Sunday, January 31, 2010

Find the Manuscript Editing Service of Your Dreams

By Mayowa Atte

A swashbuckling western; a memoir ferrying readers down the rapids of memory; a lush romance; a knock-your-readers-on-the-side-of-the-head mystery; a save-the-world-while-wearing-no-pants thriller; an amalgamation of fiery words. You are a manuscript in varying stages of completion, a bound revolution in Courier New 12pt.

Interested In:
An experienced, affordable and compatible editing service to spend long nights of literary delight, to search your soul and show you where you are most beautiful, where the light illuminates your depths best. An editing service to firmly but gently expose the cracks in your structure and/or the irregularities in your pace; measure the heat of your conflict; discover the shallow ponds of your characters; and brave the terrors of your punctuation. An editing service to make you better before the hurried scrutiny of a publisher’s eyes.

What to Do:
Date online.
The majority of reputable editing/literary services have a web presence. Typing keywords such as “Manuscript Evaluation Service,” “Manuscript Editing Service,” and “Manuscript Critique Service” into a search engine produces innumerable suitors. Visit as many websites as you can. Here is how to pick the right one (or many if you are not a monogamous manuscript).

• Services Provided: Different manuscripts need different things at different times. Do you need a critique, a developmental edit, a line edit, the whole shebang?
• Experience: The editors should be published authors, former or current publishing industry professionals, or have academic qualifications. In all cases, it is preferable that they have existing clients.
• Cost: Most editing services have tiered price structures depending on the service you buy. However, there can be large price differences between editing services providing the same service so shop around. Most services charge by the page. If you are a lengthy manuscript, you may prefer services that offer flat fees.
• Professionalism: Pay attention to the promptness of replies and callbacks, to methods of payment, etc. Professionalism can be a good indicator of competence and experience.
• Samples and Negotiation: Most services provide a written report at the end of their evaluations/critiques/edits. Ask for a sample to see if it fits your needs. Don’t be shy about explaining your needs and requesting that they provide feedback on specific areas you desire. You are in charge.

Having said all that, it is very possible that you will be sitting in a park somewhere one day, letting the wind caress your ink and ruffle your pages; then your dream editing service will run into the picture with a cute Labrador. This service may not have everything in yonder list, but it will feel great. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut feeling and give this editing service your number.

Here are some of the suitors I considered in my search for literary bliss.
• Michael Larocca at
• Allen Jones at
• John Tallmadge over at

Good luck.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Literary Impotence

By Ginny Padgett

I have an embarrassing condition…submission anxiety.

I revealed my secret to a couple of my fellow workshoppers, and they seemed amazed. “That’s silly,” one said. “You NEED to have at least 1,000 rejection slips before you can consider yourself a real writer.” “Just do it!” was the advice of another. “How can you read a sex scene aloud to us and be too shy to send a submission for publication consideration?”

Perhaps this is a silly situation. I am fairly confident in my wordsmith skills, in my ability to create realistic characters and vivid settings, and in making transitions for a good flow.

On the other hand, I get bogged down in descriptions, too much detail, and backstory dump. These stumbling blocks derail the progress of my story. Herein lies the crux of my writing dilemma, I think. Could my focus on the craft of writing be covering up the fact that I haven’t found the story I need to tell? Or maybe I have and haven’t found the magic balance of theme, plot, story line, character, and setting. I may need one of Shakespeare’s witches with bubbling cauldron to make this divination, or…

Should I follow Dr. Faustus’ Plan for Success?
Would a 12-step program help?
Talk therapy?
Keep writing and buy stamps and manila envelopes?

I know which option is the only answer, but I wish there were an easier way to overcome my literary impotence, brought on by submission anxiety and writer’s block (Yes, I suffer from that one, too!). Aaah…if only there were a little blue pill to painlessly pump up my inept ramblings and push them out as published works.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Trying to Get Unstuck

By Lisa Lopez Snyder

Earlier this week I got stuck in the mud. Over the holidays I started a story, and step by step I put my protagonist, “David,” in a pickle (purely intended, of course, and all as a result of the actions he took earlier). Faced with the consequences, he then had to make a completely new decision, and I was ready to wrap up the story. But I was leaving him without any options because I couldn’t decide what would happen next. He could certainly do something unexpected, but because he is a little boy, I couldn’t have him do something suddenly adult. What to do?

Have you ever been in this situation? Have you ever taken your main character on a wild ride, thoroughly enjoying it yourself, and then come to a curve in the road, only to ask, “Dang, what’s on the road beyond?”

