Posts Tagged ‘writers’
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The Holly Query
Your relationship with an editor usually starts with the query letter. She might like it and decide to assign you to the topic, or she might just decide that it is horrible and send it to the bin. Given their importance, writing queries can be scary.
Writing queries used to freak me out. I can’t say I am now in love with the process of querying, but at least they don’t scare or overwhelm me anymore. I realized that the hardest part of writing a good query, at least to me, is finding that awesome angle that will fit the magazine readers’ needs and wants correctly while managing to describe this angle in a compelling way in your query. Of course even if you think you got it right, there is the possibility that topic was recently snatched by another writer, and you were a little late.
The Query Is Only the Beginning
But let’s assume that you do know how to send the right kind of query, and let’s assume that you got the job. Congratulations, you’ve got one foot in the door. But now that you started a relationship, you need to work on maintaining a good one by delivering quality work on time, written, styled and formatted according to the parameters you discussed with the editor. And after you come through, sending a second query to that editor will be easier. The editor himself can even call you and ask if you want another assignment.
So you need to do your homework well, send the impeccable query, and listen to the editor.
So far, so obvious, right? I mean did you really need to be told to check your grammar or not attempt a query before knowing your way around the magazine, and its writer’s guidelines?
What Not To Do With and After The Query- Editors Unleashed
But apparently some writers do, otherwise Linda Formichelli’s Editors Unleashed would not have needed to cover so much ground with the editor pet peeves.
In this entertaining and informative e-book, she has talked to several editors about how some writers infuriate them during and after query.
But the beauty of this book isn’t that they only share writer “horror” stories, but also the good stories where the writer got and completed the assignment with grace and continued to work with the editor.
There are lots of resources on how to write successful queries, and Linda Formichelli’s free packet of 10 query letters that got her assignments is one of them. It can be obtained by subscribing to her free newsletter. Formichelli is a successful freelance writer and the co-author of the bestselling book The Renegade Writer. She blogs on The Renegade Writer.
Editors Unleashed used to cost $6.95, but now it is the second free gift for subscribing to The Renegade Writer. This ultra-useful book covers query dos and donts as well as what attitude editors expect from writer once the query lands them the job.
Reading this book will help you:
1) To get noticed by the editor and land that assignment
2) To build and maintain a good, on-going relationship with the editor
3) To build and maintain as a professional, reliable and easy-going writer
4) To laugh. Seriously, some writer behavior will make you laugh.
Some Editor Pet Peeves- Inspired by Editors Unleashed
- Queries with grammar mistakes and/or typos
- Queries that show that the writer has no idea about the magazine’s target audience
- Queries that are far too long or far too short
- Queries that are vague
- Generic queries that could be sent to any magazine and yet would appeal to none
- Queries that have the magazine’s and/or the editor’s name wrong
I’m sure there are more, but you get the point. While some of these are very obvious and takes a little effort on the writer’s part to get rid of them, getting the idea just right can be very tricky. To craft a query that is interesting, engaging and with a slant that hasn’t been done before is a challenge writers face all the time. But by paying attention to the tips in the book, we can transform a frustrating challenge into an activity that comes naturally to us. and getting more and better assignments as a result.
Editors, are your experiences with writers?
Writers, how are you managing the querying process I’d love to read your experiences, both positive and negative.
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Writing Character: Ethan played byChristopher Gorham
Ethan is a writer who can’t get published. His last novel is turned down because it is not realistic enough where it matter (and it is also not appealing enough to women’s fantasies of Mr. Right. ) Baffled and ready to give up, he goes to a café. There he meets the beautiful Jesse (Alyssa Milano). They like each other, and she says that she is all the inspiration he needs. They start dating, Ethan keeps writing.
Unbeknownst to Ethan, however, Jesse is also dating Troy (Michael Landes) – a guy who seems to be Mr. Right personified: He is a successful advertising executive with his own company whereas Ethan is living rent free in his flat as long as he performs his super duties.
