Writers: Helpful Hashtags on Twitter

Okay, let’s talk Twitter.

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Social media is a necessary part of being an author in today’s world.  I belong to many sites, such as: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Triberr, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google +, LinkedIn, my own website/blog, as well as a multi-authors blog.  I’m sure I’m forgetting a few; I always do.

Back to Twitter.

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Twitter is a great place to promote your posts.  However, with the 140 character limit it makes it difficult to get across everything you have to say.  But it’s also a great place to learn to savor each word.  To learn to hone your skills by saying the most you can with the fewest words– good practice, and a skill you need to master to be great writer.

Yesterday on Twitter, agents inputed their manuscript wishlists under the hashtag #mswl.  What is the #mswl? It’s when agents list the kinds of books they hope to find in their slushpile.  What genre they’re looking for, etc.  A lot of agents even get into details. Like they’ll say something like: I’m looking for a crime novel that has a fast-pace, has a criminal for a protagonist, a female protagonist who is bull-headed or has a warped view of the world. A full length novel that includes a serial killer. And maybe has a little romance thrown in for good luck.

When agents get into specifics like this, it makes our jobs, as writers, so much easier. We now know what agents are looking for. And hopefully, it matches our specific book. Just remember, when querying these agents you must not only follow their guidelines, like you should anyway, but put the hashtag in the subject line. Your subject line, unless otherwise specified, should look like this: Query: (book title) #MSWL

See? Then the agent will know that one, you’ve done your homework. And two, that you are specifically targeting them because you have a book that matches their wish list. Now, I can’t promise you that your query will jump ahead of any others in line, but you will stand out from the crowd. Isn’t that always a good thing?

Twitter also has other events for writers shopping their novel to agents.  They have pitch parties.

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For instance, #PitMad, which is happening next week on Sept. 9th. What is #PitMad you ask?  #PitMad is a twelve-hour event. Usually from 8am-8pm EST or EDT, and happens four times a year. In March, June, Sept., Dec.  You have 140 characters to pitch your books to agents.  You must include the hashtag #PitMad in your pitch as well as your genre. Not your specific genre just your audience.  For instance for adult you’d write #A. For young adult you’d write #YA, and so forth.  You can find the complete rules on Brenda Drake’s website. Or by Googling #PitMad.

There’s one caveat to #PitMad.  You can only tweet your pitch twice an hour AND you must keep changing your pitch because Twitter doesn’t allow you to tweet the same one over and over.  You can rotate a few different pitches, which is the easiest way to go, or you can keep creating new ones.  If an agent likes what they see they’ll favorite your tweet.  During #PitMad writers are not allowed to favorite anyone else’s pitches because it makes it too confusing.  Although there are always those who don’t follow the rules. Don’t be one of them.  Please.  You’ll only get someone’s hopes up for no reason.  And that’s not nice.  So, when your pitch gets favorited you go to that agent’s Twitter page and they will give you further instructions.  Some say, if I favorited your tweet send me the first three chapters of your book.  Or, send me the first fifty pages and synopsis.  Whatever the case, follow their guidelines!

If you pay attention to the hashtags on Twitter all sorts of doors will open up for you.  You wouldn’t know it to look at Twitter, but Twitter has many different ways to help you. And different events to get your manuscript into the hands of agents.  And, with less work than scrolling through pages and pages of agents, then having to research each one to see if they’d be a good match for you and your work, and then sending off the query and sample pages.  I can’t say enough about it.  It’s a great tool– and it works!

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Twitter also has #tenqueries.  This is where agents post critiques of query letters they’ve received in their slushpile.  Don’t worry, they don’t use your name.  Agents would never openly bash a writer in public.  Some of the queries are absolutely hilarious. It always amazes me what some writers write in their query letters.  How they’ll ever get traditionally published is beyond me.  But there are also agents who give sound advice about query letters. Advice that’s worth paying attention to.  Advice you can’t find anywhere else.  Unless of course you go to sites like Query Shark or Writers Helping Writers, and the like.

