How To Kickstart Your Writing Career

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Many of us have come to the (sad) conclusion that scoring a major book publishing deal worth millions is unrealistic, and we’ll have to settle for a regular job. But the thing about writing is that it isn’t a regular job. Copywriting, blogging, freelancing, editing, journalism, social media management – these are all occupations that require creativity and dedication, which means they’re made for those few who’ve been blessed with writing talent. But how do you get your foot in the door?

You might think that you need to have a degree to have any chance at landing your dream writing job, however this is not necessarily the case. Although university is great, many businesses are just looking for someone with experience and quality writing. The opportunities for good writers are endless, and if you can build up experience (with a degree or not) then you’re on your way.

Intern and Volunteer

The best advice I can give is to intern wherever you can and volunteer to help out at writing events. Unpaid work might not be ideal when it comes to paying the rent, but the right place can give you invaluable hands-on knowledge, and maybe even paid work at the end of it.

I’ve interned as a journalist, copywriter, blogger and social media assistant, and volunteered as a workshopper, writing prize judge, and even helped with the set up for a crime writing conference. Each job taught me something new about writing that launched me in the right direction career-wise and showed me how to be a better writer.

Many job search websites advertise for internships now, and is the best place to look. You can also try emailing organisations (writer’s centres and festivals, libraries, local creative groups) to ask if they need a hand with any activities; chances are, they need all hands on deck and would love to get to know you!

Be on the lookout for scammers, or people who want to take advantage of free labour. Internships usually last anywhere from one week to three months (usually one or two days a week) and anything more than that could be dodgy. Gain experience where you can, but don’t give your writing away.

Get Published Anywhere

Many magazines will advertise online for submissions from people, which could be one-off submissions or regular articles. These publications may also run annual competitions, or know of organisations that do, so submit your work to their writing prizes for a great way to get your work out there (and win a little cash).

Do an internet search, follow writers on Twitter, and email subscribe to writer’s centres to stay on top of current and up-coming submission deadlines.

Write for as many places as you can, because the more writing in the world with your name attached, the better it looks on your resume and in your portfolio.

Getting published is also a great way to make contacts and start networking within the writing industry, especially if you’re a regular contributor or a staff writer; it means you’ll have someone as a referee to vouch for your amazing work, and someone to introduce you around.

Stay Industry-Informed

Keeping on top of news in publishing and writing gives you a broader perspective of how your career dreams fit into the industry. It makes sense that you should know the ins-and-outs of the industry you want to be a part of.

Publishing evolves quickly, and if you’re not aware of its major changes you could be left out in the cold when it comes to finding a job or getting published. It’s also good to be informed so that you can weigh in on discussions with other writers, whether on your blog or through social media (or in real life).

Spend some time browsing the web for good writing websites and blogs that regularly post about writing and publishing. Check out Writer’s Edit writerly websites page for an idea of where to start. Many websites have a way to ‘follow’ them, whether through email or an RSS feed.

You can also subscribe to websites using a ‘feed reader’. A feed reader (‘The Old Reader‘ is my preference, Feedly is also quite popular) will put all the new posts from these sites in one place so you can scroll through at your leisure and see what’s new.

Create a LinkedIn Account

This website is ideal for writers to use as an online portfolio. You can add experience, skills, and attach documents or links to your published work and also connect with people to broaden your networking circle (though this isn’t absolutely necessary).

The best part about LinkedIn is that you can easily link your profile into emails, where potential employers can see uploads to your portfolio. It has a neat layout and you can add all sorts of information that you can download into a PDF (if you wish).

Apply Anyway

Half the battle when getting a job is determination, so don’t stop applying for jobs. It doesn’t matter that you might not tick every box on their advertisement, or that you don’t have years of experience in the field. You’ll never get more experience if you don’t put yourself out there to try new and challenging things, so believe that you can do it (because you can) and send off that application. It might take a while to get a breakthrough from someone, and it might not be exactly what you were hoping for, but try to look at everything as a learning experience.

Persevere, stay hopeful, and remember all the famous writers had to struggle through regular life before getting their big break. Most of us just want to write every day, and if we can fulfill that wish, then we’re living the dream!

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/kickstart-writing-career/

How to Get Your Writing Out There

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Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, Helen Scheuerer, shares advice on how to get your writing out there…


Don’t be afraid to take yourself seriously

Whether you come from a creative writing background or you’re new to the game, I’m sure you’ll be aware of the judgment that awaits writers. Not just from editors and other writers, but also from our colleagues and friends. A lot of people, amidst their own self-consciousness poke fun at those of us who try, those of us who take our work seriously, even if we haven’t yet been published or won an award. There are always going to be people who laugh at your efforts, and believe themselves to be superior in comparison to whatever it is that you’re doing. You don’t need these people, and you certainly shouldn’t shy away from your writing because of them.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson. Because of these people, and the fear of their comments and judgment (never constructive in any way), I never used to promote and share my work. I would keep my projects to myself. But recently, I’ve let myself become confident in my knowledge and if not in my talent, in my perseverance. It’s the first time in years I’ve let people know just how seriously I take my writing. And while some people may have scoffed, many more have actually been impressed and have been inspired to do the same.

Create a website/Author Platform

The online world has changed the way us writers get exposure, gain a following and join communities. Creating a website, or an ‘Author Platform’ is just one of the ways you can get a readership going, even before you publish your book. Blog about the process, give away snippets, share your latest reads, and engage in conversation. One of my favourite author platforms is Chris Cleave’s (have a look, here). He blogs about book tours, ongoing projects, answers questions – it’s very simple, very casual, but it’s a great way to give his readers a little insight into his world of writing. Another author who’s taken her platform to the next level is Joanna Penn, the fingers that are rapidly typing behind The Creative Penn. You only need to take a quick trip to her site to see what I mean. You can also check out our Writer’s Edit interview with Joanna, here.

