Thursday, August 28, 2008

Well, fuck.

I was going to post synopsis help yesterday. I vowed to do it today.

But it's gonna have to wait until I figure out how to explain it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Peter Allen's Ghost! Also, THE HOFF!

Okay, for YEARS I have told people about this television special I saw when I was little. It was something to do with Disneyland. It was really little at the time, like four or five. But of a few things, I was certain: Drew Barrymore was there, David Hasslehoff sang an oldies song in front of Space Mountain, Donna Summers danced with Cinderella and Snow White, Julian Lennon was there, and at the end, Peter Allen lead a marching band in front of a giant cake.

Obviously, no one believes me. This is the kind of thing I am prone to make up. Also, it's too unbelievable. David Hasselhoff? Peter Allen? A giant cake? Riiiiight.

But now I have proof. THANKS, YOUTUBE!



Why yes, those are Disney Animatronics singing "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters.

After the arrival of all the stars, Drew Barrymore and John Forsythe ask the Micromachines Man directions to Fantasyland. You see, it's vitally important that they arrive in time to see Donna Summers warble a disco ode to prostitution with Snow White and Cinderella. Then, there is some sentimental stuff about the building of Disneyland.



I'm really just waiting to get to the part where John and Drew introduce Alabama from the back of a flying Dumbo. Are you a fan of classic 80's country? Double-necked electric guitars? Mickey in a cowboy hat? You are so in luck, friends.



John gives Drew a history lesson about Dancing Hippos, which she responds to with her usual precociousness. Then, its off to part one of Debbie Allen's wildly inappropriate tribute to "Zippadee-doo-dah," where in she, dressed as a turn of the century New Orleans prostitute, leads costumed Mardi Gras revelers with high kicks and sheer spunk. And now, here's Roy! And after him? Tina Yothers and the guy who played the judge on Nightcourt, who finishes off a magic trick by handcuffing himself to his crotch.



At this point, all the naysayers who thought I was just making up wild tales need to realize that they gave too much credit to the power of my imagination. There is no way I could have been making this stuff up.

Along comes Bobby Bersini and his orangutans, who make rude noises set to music. And then, it's the moment I've been waiting for. One of them, anyway. People never believe me when I tell them my version of this story. I always tell them that David Hasselhoff drives in with KITT, jumps out in a black leather jacket outfit, and sings an oldies song.

It is so much more, my friends, than I could ever possibly imagine. The jacket is not black. It's SILVER. And he's not alone on stage. THE DANCING HIPPOS ARE THERE AS WELL. So are Minnie Mouse and, for some reason, Captain Hook. And the Big, Bad Wolf is playing guitar. With the Queen of Hearts on drums. It doesn't seem like it can get any more wonderful.

AND THEN BRER BEAR STARTS BREAK DANCING.

I could not make this up. Don't all of you doubters feel foolish now? VENGEANCE IS MINE!



Drew, John, and Dumbo introduce Marie Osmond, who sings and dances under an enormous pile of hair. Not only does she have more teeth than the average human, she has more hair, too. It's a scientific fact.

Then, after a ride through my favorite attraction, Donna Summers sings "Unconditional Love" in front of it.



The Pointer Sisters show up and perform amidst a flock of dancers dressed as Tron drivers. If anyone figures out what the "neutron dance" is, and if it applies to cold fusion somehow, please let me know.

Then, something happens that ruined my life for like, twenty-two years. No joke. Julian Lennon, who looks about twenty here, sings "Too Late For Goodbyes" on a raft in the Frontierland river. Which is fine, because it's a pleasant song. But after seeing this and hearing this song for the first time, it was then stuck in my head for OVER TWENTY YEARS. This, right here, is the reason that song was stuck in my head for so long. This isn't an exaggeration, you can ask people who have known me for a long time, and they'll back me about the twenty years thing. It took FOREVER to get it out. I'm afraid to listen to it, because it might get stuck back in there. So, you'll have to just watch the following clip without me:



After Drew and John talk about the various celebrities who've visited Disneyland and Annette Funicello, queen of the mouseketeers, makes Drew an honorary member of the Mickey Mouse Club, it's time for part two of Debbie Allen's "Zipadee-doo-dah" tribute, which shall henceforth be known as Debbie Allen's Jungle Freak Out. In order to calm you down from the wild native rhythms, the celebration cuts to Alabama performing on the Mark Twain riverboat as some lucky Disneyland guests turn it into a waterbound fire hazard.



