Does Writing Ruin Reading?

This is how reading fiction is supposed to make you feel as if Pegasus is carrying you aways on his back to some magical realm. And not just fantasy books. Any book.

Lately, I’ve been disappointed in the books I’ve been reading, even with books by favorite authors, people I’d always thought were very good writers. Is it because I’ve gotten more impatient as I’ve gotten older? Or is it because I’ve been writing more and editing my own material? Being a nit-picky writer has turned me into a nit-picky reader.

Now, I pay more attention to such cliches as “She kept her eyes on the floor.” (Be careful not to step on them) Worse yet, “She raked him with her eyes.” (I didn’t know eyes have claws) Eyes do all sorts of unlikely things in books. Substitute “gaze” for eyes to make the prosed less absurd.

“I hate it when people breathe dialogue,” she breathed. Period, after dialogue instead of a comma. But don’t people breathe all the time?

Even the best writers use the annoying, nonsensical description, “He felt, rather than saw.” “He felt, rather than heard.” Why not just, “he felt” without “saw” or “heard”?

I love books that have include a rich tapestry of details. It’s the sort of thing I write myself. I have to rein myself in so as not to overdo it. It’s hard to know when there is too much detail when charming becomes annoying. I recently read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth for the second time. The first time I loved the book. It contained the sort of information that I loved in my class on Medieval and Renaissance art, which I thoroughly loved. Years later, not so much. A cast of thousands in Pillars, along with their detailed storylines, didn’t help

Thinking to find a book by someone who’s a graceful writer, whose other books I’ve enjoyed, I ordered Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders, based on a true story about an English village that quarantined itself during the Black Plague. As expected, the book has some gruesome details. Considering the subject gruesome could be expected. But then she throws in a gratuitous murder, turns a saintly character into a sociopath, and writes a totally off-the-wall ending. This time the fault is in the writer, not an overly-critical reader.

My current aggravation is with a book by Philippa Gregory, another writer whose books I’ve enjoyed. Were her historical novels always this tedious or is it me? She has chosen an odd way to write The Constant Princess about Henry VIII’s first wife. Some scenes are written in first person, present tense from Katherine’s point of view. These scenes are printed in Italics. A couple of pages or even a paragraph later, Gregory switches to third-person, past tense, printed in regular font. Back and forth all through the book. ARGH! It does not make for immersive reading. If this book had been her first, instead of her ninth, I doubt that it would even have gotten published.

Editing is stressful, so is being edited, especially if you’re doing it yourself.

Maybe I should switch to reading books that were written when editors actually edited. Books by authors such as Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald whose I manuscripts were edited by editor par excellence, Maxwell Perkins. I could use an editor like Perkins myself. The publishing world could use more editors like him.

Tweeting Agent Pitches

Is it for the birds?

This fellow’s much cuter than the well-known logo.

Today was #PitMad day, also known as Pitch Wars. These are quarterly events during which unagented writers are invited to pitch their finished, polished novels on Twitter using only 280 characters. Agents and publishers search the tweet pitches for something that interests them.

Adding to my stress today was losing my internet connection for a couple of hours. ARGH!!! It took me a while to figure out how to get it back. It was a simple fix if you know that modems have a reset button. I didn’t. Once I found it and pushed it my connection didn’t resume until maybe an hour later. ARGH!!! At least my modem hadn’t died.

I’ve pitched A Home for an Exile’s Heart for at least a year now without one nibble from an agent or publisher. Today I pitched my other novel, As Wind to Flame. The only folks who paid attention to that tweet were a few fellow writers who re-tweeted my pitch. I re-tweeted a few of theirs, too.

Let me tell you about my book. Telling a friend or two is not enough.

I’m terrible at promoting my writing but I’m trying to do better. So, before PitMad began and now that it’s over, I’ve posted a few tweets about As Wind to Flame. The story is set during the mid-Nineteenth Century. My main character is Theodora (Thea, Tay) Lowell. The inciting incident is the death of Thea’s mother when Thea is ten.

