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Monday, June 28, 2010

On Being Published, The Process



After Sarah-Jane Lehoux stopped by last week to tell us about her debut novel THIEF, she offered to return and share what she'd learned in the process of going from unpublished to published.



A Writer’s Life for Me


Writing has always been a part of my life. I have always been an introvert, and have felt more like an observer rather than a participant in life. Creating stories was a way for me to gain control, a way to make sense of the world, to communicate with others when I was too shy to open my mouth. I never viewed it as a viable career choice, and no one ever told me otherwise.

I did what I needed to in order to make a living--went to university, racked up student loans, found a decent paying job--but I always turned to writing for comfort and enjoyment. As I grew older, I began to realize that I wanted more.

I joined a forum online, and took part in a sort of round robin story telling exercise. It was so much fun for me. All day at work, I would think about what to write next, and I would rush home, anxious to read what everyone else had posted. Unfortunately, that little story died out rather quickly. The other posters were busy with their own lives and didn’t seem to want or be able to put in the effort I wanted to. I lied in bed one night, thinking about the character I had created and I decided I wasn’t done with her. I was going to tell her story from the beginning; tell it the way that I wanted it told, without worrying about what anyone else thought.

And that’s exactly what I did. It was harder than I thought. I had never written anything longer than a short story. Up to that point, I never thought I was capable of writing a novel. I proved myself wrong. And when I finally typed out the words ‘the end’, I knew what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

So then what? I knew I was meant to be a writer, but how was I supposed to convince others of that?

I began to research. Thankfully, we live in an age where the world is right at our fingertips. I scoured the internet for every article on how to get published I could find. Talk about information overload! So allow me to condense what I found.

1. Create your product
    I know it’s difficult to think of your story as a product, but when you are trying to get published, that’s exactly what it is. Give yourself some emotional distance from your story. It will help in the long run when you are faced with rejections and bad reviews. Edit the heck out of your story, and when you think it’s perfect, edit it some more. To do this, move on to #2.

2. Improve your skills
    You don’t need to go to school to be a writer, but you do need to have a good grasp of grammar and a working knowledge of the basics of story telling. Consider joining a writing group to get critiques. Do not rely on your friends and family to help with this. You need honest, unbiased opinions, and your loved ones won’t really be capable of that.

3. Research your options 
    Be mindful of your target audience. Find a publisher/agent who deals with this demographic. There are plenty of resources out there to help you find the best places to submit your story to. My favourites are 

Be wary of places that charge you to read your work. Money flows towards an author, not away.

4. Follow the rules
    Once you find a place to submit to, make sure you follow their submission guidelines to a t! I have seen stories rejected for their cover letters. I have seen stories rejected because the email was addressed to the wrong staff member. Publishers/agents are inundated with stories, and quite frankly, they are always looking for ways to lessen their burden. Do not ruin your chances by looking like you think you are above the rules.

5. Build your web presence
    I created a website and blog for myself long before I had a single publishing credit to my name. Why? Nowadays, publishers/agents, expect their authors to do a lot of marketing/promotion on their own. By developing a web presence, you are demonstrating that you’re serious about your work and you are capable of attracting an audience. It was thanks to my website that Mundania Press gave my novel a second look after they had already rejected me.

6. Build your portfolio
    Trying to get your novel published? Try writing some flash fiction and short stories, and submit them to various ezines. My very first acceptance came from a non-paying website, and the story was just a little something that took about a week to write. In the grand scheme of things, it was insignificant, but the acceptance gave me confidence to keep going and it also helped to build up my reputation.

7. Develop a thick skin
    You will get rejected. This is just a fact of life. Suck it up and keep submitting. Don’t sit on your hands while your waiting to hear back from a publisher/editor. Start working on your next project. If you throw in the towel after your first setback, you aren’t a writer. A writer keeps writing even though no one is reading.

Now that my novel has been released, I’m discovering that there is still a lot I have to learn. Getting published was not the end all and be all that I once thought it was. There’s marketing and promotion, and of course, there’s still writing. Write, submit, repeat. It’s not exactly what I imagined, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks for this, Sarah-Jean. Everything she wrote is exactly what I'd suggest. Been there! Stay tuned for our next Interview. Heidi Kling, author of SEA will be telling us about her debut novel.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Writer Sarah-Jane Lehoux

Having been a DEBUT writer just last year, I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone going through this process. When SARAH-JANE LEHOUX popped the questions about appearing on The Write Game I immediately said, "Absolutely. I'd love it." So let me introduce Sarah-Jane My first, It's Summer. Let's Read guest, and her debut novel THIEF. (Be sure to check out her CONTEST below.)

