As writers, we’re frequently told that our characters need to suffer. They need conflicts, challenges and flaws. They need to risk losing everything, be in danger, maybe even actually lose everything…No one wants to read or watch someone who’s good at everything and has a perfect life. Right?
And that’s solid advice, until you go overboard. I think there comes a point when the writers take a character and make him go through hell (sometimes literally, as in the case of Supernatural) and back way too many times. Sure, it’s a fantasy show where everything is possible and not even death is final. But surely when you take a guy’s mother and have her killed by a demon, have him raised by a monster hunting-obsessed father and brother, have his girlfriend killed by a demon, kill him a couple of times, kill his brother a couple of times, have him live in hell for months, go through excruciatingly painful trials, separate from the girl he loves…
I’m sure he went through more. I just stopped watching. And this is probably the luckier brother…
We watch shows where we are invested in the characters. We root for them, feel for them or at least feel strongly about one way or the other. But sometimes that character becomes a tragic caricature. This is what I call tragedy for tragedy’s sake. It doesn’t feel natural, realistic or welcome.
Many TV shows lose viewers (or viewer’s passions if not entirely their loyalty) because of this. Yes, let’s keep the stakes high, but for goodness’ sake, let’s not go overboard.
So, I want to talk about Brody, Damian Lewis’s character from Homeland. For the first two seasons I was a true addict of the show. I would sit through 4-5 episodes in a row and still want more. Then I would watch them again with a friend or family member who didn’t watch it before just so I could go through that wonderful rollercoaster again and again.
However with the third season, the fast forward button became my best friend as they put Carrie (Claire Danes) through more hospitalizations and forced Brody to be a drug addict. You know where Supernatural has hell and death, Homeland has Carrie hospitalizations and unlucky Brody, and TVD has doppelgangers…
BRODY: TO HAVE HIM SUFFER OR TO HAVE HIM SUFFER A LOT MORE?
If you have never seen Homeland, you might think I’m overreacting. What’s a little drug addiction for a character in the grand scheme of drama, right?
Let me tell (or remind) you what Brody has been though. And then you tell me if he has had enough: (P.S. Major spoilers for Homeland)
- Brody, as a young marine, left his wife and 2 young kids behind to go to war. He saw combat, and that’s in my book enough ground for trauma and PTSD to last a lifetime.
- But Brody never had the chance to get home and suffer through his PTSD in peace (yes, I’m being sarcastic.) No. He was captured with his sniper friend/fellow soldier by the enemy. He was tortured in the worst possible ways for 3 years. At one point, they forced him to kill his friend (we later learned that they only made him think this.)
- Later, the terrorist leader took Brody, messed his brain by being kind to him and having him live in his house and tutor his young boy.
- Brody, away from his family and country, taught English and football to this lovely boy who was blissfully unaware of his father’s crimes. Brody loved this boy like a son. And I guess he was even happy, up until the point where American VP and the head of CIA thought it was OK to bomb an entire school region and kill 83 kids in the name of killing the terrorist leader. He wasn’t there. Instead, his son died in front of Brody. Yeah, I know, like Brody wasn’t traumatized enough.
- Then 8 years after he was first captured, he was saved by American soldiers. He got back home, where no one was smart enough to give him a psych evaluation. Instead, he was deemed a hero, and was immediately used by the VP for political agenda.
- Brody tried to adjust to being back, feeling conflicted about becoming a “terrorist” to avenge those kids’ death by killing the VP and a group of other politicians and being a Marine.
- His wife was screwing his best friend while he was away.
- He couldn’t have sex with his own wife, even when he didn’t know about the best friend.
- His sulky teenage daughter was ready to rebel any moment, and his adaptable and nice son didn’t mind seeing the best friend as a second dad.
- He was stalked and monitored by bipolar CIA agent Carrie, who failing to obtain legal reasons to tail and watch Brody, decided to learn his intentions by getting close to him.
- There was intense chemistry there, and they did fall for each other. Yep, falling for a CIA agent who was sure he was a terrorist isn’t too complicated.
- When he learned about Carrie’s initial intentions, he was pissed. And he almost blew up the VP and the politicians as planned, but Carrie stopped him by emotionally getting to his daughter. But the confession video was already obtained by others, and his terrorist/not-dead-sniper friend wanted to kill him for chickening out. Brody talked the terrorist leader into doing things his way. And he got to kill his friend for real this time.
