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Writing Research: Settings

by Weston Kincade on 07/26/14

They say you should write what you know, but if you’ve been writing for any descent period of time and want to explore other avenues in your settings, the internet is great for researching them.

 

Research resources for story settings:

There are many ways to research story settings without going there yourself. The plants, wildlife, places of interest, and even reviews people have left can often be helpful, setting the scene for your imagination and the story.

Sites I recommend:

Tour guide sites such as Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, and Private Guides. These sites not only give you realistic pictures and list the great historic or prominent sights available in particular locations, but also real travelers’ reviews and opinions of what they saw. In addition, Private Guides also provides maps of each location and the surrounding areas.

For an assortment of pictures of specific places, it is often easiest to simply do a keyword search using the images tab of Google Images. This will give you an assortment to choose from and make describing your story’s setting easier. However, you may need to verify some pictures’ authenticity and accuracy.

There are many more, but I’ve found that these suffice for me. Happy writing!

 

For more on how to research for writing, try Writing Research: Dialects.

Writing Research: Dialects

by Weston Kincade on 07/26/14

DialectsThey say you should write what you know, but if you’ve been writing for any descent period of time you may want to explore other avenues in your dialogue. Dialects are different. It’s much harder to find voices and dialects to listen to repeatedly aside from rewinding movie clips and listening to them over and over. Even then they may not be accurate depictions. There are better ways and different recommended approaches to writing dialogue using dialects.

 

Too much can overwhelm readers:

As Brian Klem describes very well in this post on dialect writing in Writer’s Digest, crafting dialect is an art form very few people can do well. Too much will make your dialogue awkward, clumsy, and difficult to read.

 

Two methods of writing dialect:

Method 1

As Klem describes, the best way to incorporate dialect is mainly through word choice and structure. In doing this, the writer uses known writing techniques to change a few words rather than writing entire sentences phonetically, (meaning the way they sound).  Balance is key!

For instance:

“I ain’t going to do that,” Sam said. “You’s got to be kiddin’.”

This line has about the most augmented words I would include in such close proximity. It is still easily legible, but authentic enough to make the distinction between Sam’s voice and whoever he is speaking with clear. It also gives the reader a functional voice that sounds real. The word choice and changes are specifically geared toward how people from that area sound. I chose the improper contraction of “You has” because it is commonly used in many rural Southern states in the US, the word “ain’t” (which is in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary), and clipped the last letter of “kidding” because it is also common, both in usage and technique.

 

Method 2

An alternative to Method 1 uses descriptive words added to the dialogue tags instead of literary devices that change or augment the words. However, word choice is still a major consideration in constructing the line of dialogue.

For instance:

“I’m not going to do that,” Sam said, his words clipped. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

While sounding less authentic, this is clear and straightforward, just giving the reader the needed information without messing with the words.

However before you do either of these, you first have to know how authentic dialects sound.

 

Researching dialects:

To recreate authentic dialect using proper word choice, you have to know how people sound. If you’ve grown up in New Orleans, the Bronx, Texas, or the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, you should be familiar with how those dialects sound. However, no matter where you’re from, if you are trying to recreate a dialect from somewhere in the world you’ve never been, the task can be daunting. You may need to listen to people from places as far away as Spain, Germany, or Africa in order to recreate authentic word choice and potential augmentation. (Remember, a little word clipping or change goes a long way. Don’t overdo it.) Additionally, you need to hear them speaking English, not their native language.

To accomplish this there is one site in particular I recommend, IDEA (International Dialects of English Archive). The site contains recordings of people from all over the world reading passages and then describing a bit about themselves and their families in their own words. This is great information, and you can replay sections as many times as you’d like.

The rest is up to you. Happy writing!

 

For more on how to research for writing, try Writing Research: Setting.

Getting Book Reviews Without Being a Used Car Salesman

by Weston Kincade on 07/22/14

Earlier today Steve Kuhn, an editing client who recently became a fellow author under the Books of the Dead Press umbrella with his Dext of the Dead series, asked me to divulge the secrets of getting good, honest reviews on my books. Kuhn's books are great, a zombie series along the lines of The Walking Dead. So it's been wonderful seeing the response of readers thus far.

Reviews are something all writers want. They act like word of mouth, friends telling friends and strangers about books they'd recommend. My answer was both simple and complex: book bloggers. This isn't the only way, nor are book bloggers the only people who do reviews, but they are a key method to getting the word out about your book and provide honest reviews for readers to rely on.

