Reading and writing is what it's all about - Peggy Bechko, author of traditionally published romances, westerns, optioned screenplays and an Ebook for young and new writers, OUT OF THIN AIR available on Kindle, Nook and more invites you along on her writer's and reader's journey .
Find insights for readers into the writing life, helps for writers, my writing updates, helpful web links for writers and fun links for readers that I uncover along the way.
It’s easy to talk about craft and grammar and
spelling and all the little how-tos and don’t-dos when thinking about and
discussing writing. And it’s easy to skip over the more simple things a writer
needs to keep in mind or do or both. The more general concepts you kind of have
to get into your head and keep there.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A writer
has to read and write – a lot. You have to love it. You have to pretty much
think about it when you’re not doing it. You must do both. The more you write
the better you write. The more you read the better you write. If you read some
bad writing it’s a great lesson in what not to do. Great writing gives you
great tips on what you should do. Quite simply they go hand in hand. If you don’t
have time to read then forget the writing.
And speaking of the writing, presuming you do write,
then you really need to make a habit of writing if you want to make it a
success. Write every day (well not EVERY day, you can take a vacation though I
frequently find myself jotting notes on vacation and I know my niece, CorinnaBechko, a writer of comic books and her husband Gabriel Hardman writer and
illustrator work out plots while on road trips).
In any event, create a schedule that works for you
and stick to it. If you love to write in the depths of the night, do that. If
you’re a parent and need to write when the kids are asleep or at school, then
do that. But whatever time you choose I highly recommend you create a goal, how
many words and/or how many hours you’re going to work uninterrupted and stick
to it. Seriously, do it every day (well except for that vacation…maybe).
Now here’s a controversial thought, a sort of an
overview. Do you as a writer need writing courses or seminars or
workshops? The real answer is I don’t
know. I don’t, never have.
Everyone is different and here are some things to
think about. Is a classroom really a place for serious writing? You can’t close
a door and write uninterrupted. You are probably writing something you’ve been
told to write or on a subject or in a genre you’ve been instructed to write in.
It isn’t coming from YOU.
Also, do you really need a degree to tell you you’re
a writer? Or a name tag from a well-known retreat or workshop? If you write you’re
a writer; that’s all she wrote!
The good things about writer’s workshops,
conferences, etc, is being with like-minded people. Folks who don’t think you’re
mildly insane for your desire to write books.
And taking classes to understand grammar and get
your spelling brushed up isn’t a bad idea if you’re rusty or just never learned
much in the school system.
There are some written courses I’ve seen that have
some value, give some good instructional tips, web links to good sites, but
those are a separate issue from the collective workshops, conferences and
attending in person writing classes.
All in all I’d have to say I’m not big on those.
They usually cost a lot of money, eat up a whole bunch of time and critiques I’ve
seen aren’t generally to the point, perhaps for fear of hurting someone’s
So I’d say know your
language so you can know what rules you’re breaking and focus in on you and
your writing and a space, whether large or small where you can be alone with it
lessons that have been learned having been a writer over the course of
years. So, I thought I’d share some of
them with fellow writers and at the same time give readers a glimpse into the
thing. A writing life is a great life. BUT, some additional planning needs to
go in to it above and beyond what working at say an office or a store or
another profession might require. I
mean, stuff happens.
And, when it
happens, you’re a self-employed indie with few resources other than the ones
you’ve prepared and planned on. If you’re
‘laid off’, i.e. can’t get a writing gig at the moment, you don’t have
unemployment. You also no doubt don’t have health insurance. Some writers take
the route of having an outside job for money as well as benefits, but if you
are exclusively an Indie, welllll….. you need to plan for the down times.
Save as much
as you can. This can be tough because many Indie writers whether published by major houses or self-published,
live pretty much on subsistence level income. Keep a file on resources that can
help such as organizations you might belong to that offer assistance for
artists/writers in distress. Those same organizations such as The Freelancer’sUnion, The Author’s Guild (if you live in the right
state and qualify to be in the Guild), Romance Writers of America and other writers’ and independent
workers’ associations offer avenues to pursue health insurance at a cost you
might actually be able to afford because in our country we don’t have the good
sense to have universal health care available. Of course there are usually
membership dues that have to be met, but not always.
