Dramaquill's All Things Writing

December 30, 2007

Subbing out your writing

Congratulations – you have completed several manuscripts.  These could include a couple of NF articles, a childrens’ PB, a couple of kids’ poems and your first novel.

So your first thought is to send them out to all the publishers you can think of, right?

Not a good idea.

Many new writers make this same mistake, resulting in unnecessary rejections.  (That isn’t to say that polished pieces by seasoned writers always get accepted.  They don’t.)

If these are first drafts, don’t even think of sending them out yet.  No matter how brilliant you believe them to be, they aren’t ready for the keen eyes of an editor.

So what do you do?

Here’s my list of the steps you should take before subbing.  It still isn’t easy to get published and I consider myself fortunate to have cracked the magazine market with several paid pieces as well as the anthology market.  I’m still working on PBs and my adult novel.  But I’m convinced that by following the list below, I increase my chances for acceptance sometime in the near future.

1.    Put the piece away after you finish it.  Leave it for at least a week.
       A month is even better.  Look at it with fresh eyes.  Did you find
       anything you wanted to change?

2.    Run what you believe to be the revised copy of your piece through
       a critique group.  It doesn’t matter whether the group is one you
       meet with in person or an online group.  If it’s a good group, that’s
       all that matters.

3.    Consider the comments made by your critique group and decide
       which comments you want to use and which you don’t.  Revise
       accordingly.

4.    Research publishers thoroughly.  Read guidelines and follow them
       to the letter.  If they only accept stories of 800 words or less, don’t
       send even the most brilliant 1000 word story.  If they say email
       subs only, don’t snail mail. 

5.   Create your most professional sub.  Learn how to write a cover
       letter, how to format your piece and whenever possible, sub to a
       person’s name as listed in the guidelines.  Send an SASE only if
       the company uses them. 

6.    Now let it go!

Get busy writing your next piece while you wait.  Most publishers, editors and agents give an approximate time line for responses and most are 6 weeks or more. 

Be patient and expect to get rejected.  Most of the famous writers will tell you their horror stories of rejection before they made their first sale.  It comes with the territory.

Just remember:  If you want to be a professional writer, act like a professional.

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December 27, 2007

How do the holidays alter your writing habits?

Usually all the prequel to Christmas (the shopping, baking, wrapping, socializing) are my excuses, or should I say reasons, for not doing as much writing as I’d like.  But the past couple of years I found lots of ways to make sure I found time to create.  Here are a few ideas for you:

 1.    Take a notebook with you when you shop and make sure to use
        a cart.  That way, while you are in line, you can jot down neat
        snippets of conversation, excellent character descriptions and
        ideas for new stories.

2.     Plan a coffee break during your shopping trip and while you sip
        a hot cup of cocoa or a mocha latte, write down a description of
        the coffee shop, what you are tasting, seeing, hearing…anything.

3.     Use a portable tape recorder and record ideas that come to you
        while you wrap presents.  Maybe one of the items, or the person
        to whom it will be given to may inspire an article or a story.

4.    I have an excellent memory for detail so when I attend a party or
       social event, I replay it the next day and jot down interesting
       conversations or characters from the night before.

5.   When baking cookies, cut out all the shapes at once and then, while
       each batch bakes, work on revising a chapter of your novel or
       make a list of good ideas for Christmas articles that you can sub
       out for next year’s magazine deadlines.

6.    Give up one TV program (60 minute length is best) and use it to
        write on one of your current projects.

7.     Plan to browse in a bookstore for gift ideas and while you’re there,
        check out the writing section.

Get creative!

I’m sure you can figure out lots of your own ways to steal some writing time over the busy holiday season.

And at the very least, make a new year’s resolution to write everyday…even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you all this.  Anyone hooked on writing can’t go a day without doing it. 

Stephen King writes everyday. Do you?

December 7, 2007

My favorite online writing resources

Do you ever get so involved in what you’re writing that even the smallest interruption, like having to get up from your desk and walk over to a bookshelf to grab a dictionary frustrates you?

If you’re like me, when you’re in that zone, you don’t want to break your creative flow and moving away from your keyboard isn’t an option. 

So do you pile your desk with every resource book you own, just in chttp://www.urbandictionary.com/ase you might need one of them?  Well, I couldn’t because I’d be buried under the pile. 

Thanks to the internet, writers can find literally anything they need at their fingertips and I’ve collected a few sites that I really can’t live without when I’m writing.  Many of you may already use these tools but for those who haven’t discovered them yet, here’s a list of my most-used favorites:

http://www.dictionary.com
An online dictionary that’s so easy to use.  Just type in the word you want to look up (I use this most to double check spelling) and get your options. 

http://www.thesaurus.com
Partnered with dictionary.com, this is my other most favorite online resource.

http://www.rhymezone.com
Since I dabble in kidlit rhyming PBs, this site is always one I turn to when my story sends me to words that are more difficult to rhyme.  But I do have one piece of sage advice for all rhymers:  Don’t end a line with orange.  No amount of resources will find you anything to rhyme with that word.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/
Now this is one resource not everybody will find a need for but if you’re writing a streetwise character, it’s worth the look.  Don’t make the mistake of using “out of date” expressions.

http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php
This is one of the best places online for writers of kidlit to chat, ask questions and get the latest info.  Often visited by editors, agents and professional writers in the genre.

http://www.plagiarismchecker.com/help-authors.php
This one is great for writing teachers (and all teachers who have students write papers) but also for authors.  Ever wondered if something you wrote sounds too familiar.  This is the place to check it out.

http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml
This is a neat site to use when you’re on a roll, writing away and suddenly, you can’t think of the right word to use.  Type in a concept or a definition and get the word choices.

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/default.aspx
There are lots of good grammar sites online and I’m sure you all have your favorites.  If you’re looking for something a little different, try Grammar Girl.

http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/
I think this site is the most useful of all my links.  Before submitting anything, check out the information at this site.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into a vanity publisher or a publication known for not paying writers.  Check out a wide variety of topics from Agents to Publishers to Resources to Submissions.  Also a section on Warnings that is very useful.

Now these are only a handful of my favorites.  Care to share any of your links with the readers? 

December 4, 2007

Nano aftermath

So Nanowrimo’s officially over for another year.  I had so wanted to complete the 50,000 and was totally motivated to do so.  At the end of week three I got sick and was in bed for a couple of days.  Let’s call that Setback #1.

Three days later, my dog had some kind of breathing attack and I had to take him to the vet.  Days of testing and piles of money later, the news is devastating…rare form of cancer.  Doesn’t seem to be anthing else our vets can do here.  Definitely Setback #2.

Now, writing seems furthest from my mind and even if I wanted to, I can’t seem to pick back up into the story at the moment.  Setback #3.

So I stalled at almost 33,000 words.

But I have to look at Nanowrimo in the most positive of light:

***I wrote 33,000 words in one month! 

***I have a huge start to a new novel. 

***I’ve made some new, local writing friends.

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