Writer’s Advice – what’s that?! 2018

Author’s Advice

There are many ways that people can get advice. The most obvious ways for writers to improve are to take lessons in the language they will be writing in and the old fashioned ‘read the greats’.

There are times when constructive criticism is very helpful and there are times when your enemies will only have destructive criticism and jealousy to offer you.

Two main ways to get feedback about your writing for professionals:  1) Submit!  When the editors will make changes; when the magazine or newspaper or publisher will buy it/pay for it; then that ‘s good.

Great ways to get feedback for amateurs and some semi-pros: join writer’s groups; take work shops or classes.  Peer critique is often part of such arrangements.

General to Specific

There are numerous types of writing and most writers specialize.  Many of those who have specialized don’t call themselves writers.  Grant writers, for instance, will often just say that they work for whatever organization they work at in some administrative role.  Journalists, typically prefer to be called journalists, although they could all call themselves writers and be telling the truth.  Staff writers may choose to refer to the publication where they work.  Most staff writers wouldn’t ever write “for fun” or “as just a hobby” and those that would might well not tell the truth about that.

Travel writers, book authors, niche novelists, political news, best restaurants, fashion, television, film, all have specialized types of writing.  There are people capable or more than one kind of writing, but it is common for those who are most successful in the field to find they were forcibly limited to a small subjection of the writing world in order to find a way to earn a living or to develop a good reputation in the industry.

 

Network

There are times when you have to meet and greet enough others in the industry to get a deal and other times when you really need to mail something for it to work. In some cases, the right thing to do is apply for a job and become a regularly paid publishing company editor for other authors even if you hardly get anything of your own published. Maybe you will, and maybe it won’t matter anymore.

Sometimes writers are stubborn and fail to change in ways that will cause them to have far greater success and other times people just realize that for them: to change that much would be so bad that they might as well go work in a totally different field if that’s really how it works.

Other writers tolerate a lot of painful constructive criticism and make survivable compromises and learn to be a bit more flexible and they find out that they can get a lot further and are happy with the results even though the reality ends up being unlike their original idea.

Writer – Stereotypes

Stereotypes 

The Drunk / The Poet

Made more common by the romantic English poets of the 1800s, one stereotype of writers, especially book authors and poetry chapbook writers – even more so, middle aged male poets, is that of a drunkard.  Sometimes the hung over person holds down a day job always hoping to earn more money selling chapbooks of poetry but forced to bar tend to earn a living.  In other cases, the stench of whiskey building up in the drunkard tends to improve the quality of the poetry to the dismay of everyone Godly, and to the not-alcoholic adult children and ex-spouse of the drunkard poet.

The Gossip / The Journalist

Journalists are not really writers;  they are gossips.  They are able to present themselves well and are eager for a story, but only a true news story.   While they are one of the best known and best paid types of writers, journalists are notoriously “not artists”, and due to that are as much weirdos compared to novelists as scientific illustrators and police sketch artists are compared to painters whose works end up sold in galleries, illustrators who work in comics and cartoons and so on.

Whereas a book author may spend months doing research in some of the world’s libraries, the journalists are on the telephone and rushing around, full of noise and energy, all to meet tight and real deadlines.

Journalists are also most likely to be guilty of something the poet would describe as a mortal sin: they shamelessly write for pay.  Many of them openly state that they write only because they get paid.

The Novelist

In this case there is more than one stereotype:

Rich and Happy

These authors are best sellers.  They have stable marriages in many cases.  They live in castles or mansions.  They may be average looking or handsome/beautiful.  They draw big crowds doing public speaking engagements and are consistently treated like adored and respected celebrities.  Many of them are fairly quiet and reserved, especially compared to the journalists, but are capable of being polite and friendly enough to be used as interview subjects by journalists.

Poor and Miserable

These are the majority of authors, who write or have written entire books only to find out that it is way harder to earn a lot of money for doing something major like writing books, than they had thought.  Most of this type of author fluctuates between lamenting suffering from the burden of being an author, and being forced to endure being an artist instead of having been one of the journalists or corporate communications people or happy to work in advertising firms and abusing their creativity for respectable salaries.

Some of these authors have jobs, and some don’t even have jobs because they are really novelists or nonfiction book writers, and aren’t good for much else.

Obsessed

These are the authors who suffer from compulsive writing, but they have a successful novel series and a good fan base.  Thanks to that, their mental illness is indulged, left untreated and viewed as a viable means of earning a living.  Such authors are often either treated as a celebrity or ignored.  The people who believe they love them the most really are the fans of the fictional worlds and characters they have created, putting them into a rather bizarre real world situation.

