Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Organizing: Your Business Plan

[Did you know? The illustration here denotes that this article is craft-related for Writers.] Thanks to Randy Ingermanson for these "timely" tips at the end of the year.

Organizing: Your Business Plan
by Randy Ingermanson
(Used with permission)

If you're writing fiction with the hope of getting it
published someday, then you're in business. If you're
in business, then you need a business plan. If you have
a business plan, then it needs to be updated annually.

I like to update my business plan every year at the
tail end of December. Not much else is happening then.
I've usually got time to think about what went well
during the past year, what went badly, and what went

It's not uncommon for a lot to go undone in a year.
When you've got a lot of big plans for a year, you'll
do well to get 20% of them done by the end of the year.
A successful year is one in which you got the most
important 20% done.

I hope that's an encouragement to you. Your life can be
successful if you only get the most important 20% of
your projects done.

What goes into a business plan? I like to include the
following major sections:

* Introduction. A one-page summary of where things
stand, highlighting your long-term goals and your major
achievements of the past year. If you're just starting
your business, you won't have any achievements yet, but
you can still summarize your major goals for your
business (Example: "I want to publish a novel with a
traditional royalty-paying publisher.") You can also
summarize where you are on the road to reaching your

* Business Details. Several pages that define those
pesky details about money. If your business is earning
money, how much did it earn in the last year and what
were the main sources of revenue? What were the costs
of doing business in the past year? What major projects
do you intend to take on in the next year? What
expenses will you incur and how will you pay for them?

* Detailed sections on each of the major activities of
your business. If you've got only one major activity,
that may be good -- it means you're focused -- but the
hazard is that all your eggs are in one basket. If
you've got several major activities, that means you're
diversified, which is good, but the hazard is that you
may be spreading yourself too thin. This is a good time
to ask yourself the hard questions about whether you're
too narrowly focused or spread too thin. Which of your
activities generates the most revenue? Which creates
the biggest costs? Which gives you the most personal
satisfaction? The answers to these questions will give
you ideas on what directions to take in the coming
year, and on what to prune out of your life.

* Summary. Make a list of the main projects you want to
work on in the coming year. These should be fully
actionable projects -- by which I mean they should be
things you can take action on AND things you can
completely control. "Sending out queries to at least 20
agents" is actionable and you have complete control
over whether you do it or not. "Signing with a major
agent" is not fully actionable because you can't make
an agent want to sign you on. "Polishing my manuscript"
is fully actionable. "Selling my novel" is not.

My business plan for 2010 was fairly long -- eleven
pages. Because it was a modification of the business
plan for the previous year, it took me only one
afternoon to write -- about three hours of actual

I didn't accomplish even 20% of my goals for 2010. I
did hit my #1 most important goal, and I got about
halfway through my #2 most important goal. I didn't
even make a start on two other goals that I considered
very important at the beginning of the year.

In looking back, I can see two important reasons why I
got less done than I'd planned. Neither of them was
something I could have foreseen. I don't think I
handled either of them as well as I could have.
Sometimes, all you can do is muddle on.

I would judge the year moderately successful because I
did get my #1 project done. (Achieving my #2 goal would
have made the year a smashing success.)

What about you? Do you have a business plan for your
writing business? How many hours would it take to write
a five page document that spells out where you are now,
where you want to go eventually, and your actionable
projects for the coming year?

Which 20% of the things that you want to do in the
coming year are the most critical to your ultimate
success as a writer? Are there one or two items on your
list that would make the coming year a success -- even
if you achieved only those?

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 23,000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Friday, November 26, 2010

The Jane Austen AGM, Portland, OR

What's an AGM, you ask?
It's the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and I, now a faithful member, got to go this past October, even though it meant flying across the country to do so. My long-suffering husband came along. (I was able to enjoy the AGM while he got to enjoy Oregon scenery.)

