Friday Speak Out!: Three Steps to Choosing an Editor (and why we all need one)
by K. Alan Leitch
There's only so long, isn't there? There's only so long writers can tell ourselves that it's just an unlucky streak. When that moment comes... when 'so long' becomes 'too long'... it's time to just do it. Just pack up the draft that came screaming out of you like offspring and hire yourself an editor.
That's what I did, and it made a difference. I started writing again.
It's a difficult decision to make, I'll grant. Sending work out to be critiqued can be humbling. Once it's made, though, the hardest part is over… but choosing from the many, many editors available edges into the race as a very close second-hardest. How do you trust someone who isn't much more than a website? With some advice from Cathy Hall, right here at WOW, here are the four steps I took to face the challenge.
Step One: Decide who will be encouraging
Yes, I actually placed this as my first priority. With so much discouragement stemming naturally from the process of submission, I knew that I needed something—and something fast—to get my motivation back on track. A good editor knows as much about when to be positive as when to be critical, so try to put aside the selfishness of this priority (because there is some) and focus instead on the benefits of adding more of what you do well to your writing.
Establish some communication with the editors you are considering. Personally, I shied away from services who did not identify the exact person who would be doing my editing, because I had plenty of questions, and the answers told me volumes about their nature.
Step Two: Decide who will be honest
To some extent, this contradicts step one, and it must. These days, ‘good service’ has often come to mean ‘sparing the customer’s feelings.’ For this service, though, some feedback you won’t like is essential... otherwise, why even bother seeking advice?
A good editor with some history should be able to provide you with samples of previous work: some of the comments and advice that they have offered other clients. Check these for balance, and for whether you agree with some of the more confronting opinions. Of course, you should only peek if you know that your editor has permission from that author, but authors are famously helpful that way.
Step Three: Decide who is qualified
This one's a no-brainer, but perhaps the most difficult to achieve. "Qualified" is only partly based on a resume that your editor might provide. Have they published any books themselves? Do they have success editing your particular genre? Can you access their work online to see how they write?
If you've been a writer for long, you are bound to know other writers who have had good experiences. Cast as wide a net as you can in polling these colleagues; maybe a good editor's name will even come up twice.
With all of these factors weighed, my eventual choice was Matthew Bird
. A prolific blogger, author of successful how-to-write books, and just an approachable human being, it was a fairly simple matter to answer most of the questions that I had. Is the same editor right for everyone? Absolutely not. Will the same editor suit every book I write? Unlikely... but finding an editor, like starting any relationship, will be a much more rewarding experience after steps of due diligence like these three.
Comment me up with any steps that I missed!
* * *
After a lengthy career teaching literature, K. Alan Leitch is now focusing on his own. He is the author of seven novels and dozens of short stories, and the recipient of nine awards for his fiction. Writing in genres that range from Young Adult Fantasy through Murder Mystery, Keith is trying to find, and share, the magical formula that makes it all work. You can sample his fiction, along with his blog, at Words from K. Alan. Follow him on Twitter @KAlanAuthor !
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
Labels: editing, finding an editor, Friday Speak Out, Keith Leitch
What To Do When You Lose Your Writing Rhythm
Do you have a writing rhythm?
I was reading recently about how most writers have a rhythm, and how important it is to move forward and keep plugging away as you work toward your writing goals. You can tell when writers find their rhythm because they have momentum—they’ve finished a manuscript, had their work published, corresponded with editors for assignments, received checks in the mail for reprints, etc.
But what happens when you feel like you’ve lost your writing groove?
It happens to the best of us. As a mom with two active kids, I struggle with balancing their schedules, trying maintain some sort of fitness routine so the butt in chair time doesn’t become too obvious, and completing my freelance editing and writing assignments on time. Throw in things like my recent move into a new house and the writing rhythm is pretty much non-existent. I finally got around to unpacking my desk yesterday, so at least there’s that.
From the outside, it probably doesn’t look like I’ve lost my writing rhythm. None of my editors have fired me, I still have editing and writing projects to work on each day, and my bylines appear in local magazines. But I feel like a failure because I haven’t gotten back to work on any of my manuscripts or worked on any essays or short stories recently. My personal blog is stagnant. Am I just in a writing funk or being too hard on myself?
While researching this topic, I came across an article published a few years ago at Psychology Today
. It discussed the writing habits of seven different authors. Some didn’t surprise me (Ernest Hemingway had a goal of 500 words per day) and others were, well, just odd (Truman Capote could only write lying down, holding glass of sherry in one hand a pencil in the other). I thought it over and realized I don’t really have any writing habits, besides drinking lots of coffee, which could be my problem. I love to sleep and don’t want to get up any earlier than my weekday 6:15 a.m. wake-up call and I don’t pencil myself any “creative writing” time on my daily calendar.
