advice

Dr. Rob Burton

Dr. Rob Burton was a professional sociologist for over 25 years at the University of Exeter, the Open University and the University of Plymouth. Now semi-retired Rob works in Nanjing, China teaching English and writing novels.  He has authored many academic articles and recently published, with a Chinese co-author, a crammer for Chinese students who wish to succeed with their IELTS speaking test. His first novel Meditations on Murder is available now on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

His novels are firmly set in the Urban Fantasy genre where he brings his experiences of traveling the world and his academic interest in Cornwall, the Cornish, and the Celtic world to the fore.

Rob has an 18-year-old daughter back in the UK. Snook Doggy Dog, a female Jack Russell that he took with him to China and features in his books.

 

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: 

Meditation on Murder
Dr. Burton Unlocks the Secrets of the IELTS Speaking Test
The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens
The Twelfth Rune
A Taste of English

The Twelfth Rune is his WIP (Work in Progress). He has also written a memoir under a pen name.

Connect with Rob Burton on his website, https://www.rob-burton.co.uk, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

An Interview with Rob Burton

Ink Smith: Let’s get some basics out of the way! What is your favorite food?
Rob: I live in China at the moment so the opportunity for favorite food is limited. But I’m British so a curry would be top of the list, and surprisingly there are good curry houses here in China with authentic Indian cooks. Cheese is hard to get here in China, when I do manage to buy it from the local French supermarket (Auchan) I tend to eat it all in one go. Fish and Chips from a takeaway from my home city of Plymouth, UK is also something I miss big time.

Ink Smith: What is your favorite color?
Rob: Blue – and in particular the blue/turquoise of the sea. Any sea. I have always lived by the sea apart for the last six years living inland in Nanjing, China. I miss the sea, miss surfing in the sea, I miss just looking at the sea as the sun sinks into the horizon.

Ink Smith: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Rob: My writing goes in fits and starts – so I can spend a lot of time writing and then have a bunch of time off writing. I don’t get het up about it. I know that my unconscious brain is working it all out. I’m not a plotter and a planner. I don’t have an office with a big white-board covered in timelines and plots. Nor walls covered in post-it notes. I’m a pantser – my characters drag me through the story. I have the small corner of a two seater sofa of which the dog and the girlfriend have the majority of the space. I also get to write in my office at the school here in China where I teach English in the two office hours I have to do every day as part of my contract.

Ink Smith: What inspired you to write your first book?
Rob Burton: Discounting my PhD and the Chinese book, my first book started, as opposed to published, was Meditations on Murder. I worked in a British University that was trying to make me redundant and the relationship I had with my daughter’s mum was down the tubes so I wasn’t in the best of moods. So a lot of the dark stuff in the book is semi-autobiographical – I was getting my angst out there.

These are the first lines I wrote
Chapter 1.
I wanted to kill someone.
It could be anyone.
I wasn’t holding a grudge.
I just felt like it.
Why not?

Ink Smith: What is your favorite book?
Rob: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (who has recently passed away). I first bought this book in Holland where I was living and working. It was probably around the mid 70’s so the book had just come out. I cannot count how many times I have passed this book on never to get it back. Fortunately, it can often be found in Charity Shops, car boot sales and secondhand bookstores which are all my favorite shopping places.

Ink Smith: Did you learn anything from writing your book(s) and what was it?
Rob Burton: Writing about 12th century Scotland for The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens was interesting. I wanted to get the period details right. For instance in common parlance, we would call the Norsemen that colonized northern Scotland and its islands ‘Viking’s when in fact they were called Lochlannach – which effectively means ‘Scandinavian’. Viking is a verb – ‘They went Viking.’

I also learned about weapons and stuff like that – for instance, chopping off a head with a single sword swipe would be very difficult despite the movies. As I am in China my main research sources are Google and Wikipedia, but also posting questions on the FB writer pages I am on.

Ink Smith: Do you have a specific writing style?
Rob Burton: I have no idea – I do write with my tongue firmly in my cheek and hope that people find the humor in my work, which does also have its darker side. I am not trying to be out and out funny but sometimes even the darkest things can give us a little chuckle.

Ink Smith: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Rob Burton: No messages. I have tried to add subliminal BUY MY NEXT NOVEL messages into the text but that doesn’t work. Nor does writing sentences backward so they read like a satanic chant – that didn’t work for The Beatles either.

