Wednesday, January 30, 2008
1. FLY your way to work. Ever since my mom signed up for FlyLady (www.flylady.net), I've known about the concept of "baby steps." Basically: go really slowly, but just go. If you have an assignment due, a story that has to be finished, RESIST going 80 mph. Just start with fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes! That's all. And then tomorrow you'll do another fifteen minutes. It will get done.
2. URGENT! URGENT! Okay... so you sort-of, kinda, maybe promised the editor the story would be done in like five hours. Maybe three hours. Don't freeze up! First of all, lower all perfectionistic expectations. It won't be perfect. It can be good. Then strap yourself to your chair, my man, and blast some music so that you can't hear the creepy little voices that say you won't finish. It's also helpful to lower word count, and set incremental goals (like 200 words in 15 minutes, etc.)
3. Think of a happy place... Are you procrastinating out of fear of failure? Imagine your mind was a bar (okay, a restaraunt.) Personify each of your fears/worries/stresses-- maybe your fear of rejection is a fat middle-aged woman with thirty moles, or your fear of being overworked is a balding, black-eyed executive. Once you've named and imagined all of the-stuff-that-keeps-you-from-writing, kick them ALL out of the bar. Restaraunt. Whatever. Your mind is serene, at peace, and full of good beer. Now you can work.
Continuing with this open-tag idea... tag yourself!
Experience Yourself: Effectual Writing
Doesn't that sound so New Age?
Take five minutes to write. Right now, in an hour, whatever. Think about one experience you've had today that affected you. I mean, in the literal sense, had an effect on you. Maybe a joke on a Seinfeld rerun that made you laugh. Maybe the heartbreaking situation in Kenya made you cry. Maybe your Significant Other forgot your monthaversery. Whatever it is, think about the experience and just let your tool-of-writing fly.
Now, think of one more thing. Think of a passage in a book-- an article-- an email that had an effect on you. For me, it's the last section ("Life as a Superhero") in E. Lockhart's Fly on the Wall. Those twenty or so pages are more inspiring than any life coach lessons. Or one of Hamlet's monologues, where he compares himself to a recorder and tells people not to play him.
Both of these two events have an effect on you. I can't pretend to be a writing guru, but... what affects you? What changes you? With what words can you communicate what changes you, to change the rest of the world?
Monday, January 28, 2008
Writing is like shopping at a thrift store. Words and stories are never "new", never completely original. They all have a history, all have been used before. What makes thrift store finds, and "new stories," memorable is the way you put it all together.
What are other writing similes? Leave yours in the comments. More that I can think of:
Writing chick lit is like attending a wedding. You know that the bride and groom will exchange vows, but everything else is a toss-up.
Writing is like mowing the lawn. It may seem like you burn out and all the grass is gone, but wait a few weeks and bazoom! the lawnmower will roll again.
Writing is like riding a horse. It can be a quiet stroll or a boisterous rollicking ride, but you never know what to expect and you are never fully in control. You also might get kicked in the rear.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The Driver's Manual to Publication, Part III of VI:
Writing and Publishing "Medium"
by Gabrielle Linnell
Please realize, dear teens and teens-at-heart and in-betweens, that this is a highly condensed way of planning your way to publication. Supplement your writing education with magazines, blogs and books. Music like Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" helps too (anyone else have any good writing theme songs?)
So, you've published between four and ten "small clips." Good for you! Don't congratulate yourself too much! Move on (how?)! I will tell you.
Briefly re-evaluate what your targets are. Are you heading, like Joaquin Jalapeno from last week, for travel zines? Realize where you want to establish yourself. That way, you don't find yourself mindlessly submitting to Freaks on Fire when you really wanted to focus on the purist pyromaniac audience. Because the difference between small and medium markets isn't huge (haha!), the tools for researching and planning are similar and won't be explored in any more depth.
Directions. Instead of setting a finalistic goal like "I will publish five medium clips before submitting to Vogue," focus on a submission-time-constrained deadline like "I will submit ten stories in three months to X, Y, Z and more magazines." Medium markets, which are well-known online/nonpaying markets as well as small paying markets, are worth being faithful to. Never leave them.