Jesse feels bad, as she starts falling for both and both men start falling for her. She will have to choose pretty soon….
The Novel, and The Movie Twist
(This part of the post features spoilers for the movie. You can read the unspoiled review for the movie on my entertainment blog.)
The movie has us believe that Jesse is a two-timing girl who doesn’t quite deserve wither of these too-good-to-be men. But as it turns out, Jesse is not two-timing. Troy doesn’t exist.
Troy is the male protagonist Ethan creates to please his publisher, who just happens to be the improved version of Ethan. And while we often see Jesse conflicted, it is never openly said that she needs to choose between two guys. As it turns out, while she has been keeping a secret from Ethan only to ensure his happiness, it is not about another man.
So Ethan doesn’t give up fighting for Jesse in the end. He also doesn’t give up writing his novel- which finally gets him a publishing deal. We learn about “Troy” the moment Ethan provides us with the manuscript called Troy Meets Girl.
A Romantic Movie with a Creative Ending, and a Fictional Writer We Can Be Inspired By
While I was rooting for Ethan the entire time (both for his book and girl), I could also totally see what the publisher was talking about. We don’t want to finish a romantic novel or a movie and say “That would never happen”. We want to say “That might happen, and I hope it happens to me”. And that is what the movie does.
Can we believe a decent guy being a writer, barely making ends meet but yet reluctant to make ends meet? Absolutely. Can we buy Christopher Gorham as a cute, albeit not gorgeous, movie lead? Definitely. And we can definitely see that his character is realistic. As sweet as he is, he is still a guy who loves Star Wars, hates musicals and can’t really see why the girls can’t get sick of Mr. Darcy.
So while it is not the best movie out there, it is inspiring, uplifting and motivating- whether you want to find The One, or make your writing dreams come true. Give it a shot- both to the movie and your writing. OK, especially to your writing.
If you liked this post, you might want to read posts from my Fictional Writers: Writer Characters in Movies, TV Series and Books category.
Straw Dogs : Creating the Perfect Writing Environment, and The Writing Retreat from Hell
This post’s writing character comes from the 2011 remake of Straw Dogs. This new version stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth.
The Writer Character and The Perfect Writing Room
American screenwriter David Summer is working on a movie script that takes place during WW2. His actress wife Amy’s old family house in the south sounds like a perfect writer’s retreat. And it is indeed beautiful: It is big, has a gorgeous view of the lake and a wonderful study room.
Soon David transforms the room into a writer’s haven: the pool table is covered with models of WW2 houses and streets, the walls now carry a large green board for all his notes and he has even surrounded himself with books about the era. He listens to classical music as he writes- not necessarily because it is his favorite, but because it goes with his story.
The Writing Retreat from Hell
The problem is, the house is in a remote area of a small town. The house doesn’t get cell reception. I missed why they don’t have a phone in the house. Yikes.
The town folk are not very tolerant or open-minded, and soon they gain enemies without trying. It doesn’t help that David’s world views, and his wife’s behavior is enough to trigger the animals in their employees- the Amy’s ex Charlie (played by True Blood’s Eric-Alexander Skarsgard) and his crew, who were hired to repair the roof.
As great as the house and his room is, their life turns into a nightmare. They’re terrorized, and David decides to fight off their attackers one by one, even if that’s the last thing he’ll live to do. For the details on the terror, you can read my Straw Dogs movie review.
The Writer’s Story and His Life Overlap
In David’s story, a country’s soldiers beat the other country’s soldiers even though they are outnumbered.
In the end (yes-here come the spoilers), David manages to get rid of (=kill) a group of armed and irrational men with the help of his brains, and his frantic wife.
Finding The Perfect Writing Retreat in Real Life
Of course in the end, the perfect writing retreat wasn’t worth it. He and his wife were probably scarred for life.
But then again, as much as I like my lake views, I could never write alone in such a place, with just one person to keep me company, unless of course that person is Nikita or Sydney Bristow or John Reese…
But why leave the city? You can always opt for a nice holiday resort where you can be as alone as you want, and you can deprive yourself from technology only as much as you choose to for those flowing writing periods.
