Friday, November 29, 2013

Dealing With Rejection

Most beginning writers think that rejection is a part of the writing process. They get rejected so often that they become dejected and some lose all hope of getting published. It doesn’t have to be that way.

One writer got rejected for six years before he suddenly had an article published. He didn’t really know how it happened. It just happened. That was his first mistake. It was another six years before he got published again.

So let’s take a look at why your work may be rejected.

You could use the wrong format (more on formatting in a later blog)—how the writing looks on the page. You could have written about a topic the publication doesn’t like or use. You could have sent your piece in at the wrong time if it’s something more appropriate for a particular season. You could have made lots of mechanical errors—spelling, punctuation, etc. The list can go on and on.

So you see that most of the fault in rejection begins with you. But most beginning writers put the blame on editors or others involved in the publishing process. So what are some ways of dealing with rejection?

Don't take it personally. If you’re a beginning writer, editors won’t know you. You haven’t proven yourself, so why should they take a chance on you. If you don’t cross all your “t’s” and dot all the “i’s,” then you're surely asking to be rejected. Your work has to be perfect and look professional, even if it doesn’t sound professional. A good piece of writing can be edited into a very good piece, but a bad piece usually isn’t salvageable.

Get a second opinion. If you think that your work should have been accepted, or if it’s been rejected by a few editors, perhaps you should seek a second opinion. Get someone you trust that’s also a writer to take a look at it and offer their opinion. You may find that your writing wasn’t that good after all.

Discover what you can do to regain your confidence after a series of "no's." For a new writer, rejection really hits hard. Perhaps you’ve received enough rejection slips to paper the walls of your bathroom. Then maybe you should do just that. A little whimsy never hurt anyone. But seriously, write something that’s short and good and send it to an easy market—one that publishes a lot of material. One of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make is sending their work to top markets when their skills are not yet up to speed. And many of those markets buy only a few pieces per month, so competition is fierce.

 Find a way to turn your rejection into acceptances or positive experiences. What you need is feedback, and that’s something most editors just don’t have time to give. Read rejection notices carefully to see if there’s even a hint of feedback in them. There are editors out there who want you to succeed. You need to know what they want and then you need to give it to them.

Be creative while waiting. Too many beginning writers send off a piece of their work and then sit back and wait for an answer. Begin work on another piece while you're waiting. As far as you're concerned, the fate of your first piece is out of your hands anyway. Also, don’t wait for months for a reply. If you haven’t received a reply in say two or three weeks—a month at most—drop the editor a note asking if he or she has had time to consider your piece. Don’t be afraid of editors. Remember, they’re busy people, but people just the same.

Above all, keep slugging away. Don’t give up. Eventually, something you’ve written will get published. But you have to guide it along the right path to get there.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seeing the World and Writing About It

When you say you’re a travel writer, everyone thinks you live a glamorous life, jetting to exotic locations, working on your tan, staying in posh digs. Let’s face it, that may be okay for Ruddy Maxa, but for the rest of us, travel writing is hard work and probably the worst paying of all the writing genres.

Sure, you’re dying to get an article published about your last vacation. But travel writing isn’t about writing about the fun you had on your first cruise or the grand shopping experience you had in a foreign market. It’s writing about the life and culture in other countries—educating your readers so they can make the most of a trip there if they choose.

Let’s look at the wrong way to do it. A woman took her younger children with her to London. She had a rotten time with them. When she returned , she wrote about all the bad experiences she had with her kids. Instead, she should have planned her trip better and even if things went badly, she should have put a positive spin on her article by writing about what a visitor can do with children in London. She wrote this article for a Sunday newspaper travel section. Unfortunately, most newspaper travel editors rather publish pieces that find fault with a destination than show how to really enjoy it.

But writing travel articles for newspapers is different than those written for magazines. The latter’s purpose is to entertain. Take inflight magazines for instance. You won’t find a negative article in them, nor will you find an article about flying unless it’s about how to make the experience a good one—effective ways to deal with jet lag, for example.

To be a good travel writer, you have to be a good traveler, not a tourist. Going on vacation is one thing, but traveling to a place to write about it is quite another. As a tourist, though you may plan your trip in detail, you go, enjoy yourself, and come home to tell your friends about it. After that, your memories may linger, but eventually you move on to another place. Not so for a travel writer.

You’ll need to learn to travel for research.  You’ll need to research the place before your trip, do on-the-ground research while there, and more research after returning home. Only then will you be able to write well about it.

Also, a professional travel writer doesn’t do just one article from a trip. Instead, the true professional does lots of research so that he or she may write many articles for different publications, all about different facets of traveling to that destination. How many articles can you think of to write about London. If you said lots, you’re correct. The list is almost endless.

But travel writing doesn’t have to be about exotic places. You can write great pieces about destinations closer to home, within driving distance, for instance. You can also take less expensive forms of transportation like trains.

So if you’re serious about travel writing, start writing about places you know well already. Whether they’re destinations close to home or on the other side of the globe, make it your business to learn everything you can about them, then write articles that will make anyone want to go there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

So You Want to Write a Book

Is your goal as a writer to write a book and get it published? Do you think that doing so will instantly propel you to success? Does writing a book say “Look at me. I’m a writer?” If you answered yes to all three questions, then you better consider doing something else besides writing.

Writing isn’t a game. It isn’t a way to gain popularity. What is it is a form of communication. If you can write well, you can communicate well. And communicating well is the secret to success as an author—a person who writes books.

Writing wannabees see those celebrity writers who make the news or the New York Times Bestseller List and want to be just like them. They dream of writing a hit best seller and having instant success. That happens very rarely and when it does it’s a combination of lots of luck and perhaps a good book.

For all the good books published each year, there are over 10 times as many bad ones. Just because a book gets published doesn’t mean that it’s going to be bought, and more importantly, read.

And to get readers to read your book, you need to have a solid marketable idea. Just having something to say isn’t enough. You have to make sure there are people out there that want to read what you write. So before you do anything else, you have to do some market research to find out if there are other books on the shelves like the one you plan to write. If there are, how many are there? If not, why aren’t there any? If the market is already flooded with similar books, the chances of your book even getting published are slim. If there’s no interest in your subject, that may also ring the death knell to your book idea.

But getting a good marketable idea is only the beginning. Do you have the advanced writing skills to write a book? Also, do you have the organizational skills to put one together. If you plan one of those “write-a-book-in-a-month” marathons, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Sure you can write it and publish is as an ebook, but will it be good enough to bring in more than a few dollars?

Writing a book is a major project. Perhaps that’s why so many writers start one and never finish it. It takes a chunk out of your life. It’s all consuming. You’ll be thinking about when you’re bathing, when you’re driving, when you’re sleeping. It will overwhelm you at times.

Instead of starting out by writing a book, try something more manageable, like an article or a short story. Publish a few of them and then, and only then, should you consider writing a book. You’ll make more money writing shorter pieces anyway. For the amount of time it takes to write a book, it’s a poor investment unless Oprah Winfrey features your book on her show or you just happen to get on the New York Times Bestseller List. You most likely have a better chance at riches by winning the lottery.