So Long, Farewell

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Uncategorized |

Friends, Ashlynn and I have had a wonderful time under the B&BD masthead–but alas, the time has come to say goodbye. As our careers have developed, our focuses have become much more individual, and as such, we are no longer taking joint clients as Bear and Black Dog Editing.

We will each still take on projects as our schedules permit, so please feel free to reach out to us via our own websites or Twitter.

-C

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Keep a Character Morgue

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Uncategorized |

What is a character morgue?

morgue_001_by_sideshow_dom83-d3gagtb

Not this. Photo by Sideshow-Dom83 (DeviantArt)

A character morgue is a journal or folder (digital or not) that has profiles of all your characters, from your protagonists to your secondary, tertiary, etc. I like to include demographic info (name, date of birth, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, body type) and then a brief biography and personality description. I’ll also usually include a photo or sketch that represents that character’s appearance to me.

My character morgue is important to me because I like to write within universes, even if I’m not necessarily writing a series. I’ve got several paranormal horror books plotted; I asked myself, why not put them in the same universe? And why not use the same cast of characters?

I’m not talking about having the same main character. As an example, my paranormal novella I See the Web is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Erin. The forthcoming sequel A Single Thread is about her older brother Morgan. The third book in this trio will involve Morgan’s best friend Nate.

Another example. One of the secondary characters in A Single Thread is a girl named Lucinda. The novel-length manuscript I’m currently drafting is about her.

Not only does building a character morgue help you flesh out your character development, it provides you with a field for experimentation and possibility. What happens when these two characters are thrown together? How would this character look as a villain? When this character gets in a bind, is there another character out there who has the skill set to help them?

Rarely is any character you develop a one-and-done deal. They almost always have more to offer; so keep them close.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Developing a Writing Routine: Guest Post by Alison Doherty

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Today we welcome Alison Doherty! Alison is a YA writer and book blogger. We’ve been a fan of her blog, Hardcovers and Heroines, for a long time, so we’re really excited to have her with us. You can follow Alison on Twitter at @AlisonCDoherty. Be sure to look her up on the NaNoWriMo website too! 

In less than a week I will be embarking on my first NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know about this insane challenge, it’s a group of people on the Internet attempting to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. On the heels of completing my first novel (which took almost two years to get the first draft written) I’m excited to see if the challenge will work well for me as it has for authors I admire like Betsy Cornwell, Sarah Gruen, and Erin Morgenstern.

In honor of this upcoming event, I decided to set down some thoughts for the readers of Bear & Black Dog Editing about the pros and cons of developing a writing routine. Everyone and their mother seems to think having a set routine is important for the completion of this challenge, but I think there are two sides to the issue.

Lets start with the pros. I think more people, especially established authors, will argue that developing a fixed writing routine is essential for learning to write. “Write every day” is perhaps the most common writing advice around. There is definitely some truth behind this dogma. Practice makes almost everything easier. The more you write the more it feels like just another part of your day to type out one or two thousand words (instead of remaining a Sisyphean task). Just like athletes work out everyday and wear the same socks when they’re on a winning streak, routines can instantly get writers in the mindset to create and help us avoid the temptation to give into distraction and procrastination.

Having a fixed writing routine guarantees consistent output of writing. Gertrude Stein once admitted to only writing 30 minutes a day, but by doing that every day created many important books. If you develop a writing routine you will be in great company. Especially if you write in the morning, as great writers from Hemingway to Alice Munro to Maya Angelou suggest. Although Nabokov and Kerouac wrote by night, so late-night writers will be in good company as well.

At this point in my post you might be thinking a writing routine is all sunshine and roses, but I have found a few authors who argue vehemently against set daily writing practices. Here are some of the cons of having a writing routine; or, to put a positive spin on the phrase, here are some of the positives of not adhering to a strict routine.

When you miss a day on your writing routine, as you invariably will, you feel awful about yourself. This makes you more likely to keep missing days and focus on the routine instead of the overall goal of writing a novel. Without a set routine, you are more likely to get back into writing without beating yourself up. You also have more flexibility within your day and week. If something comes up in the morning, you can write in the afternoon. If you know you are having a busy weekend, you can rearrange your week to accommodate more writing time.

