for the commitment you know you need to make?

Even if you're not Catholic, take those forty days before Easter to make a commitment to change something in your life that's not working or to change something in your life to get what you really want. From Wednesday, Feb. 25, through the Saturday before Easter, April 11, you can use that time to unlock your imagination and visualize what you can be and what you can have in your life. That's only 40 days not counting Sundays. Just 40 days.

Takeaway Truth

Commit. Promise. Pledge. Use the power of your commitment to turn your dreams into reality.

Websites & Newsletters: Oh My!

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Looking to increase cash flow and earn some bucks for your freelance words while working on your novel? Hey, who can't use a few extra bucks? Or maybe you just like contesting.

Here are some resources that offer either a website or subscription newsletter or a combination of websites and newsletters to which you can subscribe. These give articles on how to start freelance writing, what to look out for, and potential markets.

The Practicing Writer, Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing.

Web site: http://www.practicing-writer.com
Blog: http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com
Newsletter: To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to
practicing-writer-subscribe at yahoogroups.com.

Angela Hoy's WritersWeekly, the highest circulation freelance writing ezine in the world.

This is one of the oldest and most respected sites on freelance writing, and it's been published continuously since 1997. WritersWeekly.com is part of the Booklocker.com, Inc. family of businesses, which includes epublisher and online book store Booklocker.com.

Website: http://writersweekly.com/
Newsletter: sign up box on the website.

Freelance Writing Jobs

Website: http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/

Online Writing Jobs

Huge database of jobs for freelance writers.

Website: http://www.online-writing-jobs.com/

Blogger Job

Bills its site as the inside track to a blogging job.
Website: http://www.bloggerjobs.biz/

Morning Coffee

Another site that pulls jobs from other sites and presents them with your morning coffee each week.

Website: http://www.freelancewriting.com
Newsletter: Sign up box on the site.

Takeaway Truth

Freelance writing can be lucrative, but, use good judgment and exercise caution.

Reference Resources

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When first composing this blog post, I opened with: "Everyone knows about the usual reference sites like. . . ." Then I listed some of the sites I figured everyone knows before moving to the sites not generally known. Someone reading over my shoulder said: "I don't know about that." Perhaps, I shouldn't assume everyone has common knowledge of certain facts. So here's the new opening.

This list is of reference sites everyone should know about. If these are new to you, bookmark them in a folder labeled Reference. Here are 10 to consider.

Creative Commons

Explains the different kinds of copyrights available to you and provides tools that authors, educators, artists, or anyone can use to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry and to reserve the rights they want for themselves. If you don't know much about copyright and creative commons licenses, educate yourself there.

Internet Movie Database

I'd be lost without IMDB since I do a lot of movie reviews on my other blog. In 2007-2008, I think did about 600 for a client. If you need to know something about an actor, director, screenwriter, etc., this is a fabulous resource.

USA Today Online

Read an online version of the colorful newspaper for free.

Publishers Weekly

International Book and Book Selling News in an abridged format for free online reading. Once upon a time, you weren't a "real" author unless you subscribed to PW. Of course, that was before the Internet.

Wikipedia

In its own words, "Wikipedia is a free, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning fast) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's 12 million articles (2.7 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone who can access the Wikipedia website." Of course, these two characteristics are the main criticisms about Wikipedia. The articles are only as accurate as the author. No credentials are required to submit articles or to edit them. When someone consults only Wikipedia, without checking other sources, it's inevitable that false or incomplete data will sometimes be used.

The site was launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. It's now the most popular general reference work on the Internet. (My advice? It's a great place to start, but verify, verify, verify.)

Merriam-Webster Online

Place a tab on your desktop, and you can easily look up any word. Get the definition, and you can hear it pronounced too. Great vocabulary is a skill to add to your writer's tool kit.

Who Is

This registry maintained by Domain Tools.com allows you to see if a particular domain name is available. If not, it offers registration information in case you want to try to buy it.

Lonely Planet

Travel guide and information for just about any destination.

Info Please

Find out what was happening in the world for any year from 1900 on.

Free Online Novels

Links to free, authorized online novels, not plagiarized or pirated. A link to my serialized romantic comedy Moonlight On Snow is there.

That's enough for now. I'll list more another time.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet is one of the best free resources you can use.

