Knowing where to start when it comes to getting published can be tricky—visit the Writers’ Block today to read up on guidelines and advice for sending in your manuscript and navigating the publishing process:
Hi, Mr. Gaiman. What is your advice on pursuing writing even though people with more experience than you constantly put you down? It’s been an ongoing ordeal.
I think it is always wise to avoid the people who put you down constantly, whether you want to write or do something else with your life.
Five years ago, I was a writer in hiding. I had lost my writer self while being a software developer, an occupation which seems to use up all of one’s brain cells. I hadn’t written anything substantial in a very long time, and hadn’t even realized how much I missed the act of creating fiction. A good friend of mine was planning to take a class at the Loft—”Queer Fiction Writing” with Lori Lake—and she encouraged (nagged, badgered, guilted) me to join her. Honestly, it didn’t take much for me to be cajoled, and I agreed to take Lori’s class.
About the same time, an idea came to me; a particularly clear series of scenes I saw in a dream. That was the birth of a manuscript subsequently titled Saving Morgan.
Lori’s class was great fun. We explored the different facets of writing fiction from the point of view of GLBT characters and on GLBT subjects. It was a lively group. We shared our stories, our encouragement, and our ideas.
I worked on fleshing out the dream scenes, seeing where they might take me, and a few months later took another of Lori Lake’s classes at the Loft, this one a fiction writing class that focused on the pieces of a novel—structure, character arcs, dialogue, point of view. Another excellent class, chock full of information and inspiration, and by the end of it, I felt like what I was “messing around with” was a real manuscript that could, potentially, be published.
For me, the best parts of the Loft classes were the encouragement from the teaching artist and other members of the group, and how she made it comfortable to share our work. There was no judgment, just honest critique.
After each of the classes, several of us decided to continue as a small writers’ group. One was a Queer fiction writers’ group of both published and unpublished authors, and another was a mixed group of unpublished authors, of which I was the only “queer” member.
In both cases, the groups continued the work begun in our Loft classes, critiquing our manuscripts, helping each other with suggestions when we needed advice and direction, or encouragement through writer’s blocks. It was a lot of fun.
My author’s story can’t be complete without a shout-out to an organization called the Golden Crown Literary Society. The GCLS supports lesbian writers and readers, and holds yearly conferences. They have a writing mentorship program that matches aspiring writers with published writers. I had the pleasure and luck to work with two published authors—Pol Robinson and Fran Heckrotte. Fran was a huge help with editing and teaching me to “see” what needed cleaning up.
Eventually, I finished the manuscript. I hadn’t quite decided on where I was going to send it. Pol Robinson suggested Bella Books (her publisher), which was high on my list. I figured I had nothing to lose and started the submission process with crossed fingers. When I actually got a call from Bella I felt like a little kid at Christmas. They liked the story and wanted to publish it. Wow! Saving Morgan is slated for a fall 2013 release.
In the end, my manuscript, born of a couple vivid scenes in a dream, doesn’t actually even contain those original scenes. However, it does contain the romance between two women that I originally envisioned and the science fiction aspect as well—I feel comfortable in that genre, and always wanted to create an action adventure.
Without my friend Jessie getting me to take those classes at the Loft, I don’t know that I would have actually arrived at this point. To be cliché, the whole thing feels a little like a story in itself, all these little plot lines coming together at the direction of a Universal Author. Satisfying, but with the option for a sequel.
MB Panichi is the author of Saving Morgan, slated to be published in fall of 2013 from Bella’s Books. More information about MB can be found at http://www.mbpanichi.com/.
As a twenty-something in the age of “the Facebooks”, I find it increasingly difficult to unplug. To tell the truth, I have no idea what I did before Google Calendar and email on my smarty-phone. These wonderful resources mean that I am virtually available 24/7, causing me to feel hyper-connected and over-extended. This especially takes its toll on my creative life. Sometimes I’m just too generally busy to do all the cool stuff I want to do—like, write a play or build a coffee table or make a quilt out of old t-shirts. Being a part of a collaborative theater company and working at the coolest lit center on Earth, I certainly don’t have a shortage of artistic outlets. But sometimes when you are going-going-going, you don’t remember to make time for your own projects.
Don’t get me wrong—I am usually pretty upbeat about my fast-paced lifestyle (let’s be honest, I actually kind of love it!), but every once in a while I’d like to take a step back, unplug, and just make something. Maybe you would, too!
About a year ago, I stumbled across this list of “29 Ways to Stay Creative” (there’s a funky little YouTube video here). I immediately made copies of the list (you should, too!) and put them in strange places, like inside book covers, on top of dressers, and in coat pockets. That way, I would find the list randomly and be reminded of its wisdom. This simple, straight-forward list is a great reminder of the little things we can do to keep those creative juices bubbling under the surface.
29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE
1. Make lists
2. Carry a Notebook everywhere
3. Try free writing
4. Get away from the computer
5. Quit beating yourself up
6. Take breaks
7. Sing in the shower
8. Drink coffee
9. Listen to new music
10. Be open
11. Surround yourself with creative people
12. Get feedback
14. Don’t give up
16. Allow yourself to make mistakes
17. Go somewhere new
18. Count your blessings
19. Get lots of rest
20. Take risks
21. Break the rules
22. Don’t force it
23. Read a page of the dictionary
24. Create a framework
25. Stop trying to be someone else’s perfect
26. Got an idea write it down
27. Clean your workspace
28. Have fun
29. Finish something
Happy making-doing-being, readers and writers!
Hannah Holman is the Loft’s Development Assistant.
Photo credit: Jenna Klein