- He played for the Senate, and he got Carrie committed to hospital- the one person who was right about him all along, and the CIA learned about her condition. He screwed her over big time. Yeah, this guilt didn’t eventually get to him at all.
- Carrie was eventually proven right after the confession video was found by the CIA and she was recruited again. She got Brody in by having him sort of almost attack her. Then she got very honest, very emotional and got Brody to confess everything. Great episode, awesome confession session which won Emmy for Outstanding Writing. Had never agreed more with an award before. Imagine the catalysis Brody went through. I mean it. It’s one of my favorite TV episodes of all time.
- Of course he now became an asset for the CIA. Either he helped them, or he went to prison for life or worse. And his family would find out the vest…
- So more lying, more internal conflicts, unresolved feelings for Carrie and stress made Brody run, and Carrie got to him again. She got Brody back in more ways than one.
- The terrorist leader kidnapped Carrie and forced Brody to kill the VP. More lying to friends and family, of course. Brody killed the VP to save Carrie.
- Unknown to Brody, Quinn (Rupert Friend) was hired to eliminate him once they caught the terrorist. Thankfully he saw sense and told the director to shove it.
- After the leader was captured, Carrie and Brody discussed if they could ever be together. His past, her illness…but Brody believed they had a shot because, let’s face it, no one could be a better match for the other after everything they went through.
- And despite a pissed off mentor, Carrie picked Brody over CIA. A second chance given at everything, Brody could finally have some peace, right? Nope. CIA was bombed. Everyone thought it was Brody. It wasn’t.
- Carrie got him to the border. Great goodbye scene. Maybe they will find each other again after Carrie can prove his innocence?
Surely, Brody can’t go through more terrible ordeals during season 3. Surely, all the pressure, identity crisis, guilt, PTSD, love lost and found and more are enough…
But nope. Brody got shot and almost died. Gangsters who found him made him a drug addict. Somehow he was “saved” by the CIA. After suffering through going cold turkey and emotionally tortured by being kept away from his daughter (who happened to change her name, left school and became a motel maid – and this isn’t half of it!), he got sober.
Then Carrie convinced him to go on a covert mission for redemption (for the almost bombing way back in season 1). He got trained like a marine again.
Oh, he learned that his daughter tried to kill herself after she thought he bombed the CIA (and the confession video) and received a not-so-warm “welcome” from her. There’s the hope that maybe he can fix things with her and be with Carrie, right?
He’s on a dangerous mission. Carrie is pregnant, and he doesn’t know, and it might not be his.
I don’t want him to die after everything they put him through, but at this point, killing him will be the kindest thing they ever did to his character.
Have you had enough of Brody pain? Homeland season 3 isn’t over yet.
Now, I made my characters go through some really awful, depressing and/or deadly situations. Just I didn’t do…this much.
What do you think? Do you have a limit when it comes to a character’s suffering?
How much “hell” is too much for one character?
If you don’t have time for the whole post, don’t let me keep you. You probably already do this. It’s one of the most important steps of querying: Being personal and specific in your customized pitch – as in sending a well-targeted, well-tailored query to the right person and not bulk-querying haphazardly.
By now, this tip should be saying like vampires have fangs. Common knowledge. It’s not. It’s, for some reason, blissfully ignored by a number of bloggers and writers. How do I know it? From the impossibly generic guest post pitches I’ve been receiving since I launched my blogs.
I don’t generally accept guest posts for my sites. I don’t advertise for guest posts. Because I can’t pay writers at the moment, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask, especially when I distinctly prefer to write for sites that pay.
That said, if a writer was completely OK with this fact, didn’t need the money and had something he couldn’t wait to share with my audience, something that was right up this blog’s alley, I wouldn’t necessarily turn him down.
But even though there are no pages or posts here (or any other of my blogs) that ask for guest posts, I frequently get pitched by e-mail and I can’t believe there are so many bloggers/writers out there who don’t seem to have read any tip on pitching someone, ever. Apparently, they have read all the titleson the benefits of guest posting, however.
I’m saying “titles” because they haven’t gone through the entirety of any solid article on guest posting (or querying) either. Because almost all of them underscore similar things. Some of the shared tips are: Address to the right person, make sure you read the publication and show this in your pitch.
