Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 10-16, 2020

Welcome to week nine of #pandemiclife.

Here in Ontario, the Premiere has authorized some businesses to reopen. Street-facing retail stores that can deliver curb-side service. Veterinarians, groomers, and pet boarding businesses. Essential-adjacent health support services. My mother-in-law will be able to get her housekeeper back—physically distanced, of course. And golf courses. And cottage country (which really doesn’t want to be open, from what I’ve been hearing).

Will we have another spike? Will we have to dial back? I’m maintaining the status quo. Kind of. I’ll be delivering virtual training over the next couple weeks. It’s going to be interesting. And … I’ve already been asked to deliver the next session, which is pretty much back to back, because there aren’t enough trainers who are comfortable with the platform, or even virtual training, to spread out the burden.

There are apparently five such courses to be delivered between now and September. I hesitate to be on the hook for all of them. But this may be my work life, moving forward.

I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, please enjoy some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland uses a brave critique volunteer’s work to discuss seven possible hooks for your opening chapter. Helping Writers Become Authors

K.B. Jensen explains how to throw a virtual book launch using Facebook Live. Then, Chantel Hamilton provides a comprehensive guide to finding, hiring, and working with an editor. Jane Friedman

Shaelin Bishop continues her series on developing a novel with part 4: form, style, and voice. Reedsy

Joanna Penn interviews Larry Brooks about how to develop strong fiction ideas. The Creative Penn

Leanne Sowul touts the power of paying attention. Later in the week, Sarah Fraser lists five signs you’re ready to work with an editor. DIY MFA

Jim Dempsey helps you decide, your words, or your editor’s? Juliet Marillier: consolation or challenge? Kathryn Craft shares eight ways to unblock your scene’s potential. Writer Unboxed

September C. Fawkes explains how plotlines add dimension. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold wonders whether breaking the rules is easy or hard.

Jenna Moreci says imposter syndrome sucks, but you don’t.

Nathan Bransford tells you everything authors need to know about dialogue tags.

Aliza Mann explains how to get back on track when all your planning fails. Fiction University

Kristen Lamb wants you to create a story-worthy problem that will captivate an audience.

How the strong black woman trope has evolved. The Take

Barbara Linn Probst lists three motivations to write: artistry, identity, and legacy. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle says, no. “Art” does not entitle you to spread harmful messages. Then, Oren Ashkenazi gets facetious with seven musts for dominating a fantasy battle. Mythcreants

Richard Marpole goes for a walk among the trees: a look at forests in myth and media. Fantasy Faction

Esther Jones: science fiction builds resilience in young readers. Phys.org

Simon Winchester: has “run” run amok? It has 645 meanings … so far. NPR

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ve taken away something to support your current work in progress (or planning/development of same).

Until Thursday, stay safe and be well, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 2-8, 2017

It’s time for your dose on informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 60: flat plots. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate continues her series on the do’s and don’ts of storytelling according to Marvel with a look at Guardian of the Galaxy, volume 2: how to ace the first act in your sequel.

As a follow up to her last post on critiquing, Jane Friedman helps you recognize patterns in the way you respond to criticism.

Then, Gary Zenker guest posts on DIY MFA: a new approach to critique.

Larry Brooks stops by Writer Unboxed to discuss the big lie about writing compelling fiction.

As a follow up to Larry’s post, Anna Elliott asks, what’s your truth? Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass explores characters light and dark. Writer Unboxed

Parul Macdonald uncovers the world of a literary scout and international rights. Writer Unboxed

Abigail K. Perry joins the DIY MFA team: how to make you character descriptions do double duty.

Stacey B. Woodson shares five writing lessons from thriller master David Morrell. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Sarah Dessen for DIY MFA radio.

Marielle Orff shares five ways to get to know your characters better. DIY MFA

Emily Wenstrom offers some email marketing tips. The Write Life

Jami Gold gives us one simple trick to avoid the opening page infodump.

Janice Hardy continues her birth of a book series with testing the idea. Fiction University

Then, Janice visits Writers in the Storm: what do you want your readers to wonder about?

Chris Winkle covers five more dualities that can replace good and evil. Mythcreants

Bryan Hutchinson explains how to become a prolific writer while holding down a day job. Positive Writer

Sophie Playle: where is your budget for book editing best spent? Liminal Pages

Sarah Fox shares seven things editors wish authors knew. Well Storied

Jeremy Szal shares his tips for writing a successful query letter. Fantasy Faction

Caroline Leavitt: when the writing mentor becomes the mentee. The Millions

Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned about life and writing. TED Talks

Jarred MGuiness says writing is the only magic he still believes in. TEDxEaling

 

Folklore Thursday takes a look at how iron became the enemy of the fairy folk.

Shane Koyczan: the weather.

 

And that is how we Tipsday.

See you on Thursday for some mental corn popping thoughty.

Be well until then!

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 9-15, 2017

And it’s been another lovely week for the writerly goodness 🙂

K.M. Weiland shows us how storytelling benefits everyone. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate points out three ways to choose the right protagonist.

Roz Morris appreciates The Story of Your Life, on which Arrival was based. Nail Your Novel

Then Roz strolls over to Writers Helping Writers: planning the perfect love triangle.

David Corbett: is your character’s face the window to her soul? [Love the URL title: a face to launch a thousand words, or less. Hopefully less.] Writer Unboxed

Sarah Callender zooms in on third person narration. Writer Unboxed

Liz Michalski says, let your subconscious be your guide. Writer Unboxed

Susan Spann advises you how to request a reversion of publishing rights. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci debunks writer’s block:

 

Bess Cozby shares the tale of how embracing minimalism made her a better (and happier) writer. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Kathleen Audet: finding your authentic image. They even talk semiotics (!) DIY MFA

Kristen Lamb schools us in deep POV: what it is and why readers love it. Later in the week Kristen takes us deeper into deep POV: how to immerse the reader in story.

Janice Hardy: six ways Netflix can make you a better writer. Fiction University

Later in the week Janice posts about how the wrong tone can change your whole novel.

Jami Gold tells you how to analyze your writing habits so you can improve on the bad ones.

Christine Frazier compares the hero with the secret good guy (and explains why every story needs a secret good guy). The Better Novel Project

Alex Segura explores the moments that keep you going as a writer. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle considers the big problem with uncertain endings. Mythcreants

Everyone (well, Chuck Wendig, Jim C. Hines, and Mary Robinette Kowal, anyway) has been writing about this debacle. I’ll just leave K. Tempest Bradford’s take on it here: OdysseyCon and why serial harassers are safe in out community.

Oh, and this: Bianna Wu offers her perspective on sexism and second chances. Jim C. Hines

Lessons from the Screenplay – Creating the ultimate antagonist in The Dark Knight.

 

The new World Fantasy Award design is revealed.

Helen Pluckrose explains postmodernism and its impact: how French “intellectuals” ruined the west. I have to say I hate postmodernism myself, and it’s probably because I never truly “got” it. Bleargh … AREO Magazine

Kristian Wilson: old books smell like chocolate and coffee according to science. Hey, who am I to argue with science? Bustle

Anna Pitoniak shares the writing lessons she learned as an editor for Random House. Literary Hub

Psyche Z. Ready offers a transgender reading of an ancient folktale. Tiny Donkey

James Whitbrook takes a look at the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer. i09

Brian Raftery shares The Last Jedi official trailer. Wired

Sense8 will be back May 5th!

 

And Orphan Black’s final season begins in June! Andy Swift for TV Line.

That was your informal writerly learnings for the week.

Come on back on Thursday for some thoughty.

In the meantime, be well.

tipsday2016

Ad Astra 2015, day 2: An agent and a publisher walk into a bar . . . who do you approach first?

Yes, day 2 has finally arrived!

