Advice on Bad Writing Advice

Advice on Bad Writing Advice

When I’m on Tumblr as an author and editor, I feel like I have a responsibility to teen writers–or new writers–to steer them in the right direction when it comes to writing advice, especially to warn them away from bad writing advice. Let’s face it, bad writing advice exists, and it’s not subjective on whether or not it’s bad. It IS just bad.

I interceded a post on Tumblr that, yes, was from one of my followers that does writing advice. The post basically presented a list of words to use other than said. You know those lists I’m talking about, the ones with hundreds of words that you can use, some of them some nice gems you can tuck away and others that are outright ridiculous like ‘oogle.’ How do you ‘oogle’ your words? In any case, the introduction began by saying that said essentially says nothing, that it doesn’t state the tone of your character, that you shouldn’t use it too often because there are better words. That was alarming and raised red flags for me. So I felt it was my responsibility to step in, re-blog it, and set my followers straight.

Said isn’t meant to convey tone. It is not a useless word but a tag that is almost nonexistent for readers because they are so used to seeing it more than any other dialogue tag. Conveying tone is what dialogue is for. Said denotes who is speaking, when no other word is necessary to use but ‘said,’ especially if the dialogue can carry itself, or there is an action tag in front that can set up the tone of how the dialogue will sound. But, really, the tone can be set up before a conversation by creating a tense situation so that way when you go into reading the dialogue, you can already imagine the tone of the speakers. Or a relaxed situation. Any kind of situation can set up the tone of the dialogue without tags being used.

The writer of the post never mentioned to use those words sparingly. The writer simply said that ‘said’ is meaningless because it doesn’t put emotion into your character’s dialogue. That’s wrong. There is no subjectiveness to how wrong that statement is. Again, setting up a scene can help dialogue convey tone so the dialogue can carry itself. Or an action tag can set up the tone. When someone says, ‘Hey, use these words instead because said is meaningless,’ that is a thing to be wary about. Many experts in the publishing industry will tell you to treat those words like gems. Using them too much will KILL your dialogue. That is a FACT based on readers’ experiences. Readers WILL become annoyed by an overuse of a list like that. Use sparingly. Spa-ring-ly.

So what was the point of my little story? My follower threw up a recent update that said all writing advice is subjective and is not meant to be taken to heart. That I agree with. What I don’t agree with is this implication that there is no bad writing advice. There is. I’m going to give you a few pointers on what advice to avoid, advice that is popular. Now I do appreciate all of my followers. I appreciate even more the followers that are about creating content to help others. But, again, sometimes I feel it’s my responsibility to intercede, especially since most of my followers are young writers. It alarmed me that the post had over 1,000 notes, so I felt like I HAD to step in. Doing so didn’t cause any conflict, although the follower was upset; however, I didn’t read the follower’s irate words. I glanced at it, and I think there may have been some name calling involved.  

  • Avoid writing advice like the example I presented above. The best published books, the ones that win awards because of their writing, know how to create effective dialogue. If you look at the dialogue, you’ll notice that the dialogue often carries itself, that the dialogue probably lacks tags more than it has them. It isn’t even necessarily award-winning books, either, but popular books, too, where the author knows how to create dialogue without treating such a list as a bible.
  • Write like you talk. This seems self-explanatory. We tend to use a lot of filler words in our speech, fillers that are jarring to readers.
  • Write for yourself. Write for yourself first, THEN revise for your readers.
  • Write what you know. Explanatory. Just about every published book began with a lack of knowledge, which is why the writer does research.
  • Write everyday! Not even I do this–or can do this. I have a life outside of my writing career, and I NEED that life. I don’t want to burn out. It’s great if you can write everyday, but don’t extend this tidbit to all writers.
  • Advice that only insists there is one correct way to write. This actually defeats the purpose of the word ‘advice,’ which denotes that it is merely advice, something to not take as law. Plus, we all know there is no one way to write.
  • If you write several books and it still takes you a while to write a book, you’re doing something wrong. Each book is different from the last. You might be better at drafting, but some books are harder to write than others. It takes me a month or two to draft a book but pretty much an entire year to make that book submission ready. Maybe it’ll take less now, but I’m not pressuring myself to finish a book ASAP. I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity.

There is so much more bad writing advice out there. You can even look it up in Google, but I wanted to present you with advice that raises obvious red flags. Good writing advice is subjective. When I do writing advice on Tumblr, I try to present more than one way to do it to give my aspiring writers choices.



Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

Recently I found someone complaining that an editor rejected her piece because the editor didn’t like the style of writing she submitted to this particular magazine. Her assumption is that the editor shouldn’t have rejected it because of that, but should have looked at the value of the piece itself instead of the style it was written in, that the editor shouldn’t have used his/her personal preferences to reject a piece. As founder of a literary magazine, I am here to deliver a hard truth that writers who have never been editors or slush pile readers need to hear.