Without a set routine, you are less shaken up when you are on the move. Whether it is going on a book tour or visiting your family around the holidays there will be days when you cannot wake up at the same time and sit at your desk with your coffee mug beside you. Being able to write anywhere and at any time make these disruptions in your life less disruptive of your writing. Truman Capote claimed he could only write in bed, but Ray Bradbury could write anywhere. Who do you think got more writing done?

Additionally, I believe without a writing routine there is less chance of writer’s block, because there isn’t the same pressure to constantly create. Shaking things up by writing in different ways allows you to walk away from a piece when you need space and immerse yourself in writing when it’s going well. It also might help you learn new strategies for different stages of your writing process. The routines I used while writing my novel’s first draft didn’t work at all when I was revising and creating subsequent drafts. If I had stuck with my original plan, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

For this year’s NaNoWriMo I will be doing a mix of free writing and writing to a set routine. For the first half of the month I will be traveling. I plan to try and cram as many words as possible into two long train rides and other spaces of free time in my schedule. For the second half of the month I plan to stick to a routine to work the rest of the way to 50,000 words. I know this defies popular logic about completing the challenge, but I’m excited to see which method works better for me.

Since it’s my first year and I can use all the guidance I can get, let me know in the comments: do you think it’s better to have a writing routine or not?

Also, feel free to become my NaNoWriMo buddy by searching Alison Doherty (my novel is tentatively titled Dreamers 2).  That way we can cheer each other on.

Bite-sized shares: 

Guest blogger @AlisonCDoherty discusses the pros and cons of a writing routine as @NaNoWriMo approaches: http://bearandblackdog.com/?p=380 Click to tweet!

To have a routine or not to have a routine? That’s the question in today’s guest post from @AlisonCDoherty http://bearandblackdog.com/?p=380 Click to tweet!

Do you have a writing routine, or do you go with the flow? @AlisonCDoherty takes a look at both approaches http://bearandblackdog.com/?p=380 Click to tweet!

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Five Things to Consider Before You Self-Publish: Guest Post by Jennifer Bresnick

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Today we welcome Jennifer Bresnick! Jen is the author of The Last Death of Tev Chrisini and The Spoil of Zanuth-Karun, both of which she self-published. She often blogs about the pros and cons of self-publishing, and we’re very pleased to have her share some of that insight with us. You can read more about Jen and her books on her website

 

Self-publishing is all the rage these days, with Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and a host of print-on-demand solutions competing for your attention by boasting of their cheap and brilliant design teams, overnight success stories, and ease of use.  But the popularity of self-publishing is a double-edged sword.  Sure, it’s easier than ever, and it’s gaining a certain amount of respect in the literary world.  But its popularity also means that you’re going to be competing against hundreds of thousands of other budding authors.

Getting lost in the static is more likely than selling a hundred thousand copies unless you are committed, technologically savvy, resilient, and confident that you’re bringing a great product into the world.  Here are five things you should think about before hitting the “publish” button if you want to see a return on the investment of your time and effort.

Are you willing to put in the work?

Because it’s going to take work.  Believe it or not, writing the book is the easy part.  Then you have to edit it, then edit it again because you found a couple of typos and you know there are bound to be more, then edit it a third time because now you’ve changed things and you’re not sure if cutting paragraphs or rearranging words has left weird danglers or missing sentences.

You have to figure out what type of formatting you want, figure out how to strangle Microsoft Word through the computer when it doesn’t do what you tell it to do, and make sure your page numbers, margins, spacing, and fonts work for your print version and your ebooks.   You have to choose or create a cover, guide your book through the publishing process, and then the really hard part begins!

Marketing is tough.  Finding readers, catching their attention, bludgeoning them into leaving reviews, trudging to book stores and writing conferences and your mother’s weekly book club with a boxful of copies…

Don’t let anyone tell you that self-publishing is as easy as pie.  It takes an enormous amount of effort to hit it off with just a fraction of the people who will visit your blog or click your links.  If you’re not prepared to be bloody-minded about pursuing your goals, don’t bother wasting your own time.

