Writing Tips – The Writers’ Group to Which I Belong-Part Two
In Blog Twenty-Two, I mentioned a writers’ group I had heard about approximately two years ago. Even though I worked at the same time the workshops were held, I looked it up online anyway.
I am so glad I did! That coming Saturday, five members of the writers’ group were doing a panel discussion entitled “The Joy of Self-Publishing”. Attending the panel discussion was a life changing event for me!
Without the help I received from the writers’ group, I know I would not have been self-published as soon as I was. Why did I write “Perhaps it was fate.” at the end of Blog Twenty-Two? Well, why else would I have looked up information about a writers’ group I thought I could not attend? And, what if the panel discussion had been the previous week and I had missed it?
At the panel discussion, I picked up several tips on self-publishing and thought maybe, with help, I could “someday” get my children’s book published. I decided to take a coaching class from the facilitator of the writers’ group and also have her edit my book. At that time, I had no idea “someday” was just around the corner.
I also decided to cut back teaching water color classes from two days to one. I enjoyed teaching that class very much, but knew I needed to attend the writers’ group workshops on Thursdays if I wanted to grow as a writer.
The coaching class sessions and editing helped me prepare for the annual book signing held each November by the writers’ group. I self-published my book in October and starting selling it in November!
Writing Tips – The Writers’ Group to Which I Belong
I was fortunate to find a wonderful writer’s group last year. I had heard about it approximately a year before that when I was still dreaming about “someday”, “maybe”, “possibly” becoming a writer.
One Friday morning I decided to hang out at a local art gallery where I had taught off and on for several years. While there, I told a friend of mine I was trying my hand at writing children’s books and had recently finished one.
She mentioned a writers’ group she had heard about. I told her I had heard about the same group before from a mutual friend of ours. However at that time, I did not have a finished book I wanted to publish. Now I did, but the writers’ group met on Thursdays at the same time I was teaching one of my “Stress Free Water Color” classes, so I could not attend the meetings.
Later that day, I looked up the writers’ group online. Why I did so, I don’t know. Perhaps it was fate.
Writing Tips – Writers’ Groups
Not all writers’ groups are equal. Some are very helpful and others are, well, not. How do you tell the difference? Here are some things to consider.
What are the goals of the group? Are they the same as yours?
What does the group do? Does it spend most of its time socializing or does it start the meeting on time?
How does it treat newcomers? Are they pretty much ignored or are they warmly welcomed?
Are the non-published members respected or are only the published members taken seriously?
Does it value members who want to self-publish or only members who strive to be traditionally published?
If you want to become published, will the group help you to reach that goal?
What type of writing group is it? Do you feel you fit in?
Who leads the group?
Does everyone who wants to read get a chance to do so? It is mandatory that everyone reads at each meeting?
Is your work critiqued? If it is, who critiques and what are the guidelines?
Does the group have rules and if so, what are they?
If they have rules, what happens if the rules are broken?
Do you like the group and do they like you?
Hopefully, the first writers’ group you attend will be one you want to join, if not, keep looking. A good writers’ group is a treasure!
Writing Tips – Finding a Literary Agent
How do you know when you need a literary agent and how do you find one if you do?
In Blog Eighteen, I gave you suggestions on how to find editors. These suggestions also work for finding a literary agent. They are worth repeating.
If you have friends, family members or acquaintances who have recently published a book, ask them for the name of a good literary agent. If you are in a writers’ group, ask the other members.
Also a good place to find names of suitable literary agents is on the acknowledgements page in books similar to yours.
Look on line. There are many excellent articles on how to find a literary agent. I suggest you read a few to get a clear idea of how to begin your search.
Beware, not all people who claim to be a literary agent are. How will you know who is and who is not? Here are a few tips. A real one does not advertise or ask you for a fee, no, no no, and will not keep requesting you buy additional services. Also, a real one will not offer to publish your book.
Your literary agent will, however, expect and deserve a percentage of the money from your book sales, but you will not be charged directly. The percentage is usually fifteen percent for domestic sales and twenty percent for foreign sales. Your literary agent’s job is to sell your book to an editor and negotiate for a lucrative deal.
A literary agent is not necessary for poetry, short stories, articles or essays. If you think a magazine might be interested in something you have written, summit it directly.
Writing Tips – Finding Editors (Yup, plural)
In Blog Fourteen, I wrote “Big tip, find an editor”. Actually, you should find two editors. One, an editor who will focus on the way you tell your story and the other, a copyeditor who will focus on the more technical aspects such as punctuation, spelling, and grammar. A copyeditor will also fact-check your work and look for inconsistencies.
You should not hire one to do the work of the other. They are experts in their own field.
Where do you find an editor? If you have friends, family members or acquaintances who have recently published a book, ask them. Fellow members in your writing group, I hope you have joined one by now, might be able to give you names of editors to consider.
Look on line. Before you do, though, look up several articles on how to find editors. Those articles will provide you with excellent guides for selecting the editors best suited to work with you on your manuscript.
When you think you have found the right editors, ask them if they will do a trail edit for you of several pages before you make your final selection.
