Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not writing = productive writing?

I just returned from a 10 day roadtrip up the eastern side of the U.S. I live in a sub of Atlanta, GA. We first drove to SC to drop off my Cocker Spaniel with my mom (thanks Mom!), then on to Charlotte, NC, Washington D.C., Philly, then finally landed in Shelter Island, NY (where my husband has family).

I had every intention of finishing up my current revision on my WIP (just a couple of chapters left to double check), but it didn't happen. I was just too slammed and I had no internet in NY. As fate would have it, I ended up not writing at all for 10 days. I did a little line editing on a hardcopy I printed before hand, but otherwise I re-read Hunger Games and enjoyed the chaos that is vacation. But an amazing thing happened. I was more motivated than before the vacation. I line edited 2/3rds of my book, reworked a few chapters. I have been home for 3 hours and have accomplished more than I did the entire week before my vacation. So, does not writing = productivity? Do we need breaks in order to inspire? Or was it more to do with re-reading a book that constantly challenges me?

I'm not entirely sure, but it was a total blast. 17 hours total, with my 2 year old, my husband, and in-laws. Yes, I am crazy. :) I'll post pics in a bit. I'm a fab photographer! (yes, I just typed fab - so what?) :)

Happy Saturday,

M.B.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Helpful query sites...

As promised, I am submitting a list of helpful query sites. I should preface this by saying that I cheated. I took a query workshop b/c the dang thing freaked me out, and I am so glad I did. So the first on my list is the workshop, which I adored! A few things that I have found interesting on querying. Regardless of what others will tell you, it is a big deal. You wanna know why? Because it is your resume. It is your opportunity to say - "I am fantastic, and this will prove it." And by "fantastic" I mean you are prepared and professional, not that you SAY how fantastic you are in the query. If you do that I will block you from my blog! :) So, while there is no need to go crazy about it, do take the time to sell yourself. I have always told applicants and newbie's in the job world that resumes and interviews are like cold calling and warm calling. You know, the sales terminology. A resume is cold calling. That HR rep or hiring manager doesn't know you from a hole in the wall. Then you go on the interview. This is warm calling because at least you aren't annoying the HR/hiring manager. He/she wants to meet with you.

Your query is a cold call (well most of the time unless you are special and have a referral). A partial or full is the interview. You wouldn't send a resume with typos, would you? You wouldn't botch an interview by calling the manager by the wrong name or wearing shorts and a tee instead of a business suit/professional attire. So why in the world would you call an agent/editor by the wrong name in the query or send a manuscript that is not properly formatted/polished?

But you can take my comments with a grain of salt. I haven't even queried yet for goodness sake! But, I can tell you, I am right and I know that I am right. I will be posting my query stats as they happen, embarrassing or not. So, we shall see how right or wrong I am.

Now on to why you are reading this post. The list:

1. C.J. Redwine's query workshop.
http://queryworksho p.blogspot. com
My comment(s): LOVE this. I took this class and I must say that my query is wonderful. I am proud and thrilled about the final product. C.J.'s prices are very reasonable so definitely check this out if you have been querying without much luck.

2. Query Shark
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
My comment(s): This site is so informative that Janet Reid should get some sort of basket of goodies for her effort. She is "in your face" honest and if you are brave enough to submit you will definitely learn a great deal. But even if you are not, you will see what works and doesn't from a true expert.

3. Agent Query and Writers Digest
http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx
http://www.writersdigest.com/article/basics-of-a-solid-3-paragraph-query/
My comment(s): If you are serious about getting published you should've already been to these sites, so much so, that the site is considering blocking you. Both have lots of info. The above two links are just two of many.

4. Nathan Bransford's and Kristin Nelson's blogs
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/search/label/Anatomy%20of%20a%20Good%20Query%20Letter
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/04/janice-hardys-query-pitch-blurb.html
My comment(s): Both of these sites are useful in many ways, but my favorites are the posts that include query letters that worked! Amazing information for sure from the source.

5. Writing Word
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/query.shtml
My comment(s): The above 4 should get you where you need to be, but if you are still shaking then check out this site. The info is clean-cut and should stop the twitch in your eye. :)

I hope this is helpful. Again, most writers know of all of these options, but newer writers may not so let me know if this helped. I research a ton so if there is something (relating to writing or the industry) that you would like an answer to, email me, and I will try to track it down.

M.B.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are you afraid of the next step? I am.

