This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
----------------------------------------------------- Blogger Template Style Sheet Name: Scribe Designer: Todd Dominey URL: domineydesign.com / whatdoiknow.org Date: 27 Feb 2004 ------------------------------------------------------ */ /* Defaults ----------------------------------------------- */ body { margin:0; padding:0; font-family: Georgia, Times, Times New Roman, sans-serif; font-size: small; text-align:center; color:#29303B; line-height:1.3; background:#483521 url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg.gif") repeat; } blockquote { font-style:italic; padding:0 32px; line-height:1.6; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } p {margin:0;padding:0}; abbr, acronym { cursor:help; font-style:normal; } code {font:12px monospace;white-space:normal;color:#666;} hr {display:none;} img {border:0;} /* Link styles */ a:link {color:#473624;text-decoration:underline;} a:visited {color:#716E6C;text-decoration:underline;} a:hover {color:#956839;text-decoration:underline;} a:active {color:#956839;} /* Layout ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #wrap { background-color:#473624; border-left:1px solid #332A24; border-right:1px solid #332A24; width:700px; margin:0 auto; padding:8px; text-align:center; } #main-top { width:700px; height:49px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_top.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0;padding:0; display:block; } #main-bot { width:700px; height:81px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_bot.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0; padding:0; display:block; } #main-content { width:700px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_mid.jpg") repeat-y; margin:0; text-align:left; display:block; } } @media handheld { #wrap { width:90%; } #main-top { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-bot { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-content { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } } #inner-wrap { padding:0 50px; } #blog-header { margin-bottom:12px; } #blog-header h1 { margin:0; padding:0 0 6px 0; font-size:225%; font-weight:normal; color:#612E00; } #blog-header h1 a:link { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:visited { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:hover { border:0; text-decoration:none; } #blog-header p { margin:0; padding:0; font-style:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } div.clearer { clear:left; line-height:0; height:10px; margin-bottom:12px; _margin-top:-4px; /* IE Windows target */ background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat bottom left; } @media all { #main { width:430px; float:right; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } #sidebar { width:150px; float:left; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } } @media handheld { #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } #footer { clear:both; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; padding-top:10px; _padding-top:6px; /* IE Windows target */ } #footer p { line-height:1.5em; font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:75%; } /* Typography :: Main entry ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.date-header { font-weight:normal; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; margin:0; padding:0; } .post { margin:8px 0 24px 0; line-height:1.5em; } h3.post-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:140%; color:#1B0431; margin:0; padding:0; } .post-body p { margin:0 0 .6em 0; } .post-footer { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#211104; font-size:74%; border-top:1px solid #BFB186; padding-top:6px; } .post ul { margin:0; padding:0; } .post li { line-height:1.5em; list-style:none; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 0px .3em; vertical-align:top; padding: 0 0 .6em 17px; margin:0; } /* Typography :: Sidebar ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.sidebar-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; margin:0; padding:0; color:#211104; } h2.sidebar-title img { margin-bottom:-4px; } #sidebar ul { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:6px 0 12px 0; padding:0; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: none; padding-bottom:6px; margin:0; } #sidebar p { font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments {} #comments h4 { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; color:#29303B; margin:0; padding:0; } #comments-block { line-height:1.5em; } .comment-poster { background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 2px .35em; margin:.5em 0 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { font-size:100%; margin:0 0 .2em 0; } .comment-timestamp { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#29303B; font-size:74%; margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#473624; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:visited { color:#716E6C; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:hover { color:#956839; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:active { color:#956839; text-decoration:none; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin-top:12px; padding-top:12px; height:auto; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; } .profile-datablock { margin:0 0 4px 0; } .profile-data { display:inline; margin:0; padding:0 8px 0 0; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; color:#211104; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 8px 0 0; border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:2px; } .profile-textblock { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif;font-size:86%;margin:0;padding:0; } .profile-link { margin-top:5px; font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; } /* Post photos ----------------------------------------------- */ img.post-photo { border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:4px; } /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 0 12px 20px; }

Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 18, 2015

6 Mistakes that Can Sidetrack New Writers

 by Anne R. Allen

Ruth and I like to say we made all the writing and publishing mistakes so you don't have to. I figure that personally I've collected nearly the full set of authorial faux pas since I embarked on a writing career.

Here's a list of some of the things I wish I hadn't done when I was starting out.

I'm not saying these are always "mistakes" or that they will inevitably lead to disaster, but they did slow me down on my path to a career as an author.

1) Begging friends, family and co-workers to read your work

When we start writing, what we want most is to be read, so we often rush off to friends and family and implore them to take a look as soon as we've got those first chapters on paper. I admit I did. (And if any of my first readers see this post, I apologize. I know I was probably obnoxious and needy about it.)

But you'll often find loved ones can show a strange reluctance to be your first readers. (If they don't, be grateful, but realize the results may not be what you hope.) And if they say no, accept it. They're not being unkind.

They may be afraid they won't know what to say.

That's because they probably won't, unless they're in the writing business themselves.

They could end up swelling your head with over-the-top praise for your splendiferous adjectives, spritely adverbs and uniquely creative dialogue tags.

On the other hand, they might criticize excellent beginning efforts and squelch your fledgling muse from a fear of not being "honest."

Here's my cautionary tale: about a decade ago, my WIP was having problems with flow, so I gave it to a friend who had praised my published work. I thought he might be able to pinpoint what wasn't working.

Unfortunately, as a non-writer, my kind friend had no idea what “rough draft” meant. After he finished the typo-strewn manuscript, he phoned immediately, telling me to toss the book because it was a “complete mess that nobody would ever want to read.”

I tried to get him to tell me exactly what he didn't like, but he kept ranting, giving no specifics. After he shouted, "show, don't tell" about ten times, I have to admit I hung up on him. (Years later I realized I'd asked him at a very bad time in his life. He'd just lost a beloved job and my career was on the rise. His own dreams were in shatters, so he had no energy to put into mine.)

I shelved the book. I figured whatever was wrong, it must be pretty fundamental.

Years later, when I opened the manuscript again, I realized the book wasn't that bad. I'd let one uninformed person's opinion kill a project I'd spent years of my life creating. I did a quick polish and sent it to my publisher. The editor suggested a new opening chapter and a handful of tweaks that fixed the problems.

It became GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY, the first book in my bestselling Camilla Randall mystery-comedy series.

But the friendship died. And since then, I've never let a non-writer see a rough draft of any of my work.

This is why I recommend that all new writers join a critique group or find beta readers to exchange reads of new work. For more on how to get feedback, see Jami Gold's post on beta readers.

2) Trying to please everybody.

The right group or connection can provide you with the support and advice your loved ones can't give. But remember they'll all have different opinions. In the end, it's your book, so don't change anything just to please somebody else.

I do recommend groups for new writers. Working in a vacuum can waste lots of valuable time. Whether you meet in person or online, writing groups can provide invaluable information and support. They can give sympathy through the rough patches and help celebrate your successes. They can also provide a network that might be all-important to your career.

Kristen Lamb's "WANA tribe" (We Are Not Alone) is a great online community where writers can find mutual support. Another is Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group. CritiqueCircle.com also offers many different groups in a variety of genres, with the extra benefit of critiques. There are also great writers groups on Facebook and Google Plus and in forums all over the Web.

National organizations with local chapters like RWA, SCBWI, and Sisters in Crime can also provide up-to-date industry information as well as support. Some also offer online and in-person critique groups.

But one caveat:  if the organization does involve critiques, remember these groups do not have all the answers, and amateur writing groups can often result in the blind leading the blind.

I wrote about why to ignore most of the advice from your critique group here on the blog in August of 2014.

If you're participating in a critique group, it's wise to invest in a couple of good writing books or a vetted, solid writing course as well. Also read blogs like this one by veteran authors and agents.

Remember to take everything you hear in an amateur group with a grain of salt.

Here's how I got a reality check about group critiques: when my first was book accepted by a small press in England, my editor sent it back bleeding with red-pencilled edits. It didn't take me long to realize that every single issue he had with the book was something I'd added at the request of critique groups.

Trying to please everybody in my writing groups can lead to bad habits. Here are a few:

      Repeating yourself

Groups generally ask to be reminded who the characters are and what their relationship is to each other. They also want a recap of the plot and subplots at the beginning of each chapter.

This does not mean you should put that stuff in your book.

All those "remind me" comments stem from the fact these groups only meet once or twice a month, not because anything is wrong with your manuscript.

Because of the logistics of reading a book over a long period of time, I ended up larding my story with ridiculous repetitions. Thank goodness I had a good editor.

      Homogenized, boring storylines

I'd also removed some scenes because they offended one or two readers' political or personal beliefs. Unfortunately, eliminating strong opinions left my characters with no motivation for their actions.

Often naive critiquers can't tell the difference between a character's beliefs and those of the author. A woman wearing big Germanic sandals once stomped out of a critique session when I was reading because my fashionista character made fun of Birkenstocks.

She was too busy being offended to notice that I was wearing Birkenstocks at the time. Some people thrive on being offended. It gives them a kind of high. They will look for any excuse to chase that rush. Don't let it influence your writing.

Making your characters agree with everybody in the group can leave you with something that's more like a Hallmark card than a novel.

      Bad pacing and too much description

Because of "helpful" suggestions from my groups, I'd also put in too much description because some of my readers were poets who loved detailing minutia in a way that had no place in  a thriller.

All those details bogged down the story and gave it a saggy middle that would have lost half my readers. 

In trying to please everybody, I had sabotaged my own story.

Remember everybody has an agenda

The romance writer will tell you to put in more steamy scenes. The thriller writer will want more heart-pounding action. The believer in alien abduction will want big-eyed gray persons in every scene.

These people are telling you about themselves, not what your book needs.

Remember the people who are most strident in demanding that you do it "their way" are probably the least competent to give advice. That's called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Scientists have proved the most ignorant people are generally the most sure of themselves.

Think Cliff the postman on Cheers and his "little known facts." Are you going to let somebody like that rewrite your WIP? I almost did.

3) Cart before horse thinking: worrying about publishing and marketing before you master your craft.

There was no social media when I was starting out, but I did have tons of anxiety about being sent on a book tour, because I have issues with agoraphobia.

I'm ashamed to say I obsessed about this stuff before I'd even finished my first novel.

I think even more writers today are thinking about book-selling instead of book-writing long before they have to.

I heard from a writer recently who had already paid a vanity press a huge amount of money to publish his book, but he'd never had the manuscript read by anybody. He wanted to know where he could find beta readers. Arrggh! He had the process completely backwards.

Learn to write before you try to find a publisher! You need to have a manuscript (or two) polished, critiqued, edited and polished again before you even think about publishing. 

I also met a young man recently who was obsessed with marketing. He told me he had a website, X number of followers on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and Tumblr.

He asked me...did I think he had a big enough platform to start writing his first story?

Poor guy. He had never written ONE WORD of fiction, but he'd spent a year building a platform to sell it.

This is like putting all your money into renting a store before you have any idea what you want to sell, and no money left to buy the inventory.

If you aren't compelled to write stories every day of your life, fiction is probably not your passion. If you like blogging, then blog. But don't use it for selling non-existent fiction.

There's nothing magic about writing fiction. Most professionals will tell you it's a lousy way to make money. Some people feel compelled to write it, and some people don't. This guy didn't. He might make a great social media marketer, though. And it's generally a much more lucrative profession.

On the other hand, if you're tearing away on your WIP and you don't want to stop to mess with social media, don't.

Keep writing.

You don't need to worry about social media or publishers until you've got at least a couple of books in the hopper, some published short work, and you're ready to start a writing business, either indie or traditional.

4) Expecting to make money right away.

Oh, yeah. This was me. After I got an agent for my first novel, I quit my day job and expected to be rolling in money by the end of the year. 

You guessed it: Did. Not. Happen.

The agent shopped it around, failed to sell it and dropped me. When I got the bad news, I hadn't even finished a first draft of a second novel.

