Posts Tagged ‘path to publication’

Publish Your Writing Now: Whisper, Shout, Hit Send!

PUBLISH YOUR WRITING! 

WHILE WRITING CAN BE A FORM OF SELF-EXPLORATION, it is also a way to communicate our thoughts and stories with others. That’s why it’s important to publish your writing.

About this, my novelist pal MK Swanson says,

There is no writer without a reader. Writing is a performance art. When I was little, I used to make up stories that my girlfriends and I would act out—sometimes with puppets, but usually with our bodies. One time, Kori and I pretended to be in the Nautilus, being dragged down into the depths by a great sea creature, a story inspired directly and entirely by the sound the washing machine made as it shifted cycles.

We performed as if someone was watching and applauding. I thought I was the most talented, funniest writer in the world, as I directed my friend and myself to run around the porch, captaining the submarine. Now, when I try to make something new, and I don’t think anyone will ever see it, it falls flat. An audience pulls art into the third—or maybe the fourth—dimension.

I agree with MK. When I write with an audience in mind, it gives my work a sense of purpose—traction, focus—that it lacks when I am writing only for myself. But going public with our work can feel daunting. Here’s the good news: You can publish your writing in a wide variety of ways.

 

publish your writingIn SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (see a list of those ten ways, below*), author Austin Kleon discusses the many benefits of sharing our creative work with others—especially how doing so can make us “findable.” Reviewer D. Bivins says of the book, “This is a refreshing kick in the butt about believing in yourself as a creative person and jumping in with both feet. The basic idea is to put yourself out there even if you (or your work) are a work in progress.

And while we may not currently be availing ourselves of pre-Covid in-person opportunities to show our work (remember open mics and free, monthly bookstore writing groups?!), there are myriad contact-free ways to offer our writing to the world.

You could always start a blog, join an online writing group, or send out stories to literary contests—all great options for sharing your work. You might also try one or more of the following suggestions if you’re seeking fresh avenues to show your writing to others:

Postcard poems
Every August, there’s an event called the Postcard Poetry Fest. Essentially, once you register at the site, you’re sent a list of addresses. You then write a (possibly terrible) poem each day for August’s 31 days and mail it to one of the 31 recipients on your list.

Can’t wait until August? A friend and I used to declare an arbitrary period our own personal Postcard Poems month. Then, for the next 31 days, we would email daily mini-poems back and forth. Often goofy, sometimes poignant, our “poems” generally started with a place name (fictional or not) and were written from the perspective of an imagined persona who was there visiting. Here’s an example:

Dear Dolores,

I’m in Quincy, Alabama, and the almond trees are in high bloom. So are my allergies. My nose, red like a rose, won’t win me any suitors. But my days and nights are full enough without thoughts of another to cloud my view of the stars.

Wish you were here.
Myra

Throw a Zoom! prose-and-poetry party
Back in the day (basically, pre-February 2020), friends and I used to gather regularly to eat, chat, and read our work to one another. Zoom! makes this even easier, now. No need to arrange a ride—or even wear proper pants. Just find your tech-iest friend and get them to make it so.

Publish on Medium
If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy. Medium is a platform for writers. And readers. Here’s their mission statement:

Medium is not like any other platform on the internet. Our sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We don’t serve ads—we serve you, the curious reader who loves to learn new things. Medium is home to thousands of independent voices [um, that means “independent writers,” which, by definition, could include you!], and we combine humans and technology to find the best reading for you—and filter out the rest.

Interested in writing for Medium? Start here.

Submit to THE SUN MAGAZINE‘s Readers Write
A well-regarded, ad-free, glossy print and online monthly, THE SUN magazine not only publishes poetry, interviews, short memoir, short fiction, and fabulous black-and-white photographs, they also open their pages to their readers!

In their Readers Write section, they publish twenty or so short nonfiction pieces each month. These pieces are written to themes (like “ghosts” and “getting started”) listed on the website. As their Readers Write submission guidelines say, Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression…. Writing style isn’t as important as thoughtfulness and sincerity. There is no word limit, but we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the section before you submit.

