Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Great Resource

Duotrope’s Digest is a website that can be an author’s best friend! A couple of years ago, I received some great advice from an editor. His name was Patrick LoBrutto, and he told me that if I wanted to break into the horror market with my writing, I should consider writing and publishing some short stories to start getting my name out there. And I did

But what I discovered was that when you write short stories, you then have to find markets to submit them to. So I bought one of those really thick books that has about a thousand listings for places to send your story; you know the one. After scouring over it for hours, I had a list of about five places to send my stories. It was a start, but not a very good one.

So next I did a search on the Internet and one of the markets I found said that they supported Duotrope’s Digest, so I went and checked it out. And boy am I glad I did. It’s a database of over 2000 markets for fiction and poetry. It’s searchable, and if you sign up, it even has a submission tracker you can use to keep track of where your stories are. I love it!

And it’s free. They do ask for a donation, and I happily send them a few bucks a couple of times a year. It’s a lot cheaper – and better – than that thick book that I don’t have to buy anymore!

You can find Duotrope’s Digest at You can find out more about the author of this article at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on Querying

Since Mary Ann started it, I'll add my two cents on the dreaded act of querying.

On Fridays I set myself a goal of querying five agents for the YA project I recently finished. (Well, abandoned is the proper term. Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." And writing is art, right?)

On the Fridays when I actually succeed in getting five whole queries out, it's my project for the whole day. I don my anti-sensitivity-to-rejection armor, as writer friend and fellow Guppy Donna Glaser/Gracie Daniels recently called it, and pound them queries out. I have a long list of agents I've gathered over months and, let's face it, years. But I still have to check each one to see if he or she is still at the same agency, or even still agenting. I've also gathered some research sites that I'd like to share with anyone in the query-go-round game.

I joined, an excellent place to keep track of the queries and also to research. QueryTracker brings up agents by genre, by whether they accept email or snail mail queries, and other criteria. Other user leave helpful notes and there are stats on reply times, percentage of requests for further material, etc. I like this site so much I joined as a Premium member, which gives me a few more bells and whistles, but it gives you a lot for free, too.

When seriously querying, it might be worthwhile to pay to join
A free month is offered occasionally and you can get a lot of research done in a month. Another ploy for using this site is to google publishersmarketplace and the agent's name. This will tell you how many recent deals the agent has made, although you can't see them without joining.

The water cooler at can yield results. You have to register to post, but anyone can read comments on particular agents. This site can be searched: This site,, charges for searches, but I don't know anyone who has found them extremely helpful. There is also a free service available. It's a good idea to check an agent at to see if there are negatives posted. If you're open to a British agent, try

And, of course, google and yahoo searches should be done. I've found interviews doing this which give me some insight into how to write the kiss-up line, I mean add the personal touch in the query letter.

The thing you need most when querying, after the thick skin for the rejections, is PERSISTENCE.

PS. One I left off: Great site!

(Next week I'll post my Magic Number Theory.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Rejection Fairy

The other night I had a dream. I was dressed in a pink tutu, and my hair was sticking straight up in blonde and purple spikes. In one hand I held a magic wand whose tip sputtered off and on like a fuse about to go. The other hand gripped a letter that began with the words: Dear Author, I’m sorry for the form nature of this letter…

My heart was beating like crazy and there was a burning smell coming from my magic wand. I looked closer at the side of the wand and saw a red button lit up on the side indicating that the battery was low. And then it went out completely.

I suppose the dream was really about the frustration of being rejected. The wand is my creativity about to fizzle out due to the overwhelming depression I sometimes feel at the number of rejections piling up on my desk. Don’t misunderstand me—I’m not in the Bell Jar or anything, but I do feel that sense of darkness rising up when I think about sending out one more query letter, or even one more story to be processed by an agent or editor. Having been in the game for a while, I understand very well how the process works. Sometimes your stuff lands on another person’s desk or inbox at just the right moment and the magic happens. You get a yes! But more often than not…well, let’s just say the rejection fairy comes to visit. And stays and stays and stays…

However, I guess I should tell you about the rest of the dream. I gave the wand a shake and the battery light came on full. I tapped it against the form rejection letter and watched the paper fly though the air into my trashcan. I sat down at my computer, and in a blaze of furious typing that I can never simulate in real life, I wrote the most amazing piece of prose. Too bad I can’t remember it.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that rejection is the nature of the beast and when confronted with it, we must turn ourselves in to our own rejection fairy and reject the rejection. How do we do this? Well, everyone has their own technique and there are dozens of books and articles on the web about this problem. Personally, I find that taking a break for a few days or going back through my files and finding a story that I’d forgotten about helps. Sometimes taking the break or turning your attention to something else helps you get back on track. Talking about it with loved ones is great, too. Spouses, parents, siblings—they know how to make you feel better (or worse depending on who your siblings are). I get a lot of strength and inspiration from my fellow writers, too. If you don’t have a writing group or know any other writers, get off your duff and find some! Talk about a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through—other writers love to talk about their misery. (Why else would I be writing this article?) You’ll find out soon enough you are not alone.

So if the rejection fairy knocks at your door with a form letter, embrace her or him (whatever you’re in to) and invite them in. Read the letter, experience the disappointment, and then take their magic wand and beat them senseless. Reject the rejection and keep on writing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Giving A Great Interview

We all dream of the day when our book is published and everyone wants to learn more about us and our amazing genius. What many people don't think about, however, is how to be a great interviewee. Being a great guest not only helps sell books, but it helps you to establish and build a reputation. Here are a few tips so you don't send the wrong message.
  • Keep it short and sweet: Most media, whether for print, radio, or television, etc. have a limited amount of space and air time allotted for each item. Be respectful and keep your answers brief.
  • Develop your talking points: Though questions may vary from interview to interview, there will be some basic questions asked over and over again (e.g. what is your book about, why did you start writing, what advice do you have for writers, etc.). So, develop a few key talking points that you can easily integrate into every interview.
  • Dress professionally: The majority of a person's impression of you is formulated before you even open your mouth. To make the best first impression, dress like you care about the interview.
  • Tempo: Speak quickly enough to finish your talking point, but don't speak so fast no one can understand you. Take deep breaths, and listen to yourself speak to avoid motormouth syndrome.
  • Be gracious: Especially if you are a first time author don't continually correct the host or editor, don't constantly nag, and by all means say thank you!
Overall, being polite, brief, and professional will take you far with the media. And remain to prepare beforehand so you can work in all of your talking points and sell more books!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Art of Revision Workshop by Carol Dawson

I just attended the first of three workshops with Carol Dawson entitled "The Art of Revision: Self-Edit Your Way to a Better Manuscript". Editing advice and even professional editing help is something that I have been needing, no, something I have been craving for almost a year now. It is very difficult to find those willing to sacrifice the time to help you with your book. Friends and family members generally have their own lives to live. On top of that, they may not care to read the genre you are writing your work in so will get easily bored or offer you feedback that is not helpful. Other authors are as difficult if not more so to receive useful feedback from. Too many times they are very busy (understandably so) with their own work and are seeking the same type of feedback.

It was important for me to say all that in order for you to understand me when I say that finding a class like Ms. Dawson's is a gem. She is educated, witty, well traveled, well read, and knows her stuff. Today we were introduced to a really essential hard-core editing mindset and it helped me a great deal. I took a lot more notes than I ever expected to and am very glad I took a copy of one of my my manuscripts along. There are two more classes (3 hours each) and I am looking forward to both of them. Resources like this cannot be underestimated. If you can find the opportunity to attend Ms. Dawson's classes, do so. If you can't, then create the opportunity. Your writing will be the better for it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Write a Novel in 30 Days!

No Plot? No Problem! is the companion that every author should have who participates in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an event that happens each November. If you’re going to try to write a novel in a month, you will need a guide, and this book is that guide.

