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Friday, March 31, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: Giving It Away

by Laura Yeager

After a writer has acquired a few good clips, one of the first rules of freelancing is “don’t write for free.” Writing for free is seen as a demeaning and thankless job. Most people don’t have the luxury of writing for free. It’s not something a writer can do very often unless money means nothing to her, or unless she is independently wealthy. Isn’t one of the reasons most of us are writing is to get paid? I love receiving my checks in the mail. I love that people will pay cash for my ideas. I don’t make much money, but what money I do make is greatly appreciated.

What about working for free? Are there any reasons to sit down at the keypad and pound out an essay or a short story and then turn around and give it away?

One of the most logical reasons to write for free is that doing so might lead to paying gigs. If a writer gives a publisher a “free sample,” the publisher may eventually purchase other work that the writer has to sell. Perfume counters pass out free samples all the time. So do grocery stores. It’s a good marketing technique. Don’t you love going to the store on free sample day, and making a meal out of yummy tidbits? I admit; I’ve done this a few times. Who hasn’t?

Another reason to write for free is this: say you just can’t sell a piece, but you want to see it out there in the universe. You want your message heard. If you’ve got something you want to say, does payment for it really matter? Being heard is remuneration in itself.

They say all publicity is good. Write for free to get your name out. That is definitely worth something.

They say the same thing about experience. Do it for the experience. All experience can be used by a writer in her future creations.

In our abundance, we are blessed. Giving of the self (and her writing) is good for the individual. It feels good to give. Try it. Write for free just once.

Who says doing a favor is ever wasted? My husband and I watched “The Godfather” this weekend. Personal favors were a big deal in the mafia culture of this film. After Sonny was killed, the Godfather went to his mortician friend and asked him to make his eldest son presentable for an open coffin, for Sonny’s mother to witness. Their enemies had killed Sonny with machine guns. The Godfather’s unforgettable line is “Look how they massacred my boy.” Of course, the mortician cleans the son up. He’s repaying the Godfather for doing him a previous favor.

Who knows? Maybe you will be repaid somehow by the publisher of your free work. Your favor might be returned. One day, when you least expect it, the publisher will pop back up in your life and return the good deed.

And here’s a thought: even though you won’t receive money, you will probably receive a bio and a link to your website.

But honestly, if you’re going to write for free, do it with no expectations of receiving anything in return.

All professionals work for free at some point in their lives. Dentists fix teeth. Lawyers practice law. Teachers tutor children. Hair stylists color hair. All for absolutely nothing. It’s a way to give back to the world for all the good energy they’ve received.

Start a revolution!

Give a little bit.

It’s worth it in the long run.

* * *
Laura Yeager has been writing for over 35 years. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as The Paris Review, The Missouri Review and The North American Review. Currently, she is a mental health writer at Psych Central. She also writes religious essays for venues such as Aleteia USA and Busted Halo. A graduate of The Writers' Workshop at The University of Iowa, Laura teaches writing at Kent State University and online Creative Writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York. Laura Yeager is looking for an agent for her novel MILLENNIUM RAILROAD.
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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!
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

 

When You Don't Want To Write

I laughed the other day, explaining to a friend why I was late for a meeting I attend almost every week. “Well, I don’t like coming. I have to talk myself into it every week!”

Until that moment, I hadn’t considered the why behind my lateness. But the truth is, I’m rarely late for what I enjoy, the things I love to do. And for the last couple of months, writing has fallen prey to the “talking myself into it” principle.

Now, I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m sorry to say I don’t believe in that condition, at least for me. I have files full of ideas, drawers stuffed with scraps of writing topics. I have plenty I could write about.

And it’s not that I’m any busier than I’ve been before, that I just don’t have the time for writing. In fact, I probably have more time now than I’ve ever had.

No, it’s not the old standbys.

It took me a couple of months to figure it out because honestly, I didn’t realize how much Mister Man had to do with my writing. I mean, I was the one pulling out my hair, facing constant ups and downs, revising ad nauseam while all he had to do was listen to my occasional—okay, weekly—rants.

But unconditional support is funny that way. You don’t miss it until you don’t have it anymore. (And I’m so sorry if this is the first you’re hearing about Mister Man’s untimely demise! There’s just no easy way, even in this age of instant information, to let everyone know that the Beneficent Mr. Hall up and died on me last summer. I thought about inserting the Monty Python skit about the dead parrot to add a little levity; it was a favorite of ours even if it is a wee bit on the dark humor side. You know what? I’m linking to it anyway. Go have a laugh.)

The point is, there are times when you don’t want to write. There are days, months, maybe years when your heart’s just not in it, when you can’t whip up even an ounce of joy at the thought of writing. It doesn’t have to be at the loss of a loved one. Sadly, it can be any old crisis that might come along.

So I asked Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the New York Times best-selling novel, Deep End of the Ocean. She was a presenter at that conference I told you about and she gave a talk on writing through hard times. Afterwards, I asked her how she managed to write again, after her husband died and left her with three small children.

“Just write,” she said. “Write ten pages every day. It doesn’t have to be good; you just have to keep going. Writing will sustain you.”

So I write. I talk myself into it, though maybe not a whole ten pages worth, and maybe I don’t manage it every day. But I keep going, perhaps because there is something in the writing that does sustain me in ways I don’t understand yet.

And I think the Beneficent Mr. Hall would want me to keep at it. But mostly, I write because I believe. One of these days, I’ll wake to find joy in my writing again. And if you’ve had writing times like this, my friends, you are not alone.

Just write.


Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. Her latest release is a leveled reader, Who'll be President?, from Darakwon Publishing in Korea.







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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

 

Sometimes Instinct Should Take Over the Story

Working with writers is a very fun job. I do it all day, every day. In my "day job", I am editing and proofreading for agricultural economic publications. For WOW! and my freelance business, I critique a lot of fiction--mostly novels. What I've come to learn through these experiences is that sometimes... we think too much.

We do not allow instinct to take over the story (or article or poem or blog post...).


What do I mean by this?

We all know the mechanics of writing--and many of us work endlessly to get our structures perfect. Examples of this would include: do I have a 3 act structure? What is my inciting incident? Is my meter correct? I'm not going to pretend like these characteristics of poetry and prose are not important or that if you don't eventually pay attention to them (or work on improving your craft), it doesn't matter. These issues do matter. These matter if you want to get published or receive raving reviews.

