Your Summer Writing Plan

janav Productivity, Time Management, Writing Leave a Comment

Last weekend, as we wrapped up our day-long writing workshop, my writer’s group went around and stated what we planned to work on over the summer. We’re meeting again in September, so it was good to state our goals, especially after having received feedback on our work. Hearing others’ enthusiasm for their work and mine got me jazzed up to get back to working on a project I’d set aside as having too many thorny story problems that needed sorting. Summer is often the odd season out. Vacations, the lure of weekends spent outdoors, kids off school, and all the …

Summer Reading

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In the era of blogs and binge-watching tv shows and addictive online games, even writers can be distracted from one of their most important pursuits: reading. It’s easy to forget that we can learn a tremendous amount from simply immersing ourselves in other peoples’ words. There’s reading as a writer, which involves careful analysis of craft elements to see what works and how we might apply it to our own writing. But there’s also the task of absorbing story and language, keeping up with what others are writing in our genre, or actually (gasp) reading for enjoyment. After binge-buying books …

Critique Groups 101

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I’m excited because this weekend my MFA alumni critique group is meeting. We’ve been getting together for five years now, with slightly different configurations of people. The one thing we have in common is that we’ve been through Lesley University’s MFA program in creative writing. We didn’t all graduate at the same time, or in the same genre, and some of us have branched out to other genres over the years. We meet about three times per year, in someone’s house, for a day-long workshopping extravaganza. Writers write in isolation, and often work for years before gaining any audience for …

The Writer’s Life List

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Some people find writing whole-life lists daunting. Others find that what they write at one time in their life no longer applies ten or twenty years later (that has certainly been my experience). I like to brainstorm a list and choose one or two things to focus on for the year. That gives me a manageable time frame to work with, as well as a deadline. One of these is always related to writing. It can be great to think about the all-time experiences you want to have, and to work toward more than one goal at a time. But …

Try This: A Sense of Place

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I attended a week-long conference in Denver last week (hence the lack of posts). I’ve been there a couple of times now, and don’t really have a total feel for the place, but to be fair when I’m there I’m not in explorer mode – I’m working, or hanging out with a good friend. What I have seen, I like. The parks, the restaurants, the laid-back feel, the sense of space around the city, and the snow-capped mountains in the distance… it has a very different vibe from the northeast, where I live. Unless you travel frequently, it’s rare to …

Friday Favorite: Literary Agent Databases

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So how the heck do you find an agent anyway? It can be daunting to figure out, among all the hundreds (thousands?) of agents out there, who would be a good fit for your book. One way to do this is to look at books you’ve enjoyed, and see if the agent is listed in the acknowledgments in the back of the book. But for many, that might not be the best way to get to know who’s acquiring what types of manuscripts now. Similarly, print books go out of date so quickly, they are useful only in the broadest …

Joining the Pitch Party

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Today we’ll continue on with the idea of pitching your project on Twitter. In an era when it can take weeks or months to hear back from agents or editors you’ve queried, Twitter pitch parties are an excellent way to reach publishing professionals who have an interest in the type of work you write, and get instant feedback on whether they’d like a full query from you. Important: make sure your project is done! It must be as polished as you can make it, so if an agent or editor favorites your pitch, you can send them what they are …

Try This: Never Give Up

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I got an email recently from a fellow MFA grad who was ecstatic that she finally got an agent after sending out over 300 queries over the past three years. No, that’s not an extra zero. It’s easy to be tempted to give up after ten, twenty, thirty… or 100 rejections. It’s discouraging. Depressing. Why am I doing this? Am I really good enough? Am I just fooling myself? Maybe I should just self-publish… (and maybe you should, but there are pros and cons to that). I’ve been there myself, trust me. I’ve been fortunate never to get any really …

Friday Favorites: Noah Lukeman

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Since we’ve been talking about pitching and beginnings this week, I want to point out a few books by the inestimable Noah Lukeman. He’s a literary agent, and his books are the next best thing to sitting in a room with an agent giving you the scoop. First, How to Write a Great Query Letter. Just what it says. And it’s free! Another freebie: How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent. For those struggling with the opening of their novel: The First Five Pages will help you figure out exactly what to do to start your story off right. …

Finding Your Perfect Pitch

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“Wow, I think that’s the best, most concise pitch I’ve ever heard,” one of the faculty said to me at the recent Big Sur on Cape Cod Writer’s Workshop. I was pleased because I’d worked hard on it. A little less pleased when I realized it probably would no longer work for the story given the revisions I have in mind after the workshop! But that’s okay. Your “elevator pitch” or “logline” – basically, a one-sentence summary of your project – is not just important when you’re talking with editors and agents. It’s also an incredibly useful tool to help …