Tag Archives: Ruth Seitelman


I’ve got all these words in my head that are just screaming to get out. Some are descriptive, emotional, sensual, horrifying, loving. I know you understand what I mean. For us, my dear writer, they are the heart and soul of our work.

There are the types of words we scrutinize: adjectives and adverbs. We search them out and agonize over having too many or too few. We edit, re-write and edit some more. We don’t stop there. We hunt out clichés and overused phrases ripping them out of the pages. And all the while we struggle for originality and that magic that hooks the reader and draws them into our stories. We work until our manuscripts shine with a high polish.

The readers are the witness, the hero or heroine, or whomever they prefer to identify with. It’s the juxtaposition of our words that create the pacing, paints the pictures, strikes the chord, arouses emotions and, for us romance writers, brings the story to a happy ending.

Some words we are eager to hear: the call, published, multi-published, reprint, best seller, finalist, award winning. But I’m getting ahead of myself. More often the words are strung a bit differently: I think the concept of your novel has a lot of potential …, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your manuscript …, Thank you very much for your manuscript which I have read with interest …, I think you have a wonderful voice … The ellipse is followed by the same word but. Different words but all with the same meaning, rejected, although I really prefer passed. It is just so much more humane.

I have worked hard on my manuscript. I am well passed my first draft. I have self reviewed and edited, my critique partner has reviewed and commented, at chapter meetings I have brought my five to ten pages for discussion. The version number on my document is in double digits. I know I have the words just right. I just need an editor/agent to love them as much as I do.

Sure I can. I can love them anyway you want them!

Special thanks to David Coverly for permission to reprint his cartoon.

Dave Coverly admits there is no overriding theme, no tidy little philosophy that precisely describes what Speed Bump, his syndicated comic, is about. “Basically,” he says, “if life were a movie, these would be the outtakes.”

These “outtakes” now appear in over 400 newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post, Toronto Globe & Mail, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer, New Orleans Times-Picayune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Vancouver Sun, Baltimore Sun, and Arizona Republic as well as the published “Speed Bump” books.

In addition to his syndicated work, Coverly’s cartoons have been published in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are now regularly featured in Parade Magazine, the most widely read magazine in the world with a circulation of 73 million.

Coverly works out of an attic studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is married to Chris, and they have two daughters, Alayna and Simone.

Speedbumpcomic@comcast.net

Ruth Seitelman

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Gaze into the crystal ball and glimpse the future of e-Publishing


In a 1995 article for Newsweek, Clifford Stoll, an astronomer and author, said “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”

Mr. Stoll was not uninformed about the internet. Quite the contrary, he had been working on the internet for years and was one of the first ‘hack hunters.’ But the internet of 1995 was in its infancy and like a newborn it would take time to mature – make order out of the chaos. He went on to say no body would shop on the internet, it would never catch on, it was only a fade. Mr. Stoll contended the internet missed an essential ingredient, the human touch. There were other things he felt would be big stumbling blocks, dealing with money being a big one.

The issue with Mr. Stoll’s position in 1995 was one of insight. He had none.

This past February, Mr. Stoll’s article was unearthed and was the topic of discussion on several blogs including Farhad Manjoo ( Slate Technologies) and Nathan Bransford.

Manjoo presented four principles for more successful predictions about our digital future:

1. Good predictions are based on current trends
2. Don’t underestimate people’s capacity for change
3. New stuff sometimes comes out of the blue
4. These days it’s best to err on the side of (technological) optimism

It goes past people’s capacity for change and to the heart of the matter. Stasis is not the norm.  So to Mr. Manjoo’s principles I have an addition. 5. Change is inevitable

In Nathan Bransford’s blog, originally posted in the Huffington Post, he looked at the ebook controversy and saw the ‘new skeptics,’ the Mr. Stoll’s of today.  He doesn’t speak about the enabling of the technology but rather the inevitability of it. He has his own predictions.

1. The ebook reading experience will only improve as ebook technology improves. As technology improves, new enhancements will be available, color photos and art, embedded interactive features and creative designs even in mass market books.
2. eReaders and eBooks will get cheaper as technology improves and production cost go down.
3. Finding the books you want to read will get easier, reading through the jumble of self published books to find the good books.  Many people have opined about the quality of the work being self published. Anybody can upload their novel to Amazon or other resources such as independent e-libraries, like Lebrary. New literary sites like Goodreads and Shelfari are tools readers can use to find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books.
4. People are ignoring the digital trend.  The economics of digital media is compelling. Digitization is cheaper, faster, and provides worldwide distribution. Other industries have embraced the trend (they too went kicking and screaming but that didn’t stop the shift): music, newspapers, and movies. Books are next.
5. Habits change. As people are presented with better options they quickly adapt.

