In the Blogosphere: 2/12-2/25

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

AGENT STUFF

At RWA nationals in 2010, I attended a fantabulous session with agents of awesome Holly Root and Barbara Poelle, Pocket Books senior editor Abby Zidle, and author Jenny Gardiner, where they reenacted what happens in an acquisitions editorial meeting.  SO eye-opening! Along those same lines, WordServe Literary’s Rachelle Gardner recreates a pub committee meeting here.

Is there such a thing as a fictional memoir?  The Query Shark herself, FinePrint Literary’s Janet Reid answers that question.

PLATFORM & MARKETING

Over at Writer Unboxed, Writer’s Digest and the University of Cincinnati’s Jane Friedman gives tips about using Facebook as a marketing tool—without becoming a nuisance.

And, here, author Jody Hedlund offers seven ways you can market your book—gasp!without the Internet.

VEWY CWAFTY

Here, my favorite Scotsman, Simon C. Larter, says action through dialogue is where it’s at!  And he also calls Shakespeare “Billy Shakes,” which is one of the reasons we’re be-fris.  🙂

But how does one write good dialogue, you ask?  Former agent turned author Nathan Bransford tells you here.

Also, I absolutely love the Sentence Strengthening series on YA HighwayHere’s one on how to more effectively use adjectives and adverbs (or not use them, as the case sometimes is).

Want more strength in your writing?  On Write Anything, Annie Evett lists some weak words to “bin” in her series on self-editing tips.

And here is a fantastic, comprehensive resource with that lists tropes (common storytelling devices or conventions) for . . . just about everything.  You could seriously spend months playing around in there!

HOW-TOS

Need to send a press releaseAngus Shaw over at The Blog Herald tells you how.

And here, agent Natalie Fischer gives some advice on how to avoid making common mistakes in your manuscript.

OTHER STUFF

We’ve all experienced it—perhaps you’re even going through it right now:  The CraziesHere, author Ally Carter talks about The Crazies—what they are, what not to do when you have them, and how to combat them.

I’m sure some of us have learned this the hard way: Taylor Mali’s The The Impotence of Proofreading. Enjoy.

Happy weekend, everyone!  🙂

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5 Tips on Dealing with Rejection

Since I am in Atlanta visiting friends, a bit swamped with work, and getting ready to start querying, I thought I’d post this oldie but goodie from my “How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane” series.  Enjoy!

How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.

Staying sane is something I’ll admit I haven’t been doing very well the past week or so.  Although I’ve had some exciting successes in that time (sold my first piece to a magazine, landed another gig teaching a summer workshop), I’ve also received my first few query rejections for my manuscript.  Because of this, I have assembled some tips as well as links from industry professionals to help you deal with this agonizing process.

Now, no one is more self-deprecating than I—nor will you find more of a realist (although, some might use the term “pessimist”)—so I’ve mentally prepared for this time of literary limbo.  In fact, more than one writer and loved one has scolded me for referring to the query process as “the rejection process” before I’d even received one.  But I can’t help it: I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised than sorely disappointed.

Which are you?

But even with that in mind, and even if you get the nicest, most personalized rejection (and I’ve gotten two of those so far), rejection still sucks.

You know getting rejections is normal; you know how subjective this is; you know how pertinent finding the right agent is; you know you must locate someone who falls head over heels for your work; you recognize how tedious of a task that’s going to be . . .

. . . but you also know you’ve put tens of thousands of hours into the writing and editing of this thing, and you’re doing the most vulnerable thing you’ve ever done by sending it out into the world—and then someone doesn’t want it for whatever reason.

So, yeah, rejection sucks no matter how ready you are for it.

HOW TO DEAL

Tip #1: File It & Forget It

In a recent Write-Brained Network LIVE CHAT, a friend of mine—whose manuscript has been rejected 28 times—said that every time he gets a rejection, he files it and moves on to something else.

That’s great advice.  And if you can do that, more power to ya.  I think the more seasoned you become in this business and the more irons you have on the fire, your skin can definitely thicken—but we’re not all there yet.

As well, I am lucky enough to be able to do this full time, and believe me: news of my first story getting accepted to a Virginia magazine alleviated some of my “I’m-going-to-die-hopeless-and-penniless-and-20-lbs.-over-weight” (Thank you, Stuart Smalley) attitude. However, I fully realize that many of you reading this have day jobs.  The only thing you’ve got cooking is your manuscript, and you don’t have time to distract yourself with other writing endeavors.