What I love about creating an author platform besides the fact that it connects you with readers and like-minded folk, is that you get to document your journey. I’ve recently started blogging about the challenges that have come with editing my novel, it’s a great release and it also lets people in on what’s gone into the product they have (or will have) in their hands at the end. You can check out my platform, here.

Some tips for creating your website?

  • Get a proper domain name. By this I mean a .com or a .com.au – not a .weebly or a .wix. This is just personal opinion, but it doesn’t look professional. Domain names are inexpensive for the most part, and cheap web hosting can be found as well. It really is worth having your own individual platform, you are after all, creating an author brand.
  • Go WordPress. It’s one of the most widely used content management systems out there, it has thousands of free and cheap themes available for download that are user friendly. I’m no internet/computer expert, but I’ve definitely got the hang of it now.
  • You need to be yourself, but professional as well. Let your personality shine through the website, but ensure that your content remains courteous, relevant to your writing, and if you choose to have images – no ‘selfies’ (if there’s a place for that, it’s not on your author platform).
  • Get some content on there before you start promoting it across social media platforms and telling all your friends about it. It needs to be impressive. This is the space where eventually, people will purchase your books from. Give it time to grow first.
  • Include your short stories, novel excerpts, poetry and writing news, regularly.
  • Ensure that your website has a ‘shop’ feature. If not, as the very least make sure you link to any pages from other websites where your books are sold, you’d be surprised at how many new authors forget to do this.

Become a regular contributor somewhere

This was something that was never stressed enough to me, but I would advise that every writer contribute to some kind of blog/magazine/forum. Becoming a regular contributor somewhere allows you to establish yourself as an author, as an authority on a certain topic/in our industry, it also connects you with other writers who are interested in the same things, it gets a conversation going! Many authors, myself included, hate the idea of ‘networking’… It’s got some negative connotations doesn’t it? But think of contributing as becoming a part of a community. You want a voice and friends in this community, because it’s here that you will get advice, it is here that you will sell your novels and start to get your name out there.

Contributing to publications is also valuable just for the experience, as well as keeping you on track with your writing. If you’ve promised an article to a publication and you’re working to deadline, there’s no more procrastinating. When you’ve committed to writing something for someone else, you’re so much more likely to stick with it. Any writing is better than no writing, it’s great to keep yourself in the discipline even if you’re not currently working on your own project.

Pay it forward

Us writers are all in the same boat, which is exactly why we need to support each other. The online world makes this so much easier than ever before. With author platforms, social media pages, sharing links, it’s never been this simple to help a writer pal out. Have they published an article lately? Have they got a new website? Are they hosting an event? Like/Share/Comment on everything! Obviously, you want to contribute, not just click buttons for the sake of it, but a lot of authors don’t understand the power of the online world.

I don’t necessarily mean that these same people are going to Like/Share/Comment on everything you ever post, but it’s being a good sport, and hopefully some social media karma will come your way when you need it most, ie. when you’re launching a book, or trying to get people to come to an event… This is certainly one major lesson I’ve learnt in recent months. We’re a very supportive bunch when we want to be, and ‘paying it forward’ also enables you to become part of a much larger community than imagined.

Things You Should Try

  • Going to a writer’s festival.
  • Starting a blog or website.
  • Sharing your work and accomplishments on social media.
  • Getting together with writer friends (and actually talk about writing).
  • Reading books and writing reviews.

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/get-your-writing-out-there/

How To Write A Killer Cover Letter

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A cover letter introduces you and your novel to potential publishers. This letter is your first point of contact between you and a publisher, therefore, it is crucial that aspiring authors know how to write a decent cover letter.

Here are three common questions, answered for writers looking to pave a successful path into the world of publishing with a cover letter that leaves an impression…

What do I need?

1. An ‘elevator pitch’ & hook

An ‘elevator pitch’ is a brief and punchy summary of your novel that could be told to someone important between floors of a short elevator ride. Condense the core ideas of your novel in a dynamic and enthusiastic couple of sentences. Remember that your cover letter should be no longer than a page, so this section can only take a up a paragraph or two. Show them why it’s worth reading and be sure to include a ‘hook’ – something that drags your reader into the story, and leaves them dying to know what happens next.

2. A target audience

Outline your target audience to publishers and demonstrate an alignment to their publishing vision. A good way to start is by looking at previous novels they have published and whether these books fall in the same category as yours, and share a target audience. Remember to be specific, publishers need more information than ‘Adult’. Include your audience’s gender, age group, interests, etc., if applicable.

3. Novel titles comparable to yours

Give two titles comparable to your novel (even better if they’re published by the publisher you’re reaching out to). This is a great way to establish direct relevance and relation to potential publishers. More than that, it gives them an idea of where your novel will sit in the marketplace and how it will work with their existing list.

4. A word count

A simple and necessary step to let publishers know how long your novel is.

5. A killer author bio

Be interesting, be readable and draw publishers in with who you are and what you intend to do with your work. Here is also the place to list existing publishing credentials, and relevant education such as writing courses or degrees. You want to be able to get publishers to see that you are a capable, focused and passionate writer.

6. Contact details

Give yourself the opportunity to be contacted if the publishers decide to get in touch for further questions or discussions. Include your phone number, address and most importantly, your email address.

How do I put it together?

Put the above elements together in an easy-to-read, simple form. Keep sentences short, purposeful and in an active voice. The desired length of your letter should no longer than a page. Opt for a 12pt standard font such as Times New Roman, and 1.5 spacing.

Many new authors make the mistake of attempting to detail their entire background, life achievements and a lengthy breakdown of their novel. Long, unnecessary paragraphs will irritate the editor and an irritated submissions editor is not someone you want reading your life’s work and deciding its future.

