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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 10:17            11,450 subscribers       September 2, 2010
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THE EDITOR'S DESK: Ruminations of the Book Dinosaur, by Moira Allen 
THE INQUIRING WRITER: Length of YA Fiction, by Dawn Copeman
FEATURE: Who Are You? How to Write a Good Bio, by Devyani Borade
COLUMN: Free Stuff for Writers - Fall Freebies, by Aline Lechaye
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK: Ruminations of the Book Dinosaur

The other day I saw a book by the side of the road, and almost
braked to a screeching halt to leap out and save it.  Why?  Well...
because it was a BOOK.  I don't know what type of book it was, or
whether it was a GOOD book; my book-dragon instincts simply kicked
in and proclaimed that a book shouldn't be lying, abandoned, by the
side of the road.

Fortunately, another instinct also kicked in and reminded me that
causing a three-car pile-up just to rescue a book was probably NOT
a good idea.  But the incident caused me to ruminate a bit (book
dinosaurs ruminate; book dragons hoard) on why I, and so many
others, feel this way about books.

My sister, for example, has been bemoaning her difficulty in
getting rid of unwanted books.  She has no used bookstore in town
and they won't sell on Amazon.  I'm not sure why she's reluctant to
donate them so that they can move on to new, loving homes--but
throwing them out is simply NOT an option in our family!

I don't feel this way about, say, teacups or clothing or furniture
or even jewelry (though if I saw a diamond necklace by the side of
the road, I'd probably stop; you can buy a lot of books for the
price of a diamond!).  I realize there are those who regard books
as being in the same class as those other things--i.e., as simply
THINGS, nothing more.  But I suspect many, if not most, of the
readers of this column regard books much as I do: As treasures.

We don't treasure them for their intrinsic value--because they are
rare first editions, or bound in leather, or autographed by someone
famous.  I suspect, indeed, that the books we treasure most are
those in the worst condition--the ones with cracked spines and
dog-eared pages and loose leaves lovingly restored with tape.  You
know, the ones we keep READING, over and over again.

What we treasure, I suspect, is not so much the book as the
EXPERIENCE that book has brought us.  Whether it's a world you
visited, or people you met and couldn't forget, or ideas that
exploded like fireworks in your brain, you have only to look at the
book on your shelf to remember that experience--an experience that
means far more than the physical object.

Simply put, booklovers regard books as the VESSELS that contain
those experiences, those worlds, those beloved friends, those
ideas.  Such a view of books has been around for a very long time.
In the Middle Ages, books were bound not just with leather but with
gold and precious gems, not so much to make the book itself a thing
of value as to celebrate the value it was perceived to contain
(though, of course, the fact that only the rich could afford books
probably had something to do with it).  Manuscripts were
illuminated not simply to enhance the words, but to call attention
to how wonderful those words were thought to be.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the concept of banning
books and burning books--which are purely symbolic actions. 
Burning a book doesn't destroy the ideas it contains; you can be
pretty sure there's another copy somewhere, and someone will read
it, and those ideas will live on.  Banning a book practically
guarantees that people will read it--if only to find out why it has
been banned.  Banning and burning are symbolic acts of hatred, just
as fancy book-bindings are acts of love, directed toward the same

But if books are simply a vessel for ideas and experiences, does
the vessel itself even matter?  Here's where the dinosaur in me
starts to rumble a bit anxiously.  If only the WORDS matter, why
should BOOKS matter at all?  Today, for the first time in the
history of books, it's an easy matter to get the words without the
book.  The rise of e-books has caused plenty of pundits to declare
that the "book" as we know it will soon be obsolete--and why not? 
Why should the vessel matter, if you can drink the wine without it?

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me hasten to say that I
have nothing against e-books.  In fact, I find it a delicious irony
that e-books make it possible to rediscover long-forgotten works
that would otherwise languish in obscurity.  (Think Project
Gutenberg, just for starters.)  I'm also delighted to learn that
the new editions of two of my books will be available on Kindle.
But I'm not sure I'm delighted to hear that Amazon now sells (or
claims to sell) more Kindle editions than hardcover books (though
given the relative prices, that's hardly a surprise).  

There's no doubt that e-books offer a host of advantage, including
cost, convenience, and the fact that nobody has to cut down any
trees.  But I can't help but wonder if e-books will bring about a
change in how we view not just "books" but the CONTENTS of books. 
Put another way, will changing the vessel change how we view the
contents of the vessel?