Yes, I often mute my cell-phone when I work. I try not to pay attention to the internet. And no, I am not always successful in turning off my distractions. But I like the fact that there can be distractions, and several ways of communicating with people outside my house.
Maybe it has a lot to do with growing up in a city, where we lock our doors and bolt them, even in the safest neighborhoods. Where there are houses and shop nearby. Where people don’t really care what you do, or what you believe in.
Or maybe it is and reading about and watching way too many “cabin-in-the-woods”, psychos-attack-ordinary-couple type of stories. But remote town houses freak me out. No technology? In the middle of nowhere? No thanks!
How do you feel about writer retreats? How isolated do you like to be while you are writing?
Would you like a cabin in the woods, or a town house like the one in Straw Dogs?
And If you have you seen the movie, what do you think Amy and David should have done?
For more writer characters, you can read:
18 Movies with Writer Characters featuring Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway and More
The Writer, His First Novel and The Worst Fan Ever
David Norton (played by Timothy Hutton) is an accomplished sci-fi writer with many bestselling books under his name. He travels with his girlfriend Jane to a writing conference in Majorca where is the headlining guest. Things are pretty good, so he even takes the chance to ask Jane to marry him. Jane says yes, and the only thing that seems weird is a fan who is obsessed with David’s first book, Gloomy Sunday.
Gloomy Sunday tells the story of people who have been implemented with a trigger in their necks: as soon as they hear the melody of the song Gloomy Sunday, they kill themselves. It triggers have been placed by the government, and it is the perfect elimination method as all deaths appear to be suicides. On the night of the conference, David’s non-depressed girlfriend jumps out of the balcony after she receives a phone call. The same thing happens to a woman named Silvia, who falls out of her balcony as soon as she hears the music of Gloomy Sunday.
Apparently, that obsessed fan is a former scientist named Frank Kovak (David Kelly) who actually did something quite similar back in his day: he experimented implementing triggers in humans. But of course his studies weren’t welcome by everyone, and he was no longer funded. Then David’s Gloomy Sunday came out, and he kept experimenting with humans- making the trigger Gloomy Sunday. Now, he wants David to write the story Frank has helped create- with only one difference. Of course this time, the deaths are genuine, and what the protagonist goes through is pure reality…
While The Kovak Box is an intriguing yet not impressive movie, the story is really interesting. I’ve always been drawn to movies centering around writer characters, hence the total category on this blog dedicated to them.
Obviously, writer and deranged fan has been written before by Stephen King. Misery, anyone? But as opposed to taking an injured writer hostage, the fan in The Kovak Box makes the writer write the story he wants, and his first victim is the writer’s girlfriend
While the director and writers didn’t make the most of the potential, The Kovak Box is still recommended to Timothy Hutton fans and writers. It might while brainstorming fiction ideas. I’d not say no to a remake, with making the story tighter, darker and a bit scarier. What do you think?
Writing can be a very lucrative and self-fulfilling career, but it hardly ever starts that way for anyone. You might love writing. You might be good at it. But unfortunately you need a couple of more qualities to start your writing career and accomplish your goals as a writer. Below are the 7 essential characteristics freelance writers need to possess:
I’m one of the most impatient people you can ever meet. I get bored very easily and I can’t wait for anything or anyone without doing something useful and/or fun on the side. And yet, I chose freelance writing as a career.
Now, I love writing. I am addicted even. So the girl who can’t even stand to wait for a couple of minutes chose a line of work where response times range from weeks to months, editors don’t necessarily write back, and you are required to spend countless hours researching, marketing, networking, writing, re-writing, editing and more re-writing.
Yet, I can handle it. After all, it is about knowing what’s at stake and jumping to it accordingly. It is not a walk in the park most of the time, but it is still worth it for me. How about you?
