Friday, December 31, 2004

I Resolve...Not To Resolve...But To Change

During these few days of the year, many people are focused on making resolutions and goals for 2005. They plan to lose weight or exercise more. As writers, we tend to focus our plans around publishing and the amount of material we want to see in print. Through the years, I've tried to make these types of resolutions and I've discovered they rarely work. Oh, they might work for a few days or a few weeks, then I begin to lose my resolve and the goal slips away into oblivion and is never accomplished.

This year, I've decided to take a different stance on resolutions. I'm resolving not to resolve. I will not take any evalution time to make a list of promises or plans for myself. Instead, I'm going to handle it in a general attitude check manner. I'm going to resolve to continue to change and grow.

For many years, I've been in the writing and publishing business. My serious take on it began in high school or about thirty years ago. If you want to read about one of the most dramatic moments in my career, then check out Two Words That Changed My Life. Suffice it to say I've seen many changes in publishing. After many words in print and many books in print, it's easy to lure yourself into thinking that you have it all figured out and you've arrived. Not true. If I believed it, I would fool myself into complacency and not need to grow or learn anything.

I'm renewing my plans to continue changing and growing as a writer and editor during the year ahead. It's better than any resolution. Here's a sample of the areas where I'm going to continue learning and growing as a writer.

Reading: If I don't take into my brain and heart through reading, then I will not have much to give out in words to others. I've had a lifetime pattern of reading the daily newspaper cover to cover. Currently we live in the Phoenix area and each day I read the Arizona Republic. During the last few years, I've been reading many more magazines. I'm reading in preparation to write for different publications but also to be absorbing information about my world. Also I'm reading books -- in a variety of genres. I read a great deal of nonfiction but I also read a number of novels in different genres. The information keeps me up on my world. The most important book that I will faithfully read throughout the year is the One Year Bible. This type of tool keeps me in the Book each day. I plan to continue growing in this area of my life.

Craft: While I've learned a great deal in the past years about publishing, I continue to discover new aspects of craft that I can improve. I'm constantly working to be a better storyteller in my nonfiction writing--whether a long book or a short magazine article. Also I continue to learn about publishing law and contracts. In some cases, I represent the publisher with a contract offer to an author or a literary agent. Other times, I need to review my own contract from a publisher. Because I've been on both sides of the negotiations, I understand that when I sign my contracts, only my name is at the bottom of the page (not my agent or editor). There are many more things for me to learn in the days ahead about the craft of writing and the craft of publishing.

Trends: One of the ways I continually change is to keep up on some of the trends in the publishing world. A good place to begin is with Publisher's Lunch--a free publication with articles and information about who is doing what. Also I subscribe to Publisher's Weekly and try to read most of each issue. Other great resources in this area are CBA E-News or Christian Etailing Newsletter. I look at each of these resources on a regular basis to keep learning and growing. It's part of my on-going growth process.

Books About Writing: Also during the coming year, I will continue to read books about writing to improve my skills. For example, currently I'm reading Page After Page by Heather Sellers. Here you can read a short excerpt. Also I'm almost finished with a great new book on some fiction fundamentals from James Scott Bell called Plot and Structure. Here's a short excerpt from this book. These types of books help me grow and continue to change as a writer and editor. For many years, I've been averaging to read one how-to book about writing each month.

Watch Less TV: As a general rule, I plan to watch less TV in the days ahead and do more reading. I understand this type of action goes against the norms for our world but there are many important ideas contained in books and it's the world where I'm working day in and day out.

Exercise/ Diet: Have you ever noticed when they release the bulk of the diet books? It's in January when most people make those resolutions. Several years ago I wrote one of those books on a crash schedule called First Place. It's still in print and doing well for the publisher. I fell into long work habits and poor eating habits and bulked up in terms of my weight. Over a year ago, my wife purchased a South Beach Diet book at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'll be the first to admit I've not been perfect at the diet--but I have given up most of my carb foods and my weight is considerably lower. An editor who I worked with at another publisher saw me for the first time in months and said I looked ten years younger. I've also been working out on our treadmill regularly for the past year. I'm committed to regular exercise and working on my diet. It's a part of my lifestyle change and keeping my health--and my stamina for writing and editing.

First Things First: Above the other aspects that I've listed. Also I'm going to spent time with my wife and love my family in the year ahead to the best of my ability. Yes, writing is important but I'm going to keep growing as a writer and editor in the fuller context of my life.

I'm realistic in that I will not handle everything right in these areas of my life. But I'm determined to continue growing and changing and learning as a writer and editor. It's the best stance I can take for the year(s) ahead.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Why Begin Writing Books?

This past week, I hung up the phone and simply shook my head at the conversation. Another would-be author called me about their manuscript. In town for the holidays, they wanted to meet and give me their manuscript. On one hand, it's admirable they wanted to connect with me face to face. On the other hand, it showed me their inexperience in publishing. For my part-time job in fiction acquisitions, I'm not trying to meet with people in person. Since January of this year, I've received more than 350 submissions for six possible books. If you want me to consider your fiction, then please send it to me in hard copy format and include the means to respond (SASE or email address). The guidelines for Howard Publishing submissions are on their website. I shook my head about this author because they had a handwritten novel.

On one hand, you have to admire this writer's persistence and discipline to complete a 80,000 to 100,000 adult length novel in their own handwriting. But to risk sending it to me doesn't seem practical. This writer needs to get a computer or use one at the local library and put their work in an electronic form. Then they will be able to easily get another copy of their manuscript and protect it.

The experience revealed a common experience. Many people want to begin their writing career with books. They have never published anything and yet they begin with a book. If you want to write nonfiction, you don't write the entire manuscript. You need to learn how to write a book proposal. I've got a lot of information about this process in my Book Proposals That Sell ebook.

If you have no publishing experience, then you need to make a conscious effort to get some publishing credits. The best place to get these credits is in smaller circulation magazine work. The articles are short (500 to 1500 words in general) and you will learn a great deal about publishing in the process. You will learn how to write to a specific word limit. You will learn how to capture the reader's attention with a bang up beginning. You will learn how the editorial process of publishing works (to a degree) and many other valuable lessons. It's the ideal place to begin. Look for a publication that publishes frequently. A weekly magazine often has a greater need for quality material than a monthly magazine or a quarterly publication. Follow this magazine link to learn more detail about magazine writing. If you want to be published, you are better off learning the ropes with a shorter piece than spending days and months on a long book manuscript that will likely never be published.

I'd advise you to plan a strategy that will likely lead to your success. Best wishes in the journey.

Do you have a question for Terry? Then use this email address.


Dream About Writing Full-time?

Many people dream of writing a book and getting it published. Or they want to quit their full-time jobs and turn to freelance writing. Are you ready to take the plunge? Through this blog, I'm going to discuss the writing life--the ups and downs--the dangers and the joys of working in the publishing world. This material will supplement my Right-Writing website. From time to time, I will include links to new articles on the site and other tidbits about publishing and writing. I hope you will return often to read my insight about the writing life.