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As a beginner well over 25 years ago, I didn’t have a clue about connecting with editors. I thought all I had to do was look up a publishing company’s address in the Writers’ Market Guide, send off my manuscript after I wrote it and revised it once, and then wait for the check to arrive in the mail.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn! Over the years, I’ve accumulated some wisdom that I’d like to pass on to you. Each of these “talking points” could be developed into an essay of sorts, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll just make a quickie list for you to ponder and then, in turn, to analyze your own progress in becoming a published author:

1. Study the market and make sure your manuscript matches what the publishing company is looking for. This is the number one reason that writers are rejected. A story about your favorite pet cow won’t make it in a horse magazine!
2. Follow the submission guidelines to the “T” if you even want to be considered. If the editor wants a proposal or a query letter first, then learn how to do those two “writing projects” well and submit them first.
3. Have your manuscript critiqued several times by other writers you know (like in a critique group). If you have the financial means, hire a freelance editor to refine your copy. If you don’t do this, the editor at the publishing company might read only one or two paragraphs of your submission and go no further because of poor writing. “Duh, shure eye kin spel; did eye miss sumpthun?”
3. If you have an editor who is interested in your work, send it to him/her immediately. The longer you wait, the fuzzier his/her mind will become about your query or proposal.
4. Be patient. These days it can take anywhere from three months to six months, maybe longer, to hear from an editor. The sad thing of late is that some publishing companies are not responding to writers’ queries or manuscripts unless they have been accepted. This can become a frustrating waiting game with no end. Therefore, find companies that accept multiple submissions, and send five or six out at a time. If you’ve heard nothing after six months, I suggest emailing or calling the editor, but not before.
5. The best way to “connect” with editors is to attend writers’ conferences. Yes, you have to dig deep into your starving author pocket to pay the conferees’ fee and other expenses, but in this business, it takes money to earn money. Of the four book contracts I’ve acquired, three of them came from meeting editors at writers conferences. I’ve also had poetry, children’s short stories, and articles published in magazines by meeting the editors at conferences. Editors love to “connect” writers’ names with their faces. It’s a big plus for you and them alike.

So there you have a few tips to help you get started on the road to publication. Next time, I’ll address the topic of working with an editor once you get that acceptance letter or phone call.

I remember my very first phone conversation with an editor who wanted to do my Keystone Stables series (many, many years ago), and it was a thrill which I shall never forget.

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

In my many, many years of trying to get published and then finally doing so, I’ve met dozens of other writers who have had the ultimate goal of having a book published and have thought that’s the way to jump in with all fours into this fickle business.

However, I’ve often found that the vast majority of those folks who have had that worthy goal of being a published book author had never been published at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with striving to have your book published. I remember when I first started out, that was my goal, too. But, alas, in my file cabinet here next to me rest (in peace) three complete book manuscripts that never made it beyond the editor’s slush pile at numerous companies. I’ve allowed those three manuscripts to stay snuggled in their little file folders all these years to remind me of how stupid I was to think, “I’m going to write a book and get it published.” My heavens, is there a LOT to learn about writing before ever trying to write a book!

Now I realize that I “knew nuttin'” about the writing/publishing business when I launched those first three book projects. It was only after I started attending writers conference that I discovered that writing a book and having it published comes AFTER I learned how to write a good short story or article and had those subgenres published first.

So, writer friends, if you’re just launching out on the Good Ship Publish Me, then do your homework. Learn the craft; study a high school English textbook and then start with Letters to the Editor in your local newspaper, poetry, short stories, and some articles. After you’ve mastered those works, then you’ll be ready to sail off into the Ocean of Published Book Authors.

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

These days, fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels are flooding the market, and they’re flying off the book shelves.

Science fiction is always a good bet for an experienced writer to try because the versatility of the genre affords the writer the opportunity to create new worlds far beyond our wildest imaginations and go “where man has never gone before.”

But to write good science fiction, a genre which I have not tackled yet except in a few short stories, you need to know five basic rules that will help you create a winner that your readers will love.

