Setting A New Year’s Resolution To Write More

For new writers who hope to have their works published, their readerships increase beyond friends and family, and begin receiving compensation for their writing, the best thing you can do is simple – write more.

With the New Year upon us, consider setting a resolution to write more. 

These are just a few of the benefits of writing on a consistent basis:

  1. A more prolific body of work.
  2. An increased flow of ideas.
  3. A sharpening of your prose.

While this resolution can be made at any time, with New Year’s having such powerful symbolic weight, why hold off any longer? Start writing and start advancing!

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8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Aren’t Getting Your Writing Published

 

In baseball, some of the best players in the game only get a hit roughly one out of every three times they are at the plate. The same can be said about writers and publishing.

Ty Cobb, one of the legends of the game, had a .366 batting average, the highest of all-time in Major League Baseball history. On average, 634 out of every 1000 times that he was at the plate, he would fail to get a hit.

Writers looking to publish can learn a lot from batting averages. A position player in the major leagues will generally hit between .200 and .360 during a full season. A writer successfully targeting journals relevant to their style, tone, and themes will have a success rate roughly equivalent to the average baseball player. If you get in a particularly hot streak, you may get a few acceptances in a row without a rejection. You may also get into a slump. In time, everything will average out.

If you are submitting your poetry or short fiction to competitive journals, contacting agents, or submitting your manuscript to publishers, and you are getting rejected consistently without any acceptances, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have I had my writing edited? Does it read well, or is it choppy? Are there major problems?

2. Am I targeting the right literary journals, publishers, and agents? Would they actually be interested in my type of writing, or is this completely off the mark?

3. Do I need to build my platform? From where I am right now as a writer and a person, can I do anything to attract some attention to myself?

4. Do I know where to find agents, publishers, or literary journals? Duotrope.com, PW.org, and the Writer’s Market 2016 are all great places to start.

5. Have I been writing consistently enough to develop my skills to the point where my work is of a publishable standard? Do you treat writing as a part-time hobby or a fatalistic dream, or are you serious about it? Your writing will improve the more you actually write.

6. Did I ever learn the fundamentals of writing, or have I gone into creative writing with a lot of passion, but little education in the workings of craft? If you never learned how to write well, you won’t.

7. How is my mindset? Am I visualizing success or am I anticipating another rejection letter? Your thoughts become reality. Create a reality where you expect to publish your writing.

8. Have I been reading other writers who write like I do? Absorbing ideas and style from other writers is critical, and writers who don’t read are writers who don’t get published.

If your writing is almost never accepted, or is never accepted, with around 95% certainty, I can say that you are probably doing at least one of these things wrong, and most likely many of them.

Now, once you correct your mistakes, you will not get accepted to every literary journal you submit your poems or short fiction to, or every independent publisher that you submit your manuscript to, or every agent that you contact. Far from it. But, you will get some successes.

I hope that this post motivated you to move forward. If you need to learn more about the basics of writing, take a look at my free Writing 101 course. If you have a specific question, use my free Q&A service and I’ll either answer you directly, or turn your question into a post if I feel it would benefit other writers, as well. If you need an editor to shape up your writing, or a publishing consultant whose versed in targeting effectively, I’m also available to help you.

I know that if you work hard and make the appropriate tweaks, you will become a successful writer.

In success,
Alfonso

Should A Writer Use Writing Prompts?

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There are many creative writing courses, instructive books on creative writing, and influential bloggers who are adamant about the benefits of using creative writing prompts.

I am not one of them.

At both Beloit College’s Bachelor’s program in creative writing, and also at the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, I had a difficult time with the restrictions imposed by some instructors in asking me to write based on a prompt. I personally do not believe that writing prompts should be used by writers, except for when they are suffering through writer’s block.

Creative writers delve into their head to produce their stories. To write based on a prompt, in my experience, does not produce good writing. Rather, the writing that usually results from these prompts tends to be stale.

The primary reasons that I am generally against writers using creative writing prompts are:

  1. It produces a laziness in your creative imagination.  A dependency on creative writing prompts often leads to a lack of ideas brought forth from a writer’s own mind. As a vivid imagination is key to the world building inherent in fiction writing, this obviously has negative consequences.
  2. The topics are usually too general. The best authors have always written fiction that either deviates from the everyday experience, or if drawn from the ordinary, inverts it or provides a special insight into it that is often missed in the hectic nature of most people’s daily lives.Writing prompts, on the other hand, are often meant to have wide applicability. For new writers, this can easily lead to general writing that does not challenge the author to provide their best fiction.

