Following is a summary of an article from Daily Blog Tips. I thought the five “mistakes” presented in the article are worth reposting because, although we may know them, we no doubt make them over and over.
So here’s a reminder.
I’ve summarized them below as tips (to do) rather than mistakes.
The Humor contest is accepting submissions now through September 30, 2011. Winners, finalists, semi-finalists and even honorable mentions will all be published in Humor Showcase, an online publication and the winner will receive $250.00!
Reading some of the stories in Humor Showcase had me laughing out loud and triggered some of my own stories. I hope you will be inspired to submit your funny stories to this contest!
Note to my readers: In order to keep up with my blogging schedule as I return now to the classroom, I'm going to be posting only on Mondays. There may periodically be additional posts, but at least you can count on me for Mondays. Thank you!
Here are a couple of more writing contests for August that I thought sounded promising:
Writer’s Digest is offering a 12-week mentoring program for runners up of this prestigious contest: The Industry Insider Screenwriting Contest.
Let’s be clear about it – there is nothing wrong with writing a blog simply because you just like to write and you think it’s kind of fun to put some of your work out there on the World Wide Web.
But if you want people to be interested, i.e., care about what you are doing and actually read your blog, then you really need to take a close look at your purpose.
You need to identify your purpose and then you need to write in order to meet that purpose in every post. In other words, you need to connect with your audience (you may want to read or re-read my last post: Who is Your Audience?).
I’ll admit, I resist this because it all seems a little too structured; doesn’t this threaten my free-spirit style and my response to inspiration?
Yes and no. I’ve discovered that inspiration still grabs me even when I tailor my content to specific keywords and keep my audience in the forefront of my mind. And that “free-spirit” thing? Well, it just the way I am so really, it can’t be threatened!
OK. Back to purpose. You want to express yourself? OK – why? Answer that “why” question and consider how expressing yourself and doing it publically are connected and you’ll have your purpose. Keep in mind that the doing it publically part is the audience factor.
You want to improve your writing skills and develop better self-discipline? OK – again, consider how doing it publically helps you reach your goal.
Yes, posting regularly is a great way to develop your writing discipline and it’s true that the more you write, the better you get. But I’ll be honest with you – posting regularly on a blog that no one reads gets real old real fast. It also serves to chip away at your self-esteem. Do you really want to do that to yourself?
OK. So we are back to purpose and square one. Beyond these personal goals for blogging, you absolutely need to consider how expressing yourself and doing it publically are connected and you’ll have your purpose. Keep in mind that the doing it publically part is the audience factor.
Blog readers read because they want to get something for themselves. Whether it is inspiration, motivation, or entertainment, it all boils down to information in some form or another.
There you have it: TO INFORM is ultimately the purpose of your blog. Whether you are ready to confront this or not, I’m telling you that information is the foundation of any blog that has readers. Read a few of your favorites – go searching to explore some new blogs – no matter what their style is or their content, you will find that there is some form of INFORMATION there.
Challenge: Consider your writing style and the general content of the bulk of your work; consider your personal goals for writing a blog. Then brainstorm for ideas of “take-aways” for your reader. Finally, make a list of pieces of information you can offer that coincide with your style, content, and personal goals. And keep in mind that the doing it publically part is the audience factor.
Your list will become prompts for you as you progress forward with your blog. And the result? Well, you will gain more readers!
I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your audience! While this may seem like a banal statement, let me assure you that it is not; most of us do not have a clear picture of our intended audience. (You may argue that you don’t need one, but I’ll address that in another post.)
Let’s first look at the question, Who are you? This is important because the chances that YOU are similar to your audience are extremely high.
Describe yourself as you would be described in a demographic report. Sounds impersonal, I know, but do it anyway:
2) age range (12-19? 20-something? 25-40? 35-50?);
3) income bracket;
4) level of education;
5) professional field;
6) interests and concerns (i.e., politically active? Community-minded? Religious/spiritual? Concerned about global issues? Concerned about environmental issues? And so on…).
Place yourself in the first five categories and then choose one topic from your fifth category that best describes what consumes the bulk of your time, energy, money, and thoughts. Do this because it will help you get an objective perspective of yourself as all the companies and organizations that flood your email and physical mail box with unsolicited information see you.
Why is this important? Keep reading:
As a writer, you want people to read your work who are beyond your immediate circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. In other words, if you want to be published, you are ultimately seeking strangers to read your work. So who are these potential readers?
If you are like me, you may not want to limit who might read (and like) your writing; I want to cast a great big net out there and just see what I get.
I thought this was fine for a very long time. Then I actually heard myself say it recently and finally realized how undirected this is! Am I really willing to just write to the breeze and see what happens? Apparently I am because that is exactly what I’ve been doing.
But that’s not what I do for my clients. My clients give me a demographic report of their target audience and I write specific tailored to that group of people. And guess what? My clients are getting far better results from my writing than I am.
To be precise, my clients are getting money from my writing. I am not.
The writing I do for myself gets lost in cyber space. I truly believe it just vanishes.
What happens to your writing? Has it moved you to where you want to be as a writer? Or does it sit in a notebook or on a barely-read blog?
I invite you to look at the question of audience with me for at least a couple of months. After describing yourself as a member of a demographic group on someone’s report, write up the description of your audience. Then write to that audience for a while. Be committed to it because that’s the only way this experiment will give you an accurate result.
I’m going to do that with this blog and my other blog, Forever My Momma. Then in a couple of months, I’ll report back here with the results. I hope you will report back, too.
Here is a re-post of an interview with Kathleen Ortiz, Subrights Director and agent with the Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation company and Lois Winston of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency which was published in the Midwest Writer's Workshop E-Pistle.
I hope the insights here are helpful!
Q: If participants made an appointment with you, how should they prepare for their pitch session?
ALWAYS come prepared with a 2-3 sentence pitch and a hard copy of the query. I stress that the pitch is ONLY 2-3 sentences and the query is the actual query they would send. Since the MWW pitch sessions are ten minutes, the first 5 pages are handy, as well. Come prepared with questions in case the project isn't for me - I'm happy to spend the rest of the appointment giving advice/resources on how to pitch, send queries, do research, etc.
Q: What are you looking for?
I'm only looking for YA or paranormal/urban fantasy romance at this time. No women's fiction or other adult genres outside of romance. I like all YA, though the darker the better. I'd really like a YA horror, thriller, suspense, cyberpunk or intense mystery.
Q: What do you wish more writers knew?
Top three mistakes I see:
1.Reading the entire query to me (it's a pitch - 2-3 sentences)
2.Arguing with me if I kindly state it's not for me. You want someone who will be an advocate of your work - if it's not for me, respect my decision and use the extra time to ask questions about the industry. Someone else WILL be an advocate for your work.
3.Giving me a business card. I don't keep them. If I ask for pages, it's the author's job to contact me not the other way around.
Q: Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I prefer someone pitches me if the manuscript is completed.
Q: Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent?
If I'm pitched a Middle Grade, I will certainly refer it if it has potential. Otherwise, I prefer not to be pitched if it's not something I rep.
Q: What should participants bring to their pitch sessions with you?
One page query letter and the first 2 pages (double-spaced) of their manuscript.
Q: What are you looking for?
The Ashley Grayson Literary Agency was established in 1976 and handles both literary and commercial fiction, children's fiction, and some nonfiction. I currently represent authors who write romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mystery, young adult, and horror, but voice is more important to me than genre, and I love books that make me laugh out loud. I'm not interested in category romance, erotica, regencies, inspirationals, westerns, or paranormal books that feature vampires and shape-shifters.
Q: What mistakes do most writers make when approaching agents?
Three top mistakes I see:
1.Many writers query too soon. Polish your work until it's the best it can be before you submit, and you'll receive fewer rejections.
2.Know correct grammar and punctuation usage. Too many writers don't know the most basic of grammar and punctuation rules (and no, that's not what an editor is for.)
3.Don't take rejection personally. This is a business. If your work isn't right for me, it may be perfect for someone else. Or you may need to reread mistakes #2 and #3.
Q: Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I would prefer to see authors with completed manuscripts.
Q: Finally, if you do not represent what participants write but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent?
Yes, I do pass along manuscripts to our other agents if the manuscript is not right for me but might work for someone else at our agency.
Writing contests are a great way to get your work out there for others to read. They also provide motivation and deadlines that will keep you cranking out those pages. Below are three contests that are coming up SOON. Check them out and ENTER! Then be sure to post a comment to let me know what you entered and ultimately, the results!
Only poets who have NOT previously published a book of poetry are eligible for this year’s event, so to all you who have been waiting for your right time – jump in! This is it! Entry fee is $25.00 and submissions must be received between August 1 and September 30, 2011.
The American Zoetrope Screenplay contest is offering $5,000.00 for the best script! Although the actual deadline isn’t until September 6th, I’m including it here because you get $15.00 off the registration fee if you submit it by August first.
How-to articles are in great demand. There is even a whole website devoted just to how-to articles: eHow.com.
In today’s quick and easy availability to information and the DIY craze, people look online for directions to do literally – everything! I write for eHow.com and struggled at first to describe what seemed like really simple steps. With time and practice however, it has become much easier to envision the whole picture - from beginning to completion - of any number of tasks. I follow a simple template and you can, too.
Before I give you the template, however, let me give you a few tips:
Break the procedure into sections if there are more than 10 or so steps involved. For example, for most of the sewing articles I write, I present it in 2 parts: 1) preparation; and 2) assembly.
Begin each step with a verb.
Read your completed article out loud before you submit it so you can visualize the procedure based on the words; if the description doesn’t give you the picture, then it isn’t clear enough.
Even if you are an expert, include references and/or resources at the end of your article.
OK. Here’s the template:
Tell the reader what the activity is and anything unusual or unique about your particular way of doing it. Include anything specific that you wouldn’t include in the steps.
