Self-Published v.s. Waiting for the Traditional Press

 Literature Blogs

I had lunch today with a self-published children’s book author who has written and published three picture books, three middle school books, and will have his first young adult book published this December. He already has orders for 1,000 copies of the YA book. He travels throughout the USA, presenting a highly energetic, entertaining, and musically talented school visit.

Anytime we get together (he is a local author), and he happens to read parts of my WIP (whichever I may be working on or wish to share), he is impressed with how well I write. He says I am a much better writer than he. I humbly tend to agree, since I am associated with SCBWI, been in several critique groups through the years, have had numerous critiques with agents and editors, and am constantly improving my craft. Whereas, he tends to write for himself and doesn’t take a critique very well, although he may tend to disagree with that statement.  This author keeps trying to talk me into self-publishing. I keep telling him, “No, thanks.” So what is my hold-up?

1) Fortitude. I want what I write to last beyond my lifetime. I want my stories to be published by others who will continue the story long after I’m dead. Only a traditional publishing house would do that. My friend not only self-publishes, he self-promotes, self-markets, arranges his travel and hotel and meals for school visits, and carts all his books in his van on his tours. Who will do all that for his books when he dies?

2) Editors. I want a professional who is trained in literacy and experienced in what is excellent to look over my writings, to make them the best I (we) can make them.

3) Money. Time and money have always been deciding factors in things which I do. I haven’t got the money to put forth for a self-publishing adventure.

I am glad for my friend. He is happy with what he is doing. As I mentioned, he is highly entertaining, and kids love his visits, and he does encourage children to read and to write. Plus, many literary authors are rather dull speakers. (Rats! I know I’ve just offended thousands of friends. Double-dog-rats!)

Even though he is making a rather good living at what he does, and I am making nothing, I am not willing to follow his path, even if I were given a chunk of start-up money to do so — all for the reasons listed above.  He’d love to see me published. Hello! Me, too. But I’ll remain a hold-out for the traditional press, recession or not, e-books or not, wading through the ever-evolving world of publication.

Here’s to me — to my high hopes of every week becoming a better writer, and of someday becoming a book-published author with an editor in a traditional house.

August Writing Challenge Followup

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YIKES-A-ROONIE! I just realized today that earlier this month, I put out an August Writer’s Challenge of writing 10,000 Raw (first draft) words by September first. How you doing? Surprisingly, I may make that goal. I know I have nearly 10,000 words started on a new YA (young adult) fantasy, but I’m not sure if I’m going to leave in certain bits to make it into a MG (middle grade) story or not, yet. I THINK I wrote nearly all those words this month, but I may have started in July, too. I’ve been a tad bit scatter-brained this summer.

Has this summer been crazy for other people as well? Family, travels, cleaning oil off of turtles… well, maybe everyone hasn’t been doing that last one, but I’d encourage you to help if you can… heat, humidity. There are lots of summer distractions for writers.

So… how have you done on the August writing challenge?

No more excuses. There are still six days left in the month. Get writing, already!

WriteOnCon 2010, part II

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I attended 2 days of the very first WriteOnCon last week, but then had to leave town on Thursday. I look forward to catching up with the third of the conference which I missed. The thing about writers conferences, is that I have attended over a dozen of them… in person. Some of the things the speakers talk about are “old hat” stuff to me.

Here are some things I gleaned from the first two days of the conference:

1) It was fascinating to “listen in” on the thought process of agent Natalie Fisher. She reminded us all that what she mentioned was only her own opinion, and other agents might not feel the same way. It was interesting, and helpful. Learn what the agent to whom you are submitting is looking for.

2) I now have a list of about 100 additional books to read, both about writing, and written for MG/YA. (Oh, the time. The time! How to find the time to do all the reading and writing I want to do!)

3) Stay current! Classics are nice, but some of those loved stories wouldn’t cut it in today’s highly competitive market. Read them. Love them. But write for today’s kids.

