Monthly Archives: October 2011

Grammar Mistakes Galore

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 Bill Cosby’s first print of Come on People is strangely missing a comma. The book’s original printing sans comma has all sorts of funny innuendos attached. Come on, Bill Cosby’s publishers. Let’s edit correctly.

 

If you can’t read this it says, “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” This hilarious lack of comma makes the lovable cook a cannibal.

 

 

 

 

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before, but have you ever wondered why there isn’t a comma after slow? Maybe the children playing are just moving at a glacial pace. Living life in slow motion would be challenging.

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So you want to make a documentary…

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As I am currently diving head first into the world of movie making I thought I would offer some words of advice. I am not a pro by any means– I literally started playing with iMovie a two weeks ago– but I do have some ways to avoid mistakes.

1. RECORD ON A SEPARATE DEVICE! Okay maybe you all know this, but in film it is really hard to catch everything you need on just your video camera. Use a recorder so you can over lay the audio if a bus goes by… or in my case a huge stream of protestors for Occupy Denver decide to stroll on by. You may not need it, but  bring it just in case. It is a pain in the butt to have to redo something. Plus you get the best quotes when someone hasn’t been rehearsing the lines.

2. BE SPONTANEOUS. Don’t try to plan everything out. Sometimes stuff happens that you didn’t expect and it makes things better! We interviewed a guy on the side of the road playing the flute. He wasn’t a planned interview, but he gave some of the best one-liners. Also when things are too staged it makes your interview seem stuffy. My original idea was to have the interview indoors, in a chair, very professional looking, but when nothing was available we did the interview outside in a park, and it was better! People are more at ease when it’s a more casual situation.

3. HAVE ALL YOUR QUESTIONS READY… and have extras. Have questions you may not use in the documentary, questions that may not be relevant, questions that will knock their socks off, have anything and everything. You never know what is going to happen so be on your toes. If someone is blowing through your questions at light speed you want to have ways you can coax them to expand. It’s all about leading the interview in a way that will get you the best information. If your interview is bad, you can’t blame it on the person. Your question have to have two roles: making the person comfortable enough to open up, as well as getting all the information you need.

 

As this process continues maybe I’ll have more pearls of wisdom.

Queries about agents

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You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve fine tuned and edited every last word. It’s your best work. Now what?

The publishing world continues to get more and more competitive, but there is still hope. New ideas and authors are always welcomed, but you may need a little help getting noticed by publishers. In fact the majority of publishing houses are now only excepting solicited manuscripts. So now you have one more step before seeing your name in print, finding an agent.

Literary agents are extremely helpful in maneuvering the confusing realm of publishing. The contracts and copyrights are a lot to handle alone, plus your agent will have a vast assortment of connections that will make finding the right publisher for your book easier. To get an agent I recommend buying the Writers Market or the Guide to Literary Agents, it is a little on the expensive side, but totally worth it. The comfort of knowing you are querying an agent that is reputable is important. If you aren’t interested in investing in the Writers Market, definitely go to Publishers Marketplace and browse for an agent that fits your manuscript.

After you have found a slew of agents you feel could adequately represent your book it’s time to query. Every agent has a specific preference about how to receive a query so be sure to check out the agency’s website and follow instructions to the tee. These agents are getting hundreds of queries a week and it is easy to be ignored if you haven’t followed protocol. Now that we are entering the digital realm many accept queries via email, but some still want snail mail so be sure if you are mailing a query to include a stamped self-addressed envelope.

First step, make sure you address the query to a specific person. Agents don’t want the run of the mill, copy and pasted queries. Each query needs to be directed to a specific person. Mentioning how you found the agent is a nice touch. The first paragraph is a good place for this. You should also include the name of your manuscript, word count, and genre.

Next comes the summary. This is the part you have to nail! Give the hook and back story, but don’t give it all away. There is a fine balance between a detailed synopsis and telling the entire story. I’d suggest having a non-friend/family member read the query and see if they then want to read the book.

