Monday, May 31, 2010

Your Rejection Collection: A Invitation to Persevere

"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before." —Jacob A. Riis
A number of writing friends received rejections on their manuscripts ranging from:

Rejection 1: No response.
Rejection 2: Generic response, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Rejection 3: “Thanks, but it’s not a fit.”
Rejection 4: “I liked (your dialogue, your proposal), but no thanks.”
Rejection 5: “Too much tell, not enough show. Here are some areas to work on.”
Rejection 6: Nothing fresh or new here.

An Invitation or Rejection
What do you do when you receive a rejection? 

  • Feel anger towards the editor? 
  • Spiral into a pit of depression?
  • Shoot off angry emails?
It’s okay to grieve. However, how you handle rejection effects your writing future. Wannabes give up. Writers view a rejection letter as an invitation to revise and resubmit elsewhere. 

No wordsmith escapes rejection. It just makes us more grateful when published. I apply Dolly Parton’s quote to my writing outlook, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Absolute Necessity for Your Writing Journey: You've Got To Have Friends

I just got back from the My Book Therapy Polish and Pitch Conference in Seattle. Bestselling author Susan May Warren and literary agent Chip MacGregor packed the weekend to overflowing with information.

I rewrote my novel's synopsis and got a realistic view of the publishing industry. (Thanks, Chip!) I put together and practiced my pitch and presented it to Chip on Saturday night. One of my questions: How do you bridge the nonfiction and fiction writing worlds? Chip's answer: You don't.

I went to the conference knowing I'd come away with more than enough information to apply to my writing. But there was another reason I plunked down money for a plane ticket, conference registration and hotel room: meeting up with my writing friends for an all-too-quick-and-all-the-more-precious weekend.

You'll hear it said again and again that writing is a solitary life. And it's true that you'll spend a lot of hours with just you and your computer.

But don't overlook the friendships you'll make along the way. The people you'll meet at writers conferences. The folks you chat with via Instant Messaging. Your online critique group who can come to understand your voice better than you do.

The women in the picture posted with this blog are some of my writing comrades. We live all over the country. We have different lifestyles. Different writing styles. But we are committed to one another--to cheering one another on as we pursue our writing dreams. We share our successes and failures with one another--and we even share our word counts. We're already planning when we can meet up at the next conference.

So, let me ask you: Who are the friends you've made along the Writing Road? What's the best thing about those friendships?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing Tip: Focus On One Thing At A Time

Photo by andreyutzu/StockXchange.com

I like rewriting almost as much as I like writing. Writing is my first pass at getting my thoughts down on paper. Rewriting is where I zero in on what I want to say--separating the written chaff from the wheat.
The challenge? To not get lost in all the things I'm trying to clear out of my article or chapter: passive verbs, -ly words, rabbit trails, grammar and punctuation errors, saggy middles--sounds like I'm writing a diet book!--repeated words, an overdose of adjectives.
You get the idea.
I used to try and tackle all the rewriting at one time. I'd grab a handful of different colored pens and mark pages up with abandon. Halfway through my edits, I'd be overwhelmed. But I'd push on because I wanted to get to the rewriting.
Here's my tip: Take it slow. Focus on one thing. One weakness. One often-repeated writing error. One of my critique partners pointed out that I liked to use the words "just" and "but". A lot. I always go through my manuscripts and hunt down and destroy those two words.
Try This: I'm reading Donald Maass' The Fire in Fiction. He suggests checking the first and last sentence in your chapters because:
"Does it matter what is the last line of your scene, or the first? Apparently, many authors do not think it does. Most last and first lines in maunscript scenes are quite forgettable. That's a shame. Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone. They can signal where we're going, or what we've done, or serve any number of other useful story purposes."
If you're rewriting an article or chapter, focus on your first and last sentences--and only them. Ignore everything else you want to tweak. You'll get to all the other stuff later!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm heading to Seattle to attend the Beyond My Book Therapy: A Polish, Promotion & Pitch Retreat. (Yay!)

