Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, full of warmth and joy and blessings beyond counting.
Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, full of warmth and joy and blessings beyond counting.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts November 1. The basic idea is to engage in BIC (Butt In Chair) and write fiction. The goal is to finish 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. By successfully completing 50,000 words by the deadline, you win, (you get a badge!), and have a draft of a novel. Or that’s the idea.
The goal is less one of writing a novel than it is of writing 50,000 words in a month, or roughly, 1667 words a day.
I like very much the attitude behind NaNo WriMo that what’s important is that you’re writing, and writing regularly. It is, as some writers have said, permission to create a first draft without obsessing over style, with the idea that later you will revise at your leisure.
Here’s an interesting thing: you’re permitted to use an outline, or notes that you’ve created ahead of time. But they discourage writers from starting with a draft or even a partial draft, and here’s why:
But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.
There’s even support for local NaNo WriMo groups. We have a lot of AWers who are NaNo veterans, and we even have an AW NaNo WriMo and Beyond subforum. MacAllister Stone has written about her own participation in NaNo WriMo, and the difficulty of maintaining a schedule.
What advice do you NaNo veterans have for first timers? What works for you in terms of finding time to NaNo?
Guest post by Francesca Nicasio
When I first started out, there were some things that I tried to avoid as much as possible because they
were uncomfortable scared the crap out of me. It didn’t take long though before I realized that my avoidance was getting me nowhere and if I really wanted to succeed in freelance writing, I had to not only face my fears, I had to embrace them.
Below is a list of those fears. I’ve also included the things that I learned from facing them, and what you can do if you share the same fears or apprehensions.
Getting edits and constructive criticism is a good thing. Those red marks on your article may not look pretty, but they will make you a better writer. They can improve your style and develop your attention to detail. As writers, we are often too close to our creations to see flaws or errors. Having someone scrutinize your work will make it sharper and more compelling.
How to deal with constructive criticism: First of all, don’t take it personally. The person scrutinizing your work is just doing their job. Also remember that having your work edited or criticized doesn’t make you a bad writer. It only means that there’s some room for improvement and growth.
When you get the edited piece back, thank the person and revise your work. If you don’t agree with the way they edited your article, say so. Tell them (in a polite way, of course) why you wrote it the way you did and hear out their response. This opens up constructive discourse between the two of you, and you’ll likely pick up helpful insights in the process.
The path to freelance writing success is littered with rejection letters. It’s just part of the territory. As writers we must learn to accept–nay–embrace rejection because each “no” that we get brings us closer to that coveted “yes.”
Rejection can teach you some valuable lessons in persistence and resilience. It also tests just how badly you want success. More importantly, rejection enables you to develop a thicker hide–an attribute that you must possess when putting yourself out there.
How to deal with rejection: There’s no shortcut or sugar-coated way to handle rejection. You just have to dust yourself off, learn from the mistakes that got you rejected (if any), and keep going.
You can also think of it this way: If you get rejected by a prospective client or publication, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that you and the other party aren’t a good fit for each other. They’re not the right client or they simply aren’t looking for someone like you at the moment. It’s nothing personal and it’s not anything against you, it’s just the way it is.
Okay, maybe “haters” is too strong of a word. Let’s call them “negative commenters”.
Unpleasant as it may be though, receiving negative comments should be taken as a compliment. Why? Because it means that what you wrote sparked enough emotion to compel people to leave a comment.
Don’t feel bad when you get negative comments, be upset when you don’t get any.
How to deal with negative comments: If you choose to dignify their comments with a response, always be calm and respectful. Recognize that each person is entitled to their own opinions. Additionally, do not respond from a place of defensiveness or emotion. Instead, state the facts and be cool. And be sure to thank the person for taking the time to comment.
PS: This doesn’t apply to trolls.
This is for all the shy ones (myself included). Reaching out to other people may be out of your comfort zone, but it’s absolutely necessary. Reaching success is not something that you can do alone, so get out there and network away. Growing your contact list is essential especially when you’re looking to promote your work or collaborate with others.
Reaching out to others is also something that you must do again and again throughout your career because it’s the only way to find new audiences and/or clients.
