What Did You Learn?

August 23, 2011

General Writing: When Is It Time To Say Enough?

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 9:48 am

One of the hardest things to do is figure out when it is time to give up on a novel. Most writers put everything they have into their stories and feel very emotionally attached to them. More than once I have heard someone compare their manuscript to a baby. But when and how do you determine if maybe one of your manuscripts should be buried (temporarily or permanently)?

Read about it here:
Why Do Writers Abandon Novels?
Shutting the Drawer: What Happens When a Book Doesn’t Sell?

August 22, 2011

General Writing: First Person

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 9:36 am

Deciding which Point of View to writing in can be very difficult. Check out this article on the pros of writing in first person:

Why I (We) Love First Person Point of View

General Writing: Tension

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 9:34 am

Tension is such a key component to a manuscript (and one that is missing all too often from a new writer’s work) that it can never be described too often. Some ways to add tension are discussed here:

how to add tension to our work

Getting Published: Are Agents/Publishers Too Picky?

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , — ax20 @ 9:32 am

In the struggle to get published, many authors feel that agents and publishers are being too picky and can’t understand why their manuscripts are getting rejected. Here is a good post explaining the agent and publisher’s perspective:

Are Agents & Publishers Too Picky?

General Writing: Describing the Main Character in First Person

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , , , — ax20 @ 9:30 am

Finding ways to seamlessly describe your characters is challenging at the best of times, but having to have a character describe themselves (as you have to do in first person novels) is particularly difficult. More often than not it is awkward and uncomfortable or feels forced. Read more about it from author Janice hardy:

What Do I Look Like, a Protag? Describing Your First Person Narrator

August 15, 2011

Getting Published: The First Five Pages

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 1:15 am

Many agencies ask for the first five pages of a submission. From those first five pages they determine if they have any interest in reading the rest of the manuscript. Though people wish an agent would look at more, there is a reason that you need to make those first five pages count:

letters from the query wars

August 13, 2011

General Writing: Conflict

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 11:51 pm

Conflict is one of the most important elements to your story. With no conflict, there is no reason for the reader to keep reading. The story becomes boring and predictable. There are a lot of ways to mess up your plot. Here’s a great article discussing the ways:

Conflict – The most frequently screwed up story element

August 10, 2011

Getting Published: How to Find an Agent

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 10:55 am

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is the submissions process. Who should they submit to? How do they know which agency is right? Here is a great article detailing the initial search process:

How Do I Find an Agent

Getting Published: Formatting Your Manuscript

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 10:35 am

There is nothing more frustrating than reading a manuscript that is improperly formatted. Even worse, it is a nightmare for the design team to work with a manuscript that isn’t done right. It is also a mark of inexperience and lack of research, two qualities an agent/publisher never wants to see in a writer (not that no writers can be new to the publishing industry, but they should do their research if they are).

Margins:
• Margins should be the Microsoft Default (top and bottom 1 inch, left and right 1.25 inches). It should be formatted to look like the actual size of a book.

Font:
• Your manuscript should look as though you typed it. It should not be handwritten or use multiple fonts.
• Make the font 12 pt (Times New Roman or something equally legible with all the letters the same size.) You should not try funky fonts for “atmosphere” or to imitate handwriting.
• Keep the text black on a white background.
• Do not play around with the font for the first letter of new sections or chapters; leave it in the same font and size as the rest of the manuscript (those details are for the designer to do before sending the book to the printers not for the author to do while typing the manuscript).

Spacing:
• Double-space your manuscript. (do not manually create it–Word does not work as a type writer, if you reach the end of the line and have more to say in that paragraph, simply keep typing, Word automatically goes to the next line.) For double-spacing, you go into Format→Paragraph and change line spacing to double.
• Don’t insert extra lines between your paragraphs.

Header:
• Put your name and the title at the top right of every page.
• Include page numbers.

New Paragraphs, Scenes, and Chapters:
• The start of every paragraph should be indented (you can accomplish by pressing the tab button).
• New chapters should begin on a new page (you can accomplish this by going to Insert and then Page Break).
• Make sure it is clear when one section ends and a new scene begins. (Some people do this by simply making a few lines between the paragraphs. Others like to put three stars on a new line between sections or add a number symbol, which represents a blank line.)
• The chapter header can be anywhere from one to six double-spaced lines down from the top of the page, and can be centered or left justified. You can title your chapters, or just write Chapter One or Chapter 1.
• Keep chapter formatting and titling consistent throughout.

Pictures:
• The formatting for everything, including the notes for pictures, should be consistent. The numbering should be in numerical order (no 3a, 2b, 5c).

Cover Page:
• Put the title half-way down the page, centered, with “by Your Name” underneath.
• Include your name, contact information (make sure this includes an email address), and word count.

Printing:
• Only print on one side of the paper.
• Do not staple the pages together.
• Print on nice white standard sized paper.

Getting Published: Submission Dos and Don’ts

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , , — ax20 @ 9:46 am

Querying agents (and publishers) are hard work and many first time writers (and even the more experienced ones) feel at a loss when trying to do it. Here’s some quick tips for how to do it.

Some Dos:

  • Do keep your query to 1-1.5 pages at most
  • Do include a synopsis
  • Do include your manuscript length by word count (and make sure it is appropriate for the book you are writing)
  • Do let your work stand on its own (you telling someone else that you are fantastic will not convince them to take on your book, only the strength of your writing can do that)
  • Do address a specific person whenever possible
  • Do include a brief summary of the work and your writing experience
  • Do proofread everything you send before submitting
  • Do make sure the formatting for your synopsis and sample pages is correct
  • Do mention your market and similar titles (your book can be a cross between one book and another, but there is no way there is nothing remotely similar to it)
  • Do say how your book differs or will stand out from its genre
  • Do make sure to submit all requested materials
  • Do make sure they work with the genre you have written before sending it
  • Do make sure your manuscript is properly formatted before sending it
  • Do go through the agent/publisher’s website before submitting to make sure you haven’t missed anything and have a good sense of what they are looking for

Some Don’ts:

  • Don’t make synopsis longer than 1-1.5 pages (double-spaced!)
  • Don’t insult other agencies or publishing houses
  • Don’t sound arrogant, cocky, or hostile
  • Don’t sound desperate or beg
  • Don’t provide a sample from the middle of the book (if you’re book cannot catch a reader’s attention in the beginning, they don’t want it)
  • Don’t say there are no books out their like yours (let’s be honest, there probably are or they probably don’t exist for a reason)
  • Don’t mass email agents or publishers
  • Don’t write your life story about what inspired you to become a writer (no one needs to hear that when you were three your teacher told you that you had a good imagination)

With so many reasons to reject a manuscript, don’t put yourself out of the running before anyone has read your book at all. If you get the querying process right, you have already improved your odds. Agents and editors would much rather work with someone who knows what they are doing (whether do to experience or good research) to someone who appears too lazy to have made sure to check.

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