Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Craft

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that in order to be truly world class at whatever it is that you do, you need to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing or honing your craft.

To make that number more tangible, those 10,000 hours equal approximately four years of working full time. Can you imagine having to work on books for four years straight to be successful? Truthfully, for some, it does take that long to write a book that will sell, but for others the process can happen much more quickly.

Does that mean you shouldn't try to log those hours? Not at all. I think the most important point to remember here is whether it takes you a hundred hours to write and sell that book or ten thousand hours, you are constantly improving. The more you write, the better you'll be at it. With each book you complete, your skill level rises. So the more hours you can commit to putting your rear end in your chair and getting your hands on your keyboard, the better off you'll be in the long run.

Next time, we'll talk about hobby vs. career. See you then, and good luck!

ps. Remember -- if you have a question about the craft of writing, or something industry related, let me know and I'll answer you in one of the Tuesday posts!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Craft

Today's tip is one that I think is quite helpful:

Read your story out loud.

I know the idea sounds ridiculous, but I want you to give it a try. There's no easier way to check if your writing is too stilted or formal than to read it aloud. You can absolutely do this in the privacy of your own home, but if you want an extra pair of ears to follow along, there's nothing wrong with reading it to a trusted friend, either.

If the words coming out of your mouth sound strange or make you stumble, it's a surefire sign that you need to relax and tweak your writing. Your reader will feel the awkwardness as she reads, so you want your prose to be as natural as possible. You also don't need to read the entire manuscript at once. Break it up into chunks. Maybe by paragraph or page. But definitely give it a shot. I think you'll find it incredibly helpful. Good luck!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Ask Tanya!

Dear Tanya,
Help! I can never remember the difference between their, they're and there. Any tips?
Sam, Illinois

Sure! Boy, the English language can be tricky at times, can't it? Here are a few suggestions to ensure correct usage of these terms.

Their is used when referring to ownership. Eg. He was searching for their luggage.

They're is a contraction of the words they are, so when you're using it you need to think of those two words. And they are usually doing something. Eg. They're going to the movies tonight.

There refers to a location. Eg. Did you see the bonfire over there?

I find if you always double check your sentences when writing, eventually knowing the difference will become second nature. Good luck!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Ask Tanya!

Dear Tanya,
I wanted to know, do I need an agent to get my book published?
-- Kim, Toronto

Great question! And the answer is relatively straightforward -- mostly. It all depends on the goal you have in mind for your book. Are you aiming to have your book in print with a traditional New York publisher? Or have you written something that doesn't quite fit in the "traditional publishing" box, ie. a novella? Maybe something written in an unusual style? For the former, you more than likely will need representation, but for the latter, you probably won't (by this I mean epublishers, independents, self-publishing, etc.). The easiest way to find out would be to check the publisher's submission requirements. In our current online world, this is not difficult to do. All of the houses have an online presence where they will explicitly outline exactly what they want to see.

And an important point of note here: the guidelines are there for a reason. You can't assume that they don't apply to you, for whatever reason. Blatantly ignoring a house's guidelines is the quickest way to the rejection pile that I know. It's also the first step in building the wrong sort of reputation in the publishing industry. (If he/she can't follow simple submission guidelines, what is he/she going to be like to work with later?)

So how do you find that agent? One word: research. There are many reputable, hard-working agents out there, and there are unscrupulous ones as well. Word-of-mouth is a great tool. Also, finding agents who represent authors who write in a similar style or genre to you could also be helpful. Just be cautious before you sign your name on that dotted line.

And whatever you decide to do, good luck!