You Have an Agent….What Happens Next?

Nothing can bring more joy, and then confusion, than when an agent asks to see your manuscript and then subsequently sends you a contract. But before I begin, let’s start with your work. Do not, under any circumstance, submit your work to any agent unless your manuscript is complete, and has been edited.  By edited I mean edited by a professional editor. If an agent loves your submission they will ask to see your work. . . . every word until The End.

An agent will send you a contract. Whether you are self-published, or have waited patiently for years to find an agent, when the contract arrives you must shelve your excitement and shift into business mode.

Writing is a business. Remember that sentence; it is important.

Authors tend to experience what I call, “A Sally Field” moment. When an agent, or publishing company, asks to see your work we think: they like me . . . they really like me.

However, an agent didn’t request to see your manuscript because s/he likes you. Your agent requested to see your manuscript because they saw something in your submission they thought they could sell to a publishing house. Something in your characters, or your story- or both – caught their eye and at that moment your agent, or publisher, thought I can turn this manuscript into a sellable book.

Publishing a book, while exciting and euphoric for you, is a business transaction for the team working on your manuscript.

Here are your agent’s duties:

* Read through your manuscript and locate a market for your work

* Work with you to create a sellable manuscript. This means editing your submission (This is a non-negotiable step. Your manuscript will require additional edits (plural) once a publisher accepts it. More on that later.

*  Network with everyone they can think of to sell your book

*  Sell your book

*  Negotiate the best price possible for your book

*  Negotiate the legal contract with the publisher (authors should prepare for a two-book deal)

*  Receive royalties and distribute them to you, the author

*  The agent will not, help you market your book.

My Agent Sold My Book . . . Now What?

At this phase, you, the author, are ready to see the printed book.

You still have months, (more like a year) to wait until your book is ready. During that time, please work on your second manuscript. (You will thank me later).

Once a publisher has expressed interest and your agent has sent you another contract, the manuscript goes into what I call “the hopper.” Big publishing houses meticulously schedule the release of their titles. By September, publishers know every title they will release the following year. Your book will have a “birthday.” Its birthday is non-negotiable. Remember, writing is a business. The publishing company works hard to stay in business. Therefore, the team working on your book knows the precise moment the readers will welcome your book. You, the author, do not.

What Do You Mean I need to Re-edit My Book?

Fledgling authors and those who have previously self-published often get confused when they learn that their book will require further edits. Let’s be honest, editing is an expensive step that most self-published authors skip. If you have previously self-published, most likely you have asked your spouse, your momma, and your best friend to read your work. These are the same people who won’t tell you when you have spinach in your teeth, or toilet paper attached to the bottom of your shoe. They maybe teachers, English majors, and your most trusted advisor, but riddle me this, what do they know about the business of books?

Publishing houses have staff devoted to editing your book. They edit books for breakfast. Not to offend, but your Momma does not.

What is my editor’s job?:

In short, your assigned editor has one job. Molding the manuscript your agent submitted into something readers will like well enough to read from cover to cover.

Your editor’s job is not:

Being your new best friend; your editor already has friends.

Tiptoeing around your ego; your editor is paid to work on paragraphs, not your psyche.

Arguing with you about the finer points of Southern Vernacular or local slang.

So What is My Editor’s Job?

Your editors (notice the plural) will take your manuscript and cut it, mold it, then send it back to you with cryptic messages like: tighten this.

What does that mean?

When I work with authors I try to ease them into the real world of publishing, but here are the facts, most authors who have previously self published did so because they needed control. They wanted to “own” their work and they did not want to go through the painful gestational book-pregnancy-period. Secretly, they wanted an agent and a large publishing house, but only if that meant they could control every aspect of their book.

Ouch. Did you expect anything but honesty from me?

Veteran Authors understand that editing is a crucial phase. They trust their editors. Editing will occur. Authors can either work with their editor to create something wonderful, or bash themselves against stones and burn out on the publishing process.