Are we at the same point in publishing as Mr. Stoll was in 1995 with the internet? Will we be looking back at 2010 and see we lacked insight? Or will we look at Mr., Manjoo’s principles of predictions and reflect on those of Nathan Bransford before we put our stake in the ground?

I am more than just a consumer deciding on what device to buy or application to put on my iPad, iPhone or Blackberry. I am on the other side of this tidal wave, a writer. How do writers embrace the digital age when the skeptics, agents and published authors, advise against digital publishing? Is the argument that good writers will be tainted by the poor quality long associated with digital self-publishing real or imagined? Will the influx of poorly written books overwhelm the industry make it harder for good writers to be identified? Will good writers become discouraged and stop writing? What do the publishing professionals really think?

Jesse Glass, co-publisher of Ahadada Books, a self publishing press was quoted by Liz Worth on the Broken Pencil blog:

From the beginning of the history of publishing there have been bad writers and bad books. Though the new publishing technologies might help bad books to proliferate, intelligent readers have a sense of quality, of what draws them in, of what delights and instructs, and they will make an almost instinctive decision regarding what they will read and what they won’t. … Good work – and interesting work, inevitably – given time – wins out.

Neil Nyren, the Senior Vice-President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of Penguin Putnam was recently interviewed by JT Ellison on the Murderati Blog.  He said eReaders will not kill physical books. He believes the more formats that are available, the more accessible we make books, the more people will buy.

He went on to say that the new technology is subtly changing the way editors do their work. The publishing industry is embracing the new technology to improve their own efficiencies and make their editors and sales people more effective. Some editors use eReaders to read submissions.

It doesn’t really take a crystal ball to see the future of e-publishing. The signs are all around us.

1. Change is inevitable
2. If good predictions are based on current trends, the digital press is the way of the future
3. eBook technology will improve and provide wonderful enhancements not available today
4. eReader technology will improve and become more affordable and grow the reading market
5. Well written and edited books will not disappear. Good books will always be in demand.
6. New literary sites will emerge and provide the reading public with a means of wading through the jumble and help them find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books. The reading public will learn which imprints to associate with good, well written and edited books.

I think there will always be a need for printed books. I have a Sony Reader as well as Kindle on my Blackberry. I buy on line, I borrow from the library online, and I still buy books.

Ruth Seitelman

About Judges


I’ve been procrastinating, stalling. Why? I wasn’t quite certain. I just couldn’t write another word. I sat down, stared at my computer. I tried to start but the strangest thing happened, my eyes would close. It wasn’t writer block. I had lots of ideas and things to say but try as I may I could not get it down on paper.

I decided to read, craft books, Donald Maass’ The Fire in Fiction and Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages. I also read some good reads from my TBR list, Leanna Renee Heiber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (actually a re-read), Tasha Alexander’s A Poisoned Season, Barbara Michaels’ The Wizard’s Daughter and Elizabeth Peters’ The Cure of the Pharaoh. I read my critique partner’s entire manuscript while she was on vacation and sent her my comments. Yep, kept me pretty busy, I didn’t write a thing.

This month I got the responses to the two contests I entered and started to analyze the results, still no writing. Alas, my story didn’t final in either contest but as I read through the comments I realized the feedback was awesome. Some of the comments contradicted others but I found a pattern when I charted the results. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s in my own words. Judges quotes are clearly marked.

Con

  • I’m dizzy from head hopping. Pick a person and stay there, at least for a scene.
  • Try to vary the sentence length. It gets boring when you don’t and builds tension when you do.
  • Sprinkling commas is not the objective. You have to put them in the correct place.
  • I am on page 30 and finally got to the story.  This is where you need to begin. Don’t throw the beginning away. Find places where you can strategically input that text.

Pro

  • “I found the storyline very intriguing. I think you have a winner here if you polish your text.”
  • “You have a wonderful voice.” (I re-read that comment several times!)
  • “Great job with your descriptions. I feel like I am right there. Very well done.” (Can you see me beaming?)
  • “I know I have given you a lot of comments and some of them may have been hard to take but this story has a lot of potential. I hope to see your story in Barnes & Nobel!”

This is what I had been waiting for. I was inspired but still so hesitant. Would I really be able to cut the first two chapters out of the story? I checked the comments once again. Several judges, not just one or two, had pointed out where the story should start. It took me only a few seconds to highlight the text. It took me several minutes to actually push the delete button. Finally, I knew I was making one publisher happy. They asked me to get the manuscript down to 95,000 words.  I was well on my way.

