Author: Karley Conklin Page 1 of 2

writing resources

Writing Resources: Before and After the Book Deal

“Remember that ‘author’ is always a temporary job description . . . Your permanent job description is ‘writer’ and that’s what you are even when no one else is looking.” —Author Kristoper Jansma (quoted in Before and After the Book Deal, pp. 333)

Today’s publishing world offers a plethora of writing resources. A simple search for ‘writing’ on Amazon alone yields over 300,000 results, and that number doesn’t even begin to cover the host of blogs and magazines addressing the subject. However, even with the abundance of information that exists to help you land that first book deal, the question remains, what do you do when you get there? What is it really like publishing your first book? Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal gives writers an idea of what to expect during their first dive into the publishing world.

About the Book:

Before and After the Book Deal covers the publishing track almost step-by-step. As implied by the title, Courtney Maum walks her readers through concerns for prepublication all the way to life after their debuts. She gives a wide-range of both technical and personal advice.

For example, in the first section, you’ll find tips on the usual categories: developing voice, revision, and submissions. But you’ll also come across less-familiar topics. Tips for financial planning and questions about advances make an appearance, as well as a discussion of when it’s okay to call yourself a writer. Maum blends the nitty-gritty details about publishing with colorful advice from personal experience. She acknowledges the insecurities, jealousies, and bouts of ego that many authors face and gives tips to weather them.

Aside from Maum’s broad range of topics, her unique style makes the book special. Courtney Maum incorporates throughout interviews with editors, publishers, agents, and fellow authors. The balance of advice from experts in the field makes this book a treasure trove of helpful insight.

Unique in scope and style, Before and After the Book Deal is a gem in the world of writing resources.

My Three Main Take-Aways:

While this book provides a multitude of valuable insights, these are three general take-aways I found.

1: You’re not alone.

Writing, let alone publishing, can be isolating. It involves a lot of work, fears, and discouragement. There are days we feel insecure and fall victim to the comparison game. And sometimes, those struggles can make us doubt whether we’re cut out for this calling. But reading Maum’s book reminded me that many writers go through the same excitement and disappointments I face, and that’s encouraging. It’s encouraging to know that other people understand the doubts and stress that comes with writing, as well as the joys. As writers, we’re part of a community, even if we don’t always feel like it.

2: There’s a lot more to publishing than meets the eye.

Even though I’ve attended writing conferences, read books about publishing, and even helped produce a literary journal during college, this book was incredibly eye-opening for me. Maum talks about so many things I’ve never considered. How do audio-book rights work? How many copies do you have to sell for a publisher to consider it a success? What exactly is the criteria of a bestseller? Etc. Etc. I finished Before and After the Book Deal with a much greater appreciation for how much goes into publishing–and selling–a book.

3: At the end of the day, it’s the writing that matters.

Publishing involves so much non-writing activity. Interviews, social media platforms, book reviews, events–in all those extras, your identity as an author is incredibly public. But at the end of the day, that public face couldn’t exist without the quiet background writer. And that creative identity, that work that few people see, that place where we let our voice speak loudest, matters most. While others may have a million expectations for us as authors, we need to put our work as writers first. Before we ever consider publishing, we have to put the words on the page. And those words, the stories we have to tell, are where our core message resides.

 

Before the Book Deal by Courtney Maum is now one of my favorite writing resources. It’s informative, it’s relatable, and most of all, it helps me feel prepared to keep moving forward.

What are some of your favorite writing resources currently?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )

 

 

 

self-editing for fiction writers

3 Tips from “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”

“The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.”–Zadie Smith

Write2Ignite’s  2020 Master class with  Joyce Moyer Hostetter is only a month away. The Write2Ignite team has suggested checking out several chapters of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King as a way to prepare for the workshop. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of the great insights this book has to offer.

So Here are 3 Helpful Tips from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers:

1: Characterization and Exposition

As writers, we can be tempted to tell our readers everything we want them to know upfront. We want to make sure they have the information they need to enjoy our stories.  However, if we try to stuff all those details into long paragraphs of narration, our readers disconnect. It’s better to let them learn about our characters and settings bit by bit. Giving information gradually draws readers in and allows them to make their own conclusions.

