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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
The topic of this month’s newsletter is transitioning from writing nonfiction to fiction (or vice versa). I’m yet another writer who is trying her hand at fiction. After writing 14 nonfiction books, I published my first novel last year (Chez Stinky) and am about 50K words into the next installment of the romantic comedy series.
In addition to the great advice from other writers that you’ll find in this newsletter, I’d like to point out that no matter what type of writing you do, it takes discipline. There is no substitute for BIC (butt-in-chair) time. You have make the time to write. I’d also suggest learning more about the craft of writing itself. Well-written non-fiction and fiction both need to have some type of structure to make sense to readers. Investing a few dollars in writing books can pay big dividends. (Every month Patricia Fry reviews books on writing and publishing, so check out the back issues of SPAWNews on the blog for ideas!)
Once you understand how to logically craft a story or a nonfiction book outline, the words often flow more easily because you know what you’re going to say. Whether you write fiction or non, here’s to getting more words out of your head and onto the page.
This month the topic is making the switch from nonfiction to fiction and back again. What are the similarities, differences, and how do you keep it all straight? Patricia Fry wrote nonfiction magazine articles and books for years, but in 2012 she jumped into fiction with cozy mysteries featuring cats. The fourth in the series is complete and in publication.
C. Hope Clark found nonfiction to be the best way to get started as a paid and published writer. She built a fabulous platform and then wrote the mystery book she’d had in mind all along; her readership followed. Palmetto Poison, the third book in the series, is just out. Hope is also starting a second series.
Also, read Bobbie Christmas’s (aka the Book Doctor) take on the subject, plus a nod to a SPAWN member who sent in an answer to a question Bobbie had.
In addition, learn about art—how to sell yourself without selling out—in the book review.
With 2014 underway, celebrate creativity and try something new. Break out of your usual comfort zone to see what happens. The results might be good or terrible, but you’ll have new experiences to draw on after you try, and maybe some fun along the way. Who knows where that might lead?
For me, taking the plunge to write/edit the print newsletter for a therapy pet group led to the chance to write/edit this newsletter. This issue marks the start of my sixth year! Thanks for the feedback I’ve received and the support of members who have contributed articles and offered suggestions. It means more than you know.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sell Your Books from the SPAWN booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Date: April 12-13, 2014.
NOTE: We’re full for Saturday, but have space available for Sunday April 13 only.
Place: University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, attracting around 140,000 people last year.
SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $203 per day.
Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb.htm to read about all of your options and to sign up.
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your SPAWN membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business. If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served. Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.
Join SPAWN here: http://www.spawn.org.
Act now. This is a once-a-year opportunity, and it is first-come-first-served.
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The March issue of the SPAWN Market Update features over 40 resources, news items, and opportunities for published and yet-to-be-published authors, as well as writers hoping to earn a living through their craft. You’ll find links to book marketing sites, publishers seeking manuscripts, and six job boards for writers. Learn more about Internet tools available to authors promoting their books and get access to advice from marketing experts. Study this issue of the SPAWN Market Update, adopt some of the recommendations, and you will sell books. If you’re seriously seeking a publisher or writing work, the information in this, past, and future issues could create the stepping-stones to make that happen. Go to the SPAWN site (www.spawn.org ) and use your username and password to troll through past issues of the newsletter and Market Update or visit at least every other month when a new Market Update is published. (Log in is your first and last name, no spaces. If you forget your password, WordPress will send a new one.)
Join SPAWN by going to www.spawn.org and click on Join/Renew.
Ask the Book Doctor:
Ask the Book Doctor: About Switching from Nonfiction to Fiction Writing, Comma in Direct Address, Questions about Using an Editor, and an Addendum to a Prior Column
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I’ve been a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers for many years, but I have a novel in my head, begging me to write it. I’m not sure I can successfully switch from writing nonfiction to writing fiction. What are some of the things I need to know?
A: Quick answer: everything.
