Category Archives: Writing

Good Articles for Writers

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Good Articles for Writers

Writers tend to be compulsive readers. Especially about writing. And the internet is full of wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) articles about writing. When I find one, I add its URL to a now 56-page file in my documents called “Blog Posts I Really Like” so that I can reread it whenever I want.

From time to time I share my wealth of resources. It’s been a couple of years since I last did this, so here are links to ten articles about writing that I found particularly interesting. Most of these articles focus on fiction writing.

I’m gonna warn you: this is meaty stuff. You can’t skim it. You’re going to need to dedicate an hour or two of your time to explore this information. You don’t have to do it today; but bookmark this post, and schedule a time for you to come back and wade through it. I promise it’ll be worth it.

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  1. Rules for writing.
  2. Great storytellers talk about story.
  3. What novel should you read next? How about something that will help you with your own fiction?
  4. How to write better fiction.
  5. How to ramp up your description.
  6. How to troubleshoot a problem scene.
  7. To learn how to write like your favorite author, copy their books, word for word, longhand. I’m going to do this, really. I’ve even picked a book: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson.
  8. It finally happened—a publisher is interested in your book! What questions should you ask a publisher before signing a contract?
  9. Bad news: your publisher’s promotional budget for your book is zip. How to schedule your own book tour. (Also good for self-published authors.)
  10. Ways to market your book (and yourself!).
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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Now it’s your turn. Once you’ve read these articles, it’s easy to say, well, that was interesting, and not do anything with the knowledge you’ve gained. Hello, use it or lose it. I challenge you to choose one piece of information you’ve gleaned from these ten articles and turn it into an action item to improve your skills. Then tell us in the comments below what you’re going to do. (I’ve already told you what new thing I’m going to do—see number 7 above.)

In the Meme Time: Get Unstuck

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Guest Post: 10 Ways To Help Your Literary Agent Help You Get Published, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

FYI

Every book author dreams of landing a literary agent and getting a publishing contract. Of course, the first step to accomplishing this is to write a really good book! But at Writer’s Relief, we know there’s something more you can do to make your manuscript even more appealing when you’re trying to get a literary agent: Make the agent’s job easier. Help your literary agent by making it easy to pitch your book to publishing houses! When you take steps to help your literary agent help you get published, you boost your odds of a literary agent—and a publishing house—saying YES to your book.

What You Can Do To Help Your Literary Agent Sell Your Book

Write a strong manuscript. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the most important part of selling your book! Make sure your book has strong writing, characters, and plot. If your agent suggests any revisions, be sure to give them thorough consideration and make any edits that improve your manuscript.

Proofread diligently. You want your manuscript to be as clean as possible to make a good first impression! Double- (even triple-) check your spelling and grammar, and format your manuscript to publishing industry standards. If you can, hire a professional proofreader. Writer’s Relief can help—our proofreaders are top-notch!

Hit the right word count. Each book genre has its own recommended word count. Though there are notable exceptions to these rules, never assume that’s the case for you. And remember, it can be especially tough to break word count norms as a first-time author.

Curate a solid social media presence. For editors, deciding whether or not to take on a book isn’t just about great writing; it’s also a game of numbers—potential sales numbers. You’ll look much more attractive to publishers if you already have a strong fan base via social media. Agents and publishing editors will see your loyal fans as a ready-and-waiting audience eager to buy your books.

Have a strong author bio. Are you uniquely qualified to write the book your agent will be sending to editors? Are you an expert on your subject matter? For example, if your murderer is a baker and you went to culinary school, knowing your way around a mixing bowl will benefit your manuscript. Having publishing credits will also go a long way in supporting your book. A strong author bio is a good selling point for fiction and nonfiction alike, and can help tip the odds in your favor when your book is shopped to publishers.

Know your audience—and the market. It’s your agent’s job to know the literary market, but you should also do your research. You want to make sure your project is potentially marketable and suits the tropes of your genre. Knowing classics in your genre as well as what’s currently popular is imperative.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The best agent-author relationships are partnerships that have openness and honesty. Your agent can’t help you unless he or she knows what you want! How often do you expect your agent to give you updates on how the process is going? Do you want to know exactly what editors say when they pass on your book? Communication with your agent is key to your success!

Avoid being a pest. While it’s good to have an open line of communication between you and your literary agent, you don’t want to become annoying. That’s not how to work with your agent if you want to have a good relationship! Remember, they have other clients and are also busy trying to sell your books to editors. If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard back from your agent with answers to your questions, you can follow up (nicely!). But don’t call, text, and e-mail just because you haven’t received a reply within an hour.

If you’re still at the querying stage trying to land an agent, definitely do not pester the agents to whom you’ve sent submissions. Making a pest of yourself now will only show literary agents that you’ll be needy and difficult to work with—traits agents and publishers don’t want to deal with.

Make yourself available. Many writers are procrastinators by nature, but it’s important not to procrastinate with your agent. If you’ve promised your agent a new draft by a certain deadline, be sure to send in the work on time, or explain why you need an extension. And if an editor asks for more materials, or wants you to do some revisions, or wants to talk to you directly, be sure to respond quickly! Build a reputation in the publishing industry as a reliable writer.

Be patient. Sometimes waiting while your literary agent submits your book to publishing editors can take even longer than your own process of submitting to agents. Though it can be nerve-racking to wait while editors review your book, remember  your agent can’t make editors respond any faster. 

By following these tips, you’ll make your query much more attractive to literary agents because it will be easier to sell your book to publishing houses. You can boost your odds of getting published by helping your agent help you!

