December 4, 2012

no. 1: eight tips for eight days of hanukkah

Blogger's Note: Welcome to the first day of Change the Word's Second Annual 12 Days of Writing. Kicking off the series is author Jackie Pilossoph. I was fortunate to review her books Jackpot! and Free Gift With Purchase earlier this year, and I'm glad to feature her on the blog, again. Be sure to check the end of the post to learn how you can win this week's prize package.

No. 1: Eight Tips for Eight Days of Hanukkah

By Jackie Pilossoph
Author of Free Gift With Purchase, Jackpot! and Hook, Line and Sink Him

Since I could possibly be the only Jewish participant in Change the Word’s 12 Days of Writing, I decided to base my blog on a Hanukkah theme, and since there are eight nights of Hanukkah, I would like to share eight writing tips with you.

The short story of Hanukkah is that when the Maccabees successfully rebelled against Antiochus, the temple was purified, and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though they only had enough oil for one day. So, Jewish people light eight candles for the eight miraculous days.

Now, I don’t think my eight writing tips are going to produce miracles for anyone, but I hope they will give you some information that might help you become a better writer. Even more so, I hope they inspire you.

I have to give my standard disclaimer that by no means am I claiming to be an expert, or to know everything. I’m just sharing with you what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

So, here are the tips:

1. Market your manuscripts during the holidays. Agents and publishers pretty much shut down from Thanksgiving through the first of the year. I know this because when I’ve queried them in the past during this time, I have gotten automated messages back that they are out of the office until January something (the Monday after the first.) Here’s a great tip, though. A lot of them are checking their emails and a lot of them are working. AND, since other writers think that none of them are working, they aren’t sending queries. Plus, the writers shut down too. So, you have a chance to stand out. I could be wrong, but I say query during this time. It could pay off.

2. Write during the holidays. The holidays are a great time for spending quality time with your loved ones and taking a break from your job, right? Well, since you aren’t working at your day job, and there’s probably only a limited time you spend with your family before they start driving you nuts, take an hour or two a day and work on your next manuscript. There’s a lot of down time during the holidays. Take advantage of it!

3. Write about what’s going on in your life. A few years ago, I was in a relationship that I knew wasn’t going to last forever, but it was fun, exciting, and romantic and I seriously felt like the main character in a novel. So, what did I do? I wrote about it WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING. I would just journal it because I knew that if I didn’t write it down, I would forget the strong feelings that I was experiencing at the time. What was the result? 4 years later: my novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE was published, with so much of that stuff in it. Your writing will be better if you write about something that’s going on presently, because you will have more passion in it.

4. Make someone go “huh." This is a tip I just heard from my brother-in-law. He told me that one of his English professors in college said to him one time, “Make me go, huh.” In other words, make him think about something that came unexpected to him. If you make someone think about their life in some way that they wouldn’t otherwise have done, you are doing your job as an author effectively. So, when writing, think to yourself, “Will someone read this and go, ‘huh?’”

5. You need readers! Before I publish a manuscript (or send it to a publisher or agent) I ask 20 women to read it. Some are friends, and some are women I don’t know very well, who I know read my genre a lot. I then ask for feedback-bad and good. I beg people to be honest with me and trust me, they have been. I have gotten amazing suggestions just from normal people, normal meaning they aren’t professionals, they are simply readers and women who are my demographic. They are a sample of the population of whom I’m trying to sell to. I swear by this! Don’t be afraid to show people your work, and don’t feel bad when they tell you something isn’t good. They are saving you!!

6. Don’t be jealous of other writers’ successes. When Fifty Shades of Grey became an overnight success, I think I turned 50 shades of green. I was pissed. I thought, ‘How can this horrible book have done so well and mine still not a best seller?!’ To say I was bitter is an understatement. Then, I talked to my dad (a retired successful businessman) who told me to be happy for the woman who got rich writing about deviant sex, and focus on myself. “Keep the ship heading North,” he said, “Don’t steer away. Keep driving the boat.” In other words, keep writing, keep marketing, keep learning what works and what doesn’t. Your Fifty Shades of Grey success will come one day if you don’t give up.

7. Edit, edit, edit! There is no bigger turn off to agents and publishers than typos. In this market, you almost have to have a perfect manuscript. Typos just aren’t tolerated. They’re actually not even tolerated by readers! A woman bought Jackpot! on amazon (actually she might have gotten it for free during one of my promotional days) and she wrote a complaint letter to amazon that there were five typos in the book. I seriously think it’s almost impossible to not have a some typos, but the fewer the better.

8. Write from the heart. The biggest piece of advice I can give to writers is that you have to write from the heart. Don’t be afraid to let it out and put your soul on the table. If you hold back, it will be really obvious in your writing. Forget about embarrassment, what people will think, what your parents will say. Don’t worry that your ex-boyfriend is going to read it and call you up and scream at you. The best writing comes from our own experiences, and sometimes it’s not easy to take your dirty laundry and air it to the world, but if you are bothering to write a book, and putting time and money into it, don’t do it half way. Go the distance, and have the guts to go all the way. On that note, wait till my next book! Hee hee hee!!

There are your eight tips, NOT miracles, just sound advice from someone who’s been around.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a very happy, healthy and PRODUCTIVE new year!!

About Jackie
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of Free Gift With Purchase, Jackpot! and Hook, Line and Sink Him. She is also a freelance newspaper reporter and corporate writer. Pilossoph holds a masters degree in communications, and is getting her next novel ready for release.

Connect with Jackie
Twitter: @pilossophsbooks
Facebook: jackie.pilossoph

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  1. I appreciate getting some different writing tips. Thanks, Jackie, for an enjoyable read with content to chew on!

  2. Good things to think about. Like Sharon, I appreciate getting some tips that aren't the same things I read everywhere. Looking forward to 11 more days of writing on change the word!

  3. Great tips. Thank you! I especially needed the reminder to not be distressed about the success of "50 Shades" and just keep chugging along with my own work.

  4. I follow a lot of these writing tips since I write my blog like my journal, so I could not agree with you more, these are great:)

  5. Thanks for the great tips. They were really helpful and have definitely made me think. I follow some of these tips but some are new to me.