Common Questions Writers Ask

The in-depth answers to all of the following questions, and many more, will be found in our presentations as we offer you the collective expertise of our faculty.

Once the contracts are signed, what is my relationship to my agent (does s/he have anything more to do with me)?

Yes, among other things, your agent receives your royalty checks and reports, makes sure they’re accurate and deducts her/his commission, then forwards the balance to you..

How much revision will an editor usually ask for, and how much of that am I required to do (that is, have no option about)?

The amount of editing depends largely on how good a draft you have written. You can always refuse to make the corrections an editor requests but if you trust your editor, think twice before you do so or your book might never be published.

Why does it take so long after contracting before the book actually comes out (as much as two to three years)?

The market is loaded with submissions, good and bad, and the editing process often is what slows down the final stages. There are many steps to a shelf-ready book but good editing is paramount.

Should I hire a lawyer to look over my contract, or is my agent sufficient to protect my interests?

A really good agent is often all you need but if there are questions about quotes, copyright infringement or other legal questions, a lawyer might be well worth the investment in legal protection.

Is it better to have a local agent or one in one of the powerhouse publishing cities such as New York?

If you can get a top-flight agent, go for it! Always start at the top.

If I self publish my book first, will that help my chances of selling it to a traditional publisher?

If you can demonstrate really good sales this can help attract the attention of a traditional publisher, especially if you have lots more saleable material in the works.

I self-edit very carefully, and then I have some friends who read my manuscript and give me suggestions. Why do I need a professional editor?

As in all things, it’s better to have the security of professional advice than the good feelings friends will offer.

How can I know which editors to trust?

Ask for references, read what they have edited.

What's the biggest spelling/grammar/syntax mistake people make in manuscripts?

There’s not one single biggest mistake. Problems with there, they’re, their, and there and your and you’re, and possessives are easy ones to see.

What do I have to do to get the attention of an agent or a traditional publisher?

Do your homework. Make sure the agent you’re submitting to handles your type of manuscript and obey the submission rules they provide.Avoid cute stuff, it only makes you look unprofessional.

How can I make money doing what I love?

Once again, do your homework. Read extensively to see what is selling in your target market, avoid cliches, use fresh language, write about things that interest you, and keep learning and writing.

Where can I get information on minute points of craft, such as smooth transitions, or how to weave in backstory without slowing the pace?

Read the books on craft. Some of the best are “Stein on Writing” by Sol Stein and “On Writing” by Stephen King. The good old “Elements of Style” by William Strunk is never out of date. (Join ITCW and participate in the excellent educational material.)

How can I make my prose interesting without making it sound like I had a thesaurus sitting next to me all the time?

Using a thesaurus is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as it isn't your only source of alternative word use. It will, after all, stimulate your vocabulary. Read lots of poetry, especially by poets whom you admire. Poets’ main talent is a freshness of word use.

My poems can't be edited. Each one is a complete feeling, a complete picture all by itself. Why would I want to turn it over to someone who might tear it apart?

Poetry can, and indeed should be edited, unless you are a master. Rather than have an editor “tear it apart” participate in workshops with known experts. Few well-known poets simply write from the soul and never touch a poem again.

What can I do to get past writer's block. I'm stuck in my novel between chapter twenty
two and twenty-three, and nothing seems to help.

There are a number of tricks suggested for vanquishing writer’s block. One of the best and most obvious is to turn your attention to something else for awhile. Start a new story.

Help! I need some tips on how to work with dialogue. Mine sounds stilted. What can I do?

Eavesdrop when out in public and listen carefully to the way people communicate. Make sure that the langauge fits the idiom of your characters' time and place.'