Posts Tagged ‘writing fiction’

Are You Ready to Get Published?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

From time to time in this blog, I will turn my attention to some of the letters and requests for advice I’ve received. One of the more familiar questions goes something like this:

“Dear Gilda,

I think you’re awesome! More importantly:

HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?”

To which I respond: “Are you sure you’re READY to be published?”

“Of course I am, Gilda!” you answer. “I have such a cute idea for a novel, and I’ve heard that people like J.K. Rowling and the writer of those Twilight books make millions. I would have no problem spending that cash, Gilda, and I wouldn’t blow it all on Twinkies and lip gloss, either.

The Bones of the Holy will be published in June, 2011.

“So how about it, Gilda?” you say. “When is it going to be MY turn? HOW ABOUT ME?!”

“Fine,” I reply, “I will tell you how to get published, but first you must perform five feats of superhuman strength.”

Just kidding. What I actually tell you is: “Before you think about how to get published, you should first be able to few simple but oh-so-difficult and crucial steps”:

BEFORE SEEKING A PUBLISHER, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN CHECK OFF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS ON YOUR “TO-DO” LIST:

1. You have finished writing your entire first book (for a novel, this will usually be approximately 200 pages in length or longer).

2. You are aware that most authors do not publish the first draft of their manuscript, and you have faced the gruesome task of revising your own work. (See my previous blog entry on REVISION MADE EASY for tips on revising your work.)

3. You have shown your manuscript to several avid readers (meaning people who actually read entire books for fun) including at least one trustworthy adult who is not related to you. Seek out opinions from young readers, but include people who are not your closest friends. Your friends know they have to love your manuscript; otherwise you’ll stop texting them and sitting next to them in the cafeteria. (Note: see the website www.spillinginkthebook.com for great tips on how to start a writing club.)

4. You are willing to listen to and consider the comments and feedback you receive without storming out of the room or dissolving into tears.  (Believe me, this is harder than it sounds. But you’ll hear even more comments from a real editor, so toughen up and get used to it!)

“But Gilda,” you say, “This is your most depressing blog entry ever. I can’t check off anything on that list yet! Are you saying that I’m not a writer?!”

Of course not. You’re a writer when you actively work at the craft of writing, not merely because you’re published. There’s one thing that we writers all have in common: we write. And every time we start a new book, we’re starting over, from ground zero. In fact, sometimes book number five is even harder than book number one.

“But darn it, Gilda,” you say, stomping your foot, “I REALLY WANT TO GET PUBLISHED RIGHT NOW!”

“Of course you do,” I say, wiping the ink stains from your fingers and the drool from your chin. “But have you ever considered that what you really want—and what you could have right now—is an audience for your writing?”

We writers can be reclusive creatures, and personally, I love knowing that my secret stash of unpublished manuscripts is hiding in my closet, just waiting to be discovered someday. Still, there comes a point when you need to share your stories with other demented individuals. (That was a joke, for those of you who don’t know my sense of humor.)

Some suggestions for finding your audience:

1. Create a website or start a blog to share your writing and that of your friends. We live in an exciting, dynamic, and strange time in the history of publishing, so take advantage of it. (When in history could an “unpublished” writer reach such a large audience so quickly?)

2. Start an after-school or weekend writing club. Sometimes it’s heartwarming to meet with other writers in person –not just online.

3. Try sending chapters of your novel-in-progress to a friend in installments (I once sent my friend Wendy a novel in weekly chapters that kept her laughing all summer.My creative writing teacher hated the book, but Wendy is still begging me to write book #2 in the never-published Penelope Stunn series.)

So keep writing, but until you can check off each item on my handy list, my advice is to focus on finding your audience rather than “getting published.”

“But Gilda—” someone shouts from the back row. “What about those of us who CAN check off every item on that list?” A spitball whisks past my head as I turn to answer.

But just in time, the bell rings.

Sorry folks; another session has ended, and we’re out of time. But tune in to my next blog for yet another answer to the eternal question that has driven brilliant minds to near-insanity:

“HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?”

Do Writers Make Good Spies?

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Those of you who know my work already know that I’m a writer and an investigator. And yes, in some circles, I’m considered a spy.

No – I don’t work for the CIA (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask for my help one of these days). But I have been known to use my spying skills to snoop out the characters and stories that lurk around my neighborhood just waiting to be turned into scintillating fiction.

I’ve discovered that the techniques that help spies sniff out crucial bits of intelligence can also help writers locate fascinating stories. So button up your trench coat and lower your dark shades; it’s time for GILDA’S GUIDE TO EAVESDROPPING AND WRITING!

1.    Always be curious. At the moment, your neighborhood may seem to be full of nothing but homework assignments, overcooked vegetables and Monday-morning blahs. But I assure you, it also containshidden mysteries. Who lives in that house with the overgrown garden down the street? Why does that elderly gentleman always walk his dog at midnight? Is there any truth to that ghost story about that stall in the girls’ bathroom? Clues abound around your home and at your school. Being a writer begins with simply being curious and paying attention at all times.

2.    Use all of your senses. NOTICE DETAILS. Spies are trained to remember tiny details: we notice the man wearing a baseball cap who stands waiting for a bus, the parked pick-up truck that sits at the curb, the mother and child who stroll down the street. We take a mental picture, memorizing information as detailed as license plate numbers when necessary.  In this way, the spy is more likely to recognize potential danger when that same man turns up in different parts of the city (“Am I being trailed?” we ask ourselves). Usually the answer is “No, you’re being paranoid.” Still, we pay attention.

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