Browne and King suggest ways to reveal our characters naturally through dialogue and actions. When they come to discussing settings and world-building, they write:

“Bear in mind that this kind of background is really characterization, only what’s being characterized is a culture rather than a person. And as was the case with characterization, readers can best learn about your locations and backgrounds not through lengthy exposition but by seeing them in real life,” (pp. 35).

Just as we want our readers to meet our characters, we want our audience to experience our worlds. Rather than simply explaining, we can reveal the setting and culture naturally through the eyes of our characters.

2: Proportion

Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much time we should spend on certain events, descriptions, and characters in our writing. Spending too much time on unimportant details can mislead, bore, or even annoy our audience. Spending too little time can confuse or disappoint readers. The space spent on scenes needs to be balanced.

Letting our characters guide our decisions on what to focus on helps tremendously. Browne and King suggest, “You can avoid smaller-scale proportion problems . . . by paying attention to your characters. When you’re writing from an intimate point of view, your character’s interest at the moment should control the degree of detail you put into your description,” (pp.77).

3: See How It Sounds

One of the best reminders Browne and King offer is the value of reading your work aloud. Hearing a scene rather than just seeing the words makes problem areas infinitely more clear. Our eyes auto-correct in a way our ears simply refuse to. As Browne and King write, “The eyes can be fooled, but the ear knows,” (pp. 107). This is especially true for dialogue, considering that we’re used to hearing people speak. We know what people sound like, and so we can pick up unnatural rhythms when we hear them.

Browne and King go on to add that, “Reading dialogue aloud can help you develop your characters’ unique voices,” (pp. 107). They suggest reading all of the dialogue from one particular character and taking note of the patterns.  Reading their words aloud can help us consider how they would say something; to get into that characters’ mindset. Much like an actor trying to determine how to play a role, we need to shape our dialogue to match the characters speaking.

 

Final Review:

Whether you’re planning to attend the Write2Ignite workshop or not, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an excellent resource to have on your shelf. Browne and King balance their practical advice with engaging examples from books that handle writing techniques well (and some that handle them poorly). Each chapter includes a checklist of what to watch out for in your own writing, as well as exercises to help practice what you learn. The book is clear and easy to read, making it a perfect guide for new writers as well as a great refresher for experienced authors.

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

 

 

 

editing tips form a woodcarver

3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” -Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You’ve probably never thought to ask for editing tips from a woodcarver. I normally wouldn’t, either. Yet this past week, I had a little time to spend on my ongoing woodcarving project–a woodland-themed chess set that will likely take forever and a day to complete.  As I sat outside chipping away at my little cube of wood, I realized that woodcarving and editing have some surprising similarities.

Creative endeavors often speak to one another. The basics of creating something useful or meaningful or lovely jump across the boundaries between different mediums.  And when you indulge in different art forms, the principles of one art can offer helpful reminders for the other.

So here are 3 Editing Tips from a Woodcarver:

1. Start with your rough-out (and don’t be discouraged by it!):

The first step in turning a block of wood into a bird, or horse, or (in my case) a mushroom, is to rough out the general shape of your piece. You lop off corners, carve out chunks, and usually end up with an ugly mass that only slightly resembles your finished product. The wood is rough with splinters and frayed edges. But that’s to be expected. The rough-out is just a template of what’s to come, so no one expects it to be perfect.

When it comes to editing, our first drafts act as our rough-outs. They’re the beginning stage, rough-hewn and maybe a little ugly. It can be discouraging to read through the result of long hours of writing only to discover many flaws that still need to be fixed. What we must remember is that the first draft is just the general shape of our stories; just our template of what’s to come. Think it of it as the necessary, unavoidable first step and keep going forward.

(And if you’re one of those people with perfect first drafts, please send us mere mortals the name of your muse. We’d love to meet her.)

2. Cut. Cut, and chip, and carve away everything you don’t need:

Once you finish your rough-out, you can carve with more confidence. You cut away everything unnecessary to your piece, slowly excavating your vision from the wood. Big cuts, little cuts, long cuts, short cuts. Every change you make in carving is done by taking away. You can’t add more wood, you can’t move sections of wood around. You can only subtract what you don’t need. Woodcarving is the art of discerning the essential from the nonessential, and creating something beautiful from what’s left.

In editing, we have a little more freedom. We can add more words to our block if needed. We can shift paragraphs and chapters around. Even so, the ability to cut away anything inessential to our story makes our work infinitely stronger.

3. Step back and look at the big picture periodically.

One of the final steps in carving is smoothing out the surface. Smoothing and rounding wood, in a way that looks natural, requires working gradually. You can’t focus solely on one spot; you have to work from one side to the other. Each cut blends into the next, starting at a distance and working softly toward the spot that needs to be fixed. If you don’t keep the big picture in mind, you can end up cutting away too much without realizing it, or creating stark edges that look unnatural.

In editing, it’s easy to make changes that cause problems in other areas. We can labor over one scene or chapter, getting it just right, only to discover that now it doesn’t fit the chapters surrounding it. As we edit, we have to make sure we step back occasionally and look at the bigger picture. Our changes need to blend into each other and make the story flow.

Bonus Tip: Have Patience with Yourself

Editing, like woodcarving, takes time. If you rush the process, you miss the opportunity to polish your piece to the best of your ability. Have patience with yourself and your work; allow yourself time to check over the details. That way when the times comes, and you decide to call your work complete, you can feel confident that you’ve done your best.

 

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. In what ways do your hobbies speak to your writing?

 

 

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

bird by bird

Bird By Bird: A Timeless Writing Resource

“‘So why does our writing matter again?’ they ask. Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” –Anne Lamott, pp. 237

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott should be on every writer’s shelf. Her advice offers encouragement through an honest discussion of what writing is like. Lamott sits her reader down and shares her experience as though she were chatting over a cup of coffee. As she shares, she addresses the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and even jealousy that almost all writers face at some point. In doing so, she reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles. We all hit the wall on occasion, and it’s possible to keep going despite those setbacks.

Throughout the book, Lamott gives insight on ways to improve our writing. She offers advice on how to write better dialogue, how to stay motivated, and how to find a writing group. But mostly what she provides is inspiration to persevere. Every piece of insight resounds with encouragement (even while Lamott acknowledges the hardships of being a writer). And that prompting to persist, paired with her pithy advice, makes the book well-worth reading.

So here I want to share three of my favorite tid-bits of advice from the book:

1. “Dialogue is the way to nail character” (pp. 67).

In both her chapter on characters and her chapter on dialogue, Anne Lamott emphasizes the connection between the two. She argues that creating one line of strong dialogue that rings true captures your character better than a whole page of description (47). What a character says, or doesn’t say, or how he says it tells the reader how he thinks and what he cares about. Dialogue gives us insight into the personality of the people we read about and brings them to life. And therefore getting to know our characters is vital to creating good dialogue.

(*If you’d like to learn more about how to create strong characters and great dialogue, you should consider checking out Write2Ignite’s Master Class in September!)

2. “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty” (pp. 178).

Lamott’s chapter on writer’s block focuses on the truth that all writers experience dry periods. Sometimes we get burnt out and our creativity stops flowing the way it usually does. Lamott says that the best thing to do when we reach these moments is to accept the block, the empty reality, so we can fill up again (pp.178). Her advice is practical: “Do your three hundred words, and then go for a walk” (182). Write a little each day to keep up the habit but then focus on activities that nourish you. Replenish your creativity rather than trying to eke out ink from a dry pen.

3. “You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be a writing” (pp. 202-203).

Bird by Bird includes an entire chapter dedicated to writing as giving. Our works-in-progress, she says, “teach you to get out of yourself and become a person for someone else” (203-204). In order to write well, we have to pour everything we have into our writing. And in doing so, we have a chance to act as hosts for our readers, to welcome them in and offer them a feeling of connection (204).

This is especially important for us as Christians. If writing is our calling, then we should be willing to give it all we’ve got. Our words should be for God and for others, not simply for ourselves.

Final Review:

I could go on a while longer, pulling out clever quotes from Lamott’s book. But instead, I’ll simply recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.

Bird by Bird isn’t an earth-shattering text holding the key to the inner sanctum of writing. Instead, this book offers solid advice to steadily improve. It offers relatable accounts of the difficulties of writing and an honest assessment of what it’s like to be published. Lamott encourages us that while writing probably won’t bring us fame or fortune, it does carry with it its own rewards. Her whole book, start to finish, reverberates with the cry, “Just keep going.”