And if your piece is chosen for publication, you’ll receive a six-month subscription to the magazine!

More ways to publish your writing

You’ll find more ideas and resources in A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing Your Writing on Social Media. Choose an approach from those choices, or from any of the ones listed above. But whatever way suits you, do as Austin Kleon suggests and be “open, generous, brave, and productive [… and] share something small every day.”

“Publish your writing” doesn’t have to mean getting a three-book deal with a major publisher! It can simply mean “make your work public.” Sharing your ideas and work with the world in whatever way appeals to you can make you feel more empowered as a writer and more involved as a citizen of the world.

* Here are Kleon’s ten ways:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Writing coach

If you want to publish your writing, I can help! I’m available for book and writing coaching! Also, check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Is It Too Late? Writing in Our Middle and Later Years: A Writing Coach’s Perspective

I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE! I was just waiting for the kids to leave the nest (or to be able to work part-time, or to retire, or …). I hear this or some variation from aspiring authors pretty regularly. And I understand! Writing takes a certain amount of time and quiet and concentration—and all of these are in short supply when we’re raising kids and working full-time. But once the day comes—kids successfully launched, work obligations managed—and you’re ready to get serious about that long-held writing dream, do you worry you’ve left it too late?

What you know now will help you as a late-bloomer writer!

Writing, as much as any art form I know, has a long curve. No matter when we start, we’ve got to dig in and learn the craft, as well as figure out our own best approach to getting words on the page reliably. In later life, we may have developed more patience for both of these tasks. In fact, we may even have an edge over our younger selves!

At fifty or sixty, we quite likely have a better sense of how we learn than we did earlier in life. Will we get more from an online class? One-on-one instruction? Or taking a deep dive into a pile of books on the subject? Or do we do best when we just jump in, accruing knowledge on an as-needed basis as we go?

In mid-life (or later), we are also better acquainted with our own habits than we may once have been. Such self-awareness is invaluable when we’re engaging in a pursuit that requires the type of long-term commitment writing asks of us. For instance, by this point, we might know we are absolutely a morning person, not a night owl. That means we can create a schedule that has us writing at our most productive time of day.

We might have also learned strategies that keep us from spinning our wheels. For instance, we once may have dug in our heels, wasting precious energy trying to wrestle a problem into submission. But now, we’re more likely to let the problem go, to step away and take a walk or a nap, understanding that sort of soft focus is more likely to bring us to an elegant solution.

Even more important? With a few extra years under our belt, we understand more about what it means to be human than we did in our youth or early adulthood. And this, above everything, will make what we write today all the more valuable than what we would-a could-a should-a written a few yesterdays ago.

Get inspired by older writers!

In ON WRITING, Stephen King says, … agents, publishers, and editors are all looking for the next hot writer who can sell a lot of books and make lots of money … and not just the next hot young writer, either; Helen Santmyer was in a retirement home [in her eighties!] when she published AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Frank McCourt was quite a bit younger [66] when he published ANGELA’S ASHES, but he was still no spring chicken.

Taking a quick spin around the web, I discovered a few more notable, late-publishing authors to inspire us who have left the art of writing for our retirement years.

Grace Burrowes always kept a diary, but the best-selling romance author was more reader than writer—until she wrote her first novel when her daughter left for college.

Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY, began writing at the age of 51.

Kit de Waal’s first novel, MY NAME IS LEON, was published when she was 56.

Norman MacLean, who wrote A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, started writing at 70.

Harriet Doerr’s first novel, STONES FOR IBARRA, was published when she was 74 years old. It went on to win a National Book Award.

Then, there’s Sir Christopher Bland, who was 76 when his first novel, ASHES IN THE WIND, was published. Today, the Royal Society of Literature has established the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, to encourage the work of older writers. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually to an author who was fifty or older when they were first published.

