Tag Archives: aspiring writers

Writers Need To Capitalize On Opportunities

One of the foremost problems that new writers who are intent on breaking into the literary world face is the quick realization that there is tremendous competition. Sadly, many aspiring writers who are not cognizant of the nature of their profession end up quickly demoralized, as they see that their writing is not reaching an audience, not being published, and being heavily critiqued by those who do read it.

I started my career as a writer primarily as a poet. My friend Russell Jaffe offered me the opportunity to open at his poetry reading if I were to write a few poems, and I took him up on the offer. I realized, free from the constraints of an organized creative writing program, that I had some talent. From there, I started writing many poems, and later on, getting many of them published once I realized how to find and effective target literary magazines.

After finding success as a poet, I was desirous of publishing short fiction. I was working four different positions at an academic institution, spread out over six days. I didn’t have much time or energy left to write when I was off from work. My opportunity came when a friend of mine who believed in my writing offered me free housing in rural Pennsylvania and promised to edit my writing. I took her up on that offer, and produced an assortment of short stories that met my standards, and were published.

At present, I am a communications partner for a new startup. My duties entail that I be responsible for producing any accompanying books related to the startup once it goes public, in addition to more mundane duties related to day-to-day correspondence and copywriting. As anyone who has previous experience with entrepreneurship knows, sometimes it can take a bit of time for a venture to go public. Being that I lead a pretty Spartan lifestyle, one that is supported through freelancing my services as an editor and publishing consultant, and that the startup needs some time before it can reach fruition, I have a significant amount of off time. During this time, I have been writing screenplays.

The reason that I’ve chosen to write screenplays, again, boils down to opportunity. My cousin Andrew Friedman works at FOX. He regales me with fabulous stories of parties with Method Man and Seth Rogen. His mother worked for 25 years in sales at Paramount Pictures. Furthermore, my girlfriend Lauren Rubin, as a graduate of Vassar College, has an assortment of high-powered contacts in the film industry. Her mother, Joanne Larson, through her business dealings, also has access to a multitude of producers and other film professionals. This access, and the potential for serious rewards from success as a screenwriter, has led me to conclude that this is the perfect opportunity for me now.

So, in short, to quickly ascend as a writer, leverage any existing opportunities immediately. 

If you are unsure of the nature of the opportunities around you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who do I know who has offered to help me?
  2. Who do I know who has a foothold in any way in the writing community? Would they be willing to help me if I asked them?
  3. Are there any opportunities local to your area or current life related to a particular type of writing?

I wish you success in capitalizing on your opportunities.

p.s. I strive to present all the tools necessary for writers to dramatically improve their craft and chances of publishing through my blog posts, free Q&A service, and free fiction writing 101 course. However, if you require more personal attention, please consider my editing and/or publishing consultancy services.

 

One Key Reason Why You Might Want To Use A Pseudonym

George Orwell critiqued totalitarianism in government. Hunter S. Thompson explored…and lived the drug culture. Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, was perhaps one of the darkest American authors ever published.

Good writing, almost as a rule, challenges its readers. There will be individuals who do not understand, or do not want to understand, what you are attempting to do with your writing, and they will judge you. It is unconscionable how many readers will assume that authors have the same traits as, or are advocating the traits of, some of the most despicable characters in their fiction. It is unconscionable, but that will not change anytime soon. People’s judgment of your work can cause wedges with family members, friends, publishers, and most notably – with employers or potential employers.

Writing, at its heart, is all about conflict. By and large, most of the professional world requires the presentation of a clean-cut image. If you are writing about sex, violence, racism, or any other subject that is impolite in conversation (and cast a wide net with this), you might want to consider writing under a pseudonym, so as to protect yourself from any harm in the public sphere. Employers can and do Google search potential employees. If your name is John Rogers, you might not have much to worry about, but if your name is a bit less common (like mine!) than you might want to consider if writing under a pseudonym is appropriate.

