Different Books; Different Word Counts

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote How Long Is A Novel.

I intended to follow that up the next week with more information about the subject, with definitions of these classifications, and a word count breakdown by genre.

However, I became distracted by the issue of copyright and pirates books. Instead, I wrote Help Authors Protect Copyright and asked concerned readers and writers to send an email letter to their elected representatives about supporting copyright.

Word Count Recap

Adult Trade Fiction

Micro-Fiction: about 100 words

Flash Fiction: 100--1,000 words

Short Story: 1,000--7,500 words

Novelette: 7,500--20,000 words

Novella: 20,000--50,000 words

Novel: 50,000--110,000

Epic Novel: 110,000+ words

Juvenile Fiction

Middle Grade: 25,000--40,000

Young Adult (YA): 45,000--80,000 (genre dependent)

Word Count and YA

Ever since Harry Potter in Juvenile Fiction and Twilight in Young Adult, these two, sometimes viewed almost as one--a hybrid combining elements of both, with the intention of attracting older juvenile readers and younger YA readers--have been smoking hot with readers and writers.

Because of this "hot" factor, YA, and I'm talking big book, mainstream YA, usually fantasy or paranormal, sometimes runs as long as 120,000 words. With print publishing, editors don't like to see books of that length because anything above 100,000 words, which is what most presses are set at, increase costs.

So word length in this segment of YA truly depends on the story. If you can spin a tale as delightful as J. K. Rowling, then don't sacrifice word length because you think it's got to come in at 100K.

Best practice if you're a newbie is to shoot for 80,000 to 100,000.

Word Count and Romance

In romance, with an established category house like Harlequin, word count is very specific because of how their presses are set. The different category romance lines have different word counts. These can be found in the guidelines at their website. Generally, category romance books are 55,000 to 75,000 words.

Books that are called Single Title Romance and Paranormal Romance are usually 85,000 to 100,000 words. The longer lengths are usually represented by established authors because of the higher production investment. If you're a first timer, they generally feel that shorter is safer. Again, it all depends on the book.

Word Count and Mystery

In the mystery genre, there are many publishers who offer a mystery line, much as Harlequin offers category romances. For example, Berkley has their Prime Crime; Harlequin has Worldwide Mystery.

Most mystery houses publish a set number of mystery books each month, i.e. Avalon, Five Star, Berkley Prime Crime, etc. These are often cozy mysteries, or PI, or police procedurals, or whatever the sub-genre might be. Generally, they run 65,000 to 90,000 words.

The popular blending of paranormal and mystery; mystery and hobby; and crime fiction and thrillers run about 75,000 to 90,000.

Word Count and Horror

With so many paranormal books, true horror has kind of taken a back seat. However, grab a book with horror on the spine, and you'll see the difference. These books are about the same length as single title romance and paranormal, weighing in at 80,000 to 100,000 words.

Word Count and Western

If you want to support a genre that truly needs it, buy a western. The western genre has been dying for the last 30 years. Now, it probably has the least rack space. Romance writers with their western historical romance books have filled the gap for a lot of western fans, but there are true western novels available. = 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

Westerns come in many flavors from Classic to Contemporary to Revisionist and even to Horror Western. Western Writers of America has a great listing of some of the best of all the western sub-genres.

If you look at Kindle, you'll see the only listing for Western is under Kindle > Genre Fiction > Western > with only two final selections: Louis L'Amour and Pioneer. There's so much more! Maybe this should be the next hot genre? All it would take would be one stunning novel.

Word Count and Big Books

These are the James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and others written by "star" authors. Basically, they can be any length the author chooses, but generally speaking, they're in that single title word count range of 80,000 to 100,000.

So is Chick lit, whenever it's published by whatever is the nom du jour. The same is true for Mainstream, Thrillers, just about all Commercial fiction, and Literary novels although these have been decreasing a bit in word length over the last few years as has most commercial fiction.

Word Count and Science Fiction/Fantasy

If you write long, this should be your genre. Lots of sub-genres from which to choose. These editors like long books. Most of them will look at books as long as 120,000 words and up. Again, if you're established, then you have more leeway. Generally, 80,000 to 100,000.

Word Count and Ebooks

You might think that if you're writing and publishing ebooks that word count doesn't matter. Wrong! Don't lose sight of a very important fact: reader expectations. Readers know how long books should be. They know how long it takes them to read a typical mystery, romance, horror, science fiction, or whatever.

If they're reading a science fiction, and they finish it in one night, they're going to howl. They feel cheated because the book didn't last the usual 3 nights or whatever. Same with a romance novel. If a reader finishes it in an hour, they know it wasn't a full-length book. They feel cheated, and they may well take their ire out in the form of a nasty review.

Know what lengths "normal" print books are and aim for that range with your ebooks.

Takeaway Truth

A smart writer must know past publishing standards because those have a bearing on satisfying reader expectations.

Happiness Amidst Life's Lemons

Wendy Ryan said, "The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."

Another way of saying that is a poster I have from when I was a newlywed. Big picture of a lemon. Below that was written: "When Life hands you a lemon, learn how to make lemonade."

Beverage Expert

I once told someone that I wasn't a gourmet cook, but I could make a great pitcher of lemonade. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this when I'm mentally sending an RSVP for a pity party in my head.

What do you do when you have negative people in your life who are too willing to jump on the train to Negative Town? Sure, maybe you want to go to Funky Town, but everyone you knows going to the bitch fest at Negative Town.

Do you quietly back away as if from a rabid skunk? Or do you pack your bags for the trip and start bemoaning all the bad things that happened to you yesterday, last week, month, or decade?

The D Words

Griping, unloading, and moaning is a slippery slope to discontent and the othe D words: depression, discouragement, decline, and disillusionment. Avoid that treacherous path. This week, determine to be happy. Chances are you've got more to be happy about than angry and depressed. Don't lose sight of that fact.

Making lemonade out of lemons is easy. Just squeeze that sour lemon (bad situation) to discover if there's anything good in it. Take what you find and add sugar (your imagination and an optimistic attitude) and try to make something good from it. If that's a lost cause, then look at it, learn from it, and pour it down the drain (don't obsess--move on).

Takeaway Truth

That's the art of making the best of everything aka making lemonade out of lemons.

Thief of Souls by Cynthia Wicklund

Thief of Souls

The cover of this book attracted me because it's, frankly, hot enough to singe your fingertips. Great cover to entice readers so feel enticed. Thief of Souls is worth it, and it's on sale.

If you decry the sameness in paranormal and romance, this is the book for which you've been waiting. Author Cynthia Wicklund shocks you at the beginning as she tells the story of beautiful Nicholas Anthony--beautiful, not handsome--in the same way Lucifer was called beautiful.

Wicklund creates an anti-hero who keeps the reader off balance, worried, and filled with an awful sense of foreboding as young doctor Regina Miles falls under his seductive spell.

