By W. Terry Whalin
Let me begin with good news. Every writer can learn the skill of handling the details. Some of us are only focused on the big picture with our writing. We are determined to complete a particular book or magazine article and writing on it every day to meet this goal. Yet the craft of your words and storytelling is important. Are you sending it to the right editor? Are you using the correct spelling of that editor's name? The details matter.
A while ago, I purchased all of the remaining copies of Book Proposals That Sell. With over 130 Five Star reviews and great feedback about this book over the years, I know it has helped many writers to succeed in the world of publishing—no matter what type of book you write. I wrote this book from my passion as a frustrated acquisitions editor to help writers send better submissions. If you don't have a copy, it has never been so inexpensive and available only from me. Follow the link to learn more details.
As a part of this effort, I purchased a website, wrote the words for that website, created special bonuses and have been telling others about this effort through emails, articles and twitter. In the process of setting up this launch, I created five emails on autoresponders. These autoresponders contained the bonus items for those who purchased the book.
During this creation process, I received an email from one of these people who purchased Book Proposals That Sell. He had not received these bonus item emails. The email clued me that something was wrong some place in the process. I investigated my shopping cart and learned that I neglected to click one button in one place. From working with computers for years, I've learned one simple truth: the computer only does what you tell it to do. I had skipped one important detail and no one got their bonus items. Talk about embarrassing! To straighten it out, one by one, I sent all five bonus items via email to each individual. Now that my shopping cart is fixed, the process of sending these bonuses is automated.
There are several lessons for you from my experience:
1. The details are essential. As writers, you ignore them at your own peril. Your submissions will not hit the target nor get results if you do not work at the details.
2. Listen to your audience. When they tell you something, spring into action or make adjustments.
3. Deliver on your promises. Your word and integrity are important. And if something goes wrong, apologize (everyone is human) and then fix it as soon as possible.
4. Work hard to maintain and keep your relationships. Years ago, I heard John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book say, “Selling books is all about building relationships.” See the truth in this statement?
Whatever you are writing or promoting, the relationship is critical and the details of your writing life are important.
W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing and the author of more than 60 books including Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success (available exclusively through this website with bonuses even though this book has over 130 Five Star Amazon reviews). He blogs about The Writing Life and lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers.
Why are the details of your writing life important? Here's four practical lessons. (ClickToTweet)
Your one sentence pitch is a very condensed, super-tight yet concise description of your story, specifically the plot of your story. Think of it as a one sentence calling card – you’re unique selling proposal or proposition. It's a beginning step on your book marketing journey.
You might ask why does it have to be only one sentence. Well, it may happen that the time you have to pitch your manuscript is under a minute.
Suppose you’re at a conference and happen to get on the elevator at the end of the day with a frazzled publisher or agent. You want that very short span of pitching time to be as effective as you can make it, without annoying or further frazzling your target.
It may be the only opportunity you’ll have for a direct, although very brief, uninterrupted pitch.
This is where the one sentence pitch come in.
The one sentence pitch, also known as a logline, takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. You need to condense your entire manuscript into one sentence. Within that sentence you need to harness the soul of your story (the plot) in a simple, concise, and hooking pitch.
The general writing consensus is to do your best and create one sentence that tells what your story is about.
Once you have it nailed, expand it into a few more, adding only the most important aspects of the story.
This expanded version is considered your elevator pitch. And, it's an excellent practice for tight writing.
This way you’ll have two different versions of a micro pitch. It’s important to always be prepared – you never know when or where you may come upon an unsuspecting publisher or agent . . . maybe you’ll have a few seconds, maybe you’ll have 3 minutes.
EXAMPLES OF ONE SENTENCE PITCHES:
From Nathan Bransford (1)
Three kids trade a corndog (FLAVOR OF THE STORY) for a spaceship, blast off into space (OPENING CONFLICT), accidentally break the universe (OBSTACLE), and have to find their way back home (QUEST).
From Writer’s Digest (2)
NOT: “A burning skyscraper threatens the lives of thousands, including a pregnant woman trapped on the top floor.”
