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I wasn’t sure what to write about this month, so I asked trusty Twitter for advice. Two people in a row asked about sifting through ideas and how to decide what goes in a book. So, that’s what we’re doing.
First: I get it. You’re a writer. You have lots of ideas. You have ~*~imagination.~*~ But how to sort through all of that and put only the best things in the book? Good question.
Maybe you need a list. Or several lists. Whatever.
I find lists to be very calming things. They make me happy. They make me feel more organized. So when I make lists for a book, it’s all the things I think I’d like to put in that story, from phrases to ideas to objects — everything.
Sometimes I don’t need lists because I’ve already started writing the story, and a cool idea slams into me while I’m brushing my teeth.
Sound familiar? I bet it’s happened to you too. These ideas are sometimes for the book I’m working on, but sometimes they’re for other books. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which. We’re going to get to the “how to tell” part in a second.
How to tell what goes in this book and what goes in another book. (See, I told you it would be a second.)
I like to imagine various characters interacting with the thing somehow. (“The thing” being the idea or line or whatever.) Does it feel right? Does it feel more right with another character from another story? How does it fit thematically? And will it ruin all my plans in a good or bad way?
I’ve seen lots of advice that talks about not hoarding ideas, not saving them for something else because you should just put every cool thing into your current story. And on some level, I get that. The advice is meant to keep you from having only one or two cool things in a story — when you could have lots of cool things! It’s meant to help you complicate situations and worlds, and make the story more interesting in general. But sometimes the idea really does belong elsewhere, and it’s okay to set it aside to fit in another story you have cooking in the back of your mind, or as a concept for a completely new story.
Sometimes the idea doesn’t belong in a story at all because it’s just not that great.
Sorry. We all have lame ideas sometimes. (I could fill an entire novel with mine!) They can be fun to entertain for a while, but it’s always a good idea to run ideas by trusted friends. You want honest answers to “is this idea dumb?”, just like you want honest answers to “is my hair okay like this?” This is also a point where you need to be really honest with yourself. Does the idea truly fit? Is it going to make the story better/more interesting? If the answer is no, ditch it. You’ve got more ideas where that one came from.
One of the most fun things about being a writer is having lots of ideas! But it can also be frustrating when you’re not sure what goes where, or if it goes anywhere.
I hope this helps offer a little direction when it comes to sorting through everything. And if you have any tips or tricks about how you choose what goes in the book, please feel free to share it in the comments!
That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll have another pep talk for you, plus answering your questions! Comment with any questions you have for us about writing, drafting, motivation, etc. or send us as ask through Tumblr.
Hey, All! Stephanie here, with my good friend and fellow pub-crawler, Stacey Lee. Today, we are so excited to talk about two of our favorite things: writing and fun!
Stephanie: It’s the beginning of November, which means NaNoWriMo has just begun!
I love the idea of NaNo. I love that it’s a race to write fast, and one that everyone can win. So instead of competing, people are rooting for one another. A wide array of authors give inspirational pep talks. Strangers write together in coffee shops. Friendships are formed as people participate in group writing sprints.
NaNo is fun! And I think this is a key reason why it is so enduring. I don’t know about all of you, but whenever I’m feeling particularly stuck, uninspired, or that everything I’m writing is really garbage-y, I think it’s because I’ve forgotten to have fun with it. And I believe it’s nearly impossible to write a story others will love if you’re not feeling any love as you write.
So Stacey and I have put together a list of, Seven Ways To Bring The Fun Back Into Your Writing:
1. Fall in love with words again.
Stephanie: When I was younger, being the super-cool kid that I was, I sat in my room a lot and read my thesaurus. I loved discovering new words. I’d highlight the ones that sounded most interesting then write little stories around them. Sadly, my teachers often informed me I was actually using many of these words incorrectly—but that’s another story.
The point of this story is, I made an effort to uncover new words as if they were treasures to be found. I’m not sure when I stopped (probably around the time I started making friends), but lately I’ve started hunting for words again, and listing all the lovely words that I’d been neglecting. It inspires me—like finding the perfect party dress and deciding to throw a party because of it. Now it’s even easier to re-discover words with awesome sites like thesaurus.com.
I’m also a big fan of McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions.