Ink Smith: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Rob Burton: Reading, reading and more reading. I was one of those kids that dodged school and hid in the City Library reading all day. I failed at school and didn’t get to University until my mid 30’s getting my PhD in my 40’s. I do recall being asked once to join an A Level English Course at a college once on the basis of one of my stories but my parents said no as I was doing an engineering apprenticeship at the time.

Ink Smith: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Rob Burton: My favorite author is James Lee Burke. And in particular his detective series featuring Dave Robicheaux. I find Burke to be a very atmospheric writer. His stories do not seem to be hurried; they are well paced and draw the reader in. Also he answers his fan emails *blush*

Ink Smith: What is your favorite mythical creature?
Rob Burton: 
Although not mythical but revered by millions, Ganesha is my choice. Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honored at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Ganesha writing.

Ink Smith: What are your current projects?
Rob Burton: 

  1. At the moment my novella The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens is out with the editor. This is the back-story to Nye the 12th Century Scottish ghost who is a main character in my novel Meditations on Murder. In that book, she tells us she was horribly murdered – the novella covers that incident.
  2. I am also writing the second novel of the series with Charlie Simpson. (I wanted him to be a pretty ordinary man facing extraordinary circumstances – hence the boring name) I am about 50% through it at the moment. The Twelfth Rune is set in Cornwall and uses Cornish myths and legends to drive the story as Charlie has to pit his wits against Modred the arch Arthurian villain to rescue some lost religious artifacts and, of course, save the world again. (Is that too much of a spoiler?)
  3. I also earn some spare cash doing some writing and proofreading for Nanjing University and an English Training school. The translation department sends me English translations of works and I have to check the English. Recently, I proofed a book about Karl Marx (still popular here of course) and am working on a book about the various translations of the Chinese classic Dao De Jing by Laozi . (I am hopeless at proofreading my own stuff of course.)

Ink Smith: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Rob Burton: Write Like A Bastard Everyday – if I am not working on the novel, I am either blogging, writing on Facebook, or doing paid writing for other people. It’s not my main source of income but provides some extra cash.

Ink Smith: If you had to do it all over again, what would you change in your latest book?
Rob Burton: I would probably pay for a developmental editor to have a look at it. I made the mistake, being a proofreader myself, I doing my own editing and then publishing on KDP. A few mistakes were mentioned to me. Then I looked at it again after a few months and it was blindingly obvious it needed to be looked at professionally. Also, I was personally uncomfortable with having a substandard work out with my name across it – so it was also a matter of pride. So it’s now been edited and I have re-published it and I am happy now. But maybe a developmental edit could have made it even stronger than it is (currently it does have 5-star reviews on Amazon)

Ink Smith: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers
Rob Burton: Readers if you enjoy indie writers who offer their work at good prices and you enjoy what you read, please remember to go back and give the author a review – good or bad – reviews are the indie authors lifeblood and they help new readers find the new writers.

If this article has peaked your interest like it has ours, stop by Rob’s social media pages (https://www.rob-burton.co.ukFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram. ), or better yet, stop by his Amazon (Amazon UK) pages and pick up a copy or two of his books!

In addition, if anyone happens to be passing through Nanjing, China they can have a free audience with Rob over a beer and if they have a paper copy of his book he’ll even sign it.


A note to readers from Rob Burton:

Many young writers ask on the Facebook writer’s page that they want to start writing but they don’t know how or what to write. My advice is travel. See the world, have some adventures. Live life.

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
― Robert M. PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

 

 

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Well I Won’t Be Doing That Again

I am currently ignoring my work in progress (WIP) to bring you this blog post about my WIP. About a year ago, I started writing a new novel. And I, being a writer, often come up with short stories and poems on the way to writing a full-length novel. I like to use one paper notebook for all my writing to keep it all together. And I have since I was a child!

Part of the reason for doing that was so that I wouldn’t get distracted and start running off with a completely different story in the middle of writing a novel. I’d even do that as a child with writing short stories! So having one notebook was supposed to keep me organized and on task. But I asked myself one day “What would happen if I let myself get distracted and let myself wonder, and interrupt my own novels?”

So for about a year now I’ve let myself try it…

In my notebook, you’ll read a few chapters and abruptly here’s a new poem and a few short stories! And then it’s back on track with the next chapters. All’s I have to say is this: I won’t be doing that again! Child me was on to something! When I put down a project and start another I don’t always go back. So a year later, rather than having a full-length novel, or a beautiful rough draft, I have about a third of a very, very rough draft…

My writing process usually involves me studiously writing one book and editing another. And yes, I do realize at the moment I only have one book published. I, however, have written many, many, more! Since I am so muddled on the plot of my WIP, I have begun to edit it already. Because I have no idea where I am, except deep in the Gishlan woods.

So here is my unsolicited advice to other authors for the New Year, 2018: Don’t interrupt your own work. Keep your nose to the grindstone and your pen to the paper. Write your poems somewhere else, not in the middle of your novel.

 

 

About Helen

Helen M. PugsleyHelen Pugsley comes from a small town of twenty in eastern Wyoming. She has been passionate about writing since she was small. Helen enjoys traveling and is always thrilled to excite friends with tales of playing music on the streets for money, conversing with the drunks who frequent gutters, and the epic struggle of finding a decent bath when living in a car. Visit her on Facebook‘s War and Chess page!

Need help hitting 50,000 for Nano?

Tips and Tricks: Increasing The Word Flow

We NaNoWriMoers are a little more than halfway through the challenge, but if you are
like me in any way, this is about the time I start hitting the wall. The pressure of words is
becoming a bit more challenging as you work through the plot you are hastily creating.
And the deadline is looming closer and closer with each passing day.
The start of the 30-day challenge is always exciting, and if I daresay, easy as you
choose your story-line and begin meeting your characters. But after the first few days the
inspiration begins to dry up and the nerves begin setting in. By the halfway point, we
wonder if there’s enough time left, and then we dread the story itself: is it even worth all
this effort? The answer: YES!
Nano is just the challenge to get 50,000 words completed (which is approximately a
novel, give or take). But you aren’t supposed to have a finished, polished novel by
December 1 sitting on your desk. Having that kind of pressure is daunting, and can
cause writers to detach themselves from their project and drop out of the Nano race.
Let’s be honest, we aren’t James Patterson.

 

But never fear, there are some tried and true tricks to keep your word count mounting.

1. DO NOT SCRAP ANYTHING
As noted before, this piece is not going to be a publishable work by Day 30. Instead, this
is a first draft. As writers, you need to keep that in mind as you go along. If you don’t like
a scene, leave it be, write something new after it and keep going. The more you go back
and delete pieces of the novel the more time you spend recreating scenes, and the less
time you spend advancing your plot.

2. DO NOT EDIT
At least not yet! Editing, while a necessary tool for polished work is not the goal for
NaNo. Make editing your December goal, and focus on getting the words down. Do not
go back and rewrite sections, instead, write more sections and keep the flow going.
Spending time each day going back to re-read entire chapters (heck, even the entire
book!) takes precious writing time away from you. In order to meet the deadline of
50,000 words in 30 days, writers have to average at least 1,700 words per day. That
doesn’t sound like a lot, but as you get into the nitty-gritty of the novel, there’s the
chance that some days you might not hit that mark, maybe one day you only hit 300
words, that puts you 1,400 words behind.

3. SCHEDULE SOME TIME
We all work, cook, have commitments, and need time to unwind. Make sure to set aside
a block of time to write. This block of time can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours,
whatever your schedule allows. But making yourself sit and write for that set time period
can get the juices flowing! Environment is also key. Make sure to select your writing
space based on your ability to block out noise. If you can’t stop yourself from looking up
at the T.V., getting involved in a conversation, or getting distracted by the pile of laundry
that needs folding, make sure you choose a location that is free of those distractions.

4. WRITING SPRINTS
These are a fun way to get the word count out in a certain amount of time. And you can
get other writers involved in them too! Pick a number of words you want to write and
then give yourself a time limit to get those words written. Or give yourself a time limit and
challenge your friends to write as many words as you can. The winner earns a free cup
of coffee! Post it to social media, text your writer buddies, or get your friends/family to
hold you accountable for these sprints!

5. REMOVE YOURSELF
Sometimes you place too much pressure on yourself to actually write the number of
words you need each day. The pressure builds and it squashes the inspiration. In these
cases, get up and get out. Head to a park, a mall, or some other public place and spend
time people watching. Give yourself an hour and write about where you are, what you
see, what you hear, about the people walking around, the smells…just jot it down, keep
your focus off your work in progress until something sparks you. This break allows your
mind to wander outside of the confines of your story line.

