If anyone would like a free audible copy – let me know by commenting below. First two people only!
If anyone would like a free audible copy – let me know by commenting below. First two people only!
This week for the friday feature, I thought I’d offer tips on Submitting.
Last year, I had 17 or 18 publications. This year so far, I’ve had maybe 9 or 10 acceptances. I must be doing something right.
I think it should go without saying your work should be free of grammar and punctuation errors. I heard from one writer who was offended by an editor; her response: “I know I had errors, but they weren’t that bad.” – No excuses. Edit that work before you send it out.
First: Make a regular time to sit down to submit. This takes HOURS. It’s not going to be just a fifteen minute or thirty minute venture. You must read what the lit mags are looking for as well as how they want it submitted. Then compare it to what you might have already written, or what you’re willing to write.
Second: Keep track of your submissions.
Third: Accept rejection. (It tells me that I’m doing my job by submitting.)
Fourth: Accept criticism. You are going to get opinions. Just today, I received a rejection that said I repeated a word. That was the whole of their rejection. The word in question was repeated twice in the whole story, but I guess they didn’t like it. I moved on.
Fifth: If they ask for changes – agree (maybe). I’ve met many writers who take issue with this. They wonder if I don’t care about my work. They think I’m mad for even considering it. There are some things I won’t change. But, so far, the editors who have asked for changes have asked for simple things like rewrite this sentence, change this punctuation. No one has asked me to make major changes to any piece I love.
And Finally: Be considerate to writers, editors, and publishers in emails, on public sites, and anywhere you may meet them. When you act inappropriately, word can get around.
Someone asked me if I write what I know. For many, that would be limiting. We write what we know in some intuitive way, like people, emotions, relationships, and some places. But that’s not all we write.
Nothing adds to a story like those little details that you’ve experienced, like the slick, moist, near sickly feel of your skin on a humid day in Paris after emerging from the chilled underground of the catacombs.
The difference in squeezing the smooth texture of black sand from Punaluʻu Beach in Hawaii between your toes and walking on fine, compacted white sand of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.
Every beach is just a little different. Just as the light is, depending where on the planet you stand. Being there helps.
But, research is also necessary. Maybe not to describe the sand between your toes, but other important details about place. Incorporating the general details or impressions as well as the smaller, more personal elements creates a more vibrant and more relatable to readers.
Stephen King thanked his research assistant and stated he met a lot of nice people in Oklahoma where his new book, The Outsider, is set. Experience and research.
Many of us can’t fly to Darrien, Washington and spend a week or longer researching a small town setting in the pacific northwest, but we are able to view maps, read the newspaper, follow the instagram sites, ask travel groups and even call the travel bureau in any given state.
I love experiences – Traveling and getting lost in a new place, picking up those sensual memories to infuse into writing and future!
Experience is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. Research back ups and fills out details we may have missed.
Where have you been that you’ve written about?
Many years ago, in a suburb north of Los Angeles, Eat My Cupcake was in danger of becoming another victim of the gluten-free, sugar substituted society when Zin stepped in.
People wanted choices, she said. Eat my Cupcake changed to Eat My Muffin and featured exclusive, secret recipes that other bakers tried to duplicate but none succeeded; the some sweet, some savory, some healthy, some masquerading as healthy became a much sought-after experience.
Therefore, in the once nondescript neighborhood with the small bakery, lines around the corner formed beginning early each mornings, people waiting for the one and only Zin’s famous muffins.
Among one of the favorites was a Millet Muffin. The savory-sweet combination of light and fluffy grain pastry was a hit.
Zin was offered money, lured by head baker guarantees at more established places with promises of salary, health insurance, assistants.
But she liked where she was, who she was, and the freedom to create.
Rob became Zin’s lover years before she became almost-famous. Rob followed her from place to place, always a second to her baking but accepted the position. They loved each other.