The only times that I would recommend a writer use creative writing prompts are:

  1. For the first month or two of your writing career. Creative writing, like any other skill, needs to be developed. At first, many new writers may have a difficult time even bringing forth ideas, or understanding the parameters of fiction. In this case, using writing prompts to focus your writing can be helpful, rather than throwing yourself directly into the fire, and likely becoming frustrated with the whole notion of creative writing.
  2. When you have a bad case of writer’s block. Now, I believe that writer’s block rarely affects writers who make a consistent practice of creative writing. The literary imagination is like a muscle, and it does atrophy when you do not exercise it. However, every writer will probably have to deal with writer’s block at some point/s in their life. During these periods, utilizing writing prompts may be a method to consider to get your creative juices going once again.

Do you use writing prompts? How do you feel that they have helped or hindered your creative writing? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. 

-Alfonso Colasuonno graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Beloit College. He is a published author of fiction and poetry. He provides publishing consultancy and editing services for writers who would like to make the process of jumpstarting their literary career simpler and quicker.

 

When A Publisher’s ‘No’ Should Be Understood As ‘Not Now’

When you submit a manuscript to a publisher, there are four common outcomes:

  1. Acceptance
  2. No response – Unfortunately, some publishers who decide to pass on manuscripts will never inform you that they have done so. A good rule of thumb that I use is that if I have not heard from a publication one month after the latest period of time in which they normally respond, I assume they have rejected the piece and disregard any simultaneous submissions restrictions.
  3. Form rejection – A polite way of informing you that your submission was not close to meeting the journal’s standards conveyed through a form cover letter. This is sent to most writers whose works are rejected by a publisher.
  4. Personal rejection – This is a personalized rejection from a publisher, often telling you what was good about your writing, but listing the reason/s why it was not chosen for publication.

If you receive a personal rejection, it is, counterintuitive as it may seem, a good sign. Publishers receive countless manuscripts, and the amount of time it would require to personally respond to all applicants would preclude the business of the publication from ever getting done. When a publisher takes time out of their busy schedule to send a personal rejection, it means that they view your writing as solid enough to comment on. They like your writing, but feel that something about it misses the mark.

Jack T. Marlowe was the publisher of Gutter Eloquence Magazine. Aside from my friend Russell’s journal O Sweet Flowery Roses, Gutter Eloquence was the first journal where I submitted my poetry. Mr. Marlowe commented that he liked the grit of my writing, but that it needed a bit of polishing. I started my literary career with 24 rejections in a row, yet his was the only one that was a personal rejection. Not coincidentally, his was the only journal that was an appropriate fit for my writing.

After I landed my first poetry publication in Michelle McDannold’s Citizens for Decent Literature, I decided to submit to Gutter Eloquence Magazine again. This time, having spent the extra effort in shaping my poetry up and choosing the most appropriate fit for the magazine, I had my poem accepted.

The takeaway is this, when you submit your writing to a publisher and receive a personal rejection, you should know the following:

  1. Your writing is perceived to be of excellent quality by the publisher.
  2. There is a specific issue with your writing that led the publisher to passing on it, but that the work as a whole is strong.
  3. You should consider submitting a different manuscript to this publication at a later date.
  4. You should not submit the same manuscript with revised changes there, unless the publisher specifically asks you to do so. 
  5. You should find other journals or publishers that are stylistic fits for this manuscript, and after considering the revisions the publisher suggested, submit your writing again to a new publication.
  6. You should never argue the rejection with the publisher.

So, in short, while any rejection for a writer hurts, a personal rejection is actually a good thing. It means you are quite close to the mark, and with a few tweaks, you can easily publish your writing in that publication, or in a variety of others.

In success,
Alfonso Colasuonno

p.s. If you want to make the arduous task of publishing your writing easier, consider hiring me as your publishing consultant and/or editor.

30 Books You Must Read If You Want To Become A Literary Badass

In The Literary Game, I repeatedly mention the simple three-step process necessary for success in the literary world:

  1. Get to writing.
  2. Have your work edited.
  3. Find appropriate places to publish.

However, in truth, no matter how excellent an editor or publishing consultant you choose to work with, all your efforts will probably be for naught if you are not well-read.

Reading more is one of the most critical things that you can do to become a successful writer. Without a truly voracious love for the written word, your work will likely be stale, and not publishable. There are exceptions, but they are VERY rare, and you are probably NOT the exception.

Personally, as an author, I take it as an affront when writers do not read at all. I view those individuals as carpetbaggers. While some writers read more than others, as dependent on their lifestyle and other factors, it is important that all writers actually read – to improve their own work, and to support the profession as a whole.