Computers Cause Insanity

3 comments:
Yes, folks, you heard it here first. Computers cause insanity. At least they do when they malfunction!

Redundancy Failure

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had come home to find my external hard drive had failed. I had other backups for the files though some weren't as current as the complete backup on the external HD. So that's a problem for some files. The real problems though began showing up the next day when I sat down at the old PC.

Apparently, an application I had loaded on the external drive (evil Adobe suite) had commandeered certain basic functions that are embedded in the C drive's root directory. I'll make this long story short. I can no longer get my computer to execute the cut and paste function, Windows Installer is screwed, and the download file function is compromised also.

Edit Registry? Who Me?

I finally identified 3 lines of code that refer to the defunct external HD. I've spent three solid days searching through thousands of lines of code in order to edit them and remove the old drive designation.

Everything is at a standstill until I either get the registry edited or I climb on top of the roof and drop this sucker onto the driveway below. Okay, there is a third option - get professional geek help - but that wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as smashing it to smithereens.

Printer Rant

While I'm at it, I may drop this Kodak printer. (Warning: Don't be suckered into purchasing one by all the TV advertisements about how economical they are to use. I bought two for the office. One is headed to the dumpster already. Less than a year old, and the print head has been replaced twice and needs replacing again.) But the Kodak printers are a rant for another day when I want to take a stand against a great social evil: printer software which is known to induce homicidal instincts in the gentlest of persons.

Takeaway Truth

I can't Sling Words until regedit corrects my problems.

Who Writes Burn Notice?

3 comments:
When I watch TV or movies, I'm always searching for the writing credits. Usually, it's given in the beginning. I guess it's a writer-thing because most people are interested in who the actors or, maybe the director.

Sure, I like to know that too, but what interests me most is who wrote the feature or TV show. Sometimes, it's hard to find that writing credit as if it's not important enough to be prominently featured. That makes me crazy.

I thought it might be cool to talk about some of these immensely talented writers. Ah, the ancestor of every action is a thought, isn't it?

Matthew E. Nix

That's Matt Nix to you Burn Notice fans. He's the creator of this fabulous USA Network series, and he's the exec producer and writer. If you aren't a fan of this show, why not?

Though Burn Notice was his first venture into television, he, of course, is now developing another pilot project with USA and Fox Television Studios.

Mr. Nix, a feature writer since 1997, wrote scripts for Warner Brothers, Columbia, Paramount, Universal, and New Line as well as some indies. Perhaps it's his work in many genres - drama, thriller, comedy (light and dark) and children's films - that has helped him create a series with so many of those elements.

Of course, since Burn Notice has been such a huge hit, he's now got plenty of juice. He's got several feature projects in active development including a summer action flick for Warner Brothers as well as a workplace comedy, and a children's book adaptation for Paramount/ Nickelodeon Films.

This guy does it all. He's also an acclaimed director of short films. His work's been featured on SCI FI, FX Movies Channel, PBS, and in numerous film festivals world-wide.

Takeaway Truth

Good writing, regardless of the medium, leaves me breathless - and inspired.

Gift To My Followers

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Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, but especially to those who have signed on as my followers. I'd like to introduce these people who have such extraordinary good taste to like my words.

My Gift To Followers

Sorry to sound so Sally Field, but: "You like me! You really like me!" And I like you. I have a Valentine's gift for you: Email me joan @ joanreeves dot com if you want to accept the gift. In the subject box put: Accepting Valentine Gift.

The gift is: I will read and critique up to 10 pages of your current work in progress whether that's 10 pages of a novel or nonfiction book, a short story, a poem, or an article. So email me and I'll give you instructions on how to send your material to me. The gift expires on Feb. 28, 2009.

For the rest of you, please visit their blogs. They always appear on a blogroll on the right side of this blog.

Ice

You Should Know

My Fat Ass Is Growin


Christine

My Journal Blog


Amy Laurens aka Inkbot

Ink Fever


Tom Sawyer

No blog yet.


Peace Keeper in a Chaotic World

Peace Keeper in a Chaotic World


Cathy Bryant

Word Vessel


B. A. Boucher

Defcon Whiskey

Eat Ninjas, Shit Pirates

Like the song written by Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers, and Jackie Deshannon says: "Think of your fellow man. Lend him a helping hand. Put a little love in your heart."

Takeaway Truth

Thanks for following Sling Words. Happy Valentine's Day.

