Stop Being Solitary: How Others Are The Key To Your Success As A Writer

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” – Former U.S. President Barack Obama

I opened this post with President Obama’s quote because it can be applied perfectly to writers. From my position as publisher and co-founder of Beautiful Losers Magazine, I have seen that some of the best poets and short fiction writers are not in The New Yorker, Granta, or The Paris Review. Of course, that is not to say that the writers featured in those magazines are not exceptional talents, because by and large they are, but only that many talented writers are never discovered by the readership of these magazines. In many cases, these writers are equals to their more established peers in creativity, knowledge of the nuances of craft, and work ethic. So why are some writers exalted and others remain in obscurity? Perhaps because no one gave them some help along the way.

Writing can be seen as a solitary profession, and to some extent it is, but there are many instances where receiving help can be the difference between success and anonymity. Here are a few ways in which others can help you along in your path as a writer:

1. Editing. Every writer needs an editor. My short fiction wouldn’t be nearly as good if my editors Rairigh Drum and Lauren Rubin didn’t examine every piece that I write and offer constructive suggestions towards improving them. The same holds true for my forthcoming book with Vakasha Brenman. Writers have a blind side when it comes to their own work. To gain an agent’s representation or get writing accepted in competitive literary magazines, working with an editor is mandatory. It’s my mission to help talented writers succeed in the literary game, and I want to help 100 writers who have never been published before have their work published. That’s why I offer editing services. If you have an unpublished manuscript that needs a thorough edit, I want to help you. You can read more about my services by clicking here.

2. Networking. Your manuscript may be well-written and edited to a publishable standard; however, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be able to attract an agent’s interest and be on the fast track to a contract with a big publisher. If you are completely divorced from the network of writers, voracious readers, agents, and publishers, you are missing a golden opportunity to advance. Forming friendships with other writers, influential readers, or those involved in the business of literature can have immense benefits, not the least of which is putting your manuscript before a person in a decision-making position.

3. Inspiration. It happens to all of us, we start writing and hit a wall. Our mood drops, the ideas stop coming, and the frustration sets in. This is where friends, family, and romantic partners come in. The next time your writing hits a wall, get connected with others, and watch how easy the words will come to you when you resume your writing.

What other benefits do you find from turning to others? Comment below to share your thoughts.

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated!

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Five Benefits To Starting A Literary Magazine

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It’s been a while! I apologize for the lack of posts, but I’ve been extremely busy with other projects since last November. Quick update: I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for Supersonic Productions and a non-fiction book for a New York City-based nonprofit. In combination with my duties as co-founder and publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, free time has been at a minimum. Still, no excuses, right? On with the show!

Right here on WordPress, when I was scrolling through my feed, I found an incredibly talented writer named Dario Cannizzaro  We became friends, and he introduced me to his friend Austin Wiggins. They told me about their plan to start a literary magazine, and I was intrigued. I had started a couple of literary magazines in the past, but they had fizzled out for various reasons. Now, with a couple of high-character partners, we set out to start a literary magazine, and the rest is history.

Has running a literary magazine been easy? Not always! But it has definitely been worth it, and for many writers, choosing to start a literary magazine can be an incredibly valuable experience. Here are a few reasons that I’ve found as to how starting a literary magazine can be extremely beneficial for writers. If you know of any that I’ve missed, make sure to leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps!

  1. Networking. If you’re not Cormac McCarthy or Junot Diaz, you probably could benefit from gaining some new contacts to help advance your writing career. Running a literary magazine affords you the opportunity to network with talented writers. If you accept an author’s work, or even if you send them a personal rejection, you can start a conversation that can lead to some incredible contacts with ties to editors, publishers, and literary agents. Personally, I’ve become good friends with someone who’s collaborated with elite-level Hollywood directors. Pretty good for a budding screenwriter, right?
  2. Immersion. I understand that you might have to hold down that 9-5 until your literary dreams come true, but what are you doing on your time off? Starting a literary magazine gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the culture of writers. You’re responsible for reading countless submissions, so that means putting Netflix aside, logging off Facebook, and learning from your contemporaries.
  3. Credibility. If you’re submitting short stories or poetry to literary magazines, or manuscripts to literary agents, running a competitive literary journal shows that you have some skin in the literary game. If a journal or agent is on the fence about your work, this could be what tips someone in your favor.
  4. Friendship. Whether you choose to go solo or partner with others on your litmag, your dedication will likely attract the attention of other likeminded people, and many of the most valuable friendships of your life may develop.
  5. Discipline. Starting a literary magazine is a form of leadership. Your readers are dependent on you putting out excellent content. Your writers are dependent on you screening submissions in a timely fashion. As a writer, discipline is critical, even more so than talent. Working day in and day out on your magazine can instill the necessary work ethic needed for success in the literary game.

Have any questions about starting a literary magazine? Comment below and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts! If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! 

 

Five Easy Ways To Become Inspired To Write

Suffering from a lack of inspiration? Major case of writer’s block? Try these five easy ways to get inspired to write!

  1. Reading. Seeing the characters, concepts, and ideas of other writers can stimulate your own creative juices.
  2. Silence.  Too much stress in your life? Take some time out to relax and watch your creativity shine.
  3. Fun. All work and no play makes for dull writing. See friends, go out, have fun – you might just have a memorable experience worth writing about!
  4. Others’ Stories. Go on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or through your cell phone address book. Ask yourself what interesting things can be fictionalized from your friends’ experiences? A helpful note: If it’s embarrassing to them, change the details to protect your friendship.
  5. Writing Prompts. Still completely baffled? When all else fails, there’s a wealth of writing prompts online.