The subtitle self-describes the book as “A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days,” and it is! The book is broken down into two sections. The first section describes what to expect and I recommend that you read it prior to November 1st. The second section explains what is happening to you and your writing, week-by-week. There is a chapter for each of the four weeks and I recommend you read these as close as you can to the week it’s describing. It gives you some great advice on how to overcome the fear and doubt that are certain to crop up. There’s also a final chapter once you’ve completed the month with suggestions about how to go on with your life.

Make no mistake, writing a novel in a month is a daunting task, but Baty takes you through it step-by-step. It’s an awesome experience and one I plan on repeating this November. And before I do, I’ll be reading No Plot? No Problem! once again. I recommend the experience and I highly recommend the book.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Great Writing Workshop

I recently attended the Fall 2009 Writing Workshop that was put on by the Houston Writers Guild and held September 12th. It was a great experience and one that I’d like to repeat in the future.

The workshop was conducted by David Liss, a renowned author of mystery and historical thrillers, who has been making his living by writing for over 10 years. He as five books published with more on the way. He also teaches writing seminars and workshops.

David started off witty and funny, making the experience immediately enjoyable, but it wasn’t just fluff. There was a lot of depth to what he had to say. He started off with three points that really resonated with me. For example, he started off with the statement that Plot is Character! Characters should be foremost in mind when writing. A story isn’t about what happens. It’s about what happens to whom. That one tidbit was enough to justify the cost of the workshop for me, but he didn’t stop there. He went on to talk about how to begin a story, how to end a story, and he even debunked a lot of myths along the way.

His discussion on writing was passionate and poignant. He truly has a love for writing and he has learned a lot about the craft over the years. And best of all, it was apparent that he loved sharing that knowledge with us. I have to give David and the Houston Writers Guild 5 stars for this workshop!

The Houston Writers Guild conducts Spring and Fall workshops, as well has manuscript contests and many other events throughout the year. You can find out more about them or any of their upcoming workshops by visiting their website at You can visit David Liss’s website at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Real Story

I was asked recently for some help. The woman who asked, I'll call her Hildegarde, wants to write a book. She's decided she needs to tell the story of her brother, who, she suspects was connected with some sort of mafia and was probably killed by them. From what Hildy said, he did die of poison and might have been murdered. She only has sketchy ideas of what happened, though.

I asked her what she considered doing with the book after she'd written it, thinking I could steer her to self-publication and that would make her happy. The woman is in her 70s and has never written anything!

Hildegarde said she wants to get her brother's story out there, but doesn't want to give it to just any publisher, to someone who might twist her words around. There was also an offer to split the profits fifty-fifty.

Much as I hated to do it, I had to let her know that publishers were not going to line up to publish the biography. That it would be a difficult and lengthy process to find anyone to do it. And those profits? I let her know that a typical mystery author who gets a three book deal with a major NY publishing house will receive a whopping $5000 or so right off the bat. A little more a year or so later. Royalties if the stars align and you market the heck out of it.

Two facts that so many non-writers are so unaware of: (1) It's not easy to get a book published. (2) You won't get rich even if you should succeed, unless some very rare and unusual things happen for you.

She still wants to go ahead with it. I asked her how much she had done. She has 3 or 4 pages written. We'll see!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Everyone Has a Novel in Them

At least that’s what they say. And the National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo for short – is a great way to get it out of your head and onto paper. Well, maybe into the computer. It happens for the entire month of November each and every year.

They’ve defined a novel as 50,000 words, a nice round number. It comes out to 1,667 words a day. That comes out to about 2 hours a day, give or take. To give you an idea, Catcher in the Rye and Brave New Worlds both come out to about 50,000 words. It’s a little short for a novel, but it’s also quite a commitment to write that much in a month. Believe me. But the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line at the end is indescribable.

NaNoWriMo started several years ago as a bar bet between five or six friends…and they were stupid enough to go through with it! Now it’s not just national, it’s an international event! Thousands of people around the world kiss their families goodbye for the month and lose themselves in another world. There is an entire support community built around those brave and foolhardy enough to attempt it.