So, although filing and forgetting might sound good on paper (or on screen, as it were), I realize it’s easier said than done.  Which brings me to . . .

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – and doggone it, people like me.

Tip #2: Send to a Friend

During the writing and editing process, we are discouraged from showing our work to loved ones because so many amateurs make the mistake of thinking that if their mother or spouse loves the book, it’s bound to be a New York Times bestseller.

Along that same vein, I am not suggesting you appeal to family and friends for a critique of your manuscript, but now is the time to revel in their bias toward loving it.  Print out a few copies and send them to your biggest fans.

While it’s gut-wrenching (no matter whose eyes scan your pages), if you include a close circle—those who’ve been rooting for you all along (your buddy from work, who always asks about your progress; your parents, who are eager to see what you’ve been doing all this time, etc.)—you are sure to get rave reviews.

As long as you take their glowing assessments for what they are and don’t let them cloud your realistic attitude toward the query process and the publishing industry, this praise can be just the ticket to convince you not to jump.

After all, regardless of whether or not your book will ever get any agent to want it, regardless if the book is even publishable, remember: completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. You deserve to have someone stroke your ego a bit.

Your manuscript is GRRRRRRREAT!

CONFUSION

When my first rejection rolled in, I scoured every resource I knew to figure out how to respond.

First of all, don’t get me wrong: I know you aren’t supposed to respond.

But the rejection was not just a personalized version of a form rejection letter.  As well, a YA author friend of mine had given me a referral to this agent because she represented said YA author friend, and the agent had mentioned our mutual acquaintance in the e-mail, so it wasn’t as though this was a cold query.

While I knew not responding at all would have been perfectly acceptable, and while I wasn’t going to lash out at the woman, I went back and forth about sending a “thank you.”

Agents are flooded with e-mail daily, and many are quite vocal on their blogs and on Twitter about not wasting their time, but in doing a little research, I found several well-known agents with conflicting information.  (Wait, agents don’t all agree on everything??)

HOW TO DEAL (AGAIN)

Tip #3: Seek Professional Help

When in doubt, turn to the rejecters themselves—agents and editors.  Many have blogs and other Web sites dedicated to everything from their personal preferences to typical response times.

Here, former Curtis Brown Ltd. agent Nathan Bransford lists acceptable etiquette for rejection follow-up.

For a different perspective, see this post by former agent, Penguin Group’s Colleen Lindsay on what not to do after a rejection.

Over on her blog, FinePrint Literary’s Janet ReidMadame Query Shark herself!—describes how to cut down on your anguish over unanswered queries by making sure you haven’t sent something that isn’t a query.

Tip #4: Gain Some Perspective

Once you’ve gotten a few rejections and you’re feeling like a hack, it’s important to put it in perspective and remind yourself that it’s normal.

Rabbit or duck?

On her blog at QueryTracker, YA author Mary Lindsey discusses how to handle rejection at arm’s length.  Her article is good on its own, but Lindsey references Hal Spacejock series author Simon Haynes’s post, “Rejection of the Literary Kind,” which is also worth a read.

As well, on his Web site, sci-fi writer, photographer and Web designer Jeremiah Tolbert offers an editor’s perspective on rejection.

To round out this area, over at Streetdirectory.com, award-winning romance and nonfiction author Dana Girard categorizes rejection into seven levels and suggests ways you can decode what each kind of rejection means in terms of your manuscript.

Tip #5: Commiserate

For those days when you feel like you’re the only person who sucks this bad, check out the following sites for a little misery-loves-company.

Want some company?

At Absolute Write Water Cooler, you can find several conversation threads where people share their rejections stories, but here’s a link to one where some poor schlubs compete for who got rejected the fastest. Can you beat 30 seconds?

If you’re looking for a gold mine in terms of rejection, bitterness and hilarity, check out Literary Rejections on Display.  The person running the blog—Writer, Rejected—actually says in the About Me profile, “I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction—but whatever. In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject.” Writer, Rejected posts his/her own rejection letters (as well as rejection letters sent in by others) and analyzes them—in a sane and fair way (usually).  There are several good posts, so definitely make time to poke around in the blog, but here is an example of a rejection analysis.

And here’s a cranky little rant by freelancer Chris Rodell titled “Reject Me, Please” over at his Media Bistro blog.  If you’re especially pissed off and cynical, this is the post for you.

PEP TALK

This last post (from Nathan Bransford’s blog by guest blogger Jon Gibbs) isn’t directly about getting rejection letters, but it discusses how we reject ourselves at times—how we make excuses for why we can’t do this and that.

Use this when you’re in need of a little pep talk, and it’s sure to snap you back to a state of sanity.

If you’re seeing the old lady, you definitely need a pep talk.

In the Blogosphere: 7/19-7/23

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

QUERIES

Querying/pitching is up there in terms of the most discussed topics on industry blogs and at writing conferences.  I find it always helps me to look at others’ queries in order to better gauge what does and doesn’t work with my own pitches.

Here, at The Public Query Slushpile, fellow Ohioan Rick Daley has dedicated an entire forum to queries and feedback. The idea of the blog being? Leave feedback on others’ queries. Post your queries.* Get feedback from others. It’s that simple.  The site isn’t exactly like Janet Reid’s Query Shark or Jodi Meadows’s Query Project (in that it’s not just industry pros offering feedback—it’s an open forum for all), but the entries do get a good amount of feedback from readers.  And we are all trying to appeal to readers after all, are we not?  Check it out!

Who says slush can't be delicious?

Over on her blog, Canuck mathematics textbook writer (<—Yes, I included that part for my math-ed professor hubs!) Cheryl Angst compiles and comments on a list of 10 things Howard Morhaim Literary Agency’s Kate McKean tweeted as things that she thinks while she reads queries. Very interesting read!

Going along with the two, more regular, query workshops above, D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard conducted her own query clinic back in May.  Here is the post where she discusses the concept, and here is the last in the series (I’ve included this one because she links to all four of the queries she workshopped in it).

TICK TOCK

Summer seems to be about the hardest time of year to find butt-in-chair-and-write time.

Here, YA paranormal romance author Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger, etc.) offers some thoughtful advice on how writers can to best manage their time.

Over at Writer Unboxed, Anna Elliott chimes in on this subject as well.

CHARACTERS

Afraid your characters are too one-dimensional?  Paulo Campos of yingleyangle gives three tips on how to breathe some life into your darlings.

Here, longtime industry insider Alan Rinzler offers some further insight on how to create and use author James Scott Bell‘s idea of a voice journal.

RANDOMNOSITY

Since it was our four-year anniversary this week, I am posting this in honor of my husband.  Magazine editor and freelance writer Heather Trese says, “You might be married to a writer if . . . “

And, um, how random is this?  Molly is famous!  About a month ago, Annalemma Magazine used a picture of Molly (my beagly beagle) in an article they did about online writing communities.  The caption says that that pic was the first to come up when they Google image searched online writing community! (It looks like she’s since been ousted, however.  It’s on the fourth page.)

You're not the only famous beagle!

*There is a debate about whether or not to post your original work online.  It’s up to you.  Enough industry blogs host contests or query workshops all the time where people post their original queries, so I wouldn’t necessarily worry about someone stealing your work . . . but it *can* happen.  It would probably be pretty easy to prove your query was yours, though—particularly if you posted in on the Internet.  If you’d like feedback from other writers but you’re wary of posting your work on an open forum, try a password-encrypted, by-invitation-only community like *shameless plug* Shenandoah Writers Online!

In the Blogosphere: 2/1-2/5

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

THE CRAFT

A fellow Northeast Ohioan gives some advice on constructing scenes in her Writers & Teachers blog.

In this post, YA writer and ferret aficionado Jodi Meadows talks about how to challenge characters on her (W)ords and (W)ardances blog.

IN THE NEWS

This week, Amazon and Macmillan duked it out.  Curtis Brown Ltd. literary agent Nathan Bransford did a great job of summing up the whole mess here.

LITERARY AGENTS

The Query Shark herself, FinePrint Literary‘s Janet Reid, discloses a common agent pet peeve.  As well, over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, two guest bloggers, Donna Gambale and Frankie Diane Mallis, share Reid’s tips from the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group workshop on keeping your queries to 250 words or less.

At her Rants & Ramblings blog, WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner outlines the top 10 query mistakes she sees.

And, amidst an industry where all we hear about is how tough times are and how impossible it is to make it, Nathan Bransford gives us a glimmer of hope by reminding us it’s a great time to be an author.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips weighs in on whether or not inviting guest bloggers helps or hurts your readership.

Last but not least, DailyLit‘s Maggie Hilliard creates a new adage out of an old one.

In the Blogosphere: 1/25-1/29

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

RESOURCES

Do you love to pick apart grammar the way I do?  Writer Magazine‘s Bonnie Trenga analyzes the heck out of “criminal sentences” over at The Sentence Sleuth and gives examples of how to make your sentences shine.

