Monday, April 23, 2012

April's Bunch O' Links

Grammar is FUNNY. No, really.
By Greg Hardin

Nobody does satirical grammar comics like  Laugh a little and learn some correct punctuation.

A little game to see how you do with the comma, and a companion to Lynne Truss’s awesome books fighting to save English grammar.

By Laura Campbell

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-          Short Story Award for New Writers: 1,500-12,000 words
-          First Place Prize: $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-          Deadline: May 31, 2012
-          Details here

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-          81st Annual Writing Competition
o   10 Categories
o   First Place Prize: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference
o   Deadline: May 31, 2012
Narrative Magazine
-          The Narrative Prize: New or Emerging Writer
o   Short Story, Novel Excerpt, Poem, One-Act Play, Graphic Story, or Literary Nonfiction
o   First Place Prize: $4,000 and considered for publication
o   Deadline: June 15, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dealing with (query) Rejection

First, cry. Or, if you're not a crier, rage. Go for a run, eat a piece of cake, whatever you do to diffuse the stress of bad news, do that first. Get the poisonous feeling out of your system. It may take a day or two. For me, a rejection means a wave of self-doubt that almost sweeps me over board. Stand fast against the storm.

Next, get some perspective. Look at how far you've come. No, really look. You've written a book (or a short story or an article) and that is something most wanna be writers haven't done. It's what makes YOU a writer. You've done what thousands of people wish they could do - what they talk about doing and never manage to do. You've done it.

See the humor. Turn your rejection into a badge of honor. I did that (literally) here. I didn't want to feel ashamed of being rejected. I wanted to turn it into a positive. You earn your rejections. You'll earn your agent, too.

OK, now the hard work. Some rejections don't mean anything other than you are not right for that agent. Don't poke around the tea leaves with form rejections. It's just exactly what it looks like - not the right fit. Other rejections may give some feedback as to why your ms wasn't right for that agent - and might help you narrow down your search. Is it time to look for a different pool of agents? Every so often in the querying process review your submission package. Is your query as strong as it can be? What about your sample? Can you tighten anything up? Is there a pattern to your rejections?

Finally, GIRD YOUR LOINS. Querying is Long Haul and getting an agent is only the first (huge) step to being published. You have to have tenacity to succeed. It's almost the only universal feature of all successful writers. You cannot give up because giving up means GAME OVER.

How do you deal with rejection?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Buried In The San Andreas Fault

By Laura M. Campbell

You know a quality story when you read it. The setting is so real you can smell the ash from burning or feel the coolness of lake water on your toes. The characters become more real with every sentence you consume, until they slowly slip off the page and intertwine with your life. Moments during lunch break or after the kids are sleeping are spent gossiping about which characters you love, which ones you secretly wish you could be and the characters you despise.

Reading about the present and future can’t simply attain this level of craft; you must create a relatable 3-dimensional being for your readers. They must have everything we have: a present, future and a past.

Backstory not only prepares your character to handle or falter in their present situation, but it also forges a path they will ultimately travel through the story or novel. What has your character dealt with in their past that has lead them to this moment? How did they grow up, and what effect will it have on the decisions they make in the future? What good or horrible things have they endured that motivate them today?

The February 2012 issue of the Smithsonian magazine published a profile piece on seismologist Lucy Jones and her strong campaign to educate and prepare West coasters’ for an inevitable and devastating earthquake.

Amidst the sentences detailing her life today, you come across the past that shaped her into this passionate woman. You find out her mother shielded 2-year old Lucy and her older brother and sister during an earthquake. Then a little further down, you find out that her life’s work might have been fated the day her great-great-grandparents were buried in the San Andreas fault.

Her past experience with earthquakes led her on a crusade to warn and protect people to save them from the pain and agony an earthquake can inflict. Although you don’t want to make the mistake of halting the forward momentum of the story by constantly stopping to fill the reader in on the characters past, you do want the past to influence their personality, movements, motivation and ultimately their future. The past should rarely, if ever, appear on the page, but it should resonate with every action your character makes.  

What information about your character’s past has influenced their present and future in your story?