Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
I Don't Want to Do Anything
by Jennifer Paros
You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.
~ Lucille Ball
At the start of this school year, my fourteen- year-old son declared his desire to write a book and to use some of our homeschooling class time to work on it each day. So we set to it. But as he sat before the computer, he'd often slump, push his hands through his hair, and claim exhaustion. Then, despite my objections, encouragement, counsel, and insisting, he would close the laptop, having written little or nothing. One day at the start of our time together, he said, "I don't want to do anything."
What stood between him and his desire? It seemed the same nebulous, choking force I had witnessed in my own experience - the stunning thought that life would be easier and less stressful if I simply didn't participate in it. But this is a tired mind's false solution to an anxious mind's problem. The other false solution is to "make ourselves" do things.
When I was my son's age, I thought avoiding discomfort was my best chance at feeling okay. I tried to make myself comfortable by not doing things. Later, I tried the "make myself do it" approach. For a time, I herded my body and mind through the next challenges and whatever I thought I should do. Though there were certainly gains, there was also a lack of joy. It was a marching game that left me enervated.
Though we speak of "making ourselves" do things, the language is inaccurate. There are no separate selves - no "I" at the wheel honking the horn ready to leave, and another "I" refusing to get in the car. Rather, there are two forms of thought, producing two different, conflicting feelings. We don't have to talk ourselves into anything. It's not a wrestling match - no strong-arming, no threats, no shaming necessary. This is a game of recognition of and relationship to our own thinking. more...
Attracting an Agent: It Takes More than Good Writing
by Erin Brown
You've written an epic novel (The Sound and the Fury, Part Two: The Really Loud and the Really Mad), or the next great self-help book ( You: A Renter's Manual) and you figure, "That's it. Now this puppy will sell itself. Agents and editors will realize the gold mine they have on their desk and the rest is history!" Right? Wrong. You might well have the next best thing since sliced bread and your writing talent could be genuinely brilliant, but if you don't present yourself well to an agent (and an editor!), then you could very well shoot yourself in the foot. Sure, writing a fantabulous manuscript is essential to landing an agent and selling the book. But presenting yourself as an amenable author that an agent and publishing house wants to work with is a huge component too. Remember that an agent isn't only signing your book, but you as well. They will be devoting an inordinate amount of time to you and your work, and will want to work with someone that they like, or at least an author who isn't a total jackass. So how do you present yourself in the best way possible, increasing your chances for representation and ultimately publication? (*Note: bribery is so 2007, so up the ante or switch tactics if that's not working.)
Here are the Dos and Don'ts:
DO get your manuscript into the best shape possible before submitting to agents. As I've mentioned before, hire an editor or join a critique group; copyedit and proofread your manuscript. Get that bad boy in tip-top shape. Presenting a solid and clean manuscript reflects well on you. The opposite is also true (i.e. "If an author can't bother to take the time to proof their manuscript, then why should our agency invest our time in him or her?") . more...
by Cherie Tucker
One of the first grammar articles to appear in Author was about the serial or Oxford comma, that little mark that comes before the and, or, or nor in a horizontal list of more than two items. Do you like dark, milk, or white chocolate? There is a new swell afoot to get rid of that comma by those who say it is unnecessary. Journalists are taught not to use it, which is why you sometimes have to re-read things in the paper to figure out what they mean. And the Brits don't use it at all. That little comma serves a valuable function for the reader and especially for the writer. Writing, after all, is a form of mind control. Some might say it's the most powerful form. When someone is reading your writing, you have that reader under your spell. Strategically placed punctuation helps the readers process your information without even noticing that a sentence has momentarily been interrupted to give them some additional information.
Sanders, the last person she expected to see, rose from the chair and stared at her.
However, if you give readers false or unclear directions, you not only lose that control, you turn over to the readers the power to decide what you meant to say. Which brings us to the importance of the serial comma. In the old story of the will that left three brothers a huge fortune, it listed them without the serial comma as "Tom, Dick and Harry." That omission caused the judge to award half the amount to Tom and the other half to Dick and Harry. Would that judge have read the sentence below as about four people or two? more...
