Why It’s Important to Read Other Blogs

Due to couple of technical glitches on my end of things, this post apparently didn’t run on Monday as I’d intended. Enjoy!

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If you’re like me, you watch your fair share of crime dramas on TV. I love Bones, Castle, and NCIS immensely.

But, if I’m not careful, I can allow them to color what I interpret as correct where police procedure is concerned.

This is why it’s important that I–and you as a writer–read non-fiction, whether in blog form or in book form.

I love Lee Lofland’s book, Police Procedure and Investigation, and his blog, The Graveyard Shift. With Castle in particular, he blogs about what the writers/actors did wrong where police procedure is concerned, and praises them when they get it correct. By reading this blog, I learn a lot, and that colors my view of other shows when I watch them. TMOTH is probably getting a little tired of hearing me go “They wouldn’t really do that in real life” or Oh, boy, I can’t wait to see what Lee Lofland has to say about that tomorrow.”

The same holds true for reading blogs by writers and agents. Lately, with having a little one in and out of the hospital, and being a busy mom, I don’t have a lot of time to read lengthy books on the topic of writing. Truth be told, since I got my Kindle a couple months ago, I haven’t cracked open a real book other than review copies for Christian Children’s Book Review. So, for the writer in me, blogs are the best way to stay current with my craft.

I almost always try to stay up with three blogs a week: AuthorCulture, Wordplay, and Rants & Ramblings. If I have time, I usually like to check in with several others, but these are the ones I’ll read while eating breakfast or lunch, or if I have a quick ten minutes where the kids are being good.

Sure, the four I’ve mentioned today are probably not the most comprehensive, although I feel they’re pretty good. Heck, Rants & Ramblings has been on the Writer’s Digest list of best sites for writers several years in a row. But, the important thing for me is that I stay connected. If I were to say “Chuck it. I’ve got too many irons in the fire. I’ll pick my writing back up when the baby’s better,” I’d lose my grip on the market, on what’s good writing, on my passion for doing what I want to do.

By staying active on the blogs, I’m also keeping my name out there. I don’t comment on every post, but I comment frequently enough. And that, as a writer desiring to be published, is an important thing.

So, you tell me: What blogs do you make sure you read frequently? Maybe I’ll have to add a few more to my “must read” list.

Until next time,

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Should I Hire a Freelance Editor

Today’s post was originally posted at Lit Agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, Rants & Ramblings (March 25, 2010). Enjoy!

Lately more and more people have been asking me if they should hire an editor prior to submitting to agents. Here’s my take:

Using a freelance editor can be a great idea – if you use it as a learning experience. You need to do most of the work yourself. I think it’s wasted money if you’re counting on someone to fix your manuscript for you. The point is to get an experienced set of eyes on it to help you identify problems and figure out how to fix them.

Prior to being represented or having a contracted book, the best way to work with an editor is to have them give you notes on your book, but not make changes themselves in the manuscript. Then you can go back to your manuscript, grasp the reasons for the changes they’re suggesting, and implement them, all the while learning how to make your book stronger. Hopefully you’re going to take that new knowledge with you into writing the next book.

It can be very helpful for an editor to give you an evaluation of your first few chapters, so that you can then rework the entire manuscript according to what you learned. It’s a terrific learning experience and can help you grow as a writer. It’s almost like having a writing tutor.

If you get an agent and/or sell your first book based on a manuscript that has been heavily edited by others (or is the product of intense critique group feedback), plan to do the same thing with your second book before submitting to your agent or publisher. And your third book, etc. Over time you’ll grow as a writer and become less dependent on outside help.

Many agents and editors are uncomfortable with writers having too much outside editorial help prior to being contracted, because it can mask a writer’s true abilities. I’d hate to get you a 3-book contract with a publisher based on that stellar first book, only to find out that you had a ton of help with it and are not able to deliver that quality of book a second time.

Q4U: Have you hired an editor? Have you considered it? Do you think it’s a good idea?

Rachelle Gardner is an agent with WordServe Literary Group based in Denver, Colorado. She live with her firefighter husband, two middle school-aged daughters and a fun-loving yellow lab at the breathtaking elevation of 7,000 feet in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not reading, you can usually find her out running, hiking, skiing, or having coffee with her girlfriends.

Until next time,

 

My Favorite Resources

I thought today I’d share with you some of my favorite places on the web that have really made me think about my writing and how to improve it. While this list is nowhere near comprehensive, I hope the sampling provides you with some new places to visit frequently.

Agent/Editor Blogs

The Rejectionist — This isn’t an agent/editor blog per se, however this person is an assistant to what I suspect is a major NY agent. His/her rants are quite comical at times, but usually right on the mark, especially if they share any quotes from queries they’ve received. This person does seem to be mildly obsessed with Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, and will occasionally go into spurts of talking like him. (One of the categories that they regularly post in is We hates it precioussss.)