I was so devastated, I went back to work and didn't write another word for several years.

I's easy to get discouraged when you've been slogging away on a book for a year and then realize revising it may take another six months. You'll probably start querying the rough draft and get nothing but rejections.

"But I've been at this for so long and I don't have a penny to show for it," you say.

Here's the thing: it turns out a year is nothing. Try ten. At least put in your 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours. Very few authors have ever made money on a first novel. You need at least two in the hopper before anything earth-shaking is going to happen. And even then, you'll probably have to keep your day job. Most published fiction authors (both traditional and indie) don't earn enough money to pay all the bills.

Write because you love itbecause you can't help yourselfnot because you're counting on becoming the next J.K. Rowling.

If you need money, try something else. Like picking up cans for recycling. Seriously. You'll make more money than you will with the average first novel. Until you have at least five titles, you're not likely to make substantial money, whether you're traditionally published or indie.  Yes, it's been done, but those authors are the exception to the rule. Many of the big-earner indies like Russell Blake and H.M. Ward have fifty or sixty books out there.

5) Writing Novels Exclusively

Yup. This was me. Once I decided I wanted to have a writing career, I dove right into writing novels. I left short stories and poetry behind. People told me they were for amateurs. (And in those days, nobody wrote novellas because they were considered "unpublishable.")

That's because in the early 90s, most magazines had stopped publishing fiction. The only way to publish was to spend a lot of time researching the small, low-circulation literary magazines. Which of course could only afford to pay in copies.

The only way to find these magazines was to buy a pricey copy of Writer's Market along with the Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses. The bottom line didn't look good to me. I figured why should I spend more to buy the directories than I'd ever make getting short stories published? Later I did subscribe to them and started placing a few stories, but by then I had already published my first novel.

I was short-sighted. If I'd had more publishing credits and contest wins, I would have found a publisher for my longer fiction faster.

I'd also now be sitting on a goldmine, since short stories, novelettes and novellas are perfect for Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited program, and many other online venues. See more about the value of short fiction in my article for Writer's Digest And here's a post on how to structure a novella by by Paul Alan Fahey.

And note that I always include short story publishing opportunities and contests at the end of this blog.

6) Not reading the bestsellers in your genre

I hate to hear new writers say they don't read bestsellers because:

A) "They're all crap." Which is usually followed by statements like, "I can learn everything I need to know by reading the classics. I've read George Elliot, Virginia Woolf, Faulkner, Fitzgerald,..and every word Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote. You seriously expect me to learn from 50 Shades of Gray and that Duck Dynasty guy?"

B) "I'll be too influenced by them." Lots of writers say this. They'll go on to say, "I don't want to lose my voice. I might start writing like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Margaret Atwood, or George R. R. Martin."

And you know why it bothers me so much? Because I used to say that stuff too.

But I finally figured out that writing is a business. You need to know what the marketplace is looking for. As brilliant as the novels of Virginia Woolf are, they are not bestsellers right now. And even if you are the reincarnation of George Elliot, you're probably not going to attract a lot of attention in todays marketplace. You need to learn how to write for contemporary readers.

No, you don't have to read 50 Shades of Duck Dynasty.

But if you're a romance writer, you need to read Nora Roberts, and if you're a horror writer, you'd better have some Stephen King in your library. Anybody writing women's literary fiction who hasn't read Margaret Atwood is going to be at a major disadvantage. And if you write epic fantasy without any knowledge of George R. R. Martin—you're going to be reinventing the wheel.

And so what if I had started writing like Roberts, King, Atwood or Martin? I should have been so lucky. Seriously. A few echoes of the greats in our work is not going to be a problem.

The great painters all started by copying the classic works that came before them. Picasso copied El Greco and Goya, and you see lots of references to their work in his. As he said, "Good artists copy. Great artists's steal.  

If I'd read more contemporaries and fewer classics when I was starting out, I'd have had a much better idea of what might sell. My first novel, THE BEST REVENGE, which was published later as the prequel to the Camilla Randall Mysteries, was partly inspired by the novel Camilla, A Picture of Youth, written by Mrs. Fanny Burney in 1796.

I was even clueless enough to mention that in my early queries.

Yup. I did that. I don't think it impressed any agents.

I would have done better to say the book was also inspired by an unflattering interview in the New York Times of debutante Cornelia Guest.

I also spent a lot of time reading and rereading my favorite classic mystery authors like Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers.

I would have saved myself a lot of time and grief if I'd glanced at the bestseller list and picked up some Janet Evanovich, Elmore Leonard, or Carl Hiaasen earlier in my career.

I'm sure most of you aren't as clueless as I was when I started writing. In those pre-Internet days, we were all pretty much working in a vacuum. Until I started going to writers' conferences, I did not have any idea what the publishing world was about. Now you have all the information you need at your fingertips.

The e-age has brought changes to publishing that seem chaotic and daunting, but things really are getting better for writers!

And remember that when you're making mistakes, you're learning. I'll leave you with this quote from Neil Gaiman:

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something."

What about you Scriveners? Have you done any of these things? Did they derail your writing? What do you think was the biggest mistake you made in your early career? Do you have other mistakes to add to this list?

NEWS: You can read an interview with me on Reedsy, talking about how blogging can help your career. (Reedsy is a new start-up that provides vetted listings of editors, cover artists, and other author-service providers.)


We are offering the ebook of Ghostwriters in the Sky for 99c for the first time ever! It's a spoof of writers conferences, full of funny situations most writers will identify with.

It's #1 in the Camilla Randall comedy-mysteries: a wild comic romp set at writers’ conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California. When a ghostwriter’s plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with a cross-dressing dominatrix to stop the killerwho may be a ghostfrom striking again. 
Meanwhile, a hot LA cop named Maverick Jesus Zukowski just may steal her heart.

Here's a review from award-winning author Sandy Nathan 

Ghost Writers is set in a writers' conference in Santa Ynez Valley, where I've lived for twenty years...This book is hysterically funny AND accurately depicts the Valley. Anne Allen gets it right, down to the dollar bills stuck on the ceiling of the Maverick Saloon. It was so fun to read as she called out one Valley landmark after another. Allen got the local denizens right, too, the crazy characters that roam our streets.

