Why #1lineWed Is A Great Writing Exercise

For those unaware, #1lineWed is a weekly writing-related Twitter event hosted by the Romance Writers Association’s Kiss of Death Chapter (@RWAKissofDeath). The rules are simple—each week, @RWAKissofDeath will post a new “theme,” and writers post a line from their manuscripts that relates to that theme. Simple enough. So why is this a great writing exercise?  Well, in the words of Stephen King: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

It is a common desire for fledgling writers to want to “stand out.” Often, this desire manifests itself as needlessly complicated writing. I’m certainly not above it – I still have issues sending my darlings to pasture. But step one in solving any problem is identifying it, and that’s where #1lineWed comes in.

Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters; “#1linewed” with a space takes up ten characters, so suddenly you’re down to 130. You’ll be stunned by how little room that is, but also how much you can pack into it if you’re cognizant.

Here’s a personal example. One week, the #1linewed theme was “sweet.” I located the following passage from my manuscript that seemed on-point:

“The voice of his mother echoed in his ears. It had been so long since he heard her voice. Too long. He had forgotten how similar his mother’s voice was to Carrie’s: both voices were sweet, steady, and calm. Both voices were like sedatives for his frenetic thoughts.”

This passage is almost 270 characters long, so I almost ignored it. But then I decided to experiment to see if I could get the character count down. After several iterations, I succeeded:

 

This passage is half the length, but much more impactful. And while it would take a very long time to take this approach with an entire manuscript, developing an eye for darling slaughter is critical to success as a writer.

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A Playlist for My Son (arriving 5-24-2016)

Though I am not yet a father, I’ve come to realize the knowledge that I will be a father changes everything.  The changes have been subtle; soon, I gather, they won’t be.  Little things have shifted.  Certain colors seem more vibrant.  Foods taste a little different.  My mind shifts to new subjects. And, as the basis for this blog post, specific songs have developed new meanings.

The below list contains songs that, for whatever reasons, have resonated with me over the last several months.  A warning:  This list may be different than you expect.  Not every song is “happy-go-lucky.”  Rather, these are the songs I hope to discuss with my son in his 20s; perhaps by then I will have a better grasp of why these songs have stood out.  But, for now, here is my feeble attempt at explanations.

“Atlas” by Coheed and Cambria

Relevant Lyrics

So sleep tight, little Atlas cause when your daddy goes off just you know

That you’re the weight of his anchor, the love that is guiding him home

First, a confession:  This song is the reason I made this list.  I discovered it shortly after my wife told me she was pregnant and I’ve listened to it many times since.  It is also the most “on the nose” song listed, but that’s okay.  Sometimes a punch to the face is needed more than a tickle.

Claudio Sanchez, lead singer of Coheed and Cambria, wrote this for his son, Atlas; the love shines through.  I’ve always dreamed of writing a song for my wife or child.  Unfortunately, my dog leaves the room whenever I sing, so I’ll have to stick to blog posts.

The lyrics are amazing and relevant.  The first verse is about a carefree couple who discovers they’re pregnant and slowly realize what that entails.

And out of that we found ourselves back at the start of it all

So scarred and incomplete

The second verse is Claudio discussing his fears about being a busy father and the doubt that stings his mind.

And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away

It’s that you won’t be anything like me

In the last verse, Claudio realizes he’s got to “man up” and do whatever is necessary to succeed.

Now give us the man that you’ve been hiding

Cause this is your life now

I’ve experienced this exact cycle.  The excitement, the fear, the doubt, the acceptance, the readiness.  No matter how many times I listen to this song, it’ll still bring the occasional tear.

“All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

Relevant Lyrics

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

No where you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be

It’s easy

No playlist of mine would be complete without a Beatles song, and this was a simple choice.  My son will learn life can be complicated.  Sometimes, it’s easier to let the highs and lows sweep you away than to remain centered, focusing instead on what’s important, on what’s in front of you.   It especially concerns me there is so much stimuli in modern times.  There’s too much color, too much noise.

