Left Brain, Right Brain

By Bob McCrillis

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do. How many times have we heard that old saw?

There is an ocean of advice out there for the would-be author. We have our choice of webinars, seminars, boot camps, and retreats. Each one promising that, with their system, we will release our inner book. Trust me, I’ve drunk deeply from this well. No matter what course or system, step one is always, always prepare an outline.

Bob cropped tightI diligently took notes on such arcana as story arcs, critical turning points, characterization, and the primacy of points of view. According to the books, my next step — the first that called for actual writing — was to prepare my outline. The more detailed my outline, the better. The outline should include major and minor turning points, and the critical conflicts. My next task was to complete detailed worksheets describing my characters. With that done, writing your novel is mere word play.

To this I say, Balderdash! And again, Balderdash! Continue reading “Left Brain, Right Brain”

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What Genre Do You Work In?

By Bob McCrillis

I admit, I thought the question was a little silly the first time someone asked. Genre, unless you were an English Literature professor, was a euphemism for formula and no one wants their work to be viewed as something written to a formula.

Bob cropped tightIt didn’t take long to discover that the question of genre is critically important to the people who sell books. Readers tend toward books similar to the ones they’ve already read and enjoyed – hence the popularity of a series. If you’re in the business of selling books, knowledge of the preferences of the market is critically important. Continue reading “What Genre Do You Work In?”

The Great Divide

By Bob McCrillis

Leaving the cloistered world of writing a novel to take a few baby steps into the arena of publishing has been as sudden and sharp a change as stepping out of a spruce thicket to find myself standing on the head of the Old Man In The Mountain with the whole state of New Hampshire spread out under my feet. For many, that would be awe inspiring. For me, it was terrifying.

Bob cropped tight

Terrifying and, at first exposure, insurmountable. The numbers speak for themselves according to UNESCO in 2013, there were a little over three-hundred thousand new titles published in the United States. If we assume that those that were published were a small percent of the manuscripts submitted, I think it’s fair to say that my novel is competing for attention with ten or fifteen million other works. The experts say there are around one thousand literary agencies in the United States so…well, you can do the arithmetic. Even if all of my assumptions are off by fifty percent, there’s a huge number of manuscripts fighting for attention. Continue reading “The Great Divide”

Help From an Unexpected Place

By Bob McCrillis

Sometimes, agents are as nutty as writers, or so it seemed.

On his submissions requirements was ‘if you haven’t read and absorbed all of the Query Shark archives, you’re not ready to query’. Query Shark? What the heck was that? And why would I need to review its archives?

Bob cropped tightBeing a compulsive rule-follower, I dutifully Googled Query Shark and found the blog. Okay, a blog about queries might have some good information before the pitch for an online tutorial course for the low, low price of only …

I clicked on and discovered a treasure trove that I would have hoarded for myself, if I could – why help the competition? My good angel prevailed. Continue reading “Help From an Unexpected Place”

One Writer’s Secret Weapon

By Bob McCrillis

I’m a terrible editor.

It’s an affliction that has cost me at least one potential agent. At a book signing for one of his clients, I started chatting with him about doing yet another complete rewrite of my novel. My elevator speech interested him and he encouraged me to bring a query package to a conference at one of the local colleges scheduled for a few months in the future.

Man, I knew I had this one locked. I had a great story, an inside track for an agent, and a couple of months to finish the rewrite. Imagine my humiliation when, after proudly handing him my query, he started through it then took out his pen and began circling things. Not editorial issues or voice possibilities, but obviously missing or duplicated words, “he” where I meant “the”, and even inconsistent spelling of a name between the first paragraph and the fourth on the same page! Continue reading “One Writer’s Secret Weapon”

Finding Your Market

by Sandy Cody

Editor’s Note: This message, shared with permission, is from Sandy Cody to her writing class at the end of this year’s classes.Sandy Cody

This will be our last meeting, but I hope you’ll find time in your busy schedules to keep writing. I’m in awe of what you’ve all come up with when given just a hint – and time. I think that’s what this class has been about – providing time and space for you to write.

If you want to send your “babies” out into the world, here’s something to get you started. Mainly, I suggest you just play around on the computer until you find something that looks interesting. Continue reading “Finding Your Market”

Bits, Pieces, Kids

By Susan Wagner

What happens to those small bits of writing you do that don’t seem to fit easily into a category? You know what I mean — comments on __ (fill in the blank), poems you started but never finished, novel ideas – you get the picture.

Maybe these pieces sit and wait on your desk, in a file or journal, or even on the computer. They languish until the day you remember them again. If you ever do. Continue reading “Bits, Pieces, Kids”