This book also has a thematic index. For example, if you’re searching for a term to use in place of liquor store, you’d find: candy store, comfort station, filling station, guzzelry, happy shop, headache department, headache house, juice house, leeky store, LIQ, oasis, thirst-aid station.
2. Commandeer your setting.
Stacey: Stand up, and wiggle your shoulders. Roll out your neck. Now make fists and pump them toward the heavens and say, “I am Master of my domain!”
Now sit back down and examine the world you’ve created. How can you make it better? Don’t settle for what’s ordinary, or expected because when we do that, we put readers (and ourselves) to sleep. Make it more vivid, more memorable. How? By not just adding a crooked door to the cottage, but creating an emotional connection between the crooked door and your character. Maybe every time your character sees the door, she remembers how her dad kicked it down when her mom locked him out. Or maybe the door is always threatening to fall. You can create a lot of layers, and have even more fun with your writing, by commandeering your setting.
3. Let Your Imagination Leap Out Windows.
Stephanie: A couple weeks ago a former student of mine sent me this lovely quote:
Her imagination was by habit ridiculously active; if the door wasn’t opened to it, it jumped out the window. –Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
When I read this I pictured a bored woman jumping out of a window. But I believe the author is really saying that writers should shrug off anything confining them and take bold daring risks that will bring them to frightening and dangerous places. This goes beyond breaking rules. It’s simple to say, “I don’t care about what everyone says, I’m going to start my book with my character waking up.” But mining deep within yourself, to find a subject that will not only force your reader to see some facet of the world through a different lens but stretch you as a writer, that is something else entirely. This might not be ‘fun,’ but it’s definitely exciting.
4. Find Reasons To Celebrate:
Stacey: I think sometimes we’re running so fast, we forget to stop at the rehydrating stations. Celebrations are one of the ways we can rehydrate, along with eating and sleeping and laughing. I book a spa appointment every time I turn a draft in on time—my own private pat on the back for making my deadline. And speaking of celebrations, Stephanie and I are preparing a celebration for our one-year anniversary on Tumblr because it’s basically an excuse to be merry and giveaway an awesome stash of books.
5. Pick a Theme Song
Stephanie: I know a lot of people do playlists, which are also awesome, but playlists usually encompass a variety of emotions. A theme song should be your anchor to one distinct feeling, which you are excited about threading throughout your entire novel.
For the first book I wrote, Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós was my theme song. It was whimsical and beautiful, and it made me think of make-believe things come to life. Whenever I felt as if my writing was stale, I would put that song on and it reminded me of what I was attempting to achieve.
6. Get into a good story.
Stacey: Nothing helps me rediscover the joy of writing like reading a good book, watching an awesome film or play. When I’ve reached a roadblock, sometimes just reading the words of others inspires me to go back and kick some roadblock bootie. Great stories I’ve experienced recently:
Phantom of the Opera musical (made me want to write a tragic love story!)
The movie The Martian (plotting brilliance)
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (the evil scheming ballerinas!)
7. Participate in NaNoWriMo.
We know the month has already started, but it’s not too late to join in the fun.
Now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear any tips you have that might help put the fun back into writing!
By Teri Terry Part 2 in Making Things Up: a blog series about the creative process.
So...you like writing. You think you’ve got a knack for it, and you have some things to say. Or maybe you’ve written loads already, and the time has come to write something new, but you’re stuck. How do you get started?
How do you begin putting words on paper? Blank paper. Accusing paper. Gorgeous, pristine paper that doesn’t want to be sullied by anything less than brilliant.
A Blank Page...EEEEEEEK!!
One of the questions most asked of authors is this one:
Where do you get your ideas?
The assumption behind the question seems to be that before any words can appear on that blank page, there must be an original, awesome, inspiring, exciting idea! Just a little pressure, then. Not necessarily. Sometimes the heart of the story is only found by writing it. But how do you start if you only have an inkling or a vague idea what to write about, or even aren’t sure at all where to begin? First up: Choose your weapon! It shouldn’t matter so much, but it does to me. I do most of my writing directly on my laptop, but I always start with a notebook – one chosen specifically for a new story – and I’m simply incapable of writing anything worthwhile on paper that isn’t at least A4 in size. And ideally hard backed, coil bound, white paper, lines - ones that aren’t too thick or in a weird colour - spaced just so, maybe with an interesting picture on the front...so I’m not fussy at all, am I? And whenever I’m planning or get stuck, I go back to the notebook. Many stretched handbags and sore shoulders later I’ve tried to break this habit, but I just can’t.
