Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are your old story ideas still good ideas?

So, yesterday, we had a big test. We spent the whole day studying and pounding knowledge into our head -- the WHOLE day. We felt like fairly adequate students by the time the teacher tossed (literally) our test packets onto our desks.

But this was how the test went:

Anytime a test is deliberately created to confuse or otherwise bash the student's head in, I get a little passionate about it. After class, we spent our mile hike back to the car very expressively. We might have scared away a few monsters in the night.

But now that I've gotten over the angst of it all, I have some rare itty-bitty time to work on creative things.

Back in my freshman year of high school, I finished my first full manuscript, and as the story had been a product of a dream, influenced from Lord of the Rings -- and Peter Pan, and Treasure Planet, which might inspire the image of a cyborg Legolas and fairy dust...and I suppose isn't all that farfetched -- it was a pure overdose on everything fantastical. EVERYTHING. Wow, looking back on it, it hurts. I cringe. Almost a decade later, I can truly say that it was a hot mess.



There are, actually, some redeeming features. Boiled down, the story is good. Luckily, there're no trends that drag it down (vampires, zombies, dystopian, dystopian vampire-zombies), and as I plowed through the story in my head (because I dare not read it), I found much of it is salvageable. I altered the ending, altered the characters, built on the twists, and really fortified a world that was already intriguing to begin with.

I had some good ideas when I was fourteen, I just have better ideas NOW.

Many writers (who don't mystically sell the first book they ever wrote) go through the same process, especially if they trunked a book that was never picked up by an agent or publisher. So, you might be asking, "Is my story salvageable?"

There are some basic things you should consider first. The BIG question is: has this story already been written?

Now, I don't mean that black and white. Every story has already been told, but is your INTERPRETATION untold? Is your story about a boy wizard who goes to wizarding school? Is your story about a girl who falls in love with a vampire/werewolf/angel/vampire-werewolf-angel and gets caught up in vampire-werewolf-angel affairs?

If so, you might want to give this story some time.

But, if you do your reading like you should, and you know your premise is completely unique, then there may be some promise.

HOWEVER, and this is the big, fat, all-caps HOWEVER, be prepared to slaughter the heck out of it. Your premise might be magical, but your story might suck. You might have to throw out the whole thing and start with a nice, crisp blank document.

How do you know if you have to throw out the whole thing?

This is going to be a hippie way to put it, but does your story have SOUL? Does it breathe? Does it have personality? Does it have attitude? Does it have a sense of fashion and wear awesome shoes?

Or does it wear really ugly shoes? shoes? (It has about 42% chance of being a Hobbit, if that's the case.)

These are all questions you should ask of any of your stories.

Other questions you should be asking: Is it too cliched? Is the plot wrought with holes? Does it match my intended audience? Have I read enough in and around this genre? Do I KNOW the genre and my audience? Is the story's feet hairy?

Also, the most important question you should always ask yourself when plotting: Can I do this BETTER?

As an (cough cough cough) "artist", I'm very intimate with this question. I got to the point during my life drawing studies where I was doing fairly well, but had plateaued. So, I started asking myself, "What can I do to make this even BETTER?"

Sometimes it was as easy as building on the energy of my lines. Sometimes it was hard, intensive work, like learning every muscle and every bone in the body.

This also applies to writing.

And it's also why I write with an outline. I slap every plot point down in a relatively chronological order, and then I go through and make it all the best I possibly can. The end result is a very neat, tight, fast-paced formula that's as best as I can make it. When agents have ultimately rejected the manuscript, I know I can say that I did the very best I could.

Look at this old story of yours. How can you make it EVEN BETTER?

If you've gone through this process already, what did you do? What other tips do you have?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Is music important to your writing?

Rediscovering music is one of my favorite things to do. Recently on Pandora I started listening to the Malice Mizer station, and every time one of their songs or Gackt's or Klaha's or Moi Dix Mois comes on I go through this whole cycle of squealing and flailing, and then tears, then The Sighs (a chronic illness at times), and then regret when the song is over, regret that I don't listen to these songs more often.

