Wednesday, May 11, 2011

13 WOW Wednesday: Amy Fellner Dominy with Advice about Getting Published

Today's WOW guest, Amy Dominy, is a former advertising copywriter. She got her MFA in 2004 with an emphasis in playwriting, and her plays have been staged across the country. She’s published in both children’s plays and short stories, but OyMG is her first teen novel. You can catch her at her web site, on facebook, or on twitter.  OyMG is out May 10, 2011 from Walker and Company. Amy is repped by Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown.

Advice for Writers Who Want to Publish

by Amy Fellner Dominy

Up until eighteen months ago, I was a writer just like you, struggling to break through and looking for advice. And not just any advice. The magical, secret, easy-to-follow advice that would unlock the door and lead to a publishing contract…a multi-book deal…a blockbuster hit…a spot on Oprah’s book list…. (Why dream small, right?)

I didn’t want to hear about finding my own path or discovering my own process. I didn’t want to read about characters who magically appeared in author’s minds and spoke to them. I wanted something concrete and tangible. Give me rules I can follow!

So, let’s forget for a moment that you actually do need to find your own path and discover your own process (through trial and error). And let’s also forget that there are no magical answers except for hard work (which isn’t very magical but does lead to amazing things). INSTEAD… I’m going to give you what I always wanted—an unshakeable, unbreakable RULE. If you want to make the leap from writer to author, you MUST follow this rule. You ready? It’s only two words. Maybe the two most important words for an author—and ones that many writers NEVER use. Can you guess what they are?

THE END

Simply stated, you’ve got to finish a book. You must reach the point where the only thing left of the first draft are the words, THE END.

It’s as simple as that.

But it’s also far from easy.

It’s HARD to finish a book. I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing, an emotional barrier, an invisible wall in our minds, but I know it’s a real problem because I struggled with it for years. In fact, I’m a semi-expert in the never-ending book. I can tell you exactly how it happens:

I begin a new story. I love my characters and the idea, and I zip off to a wonderful start. This usually goes on until I hit about 15,000 words. For whatever reason, no matter how much I think I’ve outlined and planned, I hit the murky middle and struggle. I flail my way to the halfway mark and I know I need to forge ahead. Except, hmmm, what about that scene back in chapter 2? It could use some tweaking…and now that I read the beginning, I see a better opening line….

Before I know it, I’m revising my story over and over, and the end is nowhere in sight.

But wait, you say, I’m still writing and working on my book. My butt is in the chair and I’m still being productive. I’m improving what I’ve got and learning as I go, right? Yeah, well. I told myself the same thing. But the fact is, I started OyMG in 2006. I didn’t sell the book in 2006, 2007, or 2008. Why? Because during those years I was “improving” it.

I sold OyMG in 2009. Why? Because that’s the year I finished it.

Now, maybe I’m just preaching to the choir. You know you should finish a book, but if was easy you’d already have done it. So exactly how can you reach THE END? Here’s where the rule smudges into recommendations. I can’t tell you what will work, but I can tell you some things that have worked for me:

1. Do not look at your manuscript when you open it up. Pull the cursor down to the end of the file and do not peek until you’re there. You may read the last page you wrote to get a feel, but that’s it. Then, you must write something new.

2. Give yourself a word count for each day and don’t let it include any revision work.

3. The night before, or that morning while you’re sipping your coffee and gathering your thoughts, plan what scene you’re going to write next. Be prepared for something new.

4. When you finish your writing for the day, try not to finish at the end of a scene. Write a sentence or two of your next scene so you’re not looking at a blank page when you start the next day.

5. When you start work on a rough draft, try not to go a single day without adding even a sentence or a paragraph. Stay immersed in your book. The longer the break you take, the harder it is to find your way forward. Now, when I start a new book, I force myself to write the rough draft as fast as possible—at least 1,000 words a day. It’s not easy and it’s not fun, and my rough draft isn’t pretty. But—it does get done.

And then I can begin the real writing: Revision.

But that’s another story for another day.

And with that, I will wish you all good luck.

THE END

13 comments:

  1. Great advice Amy. I do admit I fall into reading what I wrote and sometimes not having time to move forward. Thanks for the suggestions on how to avoid that.

    Good luck with your book. I love the title.

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  2. thank you! refreshing reminder.
    xx

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  3. Ha! I have some friends who never finish writing their stories. I finish mine but ugh, what is it about 15k that gives writers the heebie jeebies? That's such a tough spot! I do have one book that never made it past that point.

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  4. Wow. This was just what I needed. Writing is new to me, and often I'm flailing, just in living everyday life and now trying to fit writing into it. This post is now in my notebook of posts to return to. Thank you.

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  5. Amy, great post. The End. See, it can be done :)
    Great advice.

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  6. Still working on my tendency to go back over what I wrote the day before. Baby steps.

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  7. Great advice, Amy. I try to push forward when I write, too.

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  8. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. You've got me smiling because I'm reminded that so many of our writing struggles are universal. It's nice to know we're all in this together--figuring stuff out and learning from each other. :-)

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  9. Thanks, Amy! I have an especially difficult time ending my writing day 1-2 sentences into my next scene. I still complete the scene/chapter and call it a day, then wonder what I'll do that next day. I might have to retrain my brain!

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  10. To me, this is brilliant advice, because this is exactly the way I work :D

    I don't look back during the first draft. At all. If I did, I'd never finish. 1,000 per day, no looking back, making notes of what I want to tweak and where. So far it's working for me!

    Thanks for the inspiration, and good luck with your book!

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  11. Great advice Amy! I wouldn't say I'm a writer by any means, more a dabbler, really, but if I were to seriously start writing, these are some great guidelines to go by.

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  12. Thanks Amy and Congrats on the release of your book! It was a refreshing reminder as I am so close to The End in my wip but I find myself getting the "revision itch", but keep telling myself I must finish first.

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  13. When you're sitting in front of your laptop, dragging out word after reluctant word, the most re-assuring thing I can read is this quote:

    "It’s not easy and it’s not fun, and my rough draft isn’t pretty."

    I'm going to remember those words on those days when writing isn't easy or fun. And maybe I should remember them on the days when it is, just so I can be doubly grateful.

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