Tag Archives: writing

Focusing on Editin–SQUIRREL!

So I’ve let my most recently finished draft sit, untouched, for 8 weeks. I know King said to let it sit for 3 months, but I feel it’s been enough time to kind of “forget” the MS and come back to it fresh. However, I’m having a lot of trouble with the next step.

King’s ideal theory is to sit and read the whole MS in one sitting and make no corrections, unless they are minute grammar ones. I am finding this impossible. Once I focus, I feel I do get a lot done. However, I cannot just sit and read this MS. Yesterday I spent a couple hours reading AND editing about 1/3 of the MS. In the moment, it feels good to make these corrections and additions, especially since this MS is on the short side, even for YA. Yet it is frustrating when I cannot let go of old habits and try a new technique.

I understand why King says to just read the darn thing and not touch it. I’ve never read the MS as a whole. I’ve worked at it as we all do, in writing or editing small chapters at a time.  While I am spending time with the whole project, it’s difficult for me to sit back and read it like an actual book and not a work in progress. I may be able to do this once it’s closer to a final draft, yet even then I know I will keep fussing and touching it up.

I know a part of this “issue” is habit. I’m used to having a limit time frame to write, (30-90 minutes during nap time when nannying) and I’m also used to reading and editing other people’s works in my critique group. The majority of my experience is fixing and writing in short spurts, and I my lack of attention span is painfully clear. Even on days, like today, when I am not at work I’m having trouble focusing on the project at hand.

All people are different and have methods of writing and editing that work. I’m not saying this method is horrible and awful and shouldn’t be done, I just think I need practice and help with improving my focus for times like these when I do have a whole day to focus on a MS. Procrastination is real, and the internet is NOT helpful. (I’m even writing this blog when I should be reading my MS.)

For those of you both old and new to writing, what are some techniques you use to battle against procrastination and improve your focus to the craft? I know many of us struggle with this, so advice and techniques that work are always welcome ideas to consider!

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Filed under Editing, ideas, on writing, questions, struggling, Uncategorized, writing

(Don’t?) Write What you Know

“Write what you know” is my least favorite sentence in regards to writing. I write books about kids learning how to ride dragons. Do I know how to ride dragons? Do you? (Does anyone really?) If I only write what I know, 90% of my books would not exist.

For me, even when writing realistic fiction, I like to stray away from my own life. While I have many interests, I’m not really an exciting person. I’m cautious, I hate frequent travel/road trips, and I do watch a fair amount of Netflix while taking pictures of cats. For me, what I write makes me a more interesting person. I take on new characters and personalities to explore the world (real and fantasy) from the comfort of my own dining table. While I’m sure I could find something in my life worth writing about, I prefer topics far from what I know.

I can see why some people like “write what you know.” It’s familiar and safe, and it can be a good place to start. However, if you only stick to what you know it can limit your creative potential. I am writing a YA novel with a higher level of grief and loss than I’ve ever experienced. It’s a risk since I’ve never been in the situation I threw my main character into, but I’d rather write this book than about my high school experience playing clarinet in the school musical while studying for AP exams. (Oooh, over achieving in high school…fascinating…)

Instead of “write what you know” think “write what inspires you.” I promise, if you’re interested in a subject, someone else is too. Your friends may be interested in other genres, but there are more people in the world who do have similar interests. I met a person who wanted to write a super commercial romance novel in order to sell it and make money. This person did not read much romance or really like the genre, they just wanted something to make it big. There are a ton of red flags here. If you don’t love the idea or genre, it’s not going to be good. While there are no guarantees of anyone being the next Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling, it’s still important to love your own writing! If you are inspired to write a flash fiction piece, short story, poem, novel, etc. then do it. The more excited and passionate you are about the project the better it will be.

I’m a classical musician so I’ve been to many recitals and concerts. I’ve heard many amazing talented performances that are super technical, but the lack of musicality makes it harder for me to enjoy the performance. Writing is the same way. If you’re writing something because you can, not because you’re passionate about it, it’s clear in the writing. If “writing what you know” inspires you, then go for it. If you’re inspired to write something but afraid to write something because you don’t “know” it, write it anyway. Stretch yourself and see what you’re capable of.

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Filed under artist, ideas, inspiration, on writing, Uncategorized, writing

Rough Draft? DONE!