But the problem is that we become bogged down with structure and technicalities, and then completely overthink. This causes writer's block. This causes manuscripts to remain unfinished. This causes us to decide writing isn't "fun" anymore. And this is when you have to let your instinct take over.

You are a writer. You are a reader. You know what makes a good story because you've read something or probably several things that made you fall in love with words and want to create your own works of art. So when you find yourself bogged down by questions like: am I beginning in the right place? Is my repeating line strong enough in this villanelle? Do I have enough build up to my climax?

STOP.

Especially if you have not finished your first draft.

Take a deep breath and remember those stories you love. Take one of your writing sessions and write down all the things you love about them. Here's what I do. I ask myself these questions:

  • Why have I read Harry Potter over and over again? 
  • Why do I buy everything J. K. Rowling writes about him? 
  • Why have I listened to the audio books and watched the movies? 
I need to remember what I love about these novels and how she drew me in, and then write my own work based on this joy I've felt. You can do the same with something you love.

I'm not saying that you should never worry about structure or tension or form or plot. You should. This is why you have a critique group, beta readers, instructors and editors. But if you find yourself in the trap of feeling like you aren't enjoying writing, then this could be why.

So trust your instinct. After all, it led you into this wonderful world of writing for some reason--don't fight it.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, writing coach and instructor, living in St. Louis, MO. To read more about her and her published work, check out her blog at http://www.margoldill.com.  To sign up for her WOW! online novel writing class, check out this link. The next class begins on April 7. 

Instinct photo above by Jan on Flickr.com




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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

 

Meet First Place Flash Fiction Winner, Susan Moffson!

Susan Moffson is an aspiring writer continuously honing her craft through classes at the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, CO, and her wonderful writing group, the Quillers. She has been working in the field of international development for nearly 20 years, much of that time spent living and working overseas in Africa. The past 6 years she has worked for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Jhpiego, the lead partner in a consortium implementing a global health project called the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP). She has written several work-related blogs about the positive impact of this maternal and newborn health program on the lives of many women, children, and families and has realized she is a journalist at heart. She continues to write fiction, pulling from her time abroad, to capture the incredibly rich and varied cultures she has been fortunate to experience.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Fall 2016 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Susan: I heard about it from somebody in my writing group, the Quillers. I loved the stories I saw published on WOW and used those for inspiration.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, The Shiny Black Shoes? It’s a compelling piece that I imagine you’ve drawn from some of your work experience.

Susan: Thanks! Yes, I worked in Rwanda and when I would go to the University town of Butare, outside the capital, I saw lots of street kids and learned about their daily struggles. Seeing those kids really affected me I think because I was feeling maternal at the time and eventually got pregnant with my first child, a daughter. I guess I thought it was important to show the myriad of issues they face, and how a holistic approach is needed to help them.

WOW:  I think you captured that well in your story. What’s your revision process like? How much editing did you have to do on your flash fiction piece?

Susan: I workshopped this piece with my writing group, which was hugely helpful. It took me a while to capture Kosera (main character’s) point of view in a consistent way.

WOW: It's interesting to hear how your winning entry came together with some group feedback. Do you have any writing goals in mind for the rest of the year?

Susan: I just want to continue writing about my time in Africa (and elsewhere)- in the comfort and freedom of fiction (versus memoir)- to convey the complexity of life and challenges there, as well as the beauty.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Susan! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Susan:I know it’s a bit cliché but I always come back to writing what you know. I feel like there are details you can incorporate from having lived things that seem fresh and interesting to others!

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Our Spring Flash Fiction contest is OPEN
For details and entry, visit our contest page.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

 

What I Learned About Marketing From Staging a House



A few months ago I mentioned I was trying to clear out my home office (and home!) because we were preparing to sell the house. Fast forward a few months and our home is now sold and we’ll be moving into a new one in mid-April. It was not an easy process getting ready to market our house, but lucky for my realtor I’ve watched a lot of HGTV. After the dust had settled (literally), I realized that a lot of things I learned about home staging could also apply to writing and marketing my own work.

Get rid of the excess. We boxed up many of our possessions to give our home an uncluttered feel. In fact, I packed up so much stuff that I had to go back to our storage unit to find some décor items to give our home back a little of its personality the day before we took photos. There have also been times I’ve had to trim the fat off my writing, too. You know what I’m talking about—a scene where a character goes on and on talking about something that isn’t even essential to the storyline. Or a flashback to bogs down the flow. Don’t think about it—just cut the excess and move on.

Think about how you want your readers to feel. After signing with our realtor, it was clear he wanted potential buyers to walk into our home and feel like they were in a brand-new house. This concerned me at first, because our home is 18 years old. Eventually, we came around, opting for fresh, neutral paint in every room and new carpet upstairs. It was an expense we didn’t want to cover, but it made a difference in the way the house looked and smelled. Buyers felt like they were walking into a new and updated home. In the same vein, think about how your want your readers to feel. Do you want them to read through chapters of your work, confused and muddled because you haven’t spent the money to hire an editor or shared it with a critique group to get honest opinions? Of course the answer is no.

Act like a professional. Our realtor insisted on professional photos of our home as well as a video tour as part of his marketing package. To make the most of this, I had a friend who is a home stager come to my home and make suggestions on how we could make each room look its very best. It was amazing how the little details like colorful throw pillows, fresh flowers, and antique books stacked on the fireplace mantel made all the difference. When I submit article queries, I try and make sure the language is concise and professional, with relevant clips and an engaging call to action. I also recently updated my website to give it a fresher look. If I want to make money with my writing, presenting myself as a professional is non negotiable.

With proper staging, our home was under contract in two days. It was worth living through the weeks of renovations, packing, decluttering, painting, handymen, and countless trips to home improvement and décor stores.

For writers and editors, packaging and “staging” your own work is just as important. What ways can you present and package your own writing and/or marketing materials to ensure you are published or hired for the job?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is looking forward to creating a new writing space in the near future. 

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

 

The Nonfiction Proposal: What You Need to Include

Way back when I first started writing for children, I was told that agents wanted to see a proposal on nonfiction vs the entire manuscript.  I didn’t submit to agents back then so I didn’t write proposals.

