Dramaquill's All Things Writing

July 26, 2008

Self publishing – it’s not for everyone!

Okay, I’ll say right out that I’m probably going to get a lot of comments on this post and I’m prepared for that.  But before you comment remember this:  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion!

I’m just flabbergasted at the growing number of authors who have decided to self-publish.  Now, before you get defensive, let me clarify that I mean the number of fiction authors. 

I totally get that doing a POD book or an ebook that’s an information guide might be a more lucrative way to go for some non-fiction subject matter.  I also understand that some writers may only want to make a few copies of a book for family and friends for a special occasion and self-publishing allows them to do that.

I don’t have anything against POD technology or self-publishing per se.

What I don’t understand is why any author who’s truly stoked about his/her novel being published and available in bookstores would choose to self-publish.  So many vanity press companies have such bad reputations (we’ve all read the countless complaints about Publish America).  And major booksellers won’t stock self-published or POD books.

I know what you’re thinking.  It takes forever to go down the traditional path.  You don’t have to tell me – I know!

I’ve been slugging it out as a writer for many years and started seriously submitting about seven or eight years ago.  It’s frustrating as hell to wait for six months or longer to hear back from a publisher. 

But as I stare at my folder filled with rejection letters, I can’t help but notice a pattern.  More often than not my rejections now come with short, personal notes.  A rejection’s still a rejection but seeing something like “cute story, great character, unfortunately we’ve recently published something similar” tells me that my kidlit PBs aren’t always getting passed by because they aren’t good.  Sometimes it’s just bad timing.

I’ve managed to publish enough magazine clips, both in kidlit publications and also some NF, that I do feel that I’m making headway.  A recent acceptance by Writer’s Digest for an article in an upcoming market book keeps me hopeful that with each rejection, I continue to work harder on making my writing stronger and that it’s only a matter of time.

Nope – I haven’t broken either the kidlit PB market or the adult suspense genre but I’m not willing to feel like a sell-out by self publishing.

Okay, before you throw daggers in my direction, I know that self-publishing isn’t always a sell-out.  But there are a lot of really bad self-published books out there – badly written and badly edited.  I don’t want my book lumped in with those.  Also, these vanity presses charge the author a lot of money and often the quality of the finished product is terrible.  (I have heard positive exceptions regarding the quality of Booklocker.com and Lulu.com)

My philosophy is simple:  If it’s meant to happen for me, it will.

I’m doing the groundwork:

  • researching publishers and agents
  • following the specific guidelines when submitting
  • only sending my very best work
  • getting my work critiqued before subbing it out
  • editing and revising
  • researching the markets
  • making contacts at conferences and online
  • honing my craft
  • never giving up

Will I change my mind one day?

Never say never, but I doubt it!

Self publishing is not for everyone and I really believe it’s not for me.

July 22, 2008

Just do it!

I think I may have mentioned that I co-own a performing arts studio with my best friend.  We teach classes in dance, music, drama and creative writing.  Our students range in age from 3 years old to senior citizens.

Sunday night we received some very disturbing news.  One of our students, an eighteen year old girl, was killed in a head on collision.  She is one of three children, all of whom participate in several of our programs, as does their mother.  So, we have quite a history with this family.

Well it’s been a sad few days.  Visiting her mother, we marveled at her strength at such a horrible time and we cried with her as she anguished over the loss of her first-born.

If you’re still reading this I’m sure you’re wondering what any of it has to do with writing. 

As people, I think we all tend to take life for granted, sometimes more than other times.  If we aren’t sick and we aren’t old, we believe that we have all the time in the world ahead of us to conquer and pursue our dreams.

But tragedies like these clearly remind us how fragile the whole balance of life and death really is.  None of us know how it will all unfold.

So if you want to write a book, what are you waiting for?  Just do it!  Don’t let time slip away because you don’t know how much time you have.  Don’t waste another minute complaining.  If you want to write…write.  If you want to get published…submit.  But don’t wait.

Just do it!

July 13, 2008

You never know who may be reading what you’ve written

When I first started subbing out my work, I listened to the advice of more experienced writers as I worked on getting some clips in my portfolio:  Start with smaller publishers/publications first.

So, that’s what I did.

Although I had more rejections than acceptances at first, it wasn’t long before I was able to get a few articles accepted, for pay, by ezines and websites.  I also cracked some of the smaller children’s magazines and ezines, allowing my first kidlit poems a chance to be read by a wider audience than the children at our studio.

I’m thankful that a lot of these smaller publishers accept work on its merit, rather than the reputation or publishing record of the submitter.  If it weren’t for them, would any of us newbies ever get our feet in the door?

More recently, as many of you know, I’ve turned my focus to two areas.  One, my first adult suspense novel and two, writing plays for our drama students.  I’ve managed to sell some of my playscripts to middle school drama clubs and children’s programs at some smaller professional theatres.  I’m working on my novel’s final revision so it can start making the rounds with agents and editors.