Finished another first draft of a new MS! I’m really excited about this one. I think the overall idea is strong and I like my characters. Of course, there are chapters I wrote thinking “This sucks,” but hey, it’s a first draft.

It’s become a habit of mine to read Stephen King’s On Writing once every couple of years or so. I finished it again a couple weeks ago and there were many things I had forgotten. While I do not agree with EVERYTHING in that book, there are many core ideas that have stuck with me. Regardless of where you are in your writing journey (just started, seven MS in Word, successful and published) I suggest reading this book.

When it comes to first drafts, there are a few things King suggests that I’ve heard other places and that I, through experience, have found to be true. Here’s a basic breakdown of how I handle first-drafts:

  1. Don’t. Edit.
    1. If you’re about to go back and check for spelling from the day before, stop. Just, stop. The most important thing right now is the story and your ideas. Get them out on paper before they fly away! It happens, they will run away if you don’t pay enough attention, like a toddler or an off-leash dog. Get those ideas on paper. You can spell check, edit, rearrange, etc. once the draft is done.
  2. Be Selfish
    1. Don’t share your book with anyone until after you have finished 2 drafts. It doesn’t need to be Publisher-Ready, but when a book is raw and unfinished, so are your ideas. As writers, no matter what we tell ourselves, we do want people to read our stuff and like it. Don’t let someone else’s ideas get in your head before your book is done! There is plenty of time for critique once the drafts are finished and all YOUR ideas are fleshed out.
  3. Murder Your Darlings
    1. (King’s words, can you tell?) Once the rough draft is done, let it sit for several weeks and don’t look at it. I know it hurts, but let it simmer. Come back when you’ve forgotten some of it. It makes it easier to trim the fat.
    2. The delete key is both satisfying and painful, but it’s incredibly important. Less than 1% of any writers’ first drafts are ready to be published. They need to be cut, re-formed, cut, smashed, molded, and written again. It’s a long process, and it’s an important one. Even if you really like that one chapter no one else does, if it really holds no value to the story, that delete key is your new bestie.

In my opinion, no matter how many drafts a book goes through, it is never done. Would I change some things in my published work The Healing Pool. Yes. Yes. YES. I don’t think I will ever feel finished with any of my books. There will always be something you will want to tinker with and change, but when those changes become smaller and smaller, it is time to get that work out into the world.

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Filed under Editing, ideas, on writing, rough draft, Uncategorized, writing

Sticker Advertisements Work!

It doesn’t take much to peek someone’s curiosity. While spending money on advertising is important, for those of us on a slim budget it can become difficult to advertise and market when the payoff is not as big as we’d like. However, I found a good conversation starter: stickers!

Yes, stickers. And buttons, or anything you can slap on a purse/bag/coat that people will see. Mine says “Ask Me About My Novel”, and you know what? People do ask! Whether I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, going for a walk, or hanging around a coffee shop, it’s not unlikely someone will bring it up and ask me about my novel! Below is my sticker, I ordered a few on Vista Print and found the quality to be very good. A little ratty from being on a purse, but it’s not going anywhere!20170413_124700

You never know when you’ll find someone interested in talking about writing or someone who wants to buy a copy. Today, an amazing thing happened. I was in a play place with the kid I nanny and a mom asked me about my writing. Turns out, she and her business partner are opening a children’s book store in Evanston! They both have young children so their picture book collection is great, but they want to expand to a wider range of ages and genres. I write MG fantasy, so she was very excited to talk about her business and how she wants to get local authors to come to her store. I gave her a book and a business card (ALWAYS carry business cards and books when possible) and she said she’d read it and get back to me. I see her at this play place frequently, so I know I’ll run into her again at some point.

It just goes to show you never know what could happen. Little advertisements start a conversation, and even if you don’t sell a book that second, you never know. There are readers out there looking for books like yours! Let them know your book is out there.

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Too Many Ideas

I have a stupid problem: I have too many ideas for books.

Before you cuss me out or throw things, think about it this way: I have ideas, but that doesn’t mean I have a book. Sometimes I start writing all excited, then I get to page 11 and I’m like “well, that was fun, what happens next??? Oh right, I don’t know.”

I’m having a hard time focusing on one project. I have my trilogy, but I’m also inspired to work on another MS. However, I also really want to get published so I should edit that first book in the trilogy. Oh, but what about this cool idea. I should write that first. (And so on.) It’s strangely frustrating. It’s nice having options since I can’t write without being inspired, however I want to work on editing my trilogy versus starting another book.