So, baby steps. The house is unpacked enough for now. My kids are old enough to help out with chores like the dishes and the laundry (we’re working on food prep next). I’ve shaved about an hour from my driving time by moving closer to my their school. I’m going to start by setting a goal of at least an hour of creative writing time five days a week. This can include revising chapters, brainstorming new book ideas, working on personal essays and short stories, etc. I’ll report back here next month and let you know how it’s going.
How is your writing rhythm? Are you happy with it, or do you see room for improvement? What goals would you like to set to keep your momentum going?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose work appears in regional magazines and websites. She loves a good human-interest story but still has dreams of publishing novels for children and teens.
Labels: finding your writing groove, Renee Roberson, writing inspiration, writing rhythm
When I was 13, I fell in love with writing.
I think I was 15 or 16 when this
photo was taken... Notice that
forehead that's so big, I rented it
out as a walking billboard. Now
do you know why I always wear bangs?
I wasn't the kid who wrote stories filled with talking tigers when I was six or eight years old. I wasn't interested in writing because I had no clue that was even a possibility to consider. Sobbing at the end of Charlotte's Web
...Inhaling Nancy Drew
books I got from either the bookmobile or garage sales--I loved reading, but doing the same thing E.B White or Carolyn Keene did? It didn't even occur to me.
|I had this book when|
I was 10 or 11...
In 7th grade I snagged a spot on the school newspaper and immediately proved myself enough that I was named editor. I got to write features along with ensuring every piece was mistake-free and had the right number of column inches. (Sometimes, size does
matter.) Making people laugh over my screw-ups made me proud.
Back then, the lines were pretty well perfect the first time around... at least semi-perfect considering it was a pimple-faced kid who was crafting them. Thankfully I had teachers who balanced the shallow stuff I was serving up with mind-blowing poetry. Paul Simon. Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young, of course). Joni Mitchell. Cat Stevens. Carole King. Charles Dickens.
|Cat Stevens--around 1972... He would have|
been mine except for women like Carly
Simon (who reportedly wrote "Anticipation"
about Cat Stevens)
"What!" you say? "Dicken's ain't no poet." Au contraire! The beginning of Tale of Two Cities
sure sounds like poetry to me. In Mr. Miya's class and then later, in Mr. Gates' class, we studied the rhythm, the alliteration, the metaphors, the symbolism of the folk singers and various novelists.
Before you can write, you have to kneel down and worship at a bunch of altars. For me, it was Sandra Dallas. Emily Dickinson. James Agee and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
around thirty forty
almost fifty years later. Now, I do
write. I've fallen in love with other writers, But am I a writer?
I wonder and I pondered that--pondered it hard--after I read Lynn's post.
Lynn Obermoeller is a true writer. She writes every day. She reflects upon her writing and her craft. She does such methodical and consistent things when it comes to writing, I'd call writing her second religion. Really.
Thanks to my work as a teacher and thanks to my critique partners, I've fallen in love with the act of writing. But... I need to find a way to sustain that love.
Howboutchou? Are you a writer? What makes you a writer, and what can you do to become even more entrenched as a writer? Pondering minds (like Sioux's) want to know...
Sioux Roslawski is a writer whose stories can be read in 15 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. When she was a teen, she thought she was a writer as she dabbled in humorous feature pieces and angst-filled poems. Now, she knows all that she doesn't know... and realizes she's working on becoming a writer. If you want to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.
Labels: Carolyn Keene, Cat Stevens, Charles Dickens, E.B. White, Greg Gates, James Agee, Joni Mitchell, Lynn Obermoeller, Paul Simon, Robert J.Miya, Sanda Dallas, Walker Evans
Meet Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up Claire Fullerton, Author of "Metal Gray"
Claire Fullerton is a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall Flash Fiction Contest with the very beautiful story Metal Gray
. She is the author of contemporary fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel,
set on the west coast of Ireland, and paranormal mystery, in two time frames, A Portal in Time
, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Both books published by Vinspire Publishing. Claire’s third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern Family saga, set in Memphis, Tennessee, where Claire grew up. It will be published in June of 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire has been published in multiple magazines, including Celtic Life International, Southern Writers Magazine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her essays have appeared in five of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Currently, Claire is writing her fourth novel. She lives in Malibu, California with her husband, two German shepherds, and one black cat.
Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
WOW!: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for today's interview. Congratulations again on your many accomplishments but most recently as a runner up in the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Contest! So now down to business: where did you get the idea for the character of Ella in Metal Gray
? You describe her so well it seems she must be part of your personal story as well? Please tell us more.
CLAIRE: I would love to tell you about Ella, thank you for asking. Ella is a significant character in my forthcoming novel, Mourning Dove
, which is a southern family saga, set in Memphis, where I grew up. The book will be published by Firefly Southern Fiction in June of 2018. The background of Ella and this book is that I entered a 3,000 word piece in The 2013, San Francisco Writer's Conferences' contest, in the narrative nonfiction category. The piece came in as the runner up, and I will tell you now that when I entered the piece, it occurred to me that should anything in the slightest happen, I'd turn the piece into a novel, which I did. To clarify the obvious, a novel, of course, is fiction, yet I knew with my nonfiction piece that there was an entire world already there to work with, as long as I changed names, created scenes and other characters that contributed to the momentum of the story. I can report that Mourning Dove is fiction, but that the character of Ella as she appears in the book as well as in the flash-fiction piece I sent to WOW! is a composite of many women who populated my life while growing up in Memphis. Ella represents the voice of brass tacks reason, wherever she appears, in that she sees all, knows all, and keeps her lips tight. Ella is in it, but not of it, which provides fabulous objectivity. What I did when I entered WOW!'s flash fiction contest was give the description of Ella, then made up the ending to fit the 750 word guidelines, which means it needed to be unique, self-contained, and brief!
WOW!: So clearly, you are no stranger to Ella and no stranger to writing contests. What role do flash fiction pieces play in your writing life? Do you have advice for other authors as far as contests and flash fiction pieces are concerned?
CLAIRE: Yes, I love entering flash fiction contests, for it is a way of fine-tuning one's craft. The art of brevity should be in each writer's tool-kit, and I was thrilled when I discovered WOW!'s contest. To answer your question about advice I'd give to any author, I'd say getting in the traffic and staying in the traffic is very important. I'll give you a personal example: Vinspire Publishing honored me and basically started my career by publishing my first two books back-to-back. My third novel, Mourning Dove
, will not be out until 2018, so I have a gap, with regard to staying engaged with my readership. By entering contests, and hopefully placing somewhere, it gives me the opportunity to share my work as it is published. This, along with staying engaged with social media is the life-force of an author's career. It also gives authors the opportunity to meet nice people like Crystal with WOW!
WOW!: Now I'm blushing - thank you so much! It certainly is sound advice about staying in the traffic. Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors and I didn't realize he had released a new book because he had such a gap and even though I'm an avid reader, he really fell off my map. I hope other authors take your advice and stay in the traffic (not to be confused with playing in traffic...giggle).
You recently wrote "I tend to be a stream of consciousness writer, in that I write whatever it is I’m thinking."
Can you give us an example of when that wasn't such a great idea or when it served you well?
CLAIRE: I think it has always served me well, and I'll tell you why by answering this generally: I prefer writing in the first person. I think it lends immediate intimacy, and gives the reader the complete idea of who it is they're listening to. I say I am a stream of consciousness writer because writing comes to me easily. I write the story from the voice within me, and very rarely labor. I think if a writer decides who the narrator is, with whatever nuances or backstory they may have, then they can assume the narrator's voice, and write from there. Before I begin a novel, I know the story I want to tell. I know the beginning, middle and end, and let the rest create itself, though I do take notes along the way, when something comes to me that I think I should include, in order to drive the story forward by illustrating a point, or perhaps it is something wittily said that will lend flavor and help the reader better understand the narrator or other characters. Summarily, I think that, when writing, it is best to trust one's own thoughts. I'd rather risk writing from an authentic place and having it misunderstood, than constructing something inauthentic only to realize it sounded contrived.
WOW!: I'm going to repeat what you just said because it's worth repeating: "I'd rather risk writing from an authentic place and having it misunderstood, than constructing something inauthentic only to realize it sounded contrived."
This is a quote to remember fellow writers. Thank you Claire for sharing this insight and truth.
Dancing to an Irish Reel
will now be available in all the South Dublin Libraries and I'm curious
what part you played in making that happen? What advice can you give to other authors as far as getting their books into more libraries (in the states or outside the states)?
