Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Magazine Gold: March and April

13 Mar

I promised myself that I wouldn’t take advantage of the free 1-year subscription I received from Gus on Out Where the Buses Don’t Run. Consequently, I’m on my second of what will become six magazine summaries of Poets & Writers, this issue covering March and April. I didn’t find as much I wanted to share in this issue as I did the last, but there’s still some things worth exploring and discussion. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The article Where We Write by Mary Stewart Atwell struck a chord with me. She discusses if where we are from influences what we write and is enough to define us. She goes on to discuss if who we are as writers limits the characters we choose. As a white woman, would I ever write a book from the perspective of an Asian man? I almost feel I don’t have the right to. A white man, sure, but I don’t have the experience of another culture to feel comfortable writing from the point of view of another race. Have you ever written from the point of view of another race? Why or why not?

Having finally faced that first rejection letter, I was curious how someone who writes a book considered a ‘failure’ would feel to that type of rejection. So many of us dream of getting to publication because we think it will bring us the fame and recognition we all pine after, but what if it doesn’t? What if we get to publication and still find rejection and failure? Is there any way to recover? One of the authors interviewed had a book that was even a finalist for the Orange prize but couldn’t find a place to publish her book. Another of the authors, Miranda Beterly-Whittemore, was able to sell a second manuscript after her first failed. When she was lucky enough to start marketing the second one, she did everything she could to make the launch successful; blogging, tweeting, and an updated website. A lot of authors today must do their own marketing to help ensure success. Yet a third author, Nina Siegal, knew that with the ability to publish a second time that she had to take the job more seriously. Instead of writing in addition to her day job, she wanted to make sure that publishing her book was her primary goal. She had learned from her first publication that she could write a book, and this time around, she had to write a really good book.

One of the feature articles was an interview with Amy Einhorn, publisher of her own imprint with Penguin Random House. One of my favorite questions was when she was asked, “What feeling do you want to communicate to your authors at the end of your [editorial] letter?” and she answered, “Encouragement.” I love that she wants to encourage her writers and let them know that the changes she’s suggesting are not telling them that their book is bad and has no hope, but rather that they can change a few things to make it even stronger. Another part of the interview that stuck out to me was when she was talking about titles and how when a reader hears a title, it should stick with them. There’s no reason for a reader to forget a title when they go to buy it or search for it on Amazon; it should stick with them. I know my good friend Katherine is going to get her MFA soon and it’s made me look at myself as under qualified because I don’t have a degree like an MFA or even a degree in English. However, Einhorn says that maybe two of her authors have MFAs and that’s really it. I felt a little better. She also mentioned that the bio is usually the last thing she looks at when she reads a query. Thank God. She does say that voice is something that a writer has to have and she can’t teach, so I guess if an MFA will help you find voice, it might be worth it. The last thing she said that I’ll note is that she believes that marketing can only do so much if a book is not strong. She thinks that if a book is strong, it will find readers even if the marketing is a bit slow. Great literature worth reading will find its readers.

The feature topic of the issue was residencies and retreats. The first article talked about types of residencies and where you can go with them. P&W supplies a list of these on their website if you want to have a look. The difference between private and government sponsored residencies was described. Private residencies let a writer set their own schedule and to a degree let them work on whatever they want to. Government sponsored residencies tend to have more of an agenda and the writer is likely to help with environmental or documentation records in the area where they are, usually on government lands. The writers are normally expected to give back in some other way as well: donating a piece to a project that will benefit the effort.

I liked an article titled The People You Meet which discussed how to pitch agents and editors at conferences. I think this appealed to my business background because networking and making connections at business events was one of my favorite parts of that degree path. Many larger conferences will provide a forum for writers to meet with agents and editors, a large part of their appeal. Lance Cleland, director of the Tin House workshop said that writers shouldn’t think of agents as adversaries because truthfully they are the person a writer most wants in his corner. A writer needs a agent to fight for their book to have success. When pitching in person, agent Meredith Kaffel suggests sticking to themes and avoiding plot summaries. If the author can’t tell someone what the overarching themes are, who can?

Applying for a residency is a lot like pitching a novel, except that you’re trying to get someone to buy in before the book is done. Betsy Fagin is a judge for Millay Colony residency and offered some advice. She says to stick to a short letter and compelling writing sample. The letter should stick to your background, previous work, and an explanation of the project the artist proposes to work on.

The Agent Advice section in this article focused on Amy Rennert who owns her own agency. I found three points of her interview very useful. (1) If you’ve self-published without much success, don’t mention it when submitting to an agent. It doesn’t help you stand out. (2) If you are a journalist or columnist, make sure you say so. These professions tend to get a little more attention. (3) Don’t send your letter to more than one agent at an agency so make sure you research the agents at the agency before you pick which one you want to send to.

Journals Accepting Submissions

Little Star Journal, Changes in Life, the prompt, and The Rattle.

Conferences for others in the Michigan Area

Bear River Writer’s Conference, Ox-Bow, and Interlochen College.

Contests With Little Or No Entry Fee

Gemini Magazine ($5 entry), Sixfold ($3 entry), Frost Farm Prize ($5 entry), Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, and Dancing Poetry ($5 entry).

Poets & Writers is a great resource. Check out their website for even more information.

Until next time, write on.

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Where Do You Find Critique Partners?

25 Feb

One of the librarians stopped me on my way to book club yesterday to tell me the library was going to start a literary critique group in April. Finally! She’s been pushing for this for a while and I’ve told her I’ll support it when she finally got the red tape torn down. Now it finally seems that it’s happening!

This got me thinking about good critiques and how helpful they can be for writers. I’m fortunate enough to have my own little critique group, my Novel Girls friends. We get together about twice a month to go over each other’s work. Our next meeting is tonight and I’m so excited because I’m sharing the second-to-last section of my first novel. We’re so close to the end!

I’ve found a few other critique groups that have been instrumental in my growth as a writer. Both of them I found from the website Meetup. If you’re not familiar with this website, I recommend checking it out. Meetup is not just for writing, it’s for people with all sorts of interests to find others in their areas with those interests and join together to share experiences. I’ve used it for hiking, book clubs, and, of course, writing. Some groups are focused on critique, others on workshops and still others on writing together. I think all of these are useful because they introduce you to other writers. I met my Novel Girls in a prompt-writing group, the same one where I met an alpha reader.

In my strive to edit, I’m always looking for new ways to find critique partners. How have you found critique partners? Are there forums in which you’ve met people who have helped you make your writing better? Have you had success with Meetup? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think, I love hearing from you!

Until next time, write on.

Who is a Good Beta Reader?

11 Feb

I’ve had an amazing experience lately that I never would have expected. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays, I was able to hang out with a good friend from high school. He and I had a friendly academic rivalry going on then and when we went to schools far apart, we fell out of contact. There was a summer we were both interning around Washington DC and met up a few times and we’ve stayed close since then. He works five hours away from where I live, but when he comes home to see his parents we always meet up. Over New Years, I talked to him about my writing.

I have two completed manuscripts, one is a YA novel set in the 1920s and another one a contemporary piece about a young woman in her mid-20s going through a pregnancy. Neither were pieces I suspected a bachelor in his early 20s would be interested in reading. He offered me a beta read and at first I was skeptical, but I agreed to send him my YA novel anyway.

I think he’s read it three times now, and not because he loves it (though he’s assured me he enjoys it) but because he wanted to help me make it better. He’s sent me tons of texts about what he thought could improve and things that seemed inconsistent when he re-read it or that stuck out to him more than once. He even called me right after his second read-through to talk about the book.

It’s an understatement to say I was overwhelmed. I never expected this level of support from a high school friend that I see maybe four times a year. It makes me wonder if there are other people out there who would read my book, maybe a friend from college or someone I used to work with.

Reader, where have you found unexpected Beta readers? Is there a pattern we can discover of people who will read our manuscripts and provide some amazing feedback? I wonder where all these people are hiding.

Until next time, write on.

Changing Your Own Ending

6 Feb

If any of you reading this are huge Rowling fans like myself, there’s no doubt you saw an article yesterday about an interview she did. Emma Watson, who stars as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, was interviewing JK Rowling when she said that she should have had Hermione and Harry end up together instead of Hermione and Ron.

WHAT?!?!?!

My mind was sufficiently blown. I told my husband and he seemed non pulsed. This only ebbed my anger. I said that it almost seemed like Rowling was writing her own fanfiction to which he responded, “It’s not fanfiction, she wrote the books.” True, but that’s not what she wrote into the books. She’s proposing a change. To me, it borders on fanfiction. It’s not cannon, it’s fic.

My argument is that while it seems plausible, it changes too much of the story. Hermione and Ron have a flirtation early in the books and it’s very subtlety written. I’m reading the fifth book now and it seems obvious to me. Also, the Harry/Ginny plotline appears as early as Book 2. To put Harry and Hermione together would involve taking away the entire Harry/Ginny back story. This is no small change she’s proposing!

This got me thinking about writing in general. Have you ever written something and then realized that you wanted to change the ending? Was it too late? What did you do? If we realize this early on, before something goes to a publisher or editor, we still have a chance to fix it. Once something is our of our hands, is it too late?

Rowling says that she was clinging to the plot she originally imagined and that’s why she had Ron and Hermione end up together. She wasn’t letting her characters develop naturally as she went, adjusting their outcome to the personalities she was writing. I know that this is a hole I could easily fall into because I’m such a planner. When following an outline, how often do you readjust the ending to reflect what’s already written?

As a fan, I’m disappointed in this announcement. As a writer, it intrigues me. Whether a fan or not, how do you feel about Rowling’s announcement?

Until next time, write on.

Professional v. Amateur Writers

3 Feb

Nicole was good enough to pass on a Writers’ Digest article she knew I’d be interested in reading. The article is called The 5 Differences Between Professional and Amateur Novelists and it’s written by Charles Finch, the same Charles Finch who wrote The Last Enchantments that I reviewed in January. If you have the time to stop over and read the article, I highly recommend it. I’ll include some thoughts on each criteria and where I feel I fall within it.

Tools- Finch says you need to know what you use to write. For me, it’s very simple: Laptop laying in bed using Word with no one around and only orchestral music to distract me. It’s best if I give myself a time crunch but that’s not always necessary. I think I’ve got a handle on this one at least.

Patience- Here I feel somewhere in the middle. I’m in no rush to get my novel out to the world. It’s been sitting idly for nine years, I think it can take two or three more before an agent hears about it. On the other hand, I feel a need to get something published, to see my writing somewhere where the rest of the world can look at it and pass their judgments. I do believe in sitting on something to edit it instead of doing a quick spell-check and pushing it into the world. Editing is a necessary and lengthy process. If an agent doesn’t think my writing is worthwhile, that doesn’t mean it’s useless but it could probably use some more editing. Though there are some self-published books that are picked up by publishing houses, that’s the Cinderella story. I hope to see my novel in traditional print and I’m willing to wait for it (but dang is that hard!).

Focus- Again, 50/50 here. I like having a few projects going so if I’m stuck on one, I can switch to another and be inspired. If I run into a dead-end with something and I’ll have to abandon it, I don’t feel like I’m starting from ‘Go’ because there’s already something else in the works. I’ve finished two manuscripts and I’m working on one other and a few short stories. Not the best focus in the world, but it’s gotten me to the end of two stories, so I won’t cry about it.

Habit- Meh. I posted last week about how I haven’t done any non-blog writing since the end of NaNoWriMo. I think lack of habit might be the reason why. I pounded out 52K when I had a schedule of write-ins and personal time, but without that I’m a bit more lost. I’ll look at adding a schedule soon.

Practice- I don’t think this one can be mastered. Even those who are masters of their domain must practice. Michael Phelps practices. Dwayne Wade practices. Stephen King practices. Everyone has to work on their craft or they will never get any better. I write here every day to help me develop a voice, one that I hope you feel is consistent at the least. This one is being considered on-going indefinitely.

How do you all feel? Do you think you qualify as a Professional or Amateur writer? What could you do to become a more professional writer?

I love hearing from you all, please do leave a message. Consider clicking over to my Facebook Fan Page for a like if you haven’t yet.

Until next time, write on.

Writing Stall: A Post-NaNo Funk

30 Jan

This is hard for me to admit, but I’ve written less than 1,000 words since the end of November. Just to put it in perspective, I wrote over 52,000 words in 20 days and then stopped dead. I’ve tried a short story, but there’s nothing.

This isn’t to say I haven’t edited. I’ve worked on edits my girlfriends have given me to my YA novel, but I haven’t added scenes, I’ve rearranged paragraphs and written transitions. I’ve been blogging here daily, but not adding a thing to my WIPs.

I admit this is a short post and I guess I’m trying to convince myself that a short post here will mean I have more time to write. I’ve run into this before that writing blog posts on the weekend has eaten into my creative writing time, but it’s not a solid excuse (if there’s such a thing).

Fellow writers, what do you do to kick yourself in the butt and get writing after a hiatus? What tricks are there to get my creative juices flowing? I look forward to your advice!

Until next time, write on.

Novel Girls: Parallels and Contractions

29 Jan

I love when we have a Novel Girls night and all four of us can make it. It’s kind of the best thing ever. If you haven’t yet, please go check out Nicole and Sonia‘s blogs. They are both amazing. When Katherine gets a blog, I’ll link there right away.

We read Katherine’s piece first and she had dropped subtle hints to a popular piece of popular literature. I love how Katherine generally ties in fairy tales and magic to her stories and this was no exception as the piece she’d alluded to contains both. The question this sparks in me is if parallelism and references to a popular piece of literature helps or hurts the story. (Note- I’m not sure Katherine is doing this, it just made me think of it.) I remember a book I liked when I was young called Scribbler of Dreams. The plot summary compares the book to Romeo and Juliet. But that didn’t mean I enjoyed it any less or more. In some sense, I knew what was going to happen because of the parallel, but I was still surprised at every turn. Do you enjoy a piece less if it’s a spin-off, parallel, some other relation to a piece of well-known literature? Does knowing something is a spin-off of another work make you want to read it more? I’m personally a fan of spin-offs, such as Wicked.

This is more of a general question to you, Reader. We were wondering if someone had ever written something from a first person perspective, reflecting on them self and another as ‘they.’ Almost like an our-of-body experience watching yourself. Has anyone ever heard of this?

Katherine had a great way to relate when a paragraph break comes in when doing dialogue. We all know to switch paragraphs when we have two people talking (if you didn’t, you’re welcome) but knowing where the ‘he shrugged’ and ‘her eyes opened wide’ pieces of writing belong is something I’ve never had a clear rule about. Katherine’s mantra is ‘When the camera shifts.’ When the description applies to the first person to talk, keep it in the first paragraph. As soon as the description moves to the second person, switch paragraphs. I love this rule!

Our final point of discussion is something I’ve never known when to use. When should you use contractions in dialogue and when should you not? I’ve had it as a general rule that the non-dialogue parts of a story should be contraction free, but then what about when people are talking? I tend to say things out-loud to myself to see if they sound weird as contractions or to see how I would say a given sentence. Does anyone have a rule for when to use contractions in dialogue? Does it have to do with the education level of the speaker? Does age and time period play a factor? Please leave me with your thoughts!

I love hearing from you so please leave a comment! Until next time, write on.

Magazine Gold: Jan and Feb

28 Jan

A few months ago, I won a giveaway on Gus Sanchez’s blog where I was rewarded with a free one-year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine. My idea is to give you, my wonderful readers, some snippets that I found most interesting from every issue. The magazine was really interesting and a great read. If you’ve ever considered a subscription, I encourage you to do it!

Some articles can be found on PW’s website.

Writing the Sex Scene by Beth Ann Fennelly. I was intrigued by this article because of its author, Fennelly, whose book The Tilted World I read a few months ago. It was in this article that I heard about the Bad Sex in Fiction Award that I posted about yesterday. Fennelly muses over the lack of a good medium between badly written passionate sex and good writing about a lack of sex.

