Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rules to submitting to a literay magazine

I recently got a flash fiction piece published in Splickety Magazine 2.1:

That's me.  That's my story entitled Amanda's Secret.

It's my first piece of fiction published in a literary magazine.  On the road to this particular moment, I learned several things about submitting works...

Know the style, tone and audience of the magazine.  Really take some time and research the magazine.  Get a feel for the type of articles they typically print and determine if your piece would fit. 

Carefully read the submission guidelines.  Each magazine is different.  Some don't accept manuscripts.  Rather, they want a query and then they'll contact you if they are interested in reading your piece.  Make a check list of what the magazine wants and make sure to follow it exactly. 

Patience.  Most of the time you're not going to hear back before 8 - 10 weeks, so just relax.  Don't contact them asking if they've received your piece.  They'll contact you.

Submit multiple works to multiple magazines.  It's ok to send multiple stories out to multiple magazines while you wait for responses.  It's even ok to send the same story out to multiple magazines.  If you do the latter, you may need to tell the magazines that you intend to shop around your piece.  You can find out if this is required by reading the magazines submission guidelines.  Note that whichever magazine accepts the piece first is the one you have to publish with, so pick your submissions wisely.  Also, when you do get a piece accepted, it's your responsibility to contact the other magazines and let them know that your piece is no longer available for publishing.

Edit exactly as they ask.  If you're piece is accepted, they'll either edit it themselves, or give you notes.  If they give you notes, make sure you address each and every issue.  Yes, it's your vision but they're working to make your piece readable to their particular audience so be respectful and honor their changes.

Brush off rejections.  Some rejects will be pretty standard "we regret to inform you...." while others may include a few pieces of advise.  Either way, brush yourself off and get back in the game.  Not everything you write will fit every magazine, so just keep submitting and trying. 

Read the contract.  You'll get a contract, and while all will be a little different, they'll basically reserve the rights to your piece.  Read through it carefully just to make sure you're comfortable with everything.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!  When you finally get that magazine in your hands, and you flip to your piece, enjoy the moment!  You've gotten something published!  The world can now see some of those amazing and zany thoughts rushing around your writer's brain!

Repeat.  Yup, time to do it all over again!  But we writers know that all the hard work is totally worth it!

Monday, July 22, 2013

At the Starting Line

I am thrilled to be writing again!!  I've been researching for MONTHS, developing characters, writing down then throwing away plot idea after plot idea and finally I have a nugget of a story!  I can begin writing my second novel!

The beginning of a new project is filled with such joy and anticipation.  It's also filled with tons of self doubt.  I've already scratched this project more times than I can count, only to immediately start it again.  My mind is constantly asking, is this story worth telling?  Will it be good?  Will anyone even want to read it?  What if I get half way through and it sucks?

I wonder if published authors have these doubts when embarking on something new.

A big challenge I have at the starting line is keeping a steady pace.  I tend to write quickly, trying to get every idea down as fast as it appears.  My first draft is usually a mess of random ideas with no details connecting the dots.  This makes the second draft extremely difficult because I have to shift my mind from "outline" mode to "expression" mode, which isn't terribly easy for me.

In my first book, I did a much better job of enforcing the "slow and steady" mantra, but I still have a ways to go.  Details are good!  I just need to remind myself of this and let my brain sit on an idea instead of racing from one to the next.

Good luck to anyone else starting a new project!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some Helpful Resources

I'm going to share some websites that have been especially helpful.  Feel free to add your own!

This is a wonderfully witty and helpful site by Catherine Ryan Howard, a self published author.  She's awesome!  Check her out!

Ok, so this is kinda of given, but the writer's digest website is a good place to practice writing prompts, get feedback, and learn what agents are looking for in new talent.

For the ebook publisher:

This is a site by Susan May Warren designed to help emerging and advanced writers get even better at their craft.  There's information about contests, conferences and you can get active in their online community.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Mind of a Writer

I've always known that I'm different.  Well, maybe quirky would be a better word.  Imaginative?  Let's go with that.

For one thing, I have no problem with solitude.  I'm perfectly content to sit alone in a room with nothing but my thoughts.  I know, it's weird.  But that's only because you don't know what's going on in my brain during such moments.  Basically, when I close my eyes a movie that has never been written begins to play.  I see characters, settings, plot twists.  Scene after scene unfolds, and yes, the characters talk.  What would a movie be without some dialog?

Ok, before you hand me over to the loony hospital, hear me out.  The writer's brain is different.  Unique.  It can see a person sitting on a bench in the park and instantly come up with an entire back story of that individual.  It sees story potential in a dying tree, the sound of an ambulance in the distance, or a dog barking in the middle of the night.  Anything can set it off.  It never sleeps.