  • Your writing only has value to us if we like it. If I read your piece and I don’t like it because it’s stream-of-consciousness (a style I frankly hate), I’m going to reject it. I don’t care that you think I need to look outside of my box to see the value contained therein. If I don’t like your story, I don’t like your story. That’s all there is to it.
  • We editors choose pieces that both fit our personal preferences and fall within what would best suit the magazine as per the guidelines.  Editors are human, and we want to love what we read. Frankly, there is no value to us within a story if we don’t like what we’re reading. Even if my magazine accepted stream-of-consciousness, if I’m reading the story and have no passion for it, I’m not going to accept it; therefore, I’m not going to look for any supposed innate value. In any case, why would you want to be accepted in a house or magazine where the editor has zero passion for your story?
  • Being published in a million places doesn’t obligate all magazines to publish you. Writers need humility. Just because someone has been published in hundreds of magazines doesn’t suddenly give that person permission to think he or she is “hot stuffs,” so to speak. It’s fine to have confidence in your writing, but be humble about it. Don’t get angry or annoyed if an editor rejects you because he/she doesn’t get what you’ve written, and you think you should have been accepted because your publication history is as big as the affordable health care act. We all perceive things differently. What one editor doesn’t get, another editor may get.
  • Be tactful. It’s fine to need a place to rant about being upset about a rejection, but it becomes very tasteless and unprofessional when you basically imply the editor who rejected your piece is an idiot and then suddenly your friends join in on the topic and back you up, calling the editor an idiot, too, saying you’re the best thing out there. Yeah, that’s what I saw today. It wasn’t me being talked about, but it boiled my blood to find this editor being maliciously attacked by people who know nothing about the editor who rejected the piece. We’re human. Plain and simple. We slough through tons of stories, most of which we don’t like, and eventually get annoyed because we want to find the one piece we do like. The Corner Club Press only submits form rejections, but I know some magazines out there will justify why the piece was rejected. Sometimes it’s tasteless, sometimes it’s not. In the case of tastelessness, keep in mind that editor is probably cranky, tired of going through the slush pile, and probably sent a tasteless rejection as a way of easing tension. Am I justifying it? No! Not at all. But this doesn’t mean the editor is a crap editor, just that the editor is human. You obviously submitted to that magazine because you wanted to be in it, so calling the editor an idiot is unprofessional and counterintuitive, especially because you likely looked at what has been published by this magazine. And, yes, sometimes rejection letters are sent with typos in them because we’re bleary from reading all of those submissions that we don’t care to take the time to proofread.
  • Rejection. Handle it with grace. Just because I didn’t like your piece doesn’t mean another magazine won’t. We all have different preferences. That is the fact of the matter. You cannot remove bias from the acceptance process, which is why editors work in different houses and at different magazines. I’m not going to work at a magazine that only publishes erotic fiction. I don’t like erotica. Safely assume that the editor is at that magazine because the editor likes what the magazine publishes.
Starting a Literary Magazine

Starting a Literary Magazine

Screenshot (51)Today is publishing Friday. As I said I would do, every Friday I’m going to post an article that deals with something in the publishing world, so I decided to write a post about creating a literary magazine for those readers OR writers who are thinking about starting one, or for those just curious about how a literary magazine gets started. But here are some things I think you need to have.

