Tag Archives: editor

Paying For A Writing Contest: Is It Worth It?

To submit to today’s literary contests, writers can spend anywhere from $0 to $50. But generally, the average for entry fees is around $15. After spending countless hours tweaking every line and sentence of a poem or story, many writers find it difficult to fork over this kind of money.

It’s not just that many new and emerging writers are young students that makes this difficult. Most contests and journals take quite a bit of time to read submissions, even listing periods of up to six months in delay to hear back from their editors. Because of this, it’s not unusual for writers to submit one piece to multiple publications. If each contest charges $15 to enter, then the cost of doing so quickly adds up.

It begins a vicious cycle. Writers take better, more time-consuming jobs to help support their writing endeavors, but then soon discover they have little time or energy to write.

I may sound sympathetic here, but I’m not. I once went to a lecture given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She looked at the audience of hopeful writers and said “It’s no one’s fault you wanted to be an artist.”

It’s important that if you’re going to be a writer, you develop a thick skin. That when the author of a bestselling novel tells you it’s no one’s problem but your own that you decided to be a writer, you listen.

Writers, including myself, want to be taken seriously. On the bus the other day, a coworker began telling me about her friend, “the novelist,” who self publishes young adult books online and has now been picked up by a larger publisher. She’s making a living doing it, my coworker told me. I don’t know how, she went on, it seems like she’s never doing anything to me. I cringed. I suppose writing does look a whole lot like doing nothing from the outside.

Being taken seriously means not only desiring to be able to earn a living by the work we do, eventually, but also to be respected for that work. A long day of brainstorming and plotting might, to a stranger, appear a whole lot like me pacing my studio apartment in my underwear—but that’s how real work gets done folks.

Let’s look at the facts about writing contests:

Making Writing Sweet and Simple: A Lesson In Conciseness

If you’re a student whose taken any English course, then chances are you’ve probably learned how to bullshit. In writing courses, students are given word- and page-length requirements, but sometimes, we don’t need all of those pages or words in order to get to the point.

So what do we do? We stretch things out. We restate things in a “new” way. We plop in a few quotes we found while researching. Or if you’re crafty, like some of the creative folk I attended college with, you do sneaky things like changing the font size of all punctuation so sentences suddenly become longer, and then you pray to God that your teacher doesn’t break out a ruler. Or isn’t a type nerd.

In the “real” world—the one outside of academia—getting to the point is preferred; in fact, it’s applauded. If there’s anything people hate, it’s their time being wasted.

As an undergrad, I took a lot of technical writing courses as part of a certificate program. There’s nothing like staring at a document, one sentence at a time, with a classroom of other students, and examining every word for its meaning, its use—deciding whether or not it serves a purpose or is just filler. It may seem mundane, but technical writers get paid sixty thousand plus a year in order to make sure writing is clear. To make sure that instructions and warnings in manuals won’t get a company sued and will limit incoming calls to customer support. In other words, technical writers help companies save money. Not only in potential legal fees, but in printing costs—tighter writing takes up less space. Less ink, less paper. And these hyper-detailed, sentence level word skills (yeah, that was a mouthful) translate into many other writing fields—whether you write creatively, edit others’ pieces, or work in marketing.


AWP 2014: Writing for Young Adults and The Author-Editor Relationship

In addition to the panel on unsympathetic characters, I attended several other panels while at AWP 2014. A few of these panels focused on writing Young Adult books, while most of the others dealt with the relationship between an author and editor. I learned different things from each panel.

The YA panels I went to focused a lot on how it’s okay to write about serious topics in YA literature—topics like politics, loss, abuse. These things are no less real for young adults than they are for the rest of us. As one panelist said, “Dying is the end of all of our stories.”

The authors discussed the “absent adults” in many YA novels. It’s a genre trope, but one that allows the author to get the parents out of the way so the young adult protagonist can live their life. At one point, the moderator asked the panelists why they write YA that is arguably dark. If you’re a writer who also tends to write darker pieces, this may be something you even ask yourself. Why are we attracted to sadness? The panelists agreed that young adults are looking for solace in the midst of chaos—to recognize that we are not in control. According to one panelist, they are looking to answer the question, “How do you walk around as if every thing’s normal?”


The Great Tumblr Book Search is On

Tumblr has long-since served as a mecca for nerds, especially book nerds. As it turns out, publishers are starting to realize this. Many publishers have their own Tumblr. Bookstores, like Skylight Books, have joined in too, with fun blogs like Corpus Libris, which features readers posing with book covers that seem to be an extension of themselves.