Is SF all rockets and ray guns? Far from it. Here are some ideas that you need to incorporate into your manuscript to write a best selling thriller:

1. Pick contemporary themes and/or take off for the future: readers are always interested in what might happen next year, next decade, next century. Show them what might just happen a hundred years from now, good or bad.
2. Read, read, read: consume all the science fiction you can and learn the lingo. Words like “dilithium crystals” and “flux matrices” will captivate your audience far beyond a vocabulary that uses words like “salt” or “swinging doors,” a vocabulary that comes from the 18th Century.
3. Study the subgenres: there isn’t just one SF genre. You’ll discover that when you go to the library and start your research. You’ll find space travel, genies in magic worlds, time travel, and the like, and ALL of them are interwoven with scientific facts that make the story plausible.
4. Add the “what if” factor to your plot: do you want your readers on the edge of their seat and turning the next page at the end of each chapter? Then use the “what if” factor. What if the sun would stop shining? What if San Francisco would disappear? What if clocks started ticking off backwards? It’s your call to develop a wild plot with impossible situations that your characters must face, and they’ll not always be on a spaceship!
5. Study and write scientifically: of course, you don’t need a degree in astronomy, but you should know basic facts about your subject matter. To make your story believable and keep your reader with you, you must have cause-and-effect connections between actions and relationships. Things happen for a reason, even if your new world rotates vertically and snowflakes are blue. You’ve got to have a reason why and be convincing about it.

So, there you have it. Get your wild idea on paper and take off for the other end of the universe!

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

When you decide to write anything longer than one sentence, you’ll find that it’s very easy to use the same words again and again. (Like the word “again!”) Or perhaps you’re the kind of writer who just loves to use flowery, complicated, jubilant, explanatory adjectives.

This habit not only will make your writing flat and boring, but it will also do nothing to increase your desire to learn new words and use them cleverly and effectively.

One of the best ways to track down those pesky words that keep reappearing or announce to the world that you are a “Beginner” is to print out your manuscript and get a set of colored markers. Make yourself a color code and dig in. When you’re done, you’ll have a visual picture of your own writing habits that will probably shock you into becoming a better writer and editor.

So, here’s a sample of how you can color code your manuscript by either circling or highlighting the words in said color:
1. RED – adjectives
2. BLUE – adverbs
3. GREEN – being verbs, such as “am,” “is,” “was,” “were,” etc. (These words are passive voice; pitch them out and use stronger verbs for the active voice)
4. PINK – commas; many commas are unnecessary and/or misplaced
5. ORANGE – fancy vocabulary words; throw the rascals out and use clear, simple words
6. BROWN – metaphors and similes; yes, sometimes they’re cute and clever, but mostly they’re as boring as a sleeping dog and don’t add anything to your writing
7. BLACK – clichés and trite expressions; these rascals only reveal lazy writing; be creative with your words and phrases, and you’ll soon have a contract for that “next great American novel.”

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

So, you’ve got your blank screen before you, you’ve got a tremendous idea for the “next great American novel,” you’ve got your dictionary, thesaurus, Elements of Style, and your Chicago Manual of Style ready. You rub your hands together, blow on your fingernails, and say, “Look out, world. Here comes brilliance!”

If you’ve never tried writing anything but eight-line poems or a letter to the newspaper’s editor once in a while, there are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you not only write well but also get published. You might not be ready for a novel; perhaps, a 1200-word fiction story or article would be the best way to start.

Whether you’re determined to write a novel or start with shorter stuff, the tips I want to share will help. They’ll also be brief and to the point. In other words, I will not expound with long, convoluted sentences, which is one of the tips I have for you.

Tips to Help You Write Well:
1. Don’t write long, convoluted sentences. Write short, poignant sentences with very few flowery words and long descriptive paragraphs. Today’s readers won’t stand for your showing off for pages of narration that will bore them to death and cause them to set a match to your work.

2. Avoid the exclamation mark! One per page is often too many. Use clever words to emphasize emotion and action. Stay away from the exclamation mark!

3. Even if you’re writing fiction, be accurate. Do your homework. If you’re describing a fire scene, make sure you visit your local fire company and get all the details of what fire fighting is all about.

4. Stay away from fancy words. Go for simple active verbs, not descriptive adverbs and impressive adjectives. Instead of: “She walked limply and lazily” try “She hobbled.”

5. Avoid figures of speech. They often distract your readers from the real core meaning of your sentence or paragraph. It just makes your reader think you were too lazy to put your own words together to write a clever line.

6. Try to stay in the background, like, invisible. A skillful writer will have his/her readers engrossed in the story, identifying with the character or theme and will not give the author a second thought. Not until the last page. Then the readers are free to exclaim, “Wow! What a story!” (And with the exclamation marks!)

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

Every writer should take himself seriously. Well, almost all the time. Once in a while, we have to turn off the computer, kick off our shoes, and have a good hearty laugh, especially if that last page of the manuscript just won’t “jive.”

There’s no better time to revert to a code of ethics (or non-ethics) to “lighten up.” Perhaps my 14 suggestions listed below will help ease the pain of your latest bout of writer’s block:

1. Thou shalt recite 100 times every day, “I’m a writer, I’m a writer.”

2. Thou shalt write every day, even if it is only I AM A WRITER 100 times.

3. Thou shalt not quit thy day job but shalt write by the light of the silvery moon.

4. If thou quittest thy day job, thou shalt be fully dressed, gargled, and at thy computer by 11 AM every day.

5. Thou shalt love thy computer and kiss it good morning every day.

6. Thou shalt not do other things before writing such as watching thy grass grow or brushing thy dog’s teeth.

7. Thou shalt query an editor at least once a year.

8. Thou shalt not smash thy computer after receiving thy first response from an editor.

9. Thou shalt not take out a full-page ad in the newspaper to announce thy first letter of acceptance.

10. Thou shalt make many copies of thy first letter of acceptance and frame them to hang in every room of thy dwelling.

11. Thou shalt join a critique group and attend writers conferences to hold thyself accountable.

12. Thou shalt not covet other writers’ million dollar advances.

13. Thou shalt be pleased with thy check of $30.

14. Thou shalt not quit thy day job but shalt write by the light of the silvery moon. (Yes, this one is here twice because the general population thinks it’s a piece of cake to write a best-selling novel and become a millionaire over night.)

There you go! With these 14 challenges instilled in your brain, you’re destined to become a best-selling author, so get back to work!

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

All writers should belong to a local critique group that will “tell it like it is.” Nothing will improve your writing better than having objective criticism, both positive and negative, from a group of peers.
I’ve included the guidelines for you to follow if you plan to start your own group. Please feel free to copy and use at your own discretion:

Critique Group Guidelines

1. Pick one person to be the leader of your group or rotate by having a different leader every time you meet. Choose a central location to meet. Our group meets at a local library conference room.

2. Several days before the meeting, the leader should email  everyone to find out who’s bringing something to critique. Everyone who has pages to critique should then email as an attachment the pages to all the other members of the group. The leader then plans how much time will be allotted to each writer at the meeting. Example: We have a two-hour meeting once a month. If five of us bring something to be critiqued, we each get about 20-25 minutes total time for the critique. Its best for the leader to have a timer. We usually limit our pages to about five typed double-spaced pages. But that depends on how many writers want to be critiqued.

3. At the meeting, open with the sharing of news, i.e. someone has been accepted for publication, someone is speaking somewhere or having a book signing, etc.

4. Each person, other than the writer, discusses the manuscript read. The leader should control the input by giving each person at the table a turn to speak, going clockwise or counterclockwise. The author is encouraged to offer his/her input. Also, the leader should prevent discussions and personal trivia that chase rabbit trails and have nothing to do with critiquing the manuscript. Then the manuscript copies are handed back to the writer. Fellowship and sharing can take place before or after the entire critiquing session is over.

6. Before dismissing, the next date for the critique meeting should be set.

THE ART OF CRITIQUE:

1. It offers a chance to communicate with each other. First, tell the writer what you enjoyed about the story and its strengths. Be positive about something.

2. Then review what you think needs work. Sticky opening, weak characters, weak plot, unnatural dialogue, etc.

3. Be careful not to over-critique. Each writer has his own individual voice or style of writing. Other than correcting obvious punctuation, word usage, grammar and punctuation, try not to rewrite the work. It will then not be the original authors work. It will be yours.

4. As the author of the work, you should process the critique comments. Decide if the critique really hit home. Some writers dont change anything unless they get at least two or three comments about the same area of work. Try not to be offended. Critiquing is a valuable tool to make you a better writer.

5. Remember, you are the final judge of your work.

HAPPY WRITING AND CRITIQUING!

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

The best training you’ll ever receive is that which you’ll get by attending writers conferences. Next to your local critique group, writers workshops and conferences will give you the knowledge you need to become a better writer. The various workshops offered usually take you from A to Z concerning the writing/publishing business with fresh ideas for you to try.

You also make new long-lasting writer friends, kindred spirits who think just like you do. (They don’t call us “Odd Ducks” for nothing.)

Writers conferences also offer you the opportunity to present your work face to face to agents and editors of publishing companie. I’ve acquired four of my five book contracts by meeting editors at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference held in Montrose, PA, every July.

If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, you don’t know what you’re missing

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

One of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have in your writing career is a local critique group comprised of other writers.

Some groups meet once a week; others meet once a month. The choice is for the group to make. Some groups meet in the members’ homes; others meet at libraries, bookstores, or cafes with quiet corners. Again, the choice is the group’s.

If you don’t belong to a local critique group, make it a priority to join one. If you aren’t sure there even is one, then determine to start one yourself.

So, how do you get the word out that you are interested in a critique group, either joining or starting?
1. Ask for information at your library or bookstore. If they know of no critique group, prepare an 8 1/2 x 11 poster and ask if you can post it. Put your name, phone number, and email address on the poster.
2. Mount posters in your local grocery stores and mini-marts.
3. Place a free ad in your local “service” newspaper, the one that allows you to buy and sell without paying for an ad.
4. Call other local authors you know and ask about a critique group. If they aren’t members of any, encourage them to help you start one. You really only need three or four other writers to start, and not all need to represent the same genre. Six to eight members are ideal if you plan to meet for two or three hours at a time.

So, there you have it. Get busy with that critique group. If you become accountable to someone for your writing on a regular basis, you will write more often, and you’ll write better!

(Next time: The Guidelines for a Successful Critique Group)

Marsha Hubler
www.marshahubler.com
www.marshahubler.wordpress.com
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

On Writing

Today’s tips are for all you beginning writers out there who have a great idea and don’t know where to start. Here are a few suggestions to get you writing the next best seller!

1. Start writing. Don’t just talk about it. Do you have an idea? Get it on paper!

2. Join a local critique group. This has helped me become a better writer more than any other training, reading, or writing I’ve done. You must have a thick skin and be willing to accept criticism, but in the long run, your writing will improve drastically. Our group in the Susquehanna Valley (PA) meets once a month when everyone brings copies of about four pages of their latest work to have critiqued.

3. Attend writers conferences. Second only to the critique group, writers conferences have molded me into the author I am today. Writers conferences offer numerous workshops on different genres. You also meet other writers who have the passion to write as you do. They UNDERSTAND YOU! And … try to attend conferences where editors and agents are on faculty. Many writers have acquired contracts by meeting “the in-crowd” at conferences. Three of my four book contracts and several purchased articles resulted from contacts at writers conferences. Conferences are an essential part of your training.

4. Read, read, read! If you want to write juvenile fiction, read all the published juvenile fiction you can get your hands on. Likewise, if you’re into Amish romance, don’t spend time reading science fiction or fantasy. If you want to learn how to handle your genre, then study your genre. I have pages and pages of “good writing” excerpts that I’ve copied from published books. Once in a while, I open that file and read through the segments that show me excellent dialogue, good narration, and well-done character description.

So, there you have it. If you have the burning desire deep down in your soul to write, then get going! But consider yourself a work-in-progress just as your manuscript is. The more you learn, the better your writing will be!

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