  • Experience. I didn’t start my lit magazine without prior magazine experience or editorial experience. I started out as a slush pile reader, so I was able to receive a behind-the-scenes view of how a literary magazine worked. I then went on to be an executive editor for a start-up magazine. Last, I apprenticed beneath Georgia McBride to receive experience in editing. All of this experience will make the magazine look reputable and something people want to submit to. Everything eventually culminated in my decision to create a magazine–and to be an editor for clients needing my services.
  • An idea. You want to make your magazine separate from others. What makes yours different? Why should people submit to yours? The Corner Club Press is about putting a strong emphasis on both poetry AND short fiction/creative nonfiction, as there are many magazines that don’t do this. You will also need to know what to call your literary magazine. Make it creative. Make it even have a backstory. And a tagline for the magazine never hurts, either. CCP’s is ‘Where Poetry and Fiction Converge.’ It’s effective enough to let people know what our magazine is about.
  • A strong staff. Once you have experience you are comfortable with and ideas put in place, you now need to find a strong staff dedicated to the magazine as much as you are. The Corner Club Press started out with two people, but we were able to manage it alone, until my poetry editor/formatter had to leave. So then it moved to just my personal assistant and I; however, that became too much. Now we have a strong team of people with professional experience to help create a strong magazine.
  • How often you are going to publish. You need to decide this before gathering submissions. How often are you going to publish? CCP started out as quarterly, until Daphne had to leave. Then the schedule became too erratic, so we needed to bring on other people to get the magazine in order. Now we’re publishing quarterly again.
  • Gathering submissions. You need to find out how you’re going to gather submissions in the most effective way possible. Sure, you can start out asking people to submit through Google+ and the like, but Duotrope and Submissions Grinder and Poets and Writers will earn you submissions more effectively, especially once you’ve established that you are professional and your magazine will be professional. To be honest, I am turned off by magazines that have to go around and ask for submissions. This means they didn’t plan well in advance. I get we all have to start somewhere, but when I started, I received over 100 submissions in the first week without having to do this, just from being listed on Duotrope. You can even start a simple thread somewhere, simply letting people know that your magazine just opened, and then link to your magazine’s website. I warn against actually having to go around and ask. It shows you don’t know what you’re doing to manage a magazine. You also sound desperate.
  • A professional website. See the picture above (there is more to the home page than what you’re viewing). That is what my magazine’s home page looks like. I use Weebly, and unfortunately we don’t have the funds to buy a domain, but people are still submitting and don’t think our magazine any less professional for it. Weebly already has set templates, but you can mess around with those templates to set yours apart from others that use the same template.
  • Tabs you need. You need a tab detailing how your magazine got started. People love to know the background of a magazine they are submitting to. This also gives more credence to your magazine. You need a submissions guideline, obviously, and I’m going to link to mine below on what needs to be included. You want the staff listed, along with their credentials, just so people know their experience. This will bolster their confidence in your magazine. Obviously you’ll need an issues page, starting with the most recent issue you’ve published. You’ll want to use your magazine’s cover and link the cover to a pdf or a website that can create a magazine for you. I use Calameo. And of course you’ll want an archive to put your backlist issues in once you start a new volume. We are on volume 3.
  • You do not need to pay. Your magazine can still be reputable without paying your writers. Non-paying magazines exist for a reason. I have published people who were published by magazines that paid. It still looks good on a cover letter to be published by a reputable magazine, even if it doesn’t pay.
  • Now begin accepting submissions. Close down for a submissions period when it’s time for you to read them. Let Duotrope know you’ve closed so that way they can let writers know not to submit during this period. When you let Duotrope know you’ve opened back up, they’ll slide you in a tab of magazines that have both opened and closed. Writers flock to this tab first. You’re on there for about a week.
  • Once you’ve accepted work, send out acceptance letters immediately, along with a short contract. You can look up a short contract for a literary magazine. They’re easy to do. When rejecting, you do not have to give feedback. I used to give feedback, until that became too much. A rejection letter is all writers are owed. Nothing more. Nothing less.
  • Formatting. You need to decide how you’re going to format the issue, what sort of art you want to use (keep this art consistent), and so on and so forth, so make sure you have someone on your staff with good formatting experience.
  • Editing. Your accepted pieces should only need light editing. Any more, and you probably shouldn’t have accepted those pieces in the first place.
  • Publish.

Now I’m going to link to my magazine’s submission guidelines so you have a general idea of what you need to include. Also look around the website and note how professional it looks.

Next Friday’s post will be for those thinking about becoming freelance editors. I’m going to write what you need to do in order to make this happen.

Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

Being Published Sometimes Sucks: Why It’s Sometimes Worse to be Published Than Not

untitled (16)I found this post on Tumblr a few days ago, and I had been meaning to write an article in response to it for a few days. Sometimes, however, you come across something else to talk about that takes more precedence–or that needs to take precedence. But the basic gist of this post is that readers–and I’m not sure if this is an ‘on average’ thing–have this notion that once you’re an author, it’s a gold-colored mountain you don’t even have to climb. You just have to take the stairs, because writing is hard work, but you’ll only keep going up, never once stumbling to publish that next book. That mountain just keeps spitting golden dollars at you, and you’re suddenly a celebrity, be it micro or what, when that’s far from the truth.

(I’m excluding self-published authors from this post because the above article doesn’t seem to include them. Even so, self-published authors can relate to some of the fears present within the linked post.)

In any case, I implore you to read the post before continuing on with mine, as I basically want to touch upon this one point:

Published authors deal with all of the same fears that unpublished authors do, and most of them are magnified by a factor of ten. The fear of the blank page, the fear of not meeting publisher/editor/agent/audience expectations, the fear of embarrassing yourself. These fears can be absolutely crippling. They can prevent the books you want to read from being written at all. I guarantee you, the author in question is a lot more upset about this than you are, no matter how much you love their books.

The above quote is so real for me.

So for those who have never been published, it sucks getting those rejection letters, right? You start to question if your writing will ever be good enough, or if you’re even cut out for the field of publishing. And if you answer both those questions, and you realize you’re not, well, then, at least you have an answer. Yeah, you can definitely self-publish that book, but not a lot of people have the money to do so, or the ability and skill to market and promote said book; thus, that book goes on to collect dust. You may never put your fingers to the keyboard again, but at least you have an answer. Then there are some who persist, and that persistence comes with rewards, but publication doesn’t alleviate the fears that unpublished authors have. As the quote states above, they are heightened.

Imagine already having a book under your belt as a traditional author, be it with a small or big press. Imagine that the reviews are rolling in. They’re good at first, but then bad review after bad review after bad review just starts killing all those other reviews. Your confidence is suddenly shaken worse than those rejection letters, I can promise you that. You wonder if your publisher made a mistake on you, because publishers sometimes do make mistakes on books. Either the books don’t sell well at all, or they sell well, but the horrible reviews start to kill those sales. That sort of a guarantees that the publisher will not take on any future projects of yours, even if you have a literary agent–and it can guarantee that you’ve just lost a great deal of your audience. Even if you’re close to your publisher, have a relationship with said publisher that isn’t so formal, don’t be deluded. It’s still business at the end or the day.