And this is all within the span of one 4 minute song. It's like the seven steps of grieving or something, except not. The whole experience for each and every song is something along the lines of

Not to mention Pandora does the  whole thing where, if I listen to this Japanese music, I should listen to the rest too, right? Simple and Clean comes on every five songs in its variety of remix flavors. Some Cowboy Bebop, some L'Arc. And I'm a sucker who listens to all of it.


Certain songs also just have that nostalgia for me, things that don't mean the same to others as they do to me, and I'm sure that goes for you too. For me personally, it's a lot of Japanese music, because that's what I listened to in high school, and it's the bulk of what I still enjoy.

Why Japanese music?


But I find I just don't have the time to listen to music as much as I used to. Either I'm at work or Sarah's at my side scowling at the music I choose. Most of the time my very serious music moments are when I'm writing, and then it's absolutely crucial to have the precise song and genre type picked out. If I'm writing that gut-wrenching scene that's pivotal to the plot and makes my readers sob with angst, I need a song that makes me sob with angst! Or action scenes need music that gets my heart pumping, like movie scores. Movie music works so perfect for this, the epic kind that gives you shivers and chills and such.

In fact, if my books are ever legit published, my website will probably contain a soundtrack for each novel. Stupid, right? It is. But I wish more authors would do that. If I could know what music Suzanne Collins listened to when she wrote The Hunger Games, or the songs that just make Gail Carriger stop and pictures her scenes or characters, that's a whole new perspective! Isn't it?

What do you think? Do you listen to music while you write? Do you have any music to share? Let me know!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First 250 Words Smash! #1

Most Wonderful Author: HNW
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah

I wasn’t alone – there was a presence in the night, a definite other that lurked, hidden, between the silky black folds of an almost unnatural twilight. I heard it whispering to me in the wind, felt it touch my bare cheeks, tug at my hair, its breath against the back of my neck. Standing in the center of the crossroads, the small tin box shaking my hands, I didn’t know what was worse – being alone and isolated miles away from the protection of my family, or being in the presence of this other. I certainly didn’t want to be out there with it, but I had no other choice – this was my only opportunity to set things right, to fix everything, and put it all back to the way it was. The way it should be. 

Dad always told us we should never go to a crossroads at midnight, because that’s where the Devil waits to trick foolish people into selling their souls. But I knew exactly what was I doing – the Devil couldn’t trick me if I was willing to give my soul to him. He could have it – it was broken and ripped up anyways. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to put things back to the way they were, to stop the dawn from approaching.

Sinking to my knees onto the cold and frozen earth, I clawed a hole in the dirt just big enough to fit the tin.

Strong Points
Intrigue. Yes, I felt it. There is a sense of something looming, and an effortless sense of voice and character. I like the feeling of this intangible yet palpable second being, gives this sense of something WATCHING her, and I like that creeping feeling.

The question of “What the heck is happening?” is generated. The scene is set up without delay. The reader moves right into action without confusion, and the action doesn’t feel like action for the sake of action. In less than 250 words, I’ve got a subtle sense of the surroundings, the character, and the situation. This is a good intro.

Some Tips
The points that I think need work are also some of the things that I like best, things that I think could be made even better.

I like that we’re feeling this omnipotent second presence, but try to stay away from words like “I felt” and “I heard” or “I saw” or “I tasted”. Words like these remove your reader one step away from the sensations you’re creating. You want to suck in your reader as deep into your narrative as you can, and any words that remind them they’re reading a story will hinder your intent to do so.

“I heard it whispering to me in the wind” is stronger as “It whispered to me in the wind.” And, of course, you can even take the phrasing further, get creative, really push it if you want to. I’m sure you could sift through your whole manuscript and find a plethora of these ticks. Challenge yourself to rework your sentences without them. You’ve got the skill in you, I can tell, it’s just a matter of really recognizing it.

The next thing: italics. There’re lots. A heavy emphasis from italics is exhausting to read, and it’s actually better to use no italics at all than too many.

One trick I use is that I put in all the italics I think I need while I write, and then when I go back to reread, I read the whole sentence without any italics. If the sentence’s meaning does not change without the italicized word(s), you don’t need the italics.

As an example: “You took her panties?” versus “You took her panties?”