ABOUT SARAH-JANE:

Sarah-Jane Lehoux has always had a passion for storytelling. From grade school tales of cannibalistic ghosts, to teenaged conversations with God, to her latest fantasy adventures, she's attempted to share her love of the quirky and unconventional with her readers.

For the past several years, she has been employed as a veterinary technician in a busy animal hospital in the GTA. In between wrestling with rottweilers and fending off fractious cats, she has continued to craft stories that will entertain and provoke.

Her short stories have appeared online in a number of publications, and she is thrilled to announce the debut of THIEF, the first novel in an excitingly dark and dangerous new fantasy series.

In addition to her own writing projects, she also works as an editor for Awe-Struck Publishing, and as a slush reader for Mundania Press.

Sarah-Jane resides in Southern Ontario with her husband, and her ever growing horde of Machiavellian cats.

ABOUT THIEF

In the crumbling city of Eloria, there is one indisputable fact: everyone has a price. Protestations of morality and better judgment have little meaning when confronted with the chance to obtain the unobtainable. The only question remaining is just how much a person is willing to sacrifice in order to win their heart’s desire.

Sevy has always been a quick study in the wicked ways of Eloria. She has no qualms about taking what she wants, and when the love of her life is mysteriously murdered, Sevy will stop at nothing to get him back. Elvish black magic, necromancy, and demonic pacts are of little consequence if it means she can once again have her beloved at her side. But is she willing to murder her only friend to get the job done?


Thief is available in paperback and ebook format from Mundania Press.  In the next few weeks, it will also be available at online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Fictionwise. You can also order it through any local bookstore. Visit Sarah-Jane's website for complete ordering information.

AND . . . . DRUM ROLL HERE . . .  YOU CAN WIN ONE SIGNED COPY OF THIEF by leaving a "pithy" word or two, an insightful question or a helpful hint for those debut writers out there. (Contest open only to residents of Canada/US.) Sarah-Jane will choose a random winner and send the prize to that lucky reader.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read

Starting June 25 and for the next few weeks I'm going to be interviewing debut authors. I think this is a perfect time to let everyone know about some great summer reads, so check out The Write Game when I kick off "It's Summer. Let's Read.

I'm hoping some of the authors will be offering advice for the pre- or newly published authors that visit. I know some plan to give away a signed copy or two of their books to make your summer reading even more enjoyable.

If you are a debut author or know of someone who'd be interested in adding their book to the list of Summer Reading, email me or leave a comment so I can connect with them. Until the 25th, keep reading.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What To Do With Rotting Onions?

When the onions in my vegetable bin started to go soft I either whirled them in my garbage disposal or consigned them to my worm bin for composting.  Then one year when the garbage disposal seized up and my worm bin needed attention, but no more food scraps I simply dug holes in my garden and buried those rotting onions.  Here's what happened in June.


 Some fairly impressive live SCULPTURES, right?


Meanwhile back at the desk, I had this manuscript that had gone a bit soft as well. What I usually did when I came up against a rotting manuscript was this:

Shred it.
Hide it at the back of the closet.
And my all time favorite . . . start a new story.

This time I chose a different approach. I re-visited that initial idea by reading my notes very carefully, especially the "elevator pitch" sentence. Here's what I found: The Edmunds family, Carlie, Keith, and their mom are well to do, living in a glamorous beachfront home, then they lose everything and have to rebuild their lives. That wasn't where the story was headed, but it was definitely where I wanted it to go.

I went back through the chapters, found the places I'd drifted away from the story line, cut out those parts, and . . . Yippee! SCULPTURE in progress. The Princess of Las Pulgas was back on track.

I began to think about other things that I might approach a little differently. Hmmmm. What about rejection? Usual reaction: pouting, lots of self-doubting, throwing a small fit where nobody can see.
So how about trying something else. Here's the plan: Really dig into that proposal, query letter, first pages. Something's wrong and it's my job to find out what. I can't rely on my opinion alone; that's really too subjective and by this time I've been joined with this piece of writing so long that I no longer have any perspective.

I happen to have a fab critique group, so I turned to them, but I had other options if I wasn't so blessed. The Verla Kay's Message Boards offer critique partner opportunities. There's always SCBWI  as well with tons of readers wanting to exchange manuscripts.

Another good place is YALitChat. There's a small annual fee, but so worthwhile. The Teen Writers and Readers Group is excellent. I've used them to beta read and have had some eye-opening comments. The First Pages gives you a critique group of over two hundred readers. There are also groups to help with your Queries and Synopsis.