But it occurred to me that others have asked this question before. In fact, I've answered it for many editing clients at WAKE Editing. New authors are always trying to get the lay of the land so to speak. To provide information for past and future clients and any new author searching for answers, I've organized the answer I gave Steve below on how best (in my opinion) to contact book bloggers and reviewers. However, these steps aren't really secrets. They are pieces of the puzzle I've picked up throughout my writing and editing career. 


Step 1: Research

The first step is researching bloggers that read and review your genre of book. I've provided a list here of sites that list various blogs to research:

http://www.blogmetrics.org/books

http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/

http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/

http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/

http://badassbookreviews.com/

http://bastardbooks.blogspot.com/

http://bookbloggerlist.com/

http://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/

http://quietfurybooks.com/bestsellerboundrecommends/get-reviewed/ (This one gives a list of avid readers who aren't necessarily book bloggers but do read and review books)

Steve recommended one more location he's had good luck with, Paranormal and Horror Lovers on Goodreads.


Step 2: Query Letters

Once you've found a good blog to contact, then it's time to write up a quick query that will hook readers and tell them what the book's about.

10 things to remember and include in a query...

1. Personalization

Address the query to the book blogger or reviewer personally and say something about their blog. (A compliment goes a long way.) Don't just address it as "Dear Book Blogger."

2. Make it Easy

You want to make the process as easy for the reviewer and prospective readers as possible. Provide links to find the book/s so they can put them on their website when the review comes out.

3. Review Distribution

Ask the book blogger to leave reviews in the places you want like Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc. (They won't always be able to, but most will try.)

4. Sales Pitch

Yes, as an author you have to do a little selling. You have to sell yourself and the book. Include one positive quote or summary from your publisher or a famous author etc... that was said about your book--and no more than that. Don't overdo the sales pitch. Let the book and cover speak for themselves.

For Steve, I personally knew of something James Roy Daley, CEO of Books of the Dead Press, said about the Dext of the Dead series upon its release. It was a great line that could easily be summarized for this purpose, which should provide a good example for others: "The story takes place in an apocalyptic nightmare, and is filled with an amazing cast of original characters that will stay with you long after you've stopped reading." This is a bit long, but summarizing it shouldn't be a problem.

I personally include a different quote from Daley about A Life of Death in my own queries. He told me upon reading book 1 that it reminded him of when he first read Harry Potter, that it felt like an incredibly comfortable shirt he never wanted to take off. This was something personal, a feeling he had experienced, and one I knew readers could connect with.

Both of these quotes work great for promoting books, so find yours. If you've worked at getting your book out there, you'll have some to choose from. However, only use one. The last thing you want is for book bloggers to think they're being sold on the newest Ford Fiesta to hit the lot.

5. Research Your Audience

Make sure you're book blogger is accepting submissions, takes your genre, and accepts ebook submissions if you don't have print copies to send or can't afford to. This can become a big factor when it comes to sending books to reviewers and bloggers overseas. Bloggers normally address this on the submission page of their site.

6. Review Requests

Don't ask for a positive review. Book bloggers are avid readers and will leave honest reviews. That's what you want to ask for. Honestly, if your book has all 5-star reviews with no mention of things they didn't like, something's going to smell a little fishy to readers anyway. (However, rarely will book bloggers leave anything below 3 stars. Instead they either won't review it or may contact you about the potential review.)

7. Don't Mass Email!

Let me say that again... Don't Mass Email! Always send queries out individually. Yes it takes a lot more time, but mass emails often get caught in spam filters and when they get through are seen as less personal. You want to develop a relationship with bloggers. They are there to help you. They do this for free and get nothing but free ebooks out of the deal. They are invaluable.

8. Don't Assume

You know what they say about assuming--it makes an ass of u and me. So don't assume a reviewer or book blogger will want the book right away. Yes, I'm sure your book is good if you've gone through everything you should be doing (hiring a professional editor, acquiring beta readers, revising), but don't attach your ebook to the email. Often this assumption will push reviewers away. A little back and forth between book reviewers and authors is a good thing. It builds your relationship. Mention that you'd be happy to supply a digital/print copy if they are interested and ask what format the reviewer would like.

9. Relationship Building

Lastly, make your query friendly. Book bloggers are people, just like you and me.

10. A Final Note... 

Don't send follow-up emails to see if they received your initial email. This will do nothing but tick people off, assuming they get it. If they didn't get your first email, they aren't likely to get the follow-up.


In Summation:

There are probably a few questions you have, so here are answers to some I've heard before.

What kind of responses should I expect?