But more hours meant more workers meant more people in Zin’s life. Zin had two weaknesses, fresh white flour and sweet young flesh. She slipped into an affair with one of her assistants, Rob was heartbroken and angry.
One night, crying over a tequila sour, the recipe came out in a drunken slur. Friends who sympathized turned for a single moment to make a note.
Zin begged forgiveness and agreed to work fewer hours, no assistants. Rob forgave her. He barely remembers his drunken night but thinks something may have slipped. Zin is blissfully unaware that her recipe is being shared in whispers like a friend’s quite insinuations.
What follows is the rumored recipe from a once famous bakery and a once famous baker.
½ cup of millet
1 ½ cup of flour
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
½ – ¾ cup of brown sugar
1 (room temperature) egg
1/3 cup of butter (room temperature)
¾ cup of buttermilk (room temperature)
Mix the wet ingredients
Mix the dry ingredients
Oil the muffin pan/preheat the oven to 375.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and place the muffins in the oven.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.
*Based on a true story. Names/places changed.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the original recipe. Although I have not baked them myself, I’ve been the beneficiary of the final product. Mmmm.
There are two lessons to this story. First – don’t cheat on your partner who may have your secret recipes. Second, don’t trust a writer with your stolen secret recipe.
One of the worst types of writer’s block is caused by stress.
I like to roll out of bed and get straight to writing before any other distraction or activity comes up. I find that I work better and longer if I push everything else away until a manageable time. However, I find stress takes me completely out of my writing brain.
Where I can stop for breakfast, talk to friends or family, or even keep an appointment and get back to writing, when I’m stopped by a stressful event or activity I find it extremely difficult to do any work.
The good thing is that it takes a lot to get me to that level of stress; however, that’s not so for many writers. Besides the littlest distractions causing problems for many writers, any stress weighing on a writer can keep them from being productive. One of the elements of stress is the inability to focus on anything else – it is the most distracting distraction a writer can face. Stress causes us to avoid things – things like writing!
If you’re experiencing something like this and can’t get on track with your writing, you need to ask yourself what is happening in the background of your life. It depends on each individual’s ability to handle stress, but it could be a small thing like a car problem or a large thing like a family problem. These things wreak havoc with our ability to be productive.
Again, my cure for this is to focus first on my writing and, second, on anything else. Cures for others might be similar. Block out the stress and focus on the writing – this could be a way of de-stressing. Creating a time to worry about problems is an age old recommendation. Years ago, someone told me “plan ten minutes before bedtime to worry.” I, personally, prefer before sleep and after waking to be the least stressful times. But it could still work – schedule your worry time like we all should schedule our writing time. Or, give yourself time to solve that problem, and realize if it’s something you can not solve and let it go.
Let it go! If it is a stress we have no power over that is the only answer. It will pass. Focus on the writing, that you can control!
I like the quote “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” That’s what we have to remember. We can choose to stress about problems that we can’t immediately solve, or we can choose to use our writing as a distraction from that stress.
If you’ve found anything that’s worked for you, please post it in the comments!
Next week – decision making and writing.
Eddy, my new novella, will be out next month. I’ve been invited to read and speak at the Poe Museum’s Birthday celebration upon its release.
This is a fictional account of an actual event in Edgar Allan Poe’s Life. In 1848, whether accidental or purposeful, Edgar took an overdose of Laudanum, which was an opiate based medicine available on the open market. It was sold in pharmacies as well as pubs!
Poe nearly died as a result. This is a fictional imagining of that experience.
Poe reimagines the life and death of each of the women he loved. The story begins and ends in the Boston rooming house in which Poe found himself in November 1848 right after he’s bought the Laudanum. His overdose rouses images of his mother backstage at the theater in Richmond during her last performance and continues on to Virginia in their Philadelphia home while she played the piano for their guests. The story doesn’t neglect his other loves.
Debbie the events coordinator from the Poe Museum said she was “blown away” and couldn’t wait to share it with her colleagues.
