marfisk: (Default)
2011-01-24 10:23 am

Thinking About Author Branding

Sorry I haven't been cross-posting as often as I should, but since this blog's focus was specifically on writing, I thought you might want to check out my latest post on my main blog:

I was commenting on a friend’s blog post about author branding (linked below), and it got me thinking. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you all and see what you think as readers and writers.


Since the Internet opened ways for authors to have more control of, and responsibility for, marketing their books, writers at all stages have been told to develop a brand, something that would be tied to their books in readers’ minds.


On the surface, this makes a lot of sense because you want your name or titles to come to mind whenever a particular concept is mentioned. This is what advertising attempts to do with other types of products, which has proven successful. Marketing journals often talk about how what matters is name recognition, which is why good and bad attention serves a purpose. When someone is scanning the shelves, they’re more likely to pick up the book with an author they have heard of, even if they don’t remember where or when that connection was made. Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-12-06 10:03 am
Entry tags:

Because Looks Matter

Okay, I received a spam with the above title, but a moment before I confirmed it to be spam, it got me thinking.


I hear people complaining about the hoops we have to jump through to submit our manuscripts, or talking about this or that exception who managed to ignore all the requirements and still get an agent, publisher, or sale.


To them, I say, “Looks matter.”


When you’re at the grocery store and there are twenty different zucchinis in the stack, do you just randomly grab one, or do you take the one that looks healthy? Maybe you’re not the type to poke and prod your way through the whole pile, but it’s rare that someone doesn’t at least check for tears or soft spots. No one wants to waste their money on something rotten.

Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-10-18 12:08 pm

When the Time Is Right

Or A Day in the Life of a Writing Parent


Most novel writers have a few stories that were started long ago and never finished. Some of these stories continue to poke and may eventually see the light of day, but it’s usually with a sense of “when the time is right.”

Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-10-15 11:18 am
Entry tags:

Choosing Your Setting Versus Setting Your Scene

On one of my writing listservs, the question came up about alternate locations to avoid clichés. There are several writing books that
mention no kitchen, no coffee shops, no bars, no whatever.


The point of those mentions is not so much the setting as that these places tend to have low potential for conflict. The characters are most often sitting down and musing over things with their friends. Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-10-05 03:50 pm
Entry tags:

How Writers Think

I drive my son and another student to school in the morning, a commute which brings us through rush hour traffic complicated by a lot of road construction with varied speed limits. This morning, as I was accelerating out of a 55 MPH zone up to the now 65 MPH speed limit, a silver sedan cut sharply over from the right.


Now the driving behavior was obvious. She hadn’t expected me to accelerate, and there was a truck right in front of her going even slower, so she wanted to move into the faster lane ahead of me (still slow moving in her mind) rather than behind. No problem, though she cut it a little close.

(more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2010-10-04 11:05 pm

How Writers Think

I drive my son and another student to school in the morning, a commute which brings us through rush hour traffic complicated by a lot of road construction with varied speed limits. This morning, as I was accelerating out of a 55 MPH zone up to the now 65 MPH speed limit, a silver sedan cut sharply over from the right.


Now the driving behavior was obvious. She hadn’t expected me to accelerate, and there was a truck right in front of her going even slower, so she wanted to move into the faster lane ahead of me (still slow moving in her mind) rather than behind. No problem, though she cut it a little close.

Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-08-09 11:36 am

Custom Dictionaries: Why and How to

It's been a while since I put something up on my main blog that was distinctly writing related (besides the interesting links every Friday), so I thought I'd crosspost this one here in case some of you don't know about my main, or are finding this one anew.