Now that I’m submitting to agents, I was happy that the first several I approached wanted pages 1 – 10, 1 – 30 or the first three chapters along with the query letter.  But when I didn't get a "yes" from this first group of agents I realized that batch 2 all wanted a proposal. I didn’t panic.  Much.  

I don't have a proposal ready to go although I do know what goes into one. It isn’t nearly as scary as you might think. Here are the basic sections:

Overview: This section is several paragraphs long and includes the specs (title, word count and hook), short description of the subject, target market and why the book is needed. Since I write for young readers, I include the age of my reader (8-10 years) as my target market information.

Markets:  This broader look at the target market discusses who will by your book. You are proving that there is a large enough market to interest a publisher.  My current book deals with a STEM topic so I will mention that. Maybe your book appeals to gardeners, doomsday-preppers or 4th grade teachers.  Say that and give the publisher some numbers.

Promotion:  What methods can be used to get your book into the hands of those discussed in the Markets section?  Include cyber-methods, public speaking, and traditional media.  What are you willing to do to help market your book?

Competing Books:  You should know about the other books on your topic published in the last 5 years.  What is already out there and how does your book differ?

About the Author:  What in your experience and expertise makes you the ideal author for this book?  Include a professional head shot if you have one. 

Outline: List your chapters and summarize each.  When I do an outline for Abdo, I include chapter subtitles and sidebars as well as a brief description of each section.  And I do mean brief.  Each outlined chapter is normally about 12 lines long.

Sample Chapters: Advice on what to include varies, but what I’ve seen listed most often is 3 chapters or 25% of the finished book. And, yes, it means you have to have written that much.

A proposal isn’t a herculean task although it is something we writers seem to avoid whenever possible.  Hopefully this information will help you get started so that you can get your work in front of the many agents and editors who want a proposal vs a finished manuscript.


--SueBE 

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

 

How Do You Effectively Communicate in 2017?

I was going to write a profound article about how dreams are so important in our writing lives and how I endorse napping as a work event. Then I changed my mind and was going to write something about not letting the opinions of others determine how you feel about a book, your work, yourself, etc...and use a catchy title or quote from Gone with the Wind (ie: "Frankly, My Dear, I don't give a damn." ) and as I was pondering, I heard a noise outside the kitchen window. I'm easily distracted so I went to check out the noise (and put on the kettle for a cup of tea) and here is what I found (see pic on right):

I spent a good ten minutes watching these two and decided that it's time we have a chat about effective communication. These two are still at it outside and boy are they loud...but in the time I watched them, I was very confused about what was going on. The cat on the left is a pregnant female and the cat on the right is a young male. They are screaming at one another and the male is clearly the aggressor as you can see the female is backed into a corner. She isn't helpless however and she isn't backing down. Both tails are still wagging happily and their ears are upright. At first glance one might think he is courting her but keep in mind she is already pregnant. I still have no idea what they are doing, and I have no intention of going back to become a cat psychologist. However, these two are clearly communicating with one another and that's what matters most.

The cat fight left me asking myself:
Have you ever had a disagreement with a friend? Are you the Rory Gilmore who wants to talk it out and make it all better or are you Lucy who needs some time to yourself to sort things out? (from Season 7 of the Gilmore Girls). Are you always one or the other or can you be both? Have you ever had a miscommunication with a co-worker, associate, or friend? Could that miscommunication been avoided with effective and clear communication? Could you say something differently or do something better that would eliminate or reduce these errors in the future?

I think we can all agree we've had a communication breakdown at some point in our lives and the human race as a whole could benefit from clearer communication. My head is still spinning trying to figure out how we do this though.

When I was growing up, effective communication wasn't quite as tricky as it is today. We had telephones (and they were connected to the wall if you must know), letters (that were stamped and mailed), in person conversations, and then these intricately folded notes we would pass back and forth in the halls at school. If you were talking on the phone or speaking in person you could watch someone's body language or listen to the tone of their voice and know if your message was being received in the way you intended it. With our written letters and notes, you could read and re-read what you wrote to make sure it would make sense. These aren't fool-proof and we still had disagreements and communication breakdowns, but they were few and far between.

Fast forward to 2017...

I'm not even sure how to effectively communicate in the present age. There's snap chat, twitter, facebook, messenger, tinder, texting, instagram, and the list goes on and on. I recently offended someone and lost a long time friend because she thought an article I wrote was about her. Even though I explained that it wasn't, the damage was done. A simple social media post can be interpreted many different ways (- especially if you post those vague updates that are seeking attention but that's a different article entirely).

I'm here as a mother, writer, businesswoman, friend, daughter, and wife...and I'm begging of you - leave some comments, suggestions, and ideas of how I can effectively communication in 2017. How can I teach my children to effectively communicate? What works and what doesn't work?

On a side note, the cats have resolved their issues and my tea is delicious. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for being such awesome readers, writers, followers and friends!

Hugs,
~Crystal

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!


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Friday, March 24, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out! Balancing my Passions

by Abby Blinn

Writing is my passion. A passion that takes my complete focus and concentration. No matter the topic or length of the article/story, my full attention to that project is crucial. However, in the busy life of a parent of various aged children, working from home, time to devote my full focus and concentration on any one thing for any amount of time is rare and often fleeting. “All things in moderation”, you say? My children and husband don’t always feel the same when it comes to their time with me.

To clarify: I love my kiddos and my husband more than life, they are my reason. However, to be the mom and wife I want to be and the mom and wife that my brilliant, insane family needs and deserves, I have learned that I need that therapeutic time all alone to recharge my battery. My favorite escape? Writing. Whether it is writing an article on something familiar or perhaps something that I’ve never researched before. The chance to create worlds and submerge myself in a life of fantasy or historical excitement. Fan fic, taking an adventure while I control what happens next, or...well, the possibilities are quite literally endless!

Finding time to devote to these sanity saving literary adventures, and not so adventurous articles, is difficult. Writing while multitasking other parts of my life is sadly not a skill that I possess. It is also not something I can create a schedule around. If the inspiration and the ideas aren’t there, there is no forcing it. I find frustration in constant interruption. There is no private space for writing while I balance my job as a mom/wife/chauffeur/maid/cook/etc. Learning to be flexible is an ongoing work in progress.

The compromise that I have found, over time, that works best for me is to do my research when I do not have time to dedicate to writing my ideas or opinions in story or article form. I always carry a notebook to scribble ideas into as they pop into my head so I don’t lose the often elusive inspiration when it presents itself! So, when that precious and exhilarating moment of inspiration hits AND I have time to sit down and create, all my notes and research are right there and ready!

