Category Archives: Getting published
What differs slightly from the short story, a folk song, flash fiction, and say, microfiction? Short prose.
I am doing this post to remind restless Maria to enter her work(s), because she happens to be a prosalicious genius. The kind of genius that pulls you into another world, teases your every sense, then punches you in the stomach (in a good way, of course). This contest is for Maria, and writers like Maria. So, listen up!
The Writers’ Union of Canada is accepting submissions until November 3, 2011 for the 19th Annual Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. The winning entry will be the best Canadian work of up to 2,500 words in the English language, fiction or non-fiction, written by an unpublished author.
The prize is $2,500 for the winning entry, and the entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted to three Canadian magazines.
Writers Kevin Chong, Anne Emery, and Sylvia Fraser will serve as the jury. This competition is open to all Canadians who have not had a book published in any genre and who do not currently have a contract with a book publisher. Original and unpublished (English language) fiction or non-fiction is eligible.
Time to let go of that manuscript. Good luck, Maria (you in?) and to all!
Taking the lead from our wordbitches friends, and given that fall is staring me in the face, I thought I would recap what I wrote this summer and set my goals for fall.
As for my writing summer, it all started with a phone call from Hollywood. A major studio was interested in a screenplay that I co-wrote. I can’t believe I just typed that. The script required a slew of revisions. So, we revised, we stressed, we cried, we screamed, we revised some more—then we resubmitted. This script (a psychological thriller) generated increased interest, particularly in other genre samples. So, we dusted another script off (this time, a sci-fi/comedy) and polished the hell out of it. Then, we were asked, “what else are you working on?” GULP. So, we resurrected yet another script (a mythological horror). Are you counting here? This is screenplay number three in the span of a month. Lesson: when pitching, always have at least three projects ready to pimp.
I can tell you that three’s a charm. The response from the studio was that’s “the one.” So, naturally, we revised some more. Lots more. And into the wee hours of every. single. night. My summer was a blur. We managed to turn a solid treatment into a polished, albeit draft, screenplay. The experience was excruciating and even unbearable at times, yet somehow gratifying beyond belief. This screenplay now sits in the hands of fate and we wonder if it has that x factor; will it be “the one?”
While I was engaged in this process, I was also doing revisions with my agent in response to publisher feedback on a picture book (currently on submission). And again, I revise. And I wait. I’m almost certain my next flurry of revisions will be on my middle grade novel which is also ‘somewhere out there’ on submission. Lesson: fall in love with your characters because you will be spending a very long time with them.
Between revisions and more revisions, I also managed to paint an entire house, landscape @LoriDyan’s backyard, tend a vegetable garden, plant fifty trees, read three novels (not enough), contract a flu (followed by an eye infection), reno a kitchen, tremclad the house, build a shed with the hubs, attend Pilates each week, and let’s not forget—work full time.
I need a vacation from my summer. Hear that, universe?
On that note, I formulate my goals for fall as I do every year at this time.
1) Plan a fruitful and wordalicious writing retreat with the Restless Writers.
2) Review my MG novel (a hefty yet inevitable task). Oh, the revisions I’ll make!
3) Put a serious word-count-dent in my new YA novel.
4) Begin book 2 of a 3-book children’s picture book series. Book 1 was published in Spring, see it here.
5) Promote Chicken Soup for the Soul: Oh Canada where my story, From Vile to Vegas appears, to be published this November.
6) Plan my Oscar speech? (okay, so a girl can dream)
What are your writing goals for Fall? Are you waiting on “the one?”
Writers in southern Ontario, take note! Burlington Public Library still has a few seats available for its Publishing Boot Camp, a six-week intensive program that will give you the momentum to finish—and publish—your first book.
The program is geared towards writers of all kinds: writers with a manuscript tucked away in the bottom drawer or an idea for a proposal; wordsmiths with an interest in writing and publishing as a career; and professionals who would benefit from publication. It’s for writers who are serious about taking steps towards publishing.
Each week’s session offers information, tools, guests speakers who are insiders to the publishing industry. The sessions cover a range of topics: from helping participants understand what type of writer they are, to an introduction to the publishing process, to deciding whether self-publishing is for you. Guest speakers include: a self-published author, a freelance editor, a published adult fiction author, a bookstore owner.
The instructors are:
- Sharon McKay, a multi-award winning author of 25 books and a veteran of the newspaper, magazine, television and film industries.
- Linda Pruessen, a publishing professional with 20 years of editing experience, most recently as editor-in-chief at Key Porter Books.
Publishing Boot Camp takes place every Tuesday, October 4 to November 8, 2011, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Burlington Central Library, 2331 New Street, Builders Room. The program costs $200/person (plus $35 optional materials kit), payable in advance at the library. Call 905-639-3611 ext. 1321 for more information or check out www.bpl.on.ca.
Can’t get to Burlington? Check out the resources and events for writers available at your local library.
If you are querying (fiction) right now, like me, you will have learned, or are about to learn, the astronomical importance of your first five pages. They must be stellar. Genius. Da bomb. According to Elizabeth Sims, the very prospect of writing these pages “should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you.”
I am working on a new Young Adult (YA) manuscript and once again, am squaring off with my first five pages. They have gotta rock. And they must be “honest, original, and brave” (thx Liz). So, in search of inspiration and technique tips on how to make my pages rock—and roll, I find myself on Jane Friedman’s award-winning blog, There Are No Rules. This is my ultimate go-to site for help and advice from the pros. This woman is on fire; she is a vault of information awesomeness for writers, like you and me. And who doesn’t love a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor?
Let’s talk about the opening of your novel. Very few agents or editors will even read beyond the first page, first five pages tops. If your opening doesn’t grab them, you are paper toast. In those first five pages, you have to establish a hook, introduce a protagonist, highlight the main story problem, and establish the story’s setting, genre, and tone. And of course, not neglect your job of entertaining the reader. Page turns. You need page turns (or finger swooshes for all you e-readers out there).
Jane has critiqued thousands of first pages and offers a superabundance of advice for compelling openings and killer characterization. She also did this really cool thing where she tweeted a stream of tips for opening pages. Score!
My top 10 favourite tweeted tips from Jane’s First-Five Critiques:
- Don’t start stories that start in the conditional perfect. Just get to the REAL world, please!
- Avoid dialogue that offers mini-biographies of people (to fill reader in on back story).
- Avoid story openings w/characters asleep or waking up. Almost as annoying: Openings w/characters watching other characters sleep.
- Most difficult part of 1st page critiques: Many writers have not found rhythm yet. Best way to illustrate, click here.
- Problematic: Opening up w/character’s inner monologue, contemplating themselves/life. Are you as good as Dostoevsky?
- I love an opening that in 300 words can make me really fall in love with (or hate) a character. I’m hooked!
- I do not recommend you start your story w/character thinking, “This isn’t happening.” (This opening is in fact quite common!)
- Very tough: Starting your story w/dialogue & little/no indication of who is speaking or what context is. Readers get lost.
- Most writers overwrite. More detail/description, more explaining than needed. Even I do it. But you have to go back & cut cut cut!
- Least favorite opening: Description of perfect weather outside, w/character waking in bed, peering out window, thinking about day.
Follow Jane (@JaneFriedman) on Twitter.
Looking for additional resources?
Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs the Reader at Page One, by Les Edgerton
“Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.”
Time to go turn those first five pages into fireworks! Katy Perry would be proud.
When I was in grad school, I heard that female PhD candidates were still being told to publish under their initials rather than their names, because being a woman would impede their progress on the tenure track. We’ve come a long way, baby, and gender should no longer be the reason you’re not using your real name.
However, some writers do write and publish under pseudonyms. I can see why some people might want to write under an assumed name, especially if they’re just starting out, and need that extra layer of anonymity to help them release their writing inhibitions. A pen name is a kind of security blanket. Or a blank slate.
But adopting a pen name isn’t just for amateurs. Some writers who are already rock stars in one genre might want to try something new on for size without confusing their readers, or want to disguise their prolificacy. Three cases in point: Nora Roberts as J.D. Robb, Anne Rice as A.N. Rocquelare, and Stephen King as Richard Bachman.
You may not be Anne Rice, but you might decide to write under an assumed name for modesty’s sake. Let’s say your mom reads every single piece you churn out—but doesn’t know that you’re also writing super-charged erotic fiction under your “porn name” (your middle name plus the street you grew up on. That would make me Helena Baldwin. Posh, no?).
Perhaps you think your name is wretchedly boring, and you want your work to stand out. So, Mary Smith, maybe Mariah Smythe is a good option for you. Temper your creativity, though. The jury’s still out on Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey).
Maybe it’s the opposite: you think your name is too unusual. I always thought my maiden name was too difficult to spell and pronounce, so I spent countless teenage hours trying out new writerly identities. I still hadn’t figured out a great one by the time I got married, but taking my husband’s name made the exercise moot.
For some writers, the reasons for taking a pseudonym are much more personal. Writing an autobiographical account of child abuse, detailing your painful divorce, or fictionalizing the shenanigans of your old boss…these might be legitimate reasons for using a pen name. Some of these reasons fall under the category of CYA: Cover Your Ass.
Some reasons for using a pen name may be valid. But if you’re just shy about releasing your stories into the world and being vulnerable to public opinion, maybe being a writer isn’t for you. Your work will be read and judged and bought and promoted and rejected and critiqued and loved and forgotten. That’s part and parcel of the writer’s life.
As a dear friend of mine once said, “suck it up, buttercup.” It’s your work—own it!
Have any of you published under a pen name?