Writing Through Grief

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My ten-year marriage is ending. I don’t feel like writing. Do you have any advice on how to fight through the pain and write?

A: As a veteran of two broken marriages, I feel your pain. I’m sorry you have to go through it. Depression often leads to immobility. Many people need time to go from “overwhelmed” to “productive.”

Any loss results in grief, and grief that goes unresolved can lead to mental and physical problems. Instead of thinking of the issue as fighting through the pain to write, think of the fact that writing helps you fight the pain. While immobility keeps you in a depressed state, doing something–almost anything–can get you out of that state. Continue reading

About Errors and Reformatting a Manuscript

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: A publisher recently requested my manuscript, and within forty-eight hours I received an email that said, “Only Word files are excepted.” Shouldn’t the word be “accepted?”

A: Possibly, but the answer depends on the intent of the sentence. If the publisher was saying it rejects all manuscripts with the exception of those received in Microsoft Word, then the sentence is okay. I haven’t seen the entire e-mail, so I cannot be sure, but I suspect you are correct, though, and the publisher was attempting to say it accepted only Microsoft Word files. Continue reading

ePublishing and Copyrights

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have a couple of questions about ebooks, as I’ve had two responses to queries from ebook publishers.

1. Should my manuscript be copyrighted before I send the whole thing to anyone?

2. If I publish the ebook version, is it okay to continue sending out queries to other publishers and agents in hopes of selling the printed version?

A: First a word of warning. Many ebook publishers are, in essence, purveyors of self-publishing. Unethical ebook publishers will show interest in a book simply to lure writers into paying for some or all of the expenses of self-publishing. Some ebook publishers will accept almost any book in almost any form and publish it as an ebook because it costs them next to nothing to put a sales button on their websites and allow people to download an electronic version you supply. If you do not receive an advance and/or if you pay the ebook publisher any fee for design or format, it’s considered self-publishing. For those reasons be careful and know what you want before you go into any agreement with an ebook publisher. For my first ebook, for example, I made sure my ebook publisher would allow me to use more than its website to sell my ebook. Continue reading

Short Stories, Release Forms, and Good Rejections

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I tried writing novels, but I found I was better at writing shorter things. I wrote some short stories, but they all come out as if they are a view into a certain event or something. They don’t really have a beginning, middle, and end. Are they still considered short stories?

A: You probably are writing what is called slice-of-life stories, which can also come under the heading of short stories. It is my understanding that many markets that accept short stories also accept slice-of-life stories. Continue reading

Adverbs, Italics, and Underlines

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I’m having a problem with adverbs in short stories. (He said, shyly.) I want to enter some of my stories in contests, but they are usually limited to a specific word length. In longer stories, I try to use adverbs only when I want to make the attributive statement contradictory.

Example: “That was fun,” he said, angrily.

Otherwise, I will write something like this: “I like that.” He had a sarcastic tone in his voice, as if it were a challenge.

In short stories, though, I might be forced to write “I like that,” he said, sarcastically.

Do I go for the brevity and take the chance that I am losing something, or do I temper the prose in a short story with a mixture of adverbs?

What about novels? I read about five books a month and I’ve seen some books heavy in adverbs and others not; however, some of these are not recent publications. Is the current trend toward more adverbs, less, or a blend of both writing styles? Continue reading

Starting Out, Crediting Sources, and Spelling Coworker

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have considered starting a book for a long time and I have come up with ideas on the plot, the development of characters, and so on, but when I get down to writing it on the page, it ends up uninteresting. I can’t get the suspense or the dialogue right. I can’t get the story to come to life. Can you help me get my story to come to life yourself, or can you send me some links that will help me in this area?

A: Congratulations on creating a good plot and planning the character development! Idea creation is one area where many beginning writers fail, and you’re past that point. Way to go! Continue reading