Since I’m promoting myself, I might as well include my tweets. The more exposure, the better, right? Who knows who might be reading my blog or my tweets? Just because the #PitMad pitch event is closed doesn’t mean agents and publishers aren’t still looking for stories.

This is how self-promotion should be done.

Promo Tweets

#As Wind to Flame, trilogy
1841- Boston
Adam age 6 meets Thea
She - 1 hr old

They’re parted, reunited, and parted again & again.

He never dreamed she’ll grow up to be a tough, resilient, beautiful woman who will save his life and steal his heart.
* * * * *
 #AsWindtoFlame, trilogy

Thea’s 10, her mom dies.
Dad is lost in grief. Thea is like a mom to her dad. Everything in Boston reminds Daniel of his wife.
He takes the family to CA to be close to his best friend, Adam’s dad.
With Adam as her minder, Thea can be a child again.

* * * * *

Thea age 15 kisses Adam
Adam age 22 Don’t do that
She I love you
He You’re just a child
She I know a girl of 13 who’s engaged.
He That’s so wrong
She You’re a prude
He I love you too. You’re not the sister of my blood, you’re the sister of my heart.

Thea could’ve wept

* * * * *

#AsWindtoFlame trilogy
1852, CA

He’s 18
She’s 11
He’s her minder
She’s his fierce defender
To him, she’s like a little sister
+11 yrs of love & adventure & heartbreak
He’s her only love
She’s an ex-Civil War nurse
He has a bullet wound & is engaged to her sister.
The nurse
 has a knife...

The next PitMad event will probably be during the first week of March.


Can’t Stop Editing

Yup. Fits me. No doubt there are others out there who are also insecure perfectionists. Or just insecure.

Probably one reason for my inability to stop editing is that I have a slight (?) case of dyslexia. Someone who is even more of a fussbudget informed me that what I have is dysgraphia–a writing disability. Because of it, my high school typing class was sheer misery. I couldn’t even type a mailing label correctly the first time or the second. Anxiety dos not help matters. Thank goodness for word-processing programs.

Printing out your material and reading it out loud, with red pen in hand can help.

E.B. White was the author of the children’s books, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan. He wrote for The New Yorker magazine and was one of their contributing editors. And he was the co-author of The Elements of Style, a book that was a must for English majors. I once had two copies, which I read, but never memorized.

I don’t remember where I read the two anecdotes I relate here; it’s been ages since I came across them. I don’t know if they’re apocryphal, but they’re sure memorable.

Not White’s post office, but it could have looked much like this one.

E.B. White is said to have mailed a manuscript to his editor and promptly went to the postmaster in the small Maine town where he lived and begged to get the ms. back. He’d thought of some edits he could make. I can identify with that. 

I remember these pre-wordprocessor deleters.

One thing about publishing your novel on Amazon’s Kindle Vella is both good and bad. You can take down a chapter any time and do some more work on it. That’s what I’ve been doing the past few weeks even thought I have other stories to write. A  friend and I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. I started writing a new novel, got about a quarter of the way through, and stalled. I didn’t care enough, I guess.  A Home for an Exile’s Heart called me back and I answered the call to edit it some more. I can’t believe I thought it was finished.

Writers aren’t the only ones who can’t stop editing. 

I have no idea which of his paintings he was touching up.

A shocked museum guard once came across a man who’d gotten behind the velvet rope and was touching up a painting handing on the wall.

“Sir. stop! You can’t do that!” The dismayed guard exclaimed. “Don’t you know that’s a painting by Picasso?”

Man with palette and brush, “I am Picasso and it’s not finished!”

Whether it’s true or not, and I hope it is, I love this anecdote. I don’t recall if the artist in question was Picasso, but it seems a Picasso-like thing to do.

Would White have been able to write more books if he hadn’t been such a fussbudget? We’ll probably never know. No unpublished manuscripts have turned up.

For Picasso, who was a ceramicist, sculptor, printmaker, and stage designer, as well as a painter, that episode in the museum must have been a one-off. During his lifetime he created fifty thousand (!) works of art. Obviously, he knew when to let go and go on to the next project. The fact that he started to paint in his childhood and lived until he was ninety-one surely made a difference, as did being a genius.

