How to decide when to ‘rescue’ your darlings and other writing tips
poynter.org – Saturday March 20, 2021
Although I have been unable to teach in-person writing workshops during the pandemic, my Zoom teachings have been zooming. Almost all of these virtual workshops have been pro-bono, but I have received rewards beyond money. A favorite activity is “visiting” a writing class, especially one that is using one of my writing books as a text. I have fun, play a little music, and get treated like Obama or Springsteen.
In other years, I would have walked across the street from the Poynter Institute to visit a class at the St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida. Instead, I taught this week, in my new mode, from a computer perched on our dining room table.
The day before the class, the teacher, veteran journalist Janet Keeler, submitted a list of questions from the students who had been studying my most recent book “Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser.” In short, it’s a writing book about writing books.
The questions were so good, I was inspired to sit down for an hour or so and answer them in writing. Those questions and answers, lightly edited for clarity, may be of use to you in your own work. I hope so.
Know thy reader
thebookseller.com – Friday March 12, 2021
With the levelling off of e-book sales, many have begun to wonder whether the book publishing industry will be spared the kinds of disruption experienced by other sectors of the media industries. But the digital transformation of the book publishing industry was never fundamentally about e-books anyway: e-books turned out to be just another format by which publishers could deliver their content to readers, not the game-changer that many thought (or feared) it would be. The big question that the digital revolution posed to book publishers is just as pressing today as it was a decade ago: it’s the question of how publishers understand who their ‘customers’ are, and how they relate to and interact with them.
For most of the 500-year history of the book publishing industry, publishers understood their customers to be retailers: publishers were a B2B business, selling books to retailers, and they knew very little about the ultimate customers of their books, the readers. The digital revolution has forced publishers to think again about this model and to consider whether there might be something to be gained by becoming more reader-centric. This fundamental shift in publishers’ self-understanding is likely to be one of the most significant and enduring consequences of the digital revolution in publishing.
How do writers of children’s books meet their readers during a pandemic?
irishtimes.com – Tuesday March 9, 2021
On March 12th last year I was sitting in a blustery, empty car park in Blackpool, Lancashire, eating a bland prepacked sandwich beside a giant mural of Barry from The Chuckle Brothers. I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Sure, school closures had just been announced and the St Patrick’s Festival (at which I had an author event) had been cancelled, but I’d just finished a school talk about my children’s books. It had been the last of a four-day book tour of England and my 39th author event in 40 days.
Irish events included every Dublin city library, several bookshops, a delightfully raucous event with illustrator Ben Mantle at Liberty Hall Theatre, a school in the Dublin Mountains, classes of kids spread out on the floor of O’Mahony’s Booksellers in Limerick, a packed-out art workshop in the Hugh Lane Gallery, a lot of M50 miles, a couple of flights, and a handful of hotel breakfast buffets I now regret not taking full advantage of.
It had been exceptionally busy, but still just about within the range of expectations when you write books for children. I had done hundreds of events over the preceding years, to audiences as high as 700 and as low as one (there had been a mix-up, I was assured). This is the life of writers for every age and genre, in fact. Talking about writing is how we meet readers, promote books, seek inspiration, find ideas and – crucially – earn income.
Eating my lunch on my lap in the Blackpool car park before heading to the flight home felt like the beginnings of decompression. Sure, festivals were in wait-and-see mode – the whole country was – but the timescale seemed short enough. What was the worst that could happen?
Brexit and gender are off limits for aspiring authors
spectator.co.uk – Sunday March 7, 2021
When a small US publisher accepted my first book for young adults, 'Crosstrack', it wasn't long before things went pear shaped. The novel follows two teenage athletes, one a middle class American, the other a young Syrian refugee. Apart from cycling ability, they have another thing in common: both are trans.
I’d anticipated a backlash at having the temerity to describe someone outside my own experience, and expected it to involve the Middle Eastern migrant (a la Jeanine Cummings). Yet when my publisher passed the book to a new editor for a final edit, she took exception to some of the views expressed by the other main character, and in particular a comment where she refers to 'trannies'.
'The word tranny is offensive to a lot of trans people,' the editor informed me pompously, suggesting I find a more 'acceptable' term. The fact that it was a character (a trans character at that) who used the term didn’t matter; there was a risk that some people who read the book might be offended, and we couldn’t have that, could we? I wouldn’t compromise and withdrew the book – perhaps rashly, as it was the first full-length novel I’d had accepted in a decade.
A Complete Guide To Self-Publishing A Book On A Budget
nerdsmagazine.com – Thursday February 25, 2021
You’ve conceptualized the perfect idea and completed the titanic feat of writing a book. Congrats! Now all that’s left to do is publish! If only it were that easy. The truth is that writing the book is the easy part. Now you must undertake the tremendous journey toward self-publishing a book without breaking the bank.