Have you forgotten, you signed a two-book deal?

In short, editing is about trust. You no longer own your book, you signed those rights away during the agent-euphoria process. Your endorsement of the contract meant I trust you to convert my manuscript into something readers will love.

What does Editing Look Like?

I know what you are thinking, what a ridiculous heading. I know what editing looks like. Oh my friend, perhaps you do not. Editing has many faces. Consider this example.

Self-publishing Editing

Momma and ’em have looked at your work and pronounced it (and you) perfect. Just cross a couple t’s and add a few comas and you’re good to go. (They do not mention the spinach in your teeth).

Vanity-press Editing

For clarity, the term “vanity” press is industry-defined as a company the author pays to take their document and convert it into a bound book. Very little editing-other than a cursory read-through- is done. You pay them. They deliver a book and off you go to pound the pavement and sell your book. Perhaps you have tried this in the past and determined there was a better way, hence the agent and larger press.

Small-press and Academic- Press Editing

Small presses are legitimate, hard-working presses who release a dozen or so carefully selected titles. Their editing process goes like this. You deliver a hard-copy manuscript. An editor marks on it, returns it to you and expects you to make the corrections they suggest.

That is phase one.

Phase two comes after you have made the suggested corrections. The editor reviews your corrections (not the entire manuscript again, they do not have time), the book goes to the next phase, and the next employee. I should also add that most-likely you will not know your editor. Small presses rarely reveal the identity of their editing staff. That protects their employees from fledgling insecure authors who believe their submission will be a NYT bestseller.

Middle and Large-Press Editing

Most editing is done electronically.

The author receives an e-document that has been edited using the “track changes” option.  Portions of the manuscript may have moved from one place to another in order to create “better flow.” The editor, who is a professional and expects that they are working with the same, writes what may appear as cryptic messages: (remove echo, tighten, dialect, flesh out character, more movement, redundant, this is a “darling, kill it”) just to name a few.

By the way a “darling” is perhaps your favorite part of the manuscript. Don’t get married to it my dear, odds are you love it too much. (More on darlings in a later post).

An editor works for your manuscript, not you, the author. The editor is devoted to words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters. If an author becomes angry, puffed up and argumentative their road will be long and rocky. Enter into this the time-frame. Readers are wishy-washy. They love vampires one day, zombies the next. As an aside, do not write about either. And, since the book industry is ever-changing one should expect this. Authors should be very careful during the editing stage. Learn to separate yourself from your emotions. People talk and it takes one word to ruin your career. One. Making a correction to your manuscript is not the end of the world; it is part of the pruning process. Pruning makes you a better author (we can all use a little pruning); and, pruning your manuscript allows it to grow

I have a New Editor . . . Now What?

Employee turnover is common, perhaps even expected, in the publishing industry. It is rare to have the same editor two books in a row. It is also rare to have an agent for an extended period of time. The same editor who worked on the last New York Times Bestseller had honed her skills for years. She knew the business, knew the readers, and knew how to take a good manuscript and make it better. She has just received a promotion within the company. She is an Agent now and has just handed your manuscript over to someone who now works for her. That new editor may send you a second “round of edits” because the new editor knows how to hone a good manuscript into a great book.

My First Book is Out and Now Everything Has Changed Again . . . What do I do?

You have experienced the emotional highs and lows of editing, and survived. Now it is time to write the second book in your two-book contract. You’ve learned a lot: shelved your emotions, perfected your craft. Congratulations. Your next manuscript will be better than the first. But wait, you have been assigned another new editor who wants you to submit your content as you write.

Yes. As you write.

By your second book, the publisher expects that the author has learned to submit their best work. Your editor is investing their time in another fledgling author, which is why they ask you to submit your work in fifty page increments. If you have a completed manuscript editors will, of course, accept it as a whole. However, if you have incomplete work they want to see it as well. They will edit as you write, which may or may not be a comfortable situation for an author. This new process allows an editor to mold the story from the beginning. Once completed there will be another round of edits before copy-editing (which is proofreading and fitting the words to the pages as they will appear in the finished book).

Hopefully, this lengthy blog post has explained the editing process. If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section. Feel free to share any editorial experiences you have had. As always, I believe that knowledge is power. The more educated you can be about the process, the less stress you feel during the book gestation period. There is a reason seasoned authors call their work a “book baby.” The delivery process is rarely without pain, but once you hold your baby for the first time everything you have experienced is worth the journey.

My best to you, always.

GEORGIAWRITERSPHOTORenea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches which  Mercer University Press will release in September and Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  Those confused about the publishing process should purchase a copy of her book, Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.  Renea is the judge of many prestigious Georgia Author awards, and is part of the Make Your Mark Publishing editing team. Meet Renea in Savannah at the Red Clay Conference Georgia’s Moveable Literary Feast where she will lead a workshop and offer critiques. Reserve a space for your manuscript here. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

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Stepping over to the e-side Why I released Mountain Memories exclusively through Kindle

 

Readers who have either met me briefly or who are life-long friends know that I am a champion for the printed word and Independent Booksellers. I’ll do just about anything to help those folk out which is why I dressed up in overalls and rode a stick pony while filming the Harlem Shake at The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia and why I delivered a jug of “the recipe” for the “Mountain Women” event at FoxTale in Woodstock. When I’m not in a bookstore, I’m in the library giving readers the opportunity to meet Billy Albertson, the man behind my first book. I am a self-appointed author cheerleader, linking their latest releases and events the moment I learn about it. I prefer, without debate, a real printed book. So why did I release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia exclusively through Kindle?

 

In a word: Money. mountainmemoriescover

 

Just writing those words make me feel dirty. Y’all know me for my honesty and there it is: money.  I don’t have any pie-in-the-sky notions about becoming independently wealthy with Mountain Memories. Honestly, I am very nervous about this e-book release. My tummy is all queasy, I’ve been weepy. I am just not myself. I want in my heart, to release a printed version, but I am eyeball deep in my novel. There is a conundrum authors’ experience, the fear of loosing readers. My first book came out in the fall of 2010, a lifetime ago in the publishing world. I know that I must act, must keep engaging readers who fell in love with my first book In the Garden with Billy. If not, they will forget about me. That is the cold hard truth we don’t discuss at the dinner table.

 

This May my critique buddy, (and pretty fantastic author) Carmen Slaughter, noted that it was National Short Story Month. I already had the twitch to return to short stories, where I cut my teeth and first put pen to paper. Yes, I write every single word on paper first. I can’t help myself. While I wrote Amazon established a new division for “shorts.” Acceptance into the shorts program requires approval by an employee of the company. Like them or not, Amazon recognizes trends, or perhaps sets them. I dunno. I have long said the trend is toward more short stories, what with our constant interruptions and no-time-to read.

 

My collection gives voice to my people. My people aren’t stereotypically southern, we’re rural Appalachia. There is a difference. I also know that no publisher, unless it is a vanity press, would print my regional collection. I know this. Independent Booksellers know this. You, the reader, now know this. My words had no home and y’all know how desperately I need a home.

 

As Carmen monitored my progress I typed and challenged myself to write words that might surprise readers. I want to grow, remain fresh, unpredictable. Feeling like I was handing a chunk of my heart, I sent a story to Carmen, then to Beverly who was my first reader, and finally to Laurie, who is a bookseller. While they read I polished Mountain Memories. Then, a miracle happened. Mercer University Press accepted Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Cue the Peanuts Happy Dance and Hallelujahs!! I am over the moon, humbled, honored and deeply indebted to Mercer University for taking a chance on this terrific book, which is a sequel to In the Garden. The publisher is excited. I am excited. Billy is excited. However, the book won’t be ready until 2014, and 2014 is a long way away my friends, which brings us back to money.

