How to Avoid Being Published

Here are 10 ways NOT to get published – unfortunately, most of them are tried and tested.

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  1. Stick to your first draft. After all, your writing is perfect as it is. Who needs an editor?
  2. Revise, revise, revise, revise. It’s just not 100% perfect yet. Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest suggests changing one word at a time, then rereading the entire novel aloud to see if that actually improved the book.
  3. Get creative. Cut your manuscript into a cute bunny shape. Include plastic spiders if your manuscript is a horror tale or rainbow glitter if it’s a romance. Try adding a chocolate bar bribe – especially if you’re sending the manuscript to a publisher in Florida in mid-Summer.
  4. Ignore the market. You don’t have to read in your genre. So what if the average first novel runs around 80,000 words? Yours is 500,000 words and every single one is essential.
  5. Hand-deliver your manuscript. Editors really aren’t busy. They love personal visits, especially if you show up unannounced.
  6. Blast the competition. Leave horrible reviews for every other book in your genre. Bash other writers on your Facebook page. After all, they’re the enemy, right?
  7. Get defensive. Be like The Donald and defend yourself vigorously against every critique. After all, you’re an artist. They’re just not intelligent enough to understand you.
  8. Threaten the editor. If you do get a rejection, immediately lambaste the fool who couldn’t spot your genius. Let him or her know you’re not going to stand for such humiliation.
  9. Ignore your audience. After all, everyone is your audience. Grandmothers and toddlers both will love your book. Your gun-toting Uncle Bob will give a copy to pacifist cousin Willy. Middle school kids will adore you. Who needs to specialize?
  10. Keep it to yourself. Nobody can hurt your feelings if you just shove that manuscript into a drawer and sit on it. Those nasty editors and their rejections? Who needs them?

What are some un-helpful things you’ve seen writers doing to sabotage their careers?

How to Win NaNoWriMo

I’ve finished a day early – 50,000 words in 29 days.

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Here’s how to do it:

  • Write every day – this isn’t an option during November. Even if you don’t make the 1667 words a day goal, you need to get something down daily.
  • 1667 words per day is more of a guideline, not a rule – aim for over 2000 words a day on days when you have more time. That way, when you’re busy, you can slack off a bit and only write a few hundred words.
  • Don’t wait for the muse – this is a first draft, after all. Write crap. Write anything. If you’re stuck, have your characters make out your grocery list for you, or give one of them a newspaper article to compose. Just write.
  • Turn off your editor – during November you cannot edit your work until you’ve hit your daily goal. This is also not an option. If you start erasing and changing things, you’re never going to get to 50,000.

Did you try NaNoWriMo this year? Did you win?

NaNoWriMo – Pantser or Plotter?

Current word count: 30,433 …

and I’ve just come up with a major subplot for the lads

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Thought I’d discuss the two basic types of writers this post. Well, actually there are three, because I believe you can be a combination.

Plotter:

A plotter is a careful planner, a writer who outlines the entire novel ahead of time. A plotter sometimes writes such a thorough and detailed outline that it’s practically a novel in itself. Some plotters outline down to the scene level, while others simply write rough ideas for each chapter.

If you’re a plotter, you know what’s going to happen next. This helps prevent writer’s block and gives you a target. However, if you get stuck or decide to change something, you often find that you must redo your entire outline.

Pantser:

A pantser is a writer who writes “by the seat of your pants,” without an outline. Pantsers just like to start writing and see how it goes, letting the characters loose to do as they choose and to pick the direction of the story.

If you’re a pantser, you have the freedom to change anything at all, at any time you so choose. However, not knowing where you’re going sometimes means you get stuck. Many pantsers have strings of unfinished projects trailing along behind them.

Plantser:

I believe that you can be a combination of both extremes, and NaNoWriMo agrees with me, for it’s come up with this designation this year. A plantser is a writer who has a basic idea where the story is going, but likes the freedom to explore tangents. Plantsers usually have a rough outline of some sort, or at least a vague idea of the plot.

I think this is the best of both worlds. You’ve got the road map, but you’re giving yourself the opportunity to try different routes along the way.

Organization

People have asked me how I organize my work. Do I use a stack of index cards? A cork board? Computer files?

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The answer is yes.

I do have a cork board where I keep the really important stuff that will never change for the series, like a map of the city in the 1800s and a “blueprint” of their house and offices.

I used to use index cards – until I discovered Scrivener.

