National Novel Writing Month - lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo - is a writing challenge where each participant strives to write a manuscript of at least 50,000 words in only 30 days. It is not a contest. It is not a game and there are no prizes, except for some fierce bragging rights. Of course, since it is a personal challenge, each writer can set his/her own writing goals for the month, but generally speaking, it is the lofty aspiration of finishing the first draft of a full-length manuscript in a genre of your choosing.
Now, who would choose to participate in such a crazy venture? Yeah, good question. Crazy writers, that's who. But looking past our questionable sanity, there is a dynamic and steadfast camaraderie amongst NaNoWriMo-ers. Many people participate in virtual writing rooms that stay open 24/7 and some track their writing progress on sites like Pacemaker Press, where each person states their goal and updates his/her progress daily. And some just join the hashtag on twitter and celebrate one another's word count for the day. Whatever you choose as your level of participation beyond the actual writing of the manuscript is up to you - but the RAH RAH of fellow writers is really what makes this experience unique. It's why there is one particular month that is deemed the National Novel Writing Month - so that all writers can be on the same page (pun intended) and work together, even if separated by miles and time zones.
As the blog title indicates, NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart. But it's not about winning or losing. It's about attempting something totally wild with a community of equally wild creatives. It's about support and encouragement. And it's about setting a goal and doing your best to stick to it.
So best of luck to all NaNoWriMo-ers - we're rooting for you! We're cheering you on. We are writing with you. And we know you can do it!
Upon some serious reflection, it became evident that our society is set up in a way that it is "easier" to work at a 9-5 job where we sit at a cubicle and punch numbers all day. And for some of people, this is fulfilling work. But for others, it will never be enough. The problem is that society also requires, you know, money in order to live and eat, and sadly, being an artist isn't (usually) a lucrative gig. Being self-employed doesn't afford us healthcare or dental insurance and it certainly doesn't offer a life of stability. But this is a sacrifice many people make in order to live out their passion and fulfill their creative dreams.
And that, my friends, takes some serious courage. It's never easy, not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or having to rely on a part-time retail or wait staff job just so you can eat. But we do it. We are willing to make these sacrifices because the nourishment of our souls and creative spirits trumps trying to fit our square-selves into the round-holes carved out for us by society. Trust me, they want us to fold. And many of us will. Because it's easier and safer and more secure. And believe me, I am not knocking those people. Not at all. No one can argue with survival. Actually, it's probably the smarter of the two moves. But there is something courageous, and down right nutty, in not succumbing to the temptation of stability and holding out for a life of passion, no matter how wild the ride may seem. To these people, I offer my sincerest congratulations and also my deepest sympathies. It is going to be a long, and difficulty road to hoe. But you will be fulfilled, which is so much more than many of us can ever say.
Though many people enjoy "the arts," few value it enough to see to it that artists are fairly paid for their craft. Makeup artists, painters, writers, musicians, actors, and the like are all seen as people not to be taken seriously. They are not as "serious" as engineers. They are not as "serious" as architects. Or doctors. Or lawyers. Or politicians. Not as intelligent, hard-working, or educated. Obviously, these things are just not true. Many artists have studied their craft just as laboriously as all other professionals, maybe even more. They are always practicing, refining, redefining, and recreating themselves in order to grow and remain relevant.
All I'm saying is that it's not easy to follow your passion. Especially not in a world driven by financial prosperity. So to those people who put their craft and their creative endeavors ahead of their desire to be wealthy, I applaud you. Though the world may not compensate you well for it, it needs your originality, your imagination, and your innovation.
Keep dreaming. Keep working hard. Keep fighting for what drives you.
In the end, the fight will be worth it.
You've finally finished your manuscript. After months, maybe years, of blood, sweat, and tears, you finally accomplished what very few have. Many say they'd like to write a book, but you, you actually did it. This in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Give yourself a high-five!
Okay, so whether you are submitting to our publishing house, an agency, or another house entirely, there are a few things to remember that are pretty standard across the board. Keep these things in mind and hopefully, you'll find a happy home for your book.
1. Edit, edit, edit.
No, but seriously, this is not an exaggeration. You have no idea how many submissions I receive that are an absolute mess in terms of grammar, professionalism, and just general writing ability. Seeing as I (or any other agent/publisher) probably don't know you personally, your query letter and manuscript submission is your "first impression," and as legend has it, "You never get a second chance at a first impression." Sometimes we are too close to our own work to effectively edit it after staring at it for so long. So after you've gone through it several times on your own, give it to a trusted friend, some writer buddies, or if you can spring for it, a professional editor. If you are serious about getting your work published, editing your work is not optional. Check your ego at the door and remember that no one, and I mean no one, not even Stephan King or J.K. Rowling, can just submit their first drafts to their publishers without editing first. It's just the law of the land.
