Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Optimizing Your Writing Process

by
Louis Martinez

Writing is difficult enough as it is, so anything that can streamline the process is invaluable. And if you’re citing sources, one thing you can do is sort your list of references out early so you can type those in-text citations at the end of a sentence as smoothly as any punctuation. When you’re on a roll with a rough draft, you don’t want anything to disrupt your flow of ideas. Any stray thought can potentially derail the train on its journey to the end of the document, causing you to omit a statement that may have made the difference between agreement or disapproval in your reader’s mind.

If I’m writing a non-fiction piece with sources to cite, I find it invaluable to have my references readily available so I can insert them in-line as naturally as I would a period or comma. In the past, I have made the mistake of pushing through my rough draft from start to finish, only to realize I now had to go back line-by-line for the expressed purpose of picking out sentences that should have citations and tediously adding them in. This added an entire new step to the writing process; a step that was unnecessary, and one I’m glad I now have a system to accommodate for.

When I have a large number or sources I’ll be citing for a piece, I like to form my reference list as I come across information I’ll be using, rather than simply recording where I found it so I can form the reference list later on. This may require some detailed familiarity with the citation style you’re using, which I am fortunate enough to have at this point. Having this information compiled in advance becomes a useful tool I can use when writing my rough draft.

When I’m writing a research paper; a report on an experiment; an analysis of a case study; or some other piece which may require a reference list several pages long, I like to have that list available at the side of my screen in another window next to my document so I can easily place the appropriate information in-line right when it comes up without having to stray from my spot on the page. I used to scroll down to my references, gather the information, then return to my spot to type it in, but I found moving my eyes slightly to the side to be much more efficient than scrolling all over the place.

Using this method has substantially decreased the amount of time I spend writing, especially over long pieces. I encourage anyone referencing other material in their work to develop a system that enhances efficiency. By cutting down the time spent on drafting, you can increase the time available for editing, which will ultimately result in an overall higher quality of writing.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ezine and Print Magazine Rights: Part II

by
Kathryn Page Camp

Last week I described three major types of ezine and print magazine rights. This week I’ll talk about some other common types.* This is not a complete list, and even the ones talked about in these two posts can be modified by contract, so make sure you read the submission guidelines and any formal contract you may be offered. More about that at the end of this post.
As a reminder from last week, when used in this post the words magazine, publication, and periodical include both print magazines and ezines. References to story, piece, or item include stories, articles, poems, and any other type of work that can be submitted to a magazine.
One-Time Rights
One-time rights allow the publication to publish your story once. If it wants to publish it again, it must get your permission.
Simultaneous Rights
If you grant simultaneous rights, you are probably trying to sell the story to more than one publication. As the name implies, simultaneous rights allow several periodicals to publish the piece at the same time. These rights are not the same as reprint rights since you may be selling the item for the first time.
Nonexclusive Rights
When a publication buys nonexclusive rights, you can sell the piece again at any time. Unlike one-time rights, however, nonexclusive rights authorize the magazine to reprint the piece in subsequent editions of its publication without further payment or permission.
You can explicitly agree to sell nonexclusive rights, but it is also the default. If you don’t say what you are selling and the publication doesn’t say what it is buying, it gets nonexclusive rights.
A Word of Warning
Rights can be modified by agreement, and even if the magazine doesn’t make you sign a contract, you still have one. In that case, the contract will usually combine the terms of your submission letter, the publisher’s acceptance letter, and the submission guidelines. If your submission letter offers one type of rights and the publisher doesn’t object, that is what you have sold. If the publisher says it will buy a different type of rights and you don’t object, then the acceptance letter governs. If both letters are silent but the submission guidelines tell you what the magazine buys, that is what you are selling. So read the submission guidelines carefully.
Because it’s important to know your rights.
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* The two posts in this series are taken, with modifications, from pages 166–170 of Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal by Kathryn Page Camp and are used by permission from me to me.
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Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer who writes adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp and middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014, and her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, was released in August 2017. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ezine and Print Magazine Rights: Part I

by
Kathryn Page Camp


In last week’s blog, Louis Martinez encouraged writers to find markets for their short stories. Some of the best markets out there are print magazines and ezines. And as Louis noted, what rights you sell them determines what you can and cannot do with that same content in the future. So this week and next I’ll talk about what those rights are.*

Since I don’t want to have to use “print magazine or ezine” and “story, article, or poem” repeatedly, I’m going to do the lawyer thing. When used in these posts, the words magazine, publication, and periodical include both print magazines and ezines. References to story, piece, or item include stories, articles, poems, and any other type of work that can be submitted to a magazine.

All Rights

Some periodicals, such as Highlights for Children, buy all rights. That means the magazine has complete control over what happens to the story you submitted. Essentially, the publication now owns the piece, and you are not allowed to resell it. You don’t even have the right to post it on your own website without the magazine’s permission.

Selling all rights does not usually prohibit you from writing another story on the same topic (but read your contract). However, the new piece cannot be merely a revision but must have a fresh approach. In other words (pun intended), you may have to start all over again.

Highlights pays well and is a prestigious name to have among your credits, so some writers are happy to sell it all rights. That’s your choice, but it should be a deliberate one.

First Rights, or First North American Rights

Most magazines buy first rights. That’s the right to be the first to publish the story. Similarly, first North American rights give the publication the right to be the first publisher in North America. Once the magazine has published the piece, however, control reverts to you and you are free to post it on your website, include it in a compilation, or resell it.

Reprint or Second Rights

The biggest advantage of first rights is second rights—also called reprint rights. Once the first rights holder has published your story, you can resell it as many times as you want. Reprint rights don’t usually pay as well as first rights, and some magazines won’t buy reprints at all. But when a magazine does buy reprint rights, it is paying for work you already did, so any size check is good. And second rights aren’t limited to the second time you publish the item—they also cover the third sale, and the fourth, and so on.

Since you can only sell first rights once, subsequent submissions should explain where and when the story previously appeared. You should also wait until the item is actually published by the first rights holder before submitting it elsewhere. This ensures that the second rights holder doesn’t publish it first by mistake.

I’ll cover several other types of rights in next week’s post.

__________

* The two posts in this series are taken, with modifications, from pages 166–170 of Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal by Kathryn Page Camp and are used by permission from me to me.

__________

Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer who writes adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp and middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014, and her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, was released earlier this month. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Making Use of Your Short Stories

by
Louis Martinez


If you love writing, you may have stocked up a virtual pile of short stories that lay about in your files and do nothing but hog space on your hard drive. After all, it tends to be a whole lot easier to pump out short stories like a literary assembly line than it is to craft a novel-length story with a grand, over-arching theme. Given that, one may be able to stir up as much content in short stories as they can in long stories, but in significantly less time. A day or so may be all it takes for a dedicated writer to draft a short story; show it to a group of trusted writers for honest feedback; and refine it into a high-quality piece of work.

In the many years it could take to complete a single novel, one could have alternatively completed hundreds of short stories. And the catch? That lonely novel, and the several hundred short stories stacked up side-by-side, would likely all sell for the same starting price. And so, for a writer who isn’t well known, it becomes abundantly clear that writing short stories is substantially more productive than writing novels.

Now, I don’t mean to imply novels are a waste of time and effort. On the contrary, they comprise an important part of our world and should not be neglected. However, if you find yourself writing lots of short stores, why not put them to good use?

One of the most common, and perhaps the most efficient means of selling a short story is as an eBook through Amazon. Getting started is quick, easy, and explained here step-by-step. This is no get rich quick scheme, but writing never really is. You’ll probably start by selling pieces for $0.99 and only get paid 35% of each sale. In the beginning, a new writer should be happy to make a dollar or so a month. But after a few years and a few hundred stories, who knows? Things could really take off. And no matter what, your stories will always be making more on the market than they do on the hard drive.

I hope you’re feeling motivated to take the plunge and get your work out there, but before you do, there are two things I’d like to say.

First, get lots of feedback before you publish anything. And I mean harsh feedback, from passionate writers who aren’t afraid to tear your work apart. You don’t want a bad reputation for publishing sub-par content. Anything you put out there in your name should be your very best, because once something’s on the Internet, it may haunt you forever.

Second, be cognizant of copyright law. Unless you self-publish, you may be selling away your rights to the content you produced, and exactly what rights you sell will determine what you can and cannot do with that content in the future. Your publisher will tell you what rights you’re giving up by selling your work to them, and it is your responsibility to know what that entails. Copyright laws may seem daunting at first glance, but you’ll be fine. A good writer just needs to understand what rights they have, and what rights they don’t.

I hope I convinced you to get your work out there for the world to see, or at least got you to consider it. Don’t be shy. Just do your best; make sure you’re putting out good work; and be glad in the end when all those tales put some extra money in your pocket.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Age It Right, Part III

by
Kathryn Page Camp


Vocabulary is an important part of aging a children’s book. There are several resources to guide you on vocabulary level, including Children’s Writers’ Word Book by Alihandra Mogilner and online vocabulary and spelling lists for parents and teachers arranged by grade. Use them.

But don’t rely on them.

First, these lists can’t cover every word in a child’s vocabulary. Just because a word isn’t on the list doesn’t mean your readers won’t know it.

Second, readers want to be challenged. For each of the middle-grade books I have completed so far, I used between six and nine beta readers spread over four grades. I asked them to complete a questionnaire, and here are two of the questions I asked:

Were there any words you didn’t know before but could figure out from the story? If so, write them here.

Were there any words that you didn’t understand unless you looked them up in a dictionary or asked someone older? If so, write them here.

Even though I frequently used words from the fifth and sixth grade lists, the third and fourth grade beta readers listed them in response to the first question rather than the second, indicating that they got the meaning from the text. So don’t let these lists limit you.

While it is important to challenge your readers, it is equally important not to frustrate them. If they have to make frequent trips to the dictionary (or to the kitchen to ask their parents), they’ll put the book down and leave it there.

So how can you challenge without frustrating? The best approach is to use context clues. In my first middle-grade book, Desert Jewels, Emi’s parents tell her to come to the parlor after she finishes washing the dishes. I don’t come right out and tell readers that “parlor” was a common word for living room or what we might now call the family room, but when she got there she found Papa reading a newspaper and Mama knitting a sock and she sat on a piano stool to talk to them (implying the presence of a piano). Other passages explicitly mention the piano in the room and a fancy clock that sits on top of it. The piano and Emi’s parents’ activities while in the parlor help today’s readers understand what the room is.

Then there is the word “spews,” which occurs in a tanka (a type of Japanese poem) that begins the book. It was on one beta reader’s list of words that she had never heard before but could figure out from the context. In this case, it is the words immediately around it that provide the clues:

Hate spews from your lips,

Calling me a “Dirty Jap.”

I don’t understand.

Although I don’t look like you,

I am an American.

Although context clues are the best way to increase a child’s vocabulary, there are rare times when they are not sufficient or when using them makes the passage convoluted or clunky. Desert Jewels tells the story of a Japanese American girl caught up in the anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II. I used some Japanese words for authenticity, but I couldn’t define them by context alone. In some cases the solution was simple—my protagonist didn’t understand them either, so she asked what they meant, and the reader learned along with her. But that approach won’t work if the person asking would already know, so use it sparingly.  

“Oh,” you may say, “I’ll just use a glossary.” Personally, I think that’s a copout. Expecting your readers to leaf back and forth between the story and a glossary is only a little better than sending them to the dictionary. Rely on context clues and a rare question instead.

That said, I did add a short glossary to Desert Jewels because of the Japanese words and some important but now mostly archaic English words and terms used at the time. But it is there to reinforce what the reader learns through context clues and the occasional question, not to replace it.

So when choosing vocabulary, write your story to challenge your readers without frustrating them.

__________

Kathryn Camp writes middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page and adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp. Her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, will be released this month. She has written two more middle-grade historicals that are currently circulating to publishers and agents and is developing a new website devoted to her children’s books. In the meantime, you can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Age It Right: Part II

by
Kathryn Page Camp


When writing for children, the subject matter must be suitable for the age level. That doesn’t mean you can’t deal with tough issues, but you must do it appropriately.
I’ll use death as an example.
Even the youngest children can be faced with the death of a loved one, so it makes sense to cover the issue in picture books. Some tell a story using animals as characters. Others talk about the death of a pet. Then there are books like Tomie dePaola’s Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, which emphasizes the memories that remain after a boy’s great-grandmother dies. Regardless of the approach, the purpose at this age is always to comfort and never to frighten.
In picture books, the death usually occurs by natural causes, such as sickness or old age. There is no violence.
Although violence is still unusual, middle-grade books treat death differently. Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia is the classic middle-grade novel on the subject. It beings by developing the friendship between the protagonist, Jess, and the new girl, Leslie. We come to love both characters, and when Leslie dies in an accident we cry with Jess over his (and our) loss. But the death takes place off-stage, and Jess learns to live with it. If you want to know more, you’ll have the read the book for yourself.
Bridge to Terabithia doesn’t treat death as gently as picture books do, but it still has a lighter touch than most young adult fiction. In fact, YA books can be quite dark. Two World War II novels by Ruta Sepetys illustrate this.
In between shades of gray, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and her brother are arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia. Salt to the Sea follows four young people, three of whom are fleeing through East Prussia to escape the Soviets. Both books contain multiple deaths. Many are onstage, and all result from cruelty. As readers, we never come to terms with those deaths, and that’s how it should be.
As you can see, the age of the audience doesn’t necessarily limit the subject matter, but it does dictate how the writer treats it.
So tread carefully.
__________
Kathryn Camp writes middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page and adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp. Her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, will be released later this month. She has written two more middle-grade historicals that are currently circulating to publishers and agents and is developing a new website devoted to her children’s books. In the meantime, you can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Age it Right: Part I

by
Kathryn Page Camp

One of the most important—and difficult—aspects of writing for children is getting the age level right. Unfortunately, aging books appropriately is more of an art than a science. The best advice I can give you is to read recently written, currently popular books aimed at your audience. If you don’t know what they are, go to a physical bookstore and see what it carries on its shelves, then take them home and read them. Or you can get them at the library (or for your e-book) after you’ve complied a list of titles, but don’t do your original research there. A brick and mortar bookstore gives you a better idea of what today’s children are actually reading.
Years ago, I decided to write a series of early chapter books. I read books in that category, studied length and vocabulary levels, and wrote my first two masterpieces. Then I submitted them to publishers and my dream collapsed. I’m particularly grateful to the one publisher who gave me detailed comments that helped me see that I didn’t understand what was appropriate for my audience.
I shelved that project and turned to writing for adults. But eventually I gave children’s books another try, this time at the middle-grade level, and my first historical novel, Desert Jewels, is coming out later this month.
Although the general process is more art than science, there are some guidelines you should be familiar with when writing for children, and these guidelines are more science than art. They aren’t rules, and if you are J.K. Rowling or have an established following, you may be able to ignore them without serious consequences. But most of us are better off sticking to the guidelines.
The guidelines vary from publisher to publisher and few people are in complete agreement about what they are, but the following chart is representative. The categories come from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I referred to several sources when preparing the actual guidelines.

In general, children prefer to read about main characters who are just slightly older than the reader. As for length, when writing middle grade and young adult fiction, the longer lengths listed in the chart apply to fantasy and science fiction only, which tend to be longer than other genres. And don’t confuse category and genre. Children’s books—especially at the middle grade and YA levels—cover the same range of genres as adult books do, from historical to humorous to fantasy to YA romance. The “type” in the chart is a category, not a genre.
The guidelines are helpful, but the hardest part of aging your book is finding the right subject matter and sensitivity level. That is the topic of next week’s blog post.
__________
Kathryn Camp writes middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page and adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp. Her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, will be released later this month. She has written two more middle-grade historicals that are currently circulating to publishers and agents and is developing a new website devoted to her children’s books. In the meantime, you can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.