The spell check really is your friend. No, your word processor doesn’t know how to spell everything, and it may suggest some bizarre alternatives, but again, it’s pointing out possible problems. Now here’s the trick. When you’re writing an otherworld piece, a fantasy, science fiction, or other variation, you can run into a lot of words that are not in the default business dictionary. However, all is not lost. Word (and most word processors) offers the option of custom dictionaries, text files that contain words you choose to put in there. This serves two purposes: you only have to verify the spelling once by adding it to the dictionary instead of using ignore. Second, when you’re done with your spell check, you can open the text file and compare the entries to make sure the main character isn’t Kitath in most instances but Kiteth whenever followed by an “‘s” for example. In my most recent copyedit, a minor character’s name changed spelling (an “i” to a “y”) in the last thirty pages. Without the custom dictionary, I might have missed the change since that character had been off-screen for some time before those thirty pages. It also provides a simple way of collecting the “unique” words if you choose to have a glossary for your work. All you need then is to define the terms.


To create a custom dictionary in Word 2003 (works with modifications for later versions of Word, and concepts should be similar for other word processors).

Read the rest of this entry »

marfisk: (Default)
2010-04-14 07:35 am
Entry tags:

The Curse of Starting Too Soon

First of all, the good news. I managed 16,500 on Dry Boiled, give or take a few words, for the March Madness (MM) challenge at Forward Motion. I’ve found challenges are a good way to jump start a novel and get me rolling so I can keep up a reasonable pace all the way to the end…not that the 6k a day I’d been planning for MM was at all reasonable. The just over 2k average is much more so, but in general I go for 1k a day average when I’m not in a challenge.


The story is an interesting one for me to write, mainly because of the point of view. A flip comment from a friend when I was talking about how this voice is a new one for me (neither serious nor sweet) led me to start out in first person, and even more than that, first person present tense, something I’ve never done in a novel before. So far, this is working out quite well. My main character has a strong personality that she throws around the page with a delightful effect, at least I think so. Which is to say, I am enjoying the novel quite a bit as it comes together…or at last I was until an epiphany last night.

(more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2010-04-12 07:35 am
Entry tags:

My Livescribe Pulse Pen

Several people have been asking me about my pulse pen and what I thought about it. Only thing is that I hadn’t had the chance to take it out on a road trip yet. Well, now I have and here are the results. This is what the pen captured. You can see my lousy handwriting in its full glory…and I was even sort of trying to write well, okay, trying when I remembered :p. Then I ran it through the OCR software. It certainly isn’t perfect, but the reason for the picture is so you can see what it had to work with. My older son wrote a sentence to test it in his cursive and it translated perfectly. Maybe I should improve my handwriting? Oh, and the pen also recorded the audio for the whole presentation in a usable sound file despite sitting in the left-hand, second to last row of a curved lecture hall.


Anyway, on to the show! (more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2010-03-22 05:45 pm
Entry tags:

Secretive POV Characters (Redux)

I recently RT’d the following message because it is a concern I’ve had before: @matociquala, @stillsostrange: Withholding obvious information from the reader/viewer/player is not actually narrative tension. The resulting Facebook comments reminded me that (back in 2007) I posted a blog post on this very topic. Since it’s no less relevant now, I’m reposting for my current readers.



I always thought there was nothing more frustrating than an “I’ll know it when I see it” answer, but I’ve found something…it’s when that’s the answer you give yourself. I recently did some critting (multiple authors and both novels and short stories) where I raised an issue with POV and the author hiding secrets. I thought it was simple: if you’re in someone’s POV, you know what he/she/it knows. Finding out later that they knew something important they didn’t reveal is just frustrating to me because it feels like author intrusion. If I’m holding a big secret, you better bet it crosses my mind a thousand times a day in a myriad of ways. I might not talk about it, I might not even mention it, but how I react and what I think will be governed at least in part by the thing that’s bugging or consuming me. (more…)
marfisk: (Default)
2010-01-31 10:47 am
Entry tags:

Writer's Flood

Writer's Flood


You hear a lot about writer’s block, but I’ve never heard anyone mention what I’m suffering from.


This is not the first time I’ve had this problem, but it still took a bit to realize what is happening, and I’m determined to come up with a better solution this time.


So what it writer’s flood you ask?

(more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2010-01-16 05:21 pm
Entry tags:

Appreciate a Dragon Day

Dragons have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father told us bedtime stories about an unusual dragon he met while boating in Lake Michigan. My parents were Peter, Paul, and Mary fans, so Puff the Magic Dragon was a common song on our many road trips. Even Elliot made an impression as he tried to rescue Pete from slavery in the Disney movie, Pete’s Dragon.

Since those days, I’ve been introduced to mechanical dragons in real life, the thought that dinosaur bones could have begun the belief in dragons in the first place, wise dragons, horrible dragons, dragons that were brought to life through myth and magic and those crafted by genetic science. I can’t imagine a world without dragons in it, whether you hold to the Smaug image of a monstrous creature that hoards treasure and eats people, the helpmates of Pern, or the wise creatures who try to steer humanity in the proper direction only to fail time after time. (more…)
marfisk: (Default)
2010-01-03 10:20 am
Entry tags:

Finally...A NaNo Update

I know it’s been a while since I did a writing post on my blog or LJ, but I’ve been having some difficulties there related to health issues that made me less inclined to keep up with things. However, that didn’t stop me from progressing, so here I am, finally updating NaNo.


I went back and read my posts (as sparse as they were on the topic) and realized that any reasonable person would assume the life block surged up and swallowed me again. That is far from the case. (more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2009-12-04 06:44 pm
Entry tags:

Friday's Interesting Links

Notice: I have been getting up-to-date market news from Ralan.com for years, and so know that the information is kept up and accurate. That’s where I point people first. With the proliferation of searchable databases, apparently Ralan.com is slipping out of the public eye despite reliability being key. Ralan has asked, if you benefit from his efforts, that you tell Writer’s Digest, using the information below:


* Send an e-mail to writersdig (at) fwpubs (dot) com with the Subject line: “101 Websites”

* Write a short note asking them to check out the site for possible inclusion

* Specify the name and URL: Ralan’s SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza, http://www.ralan.com

* Mention why you think the site should be included


What I Am Reading


I’m in the middle of enjoying Crystal Healer by S.L. Viehl, but I wanted to, oddly, mention something I haven’t read yet. I got my first issue of Weird Tales in the mail the other day (I have been an on-and-off subscriber), and I left it in a prominent place, pointing it out to both my sons without a lot of expectation. They’re avid readers, but not particularly interested in short fiction. However, the youngest (15) picked it up on his own, and made a point of telling everyone how much he enjoyed the story he read (which of course I can’t remember the title of). Still, it’s a worthwhile recommendation because both of them have good taste when it comes to speculative fiction. (more…)

marfisk: (Default)
2009-11-22 01:02 pm
Entry tags:

Stages of Readers: A Manifesto

Last night I went to see a high school performance of a play that I have now seen three times, A Servant of Two Masters. This is not a major play like Cats, and I hadn't sought it out, but coincidence or what have you led me to seeing this same play multiple times. The first time was at a community theater in Alameda, California, enough years ago that I didn't remember having seen it until the events in the play the second time were too familiar to be dismissed. The second performance was last year on a school trip (you bet I volunteered ;) ) to Ashland, Oregon to see a portion of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that is ongoing there. And the third, as I mentioned, was a local high school. (read more on my new blog)


Also don't forget to check out the Interesting Links posts since you last paid a visit to Tales to Tide You Over.
marfisk: (Default)
2009-11-12 10:59 pm
Entry tags:

Quick NaNo Update and moved my main blog

My posts have become infrequent enough that I decided to move both blogs into a single one. Then, of course, I forgot to post anything about it here.

My pre-NaNo pondering can be found here:
http://margaretfisk.mmfcf.com/blog/?p=719

The obstacles I face in my writing time (humor):
http://margaretfisk.mmfcf.com/blog/?p=731

And an update with a snippet.
http://margaretfisk.mmfcf.com/blog/?p=740

If you haven't already, do check the Friday's Interesting Links posts as well as they include a large number of links relevant to writers of all stages depending on what I tripped over and thought would be of interest.
marfisk: (Default)
2009-10-22 11:12 pm

The Muse Online Conference 2009

The Muse Online Conference 2009
I've mentioned this conference on and off over the last couple of years, but this may be my first official conference report. Though I'm not one to hang about in my robe and bunny slippers, Muse Online is unique in that it is 100% online with the interactions occurring round the clock in a combination of forums and chats. This year, a new aspect was added: pitching to both agents and editors. The feedback so far is overwhelmingly positive and it looks like more agents and publishers will participate next year.

