How Many Spaces After a Period?

For this Twitter Treasure Thursday, I cheated–a little. I didn’t find this article on Twitter. I actually went on the hunt for it after I found this picture on Facebook:

DoubleSpacePersonally, I was always taught to use one space after a period, not two. But I know others were taught to use two. In fact, my old college roommate used to go on and on about how much it annoyed her when people used one space, not two…I told her it annoyed me when people used two, not one (follow? 😉 ).

At last, I decided to settle our debate and figure out who’s right: Team One? Or Team Two? Brian A. Klems, online editor for Writer’s Digest had the answer:

The “two spaces after period” rule was established during the days of typesetters, when additional space was needed to show the difference between the spacing between words (which was smaller) and the spacing between sentences (which was larger).

…The point is, it’s not only widely accepted, it’s expected that you use only one space after a period. Sorry two-spaces, it’s time to make the switch.

So…I win, College Roommate.

Kidding!

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Brian A. Klems on Twitter!

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6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Yes, I’m fully aware it’s been a few months since the last one. Sorry! Just blame my manuscript and crazy life. 😉

Anyway, to kick off 2015’s Twitter Treasure Thursday features, I found an article from one of my favorite resources: Writer’s Digest. While skimming their Twitter feed, I came upon an article all about revising. Since I’m about to jump into the fourth revision of my manuscript, I decided to check it out.

resized_all-the-things-meme-generator-revise-all-the-revisions-b120e9As expected, the article offered up some great tips courtesy of playwright and author, Monica Trasandes. I actually chuckled at one point because Trasandes uses the same trick I do when chopping out beloved sentences and paragraphs….When you read it, you’ll get it. And I strongly encourage you to read it since Transandes provides such excellent advice!

6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

4) Be tough, others certainly will be

Assume every editor or producer you ever meet, within five minutes of shaking your hand will be thinking of ways to say no to you. Why? Saying yes will require that they convince others of the work’s merits—editors if it’s prose or financiers if it’s a play or a film. That will mean a lot of work on their part—probably unpaid.

Assume every editor is looking for a reason to say no. Don’t give it to them.

A teacher of mine, at Emerson, Pam Painter, would write DB on manuscripts, which stood for “do better.” She was saying, ‘this really isn’t the best you can do, is it?’ You have to be willing to ask that of every sentence you write.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Writer’s Digest and Monica Trasandes on Twitter!

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Top 2014 Posts – #1 – The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

To end the year, I’ve decided to spotlight my top 10 blog posts from 2014. I went into my stats page and looked up those articles, stories, and other published pieces that had the most number of views. Some surprised me, others did not.

Drumroll please…

And the number one post of 2014 is: The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

IMG_4106This is probably my favorite article I found for my Twitter Treasure Thursday this year. The advice given in it is beyond helpful. In fact, after reading this, I went ahead and applied many of the tips to the first chapter of my novel. And I’m so glad I did! During Chuck Sambuchino’s writing workshop, I had my first page critiqued by agents during the “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest.” session. Thanks to this article, it wasn’t rejected because I avoided the common mistakes so many writers make.

So, if you haven’t checked out these important tips below, I strongly encourage you to do so!


Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Today’s gem comes from the ever helpful Chuck Sambuchino. He offers a wide range of amazing tips from industry experts on how to make your first chapter shine. No matter what genre you write, these tips are sure to help you improve your work and avoid the pitfalls so many writers stumble into.

Female executive and banana skinThe Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents. They’re the ones on the front lines, sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter One approaches are overused and cliché, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work. Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter!

Previous Top 10 2014 Posts:

#2 – How Do You Share Backstory Information

#3 – Chasing Monsters

#4 – Inevitable

#5 – Stop the presses. Literacy isn’t important. Technology is.

#6 – How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

#7: Into Paradise

#8: Music Monday – Love The Way You Lie

#9: Operation Disney

#10: Over The Edge

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Top 2014 Posts – #6 – How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

To end the year, I’ve decided to spotlight my top 10 blog posts from 2014. I went into my stats page and looked up those articles, stories, and other published pieces that had the most number of views. Some surprised me, others did not.