I took so many photos that I actually got TIRED of taking them. But the outfits were exquisite. Of the 600 or so people who attended, roughly 300 or more were in costume. During the Regency ball, there was hardly a second when I wasn't smiling at the thrill of being there. The dancing was marvelous, and having a small "orchestra" (just as they did during the regency) was sublime.

The following lovely photographs are only a sampling of the many we took (Mike helped), to whet your appetite for the full slide-show which is in the works.
If you are in one of them and can identify yourself for the rest of us, please do so. (Use the comment form) If you recognize a friend or colleague in one, please forward them the link so they can see it for themselves.

People in costume are always pleased to be photographed, as they should be. The workmanship (or should I say, tailoring) in many of the gowns, spencers, bonnets, even reticules, was definitely 'of the first water.'

This was my first AGM, and I think I'm hooked. Next year's will be in NYC, and I hope by then to join the number in period dress. What fun!

To learn more about JASNA or to join, check out their website here.

I have many more photos to share with you, so stay tuned. I'm working on a slide-show with accompanying music which should be really fun.
See you soon!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to the U.S.!

I wish my readers and fellow writers from or in the US a blessed and restful day of thanks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Color-Coded Schedule

If you write full-time from home, you still need to follow a schedule as those who work outside the home must--at least, they should if they want to accomplish the most important things as well as the urgent ones.

Without a schedule, beginning with my to-do list, I'm sunk.
I go back to my list many times a day, making sure I've given priority to those things I marked with a RED pencil (most important tasks).
Next I do the GREEN things--work or income related.

After that, I move on to yellow. Yellow items are neat things that are good to do, but if I don't get to it, my credit rating won't be affected, and my house won't burn down. You get the idea.

Last is orange--things I'd like to do, hope to do someday, and want to keep on my radar screen. If I can, I put an Orange item on my daily list, but oftentimes I know better. I keep a list of ORANGE items and scan them quickly a couple of times a week to see if I can fit one in. Every now and then, I can, and this adds to my enjoyment of life. ORANGE items don't give me the sense of professional accomplishment that red or green items do, but in some ways they are even more important.

An ORANGE item might be "fix the ripped wall paper in the den." But when I finish it, I get a great feeling. It could also be "check out the new store in town."
It may not get my book written, but it gives me important down time so that when I get back to writing, maybe I can do it with a little more peace in my soul.

Try using the color system for your daily "to do" lists and see if it helps.
To be honest, I like using the colors, the colored pencils, and that, in itself, makes me want to finish things on my list! How about you?

But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands.
Is.32:8 NASB

Note: I got my color system ideas from Trapper and Mark
Woods. They're book entitled Attack Your Day: Before it Attacks You explains the system in much more detail.
Clock image from Fairy-Flowers

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wisdom from An Agent

This is from Literary Agent Jean V. Naggar, who was asked: Do you think this (current) market has changed what editors are looking for?

She answered: "It's simple. Editors are looking for fresh, original material in perfect condition. Dramatic pace, writing quality, and clarity of thought trumps any particular trend, and my recommendation to writers today is to listen to their agent if the agent is requesting more work be done before showing a manuscript to eitors. Editors today are heavily bound up in meetings and other requirements, and showing them a strong national platform and a manuscript that is almost ready for the printer is the best way to get their attention."

Good reminder for all of us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Naming Your Fictional Character

Naming Your Fictional Character
by Linore Rose Burkard

Do you struggle to find the right name for a character when writing? Is there
such a thing as a "right" name? And if there is, how do you know when you've
found it?

The answer to these questions can only be subjective, but here's my personal take
on them, as well as some of my favorite ways to find names when I need them.

First of all, I think most writers do struggle at times with naming one or more
characters. If you've never struggled with this, be grateful. If you have, it
probably means that you had a good idea about the sort of character you
were naming, and you were smart enough to recognize that not just any ol' name would do.

When I am in need of just the 'right' name for a character, I usually use a stand-in or temporary
name until I find the right one. (The temporary name isn't important, so use whatever you like,
but I would avoid going with "Character A" and "Character B"--these are cardboard-flat names and
won't help you envision your character at all.) If you get really stuck on what the "right" name
should be, it may help you to do some further brainstorming about that character. The better you
get to know this person, the easier it will be to settle upon a name that feels right.

One of my tricks is to search catalogs with lots of models (both male and female) until I find a face
that really matches my idea for a person. Once I have a face, I can usually decide upon a name.
Some writers use baby name books, but I don't find these helpful until I have a face in mind, first. I also find
that movie credits sometimes contain wonderful names. I never borrow anyone's full name, but I find
both a first name and a surname that I like, and combine them to get that "just right" name for
my character.

Each writer really needs to find what works for them.

Secondly, is there such a thing as a "right" name? A "wrong" one?
Again, this is partly subjective, but in some cases, such as with historical novels, it is more
a matter of being period-correct.

Some things to consider when choosing a name are:

a) Will it make the reader stumble each time they encounter it? Some historical novelists choose names
that are period-correct but impossible to pronounce unless you "know" that period. Don't make reading
your book a chore! Find a name that is both correct for the time and place of your novel, while also
going easy on readers. If you must use an obscure name, or one that has an obscure spelling, use another
character to let us know exactly how the name should be read.

b) Check that the name was in existence for the period you are writing in. Many authors check to see
if the name was popular during a given period, but this is not necessary in many cases. The fact that it existed
is technically all you need to know; however, when naming a Puritan, you wouldn't want to try something
like "Crystal" when names such as Mary, Patience, and Charity were really the vogue. If you were trying
to emphasize the singularity of a character, the difference between him and her and the average person
of the world they live in, then a very different-sounding name might be just right, however.
So, the story-line plays a part in naming.

c) I'll never forget this lesson from T.S. Eliot: He wrote a heart-tugging poem called, "The Love Song of
J. Alfred Prufrock." Say that name aloud! It is anything but romantic, anything but what one would
associate with a love song, and the poem indeed conveys Prufrock's utter inability to "sing" one, even
when opportunity and desire are there. Eliot named this character carefully. The awkward name emphasizes
the pathos of the character. Can you do this in your fiction?

It's not by accident that romance writers try to choose pretty, or exotic, or smooth-sounding names for
their heros and heroines. Give a girl a pretty name, and it's easier to see her as attractive. Give a hero
a strong name, and it's easier to see him as strong.

Interestingly, you might want to choose the name for your villain as carefully
as for the hero or heroine. A villain often disguises him or herself as a hero or heroine, at least for some
portion of a book, and until they are found out, a beautiful name will go far to fool the reader. Conversely,
an uncertain name, one that is not particularly evocative or attractive (think: Clark Kent) can be used
to de-emphasize the real hero or heroine until they are revealed for their true colors later in the book.

There's also the idea that evil can appear beautiful, and a lovely name for a villain can make for
fun reading. In my book, The House in Grosvenor Square, the good-looking villain's name is Lord Wingate, or Julian.
Neither sound ominous, but "Julian" has a sort of mysterious air to it, which I think supports the character's

You shouldn't need to obsess over naming a character, for it is much easier to get a "right" name than
a wrong one. Only historical novels can objectively be accused of having a "wrong" name--either for their
time or place--but do try to fit the appellation with the person. Get something that fits. Give a pretty girl
a pretty name, and a hero a strong name--unless it is part of their appeal or story that they have a "wrong" name and triumph anyway
(such as in the Johnny Cash song, " A Boy Named Sue").

Above all, have fun naming your characters! Find a method you like, whether it be an internet search,
a baby-name book, movie credits, or any other source, and have at it. Experiment with different names for the
same character if you're just not sure, and see what sits best with you. Eventually, you will find the "right" name
for each character, and your book will be stronger for it.

All rights reserved. You may copy this article only if you use it in its entirety and include "written by Linore Rose Burkard" AND link to the website: http://www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Top of my TBR pile

At the top of my TBR pile is a just-released book called
THE MASTER'S WALL by Sandi Rog. It's set in 1st century Jerusalem
and is the debut book by this author, already getting great reviews.
(One reviewer said, "This is the BEST book I have EVER read!")

But I have to confess a more personal reason for moving
this book to the top: Sandi Rog is a mom of four young kids and has MS, and, as if
that isn't hard enough, her MS medication caused her to develop
a cancerous lymphoma--in her brain.
She's in the hospital right now undergoing treatment.

Some of us who know Sandi asked what we could do to help, and
she let us know that her publisher is donating $1 from each and
every book sale to a fund for Sandi's medical bills. So, I'd like to
respectfully suggest that if Biblical-era fiction appeals to you (think Romans,
Roman empire, Herod, etc.) then please consider adding Sandi's book
THE MASTER'S WALL to your TBR pile.

It's available at Amazon and other booksellers and won't break the bank. : )
It's also available as a KINDLE ebook (which can be read on any e-reader).

Here's the book blurb:
HE FIGHTS FOR HIS FREEDOM. SHE FIGHTS FOR HER LIFE. TOGETHER, THEY FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER. After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.

“It's a grand thing to find an intriguing story told by a talented storyteller, and that's just what we have in The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog. This story has it all: ancient Rome, authentically depicted; a hero worth rooting for; and a feisty, charming heroine—all flowing through a rousting tale beautifully spun. Rog—and every reader—has a winner with this one.”

ROBERT LIPARULO, best-selling author of Comes a Horseman, Germ, and the Dreamhouse Kings series

"Powerful, faith-challenging, epic in nature, The Master’s Wall beckons readers to ancient Rome where Sandi Rog delivers a captivating story that transforms lives––and not only those of her characters. Highly recommended!"

TAMERA ALEXANDER, bestselling author of Within My Heart (Bethany House Publishers) and The Inheritance (Women of Faith Fiction, Thomas Nelson)

". . . If you love gladiator scenes—you’ll love this book. If you enjoy coming-of-age stories, you’ll enjoy Alethea’s journey from girlhood to adult. If you thrive on romances, the sweet love story will grasp your heart. A must read for all the right reasons. “ DARLENE FRANKLIN, The Prodigal Patriot

Once again, here's the Amazon link to the paperback.

Thanks so much for letting me post this here, and if you choose to help Sandi
by getting her book, God bless you tenfold in return!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Writer's Quote

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. - Isaac Asimov, science fiction author

(Thanks John Kremer for the quote).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Where Hearts Are Free

Where Hearts Are Free (A Darkness to Light Novel, #3)Where Hearts Are Free by Golden Keyes Parsons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like a good read that is gently inspiring, look no further, as this book will fit the bill. It is well-written with the exception that much of the dialogue sounds Victorian rather than early Colonial American. The author does include Quakers who speak properly for the time period, but other than these characters, I wasn't able to stay in the period all that well. Aside from that, the read is surprisingly quick and compelling, and the plot will keep you turning pages until the end. There is one disappointing scene that is bound to be controversial, which I mention only because it is not gentle and those wanting only truly light-hearted romance may wish to avoid on account of its inclusion. But I award the author five stars for a well-paced, smoothly flowing story; one I enjoyed more than her previous books.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Only 11 Days Left to Enter This Contest

This contest is sponsored by my own ACFW Chapter here in Ohio. Take a look--it may be the right one for you.

Only 11 days remain!

Want to get feedback on the opening of your book?
Want feedback on your back cover blurb?
Want help polishing those first 4 pages of your book, in preparation for important contests, like Genesis and Golden Heart?

HOOK ME is for you.

