Peg Herring's Blog – March 2008 Archive (21)

What Do Newbie Writers Need to Know?

I've been asked to speak on the topic: "So You've FInished Your Masterpiece: What's Next?" I get 15 minutes. Hm.

There's a delicate balance in speaking to wannabe writers (and I count myself among this group). On one hand we need encouragement, because we're likely to be shy about sharing our writing with others. Like Emily Dickinson said, it's like airing a piece of your soul. It hurts when someone rejects it, or worse, doesn't even notice. Still we live in a real world, and it… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 31, 2008 at 11:27pm — No Comments

What They Want to Know About You

What does a reader want to know about an author? How about an agent? An editor? A librarian? As writers we're often asked to submit a bio, and the question arises, what should it include?

Not the same things in all cases. As a reader BSW (before serious writing) I really didn't give a thought to the author at all, in fact didn't pay attention to names unless I really liked the book and wanted more by that person. This resulted in some embarrassing moments when I began meeting authors… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 28, 2008 at 9:49pm — No Comments

Contacts, Acquaintances, and Friends in the Biz

I've been writing about promotion, and like any type of sales, it gets interesting at times deciding who is a friend and who is a potential customer. I once worked in a candy shop where the owner was so focused on sales that if you stopped to tell her the building was on fire she'd have responded, "Would you like to buy some of the best, freshest candy in town to give to the nice firemen who'll be here any second?"

As you've deduced if you've been reading these posts, that isn't me.… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 27, 2008 at 9:53pm — No Comments

Book Promotion Again

Continuing on the subject of promotion, I should begin by saying that I'm no kind of sales whiz. I cannot shove my book into a person's hands and insist that she will love it. I can't even do the often-suggested meet-'em-with-a-question: "Do you read...(mysteries, romances, etc.)?" As a patron I would hate being pushed into a corner by an author, and the Golden Rule applies. I can't do it unto others. So what do I do to promote? Two things work well for me.

First, at signings in… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 26, 2008 at 10:31pm — No Comments

Promotion, Blatant and Otherwise

Jonathan Kellerman's latest book is being released with ads that include graphics, hype and sizzle. Here's some news: yours won't be.

Authors learn early on that these days nobody promotes a book much except the author. To be fair, many publishers try. You get an announcement in the proper publications, but it's one among hundreds for that month. You get review copies sent out and maybe some follow-up, but nobody has the time to chat up reviewers and sell them on choosing a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 25, 2008 at 9:17pm — No Comments

"Stupid" Readers-an Oxymoron?

I just read in a chat-group post that a certain author who became famous writing mysteries now insists that she not be categorized as a mystery writer. She purportedly claimed that mystery readers are stupid.

Wow. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

I've met readers who aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, of course, just as I've come across those who like nothing better than to show their (supposed) smarts by putting me in my place: pointing out mistakes, giving… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 24, 2008 at 10:46pm — 4 Comments

What's the Most Important Element?

As an educator, I used to teach the elements of writing: plot, chactacter, setting, theme, irony, style, and point of view. Recently I've been trying to decide which is most important to me as a reader. It's a useless exercise, since they obviously must blend and blend well to make an appealing book. But preference for a single element must explain the differences we experience as readers. Why do I fail to finish a book that a friend of mine claims is her favorite ever? Why do masses of people… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 21, 2008 at 10:08pm — No Comments

Brevity Is Still Soulful

It's an old quote from Shakespeare: "Brevity is the soul of wit". Oral communication in today's world, which is nonstop unless you're fast asleep, requires capturing the listener's attention and then communicating quickly. Most people aren't used to listening for more than a few minutes at a time.

I won't argue whether that's good or bad, but when we hear of sermons that once lasted three hours and piano concerts that started with nine mazurkas as an introduction, we understand the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 20, 2008 at 9:50pm — No Comments

That Boat We're All In (R)

As I read posts and talk with writers, I find striking similarities in the need for outside affirmation. We all write because we're driven to write, but there is beyond that a step that we cannot take by ourselves. In order to be comfortable with calling ourselves writers, we have to be accepted by Others, be it agents, editors, or readers. Just writing isn't enough, at least not for long.

When I started writing, it was for myself. I wanted to tell a story, not an important one, but… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 19, 2008 at 11:39pm — No Comments

Mistakes Writers Make-Even the Big Ones (R)

I've become more aware of how writers write as I hone my own writing, and one thing I notice that we (yes, me too) do is put too much of ourselves into a work. As a teacher, I want to teach, so I have to guard against putting lessons on Scottish history into the middle of an otherwise swiftly-moving story.

