Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Last Post: Part One

It's hard putting a blog to bed. I realized that after I put out a call for submissions for Writerly Pearls of Wisdom and was flooded both with kind notes and good advice. In fact, I received so much good advice that I've decided to break it up into two posts, one today and one tomorrow. I believe that these two posts tell you just about everything you need to know about the writer's life; I will definitely return to them in the days ahead for inspiration, wisdom, and support.

I realized, too, how blessed I've been during these three years to get to know all of  the writers mentioned here. (I knew several of the Portland writers, but blogging has opened a whole new world to me, not just of the mind but also geographically. There are quotes here from writers in Thailand and New Zealand!) Thank you all for helping me along the way.

Today's post will feature some specifics about writing--about the query process, about good blogs to visit and about craft. Tomorrow's will be more general inspiration. So, without further ado, here come some

Writerly Pearls of Wisdom:

From my dear friend, Matthew MacNish, a partner in Project Mayhem Crime as well as the doyen of queriers with his amazing The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment: Here's my three Cs rule: "A good query letter covers the three Cs, succinctly and with specificity: Character, Conflict, and Choice."

From another Project Mayhemmer--and prolific author, Chris Eboch:

Show Don’t Tell. No doubt you've heard this phrase before, but writers often have a hard time understanding exactly what it means. Here’s the best explanation I’ve heard:

Showing uses specific sensory details -- what your main character can see, hear, smell, taste or touch -- to bring the scene to life. When showing emotion, this might be something like stomach churning or head pounding. You can also show by giving us a character’s actions (for example, crying, laughing, trembling, gasping, clenching her fists, etc.).

Avoid telling -- summarizing or explaining -- what's going on or how your main character feels. Anytime you define an emotion (someone is angry, worried etc.), you're probably telling. If you can't clearly observe it through the five senses, it's likely telling. For example, I can see a frown, I can hear yelling, but I can't see or hear "anger" – only its symptoms. People express anger in different ways (one person might yell and frown, while another forces a smile and keep silent) so showing rather than telling not only paints a clear picture, but also lets us know something about the character.

I did a series on Voice on my blog, with information about Show, Don’t Tell. http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/search/label/voice

Janice Hardy talks a lot on her blog, The Other Side of the Story (http://blog.janicehardy.com/), about showing rather than telling. Click on the link to "Description" or do a search for Show Don't Tell. She also does regular critiques of her followers’ work and often points out show don’t tell issues.

Natalie Aguirre is one of the extraordinary bloggers behind Literary Rambles, which is a must-read for all writers searching for agents. Natalie has been a wonderful supporter of my blogging efforts, and is a super human being. Here's a list of her favorite blogs: 

For finding out about agents:
Guide to Literary Agents (http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents)- In addition to our blog, Literary Rambles, this is a great resource for finding agents and learning about the querying and publishing process. Chuck Sambuchino often spotlights newer agents, has some agent interviews, and also runs agent contests. 

On the craft of writing:
The Other Side of the Story (http://blog.janicehardy.com)- This is author Janice Hardy's blog and she offers fantastic posts about the craft of writing. She always uses great examples too.

On the business side of writing:
Pub Rants (http://pubrants.blogspot.com)- Agent Kristin Nelson (one of my dream agents and also Janice Hardy's agent) shares so much practical advice on the business side of publishing and agents on her blog. I always learn from her posts.

For good discussion and resources:
Stina Lindenblatt (http://www.stinalindenblatt.com)- Stina blogs Mondays and Wednesdays and often shares insightful reviews of books and software products relating to the craft of writing. She also picks great topics to discuss.

YA author Elana Johnson (http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com)- Elana honestly shares a lot of her experiences from going from an aspiring author to a published, mid-level author and just blogs about interesting subjects in general.

I have reviewed two of New Zealand author Susan Brocker's books on Project Mayhem. I would love to see her exciting stories, often featuring children and their relationships with animals, breakout in the U.S. market!! She's a fantastic writer, as well as a kind correspondent. Here are two of her favorite tips for good writing: Write about what you love and feel passionate about and then this energy will flow through in your writing. And Write! Write! Write! Writing is a craft and the more you write the better you get.