4) (related to #3) Kids hate retro. (Thank you, J.S. Lewis.) Don’t write about YOUR childhood, unless it’s a historical novel. Write for today’s kids and about today’s kids.

5) Know what the acceptable word counts are for today’s market. Yes, yes. We each can name several books which break the rules, but unless you are an established author with a great fan following, stick to the rules.

(More to come, both on the first two days, and the third day of WriteOnCon!) (Yeah to the organizers!)

Your Writing Space

 Literature Blogs

One of the things every writer needs is a designated writing space. It might be den space in your house, or an overstuffed chair, or a certain table at the library or cafe. All the best of the best writers recommend this. It should be a place where you go specifically to write, not to knit or eat or watch tv or check your email or Facebook friends. This is your personal designated writing spot. Writing only!

I don’t have one.

In my defense, I happen to have many. Perhaps it has something to do with the nomad in me. 1) We move into a new house (often a new state) every seven years or so, therefore a specific place in any given house changes from place to place. 2) My husband works about 1/3 of his job at home, in the den, using the computer, during undesignated times; it could be morning, afternoon, or evening. 2) We own a laptop, which I do use, but with the den taken, there is no designated space in which to use it, and no comfortable place to sit or type. Besides, each room of our house is otherwise designated.  3) I follow the sun. In the summer time, the sun comes up from the back of the house. In the summer, I spend a lot of time writing in our three-season room (unless it gets above 90 degrees — no air conditioning out there). In the winter, I set up my writing nest in the guest bedroom, in which the sun enters each morning. I’ve only got leg-space there since the room is mostly filled with the two beds. But the beds serve as both chair and tables on which to spread my notes, etc. But then, the guest bedroom only works until noon, when it becomes wintry dark in there. I consequently move to the breakfast nook off the kitchen, following the sun around our house.

(Stop yawning, please.)

My suggestion to you all is to find your own personal writing space. That’s what all the biggie-bigs say to do. I support their wisdom: Find your own space… that is, unless you have a circumstantial nomadic spirit, like me.

August Writing Challenge Update

 Literature Blogs

Just to keep you on task, and to encourage you to do the same, I’ve written 3 chapters of my newest story this past week. I had to rewrite chapter two four or five times before I could move on. I’m still not satisfied with it, but feel the information is essential as early on as possible. Oh, where is my editor to tell me what works? But this is totally the first draft, even with several rewrites of one chapter. Only a little over 2,000 words so far. 8,000 to go by the end of August. Push. Push. Can do! You, too?

Today’s Writing Market and the Economy

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Accepted: Stories which only a few years ago would be published, are getting rejected today? Why? The economy and ever-changing writer’s market (i.e., depending on what will sell by public demand).

Accepted: Publishing houses are businesses, not non-profit organizations. An editor at a recent writers conference said this is one of the reasons celebrity-authored books are contracted. They are sure money-makers. They draw in business, and make it possible to fund fledging, not-so-famous writers.

Accepted: Public demand is a hungry beast.

After a time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to move on from his famous character — a character based on one of his professors. The public demand for his detective stories at the time was so great, that Doyle thought to rid himself of Holmes by killing him off, and proclaiming that anyone could use the character and do with him whatever they wanted. But the beast demanded more, so Doyle resurrected Sherlock and wrote several more stories with his best-selling character.

Acknowledged: I am a writer. I read. I write. I have studied the craft. I continue to improve my craft. I write, research, or plot every day. As a writer, should I pay attention to the economy, the market, making money for me or others? Or should I pursue my passion without concern? I’m not sure I have a solution. At this writing, I believe that if I want to be published, I must be willing to feed the beast. However, as soon as  state that, I find myself climbing right back up on the castle wall. For whom do I write? For the beast? For me? For someone else entirely?

Manuscript Rejections — The Bottom Line

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I’m friends with Jane Yolen. Gosh. Well, me and a zillion others, on her FaceBook page. Jane commented today about receiving 7 rejections  (yesterday?), with editors commenting on her gorgeous writing, but….

I’m not really being sadistic, but I found this tid-bit of news quite encouraging to pre-book-published me.