In addition to being concise, remember to keep it error-free. Creatively-written content may help you stand out, but keep in mind that your letter is still a business proposal. It also goes without saying that a successful pitch leaves no room for error so before you click send, proofread it again and again. Better still, have other writer friends review it and provide you with feedback.

Do I include my manuscript? 

Always follow the publisher’s submission guidelines. These guidelines are usually accessible on publisher’s website. The most common request is to include the first three chapters. In addition, you might also be asked for a synopsis (usually no longer than 300-words). We cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to the guidelines – this shows that you care about the publisher’s work as well as yours.

Some other useful tips

  • Address your cover letter by name. Avoid clichés such as “dear sir/madam” or “to whom it may concern”. It is more genuine and respectful.
  • Use more formal language throughout the letter.
  • Have a logical and readable structure.
  • Thank the publisher for their time.
  • Sign off gracefully – e.g. “yours sincerely” – before your name.

With these tips, you’re good to go!

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/how-to-write-a-cover-letter-to-publishers/

How To Write A Killer Synopsis

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What is a Synopsis?

A synopsis is a succinct account of a manuscript’s plot, characters, setting, style and mood. Grouped with the cover letter and the chapter sample, it is a vital piece of the querying jigsaw.

The synopsis demonstrates your writing talent, shows your ability to craft a good story and, above all else, should get the editor clamouring to read the full manuscript.

Many authors loathe the synopsis, and it’s easy to see why. After working tirelessly on their manuscript, they must condense the essence of what could be more than 100,000 words into no more than two or three pages.

With such a limited word count, it can be an excruciating task identifying which parts of your work to include and which to leave out. But as with most impossible-sounding tasks, if you break it down and take things one step at a time, it’s going to get a whole lot easier.

What Should a Synopsis Do?

While there are no definitive rules about how you should approach the synopsis, there are some elements that you must get right.

Reveal the ending

One of the biggest mistakes made by green authors is to hide the ending in their synopsis. You must show how your story ends! There is nothing more infuriating than arriving at an unsatisfying ending.

You wouldn’t starve your readership of a great climax, so why do it to the editor – the one person who might just get your book on the shelves?

NOTE: Your ending may be inconclusive on purpose, and this is fine. Your story might be the first of an incomplete series or you might be leaving something up to the imagination of the readers. This is okay, as long as you can prove that the ending works and actually present how it unfolds.

Prove that your manuscript is not flawed

An editor will be able to spot any major problems with your manuscript just by reading the synopsis. Your character’s motivation might not match their decisions, or the opening may have no apparent connection to the middle of the story.

If you get it right, though, the editor will see that you can craft a well-rounded story, with strong character motivations and natural links from start to finish.

However, you shouldn’t wait for the editor to spot the flaws. If you can see them for yourself after writing the synopsis, consider postponing your submission until your manuscript has undergone more editing.

Capture attention

The synopsis, as part of the query, is your one shot at getting the attention of a publisher.

Think of it like a theatrical movie trailer that gives away the entire story. At the cinema, when an exciting trailer comes to an end, you might turn to your friend and say, ‘I can’t wait to see that one’. The editor’s office is no different. When your synopsis turns up on their desk, you want them turning to their colleagues and saying, ‘I can’t wait to read that one’.

Use all the tools at your disposal to make your synopsis stand out. Use vivid and emotive language. Make sure the mood of your synopsis matches that of your manuscript. Show the editor that your manuscript is marketable and do everything you can to prove your book will sell.

What Should a Synopsis NOT Do?

No matter what type of synopsis and no matter where you’re submitting it, you should definitely bear in mind the following universal no-nos.

Outline the plot

The terms ‘synopsis’ and ‘outline’ can be used interchangeably but they are, in fact, vastly different. Like a primary school student writing a recount, an outline is a chapter-by-chapter summary of events. ‘First someone did this, then they did that, and after someone did that, this happened…’ And so on.

While this mechanical outline does exhibit your pacing, it is not going to get the editor excited about your novel. Besides, if your synopsis is written well, the editor should understand how the text is paced anyway.

Make it sound like marketing

Will the publisher like the author’s synopsis or will it end up in the recycling bin with the others?

You want to know the answer to this, don’t you? It might seem like finishing your synopsis like this will tempt the editor into asking for more. You want to tantalise them, leave them on the edge of their seat, right?

Wrong. When you write a synopsis, it is easy to fall into the trap of using language that sounds like the copy on a hardcover jacket or the back cover blurb of a paperback. But this is not the purpose of a synopsis.

Your writing should be clear and concise, revealing the essentials of your story without ambiguity. Use rhetorical questions sparingly, and certainly avoid using them to create suspense.

Explain themes or backstory

It can be helpful for you to include themes in your synopsis, but there’s no need to explain how they play out in your work. You simply don’t have the word count and, if you’ve written your synopsis well, the editor should be able to get a feel for the themes without you spoon-feeding them.

Similarly, you don’t have enough words to explain the background of your story in great detail. Don’t worry about detailing how your fantasy world came into being or how each member of your protagonist’s family affects their personality.

If it’s not essential to the conflict and plot development of your story, it doesn’t need to be included. As suggested in Step 2 below, any vital element of backstory should be placed in your opening paragraph.

How to Write a Synopsis

As with any creative work, there is no universally accepted method to writing a synopsis. Neither is there a certain style or layout you must follow. This will of course depend on the type of manuscript you’ve written.

The following outline is only a guide. Some steps may feel like overkill or mightn’t suit the way you work. Experiment and find out what works for you.

Step 1: Decide what to include

This is the most difficult step: choosing who and what is critical to your manuscript.

First, consider the role of each character and whether they generate conflict for the protagonist. The heart of all great fiction is conflict, and your synopsis needs to focus on this aspect of your story.

Then ask yourself, does the ending make sense without this character or without this plot point?