Without saying more, for fear of ruining the subtle escalating sense of horror, I will say only that you will find yourself so certain of the inevitability of the triumph of evil that you'll be tempted to click to the end to see if you are right. Resist the urge. You'll be glad you did. The ending, to my surprise, was immensely satisfying albeit unexpected.

Takeaway Truth

A good book is the least expensive form of entertainment. For a few dollars, you can be whisked away to another world filled with dangerous and charismatic characters where magic holds sway.

Friday Free Love & Giveaway

I stayed up way too late last night watching Game 6 of the World Series so I'm tired today and feeling as if I'm slogging through Cajun Country marshland. Probably got gators and crocs in the marsh too.

"Look at those snappers!"

First person to respond in Comments with the source of that quotation wins an Amazon Gift Card for one of my books.

Friday Free Love

First up is Joel Friedlander's blog The Book Designer where you'll find me today talking about my journey from print published to digital. (Beware the giant legs! Somehow, about an hour ago, the graphic that's part of my book cover for Just One Look seized center stage. *LOL* Don't know if Joel did that or some Net gremlin. Looks pretty funny.

Next is a site you'll want to bookmark. If you're an indie author, you want to be seen in as many places as possible. Grace, a reader who loves books, has a lovely project called Book Junkies Library that does just that. Get listed today.

Evan Lewis has a Forgotten Books post: Dead Dolls Don't Talk over on Davy Crocket's Almanac. I love those blast from the past book posts.

Just in time for Halloween, Suzan Harden of Wild and Wacky has Ghost Stories by Teri Thackston.

Derek Canyon of Adventures in Epublishing wrote My First Year As A Self-Publisher. Derek wrote a great book Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour. That's what I use every time I publish a book for Kindle.

Brenda Hiatt (Guest Starring on SlingWords in December) has updated her famous Show Me The Money report that gives real dollar amounts for publishers' advances and earn-outs. Now, she's collecting Indie Author data. Visit her website and take part in this ground-breaking statistical research.

Takeaway Truth

Read, study, learn. Do The Work.

P. S. If you haven't read Steven Pressfield's book Do the Work you need to remedy that. It's my #1 tip for today.

Truth About Writing

I've been writing hard today. Writing. Rewriting. Researching. Write 10 words, delete 9. Writing is very much like the old cliche, one step forward, two steps back.

I've been getting a lot of emails, very nice and friendly, but they all want to know when Old Enough To Know Better is going to be published so I feel encouraged to work even harder.

William J. Wilmont Buxton said: "No great work is ever done in a hurry. To develop a great scientific discovery, to paint a great picture, to write an immortal poem, to become a minister, or a famous general -- to do anything great requires time, patience, and perseverance. These things are done by degrees, little by little. Milton did not write Paradise Lost at a sitting, nor did Shakespeare compose Hamlet in a day.

The greatest writers must begin with the alphabet; the most famous musicians once picked out their notes laboriously; a child must learn to draw a straight line before he can develop into a Titian or a Michelangelo."

To Reiterate

I'm not comparing my modest writing with the greats of literature, but the greatest writers must begin with the alphabet. Just like me. With words. Every writer must start there. To do anything great requires time, patience, and perseverance.

Takeaway Truth

Time, patience, and perseverance. Better cultivate them all if you want to achieve anything worthwhile in life.

Meet Jenny Gardiner

This morning, we're having coffee with Jenny Gardiner, author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver which is the book that led me to discovering her some time ago.

In addition to being published in some prestigious periodicals, Jenny also has several books published: Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me; and the novels Slim to None; Over the Falls; House of Cards; and Accidentally on Purpose and Compromising Positions (both written as Erin Delany).

Jenny is a contributor to the humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales About Man's Best Friend from America's Favorite Humorists, published by Penguin Publishing.

Since Jenny has two new books out--Accidentally on Purpose and Compromising Positions--she's here to tell us something about her writing and her new books.

Book Specs

All Jenny's books are available on Amazon Kindle and the other digital publishing platforms as well as in print.

Accidentally on Purpose, ISBN: 978-0-9837419-2-3 by Jenny Gardiner writing as Erin Delany.

Compromising Positions, ISBN: 978-0-9837419-3-0 by Jenny Gardiner writing as Erin Delany

Jenny's novel Slim to None is a Kindle Bestseller in the Comic and Humor categories.

Author Specs

Jenny can be reached at her blog, her website, or her Amazon Author Page.

Fun Question To Break The Ice

Joan: What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?

Jenny: I'm shamefully addicted to the TV talent shows--American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, now X-Factor (which I was determined to not like, but love it). (can't choke down Dancing w/ the Stars though--it's like rehab for loser x-celebs). And when my kids have on those dreadful shows on TLC, I can't help but peek (Toddlers & Tiaras, that gets me, Say Yes to the Dress, oh and that awful show with people with super bizarre-o habits, the ones who eat the stuffing out of their furniture, etc. It's like watching a slow-mo accident unfold before you very eyes).

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why.

Jenny: In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. I have the fondest of memories of my high school English and Latin teacher reading that to us the whole week or so before Christmas break. It was such a happy departure from the grind of school, and worked toward that exciting holiday build-up. Shepherd is a very evocative writer, and it really transforms you to that era, makes you long for those good old days. His first-person writing I think was very influential on me (as was Catcher in the Rye). (BTW you may recognize his book, part of which was made into the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY)

Down To The Nitty Gritty

Joan: How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract or decided to epublish yourself.

Jenny: I should be able to put my finger on it, but I can't remember exactly. Maybe 7 or 8 years ago I started writing essays for publication locally, started doing radio essays for a regional National Public Radio affiliate, and also started reading books after having not read in years when my kids were little. As I read I kept thinking: "I can do this!" I think having my first piece published very readily gave me unfounded confidence that publishing was a breeze. NOT.

I wrote Sleeping with Ward Cleaver and tried to sell it but just got a variety of rejections--some thought my protagonist was unsympathetic, others didn't know how to categorize it, etc. But then I heard about the Dorchester/RT American Title contest. I was doing anything to get my work in front of an editor's eyeballs, so I figured what the hell, I'd send a couple of partial manuscripts to them.

To my delight SWWC was chosen as a finalist (I learned later they almost picked another entry of mine as a finalist as well, which, while flattering, would have sort of split the vote for me, so glad it didn't happen that way). The American Title contest, it turns out, was really a marketing contest, and I was thrilled to win it--the prize was a publishing contract. Alas, I'm not sure Dorchester ever knew what to do with me--my book was really women's fiction, and they didn't have a women's fiction line. It got slotted as romance, and while it did have an HEA, it just wasn't a conventional romance novel.

Their main sales guy even told me at BEA the following spring that he didn't want my book to win (nice, huh?)--let's hope it was because he thought it would be a tougher sell . So I didn't get the feeling they'd be whipping up a lather for my book at all. But the great thing is it made the Barnes & Noble bestsellers list and went into 2nd printing 2 weeks after it debuted.