 

Basics of Book Writing

Type of Book

This is the most important aspect of the project. Are you going to write a nonfiction book or a fiction novel? If the book is going to be a nonfiction book, there is more than one way to decide which type of book to write. One can look at the market and see what is most needed. One can look at oneself and see what one most wants to write about. Each leads to a good decision but not the same kind of wise choice.

If the book is going to be nonfiction, then one needs to make a decision on which type. Likewise if fiction, it helps to know the genre before one begins the writing process.

The goal of the end product does also matter. If one is just doing the work for fun, without any need to make money from doing it, then one can be driven more by preference and maybe take more risks. Money making endeavors can involve risks, but on

Planning

You may have just a simple form of the idea.

Pitch

You have to decide based on your self-knowledge whether or not you are going to pitch your idea to the publishing industry at this stage, or after you have an outline, or after you have written the book. There is one other option and that is to put together enough for a book proposal and pitch that.

Pitching an idea, means meeting with or calling or emailing industry moguls to see if any of them are interested in your idea. For some people this is the easy part, but for others this is the part that is harder than making a private trip to the Moon.

Outline and first draft

When that is the case you can start with an outline. In the case of fiction, some authors prefer to develop a detailed plot line and outline before they get to writing. Others begin by just writing and seeing where the creative process leads. People like that often face a great deal more editing after they have produced a first draft.

Depending upon the other demands in your life and your over all personality structure, you may also need to create a scheduled production time. This could be anything from ‘for an hour in the morning before the children get up’ to ‘9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.’

Editing & Book Proposals

After you have a draft, you can edit the entire work. Around the same time that you do this, you can also begin to query, and to prepare the book proposals. If you pitched and it worked, then you know who will be directing your queries to or where you will be submitting your book proposal. If you have had astoundingly good luck, then you will actually already have a publishing deal for your book. In that case, you know where to send the edited version of the book.

Editing tips: while a lot of editing can be done right after you complete the work, the more emotionally invested or simply overworked you are from writing the first draft the more you need to let the draft just sit for a while before you edit it. How long it should just lie around without you doing anything with it can vary from 2 weeks to 13 years. In most cases, you will be able to edit the thing with improved emotional distance after 2 weeks to 2 months. Even if you think you are not emotional about your book project, you should wait. Once you forget the exact details of what you meant to write, it will be easier to see what you actually wrote. Typos and other errors will become more readily apparent.

If you have the money and the connections to, hire a second person to edit the work for you at least once. Constructive criticism can be a big help in improving your performance. Outside editors tend to see things you miss as the author. In some cases, your editor will make you happy by showing you how well you wrote your book or story.

Once the work is edited, put together your query letter and assemble any other information the prospective publishers may want from you. This may include: an overview of the market for the type of book you have written, the first 3 chapters of the manuscript, a direct sales pitch letter to the publishing company to convince them how great your book is. They do normally expect a short bio, but it can be quite brief, telling them mainly how or where your work has been published and how well you were paid or if the problem is that you were not.

Submission

You may have to decide where to submit your book. You can try literary agents and you can try publishers. The Writer’s Market is one example of a resource that tells you which publishing companies require literary agent representation and which ones do not.

You also have to check whether or not simultaneous submissions are viewed as acceptable. Simultaneous submissions is like dating multiple people without having to get sexually involved in order to land a spouse or both in one. Some people get offended by it, and others are comfortable with it. Check with the publisher or literary agency.

Nowadays, you may sometimes email the publisher or literary agent. There are people who prefer this, and others who still want it the old fashioned way. Find this out to submit the way they want it.

Response

There is nothing left to do after submission but wait. Most of the results of a long wait are the way it is in romance: you don’t want to marry each other and you aren’t ever going to have sex. They will neither represent your book – in the case of a literary agency, nor will the publisher actually accept your book for their investment and publication.

Now and then you will be fortunate and get a positive response. Sometimes a positive response means “We can’t use this one but if you write another book, be sure to let us take a look at it.”

Be wary, but realistic. Many a positive early response rather than being serendipity should set off your alarms. It is probably a self-publishing company willing to publish your book as long as you pay them to. There are times when self-publishing is a perfectly sound idea but for most writers who are still naïve about the publishing industry, having no one but self-publishers interested after all your hard work can be devastating or, for the tough minded, only a little disappointing.

