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<<November 2014>>
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Results 26 - 50 of 14,821
26. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 16

For today’s prompt, write an explanatory poem. Back when I took dozens of creative writing courses in college, the mantra was, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, today’s prompt is sort of different–in a way–in that it’s a tell poem, or explaining poem, though how and what you explain may vary a great deal.


Submit a Poem for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at an Explanatory poem:

“I’m not sure how I got here”

I mean, it started with an arcade game over
before picking up Tetris on my Game Boy,

which I played under cover of my blanket fort
wondering about Thor (new and old versions)

and numbers. Now or later, I will dream about
being blinded by the moon and bomb cyclones.

Ultraman doesn’t have these kind of troubles,
or maybe he does–I don’t know. The point is

that I think I’ve been here before in this car–
the back seat–fighting with my siblings, even

though we had the “no fighting” option at our
disposal, and we’d fight over everything,

especially who would be the leader, though
we were always followers–in the back seat–

with our “holey” pants, and speaking of who
set the house on fire, you sure look nice today.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He often has no idea what he’s going to write for these prompts before he writes it. And it often shows. And that’s all right. And it’s fun.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic goodies here:

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27. uh oh, Mom's ROFL again

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28. Dispatches from the query queue

Don't joke around at the start of your query

By this I mean don't start with something that is "obviously" funny or not to be taken seriously, then say "oops, let's try again" and start over.

Here's why: I never assume you're joking. When you start out with "my memoir as Felix Buttonweezer's gun moll is 300,000 words in the second person" my first thought is NOT "oh this is clearly a joke."

I stop reading and send the "not for me" form rejection.

The only reason I noticed what might be a joke in the query that prompted this post was I paused before replying to swill some shark brew and got to the "oh I'm kidding" part of the morning's entertainment.

What's obviously outlandish to you is stuff I've seen in my queries for real.
You simply can NOT make up something that is "worse" than what I've already seen. And please, do not take that as a challenge. 

Leave your hilarity to the comments column of the blog and the flash fiction writing contests.

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29. An EPIC POST about the Submission Process, from an Agent's POV.

A lot of authors are curious about what happens when a project goes "on submission", so I thought I'd lay it out here. I want to stress that this is from MY POV ONLY. There is no one way to do this -- other agents might have different styles, and that doesn't make them (or me!) wrong -- just different. And I'm only speaking for myself, I make no claims about what any other agent may or may not do, even in my own agency. Also, of course, a lot of stuff may be variable depending on the author, project, time of year, phase of moon, etc, so all of this is not even applicable to all projects! And now that the epic disclaimers are out of the way, on to the epic post:


STEP ONE: Once we've been through revisions and have a clean ms to send out, I will re-read the project. As I read, I think about the style of book it is. With a book that is really submission-ready, I'll be able to visualize what I think it will look like on the shelf. Does this FEEL like a light and fun paperback? Does it FEEL like a beautiful epic fantasy with maps and fancy gilt edges? Who will buy this book most - Librarians and teachers? Teens? Hipster parents? Doting grandparents? Based on these calculations, I narrow down the list of publishers to those who would be open to publishing this type of book. I'm also thinking about who amongst my editor acquaintance might also like the story.

STEP TWO: I create a submission list and share it with the author to see if they have any input. For example, if they worked with a certain editor before, or something of that nature. My submission strategy is to target wisely rather than widely. I don't, for example, go to multiple people at the same house. I like the editors to whom I send projects to feel they've been selected especially, as indeed they have been. You can read much more about choosing imprints and the fun game of crafting the editor submission list and all that goes into that in this post from the archives.

If I an torn between who at a given publisher might like a project, I might email or call either the boss or the editor I know the best and ask their opinion. Yes, this works. Everybody WANTS to connect successfully and find projects they love! 

STEP THREE: I either call or email the editors (unless I happen to have a meeting or lunch scheduled with them in person during this time-frame in which case I pitch in person) -- and ask if they'd like to see. 99%* of the time they DO ask to see -- I like to think I know their taste well enough and they know mine well enough that they know I'll at least show them something worth looking at, even if they end up passing. Even editors I don't know well will generally agree to look at the project because, you know, they are polite and they work with our agency a lot. :-)  Annnnd then I send it out and we wait for responses!

(* The 1% of the time they don't ask to see, that is usually because they have something too similar already in the pipeline -- like, I had a chapter book about a certain historical event go out and one person passed on looking because they have a book about the same event already coming out in 2015. So, obviously, I targeted them correctly, just somebody else was faster! That's OK, it happens.)

How do you decide between giving an exclusive and making it a multiple submission?
For me, it is nearly always a multiple submission. If I were to give an exclusive, I would explicitly state it to the editor and give a time-frame, and it would be because:

1) The author has worked with an editor before and this is the next logical book -- let's say, you have a YA fantasy out, and this is a new YA fantasy in the same world - even if we don't HAVE to show the current editor contractually, we WOULD, because it just makes sense. I like to keep good relationships going!  ... or

2) We have an option that we need to fulfill (ie, in the contract it is stated that the publisher gets first crack at anything new) -- in which case they'd only have it exclusively for whatever term the contract specified, say, 30 days ... or

3) You've discussed the project at length with an editor and you think they will LOVE it, or it was inspired by something they said, or written specifically with them in mind, or something of that nature -- in which case I'd let them know that they have a limited window head start. Not that they HAVE to get back in that amount of time -- but we'll be going out more widely after that time.

If none of these apply, then it is a multiple submission.

So what should I, the author, be doing while you, the agent, are waiting for responses?  You should be working on the next book. WORKING ON THE NEXT BOOK. Oh heavens, please be working on the next book. Outline a sequel if you like - but I wouldn't get too married to it until you have proof that somebody wants the first book. I'd rather you be working on a completely new, shiny and different project. Something you are excited about and thrilled to write! So that you will not be obsessing over the thing that is on submission.

And will you share all the responses you get with me as you get them?  When I first started as an agent, I always shared all declines immediately with my authors. But then I realized that the authors were getting majorly bummed out and oftentimes this knowledge would derail them from their work on their happy-shiny new projects! So I changed my stance on this and started doing it a little differently. 