I give her book 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, if you’re looking for a rating.

What books have been encouraging you lately?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

writing goals

3 Tips for Restoring Broken Writing Goals

“I ask again, ‘What are your Writing Goals?’ Now sit down and write them out and put them where you can see them every day,”  (Lynette Hall Hampton, Writer to Writer, pp. 9)

In the sum of the writing resources I’ve read, the importance of setting writing goals is a common theme. Advice for would-be authors often includes a call to set your goals, make a plan to achieve them, and to stick with that plan. But what do we do with the plans we don’t stick to? How do we deal with the goals we’ve neglected so often that they’ve fallen to the wayside and shattered? What do we do with our broken writing goals?

My Problem Child

After reading the third chapter of Writer to Writer, I sat down to make my list of goals, like I’ve done so many times in the past few years. As is my habit, I started to write, “Finish editing Clouded Skies,” and I stopped before the pen hit the paper. In that moment, I knew this list would be meaningless for me.

You see, I finished writing my first book, Clouded Skies, five years ago. Then I went to college, and my goal of editing the book ended up on the shelf. It sat there, collecting dust, despite the many, many to-do lists with “edit Clouded Skies” written across the top. Finishing my first book was scribbled on every set of New Year’s resolutions and every list of plans for the summer. I set myself multiple deadlines of when I’d have it done, all of which passed without notice. Until recently, I never got past editing chapter four.

And because the book sat on the shelf for so long, the goal of finishing it came to feel less and less achievable.

My Realization

I realized this week that our goals are promises we make to ourselves, and when we break those promises, we break our own trust. In neglecting my goals, I began to doubt my abilities and commitment as a writer because I’d created a pattern of ignoring what I claimed was important.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. When life’s busy seasons hit full-force, it can become easy to believe that our goals belong on the back-burner. If we give into that temptation, we chip away at our confidence in our calling. Broken writing goals can damage our relationship with our writing voice, and like in any relationship, that damaged trust has to be rebuilt little by little.

So how do we restore our broken writing goals?

1. Put down the list—

If you’re like me and you’re dealing with goals you’ve neglected, stop writing them down. Stop talking about them. Even stop picturing them as goals. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I found that talking about my neglected project made it feel like an item on my bucket list. Finishing my book became a nebulous idea rather than a goal of substance–an idea trapped in the realm of “someday”.

So rather than viewing your project as a goal, view it as a priority. Let it become a normalized part of your life, like cooking dinner or doing laundry. Stop talking about your goal as a dream; instead, treat it as a reality.

2. Embrace imperfection—

Another issue that kept me procrastinating was my belief that my book had to be perfect. The fear that my book would never be as good as I believed it could be was crippling . . . until I made the decision that it’s worth the risk.

In writing, just like in life, sometimes being present is far more important than being perfect. Showing up, shaping the words, and sending them out guarantees growth if nothing else. So allow yourself room to make mistakes and go get started.

3. Take action—

Start small. Maybe it’s setting an appointment with yourself to write five minutes a day. Perhaps it’s entering one contest. Even if you aren’t ready to start marching toward that one big goal, take small steps to complete other goals that lead up to it. Making progress on other writing-related activities proves to yourself that you are serious about this dream. It shouts that you are ready to commit and be proactive.

Bonus Tip:  Make a Plan. Stick to it–

When we’ve neglected a goal for a while, it might take some time to get back into a good rhythm. We might need to shift our approach to get the ball rolling again, but there’s no magic formula for keeping momentum once we’ve started. At the end of the day, we still have to decide to persevere. We still have to persistently move forward, choosing daily, weekly, monthly to keep striving toward the goals we feel called to reach.

But here’s the good news: a broken goal isn’t beyond repair. Even if you’re doubting yourself, the fact that the goal remains on your list is proof that you haven’t given up. You haven’t let it go.

And if you are truly called to write, then I believe that God won’t let you give up. I believe He’ll keep tugging at your heart, nudging you to follow the path He’s set before you.

What’s one way you’re striving to meet your goals today?

 


Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

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