Seriously, it is possible for an author to ‘hit the jackpot’ and get a big publishing company to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, even as an advance on sales for your book. Not only that, but in some cases, the editors won’t even change it so much that you no longer feel as if it is the book you submitted to them but does still have your name listed as the author.

Most likely, that is not what will happen. Most likely, if you have written a really good book you will be able to find a small publishing company willing to support your work with a small advance or no advance but a decent professional production of the book. In other cases, you can get it self published. I’m not sure about the % on this.

A large minority of writers will find that after all their hard work absolutely nothing more will ever come of the project. After a while, the author will get over the shock and numb, and move on with his or her life.

 

Culture Shock: 2 years after

Re-entry

Two years ago this coming November marks 2 years living back in the USA after 6 years in Germany.   Those of you who recall, may have read a post or two about ‘return culture shock’.  Maybe you wonder: was there any ‘re-entry culture shock and if so, how long did it last’?

 

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Yes

The short answer is that yes there was culture shock upon returning to the USA for more than one reason.  One reason was that, much as I enjoyed how much everyone spoke English and I could finally go to my normal church, the relative lack of good public transit was not good.  To my own astonishment, I actually missed people speaking German and in fact, I still do.  This is even though, over there, I was only finally getting to be fluent, and still had to fight a cultural bias: a tendency to be dismissive of German language information as irrelevant because I’m an American or native speaker of English.  I was quite happy with myself as that tendency declined while living in Germany, but felt mildly stunned by how bad about that I still was after 5 years of living in Germany.

There are a few other matters, such as the amount of brick.  It is the norm in Stedorf, along with bales of hay.

Part of what I dealt with was being right near where I grew up.  Syracuse University Orangemen Football and Basketball….whereas in Ireland, the Orangemen means the Protestants of the Northern Counties.

There were familial issues which seemed to exacerbate a sense of confusion or dismay about it all.  My father was never comfortable with my husband being a German or about my son being both German and American rather than only American.  He wasn’t horrible about it, and sort of tried to treat that as acceptable but never quite did: this is a man whom I not sure ever wants to really see his daughter ‘married off’.  I mean, for some reason, I either can’t tell how he really feels about it or else I can but the truth makes us uneasy.   Some days he seems to feel I should be married off,  but other times he seemed delighted if some man of his baby girl’s turned out to just be a toy boy or temp rather than anyone who really permanently took her away from him.

Meanwhile, my mother and sister were just sort of nonplussed by my presence.  I think they may have tried to enjoy it, but felt bad knowing it was induced more by hardship than by pure love…and sort of trying to ameliorate the problem and to try being kind while making me feel guilty about having turned up and not having left after 3 days….Or even, guilty for seeming to want love and attention from relatives I haven’t spent much time around for 20 years or so.  I had hoped that our having time together would be cause for celebration and that we would update our relationships, get on well etc…but instead what happened caused me to nearly regret having even turned up and I nearly went back to Germany rather than staying in the country.

Terrain: in reality, CNY is loaded with hills.  They are not giant mountains or anything of the sort, but both Indianapolis and the area around Bremen, are flat lands.  I spent a total of 16 years in flat lands having been raised in this hilly terrain.  It felt wonderful to be back and yet strange to deal with actual hills and other traits of the land I come from.

No

Of course not!

Not True

In reality, in 1999 I returned to living in the USA after 5 years of living in Southern England, North Greater London, and Slough, Berkshire mostly.  That time, I moved to Indianapolis, where I had never lived before in my life.  It was most definitely back to living in my native country!  at the same time, it was somewhere new.  Even so,  locals told me that it took a year for me to “lose my accent” by which they meant what I and the English perceived as my “watered down American accent”.

Again, when I reached the point of having lived in the North side of Indianapolis for 5 years I did have weird emotions: it really was as long as I’d lived in England.  My second year back I had started saying “Dude” again, which was a major shift.

I’ve been back from living in a village around Bremen, Germany for more than 18 months now.  I still miss needing and using German a lot more.  I still miss fantastic public transportation.  There are other qualities of the nation’s culture that I find that I do honestly miss.  Some are the public support system and educational system.  Some are much more subtle – I’m not even always sure what it is that I’m missing.  There was something different about the air quality there, which I never understood.

At the same time, I’m really finding myself easily ‘moved’ in a happy way about various organizations that are around here – I mean stuff like: the schools I went to growing up actually are around here.  The neighborhoods I lived in growing up really are right in my current local area.

