Monthly Archives: September 2017

Read Your Genre

I recently had an artist/writer ask me to review her book.

She’d made water colors based on photographs she took on a journey to Thailand when she was young, then rendered them in colored pencil to mock up a picture book aimed at young children, including short lines of text for each picture. She’d taken it to a critique group and they’d advised her to write more for each picture, giving much more of her story as a teen. She came up with the alternate text, but didn’t think it met her original purpose. She was right.

Her pictures were appropriate for young children, and most picture books have very few words accompanying each picture. Her original mock-up was perfect for that audience. The alternate text was more appropriate for older kids—maybe even teens—and her original photos might work better for them, rather than the paintings she’d made with little children in mind.

The members of her critique group were good writers, but they were accustomed to writing for older audiences. Fortunately, she had looked at enough picture books to question their judgment. She only came to me for affirmation.

Mysteries, thrillers, romance novels, young adult, middle school, picture books—each genre has its own audience, and the audience develops expectations whether they realize it or not. You can try to learn these forms by reading about them, but your best bet is to read the genre—lots of what fans are reading now.

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessionalMake sure you’re reading what your audience is reading.

www.sherimcguinn.com

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What Makes a Good Writing Class

I’ve taken courses and workshops in English, journalism, fiction writing, poetry writing, technical writing, grant writing, and probably more that I’m not thinking of this moment. Quality has varied, but many were excellent. Based on that experience, here are some elements I consider essential for a good writing class:

  • The instructor is a good teacher, someone who builds on your strengths rather than focusing on your errors.
  • Once you have basic skills, the instructor helps you refine your writing style rather than forcing your writing into a template or their personal style.
  • The instructor is a writer, preferably someone who’s published or is in the process of trying to be published, so they know what it’s like to risk rejection repeatedly.
  • The instructor regularly writes the form they are teaching, be it short or long fiction or non-fiction, plays or screenplays, or academic work.
  • Students are there because they want to improve their writing. If it is a required class, the majority of students become enthused as they see their writing improve.
  • Everyone is expected to write for every class meeting, whether that’s bringing in new or revised work and/or doing spontaneous writing in class.
  • The class as a whole or in small groups critiques each other’s work with the instructor modeling and supervising constructive critique methods. The emphasis is on the work, what works, and what can be improved. This way you will learn from everyone’s writing.

If you have other criteria, please post them.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

 

 

 

www.sherimcguinn.com
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Resources to Improve Your Writing

WMWDWMPicsLast week I listed resources for selling your work, because that’s my current focus.This week I’ll back up a step for people who know their writing still needs work. Some of the resources listed last week also include articles on writing that are very helpful for writers at any skill level. Those were: Writer’s Market, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer Magazine, and Writer’s Digest Books.

Internet
Today, the internet is my primary resource. My personal preference is Yahoo’s search engine, but I use Google Maps for maps and when I have access to Chrome, and I use Google Earth to view places. Wikipedia has an extensive list of search engines divided into useful categories to get more targeted results.

I use Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and thesaurus when I’m searching for a word. For access to style guides, I use Purdue Online Writing Lab, but they have free basic writing instruction there, too. I haven’t used it yet, but The International Writing Program offers massive open online writing courses (MOOCs) for free – and this is supported by the University of Iowa, which is known for its writing programs, so I would expect the courses to be excellent.

BONOWWPbooksBooks
I have about seven feet of bookshelf taken up with books on writing, screenwriting, self-publishing, and marketing – about half of them published by Writer’s Digest – and I’ve given away twice that many over the years. As much time as I spend with a computer screen, curling up with a book to dive into the details of a topic is a pleasure.

You should go to Writer’s Digest Books and pick out ones that are relevant to your skill level and interests, so I’m not going to list all of mine. For fiction writing, my favorite is Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. My favorite non-WD book on writing fiction is Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s a memoir and a textbook for writers. I underlined key comments and marked them with sticky notes so they’re easy to find.

Finally, for grant or other technical writing or editing, the Allyn and Bacon Series in Technical Communication is well-designed. Whatever kind of writing you do, keep developing your skill.

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessional
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Basic Resources: Selling What You Write

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessionalSheri McGuinn
I write.
www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

It’s Friday! I lost a day helping with the Gold Country Writers’ booth at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn, CA. All of my books are on sale there and I’ll be available to sign on Friday (today) and Saturday, 4-9 PM. My brochures on writing services are also there. The Fair runs through Sunday.

Today’s blog is about the basic resources for selling what you write. It’s not enough to have these resources on hand – you need to read the book(s) and magazine(s) first, then search in them and online with a specific project in mind, looking for markets that will be interested in that particular work.

Target your submissions for the best results.

20170907BasicResourcesForSellingYourWork

Links: Writers’ Market, Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer, Submittable, Duotrope

 

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