I tend to get several generic pitches a month for the different blogs that I run. Some pitchers haven’t even tried: as in they don’t even have my blog’s name, my name or even the blog’s URL in the pitch. I still read them anyway because I want to give them the benefit of a bad subject line. I also like providing myself with material for future posts.
Some spice up the generic up , and add my blog’s URL in the subject line. Not the worst move but it screams “bulk” and that’s never good. The glaringly important issue here: My blog URLS and my blogs aren’t the same. It might not be the smartest SEO move on my part but trust me, there was some strategy involved in it. Anyway, the pitcher was too lazy to write (or even possibly check out) the blog’s name. Ouch. Seriously.
One blogger, the most recent pitch that prompted this post, has taken bulk-pitching to a whole new level. The subject line doesn’t mention anything about me or my blogs. The greeting doesn’t include my name. The post doesn’t have the name of the blog the writer wants to write for. I know which one through an educated guess because she has at least mentioned the topic.
She has, however, proposed a relevant topic with a suitable title, using a decent language.
I haven’t returned the e-mail. I don’t think that will hurt the blogger’s feelings much since she probably has sent the email to a couple hundred other bloggers as well. Besides, I don’t want to mess up with the statistics. When the pitch is generic, you will most likely get no response.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind. Editors, some of them are also writers, are busy people. Many are busy to the point they can’t even respond to the to-the-point, personalized and timely pitches if it’s not what they need at the moment.
It’s kind of funny. You’d think that it’d be common sense to check out the name of the person you are querying. And my name isn’t a secret. It’s even in the e-mail I use for writing-related correspondence. It’s also on the About section. Even on blogs where I have occasionally accepted guest posts (from writers who pitched well and for blogs I unfortunately can’t always produce content regularly for), my name is on the 98% of the posts.
I’m not going to say that all publications make it easy. They don’t. They post almost encrypted guidelines or don’t post at all. Editors’ names might need some minor detective work like calling the publication or asking other writers. Some publications ask you to contact for questions but often don’t return with the information you requested. But when it’s right out there, and you don’t use it, it’s on you.
Grammar and spelling are important. A creative subject line can work, so is crafting a concise message. But it all starts with at least trying to hide the fact that it’s a bulk offering. There might be several publications that cover similar topics with similar angles, but it’s up to the writer to make each pitch sound personal.
The upside of these e-mails, in addition to inspiring post ideas (and/or case studies), they help you get in the shoes of the editor/publisher, and show you why you have to work diligently on your pitches. Not that we didn’t know before, but boy is their job difficult…:)
I mentioned in my previous post that I was cheating on non-fiction with fiction. And when I say I got a bit immersed in my fiction, it wasn’t just writing. A lot of time goes into research, including checking the plausibility of story events, looking into the credibility of competitions, exercising logline writing skills and more.
One of the first areas you need to be savvy about to is copyright basics and I’m happy to share my findings. If you are already familiar with these, great. If not, let’s go through the points together:
- Your created work is automatically copyrighted and it’s yours. And in theory, even the date of document on your computer can prove your ownership, should you ever have to go to court. That said, this gives me (and many other writers, I can assume) as much peace of mind as pushing the save button repeatedly on the word processor during writing.
In addition to abusing the save button, I tend to email myself copies of my updated stories as frequently as possible, keep copies on USB drives and print them out. I don’t mind the extra “work” as it helps me sleep better at night.
So copyrighting your baby for 20 or 35 bucks doesn’t seem too big a price to pay. However I do recommend copyrighting the finished work.
- Most recommended registry options are WGA and US Copyright Office. Writers Guild of America allows you to register fully developed concepts and treatments and such, in addition to manuscripts and screenplays. It’s very easy, doable online and it costs 20 bucks. It protects copyrights for 5 years, and than it’s up to you to renew it (as well as to remember when the copyright registration expires.)
- US Copyright Office protects it for your lifetime, plus several more decades so it makes more sense to shed the extra bucks. I registered my synopsis for a story with the WGA, but I’ll probably register the full script with the US Copyright Office.