Those of us who lack the confidence of geniuses have a harder time stopping editing and submitting our work to a publisher, or taking our portfolio to a gallery have a harder time figuring out when something we created is good. Or, if we had the gumption of Snoopy and wrote to the publisher to come get our mansuscripts.

Stop correcting and mail that manuscript. Most of us use email, but I had to post this photo because the mailboxes are so cute.

Writing Outdoors

The last day of summer. Cold weather will be setting in sometime soon, but not yet. Today it was in the low seventies and sunny with a gusty breeze. I sat at the little tray table on my balcony and wrote in my journal. I love to write outdoors. Except when the weather was too crummy–too hot one stifling day in Jun, too wet a couple of days in September I wrote outdoors every single day all summer. I also wrote outdoors almost every day during spring and plan to continue writing on my balcony all through fall and even in winter, weather permitting.

View from my balcony, but only if I’m standing. Days like this can be very mild.

My balcony is on the second floor of my apartment building, it has two walls and a third-floor balcony for a ceiling, so I’m protected from the weather unless it’s raining hard or if there’s a too-stiff breeze.

I have pleasant company on my veranda–fifteen plants in their containers. That would be an awful lot for a small balcony if it weren’t for a spiral wrought iron stand that holds three pots, two railing containers, and a small table that hold four fuchsia cuttings in four-inch pots.

Two of my favorite balcony companions. The lawn where they coyote roams.

Besides my botanical friends, I have views of sky, clouds, trees, and Mt. Rainier. Down below is a swath of lawn, bordered on the far side with a blackberry patch and plants I can’t identify.

I have visitors. Bunnies play on the lawn. A coyote sometimes tiptoes by in broad daylight. Butterflies flit around the blackberry patch. The “Blue Flash,” a.k.a. Steller’s jay flies front tree to tree. A snobbish little hummingbird adores my hosta’s blossoms, tolerates my petunias, and snubs my million bells. One time a white cabbage butterfly flew into my balcony space and sat on a hosta leaf long enough for me to take its picture.

Cabbage butterfly on a hosta leaf.

Human neighbors also turn up on the lawn from time to time. My favorites are a guy named Bailey and his yellow dog. Sometimes the family cat follows along. Bailey runs a little robocar for his dog to chase.

I recond all these antics.

My balcony isn’t the only place I write outdoors. I’ve written at sidewalk tables at Starbucks. On the terrace of the Student Union Building at my old university. The campus is are like a park. My purse always contains a little notebook, just in case I’m somewhere interesting, or boring (bus stop) where I can pass the time while writing. When I had a car it contained a car notebook. I used to sit and write and listen to music during my lunch break at work.

Gig Harbor, Washington, USA. Another setting for my outdoor writing.

Other than it being a pleasant way to spend time, why do I do it? I’ve never written anything sensible while outdoors. I’m too busy describing what I see–trees, sky, mountains, birds, bugs, passersby. My feelings of bliss at being out in the fresh air go in my notebook. Sometimes I fantasize about writing a From My Balcony version of Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, but I’m not sure my observations are acute enough, detailed enough, interesting enough for anyone to want to publish them. Most of the things I watch I can’t identify except as, “tree,” “bird,” “bug.” Once I look them up, they could add color to my fiction. Thus far, the only idea I’ve had during my outdoor writing sessions is for a flash fiction story about a woman on her balcony. Started, but not finished. Maybe soon. Maybe never. I do have a market in mind for it when, not if, I finish it.

“They,” whoever they are, say that a daily writing habit is important for writers. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write. Most days I have that habit, but none of it has translated to either of my novels. Oh, well, you never know when it might. 

The last few weeks I’ve been might laggard about writing little essays for my blog. Feeling wonky in both mind and body. Not wanting to whine in public about my wonky sensations. At last! Results from writing outdoors–this blog post. Bonus, I feel a lot less wonky.

On my balcony, with a hot beverage, on a chilly day. I knit myself a pair of fingerless gloves so I can keep on writing on my balcony even when the weather’s a bit on the cool side.

