Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Publishing Worm Has Turned

I go into BEA – Book Expo America – knowing this. The publishing world is not what it has been throughout my three decades there. And it looks like it never will be again. The publishing worm has turned.

I was careful not to leap to this conclusion. I spent most of my adult professional life working in traditional publishing first as a book editor and then as a literary agent. I needed to be fair to that rich and rewarding history.

So did my research. First I read months of posts at Jane Friedman: Writing Reading and Publishing in the Digital Age. Jane speaks with a wise voice informed by long hands-on experience of publishing. You can check her out yourself at

I did the same with another eminently credible voice – Bob Mayer at Write on the River. Bob speaks in a different tone from Jane as he covers the same ground. You can check him out at

Those two highly contemporary sages are pretty much of one mind when it comes to the subject of publishing past and present and future. Still I had more exploring to do. I needed to hear what writers have to say.

I don’t mean to suggest that Bob Mayer isn’t a writer but he has several other irons in his fire too. I wanted the author-only point of view. The Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City gave me the perfect opportunity for listening to that point of view firsthand.

Those writer stories began being told in the van on the way from the airport to the hotel and continued throughout the entire five days that followed. On panels – in the hallway – in the bar – at events – everywhere – authors talked and I listened.

They said the same things I’d read from Jane Friedman and Bob Mayer. Traditional publishing is no longer providing the most satisfying experience out there for a lot of writers. Happy alternatives abound – from traditional to digital to hybrids of both and permutations in between.

Even more telling than this message was the joy with which it was delivered – author joy to be exact. Writers have choices now and with choice comes power. The age-old power pyramid of publishing has tipped and is on its way to going topsy turvy altogether.

If I had a town square and a bell tower close at hand I’d be ringing out my own joy big time. Instead tomorrow morning I’ll be at BEA Booth 966 where a host of successful Indie Authors – some with combo traditional/independent careers – are taking their rightful place at last.

The Javits Center may not be a town square but you can bet I’ll be there with bells on anyway.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Painless Synopsis Exercise

I am repeating this step-by-step guide because when I posted the above writer witticism on Facebook recently I discovered that authors I care about are still having trouble composing the synopis.

I urge you to try this technique because it works. It seems simple and it is. Please don't hold that against the method. Here is my remedy for the torment of synopsis writing (previously published by me in Writers Digest Magazine). I know it will help because it has helped me immensely.

The 7 Phases of Writing the Painless Synopsis

Phase One – A Recorder, A Jug of Wine and Thou
Gather these materials in a cozy spot. “Thou” is someone who appreciates the kind of story you write. Relax, take a sip, turn on the recorder. Tell your story aloud, in whatever order it occurs to you. Include all the elements of the story and each character from beginning to end. [Thou can also be another aspect of you.]

Phase Two – Stacking the Deck
When alone, play back the recording.  Use 5x8”index cards, one scene idea per card, as you hear a scene mentioned, identify that scene in one sentence at top of the card.  When finished, you should have 45-60 cards, depending on the length of your novel.

Phase Three – Floor Play
Sit on the floor. Spread the cards out in the order they occur in the story. Look for places in the story line where there is too little action or too much for purposes of pacing and clarity. Add or subtract cards as needed. If you don’t yet know what scene to add at a specific story gap, place a blank card there so you know you need to come up with a scene. Your cards for the conclusion of your story must convince the editor you have a story ending that will satisfy a reader.

Phase 4 – Cutting the Cards and the Task Down to Size
One card at a time, write 2-3 well-crafted sentences presenting the scene at its most intense, moving and conflict-ridden. Brainstorm any scenes you may need to add.

Phase Five – Don’t Forget the Players
When a character is introduced in the story, at that point in your card pile add another card with a description of that character in a single tightly written sentence.  Craft that description with careful attention to the closely observed detail, the perfect detail that resonates with the essence of that particular character.

Phase Six – For Openers
On its own card, write an opening sentence – concise, straightforward and startling. Polish this sentence into a true gem to open your synopsis in sparkling fashion.
Phase Seven – There You Have It
Type your synopsis directly from your card pile, turning over one card at a time and typing what you’ve written there. Throw in a transitional sentence or two where needed to make the telling run smoothly. The Winning Result: A brief of your story without dialogue or much description and a synopsis that could sell your book.

The 2 Secrets here are #1 Demythologize the Activity & #2 Make It Play. Nothing demythologizes better than hunkering the butt down onto the floor. Fooling around with cards is the play part. Trust me. It works.

Find many more very practical writing exercises in No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. Reviews posted at For an autographed copy send $10 (postage & handling) to Alice Orr Seminars, P.O. Box 6224, Long Island City NY 11106.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Only Memoir Writing Workshop This Year

Memoir Writing Workshop with Alice Orr

Women’s Voices for (a) Change Conference
June 20-23 at Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs NY

Bring Your Real Life Story to Life on the Page

In this workshop you will tell your personal story. You will Re-member the pieces of that story, Dis-cover those powerful chapters at the center of your heart, Ex-cavate your truths from that deep place and give them voice. Your real life story is a joy and a revelation. Alice guides and inspires you toward that story. She teaches you to tell your story as it deserves to be told.

Alice Orr is a former book editor and literary agent, published in fiction and nonfiction including No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing A Manuscript That Sells. Alice lectures nationally on storytelling & memoir – how to write and market both. Here is what her memoir workshop students have to say.

From Alice’s West Coast Memoir Writing Workshops
“Alice is a fabulous presenter and brings to the table a rich array of knowledge. 5-Star!’
“You opened me up to me and to my story.”
“This has been transforming.”

From Alice’s East Coast Memoir Writing Workshops
“I learned how to pressure the coal of my life to find the diamond.”
“I felt I didn’t have the courage to write my story. Today I discovered I do.”
“This will impact my writing life profoundly!!! The level of deep emotional content was awesome. Thank you.”

We are each of us butterflies with a single wing
until we become whole by embracing ourselves.

Or call (206) 714-2843 to find out more.

Go to to register ASAP.
Registration Closes May 15th