I hope to teach my son to detach, hold the one he loves, and just exist.  To slow down and remember that he’s exactly where’s he supposed to be.  That love is all he’ll need to make it through.

“Lovesong” by The Cure

Relevant Lyrics

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am young again

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am fun again

“Lovesong” has been one of my favorite songs since high school, although I didn’t understand it as an angsty teenager.  I think I get it more now, although maybe I don’t.  Anyway, the fact it’s a chameleon is the reason I appreciate it.  The beautiful, almost spiritual lyrics combined with a dark, sad melody creates a stark contract I will forever enjoy.

This is, in part, an extension of the last song—though life can be needlessly complicated, love is more complicated than movies and music portray.  My son needs to know love can be hard, love takes work.  Love can hurt more than anything else.  But these realities make love more beautiful, not less.

“Phantom Limb” by The Shins

Relevant Lyrics

This is that foreign land,

With the sprayed on tans,

And it all feels fine,

Be it silk or slime

What does a song about a high school lesbian couple in a repressive, small town have to do with the birth of my son?  Well, everything really.  I don’t know what kind of person my son will be in high school.  Maybe he’ll be a jock like his dad.  Maybe he’ll type away at a keyboard like his dad should have been.  Perhaps he’ll strum a guitar or move chess pieces.  No option is any less valid than the others as long as he’s true to himself.  My son should know that life’s too short to concern himself with the stares of others.

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire

Relevant Lyrics

So can you understand?

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young

I wanna hold her hand

And show her some beauty

Before this damage is done

But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask

Then send me a son.

The above lyrics will always send chills down my spine.  “The Suburbs” is a song about getting lost in the ugliness of the past.  I know bad things will happen to my son in life, and I will not teach him to hide from life’s darkness as much of life’s beauty can only be found in the dark.  I will, however, make sure he knows the importance of movin’ past the feeling, so he won’t miss the present by living in the past.

“Buried In Detroit” by Mike Posner

Relevant Lyrics

I used to live in New York City

But baby, that ain’t no substitute

Not for my hometown

That place people avoid

I’ve made love in every city

But I’ll be buried in Detroit

This song is here for the inverse reason of “The Suburbs.”  “Buried in Detroit” is about a man who travels the world, lives his dreams, loves every moment of his life, but refuses to forget his roots—this is exactly what I hope for my son. While living in the moment is important, I pray I do a good enough job as a father to instill in my son the importance of appreciating where he came from.

“Time” by Pink Floyd

Relevant Lyrics

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I always knew I wanted to write a novel, yet I waited over three decades to do so.  I didn’t wait for lacking of wanting; my desire to write never left.  I figured I had plenty of time.  It took a serious car accident for me to understand the fragility of life and value of time, our most precious commodity.

I will tell my son this story often.  I’m sure he’ll get sick of it, but he won’t forget the message.  No one lives forever, and our youth is gone in the blink of an eye.  Practicality is critical, but my son should never cast his dreams to the wayside.

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

Relevant Lyrics

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied

Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs

If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks

Then I’ll follow you into the dark

My wife and I have very different opinions about this song; she thinks it’s depressing, and I think it’s uplifting.  There’s something so simplistically beautiful about loving someone so much you’d be willing to follow them into whatever awaits, whether it be heaven, hell, or just darkness.  And I hope my son realizes that one of the worst things you can do in life is settle.  The person he ends up with should make him feel the way I feel about his mother: When it all turns to ash and the light turns off, he should want to follow his love into the dark.

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Stephen King’s FINDERS KEEPERS – A Compelling Parenthesis

I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fanboy of Stephen King’s recent work.  Under the Dome11/22/63Doctor Sleep, and Lisey’s Story rank, in my humble opinion, among the best novels King has ever written.  But my personal favorite of the lot is Mr. Mercedes.