Let me explain. I worked with newspapers and magazines for the first twenty years of my writing and editing career, so I thought I knew enough to write a novel. Boy, was I wrong! The best thing I did was join a critique circle for novelists, and I quickly saw that I knew almost nothing about how to write fiction. I knew a great deal about how to form a strong sentence, I knew grammar, and I thought I knew punctuation. I learned, however, that I had been using punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations standard in AP style, whereas novels and nonfiction books call for Chicago style.
As a gift, my son gave me a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, and I went into overwhelm, because of the volume of the book. I didn’t think I could learn it all. I soon realized that I did not have to learn everything, but I did need to look up specific things when I wasn’t sure.
Members of my critique circle had been writing fiction much longer than I had. I could help them when it came to grammar and strong sentence structure, but they helped me tremendously with details of Chicago style as well as the many elements of fiction. They made me aware of point of view, setting scenes, scene changes, character development, plot development, exposition, backstory, flashbacks, and much more that I had never encountered as a writer and editor of newspaper and magazine articles.
Go ahead and begin writing your novel, but find a good critique group that concentrates on novels and get feedback and information from members more knowledgeable in writing fiction.
In addition, pay attention while you read your favorite novelists and see how they handle openings, chapters, flashbacks, backstory, exposition, dialogue, scenes, character development, plot evolution, climax, and denouement.
I also offer a lengthy free report on some of the differences between AP style and Chicago style. It has good information for anyone not yet fully familiar with Chicago style. Ask for Report #118 by e-mail (Bobbie@zebraeditor.com), and I’ll send it right away.
The switch from nonfiction to fiction isn’t simple, but if your heart is in writing a novel, you will enjoy entering a whole new world of writing.
Q: Is a comma necessary before “Levi” in the following?
“You know what Levi? I do my best work when I am in a hurry.”
A: Yes, Mary, as you suspect, a comma is always necessary in direct address.
Q: I have never published before. I have written a book containing twenty-four short stories. Do all novice writers need to employ an editor? Without the book being edited, will a publisher reject the book outright? What is the cost of hiring an editor? If I hire an editor, is it necessary to have one that lives near me so that we can discuss the editing process from time to time?
A: Do all novice writers need to employ an editor? No, but novice writers who want to improve their chances of success do employ editors, not only to ensure the book has no errors, but also to learn in the process. One of my clients said the report I sent, based solely on his writing, was like a four-year college course in creative writing.
Will publishers reject an unedited book outright? The answer depends upon the publisher. Some have guidelines that state the book must be edited before it is submitted, but major publishers (and they are few in number) may accept an unedited manuscript. It would have to be spectacular in every other way, of course, and in some way carry a guarantee of success, such as if the author is already a well-known celebrity.
The cost of hiring an editor depends upon the editor and the services he or she offers. My prices are posted on my website for everyone to see. I do recommend using an editor who is upfront about his or her fees and services. Editors who charge by the hour scare me; authors have no idea of what the total cost might be.
Do you need to find an editor near you? Absolutely not. With today’s technology, every editor can be as near as a computer or a telephone. I edit books for English-speaking clients around the globe. My clients in South Africa, Australia, Japan, Canada, and other countries chose me because I was right for their books, not because I live nearby, and we’ve had no difficulty communicating.
Finally, do you personally need an editor? We all do; we cannot know what we don’t know. We cannot see our own mistakes. For example, you sent the title of your book, but it is missing a hyphen, and without it, the meaning of the title changes. I do recommend finding an editor to ensure the book is the best reflection on you and has the best chance of success. You’ll be amazed at all you will learn from a qualified professional editor.
Addendum to prior column:
In a prior column I could not think of a way that “can not” would be used as two words, without punctuation between them, but an eagle-eyed reader sent the following information: When “can” is an auxiliary verb, as in “can publish,” it might come before “not only…but also.” Example: We can not only produce a microchip, but also imbed an algorithm for self-testing it. Thank you, Helen Gordon, for the example. It proves once again that writing has few absolute rules.
