Tag Archives: Porter Anderson

My Favorite Fiction-Writing Blogs

Bloggers must spend time not only writing posts, but they must also read other fiction-writing blogs, Long before I created this blog in 2011, I followed other writing blogs sites. My introduction to fiction writing blog sites came when Writer’s Digest published its best 101 blog sites. I faithfully clicked on each and every site. I found most sites useful, but some have become “go to” sites for me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Writer Unboxed. Started as a collaboration between budding novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, Writer Unboxed features a diverse number of writers who cover craft of fiction, inspiration, publishing, social media, and a host of other topics. It is by far my favorite blog site, in part because it is a warm and welcoming community of writers. Writer Unboxed held its first “Un-Conference” in November of 2014 and its Facebook group boasts 5,000 writers.

Rachelle Gardner. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner consistently offers solid, common-sense advice on publishing, working with agents, writing, and editing topics. Her site features a handy archive that allows readers to find posts by subject matter.

The Creative Penn. A leading expeert in self-publishing and marketing, Joanna Penn offers tremendous entrepreneurial advice to writers of all experience levels. She also makes available resources such as podcasts and her Author 2.0 Blueprint. She writes thrillers under the name JF Penn.

Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris is an author, editor, presenter, and writing coach. Author of a dozen novels as a ghost writer, Morris published two novels under her own name, My Memories of a Future Life, and Lifeform Three. She also wrote the excellent craft of fiction book, Nail Your Novel. Her blog features helpful tips on a variety of craft of fiction topics.

Helping Authors Become Writers. KM Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction. She is also the author of bestselling craft books, Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. I personally recommend her craft of fiction books. Her blog offers useful advice on a variety of writing topics.

Porter Anderson. One of the foremost professional critics covering the publishing world, Porter Anderson blogs at several sites. His insights on books and publishing are worth reading on a regular basis. His work with The FutureBook in London focuses on developing an international community around publishing in the digital age. He blogs at Thought Catalog and on http://www.thebookseller.com as well as on Writer Unboxed.

JaneFriedman. The former publisher of Writer’s Digest, professor and author, Jane Friedman is as knowledgeable a source as you will find on writing and publishing. Check out her blog and also her archive of posts on marketing, publishing, e-books, digital media, writing advice and much more.

Nathan Bransford. Former literary agent and author Nathan Bransford offers excellent, clear-eyed advice on writing, publishing, agents, marketing, and more. Check out his Publishing Essential links on his blog page, as well as Popular Posts.

The Book Designer. Joel Friedlander’s blog focuses on “practical advice to help build better books.” Friedlander’s experience in book design, advertising, and graphic design position him well to offer sound guidance to writers. This is a “must read” site for authors. Check out his Start Here links on his blog.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are other excellent blogs that I have not mentioned here, but if you follow these sites, you won’t be disappointed.

What are your favorite blog sites?


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Everybody Is a Critic–And That’s the Problem

When I think about how I react to criticism of my writing, an image comes to my mind. It’s a fish I saw once at an aquarium—the porcupine fish, or puffer fish.

Porcupine fish are armed with key survival equipment. They have the ability to inflate their bodies by swallowing water or air, thus reducing the range of predators to those with bigger mouths. They also possess sharp spines, which radiate outward when the fish is inflated.

I wish my defense mechanisms were as effective. The truth is that criticism hurts. There’s no way around it. And it hurts emotionally. Our writing is personal. We invest our emotions in what we write. So when a critic trashes a book by leaving a one-star review, accompanied by vitriolic words strewn across cyberspace for the world to see, the pain is palpable. I’ve heard stories of authors who were so shaken by a bad review that they couldn’t write for months. We take criticism to heart because all good fiction writing is personal.

But there are two types of criticism. There is well-intentioned, honest, and specific criticism. The critic is knowledgeable about literature and renders an informed opinion of the story’s shortcomings and backs it up with specific examples and constructive suggestions for how the piece can be improved. Writers should welcome and encourage such criticism.

Then there is the other type of criticism—mean-spirited, vague, venomous, and hurtful. This type of criticism is usually penned by anonymous individuals. I can only speculate as to their motives, but my theory is that many of these critics have low self-esteem and leaving a bad review makes them feel superior to the defenseless writer.

During the recent Writer Unboxed Un-Conference, a highly respected professional critic led a session entitled, “Criticism. When to Listen. What to Hear.” Porter Anderson, a veteran professional critic who is a Fellow in the National Critics Institute, made a distinction between consumer reviews and literary criticism. Writers should ignore emotional testimonials (“I loved it,” “I threw the book against the wall”). Anderson has no use for ratings, either (thumbs up/thumbs down, four out of five stars).

Likening consumer reviews to a mixed cocktail, Anderson said they tend to consist of:

–Three parts instruction (read it or don’t read it),

–Three parts dumbing down (how many stars), and

–Three parts emotion (“This book stinks!”)

“Most reviews benefit readers and customers,” he said. “What authors want are reviews that tell them something about their work.”

He advised writers to:

–Scour reviews for specificity,

–Ignore emotional reactions (positive or negative),

–Duck “buy” or “Don’t buy” messages,

–Pay as little attention as possible to the symbolic ratings (how many stars), and

–Watch for consistent reviewers, readers who turn up to review more than one of your books.

Reviews should offer feedback that is specific, identifiable, and actionable, he said.

And, lastly, he cautioned authors to never engage the critic. “Bullying by reviewers and of reviewers is not new,” he said. “It’s been going on for years…Anger and hostility shouldn’t be happening. As an author, don’t engage the bully critic.”

Several hours after Anderson’s session on criticism, something extraordinary happened. There was a planned session after dinner in which authors in attendance were invited to read aloud the worst review they had received. I expected to be staring at an empty podium. On the contrary, author after author strode to the podium to gleefully read poorly written, grammatically incorrect, and often incoherent reviews of their work. I couldn’t imagine doing that. It took unbelievable courage for writers to stand up there and read these reviews. There was an element of pettiness to nearly every bad review. I couldn’t help but think that these reviews reflected more on the reviewer than the author being reviewed.


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Why Twitter is Your Best Friend

One of the key lessons I learned during my first year as a blogger was that Twitter was my best friend. It wasn’t always that way. I resisted Twitter for a long time. I fell for the common perception that Twitter was all about telling the world what you ate for lunch, what you did five minutes ago, and what you were planning to do later in the day. There may be some truth to that, but Twitter offers so much more to those who understand and capitalize on its value.

Twitter is all about sharing and learning and learning and sharing. That’s the culture of Twitter. For writers, the real value lies in who you choose to follow. When you follow people like Porter Anderson, Mike Shatzkin, and Jane Friedman, you look through a window into the publishing world. If you approach Twitter in the right frame of mind (share and play nice), you will also discover people will follow you. Some might be looking to do business with you, but I’ve gained followers who simply stopped by my blog and liked what they read.

So how can writers get the most out of Twitter?

  • Share, share, share. Did I say that enough? And don’t just share your own content. Share links to other useful articles.
  • Follow thought leaders in your industry or profession. It is amazing what you will learn.
  • Retweet. If somebody sends a link to a useful article, retweet it. They will appreciate it.
  • Follow people for fun. I follow people as diverse as Robinson Cano, Spike Lee, and Thom Yorke.
  • Set up your blog so it automatically feeds into Twitter and Facebook.
  • Follow your favorite writer blogs and you will receive them on Twitter each day.

I use other social media tools, but I always find myself coming back to Twitter. There’s no end to the interesting things I learn each day on Twitter.

What do you think of Twitter? What’s your favorite social media tool?


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