Check It Out


Outtakes 230

Check It Out

by Cait Collins

I was rather upset by a comment made the other day regarding writers who do not check their facts. I was purchasing a number of books and magazines on gems, minerals, and jewelry making for more information on the career of one of my characters. The clerk commented I must be really into rocks and jewelry. I explained I was doing some research for my new book. Her response was “Thank you. I do some editing and I can’t believe how many writers expect the editor to do the fact-checking.”

Really? I can’t believe writers would put something on paper and not check the facts. I prefer to think that we take the time to learn what we don’t know. For example, would anyone start a story about a doctor and not know the basics of education, office set up and regulations regarding the practice of medicine? Would we be willing to tarnish our reputation just to get the book finished?

We are responsible for what we put on paper. I have a situation in a novel regarding the purchase of several tracts of land with the stipulation the former owners could buy the land back in five years. Only the buy-back did not include the water and mineral rights. Was this possible? Absolutely. How did I learn about this? Book and on-line research combined with discussions with experts in the field. And with on-line resources, it’s easy to do the research.

While we have more up-to-date information at hand, I still prefer books. I purchased a detailed book on gems, cuts, faceting, settings, and designs. While I have done some rock collecting and panning, I need details so that my character is real.

I also believe in experience. Writing a western? Go west. Sign on as a ranch hand, and if you don’t ride a horse, learn. Pick up the cowboy lingo.

Find a fee site and learn to pan for gold. (You get to keep what you find.)

Is your hero a rock climber? Find a beginner’s location and scale the cliff. Become familiar with the rigging and terminology.

Proper research builds better settings, richer dialog, and more exciting characters. By paying attention to details, we portray ourselves as true professionals who take responsibility for the words we put on the page. We make the editor’s job easier and we reduce the amount of editing needed to make a project press-ready. Good research permits the author to put one project to be and start a new work.

 

LABELS


LABELS

by Sharon Stevens

 

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”  Benjamin Disraeli

This evening I was just going to DASH into the grocery store to pick up three items.

But make no mistake; dashing had nothing to do with it. Living in a small town I knew I would encounter someone along the aisles that would invariably lengthen my stay. That’s just the way it is.

I know this, they know this, and my husband sure knows this if he happens to be along for the ride.

Today though, my distractions started early when I walked by a table set up outside United Supermarket. The kids manning the booth were from the Phi Delta Theta WTAMU campus fraternity asking for donations of canned goods to benefit the local Ronald McDonald house in Amarillo. Now, just this afternoon I had been researching in the Canyon News and had come across a news article about the Shaw family and their Make- A-Wish excursion to Disney World in 1997. They had stayed at the McDonald House in Fort Worth prior to their child’s Bone Marrow Transplant.

And not only that, a wonderful family from our area had been posting on facebook while staying in the Ronald McDonald House with their newborn after heart surgery. And yet another family lived there this last month after their child’s heart transplant.

I told the kids volunteering at the table I would be right back out with some canned goods after I bought the THREE things I had come to get. Amazingly I didn’t connect with a single soul while in the store. I was able to find what I needed within five minutes or less which left me more time to make my selections of those goods for the young college kids awaiting outside the front of the store.

I entered that section from the top down instead of the other way around and came across the canned fruit first. Glory be, they were having a sale! But the marked down price isn’t what caught my eye. It was the labels calling me from four feet away that pulled me in. The fruit looked luscious from all angles. I could imagine cold pears, fresh peaches, rings of pineapples, and of course, the ever popular, fruit cocktail. Who doesn’t remember this colorful delicacy at the dinner table for desert on a hot summer’s day? Over ice cream is just fine, (thank you very much) or pie, or chocolate. It doesn’t matter. Even then, visions of school lunches clouded my judgment although my thoughts from this memory turned more to the hot rolls served by the silver haired grannies with nets covering their hair. Funny what you remember.

Back to the fruit cocktail…what is there not to love? You have your grapes, and your pears and your peaches, and what about those miniscule cherries. How they could look so inviting from just the label on the can? And that’s when it hit, didn’t the families or the kids at the Ronald McDonald House deserve a little “sweetness” along with their mixed vegetables, cans of corn, and/or your garden variety of green beans? Of course they did!

That did it! I made my purchase, several cans of each, dropped them off at the table outside, and dashed my way home.

The marketing industry pays a quadrillion, billion, million dollars on marketing strategy for the average shopper. They study trends, they look at temperature control, and music selections. Brightness affects buying power as well as too bright, and not bright enough. Impulse is consulted and grocery lists combined. Grocery carts are evaluated and welcome signs are hung. All to lure the customer to make that little extra purchase that makes CEO’s and stockholders smile.

As writers we never know what will catch the reader’s eye. We have no clue what they are feeling or witnessing, but we always need to be prepared to settle somewhere in their heart and mind, from their standpoint, not ours. With whatever genre we write, we have to keep it simple, but make it colorful and inviting from every angle. We shouldn’t depend on the publishers, or editors to drive our story. Forget about the obvious label that “labels” your thoughts. Right up front, give your readers that little extra something, that visible tug, that piques a memory within, so that they will choose you, your work, your very soul, to carry home.

After all, everyone needs a can of fruit cocktail every once in a while, if only for the memories.

The Business Card


Outtakes 64

 

The Business Card

By Cait Collins

Let’s face it, business cards are a must. Can you imagine a salesman going to meet a new client and forgetting to bring his business cards? Talk about a major mistake. That little card is your signature. It represents you and your work. But what if you had a more visible signature piece?

My writer friend, Dee, received the best gift from her kids. It’s a royal blue cloth purse depicting the classic monsters: The Wolfman, The Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster. Strangers walk up to her and ask “Were did you get that purse?” “Why monsters?” Then she introduces herself and says, “I write horror.” The purse opened the door to promoting Dee’s work. She can go on to engage the potential reader as to his likes and dislikes, what frightens him, his go-to authors. She’s hooked a fan. If it works with fans, just think the impact that bag will have when meeting agents and editors.

Every writer has some item that sets them apart from the crowd. I have a collection of antique and contemporary lizard broaches. I wear them when shopping my novels.  The creature glittering on my shoulder creates interest and might lead to an invitation to submit the work. I began collecting the lizards after hearing the legend of the well-loved lizard becoming a dragon to protect its owner. I still wear one of the pins in situations where I feel I might need an edge. They are a conversation starter.

No matter how well written or unique the story, marketing and promotion are necessary. A prop might help a more timid author to open up and enthusiastically promote the project. I’m not suggesting a cheesy prop or outlandish get-up. Use something simple and in keeping with the setting. Accessories such as jewelry, Dee’s purse, or a rodeo belt buckle just might give you an edge. I’m certain Dee doesn’t mind folks associating her purse with her writing. And I really don’t mind an agent referring to me as the lizard lady as long as he remembers the title of my book.

Why do You Write? – Keeping the Big Picture in Sight


Middle Grade Monday

Why do You Write?

Keeping the Big Picture in Sight

By Natalie Bright

So, why do you write?

I don’t mean the reasons that we hear most people repeat: they want an agent to get a big publisher for a big book deal and a big movie deal so they’ll make major bucks and then retire to their massive beach front property. I honestly don’t believe that’s motivation enough to put oneself through the endless torture of trying to write. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.

What about the gutt-wrenching, down in your soul reason you’ve never told anyone, ever. If everything suddenly went to ePublishing and all books were free and there was no way whatsoever that you could ever make money writing, would you still write? I’d like to think that most of you would, because you haven’t lost sight of the big picture.

The Big Picture: Story, Story, Story

Story is the reason. It’s the oldest form of human entertainment. Down through the ages, “tell me a story” has brought countless generations together. From the time we were youngsters, we remember stories that spoke to us and left their imprint in our brains or hearts. Agents, editors, publishers, book packagers, book stores, book buyers  and now the ePublishing world all gravitate around a need for quality work. It’s all about story.

Who Holds the Key

Writers are the key to this process. The successful writers I know are continuously learning and improving upon the craft, and they have a zillion ideas in their head, just not enough hours in the day.

Falling in Love with Your Work

It saddens me to meet writers who have lost sight of the big picture. They have talent, amazing ideas that I’d be thrilled to see as a book, and they are very capable, yet they’ve very much attached to their work and remain steadfast to argue and justify instead of moving forward.

I understand that you may not agree with others opinions. That’s okay. In the end, remember that it’s your work and you can write it however you want. I’ve discovered that most writers and editors and agents tend to be very generous people. They enjoy helping others reach their dreams.

When someone says “I have this story”, my first instinct is elation. I want to grab it up, I want to read your story, I want to love your work, and I want to help you make it better. People who work in publishing have never lost sight of the big picture and know that there’s always a better word or phrase. There’s always a better way to tell the tale.

So Why Be Snarky?

Here’s a thought; don’t submit your story to a critique group, editors or agents if you don’t want to know what’s wrong. Don’t waste other people’s time by asking for advice that you never have any intention of following. It’s okay to be completely and absolutely in love with your work. Treasure it, keep it safe in a beautifully padded box, but don’t make copies and don’t ask me to read it.

Honest opinions are golden in this business, so why do writers waste their creative energy fuming and fussing over opinions when they’ve solicited said opinions? Let me repeat, in the end, it’s your work and you can write it however you want.

Listen, Learn, Find the Magic

For me, once I was able to really hear the feedback without argument and move past the fear of chopping off the fish head or rewriting parts that didn’t fit, then I understood even more about the writing process.

The story will take over and empower you and you’ll know why you write.

My hope is that you’ll realize you write because you want your story to be the best that it can be, and it will entertain, teach, touch a heart, or make a life-long impression on a reader. And you’ll know when it’s ready.

In short, the big picture of this maddening process:  you write because there’s a story burning deep in the core of your being, and no one can tell it like you.

www.nataliebright.com

It’s a Real Job


Outtakes 54

It’s a Real Job

“I always thought about writing a novel. I think I could do it.” I hear that statement 99% of the time when folks find out that I’m a writer. I’m sure most authors have heard similar responses. If people really understood what it takes to write that novel, they might reconsider their responses. Do these well intentioned folks really think writing is easy?

What does it take to be a writer? Some would say talent is the key component. Of course there is a certain degree of talent involved. However, there are thousands of folks who have the ability to write, but never start. I have a nephew who has talent, but he doesn’t write. Why not? Because he prefers music to the written word. He devotes his energy to perfecting his skills on the various instruments he plays. Simply put, talent comes into play when the writer has the desire to write.

The desire to put words on paper propels a talented person to begin the journey. He buys the right books, studies the craft, experiments with a few ideas. He might join a critique group and a writers’ group. As he presents his work to his peers, he receives kind but honest feedback on his writing. He rewrites, but his critique group still is not satisfied with his efforts. Frustrated, he packs the first novel in a box and shoves it under the bed. The book is never completed.

A successful writer combines his talent and desire with bulldog tenacity. No one is going to convince him it can’t be done. He plans his writing time; places his backside in the chair and writes. He listens to other writers’ critiques and does the necessary rewrites to produce a better product. The writer risks rejection when he submits the finished novel to agents and editors. A writer doesn’t expect overnight success or instant wealth. Instead he will take the free short story publication to enhance his writer’s resume. He will volunteer to help at a conference or present a program to students. He keeps up with current trends in publishing. Deep in his soul, he believes he will be a successful writer and he works for it.

Writing is a real job.  It requires talent, desire, effort, a thick skin, risk, confidence, and tenacity.  No one component is enough. Even Snoopy concedes “Good writing is hard work.”

Cait Collins

The Five


Outtakes 49

 The Five

The 2012 Frontiers in Writing conference was a success. Maybe the numbers were down, but the attendees received more one-on-one time with the speakers. We had a number of first time conference attendees, and that’s always good. Seasoned writers need to encourage and support the new blood. I was blessed to have the opportunity to renew acquaintances and catch up with friends. I also picked up some good advice from award winning writers.

  1.  Writing is a business; treat it as such. Most of us have full time jobs, families, personal commitments; yet we manage to get the kids to school on time and clock in by 8. The same rules apply to our writing jobs. Dress for your writing hours. Go into your office and shut the door. Answer your writing email and ignore all other messages. Write until quitting time, and then go home.
  2. Set your writing goals. Not every writer wants to be widely published. If your goal is to write your family history, that’s great. Are stories for your children and grandchildren your dream? Go for it! Just write it correctly. Learn proper grammar and punctuation. Read books on style, structure, and characterization. But if you want to see your books on the shelves, you must work toward that goal. Spend time educating yourself on publishing law, publishing trends, and genres. Find a writer’s group, a critique group, and attend a conference. Write and rewrite to make your work the best it can be. Do your homework before submitting to agents and editors.
  3. Accept the possibility you will be rejected. I hate being negative, but there’s a lot of competition out there. Agents and editors are looking for sales and acquisitions, and there are just not that many spots. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. Listen to multi-published authors regarding rejection. They’ve been there and can sympathize. Just remember that you are in good, talented company.
  4. Know when to say no. I listened to John Erickson talk about his HANK THE COWDOG series. He recently released the 59th book in the franchise. With HANK, he has created a character that appeals to children and adults. He will not allow his character to be trashed or turned into something less than it is now. He has turned down good money in order to protect his creation. I applaud his integrity. As a writer, you must decide whether the financial gain is worth compromising your work. You must be sure you can live with the consequences of your choice.
  5. This lesson comes from a bubbly, witty, lady. Talk about someone who juggles writing, her entertainment journalism job, family, and commitments! Candace Havens has more deadlines than I could manage. She’s well qualified to make this statement. “No excuses. Put your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard, and write.” Enough said.