In fact, the author (Jordan Locke) of The Only Boy, has a literary agent, but that agent could not find a publisher willing to take him on because the dystopian hype is waning. He went on to self-publish it, and I’m grateful he did, because I loved the book. At the same time, he didn’t have to sink that much money into it, if any at all. He and his agent had already edited the book to death, and he is a graphics artist, so he was able to create the cover art himself. He probably formatted the book himself, too.

When Stars Die has 61 ratings. Currently it shows 55 reviews on Goodreads at a 4.42 average, so I’m not sure what the real average would be if you added in those 6 other ones. It tends to jostle between 4.37 and 4.47. I have more 5 star reviews than any other star reviews. Even so, as time goes by, I expect that those ratings will pick up in intensity, and when they do, will they be continuously okay to great reviews (3 , 4, 5 star), or will they start dragging my book down the proverbial mountain?

I have an author acquaintance whose ratings started out great, probably more than the 61 I have right now, but as time went on, the ratings grew worse and worse. Her rating is dangerously teetering, and any more bad reviews could push it into the 2 point something range. I loved the book, but I find it’s more of a literary dystopian than a commercial one. Most people lack the necessary analytical skills to truly understand a book that is literary in nature, so books like that are often more difficult to understand than books that are commercial–unless you’re John Green, who might actually be more commercial than literary.

It’s a very real fear I have, that my book will eventually plummet into horrible-rating land. Sometimes I wish the book had never been published. It’s totally irrational, and that could be my anxiety disorder speaking, because publication has always been my dream. Even so, let me point out to those who haven’t been published yet, if you’ve already been published and only see rejection letters for your next book, those rejection letters will sting 10x as hard. After all, you’ve published once. Why wouldn’t you be published again? Or are you just going to be a one-hit wonder, and that’s it?

Once you’ve published a book traditionally, your expectations of publication grow more than someone who has never published a book. You basically expect that your current publisher, who loved your previous book and would most likely enjoy the next because it fits with their tastes, will take on your next project. And when they don’t, you feel more lost than ever before. Which brings me to my next point.

When Stars Die went off without a hitch. It was a relatively easy book to write, and a relatively easy book to find publication for. High expectations were met, and, admittedly, those met expectations made me preen. But then I started going into the second book, and I began to realize that it was much harder to write than the first, and I think any author should expect that with a sequel. Libba Bray did. I worked my butt off on it. I even had two professional editors (one who did it for free, and even edited books for mainstream publishers), edit about 20 chapters of the book before the mainstream one and I had to part ways because I couldn’t intern for her anymore–although I will admit her fact-checking skills were lacking. However, her comments were phenomenal for TSAI. Her comments are the reason When Stars Die is the way it is today–and why it was so easy to write.

Then the other editor, now-turned author and a former pupil of hers, enjoyed it, even though I knew there needed to be a first book, as there was a lot of information given in the beginning that needed to be broken up; thus, When Stars Die needed to be written. She did a copy edit of the book. She seemed to believe no structural changes were necessary. I still made structural changes, though, after having been away from it for a few years. Doesn’t mean she was wrong. Just means I thought up a better path for the book to take.

So I was confident when I sent this book off, unable to find anymore more that needed to be done with it. Mariah had some great criticism, which is more than I can say for previous beta readers I’ve had with initial drafts of the book years ago, that initial draft being a terrible piece of garbage, so entirely different from The Stars Are Infinite, the current book I sent off.

Even so, this sudden dark pall overtook me, especially yesterday. Those high expectations for the first book hadn’t been met with the second, and even though I knew it would need work (what sequel doesn’t?), I didn’t expect that I’d begin to feel like a failure.

Your ultimate fear is that you will not meet your agent/editor/publisher/audience’s expectations. They adored your first book, but then you feel like you’ve disappointed them when your second book can’t compare to your first. Your publisher’s opinion is what matters most, though, and if it seems like you’ve disappointed them, you begin to question whether or not subsequent books you write are even worthy of publication, or even worth writing. You yourself might love the story, but you might only ever be the one, until you start hating it because it doesn’t meet anyone’s expectations.

So it doesn’t matter that you have one book published. Not one bit. Yeah, you defied all odds, but now you have to keep up that success, and when you can’t, you spiral into this temporary depression. Sometimes it’s not temporary. Sometimes that book you want to send off to your current publisher goes unwritten for a few days, thus forcing you to lower your expectations further over when you’ll get it finished.

Now that you’re an author, people are going to expect that you will keep publishing. You’re going to expect that you’ll keep publishing. And when those expectations aren’t met, you wonder if you were ever good to begin with.

I’m writing All Shattered Ones right now, because I can’t outline the third book in the stars trilogy until I know just how much work TSAI will actually need. I don’t write all three books in a trilogy at once before sending the first book off. A lot of authors don’t. It’s why it sometimes takes two years for the sequel to come out.

So I’m writing ASO, this contemporary fantasy, wanting it to be my next book to keep my readers fed, so to speak. It’s not in The Stars Trilogy. It’s a standalone. While I know exactly what work it needs when I go through to revise it after I’m done writing it, my biggest fear is that even when I work my butt off on it, my publisher won’t take it. Then I’ll feel completely lost. Yep, I can totally sub it to other publishers. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but I already have in mind that I’m going to seek a lit agent for a contemporary book I’m going to write once The Stars Trilogy has been completed. As it stands, I can’t do anything with A Collisions of Stars, until I have the edits complete for TSAI.

As you can tell, I feel like a complete and utter failure, despite what others have said. When I can’t meet someone’s expectations, I feel like I’ve failed that person, that I disappointed said person. Sure, I can handle edits and criticism just fine, or else When Stars Die wouldn’t exist. If I meet someone’s expectations, even if there is still a lot of work to be done, I can feel comfortable knowing I didn’t disappoint that person.

I suppose it’s a fault in me. I’m a people pleaser. When I can’t please people, that feeling of total failure sets in. I feel like I’ve studied for hours for a particular test, took the test, only for that test to be handed back to me with a 63. It didn’t matter how hard I studied. I still got a 63, and only I can come back from that. No amount of reassurance can take back the fact that I got a 63 after all the hard work I put into studying (and, yes, this mostly happens to me in history-related classes, but it’s the essays and projects that always made up for the tests).

All in all, only I can come back from feeling like a failure. No one else can do that for me.

The Advantages of the Indie Press, Infomercial Style

The Advantages of the Indie Press, Infomercial Style

.1Is your book getting rejected because it’s not mainstream enough? Are agents and editors telling you there is no market for it? Is your spouse giving you flack because your scribblings have yet to make money? Well, I have the solution for you.

No longer will you have to use your rejected manuscript to wipe away your tears after using those thousands of rejection slips to wallpaper your room, because it’s in desperate need of re-decorating, and you can neither afford paint nor wallpaper. No longer will you have to flush your money down the toilet because you have no idea what to do with the dang thing, and can’t even get yourself to buy your own book on Amazon. And, of course, you will no longer have to wake up in the morning with a stranger in your bed, wondering what the heck just happened, when, really, you had too much to drink last night and decided to go to a bar….for some reason. I mean, you have almost as much liquor in your house as you do rejection slips.

But it is called the indie press, and it is here to save you–and your starving pets because you have had to eat their food since you can’t afford human food. I mean, you work a freaking 9-5 job! But you’re too busy printing out your rejection slips, wasting all your money on paper and ink, to afford much else. Also, you’ll occasionally browse the internet for vices to ease your heartache, only for your computer to catch a million viruses; then you have to hire someone to operate on your computer, which sinks you into thousands of dollars in medical expenses that you have tried to take out loans for, but your credit sucks. So then you’re eating your starving pets’ food, working a 9-5 job, living underneath your desk in an alley, while looking for the perfect opportunity to write and print your rejection slips so some hobo doesn’t come along and steal your computer for the illegal practice of computer trafficking, all the while papering the walls of your alley with your rejection slips that then send you into a bar, where you wind up sharing your battered computer chair with a stranger. Oh, I didn’t tell you? You don’t actually have your own room. Or live in a house. Or have your own bed.      

So what can an indie press do for you? (An indie press allows niche books to become published into reality, or books whose genres are waning, like dystopian.)

It will make your grandma smile, although you probably don’t want her reading your book because she’s the antagonist, and you kiuntitled (13)ll her off for not buying that pack of Pokémon cards you wanted for your sixth birthday. Also, I don’t think you want anyone in your family buying it, because you kill them off George-RR-Martin style for allowing you to live in an alley in the first place instead of letting you live safely in a cozy house, even though you work a 9-5 job as a secretary who sets appointments for an aging man who constantly forgets who you are, then fires you, then hires you again when you fill out a job application–AGAIN–while going through the same interview–AGAIN.

An indie press will allow people outside of the circle of your friends and family to buy your book. Finally that hobo trying to steal your computer will have your blood, sweat, and tears in his hands. And he will be enjoying it–with a plum! Uh…aplomb! Why does a hobo have your book? Because instead of filling his life with booze like you do, he likes to go to the local library and enjoy a good read. Plus, he lives in a golden cardboard box.

Your contract will give you a certain amount of print books you don’t have to buy (well, you don’t have to do this at a big house, either, but with self-publishing you do)! Now you can sling these books at all your high school enemies in the hopes of severing their heads for ever doubting your writing prowess. And when you need more books to sever more heads, you’ll get a discount! A great discount! You have an infinite arsenal of books at your hands.

Do you know what else you can do with those print books? GOODREADS! Now all of those strangers who have ended up in your computer chair can enter to win your book–as well as all those other people who like to read.

AND EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE! THAT’S WHAT THESE FREE PRINT BOOKS ARE FOR! So it might be a good idea to hold off on severing the heads of your enemies for the time being.