Again, it’s a stupid problem.

Part of the issue I think is that I’ve spent so much time editing the first book in the trilogy I’m getting sick of it. I’ve queried but I’m taking a break to get some feedback on the opening and work on the synopsis. I think it’s improved, but i don’t want to burn out all of the agents I want to query before it’s where it should be. I have the query, it’s solid, but I don’t want to keep sending it out if the material still needs a little extra something.

I want to be motivated to edit this trilogy since I have a history of abandoning projects. I’m so far down the road I know I won’t abandon it, however it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. Every time I try to edit I keep skimming and getting nothing done. I’m waiting to hear from one more person on the book, hopefully then I’ll have enough feedback to put in the final touches and start sending it out again.

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Filed under agent search, Editing, ideas, Uncategorized, writing

Contract Offer…Yay?

Today I received my very first contract from a publisher! Woo Hoo!!!

Stop. Read. Think. Re-read. Research.

I am new to contracts, so even though I may not be clear on every detail of the contract, I know to take a step back, understand what I can, and research the rest. The contract came from Black Rose Writing (BRW), and unfortunately their reputation does not make me optimistic. Most of the articles I found online are at least 5-8 years old, so the publisher has changed since then. However, it’s unsettling to read the unsavory reviews of a publisher who sent a contract.

They are not asking for money upfront, insisting I buy X number of books (as they once did), but I’m still hesitant. I’ve reached out to an author published through them to get an author’s experience of the publisher today. I’ve also reached out to SCBWI, my friend who writes and reviews contracts, and other authors in my critique groups for advice. It’s tempting to say “I did it” and sign away, although if BRW is a vanity publisher it’s about as exciting as getting a participation trophy at a sports event.

ABOVE WRITTEN FEB 14

Today I have heard back from several trusted people about BRW. Most people I have talked to are also skeptical and want to know more. This uneasy response has confirmed that I will not be choosing BRW as my  publisher.

The joy of getting a contract has worn off and disappointment has settled in, but I am glad for it. It’s important to do the research and tap into resources. I talked to a librarian today and she knew of another indie publisher in IL that is small but produces quality work. I will check them out. As a new author, using a small publishing house is a great way to get published and start the process of getting known. BRW, however, boarders the line of vanity press and requires the author to do most of the marketing. At least that is the vibe I get from the contract and website.

For those of you new to publishing who are afraid of getting targeted by vanity publishers, here are some things to look out for:

  1. A reputable publisher WILL NOT ask you to pay money upfront. If someone offers you a contract and requires you to pay a fee, buy a certain number of books, or pay for marketing services: run.
  2. Weird typos. Publishers like words and order and professionalism. Having a stupid typo in a contract is a scary sign. BRW had two: 31 of February, and Witnesseth.
  3. If you contact the press and they can’t say anything specific about why they chose you, it probably means they didn’t read the MS. You want someone who loves your work, not your wallet.
  4. Vanity and Subsidy press is the same thing. Both will prey on authors and try to get money from them. A publisher is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.
  5. More info about staying safe and informed below.

RESOURCES

  1. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/
  2. http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-vanity-publishing/

If you have experience with author contracts, what to look for, and how to stay informed, please comment below. I too have a lot to learn, and sharing helpful information unites us as a writing community.

 

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Filed under agent search, contract, query, questions, Set Backs, subsidy press, vanity press, writing

Death to Synopses

Ok, everyone knows writing query letters take time, energy, tears, editing, and more tears. However, a synopsis is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever had to write.

The query has its own cute little synopsis built right in to get your attention and catch your interest. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a long synopsis that lists every major event, main characters, and all the plot twists. As an agent, I’d love to have that to know what’s coming without reading 10 books a day. As a writer I want to strangle my computer.

The problem with synopsis is not giving away all the juicy secrets, it’s the total lack of formula. Finding an example query is not too hard. Most agency websites have them, most Google searches can help you out, but a synopsis can be anywhere from 1 page to 50 pages depending on what the agent wants. It’s even more infuriating when the agent doesn’t say how long the synopsis should be! Rant rant rant rant rant etc.