While submitting to these "medium" markets, always remain professional, punctual and a Spellcheck god. Your potential audience will probably know what they are reading about, and therefore you must raise your own bar. While outlining your targeted markets, allow a bit more time per each submission for proofreading and editing. Then use it.
You begin to get paid in this stage of your writing career. If you have to sign a W2 (in the USA) or any kind of tax form to get paid, please notify your editor that you are underage. This clarifies any potential weirdness with signatures. Contracts are also likely to get involved-- don't be scared! Just fill in the blanks and make a photocopy for your records. You probably will never need it again.
Maps. C. Hope Clark's FundsforWriters.com has a free newsletter called "Small Markets." Sign up for it, and receive a weekly listing of markets that pay under $.25 USD/word. She also has a newsletter called "Writing Kid," which features markets for young writers. Neat-o!
Kathy Henderson's defining book for young writers, The Young Writer's Guide to Getting Published, has a great market index for "medium" markets. If you haven't already bought a copy (and have never been published), get one!
Because you've moved up in the writing world, feel free to join the writing e-community. There are market indexes like FreelanceWriting.com that are e-searchable and incredibly useful. Start a Yahoo! group for teen writers searching for publishing markets. Read writing magazines like they are medical discoveries. These things can make or break your young writing career.
Driving on the backroads of your suburb, or on streets with no traffic signals, might not seem like much to the well-worn Nascar driver. But it's a huge accomplishmen to newbies (like me) who have a fear of anything with four wheels. So it is with writing. You still haven't written for anything your people have heard of, but somebody is listening.
Keep on drivin'.*
Gabrielle Linnell is the editor of Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen, and is still very bad at driving.
There is no Bookshelf this week, but no fear! Grab a copy of Dragon Slippers and East of the Sun, West of the Moon because the wonderful Jessica Day George will be joining us for a fantasy-filled Super Bowl Sunday.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Read Aloud, Read Aloud
I am constantly told by everyone that one must always read aloud one's work before one completes it. This sounds like a great idea. I've done it about once. I don't have the patience to read stuff aloud, though perhaps I'd publish more fiction if I did...
The point is, there are so many different techniques to writing that it truly is your call. The only thing you can do is try them all out and figure what works. I'm not a moral relativist, but when it comes to art techniques, I am. Pretend that ten people are all given the same amount of clay in a pottery making place. The textures of the clay are all different. The people's ideas are all different. Therefore, you will most certainly end up with ten unique pieces of pottery at the end of the session.
There is good art and bad art. Good writing and bad writing. But heck, nobody really knows the absolute bestest way to get to either one. In the meantime, try lots of things. Maybe even reading aloud.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Writing and Publishing “Small”
By Gabrielle Linnell
While watching the NFC and AFC championship games today (I’m a not-so-closeted fan of the NFL), it’s tempting to revert back to a dried-out sports cliché. But I am resisting the linebacker-size demons and continuing with references to an art I know nothing about: driving.
As a reminder from last week,
“We will identify Motivation (why the heck do you want to go there?), Location (where the heck you want to be published), Directions (how the heck do you get there?) and Maps (resources that heck, will get you there.) In our research & planning segments, we'll focus on Motivation and Location, and the rest will fit in somewhere else.”
This week, as we discuss writing and getting published with small nonpaying markets, here are your Directions and Maps.
Directions. After you have figured out why you want to be published and laid out goals (I suggested between four and ten “small” clips), how are you going to map your way there?
Projects File. To keep track of what I’m writing and what I want to write, I have a document called “Project What’s On.” I keep a list of pieces I’m working on, and where I want to submit them, as well as ideas of projects I want to work on in the future. This is one idea for “mapping out” your writing projects.
Another method is the brainstorm-and-outline idea. Take a market like travel writing. Joaquin Jalapeno wants to write eventually for the New York Times Travel Section, but he’s being smart and writing for small zines first. He’s taken five trips recently, and knows that he can turn all of those into multiple articles.
