July’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up: The Agony of Delete! Tips and Coping Strategies for Revising Your Draft

photoAfter a month off for the annual WLT Agents and Editors Conference, the Third Thursday program was back in full swing with panelists Samantha Clark, Bethany Hegedus, E. Kristin Anderson, and Sara Kocek with guest moderator Bradley P. Wilson. (He not only moderated, he reflected about the evening over on his blog,)

As usual, the Third Thursday  recap only scratches the surface of the knowledge and expertise shared. This month is a rapid-fire recap of the tip and tools from our authors.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

Tips and Coping Strategies for Revising Your Draft

  • Recognize and honor your unique writing and revising style.
  • Are you a plower or diamond polisher? Do you plow through your draft or polish it as you go.
  • Are you an outliner or not? Maybe both, depending on the situation.
  • Get feedback from other readers and other writers. Readers and writers can offer different kinds of feedback.
  • Scrivener, word processor on steroids – and then some, was recommended.
  • Carry a notebook for your current book and record ideas on characters, plot, etc.
  • Picture your character. Find a photo that could be your character. It may inspire your writing
  • Write on a treadmill. Walking & writing can help your brain and your body. (Read more about treadmill desks.)
  • Use Pintrest to build boards around your characters, settings, themes, etc.
  • Research tip – avoid the Google abyss by stopping your search after finding the one factoid you’re looking for.
  • Let your draft rest, then come back to it with fresh eyes.
  • Q: How do you know you’re done?  A: “When you’re sick of it.” “You’re never done. You just have to stop.” “When you keep changing and unchanging the same thing.”
  • Take your time on revision requests from editors or agents. Don’t sacrifice quality for quickness.
  • Remember it’s ultimately your story.  Consider the feedback from others, but retain ownership of your work.
  • Follow editor or agency guidelines for formatting.
  • Don’t double-space manually. Write in single-space mode (usually the default),  then highlight the entire text and format it with double-spacing. Use the help in your word processing program if needed.
  • Use one space after periods, not two. (Using two spaces after a period is used for typewriters, not computers.)
  • Use a professional, non-family email for professional correspondence. Save your UnicornGirl@gmail address for your friends and family.
  • Suggested fonts are Times New Roman and Courier. Display your style in your writing, not your fonts. If you want to write your draft in a font that inspires you, go for it. Just remember to change it before submitting your work to an agent or editor.
  • When you are ready to consider hiring an editor check out Yellow Bird Editors, the editing home of all of our panelists and our moderator.

These tips can lessen the agony of delete and move your towards the thrill of publishing victory. (Anyone remember the ABC Wide World of Sports opening?)

If you’re in the Austin area, join us at August’s Third Thursday. If you can’t make it, we’ll see you next month on the blog.

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January’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up: An Evening with the 2011 WLT Book Award Winners

By Lexie Smith

The 2012 Third Thursday series began where authors might like to end-up – at an awards presentation for their book. Thank you to all of you who came to applaud your fellow writers.  Congratulations to the 2011 WLT Book Award winners.

Fiction Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Non-FictionBefore Brown: Herman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice By Gary M. Lavergne

PoetryWorks & Days by Dean Rader

Writing for Children & Young AdultsCrossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

Each author read a selection from their book  and was presented with an inscribed award and a cash prize.

I know you’re happy for the winners, but you may be wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

Here’s what’s in it for you:  you can learn from someone who has done what you want to do – publish a book and get recognized for it.  You may not think you care about the notoriety, but a pat on the back for a job well done, and some cash, is always nice.

To help refresh your memory of the evening and for those who couldn’t make it, I’ll share a few things I learned from hearing the 2011 WLT Book Award winners talk about and read from their books.

1) Enter contests. Wining a contest helps with your book’s publicity. (Outside of the authors’ friends and family, had any of you heard of these books before tonight? I hadn’t.)  Also, receiving a prize is a nice bit of motivation.

2) Enter local and national contests.  Three of the four winners live out of state. Austin and Texas are fabulous, but don’t forget to to bless people in other states with your writing.

3) Publishers do work on behalf of their authors.  All of tonight’s books were submitted to the contest by publishers, not the authors. If you self-publish, remember to submit your books to contests.

4) Social media and platform are important, but you don’t have to be an expert at it. Pick one thing, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or blogging, and start using it. The awards weren’t won because of a social media campaign, but it was nice to learn about the authors online.

5) Make videos about your topic or book, if you’re interested, per #4.  Barb hired someone to do a book trailer. Gary uses YouTube, “It’s not great quality, but it works for what we want to do.” Dean and Daphne are on YouTube because others posted clips from book readings they have done.

(Stop by YouTube to visit their videos. Gary brought his own videographer, i.e., his wife, to record and post his portion of the evening his YouTube channel.  Dean’s fans have posted a  few videos of him reading at different venues.  Both Daphne’s video  and Barbara’s book trailer share parts of their books we didn’t hear tonight. )

As you see, the WLT Third Thursdays are full of information and inspiration for writers, even on an awards night.  So make plans now to attend February’s Third Thursday and learn about “Burning the Midnight Oil: Balancing the Act of Life and Writing” with Greg Levin, DJ Stout and K.A. Holt.

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

October’s Third Thursday Wrap Up: “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing”

By Lexie Smith

“Hey! Did you hear about my book? “

“I’m writing a book. It’s gonna be awesome.”

“Please buy my book. “

Pestering your friends, family, and foes is one kind of marketing, but the “I’ll buy your book so you’ll shut up” sale is not public relations gold.

Thankfully, there are ways that are more effective and, dare I say, enjoyable.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Marika Flatt, Jennifer Hill, and Dominic Smith, were the experienced panel of authors and communication professionals who inspired us during  October ‘s Third Thursday program at Recycled Reads, Austin Public Library’s invigorating used bookstore. Here’s a quick recap.

Helping Dr. Author and Mr. Marketer Coexist

You may be intimidated or simply not like the idea of being a business, but a split personality is not required to promote your writing career.  Writer you and PR you are both you. (And neither is as nasty as Mr. Hyde.) These tips can help the one you do both things needed to sell your work.

Guard your active writing time. Whatever time of day works for you, protect it. Marketing and PR must be additional time in your schedule, but don’t let it cut it into time spent on your primary writing projects.

Manage your marketing time.  Jennifer suggested you divide your marketing time between writing marketing content, and interacting on the social network(s) you’re a part of.

Improve your writing while marketing.  Always Capra helped Jennifer strengthen her character development and social media muscles at the same time. Blogs give you more space to do that, while Twitter’s 140 character limit requires conciseness. (Especially if U R going 2 limit textspeak, by choice or need.  LOL.)

Realize the value of industry professionals. Do-it-yourself technology (blogs, Twitter and Facebook) makes it easier and cheaper than ever for authors to connect with readers. However, at some point, you can benefit from the experience and industry relationships of public relations professionals. To get an idea of what they offer, from a consult to a full marketing plan, visit Marika’s at PR by the Book and Jennifer ‘s services at Robin Hill Media.

This is How They Do It

Take a look at a few authors who do marketing and PR well. When you see something you like, try to incorporate it into your plan.

Marika mentioned how well author Bryan Davis uses Facebook to connect.  He responds to all comments and even alters his book tour according to suggestions from his fans.  He has several books and over 3,000 Facebook “Likes” for his page.

Jennifer started her Always Capra blog out of boredom. Her character Capra was also active on Facebook and Twitter.  An agent noticed and Jennifer was signed to write a novel.

Billy Coffey has one book under his belt with another coming out November 2011. Marika noted the strength of his online presence. He uses WordPress for his site, which includes a blog and links to his Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also see a list of interviews he has done.

What’s Next?

All the PR skills you develop will help with the next step of building your book, the book launch, which happens to be November’s Third Thursday topic, “Blast off: The Book Launch & Beyond.” Join us on November 17 for for the conclusion of our “Building Your Book” series.

(My apologies to Dominic Smith for not mentioning him more often. Due to traffic, I missed the first half of the meeting, so I didn’t hear him speak as much.  If any of you were there and would like to leave a comment to fill in the gaps, please do. Thanks.)

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.comBloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

September’s Third Thursday Wrap Up, Behind the Publishing House Curtain”

By Lexi Smith

September’s Third Thursday program took us “Behind the Publishing House Curtain” with two booksellers and a publicist. Gillian Redfearn is a Key Account Manager for MacMillian Publishing, Gianna La Morte is a Sales Manager at UT Press, and Colleen Devine Ellis is the Publicity Manager at UT Press.

What did we find behind the curtain? Not a new car or a man pretending to be a wizard. We found inspiration and advice to help your book along the yellow brick road to publication.

You probably won’t encounter flying monkeys or talking trees (unless you’re in Marfa with Gianna) as you work to get your book in print. But, you can learn from Dorothy and friends about what it takes to reach your destination. Put on your Oz-colored glasses as we distill the conversation with Gillian, Gianna and Colleen into four things you’ll need as you work towards publishing your book.

Brains – It obviously takes a certain amount of brain power to write a book. Then it takes more to rewrite your book. Additionally, you have to figure out how to navigate all the different components of becoming (and being!) a published author. Avail yourself to the rich resources available in the Austin writing community. For example, tonight’s panel was an excellent opportunity to access professionals in the book industry and learn from their experiences.

Heart – Don’t give up on your dream of writing. Books mentioned tonight took from 3-10 years to write. Your book may take more or less time. Then you’re off to find a publisher. Once accepted for publication, it can take from 18 months to 2 years to publish. Becoming a published writer is not for the faint of heart.

Courage – Do you want your book to sell? If so, marketing your book will become a part-time job. Technology can make it easier than it used to be, but it can still be a daunting task. Though social media options (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to try them.

Need help? For inspiration, check out Liz and Gianna’s Adventures in Bookland blog. For instruction, sign-up for the ongoing Tuesday Night Tech Talks at the WLT and learn the nuts and bolts of technology for authors. You can also join us on Thursday, October 20th for “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing.”

Our panel also encouraged us to be bold, without being a jerk, in asking for things from your publicist, agent or editor. Let them know your expectations. You may not get what you want, but you can ask.

Friends – The Munchkins, Glenda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion all helped Dorothy get to the Wizard. Likewise, you’ll need a team of people to help with your book. Family, friends, critique groups, editors, agents, book sellers and publicists can all help. Again, the WLT can help with many of these connections.

When Dorothy woke from her Technicolor dream, she found her ordinary world filled with people who loved her. As dreams of publishing your book are challenged by the stark reality of what that takes, remember that your friends, brains, heart and courage can help you reach your Emerald City.

Resources Mentioned

Self-Publishing Options

CreateSpace.com is part of Amazon.com.

Classes, Conferences and Workshops

October 8, AustinSCBWI, “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

November 12th, AustinSCBWI, “Write What You Think You Can’t”

Ongoing – “Silver Voices in Ink” from Badgerdog.org – Writing course for senior citizens with ongoing classes around Austin.

Writers’ League Agents Conference

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

July’s Third Thursday Wrap Up

By Lexi Smith

We continued our “Building a Book” series with July’s Third Thursday program, The Mating Game: How to Land an Agent. The panel featured editor Erin Brown, literary agent Jim Donovan, and author Laurie Drummond and was moderated by WLT executive director Cyndi Hughes. Today’s post includes highlights of Cyndi’s questions with a synopsis of the panel’s answers and a list of resources mentioned throughout the evening.

What is an agent’s role?

·Primarily to get author a reading with an editor at a publishing house.

·Identify which publishers and editors are a good fit for the author and project.

·Protect & represent the author when dealing with other publishing professionals.

·Interpret legalese.

·Get better contracts and improve sales.

·Develop relationships with publishing houses.

·Works hard for the author for no money until book is sold.

·Suggest changes to your project to improve overall quality or retool the direction of work in light of the current book market.

Agents are the business side of writing. A good agent will be both cheerleader and honest evaluator of your work. The competitiveness of the book market makes it tough to get reading with a major publisher without an agent.

How do you start looking for an agent?

·Don’t give them money. If a potential agent asks for money from you, run.

·Attend conferences, like the WLT Agents Conference, to meet with agents.

·Research. Examine books you love that are similar to yours. Scour the minutia of the book – the acknowledgments or the author’s information page – to find agent names.

·Before you look for an agent get your manuscript (fiction) or proposal (non-fiction) in tip-top shape. Revise. Revise. Revise. (See April 2011’s Third Thursday notes on revision.)

·Do more research. Find an agent receptive to your work. Follow their submission guidelines exactly. Read the fine print.

·Check out AgentQuery.com.

What about the query?

·Non-fiction is about the market. What niche or need does your project fill? How is it better or different than others? Why are you the perfect person to write this? (Jim mentioned his Equation of Book Viability.)

·Fiction works need to be completed before the query.

Then check the agent’s information for query guidelines. Some agents prefer query letters only. Others, like Jim, prefer to see the actual project. (He likes to read 30-40 pages or about 3 chapters.)

·The query letter is crucial. There’s not one way to do it, but it must sell yourself and your book. Research about what specific agents wants.

·Consider hiring a professional editor to help with your query, proposal and project.

What’s your advice on choosing traditional or self-publishing?

·Books with regional and local market are good candid ates for self-publishing.

·Consider your expectations. Few self-published books are picked up by major publishing house.