It was nice that despite all the stuff about people not knowing what to do with this red-headed stepchild of a book, it found it's audience. Very gratifying. When Dorchester went under (which they essentially did), I got my rights back to it. As I re-read it to edit and format digitally, I still laughed as I read, so that was a good sign to me. (I'm not one to re-read books as they often lose their charm to me second time around).

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver actually came to me as a title--we were talking about somebody's husband one time over wine and I cackled, "Wow, he'd be like sleeping with Ward Cleaver or something." (The implication was that the guy was a boring stuffed shirt). That just stuck with me, and then I had to come up with a book to go with the title. I loved tapping into the universality of marital doldrums, etc, and wanted to take a protagonist who was stuck in a mid-life slump and give her a couple of dope-slaps so she'd get her act together.

Joan: Let's talk about a current book. What number would it be? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Jenny: Geez, which book are we talking about? I guess we'll talk about Accidentally on Purpose, which I just released. I also just released Compromising Positions too! Those would be my 5th and 6th books. (I have a story in a humorous dog anthology that just came out this fall called I'M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP, so not sure if that counts for a whole book or not!).

Joan: Tell us something about one of these books that makes it special to you: either how you came up with the title or what inspired the story?

Jenny: Okay. I love how this one came about. I was reading an article in the Washington Post years back about a woman who'd been artificially inseminated by the same donor for two children. This woman had been morbidly obese and along the way had lost a lot of weight. So I guess she had a different outlook on marriage/romance by then. She'd sort of created in this "donor" an idol figure for her children--if I'm remembering correctly, they sort of thanked him every holiday through some ritual ceremony (bear in mind that they didn't know him).

Then somehow I think the kids reached out to him and established a relationship and then the mother and the kids up and moved out to where he lived (I think he was in California). And sort of insinuated themselves a bit into his life. I think the mother had become a psychoanalyst or something, so it was all a bit woo-woo. I mean she should've known that nothing good was gonna come of that.

I just got the sense in reading this article that she really had hoped to make a whole family from them, but the guy, while seemingly interested in having a loose-ish relationship with his genetic offspring, wasn't up for the whole family thing. Ripe for disaster, eh?

I just thought it would be fun to create a romanticized scenario with this anonymous sperm donor and see what happened. I originally called this novel The Good Seed, but that title seemed funny, but clinical. When my husband recommended Accidentally on Purpose, I loved that and went with it.

So in Accidentally on Purpose, my protagonist, a DC photographer, is sick to death of trying to find a good guy. She's got a jerky guy she hooks up with occasionally, but he's nothing to write home about. So she decides she's not going to forego the chance to have babies and instead chooses to be inseminated. Meanwhile, she happens into a guy at a Capitol Hill reception, and they sort of hit it off. She's clearly pregnant and not exactly hot-to-trot, and it turns out he is engaged to be married and needs a photographer. So she's hired to shoot his wedding to a woman who is decidedly unlikeable. Needless to say, mayhem ensues.

Joan: If you are print published, have you made the transition from print to eBook? If so, was it via your print publisher or as an indie author? If as an indie author, would you consider your experience successful?

Jenny: I am all over the map. My first novel Sleeping With Ward Cleaver was mass market paperback, shelved as a romance. My second book Winging It, was a hardback memoir. I have a story in a dog anthology from Penguin, with a headline list of contributors, which is in trade paperback.

But.... Two January's ago, my agent mentioned to me, after having unsuccessfully shopped a novel of mine, that the head of the agency was launching a digital imprint. This was in the early days of e-readers. The kindle was the only viable thing out there at the time. I think maybe the Nook had sort of just come out. The novel she'd shopped, Slim to None, is my favorite of all my novels. It was shopped to editors as the economy dropped off the face of the earth, and the publishing industry took a huge broadside hit. We had these great rejections from editors who loved it, stayed up all night reading it, blah blah blah, but we're not buying anything. A house wanted it but then got flipped from commercial fiction to literary (and it was not gonna fit in that box!).

So I thought about it a bit, and I had been paying very close attention to what Kindle had been doing. They had a very strategic plan for primacy in the ebook world and were consolidating their power base with facility. That winter was when Apple announced the iPad was coming in the spring, and I knew that meant that the important thing necessary to really introduce ebooks to the world would change: I knew there would be a price war, bringing down the cost of an e-reader so that lots of people could afford it (until then the Kindle was upwards of $350, which limited who was going to invest in it).

At the time my hardback book was about to launch, I was slammed trying to market/promote that and on top of that I had a lot of family commitments that involved a lot of my time. I was not prepared to just plunge in myself and self-publish as JA Konrath was doing, because back then you needed to have some HTML skills, and I am sadly bereft of technical know-how. So I decided to let my agency's digital imprint publish Slim to None. I figured I could piggy back with their publicity, since what they were doing back then was unique (now other agencies are doing it left and right), and they also promised Kindle promotions with it.

Unfortunately I guess they were just overwhelmed with the launch, plus there was a huge learning curve to it all, and things just didn't pan out the way they should have back then. Which was pretty frustrating for me. I got bummed enough about the whole thing that I just sort of gave up on it for a while. But then this past spring, I started seeing other authors start making legitimate livings by publishing their backlists. Around that time Dorchester quit publishing books, and I was going to be damned if I was going to lose yet that book into the ether.

At that point I resolved to make it all work for me. I had several other books that I hadn't published, whether it was because they didn't fit within my "brand" or whatever, so, one by one, I got those edited and formatted and got covers made etc. and have put them up. And I'm so glad I've done it, because I am now able to earn a living again as an author. I am able to focus on writing again--something I'd had to let fall by the wayside over the past couple of years with financial burdens and with spending so darned much time with marketing and publicity, etc.

While Slim to None had languished in the bottom of the sales bin for a while (the pricing was set at $8.99, which, at the time made sense because it would've been a trade paperback book so would've been a good bit more in print), but no one was buying ebooks for that price except from big name authors. So Diversion dropped the price to $2.99 back in the spring, and sales started to really pick up, which was awesome. They'd been picking up more and more each month.

Let me say a word about the publishing history of slim To None. I had published it about a year and a half ago with Diversion books, my literary agency's then-new digital imprint. Back then they'd spoken with Amazon folks about pairing some publicity efforts, but Amazon was, I imagine, spread pretty thin with all they had going on.

Scott Waxman, who is the principal at Diversion, had continued to try different avenues at Amazon to try to find the right person to work this situation, and finally a couple of months ago worked things out with Amazon to be recognized as a publisher, which gave them some nice perks to do promotional things. Like I said, sales for Slim to None had been increasing monthly for a while and were getting pretty good, so it made sense to see how that would do with some promotional push, so they put in for it to be chosen as a Kindle Daily Deal book.

