If You Missed the WB Live Chat on Research . . .

Feb. 22, the Write-Brained Network hosted its February live chat.  The topic?  Research in Fiction—What’s Your Process?

The gist . . .

We started by discussing the different methods people use when they need to do research.  We brainstormed a quick list of ways to do research and came up with reading stuff and interviewing pros or specialists. Nothing too groundbreaking there, no?

Then, we talked about the ways in which we go about incorporating research.  Because everyone’s process is different, it was interesting to compare notes.  Some Write-Brainiacs need to have their whole plot frame up before they even attempt doing any research. Others begin writing and leave themselves notes in terms of where they need some research beefing (in other words, get the story down and THEN worry about the nitty gritty). Others still can’t move on to the next sentence if they haven’t done their homework.

RESOURCES

After that, we talked about where people go to get the necessary info:

  • Google.  We agreed that with the Internet, there isn’t really much excuse for getting something wrong these days.  A good, old-fashioned Internet (or library) search can mean all the difference in a lot of cases, so it’s a good thing that’s pretty accessible to pretty much everyone.
  • ProfNet.  I hadn’t heard of this one, but it definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out.  Through PR Newswire, ProfNet is a free database where one can search for info—or (and this is where I was really sold) ask a specific question that one of their 30,000 professionals will answer.  And they’ve got pros in a ton of areas!
  • Google Maps. We got into a little discussion about research and setting—i.e., do you have to have visited the place you’re writing about (if it’s not a fictitious world you’ve created).  Of course, if you’re looking for concrete details, it’s probably better if you’ve been there or at least talked to someone who has been.  However, if you are simply looking for distances of locations, Google Maps is a great tool.

  • Lydia Kang’s Medical Mondays.  For medical research, I pointed to a blog I follow—The Word is My Oyster—by doctor/writer/blogger Lydia Kang.  She has a series she does every where she takes some kind of medical condition and explains it thoroughly for writers looking to incorporate things about it into their work.  If she hasn’t already done a Medical Monday on a subject of your choice, you can write in and she’ll answer your questions in a subsequent post.  For example, today’s question is: “If someone died and was buried in a shallow grave in New England (about an hour northwest of Boston) for nine years, would only a skeleton and clothing be left behind? Or would hair, skin or anything else be left?” Find out the answer here.
  • CSI stuff. We also talked about a few books out there that cops and other investigative types have written—some specifically *for* writers to answer their questions about police procedure where crimes are concerned, etc.  For a while, a few of us thought we were talking about the same book only to find out we were talking about a couple of different books, but in the midst of that convo, someone metioned the Crime Scene Investigator Network Newsletter (which is exactly what it sounds like).

I know this is NCIS, but I just really hate CSI.

ORGANIZATION OF RESEARCH

After all that, we discussed how (and where) to keep everything straight, and, quite frankly, we talked about Scrivener so much they should be endorsing us. 🙂  But some other Scrivener-esque programs out there were mentions as well—two being Evernote and My Novel.

I haven’t tried any of these, but with the glowing reviews from other Write-Brainiacs, I can’t wait to play around with them soon, as I embark on manuscript #3!

All in all, it was an enjoyable hour (two hours for some of us who stuck around after the allotted time!).  I always have a great time chatting live with other WBers.

Want in?  Join us March 22 from 9-10 p.m. EST for our next WB Live Chat!  Topic: Plotters & Pantsers.

In the Blogosphere: 2/12-2/25

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

AGENT STUFF

At RWA nationals in 2010, I attended a fantabulous session with agents of awesome Holly Root and Barbara Poelle, Pocket Books senior editor Abby Zidle, and author Jenny Gardiner, where they reenacted what happens in an acquisitions editorial meeting.  SO eye-opening! Along those same lines, WordServe Literary’s Rachelle Gardner recreates a pub committee meeting here.

Is there such a thing as a fictional memoir?  The Query Shark herself, FinePrint Literary’s Janet Reid answers that question.

PLATFORM & MARKETING

Over at Writer Unboxed, Writer’s Digest and the University of Cincinnati’s Jane Friedman gives tips about using Facebook as a marketing tool—without becoming a nuisance.

And, here, author Jody Hedlund offers seven ways you can market your book—gasp!without the Internet.