Part 8 of our wonderful journey brings us to Marie Osmond and her huge hair wishing for a handsome prince to come sweep her off her feet. Unfortunately, the best Disney can do for her is David Hasselhoff. They sing a song together in front of a romantic tableau of dancers, but really, you can't concentrate on it at all, because their combined hair volume is truly alarming.

Throughout the show, imagineers share their memories of opening day. And as the show goes on, the memories seem to get progressively darker... like they're remembering a war or something. The tales start to sound pretty grizzly in this installment, what with the sinking boats and parents throwing their children around.

Oh, and Julian Lennon does an eerie impression of his father.



Returning from the commercial break, Debbie Allen does her best to offend and embarrass South American peoples everywhere with her calypso version of "Zippadee-doo-dah," but it is blessedly short. Then, a chimney sweep dance serves as an introduction to a lady who certainly doesn't need one. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins herself, shows up to sing a bit from her legendary role and share a truly moving, personal story about Walt Disney that I used to fast forward through when I would watch this on video as a child. Then, she launches into the song that makes me weep every flipping time I hear it.



Okay, now comes the moment you've all been waiting for. At least, I have been waiting for it. It truly must be seen to be believed. If you have not clicked on any of these videos yet, you owe it to yourself to watch at least this one. After much fanfare, PETER ALLEN, dressed in a SPARKLY GOLD AND SILVER MARCHING BAND UNIFORM emerges from the castle gates and dances and sings his way down Mainstreet, U.S.A. This is another one of those things no one believes when I tell them. But I swear, it's the best thing you'll ever see in your life. Then, Mickey comes out on a giant cake, and Peter dances around THAT.



There you are. Probably the best hour you will ever spend in your entire life. Or, if you were like me, and your grandmother taped this when you were young, the best seventy or so hours, after repeated viewings.

Synopsis help will be on the way tomorrow. This was just too good not to share.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#3: My Query Letter Can Eat A Bowl Of Moby-Dicks! I Quit! I Hate Writing!

Okay, the internet appears to be working, my eyes are weirdly crusted shut from too much sleep, I can't drink coffee because of the ungrateful parasite taking up room in my uterus, and I've got Peter Allen blaring from my iPod. This is going to either be awesome, or total failure.

Okay. So, you're getting your manuscript ready for it's long trip to judgment. So far, you've:

  • Figured out where this thing is going
  • Made it somewhat presentable to the person who's getting it.


Sometimes, depending on the publisher, you have to basically ask their permission to send them your manuscript. How do you do that? Different publishers have different submissions rules. They will ask for one or more of the following before asking you to actually ship off your manuscript:
  • A query letter
  • A brief synopsis
  • A detailed synopsis


These words strike fear into the heart of writers. I know this, because I know a lot of writers. Writers dread queries and synopsii almost as much as they dread the question, "So, what's your book about?" I'm sure it's something to do with trying to condense the events of the imaginary world in your head down to an easy to digest, literate sounding answer. After all, how can you look at all of your hard work, the complex themes and characterization that you've agonized over, and pick out just the important bits? They're all important, or else they wouldn't be in there, right?

At this point, I am imagining Herman Melville pitching Moby-Dick to a modern day editor who has just said, "So, tell me about your book." I imagine a panicked look in his suddenly dilated pupils, beads of sweat rolling of his forehead as he struggles valiantly to form a coherent sentence that doesn't start with "Well, you see, there's this whale..."

The query letter is the on-paper equivalent of "Well, you see, there's this whale..." crammed in with "Also, let me tell you a bit about myself." This is one sheet of paper, with a proper letterhead and everything, in which you have to sell not only your book, but yourself as an author. So, you've basically got three paragraphs.

Here's how you do it. Or, at least, here's my way of doing it:

You've got about three paragraphs. In your first paragraph, you need to give them a little introduction about what you're sending, and why you're sending it. Something like this (obviously, not EXACTLY like this... it needs to sound professional while still showing some of your personality):

Dear Editor:
I am contacting you in regards to my novel, MOBY-DICK, a [insert word count here] novel that I feel would be perfectly at home at [insert publishing company or imprint here].