2. Follow Submission Guidelines
Every credible publishing house and agency will post their submission guidelines on their website. And unfortunately, each one may be different. You cannot just choose willy-nilly what you want to send. If you want an agent or a publisher to take you seriously, you need to play by their rules. First off, it's a courtesy thing. It shows that you made the effort to research their company and learn about their specifications on submission. Second of all, it's a professional thing. Do you homework. It shows how willing you are to abide by the rules and requests of the house, which to many can make or break a relationship.
For me personally, I know this sounds harsh, but I take it offensively when I see that an author has absolutely no regard for our submission guidelines. It shows me that they just couldn't be bothered. Or that they aren't really interested in finding their book a home with our press, they're just looking for any press in general. Which means they aren't really serious about their publishing career. Because if they were, they'd have more of an opinion about finding the agent or house that would best suit them and best represent their work. You have no idea how many times I get submissions for poetry, or non-fiction, or other genres that we don't even represent. It does not leave a good impression.
3. Learn how to write a query letter and ask writer friends to review it.
If you are asking yourself, "What is a query letter?" then you are not quite ready to submit your manuscript. A query letter is protocol for manuscript submissions, whether you're submitting for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary, etc. It has a pretty particular format and a pretty particular set of information that needs to be included. Take some time and do some research on some query letter "how-tos".
Here are two great links to get you started:
Listen, all authors need to write query letters. It's a necessary evil. Learn it, practice it, edit it, have it critiqued, edit it again, and again, and again… and then it might be ready. Seriously, I am working with an author who says it took her three years to get her query letter to where she wanted it. Now, it might not take you three years, but it also can't be something you bang out in 10 minutes. Take your time and learn the game before you decide to go pro.
"Above all, a query letter is a sales pitch and it is the single most important page an unpublished writer will ever write. It's the first impression and will either open the door or close it. It's that important, so don't mess it up. Mine took 17 drafts and two weeks to write." - Nicholas Sparks
4. Write several length synopses and keep them saved in a file.
Remember how I mentioned that every agency and publishing house may have a different set of criteria for their submission guidelines? This includes different length synopses. One house may ask for a one-page synopsis, another may ask for a 5 or 10 pager. Write a few to have on hand so that you can streamline your submission process. In addition, if you don't know what a synopsis is – more research. They, too, are a necessary evil.
Also, on a side note, it's handy to have an elevator-pitch, a tweet-sized blurb, and a back cover blurb all ready to go as well. They will help you pitch your book at conferences or when talking to professionals while networking. Keep all of these synopses/blurbs in a file, maybe include a professional style photograph of yourself and entitle the folder: Author Press Kit. In there you can also include a bio: one short and one long. These are all elements that will be handy to have already prepared if someone was to ask for it. Instead of scrambling and throwing something together last minute, take the time and do it now. You'll thank me later – trust me.
5. Be sure to have your manuscript completed before you send it to agents/publishers.
To query an agent/publisher on an unfinished manuscript is a BIG business no-no! For real. It can really mar your reputation with a house, or even worse, a community of professionals. This should be motivation for you to finish you novel, edit it, get it right, and then send out your very best work. Though it seems impossible, the writing community is smaller than you'd think and people talk. Professionalism is of the utmost importance and to send out a manuscript that isn't ready, well… is unprofessional and can likely tarnish your name for future submissions.
These are the big five. Certainly there are other things to consider, but generally speaking, this list covers the important aspects of manuscript submission. Now go forth and publish!
Oh, summer. The perfect time for swimming pools, long weekend road trips, and delicious barbecue treats. But this summer has been so much more than that for us here at Firefly Hill Press. We are lucky to have signed another talented author last week. Beth Merlin, a fresh and entertaining New Adult novelist, signed a deal for her debut novel One S'more Summer. A single-title, light-hearted read, One S'more Summer is sure to elicit every reader's sense of nostalgia for a time when things were more simple.
Gigi, Alicia, and Joshua have been best friends since they met at Camp Chinooka almost 20 years ago. But, you know what they say, "Two's company, three's a crowd," and Gigi is the third wheel spending much of her life wishing Joshua loved her instead of Alicia.
