Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some BIG News on the You-Write-I-Comment Workshop

I was thinking that maybe you would like to have more than just help with your work resulting from this workshop.  I have discussed the idea with a couple of publishers I'm friends with and they agree to look at anything I deem of exceptional merit.  They will not, however, reveal their names and comments except through me, unless they see something they want to publish right away.

I have reviewed and edited hundreds of picture books over the years.  In a picture book, the illustrations are just as important as the text.  And so I'm quite capable of judging illustrations.  I also know a few professional illustrators who have agreed to add their help to my comments, if I'm not sure what to say. 

Given this, here are some new rules, to give you time to really get the word out and also to polish your manuscripts or illustrations with such possible rewards in mind.

New Rules

1.  Sign-up for entries close Monday midnight October 11, 2010, and will be made as a comment on my blog, just as a number of people have already posted.  If there are not 15 entries willing to provide stand-alone work-in-progress by that extended deadline (I've given you an extra weekend to drum up the minimum number of participants), then the workshop will be cancelled.

2.  Once I announce whether the workshop is definitely going to happen, you must send me your real full name through the contact us link on, along with the nickname you'll use on the workshop.   I need the real full name to make sure no one tries to enter more than once and also for discussion purposes with publishers, if that wonderful event should happen.  I don't do this kind of thing without serious belief that my judgment is not going to be undervalued by the publisher afterward.  In other words, don't expect me to do this on your kindness or niceness or how hard you work.  It's what I read that I'll recommend on, if I can do it at all.
2. MINIMUM OF 15 participants, NO MAXIMUM.
3. Any kind of writing is accepted except for fan-fiction or undergraduate essays.  Must be original work.  Maximum of 2 poems. Otherwise, your work is limited by the size allowed by the space of my blog post (my own personal space is larger than the comment size).  That means you must send your work to me as a word attachment without html so that I can post it.  Illustrations should be jpeg at maximum resolution.

5. Must be standalone work: i.e. understandable without the entrant having to explain who people are or any backstory.
6. There has been interest expressed in allowing illustrations to be submitted for comment.  And so, I
will allow this by request sent via the "contact us" link on by people such as Rettakatt. We will discuss procedures there.
8. Workshop runs like this: October's entrant is first person to post (on my blog, already done).  S/he is asked to send me work by the third Monday of each month (except October: you have till the third Friday in October.) Send your work to the address I'll give you once you've followed-up by posting on bog: http://welwynsworld/ that it is sent.   I will respond to your work by the first Monday (health etc. permitting) of the next month.  Entrant then asks up to two questions on my comments by the third Monday of the month I respond in.  I will respond by the following first Monday of the next Month, and ask the next entrant to post for the third Monday of that month.  So there will always be something new coming in on the first and third Monday of each month, except for  this month.

9.  Any questions, please post to this blog.

Don't forget, YOU are responsible for getting people to sign up here.  I have done my best to publicize it.  Now it's your turn.  Luck to you all!



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Tip #2 in getting traditionally published

The Importance of Reading:



If you want to write picture books  (illustrations don't get covered here, sorry) go to the library and ask for the CLASSIC picture books for children in both the parent read-aloud to the very young category, as well as the best of the "I can read" books published recently, as well as the best of the "My First Chapter Books" type.  That's pretty much it for picture books, in terms of categories.  Read as absolutely many as you can.  Paulette Bourgeois read every single one in the "Read Aloud" and "I can read" category in the Toronto public library.  Then she wrote Franklin In the Dark.  She's now SYNDICATED with Franklin and I'd guess she's a millioinaire from Franklin by now.  She did not even choose the illustrator.  That's the publisher's job.   swell as all the latest published ones, as well as any that won awards or

If you want to write (e.g.) fantasy for children say aged 8 - 11, go to the library and ask for all the latest fantasy novels for that aged children the library has.  Books are different than magazines so you could go back as far as three years. 

If you want to write mysteries for adults go to the library, ask for the latest well-reviewed novels from the last three years. 

If you want to write interspecies romance look for these books, they're almost all new, but don't neglect Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. 

If you want to write literary fiction keep on reading the literary journals, plus the novels on the Booker Prize Short List, Pulitzer prize short lists, Nobel prize short lists, etc.  And do not neglect the classics.  Austen, especially. And don't assume because you've read the Classic Comics version you've read the book. 