Just a little something to let them know, right off the bat, what you're looking for. You're writing to them to pitch them your novel. Some people think it's tacky and impersonal to start off a letter asking for something right away. To those people, I ask, "have you ever met an editor who wasn't busy, and just had time to read penpal letters all day?" You're not apply for the position of BFF or World's Best Butt Kisser. Just throw it out there and don't waste their time.

And yes, I do advocate capitalizing the title of your manuscript in your letter. It's advertising, and you want them to remember the title, even if it's so they can spell it right on your rejection letter.

In your second paragraph, you're going to tell them something about the book. Yup, this is the dreaded, "Well, you see, there's this whale..." paragraph, where you're going to condense everything down into a few sentences. Here, we take a page from all of those trailers for big budget Hollywood action movies. You know, the ones that begin with, "In a world where," and the narrator with the voice that sounds like if Chuck Norris sounded as bad ass as he really is tells you the plot of the movie in a few sentences? Those are excellent things to study for our purpose here. You don't have to tell them every single thing about the story... they need to know three basic things:
  1. What the important parts of the setting are
  2. Who the protagonist is
  3. What they have to overcome in the plot

Your second paragraph should read something like this:

MOBY-DICK tells the tale of Ishmael, a sailor who has embarked on what at first appears to be a routine whaling voyage. It soon becomes apparent that the captain intends this to be a mission of revenge against the legendary and feared white whale, Moby-Dick. As they sail toward their inevitable confrontation with the beast, Ishmael watches the captain sink further and further into a madness that may destroy them all.

That sounds exciting, doesn't it? Makes you want to run out and buy a copy of Moby-Dick! Or, at least, leaf through one and see what all the fuss is about. And that's what you want this editor to do. You want them to read your very brief summary of your book and go, "Huh, I wonder what happens to that Ishmael guy," long enough to dash off a letter asking you to send the first three chapters and a synopsis.

In your last paragraph, you're going to tell them something about yourself as a writer (like, what other work you have published or what won contests, etc.), and reiterate why you're telling them all of this stuff, like this:

In the past six years, I've had five other novels see publication: Typee, Omoo, Redburn, White-Jacket, and Mardi, but I feel that MOBY-DICK is my greatest achievement thus far. With your permission, I would be glad to send a copy of the manuscript at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
H. Melville


What has happened in that query letter is, I've stated my (okay, Herman Melville's) intention to pitch my (Melville's) novel, given a small pitch, and asked if it would be okay to send it along. Easy enough, once it's all demystified.

No, they don't need to be longer. No, they don't need to hear about your pet turtles or get to know you as a person. And they sure as shit don't need to know about any other houses that have rejected your manuscript. No, I'm not kidding. There are actually people who will send off query letters with exceedingly negative sections in them. Everything from "I used to belong to a writer's organization, but they didn't understand me and were jealous of my talent" to "I previously sent this manuscript to this other publishing house, and they didn't buy it, so they're obviously short-sighted morons."

Do not do that. That is bad. The only thing you should add is if you had contact with this editor previously. Something along the lines of, "I am contacting you in regards to my novel, MOBY-DICK, which I spoke to you about at RWA Nationals this past July in San Francisco," as your opening line, or "I have previously submitted to you my novel, Typee, which you declined, but at the time you expressed interest in seeing another work in the future, so I would be glad to send the MOBY-DICK manuscript at your earliest convenience," to your last paragraph. The editor might see that and go, "Oh, right, Typee. I remember that. It was good, but we had just purchased another vaguely homoerotic sailing story, and we couldn't fit two in the lineup. Yeah, I'll take a look at that." Just don't go into a woe-is-me tale of "I sent you my last book, but it wasn't good enough. So, I hope this one is. LE SOB!"

I was planning on making today all about synposises/syposes/synopsii, as well, but my brain is fried and I need a nap. Tomorrow, look for exciting Lesson #4: First, This Happens, And Then, Some Other Stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ah, crap.

Due to wonky internet, which will be solved shortly, I will return with the next part of the submission tutorial on Wednesday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Grab Blog

Today is a much needed day off for your dear writer. And I'm going to the zoo.

That has nothing to do with Friday Grab Blog today, my friends. Today, I'm going to post one of my favorite execution videos from YouTube. It's footage, with weird music added, for some stupid reason, of a criminal being executed in France by guillotine. Yup, it's real.

You have been warned. But it is very efficient and kind of cool.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lesson #2: They Want Me To Do What Now?

So, as discussed yesterday, you now:
  • Have your first draft finished
  • Know where you're going to submit
  • Have a copy of the publisher's guidelines for submission in your hot little hands


For this example, I'm going to totally steal the submissions guidelines from my own company, Harlequin, because those are the ones I know best. Guidelines for each line are available on eHarlequin.com. You just scroll right on down past the bells and whistles, and in small print at the bottom of the main page, you'll see the words, "Submission Guidelines," which will lead you to the magical world of this page, where you can find not only general manuscript format guidelines, but also descriptions of each imprint and what they publish. Which you might totally find helpful while working step #1 of this long process.

So, you have the guidelines in front of you. Now, even though I'm working from Harlequin's guidelines, and Harlequin, in their tree-saving wisdom, doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts (you have to query them first... don't worry, we'll talk about queries tomorrow), we're going to assume that you're sending a full or partial manuscript along.

So, here you are, clutching your list of manuscript guidelines, because you printed them off, which is extra smart of you, because if this is your first time, you're going to want to cross things off the list as you go so as not to forget anything.

Let's go to the guidelines and find out what good old HQ expects of us:

Harlequin®, Silhouette®, Mills & Boon® and Steeple Hill® publish only category/series romance and women's fiction. Please do not submit any type of nonfiction. Your manuscript should be told in the third person, primarily from the heroine's point of view. However, the hero's perspective may be used to enhance tension, plot or character development. Please see the guidelines for each series for details.


Only you can tell for certain if your book fits into the guidelines for where you're sending it. But what if you read that paragraph and go, "Oh, great, I have like, two scenes from the best friend's point of view!" do not despair! You can still submit your manuscript. All you have to do is change those two scenes, right?

HELL TO THE NAW, my friends! Do not, under any circumstances, change your story to fit a particular publisher's guidelines UNLESS THEY ASK YOU TO. Why? Because let's go ahead and imagine that you're an editor. This great book comes across your desk (ew, that was probably not the best imagery I could have used) and it's just perfect. Except for the two scenes that are written in the best friend's POV. You know it will fit perfectly in your line, be a balls out best seller, but those two pesky scenes. Guess you can't buy it now.

Or, can you? Can you, in your infinite editorial wisdom, contract the author and ask them to remove or rework those scenes during the revision process? Why yes, yes you can. It is in your power, mighty editor. You wield the sword of revisions like a modern day Excalibur, red ink glistening in triumph upon its blade! Oh, the pen is mightier than the sword, dear readers. Far, far more mighty.

What I'm saying is, unless you find out at this crucial stage that your manuscript is not at all fit for the publisher's consumption ("Heroine and Hero? My book is about a bowl of fruit, slowly decaying on a counter top! It's a metaphor for the decline of society, and it's brilliant!"), don't go hacking away at your manuscript until they tell you to.

That rule goes for word count, too. Unless your book is grossly over-inflated for the publisher's requirements (You wouldn't submit a 100K novel to a 50K word limit line), don't go trimming the heck out of it. If an extra 5 or 10k are a problem for them, let them choose where to lose them. That's what editors are for. Editing. See violent pen imagery, above.

So, you can check that one off. Phew. Let's take a look at the next one:

All material should be the author's own original work. Stories that contain scenes or plotlines that bear a striking resemblance to previously published work are in breach of copyright law and are not acceptable.


I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and guess that since you're at the point of seriously considering submitting your work to a major publisher, you've done enough research about writing to know that plagiarism isn't okay. If you're reasonably sure that you didn't take a bunch of Ambien, black out, and type up a word-for-word recap of what happened on Big Brother last night, then you can check this one off. If you think no one is going to recognize the startling similarities between your book and "Paradise Lost," well, you're beyond my help. Go in peace, and enjoy jail.

Our next item up for bid:

All material must be typewritten, double-spaced, and on a reasonably heavy bond paper. No disk submissions. Computer-generated material is acceptable, but must be letter quality, and pages must be separated. Any material received on computer reams will be returned without evaluation.


