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2019 Writers For Hope Auction for @RAINN!

No, it's not an April Fool's joke: The sixth annual Writers for Hope Auction is happening this week! Each year, editors, agents, and authors contribute amazing auction items to raise money to combat sexual assault, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the United States' largest anti-sexual assault organization.


There are over 100 items being auctioned off this year. Whether you're looking for a critique opportunity, new books to read, or a great gift for a friend, this is a wonderful chance to get what you need while also standing up against sexual assault and supporting a wonderful organization that fights back. Bids start at only $10!


Don't forget: this year the auction goes all week, and bidding closes at 8:59pm EST (5:59pm PST) on Friday. Watch out for those last-minute bidders!

Touchstone Editing Turns 4!

I can still remember it like it was just last week. It was the middle of one of the worst droughts in California's history, yet the day Anya and I planned to meet for coffee, we got caught in an absolute downpour. I made a run for it from the car, but it was no use. I got soaked.

Anya and I had kept in touch online for years, but I'd just moved to California, and it was our first time living near each other since college. We were excited to see each other and decided to meet halfway. We figured, what do extroverts do? They meet people for coffee.

I don't drink coffee, but I knew I was in the minority—most of the world is completely addicted to the stuff. Surely Anya was one of the normal people who loved coffee and drank it all the time.

So we both showed up to an adorable coffee shop in Redwood City, found each other inside, and... assumed the other would order some coffee. Cue baffled laughter:

    "What do you mean you don't drink coffee?"

    "What do you mean you don't drink coffee?"

Once we'd finished laughing at ourselves, each other, and the situation, I ordered a hot chocolate and Anya got tea. We'd only planned to meet for an hour or two but ended up curled on one of the coffee shop's couches for much longer catching up. Then we got soaked again in the parking lot as we said our goodbyes.

Touchstone Editing was conceived at that coffee shop, but it was another seven months before the company officially launched. There was a lot to be done, after all: a website to create, a company philosophy to iron out, and endless delightful conversations about editing minutiae the likes of which only other editors would enjoy. And somehow, in the blink of an eye, here we are four years later.

Balloons

To celebrate Touchstone turning 4, we're participating in the Build A Better Author Career Giveaway, hosted by Love Kissed Book Bargains. Anya and I are each giving away a FREE editorial letter. 


Be sure to check out the other offerings from all the participating author service providers, too.

We're also giving ourselves our first raises since we started the company: rates for developmental and copy editing are now $60/hour.

Finally, we wanted to do something exciting. Something intimidating. Something we've been working on behind the scenes for months. We decided to overhaul the entire website to make the overall aesthetic more modern.

I thought it would be fun to show you some before and after pictures to show how far we've come, so let's start with the homepage. The new version no longer has our testimonials, but you can still click over to the Testimonials page to read them all. We are by no means graphic designers, but we still had a lot of fun creating the images that you see on the homepage now.

Before:

Homepage screenshot

After:

Homepage screenshot


On other pages we've introduced cute, thematic header images. On our About page, in addition to the new header image, we've added the story I just shared with you of how Touchstone got started.

Before:

"About" page screenshot


After:

"About" page screenshot


And on the blog, as you can see, we've gone for a two-column look.

Before:

Blog screenshot


After:

Blog screenshot


Take a look around! We'd love to know what you think. Love the new look? Think the new header images are fun? Have ideas for more improvements we could make? Let us know in the comments here, or feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts!

That's all for now. Thanks for being a part of our celebration!

Your First Manuscript May Be Holding You Back

Speculative fiction author Alexander Mazin recently wrote a detailed post (available in the original Russian here) on how heartbreaking it can be to watch writers waste their potential on endlessly trying to wrangle their first manuscript into something worth publishing (or more importantly, worth reading).

The main upshot is this: it's important to know when to let go. Often, the first manuscript someone writes is the example used because it is likely to be in the roughest shape. This isn't to say that it can't have an interesting premise, or potential within the characters. Rather, the amount of work necessary to shape that first draft into a story that lives up to the potential may be better spent elsewhere. Sometimes the best way to bring that initial idea to life is to extract the few good pieces and start over with a blank page. And sometimes the best thing you can do is tuck it in a (possibly virtual) drawer and move on to something new.

There are exceptions, of course. A first manuscript can (with plenty of revising) go on to be a huge success. Indeed some writers actually give up too soon, unwilling to put in the work required to transform a first draft into a finished work. Instead, they keep writing first drafts, possibly polishing the grammatical/syntactical errors, and expecting the result to blow readers away—or giving up on writing entirely when that isn't the case. As with most things, discernment is key.

But as Mazin wrote, clinging to a specific manuscript may be strangling your potential as a writer. This is actually true whether the project is your first or your fifth, though it's a safe bet your fifth first draft will be in better shape than your first, especially if you're taking time to study your craft alongside drafting the stories. By the time you write your fifth project, you'll likely be better able to see if the story is worth pursuing—and have an easier time letting go if not.

It's more difficult to have perspective on your first project, especially when it's your only project—the bearer of all your hopes and dreams for your writing career. That first manuscript holds a special place in your journey, and therefore in your heart. Even after having written, revised, and published other works, authors can be drawn back to that initial idea, that first story. You want to make it work.

Nevertheless, it's important to take a step back and assess the scope of work a manuscript would require to reach both its potential and your potential as a writer, whether continuing to spend your limited resources of time and energy on reshaping this material will be worth it.* When your first manuscript is no longer your only manuscript, it's much easier to accept if the answer is "no."
    * This is something an editor can help you evaluate.

It all comes down to not letting determination become blind stubbornness that traps you in endless revisions. Letting go, moving on to a new project when the current one just isn't working, is neither failing nor giving up. In fact, it may be the saving grace of your career.