Award-winning author Susan May Warren will teach, step by step, how to craft a synopsis and a query letter, plus how to construct a compelling first chapter. Then, she’ll show how to craft a pitch that will attract the attention of editors and agents.

Professional marketing expert Jim Rubart, president of Barefoot Marketing, will reveal the seven fundamentals of successful book promotion.

Finally, renowned agent Chip MacGregor, president and owner of MacGregor Literary will offer gut-level honesty on what is working in the pitch and hands on advice on how to fix what isn’t.

Don't you want to pack your bags and come along? Start planning now to attend My Book Therapy Coaching Retreats in 2011. Meanwhile, I'll have lots to share with you in the weeks ahead.

~Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Inspires Your Writing Muse?

You can find your writer's voice by simply listening to that little Muse inside that says in a low, soft whisper, ‘Listen to this...’” — Charles Ghigna
What inspires your writing muse?
A deadline? 
If you don’t have an editor or publisher pressuring you with a deadline, do you schedule nonnegotiable time to write? Or do you wait until you feel like you will explode if you don’t put words to paper? I want to encourage you to dip your pen into your soul and write what’s in your heart.
Writing Promises to Self

Deadline Season
Any Other Time
Write every day.
Write when I feel like it or I’m not distracted or procrastinating.

Drink coffee—lots.
Go get a cup of coffee. Drive to Starbucks.

Nuke meals.
Spend an hour per meal, cooking from scratch.

Ignore family.
Enable family members. Do everything for them.

Write every hour.
Take a nap.

Don’t eat.
Nibble at leftovers.
Go make chocolate chip cookies.  Eat batter. Better yet, drive to Baskin Robbins and buy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Write all night.
Stop procrastinating. Start writing tomorrow.

Writing Quotes to Inspire Your Muse
  • The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”—Marcel Proust
  • “All writing comes by the grace of God.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.”Gerald Brenan
  • “I write to discover what I think.”Joan Didion
  • How do you know if you're a writer? Write something everyday for two weeks, then stop, if you can. If you can’t, you’re a writer. And no one, no matter how hard they may try, will ever be able to stop you from following your writing dreams.” — Charles Ghigna
  • “Enter the writing process with a childlike sense of wonder and discovery. Let it surprise you.” — Charles Ghigna
  • The act of writing brings with it a sense of discovery, of discovering on the page something you didn’t know you knew until you wrote it.”— Charles Ghigna

Friday, May 14, 2010

Update: Do The Write Thing for Nashville

I blogged about Do The Write Thing for Nashville last Friday. Lots of wonderful authors, agents and editors have donated some great auction items. Here's one you don't want to miss out bidding on:

Agent Rachelle Gardner, of WordServe Literary, donated a 30-minute phone call, during which you can ask questions about the publishing business and get advice about your project or your career. You can even pitch your book!

The bidding has begun, folks--so don't miss your chance! The auction for this item is open until Saturday, the 15th, at midnight.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Knowledgerush: Collective Nouns for People

Collective nouns can be tricky. We've made a game on road trips by naming collective nouns for animals. With young children, this educational game elicits lots of giggles.

Q. What's a group of geese called?

A gaggle.

Q. What's a group of lions called?

A pride.

And so on...

But, have you heard this one?

Q. What's a group of secret agents called?

A bond of secret agents.

For your summer road trip, here's a new spin collective nouns for people, which you may not be familiar with:

Subject ......... Collective term
academics........A faculty of academics
accountants.....A balance of accountants
actors...............A cast of actors
arsonists..........A conflagration of arsonists
auto dealers.....A lot of automobile dealers
beauties...........A bevy of beauties
bureaucrats.....A shuffle of bureaucrats
cardiologists....A flutter of cardiologists
critics...............A pan of critics
doctors.............A doctrine of doctors
engineers.........A geek of engineers
fishermen.........An exaggeration of fishermen

For the complete list, visit Knowledgerush.com.