VEWY CWAFTY

Here, my favorite Scotsman, Simon C. Larter, says action through dialogue is where it’s at!  And he also calls Shakespeare “Billy Shakes,” which is one of the reasons we’re be-fris.  🙂

But how does one write good dialogue, you ask?  Former agent turned author Nathan Bransford tells you here.

Also, I absolutely love the Sentence Strengthening series on YA HighwayHere’s one on how to more effectively use adjectives and adverbs (or not use them, as the case sometimes is).

Want more strength in your writing?  On Write Anything, Annie Evett lists some weak words to “bin” in her series on self-editing tips.

And here is a fantastic, comprehensive resource with that lists tropes (common storytelling devices or conventions) for . . . just about everything.  You could seriously spend months playing around in there!

HOW-TOS

Need to send a press releaseAngus Shaw over at The Blog Herald tells you how.

And here, agent Natalie Fischer gives some advice on how to avoid making common mistakes in your manuscript.

OTHER STUFF

We’ve all experienced it—perhaps you’re even going through it right now:  The CraziesHere, author Ally Carter talks about The Crazies—what they are, what not to do when you have them, and how to combat them.

I’m sure some of us have learned this the hard way: Taylor Mali’s The The Impotence of Proofreading. Enjoy.

Happy weekend, everyone!  🙂

Change Your Routine, Change Your Writing Style

Two things happened this week that inflamed a writerly itch in me (OK—that doesn’t sound so good, but it’s a good thing—I swear!).

First: Sunday, I attended a meet & greet, where I met (and greeted) a bunch of writers in the Harrisonburg area.  As an icebreaking exercise, we were supposed to write up to 500 words in response to a prompt (the bird).  I ended up writing a short short story that leaned toward—gasp!—suspense.  What??  Completely different from anything I’ve written, well, ever—but it was kind of liberating.

Not that I don’t love YA or plan on changing my genre and writing suspense novels or anything, but it was neat to see what I could come up with in a short amount of time (I did it in about an hour)—and when I’m not the one picking the topic. I got some decent feedback on the piece, too.  Score!

Second: Yesterday, I was forced to break out of my hibernation—there were groceries to be bought, movies to return, shoes to pick up, and a new computer charger to find & purchase.  <—Yeah, that one was pretty important.

So, I’ve been listening to the same few songs lately, and I was looking forward to listening to them again, during all my errand-running.  But when I pulled out my iPod right after I took off, it was dead. Grr.

That was particularly annoying because the ‘burg doesn’t have great radio reception and I don’t yet know the stations very well, but it turned out to be a good thing too.

I flipped around radio stations and heard a lot of songs from my college—and even high school—days.  And, I don’t know about you, but songs almost always take me back to exact places and times, feelings, etc.  Some of the songs I heard (“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, anyone?) yanked memories out of the depths of my brain like a magician pulling a bunch of handkerchiefs through my ear.  (You’re welcome for the visual, bee tee dub).

But these two change-ups in my routine sparked something.  I know it’s not groundbreaking advice, but it’s been a long time since I’ve entertained the idea of a new manuscript (almost a year!), and I’m proof that altering your yoozh can be fodder to your shiny, new ideas because I got a lot of those yesterday.

Anyway, I highly recommend stepping out of that comfort zone.  I know it’s the dead of winter, and it’s nice to wrap up in your robe and settle in to what is comfortable, but if you go out into the cold a bit, you might get some interesting kernels of ideas you never would have gotten!*

*Or frostbite.

Speaking of songs I’ve been listening to over and over (and over) . . .

Stuck in the winter doldrums? Love this song—think the video’s a little creepy**:

**Especially the part where the mom is giving birth and, like, spontaneously combusting.  Nope—not helping me not be afraid of childbirth, Katy Perry!

Pointers from the Pros: Author David Rocklin Talks Visibility & Etiquette

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference on St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers. Author David Rocklin spoke on Friday of the retreat.

His first novel, The Luminist, already in print in Italy (Neri Pozza) and Israel (Kinneret), will make its U.S. debut in the fall of 2011 (Hawthorne).