I actually didn't even know that day until mid-afternoon that it was on there because I was sick in bed! I came downstairs around 1:30 in the afternoon to see all the emails from folks and then got to have the fun of watching Slim to None climb to the top of the Kindle bestsellers list (it remained #1 for two days and stayed on in the top 100 for almost 2 weeks)! It was such a great surprise and really pretty unexpected. And I'll say that is definitely a nice thing about working with a reputable (and that is a very key word here) digital publisher who is able to get promotional considerations. It's a LOT harder as an author publishing on your own to get Amazon to take notice.

I am eternally grateful to Amazon for giving authors the chance to earn a living--and even more importantly to take charge of their careers and stop being taken advantage of by others. I have SO many author friends who were like me. We racked up loads of debt trying to "break through" in this business, and the money that came back to us was minimal at best. I'm now urging them that they really need to start doing it themselves because they will be SO happy they did.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Jenny: I have SO many partially written books I'm going to finish. And with Compromising Positions, which I wrote several years ago, I'd always thought about making it a series, so I might add a couple more to that. I'm SO excited to be generating new books. I'm also going to be publishing a few short stories and will put together a book of essays I've written as well (working Title: Naked Man on Main Street and Other Life Experiences).

Joan: What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Jenny: I guess we are all an accumulation of the information and experiences we pick up along the way so I couldn't be as educated about this business as I now am without having learned from my mistakes. But now I know that I can do this by myself. I can reach my readers without the filter of fickle editorial boards who are paranoid about making a bad choice therefore they only make boring '"safe" choices.

Joan: What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Jenny: Be your own biggest fan. Don't let the rejection get to you: believe in yourself. And do it yourself. There is really no reason not to at this point. Own your career, don't become a victim of others deciding things against your best interest.

The Last Word

Thank you for inviting me over here and for your wonderful insight into e-publishing as well. I'm really excited about the times we're in publishing-wise. It's a great day when authors can take control over their careers and not be taken advantage of. I really encourage writers to seize the moment! We authors have lots of positive choices to make. We don't have to remain at the mercy of others, and we can actually make decisions that lead to our earning an income in this business so hallelujah!!!

Thanks again Joan!

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Jenny, for sharing your journey. Readers, if you want funny and different, get Jenny's books.

Help Authors Protect Copyright

Today, I'm making a plea to everyone to notify your elected officials that you support an author's right to earn a living from his or her writing.

It's easy. There's nothing to compose. You just click the link, fill out the form with your name and address and email. The website automatically directs your email letter to your elected representatives based on the home address you enter.

Why Do This?

I am one of too many authors who have their ebooks pirated every single day. There's something incredibly hurtful to know that thieves will steal your low-priced ebook and make it available on servers all over the world for others to download for free. I mean, is it too much to ask readers to pay $2.99 for a book? Would these same people go into bookstores and shoplift a low-priced book?

Is it too much to ask a reader to pay $.99? All my $.99 books have been pirated. That's right. People will steal $.99 from me. Thousands have. On a monthly basis, I have enough stolen from me that I could have paid all my bills if the sales had actually occurred.

End Result

What will happen eventually is that authors will just quit writing. Why write if you can't make enough to pay your bills? Why write if it's a knife in the heart every time you get another notice that your book is being made free on 10 servers in Romania or Malaysia or wherever?

DMCA Needs Clout

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is virtually worthless. Too much is required for the author to prove rights ownership. Nothing is required of the thieves who post books for free. Why shouldn't these pirates have to prove they are the rights owners before offering books?

Instead, these people set up websites and offer free downloads, sometimes with a subscription fee required of users. So the website owner gets paid and also monetizes their site and gets paid in ad revenue.

The same is true of the thieves who scan print books and offer "free books" on eBay and on other sites. If you come across a site offering free books and/or downloads, chances are the books are stolen or pirated. Do not patronize these sites please. If possible, notify one of the authors whose name you see that this is going on.

Bottom Line

What does the author who labored to create the book get? Nada. Zip. Zero. There need to be penalties against web hosting sites who allow this criminal activity. In a world where theft of creative works goes unhindered, there will eventually be little creative work available.

I'm tired of working so hard and having my work stolen.

Takeaway Truth

If you love books--love reading--support authors by contacting your elected reps. Only if copyright laws support writers and make it easier for them to maintain copyright protection, and harder for pirates, will this situation improve.

Houston's BBQ, Normangee, Texas

My husband and I enjoy small towns from their boasting signs at the city limits to the quaint eateries one finds. We often drive through the little town of Normangee, Texas, home of a great little diner called Houston's BBQ.

Normangee (pronounced with a soft G) has about 793 citizens. This tiny little BBQ joint--only 4 tables inside I think--has spoiled me! Now I compare every BBQ place to them, and the other places all come up short.

Best ribs. Ever. Best smoked chicken. Ever. Best sauce, and, OMG, their stuffed baked potatoes are to die for: enormous, filled with chopped brisket and a touch of their sauce, sour cream, and shredded cheddar. One is enough to feed 4 people. Absolutely delicious.

Worth The Trip

The ribs? Yes, I know they're not exactly health food, but these are worth the risk. Fall off the bone tender. A dry rub that's Mr. Houston's own secret blend of spices. Sauce that's not sweet, but tangy, with just a tiny whisper of heat.

Prices? So low as to be unbelievable. They're usually open on weekends at 11:00 and close when they run out of BBQ. In case you want to make a weekend trip to this phenomenal BBQ joint, they're located at 427 Main Street, Normangee, TX 77871. You might call 936-396-1808 and ask for their hours on the day you plan to visit because sometimes Mr. Houston takes off for the weekend.

Takeaway Truth

Arrive at Houston's BarBQ early, before they run out, and be prepared to have your taste buds delighted.


When the family went home this weekend, I stayed up here at Rancho Reeves. I told my husband that I wasn't coming home until I had this next book ready to publish.

Bless his heart! He understood. That man of mine endures a lot just being married to me. I certainly wouldn't want to be married to an author. We tend to be driven and suffer from tunnel vision.

Since I don't like being away from him, I'm going to focus all my energy on getting this book finished. I've only written it 3 times already. Just not satisfied with it. So that's my first task in the morning: figure out what's wrong with it that keeps me from publishing it.


Motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins said, "Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives."

Got it. I'm focusing all my resources on finishing this book.

Another motivational author Dennis Waitley said, "Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy."

Got it. I'm setting a goal of finishing this book. I'm concentrating my energy on that goal.

Lord Chesterfield said, "Whether you are a soccer player, a ventriloquist, or a student of history, you need to focus on the task at hand. There are too many distractions around. But if you are committed and focused, nothing can stop you from succeeding."

Got it. I'm up here without even the distraction of television. I am committed, focused, goal-oriented.

Takeaway Truth

I'm excited. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Madisonville Mushroom Festival

Yes, you heard it hear first. There's a new coronary specialty on the food festival circuit: Bacon Donut Cheeseburgers.

Mike, our soon-o-be son-in-law, actually bought one. He insisted we all take a bite. I took a miniscule bite and promptly spit it out.

