Dramaquill's All Things Writing

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!

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January 16, 2011

Promote your book on to the Best Sellers List

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Every writer today knows that writing the book and getting it published is only half the battle.  Much of the marketing and promotion is also left up to the writer and with all the tools on the internet, you CAN get the word out and if you’re lucky, maybe even end up on the BEST SELLERS list.

I did just that with my suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”.

Some of the things that I did:

1.      Held a booksigning at a branch of my local library  
         (In the future I’ll post some great ideas on how to attract people to your booksigning)

2.      Created pages on social networks like Facebook
          http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Jacqueline-McMahons-Writing/115755788486062

3.      Joined other sites like Twitter, Linkedin, and Jacketflap and get socializing with other
          writers, publishers, editors, agents etc.

4.      Used FREE press release sites to promote your book online

5.      Sent out press releases to all the media where you live (radio/newspaper/TV)

6.      Got reviews from those who have read it and have them posted online
          (I’ve got some at Amazon.com and Facebook already and also from a couple of
            book reviewers)

7.      Created a website

8.      Made postcards of the book’s cover and on the back put the following info:
          *    name
          *    website/book’s website
          *    where to purchase
          *    an enticing excerpt

9.      Got interviewed in a local arts magazine
          (You can also try getting press with local papers, TV and radio stations, plus online
           ezines and blogs)

10.     Joined online writers’ groups where to mingle, learn and promote

Keep promoting whenever you see an opportunity to network, but also, don’t forget to reciprocate by reading other writers’  books and offering reviews/comments on their blogs and sites.

February 10, 2010

My first novel is about to become a reality

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I’m interrupting my “Successful writer” series of posts because I have exciting news!

On February 1st the news was official.  I signed my first book contract…ever.  My adult suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die” was accepted by Red Rose Publishing and is in the cue of upcoming releases.

Although there’s still a lot to be done before the book is out, including cover art and final revisions with my editor, it’s already listed on the publisher’s website with an enticing blurb.

Check it out here:

http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?products_id=826

Perserverence pays off.  Never give up on your self and your writing.  Your day will come!

December 4, 2009

Contracts and negotiating

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So the most amazing thing has happened and a publisher has offered you a contract on your book.  Suddenly, you are presented with pages and pages of legalese, fondly known as your contract.

Many new writers might be so filled with the excitement of having finally scored a book deal that they rush to sign and return their contract.  No matter how tempted you are to do this, always go over every clause and know what you are signing before you jumpt to return your contract.

Some things to look for:

What rights are you signing away? 
Try never to give up all rights.  It’s your work, afterall.  Check out all the different types of rights online by googling “writer’s rights” or “publication rights”.  Here are a couple of comprehensive articles on the subject:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/226598/writers_rights_know_what_rights_youre.html?cat=31

http://freelancewrite.about.com/od/legalissues/a/rights.htm

Check out the publisher and see if you can find out how they rate in the business community of writing and publishing.  Make sure there aren’t complaints posted about not paying etc.  One place to check is the preditors and editors website:

http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/

As a new writer, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification on anything presented in the contract.  Publishers are more than willing to answer your questions as long as you remain professional in your communications with them.

Don’t take the deal if you don’t like the terms.  It’s tempting to just snatch up the first offer but you may regret it later if you aren’t 100% happy with the terms.

If at all possible, have a lawyer experienced in the publishing business look over your contract.  The lawyer will be able to explain things to you that you might not otherwise understand before you contact the publisher.

Be happy that you got an offer, whether or not you decide to take it.  You’re well on your way to more offers and acceptances once you’ve conquered your first hurdle.

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.

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