Dramaquill's All Things Writing

May 31, 2015

Writing to get published

What kind of writer are you?

Does everything you write have to get published for you to feel like you’re a writer?

Do you ever just write because you have a brain overflowing with ideas?

I think (and this is just my opinion) that if you write solely for the purpose of getting those words published, you may be in for a disappointing time.  I’ve written some fine sentences – maybe even some fine paragraphs that will likely never make it to an editor’s desk.  Sometimes, you just have to be willing to write it and let it go.

But that doesn’t make you less of a writer, now does it?

I truly believe the best writers are those who write consistently…all the time.  They won’t see every single word they’ve ever put to paper come to life in the form of a book, short story, article or essay.  But they will have known the satisfaction of getting those words down and creating a body of work that is meaningful.

Lots of great writing never gets published.  How saf, though, if because of that, it was never written.

What kind of writer are you?

December 31, 2014

Resolutions or Goals?

According to several online sources, it seems that approximately 40-45% of folks make new year’s resolutions.  Sadly, it’s also reported that approximately 60% fail at keeping them.

As a writer, do you make resolutions?

Several years back, the moderator of my online critique group challenged the members to submit their writing and writing related goals for the coming year.  As a member of the group, at first I struggled a little.  What was the difference between a goal and a resolution?

What I discovered was that my goals were quite specific and focused:

  • Revise the last five chapters of my novel and submit it to my critique group next month.
  • Draft a query letter and send it to (insert name of publisher here) the week my critique group goes over my chapters.
  • By the end of January, finish the second act of the play that my drama group will be performing in the spring.
  • Pick three agents from my list of potential agencies to query.

Everything was quite specific.

Had I made a list of resolutions I fear they would have been very similar to those made by many who fail to see them through:

  • Write more everyday
  • Read more books
  • Start or keep a journal
  • Pick your platform
  • Join a writing group

These are all very respectable but since they aren’t as specific (no deadlines or set amounts) that it’s much easier for them to fail.

So this year, are you going to make a list of resolutions or are you going to set some writing goals?

August 11, 2014

Writing conferences: Online or in Person?

I’ve attended conferences both online and in person in the past five years.

Online has the 24 hour convenience of being able to read, write and participate any time of day or night.  You can wear anything because nobody can see you.  If you get interrupted, you can come back and pick up right where you left off.  You can meet new people, including editors, authors, publishers and even agents.

Going to a conference in person allows you the excitement of seeing people in person and interacting with them during lectures, workshops and even meals and coffee breaks.  You can make eye contact and banter back and forth.  And yes, you can meet new people, including editors, authors, publishers and even agents.

Online conferences don’t cost as much and in fact, many are even free.

Going in person means packing, traveling, staying in a hotel and making a commitment to a block of time set aside for the conference.

To me, both have their pros and cons.

I like the convenience of the online conference but the interaction in person cannot be replicated in the online venue.

Whichever you choose, writing conference do teach, excite and inspire us to be better.

Which do you prefer:  Online or in Person

August 16, 2013

Writing Advice: Questions From My Readers Part Three

Question:  With all the time it takes to write a book, then submit it and survive all the rejections, why makes you not want to give up?

I would imagine that this is definitely something that rings close to home with every writer in some way.  Even the most famous writers have plenty of rejection stories.

So, I’m just going to answer this question according to how I feel about the writing biz and its process.

This may sound corny or perhaps even trite to some of you but I’ll risk it because what I’m about to say is 100% the truth.

I was born to write!   Plain and simple.

Yes, it’s a lot of work to write a book.  I think I had about six drafts before I felt that my manuscript was ready to submit to publishers.

Do your homework.  Find out which publishers are the absolute best fit for what you write.  Go to conferences (or if you can’t afford the travel, participate in online conferences) where you can meet editors or at least listen to them speak about what they look for when choosing new works.

Make sure you’re pitching your absolute best work!!!!!  This bears repeating.
Make sure you’re pitching your absolute best work!

Learn to craft an enticing query letter and a killer synopsis.  These are the tools that will get an editor to ask to see your manuscript.

Learn from the rejections.  Did you get any feedback?

What is your ultimate goal with your writing?

If you are writing with the goal of getting published, research the traditional markets carefully and follow submission instructions to the letter.  If you decide to self-publish, you’ll have to be even more steadfast about putting your best foot forward.  Get a professional critique.  Join a critique group.  Pay someone to design your cover.  Don’t let your book look amateur.

The writing biz is hard.  The process can be very slow.  You will get rejections – probably more than acceptances.

I can’t imagine letting any of this stop me from pursuing my writing career.

