Monday, February 22, 2010

Got Something to Say? I Want to Hear It!

or, Thoughts on Motivating People to Give a Crap

Today, Irene Watson of Reader Views posted an interesting editorial on what to say to promote one's writing. In essence, the acid test is finding a way to "move the dial on the Who Gives A Crap Meter."

Trumpeting one's work, one's accomplishments, and one's undertakings can be a daunting task. Many writers were raised as I was -- on a firm foundation of "don't blow your own horn." Even those who find it easy to engage in shameless self-promotion quickly discover that telling the world about your writing and getting the people of the world to read what you've written are two wildly different things.

Too often, we forget that promotion for promotion's sake ("My book is now available! Buy it!") is just so much easily tuned-out noise.

However, promotion for the audience's sake ("Want to know how to stay wildly in love even after 20 years of marriage? My new book shows how easy it is! You'll love falling in love again!") is something else entirely. When done correctly, promoting one's writing can become akin to a Public Service instead of another annoying ad.

Want the opportunity to tell the world about your writing? It doesn't matter whether you're famous, whether you've "Made It," or whether you are just scraping by. If you write because you have to, because it moves you, or because it feeds your soul, I want to hear about it. And I'm not alone.

This modest little blog exists to encourage writers -- regardless of genre or experience -- with concrete, usable advice that they can apply to improve their craft and their careers.

Through the month of March, I plan to feature a series of Q & A interviews with working writers and other creatives. I want to focus primarily on what helps writers to stay on track, keeps them motivated, inspires them, and challenges them to improve. To that end, I'm looking for writers willing to provide interviews.

To be featured, a writer doesn't need to be a "famous author." A writer doesn't even need to be published... yet. You just need to be actively engaged in improving your craft and -- here's the key -- willing to tell others what has worked for you.

Any writers interested in providing an interview, please comment below and I'll get in touch with you. Any personal contact information will be edited out during comment moderation.

I look forward to getting to know some wonderfully creative people and can't wait to introduce them to my readers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thoughts On Editing and Being Edited

I have a monster labor-of-love manuscript lurking nearby that I have grudgingly agreed to edit. I'm a bit worried, because the author is quite in love with his words and had much of the draft memorized. This, as most editors can tell you, does not bode well.

I once revised and edited a book for a publisher and asked them how they wanted the manuscript mark-up done. I wondered if they wanted to show the author every suggested change.

I received the following response:

We find it horrifies many authors to see what's been done to their work. We'd rather send him the edited manuscript with all the edits in place and have him read it anew. Many times an author won't even notice that his words have been changed or rearranged. It often makes for smoother sailing for all involved.

I have found this to be true over and over again. If an author sees the red edits doing war with the original words in black, the tendency is to become defensive and / or discouraged. However, such negative emotions are unwarranted.

A good editor never looks at the manuscript as an opportunity to deface black print and replace it with red. A good editor thinks only of the project's ultimate good.

If you are fortunate enough to have someone edit your work, consider not looking at the markup. Consider, instead, only reading the results of the edit. See if any glaring problems leap at you. Read with fresh eyes, if at all possible. Remember: your responsibility is not to your original text. Your responsibility is to your reader. In most instances, your editor shares that responsibility. Revel in that support rather than rebel against it!

What are your thoughts? Any experiences with editors (good, bad, or otherwise) that you care to share?

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Voice Tweeting in the Wilderness

or, There's a Story Here Somewhere

I have officially jumped on the Twitter bandwagon.

(Ok. So that's not true. It would be more accurate to say that I have half-heartedly hailed said bandwagon and grudgingly boarded it because I didn't know what else to do when it let me get on.)

I've blogged fairly faithfully for nearly 5 years. Got on Facebook and figured out both Fan and Friend pages. Love both mediums. But the allure of Twitter has escaped me. To me, the entire concept of "tweeting" smacked of standing on a streetcorner shouting to the world and hoping people noticed you without actively abusing you. I realized, however, that I was making judgments without actual experience. Which led to the aforementioned bandwagon.

