Tag: writer

Hi, everyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that writing a novel is a new enterprise for me. I’ve always written stories and poems and ad copy. I’ve never attempted anything like assembling words into a flow for a reader of a novel. It’s hard work.

I see people all day long, launching their 2nd and 3rd and more in a series – mostly romance and dystopia – and self-publishing on Amazon. They’ve got giveaway programs running and pleas out for reviews. I have trouble believing that there can be much value to this material, and yet, this is exactly how Andy Weir published “The Martian.” http://www.npr.org/2015/09/27/443192327/sandstorms-explosions-potatoes-oh-my-martian-takes-its-science-seriously It’s being done right and well, but I am not that writer, not yet.

Going into this, I knew I had a strong story but to create a novel from a good idea requires some talent, dedication, education, and great editing. I received a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council, my regional arts support organization, for an online class with Mary Carroll Moore on how to write a novel. I also received money for a first draft edit. This past May I began to send the book – finished as I thought it to be – out to agents and publishers. I wanted the validation of acceptance by a traditional channel.

I got lucky. I was right. The story is strong. The writing is good. But I lost out on a deal with an agent because I still don’t know how to write a novel. I’ve taken a lot of classes and workshops. I’ve been dedicated. I’ve done a good job as far as that goes. But there was something missing.

I know I need a new editor. I know I need to work a little harder. I know I’ll have to ask for more funds to complete this book. As of tomorrow, I’m diving in with an application for a writing residency and an application for editing help and a little more education tied to networking.

Turns out, writing a novel is as much work as any job I’ve ever done. It is the most satisfying and exciting work I’ve ever done. I believe in my story. My writer community believes in me. It’s a new day to learn a new way to get this book done and in your hands via traditional agent or publisher.

The new editor I will be working with has given me these notes – followed by 6.75 pages of all the work I’ll need to do.

Let me begin right off the bat with yet another testimonial to the power of this book. The soul, the heart—it’s strong. These are some of the realest and most compelling characters I’ve ever met. That, by far, is your strongest talent as a writer. And on top of it, you’ve created an emotional journey for these characters that is fraught with pain, yet it leads us toward healing. It’s one of the most universal human stories, with the power to change the reader’s life—even if it’s quite difficult to face this particular topic of sexual and physical abuse.

As I keep saying, our goal is to make sure the story’s bones and muscle and flesh are as strong as its soul. So let’s dive into how we might do that.

I’m going to start again, again. Follow along for weekly updates. But you’ll have to wait until October. I have a lot of reading to catch up on in September.

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Early on in this series we looked at our intention to create art and asked the question, “How serious am I?” The deeper I get into my own work, the more serious I am, the more driven, the more confused I am about the quality of my work. I’m talking about writing and how I’ve learned that there is a “best” way to tell a story. I’ve learned that I’m prone to leave out some important things – best ways to deliver characters and scenes – and I’m struggling to understand how to recognize and fix the problems.

I just heard myself saying to myself, “Maybe you’ve taken on too much with this book.” Maybe I have. Maybe I can’t learn the things I need to know to do this story justice. Maybe… and then I stopped. I reminded myself that I want to tell this story, this particular story because I believe it’s important. And I reminded myself that two years ago I didn’t know enough to know to ask the questions I’m asking now.

My intention has been clear from the beginning. I want this. I want this enough to work this hard at learning the craft. I’ve learned to ignore some input and some teachings and to embrace others. I’ve done virtually nothing but learn and practice and learn and practice. I tell myself, “This isn’t math. You can do it!”

So this week I’m going to take you back to the second week topic and ask you to review your intention to create. Are you any further along than you were six months ago? Does it matter to you?

How Serious Are You?

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being I’m all in!, where are you as we start this week and is it where you want to be?  Where you imagined yourself to be?

Pick Your Battles.

Everything we do that we do well requires some time and effort. Time and energy can be the two strongest forces working against us as we age. Can we ignore our obstacles? By this time in life, I think we’ve all come to realize that the adage, pick your battles, has real meaning.