·The panelists mention Sue Donahoe’s newly-birthed book, Never Heard of ‘Em, Austin’s Music Explosion from 1994-2000 as solid self-publishing scenario. (Congratulations, Sue! Thanks for bringing your book to the meeting.)

Resources Mentioned

·The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

·AgentQuery.com

·Jim Donovan’s Equation of Book Viability

One take away from the evening is that it takes a village to publish a book. Searching out others you can trust with your projects requires work. The WLT can become part of your village and help you find villagers to help you with your writing dreams. We look forward to seeing you at August’s Third Thursday program when we go Behind the Publishing House Curtain: Meet Your Publisher and Editor and Marketing Reps and Publicist and…

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

Third Thursday Book Bonanza!

7pm, July 21
The Writers’ League Office
611 S. Congress Ave, Suite 130

ADMITTANCE IS FREE!

Attention, book lovers! Third Thursday is going to work a little differently this month. For July only, we’re moving the panel from its usual location at BookPeople and bringing it to our office instead. Why? For the WLT book sale of the year!

Simply buy a WLT tote bag for $1 and fill it with as many books as you like. Summer reads are $1 each, and craft books are $5. Go wild!

And while you’re at it, join us for July’s Third Thursday panel, The Mating Game: How to Land an Agent, featuring literary agent Jim Donovan, author Laurie Drummond, and editor Erin Brown.

Stay tuned on news about a special live auction at the event!

Lexie Smith Shares her Tips on Getting your Work out There

The May edition of the Building a Book series was “The Big Windup: Prepping Your Pitch, Proposal, and Synopsis and How to Decide Between Traditional & Non-traditional Publishing” with editor Lari Bishop and novelist Rhiannon Frater.

The Windup

As a writer, the windup for your pitch is about content and platform.

Lari said a book sells well because content is compelling, marketable and memorable and people are talking about it. She noted that we are moving into nice time for writers, with untold options for getting content out there. An online platform can include a blog, a website, Facebook, Twitter or e-publishing, things the author drives. Traditional publishers want to see a platform. Non-traditional publishing is even more dependent on author-driven publicity. Writers must make an effort to connect with their potential fan base in any way they can. Today platform is everything and makes all the difference.

Rhiannon generated her content and platform at the same time, publishing story on her blog for fun, interacting with fans along the way. It became a novel.

Just as today’s baseball pitchers have more training technology available than their predecessors, modern writers can also access advanced technology to engage fans and improve their delivery. (And it’s all legal, unlike certain performance enhancers in baseball.)

The Pitch

Not all pitchers windup to pitch in the same way. Windup techniques vary, but the pitch still needs to land in the strike zone, regardless of how it gets there.  The basic principles of a solid pitch remain the same. Lari and R gave these pointers about delivering a winning pitch:

  • Capture the reader in first sentence & paragraph
  • Is the book compelling and marketable?

o   Does it solve a new problem? Have a new angle? A new solution?  An intriguing theory?

o   Does it touch on something powerful (emotional) for the core audience?

  • Put all the power of story in 3 sentences.
  • Create and practice an elevator pitch (a short synopsis)
  • Think of book as a movie. What is it like? R pitched one of her book as “Goonies meets Dawn of the Dead.”
  • Think of the beginning, middle & end of the book. What bridges the pieces? How does that affect what happens next? That produces about three paragraphs.
  • Don’t withhold the ending!

Thankfully, it’s not three strikes and you’re out for writers. So keep trying.

(Want step by step details about publishing? Rhiannon graciously wrote detailed advice about getting published on her blog. Stop by and leave her a comment.)

Major League, Minor League or Recreational League?

As you consider your windup and pitch, think about your writing goals.

Where do you want to play? Are you content to play catch in the backyard with friends and family, publishing simply for their enjoyment? Do you want to explore the minor leagues of self-publishing, print on demand (POD), eBooks (Amazon, Kindle or PDF)? Maybe you want to give the major leagues a shot and try to earn a living from writing.

As Rhiannon proved, there’s no secret path to publishing. Thanks to advances in technology, writers have more options than ever for publication. Knowing the differences between types of publishing can help writers decide on their goals. Lari shared a quick overview of five publishing models: traditional, vanity, self, ebook and POD, and independent.

What you do with your writing depends on what will make you happy and how much effort you can put into it. You must decide how much time is available to invest in marketing and writing.

Whether you’re looking to develop your windup, your pitch or simply trying to learn the game, remember to check out all the learning opportunities offered by the Writers’ League and join us for June’s Third Thursday program: “The Mating Game: How to Land an Agent.”

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information at LexicalLight.comBloggingForWriters.com  and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.