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Q: Dear Joan,
I have a couple of quick questions. Is there any special format I should use to submit to greeting card companies? Is there an example for me to follow anywhere? Thanks for your help.
A: Dear Mark,
The greeting card market is one that many writers ignore, but once you get your foot in the door, it could prove very lucrative.
First, determine if your creativity lands you squarely "inside the box" for more traditional greeting cards, or a bit more "off the wall" for some of the less traditional cards. Then do some research. Study the card racks in stores and write down the names of companies that you think you could write for.
Second, look in the Greeting Card section of Writer's Market. That section will list names, addresses, preferences, and all you need to know to get your work to the proper people for review. Write for guidelines if they say they have them. You might even find them on the Net.
Third, call each company you'd like to work for to confirm the name of the editor. This is important because editors move around so much. You want your work to go to the proper person.
Fourth, properly format your work and submit it in a large flat envelope with an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). Do not fold your work.
Now, this formatting is very simple. At the top of one page, write "Front of Card." Then type in what you'd like to see on the front of the card, for example, Happy Birthday, Congratulations, or whatever.
On the next page, label it, "Inside of Card." Then below that, type in the message. That message should be left justified and double-spaced. You should also use a Courier 12 font. It's easier on the eyes than anything else.
Be sure that every sheet of paper you send has a slug-your name, address, phone number, and email address in the upper left hand corner.
The toughest part of this whole process is coming up with great, creative ideas, but I know you can do it. Now, go forth and write wondrously creative stuff!
Q: Dear Joan,
I've just started my first novel, and someone suggested I write an outline. I remember outlines from school and hated them. Besides, I don't remember my Roman numerals very well. Is it necessary to do this before I write my book?
A: Dear Sherry,
New writers especially should develop an outline before actually writing, but it's not the kind of outline you remember from school. Besides, the outline should be the third step in the process, not the first.
To begin with, when you get the idea for your book, write it down. Don't write more than a single-spaced page, but get the main points down on paper. Then create a storyboard. Take a large piece of paper and divide it into squares. Each square represents a chapter. Knowing what little you know about your book at this point, write in the basics of what happens in each chapter. Using post-it notes is great for this because you can move them around so easily.
Then create your outline from your storyboard. Begin with Chapter 1. Write a short paragraph for each scene in the chapter. Just give the essentials of each scene: characters involved and basic plot development.
Don't worry about making it pretty. Don't add dialog-unless a particularly great line comes to mind. Don't even think about narrative and description. Just net it out.
Once you've completed this little process for every chapter, you have in essence, written the whole book, in a very short format. You can still move scenes around, cut, and add as needed, but it's a road map for you to follow so you don't get too far off course. When you're happy with it, start writing the actual book.
If you look at this process, you'll notice that each step builds upon the one that came before, and is an expansion. I wish I had known about it when I wrote my first novel. It would have saved me from cutting about a hundred useless pages.
I hope this helps to speed you on your way. Much success to you.
Good luck with the new book.
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