Okay, first of all, Harlequin, come on. You need to seriously update the wording here. "Typewritten?" Really? Not to mention, does anyone even own a dot matrix printer anymore? Are you really getting reams of dot matrix paper all strung together like sausage? Is that still in production?

But I digress. Your manuscript needs to be typed, double-spaced, on "reasonably heavy bond paper." Panic! Do they mean cardboard? Do they mean resume type paper? Calm your bleeding brain, friends. They just don't want it printed on that see-through paper often found in bibles and wedding invitations. Regular old printer paper (provided you don't jog on down to NASA circa-1984 and borrow their reams and reams of green-and-white lined dot matrix paper) is fine. Photo paper is right out. Just use the regular old paper that would shoot out of a copy machine.

As for double-spaced, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring here and say something about font size, which they have not mentioned. Do you have really bad eyes, requiring you to use 16pt Times New Roman, bolded, in order to read your text on the screen? Alternately, do you have really, really good eyes and type everything out in 8pt Mistral, italicized, and it doesn't bother you one bit. Assume that the person opening up your manuscript at the publishing house is a happy medium. Use a monospace font, a font where each character takes up the same space on the page. Don't know if you're using one already? Check some out here. These are, in general, easier on the eyes, and it's easier to catch typos and such when reading them. Use 12pt size, and yes, always double-spaced. This will also help the publisher determine word count, if they use the traditional word-count method of 250 x #of pages = estimated word count.

Now, once you have made these changes to your document, I'm going to have to ask you to step away from the guidelines for a second. Print out what you're going to be sending. If you're sending off your first three chapters, print them out. If you're sending off the whole darned thing, print that off. Now, spend a day or two going through the material line by line, looking for possible typos, continuity inconsistencies, anything that might need changing.

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm asking to you waste a bunch of paper printing it out, when it's already there on, your screen. I don't know why, but it's just easier to see the errors on paper than on the screen. I think you're more likely to recognize mistakes, rather than read what you thought you wrote, when it's on paper.

This is not the point, however, to become super panicky, and spend three weeks agonizing over word choice or checking just one last time to make sure all your commas are in order. The editor who reads your work is not going to say, "Oh, great story, but I see that on page 210 you wrote 'teh' instead of 'the,' so we're going to have to pass." Just give it a brief once over, and let it go.

Moving on!

Do not submit your material bound in binders, boxes, or containers of any kind. Secure material by rubber bands. Cover sheets must have your complete name, address, and phone number. Each page should be numbered sequentially thereafter. Please type your name and title in the upper left-hand corner of each page. If we ask to see your manuscript, please include a complete synopsis. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard if you require acknowledgment of receipt.

Ah, this is important. If you haven't done so already, you need to make a "header" on your document with the title of your book, your name, and your page numbers. This is really easy, I'll leave it up to you and your ingenuity to figure out how to do this in your own word processor. But you want to put your title in ALL CAPS, just so it stands out. Your header should have YOUR TITLE, Your Name on the left hand side, and your page number should align to the right.

When you're getting ready to ship out a manuscript, put a rubber band around the middle of it and put it in a big enough envelope. Yes, it's going to indent the edges of your pages. Trust me, they won't care. Wait until you see what it looks like when you get it back. Hand of God, once they sent a smashed fly back in my line edits. They're not grading you on the integrity of your paper, but the quality of your story.

I will step out of line here and say that, for smaller submissions, like when you're sending off three chapters, a rubber band isn't going to cut it. Use a binder clip. No one will slap your hand. They will, however, keep your binder clip. It's almost universally acknowledged that editors hoard binder clips like dragons hoard treasure.

As for your cover sheet, type one up fast and print it out when you print out your fully corrected manuscript. If, like me, you're a freaking genius, you might find it handy to create a word processor file called "COVER SHEET" on which you can simply edit the title of the work and print it off without any heartache for later manuscripts.

"Now, this is all fine and dandy," you may be saying, "But I'm submitting to Ellora's Cave, and they want only electronic submissions, Times New Roman, single spaced!" Well, give them what they want. The point of this little exercise has been to calm your fears about what you have to do to your manuscript, and how to follow the guidelines you're given, even if you question the wisdom of such guidelines (like the rubber band, which makes me cringe every time. I like paper with nice, neat edges).