He ate it! I can't believe it. He ate this rather disgusting culinary invention. If you're wondering how it's made, it's exactly what it sounds like.

Want To Make This For Dinner?

Here's the recipe. Take a big glazed donut. Split it like a bagel. Throw it on the grill next to a cheese-covered beef burger patty. Slap the meat between the donut halves, and you have it!

This just proves my theory that humans will eat anything if it's fried and has sugar in the mix.

Fun day! A dozen Texas wineries represented. For $10.00 you got a commemorative glass, wood tokens to vote for the best chef (Chef Bosley with his Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta. OMG! To die for!) and best wine (Red Road Vineyards Signature Red, a soft merlot that's wonderful).

Also received 5 tickets to use for free wine tasting at any of the booths. This year they allowed you to buy bottles from the vineyards so we returned with 3 bottles of Red Road Signature Red, 1 bottle of Bubbly, an incredible white sparkling wine made in the French champagne tradition by Lone Hen Winery in College Station, and a bottle of Berry, a red sparkling wine from Lone Hen.

Of course, if wine and Donut Cheeseburgers aren't your thing, you could choose from Fried-- Twinkies, Oreos, asparagus, sweet potatoes, ribbon potatoes, pickles, Snickers, and most anything that could be battered and tossed into hot grease. The rest was pretty typical festival food.

We came home, and we all took a nap. All that fun--and wine and junk food--just exhausted us.

Takeaway Truth

If you want to spend a fun-filled Saturday, just go to one of the many fall festivals in Texas.

Rounding Up Random News

I'm late blogging today. I decided to stay up at my house in the Hill Country until I finish writing this book so I had to pack all my writing "stuff" to take with me this weekend.

Fortunately, I have internet up here although it's the slowest high-speed internet I've ever seen. So I'll be hanging on the net too. Now, let's get to some link love and news roundup.

Website Updated

Finally, after 6 months, I updated my website. The last time that happened was shortly after I'd published my first 2 ebooks. Then life got really crazy, really fast. Every spare minute of my life was commandeered by writing, dealing with a lot of interest from a lot of people because my books were flying off the cyber shelves, and trying to have a life.

That's a long way of saying that my my website is open for visitors. I still have a few things to update on my book page, but I'll get that done this week. I've activated my subscription newsletter Wordplay, and refocused it to readers only. So feel free to sign up for it. Wordplay will be mailed once a month.

Link Love

Michael Gallagher's Free Kindle Books & Tips had a great article about how to get some extra book bucks. Must reading.

Peg Herring blogged about Like An Author? Help Her Out with some easy tips for readers to do when they like an author's work.

Anne-Marie Novark wrote about The Ebook Revolution: Changing Times.

Robin Sullivan published the latest part of her series about using Goodreads. Must reading.

That's about it SlingWordians. I'm off to catch some Z's. Tomorrow is going to be busy and super fun. We're headed to the Mushroom Festival in Madisonville, Texas. If you're anywhere nearby, join us and the few thousand other people who will be sampling grilled mushrooms and drinking wine from the dozens of Texas wineries at the festival. Sounds like a good time.

Takeaway Truth

Mix pleasure with business and have fun with both.

Note on Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi

I wanted to add something about Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi, the book I reviewed over the weekend.

Someone raised this point so I thought I would clarify. Please don't think the book is composed only of structural templates. It's not, and I don't want anyone to not buy the book because they have that expectation.

Story Maps gives you excerpts from actual screenplays, showing you the format and language on the page in use by pro screenwriters.

Tone, voice on the page, word choice, strong and active verbs, etc., as shown in excerpts from such screenplays as Juno, As Good As It Gets, Saving Private Ryan and even a sample scene that adapts the opening paragraph of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep to screenplay format.

Takeaway Truth

Excellent resource for your writer's library.

From Print Bestsellers To Ebooks

This morning my Guest Star is Bestselling Print romance author Elaine Raco Chase.

Elaine has made the transition from print bestseller to ebook author/publisher. You may have noticed her Framed Cover designs on Amazon, Nook, and the other digital publishing retailers.

Each book cover looks like a framed picture as you can tell from her most recent release Dare The Devil which is shown here. Like so many authors, Elaine's thrilled to be labeled Indie Author.

In Her Own Words

First, I'd like to thank Joan for giving me the opportunity to be a blogger on her great site. I'm sure you all realize how generous Joan is in giving her time, information and for just being Joan. Joan was my neighbor when I first moved to Clear Lake, Texas, back in 1985, and we've been friends no matter where our moves – well, moved us!

So, what does it take to make a print bestseller into an ebook? Not much – but then a lot! But it's a lot of fun.


My first book Rules of the Game, a contemporary romance, was written in 1979 and published in 1980 as part of the Dell Candlelight Romance series. This book represented a lot of firsts. It was their first romantic comedy, the first with a man's point of view, the first with more dialogue than normal. That's because I came from writing for radio/TV.

I wrote that book on a typewriter, with carbon paper and onion skin for copies (no copy machines for personal use back then!)--and with a large bottle of White-Out by my side.

Actually all of my romances were written that way. I was very late into the computer world as many of my friends would call me to cry over missing text, power outages that made it all disappear, and their accumulation of 4-letter words when the blue-screen of death popped up instead of their latest WIP, that is, work in progress.

Now I'm retyping all of my novels so I'll have a Word file to use for ebook format, and I am also updating each book as I go. I tried scanning rather than retyping. Some manuscripts easily took to scanning into a Word file, but others, not so much. I'd rather retype and edit as I go.

Plot Devices

So what am I updating? Certainly not the classic plot line of: boy meets girl, a few problems ensue, then happily ever after. That's been a standard happy ending plotline since the dawn of writing. But let's look at plot devices.

Technology: cellphones, computers, smartphones, iPads, tablets. It's mind-boggling. So adjustments have to be made for technology.

The other woman. She was a staple in early romance novels, oddly enough, and the other woman is still in the picture and in the headlines. Think sports stars, politicians, entertainment stars--yup, there she is. So this too is a viable plot device. You just have to make it mature and today.

Updating: Language & Love

As an experienced writer, and writing teacher, I recognize that romance readers' expectations are different now in what they expect from language and love scenes. Especially in the area of love scenes – yikes!

Explicit language was not allowed when my romance novels were published. Love scenes, while provocative then were actually quite tame. Yes, a lot of readers still love sweet romance, but I have a feeling my characters are just jumping at the chance to really consummate their relationships. After all, they've been waiting for a long time to get it on!

Updating: Fashions

Damn, everything old is new again!

Updating: Book Covers

It's been fun creating my own covers, paying homage to the basic design element of a framed image used by the original Dell Ecstasy and Silhouette Desire covers, but ramping them up a bit as well. My cover designs are a lot hotter and sexier to represent the sexier, updated stories.