- As long as your country has signed a copyright treaty with the US, your copyright is protected internationally once you register with WGA or US Copyright office. If you are planning to publish internationally, or in the States, registering here makes a lot of sense.
- It’s not OK to put your registration number or a copyright mark or anything like that on your manuscripts when you are submitting to agents, publishers and editors. It comes off as amateurish and they don’t appreciate it. They’ll have enough areas to critique you. Don’t make sure you make a negative impression from the get-go.
So this is it. I hope it was helpful. If you have any questions, fire away in the comments. And happy writing!
P.S. The title says “fiction” because I happened to be writing fiction at the time, but obviously same tips apply for non-fiction writers when it comes to their manuscripts.
Forgive me, readers for I’ve sinned. And it’s not my first time. I haven’t posted in a long time. I got a bit lost in competition deadlines and the frustrating efforts to write compelling loglines and synopses and researching what kinds of real life celebrity-related information can/can’t be used in fiction. I’ll get to it in a bit. Again, I apologize for my absence and I’ll try not to be a repeat offender.
Writers Being Sued by Celebrities: Scarlett Johansson Sues French Writer
How long can you go during a day without mentioning a famous person’s name? Or something they were involved in? Without referring to a favorite song or a musician?
It’s only natural conversational flow to mention the name of someone popular that you admire/dislike/respect. So it’s again natural when you mention celebrity names in your stories, given that it’s relevant.
It makes the jokes funnier, too. Some of my favorite lines from TV shows include references or topics about famous works.
Love this line form Friends, from TV show Friends:
Joey: Why do you call him Gandalf?
Ross: Gandalf, the Wizard.
(Joey stares at him blankly)
Ross: Hello, didn’t you read Lord of the Rings in high school?
Joey: No, I had sex in high school. (Season 4, Episode 9)
Omit all the celebrity mentions from the sitcom Will and Grace, and you’ll likely remain with 4 seasons instead of 8. Hell, some celebrities are so comfortable in their own skin, they play a funnier, more exaggerated versions of themselves in films and series. The Kevin Bacon episode of Will and Grace is one of my favorites:
Will: I loved you in Footloose.
Kevin Bacon: You saw that? (Season 5, Episode 2)
With Supernatural, I wouldn’t know where to start. Their banter often includes rockers and sometimes actors. Surely if Mel Gibson can handle the “He’s possessed. Think about it,” joke, it’s no big deal?
I mean no one is suing Ricky Gervais for his Golden Globes jokes, right? Or wait- maybe they don’t want to risk it because Gervais might be richer than the plaintiff?
I have book examples too, but hey I’m scared of mentioning them here. What if those actors want to pull a Scarlett Johansson and sue the authors?
In case you haven’t heard, French author Gregoire Delacourt got sued by Johansson because he described his character as looking like Scarlett. Scarlett is pissed because he didn’t ask her permission first. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know there was a celebrity phone line where I could reach any celebrity of my choice and ask whether or not I could use their name in a certain fictional context.
Freaked out, I did a lot of research and found out it basically comes down to your luck, and the personality of the celebrity whose name you dropped. I’d think comparing a character’s beauty to a living person would get you a basket of muffins, if anything. Definitely not a lawsuit. You live, you learn.
So I decided to try my chance with Gerard Butler. I tweeted him, asking if he would be OK if I were to mention his name in my novel. I even managed to squeeze in my greetings and the context in 140 characters. He hasn’t gotten back to me. Yes, I really tweeted Butler. And no, I wasn’t expecting a tweet back. With all the attention from fans and his busy life, where on earth would he find the time to read my tweet and tweet me back? But from what I saw in his overall reaction to his fans and his attitude in interviews, he is a sweet guy who probably wouldn’t try to take me to court if my book got published.
How did I mention him? A famous, gorgeous actress (fictional) is assumed to have dated a lot of hot men, including Gerard Butler.
It’s not fair or logical to expect actors to lead their lives according to our expectations. We can protest all we want, but in the end, if we tried to protest every actor/celebrity for every behavior we don’t approve of, we’d be left with only a handful of actors and movies.
That said, it’s hard not to be taken aback when a celebrity goes and does something like this. And frankly, I can live without Johansson’s movies. And she doesn’t need me as a fan.