And if all that doesn’t assure you that you are in good company no matter how old (or young) you are when you first get the writing bug, there’s a great article in THE NEW YORKER, by Malcolm Gladwell, titled “Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?” that might do the trick.

You might also like a short post I wrote a couple of years ago called “Is It Too Late: Writing Practice.” It features an encouraging article on late-blooming writers by author and literary advice columnist Roxanne Gay.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the DRUIDCRAFT TAROT.

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10 Top Writing Coaching Tips and Resources for Teens and Preteen Writers

DO YOU WANT TO ENCOURAGE A YOUNG WRITER? Here are 10 writing coaching tips for teens and preeteen writers.

A kid you know may have a clever way with words or be an off-again/on-again journal keeper. They may write song lyrics or poetry or put on shows with their friends. Kids that gravitate to these kinds of activities might bloom into full-fledged writers with some support. Or they might just noodle with writing—among many other creative activities—for a year or two and then move on.

Either way, developing the art of putting words on the page is likely to benefit them throughout their academic and professional careers! Here’s a backpack-full of great ideas and resources to get them started:

1) Comic books count! Do you know there’s a huge comic-book culture out there? I bet your teen writer does! Whether a younger writer wants to team up with an artist pal or pen both drawings and text themselves, comic books could be a great way for them to tell stories. Check out Little Scribe’s article “Comic Books: A Powerful Study Tool for Teens.” 

If your teen is more ambitious, they might want to dive into writing a graphic novel. Like comic books, graphic novels rely on images to tell half the story. However, graphic novels typically tell longer, more fully developed narratives than comic books. Penguin Books has a helpful graphic-novel guide titled “You Can Do a Graphic Novel.”

2) Writing fan fiction can help a young writer get their novel-writing feet wet! Fan fiction writers enter already-created fictional worlds—that of Harry Potter and crew, for example—and write their own stories based on the characters and settings in those worlds, then share their work online, building community with other fan-fic writers.

A surprising number of professional novelists got their start as fan-fic writers. Read more about this phenom in THE NEW YORKER article “The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction.”  HuffPost article “Fanfiction: A Guide for Parents” offers a different perspective on this teen-centric writing form.

3) Virtual or actual diary- or journal-keeping gives a kid a place to dream on the page, to hear themselves think in that slightly different way that writing just for oneself produces. And the self-trust journaling builds will serve as a foundation for all their other writing opportunities, as well.

You might want to gift a teen with a physical diary or a beautifully bound journal. Or you could recommend they try an online journal platform. Penzu is just one example. On their site, they say, Whether you’re looking for a tool to record your daily emotions and activities in a reflective journal, keep track of milestones in a food diary, or even record your dreams in a dream journal, Penzu has you covered.

4) Many magazines invite young writers to submit their work. STONE SOUP is a literary magazine and website written and illustrated by kids through age thirteen. EMBER is a journal whose submission guidelines are open to authors and poets age ten and up. Print magazine TEEN INK says, Whether you’re interested in poetry, sports, movie reviews, or fiction, send us your work and let your voice be heard! And then there’s ONE TEEN STORY, an award-winning quarterly literary magazine that features the work of today’s best teen writers.

5) Did you know that NaNoWriMo has a young writers’ program? Yup! Through that program, National Novel Writing Month offers younger folks the chance to dig deep and produce a full draft of a new novel in a single month! As they say, our Young Writers Program (YWP) supports under-eighteen writers and K-12 educators as they participate in our flagship event each November, and take part in smaller writing challenges year-round.

YWP invites participants to set their word-count goal and draft their novel right on the site. The program also offers support from published authors. Sound good? You might want to buddy up with a teen writer this November. You can root for one another as you complete your daily word counts and push toward THE END!