So far, I have ebooked seven of my titles, with Rules of the Game and Caught in a Trap coming in October and November. It's an adventure and quite thrilling to have new readers fall in love with my books.

Please take a look inside or sample my contemporary romances. Let me know what you think. I can be reached at elainerc at juno.com.

Takeaway Truth

Savvy authors analyze their backlist in light of the expectations of today's readers and proceed accordingly.

How Long Is A Novel?

Most writers I know go by word count when they're writing. They have a target in mind that a novel must be in order to be considered a novel.

Of course, most of the writers I know have a background in print, not ebooks. I'll take a guess and say that ebook-only writers do the same. However, I've come to realize that a lot of ebook-only writers don't have a firm grasp about the length of a novel versus a novella versus a short story.

According to the reviews I read, readers certainly have an opinion as to what constitutes a novel, and they're happy to jump on the unwary author whose book length doesn't measure up.

With that thought in mind, here are some guidelines I've put together that might help. Next week I'll revisit this discussion and define some of these forms of writing to provide more clarity and will also break down word length of novels by genre.

Word Lengths: Adult Trade Fiction

Micro-Fiction: about 100 words

Flash Fiction: 100--1,000 words

Short Story: 1,000--7,500 words

Novellette: 7,500--20,000 words

Novella: 20,000--50,000 words

Novel: 50,000--110,000

Epic Novel: 110,000+ words

Word Lengths: Juvenile Fiction

Middle Grade: 25,000--40,000

Young Adult (YA): 45,000--80,000 (genre dependent)

Check back next week for more about this subject, definitions of these classifications, and a word count breakdown by genre.

Takeaway Truth

A smart writer must know past publishing standards because those have a bearing on reader expectations.

Internet Floater: The Buzzard, The Bat, The Bumblebee

You know how dead bodies pop up in a river on a crime show on TV? That's kind of how an Internet Floater pops up--just when you think it's dead and gone.

This one, courtesy of my friend Perry, is a good one though. Thought-provoking as well as amusing. Good way to start a Monday.

The Buzzard, The Bat, The Bumblebee

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about
helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

The Bumbletree

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.


In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations never realizing that all we have to do is look to our faith, whatever it may be.


Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Takeaway Truth

Try to get through today without once grumbling, "I hate Monday."

Baseball: TX Rangers Prove Something

This has been the best weekend. Larry and I put the top down on our fun car and drove up to the Hill Country.

Perfect rag top weather. Music on Top Down setting which meant loud so we could sing along to some of our favorites on my CD mixes.

Perfect Food

Stopped by Houston's BBQ in Normangee, Texas, this little town we always drive through. Picked up some ribs and smoked chicken. Best BBQ joint in Texas. Think I'll blog about them later this week.

Saturday Night

At night, we sit out on the porch, glass of a good wine in hand, and watch the stars pop out and the moon rise. Last night the moon was big and golden, but we didn't spend long outside because Game 6 of the American League playoffs between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers came on. You see, I have a confession to make. I love baseball.

My Baseball Backstory

When I was a kid and visited my grandparents, we went to bed as soon as the sun went down. Early to bed; early to rise. I can hear my grandfather's voice in my head--and my heart--as I write this because he often quoted that aphorism. He had a million of them, and he is probably responsible for my tendency to love quotations.

Of course, I was wide awake. My grandfather would turn on the radio, and we could hear it throughout the quiet house where silence was broken only by the sound of the ticking clock. Every night, when the radio came on, a baseball game was starting.

Baseball was the only reason my grandfather ever listened to a radio. Ah, I can hear it so clear even now: the announcer's excited voice, the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat. All that seeped into my heart.

Houston Astros

When I moved to Houston many years ago, I rejoiced in the opportunity to watch the Houston Astros play. I watched Nolan Ryan pitch a no-hitter. I watched that famous 1986 playoff game where Mike Scott pitched a no-hitter against the Mets. My heart broke along with every Astro fan's when we didn't end up in the world series. We're still waiting for our Astros to get their act together. Poor guys! They're coming off their worst season.

Of course, most of us Astros fans who remember when Nolie wore the rainbow shirt, followed his career. After all, he lives just down the road in Alvin. We smile when we see him in commercials on our local TV channels, and we rejoiced when he became one of the owners of the Texas Rangers. Now we had a new team we could root for.

Just as it takes time to produce a good wine from the best root stock, soil, sunshine, and expertise, it also takes time to produce a winning team. I thought last year that time had arrived for the Rangers, but they fell short. Last night, watching one of the most phenomenal baseball games I'd ever seen, I again think their time as come.


I wish I'd had last night's game DVR'd so I could watch it again. All the elements needed to win a world series seem to have come together--pitching, batting, fielding--just all around great teamwork and an attitude of camaraderie among the players.

My hero Nolan Ryan once said: "One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something."

Takeaway Truth

Last night, the Texas Rangers proved that they can make baseball magical.

Review: Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi

Why am I, a novelist, recommending Story Maps: How to Write a Great Screenplay by Daniel P. Calvisi to other novelists?

Sometimes, stepping outside one's own writing arena and exploring how other writers accomplish their storytelling may help one understand an element that is difficult. One may gain deeper insight into one's own field of writing endeavor.

Book Specs

Format: Several Digital Formats offered.
PDF format: 232 pages
Publisher: Act Four Screenplays
ISBN: 13 978-0-9836266-1-9
Copyright © Daniel P. Calvisi 2011
Price: Range from $9.95 to $14.95 depending on format; bundled packages also available

How To Write Books

I read a lot of how-to-write books because I, like most writers, am always learning, striving to improve–to find, perhaps, a better way to tell a story or to bring characters to life without so much trial and error. Even though I'm not a screenwriter of any fashion, I've read all the popular screenwriting books.

Too many of them seem designed to impress the reader with how esoteric the art of screen writing is rather than teach the writer how to create breakneck pacing like in the movie Taken. Or how to craft a story with the emotional resonance of Shawshank Redemption.

In his Introduction to Story Maps: How to Write a Great Screenplay, author Daniel P. Calvisi tells why he wrote this book. "No matter where you're at in your career or who you know, you still need to blow away the reader, so I'm going to show you the best and most focused way to emulate the many successful scripts and movies that I've studied for over two decades."

Writers Have Same Needs

Well, guess what? Novelists--indeed, all writers--need to blow away the reader too–with every book they write. In our case, the reader isn't a studio exec or a Story Analyst like Dan Calvisi. Our readers are the people who plunked down their hard-earned bucks for our books.

Any book that gives lessons in the skill of blowing the reader away is a book writers need to read. From the Introduction to Dan's closing, "Good luck and Happy Writing," Story Maps delivers. Imagine sitting around a coffee shop or a bar and talking one-on-one to a movie-writing, storytelling pro like Dan Calvisi. A no-holds barred, no frills, tell-it-like-it-really-is, no sugar-coating conversation. That's what reading this book is like.