Mr. Mercedes doesn’t tackle the social-political issues of Under the Dome.  Mr. Mercedes doesn’t touch the massive scope of The Stand, nor does Mr. Mercedes contain many of the tropes that have made King famous.  Mr. Mercedes is, however, a dang fun novel, the kind that puts you in one place and keeps you there until the final chapter.  And isn’t that the whole point?

So, of course I was excited to read Mr. Mercedes sequel, Finders Keepers.  Finders Keepers is the second book in a planned trilogy.  And from the first page, I was hooked.

(Spoilers Alert!)

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Finders Keepers begins in 1978, with the antagonist, Morris Bellamy, murdering the famous and reclusive author John Rothstein (an amalgamation of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger) to steal Rothstein’s unpublished manuscripts. Bellamy later kills his two cohorts and buries the manuscripts along with thousands of dollars in the backyard of his childhood home.  He actually gets away with the murders, but then rapes a woman in a drunken stupor, an act for which he is sentenced to life.  Eventually he is released on parole, with an insatiable thirst to read the buried manuscripts.

Flash forward to the present day, shortly before Bellamy’s release a boy named Peter Saubers finds the buried manuscripts and money.  The Mercedes Killer injured Saubers’ father, which is putting a financial strain on Saubers’ family.  To help, Saubers sends him family the found money anonymously, until it runs out and he decides to try and sell the manuscripts.  Unfortunately, Saubers hopes to sell the manuscripts around the same time a desperate Bellay is searching for them, leading to an inevitable confrontation.

Deus ex machina aside, this is an interesting setup.   But about a third of the way through the book, I started to think, Where is Bill Hodges?  And Holly?  And Jermone?  This is good, but how is it a sequel to Mr. Mercedes?  All these characters do make an appearance, but it’s pretty late in the game.

And therein lies my only significant problem with Finders Keepers.  As a stand-alone book, it’s great; but it’s not a stand-alone title.  And all my favorite characters from Mr. Mercedes go through major transformations “off-screen.”  Hodges loses a bunch of weight off screen.  Holly develops a degree of self-confidence off-screen.  Jerome goes to college off-screen.  The penultimate novel in a trilogy should set the stage for the final book, but I don’t see how any of the major events of Finders Keepers will play into End of Watch (the last title).  Except, however, for the parts about Brady Hartsfield.

Brady Hartsfield was the Mercedes Killer from Mr. Mercedes, and because of the events in that book, he is seemingly in a brain-dead state.  But in a twist, the ending of Finders Keepers implies that Harsfield is far more “awake” than he is letting on, and may have developed certain telekinetic powers.  Now, I can already hear the cries:  “You just had to go there, didn’t you King!  Couldn’t just write a standard mystery trilogy, could you?”  And to those people I say:  “Get over it.”  If Stephen King wants to give one of my favorite villains psychic powers, I’m all about it.

Yet, Hartsfield seems to be the only link in Finders Keepers that will connect Mr. Mercedes to End of Watch.  Of course, King could surprise me, and I may change my opinion of Finders Keepers if he does.  Unfortunately, as it stands, Finders Keepers is an entertaining read, but as a sequel to Mr. Mercedes and entry in the Mercedes trilogy, it is at best a compelling parenthesis.

The Literary Nutshell: July 7 – July 21 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

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  3. “All Great Writing Boils Down to These 4 Emotional Appeals” http://buff.ly/1G9obgR
  4. “8 Things To Do While You Wait For The Next Book In A Series” http://buff.ly/1D2PAkA
  5. “9 Ways to a Faster Book Deal” http://buff.ly/1IQ7sRH
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  7. “Amazon accused of ‘Big Brother’ tactics over customer reviews” http://buff.ly/1TnKtVu
  8. “How to Win at Publishing” http://buff.ly/1eIUYn0
  9. “5 Books That Are Legit Nightmare Fuel” http://buff.ly/
  10. “How I Got My Literary Agent: David Bell” http://buff.ly/1NQS6Qt

The Soundtrack to FATE’S PAST

Like many other writers, I like to write with music. In fact, I <em>have </em>to write to music as silence distracts me.  Because of this, I’ve found that I associate certain songs with my novel FATE’S PAST.  So, without further ado, the following is a list of a few of the songs I listened to while writing FATE’S PAST:

Cloud Atlas Soundtrack — “End Title”

I will always think of FATE’S PAST when I hear this song because it was on repeat for much of the initial drafting. There’s just something about the progression of “End Title” that I enjoy while writing–I’ll often find the pace of my writing to build along with the tempo of the song.  This is still my go-to writing jam.

