Tag Archives: editors

Monday Tips: Help with story-telling mechanics

It never ceases to amaze me that writers published by a legacy publisher still manage to produce work that has not been properly edited. Forget the typos, what I’m talking about is structural editing problems.

Without mentioning any names, I will simply say that I recently read one novel by someone employed by a top MFA program that was clearly lacking in basic storytelling skills, i.e. how to hook a reader and keep their nose glued to the page, another written by someone in another well-regarded MFA program about a couple of passive-aggressive characters in a stagnant story, and a third, also a teacher in a well-regarded MFA program, who wrote a novel with too many characters.

My favorite go-to book when I need help on story-telling mechanics is Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor. It is not just a book of exercises, but a collection of writer’s lore. A book that tells us not only how to handle words, but how to see things as a writer sees them. How to find the right structure for the ideas that we have. And most of all, how to collect words.

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Filed under Craft

Dan Poynter’s SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL

I was going to write about something else today, but I’ve just finished reading Dan Poynter’s THE SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL, and I think this is such an important book for an aspiring writer, that I’ve decided to share my observations.

The history of publishing in the last 100 years, has been one of increasing difficulty for writers. (And I’m not even talking about the insultingly low royalties that writers are expected to put up with! ) Up to the 1980s, it was not unreasonable to hope that an editor might take you on, even though you were an aspiring writer with a flawed first manuscript. Then editors got too busy to do that, so agents took over that role, and found publishing houses whose job it was to sell your books.

As many of you know, the new reality of publishing is that traditional publishers no longer see it as their job to sell your book, unless they think it is going to be a blockbuster. Too many authors have assumed that publishers will market their books, only to find out too late that very little effort was expended in that direction.

This is why Dan Poynter’s book is so valuable, both for those who choose to publish with a traditional publisher and those who choose to self publish. Why? Because I have never met an author who was so thorough and conscientious at explaining all the ins and outs of something.

You want a marketing plan for selling your novel? Buy this book, and flip through it. The chapter outlines will tell you exactly what to do. If you’re still unsure, Appendix 1 gives you a calendar of what to do, while Appendix 2 gives an exhaustive list of resources. Need more help? Go to his website, www.parapublishing.com, and you will find more articles, some free, some for a modest price.

If you do nothing else, buy this book. No-one else is going to care as much about selling your novel as you are.

I know. You would much rather be writing than selling, and thinking about selling gives you indigestion. But if you want people to read your books, you are going to have to do something to make them more visible.

Best of luck, and feel free to share your experiences by commenting below.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


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Filed under Book Review, How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

Websites for workshopping your manuscripts

It is so hard to get quality feedback these days. Editors and agents are too busy to give it to you, and so you are forced to rely on the good nature of friends or relatives, or the people you happen to run into when attending a writing group.

My experience with writing groups has been mixed. In the beginning, when i was a brand-new writer, I found them enormously helpful, because I had so much to learn. Now that I have 2 novel-length MSS under my belt, I find them less helpful, because most of the people who show up are typically beginners with an incomplete first draft that needs some TLC. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you are a more advanced writer, you need more help than that kind of person is typically able to give you.

I’ve written before about joining book clubs, and how helpful that can be. I now want to mention a couple of sites that are designed to help writers workshop MSS.

The first one is Critters, which is for “serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” to quote their website. To read more, click here.

The second one is Historical-Fiction-Writers-Critique-Group, which is a Yahoo! group. To belong to this group, you have to be extremely dedicated, because you are required to critique 3 MSS a month. This is a group I would love to belong to, but don’t because I can’t make this commitment. However, if you are in a position to do this, and you have a completed MSS that is ready for feedback that is a historical, you should definitely check it out. Click here to find out more.

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–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under How to Publish Your Novel