An old draft, dusty and gray, looks hopefully at its creator, knowing there must have been a kernel of an idea, a set of pictures, emotions, that needed to be woven together, but something went wrong, an outward interference or a failure - it does happen - to bloom. The old draft knows that time creates distance, and distance brings with it a new perspective.
The draft stares into a mirror unadorned, the author standing behind it. She turns it around. Takes an inventory. Begins to ask questions. The old draft straightens under this scrutiny while the author wonders, Who is the character here? What's her name? Where is she and what is her current state of mind? What does she want? What stands in her way? What is her key strength? Her weakness?
The old draft yields up the information it possesses and hopes the author with see the bits that are strong and fresh, but not gloss over the parts that are missing or weak. The old draft knows it is flawed, and only wants to get better.
The old draft reminds the author that while characters are important, so is the story itself. Does the story have a spine and does that spine reflect what the main character wants and/or needs? How does the story test her and how does it bring out her strength? What about who she is bumping up against? Is he or she a worthy opponent? Is there real doubt created in the mind of the reader as to who will win? The old draft knows that in order to propel the reader through the story, there must be suspense and it is created by the uncertainty of outcome.
The old draft wants the author to know there are many beautiful words contained within its pages, but do they all work? Do they all serve the story? The old draft understands that in order to be the best it can be, some things will have to go. That it must be put on a fat-free diet. Must spend time moving and flexing. It must go to boot camp. The old draft doesn't like it, but knows this is the only way to build muscle and strength.
The old draft is beginning to feel young again, relishes the author's rekindled enthusiasm, and urges the work to continue and for the author to invite a few readers to check the progress and give honest and constructive criticism. The old draft consoles the author when some of the readers feel this or that needs an adjustment and tells the author to consider what might work and what won't, and then to trust her gut.
When the old draft see the author wander away with a gleam in her eye, it knows she'll be back to put on the finishing touches and the draft feels fresh and alive once more.
Gay Degani has had three flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. Pure Slush Books published her collection, Rattle of Want, in 2015 and the second edition of her suspense novel, What Came Before will be published by Truth Serum Press in late 2016. She blogs at Words in Place.
What Five Things To
Think About When Thinking About Your Cover
1) What is the feeling you want to evoke? Examples: scary, poignant, edgy, fun.
Your cover is packaging for the product inside. If your cover is about a murder mystery set in the past, does your cover speak of that? Does it feel historical and mysterious? A word of advice – do not try to insist on showing a scene from the book on the cover, or specific details based on your story (for example exact character likeness – this is a trap as the reader may disagree with what is portrayed on cover). Let your artist be the lead in showing you how less is more. The best covers are lean, mean, and pack a punch!
(Example cover: GHOSTORIA
Speaking of packaging, think of your back cover as advertising space. Use it to promote your book with reviews, images of your other book covers in the series, your author photo, bio and contact info such as website URL. Don’t let that space go to waste!
2) Who is your reader? Know what grabs your reader. If it is YA, then research YA covers.
Know what is trending in the genre. Do your homework so you can be the savvy author who is co-pilot with your cover artist. And don’t be afraid to challenge your artist. Sometimes a little push takes a good cover to WOW!
3) Where does the story take place? Season? Time of day?
This information is important to your cover artist to help set the tone for the cover.
(Example cover: FDR’s TREASURE
4) How does the cover art work with the title?
Has your cover artist simply slapped an overused font on top of a stock image? The font needs to be an integral art element the cover. Sometimes a cover IS just type used in a creative way. If your artist is not using fonts creatively, then try using another cover artist.
5) Finally, make sure the cover is attention grabbing and legible, even at thumbnail size.
Think of your cover as a mini billboard. How often have you driven by a billboard and asked yourself, “what was being advertised?” You can’t afford to make that mistake with your cover. Think of all the traffic on Amazon and other book sites. Don’t let readers pass your book by – make sure your cover is eye-catching, legible, and intriguing.
(Example cover: FOCUSED ON MURDER
I’m going to show you the renegade’s way how to make travel writing work for you.
The traditional approach to travel writing is to query an editor of a given magazine and request an assignment letter. Unfortunately, it can take months to get a response from a magazine editor who requires exclusivity and has very little print space. If the answer is “no” you are back at ground zero, hanging in the wind waiting for a positive response while your life is flying by. What’s more, travel magazines pay paltry sums for work that can be time-consuming when you start to flesh out a piece with the appropriate details. Press trip junkets are often very un-fun. You are forced to go with a group and have little time to relax.
If you want to get to special places on your bucket list, I suggest going through the back door. Don’t approach the magazines (print or e-zines) until you have the story. Instead, go directly to the source of trips you want to take and show them how you are the best person for the job. Query outfitters who are offering trips in the destinations that you covet. Tell them how and why you are best equipped to produce articles with a personal touch that show off their special attributes. They are competing with other companies offering similar services in a given region. They need you, a mini-publicist, to make them stand out in the crowd.
I don’t expect to get paid much, if anything, for my articles. I get paid in advance with a wonderful trip that I could not afford otherwise. In addition to writing articles to satisfy my host, I write an essay that allows me to expound upon how the trip influenced me. There is a big distinction between an article that gives readers a sense of place, a taste of the experience, and information about how to get there and where to stay and an essay. A travel narrative essay is a reflection upon a given journey that uses tools of the trade, i.e., dramatic arc, dialogue, and character development to tell the story. Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is my first collection of essays detailing my most meaningful experiences and why they were important to me.
I have outlined the approach to travel writing that has been wonderfully successful for me in a booklet available on Amazon for $.99 titled How to Make Travel Writing Work for You. In it I share a typical query to an outfitter along with the query to an editor and what you need to build a platform. This includes having a few writing clips in your arsenal, a bio with a travel slant, and, hopefully, a website. The internet is crying for content, so get your work on a few travel blogs and into an e-zine or two to get started. Okay, you won’t get paid for your writing in many cases, but you are building a platform. Rome was not built in a day, but you will have your ticket to get there in no time if you do it my way!