Posts Tagged ‘race’

Cyberspace Coach Linda Lee reminds us the vitality of blogs.

Plot Coach and Author Martha Alderson asked me to blog about building a platform/promoting novels.

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Martha, thank you for posting this subject. Promoting a novel or memoir is a major challenge because unless you are already a best-selling author or your publisher has committed a six-figure marketing budget for your book, how do you give your book the attention it deserves?

I remember how excited I was when my mother-daughter novel Love Made of Heart was released by New York publisher Kensington. Although I landed readings/signings at bookstores (through friends’ and colleagues’ help), I soon received this response from media folks: “We can’t interview/invite you. Not interested in novels…”

Then, Elisa Southard (non-fiction author and PR coach) came along. She said: “YOU are bigger than your book. What are the ‘issues’ in your novel?”

Then, Anny Cleven (Area Marketing Director at Borders Books) reminded me that I was shedding light on ‘mental illness’ and ‘domestic violence’ in the Asian-American community.

Kim McMillon, friend and colleague, pitched me to be a guest on KPIX “Bay Sunday” when she saw that I was ready to speak out on the issues. I became Teresa LeYung Ryan who advocates compassion for mental illness and the author who helps survivors of family violence find their own voices.

Now that I’m a career coach for writers, I encourage all my clients to build their platforms by articulating the themes in their stories as community/national/global concerns.

So, after you have used the tools from Blockbuster Plots to structure your story and you have the first draft of your project, look for the issues or self-help elements to weave what Martha Alderson calls “thematic significance.”

Writers who have spent years working on their books (fiction or non-fiction) deserve recognition for their dedication. I want to see all diligent writers shed light on “the issues” and thus speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Happy Writing!

Teresa LeYung Ryan

author of Love Made of Heart

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Nina Amir of Write Non-Fiction in November asked me to blog about “How to Make Your Manuscript Compelling” and so I wrote “How to Look at Your Manuscript with an Editor’s Lens”

How to Look at Your Manuscript with an Editor’s Lens

By Teresa LeYung Ryan

Manuscript Consultant and Career Coach


Since writing a story with the intent to engage the reader is so much like meeting a stranger and wanting him/her to be interested in you, I will focus on how to make the first quarter of your story a compelling read.

I love working with diligent writers who want to transform their manuscripts into page-turners. However, there are things you can do before you give your work to an editor. Let me show you how you can help yourself.

As an editor, the four biggest mistakes I encounter are manuscripts that are weak in these elements:

  • Planting hook(s) or story-question(s);
  • Grounding the reader with the three Ws (Who? When? Where?);
  • Showing (not telling) what the protagonist wants;
  • Paying attention to language and rules

Let’s learn from the pros.

Planting Hook or Story-Question:

In The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston hooks us with the first line: “You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you…” Then, Ms. Kingston transitions into her story with: “Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran like this one . . .”

Grounding the Reader with the Three Ws:

In Woven of Water, while the story timeline spans from 1957 to 2005, Californian author Luisa Adams brilliantly shows us who she was as a girl (not with a year-by-year narrative, but with a single exquisite chapter). Because she grounded us with “who, when, where,” we eagerly follow as she takes us into her enchanted world of a “cottage in the forest.”

Showing What the Protagonist Wants:

In The Other Mother, young Carol Schaefer wants to ask questions: “Was there any way to keep my baby? Was there anyone who would help me find a way to do that?”

Paying Attention to Language and Rules:

Read the first five pages of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and you will see how this wordsmith plays with language and rules. (You can “bend” the rules to create flow, but you must not ignore them.)

Sentences Deserve Your Attention:

Nina Amir’s post on her blog is a must-read.

Remember Groucho Marx’s line “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas…”? That sentence got a lot of laughs. But, what if you didn’t want to be funny (ambiguous in this case)?

How would you rewrite these poorly constructed sentences?

  • He likes to fish near the Farallon Islands and they jump when they’re hungry at dawn or dusk.
  • She insists on knowing when I come home and leave, not to be nosy, but for safety reasons.
  • Being cautious as not to step on the dog’s tail, the children tip-toed away from him while sleeping.
  • My husband still in bed snoring, I have always enjoyed rising before dawn and I eat my toast and drink my green tea on the terrace.

To improve your sentence structure and other skills, I recommend these books:

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
  • Woe is I: Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner

More Advice:

  • In all four stories (The Woman Warrior, Woven of Water, The Other Mother, Angela’s Ashes), the authors present memorable experiences by employing authentic details, unusual story-worlds though real, and poetic language. You want to do the same for your story.
  • Also, these stories have another vital component-all four plotlines have what Martha Alderson, author of Blockbuster Plots, Pure and Simple, calls “Cause and Effect” linked scenes. Another must-read blog: Plot Whisperer
  • When you’re writing non-fiction and do not have the luxury of rearranging the sequence of events to create a page-turning plotline, you can engage the reader by using concise expositions to leap over blocks of time in order to focus on the core themes and fast-forward the story. A helpful website:
  • You the author must show the reader what the protagonist wants, even if the protagonist doesn’t know at first.
  • We don’t have to “like” a protagonist, but, we do need to connect with him/her on an emotional level.

In the fiercely competitive arena of the publishing world, how does one stand out in a crowd? Building relationships is one key to success in this business. Another key is to know how to translate the themes from your life to your writing and articulate those themes as community concerns. I want to see all hardworking writers realize their dreams.

My best wishes to you!

Teresa LeYung Ryan

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If you’d like a website or blog that speaks your messages, ask Linda Lee to design one for you.


Smart Women, Stupid Computers

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