10 Things For Writers To Be Thankful For

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  1. Free word processing programs. A lot of writers are on a tight budget (who would have thought, right?), so sometimes it’s convenient to have free MS Word Alternatives. I’ve used Open Office many, many times and I like it quite a bit. It’s more than adequate. Remember the days when computers came equipped with Word? Those were the days, huh?
  2. Coffee pots that turn themselves off. Sometimes, when writing, one might forget to get up and turn it off themselves. Not naming any names or anything…
  3. Friends who are also writers. Online, offline, or anywhere in between, sometimes only another writer will understand what’s going on in our heads. Spouses, children, parents, and other friends may try and do a really great job supporting us, but when you have a deadline and you need a shove, sometimes it just takes another writer to kick your butt into gear. AND, they sometimes know of submission calls you’ve never heard of.
  4. A comfy writing spot. Is it just me, or do other writers out there also have a favorite spot to write? In bed? On the couch? Outside? In the car? You name the place and I promise I know a writer who prefers to write there. I even know a lady who likes to write in her bathroom floor. Beer may or may not play a role in that scenario.
  5. Failures, great and small. Without them, we wouldn’t grow and learn. We all have them. If a writer ever tells you they’ve never failed with a project, they’re just lying.
  6. A life story. Everybody has a life story. Some are normal, but of all the writers I know, I only know a few with a normal upbringing. Experiences gained through childhood and beyond shape who we are as people and that seeps into a person’s writing in so many ways. Be thankful, even if your life has been shitty. Or don’t. That’s up to you.
  7. Bookshelves (or boxes, crates, stacks…) full of books. These are our greatest tools. You can’t write if you don’t read.
  8. Beta readers. These people are crazy important. They’re our test subjects, sort of. They read our books before anyone else. Good betas give honest feedback. I have a beta I know will tell me the truth. If my book sucks, she’ll say, “Honey, this is trash. Fix this shit.” And I totally love her for it.
  9. Imagination and the willingness to use it. Why would a twenty-something scientist’s assistant take off in a beat up Ford to venture into alternate realities, knowing death was always a likely scenario? Because I wanted to write that, that’s why.
  10. Foods of convenience. Frozen or delivery pizzas, ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave meals, soup in a can, Chinese delivery–while I don’t suggest on living off of these things, they come in handy when you have a deadline or when you’re at the end of your novel and you just have to keep going or else you might burst.

About Submitting

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I’m by no means the authority on submission or the submissions process, but I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts and advice about submitting. The process known as submission is important to a writer for a lot of reasons–it’s the step before acceptance.

  1. Learn what standard format is. The most popular example of standard format is the William Shunn Proper Manuscript Format you’ll find here. Not all publishers will ask for standard format, but many still do. Read through the entire example else you’ll miss something.
  2. Understand how to read submission guidelines. Each publisher has a set and each one is different. Some guidelines are spelled out very clearly. Others, not so much. As a matter of fact I’ve read guidelines which read more like an instruction manual for an airplane engine. You just have to read through them and take notes as you read (for the tougher ones). The information you’ll want to look for is as follows:

    *Word count
    *Genre
    *Format– If the publisher doesn’t tell you how they want your manuscript to be formatted, use standard format. Otherwise, they’ll tell you how to space, which fonts to use (or not use), and what sort of headers and footers to use or avoid, as well as any number of odd requests they may have. Trust me when I tell you that no matter how weird it sounds to you, their instructions always have a reason behind them.
    *Deadline for sending your submission.
    *Email address to send your work to.
    *How to send the submission–This includes whether or not you need to send a cover letter and a synopsis and whether or not to send your entire manuscript or just three chapters or so. Also, they will mention what to write in the subject line of your email.
    *Return times–This is the amount of time in which it takes this particular publisher to get back to you.
    *Do they take simultaneous and/or multiple submissions?