You might have a well-rounded secondary character, a subplot or a feature of your setting that you believe will sway your editor. But the hard truth is that, more often than not, you’ll be better off leaving it out.

Cut things back to basics: include any characters and plot points necessary for the ending to make sense. Leave the rest out.

Though the secondary aspects of your story are still significant and might make the difference if the editor asks to see more of the manuscript, the essential elements of your story are the most important and should be good enough to sell your idea.

If you work out what should and shouldn’t be included in your synopsis from the beginning, it will save you time and effort down the track. There’s nothing worse than spending time summarising a secondary story arc, only to realise that you’re going to run out of words if you include it.

Planning from the beginning will also help to clarify the essence of your book. A clear vision will help set you on the right track as you start to write.

Step 2: Write the introduction

If you’re at the stage of writing your synopsis, you might not even remember writing the opening line of your manuscript. But the beginning of your synopsis has to be just as good as the beginning of your novel.

Spend time on your opening line and keep working at it until it is perfect. Catch the editor’s attention. Hook them in and don’t let them escape.

Your first paragraph should introduce the protagonist, introduce the problem that sets them on the pathway of your plot, and describe the setting. It should cover the essentials of who, where, when and why.

Write in the present tense. Include any vital elements of backstory – those that ensure the ending will make sense when you come to it.

Step 3: Write the middle

Your synopsis needs a strong middle section: one that successfully moves the story onwards from the introduction and keeps the reader interested as you approach the ending.

Keep this section of your synopsis moving. If the pace feels too slow, cut words or sentences out, even if you included them in your planning.

Focus mainly on the plot, but make sure you show how the protagonist is changing. Your character shouldn’t transform suddenly from timid teenager to confident young adult. Explain the events of the story, and as you go, detail the characters’ gradual change as a result of those events.

Step 4: Finish it off

The next step is clear: finish the synopsis. There are a couple of things your final section should achieve. Firstly, as we mentioned above, you must reveal the ending. The editor needs to know that your beginning and middle sections lead to a logical, conclusive and exciting climax.

Secondly, you need to present the characters’ development. This should be easy if you followed Step 3. Your characters will have arrived at their final destination, metamorphosis complete.

Describe what they have learnt or how they have changed. Compare their feelings from the start of the journey with their feelings as they walk towards the setting sun and the credits start to slide.

Step 5: Clean it up

You can’t avoid it. When you’ve finished writing, it’s time to edit!

Go through the same editing process you went through with your manuscript. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Make sure your synopsis flows logically and each section of the story links to the next.

Remember to read over your work with that initial question in mind: Does the ending make sense if I include/exclude [x]? If you’re well above the suggested word count, be ruthless. If you can cut something while retaining the sense of your ending, do it!

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart…” — Stephen King

Step 6: Saving and sharing

Often, depending on where you’re submitting, the length of the synopsis will vary. When you’re happy with your final draft, save a default copy to work with each time you prepare a new query or submission.

If you have a default copy on file, it’s easier to mould your synopsis when you find that your next target asks for ‘a brief synopsis of no more than 300 words’. Simply work through the same process, keeping only what is critical to the manuscript.

Likewise, if the guidelines suggest you have a few hundred words more than your original draft, use the extra words to show off. You might even be able to weave in one of those secondary elements you had to cut from your original.

Be sure to save each new copy. It’s easier to reduce a 600-word synopsis down to 500 words than it is to cut down from 1000 words.

Also, don’t forget to share your work. Give it to friends and family. Read it aloud with the members of your writers’ group. Just like you did with your manuscript, listen to feedback and be sure that your synopsis is the best it can be before you format it, ready for submission.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” — Ken Blanchard

Handy Hints

Tell, don’t show

I say f*** the old advice ‘show, don’t tell.’ It’s called story TELLING for a reason…” — Ashly Lorenzana

You’ve heard it before: show, don’t tell. But when it comes to writing your synopsis, telling is absolutely fine.

You simply don’t have enough words to employ flowery language in every sentence. You’re better off getting straight to the point and being clear, concise and unambiguous.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to tell everything! As best you can within the word count, find a balance between showing and telling.

Write your synopsis at the start

All writers work in different ways. Some like to plan out their novel from the beginning; others like to see where their writing can take them, with little or no planning at all.

Consider this: writing your synopsis from the very beginning, even before you write your opening scene, has two main benefits.

Firstly, you won’t have to write the synopsis when you come to the end of your manuscript. It will already be there, a working document that will just need a bit of tweaking.

Sure, your story might take you to a place you never considered when you wrote the original. But again, you can simply rewrite the synopsis as you go. This will help you out when it comes to that all-important final kilometre.

The synopsis can also assist you in multiple ways for the process of editing. A structural edit will be made easier if you can see the development of your plot and your characters just by skimming over one document. You’ll know immediately which scenes are the most important and in which order they occur. This is especially helpful in longer manuscripts.

Read some examples

Whether you’re a seasoned synopsis writer or sitting down to your very first, you should be able to pick out the strengths and weaknesses of different pieces. Study the layout, style and language. Look for the strengths and try to emulate them.

You’ll be able to find a number of examples just by doing a quick Google search; Writer’s Digest also has an extensive list of movie synopses to peruse.

Navigate with a critical eye. Not all synopses posted online will be good examples. And keep in mind the interplay between the words ‘synopsis’, ‘outline’ and ‘summary’.

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For editors on the hunt for their next project, the synopsis is the doorway to your story – the last post guarding entrance to the world that is your manuscript. Don’t lock them out. Welcome them inside and give your manuscript its best chance to get published.

Good Luck!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/write-killer-synopsis/

How To Write A Smashing First Chapter

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If you are looking for a few tips on how to write a cracking first chapter, you couldn’t do much better than this. Here is an opening chapter masterclass from Author Elizabeth Sims. Enjoy!

