WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

 

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***This is PART TWO of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author. Make sure to come back next week and find out more insider secrets about the writing industry!***

 

5 Common Myths About Getting Published, Part Two
by: Donna L Martin

 

Last week I talked about the first myth in this series where some new writers think you need to have a college degree in children’s literature or writing before you can actually call yourself a writer. If you missed last week’s post you can go here to check it out.

Now I’d like to talk about the next myth some new writers think is necessary to become a published author.

 

MYTH #2…YOU NEED AN AGENT TO GET A FOOT IN THE DOOR

 

I worked hard my first year as a “professional” writer to strengthen my writing skills. I also started setting goals for my writing career and one of those goals was to land an agent. I thought the ONLY way to become an author was to find an agent willing to represent me and then THEY would magically get my stories published.

I was wrong.

There are many larger publishing houses that won’t consider an unagented submission, but there are still ways for writers today to get their work in front of a publisher. Here are some of the opportunities I have come across over the years where writers don’t need an agent to get noticed by a publishing house…

 

1) WRITE ON CON (http://www.writeoncon.com)…

 

A FREE, week long writers conference usually held in August and including things like critique forums, guest speakers, twitter pitches, editor chats and chances to pitch to publishing houses.

 

2) PITCHMAS (http://www.pitchmas.blogspot.com)…

 

Twitter pitch forum under #Pitchmas usually held twice a year in July and December. Agents and publishers requests manuscripts pitched during a one day pitch party and even publishing houses not normally open to unagented submissions will occasionally sign on to read the pitches.

 

3) PITMAD (http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad)…

 

Twitter pitch party held four times a year under #Pitmad and hosted by author Brenda Drake where writers pitch their completed manuscripts to agents and editors. This is where I met my editor, Jessica Schmeidler, from Anaiah Press and where my story went from a twitter pitch to a book contract in SIX DAYS!

 

4) #MSWL (http://www.twitter.com)…

 

Twitter forum where agents and publishers list their manuscript “wish lists”. Just do a search for #MSWL and the wish lists will pop up. Just make sure to research any agents or publishing houses before submitting and ALWAYS follow the publishing house’s guidelines to make sure your manuscript has the best chance at being considered.
For those of you interested in pursuing agency representation, here are a couple of ways to bypass the slush pile as well as some agents looking to add to their client list…

 

1) JULIE HEDLUND’S 12 X 12 FORUM (http://www.juliehedlund.com)…

 

In my humble opinion, probably one of THE best pipelines to get your work into the hands of agents. Registration is closed for this year but any writer serious about their career and interested in finding an agent should definitely check this forum out!

 

2) RATE YOUR STORY (http://www.rateyourstory.blogspot.com)…

 

Not only can you receive FREE professional critique ratings on your picture book stories up to 2000 words, creator Miranda Paul also provides membership levels where writers can receive special newsletters loaded with contests and insider links to agent opportunities.

 

For myself, I am always on the look out for agent to partner with on future projects. However, I encourage every writer out there looking to become published to do their due diligence and research the market. Maybe you aren’t looking for agent representation. While a writer can still become a published author without one, like I did, there are still huge advantages to being represented by an agent so make the decision that is right for YOU and remember no matter what path you choose…agented or free lance…it STILL all starts with a great story!

What other opportunities, publishing houses open to unagented submissions, or agents looking for new clients have I missed? Add to my list by commenting below…

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Margot Finke

 
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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the difficulty in writing a great story from my friend Margot Finke…

 

Writing a Masterpiece Ain’t Easy!

by Margot Finke

 
Like any other job or career, a writer must spend time learning the craft of writing – an apprenticeship if you will. The rules are available for those who take the time to learn them. And once you learn the rules, you can take an occasional deep breath. . . and break them with impunity.

 

Active and powerful words are a BIG Plus:

 

The creation of active and powerful plots is much the same whatever the age or the genre. It is all in the words you choose, the dialogue you use, and the way you put it all together. Whether you are trying to appeal to adults, kids on the cusp of adolescence, or teens with raging hormones, success depends on HOOKING your reader.

If you plan to whip up an action packed book that will HOOK reader interest, here is a preview of the ingredients you’ll need to dig out of your imagination and your well-honed craft box.

Think out of the box
Tight writing + action and pace
Active and powerful verbs.
A plot that’s cool and fast paced.
Characters alive with authenticity.
Dialogue that is true to the characters.
A background rich with possibilities or mystery.
Your own unique writing voice.
Hints and clues that are woven into the fabric of the plot, and tell of past history and things yet to come.
End of chapter HOOKS that keep readers turning the page.

· A Thesaurus (either a book or Shift F7 in Word) is your best friend when looking to replace problem words.