Speaking of which, Ms. Allen's literary characters are pretty crazy/zany by themselves. I love Camilla Randall, her ditzy, former debutante heroine, and all the rest. The action gets pretty frenetic when dead bodies start showing up. I heartily recommend this book..."

Ghostwriters in the Sky is available in e-book at all the Amazons iTunesKoboInktera, and at Barnes and Noble for NOOK. Also in  PAPERBACK for only $10.46


VIGNETTE WRITERShere's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25.  Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.

The Playboy College Fiction Contest Prize is $3000 plus publication in Playboy Magazine. You must be enrolled in college to be eligible. Stories up to 5000 words. Deadline February13th, 2015 $5 entry fee for non-subscribers.

Saraband Books prize for a book of poetry or literary fiction. Prize is $2000 and publication. The entry fee is $27. For fiction, submit a manuscript of 150 to 250 pages of stories, novellas, or a short novel For poetry, submit a manuscript of at least 48 pages.  Deadline February 13th, 2015

THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words.  Deadline February 1, 2015.

Vestal Review Condensed Classics Anthology Call for submissions to an anthology of world classics condensed to 500 words or fewer. Submissions are still open for the new anthology edited by Mark Budman titled "Condensed to Flash: World Classics." Find specifics here and Scroll down to "Condensed to Flash" and check out the sub guidelines. The payment: $15 and a digital copy for an original story and $5 and a digital copy for a reprint. The deadline: January 31, 2015.

The M.M. Bennetts Prize for Historical fiction. $10 Entry fee. $500 prize for the best historical novel published in 2014. To be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June in Deadline January 31st, 2015

Do you have books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited? There's now a Bookbub type newsletter exclusively for KU books, called Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter. My new book, WHY GRANDMA BOUGHT THAT CAR is listed today. Listings cost under $10. Subscriptions are free, and if you're enrolled in KU (all you can read for $10 a month!) this looks like a great way to find new free books.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess I went for the really unusual and offbeat mistakes instead. Although I did bug my wife to read my stuff in the beginning. That mistake started me on this crazy path.
Thanks for mentioning the IWSG.
Some people do thrive on being offended.
Trying to please everyone can mess up a published author as well. I know that one I've struggled with and still do.

January 18, 2015 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Great & comprehensive list - I fell into #2. I think I've mostly managed to avoid the others on the list, but you didn't list the dozens of stupid holes I've fallen into - I specialize in dumb mistakes others don't make.

January 18, 2015 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--You're right that some of these things can plague a published writer, too. I hate to see those "helpful" blogposts telling authors to learn from their negative reviews and rewrite their books to please customer -reviewers. Most of the people who specialize in negative reviews are only venting about their own issues and what they say has nothing to do with your book.

January 18, 2015 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--We'd love to hear about some of those "stupid holes". All beginners make stupid mistakes. That's how we learn.

January 18, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

Lit nerd! I recognize 'Camilla' - haven't read it yet, but I've read 'Cecilia' and 'Evelina', both of which are fantastic books ('Cecilia' more so than 'Evelina', I must say).

While I write genre LGBT YA fiction, I prefer to read adult horror/fantasy/sci-fi fiction. I read an occasional YA book for fun, but inspiration and "technical learning" (for lack of a better term) come from, say, M.R. James, H.G. Wells, lots of books from the classic canon, but also Stephen King, Angela Carter, etc. To me, whatever I glean from those adult books I work into my own stuff for teens.

The experience has been - and continues to be - a fantastic way of flexing creative muscles for me.

January 18, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Excellent list! Here's my dumb-est mistake: Even though I worked in publishing and knew perfectly well what happened and how the system worked, when it came time for me to be published I thought "they" knew what they were doing. After all, "they" were the "experts." Ha. Ha.

I did not stand up for my own ideas and it cost me plenty. I'm not advocating being an a-hole, but the writer knows his/her own work much better than any editor or publisher. When you see that the cover is wrong, the title is hopeless, the ad/publicity/promo (if any) is way off-base, you must advocate (politely but firmly) for your own book.

January 18, 2015 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Another right-on column, Anne! I had to smile at asking non-writers to read your draft. This holds true for people who don't write in your genre. They don't know the expectations of readers in that genre.
And always beware giving your non-writing mother a first draft of your work. Heck, any draft! If the mother in your book isn't a saint, then you will hear about it. I did .

January 18, 2015 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Oooopsie! Forgot to check "notify me."

January 18, 2015 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayden--Nice to hear from another lit nerd! YA is such a broad category. I think if you write YA mysteries, you should read mysteries, both adult and YA and ditto romance, litfic, whatever. In fact a new study shows that 80% of YA is read by adults, so you definitely want to know what they're reading in the adult categories, too. Mostly we just want to read widely and not turn up our noses at any genre.

January 18, 2015 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--That's a biggie! So many newbies who do get contracts are too trusting of "the process" and are afraid to stand up for themselves. I think that happened more when there was no alternative, but I still see new trad-pubbed authors lamenting bad covers and wrong categories. Learning to stand up for ourselves without being "an a-hole" is a delicate art we all have to learn.

January 18, 2015 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

"But you'll often find loved ones can show a strange reluctance to be your first readers." Or simply your readers in general. This is a strange reluctance indeed, but it's very common..

I'm very encouraged by #5 - I love to write poetry, flash fiction, short stories; and it's nice to see there's a market for that kind of writing now.

Thank you for the list, Anne.

January 18, 2015 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--That is so true about genre! Do not give a rom-com to a guy who only reads gritty thrillers. I remember one guy who kept saying "she's not in danger there. All that's at stake is whether some guy is going to ask her out. Where's the tension?" Sigh.

And oh that's so true about our moms! My mother thought every mother in any book I wrote was her. And she was a writer herself. Beware!

January 18, 2015 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sasha--It's true that friends often don't want to read your books even after they're published. It's incredibly disappointing, but more common than not. I guess they don't know what they'll say if they hate your book and they don't want to take the chance.