Here and there are people I knew, and I fairly frequently come across others who are or have been involved with some organization I was also part of: a a dojo, a school, a Y, or a church, or even a bar or party place.

It is relaxing to have such free use of my native language again and to have it be in common use.  Of course, I always knew that people speak any language because that’s what the people around there spoke like when they were there.  I realized that in Germany as much as I did here, but that simple lesson has somehow been deeply reinforced.

Different / Changed

I think maybe the truth is that I feel changed, neither in a good or a bad way, but just different.  My perspective and experience were definitely effected.  My attitude towards foreign residents is nothing like it was 25 years ago.  I was never cruel nor malicious but now I’m downright sympathetic and realize that being foreign can be a struggle but also gives a spirit of adventure to every day life.

I certainly wouldn’t say that I won’t live in a different nation again: I would love to live in London, England more: especially if the circumstances would be nice…and I would even brave Germany more, but would prefer to try a city and in whichever nation I would prefer to have a good job or to have plenty of money even if I don’t have a job.

 

Work Uniforms and the art of Transformation

Got to Work

I was able to work today.  The company that Life has allowed me to work for is vast.

Meaningful Digression about Writing and Editing

Unlike when I write and edit from home – which I am still willing to do, by the way, in the English language, I had a work colleague with me.  In truth, I have had one case of having a junior work colleague with me ‘in person’.  I have also worked with other people who were also working online.

Working as a professional writer and editor from home, the perception of who one’s work colleagues really are becomes bizarre.  One may write something and mail it to someone.  If a magazine, or newspaper or other customer buys it then the editorial staff have become work colleagues by becoming paying customers.  Compared to many other jobs it is weird.

Back to main topic

The company I did work for let me have a uniform.  Work uniforms: some of you have worn them.  To some of you they are a sign of a lame work life.  For others, they are a token of status – of having a job.  I may not even be the only one who was able to view the thing much like a ‘team jersey’.

They told me to not wear the thing around too much.

 

Transformation

Transformation is what happens to that caterpillar that emerges as a butterfly.  Transformation is what happens to some people if they go from having ‘not found God’ to ‘finding God’ or ‘getting a spiritual teacher’.  Some find that their children transform from puberty.   This can happen to people in both good and bad ways.

A lot of the time, the change is relatively minor.  Maybe that’s not really true.  I mean, when an actor or actress goes into character the transformation is not minor.  For ….this is really me just guessing, 50% of workers going into the job is a lot like going on stage.  One does not have to be entirely false but many are also not feeling ‘free to be themselves’.  Those of you who ‘get it’, can see why the simple action that I will describe below is a transformation.

All I did was don the work uniform.  Today, what made it most amusing or unusual was that I did it in a cubicle at a bank.  The reason was that I wanted to arrive on time ready for work.  I went to the bank as an ordinary customer.  That was myself as ‘a private person’ rather than as ‘part of a gigantic global corporation’.  LOL, but I am glad that I am not part of the Borg now….blogging as Borg….but wow, it is a big company and I am connecting with you through weird technology rather than old and ‘in person’ ways.

Another meaningful digression

Who are we kidding?  I wrote both professionally and as an amateur in this language – in this case the point is not about criticizing my abilities but rather to point out that most professional writers work at a distance.  I had to be told to try working more locally.  My record longest distance contracts at this point were the ones from Kuwait to Indianapolis, and the ones from Singapore and India.  I did not do that many of those, but yes.

Back to Transformation

So anyway, I put on the uniform and felt ‘ta da’ transformed.  In truth, I did not feel like I had suddenly turned into someone else.  Thank God, actually.  One might expect that from psychosis or abusive trauma or strong doses of psychedelic drugs or ‘intense meditation’ ….it wasn’t anything like that.

The subjective sensation was so real, and yet so simple.  We all know one way or another how it is to be part of something greater than ourselves but how that is, can be funny or profound.

I took the thing off again after work.  The actual work was nothing to be ashamed of nor proud of.  The work was not in any of the fields in which I have some kind of personal passion.  I also did not hate it.  My emotion about it was similar to how I feel when I do house work that needs doing except for a small pleasure knowing that I had some ‘social status improvement from working for pay’ and that I would be paid.  My work colleague did not bother me and I was happy to have a colleague right there with me and that we worked as a close team.  It was a pleasure I experienced in contrast to the type of pleasure I get from writing something up and just emailing it to the customer/client/boss who reviews it and then sends me an email about whether or not that is okay.

