Archive | March, 2012

A fun little tease…

26 Mar

Working on a book can be a laborious process.

There’s all the planning; then the drafting and writing; then the rewriting; then the proofing.

It can sometimes seem like you’ll never hold the book in your hot little hands.

When you start to see signs, though, of the book being “real” it becomes very exciting. You can see the end of the tunnel, the culmination of the creative process. (And then you can look forward to the sharing of the book with other people.)

I’ve just seen the cover designs of my new writing book, and I am quite excited (to say the least!).

I thought I’d share a peek of the back cover with all of you, mostly because I want to share my excitement with someone other than my husband and daughters but also because the cover gives you an idea of the content of my book. It gives an outline of the book chapters and special features found in its pages. (Click on it for a larger view.)

I’m really looking forward to having this book available soon (it will be sold both as a textbook and also as a popular book for aspiring writers). I will be doing some book signing events and also speaking with writing groups and at writing workshops as a way to get it out there. (And I hope I will see some of you at these events.)

The path to publication…ALWAYS exciting!

Have you heard about this little book and movie…?

20 Mar

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re quite aware of the worldwide phenomenon known as The Hunger Games.

The bestseller has been made into a movie that premieres this coming Friday (and will be followed by Catching Fire and Mockinjay). Most experts are predicting one of the biggest movie openings ever, fueled primarily by the intense fandom for the books. (Yes. This fandom includes people like me. People who are hosting midnight premiere parties, complete with themed food and decorations. I am a book nerd, and proud of it.)

Whenever I witness the excitement and enthusiasm for a book, it thrills my writer heart. Seeing millions of people–children and adults alike–falling in love with books like those in the Harry Potter series and now The Hunger Games trilogy captures my own imagination as a writer. I am thrilled that a fictional story has inspired such love and devotion.

Even more so, though, I am intrigued by the authors who have created the stories that inspire such devotion. And I am intrigued by the stories of how those authors create the stories…and how they live their lives as authors who are now celebrities.

I have been reading recently about author Suzanne Collins and her journey in writing The Hunger Games. Collins has written for numerous children’s and young teen television shows, and is the author of previous young adult fantasy books. It’s The Hunger Games, though, that has made her famous.

The origin of The Hunger Games and the way Collins is handling her fame, while still living life as a working writer, is fascinating.

In a recent interview with the official Hunger Games website, Collins revealed some insight into the genesis of her stories. The trilogy–which takes place in the futuristic world of Panem, where the totalitarian Capitol keeps control of its twelve districts by enforcing the fight-to-the-death, gladiator-like Hunger Games–evolved from a number of inspirations, including ancient Roman mythology and reality television.

“I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young  people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe?,” she said. “And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.”

When asked about how she mapped out her book’s plots, Collins revealed: “I’ve learned it helps me to work out the key structural points before I begin a story. The inciting incident, acts, breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I’ll know a lot of what fills the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop. And if a door opens along the way, and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it.”

And how is her life different now that The Hunger Games has created such pandemonium? Can she still follow anything resembling a regular writing schedule? She says that her typical workday goes like this: “I grab some cereal and sit down to work as soon as possible. The more distractions I have to deal
with before I actually begin writing, the harder focusing on the story becomes. Then I work until I’m tapped out, usually sometime in the early afternoon. If I actually write three to five hours, that’s a productive day. Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you’re working out character and plot problems. The rest of the time, I walk around with the story slipping in and out of my thoughts.”

As I get ready for my midnight premiere party, I will reflect a bit on the journey it took Collins to get to this night as well. And I will use her inspiration and success as a way to motivate and encourage myself.

(And if you haven’t read the books, I encourage you to do so. They are truly wonderful.)

What about multiple submissions?

16 Mar

In talking with writers who have an interest in writing for and getting published in magazines, a common question I get from them is: “What does it mean when an editor says he doesn’t want to receive multiple submissions?” And, close to that question, is this: “Can I only send one article at a time to a magazine? That seems like a waste of time to me.”

It’s difficult to get many articles published if you query on only one idea at a time. However, many publications ask that you not send them multiple submissions.

So, as a writer who desires publications and payment, what do you do?

In dealing with the dilemma, it’s important first to understand the concept of
multiple submissions. Sending multiple submissions means that you are sending the same article to more than one magazine at the same time. It would be an ethical issue if you had competing magazines (magazines that have the same audiences) with your same article on slate for publication. Ethical and intelligent ways exist, though, to increase your chances of success and not cause a problem among different publications. Here are the two basic principles to follow:

1. Do send as many query letters on the same article idea to as many magazines as you can think of.

While you must not send the same, complete article to competing magazines, you should send query letters to as many magazines as possible. All of them will not be interested in your idea, but perhaps one or more will be. Imagine, though, that you have created a list of 10 magazines you think might like the idea and you send a query to only one magazine at a time, waiting to get a response from it before querying the next magazine on your list. Also imagine that, on average, it takes each magazine one month to reply to your query and that the first one to accept your idea is the seventh one you query. That means it would take seven months before you get a go-ahead.