I recently threw all caution to the wind and entered the July Secret Agent contest. And though winning would be awesome, I didn't enter to win. I entered to test the water. I will be querying in a month--as I mentioned a few posts ago. I just finished a stellar query workshop with C.J. Redwine (yes I recommend it!) and have dived into the synopsis stage head first. I am nervous! So I decided to test the water and enter the very popular Secret Agent contest.

Now I am a tough cookie. I can take heavy criticism and smile back in thanks. Yes, that is the sort of critique partner that I am. I crit heavy and expect it in return. So why exactly did I cringe at the first sub-par comment on my submission? I have learned that I am a perfectionist. I would rather get horrible reviews than "so-so" reviews. Ya know? Go big or go home is definitely my motto. My writing cannot be simply okay. It has to be great and the hook has to slice through as it takes you to the next page. For this reason, I feel that I have already won. I have lots of comments - some great, others okay, some not so thrilled - but now I know what didn't work. Even though this has been revised to death, been through my crit partner and group, it still needed a bit more. So, to all those offering comments over at Miss Snark's First Victim, here's a big THANKS!!!

Lesson 1 for the day: Never, ever, feel content with "okay." Okay is not good enough. Not ever.
Lesson 2 for the day: If you are afraid, nervous, shaking to death? Good. Then you know you care enough to make it great.

M.B.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Helpful synopsis writing posts/sites

So I am working on a synopsis for my current MS and if querying is scary these things are downright ghostly.

What to do? I have found 8 sites that I found helpful. Each link details the specifics of a synopsis and thought for those of you in my shoes it may be nice to have a few sources in one place. So here goes:

1. Nathan Bransford's post on writing a synopsis:
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/08/how-to-write-synopsis.html

2. Query Tracker:
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-short-writing-novel-synopsis-that.html

3. Guide to Literary Agents:
www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/How+To+Write+A+Novel+Synopsis.aspx

4. FM Writers:
http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2015/workshop.htm

5. Helene Boudreau: Author and regular on Verla Kay (I LOVE how easy this one makes it!)
http://www.heleneboudreau.com/?p=863

6. Fiction Writer's Connection:
http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html

7. Diana Peterfreund's blog post: I found this very helpful!
http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/how-i-write-a-fiction-synopsis/

8. Absolute Write: I loved this one as well. So clean-cut and great explanations.
http://absolutewrite.com/novels/writing_a_synopsis.htm


Anyone else have sites that have helped or general advice/comments? As I understand it the query is a tease, the synopsis is the summary. I'll post back when I am done with mine so this post is as much to force me to do/finish it as anything else! :)

M.B.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Inspiration and kid stories

I am re-reading A Wrinkle in Time and began to think over how this book inspired me as a child. I was an avid reader even as a very young child, but this is the book that truly inspired me to want more out of reading and eventually lead to my love of writing.

I still remember checking it out from the library and being so enthralled with the story that I begged my mom to buy it for me at the next book fair - remember those? I am convinced, now MANY years later, that the detailed descriptions in this book helped shape my creative mind. If Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace could move out of this world to save Dr. Murray then surely I could do anything I wanted, right? Amazing thought really, but books do inspire children. They cause them to think, to push the envelope of this world, and to reach out for the impossible.

For me, publishing in the children's market should always be about inspiring growth and thought in your readers. If you are doing it for the money, what's the point? You'd make a heck of a lot more in a sales job or desk job with any major corporation. In one month I will begin querying for the first time. I am excited and nervous and scared all at the same time. I have finally completed a story that I want to release on the world. I have polished and edited and hesitated long enough. I give myself one more month to finish up any last minute things and then I will put all fear aside (just like Meg did) and go for the gusto. Go big or go home right? And I am not querying because I hope for a large advance, or for the excitement of seeing my name in print - though all are good things. No, I am querying because my dream of all dreams is for children to read my story and for it to make them think the way A Wrinkle in Time made me think.

So, if like me, you have been putting querying off. If you have been holding on to that manuscript for fear, but deep down you are proud of it, know that it is polished, and know that it is the best you can offer. Then Go BIG! Good luck querying and may God grant you a request for a partial or a full!

Now, tell me, what stories inspired you?

M.B. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

A little about printing...

Every printer that exists has a prepress department. Every printer that exists has a proofing/editing department (which all too often falls on the CSRs for that printer). So how is a publisher different from a printer?

I have worked with both. At my previous job I worked for a magazine publisher. My job was to train staff across the country on book formatting so when that regional office sold ad space they kept in mind the layout necessary to work for their regional magazine. We are talking spreads here and signatures. I had a lot of fun with that job, but realized quickly that I needed to know more about the printing side of the business. I can tell you that nothing drives a printer crazier than a graphic artist that does not understand printing. They will send over beautiful designs for marketing collateral just to have us turn around and say - this is set for RGB, you didn't add a bleed, your dimensions are off, your fonts are not embedded, and etc, etc, etc.