Now that I've admitted my own fault, I notice that it happens to other writers as well, some much more famous than I. Sometimes it's just the irresistible urge to put in a factoid… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 18, 2008 at 9:44pm — 5 Comments

Nonfiction to Supplement Fiction

I'm working on a magazine article, which is a bit different from my usual writing. I've done a couple of them, for a couple of reasons. One is it's a challenge to do something that doesn't allow me to veer from the truth, and the other is that it gets my name in places where people will see it. This article is called "Macbeth & MACBETH: Where Is Truth?"

I chose in MACBETH'S NIECE to ignore reality and go with Shakespeare's depiction of Macbeth, but I felt a little guilty about… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 17, 2008 at 9:55pm — No Comments

Writers We Admire

I just joined goodreads, a forum for readers that is pretty cool. As such sites do, they asked me to list some authors who inspire me. That list is too long to cover, but I thought I'd blog today on the reasons for the inspiration that some authors have provided me.

I always start with Shakespeare, not because I'm trying to be cool, but because over thirty years in education I found that no one answers all the demands of writing any better than he did. To get inside a character's… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 14, 2008 at 9:33pm — No Comments


Yesterday I wrote about characters, and today I promised dialogue help. I've counseled before in this blog about reading aloud, and I still think it's the best way to tell if your dialogue is good. You should "hear" your characters speaking in your mind, and each voice should be unique and compelling.

A character has to have a pattern, sound, and syntax that rings true to his or her social station. Shakespeare is a great example (but when is he not?). Look at the difference in… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 13, 2008 at 10:36pm — 2 Comments

Creating Tension

Tension may be something you don't need in your life, but it is necessary to a good story. At the con I attended recently, an agent on one of the panels said, "Nobody wants to read about nice people." It may be a sad commentary on life, but it's true. Tension in a story pulls us forward. We must want to know how that tension will resolve. And it's certain that characters who spend time together will experience and react to their differences.

I've been working on that with my WIP. I… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 12, 2008 at 9:03pm — No Comments

Some Practical Practices

Okay, it should have been obvious, but it wasn't, and I'm passing it along so others won't suffer. I recently signed at an outdoor event in Florida. I took along a box containing a dozen books and a bunch of items I would need to set up a table and decorate it attractively. Here's what I found out.

One book got ink along the outside edges from rolling up against a pen.

One book got tape residue on the cover from being stuffed hurriedly into the box when it started to… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 11, 2008 at 8:23pm — 2 Comments

One More Metaphor, and I'll Stop

Got home from Florida yesterday, so the trip metaphors should fade away now. But this last one was inspired by unpacking.

I began with a bag for each event on the trip: one for the RenFestival, one for library talks, one for bookstore signings, etc. Then there was a bag for overnight stops, just motel needs and the next day's clothes, and other bags for "maybe" stuff. It was very neat and workable, just like a plot when it's still in your head.

Reality is that you need… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 10, 2008 at 10:54pm — No Comments

Getting Your Story Straight

I don't know how it works for others, but I write in layers. In the initial draft, the main plotline consumes my attention: what happened and how did it happen, and of course, who did it and how is he/she caught. In a mystery, that's the Big Idea.

What follows that is a lot of rereading and editing. As I reread, I see how my characters think and appear to others (No, I don't always know that ahead of time). Once I "see" their personalities, I can fine tune their thoughts and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 7, 2008 at 9:21pm — No Comments

One Day More

Today is the last "event" of my Florida trip. At about 3:00pm, I'll be officially headed home, and that's a good thing. It's good to get away, better to get home, in my experience.

Some observations:

Many people are impressed at meeting writers. I'm always shy about announcing my work, but people are very nice, even deferential.

Hotels vary widely. The one I'm in at present is expensive, but there are serious gaps in service. The one I was in before this was so eager to get… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 6, 2008 at 10:22pm — No Comments


It's taken them a while to find me, but the Gremlins have arrived. I'm pretty sure Lola the Garmin Voice led me far astray in getting to Sanibel Island yesterday. If that's the only way to get there, I can't believe the thousands of bumper-to-bumper cars I saw there made it. Then, in the middle of a call yesterday my cell phone went dead. No amount of coaxing seems likely to resuscitate it. And when I checked into a hotel (at a scary price) they actually require that I hook my computer to the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 5, 2008 at 10:56pm — No Comments

Fans -- Or, Heck, Even Fan

I have a signing today in an area where I am unknown, alien, and transitory. If anyone shows up it will be because the bookstore owner did an excellent job of presenting me, and for her sake, I hope it works. A friend who had a similar event on Saturday got two people: a mom and her adolescent kid. I'm keeping a rein on my expectations.

At times like these it's easy to feel like a pebble in the ocean, but then something wonderful happens. By email, I got a message from a fan. Just… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on March 4, 2008 at 9:48pm — No Comments

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