 

Dental bills, car repairs, and the high cost of everyday living; writing is my job. Not to mention the emergency garage door repair (don’t y’all breathe a word to my husband about that….promise?). I know I am preaching to the choir. I know that some of you are nodding as you read this. And (hang on here comes more honesty), authors only receive about one dollar per copy of every book sold. Doesn’t it always come down to money? And don’t we always feel punched-in-the-gut about our lack of money. So there you have it.

 

Now you know, the reason why I chose to release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia via Kindle. I’m no technical guru. I don’t own an iphone or any thing that starts with an i; but a little birdie told me that you can also read Mountain Memories by other avenues. Amazon has links that allow you to read using Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac, ipad, iphone, or even your eyeball (haha). Click the link here to choose what works for you. And know, truly know, that I appreciate every single one of you. I do not take lightly your purchase. $ 2.99 might not be much for some, but for me, it is and I am thankful for you. In appreciation, if you leave a review on Amazon and email me the comment through my website HERE I will email you a short story FOR FREE.

 

Those who don’t have an e-reader, can purchase a pdf copy directly from me through my website www.reneawinchester.com

 

Here’s a little tease. An example of a  true tale and half truth.

 

From: Remembering:[this is a true tale] 

 

We are here.

 

Here, where wild hogs have ploughed the ground and the ditch doesn’t drain well anymore. Here, where Cinnamon ferns throw spores to the wind, where fronds unfurl and ferns grow tall; already four feet even though it is only mid-May. Here, where our ancestors rest in peace. The gardeners in the group covet Mother Nature’s ability to hide treasures such as this. Mother Nature does an excellent job hiding the graves of our people behind a hedge of brambles. For that we are thankful. Otherwise their resting place might be disturbed by folk who don’t understand the importance of heritage.

 

We are here, in our place heart longs to visit, where our soul finds rest. We are here, where we our people expect us to be each year at this same time. We are in a place others know as western North Carolina. In a place millions know as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We are here, in a place our people fought to save; in a place they never wanted to leave.

 

We are home.

 

Feeling their spirit, I quickly wipe away tears and gather the flowers made of tissue paper, just like Aunt Edna used to make. I think she’s pleased her tradition remains. Each year I assemble the flowers using recycled paper and pick buds from my own garden. I am unwilling to adorn graves with plastic, partially out of concern for the environment, but primarily because I want to honor the old ways. There were no plastic flowers back then; only fresh-cut stems placed in glass jars, or colorful paper twisted around pipe cleaners.

 

The hike to the cemetery is strenuous. Even the youngest family member stops to rest or beg the nearest adult for a piggyback ride. As we ascend, native flowers such as Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium, greet me. As does the rose bush my great grandmother planted where the combination church and schoolhouse once stood. Again I smile. There is still something left of her in these woods, even if I am the only one who remembers. The government may own the land, but I own my memories.

 

From Nathaniel Preston’s Funeral [this is a half truth]

 

Mittie Cleveland walked down the aisle of the First Baptist Church like she once had many years ago. Fifty years had passed since her feet last touched the maroon-colored carpet. On that day her future husband had fiddled with his watch while she marched slowly toward the minister and a man she adored, a man who would never return the adoration. Mittie interpreted the gesture−a toe tap anticipation−as eagerness, that her future husband was excited about their new life together. As she inched forward the baby growing inside her womb kicked for the first time. Smiling then, she had looked into the pale blue eyes of a man she barely knew and pledged her life to his, until death parted them. She had not known then, because it is impossible to know ones husband well on your wedding day, that impatience, not eagerness caused him to wind his watch. Mittie quickly learned that neither patience, nor fidelity, was her husband’s strong suit.

 

Author Conference at Kennesaw, Georgia May 18, 2013

May and June are typically the busiest months for book releases and writing conferences. This year I have the honor of leading a workshop titled, Creating Memorable Characters Through Dialogue. 

Dialogue is an excellent way to describe a character without saying, “she had red curly hair,” or “she was angry.”