How to Make a Creative Happy

The other day I succeeded in delighting a photographer. He’d posted a photo on a social media site of a road surrounded by towering trees as it curved around the rim of a deep gorge. Others besides me loved the photo; they called it beautiful, awesome, gorgeous, etc. One-word reactions such as this are the norm. I made similar remarks, but I also commented on the splash of golden sunlight shining through the leaves. The photographer’s response was effusive to the point of gushing. His response delighted me. It made me happy to make him happy.

Even art photographers sometimes risk their necks to get a good shot.

This isn’t the first time I’ve pleased a photographer by looking closely at his or her work of art and commenting on details that I find especially outstanding or evocative.

As a writer, I know what other creatives like, what tickles them to the point where their socks fly off, like Charlie Brown’s when he’s knocked off the pitcher’s mound by a fastball.

It’s wonderful to get responses such as beautiful, awesome, breathtaking, but they don’t tell the artist very much. The same goes for writing. I like hearing, “good story,” “nice,” “interesting.” These are all instantaneous responses that require little thought. Creatives want to know why you like their work. What makes it special?

To photographers, I say such things as, “I like your framing.” I like the contrast of colors and texture.” “The way your captured the light is magical.” “I love the composition.”

Writers also like to know what you like about their story.

“Writing is easy. Just sit down at a typewriter, open your veins and bleed” or variations of the same have been attributed to more than one writer.

One of the best responses I once got from a reader was, “I felt like I was there with your character. I felt what she was feeling.”

That’s what I want to know. Do my characters come alive? Have I made you feel what they feel? Are my settings so vivid that it seems as if you’re there? Are my images, metaphors, and similies memorable? Can you visualize what I’m describing? If my writing made you get misty or gave you a chuckle, I’d like to know that, too.

The kind of reactions I’ve described require a bit of thought, not just a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but the creative has put hours of time and much effort into their work. I think they deserve a thoughtful response.

I have to admit that I don’t always know what to say, either. Even though I took several art history classes in college, I feel I don’t know enough about art to make apt comments. It’s why I avoid going to opening receptions at art galleries, just so I don’t have to talk to the artist, I’m afraid that what I say will be banal, cliched. That’s more about my own ego, to not seem ignorant. But even if the artist has heard the same comment a hundred times it’s okay. Creatives like to know their work has been seen and appreciated, not matter how naive the comments..

Writing: The Details

Question for readers: How much is too much? How important is accuracy in small details whether you’re reading or writing fiction?

I’ve never used roses as a bookmark, but this picture conveys how I feel about books.

I love fat novels that have a rich tapestry of detail. Except when I hate it when the book bugs me. I’ve commented about this before when I wrote my review of Ken Follett as a writer. So much detail in a childbirth scene that it could be a manual for midwives is too much. One of my Works in Progress (WIP) has a childbirth scene, but I plan to include only enough to make it feel authentic, not every contraction and scream. Margaret Mitchell did it well in Gone With the Wind when Melanie has her baby.

The book that’s currently bugging me with excess detail and inaccurate detail is The Alice Network. Kate Quinn does not give enough detail to make the characters come to life. The reviewer who said the characters were so vivid she half expected them to walk into her room must have been reading a different book.

Fictional people shouldn’t be like paper dolls with the writer coloring in the surface but the characters remain flat.

Maybe my novel, A Home for an Exile’s Heart has too much detail–hair color, eye color, what they wear, what they read, what they eat and drink, etc. Readers of historical novels generally prefer more details. Maybe I don’t have to worry.

Even though I’m writing fiction, I sweat the small stuff. Some of it I don’t worry about. I don’t particularly care if Seattle was snowed in on the day after Thanksgiving in 1952 as in the opening scene of my novel. The scene needs snow, so there is snow. 

I hate most 1950s slang so there’s almost none in my book. A few secondary characters don’t speak perfect English, but I try to keep broken English to a minimum. It’s annoying when there’s too much of it. Kate Quinn’s two main characters in The Alice Network have stutters–w-w-w-we have to put up with it throughout the five hundred-page book.