If I get an OFFER, or a request for revision, of course I share it immediately. The same goes for a really kind/complimentary or otherwise uplifting decline. If it makes me happy to read, it will probably make my author happy to read, too, and I share. If, however, I get an ambivalent decline, a nonsensical (or even mean) decline, or just generally non-helpful decline, I just mark it in my little book as a "pass". At a certain point, when the round is winding down, around the 8-12 week mark, I'll compile all these and just give an update and 'state of the ms' report. If an author wants more frequent updates, they can ask me at any time -- some people want to know what's up more often, and that's fine. And some authors REALLY REALLY want to know every gory detail as it happens - that's fine too, they can just let me know. I happen to think it is a bit unhealthy for the majority of authors, but of course I will send as my author prefers.

How long does it take to hear back from editors, and do you nudge or give a deadline?  I don't give a deadline unless we have an offer on the table. I usually hear back on picture books and short chapter books within a few weeks -- sometimes, for novels, a few months. After 8 weeks, I'll nudge people as needed. There are often a couple of outliers who don't reply unless shaken vigorously, but the bulk of responses will come in by 8-12 weeks.

What happens if we get an offer??!  If we get an offer, I nudge everyone who is still looking immediately, letting them all know that we have an offer and that I need their responses ASAP. If that's the case, usually everyone replies immediately to either pass or express interest, and we go from there. If we do get two offers, I'll compare and contrast, and ask for improvements as needed, and the author will decide. However, if I know other offers are coming. . . .

OMG!! What if there are MULTIPLE offers?!? IS THAT AN AUCTION?? If I know we are getting multiple offers, we call an auction. (You theoretically CAN call an auction any time you want -- but I would hate to throw an auction and have nobody come! I personally only declare an auction when I know there is significant interest from more than two parties.)

The agency has "auction rules" that define what we want offers to look like and include, so that when it comes time for the author to decide between offers, they are comparing apples to apples. I'll set what's called a Closing Date (usually a week, week and a half, depending on the time of year and such) -- by which time everyone needs to come to me with offers if they are going to. Different kinds of auctions are structured in different ways, but usually auctions are either "best bids" (one round, everyone just gives their best possible offer and the author decides) or "rounds" (in which the agent can go back and forth and ask for improvements and the author decides). There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and your agent will make sure you understand what is going on when it happens!

So auction means BIG MOOLAH, yes? $$$$ WOOOOHOOO!!! $$$$$  Sorry to disappoint. Despite sounding V V Fancy, Auction doesn't mean the book will automatically sell for a million bucks. Auction just means there are multiple offers, but it does not define what those offers might be. Everyone COULD offer pocket change and belly lint! But usually auctions inspire editors to at least TRY to put their best foot forward.

What if we send it out and get ... no offers :(  ?   This happens, too, even to manuscripts I love and think will sell -- and they often DO sell, just perhaps not in the first round. Nothing to worry about. What I'll usually do is compile the feedback we've received and see if there is anything useful to be gleaned from it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. We'll discuss whether you want to revise or not, and I'll send the work out to more people and begin a new round of submissions.

What if we never ever get an offer? At what point do you consider a ms completely shopped?  Well... depends on the book, and depends on the feedback we've been getting. If we're just getting nothing useful, or no responses at all, and I don't feel I have anywhere else to go with it where the results will be different, that is quite dispiriting, and it might be time to back-burner the ms for a while and try something else, maybe revise with fresh eyes at a later date. If we're getting THISCLOSE but just not quite putting it over the top, like every editor is saying they "love it but..." -- well, then I'd be inclined to keep going even longer. I have sold books in less than a day... but I've also sold books that took a year, two years, or longer, over multiple rounds with revisions and tweaks in between. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get to that yes! So, there's no magic number of editors -- it's a case-by-case situation. The good news is, you have a lot more stories to tell, right?

Is there any question about the submission process that I forgot to answer? Ask in the comments!

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30. Reader Question: On Self-Publishing

Hello! I have a long, rather wordy question for you about self-publishing.

Say I've written a book, polished it up and gotten it as close to publishable as I think possible. Following preliminary letters to agents who would accept my genre, I send the requested portion of the manuscript out to all the agents with all the requested additions (synopsis, cover letter, etc). Perhaps some of them even request the full manuscript afterwards. But say I've done all of that and in the end I'm rejected by all of them, despite comments such as "well-written", "readable", "clearly talented" (things I dearly, dearly hope are honest and not just being said to ease the blow of rejection). I can't resubmit, of course, because that's not how things are done.
Would I be foolish, then, to NOT self-publish that work?

I've got many, many ideas for many different fantasy books, each quite different from the last, and once I've finished and polished up one book, I submit it to several appropriate agencies and move right on to my next idea, writing a brand new piece. I'm certainly not lingering on one book and afraid to move onto the next, so I'm hoping that something will peak the interest of an agent enough in the end to take a chance on me, so I'm wondering, if a book has been rejected and is not likely to be reconsidered, would self-publishing it do future book submissions good?

I've read several of your posts about self-publishing, and what I'd really like is as definitive an answer as I can get about whether it's smart to do it or not, though I am fully aware that every case is different, with varying results. In general, would it help or hinder my efforts?
Thanks for your time, and have a great day!

Kim x

I never think you'd be foolish to self-publish a book. As long as you have a plan and the decision to self-publish fits into your career goals (which, by the way, will be constantly changing). 

There are a ton of different ways to go about building a career in publishing and one of the many ways is by self-publishing. If your true desire is to be traditionally published, but you have that one book that just hasn't made it, I see nothing wrong in testing the market by self-publishing. However, the one thing to keep in mind, is that self-publishing that book may very well make it more difficult to find a traditional publisher for that particular book (not necessarily for anything else though).

So, here are my thoughts to your very specific questions....

Would self-publishing do future submissions good? Not necessarily. If you have absolutely amazing numbers it might push an agent's or editor's hand to read more or even offer if she is on the fence. And of course hopefully your readers will cross-over. But we are talking the need for amazing numbers. Thousands and thousands of sales at a competitive price point before a traditional publisher will really be impressed.

Would it hurt you? I don't think so. Not in today's market. Sure, I suppose there is still the editor that might be turned off, but they are few and far between these days.

So, if you're asking my opinion based upon this question alone, go ahead and self-publish that book. It sounds like you've given it a huge effort and have a very strong belief that it's time to move forward, but you don't want to put this under the bed. So go for it. Self-publish that one book and move on to continue writing and querying your other books.

There is no linear career path when it comes to publishing, well when it comes to any business really. You have to follow your heart and trust your own instincts. You're going to take some hits, you're going to have failure and you're also going to have success. The key is to keep going and trust in yourself.


**If you have a question for the BookEnds blog you can email us at blog@bookends-inc.com and we'll answer as soon as we can.

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31. Query Question: incorporating parts of the novel in the query

I've just started the query process (only seven sent so far), and of the two query letters I've composed, one incorporates dialogue from the novel to highlight plot point's. Is this okay to do, or frowned upon?

It's not so much whether it's ok or frowned upon, as whether it's effective.

And generally it's not.

Your query should focus on the precipitating incident of the plot: what changes for the main character? What's at stake with that change?

Lines of dialogue that are explanation of plot points sounds like bad dialogue.  There's a now classic blog post on Turkey City Lexicon that names this kind of dialogue "As you know Bob."  It's bad in a book, it's death in a query.

For help on figuring out how to get plot on the page, consult the QueryShark blog.

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32. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 14

I know many have been able to post with no problems, but if you are having issues–because I’ve received a few reports–please send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com, and we’ll work to get it resolved.

For today’s prompt, write a follow poem. In middle school, I remember running for student council and my campaign manager said something to the effect of, “Vote for Robby, because he’s a follower, not a leader.” First thing, yes, they called me Robby in middle school. Second thing, yes, I did not get elected. Third thing, yes, this story is completely personal and pointless. Don’t follow my example.


Submit a Poem for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at a Follow poem:

“Follow the Leader”

He talked the loudest and knew how
to snap his fingers, so of course
he was their leader, and they would

follow him everywhere, which was
usually nowhere, but it
didn’t matter: He said, “C’mere,”

and they’d come. He’d say, “Jump,” and they’d
ask, “How high?” Which was their downfall,
because when he stomped to the top

of the highest building in town
and tried to see if he could fly
all the others tumbled after.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He believes in following your dreams, following your gut, and following one good line with another. And, then there’s Twitter. Speaking of which…

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic goodies here:

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33. What Do Authors Want? Take This Survey To Help Us Out

What do authors want? How are authors faring in this changing publishing landscape? These are questions that need to be answered if we are to help shape the conversation between publishers and authors. That’s why we need your help.

Writer’s Digest and Digital Book World invite all traditionally published, self-published, and aspiring authors to share their experiences by participating in the third annual Author Survey. The survey takes about fifteen minutes or less to complete. The survey results will help us understand the core issues authors face, including their priorities and preferences, their experiences in publishing, and their earnings. Participants in the survey will get a sneak preview of results. Results will be presented at the Digital Book World Conference and Expo in January 2015 and published on the Digital Book World blog as free content. In-depth analysis will also be available for purchase in a comprehensive technical report as well as in a series of briefs designed for authors.

Click here to help us with the survey (and feel free to pass along to all other writers that you know).

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

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34. Reader Question: When to Say When

This actually came up as a comment on a blog post I wrote about Cutting the Apron Strings.

In the comments the reader asked, "Is there a point where you should give up on querying a book?" 

I think the logical answer to this question is yes, but then I think back to the story I shared about client Shelley Coriell and some of our own submission stories about books we wouldn't give up on. Do you know that I once had a proposal sit on an editor's desk for two years before I got an offer?

There are two answers to this question for me. The first is that you stop querying when you know it's time. People often say, "you'll know" about a lot of different things in life. Usually unpleasant things. Although it's cliche, I do think it's true. We usually know when enough is enough with something. The real struggle is admitting it.

The second answer is when you start querying your next book. The minute you start querying you've put that book away and have started work on the next book. If you haven't, you better. This means you're busy doing two things at once. Sending out queries, and maybe reworking that query letter a few times, and writing the next book. You are NOT rewriting the book you are querying. Once you start querying it's too late for that. If you haven't received an offer by the time the second book is ready to go out it's time to put the first book to rest.

Presumably you've learned a lot from the query process and your own writing so it would be a shame to continue to query the weaker of what are now your two books.


**If you have a question for the BookEnds Blog feel free to email us at blog@bookends-inc.com and we'll answer as soon as we can.

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35. Query Question: Enthusiastic Silence

Is it wrong to expect an answer back from an agent who requests a full manuscript?

An agent enthusiastically requested my full almost eight months ago and emailed me when she received it, saying "I'm reviewing it now and will get back to you soon."

Twelve weeks later, after no word back, I sent a polite nudge. She immediately responded, apologizing for the delay and telling me she planned to get back to me "in the next couple of weeks."

I did not hear back. After another twelve weeks, I sent a short, polite nudge. This time she did not reply at all.

In the meantime, we tweeted back and forth twice about general topics (not my ms!). She's always been friendly.

In a last-ditch (probably ill-advised?) effort a month later, I sent one last nudge. I apologized if somehow my email had been lost in cyberspace, mentioned my new WIP and that I was excited to hear the head of her agency speak at an upcoming conference, and asked where my MS stood. This was 28 weeks after sending my full.

No response. I have to admit I'm embarrassed, mystified, angry, and disappointed at the same time. I would prefer a short "I'm no longer interested" over this complete radio silence. I'm starting to doubt myself, wondering if my three short, well-spaced (I thought) nudges over eight months have offended her in some way.

I know agents are swamped. But am I wrong to think it would be common courtesy to let me know where I stand? Or is "no response a no" when it comes to full manuscripts?

Note: I haven't stopped everything to wait for this agent. I've continued querying, have had a couple other requests (one still out) and am working on another novel in the meantime.

I read through your blog and didn't see anything addressing how long a writer should hold out hope in a situation like this. I apologize if I missed an entry that would help me!

My first thought on getting questions like this is to wonder if they're about me.  I have manuscripts in my requested full queue that have been there for quite some time. 


One thing I've learned from doing this blog and from listening to writers at conferences is that agent's silence makes writers crazy.  It took me a while to realize that responding to nudges even with the very lame "sorry, I just haven't read it yet" is mortifying but better than silence.

Now when I request a full I specifically say it's ok to check in as needed, and it's ok to do so on the WRITER'S schedule. For anxiety prone folks that's once a month. For the calmer ones, it's less often.

And surprisingly, for MANY of the writers in my queue it's not at all. With permission to check in, they don't feel the need to.  Interesting isn't it?

And agents know this pain first hand. There are editors who don't reply. Don't reply to pitches, don't reply to submissions. We talk about those editors All The Time amongst ourselves. And share names.  And often, remove them from lists of editors we submit to.

So, yes, you deserve a reply.
Yes, it's rude of this agent to not reply.

But, what to do? Exactly what you have been: keep querying. Nudge every 90 days.  I've signed and sold manuscripts that languished for a year. (But the author did hear from me in that time, I must say.)

You might check in on AbsoluteWrite to see if other authors are experiencing this delay with this agent.

And bottom line: you know something now about how this agent conducts business.  How you treat the people you don't "have to" be polite to says a lot about character.

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36. Your Story 63: Submit Now!

Lost key setPrompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, based on the photo on the left.

Remember: You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Use the submission form below OR email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com.

IMPORTANT: If you experience trouble with the submission form, please email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com within the body of your email (no attachments please).

Unfortunately, we cannot respond to every entry we receive, due to volume. No confirmation emails will be sent out to confirm receipt of submission. But be assured all submissions received before entry deadline are considered carefully. Official Rules

Entry Deadline: January 14, 2015

Your Story Entry Form


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37. Books Without Boundaries

If Bill Gates said it, I tend to believe it. The software tycoon-turned-philanthropisthas been proven right on just about everything. (If you forget the Zune and that CTRL-ALT-DEL thing.)

At the dawn of the internet, Gates published an essay that started off with this line: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet.”

The name of the essay? “Content is King”.

His 1996 prediction – made during the prehistoric online period of dial up modems, AOL and floppy discs – came true. From cat videos to eyewitness reports of government crackdowns– and billions of terabytes of everything in between — ours truly is the age of information on demand. As predicted the revenue followed, from eCommerce purchasing to monetizing traffic through advertising. Over the years Gates’ truism about the value of information has been stated and restated with almost religious fervor.

Yet the explosion of information is only half the story, and that’s where Blue Ash Publishing comes into play. Anyone on the planet has the potential to create the most eloquent, breathtaking, astonishing, even life-changing content. But without an audience – or more precisely the means to reach it — this rich content will never be fully appreciated.

Enter the new king – distribution. Some have likened the concept of distribution as the ‘queen’ to Gates’ king content. To rephrase the slightly sexist expression, in this family it’s the queen who “wears the pants!” Call it what you want — transmitter, network or bullhorn – it’s the vital infrastructure to broadcasting your message. Without distribution there is no discovery — no matter how brilliant the content.

Authors depend on Blue Ash Publishing for self publishing ebooks and many things but especially distribution. We’re the pipeline to help them find their readers. Just last week that pipeline just got a whole lot bigger with millions of potential new readers on the end of the line. Our retail store network leaped from 12 to over 60 retail stores around the globe.

We’ve been covering the majors for years including Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and all the majors. Now our authors’ books are featured in stores such as Spanish eBook giant 24Symbols, Waterstone from the UK and eChristian.com.

One of the reasons authors choose Blue Ash and its distribution engine BookBaby is what I term our “books without boundaries” approach to retail store distribution. We’ve been at the forefront of eBook globalization and for good reason. After all, it’s called the World Wide Web, not the Internet of the United States! The physical logistics of print books didn’t allow for such widespread international audiences for most authors. Digital truly changes everything.

I predict it won’t be long until the international English-language eBook market easily surpasses the US market. Some numbers shared by the Ebook Bargains UK (EBUK) newsletter illustrate why I’m so bullish on the global market.

blueashThinking about self-publishing? Blue Ash Publishing (a division of Writer’s Digest)
can provide all the tools and know-how you need to properly write, publish and
sell your book. Whether it’s digital publishing or print, Blue Ash has you
covered—and it’s completely customizable.
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Let’s span the globe According to EBUK, there’s upwards of 75 million English speakers in the Philippines as we’ve mentioned already. Over 40 million English speakers in Germany. 30 million in Bangladesh. 30 million in Egypt. 25 million in France. 20 million in Italy. 17 million in Thailand. 15 million in the Netherlands. 15 million in South Africa. 12 million in Poland.12 million in Turkey. 11 million in Iraq. 10 million in Spain.

In just India, Pakistan and Nigeria, the number of English-speakers exceeds the entire population of the United States! Then there’s Brazil, Sweden, Kenya, Cameroon, Malaysia, Russia, Belgium, Israel, Zimbabwe, Romania, Austria and Greece, all with between 5 and 10 million English speakers each. That all adds up a lot of potential readers in every corner of the planet. Blue Ash Publishing is your ticket to get your book out there.

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38. Senseless Queries

Recently I had a rash of queries that I couldn't make any sense of. It was so bad that I started to wonder if maybe I hadn't had enough caffeine and it was me and not the authors.

When writing anything--your book, your query, this blog--we sometimes know exactly what we're thinking and what we're going to say and forget that we need to step outside of our own heads to make sure that what we're saying is going to make sense to the reader. In this case, the queries were difficult to follow and I didn't get a good sense of the story.

Let me see if I can give you an example:

Frani Franks and her best friend Frankie have no idea that opening the ice cream shoppe, Ice n' Delicious will lead to a murder that's most definitely not vanilla and that seems related to the cocoa beans they love in their chocolate.

The victim loves to eat pistachio ice cream every day and once came in a stole an entire gallon from the shoppe. But vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and the shoppe's brand new table and chairs are all linked to the mayor of the town and Frani had no idea that her new shoppe could be her last hurrah.

The killer's enthusiasm to eat ice cream leads Frani to the mayor's house where they find that it's more than ice cream that they're after, that the entire town might be in danger because of a giant land development project....

And yes, I do get queries that are this confusing.

If you're struggling to write the query read some back cover copy to see how books do it and then review some of the queries I have on this blog and some of the critiques Janet Reid has done on her blog. Because, honestly, any agent who receives a query like this is going to reject the book simply because we assume the book is just as confusing.


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39. Query Question: previous agent shopped earlier version of my novel

When I query an agent regarding my novel, am I obligated to disclose that my then-agent pitched it to a number of publishers unsuccessfully ten years ago, even though it has been substantially rewritten since then?

If a manuscript has been previously shopped, it may affect whether the agent wants to read it. I've taken on previously shopped manuscripts, so it's not an instant deal breaker, but if I were to find out AFTER I'd read something that it was a revise/resubmit, I'd be more than a little unhappy.

And this is not something you want to finesse either. Many of the editors I work with regularly have been at their current job for ten+ years, and they remember stuff like you would not believe.

My next question is why aren't you working on something else?  It's MUCH better to query new work, and have your R&R novel as back up for the second book of a two book deal.

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40. What Writing Expenses Are Tax Deductible?

tax-deductions-for-writersI’ve been writing for a couple of years now, both working on a novel and doing some freelance work. What might be considered business expenses that I can deduct on my taxes? —Kaley A.

The writing business is like any other business, and that means you get the benefit of business-related tax breaks. If you’re a writer and are earning money from your writing (or are at least trying to earn money from it), you can deduct most materials related to your writing venture. This includes pens, paper, printing costs, postage and other writing supplies (though not snacks such as nacho-cheese-flavored Doritos, even if you get your cheesy fingerprints on the supplies—trust me, I’ve tried!).

Other deductible expenses that you should keep receipts for include writing-related travel costs, conference admissions, writing group or association fees, and business lunches—such as when you’re interviewing someone over lunch or dining with a potential client. Research materials (all those books, magazines and newspapers, huzzah!) are deductible, too. You may also deduct items such as a new computer or printer, though you may have to amortize the equipment deduction over a couple of years, so it’s best to consult with a professional tax preparer on those types of purchases.

Also, it’s important to note that if you claim your writing as a business, the IRS expects you to start making money after a couple of years. So if you’re making minimal money, for tax purposes you may only be able to claim your work as a hobby, which would allow you to deduct expenses only up to the amount of income you’ve made from writing.

The key to tallying tax deductions for writing-related business expenses is to keep receipts and records for everything. That way, if you’re ever audited, you’ll have the documentation to back it up.

But, if you’re ever in doubt, consult a professional tax preparer.

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41. Dissecting the Query

I feel like I've written so much on queries over the years that there isn't anything more I could possibly say. In some ways I feel like the subject is old news. I hope you're here to tell me I'm wrong.

For those who don't already know this, agents write queries too. At times we will verbally pitch manuscripts to editors, but even if we call every editor to pitch a new project we still need some sort of cover letter to include when sending the material. Hence, the query.

Just before sitting down to write this post I sent along some thoughts on a query one of my BookEnds team members is working on. We don't always share our queries with each other, but every once in a while we come across a book that's particularly challenging to describe and need the help of everyone else.

While reading the query I had some thoughts or tips on what we all can and need to look at when writing our own queries.

  • Keep it short. Not just the query letter, but your descriptions. Try not to get overly descriptive in your query. If you can cut a word or two you absolutely should. Remember, a query is meant to grab the reader's attention and too many words often loses someone. An example of this would be in a recent query about an apocalypse. The letter writer had said, "a near-future version of our world." My feeling is that an apocalypse in a SF book is likely always a near-future version of our world so that line could be dumped. Short, tight and to the point
  • When in doubt start fresh. Sometimes the biggest struggle we have when writing anything is that we're trying too hard to rewrite. Don't. Instead sit back, think about the story and just start writing. Maybe you'll end up using some of the same material you've already been working on or maybe you've just written the perfect query.
  • Use others, especially those who haven't read your book. In this case I was the perfect sounding board for the query because I really had no idea what the book was about therefore I could look at the query and think about what would entice me to want to read more.

Now, keep your fingers crossed that the query we just finalized grabs editors.


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42. Query Question: offer of rep from an agent I'm not sure of

I've been querying my novel for a year. Several agents loved the concept of my novel, but ultimately came back not loving the book enough to rep.

Unfortunately, the one who has offered is not my first choice. She showed strong interest in the MS and then left me hanging. My email nudges went unanswered and finally she said they were in her spam box, also stating she had a huge list to consider and she would let me know. I kind of  forgot about her and forged on.  After another two months, she contacted me to say that she was still interested  and she would like to make the call to discuss representation.

I queried the owner of the relatively large and successful agency (Agent A) and (Agent B) is the person who initially asked for a partial. She was an intern two years ago and I can't seem to find who she represents, or anything she has sold since signing on as an agent. She's not very active on Twitter nor does she have a blog; two things I like and want in an agent.

My question is this: do I sign with an agent that I'm not thrilled with just to have an agent? I'm at the point where I am about to shelve my novel. I don't want to lose the opportunity to have this thing out there because I worked my ass off on it.

And I love it and self pub is not an option for me. At the same time, am I wasting my time with an agent who is flaky? Is a flaky agent better than no agent?? Should I just take what I can get??

No, you don't just take what you can get.
No, a flaky agent is not better than no agent.
and No, you aren't wasting your time, because you've learned something.

But, just because an agent isn't on twitter and doesn't have a blog and takes a long time on queries does NOT mean she is flaky.

The best way to find out who she represents and what she's sold is to ASK.  If she's offered you a place on her roster, you should be asking those questions, and she should be answering. It's entirely appropriate for her to share the information with you.  If she hasn't sold anything and doesn't represent anyone, well, you get to be first.  Five lucky writers were my first five clients, long before
I'd sold much of anything or had anything but enthusiasm to offer them.

That said, do NOT sign with someone you don't have confidence in. Don't sign with someone you don't trust to conduct your business well.  The last thing you want is to be second guessing your agent. And trust me, she doesn't want it either.

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43. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 11

Today is a Tuesday–so “2 for Tuesday” prompt time. Here they are:

  1. Write a timely poem.
  2. Write a timeless poem.


Write the Poem That Wins $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at a Timely and/or Timeless poem:

“Deja Vu”

Feels like I’ve been here before,
written here before, seen you
before, and it’s awkward being

here again, writing here again,
seeing you again, and not knowing
if I’ve been here before, written

here before, seen you before,
and well, you know, or you don’t.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He has no idea what he’s going to write each day, but he writes anyway, because that’s how he rolls.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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44. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 8

Sorry, early risers! I slept in a little this morning.

For today’s prompt, write a blind poem. Three blind mice, blindfolded, “she blinded me with science,” “houston in the blind,” and so on. Maybe this is the one poem you try to write with your eyes closed.


Write a Poem for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at a Blind poem:


by the light of the moon
reflecting off your eyes
in the heart of my swoon
that releases the sighs

of a thousand balloons
in the dead of the night
enveloped in your gloom
but still feeling all right


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

When he has nothing better to say, he turns to rhymes and romance–and usually a touch of abstraction.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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45. Have a lovely "fall" day!

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46. New Literary Agent Alert: Rebecca Scherer of Jane Rotrosen Agency

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Rebecca Scherer of Jane Rotrosen Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.




About Rebecca: Unable to narrow her focus to just one subject, Rebecca Scherer earned her BA from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in Political Science, English Lit, and German language. After several years at the agency, Rebecca now has daily opportunities to put her wide range of interests to use as she actively builds her client list. Find her on Twitter: @RebeccaLScherer.

