Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gifts for Writers

Here are 8 interesting gifts for writers.

  1. LED pen for writing at night – Hardcore writers often get deep thoughts at night. No more need for  undecipherable notes in the dark. And best of all, you can use it as a flashlight to go to the washroom at night. Plus, it has a stylus that you can text with. One heck of a fancy little pen.
  2. Aqua Notes – Ideas pop up at the most inopportune times, even in the shower. Worry not when you have Aqua Notes. It’s a waterproof note pad on which you can record your super ideas … or even mundane things like grocery lists.
  3. Check out this fantastic online shop called Out of Print. They feature tees with iconic book covers like Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice.
    Out of Print Collection

    Out of Print Collection

    Even kids’ tees emblazoned with Where the Wild Things Are or The Hungry Caterpillar. Grrr! I wish they’d been around when my kids were young. They have other stuff too like mugs and coasters + they donate a dollar to Books for Africa.

  4. Scrabble – This may be an old board game, but it’s a goody. scrabbleIt’ll help every writer jog those little grey cells.
  5. Space Pen – Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry takes Jack Klompus’ space pen and the chaos that ensues. Now you can have your own space pen. Just try to keep the chaos under control.
  6. Coffee Mugs – no writer can make it through the day without some java. Give us a coffee mug like this one to make our day.
  7. A Book Pendant – this one works not just for writers but for readers too.
  8. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White – styleif the writer in your life doesn’t have one of these, run out and pop one into his or her stocking. No writer should be without this writing classic.

What do you plan to give the writer in your life?

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story”

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript

 

Genre Fiction

What is Genre Fiction? It’s a term that pops up when submitting to various literary agents and publishing houses. Some want genre fiction; others don’t. But you need to understand what it is before you can figure out whether that’s what you’ve been writing in or not.

The Wikipedia definition of genre fiction is: Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Yes – well, that helps a lot, Wikipedia. Thanks very much.

What genre fiction really means is that the book is a rollicking good read.

popular books

No snobbery here. No incomprehensible words, no fine writing like Robertson Davies and James Joyce  -who I personally detest and have been unable to finish any of their books. don’t get me wrong – I am a voracious reader and love literary fiction and the classics, as well as other forms of fiction, What I do hate is the pomposity of authors like the two listed above.

Genre fiction can be broken down into several categories, although these keep changing:

Mystery/Suspense

Novels and Thrillers

Horror

Romance 

shadowfeverKaren Marie Moning’s Fever series is fantastic with supernatural elements, but above all is a romance. 

 

 

Science Fiction

Fantasy

ironKevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles is a superb read. For those of you who enjoy mythology, you will love the way he deals with many of the different world mythologies 

 

Historical

Action/Adventure

Westerns

Children’s 

fablehaven(I absolutely loved Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Have read it several times, and still find it fascinating)

 

 

 

 

 

Young Adult

All stories have elements which overlap one, two or three of these categories so sometimes writers wonder which genre they are officially writing in. What you need to consider is which area does the majority of the story land? Is the main thrust a romance or a mystery?

One of the main reasons you need to figure out which genre you are writing in is because bookstores need to know where to stack the books. All bookstores have labels such as Romance, Children’s, Teens, etc. If your novel is an orphan, they don’t know what to do with it. Therefore, make sure you know what category you are writing for. Children’s books are divided into even more sub-levels. There are books for children 6-8, 9-12, teens and the lower reading levels are sub-divided even more … but that’s the topic of another blog.

In the meanwhile, choose a genre and give it your main thrust.

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story”  

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished”  

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript”  

 

New Literary Agents

New literary agents are a blessing for writers who are looking for agents. Since they are actively looking for clients, new writers have a better chance at having their work read. If you have a query, synopsis and completed manuscript, check out the names below and see whether any of these literary agents are a match for you.

Sandy Harding of Spencerhill Associates

Sandy Harding

Literary agent Sandy Harding is seeking mainly upmarket commercial and literary fiction for the adult market. She enjoys women’s fiction for book clubs, smart page-turning thrillers, works of suspense with complex protagonists, mysteries of all sorts (cozies, historical, traditional), and romance. Most of all she’s seeking writing with a voice so penetrating and a story so captivating the reader simply must keep reading.

