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Newsletter Dated: 5/1/2004 1:36:21 PM
Subject: Author Andrea Campbell and Soup*s On
Andrea Campbell’s Newsletter
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, family member, professional friend of Andrea*s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine. I am excited about this venue because it gives me the opportunity to reach larger numbers of people in a much shorter time. It will also contain more personal content and address things I don’t discuss on my web site.
Have questions, comments, or ideas for future publication? I look forward to your input and never turn down helpful hints. This newsletter is a continued work-in-progress and I hope you will stay around to see new features in every bi-monthly issue.
In this issue:
• From the Author*s Desk
• Ziggy Update
• Pat Holt Uncensored
• Glossary of Publishing Terms
• Book With Movie Tie-in
• Focus on the Writer
• ACK! Apathy for Contest for Free Books
• A Writer*s Mantra
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
There are many good writer voices in this issue’s newsletter. Enjoy.
*** Ziggy Update ***
For those readers who don’t know, Ziggy is my nonhuman primate daughter—a little capuchin monkey—I raised for Helping Hands (from birth to thirteen years), and who is currently in training in Boston. She will be a helper/companion to a quadriplegic. When I spoke to Judi Zazula, the Director just recently, I found out that Zig is near completion and they have a potential candidate for her! And, better still, Ziggy may reside in the Boston area, close to headquarters and the Zazula’s who love her too.
Funny thing, when Zig graduates, I’ll get a video of her performing tasks and just generally acting as the brilliant little girl she is! Ha, a graduation tape.
*** Pat Holt Uncensored ***
If you do not know Pat Holt, you must make a quick run over to her web site. She has kindly offered me the privilege of reprinting her mistakes writers don’t see article. Due to newsletter space, however, you are privy to just numbers three and four of the ten (more later). If you cannot wait for the rest, visit Ms. Holt’s site at: http://www.holtuncensored.com/ten_mistakes.html
Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
Like many editorial consultants, I've been concerned about the amount of time I've been spending on easy fixes that the author shouldn't have to pay for.
Sometimes the question of where to put a comma, how to use a verb or why not to repeat a word can be important, even strategic. But most of the time the author either missed that day's grammar lesson in elementary school or is too close to the manuscript to make corrections before I see it.
So the following is a list I'll be referring to people *before* they submit anything in writing to anybody (me, agent, publisher, your mom, your boss***
3. EMPTY ADVERBS
Actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally—these and others are words that promise emphasis, but too often they do the reverse. They suck the meaning out of every sentence.
I defer to People Magazine for larding its articles with empty adverbs. A recent issue refers to an "incredibly popular, groundbreakingly racy sitcom." That's tough to say even when your lips aren't moving.
In "Still Life with Crows," Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child describe a mysterious row of corn in the middle of a field: "It was, in fact, the only row that actually opened onto the creek." Here are two attempts at emphasis ("in fact," "actually"), but they just junk up the sentence. Remove them both and the word "only" carries the burden of the sentence with efficiency and precision.
(When in doubt, try this mantra: Precise and spare; precise and spare; precise and spare.)
In dialogue, empty adverbs may sound appropriate, even authentic, but that's because they've creeped into American conversation in a trendy way. If you're not watchful, they'll make your characters sound wordy, infantile and dated.
In Julia Glass's "Three Junes," a character named Stavros is a forthright and matter-of-fact guy who talks to his lover without pretense or affectation. But when he mentions an offbeat tourist souvenir, he says, "It's absolutely wild. I love it." Now he sounds fey, spoiled, superficial.. (Granted, "wild" nearly does him in; but "absolutely" is the killer.)
The word "actually" seems to emerge most frequently, I find. Ann Packer's narrator recalls running in the rain with her boyfriend, "his hand clasping mine as if he could actually make me go fast." Delete "actually" and the sentence is more powerful without it.
The same holds true when the protagonist named Miles hears some information in "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo. "Actually, Miles had no doubt of it," we're told. Well, if he had no doubt, remove "actually" - it's cleaner, clearer that way. "Actually" mushes up sentence after sentence; it gets in the way every time. I now think it should *never* be used.
Another problem with empty adverbs: You can't just stick them at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a general idea or wishful thinking, as in "Hopefully, the clock will run out." Adverbs have to modify a verb or other adverb, and in this sentence, "run out" ain't it.
Look at this hilarious clunker from "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown: "Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino." Ack, "almost inconceivably" - that's like being a little bit infertile! Hopefully, that "enormous albino" will ironically go back to actually flogging himself while incredibly saying his prayers continually.