Have a query, but you’re afraid to send it to the Query Shark?  Try my new writer pal—and, apparently neighborJodi Meadows‘s Query Project over at her (W)ords and (W)ardances blog.  Meadows used to read slush for former lit agent Jenny Rappaport, so she knows a thing or two about queries that work—and she critiques them weekly.

Want to boost that platform?  Check out what Writers Web site Planner has to say about what to include.

If you’ve been querying and you don’t know about QueryTracker, get with it!  As you await those fateful rejections—I mean, requests for fulls and partials and offers for representation—look up the stats on the agents you’ve queried. Previous queriers’ comments about how long Agents X, Y and Z took to respond can help calm your inner crazy.

And if you’re looking for a little writerly advice, Writer’s Digest‘s Brian A. Klems sets you straight with his Questions and Quandaries blog.

ATTENTION FREELANCERS

For all things freelancing, check out Freelancewriting.com.  Fellow freelancer J.M. Lacey suggested this site to me, and I can’t wait to play around in there!

If you’re wondering what you should be charging, check out the Editorial Freelancers Association for recommended rates, and if you’re looking to hire a writer and have an affinity for Canucks, check out what Writers.Ca says you should expect to pay for all sorts of projects.

Another J.M. Lacey recommendation, Media Bistro keeps tabs on writing opportunities as well as publishing news.

IN THE NEWS

I’m sure you probably heard about Catcher in the Rye author—and legend—J.D. Salinger‘s death this week.  In The Wall Street Journal, co-author of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and the upcoming Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and Scholastic editorial director David Levithan pays tribute to the man whose famous work not only embodies the young adult genre, but probably started it as well.

TWEET TWEET

Still not convinced Twitter can help you promote your work?  Over on her blog, young adult author Lisa Schroeder weighs in on the Twitter debate and offers tips on how to get the most out of the latest social network.

To punctuate that point, Bit RebelsDiana Adams tells you how to keep your Twitter followers.

When judging my contest entries, I found that merely checking my Twitter replies wasn’t keeping accurate tabs on them all.  With a quick search, I discovered Checkretweet.  Just type in your Twitter ID, and they handle the rest.

CONTEST

If you’re into YA fiction, check out my Twitter pal and fellow aspiring YA author Stephanie Pellegrin‘s blog for a chance to win a signed copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, a Hush, Hush postcard, and a Hush, Hush bookmark.

JUST FOR FUN

Wiley Miller gives us a glimpse of the first writer/editor meeting in his comic Non Sequitur.

ALSO

Check out my interview with agent BJ Robbins of BJ Robbins Literary Agency on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

In the Blogosphere: 12/28-1/1

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

BUCKLE DOWN

With the start of the new year, it’s time for many to finally get organized and get their careers on track.  In this post, the folks over at Writer’s Relief Blog explain the benefits of having your own Web site.

As well, Read Write Web’s Jolie O’Dell lists eight Web/technological things you should do to prepare for a safe and clutter-free 2010.

LITERARY AGENTS & RESOURCES

The Query Shark herself, Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary, took notes on the outcomes of the 124 full manuscripts she requested from summer ’09 through the end of the year, and she provides her statistics here.

Being that I am about to begin the query process within the next two or three weeks, I thought I’d list another post of Reid’s, which outlines 15 things you need to know/do before querying a literary agent.

Curtis Brown Ltd. agent Nathan Bransford reposted some “oldie but goodie” posts, including one reminding you to always be professional and on your best behavior and one giving advice on writing in first-person.

WordServe Literary agent Rachelle Gardner details how you can win some books from her personal collection in a poetry contest, which ends Jan. 4—so get cracking!

This tongue-in-cheek post at Writer’s Relief advises writers how to get their work noticed—by breaking all the rules.

2010-RELATED

Here, Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Blog makes some 2010 publishing predictions.

JUST FOR FUN

The folks over at JibJab have done it again, with a roundup of 2009 that, they admit, barely scratches the surface in terms of the year’s craziness.

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: Fiction or Memoir?

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q:  I have finished a manuscript that could be sold as fiction, but in truth, it is a memoir of a teenage girl.  The story begins when she first falls in love at 13 and tracks her on-again-off-again romance until she finally marries the man, who was the boy she fell in love with 30 years before.  I am the main character.  I have gotten so many rejections for this story as fiction, so I thought perhaps I’d start submitting it as a memoir. Any suggestions?                                                                                    –T.S.

A:  Thanks for the question!

This brings to mind some questions of my own, and I think the answers could help writers with similar manuscripts.