Writing Tips-More Uh Ohs
I am keeping this blog short for two reasons, taxes and a painful back. No, I didn’t hurt my back doing my income taxes although the stress of preparing them to be prepared by my tax man probably didn’t help.
It involved books, not the writing of them, but the leaning forward too far with them as I put them in the back of my car. At least, this is how I think I hurt it. Didn’t hurt then, hurts now.
I won’t give you any advice on taxes except to keep excellent records of all your writing costs. You can’t deduct what you can’t prove.
My advice on leaning over too far when putting books into your car, DON’T DO IT!
Writing Tips-Going Back Just a Bit
In Blog Thirteen, I wrote the question “How did I end up illustrating it?” at the beginning of my last paragraph. The “it” refers to my self-published book, Papa’s Stinky Workshop. I also wrote the question “What does the writing group have to do with it?” in the same paragraph. The “it”, in that case, refers to the first question.
I had planned to answer those questions fully in Blog Fourteen but actually only wrote more of an intro to how illustrating my book came about.
The explanation is I hired an editor in my writing group who taught me how to ready a manuscript for self-publishing. It was she who suggested I illustrate my book. She believed it would be easy for me to do since I am an artist. Well, although an artist and illustrator share some similarities, they are not the same.
Oh, boy! I knew it would not be easy, but how hard could it be?
She asked me if two weeks would be enough time. I figured probably not since I would like to have some time for teaching my art classes, sleeping, eating, showering, etc. Also I would miss my sweetheart terribly if I could not see him sometime during those two weeks.
The shocked look on my face, gave her a hint two weeks would not be enough time. She asked if I could illustrate the book in four weeks. I still must have had that shocked look on my face because without waiting for me to answer, she upped the time to six weeks.
Six weeks, well why not? Surely that would be plenty of time.
Well, it was not. I don’t remember exactly how long it took, which is ok because I really don’t want to know! The bad news is it took much longer than I thought it would. The good news is I did learn something about how to illustrate a children’s book.
Writing Tips – Uh Ohs
Yup, finally an Uh Oh snuck up on me. I didn’t write a blog last week! I had been very good about getting my blog written each week until then.
What happened? Life happened.
I attended a Self-Publishing Expo on Saturday, March 4 th., and The Tucson Festival of Books last Saturday. Saturdays are usually spent doing many of the little things I did not get done during the week.
This month I started teaching private water color classes on Tuesdays.
I have been teaching group water color classes for several years on Wednesdays.
Thursdays I either attend an Authors’ Motivational Workshop, Authors’ Promotional Workshop or coffee/tea time with my writing friends.
Fridays and Mondays are for appointments and errands. If I have none for those days, I may actually have an At Home Day, yea! Perhaps I will write (hope, hope) or perhaps just do laundry. Oh, well, I do like clean socks. Of course, appointments and errands sometimes occur on other days too.
What about Sundays? I try to find as much time as I can during the week for those people who mean so much to me. With our busy lives, however, this can prove difficult so I set Sunday aside for my sweetheart, family and friends and give thanks for each and every one.
Writing Tips-Even More Help
Since I had not planned to illustrate Papa’s Stinky Workshop, I thought it was as finished as I could make it. Now it was my editor’s turn. Fortunately for me, the facilitator of the writing group I joined edited many of the books written by the members.
I knew little about typing a book, but at least, I did know I was supposed to double space. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to set up double spacing on my computer so I had to hit “enter” each time I wanted to create a space between lines.
I also didn’t know how to indent properly so I simply hit the space bar five times to indent. Sometimes I miscounted.
What I thought would look pretty good when I sent it to my editor, was in reality a mess. I had no idea how to check the layout of my work which meant I had no idea how unprofessional it appeared.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my editor for coming to my rescue! BIG tip, find an editor. More on that later.
Writing Tips-More Help
I found out about the writing group I attend from a fellow writer. Through this group he had learned how to self-publish a book of his poems. When he asked if he could photograph my dog Tay-Zay and use the photos to illustrate one of the poems, I was thrilled.
At that time, I did not have a book I wanted to publish, but a couple of years later, I did. I had started writing a poem influenced by none other than the photogenic Tay-Zay mentioned above. The poem soon became more than just a simple poem in my mind as illustrations began to attachment themselves to the verses.
At the same time, another story was asking to be written as well. Soon still another one was forming. Wow, three stories at once! Choose one, I told myself. Ok, I could do that, but which one? Think, Susan think.
I chose the one I thought I could finish before the Tucson Festival of Books last year. I was thinking if I finished it in time, I could present it to an agent if one were available. Fortunately, I did not find an agent because the book was definitely not ready for presentation. How little we know when we begin to write a book, at least this part of “we” knew very little.
I did not chose the poem inspired by Tay-Zay because I wanted to illustrate it and knew I would not have enough time to do so. Instead I chose Papa’s Stinky Workshop. I figured if it were accepted for publication, the publisher would choose an illustrator.
How did I end up illustrating it? Well, that is for the next blog. All I will say for now, is sometimes it is wise to be flexible and brave enough to take a chance. What does the writing group I attend have to do with it? That too is for the next blog.