6) Websites for kid writers abound with inspiration and creative fuel! For instance,  UNDERLINED  presents writing prompts, authorial advice, and literary community—all geared toward the young writer. Wattpad goes a step further. Here, according to BRIGHTLY, teens can find and follow favorite authors and release their own works as serial novels. This platform also helps young writers find an audience among its 25 million+ members! 

BRIGHTLY also recommends Tumblr, pointing out that this blogging platform … doubles as a go-to for young literary enthusiasts, bookworms, and those in need of some writing motivation. Some to check out: The Writer’s Helpers (for advice on everything from grammar to plot); Writing Prompts; and John Green’s Tumblr (the Tumblr account of YA author John Green, which is just fun and inspiring).

7) It’s exciting to discover books that inspire young writers. I’ve listed three.

WRITE YOURSELF A LANTERN: Featuring lines from Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X among its pages, this full-color, beautifully designed journal is perfect for readers, long-time writers, those trying their hand at poetry, or anyone with a voice all their own.

JUST WRITE: Here’s How!, by Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, includes an afterword by Ross Workman, Walter’s teen coauthor of KICK, and covers Walter’s six-box and four-box outlines; excerpted pages from his own notebooks; and writing tips from both Walter and Ross.

THE FRUIT BOWL PROJECT, by Sarah Durkee, describes a fictional, yet still inspiring situation: The kids in 8th Grade Writer’s Workshop are awestruck when rock superstar Nick Thompson comes to talk about writing. Nick, known for his lyrics, tells the kids his secret: A song is just a bowl of fruit—one must figure out how to paint it. Nick gives the kids two weeks to tell an interesting story, reflecting his or her style. And so the Fruit Bowl Project begins. Rap, poetry, monologue, screenplay, haiku, fairy tale—and more.

8) Some YouTube videos offer advice-filled snippets specifically for young writers. 

11 Writers: Advice for Young Writers (features Patti Smith, Jonathan Franzen, and Umberto Eco!)

Shaelin Writes: Advice for Teen Writers: What I Wish I’d Known

Margaret Atwood’s Top 5 Writing Tips: In this National Centre for Writing video, Atwood is interviewed by two teen writers.

How to Become an Author and a Good Writer, by J.K. Rowling.

16 Tips for Young Writers, by Hannah Lee Kidder, Writer and Other Stuff

9) Programs for kid writers offer community and support. From summer writing camps to online workshops, there are many options to help a young writer take their craft to the next level. A few of these include Writopia Labs: based in NYC, a team of published authors, produced playwrights, and passionate administrators champion Writopia’s unique approach to creative youth development. Education Unlimited’s Writing Summer Camps for High School Students offers the Emerging Writers Institute, a two-week creative writing camp program to develop students’ imaginative writing across genres. Brave Writer emphasizes the support a home-schooling parent can give a young writer—but many tips and resources are applicable to any young person trying to move their writing skills ahead. 

10) I’ll end with a single entry from writing guru Jane Friedman, publisher of THE HOT SHEET, a newsletter on the publishing industry, columnist for PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, professor with The Great Courses (which released her 24-lecture series, HOW TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK), and author of THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER.

Jane knows her stuff. Here’s a little bit of it for kid writers: Writing Advice for Children and Teens, in which she offers pithy advice and invites writers John Green, Ira Glass, and Ta-Nehisi Coates to weight in, too. Together, these fine writers share some simple but deep truths—exactly the sort of truths we need to guide us as writers, whether we’re young … or not so young anymore.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Photo by Brecht Bug, used via Creative Commons license.

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A Freelance Editor’s 5 Tips to Getting the Most from Your FREE Sample Edit!

TOM WALLACE IS A SAVVY EDITOR and an extraordinary ghost writer. I asked him if he’d be willing to share a useful nugget from his wide experience in the world of professional writing—and he delivered the goods!

The Sample Edit

Tom Wallace

Shopping for a freelance editor can be a nail-biter. You know you need one, but they have to be the right one. You want an editor who not only knows the principles of editing backward and forward but has the sensitivity and perception to edit your voice, to get what you’re saying. One of the most important tools to use in this epic search is the sample edit.

