||Marina Publishing Group
Writers' Tricks of the Trade is like the appetizer table at a writers' buffet, filled with tips, techniques and tricks. Written in easy-to-read prose. Available in paperback, eBook and Kindle from multiple sellers
Barnes & Noble.com
Writers' Tricks of the Trade
“Author Morgan St. James has managed to cover nearly everything about writing fiction in a breezy and easilyunderstandable manner. My first thought upon taking a look at Writers Tricks of the Trade was, “Why wasn’t theresomething like this around when I began writing?”
~Marilyn Meredith, author of the Deputy Tempe
Crabtree mystery series.
"No one is born a writer. We all need a few tricks up our sleeves and St. James is the one to give us a few. And she gives them in a warm, readable style."
~Carolyn Howard‐Johnson, author of the multi awardwinning series of How To Do It Frugally books for writers, www.HowToDoItFrugally.com
“Writers’ Tricks of the Trade is a treasure trove of practical advice. Morgan St James covers all aspects of fiction writing from original concept through to publication, networking and publicity. Her voice is experienced, encouraging and sincere. I would recommend this book to anyone engaged in the difficult, often mysterious business of writing.”
Gayle Sutherland, Convenor, Partners in Crime, Sydney,
I IS FOR INTERVIEWS
Time to put your best foot forward ~ Structure Q&A’s for interesting interviews
As an author, interviews become part of your life. Some interviews are structured with carefully crafted questions and answers, others as casual conversation. Online interviews are the easiest to get and the easiest to do. More interviews equal greater visibility.
How do I find places to get interviewed?
Visit websites dedicated to your genre or to profiling authors. Send a friendly email with information about your book or upcoming book, and ask if they would consider interviewing you. Be sure to include a cover image and a little about the book and yourself. Sign off with a link to your website. Remember, this is another form of query, so you don’t want to write more than necessary to jumpstart their interest.
What happens when they answer and say “yes”?
It isn’t unusual for online interviewers to simply submit a list of questions and ask you to supply the answers. Consider the questions carefully, because answers trigger an impression about you, your characters or your techniques in bonding with your audience.
Many questions in the straight Q&A format are so over-used or irrelevant, the result is boring. There are a ton of stock questions, and often interviewers appreciate suggestions for new areas they can explore. Maybe there is some sage advice you would like your readers to know and it doesn’t fall under the typical category of: What suggestions do you have to offer aspiring writers? Perhaps you want to talk about an experience you know will be great—one that no one besides you and a few friends or family know about. Look for the sequence of questions to flow smoothly—to create arcs just like those in the stories or books you write.
Things to ask yourself
Before reviewing the questions, think about the tone you want to use for your answers. Is this the place to exercise humor, answer in precise language, and use a conversational, chatty tone or what? Is there an opportunity to slide in subliminal promotional mentions of your other books, columns or say you’re available to speak to groups, and do it in a way that doesn’t take over the interview? How much detail should you provide?
Determine what readers might want to know
So much of this depends upon the genre of your book or story and the tone of the website. Be sure to look at some of the interviews already posted and see if there is a similarity in the books or interview technique.
For example, if all of the authors interviewed write sci-fi and you write historical romance, you might want to ask the interviewer what their audience would find interesting about your or your books. It is to your benefit if the interviewer’s questions strike some chord with the reader. You never know when an avid fan of intergalactic travel novels has a grandmother who just loves historical romance and can’t wait to buy your book for her.
Readers often want to know things they haven’t learned in other interviews. Provide the interviewer with something they can use to couch the question in a distinctive way, or even suggest adding questions or taking some out. They might ignore your suggestions, but on the other hand, many are delighted at new ways to liven things up.
Here’s an example of a spin on the typical question: Where do you get your ideas? Maybe you’ve had a real “dust-up” with an HOA president and that creates an opportunity to talk about something specific. Hey, this is one of my own nightmares. I’m waiting for the opportunity to slide it into an interview and someday I’ll write the story.
Interviewer: Authors get ideas in many ways. I understand you’ve been toying with something that happened quite a while ago involving an HOA. Care to share?
Author: Talk about ideas, I have to find a way to use this one. It happened years ago and involved the President of the HOA for the complex we lived in at the time. He made our life hell and cost us many thousands of dollars. I’ve wanted to get even for so long. As a mystery author, I could kill him in a dozen ways—in print, of course.
Interviewer: But you haven’t done it yet, have you?
Author: No, I haven’t come up with just the right story. But it will happen. He will be floating in the pool, slumped in the lobby, cracked over the head, fed poisoned mushrooms—see, there are just so many ways to do it depending upon the story.
Interviewer: And when you finally write it, do you hope he will read it and know it’s him?
Author: Can’t happen. He had the nerve to really die a few years ago before I could do him in.
Something like that has lots more oomph than dry questions and answers and offers a natural segue into discussing various kinds of mystery novels the author has written. Then the interviewer could follow with why mystery writers choose certain ways to do people in.
This is one place you have to shine. If the interviewer has given you a preview of his questions, formulate some answers that sound totally “off the cuff”. Don’t make it sound like you’re reading from a script.
This isn’t an interrogation, so it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the interviewer in advance about topics you don’t want to discuss. For example, if you write chick lit, cozy mysteries, or humor, you might have a character who is a bumbling attorney but you don’t know much more about law than what you see on TV. For your genre, you don’t have to. Technical questions about points of the law might be a breeze for a lawyer, but not for you, so don’t take the chance. If you’ve already alerted the interviewer, and they persist anyway, you have a perfect excuse to laugh it off.
Imagine giving an answer like: “Oh, Thomas, you’re so funny. You know Lucinda Laughingstock isn’t an attorney, so why would she know that?”
Every valid suggestion about how to give animated readings or engaging speeches applies here. For example if you’re on the radio, remember to smile because it can be heard in your voice. Allow your voice to reflect emotion instead of a flat presentation. And please, give the poor interviewer something better than one word answers. Terse answers make the job of drawing out the guest’s “sparkling personality” so hard and never impresses the listener.
Way to Go
Although I am not a published writer of fiction,I would like to be one. I was delighted to find the book was so easy to read and understand either from cover to cover or in sections.I zipped through it, slapping sticky notes everywhere because of the treasure trove of information in it.
Morgan St James has a talent for taking complex subjects and making them easy to put into action on the page.I have already made several changes, for the better,and wrote it in a more concise manner. I first ran across her columns in the Los Angeles Examiner.com
Hopefully when the sequel comes out I will be well on my way to be a author in print
Thank you Morgan
A Great Resource!
As an "aspiring fiction writer" I jumped at the chance to read a review copy of a book on writing. After receiving the eBook edition of the book from the author, Morgan St. James, I dove into it eagerly, hoping to learn what I didn't know about writing and publishing fiction.
Writers' Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction didn't disappoint. Morgan St. James offers the reader a wide-variety of advice regarding both the business parts (agents, distribution, etc.) and the actual writing parts of fiction writing. I learned about several issues I hadn't previously thought about, particularly in the business end of fiction writing. With those topics I already knew something about, Writers Tricks clarified and/or expanded my understanding.
In each chapter the author describes a potential pitfall or challenge a writer might face and presents the reader with some techniques for overcoming those difficulties. She backs up the challenges and their solutions with anecdotes of her personal experiences.
The book is written in a casual and personal style which makes for a very accessible book and easily read. The explanation of the issues and their corresponding anecdotes were clear and understandable. However, I feel that the book may be just a bit too casual. I admit this is a fairly subjective thing, what feels to casual to me may be just right for others.
Writers' Tricks is not an in-depth guide to all aspects of writing fiction, nor is it intended to be. However, it includes an excellent reference to other books if you do need a more-depth discussion of a particular aspect.
Overall, I was pleased with the book. All of the advice was solid and useful. I will be referring back to the book periodically to keep the potential pitfalls in mind as I write or submit my fiction.
From one writer to another
It is clear that Morgan St. James has faced and conquered the writing problems she describes. Her solutions make sense, because she understands first-hand the issues that confront the writer of fiction. From discussions of pacing and emotions to point of view and setting, St. James provides tips and ways to overcome obstacles. But her book also includes discussions of the writers' life and the issues that can bog down an aspiring author before she has a product. On the other end of the spectrum, St. James includes insights into issues of getting published--a discussion of agents and various publishing options. Quite often she includes web site addresses that the author can use for additional help.
As an author myself, I have found her book useful for filling in gaps in my knowledge. Maralys Wills. Author, "Damn the Rejections, Full Speed ahead."
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