Some might say that is a cowardly approach. I wouldn’t say so, as many writers can and do make a living from their work, but that requires diligence, consistent writing, networking, editing, and publishing assistance; still, the vast majority have to rely on other means than their fictive works. My own writing tends to be extremely subversive. However, I am a freelancer and entrepreneur, aside from being a writer, so I don’t feel any discomfort if someone were to look up my name and see it attached to works of a transgressive nature. Even while I was in the workforce in a traditional job in academia, I knew who to mention my writing to, and who to avoid speaking about it with, or to talk about with, but only in the most general terms. This is pretty easy to gauge, and I’m sure you’ll be able to discern appropriately.

Of course, whether you choose to use a pseudonym or not is up to you. If you are unsure, ask yourself the following six questions, and then decide:

  1. How edgy is my writing? 
  2. Is there a significant likelihood of damage coming to my finances, family, or person if I were to publish under my own name?
  3. Do I want the privacy that a pseudonym provides, or do I prefer the spotlight?
  4. How memorable is my given name? 
  5. How literary does my given name feel?
  6. Do I write in multiple genres, and thus want to keep my audiences separate?

Regardless of whether you choose to use a pseudonym or not, I wish you the very best in your literary endeavors.

Sincerely,
Alfonso Colasuonno
Publisher, The Literary Game

 

Aspiring Writers Need To Have A Bias Towards Action

Hey everyone. It’s been some time since my last post. In the interim, I was interviewed by Pretty Owl Poetry, one of the finest (relatively) new online literary magazines. If you’d like to read my Q&A where I share my thoughts on writing, editing, and publishing, please click here.

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As writers, the process by which we compose our writing is generally a slow one. Few writers take the track of Jack Kerouac, composing whole novels in mere weeks. For the vast majority of us, composing our novels can take years, and our short fiction and other literary projects can take similarly long periods of time to complete.

This aspect of our profession lends itself to one of the biggest problems that faces aspiring writers today – a lack of action after the completion of their writing. When you complete your writing, you need to move on it. You can’t let your stories sit gathering dust. While we all would agree that writing is a deep passion of ours, and that’s why we write, realistically, we also long for others to appreciate our writing. Writing is borne out of a desire to share your soul. You can’t share your soul if you let your writing sit on a computer file for years.

I imagine that few people reading this are actually able to financially support themselves from their writing; however, that should be the goal of every writer who is stuck in a soulless job. Shirley Jackson worked at Best Western. Charles Bukowski worked for the USPS. If you’re flipping burgers at a fast food establishment now, that doesn’t mean you should, or will, be doing that your whole life. You should burn with passion to get your writing out there, so you can do what you love.

Rapper Mos Def had a great quote, “I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.” If you are a writer, and it’s not just a diversion for you, then you need to figure out a way to be able to write more often, and be able to support yourself from your writing. It’s not an ugly thing to say. It doesn’t mean that you’re writing just for the money. Let’s face it, few writers, other than say a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling, are making millions from their books. That said, you CAN make a living from your writing, or other similar endeavors, and leave other unnecessary endeavors behind. Furthermore, you should! Being stuck in bad situations, or time-consuming situations, will only hinder you as a writer.

So, how do you get this done? Well, you need to publish NOW. Are you going to send your manuscript to a literary agent and immediately get a $10,000 advance from one of the Big 5? It could happen, but realistically, that’s not likely. Here are a few steps that all aspiring writers need to start doing RIGHT NOW:

1. Work with a skilled editor – You need to hire a qualified editor. I’d be happy to help shape your writing to a publishable standard. If you are struggling financially, there are ways around this, as you can probably find some literary-minded friends who would be willing to volunteer their time to help you. This very approach worked for me. My friend Rairigh Drum offered her time when I was struggling financially and vetted my writing for free, and it led to a slew of publications. Of course, make sure that your friend is actually a skilled editor/writer, as your fawning mother or boyfriend/girlfriend won’t do. Regardless of whether you choose to work with me, another editor (hopefully not), or with a friend volunteering her/his time, partnering with an editor is a necessity. No writer can escape the myopic view we have of our own writing. Of course we think our writing is great and there are no visible problems. That’s never the case, and that’s why editors are absolutely essential.