To query: email submission [at] spencerhillassociates.com. Put ‘Query for Sandy: [TITLE]” in your subject line. Send the query letter in the body of an email and attach the first three chapters and synopsis preferably in .doc, rtf or txt format to your email

Let her know if the submission is simultaneous. If interested, the agency will contact you within 12 weeks.

 

Caitlin McDonald of Donald Maass Literary

caitlin-mcdonald-photo-480x480Literary agent Caitlin McDonald is looking for all science fiction and fantasy fiction (and subgenres) for adult, YA, and MG — especially secondary world fantasy and alternate history. She is also seeking genre-bending or cross-genre fiction, and stories that examine tropes from a new angle as well as diversity of all kinds, including (but not limited to) race, gender, sexuality, and ability, in both characters and world-building

She is not interested in women’s fiction, crime fiction, picture books or chapter books, screenplays or short stories

To query: email query.cmcdonald [at] maassagency.com with the query letter, synopsis, and the first ten pages of your novel pasted into the body of the email.

 

Julie Stevenson of Waxman Leavell Literary

julie-stevenson-literary-agentLiterary agent Julie Stevenson is on the lookout for upmarket fiction, literary fiction, adult thriller/suspense, memoir, young adult, middle grade and picture books.

To query: email juliesubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com

For fiction, you may include 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. Please do not query more than one agent at this agency simultaneously. Due to the high volume of submissions, agents will reach out to you directly if interested. The typical time range for consideration is 6-8 weeks.

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript

Crafting Your Novel

When you read a story that draws you in, it seems like such a simple act. What the reader does not know (and should not know) is that crafting your novel demands time, effort and grunt work. girl-908614__180 (1)Just like an Olympic gymnast makes a back walk-over look easy, a good writer makes their story seem effortless. And that’s the way it should be.

But writing a story doesn’t come easy for most of us. We agonize over the right word; we worry about whether our characters are alive and vibrant; whether our plots and sub-plots make sense and most important of all – whether the story is interesting at all.

But that’s only one part of the equation. The other part is even harder. Writing a query and a synopsis, researching literary agents to find out who would be the best fit for our novel and finally the excruciating pain of waiting to hear from those agents we have sent our souls to.

Many writers fall off the creative path around this time simply because it becomes too difficult to accept rejection. Most agents phrase their rejections in a kind way. Here’s one rejection I received from one of the first middle grade novels I submitted. In hindsight, and after reading the work a couple of years later, I was appalled at my first chapter and how unpolished it seems now.

Dear Ms. Bell:

Thank you for your recent submission. We appreciate your interest in ___________________ Publishing.

It is obvious you have invested a considerable amount of time and effort into this project. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we do not feel that we could be successful with your work. Please know that sometimes we must pass on well written, marketable projects simply because they do not suit our lists.

 Thank you again for sharing your submission with us, and we wish you the best of luck in placing your work elsewhere.

With best wishes,

Achieving writing success is not about being the best writer or writing the most interesting story of all time. Of course, these factors help and if you can’t write … well, your chances of being published are probably not very good. But there is one component that successful writers have that stands them in good stead and that is stick-to-it-ness. Taking a writing class will help most people because it provides you with a sense of structure and forces you to be accountable. In addition, you get valuable input not only from the instructor, but from your peers as well. And best of all, you get to make good friends.

How many of your writers enjoy your writing classes?

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-the-Lamppost begin:

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript

 

SEO or Search Engine Optimization

SEO or Search Engine Optimization are three of the scariest words for new bloggers or website owners. These words – Search Engine Optimization, or its acronym, SEO, are essential to getting your message out there, but no one seems to understand what exactly it means.

SEO Meaning

Most people use one of the three major search engines on the internet such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. The words you use to call up whatever you are looking for is what is known as search words or tags. Google, Bing and Yahoo then race through their stocks and stacks of material and cough it all up to you for you to use.

So, when you are writing a blog or something for your website, you need to use the words that people might type in and so get to your blog or business. Ta da! That’s your very simplified version of SEO. Not scary at all.

Web Crawlers and Googlebots

google

So, you might think that if you stuff your blog full of SEO words of tags that will be the easiest way to get the search engines to find your blog or business. Not so. Web crawlers or googlebots are smart little creatures that appear to understand when something makes sense and when it doesn’t.

It takes a while for these google bots and web crawlers to start recognizing your site and moving it up the standings onto the main pages where people will notice them immediately.

How to get Noticed on the Web

wifi-sign

Blog often, at least twice a week and publish your post at approximately the same time on the same days

Write simply and in plain English, because those are the terms or keywords that people will type into their computers in order to find out more about that topic. For example, a person might type in ‘janitor’ – they would never type in ‘sanitation engineer’

Use keywords (SEO words) that you think a person might type into their computer, but use these words in a way that makes sense. Use them in your heading and in your first paragraph for sure, and if you can sprinkle them somewhere through the rest of your text – even better

Link to other sites that have similar information. This may seem counterintuitive, but your readers may benefit from it, and that means they may be more apt to remember your site. Your readers may realize that you are a great resource and come back to you for more … and best of all, Google recognizes and rewards links to other sites by noticing your site. Remember, though,  to only link to reputable sites and ones that make sense to what you are writing about.

Does SEO or Search Engine Optimization seem clearer to you now? What else would you like to know about?

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging for Writers

Blogging for writers may seem like one more unnecessary rung on the publishing ladder but it is an important step. And one you should take before it becomes a necessity … when you are a published author.

It is one of the best ways to connect and interact with your readers. If they feel a personal tie to you, your chances of getting them to buy and read your books start to look pretty darned good.

Learn the ins and outs of blogging before you need it.

Blogging Tips for Writers

blog

  • Start a free blog on WordPress today. There are so many different themes – you’ll find one you like. Don’t pay for a theme until you’ve used one of the free versions for at least a year. You need the experience to determine what you like and also to get a feel for what you are doing.
  • Take baby steps and start small. It may not sound like a lot to whip off 300-400 words each week on a topic you love to talk about, but believe me it becomes tough really quickly to think of topics people would be interested in reading about and which you can talk about with authority.
  • Think carefully about the name of your blog. It will be your online home.
  • Post once a week on the same day and as close to the same time as possible so that the web crawlers notice your new copy each week. As you get more comfortable and proficient with posting, you can increase your posts.
  • Make sure that your posts are relevant. Nobody really cares about what you are making for lunch or about the fact that your grandmother is turning 90. That is something personal. Try to make your blog pertinent to a specific subject and helpful to those who read it. I am a writer and a writing instructor, so my topics tend to be about creative writing or what is meaningful to writers.
  • Use SEO words, particularly in your heading. SEO keywords are words that people tend to type into their internet browsers when they are looking for a specific subject. So, for example, if they were looking to find out about how to start blogging they might type in the words – blogging for writers. Voila – your post will pop up.
  • Make sure you have social media links. That means you link your post to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. There are others, but I prefer to use just those.

Let me know if you are new to blogging and if this post has helped you.

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2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-the-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished”  

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript”  

 

 

Writing for Free

Writing for free is a great idea when you have never published anything before.

There are any number of sites such as CommuterLit or FanStory (which also offers critiques by
members) and, yes, they are wonderful opportunities if you have never had a story published before. They offer you the chance to see your story … and your name, in print.

roller-coaster-449137__180That is one heck of a thrill.

But, after that thrill has been enjoyed a couple of times – heck, even a few times, it’s time to start thinking seriously about your future as a writer. Free publishing of your stories will only lead you so far. No one appreciates anything that is given away free. If you intend to actually crack into the world of novels, then it’s time to up your ante. That means selling your stories to publications that pay (and there are plenty who do so … from small to big bucks) as well as entering writing contests and competitions.

award-155595__180

There are plenty of those as well. One potential problem with contests and competitions is you could enter up spending hundreds of dollars on entry fees. But never fear – help is near. There are a huge amount of free (yes, you heard right – free) competitions that you can enter. And, best of all, some of them pay big bucks. You’ll never know if you can win unless you enter.

Then, when you send out that all important query foShaping Your Storyhttp://beyond-the-lamppost.com/creative-writing-classes/r your book, you will have the opportunity of adding that you are the winner of such and such competition. What a way to get your name known and to start publicizing your novel. And, from there, the sky is the limit.

What are you doing to publicize your stories?

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2016 CREATIVE WRITING CLASSES AT BEYOND-THE-LAMPPOST

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript