Writer Rites

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Making great storytellers into great writers.

While working with the FWWP, I discovered the extremely rewarding experience of guiding writers to improve an otherwise unpublishable story into an excellent story. Many times, all a writer really needs is a push into greatness.

Most journals seek stories perfect for publication. This leaves new writers at the mercy of trial and error. How can they improve? A writer could spend money on an expensive college degree. A writer could pay for an editor, but this runs $300-600 for a story of 10,000 words for a single pass.

Writer Rites recognizes that learning to revise a piece is a rite to aspiring authors. Furthermore, peer review is the basis of most serious academic study of writing (and many other fields). This journal seeks stories with excellent potential in need of guidance to become great prose. Accepted stories will receive detailed advice on how to improve the piece. Revision is the model.

One story in each issue is selected for demonstration. The original piece is shown next to the revision. Each issue contains advice from the editors on improving writing. This is a quarterly journal published digitally. Each year, the four editions are republished in print as a single volume.

What I need:

  • Knowledgable editors
  • Motivated marketers
  • Passionate graphic artists
  • Clever Web designers
  • Serious proofreaders, typesetters, and copyeditors in general

Find out how to get involved:

Ready to throw your name into the hat, get into the ring, and fight tired cliches? Great! Use the form here to get more information. Still have questions? Look below at Editor FAQ.

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Editor FAQ

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This section is aimed at those interested in working for/with Writer Rites. We are not currently accepting stories, but editors and writer alike may look below for the “Writer FAQ.

What are the minimum qualifications?

Naturally, this will vary by role. Editors must have demonstrated excellence in English, writing, journalism, or a similar discipline. Academic accomplishment is one way to show this. Successful publication history is another way to show this. If you have neither, you may still apply. Those interested in other areas–Web design, graphic design, marketing, etc.–must demonstrate similar competencies.

As we plan to grow our own writers, I am willing to grow our own editors. I prefer passion for the project to nominal qualifications.

What do editors/copywriters need to apply?

  1. A passion for the project.
  2. A dedication to helping emerging writers improve.
  3. A statement of purpose or interest (required for all)
  4. A writing sample.
  5. A resume or CV.
  6. Complete an audition editing piece. (This may not be required based on academic or demonstrable achievement. Requiring an English Ph.D. or a New York Times Bestselling Author to prove his or her skill would be ridiculous at best.)
    –or–
    Write an audition copy. (This may not be required based on academic achievement.)
  7. Complete the training packet.

What do other applicants need to apply?

  1. A passion for the project.
  2. A dedication to helping emerging writers improve.
  3. A statement of purpose or interest (required for all)
  4. A sample of relevant work or a link to where said sample is available.
  5. A resume or CV.
  6. Complete an audition as appropriate. (Type will vary based on role. This may be waived based on academic or other achievement.)
  7. Complete the training packet.

Do I get paid?

Yes. How much? Not much. (Not yet anyway.) Those interested in working for Writer Rites should consider compensation an honorarium rather than pay. However, honoraria are considered costs. Costs are removed first from the gross income first as overhead and second as a percentage of net profits for honoraria. Royalties are paid evenly to authors after costs are removed. The current plan is that honraria are shared evenly between all workers on an issue. Those not working on an individual issue receive no share. Those who worked on more than one item receive only one honorarium. (For example, an editor worked on two quarterly issues and the annual issue containing both previous issues. The editor receives the same honorarium as the editor who worked on the annual issue only.) This will be later delineated in bylaws.

Where can I read the bylaws?

The exact bylaws and structure of this venture are not yet written. Why not? I would prefer to have established participants before delving into the weeds.

What is the basic philosophy?

Mission Statement 1: No writer deserves to be thrown aside.
-Writers may submit truly awful pieces from time to time. Other publications might throw these aside with a polite and form rejection. This does not actually aid the writer. We aid to recognize and grow the writer behind the piece.

Mission Statement 2: The writing process is teachable; creativity is innate.
-Editors seek to unlock the potential in a writer through peer review to make skill equal to creativity.

Mission Statement 3: Revision is the key to great writing.
-This should go without saying. However, beginning writers are notoriously attached to each word. Why? I propose a lack of confidence as one reason. A writer fears they will never be able to write something this wonderful before. This writer, like many, have made the fatal error of assuming completion equals perfection.

Mission Statement 4: Never offer criticism without encouragement.
-Editors should always find at least one thing a writer has done well. Part of the training package deals with the standard format for response to writers. This publication does not take polished pieces, and finding something excellent may seem daunting at times. We provide maps; a writer given only places not to go will stand still. Writers given a direction can move forward.

Mission Statment 5: All teachers are students.
-Though guiding writers is the primary goal of this project, we believe teachers learn as much as students. Guiding writers through improvement helps improve our own writing skills. Editors also gain training in soft skills such as effective communication.

What is the publication process?

Writer Rites uses a 8 step model in preparing your piece for publication.