And the good news is, there are no losers. Suppose you’re only able to write 12,000 words, or 20,000 words, or 2,000 words. That’s great! It’s still an accomplishment to be proud of! But even though there are no losers, there are winners. Every year, thousands of people make it to the finish line to proudly claim the bragging rights of having completed a novel in 30 days! If they can do it, then so can you!

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, you can check out the website at There is also a companion book written by Chris Baty, one of the founders of NaNoWriMo. The book is called, appropriately, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

World Building – An Approach to Speculative Writing

World building. The very words seem epic…and daunting. However, the process is really a lot of fun.

This approach to writing consists of constructing a world before ever beginning the first novel that will take place within that world. In game design we often use this method because we need to know the scope of a game world due to limited resources. Memory and processor speed of the game platform (X-box, Wii, PC, etc.) are major factors that limit the proportions of worlds and therefore the story contained within them. I found that, while my resources for writing are limited only by my imagination, the approach still works as a type of outline for my novels.

Building a world allows us, as authors, to set rules for ourselves similar to the way an outline may work for others. Our project stays within manageable boundaries but provides versatility that a rigid outline just cannot accommodate. Think of the worlds we have read and loved and wanted to take part in: Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Brooks’s Four Lands or Landover, or Lucas’s Star Wars Galaxy. For those privileged enough to be able to write in these beloved universes, the work of world building is done and they happily write within their boundaries.

For those of us who use the world building approach, though, we dare to become the next Tolkien, Brooks, or Lucas endeavoring to evoke love for our worlds as much as these masters have summoned that love for theirs in us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All things hyphen

Below is a previously published article about the thrill of hyphens. It's from a few years ago, but hyphens don't go out of style, although their use morphs, as you will see below.

Word Play by Kaye George

I recently purchased both the Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook, two books I’ve needed for years. I flipped open to the section on hyphens and was thrilled to find that the Chicago book has nine pages devoted to the topic of “Compounds and Hyphenation.” The AP takes a no-nonsense approach and lists, outright, that one should use hyphens
whenever ambiguity might otherwise result,
for compound modifiers,
for two-thought compounds,
for compound proper nouns and adjectives,
for prefixes and suffixes,
to avoid duplicated vowels,
with numbers,
for suspensive hyphenation (this means the up- and down-stairs).

I don’t think my husband understood my elation at all the hyphen information. A wordsmith can’t get enough about punctuation, though. At least, this one can’t.

When in doubt, Chicago suggests first looking in the dictionary to make the choice of whether to (a) use two words, (b) hyphenate, or (c) close up as a single word. (The reader has by now noticed that I prefer to use serial commas.)

There are three possibilities for compound words: an open compound (two separate words used together), a hyphenated word, or a closed compound (two words made into a single word). The natural trend in the evolution of a compound word is from open to hyphenated to closed. An interesting concept.

This is fun to play around with (which). I took the advice of looking in the dictionary for some direction. Mine is Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. There are, of course, newer ones, but this one still seems to serve me well. Here’s some of what I found out. Let’s go top-down – a high-middle-low approach.

A topknot might make a person feel top-heavy, if it’s a top-notch topknot at the topmost point of the head. And if the topmost grade in class is top-notch, and can also be top drawer.

Does this mean the words “topmost” and “topnotch” are more fully evolved? Poor old “top drawer” has a ways to go.

Sailing seems pretty settled in, as far as evolution goes. One goes topside to operate a topsail. Closed compound words all around here.

Fire is less settled. At least torches are. A torchlight can illuminate a torch singer singing a torch song. A torchbearer can also do this.

A person can drink a high-ball on a highballing train with a bunch from high school. These are all nouns, all at different stages of putting-together-ness.

All references that I’ve found to “high school” are to an open compound. But what is the third story of a three-story school? If I say the room is located on the high school floor, do I mean this is the floor of the building that houses the high school? Or is it the topmost floor of the three-story middle school? (Okay, that phrase should rate an “akw” comment and I should reword it. The floor that houses the high school should be the high-school floor, I think, even though the adjective high-school doesn’t appear in my dictionary.)

Similarly, if I’m reading about a high school student, is this a student attending high school or a buzzed middle schooler?

All right (or alright), we’re already all ready to move down a notch.

The British possess a half crown, but we Americans use half-dollars, unless we’re paying with a half eagle (if we can find any). Also in England, although half crowns are legitimate, a halfpenny product can be purchased with a half sovereign.

In both countries one can see half-hearty plants that were raised by halfhearted gardeners.

And, by the way, that topsail can also be at half-mast.

The middle class is a middle-class group of people. That at least obeys a rule for hyphenating the adjective and separating the noun, however loose a rule that may be.

But the middleman needs to speak to middle management about his middle-of-the-road products.

Now we can move on down.

The lowdown on the lowborn brings us to the lower class. A lowlander, consistently, lives in the lowland.

The bottom-line is that this is a bottomless topic.

I’m looking forward to investigating night and day, hot and cold, or maybe even after and before. Then I’ll find another topic in my new style manuals.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Social Media Kicks Ass

That's right, you heard me. Social media kicks ass. Any writer who is on the fence about joining the social media craze needs to get off the bench and join the bandwagon. Time and time again networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin have helped me locate important resources and information, markets for my work, industry contacts, and promote myself as a writer. Each technology is designed to be as user friendly as possible and since most of them allow you to post on multiple sites simultaneously, the process has become even simpler. There are just a few things to keep in mind.
  1. Manage your time: Establish a set time limit either daily or weekly for social media and then shut off. That means ignoring updates, avoiding polls and useless applications, and focusing more of your time on doing what you do best --writing!!!
  2. Remember its a public forum: Don't end up blacklisted because you bad mouthed an industry professional and please avoid the realm of TMI--Too Much Information. We don't want to hear it.
  3. Do be personal: Show some personality, engage in dialogue with followers and fans, and show that you are human and your network will grow.
  4. Do join groups: Groups allow you to network with several people related to your industry. The Writers' League of Texas, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other groups have a social media presence and are always open to new members.
Whatever you do, don't wait! It's important for your platform and for getting you out into the world as a writer. Your work means nothing if no one knows about it. Go promote!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves

A Writer’s Book of Days is a book that should be on every writer’s bookshelf. Written by Judy Reeves, it’s a resource that any writer can use, whether you’re a novice or a professional. It can help you develop a writing practice or get over a writer’s block. Whether you’re working on your great American novel or in between projects, you will find A Writer’s Book of Days a useful addition to your library.

This book provides wonderful daily prompts for writing exercises. The examples are fresh and compelling, providing stimulating prompts to work from. I like to set the alarm on my iPod for twenty minutes and I write whatever the prompt spurs me to.

Not only does the book provide outstanding writing prompts, Reeves also give us food for thought. Each month she has a series of short articles on a variety of topics that any author would find interesting and inspiring. She has sections on writing habits, writing practices, and writing skills. Her September section alone has enough to keep me thinking for years.

As I write this review, I’m looking over at my own copy of A Writer’s Book of Days. I’ve had it for about three years now. I have one of those Post-it® tabs marking the page for this week’s commentary, entitled “Clichés and Other Bad Habits”. I’ve already read this section several times, and I’m sure I’ll read it several more times before I finally retire this book. It’s always good to refresh the things I should know as a writer. It’s also good to refresh things this writer forgets. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves. I think you’ll find it worth your time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Welcome to All Things Writing! This is a blog that will cover nearly everything you could possible think of when you think of writing; from grammar to writing markets to professional organizations. And everything in between.

This blog is the brain child of the Central Texas Writing Group and is a group project. The articles you’ll find here will be fairly short, but full of information that will be useful to anyone who is considering a writing career. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new writer or a seasoned author, you will find useful information here and we hope you will check back frequently.

Feel free to look around. We hope you’ll bookmark this page and we’ll see you again soon!