2. Publish NOW – Are you going to get your writing into Ploughshares, Tin House, PANK or Word Riot immediately? No, of course not, that’s about as likely as landing that $10,000 advance from a Big 5 publisher. However, find places to publish your writing, and then actually submit your work. You can use Duotrope to find appropriate literary journals. The Writer’s Market book also has a great list of publishers. Of course, if you’d like a more personal touch, and to save a lot of time and effort, as well as receive the insight of someone who has published before, I am certainly able to assist you as your publishing consultant. Understand this, no matter what you write, there are many literary journals and independent publishers that would welcome your writing. Find them. And if your premise is great, and your writing is as perfect as a Madison Bumgarner start in the World Series, then hey, it’s possible that you may even get the nod from the top literary journals or publishers, even as a newcomer.

3. Hustle – Make yourself known in the open mic circuits and the writer’s workshops in your local area. Leverage social media, YouTube, and the blogosphere. Ensure that people begin to know your name. You can’t be afraid to self-promote. Doesn’t this whole process seem a bit ugly? Well, nothing is as ugly as a starving artist – it’s your choice. On that note, nothing is more appealing to publishers than a platform. When you’re talking about the Big 5 publishers, it’s not a labor of love – it’s a cold business. Your writing could be stellar, but if NO ONE knows who you are, and you’ve done virtually nothing of any note in life, and haven’t published on smaller presses or online, the chances of you getting published are nearly zero. So don’t just embrace moving forward as a writer, move forward as a person, and get attention NOW.

4. Embrace Speed – You don’t have a second to lose. The field is competitive, but so many writers are making the mistake of not pushing hard enough, and that’s why they aren’t breaking in to the profession. Will many publishers reject you? Yes. Will your editor force you to change your entire premise and rewrite whole chapters that you worked so hard on? Yes. Get through it ASAP. Execute. Execute. Execute.

If you want to move forward as a writer, you need to embrace your killer instinct. Don’t wait around forever; you have to embrace the attitude of wanting to advance now!

Literary Agents: Are They Worth Querying If You’re An Aspiring Writer?

Since I started working with aspiring writers in December of last year (with my old project that’s currently on hiatus, The Adept Writer, a literary journal designed to promote the work of aspiring writers), I’ve seen a lot of writing from unknown writers. The quality of the work has varied. A writer like Russell Zintel of the University of New Hampshire really impressed me with the quality of his poetry. One fan of the website wrote in to say that he was the next Tao Lin. Maybe. 

I met an aspiring writer named Zubair Simonson about six weeks ago. I have some advertising for the website on my briefcase (I admit it looks funny, but it gets the word out.) He noticed it, and after a brief conversation, he sent me the first chapter of his novel. It knocked me out.

After I read Zubair’s chapter, we set up a meeting to discuss his prospects. He asked me if he should query literary agents. Zubair had previously self-published one book that received unanimously great reviews from those who read it, but like most self-published authors, very few people had read his book. 

My concern was Zubair’s platform. He had done a few smart projects in film and web TV as an actor and director, but they were not in Hollywood, or even in an independent studio, but homemade movies with friends. He blogged for a religious organization, but his name was not huge in that sphere. He had a self-published book that anyone who read loved, but almost no one had read it. 

Still, I told Zubair that he should query a literary agent. 

Any aspiring writer should query a literary agent. The worst that could happen is nothing. 

Now certainly many literary agents will refuse taking on a client that has no platform. If you haven’t been published in big literary journals, if you don’t have an MFA, if you’re not known in some other sphere, even if your work is dynamic, you will still probably get passed on; however, why adopt a loser’s mentality and not even try? 

When you’re an aspiring writer, you need to go for the throat. You need to make things happen. Yes, most likely, if you don’t have a platform, if you don’t have an MFA, if you haven’t published in big literary journals or won contests, and if your work is mediocre or poorly edited, you don’t really have much of a chance, but if you work to accomplish as much as you can within where you’re at, then it’s certainly worth a shot. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

Now if you need a little bit of help finding literary agents to query, or for any other publishing concern, please click here. I’d be happy to guide you in the right direction.

 

How to Deal with Constructive Criticism as an Aspiring Writer

Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of anything.

Have you put 10,000 hours into your writing?