My unfavorite thing is when they refuse to read your books and then recommend another writer in your genre, so you can "see how it's done." Gee, thanks.

Short stories are undergoing a renaissance. Short IS the new long. Check out my article for Writer's Digest that I link to above.

January 18, 2015 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Hein said...

I think I've fallen into all of this traps in one way or another. I wholeheartedly agree with you about not letting critique partners influence your work too much. Great post, as usual.

January 18, 2015 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Ate my comment again ... Grr. One of the underlying things behind a lot of these is fear. I used to see it when I was on the message boards. It came out in a lot of ways, like writers asking permission to do something, afraid they would make a wrong choice, or writers fussing over making the words perfect. Did that agent reject me because I used this word on page 5?

I used to work with a cowriter. It started out okay, but I ran smack into cowriter's fear, though I couldn't tell what it was at the time. He did several of the things above, as part of the fear. He was a marketer, and absolutely thought he could market the unfinished manuscript to a best seller. Refused to believe that the publishers don't know why one book turns best seller and another one about the same thing doesn't.

Missed in the middle of that was learning how to write better. I've always pushed to write better. I enjoy the challenge of learning something new or just seeing if I can do something -- especially if everyone says that I can't do it. I ended up rapidly outpacing him. While I was learning how to tell a story better, he fussed about if this word was more marketable to the reader than that word.

Eventually, my pushing to be better pushed at him too hard. He would rant that I was slamming down his ideas, and that was that fear. I was butting up against it. I initially thought that I was barreling too hard ahead, which I can do, but part of me recognized that wasn't true. I kept doing the same thing, and eventually, he started attacking me directly. I'd be in a conversation with him over nothing, and suddenly he'd go off on me, and I'm going, "What did I do?" And it was that fear.

I see it in a lot of writers. They'll go around and attack the successful ones for being successful, spending energy to dispprove the success. They'll attack the best sellers for being best sellers, because if the masses read it, it can't be good. It's much easier to attack then it is to deal with the fear. It's much easier to ask for permission than to deal with the fear.

January 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I've had non-writers read my early stuff, and while for the most part, they heaped praise galore, one actually gave me a solid critique on it. She said I sounded very angry. Suffice to say, it took a couple of years for that particular critique to sink in, but once it did, it helped me realize that I didn't need to go over the top (and I mean over-the-top-in-a-B-picture-way) in letting my personal anger bleed through.

While I'm a tad mellower now than I was several years ago, I still find I can write extremely well when I'm angry when the scene calls for it.

Another thing about people who don't write in your chosen genre: you can have someone who is gung-ho enough to volunteer as a beta reader, but if certain subjects make them squeamish, you wind up getting either a solid half-opinion on what you wrote, or a sincere apology from the person who couldn't finish it.

Father Nature's Corner

January 18, 2015 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elizabeth--I think most newbies do. They're natural things to do when you're not informed. Thanks!

January 18, 2015 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--This is a great mini-essay on how many of our mistakes are fear-based. I agree 100%.

Your experience serves as a cautionary tale as well. Often we want to team up with somebody who balances us, so somebody focused on craft might like to team with somebody who's marketing-savvy. But that can lead to cart-before-horse activity, which is obviously exactly what happened to you and your partner. You have to learn craft before you market a product. Always.

Thanks for the great comment! Sorry Blogger was difficult.

January 18, 2015 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--You point out another aspect of critique: we have to be ready to hear what's said or it won't do a bit of good. We have so many defense mechanisms that put up a wall when we feel attacked.

I agree that anger is a great motivator. I've written many a rough draft fueled by anger. My present WIP included. The trick is to get the anger out in the editing process.

You're also right about the gung-ho beta reader who doesn't know what they're getting into. We have to allow them to back out gracefully.

January 18, 2015 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Anna Read said...

Wow, thanks so much for this post. As a new writer, I've been falling into a lot of the same mistakes you list above, like worrying about my social media and spending lots of time on that. Time that I probably should be spending reading more best-sellers. ;)

I've never had an idea come to me that was simple enough/short enough to fit into a short story format, but I'm going to try. I've got so much to learn! Thanks again.

January 18, 2015 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anna--You sound a lot like me. I love to read so much (and I do enjoy guilty-pleasure books) but it doesn't feel like work, so I don't allow myself to read as much as I'd like. Instead I fritter endless hours on social media.

I also don't think in terms of short stories. I like the long form with tons of plot twists and subplots and cliff hangers. I'm trying to get back into the short form, though.

January 18, 2015 at 12:09 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Great post, Anne, and thanks so much for the shout out on my novella post. I started writing by focusing on lots of short stories, flash first, and it was a huge stretch, literally and figuratively, to write anything longer than what the E Age is now calling novellas, about 15K words to 40K or so, depending on the publisher. I think the biggest mistake I've made, and recently, too, was sending my novella e book in for a review before first checking out WHAT kinds of books the site reviewed. Yikes. Never send a sweet romance to a hard core M/M (Male/Male) book reviewer. Learned the hard way. Now I'm much more careful. I think once we get a new book pubbed, we often have the tendency to get it before the public eye and fast. Uh--uh. Pays to do research before sending it out. Learned the hard way. Thanks again for your honesty. We've all been there in some fashion. See you next week.

January 18, 2015 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Jensen said...

Great post, Anne. I've made quite a few of those same mistakes, but I think I"ve moved on to new ones now! I had also made a decision not to buy more Kindle books until I had read some of what I had, but your Ghostwriters is a must read! Not only was Ghost Riders in the Sky a favorite song long ago (still is, if I chance to hear it), but I lived in Santa Ynez as a child! So I've popped over to Amazon with a one-click, and NOW maybe I'll stop buying. :) Off to read your WD article. Thanks!

January 18, 2015 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

How much money had I spent before I even attempted querying agents? Before I even finished my first novel (which turned into 143,000 words) I was going to be a major bestseller. Ha! I love this list.

