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Writing Right: The Blog

STARTING A NEW PUBLISHING COMPANY

If you're absolutely serious about starting a publishing company, I have to say I don't know why. But, after that, I do have a few ideas for you to consider. For example:

  1. Identify your market and how many potential readers there are based upon a factual analysis. How many will there be when you bring out your first issue two or three years down the line?
  2. Identify your competition. It doesn't matter how big your market is if your competition is flooding the field. If you have the field all to yourself (highly unlikely) and you have plenty of potential subscribers to pitch (also highly unlikely), you're looking good.
  3. Decide upon publication frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) based upon responses to the above.
  4. Identify the areas of talent you'll need to recruit/hire to make your publication a reality.
  5. Hire a good attorney specializing in publishing law.
  6. Purchase a potential targeted subscribers' list based upon subject area and interest. And then, buy a second one from a different vendor. And a third. And fourth. And fifth.
  7. Hire someone to work up a direct-mail campaign, and target your e-mail and direct-mail subscriber lists.
  8. Hire someone to tabulate the results.
  9. Hire an accounting firm to keep track of your subscribers, money received, and accounts billable and payable. Read More 
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HOW DO YOU EDIT AND PROOFREAD A NEW BOOK?

When someone asked this question online the other day, I had to add my two cents to the pot. Here's my response.

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Simple. Start at the beginning and end at the end.

 

Next question, please.

 

What? Too simple? Okay, maybe it's not as easy as that. But, your question is pretty obtuse. If you're asking how I personally proofread and edit a book, that's one thing. But, since you have directed your question to more than one respondent, I'm assuming you're using "you" in the generic and not the specific sense. As in "How do you people proofread and edit a book?"

 

Honestly, anyone who sets about proofreading and editing a book, and doing so properly, needs years of technical knowledge about writing, language, punctuation, and spelling. Sentence structure also comes into play. As does syntax, characterization, dialogue, general structure, construction, and all the other elements involved in writing a fiction or nonfiction book (you don't specify in your question). After that, the editor must have a keen eye to identify a problem area when he or she comes across one and, of course, know how to fix it. There's no "one way" to do it right. But there often is one "best" or, rather, "most effective" way to do so, subject to personal preference. Read More 

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SHOULD WRITERS REJECT REJECTION?

A writer asked the other day whether or not writers should reject rejection. Huh? Anyway, here's what I suggested.

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Okay, kiddies and kiddiettes, for starters, let me say that I'm stunned by one person's response to this question. It comes from some Coffee Shop representative, whatever on earth that is, pretending she knows what she's talking about when she obviously doesn't. Here's why.

 

That respondent said that receipt of a rejection slip is "meaningless" and doesn't imply that your work is bad but merely means "Your work isn't the right fit for us right now because of genre/market conditions/my personal preferences/etc." Even more likely, it could be (and most likely is) a wake-up call for you to learn to write better, pitch better, or pack up your things and get the hell out of Dodge.

 

Yes, all those things this "former Author" (again, whatever on earth that means) and Coffee Shop graduate mentioned could be possible, but they're hardly likely.

 

Would you like to know the number-one reason I rejected pitches or queries or even complete submissions when I was editing a national magazine and, later, a series of regional newspapers? They sucked. By that I mean the writing was poor, the concept was poor, the punctuation and grammar were poor, and the execution was juvenile. Read More 

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CAN ANYONE GHOSTWRITE A NOVEL FOR ME?

Someone asked a question online the other day about finding someone to ghostwrite a novel for him. Here's how I responded.

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Can anyone? Sure. Will that person be top-notch? Not so fast.

 

Here's the deal. A first-rate, professional ghostwriter with an opening in his schedule, who also just happens to love your idea and is on the same track as you, will do the job. More people employ ghosts to write their novels than anyone here can possibly imagine. Sometimes, people have a dynamite idea for a book and don't have the time or skills to bring it to fruition. In fact, oftentimes! The same with nonfiction books. It happens far more frequently than people realize, even among top-selling authors (go figure!).

 

Professional ghosts get their kicks out of writing the book you have in mind. And making it work. The best of the best write in your own literary style, too. Yes, they're that talented. And, of course, they turn out a product of which you can be proud after working together with your ghost for weeks or even months, depending upon the complexity and length of the project. Read More 

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FINDING AN AGENT TO REP YOU

If you've tried everything you can think of to land a literary agent to represent your work to publishers, you've probably failed. Through no fault, necessarily, of your own.

 

Welcome to the Real World of book publishing. You know, the one where landing a publishing contract is only the second most challenging thing for a writer to do; landing an agency contract is number one. Far and away.

 

The reason is simple mathematics. Sure, for every book published, probably a few hundred or more go unpublished. But for every agent landed, thousands of authors get turned down. The reason is that there are only so many agents to go around, and they're in huge demand. That's because good agents can offer fledgling writers invaluable advice, so they act as sounding boards and dispensers of knowledge. As a result, book publishers increasingly turn to agents to "screen" the work submitted to them in order to save their editors time. Agents weed out the junk (or the vast majority of it) and pass along only the best of the works they receive from their represented writers. Read More 

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HOW TO WRITE IT

Every now and again, I run into someone who asks for advice on writing when he really should be toughing it out himself. The other day, someone wanted to know how to write "a introductory fight between two mafias." Naturally, that was more than I could resist. This was my response.