Writers & Life's Tragedies

1 comment:
If you're a writer, what do you do when you have contracts to produce written material and you run smack up against one of life's tragedies? Someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, or dies. What do you do if you're under contract for a book or freelance work?

Writers Suffer Losses

I guess I'm thinking about this today because I've heard of several writers who have lost their primary job and/or their husbands have, and I know a writer who is struggling with grief because of the rapidly declining health of a loved one.

When all you want to do is weep and wail, having to be creative is sometimes more than we can handle. Worry about your career can be the final devastating blow that breaks you. In the outside world, if you have a job, you get so many days off as a kind of bereavement benefit. When your time off is over, you return to work, saddened, but still able to function in some minimal way.

Creativity Vs. Devastation

When you're a writer, you can still take time off, but what happens when you return to work? Are you still able to function? Is your creativity unaffected or does it too suffer as devastating a blow as your heart? How can you go back to your fictional world, perhaps writing a humorous manuscript, when your heart is breaking or when you're worried about economic survival?

The solution for one writer may be entirely different for another. Some may find escape in the fictional world of their work in progress. The manuscript may offer sanctuary from thinking about loss. I know that was what happened with my first novel, Summer's Fortune.

Individuals React Individually

My dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The only time I was free of thinking about the devastating prognosis was when I was writing. Slipping into my make believe world rather than dwelling on a sad truth that just wouldn't go away was one way to survive.

A few years after that when my husband's company merged and he and so many others were left without a position, we had a child in college who had significant health problems including several surgeries. I was so worried I couldn't sleep, much less write. Eventually, those problems corrected themselves. I'm a more disciplined writer, and I love writing even more now than before, so I think if faced with similar problems again, I'd use writing as my escape from a disconsolate reality. Writing makes me feel good.

People mourn in many different ways. Some weep. Others rail at life. Some keep plowing ahead. Some curl up in a fetal position. The way we deal with sadness and loss, whether a job or a loved one, is individual.

Do What Works

If there is any answer for those of us in the creative universe, it's to do what works for you. Be kind to yourself.

If you can't write, or if you can only write black, roiling anger, bitterness, and grief, then contact whoever is waiting for your words and ask for an extension. If worse comes to worse, be ready to terminate the contract and pay back the advance. Sometimes, just getting the pressure off will save your sanity.

If you haven't been faced with this before, you will be at some point. Perhaps, you need to think about it and be prepared. Don't denigrate yourself if you can still keep writing, and don't berate yourself if you must take a vacation from words.

One thing I've learned is that everything you experience will find its way into your work somehow if only in using that well of emotion when writing difficult, emotionally wrenching scenes of loss.

Takeaway Truth

You have to do what's best for you. Trust your instinct. If you love writing, the words will return.

The Nose Knows

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One of the things I have to work hardest at is writing description. I love writing dialogue and could probably write a 400 page manuscript of nothing but that. However, a good novel demands a certain amount of description along with other elements.

The best kind of description is that which appeals to the senses. Saying, "The kitchen smelled nice." isn’t the same as saying, "The kitchen smelled like cinnamon and vanilla."

I did a lot of research a few years ago for my novel Say Yes (recently published in Large Print Edition) because the heroine was a perfumer. I find the sense of smell personally intriguing because it’s the most primitive of our senses.

Here are a few interesting facts about your nose and breathing too.

1. A sneeze can travel up to 100 mph.

2. The nose cleans, humidifies, and warms over 500 cubic feet of air every day.

3. It’s impossible to sneeze and keep your eyes open at the same time.

4. Humans breathe 7 quarts of air every minute.

5. The average human takes between 12 - 18 breaths per minute.

6. Your right lung takes in more air than your left.

7. Your nose can detect the odor of artificial musk in such low concentrations as one part musk to 32 billion part s of air.

8. Your nose continues to grow throughout your life.

9. Humans have seven primary odors that help them determine objects. Those odors are: Camphoric - mothballs; Musky - perfume; Roses - floral; Peppermint - mint chewing gum; Etheral - dry cleaning fluid; Pungent - vinegar; and Putrid - rotten eggs.

10. People who can't smell have a condition called Anosmia.

Takeaway Truth

Is a rose by any other name just as sweet? Scientifically speaking, yes.