6. GET OFF THE COMPUTER
Sometimes working your magic with the basics are the best way to reinvigorate your
output. While typing allows you to get more words down in a shorter amount of time,
writing by hand allows your mind to work a bit slower. Use this time to develop a new
scene or character, or to give yourself a quick chapter outline.

7. OUTLINE
While passion gets you started on the Nano journey, you have to be dedicated to
finishing the job. Writing up a short, general outline can help keep you on track. This
provides you with the bare bones of the story and you can spend the rest of the writing
time filling in the organs!

8. STOP WRITING WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT IS COMING NEXT
Getting started each day can be a challenge if you aren’t sure what direction your
character is going to take later in the story. By ending your writing session at a point in
which you know exactly what your character is going to do next, you allow yourself to get
started immediately the next time you sit down and begin writing again. Jot down a few
notes before you finish writing for the day about what is going to happen in the next
chapter and stop writing. When you go back, your notes and your last few paragraphs
will be all you need to review before you can jump into the action of your WIP (work in
progress).

9. LEAVE BLANKS
Choosing a character name can take days, deciding on the correct phrasing to describe
the castle gates can be a challenge you spend hours creating, even attempting to vary
your descriptive language can take up more time than you’d like. Here’s the key when it
comes to Nano: leave it blank. The old adage, “collect the sand, build the castle later,”
applies here more than you an imagine. Who cares if you used the word SMILE thirty
times in the last twenty pages. That is a problem for you to address when you get to the
editing phase. That minor character that only appears once in the story for a few pages
doesn’t have a good name? So what, make one up, leave it blank, call him Minor
Character 4, and move on. Names can be decided upon at a later date. Not sure how to
describe the scar on the hero’s face? Write SCAR, DESCRIPTION, and keep writing the
action. This is a first draft, it isn’t supposed to be gold, it’s supposed to be raw. All the
boo-boos can be tended at a later date.

10. DO NOT GIVE UP
Even if you know you aren’t going to hit 50,000 by the end of November, keep writing.
Keep pushing yourself to write as much as you can. Then, use that success as a
challenge for yourself the following year. You might surprise yourself. You may sit down
one day, feel overly inspired, and write 8,000-10,000 words and put yourself back on
track to hit your goal. You can do it, you have the skills and the passion – you just need
the determination. (And a few good tips to stimulate those creative juices!)

 

11. EXTRA TIP
There are plenty of places to submit your work to when you’re done! Keep Junto Magazine in mind for your shorter pieces, and Ink Smith Publishing & Native Ink Press for your longer novels!

 

About Corinne

CA Bio Image

Connect with me
on Twitter!
@AndersonCorinne

Corinne has her MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University and her MPS in Publishing from George Washington University. She has been an editor at Ink Smith Publishing and Native Ink Press since 2013. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is editing for Ink Smith PublishingJunto Magazine and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

Plotting vs Pantsing: You Can Have It Both Ways

Writers have a way of turning the nuts and bolts of creation into a heated political debate. I don’t know if this is the result of increased exposure in the form of social media or if we’ve always been this way, but it’s interesting to watch. One of my favorite hot-button debates is the issue of plotting vs pantsing.

Plotting is exactly what it sounds like. You map out the course of the story and figure out how it’s going to end before you start writing. Some plotters map out every twist and turn, while others create a rough outline that they know their characters will escape by the end of the book. Plotting is like architecture; the writer designs and measures and sketches before he begins to build.

Author Jan Ropers puts it thusly: “For me the fun moved from figuring out how it would end to how they were going to get there.” Rather than plan out every step, Ms. Ropers figures out how it’s going to end and then “pantses” her way to that ending. Different authors have different methods for plotting, depending on their literary needs.

Pantsing is more like planting a seed and watching to see what comes up. The pantser sits down with only the vaguest idea of what she’s doing and makes everything up as she goes. Sometimes the pantser starts with an image, or a character type, or an odd combination of thoughts that come together and make the writer say, “Hey I wonder what would happen if…”

The plotter writes to tell what happens; the pantser writes to see what happens.

In my earliest attempts to write a novel, I tried to plot. But I realized that if I planned the story out in advance, I got bored and lost interest in the story. Planning made me not care about writing the ending, because I already knew what would happen. This discouraged me, because at the time I thought I had to know how the story would end in order to write it.

As he often did in the course of my angst-riddled adolescence, Stephen King came to my rescue. In his brilliant memoir On Writing, he says, “Why be a stickler about the ending? Every story comes out somewhere.” So I said what the hell and gave it a shot. I sat down and started writing about a dragon kidnapping a unicorn. That was all I had—just that one image—but it was enough to get me started. I forced myself to write at least a few words every day, and six months later I had completed my first novel. It was absolutely terrible, one of the worst books I’d ever read in my life. But by golly I had finally finished something. I was on my way.

Every book I wrote for the next ten years was a complete ad-lib. Sometimes the starting point was a young woman avenging her mother’s death. Sometimes it was a party my husband had formed in his favorite role-playing game. But each time I went in with no idea where I was going. Sometimes I didn’t even know if the story would be a short story or a novel until I’d written ten thousand words and the characters were still doing things. I did what I did and loved every minute of it. I decided that plotting was an acceptable method for control freaks, but not for the free-and-easy creative likes of me.

Until the fateful day a serendipitous conversation on Twitter changed my whole outlook on the writing process. Never let it be said that the Internet is anti-creative; I’ve gotten some of my best ideas from random conversations with strangers on the other side of the globe.

I don’t remember the exact course of the discussion, but it included this question: “Why are werewolves never depicted with weapons? They never have knives or guns, even when they’re wearing clothes.”

My companion responded, “Because they don’t need weapons. They’re super strong and have razor teeth. A weapon would be pointless.”

That was a good point, but I said that nevertheless I would read the hell out of a story about werewolves with ray guns. Then I flashed on the image of a wolf-headed man in a 50’s style space suit, complete with fish bowl helmet, holding a bright silver ray gun. Werewolves in space. Why the hell not?

It seemed like a simple enough idea, so I took of writing the way I always do: I picked a scene, picked up a pen, and went to town. I finished two or three chapters in high spirits. And then the Doubts started creeping in. And then I sputtered and stalled.

Part of my trouble was my overwhelming awe of science fiction as a whole. I grew up watching Star Trek and Doctor Who; I cut my literary teeth on Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. I felt instinctively that sci-fi was this vast empire of wisdom that I, a simple horror writer, could never hope to enter.

This feeling was exacerbated by the realization that writing this book was actually hard. It genuinely felt like work. My werewolves were from another planet, with alien technology and alien ecosystems, and I had to create and maintain this vast structure all by myself. My daily word count went from a thousand words to five hundred, then to zero. It was just too much.

My husband, bless his heart, wouldn’t let me give up. He insisted that Star Pack was one of my best stories yet, and if I gave up I’d never get to the next level as an artist. So I dragged my butt through it, and three years later I finally had a finished manuscript. (As a point of reference, my usual timeline is between six and nine months.) I’ll always be grateful to him and my writer friends who insisted that my story was good and that alien invasion was going to be the Next Big Thing in publishing. I have no idea if that’s actually true or they were just blowing smoke to get me to stop talking and start writing, but it worked either way.

I learned a lot from this experience, more than I’ve ever learned from my “easier” books. The first and most important is try never to give up on a work in progress. Sometimes it can feel like you’re handcuffed to a corpse, but you have to drag that sucker across the finish line. Secondly, don’t underestimate the power of people telling you what you want to hear. Sometimes a little candy-coated baloney is just what the doctor ordered.

Finally, when you try out a new genre, be prepared to find out a new way of writing it. Pantsing is fine for genres like horror and fantasy, where if you get stuck you can just change the rules to make it work. But it turns out you can’t create an entire planet, culture, and ecosystem by the seat of your pants. Not without a lot of cursing, despair, and moaning, “This isn’t going to WORK!” to your significant other. Geography, even on an alien planet, needs to make sense. If you have predators living on your alien planet, they need prey to feed on. And the prey needs to eat, too. Worldbuilding as you go along is like building a flight of stairs in the dark with a flashlight.

When I realized that I had it in me to write a sequel, I took a deep breath, broke out my trusty notebook, and set to work on an outline. I spent about a week describing the land my new characters would hail from, then another week on the planet my explorers would discover. Finally I composed a rough outline of the events of the book. I still don’t know how it’s going to end, but I know where the people are going and how they’re going to get there.

And I still haven’t lost interest in the story. Even though I have a good idea of what’s going to happen, I still want to write it out. So plotting did not, as I have long feared, ruin my enthusiasm for writing the book.

I’m still a pantser at heart and probably always will be. But I feel great knowing that I’ve found a new way to do what I love. It’s like a new restaurant with an old love. You’ll always have your traditional date spot, but making new discoveries can bring a fresh outlook to a long-term relationship.

Writing Interesting Beginnings

As an author we want our readers to be sucked into the worlds that we painstakingly develop. We don’t want them to be on the other side of the glass looking in, but to be immersed within it. We are immersed, so why is it that we occasionally see these types of faces staring at our books?

whatcha_reading

Well, it may be because we are slow to start. I am guilty of this in every first, second and even third draft of my own works. I call it: Author Information Vomit. Lovely name, I know but it reminds me of word vomit – and it has a bit of a Mean Girls connection. How you can find yourself unable to keep all the words you should, or should not be saying contained. It just kind of spills out of you. That is exactly what happens with a lot of authors who are focused on world building and character background. This is not to say that your world building/character background isn’t important, but placing it all at the forefront is just information overload for the reader.

Rule of thumb: beginnings should be interesting. Easy, right? Nope. Interesting is important, but as the author you have to make sure that the “interesting” thing happening, is a) appropriate to the story line, b) fits the timeline, c) doesn’t give too much away, and d) propels the story forward towards the main conflict and resolution.

As a side note, I do try to avoid prologues when possible — a lot of the time they aren’t necessary, and may set up your readers for a different kind of story. But use your judgement!

My best advice during the writing process is to write down everything that comes to mind. Everything. Leave it there for the first edit. At the second edit, step back and try to read it as if you have never read your book before and evaluate; don’t take huge chunks out until you have read the whole draft twice. Finally, let yourself read novel and make your cuts. It can hurt to delete beautiful lines, or great paragraphs full of background information. To ease the blow of “killing your darlings,” copy and paste the larger and more beautiful lines that you are cutting. Save them in a separate document in case you can utilize that information later on!

The editing process is a slow, dark and oftentimes unfair process where writers question their motivation to follow through to the polished manuscript. I urge you to follow through, it will absolutely, 100 percent be worth it in the end.

Keep on writing, editing and killing your darlings – your novel will be better off with a savagely determined captain at the helm.

 

 

Corinne can be reached at AndersonEditingServices@gmail.com

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University, and is currently pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University. She hopes that her experience editing and her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

The Query Letter

The dreaded query letter. It makes my entire being cringe, both when I am writing one, and when I am reading some.

Personally, I’ve spent days writing queries. They shouldn’t be insanely long, but they can’t be too short either, you don’t want to bore the reader, but then again you don’t want to come across as overeager either. So what do you do?

There are countless websites that can help you model the perfect cover letter, but no matter which one you select to use as your model there are a few things that you need to include in your query letter.

1. Introduce yourself
2. Brag a bit
3. Talk about your work

Sounds easy, right? Most people do these things, but some include some unnecessary information, or unrelated tidbits.

When you’re introducing yourself to the publishing company it’s okay to tell them what your accomplishments are – but you may want to eliminate the fifth grade writing award you received twenty-three years ago. It’s not relevant, and you should have made large strides in your writing capabilities since then. Stick to the basics: Your most recent education, your experience in the field, and previous publications (if you have them).

As editors and publishers, we like to get a feel for personality. We like to know who you are, so we anticipate the voice of your letter to reflect you in some way. To reveal something about yourself that makes you special. For example, if you used to raise horses, tell us – if it relates to your work. If your book is about aliens and time travel, horses aren’t really related. Unless the “aliens” are an advanced society of intelligent space horses.

Almost every website I’ve visited about writing a query letter, talks about comparing your work to other pieces in your genre. First, make sure you identify your work, and the genre it would be classified in. Second, be well read in your genre; not just the super popular stuff either, read it all! And third, compare your work to current titles in the genre. Really think about what books your work would be competing with. DO NOT use Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, or any other big success to compare your YA Fantasy work with. If you write mystery, don’t compare yourself to Mary Higgins Clark, if you are writing romance, don’t relate your piece to Danielle Steel. In short, utilize your comparison titles to show: You know the genre, and you are realistic about your competitors. Could your book be the next Harry Potter success? It’s possible – but don’t present it as such. Just present the idea, the book and know your market.

After you have introduced yourself and your book, close out your letter respectfully. Too many writers close their letters with things like:

“You’d be a fool not to publish my work.”
“Only idiots would pass up this great opportunity.”
“Don’t make a mistake.”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me that is an automatic rejection. As a final note, make sure you don’t copy and paste your query letter. If you send it off and forget to change names it does not compel a publisher to accept your work.

So, be yourself, show off a bit, tell the publisher about your work, and don’t copy and paste!

Easy, peasy! Good luck writers!

 

Some helpful links:
WritersDigest.com
JaneFriedman.com
AdWeek.com

 

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

Jamallah Bergman- Guest Author Interview

Jamallah Bergman

Website: http://jamallahbergmansstoriesoflove.weebly.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamallahbergmanauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/silentbutloud1
Book Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jamallah-Bergman/e/B006HT16WY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Publisher Name: Secret Cravings Publishing

Question: What inspired you to write your first book?

“Well my first book “”If…Only You Knew”” was a story that came about by way of me dealing with some issues in my life that really made me want to write this story. I was dealing with alot of issues as far as my health and it got me to thinking about how I had wished things could have been better in my life and stuff. It was a pretty grey period that I am glad I don’t have to go down that road anymore.
I had been thinking about someone from my past that meant a great deal to me when I was in high school. I didn’t really enjoy going to high school much less school period because from the time I was in 3rd grade up until I graduated from high school, I was bullied by my classmates on a daily basis. But there was always a ray of sunshine when I ran into my friend, who I have named him “”J”” because as of to this day, he doesn’t know that my 1st book was written with him in mind.
He was a jokester, a funny man, he was also very handsome and popular with everyone and I called him my good friend. I had a tendency to make friends with alot of guys (most of which played sports or where very popular) and he was one of the many. He never treated me badly, never called me names or anything like the others. He treated me like an equal which I really cherished alot. As I got to know “”J””, I developed feeling for him, which was not common for me because I had the knack for having crushes on guys that I knew I could never get with and eventually I would get heartbroken over the outcome, which was me getting hurt.
Well this is what happened with “”J”” for I had fallen hard for the guy but I didn’t want to lose my friendship with him because, as I said, our friendship meant the world to me and I decided to never tell him how I felt. He went onto graduated from high school and I never got the chance to tell him exactly how much of an important part of my life he was.
I decided to write about this because there are people who have felt like I have, where they are too shy and too timid for they’ve been through so much in their lives that they are afraid to say anything to the one person that they want to tell their feelings for. I based it on my own experience with “”J”” because I know there are plenty of people out there who wished they would have had a second chance in telling their feelings for the one they love.”

Question: Do you have a specific writing style?

“I usually get my ideas from one of the following things:
1. Talking with people
2. A picture I’ve seen
3. A idea that pops up if I hear a song

I really don’t have a style, I start off with the characters and if I feel like I know what they will look like, I write it down and then build up everything else about the people from there. I also think up their names, along with the secondary names of characters too.
Really and truly it’s no big thing for me because the ideas pop up automatically.”

Question: What are your current projects?

“Right now I am in the midst of several things, most importantly I am finishing up on the 4th and final book in my The Ciprianos of Kellington series “”Federico””.

I am also in the midst of two other stories right now, one I’m very passionate about as well as another that I know will be very emotional.”

Question: Do you have any advice for other writers?

“Never give up on what you believe in.
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t write and that writing is nothing because I’ve had people tell me that and made me weary about even becoming a writer. People will want to drag you down and make you feel that you can’t do what you’ve always set your mind and heart to do.

Also don’t get discouraged over a bad review…….I know easier said than done for I’ve had bad reviews myself from people who have read my work and its very hurtful to see your work being down played and basically torn down by someone. It’s hard reading them because you’ve put so many hours of work into your story, only to have a some leave remarks about how bad it is. I’ve been discouraged plenty of times by comments about how people hated what I’ve written but I’ve also had some who have contacted me about how they love my work and how much the stories and characters meant to them. For those people, I write for.”

The Journey To Wondercon, Update #3… The Final Stretch

 

It’s Monday. That means I only have tonight, tomorrow morning and evening and Wednesday to finish up what ever I have left before we go to setup at the Anaheim Convention Center. That isn’t very much time given I will also be studying for my Real Estate License Exam that I will be taking on Wednesday. I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled the exam for this week and not next! The combination of stress from both has negated each other I am afraid. Which has left me in a state of feeling at peace even though there is still stuff to be done and information to learn!

I took some pictures today. I thought I’d have some fun with these updates. Today was crunch time. This weekend I spent most of the time listening to the sounds of my printer dancing back and forth to the printing of book catalogs. I did about 200 catalogs and almost emptied my ink cartridges. In retrospect, using a company like uprinting.com would have cost me into the $400s+. $16 dollars For 2,500 sheets of paper (in which I didn’t even use half of that) + 76 for the ink (mainly two colors are depleted). I am tempted to print up another 100 catalogs. I noticed a spark in eBook sales after Condor 21 with our catalogs. It might be worth it.

 

I was in the process of putting them together. They are missing their final touches in this picture!

I was in the process of putting them together. They are missing their final touches in this picture!

Today however, I did more merch. I finished the feather pens that had taken me so long to finish because of my schedule. I hand dye my own ostrich feathers. Usually I make the feathers for my hats for the Renaissance Faire, but I’ve decided to make feather pens with them… considering our logo is a quill.. I thought it would be fun and relevant! I’m pretty happy with how they turned out and I hope you like them too! I will have them on Etsy after this weekend for about 7-8 dollars each. I was going to stick to red, black, and white feathers but I figured that people might want other colors.

 

 

I also put the final touches on the book bags that I have been working very hard on. I had my team of minions to help me this morning. photo 3

 

So the feather pens are done, although I could do more plain white feathers if I got enough feed back suggesting that I should. The book bags are complete. I did 55 of them. The poles are painted and the last of the signs have been printed. This is the final stretch! Now my list stands at finishing putting the giant book covers on poster board, cutting them evenly, and packing. Of course I may be doing more catalogs and feathers, but that is yet to be determined.

The advice I have received on Reddit has been wonderful! Thank you to all those who have commented, helped, and suggested what to do. I feel that this is going to be a great event. I am so excited!

 

The Journey to Wondercon, Update #2

I’m more surprised that I haven’t lost my head at this point. I hit a point yesterday where I felt all the stress overwhelm me. Though, I am proud to say that I’ve made it through and am ready for what ever tomorrow brings.

There is still a big list of things that need to be done, but I see the light!

We haven’t done many big events quite yet. So there has been a lot of setup that I won’t ever have to do again! *Hopefully*

We created a very tall banner sign holder from PVC. Had an 8ft banner printed and set it all up in the entry way of my house. Why? Because the thing towers at least 10+ feet over my head! In my nervous excitement, I want to be over prepared for next weekend. We have set up now a demo of what our display will look like next weekend. It makes me feel a little better, knowing the display stands out and looks amazing.  I can be a creative perfectionist though and that will definitely delay completion of our table.

The books have been ordered and shipped. It was a big decision. I hope I made the best call on the numbers.

The book bags have been finished too.

I still don’t know what to expect! Anyone I ask keeps saying, “It depends on the crowd.” Some years they buy and other years they don’t. I don’t like those numbers. I prefer a yes or a no!

Advice? Thoughts? I will post pictures this weekend of my dilemma. To have the second book stand or not? That’s update #3’s main topic for discussion.

 

The Journey To Wondercon Update #1

I’ve decided to “journal” the next 14 days as we get ready for Wondercon 2014.
If you don’t know what Wondercon is, then listen up!
Wondercon is hosted by the same company who puts on the giant Comic Con in San Diego California. It is smaller compared to the 120K who attend Comic Con. About 50-60K will be in attendance at Wondercon, or maybe more! They seem to be growing every year.

Up until now, Ink Smith has only attended small book fairs. Condor 21 which was our first experience at a “con” vention had about 650 people in attendance. To our surprise we sold out of a few books and sold several book bags.

Now my dilemma is this: What to expect at an event with attendance in the thousands?

I am in the process of putting the book order together, but I don’t want to over order. I also definitely don’t want to sell out of items on the first day.

Ideally if someone has had experience with this kind of thing I would love your input!

I currently have on order 15 copies of those books that I sold out of, 10 books of those that sold one or have previously been popular at book events, and 5 of those who haven’t really drawn much attention at events. I also am planning to have 40-50 book bags for sale as well. I was told to order about 300 books for this event, but I’m a little uneasy about order that many books. On that note, we will be at other events this year. So extra books wouldn’t be an issue either.
Or should I order more?

I also will be selling Quill pens as well that I have been hand dying and making myself. I will only have a select amount of those there as time keeps eluding me.

Our position is in the back left corner. I have plans to over come this obstacle, although I’ve been told that being in the corner might be a good thing.

So thoughts? What should I do? How many should I order? Advice?

I am very excited!