Answers to three questions raised in this summer’s workshops


It’s that time of year again. Labor Day looms, signaling the end of summer. Most of another year has slipped away. And all that summer reading and writing? Still undone.

I learned a few things this summer, though. Mostly from finding answers to difficult questions that were raised in class. If you’ve attended one of my publishing workshops, you’ll know that the first exercise I assign is an introspective one: why do you want to be published? This summer, for the second time since I started asking that question, an answer came back, “I see it as a first step to a movie.”

I can answer a lot of “how to” questions about publishing, but “how to get my book made into a movie” wasn’t one of them. I knew differing cocktails of agents were involved—authors’ agents; subrights agents working for publishers; media talent and IP agents like Creative Artists or Gotham—but the exact process has never been anything I’ve had the good luck to need to know.

But here is a step-by-step from someone who does: How a Book Becomes a Movie. It’s a fascinating read even if you don’t have such hopes for your book, because it shows how both the book and film industries have been so radically changed by Harry Potter, Twilight, et al.

Enlightenment #2 is a sequel to last month’s blog about Outlining (this corner fought by James Patterson) vs. Not Outlining (in this corner, Zadie Smith). I get asked whether or not to outline all the time, and I personally find it freeing to have convincing advocates of such diametrically opposed views. It allows you to do pretty much anything in between—and in between is exactly where my personal process is. But Patterson’s proposed advantages of outlining did not extend to character and voice. So I was intrigued to come across this discussion of How Outlining Can Bring Out Voice. I’m still not sure outlining is mandatory, but the argument for its utility grows and grows.

The last enlightenment is a caution. I give consults to writers; frequently to self-publishers. There is one question I often get asked that I regret having to answer: “I have self-published my book using print-on-demand (POD). How can I generate more sales?” If your book is already published, the invaluable information I have is too late to save you, though I can perhaps help you make the best of a bad situation. I use “save” advisedly because it is with this mode of self-publishing more than any other that authors get burned and disappointed. Please, if you’re thinking of self-publishing, speak to me before you commit to POD. You can attend one of my publishing workshops, or email me to arrange a consult. I charge $100 for an hour, and I guarantee, I can save you from a much more expensive misstep.

So, those were my three big take-outs from this summer. But here is an ongoing opportunity to learn more about publishing and its ancillary skills, for free. Skillfeed is offering 30 days’ free access to its 93,858 video courses.

The neighbor’s BBQ smoke wafts in through my windows. Maybe it’s because I’m writing a novel populated by Native Americans, but I feel as if I’ve gathered a few fat writing berries from this social summer to carry with me into the insular winter, when surely…finally…I will snuggle down and write?

Happy learning and writing!