Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blog Number Eight

 MURDER, INCORPORATED.  I've just spent three days learning just about everything there is to know about murder and catching the culprits who think they can get away with it.
I (along with two of my fellow authors) attended the Killer-Nashville (TN) Writers' Conference.  I went to six workshops and listened to a speech by Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Body Farm.  For those of us who are a bit ghoulish, it was great fun.
If you don't know what the "Body Farm" is...well, hmm, let's see if I can word this politely.  It's a place where they expose dead people to outdoor environments to see how long it takes to decay.
It was interesting to learn that werewolves and zombies are fading from popularity, while murder in any genre continues to fascinate the reading public.  It's also good to know that "cozy mysteries" (my genre) have never faded, but continue to be consistent sellers.  Continuing characters in a series are also well accepted.
Another interesting observation spanning the twenty years I've been going to writers' conferences is that in the early years, you never saw anyone who would admit to being self-published.  Nowadays, about half of the speakers and panel members were.  Hooray for our side!
When I arrived home, I was "pumped" full of new ideas and plot twists for my current (WIP) Work In Progress.
My advice for today...find a conference near your hometown.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blog Number Seven

 Okay, you've finished your book.  Now what?  The worst thing you can do is to continue working on it.  Don't second guess yourself.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Find someone (not related) to critique your novel.  Get an honest opinion, even if it hurts.  If a reader who knows nothing about your characters and plot and gets lost or confused, possibly your novel needs more work.
If it's okay, stay in your genre and start another book.  Editors don't want a "one book wonder."  They want someone with several story ideas in the pipeline.  What they want is one book a year so no matter how long it takes to get published, keep writing.  That way you'll have several books in YOUR pipeline.
Another thing...DO NOT put your work on social media networks.  NEVER!  NEVER!  NEVER! give it away.  Why would a publisher want to give you a contract to SELL your book if you've already given it away for free?  They won't.
Yes, I remember the story of how Diana Gabaldon got her shot at publication back in 2001.  That was a decade ago in the infancy of the Internet when she posted her novel "The Outlander."
The old rules no longer apply.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog Number Six

BLOG Number Six.  The number one biggest misconception new writers have is to think "Mistakes don't matter.  An editor will fix it."
"Not true, grasshopper."  Editors don't edit.  They acquire.  In most cases, they don't even read your book.  There are housewives in New York City who earn a good living as a "professional reader."  They are paid per manuscript to read through an editor's slush pile and sift the wheat from the chaff.  This is the person who will decide your Fate.  She's usually a stay-at-home mom with a couple of screaming kids begging for her attention.  If you don't catch her interest in the first three pages, all your hard work is shredded for recycle or returned in your SASE.
That acquisitions editor you've been "courting" for the last few months only reads the books that make it through Level One.  Unless, of course, you've been to a conference and met with an editor.  Conferences are an invaluable tool.  Do not discount them as fluff.
If the editor gives you his/her business card and tells you how to "flag" your envelope to get attention, lordy, you have climbed from the gutter onto the curb.  You've made that first step.
Editors usually acquire for only one line which is their specialty.  They need to find possibly four titles each month and already have their calendar booked about a year in advance.
For Heaven's sake....don't make your book a 250,000 word, 600 page epic.  Believe it or not, because of the high price of paper these days, and the number of trees they have to cut down to make the pulp to make the paper, editors cannot AFFORD to invest a great amount of money into a new author.
You are unproven and unknown.
They will not let you forget it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog Number Five

For the fiction writer, Createspace is NOT a vanity press.  However, you must be able to do your own editing for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and please don’t have your character getting shot before the villain pulls out his gun.
If you tell a good story with believable characters in an interesting, fast moving plot, there is always someone who is willing to spend a few bucks to read it.  First and foremost, you need to get a positive, UNBIASED opinion of your work.  You know your relatives will unfailingly praise you to the sky.
Do you ever watch the try-outs on American Idol?  It makes you wonder why mothers, spouses, siblings or closest friends don't tell their youngster the truth..."you need a bucket to carry the tune."  No, they let this poor individual embarrass him or herself in front of millions of people.  So, my advice is...don't embarrass yourself with poor craftsmanship.  Publishers want a marketable product.  It's a business and they want to make a profit.
This is where RWA shines.  By going to RWA sponsored conferences, (or one of many writers' groups who have conferences) you can get an appointment with an editor and pitch your novel.  It doesn't have to be in the romance genre.  The editors usually have a panel discussion early on and tell you the types of stories they are looking for RIGHT NOW.  Don't waste an editor's time if your novel is not completed.  Don't present your manuscript to an editor that doesn't publish your genre.   But this is a great way to get a leg up and moved to the front of the queue.
My advice is...if you're young, energetic and your novel is clean, error free and as good as you can get it, then by all means aim for the big New York publishing houses.  The important message here is "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."  Criticism is a painful but necessary part of writing.