She is seeking: women’s fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, romance, upmarket fiction at the cross between commercial and literary

How to contact: Contact her via e-mail: rscherer [at] janerotrosen.com. Put “Query: [Title]” in the subject line. Send a query letter, brief synopsis (1-2) pages, and the first three chapters. Please paste the letter and synopsis in the body of the email, though the chapters can either be pasted or attached.

2015-GLA-smallThe biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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47. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 10

I don’t know why, but November always seems to move faster than every other month. Here we are on the 10th day of this challenge, and it feels like we just started.

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “(blank) Trouble,” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem. Possible titles include: “Big Trouble,” “Double Trouble,” and “That Guy Is Trouble.” I hope you don’t have too much trouble getting started.


One Poem Will Win $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at a Blank Trouble poem:

“Ultraman Trouble”

The problem is not Ultraman
or his various adversaries
or even the gratuitous destruction they create

it’s the catchy theme song
that crashes around my brain

knocking loose the rhythms of my mind.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He has listened to the Ultraman theme song more than a few times too many over the past year. He doesn’t advise it, but if you’re curious, you can listen to the theme song too–by clicking here.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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48. Flash fiction contest results!

Honestly you guys are writing some stuff that really scares the bejeebers outta me! I'm may have to ask Laird Barron to start judging these since he's the horror expert.

Without further ado, the contest results for this week's flash fiction.


Special recognition for entries that had a nice little twist at the end
Ashes 10:12am

french sojourn 10:23am

Special recognition for a line that just cracked me up
Rocco and I were tied to chairs, as usual.
Andrew Lipkin 10:17am

"I think, therefore I am. But let's not put Descartes before the horse."
Lenny Liang 9:24pm

Always glad to see a shout out to Rosanne Cash (and if you haven't bought The River and The Thread, get on it NOW)
Sisi 10:27am

Special recognition for extraordinary form
Ashland 10:57am

Not quite a story, but oh I loved this
kregger 10:45am

Not quite a story but awesome
JennyC 11:33am

Taramoc  11:45am

Not quite a story, but brilliant, totally brilliant
Brig 8:34pm

Not quite a story, but certainly the stuff of nightmares for a good long time
catjenkins.com 12:17am

And speaking of horrible nightmares, thanks
Angie Brooksy-Arcangioli  12:22pm

I may never go to the beach again, EVER, thanks to
MeganV 5:04pm

Homage to the Never Ending Paint Saga!
Loulymar 7:15pm

Who told you about my evil plan for world domination?
CED 8:29am

And this week, the largest number of finalists I can remember in a good long while:

(1) Carolynnwith2Ns 10:43am
It was written in the sand, “Will you marry me, love Bill.” I looked up and down the long expanse of beach, it was empty and the tide was coming in. A little further on, “I love you to the max but I must say no.”

I wondered who they were and was he heartbroken. If she loved him so much why did she say no?
A set of small footprints lead away from the “no”, another set, those of a man, disappeared into the water. As the tide washed away the writing, I walked back to my car.

(2) Debbiedorris 11:02am
Jared hid his face from the blowing sand. The magical duck he rescued lay snug inside his jacket.

“What’s with this wind?” Jared asked Max. “We’re on a beach, not a desert.”

“Quack,” Max replied and poked his bill against Jared’s side.

“Really? You caused this? So, can ya gimme a golden egg?”

“Quack, quack.”

“I know you’re not a goose. Don’t get smart with me.”


“That’s it! Hey, duck eaters, over here!” Jared smiled. “Let’s see ya get outta this one.”

Max ruffled his long feathers. “Quaaack.”

The wind stopped.

*POOF* Jared became a duck.

*POOF* Max disappeared.

(3) Lobo 11:18am
The body lay face up, one hand clutched near his face like he was eating an invisible sandwich. Snowflakes melted on the bullet wound.

“Women’s footprints coming down the frozen beach. Nothing leaving. Perfect ground for a sniper.”

I nodded. “Guy was a sitting duck here. Strange though.”


“She’s never left prints before. Orwitnesses. Too smart.”

Max grinned. “Not as smart as us. Right, Lieutenant?”

The billowing fog shifted, unveiling a long stretch of tundra. In the distance was a dark object—one that seemed to resemble a prone female. And a rifle.

“I don’t know about that…”

(4) S.D. King 1:20pm
Scanning the crowded airport he spotted her: long sandy hair, squatting by her backpack, eyes closed, looking sick. He just needed fifty bills max for a cab to the beach and a cheap motel. Snatching the bag, the straps tangled round her feet, and she fell forward. Grabbing his ankles, she pulled him to the floor.
To reach her bag, she crawled atop him, and it almost looked like she might plant a kiss, but instead she vomited in his hair, and collapsed.
Still dripping in the cab he read her passport: Emergency Medical Personnel, World Health Organization, Sierra Leone.

(5) Steve Forti 2:18pm
“You ready?”


“Good, let’s go.” Chet donned his mask and charged the door like he was storming a French beach. I followed, gun drawn.

The beautiful
sandwich artist screamed, feebly waving an oblongwheat roll in defense. Chet leveled his weapon.

“All the
bills in the register. Now!”

Her pretty fingers fumbled to open the drawer. Empty, save a small velvet box. Her fear became confusion. And I went to one knee, removing my mask.

“I’d serve a
max sentence for this crime of loving you, Luanne.”

She still trembled. I smirked.

“And you said I couldn’t surprise you.”

(6) Amy Schaefer 4:13pm
The general squinted along the beach. “Biters?”

“Ready, sir,” hummed the sand-flies.


“Maximum strength,” quivered the jellyfish.


“Caw!” shouted a seagull, french-fry in its bill.

“We shall not fail or falter,” thundered the general, “we shall not weaken or tire—”

“Is he quoting Churchill?”


“We shall defend this beach to the last grain of sand!”

The soldiers cheered. The general smiled. They would crush the human menace.

“Mommy, look!”

An enormous pink hand plucked the general from his sandy bunker. The sand-flies began defensive manoeuvres.

“So cuuuuuuute!” shrieked the giant.

“Fucking hell,” muttered General Hermit Crab.

(7) Curt David 9:18pm
The police were listening to a tape of Ms. Misandry, Ms. Dishabille, Mr. Longanimity and Mr. Maximalist.

“Beachboys?” said one.
“Makes me uncomfortable,” said two.
“I’m hot,” said four.
“Okay, Beatles?” said one.
“Or Aretha?” said two.
“ARETHA, OR I QUIT!” yelled three.
“I have to take off my sweater,” said four.
“Anything works,” said one.
“Thanks,” said two.
“HAPPY DAY!” yelled three.
“I would kill for a massage,” said four.