Evil Editor — I haven’t quite cracked the nut on this one yet. It seems most of the time, the posts break down a persons plot and explains why it won’t work. Other times, it’s a query letter. A few comics are spread throughout. Regardless, I usually get some nugget from reading the posts.

Query Shark — In my opinion, this is one of the best teaching tools for wannabe published writers. As she receives worthy queries, Janet Reid critiques submitted queries and explains why they don’t work–or why they do and why she’d request additional chapters. If you want to put your query through the ringer, though, be sure to read EVERYTHING that’s been posted, or you’ll quickly be rejected! And, read the rules, too. It gets you into good practice for when you start submitting your work.

Miss Snark’s First Victim — If you’re not familiar with Miss Snark, and admittedly, I’m not, you may find the title of this blog a bit odd. However, when you get into the meat of this blog, you’ll find it very helpful–I have. Once a month, this blog hosts a ‘mystery guest’, which is a literary agent. You’re invited to submit the first 250 words +/- of your completed, polished novel if you fit the requirements. Then everyone can critique your work–including the mystery agent. At the end, the agent is revealed, and s/he selects a few works they want to see more of, so you have an opportunity if you’re one of the lucky few to pitch your book. If you don’t get picked, you still get some good advice. I put Homebody through the paces there in November.

Rachelle Gardner — Okay, I’ll admit it. At the moment, I think Rachelle Gardner is my dream agent. Of all the agent blogs I follow, and the agents I follow on Twitter, I think she’s probably one of the classiest. Reading her blog posts, you can really tell that she truly cares about the people she represents, and respects authors in general (not that other agents don’t). Her blog is always helpful and thought provoking. Now if I can just craft or edit a book that she may be interested in! Homebody and Cora’s Song are too rough around the edges, and I think Beyond Dead, once it’s edited, will contain too many sci-fi elements. *sigh*

Author Blogs

K.M. Weiland’s Wordplay — K.M. has become a good cyber-friend, so I may be a little biased, but I truly think her blog Wordplay is fabulous. Each Sunday, she posts on a topic pertinent to becoming a better writer. Regardless of the topic, she makes you think, even if you don’t think the topic is applicable to your particular style of writing. Her companion podcast is also superb, and you can find it (and subscribe!) on iTunes, or listen to it on her site. She’s also begun a new Wednesday feature with a video podcast.

AuthorCulture — Along with Linda Yezak and Lynnette Bonner, K.M. Weiland also writes for AuthorCulture. These three ladies always have something interesting to say, and frequently use examples from their own projects. At the end of the month, they share a roundup of resources they’ve uncovered over the month that may help you, and you sure don’t want to miss Fabulously Fun Fridays at AuthorCulture–it’s like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’ll get!

777 Peppermint Place — Linda Yezak, pre-published author, shares about personal goings-on, but most often about her writing life. Whether it’s regarding her adventures of rewriting her book, finding an agent, or mulling over her diet, her posts are always fun.

The Graveyard Shift — Non-fiction author and former cop Lee Lofland’s blog is always informative, especially if you’re writing crime fiction. He reviews episodes of ABC’s Castle, detailing why things wouldn’t work from a cop’s perspective, but also details topics pertinent to those writing crime fiction, or are even just curious about how things work. His book, Police Procedure & Investigation was published through Writer’s Digest Books, and is extremely helpful. He also is a member of a Yahoo! group on writing crime fiction, crimescenewriter.

Miscellaneous Blogs

The Character Therapist — Writer and Licensed Therapist Jeannie Campbell has one of the most unique blogs for writers out there. She posts twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every Tuesday, she selects a character sketch or outline from her readers and puts the characters on the couch, so to speak. She takes your premise as a guide, then tells you from a psychological point of view why your characters would or wouldn’t work. She’ll also give you ideas to tweak your characters to bring them in line with what would be acceptable behavior if they’re way out of line. Thursdays, Jeannie tends to go through various psychological maladies and how you could use them in your writing. Like Query Shark, be sure to read the rules, though there aren’t as many and they aren’t as strict as The Shark.

Twitter

Some may say that Twitter isn’t worth the time, however I’ve found that I learn a lot from following agents and authors on Twitter. Some of the time it’s just a nodding, ‘I’m going to file that away’. Other times, it’s an aghast open mouth thinking ‘what where they thinking?’ (These are usually from seeing something marked #queryquotes — a very good search to save!)

Since time is running short, here’s just my top 10. You can find more by following me, @righter1 and either my list ‘Important Folks’ or ‘Agents’.

@RachelleGardner
@Agentgame
@WolfsonLiterary (she may not have started #queryquotes, but I think she’s the queen now!)
@WritersDigest
@BostonBookGirl
@LeeLofland
@KMWeiland
@pprmint777
@Brandilyn
@Bradfordlit

So, I’ve shared mine. How about you? What are some of the resources you couldn’t live without online?

Until next time,