Remember, words are power. While it is the author’s job to create believable characters, they should also develop memorable characters. Dialogue is an excellent way to do that.

For those who can’t attend the conference, here is one of the many tips I’ll share. This is an excellent way to find the voice of your protagonist. Sit down, literally, with them. Have a discussion. Ask questions. Listen for their response. Interview them. Document their responses.

What you don’t want to do is force your protagonist, or antagonist. Making them bend to your will is a recipe for disaster.

Now, regarding using dialogue. Under the show, not tell category, my beloved friend and mentor, Wilma Dykeman, could have written Lydia was desperate, hungry to read books.

Instead she used dialogue in her book The Tall Woman. She used it brilliantly I might add, in the following excerpt:

Lydia speaking after learning she was denied access to books.

“No need to be down-hearted. I always say if you can’t go to town in a buggy, use a wagon, and if you don’t have a wagon, use shank’s mare. Now where’s that first book on the world’s geography?”

This dialogue shows the reader that Lydia was desperate, and determined to read even if she had to walk ten miles and collect a single book. This my dear friends, is how you use dialogue to develop your characters.

For those in the Georgia area, please click the links below to register for the conference. Only a few spots remain. See you there!

Red Clay will be held on Saturday, May 18th in the Social Science Building at Kennesaw State University

Red Clay Potter

This Conference will host workshops in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, mystery and thriller, teen fiction, and book publishing and marketing. Workshops will focus on molding and shaping one’s craft Furthermore, each workshop is designed to leave writers with techniques, tips, and tools to apply to their own craft.

We have an outstanding list of speakers for you at this years event! Terry Kay, 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, will offer the keynote speech at 9:00AM. Afterward, attendees will be able to choose the workshop that is most applicable to their writing endeavors. Clickhere to view the workshop times. Our speakers are covering everything from the writing process to publishing. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the experts and connect with other writers!

Click here to read more. Stay informed by joining our mailing list.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

The Harlem Shake, Indie Bookstore Style

The Harlem Shake, Bookstore Style

Breaking News: It is world wide knowledge that Indie Bookstores go the extra mile to sell books. They have free giveaways, quirky contests, and sometimes . . . ask authors to act a fool while someone captures their shenanigans on film. Cat Blanco, owner of The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia recently did just that, ask me and a handful of others to act a fool.

Younger readers will recognize The Harlem Shake as a phenomenon that has taken over YouTube.

For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, here’s the gist: as best as I understand. The video begins with a group of people hanging out. These people could be in the Starbucks, college dorm, or in this case, a local bookstore. All of the sudden a kooky person enters, dancing all kray-kray while no one else seems to notice. Then when the music hits a certain note everyone starts dancing kray-kray.

For the record, we realize our feeble attempt is in no way similar to the “Original” Harlem Shake. We’re just trying to spread the word that Indie bookstores are anything but boring.

Cat assembled the group and we picked out our headgear (apparently head-adorning-implements are required for this type of activity). Next, it was time to cue the music.

Law have mercy. It's a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

Law have mercy. It’s a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

What you can’t see on the video are customers entering the store as we’re standing there wearing hats, motorcycle helmets and bunny ears. Cat explained, Don’t mind us; we’re just filming a Harlem Shake video.

She said this like it was an everyday occurrence. Then she asked. . . wanna join us? The look on their faces was priceless. By the way, no one volunteered to join us.

harlemshake1 (1)Cat also pulled the guy next-door from the barber shop. C’mon, join the fun. Here’s a pic of her covering adjusting his silver wig.

As my people would say, They help my time.

It took a couple of takes, before the video was done. Even now, we look at the video and smile. We were supposed to stand in one spot and shake our booty. But there was something about the music, the excitement that filled the room that made up hop around the room like excited bunnies.

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited an Indie Bookstore you’ll see that they are, loads of fun. No stuffed-shirts hoity-toity folk in here. Most Indies bookstore owners remember your name, and your reading preferences. They provide jobs for the neighborhood and are far from being extinct. If you haven’t visited The Book Exchange well it just up the road from you on Canton Road.  The address is 2932 Canton Road, Marietta GA 30066. If you’ve got your eye on a new release, or you want to load up on your favorite used books give Cat a call at (770) 427-4848.

Cat is known for hosting fabulous author events that bring New York Times best-selling authors to North Georgia. If you have never attended an author event, here’s a listing of upcoming author appearances:

April 16, 2013 Wendy Wax

May 16, 2013 Charles Martin and Patti Callahan Henry

June 4, 2013 Karen White

harlemshakemyra1I promise. We will leave our goofy headgear and stick pony at home. You will find that we’re just a group of passionate readers happy to support the local Indie, and a group of devoted authors acting a fool all for the love of books.

Please visit The Book Exchange on Facebook and LIKE their Page. We’d hate for all our Tom Foolery to be for naught. Oh, and while you’re there please follow me, or send me a friend request.

And now, without further ado, the video. The Book Exchange’s version of the Harlem Shake. harlemshakeyoutubepix

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

Enduring the Feast and Famine of Writing

I write this during what I call a feast time. The feast time in the life of an author happens many times. It is a moment, perhaps only an hour long, where words come faster than mortal hands can type, or in my case, write. All reasoning escapes authors during this moment. We become excited, yet emotionally unstable. We embrace this time all while knowing deep in our soul that the feast-moment is fleeting. We fear the feast time almost as much as the famine. What if we can’t capture the words as they tumble through our brain? What if the characters hide and leave us with few words and even less hope.

Last week while suffering from self-loathing and immense self doubt I was certain, absolutely certain it was time to return to the “real world” and get a “real job.” My husband is certain of this as well, all the time. We have a son in college and a daughter waiting her turn. If you’re seeking sunshine and the words everything will be fine I’m not that kind of author. Writing is difficult. The journey, slow and methodical. If you are in this business for financial reward…well, (don’t stone me) you might be disappointed. Ten years ago I abandoned the corporate world, moved to Atlanta and “got serious” about writing. My journey from inspiration to publication transformed the confident women I’ve always been into one who anguishes and wrestles with words. Those awards I’ve won…well, somehow they make me more nervous than confident.

Let’s not talk about the past; let’s talk about today.

Today, I have two, yes two works in progress. Why two? Because the muse, that silent and elusive wench whispered another storyline in my ear at the precise moment I locked myself into the writing room bound and determined to either write, or die trying.

I create in a room without technology…if not I’ll spend all day on Facebook and blow every ounce of creativity I possess. I’ll end the day with self-loathing and spend the afternoon polishing my resume’.

Have I mentioned that I recently diagnosed myself with ADD? I didn’t have that before I became an author. Nope. I could sit for hours on a single project. Spend hours writing court briefs. Those days are long gone. Today I think about writing while folding the laundry, vacuuming, walking the dog… just to name a few. I write on sticky notes, used envelopes, my hand. I am a mess.

Meanwhile, back at the notebook, I consider actually writing. Pieces of pulp pressed flat, lined, and bound together with glue rest in my lap. I sit pen-perched ready to launch my protagonist, Carole Anne, on a certain course when this new idea descends in a tsunami of words. For a moment I fight the new idea. I am certain this new plot is a distraction sent from the evil one whose intent is to stand between me and certain success.

Did I mention that becoming an author also made me paranoid? The paranoids were never after me when I held a job in the real world.

Knowing that if I moved a muscle, if I eased out of my seat to grab the recorder two rooms away, my muse would give my story to someone else (writing also makes you superstitious). I did the only thing possible, I wrote. Fast. Using tiny strokes of the pen that consumed the least amount of energy, I wrote, and wrote joy filling my heart, while Carole Anne waited patiently, her story−for the moment−less important.

Carole Anne understands. She arrived the same way as the current story.

For the planners among us, those who must outline, or perish, that methodology is also acceptable. I’m not trying to tell you how to write, merely explain that the ebb and flow of writing (for me) looks like a train wreck mixed with a tornado.