How to reach out: Do your research on the person that you’re touching base with. To be effective, reach out with their needs in mind, not just yours. For instance, if you’re contacting them to start a joint venture, tell them why a JV would benefit them and their audience. Remember, they’ll be asking the question of what’s in it for them, so be sure to answer it when you first get in touch.
Have you ever avoided any of the things mentioned in this blog post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Francesca Nicasio (formerly Francesca StaAna) is the founder of CredibleCopywriting.net and is currently developing Copywriter2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring freelance writers the ins and outs of the biz.
Guest Post by Benjamin LeRoy
I’ve been a steady lurker on the Absolute Write forums since 2005. Every now and again I jump into a thread if I feel like there’s something I can contribute. Most of the time, though my impulse is to get involved when a new publishing company gets called to the carpet, I resist the urge. Because even though as a community we have a sense of wanting to correct people who are either intentionally deceitful or willfully ignorant, we know how they tend to respond, and we know it isn’t worth the effort.
Having started two independent publishing companies since 2000 (first Bleak House Books, then Tyrus Books in 2009), I’d like to think I’ve gained some perspective on what it means to run a small press in an ever changing publishing landscape. I also know that many of those lessons had to come through trial and error and that I couldn’t have understood where I was going wrong until I got there.
What’s the old saying? “It’s not what you don’t know that will kill you, it’s what you don’t know you don’t know.”
That. Or something like it.
One caveat that is frequently issued during the discussion of new publishers is, “Wait a year or two and see if they’re still around.”
Because anybody can get an idea to start a publishing company on Monday and hang a shingle on Tuesday, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of unqualified people claiming to be something they aren’t—at least aren’t in the way that an author needs them to be.
Many times when these new publishers are asked what they bring to the table, they make a half-hearted and ill-informed pronouncement that “New York publishing is broken. Big Six publishers don’t take chances on unknown authors. That’s why I started an independent publishing house!” A string of gibberish buzzwords usually follow. “We care about our authors,” etc.
There’s an effort to establish a war between the Big Six and Independent Publishers. (For clarity’s sake, I’m using “independent publisher” in its longer understood definition, and not as a synonym for an “indie author.”)
The problem with Fly By Night Publishing jumping into the fray of an imaginary war between the Big Six and Independent Publishers is that it, on some level, bunches all Independent Publishers together in some monolithic block. That there is some unifying agent among them. That the independent publisher that’s been around for decades is on near equal footing as the guy who started his company with no experience this morning.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Getting into publishing requires very little. There are no tests to take. You can file incorporation papers for less than $100, put up a website for even less. Creating a viable publishing program that gets respect from the industry and the attention of readers is another matter entirely.
This is the story of how I got to where I am (and I am still a relative unknown in the greater scheme of the publishing world). It shows that for all of the nice talk about “dreams,” there has to be a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and luck to make dreams come true.
And when they do come true—it’s kinda awesome.
Guest Post by Francesca StaAna
Wondering why your articles aren’t getting a lot of views or clicks? Stressing about the fact that you’re not getting enough repeat clients? You might be committing these deadly freelance writing mistakes:
Silence (Not following up) – Contrary to what some might think, just because a prospect doesn’t immediately respond to your first call or email, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested. Yes, most of them probably don’t need your services, but there ARE some potential clients who are simply too busy to respond. This is especially true when it comes to sending emails. People are bombarded with emails on a daily basis, so you can’t really blame them if they overlook yours.
Always follow up. Don’t let fear, pride, or laziness stop you from doing it. Whether you’re cold-emailing a potential customer or reaching out to blogs to see if they’re willing to publish your guest post, make it a point to reach out in about a week or so after you’ve first made contact to see if they’re interested.
Ignorance (Not reading enough) – Reading should be a necessity for writers. Doing so on a regular basis allows you to appreciate the beauty of the written word, gives you inspiration, and more importantly, makes you a better writer. It opens you up to different styles of writing and helps you develop your own.
On a more pragmatic level, reading can give you new material to write about. Can’t think of anything new to jot down on your blog? Pick up a recent issue of an industry magazine and see what’s happening in the world. Check out the latest posts on your favorite websites and get different points of view on issues. I guarantee you’ll find something to write about.