The editors may not receive your e-mails, or they may not feel inclined to respond, even with a standardized rejection reply. Yes, they are incredibly busy but so are you. While they have to read millions of queries and make decisions, you are a one-person company. So if the guidelines say follow-up, follow-up. If there is still no response, follow-up for the second and final time. Just remember not to leave your bedside manners, even if you get nothing in return for a carefully crafted, perfectly relevant query. After all, you need a good reputation. And there is the fact that you probably submitted that query because you liked the publication. So you might want to pitch again.
The idea is to keep it polite and professional. If you think this sucks, please read the first must-have freelance writer characteristic on this list again.
You will get rejected. Every writer does, even the ones who turned into international bestsellers. So never take it personally. Make sure you work constantly to improve yourself, and keep submitting your work elsewhere.
P.S. When the going gets tough, just remember John Grisham’s first novel is A Time to Kill. He published The Firm first, because A Time to Kill was rejected everywhere. And after The Firm, everyone was after A Time to Kill, which also became a bestseller.
And you need to have fun. You need to be capable of fun, even when you want to slap someone or cry. You are writing because you love the craft. There is no reason to keep doing it if you are feeling miserable all the time.
You don’t need to be obsessive, but you do need to keep track of every idea, bill, manuscript, article and everything else that is related to your writing. You also know what to find and where. There is a great blog for writers that concentrates on the organization side of things. Check out OrganizedWriter.com for tips and resources.
You might be the type to start a project at the latest minute possible. I know I am- for the most part. But you need to make sure you keep the deadline and make sure your final draft meets every requirement, and is a good read.
You are your own boss, so you better be an understanding slave driver. Notice the oxymoron there? But it is true. You need to work really hard to make it as a writer. But of course you have the flexibility to choose your hours; as well as where, when and how you work. As long as you put in the necessary work, there is no reason you can’t enjoy the freedom.
Intimidated? Don’t be. You just might realize your personality and mind can work in mysterious ways to help you realize your dreams.
I’m a writer. When I tell people that, I get one of these two responses “Wow! It’s so cool!” or “Hmm. Can you make a living out of that?”
And as much as I want to say “Oh, totally!”, I am not there yet. My income comes from a combination of freelance tutoring, teaching, blogging and writing. While I love doing all these things together, I want to be able to say “That book deal changed my life (=aka my finances)!” or “Eat your heart Carrie Bradshaw, I write about relationships for a living, and I have got more than a closet full of expensive shoes to show for it!”
But as I said, I am not there yet. The tasks of a freelance writer never ends (just like a blogger’s never ends, but that’s a different post). I still have to finish that book that I was inspired to write in 2004. I still have tons of publications to study and pitch to. I still have a lot of new markets to discover, study and yes, pitch to. Then I have to keep writing my book, keep up the blogs, follow-up with the queries and deal with rejection, or worse – no answers from editors.
So I need other freelancers to understand me, who have been or are still are where I am. I want to laugh with them, maybe get depressed temporarily and then move on with them. And while networking with others help, I don’t have a freelance writer friend who l can talk to whenever I feel like it.
And since none of my friends are willing to jump the 9 to 5 wagon to join me, I found the perfect substitute. Wayne E. Pollard’s “I’m Not Out of Work!, I’m a Writer” is a collection of Pollard’s Bo’s Café Life strips where he simply and hilariously depicts the life of a freelancer, complete with other freelancer friends and their meetings in coffee shops.
Bo and all his friends are appropriately represented by drawings of coffee cups. As a freelance writer who does most (and best) of her work in cafés, and who is also (shockingly!) writing this review with a cup of coffee nearby, the collection couldn’t have been more spot on.
I first stumbled upon Bo’s Café Life when I was trying to find funny, writing-related cartoons for this blog. I loved the cartoons so much that I e-mailed him to ask if I could use them on my blog, linking to his blog. He kindly said yes, and even sent me the copy of the book, which I finished in about 20 minutes and went back to read it again. Yes, it is funny and very relevant.