· For further clues regarding weak “Stuff” to cut from your chapters, visit my

Self Editing Tip Sheet and Powerful Writing Tips

 
When completed, your MG or YA masterpiece needs to be somewhere between 30,000 and 80,000 words. Yes, I know Jo Rowlings upped the ante with her succession of Harry Potter books, and if your plot and characters have the same appeal as her Harry, you too might get away with a bumper word count. However, first-time authors might be wise to err on the side of fewer words. Adult books can have a much higher word count.

WARNING: there needs to be a pile of really good “meat” in the plot sandwich to make that larger word count worthwhile.

 

Action Rules:

 

Action does not have to be a gun fight, a car chase, or a fight to the death. Great action means keeping your story moving along. Scenes that have good pace, great humor, or introduce intriguing clues also qualify as action. Your plot, characters and dialogue, must tease, lure, and draw the reader in. If your story keeps the reader turning the page, eager to discover more about the characters and the plot, then you have ACTION covered.

 

Lack of Action is when. . .

 

Stagnant “waffling on” does not move the plot along to the next cool scene. You add long descriptions that interrupt the build up to a momentous scene. Lots of “telling,” rather than using actions and dialogue to show what happens.. If your book is billed as a mystery, a thriller, an adventure or the like, chapters that drag will turn off readers. NOTE: short punchy sentences build better pace and tension.

 

A Sample:

 

From my young teen ghost mystery, the “Revenge of Thelma Hill.” Note the shorter sentences and the word choices.

Heavy rain clouds hid the moon, turning her room into a dark cave. Half awake, Frannie shivered. Brrrr. . . Might as well sleep in the fridge. She tugged the comforter over her ears. The prickle of goose bumps slid up and down her spine. The room had frostbite. Wow! Could this mean the return of the gray ghost? Why didn’t I put that camera closer; like under the pillow?

Nervous excitement battled dread. Was the ghost there? The urge to know overwhelmed her. Pushing herself up on one elbow Frannie peered at the foot of the bed.

Frost covered her quilt, the dressing table and the curtains. Icicles dangled from her bedside lamp, their eerie white light shimmering over everything in the room. The Ghost hung in mid-air, swaying gently. A low moan escaped her. The gray spidery veils clung to her like a drowned woman’s gown.

Frannie gasped. Her breath went in just fine, but it refused to go out again. The camera lay on the bedside table, forgotten.
As a professional Critique Service Provider, here are snippets of advice, hot from my latest manuscript critiques.

 

Wordiness: (Tight writing rules)

 

Nothing kills tension and fast pace quicker than wordiness. When fingers hit the keyboard, and their owner has a fresh document begging to be filled, many writers never know when to quit. I prune and trim acres of unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. Think of these words and sentences as frills on a fussy looking ball gown. Rip off those frills, and you have an elegant and exciting gown. Your writing needs to be like that gown – elegant and exciting. Sure to make an editor drool. Tight Writing keeps the pace and action moving along. It is also vital for tension building. A few short punchy sentences create tension far better than one long ramble.

 

Puny Verbs:

 

The writer who understands the value of verbs already has the battle half won. Great verbs, active verbs, and powerful verbs, they all have the same goal – pages and chapters that crackle with excitement, dynamic plot twists, and vibrant dialogue. Strong verbs create strong characters, memorable plots and evocative scenes. If your plot and characters read like a bowl of over-cooked noodles, look at your verbs. Your verb choices probably don’t deserve all the blame, but they definitely led the retreat into a big yawn!

 

Lack of Focus:

 

Focus is a juggling act. Everyone admires the way a juggler keeps all those balls in the air at the same time. He can do this because his focus never wavers. A good writer must also juggle. It our case, it involves juggling the plot, the subplot, the main character, and the lesser characters. While keeping these vital elements in place, a writer must also juggle word choices, character enrichment, pace, and the action. Lack of focus on one or more of these fundamentals, and your story loses momentum. The pace and action wanders, and other crucial elements scatter.
Having a really good critique group nit-pick your chapters will help a lot. And picking the brains of the published and established members of the group is a bonus. Their advice and support will be invaluable.

 

“Stuff” That Only Adds to Your Word Count:

 

These I find in manuscripts everywhere: irritating tag-ons, and add-ons that waste space, yet offer zero in the way of plot enlightenment pace or action. Some are adverbs that snuggle up to weak verbs. Some are overused and tired adjectives. Others appear as twenty ho-hum words that need to be exchanged for 8 more evocative words that explode with meaning.