  1. Consideration: Your story is considered for potential. If the editors feel the story has potential, we may continue to step 2. If we do not feel it has potential, do not feel it is right for our journal, or simply decide not to take your story, the process ends here. Opinions are highly subjective; it is entirely possible that your rejected piece later wins the O. Henry Award. If this happens, congratulations. Our opinion is our opinion only.
  2. Contract: If accepted, the editors will request to contract with you. This contract protects the interests of Writer Rites. A sample contract is available on our website. The boilerplate does not change. If you choose to sign the contract, we proceed to step 3. If you decline a contract, we give you our best wishes in the future.
  3. Review: After receipt of the contract, an editor will contact you with in-depth suggestions. The basic format for these is: What I like; What I don’t like; What I want to see expanded. No piece of writing is without any merit. All reviews will note positive aspects as well as negative. Remember, sometimes tough love is the only way.
  4. Revision: This step falls to the writer. With editor suggestions, you will work to improve your piece. The most common errors we see are information dump, too much telling, and formalistic redundancies (pretty sounding speech that accomplishes nothing). When you resend your piece, the editors will review the changes and either return to step 3 or move to step 5.
  5. Proofreading and Editing: When the major structural changes are complete, it is time to prepare your work for publication. Our editors make essential changes in grammar and style. Unlike revision, you do not have creative control at this step. As a general rule, editors make the changes using “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word and send them to you.
  6. Typesetting: Finally, your work and the work of other authors is formatted for publication. Everyone takes one final look for typographical and typesetting errors.
  7. Promotion: Technically, this phase never stops. Once the final edition of this particular work is ready, our editors begin to promote the precise edition with your name and the name of the other authors.
  8. Publication: We publish digital periodical issues at frequencies based on number of pieces available and market saturation. We also publish an annual print volume compiling all issues in that year.

What is the marketing plan?

Creation of a viable and robust marketing plan is one thing the EIC needs help with. Have a great idea? I’d love to hear it.

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Writer FAQ

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What is your goal?

Writer Rites seeks to unlock the potential of your short story. We seek diamonds in the rough, not polished gems. This journal’s goal is unique. Rather than seeking for complete stories ready for publication, it seeks for excellent concepts that can be improved. Each quarterly edition has between five and ten short stories of 3,000 to 10,000 words. In addition to the stories, the editors offer comments on why the story was chosen, what the author changed, and how the story became the polished diamond it is in the final publication. Selected authors may also weigh in on what this process meant to them.

Who started this project?

The Editor in Chief (EIC) is Oren Hammerquist, who holds an MA in English and Creative Writing concentrating in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. While building a curriculum vitae (or CV), Mr. Hammerquist had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Army’s Future Warfare Writing Project. That publication’s Editor in Chief wished to accept as many pieces as possible by suggesting rewrites where possible. As an intern, Mr. Hammerquist offered careful feedback on style, narrative structure, and story.

What gave you this idea?

Mr. Hammerquist (founder and EIC) created this project for the following reasons:

  • Teachers often learn more than students.
  • Mentoring or advising individuals on reaching their full potential is highly rewarding.
  • Those who can’t do: Teach. Mr. Hammerquist’s novels have been largely unsuccessful.
  • It gives editors experience teaching writing.
  • No one else is doing exactly this.

Here at Writer Rites, our highest hope is that the editing one story will teach you the skills to make your next story, the one we may never touch, even better.

So you want bad stories?

Writer Rites wants great stories with bad plotting. How a writer tells a story (the syuzhet in Russian formalism) is just as important as what the story is about (the fabula). For example, consider this:

This guy is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread and given a ridiculous sentence. He fakes his death and escapes using super strength and determination, but still gives in to criminal tendencies. A priest changes his life when he gives him something freely that he stole. The guy then dedicates his life to helping others, including a young girl who is the daughter of a woman who falls on hard times while working at the guy’s factory. He adopts the dead woman’s daughter as his and spends his life hiding from the law and protecting her. At the end, he saves her fiance’s life (thereby approving their marriage), spares the life of the cop who’s been tracking him for decades, and even settles the score with the people that didn’t treat his daughter well before he adopted her.

Perhaps you recognize the classic story behind the intentionally terrible plotting. If Victor Hugo told Les Miserables in this manner, no one would have listened. It would not be the classic piece of literature it is today. It would not have been a musical. It would not have been a movie. We would not have learned Wolverine can sing.

How does the process work?

Writer Rites uses a 8 step model in preparing your piece for publication.

