Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)—a month-long novel-writing frenzy? Thousands of coffee-fueled writers are pounding their keys to reach their goal of producing 50 thousand words before the stroke of midnight on November 30. Read more on the Los Angeles Editors and Writers blog.
“Should I change the names of the people in my memoir?”
This is a question that gets asked every time I work with authors who are writing about their own lives. . . . [Read more at the Los Angeles Editors and Writers site.]
“Will you review my manuscript and tell me whether it’s publishable?”
This is a common request I get from prospective clients.
My short answer is: Every manuscript, no matter how good it is, needs a critique (also known as “constructive feedback”) to become publishable.
In response to the critique, the author then does rewrites. Fewer rewrites if the manuscript is close; more rewrites if the writing needs more help. The final step, when you’ve done your last rewrite and addressed all the bigger-picture stuff, is to have your manuscript copyedited (also called “line editing”).
In light of that, it may not make sense to pay for a review to see if your manuscript is publishable, because unless you’ve already received a critique, done your rewrites, and had the manuscript edited, the answer is: it’s not publishable (yet).
It’s more cost-effective for you to go straight into having a critique, since you will need one anyway. In a critique, I give you feedback on the bigger picture—the developmental issues (e.g., plot, character development, themes, dialogue, description, etc.). I make comments directly in the manuscript, at the spots where something catches my attention. I also do a write-up summarizing the salient points.
What you end up with is a custom-made “user’s manual” for rewriting your book. A step-by-step guide created just for you.
So, start with a critique. It’s not as scary as it sounds!
Language is a living thing. And just as living things shift and evolve, language transforms over time. We may resist the changes that just sound “wrong” (I cringe when I hear someone say, “I was laying in the sun.”), but some of those alterations become so commonplace they’re adopted officially into our speech and into our dictionaries.
My prediction is that they/their is on its way to becoming the official third person singular pronoun (“Every person has their preference.”) It may even show up in the dictionary as such during our lifetimes.
We could choose the tack of the Académie française and set rigid rules for what can and cannot be uttered on our turf (or at least within our earshot) . . . or we can relax and enjoy the ride as English careens into the future.
English certainly is not the same animal it was a hundred years ago, or a hundred years before that. It is a living, breathing, changing entity. And it will continue to expand and migrate for as long as there are people to speak it.
Check out the evolution of the words in the following link, and then come back and share your favorite new words or word usages (e.g., “the bomb”; “friend” used as a verb; twerk; and so on).
Check out this great interview with twenty-one successful authors about the experience of writing their first book—from how they made a living before they sold their first book to the nuts and bolts of getting the words onto the page.
If you’re being asked to write—anything—for free, I just hope the person asking is your mother or your kid (or the person who shares your bed). Because if the asker doesn’t fit into one of these categories, he or she is no different from someone in a dental chair saying to the dentist: “Oh, and I just want to confirm that you’re not going to charge for this crown, right? I’ll show it to everyone; it’ll give you great exposure.”
Tim Kreider has published an exceptional essay in the New York Times that tells why it’s wrong to write for nothing: Slaves of the Internet, Unite!
You owe it to yourself (and to every writer who ever hopes to make a living writing) to read this article.
For as long as I can remember I have craved deep greens and muddy browns. I’ve often escaped to natural environments to write, or to read over my writing. I am soothed by trees, bolstered by the earth, and draw inspiration from breathing clean, fresh, mulchy air.
I have favorite spots I escape to, places where the phone won’t ring (sometimes there’s not even cell reception) and where piles of papers won’t grab at my attention.
I once fled to Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, pitched my tent, and promised myself I wouldn’t leave until I’d gotten the upper hand on the chapter I was struggling with. (I stayed a week, but I descended the mountain triumphant, the completed chapter tucked under my arm.) Yes . . . I wrote longhand for a week in that campground void of electricity.
Now I sometimes escape to nature to take a break from writing. But, still, it raises the water table of my creative juices, keeps the well from running dry.
I’ve come to call these spots my “Second Office.” They’re free of rent, and they free my mind.
(Also check out these earlier posts: Go on a Writing Retreat to Kick Your Writing into High Gear and Recipe for a Non-Writing Retreat.)
I invite you to share some stories or images of your own writing (or creative-well replenishing) escapes.