Whatever you choose remember, sometimes taking a different approach to handling a situation can result in unexpected and often rewarding results. SCULPTURES, for example.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Questions I Could Use Answers For

Okay, it's summer, the temperature is slowly rising, and I'm getting ready to tackle two things: a new book coming out and finishing my third YA novel. So why am I suddenly coming up with random questions? I don't have a clue unless, of course, it's one of my strategies for stalling. Anyway, I do have the questions, so if you can help me out with some answers I'd be ever so grateful.

Question #1: How do you autograph a book on Kindle? I went to a book signing for Heidi Kling (SEA) the other night and I thought, "What would she do if someone presented a Kindle with her new novel downloaded on it and asked for an autograph?" Sticky notes slapped on the screen? Any other ideas?

Question #2: Is the Internet dumbing us down permanently? Nicholas Carr's book says so. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I'm putting myself on an Internet diet and now! I already feel the creeping up of shortened attention span. How about you? Could you once read War and Peace, but find that even the title is too long? Sheesh!

Question #3: Can self-publishing prove to be the road to success? I've heard this is a No No, yet I've met writers who swear by it. Then there's Hilary Thayer Hamann who self-published Anthropology of an American Girl and is now a hot item with a publishing contract.

Question #4: Is there anything more beautiful than a Matilija? Show me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June Inspirations

I thought today I share a few uplifting, inspiring, hopeful things for this June day.

Some lovely TIPS from QueryTracker.net Blog

Some great thoughts about the prairie and keeping in touch with those internal rhythms from SunnyRoomStudio.

And how about this bird with creative nest building talents? I put up my umbrella and when I came into the garden two days later this is what I found. She doesn't seem to mind my sitting under her while she hatches her brood, so I can watch her as she and her handsome mate fly in and out. Can't figure out what kind of bird she is.


Two things I wait for to signal summer is really here are the Matilijas and tomatoes. Well, the Matilijas are here, so I know tomatoes will follow soon.

Matillijas in February remind me of that WIP when a lot is going on out of awareness and not much is happening where I'd love to see it happening.










Matilijas in April are a lot of promise but not one single bud.


June and Matilijas, finally! Now if only that manuscript would cooperate and blossom!

What's going on in your world this June day that elevates your spirit and fills you with hope?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Princess of Las Pulgas

I got my cover art for The Princess of Las Pulgas and I really love it. The hall of lockers, the girl with her face turned away is perfect.

I'm excited about seeing this work go from manuscript pages to galleys to ARC to book. It's always such a rush when you look back over the years from the time when you first had the idea, then you thrashed through the first, second, third drafts wondering if you really did have a book after all.

Then came those critiques from writers you respect that sent you back to scenes to do them again and again. Those edits from your editor that cut right to the point and finally made the characters and the story come to life.

While it's always the same process, it never really is the same. No two books come to the page in the same manner. No two books give you the same sleepless nights or the same hair pulling moments. But in the end there is a sense of having done what you set out to do. You've pulled together the puzzle pieces of plot, character, dialog, setting, description, narrative, tone, style and made it whole.

In the end, you found someone who liked what you did enough to invest time and money in seeing it through the publishing process.  Whew!

What's it like for other writers out there? Have I described what you experience? What can you add to the process that I've left out? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Heard A Fly Buzz

Yep, I was waiting for Emily's fly to dive bomb me, but it didn't happen. I slowly but surely crawled back to life, and as I did I returned with great humility and a sincere appreciation for good health.  Here's what I vowed as I stood up after about two weeks of being horizontal:



1) I will never take feeling good for granted again.

2) I will never ignore my body when it says, "Hey, babe, slow down. Take a break. Do not push until you drop.

3) I will never say, "I'm never sick."


4) I will have much more empathy for my family and friends when they say they don't feel well.




So now that I'm up and about and can actually talk . . . I lost my voice on day six. There was some scattered applause, but I ignored it.  So back to the talking thing. I have a lot to say as well as a lot to do. I was behind before, but I'm behinder now; however, keeping in mind my vow #2 I intend to ease back into work and  play a little less than I'd like.


I want to visit some of my friends online. It's been ages. *Waves to* Bish, Kelly, Jemi, Beverly, Marcia, Nan, Mel . . . Everybody.
I want to return to my YA WIP that I put on hold at day 16.
I want to share some of what's happened in my life while I was on that sabbatical.

So I'll get all of that together and I hope to see you here and there and everywhere again.