He does his research with his Maps and finds ten travel e-zines, all with different specialties. Joaquin brainstorms for ways to slant his different trips into pieces to fit the specific zines. For example, he comes across McDonalds TravelZine. On his trip to North Carolina, he had met a former football star at a local McDonalds—brilliant story for the article.
But the trick with planning and outlining is that Joaquin doesn’t stop. He matches ALL of his newfound zines with articles that he could write, through brainstorming and outlining. Then, when he has a list similar to this:
“McFootball” for MCDONALDS TRAVELZINE.
“Deer Honey” (article about the effect of deer on honey production) for NATURAL TRAVEL, BEE EDITION.
After he’s formed his plan, he can start with the first article on his list, write it and submit, and continue.
TIP: Small markets are usually more specialized than larger ones. Make sure you get a feel for the nuances before you submit.
Maps. Nonpaying markets like e-zines and small circulars can be hard to find, because people aren’t that crazy about writing for them (think about the money thing.) However, they are out there and with a few tricks you can figure it out.
Read bios of newbie writers. You should be reading several writing zines, just to keep on top of your game. Look for the articles written by new authors, and see if they’ve been published in places you’d like to write for, as well.
Google Keywords + writers or writers’ guidelines. Joaquin, for example, could Google “North Carolina travel writers.” You will find all sorts of results, but chances are there are zines about the topic of your choice.
Ask the fanatics. Browse through forums or go to group meetings of enthusiasts. If you’re writing literary fiction, see if there’s a Yahoo! Group of people who love literary fiction, and ask around if there’s any good e-zines or websites they can recommend. Keep your ears perked.
Think about driving (ah, I try not to.) Your ultimate goal is to race down the highway to your friends’ parties. However, in order to get there, you start in a parking lot. You aim to get 5 hours experience on the backroads and in cemetaries. After that, it’s Main Street and eventually—slowly—the 70 mph highway. But that comes later.
Got to go—dang, if those Patriots didn't just win again.*
Friday, January 18, 2008
The technique, craft and business of writing are so important. If you never learn how to develop your style or submit a short story, you will never grow in your gift as a writer. But it's also easy to get bogged down by commiserations of world-weary pessimistic publishers, or frustrated because you can't write the perfect sentence. Don't let that happen.
Have fun, for crying out loud!
Take your goals off the pressure cooker for a bit and just play with words. Experiment with story ideas, laugh at not-really-funny jokes, add a baglady with a bagpipe to your poem about depression. Because if you enjoy your writing, you will write better. And that's the fun of it.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The Newbery Medal is one of the most highly distinguished awards for children's (and some YA) fiction in America. This years' winners were released last week. It's always good to keep on top of who's writing the best in your genre... or who someone thinks is writing the best. Personally, I was rooting for Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days to win something.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Driver's Manual to Publication, Part I of VI
Research and Planning "Small"
by Gabrielle Linnell
Sports analogies are so overused. So the non-gender-specific analogy/theme that I've chosen for our six-part series on publication planning is "Driver's Manual"! As a disclaimer, I can barely handle our car in a parking lot. I have yet to drive on a road. I have about five excuses for why I'm not driving yet, but I won't list them here.
Isn't that analagous enough?
The emphasis of this series will be on how to plan your way to publication. Plans are emphasized everywhere in writing books, such as the new release Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone, which I'm reading (and enjoying!) myself. Teens are bipolar on the issue of planning. Some of us are super-planners and have our lives outlined until we kick the bucket. Others deem the term "procrastinator" a term of praise.
So, as we are learning how to get published, my personal approach is quite simple. We will identify Motivation (why the heck do you want to go there?), Location (where the heck you want to be published), Directions (how the heck do you get there?) and Maps (resources that heck, will get you there.) In our research & planning segments, we'll focus on Motivation and Location, and the rest will fit in somewhere else.
See? Driving analogies are so not overused.
1. Identify Motivation for being published "small."
Small (Definition): Nonpaying markets that a) have a circulation of under 2,000 or b) are web-only.
The motivation for driving is so that you can get places, and control large pieces of machinery while blasting rock 'n roll.
I can't tell you your motivation for publication. I can't make you become motivated. But I can tell you my motivations, and other common motivations, for wanting to be published in magazines that probably nobody has heard of, and that you won't get paid for.
Getting Experience. You can get experience working with an editor, so that you don't freak when you work with the high-class snooty tooty editors.
Being Encouraged. "Small" publications often have a really small lead time (time between planning an issue and publishing an issue) so you get to see your name in print fairly soon. And besides being a great milestone (first time I got published, etc) it's also a milestone for when you attempt at the "Medium" markets. You are no longer just a newbie, but an encouraged and experienced newbie.
2. Identify the Location of where you want to go.
As you are planning your next several months, you want to have goals. Goals are: I want to be published in X, Y, Z and Zed magazines. Goals are: I want to submit 25 times in 25 weeks. How many times (or which publications) do you want to conquer before you're done with small stuff? It may seem hard to decide. Here's a few guidelines:
I would suggest between four and ten clips from unique magazines. I know it's a big gap, but if you've been published less than four times in nonpaying markets, keep going. However, if you've been published more than ten, it's really time to start looking for $$ for your words. If you're in the middle, continue with your "small stuff" while keeping your eyes out for paying or highly visible markets (the definition of "medium" will come in a few weeks.)
Next week, we'll look at the Directions (how to outline your projects) and Maps (places to find such markets) for these small markets. Until then, start a file for keeping track of your Publication Plan. You wouldn't want to get lost on the road.*
Gabrielle Linnell is the editor of Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen. She has written for publications such as New Moon, FACES, Cobblestone, Library Sparks, ByLine and a few other "smalls" that have helped her along the way. Her personal website & writing blog is www.storytellermag.com.
What I Meant... by Marie Lamba
Sangeet is the sometimes awkward, always funny narrator of this story about the difference between what you say and what you mean. Sang's biracial family, complete with thieving aunt and secretive mother, is just part of her problems-- add an alienated best friend, a guy who's sending mixed signals and another whose signals are unfortunately too clear, a crazy concert and-- well, you see what I mean.
NEXTWEEK: we meet Judy Gregerson, debut author of Bad Girls Club.
Email me if you have questions, comments or want to see our writing guidelines at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, January 12, 2008
I don't read romance, but sure as heck I'm interested in seeing what happens. If you go to their website, they list the entire Cassie Edwards saga.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
If you want to write and get published you have to... look good!
No, not physically (although a little personal grooming does wonders for one's attitude.) If you interview for a job, you want to look tidy and professional. Your first impression is super important, right? Just so in writing. Your first contact with a publication is like your first impression. Here are two sample first-contact queries.
Subject: will u reed my stuf?
Deer Nece Editor,
"Will U Reed my Stuf" iz an artikle about Im and how it effects ritting in schools...
[more mispelled jibberish, with good credentials]
Dear Nice Editor,
The world of instant messaging and text language has changed the way our kids communicate to each other; but how has it changed the way kids communicate in schools?
My article, "Will U Reed My Stuf?" will cover...
Ok, Ok, it's blatantly obvious but so is it for editors! And who do you think they want to work with?
So look good on your next query, or fiction submission. Editors love a good first impression.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Now, I read mostly YA because
a) I'm a dorky teen
b) I like to search for new authors to interview here
c)... I like the genre.
Young adult is usually characterized by somewhat deeper themes, no guarantee of a happy ending, characters struggling with moral or cosmic problems, and poignancy. Granted, there are a lot of fluffy young adult books out there and I must admit, I enjoy a lot of them. [Fake Boyfriend by Kate Brian was a hoot (my personal favorite fluffy author.)] But that is normal YA.
So I picked up a children's book the other day, just for kicks-- The Mysterious Case of Allbright Academy by Diane Stanley. It was a lot of fun! But I laughed at myself because I'm reading this and I'm thinking... where's the self-reflective character? where's the backstabbing and painful heartbreak?
WAIT! This is kid lit!
I had also picked up The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, the latest from the legendary E. L. Konigsburg. Personally, I think her books are misclassified. They should be filed under young Young Adult.