Explosions in the Sky — “The Winner Is”

Similar to “End Title,” “The Winner Is” has a nice progression, though it builds faster and is shorter than “End Title.” The violin section always gets my creative juices flowing.

Arctic Monkeys, “Do I Wanna Know”

I wrote the climax of my book while listening to “Do I Wanna Know.”  Its aggression and sexiness sets the mood nicely for late-night writing.

Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”

This was my “revisions” song–its calculated pace and soothing harmonies helped the mind-numbing process.

The Neighborhood, “Sweater Weather”

I discovered this song (and The Neighbourhood) as I was putting the “finishing touches” on FATE’S PAST.  I also listened to it as I was querying, so it will always have a special place in my heart due to its connection with such an immutable time in my life.

Well, those are a few of the songs that would be on FATE’S PAST’s soundtrack.  Later, I’ll post the songs that I’m now listening to while drafting my current work-in-progress.

How about you?  What are some of your favorite “writing” songs?

The Literary Nutshell: June 29 – July 6 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “Why Books Are Comforting to Anxious People”  http://buff.ly/1HyNIHn
  2. “5 Important Tips on How to Pitch a Literary Agent In Person”  http://buff.ly/1dzBrVb
  3. “Literary Agent Interview: Greg Aunapu of Salkind Literary”  http://buff.ly/1C1aWn0
  4. “On Writing And Mindset For Indie Authors With Susan Kaye Quinn” http://buff.ly/1JotRIC
  5. “4 Questions Agents Ask Writers at Pitch Sessions”  http://buff.ly/1BvH02g
  6. “How Shakespeare Used Prepositions”  http://buff.ly/1eB9a1Z
  7. “3 Steps to Driving More Traffic & Selling More Books or Products via LinkedIn”  http://buff.ly/1R1HMuU
  8. “For Indie Writers: You have the control. Own it.”  http://buff.ly/1LA2tJK
  9. “The World’s 57 Largest Book Publishers” http://buff.ly/1LA1Z6v
  10. “Riot Round-Up: The Best Books We Read In June” http://buff.ly/1Knf2Hy

Writing Resources — Drafting (Part One)

Before reading the below, check out my first entry on this topic: Writing Resources — Pre-drafting

Okay, your manuscript outline is in your hands, and you’re ready to begin the wonderfully tortuous process of writing your first book!  So you write a sentence.  Then that sentence becomes ten sentences.  Before you know it, a chapter is finished!

But is it really finished?  I mean, you’ve read it several times, and it seems to read well…yet how can you be sure?  This question is especially relevant for writers like me, who did not obtain an MFA.  For example, there may be significant mechanical issues with your writing that are a cinch to correct, if you do so early.  And luckily, there tools that will help you identify significant problems with your writing.

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THE “SHARE YOUR WORK” SECTION OF ABSOLUTEWRITE.COM

I would say I present this recommendation with a grain of salt, but a “grain” is far too insubstantial.  Let’s just say you should approach the “Share Your Work” section of Absolute Write with a boulder of salt.

Here is the problem with SYW, and AW in general—there is no guarantee that the person critiquing your work knows what he or she is talking about.  Often, these inexperienced writers cling to certain clichés they’ve learned, such as “don’t use –ly words!”  And unfortunately, the criticisms can be overly harsh.  For instance, I shared a section of FATE’S PAST on the forum, and one poster told me it read “like a first draft.”  I had just finished wiping away my tears when, two weeks later, a publisher offered me a contract.