Here we have working notebooks! From left: Slated; Book of Lies; and the current one, book one of my new trilogy, Dark Matter
Interestingly, I was recently rereading one of my favourite writing books, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and came across this in the opening chapter (p. 6-7):
The size of your notebook matters, too. A small notebook can be kept in your pocket, but then you have small thoughts... It is true that the inside world creates the outside world, but the outside world and our tools also affect the way we form our thoughts.
This made me wonder: does the size of notebook relate to the kind of stuff I like to write? If I wrote, say, quirky literary fiction that focused in on the minutae of one life, would a smaller notebook be just right? It’d be worth trying it to save my handbags and shoulders.
Just a few of my notebooks in waiting...
But whatever you need to write, make it so. If you suffer from not wanting to sully the pages of a beautiful notebook, it may be that plain is the way to go. And pocket sized notebooks may be just right for you, despite what Natalie said, or you might think better with a keyboard. Second: Write, write, write...but what? Here are a few approaches that may help: 1. What do you enjoy reading? What are the essential elements of the type of story you love to read? Identify them and put them together in your own way, and you will have the start of a story.
For example, if you love a good murder mystery, you need somebody to die. You need someone to find the body; someone, who may or may not be the same person, to solve the mystery and find the killer. If you start with someone dying in an interesting way or place, and develop characters for your victim, murderer, and sleuth, a story will appear. Of perhaps you love a good romance. This
True love! In one of its many guises
isn’t so much my focus so I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure you need more than one character, whether it is boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy-girl – you need at least two to tango. You need reasons why they come to care for each other, you need challenges, growth: who are they, and what do they want? How do they meet? Why are they right or wrong for each other? What comes between them? Can this be overcome? If plotting a whole book is too daunting, you don’t necessarily have to know everything about your characters and what will happen to them when you start. You can take an interesting character, introduce them to another in an interesting way or place, and see what develops. I don’t mean to get into plotting here today, and everyone has a different approach as to how much plotting and planning they like to do before they write. But at a basic level, when you’re working out what to write, starting with the elements of the type of story you love is a good place to begin if you’re stuck what to write about. 2. Free writing A less structured approach is to write something every day – often it helps if it is at a set time of day, for a set length of time – without any thought to where it is going or why. Begin with an object, a character, or a setting, and put pen to paper, and just go. Don’t let yourself think, just write whatever pops into your head. Once your set time for free writing is over, stop and read what you’ve written. Think about it, and ask yourself questions about the elements on the page, and see where it takes you. It won’t always work, but sometimes you can find interesting ideas or starting points from your unconscious mind have leaked into what you’ve written. I also often use free writing from the point of view of different characters to help get to know them, but that is a whole other topic. 3. Mind mapping Say you have an interesting scene or character but you don’t know what to do with them. I find it really helpful to do a mind map. So, as an example I've got below - Phoebe, a character I'd introduced in Slated. Originally she was a walk on/walk off part, who trips Kyla up on a bus, and that was it. But she was somehow interesting, so I wanted to work out ways to increase her role in the story, and on this page I was coming up with options - some of which made it in to Slated, many of which didn't.
This also works well for me if I’m further into a story, and I’m not sure how to make something happen. Eg. I know my hero has to escape from the evil clutches of my villain, but how? If I write arrows of every possible option, no matter how daft they may seem, and the consequences that will flow from each one, the answer usually becomes obvious. I said I wasn’t going to talk about plotting, but it’s kind of like I can’t help myself... 4. Serendipity strikes: kaboom! OK, this does happen sometimes, and I live for these moments. It might seem a bit like luck or chance, but the more of the above kind of writing and exploring that is being done, the more these kinds of things seem to happen.
With Slated, it started with a dream that I had, of a girl, running, terrified, on a beach. I wrote that down as soon as I woke up and, presto! it became a trilogy (well, there was a bit more involved than that, but that is how it started). Mind Games started very differently. I happened to read an article about rationality and intelligence, and then wondered what would happen if rationality were prized over intelligence in a future world: who decides who is rational, and how? What are the consequences of being considered irrational and intelligent? Finally: Once you have a story in mind - if writing the first line, paragraph, page or chapter is too daunting, just write. Ramble. Play with words. Get going, and later on when you know your story and characters better, what should be those important first words should come to you.
Writing – especially the coming up with ideas part at the beginning – should be fun*, not torture. Enjoy it!
*apart from the occasional influence of deadlines, but that is a whole other nightmare blog post...
About the Author Teri Terry is the author of the award winning, internationally best selling Slated trilogy - Slated, Fractured and Shattered. Mind Games, out in March, was recently nominated for the Carnegie. Dangerous Games will be in December, and Book of Lies in March 2016. After that is the Dark Matter trilogy, which she should be writing right now instead of blogging...but that is a whole other blog post. Add a Comment
Hi all! Stephanie here, with my good buddy and fellow pub-crawler, Stacey Lee! Today we are talking TITLES.
Stephanie: If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve had to come up with a title. And if you’re a writer with an agent or editor, chances are, at some point, you have either been asked to change your title, or you will be asked this in the future. And, like so many other facets of writing, changing a title is far easier said than done.
Stacey: All three of my books have had title changes. The original titles weren’t bad, but they didn’t make it through the gauntlet of tests set forth by the publisher. The name must be memorable and evocative, there cannot be any similar competing titles, it can’t be trendy, it must be a title that sales and marketing can rally behind, etc. At the time of writing this, I am pressing a headache bag to my head because of the pain involved with brainstorming titles.
Stephanie: So, we have come up with a list of nifty tips that will hopefully make this potentially painful process much easier, and hopefully fun!
Stacey & Stephanie’s Tips on How To Create an Awesome Title
1. Look through your MS and see if there are any words or phrases that stand out.
Stacey: Even better, have a friend go through it for you. After reading your manuscript two thousand times, a pair of objective eyes may be able to see something you can’t. This is how Under a Painted Sky got its title. (Shout out to fellow writer Virginia Boecker for finding it for me!)
2. Create a Word List For Your Book.
Stephanie: I always start with words that reflect my genre. I felt this was especially important for when I was querying, because I wanted agents to immediately know what genre what my book was.
For example, if you are writing a space opera, start with nouns like Galaxy, Universe, Moon, Planet, Stars, Comet. Then move onto adjectives that reflect the feel of your book, Twisted, Warped, Broken, Fractured, Hopeless, Insidious. See how these brief lists show that this is going to be a dark space book?
During this phase no words should be off limits, although it’s a good idea to take a trip to your bookstore (or scroll through lists of upcoming books on Goodreads) to see if there are any overused words. You don’t want your title to go unnoticed because it sounds too familiar.
For speculative writers, there’s an interesting post on Tor.com about the most commonly used words in fantasy and sci-fi books.
3. Look at poetry. Revisit Shakespeare.
Stacey: For Outrun the Moon, this is exactly what I did. Poetry lends itself to beautiful titles; you will find unique and evocative ways of expressing things and words you never thought of using. Start with a symbol or theme in your book. For Outrun The Moon, I Googled words like ‘survival,’ ‘earthquake,’ ‘catastrophe,’ and ‘earth,’ together with the word ‘poem.’ Also, there’s the side benefit of getting to read poetry (admittedly, not all of good), which apparently makes you smarter. I reread Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and forgot what a cool poem it is.
4. Write down a series of brief (or not so brief) sentences that you feel encompass your novel/an aspect of your novel.
Stephanie: One of my favorite titles is The Day the Crayons Quit. Not only is it clever and fun, it tells you exactly what this picture book is about. This book could have just been called Crayons—it’s an easy to remember title, and there are pros to short titles (short titles are easy to tweet), but there can also be benefits to coming up with a longer sentence.
And even if you don’t use any of these sentences, the great thing about this step is that it can reveal fresh new ways to approach your title. Most books are about more than one thing. Think of your major plot points, characters, and themes, then write a short sentence for each one. For this step, don’t start by focusing on word choice, think more about the message each line conveys, then go back and substitute any overused words for more evocative choices.
5. Play the Title Game.
This is where our good old friends the index cards come in. You also may want a sharpie, because everything is easier to read when written in sharpie (we especially like ones with pretty colors).