Thank you for listening to my frustrated brain. I’ve tried looking around for help from my SCBWI stranger/friends, but I’ve come up dry. They’ve been instrumental in helping craft my query and MS, but they too seem to have different ideas of what a synopsis is. Some people thought I meant query letter with the baby synopsis. Nope. Some people thought the synopsis was an old practice. *sigh* Nope. One person read my synopsis and gave me their opinion on what they think I should be focusing on. Umm….nope, but thanks for the second guessing?

It’s very frustrating and concerning. My query has gotten a couple agents interested and I want my synopsis to do the same. There are people I want to send my MS to who also want a synopsis, but I’m afraid of sending the “wrong” synopsis and then have them brush me off as someone who didn’t read the directions. I like directions. I will follow them to the end of time. I promise, agent-who-may-read-this-some-day, I don’t want to flood your inbox with spam!

Anyway, my current synopsis is 500 words (ish) with all the juicy secrets, about 4 characters worth mentioning, and maybe some kind of flow (but not likely.) I’d like to find a way to improve my brain fart of a book summary. Please, does anyone have a great source of where to find good example fiction queries?

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I like to be helpful when I can in my blog, but right now I’m at a complete loss.

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Filed under agent search, book synopsis, query, writing

New Book!

So remember my last post about getting the “itch” to write again? Well….I may have finished another book already!

It’s short, only about 25,500 words, but I think it’s for 5th-6th graders so the length may be just right. I’m sure there’s more to add to it for detail and so I’ll be looking for a critique partner after the holiday. It has a whole plot line and everything! It started with a small idea, and then I just kept wanting to work on it. The monster was creepy, the heroine geeky, and, naturally, the dragon was awesome! It was so much fun to put together and I’m excited to see where it goes.

I’m really excited about this new book and the break it gave me from my series. While I still love my series and the main character, looking at it over and over with little positive feedback from agents was getting me discouraged. Taking a break and actually writing helped clear my head. I can come back to the series a little fresher and maybe see some things to improve or at least get up the courage to start writing again.

Another inspiration I found was from an SCBWI article the other day about the author Kate DiCamillo. She wrote Because of Winn Dixie and Tale of Despereaux among others. Her first book about the dog Winn Dixie won a Newbery Honor Award, but she collected 470 rejection letters before it published! If that doesn’t get a writer inspired to keep going I don’t know what will.

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Filed under inspiration, query, Rejection, Self-Publishing, writing

No.

My list of 75 agents is growing smaller and smaller. I didn’t realize how many agencies have a policy where “A no from one of us is a no from all of us.” I have to trust they actually shared my query with their co-workers, otherwise I may have missed a chance. Two agencies have said no, and I was hoping to query about 8 people I now can’t because of this policy.

My heart is racing. I turned on some fun music to pump myself up today, and I finished 4 queries. My query letter is good and my MS has been edited about 4 times so I hope it’s ok. I don’t want to exhaust my options. Again. I know it’s all part of the process, but it’s still disheartening.

Two weeks ago when I had a MS request was the most excited I’ve been in a long time. The no from that was hard, but not as hard as it could have been since I prepared for it. Yet, with each query sent I feel rejection is inevitable. It’s hard to get out of this funk. Self-publishing is not an option for this book so I have to hope an agent likes it.

If I go through all my agents, then what? This question has been plaguing me since the first rejection. I’ve been through this before, but my skin is not as tough as I thought it was. Do I start a new project? Do I push harder for this one? Do I, I dunno, troll Facebook for answers? I want to be optimistic but having a back up plan would help me a lot. Anyone have some good advice? Anyone been through this funk before? Wisdom welcome!!!

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Got my Hopes Up

Last week I got a manuscript request from an agent. After collection 15 rejection letters I was over the moon excited, but I knew it wasn’t an offer. I sent along The King’s School and all week I’ve been resisting checking my email every 5 minutes.

Today I heard back from him………….

It was a no. 😦

My heart sank and I’m upset, but not crying-and-throwing-my-computer-through-a-window upset. I sent him a thank you email and asked if there’s anything he could suggest to improve my writing. I don’t know if he’ll get back to me, but I gave it a shot. He said my MS has “a lot to appreciate here” but he’s not convinced he can advocate for me. I at least got a personalized rejection which is more comforting than an elaborate, cookie cutter “NO” from someone.

Oh well. There was a glimmer of hope though! My query worked with someone and my MS caught someone’s eye. Now I need to find someone to fall in love with it. I will keep going, even if I have to exhaust all 75 people on my agent list.

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