INSTEAD: “A former firefighter, fired for insubordination, races to save the lives of thousands of people in a burning skyscraper, including his pregnant wife.”
From Madeline Smoot (3):
The Emerald Tablet — In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.
From Janice Hardy (4)
A meek bank teller discovers a magical ancient mask that unleashes his deepest desires — and gives him superhuman abilities to act on them. (The Mask)
And, here’s my own one sentence pitch for my children’s fantasy chapter book. The 39 word version hooked a contract with a publisher:
Twelve-year-old Wang decides he’ll be rich and powerful if he can become a mystical Eternal; but after a year of hard work as an apprentice, and very little magic, he quits, but not before learning to walk through walls.
Obviously, if you have a scheduled pitch you will need to adhere to the publisher or agent’s rules as to the word count. But, even if nothing is scheduled, it’s a good idea to have that logline on hand for that you-never-know moment.
Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
Check out the DIY Page and don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter that has great monthly writing and book marketing tips.
And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.
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Contributed by Valerie Allen
Writers are always striving to be successful . . . to hone their craft.
Well to be successful, every writer needs to be aware of the most common standards in the publishing industry.
Here are some basic rules for clear text and easy reading:
1. Use a word processing program. You may enjoy the kinetic energy that comes from hand written work, but ultimately your manuscript must be in a word processing document to meet publication standards.
2. Use one inch margins on all sides; justify text. Chapter headings are typically centered.
3. Use 12 point type, simple fonts. Times New Roman is universally accepted but sometimes titles or chapter headings are done in a different font to add interest or focus attention for the reader.
4. Use one space at the end of a sentence. When typewriters were popular the rule was two periods at the end of the sentence due to differing sizes of letters.
5. Dialogue requires quotation marks.
(“Where are you?”)
6. Start a new paragraph with each different speaker. This is especially important when there are more than two speakers.
7. Keep the speaker’s action and dialogue in the same paragraph.
(“What are you doing?” Valerie asked, as she entered the kitchen.)
8. Use subject verb sentence structure.
(USE: “This is important,” Valerie said.)
(NOT: “This is important,” said Valerie.)
9. For time sequence use both words: and then.
(USE: She picked up a pen, and then wrote a note.)
(NOT: She picked up the pen, then wrote a note.)
10. Punctuation marks go inside quotation marks.
(“Here I am,” Valerie said. “Where are you?”)
11. An apostrophe replaces a missing letter (goin’, don’t. 'tis)
12. Use italics for internal thoughts of the characters.
(USE: That nasty old women!)
(NOT: That nasty old women!, Valerie thought.)
13. Limit the use of exclamation points (!) and dashes (-)
14. Use only one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.
(USE: “You did what?”)
(NOT: “You did what?!!!”)
15. Avoid clichés.
16. Avoid over-use of fillers in your sentences: that, very, just, really, maybe, perhaps, got
17. Consider if a character is “asking” or “telling.”
(USE: “What time is it?,” Valerie asked.)
(NOT: “What time is it?,” Valerie said.)
Follow these basic rules to have your work appear professional and appeal to editors, agents, and publishers as well as to your readers.
Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. Amazon.com/author/valerieallen. She assists writers with marketing via AuthorsForAuthors.com. She hosts two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com
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If you're a writer, creating a wide network of other professional writers will enhance your own career.
You'll be able to share information and other resources with people who all have at least one thing in common—they love to write.
Here are 21 ways to broaden your professional network.
1. Join listservs and online forums for writers.
Here are a few to try:
Absolute Writer Water Cooler
This forum welcome writers of all genres.
It is a well-moderated community and very active.
Writers Digest Forum
This forum is from the publishers of Writer’s Digest Magazine.
You’ll find all sorts of writing related topics covered in this active forum for writers.
Opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in their craft.
Writers can also participate in forum competitions.
2. Join social networking sites such as twitter, facebook, linkedin, and jacketflap.com.
The key to these sites is you should be an active member and not just someone who reads the posts of other writers.
