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Newsletter Dated: 9/1/2004 11:45:33 AM
Subject: 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.
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
* Other Newsletters of Interest
* Pat Holt Uncensored
* J.A. Konrath—Great Advice on Fiction
* MWA Looking Ahead
* Jenna*s Free .pdf
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
This just in:
My article, A writer’s best tool: her website, just showed up in a publication put out by Sisters in Crime called Shameless Promotion for Brazen Hussies 2. A terrific guide with advice from a lot of seasoned professionals, Shameless Promotion can be ordered for $15.00. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
A piece I did for The Writer magazine called *10 things the police wish you'd omit* was published in the fabulous 69th edition of The Writers Handbook 2005. Elfrieda Abbe, the editor, and Amy Glander, the assistant editor who compiled the markets section, have done a wonderful job of putting together this all-encompassing book. If you haven't seen this how-to guide and market resource, check it out, it's very thorough.
Also, I am happy to announce that I will be a monthly columnist for Garden and Hearth online (www.gardenandhearth.com). My articles will be about entertaining and interactive parties. This is a clean, helpful site with good information written in a personal, colloquial manner and I think it deserves a look-see. 250,000 readers a month must agree.
I hope your own efforts are starting to pay off—in this business, you never know what it is you do that will have a positive effect on your career. I find that sometimes my outreach, helping other writers and providing information for free can net benefits that may not be realized until much later. If, like me, you think of Labor Day and the beginning of school like a new year—a brand new start—why don’t you do something for others right now too?
Speaking of helping others, I’ve got another terrific piece from J. A. Konrath and I hope you’ll enjoy a wonderful promotional tool from Jenna Glatzer.
*** Other Newsletters of Interest ***
Jennifer Lawler has a newsletter based on her book, Dojo Wisdom for Writers. For more information you can visit her website at: (www.jenniferlawler.com) or contact her directly at: email@example.com
Looking for market information, articles or work? Then you’ve got to subscribe to Jenna Glatzer*s Absolute Market newsletters. There is a small fee for the premium edition that can be offset if you write an article for her site or ezines. Subscribe at:
Francine Silverman has a good online publication devoted to book promotion called, aptly, The Book Promotion Newsletter; cost $5.00. To subscribe go to:
A nice site by Sharon Iezzi, who coins herself your "Fearless Reader." She has lots of newsletter listings for you at her website, My Favorite Ezines. Go to:
If you want a thought-provoking newsletter you can read
f-a-s-t, check out The Marketing Minute. It comes to you every Wednesday from publicity and marketing consultant Marcia
Yudkin, author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, subscribe here: http://www.yudkin.com/markmin.htm
My friend, Brian Jud, has a great book promotion vehicle called Book Marketing Matters. To subscribe to Book Marketing Matters click here:
*** 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 seven and eight 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***
"She was entranced by the roses, hyacinths, impatiens, mums, carnations, pansies, irises, peonies, hollyhocks, daylillies, morning glories, larkspur..." Well, she may be entranced, but our eyes are glazing over.
If you're going to describe a number of items, jack up the visuals. Lay out the scene as the eye sees it, with emphasis and emotion in unlikely places. When you list the items as though we're checking them off with a clipboard, the internal eye will shut.
It doesn't matter what you list - nouns, adjectives, verbs - the result is always static. "He drove, he sighed, he swallowed, he yawned in impatience." So do we. Dunk the whole thing. Rethink and rewrite. If you've got many ingredients and we aren't transported, you've got a list.
8. SHOW, DON'T TELL
If you say, "she was stunning and powerful," you're *telling* us. But if you say, "I was stunned by her elegant carriage as she strode past the jury - shoulders erect, elbows back, her eyes wide and watchful," you're *showing* us. The moment we can visualize the picture you're trying to paint, you're showing us, not telling us what we *should* see..
Handsome, attractive, momentous, embarrassing, fabulous, powerful, hilarious, stupid, fascinating are all words that "tell" us in an arbitrary way what to think. They don't reveal, don't open up, don't describe in specifics what is unique to the person or event described. Often they begin with cliches.
Here is Gail Sheehy's depiction of a former "surfer girl" from the New Jersey shore in "Middletown, America":
"This was a tall blond tomboy who grew up with all guy friends. A natural beauty who still had age on her side, being thirty; she didn't give a thought to taming her flyaway hair or painting makeup on her smooth Swedish skin."
Here I *think* I know what Sheehy means, but I'm not sure. Don't let the reader make such assumptions. You're the author; it's your charge to show us what you mean with authentic detail. Don't pretend the job is accomplished by cliches such as "smooth Swedish skin," "flyaway hair," "tall blond tomboy," "the surfer girl" - how smooth? how tall? how blond?
Or try this from Faye Kellerman in "Street Dreams": "[Louise's] features were regular, and once she had been pretty. Now she was handsome in her black skirt, suit, and crisp, white blouse."
Well, that's it for Louise, poor thing. Can you see the character in front of you? A previous sentence tells us that Louise has "blunt-cut hair" framing an "oval face," which helps, but not much - millions of women have a face like that. What makes Louise distinctive? Again, we may think we know what Kellerman means by "pretty" and "handsome" (good luck), but the inexcusable word here is "regular," as in "her features were regular." What *are* "regular" features?
The difference between telling and showing usually boils down to the physical senses. Visual, aural aromatic words take us out of our skin and place us in the scene you've created. In conventional narrative it's fine to use a "to be" word to talk us into the distinctive word, such as "wandered" in this brief, easily imagined sentence by John Steinbeck in "East of Eden." "His eyes were very blue, and when he was tired, one of them wandered outward a little." We don't care if he is "handsome" or "regular."
Granted, context is everything, as writing experts say, and certainly that's true of the sweltering West African heat in Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter": "Her face had the ivory tinge of atabrine; her hair which had once been the color of bottled honey was dark and stringy with sweat." Except for "atabrine" (a medicine for malaria), the words aren't all that distinctive, but they quietly do the job - they don't tell us; they show us.
Commercial novels sometimes abound with the most revealing examples of this problem. The boss in Linda Lael Miller's "Don't Look Now" is "drop-dead gorgeous"; a former boyfriend is "seriously fine to look at: 35, half Irish and half Hispanic, his hair almost black, his eyes brown." A friend, Betsy, is "a gorgeous, leggy blonde, thin as a model." Careful of that word "gorgeous" - used too many times, it might lose its meaning.
*** J.A. Konrath—Great Advice for Fiction ***
1. Read everything out loud
*This deceptively easy trick will not only help with errors, it will also give you a better feel for the piece and where it is going. Wordiness and redundancies are hard to spot on paper, but they're exposed when rolling off the tongue. Keep in mind that we all have a voice in our head when we read something, but we also use that same voice when we're writing something. It's easy to confuse the two. By reading your work out loud, you can make a distinct separation from what you thought, and what is actually on the page.
*This method of divorcing yourself from your ideas is the difference between the pros and the amateurs. Find an author you like, read their prose aloud, and try to compare it to yours. Unless you've been commercially published, theirs is better. Figure out why Stephen King is a better writer than you, and maybe one day he won't be.
2. Never listen to praise
*Praise is like chocolate--we love to eat it up, but it isn't good for us. Being told something is good doesn't help you get better. We're writers. We write because we feel we have a pretty good mastery of the language and a lot of ideas to share. To seek praise for a well turned sentence, while ego inflating, is not going to bring us any closer to our goal. That goal, of course, is publication.
*There is ALWAYS something that can be fixed, edited, or told in a better way. To paraphrase Hemingway, writing is never completed, it is simply due. When asking for opinions, you want to know what didn't work, what needs to be fixed, how it can be made stronger. Ask questions and demand details. A simple critique of "It sucks" is no more help than, "It was great." Find out why the reader didn't like something. Then get an opinion from someone else, and question them on the point of contention. If most of the people who read a piece tell you to change it, change it. They're right.
3. Put the writing away
*When you've finished something, move onto something else before you tackle a full scale edit. Two weeks is good. A month is better. If you can avoid editing for a year, then that's the best of all. The more you're able to forget what you've written, the more you'll be able to spot its flaws when you read it again.
*As an experiment, dig up something you wrote a year ago, read it out loud, and write down ten things that should be changed to make it better. Force yourself to do more than just switch commas or replace synonyms. The point of creation, whether it is a poem or an epic novel, is an ego boost. Ego will not allow you to see the work as others do.
*Don't we all know someone who carries photos of their ugly baby and always looks for excuses to show them off, beaming with pride each time? The pictures are lying to her, just as the mirror lies to us. We must regain objectivity if the piece is to be successful. Distance=objectivity.
4. Get the scissors
*A friend taught me this. You may have the right words, but the wrong order. Don't be afraid to print up a manuscript and then attack it with a razor and a roll of tape. Switching chapters, paragraphs and sentences can sometimes make a good piece into a great one. Seeing your words all hacked gives you a greater freedom to manipulate them. Why do so many people buy those refrigerator poetry magnets? It's fun, and sometimes very effective, to slice and dice.
By working with these four suggestions, we can force the mirror to show us the real thing. What it shows may be ugly, but a pencil is the perfect plastic surgeon.
— J.A. Konrath is the author of Whiskey Sour, a thriller featuring Chicago Violent Crime Lt. Jack Daniels
*** MWA Looking Ahead ***
I know it seems early, but here is a notice worth marking your calendar for:
*Advance news about next year's conference, Hardboiled Heroes & Cozy Cats 2005*
For the first time ever in our 21 years of annual conferences, we are expanding from a one day event on a Saturday to a day-and-a-half conference with a half-day workshop on Friday, followed by a Friday night reception, and a full day of topnotch authors, agents and editors on Saturday.
The Friday workshop at HH&CC 2005 will be a look into the field of forensic art and science, conducted by our own Arkansas member Andrea Campbell, a forensic artist associated with the Arkansas State Crime Lab. She is the author of nine nonfiction books on a variety of topics but specializes in forensic science and criminal justice. Andrea's workshop will demonstrate facial reconstruction from skulls of unknown murder victims; as well as showing drawings, and the skills required for comprehensive composite art. Andrea has conducted many similar workshops throughout the country.
In addition to forensics expert Andrea Campbell, we will host:
Joe R. Lansdale, Edgar Award-winning mystery novelist, and multi-genre author from East Texas;
Susan McBride, author of the Debutante Dropout series, from St. Louis, who will speak on Promoting Yourself and Your Books;
Laura Joh Rowland from New Orleans, author of the acclaimed Sano Ichiro historical mystery series set in feudal Japan of the 1600s, who will speak on Writing the Historical Mystery;
Michael Bracken of Waco, TX, who will speak on Writing and Selling Short Crime Fiction, and again judge the MWA/Murder By The Book annual Short Story Contest;
Pamela Ahearn, also of New Orleans (and Laura Joh Rowland's literary agent), speaking on Being a Successful Literary Agent Outside New York City, and who will take face-to-face pitches from conference attendees with completed novels looking for representation.
So save your money and make plans to attend Hardboiled Heroes & Cozy Cats 2005. This is going to be the mystery writing conference you won't want to miss, and now as a double-day event, it will be even more attractive for those of you from other parts of the SW Region to travel to Houston. Maybe even stay for the whole weekend or more, check out upscale shopping in the Galleria, visit the Johnson Space Center, and eat fresh seafood in nearby Kemah or Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico.
More information on MWA's monthly meetings in Houston and Dallas; and next June's HH&CC 2005 in Houston will be coming soon on our chapter website at
Program Manager and Co-Chair
Hardboiled Heroes & Cozy Cats 2005
June 17 & 18, 2005
*** Jenna*s Free .pdf ***
A handy little book from a generous author, you can get a complete guide on promotion here:
*** 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.