There are two kinds of sample edit. The first is the paid sample, usually of a good chunk of your writing—say, your opening two chapters or initial twenty pages. This is, frankly, not a popular choice, because, if you’re getting four paid samples, this search could get a bit costly.

The second type is free, so that’s what we’ll focus on in this post. Most freelance editors will be happy to do a free sample edit. They’ll jump at the opportunity to prove they’ve got the chops you’re looking for.

5 Tips to Getting the Most from a Sample Edit

Tip #1: A free sample will be about five pages. Get a sample of this length from three or four editors, so you have enough comparison material to make an informed choice between them. Have all your prospective editors work on exactly the same material—which should be the first five pages of your book. (Indeed, the three most important parts of your book are the first sentence, the first paragraph, and the first page. What’s in the beginning constitutes your best hope—quite likely your only hope—of hooking a reader.)

Tip #2: This sample should be done in Microsoft Word with the Track Changes function turned on, allowing you to see every revision and margin comment made by each editor.

Tip #3: Editors might deal with any number of issues: wordiness, spelling, punctuation, character development, pace, etc. So comparing these few sample edits can be very enlightening.

Look for things in the text like deletions of repeated words or ideas, the rearrangement of sentences and re-punctuation of dialogue, and the solving of grammatical problems like dangling modifiers. If two or three editors agree about the majority of these issues and one does not—well, then it’s time to remember what you learned on SESAME STREET: one of these editors is not like the others.

Also, if editors are revising for style, which does the best job of polishing your work without obliterating your voice. Are they really adding value, or are they just changing things to change them?

Tip #4: Look at the margin comments. These may contain information about why something was changed, suggestions to you about what you might add, or questions meant to clarify your meaning or clarify an idea in the editor’s head that will help her do good work on your material, should you decide to work with her.

Tip #5: Finally, if you don’t understand a choice an editor has made, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that each editor is essentially auditioning for a part in the play that is your writing life. If they grumble at the idea of answering questions—or communicating with you in anyway—they shouldn’t be in your play.

Sample edits rock. They’re one of the best tools you have in your search for a talented editor.

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Thanks so much to Tom for sharing the ins and outs of getting a sample edit. Want to learn more about working with a freelance editor? Contact Tom Wallace!

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!
Want to know more about hiring a writing coach? Click to read Should I Hire a Writing Coach in THE WRITER magazine.

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Top Writing Coach Tip #1: Get the Writing Conference Delivered to YOU!

QUICK! WHAT DOES A WRITING CONFERENCE OFFER?

  • Big name authors discussing their genres and journeys.
  • Experts teaching literary craft.
  • Agents and editors sharing insider FAQs about the publishing industry.

Also, ballrooms filled with fellow writers, a chance to pitch your book or have your first pages critiqued, a bookstore to sell your latest work, networking opportunities galore … and, of course, too much mediocre hotel food.

All at a fairly steep cost, right? Even a local-to-you writing conference is likely to set you back $500. Add travel and lodging for an away-from-home weekend, and you’re looking at twice that, or more.

But if you believe the golden information gleaned from authors and industry experts forms the heart of a writing conference, I’ve got great news! You can get that delivered right to your door—every month, at the tiniest fraction of the cost!

All you need is a subscription to a top-notch writing magazine. Here are four excellent magazines for your consideration:

In each issue, these magazines provide a plethora of topics you’d expect to see presented at a writing conference—like agent spotlights, new-author features, craft articles, and industry guidelines. And these pieces are written by the same experts you’d expect to see on a discussion panel or speaking from a conference platform!

For instance, articles in the most recent issue of WRITER’S DIGEST (just arrived in my mailbox last week) include,

  • The Art of Breaking Character: when, why, and how to have your characters act, um, uncharacteristically.
  • Steering the Ship: twelve tips for researching a nonfiction project.
  • The Frugal Writer’s Guide to Everything: ways to save big money on literary expenses. (Hey! This blog post is right in line with my pal Elizabeth Sims’s article!)
  • The Power and Peril of Prologue: when, how, and why to use a prologue—and what risks you run with agents and editors by doing so. (This in-depth, super-helpful article is by another pal, Ryan Van Cleave!)
  • The WD Interview: with Pulitzer Prize-winning author of LESS, Andrew Sean Greer. (No, Andrew’s not a pal—but I did love LESS!)

And that’s only half the full-length articles this month. There are also ten columns, the Writer’s Workbook feature, and Inkwell, with its writers’ guide to editors.

It will take me most of the month to digest (ha!) every morsel of this month’s WRITER’S DIGEST—chewing on its contents in bite-sized pieces that are easier to process (for me, anyway) than the weekend binge of a writing conference.

Top Writing Coach Tip

Here’s what I suggest:

1) Subscribe to a great literary magazine. 2) Read all the articles in each issue (you never know what information will come in handy!). 3) Earmark pieces that are relevant to your current project(s). 4) Discuss what you learn with writer friends (over coffee, and you’ve got the makings of a mini-conference!). 5) Feel reassured you’re keeping your writer self current on what’s going on in the writing world.

Of course, attending writing conferences is great, too! There’s lots of interactive magic afoot in those ballrooms. Just don’t get your hopes up about the food.

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!
Want to know more about hiring a writing coach? Click to read Should I Hire a Writing Coach in THE WRITER magazine.

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If the Queen of Wands Were Your Writing Coach: Some Tarot-Headed Writing Advice

IF TAROT’S QUEEN OF WANDS WERE YOUR WRITING COACH, she would be your enthusiastic champion, your star-spangled cheerleader! She’d laud your literary talent and encourage you to hold to your creative vision, even when others question it. You see, she believes your pen is your magic wand—that it brings to life the imaginative worlds that live inside you.

An independent sort herself, the Queen of Wands would advocate for your independence. She’s not a joiner, so she wouldn’t necessarily suggest you find yourself a critique group. But she’s a hard worker and would expect you to be one, too. In her no-nonsense style, she’d tell you dig in—and maybe hand you a bullet-point list like this one to show you exactly what she means:

  • Read widely in your genre—especially books that have been published in the last three years.
  • Check out blogs and YouTube videos that feature literary agents weighing in on what makes a book attractive to them and what doesn’t.
  • Take classes—online (Gotham Writers has a good reputation) or at your local community college, no matter. Just open your heart to how others approach the craft. Then, take what you like and leave the rest.
  • Create a writing schedule—and stick to it.
  • Finish a draft, then get a good reader to review it (you might hire a pro, ask the smartiest smarty pants in your book group to take a look, or trade for pet-sitting with a neighbor who talks regularly and intelligently about the books she reads).

And after you’ve done all that, the Queen would give you a high five, pat you on the back, and tell you, in her heartiest voice, to go back now and revise, revise, revise.

Writing inspiration

For some fired-up examples of literary Queens of Wands who dig in, check out Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Amy Tan’s “Angst and the Second Book,” from her essay collection THE OPPOSITE OF FATE (which I quoted in a post on surviving the writer’s winter).

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Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Queen of Wands from the PHANTASMAGORIC THEATER TAROT.

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!

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Writing a Memoir? Read Memoirs!

IF YOU’RE WRITING A MEMOIR, reading others’ memoirs can help you in a number of ways. For instance, you might find that the structure of an author’s story is applicable to the part of your life that you’re recounting.

Story structure

WILD, by Cheryl Strayed, is a great example. While the main thread of WILD takes place in the story’s present, during which Strayed is hiking 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, the reader first meets Strayed at the low point of the story, about halfway through her hike. We’re then taken into a significant stretch of backstory, before being returned to her first steps on the trail. From there, Strayed dovetails backstory with tales of the trail, all the way to book’s end.