This is a software program that is designed for writers. You specify whether you’re writing a fiction novel, a nonfiction book or a screenplay – and the program gives you different tools for each one.

For the fiction novel, I have a cork board with all my scenes on it – I can arrange these by chapter, or combine several scenes in one chapter, or move them around however I want to.

There’s a section for research, and you can even “pull in” websites so you can find your source material immediately.

You have another section for character notes and one for places.

Scrivener also allows you to attach a note to a section of work, like a word or phrase. The notes show up in the margin so you see them whenever you go to that scene. For example, if you want to name a character, but don’t want to bother now, you could put down “John Doe” and link a note to that saying “Look up a good old-fashioned European name for this dude!” That way, when you’re working away, you don’t constantly interrupt yourself trotting off to do research – and the notes are immediately visible when you go to that scene, so all you have to do is pull it up and the note’s right there.

What sort of organization do you use in your writing?

Get Out of the House

Sometimes the same old writing space just isn’t stimulating your creativity any longer. If you’re staring at your walls waiting for inspiration, try shaking things up by getting out of the house and trying a new writing spot.

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Here are 10 places you might try (plus a bonus):

  • The Library – yes, it’s still everybody’s go-to spot for out-of-the-house working. There’s usually free Wi-fi and the librarians will be happy to help you with any research questions. No eating or drinking, but if you just want a few hours of quiet time, you can’t beat this spot.
  • A coffee shop – this is a writer’s classic choice for several reasons. Caffeine is great for stimulating the brain, and there are snacks and sometimes even meals available. They usually have free Wi-fi as well. Just be mindful of the business end: if they’re really busy, don’t monopolize a table for more than an hour, and if you do stay longer on a quiet day, do order frequently and tip well.
  • A Museum – sitting in front of an inspiring painting or sculpture can be stimulating, so consider an annual membership to your local museum. Or, if you’re not planning to visit that often, see if they have discount tickets or free days.
  • An Aquarium – sitting in front of a relaxing underwater scene can be equally stimulating. Look into that annual membership, or ask about discounts.
  • The Zoo – similar to an aquarium, only you’ll probably be outside. See if they have a reasonable annual membership or discounts.
  • The Mall – just as many people head to the mall for exercise, writers can find a quiet spot to work – or head to the food court for a table. Many malls offer free Wi-fi.
  • A Station – bus, train, subway … the idea is to plant yourself in a corner and get some work done while you people-watch. Just don’t get too distracted.
  • A train – you know I can testify to this one! Even a short trip can result in a great deal of work, and the “roomettes” offer privacy and electrical outlets.
  • Parks – if you’re lucky, your town or city has at least one decent public park or garden where you feel creatively stimulated. You can get some sun while you work, too.
  • Your Local College – campuses offer literally hundreds of nooks for studying or working. Investigate your local university to locate an under-utilized spot or to borrow their library.
  • Rent an RV – if you’ve got some spare cash, think about renting a camper and doing a mini-retreat somewhere nearby. Just park, sit at the table (or outside), and get some work done.

What’s your go-to writing spot?

Handling Rejection

My story didn’t make the cut for the Malice Domestic anthology, which sort of bums me out … but at least they were polite enough to email me and let me know, which is refreshing.

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In response, I’ve decided to do a short piece on handling rejection. Here are some good tips:

  • DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY – note the capitals. This is the Number One rule of rejection, and one that almost every new writer falls prey to. It’s not about you, but about your story not being right (for whatever reason). Stories can be improved or submitted elsewhere. You, as an author, need to learn to see rejection as a tool for improvement rather than a rejection of yourself.
  • Learn from it – If you can, find out why your story was rejected. If there are issues you can correct or improve, then do so, especially if you get similar rejections from more than one editor or publisher. Again, this is another tool to help you learn to be a better writer.
  • Change your thinking – If you believe that you “deserve” fame and fortune, or that you’re somehow owed a spot in the limelight, you need to think again. Rejection is the norm, not fame. Most manuscripts are just not suitable for publication – and wouldn’t you rather know (and work on improving) than be treated like a “special snowflake” that deserves to be promoted just for showing up? I’d much rather feel I actually deserved something than to just have it handed out to everybody.
  • Talk about it – Rejection hurts. Sure, every author experiences it, but that doesn’t mean you should suck it up and pretend nothing happened. Commiserate with friends and fellow writers. Announce it on your social media platforms. Get the hurt out of the way so you can move on to the improvement part.
  • Celebrate your courage – It takes guts to put something you’ve created out there for people to reject. Celebrate that courage and pat yourself on the back for trying. If you never fail, you’re not pushing the envelope. Keep putting yourself out there and keep pushing.
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”
                                                ~ Barbara Kingsolver
 

The End

Book Two is finished … well, the first draft is done

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This is only the beginning, though.