Worry not on my behalf. I never have and never will mention her in any of my stories. But I do have a movie blog where I – drum roll- review movies. Will she try to sue bloggers too? Should I take those posts down? Or as long as it is not a book, and it is real life, we’re fine?
So my dear readers and fellow writers, think twice before writing about a celebrity in your stories. And if you do have a way you use to reach celebrities to ask for their permission, do share.:)
I can’t resist saving funny and inspirational writing-related images whenever I run across them, and I love sharing them with you. So let’s have some laughs and smiles:
Much funnier if you have also seen the Friends episode where Ross and Rachel sing “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” to their baby daughter Emma.
This just might be my favorite.
Found this gem via the Facebook page of Page Writing Awards.
I have to admit it’s not exactly writing related. But it’s strangely motivating:)
This is all for today. If you want more funny and inspirational stuff, you can check out the other two posts on the blog:
No, I haven’t gone all psycho or masochistic on you. Obviously you don’t want to get rejected. You don’t write to get rejected. At least I hope you don’t.
But when you are a writer, in addition to death and taxes, you can also count on being rejected. It just comes with the territory.
However not all rejections carry the same value, and they definitely don’t have the same effect.
Now, I think we can agree on the types of rejection that suck:
1) The “no-reply” rejection
Days pass. Weeks go by. Nothing from the editor/publisher. Nada.
Did your query get lost in the inbox? Did the editor see it, and file it to check it out later? Did it get in the spam folder? Or it was seen, read and rejected?
There’s no way to know, so you have 2 options: Follow up, or forget.
Frankly, so far I’ve not really gained anything from a follow-up apart from a short thanks-but-no-thanks reply in one case. Other times my short, polite and to-the-point follow-up emails were never returned.
Carol Tice makes a valid point in the post she explains her follow-up strategy: She just doesn’t do it. Because it’s better to move on than spend time chasing one idea.
However sometimes the idea is too good, too timely to miss, so you want to get your reply as soon as possible.
So I appreciate publications that include their response time in their guidelines while advising to pitch elsewhere if you don’t hear from them in that period.
2) The ever-late thanks but no thanks reply
It’s indeed a case of “better late than never”. Because at least you know you have to move on, and you don’t need to waste time following up.
But it’s still a rejection, and it involves no specifics on why your idea wasn’t good enough. And while there’s no obligation on the editor’s part to explain (or frankly any expectation from me to hear the why), it leaves you guessing on what didn’t work.
The idea? The timing? The language? A combination of several factors?
But of course I’ll take this one over no reply any day.
3) The cruel reply.
I haven’t received this, and I’m hoping I won’t. But some horror stories from other writers did let me believe that some people might get too creative in their rejection emails when they detail their reasons. Constructive criticism is appreciated. Attacks aren’t.
Now on the good stuff: 2 Types of Rejection to Love
1) The fast rejection:
Some editors are very quick (as in they reply in a week or two) in responding, whether they like your pitch or not.
Most of the time these fast-answering editors are also writers, and they know (and not just remember) what it is like to be querying.
Of course my initial reaction is disappointment, but soon it’s replaced by genuine gratitude. It feels great knowing that you can move on with the idea.
2) The personalized rejection, preferably with an invitation to pitch again.
I once got rejected by an editor who didn’t find my piece (on spec) lively enough. But she went on to say that she liked my writing in general, even naming a piece that she liked from this blog, and invited me to pitch again. That was the best rejection ever.
I could go back to review what went wrong with my style, and manage not to remake those mistakes again. I also felt flattered and encouraged, as opposed to down and disappointed.
We all get rejected at one point ot another. So it’s just better when we know for sure, and we know why.
Do you have problems dealing with rejection? These posts will help. They might even make you smile:
Someone I knew and loved died today. According to my dad, it is nothing to get depressed over; it’s a fact of life. And as clichéd as he was being, he was correct- it is a fact of life. He then wisely admitted to the fact that death does hurt the people who are the closest to the deceased.
The problem was, I was close, though not the closest by any means. He was my mother’s uncle (my grandmother’s brother), he was over 70 and he wasn’t perfectly healthy. But I did love him, and it just makes things difficult to digest.
I’m sure his children and grandchildren feel worse than I do. My grandmother, and her sister (who also recently lost her husband) are probably a mess.
It doesn’t change the fact that it just feels so weird, and that we weren’t ready.
