Friday, May 22, 2009

Tips, Websites, and Books: Helpful stuff for the writer
by Danette Haworth

Of all the things I get asked about writing, the underlying question is this: How do I get published? Here’s my answer: I don’t know! But I do know that hard work, dedication, education, and exposure can only enhance your chances of one day seeing your book on bookstore shelves. I met my editor at an SCBWI conference after I’d submitted for critique the first ten pages of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. A few months later, I received an offer, signed up with an agent, and now the little novel that I wrote in secret is available for everyone to read!

I’ve been writing stories and poems since I was little. Creative writing and literary analysis were my favorite subjects going through school. After receiving my degree in English, I paid off my student loans by working as a technical writer, a travel writer, and finally a freelance writer. I consumed writer’s magazines and literary journals, and I bought Writer’s Market religiously every year. My short stories made lots of round trips; I hated to find those manila envelopes addressed to me in my own handwriting. But along the way, some of those stories found new homes, and then more of them began to leave the nest.

A few years ago, my schedule opened up. I began to research markets in hopes of expanding my freelance editing work, but it hit me one day—Time to write your own novel!

It was a scary thought. Sometimes it’s easier to dream about your dream than to actually test it. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book; I just said I was working on various projects. I have a tendency to act out my scenes as I write them, so I yelled at my antagonist from my computer chair. I laughed; I cried—real tears even! Before anyone came home, I’d pack everything up, I wasn’t writing a book! But I’d think about Joshua, the main character, and his dog, Jack, all night long. When it looked like I was doing dishes, I really was running through the woods with my characters.

I spent countless hours on my computer researching agents, reading writers’ boards, and posting questions. I read books on the craft of writing and on how to land an agent. I discovered writer’s conferences. And I started on my next manuscript, Violet Raines.

Violet Raines was published by Walker Books, August 2008; The Hotel for Blueberry Goodness comes out 2010; and Me and Jack is due 2011, all with Walker.

Below are five quick tips that work for me, followed by lists of websites and books that continue to be helpful to me as I work to create fiction. You might find them helpful too.

Happy writing!
Danette Haworth

Five Quick Tips for Writers:

Write. Don’t think about writing—just write, preferably every day. Like exercise, you prime the writing muscle by using it in a consistent manner, and you get stronger too!
Get qualified feedback. Join a critique group, post on critique threads, or pay for a professional critique, but get that feedback. You’ll find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Submit your work. Don’t be afraid! And don’t be crushed—keep submitting.
Read published work in your genre. As a writer, you’re probably a reader too. The more you read, the more you will unconsciously pick up. It’s education through entertainment; the books you enjoy reading will teach you how to write that type of book.
Look for inspiration everywhere. I’m inspired by anyone who has a gift and presses it. Tears filled my eyes several years ago when I sat on the banks of Orlando’s Lake Eola and watched J.D. Webb break the wakeboarding record by jumping a 60’ ramp-to-ramp gap over the Lake Eola fountain. I can’t sing, but U2 and Adam Lambert blow me away! Good books inspire me, but so do underdog sports movies, and I don’t even watch sports! Watch someone else push themselves, and you’ll be inspired to do the same.

Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators membership fee
Active site providing publications to assist the writer, opportunities for grants, and a forum, including a thread for manuscript exchange (on which you can post bits and pieces of your MS or even your query letter and receive critiques).

Verla Kay’s Website for Children’s Writers and Illustrators free
Dynamic site including a variety of links, agent interview transcripts and a hot message board. Get your questions answered here, answer someone else’s question, or shoot the breeze. Also includes a thread for posting bits of your MS or query for critique.

Absolute Write free
Active site with loads of links, a message board with lots of categories, and a thread for critique.

WOW! Women on Writing free
Informative site with articles that change monthly, a blog, and a quarterly flash fiction contest judged by some of the hottest agents in the industry.

Agent Query free
Plug in your genre and find the agent you need using this huge up-to-date database. Another plus: agent interviews and sample query letters.

Preditors & Editors free
Want to find out if an agent or agency is legit? Check it out on this free listing.

Agent and Editor Blogs:
Alice’s CWIM Blog,
Bookends, LLC Literary,
Editorial Anonymous,
Firebrand Literary,
Full Circle Lit,
Guide to Literary Agents,
Janet Reid,
Miss Snark, (Blog is retired, but check out the archives—excellent!),
Lit Agent X (Rachel Vater),
Nathan Bransford (Excellent! He also answers individual questions on his own thread on
the Absolute Write website.),
Pub Rants (Kristin Nelson),
The Rejecter,

Useful Books:
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James N. Frey
How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published, Barbara Seuling
Beginnings, Middles & Ends, Nancy Kress
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass
Children’s Writer’s Word Book, Alijandra Mogilner
Chicago Manual of Style
Current edition of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market; any somewhat recent edition is also a plus because the articles are still relevant.
Any novel you love, because it will inspire you.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning, because I wrote it!

Good luck in all your writing!


Charles Gramlich said...

Great advice. I really enjoyed Violet Raines.

Danette Haworth said...

Charles! Thanks!

mixkore said...

Thank you for This.

Christina Farley said...

This is really helpful! Thanks.

Danette Haworth said...

Oh, good! I'm glad you found it useful!

Mary Witzl said...

Great post, Danette, with plenty of good information and advice. Not being crushed is probably the most important thing. It's a tall order -- I've had a lot of round trip short stories myself -- but I tell myself that even if I don't get published, I'm definitely building character.