  • I’ve got the first edit to do – go through reading for continuity and flow.
  • Rewrite as needed from that edit
  • Then I’ll do a dialogue edit to make sure all the dialogue sounds good and matches the characters
  • More rewriting as needed
  • Then there’s the (possibly first) professional edit to see what I need to fix
  • Then there may be yet another rewrite … maybe even several

Then, and only then, will I send it to my agent to see what she thinks. It’s not a short process.

How many edits do you go through before you publish?

Good News!

I just learned that I placed first in my group for a flash fiction challenge. We’re starting with around 60 groups and weeding down to one winner in December.   Each group is given a random genre, location and prop to include in their story. A round begins at midnight Friday and ends at midnight Sunday.

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My assignment: Ghost Story/Tuxedo Rental Store/Wrench

Early Morning Jazz

“Where’d I put that strap wrench?” Jazz didn’t take her head from beneath the sink.

“Sorry, I was sitting on it.”

Jazz gave the man the eye. She let her gaze linger on the wedge of hairy chest showing at his shirt collar. Damn, he was a looker.

She collected her wrench and got back to work. Mr. Hotness was paying her to fix his leaky sink, after all. She checked the time. 7:52. She’d only been twenty minutes on the job. Not going to pull in a huge paycheck, not even with the after-hours bonus. “Looks like you got a good clog under here. Just take a few more minutes to clear it.”

“I appreciate you coming out. Don’t want to close the washroom during business hours.”

She shot him a look. “Lot of men needing tuxedos lately?”

He grinned wryly. “Just don’t like putting up a ‘closed’ sign. Gives the customers the wrong idea.”

“Well, you got about ten years worth of coffee grounds in this trap.”

“Bob always puts too much in the filter.”

“Tell them to wipe out the grounds before they rinse the pot, then. Surprised you haven’t had to call before now.”

“You know how it is. Just a drip at first. Shove a bucket under it and make do.”

She knew. Nobody wanted to pay the plumber. “Then you’re ankle deep in water when the pipe breaks.”

He laughed again. “Didn’t figure I should wait quite that long. And I liked your ad.”

“Designed it myself.”

“I like the way you shopped that old Billy Holiday video. Looks like she’s really saying the line.” He put a hand on his hip, mimicking the singer’s pose. “‘Plumbing giving you the blues? You need Jazz.’ I’ll bet you could write for an advertisement company.”

“There’s an idea if the work slacks off.” She held up the pipe. “You can’t just dump everything down the sink without rinsing. Let the water run for two or three minutes.”

He crossed his arms across that brawny chest, eyed her up and down. “You really like doing this? Must be a filthy job sometimes.”

She fought the heat that gaze left behind. They always asked. “I like figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it. Can’t do that behind a desk in some office.”

She returned his look. “You like renting tuxedos?”

“It’s a business. I like finding the right suit for a man, seeing him look his best. And most men don’t really need a tux more than once or twice.”

“Proms and weddings.”

“Mostly. But folks aren’t going to quit having either one any time soon. You had both yet?”

She cut a glance at him. Was that a convoluted way of asking if she was available? He wasn’t wearing a ring either, though he had a pale strip on the right-hand finger, like he’d worn something recently. “Went to the prom. You?”

“Same.” He leaned toward her. “You about finished?”

She banged the pipe against the side of the bucket. The coffee grounds glopped into the bottom — and something clinked.

“Is this a college ring?” She fished it out, wiped the grounds away with her rag. “Somebody’s going to be happy to see this.”

His face lit up, a dimple seamed his cheek. “I never knew what happened to it.”

She set the ring on the counter. “You got time for coffee before you open up? I’ll be done in under five minutes.”

He stared at the ring without picking it up. “I’d really like that. I’m not sure I –”

“Tell you what: I’ll finish up, walk over to Starbucks and get my latte. If you show, great. If not, I’m a big girl. I can deal.”

“It’s not that. I –”

A key turned in the front door. The lights in the main room buzzed, then lit up. Jazz finished the job and rose. Mr. Hotness was nowhere to be seen. Who knew beefcake could move that silently?