Do you have
family that might help out in an emergency? I wouldn’t make a habit of that,
but in extremis, it’s good to know.
writing and yourself seriously. You’re not just a creative, you’re a business
person. You’re going to have to learn to read contracts, negotiate and
generally keep track of what’s going on in the industry (aka writing/publishing
world). Yes you can have an agent who negotiates contracts for you, but I hope
you aren’t reading those things blind and are actually taking time to
understand the language. And that’s IF you have an agent. If you’re Indie to
the bone, doing it all yourself, then
you’re going to have to learn or you’re really going to get shafted
somewhere along the road.
lesson I’ve learned is never throw any of my creative work away. Rewriting a story written years earlier, one
you just didn’t have the skill to do justice to at that time, can be an
unexpected boon. And that doesn’t count cannibalization. Maybe that old story
stinks, but some of the characters were great or the setting was perfect for a
new story idea. Think about it, work with it. Don’t throw past work away,
especially now that it can be saved on disc!
another lesson. Give your readers something to think about. Don’t give them all
the answers. Now, by that I don’t mean leave your story hanging, but rather
leave a little something behind that gets them to ask questions that might not
have occurred before. Something to remember you by. Something that niggles
enough that they want to read what you write next.
You all probably already know about auto correct on Word and may well sometimes swear at it, but come visit Gary Corby's blog, specifically the post Auto Correct Is Your Friend, and get some great tips on how to use it effectively for writers. Anybody who reads or writes will be interested in this since it gives some great tips - the rest of his site is fun as well!
If you write a lot and along side of that, read a lot, then
you’ve no doubt heard the screams of the
publishing industry – “the sky is falling, the sky is falling…” And, “it’s the
end of the world as we know it!” Ebooks, digital, Indie publishers, oh my!
Yep, it is, well, for some, but we as writers need to connect with that even if
many big New York publishing houses aren’t and recognize the new blooming opportunities. The publishing industry
can appear to be an out-of-touch unstable mess with policies of granting silly,
over-bloated advances to ‘high brow’ writers who generally sell very few books.
Meanwhile readers are looking for entertainment and/or information. So the
publishing industry on some levels is failing, but in other areas, there’s
great potential. Read on.
Think about this. If
there’s so few ‘dedicated’ readers, and the number is dropping all the time as many
big publishing houses will tell us, then myohmy, how are they paying the rent
on all those posh Manhattan offices?
So, what’s really
suffering in the publishing biz? Mostly Literary Fiction. Have you ever been to
any of the book shows and seen the lines for writers such as Danielle Steele,
Stephen King, or other icon of ‘entertainment’ fiction? Those lines wind round
and round and never seem to get any shorter. Publishers are doing pretty good
on that one.
So, from the writer’s
viewpoint, don’t buy 'the sky is falling philosophy' and don’t worry. Quietly
watch what people buy at bookstores or check out Amazon to see what’s
‘bestselling’. Readers in the real world decide what they want, not a
publishers in New York or wherever. And those readers want a lot. I recently
spotted a patron in a bookstore check out with a copy of “Idiot’s Guide to
Screenwriting”, a craft magazine on beading, a copy of “The Husband” by Dean
Koontz and a paranormal romance by Christine Feehan. So, looks like readers
really aren’t locked into the “same ol, same ol” after all. Wish I could peek
over the shoulder of a reader purchasing books online to see what they’re
getting.More research would be needed
It’s time for writers
to find more venues and to explore more markets. It’s up to us to rearrange the
publishing business in the model we want to see. And even while we do that,
check out the most current listings of Publishing Houses in the United States.
It’s staggering. And it includes the monoliths as well as the independents.
Monoliths are slow to move, but keep your eye on the more nimble independents.
They’re the more creative in business models, innovation and marketing.
Big publishing is
slowly beginning to think beyond the book – flat, bound, nice and useful. Okay,
yep, and no. The web is the newest outlet and the E-book market is growing by
leaps and bounds; but I bet you know that already! Self-publishing for niche
markets is growing quickly as well. Look into them, research, don’t limit
Don’t corner yourself
to one field of writing either if you have the capacity. Love fiction? Me too.
But I also write articles, grant requests, have taught online courses and on
the ground courses. I’ve written travel articles, how to articles, and
biographies, screen scripts, blogs and magazine articles. Broaden your
abilities as much as you can. The publishing industry can’t sustain itself as
only ‘print’ and so it’s making content digitized, downloadable, and yes,
there’ll still be a place for the hard copy book.
Change is already upon
us and more is coming. You, as the writer, must recognize this reality and
forge your new path. Mix your career, write in different areas, of course
approach the print publishers if that’s where you want to place your work, but
don’t rule out other avenues as well. E-publishing, self-publishing, publishing
with independents; all of these are now open doors to writers. And a bit of research will glean you even more opportunities to
build your own empire.
Remember, the future
of publishing is not technology or free samples. The future is about giving
readers what they want and there have never been so many opportunities to do
so. As a reader I currently read from my Kindle Fire, my computer and hard copy books. So I suggest you enjoy what you write and don’t limit yourself to any one possibility –
there are many and for now it just seems to be growing.
Okay, the truth hurts. The fact
is no matter how good a writer you are, no matter how persistent and devoted to
your writing, you’re going to receive rejections.
Probably a lot of them over time.
Naturally every writer would like
to have all his or her writing recognized for the incredible gems that they are
and published forthwith, but here’s where reality intrudes: it ain’t gonna
happen. Even if your writing is perfect in every way, a gem, polished to
sparkling perfection (yeah, like that’s going to happen) it might not be to an
editor’s taste or the editor could be having a bad day and not like anything coming
across the desk, or a lowly reader wouldn’t pass it on to said editor.
So, what to do?
How to avoid becoming depressed,
frustrated, and one of those writers who fall by the wayside and give up?
First, remember a few simple
facts. Agents and editors are swamped with submissions by dabblers, those who
pursue writing for amusement and not as their life’s work. This can be good news
for the serious writer who’ll find the more professionally he or she approaches
an agency or publisher, the more seriously a submission will be taken.
Secondly, the bad news is
established agents get over one hundred submissions a week. Top publishers who
still accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from writers are equally buried.
Good news from the perspective of the professionally minded aspiring writer is
more than ninety percent of the submissions received aren’t worth looking at
twice. Make sure your writing is in the 10% category.
Consider how many writers (read
dabblers) put out sloppy work filled with errors; typos, grammatical, or form.
Others don’t give a thought to whom they are submitting.
Whether to an agent or a
publisher, it’s the writer’s responsibility to know to whom he or she is
talking. Know if the publisher publishes the kind of story you are submitting.
Know if the agent handles the type of book you are proposing. If you send a
science fiction book proposal to a publisher of romance novels you can be
certain that proposal will be in the trash can or zapped off email within
moments. Don’t go thinking your work is somehow magical and when you submit a
romance to a western publisher (assuming it isn’t a western romance) that it
will somehow slip through and be published. Same thing with an agent.
If you mail a query or proposal
to several places at once, personalize each one. If they figure you’ve mailed
your submission to every agent or publisher in the known universe that, too,
will land your submission in the trash heap. Even if you DO submit to every
agent and publisher in the known (and perhaps undiscovered) universe they don’t
have to know that so take that extra moment and don’t give them reason to
If you do your job right, if you
research and rewrite until you know to whom you’re sending your writing and
you know it is the best that it can be, then you’ll find you’re not competing
with all those hundreds of writing submissions, but rather with only perhaps the ten
percent who comport themselves as professionals.
So, you’re doing everything
You’re still going to get
rejections. Expect it. Simply put, the chance that what you write will be
exactly what any single editor or agent is looking for today is usually very
small. Remember, even big-name writers get rejections. Comforting, huh?
take it personally. Perhaps your piece just wasn’t the right thing for that
publication at that time. Perhaps they have something similar in the works.
Perhaps that particular editor is going through a very nasty divorce, is
drinking heavily and nothing would look good to him/her. It isn’t necessarily a
rejection of YOU, nor is it a put down on your writing abilities.
a thick skin, ride it out and when you receive a rejection think of it as an
opportunity. Send out a new query immediately. If it is a novel, send it to a
new publisher or agent for consideration. If it’s an article, send a new query
to the editor from whom you’ve just received the rejection, then tweak the original and send that out to
a new editor.
and did I mention don't call an editor or agent to argue how they're wrong
about rejecting your article, novel, script or whatever. Won't help, will only
Need more inspiration?Here are a couple more links