Real talk: I have stayed up all night with music in my ears while everyone else slept, just to get everything out of my head before that inspiration slipped back into the wind to travel to the next writer waiting for it. I always end up with writers hangover the next morning, but zero regrets.

It sounds so easy while explaining it, but this is my daily struggle between the two passions in my life. My amazing family that gives me purpose and unconditional love while making me completely insane and my writing that helps ground me by giving me wings when I need them... while making me completely insane.

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Abby Blinn writes for the passion of it. Realizing her love of writing and creating stories at a very young age, that passion stayed constant through many life changes, finding inspiration in all things. Though writing novels is Abby’s ultimate goal, she values participation in freelance writing and editing for the incredible community of fellow artists and to keep her "writing muscles" strong. Her other passions include, goofing off with her family, the outdoors, world-fusion dance, and the fantastical world of video games.
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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!
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

 

The thing that happens

I've written about beginnings before, but this semester I had a realization. While teaching my journalism class, I was discussing the proper way to begin an article, which for hard news (not feature stories), is usually the inverted pyramid style.

The idea of the inverted pyramid to is get all the information up front, so that if a reader stops reading after the first paragraph or two, or if a story gets cut in a print publication due to space (also known as: an ad comes in and needs that space) he or she will have enough information about the story to understand it.

To do this, reporters use the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. You can also throw in an H for how if necessary. Using this style gives all the facts up front, and then explains them in the paragraphs that follow. For example:

Arson is suspected in an early morning fire that destroyed the Smokey Hills Restaurant in Springfield today. Fire fighters from three districts were able to exterminate the blaze within four hours. No one was injured. Damage to the 8,000 square-foot facility is estimated at $6 million. Owners say they will rebuild.

By using inverted pyramid, the basic facts are covered in a short space. If the article were to continue, the reporter could add more details and background information including quotes and stories about the events planned there that will need to be relocated, or how it affects those in the community. An interview with the owner and a firefighter on the scene could give the article some interesting insight.

When writing hard news, the ending comes first. It's the answer to the question what happened? As I was talking about this in class, I had a sudden realization that fictional works are created in the opposite manner.

Fiction usually starts before the climax and works toward it, slowly building tension and conflict as characters and a ticking clock move toward the main event of the story. As we read through the chapters, we learn about motivation and watch characters develop along the way, perhaps giving us insight into the psyche of an arsonist. At the end we experience the thing that happens.

Lately I've been thinking about structure, and the way stories unfold. Are they teased out by the writer as he or she drop hints here and there along the path that is the plot? Or, do they start with the thing that happens, and work backward?

Writers can use either technique to uncover a story. I am always looking for ways to improve writing, regardless of genre, and because I write fiction and nonfiction, I'm going to experiment with both strategies to strengthen my own writing. How about you, what techniques have you used to tell the story?

Mary




Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She also works as a freelance writer, editor and speech coach.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

 

To Plow or to Edit?

This depicts literal plowing. I am,
of course, referring to a figurative,
writing-type plowing.
I’ve heard two schools of thought when it comes to writing. There are those who believe, most ardently, that authors should write without editing until the manuscript is complete. On the other hand, there are fervent proponents for editing as you go.

I spoke to a fellow writer years ago, and he felt that it’s much better to finish your work in progress first, without stopping.  The editing, re-reading, and adding on to each scene came later, in his opinion. He believed that a writer loses sight of their story when they stop to edit as they write. In his opinion, finishing the work is the most important goal, and exerting editing effort on a first draft is a waste of time.

Another writer friend says she cannot move forward with a scene when it is choppy and unedited. Knowing that a scene isn’t strong bothers her and makes her less productive. In her opinion, even first drafts should have some literary merit.

I tried both of these approaches over a six day period to decide for myself.

For the first three days, I didn’t edit my work. Not even once. I pushed forward, doing my best to stay focused. I wrote. I wrote a LOT. In three days, I managed to add about a two-thousand words a day, which is very productive for me.

Still on a production high, I entered the next three days with enthusiasm. This time, I stopped after every page and re-read my work, making changes, adding details and rewriting sentences. I was lucky if I finished five-hundred words a day during this period, but I certainly had a strong sense of my characters and plot.

While it may sound like writing without stopping was the better choice, I found that revising as I went was the more satisfying experience. Even though I was productive when I wrote without stopping, I felt less content with my product. At the end of each day, I was left with a feeling of unease, hyper-aware that what I had composed was, for lack of a better word, uneven. On days where I took the time to revise, I felt complete. When I started writing the next day, I was able to look back on the previous day’s work with a sense of fulfillment.

For me, slow, steady, and meticulous was the way to go. I do see how finishing your work quickly can bring a sense of gratification, but paying attention to detail helped me create a more effective story.

So what do you think, lovely readers? Plow through, or pay attention to detail? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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.



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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

 

Three Reasons to Watch Hacksaw Ridge

One Saturday night my husband and I saw the movie Hacksaw Ridge. It was a compromise, believe me. Hubby prefers slapstick stuff or films with lots of action, and I adore sad movies. We figured this movie would be both exciting and sad.




There was one moment, one-easy-to-miss moment, that blew me away and as a writer, I
connected it to the craft of writing. Of course. As usual. I think as writers, we think everything can serve as a writing lesson, that everything revolves around us as writers because the whole world revolves around the opposite of us. As authors, we're not the axis of anything. We're never the center of the universe for even a millisecond because of all the rejection we get. So, forgive me if I watch a film and draw some lines between the movie and my craft.

After you've cut me some slack, check out why I recommend Hacksaw Ridge:

1.  Be ready to kick it or slap stuff out of the way. The moment (one of many) that prompted this post was when a couple of hand grenades were lobbed toward Andrew Garfield/Desmond Doss. He immediately kicked one back toward the enemy and slapped the other one back, like it was a volleyball.

There are times when someone (perhaps a family member who's an idiot not well-versed in the art of writing) says something stupid. Something like, "Why don't you just give up on that book you're working on?" or "It must not be any good, 'cause if it was, it'd be on in Barnes and Noble by now." Or "Writing's easy. Look how many books James Patterson puts out every year."

When that kind of grenade is tossed your way, don't even think about it. Kick it away from you. Send it back their way, even if it you only mumble the colorful response in your head.

2. Stay true to yourself. The real man behind the movie, Desmond Doss, never strayed from his convictions. He didn't believe in killing a person, and went onto the battlefield without a gun.

Stay to your course. If you are convinced you have a story to tell, write it, revise and edit it, and then work on getting it published. Don't let small obstacles prevent you from moving forward.

3. Keep telling yourself, "Just one more." Desmond Doss, in spite of being exhausted, would tell himself, "Just one more," and then all by himself would lower another wounded soldier down to the bottom of a cliff, so the injured soldier could be driven away from the battle to the medical tent. As a writer, there are times when I get feeling downtrodden. My manuscript has been rejected by an editor? Just send it out to one more editor, I need to tell myself. My manuscript has been rejected a bunch of times, making me feel like a total failure? I need to prod myself with Just start one more project.

So how about you? What movie or TV show can you connect to your writing?  Or, what nimroddy mistaken thing has a friend or family member said to you about writing?



Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher (after discovering that retirement was not for her), is a freelance writer (she has stories in 15 Chicken Soup for the Soul books), belongs to two writing critique groups and rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue. She's also a mother to two, a grammy to one extremely talented fifth grader, and a future mother-in-law to a lovely bride-to-be. To read more of Sioux's musings, go to Sioux's Page.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

 

Why I Stayed Up Too Late Reading This Book

Staying up because of a good book feels great, doesn't it? I mean, sure, the next day, you're sleepier than normal. Maybe you have a little less energy to complete your daily routine, but you are this way because you fell in love with an author's story and--You. Couldn't. Put. It. Down.

This happened to me this week. I won't keep you in suspense about the book. It was What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan. And I am in complete shock that the book affected me in this way. Here's the scoop.

I received this book for my birthday in February 2016! (Yes, one year ago--that's not a typo.) I was excited because it was a book doing well in the public eye and by a debut author--plus the cover just looks like "my kind of book". And then I read the synopsis on the back. 
In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...
As you know from reading this blog, last year I was having trouble reading and going through a divorce. I am also the single mother of a beautiful 6-year-old girl. I couldn't imagine reading a book about this subject--ever. But something happened a week ago. I picked up the book and thought: Just give it a try. I don't have to finish it if it's too much for me to read. So I opened it and I read, and I was drawn in.

Why? Well, Gilly MacMillan has crafted a beautiful novel--she created characters that you might know in real life. She took the time to write sentences that sing and create emotions in you. But most of all, she wrote a thriller, and I wanted to watch a master at work. I wanted to learn from her how to weave a story like this, and so I plowed on.

I'll admit that I had to skip some passages. There are times once Ben goes missing that Rachel spends hours in his room, and I couldn't bear those. But you know what? That's good writing. Actually, that's excellent writing. I have no idea if Gilly is a mother, but what I do know is that she put herself in the mind of a divorced mom who had lost everything that matters, and then she wrote an amazing book.

Every time I read a book that touches me like this, it brings my passion for our craft back to the front of my life. And so even though I didn't sleep as much this week, I'm thankful that books like this exist. I'd love to know a book that has kept you up past your bedtime either recently or not so...after all, we can always catch up on our sleep tomorrow. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her on http://www.margoldill.com or sign up for her novel writing course at http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/classroom/MargoDill_WriteNovelWithWritingCoach.php .

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Friday, March 17, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: Quality Control—After the Editor

by Frances Brown

We’ve all heard that it’s almost impossible to self-edit our writing, and there are no truer words. You see, we are all human, but our eyes don’t know that. So, they perform this handy little function, akin to the “auto-correct” function on our smartphones. When our eyes read words that we have written, they skim right over all the errors, essentially “auto-correcting” the word, phrase, or sentence to what our brains know it should be. Which is why we rely on good content and copy-editors to perfect our work.

My problem is that once I get back the edited manuscript, I go through and make all the suggested edits. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? And why is that a problem? Because the manuscript does not return to the editor after I’ve made my edits. And in making those corrections or changes, I make yet more errors.

These errors are invisible to my auto-correct eyes on my computer screen. I’ve tried printing off the piece and reading the words on paper, but my eyes don’t fail me. They insist on inserting missing words and ignoring repeated ones. They refuse to admit when a sentence is awkward. They repeatedly, and insistently, insert commas where they aren’t needed.

So, what’s the answer? You’ve paid an editor, you’ve made all your edits, and you’re ready to pitch or publish your piece. But you can’t afford a second round of edits . . . what’s a girl to do?

This is advice I got from the publisher of my very first novel, Debbie Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing—read it out loud. I didn’t believe her at the time. Boy, do I believe her now.

Your ears can hear what your eyes cannot see—even if the words are coming out of your own mouth. I am amazed every time I’ve gone over and over a piece of writing until I’m absolutely, positively certain that it’s perfect. Then I read it out loud. How did that extra “the” get in there? Why does that sentence sound so clunky? Did I really use the word “aggravate” three times in one paragraph?

In my office, I keep two giant aquariums filled with colorful, freshwater angelfish. They are the “best read” angelfish in the world, because they’ve heard almost every blog, story, and chapter I’ve ever written. Do they bother to offer their literary opinions? No. But they are patient and haven’t complained once about having to listen to endless hours of narration.

Yes, you read that right. Hours. I once lost my voice after reading an entire 349-page novel out loud in one weekend—to my angelfish. You would not believe how many errors I caught before the copy went to print. Precious time, well spent.

I’m still waiting, however, for one—just one!—of those snooty, stoic angelfish to post a review for me. Nothing yet. Guess they haven’t perfected aquatic laptops yet.

* * *

Frances Brown is a multi-published, award winning author of a memoir, and five novels + one Author Resource book entitled, The Road to Publication under her pseudonym, Claire Gem. You can visit her at http://www.francessusannebrown.com and http://www.clairegem.com
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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!
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

 

Tips for Selling Articles to Parenting Magazines

Photo courtesy of pexels.com

Writing for parenting magazines has helped beef up my freelance income for many years. Almost thirteen, to be exact, as I started pitching these types of articles when my now-teen daughter was an infant. In the past year, I’ve made money by compiling calendar events for a local magazine, helping with researching and editing projects, writing about travel, politics, health and fitness and more. It’s always interesting to see what types of articles go into an issue, and it’s a great opportunity for freelance writers to make a little extra money.

I spoke to the editor I work with at one regional parenting magazine and asked her what types of articles editors are seeking. There are “evergreen” topics that magazines run year after year but are still important. You know what I’m talking about: “Avoid Summer Brain Drain” “Get Ready for Back to School!” etc. This is your chance to find a unique angle on these topics and pitch to parenting magazines. Dig a little deeper—find something that will make an editor immediately respond to your pitch. Don’t just offer up an essay on your experience with having a baby; most magazines are looking for service articles with tips and quotes from experts and other parents.

Here are a few topics you can brainstorm with:

Welcoming a Baby. What is some practical advice to offer parents heading home with newborn? Come up with a catchy title like “Don’t Plan on Wearing Your Pre-Baby Jeans Home and Other Survival Tips for New Parents” and go from there.

Seasonal Fun and Crafts. Search for a list of fun holidays and birthdays, such as May the 4th (Star Wars Day) or March 14 (Pi Day). Pitch an article with examples of activities you could do to celebrate those days. Editors are always looking for content for things like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. These are the exception to the “must interview sources” rule. Articles with activities, recipes and craft ideas would work fine here.

Potty Training. This is a topic that never goes out of style, but think outside of the box (of Pampers). How about something like “The Great Pull-Up Debate?” Interview parents and experts who discuss the pros and cons of using pull-up diapers versus going cold turkey with only underwear.

You get the idea. There is plenty of material out there, so start researching and get pitching. Query an editor three to four months ahead of time for regional parenting magazine editors and eight to twelve months for national publications. Once you’ve sold your first few articles, you can offer reprints to non-competing markets and continue to collect income.

Have you ever sold an article to a parenting magazine? What was the topic? If you are a parent, what subjects would you like to see covered?


Renee Roberson is freelance writer and editor whose article “Alternative Treatments for Autism” received first place honors in the magazine article category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition in 2009.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

 

After the Conference

Cathy-on-a-Stick, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Patricia MacLachlan! 
We often give plenty of tips for writers going to a conference, but after-the-conference tips? Not so much. So as I just wrapped up a writer’s conference on Sunday, I’ve got a little writer advice I can share. In fact, I could probably condense ALL my writer advice into one word: follow up. (Okay, fine. Two words.)

Let’s Be Friends

Did you meet a writer who turns out to live twenty minutes from you? Or maybe you sat next to a writer who lives on the other side of the country, but something clicked between the two of you. Keep in touch!

If you live near one another, set up a coffee break. Even if you’re miles apart, thanks to the wonders of the digital world, you can still enjoy a coffee break together, using Skype or other video call apps.

You may have found your new critique partner or beta reader. Or maybe you’ve just found your new best writer buddy. But you won’t keep your new best buddy if you don’t follow up after the conference.


Open Submission Periods

Many agents and editors who attend conferences will offer open submission periods after a conference. Hold on to that information because the only way you have the goods is if you attended the conference! And I hope you were paying attention when the agents and editors talked about what they’re looking for—and what they are NOT interested in.

I know it’s tempting to send whatever you’ve been working on to the whole list of professionals from the conference. I get it; you paid a lot of money and you want to get your money’s worth. But if you send your cozy mystery romance to the editor who specifically requested erotica, you are not going to magically change her mind about what she likes. But you could get stuck in her mind as the writer who may be a bit dim (and unprofessional).

Here’s what your money did buy: a guarantee that the agent (or editor) will take a look at what you’ve sent. Not an intern, not the over-worked assistant, but the agent (or editor). That’s why you’re given a special subject line for your submission. Theoretically, you’re going straight to the top of the pile. Now, I can’t promise that every agent or editor follows this practice, but in my experience, it’s been pretty consistent.

So don’t waste your time and theirs by sending everything out and seeing if anything sticks. Carefully target your queries or submissions, and don’t dilly-dally. Because if you wait too long before you follow up, that door’s going to close!


The Personal Connection

Maybe you had an opportunity to chat for a while with an agent, editor, or famous author sometime during the conference. Maybe you felt like there was a personal connection there. Maybe you’re pretty sure he or she is your new best friend forever.

It could happen, but resist the urge to stalk the new BFF, even if—or perhaps especially if—that new BFF is all over social media. Maybe you could friend this person and maybe you can send a nice note about how lovely it was to meet. And who knows? Maybe you will become BFFs!

Or maybe you’ll just be one among 5,000 of his or her closest Facebook friends. But it’s for sure you won’t even be that if you don’t follow up after the conference.

And now it’s your turn. What’s your best after-the-conference tip? I’d love to hear all about it while I’m still in follow-up mode!


Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer.
She's still catching up on her sleep after the conference but any day now, she's going to start writing something new. And then she's going to follow up and send it to an editor. (Wish her luck!)

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 

Research: How Much I Have to Do and Why I Don’t Paraphrase


Research is one of the most important subjects in my class Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The students often ask how much research you need to do. Unfortunately there isn't a magic number and a lot depends on your sources.

The assumption is often that if a piece is for younger readers or has fewer words then you use fewer sources. In my experience, that isn’t what is really important. For my book Ancient Maya (8th grade/15,000 words), I used 52 sources. For 12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis (3rd grade/3500 words), I used 43 sources. A huge difference in reading level and length but the number of sources is very similar.

What matters more than reader age or manuscript length is whether or not there are books on the subject. When I wrote Black Lives Matter (8th grade/15,000 words), there were no books for teens and almost nothing for adults on this topic. Because of this, I used 188 different sources including articles and court documents.

In my experience, what matters most is whether or not you can find books published on your topic. Several books can contain a lot of information. If there are no books in print, you are going to need a larger number of sources.

A few other research tips. Many of the articles I use are in PDF form from my local library. I save these in a computer file so I know exactly how the author worded whatever my editor wants to clarify.

Three is not a magic number. Many writers think that if they find a fact in three sources, it is true. Three sources that all rely on another inaccurate source for information can still be inaccurate. You need to find the source that is the least biased.

