Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Want to publish? How do you get started?

Excited to publish something but ultimately too overwhelmed by the process to get started? Is it worth the trouble? What does it entail?

To help you sort out how to get started, I'll offer you the two most accessible directions to take:

1. You are interested in publishing on a smaller scale. This direction provides you with several options, the two most notable being: either self-publish or submit to smaller publishing houses.

Choosing to query to a smaller market will increase your chances of being published. Smaller, independent publishing houses have their eye (eyes?) out for fresh talent, and therefore always accepting of manuscripts from first-time authors.

However, smaller publishing houses can only print a limited number of copies of your book (unless, the suppliers demand for your book increases significantly.) The copies of your book will be distributed to only smaller businesses (if any at all). Also, your publishers will not cover the expenses of promotion.

Bottom line: This option is not for you if you are looking for instant profit. (Then again, you're a writer, you have no real interest in instant profit anyway).

2. You are interested in publishing on a grander scale. This means national, mainstream publishing houses. This route can lead you toward: getting a larger number of copies printed, having promo and travel expenses covered, and being distributed to larger book retailers (Barnes and Noble)!

Bottom line: None of this is guaranteed. Even when you're published. But the chances significantly increase. So again, this option is not for you if you are looking for instant profit.

Most national publishers will not even look at a submitted manuscript unless there is a literary agent who is pitching it.

The first step then, to get into the big business is finding a literary agent. This process requires two main steps:

1. Find a literary agent to submit to and research them. The most common way to do this is to read their blogs. Find out what their tastes are. Would they have interest in your genre? What other writers have they represented?

2. Submit your work to them. They will specify to you in their submission guidelines exactly what materials you should send them. Usually an agent will require three things: a query letter, a synopsis, and a sample from your manuscript.

How do you research an agent? What is a query letter? A synopsis?

While you can Google any of these questions, a great source I can point you to is Nathan Bransford, a literary agent who enjoys sharing his pearls of infinite wisdom among us power-hungry amateurs.

If you go to his blog, you can get a better understanding of what exactly a query letter and synopsis entail. I am recommending his blog because he provides insight into what agents are looking for in a query letter, a synopsis, a manuscript, and even an overall genre.

Also, for a preview of blogs of literary agents you can surf through, scroll down his homepage 'til the list of agent sites pop up on the left side.


Browse, taste-test, and see if anything sticks to your liking.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tribute to The Hunger Games

In honor of the release of MOCKINGJAY, (okay, yes, I'm a week late) here is a brief glimpse into the elegantly warped mind of Suzanne Collins. All I can say is, bless a woman who can squish 1984, American Idol, Project Runway, Spartacus, and slasher porn together into a young adult book. Also, bless any successful author who finds their literary inspiration whilst channel surfing.
Here are the first five parts to Collins' interview (There's also an excellent interview with Borders, but I couldn't post it due to the annoying shots of audience members self-consciously blinking throughout)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

And then of course, I had to include a snippet from another interview because it answers two of my favorite questions. How do you write? and What do you read? Because, you know, if you find out those two things (along with their Ipod playlist) then you really discover what makes genius people tick.

Q: How do you typically spend your workday? Do you have a routine as you write?

A: I grab some cereal and sit down to work as soon as possible. The more distractions I have to deal with before I actually begin writing, the harder focusing on the story becomes. Then I work until I’m tapped out, usually sometime in the early afternoon. If I actually write three to five hours, that’s a productive day. Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you’re working out character and plot problems. The rest of the time, I walk around with the story slipping in and out of my thoughts.

Q: What were some of your favorite novels when you were a teen?

A: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Boris by Jaapter Haar
Germinal by Emile Zola
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

When you find something at which you have talent, you do that thing (what ever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes pop out of your head.

-Stephen King

"Explore the rugged edge of thought."


