Write It, Publish It!

Rainbow Rowell, author of the romantic comedy Attachments, one of Entertainment weekly’s top 10 “Best of Summer” reads, told an NFPW audience that she had been a journalist for so long it was hard for her to write beyond a few inches. Rowell is a lifestyle and pop culture columnist at The Omaha World-Herald.

"Attachments" by Rainbow Rowell“Writing something like a book is like wading into the ocean when you can’t see the bottom,” she said of her novel, which came in at 87,000 words.

But she waded in, cramming in writing whenever she could. She wrote on holidays and usually one day during the week (often Sundays). Rowell said she couldn’t simply write for an hour each day as many authors do.

“I can’t just dive in and out. I have to have blocks of time to write it. I have to get to a place where it can just come out of me.”

After completing the manuscript, she found an agent and two years after the book sold it was published.

Rowell says that finding an agent is the most difficult part of getting published. “Publishers don’t look at anything unless a literary agent gives it to them,” Rowell said. “They trust the literary agents to weed through the manuscripts.”

Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell shares publishing tips.

To find a literary agent, Rowell suggested looking through books that list agents. She also said that going to writers’ forums is a good way to learn about  others’ experiences with an agent.

Agents all have different rules for submissions, and Rowell said you need to follow them. “You have to give them exactly what they want,” she said. “They want to make it hard for you.” The agents receive so many submissions, this is a means to weed out the crap.

The best is when the agent asks you to send your manuscript. “Then you are in,” the author said.

A few additional tips she shared include:

  • Write only a one-page query letter.
  • Never call it a book. It’s a manuscript. “The publisher gives you a book,” Rowell said.
  • Start with your bottom choice for literary agent, saving your favorite agent for your final query. “Let other people reject you first so you can learn from them,” she said.
  • Don’t do any pitching to agents in the summertime. Rowell said, “They kick into gear after Labor Day.”

Video 101

Peter Soby of Soby Vision is a storyteller.

Only his tools are not pen and paper but rather a Canon XF300. He shoots videos.

Peter Soby

Peter Soby explains how to shoot good video. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

And because we’re such a visual society now, Soby says learning how to shoot basic video is critical for those in the communications field. “YouTube has made video that is a little rough okay,” he added.

He offered several tips for shooting good video during a NFPW seminar:

1) Make yourself a tripod – lean up against something.

2) Be loose. If you’re too tight your muscles will shake.

3) Know how all your stuff works. Be able to set up quickly. Practice. He said he practices with a giant stuffed animal in a business shirt. He comes into the room and quickly sets up his equipment and begins shooting video. Once he could do it quickly, he knew he could do it in situations where the subject only had a short time for the interview.

4) Shoot sequence shots. “You shoot this way because our eyes are looking all over,” Soby said. “This will immediately make the video look better.” He noted that most people new to video shoot a lot of medium shots. Instead, shoot wide (to capture the entire scene), medium and tight (close up on the subject or on the action).

5) Use an external microphone because it will make the sound better.

After you shoot the video, what next? He recommends becoming familiar with the video editing software that comes with your computer, such as Windows Moviemaker or iMovie. For even better quality, you may want to buy a professional editing package.