So here we are in a new year and I know for a fact that bunches of you are working on manuscripts and once you’re done with your draft, you’re going to hopefully get it submission-ready. That is, you’re going to prep it in hopes that a publisher will think it’s awesome and sexy.
First things first. Not all houses accept a full manuscript for a read. They might just want the first few chapters. Or maybe the first few chapters and the last few. That’s fine. The point is, if you have a full manuscript that’s ready to go, you can easily extract the chapters or first 50 pages or whatever it is the potential publisher may want to see. And you want those to be clean and ready for viewing. So here are 10 things you can do to help you get it that way.
I’m working on several see-krit projects at the moment. A not see-krit project is the fanfic I’m doing over at Archive of Our Own. It’s a Clexa piece, and it’s over 180K words, now. Still going. Basically, I rebooted season 3. You’re welcome. 😀
Anyway! Here are some writing tips just for you, in a few different (oldies but goodies) blogs that I wrote. I still get requests for these, so here they are again:
Ermahgerd. I’ve been crazy busy over at Women and Words, the other place where I blog and admin and carry on. We’ve started a Women and Words podcast, which is me and my co-admin, author Jove Belle, chatting about the week’s crazy/fun and other things related to writing, editing, publishing of interest to LGBT writers and readers. We hope.
And now, onto the business of this blog. I got to thinking about this because I’ve been working with some new writers, and I thought some quick n’ dirty tips might prove useful to those of you who are on the cusp of publication or have JUST published something If so, GO, YOU! And if that’s the case, then you need to…
I hope your holidays were wonderful and that you had some fun and got some rest. As you know, I was outta control over at Women and Words with our giant 12-day giveaway we call the Hootenanny. And things get CRAY CRAY over there. This year we also did a concurrent Rafflecopter giveaway that included a couple of Kindle Fires and…well, it was insane and fun but kind of exhausting.
At any rate, let’s get back to work!
Today I wanted to talk about observation. I bring this up because a huge part of writing is (or should be) observation. Think about it. How your characters speak and act. The quirks they have. Their surroundings. The settings of your stories. And, going a bit meta, the things your characters actually observe during the course of your plot, how they filter it, how they relate it to others.
Hi, all! I just finished up a short (for me) novel and I’m getting it ready to send to a potential publisher. While I’m pondering that, I thought I’d do a round-up of hopefully helpful posts I’ve done that will provide some helpful info for those of you racing around writing.
Hi, kids! Hope this past week has treated you well. The usual crazy going on here, but let’s take a moment and chat about something else writing-related.
OMG your blood is pumping, your juices are flowing and you’re just salivating at the mention of the word EDITING. It’s okay. I totally understand.
Anyway, yes, I am a writer but I started professionally editing way back in the early 1990s, during the Dark Ages when starving peasants tilled the soil outside the castle and if you wanted to talk to somebody you had to walk to the other side of the village before dark, because that was when the wolves came out to gnaw on hapless villagers who didn’t fall under the purview of the manor lord’s protection. If not wolves, then witches, werewolves, and vampires.
Shit was scary back in the day.
But now, thanks to technology, we know all that scary shit isn’t on the edge of the village. IT’S ON THE INTERWEBZ. Whew.
Anyway, I worked in publishing for about 15 years, either managing in-house or freelance editing out-of-house. I’m still an editor, and I still keep up with the publishing industry, but I’m a writer, too. Which means I have been on both sides of the fence and I have a certain amount of empathy for both perspectives.
I know what it feels like to be working with an editor who you think is missing the point of your vision, who is crushing your writing dreams by saying a scene doesn’t work, who just might be a cross between a werewolf and a vampire and is merely toying with your emotions before stomping on your ego. I get that. But I also know what it’s like to help a writer realize her vision in clearer, stronger prose so that she goes on to write better prose later and she remains a colleague and works with you many times after that because she trusts you.
That is the essence of an editor-writer relationship. Trust. It’s important to trust that an editor has the professional background and training to work with a writer on craft as well as narrative. On the other side of that, it’s important that an editor trust that a writer is open to edits, is open to realizing that sometimes, a writer is much too close to a project to see clearly, and that a writer wants to improve her craft.
That’s the ideal. So with that in mind, what should you NOT say to an editor with whom you are working?
So a couple of folks expressed interest in how to write an effective opener for a novel.
To which I say, “good luck.”
And then I supply links LIKE THIS, which have the alleged “100 best first lines from novels”, posted by the American Book Review site. I must say, Iain M. Banks’ line from The Crow Road is a grabber: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
Hit that link at Amazon and you’ll be able to read the first few pages to determine what that’s about.
At any rate, what makes a great opening line? Well, I’d say that’s a topic up for debate, depending on a reader’s taste. But overall, let’s try to dissect what makes a great first line in terms of writing craft. Here are five things to think about.
By now some of you are no doubt lamenting the Super Bowl. Others are celebrating. And still others are thinking, “Oh, the Super Bowl was on? Huh.”
And then there are many others who have been working on writing projects. Some of you may actually have FINISHED a project! Glory! Hallelujah! So…what now?
There are actually any number of things to do when you complete a manuscript, but the point here is to start with a basic list and then you tailor it to your own specs and hopefully, you’ll then have this little ingrained checklist in your skull that becomes some kind of sick ritualized habit that you engage in when you finish a manuscript. Heh. That’s the idea, friends! Start making good habits now, so you incorporate them into your world.
Okay. So you finished your story/novel! GO, YOU! How much awesome are you carrying around because of that? LOTS! Go ahead and pour yourself a tall glass of awesome juice, because you earned it. So what now? Short of posting your glorious news all over social media?
I do hope that 2015 has started off awesomely for you. And before you ask, no. I don’t make “resolutions” in the classic sense. Rather, I have “schedules.” That is, things I will be working on, and those usually involve making adjustments to my daily regimens and organizing writing and editing projects.
At any rate, this year I’m going to be doing some writing in genres that I’m not known for (including paranormal). I think it’s important to stretch as a writer, and try new things in order to get a sense of how your style and voice work across genres and what kinds of adjustments to make to write effectively no matter what you’re working on.
I’ve also got a lot of other writing things I’m up to, including romance and sci fi and I’m working on New Mexico things. So don’t worry. You’ll see things from me this year, too. 🙂
And speaking of working, I’ve been reading some “how to” and “how not to” books because I like to check in on my own techniques and continue working on my craft. I recently read this gem of irreverence, called How Not to Write a Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, both writers.
The book is indeed filled with 200 examples of bad writing in an attempt to get other authors thinking about what constitutes bad writing and how to recognize it. The examples are often raunchy, hilarious, and in some cases NOT SAFE FOR WORK. So you probably don’t want to share this with teens or ‘tweens.
From the book’s website (linked above):
Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid at all costs if you ever want your novel published.
The book walks you through things not to do when you’re setting up your plots, writing characters, dealing with perspective and voice, learning about mechanics, and world-building. The examples can be over-the-top, yes, but the authors will tell you after the bad writing what’s wrong and why it doesn’t work (readers might also find the book interesting because it’ll get you thinking about the parts of a book and why some things work and why they don’t).
From the book’s intro (which will give you a sense of the approach):
We do not presume to tell you how or what to write. We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.
We do not propose any rules; we offer observations. ‘No right on red’ is a rule. ‘Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly’ is an observation.
Hundreds of unpublished and unpublishable novels have passed across our desks, so we have been standing here by the side of the road for a very long time. Had you been standing here with us, you would have seen the same preventable tragedies occurring over and over, and you would have made the same observations.
Do not think of us as traffic cops, or even driving instructors. Think of us instead as your onboard navigation system, available day or night a friendly voice to turn to whenever you look up, lost and afraid, and think ‘How the fuck did I end up here?’
Sometimes, dear writers, you need to see what absolutely does not work to get a sense of what to look for in your own writing. Most (if not all) of the examples in this book I have done, the vast majority when I was just starting out as a fiction writer.
Part of developing as a writer is finding your own voice and style within the rubric of solid writing craft. And that involves comparing all kinds of writing as you’re working to figure out who you are as a writer. Which is why I think having really bad examples can be helpful, along with the reasons that the writing is “bad.” You’ll also find tips in this guide that hopefully help you fix the bad so you can apply them in your own manuscripts.
So writers, if you’re looking for a funny and useful guide to hone your writing skills, give this a look (here’s the Amazon link; more purchasing links at the site). If you’re a beginning writer pounding away on your first novel, definitely give this book a spin. And if you’re a reader curious about what bad writing might look like and how writers might address it, you might enjoy this, too.
So let’s get crackin’ this new year and hit the manuscripts!