Don’t Give Up the Search

books on writingIf you are a writer who’s serious about getting your next article or book published, then you no doubt have endured some rejections. Ow. That’s a harsh word. Let’s call them “declines” or “no thank you’s.” Or, how about you comment with clever names for the letters and emails we get when an agent, editor or publisher doesn’t want our work.

You’ve probably also grown accustomed to waiting, waiting, waiting for a response. Fortunately, many  agents are more lenient now and accept queries that have been sent simultaneously to other agents, making our wait for one to respond less of a time waster.

And boy can time be wasted. I sent a query December 2015 and received a reply July 27, 2016. Here it is:

Dear Author,

On behalf of the agents here at Lowenstein Associates, thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. I apologize for the form letter, but the volume of query letters we receive means we cannot send every writer a personal response. Please know that we do give each and every query serious attention.

Unfortunately, we do not feel strongly enough about your project to pursue it further. Agenting is very subjective, however, and even though we could not take on your project, another agent might feel differently. 

Please accept our best wishes for success in your writing career.
 
Sincerely, 

Assistant to Barbara Lowenstein and Mary South
Lowenstein Associates
www.LowensteinAssociates.com
I’m not giving up. I know my query is written well and my novel has a readership waiting for it.
How about you? Do you know you are sending your best work out? Will you give up?

 

 

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Did You Get Your Feedback Yet?

ken's war cyms 1

Before Ken’s War was accepted by Melange Books, I asked readers for feedback on sections of it and, if I thought they had time and interest, I asked some people to read the entire manuscript.

This is a delicate, yet oh-so-important step in the writer’s editing process.

First, I had to surrender my ego to sincerely solicit comments.

Then, I had to find people who know how to express constructive criticism. The writers’ circle I attended provided a pool of readers.

I also wanted to choose readers with knowledge about aspects of the story. Because the protagonist in Ken’s War is male, I asked males to be among my beta readers. The story takes place in a military setting during the Vietnam War, so when mistakes were pointed out by a Vietnam veteran, I verified that the suggested corrections were accurate and used them.

Fanstory (http://www.fanstory.com) members pointed out areas in characterization that needed shoring up.

Thank your readers for their critiques. Do not argue with them about their comments. If you have to explain or justify your writing, it’s lacking something…you won’t be able to explain or justify your story to agents or publishers.

You’re the author. You have the final word. In the meantime, get feedback. It’s one way to make your manuscript even better than it already is.

************

Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.  https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

Author reveals insights ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award-winning author of YA books.

Tools for Breaking into the Freelance Market

Beth Fowler headshot

If I can do it, you can. Here’s how I’ve broken into the world of getting published & paid.

Freelance writers are not employed on a publication’s staff. Freelancers work on a job-by-job basis and get paid for each project.

Below are writers’ tools and advice from editors to help you open the doors to the freelance market.

 

Contents:

  • Analyzing Magazine and Newspaper “House Style”
  • Submission Guidelines
  • Query Letter    
  • Query Letter Checklist
  • Manuscript Checklist
  • Publishing Business Terms
  • Editors’ Advice for Writers

 Analyzing Magazine and Newspaper “House Style”

 Look at a publication’s table of contents, illustrations and advertisements to determine the targeted readers’:

 

  1. Gender and age range
  2. Marital status
  3. Occupations and income levels
  4. Education levels
  5. Social group
  6. Moral, political, religious outlooks
  7. Main likes and dislikes

Look at several articles in one magazine, or several articles in several issues of the same magazine, to determine:

 

  1. Technique used in most opening paragraphs.
  2. Average number of words per article.
  3. Average number of words per sentence.
  4. Average length of paragraphs.
  5. Vocabulary – informal, academic, slang, jargon, colloquial
  6. Simple or complex sentences.
  7. The extent adjectives and adverbs are used.
  8. The extent of descriptive passages.
  9. Proportion of narrative and quotes.
  10. Proportion of subjective passages (feelings/emotions) and objective passages (facts/data).
  11. Technique used in most concluding paragraphs.
  12. What is the mission of most articles? (educate, entertain, titillate, amuse, persuade, etc.)

****

Submission Guidelines

Always study the submission (or writers’) guidelines before sending a query or article to an editor. Here is an example of guidelines.

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST Guidelines for Submitting Work Writers & Cartoonists

Before submitting work to The Saturday Evening Post, please take the time to read our guidelines for writers

Before sending us a manuscript or query, we hope you will look over past issues of the Post to get an idea of the range and style of articles we publish. You will discover that our main emphasis is health and fitness. Although there are many specialty publications in this field, the Post‘s goal is to remain unique by presenting not only cutting-edge news but by combining this with information of practical use to our readers.

Major freelance contributions in recent years include: “Hats On For Health: A Skin-Cancer Warning from Down Under,” about the advanced skin-cancer-prevention program in Australia, and “Munchausen by Proxy: The Deadly Game,” about a little-understood but prevalent psychological disorder that can be devastating to children.

In addition to health-related articles, the Post buys humor and anecdotes suitable for “Post Scripts,” as well as cartoons, illustrations, and photos. Payment ranges from $15 for Post Scripts to $25-$400 for most feature articles.

Our nonfiction needs include how-to, useful articles on gardening, pet care and training, financial planning, and subjects of interest to a family-oriented readership. For nonfiction articles, indicate any special qualifications you have for writing about the subject, especially for technical or scientific material. Include one or two published clips with your query. We prefer typed manuscripts between 2,500 and 3,000 words in length. We generally buy all rights.

Although we seldom publish new fiction, our readers enjoy upbeat stories that stress traditional relationships and family values. A light, humorous touch is appreciated. We are also always in need of straight humor articles. Make us laugh and we’ll buy it.

We respond quickly to queries, normally within three weeks. If you do send the whole manuscript, either (1) include a sufficiently stamped and sized SASE for its return should we decide not to use it; or (2) indicate you do not want the material returned and include an SASE with appropriate postage for a reply. Please send typed, double-spaced copy. We normally respond to manuscript submissions within six weeks. You are free to submit the article simultaneously elsewhere.

Feature articles average about 2,000 words. We like positive, fresh angles to Post articles, and we ask that they be thoroughly researched.

Please submit all medical/fitness articles to Cory SerVaas M.D.; travel queries and articles to Holly Miller, Travel Editor; fiction to Fiction Editor; and Post Scripts to Steve Pettinga.

1100 Waterway Blvd. Indianapolis, IN 46202 (317) 634-1100

***

Query Letter

 

Note: This emailed query letter was successful. You may use it as model for your projects. Snail mailed queries should include your telephone number, email address and a pre-addressed, stamped return envelope.

Dear Jean Ann Duckworth:

I benefit from reading Simple Joy and was especially happy to see an article by my friend Rekha. I believe that an article about breathing would support Simple Joy’s purpose.

We all breathe, but do we breathe properly?

Once we’re aware of our breathing patterns, we can improve them instantly.ghuū Women who breathe properly report that they feel “calm, poised, energized, a general well-being, centered, alert, relaxed, open” and similar positive sensations.

Does that sound like a miracle? Because God is in every breath, the benefits of proper breathing are miraculous.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about breathing with Simple Joy readers. This proposed 1500- to 2000-word feature article (one time rights) will:

 

  • Explain physical and emotional hindrances to proper breathing
  • Guide readers through a breath awareness questionnaire
  • Review the breath’s path through the body
  • Include several easy, effective breathing exercises
  • List hobbies and sports that improve one’s breathing as a side benefiProvide surprising facts and additional resources.

I can write the article for the general interest issues or slant it as a December (holidays) stress buster. Earning an instructor’s diploma to teach Qi Gong (or Chi Kung, it’s Chinese for “skill with breath”), speaking to women’s groups on “Better Breathing Means Better Living,” my research on the topic and my firsthand experience in improving my breathing give me the background I need to write credibly and convincingly.Magazines that have published my works dealing with improving the quality of one’s life include, but aren’t limited to Daily Meditations, Evolving Woman, The Phoenix, New Vegetarian and Natural Health (Australia), Woman at Work (Malaysia), and Her Business (New Zealand).

Sincerely,

Beth Fowler

 

 

Query Letter Checklist

__ Return address – your name, address, phone number, fax and email address.

__ Address to proper editor, spell name correctly.

__ One-page letter (two if absolutely necessary) of 3 – 4 paragraphs.

__ Letter is concise, polished, courteous, written in business format, yet “human”.

__ Check spelling and grammar. (Donut really on word processor’s spill chick.)

__ SASE large enough with postage for reply or a contract!

__ Queries – business-size SASE for agent’s or editor’s response.

Manuscript Checklist

__ Follow writers/submission guidelines.

­­__ 12p font, Times New Roman, double spaced on 8 ½ x 11, one side only.

__ Proofread for spelling and grammar. (Due note rely on computer spell Chuck.)

__ Capitalize first letter of first word, and rest of words unless small (to, of, in) in chapt titles.

__ Approx 1 inch margins all around.

__ No italics. Underline instead.

__ No handwritten corrections.

__ Mag/newspaper manuscripts: Top left corner – 1st p single-space name, address, tel, fax, mobile, email. Mr/Miss/Mrs if first name is unisex. Top right corner – word count, rights offered, dept or column if applies. Drop down ½ way. Center title, By and name. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number. Follow the submission guidelines if they differ from this.

­­__ Book ms: Title p with title, address, wc. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number. New p for new chapt, drop down 1/3 –1/4.

­­__ End at end.

__ No                                                                                                  “widows”.
***

Publishing Business Terms

ADVANCE: $ pub pays author for book under contract, i.e. ½ paid at signing, ½ at delivery of final ms. Author doesn’t receive more $ until proceeds ($ales) exceed amount of advance.

BACKLIST: books from previous seasons still in print.

COMMISSION: advance payment from publisher to author asked (commissioned) to write something

COPYRIGHT: designates ownership of work. Most pubs © in author’s name, so when work goes out of print rights revert to author who may resell ms to another publisher.

COVER LETTER: accompanies solicited ms sent to agent or publisher.

FLAT FEE: “work-for-hire.” Lump sum for work. No royalties.

FRONTLIST: books published in current season and in publisher’s current catalogue.

INSTITUTIONAL SALES: books sold to schools/libraries, roughly 25% of kids lit is bought by libraries.

MASS MARKET: “rack-sized”, paperbacks smaller than trade paperbacks, usually different cover than hardcover edition, and cheaper.

MASS MARKET PUBLISHERS: companies that produce large quantities of paperbacks inexpensively, titles follow trends that fit markets – tie-ins with movies, TV characters and toys. Sell high volume in short time.

NET PRICE: “wholesale price”, $ pub receives from each book sale after discounts given to bookstores/buyers. Some pubs base author’s royalty on net price.

PROPOSAL: document author sends to agent/pub describing proposed book, length, audience, table of contents, chapt outline, first 3 chapts, competing titles, ways to market book, author’s credentials.

QUERY LETTER: letter author writes seeking permission to send ms to agent/pub.

RETAIL PRICE: cover price on book. Most big pubs pay royalties based on cover price.

ROYALTIES: 3-15% of proceeds from the sale of each copy of book.

SASE: self-addressed stamped envelope

SELF PUBLISH: Author pays for publication. Companies offer different levels of service. Authors must do a lot of marketing themselves.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: pub/agent sells book to foreign pubs, mags, movie studios. If pub sells rights, $ split with author (usually 50/50). If agent sells rights, author keeps proceeds minus agent’s commission.

SUBSIDY PUBLISHER: “vanity publisher”, pubs that charge authors $$$$$ to publish ms. Avoid.

TRADE PAPERBACK: bound with heavy paper, usually same size and cover art as hardback, cheaper.

TRIM SIZE: outer dimensions of book.

UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS: ms sent to pubs who didn’t request them. Often rejected, languish in “slush pile”.

***

Editors’ Advice for Writers

 

 

Beginning writers know that they’ll get bylines without bucks from time to time, free copies of magazines in which their works appear, and a few dollars here and there. No pay and low pay are typical during the apprenticeship phase of writing.

 

Following the advice of paid writers representing nearly 200 years’ experience can advance your career and compensation to the next phase.

 

Q: What separates paid, published writers from wanna-bes?

 

A: Discipline, persistence, hard work and the ability to “get back up on the horse” were common responses from the interviewed writers. Francesca Kelly, Tales from a Small Planet editor (www.talesmag.com), says, “You don’t have to have brilliant talent to be published, but you DO have to have incredible persistence.”

 

Lucy Clark, prolific medical romance writer for Harlequin Mills & Boon (http://www.eharlequin.com.au), is the personification of persistence. “I received the contract for my first book the same day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Life happens! It’s hectic. It’s busy, but if we don’t make time for the things that are important to us, we might have regrets later on. I now have two adorable children who commandeer most of my time. I don’t have time for writers’ block. I don’t have time to waste. My stories have to be planned, the research done, so when I sit down, I can build up word count. There’s no such thing as writer’s block – just lack of planning.”

 

  1. What rumor about the business of writing turned out to be false?

 

  1. Arlene Uslander, editor of The Simple Touch of Fate (www.uslander.net) which has one of my stories in it, discovered three falsehoods on the road to publication. “Once you have a book published, it’s easier to have the next book published and that when you send out a manuscript, no news is good news. And that having an agent accept your work means you’re going to get published.” Not true. Not true. Not true.

 

Karen Rose Smith (www.karenrosesmith.com) is a fulltime author with about 40 books to her credit. She sold her first book in 1991. “I thought after I sold the first few books, life would become easier! That’s not necessarily true.  After ten books, I remember being stalled and not selling for about ten months.”

 

Francesca believed that editors were unapproachable. “They’re usually really nice people who are just overworked.” She should know. She’s an approachable and no doubt overworked editor.

 

  1. What advice do you wish you’d received (or heeded) sooner?

 

Karen Rose Smith learned to “Write to the market. Study the line you want to write for.”

 

Studying the magazine she wanted to write for had a lot to do with an editor accepting one of Francesca’s articles. Being published in Redbook was a “sudden breakthrough” for her.

 

“It’s not enough that you have something to say,” is freelance editor and author Karen Schmitt’s advice. “You have to make yourself understood – connect.”

 

“Rejection isn’t personal,” counsels Megan Hart, an author whose been paid to write for decades. “They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting the work.”

 

“ ‘To be a successful writer, you must write every day,’ ” recalls editor, Dan Case. “I heard this a lot, but really didn’t believe it. When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he said ‘write every day,’ I believed it. (Hey, if the King of all writers says it, it must be true.)”

 

  1. What would you tell a beginner about writing for pay?

 

  1. Writers’ answers ranged from “Don’t write for pay. Write because you love it,” to “Don’t write for FREE!”

 

Lynn Wasnak, a freelance writer for 25 years, explains that fulltime freelancers urge beginners not to write for free or too cheaply because it allows editors to lower the going rate. Go to https://www.writersmarket.com/assets/pdf/How_Much_Should_I_Charge.pdf.

 

As for me, I do the writing because I love it. I donate some works to organizations where I volunteer. Otherwise, I sell my work for dollars.

 

And so can you!

 

***

By Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

THAT INSTANT CONNECTION

     CREATE THAT INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN READERS AND CHARACTERS

     By Guest Blogger Tara Fox Hall

 

Making a reader care about a character is the most important job of a writer. If a reader cares about a character and sees him or her as a believable personality, then the reader begins to identify with that character, and lose himself or herself in the story. As writers, that instant connection is essential to establish early on, so you hook readers and get them to stay for the whole story. They need to want to know what is going to happen. You need to set the hook deep on your first try, and not lose them in the second chapter, or worse, the second paragraph.

How do you do that? Presumably, you are telling a story either because you just plain love that story, or because the plot and/or the characters in it are important to you personally in some way. Your characters need to be as vibrant to your readers as they are to you, and someone your readers can identify with. That doesn’t imply that readers have to be just like your characters, or have the same background. But there does have to be something either in the makeup of the character or the plot of the book to make the reader care about the character.

Yes, I acknowledge that if you write series, it’s a bit easier to hold a reader’s attention once it’s gained. In my short story “Partners” from the Promise Me Anthology, I wanted to tell the story of how Danial and Theo, the two main characters from my novel Promise Me, met and eventually became friends. Anyone who has read that book would naturally be interested in this story, but what about new readers who hadn’t yet sampled my vampire series? How to make them connect with my characters, so that they not only enjoyed the story, but also wanted more?

My tale begins with the vampire detective Danial on one of his jobs, trying to find a thief at a construction site. Instead he discovers the werecougar Theo, scavenging off garbage. Right after, the real thieves show up in force. While Theo does help Danial capture the real culprits, he then melts away in the night, leaving Danial to face the police.

Hopefully, this first scene intrigues the reader. Why is Theo scavenging for scraps when he’s a powerful supernatural being? Why does Theo help Danial, when he could easily run instead? And why does Danial let him help, when he obviously chooses to work alone? Last but not least, why is Danial the vampire solving crimes and not out seducing young women in nightclubs, like so many of his paperback fellows are wont to?

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Another story in my Promise Me Anthology is a vampire romantic suspense called “Night Music”, newly published its own novella. The young heroine Krys has come to a park she knew in her youth, fresh from the double whammy of her brother’s death from cancer and her new divorce. She hears music that night that brings her to tears with its aching melody, yet her handsome neighbor David denies he created it.

Again, hopefully the reader wonders who David is, and why he is making the music, even if they suspect he’s a vampire. How will Krys discover his vampiric nature? Will he bite her or will they have sex, or both? After that happens (‘cause one of the two ALWAYS HAPPENS in vampire romance, if not both), what will be the consequence?

Make readers want to know what happens next, and your reader base will grow, guaranteed!

Book Title: Tempest of Vengeance (Promise Me Series #11) – paranormal dramatic romance

Date released: April 2015

Melange Link: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/tempest.html

Blurb: A chain of tragic events culminating in the shattering of the magical “dream bond” between Theo and Sar turns the lovers against one another, as Ulysses attacks from all fronts, hoping to destroy Devlin for good. The return of Lash reignites the fire between he and Sar, even as he saves her daughter Elle from certain death. Finally joined under Oath, Lash, Devlin, and Sar face the storm of Ulysses’s wrath, knowing it will take their combined strength and courage to save all they love from his tempest of vengeance.

Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

 

***

Beth Fowler is the author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

Beth Fowler headshot

 

 

A Great Resource for Parents – Needs Professional Editing

Rhonda Cratty’s self-published Learning at home, (the author opted not to capitalize all words in titles), is chock-full of educational ideas and activities for parents, (and other adults) to do with their children.

In the acknowledgement, we gather that Cratty is or was an educator, though she didn’t include her credentials or experience. Even so, it’s apparent this book was written by a person with a formal education in and practical experience with childhood learning.

The 93-page eBook (126-page paperback) is organized into four chapters for each month. Chapter titles, while descriptive, aren’t particularly imaginative or inviting, as in “Encouraging Critical Thinking with reading and conversations” and “Home Activities to encourage a positive attitude toward mathematics.” Topics often tie into events and holidays, such as Poetry Month (April), Hobby Month (January), Columbus Day and so on. Had I been exposed to the concept of circumference when shopping for pumpkins, I would have a sunnier view of math today, I bet.

The author cautions against using “drill and kill” methods most of us experienced at some point in our educations. “If something is fun, children will turn to it even if it is difficult at first. Think of it like riding a bike.” Cratty’s book helps parents turn that statement from being yet another bromide into reality. With the book as a coach, parents can make adding and subtracting, and following directions (to cite two examples) fun for their children.

The author’s authentic care comes through…“Perfectionism gets in the way,” “Honor your child’s writing,” “Avoid yelling directions from another room.” In fact, being authentic is something Cratty mentions more than once.

This great resource for parents is in dire need of professional editing. (If you’re thinking of self publishing, hire an editor with a track record!) Readers who aren’t distracted by incorrect antecedent/pronoun pairings and fragments posing as sentences will be rewarded with a treasure trove of wise advice, practical tips, useful lists, engaging educational activities, pedagogic facts and even a few recipes.

One wonders why the author didn’t insert illustrations in spaces left unused due to the way the lists are formatted – and there are many lists.

Learning at home is a book that can be used by caring parents more than four times a month. Homeschoolers, teachers, grandparents and other adults of all socio-economic levels, who know that education is a priceless key to future contentment, will want to investigate the book’s offerings.

This resource will likely be passed from generation to generation by parents who cherish memories of their parents taking time to love them, take an interest in them, engage with them and encourage them while Learning at home.

***

Ken’s War by B.K. Fowler: Army brat Ken finds himself in Japan when his hot-headed dad is deployed to a remote post there. Culture clash is one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down in this coming-of-age novel for teens and young adults.

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

Print and e-books at http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html and other book sellers. Ken’s War is published by Melange Books. ISBN 1612358993

Contact Fowler at https://www.facebook.com/kenswar for review copies, writers’ workshops, presentations to your group and more.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken's War for teen boys.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken’s War for teen boys.

Oops! Avoid Career-Killing Writing Mistakes

error-101409_150  You’ve seen those inset boxes in publications that say, “Correction” or “Retraction” or “Oops, we goofed!” And you wonder, “How can I avoid a slipup like that?”

Correction notices diminish an author’s credibility and future job prospects.

While even the best writers occasionally misreport information, novice writers are more vulnerable to making unintentional mistakes. Sidestepping booby traps requires knowing where they’re hidden and doing the homework.

 The Becoming-a-Mouthpiece Trap

Example: A journalist writing a feature about a new medicine contacts the company that patented the drug. The company’s public relations weenie Fed Ex’s glossy brochures and factsheets sprinkled with Latin terms and charts highlighting the drug’s development and its manifold benefits to humankind. The journalist writes his article incorporating info from those documents.

Homework: Research multiple sources. The journalist must uncover facts the PR rep doesn’t want divulged to the public. (Every closet contains a skeleton or three, otherwise there’s no story.) In journalism this is “balance.”

Our journalist needs to check out Who has something at stake? (Stockholders, the drug company’s competition.) Whose experience or perspective might be different? (Lab employees, people who trialed the drug, natural therapy advocates.) Who has info, but wasn’t asked for it? (Medical writers, pharmacists, doctors, peer reviewers, government agencies.) Who parroted “party line” responses and can be probed with deeper questions? (The PR rep, the CEO.) Researching information from adversaries, skeptics, watchdogs, regulatory agencies and nitpickers leads to balance. Click http://cancerguide.org/research.html for “How to Research Medical Literature.”

The Ignoring-the-Moneybags Trap

Example: Researching material for an article about bread, I found this assertion, “Dr. Graeme McIntosh says, ‘We ought to be eating wholemeal or high-fiber breads with every meal, about four to five slices a day, besides our breakfast cereal.’ “Sound the alarms. Who funded Doc’s studies?

Homework: Further research revealed that the Grains Research and Development Corporation—surprise, surprise—provided dough for the studies. Published in Australia’s New Vegetarian and Natural Health Magazine, my “Bread: The Staff of Life?” quoted Dr. McIntosh, named his funding source and included support for opposing opinions that Western diets contain too much bread. Follow the money. Be wary of biased bucks.

The Repeating-What-Everybody-Knows Trap

Example: Everybody knows that Linda Eastman-McCartney was heiress to the Eastman-Kodak fortune just like everybody knows that the Great Wall of China is visible from outer space. Right?

Not quite. Rigorous checking reveals that Linda’s family isn’t related to the camera entrepreneur and images of The Great Wall of China were acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) onboard the space shuttle Endeavor. That’s not peering out the spaceship porthole and seeing a wall down there. Visit http://www.urbanlegends.com for cock-and-bull stories caught parading in truth’s clothing.

Homework: “Errors are repeated in newspaper articles for months and years; cuttings are such a convenient source of information and deadlines can make checking less rigorous,” cautions Brendan Hennessy in Writing Feature Articles. Sidestep error hazards by researching info from the original source or as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

The Playing-Loose-with-Numbers Trap

Example: “Youth want William as next king,” declared a Reuters headline from London. The lead said, “Britain’s youth believe that dashing young Prince William should be the next king, a survey published yesterday showed.”

In the third paragraph, readers learn that 46 percent of the surveyed population thinks William should be next monarch. Hmm. Forty-six per cent is not a majority. The headline could’ve easily and more accurately declared, “Youth don’t want William as next king.”

Homework: Get the original data on which someone’s interpretations have been based. In the case of the future king, diligent researchers would find out how the survey questions were phrased, how many youths were surveyed and what ages constitute “youth.” For technical writing, find out how long trials were run, if double-blind controls were run, if previous trials were proved correct or false and other factors important to validating data. Even when numbers are correct, check for other facts and figures that put the numbers in context and might influence interpretation.

Check it One More Time

 

Check your final draft critically. Does researched info support the manuscript’s purpose? (Some awesome, hard-won facts mightn’t illuminate theme.) Do facts and data flow naturally within narrative? Did typos creep in? Did facts and data change between researching and finishing the piece? Did you avoid emotionally laden words?

Materials that organizations, agencies and institutes pass out can contain misspellings, grammatical errors and other bloopers. Verify. Correct.

List resources at the end of non-fiction work, and if appropriate, of fiction. Editors might want to re-check facts and you might need the same sources for other projects.

Make sure copyrights aren’t infringed upon. (Read up on copyright fair use at http://fairuse.stanford.edu. Generally, ideas and facts (like those in encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books) aren’t copyrighted. Give sources for figures. Acknowledge sources from which you’ve borrowed heavily.

Check your homework. Gain credibility. Make sales.

And may you never be responsible for an “Oops!”

 

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