Most book bloggers don't respond to submissions if they aren't interested, but a few will. Some authors get about a 5% positive response rate. Then maybe two-thirds of those will actually leave reviews. If you have a good pitch that isn't too long and will grab the reader in the query, you could see positive response rates of up to 20%. Really, it varies. I'd count on about a 10% positive response. So, if you want to get 30 reviews, you'll need to query around 350 book bloggers.

How long will it take for the reviews to come in?

Days to weeks to months. Sometimes they'll be booked until the end of the year. They'll normally ask if it's okay to add it that far out. My advice, say yes! An honest review, no matter how far away from the present, is one more than you had.

Can I do interviews or other book spotlights?

Yes! Many times book bloggers say on their website if this is something they're interested in. Mention that you'd be open to an interview or something similar in the query if you want. That leaves the door open.


Thanks for visiting. I hope these tidbits help. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or respond below. Additionally, if you know of other great links to lists of book bloggers, feel free to respond with them. Any that will help authors are welcome.

To get in touch with Steve Kuhn, you'll find him on Facebook here or at Diary of a Runner. Or you can read his newly released series Dext of the Dead, available through most ebook retailers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, and Strange Circumstances

Effective Use of Dialogue Tags

by Weston Kincade on 03/02/14

Dialogue tags

A common problem for writers is the tendency to overuse dialogue tags. There are three things important to keep in mind when constructing good fiction dialogue:

 

Repetitive Dialogue Tags

1. Don’t use the same dialogue tags in close proximity. This creates repetitive word use that should be avoided. The way to do this is most simply to avoid using dialogue tags like “he said” and “she asked” very often.  As an example, consider this:

“How often do I have to do this?” Jameson asked.

Trevor said, “As often as it takes.”

“But for how long?” Jameson asked.

“Look,” Trevor said, “I don’t know how long this will last. It’s for the good of everyone involved, though.”

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll kill her.”

As you can see from this example, “asked” and “said” are repeated so often that this will inevitably begin to grate on readers’ nerves.

 

A Solution that’s really a Problem

2. While some writers avoid this repetition by simply using synonyms, even this attempt to correct the first problem can often become redundant. In addition, using synonyms or too many dialogue tags is indicative of a deeper problem. Consider this:

“How often do I have to do this?” Jameson asked.

Trevor replied, “As often as it takes.”

“But for how long?” Jameson questioned.

“Look,” Trevor explained, “I don’t know how long this will last. It’s for the good of everyone involved, though.”

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll kill her.”

You may or may not have determined this from reading the example, but the problem I’m referring to is telling rather than showing.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

3. Most teachers preach “show, don’t tell,” and that is precisely the problem mentioned in point 2.  Using too many dialogue tags means the author is telling rather than showing. For example, consider the last example compared with this one:

Jameson shook his head and dug his feet in. “How often do I have to do this?”

Trevor was forced to halt and spun, never taking his hand from his friend’s arm.  “As often as it takes.”

“But for how long?”

“Look,” Trevor explained, “I don’t know how long this will last. It’s for the good of everyone involved, though.”

“Okay,” Jameson said, rolling his shoulders and standing up straighter. “I’ll kill her.”

In this example, you can see I’ve eliminated some of the dialogue tags and replaced them with actions in the same paragraph. This way, the actions help show the reader what is happening instead of just telling who says what.

 

I hope these editing recommendations help in your future writing ventures.

Varying Your Dialogue Tags

by Weston Kincade on 03/02/14

Dialogue tags

Dialogue tags are essential in writing fiction novels. However, a common problem many authors encounter deals with structure and varying the format. This is necessary because redundancy is obvious to readers and will undoubtedly bring about negative feedback. The following dialogue tag structures are normal in their own right. However, too much of any one thing can become problematic.

 

What’s a dialogue tag?

A dialogue tag is the continuation of a sentence including dialogue. It indicates who said what.

 

Most Common Dialogue Tag Structure

Dialogue tags most commonly follow the dialogue, like this:

“Janet, don’t do this,” Frank said.

 

Least Common Dialogue Tag Structure

Dialogue tags that tend to be used far less often come before the dialogue.

Frank said, “Janet, don’t do this.”

 

Recommended Dialogue Tag Structure for Longer Passages

To help break up longer dialogue passages, writers often insert dialogue tags into paragraphs of dialogue, like this:

“Last week, last night, and now today,” Gloria demanded. “How many times do I have to tell you? Get a pizza! I’m not your servant.”

 

To avoid redundancy, remember to diversify your dialogue tags by making use of each of these different structures. I hope these editing recommendations help in your future writing ventures.


To find out what editing and writing services are available to help your manuscript, visit WAKE Editing's Services page. The goal of WAKE Editing is for your book or writing project to reach its full potential and improve your writing in the process.
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