Thursday, August 06, 2009

IF IT MOVES PUT A HAT ON IT AND OTHER SAGE WRITING ADVICE...

It doesn't take much to change a cold one-dimensional character into a living breathing entity...give him or her a hat and suddenly they're real...your very own "Wilson" from Castaway.

What shall I talk about? I know. This could also be titled "be careful what you wish for you just may get it..."
I have many people email me asking for writing, agenting, and publishing help. Generally they want me to read their manuscript and offer it to my agent or editor. Sometimes they want writing help or advice. Sometimes they want me to share the secret of getting published...hey if I told them it wouldn't be a secret anymore. I took an oath yanno.
The thing is...there are rules.
1. Authors don't have very much time. They have to stare at their blank computer screen, pet their cats, organize their desk, oh and write. If they read your manuscript then they don't have as much time to do all that.

2. If you want a favor from me AT LEAST READ MY FRIGGING BOOK...Okay? And I mean BUY A COPY!! Don't tell me you intend to read it or you are going to check it out of the library. And if you are going to lie at least get your facts straight. "I loved LOTTERY because I thought it was scary - especially when they stoned her to death."
If you say that I know that you have me and Shirley Jackson mixed up. HINT: My book LOTTERY does not have cliff notes yet.

3. So you want advice. And if something in your letter resonates with me and I happen to have a couple minutes I might give you some. Like...write everyday... find good beta readers WHO ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If you choose to use an editor then find a good one with PUBLISHING experience if you need help with your manuscript. Attend writers conferences and retreats. Find a writers group.

4. If you ask me what I did then I will tell you. I will be honest. I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat and Conference. I kept writing. I found readers and editor who were NOT MY FRIENDS and I took criticism happily, readily,with good humor, and not defensively...(Thank you sir may I have another?)

5. FEEDBACK: All feedback is useful. I repeat. ALL FEEDBACK IS USEFUL.
Why? Writing is subjective. What resonates with one person will not resonate with another but listen to it. Know when to implement feedback and when to set it aside.
DON'T say it wasn't what I had in mind. Or is was a bag of twat. Sometimes twat is what is needed to make a story pop (okay that was deco-speak but you know what I mean).

6. If you really want me to help you then get to know me, comment on my blog, post on my facebook page. Let me know that you enjoy what I have to offer and aren't just interested in using me then moving on...If you wonder why authors sometimes are a bit gun shy then that's why. They meet another interesting writer and then BAM!!!! (think Emeril)the writer moves on when we say we can't read their manuscript.


I hope this doesn't sound harsh. It's not meant to be. I can't help but draw parallels between being an author and my father's lottery win. It changes people's attitudes, changes their opinion of you and suddenly you're a cynic.

What to do?
I get grounded with TOOLOOSE.
I know exactly how he feels about me. Merely a vehicle for "Cat Fud" and an itch reliever.He doesn't read my book - he uses it as a combo scratching post and bed.
He doesn't suck up.
He doesn't need to. He knows once his alien space monkey trilogy is published he'll blow me out of the water.
So what's an author to do? Continue to help? How do you draw the line.
And what IS the capital of North Dakota anyway?

20 comments:

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I'm not nearly as successful as you, but I'm already getting requests for advice.

I received a note from my son's young friend the other day asking for advice. I read his short piece and was blown away by his writing.

I wrote him a long letter, offering the usual advice (what blogs to visit, forums, etc.) and decided to repeat the letter (not word for word) on my group blog.

I felt it was important for him to pursue his dream and don't put it off like I did. Life can get in the way of such things.

If you get overwhelmed by requests for advice, you can always give them links to this post and tell them your publisher won't allow you to read unpublished work.

Hope you're staying out of that hurricane path. Take care!

JKB said...

I've had the same thing happen, Pat, but I'm not nearly as cool as you are.

Take care of yourself and stay out of the hurricane path!!

Katrina Stonoff said...

Bismark. And no, I didn't look it up (which will be obvious if you look it up, and it turns out I am wrong).

Sometimes you have to say the harsh things. Call it tough love.

Lisa said...

Welcome Home! I hope you enjoyed your sea adventure. Can't wait to hear all about it!

ORION said...

