Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting Out

One of the challenges I have faced as a writer has been the simple concept of "getting out." In order to write about life, living, and the human must first be in a position to experience life, living, and the human condition.

Well, Monday I got it into my head to join the Red Cross, Tuesday I attended my first DAT (Disaster Action Team) training seminar, and today found me sitting at a booth at a Senior Expo passing out pamphlets and mimicking the "spiels" of the seasoned volunteers as though I had actual knowledge about the topics themselves!!!! Just meeting people, "running off at the mouth" (as a good Southern girl must do), and listening to their concerns, questions, and comments really stirred my creative juices.

Writing can be such a sedentary occupation (or "calling"..."drive"..."insane obsession") that one often forgets that unless the time is made to step away from the computer, typewriter, notebook, or laptop in order to actually interact with this process of living, there is that possibility of being not a "writer," but one of those fabled fools who "write" for no other reason than they cannot "do."

Stay connected, people!

Tell me, in what ways do you "get out"...and how does this benefit your writing?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nonfiction Proposals

This week has been an eventful one. Between attending writers' forums, discussion groups, and lectures, joining the Red Cross, and resuming my two-hour morning walks, sticking to my thousand-word minimum has proven something of a challenge. Okay, I slacked off, ya'll! I admit it. Visualize Chanctetinyea hanging her head in shame. Still, one very good thing to come from all of this was the amount of new information I amassed. Having been out of the proverbial loop for so long, learning how much has changed is a constant source of amazement for me. Most notable was the concept of the Nonfiction Proposal. At three separate events and from numerous sources, I learned about the art of writing the strong nonfiction proposal. Subsequently, I condensed my notes, which I am now sharing with you.
Components of a Nonfiction Book Proposal

1. The concept of your book 2. The contents of your book 3. The current market for your book 4. The present competition for your book (or its content) 5. Your qualifications to address the subject matter 6. Your professional (as a writer) history, and/or background 7. In what ways your book might be promoted coupled with your own "hard sell" 8. The Table of Contents for your book 9. Chapter synopses or summaries 10. Sample chapters
Writing the Nonfiction Nonfiction Proposal
1. The title of your book 2. An overview of approximately three to twelve pages, conveying your style or voice 3. Your credentials or "platform" as an author 4. Marketing information detailing other books of the same subject matter currently in print, information regarding the numbers sold, and why yours is comparable--no, superior
Manuscript data (which includes an approximate word count, estimated time of completion, and an idea of the number of charts, illustrations, or photographs it will contain) 6. The table of contents 7. Chapter outline with synopsis for each chapter 8. A sample chapter (research guidelines when possible to confirm how many the agent or publisher might prefer) 9. Additional materials which "sell" your concept--such as the names of anyone notable willing to endorse your book, current articles relative to the subject or theme, pertinent samples of your work (which demonstrate your ability to write knowledgeably about the topic, any articles about you, depictions of the front and back covers of any previously published books, etc. Wow. It wasn't quite so complicated years ago; however, knowledge is power. So...those of you working on that nonfiction book, make note. Also remember that one no does not submit the completed manuscript for a nonfiction work! Happy writing. And, if you pick up helpful tips or information, websites or links, please... SHARE!!!

A Pivotal Question

Last evening, as I detailed in my previous post, I attended the panel discussion, Breaking In: How to Get an Agent and a Publisher. An interesting thing happened, however, after the discussion ended and the panelists began taking individual questions. Denise Marcil, the literary agent of the forum, had positioned herself in the rear of the program room, leaving the young adult author and novelist at the table. I made my way back to speak with her, interested in her views on the remarkable,somewhat daunting changes in the literary world over the past decade or more. We spoke briefly, at which time, she asked me the inevitable question: "What sort of things do you write? What is your genre?' Well, I write everything. The genre is of little importance to me, for I take what is happening in my life, my head, in the world around me and place it in the most appropriate form. How I write is not so important as what I write. (Or should it be the opposite?) In short, the question always stumps me; thus, I find myself stuttering and stammering to try to give some cohesive answer that doesn't make me sound like an indecisive fool. She listened patiently, was very encouraging, then--after a brief pause--said, "Well, I would ask you, 'what is your passion?'" My knee-jerk reaction? "Writing." Still, I have spent most of the night and three hours of my morning (during a two-hour walk and one-hour hike up a winding forest trail--I cannot say enough about the benefits of physical activity in clearing the mind and stimulating creativity, people!) attempting to answer that question. The result: I realized just how much of my original "passion" I had allowed to cool. Writing no longer drives me as it once did. It somehow fails to feed, to excite, to thrill, and to fulfill as it once did. In the beginning, I thought nothing could cool the ardor of my ever intensifying love-affair with words and images. Now, I see that time and life and frustration and loss of confidence can and did! None of us can afford to lose that passion. Therefore, I am setting out to rekindle my "romance" with my writing. As I embark on this journey of renewal and rediscovery, I ask you this: What is your passion?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Write From the Heart"

I just returned from a panel discussion entitled Breaking In: How To Get an Agent and a Publisher, which I found very encouraging. It featured non-fiction author Lucy Hedrick, young adult author Nina Nelson, literary agent Denise Marcil, and novelist Prill Boyle. To be honest, having been caught up in the whole writing/publishing/marketing whirlwind for approximately two decades now, much of what was said was not new to me; nevertheless, there were really helpful bits of information regarding the changes in the literary market--especially non-fiction--in recent years. Mostly, however, it was a plain, old-fashioned motivator. Time and time again the panelists stressed three points:

1. Remaining devoted to your writing
2. Not allowing yourself to be discouraged
3. Writing from the heart

I suppose we all need to be reminded of this. There are many options out there, from traditional publishing to self-publishing, winning contests, the Hybrid Alternative (of which I had never heard), and printing on demand; nevertheless, one thing remains true, and this is that one has to be motivated by the hunger to write, the love of writing, and the desire to write well.

Also, I found myself having to admit that as the years have elapsed, I have indeed found it difficult to actually "write from the heart". As I have accumulated more and more experiences--some positive, some negative, all life-altering--the tendency to distance myself from those emotions, sensations, reactions, and responses has become more commonplace. Perhaps with age, our self-protective instincts kick in, making it more difficult to so enthusiastically and regardless of inhibitions delve into our deepest selves, dredge up pain and regret, then slap it into print for all to read. Further, maybe my time as a freelance editor (who constantly lectures her clients not to separate themselves from their characters, from that narrative voice) has conditioned me to remain dispassionate and detached in a way that I, in my youth, did not.

All I know is that I did not realize how much I need refreshment until the thirst was quenched.

The moral, people:

Do not forsake the gathering of yourselves to write, discuss writing, encourage, critique, and share experiences. No writer is alone, and even in this uncertain market with publishing companies losing money, cutting budgets, reducing titles, there are success stories...and they all begin with individuals who love to write, make the decision to write as best they can, and refuse to give up or be dissuaded in their writing.

So start typing, ya'll!

By the way, has anybody else out there attended any good (informative, useful, interesting) forums, lectures, or workshops? If so, I would love to hear about them!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just Keep Movin'

Today finds me running in all different directions. I'm working on one of my adult fiction manuscripts, rushing to be ready by six in order to attend the Red Cross Disaster Action Team Training workshop, attempting to keep ahead of my correspondence (e-mail, my submissions log--all rejections of course--Facebook, etc.) all the while pondering the viability of sending in my RSVP for the Exeter Annual Reception Greenwich this June. (I always vow to attend if for networking purposes only...and never do.) I have writers to interview (the original reason for starting this blog), information for my upcoming move to research (destination: Colorado, it now seems), and a writers' workshop tomorrow at five for which I need to prepare (as an attendee rather than the organizer, for a change). Still, we have all read of the instances in which a writer, after decades of rejections, meets with that one acceptance which turns the tides. Persistence, Perseverance, and Tenacity truly do pay off--in writing as well as life... Or so I'll keep telling myself as I keep my snubby little nose to the grindstone!