GREAT ROYALTIES! There may be no advance, but who cares, not when you’re getting 50% or more. Now you and your hobo can go out on a date to Red Lobster, while the hobo gushes about how much he loves your book, while you sit back eating your filet mignon, wondering why you ever resorted to dog food to begin with. Oh, and you can afford to make your pets not starve. And now you’re in a home, writing your next book without sobbing over the thousands of rejection slips that once filled your alley wall, and wasting so much ink and paper and paying for subscriptions on sites your mother would flay you for. You’re no Stephen King. You’re not even a mid-list author. But your book is in the hands of strangers, people who could potentially be serial killers and wall street bankers.

And marketing! It’s not the budget of a big house, but now you can use your royalties to buy chainsaws, and in your spare time, you can lob off the heads of your enemies and save your paperbacks for the good of mankind. Also, you can re-establish your relationship with your brother, whom you stabbed in the eye with a pen when you were seven because he said your writing sucked. You can also concentrate on writing, while pulling the muscles in your fingers because you now have too much time to write, which then lands you in the hospital with some strange finger disease, wracking up doctor’s bill that you can finally afford–well, at least to pay for the splints the doctor had to put on your fingers.

INTERVIEWS! Now you can let everyone know that you didn’t start potty training until you were ten years old. You can also let the world know that your dad would disappear for days, each time coming back with a new woman you had to call mom. That can be your platform! “See, I have survived the neglect of parents, and you can, too!”

ARCs, ones you didn’t have to format yourself, or pay someone to format, or have to send out yourself, meticulously crawling through sites that leave viruses on your computer, hoping to find that one person who will give your book a five-star rating. You can now just sit your pretty butt back (you used your royalties to buy some nice undies at Victoria’s Secret), and watch the ratings roll in. Oh, sure, you might have a momentary blip in sales, but those reviews will pay off in the end, and you can buy more expensive panties!

QUALITY CONTROL! With the right house, you know your book is receiving the best breast milk possible so it can grow up into an amazing person who gets a degree at Harvard that will earn it–and you–millions! You will never have to wonder if the editor you paid for actually sucks, and is simply giving you suggestions because she wants to use your money to buy those Twilight blu-rays she’s been wanting for months. You’ll know your book is in the hands of experts who know what the crap they’re doing, because these people actually give a monkey’s hiney about your book! They love it, and they want it, and you, to be freaking awesome!

FRIGGIN’ COVER ART! You actually get to team up with your publisher and cover artist to create a cover all parties are satisfied with. So now your dream cover of an old man singing in a tree outside of your bedroom when you were a kid can become a reality. With a big press, they could slap author Ryan Attard on the cover with tentacles coming out of his mouth, and you would have no say! Your book doesn’t even have anything to do with Ryan or octopi, but apparently there’s a market for it!

TRANSPARECNY! You get to know everything, from your sales, to the amount of money you’re making, to where the sales of your books are coming from, to your publisher’s plans to better the house, to the marketing plan, to how many people your publisher’s brother killed to land him in jail, to how many times his wife has cheated on him, to his kids’ abysmal grades because he’s too busying being awesome, and to everything! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! Even that one time he tried to kill his best friend for stealing his cookies, and then planted his almost-murder on his kindergarten sweetheart, landing her in timeout. Luckily for you, she became pregnant in the third grade from your cookie-stealing best friend, and both of them had to drop out of school and live in a cardboard box to support their pathetic child family of three.

COMMUNITY! You can become best friends with all the authors of that house, exchange phone numbers, stay up all night giggling about boys–including Ryan–and have slumber parties where, instead of pillows, you beat each other’s heads with your books. But, really, you guys can support each other because the house isn’t too large that you don’t even know what author wrote that dinosaur erotica, because at this house, you will know. Oh, you will know. So you can increase exposure by supporting one another, whether it be helping you kidnap that hobo who doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore because you no longer live in his alley, or helping Ryan shave hisimages (2) dad’s hairy back, because it’s thicker than the gases surrounding Jupiter! (But, seriously, the community at a small press is great, because they can potentially stop you from entering child beauty pageants you’re too old for.)

Overall, an indie press can pick up a book that it believes in that a big press has no idea what to do with! There is a market for everything, but, really, no one knows anything about marketing, not even marketing experts. I mean, after all, publishers had no clue that dinosaur erotica could make thousands of dollars!

So get one indie house for the price of three months of waiting! And wait! There’s more. You can get another indie house for the price of waiting one month. Oh, and there’s more! You can’t forget the all-important third offer. Get two indie houses, and you can see two books out in one year, quality and all!

Seeking Prose Editor for Literary Magazine

Seeking Prose Editor for Literary Magazine

167358_167628999950658_6511086_nHey, Stars! My literary magazine, The Corner Club Press, is looking for a new Prose Fiction editor. Basically, your responsibilities will include vetting submissions, rejecting ones you don’t approve of, doing final proofreads of pieces I’ve already looked over, and doing final proofreads of the actual magazine after Mariah and I have gone over it. This is not a time-consuming job. We publish every 3-5 months, depending on how many submissions are in the box. At most, you’ll dedicate an hour a week to the job.

