Community: Why it’s important for writers.

Writers. The majority of us tend to swing toward the introverted side of the social pendulum, myself included. If I spend too much time in a social setting, my energy reserves fall into the red.

But as exhausting as some social encounters are, I do think it’s important for us to get out of our own heads and here’s why:

Reason #1 – Your health.

I touched on this last week, but burning the candle at both ends = not a good idea.

As creative’s, we spend HOURS buried beneath our projects. From our characters and plot to the writing itself, we obsess over each sentence, paragraph and page. Being devoted to your work is awesome but you need to remember to take care of you! I’m speaking from experience on this one. I will push until I can’t push any more and I’m left with a migraine the size of the Pacific Ocean, pounding against my skull like tidal waves crashing to shore. My lovely business partner, Sookie, was a kind enough friend to tell me to stop being stupid and curl up with my dog and take a break! If not for her, I would have kept working through it, worse for wear, and our April Edition of our digital magazine, Today’s Man, probably would not have turned out as nice as it did.

If you’d like to see our hard work, check it out here. It’s free!

Reason #2 – The work will be better for it.

So yes, in order to have a clean, brilliant piece of work, you have to put in the effort to make it so. This is an undeniable fact. However, if during that time, you’re groggy or you’ve stared at the work so long the letters just look like shapes, you are going to miss some things. My YA Fantasy series’ first novel is currently with beta readers after I had spent two months just hacking away at it. Don’t get me wrong, I made a LOT of headway with those revision. However, I started rereading it last week (because I’m a glutton for punishment) and already have a laundry list of new revisions to make. Without that break, those issues would have gone overlooked.

Reason #3 – Your sanity.

For me personally, especially in the stage that I am in now, this is the No. 1 reason I need a writing community. A couple weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to have my query letter critiqued by Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary.

I received this opportunity by participating in Writers For Hope, an annual online auction, whose proceeds support RAINN, a campaign to fight sexual violence. Every ten dollars helps a victim of sexual violence, so if you can give, RAINN is an incredible cause! You can find out more about RAINN here.

I cannot express how thankful I am for Danielle’s notes. They were everything I had hoped they would be – helpful, encouraging and gave me insight into how I needed to clarify certain things to make my pitch as strong as possible! And on top of all that, she sent me the critique within two weeks! But that incredibly quick turn around didn’t keep me from itching with anticipation. If it weren’t for my CP’s Lynanne, Chelsea and Hanna, I would have surely gone mad (in the Hatter way, not the Hulk way). So if for any other reason, you should surround yourself with a community of writers to help keep you sane throughout the submission process.

Reason #4 – Did I mention that the work will be better?

A few posts ago, I talked about the importance of finding a writing buddy. I bring it up again because YOU SHOULD REALLY HAVE A WRITING BUDDY! Seriously, along with the sanity bit, since I found my writing community, my writing truly has improved . . . exponentially in fact. I still have issues with gerunds, but hey, that’s what revision is for.

On Friday, I celebrated [one of] my critique group’s fifth anniversary. The anniversary was so much fun. We talked about writerly things and caught up with each others lives. It also reminded me of how much I’ve grown since I joined a little over a year ago and how excited I am for my [hopeful] continued growth, personally and professionally.

Moral of all this, even though you could hold up in your laptop all by your lonesome, slaving away on your WIP, should you? Even if you’re super anti-social, I think finding a community, even an online one, is worth the additional effort. You’re way more likely to get a return on your investment than not.

Happy writing!

Don’t Be a Jerk. It doesn’t actually get you anywhere.

This is definitely a rant-based post, so stop reading this now if you fall into the category of jerkism.

So if you’re new to my blog, welcome. Usually I like to discuss the different aspects of writing because I am a nerd and to me, writing is a pretty awesome way to spend one’s free time. (Also, I’m a workaholic. I have accepted this and am not currently looking to change this character flaw.) But this week, I’m choosing to rant about an irritating issue: jerkism.

Jerkism (a word I’m making up for the sake of this post) refers to the people who lack sympathy and manners to properly conduct themselves in a professional way with their colleagues and potential business partners.

Here’s the thing, I get that you’ve poured hours upon hours of your life into your project. But here’s a hard truth, art is subjective and everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. If you’re not ready to submit yourself or your work to criticism, then you shouldn’t submit, period.

Agents, publishers, editors and critique partners are all people with their own lives and their own deadlines. You are not entitled to their undivided attention and should not expect to be their number one priority at the drop of a hat. Sure, the wait is frustrating and anxiety-inducing, but you can’t expect the world to revolve around you (because the sun has a MUCH greater gravitational pull – just saying, perspective).

In recent weeks, I’ve seen SO MANY tweets from agents about fellow writers who feel entitled to their time/services. STOP IT! As wonderful as I’m sure your WIP is, it’s not going to be an agent’s top priority. So if you’re querying, be patient, be kind, be gracious. If not for the sake of being a decent human being, at least for the sake of professionalism. No one wants to work with a jerk by choice – common sense, people!

I feel your pain, I do. I’m currently preparing my MS and query for submission, but please, fellow writers, treat the industry with respect. I sympathize with your frustration and the gut-wrenching awfulness that is rejection, but trust me when I say being a jerk doesn’t actually get you anywhere.

So write on, wonderful writers! If it’s any consolation, I’m rooting for you.

Querying Agents: The Importance of Research

Well folks, I think it’s official – I am addicted to research. And I don’t just mean the research that generally comes with novel writing (you know, “healing cycle of burns” and such). I’m talking about industry research.

In this modern day of instant gratification and personal/professional transparency, I feel that there is a certain level of expectation when it comes to a professional starting point.

I realize that sounds a little strange, but let me explain. When I say professional starting point, I don’t mean when you first sit down to write your novel. I’m talking about when you make yourself known to whatever industry you’re trying to break into. Whether it’s publishing, music or any other field, you should have a good idea of what you’re stepping into before taking that proverbial plunge.

And that brings me back to research. Like I’ve said before, I am not an expert, apart from military journalism, I really don’t have any publishing cred [as a writer – graphic design is a different story].

Since I’ve started prepping my work for submission, I’ve read so many articles, books and interviews on queries and getting into the industry that I’ve discovered the biggest disservice you can give yourself is to not research the agent and/or publisher that you’re submitting to. Agents sift through so many queries that if you send your YA manuscript to a strictly Adult Romance agent, you’ve not only wasted their time, but you’ve also wasted yours.

Every submission is an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer, so make the most of it by ensuring you’re sending your well-written, polished query to the right agents.

How do you find the right agents?

So many ways to build your to-query list . . .

  1. Sift through this year’s copy of Writer’s Market, an annually published almanac of publishers and literary agents, what they’re look for and their stipulations.
  2. PublishersMarketplace.com, an online database for all things publishers, editors, agents and recent industry sales, ect.
  3. MSWishlist.com, this online database is full of profiles on literary agents, editors, publishers and what they’re looking for in their next project.
  4. Search the hashtag #mswl on Twitter. Agents and other publishing professionals will post what they wish would end up in their slushpile and tag it with #mswl.

Now that you have a list of agents, DO MORE RESEARCH!

I know it probably feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but seriously, the more you know about these prospective business partners the better. Visit their agency’s website, follow them on Twitter, read their interviews and look at their client list.

At the end of the day, the literary agent that [hopefully] represents you is a business partner, so it’s important that you do your research and make sure that you want to work with them before sending off your query.

Happy writing, everybody!