Setting Details

Imagine seeing this way at the back of the yard.
Imagine seeing this way at the back of the yard.

The other day my husband found me staring out the dining room window.  “What’s wrong?” he asked. 

“Nothing.  I’m looking at that flower behind the irises.  I didn’t plant anything over there.” 

We went outside to take a closer look at the interesting orange red flower.  When we got right up to it, we started laughing. 

It wasn’t a flower.  It was the bottom of a tomato pressed onto a stick, stuck in the ground (see below).

“Don’t forget the rock in the center,” said my son when I described it to him.  I’d already figured out who created this particular bit of artwork but it made me think of the neat and tidy Good Housekeeping worlds many of us create as settings.  Those are great for magazine covers, but how about a setting with a few off-beat details that tell us something about one of your characters?   Something that only they would keep or want?

I just need to figure out what a tomato flower reveals about this particular character. 


Artist with his creation.

Finding Time for Blog Reading

readYesterday, I wrote about blogging and how to cut down the amount of time it takes.  Today, I’m going to write about how to cut the time consuming process of reading all the interesting blogs out there.

I’ve heard a lot of writers comment on the fact that they can spend the entire morning reading blogs.  I don’t know how many they read, but I can scan approximately 100 blog posts in 20 minutes which includes reading the ones that interest me, leaving comments and e-mailing myself anything I want to save or read more closely. 

How do I do this?  I subscribe to Bloglines.  This reader allows me to subscribe to any blog I am interested in as long as there is an RSS feed.  Bloglines keeps track of any new posts made on these blogs; in my case, there are 183.  I can mark an individual post as new or e-mail myself a copy of the post.  I can also sort the blogs into categories — Editors, Authors, Writing, Family, Crafts etc and read a category or two a day, whatever I have time for, because it will be easy to come back to the unopened categories on another day.  This is especially important in the summer when 20 minutes is the most time I can hope for when it comes to blog reading.

What methods do you use to manage your time were blogs are concerned?


Finding Time for Blog Writing

timeFor a week or more, a discussion thrived on the SCBWI boards regarding how realistic it is to expect authors to have time to blog.  After all, reading and writing blogs can be incredibly time consuming.  That said, it is also a great way to stay in touch with what is going on as well as to keep others up on what you are doing.  You just have to learn how to manage your time.  

Today, I’ll discuss writing a blog.  Tomorrow, reading blogs.

When I started this blog, I discovered I could spend an hour or more per post.  That’s an hour or more on 300 words or less.  That wasn’t going to work since I wasn’t being paid to blog. 

Then I started writing all 5 weekly posts in one sitting.  I found that I can write, polish and illustrate 5 blog posts in approximately two hours.  During the week, I save anything that sparks my interest and would make a good post.  Then on Saturday or Monday, I rough all five posts for the upcoming week, then rewrite, and finally illustrate.  Sunday through Thursday evenings, I submit my posts for the following days.  If something comes up that is time sensitive, I quickly write that post and slip it into the queue and have a head start on the next week.

If you want to keep a blog, you can find a time efficient way to do it . . .
if you want to do so. 

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the best way I’ve found to keep my reading time short.


Fantasy Market

fantasyIf you write fantasy, you probably heard that the magazines Realms of Fantasy was closing due to lack of sales.  Good news!   The magazine was purchased by Tir Na Nog Press.  Visit the new web site (still under construction) to see the August cover.  Shawna McCarthy retains her position as editor as does assistant editor Douglas Cohen.
Polish up those manuscripts, fantasy writers!

Dealing with Rejection

My Rejection Jar
My Rejection Jar

Nikki Loftin made an interesting comment on my post about looking for an agent.  She’s noticed how much more painful personal rejections are than form letters.  She knows several writers who quit when they started getting these painful, personal rejections.

For me, there isn’t always a lot of rhyme or reason to how I handle rejection.  Some personal letters rock me back.  Others, not so much.  I don’t think it has a lot to do with the letter itself but what else I have out, whether I have another market in mind for the project, and what else is going on in my life.