It is so easy to identify with his coffee-cup characters. The multiple rejections, never summoning up the courage to send/finish some of your stuff, consoling yourself with the rejection numbers of currently famous authors, almost living in cafés…
There are so many books on motivation and productivity out there. And while I enjoy reading the good ones, sometimes I need a fast boost in the spirits and I don’t have time to read (or the strength to carry) all the necessary motivational stuff with me. And thankfully, I just have them all in one tiny book now.
It’s recommended for all writers. Except maybe not for the likes of John Grisham. I mean the dude is my favorite crime writer, but he doesn’t need it anymore. I’m sure he did need it when he was trying to get A Time to Kill published and got rejected over and over again….Ah…remember the times when John Grisham was unknown and Hollywood didn’t turn one of his books into a movie every couple of years?
“I’m Not Out of Work!, I’m a Writer!!” will be hitting the shelves at the end of September. If you can’t wait, and are up for a challenge, you can join Bo’s Café Life Fiction Contest. Details are here. But be quick. The deadline is August 31!
Whether you are inspired by real events or love taking advantage of your imagination, coming up with a great story is hard. Especially if you are writing a book.
And having come up with a great idea, you are most likely going to do some research. But how far would you go for that research and story?
Yesterday, I watched a very compelling movie called Beautiful Boy, a story about how a married couple deals after their son killed many people at his school and then killed himself. And while it is not a crucial part of the story, the event that intrigued me the most involves a writer:
In the movie, the mother of the shooter is a spell-checker, and her current writer client runs into her after the tragic event and acts like a very understanding friend. And then we find out that he was writing a book about the events, and that his shoulder to cry on was a way to just get his story right.
And the interesting thing is, while I didn’t approve of his behavior, this writer character managed not to come off as a total jerk. Maybe he wanted to profit from the tragedy, and that is wrong. But on the other hand, he said that he wanted to shed light on the event – he wanted to show that anyone could be capable of such rage. And for a moment, I wanted the mother to call him back and let him write…
OK, obviously that didn’t happen. But when she found out his real motive, she didn’t try to beat him. She didn’t shout. She just told him to go. Sure, he should have come clean way before…but what were the odds that she would let him into the house, had she known?
So let’s say that you found this incredible story that you feel compelled to write. You need to research, and maybe you need to talk to people who probably wouldn’t talk to you if you said you were a writer. What would you do? How far would you go?
We all know it’s essential to craft an intriguing, easily readable query letter. That’s how we (hopefully) get the editor’s attention. And if you need to polish your query skills, I suggest reading 7 Great Query Letter Resources: A List of (E-)Books, Articles and Blog Links.
This post is about what happens after having sent that great query letter.
1) Keep track of your query. I prefer a simple excel sheet. I note when I sent it, when I should follow up (should I not hear from the editor before), what other publications the idea might fit if the query is rejected or doesn’t get a response after the follow-up. I also include a section for brainstorming for other ideas for the same publication. After all, I want to write for this magazine more than once.
2) Keep researching other markets and their guidelines, and make sure you take notes about the guidelines, payment terms, topics and articles already published on the publication. After all, your querying days are never really over.
3) Write for, market & optimize your blogs. If you’ve a writer’s blog, work on it. If you don’t have a writer’s blog already, it’s time to start one. You don’t need to write about writing related topics, but you need to post article samples and links to your published work. The blog will serve as a portfolio, so take full advantage.
Plus, the more you know about blogging, the easier and more fun it will be for you to get blogging jobs, and/or monetize your own blogs.
If you have several blogs, work on them too. They all serve as your portfolios as well, proving your writing skills in those niches.
4) Keep networking with other writers (and bloggers).
5) Assuming you heard from the editor before needing to follow up, go ahead and start working on the article – keeping the editor’s notes in mind. Sometimes writing a killer article that will satisfy your editor might be harder than writing the query.
If the editor liked the idea but requests a few tweaks, or another query based on these tweaks,
If the editor tells you they liked your style but can’t use that piece, keep querying .