See the difference? The story behind the two sentences is completely different.

The next thing: dashes. The same rules apply. Dashes can do awesome things, like change the direction of action or provide insight, and they’re fun for dialogue. However, too many, especially when some sound like replacements for colons or semicolons, is not mustering the potential of the almighty dash.

Instead, try putting periods in exchange for dashes (or periods for semicolons, because semicolons give me hives and it’s my personal mission to eradicate them). Your very first sentence, for example, would stand so much stronger as simply: “I wasn’t alone.”


First sentence.

How could you turn that down?

There’s so much power in brevity. The last sentence of that paragraph is a good example of both brevity and, coincidentally, the best usage of a fragment: “The way it should be.” I, the reader, want to know what that means. What is the way it should be? What’s going on?!

Would I Keep Reading?

Most likely. The beginning does read a bit prologue-y to me, but I would most likely read until the conflict is resolved, unless the more substantial premise of the story drags me right in. In this case, I would certainly test the waters and continue further.

This is a strong piece, and it can be made stronger. Good luck

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Are you addicted to your cell phone?

About a year and a half ago, I surprised Victoria by doodling her a pair of Converse for her birthday:

If you want to see the full details, you can go to my old and neglected and pretty much abandoned Deviant Art page. I'm a very visual person, and that site is my favorite place to go to be inspired. (Er, when viruses aren't attacking me, which they often do through that website, so I guess this is a warning to you or something? To not drop the bar of soap while you're there?)

It was thoroughly challenging, and I'm supposed to do it again, but it's such a tedious process, and it was about a million degrees at the time, with thunderstorms, and a surprising lack of Advil for my back after hunching over the shoes all day.

But, as I've noticed, people don't really see the shoes when Victoria wears them. People are increasingly buried nose-deep in their phones -- while in their cars, in classrooms, or even walking from one place to the next. More than enough times someone has very nearly collided with me because they wouldn't look up from their phone for half a second, and that's both on the road and simply walking. I seriously need pedestrian insurance against other pedestrians now.

I'm an introvert by nature. I don't really engage in much conversation because I'm socially inept. I'm the type that's conscious of everything I say or do or where I'm looking or how I'm fidgeting or if I'm being weird.

I mean, I AM weird.


I'd rather people didn't readily know that.

So, for the most part, I used to like to sit and listen to people. Yes, I'm the weird girl that listens to one girl badmouth another girl -- or one boy badmouth another boy, either way. I find I don't get to do that anymore, because people interact less and less and less.

Class used to have more people awkwardly engaging in conversation before the session began. Now, everyone's on their phones, talking to people they already know, not really meeting anyone new. People are engaged less and less in their surroundings. Once when I was walking through a mall, I watched a mother and daughter walking side-by-side, both of them texting on their phones and probably talking to each other.

I was like:

And, well, maybe they have their reasons. Maybe Mom runs her business through her phone, and that's why she's on her phone all the time.

If that's the case, I might say she's instead addicted to her business.

Addiction, in any case, is baaaaad.

It's an interesting concept, though. What if, in the future, we're all addicted to our phones or tablets or computers, and we share little contact, and see the world always through a screen? Technology is doing more and more for us -- heck, cars will be able to drive US in the near future (which is sort of a blessing). What happens when we only know how to see each other through screens? What happens when the digital world takes over the physical world?

Personally, I think I might go live amongst the trees and talk to all of them and name them and gossip about them when they're not looking.

What do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Do you have word tics?


Most likely.

Even the great people of the world do.

So, what are these mystical "Word Tics"? They're quite elusive and strangely addicting. You use them mindlessly, and although you don't even notice them, oftentimes they gut your narrative with repetition.

When I finished one of my previous manuscripts, my victory swag took over. I know no first draft is perfect, but hot dang, I felt pretty darn close to it. Then, I took a trip to this fantastic free word cloud generator called Wordle, dumped all 100k into the generator, and then promptly received five smacks in the face.

This is what it looked like.



I did that? No way. There was no way. I couldn't remember a single time I'd used the word "back", or "around". Yes, "eyes" was an obvious one, because eyes are a primary tool for emotion and reactions, and...