She later wrote:
“The people who have been on my site (and my journal) before are not surprised by my rejections. Nor am I. I get them all the time. Got 5 rejections for OWL MOON, 13 for SLEEPING UGLY, both of which have now been in print for well over 20 years. I had 113 rejections for my poetry before I ever sold my first poem.

Dr. Seuss had over 30 rejections for TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET, his first book; Madeleine L’Engle, when she was already published, got 29 rejections on A WRINKLE IN TIME.

No one is saying you are ugly and smell, your mother dresses you funny, better give up writing (though all those things may be true.) A rejection letter is about the mss. and the perceived market. That’s all. As the don’s men said to the Mafia foot soldier they are about to execute in THE GODFATHER, “it’s just business.”

So (Sandy here, again), the bottom line for writers is:

1) Keep on writing (and, to finish your mss and revise them are givens);

2) Keep developing your craft (style, voice, plotting, etc) to produce page-turning, gorgeous writing;

3) Keep submitting your gorgeous works;

4) Rejections are not always about bad writing. In this present economy, it’s more about marketing. So, when you receive those rejections, eat some chocolate, cry if it feels good, run a marathon or two, and then get right back to #1 — Keep on writing.

Where I Get Story Ideas

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I find bits of story ideas from history, from news, from something I did or heard or saw, and from nightmares or by daydreaming.

I wrote my first historic novel from a fascinating bit of news I heard which happened in 1873. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and what it must have been like to have gone through that event and in that setting. So I researched and wrote about it.

I’ve had nightmares and scary visions of the end times lately — of man destroying this world not by nuking it, but by greed, causing gushing oil to ruin the water world we live on. YIKES. Some things are too close to reality for me to write about! I’m very thankful that after 86 days BP finally found a solution which seems to have stopped the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. What the effect of all that oil damage is yet to be seen. (Even more daydreaming fodder.)

Yesterday, my husband and I drove through what we later found out was a thunderstorm watch. But I wasn’t watching. Mostly, I had my eyes closed! Instead of going 75 on the interstate, people who hadn’t pulled over (like my husband and a truck driver or two) were driving 40 mph in the sideways pelting rain, gripping onto the steering wheel which the wind threatened to take control of. Lots of interesting story ideas could come from that experience alone. However, I’ll share here on my writing blog a really fascinating thing I saw for the first time in my life. That is, to me it was fascinating, and therefore writing fodder.

We were heading west. As we came out from under the storm, although it was still raining, we hit sunlight and blue skies. My husband commented, “There’s got to be a rainbow somewhere.” I knew that in order to see a rainbow, you needed two things: sun and rain, and that the sun had to be at your back. Because of our van roof, my vision was very limited. I looked out my side rearview mirror and found my rainbow. It was following us. The rainbow was made in the spray shooting up from our tires turning on the wet road.

There are ideas all around each of us. Storytellers can’t help thinking, reflecting, weaving. It’s half of the fun of being a writer.

Rejection Before Even Submitting

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     A member of my critique group sent me a message two weeks ago about a small press which seemed perfect for one of my completed MG novels. I checked out their website, and agreed. They would indeed be perfect, IF I cut some words. So.. I’ve been snatching moments of company time — company which can be very distracting to a writer — to revise and cut 2,500 words in order to fit within their press specifications.
     Since this small press only does quarterly reviews, I decided to call to find out when their next review was, so I wouldn’t be waiting two and 3/4 months before they even take a look at it. The result: The guy said they are no longer accepting manuscripts because of the economy.
     The down side of this? I’ve got a story without a home  — yet.
     Double down side? A rejection is a rejection, even when I didn’t submit it. I.e., For a few days I’m sinking into W.R.F. — Writer’s Rejection Funk — until I can poof-up some writer’s courage back into me. (And, yes, I made up that acronym, too. Although, it sounds an awfully lot like a wrestling acronym, which may also be appropriate in this business.)
     BUT… The up side of this adventure? It’s actually a stronger story.