April Meeting Information
No meeting in April due to stay-at-home order.
With the COVID-19 threat still alive and very real, everyone who isn’t essential is staying home and trying to avoid any contact with the virus. At this time, Scheels’ meeting room is closed indefinitely, so we are not meeting until it is safe for people to get together again. This is a challenging time, but we hope everyone comes through it okay.
In the meantime, use this time to start a new project, read, or learn more about your craft. In this issue of our newsletter, we have a few suggestions. Stay well, fellow writers.
From the HSW President
Now that we all have time to write and edit, here’s an article I did a year and a half ago. If you check my blog, you can read more articles I’ve written about editing and the writing process.
Here’s the direct link: https://mattbayan.wixsite.com/mysite-1
Wash your hands and stay untouchable!
How To Describe Without Describing
As an editor, one of my pet peeves is the writer who thinks he needs to put every last detail on paper. It might be a place or a person. It might be a room. Whatever it is, the description becomes exhausting. “I want them to see it,” the writer usually says.
I’ve red-penned entire pages written to describe a room; two or three pages to describe how a character looks and what she is wearing.
You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That doesn’t mean that when you describe a picture – some visual element – that you need to use a thousand words. Hemingway said, “We’re not interior decorators.” Good advice. Now, how do we use it?
Let’s look at this from the point of view of the reader. With a description, you have the choice of involving the reader in building an image in the mind or of spoon-feeding that image. Which do you think is more effective in holding the reader’s attention?
For example, have you ever listened to a radio drama? Or listened to a talk-show? Don’t you imagine what the people in the show look like? Does it matter that you “see” a person as middle-aged and heavy while someone else builds a mental image of a thirty-something who is tall and thin?
The point here is that the radio show involves the listener in building a mental image. That exercise gets the listener invested in the show. Without realizing it, the listener is filling in the blanks regarding what characters look like, where they are, and what they are doing.
Conversely, if the show spent minutes describing what each of the show’s participants looked like or their setting, the listener would get bored. Spoon-feeding details does not create a participative experience.
Same with readers.
The simple solution is to focus on a very specific aspect of a setting, a thing, or a character and let the reader build the rest in his or her mind.
Example of over-describing: The knife had a stout wooden handle of what looked like oak or maybe maple and was about five inches long. From one end a short, curved blade protruded about three inches. It looked sharp. The blade was rusted, but the edge shone like it had just been drawn across a whetstone. The whole blade was sharply curved like an eagle’s talon. It was the kind of knife you could slip into a pocket.
Example of specific focusing: The knife had a wicked little blade, curved like an eagle’s talon; not a stabbing weapon, but rather designed to open you up.
In the shortened example, the reader is presented more with the function of the knife, rather than its physical attributes. Maybe the reader views it as a linoleum knife, or the kind of knife used to shuck oysters. Whatever the reader visualizes is fine. The reader is building an image, participating in the process.
When faced with the task of describing, less information is better than a data-dump. Be specific and let the reader help with the lifting rather than turning the reader into a mental couch-potato.
Camp NaNo is starting on April 1st.
By Rene Averett
For those who don’t know, this is another writing initiative of NaNoWriMo. Two Camp NaNos happen each year; one in April and one in July. While the November main write-in encourages 50,000 words in the month, the April and July ones allow the writers to set their own goals for the month. You can choose to write a 10,000-word short story, a 30,000-word novella, a script, or to edit a novel.
To join in, you can go to Nanowrimo.org and sign up, create your project, then select a camp if you’d like to be part of a group working on projects. In Reno, our Reno Nano Facebook group is already geared up and ready to go. We have a Camp Reno group on NaNoWriMo and will be doing regular sprints on Facebook. I am one of the co-municipal liaisons for our area. To join the Facebook group, go to:
Why join the group? Mainly for incentive and company, albeit distant, while writing. The sprints encourage you to write two or three times a day for an hour each time with others. It gives you a burst of adrenaline when you know you’re trying to get as many words as possible in an hour against other writers. No matter how many you get during the month, you’re a winner. It’s also a boost if you’re in edit mode. That’s what I plan to be doing for the month. My November NaNo novel has loitered long enough, and it’s time for it to be whipped into shape. Virus be damned, this novel needs to get done.
So, if you need incentive, inspiration, and others to spur you along, join us for the April Camp Nano.
(This a reprint of a previously published article. A reminder now and then is good, plus we have several new members. – Editor)
The Golden Ticket
By Linda Enos
As authors, we know writing is hard. Real hard. Brutal even. It’s beyond tough to get the story points right, create compelling characters and avoid the dreaded “mushy middle.” But as the saying goes, if writing was easy, everybody would do it.
Still, it’s in our nature as humans to try to find ways to turn what’s difficult into something less so. In short, we’re looking for a Golden Ticket – a way to make the arduous task of writing easy. That’s why we buy books on characterizations and attend workshops on plotting. But news flash…such a golden ticket doesn’t exist. Why? Because, as with so many things in writing, an author’s process is subjective.
That’s right. Subjective. The concept we all love to hate. A writing method which works for Author A, probably won’t work for Author B. Or for you. Does this mean you should stop trying to better your craft? Absolutely not!! It just means you can’t take everything that anyone says as gospel. You need to glean the tidbits which work for you because – and here’s the kicker –you have a writing process too. One unique to you, and you alone. So read those books and attend those workshops on writing, but remember…there’s no golden ticket. Just a lot of hard work.
HSW Short Story Writing Competition
HSW is sponsoring another short story writing competition this year. We are delayed in getting this going and hope to have the details for the next newsletter.
At the moment, we are seeking any of you who would like to be on the contest committee. This does not bar you from entering the contest. So, if you would like to be part of the planning, please send an email to RPAverett@gmail.com
The committee will be determining the rules, goals, fees, and seeking judges for it. None of them will be part of the actual judging. We hope to have qualified folks outside our group doing the honors.
For now, our meetings will be online via email or possibly a chat program.
Your Mailing List
by Rene Averett
For any writer, a mailing list is considered an essential part of your marketing tools. If you’re self-published, it can be the most important part of it. But how do you set up and grow your list?
The main things you need to create a successful list are:
1) A way to gather and store the email addresses of potential readers.
2) A way to be able to safely send emails to everyone on your list.
3) A way to attract readers to sign up or opt-in to your emails.
1) Beginning with a way to gather and store the information, you need a mailing list marketing provider, such as MailChimp, MailerLite, and Hubspot, to name a few. You can find more with a brief description at:
Consider this: If you are using a Word Press site for your author website, you can include a sign-up form that will store your subscribers on the site. When you want to send a notification of a new book or a press release, you can do it through Word Press. No need for a separate mailing program.
The advantage of a mailing program versus Word Press’s mailing list? You can target your email. If you write in more than one genre or with pen names, you can set up your opt-in to include a tick box indicating genre or pen name preferences. When you send out a new release for that particular genre, you can select only those people on your list who are interested.
2) Safely sending emails. When you ask people to subscribe, you’re also taking responsibility for their email addresses. If you don’t have a mailer program that sends to individual addresses rather than a group of emails, then you aren’t keeping that email secure.
So, you could store your addresses in Excel or another database, but unless you want to send an individual email to each person, you would be sending group emails that display the address to everyone on the list. This is time-consuming when it can be automated. Both MailChimp and MailerLite are free to use up to 1,000 subscribers, then the cost is reasonably low.
3) A way to attract readers is called a magnet. The most frequently used attractions are free stories, books, or information pieces of writing offered to readers when they come to your web site. You’ll have a short teaser with a flashy image, then an opt-in box to your mailing list. To get the free item, the reader signs up, and an auto-responder sends the reader the link to the free item. This may require a paid subscription at some mailing services to set up a free response page.
You can direct readers to your site for a free download by including the information in a blog post or by adding it at the end of your book. This is particularly effective if you have a short story that expands on your novel or a character with more information that isn’t in the book.
A good way to handle the free downloads is to use Prolific Works or Book Funnel to direct your readers to get the download of your magnet in the correct format for their e-readers. Prolific Works costs $20 a month for a single user while Book Funnel has a $10 a month plan for new users for an individual user. If you use more than one pen name, the cost goes up. Both of these services cater to the readers with Prolific Works and offer free books or partial books in promotions. That can be another whole article, so if you want to know more, I’ll cover that another time.
Words of warning: If you use the free options other than as a download for a magnet, advance reader copies, or reviews, and you have the book enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, it violates Amazon’s terms of service. So don’t make the book publicly available on either PW of BF if you’re in KU.
The HSW Newsletter is seeking craft or marketing articles from anyone in the group who has knowledge to share. If you would like to write an article for us, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com with a short description of the subject. Articles should not be more than 800 words.