Today, we’re up to #6: How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

IMG_4159After attending Chuck Sambuchino’s Colorado Writing Workshop last month, I can smile and nod at this post. Because everything in it is exactly what he taught me during that conference. So, be sure to read it if you haven’t and take to heart its important lessons.


 Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Although I’m still a few months away from finishing my manuscript, I’m always on the lookout for useful tips, dos and don’ts, and lessons about the querying process.

writing_humour_synopsis-scaled500Today’s gem, courtesy of Writer’s Digest and the ever helpful Chuck Sambuchino, focuses on the dreaded synopsis…Oh, come on. Don’t deny it. You’re as “ugh” about this step in the querying process as I am. Thankfully this article makes it a little easier by giving us five tips to use as basic guidelines. So, before you sit down to write yours, check it out!

How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

1. Reveal everything major that happens in your book, including the ending. Heck, revealing the story’s ending is a synopsis’s defining unique characteristic. You shouldn’t find a story’s ending in a query or in-person pitch, but it does leak out in a synopsis. On this note, know that a synopsis is designed to explain everything major that happens, not to tease — so avoid language such as “Krista walks around a corner into a big surprise.” Don’t say “surprise,” but rather just tell us what happens.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Writer’s Digest and Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter!

Previous Top 10 2014 Posts:

#7: Into Paradise

#8: Music Monday – Love The Way You Lie

#9: Operation Disney

#10: Over The Edge

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Photo credit: 

http://writerswrite1.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/how-to-write-a-one-page-synopsis/

My First Writing Conference – Top 10 Things I Learned

On November 15th, I attended the Colorado Writing Workshop in Denver with presenter and instructor Chuck Sambuchino. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. In fact, I learned so much, there’s no possible way for me to tell you everything. So, I’m going to do a Top 10 list!

top-10-schools

 Before I get started, here’s a list of the sessions I attended during the conference. I’ll admit, I got more out of some than others, but each one taught me something, and that’s what I’d hoped for.

  • “Your Publishing Options Today.”
  • “Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries & Pitching.”
  • “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest.”
  • “How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform & Social Media Explained.”
  • “How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices That You Need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer.”

So, without further ado, here we go!

1: Be Bold, Brave, and Outgoing!

One of the main reasons I attended the Colorado Writing Workshop was to meet and befriend local writers. I only know a few here in Denver, so I figured it’d be a great opportunity to make new connections. So, I printed up some business cards, gave myself a social pep talk, and marched into the conference room, ready to mix and mingle…

I stepped into the room and my heart dropped. Sitting before me was a group of fidgeting, throat clearing, eye darting writers. Silent writers.

Oh. Dear. God.

Up until that moment, I’d forgotten one important fact: most writers are introverts.

With knots in my stomach, I sat down and fiddled with my notebook for a solid ten minutes before I mustered up the nerve and turned to the woman across the aisle from me. I slapped on a smile, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself…Ironically, she was from Rhode Island and didn’t fit into my “meet local writers” plan, but whatever. She was super sweet and I was proud of myself for being brave and approaching someone, rather than waiting for someone to approach me.

Later, as the group broke for lunch, another woman walked up and said, “I love your bag. I keep staring at it.” After I thanked her and cracked a joke (yes, I use humor as a self-defense mechanism), I swallowed my pride and anxiety and asked her if I could tag along with her to lunch. “Of course!” she said. “A few of us are going out.” And, before I knew it, I was sitting in a restaurant befriending a handful of writers.

Mission accomplished!

So, if you ever attend a conference, try going into it with a brave, bold, and outgoing attitude. Don’t wait for people to approach you. Be willing to approach them and put yourself out there.

2: Content Is King

king-clip-art-king-solo-hiChuck Sambuchino spent the entire workshop discussing a writer’s publishing options, as well as the various strategies for success. Yet, at the end of the day, he made this important point:

“So much is out of your control.”