We had spoken to him only a couple of days ago, on his birthday, wishing longer, healthier years.
Obviously, fate or whatever it’s that you’d like to call it, likes to be ironic. And not just because he died a couple of days after his birthday, but also because the cause of death was the cold he caught during a treatment for another condition.
I’m grateful that he didn’t suffer, and that he didn’t go through mental deterioration, that he lived his days as fully and cheerfully as he could. I’m happy that he at least didn’t die last year or ten years ago.
But he did die. And I wasn’t ready for that. I was kind of expecting him to live somewhat healthily to his late 80s, at least. I know it’s wishful thinking.
And I wasn’t ready because he was the youngest sibling- younger than my grandmother and their sister. And I love all three of them. You can guess that my mind isn’t swirling with the most cheerful and optimistic thoughts right now.
He’s not the first person to die in my family, obviously. But he’s the second person to go that, we, as a family, really cared about.
The first was my grandmother’s sister’s husband. Don’t let the long title fool you – I often considered him as my own grandfather, and certainly liked him more than my own grandfather.
But he was older, sicker and a bit more depressed. So while it was sad, it wasn’t shocking.
This one hit closer to home, and maybe because I had seen him and talked to him more recently.
And it is a bit unsettling to be worrying about what you were going to watch that night one minute, and then finding yourself questioning a lot of things. Yes, it is human nature to wondering about life after death, whether it exists, what happens after your heart stops beating, whether the person can hear what we think or know how we feel afterwards…But the rate and intensity of the wondering, after someone’s death, is quite different.
It brought me back to some days ago, when I was talking to a friend about immortality. Well, we had just seen Wolverine, and while a comic book adaptation movie about a mutant might not sound that deep, it does revolve around some decent themes: like immortality isn’t worth a damn if you can’t share it with anyone you care about, or if you don’t have a purpose.
My friend thinks it is a good thing that we all die, so it does kind of lessen the number of people we experience the death of.
And while I agree that immortality, after having lost everyone, can be a curse; I still think that being like Wolverine is the perfect fantasy because he stops aging at his prime (I’m no comic book nerd, so if he does age very slowly, I wouldn’t know), he heals himself- so even though there’s physical pain, it’s very short-lived and he lives on healthily. And hey, he is a hero – he saves a lot of people when called for, so he kind of deserves it too.
Hey, forget forever. Wouldn’t it be cool if you were rewarded like a couple of healthy, coherent, happy years for each year that you were a nice, kind person?
So yes, it sucks that we experience loss and grief. It also sucks more that we don’t live great lives for longer periods of time.
But hey, that’s just me. So would I want to be immortal like that if it would be just me? I don’t know. The “alone” thing scares the hell out of me. Yet the potential of exploration, all the more that can be done and experienced and felt excites me.
If given the choice to be immortal, I guess I’d just ask about the conditions first.
Therapy & Escapism…
But hey, it is what it is and this is one of the reasons I write. My writing world doesn’t have to reflect the real world all the time. I can make my characters live as much as I want.
It’s not to say they don’t go through loss or pain. They do. But it’s all on my terms, and I love that. I get to decide. It empowers me, and entertains me. It provides shelter when I need to escape reality. But it also inspires me to go out and live my life to the full as well. Because as I keep creating more stuff, I get to live more vigorously.
Writing is also one of the best forms of therapy. This is why I wrote this post. I realize it might not be the most consistent or logical thing I have written.
You don’t think of outlines during therapy, do you?
But everything I said, as sporadic as the structure or ideas might seem, comes down to living, losing someone and how we interpret life, death and life after it.
Sometimes you just need to write.
Thanks for listening reading.
Write Where the Money is one well-rounded resource that can, and will explain pretty much any question you might have about any stage of writing for a magazine or a website. It was written by veteran writer/blogger Robert Earle Howells.
There are many amazing resources I’ve found about querying, contracts, formatting, writing and such, but I don’t think I have seen all of together, and written so well, in one place.
It’s a must for beginner writers, although it has a lot to teach and/or remind all levels of writers. And even if you’ve been writing and getting published successfully for years, it is still a handy resource to have because it does cover pretty much everything.
It’s a 154-paged PDF document, but it reads as fast as a page-turning work of fiction. Honestly. First time I was reading it, I almost forgot to get off at my bus stop.
