Posts Tagged With: help with writing

Hunting for an Agent Part II

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7.

Here are more  features of Agent Hunter I like:

Meet Agents

Some agents make themselves available to meet writers at conferences like the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York. If you want to meet agents, you can set this option to “yes” to select only those agents you have a chance of meeting face to face.

Notice when we say meet, we do not mean stalk. You are not encouraged to follow an agent around during a three day conference.

Hakone

Sometimes, everything is linked.

  • Do know who you want to sign up to meet during an agent speed dating session.
  • Do sit in on their presentation.
  • Do discover who they represent who is also at the conference and talk with THAT author.
  • Do sit  at their table during a meal.
  • Don’t trap them in the rest room
  • Don’t push your manuscript to them under the bathroom stall door  (true story).
  • Don’t follow them outside to share a smoke if you don’t smoke.

Blogs / Twitter

If an agent blogs or tweets, you can sometimes get a useful idea of who they are and what they want. If you value that kind of data, set these search terms to “Yes” to select only those agents with the relevant online profile.

If you are a fan of Twitter, do follow the agents you love!  It’s cheaper than a conference and easier to start a relationship. When to follow?  Now, even as you are creating your book. By setting up the relationship ahead of time, you’ll be poised to send off your book to the right agent, who, at the very least, will send you a more personal rejection.

On line directories and sites are very, very helpful in honing in on the best agent to pitch to.  It does take time. The most frustrating part of finding an agent is how long it can take. Overnight success is like that.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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Hunting for an Agent Part I

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7, in the mean time,  today and Thursday I’ll list a couple of features about the site and about finding an agent.

Oh, and first of all – for fiction, have the MS finished, really finished, already reviewed by friends/professional, already edited, and copy edited.  THEN you are ready to hunt down an agent.

Emily Carr's House

Emily Carr’s House – She had an agent.

For non-fiction, you’ll need a full outline and maybe the first two chapters written, and a strong proposal.

Here are features of Agent Hunter I like:

Who Represents Who

If you love an author, you can use a keyword search to see if you can locate the agent who represents that author. Do note that not all agents disclose their client lists, so the keyword search won’t work where a given client-author relationship is not public.

This is marvelous idea and well worth the visit to Agent Hunter.  Is your book “like” another author’s book? Do you write similar things?   Have you met an author who recommended you look up her agent and now you can’t remember the agent’s name?  This feature can really help, because believe it or not, that high concept pitch – my book is just like X –  is very helpful.

Likes / hates (keyword)

If you’ve written a thriller set in the Italian Alps, try searching on related keywords (Italy, thriller, mountaineering, mountains, Alps, etc) to see if you can locate a thriller addicted mountaineering agent. We get likes / dislikes data direct from agents and from other published sources.

Again, what a good idea.  I’ve talked with agents who really, really resent listing what they like, announcing what they like, handing out business cards with the list on the back of what they like and they still receive pitches for books that have nothing to do with what they like.

I had the misfortune of meeting with an agent who said he only dealt with macho books filled with car chases and explosions.  I held a manuscript filled with relationship angst.  Terrible fit,  but I was devastated anyway.  Sending your precious book to the wrong agent can set you back weeks or even months.  Don’t do it.  Set yourself up for success!

Read more in two days.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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Newbie Writer Podcast Guest Carly Findlay

Thank you Carly Findlay at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com for being a great guest on Newbie Writers.  She had a few bits of advice for bloggers:

  • Just start writing
  • Stay with it

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend which has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with wine

  • Write about what you like
  • Don’t let it become a chore
  • Sign up for social media
  • A writing career is 40 percent marketing, so  use social media
  • If you are using twitter, a strategy is to be considered a   trusted source, so people follow you  in order to get the information they need.
  • And of course, the twitter and the facebook and the linked in all direct followers to your blog!

And if you want to know if your book has what it takes,

Contact me for your complimentary consultation and book – Start Your Book Now

Bramkamp@yahoo.com

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Why listen to me? From an abortive interview on blog talk radio

 

I agreed to an interview on a blog talk podcast.  The podcaster was just beginning to get the hang of podcasting, and I’m happy to help fledging efforts.

Except the show was double booked.

I phoned in, and the host greeted me, then proceeded to interview someone else entirely, leaving me in that limbo where you don’t know if you should check out, mute and feed the dog, or butt in.

I listened for half hour and was never acknowledged.

The dog went hungry.Tulip Tree

What went wrong?

If you want to create a podcast about your book, go for it.  But I anticipate that you may get bored just talking to yourself, so you’ll want to invite guests, just to liven up your hour or half hour podcast.

Once you incorporate guests, you must also incorporate that most complex organization system known to writers – the calendar.  Keep track of your guests.  And while you’re at it, keep track of their information and emails.

Newbie Writers Podcast uses a Google Calendar so my partner Damien can  see what I’ve scheduled without asking.

Send a confirmation to your guests a few days ahead of time, it helps them remember and helps YOU remember who’s calling into the podcast.

That said, have a few back up shows you can implement  in case the guest bails.

In a blog talk environment, you don’t have timing control so have a clear idea of what you want to hear from the guest, and keep to one theme or subject.

In my case during this blog talk podcast, the first guest took up the whole half hour show time, which was not necessarily a problem, but if that happen,  send a quick note right at that moment to apologize to the silent guest and re schedule.

I had a situation where my partner over slept because his time change in Australia (from Fall to Winter) occurs during a different week than the CA time change (from Winter to Spring).  Our guest was ready to interview at exactly 3:30 and couldn’t wait and talk at a later time.   We simply cancelled   and I immediately re-scheduled the guest.

Guests do spend time organizing their thoughts and making room in their schedule to talk with you.  Do be conscious of their time; it’s professional and polite.

Conversely, last week my partner developed a hideous cold, plus the scheduled guest wrote and asked if we could interview him at 6:00 PM PDT instead of 4:00 PDT.  Nope.  We too are on a schedule.  So if your guest can’t accommodate the times of your show, it’s perfectly okay to firmly and nicely say no and either reschedule or realize that this guest may not work out.

In this business sometimes it’s you, and sometimes it’s me.

I’m thinking it’s mostly you.

 

Sign into the live feed during the Newbie Writers Podcast – Friday, 4:00 PM PDT.

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In Despair

Typewriter IrelandIn despair about your novel?  Come join my pity party.

I have a novel, I have the rough, rough first draft – created during NaNoWriMo.  And I was delighted with it, it was, of course, brilliant and interesting and insightful.

Then I began thinking about it.

  • I thought about it while watching Back to The Future for the 55th time.
  • I thought about it while creating blogs (there is a lovely, deadline based – immediacy to blogging).
  • I thought about it while cleaning the house.

When I   collapse on the couch and choose to watch  Back to the Future again, am I lazy or researching?

When I wander around the house muttering about dust, am I wasting time or considering the complex plot points that are apparently  more complex than necessary, or  am I wasting more time?

When I blog about writing a book, does that count as “real” writing?

Does thinking about the book  count as writing the book?

We all ask these questions as we push and pull and examine our forming plots like ameba under a microscope. Sometimes I think If I leave the little creatures alone in their dish, they will morph into something interesting without help or even further observation on my part.

This is the hope.

When I was younger, I could never understand the idea of an author taking ten years to create their book and story.  Now I get it.

It’s easy to think about my book as it is to make excuses:   I have to teach at night and am too tired to write.  I have to diet and now I’m too hungry to write.  I’m cranky because my brother is visiting from out of town, I’m busy wishing my sibling would return from where he came.  I must let the dog out. I must pick up after the dog.

I’m good at this.

What can we do when we are circling, circling   around our imagined book, not writing but slowing walking a maze, withe the work at the center.  Thinking is good – I’m a big fan of thinking.

But I also know, even as I walk a maze, that walking and thinking are poor substitutes for actually putting something – anything – down on paper.

  • So I sat down and created about a minute of dialogue.
  • Then I sat down and described one scene.
  • Then I realized that the heroine needed to be in more danger.  So I described the danger.

Did writing this blog put off the writing the story?  You bet.

Just wanted you to know you are not the only writer hiding in the shower for 45 minutes or until the hot water runs out waiting for that ultimate moment of inspiration.

We’re all doing it.  And on behalf of all the writers in the shower or cleaning it,  good luck.

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Don’t Do This!

Books out doorsWhat we don’t read  can be as instructive as what we do.

