The forums are busy as ever this week:
In the Technique forum WriteWorder debac is asking about changing characters' names in later drafts. Should you? What problems might it cause? Are you right to think it needs doing? There's a link, too, to a discussion in the Private Members forum, which is for Full Members only, about whether you should worry if two characters' names are rather similar.
In the Entertainment forum, one of WriteWords' best-known and loved film reviewers, Zettel, has had his say on Star Trek Into Darkness, which, as ever, has sparked a lively discussion. How do you keep a long-running franchise fresh, and draw in new audiences, while continuing to please those who fell in love with it on black-and-white TV, and half-wish it would stay that way?
Submissions to publishers and agents are a perennial source of discussion - and not a little angst. The balance is slowly tipping towards electronic submission, and one of the major agencies, Curtis Brown, has a new, online system. Have you used it? Do you have any feedback? All experiences welcome in the discussion here in the Getting Published forum.
PS Don't forget you can have more than one chance of winning a year's full membership of WriteWords, and other prizes, by entering WW Site Expert Emma Darwin's blog competition here, because multiple submissions are allowed!
WriteWords Site Expert Emma Darwin is running a competition on her blog, This Itch of Writing, to celebrate the 500th post.
Emma has been a member of WriteWords since before her first novel, The Mathematics of Love, was published, and may of her posts started from topics that cropped up on the WriteWords forums. This Itch of Writing's resident agony aunt, Jerusha Cowless, often answers cries for help that had their origins here too, and the blog has become a much-valued source of support, encouragment and help with the craft of writing.
By entering the compeition you could win a year's free full membership of WriteWords, a writer's retreat, and other prizes, and have your post published on the blog.
More details here.
Closing date Friday May 31st.
Now we're getting towards May, all sorts of buds and blossoms are sprouting in the writing world for writers to gather:
Fancy spending a month, all expenses paid, in the Ettrick Valley, in memory of the Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner? The Ettrick and Yarrow Development Project have secured funding for a James Hogg Creative residency to be based in the upper Ettrick Valley, near Selkirk, between July and September this year.
The 2013 Nick Darke Award, made in memory of the playwright, is open, offering a prize of £6000 to a the writer of a script for radio, TV or film on an environmental theme - the theme being widely interpreted.
The Winchester Writers' Conference 2013 runs from Friday 21st June to Tuesday 25th June, and bookings are open. Join editors, agents, authors and your fellow writers to make the most of workshops, courses, one to ones, and all the networking that happens over drinks, food, or just sitting in the sun.
And finally, quickly, the Jobs & Opps page always lists the deadlines that are fast approaching: today, you've got one more day to get your short story into the Momaya Short Story Competition 2013. Go on, have a dig through your drawer: you've got a few hours to polish it...
"Technique" is such a dry-sounding word for a vital part of writing, but it can be baffling, as you try to cope with all the rules of writing which proliferate on the net. Fortunately, there's a lot of knowledge, experience, and good old commonse to be found in the WriteWords Forums:
So can it really be true that you shouldn't use semi-colons in fiction? WriteWords debates this particular "rule" in the Technique Forum.
When should you "lie" in historical fiction, or any fiction which is rooted in facts but also springing out of them and away? And what's going on when you make those decisions? This thread in the Ethical Issues Forum has a link to a recent panel discussion at the Historical Novel Society Conference 2012.
How do you deal with "tonight" in a past tense narrative?
How do you write out dates on a poster?
And if you've ever been annoyed by a book snob - or felt pleased or embarrassed to realise you are one - then Matt Haig's repentance will resonate.
It's all changing so fast and, as ever, the WriteWords forums are buzzing with it.
Would you accept a Royalties-only Contract?
What's going on with refunds for e-books, if you don't like what you've read... What does this mean for writers?
Should/could/would an agent take on clients in order to help them self-publish?
Are most of the ways people tell you to should promote yourself as an author completely pointless?
In Private Members, which is the Members Only forum for talk about writing and the writing world,
they're discussing Pinterest as both a promotional tool, and a way to develop new work
and WWer Katarina, who specialises in short fiction for the women's magazine market, is celebrating the launch of her blog and linking to an interview she gave on someone else's blog
while in The Lounge, which is the Members Only forum for talk about absolutely everything except writing (although of course most WWers are writers to the core, and find it hard not to let it creep in)
WWer Catkin has been gliding
and a thread about the glorious disasters of layout that magazines and newspapers have made over the years - which is guaranteed to make you feel better about the typo you spotted just after you emailed your manuscript to that oh-so-interested agent.
The WriteWords Groups are where most of the feedback on writing happens. From Childrens' Writers to Self-publishing, from Intensive Critique to the Dating Agency of WriteWords known as Whole MS Read-Swapping, a group is whatever the members want to make of it.
If you're thinking about joining one, have a look at the main Groups page to see which seems to fit your interests and needs, and which have the right sort of dynamic for you. Don't be afraid to join something that appeals to you, even if the form or genre you're working in is slightly different: it's amazing how other people's projects can shed light on your own.
You can even propose a group, and as soon as three other WWers say they'd like to join, it goes live. Once you've joined a group, the ones you're a member of will be listed separately on that page, so you can always see what your friends are up to, as well as what's going on elsewhere..
