Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Submission is a Dirty Word

Shame on you if you thought today’s topic was sex. It’s not. I’ll give you a hint – two hints in fact as defined on RhymeZone

Submission - noun: something (manuscripts or architectural plans and models or estimates or works of art of all genres etc.) submitted for the judgment of others (as in a competition)
Example: "Several of his submissions were rejected by publishers"

Dirty - adjective: (of a manuscript) defaced with changes
Example: "Foul (or dirty) copy"

You guessed it. Today I want to talk about writing contests.

There are many, many contests out there; each one is different. Some want the first chapter and a synopsis, others ask for XX pages, synopsis optional. There are fees involved and they can add up quickly. It pays to be selective and check the rules, fees and judges to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

I entered my first contest in May. It asked for a title page, the first five pages of my manuscript and a synopsis which would not be judged.

Let me just say that it takes nerves of steel to submit. I suffered a severe case of agida before I finally dropped my entry in the mail. I tried to put it out of my head; it can take a long time to get results back.

Some people enter to win. Not me. I knew that wasn’t happening. I write book reviews and short inspirational pieces. This is my first novel and my first attempt at the dreaded synopsis.

So why did I enter - first and foremost to receive objective feedback from other writers. To find out where I’m going wrong and what I’m doing right.

Secondly I wanted the experience of formatting and submitting a manuscript. Its excellent training for the day I submit to an agent or publisher.

While I waited for the results I was still making changes and wishing I had another six months to work on my entry. Imagine if I had to enter a whole chapter.

Okay, finally the names of the finalists were announced and I was not among them – no surprise there. But now I knew my entry would be coming back shortly and while I waited I chewed off all my nails.

When the envelope appeared in the mail I grabbed it and locked myself in my office. I held my breath, tore it open and looked at the first page.

The comments were not unexpected - no dialogue in the first five pages, bringing the hero in too soon, etc. Three of the judges gave me good scores on formatting, the fourth not so good. In her opinion I should have used underlining instead of italics. I’m still not sure about that; I thought either was acceptable.

I’d been hearing a lot about contradictory feedback on my listserv. You gotta remember one thing - you can’t please everybody. I’ve reviewed more than one book that I loved and then found out another reviewer hated it.

I read all the comments from all judges and appreciated every one. The advice and encouragement was really helpful. One judge was exceptional. She gave me the reasoning behind her comments and critiqued my synopsis which wasn’t even part of the judging. I’m very grateful for her thoroughness and the time she spent on my entry.

The whole process was a very positive experience. I’ve already begun incorporating some of the ideas I’ve been given and I’m reworking my synopsis.

So I’ve gotten through my first contest and survived to tell the tale. I may even enter another one.

I've entered the title for this post on ProBlogger Killer Titles - a Group Writing Project
The contest is over Thursday Aug. 28, so if you hurry there's still time to enter. I'll be posting the winner and some of the best entries. Check back.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Toshiba Rules

I know its been awhile but I have an excuse. I know, I know. No excuses, but I've been afraid of my computer. When it started talking to me I was totally freaked. As I said before JP cleaned it up and its been quiet ever since, but I'm wary. I used to leave it on all the time, no more. Now I get on do whatever and log off.

Obviously this could not go on. I need a new computer. Desktop or laptop? Laptop or Desktop?

I really wanted a laptop but I also wanted a work horse and a decent size screen. Everybody I questioned had bought a Toshiba laptop so I narrowed it down somewhat.

My eyes being what they are I opted for a 17" display.

And I was dead set on Windows XP. I have too much software to worry about being compatible with Vista.

So here's what I decided on: a Toshiba Satellite L350-ST2121.

Here's some of the specs: Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T5750 (2.0GHz, 2MB L2, 667MHz FSB), (Windows XP Pro Preinstalled + Vista Business® media), 2048MB PC5300 DDR2 667MHz SDRAM (2048MBx1), 200GB HDD, DVD SuperMulti drive.

I haven't gotten it yet but I'm super excited. More later when it's up and running.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My computer talks to me

Friday started out great. I was on a roll. My query letter and synopsis were looking good. I was in the Zone.

The Zone is where I go after an hour or two of work. All of a sudden my muse kicks in. A lightbulb goes off and everything comes easy.

So there I was furiously typing when I heard voices. I turned off the volume and went back to work. It happened again. It was a little weird but I ignored it and kept on working. The next time the Norton box came up and told me it found perfs.exe on my PC, a Trojan virus. Panic!

No sooner did I quarantine it then another box popped up. I removed 5 of the nasty things and was just about to pat myself on the back when they all came back again. Oh no. Not Good. My muse fled and I shut down. This was a job for JP.

It took Hubby the better part of the weekend to clean my computer. I resorted to using pen and paper.

Evidently some really nasty malware found it's way to my PC. Short of reformatting I don't think I trust it. My computer is eight years old; my OS is Win 2000. I think it's time for a new PC.

I'm leaning toward a laptop. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ta-da! "A Cup of Comfort for Loved Ones of Alzheimer's"Coming Out

This has been a busy week. My second article, a book review, went up on Ezine today. Read it here:

I've been working feverishly to finish the first draft of my novel. It's not there yet but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And I just sat down at the computer, opened my email and there in my inbox was a message telling me that the publication date for "A Cup of Comfort for Loved Ones of Alzheimer's" is October 14, 2008 - it was just changed from September 9.

Having a spouse, sibling, or parent with Alzheimer’s affects a family in every way possible—and can leave people feeling like they have nowhere to turn. The moving stories in this new collection help readers recognize they are not alone—and provide comfort for those who need it now more than ever. Readers will be inspired by the husbands, wives, sons, and daughters who put their own needs aside and sacrifice everything for love. This story collection shows how compassion and loyalty prevails when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.

You can preorder it here:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ezine Article

This will be a very short post today.

I just wanted to let everyone know my first article was posted on Ezine today.

Check it out here:
Book Reviewing - Share the Fun

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dreaded Query Letter

I’m feeling the “G” word because I haven’t updated lately. I am Guilty as charged but with good reason. The dreaded query letter has my head spinning.

A query letter is the first step in proposing a writing project to an agent or editor of a publishing house. It’s usually one page and it contains the following:

1. Title, length and genre of your manuscript.

2. What your story or book is about beginning with an intriguing one sentence blurb meant to hook the reader. Follow this with a paragraph that expands on the plot but doesn’t give away the end. I told you this was not easy.

3. Your biography. This is where you list any writing awards, published works and writing associations you belong to.

4. A sign off thanking the recipient for taking the time to read the letter.

5. Your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Believe me this is harder than writing the book. How do you describe a 75,000 word novel in one sentence? The first thing I did was to go online. There’s lots of help available and I went looking for it.

A search on brought up an Amazon Short by Noah Lukeman - “How to Write a Great Query Letter.”

At only $.49 it was a bargain. I was only a quick download away from a 76 page book by a man who is an agent and a former editor. Who better to look to for advice? It got better. The book was free.

How to Write a Great Query Letter

Mr. Lukeman says “I have written this book, and made it free, as a way of giving back to the writing community.”

It turned out to be great PR as well. I liked it so much I purchased “The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile,” also by Mr. Lukeman.

There are many how-tos online but this was one of the best. It began with ideas for research, went on to formatting and even talked about common mistakes.

Try it. The price is right.