Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Let's share what we're thankful for today. I almost went with safety pins, but decided on these instead:

I'm so blessed to have three amazing children. Each unique and wonderful in his or  her own way. When I was younger and envisioned my life and a family, I never dreamed it would be this good.

How about you?  What's bringing you joy today?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Must Read: The Writer's Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman

I met Carolyn Kaufman online through the forum several years ago. We hit it off right away and became critique partners, which has been a delight and blessing to me. Carolyn is a kick-ass writer with a brilliant mind.

When she said she was writing a non-fiction for writers about psychology, I was a little bit cynical because I assumed it would be one of those dry technical manuals full of psychobabble that I avoid like past-dated milk. When she sent the first chapter to me, I was amazed. It wasn’t boring or dry at all. It was fantastic. Beta reading chapters from this book was of far greater benefit to me than it was to Carolyn. I couldn’t wait for the next chapter to come.

I am so pleased she agreed to let me be a stop on her book release blog tour for THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior.

On this stop on her blog tour, Carolyn shares her advice for writers who aspire to publish. Be sure to check out the information on her book at the bottom of this post.

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What I’ve Learned: Advice for Writers Who Aspire to Publish--Carolyn Kaufman

1. Treat everyone well at every step along the publishing path.

That includes your crit buddies, agents and their assistants, editors, publicists, and anyone else you encounter along the way. How well you write is important, but I genuinely believe professionalism is nearly as important. If you’re arrogant, entitled, mean, petty, or refuse to be a team player, nobody is going to want to work with you. There’s a reason most authors’ Acknowledgements page is lengthy – they didn’t reach the finish line (of publication) alone.

2. Be open to honest feedback.

Realize that criticism of your idea or writing isn’t criticism of you. Also realize that you are not objective about your work, and that the only way you’re going to see those flaws that are hidden from you is to rely on other people. The only way you’re going to grow as a writer is to really listen and consider what others have to say – especially when their feedback isn’t all glowing. (In fact, if all you’re getting is glowing feedback, you’re not getting honest feedback. Everybody’s work has rough edges. And if you’re not getting honest feedback, it’s because you’ve somehow sent the message that you don’t want or can’t handle honest feedback. So take a step back and decide how important publication is to you. If you’re determined to get there, you need to find a way to hear and utilize constructive criticism.)

3. Control your image: be conscientious about what you share online.

This is a good general rule, but it’s doubly important when you’re trying to convince people – agents, editors, potential readers – that you’re a professional. Thanks to books (and films) like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we all know that Hunter S. Thompson was heavily into drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the same image might not do much for you if you’re writing YA or MG or even a nice nonfiction book on scrapbooking. Even if you are writing edgy material, you don’t want unsavory personal choices to overshadow your work, a la Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears.

4. Get excited about promoting your work – or at least be willing and able.

These days, more likely than not you will be handling some if not all of your book’s publicity. This usually begins even before you find representation, in that agents and editors are looking for writers (especially nonfiction writers) with a platform.

What’s a platform? Name recognition, a following, and/or proven expertise or celebrity. I have my doctorate in clinical psychology, which was certainly a boon in my quest to publish a writing/psychology book, but it wasn’t enough. I spent a couple of years building name recognition and a following through outlets like networking with other writers (my most important resource was the forum), websites ( and blogs (, by working with the media (I worked with a PR firm to reach journalists, and yes, that cost money), and by writing articles for syndication (which was a bigger deal a few years ago than it is now). And once my book was sold, I didn’t stop. I am verbal about letting everyone know I like to work with the media, and that I have a book coming out, which has led to additional opportunities, including television, invitations to speak, and even a regular blog at

5. Always be ready to promote your upcoming book, even early on.

You never know who’s going to be that crucial contact, so make or have business cards made, carry them with you everywhere you go, and don’t be shy about whipping one out and passing it over to anyone who might be interested. I’ve given business cards (which have my book cover and website address printed on the back) to everyone from news reporters to admired authors who were signing a book for me to people who heard me mention the book in passing and expressed interest, right down to people who were trying to figure out which business card stock to buy in Staples.

6. Get started on another book.

If your first idea doesn’t sell, move on to another one. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology wasn’t the first book idea I had – it was just the first one strong enough to grow into a true book. I’m extremely methodical about preparing a proposal – I spend months researching and writing, and I want to know exactly what’s going into each and every chapter – so I’m pretty committed to finding the book a home once I reach that stage. Other writers find it fairly easy to write up their ideas and send them out without doing that kind of preliminary work.

When you’re working so hard on one book – writing it, editing it, promoting it – it feels like your entire world. The truth is, though, that if you want to be more than a one-hit wonder, you will eventually need to write another book. Try to get that next proposal ready before everyone forgets who you are!

About The Book

References to psychological issues appear in thousands of books, television shows, and films, yet most of these portrayals are inaccurate in some way. (For example, a recent study claims that only 5 in 400 film portrayals of psychiatric treatment are on track.) The Writer's Guide to Psychology helps novelists and screenwriters, as well as producers and journalists, use psychology accurately in their stories. From how shrinks think to what electroshock therapy really looks like and why psychopaths kill, the book uses myth-busting illustrations from fiction and includes sidebars on things like character development, controversial and cutting-edge treatments, and common pitfalls to avoid.

What Other Writers Are Saying

Advance praise for The Writer’s Guide to Psychology is from great psychological thriller writers like Jonathan Kellerman and Jilliane Hoffman, and early reviews from the New York Journal of Books (who did not just one but two ), are extremely positive.

"This book should be in every writer’s professional library and every clinician’s too—whether writers or not," writes the first reviewer. "Succinct and clear, never becoming too esoteric or theoretical for the layperson to understand, [Kaufman's] skill in the writing craft is clear as she entertains as well as informs the reader with her snappy and conversational style." (

Adds the second reviewer, "Her depth of demonstrated knowledge in the field of psychology/psychiatry is extraordinary, particularly the methodology used to piece together the various components of the puzzle that makes this book a fascinating read... The style and information presented capture the reader from the first few pages of the book, leaving us wishing for more books by this captivating author." (

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Other stops on Carolyn’s blog tour can be found at these links: Murder By 4, Elana Johnson Blogspot, Christine Fonseca, Author.

If you do not see a way to read comments or leave one of your own at the bottom of this post, please click here: COMMENT

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, The Reality of It All

I grew up focused on the fine arts, and like acting and vocal music, writing is one of those professions where loads of people with no training or background in the field dream of making it big.

At least once a week, someone approaches me about his or her book (usually one that is only in the planning stages), and asks me how to get it published. That question is unanswerable. Every path is different. It involves talent, luck, hard work (lots and lots of hard work), a thick skin, and almost inhuman perseverance.

Invariably, those rare authors who made it big on the first try under freakish circumstances are the ones cited by these folks who tell me they are taking up the mantle of author so they can quit their day jobs. I've bitten holes in my tongue from my efforts to not just lay it out there, citing the low odds and real numbers (like the average book advance is $4000). But hey, those huge NYT debuts really do happen, right?  So I continue biting my tongue.

Most writers have probably seen this video by now, but what makes it so amusing for me, is that right after I showed it to my husband, someone engaged me (while hubby was there) in a conversation that was pretty much word-for-word from this script (minus the "I wish I could kill you and get away with it," and "I have a gun in my car"), so dear hubby now has holes in his tongue too.  ;)

"Why didn't you just tell the ugly truth about how hard it is?" My husband asked after the person I mentioned earlier walked away. 

Because I can't. It's not my job to crush dreams that might become reality. Hey, that person might draw the winning publishing lotto ticket with his/her yet unwritten novel in a genre he/she "doesn't really read." 

The reality is this: no two paths are the same. No two books are the same. The odds of failure are great, but that is true of most things worth doing.

We hear about those huge advances, overnight successes, preempts, and auctions. What we don't hear much of is the other side. The side that is far more common than the instant sales. The side most writers aren't brave enough to write about.

Hats off to Natalie Whipple, who had the guts to put her story out there this week in two posts:

"What Happens When it IS You"

"What I've Learned from Being on Submission"

When people ask me how to get published or ask me to introduce them to my agent, I will continue to be positive, because had I known the odds when I set out on this journey, I'm pretty sure I'd have never queried that first novel.

But I still would have written it.

Were I never to sell another book, I'd still write.

The business is a rough one full of heartbreak, but it also brings with it satisfaction and joy. I will continue looking for that joy whatever my publishing future holds.

Hang in there, Natalie Whipple. I'll be shouting hooray louder than anyone when you sell.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pass the Syrup!

When I sold my book to Penguin, the editor made it clear there would be significant revisions. I got my first revision letter, which had several requested changes and dug right in. No biggy, I thought.

Then the second letter came. 5,000-words of doom. I'll be posting about this as time goes by, but I wanted to explain the silly title of my shiny new blog before I roll up my sleeves for real.

Within the 5,000 words of doom, there was a jewel. At the time, I didn't know my editor had a great sense of humor, so on first read, I took it seriously. Now, it is serious in its message, and she was absolutely right, but the delivery is priceless. Hilarious, actually, if you look at in in the context of the terrifying, life and manuscript-altering atom bomb in which it was nestled.

On page 4 of the letter, under Act 3, Plot point 10, wonder editor writes:
Plot Point 10 – The New Reality
·       Is there a way to have a scene where she gets peace about her dad?  (NEW?)
·       Beach scene (EXISTING, but tweak ending)
Basically, the 60% of your story is working pretty well—there are a few new scenes and a few things that need to be retooled, but the momentum is moving in the right direction and things are building on one another.  The beginning, though, seems to be a bit muddled.  You need a clear direction, and after a few chapters of it, Lenzi’s waffling has to stop.  She needs to make a decision and then go with it (around plot point five).  And even when she is waffling at the beginning, it needs to be purposeful, deliberate waffling that has its own little waffling arc.  Once you have Lenzi making decisions, I think your plot is going to move itself forward in a much clearer way.
Look at that!  A quirky little gem right in the middle of the Manifesto of Angst.  My favorite part:
And even when she is waffling at the beginning, it needs to be purposeful, deliberate waffling that has its own little waffling arc. 
Tee hee!  So, now you know the story behind my silly blog name.  Pass the syrup, please! 

To leave a comment, please click here: COMMENT

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Move is in Order

Welcome to my new blog home!

Due to my chronic state of technotardation, I have decided to keep it simple and only use Blogger for my blogging endeavors.

I am a co-author for the blog and it is Blogger based, so I'm juggling two formats all the time because my personal blog is on Wordpress.

I will be phasing out my Wordpress blog for personal stuff (but anticipate using it for book publicity because it matches my website) and will be throwing ideas around here instead.

Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend and will make this move with me. It's very nice here, yes?