We Know Movies

Movies are part of the fabric of our lives. We share the same cultural experience. We may not all read the same books, but, chances are, we grew up watching the same movies. Today, we throng to the theaters on opening day, or grab the DVDs as soon as they're available. We know the movies Dan discusses. We've all laughed at The Hangover and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days–two very different comedies (both analyzed herein so you see why they worked–why they were so popular with audiences).

When you read the Story Maps of all the movies Dan dissects, you'll see how the story moves from beat to beat. You'll understand the craft of the screenplay. We all "know" the Indiana Jones movies so when Dan discusses External Goal, Internal Goal, Central Dramatic Question, we nod. We get it!

A Treasure

The examples, the story maps, keep coming, and as you read, you get excited because you realize that a Story Map is something that you can apply to your novels. When you look at the structure, the Basic Story Map Elements, you instantly grasp that it's an easily accessible storytelling template much like the mythic structure popularized by Joseph Campbell, but so much easier to understand. Keep reading, and, by the end of the book, it's as if you absorbed the structure. There's a harmonic resonance between the story map structure and your writer's consciousness.

Takeaway Truth

In truth, I found this book to be brilliant. I can see how screenwriters would love it, but I know how fiction writers–whether novice or seasoned pro--would benefit tremendously by reading and using its techniques. Add this to your writing library today.

Daniel P. Calvisi: Blogging With the Big Boys

I'm excited to welcome a very special guest today: Hollywood insider Dan Calvisi, a Story Analyst and screenwriting pro. Not only is Dan going to give great blogging tips, he's also giving a free download offer just for SlingWords readers.

Daniel Calvisi, NYU Tisch alum, is a professional Story Analyst and script doctor with major movie studio experience, having worked as an A-list reader for the executives who developed the films CHICAGO, LIMITLESS, SCREAM, ULEE’S GOLD, ONE FINE DAY, CHOCOLAT and SPY KIDS.

He has coached hundreds of writers for over a decade, taught at the college level, written for "Script" magazine and is the author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Dan and I met online a couple of years ago when I subscribed to his newsletter. I found the items he posted fascinating so I relayed that info to him by email. He replied, and we've kind of stayed in touch ever since. When he told me he was going to hang out his shingle as an indie author with his book on screenwriting, I offered some advice based on what I'd learned. I invited him to spread the news about his book, and, to my delight, he accepted. You're in for a treat.

Before I turn this over to Dan, I want to tell you that I can describe his book Story Maps in one word. Brilliant. Of course, I'll post a review tomorrow and use a lot more words, but I just want you to know that I highly recommend his book.

He's offering a special deal today to SlingWords readers. Buy his book, and he'll GIVE you his Booster Pack for free. At the bottom of Dan's post, you'll find buy links with instructions on how to get a FREE copy of Story Maps Booster Pack, a $9.95 value.

Now, may I present Daniel P. Calvisi.

by Daniel P. Calvisi, author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Writing a quality blog is not enough to reach a broad audience and boost sales of your books. You must blog smarter than your competition. If you employ some very specific, smart techniques, you will boost your traffic and increase sales.

Through trial and error, in writing my Act Four Screenplays blog and working with an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professional, I developed a set of precepts that I try to follow on a regular basis.

If you're like me, you enjoy blogging and you take pride in posting informative and meticulously edited articles, but...you struggle with posting on a regular basis. It always takes longer than you thought it would, doesn't it? (Especially, if you're a perfectionist, like me.) After a while, it feels like work.

I feel your pain.

In fact, as I write this, I haven't blogged in over a week. Maybe it's almost two weeks—I'm too scared to check. But at least I now know I'm doing myself a disservice, because I've learned this first lesson...


You should consider regular blogging not as a hobby, but as a vital part of your job. It is crucial marketing for your product, whether that's your e-book, your consulting services or your award-winning line of hand-carved lawn gnomes. When I blog regularly (three times a week is a good goal for me) I notice an increase in my site ranking (which I monitor with my own Google searches and a Google Alert on the keyword "Act Four Screenplays"), my site traffic (which I check using Google Analytics), e-book sales and the amount of email queries I receive from curious site visitors. As my SEO guy told me once, "Google rewards you for creating more pages on your site." Sometimes, it's an incredibly fast return on your investment; just minutes after I posted a blog on The Shawshank Redemption, I sold an e-book to a web surfer who just happened to be searching for the keyword "shawshank structure!"

It's simple: When you post more content for the Google bots to index, your search engine ranking can only increase.


As a professional Story Analyst and an author of a book that focuses on breaking down movie narratives, it is my DETAILED ANALYSIS of popular movies that gets me the most notice and makes me stand out from my colleagues, not my pithy observations about trends in entertainment. In short: your core expertise is your blog's bread and butter. For example, my detailed analysis of The Dark Knight garnered me twenty times the traffic of my quickie post about an old comic book I found that had a mention of James Cameron. With that said, the Dark Knight analysis took fifty times longer to write than the comic book quickie, so you have to weigh the time commitment.

If you don't have time to go into detail on your topic of expertise, err towards the timely and popular. For example, I wrote two blogs on the use of Setups and Payoffs -- the first analyzed Kill Bill and the second compared Revenge of the Nerds to The Beastmaster. Guess which one got the most traffic? Yep, Mr. Tarantino. He's been slightly more active in the past twenty-five years than Robert Carradine or Marc Singer.


Recently overheard in an internet cafe near you: "Hell, no, I don't need yet another e-book to put in my iBooks queue! Wait, did you say FREE? Wait, where's that download button?"

On my site, I've won over a lot of readers by offering free "Story Maps" of well-known films, like Rocky or Raiders of the Lost Ark. My 10-page Story Map of The Dark Knight is a big fan favorite (but fyi, the updated version is only available in my book!). This not only gives them a sample of what they can find in my e-books but also instills trust in my story analysis skills so they will sign up for my newsletter and consider hiring me for consultation work.


My SEO guy encourages me to write short, punchy blog posts that are rich with the proper keywords (targeted search phrases that pertain to your topic and will drive traffic to your site (you can use the Google Keyword Tool for research). He recommends these short posts be at least 250 words long (tip: I go to wordcounter.net to check the word count on my posts), the logic being that if they are too short, Google won't consider them to be a full page on your site and won't bother to rank them.

These "quickie" posts are particularly difficult for me to write, since I am so detail-oriented and I take pride in offering more thorough articles to my readership. But every so often, I get inspired when I come across a compelling story online that I feel will be of interest to my readers, so I bang out a short but sweet blog post.

If you've noticed a trend in your topic of expertise, you can assume many others have (whether that's reflected in the blogosphere or not), so give us your unique take on it. In addition to being active on Facebook, I like to read the Comments sections on various sites for tips on emerging trends and links to cool landing pages. If you can be the first to point out this "cool" thing you found to your readers, they will appreciate it.

For example, I was really enjoying the ad campaign for the FX television series "American Horror Story," so I decided to blog about it. It was a quickie, but it gave me a chance to include some striking images and embed some fun YouTube clips. Since I posted this blog during the peak of the online ad campaign to launch this new show, I'd like to think that I benefited from a lot of search activity and captured some decent Google ranking. This is what I call...


A "Big Boy" is a huge site or topic that is currently capturing tons of traffic. If Google is going nuts indexing this site, its keywords, its outgoing and incoming links, then you should try to "draft" off of it to give a boost to your own search engine ranking. Think of yourself as a row boat that floats up next to a pirate ship at full sail and throws a line over the bow, catching a ride.

Linking to these sites, getting backlinks from them (by posting linked comments in their forums) and embedding their keywords in your posts will help you benefit from their bigness. Timing is key. You should act fast to capture an emerging topic that everyone's blogging about or a site that just went viral.

Or, look ahead to predict a tidal wave of traffic so you can ride the wave. For example, I had an idea for a blog post where I compared my profession, the Screenplay Consultant, to a recording studio. I was going to use photos from that silly scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild record awful pop tunes in the studio. But then I saw an article on Rolling Stone about the upcoming 25th anniversary of the album Nevermind by Nirvana, one of the biggest selling albums of all time. As a big Nirvana fan, I knew I could add some unique insight that would ring true. So I ditched the Boogie Nights angle and worked in Nirvana. I don't know if this helped my Google ranking but it sure didn't hurt when millions of fans around the globe searched for stories about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I made sure to include the keywords "kurt cobain movie" and "nirvana movie" as many of these articles and commenters were discussing various biopics that have been in development over the years.

Is a new Dan Brown book coming out? Upcoming election? Draft on it! Did a famous figure just die? Chase that ambulance! (virtually speaking, of course)


My student Robert Rich has taken my Story Maps method and ran with it -- he created a site named ScreenplayHowTo.com dedicated to movie analysis, and he's uploading pdfs that are even more detailed than mine. We decided to team up and write linked blog posts on the same topics. For example, he wrote an analysis of the movie Risky Business, so I wrote a post on it and linked back to him, and then he added a link back to my post. There's value in both posts as we offer unique takes on the subject. For example, I met the writer/director of Risky Business, Paul Brickman, back in film school, so I shared that personal anecdote.

Robert has also set up an affiliate program with my e-book on BarnesAndNoble.com, so he's not only promoting my book but he's making money off it, should any of his readers purchase a copy.

Another value to my readers is that I can provide a link to his free downloads, for example, his exhaustive Story Map of The Shawshank Redemption. So now we both have that lovely keyword "free download" waiting in our posts, just itching to be discovered by a hungry Google bot.

I hope these tips have given you some inspiration to develop a blog strategy of your own. As always, I say...

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Daniel Calvisi

2 Ways to Get a FREE E-BOOK worth $9.95: Offer expires Oct. 31, 2011!

1) Purchase the Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay e-book from Dan's website and he will email you a FREE Story Maps Booster Pack e-book, which contains 12 Story Maps of recent and classic movies, including Black Swan, Up, Juno, The Social Network, Rocky and the Sex and the City movie! This is a $9.95 VALUE for FREE.

2) Purchase the e-book from iTunes or Smashwords AND post a review and Dan will email you the free Booster Pack (just email your receipt to Dan via the Contact form on his site and he'll reply ASAP)

3 Writing Rules for Real Authors

Beginning writers get a lot of advice from every direction. Here are 3 aphorisms to memorize. Let them guide you in your career.

1. A "real" author pursuing print publication does NOT pay to get published or to get literary agent representation. The publisher pays the author with an advance against royalties, and a royalty contract. The agent gets paid by collecting a commission on selling your work.

2. A "real" author does not ask for an opinion of his/her work from anyone with whom the author has a familial or love relationship.

Why? Because you will rarely get an objective answer. The answer will be colored either by the person's love for you or the person's wish to get some payback. Ask a professional who knows what constitutes good writing.

3. The bridge between talent and success is work discipline.

Start establishing a work discipline now that enables you to produce a daily quota of writing--1 page or 10+. Work discipline creates the habit of writing.

Takeaway Truth

Writing is art, craft, and business. Adopt some standards, parameters, or habits that will aid you in building a successful career.

From Romance to Zombies--With Love!

Good morning, world! I'm happy to welcome Bella Street, author of the series, Apocalypse Babes, as my guest star today.

After reading her book The Z Word, I tracked her down and asked her if she'd guest blog and talk about writing in such diverse genres. (My review of The Z Word last week.)

Bella's books are sold by all the popular ebook retailers. For more information, check her website or her blog BellaStreetWrites.

Bella Street: In Her Own Words

Thank you, Joan, for having me on SlingWords!

One of the best things about being an indie author is the ability to explore new realms in writing. While maintaining an author brand is important from a marketing perspective, I believe an indie author has a bit more leeway in taking her writing in different directions.

My book,Kiss Me, I'm Irish, is pure romance with a paranormal twist. Boy and girl meet, sparks fly, and a HEA happens that hopefully makes for an enjoyable read. But while writing pure romance for the last fifteen years, I was also getting addicted to serialized TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. It makes perfect sense...on some level.

Had I ever written sci-fi before? Nope. But I knew what I liked and what I hoped to achieve. One thing I really liked about a series is getting to know the characters in many different situations; I liked getting to watch them grow and evolve. But that also requires more developed characterizations. If characters are expected to carry a show or book series over a long story arc, they must have epic (for them) goals, motivations, and conflict.

Probably the biggest challenge for me was how to write in a genre that didn't rely on the classic boy meets girl framework. The conflict had to be less about romantic back and forth interaction and more about how my characters affected, and are affected by, their world. I spent a lot of time studying science-fiction tropes and reading sci-fi sub-genres, while learning about historical and cultural symbolism for added layering.

The Fun Part: What if?

A popular modern trope in fiction is the kick-butt heroine who is strong and capable. Being of a contrary nature, I had to ask what if a heroine was average? Insecure? The kind of girl who wears bright pink without a second thought?

What if her main goal in life was security and safety in the make-believe world of West Hollywood? What if she was motivated by a past that forced her to come up with a do-over identity she desperately wanted to stick? And what if she was torn from that world and thrust into a past she never dreamed she'd have to face?

Add Zombies, Mix Well

Then throw in zombies for an extra kick.

The tagline to the series that arose out of this genre shift was: No mad skillz, no sacred destiny, just a pink tracksuit that will take her places she never wanted to go.

Romance is still a part of this story. I'm not able to leave it out as it's my favorite genre as a whole. But mixing genres allowed me to explore different characterizations and growth arcs. Like that pink tracksuit, it's taken me places I never thought I'd go.

Food For Thought

On closing, I'll leave you with these questions. What is a genre you've always wondered about? What would it be like to write in that genre?

Takeaway Truth

Thank you, Bella, for visiting today. To your closing questions, I'll add a question from me. What's stopping you?