What do you do when you’re out of ideas? Please share a comment to help other writers in this predicament!

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

Drinking At A Soviet Bar On My 33rd Birthday With The Guy Who Did The Song From Revenge of the Nerds

Running a literary magazine has its perks, believe me. Sure, it can be a chore to read through countless submissions, strategize on how to build engagement with readers and writers, and plot on how to scale up at an appropriate time, but there are some interesting things that come along with the job. Like meeting Leslie Bohem.

Les Bohem is an accomplished screenwriter (he wrote Dante’s Peak and wrote and co-produced, with Stephen Spielberg, the SyFy Channel show Taken), and musician (ex-member of Sparks and Gleaming Spires). More than his accomplishments, he’s a hell of a guy, and funny to boot. So, of course, the story of how I met Les Bohem started with a rejection letter from Beautiful / Losers Magazine.

Running Beautiful / Losers Magazine with two other editors, Dario Cannizzaro and Austin Wiggins, while simultaneously having a policy of pieces only getting accepted if they’re voted in unanimously, means that many amazing writers get rejected. Austin, Dario, Drew Gorman (who no longer is an editor with us,  but was at the time) and I all have different tastes, yet we all desire to uphold extremely high standards for publication. And so good pieces get rejected. Like Les’ first piece he submitted to us.

What made me reach out to Les after the rejection letter? Well, I did vote yes on his initial piece, but more than that, he was the frontman for Gleaming Spires. Gleaming Spires! If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, you must remember their iconic song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” A classic, one which I admitted to Les that I pirated off Napster when I was in high school. A pardonable offense clearly, although I do owe him a round for that. It’s justified.

Through our correspondence, we built a friendship, and when I learned that his son (Charlie Keys Bohem, a talented writer in his own right) was a student at Vassar College, the alma mater of my fiancee Lauren Rubin, well then, the bond was cemented. With an impending move to Baltimore from Norwalk, Connecticut the next day, I invited Les to join me and Lauren for some drinks at KGB Bar, a super chill hipster bar decorated with tons of Soviet paraphernalia in New York’s East Village. And he accepted.

We had an amazing time hanging out and drinking with Les Bohem. Sparks were a seminal band in the LA scene, Dante’s Peak was a great movie, and Taken was one of the most ambitious miniseries I’ve ever seen, but I’ll remember that night as the night I drank with the guy who did the song from Revenge of the Nerds. Cross that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

Why It’s Important To Celebrate Other Writers’ Success

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A friend of mine who is a successful poet quipped, and in my opinion, not untruthfully, “Writers hate other writers.”

Unfortunately, what he said rings true. For many of us, rather than celebrating when other writers’ achieve a success, we utilize it as an opportunity to deride. Some writers will even extend this into their own circles of friends, turning against any writer who starts to amass a degree of success. This practice is not only in bad form, but it can also hinder a writer’s career.

Here are a few reasons why writers should celebrate other writers’ successes:

  1. The literary world is vast. There are many literary journals, publishing houses, contests, grants, and awards. You have a wideness of options as you go forward in your literary career and thus there’s no need to perceive any other writer as your competition.
  2.  Bad reputations become known. Writers talk amongst each other. So do editors and other literary figures. If you have a reputation as someone looking to bring enmity into the literary community, there is a possibility that your writing will be blacklisted, regardless of its quality.
  3. Successful writers can become valuable resources. In writing, like in anything else in life, successful individuals have far more power to influence and bring about the success of others. It is not wise to alienate people who can help you in your own literary career.
  4. It feels good. The simplest and most important reason is this – it makes the world a better place when you spread positivity rather than negativity. You will feel better when you make others feel good and this will lead to more creativity and productivity.

How do you feel about this topic? Do you think that within the literary community there is a significant amount of tension between writers? Leave a comment below to start this discussion.

 

The Importance of Reviews for Independent Writers

I am going to tell you a secret: As a general rule, I do not read independent writers. 

Perhaps I am biased. I have seen a handful of talented figures who are not publishing with literary journals or publishing houses through the blogosphere and through various publishing operations. They are the exceptions.

I was weaned on weighty writers who wrote heavy, simple, and philosophical fiction: Raymond Carver; Flannery O’Connor; Carson McCullers; Kent Haruf; etc. The intelligence and humanity of these writers doesn’t appear on indies much at all. Hell, that kind of intelligence and humanity doesn’t appear much even on the Big 5 or anywhere outside of the University of Iowa.

Indie writers can call me a conservative or wrong or whatever, but instead of calling me and those of my ilk names, what they ought to consider doing is concentrate on getting reviews.

I know an excellent website called Indie-Pendent Steam. The site is operated by Virginia Arthur. Virginia does not pull any punches in her reviews. If your writing needs work, even though you paid her for a review, she will still call it as it is. The good news for budding writers though is that Virginia will not post bad reviews, instead she will default to proofreading such work instead. Even with caring professionals like Virginia who take steps to protect the reputation of independent writers, many do not have the mental toughness to handle bad reviews, even if no one sees them. That’s a horrible character trait in any writer. Still, if you are an indie writer and want to prove people wrong and get people reading your stuff, you need to obtain some reviews to build that initial traction and pique readers’ interest.

As an editor, I am as tough as possible on my writers because to flatter with kind words will not serve any aspiring writer intent on crafting excellent fiction. As a book reviewer, Virginia takes a similar approach. If you’re an independent writer, you should seriously consider working with Virginia. Her book reviews are fair and unbiased. Her reviews actually hold weight with readers because there’s a quality attached to her opinion.