CLAIRE: I give full credit to the unlimited creativity and enthusiasm of Dancing to an Irish Reel's
publisher, Dawn Carrington of Vinspire Publishing. Dawn was well aware that I once lived in Ireland, and that Dancing to an Irish Reel
is set on Ireland's west coast. She wrote to many Irish library's and simply introduced the book: it's blurb, its cover, and much about me as its author. She embraced this book and got it out in the world, as she educated me on exactly how to be involved in the promotional process. I have learned that the promotional process is unending, and to me, it is actually fun. The process starts out in a small arena, by aligning with the obvious social media outlets ( FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc.) but the thing is, once you're aligned, it gets bigger! You end up meeting other authors through social media and by watching where they are and what they do, it triggers unending possibilities. I can tell you that after two novels that have been out in the world for a while, I am still discovering new places to promote because it is essentially a domino effect. But yes, library's are a great avenue to explore, so I recommend that authors start locally, then get creative on the locations of libraries that may embrace the book, due to the book's setting or subject matter.
WOW!: It's nice to meet up with others who enjoy social media networking and all the endless possibilities!
I love your position of staying out of politics on social media (I too would rather talk about what unites us instead of what divides us). Have you ever approached a friend or colleague suggesting they tone down their political posts? How can we help spread the social media mentality of "See no evil...Hear no evil...Speak no evil"
CLAIRE: Great question. I assume you saw the Word Press blog post
I delicately wrote and hesitantly posted on this subject! I was torn over whether to post the piece or not! The impetus behind this came from too many months of vitriolic posts on Facebook during America's recent presidential election. So many friends I'd been aligned with for years used Facebook as a forum to post their political views, and many of these friends are authors. I spoke to one author friend who was dismayed because one of her readers had taken her to task on something she posted concerning the election, and had declared she would unfollow her. I have pledged to never comment politically because I think it is polarizing. This isn't to say that there is anything wrong with someone who chooses to do so, it's just that many are so heated over the issues that a difference of political opinion can have unintended consequences for an author. I adore meeting readers and other authors via social media, but am clear why it is that they're my friends, and what it is that brought us together. My overarching respect for books, authors, and readers makes it easy for me to leave politics alone.
WOW: That's a good way to look at it - it's out of respect! I love that!
Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Claire! Congratulations again on Metal Gray
and best wishes to you all your future projects!
Our Spring Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For details and entry, visit our contest page.
Labels: a portal in time, author interview, claire fullerton, Contest, contest winner, dancing to an irish reel, flash fiction, interview, metal gray, Runner up
Facebook Partying with Your Book - Let's Brainstorm!
Happy Monday from Wisconsin where it's finally warming up enough that we are thinking about lemonade and sunshine. (We however are still wearing sweatshirts with hoods or hats).
My dear friend Mari from Artotems
recently invited me to partake in a Facebook book party for an author I had taken on a WOW! book blog tour a few months ago. The tour was for Ronald Chapman - as many of you will recall I spoke very highly of his books and his writing style in a blog post
right here on the Muffin. For these reasons, I agreed to spend two hours of my Sunday afternoon chatting online with Ron about his work, his background, and we even got to play some Bingo and enjoy opportunities at a raffle basket and other great prizes.
The party was enjoyable but left me with lots of questions for authors who might be interested in such promotion.
** Have you ever done a Facebook book party? Did you do it yourself or did you hire a company to facilitate it for you? What is the ideal length of time for a Facebook book party? What's a fair price? What are you looking for as return on your investment?
** Have you ever participated in a Facebook book party? Was it for a single author or for many authors of a similar genre? What did you like most about the party? What would you change if you could?
I would truly love to hear from authors and readers about what I think could be an invaluable tool for authors and a lot of fun for readers.
Here are my thoughts:
Sunday afternoon from 2-4 seemed like a poor time for me. I felt like I was missing out on important time as a family. I would prefer something in the evening after my kiddos are in bed...but then again 6pm may be too late for some of my friends on the coast.
I enjoyed playing Bingo, but other parts of the party were draggy and I got a little bored (I got up and got another glass of lemonade and a cookie).
I feel I enjoyed the party more than others because I've already read and reviewed the books. This leads me to wonder if it's best to invite people quite far in advance and give them a tip that the party will be more fun if you read the book(s) first.
WOW! offers a variety of promotional opportunities and tours for authors - but as of now we don't offer any Facebook parties. Here's a list of what we currently offer: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2017/04/promoting-your-book-with-wow-women-on.html
. That said, what's important to you when choosing a company to do your Facebook book party or any other promotions? What types of companies do you steer clear of?
Please leave your thoughts and ideas as comments on this post. If you'd like more information about the promotions WOW! currently offers, please do not hesitate to contact Renee, Jodi, or myself at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a lovely Monday and a fabulous week!
Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby E due this fall), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.