To read more questions and answers, order the book Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at http://zebraeditor.com/book_ask_the_book_doctor.shtml. Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, Selling Yourself without Selling Your Soul by
Henry Holt and Company (2009), 6th edition Paper, 382 pages, approximately $15.00 at Amazon ISBN: 978-0-8050-8848-9
SPAWN is Small Publishers, ARTISTS and Writers Network, and in this issue we feature a book for our artist members and subscribers. Caroll Michels is a successful sculptor, career coach, and artist-advocate. Through this book, she shares what she has learned about navigating the complicated, often political, art world during three decades of experience and insights. Therein, you will learn how to obtain gallery representation, how to attract media attention, and how to establish pricing for your work. She has included tons of resources and, new to this sixth edition, she includes a chapter called Art Marketing and the Internet.
I’m not an artist, but I know several and I understand how difficult it is for those with an artistic mindset to promote their work and I have written articles on this topic. Do you have trouble thinking of your work as a career, are you weak when it comes to marketing, do you need help dealing with dealers, how do you handle rejection? All of this and more are covered in this over-sized book.
I found the chapter on public relations particularly interesting. Therein, you will be treated to twenty pages on writing and submitting press releases and other forms of advertisement. I think the section on creating your own exhibitions and sales opportunities is valuable to artists. While many organized programs are available for artists—and they’re expertly outlined in this book—I believe the artist should take charge of his/her own success. As Michels suggests, don’t wait around to be called to exhibit; consider creating your own context and exhibition opportunities. With this in mind, she talks about theme shows, creating and circulating a proposal, considering fees, and more.
If you are an artist who would like to be making money through your art, I recommend that you pick up this book the first chance you get and study it from cover to cover.
Making the Leap from Nonfiction to Fiction (or Vice-Versa)
by Patricia Fry
After forty years of writing nonfiction for publication, I started writing fiction. Unlike many young writers, I once dreamed of writing nonfiction. I fantasized about a byline in magazines. I wanted to be a columnist and I accomplished that goal. I decided to write a book and now have published over forty of them. I wrote nonfiction until June of 2011, when I discovered my fiction muse (or is it a folly?).
What are the main differences between writing fiction and nonfiction? Here’s my take:
- You still need to write with your audience in mind. In nonfiction, make sure your instructions are clear, your organization is logical, and that you’re presenting something useful to your reader. As a writer of fiction, you must ask yourself: can readers follow along with the story? Is it entertaining? If you can’t put yourself in the minds of your readers, you may not be successful at writing either fiction or nonfiction.
- You must make sure you have an audience. Is this book actually something that is needed/wanted by a segment of readers? How large is this proposed audience? Pointed research may be necessary to determine how many people read period novels, mysteries, or novels set in Alaska involving pilots. If you’re writing nonfiction, you should find out how many people follow tennis, are allergic to makeup, are vegans, or have horses, (for example) before writing a book on the topic.
- You must be consistent in both media. In nonfiction, avoid using conflicting facts, information, and statistics. In fiction, if you change a character’s name, hometown, etc., make sure to make the changes throughout the story.
- In either medium, you must give your book credibility and personality. In fiction, you use dialog to move the story along and to make characters come alive. Quotations from experts help give a nonfiction book credibility.
- Fiction must be as believable as nonfiction. In the latter, the author must strive to appear credible in his presentation of facts and figures. In fiction, your story must also have an element of truth. If you say the main character has a broken left leg, the next time you mention that leg, it had better be the left one. If you set the scene during summer in Las Vegas, don’t have a character shiver while walking down a street at noon wearing a wool coat. Fact-checking is also a necessity for novelists. If your story doesn’t make sense, readers will lose interest and you will lose credibility in their eyes.
- Both fiction and nonfiction must share an element of emotion. In fiction you use emotion to set a scene. In nonfiction you set a tone. How can one write emotion into nonfiction? Have you ever read a rant or a passionate opinion and felt the anger or tension in that nonfiction piece? In fiction, the dialog and descriptions set up the scenes or the mood that expresses emotion.
The elements of good writing are all there for both fiction and nonfiction writing—they are just used in different ways.
Many people have difficulty making the transition. The nonfiction author must overcome her tendency to write within strict boundaries—her narration and dialogue may be stilted and forced. The novelist might have difficulty coming across as credible when writing an instructional book because his style is too literary and disorganized.