    Simultaneous submissions— When you send the same manuscript to many different publishers. 

    Multiple Submissions— When you send the same publisher more than one of your manuscripts.

    Here is a good bit of information about Simultaneous Vs. Multiple Submissions. 

3. Decide how you want to submit your work. What I mean is this–a lot of authors like to make a spreadsheet to track each story they write through its submission process. You’ll make a list of the publishers you wish to submit to, write down the date submitted, the date accepted or rejected, and sometimes other notes. When you’re working on your method of tracking (or lack of one), figure out if you’d rather send out to one publisher at a time or many. There are publishers out there who don’t mind simultaneous submissions, but there are others who would prefer that you only send to them and not submit elsewhere until you’ve gotten a rejection from the first. If you’ve sent a submission simultaneously and a publisher sends you an acceptance letter that you will be signing a contract for, it’s also considered polite to send a withdraw letter to anyone else you’ve submitted to.

4. Once you’ve send out your manuscript, you’re going to start getting rejection letters. Dry those tears up. Shake it off, Taylor Swift, because the rest of the world is very unlikely to be sympathetic. It comes with the territory of being a writer. Keep going.

5. With rejection, comes criticism (sometimes). Don’t get your panties in a wad if an editor doesn’t send you any sort of a critique. Sometimes they’re just too busy. They’re people too, ya know. They have jobs and lives beyond your manuscript. With that said, sometimes editors DO send a critique or some sort of advice. Take it with a grain of salt. Pay attention to what they say, though. If you get more than one rejection letter from editors who give you pointers that mirror each other, you should listen. Remember, they don’t have to tell you ANYTHING. They could just give you a no and call it a day.

6. Eventually, you might get an acceptance letter. When you do, read the fine print. Read everything they send you in your contract. If you have an agent, LISTEN to what they have to say. Sign on the dotted line ONLY if you’re happy with the terms. If you’re not happy with the terms, don’t sign anything just yet because you’re probably not likely to get any happier once that book goes into print. You can negotiate.

If you need help, here’s an article about negotiating a contract you might find helpful. Maybe. Do some Googling if you must.

There is a lot of information on the web about submitting, but I hope I’ve helped at least one new writer. Confusion ensues when the submission process comes into view. I imagine a lot of Nanowrimo first timers are panicking about now as the time to submit looms. No need for panic, though. It’s a part of being a writer. Not a fun part, but a part nonetheless.

If I’ve missed something or you feel like adding to this, please do so in the comments.

Happy Writing, folks. And, happy submitting, too!

 

10 Things To Know About Your Characters

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I try to keep a thorough character sketch on each character I write. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult and I get halfway through a novel and realize there’s something in a character’s past I hadn’t accounted for. There are ten questions I ask myself (and write down) about each character. These questions are not the only things you would find if you started reading through my scribbled folder of character sketches. These are things that go beyond name, hair color, and height. For the sake of helping writers write, I’ll share my questions with you and if you can think of any questions you’d like to add, just write it in the comments!

  1. How does this character make money?
  2. Where have they lived in their lifetime?
  3. What was this character’s family life like? Parents? Siblings?
  4. What kind of education does this character have? Which schools did they go to? What did they study and why?
  5. What are his/her goals? What drives him/her?
  6. What are his/her obstacles? What’s standing in the way of his/her happiness?
  7. Is he/she a party animal, homebody, or somewhere between the two?
  8. What are the character’s strengths and weaknesses?
  9. What are this character’s habits and mannerisms like?
  10. What is the character’s greatest fear?

Twenty Things To Do Between Writing Projects

 

booksYay! You finished writing your novel/short story/article/comic/other stuff! I used to love this period of time because of the sense of accomplishment I gave myself after typing “The End” as I grinned like a…well, whatever grins. As most writers can tell you, it’s a wonderful, wonderful day when a project you’ve been working on forever finally comes to a full stop and you’ve told the entire story, start to finish. You’ve conquered the beast!