Last year, Chronicle Books teamed up with Tumblr for The Great Tumblr Book Search. According to GalleyCat, “The idea is to find humor books without going through a formal submissions process. Rather than submit a book proposal, bloggers are encouraged to submit their Tumblr pages to the contest.”

2013’s winner was Shit Rough Drafts created by Paul Laudiero. The book Sh*t Rough Drafts will be out on April 15th.

If you’re interested in competing this year, you have until the end of March to submit your Tumblr blog. You must use a Tumblr blog to show the humor behind a book idea. The editors over at Chronicle will judge each entry and select a blog to be considered for publication. The key here? Make them laugh.


Writers: Competing With the Best of Them

There are a lot of jobs that come to mind when people think of competition. The obvious is sports, but there are others, like being a musician or actor—or doing something in sales. While I have always known that writing and getting published is highly competitive, Business Insider‘s recent list of “10 Competitive Jobs That Everyone Wants But Hardly Anyone Gets” put just how competitive writing truly is in perspective. Poets, lyricists, and creative writers were number two on the list, with a competitiveness score of ninety-five out of one hundred.

Basically, if we all weren’t already scared shitless of putting our work out there, we are now. There are so many reasons why writing is competitive. In my experience working as a submissions editor (which I wrote about here), I can tell you a few of the reasons why I rejected short stories, things like an excess of grammatical mistakes, unrealistic dialogue, beginnings that failed to draw the reader (me, in this case) in, and endings that came too abruptly. Truthfully, though, the editor reading a piece may reject it for reasons entirely outside of the writer’s control, like the fact that they’re having a bad day or that they may have read ten stories about the same topic right before reading yours.


An Open Letter to My Aunt, or What Exactly Does an Editor Do?

Dear Fran Murray,

Thank you for the graduation gift and the letter. I was glad to hear from you after so many years. Grandma doesn’t talk much about her sisters, but I know that you and her were close growing up. She never told me that you graduated from CSULB too and that you were an English major like me.

To answer your question, I am attending Portland State’s graduate program in book publishing. As for your second question, yes, people do still make books. I laughed aloud when I read that. But the truth is, most people respond in the same manner when I tell them what my chosen field is–something like “Oh, so you want to be a writer then?”

Part of a book editor’s job may include writing, but writing isn’t what they do. There are several steps in the book editing process, and a different kind of editor is usually in charge of each step. However, the size of the editorial department generally depends on the size of the publishing house itself, so job titles may vary from company to company. At some small publishing houses, one person may be responsible for all of these duties (or more).

First, a book publishing house must acquire a manuscript, which is the job of the acquisitions editor. Publishing houses receive many submissions each year, which has caused many of large publishing houses to stop reading unsolicited manuscripts. Instead, these publishing houses work with literary agents who send them manuscripts. The literary agent has usually developed relationships with publishing houses, so they are aware of what each house is looking for in an author and manuscript. The agents help eliminate the time an editor might have once spent sifting through the slush pile–the informal term for unsolicited manuscripts. If an acquisitions editor decides that a manuscript is a good fit for the publishing house, they will acquire the manuscript by creating a budget and getting the approval of the publisher. The acquisitions editor must be able to sell the value (financial, cultural, and social) of the manuscript to the rest of the house before the book even reaches the customer. After they gain this approval, the acquisitions editor can begin negotiating the details of a contract with the author’s literary agent, who acts a liaison between the two parties.

Today, most manuscripts that arrive on an acquisitions editor’s desk have already undergone developmental editing. Many authors hire freelance developmental editors to help them prepare their manuscripts, or, in some cases, an author’s agent may also serve as a developmental editor. However, an author can also expect a publishing house that has acquired his or her manuscript to conduct a developmental edit of their own. Developmental editing focuses on the content and structure of a story, as opposed to the grammar and mechanics. Generally, developmental editors do not rewrite portions of the manuscript themselves, but they will send the author notes, pointing out passages that can be revised or cut entirely, characters that need to be more fully developed, holes in the plot that need to be addressed, or other ways that the story could be told more effectively. A developmental editor may also look for themes present in a manuscript, whether they are intended or not. The editor will point these themes out to the author during the developmental edit so that any themes that are too blatant can be scaled back and themes that are too subtle can be expanded on. Occasionally, a developmental editor may come across language or content that readers may consider to be offensive. In these situations, it is not the developmental editor’s job to remove the language or content, but, again, to point it out to the author. The author may not have realized that something they wrote was offensive and revise their manuscript accordingly. However, the author might choose not to remove it, because to do so would change the statement the author is trying to make, the plot, or the characters.