If you are interested in an application, e-mail me at

The Madness of Rejection

The Madness of Rejection

I’ve seen this done a lot all over the internet. A person gets a rejection, one single rejection, and suddenly feels the need to post the rejected story online. This person treats this rejection as a big deal, an earth-shattering thing, and then suddenly feels like it’s absolutely okay to post said story for people to read it because clearly there aren’t hundreds of other magazines out there said story can be subbed to.

When I subbed short stories back in my short story day, I expected rejection so much that receiving a rejection never even stung. I was so informed about the industry that I knew I was supposed to expect a lot of rejections before finally receiving an acceptance. Sometimes you get lucky and may not need to suffer through a lot of rejections, and sometimes you just haven’t found the right place yet that will fall in love with what you’ve written. Sometimes you’re not rejected because of how bad your writing is but because the editor doesn’t have a taste for what you’ve written. And sometimes you are rejected because of how bad your writing is, but you shouldn’t give up after one rejection and suddenly think it’s okay to post that story online. That’s admitting defeat.

Now I know some magazines are afraid to take on pieces that have been published on blogs because those pieces could potentially have been stolen from the time the author pressed ‘Publish’ to the time the author decided to delete it. As someone who has a literary magazine, I’m not so nervous about that because it’s rare. I’ve done it only once, where I read an amazing story on someone’s blog and really wanted it in my magazine, but, for the most part, I only accept stories that haven’t been published anywhere else, blogs included. It’s the principle of having original work that no one else has seen yet that makes it thrilling to publish it.

Expect rejection, especially with novels. I know someone who was discouraged after receiving ten rejections and I had to be the one to give her a reality check by telling her that authors can expect to receive 50-100 rejections on average before landing an acceptance with either an agent or editor. The market is flooded, and agents and editors have to be really choosy about which authors they take on–not to mention that they have to make money, and choosing an author who doesn’t sell can make them lose money. It’s not easy. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. But it’s the nature of the industry. If you don’t want to suffer through the rejections, self-publishing is always an option; keep in mind though that this route isn’t any easier–you just bypass the rejection route and the ironclad gates of agents and editors.

I don’t really have any solid advice on how to make rejection easier. Rejection was easy for me because it’s what I expected. I loved my stories enough to give them a chance, even if that meant suffering through tons of rejection letters to find homes for them. Most of them were impersonal letters anyway, though I did receive one that was very personal. But I rolled my eyes at that one because it was an unprofessional personal letter, and the letter said more about the editor than it did about my story.

My Editorial Dream

My Editorial Dream

I’ve wanted to be an editor since I was in the eighth grade butchering my classmates’ stories and realizing how much I enjoyed doing content editing and copy editing. So I began my serious study of the English language because, frankly, public education doesn’t teach English that well, and it was up to me to fill in the holes of my education (like how to REALLY use commas, not just commas in a list). But it wasn’t until college did I start to take this career path seriously, especially considering I knew I would need credentials before even interning or at least working at a local magazine.

This was the first magazine where I received some editorial experience as a slush pile reader.

After being published in The Oddville Press, I came across a thread on their associated website that was asking for slush pile readers. Having no experience, I expressed my desire to be one due to my love of the English language and wanting some editorial experience. So they took me on as a slush pile reader where I finally got experience on the other side of things. One thing I learned from them: that first page is critical because there are lots of other subs to read and if I don’t like that first page, I might as well pass on it because it’s just time consuming to read a manuscript that doesn’t interest me. I slush piled with them for about a year before they ended the magazine because we just couldn’t keep everyone together, but it was an experience I was happy to be a part of. It’s a small step toward achieving a dream, after all.

This was my next place of editorial experience.

After The Oddville Press caved, I somehow stumbled across this gothic magazine–even though I can’t remember how. I saw it was a brand new magazine looking for some staff members, and I decided to apply as an Executive Editor. Not only did I have The Oddville Press as experience, but I was an editor for my high school’s newspaper (I really don’t count it because I didn’t have too much of a say in how things were done), and I wrote for the teen section of my local newspaper. The owner of the magazine decided to bestow me with the title, and I got to work right away writing articles, editing the articles of others, editing fiction, writing fiction, doing some photography, looking for poetry and photography, and seeking out ads to put in the magazine. I even edited a few pieces for a program we were trying to do for teen journalists. I even wrote an entire style guide for the magazine based off the Chicago Manual of Style because I noticed my style of editing differed from the other editor’s style of editing, and we needed one style in order to give the magazine some consistency. So I learned loads working for Sorean. But I eventually had to leave because Sorean was on a break, and I needed to move on, as, during my stint at Sorean, I got called on as an editorial and communications intern for YALITCHAT. I was also working at my university’s writing center at the time, where I learned a lot too and began receiving clients for my freelance editing.

This was my third place of editorial experience, and I received the most experience here that pretty much allowed me to go on and do freelance editing.