QUESTION

How are you prepared to help a literary agent sell your book to publishers?

Creative Juice #200

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Creative Juice #200

Beautiful stuff to look at:

  1. Zenbutton technique.
  2. Awesome murals.
  3. Drawing ideas for kids of any age.
  4. Dads at their daughters’ weddings.
  5. The hardest part of writing. Yep.
  6. Have you always wanted to paint a mural in downtown Phoenix? Here’s your chance.
  7. It’s never too late to learn to paint.
  8. Things to see (from a distance) in Austin.
  9. My friend, artist Vesna Taneva-Miller, has one of the most eclectic Instagram pages I’ve ever seen.
  10. Who says you have to use a pen or pencil to draw?
  11. A reading list of classics by Black authors.
  12. Go to Egypt and tour Ramesses VI’s tomb—virtually.

Maybe the IRS Should Hire Sears to Write their Tax Return Instructions

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frustrated-writer-2For the first time ever, the entire United States had a three-month extension on filing income tax returns. (Did you get yours in on time? The deadline was last Wednesday.) I finished mine with two days to spare, despite my original intention to have it done by mid-April. A portion of our income comes from investments, so our return is a little complicated, and different every year. We get lots of forms with lots of figures on them, with the warning that Internal Revenue is also being furnished with a copy.

Now, some of those figures have clear directions where they are to be entered on the 1040. But the notes for others say “check the instructions for where to report.”

Have you seen the instruction book for the 1040? It’s, like, 108 pages long. And if I only had to fill out the 1040, that would be fine. But there are bunches of “schedules” and hundreds of other forms, and pretty much you need to fill them out before you know whether they apply to you or not.

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Every February I begin to work on my return. I have a folder where I keep important receipts and statements all year long, but some of the documents I need don’t come until late—this year in late April, though I usually get them a month earlier. So I devote an hour most Sundays to accomplishing what I can—sorting my papers, starting to add up different categories, printing out the tax forms I think I need, and reading and rereading directions.

Man, the government does not make it easy to determine what’s taxable and what’s not. And the worksheets seem really random. “Write the smaller of line 5 or line 12 on line 37. Subtract line 37 from line 22. If line 37 is larger than line 22, enter 0. . .”

When July 1 came around, I still wasn’t done, so I began working on taxes every day. Eventually I found out where one of my mystery numbers gets entered by looking at a form for something else entirely.

There’s got to be another way.

My sons generally do their taxes on the day they’re due. They both had last minute questions about payments they’d received that I had no experience with. We were all frustrated with reading and rereading instructions, trying to figure out where to enter the amounts and whether they were taxable or not. I think next year I’ll go on vacation from April 8-16 so they have to figure it out on their own.

The IRS writes terrible instructions. The processes are unnecessarily unwieldy. You almost have to hire an accountant to figure it out for you. And I’m cheap and stubborn and don’t want to. I don’t trust tax software—I’ve heard horror stories.

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In contrast, my Kenmore appliances have perhaps the clearest instruction manuals I’ve ever seen. The language is similar to what ordinary people use to communicate every day. You don’t have to be an engineer to read these documents. They don’t send you to different documents or to multiple locations within the book to find the answer to your questions. The name of every control button is given to you, along with its function. Each process is broken down into logical steps. One or two readings and I’m golden.

I wish the government would hire Sears’ technical writers to draft their tax booklet.

Monday Morning Wisdom #267

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Monday Morning Wisdom #267

MMWI want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, for I can recapture everything when I write, my thoughts, my ideals, and my fantasies. ~Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.

Guest Post: How to Feel Like Writing Again, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for this excellent article on reviving your motivation.

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by Ryan Lanz

We’ve all felt it at one time or another. The story loses its shine and you’re left with a half-completed story. Why does this happen, and how do you continue?

For a lot of writers, this is the mid-point of the story, but truly, it can happen at any point. I want to focus on something entirely different from “writer’s block”; this topic regards when you know what to write next, but you just don’t feel like doing so.

“Of course, motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” – Zig Ziglar

The cursor blinks at you, nudging you to continue typing, but the combination of your eyes drooping and the itch to do something else feels overwhelming. You’ve already procrastinated enough today. Your bedroom can only be cleaned so many times, and you’ve already checked Facebook, Twitter, and your email twice in the past half-hour.

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

You’re a writer. You know how to get the job done; it’s the motivation that’s lagging. Let’s look at some different factors.

Your story no longer excites you
For me, this usually happens just on the other side of the midpoint, roughly 55% into the book. About then, I usually start envying short story writers. It’s when the thrill of the beginning and even the spike of the midpoint event wears off, and I have to begin laying the ground work for the finale, but it’s not yet to the exciting build-up for the ending climax.

Wherever it normally happens for you (and it could change from story to story), it can be a trial. Why does it happen? Here are a few possibilities:

  • You’ve already thought of the next story, and you’re more interested in starting the new one than finishing the current one
  • You hit a plot snag and aren’t looking forward to unraveling it
  • You realize that your story idea might not be as interesting as you thought it was
  • Self-doubt creeps in
  • Life got in the way of writing, and you’re not as emotionally connected
  • Something as simple as: it’s just not new and shiny anymore

The first one gets me every time.

To continue reading this article, click here

Creative Juice #198

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Creative Juice #198

This week’s offering is heavy on reading lists. You’re welcome.

Creative Juice #197

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Creative Juice #197

ABC: Art. Beauty. Creativity.

Creative Juice #196

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Creative Juice #196

Things to ooo and ahh over, and the information creative minds want to know.