#500queries is a lot like #tenqueries.

There is the hashtag #querytips, where you will learn valuable information on how to craft query writers.  And these are agents giving you tips as well as successful authors.

#querylunch I just found recently.  This is where agents give their time during lunch to answer questions from writers.  How generous is that?  We all have heard about how crazy agents’ schedules are. And yet, some agents actually take their lunch hour to answer questions. Unbelievable, right?

And then #askagent works similarly to #querylunch.  At #askagent agents again take time to answer questions from writers.  Though #askagent happens when the agent has free time.  Some agents answer questions at night, some early morning, and some do it the same time every week.

#writing or #writingtips– both places that give advice to aspiring writers.

#pitchwars is where writers get paired up with mentors. These mentors spend countless hours going over your manuscript to get it into the best possible shape.  Then, months later, there is an agent round where agents try to gain your pitch.  This translates into requests.  These agents know the manuscripts have been scrutinized by professional authors, edited into the best possible shape, so they are more inclined to read the entire manuscript.  Often times #pitchwars end in offers of representation.  And isn’t that what we are all after?  Those of us going traditional, that is.  Someone to help us wade through the publishing waters; help us create successful, long-lasting careers? Unfortunately, #pitchwars is happening now, so it’s too late to sign up for this round.  But it occurs a few times a years so keep your eyes open for upcoming dates.

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Well, that’s enough to get you started in the right direction.  Good luck everyone!  For those of you who are looking for agent, check out #mswl now.  The wish lists stay posted so you don’t need to worry that you missed out yesterday.  You can still take advantage of this great tool.

Till next time, my faithful followers.  Have a wonderful day!  I hope you all gain lots of requests and get that coveted offer of representation.

If one of these hashtags has helped you get your agent, please let us hear about it in the comment section.  Your success is our success.

 

My Stamp of Approval (part 2)

One of the most amazing things I’ve noticed about the writing community is the way authors support one another. Of course like anything else I believe you get out of it what you put in. If you’re nasty to others you’ll get nasty right back– and you should!

With the authors I am about to introduce to you, you’ll find no nasty here. These are kind, caring, nice people who also happen to have talent galore. Their success hasn’t made them unapproachable. Quite the opposite in fact. These authors are the type of people you can see yourself having lunch with. The type who are always willing to encourage, help, or lend an ear. The type of people young writers aspire to be.

All of these authors I blog with on Prose & Cons. Allow me to repeat myself for a second here… I take my name (brand) very seriously and would never recommend a book to you unless it interests me as well.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Drum roll please…

First up, Author Arthur Kerns. Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. In March 2013 Diversion Books, Inc. published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract and in May 2014 the sequel, The African Contract.

You might remember an incredible story I posted a while back from Art. It’s called A Stranger Reads My Book. If you haven’t read it, click on the title. It’s one of my favorite posts on Prose & Cons. Not only will you love this short story, you’ll wish it happened to you!

Art’s latest book is called The African Contract.

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What’s In The Trunk?! A group story with Prose & Cons

The Prose & Cons blog address says it best: a unique and portable magic. Books. They can make us stay up late at night, miss our train stop, forget our problems, or teach us something, as in Mia Thompson’s post Six Things to do when Attacked or Abducted. That magical little book can transport us to breathtaking Rio de Janeiro, as in Conrad Turek’s post Ascending, or propel us to the future, to a world we do not know, or throw us back to an era long ago.  Books make us laugh, cry, or shiver with fear. We fall in love with characters we read about either by relating to them in some way, or by wishing we could be more like them.

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

Where will your next book take you? Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

Eliza Cross posted 20 Great Books That Sparked an Early Love of Reading and reminded us why we fell in love with books as children. Holly West gave us all a gift with her post Good Summer Reads. When someone recommends a book, they are passing along its magic. The book touched them in some way and they want to share that experience with us. I’m sure our resident clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Suzana Flores, could analyse why, as she did in the comment section of her post Childless by Choice.  But I won’t attempt to guess.

