Friday, July 9, 2010

Answers To Your Deepest Questions

You guys. I had the. Best. Time. last night. Full details coming on Monday -- complete with pics!

All righty, then. Here's round two of Ask Elana. I'm going to archive these on that handy "Ask Elana" page up there. Got a question for me? Ask away!

Question #1:
I attended a couple sessions about online marketing for authors at a writers' conference. Both speakers said aspiring authors don't necessarily need a blog, but they certainly need a website. I like the idea of a website, but I have no idea what to put on it. What should an aspiring author with no professional writing credits put on her website?

To which Elana said:
Websites are more static, and MUCH less work than blogs. I think even if you have no professional writing credits, you can still have a beautiful website.

You definitely need these pages:
HOME - a place for announcements, a welcome page, all your links to other pages go here.
ABOUT - this should be your bio, with a picture
BOOKS/PROJECTS - even if they're WiP's or you're querying, you should have a place where people (agents, the public, whoever) can learn about your work. Consider posting the query blurb, a picture and the first five pages. Be careful how much or your work you put in a public place.
LINKS - any links to your social networking sites. Or links you like
BLOG - a link to your blog if you have one
CONTACT - a place with a form or your email where people can contact you

And that's the basics. You want the website to look professional and tell about 1) YOU and 2) YOUR BOOKS. And you want people to be able to get through it quickly (so be brief) and have a way to contact you or continue to socialize with you later on.

Question #2:
I took a writing class recently but the things we were taught are in opposition to things I've read online...but the teacher was published and I'm not so I'm second guessing myself. In your manuscript how do you handle things that will be in italics in the final version? Do you do an underscore like _this_ or actually italicize? Which is right? Perhaps it's a nonissue with electronic files nowadays?

To which Elana answered:
Okay, my opinion on things is a bit unconventional. Yeah, I follow rules. I mean, everyone has to spell right, and use grammar to the best of their ability. I subscribe to a tense opening, and tight writing and a cliffhanger at the end of chapters. That kind of stuff.

But I go my own way with other stuff. My chapters are short and then long. I have many flashbacks. I write in both present and past tense, sometimes in the same sentence.

So my point is: YOU have to decide what YOU want to do. And then don't be afraid to do it. Yeah, use good grammar and create interesting characters. Other than that, I say "go for it!" And be YOU. Write what YOU think is going to make your story/characters the most compelling and unique that they can be.

Sorry, that's sort of a non-answer, but sometimes I think we let ourselves get folded into boxes. And I'm sort of an out-of-the-boxer.

And things that will be in italics in the final version, go in italics now. I believe underlining was done on typewriters because there wasn't a way to italicize, but with computers, there is.

And that's it for today! Got any questions? Agree/disagree with my answers? Lay it on me.

36 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I love Ask Elana posts!

...and I can't wait til Monday to hear about last night!

Matthew Rush said...

Great advice. So many of those "rules" are left over from older times. Keep in mind that if an agent (or editor) rejects your MS over one stupid little rule ... you probably didn't want to work with them in the first place.

Today's guest blogger is Guinevere Rowell!

kimberlyloomis said...

Great answers, Elana! More authors certainly need to recall that being "out of the box" with certain aspects of writing can often be a good thing. Thanks!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post. Thank you. I love this one because it answers a question I hadn't even asked. :) And it gives me some support for doing the things I'm doing in my current WIP.

laurapauling said...

I mean who wants to be in a box? :)

Christina Lee said...

I like your answers! If your writing or story blows them away then other things can be fixed, no?

Jen said...

I'm all for non-answers so thanks Elana!!!

Tabitha Bird said...

Cool! I am a rule follower too... until I am not :) Present and past tense in the same sentence? How does that work? I am curious...

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

I enjoy the Q&A format! Very helpful. Question one is interesting. The blog certainly is a lot more work, but worthwhile with all the awesome writers you *meet*. Can we link your post to next week's round-up? Highly relevant!

Thanks Elana for another fabulous post and all of the work that goes into this blog!

Marissa

Kris said...

I've been hearing about the "no italics" rule lately, too. I use italics for my protags inner thoughts. Sometimes snarky. Sometimes serious. On every page. And I use a lot of fragments.

