Writer Tips & Tools

Manuscript Submission Obsession

Posted by on Feb 5, 2015 in Writer Tips & Tools, Writing Inspiration | 6 comments

Manuscript Submission Obsession

In spite of all my efforts to let go of a specific outcome and let things fall where they will, especially when I can’t control the outcome, I still get a little obsessive when a manuscript first goes out on submission. Such was the case last week when my agent sent out not only a brand new picture book manuscript, but also a board book manuscript that has gone through several transformations. It was with one editor exclusively for two weeks and we just sent it out wider to other editors. When I knew the manuscripts were out, I went through my new ritual of visualizing them landing in In Boxes, sending with them fun, positive, you’re-gonna-love-this vibes topped with a large dollop of gratitude. I felt all the anticipation of a new adventure beginning and felt happy all day. And I felt happy the next day, because I kept thinking about them. But on the third day, I was still thinking about them, but the fun, happy feeling has been replaced with a ridiculous impatience and a crazy inner dialogue that goes something like this: Crazy Inner Dialogue Has this editor opened it yet? Has that editor taken a peek at the content? The board book is only 78 words. You can read that so fast you should have read it by now and gotten back to us! What? You have a zillion other emails, fifty thousand meetings to attend, and contracted books in various stages of development that have your attention? Oh, and not to mention that you usually share a manuscript you like more widely and then if it passes muster, you need to take it to an acquisitions meeting and try to sell it to everyone else, like sales and marketing? Can’t you do that in a few days? My manuscript is so adorable–and short. Did I mention short? How to Silence Crazy Inner Dialogue Luckily, experience has taught me that this obsession lasts anywhere from 3-10 days—I’m now at a week and the submissions are only occasionally on my radar. First, I do understand the incredible workload of editors so I go back to that big dollop of gratitude I sent out last week. Yes, it’s their job to read manuscripts, but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for the opportunity. I’m also grateful for the ideas and think back to how much fun I had writing and revising them and guess what? I’m back to feeling happy and excited. And then I move on to Part Two of silencing the crazy inner dialogue: I sink into another project I’m excited about. Right now that would be Fade Away, the novel that’s taking forever the time it needs to develop and let me know what it is truly about. But it’s moving along and I set some deadlines for myself that is making the experience feel real and valuable. Obsess and then forget—that’s the best way for me to handle it. But maybe I’ll check my email one more time to see if there’s anything from my agent… Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Slow Down, Recharge

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Writer Tips & Tools, Writing Inspiration | 0 comments

Slow Down, Recharge

As winter takes hold, the familiar desire to cocoon envelopes me. I like nothing better than to curl up with some hot chocolate or tea (I don’t drink coffee, but love the smell) and either read or write. There’s something about that whole winter hibernation thing that’s appealing, but I wonder if I can truly take advantage of it. Can I allow things to slow down so I can rest, take stock, and move more slowly so I have time to explore, think, and enjoy? The arrival of the holidays pushes us in the opposite direction with its feelings of frenzy–decorating, buying, wrapping, mailing. But I’ve realized that I really do have a choice when it comes to jumping on the tilt-a-whirl or stepping back and letting it whirl without me. Here are some of the more mindful things I’m planning to do this holiday season: Think of the people as I buy their gifts and list all the things I love about them Do the same when I wrap gifts Call them “gifts” and not “presents” because gift carries gratitude and appreciation with it for me Dance–often, with or without other people Write Read Laugh Listen Eat things that aren’t “good” for me, but that taste good and feel okay about it What about you? Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Running with Feedback (not scissors)

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Writer Tips & Tools, Writing Inspiration | 2 comments

Running with Feedback (not scissors)

One of the most fun and valuable parts of what we do in the Picture Book workshop at Lighthouse Writers Workshop is manuscript critiques. Yesterday afternoon I was absolutely delighted to see the transformation of two manuscripts we had had the honor and pleasure of reading and critiquing previously. It got me thinking about the importance of not just hearing/receiving feedback, but also having the ability to process it and apply it to your work. This is a skill that writers who wish to reach a professional level will develop over time–our willingness to accept feedback and our ability to synthesize it and revise our work is an invaluable and necessary part of working with editors and even agents who offer editorial feedback. Not that you have to make every change suggested, but having the ability to do so–and to come up with something even better–will take us far as writers. Here are some tips for getting the most out of the feedback you receive: Make sure you understand the feedback and how it connects to your story. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or examples. This is probably the single most challenging aspect. If you don’t understand the feedback and how to apply it to your manuscript, it’s worthless to you. If someone says “This character isn’t doing anything, I don’t think you need her,” what does that mean? Do you understand how every character should have a purpose in your story? That you can test this by taking the character out to see if it affects the story? Let all of it simmer for at least a week if you can, even the feedback that sounds “way off” initially. Don’t discount anything in the early stage, but don’t think you have to incorporate everything you hear either. On the other hand, if an idea you received excites you and begins to spark ideas, run with it! If you’ve let it simmer, review all the comments again and see which ones resonate the most. Note them. Do some brainstorming. Don’t be afraid to start over, try a new voice or format, or tell the story from another character’s point of view. Study books similar to yours and try to find examples of the feedback you received. How did they handle dialogue? Putting us in scene? Give us a peek inside a character with effective internal dialogue (mostly for novels)? What are some of the things you do with feedback (besides set it on fire? :-))? Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Friday Focus: Packrat Writing

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Writer Tips & Tools | 0 comments

Friday Focus: Packrat Writing

I’m a packrat. Not as bad as some of the folks on those reality TV shows I’ve heard about, but it’s hard for me to throw something away, “just in case” I need it or because “it’s perfectly good.” (I’m getting better about giving away things that are perfectly good that I no longer need, though, so hooray!). This carries into my writing, where I save snippets of dialogue, scenes, and entire versions “just in case.” And thank goodness! Time and again I’ve gone back to a previous version and pulled something out to use in the current version. However, I have to confess to also saving versions and snippets even after a book is published. Why? I’m sure there’s some deep psychological reason, but on the surface I have no idea. But then when I was building my website before my first book came out, a light bulb blinked on–deleted scenes! I love watching those on some of the movie DVDs I have, so I thought maybe some readers would be interested. And those were fun to put together as well as read all the different directions I was taking a story at the time. And now I’m starting to consider ancillary short stories related to my novels to offer as e-shorts so I’m still hanging on to some of the docs in case there is something in there I can “re-purpose.” Still, after I had my sister/webmaster convert some old WordPerfect docs to Word, she pointed out some redundancies and got a chuckle out of my packrat ways. So then I asked myself: When is it really, truly time to say good-bye to something? And my answer was: When it’s very similar to what I already have When I have a strong feeling I won’t need it When I know i can write something better and revising the old stuff would take longer than starting fresh. The last one really struck me because I’m a much better writer now than I was even a few years ago and I’ll keep getting better. Why not trust myself to write something even better rather than holding on to these old versions “just in case?” It does mean going through a lot of documents–unless I just wanted to select, close my eyes, and press DELETE (which I’m not sure I can do, even if that might be the best way)–but how great that would be–like a document spring cleaning! Ahhhh. Just thinking about it feels like a load lifting… Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Friday Focus: Pitfalls of Revising as You Go

Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 in Novels, Writer Tips & Tools | 0 comments

You have the pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants) and outliners. I fall mostly into the first camp, but tried to do more outlining for this current novel. For me, one of the things that goes along with being a pantser  is a desire to fix things as you go. Revise a sentence here, a paragraph there, and keep going. On first read this might sound like a good idea. Get the early stuff polished and ready to go so when it’s done, you can just send it out. Wouldn’t that be nice. The reality for me is that much of the story I revised along the way ends up getting revised again (sometimes heavily) because the ending and its subsequent revelations mean lots of scenes need to change. This is probably the habit I’m working hardest to adjust and it’s not easy. But when I remind myself that things are going to change so I should just keep going, I’m always happier when I heed my own advice. And if I come up with a scene I absolutely love and am not sure it will fit with the final version, I jot some notes in a separate document or may even create a new document in Scrivener and label it accordingly. I don’t want to lose these gems, but I don’t want to be bogged down by them either. So I try to just keep going reminding myself not to mess with a sentence, phrase or paragraph right now–unless there’s a problem you have to handle. Instead, encourage forward motion–in your intention and your actions. Are you a pantser or an outliner or something else altogether? What are the advantages and pitfalls you associate with your writing style? Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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3 Tips for Dealing with “Declines”

Posted by on Oct 16, 2013 in Writer Tips & Tools | 2 comments

My friend and colleague, the funny and talented Claudia Mills, uses the word “decline” instead of the dreaded “R” word – “rejection.” Both my former and current agents use the word “pass” as in “They passed on it.” Both “decline” and “pass” are softer, more palatable words and describe exactly what occurred–the published declined or passed on the manuscript. “Rejection” can imply “I don’t want it.” The fact is, someone there may have loved it, but for a multitude of reasons, the publishing house as a whole couldn’t take it on. Here are ways I deal with the “decline”: STAY EXCITED. I’m ALWAYS working on something I’m excited or passionate about or that makes me feel good and happy to be alive. Most of the time this is another manuscript, every so often it’s something outside my writing world, like doing something else creative (like the BURRITO stop-motion video I talked about last week), helping a friend, etc. POSITIVE SELF-TALK. I work to detach myself from the decline, reminding myself that knowing where it doesn’t belong can be just as important as knowing where it does. When I feel confident about a manuscript (as opposed to wishing or hoping it will get accepted), I can move fairly quickly to “That wasn’t the place for it and I can’t wait to find out where it lands!” COMMISERATING WITH MY PEEPS. If neither of the above is working, I go out to my writer friends, who will, without fail, remind me of (a) how good the manuscript is, (b) how crazy that publisher was to turn it down and (c) they are confident it will find a home. That is usually enough to get me to #2, which leads me back to #1. What strategies do you use to handle a pass on your manuscript? Food? Drink? Darts? Share! Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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