Rocklin grew up in Chicago and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Literature. After attending law school, he pursued a career as an in-house attorney and continues to serve as a mediator. He currently lives in California with his wife and children.

Here are some key points from his program on “Visibility at All Cost”:

  • It is difficult to see our own writing [for what it is] until someone else sees it. When two, three or four people start pointing out the same thing in your writing, you have to seriously look at what they are telling you.
  • With the many avenues open to publish our work and build platform—such as Twitter, blogs, print-on-demand—as the number of writers rise, so does cynicism.
  • The abundance of publishing outlets give rise to self-destructive traits.  “We have the tendency to say the first draft is good,” he says. “[But] writing is rewriting. The first draft is nothing.” He cautions against putting our work “out there” when it’s not ready to be seen and it is not at the level it needs to be. If the work is not ready, the writer ruins it for the next debut author. The goal should not be speed and quantity. The goal should be about quality; finding that emotional capture.
  • When querying agents, target specific representatives for your work. Let the agent know why you chose him/her. The agents want to know you’ve done your homework. Check the Web site Preditors and Editors.
  • You need a sense of humor. When you put your writing into the world, it’s no longer your work. Pick your battles. Working with publishers, editors and agents is a fantastic learning process.
  • Read your work out loud. That is how you catch mistakes.
  • Read all the time. If you don’t read, you’re not writing.
  • Don’t make writing for a living the chase. Your voice will get lost. Live your life and protect the thing you need to do: write.
  • Our first action is we write because we have to. The choice is to write to make others see our work.
  • Never trash yourself as a writer. Others will, so don’t do it to yourself.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and pr consultant. She is working on a novel to be visible to the world. Visit her Web site and blog.


How to Write Full Time & Stay Sane: Keep a “Worth Saving” E-mail Folder

How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.

With all the heartwrenching horrendous kick-you-in-the-gut stressful days you will undoubtedly experience as a writer, you’re in need of a little pick-me-up from time to time. So . . . when alcohol crying chocolate beagle snuggling exercise doesn’t quite get those endorphins a-flowin’, I have another solution for ya: a “Worth Saving” e-mail folder.

I’ve been keeping one for a while—it’s just an extra e-mail folder where I store e-mails that give me the warm fuzzies.  I’m not talking forwards here—unless that’s your thing—but anything that makes you feel . . . well, good.

Mine isn’t all writing related—many are just convos with friends that make me laugh or smile. It cheers me up to look in there every now and then!  🙂

Even as I’m typing this, I’m like, “Ricki, that is the corniest thing I’ve ever heard—and what’s even worse?  You’re announcing it on the Internet.”  But, when you’re writing full time, you need corny, people.  Deal with it.

So I hold my head up high.  And I keep my inbox (relatively) clear, since my pack rat tendencies of the e-mail variety are stowed away for when I really need them. 🙂

In the Blogosphere: 1/10-2/11

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

I’ve decided just to focus on agents and querying and . . . stuff, since I need to get a jump on WB workshop stuff this weekend.

Hope you enjoy!

AGENTS & QUERYING & STUFF

I jumped back into the query pool this week with my latest YA contemporary manuscript, so this is largely for me.  🙂  Oh yeah—and any of you also at this stage.  Hee.

Many of us have formulated our own lists of “dream agents,” based on stalking meeting some of the industry’s finest at conferences and workshop, reading interviews and blogs, etc.  Here, the Michelle Wolfson-repped rom-com author, Tawna Feske, talks about the downside of dream agents.

See that butterfly net? That's my dream agent. *Creepy much*? You know who you are . . . OK--you prob don't, and that's prob a good thing! 🙂

And, just in case that depresses you, here is another post by Feske, where she shows her agent-catching query.  For a little inspiration!

Agents dishing out query tips online in response to their query inboxes becomes a heated debate around the blogosphere at least twice a year, but I think it’s a valid discussion whenever it pops up.  Here, Heather Trese of See Heather Write asks: Is the #queries hashtag really good?

Querying can be extremely frustrating (understatement much?), and it can lead to writers getting pushed over the edge of good sense and expressing their frustrations in their Tweets or Facebook statuses. Translation: not good.  Here, Bridget Pilloud has the answer—a bitch box, or the Bitchy Comment Receptacle.  You need to bitch?  Pilloud provides a sounding board—and then deletes your comment so no one will see it.  Win-win!