Reading and then sharing the posts of other writers on these social media sites helps these writers get to know you, and they will usually start sharing your posts with their followers, too.
3. Visit other writers' blogs and leave a meaningful comment along with a link to your writer's blog or website.
I welcome helpful comments at www.writebythesea.com, for example.
And I like to return the favor by visiting the sites of everyone who comments at my site and leaving a comment.
Over time, this is a great way to add other writers to your professional network.
4. Host an Internet radio show for writers.
There are many Internet Radio networks.
Listen to some of the shows on various networks before you decide to start your own show.
You'll find shows at:
5. Sign up for online writers' workshops.
You’ll find all sorts of online workshops for writers.
Check out sites like writersdigest.com, Wow! Women on Writing, and even my site, WritebytheSea for lists of upcoming or ongoing workshops you might enjoy and learn from.
6. Start your own blog for writers.
Note, however that a blog for readers should be somewhat different from a blog for writers.
Visit several blogs for writers and see what type of content these sites tend to post.
7. Start your own networking group for writers.
You can do this either online or offline.
Meetup.com is a good place to go online to help get an in-person writer’s group started.
It does cost something each month to have your group on the meetup.com site, however.
But simply charge a $3.00 or so fee at each meeting and you should be able to more than cover the monthly meetup.com charge.
8. Host other writers on virtual book tours.
If you have a new book to promote, you can take turns hosting each other’s blog tours.
9. Guest post on other writers' blogs.
If you follow my blog at writebythesea.com or read my Morning Nudge, you know that guest blogging is something I’m helping my clients and readers focus on right now.
That’s because guest blogging is not only a great way to network with other writers, it’s a great way to build your own creadibility and online visiblity as a writer.
10. Start a free newsletter for writers.
I started The Morning Nudge in 2006, and have been publishing this free email every weekday morning since then.
It gives me a great way to connect with other writers, many of whom turn into clients and customers as well as good friends.
Why not start your own newsletter for writers?
You don't have to publish it as often as my Morning Nudge.
Just once a month would be good to start.
11. Teach online workshops for writers or start your own offline workshops for writers.
I’ve been teaching online workshops for years.
Recently I added offline workshops here on the Treasure Coast in Florida where I live.
It’s always fun to connect with writers all across the planet via online workshops, but it’s also fun meeting people face-to-face each week at an offline venue.
12. Host your own teleseminar series for writers.
You can even charge for this.
You’ll need some sort of service so you can reach many callers at once.
13. Use articles from other writers on your site(s) that you find on online directories such as www.ezinearticles.com.
The authors of these articles will drive traffic to your site if they know you're featuring one of their articles there.
And you can start networking with these authors on a regular basis once you've featured one or more of their articles on your site.
14. Became a guest on Internet Radio Shows about writing.
To find radio shows for this, check out http://www.radioguestlist.com
15. Start a mailing list so you can stay in regular contact with other writers who join your list.
You don't need a newsletter to start a mailing list.
Simply send out an email "broadcast" each time you post something new to your blog.
Everyone on your list will get this email and many will go to your site to read your new post there.
When they do, if they leave comments, you'll know who they are, so you can make a point of visiting their sites and commenting, too.
16. Create a coaching program to coach other writers.
What is your area of writing expertise?
Use your knowledge and expertise to not only network with other writers but to profit from it as well.
You'll be able to reach out to writers everywhere with something that can really help them.
17. Interview other writers and post the interviews at your site.
You can do written interviews, audio interviews, or even videos that feature interviews.
18. Form joint ventures with other writers.
You can turn those interviews into audios you sell to other writers, for example.
You can also help other writers set up teleseminars or create online workshops, which you promote jointly and both profit from.
19. Introduce writers you know to each other (via email, for example).
I've met many professional writers this way.
Some of them even gave me tips for finding assignments, including editors names, etc.
20. Start a blogchain or meme for writers.
This is a good way for a group of writers to grow their online following.
With a blog chain, everyone in the chain tries to visit all the blogs on the chain and leave a comment.
Each blog in the chain also includes a link to the next blog on the chain, so it's a great way to increase your following.