But let’s give you more details on why you might need it too.
Below is a breakdown of basically what the book covers, though I interpreted chapter headings to give you a better idea. For the actual chapter names, take a look at the book’s sales page. (Yep, it’s an affiliate link. I stand by the book, and wish I had purchased it much sooner. It’s $47.)
I should mention that all chapters include quotes from other writers, editors and publishers, as well as experiences of Robert, and stuff he used for his own queries. And each chapter ends with a summarized action plan for you.
Here we go:
-How you know if you can write (or know about what to write)
-How to organize your ideas
-Why experience/clips don’t matter as much as good ideas
Now, technically, this is common sense. But it’s easy to get intimidated by our lack of experience in one area even if we have experience in others. So keep in mind that great ideas (and how well you present them) are what matters. And we were all beginners in a niche once.
Just keep brainstorming, and studying publications.
- How/where to get valid experience
He guides you on different strategies to get those first clips.
- What to pay attention to when choosing how to get your clips
- How to write something editors would want (aka how to write well)
- How to study and pitch a publication
- How to understand/interpret writer’s guidelines
There’re some very useful, but not-always mentioned tips on how to read a publication’s guidelines, what to believe and what (not) to take seriously, and what is said vs. what is meant.
- Tips on how to really write a successful query letter
Again, unless you’ve just started writing (congratulations, this is a resource that will get you very far without you having to collect all the information you need about writing, submitting and publishing from a hundred different resources), you are familiar most of the tips. But it’s practical to have a solid checklist.
- What comes after the query, deciphering contract terms, negotiating, rights
The book doesn’t leave you high and dry after sending the query letter. It features insights on how to follow-up, when to give up, how to react to similar ideas published in the same magazine that rejected yours and so on.
Then there’s the breakdown of not just rights, but other terms as well.
- Working with editors
This part informs you about how to react to edit and rewrite requests professionally; as well as developing long-lasting relationships that will land you assignments without querying (much).
- How much you earn, and how to know an article’s actual worth, what to do when the payment is late
Plenty of magazines do in fact pay a lot better than blogs. Even the publications that pay for both print and online content pay more for the print articles. However, they also happen to expect a lot more in terms of research, experts and interviews.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your best when you are writing for the web. You definitely should. However you will see that sometimes an article that pays 3 grand won’t have paid as much as the 50 bucks you got for that 500-word piece for a blog. He explains how.
This section also gives you ideas on how to re-slant your articles and what more you can do with them. Moreover, there’s detailed information service articles vs. feature pieces.
- Defining/finding markets
Different types of publications are explained, along with tips on what to expect from them. Job boards are analyzed. And there’s also information on how to monetize your own blog.
- Qualities you need to become successful: This is divided into two chapters.
And it’s not just about clear writing or being more productive (though they are obviously covered). It pretty much tells you what you need to manage your business, writing and life properly so that you will be a successful writer.
- Wisdom, tips and experiences of fellow writers
This part is great for gaining (and keeping) you faith and confidence.
- Glossary for the writing business terms
- Resource Listing: from markets to associations.
All in all, it is a book to keep as a resource as long as you are writing non-fiction. It should be kept where you can refer to as fast as you need, whenever you need it.
-9 Awesome (Free & Paid) Places to Find Market Guidelines. This is a post previously published on this blog, and while it also includes magazine markets, most of the resources listed feature many web markets.
- Mediabistro offers avant-garde membership that comes with How-to-Pitch series, where you get detailed, straight-from-the-editor tips on how to query their magazines. There’s also a nice compilation of markets, both online and print.
- 45+ More Websites that Pay You to Contribute an Article, Instantly. This post on Bamidele Onibalusi’s website WritersinCharge is a follow-up to his 30 Websites that Pay You to Contribute an Article, Instantly.
- Sophie Lizard’s free e-book The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More. It only requires a free membership to her highly useful blog Be a Freelance Blogger.
- Carol Tice’s website has a list of markets that pay at least $50 for guest posts. Scroll towards the end of her guest posting guidelines to check out the markets.
For more help on how to find paying web markets, check out my article 9 Simple Ways Writers Can Find Paying Web Markets on Write Your Revolution.