You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and on her personal blog
about turning life's lemons into lemonade!
Labels: author promotions, book party, book promotions, facebook book party, facebook party, facebook promotion, promoting your book
Entering Your Story
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t believe in writer’s block. There’s no doubt in my mind. It exists. But for me, true blocks are few and far between. They happen when I’m too tired or stressed. Sometimes they happen when I’m sick.
Other times, when I can’t write, it isn’t really a block. It’s more like a corner that I’ve written myself into when I tried to force something in my story. Or I didn’t pay attention half a page ago when something wasn’t working right. I know that I should be writing but nothing is happening so I have to figure out what I’ve done wrong and fix it.
But most often, I just haven’t gotten into my story space. My mind is stuck in the world I live in and hasn’t ventured into the world of my story, article or memoir. I’ve got that problem right now because I had to put two projects aside to work on something I was being paid to write. I’ve been away for too long and my story world is no longer as familiar as it once was. I need to figure out how to get it back. I need to find the door that will let me inside.
Sometimes the fix is as easy as reacquainting myself with the story. I can do this by taking the time to read what I’ve written so far. I can probably use this technique with the novel because I’ve drafted a few chapters. This particular method works less well if I’m still outlining something or it isn’t very far along.
If food or music plays a big role in the story, eating that food or listening to the music can be a way back inside. In the care of my novel, I can also go online and listen to music. Two of my characters are fiddle players. Not violin. Fiddle. I even know what their respective instruments look like.
Then there’s the voice of my characters. It is the voice of the rural Ozarks. It is close to the voice of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. If I read his book, I hear echoes of my own characters, enough to put me back on their trail. But there are also physical locations I can visit. If I have a weekend, I can to the lake in southern Missouri where my husband likes to fish. The people who live in the area sound like my character and her family.
If I only have an afternoon, I can visit the log cabin my father-in-law is restoring. It gave rise to one of the settings in my book so climbing the stairs to the attic will be like entering my character’s bedroom. I can also visit her kitchen.
Writer’s block? Not this time. I just need to find my way back inside my story. The door into every story is unique to that particular work. Take the time to identify what it is for your story and it will help you reenter your story world whether you’ve been away for a day, a week or even longer.
Labels: preparing to write, story, story world, Sue Bradford Edwards, world of story, writer's block, writing habit
Green-Eyed Author Monster
I love writing support groups. They provide advice, writing tips, and great publishing advice. I particularly enjoy reading group-member success stories; they inspire me and give me hope for my own writing career.
Some time ago, while I was reading posts on a Facebook writer’s support group, I read the post of a fellow author who joyously shared the news that a literary agent had offered her representation. Naturally, everyone who commented offered his or her heartfelt congratulations.
I started to type a similar congratulatory response, but this time, my fingers froze as a small voice in my head surfaced.
“Go ahead,” it said. “Write what you really think.”
What did I think? I was happy for her, but another, less Beth-like part of me was angry. Why? Why should this person get what I desired the most? Why should I congratulate my fellow writer when I had yet to be successful? I have already admitted, in a previous post, to sending out over 100 query letters – all of which resulted in rejection; so, to summon a positive, heartfelt response was beyond me at that moment.
Disappointed in my reaction, I left the computer and took a break to collect my thoughts. Writing is a tough profession, I reminded myself. The competition is enormous, and there are no guarantees we will succeed the way we want. This fellow writer is a success story, which should be celebrated. I had no business scorning her achievement. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth: I wasn’t angry with her. I was angry with myself for not achieving my goals. I felt sorry for myself – as we have all done at one point or another – and I let that self-pity override my happiness for her accomplishment.
When the selfish side of me faded, I popped back on to Facebook to give my writing-buddy the congratulations she deserved. She sent me a private message later, expressing how long she had been working towards this goal, what a hard journey it had been, and how she knew I would find an agent too, someday.
As writers, it is imperative that we form positive, encouraging communities which support one another. That is part of what Women on Writing
does. It provides wisdom, encouragement, and ideas for people who love to write. By helping one another, we form a strong group of people who will continue to nurture the art of writing. Jealously might creep into the picture from time to time, but we should not let that jealously overshadow the positive aspects of a writing community.
It took this experience to remind me that a win for one writer is a win for many. While I cannot promise that I’ll never have another momentary pity-party, I can promise that I won’t let it get in the way of my support for my fellow writers. Now, I appreciate my writing groups more than ever.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.
Labels: agent representation, author, author success, Beth Harar, jealously, Publishing, writing communities, writing inspiration, writing success stories, writing support groups