There’s one scene where a character is being tortured. Too much detail of blood, screams, and crunching bones that goes on for pages. It’s surprising how tedious a torture scene can be. If the character was vivid enough to seem like a real person, I might have cried, instead, the scene left me indifferent.

What really bugged me was the small, inaccurate details in Quinn’s book, details I might have overlooked if the book engrossed me.

One character plays with his water glass in a scene set in a cafe in France in 1947. Maybe it’s different now because many Americans have inundated Europe, but when I was in London, they did not have water glasses already on the table when we arrived at a restaurant. We had to ask for water. They brought a pitcher and glasses and diners had to pour it themselves, but nothing like that was mentioned in the novel. In my opinion, it should have been.

Open-faced sandwiches of the kind Latvians would eat–salt herring and diced onions on dark rye bread. Many people would go, “Yuck!” The photo makes my mouth water. I want some!

There are two scenes where characters eat sandwiches outdoors. Despite the Earl of Sandwich’s innovation in Europe people don’t eat sandwiches with two slices of bread. They eat open-faced sandwiches that don’t travel well even when wrapped. If picnicking in France the characters would most likely take a loaf of bread, but probably not a two-foot-long baguette (the French have many different kinds of bread, which come in different sizes), a hunk of, cheese, grapes, or apples, and a bottle of wine.

French bread in its various shapes and sizes.

(If you’re a French picnicker and I’m wrong, please correct me. But only if you picnicked in 1947)

Eventually, the Alice characters travel to Grenoble, which is in the southeast of France. It’s June and twilight falls quickly. Except not. In southern California, where Quinn lives, twilight probably does fall quickly as that part of the USA is on latitude 34. Grenoble is on latitude 45. Where I live, at latitude 47, daylight in June ebbs slowly, twilight arrives gradually, you look at the time and are surprised to see that it’s nine in the evening already. I expect that it’s not much different two degrees of latitude south.

I know. I’m persnickety. I hope my way of writing creates a realistic world in my books and that my characters seem like friends, people you know well and want to spend time with.

Northern twilights in summer are sweet, long, and mellow. My favorite time of day.

My Publishing Choice: Vella

Dream on, Writer, Dream on.

This is what I dream of, a balcony somewhere in Italy or the South of France, made possible by my royalties. Well, at least I have a balcony, even if it’s far from those places.

Deciding on how to publish my novel was a tough choice. Sure, I’d like the prestige of having a major, or even a not-so-major, traditional publishing house buy the rights to my book and pay me a royalty. But that statistic I mentioned in my previous post, that a literary agency accepts fewer than one percent of submitted manuscripts gave me pause. 

I’m not twenty-five years old. I don’t want to spend years submitting and resubmitting my manuscript to agents and hoping to be one of few writers accepted as a client. In the past year, I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties five times, more than that, if you consider that hopeful writers can pitch one project more than once during the hours the pitch party runs. The only interest in my pitches has been from other writers. Too bad they’re not also editors from publishing houses.

There’s so much to consider when you’re looking for a publisher.

WordPress seemed like a good option since I have a few followers, it has Reader to help bloggers find each other’s posts. I can link to other social media platforms. But even with the help of a WP customer service person, I couldn’t figure out how to set up a premium block. Maybe I’m too impatient. I don’t know if I’d have to set up a block each time a published a new chapter. That would be more work than I want to do. I want to write, not set up premium blocks.

Patreon is a platform where creators can offer their material to subscribers. I seriously considered it, but when I went to their site, I could find other creators’ posts to see what they’d done. That was annoying. Anyone can look at WordPress and see what’s on offer.

Vella is Amazon’s new publishing platform where writers can serialize their books, chapter by chapter. They pay a royalty of fifty percent, although the first three chapters are a free sample. Much better pay than any traditional publisher. The writer retains creative control. I don’t have to worry about word count. There are books on the market that are much longer than mine, but selling them to a publisher isn’t easy; the acceptance rate is probably even lower than that fraction of one percent. One of my writer friends encouraged me to do with Vella because it’s new and therefore Amazon might push it more. It’s certainly in their interest to do so. They get a bigger cut than they would from books published using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Considering all that, Vella seemed like a good choice, so I went with it. I published the first chapter of my novel today. It was easier than publishing with KDP, which is also easy. It can take up to seventy-two hours for the episode to go live, but I’ve published stories on Amazon before and it always took less time to be approved. It helps that the material is short.

