Monthly Archives: December 2015

Rejection and Self-confidence

It may sound like an oxymoron to use rejection and self-confidence together but, trust me, they go hand in hand. That’s because you need to believe in yourself regardless of whether you get rejection after rejection slip from agents or publishers. And that only happens if you have the self-confidence to believe that your work has merit. You learn to believe that there is the right agent out there just waiting for you to make contact.

How do you know if your work is good enough to be published? One terrific way is to take a creative writing class and get the input from other participants as well as the instructor. They bring fresh eyes to your work. Sometimes, as writers, we have looked at our work so much that we just don’t notice what is glaring omissions to others.

How do you learn to accept rejection? It’s tough, but what I do is try to figure out why a particular query was rejected. Sometimes, the wording of the rejection holds clues. If the rejection letter states that the query just doesn’t fit with their needs at this time but encourages you to query them about another project – that, to me, is a definite plus, not a downright rejection at all. As far as I’m concerned, that means they like my work and my writing but perhaps they just don’t need that specific type or genre of novel at that time. They definitely go into my pile of literary agents to be queried again with another project.

And that leads me to my final point about rejection and self-confidence. If you have spent all your time writing only one novel or several versions of the same novel, you are making a huge mistake. Diversify so that if your current project does not make the grade with all the literary agents you have sent it to, you have something else on the go … and something else … and something else. You never know which one will make contact with the right agent or publisher.

Do you think rejection and self-confidence go hand in hand?

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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”  

 

 

Journalism and Novel Writing

Journalism and novel writing are as different as tea is to coffee, but novel writers can learn a thing or two from journalism.

Years ago, when I was a young journalism student at Concordia University in Montreal, the first aphorism the professors dinned into our heads was ‘dog bites a man’ is not news but ‘man bites dog’ is.

Photo Credit: covershut.com

Photo Credit: covershut.com

The second basic formula we learned was the 5Ws and 1H

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

The third rule we learned was the inverted pyramid. It illustrates how information should be structured with the most crucial piece of information at the top, tapering down to the less important.

Using these three pieces of journalism can help turn you into a better novel writer. This doesn’t mean you need to write your novel in the manner of a newspaper article. Rather, it means you should definitely ask whether your story covers the 5ws and 1H and whether it is as interesting as ‘man bites dog’. After all, who cares if a dog bites a man – that happens all the time. But man biting a dog? Now – that’s a story.  That’s how journalism and novel writing come together. 

The difference between journalism and novel writing is in the way a story is approached. Four years ago, I never would have believed I could have written anything creative. My training was all about taking a story, garnering all the facts and then re-writing the piece inverted pyramid style so that everything was presented in an objective manner.

It took some practice to make the switch from writing facts in a bald manner to teasing out a story in colorful prose. What I have learned from my journalism training is to make sure that I know:

  • Who my main characters are 
  • What my story is about
  • When does all this take place
  • Why is my main character doing what he or she is doing i.e. what is his/her motive
  • How it all happens

Journalism training also helps you to zero in on the main ideas and start your story in media res – also known as  – in the middle of things. 

Do you know the 5Ws and 1H of your story?

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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”  

 

 

 

Optimist or Pessimist

Optimist or pessimist? Glass half-full or glass half-empty? Success or failure? Which one are you?

Source: QuotesGram

Source: QuotesGram

Sometimes I think these qualities are hard-wired into our brains. Take a quick survey of friends and family and you’ll be quick to notice those who always tend to see the positive in everyone and in every situation and conversely, those who find some fault in everything.

I’m an optimist by nature although there is the odd time, like around my birthday when I can’t help but dwell on how the years are passing me by. Mind you, I’m quite happy with the way my life is, and how things have turned around. It’s just the numbers seem to grow, and grow, and grow!

And I know that I have to be an optimist in order to achieve my dreams. One is coming true. Late spring or early summer next year my new book will be published by PrimeTime, a publishing house that “aims to improve the lives of people aged fifty and up”. What a fantastic pairing for my anti-aging book EAT YOUR WAY TO A YOUTHFUL, HEALTHY YOU.

But in order to acquire a literary agent for my other books … and I have a couple of categories: several middle grade novels and a literary fiction/contemporary fantasy I need to stay optimistic. Forget the rejections. Instead think of authors like Stephen King – think of the spike on his wall heavy with rejections, then think of his success today. Without optimism, no writer or anyone else for that matter can get very far. Pessimism will just drag you down and make you depressed.

Of course it’s hard to always remain cheery. And you’d be a Pollyanna if you always were. Sometimes a good cry can make you feel wonderful, a pitifest for an afternoon can make you see the world in a whole new light. But that’s the key, give in to that pessimistic feel for an hour, or an afternoon or even a day and then get back to feeling good.

What are you – an optimist or a pessimist?

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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”  

 

 

 

Good Writers Take Risks

Good writers take risks. In fact, anyone who wants to be anyone and who wants success doesn’t play it safe; they take risks whether in their plot lines, their characters or their approach. Many of the biggies in our world today dropped out of high school or college and went on to become household names, all because they didn’t play it safe, and took some risks.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

You’ll be shocked at some of the names. Of course, these are just a fraction of the famous people out there who didn’t play it safe and made it big.

  1. Thomas Edison
  2. Benjamin Franklin
  3. Bill Gates
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Mark Zuckerberg
  6. Ellen Degeneres
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. Oprah – yes, Oprah, too (she dropped out of University)

I didn’t come across any well-known writers who played it safe and got famous … and that’s because there are probably no well-known writers who played it safe and got famous. Who wants to bother reading something that doesn’t push the limits, make you think, make you laugh at loud or chuckle at irony or satire or just plain marvel at the scope of a fantastic new world.

I challenge the writers in my writing class to not be afraid to test themselves and throw themselves open, something I try to do in my own work. Sometimes, it may not work and the writing falls flat. But, on the other hand, you may be surprised at what can come out of you when you let your reserve down and allow the beast out. One of my writers – JC – took up the challenge and wrote the most touching letter to her mother. Whether she sends it or not is irrelevant. Everyone in the class had tears in their eyes and were touched. That’s what writing is meant to do. When you bring honesty into your craft (as painful and risky as that may be) you learn to become a better writer … and your chances of getting published skyrocket.

Good writers take risks – what kind are 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

 

 

 

 

 

Writers and Political Correctness

Writers and political correctness do not go hand in hand. I repeat, they do not go hand in hand. If you want to be politically correct, choose something else to do – become a politician.

Our responsibility as writers is to tell it like it is. But it’s fiction you say. True, but even in fiction the truth is an absolute necessity. Let’s say you are writing historical fiction. I once came across a writer who was writing a book about the deep south during the time of slavery. That writer refused to use the correct appellation for the slaves. He persisted in calling them African Americans. Well, that was downright wrong. I skimmed through the internet trying to find out when the term African American began being used in the mainstream – it was tough to find anyone willing to discuss this, let alone give it a time frame. But I think I’ve locked it down to the early 80s.

Would this writer be considered a bigot for using the word ‘Negro’? No. because that was the term used during that period of time.

Author Anne Rice has this to say about political correctness.

anne rice

I agree with her 100 per cent. Do you?

It is absolute insanity to say that only someone from one culture should write about that particular culture or race. I actually have experience in this particular area. One of the books that I’m shopping around to literary agents is called THE SHAMROCK TWINS (it is actually with a wonderful agent right now who I (cross my fingers) hope will sign me on as a client). Anyway, this agent I spoke to here in Toronto asked me

1) if I was Irish (no, I’m not)

2) whether I had African background (no, I do not) since my twins end up in Africa on a quest to find their pot of gold.

What rot, is all I can say. A storyteller tells a story regardless where he or she comes from.

Let me know if you believe an author should write honestly and from the heart.

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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

 

 

Where to Submit Short Stories

Writers are often at a loss to know where to submit short stories. Worry no more. Here are 8 magazines that are open to short story submissions. Follow their guidelines and give it a shot. You’ll never succeed until you try.

1. The New Yorker

The ‘Shouts & Murmurs’ section is your best bet. Submit short fiction and humorous short fiction with a word count of 600 to 1,000. The publication pays but even if they don’t, who cares? It is The New Yorker after all.

Submission Guidelines: http://www.newyorker.com/about/contact

Deadline: Open

2. The Atlantic

Don’t be afraid to submit to The Atlantic as they will publish worthy stories from emerging writers. Submit short fiction of 2,000-10,000 words and – no genre fiction. Again, bragging rights alone are worth it, but editors may pay up to $200 for unsolicited content

Submission Guidelines: http://www.theatlantic.com/faq/#Submissions

Deadline: Open

3. The First Line

If you enjoy challenging yourself by creating from a writer’s prompt, this one is for you. Each issue of this quarterly contains short fiction stories (300-5,000 words) that begin with the same allotted first line.

Submission Guidelines: http://www.thefirstline.com/submission.htm

Deadline: February 1 (Spring); May 1 (Summer); August 1 (Fall); November 1 (Winter)

Payment: $25 to $50 (fiction)

4. Boulevard Magazine

Boulevard Magazine is always on the lookout for “less experienced or unpublished writers with exceptional promise.” It accepts fiction pieces up to 8,000 words. They do not accept science fiction, erotica, westerns, horror, romance or children’s stories. There is a submission fee of $3.

Submission Guidelineshttp://www.boulevardmagazine.org/projects.html

Deadline: Open except for the period of May 1st to October 1st

Payment: $100 to $300

5. Story

If you enjoy writing based on a theme this magazine is for you. Each issue is based on a specific theme, but its editors encourage writers to think outside the box.

Submission Guidelines: http://www.storymagazine.org/submit/

Deadline: July 15th (print magazine); unspecified (online issue)

Payment: $20 per page (up to a max of $200)

6. Black Warrior Review

Even though Black Warrior Review publishes stories written by well-known names, they also publish emerging writers. So give it a shot. Fiction pieces of up to 7,000 words should be innovative, challenging and unique. Note that ts editors value “absurdity, hybridity, the magical [and] the stark.”

Submission Guidelines: http://bwr.ua.edu/submit/guidelines/

Deadline: Submission periods are December 1 to March 1 and June 1 to September 1

Payment: A one-year subscription to BWR and a nominal lump-sum fee (amount not disclosed on their guidelines

7. The Sun Magazine

If you have personal writing, try submitting to The Sun Magazine. The editors specifically mention this category but are “open to just about anything.” Submissions should be no more than 7,000 words.

Submission Guidelines:http://thesunmagazine.org/about/submission_guidelines/writing

Deadline: Open

Payment: A one-year subscription plus $300 to $2,500 (nonfiction) or $300 to $1,500 (fiction). They also accepts previously published pieces but pay only get half the standard fee.

8. Daily Science Fiction

For your short 100 to 1500 word flash fiction, try Daily Science Fiction. They look for short and sweet character-driven fiction.

Submission Guidelines: http://dailysciencefiction.com/submit

Deadline: Open except for the period between December 24 to January 2

Payment: 8 cents per word for initial publication on their site, plus an additional 5 cents per word if your work is selected for one of their themed anthologies

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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”