Chumplet...yeah I DO say exactly that -and like you if it is a young person or student I bend over backwards-
And I absolutely NEVER mind when someone asks a question on my blog in comments- it's a great forum...my post is more in reaction to some of the writers forums I'm involved with where some writers bemoan the fact that authors never help newbees to get published...and my point was authors can offer advice and suggest paths to follow but are not there to read manuscripts- they need to spend time writing their next book...

Sabrina said...

My sister and I are trying to decide whether we'll go to the HI Writers Conference this year. A handful of our writing group has gone multiple times, but I am a poor, recently-graduated college student. I wish I could find the itinerary online (the website seems very fond of telling visitors who will be there. Like You! And Kristin Nelson!). But not what panels there will be.

Ray Wong said...

Amen, sister! :)

ORION said...

Sabrina- that's because speakers (such as myself) wait until the very very last minute to turn in our topics LOL!!!!
The conference schedule is always given out at the retreat itself also to guard against last minute cancellations...but trust me that there will be varied and informative talks by both authors and publishing professionals- each year has a different flavor-
I'm really excited to meet some of these newcomers to the conference- (Kristin Hannah and Joseph Finder...among others)
In many ways I'm glad it moved to Waikiki because it offers so many other ways of affording the retreat and conference- the hotels are cheaper than Maui and there are many more choices for eating out...Anyway I will be there as usual and so will by buddy HOLLY KENNEDY ...counting down the days...19 days to go!!!!!

Jen P said...

oooohh, just the thought of a writers' conference (and in Hawaii) makes me go green with envy right now. I'm being spewed up on at 3am by daughter #3, who is lovely, but writing time is into negative, since it's meant to come after sleep, oh, yes, and before reading the Internet and my favourite blogs....

Many good points here. Re:4 - how did you find and select your 'good beta readers WHO ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS'?

ORION said...

Ah...very good question Jen. I live in a marina and often have transient people come in and out. One thing about sailor is they are ALL readers. I end up being able to pick and choose.
Other options are advertise for readers at local book shops. Many writers groups meet there. Other options is ask the independent book store owners - many times they have book clubs who enjoy reading unpublished work...
You can always find friends of friends who are also writers. Best case scenario is finding other prospective authors and trading work. The interesting thing is now I'm published I don't need beta readers very often...But Beta Reader Bob from wandering star is STILL my hero...

margaretdilloway said...

I'm already getting asked for advice, too. It's not so bad UNTIL people just friend you then ask for your agent right away; or want you to do all their work for 'em-- such as stuff they could Google. I'm tempted to send them the "Let Me Google That For You" link, like this one: http://tinyurl.com/kn4slt

But I would like to say that Pat is a lovely and generous person, who has a trillion dollars in her karmic bank for helping me. And Pat, I want you to know that I'm proud of myself for not losing mah cookies on your boat and for not falling into the water whilst jumping, which you would appreciate even more if you had been on my third grade whale watching trip.

ORION said...

hahahahah!!! and BTW you guys be on the lookout for Margaret's Book to come out
"How to be an American Housewife" which i read an ARC of and loved and now my HUSBAND read and her REALLY loved it...

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Pat, good advice. And nice hat. And I agree with Margaret - Pat is honest and genuine and very liberal with her time and assistance. Glad you're back.

Dawn Anon said...

love the blog!!!!!

i had saved my pennies for the Hawaii conference, then spent it when my boys were on their leaves. Maybe I'll be able to attend next year.

I'm so envious of everyone able to go this year!

Pat... i LOVE and appreciate the tidbits you share with us!

ORION said...

Glad the tidbits help!
And yeah those pennies seem to get away don't they?

Michelle O'Neil said...

I never heard of anything being a bag of twat. The things you learn here!

Boundaries are good things Pat. Hats off to you for setting some. What's that old saying, "No one takes advantage of you without your permission?"

Pat Wood sez, "Permission denied!"

Work it girl!

ORION said...

yeah I know...bag of twat...soupcon of idiocy...so many derogatory terms...so little time

Heidi Willis said...

Pat - your book ends much happier than Shirley Jackson's story. And was a much more satisfying read.

And I bought a book of yours for myself, and then one each for several friends.

And I'm totally jealous of your writer's conference! and not just because it's in Hawaii. :)

james said...

Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.

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