June 2018 Newsletter

High Sierra Writers 2018 Writing Contest 


Win a Chance to Change Your Future

Would you like to jump the publishing slush pile and get your book on the desk of a publisher?

That is exactly what the 2018 High Sierra Writers contest will do if you are the winner. This is an amazing opportunity and one that has the potential to get your book published. You don’t need to query an agent in order to get your book seen by eyes that could green light your novel.

Want to know more about it? Come to the June meeting of the High Sierra Writers to get the details. Donna Stegman will be providing all the contest details and answering any questions about the process.

Donna has acquired information on what the top publishing houses are looking for in trends and genre. Want to know what they expect will be the hot genres for this year? She has that information and is willing to share it at this meeting. She will be doing a short question and answer session, so come prepared with specific questions you might have about publishing and what you, as an author, might expect. If there’s any publishing question you’ve been dying to ask, this is your opportunity to ask.

Donna will be running her Blurbs Critique for the only time this year. Find out if your book teaser is catchy enough to grab readers. To participate, bring in your book blurb, typed in at least 12-point print, without your name on the page. She will read it to the members and encourage feedback to help improve it. 

The High Sierra Writers Meeting is June 9th from 10 a.m. to noon at the South Valleys Library, 15650 Wedge Pkwy, Reno, NV 89511. With the sports fields next door in full swing, come early to get a good parking spot, even though the library doesn’t open until 10 a.m.

See you there!


Matt will be hosting First Pages at the June meeting. To get feedback on your first page, bring a hard copy printed in 14 point font\ and double-spaced. Use Times New Roman or Arial type to make it easier for Matt to read aloud. Do NOT put your name on it, as these are anonymous, but you can include the book title and the genre at the top of the page. Hand it to Matt or Rene at the sign-in table at the beginning of the meeting. 

From the HSW President


Of the seven basic story elements, the first a reader encounters is THE TITLE. (Include agents and editors as readers.)

“Don’t judge a book by its title,” we often hear, usually from writers with crummy titles. The horrifying reality is that titles really matter. They draw readers and agents to books.

I’ve personally witnessed several cases where an agent asked to read a manuscript solely because someone’s elevator pitch offered an interesting title.

Several years ago, a Hollywood producer friend told me how the pitch session went for a movie titled, “Snakes On A Plane.” It lasted one minute and ended with a Hollywood executive offering a greenlighted contract to the writer on the spot.

Why? The executive said he could see the whole movie from the title.

It’s true that publishers will usually change a writer’s working title, but that’s more incentive to come up with an irresistible working title. One thing to realize is that before a manuscript gets published, it runs through a gauntlet of more than editors. That manuscript also gets evaluated by people in sales and marketing. They’re asking questions based on what is selling right now and what they estimate will trend in the next year. 

The editor who is championing your book has to convince sales and marketing that your book is different than what is out there. But not too different. Though publishers say they want “new” ideas, in fact, they want something with a new spin on an idea that’s already selling.

When urban fantasy was the rage, publishers wanted more urban fantasy, but with a twist, or more high concept. Throw in a lesbian vampire or bi-racial magicians and you were on your way to an advance.

Back to titles. Publishers want writers to submit various title ideas so that marketing has options. The internal forces are looking at how many words should fit on the book cover. If an author is new, the title is larger than the author’s name. If the author is famous, then we may have to hunt for the book title because the author’s name is gigantic. Look at recent releases from Lee Child for example.

As you’re writing a book, a strong title can help you focus on what should happen in the story. So can a strong blurb. Both can be touchstones so that if you start to stray into the world of extraneous, but oh-so-lovely writing, you can look at your title and blurb and realize your extra subplot isn’t really helping to lift the story.

Different genres have different flavors of titles. When Robert Ludlum was at his peak, the spy genre was afloat in clever word juxtapositions that frequently didn’t make much sense. Start with The Bourne Identity as an example. An informal game began making the rounds among writers in which you chose a random word from each of two columns of random words to come up with a title. The Moscow InversionThe London GameThe Parsifal Confession. You get the idea.

Remember, everyone who considers your book WILL judge it by its title, so act accordingly.

‘Nuff said.
Matt Bayan

Quick Grammar Tips

Grammar can be a big stumbling block for writers, particularly when words sound the same but are spelled differently or are used in more than one way. I’ll be posting a quick tip each month to help you figure out when to use what word.

The word for this month is it.

It is a pronoun that refers to an object or something not human. While we often refer to pets as he or she, they can also be referred to as it, especially when the gender is unknown.

The bigger problem comes with the possessive form of it. Usually, a possessive is created by adding an apostrophe and an s to the noun. Examples: Ray’s hat, Mary’s car, cat’s tail.

When you use it as a possessive, you don’t put in the apostrophe. For instance, I watched the paper plane fly on its journey.

The reason for this irregularity in use is that the conjunction of it and is becomes it’s. So when you see it’s in a sentence, train yourself to think it is and that will usually stop you from using it’s as a possessive.

Rene and Nicole set up a display at the TMCC Writers Conference in April. The table set up wasn’t fancy, but it drew quite a few local area writers over to ask about it. Some showed interest in coming to our meetings. A few were surprised we had a writers’ group in Reno. We were happy to see several HSW members at this conference.

In May, Rene took all the information to the Barks and Badges Benefit, which promotes and earns money for the Washoe County K-9s to provide training and equipment that is not included in the budget. She set up the table in the photo and our sign and handed out flyers, bookmarks, and business cards to local readers who stopped by. Several potential writers also chatted for a bit and we hope to see them at the next meeting. Again, people expressed surprise that we have a writers’ group in town. 



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