And then I took a closer look.

I started with the first chapter, did the awesome action "ctrl + f " on the word "around", and promptly received five more smacks in the face. Actually, it was probably about ten smacks, with finding the word "around" at least once per page. AT LEAST.

It is word dependency, essentially. I'd grown so dependent on these words that I couldn't think outside using them. So, I embarked on a long journey of training and discipline: I went through the entire manuscript for each of the above words, and I decided, one by one, whether or not I absolutely NEEDED the word, or if I could change it -- and make the sentence BETTER.

Many times I could omit the word entirely:

"I turned around."

Which became simply:

"I turned."

I love brevity. Anyone who knows me knows I cuddle and whisper sweet nothings with brevity. I discovered that I liked "I turned" in all its two-word sentence power.

A different example:

"I looked around."

This became:

"I observed the area."

Variation in your narrative is important. It keeps things fresh, challenges you to use different words and different ways to write the same things. It challenges you to get CREATIVE, which you'd better be doing while you're writing. And if you can't think of anything, then mark it, leave it, come back later with a fresh brain. An epiphany might strike you during one of your thinking activities, like sitting on the porcelain throne.

Once I finished this extensive training, flat dead on the floor, an amorphous mass, my word cloud then looked like this:

Ta-daaaah~ There's a lovely sense of balance here. On top of that, I had beaten those words into my brain so thoroughly that, now, I've improved my awareness of them. As I write, I can sense their approach and ward them off entirely with a drop-kick to the face.

There are, of course, downfalls. Whenever politicians speak, my eyebrow twitches at words like "contingency" and "precedent". I rage whenever I see the phrase "critics cry foul" in news articles, and now that I've put it in your mind, I bet you will too. Or maybe it's just my OCD kicking in, or my awkward penguin.

Now, go forth and multiply.

.....Your word count, of course. Population crisis and all that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First 250 Words Smash!

As of May 6th, 2014: The submission box is CLOSED to new intros. We’ll only accept revisions from writers who have already sent in their submission and are still waiting, as well as resubmissions from writers who have been critiques and have revised their intro for a new critique. We’ll make an announcement on the blog when we’re open to new intros again!

What is this First 250 Words Smash thing? Sounds bad for the digestion.

IT ISN'T! Well, it might be.

We enjoy providing constructive criticism to those looking for it, but in this case, we're going to help you tweak ONLY THE INTRO of your manuscript. If you so desire, you can send your intro to us and we'll give you the best possible critique we can.

What you can expect:

  1. A critique on your craft, style, structure, word choice, etc. This means we'll be looking at how you've developed your voice and how effective it is. This is something you can apply throughout your whole manuscript, which is pretty darn awesome.
  2. A critique on how effective your hook and intro is. Conflict, tension, character, setting -- basically gaining a sense of the story and whether or not it's as effective as it could be.
  3. Our estimation on genre and age group, if applicable.
  4. Whether or not we would personally read on.
  5. We will not critique grammar and punctuation. We're more like beta readers, not editors, and so we will not make line-by-line corrections until we become absolute masters of the universe English. If we see a problem, however, we may advise you to check into it.

Make sure you read and fully understand the RULES and FAQs before submitting:

1.) The first 250 words must be from the beginning of your manuscript -- as in, the very opening, the first words that the reader will read, not three pages later, or the end of the first chapter, or chapter three where the plot is first introduced and it's really important and--no. The very first 250 words, whether it comes from a prologue or chapter one.

2.) Send UP TO 250 words, not more than. Get as close to 250 as you can.

3.) Do not give us ANY background information whatsoever. If you'd like, you can include a title/working title, but no explanations or excuses or tardy slips or what have you. We want to read the first 250 words free of bias. If you have to explain something about your story first, you probably need to rethink the intro.

4.) Please paste your text into the body of the email and simplify your text styling. (If you write in fancy-shmancy blue courier-wingdings-dingbats, that's fine...I guess...but strip all the fancy stuff and send us ugly, basic Times New Roman, font 12.) Please also remove any indents and separate your paragraphs with an extra line of space.

5.) Put "First 250 Words Smash" in your subject title.