You'll meet all sorts of writers when you either create your own blogchain for writers or you join someone else's chain.
21. Sign up for other writers' online newsletters.
You'll get some great writing tips and other resources. You'll also get to know more about these writers, so eventually you'll know who to approach for joint ventures, etc.
Now...I'm sure you have additional ways you network with other writers.
Care to share?
Just leave a comment to let everyone know how you network with other writers.
She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.
Learn more about her books and her coaching services at www.writebythesea.com and sign up for her free email, The Morning Nudge, with tips and resources for writers delivered to your mailbox every weekday morning.
Intent is a crucial factor in success. But, what exactly does this mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, intent is an aim, a clear and “formulated or planned intention.” It is a purpose, “the act or fact of intending.”
Intent is a necessary factor on any path to success, including your path to writing success. You need to know what you want, what you’re striving for. And, that knowledge has to be clearly defined.
An unclear destination or goal is similar to being on a path that has very low hanging branches, an assortment of rocks that may hinder your forward movement, uneven and rugged terrain, branches and even logs strewn across the road; you get the idea. You kind of step over the debris, look around or through the branches, you don’t have a clear view of where you’re going.
A clear-cut goal is akin to walking on a smooth and clear path. No goal related obstacles to hinder your forward momentum or vision.
But, let me add to the sentence above, while intent is crucial, it’s an active and passionate pursuit of your intent that will actually allow you to achieve success. It reminds me of a passage in the Bible at James 24:26, “Faith without works is dead.”
While the intent is there, if you don’t actively take the needed steps to get from A to B, walk-the-walk, rather than just talk-the-talk, you’ll never reach your goal.
To realize your intent, it would be beneficial for you to create a list of questions and statements outlining the specifics to that intent.
A few of questions you might include are:
- What is your ultimate success goal?
- What does the obtainment of your goal mean?
- After picturing it, what does success look like to you?
- How will you reach your goal?
So, how would you answer these questions?
As a writer, perhaps your goal is to write for one or two major magazines. Maybe you’d prefer to be published in a number of smaller magazines. Possibly you want to author a book a year and have them published by traditional publishing houses. Or, maybe you want to self-publish your own books at a faster or slower pace.
Maybe success to you is to make a comfortable living, or you may be very happy with simply supplementing your income. Maybe you want to be a professional, sought after ghostwriter or copywriter. Maybe you want to be a coach, a speaker, offer workshops, or present teleseminars. These are just some of the potential goals for a writer.
Whatever your vision of success is, you need to see it clearly, write it down (it’d be a good idea to also create a vision board), and take the necessary steps to get you where you want to be.
If you find you have a realistic success vision, and are taking the necessary steps to achieve your envisioned intent, at least you think you are, but you still can’t seem to reach the goal, then perhaps your efforts aren’t narrowly focused enough. Maybe your success vision is too broad.
Wanting to be a writer is a noble endeavor, but it’s a very broad target. There are so many niches within the writing arena that if you don’t focus on one or two in particular, you’ll be known as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’
Try narrowing down, fine tuning your goal. Remember, it’s essential to be specific and focused.
It might be to your advantage to create success steps that continually move you forward on the path to reaching your ultimate goal.
For someone new to writing, the first step on a writing career would be to learn the craft of writing.
You might give yourself a year or two to join writing groups, take advantage of writing workshops or classes, write for article directories, or create stories.
You should also be part of at least one critique group. This would be your first step to achieving your intent, your success vision.
Instead of trying to go directly from A to B, it might be more effective to go from A to A1 to A2 to A3 . . . to B. But, again, for each step, the intent, a clear-cut vision, and the driving passion all need to be front and center.
Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
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Is Series Writing for You?
Whenever someone asks me how to get unstuck - and believe me, I get this question a lot - my immediate response is journaling.
Whenever someone asks me how to improve their writing, I tell them to start journaling.
Whenever someone asks me how to develop a new idea, I say - you guessed it - journaling.