The funny thing is, I can't believe how much I LEARNED in such a short time. I used to write on legal pads and my trusty Smith-Corona. I didn't get my first pc until 2002. I was clueless. Now I astonish myself with what I actually know how to do. And that's just the mechanics of writing. That's not even what I know about editing or writing for that matter. I used to cry when I got critiques back from my partners -- all red line and comments. Now, there's hardly a comma out of place.

It's taken nearly 10 years to get where I am but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

January 18, 2015 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Your novella post was one of our most popular posts of 2014! I think people who start with the shorter forms and then build do better in the long run. It worked for Catherine Ryan Hyde. I think she had over 100 short stories published before she published a novel. Last year she was #1 seller on Amazon for several months.

GREAT TIP! Never submit to a blog without reading the blog first. You wouldn't believe how many people query me thinking I'm a book reviewer. All it takes is 30 seconds to see what somebody blogs about..

January 18, 2015 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--Hey if we're not still making mistakes, we're not learning. :-)

I know how you feel about having too many unread books on our Kindles. So I'm so jazzed you decided to buy Ghostwriters in the Sky. Yes, I adored that song by the Sons of the Pioneers when I was growing up, too. And if you lived in Santa Ynez, I think you'll recognize a lot of places. I based the dude ranch partly on the Alisal, which is in Solvang, but that's not far away. And yes, the Solvang danish pastries make an appearance.

January 18, 2015 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--Isn't it amazing how much it used to cost just to get a few agent names and addresses (that were usually outdated)?

I got a word processor fairly early on, but I didn't learn anything about going online until about 2000, so I hear you. Clueless is right. I figure we're keeping our brains young by having to learn all this new tech all the time.

And yes, we do get better. I used to be the slowest writer ever. And I'd take years editing. Now I'm much more likely to get it right the first time. (not that I don't still need my editor.)

Congrats on all your successes Anne! You've built a great reputation as a Regency Romance writer. And I know you write contemp. romance, too.

January 18, 2015 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Sue Coletta said...

I made only one of these mistakes, thankfully, but it cost me seven full requests. I listened to someone who thought he knew everything, but actually knew less than I did at the time. He had me put in info. dumps of back story in the FIRST chapter. Yeah, I was stupid and listened. He was very convincing. Now, years later, he still contacts me telling me I owe him one. And it took me until now to realize he has serious psychological issues that I was unaware of-- scary issues that I want no part of.

January 18, 2015 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Deb Atwood said...

Fun post, Anne. I especially related to number 6. I started out writing like Edith Wharton, which my critique readers found "authorial." While there's much to be learned from the masters, I find reading contemporary and genre authors adds to my writing. Even reading the occasional "bad" book can be enlightening.

January 18, 2015 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--Oh, I KNOW that guy. We've all met a version of him in some critique group or forum: the idiot-tyrant.

The incompetent Dunning-Kruger ones are not as dangerous as the crazy-bully types who spend their lives trying to "prove" that black is white and up is down.

We even sometimes get them on this blog. It's always a dilemma trying to decide whether to delete and maybe further anger them, or let a crazy comment stand and hope nobody will take the bogus advice.

I hope you can ignore this guy and let him fade from your life. And I hope you were able to restore your book to its original state.

January 18, 2015 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deb--Great to meet another "lit nerd". Yup, writing like Edith Wharton is not going to get many contemporary readers, brilliant as her writing is. And yes, reading "bad" books is a great education. Dan Brown isn't a great stylist, but he sure knows how to pace a story. I don't love the work of James Patterson, but I've learned a ton from him on how to pare down a chapter and use white space. The old superhero comic books can be helpful, too: see what they chose to picture and how it focuses the story.

January 18, 2015 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, it's so good to be back from my "vacation" and come to this post first thing. Ah yes, as they say, been there, done that. Done some of that more times than I care to admit.

Love your advice. But more than anything, I love your tenacity. You and Ruth are truly inspirations. Oh ... and a Happy New Year to you both :)

January 18, 2015 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--Happy New Year to you too. I've missed you! Yeah, I guess you could say Ruth and I are pretty durn stubborn. We just keep on keeping on. This business is always a roller coaster. You've got to hang on and enjoy the ride. Welcome back!

January 18, 2015 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

I thought I was the only one making these mistakes! Most of these problems I've cleared up in the last two years, although I'm having a CP problem where the romance authors tell me one thing and the suspense writers tell me another. Argh! I'm fixing it by getting some new guy horror writers as CPs. Thanks for sharing the painful lessons! I'm sure they'll help a lot of people. :)

January 18, 2015 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great list. I am impressed at your willingness to be so honest with us. I will be honest...I do believe I have done most of the items on your list.

I just happened to look at the "minutes spent editing" detail on the second of my trilogy today. Don't know why. I've never noticed it before. Only 53 hours. How could that be? I have a long way to go to get to 10,000 even if I add up everything I've ever written I'm afraid. Oh well...onward an upward toward perfection! Thanks again for sharing your hard earned wisdom!

January 18, 2015 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexa--Oh, no. You're not alone! There is often a disconnect between writers of different genres. Don't let the horror guys rewrite a romance! :-) Best of luck finding the happy medium.

January 18, 2015 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--Honesty is the best policy :-) to a point, of course,

I don't know about that "minutes spent editing" thing. Is that a function of Word now? I'm not sure if they could really tell if I was editing or not. That 10,000 hours is for writing, not just editing. I'm sure I spend as much time rewriting as writing.

January 18, 2015 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Janine Stubbs said...

I edit much faster on the word processor than I do writing in long hand. But when writing longhand, it seems ideas flourish and emerge easier. At least I notice it more when journaling or writing memoirs. Words, descriptions, and ideas fly out with speed.

January 18, 2015 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Excellent advice. When I first joined a critique group, everyone was amateurs like me. Problem was, I didn't see them as amateurs. I saw them as much better and more knowledgeable than me. I tried to please them. I cried after meetings. Seriously.

Now I have a much better perspective, plus thicker skin. Thicker skin is a must!

January 18, 2015 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Janine--Many well known writers compose longhand. I think one is Neil Gaiman, who is certainly very much a 21st century writer.