The police figured out who said what. Can you?

(8) Michael Seese 10:32pm
I have so many good memories of this place. Building sandcastles with my brothers. Chasing seagulls. My Dad’s white nose. Sometimes, seeing dolphins dancing above the waves. And eating ice cream ALL DAY LONG!

So many good memories.

And one horrible memory. Hearing my Mom’s screams when she looked out into the ocean and saw that Bill and Max were gone.

We come back to this beach every year. I think my parents hope they’ll see them again.

Why don’t they? I wonder.

I do.

I tell them. But they don’t believe me.

“Maybe when
they’re in heaven,” Max says.

(9) Kelsie Kasandria 11:18pm
She opened her eyes.

A man wearing a beach shirt stared at her. “Miss Billie, do you remember me?”

“Who is Billie?” she asked.

“What does this mean, Doctor Max?”

“I'm afraid the attack caused amnesia.” He turned to his computer, his long sand-colored fingers typing away.

“Well, aren't you gonna do something?”

“I can't, but you must. Take her home.”

A smile crept across his face as he picked her up. Then she had a vision.

Her horror replayed before her, and she realized who this man was.

His hand prevented her scream.

(10) Hillary Cusack 11:27pm

Veteran’s Day made her miss her father.
She trampled leaves in the silent graveyard and wished she could see him again.

Worms wriggled in the sandy dirt on my face.
I held my breath and dug upwards.

There he was, William “Bill” Maxwell.
So far from the French beach where he died.
She sat along the line of gravestones, waiting for a sign.

I was close; light filtered down.

She sighed and stood to go.

Don’t leave. I came to see you.

She panicked, pulling her leg away. White, shriveled fingers, growing out of the dirt, held her ankle.

(11) Lilac Shoshani 4:54am
"Maximize your potential," the huge billboard said.

Going to Mars had nothing to do with my potential. The space cop cuffed me, as if I was going to run away to some sandy beach on Venus.

"You are not going to last long. Not where you are heading." He looked smug.

Someone walked in. Dressed in an army uniform she said, "We will take her now."

The cop was going to argue, but her rank was higher than his.

"What took you so long, sis?" I asked.

"Real rebels."

She didn’t know that I was one too.

(12) TheOneWriting 9:33am
The first date was disastrous. The guy – named Max, a name she’d always hated – ordered a “Sex on the Beach” with his steak. Who gets those? Then when the bill came, he’d explained he was a modern man, and they’d split it down the middle. Split his steak and cocktails versus my sandwich and water.

“So, wanna come along to my place?” he asked, eyebrows wriggling.

“Not in a million years.”

His eyes widened. Then he laughed.

He apologized for the whole thing, and asked for a redo.

We married a year later, the rest of the royal family beaming.

This week's winner in an EXTREMELY competitive field, and for an entry that is both topical, and a masterpiece of understated, elegant story telling:

(4) S.D. King 1:20pm

Many thanks to all of you who entered. I really love reading your work, and you're making it very very hard to choose just one entry each week. 

S.D. King, if you'll email me with your mailing address, we'll get your prize off to you.

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49. Submitting to Agents: What Not to Do

This is probably a post title I'll use a lot. If we're lucky.

Frequently I get submissions, queries or even just questions that I'll refer to another agent at BookEnds. I feel very lucky to work with such smart women with different tastes and as such, referring something usually means I think it has merit, but I think someone else at the agency would be a better advocate for it.

Recently I received one of the best responses to a referral yet. The author had simply sent a question asking who at the agency would be best for YA or Fantasy. Naturally I referred her to Beth. I love that we finally have an agent representing SFF. Since my assistant years were spent working for Ginjer Buchanan at Ace it's a something I've missed for a long time.

Sorry, lost in my own train of thought.

So, I referred the author to Beth. The author responded to me by attaching the submission and explaining that she was out and about running errands and didn't have time to look up Beth's email so she just sent the material my way to pass along.

When querying agents its important to remember that you are taking the first step to seek a business partner, someone you want to invest in your product. If you don't have the time to make that initial contact yourself to find your business partner I'm pretty sure that's a partner who doesn't want to take the time to read your proposal.


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50. Writer’s Block: Avoiding the Struggles of NaNoWriMo

At this point in the month of November, if you’ve stayed honest and true to your daily word count, you should be a third of the way to your 50,000 word goal. If you’re not, that’s still totally fine. There’s a lot of ways to pick up the pace on your word count, even on the go.

Moreover, you’ll want to pick up the pace and keep writing because the inevitable stumbling blocks await. And, during NaNoWriMo, you don’t necessarily have the luxury of waiting to break out of a dreaded period of Writer’s Block. You have to force your way out of it, especially if you’ve slacked in recent days.

How do you overcome issues and problems you run into in your writing? How do you do it during NaNoWriMo or when you’re on deadline? Do you have a trick to making sure you churn out a certain number of words? Share your techniques and ideas in the comments, because you never know when you could help out another struggling writer!

Have you missed any of the other posts in our NaNoWriMo blogging series? Be sure to check the others out:

Question: Have you run into any stumbling blocks this week? If so, how did you overcome them, and how will you avoid them in the future? 

Natania Barron: Life has a sense of humor, to be sure. I’ve been going along quite nicely until this [past] weekend, and while it hasn’t been enough of a stumbling block to knock me completely off course, I’ve lost a little momentum. First, I ran out of plot. I’m not sure when this happened, but having abandoned my typical approach of just hoping things fall in line, working with Jonathan has meant that I have to keep to a script more or less. So I stalled a bit and had to go back to the drawing board.

Then came a foot injury. I’ve been trying to maintain 10k steps a day on my Fitbit while doing NaNoWriMo. Let’s just say there was a run-in with a flying object [Sunday] morning, and it meant that I was off my feet for the majority of the day. While you’d think that would have given me plenty of time to write, the pain was a bit more intense than I bargained for. So, instead of words, it was lots of crochet.

I still plan to make my word count for the day, and I’m still tracking ahead (aiming for a 1,600 word minimum) but it’s definitely not coming as easily as it has before!

Rachael Herron: The only stumbling block I’ve run into this week is not quite living up to MY goals. I’m trying to Reverse NaNo (in which you do the majority of the words upfront and early so the end of the month is easier), but I’m a good 3,000 behind that goal. That said, I’m still ahead of the “real” goal, so the ability/desire to slack off has gotten stronger and more alluring. Take a day off, that pretty voice says. You deserve to relax, it whispers. It also tells me we need extra fuel for NaNo, and therefore sugar is on the November menu. I can’t really disagree with that. 