Writing From Life
by Molly Best Tinsley
Memoir has been the next new thing for at least twenty years, gobbling up the pie-share of sales that used to go to literary fiction. Speculation abounds as to the reason for the shift. Compared to a literary novel riddled with symbolism and ambiguity, maybe non-fiction seems to offer a clear, reality-based take-away. Memoir is the more practical choice, and we live in a practical age. Maybe memoir triggers our inner voyeur. Maybe readers have been hooked by the same packaging gimmick that draws viewers to the hyper-contrived worlds of "reality" TV.
And maybe, considering that the two genres are so close in appearance they could pass for each other in dim light, the change isn't that big a deal. Everyone knows that fiction is rooted in remembered fact, however twisted or thin the tendril. And no one assumes that every person, place, and event in a memoir exactly mirrors the author's lived experience.
Whatever. Having decided three years ago to write a memoir myself, I am pretty up on what motivates the author. I don't think it's exhibitionism or an inflated self-esteem that makes us choose to expose our private lives rather than hide behind fictional camouflage. In my own case, I wanted to document a situation that needed to be changed. I also wanted to memorialize real people. But maybe most to the point, I took refuge in memoir because real life had become so bizarre that only the rubric of non-fiction could handle it. Fiction, even magical realism, has standards of credibility and coherence after all. more...
How to Set Up a Virtual Book Tour
by Midge Raymond
Virtual book tours are wonderful, especially if you're not able to do an extensive in-person tour. What is a "virtual book tour," exactly? It's simply another way to get out there and do what authors do-talk about your book, connect with readers, answer questions-only this way, you're doing it all virtually (on blogs, in interviews, and in virtual book club or classroom visits) instead of in person. The nice thing about this is that, unlike with a live book tour, on a virtual tour you can wear yoga pants the whole time. A virtual book tour is perfect for authors who aren't able to travel-and it's also a great way to supplement an in-person tour.
In terms of planning, however, a virtual tour may take as much work as a regular book tour; even if you're not traveling, there's a lot of scheduling involved. Below are a few examples of virtual events you can include on your virtual tour.
Throw a virtual book launch party.
You can host it yourself, or ask your publisher or a friend to host it. A virtual launch party is one that takes place on a blog instead of at a place. Pick a date, send out e-mail invitations, and show up online.
Be sure to set a time frame as well, keeping in mind that a virtual book launch party works well if it's a day-long event, so that people can drop in whenever they're available (before or after work, during lunch hour, in the evening, etc.). And of course, you don't have to sit there waiting for comments the whole time, but do check in as often as you can, at least every hour or so, and be available to "chat" about your book (i.e., to answer questions through the comments section). more...
The Second Stage of Surprise: Frustration
by Jason Black
This article is part three in a series exploring the five stages of surprise as a writer's adaptation of the familiar five stages of grief emotional cycle. Last month, we dealt with denial. This month, we'll look at what happens next: frustration and the surface emotion of anger that comes with it. And while the frustration stage is never pleasant to experience, it can certainly be one of the most fun stages for authors to subject our characters to.
The classic five-stage model has anger as the second stage. Anger is certainly involved, but I view anger as a manifestation of a deeper sense of frustration. Whatever the unpleasant surprise is, it arrives while you-or your character-has something else in mind for their day, their week, or even their whole life. Dealing with the unexpected situation interrupts your plan. And it's always frustrating to have to do one thing when you'd rather be doing something else.
What's relevant is that frustration comes at the very instant one can no longer flatly deny the reality of a situation, because that's the moment when the situation definitively interrupts one's plan. Prior to that, people operate in a mode of denial, ignoring the situation and attempting to carry on as before.
The evolutionary psychology perspective on the fight-or-flight response is very illustrative, here. Denial is basically just flight: running away from unpleasant surprises. Frustration is the moment when we become aware that flight isn't going to work. That makes us feel cornered, trapped, and provokes our instinct to fight. This comes out as anger. more...