The Third Way

 

It’s always nice for a writing teacher when her students go forth and publish. Tiffany Allee didn’t even wait for class to end. She was in the middle of one of my Next Level courses when she got her first offer of publication. The fact that she sold her work did not come as a surprise (I’d read it), but the speed of her success was startling. One year later, she has three novellas in print and, I believe, a full-length novel in the works.

 In this blog, we had several interesting discussions about the merits of trade publishing versus self-publishing. But there is a third way, one that takes advantage of the digital revolution but doesn’t place the whole burden of publishing on the writer, and that’s the way Tiffany Allee chose. I’ll let her tell you about it in today’s guest blog.


From the desk of Tiffany Allee:

 

During the last few years, writers have argued the merits of commercial versus self-publishing. There are strong lines of division, with (I think) most writers seeing the potential good aspects of both methods.

My road to publication has been a little different. I’m not published with a big New York publisher, although that is definitely something I will be pursuing in the future. But I’m also not self-published. I’ve gone another route, which is to publish with smaller publishers that concentrate on the digital market.

Keep in mind while reading this post that my experience is just that, my experience.

 

The Beginning

The first writing project I finished (beyond a short story here and there in college classes) was a novel I wrote mainly during NaNoWriMo in 2010. It wasn’t the best novel in the world, but it gave me confidence that I could finish a novel—a first draft of one, anyway. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it all sort of worked together into a fairly cohesive story.

But I knew that before I could fix that story—never mind writing something better—that I really needed to concentrate on important craft skills. Doing that while working on a 90k word novel was daunting. So I decided to write shorter—novellas.

The Problem

Novellas proved to be a wonderful way to learn (and they’re quite addictive). I was able to pick up critique partners to help me even more. I also took a fabulous online workshop with our host here today, Barbara Rogan, that really helped me to build a revision process.

But then, when I had a couple of shiny novellas on my hands, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Novellas don’t generally sell to traditional publishers, and I wasn’t confident enough in my abilities to self-publish. I needed someone in a professional capacity to agree with me that the works were good enough before I would be willing to put them out there.

After researching digital-focused publishers, and submitting to a few of them, I found homes for my novellas.

But…Do They Edit?

Something I’ve seen touted out there in reference to publishers, especially digital ones, is that they don’t edit. Well, I can say that’s not the experience that I’ve had with any of my publishers.

While the process varies from publisher to publisher, I can speak to what I have seen. I’ve published most of my work through Entangled Publishing, so I’ll focus on my experience with their process here. It is quite similar to what I’ve heard about and seen elsewhere.

Entangled uses what I’ve heard referred to as a three-step editing process, meaning that a book goes through at least three rounds of edits prior to copyediting. Each of these rounds may actually involve more than one exchange of the MS between editor and author, particularly the first round.

Starting with an edit letter detailing content or big picture edits, and ending with line edits, the editing process can be very involved. While an author can push back on some of these suggestions (and I have, on a couple of things here and there), these changes are what bring the story to the next level.

Whew.

And it’s still not done. Then the story goes to the copyeditor. Again back to the author for change approval. Then galleys come out and the author and editor both comb through the story to make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks.

Now that’s a process that would be very difficult to replicate for a self-publishing author. And I suspect that it’s on a level similar to the bigger publishers out there. I don’t know that all digital or small publishers processes are quite so thorough, but that’s one reason why researching the right place to submit to is so important.

At every step in the process, I have never been short of stunned at the level of professionalism I have seen, and the sheer editorial talent that my stories have benefited from.

The Good Stuff

There are definite advantages of going through a smaller publisher, especially one with a digital focus.

Length: Although accepted lengths vary by publisher, they are almost always more lenient than your average NYC house. I’ve seen acceptable ranges from 5k to 120k, and everything in between.

Royalty Rates: Royalty rates with digital publishers tend to be much higher than at NYC publishers, particularly for ebooks.

Timelines: It is feasible for an author to see his or her book published within a year of submission. This isn’t usually possible in the agent to big house route. I will say that wait times on submissions aren’t fast by the definition I would have had prior to learning about the publishing industry, but waiting only a few months on a submission is quick in this world.

Editing, Cover Art, and Marketing: I’m listing these as an advantage, not over a NYC house, but over attempting to self-publish. Cover art is expensive. Good editors are expensive. Marketing is…you guessed it, expensive. And cutting corners in any of these areas is a good way to make sure no one ever hears about your book, let alone reads it.

Promotion: The type of promotion you get varies by publisher, but most excel at guiding their authors on what to do themselves to promote (and it’s a far more complex process than one might think). I have been lucky with Entangled because they provide me with a publicist who helps get my name out there, and who schedules blog tours and promotions for me. I can’t tell you what a timesaver that is.

The Not-So Good Stuff

Advances: Few digital houses offer advances. Most who do offer advances that just aren’t comparable to big houses.

Cover Art and Marketing: Larger commercial publishers may have larger budgets for marketing and cover art.

Distribution: Larger publishers also have distribution networks that not all smaller or digital publishers can compete with. And the importance of shelving books where readers can see them cannot be minimized. It’s huge. (I should also add that some of the larger digital publishers do have excellent distribution in place, and their print lines can be found in bookstores.)

Self-publishing: Pubbing yourself will still offer higher royalties, faster timelines, and even more flexibility with length and genre than a digital publisher. Of course, this comes with a lot of additional cost and risk.

Things to Keep in Mind

 Research is your best friend when looking at any publisher or agent. Check online at reputable sites. My favorite site to start researching is the Absolute Write forum. Keep in mind what is important to you in a publisher, and what your expectations are. Talk to other writers. Look at things like sales, publisher reputation, and the backgrounds of the individuals behind the publishing company.

For example, if you want to see your book actually shelved at the Barnes & Noble by your house, you’ll probably want to look at the traditional agent to big publisher route, or to the print lines at Samhain, Entangled, or other smaller publishers whose distribution might make that possible.

While smaller and digital publishers may have higher acceptance rates than some bigger houses, they’re still not easy to break into. Most of the more established ones who sell well have acceptance rates well below five percent. So you still have to make sure to put your best foot forward when querying.

Some genres sell better through digital publishing. There is no question that romance and erotica sell better than other genres, likely in part because some of the pioneers of the digital industry were romance and erotica publishers. But other genres are becoming more common. Publishers like Carina put out all sorts of genres and do not require romantic elements in what they publish. Samhain now has a horror line. Digital publishers of non-romance genres may be more difficult to find, but they are out there.

In Closing…

Digital titles are becoming very popular. My own publisher has had wonderful success, as have others, with multiple titles hitting the New York Times and USA Today lists.

I can say that I am extremely happy. Not only have I learned so much more than I can communicate via a single blog post from my editors and my publicists, but I feel like my stories have only benefited from the brilliant people who I have worked with along the way.

 

Thanks, Tiffany! I think it’s important to remember that the Big Six are not the only game in town, nor is self-publishing the only alternative. Writers have more choices today than ever before.

Tiffany’s books are very fun reads in the paranormal genre, original and well-written. I hope you’ll give them a read.

              

Can Writing Be Taught?

My last post about the bloodsuckers who prey on writers stirred up some interesting discussions on writers’ forums that I frequent. One writer, Cammy May Hunnicutt, agreed that paid reviews and submission services exploit naive writers and provide no real benefit, but she questioned my assertion that the one thing worth paying for is education, learning the craft.  “People,” she wrote, “are dying to think they can spend some money and become ‘good’ writers.  Not really so.”

This is an interesting statement; and based on 15 or so years of teaching fiction writing, I have to agree with it, if by “good” we mean extraordinary, publishable. To get to that level,  there has to be some natural ability in the mix. But talent isn’t everything; it isn’t even enough. Writers need craft, too. We don’t make it all up from scratch each time we start a story. We learn stuff and build on what we’ve learned to do more, the same as in any art. Just as painters need to master perspective, so must writers master point of view. Just as musicians must learn structure to write fugues, so must writers  learn to structure their stories for maximum effect. These techniques can be taught to any reasonably literate, motivated person, so I believe that nearly everyone can learn to write better; and that is something most writers aspire to.

But Cammy, bless her, was not convinced. “‘[You say] ‘You can’t learn to be good, but can learn to be better.’  Let me ask you how much that counts for.  You see writers who are really sweet and don’t get published, others who write junk and make millions.  If I can use athletics as a metaphor, I’ve seen the workshops and camps and coaching.  And being ‘better’ is seldom good enough at the level that the average person can access.  I don’t see it as an investment that will return, but a money drain.”

Cammy asks tough questions, but fair ones. It’s true that all the training in the world isn’t going to get a mediocre hoopster onto the Knicks. Writers who study with me are strongly motivated—they have to be, to participate in my strenuous workshops—and over the years, quite a few have gone on to publish.  I take enormous pleasure and pride in  their success–but they are a minority. The hard truth is, many of my students will never publish unless they self-publish. The bar to trade publication is extremely high, and even for the most talented, there are numerous obstacles along the way. So what is the point of writing classes for those who won’t achieve that? Could teaching itself be exploitative?

I don’t believe it. People deserve a chance to strive for their goal, however difficult it may be. Besides, you can’t always tell who will and who won’t end up getting published. I’ve been surprised more than once. Sometimes a genre gets really hot and the bar is lowered a bit as publishers scramble for material, so that agents and editors may be willing to take on a manuscript that needs more work than they’d normally invest. Other times I’ve seen students who start out with major deficits learn really, really quickly—just soaking things up because they’re ready for them. (See Mika’s story.)Where a writer starts isn’t necessarily an indication of where she’ll end up.

Some of my students are going to end up self-publishing their work–a statistical certainty these days. In those cases too, I think they’re doing a good thing for themselves and their books and their eventual readers if they learn all they can about the craft of writing. Doesn’t have to be through classes, either. A detailed critique by an editor or writer with serious chops (scroll down on this page for a list of things to look for in a writing teacher and editor) can be an eye-opener, serving not only to improve the work in question but to provide the writer with tools they can apply to everything they write thereafter.  If that’s not in the budget, there are excellent books on writing available, and libraries where they can be had for free.

To me it seems self-evident that writers, like painters and musicians, need to master the tools of their trade; but, as Cammy was brave enough to point out, I have a vested interest in believing this. So let me ask the writers among you to weigh in with your thoughts and experience on Cammy’s challenging question: Can writing be taught?

 

My purpose here is not to tout my classes; in fact, I’m taking a hiatus from teaching and editing for the next 4-5  months to work on a book. If, however, you are interested in taking one of my workshops when I resume, the best way to get in is to get on my emailing list, which you can do by emailing me at www.nextlevelworkshops dot com.

Publishing Mosquitoes

It’s a bad year for mosquitoes – or rather, a great year for mosquitoes, a bad one for their prey. On Long Island, where I live, I can’t step out to the garden without being attacked. There’s a wooded park nearby where I like to take the dogs for long, off–leash walks. Last couple of times I tried, I longed for one of those veiled hats that women explorers used to wear. I spent the entire walk waving my hands in front of my face, batting the pests away.

I thought of those mosquitoes when a former student (thanks, Deniz!)  sent me a link to a service that offers, for an hourly fee of over $100, to match writers with literary agents. What’s wrong with that? you may ask. If you do, I’m glad you’re reading this post, because this is also a bad year for purveyors of unnecessary services to writers. It’s money they’re after, not blood; but how much of either can writers spare?

Writers who’ve invested time, effort and emotion in writing a book desire to see that book published with a passion like that of people who long for a child. Desire of that magnitude makes people vulnerable to hucksters. Of course, hucksterism on the fringes of publishing is not a new phenomenon. Long before the advent of inexpensive self-publishing, vanity publishers existed to fulfill the dreams of aspiring writers, at a hefty price. Distribution was never part of the deal, so most often those writers ended up with boxes of unsellable books in the garage. Today, writers can distribute their self-published books through the same online channels as trade publishers, and they have far more tools to communicate with potential readers. The market is booming, and so is this year’s crop of mosquitoes.

I was a literary agent for many years and have been a writing teacher for many more. I feel protective toward writers and I don’t like seeing them ripped off. Today I’m going to look at just a couple of the services currently offered to writers. Take, for example, the submissions service I mentioned earlier, which promises to expedite the (admittedly tortuous) process of getting a literary agent.

In fact there are numerous companies that offer the same service, and they exist for a reason: it’s not easy to get an agent, or to sell your book without one. Unless they have an introduction from client or publishing professional, writers need to work hard just to persuade agents to read their manuscripts. Most submissions are rejected at the query stage…but not all. If the work is good enough, and the writer goes about searching in a smart way, finding an agent is definitely doable. Many of my students and forum friends have found agents in recent years, and several had multiple offers of representation. This, by the way,  is why when agents decide they want a book, they tend to act very quickly: they assume that if they are interested, others will be, too.

Agents are still reading, searching and hoping for the next original voice. (See this interview with literary agent Gail Hochman.) Writers need to learn to present their work professionally: polish the manuscript till it shines, research agents, writes a good query letter. Excellent books and websites abound with guidance on how to do that. (Here is a list of some of my favorites.) Any service that guarantees to find writers an agent probably has some snake oil and a bridge or two for sale. Even the ones that don’t guarantee it imply that their service makes it more likely. Not so.  If the work isn’t first-rate, no intermediary will be able to persuade a legitimate agent to invest time in it. If the work is good enough, agents don’t need an intermediary to point that out.

All these submission services do, in my opinion, is impose an extra layer between writers and publishers. Their expensive guidance is based on free data bases available to any writer with an Internet connection; Agentquery’s, for example.  For more on this topic, see Victoria Strauss’s article on Writers Beware.

There are many species of publishing mosquitoes. Some varieties (Anopheles scribus) specialize in self-published writers. It hurts me to hear about writers paying hundreds of dollars for reviews from bloggers or companies like Kirkus Indie Book Reviews. The purveyors of this service are exploiting a weakness in the self-publishing industry: the difficulty in finding readers when your book is one drop in a sea of millions of self-published works. Eventually, I expect, legitimate reviewers of self-published work will emerge with sufficient clout to sell books. Paying for a review of your own book is no substitute.  Before writing this post, I read a whole batch of these reviews from the better-known sites, which claim to be impartial. I found several things in common. The reviews are primarily plot summaries, as if to prove the reviewer had actually read the book. Then the reviewer said some nice things and some mildly critical things about the writing. No matter how negative the overall review, there was always a line that the writer could extract as a blurb.

Writers, save your money. Paid reviews have no credibility, and I don’t believe they sell books. The only review worth having is an impartial one from someone not paid by, related to, or sleeping with the writer. Better to invest that money in learning the craft. Take a writing class or find an experienced editor with a track record to work on your book with you. (Scroll down on this page for a list of criteria to look for in writing teachers and editors.) The best way to sell a book is still to write a really good one.

 

 

The Five Qualities Writers Need

Today I’d like to start by introducing you to a wonderful writer, Mika Ashley Hollinger, whose first novel just came out with Random House. I have a very personal relationship to this book and its author. Mika was my student for several years while she worked on PRECIOUS BONES, so I feel about this book as a midwife feels about the babies she helped deliver. But friendship and admiration aside, I think Mika’s own publishing story is an instructive and inspirational one for all writers.
Barbara:   Tell us a little about your novel, PRECIOUS BONES.  What’s it about?

Mika: PRECIOUS BONES is a young adult historical fiction, about a ten-year-old girl growing up in the Florida swamps of 1949.   I did extensive research on the life cycle of Florida’s swamps and inhabitants. It was at one time an incredible wildlife habitat and I wanted that time to be forever remembered.

The book’s setting feels entirely real.  Did you grow up in the Florida of that time?  Is the novel based on your own life?

Yes, I was born and raised on the east coast of southern Florida.  The book is loosely based on my childhood memories.  I chose 1949 because that was just the beginning of Florida’s drastic changes, both environmentally and socially.  After being away many, many years, I returned to visit where I grew up and was devastated by the changes that had taken place.  It woke up all those memories.

Did you read much as a child?  What were your favorite books?

I loved to read stories about animals and about the South.  Some of my favorites were;  The Yearling, Charlotte’s Web, Gone With the Wind and of course To Kill a Mockingbird.  I was fifteen years old when I saw the movie and it had such a profound effect on me, I knew from that moment on I wanted to write books. I wanted to tell stories from the innocence of a child, but with the wisdom of an adult.

When did you first start writing PRECIOUS BONES?

About twenty years ago I started compiling memories and facts about Florida and my childhood.  It didn’t actually become a story draft until I took an online Writer’s Digest course in 2004 with you, as my teacher!  From that experience I gained the confidence and knowledge that I could actually write this story.

When was it published?

It was published by Random House in May 2012.

How many drafts of the novel did you write?

I would say there were at least three or four along the way, I don’t really remember.  Of course, my most serious and extensive re-writes were with my agent and then my editors at Random House.

Was the path to publication smooth?  What kept you going?

The path to publication was a long and winding road filled with speed-bumps.  I have a folder filled with rejection slips.  I had two different agents, at different times, but neither one knew where or how to sell the book to a publisher.  There were some very discouraging times and on more than one occasion I thought about just giving up.  But through the support of my husband, and your support and encouraging advice, I stuck with it.

Before the book sold, did you ever consider self-publishing?

No, that was not a consideration.  I held true to my own conviction that it had go through the proper channels and be published.

What sort of strategy did you have before selling PRECIOUS BONES?