Now what?

Well, just walk away. That’s the best advice anyone has ever given me and I’m all too happy to pass it along. Walk away from the manuscript and leave it alone. Do other things. Live your life and gain some new experiences before you do anything else. Most writers (though, I can’t speak for everyone) have a family and/or friends who love them and would appreciate knowing they’re still alive somewhere. Now’s the time to reconnect with those people. Or not. Just do stuff.

I’ve made a good list of things you can do between writing projects. I hope it helps someone.

  1. Relax and do nothing for a few days. Writing can drain a person and you need to recharge your batteries.
  2. Do something nice with your significant other. Go to the movies, have a nice dinner or just watch a documentary together on Netflix and eat grilled cheese sandwiches on the couch. Either way, pencil them in and spend some time with them. They’ll appreciate it and you will too. You need this.
  3. Get online, update your blog layout and give it a facelift. Write a fun post or two. Write emails to your friends, return emails from your friends. Clean up your email accounts—delete old emails, rearrange emails you’re keeping. Go through your social media accounts and get them all up to date, too. Get EVERYTHING online up to date. It won’t take as long as you think.
  4. Go shopping and buy pens, notebooks, printer supplies, editing supplies, post-it notes. Go home. Put these items in a box or drawer and just leave them there. Smile that you saved seventy-five cents on your notebook paper.
  5. Buy or borrow five novels or novellas. Make coffee. Start reading the first one. Keep going and read the entire thing in one sitting. Nap. Repeat.
  6. Write reviews for books you’ve read. Post them wherever you usually post reviews.
  7. Go to a museum. If you’re lucky enough to have a museum around town, take an afternoon and go.
  8. Bake a cake, muffins, or cookies. Arrange them on a pretty plate. Take them to your elderly neighbor.
  9. Find a good Youtube channel and learn something new. Sewing, baking, carpentry, anything. Learn how to make brownies in your microwave if you want to start small. Or, you could learn how to build shelves with real hammers and real nails and real wood from a real hardware store—the sky is the limit.
  10. Buy a packet of seeds and start growing something indoors all by yourself or buy a plant at the local nursery and bring it home to care for it. Digging in dirt can be refreshing to creative people. Do yard work even.
  11. Go to your book stash. Whether you store your book all in shelves or in a series of odd places around your house (or just in boxes somewhere), go find your stash. Put an empty box or bag at your feet and dig through your books. Really, really dig through them. Anything in there you know you won’t read again? Yeah, we all have a few of those. You can donate them to local libraries for other people to enjoy. Or, box them up and send them off to a friend who would like to have them.
  12. Contribute or attend a local theater presentation. Is the local theater troupe performing Romeo and Juliet? Buy some tickets to support the locals and have yourself a great time.
  13. Start a collection of something (besides books…we’ve already established that you collect those). Paperclips, glass bottles, antique dishes…whatever you like.
  14. Get a haircut. No, seriously. A lot of writers I’m friends with have told me they sometimes neglect haircuts/salon appointments. Take care of this while you’re between writing projects, even if it’s just a quick trip to Supercuts.
  15. Play music and listen to something you wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. REALLY listen. Listen for the lyrics, decide how the songs make you feel.
  16. Volunteer at a nursing home. Often, our elderly are lonesome and many of them have no one to talk to through the day. Just talking to them is sometimes the greatest gift anyone can give. If you’re lucky, you’re going to be old one day. Remember that.
  17. Read more books you haven’t read yet.
  18. Call your mother. She misses you and while you’re in book mode, she doesn’t hear from you enough. I know this because I’m a mother and I’m also a daughter—I know how it goes.
  19. Reorganize your workspace. Prepare like your life depends on it.
  20. Go snack shopping. Buy coffee, vodka, and cookies. Or, ya know, whatever you like. Now, you may begin writing your next project. I’m sure you have a million ideas by now.