But for the times that I take it particularly badly, I have the Rejection Jar, as recommended to me by writing buddy Julie Douglas.  The jar contains a variety of slips of paper.  Each slip lists a “gift.”

When I get a rejection that really messes me up, I reach into the jar and pull out a slip.  Then I get whatever is on that slip.  It might be a trip to walk the local labyrinth or an hour in a yarn shop.  I’ve also included time to do a puzzle or sit and knit.  I might even get to go to the local coffee shop for a cup-a and a delicious pastry.

For me, a bit of pampering works.

What would work for you?


It May Be Time to Look for an Agent

greenLot’s of writers start trying to find an agent before they’re ready.  The truth is that finding an agent can be every bit as difficult as finding an editor.  Submitting before you are ready will earn you nothing but rejection letters.

How do you know when you’re ready?

1.  You have a body of work.

This is a bit of a repeat from yesterday.  Agents are into building careers so they don’t want one hit wonders.  Get busy and get writing.  Then contact an agent.  They want to know you have more than just one idea/book in you.

2.  You have already made sales. 

What?  You have to make sales?  How can you make sales without an agent?

Think magazines and anthologies.  Look into work-for-hire.  You might even sell to a smaller publisher or a regional house. 

If you make sales on your own, the agent knows you are willing to work at your writing.  You take it seriously.  They also know that you can revise.  If you have repeat sales, they know editors are willing to work with you again and again. 

3.  Your Rejections are Personal

This means you are getting close.  Editors like your work enough to comment on it.   An agent can give you a little nudge and they may know an editor you don’t. 

4.  You have enough going on (writing, rewriting, researching new markets, querying) that you need someone to take on part of it for you.  You need a team on your side because you’ve got enough work to keep them busy. 

If this sounds like you, it may be time to start looking for someone to help you further your career.


4 Reasons NOT to Start Your Agent Search

red“Do you have an agent?”

This is one of those writing questions I dread in addition to “Do you think one day you’ll be ready to write for adults?” and “Why don’t you write an Oprah book?” 

There is no doubt about it.  Having an agent can help your career, but not all writers are at the point that they need an agent.  If you want to find an agent for one of these 4 reasons, think again.

1.  I just finished my first manuscript and it is ready to go! 

An agent wants to shape a career, not make only a single sale.  When you have written several manuscripts, that is the time to start looking.  Not only will you have a body of work from which the agent can choose Project #1, but you will also have developed your writing skills more than you had with Manuscript #1. 

2.  Half the publishing houses are closed.

To put it simply — big whoop.  Mathematically speaking, this means half of them are open.   But sheer numbers mean nothing.  Where are the editors who are a good match for you and your work?  If they’re in open houses, it doesn’t really matter what the other houses are doing, does it?

3.  The editor I want to work with is at a closed house. 

You can still get to this person without an agent.  Enter contests they’re judging.  Go to conferences at which they are speaking or offering paid critiques.  Many editors take manuscripts for a limited time following a conference but you have to have attended the conference.

4.  I hate studying the markets. 

Even with an agent, you need to have some idea what is selling and what isn’t, because it can help you choose one project over another.  You need to know what is going on in the publishing world.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss when you might want to look for an agent.


CWIM 2010

groupJust a quick heads up to let you know that I’ve got two articles,  “Storyboarding” and “Reaching Reluctant Readers,” in the upcoming 2010 issue of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.  It will be available in August.

I always love to see the variety of articles that writers come up with and I’m really looking forward to some of the other offerings.  Nonfiction writer Kelly Milner Hall has articles on the changing nature of children’s publishing and social networking on-line.  SCBWI RA Tracy Barrett has a piece on writing a series for a packager.  Editor Cheryl Klein has a piece on revision. 

I can harldy wait to get my copy and tie into some of these.


If only . . . I knew what to write

ideaAre you one of those writers who needs someone to jump start your Muse?  Then check out Promptly, the new Writer’s Digest blog focused on delivering a variety of prompts.  Submit what you write based on these prompts to win a variety of prizes. 

Stop on by to see what editor Zachary Petit comes up with to stimulate your writing.