So I left the magazine publisher and have now worked with a printer for almost 5 years. I love my job. Most of my clients that need things printed - training manuals, marketing pieces, signage, business cards, and so on. For these clients we are the publisher and the printer. My job is the help the client develop his or her ideas and then work with prepress to get a design going. In many ways, most printers correct the issues that publishers/graphic artists/ad agencies took forgranted.

Book publishers are very different from magazine publishers. Their job is to scout out talent, pretty up the material (manuscript), and format it for the printer. You should know, though, that the majority of the time the printer still has a lot to do to work out the kinks for your book before it goes to press. Font issues are always a problem, which is no doubt why agents typically prefer Times or Courier - they are fail-safe fonts to them - but once the job goes to the printer there is no such thing as a fail-safe font. There are a zillion versions of Times and if the printer does not have that font then the font defaults - typically to Courier or Arial. The flow of the entire piece alters and the printer is left looking at a completely different layout than what the editor/publisher intended.

The next issue would be the jacket cover. Okay, I imagine that most printers cringe when they receive these files. Pull a book off your shelf and examine it. Every single object, line of text, photo, etc is a separate item in the design document used to create the cover. Type must be made in Indesign or similar program. Photos set in Photoshop. Vector objects in Illustrator. Then everything must be placed into the main layout program - we primarily use Indesign. If any one of the aforementioned items is not linked properly then the document with error out when saved. The non-linked item then looks like a low res image - blocky/fuzzy and just a plain out mess.

Finally the book has to be perfect bound and here we have a new dilema. The binding of the book has to be shaved inorder to create a clean surface for the glue. If the original designer did not layout the book properly then the text/words are too close to the spine - ever read a book like this? I have. Isn't it frustrating when you have to flatten the book out more to make it easier to read? This is a design flaw, not a printing flaw. Then the cover gets glued onto the text and again, we have potential problems. The remaining 3 exposed sides have to be trimmed off so you have A. the cover bleeds off the page properly and B. the edges are smooth and to size. If the cover design was not dimensionally correct text/images/etc are off center. The entire book would have to be reran.

So next time you take a book in your hand take a hard look at all the elements necessary to make that perfect piece of art in your hands. :)

M.B.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are we too advanced?

Ugh - it has been a bad day. I turn 30 on Tuesday and my body has decided to fight the turn (which I blame on my ditching Yoga class for the last few months). I have a disk in my spine freaking out so I go to a specialist who, as I am walking in the door, tells me that my appointment has to be cancelled because their "system is down." I stare at the attendant like she is speaking some language that I am not privy to understanding and say "So you are telling me that you are hinging your entire business on a computer system and if that system goes down you are unable to treat your patients?" The admin looked down and then tried to explain how advanced the system indeed is and that without it they are simply unable to pull any of their patients' information.

I work in a customer service type role so I never try to go off on the person giving the information. That admin has no say whatsoever in the problem or the solution. But boy was it tough.

But this did make me think. I am an Account Manager for a printer. My job involves working with my clients to develop their printing needs - working out ideas, discusssing the best way to handle the job, coorinating printing, copy-editing all materials, and ensuring the job delivers to it's destination - which can be anywhere from inside the city limits to China. I enjoy my job. It is very very techie, in terms of the day to day function. But if our "system" went down, I assure you, I would still do my job. You want to know why? Because there is this thing called paper and this other thing called a pen. Therefore, I can fully take down all specifics of my clients job without my "system" to ensure that my job is done whether or not my computer works. Now, to be honest, the rest of the job could not happen without computer technology. I send the specs to our prepress department who format and pretty up the job and then network that on our to production. So yes, in theory, my job hinges on a computer as well.

How about your job? Is it similar? Can the full scope of your job happen without a "system?" I imagine not. This is a problem. We have advanced ourselves to the point that without a system we cannot function, and it goes well beyond our day-to-day jobs. How about at home? No phone, no internet, no TV? Oh no! What will you do! No microwave, no toaster, no oven! Oh no! What will you eat? And let's not even get on dishwashers and washing machines. I would shoot myself this very second if I had to hand wash and hang clothes out to dry - wouldn't you? So interesting how dependant we are on all the little "extras" that make our life easier.

But, all the same, I'm still pissed off at the doctor's office. :)

M.B.