Blog while you write to promote your manuscript, and learn the ropes of publishing before you finish.

Interaction + Sales

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

>There is a lot of advice about writing out there, but many sites fail to mention that you need to learn the ropes about publishing before you finish your manuscript.  Since I’m a new writer long the path to author, I was concerned when I got to the halfway point that I didn’t know a thing about how to get published once I have my manuscript completed and edited a thousand times.

Then I stumbled across Nathan Bransford’s Blog about Writing and Authorship. Bransford, a former agent for Curtis Brown, Ltd. and now an Author,  talks about what you need to do ahead of time, things you should be researching ahead of your completing a manuscript.  Under the title, “How to find a Literary Agent” you can connect to his straight talk about the work you need to do.  Blogging is a start.

You can read Bransford’s solid advice about how to begin, HERE.  Bransford champions learning about and beginning to promote yourself by connecting with other Writers and Authors and learning about agents before you need them…makes sense, right?  So let’s get Blogging!  Meanwhile, KEEP WRITING.

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!

On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

Damage Control: Repair your sentence structure. Edit!

My least favorite part about writing is repairing sentence structure in my manuscripts; i.e. editing. That being said, you won’t be surprised to find, that my least favorite part about blogging is repairing sentence structure, can you say editing?!  I knew you could. Guess what?  If you want your manuscript to become a  novel you are going to have to do a full Dumpster’s worth of  editing.  So, I’ve decided to quit whining and learn to embrace the editing process. I’ll rehash a Blog I wrote about adding a character to help develop my protagonist, and getting organized. I’m going to restructure the entire post, remove anything that isn’t related to it, post it again. Goodtimes. Good practice for my manuscript!

I read a lovely Blog about how to create better sentences here: http://foetalpositions.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/shenanigans-writers-block-and-inspirationalism/

The Feotal Positions Blog is a wealth of information for Writers and Authors alike to aid in paring those sentences down into simple, readable structures.

That is tonight’s post, Folks.  Off I go to do some chopping and restructuring!  You do the same.  Confused?  Visit Foetal Positions Blog in WordPress!

>Formatting Your Manuscript: Section One, Traditional Format

Manuscript

Don't wait! Format your manuscript now!

>When I began writing, it was on paper.  Ten sheets of crazy written notes in chicken scratch handwriting, filled to capacity on both sides. I even had teeny notes in the margins and running around the edges!  Beautiful to have the ideas down, ugly to look at.  I transferred it to the computer, started fleshing out those ideas, making them bigger, scrapping some, just writing.  However, I was all over the place with fun word fonts tiny print sizes, not to mention right justified margins.  There was nothing to distinguish between one chapter and the next, and it had random headers and footers for chapters and notes.  With an eye on future publication, I knew I needed to get my writing into manuscript format, both for my own organization, and eventual manuscript submissions.

So, I dove into the search to find the best manuscript formatting advice.  And there is a crazy amount of information out there!  For this first segment I’m going to concentrate on traditional publishing formats.   After reading two books with content on the subject, and twenty websites, I came up with a good  answer, and a couple of links. Depending on the publishing house, there are many ways to format a manuscript, and each one has its preference.  There are, however, some prominent commonalities.  The following list should get your writing in good order, and when you get to the finish line, your manuscript will be properly formatted aside from front page.

Get organized, get formatted, get going!

The following format applies to Traditional Manuscripts only:

  • A one inch margin all around is the industry standard.
  • Margin should be left justified, resulting in a ragged margin on the right edge.
  • Most prefer no header or footer
  • Type size should allow for editing and ease of reading. Size 12 or 10 are best, but trend leans toward size 12.
  • Most Editors and Agents prefer to read fonts in New Courier, but Times New Roman is  acceptable.  This can vary widely between Agents, Editors, and Publishing Houses.  Check before you send your manuscript!
  • Double space your lines.
  • Use a .5 inch indentation for a new paragraph.
  •  To begin a new chapter, insert a page break, but check with the Publishing House guidelines as this varies highly.
  • Another option to indicate when one paragraph starts and another stops is to use a pound sign # centered at the start of a new chapter, but once again this varies highly by Publishing House.  Check their specific guidelines!
  • Words that you want to emphasized should be underlined.  Do not use italics.
  • Number your pages at the top of each page!  Make sure they are sequential, starting from 1, 2, 3, etc. each page getting a number to the end page which will have the highest number. There are specifics as to where each Publishing House will want the numbering, but for writing purposes top right should do.
  • There is a lot of conflicting information as to whether or not to print your name at the top of each page.  But from researching this, it is better to skip it until you have selected an agent or publishing house, then apply those guidelines. 
  • Want more information about formatting you manuscript or a front cover letter? My usual go to guy, Author Nathan Bransford and this nice clear information from Moira Allen, editor of Writing World.com Moira Allen, Manuscript Format

>What’s in a Name? How do you choose a pen name and should you?