Carelessness (Failing to catch typographical and grammatical errors) – Committing typos is unavoidable. Publishing them on the other hand, is a different story.
Typographical and grammatical errors are embarrassing at best, and misleading at worst. One misplaced letter or punctuation mark can shift the meaning of a statement, so make sure that you thoroughly proofread your writing especially when it’s supposed to go out to the public.
Have a second set of eyes read through your work before sending it in. If you’re on your own, step out of the room for a few minutes or do something else for a while then go back and re-read what you’ve written. Personally, I’ve found that changing the font and color of the text, as well as reading aloud makes proofreading so much easier.
Self-Absorption (Focusing on yourself rather than the audience) – Whether you’re pitching to clients or writing a blog post, always remember one thing: It’s about THEM, not you. Think about it. When you’re out on a date, wouldn’t you be turned off by someone who only talks about himself or herself without bothering to ask you about your life?
Similarly, one of the quickest ways to get readers to lose interest is by failing to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (Trust me, they’re all asking that question.)
Unoriginality (Failing to use your own unique voice) – One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a writer (and as a person in general) is trying to be someone you’re not. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admire and be inspired by other people’s writing styles, it’s another thing to try and copy them. Instead, study the writing styles of others to develop your own unique flavor. You’ll be a much better writer and have more fun while you’re at it.
Also avoid using words or phrases that are not “you” in an effort to sound smart and important. In most cases, writing isn’t about sounding intelligent. It’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.
Close Mindedness (Refusing to try other things) – So you’re set in your ways. I get it. I can be the same way too. However, not going out there to try new things can seriously hinder your growth.
For instance, I know some writers who were reluctant to market using Pinterest because it was too “image based” and they assumed that it wouldn’t be an effective medium to promote their work. I paid no attention to those claims and tried it anyway. I used tools such as PicMonkey and Share As Image to make my words “pinnable”, and guess what? The Pinterest community took notice. My site got more clicks and I even got a few client calls because of it.
The takeaway? Don’t automatically turn your back on ideas or tools just because you’re not familiar with them. Keep an open mind at all times and try new things—even if you’re not used to them. After all, you never know how effective (or ineffective) something is until you try it out for yourself.
Social Aversion (Refusing to network or collaborate with others) – Don’t treat all your fellow writers as the competition. Instead, see them as teachers, peers, or even friends. Similar to being closed minded, not opening up your professional circle can stop you from growing and learning new things.
You can pick up a lot of new ideas and connections by attending conferences and networking mixers, so try to be present at these events whenever you can. If you’re more of an introvert, start by networking online. Comment on blogs and connect with people via social media
Are you guilty of any of these sins? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
Francesca is the founder of Credible Copywriting and specializes in writing blog posts, web content and press releases for startups, Internet companies, and mobile app developers. She’s currently developing Copywriting 2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring copywriters the ins and outs of the biz. Sign up here and get notified when the course launches.
Guest Post by Lynn Alden Kendall
Writing speculative fiction—fantasy, alternate history, and science fiction—entails imagining a world as well as a story. Perhaps that’s why SF/F writers and readers attend conventions like FOGcon: to immerse themselves in the world of speculative fiction.
FOGcon is a book-oriented SF/F convention held every March at the Walnut Creek Marriott near San Francisco. Organized and run by writers and fans of SF/F, FOGcon is an intimate, not-for-profit event that offers members a weekend of readings, panel discussions, writers’ workshops, and opportunities to mingle. Each year we choose a different theme and invite guests whose writing exemplifies the best work on that topic.
This year’s convention runs from March 8 – 10, and the theme is Law, Order, and Crime. The Honored Guests are Terry Bisson, Susan R. Matthews, and the late Anthony Boucher. (That’s right; in addition to honoring living writers, we always have an Honored Ghost.) The con is always held the weekend of the second Sunday in March—time-change weekend.
