Category Archives: publishing

Space Controversy

I read an article today about double-spacing behind a period and, I have to say, I didn’t know how prevalent the new rule had become. As I considered the reason for it – stemming from the change in technology from the monospaced characters of typewriters to the proportional spacing of computers – I realize it makes complete sense. The vast fonts and styles of the computer age lessens the need for hard and fast rules for affecting readability. I read newspaper articles and word processor submissions and see how unnecessary a second space is. Sure, I’ll give you that.

But change is hard! I, myself, have never been especially good at it, and certainly not when the change involves something that I’ve only ever learned one way of doing.

Usually, I’m resistant to change. For instance, while I am happy to read the occasional article online, I am in no hurry to give up printed newspapers, books, and magazines in favor of a handheld device for all my reading. I also will not bow down to popular word usage and grammar exceptions simply because enough people use their first language incorrectly. (It doesn’t matter how many dictionaries include it, “irregardless” is almost always noted as “nonstandard” or “incorrect” usage. It’s definition tells you it’s wrong. Stop it!)

But in the case of the double-space (hee hee, rhyming is fun), I claim the old but true adage, “Old habits die hard”. Even now, as I type, I am making a very conscious effort tot only tap the SPACEBAR once. And it feels wrong.

After typing for so many years, and increasing my QWERTY speed such that I don’t even recognize what keys I’m hitting, I struggle to stop long enough to actually realize that, not only did I just tap the SPACEBAR twice in quick succession, but I also used TAB to indent this paragraph, which is also unnecessary. This changing of the times, while understandable, is going to require a lot of BACKSPACE.

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions – Part 3

A lack of work, and the daunting task of forcing yourself to write new pieces, or to edit old pieces, for submission can be a terrible deterrent to even trying.  In truth, it has been the main thing that has stopped me from trying to submit over the past couple of years, and even the last few months.  But there are several ways to combat this.

1. Write everyday!  No matter what you’re writing, even if it’s just complaining about not having anything to say, spend three pages (or 750 words or so) bitching about it.  Whatever is going on in your head, your life, at work, around the country, around the world; spend a few minutes putting it down on paper.  If you make this effort everyday, you will be shocked what can eventually come out.  Whether it’s a humorous memory of something that happened in your childhood, or a poignant observation relating to your industry or current events, something is bound to pop out.  Perhaps you will notice a trend in what you’re writing and realize you have a series of little essays that could turn into something.  That’s how I got started with this blog.  So make the effort to sit, and let it all out – dump the contents of your brain for 20 to 30 minutes, and see what happens.

2. Go back to old work with fresh eyes, no matter how old it is!  That poem you wrote in college for the creative writing class you took as a fun but throw-away elective might turn out to have some weight to it, especially after so many years.  Now you are older, wiser, more experienced, improved as a writer, and distanced from the critical young adult that wrote that piece.  You don’t have to worry about how bad the kid that wrote it thought it was.  You, as his/her adult counterpart, may see something that s/he didn’t know was there.  A few small changes, and that poem could turn into something worthy of publication, if it isn’t already.

3. Look for prompts, and read, read, read!  Read the newspaper, visit the library, pick up trade magazines that are meaningful to you, go to book clubs, book fairs, author events, movies, concerts, anything!  There are so many topics out there to write about, and so many publications and websites devoted to each one. We tend not to think of our everyday experiences as something that warrants documentation, but you never know what might come of arguing with the campaign ad for your district’s incumbent representative, or experimenting with a new recipe or workout.  Writing prompts are everywhere. They can be found at your child’s PTA meeting, the jazz club you were dragged to on Friday night, or the display of NY Times best sellers at your local bookstore.  If something riles you, write it down.  Don’t ignore it!

 

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions – Part 2

So there you are, sitting in front of your computer (because whether you write by hand, or typewriter, or computer, you should at least have everything backed up) looking through the files of all the work you have. It’s probably a lot, right? A bunch of poems out of that blank book you always have in the bag you carry everywhere. Unfinished works that you just can’t seem to pick back up, no matter how hard you try, and are considering starting over entirely. Stories that you’ve spent so much time with, writing, editing, revising, rewriting, reading, and rewriting again, that you almost hate them now. Maybe, you’re like me, and have kept all the college work you did including English papers, research abstracts, and essays based on other thinkers’ ideas. If you are like me, then you probably have upwards of 100 to 200 works all set up for submission.

And now you’re laughing.

You’re laughing because none of that is anywhere close to submission ready. Of the probably 100+ works I had (arguably) ready to go when I made my first forray into the submission process, I only felt confident in about seven. The rest were simply bad. I didn’t feel good about how they sounded, and I didn’t have the time, or more truthfully, the motivation to make them better. So, naturally, I had to give up when I exhausted my seven golden tickets, discovering that what is “golden” is subjective. It never occurred to me to write new work, because I was in one of my slumps with short work.

What kills me about that is, I’ve now gone back and looked at my old work – pieces I had then, and things I’ve written since – and it’s not all bad.  As a matter of fact, some of it is really quite good in my estimation, and that’s saying something since like any artist my own work is what I’m most critical of.  But with a couple of tweaks here and there I may have as many as ten or twelve decent poems and at least one short fiction.

But even better than that, I am writing consistently again.  Inspiration has been a fairly constant friend of late, and as long as I’m riding that wave I might as well write some new stuff.  Sure, there are ideas for stories (and novels) that are floating around in my mind, and periodically on the paper, but I forget that creative writing is not just fiction and poetry.  There is a whole world of creative nonfiction out there that I have only just begun to tap, thanks to wordpress and all of you who are so kind to visit here and read.

And so, with old work to edit and perfect, new ideas, new strengths, and new genres to explore, I am jumping in feet first to submitting.  My first attempt will be creative nonfiction, something I’ve never considered even trying to be good at.  But what is the point of all this writing that I do if no one ever sees it.

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions

I have been describing myself as a writer ever since I started getting really lucky and fluid with the work on my MS. Something clicked for me when I joined the writing group that helped me put into perspective how to tell the story I wanted to tell, and from that point on writing became so much easier for me. As a result, I do not only have my MS to tout, but a few other short pieces and some poetry too.

At some point, after I’d finished my MS’s first draft, but before I decided to revise, I began looking at some of my short works, and trying to submit them to magazines and contests for publication. Members of my writing group had been published this way, and I thought, “Why wait for a novel to get published when I’ve got some perfectly good work sitting on my hard drive?”

I naturally became much more critical of the work that I had, but still found some pieces I felt were worthy of submission (that I wasn’t embarrassed by) and found places to send them. Unfortunately, I never did get anything published, but truth be told, I really didn’t try that hard either. I spent two or three months, sent maybe five pieces out, and then got wrapped up in living, or maybe that was when I went back to editing my MS. I can’t really remember. Regardless, I gave up on submitting without giving it (or myself for that matter) a decent fighting chance.

Well, now I’m starting the submission process over again, and this time I will not be giving up so easily. I’d like to say, “I won’t make all the same mistakes again”, but the reality is the only mistake that I made was giving up too quickly. I wasn’t inspired to write any new work, and I exhausted all the decent work (I thought) I had. I also didn’t feel comfortable without clear rules, and I didn’t want to break any so I didn’t take any chances. And then there was my complete lack of understanding of copyright and resulting paranoia.

Now, since it was this blog that got me writing everyday again, and has encouraged my efforts going forward, I’ve decided to share with my readers my journey of submission. My hope is that it is helpful to those of you who, like me, are unfamiliar and wary of the process. And for those that have ridden the submission/rejection superhighway, I hope it will give you a place to share in the experience. I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and stories, and as always, I thank you for taking the time to read.

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Q – Query: Wrote A Book; Now What?

It wasn’t until I finished my first MS, and considered trying to get publication that I realized how much work goes into trying to publish.  For those of you who think writing is hard, just wait until you get to the next step.

First of all, it’s not enough to have written a great book; you also have to be able to market it well, because finding a literary agent is all about selling your story.  Lucky for us writers, we already have the language skills to make this feasible, but as it turns out there is format and procedure to getting it done right.  Namely, the Query.

