Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dealing with Rejections

     You haven’t fully become a writer until you’ve had work rejected by multiple magazines or publishers. I’ve heard writers say they could paper their walls with rejection letters. Bottom line, if you don’t have a thick skin, find ways to toughen it. Just keep thinking, “Where do I submit next?”

     Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodor Geisel) submitted And to Think I Saw That on Mulberry Street (his first book) to twenty-seven publishers and received rejections each time. After what he decided would be the last one (because he wouldn’t submit again), he was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York and ran into a friend. He relayed his situation, and the man told him he had just become an editor at a publishing house and invited him to submit there. The rest is publishing history.

     Rejections don’t mean your writing is bad. 
They simply mean the piece isn’t right for that magazine at that time. They could also be because you didn’t pay attention to submission guidelines, or it could mean your story needs work. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some feedback. Take it with an open mind.

The important thing is to keep writing and submitting!

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Monday, October 5, 2020

Creating an Online Course During Covid

 I've often given talks on writing and publishing, and enjoy it. I think those will be out for a while, so I redesigned an online course and put it on a new platform, TabletWise. 

Some potential authors have an idea for a book, get right to work, and finish it in a few months. That's not how it works for everyone. Story ideas can come naturally, but it can be a challenge to structure them well. For some, it's even hard to wrap their head (and computer) around the idea. 

Decide What to Write and Learn How to Publish guides a writer through the deicsion of what to write, offers resources for learning how to write, and then digs into the publishing world. The course has information for those who want to work with a traditional publisher and those considering self-publishing.

In the last few years, the term 'hybrid publishing' has arisen. I've seen a couple definitions. A common one includes an author paying a publishing firm to perform certain functions -- such as formatting and some marketing. The publisher does not accept all authors, and the author makes more per book than with a traditional publisher. 

One way to publish that's laid out in the course is 'author as publishing manager.' If you decide to self publish, you can essentially be your own general contractor -- find people to format, perhaps hire an editor and publicist for specific tasks.

If you plan to do only one book, then working with a hybrid publisher can make sense. If you plan to do several -- and you don't want to perform all roles yourself -- you can manage the process as others perform tasks for you.

If you want to go with a traditional publisher, the course suggests how  to find an agent and offers a list of detailed questions to ask a publisher before you sign a contract.

The course offers a mix of videos and text lessons you can download. In other words, you  get to see my smiling face sometimes. 

You can buy a lot of books and take a lot of classes on writing and publishing, or you can take this course for the reasonable price of $19.98. You can learn beyond the course by consulting the list of resources at the end of each lesson.

What are you waiting for? Readers are waiting!

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saving Our Bookstores by Buying Gifts as Well as Books

In-person shopping isn't as big this fall as last, but that doesn't mean we can't buy books and other gifts at independent bookstores or Barnes and Noble. Shop at a store or on line. Put a note on the refrigerator to remind yourself.

You say not all your friends and family want books? You can buy games, puzzles, toys, notecards and a lot more. Many stores will ship products. 

I have begun publishing my paperbacks (as well as Nook Books) through Barnes and Noble Press, to make it easier for readers to order them in the stores. They do a lot for authors, so I'm happy to see them make money when I do.

Are you familiar with https://bookshop.org?  It's an online platform through which independent bookstores can present their books to the public. This is especially important at a time when so many have been unable to deal with customers face-to-face. The site has helped independent bookstores make $6.9 million. That's a lot of tea and cookies.

Each bookstore has its own sales page. For example, Our Town Books in Jacksonville, Illinois (near me) has https://bookshop.org/shop/ourtownbooks

Another option is a list, by state and Canadian province, maintained by New Pages. Some of the bookstores are open for in-person sales and some are currently doing only online sales. I went through several states that I know relatively well and found the list quite comprehensive.  https://www.newpages.com/independent-bookstores

I got a kick out of the website of Solid State Bookstore (on the H Street Corridor in DC), which proclaims "October is the New December." In other words, shop early. https://www.solidstatebooksdc.com/

Why is it important to give books as gifts? I substitute teach, largely in a middle school. I love to see the books the language arts teachers pick, and see how they sometimes work with teachers in other disciplines so, for example, lessons in language arts and history cover similar subjects.

But there is one sad thing. When kids finish a test early or tell me in study hall that they have "nothing to do," I tell them to select a book from the shelves or read their own. Some do, and a few always have personal fiction to read. At least 100 kids have said, "I don't read." Period. They say it proudly.

If you know kids with similar perspectives, give them a book that deals with something they do like. If they watch football, give them a history of the Super Bowl. Try an audiobook that deals with a popular TV series. Anything to get them away from the television and video games. Either one is fine in moderation, but most low readers are mesmerized by watching rather than interaction -- which you have to do with a book.

As someone who shops rarely, you may never hear these words from me again: "Grab a credit card and go shopping."

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Friday, September 18, 2020

Writers and Their Cats

 Our current cats, Stella and Phoebe, are  rarely far from us. They especially like hanging with me, but I think that's largely because I stay quiet a lot -- in the chair in front of my desk, or a recliner fitted with a lap desk.

Mostly I'm ok with their presence, at least until they sit in the laser printer's exit tray or under my feet. Lately that's where Phoebe sleeps. It makes no sense. She could be on a towel on the sofa or by the window. But she rolls herself into such a tight knot you can barely distinguish between her head and tail.


Having a cat at your feet (especially when she has snuck into that position) can be frustrating. (So can working with the newest version of Blogger, which won't let me wrap text around a photo.)

Now check out Stella. She likes to be higher. I walked into the bathroom a few days ago and found her on a towel by the sink. I had just left the room and she appeared to be waiting for my return.

I think the closeness reflects their uncertainty about why the humans are home so much during the pandemic. Normally they rule the roost for many hours each day while I'm writing at the library and my husband is at work. He is back at work, but I'm still working at home.

I'm also struggling to write, so they may believe they are comforting me rather than trying to send me to the hospital. 

After weeks of writing less than a page a day, I began working on a new online class and revising an extensive book of family history. I had to make myself do something productive. It feels very self-centered when there are so many people in dire circumstances. 

Serious point here. If writers (or anyone) find themselves unable to do routine things, recognize why that's so. It may not be possible to change the circumstances, but perhaps you can do something to distract yourself. If nothing else, many authors are giving away copies of  their books. If you want a couple of mine, send a note and I'll send you a Smashwords coupon.

We are all in  this together.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Listening Brings Books to Life

 In the mid-1990s, I found myself bored and with a sore back in the middle of a 1,000 mile drive. I pulled into a Walmart, bought Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I've been hooked on audiobooks ever since. Books in the car, books on CD (originally on tape!), and now books on my phone and Alexa.

Alexa? Because it's linked to Amazon, every book I purchase on Audible is available through the round contraption that sits in multiple places throughout our home. Initially I associated it with music and the local radio station. 

Sometimes slow to learn, I hadn't thought about books until one evening I got into bed and realized I hadn't put a tape in the CD player. (I lull myself to sleep by playing a book I've already listened to.) For some reason, I said, "Alexa, play Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Bingo!

Audiobooks are not cheap, so I borrow a lot from the library. Try the M.C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth series or John Sandford's Virgil Flowers books. (The latter require a willingness to listed to salty language.) And, of course, Harry Potter's Jim Dale is an incredible narrator.

A couple of hints to reduce the cost. If you buy an ebook on Amazon, digital copies are generally offered at a reduced price. Watch for sales on CDs at Barnes and Noble, if you go that route. And don't hesitate to buy used CDs. The Chatham Public Library District has a wonderful sales room, and always had CDs.

However, I am now hooked on books on my phone. I never thought I would be, but because I always have the phone with me, I use it more often than Kindle.. I have the Audible and Chirp Apps. Chirp has books, usually the classics, for $1.99. These are temporary sales, and I always find something. I'm loading up on Agatha Christie at the moment.