Level of Difficulty
Is it so easy that anyone can do it? (EASY)
Is it fairly easy, but still requires some concentration and skill? (MODERATE)
Is it something that requires prior knowledge and skill? (DIFFICULT)
Things You Need
List the things needed to accomplish this task. Make your list of supplies clear and simple like a list of ingredients for a recipe. Do not describe the things needed in full sentences or with long descriptions.
Number your steps and write them in simple command form.
References / Resources
List your references and resources at the end of the article.
It is my aim to create a blog that is more user-friendly and reliable. This is one of the things I contemplated during my long absence from blogging and so I decided to make a schedule for posts. I hope this will help direct the focus of my blog, The Nitty Gritty of Writing, into two main categories: 1) tips and resources for writers; and 2) announcements of contests, events, conferences, etc. I will also continue to write my reflections in which I will include personal commentary, book reviews, and occasionally feature a guest blogger. I suppose this constitutes a third category, but I’m not going to promise when or how often these will be posted. (After all, there has to be some aspect left to whim and inspiration, right??)
Here’s the proposed schedule for the “NEW” Nitty Gritty of Writing:
Mondays = tips and resources for writers
Thursdays = announcements
Random days = reflections (can’t be too rigid, you know!)
I’m writing articles again for Demand Studios after a six month plus absence. I’m happy to report that I’m writing faster and more efficiently than I was when I stopped mid-way through my teaching year. The articles are better now, too; my Demand Studios report card reflects higher ratings.
I thought it would be difficult to get back into the swing of writing online articles – I was lacking motivation, doubted my ability to manage time and self-discipline, and I expected to be discouraged by feeling I was starting all over again. To my pleasant surprise, I fell right back into it like it was second nature.
Here’s what I’ve learned (or remembered) about process:
NOTHING IS WASTED.
Things we do have purpose, whether we recognize that purpose or not. Our choices direct our lives and our experiences shape us. After any absence and subsequent return, we discover that although we have changed and the environment of our return has also changed, what we have gained and brought back with us is significant and meaningful.
I worried that I would have lost the two years of self-study that I invested prior to going back to teaching at the university; I truly believed it was gone when I first sat down to resume article writing. However, I soon realized that what I had learned during my intensive self-study was a firm foundation that I could return to and use as a starting point to move forward. Things in online writing and marketing changed in the year I was teaching; strategies and theories that were once “solid” were now defunct. But the essence of the practice and the personal benefits of self-discipline and resourcefulness had somehow multiplied in my absence. Indeed, my efforts had not been lost; nor were they wasted.
Likewise, my absence was a necessary reprieve that my soul required. Not writing is not particularly a good thing and I certainly do not advocate it, yet my absence from writing was NOT WASTED. For me, although I can write from a thinking state, inspiration comes from a free and wandering mind. Crowded, suffocated, and crippled from the reins of administrative policies, academic politics, NO as the most commonly heard response, lack of encouragement, trust and freedom, my mind was not free to wander. So I stopped, hibernated, and got recharged. When I awoke with a clear mind, I could pick up the pieces that mattered and sweep away those that had turned to dust. In so doing, I was blessed with the memory that NOTING IS WASTED.
My message to my readers today is that no matter where you are in life, find encouragement in this knowledge that what you are doing and experiencing right now is meaningful. There is purpose, even to the pain and frustrations you endure. Your choices will direct your movements - either forward and away, or into new strategies for staying put; and these experiences will shape who you are. You may not always enjoy the process, but keep in mind that it is NOT WASTED.
I thought I would be absent from writing this blog for just two months, but actually it took me six months to come back. Why? Winter blues, combined with job DIS-satisfaction, threatened to send me plummeting into depression. To combat this, I went into automatic survival mode which turns off the creative channels. Of course, denying creativity only compounds the threats to destroy me with depression, but the internal tape-recorder was already on auto-play by then, so negativity was sinking me and anything I might put on paper was not for the public eye.
Then, true to the spirit of the artist in my soul, I had to hibernate and wait for myself to buoy back up to the surface where I could think and feel again. Only then did I dare to open my notebook.
It’s summer now and I am once again unemployed. Am I bailing out to the fantasy of the starving artist, or is it true that financial worries are nothing compared to the soul-suffocating stress of the working world? I don’t know for sure, but it I’m telling you, I feel alive, even with no money to spend, and I was dying, even with a paycheck to buy plenty of food.
I have great callouses on my feet, but my heart remains tender and fragile. That’s a great combination for rising with the sun and hiking to the river’s edge to write poetry, play with words and listen to God, and reconnect with my purpose and value in earth life. it’s a terrible combination, however, for managing the subtle nuances of academia that deny authenticity and chisel away at personal value.
Nonetheless, that’s behind me now. The days are long and warm and I am once again awake. Bare feet on hard earth, birds and water ripples serenade me as my soul opens up and my pen scribbles quickly across the pages.