While trying my hand at teaching high school back in the fall, I spent so long away from my current rough draft, I forgot half of what I'd written. So I've been going back to read through it. In doing so, several issues with the rough have been jumping out at me, but they all stem from one factor common in rough drafts, lacking conflict.
Readers have their favorites, and they don't enjoy seeing them put through the wringer, but at the same time, what are the chances they would be so fond of those characters if they never struggled? No matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, without conflict, there is no story.
I wanted to take a few moments to explain why I've more or less disappeared online the past month or so.
Part of it has been working on the grammar and creative writing text books I talked about last month. The rest, I haven't been able to talk about before now. You see, beyond working on textbooks, I've been hired on by Foster Academy to teach English and Science for the high school students. Having learned from past experience, as soon as the text books arrived, I started working on preparing lessons, assignments, and the like between teacher work days spent helping set up the building.
Have you heard the advice about taking a break between steps in the writing process? As with many things when it comes to matters of art making, there are multiple schools of thought on the practice. Some say it's a waste of time. Others say it's essential. Some prefer short breaks or "pauses," and others believe anything less than months at a time is the same as just plowing through.
Personally, I hold to the pause method. One, just because that's the way I've always worked on an instinctual level, but also because I've learned I need those pauses to produce better work.
Bad reviews happen to every writer at one point or another. Sometimes they're very public, one star reviews on Amazon or Good Reads. Other times, they're more private like a beta telling you a particular story, scene, or chapter is horrible.
They're a part of any creative venture. Therefore, it's imperative that anyone with ambitions to be a writer, artist, musician, or any other kind of creator makes peace with the fact not everyone will love what they do. Part of making peace with the inevitability of negative feedback is learning how to deal with it. How you react can have a major impact on your physical and mental health as well as your professional reputation.
You might have heard "don't waste your time editing" before, but make sure you don't take that bit of advice out of context. It is almost always talking about when you're in the thick of writing a rough draft. What is meant is, "Don't use editing as an excuse to never finish." Although it can be used as a method of procrastination, editing is never a waste of time.
If you go back to the tired old metaphor of writing a book as having a child, you can look at it like this. Writing the rough draft is like carrying and birthing the story. Doing the rewrites is like raising it. You're taking the "child" and molding them into the "adult" they will become. Editing is sending that "child" to school. It gives them their best chance at being successful out in the real world. Formatting, the cover art, and back cover blurb are basic grooming and hygiene skills you teach the "child."
New? Begin with lesson one.
So you've made your way through writing, editing, proofing, and publishing your work. Now what?
First off, congratulations. Now you get to start dividing your attention. You might think now's the time to kick back for a while, but it's not if you want a career in writing. If all you ever wanted to do was have a book in print, maybe, but don't expect to make much if any money from it. The upside of the self-publishing bloom is the market is wide open these days, but this also means each individual sale is more difficult to make than ever. You not only need to get the attention of potential readers, you need to earn their trust in order for them to take the risk of buying your book.
Let's say you've decided to go it alone when it comes to publishing. The thought of having complete control over the design, layout, cover, print size, absolutely everything appeals to you, and you aren't frightened by being the sole person responsible for how your work does in the open market. Where do you start?
Well, first you need to realize and acknowledge self-publishing isn't an easy way out or a quick route to stardom. It can take just as long if not longer than traditional publishing, and a lot more of the work is on you. The earlier you prepare yourself for this, the better your experience will be.
So you've decided the traditional publishing route is for you. What do you do now? Today's lesson is an overview of the basics you'll need to know.
Write a tantalizing query letter.
No matter which way you go about it, you're going to need a good, clean query letter to get anywhere with traditional publishing. It's the standard way of submitting to agents and the publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries alike. It's your chance to show them your ability to write clean, clear prose and outline your story.
Unless you have previous publications or other credentials relevant to the piece you're submitting, it's generally considered best to leave them off. Keep it as short and to the point as you can without becoming so stiff and generic you sound like an android, unless of course, your book is written from an android's point-of-view.
You've written and polished your work to a fine gloss, and now you're ready to begin thinking about publishing it. Today's market offers a variety of options. It's important to consider the pros and cons of each. We'll take a look at one of the biggest divides in today's lesson, whether to go the traditional route or become an indie author.
Both have their good points and their bad ones. Different genres do better with different mediums, and one direction may work better for your life or business model than the other.
Some grimace when the word "business" is applied to writing, but when you get to the publication stage, there is a necessary bit of business about it unless you're simply ordering copies for your personal collection or to give as gifts. If you want to try and sell your written work either to a publisher, magazine, or as an ebook, you essentially begin to build yourself as a brand. Even if you decide to go with a traditional publisher as a novelist, you will be expected to at least help with the marketing by building an author's platform and making appearances.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
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