Mike Winchell is a Project Mayhem pal, and someone on whom I have counted to give me loads of good advice. A summary of which he is now kind enough to share with us all:

On Querying: Remember that your future agent will work FOR YOU, and that you want someone who will fight their asteroids off for you, and make you as high a priority as their Newberry winners. You need to have someone who doesn't talk down to you, and you don't want someone who's "giving you a chance." You want someone who thinks you're giving them a chance. Too many writers feel inferior to their agents, and this is a recipe for a future divorce.

When you are sure your query is there and your manuscript is too, query widely. Send out a few at first to some agents. If you query draws quick requests, and your initial pages do as well, go wide with another 20-25. If you get an offer, send an immediate "OFFER OF REPRESENTATION" email. Then watch how quickly the emails come. But like I said, this is only if your query/pages are there.

On Attitude: If your "stuff" is good, be confident! Agents want writers who don't just think they belong, they want writers who KNOW it. Confidence is key. Not cockiness, but confidence. Write with it. Query with it. Live with it.

On Being on Submission with Editors: It sucks! The waiting is horrible and it is best to start writing something fresh ASAP. But...man, it's nearly impossible not to be obsessive. We all get that way. 

I 'met' Dan Ogilvie through Microfiction Monday. He's a Brit who lives in Thailand, and he always makes me laugh. In my e-mail to writers, I asked about advice or any "best of" they could think of. Dan came through with this:
Best film seen recently: Arbitrage with Richard Gere.
Best book read while flying: Tina Fey, Bossypants (‘…she looked like a Liza Minnelli doll that had been damaged in a fire…’).
Best ‘art of writing’ book: The Art of Fiction by David Lodge.
I am currently listening to: Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower.
Favourite cartoon website: http://basicinstructions.net/
Strangest event so far for 2013: Sitting in a hotel bar in Orlando during a Highland Games weekend. Lots of kilts and sporrans but not a Scottish accent to be heard. Was Sam Adams Scottish?
My wish for 2013: Mitt Romney outs himself on Oprah and announces he has been in a tempestuous ten year relationship with Lance Armstrong. ‘We are having a ball together’ he cries before adding ‘we have made an application to adopt Benjamin Netanyahu’.[Told you he had a "wicked" sense of humor.]

I'm not sure how I came across Kristen Wixted, but I am very glad I did. Her blog Don't Forget the Samovar showcases her great sense of humor. She is also newly agented, with her agent being Michele Rubin at Writers House. I see great things for Kristen on the horizon. Here are her tips as a writer Mom with three kids:

Leave the laundry, leave the dishes, don't think about any of it. When you've worked on your writing for at least 90 minutes, if you need a break, then throw in a load of clothes or dishes. Not before. Consider the housework the small exercise break you need to get the kinks out before getting back to work. Then forget about it all again and sit down with your manuscript.

Also, I like to be religious about having everything I need to get my writing done at my desk and no one (i.e. afore mentioned 3 kids, and husband) is allowed to touch it. This includes paper, pens that work, tissues, (more recently) my glasses and a little notepad for scribbling down notes to myself about things I need to get done when I'm done writing. Oh, and I also like to have both my cell phone and my home phone nearby for screening calls (I only answer certain people's calls when I'm working) and obviously, my laptop and power cord.

I will take Kristen's advice and go and do my exercise (loading the dishwasher.) I love this type of exercise regimen!! And I'll be back tomorrow with a final FINAL POST. Thanks for reading!


  1. Awesome pieces of advice, Michael. Mike's really answered a question I had about queries and how many to submit if you start getting requests.

    Thanks for including me and all your kind words. Looking forward to seeing you more at your other blog.

    1. Natalie, you are a gem. Thank you for helping so many authors and writers in so many ways.

  2. Man, it's so sad to see a blog go. Thank goodness you've got two more of them.

    And you've compiled some seriously awesome advice here, Mike. Well done!

  3. There is such a motherload of great advice here! Thanks for gathering it all, Michael. I'm about to start querying for the first time (agh!), so I'm bookmarking this blog post to refer to when I need it.

  4. What a great way to end a blog--I love both the posts.
    Somehow it's hilarious to me that the photo you chose is the one of my and my daughter Bridget. She is my most in-your-face kid.
    Glad it's just this blog and not you in general we're saying bye to!


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