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Tuesday, 28 June 2011 05:03

Get Born, Dude

Acquaintance, perhaps 20 years younger than I, has finished his first novel (writing it, not reading it), and isn't sure if it's good or saleable. He said he gave it to five friends to read. One friend read it; no word from the other four. He expressed anxiety. What I saw was a writer being born. It ain't pretty.

Picking up the forceps, I said, "Why don't you hire a professional editor to read it and give you feedback?"

He said, "But that's so counterintuitive!"

Clamping the forceps around his head, I said, "Business is counterintuitive. But business is part of writing. We can be 90 percent artist, but have to be 10 percent businessperson."

Then I decided I didn't have the right to yank on him; he might yet be 10 to 20 years away from being ready to be born as a (professional) writer. But if he's ready, he will:

-budget to pay for professional advice.
-not be scared to learn a professional's opinion. In fact he will be eager for it.
-realize he needs help, that he can't do it alone or with just one or two writer friends his own age.
-see that I am not trying to drag him down to my (less talented) level; I'm just telling him something I learned.
Published in Sanity Bubble 2008
Friday, 15 April 2011 17:24

Why the Agent Stops Reading at Page 2

Fascinating workshop at MO Writers Guild conference with literary agent Kristin Nelson "thinking aloud" as she read manuscripts (first two pages) submitted by members of the audience. She said aloud where and why she would stop reading and take a pass. Here is the link to her own summary of the event, must-reading for anyone wanting know what stops an agent cold: Kristin Nelson's Pub Rant. Her list may surprise you. The good news: Everything that's wrong can be learned and corrected, so you can confidently proceed.
Published in Sanity Bubble 2011
I'm having the most fascinating experience: reading and critiquing the first 30 pages of the manuscripts of almost 30 different novels. The first 30 pages is what agents and editors ask for, and it's said, "If the novel doesn't take off in the first 30 pages, it will never take off" and they won't read more. Some of the mss. are good, some are better than good, but close to three-quarters of them have introductions and/or prologues.

Leaving aside the dedications, acknowledgements or introductions that "explain" the book, or why or how it was written -- "front matter" which in novels will always be cut -- there's often a prologue describing the climax of the story. And then the actual story begins, in chapter 1, with a flashback. Apparently the whole novel will be told in flashback, leading up to the climactic moment that has already been described up front and has given the whole story away.

And then, reading the novel's Chapter One, I see that the novel would work perfectly fine without the give-away prologue. I believe that the give-away prologue is the child of noir or detective movies and fictions which start with a corpse and flash back to tell the story of how and why the person was murdered. Authors of other kinds of fictions who want to use prologues should be reminded: PROlogues are for telling the PRE-beginning of a story, not giving away the end of it!
Published in Sanity Bubble 2011
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 02:33

Small-Press Editors Tell All, Feb. 11th

Small and/or independent presses are THE way for the un-agented writer to get published. The last four authors I edited all published their books with small presses, and others I didn't edit got their first books published by small presses also (smart enough to know they hadn't a prayer with the big ones). So have a prayer. Find out what small presses look for when three small-press editors discuss this very question at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Friday, February 11, at 6:00 p.m., in Lucas Hall 200. The UMSL MFA Program presents a panel of publishers from independent presses specializing in books of literary fiction and poetry. Alex Schwartz from Switch Grass, Ben Furnish from BkMk, and Jon Tribble from Crab Orchard will discuss and answer questions about what they look for in manuscripts, how to submit, what to expect, and more. Free and open to the public. Call (314) 516-6845 for more information.

I urge all writers in these changing times to continually update their knowledge about publishing, especially from firsthand sources such as these editors. Take advantage of a great privilege that will cost you nothing.
Published in Sanity Bubble 2011