I found this Linked In post in my in box:

This is Interesting

“Hmm, where do I even begin? There is so much to share. I am so blessed every day and I just hope I can remember everything that has happened!  When so much awesomeness happens I am compelled to immediately share with with you all here, as it is most fitting and want to share my good news with you all!  This month my recovery…”

– from a real linked-in post but I altered the details 

In this Linked- In post, the headline is the best part.  But the opening narrative is ineffective and a turn off.  We are not, on any level, compelled to read anything more.  So the writer could be announcing the end of the world, and we’d miss it, because she didn’t start her post well.

A long time ago writers commanded  enough page space to be able to “clear our throats” , we had time to set up a comment or explain all the points necessary for an essay to really sing.

But now we don’t.

Those opening lines cannot be wasted, they are the critical and arguably the most important part of a post or a blog. They must   grab the reader’s attention. And with this post, by the time I read to the third line – I was out, I  did not have the time to listen to the writer’s thinking process.

The solution is easy.  Do clear your throat.  Write all that introductory material because it helps focus the work and gets you really into your subject.  But before you post the work, delete those opening sentences and just start with something interesting like zombies invaded my home last night!  It’s the end of the world.

I guarantee  you I will continue to read.

Do you have a novel in you?

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Possibly Not Really Productive

Cologne TypewriterWhen I’ve been spending more time reading blogs and newsletters than  writing my material, I feel like my son who used to sit very still and quietly in class.  The teacher was thrilled he wasn’t making trouble, and he wasn’t.  Of course, he wasn’t learning anything either.

For weeks I’ve been sitting quietly at the computer – typing, reading and generally looking very engaged and busy. And I am thrilled with all the work I’ve been doing.  But I haven’t really accomplished a damn thing.

Writers and creatives are at risk for miserable failure if we don’t  understand the difference between being busy and being productive.

Because distinguishing between the two can be tricky.

Sometimes an afternoon of reading was spent  gathering ideas,  researching and catching up with industry trends.   Ot it’s a  colossal waste of time.

Conversely, in a traditional job, taking a walk in the middle of the afternoon, chatting in the break room, standing around in the hallway, is considered goofing off.  For a writer, those exchanges, especially the walks, are critical to real production.

Day dreaming is productive

Checking Facebook is not.

Lunch with a friend, or better, lunch with a fellow writer, is productive.

Eating at your desk, compulsively answering every email is just exhausting and will give you heartburn.

Since Just sitting at the computer does not necessarily mean you are accomplishing anything, how do you know you have been productive?

The increasing word count on the novel is a big indicator.

Another indicator is how tired you are.  Not emotionally exhausted, or frustrated but tired.

Writing is a full body activity; we lean in, we tense up.  We hurt ourselves because we’ve held a crouching tiger position for hours as we bang on the keyboard or scratch with our pens.  We get carpal tunnel and bursitis and leg cramps.  And paper cuts, but I never get any sympathy for those.

Are you exhausted  because you’ve spent the morning in the zone?

Or are you just emotionally exhausted from a project  that has been over thought to death?

Did you finish up your work at exactly 5:00 and think, GOD I need a drink, I’m so finished with this.

Or did you finish for the day because a power failure killed the computer and stopped you cold?  But you unearthed a flashlight and notebook and continued?

Set this idea of  being busy aside, and tap into your passion;  allow it to drive the process instead of over  thinking it.  Put  away the to do list, turn off the alerts for email and Facebook and just focus on the book, even if only for   ten minutes.

It may be the most productive part of your day.

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Why Post Your Novel?

Flower and wireA strategy that writers employe when working on their fiction books is to post sections of the book  on their blog and solicit feedback from their blog readers. Successful writers like Guy Kawasaki   – routinely post their books in progress and get immediate feedback and in turn, make immediate changes.  But why do it? Should a writer be concerned that someone will steal the work?  Nope.  In the US the work is copy write  protected as soon as it leaves your fingers.  And if it is “stolen,” the providence is easy to prove.  And if you are lucky and it’s stolen and distributed – you just increased your fan base, possibly your klout.

So if you are stuck, or if you’d like to experiment, posting your on-going story can accomplish a number of goals:

  • It builds your base of fans who will purchase the book
  • Those fans will be the first to purchase your book, why?  Because they are involved with the book already.
  • Those are the fans you count when you   approach a publisher or agent
  • And if you are lucky, those fans give you feedback you can use
  • Those fans will give you encouragement to keep writing
  • Conversely they may give you feedback that encourages you to stop writing – which while depressing, is at least an answer.