But last week, to my surprise, I received a very interesting email from an editor of Writer’s Digest books.  It seems that he is putting together a new “market” book and wanted to know if I still had rights to an article he’d read online. 

I was amazed.

I was also fairly certain I hadn’t sold anything other than the electronic rights to this article in question, so I checked.  Yes, I still had all other rights.  So, I emailed him the exact information and he responded with an offer to include my article in Writer’s Digest’s newest market book, coming out in December of this year. We are currently in the process of doing some tweaking and negotiating the contract. 

I’ll publish more details once the contract is signed and everything’s a go for sure.

But this brings up two very interesting points about the power of the internet and having a web presence.

The editor told me they almost never reprint articles that were originally published online but my article caught his eye because of its appropriateness”
to the new book

This article was written back in 2000 and sold to a small online writing website ezine.  I had cracked a small market and was happy to have been accepted for publication.

And now, several years later, a piece I wrote for one of the smaller publishers is now going to debut with one of the biggest.

So always write with integrity and submit your best work.  You never know who may be reading what you’ve written.

July 10, 2008

What I love about Stephen King

I’ve always had this internal urge to create.  I remember organizing the neighborhood kids into characters and giving out scenerios that we could play.  My parents tell me that I used to sit on my swing set for hours and sing songs that I made up on the spot.  I loved making up stories and writing them down.  I especially enjoyed pretending to be someone or something else when I played.

I was often accused of having an over active imagination…as if that was a bad thing!

Only as an adult have I come to realize that this creativity, which rears itself in the forms of music and writing, is truly a gift I was blessed to be given.  Whenever anyone asks me why I bother to write books when so far, I’ve only managed to crack some magazine markets, I can only give one reply:  Because I can’t “not” write.

Stephen King has a FAQ page on his official website and I absolutely love his answer to the question:  Why did you become a writer?  Here it is, copied from

“The answer to that is fairly simple-there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.”

That’s one thing I love about Stephen King.

I remember enjoying what I would refer to as “scary” movies and watching them with my mother on nights when my dad would be at work or volunteering at a local organization.  My mother introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock and I immediately became a fan of the genre.  I loved the quirky way Hitchcock would appear in his films and part of the fun of watching them was to see if I could spot him.

Although I prefer King’s books to any films made from his stories (with the exception perhaps of Misery, which was an excellent film), King developed that same quirk of appearing in bit roles in his own movies.  That’s another thing I like about Stephen King.

I took an online workshop years back and the one thing I remember about the plotting seminar was that we were all told to ask ourselves “what if”.  It brought me back to my childhood drama games again.  I can still hear the voices of my neighborhood friends in their enthusiastic high pitches yelling “what if I…” followed by a plethora of different scenerios, keeping us playing for hours.

Who knew that Stephen King would subscribe to the “what if” method, but according to his FAQ, King applies this technique to his writing all the time. 
Another reason I love Stephen King.

  • I love the fact that Stephen King lives in Bangor Maine, not Hollywood or New York. 
  • I love the fact that Stephen King’s wife is also a writer
  • I love the diversity of King’s subjects
  • I love the fact that King writes every single day
  • I love that Stephen met Tabitha in a library
  • I love how his books can still scare me after all these years

So that’s what I love about Stephen King.

July 4, 2008

Why don’t you like me?

Revising my novel has become part of my daily routine.  Even when I’m not re-writing scenes or slicing chapters, I’m constantly thinking about Eleanor, my heroine, and Mel, my villain.  They’re inside my head and they won’t be silenced, each vying for my attention.

I don’t like Mel – that’s a given.  He’s controlling, abusive, deranged and unpredictable.  Now, considering he’s the villain in my suspense novel, I guess those are good qualities.

But the revelation I had while working on a chapter the other day was that I’m not sure I really like Eleanor, either.  My critique group has eluded to this once or twice saying things like:

  • Eleanor seems to cry too much
  • Although someone might actually react like this, it doesn’t seem to draw me into her (Eleanor) as the heroine of a book
  • Eleanor often lets someone else help her instead of facing things herself

And the more I re-write and revise, the more I’m beginning to see Eleanor as less than the strong woman I first envisioned her to be. 

So what do I do now?

How can I write passionately about someone I’m not sure I like?

Eleanor can’t help that she was a victim of serious verbal, physical and sexual abuse.  Eleanor can’t help that she’s terrified of Mel.  But, Eleanor can help herself.  She did it once before.  She got away from him.  She has to do it again, not only for herself, but for her readers.

So Eleanor, you’ve challeneged me to review what I’ve revised.  If I don’t like you, how will my readers?

The revision process is a long and complicated one but on the other side of all this hard work a better novel will emerge!

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