I’ve always been a nap taker. On the days that I did not allow myself the luxury of an afternoon snooze, I felt restless and less focused. Rather than fight my nature, I succumbed and am much happier and more productive for giving in.

My husband listens patiently to my babblings about what I’m writing or what I’m painting. He’s supportive but not engaged in my enthusiasm. I had to seek out other creatives who would share my excitement. Rather than fight with my husband over my disappointments, I accept what he offers and appreciate him for who he is.

I have friends who are challenged by mobility and other health-related issues. They’ve had to accept their physical limitations but that doesn’t mean restrictions on their creative dreams. Tools at hand, inspiring videos and a willingness to embrace the freedoms a creative spirit affords, keeps the artist alive and busy finding new ways to accommodate first the artist, then the limitations.

Finding the time to work.

I found that I accomplished the most writing in the early morning. Fresh from sleep and dreams, I hit the computer keyboard and pound out the words. After about an hour, I have to take a break and walk around a little, feed the dog, have some coffee or tea. So I learned to set alarms on my phone to reflect my way of working.

I officially start work at 9 o’clock in the morning. I may be up at 4 or 5 and been writing and musing and planning. But by 8 a.m., I need to be showered and dressed and prepared for work as if I had an office to get to. It took me six months of retirement to realize that I work best with a schedule. So I created one. By following a schedule I found my level of commitment to the work was rewarded with pages written and paintings painted and boundless satisfaction and self-appreciation!

I also realized that not every day is a work day. Somedays I found I could not focus or settle down into the routine. I knew I was missing the element of pressure to achieve so I began working with deadlines. I entered art shows and writing competitions that came with a finish-by date. That gave me the extra nudge I needed to keep me going.

Deadlines and schedules may not be what work for you. I seem to get the most joy out of accomplishment. Many people find their joy in the process. Watch yourself, see how you work, notice what makes you feel good about what you’re doing and how you do it. Then establish working rules that fit you and allow you to get the most creative enjoyment.

Tips for the week:

  • Pay attention to distractions. What pulls you away from your art?
  • Take note of your personal work style. When are you the most productive?
  • Consider your workspace. Does it fit with your working style?
  • Make notes about the obstacles and challenges you find. How can you put your artist self first, before accommodating limitations or restrictions?
  • Keep sketching
  • Try a timed writing off of one of your sticky note thoughts from last week. Get a pad of paper, position yourself in a comfy spot, set a timer for 5 minutes and write without lifting pen from paper.

Keep building your bank of sticky note ideas.

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It’s late! And there’s your prompt. What is late? Late for what? Or wait – is it latte?

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall. #amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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Note: I’m posting a day early this week because of a packed Sunday schedule.

Good grief!

And I thought writing the book was the hard part. Seriously. I hope to have the opportunity soon to sit with published authors and hear their stories about writing the first book and finding a publisher. For this post, I’m going to draw on a range of websites and blogs to provide resources for you to consider. I’ll be learning alongside you.

Review.

Last week I walked you through the polishing points on presenting your artwork to encourage sales and gallery approvals for presentation. I expect there was a surge in sales of mat board and mat cutters! Oh, and don’t forget to keep plenty of that white artist’s tape on hand, too.

The Pitch.

What is it? Why is it important?

When people ask you, “What’s your book about?” you have to be ready with a quick one-liner (if possible) to capture their attention and keep their interest. When pitching to an agent or publisher, who has heard everything thousands of times and is inundated monthly with more and more of the same old, same old, you’ve got to give them something to think about. You need to get in quick and leave them wanting more.

That novel you spent five years writing sounds like this in a pitch:

Ellen McInnis has made a success of her life, despite childhood abuse and neglect. Her father’s death exposes even older family secrets of unimaginable violence and betrayal that could yet destroy her.

