Posted on May 13th, 2013 | 49 comments
Dear Rachelle, People are always telling me, “You should write a book!” For years I have been ignoring them, but more and more people are telling me that I shouldn’t let my experiences be wasted, that I need to share them because they are not only inspirational, they will make people laugh, make them cry, and entertain them. I’ve finally decided I need to bite the bullet, so I’m starting with you. Can you help me? Signed, Hopeful Memoirist
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I get several query letters each month that begin with some variation of: “For years, all my friends have been telling me I should write a book.” Maybe it’s because of an amazing incident or an inspiring life journey. Maybe you’re funny or have a way with words. Whatever it...
Posted on Feb 11th, 2013 | 76 comments
One of the most common pieces of advice writers are given is: Get outside feedback. Published or not, writers typically show their work to beta readers, critique partners, friends, family members or anyone who will read it, to get feedback before submitting to an editor, agent or publisher. I’m one of those who frequently gives this advice.
But here is a caveat:
All readers are not created equal.
Getting feedback from the wrong readers can be more than simply unhelpful — it can steer you in the wrong direction. Worse, you may not even realize the input you’re receiving is bad. I can’t tell you how many times authors have lamented about the contradictory, unhelpful or confusing feedback they’re getting from readers, only to unpack it and realize they’re...
Posted on Jan 30th, 2013 | 107 comments
We’ve discussed various aspects of writing many times on this blog, including the importance of mastering the craft along with how crucial it is to have a terrific story (or for non-fiction, a strong, compelling topic). Having been an editor for years and an aficionado of both literary and genre fiction, I’ve always advocated the position that “writing craft” is of primary importance. But I wonder if it’s time to change my tune.
Are we entering an era in which the story is the single most important element, and issues of “craft” are secondary if considered at all?
We are seeing:
The rise of self-publishing
Scaled-back editing at many of the major publishing houses
More competition than ever for readers’ attention and time
Could all of this...
Posted on Dec 7th, 2012 | 51 comments
Guest blogger: Richard Mabry, M.D. (@RichardMabry)
I had delivered my latest manuscript to my publisher, and a few weeks later received my revision notes from the editor. I was, to put it mildly, caught off guard.
The notes suggested some pretty big changes. As I read through them, I kept saying, “But that’s not what I had in mind.” I wondered why the editor wanted to rewrite my manuscript. Aren’t I the writer here? Isn’t my name on the book? I wasn’t happy.
But after sitting with it a few more days…
I noticed that my in-house editor, my substantive editor, and my beta reader (yes, my wife) had all made the same suggestion for the opening. Hmm.
I started rewriting, and amazingly enough, it was all coming together. By the time I’d reached...
Posted on Dec 6th, 2012 | 59 comments
A question from a reader on Facebook:
I’ll ask the question that’s been asked a hundred thousand times by writers perhaps at all levels. Outside of selling, how do you know that your work is actually good? You may pitch a book, and it might be good but might not be what an agent likes. So how do you validate that what you are doing is good?
Always a good question! And a tough one. Here are some thoughts:
First, there’s the definition of “good.”
Art and entertainment are completely subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While there are certain standards by which many of us agree to judge worthiness, it’s still not even close to being objective. Organizations routinely give awards to books that would bore the heck out of most readers....