First, a reminder of my disclaimer

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.


Panellists: Monica Pacheco, Ryan McFadden, Kelley Armstrong, Karen Dales, Mark Leslie

Agent or publisher panel

MP: By the time a book hits the shelves, it’s already 1-2 years old, so to speak. Don’t follow trends. What’s selling now won’t be what’s selling when your novel comes to market.

ML: Is it fair to say that trends are what’s currently selling, plus some kind of twist?

KA: I’ll reiterate: don’t write to trends. There’s no point.

KD: If you focus on what’s hot rather than what you’re passionate about, your readers will detect it. Readers can tell when you’re being disingenuous.

ML: I was at a conference and I pitched my idea for a book without having written it. Dundurn said yes, so I started writing in April. The book was published in October, so that will give you some idea how quickly things can come together.

RM: If I was at the “bar,” I think I’d hit on the other writers. Craft is more important than your ability to sell yourself. Writers will introduce you to their people. Those people can be some very valuable contacts.

KD: I’m working as a freelance editor right now and the way I came by the job was through pitching a publisher. I was talking to an author and asking where I should send my work in progress. The author suggested her publisher. I pitched, and not only was I able to get a contract for my WIP, but I also became an editor for them.

ML: Sometimes I might consider a market inappropriate for me, or a piece inappropriate for the project I’m working on, but for someone else, it may be a perfect fit. I remember working as an editor and having to turn down a great story because it wasn’t suited to the anthology. I recommended that the author submit his story to Writers of the Future. He did, and he won.

MP: We read everything in our slush pile. We’re looking for that gem, and we won’t overlook any submissions.

RM: Networking is everything.

KD: If you’re working with a freelance editor, research them. Develop a relationship. If you’re working with an editor who works with a traditional publisher, it’s different. The money the publisher is willing to invest can change the dynamic.

KA: When you work with an editor for one of the big five houses or their imprints, it’s more important to be aware of what the publisher’s guidelines and preferences are. The individual editor may be gone by the time your book is printed.

ML: What are the differences between Canadian, UK, and US markets?

KD: Canadian and UK publishers are more consistent. In the US, I’m all over the place.

ML: In one instance, the managing editor gave me notes before I even started writing.

KD: The editor has to be an advocate for the author.

KA: Networking, as mentioned, is great, but don’t get sneaky about it. Don’t invite me out to coffee just to get a recommendation, or to ask me to read your manuscript.

KD: Don’t go fishing. Go make friends.

ML: Look at the long game.

MP: So much of the industry is based on relationships.

KA: Don’t do anything electronically that you wouldn’t do in person. Having said that, if someone asks you what you’re working on, be honest. Talk about it positively.

MP: The bottom line is to be professional. Don’t self-denigrate. No scented paper or bribes, please.

Q: Do different publishing houses have different quirks?

ML: Dundurn loves Canadian authors. In fact, you have to be Canadian to be published by Dundurn.

KD: Dark Dragon is interested in good storytelling. They like unique stories and voices.

KA: HarperCollins does amazing covers for their young adult books. Penguin random House is all around great. There was a poll in The Bookseller. Are authors happy with their publishers? The overwhelming response was that they wanted more communication from their publishers. 37% said that if they got an equivalent—not better—offer from another publisher, they’d switch. Subterranean Press is good.

RM: Smaller publishers are better at communicating with their authors. ChiZine, Dragon Moon, and Dark Dragon are like that.

MP: Tor is a dream to work with. Skyhorse Publishing is a good mid-sized, non-fiction publisher. Talos Press is interested in SFF. Simon & Schuster Canada has been very good to Andrew Pyper. They’ve sent him on a national reading tour.


And that was that.

Next week: What happens after acceptance?

Behind the curtain: How mainstream publishing works

This was a fun panel with an author, an agent, and two editors.  They took us through the publication process at each stage, author, agent, and editor explaining how their part of the puzzle looks.  Then they fielded questions.

