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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three R's for Writers

I love reading. It's almost, but not quite, as pleasurable as writing.. Words are my toys, my games. My lifelong relationship with words sometimes becomes adversarial. I think the words are mine, But they seem to belong to others as well. I swear they weren't cliches when I first wrote them. Anyway, I always find a surplus of words pushing me to put them on paper. But no matter how carefully I arrange them on the page they don't make it on their own.
So maybe I should just give up and READ. And, of course, CRITIQUE. My Writers' group, Writers' Bloc is a strange group of people who believe that words are, more important than deeds. These writer-gypsies keep me motivated and their critiques keep me humble. A writer needs friends who know first-hand how hopeless and debilitating and humiliating it is to write, who accept you even when you come up with pure garbage.
Our writer-teacher sets high standards but she's tolerant. Somehow we know she forgives us even when we don't make sense. This group is trying to help me with my fifth novel, EMBASSY, The Lord knows they've tried. But maybe it's time to take it out of Assisted Living, publish it online and move it into LONGTERM CARE or HOSPICE.
As for me, maybe I should become a consultant, an expert on novels that are not quite good enough to publish, that don't have that "bottom-line" promise that sells in these over-entertained times. Maybe I'm even negative enough to become an agent. I'm very good at reading far enough into a novel to discover it's not worth finishing. I've partially read dozens of published novels and decided they weren't worth my reading time.
But when I visit the bookstores I'm puzzled. Why are there so many of these mediocre novels on the shelves where my mediocre novels ought to be? PARKER

Writers' Faire at UCLA

Last Sunday I braved the freeways to LA to attend the Writers' Faire at UCLA thinking all the way that I must be crazy to expend this much time, gas money, parking money and mental stress on what was probably just a glorified advertisement for expensive Fall writing classes.

I was wrong. It was really worth it. First time I've been on the UCLA campus. It's lovely. Interesting vendors at the Faire - friendly, helpful and not at all pushy. I learned about organizations I'd never heard of and a lot of events that sounded incredible. How about this: a Lit Crawl Saturday evening at The Echo on West Sunset Boulevard? As the poster (which I now have on my wall next the my computer) says, "It's a f**king Read-Off." I just might be tempted to make the freeway trip again to experience that one.

Made me realize that, great as living in San Diego County is, we're missing so much fresh and exciting stuff going on in LA. It has the big city buzz, bursting with creativity. Okay, let's face it, Ann, you're a country bumpkin and you can stop gushing now.

So anyway, after checking out the vendors, I went to four mini-classes, each about 40 minutes long. Four Writing Profs in each class: one moderating and three discussing their take on the subject. Classes I chose were: "Writing Your First Novel", "Creating Compelling Fictional Characters", "Giving Voice to Your Words" and "Art of the Short Story".

All excellent teachers. What they taught was helpful and enlightening, how they looked was fascinating - a dead ringer for Santa Claus, a punker with dyed black hair and tattoos, a European sad sack in a fedora, a wholesome blonde girl next door. I wanted to take all their classes.

Next time there's a Writers' Faire at UCLA, I'll be there with bells on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Design

On Saturday, July 23 I attended a Publisher and Writers of San Diego meeting. The topic was book design. The speakers came from TLC Graphics. Some of the tips they gave: book covers should have four colors. If possible carry an element from the cover (for example: a design around your brand, a stripe at the edge of the cover or a shade behind the chapter heading) to the interior pages. Color on the interior pages will add to your costs, but will also add a the professional look to the book. Book designers can work only on your cover or treat the entire book with proofreading, design, turn your book into an e book. have book printed. All book text should be fully justified. A box around the text adds to the appearance.

Introduce new paragraphs with either a space or indentation, not both. Be careful of quick conversions from printed text to e book. Scanners make mistakes, such as turning fancy h into a b throughout the book. Production process takes from 6 to nine months.

A cover only design ranges from $300 to $2000. Complete design process with the printing of 1000 copies ranges from $10,000 to $12,000. Turning your text into an ebook only costs $300 to $500. Average cost for proofreading is $25 per hour.

New in cover design: Ebossed title; debossed title; hard copy books without jackets; matt background color with glossy title. If you are a relative unknown, then title should be larger than author name.

Signs of a poorly self-published book: header on first page of a chapter, two spaces between sentences; double dash instead of en dash. You may use a space on either side of an en dash or not, but must be consistant.