January 18, 2015 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Your story isn't unusual. Some people get stuck, but they feel the fact they've been at it a long time gives them authority. Unfortunately, it often means they only know how to fail. I've been a victim of this kind of person, too. So sorry they caused you pain.

January 18, 2015 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

WOW! Have you been lurking in my critique group? You've nailed everything we've run up against. I love this post so much. Thank you for confirming my suspicions. I am going to share with my group and cross my fingers they see themselves and take heed! I am!

Another GREAT blog post. Thank you!

~ Tam Francis ~

January 18, 2015 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--I sure have been in a lot of critique groups, classes and workshops over the last couple of decades, and it's amazing how similar the problems are. Critique groups are really useful and helpful...to a point.

January 18, 2015 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Claude Forthomme said...

Great list, Anne, and so useful to any aspiring writer (and veterans too!) I would only add one thing: it's true what you say, that with Internet these days, we have all the needed information at our fingertips (including from your wonderful blog!) and we really no longer need waste time the way we used to do - but it is also true that self-publishing is way TOO easy.

Too many people fall into the KDP trap. They publish before they are ready simply because they don't realized they are not really ready and no beta reader or citique group can help you on that one. People will criticize you but they won't tell you you're not ready to publish...I know, because that's what happened to me and I deeply regret now that I went down the road of self-publishing. I've always been a fairly "dynamic" sort of person, not afraid of challenges, willing to take on risks, and with a (demonstrated) capacity for entrepreneurial activity (at least judging from my past career). And I've always believed I had a natural talent for writing, it comes to me easily, I enjoy it and of course I love reading above any other form of entertainment. Above any other activity in life. Really, really love it!

And that combination of characteristics unfortunately made me a prime candidate for self-publishing. Big mistake, I wish I had thought twice before pressing that KDP button. The result was that after I'd published my books (6 so far) I went back to KDP and uploaded revised versions of my books - now, after many revisions, I can say I feel pretty satisfied that they are all "up to par", they are the way I want them to be and I'm no longer ashamed. You might say I even feel they are pretty damn good. The trouble is this: when you keep changing book titles and uploading revised versions, you are really using self-publishing as a way to "critique" your book to a wider public (and that's the positive interpretation) but you are also running the risk of falling out of view, disappearing into the cracks, and then the fall is huge (there are 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store and nobody should believe the trope that the cream rises to the top, it doesn't).

So my advice to any aspiring writer would be: Do. Not. Self-publish. First get traditionally published, then, once you've got a nice back list, self-publish it, but don't do it before you've got that back list in your hands.

Self-publishing your first novel is another way of putting the cart before the horse, your well-taken point #3!

January 19, 2015 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger Joy Moore said...

I loved learning about the Dunning- Kruger effect. Yes, I also had read the earlier post about why we should ignore most of the advice of your critique group. But, the Dunning-Kruger effect? That is so true!!!

January 19, 2015 at 5:28 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

This article is like an evil, black comedy. So true it hurts, and causes occasional laughter. Following your and other blogs has helped weed out the bad tendencies. In general, I've come to believe that writing is about cycles, finish one then start the other. Interestingly enough, I still am defensive about those "digital" communities. Everybody is tough behind a monitor and it can get to be tiring.

I worried too much about the publishing and left my WIP to rot for three years! Good thing stinky cheese is worth it :)

January 19, 2015 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Good point. People could self-publish safely, if they have a very realistic and honest support group. So, the points in this article balance each other out, in my opinion, you can self publish, if you have surrounded yourself by an objective development of your book. I for one am pushing for traditional, and still feel defensive about self publishing.

January 19, 2015 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--You make a strong argument for something I've been harping on for years. If you've only written one book, the odds say you're not ready to self-publish. It takes 10,000 hours of writing before you're ready to compete in the marketplace. And a lot of those hours have to be spent rewriting and studying craft.

Some newbies ARE using the publishing process as their critique group, often with disastrous results. We now have a whole community of readers who hate all self-publishers and often write swarms of negative reviews even if they haven't read the book. They assume anything self-published is unedited trash.. Nobody should add to the bad press indies get by throwing unedited stuff on Amazon.

If they are tempted to put stuff out there to get critique from the general populace, the place to post the work is Wattpad, which doesn't charge readers money, and they are invited to give feedback..

Bernardo--Absolutely: a person who has done their homework and has a solid, edited product can do very well with self-publishing. But every writer has to decide for himself which path is right for him. Don't let anybody tell you that it's "stupid" to take the traditional path. Neither path is a sure thing, and neither is likely to make much money, so do what feels right for your career.

January 19, 2015 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Joy--I only found out about Dunning-Kruger after I wrote that post. A Facebook friend told me about in a discussion of the post. It explains critique group bullies so well, doesn't it?

January 19, 2015 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--I think learning about anything is a kind of upward spiral. You go around in circles, but each one takes you a little higher. Every phase of writing has its share of mistakes. And most of us make them.

I agree that online critique groups are more likely to harbor unhelpful bully types. Or maybe because we can't see people, we can't tell who to ignore. If you knew the guy who's telling you you'll never be published if you don't follow his advice is wearing a tinfoil hat and a conspiracy-theory tee shirt, you wouldn't consider listening to him.

I'm sorry to hear the bully types pushed you to abandon your ms. for three years, but glad to hear you're back to it.

January 19, 2015 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Tracy Campbell said...

Thanks so much Anne for sharing your experiences. It's good to know I'm not alone. :-)

January 19, 2015 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tracy--You're definitely not alone. I think we all have made these mistakes at one time or another.

January 19, 2015 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this list of no-nos, Anne. First, it shows that we are all human. Second, we can learn from your example.
My biggest no-no was submitting one manuscript at a time to one publisher at a time. I waited two years for one rejection letter.
Now when a manuscript bounces back I re-read it, revise if necessary and send it out again -- if possible to more than one publisher.
Life is too short to wait.