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When you decide to go to a restaurant for a special dinner, you enjoy the anticipation. You’ve committed to spending sufficient time and money, and now you’ve arrived, and the place looks good and smells good. You smile and order an appetizer. When it comes, you enjoy it as a foretaste of the larger, more complex courses that will follow, but you also savor it for what it is: a delicious dish, complete in itself. If it’s a truly great appetizer, you recognize it as an exquisite blend of flavor, texture and temperature. And you’re happy, because you know you’ll be in good hands for the entire evening.

Isn’t that what it’s like to begin reading a terrific book?

The first chapter is the appetizer – small, yet so tremendously important. And so full of potential.

As an aspiring author, the prospect of writing Chapter One should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you. Why? Because no other part of your book can provide you with the disproportionate payoff that an excellent first chapter can. Far more than a great query letter, a great Chapter One can attract the attention of an agent. It can keep a harried editor from yawning and hitting “delete.” It can make a bookstore browser keep turning pages during the slow walk to the cash registers. And yes, it can even keep a bleary-eyed owner of one of those electronic thingamajigs touching the screen for more, more, more!

Fiction, like food, is an art and a craft. Here’s how to blend inspiration with technique and serve up an irresistible Chapter One.

#1: RESIST TERROR.
Let’s be honest: Agents and editors like to make you quiver and sweat as you approach Chapter One. All those warnings: “Grab me from the opening sentence! Don’t waste one word! If my attention flags, you’ve failed – you’re down the toilet! In fact, don’t even write Chapter One! Start your book at Chapter Four! Leave out all that David Copperfield crap!” From their perspective it’s an acid test. They know how important Chapter One is, and if you’re weak, they’ll scare you into giving up before you begin. (Hey, it makes their jobs easier: one less query in the queue.)

Here’s the truth: Agents and editors, all of them, are paper tigers. Every last one is a hungry kitten searching for something honest, original and brave to admire. Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.

Your inner genius flees from tension, so first of all, relax. Notice that I did not say agents and editors are looking for perfect writing. Nor are they looking for careful writing. Honest, original and brave. That’s what they want, and that’s what you’ll produce if you open up room for mistakes and mediocrity. It’s true! Only by doing that will you be able to tap into your wild and free core. Let out the bad with the good now, and you’ll sort it out later.

Second, remember who you are and why you’re writing this book. What is your book about? What purpose(s) will it serve? Write your answers down and look at them from time to time as you write. (By the way, it’s OK to want to write a book simply to entertain people; the noblest art has sprung from just such a humble desire.)

And third, if you haven’t yet outlined, consider doing so. Even the roughest, most rustic framework will give you a sharper eye for your beginning and, again, will serve to unfetter your mind. Your outline could be a simple list of things-that-are-gonna-happen, or it could be a detailed chronological narrative of all your plot threads and how they relate. I find that knowing where I’m headed frees my mind from everything but the writing at hand. Being prepared makes you calm, and better equipped to tap into your unique voice – which is the most important ingredient in a good Chapter One.

#2: DECIDE ON TENSE AND POINT OF VIEW.
Most readers are totally unconscious of tense and POV; all they care about is the story. Is it worth reading? Fun to read? But you must consider your tense and POV carefully, and Chapter One is go time for these decisions. It used to be simple. You’d choose from:

a) First person: I chased the beer wagon.

b) Third-person limited: Tom chased the beer wagon.

or

c) Omniscient: Tom chased the beer wagon while the villagers watched and wondered, Would all the beer in the world be enough for this oaf?

… and you’d always use past tense.

But today, novels mix points of view and even tenses. In my Rita Farmer novels I shift viewpoints, but limit all POVs to the good guys. By contrast, John Grisham will shift out of the main character’s POV to the bad guy’s for a paragraph or two, then back again. (Some critics have labeled this practice innovative, while others have called it lazy; in the latter case, I’m sure Grisham is crying all the way to the bank.) It’s also worth noting that studies have shown that older readers tend to prefer past tense, while younger ones dig the present. (If that isn’t a statement with larger implications, I don’t know what is.)

Many writing gurus tell you to keep a first novel simple by going with first person, past tense. This approach has worked for thousands of first novels (including mine, 2002’s Holy Hell), but I say go for whatever feels right to you, simple or not. I do, however, recommend that you select present or past tense and stick with it. Similarly, I advise against flashbacks and flash-forwards for first novels. Not that they can’t work, but they seem to be off-putting to agents and editors, who will invariably ask, “Couldn’t this story be told without altering the time-space continuum?”

The point is, you want your readers to feel your writing is smooth; you don’t want them to see the rivets in the hull, so to speak. And the easiest way to do that is to create fewer seams.

If you’re still unsure of your tense or POV choices, try these techniques:

Go to your bookshelf and take a survey of some of your favorite novels. What POVs and tenses are selected, and why do you suppose the authors chose those approaches?

Rehearse. Write a scene using first person, then third-person limited, then omniscient. What feels right?

Don’t forget to consider the needs of your story. If you plan to have simultaneous action in Fresno, Vienna and Pitcairn, and you want to show it all in living color, you almost certainly need more than one POV.

And if you’re still in doubt, don’t freeze up – just pick an approach and start writing. Remember, you can always change it later if you need to.

#3: CHOOSE A NATURAL STARTING POINT.
When you read a good novel, it all seems to unfold so naturally, starting from the first sentence. But when you set out to write your own, you realize your choices are limitless, and this can be paralyzing. Yet your novel must flow from the first scene you select.

Let’s say you’ve got an idea for a historical novel that takes place in 1933. There’s this pair of teenagers who figure out what really happened the night the Lindbergh baby was abducted, but before they can communicate with the police, they themselves are kidnapped. Their captives take them to proto-Nazi Germany, and it turns out there’s some weird relationship between Col. Lindbergh and the chancellor – or is there? Is the guy with the haircut really Lindbergh? The teens desperately wonder: What do they want with us?