So enough with the generals. Here is my Muse Online experience:

I have been offering a writing techniques class since 2007, my second year, so the whole Muse Online experience began for me back in June when I put my class materials together. I was not alone in the focus though, because the year-round, related listserv was buzzing with people trying to confirm their memberships and eager to see what this year's conference would offer.

I reviewed the folks offering pitch slots and identified one agent who accepted works like my novel. From that moment on, there was all the normal panic associated with an in-person pitch, only slightly lessened by the realization that this would be typing not speech, so I'd be unlikely to dissolve into stutters or lose my voice. And if my hands shook, I could always edit before I pushed send.

I did put together a pitch, edited it again and again, got crits, edited again, and finally polished the pitch before I submitted it to Lea, who evaluated all pitches to make sure the work was a good match, a pre-screening to ensure this aspect a greater chance at success. I also attended two pre-conference workshops on in-person/online pitches to prepare.

A week before the conference, the presenters were allowed into the forum and I put up my welcome thread in the board reserved for my Non-Verbal Communications workshop. I already had a list of names and emails for both my forum class and the related chat that would have been intimidating if I didn't know how many people, myself included, tended to over schedule. Since my workshops involve a feedback component, the number of active members can affect my participation in the rest of the conference, but at the same time, the more the merrier, because overall, Muse Online attendees tend to be supportive and encouraging of their fellows' efforts.

Late Sunday, I posted the introduction to my class and went to bed.

When the alarm rang on Monday morning, I wandered in, armed with my conference agenda which I had already beefed up with direct links to the specific forums, and notes about whether I'd downloaded the related documentation and read it. I first went to my workshop and responded to the enterprising folks for whom the sun had risen long ago, and then to each of the workshops I had signed up for.

My first mistake. I had carefully converted the Eastern times into Pacific and recorded when the chats would be (the only time-dependent aspects), but had confused 12pm with 12am in my rush to get ready. So I missed my first chat, luckily one that was a recap of the pre-conference pitch preparations.

Despite that rocky start, though, I managed to keep up with my own class and read the material in the ones I'd signed up for. The very first day I had to mock up a website in a class on marketing yourself online and put together a scene with specific dialogue requirements on top of the reading. I also had the opportunity to ask questions based on the various readings, one I took where necessary.

I managed to keep up with the readings and some of the assignments for the first two days, but on my pitch day, I could focus on nothing else as much as I tried. I answered questions and gave feedback in my class by sheer force of will, but the rest, I thought, could wait a day.

The pitch itself went not at all as planned. My first shake occurred when the agent said, "Hello." A simple thing, but I had step by step directions that said hop in the room and paste your pitch because time is short. I stalled for a moment, but since there had been some confusion about rooms and the moderators were clearing out stray people, the delay before I said, "Hello" back went largely unnoticed. Still, remember that panic?

Then I pasted the first line of my pitch and paused to give the agent a moment to read, as counseled in the staging area where the moderators gave a blow by blow account of the pitches to help prepare those waiting. I was second, so I hadn't seen many of the tips, but I incorporated what I could.

I was preparing to paste the second line when she asked about genre. That's in the last line of my pitch, but easy enough to bring up. Then she follows with another question: length, and another question. Suddenly, I have lost the security blanket of my carefully polished pitch and am winging it.

Here's the thing though. She couldn't see my shaking hands, and I learned that rather than drone on about the ten thousand details and complexities that made up my novel, I was surprisingly coherent and clear. Ultimately, she told me to send in a partial, so despite losing my footing, I'd managed to do just what I'd intended, intrigue her about the story.

So, my first experience with an "in-person" pitch? It was positive, fun in a scary kind of way, and a confidence builder simply because I didn't lose focus or run on.

Not too surprising, I rode that high for the rest of the day while I tried to catch up with my classes.

Then came the limits of an online conference. The next day was swallowed whole by a programming issue on a site I support. Eight hours later, exhausted, I struggled to catch up with my classes and failed. However, I did manage a trial run for my chat with my two marvelous moderators who helped me transform a wild and crazy concept into a functional chat game.

Friday morning, I ran my non-verbal charades game in chat (with the help of three moderators, actually). Everyone had fun and learned things all at once. It was so popular that when our time expired, the game continued back in the forum and has been borrowed by a couple attendees for their own writing groups.

The rest of Friday and Saturday, I rallied and managed to catch up on the reading if not the assignments in all but two classes, as well as keeping up in mine, and on Sunday I finished off everything but one class that was largely lecture so I can still read and benefit from it.

This conference has all the rush, adrenaline, learning, and overwhelm of the in-person conferences I've been to with a firm writing focus and none of the hotel and commute costs. I recommend it to everyone, only do try your best to set the week aside, because you won't have time for much else.

My conference take-aways were many, but here are some of the top ones:

1) The biggie was that I learned I can pitch Shadows of the Sun effectively.
2) I learned some online promotion techniques that should serve me well, and already I've improved my website with this page: http://margaretfisk.mmfcf.com/forreaders-chc.php
3) I learned how to improve my bio. I haven't implemented the change yet on my website, but it's in the works.
4) I now know just where Demon Rules falls in the MG/YA market and how to put that in my query letter.
5) And I picked up a handful of writing techniques that will be fun to try.

That's not to mention the chance to chat with writers I wouldn't normally have encountered, the joy that comes in seeing people grasp concepts not because it's easy but because they've worked their tails off, and the creative energy that comes over me despite the post-convention drain, an energy that has sparked progress on two separate editing projects as well as a handful of deadlines.

Some people say you get what you pay for. If you truly believe that, then let me recommend you plunk down a donation at the end of next year's conference, because whatever you pay, this one is worth it.
marfisk: (Default)
2009-10-02 05:33 pm

Poor neglected writing blog

Hi everyone. Wow, I didn't realize I'd neglected this blog so much. Trouble is that my focus has been largely on critting and non-fiction writing, so I didn't have much to say on the fiction writing world.

So, a quick catch-up:

1) I've redone my website so it now is a pure writing focus. (I mentioned this regarding the image at the top, but I've done a bit of polishing.)

2) I sold a short story that's available online so if you've been curious about reading something of mine, just go to the "For Readers" page of my website. Also, while you're there, check the "Latest News" page for additional happenings.

3) I should have been doing a crossover post all along, but I've started a new tradition on my Stray Thoughts blog called Friday's Interesting Links. Since these links have a heavy writing/publishing focus, they should be of interest to anyone here who does not also follow that blog. Check out this week's here: http://marfisk.blogspot.com/2009/10/fridays-interesting-links.html

4) The outlines:

--The Princess in the Tower is the closest to done of all three outlines, but it still needs some work.

--The Farmer Boy is the farthest from being done as I only did the examples necessary for my class and haven't gone back.

--Let Me Tell You All About Myself is probably about halfway done. The concepts are all there, but the threads to pull it all together need fleshing.

5) NaNo - yes, I'm planning to do NaNo this year, the first planned event since my second year doing it back in 2004 (note I've done NaNo every year regardless :p). However, I have yet to settle on a project, so things are still up in the air.

6) This month I'm going to both Muse Online and World Fantasy. Hope to see/meet in person some of you there.

7) And I've finally started working on a fiction project again...Selkie. I'm in the process of re-outlining based on the feedback, after which I plan to retype the whole thing because so many of the edits are a word here, a phrase there, that will change the meaning significantly. I find retyping allows me to integrate them better.

I think that's about it :). Any questions?
marfisk: (Default)
2009-08-29 11:41 pm
Entry tags:

Enter the Three-Ring Circus

I, Margaret the Magnificent, will now perform the amazing, death-defying act of writing three novel outlines simultaneously before your very eyes. If my attention slips, if I falter, my brains will begin to leak from my ears, but I scoff in the face of danger and dive into the challenge without the least tremble. See how steady my hands are as they pound against the keyboard, how my eyes crinkle with concentration, how my teeth grit as I attempt this task? Watch carefully as the scenes bloom under your very eyes...

Okay, not really, but that's how it feels at times. I am doing something I have never done before.

I've written, edited, and prepared three different novels, I've even actively written two WIPs at the same time, but I have never tried to wrap my mind around three different worlds simultaneously.

You nod your heads sagely and say that this explains the sudden silence on my writing blog. You might even wonder if you can see a hint of red behind these black letters as blood vessels pop in my forehead, but I swear I have a logical explanation for my latest insanity.

If you recall, I mentioned I was teaching a class on outlining. And you might also recall I mentioned a sudden inspiration out of nowhere.

These seemingly unrelated events are actually behind this situation I now balance precariously.

I've learned from the other classes I have taught that it helps students if I perform the same tasks they do, live and with possible hiccups. So I had planned to work on an idea for the class long before that little inspiration dropped in my lap.

Then, when I started on the fairytale example (to use a fairytale is part of the class), I started seeing double, one a true telling and one a modern retelling.

Since my students were welcome to do the same, a true telling or an adaptation, I went ahead and built both as examples. Not only that, but I specifically chose a fairytale that would challenge me to work on one aspect of my fiction writing I find weak--writing humor.

Then, round about week three of the class, the outline marathon begins on Forward Motion in preparation for the 10-day Labor of Love writing challenge I usually participate in but was not planning to this year. I couldn't very well leap ahead of the class and outline my new stories because it would encourage my students to do the same. So instead, I wrote only what I needed for the next lesson (5 scenes each) and pulled out that inspiration to get another 20 scenes.

And there I found myself outlining three stories. It happened almost without my conscious knowledge, or at least without my acceptance.

If you're curious as to what happens next, join the club. For the time being, I'm working on each of the outlines separately and with different levels of focus. During the outline marathon, I focused mainly on the inspired idea because of where we were in the class. Since then, I've worked on both of the class outlines (as well as starters for at least three additional outlines as extra examples in the class) and the modern-day retelling is winning at the moment, though the inspiration, Let Me Tell You All About Myself, is still the one with the most scenes with 20. The Princess in the Tower has sixteen, and The Laughing Farmer Boy stands at only 6.

Ideally, all three will be fleshed out in time for the big decision as to which gets written for NaNo. If, as I suspect, The Laughing Farmer Boy turns into a young YA or middle grade, it won't be long enough for NaNo. The Princess in the Tower is sure to be YA so between 50k and 60k most likely, while Let Me Tell You is a complicated mature novel that would best fit in women's fiction if it didn't focus on a male MC. What do you want to bet I do both the fairytale inspired ones? Sigh.
marfisk: (Default)
2009-07-26 11:33 pm
Entry tags:

From Ideas to Outline

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you will have seen me take all sorts of ideas through their paces. If you're curious as to how I get rolling, I'm teaching a workshop on Forward Motion through August and into September that takes you through my process one step at a time. This is outlining for organic thinkers, though the methodology works on both inspired and crafted works (as not all my ideas come dressed for the party).

Anyway, if you are interested, here's the specifics for the six-week workshop.

From Ideas to Outline will introduce a series of techniques to convert an idea into a workable, non-constricting outline. Come prepared to work hard as you will be asked to perform each technique yourself so that you can judge whether it works for you or not.
Begins Monday, August Third. Facilitator: Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Note that theses workshops are free but do require that you become a Forward Motion member (which is also free). Once you are logged in, click the below link to go straight to the right section (note the Learning Center 2009 link is available from the header on any forum page):

http://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=465

Hope to see some of you there.