Today I'm calling on each of you to add your input. We're going to talk a little about a writing tool called Scrivener.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Today I'm calling on each of you to add your input. We're going to talk a little about a writing tool called Scrivener.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
It gives me great pleasure to share this news with my dear and faithful readers. I'm thinking we need to cue the drum roll here.
Friday, September 9, 2011
I’m often asked what is the secret of good writing. I used to tell people that I had a small group of editing elves that assembled in my office at night and worked their magic on my rough drafts. They used to do that, but I haven’t seen them in a while.
If you love to write, and if you’re seeking publication, there are a few things you can do to improve your craft. Below are five activities that can prove beneficial in making a noticeable difference in your writing. They’re all easy to do, and they can produce a significant improvement.
1. READ. You already know this one. It’s been pounded into your brain since that time in the third grade when you told everyone you were going to be a writer when you grew up. Writers are readers. Obviously, you want to read a ton of books in your favorite genre, but occasionally you’ll want to branch out and pick something outside your comfort zone.
For instance, if you’ve decided to write thriller or horror, you certainly want to read Stephen King and Michael Crichton. But after you finish your next novel by one of those authors, pick up a classic from yesteryear. Read something by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Have you ever spent any time with Scarlet O’Hara? It’s a long book, but it’s worth the read.
If Gone With the Wind is too slow for you, you can always join James Bond on an exciting and dangerous international espionage adventure and see how Ian Fleming writes. Or get your space helmet on and head for another world with Arthur C. Clark or Ray Bradbury. Any of these books can give you a different take on how to create a setting or put a sentence together. Every author writes differently, and therein lies the beauty of the individual’s observations and the way they relate everything to the reader.
2. EDIT YOURSELF SEVERELY. You love your words. Of course you do. You’re a writer. They’re beautifully written and every one is perfect. So you think. Here’s an exercise that might help prove a point and show you how many words you can cut from your writing and end up with something that’s actually better in most cases.
A lot of writers fill their pages with fluff just to increase their word count. Bad idea. Stephen King said the best advice an editor ever gave him was, “Kill your darlings.” It’s necessary at times to take something you’ve written and simply delete it from the manuscript in order to make it better. You can tell if it really, really needs to be in there or not. So let’s do an exercise to get past the trauma of severe editing and get comfortable with it as we add it our writing repertoire.
Take your current WIP and pick a chapter. Any chapter. If you’re working in MS Word, do a word count on it and write that number down. Take 75% of that number. (If you’re not a math whiz, just multiply the number of words by .75.) That is the number of words you need to end up with. Approximately.
Now start cutting. This is going to prove difficult at first for some of you, but it becomes easier with practice. It’s a good thing. Really it is.
Track your changes and delete anything that’s unnecessary. If it sounds like too much explanation, cut it. If you’ve mentioned it before and you’re just repeating it, cut it. Look at your sentence structure. Is there a way to construct that sentence with fewer words and have it say the same thing? Look at your dialogue tags. If it’s obvious who’s speaking, cut the tag. If the reader doesn’t need it, it doesn’t need to be on the page. Get rid of it.
Check for adverbs. In case you didn’t know, literary agents hate them. So, unless they’re absolutely necessary, cut them. You’re cutting 25% of your word count, so you need to be brutal in this exercise if you’re going to arrive at your target number. You may have to rewrite some sentences in order to maintain the flow, but you can do that. You’re a writer. Those pages should look like someone sacrificed a sheep on them when you’re finished.
When you finish, read what’s left. In most cases it will be an improvement. The pace will be faster and more alive. Many writers have a tendency to over explain things to the reader and repeat themselves. This slows things down unnecessarily. This exercise will reduce that or eliminate it. Your readers will be grateful and your book will be much better for it.
3. JOIN A CRITIQUING GROUP. If you have a local writing group, attend one of their meetings. Get to know your fellow writers. If you don’t have such a group available locally, there are a lot of forums and networks on the Internet. One of my long-time favorite places for critique and advice is a site called ABSOLUTE WRITE. It’s free and you can share your work with others and get peer input and suggestions for improvement.
LinkedIn has numerous groups of writers you can connect with as well. Facebook and Twitter can also offer additional connections if you tell people what you’re looking for. So get yourself out there.
4. ATTEND A CONFERENCE OR WORKSHOP. This will get you away from your computer and out of the house, which you need to do occasionally.
Most writing organizations hold conferences and workshops throughout the year. If you’re a writer of picture books, chapter books, middle grade or anything geared toward the juvenile market, SCBWI most likely has a branch near you. Google them. Check out their conference or workshop schedule.
You might also check out any book signings at your local bookstores. This can give you an opportunity to speak with a published author face-to-face. Many of them would be happy to offer advice to help out an aspiring author.
5. WRITE. Although all five of these steps are important, we’ve saved the best for last. Writing is what you do. You need to practice that craft. If possible, try to set up a specific writing schedule. If you’re fortunate enough to have an office in your home, you need to be in for a pre-determined number of hours per day. If you don’t have an office, per se, pick an area where you can work undisturbed by the television or other intrusions. If there’s a Starbuck’s nearby, and if you have a laptop, that’s an option that might work for you, too, especially if you’re a coffee lover.
If you implement these five steps, or even a few of them, your writing will improve. And that’s the whole point.
STEP 6. This is for AFTER you do all the other five steps. You can always use another pair of eyes to smooth out the details and make your writing flow more professionally, to get ride of repetitive words and pesky typos. Before sending you completed manuscript to an agent, have an editor/proofreader look it over.
If you'd like a free evaluation of your writing, CLICK HERE and look for the THE LINK.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Primarily, it's a marketing tool for your writing and your books. You may be the best writer since Hemingway, but if you aren't marketing yourself, you're not going to achieve the level of sales or exposure you need. And, if you can create and maintain a large following, this is going to play well with an agent or publisher who is considering you as a potential client or author. It also helps if you decide to self-publish either POD or eBooks. The larger the platform, the more potential sales.
Use your creativity (I know you have tons of that) and get going on it. And send me a link when you finish. I'll visit you and "LIKE" you while I'm there. And that's how you start building your platform.
Friday, September 2, 2011
As scheduled, we are meeting today with Joyce Holland, an Associate Agent at D4EO.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Joyce. There’s a lot going on in the industry right now and we’ve got a lot of areas to address. I have a few questions that my readers have proposed, so let’s begin, shall we?
Q. First off, what made you decide to become a literary agent, and how did you get started?
I help run an annual writer’s conference in Destin, Florida each year. I invite editors and agents from all over the country. One of the editors I invited kept in touch with me over the years.
When she quit editing and decided to become a literary agent, I did some reading for her. I had been a reader for a magazine for years, so it was old hat to me. When she decided to resign from that position she recommended me as her replacement, and after a trial run, I was an associate agent. That was two years ago.
Q. Why would a writer seek out an agent? In other words, what does the agent actually bring to the table?
In the case of D4EO Literary, lots of experience. Bob Diforio has been in the industry for decades and his contacts are impossible to count. When it comes to contracts, I believe you need an agent. Check out www.d4eo.com
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I wake up every morning believing today will be the day I find that jewel in the slush pile. Somewhere out there is a gifted writer who will absolutely thrill audiences, and I’m going to find him/her.
Q. What’s your least favorite thing?
You mean genre? I am sick of vampires, witches, and wizards. They may still be selling but I don’t want to read them.
Let’s talk about the bigger picture for a moment. The publishing industry as a whole. Obviously, ebooks have changed traditional publishing, and digital publishing has had a significant financial impact. Estimates indicate that ebook sales will exceed $1 billion in 2011.
Q. As an agent, what effect has digital publishing had on your job?
I think the future is in ebooks. Speaking for myself, it’s the only way I read now. So I think when you approach an agent you should tell them you are willing to go that route. I will always try print first, but the ebook market is moving up fast.
Q. If a writer decides to publish their work as an ebook, does that prevent them from ever having it published as a printed version? In other words, would an agent ever make an offer of representation on a previously published work?
It doesn’t prevent them, but personally, I wouldn’t be interested in a book that has already been epublished. Now tell me you sold ten thousand copies of your ebook and we might talk. But as you know, I don’t speak for all agents.
Ok, let’s get back to traditional publishing and what’s going on there.
Q. Are agents requesting as many fulls and partials as they once were?
I request very few. Actually, I prefer authors send me a one-page synopsis in the body of their email, along with the first chapter, and I want them to attach the entire book as a Word file. I can make a decision based on the synopsis and first chapter. If I love it I don’t want to have to send for it, I want it there, now. This saves us both time. By the way, please tell your readers to always include the ending in the synopsis. You won’t believe how many people say…if you want to know what happens, read my book. An instant reject will follow that approach.
Q. So how would a writer impress you? What makes a query letter stand out?
Start with your hook. Unless I love your idea, I don’t care how you came to write the book and who in your family liked it. This is a business. If you hook me with a blurb I can’t resist, I will want to know all about you. I suggest a subject line on top that has the title, genre, and word length. Then lay out your hook. Include your credentials at the end.
Q. What genres to you handle, and which is your favorite?
I love thrillers best, then mild sci-fi, romance, horror, memoirs, true crime, and non-fiction that teaches something new and exciting.
Q. When an agent replies 'this is not what we are looking for right now', what does that really mean?
One of two things. They mean it, or they don’t like it. LOL
Q. Are you accepting query letters now?
I’m closed to submissions until the end of September.
Ok, readers. Mark your calendars and get your queries and synopses ready to send out.
Q. If you could open an email and discover the Query of Your Dreams, what would it say?
I’ll give you an example of a query I fell in love with. The query was for a book called A Little Primitive and this is how the letter began:
Few people know that Lewis and Clark, the intrepid 19th century explorers, recorded testimony about tiny Indians living in the western wilderness. That odd snippet of history bugged me and soon evolved into a 95,000-word thriller called, A Little Primitive. Set in contemporary Wyoming, it features a host of odd characters, one of whom is a very strong female, and another who...well, just isn't very big.
After moving to a remote cabin, Tori Lanier merely wants to write her second novel in peace. That's when she discovers a two-foot tall Indian lying in a pool of blood beneath her house. While nursing him back to health she learns of a hidden treasure and prehistoric cave paintings. They form a tenuous alliance and the hunt is on. Meanwhile, trouble arrives in the guise of a redneck ex-con, an academic n'er do well, a dealer in phony Indian artifacts, and a cowboy grocer, to name a few. Oh, and Tori's abusive ex-husband, who wants to kill her.
Who could resist A Little Primitive?
You've given us something to aim at, Joyce. And be prepared. We have a lot of really great writers in our family here, so you might be getting that magical query sometime after September.
We certainly want to thank you for taking the time to grant us the interview. It’s very generous.
Q. In closing, do you have any words of advice for aspiring authors?
Yes, never give up. I read this advice in a magazine years ago and don’t know who to credit for it, but I repeat it at every conference. ‘If you can’t keep your kitty litter lined with rejection slips, you aren’t sending stuff out enough.’