Go ahead and compile your own gigantic list. Then bring out your ideas notebook, brainstorm some and do some querying.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Challenges of Writing Your Novel (After Your First Draft) & Resources to Help You Survive and Thrive
I know this blog has taken a turn towards fiction, but I promise you it’s not absolute or permanent. I’ve always written fiction, and I’ve become addicted to non-fiction as of late 2009 (aka when I discovered blogging).
However it is hard to find a balance between the two, and with many contest deadlines being in spring, summer or early fall, I’ve been cheating on my non-fiction a bit. That, and I’m still waiting for my text-to-speech software, which endured a long adventure on the way to me, which soon you will read about.
Completing your first draft is no easy task. You need to fight blocks, doubt, urges to edit and give up. But while it is an essential step on the way to getting published, it is still way down on the ladder – with so many more steps left to climb up.
My first draft for my first novel (attempt) was finished some months ago. Now it’s being re-read and edited. I’ll soon be submitting it to two contests and later to agents and publishers.
- Editing: It goes without saying. You need to pay attention to punctuation, grammar, story flow (are the events in the right order?, do the scenes follow each other smoothly?, etc), fact-checking, research to you left to be added later.
My favorite editing resource is Sigrid Mcdonalds’ Be Your Own Editor.
- Formatting: You need to correctly format your manuscript including anything from spacing to font size. There’s a lot of software (both free and paid) for novel writing on the web. But while I adore my scriptwriting software (Final Draft), I couldn’t find one I prefer over Word when it comes to writing novels. Old-fashioned Word-lovers like me shall not worry, though, because formatting with it is not that complicated. I use a lot of Writer’s Digest books as resources, and I own Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino.
- Writing your synopsis: Well, this is a form of torture. Yes, it is a necessary evil. I can’t argue with that. But I doubt there are many authors who claim to love writing this one-page (or two) summary of their manuscript where you have to give all the main points without the freedom of space. Oh boy.
Burdened with this obligatory task, I dug into the Internet, and I found Jane Friedman’s article and list quite useful: Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis. I also recommend: Movie Synopsis Examples on Writer’s Digest.
- Prologue or no prologue: My story starts in the present with some necessary flashbacks (yes, I’m adamant they’re necessary). However I have two scenes involving the male protagonist that take place before the flashbacks’ (these flashbacks belong to the same year) date. They aren’t description-heavy scenes, but rather dialogue-based bits that tell us plenty of information about the main character. So yes, I wrote a prologue.
Obviously if judges/agents/publishers like what they see but insist on I give it up, I’ll. My story is my child, but I’m not above cutting her hair so that she’ll get accepted to a prestigious school. I’m just saying.
- Chapters: How long and compelling are your chapters? True, there is no obligatory maximum or minimum length, and every story is different. But you might want to check if the events are separated optimally.
- Flashbacks: Do you have flashbacks? And do they add to or take away from the flow of your story?
In my case, I have no story without the flashbacks. They strengthen (and give the reason for) the main conflict. They make you care about the characters more. They also provide motives. So, for this particular story, I say “Yay!” for them.
I’m all for applying tips from industry veterans, and most writers aren’t crazy about flashbacks. But don’t forget there’s always room for breaking some rules.
- Frustration: Whether it’s loneliness, writer’s (or editor’s) block or just general frustration that makes you want to connect with people who go through similar ordeals, I suggest you have writer friends online and offline. I happen to know more writers online, and this Facebook group is awesome when it comes to support, response rate and being fun.
- Collecting agents’, publishers’ and contests databases: Where will you try to sell your book?
It’s important to construct your database so that you can get right into action as soon as you’re finished editing, formatting and polishing. You might (and probably will) get rejected in the process, but not sending out work (to the right markets) prevents acceptance too.
Where to Find Free Market Listings by Jane Friedman is a good start.
- Preparing for, and accepting rejection: Since it happened to a lot of the writers you admire, it’s safe to assume it might happen to you to. The secret to success is knowing how to deal with it. Below are several articles to guide you through the unpleasant, but usually unavoidable, event of rejection:
One of the benefits of writing a blog for writers is that I get to share my to-do list and advice in a fun way. I enjoy helping out other writers, and frankly, blogging is more fun than a boring to-do list written on a piece of paper to be forgotten later…