Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Stephie Smith's Writers' Resources

Stephie Smith's Writers' Resources is just that - quite the bubbling  over resource.  No articles or tips or anything like that.  Just links, lots of links to resources on all things writing - categorized.  Visit, check it out. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Writer's Drafting Zone

Let's face it, we writers produce 'drafts' before we come up with our final story. That's the way it works.  Don't think there are many (if any) writers who can crank out a great story on the first stroke with no changes, see it published and go to best-seller. 

So Here's a bit of advice when you're drafting. 

First create your mental quiet zone.  Unplug the phone, get the kids occupied elsewhere.  Do something to let your brain know it's time to write. Put on some favorite, quite music, chant a mantra, whatever it takes to set the stage and give the signal it's time to begin.

Then, don't begin actual drafting until you've created an outline of some sort for yourself, you know, a plan.  Doesn't have to be formal, just something that points the way.  Know your characters before you begin, maybe keep a notebook page on each one.  You don't want to have to ask yourself, "What is my protagonist, John Smith, going to do?"  You need to know how he'll react. Know the story you want to tell.  Hopefully have an ending in mind, where you want to take your tale.  Make notes by hand or in a digital file so you can remember where you're going later after you're hot and heavy into your story and maybe you lose track of exactly where you intended to go. 

Okay, ready to get some words up on that screen?  Now is the time to keep in mind that drafting is not about quality, it's about getting that story down on paper (or up on the screen).  It's about getting it out there.  Don't make yourself crazy about details here, just get the story in your head onto the page.  Use placeholders, whaterver it takes to get the story down.  Don't allow yourself to linger over every phrase or to continually go backwards to tweak what you've already written.  Keep moving forward. You can always toss notes into you draft in parenthesis (those placeholders I mentioned above) or using the note function of your word processor.  Then worry about those changes and additions later, in the next, polishing draft.  Constantly going back means you'll never finish the novel.  Again, keep moving forward.

And finally, make writing a habit.  Set aside definite times when you can write and stick to it.  And when you're writing don't allow yourself to be distracted by anything on the web.  Don't open a browser. Create goals for yourself whether it's so many words or an alloted amount of time and unless there's an emergency like  your kid just fell off the roof, stick to it.

There, that's it. That's how to get your first draft out there.  And actually, it's the easiest part of writing.

Now go write something.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Writer Gazette

Writer Gazette offers writing-related articles, tips, contests, resources and a free weekly newsletter. Worth hanging out at this site for a bit to see what resources here can help you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Gifts For Writers

As I was doing my snow shoveling this morning in a meditative state it occurred to me it's not to late to think about holiday gifts for writer friends, relatives, and even yourself.  And don't forget the other occasions that crop up during the year.

It occurred to me as shovel shushed through snow and I heaved it to the side  that money could be short.  It certainly is for a lot of people these days.

So, what to do?

Well, I just received a wonderful compliment on Twitter where one of my followers, StartYourNovel proclaimed me the ultimate link hunter.  I do keep my eye out for things that a writer might be interested in with the thought firmly in place that  many writers, especially those beginning, might not be cash flush.

So here's my suggestion.  Consider putting together a nice list of links that provide free or low cost help for writers.  I'll give you a few today in case the idea appeals.

There's Open Office Suite  which has word processing (including PDF conversion capabilities), draw, spreadsheets and more. It's free to download and works well.

There's Plot Shot  that offers random plot lines for those Writer's block days.

You might include Sci Fi writer Scott Card's site - Hatrack River  "Uncle Orson" offers writing lessons, articles and more for the writer.

PlotBot  is great for screenwriters a way to write screenplays online alone or with friends. You just register.

Like Random Generators  to help spark ideas for names, places, plots? There are a bunch of them here.

Know about Writers FM?   the radio station for writers by writers offering interviews and music.

Know a screenwriter who needs to read scripts, yourself maybe? Get 'em here at Drew's Script-o-rama  free.

Want a way to organize your querys, track them, and find places to send them? Query Tracker  is also free.  Read the terms.

Here's a good one - The Fiction Writers Guide to Psychology  she is selling her book, but the resources here are free.

For a great name generator try the Vitorian Steampunk Name Generator

Looking for an agent? Try Agent query 

There are a lot more out there, but you get the idea.  A great gift to give and one that would be greatly appreciated for any occasion!

Oh, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - QueryTracker

Here's a great site for the writer sending his or her material out to agents and publishers.  QueryTracker. It's free to join but your success statistics are collected. Still they have a lot of agents and publishers listed and provide tools to manage your query letters It's been one of Writer's Digest 101 best Websites for four years in a row now.  Check it out. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing Vision

The word Vision can be interpreted by different people in different ways so lets not get hung up on the word.  What I'm talking about is your Writing Vision, i.e. a specific goal. What you, as a writer want to accomplish, to do, to have in your life or what you expect your writing to become.

If you were a Doctor you might specialize in heart or lungs or brain.  If you were an Attorney you might focus on domestic law or educational law or litigation.

But you're not, you're a writer so you have two areas to focus.  You need to know where you want your career to go and you need to have a mental map for where you want each book you write to go (assuming you are writing books; if not you need to define what kind of writing you want to pursue).

Why do you need these images in your head?  The answer is simple.  It clarifies things for you and gives you direction.  It gives you a solid basis for saying "yes" or saying "no" to projects and work that comes your way. It provides a place to come back to in order to avoid getting sidetracked by other people's and yes, even your own great ideas. If you have it mapped out in your mind what's right for your career and what might not fit then you'll be able to recognize that rare opportunity when it comes along, the one that is exactly what you're working toward.

So take a few minutes to clear your mind and ask yourself some questions.

1. What kind of writing do you want to do?
    Short Stories

2. If you write books, what kind do you want to write?
    Horror/thriller like Stephen King & Dean Koontz
    Romance like Sherilynn Kenyon
    Many other types of romance

3. Want to work with a publisher - what kind?
    Top tier
    Small Press
    Into self publishing

4. Visualize your reader - Who is it?
    (no, you can't simply say everybody)

Write down what you come up with.  Keep it close to hand.  When you have a clear idea, a definitive direction you want to take your writing career in you know what conferences you might attend, what writing offers you'll accept, what agent you might approach, what publishing houses you might contact, what reference books might appeal, which other authors you should have on your reading list and a whole lot more.  The process becomes that much more simple.

And, of course, when you tackle what you expect from yourself for each book you undertake, or screenplay you write or article assignments you accept, as long as it fits your career goals you'll have plenty of wiggle room on the variety of your endeavors.

Got a book in progress?  Step back, think about it.

What category and if there is one, subcategory will this book fall into? (publishers/producers need to know this for promotion as well as for other reasons.)

Do you already have ideas for publishers or other outlets that would be interested in getting their hands on your book/script/article?

Have you thought about your audience? Who's your reader?

Seriously, write it down, and if you don't want to write it down, at least organize your thoughts.  What do you want?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Adventures in YA Publishing

Stumbled across a resource for those out there who are interested in Young Adult and Children's Publishing: Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing.  Produced by a couple of aspiring writers it offers helpful articles as they pursue publication, guest writers, links to contests and workshops and more.  A nifty little resource.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Hunt For Writers' Guidelines

You’re busy writing your heart out, but you know deep down that sooner or later you’re going to have to actually find a place to which you'll submit your writing. You may have bounced into a website or two, looked for guidelines and found nothing. Well I'm going to give you a few tips to help you find that information and do a professional submission that might actually get your work sold.  With my writing time so tight I sure do hate to waste it - bet you do to.

Fist of all here are some things you're going to need on your quest to find those guidelines:
    possibly a few bucks
    research abilities

Yep, all of that, and did I mention patience?  Um, yeah, that kicks in when you realize how much time you're wasting (well not wasting, but certainly how much of it is flying by) when you undertake this project.

For starters yes, visit the website of a publisher you're interested in. Poke around a bit. They call their guidelines a variety of things. Sometimes they’re located under “Write for Us” or “Submissions”, or “Submit a Story”. These are the easy ones. If you don’t see an out and out link to guidelines, visit the ‘about us’ section and see what you can dig up there. That’s where I’ve frequently found the submission information link. There are times when you swear they want to make it like a treasure hunt. 

The digital age - one person's logic is another's "huh?". 

Beyond that basic first step it’s amazing the kind of wild goose hunt publishers seem intent on sending you upon just to locate their contact information. Now, some writers claim they’re testing us, trying to see if we’re lazy or not and if we actually locate their information then, wow!, we’re not lazy after all. Or, some say, the publishers are testing us, trying to find out if we’re persistent enough to uncover the guidelines and if we are then we can research assignments. I’m not sure I buy either one, but the fact remains, it can be a real headache to locate them.

Then there are those, I swear, that you’ll never find on your own. I’ve spend amazing amounts of time pouring over sites only to be defeated. Either they don't want to put their contact information and guidelines out there on the web or they have a very inept web designer.  Whichever..

So here’s another approach. You can subscribe to writer's market online It’s about $5.99/mo. last time I looked and it’s very handy, online, at-your-fingertips information. If you prefer the actual book you can peruse that at your library or purchase a copy. Amazon usually has it at a good discount. And if you get the Deluxe edition for 2012 you receive a year's free subscription to the online edition which would be worth $72 on it's own.  I'm not pushing it, but it would probably worth your while to plunk down that money and get your own copy.   But, if you're stone broke, the library certainly will have a copy.

Amazon also has the “American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines: More than 1600 Magainze Editors and Book Publishers Explain What they are Looking for From Freelancers” by Stephen Blake Mettee, etc. - I've used it but unfortunately the latest edition is 2006.  You might have to search for a newer edition, if there is one. Or you can check it out at your local library.  A lot of the info would still apply.

Those are the basics. Get out there and start tracking them down. But, as you poise ready to do this, remember:
Do this when you have time to spare, not when trying to beat a deadline. Pressure makes it all the more frustrating.

Bookmark your sources once you find them.
Read the guidelines carefully once you get them and follow them to the letter.

Happy hunting!

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