Website Update Highlights: Feb. 2009

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I've been so busy that I haven't even had a chance to tell you what's new on my website. This month we celebrate LOVE. Yes, love in capital letters, the bravest emotion of all.

The Pleasure of Reading

An Interview with best-selling author Annette Blair. You'll love what she has to say about her books and her writing life.

The Joy of Writing

I gave a lot of thought into this month's feature article: Why Book Publishing Changes.

Wordplay

My website subscription newsletter has a few of my thoughts on Love and Romance. In the entertainment section, you'll find one of those web floaters that will make you laugh. That will put you in a good mood for Valentine's.

The Archives

An article usually appears on its originating page for two months. After that it's moved to The Archives. All the 2006 articles have been removed entirely, as I warned.

Work In Progress

An Unscientific Way to Make a Decision is Opus 2 of 12 for 2009, a no-brainer decision-making process for the indecisive.

Previously Published

The entire series on how to use your retained and reverted rights has been moved to The Archives. The cover for Say Yes, my most recent large print edition, is shown. The book is an example of my following my own advice on marketing rights.

Written Wisdom

February's theme is Love. Look for quotations from Ninon De Lenclos, Marlene Dietrich, Nikki Giovanni, Lorraine Hansberry, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Mother Teresa, and Anzia Yezierska, .

(By the way, if any of you out there have websites or blogs and would like to exchange links, just let me know. (I reserve the right to respectfully decline to exchange links.) Send me an email at joan @ joanreeves.com with REAL LIVE PERSON - LINK EXCHANGE in the subject box.)

Takeaway Truth

Every month you'll find entertaining and education articles on the art, craft, and business of writing on The Website of Joan Reeves.

Better Shop Around

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If you’re in the market for a web hosting provider, you better do like the golden oldie song advises and shop around. Fortunately, finding a good webhosting company is easy if you visit Web Hosting Rating because that’s exactly what this site does - rates web host providers. I’ve mentioned this website before, and I always recommend it to anyone who is trying to understand the sometimes-confusing website issues.

If you’re looking for a web host for your site, or, if your contract for web hosting is due to renew, visit WHR. You can look up the various providers which interest you and see how they actually measure up in customers’ reviews based on customer satisfaction, cost, reliability, uptime and technical support. They offer a searchable web hosting directory with all the information you need to make a wise decision about your web host provider.

Oh, if you decide to change web hosts, be sure and read their article Changing Web Hosts in 6 Easy Steps which will explain what you need to do.

Takeaway Truth

You need an Internet Presence so make the most of your hard-earned dollars by comparison shop whenever possible.

Hook The Reader: 10 Steps

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Years ago when I was first trying to master the narrative elements of dramatic structure, I took notes on every book I read. Eventually, I condensed the most important points and ended up with lots of 10 step lessons, if you will.

Every time I start a new manuscript, I look over those notes. Since I’m starting a new one tomorrow, I reviewed my notes on hooking the reader. So today, it’s show and tell in the old blog arena.

Conventional wisdom says an author must hook the reader from the very first sentence. Here are ten tips to help you do that.

10 Steps

1. A story begins with change. Change alters the environment for the character and/or threatens the character’s self-concept.

2. Never warm up your engines when writing. Start the story immediately.

3. Establish a threat or worry or story question at once. The king is giving a ball. Will Cinderella get invited? Will she make it home by midnight? There’s a bomb on the elevator. Will Keanu and the bomb squad be able to rescue the people inside before the bomb detonates? (Speed of course.)

4. Keep character confusion to a minimum by introducing your characters carefully - one at a time.

5. Get something happening immediately. A novel is characterized by rising action.

6. Make the story go forward by pushing the hero/heroine back.

7. Don’t pick up the story threads too quickly - make the reader get antsy and wait but give them something entertaining while they’re waiting and wondering.

8. Do not give the entire life story of your characters immediately. This bogs down the story. Sprinkle the back story throughout.

9. Evoke some kind of strong emotional reaction in the reader - amusement, sorrow, anger, hate - which will cause the reader to stick with your story from the first word to the last.

10. Do not be afraid to write and toss it away. Sometimes you have to write just to figure out what you’re trying to say. Don’t look at your words as if they are carved in stone.

Takeaway Truth

Take Elmore Leonard’s advice, especially in the beginning: leave out the parts people skip over.