The query is a letter you write to potential agents about your book in order to sell them on it.  It is important to note that a query is not a synopsis, nor is it a book report, nor is it a pleading letter of desperation.  (That last part is especially important to remember.)  The easiest way to think of a query is as the “trailer” for your book.  Think of how movie trailers are presented.  Immediately, there is intrigue.  You get a quick shot of the main character, then another quick shot of the conflict they will encounter.  There aren’t long scenes that explain the plot in detail.  Instead, you just get quick vignettes that leave you wanting more.  This is what your query should do.  It should raise enough questions in the readers mind to want them to give your MS a look.

Because of the importance of the formatting, you will need lots of eyes to look at this.  And the best place to go for that is other writers, hopefully most who have written a query and with any luck, a few who have gotten an agent based on their query.  Believe me; it is helpful.  When I was working on my own, I got my help through a website called AQConnect, a derivative website from Agent Query which I’ve written on before.  This is a forum website which, if used appropriately, can be infinitely helpful in writing your query.  After several months, I was able to get mine down to the point that I felt confident sending it out.  Unfortunately, I decided shortly after that that the book was not ready for submission. Regardless of whether or not I choose to ever use that particular query to get that book published, I now feel confident in my understanding of the writing and the point of the query.

 

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K – Kindle: Oh Where, Oh Where Have My Paper Books Gone?

I’m not the first, and I’m certain I won’t be the last, to write about the trend of the E-Reader. I single out Kindle because it was one of the first that I remember really taking off, and turning ebooks into a thing. (It also happens to begin with “K”, and today is “K-day”, but that was really more of a coincidence than anything else.)

I’ve had several discussions with friends and family about the benefits of using an E-reader versus a paper book, and I understand them all. But for me, it just doesn’t feel like reading. It feels like reading from a computer, because that’s what it is. I’m reading from a screen, and it’s just not the same.

I’m one of those weird people who, not only delights in the touch and feel of a book, though I do!  But there’s more to it than that. I love opening a new book, and holding it in my hand, careful not to break the binding. I love the way a new book smells, as though the ink has it’s own unique scent that is simply not the same as other types of ink. And I love holding an old book – one that I’ve bought from a used bookstore, or borrowed from the library. To see all the dog-eared pages, and feel the soft binding that’s been opened so many times, it no longer wants to stay closed. And more than that; I’m the kind of person who sees all my books on their shelves as the best, most aesthetically pleasing decoration in my house. Sometimes, sitting on my couch just before I prepare to go to bed, I will look across the living room at my bookshelf and just smile, because they all look so pretty lined up just so.

Why would I want to trade all that in for yet another screen?

 

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F – Flash Fiction: Discovering How To Be Brief

“A novel is just a story that hasn’t yet discovered a way to be brief.” – George Saunders

If there is one thing I’ve learned over my years of writing – in classes, for fun, for “work” – it is that I am quite verbose.  Give me an essay to write in 3 to 5 pages, sure you might get 6, but there will only be one or two sentences on that last page.  As you may have noticed if you’ve looked at my archives, I struggle to keep it brief even here.  I’ve always said of myself, “a novel is easy, short stories – challenging, poetry – daunting, and haiku is right out!”  So when I first learned about flash fiction, I thought, “Now that’s a format that could actually drive me insane”.

For those that are not familiar with the term, flash fiction is a style of short story that tells a complete story  in 1000 words or less.  And it’s not easy.

But, as you may have noticed, I love to challenge myself, so naturally I tried my hand at it.  The initial draft took about… Oh, I’d say 45 minutes to an hour to write.  It was so easy; it just flowed right out of my pen, and on to the paper in about 1500 or so words.  For the next 2 to 3 hours I was editing – not my favorite part of the process – and feeling like I was simply gutting my story.

But in the end, I managed to get it down to 667 words.  (I think that was including a three word title.)  For someone like me, this is a great accomplishment, and still one of my best works. (Now, if only one of these magazine editors or competition judges would agree!)

 

 

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