This week on Newbie Writers Podcast we are reading a section of my current project and commenting on it.  I have posted a section here so you can play the game at home.

Comment here or email me.

And thanks!

 

Opening chapter – The Five Elements of Time

Premise: what if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks?

A rock shattered the stained glass window scattering shards of red glass at Charity’s feet.

She glanced up at the hole, almost perfectly round.  Through it the sky hovered  gray, heavy, and un-changed. The hole let in the escalating chanting outside.

 

Preacher John stopped Charity from reading any more from the One True Word.

A big imposing man, twice the size of slender Charity, he never the less, glanced out at the men in the congregation for approval.  Charity didn’t see a single nod, or twitch from any one, but there must have been some sign.

“We will exit, this way.”  The man of the One True God gestured, and the fathers pulled their wives and children from the   cavernous temple and through a narrow door behind the pulpit.

Charity carefully set down the One True Word on the pulpit and silently waited to join her family. She was not frightened, the village riots had been increasing in the last few years. The Government Guards would protect them.  It was just a aberration.

She glanced at the shattered window.

The families didn’t  pause in the walled courtyard, where Charity used to play after daily Temple service.  Her father led their family of five out  through another door to the  old abandoned parking structure and finally to narrow alley.

The sound of the chanting rose and fell, punctuated by the shattering of another window, of the temple or of a house, she was not certain.

The low beamed ceiling of the old parking structure was oppressive enough to hurry the congregation to the far door.  She looked around for their preacher, their leader but he was no where to be found.

Did he escape and leave them to fend for themselves?  You don’t leave your flock, or in the RC you never leave anyone’s avatar on the battle field.  Even girls knew that.

“Heathens!”  Preacher John’s voice rose above the babble of the villagers.  He must have stomped through the  front doors even as the last of the congregation members slipped  out the back.  His sudden words burst over the angry crowd.  Charity felt, rather than heard a lull in the chanting as the big metal doors of the Temple clanged open. There was a pause, but then the crowd roared again.

She didn’t know there were that many villagers to make up such a crowd.

“That was the last of the colored windows.”  Charity’s mother commented.  Father, with one hand pulling Faith and the other gripping Hope, said nothing, he pulled them all along as fast as they could run.

Charity was unaccustomed to moving this fast and her breath caught as she struggled to keep pace.  Young  ladies strolled sedately, took their time, did not call attention to themselves.  But now everyone was running, slowly,  Charity was surprised at how many she out paced, but it was evil to be proud.  Not proud, but opportunistic.  She took  advantage of the chaos to  pull  off her floppy brimmed hat and drag  at her scarf, she couldn’t breath. Father had not slowed his pace, Faith was struggling to keep up, Father pulled her relentlessly behind him. Hope wheezed next to mother, Charity keeping up behind.

Charity raised her head and looked directly up into the sky.  It loomed low and gray over their Great Suburb.  Familiar houses seemed to shimmer under the diffused daylight.

The homes in their neighborhood were a purposeful jumble of architectural  style, created to reflect the whim of the owners rather than display a uniform cohesion.  Half timbered Tudors butted up adjacent to Craftsman Modern, and Mid Century Glory.  All the homes in their neighborhood were Beautiful Mansions, fronted by lush lawns and gardens. Charity glance at them, familiar, solid.  But as she ran, the facades  seemed to  shiver  before her, as if they were painted transparencies.  Charity squinted wondering if she needed laser surgery so soon, at 18.

They raced to their own home, an  imposing Victorian Mansion,  Her father did not loosen his grip on her younger sister, even after they gained their own front walk.  There were no walls around their home so they were still vulnerable.  Charity glanced around and watched her neighbors disappear into their pretty homes.

Some of the C Executives the families of the very powerful. Like the Knight leaders, they all lived in low walled compounds, in the center of the suburbs.  She was sure they were all there now, behind bunkers of their own making.

Charity replaced her hat, not wanting to anger her father who was clearly agitated.  She glanced down at the earth, since there was no where else to look but down.  The ground wavered, it was lush green, then brown, then green.  She blinked and followed her family into the safety of their home.

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Where do you go for on-line creative writing classes?

We received a great question during the podcast –  Where do you go for on-line creative writing classes?