 

May 16, 2011

What is it that makes a really great writer great?

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Ever since I embarked on my writing  journey, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on where writing is concerned.

  •  Articles on show, don’t tell. 
  • Interviews with agents and editors on what works when submitting and what turns them off immediately. 
  • Discussions on POV

I’ve also been an active participant in two online critique groups, as well as joining writers’ organizations and attending writing conferences.

But I still have to wonder:  What is it that makes a really great writer great?

Here are a few things I think help contribute to a writer’s greatness:

  • unique voice
  • consistency in the writing
  • strong, solid plots
  • characters that behave like real people (readers can relate to them)
  • stories that surprise and entertain us
  • descriptive writing that immediately paints a vivid visual

Above all, however, I think it goes deeper than the ability to craft an amazing story. 

To me, a great writer is passionate about the entire process.  These aren’t just words on a page.  It’s time invested in painstakingly scupting every detail until it’s the absolute best writing it can be.  A great writer writes what stirs them up – stories they have to tell.

Don’t write to market trends.

Don’t settle for anything less than your best writing…ever.

Don’t sub pieces out without doing your homework on the publishers you’ve chosen.

But what is the biggest thing that makes a really great writer great?

NEVER GIVE UP!

June 16, 2009

Publication – the waiting game

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Writers write for many different reasons.  I’m guessing that one of the most common, however, is to see their work in print…published.

The road to publication is often a long one, filled with many bumps and detours along the way.  But let’s say you’ve finally polished that manuscript and started subbing it out.  You’re now playing The Waiting Game.

I just received my complimentary copy of Hopscotch for Girls, a U.S. magazine.   In it, is a non-fiction poem I wrote called “The Marsupial Family”. 

Now here’s where you’ll see what I mean by The Waiting Game.

I subbed the poem in October of 2005.  It was accepted for publication in November of 2005.  (Actually a quick response) But alas, it took nearly four years before I got the thrill of seeing one of my pieces published.

The publishing business works very far into the future.  Having a turnaround of three or four years between an acceptance and publication is the norm.  In fact, right now, the Bluffton Group, who publishes Hopscotch for Girls, Boys Quest and Fun for Kidz is looking at obtaining suitable material for themes all the way to 2014.

So that’s why, as a writer, it’s important for you to get those subs out there.  And nowadays, most publications understand that you are likely going to sub your piece to simultaneous markets.  As long as you inform everyone that your submission is a simultaneous one, usually they do not need exclusivitiy.  The publishers only ask that you inform them if your piece is accepted by someone else.

A writing friend has a book coming out this year.  She got her acceptance three years ago.  Again, it;s The Waiting Game.  But had she not subbed out her piece, the day of seeing her first book in print would never have come.

So, rather than be discouraged by the long turnaround times in the publishing business, get writing…get revision…and get subbing.

January 6, 2009

FINAL REVISIONS – When is enough, enough?

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I submitted my final chapters of my adult suspense novel to my online critique group on Monday and am now waiting for the critiques to come in.  I’m excited about the entire process because it pushes me one step closer to my finished, polished, manuscript.

What I submitted to them was my fifth revision.  I truly believe that my manuscript has grown and my writer’s voice has become stronger with each re-write.  I’ve especially noticed a difference in my characters, implementing “showing” instead of “telling” and in my ability to write POV.

We’ve all read comments from agents and editors regarding bad writing.  If we truly want a shot at getting our book published, we know that we have to submit our very best work. 

But at some point, the time must come when we set down our critical eye and stop revising and re-writing and start querying.  I believe I’m now at that point.

I do believe that some amateur writers  sub out manuscripts that are not ready.  I can’t say enough how important it is to get feedback from others (and this doesn’t mean your friends and your family).  Join a critique group!

But I also know that it would be quite easy to continue to revise, re-write and tweak this manuscript forever and never consider it finished.

As writers, what we sub out should always be our best work.  But when is enough, enough?

When you’re positive this is your best work.  You’ve checked and double checked for typos, grammar, puctuation and proper formatting.  You’ve read and re-read the submission guidelines for your target agents and/or publishers.  You feel pumped about sending out this project that has consumed you for so long.

So I’m going out today to stock up on ink for my printer and packages of paper.  I will print out this final draft and begin the task of reading it backwards, to find any mistakes I may have missed.  I will give it to my critique partner for one last look.  I will begin drafting my query letter, which I will also sub to my critique group.

And finally, I will search through the agents and publishers I’ve been collecting throughout this entire project and begin with my first round of queries.

How are you doing with your revisions?  Do you know when enough is enough?

May 25, 2008

What’s the SCBWI?

