Crash course in publishing!

The last class of my Creative Writing: Fiction was, perhaps, my most educational. My teacher talked about publication and much of the information, to me, was new. The following comes from my notes taken in class. I hope you find them as uplifting, genuine and helpful as I have.

  • Publication is part of the writing process. Whether we like it.
  • If you’re writing and not publishing: you’re depriving people of hearing your literary voice!

Step 1: Write something! Write often.

Step 2: Don’t be afraid to be influenced: read! “To be a writer, you must read.” The difference between writers and non-writers is reading. Read what you like, read what you don’t like; read what you hate. Read broadly, read old stuff, read something that was published five minutes ago. Read something that challenges you. Read intelligently, read thoughtfully, read to be able to take in the culture of the time the story was written.

Author’s note: For me, that is Robert Jordan for authors I don’t like. And Brandon Sanderson.

Step 3: You must might, you must read, you must polish.

You must be savage with your own work. You must be able to take criticism and you must pursue it. You must seek it out.

Step 4: At some point… you must submit your work! Be willing to say “I’m doing revising, it’s done.” Or as close to done as it’s going to get.

Step 5: Be patient. Give yourself time. Let the story rest.

For example, my teacher’s first version of his manuscript (all deleted from the story now) was written in 2005. He didn’t finish his first, full draft until 2011. Every writer is different, but that example made me feel a little less guilty about my Trials of Blood and Earthborne manuscripts that have been sitting dormant.

Give yourself space, the story really has to mature in your head. Don’t freak out. You cannot ruin it. Don’t be afraid that if you alter it, you’ll “never be able to create something as amazing.” Yes, you can. You have already done it and you can do it again. It’s going to be OK!

publishing

A few other notes:

Literary journals are usually your first point of contact for writers. [There also exist Fantasy and Sci-Fi journals!]

Familiarize yourself with the journals that interest you. Find one that you think is fantastic. Subscribe. A journal my teacher recommends is called OneStory.

Resources for Literary Journals

NewPages – A database of literary journals and literary presses. They also review literary journals.

The Review Review – you guessed it, they review literary journal reviews!

Duotrope – A subscription-only database for literary journals. Much more organized than NewPages.

Go and check out the the journal websites – see if you like the style. Follow the submission details and keep track of where you’ve submitted before.

A note about simultaneous submissions: you absolutely should do it, however: notify the other publishers immediately if you get accepted by another publisher. Send a withdrawal email as soon as possible so you don’t get blacklisted. Yes, they have blacklists and yes, you’ll never get published with them again if they spend a lot of time on a story only to find out it’s already off the market.

Go to literary events and make connections.

Support local book stores and libraries, they’re often who host local authors.

Some terminology

“Glossy” is a term for a National magazine with a glossy cover.

“Clip,” “clippings,” or “relative clips” refers to something you’ve previously published.

Establish a clippings file. Local newspapers and small-to-medium presses are a great resource for beginning writers to break in to publishing for clippings.

Publishing Books

The publishing industry in 2016 is unlike anything it has ever been before. For the past generation and a half the publication industry reigned from atop New York City by four major publishing houses. They’re being threatened by self-publishing, Amazon and the rise of small and medium size presses.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010 went to a small press in New York, Bellevue Literary Review: for the story “Tinkers” by Paul Harding.

Notes

You’ll need a literary agent, first, to publish with a major publishing house.

Website: AgentQuery.com

Query letters for agents have a specific formula: follow it.

Once you get an agent: they will sell your book to a publishing house, and may even be able to sell your short stories/poetry etc on the way.

Small and mid-sized presses may also accept work without an agent.

Creative Writing exercise: fabulism

Another few exercises for practicing Post Modernism writing techniques bring us deep into the mind of the characters.

March 14th, 2016

Scenario: We chose a photograph (I didn’t snag a picture like I usually do) and had to get deep within the head of the character.

Why am I always stuck carrying the stupid baby? I don’t even like kids. Sergei thought as he rested the baby against his knee, propped up lazily on a lamp post. The light wouldn’t turn red–it was nearly 5 o’clock rush hour–he’d be stuck at the light forever.

The little girl squirmed in his arms, snot-crusted nose red from the cold. Her little fingers were like sausages. As he saw it: he was doing the little girl a mercy by taking her away from her parents who overfed her. She’d be safer where she was going. And warmer and well paid. Her green eyes would fetch double on the market, a beautiful contrast to her brown hair.

I really wish I had a copy of the photograph. The man in the photograph didn’t steal the baby, but my character did.

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March 16th, 2016

We returned to a previous story to discuss the movement of Fabulism. Fabulism comes from fable and fabulist (not fabulous). It is essentially taking the “normal” and infusing it with something weird, something that should not be normal, and how people deal with it. Fabulism takes reality and twists it. It makes you question what you see and what you believe. It forces us to stop suspending our disbelief, to realize that fiction is fiction and that it is addressing you.

Scenario: Stay in your former style and then break it. Story: The Devil Loves Banana Bread

James used a high-end kitchen knife to cut the duct tape from Gabriel’s wrists. The angel’s pale skin would be bruised and bloodied for a day or so but he’d survive.

The door bell rang. James dropped Gabriel to the ground. The angel cursed loudly upon impact. The roof of the house peeled back as soon as the words left the angel’s lips. Bright, blinding light filled the apartment. James’ wondered what happened to the upstairs neighbors but the thoughts were burned from his mind with the light. A voice made his ears bleed and the angel’s gorgeous eyes open wide.

“Gabriel,” James’ nose began to bleed profusely, “don’t use such extreme language.” The light ceased and the roof crashed down overhead.

James wiped away the blood with a shaking hand. The fire alarm began blaring–his banana bread was burning. Smoke billowed out from the oven–purple and glittering with hearts and yellow smiley faces and something that looked like an exclamation mark. James snatched the exclamation mark from the air, threw a smiley face so it hit the rising Gabriel in the stomach and pulled the point over his own head. He grabbed a bright green oven mit in the shape of a marijuana leaf and threw open the oven.

Lucifer coughed politely.

“Your upstairs neighbor is a dick.”

“He is the worst.” James said, waving another mit in the air to clear the smoke.

Gabriel finally rose to his feet, just in time to watch Lucifer rise form the couch and dance gracefully to the kitchen. He produced a fire extinguisher from the air–a curious one that matched red-black plaid shirt.