With all that in mind, brilliance can be gleamed from SYW if you approach it in an educated way with thick skin.  Namely, many professional writers post on AW and are willing to help the aspiring masses.  And oddly, the experienced writers seem to know how to balance positive with the negative.

It is often easy to figure out who you should really listen to as they will have high post counts and their signature blocks may contain links to their published works; other times, however, the author is a bit more subtle.  But hang out in AW enough, and you’ll learn the who’s who.

A few mechanical notes: AW will not let you post on SYW until you have posted fifty times; also, they have blocked people from SYW who signed up for AW and rushed through their first fifty posts to reach SYW.  I’d suggest allowing the posts to come naturally—sign up for an AW account, post an introductory message in the New Members section, say “hello” to new posters, and respond to a few posts in the Novels sub-forum; before you know it, you’ll have sailed past your fifth post, and you’ll have a better understanding of the AW world and those who inhabit it.

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PRO WRITING AID

I’m all about free tools that help improve your writing, and Pro Writing Aid is one of the best.  As I said before, I do not have an academic background in writing, so I embrace any resource that may help me identify issues I’m not seeing.  I can proofread a manuscript a million times, but if I’m unfamiliar with a certain editing rule, all that proofreading will be for naught.

And that’s where Pro Writing Aid comes in.  First, go to this website.  Then sign-up for a free account.  Once you’re registered, you are able to post sections of your writing into the text box, and after clicking the “Improve My Writing” button, the software will give you an editing breakdown of possible issues.  For example, the following are a few of my favorite features of Pro Writing Aid…

  • It will analyze your sentence length and specify if your sentences are generally too long or too short.
  • The “writing style” check looks for passive verbs, hidden verbs, and repeated sentence starts, all of which can bog down your writing.
  • A “sticky sentences” check will analyze whether your writing has too many “glue” words that can slow your reader down. Glue words are the 200 most used words in the English language.
  • Pro Writing Aid will analyze your diction and give suggestions of simpler ways to present your ideas.
  • The overused words function will highlight where you have utilized certain words too many times.

There are many more helpful functions, but the above examples illustrate certain problems that are not easily recognizable with a simple proofreading.

Another great feature of Pro Writing Aid is its compatibility with Word.  The Word plugin is excellent; but, unless you purchase a subscription, you can only access the plugin for fourteen days.  My advice would be to use the free website tool and then download the plugin when you are doing your final proofread.

Or, like me, you can pay for the service.  Admittedly—and perhaps obviously—I am a Pro Writing Aid fanboy, so I purchased the “Lifetime Premium” option, which allows me to download the plugin forever on an unlimited number of computers.

You can find out more about Pro Writing Aid’s premium options here:  https://prowritingaid.com/en/App/Purchase.

That’s it for now!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post, in which I will describe three more resources that will help you draft an award winning manuscript!

 

 

The Literary Nutshell: Feb. 22 – 28 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

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  4. “Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #53”  http://buff.ly/1w09toM
  5. “Conversational Writing: 10 Tips by Leo Babauta”  http://buff.ly/1GjtqNy
  6. “Want to Profit as an Author? Think About Sponsorships”  http://buff.ly/1ElaIps

Writing Resources — Pre-drafting (Full Entry)

So, you’ve decided to write a book.  You have a great hook, memorable characters, and a detailed outline.  The entire story is in your head and now comes the simple process of putting those thoughts down in a coherent and unique manner; oh, and then convincing a publisher that your book has the potential to turn a profit.  What could go wrong?

There is nothing more exhilarating and daunting than staring at a blank page and considering the possibilities it presents.  Few things are also more overwhelming, especially for a newbie author.  And even if you have Faulkneresque potential, without the proper guidance and tools, such potential will remain just that.

With all that in mind, I thought it may be helpful if I outlined a few of the resources I utilized when writing FATE’S PAST.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and I will update if and when I discover more handy assets.