After post notes

Yesterday, I became excited because I read that more than 100 people began to follow the blog.  This is even though there are no ‘beefcake images’ and ‘no visible boobs’.  Somehow I feel almost proud of you for that.  In all seriousness, if any of you have a nice little story about feeling transformed please drop them in the comments.

‘Real engagement’ is always great, and if you do enough you can raise my awareness of many of you ‘as real people who are actually there’.

Recently, I was stunned when a man I knew personally read some of my blog.  Our relationship still hasn’t ‘recovered’ despite my belief that it is good that someone read my blog who I also interacted with in person.  If that seems weird, go back to the paragraph about writers.

Meaningful Activity

Meaningful Activity

In general people feel better when their lives feel meaningful and there is enough pleasure and health in their lives.

According to some researchers, maturation often continues in adulthood and middle aged and those in their 60s usually achieve ‘generative maturity’.  At this point, they begin thinking about how to help others in the world.  There are people who are already like this as children – some manage to do great things on a large scale.  Others can’t and may feel stifled or frustrated but once they ‘unlearn learned helplessness’ – which sometimes requires reaching adulthood, they find they can do more and go ahead and do so.

More than once, successful people suffering from bad mental or emotional conditions despite their success have found great relief in devoting some of their time to helping others.

Taking good care of one’s self and experiencing healthy self – love, which is not to be confused with  Malignant Narcisissm should not be left out of the whole process of being kind to others.

 

Formal & Informal

There are formal and informal ways that people can help others.  There are leaders who can found organizations, and get things done.  There are leaders who are also followers – such people may join an organization that already exists and serve that, and grow through activities they do within the organization.

There is no disgrace in being a follower unless one is really ‘cut out’ to be a leader, which can really happen.  For naturally occurring or potentially excellent leaders, being kept as ‘followers only’ is a bit like hiding the Sunshine with a man made item and thinking that means the light isn’t there.  Most folks start out as followers.  Everyone needs and deserves trustworthy guidance.  As a beginner, there is no shame in being a follower.  Joining an organization already created by others is a great way for team oriented individuals to get involved as followers and grow from there.  Some will grow into leadership positions.  For others it will be doing volunteer work or getting paid working for a charity organization that will be ‘a significant change from engaging in activities that are limited to helping one’s self.’

Some people have a strong preference for one or the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

The problems I see with those who prefer informal ways of helping others:

  1. Harder to get the helping activity acknowledged in formal and official ways for example in college essays, job applications, beauty pageant applications.
  2. Mixed motives – one’s own motives may not always be clear.
  3. Inconsistent results.  People may find that they are only effective some of the time.
  4.  Difficulty developing leaders – it may be difficult or impossible to improve certain skills and to aid developing leaders without the structure of a formal organization.

The problems with formal ways of helping others:

  1.  It can be impersonal.  For example – filling out forms in an agency may not be heartwarming the way interacting with the very individuals receiving help might be.
  2.  It can be harder to help the way one wants to.  With formal helping one normally joins and organization and can only choose from the options available.
  3. Corruption – one can discover that the organization one is working for has become corrupt and does not provide as much care as was originally intended.

 

 

 

 

Chaos Post – poetic prose

This post may contain nonsequiters and other signs of being a stream of consciousness relationship with context than a carefully structured advertisement for an attractive new urban crime novel.

The novel shown on the left can be purchased directly using http://sbpra.com/miriampia/  .  Not only did I write it and edit it at least 7 times, but it is finally for sale in a respectable form.  I have touched it and can confirm that if you buy it I know what you will be getting.   I am actually quite proud of it, as it is my first published novel.  I wrote it after working as a professional writer for a while, mostly as a ghostwriter working from home while living in the same big city that the novel is set in:  Indianapolis.

Everyone who lives or has visited Indianapolis that not everyone there has the same color skin.  This doesn’t need to be a problem but some – and luckily only some, of the people who live there make a drama of a small matter like that.  There are characters of more than one so-called “race” in the story.  Which ones shows what it was really like there when the story was written and is not intended to insult those not represented in the story.  Unlike too many stories prior to 1970, there are both good guys and bad guys of more than one color rather than color coding the good guys and bad guys.

Meanwhile, I have tried multiple times to get the blog out without the “shame” of showing that there is a domain name problem.  What really happened is that I renewed but the system acted as if I had not.  Then, what happened was that I got a new domain name and have asked that my blog be changed over to the new domain.  I have requested this assistance at least 3 times but it did not come through for me.  I am hoping that now it finally will.