I used to be very anti-books-about-writing. To write, you cannot read about writing. You have to write. To me, it was the equivlanet of someone reading about the art of piano playing instead of simply practicing. Perhaps if they read one hundred different books about technique and composition, they would instantly morph into a concert pianist, right?

But then of course, as soon as I declare this new self-important verdict to myself (I was 19 and very into independent thought), along comes something like WRITING DOWN THE BONES.

As soon as I read the first chapter, it became my writer's protein, the hydrogen peroxide that purges anything clogging my brain juice flow. It's a meditative, self-help guide that encourages you to grope around for all those brilliant thoughts and original ideas you have sticking somehwere in your soul.

Natalie Goldberg's voice is nothing short of delicious. She delights in the random and abstract, often stringing words like "yellow cake", "teacup", and "ferris wheel" in the same sentence. But most of all, her passion for writing is infectious. I guarantee you won't go further than ten pages before your hand is itching, nay, convulsing to write.

Each chapter is a chocolatey morsel of wisdom (yes, now I have compared this book to both chocolate and protein), a pithy motivational speech to get you pumped for whatever "spontaneous" writing session you plan to have burst out of you that day. But what makes WRITING DOWN THE BONES really stand supreme is Goldberg's portrait of a writer. She is, what I have always pictured, that penniless artist smoking her cigarette at a cafe corner in Paris where she scribbles down entire novels by hand on napkins. Her aura is a kaleidoscope and her thoughts are Dahli paintings dripping down the brain. WRITING THE BONES are her musings in blog form, as well as her call for all writers to abandon the "typewriter" (this was written before Microsoft 2007 and Surgeon General's Warnings) and embrace the inspirational bustlings of the cafe and bistro.

So apparently, we all have a literary masterpiece inside us, we just need to clear our schedules to sit at a diner all day scribbling in a notebook in order for it all to come spurting out our ears, kneecaps, teeth, and fingertips and plop in splatters across the blank page!

I knew there was an easy way :)


1. Keep your hand moving. (Don't pause to reread the line you have just written. That's stalling and trying to get control of what you're saying.)

2. Don't cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn't mean to write, leave it.)

3. Lose control.

4. Don't think. Don't get logical.

5. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy)

These are the rules. It is important to adhere to them because the aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place the energy is unobstructed by social politeness and internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel. It's a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind. Explore the rugged edge of thought. Like grating a carrot, give the paper the colorful colseslaw of your consciousness. (pages 8-9)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review 08/29

Outrageous. That is simply one of the more worthy adjectives to sum up this devilishly addicting book. It may be one of the few reads where every other paragraph I find myself chuckling in amazement and shaking my head in revulsion simultaneously.

Seen through the eyes of a child living in one of the most disfunctional families ever known to print, the narrative begins in the realm of a three-year-old's fairytale adventureland. The first section of the book demonstrates Jeanette Walls' most daring accomplishment as an author: seducing the reader through the luster of childlike wonder as it twinkles against the crudely cut pallete of homeless life.

The real punch in flavor comes from the severity of the delusions of her parents. With their precocious philosophies and obsession with their own audacity of being excessively bohemian, the parents are deliciously and disgustingly unpredictable.

In fact, most of the thrill lies in the question that becomes more prominent throughout the book:

Just how disturbed are these parents?

The reader instantly becomes sucked into Walls' mesmerizing grip, her seasoned storytelling fingers pulling and bending our emotions wherever she wants them to go. She is in complete control of every mouth dropping moment committed by the bipolar mother and that egomaniac bastard of a father.

THE GLASS CASTLE becomes an unexpected page turner as the reader grows from curious to desperate in seeing the protagonist's perception to change, to witness Walls mature into the disenchantment of adolescence, and to finally watch her realize just how disturbingly wrong her life actually is. Never have I, as a reader, been so intensely on edge for the character to see what I see.

Few authors have meshed the hilarious with the appalling as seamlessly as Walls does here. THE GLASS CASTLE is ultimately refreshing, jarringly and gleefully so.