The concept of journaling typically conjures memories of a tiny book, which harbors your deepest thoughts and secrets, and is locked up with a small key. However, whether you call it journaling, brainstorming, or free-writing, the process of getting words out of your head and onto the page can be cathartic, practice, or solve any number of problems.
Here's how to use journaling to improve your writing, as well as your quality of life.
For example, let's say you don't know what you want your character to do next. Put yourself in your character's shoes and start journaling from their point of view. This will help you take a deeper dive into their background ... and enable them (your characters) to give you a suitable direction.
Let's say you are having trouble with your outline. Journal several scenarios, set them aside, and look at them fresh the next day.
Stream-of-consciousness writing, whether it's as the author of the character, can help you solve a multitude of problems.
2. Practicing. The best way to improve you writing is by writing. The more you do it (practice), the better you become. It's like any sport of form of exercise.
What's a better way to practice writing than journaling. You are writing for yourself, and so you can pretty much put anything you want down on paper ... no audience, no judgement. It also helps you to develop your style and tone. When you write about the things you observe and experience, you don't need to think about it. You can just write, explore, and improve.
Note: Beginning writers, especially, may want to read their journal entries out loud (in private, of course), since that's the best way to catch any mistakes.
3. Pondering. Whether you are deciding the next step in a writing project, or trying to determine what to work on next, take it to your journal. Schedule a little bit of time each day to brainstorm on paper, as a way to explore your options. When you hit on something exciting, you'll know, because that will be all you will be able to journal about. It can also serve as a repository for ideas for future projects. Next time you are ready to start something new, turn to any page in your journal, and see if what you have written ignites a spark.
However you choose to use the practice of journaling is fine. And, remember, you don't only need to use it when you are stuck, need to practice, or explore what's next. It can be used on an ongoing basis to track ideas, observations, and adventures.
How do you use journaling? Please share in the comments.
* * *
Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group. She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast and the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.
Every writer, at least hopefully, will work with an editor from time to time. While we’d all like it to be on a regular basis, time to time is better than nothing.
When in the joyous situation (you’ve gotten something accepted for publication), there are some tips that will help you in your working relationship with an editor.
The first thing, even before you think of submitting your work, is to have your manuscript or article in the best shape possible.
Getting to the Point of Submissions
1. Be part of a critique group. Every writer needs the extra eyes of writers working in the same genre. Their insights and critiques will prove to be invaluable to you.
2. Revise and self-edit . . . repeat and repeat . . .
3. When you think your manuscript is in perfect shape, send it to a freelance editor. You may think this isn’t necessary, but it is. Ask around for one that comes with recommendations.
Now you’re set; off you go on your submissions fishing trip. But don’t just drop the line randomly; be sure you do research and find the best spot – one where you know the fish are biting.
What this means is to look for publishing houses that are best suited to your manuscript, and ones that are accepting submissions.
After you’ve found a few publishing houses suitable. Read their submission guidelines CAREFULLY, and follow them just as carefully. Now it’s time for the infamous query letter. If you’re unfamiliar with queries, do some research.
Okay, you’ve done everything you needed to, and now you cast off. AND, you get a bite.
Working with Editors
Once you’re accepted by a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. And don’t be alarmed, but that manuscript you meticulously slaved over, and even paid an editor to go over, will end up with revisions. This is just the nature of the beast—each publishing house has their own way of doing things. They will want you’re manuscript to fit their standards.
Note: the purpose of those long hours of writing work and hiring an editor is to give your manuscript the best shot of making it past the acquisition editor’s trash pile, and actually getting accepted.
Now on to 4 tips that will help make your editor/author experience a pleasant one:
1. Always be professional.
2. Don’t get insulted when the editor requests revisions. They are not trying to hurt your feelings; they are hired by the publishing house to get your manuscript in the best possible saleable state. They want your book to sell as much as you do.
3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you have a question, ask. If you disagree with an edit, respectfully discuss it. Editors are not infallible. Sometimes your gut feeling is right.
4. Take note of deadlines and be on time. This is your career, and in some cases your livelihood.
Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
While you're there, sign up for the Newsletter - it has great monthly writing and book marketing tips. And, check out Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.
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