A balding fellow shuffled along the hallway, a glass coffeepot in one hand. He took one look at Jazz and screamed. Literally. Like the proverbial girl. He dropped the pot, screamed again when it shattered on the tile floor.

Jazz hefted her tool bag. “I guess you didn’t know the boss called a plumber.”

His jaw dropped. “Somebody called you?”

Jazz put a hand on her hip. “No, I used my ouija board.”

The man stumbled backwards, caught himself on the edge of the washroom door. “That is in poor taste, young woman. You never met Mr. Kersting.”

“I most certainly did. And if you’re Bob, he’s got a few things to say about your coffee.”

His face paled. “You couldn’t know about the coffee. And how did you get in here?”

“I told you. Your boss let me in. And now we’re going out for Starbucks.”

She stepped gingerly around the broken glass, halted at the trembling hand that plucked her sleeve.

“Mr. Kersting,” the man said. “He died last year.”

Jazz glanced back at the washroom. The ring no longer sat on the counter. Didn’t it just figure? All the good ones were married or gay … or, it appeared, dead. She freed her arm from Bob’s grasp, patted his shoulder. “I don’t think you need to worry about it. He must have been looking for that ring.”

“His college ring? He never took it off, but we couldn’t find it anywhere.”

“He’s got it now.” She turned toward the front door. You never knew. Maybe a ghost could stop for a latte on the way back to the afterlife.

Writing Retreat, Part 2

You’ve probably figured out that I’ve finally scheduled a vacation. Yep, getting a bit burned out at the day job, so it’s time to recharge those creative batteries so I can get back to working 12-hour days and writing before bed. Sometimes even I wonder how I do it …

Beach Life - colorful towels drying on the porch

Beach Life – colorful towels drying on the porch

Of course, before you leave for any vacation, there are chores:

  • tidy up all the clutter that accumulates because I’d rather write than do housework
  • make sure all those last-minute items find their way into the bags and boxes
  • pack the rental van … it’s rather like a giant Tetris game

I’m nearly done with Book 2 … my goal for this vacation is to finish the first draft and start Edit 1

Where is your favorite recharging destination?

10 Awkward Writing Questions

We’ve all been there: someone discovers you’re a writer, fixes you with a curious eye, and blurts out That Question.

Where do you get your ideas?

I usually say “www.ideas.com” and change the subject. Here are 10 more awkward questions you’ll hear – and how to respond.

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  • How much money do you make? I don’t know why, but people just assume writers a) all make what Stephen King makes and b) don’t mind talking about their salary. The best response here is a vague “Enough” and a quick change of subject.
  • Will you read my novel? Or my friend’s or my relative’s or anybody else’s. The correct answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” If they seem serious, explain how they can go about finding a professional copy editor (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
  • Will you write a book with me/for me? Everybody has that One Great Idea … it’d make a fantastic book or movie. If only they had someone to help them write it, or to write it for them. If you’re truly interested in their idea, you can offer to help them (but don’t expect much out of someone who hasn’t actually sat down and tried to write on their own first). The better answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” You could explain how they can find a ghost writer if they seem serious (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
  • How do you get published? Here’s another would-be writer who’s never actually put any work or research into the craft. The polite answer is “You can find a ton of information on that subject on the internet and Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Writers’ Market’ to help you.”
  • How are your books doing? People think this is expressing polite interest, even though it smacks of our first awkward question. The best answer is “They’re doing fine – have you bought your copy yet?”
  • Is your book at the library? Most people have no idea how libraries (or bookstores) actually work. The best answer here is “I don’t know, but if you request a copy, they’ll get it for you.” You could also remind them to give you a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads once they’ve read it.
  • Is your book on the bestseller list? Unless it actually is, the answer would be “Not yet, but if you buy a copy and tell all your friends to buy one, it might get there.”
  • How do you find an agent? This one’s done a bit more work than the “How do you get published” questioner, but they’re still not applying themselves. The right answer is “Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Guide to Literary Agents.'”
  • Have you been on any talk shows? Sometimes people equate “author” with “celebrity.” If they’re genuinely confused, you can politely remind them that most authors don’t get invited to talk shows. A good answer is “Not yet – how about you?”
  • When will your book be made into a movie? Here’s another common misconception you might politely correct if you feel the need. The best answer is “I have no idea.”

And of course, you’re welcome to think up your own replies to “Where do you get your ideas?”