I’ve attended panels before that featured all publishers, or all editors, or all agents.  While informative, how everything dove-tailed was missing.  Occasionally, panelists might say that they couldn’t comment or speculate on what others in the process might do or experience.

‘Twas excellent.

The behind the curtain panelists

The behind the curtain panelists

Panelists: Emily Ohanjanians, editor with Mira Books, the commercial fiction imprint of Harlequin; Eileen Cook, author of YA novels with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins; Rachel Coyne, agent with Fine Print Literary; Sara Sargent, associate editor with HarperCollins’s children’s imprint, Balzer & Bray.

EC: We’ll start with the author’s search for an agent.  First you have to understand what an agent does.  Most are busy with their current authors and are not actively looking for new authors.  Do your research to find the best fit.  Newer agents will be more available.  Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste.  One agent may not like your voice or style, but another might love it.

RC: I receive 150 to 300 queries per week.  It’s impossible to respond individually.  When I started, that was my intention, but it just can’t be done.  Agents get rejected too, by editors.  There’s a certain disappointment when another agent snags an author from you, especially one that receives an award or does really well.  After I’ve agreed to take on an author, we have a one on one call to discuss next steps.  There is a two page author agreement.  It’s not a contract per se.  Standard percentage is 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign, TV, film, and other rights.  Most houses have one agent who is dedicated to subsidiary rights.  Once an author has signed on, the editing begins.  This could mean several rounds, back and forth.  Then the agent will submit to her first round editors.  Usually these are people the agent has an established relationship with.  Sometimes, if several editors are interested, an auction takes place.

SS: At HarperCollins, there are several meetings, one with the acquisitions team during which a profit/loss statement is generated.  The agent is advised of the proposed deal, and negotiation begins.  At the acquisition meeting, everyone sees the property.

EO: It’s the same at Mira, the meeting with the editorial director is followed by the acquisition board meeting, the agent is informed of the proposed deal, and negotiation follows.

Q: Once the book is sold, what happens?

RC: I would make recommendations to the author based on what they hope to achieve.  Usually there is a year between the deal and the publication date, so there is time to implement an author web site or blog, develop social media following, or begin on the next book.  The contract can take anywhere from two weeks to nine months to hammer out.  An advance might be $10,000.  Royalties could be 10%.  First you earn back your advance, then you begin to receive regular cheques.

Q: How does the editor work with the writer on further revisions?

EO: When the launch date is decided upon, it might be a year, or a year and a half, we work backwards, get our endorsements in place, schedule substantial, line, and copy edits, proofing, typesetting, cover art, blurbs, back cover copy, determine the meta data for online sale.

Q: So what happens when you write an editorial letter for the writer, and the writer refuses to budge?

SS: Usually I’ll read and mark up the copy, then prepare a three to ten page editorial letter for the author.  The author will usually sit with it for a few days, then I’ll meet with the author by phone and the author will indicate what they are willing to do and what they are not.  The biggest issue that comes up is characters that are not received as the author intended.  The next is the market: similar books may have tanked for specific reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

EC: We work together to reach a solution.  e.g. I hate the character!  My character is brilliant!  How do I show it?

RC: The biggest asset a writer can have is the willingness to be edited.  I like to meet annually with my authors to find out what their plans are for the coming year.

Q: Describe your ideal author.

EO: An insecure author can become overwhelming.  20 emails a day can be draining.  An author coming out of another house might cause me to do some research.  Were there reasons for this?

EC: You have to own your neuroses as an author.  You must be open to communicate.

Q: If your author had to choose between a Canadian and American publisher, which would you recommend?

EC: Commission can be less with a Canadian publisher.  Most American publishers will include Canadian distribution.  The deal is for North American rights, not Canadian or American.  Canada is not considered a foreign market.  Really, your agent is a match-maker, trying to find the best possible home.  It used to be that agents had to be in New York, now they can be anywhere.