Sounds complicated. Where should you start? A recap of the Lindbergh case? The teenagers on a date where one of them stumbles onto a clue in the remote place they go to make out? A newspaper clipping about a German defense contract that should have raised eyebrows but didn’t?

Basically, write your way in.

Think about real life. Any significant episode in your own life did not spring whole from nothing; things happened beforehand that shaped it, and things happened afterward as a result of it. Think about your novel in this same way. The characters have pasts and futures (unless you plan to kill them); places, too, have pasts and futures. Therefore, every storyteller jumps into his story midstream. Knowing this can help you relax about picking a starting point. The Brothers Grimm did not begin by telling about the night Hansel and Gretel were conceived; they got going well into the lives of their little heroes, and they knew we wouldn’t care about anything but what they’re doing right now.

If you’re unsure where to begin, pick a scene you know you’re going to put in – you just don’t know where yet – and start writing it. You might discover your Chapter One right there. And even if you don’t, you’ll have fodder for that scene when the time comes.

Here are a few other strategies that can help you choose a starting point:

  • Write a character sketch or two. You need them anyway, and they’re great warm-ups for Chapter One. Ask yourself: What will this character be doing when we first meet him? Write it. Again, you might find yourself writing Chapter One.
  • Do a Chapter-One-only brainstorm and see what comes out.

The truth is, you probably can write a great story starting from any of several places. If you’ve narrowed it down to two or three beginnings and still can’t decide, flip a coin and get going. In my hypothetical Lindbergh thriller, I’d probably pick the date scene, with a shocking clue revealed. Why? Action!

It’s OK to be extremely loose with your first draft of your first chapter. In fact, I recommend it. The important thing at this point is to begin.

#4: PRESENT A STRONG CHARACTER RIGHT AWAY.
This step might seem obvious, but too many first-time novelists try to lure the reader into a story by holding back the main character. Having a couple of subsidiary characters talking about the protagonist can be a terrific technique for character or plot development at some point, but not at the beginning of your novel.

When designing your Chapter One, establish your characters’ situation(s). What do they know at the beginning? What will they learn going forward? What does their world mean to them?

Who is the strongest character in your story? Watch out; that’s a trick question. Consider Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The main character, Stevens, is a weak man, yet his presence is as strong as a hero. How? Ishiguro gave him a voice that is absolutely certain, yet absolutely vacant of self-knowledge. We know Stevens, and because we see his limitations, we know things will be difficult for him. Don’t be afraid to give all the depth you can to your main character early in your story. You’ll discover much more about him later, and can always revise if necessary.

#5: BE SPARING OF SETTING.
Another common error many aspiring novelists make is trying to set an opening scene in too much depth. You’ve got it all pictured in your head: the colors, sounds, flavors and feelings. You want everybody to be in the same place with the story you are. But you’re too close: A cursory – but poignant! – introduction is what’s needed. Readers will trust you to fill in all the necessary information later. They simply want to get a basic feel for the setting, whether it’s a lunar colony or a street in Kansas City.

Pack punch into a few details. Instead of giving the history of the place and how long the character has been there and what the weather’s like, consider something like this:

He lived in a seedy neighborhood in Kansas City. When the night freight passed, the windows rattled in their frames and the dog in the flat below barked like a maniac.

Later (if you want) you’ll tell all about the house, the street, the neighbors and maybe even the dog’s make and model, but for now a couple of sentences like that are all you need.

But, you object, what of great novels that opened with descriptions of place, like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath or Edna Ferber’s Giant? Ah, in those books the locale has been crafted with the same care as a character, and effectively used as one. Even so, the environment is presented as the characters relate to it: in the former case, man’s mark on the land (by indiscriminate agriculture), and in the latter, man’s mark on the sky (the jet plumes of modern commerce).

Another way to introduce a setting is to show how a character feels about it. In Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov seethes with resentment at the opulence around him in St. Petersburg, and this immediately puts us on the alert about him. The setting serves the character; it does not stand on its own.

#6: USE CAREFULLY CHOSEN DETAIL TO CREATE IMMEDIACY.
Your Chapter One must move along smartly, but in being economical you cannot become vague. Difficult, you say? It’s all in the context.

The genius of books as diverse as Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Robin Cook’s Coma lies in the authors’ generosity with good, authentic detail. Cervantes knew that a suit of armor kept in a junk locker for years wouldn’t merely be dusty, it would be corroded to hell – and that would be a problem to overcome. Likewise, Cook, himself a doctor, knew that a patient prepped for surgery would typically be given a calming drug before the main anesthetic – and that some patients, somehow, do not find peace even under the medication, especially if they have reason not to.

If you’re an expert on something, go ahead and show that you know what you’re talking about. One of the reasons my novel Damn Straight, a story involving a professional golfer, won a Lambda Award is that I know golf, and let my years of (painful) experience inform the book. I felt I’d done a good job when reviewer after reviewer wrote, “I absolutely hate golf, but I love how Sims writes about it in this novel. …”

Let’s say your Chapter One begins with your main character getting a root canal. You could show the dentist nattering on and on as dentists tend to do, and that would be realistic, but it could kill your chapter, as in this example:

Dr. Payne’s running commentary included the history of fillings, a story about the first time he ever pulled a tooth, and a funny anecdote about how his college roommate got really drunk every weekend.

Bored yet? Me too. Does that mean there’s too much detail? No. It means there’s too much extraneous detail.

How about this:

Dr. Payne paused in his running commentary on dental history and put down his drill. “Did you know,” he remarked, “that the value of all the gold molars in a city this size, at this afternoon’s spot price of gold, would be something on the order of half a million dollars?” He picked up his drill again. “Open.”

If the detail serves the story, you can hardly have too much.