All of a sudden I saw more opportunities for the story. The judges had given me enough tips and provided examples to drive home their points. So judges, thank you for your comments. Please know that your hard work is greatly appreciated. While this is not the outcome I would have liked, it was have been great to final and awesome to win, your feedback is valuable to me and in helping me to grow as a writer.

One last word about books, today, Leanna Renee Heiber’s second book in the Miss Percy Parker series was released, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. Congratulations!

… Ruth Seitelman

The Three R’s


I spent my time this week re-writing. I looked at the comments that came back from judges (I entered two contests) and evaluated what they said. Overall, the comments were not consistent. Some loved the story, others did not. Some thought it started at the right place, others did not. All of them liked the voice (that felt good) and most felt the story had a great chance of being published.

I re-read my story with a more critical eye. One of the comments that struck me concerned the synopsis. I got high marks on it however, from what they read (the first 50 pages) they did not see the story coming together, too much back story.  I decided to take a bold step. I decided to cut the first two chapters as some of the judges suggested.

I loved, absolutely loved the first chapter. The judges didn’t see the value of the chapter because they only had the first 50 pages. The information in the first chapter is critical later on. But… the first chapter did not grab them. Cut. Ouch!

The second chapter really demonstrated (show) our heroine’s qualities. It was much shorter when I just told you (tell) but other critiques said to put the words in to actions and scenes. I deleted this chapter too. Double cut (it was longer). Ouch!

The more I read chapter 3 the more I realized I had to add a scene to set up the chapter. I have re-read it several times. It moves the reader quickly into the story (the entire point of this exercise) and to be honest, it may even be better. I am still a bit prejudice about the original beginning. I have not thrown out the chapters. The information they contain still needs to be threaded through the story. It’s a challenge to decide where to put these little nuggets, but overall I am actually enjoying it.

So, I am Re-reading, Re-thinking and Re-writing!

… Ruth Seitelman

Is An eReader In Your Future?


In a 1995 article for Newsweek, Clifford Stoll, an astronomer and author, said “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”

Mr. Stoll was not uninformed about the internet. Quite the contrary, he had been working on the internet for years and was one of the first ‘hack hunters.’ But the internet of 1995 was in its infancy and like a newborn it would take time to mature – make order out of the chaos. He went on to say no body would shop on the internet, it would never catch on, it was only a fade. Mr. Stoll contended the internet missed an essential ingredient, the human touch. There were other things he felt would be big stumbling blocks, dealing with money being a big one. The issue with Mr. Stoll’s position in 1995 was one of insight. He had none.

This past February, Mr. Stoll’s article was unearthed and was the topic of discussion on several blogs including Farhad Manjoo ( Slate Technologies) and Nathan Bransford.

Manjoo presented four principles for more successful predictions about our digital future:

1. Good predictions are based on current trends
2. Don’t underestimate people’s capacity for change
3. New stuff sometimes comes out of the blue
4. These days it’s best to err on the side of (technological) optimism

It goes past people’s capacity for change and to the heart of the matter. Stasis is not the norm.  So to Mr. Manjoo’s principles I have an addition. 5. Change is inevitable

In Nathan Bransford’s blog, originally posted in the Huffington Post, he looked at the ebook controversy and saw the ‘new skeptics,’ the Mr. Stoll’s of today.  He doesn’t speak about the enabling of the technology but rather the inevitability of it. He has his own predictions.

1. The ebook reading experience will only improve as ebook technology improves. As technology improves, new enhancements will be available, color photos and art, embedded interactive features and creative designs even in mass market books.
2. eReaders and eBooks will get cheaper as technology improves and production cost go down.
3. Finding the books you want to read will get easier, reading through the jumble of self published books to find the good books.  Many people have opined about the quality of the work being self published. Anybody can upload their novel to Amazon or other resources such as independent e-libraries, like Lebrary. New literary sites like Goodreads and Shelfari are tools readers can use to find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books.
4. People are ignoring the digital trend.  The economics of digital media is compelling. Digitization is cheaper, faster, and provides worldwide distribution. Other industries have embraced the trend (they too went kicking and screaming but that didn’t stop the shift): music, newspapers, and movies. Books are next.
5. Habits change. As people are presented with better options they quickly adapt.

Are we at the same point in publishing as Mr. Stoll was in 1995 with the internet? Will we be looking back at 2010 and see we lacked insight? Or will we look at Mr., Manjoo’s principles of predictions and reflect on those of Nathan Bransford before we put our stake in the ground?

I am more than just a consumer deciding on what device to buy or application to put on my iPad, iPhone or Blackberry. I am on the other side of this tidal wave, a writer. How do writers embrace the digital age when the skeptics, agents and published authors, advise against digital publishing? Is the argument that good writers will be tainted by the poor quality long associated with digital self-publishing real or imagined? Will the influx of poorly written books overwhelm the industry make it harder for good writers to be identified? Will good writers become discouraged and stop writing? What do the publishing professionals really think?

Jesse Glass, co-publisher of Ahadada Books, a self publishing press was quoted by Liz Worth on the Broken Pencil blog:

From the beginning of the history of publishing there have been bad writers and bad books. Though the new publishing technologies might help bad books to proliferate, intelligent readers have a sense of quality, of what draws them in, of what delights and instructs, and they will make an almost instinctive decision regarding what they will read and what they won’t. … Good work – and interesting work, inevitably – given time – wins out.

Neil Nyren, the Senior Vice-President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of Penguin Putnam was recently interviewed by JT Ellison on the Murderati Blog.  He said eReaders will not kill physical books. He believes the more formats that are available, the more accessible we make books, the more people will buy.

He went on to say that the new technology is subtly changing the way editors do their work. The publishing industry is embracing the new technology to improve their own efficiencies and make their editors and sales people more effective. Some editors use eReaders to read submissions.

It doesn’t really take a crystal ball to see the future of e-publishing. The signs are all around us.

1. Change is inevitable
2. If good predictions are based on current trends, the digital press is the way of the future
3. eBook technology will improve and provide wonderful enhancements not available today
4. eReader technology will improve and become more affordable and grow the reading market
5. Well written and edited books will not disappear. Good books will always be in demand.
6. New literary sites will emerge and provide the reading public with a means of wading through the jumble and help them find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books. The reading public will learn which imprints to associate with good, well written and edited books.

I think there will always be a need for printed books. I have a Sony Reader as well as Kindle on my Blackberry. I buy on line, I borrow from the library online, and I still buy books.

… Ruth Seitelman

Voice: The Story’s Music


This week I spent a lot of time reading. I reacquainted myself with Leanna Renee Heiber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker as well as Elizabeth Peters’ The Curse of the Pharaohs.

I have read both books before. This time I wanted to read them as object lessons in good writing. There is a lot to learn from award winning writers.

From the very beginning, I was once again swept away. How easily I got engrossed in each story. Why? How? I started over and realized that each story had a unique voice that drew me in.

Ms Heiber’s Gothic, romance, fantasy, ghost story’s dialog and exposition never step out of character. From the opening sentences until the climatic ending, each word is wonderfully placed, thoughtfully chosen and keeps you in the moment. The story she weaves is filled with personal pain and somber sensations outside the Athens Academy that is juxtaposed to everything that is enlightenment and safety for Ms Percy inside the Academy walls. The picture she paints never falters.

Similarly, Ms Peters’ first person, Victorian, mystery, adventure, (romantic elements included) keeps her readers entranced. Amelia Peabody’s passion for Egypt cannot be denied. Her descriptions of Egypt are a riot of sights, sounds, smells, color, and tactile sensations as opposed to the gray watery England that she depicts. She too holds her reader enthralled passionately attending to every detail.

The voice of each story is consistent and true to their time and place whether in narration or dialog. Donald Maass said it best in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel.

“…not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre… An original. A standout. A voice.”

The eighteenth Amelia Peabody story A River in the Sky, was released April 6 this year. The second in the Ms Percy series, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, will be released this week, April 27. In addition, The Strangely Beautiful Take of Miss Percy Parker has been optioned for a musical theater production. I can’t wait!

… Ruth Seitelman

Happy Birthday


Dear Diary ~

It has been one year since I started my new adventure. Looking back I cannot believe all I have accomplished. Looking forward I am only starting to understand all I have to learn.

Last March, my friend excited and a bit anxious, told me she was going to write a book, a romance story. I was surprised and a bit envious. For a long time I had stories that played out in my head with characters that talked and emotions that flared.  Inevitably, I would get involved in something and wouldn’t get back to my story for a few days. When I did they were never the same. Well, let’s just say there were some pretty great stories that are lost forever.  So, when my friend mentioned she was writing a book, I told her I would love to also.

I enjoyed the prospect of telling my story but, here’s the scary part, my stories have always been just mine. Committing the stories to paper, giving them breath, exposed them (and me), but I was ready.

In late March my friend and I met at a diner and began to make plans. She presented me with my very own secure notebook for capturing those stories that were in my head. We laughed at the ‘secure’ notebook idea. All it had was an elastic strap but it was precious and a place to put my ideas. Before the week was over we started writing. She wrote a futuristic story about Lisabeth and Zane and I wrote a time travel story about Rebeka and Arik.

Our stories were as different as our lives. She’s involved in marathon running and visiting college campuses with her daughter. I walk on the tread mill at the gym and visit the grandchildren. As for writing, she is well on her way with her story. I finished mine.

Finishing the story, while a monumental accomplishment, was only the beginning. There were tools that I needed to add to my writer’s tool kit, the synopsis, query letter, log line, and pitch. To validate the story, I entered contests.  I pitched it to agents and editors, and queried others.  The feedback has been very encouraging. More work has to be done. It is such an accomplishment when  the sentence/paragraph/chapter sounds just right.

There are times when I feel I can do anything and other times when it all seems so overwhelming.  But I have met some pretty awesome people who are encouraging and inspiring. We share similar experiences and provide support and camaraderie. This year was a year a learning and experimenting, of digging deeper and finding golden nuggets, and in believing in myself.

So, a year has past. I am encouraged, excited and looking forward to the next one. Happy Birthday! As I make my birthday wish know it is for, no, if I tell you it won’t come true. You will have to use our imagination. The cake certainly looks yummy!

… Ruth Seitelman

Fre-net-ic adj. wildly excited or active; frantic; frenzied


My day is hectic rushing from one thing to another. I start at 6am and finish at about midnight. Like many of us, the major part of my day centers around my day job, getting there, being there and getting home. While there are definitely pressures at my office and the traffic gods are not always cooperative, that part of my day runs pretty well. My problem is between 7pm and midnight, when my day gets frenetic.

How do I cram writing my two blogs, critiquing with my crit partner, keeping up on Facebook, Tweet, reading my favorite blogs, going over material from the online class I took, talking to my friends, commenting on their blogs, reading a books in my stack of TBR (to be read), and oh writing, when will I find the time to write. Let’s nor forget my family life. No wonder I feel like the white rabbit, always running late.

At first my writing goal was all about, well, writing. To my surprise, that was the ‘easy’ part. In December my son gave me a book that opened my eyes. It’s Christina Katz’ Get Known Before the Book Deal. The essence of the book is to build your platform to develop a fan base (following) for yourself and your writing before publication. I’m not naïve. I knew that once I was published I would have work to do. I thought an agent and a publisher would be my mentors and help me along. Hmmm, maybe I am naïve.

I’ve spoken to writers, published and unpublished, and I have watched what they do. I took a course in social networking and re-read Katz’ book as well as began following her blog. I could not deny the importance of developing my platform and self promotion. It was almost more important before securing an agent or editor. So, things were not coming off my plate. I had to find a way to do it all, effectively. I decided to take a critical look at those five hours I have each week day night and see how I could better structure them so I would get my work done. I made some small adjustments to my morning routine and continue to find tune the rest.

Morning routine: My usual routine is up at 6am and watch the morning news while having breakfast.  Adjustment: I watch a bit less of the morning news (it repeats every 15 minutes anyway) instead I go through my email, update Facebook and begin my Tweets. If time permits, I start drafting my blogs (which I continue on my commute rather than only listen to my iPod).

Mid Day routine: I eat at my desk and continue to work.  Adjustment: I have taken my lunchtime back. While eating my lunch I read my favorite blogs and make my comments. I also bookmark and put them into a special weekend folder to read more thoroughly on the weekend. Tweet if I have something to say and update Facebook. The added benefit is I return to work refreshed.

Commute routine: I talk to the kids.  Adjustment: Talk to the kids (no matter when they call). If not talking to the kids, I read for pleasure. I carry my eBook with me everywhere.

Evening routine: Paul and I watch TV. I catch up on email, read my favorite blogs, update Facebook, Tweet, put the notes aside from the class I took for another day (I have no time to review them), comment on friend’s blogs, look longingly at my TBR stack, open up my WIP and try not to fall asleep at the keyboard.  Adjustment: I record my favorite TV shows to watch during the weekend, without commercial interruption. I talk to the kids (no matter what time they call). I go over online class materials on the weekend. I have reserved weekday evenings for writing. As a result, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I close my computer at 10pm, or so, and read (from my TBR pile) for an hour before going to sleep. It gives my characters time to settle down for the night as well as me time to catch up on a good read.

How do you manage to get everything done in your day? I am always looking for a better way.

Ruth Seitelman

P.S. I wrote today’s blog listening to my iPod while on the train to my RWA meeting.

* Smack *


First, which ever spring holiday you are celebrating, I wish you health and happiness.

With my manuscript finished and off to the editors, I decided to enter some contests. Of course I wanted to win but I also wanted confirmation that I was in the right direction. I expected changes and differences in opinion. I also felt confident.

This week I received the results from several contests I entered. They were mixed, not only across the contests but also across judges within the same contests. There were some really high scores while others were moderate. Honestly, there were no low scores. It was curious that sections some judges really liked other judges thought lacked luster (all the judges were gentle and kind). This ran the gamut from grammar, point of view, voice, characterization, to plot. There were also mixed feelings whether the story was a page turner. Some judges wanted to read more while others, sadly, mentioned they were not at all drawn in. *sigh.*

The good news is while the judging was going on I kept re-writing. Some of the things they pointed out, whether technical or craft I’d already addressed. That was satisfying. But I realized there was no way to satisfy all the judges. That’s when I took it a step further. There is no way to satisfy all the agents, all the editors, or all the readers. Hopefully, I will click with the one special agent, editor, group of readers that will enjoy my story.

Discouraged? Not at all. You just have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince (agent, editor, reader).

Ruth Seitelman

The Muse is Out to Lunch


“Today I have nothing to say,” I typed after staring at the screen for what seemed to be hours. I tried to think of something witty, compelling. After all I’m a writer aren’t I? I started over again, itching to pull the paper out of the typewriter roller, crush it and throw it in the basket. But that too was unsatisfying. I’m using a computer. I heave a heavy sigh, *sigh,* and once again look at the blank screen. Oh no! I have it, the dreaded writer’s block!

There are lots of reasons why we reach a barrier: we censor our work, stress in our ‘other’ life, rejections, low self esteem, I could go on but you get the picture.

Here are some tips I found on About.com to help you move forward:

  1. Develop and follow a writing schedule even if you write only a few hundred words. If you are consistent and sit down to write on a schedule, your mind will react accordingly.
  2. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just write. Save the critique for later when you edit.
  3. Don’t panic. Panicking will only make the block worse. The less you think about what you’re doing the better your writing will be. Let it flow.
  4. Take some time off especially if you have just finished one project. Give yourself time to recharge your batteries and gather new experiences.
  5. Set reasonable deadlines and goals for yourself. You may also want to find a writing group for support. It’s good to touch base with other writers and understand you are not alone. Commiserating puts things in perspective.
  6. Take a good look at any long standing issues that stop you from writing. Writing can be cathartic. Write about your anxieties and talk them out, preferably with another writer.
  7. Work on more than one project. Sometimes a second project can spur ideas for the first.
  8. Try a writing exercise. Just for fun. Finish this sentence: Like a butterfly, she magically …
  9. Get away from your desk for awhile. You need to stretch your legs, get the blood going. Go to the gym, browse your favorite book store, or go for a walk. When you come back to your desk you will feel renewed.
  10. Remember why you started writing and don’t give up. Think about the excitement, how much fun you had getting the words down. Recapture the spirit that is the muse.

Personally, I went for a walk and reconnected with some friends. With encouragement from my son, I contacted the editor who passed on my story and asked if she would consider re-reading it once the editing was done. The weight lifted but I have one more thing to do before I invite the muse back to my desk. I found this great romance novel. A few chapters should get me in the mood to write!

Happy Spring everyone which ever holiday you celebrate.

… Ruth

Was It The Perfect Pitch?


Yes, in all the rain Luci and I were undaunted. We went to the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference, Create Something Magical. This was my second writer’s conference. Knowing the routine and many more people made it a wonderful day. I love the networking opportunity, seeing friends and making new ones.

On the forty minute drive down to the hotel, I continued to practice my pitch. It was smooth and well rehearsed. I was confident that I could get through it easily. I had it timed to less than two minutes. I was so ready.

When I arrived at the conference I registered, got my conference package and four appointment cards. Each appointment was ten minutes. I was ready. My first appointment was at 10:40. I had time to go to the workshops.

The first workshop, well positioned before any of the appointments started, was ‘Pitch Perfect,’ presented by Lois Winston from the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Lois said the pitch is made up of two pieces, the high concept and the blurb. I began to relax. I had both.

She said the high concept should be as short as possible and tell as much as possible. I looked at her confidently. I knew mine sang.

Lara Croft meets Kate and Leopold.

Next she spoke about the blurb, you know, the enticing paragraph on the back of the book. In as few sentences as possible state the internal and external goals, motivations and conflicts and resolutions of the hero and heroine.  I read my blurb and mentally checked off everything she said.

The pitch should also include information about the writer, check, and the writer’s platform, double check. I was totally ready.

I went into each pitch confident and excited. Even though I was well rehearsed, I was glad they let me read my pitch.

So, how did I do? I saw three editors and one agent. The agent requested a synopsis and the first fifty pages. Each editor requested a full manuscript. One editor also requested a paragraph for each of the next two books (it’s a series).

I left the conference elated. Now you can wait out the responses with me. It’s so much better with a friend.

Oh, I asked one of the agents about the log line.

She is the only woman able to make him whole. He is the man destined to capture her heart. Unbound by time and place, together they fight for the survival of their past and the promise of their future.

She thought it could be better. It is too common. She really like the high concept.

Ready to Pitch


This weekend I am off with my friend Luci to the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference, Create Something Magical. The workshops look great with a good mix of craft development, promotion and business.

I’ve requested appointments with editors and agents and have been writing and practicing my pitch for the last several weeks. I have been saying it to myself at the oddest times, in the shower, cooking dinner, waiting on the phone you know that dead air when they tell you how they value you while you wait, and wait, and wait some more. I thought it would be a good idea to recite it quietly to myself as I rushed the twenty minutes to the train, if I could get it out while under that stress I could do it anywhere even in front of and editor or agent. It was okay, not terrific but I got through it.

I asked Paul to play agent and listen to my pitch. That was a total failure. I know the words are right. Actually it reads well. It will sound good once I get my nerves under control. Good thing I can’t read from a paper. I am certain I wouldn’t be able to read the words the paper would be shaking too hard. So maybe practicing the pitch silently is not the best idea. I need to vocalize.

Back to my twenty minute sprint from the train to my office I can recite the pitch out loud then. So I decided to forgo my iPod and use the time to vocalize. I left that station and started my pitch softly under my breath. Okay, so people thought I was a bit crazy talking out loud. I was not about to give up. As I waited at the traffic light I had a great idea. I took out my cell phone and pretended I was talking to someone and just kept on practicing.

On Friday, I had one day left. Luci gave me a great hint, speed read out loud. It is something actors do to learn their lines. You repeat the lines as quickly as you can without pausing/breathing/stopping, etc. It won’t make sense to anyone but you, but you can quickly identify where you are blanking out or if a word isn’t resonating. So I spent Friday speed reading every chance I got. I was not chairing any conference calls today (for my day job) so I listened in to the meetings, put my phone on mute, and was speed reading.

Between printing out what I wanted to take with me, looking over the new business cards that came on Wednesday (they look so good), and speed reading, I was ready for Saturday and I was excited. Wish me luck!

Here is the log line:

She is the only woman able to make him whole. He is the man destined to capture her heart. Unbound by time and place, together they fight for the survival of their past and the promise of their future.

And the Winner Is …


I volunteered to judge a contest this month. As an unpublished writer, I wasn’t certain I would meet the requirements but, based on my other qualification, the contest coordinator was very encouraging. A few weeks later I received four entries.

With a month to read, judge and return them, I downloaded the files and started right away. I read the first entry and made some comments but quickly realized it wasn’t working. What had I gotten myself into? These writers deserved a judge that could evaluate their work and give them feedback, that’s what I would want.

Discouraged but not panicking yet, I printed out the first entry, slipped it into my briefcase, and left for the train. I had thirty minutes. I could at least do line edits. I read, started commenting and asked myself why. Why did I suggest changing a word, why did a paragraph excite me, why did I feel the emotion, of lack thereof?  Critical thinking. I got it. I understood what needed to be done.

Bells started going off. I recognized some of the same words, sentence structure, point of view confusion that this writer had. It was in my manuscript. Now I understood. But that is another blog.

To organize my thoughts, I looked at the judge’s score sheet with its five major categories. Everything clicked into place. It took me longer than 30 minutes but that was fine. I couldn’t wait to get home, printout the next entry and begin to judge it. I did learn some lessons. I am more than happen to share …

Lessons Learned:

  • It’s easier to edit hardcopy
  • Use the judges score sheet as a guide
  • Critical thinking – ask questions

I reread the entries, made comments, and scored them. Before I sent them back I reread all my comments are realized that I had given the writer a good sense of where I thought (and I stress I thought) their stories could be better. Now the challenge is to pick up my own manuscript and judge it with the same eye.

Judge’s Score Sheet

SCENE:

  • Is the action “shown” and does it create an emotional response in the reader?
  • Is the scene well-paced?
  • Is time and place clearly established?

CHARACTERIZATION:

  • Is there strong chemistry between the characters?
  • Do you have a clear sense of the characters?
  • Are the characters’ actions believable and well-motivated?

STYLE:

  • Is the scene full of sensory details?
  • Is the mix of dialogue and narration appropriate to the scene?
  • Is the author’s voice unique and free of clichés?

WRITING TECHNIQUE:

  • Is the point of view handled smoothly?
  • Is the submission free of spelling and grammatical errors?

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

  • Taking into account your emotional impact, how would you rate this scene?

Different Ways to Spin the Story


The manuscript is done. I have written, re-written, tweaked and finally put it down. I have poured over the words, the emotions, point of view, introspection, to say nothing of the story plot, sub-plot, black moment, resolution and finally the ending. My characters are happy and I am happy. I am ready to share it whom every will listen.

With my manuscript finished, I went to my first conference. I had no idea what to expect. I wanted to meet writers, network and find out what needed to be done next.

I met many wonderful published and unpublished writers and had a great time. As the evening went on, I listened as other writers ‘told their story.’ I realized that I couldn’t just tell people my story. I had tried that and it was disaster. You would think I didn’t know my own story. It even sounded disorganized to me. As I went through the conference I realized I needed an arsenal of versions to have ready for different circumstances and I needed to practice ‘presenting’ them. I noted each different document I would need as the conference progressed.

Well, at least the first part was done, the story was written.

Number One: Write your story and have a complete manuscript.

Standing around the cocktail lounge, people asked “what do you write?” I told them everything, everything. They listened patiently and when I asked them, “what do you write?” They told me their story in one sentence. How do you take 100,000 words and distill it into one sentence? The answer is with a great deal of thought and care.

Number Two: Develop a pitch line or the log line. It should include three things: genre, tone and plot.

On my way to my room, I shared the elevator with a writer who was speaking to an agent. I recognized the agent’s name on her badge. I marveled at the writer’s aplomb with a short explanation that just seemed to flow. I was downright stunned when the agent asked for more information. I wanted to be like that writer.

Number Three: Develop an elevator speech of 3 to 6 sentences. It should set up the general situation, be specific rather than vague and include the conflict.

I had appointments to pitch my story to an agent and to an acquiring editor. Armed with my pitch line, elevator speech and three talking points (I added those just in case), I was able to generate interest. The editor requested a full manuscript and a synopsis. The agent asked for a partial and a short synopsis. Yes, two different types of synopses! With the packages sent off respectively, the hardest part of the is ahead, waiting.

Number Four: The feared Synopsis. The secret, I am told, is to keep it simple. The average is 6-7 pages but can go up to 12 pages. The synopsis should include a good hook, the beginning of the story, the conflicts the hero and heroine face, how they resolve and survive their conflicts, and how the story ends.

Number Five: Pare down your synopsis to 1 or 2 pages for the short synopsis. Be certain you include a hook, the main conflict, the main characters (there is not enough room for the others), the main resolution, and the final outcome.

Inspiration for today’s post is from Chuck Sambuchino’s post, One Story? You Need Five Versions. Thanks Chuck!

Chuck Sambuchino is the editor of Guide to Literary Agents (WD Books). He also authored the books Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd  Ed., (WD Books) and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack (Ten Speed Press / Random House; Sept. 2010). He is represented by Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Literary. Follow his GLA blog for agent interviews, submission tips and more: guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog.

The Hook – Book Titles and Authors

For those of you eager for the answers, here are titles of the books and their authors of the opening sentences posted last week. Did you guess which one was mine?

  • “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
    Summer of Roses by Luanne Rice
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
    Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
  • “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
    Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
  • “Lord Arik’s commanding presence made him easy to spot as he led the three riders and wagon speeding across the forest trail.”
    To Hearth and Home, Rebeka’s Story by Ruth Seitelman
  • “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
    The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks
  • “Dougles Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
    Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
  • “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
    Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
  • “They said he killed his first wife.”
    The Bride
    by Julie Garwood
  • The Hook


    I wrote this wonderful forest scene. The description was spot on.

    The large full branches of the maple trees created a cool green canopy over the neglected trail. A gentle breeze played through the leaves and made them dance ever so gracefully. The sun light, falling in broad shafts, pierced through the trees and landed on the ground bathing it in great golden pools while the fragrance of wild flowers and herbs filled the early spring air with a delicate perfume.

    My critique group said it put them there but, it didn’t put them in the story. They didn’t like it, well, not for the opening paragraph. I thought it set the stage for the following action which was in contrast to the calm idyllic setting. Wrong. It didn’t grab them.

    They pointed me to Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages. The sub-title was compelling, a writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. Dutifully, I did my assigned reading. The essence of the chapter – the hook is more than a marketing tool to draw the reader in. It sets the tone of the story, the characters, the setting, the mood, and more. The care you take to the opening line should be the same care you give to the first paragraph, page, chapter all the way through to the last sentence. But let’s get back to the opening sentence.

    Here are some opening sentences from some famous romance novels. One of them is from my unpublished novel. Does it hold up with the others?

    1. “As their elegant traveling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh.”
    2. “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
    3. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
    4. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
    5. “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
    6. “Lord Arik’s commanding presence made him easy to spot as he led the three riders and wagon speeding across the forest trail.”
    7. “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
    8. “Dougles Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
    9. “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
    10. “They said he killed his first wife.”

    Answers will be posted in next weeks blog. If you can’t wait, please send me an email and I will share the answers with you. Have a good week.

    … Ruth Seitelman