Archive for May, 2010

Writers Need Organization

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been doing some spring cleaning both at home and here in the office that I began to think about being organized. And, as often happens with me, whatever I’m thinking about soon translates into a writing application.

One of the best things writers experience is great ideas. Now, that doesn’t mean all the ideas come at once or come when it’s convenient. It just means ideas come and if we don’t write them down on something, we lose them. Most of the time if we try to get them back, we can’t. We’ve all had good ideas, lost them, and been frustrated because they were too good to discard, yet that’s exactly what happened.

Whether you capture your ideas on scraps of paper or jot them in your journal or notebook, you’ll want to retrieve them in the future, so you need some sort of organization.

I suggest my students create an idea box and slip those scraps of paper with great ideas on them into the box. Keeping notebooks handy works too. Of course, putting your idea reminders in an accordion file you get at the office supply store also works.

At some point, you may want to categorize your ideas in computer files so you can access them when you’re writing.

Consider creating folders for:

  • Descriptions (files could be places, nature, people, etc.)
  • Dialogue (files could be phrases, dialect, retorts, etc.)
  • Characters (files could be heroes, villans, children, men, women, etc.)
  • Occupations (files could be any occupation you’ve researched)
  • Places (files could be cities, small towns, rural, foreign,  etc.)
  • Research (files could be by topic or resource, including contact information, URLs, etc.)
  • Words (files could be words that are problematic for you or favorite words or jargon, etc.)
  • Quotes (files could be by topic or by person quoted–be sure to note credit information in case you need to get permission to use the quote)
  • Plot (files could be by genre–mystery, romance, horror, sci-fi, thriller, etc.)
  • Humor (files could be your personal observations, jokes, punch lines, etc.)

You get the idea.

My point is Don’t Discard Your Ideas–Save Them for Future Use! But you can’t use what you can’t find. That’s why you need organization. Find a system that works for you and that you will actually use. If you’re a writer, you need organization.

Happy writing!


How NOT to Approach a Publisher

Most of the time new authors approach our publishing company via email asking what we’d like to see from them. They’ve been to our website,, and they’ve made a decision to submit their work to us for consideration. We offer feedback on the first chapter of their manuscript at no charge so we can see if their book is something we want our name as publisher associated with, and they can see if they like the way we edit. It’s a win-win.

This week the phone rang and I answered it and young man asked, “Do you publish books?” Although I was thinking “DUH,” I responded in the affirmative and asked him what his book is about.

He responded that he’s a very talented writer and that he writes everything but right now he’s looking to get his novel published.  He continued, “Are you a sales publisher?”

I told him we were an equity publisher and that  I wasn’t familiar with the term sales publisher. I asked what he  meant.

“I mean, do you pay writers, ‘cuz I don’t wanna pay nobody. My stuff’s too good and I’m gonna make millions on my book.”

You can probably see where this is going. I get a couple of these calls every week. Authors imagine themselves as the next Stephen King, Joel Osteen, J.K. Rowling, etc. They’ve heard about the success of these authors’ books and believe they can do it too. Well, they can, but they’ll have to work harder than they ever imagined to make it happen.

Back to the phone call.

I told the budding author that he could indeed sell his novel to a publisher, but he’d most likely need a literary agent to do it. Since literary agents don’t make money unless they sell an author’s work, getting a good agent to represent you is almost harder than finding a publisher. One of the best ways to get an agent is to have another author connect you to his/her agent.

I asked him, “What are you doing to connect with other authors? Do you go to writers conferences? Do you belong to a writers group?”

He sounded a bit deflated and in a low voice said no.

I suggested he get the latest Writers Market and look for publishers who accept unagented fiction submissions.

He had an old Writers Market and thought he’d use that. I suggested he get a current one, but left that up to him.

He thanked me and the conversation was over.

What was wrong with how he approached this publisher?

  • He hadn’t done his homework regarding the publisher.
  • He didn’t have the basic terms mastered (sales publisher versus royalty publisher).
  • He hadn’t researched the book publishing business to see how it works.
  • He used bad grammar.
  • He wasn’t current in his research regarding customers (aka publishers) he was trying to sell his writing to.
  • He wasn’t connected to a writing community in any way.

I could go on, but you get the idea. When you decide to approach a publisher, make sure you’ve done your homework about the publisher and what they publish. Know (or connect with them to find out) what they want to see. Submit your proposal according to their instructions so you don’t give them an immediate reason to discard your submission. Publishers are bombarded with submissions, so don’t make it easy for them to say no to you.

Happy writing!