Anyway, I'm hoping to write more about teens writing for younger children, and to also interview some children's authors. Because kid lit is, you know, awesome.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Fire In Your Belly:
Getting Published in 2008
by Gabrielle Linnell
If you want to write and get published... what's stopping you?
I hope you are unhappy with your publication record. I'm dissatisfied with mine. I'm grateful for where I've been published before, of course... but satisfied? no way.
I hope for a career of dissatisfaction. It means I will constantly expand my limits. Experiment. Be the longshot. Win as the longshot.
As J.A. Konrath wrote this week,
"Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying. No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky." (http://www.jakonrath.blogspot.com/)
Ambition unbridled can make you into a disillusioned, unhappy brat. Ambition controlled can push you into the stars. Pick your constellation.
So, how are you going to get published this year?
Innovative will be holding a six-part series, talking about how to make your own publishing plan, complete with goals, tips and *action.*
1: Research and Plan. Starting small, planning out markets, realizing what you want to write.
2: Writing and Publishing "Small." The nonpaying and online-only markets, and how to break into them.
3: Writing and Publishing "Medium." Well-known nonpaying markets, small paying markets, etc.
4: Research and Plan. Reevaluate what you like writing for, figure out where you're going next.
5: Writing and Publishing "Big." The big guns, how to aim for them, and tips on getting in.
6: The Book. Every teenager is writing one, is there any chance of publication?
I'll be talking about goals for each step of your plan, how to deal with rejection, time guidelines to give yourself and how to have a well-balanced publication record. Very few of us are going to be published in $1/word magazines, but if you want to be part of that few, you're going to have to work.
Maybe you just want to publish poems for preschoolers. Maybe you want to raise awareness about a social problem. Maybe you're dying to share your characters with the world. You're all definitely in love with writing.
What's stopping you?*
Interview with Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway
Melissa Walker is a writer who has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. All in the name of journalism, she has spent 24 hours with male models and attended an elite finishing school for girls in New Zealand, among other hardships. Melissa grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, and has a BA in English from Vassar College. She really believes in the motto "write what you know." Well, except for the whole supermodel thing. Swear!
INN: Where did you get your inspiration for Violet on the Runway?
MW: As soon as I started peeking behind the scenes of modeling and fashion as a magazine editor, I knew that I wanted to put a "real girl" in the middle of this crazy world, a girl who would see it from the outside and be like, "Holy crap!" It's an insane environment, so there's lots of fodder for adventure, humor and drama, especially from the point of view of a small town girl who's not yet jaded.
INN: What's your favorite part (so far) of the Violet adventure?
INN: Who's your favorite contemporary author (or authors)?
Thursday, January 3, 2008
In 2008, or at least during the remainder of the 07-08 school year, we will be talking about freelancing and how teen writers can get into this rewarding form of writing (for money!). To start now, check out Writer's Weekly (www.writersweekly.com). It's a weekly e-zine, like Innovative, that caters to the general writing world. Angela Hoy, the editor-in-chief, publishes many articles every week about lots of different kinds of writing. Definitely make WW part of your writing lit habits; you can learn a lot.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
And so, in no specific order:
Katie Beth Groover for designing a wonderful logo and calling attention to Innovative
Madeline Sargent for another wonderful logo design, and all-around emotional support
Ella Regan She pulled a big total of Points in our Spread the WORD! contest, got an Honorable Mention in the logo design contest, and has been enthusiastic about this for a long time
Maria Schneider for picking us to be part of her blogroll!
Hana Calvez for her writing *and* publicity support
Geary Smith for contributing to our WORD section
Lauren Stevens for being our first guest writer
Julie Bogart my favorite writing teacher who has gone the extra mile in supporting Innovative
Virginia S. Grenier for supporting us
Mark Peter Hughes, Robin Wasserman, Laura Preble, Melissa Walker and Judy Gregerson for being awesome bookshelf interviewees! [Melissa and Judy will be featured in January.]
Jan Fields for including all the Innovative notices in KidMagWriters.com
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry for writing "Putting Your Passion into Print," which started this whole shebang.
and thank you, readers, for joining in on this wild ride. Happy New Year!
Check it out at www.yougotschooled.blogspot.com .