Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rejuvenation Station

I'm parked here in rejuvenation station, waiting for the next train.  I hope you are enjoying your holiday season.  Here's where I've been this week.

I submitted my manuscript, a horrific experience that involved a big padded envelope sealed shut around several years of work nestled in my hopes and dreams.  I can not share specifics, so please don't ask.   The Soulkeepers has fully matured, and I've reached the point where I've accepted it for what it is.  While I hope it sells, it's time to start something new.  I've been using this holiday season to decide what to write next.  I have no shortage of ideas, but I do have an understanding of how a novel swallows you whole, the mood infusing itself into your cells for as long as it takes to write it.  I will choose carefully.

This morning, I was notified that Everyday Fiction will publish my Sci-fi flash fiction, the date of publication to be determined.  The news has renewed my interest in submitting additional flash.  The benefit of flash fiction is that you can connect with a reader within a tiny world of thought, in 1,000 words or less and this becomes a test kitchen for potential novel worthy ideas.  What it also means, is that you won't see as much of my flash published here, because I will be submitting to the market first.  Although, I do plan to workshop some ideas here.

As for this week, I will remain parked, staring up at the stars until steam powered inspiration rolls in.  I hope you get your share when the whistle blows too!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finding the Right Critique Group

Recently, I decided to pursue a local critique group.  It is not the first time I've been down this road.  Finding the right group can be compared to finding the right partner; a good fit can be priceless but a poor one, destructive and emotionally draining.

For me, the members of my group need to understand my intended market.  A person could have their masters in creative writing and have stories in multiple publications, but if every time they critique me they try to make my work into an abstract literary masterpiece, then they've missed the point.

I write YA which means the vocabulary and sentence structure needs to be accessible to a teen audience.  It means there's a line that can't be crossed when it comes to sex, violence, or language.  And it means that my story has to connect with people at a certain stage in their psychological development.

I believe that this knew group knows what YA is and isn't and will help me write for this market.  I'm so happy to have found them.

As a bonus, the pastries they served at my first meeting convinced me that if I do not become a better writer for meeting with them, I will become a fatter one.  It's the little things in life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Formatting a YA Manuscript for Submission

In the process of formatting my work for submission, I've come across several resources that claim to be authorities on the subject.  Most of the basic advice is consistent but each source seems to have it's own pearls of wisdom, as well.   If you are a new writer, preparing your first manuscript, I’ll save you the work and summarize what I found most helpful.  If you are an experienced writer, please let me know if anything here doesn’t mesh with your professional opinion!

Do’s
  • Check the specific publisher or agent’s guidelines first
  • Print on 8 ½" x 11" white (20 lb) paper in black ink (I pity the fool who tried pink, scented, legal size)
  • Left justify
  • Use 12 point Arial or Times New Roman font (although I found one source that specified Courier)
  • Double space
  • Indent first paragraphs
  • Number pages consecutively 
  • Use 1-inch margins all around (although I found a source that said 1.25)
  • Print personal info (name, address, city state, zip, etc) in the upper left corner of first page
  • Place the title, centered in all caps, halfway down the first page
  • Include your by line under the title
  • Begin the manuscript on the first page, two returns under the by line.
  • Start new chapters halfway down the page

Don’ts
  • Include pictures or cover art
  • Include a table of contents
  • Use three hole punched paper
  • Bind the manuscript in any way
  • Use colored paper or colored fonts
  • Use faded ink (WARNING: I had a draft printed by Kinko’s that had faded ink in the middle.  Always check the quality of the print.)
  • Send in a manuscript with crinkled or stained pages
  • Put an extra space between paragraphs (unless it is a formal break)
  • Put a copyright on every page
  • Send the MS in an envelope lined with bubble wrap or a box
  • Use “The End” at the end

Other Stuff
  • If you want a word italicized in the final version, you should underline it in your manuscript.  
  • You can separate breaks within chapters by using extra lines, centering a series of asterisks, or centering a series of pound signs.
  • I found two different recommendations about page numbers.  The first was a right justified header containing title/last name/page #.  Other sources simply recommended a page number in the footer.  I decided to go with the first way.  
  • A couple of resources recommended having exactly 25 lines per page.  I did not do this because I think this was old advice that had something to do with word count in pre-computer days.  I have a gorgeous Mac who counts my words for me, so I hardly feel this is necessary.

Happy Formatting!