Monday, May 10, 2010

To be a verb or not to be a verb...

When Is a Verb with an “–ing” Ending, Not a Verb?
A question arose in the Springs Writers fiction critique group regarding whether “-ing” on the end of a verb is active or passive. Does an “-ing” automatically make the verb passive? It depends upon whether the verb with an –ing is a verb, adjective or noun, plus how it’s used in the sentence.
There are six kinds of  –ing words that appear to be an –ing verb.
1. Verb: Makes definite tenses.
2. Pure participle (adjective): Expresses action. Used as an adjective. A participle is a verb form used as an adjective.
3. Participial adjective: Expresses action, modifying nouns or pronouns. 
4. Pure adjective: Has lost all verbal force. Examples: Pure participial adjectives: "The healing power of the God." "The shattering volume of rock music."
5. Verbal nouns: Names an action or state.
6. Gerunds (noun): Expresses action. Used as a noun.
Verbals (plain verb + ing) Function as Another Part of Speech
Verbs ending in –ing can be “verbal’s.” So what’s a verbal? Verbs functioning as another part of speech. There are three kinds of verbal’s:
1. Participle (adjective): A participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and most often ends in - ing or -ed. It expresses action or a state of being modifying nouns or pronouns. There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles consists of a plain verb ending in -ing. A past participle consists of a plain verb ending in -ed, -en, -d, -t, or -n, as in the words asked, eaten, saved, dealt, and seen. 
2. Infinitive (noun): An infinitive is a verbal consisting of the word to plus a verb (in its simplest "stem" form) and functioning as a noun, adjective, or adverb. An infinitive expresses action or a state of being. However, the infinitive may function as a subject, direct object, subject complement, adjective, or adverb in a sentence. 
3. Gerunds (noun): A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing and functions as a noun. It expresses action or a state of being. However, since a gerund functions as a noun, it occupies some positions in a sentence that a noun ordinarily would, for example: subject, direct object, subject complement, and object of preposition. Gerunds are active voice. The only time a gerund is passive is when it is used after verbs need, require and want. Examples: I have three shirts that need washing. (need to be washed) This letter requires signing. (needs to be signed) The house wants repainting. (needs to be repainted)
A gerund can be:
Subjects: Smoking costs a lot of money. Traveling might satisfy your desire for new experiences. Running provides good exercise.
Direct objects: Sylvia hates biting her fingernails. Jack does not appreciate my singing. The boys enjoy running.
Indirect objects: I resent their hitting golf balls into my back yard.
Objects of prepositions: The police arrested Todd for speeding. Miss Scott reprimanded Sally for running in the hall.
Predicate nominatives: The best exercise is running. A predicate nominative or predicate noun completes a linking verb and renames the subject. It is a complement or completer because it completes the verb. Predicate nominatives complete only linking verbs, which writers try to eliminate: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been; the sense verbs look, taste, smell, feel, and sound; and verbs like become, seem, appear, grow, continue, stay, and turn.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Do The Write Thing for Nashville

Photo by hortongrou/StockXchange.com

Wondering how you can help people affected by the flooding in Nashville? (If you're not up-to-date on the story, go here.)

Writers Victoria Schwab, Amanda Morgan and Myra McEntire came up with the idea of Do the Write Thing for Nashville, an online auction to raise money for flood relief.
Writers, editors and agents are donating a variety of items to be auctioned off including:

Daily items are listed for three days only (10-15 items per day). You post bids in the Comments section of the blog and, if you win, you pay via PayPal. For all the details, go here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Overcoming Rejection.

Harlan David Sanders, best known as Colonel Sanders, owned an automobile service station in Corbin, Kentucky, where he also cooked meals for customers. Eventually, he moved to a restaurant and perfected his method of cooking chicken using a pressure fryer—and don’t forget those eleven herbs and spices. On the verge of success, construction of Interstate 75 diverted traffic—and most of his customers—from his restaurant, forcing him to close.