Consider just one change that e-books bring: Disposability.  Those
of us who grew up in book-loving households consider it nearly
impossible to throw away or destroy a physical book.  But an
e-book?  When I've finished reading it, I can delete it at the
touch of a button--and I don't feel that I am "destroying" anything
of value.  This makes the contents of a book as transient as an
unwanted e-mail.

In fact, it's about the only choice I have, which brings me to
another change in how we regard books.  When I finish a book I
don't want to keep, I pass it on.  I sell it, give it to a friend
or relative, trade it in at a used bookstore, or donate it to a
worthy cause.  No matter which option I choose, that book moves on;
it LIVES on.  Every book I dispose of may pass through dozens of
other hands--just as it may have passed through dozens of hands
before it reached mine.

Not so with e-books!  E-publishers don't WANT you to read the
latest Mary Higgins Clark on Kindle and then give it to your sister
or your best friend, or donate it to Goodwill.  In fact, we're
warned of dire consequences should we attempt such an
"infringement"!  This approach to "books" and "reading" represents
a radical change from the way we have traditionally viewed books. 
It brings to an end the whole concept of sharing and giving
books--something booklovers have practiced for centuries.  Giving a
Kindle or a gift card is NOT the same as passing a long a book that
you feel certain someone else will enjoy.

It's far too soon to tell whether changing the "vessel" by which
the words of a book are delivered will change how we perceive those
words.  But every change brings consequences as well as benefits. 
If words become something we can delete at the touch of a button,
will they still hold their power?  If we can no longer share our
books, but are permitted, at best, to "recommend" them (being
legally dissuaded from doing more than perusing those words on the
privacy of our own screens), will that not make the act of reading
an act of isolation rather than community?

I suppose my greatest concern here is that the day may come when
publishers decide not to give us a choice.  It doesn't take a
rocket scientist to figure out that delivering words electronically
costs a lot less than printing them out on paper and shipping
them--and sadly, the only word with any power for a great many
publishers is "profit."  But while e-books can be a wonderful way
to bring forgotten books back to life, or deliver new books at a
fraction of the financial or environmental cost, one should also
keep in mind that "longevity" is also an issue.  We want to believe
that the Internet is here to stay, but we also know that dot.coms
can crash and burn in the blink of an eye--so what happens to all
those resurrected books if Google or Project Gutenberg vanish, or
to our Kindle editions if Amazon.com disappears?  On a more
dramatic note, if the world power grid fails, we'll be able to read
e-books only as long as our Kindle batteries last--but we'll be
able to read physical books as long as the sun remains in the sky.

And maybe that's precisely why book dinosaurs and book dragons like
me just can't bring ourselves to throw a book away...

-- Moira Allen, Editor


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In a contrast to last month's 'geeky' grammar article, this month
we have something much simpler. 

This month's question came from Helen Aveling. She wrote: "I'm a
relative new girl in terms of fiction lengths and I was wondering
the following queries:

1. In general how long is a Young Adult (11-15-ish) fiction book?
2. In general [again] how long are the chapters?

"I'm working on a realistic fantasy-with-a-twist which has run to
around 100,000 words at the end of the first draft and I know
that's a thick book for the target audience, but the way the story
has landed on the page it is very possible to break it in 3 or
maybe 4 places to make separate shorter books. That does away with
massive cuts (hopefully anyway), but as the story flowed the later
chapters got increasingly longer and longer and I can't see where
to break one existing chapter into 2 or maybe 3 shorter chapters.
To give you an idea of current chapter lengths, the longest is just
a bit over 4,000 words! Hoping you can help."

Thankfully, we can, or at least Gywn, aka, the Writing Lady, and
Cathy C Hall can. 

Cathy was quite freaked by the timing of our question. She wrote: 
"So weird! I JUST checked a word count post by
soon-to-be-working-at Penguin Colleen Lindsay the other day. 
"Here's the link to this most excellent post (from a trusted name
in the publishing biz):
"But here's the bottom line to answer your question (and I'm
deferring to Colleen's know-how):
"YA fiction, in general, 45 to 80k. (Editor's note, K stands for
1000 words.) YA paranormal or fantasy can go much higher -- up to
125k. Of course, a series can go even higher as the series
continues (think Harry Potter). But the most important take-away I
got from this publishing guru was that for a debut novelist, trying
to nab an agent or editor, staying within the usual parameters is
the best way to go. 
"And that's take-away advice I've seen at many agents' blogs. As
for chapters, I'd say write what works best for the story you need
to tell. Chapter lengths probably won't make or break your YA
novel. But word count lengths too far beyond the norm could land
the manuscript on the floor-as a doorstop. :-)"

This advice was echoed by Gwyn. "I am just beginning to publish
young adult books and middle-reader chapter books: The Writing Lady
Publishing, LLC http://www.thewritinglady.com,
"To the question of length of a young adult novel: Most young adult
novels are between 40K and 60K and about 13 to 18 chapters. Still,
if the story dictates a longer novel and the chapter breaks are
natural--I'd look for a publisher who would consider a longer word
count for a story. I mean, look at The Twilight Series by Stephenie
Meyer! Also, adults read young adult books -- we all like to
revisit that coming-of-age time in our lives. Again, consider
Stephanie Meyers and her Twilight Series. The characters are young,
but the books aren't short! Anyway, that is my take on it."