Ever wonder how agents actually evaluate fulls when they request them?  Well, she doesn’t speak for all of agentkind, but Andrea Brown lit agent Mary Kole says she does it like this.

Going to a conference?  Here’s what kt literary’s Kate Schafer Testerman has to say about talking to agents IRL.

I had the distinct pain pleasure of writing my synopsis for my new MS this weekend.  I had *forgotten* about this, the fabulous Shawntelle Madison’s synopsis wizard.  But you should def check it out!

In my editing of MS #2—as well as in the reading of John Green, Maureen Johnson, E. Lockhart, and other YA all-stars, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the “mature voice” in teen fictionHere are amazegent Mary Kole’s thoughts on the subject.

So, confession: I got a Kindle for Christmas . . . and I love it!  Of course, it WILL NOT take the place of holding an actual book in my hands, but I have already found it great for traveling, working out, and it was VERY helpful last weekend, when I needed to read two harder-to-find books for an interview I was doing.  Agent Kristin Nelson agrees in this post, about the power of story—in any medium.

CONGRATS

A special WOO HOO goes out this week to my Twitter soulmate, Cambria Dillon, who signed with literary agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst & Associates!  SO EXCITED FOR YOU, girl!!!!!!!!  *mwah!*

What better way to celebrate than this??

5 Tips on Dealing with Rejection

Since I am in Atlanta visiting friends, a bit swamped with work, and getting ready to start querying, I thought I’d post this oldie but goodie from my “How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane” series.  Enjoy!

How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.

Staying sane is something I’ll admit I haven’t been doing very well the past week or so.  Although I’ve had some exciting successes in that time (sold my first piece to a magazine, landed another gig teaching a summer workshop), I’ve also received my first few query rejections for my manuscript.  Because of this, I have assembled some tips as well as links from industry professionals to help you deal with this agonizing process.

Now, no one is more self-deprecating than I—nor will you find more of a realist (although, some might use the term “pessimist”)—so I’ve mentally prepared for this time of literary limbo.  In fact, more than one writer and loved one has scolded me for referring to the query process as “the rejection process” before I’d even received one.  But I can’t help it: I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised than sorely disappointed.

Which are you?

But even with that in mind, and even if you get the nicest, most personalized rejection (and I’ve gotten two of those so far), rejection still sucks.

You know getting rejections is normal; you know how subjective this is; you know how pertinent finding the right agent is; you know you must locate someone who falls head over heels for your work; you recognize how tedious of a task that’s going to be . . .

. . . but you also know you’ve put tens of thousands of hours into the writing and editing of this thing, and you’re doing the most vulnerable thing you’ve ever done by sending it out into the world—and then someone doesn’t want it for whatever reason.

So, yeah, rejection sucks no matter how ready you are for it.

HOW TO DEAL

Tip #1: File It & Forget It

In a recent Write-Brained Network LIVE CHAT, a friend of mine—whose manuscript has been rejected 28 times—said that every time he gets a rejection, he files it and moves on to something else.

That’s great advice.  And if you can do that, more power to ya.  I think the more seasoned you become in this business and the more irons you have on the fire, your skin can definitely thicken—but we’re not all there yet.

As well, I am lucky enough to be able to do this full time, and believe me: news of my first story getting accepted to a Virginia magazine alleviated some of my “I’m-going-to-die-hopeless-and-penniless-and-20-lbs.-over-weight” (Thank you, Stuart Smalley) attitude. However, I fully realize that many of you reading this have day jobs.  The only thing you’ve got cooking is your manuscript, and you don’t have time to distract yourself with other writing endeavors.

So, although filing and forgetting might sound good on paper (or on screen, as it were), I realize it’s easier said than done.  Which brings me to . . .

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – and doggone it, people like me.

Tip #2: Send to a Friend

During the writing and editing process, we are discouraged from showing our work to loved ones because so many amateurs make the mistake of thinking that if their mother or spouse loves the book, it’s bound to be a New York Times bestseller.

Along that same vein, I am not suggesting you appeal to family and friends for a critique of your manuscript, but now is the time to revel in their bias toward loving it.  Print out a few copies and send them to your biggest fans.