Instead of waiting so long, go ahead at the beginning and send queries to all
10 magazines.

2. Do not send the same manuscript to competing magazines, but come up with
other slants to the same general idea.

Most competing magazines–all women’s magazines or all teen magazines,
for example–publish articles on the same general topics (health, relationships,
diet, etc.). So several of them could be interested in the same idea about which
you query. If you send out multiple queries at the same time, then, it is possible that more than one magazine will give you a go-ahead. If more than one magazine wants your article, you then have the following

a. You could send your article to only one magazine and tell the others of
your decision.

b. You could send your article to one magazine–and not reply to the other
magazines–and then, in the event the first magazine decides not to publish the
article, send it to a second magazine.

c. You could write an article for each of the magazines that give you a go-
ahead, with each article taking a distinctive approach to the idea.

Multiple articles on the same general idea are not a problem. Keep in mind that magazines in the same field publish numerous articles about the same topics issue after issue. If two or more magazines want an article from you, simply assure that you use different material–such as sources, quotations, and anecdotes–for each article.

When you sell an article to one magazine, take your success as an indication
that you have a good idea, one that might interest other magazines. So work with the idea, slant it differently, and propose an article to a competing magazine.

(This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Writing Feature Articles: The Professional Guide to Publishing in Magazines, Newspapers, and Online. It will be available in Summer, 2012.)

The First Time

12 Mar

Do you remember the first time you rode in an airplane? Or went out on a date? Or went to a college class? Or drove a car? Or tried anything for the first time?

Firsts are always scary. They can make you a little bit sick to your stomach; they can make your palms sweat and your mouth dry; they can make you wonder why in the world you decided to do whatever it is for the first time.

But, do you know something else? The scariness of your first attempt at something can make way for exhilaration, satisfaction, even love.

So, I want you to think about something you’ve always wanted to try in regards to your writing. You’ve never tried it for the first time, though, because you’re not sure of how it’s going to go.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start a novel, but that would really be TOO big of a first. Maybe you’ve never sent out a query letter to a magazine, because that fear of rejection is too big. Maybe you’ve never shared with anyone in your family that you want to be a writer, because that first confession might cause all sorts of other issues.

As you think about tackling your fear or insecurity about trying something in your writing life for the first time, think about the first time you did something or experienced something new in your life in general. Write a few paragraphs about how it felt to do something for the first time and how it affected you afterwards.

And then think about some “new” things you want to do with your writing. Make a list of those things (come up with at least five of them) and then commit yourself to actually accomplishing them.

Be brave.

Be confident.

Be forward-thinking.

Be a visionary.

Go for what you want to accomplish…and then revel proudly in the first time you accomplish it!

Keep your eyes open…

8 Mar

Finding Time to Write

5 Mar

Do you have a busy life? Or, are you one of the lucky few who has plenty of time in the day to do everything you want and need to do?

Wait. Did I just hear a little chuckle come out of you? I think I did, since I’m chuckling myself at that second question.

I don’t think anyone could honestly answer “Yes” to that question. Every person, it seems, has an extremely busy lifestyle these days.

In the midst of all the busy-ness…of family, work, school, church, volunteering, friends, free time…when and how can you possibly find time to write?

Although it might seem like a difficult (sometimes impossible) challenge to find time amidst your day to devote to writing, it is extremely important to make writing a priority in your life. To be a writer you have to’s that simple.

I have found that there are some easy tactics that can make finding the time to write more manageable. It just means that I’ve got to make writing a part of my life like anything else, and that I have to believe that it’s important.

Some of my most “tried and true” time-finding techniques include:

* Designate a specific time everyday to write. (For example: I will write everyday from 10 to 11 pm.)

* Don’t force yourself to write when you aren’t comfortable. (I am not a morning person, so I’m not going to get up early to write.)

* Give yourself a goal. (Write so many words, write for a specific amount of time, finish a specific task, etc.)

* Give yourself a reward. (A cup of coffee or candy bar; a viewing of a tv show; etc. when you finish.)

To help come up with your own plan for writing amidst your busy schedule, try out these exercises:

1. Write out every hour of your typical day (from 12 am to 12 pm), then determine what you are actually doing during every hour. This will help you see where and how you spend your time.

2. Look at what you just wrote down and ask yourself: Where can I eliminate something and instead add writing time to my schedule?

3. Make at least five goals for finding time to write. Write each of them down and then post your list somewhere that you can see it regularly and be accountable for it.

4. Write a paragraph on why writing is important to you. (In seeing writing’s importance to your life, you can then put value on the time you need to write.)