After writing three front and back pages I had pressed enough of the story onto the pages for the Muse to reveal an outline. Oh it is a beautiful thing, this outline. I have never written an outline before. I would share it if not for the above referenced superstition. My muse does not like me sharing her secrets. The more I talk about my work in progress, the less she reveals. The less she reveals, the less progress I make.

Grammar kind of goes out the window during the feast time as well.

Now I need y’all to insert smack-dab in the middle of this word-flood an approaching critique group meeting. This meeting, designed to encourage multiple-personality writers like myself, takes place at the Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. Writers submit five double-spaced pages of their work in progress. We read, bleed upon the pages in a loving way, discuss characters, and (hopefully) make each other’s stories better.

I will probably miss the meeting. Prior to the first meeting we voted on the rules. My (now) fifteen pages of handwritten curled-up-notebook-page prose does not meet the pre-established typed (and for the love of humanity, printed) protocol. Nor do the tiny sentences written three lines high per each line. My writer friends understand. They know that I can’t stop, can’t interrupt the flood, the flow of words. They know that next week, the tide will probably subside and a famine arrive. Perhaps that is the best time to meet with my colleagues. Perhaps their support will sustain me during the famine.

When the famine comes, it arrives bearing nothing but self-doubt, loathing and a plethora of want ads for which I am qualified.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She loves to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

Welcome to those New to Facebook Timeline

For the nonconformists who thought they could hide from Facebook and escape the required Timeline let me say, “Welcome. I feel your pain.”

With the old system, you could easily find posts made by your friends, but with Timeline users are given more control over who can see what. This means that you (and your friends) must identify the depth of your relationship in order to receive the latest posts. Failing to do this crucial step means the all-knowing Facebook computer will overlook your posts and bury them below others it views as more important.

Those with Timeline who may have wondered, “where are Renea’s posts?” This is why. All users must tell Facebook’s mother computer the posts they wish to see. To do this visit your friend’s page, hover over the word “Friends”  and click the words “Close Friends.” You can also identify people as an Acquaintance, or other group such as  friends who live nearby.

In order to view posts, you also need to click “Show in News Feed.” An important point is that your friend must also do the same for you. If they do not, your posts will fall behind others the computer systems identifies as having a higher priority. If you have a friend who posts every twelve seconds you might want to designate them as an acquaintance or opt out of showing them in the news feed.

As an author, I meet many people while traveling and conducting workshops, therefore I communicate with a variety of “friends” who –most likely- do not share a common relationship with other Facebook users. Unfortunately, Facebook frowns upon users who send friend requests to people who are outside a circle of friends. (I know, that statement doesn’t even make sense does is?) Apparently some people have so much time on their hands that they randomly try to friend as many people as possible. Now if you meet someone and wish to connect with via Facebook, you should type a message along with your friend request. Failing to do so could result in the system identifying you as a spammer. Also, having unaccepted friendship requests (request that go unanswered) can also label you as a spammer. If that happens, Facebook will block your ability to make new friends for 30 days.

Insert frown.

I think the biggest feature that I miss with the new Timeline is the posts. I feel disconnected now, unable to reach out to as many people as I once did and for that I remain discouraged. Others must feel the same way as I have noticed a dramatic decrease in comments and “likes” to posts.

In the end, aren’t we creatures of habit? Aren’t our eyes programmed to search the same place on the screen for updates? Do we really have time to learn a new system?

I can’t recall what was so spectacular about the new Timeline, and that speaks volumes. So welcome, those who were forced to accept the Timeline. Months after I switched, I am still as confused as ever. Remember to designate me as a “Close Friend” and “Show in News Feed” and I will do the same for you.  At least we can feel lost and confused together.

To learn more about the Timeline features visit Facebook’s blog here.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author and In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. She travels throughout the South teaching emerging authors how to market their books. She is available for individual and group consultations. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com