January 19, 2015 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--I could probably make another list of mistakes I made when I was querying. Waiting forever is one of them. When I landed my first agent, I followed the rule "don't call us; we'll call you. So I waited. Nearly 8 months. Finally I called and...he'd left the agency!

The trouble with submitting directly to publishers is a lot of them still have draconian rules about simultaneous submissions. But that's just plain bullying. If somebody asks for an exclusive, just ignore it and submit wherever you want. The worst that can happen is you have several offers to choose from. If you violate an "exclusive" request, you're not being unethical, they are. These people are demanding that you put your life on hold for years. Crazy!

January 19, 2015 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this encouragement, Anne. I have submitted to publisher who requested exclusivity. One has bounced back with a rejection letter. The other is still with the publisher. I will wait for their answer -- because I want to work with them so badly, and I think the fit is very good. However, your words have given me food for thought. I'm just very thankfully that I have a stack of projects to find homes for right now.

January 20, 2015 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this encouragement, Anne. I have submitted to publishers who requested exclusivity. One has bounced back with a rejection letter. The other is still with the publisher. I will wait for their answer -- because I want to work with them so badly, and I think the fit is very good. However, your words have given me food for thought. I'm just very thankfully that I have a stack of projects to find homes for right now.

January 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

I, too, made most of those mistakes, like exclusivity. One publisher took 25 months, another 34! Now I query after three months and then give them a deadline to respond Yes or No. With self-publishing a current option, we can be more choosey.

January 20, 2015 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

Oh, I've been attacked over my writing before. Brutally, bullying and obscenely. It's that kind of critique that is the most difficult to overcome/fight back against.

January 21, 2015 at 3:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--There's good advice in Phyllis Humphrey's comment below. Give them 1-3 months, tops. Many agents say you shouldn't grant an exclusive for more than 3 weeks. Then go ahead and start submitting other places. You don't have to tell them you're submitting elsewhere, and if they give you an offer, go ahead and take it and withdraw your other submissions. But you won't be giving them so much power over you if you quietly submit to other publishers.

January 21, 2015 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--Great advice here. And you're so right. Self-publishing helps all authors, whether or not they self-publish, because it gives us more options--and more power. We get to say no to exclusives and other ways publishers have treated authors as if our time and our work has no value.

January 21, 2015 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Margaret Welwood said...

You didn't mention my incredible faux pas when approaching our local newspaper for freelance work. I circled--in red--the typos in some of his articles and offered to proofread for him! Thankfully, he still let me write for the paper.
I've actually found that soliciting non-writers' opinions works very well. Perhaps it's different with children's picture books, or perhaps I just know some very helpful non-writers.

January 21, 2015 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Margaret--Oh, no. Probably correcting the work of people higher than you are on the totem pole is a no-no too. Luckily I never did that one.

Children's picture books must be quite different. I'm sure you want some reaction from actual children, who usually aren't professional writers. LOL.

January 21, 2015 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Great post! Totally agree with #3 and #4 - found #5 to be quite thought-provoking. Thanks, Anne! You always keep me thinking and on my toes.

January 21, 2015 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Thanks a bunch. People who write for your 100 word flash fiction pieces should be great on #5. If they can write flash fiction, writing that hook and logline for a novel will be so much easier! And as a reviewer, you're learning so much most new writers don't know about what's being published right now.

January 21, 2015 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Stephen del Mar said...

"50 Shades of Duck Dynasty" Oh my, I need to wipe off my monitor now. I'm still laughing. Great post. Thanks. But oh my, that line. :)

January 22, 2015 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Stephen--Thanks a bunch for letting me know you liked my joke! I feel I'm fulfilling my purpose on the planet when I can make somebody laugh.

January 22, 2015 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Liz Penney said...

I was always leery of critique groups as it seemed very important to have the right people and chemistry. But as an early writer, I could have benefited from some good betas. I also had a spouse who refused to read anything. The internet writing community has really made it easier to find like-minded writers and friends. I also have a new husband who loves my writing and edits for me. :)

January 23, 2015 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--I just saw a comment by a writer on FB who said she was going to start querying with her first novel "to see if it's any good". I wanted to warn her that agents won't tell you if it's any good. They will only tell you if it's what they're looking for right now. You need betas and critique groups to tell you if it's ready. You can't take every word they say as gospel, but they'll help way more than agents, who just don't have time. (and it's not their job.)

Hey, that's one solution to #1: get a new husband! :-)

January 23, 2015 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Merry said...

Love your list, Anne. I have to say, though, that I don't completely agree with #3. I teach a self-publishing course at my local community college and get a number of people taking it who have yet to take my writing course or even start their book. They want to know what's involved in publishing first, learn a bit about the industry and I encourage this. I think it's important to know what you're getting into before doing so. I've had some pre-authors say "nope, not for me" and leave the idea right then and there. And I've had some get really fired up and start taking my writing course to learn the craft.
Thanks for your blogs!

January 29, 2015 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Merry--Thanks! Taking a course in self-publishing can be informative to the non-writer, of course, but I do think it's better to have some writing under your belt before you start imagining making millions from your ebooks. People like that are the ones who toss something off and stick it on Amazon and add to the bad reputation of indies.

I also think it may scare away good creative writers who would be happier with a traditional publisher. Not every writer is cut out to run a business. A lot of new writers are getting the message that they MUST self-publish, but traditional routes are still open. By getting into writing first, a writer has a better chance of sticking with a WIP and not being scared off by a lot of technical things they may not need to know

January 29, 2015 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Lulu Salavegsen said...

This is such a helpful article. It made me cringe a bit in recognition of myself. I'm still new and not great, but It has taken me 37 years to be honest enough to look back at manuscripts I've had for decades that are 80 percent rubbish, yet include small buds of promise hidden in the overly-descriptive, taken-far-too-seriously drivel. Your disarming tone gives permission to someone like me to work hard at honing in on the threads of strength and shave the pilling. Thank you!

April 8, 2015 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lulu--I'm so glad this post helps. On April 26th, Ruth is going to have a post on how to fix those old "rubbish" manuscripts. I think you'll find it helpful!

April 8, 2015 at 9:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home