6) Assuming you didn’t hear from the editors, follow-up on your old queries at the suggested time period. Many publications offer their response time and when you should follow up if you don’t hear from them in that period. If no specific time is given, follow your gut. If it is a massive magazine, you might want to wait for a couple of months. If it is a website, 2-3 weeks before following up should be fine.
7) Read about the topics you are writing on. This is great for self-improvement, discovering markets you weren’t aware of, getting to know the markets you know better, finding authors to network and giving you new article ideas.
8) Query other publications, and keep track.
9) When You Get An Answer or No Answer After the Follow-Up:
- If you haven’t heard up from your follow-ups after a couple of weeks, feel free to pitch the idea to other publications. But to be on the safe side, notify the first editor nicely. This is to be on the safe side, and not to burn any potential bridges.
Of course, keep tracking queries and their responses.
- If you got a no with some suggestions from the editor, keep them in mind. But there’s nothing much you can do after a “no, thanks”. You cross your fingers for the next publication.
10) Use this list in order and/or mix things up. Add your own points and apply them at a pace that suits you best.
Best of Luck.
Writers are constantly exposed to a form of rejection. Well, no one likes to be rejected in any area, but we writers need to face the music more often than others. We apply to a lot of writing gigs both online and offline, try to get our stories/novels published, and/ or get our scripts read by producers/agents. And it doesn’t always matter whether we targeted the right market or abided by the guidelines. It doesn’t always make a difference that our writing is good, or the query letters rocked. John Grisham got rejected. J.K. Rowling got rejected. Do I really need to give more examples?
And having been writing full time since late 2009, I can say that I am pretty much at the start of the rejection cycle. Because although I have been writing since I was basically a preteen, I had never sent my writing to anyone besides my friends. I loved being read and I enjoyed a loyal following that loved what story I would come up with next.
But we all grew up and our lives became much more hectic than just going to school, socializing or dating. We were distracted by our career and family plans. That’s when I finally decided that I was not satisfied with writing just for me and my friends. I also wasn’t going to settle for some job I didn’t want because the economy sucked. It was time to follow my. So I dove straight into heavy research. I studied how magazine queries were made, how articles were formatted. I read about how you could sell your screenplays even if you lived a world away from Hollywood.
I read about blogging and writing, and applied what I learned. In addition to running several blogs, I got some decent gigs and continue to have them. I also keep getting rejected. Here is what I’ve learned so far:
1) Obviously, your samples won’t impress everyone. For many jobs, you will be either be overqualified or under-qualified. If you are overqualified, the job is highly unlikely to satisfy you.
2) With some gigs, you’ll have been 10 minutes/2 days/50 applicants too late to have applied.
4) You will be rejected, even if you avoided every rookie mistake you were supposed to avoid.
5) Many editors will not reply at all.
6) Some editors will just reply “No, Thanks”, only after you followed up twice.
7) It is be frustrating, but the acceptance e-mail and the check are all worth it. Yes, I am assuming the check is decent.
8) You constantly have to work on writing better, marketing and networking. And you need to keep querying.
A writer friend of mine recently mentioned that he hated the rejection letters that said that he was a good writer, the story was good but they were just not interested. I hate the letters that don’t come at all, or come very late. I have a whole article about it.
While obviously the news (of rejection) stinks, it at least enables you to move on, and learn. So try not to let it get you down so much. I once read somewhere that the more rejection letters you have in your drawer, the closer you are to being published. And then the author of the article had gone on to list the number of rejection letters famous authors got before they got lucky. The list is quite impressive.
Proof? John Grisham’s first novel is A Time to Kill. His first published worked however is The Firm. A Time to Kill got published after The Firm. Same guy, same style, same quality, both bestsellers. One just happened to be misjudged.
So the ultimate lesson is to hang in there. Your turn will come too, whether it is getting constant magazine gigs, or getting your fiction out there. You are just going to get rejected a lot in the process.
The article is short and to the point. It lists 5 reasons why you (as a writer) should blog: