Thursday, December 02, 2010

HNT - Don't Write Crap And Other Writing Advice

Last Saturday was the first annual DarkLit Fest of Durham, organized by Joel A Sutherland, librarian, author, Renaissance man.

I sat on a panel called Deal or No Deal: How to Sell Your Writing to Publishers & Editors along with Brett Alexander Savory, Sandra Kasturi, Jennifer Hale, Monica S. Kuebler and Michael Kelly (who was also our moderator)

Michael amusingly opened the panel with the basic advice in answer to the panel's question:  Don't write crap!

At which point all panelists agreed it was as simple as that and we decided to retire to the bar.

No, wait, we did talk about the subject for 45 minutes. Part of what we discussed were based on Michael's statement -- such as don't submit every single thing you write -- polish, re-write, realize that, according to Malcolm Gladwell's theory, 10,000 hours of practice makes perfect, so keep working at it and honing your craft; that just because your mom and friends like it doesn't mean it's a great piece of writing; or something as basic as doing your homework and researching the market before you blindly submit your work to an editor/publisher.

In my own experience, when reading for a sci-fi anthology of short stories with a theme of "stories about art, music and culture" I received a proposal for a series of books about the civil war.  Talk about being completely off base.  Can you imagine what happened to that proposal? Did I recognize the genius of the author and immediate call them and insist on buying their book series (which was nowhere within my power as the editor of a single existing contracted book), or did I toss the proposal into the trash with as much care as the author obviously took in matching up his writing to this particular editor's posted guidelines?  And yes, as is typical the guidelines weren't hard to find or understand.  All one needed to do was read them carefully before submitting.

I was the only one on the panel who wasn't actually a publisher, but, instead, a "freelance" editor with only 3 anthologies under my belt (only two of which have been printed), so obviously the least experienced. So while the other panelists recanted "bad judgement submission" stories, I can only imagine the long list of crazy things they have seen over the years that I can barely imagine.

It's interesting how it comes down to simply paying attention to a few small details to make a world of difference and increase your odds of selling a story or novel.

It was great to sit with the panelists and share some basic advice (and funny stories).  The rest of the day was also interesting, informative and entertaining.

And along with the fun there were pleasant surprises too.  Rio Youers (pictured below) was absolutely hilarious on his panel Dark and Stormy Nights: Writing Horrifying Horror Fiction.  Rio is as funny as he is a brilliant master of the macabre -- and it was neat to learn that our "paths" had already crossed, at least in print, as we'd both had stories which appeared in Northern Haunts, an anthology of short "campfire style stories" edited by Tim Deal.

In all, this single day event which was NOT in the heart of downtown Toronto was well attended and considered a success by the organizers and the library.  Kudos to Joel for organzing the event as well as to the many authors and panelists who attended and made it a lot of fun (and worth the drive to Oshawa in mild blizzard conditions)

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