This month we have another question about self-publishing which I
hope you can help us with.  Lilig would like to know: "Where can a
self-publisher of fiction send their bound galleys for review other
than PW, Foreword, ALA, LJ,and Kirkus? And where can a
self-publisher find a distributor for a fiction title?"

If you can help Lilig, please email your replies to me. 

And we are once again running low on questions to put to the
Writing-World community.  If you have a burning question or a
problem concerning any aspect of writing that you'd like us to help
you resolve, e-mail it to me. 

E-mail your replies or questions with the subject line Inquiring
Writer to editorial"at"writing-world.com 

Until next time, 


Copyright (c) 2010 by Dawn Copeman


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Author Turns His Back On Traditional Publishing
Best Selling Author Seth Godin, who has had twelve books published
so far, has said that he will never publish in the traditional
manner again. In an interview with Mediabistro, Godin said "I've
decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12
for 12 and I'm done. I like the people, but I can't abide the long
wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get
people to go to a store they don't usually visit to buy something
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Amazon E-Book Deal with Wylie Ends
A month ago, literary agent Andrew Wylie shocked the publishing
world by talking about giving Amazon.com exclusive digital rights
to twenty of the best known books in the country. This proposal
upset the publisher of 13 of those books, Random House, so much
that the publisher threatened to boycott new works being produced
by Wylie's clients, including the authors V.S. Naipaul and Dave
Eggers. Mr. Wylie first proposed the deal with Amazon after he had
failed to negotiate appropriate terms with Random House for the
electronic rights of his authors' already published works. Random
House has now agreed to terms with Wylie and will distribute the
electronic rights to Wylie's authors' works. For more on this story
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FEATURE: Who Are You? How to Write a Good Bio  
By Devyani Borade 

"Please provide a short third-person bio along with your
submission." The familiar polite request beams up at me cheerfully
from the guidelines of an illustrious magazine. It is just what I
have been dreading.

If you are the type who breaks out in sweat when asked to introduce
yourself in front of a sea of unknown questioning faces, then you
are not alone. It is the single worst request in the world,
guaranteed to put anyone in an anxious quandary. What to reveal?
How much of it? Why do they want to know anyway? Now visualise the
number of onlookers multiplied by a few thousands, as in the
readership of a popular magazine, and suddenly knocking off a
biography begins to appear an insurmountable task as high as an
angel on Ecstasy. I like to call this condition "ego phobia," an
acute fear of knowing the self.

On a good day you would like to think you are affable, intelligent
and a magnet for the opposite sex, in addition to being God's gift
to the publishing world and the reigning world champion of
fly-swatting. Assuming that this is all really true, is it actually
relevant? Even if it is, how does one put all this across without
sounding like a braggart? And how do you do it in under the
regulation fifty words?

Puzzling over these questions, I resolve to rid myself of this
recurring apprehension once and for all and discover the formula
for building the perfect bio. After all, I am a writer. I use words
like others use oxygen. How hard can it be to string together a
couple of sentences about myself?

Biographies have been around since the very first manuscript was
scratched onto parchment. They are one of the most powerful tools
that a writer can use to make himself stand out from the crowd.
Having an eye-catching attention-grabbing bio is important for
several reasons.

Strong Bios Make Strong Impressions
Regardless of whether you are an established or a less-known
writer, chances are your story will be read by editors whom you may
be unacquainted with. Your bio makes the first impression. An
authoritative bio establishes your bona fides as a writer, gets the
editor interested and leads to profitable repeat commissions and
long-term contracts.

Free Advertising Space
Imagine a generous five-inch-by-two-inch empty canvas available to
market your writing skills to the world. Now imagine being paid for
it instead of paying for it. That is your bio, the fifty or so
extra words' leeway that you can exploit to sell yourself as a
story-teller. This is why even when magazines do not ask for a bio,
you should provide one. Even if it doesn't get published, it will
still have passed under three pairs of eyes; the more visibility,
the more opportunity.

