Do keep a list of your written fiction and where you've submitted. This helps you keep track, so that you can query nonresponsive markets while avoiding simultaneous and multiple subs (which usually make editors cranky).
Do join a writer's critique group or find other writers willing to critique your writing on a regular basis. This does three things. First, it helps you improve your writing. You should never stop improving your craft. There's always something new to learn. Second, it gains you friends and comrades in your profession, who can mutually support you through writing ups and downs. Third, it gives you a grapevine through which to learn business tips and about new markets.
Do have a regular schedule of submitting your fiction, articles, books, etc. and have monthly submission goals. Even if you're in it for fun, if you want to be published and to develop a reputation, you need to publish regularly. In order to publish regularly, you need to sell frequently. The only way to sell frequently is to submit a lot. A regular schedule for submissions is critical, especially if your time for writing-related business is limited. Even six submissions per month build up over time.
Do join writing challenges like NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy, in order to help you keep writing and to increase your productivity. In order to submit regularly, you should write and revise regularly. Writing regularly is also the best way to avoid writer's block - again, especially if your time for writing is limited. Writing is like a muscle. Not only do you need to practice to improve, but also to build up your stamina and output.
Do follow up sales with more submissions to the same market. When I first began selling, I thought that markets didn't want to be "bothered" with more subs after a sale. However, I subsequently found out that editors like to build relationships with authors over time. Though they like variety in bylines, they also like getting more of what you sold to them in the first place.
Don't revise forever, but don't expect to avoid revision, either. The worst trap a new writer can fall for is the "Amadeus Myth". That's the one where you sit in front of the computer or typewriter and wait for the muse to come down and "inspire" you to write it all out in one go (and anything that isn't brilliant on the first try isn't true genius). Though, with experience, you can write better first drafts, most of the time, you're stuck with something pretty lousy the first time out, especially if it's original (because experiments never go the way you expect). Then you revise it into something good. Great writing comes out of revision, not first drafts.
Don't give up after a couple of submissions of a piece. Even something that doesn't requires revision between submissions may need to be submitted ten or twenty times before it will sell. Some of your best-received work or pro sales may take that long. I see a lot of women, especially, who get discouraged after sending a piece out once or twice and either endlessly revise it or just give up. While men are more likely to keep submitting the piece (even when it may be terrible), women tend to think, "Well, if this editor didn't like it, it must be bad." That's not true. Editors have a very wide range of opinions of what they consider "good". If it's a well-written piece, it will find a home.
Don't submit until you've read the market's guidelines and researched the market. You don't want to embarrass yourself by submitting something that is obviously unsuited because you didn't read the guidelines, especially since it will probably take you several tries to sell to the bigger markets.
Don't get into fights with the editor or publisher unless you really have to, before or after a sale. This is tricky advice. As the Preditors & Editors site shows, there are incompetent and unscrupulous editors and publishers out there, as in any profession. So, you do need to fight for yourself and your work if you run into one of these bad apples. However, you should avoid unnecessary conflicts. I've had editors that published stuff and didn't pay, or butchered my work, or took years to respond. I've worked for projects that simply disappeared after I submitted the work, never to be seen again. If you write and publish long enough, you'll get every kind of bad behaviour.
But if you enter the writer-editor relationship braced for combat, you have to ask yourself why you submitted to that market in the first place if you didn't respect the people working there. Aren't you submitting only to markets where you love the final product and want to be a part of it? Don't you think the editors and publishers of those markets know their stuff if they're putting out a great product? The long and short of this is – don't fight over little stuff. Save your strength and influence and goodwill for important things.
Don't sell off your copyright for peanuts or pay to be published. This can vary a little (Script contests have fees and academic publishers will take your copyright in exchange for nothing more than a credit on your resume). But the general rule is that you don't sell all rights to a piece unless you can't use the piece anywhere else and you get paid well. And that money always flows to the author, not the other way around.
Some awesome advice. Thanks so much for sharing.
How do you relax after a long day at work?
I watch TV or read. I may go swimming or for a walk, or outside to look at the stars with a reflector telescope (I'm an astronomy buff). Truth is, writing is my work and I love my work. So, after a long day of work, I usually go to bed.
Love that you enjoy writing so much. It's great to have fun in your job.
If your book was made into a movie, which actors do you see portraying your characters?
Judith and I saw Peter Wingfield as Alan and Nathaniel Parker as Paul, Ian Tracey as Charlie, Jean Reno as Ballard. We didn't really have a "cast" for the rest, for various reasons.
Where is the most exotic place you’ve ever traveled to?
I used to live in a small Muslim village in Cameroon, West Africa back in the 90s (I was in the Peace Corps), called "Boubara". It wasn't close to much of anywhere. One day, I decided to visit a place called "Bouden Falls" on my motorcycle, just because I saw it on a map and it sounded like a cool place very few people had visited (I wasn't wrong). It was 50km north on a heavily rutted dirt road and then 8km across the savannah on a dirt track that disappeared under the grass during the rainy season. At the end, there was a little village and beyond that, this long and wide set of shallow falls. Very beautiful, though really treacherous to cross, and just surrounded by bush. That's probably the most exotic place I've ever visited (I made the trip twice). I even have pictures.
Wow, sounds very interesting. Now let's talk about your book, Fraterfamilias
French artist Paul Farrell kills four people in Paris and walks into a hail of police fire at JFK Airport. A Russian history professor and shaman with a dark secret steals the body. Police on both sides of the Atlantic are on the case, but they each have secrets of their own. And a powerful enemy watches from the shadows, one who could destroy them all.
Sounds very intriguing. Thanks for sharing. Where can readers find your book?
We'd love to read an excerpt. Remember, readers, if you comment on this blog post, you'll be entered to win an ecopy of this book!
Twenty minutes after Air France Flight 008 from Paris landed safely in New York at JFK Airport, the passenger from seat 7G walked through Gate 9, heading toward U.S. Customs. He looked ordinary – tall and rangy with Celtic features, wearing a turtleneck sweater and jeans. His curly dark hair was shot with grey. He held a black carryall, with an overnight bag slung from one shoulder and a dark-blue winter jacket draped over his other arm. There was nothing remarkable about him, as the security tapes would later show.
He collected no baggage from the carousel. Having nothing to be suspicious about, the Customs official stamped his passport and passed him through without incident. The passenger stopped to buy a map at a news kiosk. Instead of walking through the automatic doors onto the sidewalk, he turned back into the main concourse, going straight to the baggage storage area. He found an empty locker, pushed the two bags into it, piled his coat on top and closed the door. Pulling the key out of the slot, he walked casually toward some benches where other sleepless travelers were drinking coffee, smoking and reading – trying to stay awake.
He chose a seat next to a large potted palm, in plain view of the door. Opening the map, he laid it at the base of the palm and leaned over to retie his shoelaces. He sat up and began to study the map.
It was 9:44 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on the last Saturday in March.
James "Jazz" Harper loved the night shift. Being in charge of Airport Security amused him during those hours when human beings were at their lowest ebb and the weirdos were sleeping it off somewhere else. Peace and quiet were fine with him. He'd had his fifteen minutes of fame as a running back with the most rushing yards in one season during his last year of college. Being black and somebody sure beat the hell out of being black and nobody, but he didn’t mind his retirement. He had a nice little nest egg, a good job and still-reasonably-good knees. Now, he just liked sitting in the main security office, watching the human parade march across his screens.
At times, however, the job got too dull even for him. When the call came, it made his night – at first. Paul Michel Farrell, a French citizen wanted for a multiple murder in Paris.
Paula, it was so nice that you were a guest at my blog today. Thank you for sharing your advice for new writers and all about your book.
Hope you all stay to chat for a bit.