No matter how “right” you do things, there’s still a hundred things that could go “wrong”. That’s why you need to remember: Content is king! You should always strive to write the best story you can. Focus on content. Take your time. Think and be considerate. Because, bottom line: good, solid stories are more likely to lead you “right” rather than “wrong”.

3: Your First Page Matters! 

It-Was-A-Dark-and-Stormy-Night-from-Snoopy-e1375218659590-chicago-nowcomHands down, my favorite session of the day was “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest.”

Basically, attendees were invited to anonymously submit the first page of the their manuscript to be critiqued by a panel of literary agents. At random, Chuck Sambuchino chose an entry from the submission pile and read it out loud. The literary agents–AKA, “judges”–read along with him. The moment they lost interest, they raised their hand. If two of the four judges’ hands went up, Chuck would stop reading.

Think of it like the TV show, America’s Got Talent. Too many buzzes and you’re out!

It. Was. So. Scary!

First there was the waiting to see if my page got randomly chosen. Then there was the hearing of it read aloud. And then there was the praying to God none of the agents raised their hands…My heart was pounding so hard!

To my relief, not a single hand went up. In fact, one of the agent’s grinned and nodded at one point.

To be honest, I had a gut feeling my page would make it all the way through without getting “buzzed”. Not because I’m arrogant, but because mine was one of the last ones chosen, and by that point, I’d heard enough to know what rubbed an agent the wrong way. Those things included:

  • Info Dumping. By far, this was the biggest first page no-no. If there was an extensive section describing the world, character, situation, etc., all of the agents’ hands shot up. Then they’d make comments like these:

“Get into the story faster!”

“Trust the reader. They’re smart.”

“Organically weave your information in.”

“Questions are good.”

“Less information is always better. More can be added.”

  • Avoid using dreams. If a character wakes up from a dream on the first page, it’s an instant deal breaker for many agents.
  • Show, don’t tell. Every time a first page told a story, the agents “buzzed them off the stage”. So work hard to show your story, rather than tell it.
  • Characters describing themselves. Don’t say, “I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My blonde hair was matted in blood.” Seriously, who thinks to themselves “my blonde hair”? It’s unnatural and lazy, and agents don’t like it.
  • Stiff dialogue. Too often, despite an interesting story, an agent’s hand went up because the dialogue was stiff and forced. So take care to develop yours and make it as real as possible. Personally, I recommend reading your work out loud. Or, better yet, have someone else read it. You’ll be amazed how easily you catch weak spots.

The bottom line is your first page is vital. It’s what hooks both an agent and a reader and keeps them reading. So be sure to start your story off with a bang! Not a stiff, unnatural, info-filled whimper.

4: Avoid Prologues

To prologue or not to prologue, that always seems to be the question. Well, according to the agents at the conference, there’s no question about it. Writers should avoid using them. In their eyes, prologues are passive tools and weak attempts to hook a reader. “Why not hook a reader in chapter one?”

Picture-8One of the agents put it the best way I’ve ever heard: “Personally, I don’t mind prologues. But over 50 percent of the agents out there do, so why risk it? Play it safe and leave it out.”

I don’t know about you, but 50% is way too high. I’ll avoid the gamble and jump straight into chapter one.

5: Don’t Put All of Your Eggs In One Basket

eggs-in-one-basketYou write a book and get an agent. Sweet! Unfortunately, it doesn’t get the attention you and your agent had hoped for. Now what? You got it: Pitch a list of new ideas to your agent and write another book. Agents want career clients, not one hit wonders.

So, don’t charge into the publishing industry with the mentality, “I just need one great idea.” Charge into it with, “I need a lot of great ideas.” And then be willing to let go of those ideas that aren’t working and use the ones that do.

6: Read Your Genre

During the “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest”, literary agent, Sara Megibow, lectured us about the necessity of reading the genre you write for. In a forceful, “Come with me if you want to live” kind of voice (haha, kidding), she said, “These are the three things you must do…

1: Read debut authors from your genre that have been…

2: published in the past two to three years from a…

3: major publishing house.”