At any rate, I've had four requests for fulls. Now, no one has offered rep yet...but I don't think anyone's going to "pass" because of italics :)

I guess my advice underscores Elana's. Rules are good and you need to know them. But if you know when to break them, you'll be fine.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I used italics in my book - they represent the telepathic communications of my characters. I couldn't think of another way to represent it and my publisher was okay with the italics.

Palindrome said...

The last one is so true. I came up with this weird idea and format for one of my wips and I was like, I can't do that! And then my rebellious side snorted and raised an eyebrow, why the hell not? That's why I'm always in trouble.

Candyland said...

You're a baddddddd mother-shut yo mouth! Rule-breaker!!! Love Q&A with you:)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love your Q&A.

A blog is definitely more work, but I check out blogs not websites. Blogs are constantly changing, and you get a better feel for the person. I think I've only checked out your website once, Elana, in the whole time I've known you.

Of course, you have to create a blog that people want to come back to again and again. I've visited tons that I never go back to because there was nothing exciting to suck me back in. ;)

salarsenッ said...

I love your answers. Thank you. I have a blog; looked into a designing a website but kind of got overwhelmed. Is it really that easy to design a website?

Hmmm....

Theresa Milstein said...

Can I just say I can't wait until your book comes out. Past and present tense? I'm sure you can pull it off.

I appreciate your first question and answer. I've paid for theresamilstein.com, but haven't set up a website yet. I'm bookmarking this page so I can refer back when I'm ready. It's a great idea to have the query there for agents/editors + some pages.

LeishaMaw said...

Thanks for the info on web pages! I just found your blog and can't wait to read more!

Jill Kemerer said...

Great answers! Love looking into the deep recesses of your mind... :)

Have a great weekend!

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I agree with you have to decide what you want to to do! I think you also need to decide at the beginning of the story. Grammar styles can effect the tone of the story.

Great bloggy post Elana!!! :)

Jonathon Arntson said...

Boxes are for leftovers. I'm more of a fresh thinker, but with no guts. This post has led me to realize I need to just go for it. Whatever 'it' is...

Jennie Englund said...

Agree 100% with your answer to #2, particularly!

Lisa_Gibson said...

As always, you ROCK! Agree with your answers. :)

Krispy said...

You're going to make us wait all the way until MONDAY? Mean! :P

I like this Ask Elana feature. Now to think of something useful to ask...

ali said...

Ha! I beat you to the Mazza post! Except, I left all the stuff about fanboy sidling and gazing at you adoringly. That's for you. Plus, I don't have pictures. Sad.

Great answers here E! ♥

Susan R. Mills said...

These are great answers to great questions! Thanks for sharing.

runnersami said...

Your answer to the website question was very helpful - thanks for the post! :)

Kyle White said...

I feel your reader's pain on this one and have asked the question myself lately. So, I've done some research.

Regarding underling vs. italics, FIRST, follow the publisher's guidelines. However, if they don't specify, the newest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (a standard in the publishing industry) says to italicize, not underline. As a side note, underlining is now viewed as old-fashioned and can be a reason for younger slush readers to reject you as out of touch.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Present tense and past tense in the same sentence? That's impressive. But then, I would never picture you in a box, Elana :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't have an author website - although I've played around with one of the free sites a bit. Maybe it's time. Thanks for the tips :)

Lydia Kang said...

Great answers Elana. And I agree with the part about writing what's best for you. It took me a while (and I'm still working out the kinks) to figure out what works best for me. But it doesn't work for everyone!

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I agree with both your answers. Or I should I say I agree they sound correct in my book. ;)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I just got back from camping and spent the last 20 minutes catching up on Elana posts! Great stuff this week, especially the Bookanistas - love it! Thanks, Elana. :-)

The Golden Eagle said...

I agree with you on those points. :)

Thanks for following my blog, BTW!

Carolyn V. said...

Oh, I can't wait to see your picts!

I think your advice is great!

Jan Markley said...

Great answers Elena!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Good point about underline v. italics. I had been wondering about that, too. Why we even bother with the underline. Good answer. Also, excellent advice on being YOU in your work. Don't fence me in.

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