If you live in the SF Bay area, if you’ve long wanted to write or book, or are stuck in the middle of the book, join me at Book Passages in Corte Madera for six Sundays beginning April 17 for a workshop on narrative techniques in fiction and non-fiction.
Click here for details and to register for the workshop.
You’ll get personal feedback on your chapters, stories, outline, and an honest assessment on how and where you might seek publication. You’ll get advice on making and executing a plan to publish your work from an editor and publisher with more that 40 years in the publishing business, who has edited everything from NY Times Bestsellers to amazing tales of other worlds, non-fiction and some fiction. (You can find more information about me on this site.)
I usually only work one on one, at a much higher cost to writers. So this is a rare opportunity of good value and an opportunity to hang out with other writers. There aren’t that many spots left. The workshop is limited to 10.
Join me if you can. (And if you can’t, please pass this invitation along).
Gwendolyn Kiste posted a blog which Janine Kovac of sent out to a group I’ve recently joined, Write On Mamas. As Sherlock used to say to Watson, “It’s elementary!” And, as my daughter used to say when she was a teenager about most anything, “NOT!” Here it is: how to un-ruin your Amazon link in its entirety. And if I didn’t set up the link properly (possible, maybe even probable) look up Gwendolyn Kiste and you’ll find it.
The first time I used a computer, an Apple IIe, floppy disc, no hard drive, I was so apprehensive that it took me days to approach it. I’ve finally got to the point in life where I can try new things on my computer, and if they don’t work I breathe deeply, try again, panic, and call my friend Mark who might be getting sick of me by now. So I’ve made a resolution to breathe deeply and read the instructions.
Today I’m sharing an instruction worth following, whether you’re sharing the link for a your own new book or letting your friends and readers know about another writer’s book, this is good information to have. So I’m breathing deep while I follow the instructions in Gwendolyn’s article step by step.
In the meantime, write on!
I’ve subscribed to the Book Designer’s newlsetter for years. It’s an amazing resource and you might want to check it out at bookdesigner.com. Not every post will speak to you equally of course. But these are some of the most detailed and best ideas available, written by a number of people who practice what they preach, with great guest blogs too. If I had a rating system I’d given this one five our of five, or ten out of ten, or, okay, maybe 95 out of 100–nobody’s perfect. If you subscribe, remember, take what you like (or can use or may not want to hear, but know to be true)and leave the rest, because there’s a lot to take in here.
And write on!
A friend recently sent me the link to an article by Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Here’s the article. It’s a fine read, even if you have little interest in commas. (I’m guessing the article might pique your interest, though.)
I’ve had many different jobs in several, quite different book publishing houses. Copy editing was my least favorite, in part because I dithered. Did this rule apply–or that? Was it a restrictive clause–or not? Later in my career, I used to drive a managing editor who went through comparing author and proofreader changes to distraction by telling her that grammar was an art, not a science. I also told her that, in all but the most egregious instances, the author is always right. If you are the author it is, after all, your name on the front of the book.
I worked with one writer who took a leaf from Kurt Vonnegut about semicolons. To wit: “Don not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” The copy editor and managing editor on the project did not share this view. Many semicolons were added. The author took them all out. The managing editor put them back in. The book was typeset and sent back to the the author and the proofreader. The author blew a gasket at that point and called me. The author, as I said, is always right. The semicolons went. The staccato sentences stayed.
I am not a very good copy editor. I have great admiration for good copy editors. They save writers from grief. They make the illegible legible. Sadly, except at venerable institutions like the New Yorker, copy editing is becoming an archaic activity. Computer programs with spelling and grammar checks are not copy editors.
My takeaway is this: read the article if you wish. But, whatever you do, before you publish a book, pay attention to the copy editor. I always tell authors that he or she is the first disinterested person to read your work. Pay attention to queries that essentially say: I don’t understand what you’re getting at. If a person who’s being paid to read is getting kicked out, imagine how your readers might react. And, if you’re publishing independently, do yourself a big favor. Hire a copy editor.
Now I’m going to post this and wait for the friend who sent me the article to correct my post. He’s a much better copy editor than I am.
One of my favorites is The Book Designer, started by Joel Friedlander, a San Francisco Bay area publishing fixture. This site, with its newsletter and monthly magazine “Carnival of Indies” really does have something for everyone. Independent (self) publishing has come a long way in the last decade. The Book Designer has kept up with the times. You’ll find articles for newbies, writing tips, and in-depth how-tos for typesetting and cover making and e-book conversion. Check it out here.
If ever I was stumped or had a specific question, especially about book production or design, about new software resources, I’d start here.
Okay, old person alert. When I was young I wrote my first stories and poems on a manual LC Smith typewriter. Then there was a little portable electric, a Royal maybe. Then, oh Frabjous Day, an IBM self-correcting Selectric, at least I think that’s what it was called. And then an Apple, Two-ee was it’s name I believe, followed by a long string, Macs and PCs both. Who knew there would come a day? A day when there would be so many websites and resources for writers of all ages and stripes that someone would think to name the 100 best, for several years running, in fact.
It’s a huge list–an ice cream super duper sundae with three flavors of syrup and whipped cream and a cherry on top kind of list. I’d bet my IBM Selectric (if I still had it) that no one person is going to find use for every website on this list. But I’d also bet that if you’re a serious writer and you’re looking for one sort of resource or another–from help with independent publishing to research ideas to editing help to finding a writer’s group to who-knows-what–you’ll find something on this list useful. So pin it up on your cork board, or maybe just bookmark it. You might find it useful.
And here it is: 100 Best Websites for Writers
This short article offers just a few pieces of advice for authors who want to self (or independently) publish. Read it here. Mark Lingane has been there and done that. What sticks with me most here is that everyone needs an editor and every writer is different. Don’t judge yourself against others! Hmm, good advice for life as well as writing.
This article about when do you need an agent describes one writer’s journey to agent and published book, in a pretty traditional trajectory through an MFA writing program and beyond. It’s a great description of that, but not exactly a how to. You most likely need an agent if you’re trying to traditionally publish a novel with a traditional publishing house, or most anything with one of the so-called Big Five. Obviously you don’t need an agent if you’re going to independently publish. Then you need an editor, a cover designer, maybe a consultant to walk you through your various options.
If you decide you want to look for an agent, the best things to do are described in the first paragraph of this article. Network, check out the acknowledgments in your favorite books, research on the internet.
My last little piece of advice here is to follow each agent’s submission guides (almost always available on their websites) to the T. Do not send them anything more than they ask for, or anything less. Rewrite your pitch until it’s razor sharp. Tell them who you are, what you want to write, and what you’re doing to get that writing out into the world. All in the briefest most direct way possible.
Research your options as you write your book. Write on!