LUCK OF THE DRAW

It’s official – Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid will be joining the Wolf Creek gang for the great poker tournament!

The anthology, LUCK OF THE DRAW, will be published later this summer – details to follow as I get them – and will feature 4 or 5 more stories, as well as a background murder mystery.

If you haven’t read the Wolf Creek books, here’s the first one – I guarantee you’ll get them all! It’s a shared universe story, with several authors combining talents to write as “Ford Fargo.”

I’m just a little hopeful that I’ll be invited back to Wolf Creek someday…

10 Ways NOT to Get Published

Over the years, I’ve attended a lot of writing conferences, and one of my favorite types of sessions is the “How Not To Get Published” panel. This is where you put a bunch of published authors, editors, and agents at the table and ask them for their worst experiences. Not only do you have an hour of belly laughs, but you come away thinking that you can’t be all that bad compared to what you’ve just heard.

Here are 10 of my favorite manuscript submission stories … that actually happened.

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Top 10 ways NOT to get your manuscript read:

10. Enclose a chocolate bar for the editor … to a publishing house based in Atlanta, GA … in July

9.  Fill the box containing your horror manuscript with tiny plastic spiders

8. Douse your romance manuscript in perfume

7. Address the package to “To Whom It May Concern”

6. Fill the box containing your manuscript with glitter and confetti

5. Enclose a bribe

4. Misspell the editor’s name

3. Print the entire manuscript in Lucida Handwriting

2. Cut the pages into a cute bunny shape

and the Number 1 way NOT to get your manuscript read …

 

…leave it in your desk drawer!

Send It Out

Just sent out the poker story to the anthology editor – while crossing my fingers, of course.

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There comes a time in every story where the author must let it go and send it out. It’s a hard step, turning loose of something we’ve been pouring our sweat and blood into for the last few weeks, months, or even years. The story has been loved and nurtured while at home – now you must expose it to criticism and judgement. Now you must face the opinions of others.

Some writers never reach this stage in their work. They fiddle and tweak, editing and rewriting and never quite finishing the story. They fear rejection too much to face it. While this is understandable, it’s no way to write. If you’re going to spend the time and effort on a piece, you’ve got to finish it off, otherwise you’re just wasting all that hard work. It’s like creating a painting and shoving it into a closet, or sewing an outfit and never wearing it.

So how do you know when a piece is ready to send out? How can you be certain it’s the best you’re going to do? How can you be confident that your “baby” is ready to go out into the big world of editors and publishers?

Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the “track changes” function on when you edit – when you get to the point where you’re changing less than 10% during an edit, it’s finished
  • If all you’re doing is swapping synonyms or changing punctuation, it’s finished
  • Pass it to your beta readers – they’ll tell you if you need more work
  • Read the entire work as a whole (not for editing) – you’re the best judge of whether it tells the story you want to tell

And, of course, if you have a deadline, it’s finished by the deadline!

What are some tips you’ve learned about finishing a story?

Finish It Off

I think I have finished the poker story for the Wolf Creek anthology. Notice the operative word “think.” Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve really finished something.

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I had some trouble with this story, so I thought I’d share the journey with you. Every writer can benefit from another writer’s trials, right?

To start with, this is the first time I’ve submitted to another editor’s anthology in years. I’m nervous about whether they’ll even accept the thing. I started over about five times – trying different openings, starting at different points in the story, having Kye and Chance do different things. I like to begin in the middle of the action, so I usually start with them either in the middle of an argument, or in the middle of some sort of struggle. This time, I opted for argument, then “panned out” to show where they were and why they were fighting.

I tried for a spare, stripped-down story when I usually prefer the more descriptive style – there’s a word limit for the anthology. This was another difficulty. How sparse is too sparse? You do need some backstory, some description, if your readers are going to see the images in their heads.

Then there’s the last sentence. I usually end with something indicative of the character’s personality. As I usually write from Chance’s POV, this means the end is usually something snarky or sneaky or tricky. I had some trouble finding the perfect line this time, and I’m still not as confident in the one I picked as I usually am.

I’ve cut about as much as I’ve kept, too. I deleted whole scenes, dropped dialogue that was going nowhere, cut redundant words and phrases. I have tried to be ruthless, though this is hard with your own writing sometimes. You get so close that you can’t really see the whole work any longer, so it’s hard to tell what’s integral to the plot and what isn’t.

This is why I rely on my “beta readers.” Always pass your work by at least one friend or family member who will give you an honest critique. You don’t want “I loved it” or “It’s great” here. You want someone to say “This part didn’t work for me and here’s why,” or “You can get rid of this part because it doesn’t do anything for the story.” Find a Grammar Nazi to check your sentence structure and word choice – those spell-check programs can’t decide if you’ve used the totally wrong word or mixed your tenses.

I’m at that stage now – the story is out to the beta readers and I’m waiting for their judgement. Then one final edit, some finger-crossing and maybe a little prayer, and it’s off to the editors.

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Do you have any particular stories that were really difficult for you? What made them hard to write?