Sticky Eyeballs
Readers tend to remember writers whose work they have enjoyed, and
look for more such works. This information can be supplied by your
bio. From then on, it is only a matter of readers spreading the
word to others.

So I puzzle over whether to reveal my day job, fight the impulse to
gloat over my latest article sale, decide to disclose a well-kept
family secret and give free rein to my artistic temperament.
Finally, after hours of staring at glowing cathode rays, running
Spell Check umpteen times and shedding vast amounts of the sparse
hair on my head, I think I've found it. The One.

"Devyani Borade is a published writer of short light-hearted
articles on topics drawn from everyday life. She likes chocolate
cookies, Calvin & Hobbes comics and trying her husband's patience.
Visit her blog Verbolatry at www.devyaniborade.blogspot.com to
enjoy the adventures of Debora, her alter ego."

Right. Let's analyse why this one satisfies all my requirements.

A Bio Should Be Short
No epics, sagas or long-winded monologues about how
sweet/smart/sexy you are, which school you studied in or why you
think Auntie Grace has made your life a living hell. There is a
reason why magazines specify a word-limit for bios. Especially
those that are strapped for space. Which most are.

A Bio Should Be True
This is not the place to show off your yarn-spinning skills, unless
they are the type that actually involve cotton and wheels. Keep the
fiction for the story.

A Bio Should Be In Third Person
Even though each author writes his own, the writer's bio acts on
behalf of the magazine and should therefore refer to the writer in
third-person. Psychology determines that praise coming from someone
else is more valued than that from the person himself. "I am a
highly accomplished writer" sounds boastful. "He is a highly
accomplished writer" sounds favourable.

A Bio Should Do What It's Supposed To Do
That is, give a concise summary of the writer's career. I briefly
accomplish this in my bio by adding the word "published"
straightaway. Alternately, I could have included a few of the
bigger names of publications that my articles have appeared in.
This reeks to me of disguised name-dropping, however. Besides, I
can never decide which names to favour and which to ignore. To me,
every published article is precious and tenderly cherished, no
matter whether it has appeared in print in the small press or from
the house of publishing giant.

Another point worth remembering is that you will probably be
sharing the limelight with at least one other writer who has never
been published before. Mention, don't impress. It will be downright
embarrassing if you claim to be the winner of the Booker Prize but
ninety percent of your readers can't understand what your story is
about. Your work should speak for itself.

A Bio Should Describe The Writer's Area Of Expertise
A bio should give an idea of what the writer's normal repertoire of
writing skills is and what genre the writer is most comfortable in.
(This is another reason why I don't like to list names of magazines
in my bio; often the name of a magazine may not indicate what
market it caters to. Family Tree Magazine is pretty obvious, Candis
isn't.) This explains why in my bio I mention "short light-hearted"
and "topics drawn from everyday life."

A Bio Should Be Personal
A bio should offer a glimpse of the person behind the writing.
Unless you are J. K. Rowling, your readers will get to know you
only through your writing. A personal touch allows a connection to
be made between the writer and the audience and allows people to
relate better. Readers like to know that the writer is just like
any one of them. You needn't give away intimate secrets. And in
these days of identity theft and data privacy issues, definitely no
vital financial or private details. Just a peek into an interesting
non-writing aspect of your life will suffice to lift the overall
tone of the bio. Thus the reference to "chocolate cookies" and
"Calvin and Hobbes comics" in mine.

A Bio Should Match The Magazine's Overall Theme And Taste
Common sense, really. You wouldn't submit a hard-core fantasy story
to a historical romance market, would you? Similarly, you shouldn't
submit an over-the-top hilarious bio to a journal that deals with
literary criticism of world cultures, or an insufferably grave bio
to a wacky teenagers' magazine. Always keep in mind the target
audience of the publication and tailor your bio accordingly. Isn't
"know your audience" a mantra that every magazine swears by?

A corollary of this is when submitting stories to the same magazine
frequently; don't keep enclosing the exact same bio each time. You
don't want your readers to learn your credentials by rote, do you?
Variety is the spice of life.

But remember to keep bios consistent. Don't claim to be a timid
paragon-of-peace-wouldn't-hurt-a-fly in one and a total Quake III
aficionado in another.

A Little Humour Helps
This is strictly my personal taste, but I find a light-hearted bio
more entertaining than a solemnly presented one, and people are
more likely to remember something they enjoy. In my particular
case, adding the phrase about "she likes... trying her husband's
patience" to my bio also serves another purpose. It gives a clue
that I am a woman ("Devyani" not being exactly the most common name
in the world) and that I am married -- yet another titbit from the
writing-unrelated facet of my life.