The elements of the pitch:

  • Protagonist – Ellen McInnis
  • Other characters – her father
  • Intrigue – secrets
  • Challenge – survival

I can’t tell you that this pitch will work, but really, how dead to words would you have to be, to not wonder a little at what will happen to Ellen? And yet, agents and publishers need more than a piqued curiosity to convince them to take a look at your first pages. That’s where the query letter comes in.

The query letter.

What is a query letter?

“The stand-alone query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” Sept. 7, 2016  How to Write a Query Letter | Jane Friedman

I wouldn’t ever write a query letter without a solid piece of work to back it up, but Ms Friedman’s post underscores the importance of marketing in today’s literary (and every other) world. Hype is everything. Your book may be pure literary genius, but without marketing, no one else will ever know. So you have to tailor your query to not only sell your book to a publisher, but you should demonstrate its marketability to the buying public, as well. One way to do that is to research best-sellers and show a comparison between your storyline and a big seller.

Example: “Saving the Ghost” is like (best-seller title) meets (best-seller title).

Here’s another resource from “Writer’s Digest,” for writing the perfect query letter. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter I suggest you read both the query letter and the agent response. This will illuminate the requirements and pitfalls of the query.

Keep in mind, an agent/publisher will not waste time analyzing your letter – they will react to it – and they will react quickly.  Stick to your story. Don’t waste time telling them what you think about the story or its potential readers. (Also a truism for your everyday life!)

And always, always, follow their specific and unique guidelines for submission. Don’t be cute or try to stand out from the crowd of the thousand other queries they’ve received this month. Your efforts to shine will get you tossed in the trash in a heartbeat.

Give them what they ask for, do it well, and see what happens. You are not likely to receive feedback, either, so keep moving along until someone shows interest.

The publisher packet.

There may not be much written about this, but this was the direction I received from my writing coach, Laurie Parker, on preparing to publish. Because I don’t have an MFA and am a first-time novelist, she suggested that I develop a social media presence that will give potential agents/publishers something else to consider if they’ve given my query any weight. And that’s exactly why I started this year-long blog series.

Included in this “packet” are:

  • Social media presence
  • Blog
  • Bio
  • Cover image
  • Awards, mentions, published work

 

Cover, Saving the Ghost, M E Fuller 2016

Cover, Saving the Ghost, M E Fuller 2017

 

I have been diligent in my labors – under initial protest – to keep my social media presence alive. Fortunately, through a handy widget (look it up) my blog posts are automatically sent out to various social media outlets when I publish them here.

With all the distractions and tasks added to becoming a published author, this one seemed the most tedious. I was wrong. I enjoy writing the weekly (and now mid-week prompts) posts – in large part because I set a schedule, and named my topics before I ever began to blog.  All I have to do is refer to my topic list by week number and begin to write.

Since my topics are all about my learning journey this past year or so, the writing also reinforces what I’ve learned.  And I like knowing you’re out there, following along.

Agent or direct contact with a publisher?

This question has everything to do with which publisher is a fit for your work. That publisher will let you know, on their website, under submission guidelines, if they work only through agents or accept non-agented queries. Again, know the publisher and know their guidelines. A great resource for this information is Writer’s Market.

Those are the basics.

You’ll have to do your own research, devour information, and write your queries by the guidelines. Do your best. Plan for success. I’m rooting for you!

 

Creative prompt.

Perfect your elevator pitch.

 

Next week’s topic: How to start a blog.  See you back here next Sunday night!

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The most beautiful word in your world.

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall.

#amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall. March enters like a lion. #amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

 

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Is there an art to it?

I do not have my artwork in a gallery.  I’m still slogging away on my first novel. Until that is in the hands of beta readers, it consumes my every day, and I don’t have free time enough to begin developing a basic concept for a show. But I’ve made a few tentative inquiries and I’ll share here, the little I know. Maybe we’ll get some gallery owners to share their insights with us.

Review.

Last week I detoured into the realm of possibilities. No matter what we’re focused on, it’s so important to remember that all of everything exists first, as a possibility. It’s true with objects and relationships, feelings and thoughts. I recommend a daily dose of meditation on possibilities. Ohm.

