Tag Archives: Editing

Publishing Advice for the Unpublished Writer

Check out my essay on writing with The Review Review!

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Step One:

Only submit something you actually enjoyed writing, something you’re passionate about, something you’ve edited and reedited and performed aloud and hated and loved and obsessed over, whether it’s funny, frightening, serious, or melodramatic. I’ve read enough passionless gimmicky pieces to last me a lifetime.

Step Two …

Editing Your Novel? Give Adaptation a Try

First, the inspiration behind this post: I am incredibly proud to announce that I sold the teleplay version of my fem scifi novel-in-progress, The Fire Eaters! Huzzah! I sold the teleplay (not the book; important distinction) to an indie book publisher that’s now in the process of shopping it around Hollywood. But, regardless if it ever gets picked up by a studio (wouldn’t that be a trip?), I couldn’t be more proud that my story and characters have garnered such sincere interest. It gives me a real boost of confidence about the prospects for the novel as a whole.

The idea of adapting my own novel was a daunting one at first, even though I’ve adapted plenty of other books in the past. This was partly because I wasn’t even sure I wanted a film/TV version to be made at all (the novel, after all, is still what’s closest to my heart), and also partly because I plain wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to divorce myself enough from the book-version to make the plot and character changes that are (almost) always necessary when adapting for film/TV.

In the end, though, I decided to approach the adaptation as an exercise in revitalizing my energy/creativity/brutality for editing the novel: What subplots and characters truly are unnecessary? Could certain characters be combined, streamlined, or better developed? Could certain symbols and themes be cut, added, or made to work harder?

Stripping the book down to an almost purely dialogue format was also helpful in getting me to reconsider different conversations and dialogue-heavy scenes throughout the book. It allowed me to zero-in on conversations that sounded unnatural, but that I hadn’t noticed before due to all the crowding narration. It also helped me realize when certain conversations weren’t contributing anything at all, just taking up space.

Bottom line: If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired with one of your longer prose projects, try adapting it into a teleplay or screenplay format (and force yourself to be diligent and honest with the genre shift; no teleplays over 45 pages or screenplays over 110!). You might be surprised at how helpful an editorial exercise this can be. Alternatively, you can try your hand at things like Bartleby Snopes’s 8th Annual Dialogue-Only Contest. Submissions end on September 15th, but the perks and usefulness of the challenge itself apply all year long 🙂

P.S. If you’re interested in trying out some screenwriting software, I would recommend either Final Draft or Adobe Story.

Keep Writing! Keep Reading!

 

 

Feature image owned by KC Mead-Brewer

things I’m tired of seeing in lit mag submissions

As a reader for two different magazines and an indie book publisher…I couldn’t agree more with Bartleby Snopes editor Nathaniel Tower. If you’re a writer and/or editor, definitely give this a read.

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Guest post by Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine managing editor Nathaniel Tower

An editor of a literary magazine has to put up with a fair amount. Among the struggles we must face on our daily quest for literary greatness is repetition. I’m not simply talking about the monotony of reading submissions. Rather, I’m referring to the fact that, at times, it feels like every submission is exactly the same.

When lit mag editors are asked what frustrates them the most about submissions, the responses are typically the same: submissions that don’t follow guidelines, submissions riddled with typos, submissions with a blatant disregard for the aesthetic (whatever the hell that means) of the lit mag in question.

As a lit mag editor, these aren’t the things that bother me the most. Writers who don’t follow guidelines are the easiest to reject. They waste the least amount of my time. What, you didn’t use the…

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Advice from Women Writers

 

Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

—Zadie Smith


This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.

—Barbara Kingsolver


First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

—Octavia Butler


Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

—Margaret Atwood


Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

—Anne Lamott


It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.

—Tina Fey


You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

—Maya Angelou

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Notable Essays of 2014 – Congratulations!

Good news!

William Bradley’s essay, “Marked,” published by Cleaver Magazine, has just been named a “Notable Essay of 2014” by Best American Essays.

Congratulations, William Bradley! And a special thanks also to Cleaver‘s terrific Editor-in-Chief Karen Rile — her vision and hard work allow works like Bradley’s to find the audiences they so deserve.

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Today in Literature

Welcome to our premiere installment of Today in Literature!

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September 15th through literary history…

  • Agatha Christie, acclaimed and beloved mystery writer, was born on this day in 1890, Torquay, UK
  • Robert Penn Warren, writer, critic, and poetry consultant to the U.S. Library of Congress, died on this day in 1989
  • Robert Benchley, writer and editor, was born on this day in 1889, Worcester, Massachusetts (famous also for darkly funny quotes like: “It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”)
  • Arthur Henry Hallam, poet and essayist, died on this day in 1883 at the tender age of twenty-two, and is now best remembered thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson eulogizing him in his In Memoriam
  • Claude McKay, author, poet, and generally fascinating contributor to the Harlem Renaissance, was born on this day in 1890
  • James Fenimore Cooper, author (probably most famous for The Last of the Mohicans), was born on this day in 1789

Thomas Lee on Writing a Winning Story

“‘Anyone can write one good story. A good writer can write many bad stories. The best we can do is become good writers who more often than not write good stories.'”

—a writing instructor’s advice, from 

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I want to share this article with you not only because I greatly appreciate Lee’s thoughtfulness and honesty, but because I think Lee does a tremendous job here of demonstrating how to rethink one’s own work, publishing histories, and ability to consider critiques. It’s both a professional and personal strength to be able to sincerely and respectfully consider critiques of your work, but it can often be tricky trying to wade through reader critiques in order to find those comments that ought to be heeded and those that ought to be ignored.

I love the way Lee outlines his thought process here when it comes to what advice he accepted or rejected for his award-winning short story, “The Gospel of Blackbird.” I believe Lee’s process of teasing out why he’s accepting or rejecting different critiques (as well as why the reader might’ve given them in the first place) could be of great use to anyone who’s ever had to struggle with negative reader comments or even plain mean ones.

Of course, in the end, Lee reminds us that the reasons why one great story gets awarded over a dozen others is impossible to tease out.

“All I know is that I wrote ‘The Gospel of Blackbird’ from the heart, and I wrote the story that I wanted to write.”

And this is really all we can do as writers: make sure that we always write from the heart and only write those stories that we most want to write. Those will be the stories that people will love reading and that will lead us to become good writers who, more often than not, write good stories.

(P.S. Jeff VanderMeer also does a terrific job of discussing the handling of critiques and the selection of First Readers in his The Wonder Bookwhich I can’t recommend highly enough — tons of fun and very helpful.)