Now, remember the list we had you write for number two? Pull it out. Write every word on it’s own index card. Once you’re done, make sure there are an equal number of adjectives and nouns, then separate them into two groups. Now make a list of conjunctions and propositions. If you haven’t included any verbs, toss in some of those too—and make sure to keep these piles of words separate from your nouns and adjectives.
Once you’re done, randomly deal out your index cards. We usually start by pulling out an adjective and noun. Then toss in a word or two from my other piles and see what happens. The key to making this work is keeping it random so that every time you deal out the cards new, fresh titles are generated.
When you finish it should look something like the picture below.
In case you couldn’t tell, these titles are for an unwritten book about killer clowns from outer space
6. Be Ready To Let Go.
Stacey: Sometimes, even after you think you’ve come up with the perfect, evocative, watertight title, it still may not fly. A book is collaboration; you’re trying to put out a great story in the best ‘package’ possible, and that may mean letting some things go.
7. Now That You’re Done, Don’t Forget to Google Your Title.
Also, make sure to look it up on Goodreads, Amazon, and IMDB. Books are listed on Goodreads before they are listed on Amazon, so it’s always good to make sure that your fancy new title is not the same title Suzanne Collin’s or John Green has chosen for their next book. It’s also a good idea to check out IMDB, in case your book is ever optioned for film.
Those are top title tips! Now we’d love to hear from you. What advice can you share when coming up with a title?
I only recently discovered the Dear Teen Me site, where young adult authors post encouraging, honest, heartfelt letters to their teenage selves. For this series of posts, we Teaching Authors are writing to our younger selves, inspired by those letters.
When our kids were still small, I started writing for children—poetry and picture books, fiction and nonfiction. I carried a pocket notebook around to keep track of ideas. The notebooks piled up in my desk drawer until I dumped them all into a box that I’ve been slowly weeding out.
Here’s what I’d say to that young mother:
Remember the notebooks! Yes, you carry one around most of the time. You’re always jotting down a favorite word or a quick observation or something funny one of the kids said. From time to time—especially when you’re stuck—stop and see what treasures you’ve gathered. Ideas and stories and poems are in there! Go back and find them!
The same thing with pictures. Look through them once in awhile. Remember the silly, wonderful, brave things you did. In another unsorted box, I just found this one of me and our (little!) boys on a camping trip. Priceless, right?
More weeding ahead!
Charlotte S. is the winner of our latest Book Giveaway, the autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Congratulations, Charlotte! Your book is on its way!
For some time I have been birthing -- in my head and on paper -- a new way of seeing, working, living, connecting, and being in the world. Why? Maybe it's turning 60, with the knowledge that there is less time before me than behind me for sure. Maybe it's recent disappointments and realizations. Maybe it's recent gifts and surprises. Maybe it's the on-going therapy, which is hard work. I'm sure it is.
Whatever it is, this shift in my thinking feels major, so I'm going to do something about it, and I will chronicle it here, March 20, 2015 to March 20, 2016 (start where you are, and I started with Saturday's post).
I want to see where this new energy and commitment take me and my work. I'll also Instagram my explorations, using the hashtag "theyearofexploration."
I'll label it that way here, too. I used the blog to chronicle my 2012 year off the road to finish REVOLUTION and called it "the year of possibility." You can read about it by clicking on the label on the sidebar. (or here. :>)
I'll tag some of these exploration posts "the home economics project." I've had a project in mind for a long, long time, and I want to start making it visible.
I'll chronicle book three of the sixties trilogy as well. I've already starting documenting photographs and research at Pinterest. You'll find a "book three hold file" and a "book three playlist possibilities" board as well as the many boards for COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION... and I've started resource boards for my other books.. I'll get to them as I can.
I'm going back to the roots of what makes me happy. I'm going to write more. I'm going to use my hands more, which is something that grounds me and centers me and helps me understand my place in the great continuum.
To that end, I have purchased four cacti, three French lavender plants, and a mother fern. I'm going to take a class at Creativebug - line drawing with Lisa Congdon. Also, Lisa's sketchbook explorations work-along at Creativebug. I've got my supplies (which include these plants!) and I'm ready to go.