As a writer, I love when my stories take a hard right turn to somewhere I never expected. Or when my characters behave in a way that shocks, frightens, or makes me laugh out loud.

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Descriptions in fiction writing

Many writers struggle with descriptions.  How much detail do you give?  How important is it that I describe this object/place?  How do you go about describing an everyday object so you don’t bore your reader?  I’m not talking about people today just objects.  Although with people you certainly don’t want to use a laundry list such as:  He was six feet tall with brown hair and brown eyes.  No one will remember that.  But that’s a post for a different day.

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In every story, regardless of genre, setting the scene is important so your reader knows where the story is taking place.  It’s also a great way to show a passage of time.  For instance, the sun drained from the sky.  By that sentence we know that it is past twilight.  You can go further to show that it is deeper in the night by describing a velvety black sky pierced with tiny pinpricks of light, etc…

But how do you go about describing mundane objects so we don’t bore the reader?  I read recently that some readers skip over the parts in books where the author sets the scene or describes an object or room.  Though I understand it in some cases, I believe the reader is missing out on valuable information.

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When is a writer an author?

When does a writer make the leap to author?

This is a question I’ve pondered for years.  I know what “they” say.  By “they” I assume it means industry standards.  They say a writer becomes an author once they become published.  OK, let’s use that standard.  Does that mean traditionally published or self-published?

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First let me say I am not bashing self-publishing.  I’ve thought about it many times myself.  Please do not take this as an attack because it’s NOT.

So, you stay a “writer” until you get a book deal from a publisher.  OK.  Well, what if it’s a brand new publisher that no one has ever heard of?  Does that count?  Obviously if you’re lucky enough to get a deal from one of the “Big 5″ you have definitely morphed from writer to author.  But why?  Because you were in the right place at the right time? Continue reading

Real Life Serial Killers– What makes them tick?

The serial killer has become wildly popular in crime fiction.  Maybe they are so fascinating to us, as readers, because they are complicated creatures.  They are deliciously bad.  We, as writers, are told never to make our antagonist (bad guy) all bad, or our protagonist all good.

Dr. Hannibal Lector is a perfect example of this.  Especially the one depicted in the television series, Hannibal.

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Dr. Hannibal Lector– played by Mads Mikkelsen– is a brilliant forensic psychologist and culinarian (although some of the ingredients in his dishes are questionable).  In one scene we see his soft side with Dr. Alana Bloom, and in the next, he is slaughtering people and arranging them in dramatic convoluted poses.  Far beyond what is necessary to end their life.  He’s an artist when it comes to designing a shocking display for the FBI.  Yet, part of me loves him!  Why?  Because nothing is black and white with him.  He’s justified in his actions, which makes him a perfect character.  However, in the real world the serial killer is a frightening creature.  And one I never want to come in contact with in a dark alley.

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Create Tension and Suspense. Keep the reader flipping pages!

I just completed the first draft of my latest novel, the sequel to Timber Point.  The working title was Dancing In The Shadows.  However, after completing the novel I thought of a title that fits better:  Silent Betrayal.

I often post about what stage I’m at in the process.  Therefore, today’s post is about creating tension and suspense in your thriller.  (Or in my case, make sure it’s done correctly during editing.)  Keep readers on the edge of their seat, flipping the pages.

I came across an article about this topic.  If you haven’t read The Kill Zone blog, I highly recommend it.  These tips were posted in that blog, but I added my own flair to them.  The expository is mine to help you better understand.

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1.  Condense your setup and backstory.

Nothing is worse than reading ten pages about nothing.  All fluff.  Or hearing about the protagonist’s entire life story.  The author should know the story, but your reader doesn’t need every small detail.  However, IF parts of the backstory is relevant to the story line– keep it.  Just make it as short as possible.  Give the crucial elements your reader NEEDS to know without the fluff.  Add emotions, yes, but don’t let it lag along for pages and pages.

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