Pointers from the Pros: Author David Rocklin Talks Visibility & Etiquette

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference on St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers. Author David Rocklin spoke on Friday of the retreat.

His first novel, The Luminist, already in print in Italy (Neri Pozza) and Israel (Kinneret), will make its U.S. debut in the fall of 2011 (Hawthorne).

Rocklin grew up in Chicago and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Literature. After attending law school, he pursued a career as an in-house attorney and continues to serve as a mediator. He currently lives in California with his wife and children.

Here are some key points from his program on “Visibility at All Cost”:

  • It is difficult to see our own writing [for what it is] until someone else sees it. When two, three or four people start pointing out the same thing in your writing, you have to seriously look at what they are telling you.
  • With the many avenues open to publish our work and build platform—such as Twitter, blogs, print-on-demand—as the number of writers rise, so does cynicism.
  • The abundance of publishing outlets give rise to self-destructive traits.  “We have the tendency to say the first draft is good,” he says. “[But] writing is rewriting. The first draft is nothing.” He cautions against putting our work “out there” when it’s not ready to be seen and it is not at the level it needs to be. If the work is not ready, the writer ruins it for the next debut author. The goal should not be speed and quantity. The goal should be about quality; finding that emotional capture.
  • When querying agents, target specific representatives for your work. Let the agent know why you chose him/her. The agents want to know you’ve done your homework. Check the Web site Preditors and Editors.
  • You need a sense of humor. When you put your writing into the world, it’s no longer your work. Pick your battles. Working with publishers, editors and agents is a fantastic learning process.
  • Read your work out loud. That is how you catch mistakes.
  • Read all the time. If you don’t read, you’re not writing.
  • Don’t make writing for a living the chase. Your voice will get lost. Live your life and protect the thing you need to do: write.
  • Our first action is we write because we have to. The choice is to write to make others see our work.
  • Never trash yourself as a writer. Others will, so don’t do it to yourself.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and pr consultant. She is working on a novel to be visible to the world. Visit her Web site and blog.


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In the Blogosphere: 9/20-10/15

“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/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

AGENT STUFF

Author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard gives a bit of unorthodox advice . . . about how one line can change your career.

Here, another agent-turned-author, the fabulous Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd., talks about “undercooking” a novel.

Here, Bookends, LLC, agent Jessica Faust offers some query don’ts.


CRAFT & MANUSCRIPT PREP

Over at Write Anything, Annie Evett did a nice little series on voice and dialogue.  Here’s the last of those posts, that contains links to the others in the series.

At League of Extraordinary Writers, Angie Smibert discusses handling readers’ baggage and creating the appearance of truth that readers can find believable.

At Novel Matters, Patti Hill demonstrates how to weed your manuscript.

One of my favorite features over at YA Highway, Amanda Hannah talks about passive sentences one “Sentence Strengthening Sunday” (you don’t have to be a YA writer to appreciate the fabulosity of this) right here.

Confused about manuscript formatting?  Author Louise Wise gives you a crash course here.

Here, YA author Jamie Harrington talks about constructive criticism.  Can you handle it?

Middle-grade author Janice Hardy discusses a subject near and dear to my heart—grammar.  Just what are the basics everyone needs to know?

PEP TALKS

We all need a good writerly pep talk now and again.

Here’s one from YA author Elana Johnson.

Here’s another from freelancer Heather Trese, for good measure.

EXTRAS

You’ve got just over a week left to enter my scary story contest—freak me out in 1,000 words of less!

Over at Savvy B2B Marketing, Wendy Thomas discusses a subject that fascinates me these days: online writing vs. old school journalism (being that I used to teach journalism . . . and now I do a good bit of online writing!).

Here, Writer’s Digest Books’ own Robert Lee Brewer offers a Twitter cheat sheet for those not “hip” to all the “lingo” (hehe) or not quite sure how to optimize your use.

In the Blogosphere: 9/12-9/17

“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 June (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

GET WRITING!

My weekend plans fell through, so now I will be sitting at home [probably with all the lights on all weekend because this will be the first time I’m staying home alone at my house—how lame am I?] with my computer and my beagle.  Which, as much as I love them both, can also both be time sucks!  But I’m buzzing on my WIP right now and would LOVE to get to 30,000 words by Sunday.  It will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Adorable little baby time suck. And a bunch of crap she'd dragged out everywhere and was chewing up. (And my husband's foot.)

All-grown-up time suck. 🙂

That said, here are some resources—some of which I’ve used and some of which I haven’t yet but might have to employ this weekend, in order to get words written.

  • Write or Die—You can set your word count and your time goals, and this interface will get IN YOUR FACE [well, if you set it that way] until you reach your targets.
  • WriteRoom—This is for Mac users.  It’s a full-screen writing environment that rids you of the “clutter” of word processing programs.  [Referred to by The New York Times as the “ultimate spartan writing utopia.”]

  • WordWatchers—This has been working for me this month—and this isn’t just shameless self-promotion, as a number of writers have been getting tremendous amounts of work done using this writing program.  It’s through The Write-Brained Network and, like its sister weight-loss program, is something each individual designs to fit his or her lifestyle.  All us Write-Brainiacs participating have set challenging goals, and while we haven’t all been hitting them each week [guilty!] we have been getting tons of work done. And, some people have finished entire projects or gotten over slumps, due to the prodding encouragement of others.

QUERYING & SUCH

Here, literary agent Jennifer Laughran busts publishing industry myths that most writers believe or have heard.

Yeah, but this is real, though.

Two takes on the 5 stages of querying:

  • The first, a guest post by writer Anne Gallagher on the Guide to Literary Agents blog
  • The second, by the inimitable Tahareh

When when those rejections come, Holen Mathews at GotYA offers some constructive questions you need to ask yourself.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPPAGE

Social media got you down? [If you’re Greyhaus Literary’s Scott Eagan, then yes.] Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on how to use it effectively without allowing it to take over your life—and writing time.

And here, Daily Writing Tips lists 40 Twitter hashtags for writers.

CRAFT

I was going through my saved posts for “In the Blogospheres” today and came across this little jobby, by Heather Trese at See Heather Write, on the importance of having a pitch . . .

. . . which goes hand in hand with the post I wrote this week on plot vs. situation.

It was really hard to narrow down which picture I found to be the chachiest. So I went with this one.

Here is a lovely post by Christina Mandelski over at Will Write for Cake wherein she discusses the importance of setting in a story.

And here, Writing for Digital talks about the value of a good editor.  One edit quite possibly changed the entire course of American history!

FANGIRL LOVE

I heart you, John Green.

I heart you, Meg Cabot. [the Allie Finkle #6, Blast from the Past, review she links to at the end of this post is MINE!]

PLUG!

Inky Fresh Press interviewed little ol’ me!

Grounding is important.

Happy weekend, everyone! Come harass me on the WB or Twitter and make sure I’m getting my words written!

In the Blogosphere: 7/5-7/16

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

SOCIAL NETWORKING

We’ve all got Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn accounts in order to boost our platforms, right?  But how do we make sure we’re using these tools effectively?

Here, Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary Management says voice is key when blogging.

As well, Writer Unboxed’s Kathleen Bolton discusses five rules to keep in mind before posting anything online.

VOICE

I’ve had several writer friends ask me about voice lately.  What is it?  How do you craft it?  Is it something you just have to *have*, or can it be developed?

Ah, voice. You slippery, intangible bastard, you.

In her “Footnotes” series over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, guest blogger Nancy Parish lists five voice-related articles that just might help you answer some of those questions.

As well, Curtis Brown Ltd.’s Nathan Bransford weighs in on the subject.

TREND-TASTIC

There is much debate on whether or not one should write to trends. The common school of thought is that, once something is trendy on the shelves, that particular trend is about three years old—and, therefore, no longer the “it” thing.

D4Eo Literary’s Mandy Hubbard posted a very interesting two-part series on trends.  Here, she discusses what’s trendy (like, in the slush pile) and what possible holes there are in the market.  Here, she divulges what she’s noticed editors are currently seeking.  (She also says NOT to write to trends.)

Going along with the idea of writing the books you want to write and staying true to yourself, Curtis Brown Ltd.’s Sarah LaPolla says we could all learn a thing or two from Betty White at her Glass Cases blog.

A MATTER OF STYLE

I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, so I’ve been paying a lot of attention to grammar and formatting.  And, of course, that differs, depending on what type of writing you’re doing and who you’re writing it for.

At his Questions and Quandaries blog, Writer’s Digest’s Brian A. Klems preaches to the choir (well, if I’m the choir) about The Chicago Manual of Style. Here, he gives a nice little breakdown of what stylebooks to use and when—and he offers practical advice in terms of grammar and style as well.

Adjectives are the devil—and The Conversion Chronicles’s Daphne Gray-Grant agrees in this fantastic pro-verb post.