Research is never quick and easy. Just how much you have to do depends on your source material. A book can give you a lot more information than can the majority of articles. And keeping track of specific wording? That can be a real time saver when your writing is based on a large number of sources.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

 

An Interview to Remember

As part of the WOW! Women on Writing team, I have an opportunity to interview authors for their book blog tours as well as those who have placed in our quarterly flash fiction contests. This is a privilege I take very seriously. I understand why some websites/blogs/radio hosts use boiler-plate interview questions, but this has never appealed very much to me. I look at an interview as an opportunity to connect with someone unique, and the interviews I find most interesting are those with unique questions tailored to the individual. Taking the time to craft unique questions is well worth it in the end and makes for a memorable interview. Here are some tips I use to come up with interesting questions both readers and authors will appreciate:

1) Get in the mindset - I always try to picture myself sitting around the kitchen table eating cheesecake and drinking coffee with the person I'm interviewing. Even though we may have never met, I like to think of each interview as a friendly conversation with an old friend.

2) Do your homework - I can't imagine how difficult it would have been in 1960 to do your homework about an author, but it's 2017 and we have this fancy thing called the internet and it allows us to connect with all sorts of people. Most authors have a website, blog, facebook page, or all of these. In addition to reading their book or article, I also like to check out other interviews, blog posts, recent social media posts, etc...to help gather information for our interview.

3) Ask the tough questions - if the authors bio indicates it took them 5 years to write a book, or they started writing one book and ended up publishing another, don't be afraid to ask about those areas of their writing.

4) Go back if necessary - since many of my interviews are done online (via email), it's a little different than sitting down with someone face to face. I'll generally offer someone 7 questions and ask them to answer the 5 they like most. Sometimes I get the answers back and then it prompts more questions,,,so I ask them! If I were to ask a question about who was most influential in your writing career and you told me it was your sister in law because her books are on the NYTimes best seller list time and time again; how on earth could I not ask who your sister in law is and what she thinks about your recent success? People love talking about themselves, so if an answer prompts another question, don't be afraid to ask it.

5) Make it conversational - Once you've got all your answers, go back and take a look at your questions. You can add a little here and there to make the interview flow as if you were sitting on a couch sipping coffee with the author you are interviewing. This makes the interview a lot more fun for the reader.

As a reader of an interview, if you are left with more questions, be sure to leave them as a comment to a blog post. In most cases (especially here at WOW!) authors and interviewers love responding to comments on blog posts.

What would you like to see in a memorable interview?

What WOW! interview has been your favorite and why?




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 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby E due in fall 2017), 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 at her personal blog about turning lemons into lemonade!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

 

Do you believe you can?

Recently I heard an interview with a female engineer about her role in the documentary "Dream Big: Engineering Our World." The movie stresses the importance of creativity in jobs like engineering and other STEM career choices. When the interviewer asked which courses kids could take to help be successful in a career like engineering, she gave a surprising answer. The key to success in these careers did not rest in a single course, but "believing in yourself."

According to BusinessDictionary.com, self-efficacy is a person's belief about his or her ability and capacity to accomplish a task or to deal with the challenges of life. Albert Bandura, Ph.D., a social psychologist who coined the term self-efficacy, believes that ability is not fixed. He breaks down the process of improving self-efficacy through accomplishing, observing, imitating and verbal reinforcement.

Verbal reinforcement can also play a role in self concept, which is determined, at least in part, by the messages we hear about ourselves. Everyone reading this has probably been told at one time that she or he is a good writer. This news may have come from a teacher, parent, friend, or stranger, which made it even better because that person had no vested interest in complimenting you.

Your self-concept may be that you are a writer, your self-esteem is the way you feel about it, and your self-efficacy is the ability to believe you can succeed as a writer. Without self-efficacy, your exceptional skills and talent won't take you to the next level because you don't believe you belong there.

Writing and/or critique groups can help a writer achieve all the steps necessary to increasing self-efficacy. When the group loves your writing, you have accomplished a goal, and hear about that success (verbal reinforcement). When someone else in the group succeeds, you realize it is possible. When a great story is broken down into understandable steps, you can imitate that process.

So what are you telling yourself about yourself? I love the old saying "Whether you think you can or can't, you are correct." Our thoughts affect our behavior, and our behavior determines our success. So what do you think?

Mary


Mary Horner is a freelance writer and editor and the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

 

Making Lemonade Out of 100 Query Rejections

Hi. I’m Beth. Over 100 literary agents rejected my last query letter.

Sharing this takes a great deal of courage. For a long time, I was too ashamed to admit it to anyone. One-hundred is a large number and, since I desperately want to be a successful author, admitting what I saw as an embarrassing defeat has proven difficult.

Two years after the last rejection, however, I’ve come to find the helpful side of that experience.  I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

My first piece of advice is to send out letters in small batches - about ten at a time. This will prove difficult, as you’ll have the intense desire to send the letter to every single agent on the planet, and then plant yourself in front of your inbox to see the requests flow in, but be patient. If you get ten rejections, it’s time to revise your letter. I learned this lesson the hard way after sending out fifty letters and getting fifty rejections. After revising my letter, I started receiving requests; but, sadly, I’d missed my chance with the first fifty agents.

This leads me to my next suggestion: get feedback from a professional. Early. And in any way possible. If you don’t have the money, try entering contests! Agents frequently offer contests to win a free query critique. Going straight to the source is an important lesson to remember. I finally spent a little money to have a professional look over my query, and it paid off with a partial request within the week.

Sending queries can open doors. While I never did get that offer of representation, I had several agents tell me to send them any future work, as they liked my writing style. The more agents who see your letter, the better. Sure, it might result in more rejection, but it could also give you an “in” for your next manuscript.

Now that I’ve sent out over 100 queries, I have an incredible spreadsheet of agents who represent my genre of choice to use for my next novel. Maybe they didn’t pan out initially, but I’ve reduced my workload for the next book, so it wasn’t a total loss. Creating a detailed spreadsheet, with the agent’s names, addresses, emails and query preferences is a great way to make the best out of rejections.

Receiving one-hundred query rejections was a learning experience, and I’ve chosen to make it a good one. Instead of drafting an email back to the agent telling them they’ve missed the next great American novel and then deleting it because you know it will get you nowhere, try finding the rainbow in your rejections. Use them to make a little lemonade. As painful as they are, they can be a tool for learning.

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.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

 

Revision: A Dirty Word

Revision. It's a filthy word.

Sometimes we fall in love with our words, we've toiled and sweated over them, so to delete some is admitting they're not sheer perfection.

Currently I'm working on a historical fiction WIP. It's the best thing I've written so far. Perhaps "best" is not the most accurate assessment. (and it's all relative, right? I mean, just because you discover an unaltered kernel of corn in a pile of poop, does that make it a gem?) I do think this piece will require the least amount of revision once it's finished (which is another dirty word, pardon my French). I think this story will be easier for the reader to "get," to understand, than anything I've written so far. I also think it might have the straightest route to getting published, if I can succeed in drugging an editor enough so they say "yes" to it.

You might ask, "What has Sioux been smoking?" and maybe I am high on the fumes of my words. But I'm going to enjoy the momentary buzz while it lasts...

photo by pixabay

I'm not completely delusional, however. I know that once I've typed the last word of my first draft, the real work begins. After reading this article, I wondered if my beginning is too slow. Actually, I've wondered that as soon as I typed it, but it was the only way I knew to wade into the subject. Later, I can recraft my first page...

As far as words, I know I'm going to have to snip and slash. I've been reading about revision ('cause if you can't do because you're not finished yet--you can at least read about it). After I digested this checklist, I realized I might have issues, especially when it comes to #5,  #6, #9 and #11... along with a few more I might be trying to avoid seeing.

Since I found that checklist, I found several more, including this one. I'm struggling with #11 now. How can I find a balance between slang and making the characters sound unintelligent? The 14th one makes me rabid, however. Nobody puts the ellipsis in the corner. Nobody. I love em dashes as well, but those dot-dot-dots are the best thing ever.

I ordered a few books recently from abebooks.com. (If you're looking for an affordable way to get used books, this is a great resource. This site, along with the Half-Price Book stores, has allowed me to create my classroom library for only hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands.) Several are nonfiction and cover the same historical event my WIP does. This piece has grown dusty over the past month or two--I've been stuck in a rut. I'm excited to dive in and do some more research, which inevitably means I'll have to revise.

Revision. It's a dirty job, but somebody (all writers) has to do it (if they want their work to improve).

What's your most frustrating/rewarding story about revision? What articles/checklists/books do you recommend?



Wednesday, March 08, 2017

 

Promotion Through Helping

In high school I had a teacher, Mr. R., who would often say, "If you want to be successful, find a need and fill it." In high school I thought of the need as a thing -- people need a robot to make dinner, a
plant that won't die even if your office has no windows, a purse where your keys never get lost, that sort of thing. But as writers we can use Mr. R's words to live by when promoting our books.

Too often when looking for events where we can promote our books we ask ourselves "Who (or what) can help me sell my book?" Instead we should be asking Mr. R's question: Who has a need? That open-ended question can lead you to many opportunities you might never have thought of before. Because selling your book is about much more than sitting at a card table in your local bookstore with a stack of your books. It's about making people aware of you and your book.

Do you know of someone that needs:

  • a speaker
  • a teacher
  • a volunteer 
  • an organizer
All of these will give you the opportunity to meet people, talk about your book and perhaps receive some FREE publicity in your local media. Find events and causes that you enjoy and dive in. Does your local service organization need a speaker at their monthly meeting (our Rotary often has local authors). Is your local school having adult readers for their Read Across America program or guests for Career Day? Does your Senior Center want to host a short writing workshop? Do the Friends of the Library need some help at their next fundraiser? Even events and causes that aren't literary-related are opportunities to meet people who might be interested in reading your book.

A friend and I were talking about how a local restaurant owner benefited from this type of activity. He opened a tiny, hipster type restaurant (in a decidedly un-hip town) and we all said "It won't last." But suddenly his name was everywhere. He was volunteering at various causes, a member of a city committee, raising money for charity. And each time his name was in the paper it included the qualifier "owner of the Pottsville restaurant Wheel". The place is packed everyday. And not just with the local (small) hipster crowd -- senior citizens, young families, ladies who do lunch. When you keep hearing (or reading) a person's name you want to see what they're all about. For him, people do it by visiting his restaurant. For you it could be buying your book.

So take time from your writing to get out into your community. Just make sure you become known as "Jane Doe, author of Book" to all your local reporters.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Craft Inexpensively

One common trait among many of us is that we don't have a lot of extra money to spend on our writing craft. Sure, one or two conferences or classes a year are in the budget--maybe--but many writers I speak to are working day jobs and writing on the side OR busy with freelance jobs that pay the bills while they work on their creative projects in the wee hours of the morning.

Luckily, in today's global and cyber-connected writing community, there are several inexpensive and often FREE ways to improve our writing craft:

1. Read Blogs & Free E-zines: There's a world of free information at your fingertips if you have a computer and Internet connection (which you can get for free at coffee shops and libraries). Of course, WOW! is a great resource, but we're not the only online writing resource out there. Authors, agents, writing groups, and more write about their experiences and knowledge for writers everywhere to read. If you have never checked out Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers, which we are thankful to have been included on many times, then go to the link when you finish my blog post. (Not before--or you will never come back and read my wise words. Wink Wink. )

2. Free Webinars: These exist everywhere, too. Usually, professionals who want to give you a taste of their services provide one-hour informational webinars, so you can learn from them and decide if you want to pay them to help you with your writing. But these free webinars are full of information that can help you improve your craft. All you have to do is Google "free writing webinars," and you will see the vast amount of resources available. Also, if you write memoirs, WOW!'s partner, National Association of Memoir Writers ,often offer free webinars.

3. Critique Groups: My critique groups have been so valuable to me and of course, completely free. I am lucky, I know, to have moved as often as I have and find amazing critique groups each time. But if you are not in a critique group, somehow find one. I have found mine through local writing groups or national organizations', such as SCBWI, regional chapters. You can also start your own. If you live in a community with a library or coffee shop, post a sign. There are also several online opportunities to connect with like-minded writers who will critique your work in return for critiquing theirs.

4. Write Every Day: I won't go on and on about this. It is common sense. If you want to improve something, you practice it. If you do steps 1 to 3 above, then you put into practice what you learned when you write every day (or every other day--whatever works for you). The point is write on a regular basis and improve.

5. Learn From Library Books: Library books are free. Libraries buy the books that you hear about on writing sites, such as Stephen King's On Writing or Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and countless others. Check them out for free.

Got any other ideas?

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, published children's author, blogger, editor, and instructor. Find out more at margoldill.com. To sign up for her WOW! novel course, go here. 

"Free" photo above  by Shane Adams from Flickr.com

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