As an editorial and communications intern, I was in charge of keeping the website edited, maintaining a list of paid members, maintaining Georgia McBride’s marketing plan, assisting Georgia McBride with with her beta readers, and even her own manuscript on occasion; editing and formatting the newsletter; writing for the newsletter (of which I did like two or three times); vetting query submissions for the agent inbox (at YALITCHAT, if your query gets approved, it gets sent to an agent who puts it as top priority versus those that haven’t been vetted); line editing query letters ready to go to an agent; and assisting with member concerns and greeting new members. I learned enormous amounts about editing from Georgia McBride who edited half of my manuscript. I also learned loads just from beta reading for some of her clients when she wanted to prove a point to her client because he/she wasn’t willing to make the changes needed to better the manuscript. Unfortunately, this is when fibro began to attack me and I had to resign. I just couldn’t do it. Plus, I was in the process of forming my own literary magazine.

This is my magazine, my baby, my creation that would not have been possible without my dear friend Daphne Maysonet.

In truth, I wanted my own literary magazine for the longest time, but I had no experience and had no idea how to go about starting one. But because of all the experience I received from my previous editorial stints, I finally received the knowledge on both the editorial and business ends of how to start one. That, and meeting Daphne, who was interested in helping me make this happen, birthed The Corner Club Press (so named because we sat in the corner of the classroom with our friends and called ourselves The Corner Club). I enjoy every moment of getting to make this magazine come alive. I used to do the photography, but lately all my photography ideas have mainly been for my novel and I can’t come up with any that can comply with a magazine. I still edit, and it is a joy being able to make someone’s day just by sending them an acceptance–even though we do not pay. I love interacting with the writers on the Facebook page because I aim to be personal with everyone who likes us. Even though there have been times where I’ve had to take long vacations from this literary magazine, I have always came back to it because people want to be in it no matter what. And I want to be fair to the writers who submit to us because, well, without writers this magazine wouldn’t exist. Seriously.

I currently am existing in my editorial dream. I’m not being paid for The Corner Club Press, but I certainly do get paid for my freelance editing, of which wouldn’t be possible without all the editorial experience I’ve earned the past few years. I love having my own magazine, my own project, and I love being a freelance editor because I get to function as a teacher and watch my clients grow as writers. That is invaluable experience I would not give up for anything.

The Importance of Freelance Editors

The Importance of Freelance Editors

I mentioned in my post on expectations for self-publishing how essential freelance editors are before you actually decide to publish your manuscript. I’m not going to reiterate the obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to point out an essential reason why many writers, not just those going the self-publishing route, should hire a freelance editor.

I tend to chase my clients with a scythe in an effort to get them to understand. I don't think it quite works.
I tend to chase my clients with a scythe in an effort to get them to understand. I don’t think it quite works.

Freelance editors can function as writing tutors and will give you an enormous boost in your writing skills that can take years to gain from beta readers alone. Georgia McBride was my first freelance editor ever, and she worked on the sequel to When Stars Die (which was originally going to be the first book). It was called Witch Tourniquet, and while she only got through half the book before I decided to shelve it in favor of making it a sequel, I gained textbookfuls of knowledge from her services alone. Yes, I’ve learned from beta readers in the past, from reading and writing, but I was stunned at the enormous boost I gained in my storytelling skills–and the majority of it came from the first chapter alone.

Freelance editors will give you legitimate ideas on how to make your book better. They simply won’t point out what’s wrong and tell you to fix it. They will give you strong ideas, and that is what Georgia did. My first chapter changed dramatically from her advice. It went from a third person narrative of a girl simply travelling to a safe house, to a first person narrative of a girl contemplating ending her own life because she was slated to be burned due to witchcraft. I was able to nail this chapter on my first re-write because of the enormous lesson I learned from Georgia’s critique. She even told me that not many of her clients are able to do this. For many, it takes several re-writes, especially because the first chapter is so essential due to its hooking (or lack thereof) properties. A poor first chapter can lead to loss of reader interest.

In any case, the job of an EXCELLENT freelance editor should be to teach you how to edit on your own (which, for self-publishers, does not mean bypassing a freelance editor. This just simply means you need to learn how to take care of the major issues on your own before hiring someone to polish it). For those going the traditional path, you want to learn this on your own because you don’t want to have to depend on a freelance editor to solidify your skills. This makes you look bad and makes agents and editors wonder just what your writing skills are. For those going the self-publishing route, this will keep you from having to spend enormous amounts for editing. By learning how to take care of the big stuff on your own, you will simply need an editor to help you polish it and you hopefully won’t need that editor more than once.

But they are invaluable as learning opportunities. I would argue one critique for a manuscript is worth an entire novel prose-length writing class (with the assumption there aren’t other writing classes on novels)–and possibly more, considering the one at my uni only expects one chapter for the entire semester.

As a freelance editor myself, my job is to teach you how to edit so you will not continuously need my services; however, this takes work on your part because you need to choose to learn from my critique. This is a gift in itself, considering not everyone wants to learn from their mistakes and improve from the advice of others.

Now will everyone going the traditional route need a freelance editor? No. Some grow from beta readers just fine, if they’re lucky to find strong ones. I never was, but Georgia did my manuscript for free because I interned for her. There was no monetary loss on my part, but I did hire her previous intern, and she helped me polish my copyediting skills so that way I could learn to fix structural problems on my own.

It is your job as a writer to judge just what kind of growth you need.