Tag Archives: writing resources

Writers Beware (Part 2)

In part 1 I talked about a situation where a writer had her book published, only to realise too late that the company was not a traditional publishing company, they were just posing as one. They played on the writer’s dream of being published to make money off her. As a result she ended up with a book that was poorly edited, unavailable in bookstores and locked into a contract so she can’t publish it with anyone else. It was left to her to market the book herself, meaning it was bought by family and friends, but no one else. Even if she worked up the courage to approach a bookstore herself, they probably wouldn’t stock it because a) it’s overpriced for a book by a first time author, b) the publishing company won’t accept refunds if the book doesn’t sell and c) the book is so poorly edited, people probably won’t buy it anyway (no matter how good the story is).

How can you avoid this situation?

You have to be savvy.

Google is your friend.

This is a good idea to do for any publisher. Google the publisher, skip past all the links for the publisher’s own website and see what other people have to say. You will quickly find out if the publisher is a reputable one and whether other writers have had good or bad experiences with them.

Get involved in writers’ circles/writers’ forums/writers on Twitter.

We writers can be isolated people, but the net has made it easy to connect with fellow writers. There are writers at all stages of the writing journey, and some of them are a great wealth of information. You will soon hear the dos and don’ts of the publishing and writing world when you’re connected to others who have been there before you. Some great people to follow on Twitter (because they always have their ear to the ground and post great links): Elizabeth S Craig and Jane Friedman.

Follow Agent/Publisher blogs or follow them on Twitter.

There are some fantastic literary agent and publisher blogs around and they’re worth following. They offer a wealth of knowledge on the ins and outs of the publishing industry. For example, Nathan Bransford’s blog is packed full of great information on both writing and the publishing industry.

Read contracts carefully.

This is an important one. Know what you are signing before you sign it. This is where having a literary agent represent you can be of great benefit because they know exactly what to look for in a publishing contract and can negotiate terms with the publisher for you. Literary agents cost nothing, unlike lawyers, but you need to query them with your manuscript the same way you would with a publisher. It’s better to query agents first, before publishers, if possible. But if your manuscript has already been accepted by a publisher, you can still query agents and mention in your query letter that a publisher has already acquired it. Otherwise, you can get a lawyer/solicitor to look over the contract for you, but it will cost money and often they don’t have as much knowledge about the specifics of publishing contracts.

What can I do to get the attention of a genuine publisher?

The most important thing to do is to keep improving your craft. The second most important thing is to become knowledgeable about the industry.

Keep Writing.

The best way to improve is to keep writing. I can’t remember who said it, but it has been said that to be a good writer, you must first write one million bad words. Quite often the first novel you write won’t ever be published. It’s sad, but true. But every word is contributing to you becoming a better writer. And one day you’ll look back on that first novel and think, ‘I can’t believe how bad it was! Why did I ever think it would get published?’

Join a critique group/Get a critique partner

Remember my story in part 1 about the author not letting anyone see their work before sending it out to publishers? He/she thought it was the smart thing to do, but there is benefit in letting others see your work before you send it out – the biggest benefit being a better novel. At some stage you need to get over your fear that other writers are out to steal your ideas. The good thing about critique groups and critique partners is you have to trust each other. You won’t steal their ideas and they won’t steal yours. Once you find a critique partner you feel comfortable with, the next hurdle is to be able to take their critique. This is a hard one. You will feel hurt. You will feel indignant (what does she mean my character is flat!). But once you get over that, you may find she’s right. Once you learn to accept your novel is not perfect and there’s room for improvement, you will be on your way to having a polished novel.

Use writing resources available to you

As I mentioned, following agent/ publisher blogs and being involved with other writers on forums/Twitter are great ways to stay informed. There are a lot of great writing resources out there, and fellow writers are only too happy to share, and so are agents and publishers. There are some great writer blogs out there too. A good place to start is Barry Lyga’s blog, he has a plethora of topics for helping to improve all areas of your writing. Check out some writing books too, like Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.

Research the industry

Did you know if you live in the US or you intend to get your book published in the US it is a good idea to first seek a literary agent? (A good literary agent won’t charge you fees, they make their money when the book sells.) In some other countries, such as Australia, literary agents are less common and a lot of publishers are still happy to accept unsolicited (eg: unagented) submissions. Do you know which agent/publisher is most suitable for your book? You don’t want to waste time sending a fantasy novel to someone who only takes on non-fiction work. Do you know if the publisher/agent you are querying has a good reputation? ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Follow guidelines

Publishers and agents have guidelines for a reason, so follow them. Some publishers/agents will reject your work without even reading it if you haven’t followed guidelines.

