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The Art of Finding
What You Want

by Jennifer Paros

When I was nine, I found a small plastic folder in the wastebasket.  It was black and empty of its original notepad.  But this folder caught my attention, and excited me to the point that it seemed so valuable, I felt compelled to ask my mother if it was all right for me to keep it.  She agreed and I ran off to my bedroom to spend much of the afternoon cutting down sheets of notebook paper into a makeshift pad that would fit inside.  When I was done, I had my first journal and I couldn’t wait to write in it.  more...


Were You or Was You?

by Cherie Tucker

There has been a request to solve the mystery of when to use were versus was, so here goes.  If you have a sentence that expresses a wish or begins with if and is talking about something contrary to facts, you need to use something called the subjunctive while choosing your verbs.  (Don’t stop reading.)  

You use were and not was when the sentence is about wishing for something that is not actual or describing something with an if clause that defies physics or is at least not probable.


Dispatches From The Publishing Front


Taste vs. Marketplace: An Editor’s Dilemma
by Erin Brown

One of the most difficult things that an author can hear is, “I love your manuscript, but unfortunately, I can’t buy it—[fill in the blank of your genre] just isn’t selling right now.” “But, but, wait,” you think. “Everyone who’s read my paranormal Regency comedic romance says he/she would buy it in a second!” Ah, yes, your cousin, your mother, and even your writer’s group members would pony up some hard-earned cash for Lust Amongst the British Bogs: A Lady Philomena Love Story, but unfortunately the editor who also adores the story knows that the market is down for this type of bodice-ripper. (Please note that I am using this genre as an example only—do not throw away your paranormal Regency comedic erotica tale without doing some market research first.) 

Trust me, it’s just as frustrating for an editor to fall in love with the submission Brittney Jones’ Diary: One Woman’s Adventures in Parenthood and Secret Betrayal on the High Seas, only to pitch it to his or her boss and hear that the sales team was just discussing how B&N isn’t currently interested in any mommy lit/historical maritime mysteries, or whatever the downtrodden genre of the month might be. The market can be fickle and fleeting, which is why a previous column of mine focused on not writing to the market—once your book is finally ready for publication, that Twilight meets The Shack idea won’t be worth squat to a book buyer. Its time will have passed. 


  How Many Words a Day?

by James Thayer

How many words should we write each day?  What should be our pace?  Too fast, and it might be sloppy.  Too slow, and we’ll never finish our novels.  “The secret of becoming a writer,” Jerry Pournelle says, “is that you have to write.”  But how much each day?

A look at the output of successful writers might offer a guide.  Let’s assume a double-spaced manuscript page contains 300 words.

R.F. Delderfield, the English author of family sagas, wrote 33 pages each day, and he wrote until four o’clock in the afternoon.  If he finished a novel at three o’clock, he rolled a clean sheet of paper into his typewriter, and began the next novel, and worked until quitting time.  He credited a daily swim in the English Channel for his prodigious output.


Finding Opportunity in a Teacup

by Paula Margulies

I recently read Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea, the fascinating non-fiction account of how Mortenson, a mountain climber and American nurse, came to build fifty-five schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In one of my favorite parts of the book, Mortenson describes a 1998 talk he gave in a sports shop in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where the store staff was so busy he had to set up the seating -- over a hundred folding chairs -- himself. After weeks of publicity, including posters at a local college, an AM radio morning show interview, and segments in the local papers, he faced an audience of only three people: two store employees and a single customer, who hovered at the back of the room. Though he was dejected at the small showing and exhausted by his continual efforts at fundraising, Mortenson decided to give his talk anyway and began showing slides of K2’s infamous summit and the eighteen schools he’d built so far in Pakistan’s remote and impoverished countryside. As he spoke, Mortenson felt a renewed enthusiasm for his work and his devotion to the Pakistani people and gave his all to the presentation, even though his audience was small. more...



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