Literary Hub is a compendium of interesting books and writing tips that I like to scroll through as I have my morning coffee.
I liked hearing about what Arundhati Roy has been up to lately – her book, The God of Small Things, written in 1997, was a revelation. Now, twenty years later, she’s written a follow-up called The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Nice to have her back!
Do any of you other writers out there have this problem? I’ve had to give up gigs in which I had to critique other writers’ work – including one of my faves, writing movie reviews for Festival of Films. I fudged it well enough with this post about Les Miserables and this one reviewing Cloud Atlas, but I just couldn’t bring myself to tear down another writer’s work.
Is there such a thing as “constructive criticism” – one writer to another?
Just sitting here trying to figure out how much of my high-volume (not necessarily high-quality) word count from NaNoWriMo to salvage, when I came across this post on Writer Unboxed by Yuvi Zalkow. He offers a few unorthodox tips on how to make your crappy writing seem less crappy. Be sure to check out his video, but be warned: there is (oddly) a brief bit of semi-nudity.
So I’ve been doing a “test drive” on the crowdfunding site, “PUBSLUSH” and it’s been an education, to be sure. I posted an excerpt last week, but have gotten little response thus far. Most of the books on the site garner support from social media, and I’m no longer on Facebook, so didn’t do much promotion in that area.
It also seems nearly impossible for writers who post on the site to reach the 2000 supporters needed, although I did like a few of the other writers’ excerpts. So much so that I even supported one – “The Exchange,” by Rachel Astarte Piccione (note: that excerpt is NSFW.)
A good experience, but I suppose it’s like my son wanting to play “scratch-off” lottery tickets lately. It’s a gamble and you hardly ever hit. But at least it’s a fun game to play!
So, in a previous post, I discussed the crowdsourced funding site, PUBSLUSH Press, and decided to take it for a test drive. Writers upload ten pages of a work in progress and let the site’s readers decide if they want to pledge to buy the book once it’s completed. I didn’t post a link to my manuscript during the first week so I could see what happens organically, without the benefit of publicizing it.
As it turns out, one person has supported my book already, which did surprise me. I figured I’ll spread the word to my networks and see what happens next. I doubt there will be any obligation to actually support my book – it takes 2000 supporters to reach completion. At that point, PUBSLUSH will publish the whole book and promote it, etc.
Most writers who have been through the publication process will go right to the fine print and check out crucial elements, such as royalties and copyright reversion so they know what it is they’ll get out of the agreement. Those still in the “cherished dream of writing” stage will go for the community feeling, the instant upload, and the easy progress tracking – it will be about the experience, not the end result of publication.
Just in case you want to see my book-in-progress, “Phyllis Stein,” here’s the link. Please forgive the funky lines that show up here and there – some kind of formatting glitch that I decided to live with just so I could test the site. Let me know your feedback about the PUBSLUSH Press site – is it a viable alternative to traditional publishing? All comments welcome!
So I’d been hearing about “Crowdsourced Funding” and thought I’d give it a test run and report back on how it goes. Yesterday I submitted ten pages of a manuscript to Pubslush and, so far, so good. It’s fairly straightforward and the service is free.
Here’s the scoop:
- Submit ten pages of a manuscript.
- Tell friends and colleagues to check it out.
- Readers view your excerpt and decide (hopefully) to support it.
- Reach 2000 supporters (yikes!) and the full book will be published.
Customer service has been very responsive and it’s easy to check on the status of your book. Another positive feature is that Pubslush donates books to children in impoverished countries each time a book reaches publication stage.
Will keep you apprised as the process continues…
There’s a lot of advice out there from people who teach and from people who do, but if you really want to be a writer, there’s no getting around it. You’ve got to write.
An article in The Guardian quoted PD James’ “Five Bits of Writing Advice”:
1. Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.
2. Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.
3. Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
4. Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
5. Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer—however happy, however tragic—is ever wasted.
The Missouri Review boasts some of the most literate and engaging prose and poetry around – take a look at Julie Moore’s Recovery – not to mention a reasonable $3.00 submission fee. I’m thinking there’s gotta be a story behind the picture on the cover, but some things, you just shouldn’t ask.
As a writer, you might hope to be outstanding in the field, but often end up feeling like you’re, well, out, standing in the field. Check out advice from pros like Jurgen Wolff’s Time to Write to hone your chops.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, having a network of writer friends is a real help. Find people who write the type of work you do. Most of my writing gigs are faith-based or related to senior citizens, so I’ve connected with a lot of writers in these genres to encourage me, to give me advice, and just generally, to keep me going.
Look online for forums with people who write sci-fi or flash fiction… whatever it is that floats your literary boat. Find them not just for moral support, but for their experience – perhaps they’ve been rejected by a particular editor and finally figured out how to break through and get accepted. What did she do to get to that point? What had she tried already? Was her initial query too flippant?
Years ago, I wrote a mass-query to a boat-load of agents, and began like this: “In the words of Mick Jagger, please allow me to introduce myself….” When I think of it even now, I wince. What the heck was I thinking? But even with that amateurish opening, I got a lot of responses. Only a couple expressed any real interest, but I have to say, even some of the rejection letters were helpful. Oh, not the ones that simply say, “Not for us,” but the ones that said things like, “This is well-written and in strong voice, but the market for this type of fiction is not optimal right now.” I remember one agent who had retired actually took the time to write a note by hand on the back of my letter to encourage me to keep writing.
Ask questions. Pick brains. Find a way.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard for writers comes from unlikely sources. Fashion guru, Tim Gunn, said it best: “Make it work.” Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, do what you can to get’r’done. Pray about it, then – you know the drill – vote with your feet for your dreams.