Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Liars Are Truthful at the Writers Coffeehouse

By Dawn Byrne

How excited was I when I opened the Writer's Digest May/June issue and found an article by Marie Lamba and another by Janice Gable-Bashman?! I had just talked with these authors at the Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in Willow Grove days earlier. As members of the Liars Club, they shared information on writing and marketing, with Marie leading the meeting.

The last Sunday of each month, I'm inside the Barnes & Noble at 102 Park Avenue in Willow Grove from noon to 3 PM. And so are the Liars. Marie is the author of the YA novels, What I Meant..., Over My Head and Drawn. She's also associate literary agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Janice is the author of Wanted Undead of Alive (with Jonathan Maberry) and "Predator" (coming October 2014). South Jersey Writers' Group founder Janice Wilson and I thought Marie's information on marketing and writing craft helpful and inspiring.

Marie explained that editors and agents aren't out to get writers, nor do they enjoy rejecting queries and book proposals. "Agents and editors love books." She tipped her head forward, parting her hair, to show her grey roots and lifted her foot to display cat socks to prove she's just another one of us, very busy and human. But what convinced me more, was learning she works on commission and could wait two years to receive pay for a book with which she'd been working. Plus there's no guarantee that she'll get compensated at all. It's easy to understand why agents and editors are so selective with choosing a project. They need to believe in it and the author.

Random House published Marie's first book, but she self-published her second. "Self-publishing can be viable and productive," she admits. It's more respected now than when it first started.

Marie will always get back to you if you email her. This may not be possible for some agents, though. Very organized, Marie refers regularly to her spreadsheet, using her time efficiently. She has fourteen clients and can receive 400 emails a week, so she utilizes eight interns to help with this workload. Since the recession, many people in the publishing industry were cut, so developmental editors are hired by writers themselves to prepare their work for the eyes of an agent or publisher. I loved hearing that Marie has a good critiquing group for her own work, and suggests the same for all writers.

Rude writers won't hear back from Marie and she is reluctant to pitch a manuscript to a rude editor. If you submit to Marie, she may Google you. This is an easy way to find out who you are beyond the manuscript proposal you sent. If you badmouth editors or agents, again, no email from Marie. Editors and agents know each other and share information about writers. And don't sound desperate publicly. I like Marie's idea of venting frustrations over rejections, or not hearing from an editor, privately with a friend.

Multiple submissions are a very realistic way to go, but don't mass query. The form query not specific for the agent you're targeting will stick out in a negative way, even if you do get the agent/editor's name correct.

A writer can grow old waiting for a reply from an editor or agent. "Nothing is exclusive," warns Marie. But three weeks is a proper length of time to allow exclusive rights to your work if you feel this may benefit you.

Switching to the topic of craft, Marie displayed a copy of Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. Marie praised Cameron's suggestion to write three pages of anything first thing in the morning to unblock a writer's mind. These morning pages, along with a playful work space, boosts creativity and enjoyment of our work. Since I had already read Cameron's book, I purchased another one suggested at the meeting, on my way out of the store: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

The Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse is free and attendees can ask professionals questions and talk with them after the meeting. Information on current trends, and what's not so hot, is valuable coming from an insider in the business. When you attend, bring business cards. Everyone's encouraged to network. I've found interacting with other attendees helpful and exciting too.

About today's guest blogger:

Dawn Byrne, a grandmother, writes inspirational and fictional stories about families from her New Jersey home. She's a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group, facilitates the Juliette Writers' Group, and teaches Sunday School. Dawn strives to leave a small carbon footprint, reads classical literature and has stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire You and Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas. Her website is

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Editing Tips for Writers Who Don’t Know How or Hate Editing

By Marie Gilbert

Our monthly meeting of the South Jersey Writers' Groupbegan with a cheery hello to new members and latest news from members on submission rejections and acceptance. Yes indeed, our group celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly because with each rejection, we are marching closer to being published. We began the meeting with our Vice-President Krista Magrowski announcing her plans on future monthly meetings and her plans to teach us how to brand ourselves as writers. No, not that kind of branding… but how to get the right kind of exposure as a writer.

Krista also told us about upcoming guest speakers for the months of May and June. In May, Jennifer R. Hubbard, a local Philadelphia writer will talk about the ups and downs of writing and publishing and at the June meeting, Robert Repici, a screenwriter and member of the group will talk about dialogue with screenwriter. July’s meeting will be set aside to work on query letters and synopsis.

Krista brought up the topic of round tables and asked the members who had participated in a round table discussion if the round tables were helpful to the group. The final verdict will decide on if we keep the round tables as part of the monthly meeting. March’s round table subjects were on Twitter offered by Glenn Walker, dialogue offered by Laura J. Kaighn, and use of headers, footers and formatting in Word basics by Amy Hollinger.

March’s Topic

I was trying to think of a great title for the wonderfully informative workshop that Krista gave to the group this past Thursday. Editing your work can be a real pain in the… buttress of your writing process, but in the end; might save you lots of unnecessary revisions. The problem is lots of writers aren’t sure just how to edit, and in fact, would rather have their teeth pulled sans anesthesia, but this is where Krista’s presentation really helped everyone at the meeting.

Krista concentrated on the four types of editing: developmental, substantive, copyediting and proofreading. Developmental editing focuses on thorough analysis of characterization, setting, plot, conflict, dialogue, style which includes structure of plot, motives, subplots and pace.

Substantive editing focuses on order of events, chapters, plotlines and climax and if the story flows smoothly from one chapter to the next.

Copyediting focuses on the mechanics of writing where you’re checking every sentence and phrase and fixing misspellings, grammatical errors and punctuations.

Proofreading focuses on factual and arithmetical errors, inconsistencies in style and language, and just about everything else you missed the first few times reading through.

This brings us to Editors and the magic they use to make our stories better? Editors, like surgeons, look at our work and skillfully remove the tumors that keep our stories from working properly, but remember that different editors handle different types of editing.

An editor’s primary goal is to sharpen the story, eliminate uneven scenes, dialogue, faulty logic and imprecise writing. What does this mean for the writer? In the end, an editor’s work saves you time and money and helps get your story ready for the world of publishing. Sure, hiring an editor can be costly, but your editor can provide valuable insight and on the way help you learn the editing process, which you can incorporate into all your stories.

Krista also shared some helpful self-editing tips for writers to use during each phase of their budding novel, poem, shopping list, etc., but the gist of this presentation was to remind us that although we feel our book is the next best seller with a movie deal down the road, it won’t make it past the starting gate if it’s full of errors.

Below are some links that Krista shared to help us with editing:

The Editing Checklist at Fiction Writers' Mentor

Darcy Pattison's 12 Writing Fiction Checklists at Fiction Notes

An Editor's Checklist at The Editor's Blog

Krista has also suggested some useful readings:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne and Dave King

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming your First Draft into a Novel that Sells – James Scott Bell

The Elements of Style – Strunk and White

The Artful Edit – Susan Bell

What I wanted to add to this post is the importance of writers belonging to a group like the South Jersey Writers' Group. If you’re a writer, the last thing you want to do is isolate yourself from other writers. Luckily, with our group, our members are offered a wealth of information through Workshops, Write-Ins, Blogfests or with the source links posted on the SJWG Meetup page. And our monthly meetings are your chance to hobnob with other writers of all stages of writing and… we serve great coffee.