Category: Cartoons

How Siri Can Help Aspiring Writers

By , October 24, 2011 12:00 am

"An Indie Phone" by MMRule

 

As soon as I had some alone time with an iPhone 4S, I couldn’t wait to ask Siri my burning questions.  Should I self publish?  Where can I find a literary agent?  Who wrote the great American novel?

 

The verdict?

 

Siri isn’t a fortune teller, but she can read your text messages and search Google for you.  I’ll settle for that!

 

Have you asked Siri any questions about writing and publishing?  Do you think she is a useful tool?  Comment and let us know!

Time Management for Indie Writers

By , October 17, 2011 12:00 am

 

"Indie Time Management" by MMRule

 

How do you balance work, family, friends, writing, blogging, social networking, etc.?

Does making a schedule help?  Comment and share your tips!

 

Do You Lie When People Ask You What You Are Reading?

By , October 10, 2011 12:00 am


"Indie Anxiety" by MMRule

"Indie Anxiety" by MMRule

 

What are you reading?

While it may seem innocuous to ask someone what he or she is reading, I struggle to participate in the What are you reading? water cooler banter.

 

It may seem strange for me to say that I dread when people ask me what I’m reading.  As an aspiring author, I treat reading and writing like a second full time job.  But despite the amount of time I spend in front of paragraphs and pages, I find myself often embarrassed to admit what exactly I’m thumbing through in my spare time.

 

Are you an unconventional reader?

Since I’m working on the pacing and opening of my novel, my pleasure reading so far this month has included choice excerpts from On Writing; every scene in Carrie that involves Chris Hargensen; and the first chapter of the Exorcist, 1984, and every Stephen King novel I own.

 

Oh yeah, and I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  At least that is what I told my dentist despite the fact that I haven’t had a chance to pick it up in weeks.

 

Do writers read like everyone else?

I love gulping down commercial novels and savoring literary fiction, but when I’m pressed for time and also trying to write and proofread, what I read is only for research.  I start with what I love and wish to emulate, and then I read and reread key sections with the intent of learning something about the craft of writing.

 

So how does that translate into casual dinner party banter?  Well, it doesn’t.

 

What is the solution?

My solution goes back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It is important to always know your audience.  Read as you must and always have a good answer in your queue to share with the world.  There’s no need to stun people with the insanity of your writing process when you can just give a benign answer that gives them a smile before they move on with their day.

 

Are you an unconventional reader?

Do you ever stretch the truth or lie when asked what you’re reading?

Comment on this post and tell us about it!

#WouldYouRather: Aspiring Author Edition

By , September 12, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is “Would You Rather” week at The Exception to the Rule.  Have fun considering this list of fun-serious-bizarre scenarios.  Comment by answering any or all of these questions or write your own for us to answer!

"Indie Options" by MMRule

"Indie Options" by MMRule

Would you rather…

♦   Read your biography or write an autobiography?

♦   Edit your novel for a decade or take ten years to write the “perfect” book in one draft?

♦   Be forced to always use contractions or to never use them?

♦   Dominate one genre or write for a variety of audiences?

♦   Write a sequel to The Lord of the Rings or a prequel for Harry Potter?

♦   Listen to one song on repeat while writing or never hear the same song twice?

♦   See your book made fun of on Family Guy or discussed on The View?

♦   Be Stephen King’s wife or his child?

♦   Always write in public or in a silent, soundproof room?

 

Now it’s your turn to answer or to write your own!

Eleven Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress

By , August 29, 2011 12:00 am

 

I try to remain very cooled headed when it comes to querying and waiting for a response.  I expect nothing but the fact that I did my best, that I will always try to improve, and that an agent’s/assistant’s having to read thousands of unsolicited queries is a terrible experience.

 

"Indie Naivete" by MMRule

"Indie Naivete" by MMRule

Fighting the Vortex of Insanity

Designing a literary cupcake after Bransford’s book, however, gave me some jitters.  Bransford is active on Twitter, Facebook, his blog, etc.  Unlike when I write about Stephen King or send out a query letter, I heard Disneyesque birds singing all around me that the person whose opinion matters most very well could see my work and like it.  (For the record he did!)

 

Life Must Continue

The experience made me wonder what would happen if I were able to sit in front of a computer all day with my imagination fueling me.  Fortunately I don’t own a smart phone and have errands and work related responsibilities to complete every day, so it was easy for me to continue living my life while I waited to see if Bransford would notice my post.  But my mind still went to dark places that day.  So many places, in fact, that I surpassed a “top 10″ list!

 

The Exception to the Rule presents Eleven Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress.  I’ll let you guess if I’m guilty of any of them!  I admit to nothing and I do not believe that it takes one to know one!  Seriously.

 

11 Signs That You Don’t Spend Enough Time on Your Work in Progress

11.  You read that form rejection letter so many times that you convince yourself that it really was personalized in some way.

 

10.  You bought a smart phone so you can access your email 24/7—just in case an agent asks for a partial.

 

9.  You follow agents on Twitter and keep @mentioning them so they will notice you and realize that you should be represented!