If you’ve arrived here, you’ve likely felt indecisive between the options of traditional versus self-publishing. There are pros and cons to each, but self-publishing offers more creative freedom, complete ownership over content, and a 100% share of royalties.
There is a caveat: you’ll have to take a DIY approach that suits your budget and publishing goals.
Thanks to Undocupoets, poets don’t need papers to be heard
latimes.com – Tuesday February 23, 2021
Anyone can write a poem. To be a poet, though — to have your work read in an age not exactly teeming with famous verse stylists, Amanda Gorman aside — you have to submit. Every year, poets around the country submit their work for dozens of prizes and contests, hoping for a shot at prestige, visibility, maybe eventually an academic job offer. It’s a difficult path, and until recently it was an impossible one for poets like Javier Zamora.
Zamora earned his MFA in poetry in 2014 at New York University under the best writers in the country. He’d been published in literary journals like Narrative and Meridian (and would be in the New Republic and the New York Times). But in his early years, he was largely excluded from prizes, contests and fellowships.
The reason? His legal status. Zamora, 31, was born in El Salvador and had temporary protected status, but he was neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of the U.S. — a longtime requirement for award submissions.
How to write a love poem
theconversation.com – Saturday February 13, 2021
For many, this year’s Valentine’s Day will be like no other. If you are spending the day apart from your loved ones, and don’t fancy the card selection at your local Tesco, writing a poem can be a more personal way to reach out and connect. Indeed, to paraphrase John Donne, “more than kisses, [poems] mingle souls”.
Here are some poems to take inspiration from, as well as some prompts to help you get that first line on the page.
Novelists are writing for TV more than ever. How it’s changing the industry
latimes.com – Saturday February 13, 2021
In 2013, Sheri Holman had just turned 47 and her life was falling apart.
Raised in Virginia by a struggling single mom, Holman had bootstrapped herself through college to earn a theater degree, then moved to New York City to pursue acting. When that plan proved unworkable, Holman took a series of temp jobs in publishing, eventually becoming an assistant to an influential literary agent.
Throughout the early 1990s, when book advances were soaring, Holman wrote her first novel, “A Stolen Tongue.” Published to raves in 1997, the book built an audience for her 2000 bestseller, “The Dress Lodger.” In 2003, Holman’s “The Mammoth Cheese” was a finalist for the Orange Prize. Secure in her work, she married a good guy with a real job. They bought a Victorian house in Brooklyn, had a daughter and then twin sons. Holman quit her job to write novels and mother full-time.
Slow-forward five years. One of Holman’s sons was battling cancer. Her marriage was over. Her third book was taking forever to complete. “Witches on the Road Tonight” was finally published in 2011, to disappointing sales, with the book advance money long gone.
How I learned to stop worrying and enjoy writing sex scenes
inews.co.uk – Tuesday February 9, 2021
Around the time I started to go through puberty, I fell in love with Jane Austen’s novels. It may have seemed like an eminently proper hobby – parents and teachers no doubt imagined me chuckling at the gentle Regency satire and dreaming about bonnets and pianofortes. But in reality I was holding my breath, heart pounding, waiting for Frank Churchill to “make love” to Emma Woodhouse in the back of a horse-drawn carriage.
I didn’t know that, back then, “making love” just referred to hands-free flirting. I imagined something much more explicit, in great detail. Thanks to the Netflix series, I’ve just fallen in love with Julia Quinn’s racy Bridgerton universe, but I’m grateful I only had Austen as a teenager. After all, if I’d got my hands on Quinn’s novels in the 90s, I might still be in my teenage bedroom, with the curtains drawn. Filling in the gaps in Austen instead forced me to learn how to invent sex scenes – and eventually helped me to write my first novel, Insatiable.
How to Write A Book – The Beginner’s Guide
yourmoneygeek.com – Tuesday February 9, 2021
So, you want to write a book…
Well, if you're here, I'm pleased to report you've won half the battle. When it comes to writing a book, or even getting it published, bad advice is everywhere. The same is true for completing a manuscript.
Yet while understanding writing and craft is essential, it won't be the focus of this guide because, in truth, being able to write doesn't guarantee you can finish a book. Neither will binging on those YouTube videos about what Stephen King advises. I can't tell you how many talented writers I've known who can't seem to type The End on a project—alternatively, writers who type those two words too soon.
To truly begin and complete the book the right way, whether you have the goal of self-publishing or getting your work picked up by a traditional publisher (as I was with HarperCollins), you don't need any special writing software or expensive writing tools. No, follow these five simple steps, and you will be on the path of finishing your story.