Dramaquill's All Things Writing

February 22, 2008

Agent or Publisher

New authors face the big “catch-22” scenerio when they begin subbing out their manuscripts.  Should they try to get an agent first, or go straight to the publishers?

What’s the catch-22?

Well known agents are most likely interested in established writers whose works (and even name) can guarantee good book sales.  Big name publishers don’t usually accept unagented authors.

So what’s a newbie to do?

Think small!

Although it would be nice to land your first book with Harper Collins or Penguin Putnam, the likelihood of that happening for an unknown author is slim.  (I’m sure we could all find case scenerios where it HAS happened, but it’s not the norm.)

The newbie author would do well to search through the guidelines in the Writer’s Markets books, available at most bookstores and also online at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.  There’s a general book filled with resources in every genre from magazines to books to plays.  The series also has separate volumes for poets, novelists, children’s writers and more.

Now zone in on some of the smaller publishing houses.  Yes, they accept and publish fewer books each year than the big guys, but they are also very open to working with newbie authors.  One of the writers in my online critique group pitched her MG novel to the editor at Bloomingtree Press and her first book will come out next year.

If you’re really set on getting an agent, one great way to make some connections is by going to writers’ conferences.  Participants can set up “face-to-face” meetings with editors and agents, often resulting in being asked to submit some of their work. 

The agent versus publisher dilemma has long plagued new authors and in the end, the decision is yours when it comes to which route you want to explore. 

Either way, make sure that your book is as polished and unique as it can be.  Don’t send drafts that haven’t been critiqued, proofed, written and rewritten until they contain only your very best writing. 

February 16, 2008

Handling Rejection

We all know how it feels to open the mailbox and see that SASE sitting amongst the bills and coupons.  Another rejection!

Writers who are serious about getting published will see plenty of rejections in their mailboxes, most likely before they ever receive their first acceptance.  Rejections can be extremely frustrating and have put an end to many an aspiring writer’s career.

But let’s think about what’s behind these rejections…

 1.    Some rejections occur because the writer didn’t know the market
        well enough and subbed inappropriate material

2.    Some rejections occur because the writer sent out a piece that
       wasn’t tight enough or just wasn’t quite ready to be subbed out

3.    Some rejections occur because the publisher was inundated with
        submissions and the writer’s manuscript had to compete with
        an incredible amount of material

4.    Some rejections occur because the publication had already printed
       something similar to what the writer has sent

5.    Some rejections occur because the editor didn’t feel strongly
        enough about the piece to take on the project

And I could go on and on and on and on with valid reasons that writers get rejected.

The bottom line is this:  rejection stinks!

So as a writer, make sure to study your markets, send out ONLY your best work and then let it go and start working on something else. 

Rejection isn’t personal.

Rejection isn’t necessarily an indication that you are a bad writer.

Rejection isn’t a reason to give up.

If you get personal comments from an editor, read them and really evaluate if what they say can help you improve the piece before you send it out again.  And rejoice in the fact that the editor took the time to actually comment – that’s a good sign.

My favorite rejection, yes I have a favorite, was from a magazine.  The editor said:  “I enjoyed reading your work and regret that we do not have any more room for rhymes in this issue (referring to the theme to which I wrote an appropriate piece).  Instead of feeling badly that my piece didn’t get accepted, I studied their future themes list and tried again.  The second time, the third, and the fourth, were all rejections. 

But…the fifth time I was successful and will have two pieces coming out with that publication in 2009, one in May and one in December.

How do you handle rejection?

February 5, 2008

Howdy y’all – Developing a character

I’s a takin’ a break from writin’ a hillbilly play fer our drama class.  Ifn I’s a talkin’ funny, it’s a cuz I’s bin a writin’ in hillbilly speak fer daze an’ daze.

All kidding aside, using a dialect can add a whole new flavor to a character but writing it can be a tough job.  I spent a lot of time researching hillbilly expressions, names, activities and anything else I could find before tackling this type of character.

But, due to the success of last year’s hillbilly play, and the way the class responds to the silly humor and antics of hillbillies, it was time to write a sequel of sorts. 

As a reader, I’m not always excited to read a character who speaks with some unique dialect.  I can imagine that I’m not the only one who finds this type of read slower than if the character didn’t speak in such a way.

The neat part about writing a play that utilizes characters who speak in dialect is that it’s not a “sit-down” read at all.  Yes, I have to read through the dialogue to make sure the characters have their own personalities and of course when I’m checking for typos etc.  But the fun part is listening to the students as they begin to master the hillbilly dialect.  And of course, the finished product is always a crowd pleaser once the audience gets to come and watch.

So how do you feel about dialects as a writer?  Ever try a character like that?

How about as a reader?  Do you prefer to read straight English without the flavor of dialect?

No matter what you do as a writer, just remember that in order to create believable, 3 dimensional characters, they must possess qualities that remind the reader of real people.  Whether it’s an expression they use, or mannerisms they possess, or a personality trait that always seems to get them in trouble, make sure your characters come alive on the page.

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