And the groups aren't only about uploading writing, and giving and getting feedback, though of course that's such a valuable part of developing your writing. Each group also has its own forum, where members can discuss, celebrate, share information and links, commiserate, argue and just feel that out there are friends and fellow-writers who understand.
For example, in Poetry Seminar there's a thread about "-ing" words, and when they strengthen and when they weaken your poetry.
In the Children's Writers' Group they're talking about an illustrator a member is in touch with, who turns out to be the granddaughter of a well-known illustrator of the Enid Blyton generation.
In Fast First Draft they're celebrating a member who's actually finished that first draft, and is having a Yay before starting in on the revisions.
And in Whole MS Read-Swapping they're welcome a brand new member.
And what on earth is a pre-agent anyway?
Once upon a time, many large publishers decided (or at least their corporate owners decided) that they were impossibly swamped with manuscripts. 85% of them, any slushpile reader will tell you, are unpublishable by any publisher, and the next 13% are competent - even very good - but just not saleable enough. And with the turmoil in the industry the goal posts of "saleable enough" get narrower every year.
So it was a logical step, in business terms, for most of the big and corporate publishers to close their doors to unsolicited manuscripts direct from writers, and to rely on literary agents to do the filtering for them and to forward the few which are likely to be saleable.
In parallel, literary consultancies have grown up to serve the market of aspiring writers who want help to improve their novel or non-fiction manuscript. The consultancies' basic purpose is to match individual writers with editors who specialise in working with such writers, trying to make the manuscript both better and more saleable, to improve its chances of being taken on by an agent and bought by a publisher.
Quite few agents close their doors totally to unsolicited submissions direct from writers; they know that the slushpile may be, in practical terms, a nuisance to deal with, but it's also the source of the new blood that all agencies need.
But slushpiles are large and agents must spend their working hours on their existing authors: they read the slushpile at evenings, weekends and on the bus. One very well-known agent tweeted, late on Easter Saturday: Reading, reading, reading all day. Have responded to MANY unsolicited submissions. Expect some abuse soon. and later Responses ALWAYS include some abusive ones unfortunately. 'Kill the messenger' type.
So anything which helps a new writer to be noticed seems like a good idea - and the literary consultancies and editors-who-help-aspiring writers do, of course, see manuscripts which have developed into something really exciting and saleable, and the literary agents began to know that the manuscripts which come from the consultancies are, on the whole, more likely to be saleable than the average.
So to some extent, the kind of filtering that publishers look to agents for, the agents are beginning to look to the literary consultancies for. The notion of the pre-agent is born. But, of course, everything has to be paid for somehow, by someone.
Each consultancy does it (and makes its money) a different way. WriteWords has always got its eye on the publishing and allied industries, and in the forum this week WWers are being asked what they'd like to ask such companies.
If you're thinking of using one - and wondering whether it would be worth it - and what their take is on how useful they are - now's your chance to find out. Just click through to the thread here, and add what you'd like to ask.
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Many WriteWords members blog on WriteWords, or link to their own blogs - and any WriteWorder can blog whenever they've got something they feel like saying.
Some regular bloggers:
Cornelia does theatre reviews:
No Smoke Without Fire: 'Oedipus', after Sophocles, at The Blue Elephant
Molière with a Touch of Bollywood : 'Kanjoos the Miser' at the Theatre Royal Windsor
Marcus Trower talks technical:
The Relentless Rise of the Dot Dot Dot
Warning: Your Danglers Are on Display
Self-Editing Advice: Why You Shouldn’t Believe a Word You’ve Written
while EmmaD talks about inspiration, as well as perspiration
Feedback, humility and the sword of truth
Is It Worth It?
Got something to say? Just go to your "My WriteWords", click on "My Blog Posts", and get blogging!
The big subject in the main forum at the moment is voice: what it is, how you find yours. WWer Debac asked:
I find it confusing that Voice is used to mean so many different things. Some people say it's your natural writing style as a writer, when you progress beyond copying another writer's style. A published author told me last night that she thinks you only find your voice when you also find your genre. And then there are agents who say that Voice is the single thing which is most likely to grab them and convince them when they read the start of a new novel. But some say it can't be taught. So what is it that they actually want?
and the responses are many and varied:
voice is perhaps the substitute for baseline techniques:
I found my voice simply by writing and writing,
The thing about cutting away everything (second-hand language, for example) that's getting in the way of your native voice is only half of it. The other half is developing your word-hoard and flexibility of expression, so your writing can respond to whatever your imagination and sense of storytelling asks of it.
the question is, how do you get away with voice over prose, especially a new writer on the slushpile and very early on in the WiP?
I see it, I can recognise it and I can see when it's not there, or not consistent, but I'm not sure I could explain it very well, if at all.
I feel that 'voice' is something that begins to emerge as you get a handle on technique. You stop thinking about technique so much
Voice is the product of something, not a thing in itself, if you like, and so you can't engineer it directly. You have to work with the things that produce it, and the means by which it's produced.
I'm really starting to understand this. A real breakthrough for me.
for more, click here...
And just in case you want something else to keep you happily and usefully procrastinating, a discussion that started with our old friend Showing and Telling moved on to watching TV with the "stage directions" switched on, learning to ride horses, and Barbara Pym . Click here to see what else is being said.
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