Showing posts from October, 2018

Slushpile Tips From a Conference Slushfest

Image courtesy of I attended a small writing conference over the weekend. I took lots of notes and, over the next few weeks, will share several things I learned. Today, because I'm playing catch up from being away, I'm going to share the easiest topic to relate: tips learned from a slushfest. What's a Slushfest? This popular writing conference event attempts to provide writers a glimpse into what happens when an agent (or the agent's assistant, actually) attacks the slush pile of unsolicited submissions. As much as agents want to find the next best seller, they do have a lot of queries to plow through, so there are certain things that cause them to pass on submissions. In a slushfest, attendees anonymously provide the first page or two of their manuscript, and the experts (authors, agents, editors, publishers) read until they find something that would make a professional reject a submission. Then they explain why they stopped reading. Tips Fr

Style Guides and Creative Writing

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at In last week's post, When Authors Break the Rules , a reader's comment referred to style guides. Although last week's post focused on the understood rules of writing, I thought it might be helpful to address the question of style guides. What Is a Style Guide? Style guides provide guidelines on the parts of writing where a hard and fast rule doesn't exist. A choice must be made. There are several types of guides, and it depends on the type of writing you're doing as to which style guide you should use. Style guides provide rules on various questions such as: Is it email or e-mail ? How do you format the title of a book, article, short story, etc.? Do you use s's or s' when making a plural word possessive? Which font do you use for your text? How do you write a citation? How do you abbreviate? When do you capitalize? Do you spell out numbers or use the numeric reference? Guides pro

When Authors Break the Rules

Image courtesy of When new writers visit our writing group or read some of my posts about the accepted rules of writing , they often object to the guidelines of good writing. An author they love doesn't follow these rules. Their favorite author uses adverbs, passive verbs, dialogue verbs other than "said," data dumps, and point of view shifts in the wrong place. Worse yet, they don't offer a hook in their boring first lines. I understand the confusion. If those best-selling writers don't follow the rules, why should we? Some well-established authors get sloppy. Their books sell, so they don't have to worry about getting the attention of an agent or publisher. They're a known entity. They have a fan base who will buy anything they write. New writers need to follow the rules in order to get noticed. I'm always thankful to read books by authors who continue, despite their success, to follow the accepted rules of good writing. Thei

Let's Talk Jargon

Your sitting in the doctor's examining room staring at her while she rattles off a long list of foreign words. Your mechanic starts describing what's wrong with your car, but you scratch your head in confusion. Your teenager speak s in a new, incomprehensible language to you. What's going on? Are you in a different country where they don't speak your language? Yes and no. Each industry develops it's own language, known as jargon. Someone in your business or industry understands these terms, but outsiders don't. They might figure out a few of the definitions but don't count on it, especially when you start using acronyms. In fact, some jargon has different meanings depending on the industry. This happens in writing circles, too. We toss around words and terms, sometimes confusing the uninitiated who wander in wanting to learn about writing. By no means can I list all of the words in a writer's specific language, but I thought it might be u

Does a Writer Need an Editor?

Do You Need an Editor? The short answer to that question? Yes! A more appropriate question to ask would be:  Why do I need an editor? If you spend enough time reading posts from agents and publishers, you'll discover they prefer to receive work that's been edited by someone besides you. Why Do You Need an Editor? You know what you've written. Your story inhabits your soul. When you try to edit it, you will read into it what you meant...whether or not it really says what you meant. I give the same advice to technical and business writers, by the way. Editing focuses on more than grammar and typos. The internet abounds with posts about the kinds of editors you might hire, but here's a quick breakdown: Content or Developmental Editor This editor explores plot and flow, character development, setting, point of view, etc. Basically, this type of editing asks if the story works as written. It's not meant to find typos or grammar issues, although t