IS YOUR STORY COMPLETELY FACTUAL?

If not, and, say, Oprah happens to like it, you could have an A Million Little Pieces situation on your hands—not something you necessarily want.  (Although, I’m fairly certain author James Frey made more than a few bucks even after being kicked out of Oprah’s book club…so, I could be wrong.)

If it is completely factual, then there’s the whole issue of getting the permission of all those people you represent in the book, making sure it’s not libelous, etc.  Being that memoir comes from one’s memory—and being that memory can be subjective—you want to be sure you get all the “characters” on board before you send it out into the world.  It might just be easier (and more fun) to fictionalize some true events to avoid potential headaches.  I’ll discuss this more in a second.

DOES IT TELL A GOOD STORY?

An editor friend of mine told me he often sees writers sacrifice their storytelling because they keep incidents “how it happened.”  This made a lot of sense to me, and it sort of transformed the way I think about writing to a degree, once I paid attention to where I was doing that.

When I fictionalized some of the events of my MS I’d written as “true to life,” the story quality improved.  Rookies tend to write from their personal lives, and I think recognizing that and breaking out of that habit when it’s necessary is something everyone needs to learn.

When you fictionalize, the story goes from being a bunch of “Dear Diary” moments to more of a manuscript.  (Now, my MS isn’t a memoir, so that’s exactly the kind of transformation I needed; however, if you want yours to be a memoir, you can’t really do that.)

But, how do you know if it’s a good story, you ask?

Well, you may be a bit biased in this area.  The story might interest you because, y’know, it happened to you and all, but will it appeal to others if it’s written as it happened IRL?

To answer this question, have a few people critique it.  If your MS is completely factual, you’ve done your homework in terms of getting the proper permission, and you don’t think you’re going to get sued (should your book be published), get four to six people—not family members—to read it and offer feedback.  If you don’t have a writing group to look at it, *brace yourself for a shameless plug,* join an online group, such as the one I helm, Shenandoah Writers.

After you’ve received feedback from writers on the overall story, then maybe ask some friends who read to peruse it.  Their reviews might be a bit more glowing (don’t let them fool you), but this will give you a sense of how a variety of people will react to your actual story.  (FYI: I’d weigh the critique partners’ feedback much more heavily, but this way, if the critiques tear you apart, your friends can tell you what an awesome job you did, and that will cheer you up.  Hee!)

Remember, many, many (did I say many?  I meant pretty much all) literary agents are looking for narrative nonfiction—and that includes memoirs—so, the better your story is and the more it reads like a novel, the better the shape of your manuscript.

If after the feedback you discover the story lacks something, my advice would be to fictionalize the hell out of the thing.  Think of it as fun/therapeutic for you, as you can indulge your fantasies a bit (i.e., how might things have gone had, say, I stayed friends with so-and-so in high school; what would that year have been like if I hadn’t dated Johnny Douchebag, etc.).

HOW’S YOUR PLATFORM?

This isn't exactly what we're talking about when we say "platform," but a pair of these puppies probably can't hurt your career.

This is the biggest question that comes to mind when considering memoir.  According to pretty much every literary agent out there, you must have a strong platform for pretty much any kind of nonfiction.

What’s platform, you ask? Platform is basically your visibility—your reputation or following.  Do you have a Web site or blog?  Does it get 2,000 views a day?  Do you speak at conferences?  Do you do guest appearances on a radio show?

If the answer to all these questions is “no,” don’t fret.  It’s not imperative that you host your own morning talk show, but having some kind of name recognition certainly factors in when literary agents consider taking on your project.  As well, this is something you must consider when deciding whether or not to fictionalize the truth or present your MS as a memoir.

However, according to most, story and writing trumps all.  If it’s incredible, and it had better be—especially if you lack celebrity status—you should be okay.  (Ideally, though, you should have the perfect mix of both.)

HOW’S YOUR QUERY LETTER?

You say you’ve received “so many rejections for this story as fiction,” and I guess I’m just wondering a) how far in the querying process you’ve gotten, b) how many rejections you’ve gotten, and c) how long you’ve been querying.

If you’ve only queried a handful of agents and received form rejections from all, the problem might be your query letter, not your manuscript.

As we’ve all heard over and over, the query is the foundation upon which your publishing career rests.  If no one’s asking for your pages, revisit your query.  However, if most agents have requested partials/fulls from you, and you’ve still been rejected more than a few times, then it might be your manuscript after all.

When in doubt about your query, consult the Query Shark.