I hope they turn into dollars.

Maybe I’ll never make more than pennies per chapter. I’ve already done some self-promotion. Hopefully, the pennies will add up and the stack will get higher as I add more chapters. If this goes well, I have another book to publish on Vella. It just needs a bit more work.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing. It’s what I do.

Finished Writing My Novel. Now What?

With a Bit of Info from an Agent

How to get my story to readers now that it’s finished?

What do you do with a book you’ve finished writing and are hoping to get published? 

You can go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to literary agents or directly to the few publishers who accept unagented submissions. You can pay a vanity press to publish your book. Or you can go the self-publishing route in a couple of different ways. The first is to use a self-publishing platform, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows you to publish both ebooks and paperbacks. There are other self-publishing options besides Amazon. The second choice is to go to a subscription service, such as Patreon or Amazon’s new platform, Vella, where readers pay to read your book section by section; the platform takes a percentage of royalties. It’s like the old days when newspapers and magazines printed serialized stories.

Despite these new publishing options, many writers still choose to go the traditional route. It’s still a prestigious way to get published. Having “gatekeepers” select and vet a manuscript seems to assure some sort of quality control. I’ve read many traditionally published books where quality control does not seem to have been a consideration. No doubt you have, too. Advances from the publisher are another incentive to choose the traditional publishing option. There’s also the snob factor. If you self-publish, some readers assume no traditional publisher wanted your book, which could well be true, but doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t worth publishing or reading.

I have finished writing a book that I’ve submitted to agents, as well as directly to a publisher. I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties, with not even a nibble. So what should I do? Keep on querying agents, publish my book myself, or offer it to readers on a subscription platform?

One of my writer friends has published four books the traditional way, he also is a regular contributor to a special interest magazine. You would expect those sorts of credentials to make it easier for him to find an agent. Not so. He has recently finished writing a new book, which he has been diligently submitting to agents. More than sixty of them. He doesn’t allow rejections to discourage him, for every rejection, he sends his query to a new agent. He’s like a long-distance runner when it comes to submitting. I’m more of a plodder. I’m still weighing my options, even as I send out queries.

WordPress allows creators to set up “premium blocks” which allow writers and other creatives to serialize their work. Or, creators can request tips and donations. I’ve tried asking for donations for my most popular posts with absolutely no results, except from me, when I tested my donation block to see if I’d set it up correctly. I had, so apparently, readers would only pay for material I’ve spent hours writing, re-writing, editing, and editing again unless they had no choice. Of course, they would still have a choice–pay and read or don’t pay and don’t read. Because of that last choice is why I hesitate to choose premium as an option. An agent might accept me as a client. The agent might find me a publisher and the publisher might pay me an advance. All that could take years, if it happens at all. So what does a writer, who can’t pay her rent with rejection slips do? The odds are stack against us. 

Easier said than done.

Here are answers from a literary agency.

“You should look for an agent before a publisher.

“…these days publishers rarely buy the rights to self-published books or additional books in a series you’ve started self-publishing.”

Of the queries the review they accept less than 1%! But they hope you believe strongly enough in your book to try anyway. Of course, there is no guarantee that they can sell the manuscripts the accept to a publisher. 

The question is if you believe strongly enough in your book, should you spend years looking for an agent or should you publish or serialize your manuscript yourself? If you do, you will have to market like mad. The fact that a traditional publisher chooses to buy your book, does not mean you won’t have to market. Many agents want to know what social media platforms you’re on so you can do the majority of publicizing your own material.

When do you stop hitting your head against the brick wall of traditional publishing and punch through it? Will you make a hole or smash your knuckles?

Looking for a Publisher

Writerly Woes.