 

8.  You think that having common interests with an agent means that he/she will definitely want to represent you.  (Yes, Stacia Decker, I agree that people should take care of their teeth! I can tell you’ll love my novel!)

 

7.  You dream daily about the movie version of your book and pay no attention to the fact that Dakota Fanning has aged five very formative years since you realized that she is the perfect embodiment of your protagonist.

 

6.  You think you’re friends with your dream agent’s assistant because his/her name appears on your gchat sidebar ever since you received that emailed rejection.  You don’t care that you two have never chatted!

 

5.  You keep track of when agents tweet so you have insight into their work ethic and can guess when they might respond to your query.

 

4.  You have a tab open in your web browser that shows a clock for every time zone where you are querying.  (Come on.  What will that accomplish?)

 

3.  You believe that there is a need for a site that provides more information than querytracker.net

 

2.  You founded querytracker.net (Sorry, Patrick McDonald!)

 

1.  You are only interested in learning about agents, querying response rates, etc. because you have that writing thing DOWN!

 

Now it’s time for your thoughts!

Comment by adding your additions to the list. 

Or reveal which numbers on the list sound a little too much like you!

#TeamFollowBack and the Curse of Low Self-Esteem

By , August 15, 2011 12:00 am

 

I follow back!  Like me and I’ll like you!  Buy my e-book and I’ll buy yours!

 

If you interact with any writers on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., then you see messages like these on most days.  When I first joined Twitter, I ignored them because I was too busy creating my content to worry about people’s caring that I exist.  Once I started blogging and had a FB fan page, however, I suddenly felt the sweaty palms and clammy skin of writer’s panic.

“Indie Hate” by MMRule

What to Do?

 

I wondered what I would do if no one liked me.  And as every second of my despair continued, I kept getting those messages from my peers saying, “Like me and I’ll like you!”

 

Stand Proud!

 

An online presence should exude confidence and professionalism.  Twitter, FB, blogging, etc. are social, yes.  But for us writers it is more than that.  It is our chance to create a public image.  Are we the sniveling new kid with too short pants who tries to sit at the cool lunch table?  Or are we the one person at the party who can look cool wearing sunglasses after dusk?

 

Give Back on Your Terms

 

I want to give back.  I really do.  But I don’t want to contribute a series of meaningless gestures.  I prefer to give my thoughts, creativity, and sweat to the online writing world.  Likewise, when I share a blog or recommend an author, I want people to know that my opinion is worthwhile.  Because I don’t like everything!

 

Automatic liking back and following shows a lack of confidence in yourself and will only give you an artificial sense of your success.  Rejoice in those who love what you are doing, and continue to create a product that will draw in an audience.  If no one cares about what you do, try delivering something new!

 

Are you part of #TeamFollowBack and hate when you don’t see others doing for you what you do for them?  Or if you don’t follow back, what methods do you use to inspire people to like you?  Start the discussion under the comments for this post!

Writing One Dimensional Characters? Try Getting a Life!

By , August 8, 2011 12:00 am

 

Birthing a novel creates a new dimension of life challenges for aspiring authors.  Balancing family, friends, work, errands, and the occasional clogged garbage disposal means that free time is really writing/editing time.  But that’s okay for us.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my ideal “me time” consists of sitting in my recliner for hours straight with my laptop and a box of Cheerios.  (Total darkness is also my preference.)

 

"An Indie Life" by MMRule

"An Indie Life" by MMRule

 

Unfortunately, finding the time to write forces authors into a realm of other difficulties.  Sometimes the sacrifices we make to construct our work in progress leave us too caught up in our heads and not in the world where we and our characters exist.

 

As the result, the characters that we thought were so thrilling and titillating end up falling into clichés that we didn’t recognize until we wrote them.  They just look through their windshield and think for an entire chapter.  They have complicated dreams that are just like real life, except they’re not.  And worst of all, they sit around and stare in the mirror, realizing for the first time that they have brown hair.

 

You may wonder what is wrong with writing those scenes.  Yes, dreams are often exciting and symbolic.  And who doesn’t look in a mirror and study their old acne scars while reminiscing about past lovers?  The problem is that these moments of deep thought and self discovery aren’t interesting to read!  At the very best they don’t further the plot of a book, and at the worst they bore the reader and damage the author’s relationship with him or her.

 

If writers want to create interesting and thought provoking characters, they need to break away from their computers and remind themselves of what it means to live a life beyond feeding their kids or typing a memo about synergy before returning to their novel.  They should try their darndest to engage in some of the activities that even non-writers love, like volunteering, going to the zoo, and getting some exercise!

 

Taking a break to do some living will help a work in progress in wonderful ways.  You will remember to let your characters move away from their thoughts and into an interesting world where they can define themselves through their actions!  So, get a life and reap the richness that your experiences will bring your story.

 

How do you keep your characters fresh and active?  Share your method for writing interesting characters under the comments section for this post!

 

Advice from Stephen King that Writers Can Live Without

By , August 1, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is a well known fact at The Exception to the Rule that I long ago named Stephen King as my literary idol.  I love him so much in fact, that when I was a teenager, I pooh-poohed reading The Poisonwood Bible because I had just picked up a copy of Cujo.  How I could resist the allure of Oprah’s Book Club sticker is beyond me!  (And yes, that is about as rebellious as I was in high school.)

 

It was also during my high school years that King wrote On Writing.  My Christmas list that year included On Writing, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Bonne Bell lip gloss, and the Backstreet Boys “Black & Blue” album.  My dad dutifully typed the list into his Palm Vx for safe keeping, and I received everything I wanted.

 

"Indie Angst" by MMRule

 

Naturally on Christmas Day, with Bonne Bell on my lips and the Backstreet Boys flowing out of my Discman, I sat down and started reading On Writing by tree light.  I was going to be an author, goshdarnit, and Stephen King was going to tell me how.

 

Now that over a decade has passed since that Christmas, I have a novel+ under my belt and am getting my feet wet in the querying kiddie pool.  I have also realized that I am not Stephen King, and not everything he told me is going to work.

 

2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%

 

King didn’t come up with this equation by himself.  It is advice that an editor wrote on the bottom of a rejection slip during his early days, and it in part helped his writing evolve to legendary status.  But as of today that advice has not helped me, and it likely will also not help you.

 

Why?

 

Super star blogger Nathan Bransford mentions in this post on word count that many aspiring novelists produce staggering drafts that pass 100,000 words and keep going.  I, on the other hand, am not alone in completing a draft at 70,000+, fearing that I didn’t write everything I should have.

 

Subtracting 10% of your draft isn’t going to help your work in progress if you struggle with these length issues, or if you have an appropriate amount of words but wrote 50% action and 50% boring backstory that no one but you cares to read.  I suggest a different approach to the equation.

 

2nd draft =

1st draft – Everything that isn’t Important + Everything Important You Forgot to Include

(Repeat until your draft is an appropriate word count for a debut novel in your genre.)

 

Is this formula too vague for you?  It should be vague!  King’s advice works best for someone who can already tell a damn near perfect story, but who at times includes too much detail.  However, that is not my problem, and it likely isn’t yours.  Part of the work that distinguishes a writer from an author is the ability to self diagnose.  To critically think about a work in progress and keep pushing it until it stands alone.  Being an author means that you write something that has a backbone because you built it from your labor and desire to improve.

 

Stephen King found the editing method that worked for him, and now it is your turn to tear through your work in progress and find what works for you!  Plug those plot holes, evolve your characters, and have the courage to write your own equation for success.

 

Help get the conversation started at The Exception to the Rule by posting your equation for the perfect 2nd draft as a comment for this article.  Happy writing!

 

The Benefits of Querying—Even If You Want to Self-Publish

By , July 25, 2011 12:00 am

 

The decision to circumvent the querying process and jump straight into self-publishing seems like a “working smart” move for many aspiring writers.  And who can blame them.  No one wants to lose weeks and months waddling through rejections when companies like Lulu and Amazon make it easy to shuffle through the self-publishing process and give a metaphorical middle finger to the “heartless” agents.

 

But these writers fail to realize that there are benefits to querying an agent that will assist with the self-publication process.

 

Querying Even One Agent

  • Forces authors to truly understand what they’ve written.
  • Helps them to familiarize themselves with marketing and publication standards.
  • Provides a much needed reality check.

"The Indie Bard" by MMRule

Better Understand Your Novel

Writing a query letter (and the often requested synopsis) is an exercise that no writer should bypass.  Querying forces an author in roughly one page to address the big questions that are otherwise too easy to avoid:

  • What are the most essential plot points of my book?
  • Is there a clear genre and hook?
  • Can others trust that I’m qualified to write this?

Answering these questions are essential when editing and polishing your book.  And querying not only forces you to think about them, but also makes you exercise your ability to do so concisely and professionally.

 

Familiarize Yourself with Marketing and Industry Guidelines

Query guidelines urge authors to consider issues like word count and target audiences.  If you want to take on selling your own book, you must know who wants to read it and whether it is a novel or really a novella or a series in disguise.  (It is never OK to have a 150+K debut novel!)

 

Get Real!

Finally, the likely form rejection letter (or silence) from an agent provides a necessary reality check.  It is too common for authors to use their imagination and talent to see the successful future they want in a less than worthy book.  Shattering the dream through even one agent’s rejection is helpful to pull authors back to reality.  The odds of success are against first time novelists.  The possibility of being the next King, Brown, Meyers, Harris, etc. are next to impossible.  If authors want to succeed, they should seek out some rejection and constructively turn that into added motivation to read daily, write more, and edit smarter.


Extra Bonus

Who knows what opportunities will present themselves once you query your book.  Maybe you will land an agent and a publisher, and someone else can worry about formatting your novel for the Kindle and Nook.  There is nothing wrong with having more than one option!

 

Panorama Theme by Themocracy