More Tips
It is a good idea to ensure that your name features in the first
five words at the beginning of your bio, because nothing introduces
you better than your name! 

A smart move is to tag on a website URL to more samples of your
work. If you are the author of a published book, display the direct
Amazon link where readers can buy copies of it.

Think of your bio as a condensed CV. Most principles that apply to
a typical CV also apply to a bio.

There are bios and then there are good bios. Here's a quick look at
some of the ones floating around:

Example 1
"Joe Blogg's poems have recently appeared in Eureka Street, The
Kenyon Review and The Hudson Review. His first collection,
Temporary Residence, won the James Snyder Memorial Prize and was
published in 2005. He lives in New York with his wife, three sons,
a dog, a noisy parakeet and on-going gout."

This is one of the most widely-used formats and the sheer number of
writers with this type of bio means that you are safe using it. It
satisfies on all accounts; however, in my opinion, it is a tad

Example 2
"Some of Jane Doe's fiction has appeared in Passages North, The
Wisconsin Review, and Quality Fiction Weekly, and is forthcoming in
The Raven Chronicles."

Too short. Although it does inform the reader on where similar work
by this writer can be found, it won't hold the reader's interest,
and therefore is likely to be forgotten pretty much instantly.

Example 3
"Anon Somebody is a Philadelphia-based painter. Outside of the
studio, he works as a professor of art and theory. His writing has
appeared in New York Arts Magazine, NY Sun, in addition to
university publications. A listing of his current exhibitions can
be found at www.anonsomebody.com."

Nice. A brief background, followed by information that the writer
has been published before, rounded off with a link to more work.

These are not hard-and-fast rules. Rather, they are guidelines that
you may use intelligently for a creative bio that will work for
you. So go ahead and make an impact. Meanwhile, I had better get
back to my submission and begin on the actual story itself!

Just this once, Devyani Borade reckons she can get away without
having a proper bio. After all that she has been saying in this
article, she believes everyone will have had enough of her!
However, readers are invited to visit her blog Verbolatry at
http://www.devyaniborade.blogspot.com to enjoy the adventures of
Debora, her alter ego.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Devyani Borade 

For more advice on writing your bio read this: 


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of 
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Free Stuff for Writers: Fall Freebies
By Aline Lechaye

For me, fall's always been the season for inspiration, and not just
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leaves that makes me want to try something new and exciting: take
up a new hobby or visit new places, for example. 

That's why this month's freebies may seem to be a little on the
spontaneous side; hopefully, though, they'll help you to find your
inner photographer or ezine editor, or possibly even get you in
touch with your inner muse! 

Ever dreamt of running your own ezine? Does the thought of being an
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of buttons, and the result comes out looking like something out of
National Geographic. Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but with the
web-based application Picnik, it almost is. After uploading your
photo to the site, just click the automatic fix button and the
application will automatically sharpen, adjust contrast, and fix
the color hues on your image. If the finished product fails to
satisfy you, there's always the option of adjusting the settings
manually. One drawback to the site is that you can only upload one
photo at a time, so it may be time-consuming if you have a lot of
photos to work on. Try it out at http://www.picnik.com. Photos can
be directly taken from and posted to popular sites like Facebook,
MySpace, and Flickr. 

Finished editing all those photos? Make yourself a collage with
free software from Collage It 
(http://www.collageitfree.com/index.html). As user-friendly as
Picnik, Collage It can create a stunning digital collage in "just
three steps." Video and text tutorials are available on the website. 

Jazz up your writing with free fancy fonts from websites such as
http://www.1001freefonts.com/ and http://www.fontspace.com. Fonts
come in hundreds of styles and categories, including handwriting,
cursive, and even graffiti. Sometimes all it takes is a new font to
make you see your novel or short story in a new light...

Who do you write like? Just for fun, copy and paste a sample of
your writing into the analyzer at http://iwl.me and see if you're
Shakespeare, Dan Brown, or Stephen King. Good for ego-boosting if
nothing else!


Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who
resides in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye"at"gmail.com.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Aline Lechaye



This site is absolutely packed with useful articles on how to
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Essay Writing Resources
Though aimed primarily at students, this site has a wealth of
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Writing for Audio Theatre
This is a handy little site that shows you how to write radio


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As the intro to this blog declares, "If you are looking for
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gives plenty of tips and tricks away about fiction writing, poetry
writing, creative nonfiction writing, grammar, spelling and
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Well, it really is a treasure trove of information... and its host,
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US and internationally. Newly updated for 2010, WRITING TO WIN
by Moira Allen is the one-stop resource you need for contests
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AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

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The Usurper, by Cliff Ball

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