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Here's an idea. You sit down, unplug the PlayStation, turn off the video games and the television sets, pull the plug on that stuff you believe is roughly approximate to music, sign out of Facebook, put your cell phone on "silence" mode, and think. Literally. Think!

 

I know I'm from a different generation, and I know we Baby Boomers didn't do everything right. But one thing we did do properly was learn how to think. To envision. To fantasize. To research, read, study, and learn. To ask ourselves questions and get answers we can use. Try starting out with What if? What if? What if?

 

Do you get my drift? No one can tell you how you should write "a introductory fight between two mafias," which I assume you mean "an" introductory fight between two mafia "gangs." Regardless, no one can tell you what to write and have it come out sounding like your own literary voice. (I know, I know—so, Google it!) Writing isn't a team sport, and it's not a collaborative effort, contrary to what all those money-hungry sites all over the Web keep telling you while they prey on writer wannabes. Read More 

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FINDING A SECOND LITERARY AGENT

Someone the other day asked how to approach a second agent to represent his novel after his existing agent turned it down. It sounds pretty convoluted, but it's really not. My answer, though, may surprise you.

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The answer to that question is pretty simple, despite the convoluted, incomplete, and mostly erroneous response to your question you received from one other person. Begin by checking the "out clause" that your contract with your existing agent contains. It tells you how to sever your contractual obligations should things come to that. Your contract also has a clause allowing your agent to turn down representation of any client's work that he or she deems to be unmarketable. Keep your agent's letter to that effect in your files, and start looking for an agent who disagrees with your present agent and is willing to take your second novel on.

 

Be aware, though, that landing one agent in a lifetime is tough enough. Getting a second one is twice as difficult, particularly since your current agent has turned the book down. That looks suspicious at best and bad at worst. Read More 

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WHAT'S THE COST OF A 600-PAGE-BOOK EDIT?

Unfortunately, no one can give the person who asked this question online the other day a specific, accurate answer without knowing more about what is required. Asking for a price to edit a 600-page manuscript is nowhere near enough information. With that said, here are a couple of points I suggested the author consider.

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First, I'm happy to see that you recognize your need for an editor for your work. No writer can know how to edit simply by having written a lot of words. Writing requires one skill-set (or, some would argue, no skill-set at all, but let's not get into that); editing requires another. Without learning what editing involves—and then learning what good editing entails—no one can sufficiently edit anything but the most rudimentary piece of writing with the hopes of improving its readability.

 

Second (and here's where things get dicey), few editors can do all types of editing. And editing does come in a plethora of flavors. Not butter brickle, unfortunately, but things that can be just as enticing, if less indulgent. Depending upon who's doing the defining, an editor can be a proofreader (checking for typographical errors and basic grammatical and punctuation mistakes). He can be a fact-checker, a copy editor (reviewing the author's copy for readability, proper syntax, and the like), a conceptual or substantive editor (also at times referred to as a content editor, checking a piece for various flaws in logic), or a developmental editor (reviewing how the story is put together and marking various recommendations from that point-of-view).

 

An editor can also be a structural editor (specializing in structural issues concerned with a story's readability and involving the use of flashbacks, flash-forwards, linear chronology, and even when and where to break a story into chapters and other divisions), a line editor (concentrating on the flow of the prose and pointing out any awkward phrasing, etc.), or any combination of the above. Read More 

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WHAT IS SOMEONE WHO WRITES MOVIES CALLED?

I see that cowgirl and ranch-hand Kristen gave you a pretty good answer when she said movie writers are called screenwriters and the materials they produce are called screenplays (and I have a background that includes ranching, as well, so I hate to contradict her), but the real answer to what movie writers are called should be moviests.

 

What? Huh? You don't buy that?

 

Okay, then go along with Kristen. But, remember I leveled with you!

 

Alright, you caught me. Actually, the truth is that the writer of a film script (no one actually writes a movie, which is a visual collaboration of the filmed version of a written story) is indeed called a screenwriter or, less frequently and less precisely, a scriptwriter. And what he or she writes is indeed called a screenplay (or script, for short). Read More 

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MY CHARACTER'S NAMES ARE FORESHADOWING. HOW DO I INTRODUCE AND NAME THEIR MEANINGS?

That's what someone asked me the other day. My response? Stay tuned.

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Well, it appears as if the other responses to the question you asked assume a lot. As in that you know how to express yourself. They seem to think they "get it." I don't. For example, what does this mean:

"How do I introduce ... their meanings?"

 

Huh? Okay, giving you the benefit of the doubt and imbuing myself with super-human perceptive abilities, "introduce their meanings" would probably imply what? That you want to know how to do what? Introduce these characters in your story? That's what the first part of your question asks?

 

Unfortunately, the second half implies that you want to know something else entirely. As in how to name your characters appropriately. But, appropriately for what or whom? Do you mean to the reader? Or to the story?

 

Regardless, these are two entirely different concepts, you understand. One pertains to when and how you bring a character to light for the first time (which, by the way, in not answerable by anyone but yourself). The other concerns what, if any, play on words you should use to describe a "good" character, a "bad" character, a "dumb" character, a "brilliant" character, etc. (We could go on with the descriptive adjectives forever, but I think Quora has a time limit here; at least, I know I do.) Read More 

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