FOGcon, now in its third year, has already earned a reputation as a fascinating event where creative people gather. Last year, acclaimed author Nalo Hopkinson led a workshop where people uncovered their cultural secrets by playing games. We have hosted writing exercises with an instructor, meetups for people of color and for people on social media, and an annual participatory group world-building exercise. There is also a dealers room where you can buy books, jewelry, art prints—even get a massage.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been a mecca for writers since the days of Mark Twain, and FOGcon draws on the rich local culture of SF/F writers. As a community-led, book-focused convention, FOGcon resembles a salon where you can meet and mingle with other writers at every level of achievement from beginner to Nebula winner. You can discuss craft with professionals and learn from fans what works for them and what doesn’t. If you’re a new writer, FOGcon is an ideal place for your first dip into the speculative fiction pool.
Come to FOGcon if you want to:
And those are just the official events—FOGcon offers plenty of informal fun as well, from spontaneous discussions (and plenty of free food) in the hospitality suite to karaoke, a game room, and meetups for people with special interests. Membership costs are less than a hundred dollars for the weekend, very low compared to commercial conventions. Moreover, our hotel offers free parking, a swimming pool, a good restaurant, a newly upgraded fitness center, and a free shuttle to downtown Walnut Creek, all for a superb convention rate.
Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco, is a charming small city distinguished by its superb restaurants (from cafes to sushi to four-star dining), excellent shopping, and a convenient location. If you’re interested in exploring wild California, Mount Diablo is just a few minutes away by car. A convenient commuter train just 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel can take you into San Francisco, one of the world’s most beautiful cities and an international center for food, arts, and culture.
Getting to the con is easy. You can drive to Walnut Creek—the hotel offers free parking—or fly into SFO or Oakland and take the BART train to Walnut Creek. (Yes, the hotel has a free shuttle from the Walnut Creek BART station.) Fly in on Thursday night and be part of the fun from the beginning.
Lynn Alden Kendall
The greatest thing in the world is the Alphabet
as all knowledge is contained therein
except the wisdom of putting it together
—from an old German bookplate
Hugo Award-winning author and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal started a delightful challenge, during a month-long hiatus from the Internet in 2010, to correspond with her via letter. That has grown to become A Month of Letters, which runs for the whole of February. During the next month, I and the other 6,000 people who’ve signed up to participate will be writing letters, post cards, and doing other creative things and dropping them into the mail.
I love to write longhand — the feel of the paper beneath my fingers, the consideration that goes into inscribing each character — and this gives me a wonderful reason to do so. That’s where you come in. I’m looking for more people to write to — the more the merrier. If you would like to receive a genuine, hand-written letter from yours truly, send me your address. Email me, message me on Twitter or Facebook, or use my contact form.
This is an opportunity to rekindle friendships and make new ones, without the limitations of Twitter or the haste of email. Let’s write!
If you’re too shy to write a letter to Adam, but you want to write a letter to someone who really needs one? Maybe you could write a Letter to Noah. — Mac
ETA: Submitomancy fell short of the funding goal, unfortunately, so isn’t going to happen. (Thank you, Zac, for your suggestion that we add a note about the project’s status.)
Guest Post by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
I first experienced the magical power of recent responses on Absolute Write. I had just started sending out my first novel (now wrapped in lavender-scented tissue paper and trunked) and I discovered the treasure trove of agent information here on the forums. It was like I’d gained entry into a secret club. Suddenly I knew that this agent was a quick responder and that one often gave personal responses and how long the previous person had been waiting for a response. I got great insight on what specific agents were looking for and the type of novels that were getting full requests. And most importantly, I didn’t feel so alone.
When I shifted to short stories, I looked for similar resources. I discovered tracking short stories was a bit more complicated than novel submissions. I ended up with a combination solution: I had a spreadsheet, a website and a piece of software called Sonar3 in order to try to track all of the information that was important to me. When the admins of that website changed their system, I suddenly realised, you know what? I can do better than this.
I started a list of everything I wanted: manuscript data, submission history, market listings, recent responses, contract and payment information for every sale, exclusivity clauses, reprint options… it was a long list. And before I knew it, I was writing a detailed design specification for my perfect system: Submitomancy.
The project needed two things: development funds and a critical mass of users. And yet, I wanted to keep it free. It was an easy decision to start with the crowd-funding model, which would defray development costs and also gain a commitment from a starter group who wanted the service.