In hindsight, one of the problems, from 2005 to 2010, was I didn’t have a strategy.  I was so new and naive that I just sent queries out to any agent.  I got a lot of positive response, which led me to believe I did have a good story, but no one knew how to sell it.  After one particularly discouraging event, I told my husband I felt like it was a hopeless situation.  His advice to me was, do some research and find agents that represent the type of story you have, and that is exactly what I did.  I read young adult books with a southern theme, and stories with the same type descriptive writing style I was using.  I sent out a few more queries.  There was one agent in particular whose work I so admired. Within six weeks, I got a phone call from her and I had the agent of my dreams:  Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management.  She was wonderful to work with, she understood what needed to be changed or added to make the story bigger.  We worked together on a couple of rewrites and within one year she had it sold to Delacorte Press, Random House Children’s Books.  A true dream come true!

Tell us about the phone call…was it a call?…in which you learned the book had sold.

Catherine kept me informed on all transactions, which relieved a lot of anxiety on my part.  On February 24, 2011 she emailed me with the wonderful news that Michelle Poploff of Delacorte Press, loved the story and wanted to publish it.  It’s one of those moments when you have to read the sentence over and over again to let the true sense of its meaning sink in. Working with Michelle and her assistant Rebecca Short was also an incredible experience.  These ladies were so professional and accommodating.  Getting published with a house like Random House was well worth the wait.

What have you learned as a writer from the evolution of your first novel?

Believe in yourself.   Be prepared for those rejection slips and just file them away.  And when you do sign with a publisher, be ready and willing to listen to their advice and suggestions. There may be some major changes taking place with your story.  Work with them, it’s what they do; they know how to take your little story and turn it into a bigger one.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Persevere. No one is going to come looking for you, you have to look for them.  Do your research and find agents that represent your genre of writing!

What comes next for you?

I am working on another young adult historical fiction, set in Georgia in 1969, during the height of hippies, The Vietnam War and integration.

I can’t wait to read it. Thanks, Mika!

 

I wanted to bring Mika and her novel to your attention for several reasons. First, because PRECIOUS BONES is wonderful, one of the best young adult novels I’ve ever read. Over the course of its evolution I read it multiple times, and it still makes me cry. It’s a book that children and adults can enjoy equally, and I recommend that you buy it immediately. It’s available as an e-book, but I’d suggest getting a print copy, because I have a feeling that first editions of this book will someday be valuable.

The second reason is that Mika exemplifies the five qualities I believe writers need if they aspire to be published, as her story illustrates.

Talent is the first requirement. Anyone can learn craft, and even the most talented writer needs to do that; but talent is a gift, just like athletic ability and perfect pitch. Mika had talent in spades. The first time I read her work, when it was little more than a gleam in its author’s eye, she was in a class of 10 or 12 writers. Even in  its embryonic form, I still remember how her language, descriptions and characters jumped off the page.

Craft is the second. Serious writers study the craft. Mika invested in her dream and became a better writer than she was. These days, with self-publishing as popular as it is, there are lots of people offering all sorts of services to writers. In my opinion, the only thing a writer ought to pay for is good instruction in the form of classes or manuscript evaluation.

The ability to learn from good criticism is the third requirement. You can only go so far on your own. At a certain point you must seek out discerning readers, learn to distinguish good criticism from bad, and implement the good advice. Criticism is like fertilizer; it can be hard to abide, but it grows the writer. Mika was open to that process.

Perseverance is the fourth requirement. Mika’s novel was 20 years in the making, eight years in the writing. She had agents who failed to sell the book and many disappointments along the way. She could have given up at any point. She didn’t. She believed in her book. If the author doesn’t, who will?

A focused goal is the fifth. Mika was determined to be published by a trade publisher. She did her homework and focused on agents who represent her type of writing. Agents and editors bring real value to their books. Because Mika held out for commercial publication, PRECIOUS BONES is a much better book than it would have been if she had self-published an earlier version–and I say that as someone who read and loved the earlier versions.

PRECIOUS BONES is available on Amazon and B&N. Order it now, or at least read an excerpt and decide for yourself. What was that Sandra Bullock line? “You can thank me later.”

If you’re a fiction writer willing to work hard to improve your craft, give me a shout. I offer several online writing workshops through my Next Level website.

The Birth of a Novel

 

To a writer, the most terrifying sight in the world is a blank piece of paper. A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, according to the Chinese philosopher, but as long as the direction is known, the first step is obvious. A novel begins with a single sentence—but what sentence? The possibilities are infinite; the choice alone can paralyze.

And the sentence matters. Ursula Le Guin once said that first sentences are doors to worlds; it follows that each sentence is the door to a different world. The best ones, I think, awaken readers’ curiosity and make them immediately want to know more. The best lines also convey a sense of the novel’s world and of the voice that will be their guide to it. Here are a few of my favorite opening lines: see if you don’t get a pretty good sense of what worlds they open into…and a lot else besides.

“She had slept naked all her life, and no one knew it.”–Eileen Jensen

“True!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! But why will you say that I am mad?” –E.A. Poe

“There once was a boy by the name of Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”– C.S. Lewis.

“They threw me off the hay truck about noon.”–James Cain

“Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.”–Daphne Du Maurier

“Helen Brent had the best-looking legs at the inquest.”–James Gunn

“They were walking along the river path, away from the city, and as far as they knew they were alone.”– Pat Barker

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”–Kafka

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”–Nabakov

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”–Jane Austen

When I still taught fiction writing in brick-and-mortar colleges,  there was an exercise I often used to take the terror out of that blank sheet of paper. I challenged students to write three intriguing sentences: each one the first line to a story they had no intention of writing. I wanted to help free their imaginations by taking away the weight of the endeavor. Since they would never have to follow up on anything in that first sentence, it could be as wild as they wanted. Very often, students ended up writing at least one of those stories. Pulling a sentence out of thin air is actually a means of pulling something out of one’s own unconscious, and the results can be compelling.

One day, while I was waiting for my class to complete this exercise, I filled in the time by doing it myself. This is the first sentence I wrote:

“Even though she’d asked for it, Sam Pollack could not help feeling guilty the day he killed his wife.”

The line seemed to come out of nowhere. I had no idea who Sam Pollack was or why he had just killed his wife. Saying that he “could not help feeling guilty” implied that for some reason he shouldn’t have felt guilty or normally wouldn’t have felt guilty, which was certainly odd. And the ambiguity of his wife having “asked for it” also intrigued me; did it mean she deserved it or she requested it?

I was powerfully curious, but there was no one to ask. The only way to find out was to write the story, a notion I resisted. Starting a novel, which typically takes me several years to complete, isn’t something I undertake lightly. It seemed almost frivolous to base one on a line that just popped into my head. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and over time, other ideas and embryonic characters attached themselves to it.

In the olden days, when writers still did book tours, there was one question that invariably came up in every Q and A: “Where do your ideas come from?” I used to say that they came from a mail-order idea service, but that was a lie. The truth is, story ideas are all around, like pollen in the air. The trick is picking one that can successfully cross-pollinate with an inner obsession, because it takes more than one strand of DNA to grow a novel.

I liked the line I’d written in class. It hung around, but it didn’t implant until it combined with a character who’d been lurking in the back of my mind and a setting I’d been wanting to explore. When that happened, I suddenly had a viable embryo, which grew into a novel called Rowing in Eden.

What are some of your favorite opening lines, either read or written?

 

A few notes: ROWING IN EDEN has just been reissued by Simon & Schuster in paperback and ebook. You can read a sample or order a copy via Amazon or B&N.

I teach fiction writing for Writers Digest University and in my own online school of writing, the Next Level Workshop. The workshops are small (eight students max), intense and, by my students’ accounts, effective. The next workshop will be  Revising Fiction, to be offered late in 2012. The best way of getting into any of my workshops is by getting on my e-mailing list, because when classes open for registration, the first announcement goes to those people. If you’d like to learn more or get on that list, please contact me.

Next week I have an interview with Mika Ashley Hollinger, an extraordinary writer whose first novel, 20 years in the making, was just published to great acclaim by Random House. Also coming soon: interviews with bestselling author Diana Gabaldon; e-book pioneer and publisher, Richard Curtis; and literary agent Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management. Sign up for RSS feed or e-mail notification if you’d like to be sure of catching those.

Writing Workshop

Just  a quick fyi for those who’ve asked to be kept informed. I’m teaching an online Writers Digest University course called “Focus on the Novel” that starts next week, on June 21st. It’s a good, hands-on workshop for writers who want some help launching a novel, or strengthening the foundations of one, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors. WDU allows me to keep the class size small, so I can give thought and attention to each participant’s work. After this course, I’ll be taking a break from teaching for 4-5 months while I work on the sequel to my upcoming novel, so if you’ve been thinking of taking a workshop, this might be the time.

And speaking of that upcoming novel, which Viking will publish early in 2013, I’m delighted to announce that it now has a title:  A DANGEROUS FICTION. What do you think?