I have no expectations. I want to do what I ask students to do when I teach writing: pay attention, ask questions, make connections.
I'll be an explorer like Comfort Snowberger in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS: Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter. Like Dove, the 9-year-old anthropologist-in-training in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER. I shall be an anthropologist of my life. I'll try to let go of anxiety about the future, and just stay in the day. I will work hard. I will try to uncover as well as discover. I hope to learn a lot. Wanna come with?
I love science. I love theories. I love natural history. But, loving something doesn’t always equate to ‘getting it’; just ask my husband. With the escalated advance of technology allowing our newer generations the most informed and complete exposure to their existence on this planet than ever before, how do we encourage them to appreciate […]
In January 2009 I wrote a blog on ABBA about the Room in my Head.It went something like this -
The Room In My Head
As the new year begins I look inside my head to find that room where inspiration might be hiding….
In the middle of the room there is space, empty of life or furniture. Walls, accustomed to colour and pattern, stand bereft waiting for design - perhaps imprints of flowers, pattern or activity.
Underfoot boards made of wood and nails move to mark my passage and where the light floods though glass no curtains block its passage.
And yet the room is full of hope and joy because the sun is shining, casting summer against the emptiness. Sounds fill the space with anticipation - strains of mystery that fill my ears and delight my senses, holding me captive - wondering - what I will discover?
This year, many years and stories later, I find my year starting with the Room in My Head well populated by the book I am currently writing. There is still space in the room although it is well furnished with characters and places, ideas, textures and much activity.
Underfoot ideas are scattered on the boards like so many sparkling jewels - tempting and clamouring for attention. Terrified they might be discarded, their brilliance allowed tofade, dissipate and be condemned to become mere pebbles abandoned on the path to the finale.
Light flooding through the glass varies with each passing day, dependent on the story's progress, from dreary grey rain-clouds...
to breezy sunshine over water.
At the moment the Room in my Head is packed with a tapestry of thoughts, emotions, wrong turns and epiphanies. It changes daily and fills to bursting with the noise of those who inhabit the story, each with their own goals and intentions, duplicitous or discernible, but always fascinating. What fills the Room in your Head?
Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children.
Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me she is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh. Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby website: www.lindastrachan.com blog:Bookwords
"It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen." ~Scott Belsky
We’ve just entered a brand new year. This is the time to think about where you’ve been and where you’re heading. It’s time for ideas.
According to Business Dictionary, an idea is “a thought or collection of thoughts that generate in the mind.”
They’re usually derived from intent, but they can also be unintentional.
Have you seen the Seinfeld episode where George accompanies his girlfriend to a funeral?
It’s post-wake and everyone’s at her parent’s place noshing on hors d’oeuvres and sipping punch. George finds himself in front of the potato chips, so he takes one, sinks it in the dip, takes a bite, and dips the chip again; much to the annoyance of his distraught girlfriend’s brother.
A knock-down, drag-out fight ensues before the very upset girlfriend kicks George out.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a double-dipper.
And why not? It’s the only way to really enjoy that French onion dip and get the most mileage out of your chip.
Freelancers should be double-dipping too. Not their chips (unless they’re into that sort of thing), but their writing.
Double-dipping is a golden opportunity not enough freelance writers take advantage of.
So how does double-dipping work in the freelance writing world? Here are five easy ways.
1. Sell reprints.
It’s been published once, why can’t it be published again?
How to do it: The first thing you want to do is make a list of publications that cover the topic of your article. Then, check out their website and writer guidelines to see if they accept reprints. If you’re not sure, ask. Send the editor a friendly email telling them about your article and why you think their readers would be interested. Ask if they’d like to purchase it as a reprint.
Not all publications accept reprints…but that doesn’t mean you can’t reuse old content.
How to do it: First, find a market that covers your topic. Go back to your research notes and interview transcripts, and write a pitch that covers a different angle of the story with publication #2’s audience in mind. If you quoted someone in the first article, paraphrase in the new one. Where you paraphrased, use quotes. Include information that didn’t make it into the original article.
Keep in mind: You may want to consider doing some additional research in case things have changed, or find one or two additional sources. But the work load is going to be a lot less than what it was the first go-around. Only this time you stand to earn the same amount of money… maybe even more!