Do not not not ignore reading short stories, whether you intend to write them or not.  A short story tells you a huge amount about novels.  Also, to get yourself known and therefore a likelier bet with novels, you will likely have to publish some short stories first.  This is true with virtually every market except YA.  With YA (young adult) books you publish the short stories after you write the novels.  Weird, yeah.  I know.

ONCE YOU'VE GOT YOUR INTENDED MARKET, AND CHOSEN THE BOOKS YOU WILL READ, THEN READ THEM.  Make notes on trends you see by using a table.  e.g. rows are titles of story read, columns are the authors, the books/mags found in, date of book/mag found in, editor/agent/publisher, and then the following:
(a) subject matter included in the stories
(b) subject matter not included in the books, that you might have expected (e.g. sex). 
(c) whether you see more 3rd person books/stories than 1st person or vice versa (you will see virtually no 2nd person books/stories for children or in standard genre books);
(d) how many narrators each book/story  you read has
(e) how the author handles segues between narrators, if s/he used more than one  (tennis match? i.e. our eyes look through this guy, then that girl, then this guy, then that girl...that's what I call tennis match -- makes me slightly dizzy to read), space breaks (e.g. an empty line where text would go, or a * or some other kind of marker to indicate a change in time, space, or point of view), any other way?  Note: first person will only very rarely have two narrators.  If one of your list of books is like this (I can think of only one in all the books I've read) then how does the author handle it? 
(f) if you liked one of the books a lot, write down the publisher and look in the acknowledgements for any mention of editors or agents, AND the date published.(if it's in a literary or recent genre magazine, you might not get anything more than the publisher, editor, and date).
(g) is there anything that surprised you in this book/story?  Answer this question for all the books right after you read it.  It's important to get your immediate reaction.
(h) is there anything you would do differently at the end of the book, for each book?  Why?  Would it have worked better, or worse?  Again, this should be done as soon as you've finished reading each book.
(h) Compare your own present writing with the writing in this book.  What could you do with your own writing to make it fit better with the category of accepted writing that you have chosen?  Yes, each book, as soon as you've read it.

I'm not suggesting a literary review of these books.  This is a very personal reaction between you and the books/stories, a journey of discovery for you. 

You can start a new notebook for this, or work backwards in the same notebook as you're following Tip One.  I'd use two, if I were doing it. 

You can work on Tip 2 while you're still working on Tip 1 Both these are primary tips.  Don't stop doing either of them until you get published traditionally yourself.

Luck to you, as always!


Monday, October 4, 2010

You want me to read your writing? Comment on it? Read this post.

The authors you know from online social spaces like Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, and so on, are never going to help you get published by introducing you to their publishers.  That's absolutely true unless you have persuaded those authors to read  your work.  And that is usually very, very difficult to do, because it takes time the published authors just don't have.  When an author writes a blog, for instance, s/he has to write it as if it is a published piece out there for review.  It takes a lot of time for most authors to do that.  Sometimes they have to go to their stats to know if anybody actually visited on a certain day, because no comments from visitors  says to the author that there isn't any point in writing this blog.  And they still have to do their own writing and keep dinner on the table in their own homes.  So, you have to make the writer of a blog feel as if their work is worthwhile.

When I started this blog, I said that I hoped to be able to help you.  I've picked (out of the air, mostly) subjects that I felt would be useful for you to know, but I don't think you're getting all you could out of me. I gave you something last week that I felt we could spend another day on, and there wasn't one single comment on what more we could do. That means to me that either you are shy, or you can't think of anything to say, or -- I sure hope this isn't the case -- you don't want to have to do any work.  But I know some of you personally through our networking, and so I really don't think you aren't willing to work.  The people I know are just not willing to put themselves, and their writing, forward.  But, you know, if you're ever going to be published, you are going to have to do exactly that.  You might as well get the practice here.

