Friday, January 24, 2020

How to Help Your Manuscript Submission Stand Out--Being Part of a "Discourse Community"

I often refer clients and students to Jane Friedman, clearly one of the most savvy publishing gurus out there today.  Friedman is the former publisher of Writer's Digest magazine, and author of The Business of Being a Writer, a primer on publishing that every hopeful author needs to read.

This article, on why a "discourse community" is something you should know about, and how it  gives your manuscript submission the best possible chance with agents and editors, is a few years old but still very applicable to publishing today.  If you are planning to query agents in the new year, it's worth a read.


(If the link doesn't work, go to writerunboxed.com and search for her name.  And read some of their other excellent articles while you're there.)  

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Cool Character-Building Exercise from Comic-Artist Lynda Barry

January is often a good time to shake up the writing routine, examine different ways of approaching recurring problems in your book, get inspiration from those who bust the barrier, which is why last week's post from Mo Willems got me thinking about publishing in a new way.

This week, I'd like to welcome Lynda Barry, who has a cool idea about character development.  Check out this link from Lit Hub (if it doesn't work, go to lithub.org and search for her name). 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Best-Selling Children's Book Author Shares How He Busted Tradition and Won Anyway

Winner of three Caldecott Medals (the best win in kid lit), Mo Willems was rejected some billion times (his words) by publishers who said his work was "too unusual."  Listen or read this interview from PBS on how he kept his belief in his creative work and broke through the barrier.  Lots of great insights on putting creativity and joy into your work. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Getting Away from Your Life to "Entrain" at a New Level: Benefits of a Writing Retreat or Class Away from Home

Winter is the time of year when I think about entrainment.  Entrainment, as it pertains to the writer's life, is the art and science of learning by proximity to writers who are working at a higher level than you.  It's skill by osmosis, by community.  For me, it's an absolute necessity.

Why?  Because we only know what we know.  We reinvent ourselves over and over, unconsciously, until we entrain with something moving at a higher skill level.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Interiority? How Much Should You Show or Tell about Your Characters' Inner Lives?

Interiority or "internals" is a fancy way to describe the reader's view into your characters' thoughts, feelings, and inner lives.  Some genres require a lot of this (memoir), some much less (thrillers).  Interiority is what makes a character real to the reader.  Skilled writers reveal interiority in several ways.  It's important to know what your genre requires and how to plant and build the interior lives, without having them slow the momentum of the story.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Can You Use Real Place Names in Your Books? Can You Fictionalize Details?

Maggie is writing a novel about a group of people living in a made-up place, based on a real location.  She faced a dilemma this month about how much freedom she has, as a fiction writer, to use real places in her story. 

"The reader knows my novel takes place in Minnesota," Maggie told me. "I want to reference lakes, counties and towns that one of the characters--a realtor--covers.  These places are my real-world reference points."  

My first novel was based in a real-life place--the Adirondack mountains of New York State--and included real towns.  I made sure I visited those towns, used accurate information, but I also fictionalized parts and said so in my author's notes.  I know many writers do this.  But it is a good question to ask.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Finding a Writing Group or Writing Partner--From Afar (Online and On Demand)

Nikki, who travels a lot, took one of my writing workshops and recently emailed me with a great question:  how do you find a writing group or writing partner when you can't physically meet regularly?

I get this question a lot!  Mostly from experienced writers who know the value of writing partners and groups, but due to travel or family life or living too far from a city, they can't join a "normal" group.  

Writer's groups and writing partners provide a couple of benefits to a writer's life.  Writing is a solitary thing, and it's easy to get a little nutso when you've been on your laptop, deep in your story, for hours without interacting with another human.  Even a virtual interaction provides a way back to normal life, perspective on what you've been doing (even if it's a universe in itself), and ideally, some feedback along the way.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wisdom from the Irreverent Anne Lamott--on Writing and the Writer's Life

We all need inspiration.  Writing can be a solitary, even lonely, process, often discouraging.  Thanks to my student Mary for this excellent inspiration break from the always-inspiring Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and many other books.  She shares her wisdom in this TED talk.  Enjoy.  (And take notes!)  I promise it'll give you writing fuel if you're even a wee bit stuck this week.
Link is here.  

If it doesn't work, go to www.ted.com/talks and search for her name.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Should You Pursue Your Manuscript--Or Set It Aside--After Multiple Rejections (AKA Who Are You Writing This For?)

One of my students from Canada recently contacted me after the third small press rejected her memoir manuscript.  The publisher was seriously interested but, after some thought. changed his mind.  The press offered detailed feedback--in itself an encouragement--which she appreciated.


But it's her third rejection after serious interest, and she's losing heart.  "It's been seven years in the writing and revising," she wrote me, "and based on feedback the manuscript has definitely improved. But I'm not sure if I should pursue it anymore."

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Confusing World of Copyrights and Permissions--A Brief Overview for the New Author

Although I don't recommend spending much time on the legal aspects of publishing until you are close to that long-awaited time, there are some good rules of thumb to know about.  Here are a few questions I get regularly: 

1. Do you need to copyright your manuscript before submitting to agents or publishers? If you self-publish, is it a good idea to go ahead and register your book officially with the office of copyright?