Eddy won’t be available until January 6th. But you can WIN a advanced copy by entering your email address. You don’t need to enter more than once, your email address is your entry. A single one will be randomly selected by a generator, and the winner will be notified by email on or about January 5th.
If you need more to whet your appetite, take a look at my interview with Super News Live on their Dark Mysteries Show about The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.
I’m excited about releasing this as Poe’s work and life has been such an inspiration, not only to me but to many. His work will continue to inspire writers, artists, and film makers for many years to come.
I’ve been under the impression that writer’s block was actually procrastination; however, someone wrote recently “whoever doesn’t believe in writer’s block has never experienced the sheer frustration it can cause.”
This, and the comments that followed, made me reconsider my position on writer’s block.
Experts state that very few people actually experience the psychological issues that cause real writer’s block. That statement, and my observations of procrastination in action, have lead me to believe that most people who say they suffer from writer’s block aren’t actually suffering from deep mental disturbances but of more common problems that plague us all – distractions.
However, the advice this person received caused me to pause:
“Don’t force yourself to write, it’ll come.”
These seemed the least helpful. While I know there’s a stereotype that follows artists and writers – the best ones suffer, and suffer from addiction in many forms. I doubt very seriously whether getting drunk will help the person. And, if you don’t write at all, how will anything come?
Other advice went something like this:
To which one person wrote a long response about the ridiculousness of this answer. I, however, disagree. When asked by my students “what if you get stuck on a part?” I answered, I go on to a different part, or I write something else. I usually have more than one project going at the same time. I know some writers don’t do this, and I understand their reasoning. At this point, it works for me.
“Go for a walk, do yoga, meditate.”
This is actually pretty good advice. Studies show going for a walk or exercise in any form can feed creativity. Yoga is meant to calm the energy in the body so one can focus and/or meditate.
Others said, “listen to music” or “write a character study.”
This could help. While writing one novel, I listened to blues and jazz to help me give the character depth and personality.
Finally, someone asked the person who’d posted they had writer’s block and needed a solution: “What’s bothering you?”
Now, that’s a damn good question. Most of my writer’s procrastination comes when some thing is bothering me.
The person’s answer was different than I expected.
“I can’t make the story go where I want it to go.”
This is a whole different type of problem. I learned writing in two ways. One method was to write a formulaic story with beginning, middle, and the end in mind. Use an outline and stick to it. And I can do this. But it’s no fun for me. The second way I learned was to just write and see where the story wants to go or needs to go. Most of my writing comes this way. It’s natural, it’s organic, it’s unforced; maybe that’s why it flows.
Think of how much power water has. Human-made streams run over their banks, create their own pathways; in one way or another, they defy the path man made. Think of how much concrete and lead it takes to build a retaining wall to create a dam, and still they must have holes or release valves. How many still end up crumbling, breaking, or overflowing?
That’s what writing should be.
Ideas and words should flow. Let them live. Trust them. Trust yourself.
If they are dammed up, forced into an unreasonable plot or direction, then I can understand that type of writer’s block.
The advice offered for that was: “write the end, and work backward,” and “move on to another scene.”
This should probably work if the plot of the story is strong and the elements are all in place. However, the person maybe be stuck because a needed plot point is absent.
Before any solutions can be offered, the type of “block” the writer is facing must be addressed. Is it really, “I’m stuck,” or is it “I’m distracted”? If there’s a phone in front of you, and facebook, twitter, or your blog open while you’re writing – that’s probably writer’s distraction. If the writer is stuck at a plot point, at a character arc, I’d suggest to meditate on it, sleep with it, think about it until it works itself out, but I also suggest skip ahead, write another scene, write that scene/character you tell yourself you’ll never use.
See – it’s still writing. NOT WRITING IS NOT AN OPTION. No one ever got better at something by NOT doing it. No one ever finished a project by not doing it. No one ever became successful by stopping what they were doing.