At age 65, Sanders had nothing more than faith in his talent for cooking chicken. He drove around the country in the 1950’s trying to sell franchises to restaurant owners who hadn’t asked for one. He faced over one thousand rejections before making his first sale. Yet, by 1964, more than 600 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises existed. Later, Colonel Sanders sold his business for a huge profit.

I can't imagine how Colonel Sanders continued to persevere over rejection those 999 times. Let's not succumb to rejection of our manuscripts. Instead, let us be like the Colonel and continue with faith in ourselves and our stories.


Writers on Rejection:

"Practice, practice, practice until you eventually get numb on rejections."
~ Brian Klemmer

"After rejection—misery, then thoughts of revenge, and finally, oh well, another try elsewhere. " ~ Mason Cooley

We keep going back, stronger, not weaker, because we will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful there is no other way." ~ Earl G. Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine

"There are two wrong reactions to a rejection slip: deciding it's a final judgment on your story and/or talent, and deciding it's no judgment on your story and/or talent." ~ Nancy Kress

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them." ~ Isaac Asimov

Every writer faces rejection. How do you deal with it?

~Roxanne Sherwood

Monday, May 3, 2010

Use Find & Replace and Highlighting to Save Time Editing

"Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination."—Louise Brooks

The first and last thing I self-edit on a manuscript includes finding and eliminating passive and overused verbs. Like on a search and destroy mission, I use the Find & Replace function to highlight passive and overused verbs.
Although grammar check won’t point out every passive verb or repeated word, turn on grammar check to point out passive sentences. Here’s how to turn it on: Tools>;Spellcheck>;Options>;Check grammar with spelling.
To Highlight all passive verbs in yellow, on the Edit menu, click Find. In the Find and Replace box, enter the passive verb or empty or repeated word. Then click on the Replace box. Type in same verb. Select Highlight. Then Find All.
Eliminate most passive verbs and insert active verbs.
Highlight passive verbs and most used verbs in yellow.
  • am, being, to be
  • is, is being, are, are being
  • was, were, was being, were being, will be, will have been,
  • has, have, had, having, has to, has been, have been, had been, would have been
  • do, does, did, doing
  • get, got, getting, gotten
  • use, uses, used, using
  • go, went, gone, going
  • could, would

To make the sentence active, flip the sentence.
  • P: Veils are worn by brides.
  • A: Brides wear veils.
  • P: My editing is an improvement on Sara’s manuscript.
  • A: My editing improves Sara’s manuscript.
  • P: The Marriott has wedding receptions.
  • A: The Marriott hosts wedding receptions.

Find and replace the top 25 most used words.
According to the billion-word Oxford English Corpus, the most frequently used verbs that express basic concepts are: be, have, do, say, get, make, go, know, take, see, come, think, look, want, give, use, find, tell, ask, work, seem, feel, try, leave, call.
Save time using an online thesaurus.
Enter the verb into the search field at thesaurus.co
Peruse the list of synonyms. What are the advantages of finding synonyms online?  Beside listing the part of speech, synonyms and antonyms, thesaurus.com provides:
  • Definitions: Make sure you find the correct word that communicates your thought.
  • Notes:  Helps you eliminate those pesky common usage errors. For example: affect/effect: as a noun, affect means 'a feeling or emotion,' whereas effect means 'the result or consequence of some action or process'; as a verb, to affect means 'to exert an influence upon,' and implies the action of a stimulus that can produce a response or reaction, whereas to effect means 'to bring about as a result' effect is a noun referring to a thing, but if you mean an action, that is affect; if you want the verb meaning 'achieve, bring about,' that is effect
  • Synonyms: The synonym list also links synonyms to other synonyms. No need to flip pages in a book, one click lets you explore and find the precise word to best fit. 
If you're looking to save time, use Find and Replace and the highlighting function to speed up editing a rough or final manuscript.