If the campaign succeeds, then the core development is out of the way before we start. The free services will encourage users to enter their data in return for a basic tracking service. This will include a basic search of the market listings, submission tracking and average response times per market.
But if you subscribe, you get access to the fun stuff! Lots of reports and data, of course: expanded manuscript tracking, power search, recent responses, market alerts and personalised notifications. But you also get access to social options like profile pages, status updates and badges! Badges might not seem an obvious feature for a submission tracker, I know. But having been a part of such a powerful community, I wanted to make it easy to share the our successes and struggles with each other.
If there’s enough interest in Submitomancy then I’ll be refining the details with the Early Access subscribers. But the reports and the support can only be as good as the people who take part. That’s why I’m exploring this with you as a no-risk project right now. If you think you’d enjoy being a part of Submitomancy, then please support the campaign and tell your friends.
Dive Into The World of Thrillers at THRILLERFEST
Guest Post, by Alma Katsu
If you write commercial fiction and are looking for a great writing conference, I recommend you check out the International Thriller Writers (ITW) annual event, ThrillerFest. It’s a four-day extravaganza held every year in early July in New York City, close to the publishing industry to ensure participation by editors and agents as well as lots of published authors. If you’re looking for a way to become part of the mystery and thriller genre, you might find that this is the conference you’ve been waiting for.
There are two things that most writers want when they’re at the pre-publication stage: advice on how to make their stories better, and opportunities to meet the editors and literary agents who will make their dreams come true. Craftfest and Agentfest, part of Thrillerfest, are designed to fill those needs.
At Craftfest, you’ll attend sessions on the craft of writing commercial fiction, taught by bestselling authors and some of the top editors in the field. There aren’t many conferences where you’ll learn about dramatic structure or characterization from Lee Child, John Sandford, Steve Berry, or acclaimed agent Donald Maass. While the line-up of presenters changes from year to year at Craftfest, you’ll find that every instructor at is of the same high caliber.
There are typically over 50 agents at Agentfest to take your pitches. You can see some of the agents who’ve attended in the past here: if you’re looking to pitch to the top agents representing mystery, thriller and suspense, this is where you’ll find them all in one place. And if you’ve never pitched before, don’t worry, there’s a workshop beforehand to teach you the ropes.
At Thrillerfest, you’ll get two days of multiple tracks of panels and spotlight interviews with the biggest names in the field, all designed to teach you about the business of writing commercial fiction. You’ll find panels with some of the most respected editors from the Big Six Publishers: Neil Nyren, senior vice-president and publisher of Putnam, and Mark Tavani, senior editor at Ballantine Books, have been speakers in past years. There are also workshops on related subjects—everything from martial arts to the espionage business—taught by experts.
One of the best things about Thrillerfest is that you get the opportunity to network with authors of all levels of experience—from long-time bestsellers to novices. At my first Thrillerfest, imagine my surprise when I was joined at breakfast by Erica Spindler and Heather Graham! That’s one of the most amazing things about Thrillerfest: everyone is approachable and open.
And while the opportunity to meet big name authors in your genre is a pretty compelling reason to attend, an even better one is that at Thrillerfest you have the chance to meet writers just like you who will likely go on to be your ally in the industry throughout your career—and I can attest to that myself. I met legal thriller writer Allison Leotta when we sat next to each other on stage for the 2011 Debut Author class and today we’re best buds, calling each other for advice and appearing at events together.
As a matter of fact, that’s why I volunteered to write this guest post for ITW: I’ve gotten a lot from Thrillerfest over the years and I wanted to give something back by spreading the word. If you’ve been looking for a writer’s conference that will open doors for you, you might want to read about a few of Thrillerfest’s success stories:
Are you ready to find out more? Click on the links above to go to the Thrillerfest website; you’ll find everything you need. And if you come to Thrillerfest in July, make sure to look for me and say hello!
Alma Katsu is the author of THE TAKER and THE RECKONING, paranormal thrillers published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. THE TAKER was an ALA Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 and has rights that have been sold in 15 languages.
May your Christmas be bright and may your path bring you to a place of warmth, love, and closeness.
And may the coming New Year hold joys beyond counting.
Thank you for being here!