On line Classes

A Google search is the best way to discover on -line creative writing classes. Classes  appear and disappear like a whack-a-mole game, so search for what you want when you need the information, it is likely to change tomorrow.

There are many MOOC-like offerings through universities as well as privately operated creative writing classes like  Writers.com – and Creative Writing Now

Keep CalmI’m currently serving on a steering committee to create  the  SFWriters University,  an extension of the popular SF Writers Conference  (Mark Hopkins, SF every February).  So watch for that to pop up like a whack -a-mole in the near future.

Writing Groups

Many creative writers get feedback and help on their manuscript by organizing their own critique group. A writing group typically comprises of three to nine members who meet regularly to read and  give feedback on each other’s work.  This is a great idea, it’s free and some writing groups have helped dozens of writers. But it’s not the ultimate solution for a Newbie Writer looking for actionable feedback.

Writing Group Pro:

A writing group helps keep you accountable and writing  because you need to produce a new piece for every meeting.

You  get feedback on drafts and reactions to your work from a neutral reader.

Writing Group Con:

Time – For every ten pages you turn in, you’ll need to read and critique the ten pages of every other member, a very good reason to keep the group to five or so members.

Consistency – it’s a volunteer group. Meeting times and place will change, members will not be able to attend, people will quit, not show or disappear.

Feedback –  the feedback you get may not be  the feedback you need.  And not all  feedback, even well intentioned,  is beneficial.

Next Steps –  The writing group is a great resource for the drafts of your creative work, but there is a good chance  they won’t be able to help with publication or promotion of your finished book.

Writing Coaches

A growing trend for a creative or nonfiction writer is to hire a writing coach or book doctor.  These coaches are professionals, not only skilled in communication and the publishing industry, but also hold advanced degrees in literature or creative writing.  Coaches deliver   the kind of feedback a writer really can use to improve writing and get published.  A coach can also bring a client along from inception straight through to publication.

I work as a writing coach and by coincidence, so do two of our recent guests on the Newbie Writer’s Podcast:

Stacey Aaronson

And Jordan Rosenfeld.

If you are considering a coach to help you with your writing project – listen to the April/May podcasts at Newbie Writers.  We can help.

 

 
Catharine is a writing coach as well –  
If you want to explore the possibilities,
Check out the 
Start Your Book Kit  
Complimentary copy of  Start Your Book
ComplimentaryConsultation ½ hour with Catharine
and a subscription Newbie News
Drop me a line at –  bramkamp@yahoo.com for your Start Your Book Kit.
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Author Beware

When the author pays a company to publish their book, it’s called a Vanity Press and after 100 plus years, it’s still a bad idea.

Linda Joy Myers passed this along to me through her Facebook feed. I’m passing it along to my blog readers as a public service announcement to Newbie Writers everywhere:  Watch out for Bogus Presses.

The author, David Gaughran discusses the latest conflation of what used to be called Vanity Presses but now are just called ; vanity presses.  Companies like Author Solutions – the display of which authors will find at every conference, promise everything and deliver little more than a book that you paid for, and a marketing plan that any 13 year old with a phone could create – in fact the 13 year old would do a better job, for just a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints.

top book is from Author House, second book is from iUniverse - both bad news.

top book is from Author House, second book is from iUniverse – both bad news.

What our word is – to you writers – is that the publishing world has certainly become more complicated, and because it’s easier and easier to publish, the promise are more grand, and the results more disappointing.

When it’s time to send your beloved book out into the world – you’ll have to pay some money: for copies, for editing, for distribution if you choose hard copies, for promotion.  boutique presses and Author Assist presses do charge authors for services and copies, but these smaller establishments also vet the book, help you hire the right editors and deliver good advice for marketing and promotion.  Larger legitimate houses deliver a small advance and all of the above at no charge to the author, however you “earn back” those monies in book sales, and that situation can be fraught with challenges as well.

Or you can be your own publisher and simply do it your self.  Again, you’ll need at the very least, a final copy editor and cover designer.  And you’ll need to buy (at a discount) copies of your books to mark-up and sell.

It’s depressing to learn that no one will really “take care of us”, on the other hand, as adults, it’s our job to figure out what is the best course and just do it.

I keep telling writers that writing their book, the drafts, the challenges, the late nights, the obsession, is really the best part.

 

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