Are you a children’s book writer or illustrator?  Even if you aren’t published in the kidlit genre, the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is an organization you should become familiar with and consider joining.

For the aspiring writers & illustrators looking for their first break, the SCBWI offers a plethora of resources including:

* writing conferences (international and regional)

*a network of writers/illustrators/publishers/editors/agents/librarians/teachers/
  booksellers – all available to offer valuable information to SCBWI members

*a bi-monthly newsletter

*grants/awards (Golden Kite award)

*a website filled with constantly updated information for anyone seriously
  considering writing and/or illustrating children’s books (online discussion groups/
  current market listings/critique exchange opps/links to member’s websites
& so much more

And there’s one other benefit that I feel is really an important one for writers looking to get their first book published.  Let me explain.  Many publishers’ guidelines state that they only accept work from agents.  But how does one get an agent without being published.  It’s such a catch-22. There are some publishers who still accept unsolicited manuscripts but there aren’t as many of those these days.  However, many publishers (even those who prefer agented subs) will look at packages from unpublished writers if they are members of the SCBWI.  So, belonging to the SCBWI could get your foot in an otherwise “private” door.

And the best part is that there are two different membership levels:

1.   Full membership (writers & illustrators commercially published or
produced as well as agents, publishers & editors)

2.  Associate membership (unpublished writers & illustrators or those
published in a field other than kidlit)

Full members can have a link to their own website, too.

I’m a proud member of the SCBWI, and have been for the past four years.

Check them out online at:   http://www.scbwi.org/

 

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.

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? 

November 27, 2007

Critique Groups: Every writer should belong to at least one

Where I live, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to gather together with other writers.  There is a group that meets at our local library, however, due to the nature of my business, I cannot make the meetings. 

I used to think I was alone – isolated in a place geographically removed from the big city life of the publishing business. 

But with the internet, I’m only a click away from connecting with writers all over the world, in any genre, and at every level from raw beginner to professionally published.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re a writer.  Of course everything you write is good – you wrote it.  And yes, for the most part, we writers do realize our first drafts aren’t polished enough to sub out so we accept the task of revising.

But…we only have our own close relationship with our ideas, words, characters and scenerios from which to draw.  Every writer needs feedback from fresh eyes.

Relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers may want to read your prose, but often their feedback isn’t entirely honest.  Either they love everything you do (and who wouldn’t find that encouraging, right?) or they suggest, based on a complete lack of any knowledge of the writing world, what they think you should do to improve your manuscript.  Although at times their perspectives can be helpful, more often you need to connect with other writers.

So naturally, as a writer, you consider joining a critique group.  There are those groups that meet face to face and those that meet online.  I’m sure I could start a healthy debate on which of the two are the better scenerio but instead I think I’ll leave that up to the individual writer. 

Personally, I’ve gone the online route, out of necessity, and find it to be a wonderful forum.  I think it could be easier to be totally honest when critiquing the writing of a fellow critique group member when you aren’t sitting, looking into their disappointed face as you endeavour to offer your suggestions, changes and heaven forbid, criticisms.

I’ve been extremely lucky to find two very diverse critique groups, one for my kidlit rhyming PBs and the other for my novels. 

My rhyming group, originally posted on MSN, has gone private and contains 10 members, several of whom have belonged to the group now for many years.  Every single person in this rhyming crit group has seen at least one of their pieces published in a paying market.  A couple have broken into the PB market although most have had more success with shorter rhyming pieces published in magazines.  Nonetheless, the level of writing in each individual has grown and matured.  We’re friends on one level, co-workers on another, and brutally honest critiquers when necessary. 

My prose critique group formed through a now defunct writing site.  We migrated away from the site and the same six writers have been together for several years now.  We have developed close, online friendships.  One of our group has an MG novel coming out in 2008 and it’s an amazing fantasy that will easily compete with some of the most sold and read rivals in this genre.  Others in the group have been paid for articles and illustrations.  Several have had requests from agents for full manuscripts and are waiting for representation. 

Without them, my suspense thriller novel wouldn’t be where it is today. 

The writers in both of these groups represent a cross section of business knowledge, writing styles, and the opinions of those readers we hope to snag into buying our books for years to come.

If you want a shot at getting published, do these things:

1.   Familiarize yourself with the markets and the publishing biz.

2.   Write your best work and don’t be satisfied with anything less.

3.   Join a critique group and let them give your manuscript the
      onceover.

4.  Attend writing workshops whenever possible.

5.  Use the internet to network with other writers, editors, agents,
     and publishers on the many forums available.

6.  And most important of all…never ever give up!

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