I turned to a nifty little book I read about a year ago to help me figure out some possibilities. It’s called, Writing Great Short Stories, by Margaret Lucke, and I highly recommend it. Lucke breaks down all the aspects of writing the short story into easily digested bits with clear examples, tips and exercises. Lucke reminds us that “not every short story has a plot,” which describes my story exactly.

Lucke says while you may have a plot-less story, you still have to have a “story goal,” that is, your story must “evoke an emotion or mood, explore a theme, share an experience, or describe a person”-- all in an effort to “help the reader comprehend some aspect of the human condition.” In fact, each of the pieces of your story does not have to be “linked by chronology or cause and effect, but by similar emotional or psychological resonance or other things they have in common.”

She cites as an example Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, where the author tells the Vietnam soldiers’ stories by cataloguing the various items the narrator’s fellow soldiers brought on their missions, including not only objects such as matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&Ms, but the intangible items, including guilt and fear.

That said, I’ve already got some possibilities for David. I’ve been inside his head for the last month, and I know how he interprets the adult world. I’ll stay true to David’s perceptions and just let the reader explore them, all the while leaving the reader (fingers crossed), with the sick feeling of what could have--and just nearly--happened.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Search for a Literary Agent

By Bonnie Stanard

Thank goodness for the internet! It makes my search more focused and less time consuming. Even at that, I spend a lot of time with Google and Yahoo. The site that I have found and use most often is Agents and publishers I’ve met at the SCWW’s annual conferences have made encouraging comments about my work, but after several years, their words are beginning to echo as if empty.

In surfing the internet, I’ve arrived at several priorities regarding agents. Generally speaking, I look for agents with offices in New York City where the major publishing houses are located. Although computers make communication easy, even for agents in far-flung locations, it’s hard to underestimate the value of personal relationships in business dealings.

The most helpful web sites list the genres that interest the agents. Since the manuscript I’ve just finished is an antebellum novel, I look for agents interested in historical fiction. One of querytracker’s features is that it allows you to search by genre. Some agents list so many genres that it’s obvious their interest isn’t focused, making is likely that their expertise isn’t either.

Based on the agents’ lists of preferred genres, you can figure out what is selling. Nonfiction beats fiction hands down. And within fiction, the hot genres are fantasy and paranormal. The order in which preferences are listed is important. If the list begins with nonfiction or if it includes many nonfiction genres and few fiction genres, I infer that the agent has a nonfiction bias which may play to my disadvantage.

A new agency or a recently added agent catches my eye, for they are more likely to actively seek clients. However, this is a double-edged sword when applied to an individual. It could also mean you’re querying an inexperienced agent (and as many a blog will verify, a bad agent is worse than no agent).

If an agent doesn’t list any clients, it’s not a good sign. On the other hand, if the list is long or includes somebody like Annie Proulx, you can bet that the agent doesn’t need/want a novice writer. The same rationale applies to recent sales. If there aren’t any listed or if there are too many, the agent is either unsuccessful or too successful to be a good fit.

One of the things I like about is that it charts the agent’s responses to queries, including the percent rejections, partial requests, and full requests. Most agents will request manuscripts (partial and/or full) from one or two percent of the queries. If that percentage jumps to 10 percent, I become wildly optimistic about my chances and send my best query letter.

I’ve discovered that the trend is toward email queries. Many agents will no longer accept snail mail. I’m also discovering that agents often don’t send rejections. Instead, they simply don’t respond.

Several other websites that I use on a regular basis are (If a link is not active, copy and paste it into your address bar.):,category,Agency%20Profile.aspx

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!

By Celinda Barefield

So, here it is, New Year's Eve. I’m sitting here thinking about the year to come and everything that happened in 2009. At the same time I’m remembering something that was broadcast about tonight being a blue moon night. The song, “Blue Moon,” is stuck in my head. Well, of all things, it’s not that bad for New Year’s.

A blue moon only happens about every two-and-a-half years. Wow. Imagine how many New Year’s resolutions were accomplished and abandoned between this blue moon and the last.

What did you accomplish? Have you written that book yet? I know I didn’t. I wish I could say that I had, that the novel is complete and on its way to a publisher near you. Unfortunately it isn’t. It’s still sitting in my mind gathering dust, waiting to be told.

That’s my story. What about you? I challenge you in this new year to look at all your unfinished projects and those you did complete and then reflect on what is important. Set your New Year’s resolution. Even if you don’t totally follow through, what you do get done could be amazing. As a new blue moon rises, so will the feelings of accomplishment in knowing you’ve completed a number of goals.

Happy New Year! May 2010 hold something special for you and yours.