Finally, give your credentials, and why you think they are the perfect agent for you. Also be sure to thank the agent. It never hurts to be polite. Also if you don’t have too many publishing credentials don’t sweat it. Just explain why you are the right person to write this book. If it is a medical drama, the ten years you’ve spent as a nurse are extremely important to add!

Keep it short, your query shouldn’t be longer than a page!

If you want more information on queries check out Pub Rants, it is run by Kristen Nelson, an agent in Denver. She does a great job of explaining what was great about queries she has excepted.

Remember it all goes back to your ideas. If you have great ideas and feel passionately about your manuscript you will find an agent for you. Don’t be swayed by the rejections, keep at it and someday you’ll see your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Note: If you find any agents online run them through editors and predators before submitting any work. Also if anyone ever charges to read a manuscript DO NOT SEND IT. Agents are paid by their companies to read manuscripts, it’s their job. You DO NOT have to pay them. 

A Literary Community

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If you live in Denver take the time to check out some of these cool local bookshops.

Park Hill Co-Op Book Shop – Located in the Park Hill suburb of Denver, Park Hill Co-Op Book Shop, is a treat. The store is completely nonprofit and has only one paid employee (the manager). The shop is run by a team of volunteers that know everything about books, some have been volunteering for 20 years. The Park Hill Co-Op is kept a float by members who pay a yearly rate ($10 or $40) the membership includes a 7% discount, 10 credits (good for 10 used paperback or 5 hardbacks), and the opportunity to trade in books for credits. The Co-Op is a community gem. The atmosphere is comfortable and the selection is great. I could have spent hours perusing the shelves. It’s a little on the small side, but it doesn’t stop them from stuffing as many books as they can onto the shelves. It has a wide array of topics and even antique books. I would definitely advise taking a look! There are some great deals hiding on those shelves.

The Tattered Cover Book Store – This store is the megalith of books. This independent store located in two places throughout Denver, one in LoDo, is a great place to spend the day. The central location makes it an easy stop on any trek through downtown. The selection is enormous with used and new books. There are tons of comfy chairs, and even a coffee shop. The staff is really nice and knowledgable. I loved looking through all of the staff recommendations. I found myself loosing track of time in Tattered Cover. You can cuddle up in a chair and spend hours sipping coffee and enjoying a new book. However, it is a tad on the expensive side, but still worth while. You may not find the best deals, but you will enjoy every minute spent looking.

Fahrenheit Books – A used book store that can survive a move to a new location must be a good one. This store while smaller than Tattered Cover has a great selection. It is organized and easy to find what you want. If you are a Sci-fi buff make the time to check Fahrenheit out. There Sci-fi selection is vast and everything is fairly priced. There are tons of vintage books. There’s even a wall dedicated to first editions. It’s new location on Broadway is easy to find and surrounded by other cute shops. You can even browse their titles online and make sure the books you want are in stock. The store has a cool vibe and the staff certainly knows what they’re talking about. If you are interesting in selling books, Fahrenheit will buy them. They typically like unusual or vintage books.

 

These local Denver stores are a great alternative to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It makes book buying more of an adventure than an errand. Support our local businesses and check them out! I promise you’ll find something you love.

 

 

Get in the Game

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Do you want to try freelancing? Get some publishing credits? It’s time to get your work out there.

Writer’s Digest– This is a great website for all things writing related. You get great tips as well as useful information from people who really know this business. Writer’s Digest also sponsors several writing competitions that are perfect to showcase your work. The short-story contest is even published in a bound book and sold. It’s a great opportunity to write what you want, and maybe get published or earn some cash.
Freelancewriting.com – Here’s another place to check out some cool contests. Everything is listed on one easy to read page with links to the official site. This site also has helpful tricks and tips for writers who want to freelance.
Craig’s List – Check out Craig’s list for some writing jobs. Sometimes it can be as simple as a person needed to write a daily blog entry or write for an online magazine. They change daily so check back often. You could find a great start to a career as a freelance writer.
Freelance Writing Jobs – This is another site that you can check out available freelance jobs. It is a great source of information beyond available jobs as well. It gives information on copyright and business tips too. You can even advertise your company if you need freelancers.
There are tons of options out there for writers all you have to do is look!
Be sure to check out Editors and Predators before submitting your work. This site is amazing and will tell you how trustworthy the company is.

