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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just a Little Gift from Me to You: Writing Tips from the Pros

I spent most of last week in the company of people who make their living as writers--the faculty of the Anhinga Writers Studio Summer Workshops. I was the conference's faculty coordinator, so I picked these people and you'd better believe I picked their brains when I had the chance.

Here are some gleanings of wisdom from the best. Use them. Incorporate them into your work life. You can thank me later.  Better yet. Next time you see me, bring me chocolate. :)

A Poet's Advice on Revision...Which is Pretty Applicable to Non-poets, As Well
I think sometimes students who workshop a lot get the idea that revision is synonymous with streamlining, and so all you have to do to get your writing to shine is cut the fat. Cutting when possible is definitely critical. But there's more to revision than that. Sometimes a poem is missing information, or has no hook. Sometimes it needs to change direction because the way you began isn't the way it wants to go as it evolves.
- Lola Haskins, NEA Fellow,

Is Success as a Writer Any Different From Success In Any Other Field?  Probably Not...
Question:  How do you make a bunch of money with your book?
Answer:   Don't focus on making a bunch of money with your book. Start with a fundamental respect for your potential readers.
- Peter Bowerman, Author of The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book Into a Full-Time Living,

How Do Agents Do What They Do?
While the author is revising the project and rounding up supplementary materials, the agent is busy too. She’s making her preliminary “hit list” of likely editors, often in consultation with her colleagues in the agency. She’s also writing her own cover letter for the project – a pitch not unlike an author’s initial query. She may even be doing a bit of pre-selling, dropping tantalizing hints about the book at lunches or in chance telephone conversations with editors. Finally, the agent has to decide the best time to schedule the submission, ideally a week when editors won’t be out of town because of sales conferences, book fairs, or holidays.
- Anne Hawkins, Senior Literary Agent with John Hawkins and Associates,

Writing Good Characters is Like Dating, Sorta...
Think of your main characters and your readers as developing a relationship in your manuscript. When you first introduce your character, think of this as a first date with the reader. (If the reader isn’t intrigued, there won’t be a second date; that is, the reader won’t keep reading if she or he is bored, thinks “yeah, so what?” or is not otherwise engage with the characters.) But, if you hook the reader on that first date, then as the story evolves, the relationship between the characters and the readers similarly evolves. If you are writing a series, then your characters and your readers form a kind of marriage—or long-term relationship. And, as in a real relationship, what the characters say, think, and do over time (the duration of the book or books) reveals more and more about who they really are and what they are capable of doing. In order to keep your characters/readers’ relationship healthy, you must offer the readers some of the same things a healthy real-life relationship offers — interest, intrigue, respect, and pleasure.
- Claire Matturro, awardwinning author of Florida-based legal mysteries featuring the sassy Lily 
  Belle Rose Cleary,

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