Can you design (or pay for) a professional-looking product?

We’ve all seen collections of pictures like these, and none of us are really that surprised that most titles that make the “Top 20 Horrible Book Covers” lists are self-published.  Creating an attractive and interesting package is hard work.  I went through four versions of the cover for The Last Death of Tev Chrisini before a professional designer put me out of my misery and created something I love.

If you can’t do it on your own, then you really need to pay for it.  Don’t forget that some of the most impactful book covers don’t use stock photos of muscle-bound men and scantily clad women.  A unique and beautiful font and a strong, evocative color palate is sometimes all you need to get eyeballs on your book and sales in your pocket.  Study your favorite mass-market books to see what works and what elements you should duplicate to make sure your presentation is as good as it can be.

Do you have your marketing plan in order?

Social media is a huge component of marking your book these days, no matter what genre you’re in.  Non-fiction authors have it a little easier, because you can target readers interested in your specific subject matter, but novelists can take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, too.

All authors can make use of non-Internet marketing strategies, as well.  Attend classes or a writer’s group.  Get tickets to that conference coming to town.  Write a press release for your town newspaper, and try to get your independent bookshops to stock a few copies on their “local author” table.  No one can love you if they don’t know you exist, and no one will know you exist unless you jump up and down and wave your arms a bit.

Is trashing traditional publishing on your agenda?

It shouldn’t be!  Big presses are a totally legitimate way to get published.  So is doing it yourself.  As self-publishing grows and sees more mainstream success, the two sides of the coin are going to have to learn how to get along.  That means respecting the work of agents, editors, and publishers who may have turned down your query.  Why get upset?  You’re moving forward with your writing career on your own terms anyway.

How well can you deal with frustration?

You’re going to encounter a lot of setbacks, a lot of dead ends, and a lot of disappointments just when you thought you were going to make it big.  One month, you won’t sell any copies.  Then ten or twenty will fly off the shelf before the drought starts over again.  PR people will ignore you.  Readers who tell you personally how much they loved your book will never get around to posting a review.  You’ll probably pour a lot more money into this than you’ll get back.

Frustrations are part of every business, especially in the early days when you’re starting from scratch.  Competition is fierce, and readers are picky.  Can you handle it?  Because if you can, the rewards can be amazing.

That first five-star review will leave you glowing for days.  Seeing your words in print is a feeling that can’t be replicated.  Getting a call from the bookstore asking for more copies will make you break out the champagne.  And let’s not forget the glorious, triumphant achievement of simply writing a book and bringing it to completion.  Self-publishing is hard, but the rewards you can reap from pushing through the pain are unparalleled.

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First Five Fridays–Monthly Giveaway

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Contests, Uncategorized |

To celebrate our launch on July 2nd, we did an hourly Twitter giveaway of a first five pages critique. We like to think of it as sort of a getting-to-know-you giveaway. We met some amazing writers and had a lot of fun doing it, so we’ve decided to do it again!

Starting Friday, September 6th, Bear and I will giveaway two first five pages critiques on the first Friday of every month. Here’s everything you need to know about how it works.

When is it? The first Friday of every month. We’ll do one drawing in the morning and one in the afternoon (US time).

Who is eligible? All our followers are eligible, unless they have previously won a first five critique.

What is the prize? Our first five pages critique is a full service edit that covers both copy errors and content questions. Read more about it on our services page.

We regret that pages must be in English. Our French n’est pas good enough to do you justice, and that’s all we’ve got.

How are winners chosen? We use a website called twitterdraw.com to randomly select from all of our followers.

What happens when I win? We’ll send a direct message with instructions to email your first five pages as a word doc to contact@bearandblackdog.com. Once you confirm that you want the critique, we’ll announce your name in a tweet, with our congratulations!

When you email your pages, you should also include the project title, stage of revision, and a short description (including genre and word count).

And if I don’t want the critique? Just let us know! We’ll draw again and offer it to the next person.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment here, email us, or tweet us. We look forward to seeing you and your pages on September 6th!

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