Write2Ignite 2019 is history, but now your work begins! We hope you’re primed and ready to tackle a new project or pull out an old one that needs editing and polishing.
No matter how well we write, we all need someone with an objective perspective to critique our books. That’s why writing critique partners and groups are so valuable to us.
Still, we need to be careful. How do we process the feedback we receive? What is the background or experience of the people offering their critique?
We need to be especially intentional about the people we hire to edit our books. Are they familiar with the contemporary publishing industry? Someone with an in-depth knowledge of English or even classic literature may not be the best individual to edit our books. Which brings us to English teachers…
English teachers as editors?
At first blush, an English teacher sounds like the perfect editor. But the grammar and punctuation rules a teacher may follow might not be the same as those used by editors familiar with contemporary books in your genre.
For example, most of us were taught that sentence fragments are inappropriate. Yet they’re in frequent use today. And many classic literary works are heavy on flowery descriptions which contemporary fiction readers tend to pass over. As Elmore Leonard once said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”
Additionally, English teachers frequently encourage creative substitutes for the word “said.” However, in today’s publishing world “said” is better to be as invisible as possible. An even better choice is to replace it with physical beats. For example:
“No way!” Mary exclaimed.
As opposed to:
Mary slammed her fist on the table. “No way!”
Another example is the use of punctuation. From the perspective of an English teacher, semi-colons can be correctly used in fiction. However, in contemporary publishing, semi-colons are often discouraged in fiction. Why? They tend to pull the reader out of the story.
All that to say English teachers can be great editors as long as they also understand the current publishing environment.
Of course, they can be terrific at critiquing plot flow and character development. And they would also serve well as beta readers to provide feedback on whether your book held their interest.
So, definitely seek out critique partners and editors. But don’t make your choice based on titles or vocations. And when it comes to hiring an editor, connect with the individual to determine if they’re the right person to edit your work.
Bottom line: understand your genre’s standards and ensure your editor understands them, too!
Tessa Emily Hall – How to Sell Your Book to an Agent: What to Do and What to Avoid
You’ve spent months, if not years, writing and polishing your manuscript to perfection. It’s finally time to send it off to agents! You have no doubt they will spot your storytelling gift immediately and beg for you to send the manuscript their way.
After making a list of prospective agents, you write your query letter—and then off your submission goes into the publishing world.
But the responses don’t roll in like you had expected. In fact, days go by. Then a week.
Finally, an email pops into your inbox. An agent! You open the email, preparing for the glowing response . . . but it’s not the manuscript request that you had expected. Instead, it’s a rejection letter.
Does this sound familiar? It’s no secret: The submission process to a literary agent is often just as hard as writing the book itself. The competition is tough, and the slush piles are high. An agent could fall in love with your writing, storytelling ability, and still feel as though he/she would not be a good fit for you.
So how can you, an aspiring author, capture the attention of an agent? Is it possible to write a query letter in such a way that your email rises to the top of their submissions pile? And finally, is there a reason for all of these rejections—and what can you do to decrease your chances of receiving one?
In my workshop, How to Sell Your Book to an Agent: What to Do and What to Avoid, I will discuss the answers to all of these questions and share secrets on how you can stand out. You will learn how to properly submit to a literary agent in a way that has the agent begging for more.
That way, you will someday receive that manuscript request you have been waiting for.
Kim Peterson – Developing a Strong Supporting Cast of Secondary Characters
From the moment Anne of Green Gables smashes her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head, their competition makes her stronger, faster, smarter and, eventually, a better person. Readers wouldn’t understand Anne half so well without Gilbert Blythe. That’s the purpose of memorable secondary characters: Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley give insight into Harry Potter, Hector Zeroni knows the truth behind Stanley Yelnats’ innocence long before Stanley does, and Dorothy wouldn’t have made it home without the rather-smart Scarecrow, the compassionate Tin Man, and the Lion who truly is the King of the Forest. Learn to craft compelling secondary characters that make your protagonist unforgettable, without stealing the show.
Learn some basic techniques of writing memoir for kids. Think back to your childhood. Begin with: I remember…my favorite place, my best friend, my favorite game. Go. Give yourself 5 min for each. Now write: I don’t remember…Wait, you say, how can I write something I don’t remember? We often suppress difficult times, but you’ll be surprised how much you remember if you allow yourself to. I don’t remember…the kid who was mean to me; the time I lied to my parents about…; when my pet went missing…Go. Give yourself another 5 minutes for each. These and other exercises will develop your memoir techniques.
Lori Hatcher’s Workshop – Ten Ways to Charm an Editor
As a writer and a magazine editor, I’ve sat on both sides of the editorial desk. I’ve received rejections letters and I’ve sent them. Over the years I’ve identified six sure-fire ways to earn points with your editors and four mistakes to doom your submission to the shredder. I’ve also learned that editors are not God. It’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to disagree with them. We’ll talk about why and how to do this and still maintain a positive relationship. In this fast-paced workshop, I’ll give you a sneak peek into the mind of an editor and share proven tips to help your editors say YES to your next submission.
Attention Teens! – Brenda Covert – Poetry Workshop: Playing with Words
Question: What do an eraser, paint chips, and Africa have in common?
Answer: They are all inspiration for the poetry teens will write in the Playing with Words workshop!
Brenda Covert’s interactive poetry workshop will help teen poets refine their creative voice as they learn to write 3 different types of poems. Students will also have a chance to share their work in class. Whether a student has yet to write a poem or has written volumes, all are welcome to come have fun playing with words!
Are you making a list of the workshops you want to attend at the conference? Leave a comment about your favorites. Then subscribe to the Write2Ignite newsletter (link on the right side) and share this post on social media. You will earn one, two, or three chances to win Vijaya Bodach’s YA novel Bound. Bring your winning copy to the conference for Vijaya to sign. She will be presenting three fabulous workshops during the conference.
Contest ends August 17. The winner will be announced on next Monday’s teaser blog — so enter soon!
Nobody likes to be rejected. And when we’ve poured ourselves into a writing project, only to see it rejected by agents and editors, it’s easy to take that rejection personally.
“My manuscript isn’t good enough.”
“My writing skills aren’t good enough.”
“I’m not good enough.”
Is that true?
Before you believe the lie that you’re not good enough, consider the truth.
Maybe your manuscript does need more work. And maybe your writing skills could use improvement.
Or maybe the agent just signed an author who writes in the same genre you do. Or maybe the editor knows he can’t contract your book because his company is releasing a book on the same topic in a few months. Sometimes a rejection has nothing to do with you or your skills and everything to do with timing.
Then again, maybe the timing is fine, but you and the agent or editor simply have different likes.
Agents Are Human
I attended a writers conference years ago where agent Steve Laube served on the faculty. Participating in an agent panel, Steve mentioned that agents don’t always make the right call. He cited a well-known author whom he regretted rejecting several years earlier. During the Q & A session, several multi-published authors prefaced their questions by noting (with a laugh) that Steve had also rejected them. He finally asked the audience to raise their hands if they had been rejected by his agency. I lost count of the hands raised across the room as laughter erupted.
Agents are fallible!
Editors Are Fallible Too
Are you familiar with the anthology series, Chicken Soup for the Soul? The authors spent 3 years developing the first volume and finally published it in 1993, after 140 publishers rejected it. Thirty-three publishers turned them down in the first month alone! Their agent finally returned their manuscript, saying, “I can’t sell this.” Yet in more than 20 years, the series has sold more than 115 million copies with 250 titles, and there are more to come. Inspirational “soup” books have been published for kids, teenagers, parents, women, couples, dentists, sports fans, veterans, nurses, pet lovers, chiropractors, and others.
Yes, editors don’t always recognize a bestseller, either!
Rejection Can Be a Stepping Stone
Author and teacher Kay Arthur once shared an illustration of a donkey that fell into an abandoned well. After many failed attempts to rescue it, the farmer reluctantly decided to end the donkey’s life. So he began to shovel dirt into the well. But with each shovelful that landed on its back, the donkey shook the dirt off and stamped it down. Eventually the farmer observed that the donkey stood a little closer to the top because the additional dirt had raised the floor. The farmer continued shoveling, and the donkey was able to step out of the well.
You and I can use rejection as a stepping stone too. We can use the added time to
research agents and editors for a better fit
improve our writing skills
learn more about the genre we’re writing in
join a critique group for objective feedback
draw near to the Lord to learn what He may want to teach us
encourage other writers who are facing similar circumstances
Don’t take rejection personally. Use it to grow into the person and writer God created you to be!
How has rejection helped you be a better writer? Share your thoughts in the comments.
When I worked as a Human Resources executive, one of my responsibilities was to offer outplacement training—a fancy term for helping people who lost their jobs find new employment. Outplacement training included creating a resume, polishing interview skills, and developing an elevator pitch.
The elevator pitch is something writers need as well. A pitch is a summary of your book project and information about why a publisher or agent should be interested.
What does an elevator have to do with a pitch? A typical elevator ride lasts twenty to thirty seconds before someone exits. An elevator pitch should be concise enough to include all your pertinent information in under thirty seconds.
Why does a pitch need to be this brief? Consider the opportunities you may have to meet editors and agents at a writer’s conference, such as the Write2Ignite Conference in March. You might meet an agent while waiting on line in the cafeteria. Or you may sit next to an editor at a meal. What do you say when they ask you to describe your project?
You have less than a minute to hook them before someone else comes along with a question, a comment, or a pitch of their own.
What do you include? An effective pitch will include your story as well as why and how it differs from similar published projects. What makes your project unique? Why should the publisher invest in your book? What is the reader’s take-away?
What should you not include in your pitch? Don’t include clichés or exaggerated claims of grandeur (e.g., “This is the next Harry Potter series!”). Don’t make financial demands (e.g., “This is so good that I require a minimum advance of $10,000!”). Don’t cite reviews by family members (e.g., “My mother loved it!”).
Know the person to whom you’re pitching. Does the agent represent fiction or nonfiction? Does the editor publish only Young Adult projects? Don’t waste your time and theirs by pitching a picture book if the editor specializes in middle grade curriculum.
Practice your elevator pitch until you can communicate it naturally and confidently. And be prepared to provide additional information—such as a complete book proposal—when asked!