For simplicity sake, I will divide this entry into three sections: pre-drafting, drafting, and post-drafting.  Each of these three processes possesses its own challenges that must be overcome.

And so, let’s dive in with a few pre-drafting resources I believe can be valuable to any aspiring novelist.

OnWriting

Stephen King’s ON WRITING

ON WRITING is my writing best friend, my constant literary companion.  My wife gave it to me before I started writing FATE’S PAST—apparently, she googled “best gifts for an aspiring writer;” Google sure nailed that one.

I read ON WRITING twice before writing FATE’S PAST and a third time when I hit a writing roadblock on what was then page 110.  For those who have not read it, ON WRITING is part autobiography, part “How To” guide, and both sections are equally valuable to an aspiring writer.  King’s tone is perfectly on-point—learned without seeming pretentious, simplistic without being pandering.  King utilizes second person point-of-view throughout much of the book, and he talks to the reader as a pupil—he respects your journey, but wants to let you know that you have a hard road ahead.

I’ve found that certain parts of the book truly resonate with different readers.  For example, my favorite section involves King’s desire as a young writer to someday own an ornate writing desk.  Then, when King finally is successful enough to obtain such a desk, he spent six years sitting “behind the desk either drunk or wrecked of [his] mind . . .”  This is a beautiful and adept metaphor as well as a reminder that a writer must always keep his or her feet on the ground.

ON WRITING is also one of the most quotable books I have ever encountered.  Indeed, it contains my all-time favorite writing-related quote:

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

Here are a few other memorable quotes:

  • “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
  • “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
  • “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
  • “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”
  • “To write is human, to edit is divine.”
  • “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
  • “Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”

Honestly, ON WRITING is like The Big Lebowski of novels—immensely quotable from start to finish.

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Publishers Marketplace

I had a hard time deciding if this belonged here or in the “Post-Drafting” section.  Truly, it belongs in both—after finishing, PM is a great researching resource; before starting, PM is a great motivator.  I decided to put PM here as it is a nice introduction for any new writer to the publishing world.

In short, PM is a database of publishing professionals: agents, publicists, and writers.  But more so, it is a database of what these professionals are doing: PM highlights what agents are selling, and what publicists are buying.  With enough analysis, one can decipher distinct patterns in what genres are selling well, but do not let these patterns deter you, for there is always a market for a well-written book.

The only problem with PM is that it is littered with many industry-specific (and even website-specific) terms that may confuse a layperson; the following is a non-exclusive list of such terms:

  • The monetary worth of a book “deal” is divided into the following category: “nice” deals ($1 – $49,000), “very nice” deals ($50,000 – $99,000), “good” deals ($100,000 – $250,000), “significant” deals ($251,000 – $499,000), and “major” deals ($500,000+).
  • “Auction.” If a manuscript attracts enough interest from publishers, an agent can organize an “auction,” whereby publishers will bid on the rights to the book.
  • “Pre-empt.” If, however, a publisher has such a strong interest in a book that it does not want said book to hit the auction, that publisher can come in before the auction with a strong deal and “pre-empt.”

Let’s apply these terms to a recent deal entry on PM: “Molly Prentiss’s TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980, set in the vibrant downtown New York art scene in the era of artists such as Koons and Basquiat when art – and the commercialization of it – collide, and following the twin trajectories of an Argentinian artist on the rise and the prestigious art critic who discovers him, to Alison Callahan at Scout Press, in a major deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Claudia Ballard at William Morris Endeavor (NA).”  So, Molly Presentiss’s agent, Claudia Ballard, organized a book auction for TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980, but Scout Press pre-empted this auction with a two-book deal worth over $500,000.  Yay for Molly!

Horror-writers-association02

Genre Associations

Genre is something you should think about as early as possible in the writing process.  Do you want to be a genre writer, or do you want to be a pure literary fiction author?  Or does your book lay somewhere between the two extremes?  I posit that, as a debut writer, you have a greater chance at landing a publishing deal if your book at least has a genre hook.

