Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When Family Isn't Supportive

from FundsforWriters Newsletter, Volume 15, Issue 51, December 18, 2015   

I received a heart-breaking Facebook message from a 15-year-old young man who asked me how to get his writing accepted. When I explained about polishing his words, agents, publishers, indie and the like, he replied: "For me, I come from an unsupportive familly that doesn't take writing as a talent or a valuable art. How can I practice in such conditions?"

My husband supports me unconditionally, often following me to my appearances. One son out of town reads my work and gives honest feedback. My sister-in-law in Iowa reads every book within days of release. Other than that, nobody else in my family has read my novels much, and definitely haven't read any articles, blogs or other items I've published. While I thank my lucky stars for the three people I have, I know how that stings when family doesn't care. 

I told the young man this: 

"At your age, it's a matter of being well-read first and foremost, then attempting to write stories from what you've absorbed via those good authors. They are your family right now. You are young. You will be an adult in good time and be able to do what you wish, when you like, but in the meantime, read with a writer's eye, seeing what makes for a grand story, great character, and snappy dialogue. Write as you can. And know that successful authors everywhere are in your corner."

When family doesn't believe in your writing, you do the following:
  1. Join a writer's group. Use it like a support group.
  2. Read with a writer's eye. Nobody puts down reading.
  3. Write when you can: lunches, night, early mornings, outside, riding in the car, or while everyone else is watching TV.
  4. Relate your interest in writing to your family member's interest in something else. I once used my teenagers' interest in playing hockey. Ask them how much time and money they "invest" in their sports, hunting, cars, video games, etc.
  5. Carve out time and call it yours. It doesn't have to be called writing time, but you use it as such. Just make sure you capitalize on it and write instead of doing other non-productive things.
  6. Refuse to feel guilty about a beloved hobby/profession.
  7. Display how much writing makes you whole . . . and happier. If you act grumpy, you accentuate their opinion.
  8. Ask them when they'll give up reading, watching television, going to movies, listening to music, playing online games, because a writer allowed all of those entertainment opportunities to happen. 
  9. When someone asks when you'll do something other than "that writing stuff," tell them you adore what you do. Eighty percent of the world hates their job, and you aren't one of them.

Thanks ~ Hope

C. Hope Clark is a freelance writing expert, author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series, the Edisto Island Mystery Series, and editor of FundsforWriters.com, a weekly newsletter service that reaches 40,000+ writers. Learn more at her website chopeclark.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Do Agents Really Want?

Guess what? Agents are people. There is no truth to the rumor that they are nasty little trolls who love, love, love to reject writers. They do not drool and mutter "Mwwaaaaah" (evil laugh) when they send query letters to delete-ville.

In truth, agents are pragmatic business people who stay in business by making correct choices, meaning, clients with projects that are publisher friendly.

Therefore, be sure your query letter introduces you as a writer with a fabulous manuscript.

What do agents really want?

Agents want quality manuscripts to sell to publishers. Period. This need has increased in recent years as multiple avenues of publication, from ebooks to audio books to podcast books, etc., have expanded the market and opportunities for writers.

You may be a writer who continually struggles to get through the publishing door. Even though you've crafted a fascinating story, you are unable to locate the right agent to guide you through the publishing maze. Why?

The answer's pretty basic. Perhaps you don't know how to:

  1. write a query that tells your story: who wants what, why can't they have it, and what happens if they don't get it.
  2. assemble a query submission packet.
  3. self-edit your work to eliminate ALL writing mechanic errors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reblogs: The Two Most Powerful Words That You Can Say To Yourself While Writing

(from io9.com)

“I’m bored.” 

These two words are the hardest thing to admit, when you’re writing your deathless novel, or screenplay, or short story. You’re supposed to be creating a work of timeless brilliance. How can you be bored?

But admitting that you’re bored is the first step to not being bored.

The power of boredom

A lot of writers get really good at pretending that we’re not bored, and it’s possible to get so good at pretending that you even convince yourself that you’re interested in what you’re writing, when you’ve actually checked out a while ago. We put so much energy into motivating ourselves to keep writing, to put words on the page at all costs, that it can be a huge nightmare to admit that what we’re writing is actually not that fun or interesting. It feels like a terrible betrayal.

And a lot of writing advice boils down to “If you get bored, just keep writing until you find your way through it.” Or ways to cover up your boredom, or work around it, or distract yourself from it. Just taking a beat and saying “This is boring” feels as though it goes against the “just write a crappy first draft” ethos.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Getting A Clear Read

Picking a reader takes more than handing your manuscript off to the next person you see.  A reader can be instrumental in the success of your writing so choose carefully.

First, you need someone who is an avid recreational reader.  The higher the book count the better because he won't differentiate between your manuscript and the book he just bought today.  Someone who reads in multiple genres and mediums is good too, such as mainstream fiction, magazines and the daily newspaper.  This person knows what sits on the store shelves and can evaluate how your work will play within the current trends.

Second, an effective reader can explain the reasoning behind his opinions.  How many times have you handed a manuscript to someone and only to have the person say, “Oh I like it “ or “It’s not my favorite”?  That doesn’t help when you're trying to figure out if the ending gives the payoff promised or simply stops the story.   There must be some give and take with both sides questioning each other.  You have to feel comfortable with your reader to ask why does he think that and to play a game of "what if..."  with him. 

Third, honesty is the most important issue in the writer-reader relationship.  The risk of hurting your feelings may keep the people closest to you from giving you an honest critique.  Ask yourself, "I can trust him with my life, but can I trust him with my manuscript?"  On the flipside, struggling through life together can strip away all pretenses making your soulmate or your best friend the perfect reader.  He knows you and how you work and you know him.  Any inkling of sugar-coating would be spotted right away.  As your friend, he wouldn't betray the trust you placed in him when you turned over your manuscript.

Next you need to decide if a reader is necessary for you.  Look at your limitations.  I have a hard time seeing simple mistakes, not only in my work but in whatever I read.  My mind automatically corrects the mistake and I read through it.  Readers can spot basic errors and typos because they read with fresh eyes.  They can tell you what works, what to fix and what to cut out.  

I also have a habit of "writing short" for the sake of the word count, sometimes sacrificing clarity.  When you research a project, you learn far more than you'll ever put in your manuscript.  As a result, you may leave out information inadvertently because you know what you're talking about.  You know the backstory.  A reader can point out areas where your 1000 words don't add up to a picture for those outside your brain, and he can work with you to get your point across without busting the word count. 

It may be that you'll find a need for more than one reader.  Different people give different perspectives even when they're looking at the same manuscript.  Life experiences, interests and education all influence how a person looks at the written word.  Two people may like the same things but for different reasons.  They may pick out the same problem area, but offer differing solutions.  Of course, you could get critiques that make you wonder if you even gave them the same manuscript.  In any case, they'll both give you something to think about.

If you write in different mediums, it can be helpful to have different readers for each.  A reader who enjoys fiction might find nonfiction boring, while a nonfiction reader might not pick up on the nuances and subtleties of fiction.  Another way to split your reading needs is between grammar and content.  One can read for sentence structure, grammar errors and spelling, much like a copy editor, while the other handles the big picture of content and flow.  Then there's the availability issue.  If your deadline looms and your reader is on vacation, having a second reader available saves you that risk of submitting a flawed manuscript.

Deciding on the need for a reader is personal.  If you're already selling every word you write, you might not need a reader.  If your sales are sporadic or if you find yourself bogged down in revisions unable to let anything go, an effective reader can help.  So evaluate your career honestly, recognize recurring problems, then look for someone with the traits and skills to give your next manuscript a good read.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

ReBlogs: Finding Time To Write During A Busy Holiday Schedule

(from Huff Post Books)

The busy holiday season is here! In between baking, visiting family and friends, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping the gifts, and a million other tasks that make the holidays hectic—how will you ever find time to write?

When your schedule is packed, it’s hard to justify taking the time to write and easier to tell yourself, I’ll just do it tomorrow. But too many “tomorrows” later, you may find yourself in the middle of January with nothing but a pile of blank pages. Here are some smart ways to keep your writing on track amidst all the turkey gobbling and sugarplums dancing.

The Hassle: You feel rushed and stressed when you steal a few minutes to write.

The Holiday Helper: Instead of noting how much (or how little) time you spend writing, keep track of the number of words you write in a day. By removing the pressure of trying to beat the clock, you’ll free yourself to see your productivity in a new way. Also, give yourself a little slack this time of year. If you normally maintain a rigorous writing timetable of an hour a day, every day—maybe, for now, you could consider any amount of writing on any day as a success.

Read the remaining tips on Huff Post Books.