My own writing tends to bridge the gap between literary fiction and alternative literature. If you write in either genre, getting familiar with a few of these books is essential. Also, if you write in a different genre, but just want a good read, consider the following:

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil – This isn’t a novel, but rather a recollection of the original 70s punk scene from the figures who lived it.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – Four outsiders in a small southern U.S. town search for acceptance and a reprieve from their alienation.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor – Like all of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories/novellas, this one is dark and saturated with religious themes.

Cathedral by Raymond Carver – In my opinion, this is the best collection of Raymond Carver’s short fiction.

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson – A young American journalist goes to Puerto Rico, makes a barebones salary, gets drunk, gets laid, and tries to avoid being killed by the natives.

Women by Charles BukowskiThe red pill of male-female interactions told only as Bukowski could.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – “I had to stop reading this because I started seeing people as meat.” – My friend Ben. That about says it all.

NW by Zadie Smith Two best friends navigate cross-cultural issues in modern day England.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – The best prose writer alive.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtenygart – For those sad bastard moments.

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth – Neurosis encapsulated.

Taipei by Tao Lin – Hipster life in the 21st century.

Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale by Chuck Kinder – The story of two hard-partying, life-wrecking buffoons who eventually make it as successful writers.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – Perhaps the best book written in the 21st century.

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem – From outcast white kid in a slowly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood to liberal arts college party boy to young professional. No, I cannot relate to this story in any way!

The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight – An entire movement was borne out of this book (Islamic punk).

Demonology by Rick Moody – An incredibly sharp collection of short fiction.

Junky by William S. Burroughs – Easily William S. Burroughs’ most accessible work.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – Satan comes to Moscow. Not going to make a Putin joke.

A Crackup at the Race Riots by Harmony Korine – This is postmodern writing done by the director of Gummo and Spring Breakers.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – One of the funniest books I have ever read.

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh – Explore how the lads of Trainspotting became junkies.

Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley – An interesting fictional look into the world of tobacco lobbying.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – A Greek-American family’s story as told through several generations, including through the life of a hermaphrodite.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon – Within 24 hours, your wife divorces you and you’re fired. What else can you do but drive across America talking to people? The finest travel writing I have ever read, and a personal inspiration to me as both a writer and free spirit.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn – Carnies are people too.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf – If you like sparse prose, Haruf was the master.

Black Hole by Charles Burns – In this graphic novel, a weird sexually transmitted disease is spread in suburban Seattle in the 1970s.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney – Writing in the 2nd person that is actually good!

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – A quote from the character Enid Coleslaw: “These stupid girls think they’re so hip, but they’re just a bunch of trendy stuck-up prep-school bitches who think they’re “cutting edge” because they know who “Sonic Youth” is!”

In success,
Alfonso Colasuonno
Publisher, The Literary Game

 

I’m Not Just An Editor and Publishing Consultant, I’m A Writer Too!

Unfortunately, it is all too common to see aspiring writers give up on their dreams after dealing with the initial frustrations that all writers face. Anyone who sets out to become a published author soon realizes that it is not a quick process. There is a great deal to learn about technique, networking, publishing, etc. before it is possible to make the leap into literary success.

The goal of The Literary Game is simple – to provide all the tools necessary to pave the path of success for aspiring writers. I trust that through my blog posts, Q&A service, and Fiction Writing 101 course, any aspiring writer would have all the free resources required to “learn the ropes.” Now, for those writers seeking more personalized and intensive assistance to speed up the process, I also provide my services for hire as an editor and publishing consultant.

While I have a grandiose vision for The Literary Game – to become the primary resource on the Internet for aspiring writers – I want my readers to know that I do not just write about writing, I actually write too! I would be honored if you would not only read my blog posts, but my creative writing, as well. I have created a new section of The Literary Game on the site’s dashboard, titled, appropriately enough, My Writing. Please feel free to browse through my original works of fiction and poetry. I would love to know what you think!

Reproduced below is one of my poems, originally published in The Camel Saloon.

At The Gatsby Party

by Alfonso Colasuonno

I love their cruelty,
the way they target you,
the way they straddle you,
like the horses they ride,
and the horses they request,
and I bear their decorum,
that false front,
behind the cocaine lines,
and the hammering up of Oxys,
and the trust accounts,
and the meds,
and the therapists,
and the galleries,
and the night life,
and the scornful glances at your closet,
and the way their hair curls
against the lightness of their eyes,
and the perfumes they wear,
and the lives of leisure they live,
and I say to them,
hey, rich girl,
and sometimes they reply.

I hope that this poem whet your appetite to read more of my creative writing.
In success,
Alfonso