RC: There is a right agent and a right publisher for every author/project.

Q: What about e-rights?

SS: They are considered subsidiary rights.

Q: How often do you have to meet in person?

RC: Never if you don’t want to or can’t afford it.

Q: What is your education/experience?

SS: Placement with Disney/Hyperion, BA in English, then an MA in Journalism.

RC: Writer’s Digest Books, Donald Maass Agency, Forward Literary, then Fine Print Literary.

EO: BA in English literature/linguistics, job in finance, but I always wanted to be an editor.  I started working for magazines, then got on with Harlequin, took some courses from EAC and Ryerson in editing, and at every stage, working up through the ranks.

Q: What’s the difference for non-fiction?

EO: It’s based entirely on platform.  Not voice.  Not skill.  Who’s the audience for the book?

RC: Blog-books have been happening recently as well.  Narrative non-fiction works the same as fiction.

EC:  With a novel, you have to have the novel completed before you can query.

RC: With non-fiction, a proposal and platform is often enough.

Q: What should your word count be, and do you talk about series?

SS: Word count isn’t critical.  I’ve never rejected a book on the basis of length.  You should concentrate on one novel per query and treat it as a stand-alone.  It’s important to have a vision, though of how your writing future will look.

RC: We’re not looking so much at the concept, but the creativity of the author.

SS: With children’s literature, you have to be aware of the market.

EC: Not many YA novels are 300,000 words long, but submitting a 20,000 word novel would be too short.

Q: Can an author ever go direct to editor?

EO: If I have the time, I’ll always look.  Why not?  I could find a gem.

Q: When do you know when to stop editing and query?

EC: Write the best book you can.  No matter what you write, you can find an association (RWA, SFWA, etc.). These associations will often offer editing services, or members can serve as critique partners and beta readers.  When you do query, send out five at a time.

Q: Is a rejection a burned bridge?

RC: Not necessarily.  If you revise and resend, there’s a chance that the agent will not remember, but if they do, they are not likely to give you a second chance.  It’s better to try a new project.

Q: How long is it for an editor to respond to an agent?

RC: Between three months to a year sometimes, but the average is three to four weeks.  If there is a closing date or an auction, all interested parties are called.

Q: Do agents want to have input into the author’s platform?

RC: It’s more a matter of making suggestions, showing examples.

SS: In concert with publicity and marketing, publishers may advise.  But if you’re not comfortable on Twitter, you don’t have to use Twitter.

EC: Some agents will advise you with regard to your career in general.  Some agents will never go there.

Q: Have there been books you just couldn’t sell?

RC: Every agent has a book that they felt passionate about, but just couldn’t move.  I make every effort to sell every project, but between 60% and 90% of books signed actually sell.

EC: Hopefully you have more than one book in you.

EO: It’s often the second submission that sells.

RC: Some projects are bought on voice alone.

Q: If you’ve self-published, is it a deal-breaker?

RC: Only if it’s the self-published effort and it’s not sold well.  If it’s a different effort, no problem.

EC: They call us hybrid authors now.

Q: How about posting your work in progress on the internet?

RC: It depends on how much of your novel is out there, and at what stage.  If most of the novel is already “published,” I probably wouldn’t take it.  Do not blog your book.

Q: Can you self-publish one book and e-publish another?  Specifically, the rights on my first novel are reverting to me and I’d like to self-publish.  Meanwhile, I’m in negotiations for my second book.

EC: If your first book is erotica and your second is YA, then they’re not likely to get in each other’s way.

EO: If both books are comparable, you could offer the self-published book at a deep discount.

RC: It would be wise to check with the publisher about to put out your second novel if self-publishing your first is okay.

EO: Be up front with all interested parties.

This brings us to the end of Friday’s sessions.  I’ll have the Friday night and Saturday morning keynotes before moving on to Saturday’s sessions.  We’ll see how far I get tonight.  I’ll be travelling home tomorrow and won’t finish off whatever remains until Tuesday.