Keep Making a Scene

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I’m sure your characters are fabulous, zany, and one of a kind, but what about the world they live in? Your scenes need to be just as engaging as your characters. The reader wants to be a part of their lives and creating a realistic and viable scene is a major step.

1. USE SENSORY DETAILS: It’s more than merely telling the reader what is in the room, you have to explain it in a way that appeals to their senses. What did the room smell like, could you feel the briny ocean breeze? Take advantage of your 5 senses and draw the reader directly into the scene.

2. BE REALISTIC, BUT CREATIVE: You want your reader to understand where the characters are. So if you tell them the scene is taking place in a kitchen there are certain expectations, maybe a refrigerator or stove, a sink. Your job as a writer is to describe these things in a manner that is unique to the story and the characters.

Fantasy and Science Fiction commonly delve into unknown scenes, but these writers also have to be realistic. If your characters float through the scenes or interact with unexplained objects your readers are lost. The unique and fun theatrics you make in a cyber world or fairy realm are great, but if a reader can’t visualize them you’ve developed all that creativity for nothing.

3. INTERACT WITH THE SCENE: Have your characters interacting with their surroundings. Real people don’t just stagnantly stand in a room doing nothing, no they sit on the sofa or wash their hands. They rake their fingers across the leather bound books, leaving a trail on the dusty bookshelf. Characters live in the world you created, so be sure to show that.

Write Daily

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The best tip I can give is simply to write.

If you want to be a writer the first step is doing just that. Try writing a little bit everyday. It can be additions to a story in the works or it can just be random thoughts or feelings. The best way to improve your writing is practice.

When I first wrote my manuscript it was a complicated ordeal. I was always editing. It was never good enough, and I got no where. I was so focused on getting my grammar perfect and picking the best word or creating the best scene that I missed out on a lot of creativity. I also tired of writing. It became a chore. It made me want to quite. So I did, and started something else. I thought about my characters and story a lot, but it was always tainted with my criticism. A couple months ago I went back to that story. I just wrote. Now it’s finished. It could most certainly still use some polish and there are still some strings that need to be tied together, but the tale developed organically. I didn’t over think things and it was once again a story I wanted to tell, a story I felt inspired to write about.

If you can’t think of something to write about here are a few great go-to themes:

  • Relationships: Family, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, anyone you have a relationship with and you want to write about.
  • Yourself: Write about your day, your week, your childhood, just go through memories or dreams I’m sure you’ll find fodder.
  • Passions: Do you love soccer? Skiing? Dogs? Just cover what you love.
  • The world: Write about the room you’re in, write about the color of the tree outside. Use the scenery around you to inspire.
The idea of your daily musings is to be comfortable writing things that aren’t publishing worthy. Just write knowing that you love it. When you pick a theme, exhaust it. Write sensory details, create a setting, expand on every detail. Pick a place you feel comfortable. It can be a comfy chair by the fire, or an antique desk in the attic. You can even go to Panera or Starbucks and get inspired by the other patrons, but be comfortable so you are only thinking about your words. If there is a cramp in your back or your baby sister or daughter is poking you your mind isn’t focused on your work.
Write until you want to stop. It’s not meant to be homework or a challenge. It’s meant to be a fun way to practice your writing. It can be a simple ten minute character sketch or an hour long perusal of an intimate childhood memory. It doesn’t matter what you write, just that you write.
After a week I guarantee you will come to treasure this time. If you write in the morning it’s a nice way to casually wake up, or in the evening to unwind. This alone time gives you the means to shut out negativity and do what you love. Write.