Thursday, November 6, 2014

More CCMWG Notes: What's So Funny? with Mary-Lane Kamberg -- and a Well Versed Winner

Mary Lane Kamberg at CCMWG
During an afternoon CCMWG breakout session, I sat in on award-winning Kansas writer Mary-Lane Kamberg's humor writing seminar. 

I can attest to Mary-Lane's writing skills -- and her sense of humor. About ten years ago we both served on the board of the Missouri Writers' Guild. Even when board discussions got heated, Mary-Lane could be relied on for solid advice and an upbeat personality. 

During the CCMWG breakout session, she interspersed some of her essays along with her lecture on humor writing. 

Her basic two-step process for writing humor is:

1. Think of something funny.
2. Write it down.

Beyond that, she gave examples of how humor can be expressed through: action, dialogue, and description.

She broke down humor writing into three basic parts:
* Topic – Can found in family life, politics, news stories, horrible experiences, phobias, etc.
* Format – Can use diary, how-to, advice Q&A, quiz, pretend interview, list, narrative form personal essay, etc.
* Individual jokes – Her opener was: “A horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks, ‘Why the long face?’”

The format she uses for the narrative form of personal essays is:
Character has a problem (wants to get or keep something)
Three escalating conflicts
Dark moment
Final tug
Punch line 

She emphasized that personal essays are basically true stories.

Some of her tools/observations in humor writing are:
Repetition - three times is usually enough
Build the joke then pause
Specifics are funnier than generalities
Surprise
Include an element of a universal truth
Piling on 
Use hostility
It’s okay to be mean. (Note: I don’t necessarily agree with this.)
Words with the letter “K” are funny (Hmm?)
Play with works, such as puns or mixed metaphors
Targets: public figures, politicians, family members, movement, yourself
Butt of jokes gives readers a sense of superiority
Use yourself as a target - she does this a lot in her essays
Exaggeration
Comparison, but make it BIG
It’s okay to make fun of famous people, but she warned against libel

Humor pieces tend to be short, between 500-800 words, and they’re getting shorter.

Her wrap-up quotes were:  “No laughter in the writer, no laughter in the reader,” and “Get them laughing then get them with the knife.”

***

And, now for the announcement of the winner of the copy of Well Versed 2009.

Drum roll, please . . . .

The winner is: Marcia


I will get the copy to you soon.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Round Three from CCMWG: Linda Rodriguez on Writing and Publishing Novels with the Big Five

Linda Rodriguez at CCMWG
Attending Linda Rodriguez's session at the CCMWG conference was like taking a master class on how to survive and thrive with the Big Five. (Hey, did I just type a rhyme?)

Linda has an impressive list of credentials as a writer, poet, and university administrator. In 2012, her debut novel, Every Last Secret, was the winner in St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear, was published this year.


During her presentation, she explained that with recent changes in the publishing industry, what once was the Big Six publishing houses is now the Big Five. Where editors with a passion for books used to make final decisions, now MBAs and "bean counters" are in charge.


Linda got her first big break in the mainstream fiction market when she won the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition in 2012. As the contest winner, she received a generous advance on publication of her book.


How did she do it?


* She wrote a novel (which she revised and rewrote and fine-tuned).


* She belonged to a critique group and got professional and honest feedback for her novel.


* She hired a professional freelance editor.  She emphasized that no matter how good a writer you are, you should hire a professional editor--and, she emphasized you should make sure the editor you hire is reputable. An editor can help with the last little bit to improve your novel. She also observed that as a result of downsizing and outsourcing by major publishers, there are some highly qualified and experienced freelance editors available for hire.


(Linda's advice on hiring a professional, reputable, and an experienced editor struck a chord with me. Before hiring an editor (or a proofreader, etc.), I believe it's a good idea to ask about their background, training, experience, and references. Just because someone has a blog or a website claiming they are an editor or has the word "editor" printed on their business cards doesn't automatically make them qualified, professional, or reputable. Ask for credentials and references.)


* She entered her novel in a contest.

* She won the contest.



**


Here are a few other notes I jotted down: 

Develop a platform while writing your first book.


Know that contracts are always weighted to give advantage to the publisher.


Find a good agent to help you get a contract favorable to you. 


Attending conferences, joining professional organizations, and networking can help land an agent--and get you and your book noticed.


In traditional publishing the first four-six weeks after a book is published are a measure of success.


Traditional publishers expect every book to do better than the previous one.


By the fourth book, publishers expect a breakout novel.


Writing a great book isn't enough.


Writing is a business. Writers need to become business oriented.


Make an annual marketing plan.


Learn to prioritize.


Balance time between promotion and writing.


Use social media, but don't hammer your book to people.


Get your followers to like you.


Don't spam everyone to buy your book.


Group blogs are a plus. She belongs to two.


Life happens, be flexible.


To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her blog.

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