If you want to know what’s hot and what’s selling, stick to these rules. And if you ever refer to an older book in your query letter (ex: The Hobbit), an agent will laugh and toss your story aside. They’re looking for writers who are keeping current on the latest trends and staying ahead of the game, not those living in the past.

On a related note, another agent chimed in and said it’s very attractive to see comparative book titles in a query letter. It not only helps them visualize what your story is about, but it proves you know your genre.

7: “Confusion is like cholesterol. There’s good and bad.”

This was one of my favorite quotes by Chuck Sambuchino during the conference. It’s such a great metaphor! Confusion in a story is like cholesterol. You don’t want to have the bad kind that causes your readers to scratch their heads, lose focus, and get bored. You want the kind that makes them wrinkle their brow, ask questions, and eagerly turn the page to get answers.

This idea ties into what the agents said earlier about info dumping. “Questions are good”. So, don’t be afraid to add some confusion to your story. Just make sure it’s the good kind.

8: Be Specific In Your Query and Pitch

imgres

Be specific. Be specific. Be specific!

Chuck Sambuchino drilled that into our heads during the “Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries & Pitching.” session. He said the number one problem he finds when critiquing query letters is vagueness. All too often, people will say things like, “Sally had to overcome many obstacles”. But what are those obstacles? Be. Specific! 

Example:
“Billy Jenkins quit his job today”

What job? Lawyer? Plumber? And who’s Billy Jenkins? Old man? Boy?

Try writing it like this instead:

“After 17-year old, Billy Jenkins, made his 1,000th Big Mac, he threw special sauce in the air, flipped off his boss, and walked out the front door.”

So, when you sit down to write your query letter, or get ready for a live pitch with an agent, remember: Don’t be vague. Be specific!

9: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Yes, I know. Obvious! But, it’s true. So many of us read articles, blogs, and tweets about the publishing world, and we tend to swallow every word of them–hook, line, and sinker. Because, hey, if an industry professional said it, then it must be true.

False.

Although 90-95% of the information we read from agents and publishers is golden, there’s always that small percentage that isn’t. Certain agents have certain quirks that go against the grain. They’ll promote an idea that the rest don’t believe in.

For example, during one of his workshops, Chuck Sambuchino had an agent say something to the group that completely contradicted what he and everyone else in publishing taught. Later, when he asked them about it, the agent said, “Well, my agency does it that way, so I tell writers that’s how they should do it too.”

So, play it safe and read multiple resources. Don’t rely on only a couple. And be sure to cross reference your facts to ensure the information you’re using is what the majority of agents and publishers expect.

10: “You have to give up what you like to pursue what you love.”

AKA, put down the remote control!

Yep, that’s Chuck Sambuchino’s “secret to getting published”. And, if you think about it, it makes complete sense. Nobody ever said writing a book and getting published would be easy. It takes a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and a lot–a lot–of passion. If you want to achieve your dream, then you need to cut out those distractions you enjoy so much.

So, there you go! As you can see, I really did learn a lot at the Colorado Writing Workshop. More than I could ever list.

Actually here’s a bonus point I’d like to add:

11: Attend a Writing Conference! 

Okay, I know conferences can be on the pricey side, but if you look around, I’m sure you can find one that’s affordable. The one I attended was only a day long, and it was local, so it was on the cheaper side. Plus, if you have someone like Chuck Sambuchino instructing you, I promise every penny will be worth it. I highly recommend you check out his schedule to see if he’s coming to teach in your area!

So, how about you? Have you ever attended a writing conference? If so, what were some of your biggest takeaways? Would you recommend others to attend one? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you have any specific questions about the sessions I listed above, feel free to contact me! I’m happy to answer what I can 🙂

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Photo credits:

http://treymorgan.net/10-things-that-are-guaranteed-to-happen-today-on-thanksgiving/

http://imgarcade.com/1/crickets-chirp-gif/

http://lifeconfusions.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/got-me-good/

 http://richfieldmnchamber.org/eggs-basket/

http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/king-clip-art

http://blogs.extension.org/gardenprofessors/2013/11/18/it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night/

http://gifaday.blogspot.com/2010/08/americas-got-talent-3-x-gif.html

http://zsazsabellagio.blogspot.com/2013/07/dance-till-stars-come-down.html

http://www.jamiegreybooks.com/prologue-or-not/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/23-signs-you-are-hermione-granger

http://myreactiongifs.com/confused/

http://www.dichotomistic.com/logic_vagueness_1.html

http://blog.muchmusic.com/one-direction-release-best-song-ever-and-im-not-amused/

http://hellogiggles.com/amy-poehler-life-coach-15-things-shes-taught

http://usvsth3m.com/post/68874556080/18-things-which-always-remind-you-that-youre-not-as

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/21/fashion-week_n_6022310.html

Make Your Opening Pop!

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! On Saturday, I will be attending the 2014 Colorado Writing Workshop run by Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. Yay! And eeks! I’m a mixture of excited and nervous at this point. I’ve never attended a writing workshop before, so I’m a little out of my element. However, I’m confident I’ll learn a lot!

One of the many sessions scheduled during the workshop is the “Writers’ Got Talent” panel. If attendees wish to do so, they may submit the first page of their manuscript to have it (anonymously) read out loud and evaluated by a panel of agents and editors. As nerve wracking as this is, I plan on submitting my first page in hopes it will get chosen to be critiqued. I’d love to hear what works and what doesn’t by industry professionals.

chapter1_image1

Ironically, I came upon this article by Margie Lawson this week: Margie’s Rule # 6: Make Your Opening Pop! In it, she discusses the do’s and don’ts of your story’s opening, as well as what turns agents and editors off. As I refine my first page before the workshop this weekend, I will be referring to this article to ensure I avoid making too many general “no-no’s” and blunders.

Margie’s Rule # 6: Make Your Opening Pop!

I’ve talked to dozens of agents and editors about what makes them stop reading submissions. We’ve chatted on planes and on yachts, in several countries, on several continents. We’ve chatted at luncheons and dinners and late nights in bars.

Some agents and editors shared general ideas regarding why they quit reading.

They said things like:

First paragraph didn’t impress me.
Story didn’t hold my interest. I wanted to skim.
Couldn’t connect with characters.
The writing was amateurish.
Many shared the dreaded, “I don’t know why, but it didn’t work for me.”

Aack! Not useful for writers.

Writers need to know what to avoid doing, and what to do. They need specifics…

To read the entire article and see all the genres, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Margie Lawson on Twitter!

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Photo credits: 

http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/10/organization-why-word-count-matters/ 

http://joshuamowll.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/first-novel-first-chapter-first-doubts-10-strategies-for-starting-your-story/

http://rebloggy.com/post/reese-witherspoon-legally-blonde-ifc-movie-elle-woods-inspired-me-to-go-to-la/26794435369

How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Although I’m still a few months away from finishing my manuscript, I’m always on the lookout for useful tips, dos and don’ts, and lessons about the querying process.

writing_humour_synopsis-scaled500Today’s gem, courtesy of Writer’s Digest and the ever helpful Chuck Sambuchino, focuses on the dreaded synopsis…Oh, come on. Don’t deny it. You’re as “ugh” about this step in the querying process as I am. Thankfully this article makes it a little easier by giving us five tips to use as basic guidelines. So, before you sit down to write yours, check it out!

How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

1. Reveal everything major that happens in your book, including the ending. Heck, revealing the story’s ending is a synopsis’s defining unique characteristic. You shouldn’t find a story’s ending in a query or in-person pitch, but it does leak out in a synopsis. On this note, know that a synopsis is designed to explain everything major that happens, not to tease — so avoid language such as “Krista walks around a corner into a big surprise.” Don’t say “surprise,” but rather just tell us what happens.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Writer’s Digest and Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter!

Photo credit: 

http://writerswrite1.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/how-to-write-a-one-page-synopsis/