And so, here's what I propose. 
1. I will read pieces from novels or short stories you have written or are writing.  You will have to commit to posting them publicly as comments to this blog.
2. The work you give me must be understandable as it is, without you explaining a whole lot of things first.
3. You must give me a name to work with.  It doesn't have to be your real name.  But you must use the same one on this blog all the time.
4.  If you want me to respond to what you have publicly written with a public response, you have to trust me not to hurt your feelings, and you have to understand that even though other people are going to read and learn from your postings and my reponses, those other people are not going to be allowed to respond to your work.  
5.  The person who has posted gets my response, then that person gets to ask a couple of questions, and I'll respond to that, and then we go on to the next person's piece of writing.
6.  Before I start this, simply to find out that only two people are interested, I need a sign-up sheet.  Please write a post on any one of this week's blogs (today, Monday to Friday October 8th) saying that you want to participate, if you do.  I need fifteen interested people to start off with, because what I'm going to be doing is too much work for just a couple of people. 
7.  If you want this, and if on Thursday it looks as if there aren't enough people signing up, then you will have to ask your friends to sign up, with the same sense of commitment from them. 
8.  Unless I get sick or need surgery or anything, I will respond to your work with kindness and concern for you as a writer and suggestions to make your writing better, and I won't be doing it for my ego.  I'll do it to help you, and to help all of those people who read your post and are exposed to what I say about it.  Don't expect an immediate response.  It will take time for me to write it.  Meanwhile I'll keep going with the Tips Blogs.

Note:  What I am offering you here is something you would normally have to pay a lot of money for (I used to charge $150 - $200 an hour of my time).  So you can choose to be shy, or you can choose to have the courage to take advantage of this genuinely free, genuinely sincere, and always before (to hundreds of other clients) very helpful editing offer from  the traditionally published author of ten books.  I'm at a time in my life where I feel I have to give back some of the good fortune that has come my way.  So, take it or leave it.  I will never offer it again if I don't get at least fifteen names signed up by Friday.  Twenty names, even better.  Thirty, terrific.  Take a chance, folks.  Get your friends out here.  Tell them what they can learn. Tell them they'll be able to quote me when they submit their manuscripts.  My name still has clout. So: Use me or lose me.  Meanwhile, I'll carry on with these dull but true posts about Tips to Get Published (Traditionally).

Don't be shy,


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Trick #1 to getting traditionally published (not in non-fiction)

In the library, magazine store, or bookstore with large magazine section, find the kind of "journal" in the genre you eventually want to publish a novel in.  (or short stories in).  e.g . Literary, Science Fiction, Mystery.  Don't buy the old mags from ten years ago.  Buy or borrow the current stuff.  Put in a request at your library if it doesn't buy that mag or those mags, and you will likely find they will buy it if they know you're interested.  If they already have that magazine, put your name down to reserve the magazine for as soon as the library or bookstore gets it in.  Read every single thing in it, including the ads.  Not only will you get the absolutely most current stories (and the leading edge in publishing), you will have read a whole lot of short things and gotten a whole new perspective on writing.  Now, here's Trick #1:

Keep a notebook.  Write down the name of the journal.  Write down the publisher and editor(s) and date.  Make note of any ads that are not out to take your money and then not deliver.  (In other words, don't bother with anyone who promises miracles).  Under all this information that you've written down, like a kind of separate index, write the name of each author,  the name of the story, who edited it (if the mag has multiple editors) and your summary of the kind of style the author writes in, using a few words only.  E.g. rapid fire.  E.g. tons of verbs, incomplete sentences.  Make sure you tell yourself if the story is in 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person  (choose one). Tell us if there is  one narrator, or two, or none,  or if  all the characters narrate.  (Narrators are the people through whose eyes you interpret the story and whose ears you feel the meaning of the words the character hears and through whose mind you're thinking with as you read the story.)  Finally write down why you think the editor chose this story to go in the mag/journal.  Put yourself in the shoes of the publisher/editor, not the writer.  Oh, and at the very bottom, jot down any phrases or neat verbs that grab your attention.  Now you're done with that story, at least for now.  Take a couple days off.  Go on to the next story.  Try to do one complete magazine every two to four weeks.  Depends on how busy you are.  But be consistent.  And continue writing your novels or your other stories, without thinking about changing them. 

It's important to decide if you hate the whole journal/magazine to stop it when you have finished doing this for the whole journal/magazine, and move on to a different one.  Find your fit.  Then keep on doing the above homework for a long, long time.  Forever, really. You will learn so much, you won't believe it.  By the end of a year you will be writing your novel differently just because you're reading short stories or poems differently.  .

Here endeth Tip One.

Have fun!