Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

The Book is Done – Long Live the Book

July 5, 2019

I have finished the first draft of EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries!

Easter Hair Hunt

Yay, the work is done! Or is it? Yes, the creative part is over, the agony and anticipation of facing a blank page every day and wondering if the words will come. It’s a great relief to type THE END, knowing you’ve reached your word count and have completed the story. But your labor is far from finished.

The first thing I suggest doing next is to revise the synopsis. Inevitably the story has gone in a new direction since you wrote the first version. Now you’ll need to bring this tool up to date. Patch in the new information and polish it so the story reads seamlessly from start to finish.

Why is this important? You may need a synopsis as a sales tool. Your publisher may require one. You might need a synopsis, short or long, to enter your book in a writing contest. Or your marketing department may need it for their purposes.

At the same time, you can start working on your story blurb. If you’re with a small publisher, they may ask you to come up with the cover copy. If you are an indie author, you’ll have to create the book descriptions on your own. Even if you hire one of the services available for this purpose, they most likely will require a synopsis as well. If you’ve gotten a head-start on the blurb, these folks can use it as a jumping off point. You’ll want a one-liner tag line, a few sentences for a log line, then a short one-paragraph description and a longer one of two to three paragraphs. Remember to maintain the tone of your story in the blurb.

Several rounds of editing and revisions will follow. I need some distance from a story before I can begin line editing, so I may work on something else until I’m ready. If you’re writing a series, this is a good time to do research or jot notes for the next story. Or work on a marketing plan for your book. Then it’s time for line edits, read-throughs for consistency and to catch repetitions, editorial revisions, and beta readers. A final polish will always find more to fix. So there’s a lot more work before your baby is ready to face the world.

In the meantime, celebrate your achievement. You’ve finished a book. Savor the satisfaction and give your creative mind a break. Enjoy your well-earned glass of champagne, specialty coffee, or raspberry lemonade. You deserve a treat. Indulge yourself and relax with some fun activities. When you’re ready to return to the story, your muse will let you know.

Writers, what do you do after finishing the first draft of your novel?

You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. What’s next? #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

GIVEAWAY

Enter Now to win a free book from the prize vault at Booklover’s Bench.



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , |  6 Comments


Writing Contests for Published Authors

June 28, 2019

Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? That depends upon your goal. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest. These are paid competitions, where judges actually read your work, and not the ones at conferences where people vote on their favorite books or authors.

are writing contests worthwhile

Pros
Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Potential to call yourself an award-winning author
Placement as a semi-finalist or finalist will provide a sense of validation
A winner’s badge will add prestige to your credentials

Cons
The contest fees can be high
Entering contests may be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books
Low scores, if feedback is provided, can be demoralizing

Prestigious awards are offered in every genre. In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These books are read by dedicated judges. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees.

States also have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, there’s the Florida Book Awards competition in my state.

How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:

Sponsoring Organization: Will readers or fellow authors recognize this award? Do you care?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: This is a prime consideration since you’ll be spending money to enter the contest. Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Do the promises of cash and exposure to industry professionals ring true? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, or trophy? Do you have to be present to accept your award, or will the sponsors mail it to you? A digital badge is useful, because you can add it to your book cover and website and use it in your promotional posts. Are printed award stickers available for your print books if you don’t want to redo your cover?
Cost in Entry Fee: These can range from $25 to over $100 to enter. See if there’s an early bird discount and try to get your book in before then.
Book Requirements: Does the contest require physical books, which will cost postage, or digital entries?
Competition: Are there multiple categories so your subgenre is represented, or is one general category applied? For example, can you enter for best cozy mystery or amateur sleuth novel rather than best mystery novel? You’ll have a better chance with narrower categories.
Categories: Some contests tempt you by offering additional categories with your submission for a reduced fee. Be careful of your spending as costs will add up. Is this to your benefit or more to the contest organizers who make money from each submission?
Past Experience: If you’ve entered a contest two or three years in a row and your books never place in the finals, or reach the finals but never win, it might be time to save money and move on. Perhaps their judges just don’t appreciate your subgenre or style.

Here’s a watchlist that will help you make an informed decision:
Watchdog Desk of the Alliance of Independent Authors
https://selfpublishingadvice.org/allis-self-publishing-service-directory/award-and-contest-ratings-reviews/

Keeping Track of Entries
How do you find these lesser known contests? Follow your author colleagues and see what contests they’re entering. Look on Facebook at your author friends sites for announcements of contest wins. Also check your local writing organization newsletter. Make a list for your book title of which contests might be appropriate to enter. Be sure to check for your work’s eligibility, entry deadlines, fees, judges and prizes.

When you enter, make a note of the contest name, the sponsor, the costs, the categories you’re entering, the date of submission, the format or number of copies sent, and the dates when finalists and winners will be announced.

In Conclusion
Making the semi-finals or finals of a contest where your book is evaluated against other works is an ego boost. It’s not easy to place against potentially hundreds of other authors, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier. Here are some of the badges I’ve earned and can proudly display on my website book pages.

CIBA 1st Place Winner

Semi-Finalist Kindle Book Awards Finalist 2018

If the award doesn’t come with a badge, hire a graphic designer to create one for you or make your own.

Be happy to accept your kudos where you can get them and post about your successes. We want to celebrate with you.

Are writing contests for published authors worthwhile? #bookmarketing #pubtip Click To Tweet

Authors, what do you think? Have you benefited from entering writing contests?

 



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , |  6 Comments


Tripping Over Timelines

June 7, 2019

How do you keep track of timelines in your work-in-progress? Do you use graphs, charts, or plotting boards to note the days of the week? When I was starting out as a writer, I kept plotting boards. This was a poster board that I divided into blocks representing each chapter. After I wrote a section, I’d fill it in on the poster for a quick visual reference. These days, I use a chapter by chapter outline in a Word file. I’ll still fill it in after I write each segment. I add the days of the week so I can remember what day it is for each scene.

Tripping Over Timelines

Spoiler Alert!  As I was working on EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in my Bad Hair Day mysteries, I hit a major snag. The story begins on the day before Easter. It’s March. My hairdresser sleuth, Marla Vail, is seven months pregnant. Her mother wants to plan a baby shower. Meanwhile, Marla is chasing down her missing friend, Blinky, who disappeared after an Easter Egg Hunt at Tremayne Manor.

How much time has passed since Blinky had gone missing? Was it reasonable to think she might still be alive? Uh-oh, I’d better check on the timeline. This realization led me to a plot twist two-thirds through the story.

clock

I’d been concentrating so hard on the storyline, that I had lost sight of the subplots. If Marla is seven months pregnant, when is her due date? I had to go back to the previous book, Trimmed to Death, to figure out when she might have conceived. Then I printed out a set of calendars from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/

According to what I read online, Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25. In 2008, Easter was March 23 and Passover was April 20. Okay, my story will start on Saturday, March 22. By counting the weeks, I figured out Marla’s due date will be June 15.

calendar

By now, my story had progressed into April. Her mother could hold the baby shower on April 19, the day before Passover. I penciled in other events involving Marla’s friends and relatives. Now I know exactly what is happening, and when. Had I done this from the start, I wouldn’t have had to go back and change each conversation that mentioned these personal issues. I’d like this story to finish before Marla’s baby shower, so that could be my final wrap scene.

Sometimes you get carried away in the rush of storytelling and have to go back to fill in the details. What’s my advice? Get a calendar and follow your story along so you know which week you’re on and how long the action is taking. Sometimes you’ll read an entire murder mystery that takes place over a weekend. In that case, you’d need to keep an hourly account. Either way, keep track of your timeline from the start and save yourself some time-consuming revisions.

How do you keep track of timelines in your novel? #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

GIVEAWAY

Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench 

book giveaway



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , |  11 Comments


Recent Book Events

June 3, 2019

Recently, I attended the breakfast sponsored by Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter at the Florida Library Association conference. Sixty librarians had signed up for this event. We ate first, and then jumped into Author Speed Dating. Since there were five of us, we had the librarians spaced out at five tables. During the allotted time, we each gave a spiel about our books before the bell rang indicating our time was up. We hopped from table to table this way. The librarians seemed to enjoy hearing from us individually, and it was a great way for us to inform them about our work.

FLA Conference

We gave a panel afterward on “From Cozy Cats to Crazy Killers…Investigating the Mystery Novel Genre” with authors Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ann Meier, Linda Hengerer, M.C.V. Egan, Nancy J. Cohen, and Robert Brink.

The following weekend, I gave a talk at an author luncheon at Temple Beth El Sisterhood in Fort Myers. This was a lovely event with a Chinese meal and a booksigning. I met a lot of nice ladies and enjoyed our conversation.

Book Talk Table Setting

Nancy Speaking

Author Luncheon

On the way home, my husband and I stopped off at Naples. We got our morning exercise strolling along Fifth Avenue with its historic buildings and tropical foliage. Then we headed home via Alligator Alley.

Naples 

FLORIDA AUTHORS ACADEMY
If you’re in Florida, take a look at the schedule for classes this summer. Here is mine:
Saturday, August 24, 10 am to 12 noon, “Agents, Query Letters, & Synopses” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Author’s Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 104 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790. $25 fee for class. Advance reservations requested. http://www.flauthorsacademy.com/

FACEBOOK BEACH PARTY – June 6th!
SAVE THE DATE! Join Nancy J. Cohen & Maggie Toussaint to celebrate their recent releases at a Summer Beach Party on Thursday, June 6, from 7pm to 8pm. Fun and Prizes!  https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/

Beach Party

GIVEAWAY
Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.

book giveaway



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , |  Be The First To Reply!


Epcot Flower Festival

May 28, 2019

We spent a couple hours at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival the other weekend. Construction is going on at the front entrance, so we veered around the barriers to the package inspection station. From here, we headed into one of my favorite spots, the building with free cola drinks from around the world. I like the raspberry-flavored one the best.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Next we ventured outside and to the right toward Canada. One of our party had the Citrus-Poached Salmon at the Flavor Full Kitchen. I tried the Roasted Beets with Cashew Cheese. It was delicious. Between this dish and the beets we ate recently at a Publix cooking class, I could make a meal from this vegetable.

salmon

At the Honey Bee-Stro, we sampled the Roasted Cauliflower with Carrot Puree, Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. It was good, but I like my roasted cauliflower recipe better. Also from this booth, a member of our group had the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread. It looked good, although maybe not as crispy as I like flatbreads.

flatbread

Our kids sampled the Fruit Sushi called Frushi from Hanama in Japan and a few other items. By now, I was too hot to eat any of the meat dishes and the heat had sapped my appetite. We finished our rounds and left for the day.

fruit sushi

Later, my husband and I visited Disney Springs. We had lunch at Paddlefish. While enjoying a lovely view of the lake, we ate New England Clam Chowder and the Crabcake appetizer with corn relish that was more than enough for a meal. We watched the amphicars glide past from the Boathouse Restaurant.

clam chowder

amphicar

Others meals we had were at Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze. And now that we’re home, it’s time to go back on our healthful diets.

Seasons 52   Bahama Breeze



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , , |  Be The First To Reply!


Site Designed & Maintained by
Laideebug Digital
Laideebug Digital
Privacy Policy