Monthly Archives: May 2011

Today: 600 words

I finished off the chapter I was working on. I actually found a nice little sub-scene to add in there, with a bit of history between the two characters. It’s the kind of thing where it might be too distracting for the reader, and take away from the overall energy of the scene. But even if it does, and it has to be sliced out, I like that I have a firmer understanding of these two characters. Plus it’s a little bit funny, so I doubt it will completely turn readers off.

I haven’t done much thinking about the next chapter, so we’ll see how it goes…

The Places We Write

I was at a meeting of the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association last week. It was a good meeting — that branch, although it has had a few doubts about its longevity from time to time, has got a lot going for it. I’m very confident in their new president and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the branch in the next year or two!

However, the topic came up once or twice about how some writers, myself of course included, like to write outside of the house, often in coffee shops, cafes, and the like. It’s something that’s been bouncing around my head for a while, and that night, it clicked.

As I drove home from the meeting — about 45 minutes’ drive plus some extra time out of respect for the rain that was falling — I started to think about a website where we writers can build a listing of good places to write. Insider information, too, things like whether there are outlets for laptops, what the noise level is like, and whether the staff starts to get antsy around your third hour of nursing that coffee.

And better yet, that site should have a map; that way, if I’m going to be somewhere in the country — say, in Grand Bend for a conference — I can find somewhere to sit for a while and work.

Finally, it’s a neat way to build a community among our insular little writer selves; even if we only ever chat in the comments on the site, it’s a way of knowing there are others out there, like you.

So I took a few hours, invested in a bit of web hosting, and ta-da! The site is built.

Unfortunately, it’s not ready for public consumption just yet. But I’m working on it. Feel like being a beta tester for it? Drop me a line!

Today: 600 words

(I’ve decided to start crossposting my wordcount reports from r/wordcount.)

Another day of writing with a crappy pen. Well, an okay pen, but not the one I like. Sigh!

Anyhow, I got through a good chunk of the current chapter and I am pleased that the outlining I did paid off. Lots of nice little opportunities for humour I think. (Will anyone else find anything in this book funny? No idea. Time will tell I guess.)

I stopped today thinking that I had finished a chapter; I knew it was going to be a shorter chapter but I realized that it was really short, something like half the length of the other chapters in the book. While that’s not a problem nearer the end — I sometimes shorten the chapters to increase the impression of the pace of the book — here in the middle, right after a shorter, very intense, very important chapter, I didn’t think this was right.

Then I consulted my outline. There is a whole scene I haven’t written yet! And now, knowing that I need to write this scene, I can also add a bunch of new stuff that stems from the stuff I wrote today, to reinforce what I’ve developed in the chapter already.

I’m sure it’s all very vague-sounding since I haven’t told anyone what this book is about. I guess the summary is, not a bad day of writing today. Hopefully there will be more over the weekend.

El Presidente

So it seems that some misguided souls have seen fit to make me king of all I survey president of the Canadian Authors Association.

This has little bearing on my writing (other than giving me less time to work on it), but it’s nice to put on a business card… speaking of which, I wonder if I’m getting business cards?

On Submissions

I don’t know how many times new writers need to be told that they need to follow submission guidelines, but I’ve heard from multiple editors in the last two weeks about how many submissions they just throw away because the submitters just didn’t follow the rules. These were editors speaking at a recent conference, as well as in a couple of podcasts (notably Lee Harris of Angry Robot Books, as interviewed on I Should Be Writing).

In discussing this, a friend of mine commented:

Not every editor/publisher explains what they want in plain terms. I’m looking at set of guidelines and they want three things electronically, but don’t specify how they want them. In the body of the email? As one attachment? As three attachments? What format?

I’m afraid to submit anything to them in case I’m dismissed for failing to follow the guidelines! Or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

It’s very true, what she says about vague submission guidelines. I always like when I find publishers with long, detailed guidelines; I even kind of enjoy reading them. The vague ones are unsettling, as my friend pointed out.

My approach is to assume that if the guidelines don’t state something specifically, then the editors don’t care how the submitter handles it. If they don’t say how they want the three things, then attach them the way you would normally attach them in a business context (probably as three separate attachments).

A similar case is when the guidelines as for a cover letter but don’t say what they expect to get out of it. I just send a version of my standard, general cover letter that provides a bit of a bio, and a description of the piece and why I’m sending it to them. If they are looking for something specific, and say so, then I make sure that’s included (and obviously included) in the letter.

And you’ve got to be a little fatalistic too, I think — don’t overthink it, just send, record that you’ve sent it, and move on. If you have inadvertently violated their unwritten rules, not much you can do about it; and better to have submitted and lost than not to have submitted at all. As they say.