And because someone asked…

In my comments on part 1, someone asked about how to know if a literary agent is genuine. The points I’ve made about publishing companies can equally be applied to agents. Use google, research before you query, follow writers/agents on Twitter, join writing forums (many have sections on agents/the publishing industry). And if an agent wants you to pay fees to represent you, then he/she is probably not a genuine literary agent.

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Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – July 2010 Edition

I just realised it’s been two months since I last did one of these, so here is a round up of some helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past two months:

You Have to Believe

Rachelle Gardner (literary agent) has a great blog, with lots of fantastic posts for writers. This particular post was quite an inspiring one encouraging writers to believe in themselves. My favourite line: “God gave you something powerful – a story or a message, and the desire to share it. God is not in the business of tricking people, or of squandering anything – not talent, not passion, not time. Pursue your God-given passions with an unwavering faith. Praise and bless the obstacles. And keep believing.”

Tips for Pitching and Querying Agents

YA writer Ingrid Sundberg shared a hand-out from Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole that she received at an SCBWI agent day on pitching and querying. It includes some great advice, as well as step-by-step questions you should address in your pitch.

Try This Picture Book Editing Checklist

For anyone out there writing or editing a picture book this is a great checklist to refer to, from the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers.

Will Literary Agents Really Read Your Query Letter?

This posts covers reasons why a query letter may not be read, the problems with many queries and some tips on how to write better queries.

The Power of the First Sentence

We all know how important that first sentence is in a manuscript, Brenda Hineman, a freelance writer, guest posts on this blog on what makes an opening sentence memorable.

Eleven Senses – Who Knew?

Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I’m a big fan of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, and whenever I talk about showing in writing I refer to using the five senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. This workshop handout covers eleven senses, including pain, balance, sense of time, joint motion and acceleration, temperature differences, and direction. Not only does it describe how each of the senses work, but how they can be applied to writing, some writing exercises and, best of all, a comprehensive list of verbs for each of the senses to spice up your writing.

7 Techniques for a Dynamite Plot

An editor offers some solutions to common problems writers have when constructing their plot.

The Secret to Getting Published

Published author Karen Gowen offers some down-to-earth truths on what is and isn’t the secret to getting published. My favourite line: “You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.”

3 Ways to Show, Don’t Tell

There’s my favourite writing mantra again! A short post covering verbs and nouns, sensory details and dialogue.

Query Letter Suicide

Another great post from YA Writer Ingrid Sundberg, this time sharing some advice from Agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency. A comprehensive list of what not to do in a query letter.

Do You Know the Real Reason Not to Use the Passive Voice?

The dreaded ‘passive’ voice. It’s something I’m working on cutting in my novel revisions at the moment. This post by an editor shows an example of the difference between using the passive voice and the active voice when writing.

Advice for New Writers Blogfest

Last week I participated in Peevish Penman’s blogfest on ‘My Best Advice for New Writers’. There were 42 participants altogether. I haven’t quite got through reading all the posts yet, but the ones I have read have offered some fantastic advice. You can find the links to all of them on the Blogfest page, they’re well worth checking out.

Helpful Writing Sites

It’s time for another blog post on helpful writing sites.

YA Lit Chat

This is a writing community forum for those who write Young Adult, although they also have sections for Middle Grade and picture book writers. Some of the great sections they have include: Query Kick Around, where you can post your query to have others critique it; First Pages Critique, where you can post your first five pages to be critiqued; and Agent Insider, which lists agents who represent YA. YAlitchat also hosts a chat once a week on Twitter at 9pmEDT on Wednesdays (which just so happens to be 11am Thursday for me as I’m in Australia). These chats are a great way to connect with other writers and have guests such as agents and published authors to answer your questions. Just use the #yalitchat hashtag.

The Kill Zone

The Kill Zone consists of seven authors who each take a turn at blogging over the week. This blog is filled with great writing tips on the various aspects of writing a novel. Although the authors involved are all mystery/thriller writers their advice is applicable to writers of any genre.

Promptly

Looking for some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing? Zachery Petit offers writing prompts as well as some other writing tidbits.

And here are a few posts worth mentioning:

Top Ten Things I Know About Rewriting

A fantastic post on rewriting by Alexandra Sokoloff. She gives an in-depth look at revising a novel. It would honestly have to be the best post on rewriting I have come across. If you are serious about revising your novel you should check out this post.

Critique Connection

Are you looking for a critique partner for your WIP? Mary Kole has posted this on her kidlit website for writers of YA/MG/PB to hook up and find the perfect critique partner.

NaPiBoWriWee

In November I talked about NaNoWriMo (National Book Writing Month). NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) is a spin-off of NaNoWriMo created by Paula Yoo. The idea is to write 7 picture books in 7 days. (I will be covering this more next week.)

If you have come across any other helpful writing sites or posts feel free to share them with us in the comments (and links would be great!)