Of course, it’s not a requirement that you know exactly where your book fits before you finish.  I didn’t realize until after I finished FATE’S PAST that I was writing a horror novel.  And had I known my horror proclivities going in, I would have joined the Horror Writers Association (“HWA”) much sooner.

For any aspiring or established horror writer, the HWA is a great organization.  If you are unpublished, you can still join as a “contributing” member—and trust me, there is nothing wrong with that level.  It is less expensive and you are provided access to most of the perks—you get to post on the forums, receive the Imailer, join the database of other horror writers, etc.  Best of all, you get to vote on the Bram Stoker awards, which recognize superior achievement in a host of different horror-specific categories.

For more information about the HWA, visit their website:  http://horror.org/.

In any event, to the extent you can identify the genre of your book and get plugged into that world, you will be in a better position to market yourself to agents and publisher.  Here are a few more genre specific writing organizations you may want to research…

Three Comparable

Three Comparable Works

Yes, I realize your book is a unique butterfly; so is FATE’S PAST.  But as the saying goes, “pride cometh before the fall.”  I will say this—I had much greater luck pitching FATE’S PAST once I decided to list three “comparable” works in my query letter.  That’s not to say the works I listed were similar—they were merely comparable.  Comparable in structure, writing style, themes, whatever.  Indeed, the Publisher Marketplace press releases often contain such comparisons:  “Blogger and freelance copywriter Kathy Parks’s THE LIFEBOAT CLIQUE, pitched as MEAN GIRLS meets LIFE OF PI, to Claudia Gabel and Katherine Tegen at Katherine Tegen Books, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).”

Bottom line, agents and publishers are looking for books that will sell.  And their jobs are made much easier to the extent they can compare your work to a few books with a history of sales.

To be clear, you don’t even have to compare your book to those of the same genre.  For example, I listed Neil Gaiman’s THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE as a comparable title, which is far from a supernatural horror novel; FATE’S PAST and OCEAN, however, contain many of the same thematic elements.

Ok, so you’ve identified three comparable works.  Great job!  What now?  Well, read the books, of course!  But beyond reading, learn about the works—research what inspired the authors.  Find out how the books were marketed.  All this information will help you increase your knowledge base and improve your chances of eventually getting published.

Twitter

Twitter

I will draft an entire blog post (or two) about why Twitter is a necessity for aspiring writers.  But for now, let me say that: if you are an unpublished writer, join Twitter.  Now.  And after you join, get plugged into the Twitter writing community—follow writers, agents, and publishing houses.  Soon, you will gain followers of your own; and when you do sign a publishing contract, you can use your Twitter page to cross market your other social media platforms—for example, you can send direct messages asking that new followers “like” your Facebook author page.  You can tweet about your new blog posts.  You can inform your followers about the release date of your book.  Twitter is a great introduction to the power of social media and the perfect gateway to enhance your other social media marketing endeavors.

Twitter can even help you get published—every so often, Twitter hosts “pitch” parties, where unpublished and unagented authors tweet their manuscript “pitches.”  If an agent or publisher likes a pitch, he or she will “favorite” that tweet.  The largest pitch party is “#pitmad,” and you can find more information about it here:   http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/.  As for suggestions on who to follow on Twitter, here are a few of my favorites…

The Literary Nutshell: Feb. 15 – 21 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “4 Ways to Start Making a Living as a Writer Now”  http://buff.ly/1v1vgBc
  2. “Why Writers Need to Know the Publishing Business”  http://buff.ly/1zLmnHw #amwriting
  3. “Don’t Be an Author—Be an Authorpreneur! and Other News”  http://buff.ly/1A2QSO0
  4. “Will the New Kindle Unlimited Expansion Cause Another Dip in Author Payments?”  http://buff.ly/19lzEl1
  5. “5 Ways to Make Your Blogging Life Easier”  http://buff.ly/1vNyTLV