I've always loved this about my brain.  As far back as I can remember, I've always enjoyed my brain's ability to see a mother and child shopping for groceries and instantly come up with an entire story about their lives.  It's fun and very entertaining.

But it makes me weird.  Odd.  Different.  A bit crazy to those who don't get it.

Usually, these thoughts are just in my head but every once in a while, I slip and express them to the outside world.  When I was about eleven years old, I got locked out of my house while it was raining.  I knew my parents would be home soon so I decided to wait out the storm in our shed.  As I stood in the shed, waiting, I noticed an earthworm on the ground.  My writer's brain instantly set off and before long I had established a children's story about my new found friend.  So what did I decide to do?  I told it to the earthworm, of course.  Before I got to the end, I heard my name being called followed by intense laughter.  My checks turned bright red as I stepped into the pouring rain and saw my neighbor, laughing at me, asking if I wanted to wait out the storm in her house.  It was after that incident that I realized my writer's brain was best confined to my thoughts or paper.

But I share it with you today to let others know, you're not alone!!  About a year ago, I got the privilege of hearing an award winning romance writer speak of how she comes up with her ideas.  She said something along the lines of, "Ideas come rather organically.  I can be shopping and as I hand over my money to the cashier, I start to wonder what her life is like.  I wonder if she's married, if she has children.  Then I just make up her story and roll with it."

Um....that's me!  I can't tell you how excited I was to hear that.  You see, I'm not that weird.  I just hadn't met others like myself!  But now I know, the writer's brain is different.  Quirky.  But fun!  I'm grateful for the craziness, the constant flow of ideas, the never ending imagination that creates stories out of fleeting moments.

So you see, I've never minded solitude.  I have plenty to keep me entertained.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review : In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren

Being a good writer means recognizing and learning from good writing.

I just finished reading the book In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren.  It's a romantic christian suspense novel set in Russia.  Gracie Benson, a missionary in Russia, is on the run from murders who killed her friend.  A FSB agent, who is wrestling with his own demons, tries to keep her alive.  The two end up being hunted by a killer who has been laying in wait for decades.  What Gracie doesn't know is that she she holds a secret that could save millions of lives, but only if she can get out of Russia alive before the killer gets her.

Ok, now I'll go into more detail.  SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Gracie Benson is a wonderfully written character.  She's a missionary who feels as though she has failed God because she can't even convert her best friend, Larrisa.  Her visa is about to expire and while she knows she must leave Russia she wishes for another chance to do God's work.

Vicktor is the hero of the book.  He's Russian and a member of the FSB.  He's got a close knit group of friends who are christians, however, Vicktor refuses to believe in God.  He's haunted by his past, specifically a killer who simply goes by The Wolf.  Vicktor and his father (a cop ) chased the Wolf down into a building.  Vicktor's father said to hold back, but Vicktor didn't listen.  He went into the building, the Wolf knocked him down and ran out shooting Vicktor's father in the leg.  Vicktor's father is forced to retire and he know spends his days alone in his apartment.

The Wolf is back after a decade of laying in wait.  What Gracie doesn't know is that her friends are not as pure as they appear.  A medical miracle was produced that can cure cancer.  Gracie unknowingly has the cure in her possession.  Her friends asked her to send their mail to the US.  In the stack of mail is the cure addressed to a medical facility in the US.

There are a ton of twists and turns in the book that keep the reader thoroughly entertained.  I continually was surprised by betrayals and just when I thought I had all the characters figured out, someone would surprise me.

In the middle of the suspense is the love story of Gracie and Vicktor.  Gracie falls for him but knows that she can't truly give her heart to a non-Christian.   Vicktor falls for her knowing that as well.  But as the book progresses, all this discussions Vicktor had with his friends start to pop in his head.  He begins asking Gracie questions about God's grace and forgiveness.  He struggles with the idea that he could be so easily forgiven but he desperately wants the weight of his guilt off his shoulders.  Gracie leads him and prayer and Vicktor turns over his grief for Jesus.  It's a beautifully written moment when Vicktor becomes a christian and finally feels free.

Once the murder is finally captured (I won't actually say how or give away who the murder is because you really need to read the book!!) Gracie still needs to leave Russia.  Her visa has expired.  She and Vicktor kiss and he promises to see her again.  As she sits on the plane home, holding the miracle cure, he walks down the aisle (he hitched a ride) and surprises her. 

That's the end.

I thought it was an amazing story with characters who you'll easily fall in love with.  The way Susan May Warren instantly draws you into the story is superb.  She delicately weaves a suspenseful story with the message of God's love.

I highly recommend this book!