Mask

Do you use a Nom de Plume?

>Do you recognize any of these Author names?  Richard Bachman, Mark Twain, J.D. Robb, Paul French, David Axton, Joanne Rowling, Dawn Cook.

Give up?

They are Stephen King, Samuel Clemens, Nora Roberts, Issac Asimov, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, Kim Harrison.  So when do you use a pen name?

There are several reasons to publish under a Nom de Plume instead of your own.  In some cases, for an already established Author, a switch to a different genre is the push. For instance, while Auroa Hartsmith might be an okay name for a romance author, it might not work for a horror author…unless she is rewriting a new version of Frankenstein.

Another reason is privacy.  Some authors are pretty quiet in their home lives.  They may not want to share so much of their real persona with the public until they are putting on their game face for press reviews and panels and signings.  There are also authors who are writing about controversial or adult subjects.  Their privacy is important because of possible harmful repercussions to their dayjobs or public reputations.

An author may want to write more books than a publishing house is willing to commit to, so writing under a different name helps the author avoid legal entanglementsif they move to a new house, or even publish for themselves.  It all depends on the contract entered in to originally.

A new Author may want to keep their options open for future publications to varying audiences.  Perhaps the voice you are writing in now is suitable for children’s literature, but say you want to use the same name to write a horror or adult novel.  The voice would change according to the audience, and the subject matter would be inappropriate for the kiddies, so the name should follow suit, to avoid complications.

Some Authors simply don’t feel the name has a good ring to it, and they want a name that sounds younger, or older according to their tale.

Choosing a pen name that does not give away your gender can be helpful in marketing your book to a larger audience.  Unfortunately, it is still common that people tend to buy books leaning toward a certain gender for a specific genre.  J.K. Rowling’s publisher felt that her gender might limit her target audience in marketing a book with a boy protagonist.  J.K. Rowling instead of Joanne Rowling is a gender neutral choice.

And here’s an interesting snippet: When an author chooses a name, they may be encouraged by their publisher to select a name that comes after the letter “E” and before the letter “N” in the alphabet.  This is because, according to market research, people have a tendency to look at titles from those that are near the top to middle of the shelves.  They are less likely to choose a title from the lower shelves.That means that if you have a last name starting with a “Z” your work will not be as visible to the customer trying to find a good read.

So, many authors do use a pen name for many and varied reasons. I didn’t see a whole lot of cons discussed, and in fact, the pros are numerous, so I wrote this Pen Name Blog in a positive light.  Have fun choosing yours!

C.K. Garner =^,^=

>Two Important Links for Writers!

Traps

Image by Gabe Racz via Flickr

If an offer for your manuscript smells funny, say because you will have to buy copies of your own books, or the agent’s offer still seems too good to be true, though you will be handling the printing costs, the perfect publishing packaging of your dreams may be an Author’s trap.

So, how does an anxious Writer, eager to get published, avoid the pitfalls and bad guys that lurk around every corner of the publishing business?

The answer is do your homework!  Do some research on those editors, agents and publishing houses to whom you intend to submit your manuscript.

Here are two must see resources for Writers and Authors:

Writer Beware, go to their site here  is a direct affiliate of The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site (SFWA) which has included members such as Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, and Anne McAffery. Writer Beware exists to aid Writers and Authors in avoiding literary scams and unscrupulous editors, agent and publishing traps.  They do not accept manuscripts, but offer advice on staying clear of fraud, and if you have been scammed, a place to begin the process of reporting it.   Their site is well respected and the advice is sound.

Preditors and Editors, go to site here ,was recommended to me by Nishi Serrano, Author.  The site has inside information about agent listings, editors and publishing houses, along with basic and advanced Writer and Author manuscript submission advice, query letter and synopsis guidance.

In Preditors and Editors Agents and Attorneys section there is an alphabetical list of possible sites for you to query with your manuscript.  There are some that are listed as NOT Recommended, and others that have a High Recommend, according to feedback from aspiring Authors and Published Authors.  Still other listings are marked as Highly Not Recommended for various reasons.

From what I hear the industry is trying to shut down Preditors and Editors, which says to me, go print it out just in case the information is gone one day!  But I hope that will not be the case.  Just out of curiosity, I checked a couple of NOT recommended agencies, and sometimes no address is posted, link won’t go to the posted addy, etc.  Take a look for yourself!

Preditors and Editors alongside Writer Beware and SFWA are a Writers and Authors goldmine of protection and writing advice.

Thanks so much Nishi, for the Link!!