3. Send pitches in batches.
When you come up with a brilliant idea, don’t save it for just one publication – share the love! There are tons of publications with audiences that would love to know more about the topic you’re pitching. It’s just a matter of re-framing each pitch to fit a variety of publications.
How to do it: Let’s say you’ve got a great story idea about traveling with babies. Of course parenting magazines would be interested, but so would travel publications, women’s glossies, maybe even custom publications for baby product companies. As you’re doing your initial research and collecting sources, think about what these various audiences would want to know and how/why they could use this information. Tweak each pitch to suit each market.
Keep in mind: Unlike the tactics above, here you’ll be writing completely different queries and completely different articles for each publication. While parents would want this information to help them in their travels, a pediatrician might want this information to help her advise parents who wish to travel with their little ‘uns. A women’s magazine might want to provide tips on how to have a smooth flight for travelers finding themselves on a plane with a baby. The difference is, you do the research once and get multiple articles out of it.
4. Send simultaneous queries.
The idea here is to send the same query for the same idea to editors at multiple publications. When you send out a query, you could wait months — or even a year — only to have the editor respond with a resounding “no.” Sometimes editors take a really long time to respond to queries…if they reply at all. Rather than wait around for them to get back to you and risk having your idea become stale or already-been-done, cast your net wide and find that article a home ASAP.
How to do it: This one’s easy — find a bunch of publications that fit your topic, write one query, and send it out to editors at all of those publications.
Keep in mind: You may have more than one publication show interest in the article. However, you cannot sell the same article to more than one publication. In this case, it’s a first come, first served thing. But don’t let those other publications go home empty-handed. Offer them the same story, but from a different angle. Or pitch them a few similar ideas instead.
5. Once you’ve got ‘em, keep ‘em.
The thing about queries is they can get a “yes” or a “no” or be met with silence. There’s not much you can do about the third instance, but you can turn a “no” into a “yes.”
How to do it: An editor might turn you down for a number of reasons: the timing’s off, someone else has already covered it, they’re not interested in the topic, they’re having a bad day… But just because they say “no” to one idea doesn’t mean they’ll say “no” to another. If they’ve emailed you back, you’ve got their ear. So take advantage by replying with a “Thank you for getting back to me. I completely understand. Perhaps [insert new idea here] would be a better fit?”
Keep in mind: That you suck as a writer or the editor hates your guts is rarely if ever a reason for a rejection. Odds are the rejection is based on factors you have absolutely no control over. If you get a response, thank them, tell them you get it, and offer up a new idea. This shows that you’re persistent and not just a one-idea dude. Then send the rejected query somewhere else.
When you have a chip — er, idea — get the most mileage you can out of it by double dipping, and you’ll get more assignments (and more money) with less work.
Tiffany Jansen is an American freelance writer and translator in the Netherlands. She is also the author of an award-winning children’s historical fiction series. You can find out more about her at www.tiffanyrjansen.com.
P.S. Carol Tice’s and my next Article Writing Masterclass starts in January, and we have THREE editors on board to critique your homework assignments and answer your questions: Current editors from Redbook and FSR (Full Service Restaurant) Magazine, and a former Entrepreneur editor. In this 10-week class, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to land lucrative article-writing gigs. Learn more and read raves from students on the Article Writing Masterclass website.
I’ve been reading a book called Fearless Creating: a step-by-stepguide to starting and completing your work of art, by Eric Maisel. Like Dorothea Brande’s classic book Becoming a Writer, this is less a ‘craft’ guidebook, and more a ‘process’ guidebook. It’s the sort of book that describes the creative mind set and shows you how to develop it. One of the exercises that Maisel says is the most important in the whole book is the ability to ‘hush’ your mind. ‘Hushing’ says Maisel, ‘is what we do when we go into a museum and sit in front of one painting for fifteen minutes.’ Hushing is a ‘quieting and an opening’ – and there is no creative life without this ability to hush.
Hushing sounds a lot like the open, receptive state of mind that is associated with ‘right-brain’ awareness, and is also the state of ‘choiceless awareness’ that meditation aspires to. When the mind is quiet and receptive – and not busy with mental chatter – ideas can rise to the surface.