Sponsored by ACFW-Ohio, the Hook Me contest offers feedback from judges, a PDF of writing tips from published authors and judges, and even 2 nifty prizes for your favorite reader and writer: You!

Check the ACFW-Ohio web site for the contest rules and submission information. www.acfwohio.com

The basics:
1,000 words from the beginning of your book, and a 300-word back cover blurb in OND .doc or .rtf document -- emailed.
$15 check (ACFW members) sent by snail mail
DEADLINE: October 31
Judging will be finished and winners notified by December 1
Each entry will go to 3 judges

Check www.acfwohio.com for the complete rules, and a sample of the judging sheet.

Michelle Levigne
ACFW-Ohio 2010 president

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The HOOK, LIne & Sinker Contest

1. Hudson Valley RWA is proud to announce it 25th Annual Hook, Line & Sinker contest, now accepting electronic, as well as paper submissions!

25th Annual Hook, Line & Sinker Contest

True or false? If the first three pages of your manuscript aren't attention grabbing the agent or editor will probably stop reading and reject the work. Sad, but TRUE!

Hone your skills in hooking an editor or agent by entering our Hook, Line & Sinker Contest. Three Hudson Valley RWA members, at least one published, will critique the first three pages of your manuscript. The five entries with the highest scores will be ranked by Harlequin editor BRENDA CHIN.


Now accepting both electronic and hard copy entries!

General Rules

Entry fee: $10.00

Include a cover page with your name, address, phone number, e-mail and title/genre of your unpublished, book-length novel.

Manuscript should be professionally presented, double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around.

Entries must be mailed to coordinator by regular mail or emailed to the contest coordinator no later than midnight November 1, 2010. ENTRIES REQUIRING A SIGNATURE TO CONFIRM DELIVERY WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Send entries to contest coordinator: Gina Rosavin, 397 Ridgewood Blvd. North, Washington Twp., NJ 07676 or email your electronic submission to: HVRWAContest@gmail.com

For the purposes of this contest, the author's name should not appear on the manuscript.

Winners will be announced in January, 2011.

Send electronic copies to: HVRWAContest@gmail.com
Send hard copies to: Gina Rosavin
397 Ridgewood Blvd. North
Washington Twp., NJ 07676
FMI: http://hudsonvalleyrwa.com/contest

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lesson from The Yearling

I loved The Yearling as a child. It was a long book and it earned a bit of reverence from this reader by the time I had finished it. Of course, I cried my eyes out. But like today's devotion for writers, below, I had still missed a lot--simply because I wasn't ready for any more. Thanks to Jeanette Hanscome (whose site you can visit by clicking on the title above, or her name) for this thoughtful meditation.

The Bigger Story
By Jeanette Hanscome

I have a strange habit of picking up spiritual applications and writing-life lessons wherever I go. It must be the devotional writer in me. This week I found one in an old movie.

Since trading cable for an inexpensive Netflix subscription, my sons and I have developed an appreciation for classic films. Most recently, I decided to introduce them to The Yearling. It had been so long since I watched it that I almost felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I remembered about enough to warn my eight-year-old that it was sad. I’d forgotten how long it took for the boy to actually get the deer that becomes the title character. As a kid that had been the story—Jody finds a baby fawn, names him Flag, raises him, then tries desperately to keep Flag from eating the family crops until Pa has enough and. . . well, we all know how the story ends. I vaguely recalled Jody throwing something at a snotty little girl who was making faces at him. I also remembered a close-up on a row of tiny graves stones, followed by a father/son discussion about Ma losing so many children that she couldn’t bring herself to risk loving anyone—including Jody—too much. But as I re-watched this movie with my sons I discovered how much I’d missed as a younger viewer.

