Useful Tools For The Everyday Writer

Hi Everyone,

Time has become a rare resource lately, but I didn’t want to leave ya’ll missing me for too long.

So today I’ll be disclosing a few worthy tools to help with your writing!

Google Ngram Viewer: I’m totally in love with this. Write two expressions (separated by a comma) and Google will show you how often each has been used in books since 1800. SO FREAKING AWESOME!

Google + Groups:  I joined a bunch of groups in Google + (Writer’s Corner, Fantasy Writing, Writer’s Discussion Group, Sci-fi Writers, yeah I totally write Sci-fi, in case you didn’t know) There’s a group for everything, and people are usually super responsive and mega supportive.

Scribophile: This is an online critiquing group, and I quite enjoyed it. Critique other people’s works and you earn points. Earn enough points and you can post your work for critiques. It’s a great way to get different perspectives on your manuscript.

Agentqueryconnet: How come you still don’t know about this? No, you know what, don’t. Just head over there, register and start posting on the forums. Seriously, just go.

The Creative Penn:   Jo’s website is PACKED with useful information for writers and I mean seriously packed; as in you will get lost and only find your way out three weeks later and you’ll be growing a beard and be all like WTF, I thought I was a girl. Did I mention the courses? Yeah, go follow her like right now.

Anne R Allen’s blog: I know comparing Anne to Mother Theresa is wrong, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Her posts have THE best information for writers in the biz. Seriously, I file every post I receive in my inbox (I subscribed to her newsletter) in my Anne R. Allen folder. Her blog is a fantastic source of information for FREE people. For effing FREE.

That’s it for today peeps, and don’t forget: if you liked this post, please do share it. The post is really needy and kind of an attention whore, but don’t tell the post I just said this. 

Post: WTFlyingF, Clara?

Clara: Dough!

 

 

 

 

A Story of Rejection

A long time ago, in a country far, far away, I wrote a book. It was my first book and I was really proud of it. But as it happens with many first books, it wasn’t good enough. If you want to know more about the whole experience, you can read it here.

But back then, I had no idea my book sucked. So I queried some fifty agents (okay, maybe it was seventy) and ALL of them replied with form rejections. All.of.them.

Here’s how I felt: You know horse shit? Think about one of the trillions of atoms that constitute horse shit. That’s me. If you’ve ever gotten more than a few rejection letters, you’ve probably felt the same way.

 After a while, I told myself, “You know what? You’re NOT giving up.” So I wrote a few short-stories, and two of them got accepted by small presses. It was awesome, and I learned a lot. You know how Superman must have felt as he carried Lois Lane into the sunset? Yeah, that was me.

One year later, when I re-read my first book, I realized I shouldn’t have queried it. Not because seventy agents said “Thanks, but no thanks”, but because as I read it, I told myself “Even I wouldn’t self-publish this load of crap.”  And if I wouldn’t bet on it, why should anyone else?

So I wrote a second book. This book was waaaay better than the first one. It was a book I’d be proud to self-publish. The feedback I received from writers and readers was fantastic. Seriously, these were strangers who owed me nothing, and they were really enthusiastic about my story. So I told myself, “This is it! You’ll finally make it!”  

Not really. I’ve queried my second book to some five agents so far. All of them replied with form rejections. All.of.them.

You know horse shit? Yeah.

So why am I sharing this with you?

I guess that if you’re going through the same, I want you to know you’re not alone. I guess that we all have times when we feel like horse shit, and we need someone to say “Hey, it’s not over yet.”  

So here are a few facts to cheer you up: Facebook just bought Whatsapp for some 19 billion dollars. But you probably already know about that. Did you also know that a long time ago, Facebook said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Whatsapp co-owner Brian Acton?

And here’s to making you feel even better (it’s old news, but still worth mentioning): Click here to check this awesome post by self-publishing rock star Hugh Howey. This guy makes 70% royalties on his sales, and he earns an average of 150k per month (probably more by now). 

All by himself.

That’s around 105k  net, in his pocket, before taxes. Per Month.

All by himself.

That’s pretty flabbergasting.

Meanwhile, the average royalty with a big five is around 12-20%, and 15% of this 12-20% goes into your agent’s pocket. Make the calculations and see how much he would earn if he had taken a traditional publishing deal. Yeah, that’s pretty flabbergasting too, but not in a good way.

Now, I’m not saying that traditional publishing is not the way. Both self and trad publishing are hard paths, and there’s a ton of authors who end up abandoned on the side of the road.  I’m also not saying that we’ll ever, EVER sell as much as Hugh. By God, we have better chances of being struck by lightening while running naked in the city on a perfectly sunny day. But there’s a good number of folks making a decent amount of money with self-publishing. 

So, I guess what cheers me up, and it should cheer you up too, is that everyone gets rejected, and a lot of people find another way. In the end, your fate is in your hands and your hands alone.

So what will you do?

Writing = Team Work

You’re probably thinking, “F*** you, Clara. F*** the fucking you.”

I don’t blame you. The whole lone wolf thing is in our nature. We believe that all we have to do is close ourselves in an office, and six months later we’ll have the next great American novel. Right?

Wrong. If you believe in the above, thy face is hereby slapped.

By inkygirl.com (http://inkygirl.tumblr.com/)

We need feedback to improve our work. And how do we get feedback? By showing our material to critique partners and beta readers.

Yes, writing is a team effort.

Now, some writers are too scared to put their work out there. They’re too shy, or too insecure, or maybe they’re scared of being plagiarized. Maybe all of these things together. Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid concerns, but they WILL  screw you where the sun don’t shine.

Fear limits you. So don’t be afraid.

Because I wasn’t afraid, I met two awesome CPs who actually became great friends. My first CP (Miss G), literally checks everything I write before I forward the material to my other CP, Miss J. And I do the same for them.

It’s pretty cool that other writers can become your work colleagues; people with whom you can rant and talk about the craft; people who are walking the same path as you, hand-in-hand.

You’re not alone. And that’s AWESOME!

So if you want to find CPs and Betas, here are a few websites to help you:

And a few guidelines on how to critique  someone else’s work:

http://www.wikihow.com/Critique-Creative-Writing

Now get crackin’

Guide For Hiring an Editor

Hello Everyone,

 WELCOME TO THE GUIDE FOR HIRING AN EDITOR

All rights reserved to Kammy http://www.flickr.com/photos/kammy-qtr/

WOW, YOU JUST FINISHED YOUR FIRST DRAFT.

Congratulations! Pat yourself in the back. Good? Ok. Now go back to your MS and edit the living hell out of it. And I don’t mean the grammar stuff because your penmanship doesn’t need to be perfect at this stage. What you’ll do is fix plot points, rewrite scenes, work on the pace and flow, delete scenes and even characters, and probably change some major stuff drastically.

AND YOU’LL FINISH YOUR SECOND DRAFT!

Congratulations! Pat yourself in the back. Good? Ok. The next step is all about what you feel comfortable with. I for one, like to go back and work on a third draft. Yeah, yeah, call me crazy or whatevs, but it’s what works for me. If you feel fine with two drafts, then move to the next step.

YAY! I CAN HIRE AN EDITOR NOW!

No, you may not. Editors cost money, and if you want to save some and increase the quality of your book (which we both know you do), you’ll be familiarized with a very neat term called CROWD SOURCING

So go get a very good critique partner (you can try it here or here or here). Go on, I’ll wait 

OK, CPS have gone through my work and I’ve made the necessary changes. Can I hire an editor now?

You may, but you should consider hiring a content editor, also known as a development or structure editor. What these nice folk provide is a report on your book: What’s working, what’s not working, and ideas to make things fit. They’ll analyze your voice, your characters, plot, development and incongruities.

When they’re done, you’ll take that fifteen to thirty pages report and fix the schnitzel out of your novel (which by now is on what, its 4th draft?)

BONUS TIP: Editors give you samples, so you can see if their work style matches yours. However, sending samples is hard with a content edit, so ask for an example of the editor’s previous work. They should be able to provide that, and if they refuse, find another editor. Remember to run away from editors who charge you a fee for sending samples.

 OK, I’VE GONE THROUGH MY CONTENT EDITS. WHAT NOW?

A line edit. It’s time to face the famous Red Pen of Death. Your content editor reviewed the bones of your story. Now it’s time to amend the flesh.

All rights reserved to cellar_door_films http://www.flickr.com/photos/cellardoorfilms/

A line editor will check the flow, grammar, dialogues, and a bunch of other stuff, line by line.  Where the content edit was macro, the line edit is micro. It’s a thorough edit, and it’s usually quite expensive.

BONUS TIP II: Content edits are fairly cheap if compared to line edits, because they’re faster to make and they don’t go deep into the nitty-gritty.  So never, ever get a line edit BEFORE a content edit. EVER.

BONUS TIP III: Line editors should provide you with a sample, so make sure to ask for it. I usually ask them to edit the first 5 pages of my MS, just to get a taste of how they work. Also, they should take a second look at the MS after you’ve gone through their changes. This is called a “second round of edits”.

OMG FINALLY, I’M DONE!

Bi***, please. If you plan on self-publishing you need to hire a copy editor. They will fix the grammar, punctuation and even some weird phrasing.

SERIOUSLY, ARE WE DONE NOW? I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE.

Okay, but don’t forget that:

  • It’s all about what you’re comfortable with. Maybe you don’t want a content edit, and assuming that you know what you’re doing, that’s fine. People tick differently.
  • Word of mouth is the absolute best way to find an editor.  Ask your fellow writers about their experiences and get contacts, but since prices range a LOT, do make a proper research. Keep in mind there are a lot of scammers out there, but if you want a professional edit, it’s probably going to cost you a bit.
  • Don’t forget to check websites like Elance to get quotes from several editors.

Cheers,

Moi

If you liked this post, please do like it, or press it, or share it, or hug it, because it needs love.

Coherence: Making Things Fit

“Life is like a Math test: if it’s easy, it ain’t right.”

Hello there! Long time no see.

It has been a while since my last post, but that’s because life has been mind-boggling-freaking-insane busy, hence the quote above. But nevermind that: I’m BACK, and I’ve learned a bunch of interesting stuff while I was away. Stuff which you should know too. I plan to share this gained knowledge in installments, so I guess this is the first one.

Sit back, have some wine, and let’s roll.

Coherence: Making Things Fit

Coherence is probably one of the main issues that afflict both newbies and experienced authors. Without coherence, your plot sounds fake and your characters unreal. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But how do I know if I have a coherence problem?

You kind of do, and you kind of don’t. Deep down you know that the twist you wrote is not believable, that your characters are not behaving according to their personality, and that the event which just happened seems extremely forced (not to mention it doesn’t fit in the world you built at all.)

Side note: One character cannot meet another and automatically become best friends without a bonding event. They just can’t, all right?

Anyway, as writers, we have an idea of what’s going on, but no clear picture. We’re too wrapped in our own work to see what’s going on.

Holly Schnitzel! Is there a cure?

No. Every writer suffers from this condition, but you can develop a third eye. All you need to do is be blunt with yourself. Answer this question: If you don’t believe it, why do you think the reader will?  

Being honest with yourself will save you a bunch of time down the road.

Okay, I’ll try.

Great!

All right then, thanks for the tip. Bye.

Wait, I’m not done yet.

Crap…

So, you know your world and characters better than anyone else, right?

Of course.

This means that quite often, what’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to the reader, and because of that, many writers forget to properly introduce events and characters in their books. They miss a freaking great opportunity to make the reader sympathize with their story.

What? Readers don’t read minds?

No, they do not. But, don’t fret: all you need to do is write in a clear way (both grammatically and conceptually). This happens to be the foundation of effective communication, and a very handy tool for freelancers who aspire to earn money with writing.

Good so far?

Yeah, I guess.

Fantastico. So, coherence blindness affects 100% of writers. I’ve been there, still am and will be. It’s absolutely normal. We can develop a third eye, and write in a clear way, but that’s still not enough.

Seriously? What then?

See, the absolute BEST medicine against this affliction is a good Critique Partner/ Content Editor (see here for more info on CPs and editors). If you don’t know what a content edit is, fear not, that will be coming in the next post. 

And voila. Problem solved.

Until next time,

Clara, out!

Wait, don’t go! You said you’d pay me if I asked you these stupid questions. Hello? Anyone here? Goddamn it…

Defeating Writers Block by Increasing Your Productivity

(Originally featured here)

Oh, the dread of looking at a blank page and not being able to fill it. Still, you order yourself to move forward. ‘Never give up, never surrender!’ echoes repeatedly in the back of your head. And in the end, you get a thousand words of pure… crap.

Feels familiar? Of course it does, but do not fret fellow writer! There are many ways to turn your lack of inspiration into a ton of productivity.

So fun fact: you usually get writer’s block because you don’t know where to go with your story. Basically, it’s as if your Muse were telling you it needs some time-off to figure stuff out.

I know, it sucks. All you want to do is curl up in your couch and devour two tons of chocolate ice-cream. Maybe even cry a little. However, this will only waste your time (and gift you with waay too many fresh calories.)

So what to do when this happens?

  • Start a new book project: Can’t figure out what to do with your current WIP? Create a new one. Fun thing is: you usually find the answers to your old project’s questions inside your new one.
  • Outline your current project: Write down a general, chapter-sectioned draft of all you want to happen in your book from beginning to end. Maybe outlining will bring back the Muse.
  • Write a short-story: This is one of my favourites. I got two of my short stories published, which added ‘Published Author’ to my curriculum. How awesome is that?
  • Revise (edit) an old story: Maybe it’s time to work on that project you left forgotten in the bottom-drawer years ago. Plus, it’s always great to check old projects so you can see how much you’ve grown on your craft.
  • Start a blog about something you love. And if you add a business goal to your blog (let’s say content marketing, for example), that’s even better!
  • Write to a friend.
  • Engage in writing forums: It’s really great to talk to people just like you. You can learn a LOT. And you can even start helping each other out.
  • Get a critique-partner-or-group: CPs are the backbone of succesfull writers. If you don’t have one, get one. Now.
  • Write a short-article and submit it to magazines. This is another way to add some good n’ old fairy dust to your curriculum with very little work.
  • Draft a query letter or book blurb for your project: Seriously, that’s the hardest thing a writer can do. If you manage to go through THAT, you can surely get your story back on track.

The fun aspect of being productive during a creative drought is that the possibilities are pretty much endless. If your Muse doesn’t come back, at least you’ve started a new project. But truth be told, stories are jealous little things. If you start looking elsewhere, they’ll go after your Muse and bring her back by the hair. Caveman style.

Cheers and happy writing!

If you liked this post, please do like it, or press it, or share it, or hug it, because it needs love. Much obliged!