While it’s gut-wrenching (no matter whose eyes scan your pages), if you include a close circle—those who’ve been rooting for you all along (your buddy from work, who always asks about your progress; your parents, who are eager to see what you’ve been doing all this time, etc.)—you are sure to get rave reviews.

As long as you take their glowing assessments for what they are and don’t let them cloud your realistic attitude toward the query process and the publishing industry, this praise can be just the ticket to convince you not to jump.

After all, regardless of whether or not your book will ever get any agent to want it, regardless if the book is even publishable, remember: completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. You deserve to have someone stroke your ego a bit.

Your manuscript is GRRRRRRREAT!

CONFUSION

When my first rejection rolled in, I scoured every resource I knew to figure out how to respond.

First of all, don’t get me wrong: I know you aren’t supposed to respond.

But the rejection was not just a personalized version of a form rejection letter.  As well, a YA author friend of mine had given me a referral to this agent because she represented said YA author friend, and the agent had mentioned our mutual acquaintance in the e-mail, so it wasn’t as though this was a cold query.

While I knew not responding at all would have been perfectly acceptable, and while I wasn’t going to lash out at the woman, I went back and forth about sending a “thank you.”

Agents are flooded with e-mail daily, and many are quite vocal on their blogs and on Twitter about not wasting their time, but in doing a little research, I found several well-known agents with conflicting information.  (Wait, agents don’t all agree on everything??)

HOW TO DEAL (AGAIN)

Tip #3: Seek Professional Help

When in doubt, turn to the rejecters themselves—agents and editors.  Many have blogs and other Web sites dedicated to everything from their personal preferences to typical response times.

Here, former Curtis Brown Ltd. agent Nathan Bransford lists acceptable etiquette for rejection follow-up.

For a different perspective, see this post by former agent, Penguin Group’s Colleen Lindsay on what not to do after a rejection.

Over on her blog, FinePrint Literary’s Janet ReidMadame Query Shark herself!—describes how to cut down on your anguish over unanswered queries by making sure you haven’t sent something that isn’t a query.

Tip #4: Gain Some Perspective

Once you’ve gotten a few rejections and you’re feeling like a hack, it’s important to put it in perspective and remind yourself that it’s normal.

Rabbit or duck?

On her blog at QueryTracker, YA author Mary Lindsey discusses how to handle rejection at arm’s length.  Her article is good on its own, but Lindsey references Hal Spacejock series author Simon Haynes’s post, “Rejection of the Literary Kind,” which is also worth a read.

As well, on his Web site, sci-fi writer, photographer and Web designer Jeremiah Tolbert offers an editor’s perspective on rejection.

To round out this area, over at Streetdirectory.com, award-winning romance and nonfiction author Dana Girard categorizes rejection into seven levels and suggests ways you can decode what each kind of rejection means in terms of your manuscript.

Tip #5: Commiserate

For those days when you feel like you’re the only person who sucks this bad, check out the following sites for a little misery-loves-company.

Want some company?

At Absolute Write Water Cooler, you can find several conversation threads where people share their rejections stories, but here’s a link to one where some poor schlubs compete for who got rejected the fastest. Can you beat 30 seconds?

If you’re looking for a gold mine in terms of rejection, bitterness and hilarity, check out Literary Rejections on Display.  The person running the blog—Writer, Rejected—actually says in the About Me profile, “I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction—but whatever. In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject.” Writer, Rejected posts his/her own rejection letters (as well as rejection letters sent in by others) and analyzes them—in a sane and fair way (usually).  There are several good posts, so definitely make time to poke around in the blog, but here is an example of a rejection analysis.

And here’s a cranky little rant by freelancer Chris Rodell titled “Reject Me, Please” over at his Media Bistro blog.  If you’re especially pissed off and cynical, this is the post for you.

PEP TALK

This last post (from Nathan Bransford’s blog by guest blogger Jon Gibbs) isn’t directly about getting rejection letters, but it discusses how we reject ourselves at times—how we make excuses for why we can’t do this and that.

Use this when you’re in need of a little pep talk, and it’s sure to snap you back to a state of sanity.

If you’re seeing the old lady, you definitely need a pep talk.