Reviewers Appreciated

Feel like crafting a witty, eurdite, insightful, finely-honed review? Thanks. The book is my private eye novel, Shadow White as Stone.(Since you’re a follower of this blog, I bet you caught the Theodore Roethke reference in the title.) You can read the first chapter on the link at the top of the page, then go here for the whole reasonably-priced deal.


Lies Writers Tell Themselves

Borrowed this from somebody a while ago. Still makes a lot of sense. Food for thought:


I write amazing first drafts. If there were a contest for first drafts, mine
would win every time. So I told myself, “Writing is not rewriting.” Other
people might have to do multiple drafts, but my first drafts are so solid I
could publish them as-is. For years I believed this.

One day I did three drafts of an article, and it became my first published
article. A solid first draft is not good enough to be published. All those
“rules of writing” that you read in Writer’s Digest, on blogs, and in
creative writings classes are rules because they are true most of the time.
So if there are some rules that you think don’t apply to you, think again.
It might be the rule preventing you from getting published.


Ah, those blood-sucking agents and editors. I’m pretty sure they have meetings in a secret underground lair where they talk about how jealous they are of my writing skills and how they should team up to keep me from being published.

This is a lie that is so prevalent among unpublished writers that editors and agents have to go to psychologists so they can feel good about themselves again. I know one editor who calls herself “Dream Crusher” to assuage her pain. Here’s the truth: Editors and agents desperately want you to be good enough. They make a living by writers being publishable. If you’re getting rejected it’s because you still have work to do. either as a writer or as a marketer.


Which is exactly why you aren’t published yet. You have to do the hard work of writing a spectacular query and proposal. Notice that you have to “write” the query and proposal. You’re not being asked to do an interpretive dance or draft blueprints to a rocket ship. It might not be your style, and it might be hard work, but being a published author is hard work, complete with e-mails you don’t want to answer, deadlines, accounting and marketing!


It is way more fun to read Writer’s Market over and over—memorizing the publishers and agents—than it is to write your book. And while this is good practice for when your book is ready to shop, if the fantasy-to-writing ratio tips toward fantasy, it’s time to get back to writing. Unless you are writing a fantasy, in which case you are probably fine and keep up the good work.


If you’re like me, you love picking up a book from the “Top 10” rack, flipping it open and cringing at the terrible prose. But this author (who is, keep in mind, a worse writer than you) somehow got a contract, got published and is selling well. I said this most often before I had finished writing the first draft of my first novel. Perhaps it’s just that the “hack writers” out there actually finish their books.

Here’s an exercise: Find a writer online who is published but far inferior to you as a writer. Look at what magazines they are published in. Then write stories or articles to submit to those magazines. This is a guaranteed way to build your writing resume. Unless—they are actually better writers than you, in which case, it’s a good reality check.

These are a few of the lies that I wish someone had confronted me with when I was an unpublished writer. Now, here’s one last truth for you: You can do this. Work hard, keep writing, improve your craft and be persistent. We’re all waiting to read your masterpiece!

An Anti-Scam Message for Writers

People in our workshops got such a kick out of this, I had to repost it here       An anti-scam handout from Writers Welcome


    A. C. Crispin

      Some time ago I did a book signing in a mall, and the strangest thing happened. I was sitting there with books heaped around me, and a man approached me and stood there looking diffident. I smiled at him and said, “Hi.” This person was in his early 40’s, perhaps, well-dressed, well-spoken, with his young son in tow. The kid grabbed a copy of Rebel Dawn, my newest Star Wars novel, and said, “Look Dad, Star Wars! Can I have it?” After the book was signed to the boy, the man cleared his throat. “I’m really interested in writing, too.” After hundreds of book signings over the past 14 years, this is hardly a new comment. I smiled and nodded. “I … well, I have a couple of publishers who are very interested in publishing my book,” the man continued. “So, I, uh … well, I wondered. Would you mind if I ask you how much it cost you to have these books published?”

      If I hadn’t been spending the last few months helping out Literaryscams, I would have been surprised and horrified by his question. Instead, I handed him a copy of Rebel Dawn. “How much do you think it cost me to publish that book?” I asked. He hefted the book, riffled the pages. “Well, it’s pretty long,” he said. “Longer than mine. Uh … eight thousand dollars?” I gestured at the books in front of me. “What would you say if I told you that this publisher — Bantam — paid me to write these books? About twenty thousand dollars apiece. And I’ll most likely earn royalties above and beyond that.” The man could not have appeared more thunderstruck if I’d leaped up on my chair and done my Roseanne Barr imitation. “They paid you?”

         “Yes, they did,” I said. I waved at the books surrounding us in the bookstore. “All these authors got paid to write these books. Did you really think they all paid to get published?” He blinked. “Well, I knew they probably paid Stephen King and Grisham,” he muttered. “But the rest … the new writers … ” “Sir,” I said, “money is supposed to come from the publisher to the author. Not the other way around. Not ever, unless you’re wanting to publish something extremely specialized, like your family history, or a volume of your poetry or something. Writers are supposed to get paid for writing commercial books.” Minutes later, I sent the gentleman on his way, armed with the Literaryscams URL, and an earnest entreaty to look up the page. I also cautioned him not to send his work to any publisher whose books he couldn’t find in the average general-purpose bookstore.

         This incident brought home to me how much harm the scam agents and publishers are doing to the once proud tradition of publishing. I realize that most of you who are reading this have done your research and know the pitfalls. But for those who are new to writing, I offer the following guidelines. Feel free to copy them and pass them along. If you follow them, you are unlikely to be rooked:


If an agent charges a fee, they are highly suspect. I don’t care what they call it: reading fee, processing fee, contract fee, whatever … any kind of fee is bad. If an agent charges more than $50.00, I suggest you run away. Agents who charge fees in the hundreds of dollars make their money off charging writers, not by selling their manuscripts to publishers. It’s very likely that after you pay the large fee, the agent will never even submit your manuscript to a real publisher.


If an agent refers you to a “book doctor” be very wary. Any agent that says your ms. needs editing should provide you with a list of a number of independent editors, and then allow you to pick the one you want to use. There should be NO financial connection whatsoever between the agent and the independent editor.


If an agent refers you to a co-op or subsidy press, run away. No reputable agent will do that.


If an agent you’ve never heard of solicits your work, that’s not a good sign. Real literary agents have to fight off clients, not go out looking for them. If an agent advertises via direct mail, the internet, or in writers’ magazines, back off!


If an agent has an office in some out-of-the-way place like Bumpass, West Virginia, be very suspicious. Most real agents operate out of New York or California. There are exceptions, particularly on the East Coast; but if Agent X from Bent Fork North Dakota writes to you and begs to see your ms., chances are excellent he’s a crook. Be smart!


Any reputable agent should be willing to provide you with a list of sales and clients. Go to a bookstore and verify that these books and authors exist. Check references. If an agent claims to be an AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) member, go to the AAR site and look him/her up. Fake agents have lied about this before.


If an agent tells you you’re brilliant, and your book is sure to be a bestseller, be wary. Real agents don’t make statements like that — at least not to unknown authors.


Never pay a vanity press or subsidy publisher to publish your book. This includes “co-op” publishers. If you must get your book published and have exhausted all professional, commercial avenues, check into self-publishing with a reputable printing company. Many poets, for example, self-publish their books. Your money will go a lot further that way. Go to your local bookstore and get a book on self-publishing. Check a printer’s references before you sign any contracts. You will not receive the distribution and other services normally expected of a publisher, but you will get the books — after they are printed they will be shipped to you. Be aware that most bookstores will not stock self-published books.


Having a poor agent is frequently worse than having no agent at all. If you can’t find a reputable agent to submit your manuscript, go ahead and submit it yourself. Most sf and fantasy publishers will still read unagented manuscripts these days. Check out the market reports in the SFWA Bulletin or Speculations. Even the ones who say they won’t may still read manuscripts from writers who impress them with a well-crafted, dynamic query letter.

So, to all you prospective writers out there … Never forget. If you’re paying anyone to agent, publish, or edit your work, the money’s going in the wrong direction, and, quite likely, you’ve fallen for a scam. You will end up losing money and gaining nothing. You deserve to be paid for your work! Becoming a writer is difficult, and requires a great deal of perseverance. As James Gunn once said, “Anyone who can be discouraged from becoming a writer should be discouraged.” In other words, hang in there and don’t expect a bed of roses. But people do “break in” every day, and that’s the good news!

How to Critique

Since most of us writers, at one time or another, have joined a writer’s group, I thought I’d pass along a few things to consider when you critique other people’s work (to insure that we help and not harm a fellow writer):

Start with positive comments.
It can be quite devastating when you submit your work, and you receive a 5
page-critique on why your ms really sucked. And discouraging/devastating a
writer is not the purpose of critique. Also the writer needs to know what
he/she did right.

Move on to what didn’t work
It can only work if you’re specific and give suggestions on how to improve the
ms. It doesn’t help the author if you write down, “It sucks.” It’d be more
constructive and helpful if you write down, “I believe this is wrong because
of these reasons. I think you can fix it by doing this. . . .”

End with positive comments, etc.
“Keep writing!” or “I think it can work. Good luck!” can’t possibly hurt. It
can take away the “nasty” sting of negative critique and perhaps make the
writer feel more positive about his/her work.

Finally, you may want to throw in my oft-repeated advice about outrunning the inner censor: WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED!