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We Need to Talk About Money:

A guest post by Yi Shun Lai

The other day my husband fixed our bathroom sink with a video on YouTube, and I read a tutorial on how to build a wall planter.

So I was kind of surprised when I saw someone in an online writer’s community I’m in ask whether or not we thought her MFA program should be teaching her about the business of publishing. I mean, if I can learn rudimentary Spanish from an app, surely this person, who’s paying thousands of dollars to learn how to have a career in the written arts, should expect to learn how to . . . well, have a career.

I guess a little background is due: I’m a writing coach and editor. I’m also a novelist, and I edit nonfiction at a literary magazine. I cut my teeth in the consumer magazine world, and write marketing copy and teach workshops. In short, I make my living with words. I have an MFA myself, from an institution I chose specifically because its faculty comprised working writers, and a certificate in publishing from what is now the Columbia Publishing Course (when I graduated, it was still the Radcliffe Publishing Course). I got much of my writing-business acumen on the job, and when the time came to write and query my novel, I learned almost everything from friends who were literary agents, and, eventually, more timely information from my MFA program.

I’ve noticed a few things that crop up again and again when folks talk about writing and what place business has in it, and where and how you should learn these things. I’ll address them from my point of view below. And I invite you to partake in a conversation about them in the comments. Here we go:

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How to Interview a Writer - Aerogramme Writers Studio

A guest post by Kelly Gardiner and Adele Walsh, co-creators of the Unladylike podcast.

Right now, somewhere in the world, there’s a writers’ festival going on or, at least, an event in a bookshop or library featuring one or two writers or illustrators discussing their work and sharing their thoughts. There are dozens of podcasts, YouTube channels, writers’ centres and literary organisations. Never has there been so much talking about writing.

Interviewing writers, or being interviewed about your work, looks easy, but it isn’t – at least, not for everyone. We’ve learned the hard way, by participating in dozens of writer panels – including as chair or MC – and watching hundreds, maybe thousands of events. More recently, we’ve learned an enormous amount from the intimate setting of podcast interviews.

So if you’re a writer or someone who is about to interview a writer, if you’re chairing a session at a writers festival or participating in a panel, here are a few tips on making the most of your moment.

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Image via Reddit

Aaron Sorkin is one of the best known and most influential screenwriters working today. He received four Primetime Emmy Awards for ‘The West Wing’ and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011 for ‘The Social Network’.

Earlier this week Sorkin participated in an Ask Me Asking session on Reddit to help promote his new online screenwriting class. When Sorkin was asked how much of a character’s backstory he knows before he writes, he provided the following insightful answer:

I don’t like to commit myself to anything in a character’s backstory until I have to. I didn’t know going into the West Wing that Bartlet had MS. Then, along came an episode where I needed to introduce the idea that the First Lady (Dr. Channing) was a medical doctor. And the way I did it was by giving Bartlet MS.

David Mamet have written some excellent essays on this subject. You can get lost in the weeds if you sit down and try to create an entire biography for your character. If this is what they were like when they were six years old, and this is what they did when they were seven years old, and they scraped their knee when they were eight years old. Your character, assuming your character is 50 years old, was never six years old, or seven years old or eight years old. Your character was born the moment the curtain goes up, the moment the movie begins, the moment the television show begins, and your character dies as soon as it’s over. Your character only becomes seven years old when they say, “Well when I was seven years old, I fell in a well, and ever since then I’ve had terrible claustrophobia. Okay?

Characters and people aren’t the same thing. They only look alike.

I write a lot of drafts of screenplays and plays. I keep writing and I keep writing; what I try to do at the beginning is just get to the end. Once I’ve gotten to the end, I know a lot more about the piece, and I’m able to go back to the beginning and touch stuff that never turned into anything, and highlight things that are going to become important later on. And I go back, and I keep doing that, and I keep doing that, and I’ll retype the whole script, over and over again, just to make things sharper and sharper. That’s for movies and plays. In television, there just isn’t that kind of time. In television, I have to write a 55-minute movie every nine days, so we shoot my first draft.

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Literary Magazines for New and Unpublished Writers 2016

Our previous lists of magazines that welcome submissions from new and previously unpublished writers (see here and here) have both received a huge amount of positive feedback. So, by popular demand, here are 15 more literary magazines that are happy to hear from writers who may not had their work published before.

Before you rush to start sending your latest story to every magazine on the list, Eva Langston from Carve Magazine has some excellent advice to help you avoid the mistakes writers most commonly make when submitting their work for publication. Also check out this step-by-step guide to submitting your work from the editorial team at Neon.

1. The City Quill
is a new literary magazine exclusively for previously unpublished writers (they won’t hold school newspapers or personal blogs against you but you shouldn’t submit your work to The City Quill if you ever had a journal, anthology or magazine). Fiction writers may submit up to two stories of 2500 words each, and non-fiction and poetry are also accepted. You don’t need to pay a submission fee but, for a small charge, you can have your work read and critiqued by a City Quill editor within two weeks.

2. Spry
is a literary journal that features undiscovered writers, as well as the work of more established voices. The editors, two recent graduates of the MFA program at Fairfield University, seek work that is concise, experimental, hybrid, or flashy and all submissions are read blind. Submissions for issue eight are currently open.
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Classic Mega Man . . . storytelling gets inventive when your main character can’t speak.
Image: Brian Talbot, CC BY-NC

A post by Brooke Maggs

Imagine writing a story where the first thing the “reader” asks when they begin is: what do I do?

The answer might be one or all of these things: explore, survive, observe, solve, form a strategy, make decisions.

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A post by Rebecca Makkai

You probably knew, when you started writing, that you’d signed on for murder. I was warned well in advance: One of my favorite childhood books was Lois Lowry’s The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline, in which the title character finds the notebook of the man her mother is dating. “Eliminate the kids,” one note says. She and her brother swing into crime-fighting mode, only to discover in the end that this man, a writer, was talking about editing characters out of his work-in-progress.

Later, as I studied writing, I’d hear authors lament the characters they’d had to erase from draft two, the ones who “felt like real people” to them. Or they’d talk about the ones they kept around because, despite the fact that they served no real purpose in the narrative, they’d become old friends.

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Why Your Rejection Letter Means Nothing

Dan Burgess, editor-in-chief of literary magazine Firewords, shares an editor’s perspective on the loathed but unavoidable reality of rejection letters.

At a recent book fair, we were talking to several writers about their experiences of submitting to literary journals. It was surprising to hear that they had all given up trying after receiving rejections.

We were aghast and quickly reassured them that they shouldn’t take rejections personally. We know (first hand!) that rejections are hard to take, which is why we try to give personal feedback to every single submission we receive, even though it makes our job infinitely harder (we’ll go into our reasons for giving feedback in a later blog).

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