Getting published is one of the top woes writers face.

My novel, A Home for an Exile’s Heart, is ready to be published

Writing the book is hard enough. Getting it published is no picnic, either.

There are so many writerly woes it’s hard to pick just one. Attempting to get published. Most book publishers require writers to have an agent. It can take months, if not years to get an agent. There are many of them out there and too many take too long to respond. The pandemic doesn’t make it any easier. Agents may still be working, but publishers aren’t putting out as many books. 

One very talented, very well-organized writer friend has queried forty-five agents in the last few months. Here’s his method.

People have asked how I’ve manage to keep cranking out agent queries.

The attached screenshot shows my query management spreadsheet.  I’ve got the links to each agent, and notes based on their Manuscript Wish List entry (and/or manual checking on the agency’s web page).

I’ve also got a folder on my computer that carries both short and long synopses, short and long queries, a biography, and files of the first chapter, and the first three chapters of the book.

So if the agent’s web page says, “send me a brief query and a sample chapter” I can quickly assemble the package that matches.

Typically, I send out a new query for each rejection.  Usually, send queries out in batches.  Four tonight, in fact.”

 In addition to all these tools, he has a darn good novel to sell. I wish I were that organized.

Besides querying every agent in the business, writers with complete manuscripts, but no agent can participate in a quarterly Twitter pitch. Just sum up your novel, plus hashtags and genre codes in 280 characters, and tweet away. Supposedly there are writers who’ve found agents and editors this way. No one I know. I’ve done it four times. One of my writer girlfriends has done it. The Very Well Organized Writer got a nibble, which amounted to nothing.

Of course, there are options besides traditional publishers.

One is to self-publish your book on Amazon using their Kindle Direct Publishing platform. This route can supposedly lead to many sales, good income, and even contracts with traditional publishers. The learning curve for KDP can be steep, even with instructions from Amazon and YouTube video tutorials. You have to design your own cover, using one of their lame templates or a graphics editing program. You can publish an ebook or a print-on-demand paperback, which has different requirements for covers. You have to publicize your own work like mad. Or you can pay Amazon to publicize it.

I’ve tried KDP with several short ebooks. I’ve made so much money, I’ve lost track. Maybe twenty dollars. Maybe thirty. No book contracts.

Another option is a subscription service, such as Patreon, which is a platform for creators of all kinds, not just writers. Patrons can make monthly or yearly payments to get access to a creator’s material. Kind of like serialized magazine stories in the old days. This can also lead to a good passive income, but as with Amazon, it takes time to build an audience. Patreon is not the only such platform.

Word Press allows its users to sell their material through their website. I’ve yet to master its paid premium content tool.

The only thing I’m going to say about vanity presses, which will gladly publish your book if you pay them, is that I would never use one. My book is better than that. It deserves a publisher that will pay me to publish it.

I have written a novel that I know is good that I want to publish, but I can’t decide what option to choose. I need the money, as well as the “glory.” But none of those options will get me royalties quickly. I don’t necessarily want to get rich, but I want to be able to make a living with something I’ve worked hard to accomplish. Labors of love don’t pay the rent.

“A Home for an Exile’s Heart”

This could be the cover of “A Home for an Exile’s Heart,” if such a book existed.

Writing Is Also an Art


Like any art, writing takes hours. Sometimes even days, weeks, or years. It seems like something anyone can do. Just sit in front of a computer or take a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil and start writing. Then read what you’ve written. Does it make sense? Does it flow? Does it hold your interest? Does it tell a story or teach you something? Look at social media posts by non-writers and then take a look at a magazine, newspaper, or literary magazine. How does your writing compare? Is it more like a social media post or more like something written by a professional? I don’t mean to dismiss regular people who write on social media. Some are very good. The majority are not. Many are downright incoherent, vague, badly spelled, poorly punctuated.

Good writing requires much thought, rewriting, editing, and perhaps rewriting again. Many drafts until you get one that’s polished as close to perfection as the writer can make it.

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Attributed to the journalist, Gene Fowler. It’s an exaggeration, but not by much.