Cait Collins

The Great Muse Meet


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Great Muse Meet

In one week there will be an epic meeting taking place. The Muse Meet, otherwise known as Frontiers in Writing. Let me tell you about it.

New York Times bestselling authors, editors, writers, bookstore managers, English teachers, and every other type of word-loving person you can think of will be gathering under one roof. There will be learning, sharing, hugging, buying, selling, meeting, talking, yarn spinning, poetry, music, food, and handshakes galore. All genres possible—horror, romance, non-fiction, poetry, western, childrens, and just general main stream—will meet face to face. This will be the show the world has been waiting for.

When this many wordy people and imaginative people and happy people get together, only one thing can happen:  UTTER BLISS!

Don’t miss it! Your muse will pelt you with a shillelagh if you don’t bring her to this bash. And you’ll sit home with a knot on your head while the rest of the writing world has a giant party.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

The Great Muse Meet


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Great Muse Meet

In one week there will be an epic meeting taking place. The Muse Meet, otherwise known as Frontiers in Writing. Let me tell you about it.

New York Times bestselling authors, editors, writers, bookstore managers, English teachers, and every other type of word-loving person you can think of will be gathering under one roof. There will be learning, sharing, hugging, buying, selling, meeting, talking, yarn spinning, poetry, music, food, and handshakes galore. All genres possible—horror, romance, non-fiction, poetry, western, childrens, and just general main stream—will meet face to face. This will be the show the world has been waiting for.

When this many wordy people and imaginative people and happy people get together, only one thing can happen:  UTTER BLISS!

Don’t miss it! Your muse will pelt you with a shillelagh if you don’t bring her to this bash. And you’ll sit home with a knot on your head while the rest of the writing world has a giant party.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

By the Book


Outtakes 27

 By the Book

I admit to being a stickler for rules. If I’m told “no exceptions”, I don’t ask. If my manager says an hour of overtime per day, I rearrange my schedule. If my assignment is due on Friday, I’ll have it done by Thursday at the latest. I find I land in trouble when I don’t read and follow the rules. Case in point; I didn’t read the rules on a slot machine and cheated myself out of money.

I’m not a big gambler, but sometimes I enjoy playing the slots or a little Black Jack. Recently, three of my sisters and I drove to Wichita Falls, Texas, to celebrate our older sister’s birthday. Part of the celebration was a trip over the border to a small casino in Oklahoma. The place is not big enough for Craps, Black Jack, or Roulette. Their staple is slot machines. I sat down at a penny or nickel machine, loaded it with a twenty dollar bill, and hit spin. Had I read the “about this game” information, I would have realized I won a bonus round on my first spin. I kept racking up points until I did not make the minimum for the round. Instead of cashing out, I played off the bonus credits. I did have a nice sum when I cashed out, but had I read the information, I would have made more money.

The same goes for submitting your work to an agent or editor. Agents and editors are truly busy people. They cannot read every manuscript, so an author must do their homework and make the submission shine. Check the website for submission guidelines. Keep in mind, these are not suggestions, they are actual rules to follow when sending your work. Some agents or editors will request a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters. Check for the length for the synopsis. The agent may want a maximum of three pages, or perhaps one page. Please do not send ten pages. You will not be read. If the guidelines say three chapters, do not send the entire manuscript.  Make sure you spell the name correctly. Check for the genres the agency represents. Whatever you do, do not submit your erotica to a Christian publishing house.

There are some basics to follow. Standard font and type style is Times New Roman or Courier New 12 pt. Script is impossible to read, and fancy fonts are not professional. Use a good quality bond paper. White only! I’ve disqualified contest entries because the submission was received on gray or baby blue paper. Margins should be one inch all around, and the type should be on one side only. Use black ink. Pink or purple may be your favorite colors, but editors will not appreciate your creativity.  Double space your manuscript. Do not include your photograph, your child’s picture, or a puppy photo. The agent will not be impressed. Proof read. Proof read. Proof read.  Ask a friend to proof read the submission for you.

Remember, writing is a business, and rules must be followed. Want to know more about writing for the editor? Check out the Panhandle Professional Writers’ website at pandhandleprowriters.org for information regarding the Frontiers in Writing Let’s Write Weekend, June 29-30, 2012 in Amarillo, Texas. Hilary Sares, former acquiring editor for a New York publishing house, will present workshops on meeting editors’ expectations. Y’all come. We’d sure like to meet you.

Cait Collins