6.) Sign with your name (or preferred alias), and a link to your public sphere domain, if applicable. These will appear when we post your critique, so choose what you're comfortable with the world knowing.

7.) You can add a heart if you'd like. We like hearts.

8.) By sending us your submission, you have agreed that we can post the critique of your text on the Keyboard Smash Writers blog and Tumblog (ONLY -- nowhere else, of course) for others to read. Our intention is not to put you under the spotlight and hurt your feelings, but to share advice with our fellow writing community friends, who will have the freedom to post their responses as well. Inflammatory remarks will always be removed. The sole purpose of the 250 Words Smash is to provide helpful critique and share it.

9.) Just because you submit your 250 words to us does not mean we MUST choose it for critique. The fact is that we are, like many of the human species, very busy. We enjoy helping and sharing what we know, it's fun, and to see a writer grow because of advice we've offered fills us with maternal-like glee. If it's clear to us that you did not read the rules carefully, we will critique the next writer who did. It's fair to us and it's fair to them.

10.) Keep in mind that these rules are subject to CHANGE at any time, so it's up to you to make sure you're as up to date as possible when you send your intro in. We will never, ever, ever do anything to trick you or take advantage of you -- that defeats the whole purpose of trying to help.


  • Why only 250 words?

The first 250 words is roughly the first page of your double-spaced, properly formatted manuscript. This is the hook, and hooks these days are so pivotal on bookshelves that share many books just like yours. One of the best ways to compete is to write a killer intro.

One of the methods I utilize in picking out my next book is to go to the bookstore, pull out a few I'd been noticing around the community recently, or books that had been recommended to me, and then sit down and read the first page of each. The winner is almost always the book that hooked me first -- or the book I didn't want to put down.

The big questions that we look at in the intro are these:

- Is the very first line grabbing, or is it wrought with cliches or gimmicks or deja vu or yawns?
- Does the following narrative drag us into the story right away?
- Is the character/author voice and style interesting?
- Would we read on?

We're tough, but toughness is necessary in this -- or any -- industry. If there's an issue, a writer must identify it and fix it. Keep in mind, however, we are only ONE opinion, and as an opinion, you don't have to trust what we say. We might be wrong. In fact, it would be good for you to believe whatever we say is poppycock, but to also be objective about it, and also be critical. Look at all feedback that way. Take it in, weigh it, and then make decisions.

But, we will never be that jerk in your creative writing class who speaks his opinion like an ass, because "that's the way it is in the real world!" No. That's not helpful, that's destructive. We're aware that our opinion is our own, and you always have the authority to disagree with us.

  • How can I improve my odds of being chosen?
Read the rules and FAQs carefully, of course, but also make your snippet the absolute BEST it can be. Revise it and re-revise it. Get your writing buddies to look at it first and then re-re-revise it. Spend quality time with it, tell it a few good jokes or share with it some hilarious internet memes. Love it, tuck it into bed, and sing it to sleep. We only want to help the serious writers who will take advice seriously, so treat us seriously and send us a serious piece.

  • What if I don't agree with the advice you've given?

That's cool.

Really, it is.

If you've kept an open mind, digested our suggestions, been truly and fully objective, allowed your other writing buddies to have an opinion, and still disagree with our suggestions, then rock on, cousin. Writing is so subjective, there's no set rules, and you know your story better than we do. Do what's right by you and your story. We are absolutely not offended, honest.

  • What if you or someone else take my ideas?

Firstly, I've got a million of my own ideas that I need to pursue first, and my life just ain't long enough to write them all. Seriously.

Secondly, you can't allow the fear of creative theft hold you back. I see this question a lot, and I used to be afraid as well, but you have to believe that regardless of whether or not someone borrows an idea from you (which you likely borrowed from many other sources, to be honest), that only you can execute it the way you can. No one else can write your story like you.

Hopefully, as a serious writer, you've at least considered, if you don't already have, beta readers. You need eyes that are removed from the story, that haven't spent months or years with these characters. If you're worried about a few pairs of eyes reading your work, then how would you handle an entire audience?

  • Can I send 251 words?

We will kill you flat dead. (As in, no, don't do it.)

  • Can I send 200 words?

Yes, but please keep in mind that we can only critique what you give us. If what you send us is so small that we can't even make a proper assessment of your writing, we won't critique it. (Yes, this has happened, so be wise about where you set the cutoff.)

  • Can you edit my 250 words without posting it on the blog?

Don't be an advice-hog! Sharing is caring!!!!

  • Will you critique the rest of my manuscript/what I have written so far?
Unfortunately, we can't. We try to do as much as we can with what you give us, but if we accepted the amount of requests we'd get, we would have no time for ourselves. We have obligations to ourselves and other people, and free time is usually spent sleeping and eating and using the toilet.

  • I've taken your advice and done some revising. Will you read it again?

Oh yes. We like to see growth and we like to feel that maternal-like glee. Send your revision to us with "R&R" marked in the title along with your 250 Words Smash post number so we can easily locate you.

  • Can we pick which one of you reads my 250 words?

Non. Chances are, if yours is chosen, the better match out of the two of us will pick you.

  • I don't like sending hearts.


Now that you've endured the laborious reading, please send in your intro! We're looking forward to hearing from you and spreading our overabundant wealth of writerly knowledge helping you. Send all emails to this address:

keyboardsmashwriters (at) gmail (dot) com

Per the usual protocol, replace the @ and period accordingly.

Contact Us

We relegate all questions about writing to our Tumblog. Check out the guidelines before you ask your question.

If the ask box is absent at the bottom of the page and the general ask page isn't working, we are closed to writing questions for now. Please do not direct your questions to fanmail, the submit box, or the email below. Your question will be deleted!

For general questions or comments (we're allergic to spam, so please don't send any), please feel free to contact us through the email below:

keyboardsmashwriters (at) gmail (dot) com

Per the usual protocol, replace the @ and period accordingly. Try to sum up your email in the subject line so we're not surprised, and please refrain from offering Viagra or Cyalis. There's not much we can do with that except stare at it in wonder.


Could you take a look at my stuff?

Unfortunately, we can't do more than intros at the moment. The Word Smashes alone take us an hour or more, and we're both students and Victoria's also working full time. We recommend, if you're looking for critique, that you invest in finding yourself a beta reader.

What's a beta reader? Check out this link on WriteWorld. Also look into writing forums such as Absolute Write. Remember that if you want your stuff read, you'll have to read stuff from other writers. Build on reciprocal relationships, because editing and critiquing takes a lot of time and energy, but teaching is also a good way to learn how to write better as well.

Also, don't mass-query the writing community of tumblr without personalizing your request or explaining why you chose that person in particular. It's frowned upon when you query agents, and finding the right critique partner(s) is just as necessary a step toward publication, so make sure you give your search the time and care your work should have. It's more respectful of yourself and others.

Can I send in multiple revisions of my intro for Word Smash?

Please do. Send it in as many times until you're satisfied with the final version.

Are either of you published?

No, and not for lack of effort, of course. First of all, we're not short story writers, so magazine publication hasn't applied to or interested us. Sarah has endeavored manuscript publication several times since the age of seventeen, and because of this, she has personal knowledge as to how the whole publication process works. It's not easy, and nowadays, it's evolving and growing so quickly that what was fact five years ago is relic now. A very well-known author once told her that it only took thirteen queries before she found her agent. While thirteen is still possible, many writers are looking at numbers into the hundreds. Again, it's not for lack of effort, and it's certainly not for lack of a good story or good writing -- it all simply depends on the market.

If you're looking for information about how to achieve publication, then let us know and perhaps we'll make a post about it!

How can your writing advice help me if you're not actually published?

Publication credentials do not determine the legitimacy of a writer. Some great work is unpublished and some terrible, horrible, awful work sits on the list of best sellers for inexplicable reasons.

What you ought to do is take the advice we give, apply it to your writing, and see if it helps. No one says you have to. But, if it does, then now you know not to judge a writer by their contracts!

You're wrong about this thing you said over here...

Probably. The awesome thing about writing advice is that it's all extremely subjective. For example, we're great at critiquing work like ours or similar to ours, but with literary and modern a-typical styles, we throw our hands up and don't comment because it's not our place. Writing is art. Not all people understand all art, and not all artists understand all art. Trying to critique something we don't understand or can't relate to doesn't help anyone at all.

So, in essence, you're probably right. If the advice is wrong to you, then it's probably wrong to others as well. But, if the advice is right for someone else and it works for them, then it's also right. We never comment on anything that we don't have experience in or personal knowledge of, and we try to differentiate from or label when we're expressing our own opinions because we understand that opinions are not substitutes for facts.

What's your opinion on self-publishing?

It's stigmatized a lot more than it should be. First of all, if you've had the heck critiqued out of your manuscript, and you've done all the revisions you can, and you've written the best query you can and also gotten critiques on that and done proper revisions, and you've queried the agent community up and down, and you've gotten requests and it feels like you were doing something right, except the agents decline for various reasons (and you've done your revising and resubmitting if applicable), and you've really tried the hardest you could to sell your book to agents, then I say look into it.

But by golly do your research. Self-publishing should be your last resort, only after months and months (perhaps years) of trying to get your book published. Don't sell yourself short and jump before you should. Self-publishing is a lot of hard work and it'll be up to you to do your own marketing, unless you've got lots of money and you can hire people to do it for you, which is rarely the case. You'll also need a cover design, and if you're not too keen with Photoshop, you'll have to spend a few hundred for a really good, sellable cover. Don't sell yourself short there, either.

A lot of vanity presses offer e-pub options to sell your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well, but if you're not very good with formatting, then you might have to pay someone to do that too, or learn how.

There's a lot of serious work involved with self-publishing. Everything that you'd have a team for at a publishing house, that would be your job. Your line editing, your copy editing, your design team, your marketing team, finding people to review your book, everything. Only do this if you're out of options and you have the time and funds to spare.

If you do, and you're active and serious and your book's good and commercial, then you could end up like many authors who pursued this route as well. It's not impossible, but it's not easy. And, if you managed to sell a considerable amount of your books (upwards of thousands), then you can go back and query for an agent again. They're likely to pay more attention then.

Have a question? We like questions. Please send us your question at this address:

keyboardsmashwriters (at) gmail (dot) com

Per the usual protocol, replace the @ and period accordingly. Try to sum up your email in the subject line so we're not surprised, and please refrain from offering Viagra or Cyalis. There's not much we can do with that except stare at it in wonder.


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About Us

A native of Southern California, Sarah has adopted an unhealthy relationship with cupcakes and writing, but mostly cupcakes. Currently a student of history, she's also dabbled in illustration, photography, and fashion. None of these things worked out in the end, as writing ended up being the annoying yowling cat in the kitchen, demanding constant attention...or something like that.

Ultimately shelving a number of manuscripts, Sarah continues pressing on, studying hard on what makes a great book great, and taking classes that eat her soul -- which isn't very tasty, no. Too starchy, really.

She can always be swayed by a good cupcake or something shiny, but shies away from mean people and scary drivers on the road (any native of Los Angeles knows what "scary" means on the road, and, perhaps is possibly a perpetrator, which I may or may not be as well, but I'll never tell).

Used to the dreary gray skies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Victoria is still in shock over the abundance of sunshine in Southern California. She is the whitest of the white folk and despite her severely Italian upbringing she remains blindingly pale. She has a love affair with sweets of all kinds, but like Sarah, cupcakes are the worst of all her vices. She has considered rehab and hypnotism, but to no avail.

Victoria changes her major and goal in life on a weekly basis, and as you read she may have decided to journey to become an astronaut or a monk. (No, not a nun. A monk.) Yet each life goal has stretched to include writing when she realized there was no escaping her love for weaving a good story. Between classes and work is when she gets her writerly fix.

A lover and not a fighter, and prone to bouts of geeky wackiness, Victoria will probably both feed you and read for you all at once. It's just her way of saying "I love you!"

The two met with the beginning of AOL and its chatrooms, about a thousand years ago, and now share cramped living quarters where one is significantly messier than the other. Significantly. Every day has time dedicated to writing, often together, and the rest of the time is spent talking about writing, often together.