Here are examples:
Prune the Fluff: very, some, just, like, that, and words ending in LY.
Verbs to Strengthen: Any verb preceded by WAS or ending in ING. Plus: ran, sat, looked, talk, ate, fell.
Adjectives That Need a Boost: pretty, happy, nice, good, big, small.
Unneeded Thoughts: it seemed, perhaps they will, maybe they can, he felt, they feel, would catch, would do etc.
Runaway Sentences and Descriptions: Put those long compound sentences under a microscope. Cut them in half. Do this by using more active and powerful verbs, and breaking it up into at least two shorter sentences that offer more punch and active content.

 

Your Competition:

 

Today, writers must compete with action heroes, action movies, and computer games that hemorrhage violent bloody battles. This is especially true for men and boys. These movies and games do not bother with good story lines – violent action rules! The trick is, for you to offer compelling stories that also have fast pace and action. Give them heroes and heroines they can root for and identify with, and you will HOOK your readers. Research your readership ( your niche market), and bring them characters and plots that have meaning to them. When done right, tension intrigue and action can effectively GRAB readership.

The Author’s “Voice”:

 

And finally, it all comes down to the “Author’s Voice.” The unique way you string sentences together: your word choices, verb choices, and the phraseology that makes a story YOURS. Sometimes voice comes early. At other times it takes time, experience, and lots of rewrites.

 

 
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Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant, now living in Oregon with her husband and family. She has sixteen published books (PB to young teen), and runs a well known Manuscript Critique Service.

*Website : http://www.margotfinke.com
*BOOKS: http://tinyurl.com/bg9dtxt

*FREE “Sneak Peek” insidell her books: http://tinyurl.com/9npjy9n
*SKYPE Author Visits (schools etc) : www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-LLo_eWdxk

WRITERLY WISDOM: Steve DeWinter

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. I met Steve DeWinter while lining up authors and established writers to post on this original series.

You can find Steve on his website, http://www.stevedw.com, connect with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stevedw, or send him an email to writer@stevedw.com.

 

Pantsing or plotting?

By Steve DeWinter

 

 

Pantsing or plotting?

Which is better?

Which one is the right tool for the job of writing a story?

If you have been around for a while as a writer, you might already know what these two terms mean. If these are new to you, let me sum them up.

Pantsers write by the seat of their pants with little direction beyond the spark of an idea. The story grows organically and can take sudden twists and turns.

Plotters outline the story from the beginning to the end. They already know the story’s direction, and ending, before they write the first line of prose.

But which one is better? A quick Google search reveals many lively debates on this issue.

The pantsers main argument against plotting goes a little something like this: Plotting kills the muse. I want my characters to surprise me. I want to experience what my readers experience and not know how the story ends until I write it. If I plot out my story ahead of time, the characters will be one-dimensional and the story will be predictable. My story will be cookie-cutter garbage.

The plotters have just as strong an argument against pantsing that sounds a little like this: Pantsing results in a wandering mess that requires umpteen revisions to mold it into a cohesive story, usually resulting in tossing out large chunks of previous drafts as unusable during each rewrite. What a waste of time.

Looking at the graphic at the beginning of this post, you might think you know which side of the fence I land. If you think I am on the side of plotters, you would be half-right. If you think I am on the side of pantsers, you would still be half-right. I firmly straddle the fence on this issue because (drum roll please) both sides are right.

To be honest, I am not sure why anyone is debating these as two conflicting methods of writing. It is a little like debating whether the hammer or the screwdriver is the best tool for the job. For the repairperson staring into the toolbox, it would depend on the job as to which tool to use.

Plotting is your roadmap. It gives you direction and lets you know right away if a path strays too far from the main story. Plotting provides focus (i.e. the plot) for your story. If your story is unfocused, and is instead a rambling mess, you will lose and confuse your readers. That is the worst crime a writer can ever do. Life does not make sense, but our fiction has to.

Pantsing is the detailed experiences of that journey. Here is where you discover the sights, sounds and emotions in your story. Pantsing provides character for your story. It is the voice of your writing style.

Writing a book is not a singular activity. It is a collection of separate and distinct activities. Pantsing and plotting are two unique tools in the writer’s toolbox to be employed at different times during the writing process. Using both skills shapes your story in the most efficient and well-organized manner while still allowing for the thrill of discovery.

I urge everyone who wants to take writing as a serious business to look at every tool in your toolbox and see the benefits of using each one where necessary. Plumbers and engineers use a variety of tools in order to complete the different tasks of their job. The same is true for the writer.

Learn and practice every writing tool at your disposal and learn how to use the right one at the right time, every time.

 

steve

 

Steve DeWinter is an American born adventure/thriller author whose evil twin writes science fiction under the pseudonym S.D. Stuart. His latest novel, “Child Of Shadow”, is available on Amazon.

 

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