So, I became @MuseInks. Let the following begin.

This begs the question "Now what?"

* Does the world really need another writer -- who follows other writers -- trumpeting and retweeting about the same nifty writers' resources? Maybe.

* Does anyone care about my latest book and movie projects? Sure, to a point. But there's only so much blowing my own horn I can stomach.

* Is it that important to my career to have a following? Possibly... Highly doubtful.

I got to thinking. What I really like about social media is the ability to connect with interesting people that I wouldn't have otherwise have met. Thanks to Facebook, I've been introduced to some really wonderful writers -- though not all of them are actively looking for ways to get their words into print. Perhaps with Twitter, I'll be able to discover even more voices.

This led me to my current brainchild. I shall use Twitter to write a multi-authored short story. I shall call this masterpiece of literary brilliance, akin to the proverbial Shakespearean sonnets produced by 100 monkeys at typewriters, a twory.

(Now, I don't pretend to be the originator of the term, but a quick search didn't indicate any online community that was actively using it who would be inconvenienced by my little experiment. I think it serves quite nicely -- unless I hear from someone who tells me that it's actually a vile underground racial epithet that could get me stoned in 15 counties.)

So... From now until the end of the month -- two weeks is plenty of time for a talented core of contributors to create stellar prose -- I'm inviting all writers who feel so inclined to add their two cents' worth to a work in progress.

I'll begin [See below for the opening line].

Any tweet that includes "@MuseInks TWORY" and comes to my attention will be added to the story. People may contribute as often as they like. Contributors are encouraged to follow me (well, of course) and to follow those who actively add to the narrative.

I'll keep a running update of the twory as it evolves on my Facebook page, for those who may be interested. Then, on March 1, I'll post the complete magnum opus on my blog, complete with credit to all contributors. Should be interesting...

The Twory may be entirely written by Yours Truly. (Kind of like the old worry "what if I give a party and no one comes?") But I hope that's not the case. I'd like this to be a group effort!

So -- let the Twory begin. I humbly offer the following as the opening line:

If a Hall of Fame for deadbeats and losers ever existed, Terry Mifflin had a candidate for induction.

Next line? Anyone?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Selling Short

Yours Truly is a guest blogger today on Literary Database. In my post, I sing the praises of Short and Sweet Queries.

The more I work with people who "live" online, the more I am struck by the importance of keeping one's query verbiage to a minimum. No lengthy "why I wrote this" nonsense. No "here's what the reader will learn" milksop. No detailed histories, character bios, or 3-Act beats. Save your writing prowess for the Piece. But don't weigh down your query with bling.

This is counterintuitive to many writers. I include myself in that group. I fight the desire to "sell myself" in my query, but that's not necessary.

A query is not supposed to sell ME. (Little known secret: A query is really not even supposed to sell an article or a book.) A query is simply supposed to bring to editors', agents', and publishers' attention that YOU have written something THEY need. They know what they need. All a query does is tell them where to go to find it.

I have completely revised how I teach writers to structure their queries. Especially when it comes to platform-building articles, I strongly encourage all writers to follow the "less is more" approach to their queries. In essence:

1.) Say how you know what they need.

I saw on "Kitchen Kookery" that you are looking for family-friendly recipes.

This is the Queryland equivalent of networking.

2.) Say what you have.

I would like to submit "Perfect Pancakes" for your consideration. In approximately 600 words, it details the art of creating flawless flapjacks.

This translates to: "This piece is for sale."

3.) Say who you are.

I am a 4-star chef with over 7 years of experience as a mother and a short-order cook.

Translation: "I am qualified."

4.) Say "Good night," Gracie.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Translation: "Good night!"

In all your brevity, however, don't forget to include your contact information.

In the last month, I have sold at least 5 pieces to new markets. None of my acceptance notes were more than 2 sentences long (with the exception of the contract verbiage). One, from a respected, well-paying market, consisted of a single word:


Did I feel cheated because of the short communications? Hardly. I simply took it as an indicator of how the industry pros preferred their correspondence.

Just call me a new fan of selling short!