#7: GIVE IT A MINI PLOT.
It’s no accident that many great novels have first chapters that were excerpted in magazines, where they essentially stood as short stories. I remember being knocked to the floor by the gorgeous completeness of Ian McEwan’s first chapter of On Chesil Beach when it was excerpted in The New Yorker.

Every chapter should have its own plot, none more important than Chapter One. Use what you know about storytelling to:

Make trouble. I side with the writing gurus who advise you to put in a lot of conflict early. Pick your trouble and make it big. If it can’t be big at first, make it ominous.

Focus on action. Years ago I got a rejection that said, “Your characters are terrific and I love the setting, but not enough happens.” A simple and useful critique! Bring action forward in your story; get it going quick. This is why agents and editors tell you to start your story in the middle: They’ve seen too many Chapter Ones bogged down by backstory. Put your backstory in the back, not the front. Readers will stick with you if you give them something juicy right away. I make a point of opening each of my Rita Farmer novels with a violent scene, which is then revealed to be an audition, or a film shoot or a rehearsal. Right away, the reader gets complexity, layers and a surprise shift of frame of reference.

Be decisive. A good way to do that is to make a character take decisive action.

Don’t telegraph too much; let action develop through the chapter. It’s good to end Chapter One with some closure. Because it is Chapter One, your readers will trust that the closure will turn out to be deliciously false.

#8: BE BOLD.
The most important thing to do when writing Chapter One is put your best material out there. Do not humbly introduce your story – present it with a flourish. Don’t hold back! Set your tone and own it. You’re going to write a whole book using great material; have confidence that you can generate terrific ideas for action and emotion whenever you want.

If you do your job creating a fabulous appetizer in Chapter One and follow it up well, your readers will not only stay through the whole meal, they’ll order dessert, coffee and maybe even a nightcap – and they won’t want to leave until you have to throw them out at closing time.

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youve-got-a-book-in-you

This guest post is by bestselling author and writing authority Elizabeth SimsShe’s the author of seven popular novels in two series, including The Rita Farmer Mysteries and The Lillian Byrd Crime series. She’s also the author of the excellent resource for writers, You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams, published by Writer’s Digest Books.

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Via: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/8-ways-to-write-a-5-star-chapter-one

How to Start a Book Club

bookclub article

Writers have a tendency to become homebodies, to embrace solitude and focus on writing and reading alone. Reading is, of course, a solitary act; a subjective journey that we take on our own and into ourselves. Reading isolates you from others: you carry the experience of the book within you, but who can you tell? Who will understand?

Reading alone is not only lonely but makes for a narrow-minded view of literature, which is no good if you want to be a successful writer. Writers must read widely and read often, as we’re always told. We need to find new resources, read reviews, take recommendations. Writers must also learn how to pick apart the books they read, to challenge themselves, to see the stories from new perspectives. We need to add a social element to the solitary art of reading.

Maybe we’re shy; maybe we don’t know where to meet other readers like ourselves; maybe we don’t have time for a social life. That’s why you should start (or join) a book club.

Why start one when you could join one?

At the beginning of the year, in that liminal space between old and new, spurred on by talk of New Year’s Resolutions and new experiences, I started a book club. I’d been conscious of becoming more withdrawn and wanted to kickstart my social life again, and what better way to do it than talk about reading (and writing)?

I knew of a few relevant groups but couldn’t bring myself to squeeze into them without knowing anybody. I searched online for local book clubs and found that they were all for casual readers rather than literary or writerly readers, who need to rip texts apart and learn things from them. I also found that a lot of book clubs were held on weekdays or at times I couldn’t fit into my schedule.

There wasn’t anywhere that I felt, as a writer, I could fit in as a reader. There’s no better way to find what you want (and need) than to create it for yourself, and the great thing about starting a book club is that you have freedom to make it exactly what you want it to be.

Decide what you want from it

When I was on the search for a book club I knew what sort of group I would fit into best. I needed like-minded people; people who were not only readers but also writers; people that would understand what I knew but would also expand my knowledge.

To start a book club you need to have direction, and that means knowing what you want the group to be and what you want to get back from it. If you want to explore new writing, start a group that reads only contemporary books and if you want to fangirl over fantasy then focus your group on genre writing.

You can focus your book club on just about anything:

  • Genre (sci-fi and fantasy, realism and literature, poetry)
  • Gender and Age (male, female, young, old)
  • Author (reading the entire works of a single beloved writer)
  • Publication date (ancient, classic, contemporary)
  • Publication country (American writing, African Diaspora, British Isles)
  • Or don’t specify at all and see where it takes you!

Whatever parameters you choose for the reading, also consider certain ‘rules’ for the meetings themselves. Think about possible locations for meetings (local cafes, people’s homes, or purely online?), whether you want mixed genders or a more ‘girls’ night’ or ‘mates’ date’ kind of vibe, and whether you want group members to be super strict with their readings (comprehensive notes necessary) or more casual (haven’t read the whole book? No worries!).

Establishing the expectations for your group early on avoids disagreements, disappointments, and dodgy decision-making. When everyone knows what they’re in for, everyone’s more likely to join for the right reasons and have a great time.

Getting people together

So you’ve got the concept of your book club settled but you’ve got nobody to attend the actual meetings. Depending on whether you want to catch up with new people or friends you already know, your methods of spreading the word about your new group might vary.

A simple post on social media asking for interested parties might be just the thing you need to get a group together.

If you don’t want to throw your net wide open you can tell a few friends, ask them to invite a friend each, and all of a sudden you have a mix of old and new buddies!

Starting afresh? Try starting a group online through a site like Meetup, posting flyers in cafes and bookstores, or talking to local libraries (or universities, or writing centres) about advertising through their channels.

The way you get your group together depends on how many readers you’re expecting to bring together and how comfortable you are with meeting new people. I’m more on the socially awkward side so I posted through Facebook, got a small group of four together, then expanded with friends-of-friends. The important thing to remember is that not everybody will be available for every meeting, so aiming high can sometimes leave you with just the right number.

How to keep organised

It’s not enough to just start a group and get people together. You need to have excellent communication from month to month (or week to week, or whenever your meetings are planned for!). There will be a lot of decisions to make and confirm with everyone in the group, like what the book is, where you’ll meet up, and who can make it on the day.

Facebook groups are ideal for this because everyone can easily comment and make friends fast with a few clicks (on a site you’re no doubt already familiar with). Other apps like Whatsapp are also great for the tech savvy and for reaching out to members who might not have Facebook (yes, they exist!). Swap emails and phone numbers – you never know when they might come in handy.

The best advice I can give is to plan far ahead in time, like a whole month ahead. At the end of your meeting start discussing the next one, and then get in contact with everyone and let them know the details while they’re still buzzing from the fun times they just had.

What I’ve learned from my book club

As someone who ‘runs’ (or at least, is part of) a book club, and has been doing so for a solid eight or nine months now, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way (in addition to all of the above):

  • Come up with questions and topics – this helps to get the conversation going and helps you to think about the chosen book in new analytic ways (which in turn improves your writing!)
  • Be democratic – make sure everyone discusses the book choice and that everyone gets a say, especially if some members are more quiet than others
  • Get feedback – you want people to have a good time, so find out what’s working and what’s not and tweak your meetings to the best they can be
  • Expand your horizons – other people in your group have fantastic ideas, and the whole point of book club is to swap reading experiences; listen to people’s recommendations, try new things, read from new perspectives

Starting a book club was easily one of the brighter initiatives I’ve had this year. I’ve reconnected with old friends, met new people, read (and loved) books I’d never think to pick up. We’ve had deep conversations about feminism and the authority of the writer and we’ve had excited chats about new TV shows and Harry Potter.

Book club became more than just a monthly meeting; all I had to do was put myself out there, without fear of rejection or disappointment, and I’m so glad that I finally did.

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Article Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/handy-tips-on-how-to-start-a-book-club/

How to Handle Criticism of Your Writing

Handling-Criticism-Of-Your-Writing

If you are a writer, you will know that it already takes a brave individual to share themselves in such a vulnerable way. Writing is very personal, and so when a writer’s work is criticised, it feels very personal. Unfortunately, the world is not always that kind. So, here are some tips to help you deal with criticism as a writer:

It’s not personal

As I said above, when someone criticises your writing, it might feel like a personal attack, but it is not. At the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that it is not about you, but rather about the piece of work that you have produced.

Perhaps they don’t fully understand or appreciate what you are saying. Maybe they hold a different opinion, or would have gone about it in a different way. Whatever it is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so try not to take it to heart.

If you are feeling brave, engage in a discussion about what it was they didn’t like. Get some in depth feedback, then you can choose what to take on board and what to ignore. And if all else fails, pretend it never happened and move on.

Grow from it

Nobody likes to be criticised because it makes us feel inadequate. The thing is, none of us are perfect, and even the best writers have flaws. Criticism is part of life, and it is better to deal with it early on.

If you feel that the criticism you received is unfair, you can always take on your critic. Try to explain what you meant and where you were coming from. Bear in mind that this isn’t always productive. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore it and move on.

The way we handle other peoples’ negative opinions is going to determine if we grow or stagnate. Perhaps the criticism is an opportunity to improve and get better at your art. There is nothing wrong with getting help if you need it, whether online or asking a friend. All you are doing is improving your writing skills, and no one can criticise you for that.

More than one writing project

As a writer, you probably have more than one project going on at the same time. So if one seems not to be going to plan, put it on the shelf for a while and work on something else.

I am not saying that you should give up on any of your projects, but sometimes it is just one piece of writing that might need more work, and if it’s not going well it might start to get you down. So take a break and do something else you enjoy.

You are not defined by one manuscript or article. You want to make sure that you don’t pour all your energy into one project and let that define you. There is more to you and a lot more that can be done. So even if one of your projects fail, at least you know that you are already working on something else. Keep the faith.

Go with your gut

Sometimes people with no knowledge of writing want to give you their opinions. There comes a time where you have to start believing in your abilities and take these comments with a grain of salt.

Not every negative opinion is correct, and you might just have to leave things as they are. Be careful who you listen to. I would much rather take criticism from people in the industry, than from someone with no writing experience.

That said, even if your editor tells you that your writing is not up to scratch, you need to be willing to fight for what you believe in. There is nothing wrong with you trusting your work above the opinions of others. In fact, that shows that you are evolving and trusting in your skills.

If the criticism is constructive and you agree, go with it. If not, get more information and stick to what your gut is telling you.

Acceptance

There are moments when the criticism you receive is valid, and you just need to accept it. After accepting that you are a human being that makes mistakes, you then need to move on.

This moment does not define who you are or what type of writer you are. As long as you are growing through the process, it is all worth it. Allow yourself to make mistakes and do not beat yourself up about it.

Many writers struggle to get their work published, but they did not let one ‘no’ stop them from pursuing their goals. And every writer gets the odd bad review. You are going to have to grow a tough skin and understand that this is part of the job.

It doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer, but rather that you are still learning and growing. If the critic is correct in what they have to say, or if they have a different opinion, you should just accept it and move right on.

Conclusion

Being a writer is all about discovering who you are through your thoughts and written work. There is no end to this journey, and just like we evolve as people, we evolve in our writing skills.

Using online tools like a grammar checker does not mean that you are not good enough. It simply means that you are using everything available to you in order to learn and succeed.

Hold on to your goals and dreams and do not let one bad comment move you away from the path you are on. There will always be bumps in the road, but you need to get right back up and keep moving forward.

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Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/how-to-handle-online-criticism-of-your-writing