  1. Consideration: Your story is considered for potential. If the editors feel the story has potential, we may continue to step 2. If we do not feel it has potential, do not feel it is right for our journal, or simply decide not to take your story, the process ends here. Opinions are highly subjective; it is entirely possible that your rejected piece later wins the O. Henry Award. If this happens, congratulations. Our opinion is our opinion only.
  2. Contract: If accepted, the editors will request to contract with you. This contract protects the interests of Writer Rites. A sample contract is available on our website. The boilerplate does not change. If you choose to sign the contract, we proceed to step 3. If you decline a contract, we give you our best wishes in the future.
  3. Review: After receipt of the contract, an editor will contact you with in-depth suggestions. The basic format for these is: What I like; What I don’t like; What I want to see expanded. No piece of writing is without any merit. All reviews will note positive aspects as well as negative. Remember, sometimes tough love is the only way.
  4. Revision: This step falls to the writer. With editor suggestions, you will work to improve your piece. The most common errors we see are information dump, too much telling, and formalistic redundancies (pretty sounding speech that accomplishes nothing). When you resend your piece, the editors will review the changes and either return to step 3 or move to step 5.
  5. Proofreading and Editing: When the major structural changes are complete, it is time to prepare your work for publication. Our editors make essential changes in grammar and style. Unlike revision, you do not have creative control at this step. As a general rule, editors make the changes using “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word and send them to you.
  6. Typesetting: Finally, your work and the work of other authors is formatted for publication. Everyone takes one final look for typographical and typesetting errors.
  7. Promotion: Technically, this phase never stops. Once the final edition of this particular work is ready, our editors begin to promote the precise edition with your name and the name of the other authors.
  8. Publication: We publish digital periodical issues at frequencies based on number of pieces available and market saturation. We also publish an annual print volume compiling all issues in that year.

You take absolutely anything?

Not quite. Writer Rites does not accept erotica, hate literature, or anything the EIC finds offensive. We do not accept anything previously published (that would defeat the purpose), but we will accept it if you only pushed it out on a blog you control, work-in-progress pages such as Jukepop, or any outlet that is not based on editorial review for acceptance. If you aren’t sure, just ask. We also do not serialize novels under any circumstances. We publish only short stories of 3,000 to 10,000 words in any genre.

Do I get paid?

Writer Rites does not pay on publication but does pay royalties. Net profits are split between contributors. Keep in mind that, though we make every effort to market this extensively, millions of books are published every year and anthologies are notoriously hard to sell.

Do I get free copies?

All those accepted for publication receive free digital copies any time their piece is printed. This journal only prints once a year (see Step 8 in “How Does the Process Work?”). Currently, writers need to buy the print copy at cost, however, depending on success, free print copies may be a possibility in the future. If this happens, Writer Rites will attempt to provide free back-copies to all contributors.

Do I have to make the changes you suggest?

The editors at Writer Rites do put a great deal of work into editing your piece and suggesting changes. You would pay up to and including $1,000 for a short story to gain the type of review this publication provides for free. Remember that we offer multiple and unlimited rounds of editing and proofreading. As the entire purpose of the comments is to prepare your piece for publication in our journal, you should make every effort to make the changes suggested. We welcome discussion of changes so long as all members remain professional. You are allowed to republish the piece later, and if you choose to publish a different version of that piece, that is your right.

Do I give up creative control?

Writer Rites wants to encourage and guide your creativity. Some journals may limit your creative control less–making only changes to fix grammar and style. Others certainly take more; some even change your endings without consent. We do NOT wish to take that much control, but please acknowledge that we assume most of the risk. If, after multiple rounds of editing, your piece is still unpublishable, Writer Rites can either breach the contract, publish a substandard product, or remove creative control. However, our entire philosophy aims to help you improve as a writer, and writing pieces for runs against our goal. Final proofreading is generally done without author consent.

Who is right if you disagree with the writer?

The publishing contract gives Writer Rites the option to make changes under our own volition if the author refuses or fails to make the changes. As stated, Writer Rites assumes most of the risk and incurs most of the costs. It is not the intent of the editors to rewrite your piece, but some revisions may involve rewording sentences, changing passive verbs to active verbs, or other actions that change your words.  We do maintain the right to publish your piece as our editors see fit (all journals maintain this right even if they don’t tell you as much), but such drastic limitations of your creative control is an absolute last resort. We would only take this action if an author refuses to make any changes after signing the contract, refuses to make necessary changes, or simply fails to respond to any contacts after signing a contract. Even if we take this extremely rare action–which runs counter to the goals of the publication–you still retain copyright.

Can’t I just take my edited piece and submit it to a different journal?

No. Writer Rites requests that you sign an editing and publication contract with us. This gives us first publication rights, unlimited reprint rights, and syndication rights. (The copyright remains yours.) You may republish the piece in another journal or in your own collection only after it has appeared in print in the annual edition.

What if I change my mind and don’t want to publish with you?

Your publishing contract gives Writer Rites first-publication  rights. If you signed the contract, we may publish and edit your piece even if you change your mind. In rare circumstances, cancellation contracts can be issued. If such an action is taken, be aware that you may never submit to or work with Writer Rites in the future. If you are previously published with us and change your mind in this manner, we reserve the right to fail to publish, promote, and print previously scheduled or published pieces. In the extremely rare occurrence of a cancellation contract, you may be liable for expenses unless the reason for cancellation is ethical or moral.

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