In the Blogosphere: 4/5-4/23

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

SOME HOW-TOs

Over at her blog, Kidlit.com, Andrea Brown literary agent Mary Kole discusses how to layer points of view.

On the Guide to Literary Agents blog, guest blogger and kids’ author Laura Manivong tells us how to target submissions to specific agents.

ONLINE PRESENCE

QueryTracker’s own YA author extraordinaire Elana Johnson did a great little series on blogging.  Here are but a few of the several awesomesauce posts she dedicates to this topic:

  • Here, Johnson talks about why one should blog and touches on what one should blog about
  • Here, she explains what to do once you have a blog
  • Here, she suggests where to spend your blogging time in order to gain some blog traffic

Like I said, she gives all sorts of helpful tips, but I’ll let you poke around in her blog on your own and decide what you need the most help with.

TWITTER

Looking to get the best writerly experience you can out of TwitterWrite Anything’s Annie Evett lists several hashtags for writers here.

Once you’ve found your way around the Twitterverse—Twittersphere?—and you’ve discovered your favorite hashtags, check out Tweetchat.  By entering the hashtag of your choice, you can more quickly and easily follow the conversation during Twitter chats.

CLICHÉS

We all trying to avoid clichés in our writing—right?  Over at YA Highway, contributor Emilia Plater presents the five protagonists you meet in young adult literature.

For a little bit of a different take on a similar subject, on her blog, up-and-coming YA author Steph Bowe exposes the problems with many conventions often used in YA lit by supposing what things would be like if real life were like a teen novel.

And, the good folks over at And Now for Something Completely Unnecessary make a confession about using “confessions” in titles . . .

...they're cliché.

Have a nice weekend, everybody.

In the Blogosphere: 3/22-3/26

“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.

STRATEGERY

Over at Incurable Disease of Writing, guest blogger, bestselling author, award-winning screenwriter and educator Ami Hendrickson offers a three-step approach to editing.

Here are two great posts, brought to you by Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz: Marketing for Businesses without Marketing DepartmentsThe first discusses the difference between being hungry and starving and is a must-read for all writers.  The second talks about the dreaded “elevator pitch” and suggests you boil yours down to seven words, like the people passing out prostitution pamphlets in Las Vegas.

As well, the good folks at Lyrical Press, Inc. give six strategies to overcome what they call “author fatigue” (when writers lose their way, about 50 pages into their manuscripts).

REASSURANCE

I recently found a group blog, Old People Writing for Teens (OPWFT), and it’s one of my new favorite places to visit.  Particularly if you’re in the querying stage, you’ll want to check out these three posts, which should help you feel better about any of your own submission slip-ups:

Are you neurotic?  Rejections and scathing critiques have you down?  Curtis Brown, Ltd., literary agent Nathan Bransford says feeling like you’re the worst writer (evaaaar!) might not be a bad thing.

In case you were wondering, it’s okay to suck.  Over on her blog, up-and-coming young adult author Myra McEntire asks you to listen to bestselling juvenile lit authors Meg Cabot and Maureen Johnson when it comes to writing—not her.

Why, thank you, bunny!

CONTESTS

Since I just realized I forgot to include the link in last week’s blogosphere post, here’s the link to the contest over at Getting Past the Gatekeeper that requires a love of Jane Austen as well as skill at writing queries.  You’ve got until April 5 to write a query as if you wrote, and are pitching, Pride and Prejudice for a chance to win some great Austen-related prizes!

Are you covering up a crazy past?  Over at bestselling middle-grade and young adult author Lauren Myracle’s blog, Jo Whittemore wants to know the craziest legal thing you’ve ever done to get something you wanted.  Two lucky winners will receive signed copies of Whittemore’s new book, Front Page Face-Off.

And, if you’re a glutton for punishment—which, if you’re a writer, you definitely are—try your hand at Script Frenzy‘s screenwriting contest.  Akin to NaNoWriMo‘s novel-in-a-month contest, participants will write a 100-page screenplay in the month of April.  This contest isn’t about the prize; it’s about the challenge!

I *heart* that this is about a school newspaper!

SPRING CLEANING

Get out the rubber gloves; it’s time to declutter your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  The Gawker‘s Brian Moylan suggests eight annoying FB and Twitter types to cut loose.

In the Blogosphere: 3/15-3/19

“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

If you didn’t see my post about the Shenandoah Writers Query Symposium I’m helming, please check it out.  I’m looking to compile some of best query-writing resources out there and discuss them with my writing groups.  I plan to turn this “symposium” into a series of blog posts, so even if you’re not a member of Shenandoah Writers, give me your two cents (i.e., comment or e-mail with your favorite query resources or tips).  A few brave souls have even given me queries they’ve written so we can critique them, so there are multiple ways you can get involved.

This is an oldie but goodie.  It was actually written on my birthday in 2006 (but I digress) by the long-retired literary agent known to millions only by her scathing pseudonym, Miss SnarkShe gives the straight dope on your plot pitch versus a synopsis.

Here, mystery writer Elizabeth Spann Craig offers some ways to reveal a protagonist’s character through self discovery.

I recently discovered young adult fiction writer Jamie Harrington‘s blog, Totally the Bomb.com (love that name, BTW!).  And I’ve already found two posts I love.  In this one, Harrington talks about five clichés used in young adult lit.  And in this one, she dissects the classic love triangle.

My favorite thing about this picture is that they actually made Taylor Lautner stand on a box. Hilarious!

This is another oldie but goodie, but at her blog, The Bookshelf Muse, the Jill Corcoran-repped kids’ lit author Angela Ackerman has a great resource for conveying emotion through a character’s body language.  It’s not just for overcoming the five clichés Harrington outlines above, and it’s not just for juvenile lit.  In this post, Ackerman introduces the idea of the “emotion thesaurus,” (which provides alternatives to having a character shrug his shoulders or roll his eyes).  If you look in her sidebar on the right, she’s got a slew of entries under The Emotional Thesaurus.

PLATFORM, BABY

Blogging making you crazy?  Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on what do to when your blog overwhelms you.

And here, Carol T. Cohn of Compukol Connection explains why you need to edit those pesky blog posts.

Shane Nickerson gives this amusing take on how Twitter slowly takes over your life.

Twitter zombie. Hey - not a bad idea for an urban fantasy! 😉

LITERARY AGENTS

Not sure whether to go with a big agency or a boutique agency?  Epstein Literary agent and founder Kate Epstein discusses the pros and cons of both.

Last week, Twitter was abuzz with talk of Lowenstein Associates, Inc., agent Kathleen Ortiz‘s blog post on query etiquette.  This week, she added an equally-as-important part two.

And I really felt for Caren Johnson Literary Agency‘s Elana Roth when she posted her thoughts on the protocol with regard to those queries/partials/fulls left hanging when a writer is offered representation.  Although she got a bit bashed in some of the comments, she started a discussion that I think needed to be addressed.  And she handled the backlash well.  Kudos!

POTTER PROVIDES HELP

Dudes—Harry Potter is on the brain! Like it or not, writers can learn a lot from J.K. Rowling‘s famous example.

Last week, I did a post on how to break up a manuscript of epic proportions, and I used the Potter series to illustrate dramatic arcs (in it, I outlined Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone‘s dramatic arc and discussed the overarching arc of the series).

This week, I’m seeing posts—left and right—using Rowling’s baby to illustrate all kinds of things.  Coincidence?  Actually, yes.  I’m not that important! As well, some of these posts are older:

  • Here, guest blogger Jim Adams talks “showing” and “telling” in scenes and dialogue on Jane Friedman‘s (of Writer’s Digest) blog, There Are No Rules.
  • In this post, Adams is at it again, giving tips on how to stretch the tension in a series.
  • On St. Patty’s Day, Adams addressed conflict, according to Potter.
  • Here, Friedman provides a complete list of links to all the posts in Adam’s 13-part series.
  • And the good folks over at guardian.co.uk‘s Book Blog talk about character names in fantasy (but the post will interest writers of all genres)—with special attention to The Series that Need Not Be Named.

"Ohhhhh, Accio DEATHLY HALLOWS." --Hank Green

IN THE NEWS

Business Wire reported that Follett, college textbook wholesaler, will join forces with Bookrenter to start a textbook rental program.  Where was this when I was in grad school?

CONTEST

Are you a Jane Austen fan?  Adept at writing queries?  Here’s a contest over at Getting Past the Gatekeeper that combines both of these things—write a query as if you wrote, and are pitching, Pride and Prejudice!

CLINK!

Last, but not least, congratulations are in order.  My Writer’s Digest Books editor pal Chuck Sambuchino got a mention in Publishers Weekly for his upcoming humor book . . .

. . . and in the same post, it was announced that young adult fantasy author Beth Revis signed a huuuuuge three-book deal (I don’t really know her, but we have some mutual friends and I’m deciding to share in her excitement).

Congrats, peeps!

A toast to you!