Saturday, January 19, 2019

"I Traded My iPad for a Smith-Corona Typewriter": Q & A with Author Harry Marks

Author and Typewriter Aficionado, Harry Marks.
I am thrilled to present an interview with my Twitter-friend, author Harry Marks (@HCMarks)

When I discovered Harry uses a typewriter for his writing, I was simultaneously skeptical and intrigued. Here, Harry kindly answers my questions about where the typewriter fits into his writing process. Thanks, Harry!

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing. What do you write? What are your favorite genres? Favorite formats?

A:  My name is Harry Marks and I’m the host of the literary podcast, COVERED ( I’ve been published in HelloHorror, The Coil, and have written for Baron Fig. Links to all my writing can be found at

My short fiction tends to be genre-focused. I really love experimenting with short horror stories and flash fiction. My novels (I’ve completed five and I’m finishing up a sixth) tend to skew more Literary.

Q: In 2019, what is the Brass Publishing Ring achievement you would love to unlock?

A: I would love for 2019 to be the year I finally sign with a literary agent. I think I might be nearing completion on the book that will get me where I want to go. Fingers crossed!

Q: How long have you used a typewriter for your writing? Do you have a preferred make or model? What was your first foray into the Wonderful World of Typewriters?

A: I’ve been using a typewriter since 2015. I’d always wanted one for the reason most writers want a typewriter—the romantic fantasy of clicking and clacking my way to a best-seller like Stephen King. 

Harry's Workstation.
My mother used to let me mess around on an electric typewriter she had before we got a computer. This was in the early ‘90s when the hottest computer game around was Solitaire. It’s only recently that I’ve delved back into the analog world, having grown weary of the constant blinking and beeping and buzzing of my digital lifestyle. [I can SO relate... AH] 

I actually sold my first generation iPad so I could buy my first typewriter: a teal 1950s Smith-Corona. I wrote the first short story I ever had published on that machine. 

Q: What about the typewriter appeals to you?

A: The typewriter is a connection to the past, and I know how hipstery that sounds, but that’s what’s so appealing. I grew up in a house where vinyl was the primary source of music and paper books lined shelves in almost every room in the house. 

I love the dichotomy between the simple act of typing and the incredibly complex network of levers and springs within. And most importantly, my typewriter is over 60 years old and still works as well today as the day it rolled off the assembly line. It’s a tank. I can’t say that about the iPad I sold.

Q: Can you walk me through a typical idea-to-draft-to-polished-piece project? How does the typewriter fit into the process?

A: I tend to go to the typewriter during the drafting phase. Everything must end up in my computer eventually, but first drafts are either handwritten or typed on my Smith-Corona.

Q: What drawbacks are inherent in using a typewriter? How do you combat them?

A: The typewriter has plenty of drawbacks that make the idea of using one to write a novel seem absurd. 

I don’t have correcting tape, so I tend to go over typos with Xs until a word is blacked out. A lot of my first drafts look like redacted military files. 

They’re also heavy, loud, and if you use them enough, you’ll find yourself replacing the ribbon pretty often. 

Also, if it breaks and you don’t know how to fix it, you have to find someone who does. I work in New York City, so I tend to take my machines to a tiny shop in Midtown owned by a man who’s been fixing up typewriters for over 50 years.

Q: What advice would you give to a writer who is intrigued by the idea of using a typewriter and who wants to give it a try?

A: For anyone interested in writing on a typewriter, my biggest piece of advice is: try it in person. Don’t just buy a typewriter on eBay and hope for the best. Most of them are garbage anyway. If you can, go to a brick-and-mortar store where typewriters are sold (typewriter resellers, antique shops) and try them out. Choosing the right typewriter is like choosing the right guitar: you’ll know it when you feel it.

Any other typewriter-using authors out there? I'd love to hear your process. Me? I draft either in illegible handwriting OR on my AlphaSmart. Chime in below on what works best for you!

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Four Easy Ways A New Writer Can Rock Twitter (updated for 2019)

A few years ago, I wrote a post full of suggestions for How a New Writer Can Rock Twitter. Since then, Twitter has evolved. The "Favorites" star  turned into a "Like" heart, storytelling with GIFs has burgeoned into an art form, bots and trolls are far more prevalent, and the 140-character limit has doubled. While I stand by the advice in the post from 2015, this shiny new year provides a good opportunity to add an upgrade.