As I told my almost-20-year-old, it suddenly hit me that The Yearling isn’t really about Jody and Flag. Well, it is, but that is only the surface plot; the bigger story is about Jody growing from a starry-eyed boy prone to wandering in the woods when he should be doing his chores and begging his parents to let him bring home “a critter” (such as a raccoon), into a young man who, after a few painful doses of reality, is ready to face the responsibilities of grown-up life. He gets there through a lot of heartbreak and loss, including a moment of completely understandable anger that pushes him to run away. But he returns to his parents a different son, one who, as Pa puts it “Isn’t a yearling no more.” (Don’t you just love those soppy Old Hollywood lines, and Gregory Peck’s ability to deliver them so beautifully that laughing at the melodramatic wording would be about as disrespectful as laughing at a funeral?) In the process we see the family grow closer and a grieving mother’s walls come down.

So what does this have to do with the writing life? It reminded me how often we see only the surface plot of our careers, missing the bigger much more important story. Just as we appreciate a movie or book in a deeper way as an adult than we did as a child, the deeper story of what God is doing in our lives shines through as we mature, experience setbacks, frustration and heartbreak, and learn to persevere. What once looked like a long dry season in our career, we suddenly see as a time of growth, either in the craft or in our ability to discipline ourselves to sit down and write. Or we recognize it as a time of preparation, when God taught us valuable life lessons that equipped us to be the writer He needed. The tragedies that took us away from writing for weeks, months, or even years and had us crying “Why God?” we later recognize as the missing piece of the puzzle—that source of wisdom and understanding that we needed in order to truly inspire others and point them to Christ.

Take some time this month to examine the deeper story beneath some of your personal or professional surface plots, particularly those that had you kicking and screaming and groaning, “Why God? When are you going to use me?”

What has God used to grow you to a point where He could say you are ready to serve Him in a new way—that you “aren’t a yearling no more?”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Did You Miss My Free Download?

Did you get my latest ezine? I always include a free download, no strings attached. (But you need to be subscribed to get new issues.)
Click the link below, take a peek, and sign up if you like what you see. : )

Warmest blessings,


Every issue comes with a free download. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time for a Book Review

4.0 out of 5 stars

19th Century Mystery Delivers

By Linore Burkard "Inspirational Romance Author"

I read the Kindle edition of this book which had no description; I expected an historical romance of sorts and found that it is really much more
a mystery, and a crime mystery at that.

Despite not being my favorite genre, there is a lot going for this book, including a lovable protagonist, some very strong surrounding cast, wonderful descriptions of a country estate and lots of other 19th century details which make the reading so interesting--at least for an historical romance author like me. The mystery is well done and made me stay up half the night to find out how it all ends.

I wasn't crazy about the ending, but there is so much of England in another century here, to savor, that I may even read this again, or at least parts of it. Definitely worthwhile reading for history buffs, Anglophiles, mystery lovers, and there was, indeed, a thread of romance--thin, but there.

Note: There are paperback editions of this book available on Amazon, or you can download the Kindle edition for free. If you don't have a Kindle, use the Kindle app for PCs, also free.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Fair at New Boston, OH

I love the fall with the many festivals and celebrations it brings, not to mention pumpkins, haystacks and lazy scarecrows cropping up all over the place. One of the special festivals I managed to attend this past month was the Fair at New Boston, OH.
The theme is the American Revolutionary War, and there were more re-enactors at this one fair than I've ever seen in one place before (beside movie sets!).

To my surprise and delight, many people came in regency costume, too. In America, the time of the regency is known as the Federalist Period (ca.1775-1830). But whether you call it Georgian, Regency or Federalist style, I love it, and I took lots of pictures.

IF YOU ARE IN ONE OF THESE PHOTOS, please leave us a comment, telling us about your costume if you like.

For the rest of you, enjoy the photos! I had fun taking them and meeting each person who happily posed for me.

In the future, I'll certainly try to make it to this fair again. For "official" pictures and information regarding the New Boston Fair, click the title of this post.

The lady on the right gets my vote as the best-dressed regency belle of them all. And she made her own costume, including, if I remember correctly, the bonnet.