10 Ways NOT to Write a Book

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This time-sucking process, as outlined below, usually takes a year or two for most wannabe writers. I guarantee it works though. Follow this step-by-step guide, and you will never, ever, finish a manuscript to the point where it can be submitted and result in a sale.

1. Wait until everything is perfect in your life before starting.

2. Tell everyone you meet every detail about the book, discussing it endlessly before you ever put a word on paper, until you’re so bored with the idea that you’d rather wash windows than write the story.

3. Write whenever you feel like it rather than establishing a weekly quota of pages produced.

4. Write and rewrite the first chapter, not moving ahead until you have it perfect.

5. Get to chapter 2 and start thinking about the marketability of your book and realize you’re writing a courtship romance but erotica is the hot genre so you haven’t got a chance

6. Realize you haven’t yet become a Zen master of the writing craft and decide to read a baker’s dozen of how-to books before proceeding to chapter 3.

7. When you get to chapter 4, start obsessing that your (mom, dad, spouse, children, minister, friends, neighbors) will think you are perverted and/or nuts if this gets published and he/she/it/they read it.

8. When you get to chapter 5, start changing character names, hair colors, eye colors, occupations, emotional baggage or any of the other thousand details so that you must go back and change it all the way through, tinkering with every passage where you used the now obsolete word or phrase.

9. When you get to chapter 6, start sending it out to agents in a query/first chapter package so you will be crushed when they don’t express interest in your unfinished project, and you have to go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing before proceeding.

10. When you get to chapter 7, decide to join a critique group, jump into the first one you stumble across without any knowledge of the individual and/or group dynamics and level of expertise so that you’ll realize you’re writing crap when they pick it apart.

Takeaway Truth

A novel is characterized by forward motion. So is the process of writing. Move forward until you reach The End. Then, and only then, is it the time to go back.

Hi, Honey, I'm Home!

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I came back after several days away from the office to discover my wonderfully huge external hard drive had failed. Gone into that cyber Bermuda Triangle are all my backup files and a lot of my current files.

I'll be spending several days rebuilding. That's life. Cyber-you-know-what occasionally hits the fan.

In the meantime, I'll catch up on blogging. I have a lot to tell you since I only posted twice this past week. As you all know, I'm good for at least one post a day here at the old Sling Words corporation. (Our motto: We put the K in Kwality.)

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes things get off-kilter, and the only thing to do is set them to rights with a hearty chuckle and a good measure of patience.

Review: Gran Torino

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I saw Gran Torino when it opened nationwide. Let me tell you up front that Clint Eastwood is Walt Kowalski, not Dirty Harry even though the promo makes you think it's going to be a guns-blazing Dirty Harry encore.

Cast

Okay, guns and fisticuffs are involved, but the film is so much more than that. Joining Mr. Eastwood in the film is Christopher Carley as Father Janovich, a determined priest who knows little of real life as lived by Korean war vet Kowalski; Ahney Her, entrancing as Sue Lor, the spirited Hmong girl next door who just won't let Kowalski continue living isolated and alone; and Bee Vang as Thao Vang Lor, called Toad by Kowalski who becomes his surrogate father and role model, teaching the young Hmong how American blue collar guys bond and behave.

Writers

Dave Johannson and Nick Schenk wrote the story, and Nick Schenk wrote the screenplay. Schenk has already won Best Original Screenplay from the National Board of Review. His previous work is what the general public would consider obscure. Johannson doesn't have any previous writing credits that I could find so if this is his first credited project, he's got a great future. The writers take what you may think is a cliche and spin it into a fresh, character-driven story packed with emotion.

Quick Synopsis

As the film opens, Kowalksi is in church for the funeral of his wife, a woman he characterizes later as the best woman in the country that he managed to catch. You won't catch Kowalksi moving into assisted living though his stereotypical sons would love to sell the family home in the old neighborhood and put him where they could justifiably say, "He's being taken care of." He's an embarrassment and an emotional anvil around their necks just as they are a puzzle to him.

The trouble with the old neighborhood isn't that it's been taken over by Asians, but that the gangs - Asian, black, Hispanic - have a stranglehold on the decent people who are trying to find their piece of the American dream while still clinging to their traditions and values.