What are galleries looking for?

Galleries are not only looking to support talent, they’re looking to stay in business. That means they need an inventory of work that will sell. As creative artists, we like to be free to create and not be bound by formula or consistencies in concept. We don’t generally aim to be production artists, producing the same thing in the same style, over and over. That’s fine if you don’t want to exhibit in a gallery. You can sell your work online, in gift shops, and to interior design studios. There are lots of outlets for art sales.

But, if you want to exhibit in a gallery, and grow a following for your work as a known and respected artist, then you need to be identifiable as THAT artist – the one whose work we do know and recognize. For that, here’s what you’ll need to do.

Eddie Hamilton artwork

There’s no mistaking Eddie Hamilton artwork

Presenting the work.

  1. Create a body of work – at minimum, 20 gallery-ready pieces – that is consistent in
    1. use of media
    2. technique
    3. style
    4. theme
    5. presentation

And be prepared to show a concept portfolio of your “next in the series” work in process.

  1. Presentation to the gallery for consideration

Regardless of the format you use for your presentation – digital or tangible representation (photo) – each of the 20 or so pieces you are proposing for an exhibit must include:

Title   /    Media   /    Size   /    Price

Put a well-designed, but brief, bio at the end, supported by any news clippings about you as an artist or the work (limit to 2). Don’t overwhelm. If the gallery wants more information, they’ll ask you for it. If you have sold any of the series pieces, include that information along with at least one image of an installed piece if you’ve got one.

Do not overlook the value of a well-presented body of work. If you need help covering the costs of framing or containers or stands or what-have-you to present your work in the best way possible, contact you local arts organizations about available grants to cover these costs.

Research.

Now you have a portfolio, who are you going to show it to? Research galleries who consistently represent artists with themes or styles that are similar to yours. They wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t know their buying audience, so find galleries that appear to be a good fit with your work. Look online. Here’s a terrific resource to get you started: http://art-collecting.com/index.htm and also check in your town, city, region, and state directories. Oh, and don’t forget to contact your local arts organizations. They may have gallery space for members. It’s a great way to get your foot – er, artwork – in a gallery door.

The approach.

Know the gallery’s guidelines for proposals before even thinking about making a personal visit.  Every gallery will have its own artist selection process for exhibitions and there are many artists, equally talented, in line for consideration, ahead of you.

Don’t be discouraged.

Gallery exhibit schedules can be 2 or 3 years out, so keep your eye on the prize and not on the calendar. Also, keep a record of who you’ve approached and which portfolio of work you presented. If you get that call, you’re going to want to know, right away, which series they want.

Just a few other resources.

http://art-support.com/exhibitions.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Your-Art-Into-a-Gallery

http://reddotblog.com/how-galleries-select-artists-how-galleries-work-2/

Creative prompt.

My body of work is…

Next week’s topic:  Art presentation.  See you back here next Sunday night!

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Write it. Paint it. Scribble it on a wall. What is freedom for you, for others, for the environment, for anything or anyone? Please post your freedoms. #amwriting #ampainting #freedom http://mefuller.com

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Possibilities. We need them!

This week I was going to talk about how to reach out to galleries with your work, but I’m going to shift gears. I had an experience earlier in the week that so completely altered my mental and emotional direction, that I want to share the payload with you.

Review.

The purpose of this year-long blog series was to share with others my first year as a full time creative person. It was a year of possibilities. I leapt out of my employee cage and roared forth with ferocity. I did not sit back and doodle or look for writing prompts and encouragement. I went to work. I went after what I wanted. I got tired. I kept at it.

Winter just before spring.

We often hear the rah-rah speeches about “You can do it!” and “Dream it and you can be it.” The action part of the encouragements is where most of us fail. We stall. We forget how to access the possibilities.

Seedlings

The stall.

For many of us, on both sides of the political and social diatribes that are erupting everywhere on the planet, this is a great time to stall. What’s the point to your work if everything you’ve known to be a certain way is changing and changing FAST?

And so we wait a day or two or a week or a month. We’re stuck. What should I write about? What should I paint? When an artist’s inner world is in turmoil, he either stops creating or madly creates, hoping to be part of some change that the artist recognizes as emerging possibility.

Watercolors in process

The vision.

Close your eyes. Still your heart. Silence the noise in your head. Breathe. What do you see, feel, sense? That is the essence of your creative vision. Keep living with it. Give it space every day – even every hour if you need to do that. Find the vision. Feed the vision. Tell its story.

The possibilities.

I’m one week – seven days – away from completing my manuscript for “Saving the Ghost.” I was one week away, three weeks ago. I stalled. Who will care about this in these turbulent times? My inner language was far more colorful but brought about the same result – I stalled, I had no vision for the work, I had forgotten about possibilities.

We do not know the future nor do we fully understand the moment we’re living, so there’s no point in trying to tie a future to our work. Our work is every possibility until it is defined by a publisher, a reader, a gallery, an art lover. We simply create, we do not define. Our creative process allows us to engage with possibilities and see where they take us. That’s all we need to know.

Everything is possible.

Creative prompt.

Contemplate and express possibilities.

Next week’s topic:   How to approach a gallery.  See you back here next Sunday night!

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Good grief! It’s week 14!

…and nearly February 14 which has been set aside as a day for love. Spring fever is sneaking up behind the faltering frigid temperatures up here in the northern lakes country. I can feel it. More, I can believe it! This week, love of your creative spirit and your works must play a leading role as you approach the building of your resume.

"Comfort," M E Fuller, 2015

“Comfort,” M E Fuller, 2015

Review.

I hope you took some time to gather information on residencies and retreats that might help you escape the day-to-day distractions from your creative work. Please share your retreats and residency experiences with us. Thanks!

What can I do to make my resume/Curriculum Vitae work for me?

If you’re resurrecting an established artistic practice, then constructing a resume, or Curriculum Vitae, should be fairly easy for you. However, if you, like me, were not able to earn a living as an artist or writer earlier on, you may not have a lot of direct education or work experience to catch the eye of a potential buyer or client. What to do?

First, know the difference between the two. Here’s a helpful website resource: https://www.thebalance.com/cv-vs-resume-2058495

For creating your artist resume, I’m going to refer to another helpful blog: http://blog.creative-capital.org/2013/03/page-from-our-handbook-artist-resume/

Resume Basics: An artist’s resume is a listing of your professional experiences, achievements and credentials, organized into categories for easy scanning by the reader. A resume lists the facts that place you in your discipline and reflects where you have already received support.

Read through the page for quick and concise information on what to include. Make notes on your own background and compare.

"Big Love," M E Fuller 2016

“Big Love,” M E Fuller 2016

If you feel that you don’t have enough experience to reference, here are some other suggestions:

  1. Be honest! Provide an opening paragraph that explains your background in a nutshell then close with a statement about what you are doing now and your most recent work.
  2. Locate a writer’s or artist’s group near you and learn from members what free or low-cost classes and workshops are available near you.
  3. Take as many classes and workshops as you can. List them on your resume.
  4. If you have been published anywhere, even a local magazine or newspaper, be sure to list and credit the publication.
  5. Start a blog and add fresh content no less than weekly. Show examples of your work or talk about your creative process. This gives potential clients proof that you are actively working at your craft.
  6. I recommend using WordPress. (You can get a free blog if you don’t purchase a domain name. With a domain name, you’ll want your blog to be hosted – in other words, you’ll pay a fee to host your blog on a commercial server that will use your domain name, not theirs, as the url.)
  7. Use Social Media and be active! Make reference to your social media accounts on your blog.

Once you’ve got your resume put together, remember to update it regularly. And, you can tailor the resume to the client’s needs.

Good luck!

First Kiss

First Kiss, M E Fuller, 2014

Next week’s topic: How to approach a gallery.

See you back here next Sunday night!

Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.

 

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