If you’re not even close, it’s going to show. Your writing will be rough around the edges. Your technique will be off. You may make some egregious errors in plotting. Your description could be overdone or nearly nonexistent. Your characters may be poorly developed. Your dialogue might sound unrealistic.

Don’t freak out! All of this is part of the growth process when you’re an aspiring writer. You’re normal. You’re not a bad writer. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

You’re going to make mistakes, plenty of them; and if you show other writers your stuff, they’ll pick it apart. That’s a good thing. They’re helping you, even though it feels like they’re insulting your precious literary babies.

I don’t personally believe in literary genius; I believe in literary effort. If you put the effort in, you’ll become a stellar writer. If you don’t, you’ll have to deal with constructive criticism, which isn’t such a bad thing.

When you do face constructive criticism of your fiction (or any other type of writing), always remember the following three things:

1. Remember that it’s not meant as a personal attack.

2. Remember that’s in your best interest to get critiqued if you would like to improve your writing.

3. Remember that an aspiring writer who puts the effort in is constantly increasing her/his abilities.

How do you handle constructive criticism of your writing? Have you ever felt uncomfortable when receiving constructive criticism? Why?

The Literary Game’s Publishing Contest

Would you like to publish your manuscript? Do you know that you’re a talented writer, and just need an opportunity to prove it?

Talent deserves to shine. Submit the first chapter of your manuscript to The Literary Game’s Publishing Contest, and then sit back and watch your literary career get jumpstarted.

The three aspiring authors whose work I judge to have the most promise will win the following:

1. A complete round of editing for your manuscript, free of charge.

2. A complete round of publishing consultancy, free of charge.

There will be three winners, so please make sure to spread the word widely by sharing this post on social media and with your friends, your college, at your local literary gatherings, etc.

The Rules:

1. All submissions must be sent to theliterarygame at gmail dot com with the subject of the email being [LAST NAME – CONTEST].

2. Submissions must be received by September 9th, 2014.

3. Submissions are limited to one chapter.

4. One entry per individual.

5. Eligibility is limited to writers who have not published with a press (small or large). If you have self-published a book or eBook, you are eligible.

6. The contest is limited to fiction and creative nonfiction. Nonfiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, short stories, or any other form are not eligible for this contest.

7. Your work does not have to be complete by the date the winners are announced (10/1/14). The prize can be deferred until completion of your manuscript.

8. Eligibility is limited to individuals who have never personally interacted with Alfonso Colasuonno (the judge of this contest). Discussions via the Internet are okay. Having had a phone conversation with or having met Alfonso in person is automatic grounds for disqualification.

9. Winners will be announced on October 1st, 2014.

Do Your Homework Before You Send Out Your Writing

before-you-send-out-your-writing

If you were unemployed, what would be a better use of your time, sending out 100 unedited resumes to different positions, many wildly outside of your skill set, or sending out five targeted resumes to positions that are a match for you based on your skills, experience, and possibly even contacts within the company.

The answer to this rhetorical question is obvious.

The same rule applies when submitting to literary journals, agents, or publishers.

It really is not in your best interest to submit your writing everywhere. Why?

1. It shows a lack of respect for the agent, publisher, or literary magazine. You’re expecting them to work with you, but you’re not spending even the slightest bit of time finding out what they’re about. If you think about it, it’s a pretty classless move.

2. It can seriously damage your reputation. Even if your writing improves dramatically, once you’re inside, you’ll realize that the literary game is a small world. You don’t want people remembering you as the aspiring writer who carelessly sent work out to everyone in the industry.

3. It will bruise your ego. Facing countless rejections without any mixture of acceptances will hurt. That’s not to say that you won’t get rejected if you strategize, but you’ll mix those rejections with more than a few acceptances.

So, how do you research publishers, agents, or literary magazines?

Two websites and one book can help you to target effectively. They are Duotrope.com, PW.org (Poets & Writers), and the 2014 Writer’s Market.

With that information at your fingertips, you can begin the process of researching good fits for your writing.

Of course, if you want to speed the process up, save some time out of your day, and remove the trial and error aspect, I’d be happy to work with you as a publishing consultant. Simply click here for more information about how I can help you.