Following a publisher's submission guidelines is important. Sure, it might show them that you're really creative if you illustrate your manuscript and send it in on blueprint-sized paper, but they don't care about your creative packaging skills. Publishers write their guidelines based on what is the most efficient and convenient for them, so that they can look at two hundred manuscripts a week and not miss out on the really good ones because they were printed in red ink on neon paper and they just couldn't subject their eyes to that kind of nonsense. Following their guidelines to the letter won't get you published if your book doesn't tickle their fancy, but not following them can get a good book ignored, if the editor who picks it up is a stickler for the rules.

Tomorrow is Friday grab-blog, and a much needed rest for me. Actual blogging with like, worthwhile content is hard, y'all. But on Monday we'll be back with Lesson #3: My Query Letter And Synopsis Can Eat A Bowl Of D***s! I Quit! I Hate Writing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lesson #1: Am I ready to submit? Not in a sexy way.

Okay, first a little introduction here, to cover my bases. First of all, you follow any advice I dispense at your own peril. I'm gonna share what worked for me, but maybe you need my awesome charisma to pull it off. I don't know. All I'm saying is, I don't want a bunch of lawsuits coming my way because you followed my advice of not singing in elevators to editors and it turns out that the editor used to be a record executive and you could have totally landed a recording contract if you'd just busted it out like you were in the Hollywood round of American Idol.

Other disclaimer: Since it was asked, I cannot read anybody's materials. It's part of this thing I've got going where I'm trying to avoid lawsuits and shit. Also, it would eat up all the time I need to spend playing World of Warcraft meeting my deadlines, which are looming like the spectre of Death, scythe and all. And not funny, Terry Pratchett death. Death like a giant metal bird with red eyes, that breathes fire and when it opens its beak, it emits a cry that is like the sound of brakes screeching in futility on wet pavement as the vehicle fishtails, coming dangerously closer and closer to the guardrail that makes the difference between driving down Mulholland and shooting like a flaming meteor through the night sky over Hollywood.

Wait, where was I?

SUBMISSIONS!

Okay, today's lesson will be lesson #1, because #1 is a good place to start a list. And this lesson will be called, "Am I ready to submit?"

Several factors will decide if you're even at the point where you need to be worried about the submissions process yet. You are ready to submit when:
  • Your first draft is complete.
  • You have researched publishing houses that accept your genre of work, and have a pretty good idea which house, imprint, and editor you're going to submit to.
  • You have researched the submission guidelines for that house, imprint and editor.


Now, some schools of thought (my grandmother, for example) believe that you can go ahead and get a book like, half-finished and go ahead and submit your first three chapters to a publishing house because, hey, it takes them forever to get back to you, right? Let's just say, hypothetically, that you're a first time writer, and someone (like my grandmother) says, "If you've got three chapters, go ahead and submit them, because it will take them at least a year to get back to you." So, not knowing any better, this first time writer has six chapters of a book they're calling Blood Ties finished, and they send it off to a hypothetical publishing house, we'll just use Tor in this example. And then like, a week later, the hypothetical author gets a request for a full. But she doesn't have a full, she's got six chapters still, because she hasn't been getting a lot of work done because her boss left for Washington D.C. and the office is falling apart around her and he left a stun gun in her desk because he thinks a client is going to go crazy and try to shoot up the office.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Do yourself a favor. The publishing industry moves really slow, most of the time. But if you have luck like mine, you're going to end up submitting a manuscript that is only partially finished to an editor who just discovered the productivity increasing wonder drug Crystal Meth, and then she speeds through her slush pile on a slow Tuesday afternoon and you end up writing a whole book in two weeks while screaming, "I WILL GET THOSE DEPOSITIONS TO THE COURT HOUSE WHEN I DAMNED WELL FEEL LIKE IT, JEFF!" into the phone.

Better to be safe than sorry, finish your first draft completely before submitting.

When it comes to researching publishers and publishing houses, you have a few options. My number one recommendation to all writers is to join Romance Writers Of America. Even if you don't write romance. Why? Because they have the tightest network of working writers who know the ropes. You don't have to join a local chapter and go to meetings if you don't want to. You can join online chapters, too. The dues probably seem pretty steep for something that hasn't officially become a career yet, right? Consider it an investment in your future career.

If you're not a joiner, or you have some mortal dread of romance authors or clubs, you can also motor on down to your local library and request a copy of The Writer's Market. This is an annual publication that lists thousands of publishers from childrens' books to hardcore erotica, and how to submit your work to them. The drawback to this method is that it's an annual publication, and guidelines change during the year depending on what editor gets promoted or fired or pregnant or hit by a bus, so my advice in this area is to look up the information and send a letter or give a call to the publishing house to double check that your information is up-to-date.

Similar to The Writer's Market option is the guerrilla editor stalking option, which some people do because they don't know about the other two options, and this seems like a great way to start. They go to a bookstore or their own bookshelves, find books that are in the genre they want to be published in, copy down the address of the publisher from the inside of the book and call or write for submission guidelines.

Luckily, guerrilla editor stalking can also now be accomplished via Google, so if you're going to go that route, check online for guidelines before you call.

Something you may run into in your search for the right house and editor is the dreaded, "No unagented submissions" clause. This means, "We only deal with agents." This is meant to warn away potential unagented authors from storming the castle gates and creating a slush pile of monumental proportions. I have a controversial opinion when it comes to "no unagented submissions." I, personally, tell people to query, even if they don't have an agent. Why? Because they might go ahead and read it anyway, and the worst that can happen is that they'll just return it unopened. There's this weird fear in the writing community that if you stray one centimeter from the approved guidelines of a publishing house, they're going to mark your name off on this big checklist and send the news of your transgression around to the other big publishing houses so that they can blacklist you and never buy your work. If you query, and they call you on the fact that you're unagented, you can always either lie and say you didn't realize they didn't accept unagented submissions, apologizing profusely all the way, or you could be like, "Yeah, I know. I thought I'd give it a shot anyway." Which ever comes standard in your operating system.

Tomorrow, we'll cover how to make your work ready to be submitted, as per submission guidelines. And I'll try to keep all disturbing death imagery out of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It has occured to us...

... that some writers use their blogging powers for good, rather than evil or just plain lazy, and that perhaps we should do the same. We are feeling benevolent, and also lazy, so we are going to use our powers for good, as well. We should probably also respond to some email so that nice people like Claire will no longer feel unloved, but really, we're working up to that. We have a lot of email and so very little will power to stay away from World of Warcraft for long enough to answer it.

Anyway, back our our benevolence...

We are going to do a few blogs about submitting your work to a major publishing house. If one were to spread the word that, starting tomorrow, Wednesday August 13, we would begin covering this subject, it would be much appreciated. Translation: Free writer advice, y'all! Tell your friends!

Also, if there is anything specific that one is interested in knowing about relating to the submission process, one can certainly submit questions and suggestions here, and we will, in all of our goodness, take a look and totally answer them to the best of our very limited wisdom.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm the luckiest girl in the world!

Guess who saw a guy who looked just like Billy Idol pushing a broken down car that looked just like the Batmobile down the left hand turn lane on 28th street yesterday?

THIS GIRL, RIGHT HERE!

It was magical.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shut up, I've been busy.

I have been really busy, y'all. Let me tell you the latest development in this awesome life of mine.

I found a Tuba.

In the trash.

Oh yes.

My friend Jill and I had just dropped a friend off at her apartment after a rousing day of doing the stupid shit that we always do when we get together, like buying a bunch of pairs of flip-flops at Target and so on and so forth. Now, because this apartment complex was designed by rocket scientists and brain surgeons, they have one, count em, one dumpster for a complex with like, nine buildings, and the buildings have like, sixteen units a piece in them, so I don't know, you do the math, but that's a lot of garbage. So, we're driving past the trash heap that the chronically full dumpster hides underneath, and Jill goes, "Wait... did somebody throw out a tuba?"

I pulled a full on, tire screeching U-turn and busted ass back to the dumpster, where we found... Trash Tuba. It was totally in working order, apart from a few isolated dents and bangs.

So, right now, Trash Tuba is at the music instrument fixing place, getting all patched up. They said it would take about a week, and that was, like, last Tuesday, so I'm getting antsy. I want my Trash Tuba right now! I want to lovingly cradle it in my arms and play lots of brassy, fart-sounding slow jams. I WANT MY TRASH TUBA!

Okay, so I lied, I haven't been busy. But wasn't my absence worth it for a story like that?