4. PHONY DIALOGUE
Be careful of using dialogue to advance the plot. Readers can tell when characters talk about things they already know, or when the speakers appear to be having a conversation for our benefit. You never want one character to imply or say to the other, "Tell me again, Bruce: What are we doing next?"
Avoid words that are fashionable in conversation. Ann Packer's characters are so trendy the reader recoils. " 'What's up with that?' I said. 'Is this a thing [love affair]?' " "We both smiled. " 'What is it with him?' I said. 'I mean, really.' " Her book is only a few years old, and already it's dated.
Dialogue offers glimpses into character the author can't provide through description. Hidden wit, thoughtful observations, a shy revelation, a charming aside all come out in dialogue, so the characters *show* us what the author can't *tell* us. But if dialogue helps the author distinguish each character, it also nails the culprit who's promoting a hidden agenda by speaking out of character.
An unfortunate pattern within the dialogue in "Three Junes," by the way, is that all the male characters begin to sound like the author's version of Noel Coward—fey, acerbic, witty, superior, puckish, diffident. Pretty soon the credibility of the entire novel is shot. You owe it to each character's unique nature to make every one of them an original. Now don't tell me that because Julia Glass won the National Book Award, you can get away with lack of credibility in dialogue. Setting your own high standards and sticking to them—being proud of *having* them—is the mark of a pro. Be one, write like one, and don't cheat.
*** Glossary of Publishing Terms ***
Since I try to provide information for all levels of writers and readers, this month I would like to lead you to some great glossaries of publishing terms, all located on the Internet for your edification.
Laura Belgrave’s site:
William C. Ackermann’s very thorough list from a publisher’s perspective:
Sedgeband Literary Associates page:
*** Book With Movie Tie-in, Author*s Viewpoint ***
My true crime book, LETHAL INTENT, about serial killer Aileen Wuornos was published in November 2002. Coincidentally, Aileen was executed the previous month after a decade on Death Row. The book got a whole new lease on life, however, when the film Monster was released and actress Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her stunning portrayal of Wuornos.
LETHAL INTENT has been an interesting voyage publicity-wise and I hope some of my experience can help you. Let me preface this by acknowledging my good fortune in having a film come out on my book subject, albeit, a film not based on my book, with which I legitimately found fault. But having an opposing opinion gave me a good news hook. While this option is rare, here are some tips.
1. Get a website and feature your book prominently. See mine at www.SueRussellWrites.com.
My appearance on Biography for the A&E channel featuring Aileen Wuornos is a direct result of the producers finding my website.
That program has since been re-aired and recut into a new Life Stories being run on Biography as a 2004 program. I’m grateful still to be in it. Each time it runs people tell me they’ve seen it.
2. Work on profile-building.
Biography was a high point but things didn’t start out so great. The year the book debuted I did every interview I could find with true crime listserves, book fan sites, etc. I found them happy to critique the book, link to it, and chat about it. LETHAL INTENT was reviewed by webzines Crime Magazine, Mob Magazine, and others. As a result, over time I found my book ranked high on Google, whereas my name and Aileen Wuornos’ were not initially linked until about five pages in. I do believe search engine links have helped my findability quotient, however. It’s like cross-pollination—invaluable despite being time-consuming.
3. Find a hook and write an editorial that ties-in with your subject.
When Monster hit theaters I griped about factual inaccuracies, and friends suggested I write an editorial for the Washington Post, NYT or LA Times. The Washington Post expressed interest and assigned an op-ed piece about the film’s distortions. That article hit Japan as well as Hartford, CT., and could have been picked up by 600 papers through syndication.
I also did an hour’s live chat on the Washington Post forum, and received over 130 letters personally. As a result, MSNBC.com ran a blurb: Author upset with the way Monster distorts the truth. UPI picked up on that and exposure grew.
I’ve also written about Wuornos for Court TV’s Crime Library, the San-Diego Union Tribune, and for several foreign publications. Spread your net wide. Write as many articles you can.
4. Send relevant news clips to your publisher to build momentum.
As soon as the film’s promotion began to surface, I sent every clip I saw to my publisher’s sales force who used them to build enthusiasm and momentum.
5. Work your publicity angles and watch the spin-offs spin off.
I opted to send out a press release via www.send2press.com. That release appeared on sites such as Hollywood Reporter (or was it Variety?) and Yahoo, etc. I don’t know how much foot traffic was created, but I was interviewed by a web news site that sends out releases to hundreds of outlets.
That introduced me to the whackiest radio show I’ve ever done—call it the Howard Stern of San Antonio, but something was working.
One Cox News brief mentioning me, LETHAL INTENT, Pinnacle Books, and the film ran in smaller news markets including the Palm Beach Post, The Arizona Daily Star, Kingsland, GA News, and others.
6. Jump on every news peg opportunity.
I saw a note in the NY Post that Court TV was re-airing parts of Wuornos’s trial and would have on-air guests, so I asked my publisher to get out a call right away. I appeared on Catherine Crier Live as a result.
7. Give journalists a hook or a headline.
Controversy of some kind seems to be a great way of getting attention.
If your book is about home schooling or sleep benefits, find a way to extract an opposing opinion (or find one that already exists), and turn that into a press release for yourself. You are helping journalists by providing a story angle. If another book or two is out on the same topic, you’ve discovered a trend!
8. Position, position, position.
My first press release (sent out on publication and again on Aileen's execution date) was informative but limited. I didn’t clearly define a position I could speak to. I didn't spell out why a TV host would want *me*. I had assumed that being an expert on Wuornos would be sufficient. Most overworked journalists like to have the hook handed to them—so drum up some headlines for yourself.
I won’t know for some time how the book is doing, but for a publicity novice I feel I gave it my best shot. I trust all the writers who receive this newsletter will benefit from this advice and sell a million copies of their own book!
—Sue Russell in Los Angeles.
*** ACK! Apathy for Contest for Free Books ***
I did not receive one entry for the contest for free books! I have had immediate response for all offers in the past—what’s up? I don’t understand exactly because I have two FREE books to give away and am springing for postage. The entry stipulation is easy—or so I thought—one more try:
The first two people to bring in at least one or more subscribers for Soup’s On will receive a free copy of THE RENEGADE WRITER. Send an email with the new subscriber’s names and email addresses to: firstname.lastname@example.org Put >The Renegade Writer< in the subject line please. Include your own mailing address in case you win.
*** Focus on the Way ***
Focus on the Way
By Jennifer Lawler
As someone smarter than I am once said, “The destination of life is death. But if we focus on death, we can’t enjoy life.” Instead of focusing on the destination, focus on the journey.
Like many writers, it took me a long time to learn this lesson. I knew it would take dedication and perseverance to get published, so I worked hard on my goals. I put a lot of effort and sweat into getting published and reaping the rewards of it.
Once I started having financial success as a writer, I focused even more on making a living and providing a good life for my daughter. I tended to think of every writing project in this way: How much money will I make? Will this contribute to my ability to buy a house for Jessica and me? These are not bad or wrong questions. They need to be asked if you’re hoping to survive as a professional writer. But they were the only questions I was asking. I was focused only on results. I had lost sight of the journey.
During this period, I began writing a memoir about my experiences with my daughter, who is severely disabled. Having some difficulty with it, I consulted with Tom Lorenz, a writing teacher I’d had at the university. I sat in his small office, and told him I was having trouble with the memoir. I was concerned because I was spending a lot of time on it and I wasn’t sure if anyone would publish it.
Tom looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Umm,” he said. “Is that the most important thing? What about just writing it because it needs to be written?”
I sat there, stunned. Of course. Why not write the book just because it needed to be written? Just because I had to, without worrying about who would publish it and how big of an advance I would get. So I did it, I wrote the memoir. It still hasn’t sold to a publisher, but that’s completely beside the point. It was an exhausting, painful journey, but one I’m grateful I embarked on. It helped me heal and accept a different life from the one I expected. Now and then I reflect on passages I’ve written in the memoir, and it helps me cope. It helps me see how far I’ve come. I’d say writing the memoir was worth every minute even if I never see a dime from it. The destination doesn’t matter. Writing the memoir was the journey.
—Jennifer Lawler (www.jenniferlawler.com) is a martial artist and the author of more than twenty books, including the forthcoming Dojo Wisdom for Writers: 100 Simple Ways to Become a More Inspired, Successful and Fearless Writer (Penguin Compass), on which this article was based. She’s co-instructor of the e-course Write It and Reap: How to Make a Comfortable Living Doing What You Love and a writing coach
*** A Writer*s Mantra ***
1. There have been books published that aren't very good. I'm positive I can write better than some of the published books I've read.
2. It is inevitable, if I keep trying, that someday I'll be published. A professional is an amateur who didn’t quit.
3. I won't take rejection personally. Each rejection is one step closer to publication. Most rejections have nothing to do with how good the writing is.
4. I will always remain open to suggestion and change.
5. I will keep writing, keep marketing, and never surrender. Ultimately, getting published rests squarely on one person’s shoulders–mine.
— J.A. Konrath is the author of Whiskey Sour, a thriller featuring Chicago Violent Crime Lt. Jack Daniels <http://www.jakonrath.com>
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will answer reader’s questions, share a new story or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is any area of my life or work you would like to discuss, from autopsy to monkeys, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2004 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.