Tone and voice

Or, if you’re seeking the right voice for your story, you might consider the difference between the cool, journalistic tone of Jeanette Walls’s THE GLASS CASTLE and the sharp-tongued young persona of Mary Karr’s first memoir, THE LIARS’ CLUB.

Recently published

While all of these are wonderful works to learn from, if you’re aiming for a traditional publishing deal for your memoir, reading work that’s been published more recently (within the last five years) will give you a sense of what’s in fashion, memoir-wise. Taking your cue from what’s currently being sold, you might freshen up your own approach to improve your chances of capturing an agent’s interest.

Apply liberally to all genres: young adult, women’s fiction, self-help, sci-fi, fantasy!

These ideas are applicable to all genres. For instance, a few years ago a rumor was circulating through my writing world: A writer, deciding she wanted to write middle grade (MG) fiction for a living, started her new enterprise by reading two hundred recently published examples of MG.

As I heard it, after finishing that research, she wrote her story, taking into consideration all she’d learned from what she’d read—and got a two-book deal with a big-time publisher!

Now, I never confirmed the details of this story, so I can’t send you hieing off to read this woman’s no-doubt fabulous blog about her diligent investigation into what gets agents and editors to pull the trigger. But I can tell you this: From what I know about the wild and woolly world of publishing, this (mythical?) writer’s approach seems likely to get any would-be traditionally published writer out ahead of the pack.

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the image of The Chariot from the DREAMING WAY TAROT. http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/dreaming-way/

10 Great Tips for Capturing Literary Agent Interest!

YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS AWESOME! You’ve had it critiqued and beta-read—and you’ve revised, revised, revised! But if you’re not getting the interest from agents you feel your book deserves, check out the resources below. May you discover the golden key to your success amidst these pages and pixels!

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1) Among other topics, in her article “10 Steps to Getting a Literary Agent” for Writers & Artists, Gilly McAllister talks common sense about having a complete draft ready before querying [querying fiction and memoir, that is; see number 2 if you’re writing nonfiction], what your first three chapters need to do, and what happens when you get a nibble.

2) However, if you’re a nonfiction writer, the rule about completing a manuscript before querying doesn’t necessarily apply. Instead, you might be well-served to create a fabulous nonfiction book proposal to start your agent search. In that case, you’ll find THE WEEKEND BOOK PROPOSAL (Writer’s Digest), by Ryan Van Cleave, a comprehensive guide.

3) The post “Tips for Finding a Literary Agent” on the NY Book Editors blog offers resources for editing your own work so you’re sending out the most sparkly, attractive version of your manuscript you can!

4) The always-helpful Writer’s Digest shares “11 Steps to Finding the Agent Who’ll Love Your Book,” by Chuck Sambuchino. While Chuck doesn’t shine a spotlight on much that’s new, his point about research is supported by …

5) … the Writer’s Digest’s annual GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS!

6) In addition, the ever-awesome POETS & WRITERS magazine has a free online literary agent database for your perusal. P&W says, The Literary Agents list includes agents and literary agencies that represent poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, plus details about the kind of books they’re interested in representing, their clients, and the best way to contact them.

7) Meredith Quinn discusses the power of pitching agents at literary conferences in her article “Do You Know What Attracts Literary Agents?” for THE WRITER MAG.

8) But wait! Do you really even need a literary agent? That’s a great question! Here’s a link to Claire Bradshaw’s Writers Edit article “Do You Need a Literary Agent?” which offers some of the pros and cons of being agented.

9) Jane Friedman‘s “Should You Submit Your Work to Agents or Editors?” helps you determine whether it’s better to seek an agent or focus your sights on making a direct deal with a publisher.

10) Finally, you might want to subscribe to former literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog. I’m pretty sure this will be the gift that keeps on giving, as Bransford consistently and reliably discusses writing for publication in helpful, bite-sized nuggets. Yum. (Thanks to writer pal Bonnie Cehovet for introducing me to Nathan’s blog!)