Stifled by longing and guilt, Gigi’s world quickly begins to fall apart. The same week she loses her high profile job, Gigi discovers that Alicia and Joshua will be getting married in only a few months, solidifying the notion that she'll never end up with the man she's always loved. To escape it all, at least for a summer, she accepts a job as Head Counselor at Camp Chinooka, the place she remembers being most happy.
But when Gigi discovers she can't escape her present by returning to her past, she is forced to reexamine the true meaning of love and the ultimate consequences of her actions. In this clever and nostalgic New Adult novel, readers will be left longing for their days of innocence and be left begging to return to their childhood for just One S'more Summer.
We can't put into words how delighted we are to have Beth join our team. Our family is growing and growing and we couldn't be more thrilled! Please help us welcome Beth with open arms and join us in saying "Congratulations" on her exciting publishing future. One S'more Summer is set to be released spring 2017.
Find out more about Beth and One S'more Summer's release by checking out her page on our website, by following her on Twitter and Facebook, and by subscribing to our newsletter.
As of last week, Firefly Hill Press penned a deal with debut author, Tricia Leedom, for her romantic adventure Rum Runner. As the first in a three book series, it is the perfect combination of sexy romance and fast-paced thrill ride. When English socialite Sophie Davies-Stone travels to Key West, Florida to search for her biological father, she steps into the crosshairs of his enemies and is forced to seek help from a former Navy SEAL. Gorgeous, cocky, and self-indulgent, Jimmy Panama is exactly the type of man her mother had always warned her about, but she has no other choice but to trust him if she's to stay alive long enough to navigate the Caribbean, evade a disgruntled drug lord, and find her father before his enemies do. This witty adventure begins as a reluctant journey and ends in a leap of faith for love.
Tricia is going to be a wonderful addition to our FHP team because of her knowledge, love, and talent for fiction writing. We are not only excited about this book and this series, but we can't wait to see what new characters and adventures Tricia cooks up in the future. We are sure that you are going to love her work just as much as we do. Please share in welcoming Tricia to our press and join us in heartily congratulating her for such exciting news! Rum Runner is set to be released summer 2017.
Find out more about Tricia and Rum Runner's release by checking out her page on our website, by following her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and by subscribing to our newsletter. We'll keep you posted on all the fun as it becomes available.
We are not gonna lie, the first time we heard of "writing sprints" we imagined some type of relay involving running in place while typing furiously until smoke plumed from the keyboard. In our heads, it wasn't pretty. BUUUUT thank goodness, we were dead wrong. "Writing sprints" are actually one of the best ways to get words down on paper and to hold yourself accountable. Much like punching a clock for work, writing sprints force you to sit down at a specific time and write. It's easy to say, "Yeah, I'll get to it later" when it comes to writing, especially if you treat it like a hobby instead of a job. But with writing sprints, it's a little harder to blow off since you are being held accountable by a few of your peers.
Let me explain, to start writing sprints, you need at least one friend/fellow writer/peer, but more is always better, just in case someone can't make it one day. You set a time and you all virtually meet in a chat room (we always use Google Chat). After you say your hellos, someone sets a timer for a chunk of time (we used to do 20 minutes, but now we usually do 25-30 min stints). The timer counts down and then everyone mutes their screens and writes for the set amount of time. After time is up, everyone posts their word counts (not the actual words, just the number) for everyone to see and someone usually tweets about it. A tweet might look like: Rd 1 #writingsprints w/ @soso, @soso2, & @soso3. 675 wds & counting. Great job y'all. Onto Rd2... #writingrocks #teamwork #community. It doesn't have to be fancy, but try to include everyone's twitter handle and the # of words that way everyone can be held accountable and can retweet it for themselves if they'd like.
Remember, the word count itself isn't a competition and no one is mad if a person only gets down 75 words. The key to this is: this is not about perfection. The words you put down will eventually be edited, but not right now. Now is the time to just get the words down. Write as much as you can, as quickly as you can. It's all about helping to quiet your inner critic and just lay the first draft down on to paper. You know what they say, you can't edit a blank page.
