Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Born and Unborn Writers

Dear Dead Beat,

Is there such thing as a born writer?

Dear Lifeless,

No. All writers are unborn.

Actually, we don't know. Writing is a process. This is how we best understand it. Some potentially could be born with the process engrained. Some may have to learn it entirely (Dead Beat doubts this). For most it is a combination of already 'knowing' and learning.

All Dead Beat can urge is that you do not veiw yourself as a born writer in case you are wrong. Study the craft of writing, study the craft of creativity, practice by writing until your arm drops. That would be a good start.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Writers' Guides to the Markets

Dear Dead Beat,
I am a writer of poetry and short fiction. I frequently submit my work to magazines etc. I also have enough work I think to submit to a publisher. I don’t have a lot of money. Do you think investing in a guide to writing markets is wise?

Dear Frequent Submitter,

Most writers understand the money shortage problem. And so decisions do need to be taken. Sending work out is not cheap. Therefore we do not want to send work to the wrong place or send wrong work in the first place (see Just Not Getting It).

You do need to know the magazines you are sending to. Preferably you need to seek them out and get them in your hands to read. Not always easy depending on where you live.

Similarly for publishers you need to have a look at their books, their websites etc.

A good writers’ guide can be a great asset in ‘guiding’ you. No doubt. If money is of concern see if you can find one in your local library or put in a request for one. But yeah I think owning your own is very useful. You can browse it at your will. Have it right beside you when you need it.

Thing is magazines come and go, publishers come and go, change addresses so an old guide may not be up to date. So the book you buy this year may not be so useful in the next. But that being said I would not advise buying a new guide every year either.

The key here is to get a ‘good’ guide.

2006 Writer’s Market seems very comprehensive for US and more.
The Writers’ Handbook 2006 by Macmillan for UK, Ireland and more.
The Canadian Writer’s Guide for Canada.

By the way, check out the internet for used copies.

Good luck.

Friday, October 13, 2006

How To Get Published - Dead Beat Has The Answer

Dear Dead Beat,

I have been writing forever but can't seem to get anything published. I can't believe it is all bad! I have three novels written and two collections of short stories. What is a writer to do?

Dear What to Do,

There is much left out here. How finished is the work?

Assuming it is finished, how good are your query letters?

Assuming they are good, rejection does not imply that your work is not of a good quality.

Anyway the answer is simple: perseverence.

Write to the best of your ability, seek advice from someone who truly knows how to critique work, rewrite and then rewrite some more. Most writing is of poor quality. Most writing submitted for publishing is of poor quality. Do not be part of the MOST.

Study the market - find out what publishers publish your style of writing. Send a worthy query letter and brief sample. Send and resend.

Write a new novel in the meantime.

Dead Beat pleads with you to stay the course. Whoever told you this would be easy?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Is a Query Letter?

Dear Dead Beat,

what is a query letter?


Dear Embarassed,

If you want to be a writer never admit to embarassment. Writing honestly will always be embarassing.

A query letter is a letter of enquiry, usually in our cases to a publisher (or agent). So ask the question: Do you want to see my work?

Before that, set up the 'letter' that the answer is 'yes'. If you do not do this, then the answer is 'no' or at best 'maybe' and the question becomes almost redundant.

So how to achieve a 'yes'?

Be deserving of it.

If your work is not ready to be considered, do not sent it out. If it is ready the letter tells them this: so how do you know?

Have other people agreed with your opinion? Has it been published or received well? If so, let them know. Establish in your letter the validity of your work. Argue your position. Do not trust your own opinion solely. Do not say, "well others just don't get it, their problem."

Your problem is how to get them to understand it.

So ask in your letter if the publisher/agent etc wants to see your work, and explain before that why they would want to. If you can't explain that, either you have not yet earned that right or you have problems in telling why.

Be honest, or at least ask others to be honest on your behalf.

Either need to be solved.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Importance of Agents

Dear Dead Beat,

How important is it to have an agent for works of fiction?
- worn out writer

Dear Worn Out Writer,

It clearly has become very important to have an agent for novels. Short stories are a hard sell, and usually agents are reluctant to represent them. Besides it is often the smaller independent publisher who will take the risk on short stories, and the smaller publishers are not as dependent on working with agents.

So if you have a collection of stories, you can by pass the agent and approach the publisher directly with a query letter, short sample and list of publishing credits.

Even with a novel the same approach would be okay with the smaller publisher.

The bigger publishers deal almost exclusively with agents. However if you had a very strong publishing history, the query letter etc may bypass the agent again.

In truth it is almost as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publisher, but you may as well begin there.

Dead Beat wishes you well - be brave!
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