Posts Tagged ‘Writing Tips’

The Duotrope Controversy

Saturday, January 5th, 2013
Duotrope subscription controversy

Is there anything better than Duotrope?

Beaumont Hardy falls on the pro-Duotrope side of the current Duotrope subscription controversy.

Once a free directory of various fiction and non-fiction writing markets and a helpful tool for writers to track their own submissions, Duotrope was unable to sustain itself on user donations alone and has now become a subscription-only site. Users can choose to pay either $5 per month or $50 per year to avail themselves of Duotrope’s services. Some writer/bloggers, like Author Alden argue that the subscription fee will narrow the pool of Duotrope users, skewing the very valuable results of its submission statistics.

It’s very true that if fewer people join Duotrope, the site will necessarily base its statistics on a smaller group of responses, affecting its results. However, the site itself claims that the payment requirement limits its user pool to a self-selected group of more dedicated users who might be more inclined to submit accurate results than free users would. Thus, payment ensures a more reliable set of statistics, according to Duotrope.

But the true importance of Duotrope, we believe, lies not in its submission statistics but in its exhaustive lists of paying and non-paying markets for writings. No other online or print resource contains such extensive and annotated lists. With Duotrope, writers hoping to publish their work can learn of journals, magazines and anthologies that they might never see on the newsstand or in bookstores. Many writers have said that they never would have sold their work if they hadn’t first learned of paying markets on Duotrope. In Part Two of his informative blog post, “Is a Duotrope Subscription Worth the Cost?,” Nathaniel Tower makes a succinct argument for Duotrope’s significant advantages over any other marketplace listings. As he indicates, Duotrope provides a service like no other.

At Beaumont Hardy, we believe that Duotrope’s service is worth its $5/$50 subscription fee. As long as the “duotroopers” are willing to provide us with this unique, well-organized and very helpful information, we are willing to compensate them for their efforts.

Beaumont Hardy has long been a fan of Duotrope. Writers can glean valuable lessons from the submission requirements of the publications it lists.

What do you think of Duotrope’s new subscription requirement? We would love to hear from you.

The “Less is More” Exercise

Friday, October 15th, 2010

FictionEditors and other writing professionals constantly advocate “showing,” not “telling.” The idea is that readers ought to draw their own conclusions about the characters and action in a story, without the author having to provide explanatory narrative. As trite as “Show. Don’t Tell.” might sound among writing connoisseurs, the advice is still valid. Writers who can effectively convey personality, tone and meaning without relying on overt narrative usually produce the most satisfying and believable fiction.

My suggestion is that writers experiment by paring down their prose from the very start–deliberately saying less, rather than more, in their exposition. There always exists a moment when a writer might want to explain something to the reader–to clarify a character’s emotion or emphasize the tone of a particular scene. I recommend not taking that explanatory route, holding back on the explanation and allowing the reader’s own thoughts to fill the resulting textual “silence.” Hold off on the impulse to tell, and I believe you will show readers more.

The following passage indicates the “telling” moments (underlined) a writer might be tempted to add. Read the passage with and without these underlined parts, and see which version you think works more effectively.

more telling:

“Would you like some more tea?” Susannah hovered over Peter with the dripping teapot, even though she knew he wouldn’t want more tea. He hadn’t touched the tea she had already served him. Peter probably thought he was too good to drink tea out of her chipped and mismatched cups. “Bourgeois cups,” she thought he had called them, even though she hadn’t really been able to hear from the kitchen.

“No,” Peter said, moving his hand as though to cover his teacup.

Susannah was so angry that she wanted to dump the tea on his head. Who was Peter to suggest that her tea was second-rate? That her life was second-rate?

“How about a scone?” Susannah rattled the scones on the little blue plate, knowing the sound would probably annoy Peter. It did.

“I don’t eat scones,” he said.

“Well, isn’t this nice? The tea is sweet and hot.” Mr. Partridge sounded flustered, as though he wished Susannah and Peter would just get along. But she couldn’t get along with anyone as arrogant and egotistical as Peter. Susannah wanted to scream.

“More tea, Mr. Partridge?” she said instead.

Peter sighed outrageously and looked out the window. His tea was getting cold.

less telling:

“Would you like some more tea?” Susannah hovered over Peter with the dripping teapot, even though he hadn’t touched the tea she had already served him in the chipped cup. “Bourgeois cups,” she thought he had said, even though she hadn’t really been able to hear from the kitchen.

“No,” Peter said, moving his hand as though to cover his teacup.

“How about a scone?” Susannah rattled the scones on the little blue plate.

“I don’t eat scones,” he said.

“Well, isn’t this nice? The tea is sweet and hot.” Mr. Partridge sounded flustered.

“More tea, Mr. Partridge?” Susannah said.

Peter sighed outrageously and looked out the window. His tea was getting cold.

Which version do you think works better? Feel free to let me know. I would love to hear from you.

The Abraham Lincoln Method

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

At Beaumont Hardy, I meet many writers struggling with writer’s block. Although no amount of editorial coaching can pull a writer through a “dry spell,” I argue that any writing is better than no writing. Even a terrible rough draft can yield positive writing results. The point is just to write. I now propose the Abraham Lincoln Method for putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and writing that rough draft.

Our 16th President famously studied by candlelight, refusing to allow less-than-ideal conditions to deter him from his reading and writing. We all know how far Abraham Lincoln’s candlelit writing sessions took him. I advocate writing under the same conditions Abraham Lincoln once did, as a stimulant for creativity

On a night when you can guarantee an hour or two of solitude, I recommend clearing a table of everything but a note pad or computer; turning off every light, radio, television or electronic gadget in the room; lighting several candles; and settling in to write a rough draft. This is the Abraham Lincoln Method.

Not only is this method energy-efficient, it can also be highly productive. Writing in a new environment–even just a new lighting environment–can stimulate creativity in surprising ways. Many writers work with constant noise distractions, and the silence of an electronics-free room can be mentally freeing. The flickering of the candlelight is also oddly conducive to reflection and introspection, gently stimulating the imagination. And turning off all the lights and every electronic gadget makes for absolutely no visual distractions–no sudden impulses to dust or to rearrange tchotchkes before writing the next sentence. Staring off into a room’s darkness is simultaneously frightening and thrilling, and I argue that this combination of emotions, tinged as it is with the primeval elements of darkness and fire, can inspire even the most uninspired of writers.

The Abraham Lincoln Method honors one of our most diligent and scholarly of Presidents, and it carries with it the flickering light of hope that we might achieve some of his greatness.