What is the key to changing your writing preference from time to time? The key is willingness to learn, to be flexible, and to practice, practice, practice.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN. She has been writing for publication for over 40 years, creating a career from writing, publishing, and editing for the last thirty years. Her latest love is writing fiction. In 2012 she published the first in her Klepto Cat Mystery series. Today, there are three: Catnapped, Cat-Eye Witness, and Sleight of Paw, all Kindle books available at Amazon.com for $2.99 each. http://www.patriciafry.com http://www.matilijapress.com. Visit her publishing blog: http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog and her fiction-related blog, http://www.matilijapress.com/catscapades.
Around the World and Back Again
by C. Hope Clark
Most readers think I began writing nonfiction, and then branched into fiction. I have no idea which I wrote first, but it doesn’t matter. A real writer can write either one. . . and should.
FundsforWriters was founded 15 years ago, when I could not sell my fiction. Nonfiction, fiction, didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be a paid writer.
I learned quickly that nonfiction pays better, though fiction seems more respected. So, when I wrote that first mystery, taking two years, and could not sell it, I turned to the Internet to see what was available for me to call myself a writer.
It seems I write nonfiction with greater ease, anyway. Soon I started FundsforWriters.com, when I amassed so much information about becoming a writer that I hated to let it go to waste. I opened it with an editorial for fun. These editorials became the heart of the newsletter. They are my purest nonfiction, written in first person, which is my strongest voice.
To earn more, I ventured into freelance writing, predominantly magazine features. My voice diversified. I learned to research topics and write the results with a creative bent for a general readership. It was challenging but rewarding to see those bylines.
Five years later I self-published The Shy Writer, a book for writers about being an introvert in a noisy world. In keeping with my strong editorial voice, the book became a simple book of chapter-by-chapter mentoring, tutorial editorials, relying upon anecdotes to make the reading interesting. In turn, my editorials swelled with new power I acquired in writing that book.
Still, the mysteries niggled at me day after day, or night after night, since that’s my creative period. I joined a critique group and returned to the fiction, writing the old story in first person, which I’d honed with the editorials. In 2012 I acquired an agent and published Low Country Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, through a traditional press, Bell Bridge Books. The next year came Tidewater Murder. We just released Palmetto Poison, the third in the series.
I published The Shy Writer Reborn, a more advanced version of its earlier sister, and it sells steadily. I still write the occasional freelance piece for fun. I adore writing guest blog posts. I’m branching out into a second mystery series. Nonfiction and fiction—each added a brick to my writing structure.
When I speak at conferences these days, one point I preach hard and loud is this: every writer can write both sides of the fence, fiction and nonfiction. Sure, one will feel more natural and another less so, but nothing in this business is meant to be easy. Difficulty isn’t an excuse not to pursue both.
Every word you write makes the next one better, regardless of the genre or category of writing you think you do. We make the mistake of interpreting “hard” to mean not having the talent. That’s hog-wash. Hard is just your next challenge.
We limit ourselves to niches when in reality we can write what we put our minds to write. Bottom line is that it takes a long plan and tons of patience to make a living with fiction. Nonfiction is more short-term with more immediate income potential. Why not let one support the other? Your writing still grows. The best compliment I ever received came from a poetry review editor at a conference. After I did a brief reading from Lowcountry Bribe, he approached and said he loved my voice.
“I write nonfiction,” I said. “This is my first published fiction.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he replied. “I can tell you’ve done a lot of it. You know your way around words. Good job.”
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, newsletters that reach 45,000 readers. She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Palmetto Poison is her newest release, as of February 2014. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina. www.fundsforwriters.com www.chopeclark.com
Author and animal care instructor Denise Fleck of Shadow Hills, California won the Dog Writers of America Award (DWAA) for her children’s book, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. “This means the world to me because the book is not only based on the gentlest soul I ever had the joy of loving, a rescued black Labrador Retriever named Mr. Rico, but also because the plight of older and challenged pets will reach the ears of so many more now,” she said. “I am honored to be the recipient of my second Maxwell Medallion (DWAA Award).” Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover teaches children and reminds adults to treat everyone as equals. This book embraces what adoption is all about…making sure pets become part of the family!
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