1. Crash the #WritingCommunity Party

I got on Twitter -- dragged against my will, I might mention -- in 2010. Then, the #amwriting hashtag, brainchild of the lovely and talented Johanna Harness, was the Place to Be for Writing Twitter. In many respects, it still is, but it has been hijacked in recent years by spammers who shill their work, but don't interact with anyone.

#WritingCommunity is different. For now. In some ways, it reminds me of Old Twitter, where people engage, retweet, support, and interact. IMHO, if you're new to writing, or new to Twitter and looking for community, this hashtag is a good place to start.

Other incredibly useful hashtags:

#MSWL -- in which agents, editors, and other publishing pros list the things they are actively looking for.

#amediting is great for support while revising.

*  And #TenQueries provides essential insight into how Actual Agents and Editors approach their slush piles.

--> #PubTip used to be a worthwhile hashtag, but has lately been overrun with noise.

2. Beware What You Share

Beware of tweeting anything too personal, pessimistic, or damning about your writing and your process.

I notice this most often on the #amquerying tag. As a writer, expect publishing pros to look up your social media profiles. You DO NOT want them to see something like "Just got a fresh slate of rejections. Over 100 so far! Oh well! #Amquerying again..."

If you have over 100 rejections on a project: congratulations. We all do. Join the club. But wait to tell that story until after you've found the one person who sees your genius. After you have enjoyed significant success, by all means, tell the tale. Until then, just keep writing...

Piggybacking on this: beware of using any form of "aspiring writer" in your bio. And, in general, refrain from the newbie move of putting "author," "writer," or similar words in your Twitter name.

If your name is Hinkerpaler McSnickety, then make your Twitter handle @HinkerpalerMcSnickety. Or, say, @HinkerSnickety. But steer clear of things like @AuthorHinkerpaler or @McSnicketyWrites.

3. Be Supportive

Twitter is full of supportive publishing professionals. Become one of them.

I have helped polish queries, made introductions, answered formatting and technical questions, and beta-read manuscripts. Thanks to Twitter, I have a few more clients and a lot more friends. Yet in the past nine years, I can count the number of times I've done a hard-sell promo for my work on one hand.

If someone asks a question you know the answer to, answer it. Then move along. Do not treat every interaction as an opportunity to smack someone over the head with your book.

Don't. Be. THAT. Writer. There are far too many of them on Twitter already.

Likewise: when someone joyously announces that they have representation, or have a publishing deal, or have a book release -- congratulate them. Be sincere. Post happy GIFs and fling virtual confetti. Publishing is tough. Its wheels grind slowly, and they often grind writers into chaff. Celebrate the victories of others. One day, we'll celebrate yours as well. In the meantime, jealousy looks good on no one.

4. Use Lists to Decide Who To Follow

Twitter inundates new users with suggestions of people to follow. Often, these people are uber-famous celebrities with millions of followers. As if any of them are going to follow back and interact with us.

But... who to follow? It's a bot-filled, troll-infested jungle out there.

One way through the jungle -- at least while you're getting your bearings in the mine-filled Twitter landscape -- is to follow someone else's curated list. For instance, I have a list of over 490 literary agents. I have lists of writers, a list of editors, and one of interesting people whose tweets are always engaging.
To find a person's lists, go to their Profile page and click on "Lists"
Many agents and publishers have their own lists, too. Unless a list is locked and private, you can follow it. Following a list allows you to see the tweets of list members, even if you don't actively follow them. It won't take long before you know who you want to add to your feed.

Remember: you don't owe anyone a followback. Just because someone follows you doesn't mean you must follow them. (Full disclosure: for years, this was an unpopular take. But it's a hill I will die upon. I look at the feed of every single new person who follows me before deciding whether or not to followback. If they talk only about themselves, if they never interact with others, if they are rude, or if they only retweet saccharine feel-good quotes, I don't have room for them in my timeline. Those are *my* rules. It's up to you to make your own.)

Here's hoping you find this post helpful. What did I miss? What's your best advice to writers new to Twitter?

[You're a blog follower, right? Hope so - 'cause 2019 is going to be fab-u-lous!]