Good luck! May the literary force be with you!

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Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the image of the Key from the CELTIC LENORMAND.

 

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Plotting Your Novel!

PENNING A PLOT IS A WILD RIDE—for both the writer and the character whose story is being told. Ups! Downs! Chills! Thrills! And then … that horrifying moment halfway through your draft when you, author, realize you don’t know what happens next!

For ten years, I’ve been helping writers extricate themselves from exactly that hairy spot—using a process called the Plot Clock. A virtual AAA road map of a narrative, the Plot Clock shows writers how to organize story events to get their characters to make the changes needed to fulfill their story’s purpose.

As Gail Shepherd, author of THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS (Penguin), says, If you want to nail story structure, there’s no better method than the Plot Clock—it gives you a visual map to represent the arc of your story and keep you on track.

Now, I and my co-authors Joyce Sweeney and Tia Levings have finally written the Plot Clock book. So, if your story is stuck and spinning its wheels, forget AAA. Just call Amazon! Tell ’em to send a literary tow truck—fully loaded with a copy of PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK!

Tarot Writing Prompt: Doing It in the Dark

HERE IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE, IT’S FALL, the season of harvest, which rolls steadily into winter, the season of hunkering down, of mending nets, of dreaming in the dark. And what if, under the spell of that winter, in all that dark, during all those long, quiet hours, a dream should catch fire in the belly of the dreamer? Then, like a three- or four-months ripening womb, what was once just a glimmer will start to show in spring, that season of surging rivers, of buds swelling on what were just skeletal branches the day before.

But if that dream happens to be a big writing project? A novel? A memoir? A collection of short stories? Then be prepared: That quickening may take a while. The writing life has its own seasons—among them, a dark incubation, a time when a project may seem to have gone retrograde, to have lost its purchase. That season is the writer’s winter, the quiet dark in which a writing dream twists and threatens to slip between the fingers of our unconscious.

In her essay Angst and the Second Book,from her collection THE OPPOSITE OF FATE, Amy Tan writes about the lengthy gestation of her second novel, THE KITCHEN GOD’S WIFE, during just such a writer’s winter.

Each morning . . . I would dutifully sit at my desk, turn on the computer, and stare at the blank screen. . . . I wrote with persistence, telling myself that no matter how bad the story was, I should simply go on like a rat in a maze. . . . And so I started to write . . . about a woman who was cleaning a house. . . . After thirty pages, the house was tidy, and I had found a character I liked. I abandoned all the pages about the tidy house. I kept the character and took her along with me to another house. I wrote and then rewrote, six times, another thirty pages, and found a question in her heart. I abandoned the pages and kept the question. . . . I wrote and rewrote one hundred fifty pages and then found myself at a crisis point. The woman had turned sour on me. . . . I felt like the rat who had taken the wrong turn at the beginning and had scrambled all this way only to reach a dead end.

Tan goes on to talk about many other dead ends she found on her eventual way to THE KITCHEN GOD’S WIFE. She counts seven attempts. Among other morals we could take from the essay is this: A big writing project can take a long time to ripen. During this time, it may look like nothing (or less than nothing!) is happening, but on the inside, things are shifting, developing, taking shape. Given enough time and space, the big writing dream may well grow into something recognizable.

Tarot writing prompt

During these dark months, take time to slip beneath the holiday glitz and glitter and listen to the fluttering hopes of stories that might want to dream themselves awake in spring. Prepare the soil for those that will settle and take root. Listen in the dark for their tiny voices. Jot down what you hear. Keep your notes safe in the quiet of your own heart, until you feel one or more of them stir. Then fertilize, water, and make space for them to grow.

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This writing prompt was inspired by The Empress of the tarot deck (shown here as The Gardener, from Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot). Tarot’s Empress is associated with fecundity, fruitfulness, harvest, and pregnancies of every kind—and with the patience and nurturance it takes to bring those pregnancies to term.

 

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