To listen in the car, you can place the phone in a holder or on a stable position on the seat next to you. Another option is to wear one earbud. Never two, you need to hear someone honk at you.

People have asked me if books in the car can be distracting. I find music distracting (my mind wanders) but never books. You'll have to observe your own behavior.

A number of my books are on audio via Amazon and ibooks. I've made the commitment (to myself) to finish putting all of them on. It's time-consuming, because an author needs to hold auditions and listen to the entire book. But there's nothing like hearing your words spoke by a talented narrator.

Pick up your phone or turn on a CD Player and get ready to be absorbed in great stories.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Making Eye Contact with Words When You Can't in Person

     A verbal storyteller engages with an audience through gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Your book can only compel via words on paper or on an ereader. That's harder.

     Unless you are an exceptional writer, you need to learn a lot before publishing something good enough to earn respect -- and income. Yes, read good books by successful writers. Also read about structure, character development, setting, dialogue, and related topics. Readers deserve your best.

     While you can learn a lot from books, it helps to talk about writing with others and perhaps learn in a classroom or similar environment. I learn a great deal from members of my critique group. When one of us sees an interesting article on writing or voice, we tend to share it.

     There are writing classes at community colleges, workshops offered by regional arts organizations, and writing conferences. Most years, writers' magazines such as The Writer or Poets and Writers provide lists of conferences. Check your library.

     There are many online classes now. They can be expensive, though not all are. I always prefer in-person learning, but your location or schedule may not permit that.

     During the COVID timeframe, a number of authors are giving short courses via zoom. I've taken several that Jane Cleland has offered. Doing a search for "zoom classes by authors" turns up many. I also found a comparison of traditional online classes.

     Take note that some of the results will be ads for classes. We authors know there is nothing wrong with advertising, just be sure to look at a range of results.

     Some of what you will learn in any class is basic-–in a mystery, the villain cannot be someone introduced in the last scene, nor can the reader know a character’s thoughts but not be informed of everything that character knows.  John Gilstrap (author of the Jonathan Grave books) put this aptly in a daylong course I took–-these are cheats. (It's become trendy to talk about unreliable narrators, those whose point of view you share but don't share what they know. I don't read these books.)

     In romance, if the only thing keeping a couple apart is miscommunication, a reader will want to bop them on their heads and tell them to pick up the phone. Strong romance stories build tension in varied ways.

     You can probably think of important points in other genres. Personally, when I read science fiction, I want a description of the aliens. I don’t need many details on the humans.

     So, if you're sitting there feeling blue because you can't interact with other writers, you really can get a sense of shared inspiration with zoom meetings or online classes. Just do it!
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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Is it Story or Structure?

I may not have any business writing about the story/structure dilemma, because I wrestle with both. Some would say this is the difference between pantsers and plotters (the former said to be writing by the seat of their pants). I do a bit of both.

My philosophy is a writer should never let a good story get away from them because they can't fathom the ending when they start. Got an idea? Grab a keyboard or a napkin and write for a few minutes. You might get an opening scene on paper or a few bullet points about how you want the story to develop. If you don't jot down the ideas, they will be gone or diluted.

Here are some recommendations for putting together a novel To be clear, all authors start with the story in mind, it's simply a question of what they do with that initial idea.

Craft of Writing
Jane Cleland
Jane has been offering some free seminars lately. Click on Events on her site. Her books on structure and plot twists are very helpful.

Helping Writers Become Authors
K.M. Weiland
Her website and blog have years of material. People roll their eyes at the word outline, but her material on it may change your mind.

Story Trumps Structure
Steven James
His focus is more on his own writing than teaching, but this book makes his preference clear.

There is still the basic point. No story is written until you put your buns in a chair (or on a bar stool, as Hemingway might have said). I address that in my book, Writing When Time is Scarce and Getting the Work Published.

Get started. Don't stop. Don't get discouraged. Tomorrow is another day.

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For more information on Elaine's 30+ books, go to https://www.elaineorr.com or subscribe to her newsletter.