Agents & Editors: David Gernet. Gernet offers a great amount of advice from his variety of roles in the publishing world. One thing he said that struck me the most was this: “An e-book often takes sales away from a hardcover edition when a book is first published, and the author makes less money from the e-book than from the hardcover.” This shocked me! How unfair is that to an author? Why would it matter how the book sold at all, the author should collect royalties for it anyway! Rude.

PW offers a Lit Mag database.

Magazines accepting submissions with little to no fee: Dash Literary Journal, Main Street Rag, Apple Valley Review, Kansas City Voices, The Evening Street Review, Mount Hope Magazine, Steam Ticket, and The Chattahoochee Review.

How to Make a Life, Maybe Even a Living. I might be biased toward this article, but I still loved it. Nestled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a new book store, Literati. Yes, I’ve been there with Nicole once. And of course, the store is awesome. I learned from the article that Ann Arbor is the birthplace of Borders and Literati bought the bookshelves from the closed Borders in town. Full circle! Their location was also the campaign offices for Michigan’s current governor, Rick Snyder (who is pretty  awesome in my opinion). If you’re ever fortunate enough to be in Ann Arbor and can make a stop at Literati, be sure to check out the manual type writer in the basement. The owners sometimes save what was written that day.

Writing Contests with little to no fee: Chicago Tribune, Sixfold, and The Southeast Review.

Anyone else who’s local to the Ann Arbor area might like to know about two presses in the area, Sleeping Bear Press in Ann Arbor and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in Grand Rapids, MI.

I hope this information was helpful to you all. I’ll be looking through for some submission material soon myself.

Until next time, write on.

There is a Library Hotel in NYC. I want to go!

The Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Awards

27 Jan

I found out about these awards reading an article in a magazine which I will post about soon. Did anyone else know that this is a thing? I think it’s hilarious and if you have time, please scourge the internet looking for clips from the latest and past winners.

The award has been handed out annually since 1993. It’s purpose is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” Perfect!

I’ve never read a book by any of the winners (thankfully?) but I can only imagine this award does boost their sales. You can view a list here.

Reader, have you ever read any of these books? Was the description really as cringe worthy as the award implies?  Let me know!

Until next time, write on.

Tips on Writing for a YA Audience (Article)

24 Jan

I was running through my head about what I should post today and I realized I haven’t done an article in a while. I popped over to Writer’s Digest and instantly found a great article.

The manuscript I’m in the process of editing is for a Young Adult audience. I started the book when I was a young adult (14) and now that I’m no longer in this age group (23), it’s sometimes hard to think like one. This article, titled Writing for the Young Adult Audience, had some really good advice for how to jump back into my 14-year-old head.

  1. Everything is big and important when you’re a teenager. That boyfriend who just dumped you? First break-up. That fight you had with a friend you’ve known since Kindergarten? First real loss of a friend. First test you failed? Your chance at college is ruined forever. Chose to play the cello over the piano? It’s a stigma you will carry the rest of your life. I remember what this felt like and looking back it seems silly. But in that moment, it was a life or death situation.
  2. Romantic Relationships are huge. They define some people socially and can make and break friendships. Do you remember how mad you were when that girl you were friends with liked the same boy you did and he picked her? I do. It’s something that’s on the mind of a lot of teen readers (especially the girls I’m writing for) so including it is a must for popular fiction (check!).
  3. They’ve realized the dark side of life. It’s about freshman year of high school that someone in school will start using drugs or start cutting or have a bad sexual experience. Around this time, teens stop seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and the darkness of reality will start to set in. The article’s author implies that the popularity of dystopian future books is due to teens wanting to relate to a world as packed with war and economic crisis as our own.
  4. Bring theme to the forefront. Give the readers a theme the interact with and let them see the characters play with it, too. Bring it forward in dialogue and the resolution of the story.

The article’s really great and helped me think about what a reader will want from my book. I recommend it.

Reader, let me know what you think. How do you get into the head of your target audience? What are some things you incorporate to engage your reader?

Until next time, write on.