Gran Torino isn't so much about knocking heads, defending the old neighborhood, and facing down gangbangers as it is about character growth and discovering that family doesn't necessarily mean the people you're related to by blood. Eastwood gives a layered performance that is worthy of Best Actor. In fact, there are several stellar performances in this film i.e. Carley's priest and unknown actors Ahney Her and Thao Vang Lor. Even Clint's son Scott Eastwood, credited in the film as Scott Reeves, is good in his role as the gutless Trey.

Highly Recommended

I won't spoil the ending if you haven't seen it, but it is surprising. And poignant. If you're an Eastwood fan, you'll love the film. If you abhor Eastwood, you'll be surprised how this film stays with you. I could easily see this as an Eastwood sweep of all the major film awards. Then again, it may not win any other awards except for the writers. See it. You won't be disappointed.

Takeaway Truth

Awards don't make a film a classic. Whether Gran Torino wins or loses at the awards and the box office, it will become a classic.

(Reprinted from Joan Slings Words, my test blog.)

Viewpoint Lessons from Jack Bauer

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One of my favorite TV programs is 24. Of course, I hated the last two seasons, but it seems to be back on track this year. Jack Bauer is a great character.

What can writers learn about viewpoint and characterization from Jack Bauer? Plenty!

A fictional character, as opposed to a real person, must be larger than life. Jack Bauer as portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland on the popular action thriller 24, is an iconic hero, larger than the great outdoors.

Writers can learn a lot about characters - especially viewpoint characters - by observing this television hero.

In the Thick of Things

Viewpoint characters are telling the story. They're always at the center of the action. Watch 24. If other characters have done something, you'll see that Jack Bauer doesn't react to the event so much as he acts. His reaction is to take action. He sets events in motion. He doesn't sit around internalizing and stewing emotionally. He takes action immediately to avert disaster or change the expected outcome.

Risk Everything

Your viewpoint character, the protagonist, always has everything at risk. That's Jack Bauer's job description. He risks life, limb, happiness, and freedom every hour of a 24 hour period. It doesn't matter what he personally wants or what he may personally lose. He honors his commitment and vow to his country and does his job regardless of the cost.

Goal Focused

Your protagonist or hero is struggling to achieve a worthy goal against great odds which is the conflict driving the story. Jack Bauer faces insurmountable odds in his quest to find bombs, hidden saboteurs, and stop the forces who want to destroy his country. Yet, somehow, he always comes out on top. He never stops. He never quits. He keeps going despite anything and everything. He is the epitome of goal-focused consistency.

Changed

Your viewpoint character changes from the beginning of the story to the end. He or she is altered and thus able to live in the changed world - changed because of the story events.

Don't think that Jack Bauer - because he is a TV series hero - is unchanged by all he has faced. Each season he's changed in subtle ways. If you watch the previous years of 24 on DVD, the change is dramatic. You see his loss of identity and self as he's gone from being a happily married family man at the opening of Day 1 to a bitter, ostracized loner with only a couple of friends.

In being a character willing to do whatever it took to accomplish the greater good, Bauer has lost the ability to be normal. In a room full of people, he stands out the way a tiger would in a room full of kittens.

Yet, like all good complex characters, being normal, loving and being loved in return is what he wants. That's his internal conflict. What he most wants is what he can't have.

Takeaway Truth

Whether you're creating a hero or just a character, observe real people and the larger than life characters in successful TV and movies.

(This blog post originally appeared on my test blog Joan Slings Words.)

Out of the Loop

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It's late, but I wanted to let y'all know that I'm out of the office this week. I've got some scheduled posts for your entertainment, but I'll be slow to comment.

See you when I return.

Takeaway Truth

Joan has left the building.

Super Bowl Sunday Wisdom

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Quote for the Week

We're getting ready for the Super Bowl, like most households in this country. Even my mom has been known to tune in to the big game.

Here are a selection of quotations that I think are appropriate for today's event.

From Tom Landry about the sport itself: "Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it's so incredible, it's unbelievable."

From Frank Gifford about the sport: "Football is easy if you're crazy as hell."

From the great Roger Staubach, my husband's favorite quarterback of all time, about giving your all to the game: "There are no traffic jams along the extra mile."

From Bo Jackson for the team who wins: "Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors."

From Tom Landry for the team who will come in second today: "I've learned that something constructive comes from every defeat."

From Erma Bombeck, the female perspective: "If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead."

Takeaway Truth

Enjoy today's game.