So many people, when they are writing the first draft, get caught up in trying to have it be perfect the first time out. It is never perfect for anyone. Not even the best writers write flawless first drafts. It's all about throwing the sand in a box and building the castle out of it later, right? So, the reason sprints are so helpful is because it not only increases your daily word count, but it makes writing, a commonly insular and solitary practice, a social event (well, somewhat). After your 20-30 minute round is up, the timer calls time and then usually we take a 5 minute break to grab coffee, use the restroom, stretch, whatever, and then we start another round. On and on and on until we decide to be done. Some people drop in to join and can only hangout for one round, others can stay for hours. Sometimes we lose people mid-round if they have to attend to something else or get themselves off to work. It's super casual, but it is the practice of checking in every day for at least 30 minutes. It's similar to the same mentality as working out with a partner. You'll be far less likely to skip a workout or a writing session if you have an appointment/ someone waiting for you. It's less easy to blow off and it's far more exciting when you have a friendly face greeting you on the other end.
Long story short, writing sprints are an easy way to make sure that you make a writing appointment and stick to it daily. Give it a try and leave us a comment to let us know how it goes! Without a doubt, we're sure that your word counts will improve. Also, if you have any trouble getting started, let us know and we'll give you a hand with whatever we can. Now, get sprinting!
Let's get one thing straight: if you are getting rejection letters, it means you are really a writer! Welcome to the club! ::Cue wild cheers and rowdy applause::
No, but seriously. Rejection letters are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they are a rite of passage. They are evidence that you are working to put yourself and your passion out there and that's commendable. Most people go through their whole lives without ever being so brave. So shake of the stigma that rejection letter = failure, brush the dirt off your shoulders, eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's if it helps you feel better, and get back up on that horse. The road to publication is paved in letters of rejection. It's just one of those realities that we as writers have to face.
And not just bad writers – ALLLLLLL WRITERS!!! Yes, all of them.
According to a BuzzFeed article I once read:
And here's the kicker to end all kickers – (This one seriously breaks my brain!)
I bet she's laughing all the way to the bank as this 2015 article states:
"Joanne Rowling, writing under the pen name J.K. Rowling, has now written seven books in the Harry Potter series, which have sold more than 400 million copies. All seven books have been turned into feature films, with eight films having been produced under the watchful eye of Rowling. The franchise also led to the creation of over 400 licensed products, 11 video games, and two theme parks. All told, Rowling created a $15 billion brand. While her net worth is a fraction of that, as it is estimated to be just less than $1 billion, that's still enough to make her the world's richest author."
There is no doubt in my mind that all twelve people who rejected Harry Potter lose sleep every night over that mistake!
The reason I bring all of this up is because now that I am on the other side of the fence as a publisher instead of a writer, I know how subjective the selection can be. There are so many factors that can influence a publisher or agent's decision, beyond just your story and your writing. Sometimes it’s the amount of other projects accepted, especially in the same genre, or the current climate of the market, or timing, or dips in trend, or a million of other things that may not have to do with you.
Let me tell you, it's hard to say no. At least for me it is. Because I know that there is a dreamer on the other end of that email who has high hopes for their novel and I never want to be the person who discourages a writer from continuing on in their pursuit of publication. But you need to be stronger and better than the rejections by remembering that it may not be you.
Now if you've received 100 letters of rejection for the same project, perhaps there are somethings you may want to revise: be it your query letter or the manuscript itself. Maybe invest some time in taking your manuscript through a round of beta-readers, a group (3 or so) of trusted friends who will give you some honest feedback on your story or an editor who can help you identify any issues with your project. Maybe it just needs some tweaking. But if you've only sent out five submissions and received rejections on them, you are still too early in the process to abandon your project or your dream of writing. You need to think, "It's gonna take more than 5, 10, 20, 50 rejections to take me down!" Especially if this is your dream.
As writers, we are innately dreamers and sure it's hard to be told "no" after all the time you've spent creating your art. But it's just part of the journey. You can grow from it, or you can give up.
But real writers, we don't scare so easily.
One of the hardest things for writers to do is to hand their work over to others to be critiqued. No one wants to hear the bad stuff. It's hard, after all of the time and effort that you put in, to hear that something doesn't work or isn't right. But, truth be told, it's the bad stuff that will make you grow. Sure, it's nice to hear the compliments (and yes, those are important too), but it's the constructive criticism that will make you rework your story to be better.
Critique partners are an essential part of the writing process. They can help you see things you can't about your story, they can help give you suggestions when you get blocked, and they can help motivate you to stick to deadlines, which is ridiculously important if you hope to ever finish whatever it is you are working on. So many benefits – but it's essential to recognize that not everyone would make a good critique partner.
So how do you pick a critique partner? What qualities are most important? Well here are a few things to consider:
Now two VERY important things to remember once you find a partner (or partners) to work with: