Living in Paradox

Living in Paradox Last week I wrote a post about following your passion as a writer, versus trying to write what the market wants. I concluded that it’s a false dichotomy—you need to to both. It’s not easy living in two worlds, and it got me thinking of all the ways writers and publishing professionals have to live with the tension of being pulled in two directions.   It’s almost paradoxical, the way we need to embody characteristics that seem diametrically opposed to one another. But maybe if we acknowledge the conflicts and contradictory requirements, we’ll be better able to navigate them with aplomb and without frustration. Here are a few ways in which we writing/publishing types function in the midst of paradox.    1. We are at once creatives and business...
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Why Can’t I Find Your Email Addy?

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-ZwSG6RE0tkk/TXJIpxFsToI/AAAAAAAAEac/Fmv2i8SeTwA/s320/top+secret.jpg I do not understand why so many writers have websites and/or blogs, but do not have their email address or a “contact me” link easily visible. It’s a frequent source of frustration for me. Why would you even bother putting yourself out there without giving people a way to contact you? There are two circumstances in which I come up against this: (1) I’m following links to various websites/blogs, find something I like and become interested in talking to the writer about whether they’d ever like to be published, whether they have an agent, etc… and there’s no email address. I’m supposed to leave a comment on your blog? Not exactly professional. (2) I want to respond privately to a comment someone has left on my blog, rather...
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Action is Character

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WYg72_O14KM/TWGhmmUgalI/AAAAAAAAEZs/WO5ioxjEkG4/s320/unmasked+woman.jpg Advice from Hollywood, part 3 In real life, it’s not what a person says that shows us who they are. It’s what they do. The content of a person’s character is revealed in action and behavior. Who a person says they are, or thinks they are, doesn’t necessarily reflect their true character. In screenwriting, the challenge is to show a character in action, and have their actions reveal to the audience what kind of person they are—what’s important to them, what they want, what they love, and what they hate. You don’t want characters telling each other (and the audience) who they are. We have to see it. Likewise, novelists need to allow their characters to show us who they are through their actions and behavior, rather than “tell” us who they are through narrative. One of...
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Nobody Knows Anything

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MCmVxGvWVpc/TWFSwmT19AI/AAAAAAAAEZk/2YdO3KyQk7o/s200/Goldman.jpg Advice from Hollywood, part 1 Back in the early ‘90s I was an L.A. girl working in television and writing screenplays on the side. Every single Saturday morning our screenwriting group would meet at my home (50 feet off the beach—it was a rough life) and critique our weekly ten pages in excruciating detail. We took classes together, read the great screenwriting books, and studied the art of screenwriting in such depth that you’d think we’d all be making millions in Hollywood by now. Well, not so much. Each of us went on to different careers. But the things I learned from those years of studying the art of the screenplay have stuck with me and been instrumental in my understanding of story, and my ability to (I hope) recognize good ones. So it’s...
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Advice for Writers Getting Started

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/b06e32819dfb420f120026b85cfef7de.jpg Like all agents and many published authors, I frequently receive emails with questions from writers. Sometimes they’re specific questions about the business, but often they’re sweeping and general, like: How do I get published? I have several templates I use to answer people’s questions, but I’m getting bored of my same old answers. So help me out here. What’s your single best piece of advice for the person at the beginning of the journey to pursue publishing? Have a terrific weekend! © 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent Be Sociable, Share! ...
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Heard it Through the Grapevine

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SyhyeXIy-FI/AAAAAAAADUA/KD_11HoCONM/s320/telephone-game-300x300.jpg (Repost)I’ve been extra busy lately, what with all the holiday activities, and I haven’t been preparing my blogs in advance like I normally do. So yesterday I was sitting at my desk pondering the 177 emails in my box, and the manuscripts that needed reading, and the proposals I’m preparing for submissions, and amidst all that I began to wonder what the heck I was going to blog about today. Right about then the phone rang and it was a client needing help with an issue. She was a bit, shall we say, freaked out. So I listened to her venting for a while and then I was quiet for a moment, and then I said, “I’m so glad you called because now I know what to blog about tomorrow.” (My client totally appreciated her problem being reduced to blog fodder.) So what...
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Writing Under a (Supertight) Deadline

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/1c42835b247be924682cd4076654589f.jpg Guest Blogger: Erin MacPhersonI had always been under the impression that once I got a book deal, I’d have months to write, polish and pizzazz my book before my editor got his or her hands on it. It seemed reasonable for a non-fiction writer – after all, the book was contracted on the basis of a proposal and three sample chapters. I was wrong. I got my book deal on February 10th, 2010—and my publisher wanted to see a complete manuscript by May 1st, 2010. I’m sure you can do the math, but just to make it easy on you, that’s two-and-a-half months. Eleven weeks. 79 days. Certainly not the read-and-re-read, carefully-analyze-every-word situation I was expecting. But it meant my book could be released sooner, only 13 months after I got the offer. That’s a good...
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A Few Hints on Twitter

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/c869ce06f864a4dda3231645b73d1a3a.jpg By now most people either know how to use Twitter, or they hate the whole idea of it and have sworn to never go over to the dark side. Wherever you stand, I’m not going to try to change your mind. But if you’re using Twitter, I have a couple of helpful hints, based on things I’ve seen lately. 1. If I see one more Twitter update that says “New blog post!” I think I will throw my laptop across the room. Please don’t do this. It sounds as if you assume we were all just sitting around waiting for you to update your blog, and now, thank heavens you’ve put up a new post so I can go over there and read it immediately. That’s not the impression you want to make. Are you a writer? If so, be a writer even in your Twitter updates. If you want to send...
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The Tools of Your Trade

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/1cb480e6216341c43600731fe0219158.jpg Since you’re reading this blog, I assume you’re probably pretty good at knowing your way around the computer. This is a very good thing! It’s vitally important that you’re comfortable with technology. You should also know that the standard program used by publishers in working with manuscripts is Microsoft Word. I don’t want to hear complaints about how MS is an evil giant trying to take over the world – if you’re going to work with traditional publishers, it’s best that you’re comfortable with Word. If you’re using an alternate word processing program, make sure it interfaces seamlessly with Word. These days, many agents and editors will edit your manuscript in your Word doc, and they’ll use two functions: Track Changes and Comments. (I’ve been editing...
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Your Questions, My Answers

Okay, here are more questions I’ve received lately. I’ll warn you right now, my answers are NOT FUNNY. They are, in fact, boring. Sorry. JR Beasley said:I have queried multiple agents. One agent has requested a full manuscript and three others are reviewing partials. When offered representation by an agent, what is the proper protocol regarding the other agents? First, congrats! That’s a terrific situation in which to find yourself. When you’re offered representation and other agents have requested partials, send them each an email to let them know and give them an opportunity to respond before accepting representation from the first agent. Exception: If the agent who offers representation is ME, just say yes and forget the rest. Missives From Suburbia...
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Your Questions Sweetly Answered

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TGthh1ri9dI/AAAAAAAAEBk/OGQ9CVmTLe4/s200/questions.jpg Kati Patrianoceu asked…Do you get tired of writing about the same things on your blog over and over? Do you enjoy writing dozens of blogs about good-and-bad-queries, or does it drive you nuts?I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like…who am I kidding? It drives me nuts. Steven Till asked…Does getting your book on the front table in a bookstore have something to do with how much a publisher will pay for that spot? I’ve always heard that’s valuable real estate, and publishers compete for those spots to promote their titles. That’s an urban legend. Books are chosen for the front table based solely on how well they...
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Stuff You Pay For

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TDvrT8TWxZI/AAAAAAAAD-M/IjROq_eqMQk/s200/cash.jpg A client of mine was reading over his contract with a Big Six publisher and he emailed me wondering, If my book needs an index, do I really have to pay for it myself? “Yep.” And how much would it cost? “Depends, but most likely in the neighborhood of $500 to $1200. Don’t worry, the publisher will front the cost and take it out of your royalties.” And that got us started discussing “author costs” – about which most writers are blissfully unaware. So let’s talk about those for a minute. Yes, the index is, believe it or not, the author’s responsibility. You can hire a professional indexer or DIY (but it’s specialized and tedious work, so I wouldn’t recommend it). In addition to that, it’s the author’s...
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How to Become a Better Writer:

11 Completely Non-Writing-Related Ideas 1. Be creative any way you can. Cook new recipes. Paint a picture. Design a garden. Compose a song. Build something with Legos. Organize the garage. 2. Pay attention. Observe the mannerisms of people around you. Listen to how they speak. Marvel at the way they’re dressed. Notice their shoes and their posture and the look in their eye. 3. Be an armchair shrink. Analyze people’s behavior. Ask yourself how their actions reveal their character. Wonder about their motivations. Scrutinize the dynamics of relationships. Drive your spouse and kids crazy. 4. Live life with passion. Do the things on your bucket list. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Climb a mountain. Jump out of a plane. Serve soup at a shelter. Dine in a restaurant alone. 5....
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Writing a Series

(Today’s peek into my mailbox.) Dear Rachelle, I’ve been writing a series of novels, and have completed six books. My question is: How do I go about submitting a series? I have a query that describes the series an includes an excerpt from each book. Would this be the correct way to present the series? Or should I just send a query for the first book in the series? Signed, Prolific *** Dear Prolific, Congratulations on finishing so many books. Definitely a great accomplishment! Most professionals in the industry would advise you to write only the first book in the series, or maybe the first two, then perhaps leave the others in outline or synopsis stage. The problem is that if you don’t sell the first one, you may not be able to sell any of the others unless they can...
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