Nikki Hyson: The first six days were one gigantic stumbling block. Work just chewed me up and spit out what remnants of energy I had at the end of the day. I managed to write for an hour on November 1st but then didn’t touch it again until I got off work—9a.m. of the 6th. Knowing I was about 10k in the hole, I let everyone at home know I would be alternating naps with writing for the next 2 days. I have managed to close the gap, closing in on 8k when I should be touching 12k. There will be a lot of long days ahead and very little TV, Internet, or the myriad of “time sucks” out there. If I need to research something I’ll put an asterisk beside it for December. How can I avoid this next year? Hmm. Last year it was a backed up septic system that kicked off the first week of NaNo. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

Regina Kammer: Names! I had established all the names for my main characters. Well, I thought I had. I ended up hating the original surname for my main characters (a married couple). It just did not trip off the tongue as much as I liked. And then suddenlyas is usual though, so I really should be prepared for this by now!all sorts of characters appeared. Servants, relatives, friends, people I should have had names for all along but was too lazy when I did my outline. And to add insult to injury (so to speak), since I’m writing a Victorian novel involving British aristocratic characters, many of them have to have multiple names, e.g., “Reginald Aristocrat, Viscount Snobber, called Snobby by his close friends” or what have you.

Sometimes I just ignore the need for a name and just write [name] as a placeholder. But sometimes I’m compelled to come up with a name or else the plot will just get too complicated. I have been keeping a running list of potential character names for a couple of years now, and every time I use one I cross it off the list with a note about which book it was used in (since I write series, this is crucial). I have last names and first names on the list (not enough first names, I admit).

I also crowd-source my names by encouraging my friends via Facebook to post name suggestions. I have actually used some of the suggestions in my books (“Mason” the butler in The Pleasure Device was such a name). If anybody reading this wants to post Victorian-appropriate names to my Twitter feed or Facebook author page, please feel free to do so!


November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 The November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest
has tips, techniques, and a wealth of resources to help you hit
your goal of 50,000 words during the month of November.

Kathy Kitts: This week has been routine, and I am grateful!

However, before I retired, I was a college geology professor and had to do NaNo while putting in some vicious hours. (One year I had a NASA mission in flight, a couple of grants to administer, several grad students, and a full course load.) So I learned to plan ahead.

I scheduled my class assignments in such a way as to have all the big projects due the third week of October. I’d grade like a madman and get it all done in time for Halloween. My students would pen new choruses for the song “Oh Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” claiming they didn’t have enough time to properly prepare. But when November rolled around, and I was the only faculty member who didn’t ruin their Thanksgiving with a semester project, I suddenly achieved minor godhood. Each fall I had half a dozen come to my office and thank me for thinking of them and altering my schedule for them. I smiled graciously and said, “You’re welcome.” What I didn’t say was that my schedule had nothing to do with their sorry behinds. It was all about NaNoWriMo. Gotta keep the priorities straight.

Kristen Rudd: I started to run out of steam last weekI watched my word count slowly dwindle each day, falling further and further below the daily word count. I didn’t write at all on Saturday, and now I’m behind where I should be. My husband was away on a business trip, so it was just me and the kids. I found it so much harder to both make the time to write, then when I did, to not be completely brain-dead.

So now I have to make up for it by writing over the daily word count. Which, pressure, you know? It’s one thing to write over just because, but now that I have to in order to catch up? Lots of people say you don’t have to write the 50,000 words to really win at NaNo, but come on. Those are the people who have never done it.

The good news is that I learned I can write 1,100 words between 11:35 p.m. and 11:59. I don’t know that they’re good words, but hey. They’re written. C’est la vie.

Once I can start putting words on the page, I can put words on the page. That’s not really my problem. Where I struggle isn’t so much with my inner editor as it is with my inner outliner. I don’t have the luxury of time to hang out with her right now, and she keeps running up to me, her arms in Muppet flails, yelling, “Wait, wait! You don’t know where this is going! You haven’t fleshed out this character! What about your subplot?” When I ignore her, she gets really sulky and critical, points out all my writing flaws, cries, and then starts drinking. She’s totally fun at parties.

EJ Runyon: Not this week, but I’m sure I may hit snags later in the month. I’m high on the several days of creating now; me going over my daily 1,667 words daily is a hoot. Sure, that always lags a bit once the first NaNo blush fades. The good thing is that you don’t need that high, we just love the feel of it. We love racking up the Word Count. Who wouldn’t?

I’ll overcome [a stumbling block] (when it hits) by meeting a daily word goal and letting go of the overachievment. That’s easy enough to do, day by day. So I’m cool with the stumbling blocks of slowing down during some weeks until I revv back up again. It’s all about not believing we need to burn so hot for the entire 30 days.

Jessica Schley: My main stumbling block is always getting down to writing when I’m tired or there are other things going on. Since I travelled this weekend for my dad’s birthday, there were lots of other things going on! I’m a little behind on my word count as a result.

My combat technique? A timer. I used to use the software Write Or Die to get me through tough patches of writing—having something eating your words if you go too slowly is a great motivator. But over time I learned that it wasn’t the word-eating but really just the timer that was keeping me going. 25wpm is a fast, but sustainable writing pace for me over a half hour, so I set a 30 minute kitchen timer, and shoot to hit 250, 500, and 750 words at 10, 20, and 30 minutes. Then I take a short break and repeat. If I can do that, I can crank all but about 167 words in a little over an hourand that’s an amount of time that’s actually pretty easy to find in a day.

*     *     *     *     *

Book in a MonthIf you make time to write and put away all of your excuses, could you stay on track and finish your novel in only a month? With a structured plan and a focused goal, yes, you can!

Using a combination of flexible weekly schedules, clear instruction, and detailed worksheets, author Victoria Lynn Schmidt leads you through a proven 30-day novel-writing system without the intimidation factor. Book in a Month shows you how to:

  • Set realistic goals and monitor your progress
  • Manage your time so that your writing life has room to flourish
  • Select a story topic that will continue to inspire you throughout the writing process
  • Quickly outline your entire story so that you have a clear idea of how your plot and characters are going to develop before you start writing
  • Draft each act of your story by focusing on specific turning points
  • Keep track of the areas you want to revise without losing your momentum in the middle of your story
  • Relax and have fun—you are, after all, doing something you love

Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest Books.


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