Some writers achieve this state of mind by walking, swimming, doing yoga or washing the dishes. Others know it when they wake up in the middle of the night to write something in the notepad beside their bed. Maisel suggests that it’s only when the conscious, busy, ‘thinking’ mind has grown quiet that insights and ideas can surface.
Maisel also explains that ‘hushing’ needs to be practiced in conjunction with ‘holding’, if any real work is to be done. 'Holding' is the ability to carry an idea for a book or a painting (or any other project )loosely in the back of your mind as you go about your day. By holding the project in the periphery of your vision you allow the ideas and stimuli that you encounter during the day (or during your working practice) to enter it and inform it. I’ve also heard this process called ‘being in the grist’, when almost everything you experience seems to somehow relate to, or feed into, the container of your novel.
Have you experienced the processes of ‘hushing’ and ‘holding’? If so, how do you achieve them?
Being an illustrator is great fun. Why? Because you can use your imagination to go places you’ve never been and do things you’ve never done. For instance, I have always wanted a log cabin up in the mountains. As a teen, I used to imagine having a studio up a flight of wooden steps to a big room. It would have rafter ceilings and a window seat for me to look out of. It would be warm and cozy and I could sit and do my art all day long near a roaring fire in the wood stove.
When I began thinking of places for my character Burl the bear to live in, I made it just like “I” wanted it! Warm and inviting! When you walk through the doorway of my story, you will find a home that lives in my imagination. It will be a place that I love and I will revisit it many times as the story progresses. I must be passionate about what I draw or it becomes listless and boring. This process is what makes a story believable.
My experience tells me that children notice the tiniest of details. I did a school visit after Peepsqueak was published by Harper Collins Publisher. I read the book to the children and then we talked. Through out the story there was another story going on in the book. It was a little tiny mouse who appeared on many of the pages. The children did not miss it. They even commented on the mouse as I read to them. I let them in on a little secret. I named the mouse Elliot. When I told them his name they all squealed with delight and pointed to the cutest little boy in their classroom who was named Elliot! He was beaming. Suddenly he became part of the story. He was so happy!
These are the things that make a story magical in the eyes of children and adults alike. Its also why I continue creating images. I love seeing characters develop. I love finding their voices. .. what they are like… what they like to do. It does not stop when I leave the studio. I think about them all the time, until I finally know how they would react in any given situation. That way they become very believable creations and loved by all.
Stay posted, Burl and Briley are growing on my heart daily. I can hardly wait to illustrate the books that are in my mind!
I love the posts over at Tara Lazar's site every November during PiBoIdMo! Some inspire me by presenting a new way to look at creativity, and some are reminders of things that I already knew, but seem to forget about when trying to create!
“The specific uses haven’t been determined yet, she said, but ‘we’re working with LACMA and Sony and other arts organizations to come up with a final program’ before starting design work on renovations.”
“A quantum theory of smell sounds outlandish, perhaps, but evidence has recently emerged to support it: it was found that fruit flies can distinguish odorants with exactly the same shape but different isotopes of the same elements, something that is hard to explain without quantum mechanics.”
“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mindfulness is that you can train yourself to stay in this mindful state all of the time. … Even if you spent 20 years in a Tibetan monastery, you would not be able to stay in a mindful state. We are not, evolutionarily, designed to stay in this blissful, present-moment awareness state.”
“Which trait increases my chances of survival or my chances to reproduce? What would be most adaptive is switching from one response to the other, depending the situation, but our underlying biology cannot switch back and forth that quickly”
“It’s hard to find information on Tongva. There are no audio recordings of people speaking the language, just a few scratchy wax cylinder recordings of Tongva songs. There are additional word lists from scholars, explorers, and others dating from 1838 to 1903.”
It started with a pair of spiritualists in post-Civil-War New York; became a ubiquitous family pastime that was considered good, clean fun (and great for a date); and had its reputation ruined by The Exorcist. (It also told its first manufacturers what it wanted to be called.) (includes podcast)
“From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.”
“Sometimes one can recapture that fleeting sensation with names – place-names. If I am hiking up a familiar path near my house in Turin and I think, ‘I am climbing a hill in Italy,’ there is a brief whiff of foreign glamour. And, when I arrived in Uzbekistan and was disappointed to find that city people took buses and trams as they do everywhere else, I could revive a touch of fantasy by silently repeating, ‘Streetcars in Samarkand’.”